This Is Me--2024 A to Z Theme

My A to Z Themes in the past have covered a range of topics and for 2024 the theme is a personal retrospective that I call "I Coulda Been" which is in reference to my job and career arc over my lifetime. I'll be looking at all sorts of occupations that I have done or could have done. Maybe you've done some of these too!

Monday, June 29, 2015

Playing Favorites (A Monday Post)

English: Extreme points of the contiguous Unit...
English: Extreme points of the contiguous United States. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My Least Favorite State

         Years ago, before I started my show biz road career, if you would have asked me to name my least favorite state of the USA, I probably could have readily come up with an answer.  Now that I've spent a fair amount of time in all of the 48 contiguous states I couldn't come up with an easy answer.  Sure, there are states that I might readily name as favorites, but when I start thinking of some that I might name as a least favorite, I begin thinking of things that I like about each of them.

         Call me a fan of the United States because I am.  Everywhere I go in this wonderful country I can find something of interest or something that I particularly like.  I guess if I were really pressed to answer the question I would have to say the state that I like least is the state of unhappiness.

         Despite its shortcomings, the United States of America is a nice place to visit and I'm happy that I live here.

Travel Day

         I'm keeping this post somewhat generic because if things are going according to plan I'm traveling today.   My wife is staying behind in Houston as I continue traveling by myself heading for a couple week stay in Tennessee and then on to New Jersey with some stops in between.  My wife will join me in New Jersey in August so we can make our way back home.   Since I'm traveling I may not make it online today so I don't want to create much in the way of discussion.

          What I do want to say is be sure to visit my site this Wednesday which is July 1st.  Being the first of the month means that it's a Battle of the Bands post and being the first Wednesday of the month it's also Insecure Writer's Support Group Day.  As I do whenever these events fall on the same day is tie them together into one hopefully clever post.

          This time around, my theme will be highlighted by one of my favorite songs.  What I consider to be one of my favorite songs might seem like an odd choice to some, but those who visit my BOTB posts regularly know that I can sometimes show what some have thought to be odd tastes.  On the other hand maybe you like this song as well.   I was surprised to find that it had been covered by so many artists so obviously I'm not the only one who thinks it to be a great song.

           Come back on Wednesday to hear two great versions of...'ll have to find out then cause I ain't tellin' now.   But I'll provide a clue:   This late 80's release was sung by an "institution" or an "organization" and the topic of the song has to do with space.

           Any guesses about the song in my next Battle?  Do you have a least favorite state in the United States?   If so what about that state do you dislike?


Monday, June 22, 2015

Fear of Frying

Fried chicken with french fries
Fried chicken with french fries (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

          As you read this I should hopefully be in Houston, Texas.   I drove.  It's not that that I have a fear of flying or anything like that.  I just don't like to fly with air transportation being like it is now. And driving the open road is something I enjoy doing.  Sure, it takes longer, but I don't mind.  Road trips are fun.

          If you're thinking my blog post title has a typo, it doesn't.  This post is not really about flying, but it's about frying.   No, I'm not turning Japanese--at least I don't really think so.  It's summer and I'm concerned about frying in the heat.

         Of course in a humid place like Houston I might be experiencing simmering rather than frying, but I always have some expectations of hot weather in the summer.  I'm not a big fan of hot weather which is one advantage to living in Los Angeles.  Oh, we do get some hot weather, but it's not often miserably hot night and day like it can get in the southeast United States.

        Since I'm composing this post a couple weeks in advance I don't really know what the exact weather will be like, but usually it does get warm.  I haven't heard about any cold wave coming to us this summer and besides since we're in the midst of global warming I guess hot weather is in the forecast.

         Frying fears not only apply to the weather but to our food as well.  I love fried foods of all kinds.  I often regret that fried seafood platter or fried whatever after I eaten it, but it's so good while I'm eating it.  Maybe we won't have to worry about eating fried food eventually since the government will probably ban it along with anything else they might think is bad for us.  Pretty soon we won't get to eat anything with salt or sugar added or anything fried.  No french fries, chips, sodas, alcoholic beverages, meat, or anything Big Brother (or Sister) thinks is bad for our health.

