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, November 27, 2017

The Exclamation Point Makes the Difference

What's the point of this post?  The point is the point which is not the point you may think it is...

Self-portrait in the crowd, at the Moulin Roug...
Toulouse-Lautrec self-portrait in the crowd, at the Moulin Rouge, Art Institute of Chicago (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

           In my post for the Remakes Blogfest,  I had mentioned that Baz Luhrmann's version of The Great Gatsby was my favorite remake while I hated the director's 2001 film Moulin Rouge!.  Many have said that this is a love it or hate it sort of film and I can vouch from my own experience that I can see why the film would create such separate camps.  The music sequences are colorful and dazzling and well performed, but the story did not grab me.  I also found the characters to be annoying.  I'll likely give the film a third chance someday--someday when I'm in a strange mood, stranger than normal. 

           My reaction to that film made me hesitant to watch the 1952 film Moulin Rouge after I'd saved it from TCM for later viewing.  Since my wife had also hated the Luhrmann film of the same name except with an exclamation point, she always declined to watch the earlier version for fear that it might be like the other film.   Since I was sure that the film without the exciting punctuation mark would be different I waited until one night that I was watching movies alone to check it out.

Moulin Rouge (1952 film)
Moulin Rouge (1952 film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

           Worth every award for which it won or was nominated, Moulin Rouge is a feast for the eyes as the story of artist Toulouse-Lautrec (played by Jose Ferrer) unfolds in come-to-life artwork that made him famous while telling the story of the amazing but sad life that he led.    A stellar cast includes an interesting portrayal of a cafe singer done by Zsa Zsa Gabor--I'd thought she only did game shows and variety show appearances.

            For me this film was an introduction to a famous French artist with whom I was familiar.  His artwork is prevalent having often been reproduced on items easily found in places like Target, Pier One Import, or the like. In other words I basically knew his style and some of his specific works without being intimately familiar with any of his works.  Many of his more famous paintings are recreated cinematically in the film. 

          Life stories whether exactly true or not are a film genre that I enjoy.  Moulin Rouge fits nicely into what I'd want to see in any biopic.   I'd highly recommend this film to anyone who might enjoy such a film as I have described without going into too many details.  This is one of those films that hit me with an impact that I'm still thinking about it--and it's been nearly a month since I watched it.

          If I haven't forgotten a film a day or so after I've seen it then that must mean something to me.  Odd how that works sometimes.

         What film have you seen that left such an impact on you that you continued to think about it for a long time after you'd seen it?    Have you seen this 1952 version of Moulin Rouge?    Care to hazard a guess as to what my Battle of the Bands song will be this coming Friday December 1st?  

Monday, November 20, 2017

Subtract Attract and You've Got What?

     The closer I get, the farther away I sometimes feel.  It's all a matter of nuances, ongoing perplexities and a realm of complexities.   Then there are my own assumptions about the way I would want things to be.  In the end things all work out as they are meant to be.

Is Love the Drug?

A scene from Kennywood, an amusement park loca...
A scene from Kennywood, an amusement park located in West Mifflin, Pennsylvania on the Monongahela River. This is a view of the Grand Carousel (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
         If love or affinity does not exist between people then what is there?  We could be strangers known to each other, but each having a tacit refusal to recognize the other.   Like on a busy street we pass faces we see often, regularly avoiding eye contact, walking on.  There is our world and then there is the rest of the world that we don't know. 

       Perhaps in some deeply ingrained stubborn anger--an anger that understands not from where it came--or perhaps resentment rooted in events or words that have lost any actual impact on our lives other than the burden we carry in our memory--if we remember.   Facing days with fists clenched and steely expressions, we might wonder where our hate (even the smallest traces of hate), where we developed it and why we love who we do.

         But forgive my pondering.  Some of the greatest philosophers of this age are the writers and singers of song.  Sometimes when I hear songs, my mind wanders to places where the songwriters may have intended or maybe I take a side track.

           Love as a drug makes for good metaphor.  I can see how there are times in peoples' lives where it really does seem like love makes the world go 'round.  And I believe it does.  Sadly though, on this merry-go-round of life, there are other horses with names like Hurt, Hate, Sadness. and Loneliness.   Keep riding and reaching for the brass ring.  We all ride more than one of those horses in our lifetime.

