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, August 21, 2017

The Sun Is Like a Star (#BOTB results)

  Happy Eclipse Day!

           Our Sun is like a star--well, because it is a star.  Today millions of observers will witness the moon passing in front of their view of the Sun.  The Moon covers many stars on a regular basis, but very few of us notice.  On this day (Monday August 21, 2017) millions will see this rare phenomena first hand while those like me will mostly watch on television.  I'll peek outside now and then to see what my view will be, but I don't expect things to get very darkened where I live.  And watching on TV I shouldn't have any risk of going blind.

          Anyway, since I can't really compete with a total eclipse of the Sun and I don't have all that much to say about the science or history or whatever about eclipses, I'll just move along to announcing the winner of my previous Battle of the Bands match-up.

Battle of the Bands Results

      I figured this match between Jane Monheit and Corinne Bailey Rae performing Rae's "Like A Star" would be a close one.  This Battle did not disappoint.  Even without my vote, my preferred artists won by a tiny margin.

        My wife and I both agreed that Corinne's version was perhaps more heartfelt and more dramatically delivered, but from an aesthetically musical standpoint we agreed that Jane Monheit's version was more pleasing to our ears.  Besides Monheit's dreamy vocals, the instrumentation put me in a faraway contemplative state of mind.   Love that kind of sound!

Final Vote Tally:

Jane Monheit              13

Corinne Bailey Rae     9

Next Battle on Friday September 1st

       Yes, I will be trying a two Battle a month schedule to see what response I get.  Hopefully some others will join me on the 1st--but I hope plenty of you will at least stop by to vote.

         Will you be (or did you) watch the total eclipse?   What were your feelings about it?   Had you been facing this day will some uncertain sense of dread or apprehension?

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Like A Star (#BOTB)

        There are some things that demand they be remembered.   The highway of history should consist of identifiable markers that prompt us to think and not empty ruins that have no meaning to anyone--those mile markers contain important lessons that can provide insight and promise for the future.  

Birth of a Battle

        My previous post told the story of my encounter with a song that I'll be using for my current Battle of the Bands entry.  As noted in that account, this song snuggled into my brain and I did not want to let it go.  When I first heard it, this particular song struck me as an older tune, perhaps from the sixties.  I speculated that it might be a bossa nova style tune by the Brazilian composer Antonio Carlos Jobim.  I could not recall ever having heard the song and I wanted to know who performed this lovely rendition of the mystery song.

        Thankfully, the radio announcer let me know that what I'd heard was performed by Jane Monheit, an artist not only with whom I was remotely familiar, but who I have been considering using in a future BOTB post.   After all, Monheit is a jazz and pop song stylist who has recorded numerous covers.  She had appeared on at least one other BOTB post that I could remember.

        Upon my return home a couple days after hearing the song on the radio, I researched YouTube to see if I could find the beautiful song that I had heard on the road in Missouri.  It didn't take long to find the song and shortly thereafter I discovered that the original version by the composer Corrine Bailey Rae was also very good.   This was a call to Battle...

Battle of the Bands

       Battle of the Bands is the blogging event started by Far Away Series and now hosted by StMcC Presents Battle of the Bands.   This event happens each month on the 15th and on some there is also a Battle on the 1st of the month.  My blog is one of those with a second Battle excepting over these summer months.   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 Battle action.

Jane Monheit "Like A Star"   (2009)

        Since her first album in 2000, Jane Monheit has released twelve albums as well as appearing on a number of albums by other artists.  Along with the many accolades for her music, Monheit has been nominated twice in the Grammy Awards.  Here is the song that transfixed me so on Highway 60 in Missouri.

Corinne Bailey Rae  "Like A Star"  (2006)

       With six Grammy nominations and two wins along with a slew of other international awards and recognition, Corinne Bailey Rae has established an impressive music career in a relatively short time.  Though I previously had no idea who she was, I was familiar with her song "Put Your Records On".  Now I can gladly say that I know who this artist/composer is and I'll be watching for more music from her.  According to the website Genius, Rae says that "Like a Star" was inspired by the grunge group Nirvana.  It's not the first thing I would have guessed, but we all know that inspiration can come from the strangest places.    I'll leave it to you to see what you hear in the song.

Time to Vote!

    Are you as torn between these two versions as I am?  D
o you have a preference between these two choices?   Hopefully you have an opinion of some kind. Which version do you like the best?   You don't have to know about music to have an opinion since it all comes down to your own personal taste.

        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. 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



'Curious as a Cathy'

Sound of One Hand Typing

The Doglady's Den 

Angel's Bark  

Jingle, Jangle, Jungle 

Cherdo on the Flipside 

Winner of this Battle Announced on Monday August 21st

        This might be a tough match so I'm anxious to see what the outcome will be.  Tune in next Monday for the Battle results.   That will be my next post--on Solar Eclipse Day!

         Do you like this song as much as I do?   Do you think my response to the song was a bit of overreaction?   Do you live in the path of the solar eclipse or will you be going to a place that is?

Friday, August 11, 2017

Why Did You Like That?

Why do we like things that we like?  I often wonder about the answer to this question while at other times I can bring some of the answer into focus...

Photo by Arlee Bird

           We'd left at daybreak after a divine night's sleep at the Holiday Inn of Poplar Bluff, Missouri.  It had been quite some time since I'd stayed at a Holiday Inn and my wife and I were pleasantly surprised by the amenities of this location.  We had retired early after another wonderful day of our vacation which was now within a couple days of ending.  Our home beckoned, and though our trip had been nearly perfect in every way, we were now anxious to get back to our own bed.   Beautiful as it was, vacation was now over aside from the remaining days of intense driving.

        Could we have asked for a better morning than that last Saturday in July 2017?   Sure, but I don't know what improving a fine morning like that one would look like.  The temperature was in the mid-seventies at five in the morning, promising another hot day that we would mostly experience in the air conditioned comfort of our van.  A McDonald's near the Holiday Inn was already opened so that we could grab some breakfast at the drive through.  They didn't have have the coffee drink that I had wanted so I settled for a mocha frappe.  Adding a hash brown and a sausage biscuit made it a combo.

        As I negotiated my way to Highway 60, I nibbled on a hot greasy block of the potato substance they called hash browns.  After I'd found 60 I attempted to consume a rubbery sausage biscuit that apparently had been sitting around far too long.  I managed my way through half of the biscuit before stuffing in the bag my wife had saved for trash.  No matter though, since the quick breakfast was mostly a matter of keeping my blood sugar stable.  And the drive looked like it was going to be a good one.

         U.S. Highway 60 was a far nicer road than I had expected--a divided four lane highway with little traffic on this Saturday morning.  A perfect morning for driving, yes it was, and we were passing through the beautiful rolling hills of the Missouri Ozarks.  Like most of my days driving I started out by listening to the news on satellite radio.  After about an hour into the drive I decided to see what I could pick up on regular AM radio.  There were was a local trading post type show where people would call in to sell things.  Next came some sports show where I had no idea what the guys were talking about.  Then came the music that has been my fixation for the past two weeks.

        Like synchronicity, the song started right at the beginning and from that start I was captivated.  The instrumental ensemble had an orchestral sound though it was probably a septet.   It was my kind of music.  After a very short lead-in, a smooth female voice entered with the lyrics.  For  a moment I thought the song might be a Contemporary Christian song, but I soon decided it was not.  There was a jazziness to the music.   Through the static and radio distance--I'm guessing the station was coming from Springfield--the song sounded old--well, like certain music from the sixties.  The song was one that I had no recollection of ever having heard.

        As the song played on the radio, a vast panorama of scenic wonder surrounded us and the day was as beautiful as any best memory of childhood.  My thoughts turned to the extent that my life was blessed and all of the potential that might be still ahead.  My wife too seemed to be in a reverie.  I mentioned how beautiful I thought the song was with a side hope that someone would tell the artist and song title at the end.  I got the artist at least.

         I figured that if I still remembered the song when I got home I could look up the artist and figured that on YouTube I'd find the song even though I'd forgotten the lyrical content.  It didn't take me long to find it, but that's not the point of this post.  My point is to pose the question of why that song suddenly appealed to me so much that in that one listening it became a part of me.   Now that song is part of  my life soundtrack.   I will always associate the song with an amazing moment in the time that I've spent on this Earth.

         Certainly I was attracted to the type of song as well as the style of music.  The players were good and I really liked the singer.  But the song seemed to connect well with the sentiments of that particular morning--going home after an extraordinary vacation.  And there was the weather, the geography, road conditions, and good company.   It was just my wife and I driving through the Ozarks on our way home.  And now I have a song that plays behind that scene.

          What was the song? you might ask.

          Ah, that's what this is about.  In researching the song I found a surprise that might reflect how out of touch with more recent music I am.  Anyway, the song will be revealed in my upcoming Battle of the Bands post next Tuesday August 15th.  The surprise that I found in my research demanded that this song be my next Battle.  I'm so obsessed with it.

           What is a song that you became obsessed with for a period?   Do you still ever listen to AM radio?    Does listening to music through faint static or distortion affect your perception of what you are hearing?  


Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Don't Tax My Brain! (#IWSG)

       Reading should flow naturally like a river without impediments or a road free of obstacles blocking progress.   That is unless the writing is scholarly or intentionally pedantic in which case if I'm reading for fun or pleasure I ain't going to be reading that crap...

Cartoon about a priest reading an adult magazine.
Cartoon about a priest reading an adult magazine. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Insecure Writer's Suppport Group

Join us on the first Wednesday of each month in Alex J. Cavanaugh's Insecure Writer's Support Group--a forum of writers who gather to talk about writing and the writer's life. For a complete list of participants visit Alex's Blog

The co-hosts for the August 2 posting of the IWSG are Christine Rains, Dolarah @ Book Lover, Ellen @ The Cynical Sailor, Yvonne Ventresca, and LG Keltner!

August 3 Question: What are your pet peeves when reading/writing/editing?

         Keep things clear is what I'd advise the modern writer--at least if they're trying to reach the typical reader.   Perhaps the argument could be made that we've become stupider--or simpler--as readers and I think this is true to a great extent.  Readers now are used to texts, emails, and People magazine.  They often prefer something they can whiz through.  The typical reader avoids flowery Victorian novels or deep tomes like what might be found as recommended or required for college classes.  

         That's me.   If I'm going to read for entertainment then I want things relatively simple and unencumbered by long complex sentences and paragraphs that go on for pages.  I find it rather annoying to be reading and reading and then forget what the heck I was reading in the first place to the point that I have to go back and reread what I had supposedly been reading but apparently wasn't. 

         A good many of us have developed comic book/TV sitcom brains.  We often lack focus due to distractions all around us and the wiring within our brains that tends to sidetrack our thinking.  Maybe you do better than I when it comes to reading writing with complex presentation, but that's what my reading peeve is.  My writing reflects this reading bias.  I want to read in the same way that my mind works.  Well, maybe sans some of the discombobulation, but to the point with simplicity.

        Sure, I'll read some tough stuff now and then as long as I can intersperse plenty of simple reading in the mix.  If a writer seems to be trying to impress with unnecessarily big or obscure words or complex rambling writing then they might lose me.   Reading for fun should be fun and reading for information should be clear and concise.

        That's my peeve at least.   Others might disagree in which case they can read those books, stories, or articles that I don't read.  If I were a better reader then maybe I wouldn't feel this way.  I don't think I'm alone in this judging from the kinds of books that seem to be most popular.  On the other hand I might have just now expressed a falsity since I don't read all that much.  

         Which brings me to another peeve.  Guess I'll save that one for another time.

         How often do you read deep complex books?  Do you write in the style of most of what you read?    In school, did you read all the required reading or did you tend to look for alternatives like Cliff notes or movie versions?