        Horror of horrors!  We may soon be only allowed to eat fruits, vegetables, nuts, and grains.  Nothing processed, everything fresh.  Good-bye McDonald's and Taco Bell.   Hello Farmer's Market.   I wonder if the Farmers' Markets will start having drive throughs.

          Do you try to avoid flying?   Do you like fried foods?   Do you think the government should tell us what we can or cannot eat?

Friday, June 19, 2015

Havana No, Houston Si!

English: Photograph of the skyline of Downtown...
The skyline of Downtown Houston, Texas Category:Images of Houston, Texas (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Not Going To Havana Anytime Soon

         Havana, Cuba may never be an actual travel destination for me, but it is a place that will hold some lure.  Recent rumors that Raul Castro might be returning to the Roman Catholic Church might bode well for the future of the island nation.   With an inevitable passing of the Castro brothers in the years to come or at very least their retirement from government affairs, maybe Cuba will see brighter days ahead and hopefully not continue down the ill-fated road still being traveled by the government of Venezuela.  Hopefully the next decade will see better relations between the United States and the countries of Latin America.   If only the drug cartel activity can be gotten under control, maybe Latin American still has a chance for prosperity not for just the few, but for many.

         Enmity between nations rarely serves any positive benefit.   At times the symbolic gesture can end up with a good result, but usually it is a symbolism that increases misunderstanding between peoples and resolves nothing in the long run.  But countries are really bodies of people with their own opinions and ideologies.  As it is with individuals sometimes it seems better to be right than to be compassionate even though what is right eventually gets lost in ambiguity and self-righteous pride while compassion is passed off as something merely for show.

Houston Here We Come

        Tomorrow I'll be packed up and on the long and winding road to Houston, Texas, land of heat and high humidity.  Hopefully the rains will have moved on--I can only pray that they would make their way to California--and we will avoid any flood problems.   I've got a lot of traveling ahead of me, but that also might mean less time on the computer.

        I've already cut back on my blog posting schedule, but I will attempt to stay as active as I conceivably can, internet willing and the creeks don't rise.  Please don't abandon me and keep commenting on my posts so I know you're there.   If I don't make regular visits to your blog posts I hope you'll understand and I'm sure most of you will.   I'm gonna try as best I can.

           And if you see a metallic cashmere colored Town and Country van flying by you on the highway, give a wave--it might be me.

My planned route over the summer

Battle of the Band Results

      From my standpoint of musical taste, I had two great choices in my Battle of June 15th.   I like both of the versions I presented and either one was worthy of a win.   If you read my most recent post at Wrote By Rote you would have learned about my long appreciation for the traditional music of Cuba.   In some of my past posts on Tossing It Out I have indicated my enjoyment of the modern Spanish rock music.

        This was a match up that was difficult for me to predict which way it would go.   In a sense I'm continuing to put out feelers to see how Latin musical styles will go over in my Battle of the Band segments because I have a number of other Battles planned using Spanish music and particularly Rock en español picks.  Seeing as how I received quite a number of votes on this contest I will proceed in the future with some more of this type of music.  Not for next few Battles mind you, but coming soon.

       Even though I'm a big fan of traditional Cuban music, my pick in this Battle was the version by Caifanes.   I think the group's mastermind Saúl Hernández creates some great music.  His current group Jaguares is one of the best of any rock group in the world according to my personal taste in music.   It's a style of music that I favor a great deal.   However in this most recent Battle I was in the minority of voters.  

         The traditional sound of Compay Segundo won by almost twice as many votes.

The Final Vote Tally:

Compay Segundo           24 Votes

Caifanes                          13 Votes

          Do you think the embargo against Cuba had any positive results?    When is a punitive economic action against another country beneficial?    Will you be discouraged from voting on my Battle of the Bands match-ups if I use Spanish music or music of other countries?   

Monday, June 15, 2015

La Negra Tomasa (BOTB)

Battle of the Bands!

        Once again it's time for another Battle of the Bands.  This is the event in which I participate on the 1st and 15th of each month.   We have Far Away Eyes at Far Away Series  to thank for conceiving this homage to music.  Stephen T McCarthy acts as the list steward and Battle of the Bands host--you can find his blog with the list of participants at  StMcC Presents Battle of the Bands.   The premise is simple:  Listen to the songs presented below and then in the comments vote for your favorite and tell us why you liked it.  Then visit the links listed near the bottom of this post for more Battles to vote on.

Are You Ready for Cuba?

        With U.S. / Cuban relations becoming normalized, it looks like you can start planning your vacations to this island nation that we've cold-shouldered for over 50 years.  In my opinion it's about time.  The entire history of our poor relations with Cuba under Fidel Castro was misguided and something that should have never been allowed to happen.  Not that I'm a supporter of the wrong-headed Castro dictatorship, but in some ways our government is responsible for the direction that was taken by Cuba over the past several decades.

       Now Fidel is becoming a footnote and Raul will soon be following his bro to the grave. Adios a los bozos!   With those old farts gone we can start having fun in Havana again.   Enjoy the beaches and casinos.  Dance the nights away in the glamorous night clubs.   Experience Cuban music in its country of origin.  

       The Cuban sound has long influenced much of the music scene.  With the Latin-African mixture infused with healthy doses of jazz and even classical, Cuban music transcended communistic dictatorships to become embraced by the world. Today's Battle of the Bands features a Cuban music classic, La Negra Tomasa

La Negra Tomasa

       La Negra Tomasa is a song by Cuban composer Guillermo Rodriguez Fiffe who recorded the first version in 1937.  The song has remained a staple of the Musica Cubana repertoire ever since.  One outstanding version of the song that you might want to listen to if you are so inclined is the Cuban jazz take by the Buena Vista Social Club.  This is not for you to vote on though--just for your listening enjoyment.

       Now on to today's contestants:

Compay Segundo  "La Negra Tomasa"  (2001)

       Compay Segundo is a stage name which might be compared to the English idiom "second fiddle".   He got the name because he was always the back-up singer in his early partnerships.  Compay's career which began probably in the 1920's continued until his death in 2003 at age 95.
Besides his fame as a vocalist, he was a versatile instrumentalist, a composer, and inventor.  He achieved a greater international fame through his association with the Buena Vista Social Club project.

        Here is traditional rendering of "La Negra Tomasa" by the great Compay Segundo.

Caifanes  "La Negra Tomasa"  (1988)

        Though having long been a music standard, the Mexican new wave prog rock band Caifanes introduced the song to the audiences of the modern generations.   The band, whose name might be loosely translated as "cool dude", cited the band King Crimson as its main influence.  The band's most influential member, musical genius Saúl Hernández went on to form the outstanding rock band Jaguares, a favorite of mine.

         You get a good comparison to Compay Segundo's version with the first three minutes of this clip (this is what was released as the radio friendly single), but if you stay past the 3:20 mark that's where things get more interesting for me as the band heads off into a spacey jazz rock instrumental break before going back into a reprise of the song's vocal.

Time to Vote!

          Come along and play!  Please don't back out on this pairing with the excuse that you don't like the music or you don't understand what they're singing.  You don't have to like the music and the lyrics don't mean that much anyway.  Just judge what you hear.  Which version do you prefer?    It's up to you to determine the winner.   

        Please vote on your favorite by letting us know your choice in the comment section and tell us why you prefer the version you chose (or which one was the least objectionable to your ears).  Then after you've finished here, please visit the other blogs listed below who may or may not be participating this time around.   And if you've put up your own BOTB contest let us know that as well so we can vote on yours.

Here are some other places where you might find BOTB posts:


 StMcC Presents Battle of the Bands



DC Relief Battle of the Bands

Shady Dell Music and Memories   

The Doglady's Den 

Angel's Bark  

Cherdo on the Flipside  

Jingle, Jangle, Jungle 

Women:  We Shall Overcome  

Alex J. Cavanaugh 

Book Lover

J. A. Scott  (New this round!)

Novel Brews (a new addition!)

Results on Friday June 19th

         Again I'm going to cut the lead time to the winner announcement short this time around.  I'll be traveling starting June 20th so I don't want to have to be counting up votes during that time and I might not have a chance to post the results either.    You'll get the final vote tally for this Battle on my post of Friday June 19th.   You can vote on today's Battle of the Bands post until Thursday June 18th which will be when I make my final vote count. Please vote!

         Do you like Latin style music?  Do you need to understand lyrics in order to enjoy a song?   Have you considered a Cuban vacation yet?

Monday, June 8, 2015

The Problem With Written Communication

When Words Go Wrong

         Now and then we've all probably encountered those uncomfortable blog confrontations or awkward situations where things have turned a bit ugly.  Or there are those situations where perhaps something wasn't worded as well as it should have been or there may have even be a typographical error that made something come out wrong.   I've seen a number of communication snafus in my six years of blogging.   In recent weeks there have been some blogging incidents that I've noticed that brought to my mind this topic of the problems with written communication.  This is another one of those topics that has been sitting in my blog line-up to be used someday and now someday is here.

        There are so many ways that written communication can be misinterpreted by a reader.  Without the presence of body language, facial expressions, and vocal intonation, things are sometimes difficult to convey when taking into consideration what the receiving side is feeling or thinking.  I guess this is the main reason that people use those silly emoticons and texting abbreviations.  Those things used to kind of annoy me, but now I understand their functionality. 

Does Humor Work?

        Diplomacy is something I strive for and quite often fail at.  I don't know that I have ever intentionally shown much offense in my responses to comments or in the comments I have left anywhere.   There might have been instances where I have stated my displeasure with something that had been said, but typically I'm trying for a humorous angle.  I realize that a lot of readers don't get my humor and think I am being serious when I'm joking or I'm trying to illustrate the lighter side of a serious subject.

       My approach typically will be one of absurdity or a droll sort of humor that is intended to evoke a light reaction and not a big guffaw.  I might use sarcasm, satire, or punny stuff.  But if I'm upset I will say so and may even send a direct reply to someone.  This has been a rarity for me and the more blogging I have done, the more I have become aware of the potential for inadequacies in written communication.

Can We Talk?

       Written communication can easily be taken the wrong way and when it does it can sometimes take a bit of explainin' to do in order to unravel all the ties that start binding.  And I think this is an important approach.  We should be rational if we think an offense has been committed.  Rational adults should be able to work things out or at least come to an understanding about what each side is saying.   Agreeing to disagree is the better option that agreeing to be pissed off at the other person or even hate them.

        I totally understand that we all don't like or agree on the same things. Sometimes we may not even communicate in the same ways.  We are all different.  That's part of what makes life interesting.   We can make serious assessments, but we can also poke some fun.  If someone disagrees with me in a rational manner that's what I should accept.    As long as they are not personally attacking me in some way because I like something they don't then it's all good.   And even if they did personally attack me then that might just add another interesting dimension to it all.  In that case it would still be nice to get an explanation for the attack and some ultimate resolution in order to close things out in a righteous manner so to speak. 

No Truth Like the Real Truth

          I want the truth from people.  Remember, I've been the guy with the controversy posts.  I purposely try to incite debate and animated discussion.   I'm looking for other opinions to weigh mine against.  If we all thought the same things we wouldn't even have to communicate with each other.  You can rest assured that it's going to be pretty difficult to offend me with your honest opinion or by telling me what you see as the truth if you do it with decorum.   I love the discussion.   One of the most offensive comments you can leave me is "Nice blog post" or "You are invited to follow my blog"--now those kinds of comments do bug me.

        Your comments are great when you communicate what's really on your mind.  Please don't tell me something merely because you think it's what I want to hear or because you don't want to offend me in any way.   I love it when you comment and I'm disappointed only if you don't leave a comment.

        Oh, and I hope my comments on your blog are not anything you are offended by.  My approach there is like I explained above.   When I comment I'm either trying to be genuinely nice or complimentary or I'm trying to be Mr. Jokester Smart-ass.  I can't ever remember a time when I've left anyone a comment where I was intentionally trying to be vicious or obtuse.   If you are offended by what I say then just let me know and I'll try to explain what I was saying.   

        I'd much rather be known as a peacemaker than one who tears the world to pieces.

         Have you ever been guilty of a faux pas of written communication?  How do you repair the damage when you've offended someone else in written words?   Would you rather just let a misunderstanding be even if it cuts off a relationship with another person or do you prefer to fix things to make them better?

    My next post will be on Monday June 15th with another Battle of the Bands.   I'll also bring up an issue that some might find controversial, but some might be happy about it too.

Friday, June 5, 2015

This Ain't No Disco!

    "...this ain't no disco, this ain't no fooling around."   No, this is some serious stuff, my friends!

Disco ball in blue
Disco ball in blue (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

        Remember the saying "Disco Sucks"?   Back in the day you could find T-shirts with the slogan and there was even a special night at a White Sox baseball game when a special anti-disco promotion was held.  The "Disco Sucks" movement has been credited to Detroit rock DJ Steve Dahl who would "blow up" disco records on the air to the delight of his hardcore rock and roll fan base.   

         Some have made the claim that the Disco Sucks movement had undertones of hate toward certain groups of society.  Maybe that was true for some people.  For me I like music because I enjoy the listening experience or I dislike some music because it isn't pleasant for me to hear.  As with any creation I don't necessarily reject it because of who made it or what that creative person believes or believed.  If that were my criteria for accepting things or creations then I would be very limited in what I owned or liked.

        As I've been discussing in recent posts my preferences in music are dependent on what I like to hear in music--what I look for in a musical work.   So if I heard a song that was lyrically superb, expressing ideas with which I was in total agreement, and that song had one of the most beautiful melodies that I had ever heard and I had absolutely enjoyed this song for years and then suddenly one day I learned that the song had been composed by some horrible person--say like Adolph Hitler--would the sound of the song be any different?   

       Sure, it's possible that now with my new knowledge I might start to convince myself to dislike the song or just stop listening to it, but if the work had some endearing quality once, then how is that quality lost by learning something bad about the person who wrote it?   

         Again I'm rambling a bit, but there is a point in there somewhere and maybe you'll want to share your thoughts in the comments.  Actually I started this line of thought because I just wanted to use that line "This ain't no disco" from the Talking Heads song "Life During Wartime".   And I'm not using the line because that's going to be my next Battle of the Bands song choice, but because in my recent song choice "This is a party!".  

         That's what Battle of the Bands should be like--a fun party.  Yes, we might get a bit snide to hopefully only a slight degree and we might poke some good-natured fun at one another or the song choices that are picked.  We all don't have to like the same things and that should be expected.   Let's just have a good time!

So now on with the winning version of "Garden Party"

          I was not overly surprised by the results though I didn't expect Owl City to do quite as well as they did in this match up.   Yes, I expected Johnny Lee to win this, not by a shut-out, but with a resounding victory.  I was right cause that's what happened.  My vote for Johnny Lee doesn't even matter all that much.

Final Tally:

Owl City                15   Votes

Johnny Lee             27  Votes

Coming Soon!
     A new Battle of the Bands will be here on Monday June 15th.   I don't think we'll have the kind of trouncing we had in this most recent Battle.   In fact, due to the nature of the song I don't know whether I'll get anywhere near the votes I got on this contest.   I hope the next song doesn't scare away too many of you because it's a darn good one with versions by two excellent artists.  If you don't like my next song pick then you must be a commie or something.   For that matter you might even like it if you are a commie.   My next song pick has been around for nearly 80 years with the more recent versions that I'll be featuring by a new wave prog rock band that turned it into a mega hit and a singer who was in his nineties when he made his own hit recording of this song that he had recorded decades prior.  Those are the versions you'll be voting on.

            Do you enjoy disco music?   Did you ever "blow up" or destroy disco records?   Any idea what song or artists I'll be coming up with next?

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Does Cutting Back on Blog Posting for Summer Hurt? (#!WSG)

Insecure Writer's Support Group

      It's the first Wednesday of the month which as most of you know means it's time again for another edition of the Insecure Writer's Support Group, the monthly event hosted by Alex J. Cavanaugh.   This is the time when writers from all over the globe discuss writing and all of the conflicting good and bad feelings that come with the pursuit of the literary arts.  This is a forum for commiseration and encouragement.  Maybe things aren't going quite like you'd like or maybe you're a bit nervous about what the future holds.   You might even be riding the high horse of success and feel like you're winning the race.   Whatever your circumstance join us and tell us what you're thinking.

Summertime Blogging Schedule

      Most of us would probably acknowledge that our blog traffic tends to drop some during the summer months.  In fact, a good many of you might even cut back during the summer months or even go so far as to put your blog on hiatus until about September or so.  I've seen this and it does make sense in a lot of ways.

         Every year I tend to do some traveling which interferes to some extent with my blogging activities.  I've tried experiments such as focusing on using guest posts to minimize my own energies on blogging.   Last year I cut back on posting days and tried to keep my posts shorter.   That approach worked well for me and when something works it's probably not a bad idea to stick with it.

         So for the summer of 2015 it's gonna be less posts and posts that might be a bit shorter than normal.   My schedule plan will be to essentially post Mondays only.  However there will be a few times when this will vary.  Since I will still be participating with Battle of the Bands posts on the 1st and 15th of each month and also the #IWSG posts on the first Wednesdays of the month there will be a couple of Wednesday posts in July and two Saturday posts in August that might essentially replace my normal Monday posts.   I might throw in a couple odd posts now and then, but for the most part my schedule will be as I've described.

          There will be summer cutbacks on my other blogs as well.  On my spiritually themed blog A Few Words there has already been the post Temporary Hiatus announcing my summer plans.  Since this is like my mission blog in a sense, I almost feel like I should keep that one going over the others, but averaging less than 50 visitors per post and typically receiving only a couple comments at the most, I feel like taking a break on that site won't be a drastic loss to the blogging world.  

           Tomorrow an announcement post will appear on my dream blog A Faraway View telling readers about my intentions for the summer vacation season.  That blog too has a small number of visitors per post, but it does have a loyal readership who regularly leave comments on every post.  Last year I posted dream song videos which didn't do too badly, but still it took time to compile that.  This year I'm going to save the time and not post on that blog at all until September.

           My memoir blog Wrote By Rote will continue to post each Saturday as long as I don't run into complications doing so.  That blog does have a more solid reader base and I'll do as I did last year and tie in my summer travels with the topics I will be sharing on that blog.  I also often tie in my Battle of the Bands contests with posts on Wrote By Rote.   

           Now, some of you might point back to my A to Z Challenge Elements of Blogging post "UpDate!".   I stirred a bit of controversy by chastising "slacker bloggers" who didn't maintain their blogs regularly.  Take note though that I am following my own guidelines about announcing my intentions ahead of time and I will still be posting regularly unless some circumstance prevents me from doing so.  

         Of course, here is where the insecurities develop.   It might be argued that less posting might lose some of my existing audience.  I think anyone else who has cut back on posting days can vouch that all it does is give them more time for other things and give each of their posts more time for other bloggers to visit and leave comments.  I think Alex J Cavanaugh might agree with this point.

         A complete break like I'm doing on my lesser visited blogs might cause me to lose some of my audience so that I have to go back to build them up, but considering the few that could be lost I don't guess that's much building to worry about.  I've got minor insecurities about these blogs but I always do throughout the year.

        The biggest problem with the summer schedule is that I have less time and opportunity to make the visiting rounds that are required to keep visitors coming to my blog.   I have my regulars who I can usually count on--I thank all of you--but there are always those who need to be reminded to visit me by my visit to them.   If I use the past summers as an indicator, I know my comments will drop which is something that would happen whether I was keeping a summer schedule or not.  The fact is that a lot of people are busy doing non-blogging activities like I'll be doing.  If I don't visit your posts as much during the summer, I hope you will understand my situation.

       Really it's not a big issue--just a little nagging insecurity.  It's the old out of sight out of mind conundrum of marketing and maintaining a public image.  But it's only a blog.  But it's my blog and I've worked hard to keep it active and to have a relatively high profile.  It's my baby and I worry about my babies.   

        I may be slowing down for the summer, but I will be here.  I hope you'll be here with me.

        Do you see your summer blog traffic slow down in summer?   Do your blogging activities tend to slow down during summer?    What will you be doing this summer?


Arlee's A to Z Summer Road Trip

        I wonder if I might be able to meet up with some of you during my travels this summer.  I'm going to be all over the country and bound to have some time on my hands.   If we could set up some summer meetings that might be fun.  If you're interested, be sure to visit Wrote By Rote in my post upcoming Saturday June 6th and I'll give you some more details.    

Don't forget to vote on my current Battle of the Bands 

If you have not voted yet then visit Battle of the Bands and cast your vote.   I'll be adding votes up tomorrow Thursday June 4th to announce the winner on Friday June 5th.