           If your life was part of an amusement park, which ride would you be on most often?   As you get to know someone better do you ever find them to be more mystifying as time goes by?   What is your best cure for overcoming disappointment? 

Battle of the Bands Results

Love Is the Drug

        My recent Battle was between two versions of the Roxy Music hit "Love Is the Drug".    I presented a remake by the songwriter Bryan Ferry and a version by the rock group Divinyls.

        For me it started out to be a tough choice--I think both are very good, each for its own special reason.  I dug the horns--especially the saxophones--in the Bryan Ferry version.  After repeated listening I became more inclined to liking the Divinyls version and that's where my vote went.

         The Battle was a true horse race from the start, but in the end Bryan Ferry won by a nose. 

Final Vote Tally

Bryan Ferry       11

Divinyls              10

Happy Thanksgiving!

       A lot of readers will likely be celebrating a special dinner on Thursday of this week, but no matter what:  Always make your dinners special!  After all life is pretty special.  If you don't agree then I would recommend looking for the special things wherever you are.  If you can't seem to find anything special then take it upon yourself to make something or someone special.  That's one reason we have imagination.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Love Is The Drug (#BOTB)

The purest truest love is the cure for all of our ills.  Personally, I think I'm addicted to love...

The Great Gatsby Poster

       In my Remakes Blogfest post previous to this post I mentioned that my favorite film version of The Great Gatsby is the 2013 release directed by Baz Luhrmann.  The film soundtrack can be rather jarring at first--it was for me--but I began to not only get used to it, but I enjoyed it.  The incongruity of the crazy songs rather set the mood for the setting of the Roaring Twenties when the film takes place.  For my Battle of the Bands this round I pit a song from the Gatsby soundtrack (a remake of an earlier hit rock song) against another rock version of the same song...

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 blogs there is also a Battle on the 1st of the month.  My blog is one of those with a second Battle on the 1st of the month.   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.

Love Is the Drug

          This song first done by Roxy Music in 1975 was the group's biggest hit.  You surely know it, but if not you can hear the original version here.   Please don't vote on the orignal!  The following are your choices:

Bryan Ferry  "Love Is the Drug"  (2012)

         This version by Ferry is essentially a  twice-over remake since he also sang the original with Roxy Music.  Here he gives the song a hot jazz band sound which made it well suited for the Gatsby soundtrack.

Divinyls  "Love Is the Drug"  (1993)

        This Australian group rocks this song   Their version appeared on the soundtrack of Super Mario Brothers

Time to Vote!

I think this is a very very tough choice.  Guess I'll have to come up with the version that is my personal favorite after several more listenings.   Do you have a preference between these two choices?   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 November 20th

         With Thanksgiving next week I'm going to cut back the voting time which I think will be fine since you've got the weekend to cast your vote.  

         Busy times ahead for me--how about you?   Have you experienced what you've felt to be true pure unshakable love?   Does the use of more contemporary songs in films set in past periods bother you?  


Monday, November 13, 2017

The Great Gatsby (Remakes Blogfest)

   It's been said that you can't repeat the past...though of course you can when you remake a movie.  Then you can repeat the past as many times as you remake the movie...

Hosted by Alex J. Cavanaugh and Heather M. Gardner.----
blog about your favorite remake: movie (or television show into movie and vice versa), song, or book – or all three! Post a YouTube video and links where we can find these treasures. Tell us why THIS remake doesn’t suck!   You can find the list of other participants at either of the hosting sites.

The Great Gatsby

        Surprisingly, for one who had been an English major with a focus on literature when I was in college the first time around, I had never read F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby until 2013 when the most recent remake was released.   I had no particular intention on seeing the film--the novel didn't strike me as interesting nor did the movie.   Later, after the film's release, my wife and I were visiting our daughter in Houston and as I was looking for something to read during my stay there I spied a copy of Gatsby in their bookshelves.  It was a relatively short book so I decided to read the thing that I had thus far avoided for my entire life.  

        Well, I was blown away--one of the best novels I have read.  Upon finishing it was clear to me why The Great Gatsby is considered by many to be one of "The Great American Novels."   In a sense it is the truest American story, a rags to riches parable for the modern age.  The novel captures the spirit of an era and the essence of the romantic longings for the unobtainable that so many of us may have experienced in our own lives at some time or other.  The tragedy is beautifully told by Fitzgerald and begs for cinematic treatment.  After reading the book, I was convinced that I needed to see this celebrated new film version.
        In some future post I'll go into what made me so apprehensive about seeing the 2013 version of Gatsby, but I'll add in passing here that it was directed by Baz Luhrmann who also directed the 2001 film Moulin Rouge--yeah, I hated that film, but more on that in a few weeks in a future post.  Despite my feelings about Moulin Rouge, I was set on viewing his interpretation of The Great Gatsby.   At the time I was not aware that it had been interpreted by earlier directors.

The Great Gatsby 1926.jpg
The Great Gatsby (1926)


         Luhrmann's version blew me away thus luring me to explore whether other versions had been filmed.  I discovered there had been four movie versions over the decades (not counting a made-for-TV version that I have yet to see).   The first was a silent film of which no copies are known to exist any longer so other than viewing the trailer I have not seen that one.   Another version was released in 1949 with Alan Ladd in the role as Gatsby.  In 1974 Robert Redford played the lead in a much bigger production than its predecessors.  Then came the Luhrmann spectacle.

The Great Gatsby Poster
The Great Gatsby (1949)

         If the 1949 version were the only one to have been made it would have been a highly credible interpretation and worth a viewing by Gatsby fans.  The acting is fine though the story has been pared down to ninety minutes which does not allow for enough exposition and character development.  This film is more like a summary of the story with a feel that much is missing--and it is.  Nevertheless, Ladd plays the Gatsby role well.   This film is satisfactory, but probably wouldn't be fulfilling enough for modern audiences.  For one thing, it's in black and white and comes across as more of a film noirish experience than the story that it is meant to be.  This version is pretty good, but a bit flat.

The Great Gatsby Poster
The Great Gatsby (1974)

          My wife prefers the sweeping epic version from 1974.  The acting is outstanding and everything about the production is top rate.  Robert Redford does a fine job with his portrayal of the title character.  I've only seen this version once so far, but I would say that it is well worth watching.

The Great Gatsby Poster
The Great Gatsby (2013)

          My favorite is the 2013 version.   All of the acting works well for me.  The sets, the effects, and even the soundtrack are all big, brash, and a lot of fun.  Toby Maguire delivers the most effective portrayal of Nick Carraway (the narrator) of all of the films in my opinion and for me he really made the film.  However, I'd put Leonardo DiCaprio's performance up against any of the Gatsby's who came before him.  Where this version really captures the essence of the book is in its depiction of the decadence of the Jazz Age and the craziness of the world surrounding Gatsby and his elite neighbors.  For repeated viewings Luhrmann's version is the one for me.   It's good stuff that sticks pretty close to the story and spirit of Fitzgerald's novel.   I think Zelda Fitzgerald might have preferred this version as well.

          Now for any Moulin Rouge fans who might take offense at my negative stance on that film,  stay tuned to this blog for my post regarding that Luhrmann nightmare.  I will have some opinionated thoughts to share about it.  That post will come on November 29th directly preceding a related Battle of the Bands of December 1st.   My next Battle of the Bands post will be this Wednesday when I'll be pairing a song from Luhrmann's Gatsby soundtrack with an earlier version of the song.  Hope you'll join me for that.

         And by the way, regarding the versions of The Great Gatsby that I've discussed in this post, they are all relatively widely available so finding them would likely be little problem.   I bought the 1949 and 1974 versions through Amazon while I found the 2013 version with lots of bonus features at my local Walmart for something like seven bucks--a real steal.

         Would you consider The Great Gatsby to be one of America's greatest novels?     If you've seen any of the Gatsby films which was your favorite (if you liked any of them)?   What are some of your favorite film remakes?  


Friday, November 10, 2017

Coming and Going

A Happy Arrival!

       Another grandchild!   She is my sixth grandkid (I can hardly believe it) and my fifth granddaughter.  This is the second child of my youngest daughter, Angelina, and her partner Ray.  Logan Maria Lego was born in the afternoon on Monday November 6th.  Though it will after New Years before I can see her in person, I am excited to meet her.

     According to my daughter, the inspiration for Logan's name comes from the character Wolverine.  I guess Ray and Angie must be fans. 

    Everyone is saying that Logan looks like either my daughter, Angie, or her big sister, Marley.   Either way that would certainly make sense to me, but I've never been able to tell much who a baby looks like.  I'd say she looks like herself--beautiful!

On a Sad Note...

       In the early hours of the Wednesday morning November 8th, my youngest brother, Jeff, passed away from a heart attack.  He had been living in Nashville, Tennessee for many years.  I had been looking forward to visiting him on my way to New Jersey during the Christmas break, but now it looks like I'll be picking up his ashes from the mortuary where he will be cremated.    Then I'll take his remains to be interred next to our parents in Maryville, Tennessee.  He'd been wanting to go back to Maryville.  Now he will be home at last.

       Born in San Diego on Halloween of 1962, Jeff had just turned 55.  As a small child he was one of the youngest jugglers in the world having learned the skill at age three.  By age five he could juggle five objects, which is no easy feat.  In later years he developed a passion for music.  He had an amazing talent in all sports.

       In high school Jeff began displaying signs of mental illness.  He was diagnosed with schizophrenia and moved through a number of of care facilities throughout his life.   This was a burdensome heartbreak for my parents and especially for my mother after my father died in 1991.  My mother faithfully visited Jeff on a regular basis when he was living nearby and as often as she could when he was housed farther away until her death in 2014.  At that point I became Jeff's conservator.

        It was not easy for me to visit very often, but Jeff and I spoke via phone on a regular basis.   I will miss those conversations.  He would usually talk about CD's that he wanted me to buy for him or about his favorite musical artists.  However, there were those times when we had interesting conversations about life, death, and family.  Jeff would at times have unique outlooks concerning what was in his head or at other times absolutely crack me up with his odd sense of humor.  He too enjoyed a good laugh when I would connect with him with my own humor.  Yes, I will miss his calls.

        Something that he frequently told me was that he was saved by Jesus Christ and someday he would be in heaven.  I guess it sounds cliched, but I do believe he is in a far better place where he has peace and clarity.  Just as he never failed to end our conversations with "Love you Lee," I will leave him with that same thought:   "Jeff, my brother, I love you."

Jeff Jackson at about age 9

Monday, November 6, 2017

Here? Again? Déjà vu (#BOTB Results)

Sometimes I feel like I'm posting about something I already have written about before.  That's probably because I have done another post about the topic.  Or maybe I've posted repeatedly about the topic.  It's kind of like life.  There is a lot of repetitiveness to life, which for me is a good thing.  It helps me to remember better...

That Strange Feeling
Déjà vu--we've all likely experienced that feeling of having been somewhere before, meeting someone whom we feel we've already known, or being in a situation that seems mighty familiar. The subject has been written about for centuries. But I wonder if the feeling is a more common occurrence in our time?

         I would argue that the sense of  déjà vu probably is more common now primarily because of media and other sensory experiences that bombard us in many ways.  We see previews, trailers, and teasers to the point that they all become part of the background noise that is ongoing data feed into our subconscious.  

         However the true déjà vu experience can be a startling and baffling mystery that can haunt us after the event has occurred.  A few years ago when my mother was in her final hours of life, at one point in the hospital room I felt an otherworldly experience of having been there before.  It was almost as though I were looking on at the scene, remembering it as something that had happened in my past.  Afterward all I could think of was déjà vu. 

         Most of the time, incidents that evoke such feelings within me I could probably reasonably explain even though I might not totally believe my own explanation.  I think we all enjoy little mind tricks that happen to us.  It's what happens when we escape into reading or watching something enacted before us. We are willingly deceived and complicit parties to that action.  Perhaps déjà vu is a bout of self-deception.  Or maybe it is real...

        What do you think? 

Battle of the Bands Results

Where or When

          My song choice for this previous Battle was the Rodgers and Hart classic "Where or When"  The song is about a lover's experience of déjà vu.  This song is one that I remember so well from early childhood because I used to hear it often.  The melody always entranced me and still does.  And all the more after I paid attention to the lyrics.

           The vocal combatants were contemporaries on the music scene from the mid to late 20th century Lena Horne and Etta Jones.  This was an outstanding Battle with both artists staying close though Etta held the lead throughout. 

            Stephen T McCarthy described my choice of Lena Horne with his description: 

"I prefer the "sweeter", gentler vocals of LENA HORNE. