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!

Friday, August 28, 2015

Does Government Want to CONTROL Us?

1920s cartoon, showing man standing at microph...
1920s cartoon, showing man standing at microphone with his mouth wide open and the text "I'M A SMART GUY". (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

     Would you believe that a good many schools now are starting school before Labor Day?   Would you believe that some school districts have already been in session since the end of July?   How about some schools are going to a year round schedule or have at least tried this in some form or another?

       Whatever happened to summer vacation and all the fun kid things that went with that?   Sorry about that, kids.  Big brother has decided to screw you out of your childhood and prepare you for a bleak future world where everyone is the same.  Make believe and thinking differently is not allowed unless it's the kind of different sanctioned by the "brave new world" of groupthink.

      They claim they want our kids to get smart yet they really want to dumb us all down so we can conform to their every whim.  It's all about control.  Of course, government is in the business of control.  That's what laws and regulations are all about.   This makes sense to keep an orderly structure to society--to a degree.

       Do we need government telling us what we can eat or drink that is beyond the useful action of making sure consumables are safe for us and won't kill us because of contamination or something of that nature?   What we decide to ingest and consume should be a matter of personal choice should it not?  Same with schools.  Teachers should have more control of the classroom under the guidance of local directives, but it makes little sense for the federal government to have an across the board agenda to homogenize society.  Rural areas have different concerns that urban areas.   A concentration of one cultural group in one area of the country might be a good reason to adapt a school system to that group, but not a reason to impose those cultural needs on every school system.

       The old American dream has been corrupted.   We missed it by that much!  Now the question is can we get it back?   The freedom train has been derailed by politically correct elements of society that want to change the story of the United States and alter the meaning of words that tell our story now.  The old totalitarianism trick is being pulled on us and anyone who is out of step with what the powers-that-be want is getting the duct tape across the mouth treatment and ostracization by those who are allowed to shout them down.
        In my blog post from 2013 Do You Know What Your Children Are Learning in School? I discussed the matter of government control as related to the federal government's intrusion on schools with the Common Core curriculum.   This educational initiative will undoubtedly become a big issue in the 2016 presidential race.  Common Core certainly has its proponents, but it is also facing vigorous resistance from its opponents.   Hopefully, voters will take a closer look at Common Core before continuing to allow it to turn our children into submissive clones.  Common Core is more than an educational agenda, it's a political agenda.   Certain elements of the ruling forces in this world would like nothing better than to see a degradation of the United States by weakening what this nation represents.  Despite what we think about our democracy, we may not actually have as much control over government as we'd like to believe.

         There will be many loud voices on all sides of every argument in the year to come.  Let's hope the voices on the side of what will be best for this nation will stay strong and remain loud.  "You can't move mountains by whispering at them," said chanteuse Pink.    Floyd Lawson, the barber and purveyor of homespun observations from The Andy Griffith Show, might have interjected with "I thought Calvin Coolidge said that."  

       Uh, no Floyd, Pink is attributed to having made that particular statement.  However Calvin Coolidge is credited with the following:

"We do not need more intellectual power, we need more moral power. We do not need more knowledge, we need more character. We do not need more government, we need more culture. We do not need more law, we need more religion. We do not need more of the things that are seen, we need more of the things that are unseen.... If the foundation is firm, the superstructure will stand." -Calvin Coolidge

"If in a free republic a great government is the product of a great people, they will look to themselves rather than government for success..."  -- Calvin Coolidge

"Don't expect to build up the weak by pulling down the strong." -- Calvin Coolidge

“Patriotism is easy to understand in America; it means looking out for yourself by looking out for your country.” 
― Calvin Coolidge

     Though it wasn't Calvin Coolidge, there is some disagreement on who said the following, but I think it's worth mentioning:

“When government fears the people, there is liberty. When the people fear the government, there is tyranny.”---Thomas Jefferson (according to some sources)

     Battle of the Bands Coming!

            Reading through my above rant you might have gotten some hint of what my next Battle of the Bands song will be.   Actually I think I made it so obvious to anyone who knows the song that I'd be very surprised if no one gets it.  Let me know in the comments what you think my next song choice will be.  My next Battle of the Bands will be combined with my Insecure Writer's Support Group post and will appear on Tuesday September 1st.

          Do you think political correctness has gotten out of hand in the United States?   Is it important for school kids to have an old-fashioned summer vacation?    Did you recognize what classic television comedy show I was alluding to in my post (other than The Andy Griffith Show)?

Monday, August 24, 2015

And Now for a Corny Blog Post

Arlee Bird cornsorting with the corny mascot of the Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota

      Blogger friends!   Lend me your ears!   Sometimes I realize I resort to corn on Tossing It Out, but in this post I've got the real thing.  There's more than just a kernel of truth to this post--there's a whole bunch of kernels.  

        In our recent trip across country from New Jersey back to Los Angeles, my wife and I traversed a number of the agricultural states of America's Heartland and were impressed by the farmland we passed on our journey.  It was mostly corn fields, but also many other crops that I, being no agriculturist, could not identify.  I'm guessing we might have seen a lot of soy, peas, and other plantings.  Then there were the vast fields of sunflowers in South Dakota that kept Tina Downey on my mind.  If you'll remember, A to Z Team member Tina Downey passed away a year ago on August 23rd and we sorely miss her.  Seeing those sunflowers was kind like a tribute in her memory.

Mitchell, South Dakota

The Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota

      If there are any among you who have heard of Mitchell, South Dakota then you are surely familiar with a true oddity of America Heartland legend--"The World's Only Corn Palace".   This was one place that we had to stop for as it is a unique landmark.

       The Corn Palace is the centerpiece of the city's yearly Corn Palace Festival as well as being the locale of many other festivities throughout the year.  The building has a basketball court that is used for local college and high school games and a stage that has featured many name acts in its long history.  

During the peak tourist season the main Corn Palace floor becomes a veritable souvenir department store.  That black rectangle in the background is the vast stage.
      In fact yours truly played the Corn Palace a number of times in the 70's and 80's when I was touring with the World of Fantasy Players so I was well familiar with this venue which was another reason I wanted to revisit this world renown facility.   They've made a lot of improvements since I was there last.   The place looked fine and was bustling with tourists on the Thursday afternoon when we visited.

       The most unique feature of the Corn Palace and what gives it its name is that the mural mosaics on the exterior and interior are made up entirely of ears of colored corn and other parts of the corn plants.  Each year the old murals are stripped and replaced with new ones.  This is a pretty amazing feat that takes weeks of tedious work to complete.

      This year's Corn Palace Festival begins this coming Thursday August 26th running through Sunday August 30th.   Some of the featured acts this year are Tony Orlando and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band.  You can still make it if you are so inclined, but I'm not sure about motel availability as the event draws thousands each year.

      Durn it all!   I just missed it!  Shucks!

My wife couldn't resist the shopping at the souvenir booths on the Corn Palace basketball court. 

A blog giant posing with a giant of peas.  Can you guess who is who?

        Earlier in the day prior to reaching Mitchell, South Dakota we made a quick stop off at Blue Earth, Minnesota.   I was actually getting off the interstate to find a place where my wife could buy some Minnesota souvenirs and we happened upon this tribute to the Jolly Green Giant.  Blue Earth is home to a Green Giant museum as the city played a vital role in the company's history.  Each year in July Blue Earth holds a Giant Days Festival.  By the way Blue Earth also claims to being the place of origin of the ice cream sandwich--that's what they say at least.

         And now for you Green Giant fans--remember this?


          I'd forgotten all about this crazy song from the group that gave us that most notorious version of the song "Louie, Louie" and then even before I got to Blue Earth, Minnesota I heard this song played on the radio.  Some kind premonition maybe?   Oh, peas...

           Have you visited either of these nutty Roadside Attractions?   Do you have any unique festivals in or near the community where you live?   What is the oddest place you've ever visited?

Friday, August 21, 2015

Bucking Some Dang Blogs & BOTB Results for Bodang Buck

Arlee Bird promoting A to Z Challenge at Mt. Rushmore

     Finally!  I'm back from one of my longest vacations ever.   It's been a great summer for me and my wife.  We've spanned the United States from coast to coast and seen plenty of the wonderful sights this country has to offer.  We've also enjoyed the company of family members and friends whom we don't get to see enough.

       Now, coming back to the usual routine of our most-of-the-year life, it's time once again for me to reassess my life and everything in it.  One of the first things I'm going to be tackling is my subscriptions to a number of Wordpress blogs that I've followed over the years.  There are many that I regularly read and comment on and they never seem to acknowledge the existence of my blogs.  I've already begun unsubscribing to many of those.

       Don't get me wrong, there are a number of Wordpress bloggers who have seemed to figure out how to cross comment on my Blogger platform and those will stay on my list.  I appreciate the support of the Battle of the Band bloggers  'Curious as a Cathy'Sound of One Hand TypingThe Doglady's Den,  Angel's Bark as well as a few other WP bloggers who regularly comment at Tossing It Out or Wrote By Rote.   I'm not dropping any of these bloggers and I hope we continue to have long meaningful relationships in the years to come.

      Maybe I'm being a bit petty about this, but my time is as valuable as anyone else's and even if I'm just taking a few seconds to delete notifications from my email it all adds up.  I need to start restructuring my time better and it's going to start with certain blogs.   No point in reading some of those blogs or leaving comments that never get reciprocated.  My comments on those blogs might get answered in some instances, but I'd appreciate some of those bloggers just letting me know that I mean something to them beyond my visiting their blogs.  

      Sorry for this bit of nonsense, but it's been bugging me.  It's time to do something about it--again.  If you have a Wordpress blog and feel that I might unjustifiably unsubscribe from your blog, please leave me a comment below so I know you are out there and what your thoughts are about my current course of action.

Bodang Buck Results

      The two versions I offered for the song Bodang Buck were so similar that I'm not surprised by the narrow margin of the outcome.   Some of you suggested that you couldn't explain why you chose the version you did, but if it wasn't a matter of a coin toss or some other such decision making process, I guess it was just a matter of which one sounded better at the time you listened to it.

      Since I have a history with this McGuinness Flint tune from having owned the album back in the 70's (and still having it in my collection), their version has been ingrained in my mind.  The McGuinness Flint album is a long time favorite of mine.  It has some fine tunes and the band has a good sound.  So that's where my vote goes.  Jonny Young Four did a great job with the song, but I prefer the instrumentation and subtler vocals of the Flint version.

Final Voting Results:

Jonny Young Four       10

McGuinness Flint         14

      My next Battle of the Bands post will be on Tuesday September 1 and will be combined with that month's Insecure Writer's Support Group post.    However I'll have at least one post next week so I hope you stop by for that or those whichever the case may be.

      Does anyone else share my frustration about bloggers who won't cross blogging platforms to leave comments?   If you've ever unsubscribed from a blog, why did you do it?   How was your summer?

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Bo Dang Buck (BOTB Vacation Version)

       It's time for Battle of the Bands.  This is an event that takes place on the 1st and 15th of each month.  Far Away Eyes at Far Away Series gets the credit for first conceiving this study in song version comparison. Stephen T McCarthy maintains the participant list and answers your questions about the event--you can find his blog with a list of participants at  StMcC Presents Battle of the Bands.   This is not at all complicated:  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.

      I'm in a bit of a iffy situation this time around.  I've gone ahead and prepared kind of a simple battle with a song that I like, but one that doesn't have a whole lot of personal significance to me or interesting story value to tell about the artists.   If I'm on proper travel schedule then I should be in Montana or Wyoming when this post goes live and then heading home from there.  A western sounding song seems kind of appropriate.

Jonny Young Four  "Bodang Buck" (1972?)

Jonny Young Four won the Billboard and Record Mirror's 'Top UK Group Award ' three years running in 1972, 1973 and 1974 at the International Festival of Country Music, Wembley, London, England.  I couldn't find much about this group.  This is their cover of the song originally done by the group McGuinness Flint.

McGuinness Flint  "Bodang Buck" (1970)

        "Bodang Buck" was originally written by Benny Gallagher and Graham Lyle of McGuinness Flint. and appeared on the group's debut album.   This is by the way a great album well worth checking out.

Time to Vote!

          Okay Buckos, time to do your part.   Which song version do you like the best?   Surely you think one is better than the other even if you don't like the song that much.  Just judge what you hear.  I realize they sound pretty close, but there are some obvious differences.   Which version do you prefer?    It's up to you to help 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

The Doglady's Den 

Angel's Bark  

Cherdo on the Flipside  

Jingle, Jangle, Jungle 

Women:  We Shall Overcome  

Book Lover

J. A. Scott  

Quiet Laughter

Results on Friday August 21st

         I'm messing with my scheduling some since this Battle falls on a Saturday and I'm traveling and all.  I'll be home by the middle of next week so I'll tally up any votes I might get on this and announce the winner on Friday August 21st.   Also since this Battle post falls on a Saturday I'm going to forego my Monday post to allow more visitors to find the post on Monday and throughout the week.   Please vote!   Battle of the Bands works better when I have votes to count.  I may be slow making my rounds this week, but I'm going to try my darnedest to come visit all of you.  

          Are you familiar with the song or the artists?   Doing any travelling this summer?   Have you been to Yellowstone?


Monday, August 10, 2015

Eating Our Way Through New Jersey

      To hear some of my family's conversations you might think we live to eat.  Of course we eat to live so we might as well enjoy life while we're at it.  Eating is probably one of the main conversations in which a good many of us engage when we're together.  And just think of all the television shows about food.   Meals can be a great time of social activity.

       So most of us talk about what we're going to eat later and about things we've eaten in the past and things we'd like to eat.  We look at Yelp reviews of restaurants, books and articles about different cuisines, and recipes of dishes we are going to be making or might make one day.  Food can be a controversial topic at times, but usually far less heated and uncomfortable than topics such politics or religion.

       My visit to New Jersey has involved a goodly share of eating adventures.  Here are a few of those food outings:

Arlee's Raw Blends

Here I am in my "official" Arlee Bird shirt posing in front of
Arlee's Raw Blends in Princeton, NJ
       When I ran across this establishment on Google I made it a point to make the drive over to Princeton (yes, home of that famous university) to check it out.  Fresh juices are something I need to drink more of so this seemed like an enticing offering to try.  Besides, I needed to check out a place using the same name as I use as my pseudonym.

       Princeton is a lovely town from what I saw.  Arlee's Raw Blends seems like the type of natural food establishment that you'd expect to find in a university town--good healthy stuff.  A friendly young lady on duty at the time of our visit provided us some samples of their products.  We bought a bottle of very veggie tasting juice that my daughter didn't care too much for since it contained cucumber juice, but my son-in-law and especially their kids enjoyed it.  It's a great kid alternative to sugar laden drinks.

       After that initial Arlee's visit we stepped a couple doors down to grab some hoagies to eat on a street bench.  Having eaten we returned to Arlee's for a "dessert" drink.  I was a bit wary of a cleanse drink since I didn't know how that would affect me so I settled for a coffee blend drink as did my daughter.  It was tasty stuff.  The little ones got a fruit drink and were quite happy.

       If you're ever in the Princeton, NJ area check out Arlee's and think about me while you're enjoying a healthy beverage freshly blended on premise.

Fusaro Pizza and Pasta

        My daughter Emilee is a real estate agent in Jersey and knows a ton of people in the area.  Having gotten her real estate license at age 18 right after she graduated from high school, ten years later she is now one of the top agents in the area.  I'm so proud of her!

        One of her friends owns a pizza restaurant in Manahawkin so one day we took a short trip there to have pizza for lunch.  Pizza is one of the New Jersey staples that I always look forward to eating when I go visit my daughters.  Fusaro Pizza was a great stop.  It's also a very kid friendly place.  We decided to dine outside since the day was pleasant.

The family enjoying a pizza lunch outdoors at Fusaro's in
Manahawkin, NJ
       We ordered a nice assortment of pizzas among us.  I decided on a white pizza with spinach which turned out to be a very good choice for me on that day.  Everyone enjoyed their pizzas including the kids.  The owner treated us royally.   Antimo Esposito-Costagliola--or Andy as friends call him--comes from of family of restaurateurs so he knows what he's doing when it comes to pizza.

        Fusaro Pizza is highly recommended if you're anywhere near Manahawkin, New Jersey.  I wish they'd open a branch near me in California.

Arlee Bird (on right) and Andy  Esposito-Costagliola, owner of Fusaro Pizza and Pasta

Harold's Deli

      After my wife arrived at Newark Airport, a bunch of us--two carloads of kids and adults-- headed over to the world famous Harold's New York Deli in Edison, New Jersey.  This place had been receiving a big build up from my son-in-law Tom for a couple of years now and this seemed like the opportune time to try it out.  Harold's did not disappoint.

       I won't go into details, but you can click on the link to visit the website and see their unbelievable menu.  We were famished when we got there and totally forgot to take a picture of our food until it was over half gone.  To give you an idea of things at this restaurant let me tell you about what we ordered for the nine of us.

       We split one pastrami sandwich among the six adults and got the kids an order of chicken fingers and fries to split.  We also got a few sides.  One sandwich you may ask?  I kid you not--this sandwich is huge and at $50 you would expect a big sandwich.  Not only did we all have plenty of corned beef sandwiches to get us through that dinner, there was enough left for sandwiches for the next day's dinner.  "Sandwich" is probably a misnomer since it's really just a massive helping of premium quality pastrami with as much bread as you care to grab off the pickle bar if you run out of the bread they initially bring to your table. Yes, there is a pickle bar that you can read more about at the Harold's website.

       If you're ever in the Edison, NJ area you really should check out Harold's.  But bring several people with you as Harold's works better for group dining.

This is the pastrami "sandwich" leftovers that we took home with us.

Road Warrior Days Ahead

        This Tuesday begins our return home with 6 more days on the road that should prove to be fun and exciting.   I've scheduled interesting stops along the way that will include Mount Rushmore, Yellowstone Park, and the bizarre House on the Rock in Wisconsin.  

        Since we have jam-packed days of driving and sightseeing, blogging will probably not be on my agenda until I get home after August 17th.  This means I'll be visiting Battle of the Bands posts a couple days after they've gone up.  I already have my BOTB post scheduled for this coming Saturday August 15th.  It's kind of a weak one, but due to my schedule I intended it to be this way.  The next one will be better I hope.

        Do you talk about food when you're with others?  Have you been to any of the food establishments I've named above?    Do you have any vacation plans scheduled for this summer or going on now?

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Do You Dare to Be Different? (#IWSG & #BOTB results)

      My Battle of the Bands results will be found down the page where you will see the BOTB logo, but first a word pertaining to my recent Battle post in conjunction with this month's Insecure Writer's Support Group posting.  For more information about the IWSG and a list of participants please visit Alex J Cavanaugh.

Do You Dare to be Different?

       Throughout my life I've tended march to that different drummer which often makes me seem a bit out of step with the rest of life's parade.  Not that I'm totally out of the loop concerning what's hot and what's not or even that I'm some outre weirdo from way out there.   I do have an inkling of societal trends, but they are not always what interests me all that much.  And often what grabs my interest is not what the majority of people around me enjoy.  Is it because what I like happens to be crap?  Or is it just too far out for most of the crowd?

       I'm willing to give just about anything a chance and in most cases willing to go the extra mile if others insist that it's worth my time.  In some cases my reasons for not liking something are reaffirmed by those efforts while in other cases I become enlightened by what I may have missed in my initial exposure to something.  I may be somewhat rigid in my personal standards of what I think makes something worth my time, but then again I don't always let the rules guide me nor do I just fall into the mainstream flow of what everyone else thinks I should enjoy.

        In a recent visit to Alex J. Cavanaugh's blog, author Misha Gerrick discussed the "rules" she breaks in her fantasy books  and how she is not sorry about any of it.  I say good for Misha.  As long as you feel good about what you're doing and you are able offer up a reasonable defense to show why you think your tactics work, then I say stick with what you believe.

        That's probably the direction in which I'll continue to march.  Different is okay in my way of seeing things.  Maybe everyone won't like what I like, do, say, or create, but I'm sure I'm not the oddball of the universe.  I will continue to appreciate different, unique, or what others might chide me for liking.  Everyone may not be on my side of the fence, but I do ask that those who disagree with me at least give me a chance and not immediately dismiss me because I see things differently from the way they do.

       I dare to be different.  How about you?

Battle of the Bands:  Results on a Different Sort of Pairing

       My most recent pairing of performances of the Lorde hit "Royals" drew some volatile reactions from the voting constituency of my BOTB posts.   There's a lot of clown aversion out there and that seems to be the main reason the sad-faced golden-voiced Puddles lost this round.   If he had gone sight unseen I wonder if the results would have been far different than they turned out to be?

      Initially my vote went in the direction of most of you who voted in this Battle.  When I first watched the Walk Off the Earth video my reaction was that this version cinched the contest.  The visual presentation is clever and likable.  The music is very well done and extremely pleasant to my ears.  My vote for WOTE was immediately decided.  And then I listened to the two versions again.  And again.  And repeatedly again.

       The more I listened, the more I began to realize that the WOTE version was very commercial sounding almost to a point of triteness.  Don't get me wrong about this--I like the band immensely and I still think their version is outstanding, It's well arranged and slickly produced.  This version I can easily imagine being played on mainstream radio.

      However, Battle of the Bands is about the music.

    The multi-talented producer/musician Scott Bradlee of PostModern Jukebox is the genius behind the Puddles the Clown music arrangement in this video and his jazz combo is top notch.  This shines through in this particular song.  One point in the video where this really hit me was at the 1:40 mark.  The punch of the piano and drums accentuating the lyric is pretty cool.  In fact throughout the song the instrumentation is so tastily presented with the droll background vocals minimalized to prevent distraction that I hear the professionalism of this entire recording.

       The "creepy" clown persona is a gimmick that might distract some and prevent them from realizing the true talent of this performer, but it is a different take on things that has gained this artist attention that he wasn't getting otherwise.  Now if you check out his booking schedule you can see that he has an intensive tour that's keeping him busy for months to come. He did something different and it has worked for him.  It can pay to be different.

       However the clown difference didn't work for this Battle.  My vote goes to Puddles the Clown, but I am in the minority.  In this voting round Puddles got trounced by Walk Off the Earth.

Final Tally

Walk Off the Earth       24 votes

Puddles the Clown         8 votes

         If you want to give Puddles another listen to hear what I'm talking about then here is an encore presentation.   Let me know if you agree with what I've said above.


        Next Battle will be on Saturday August 15th.  More about that on Monday the 10th when I'll also be offering a pictorial about my Jersey vacation.

         Do you think that resorting to a gimmick is a good way to get talent recognized if you are otherwise not getting anywhere with what you've been doing?   Do you think rules in writing or other arts can justifiably be broken?  Have you resorted to any types of gimmickry to gain recognition and if so what did you do?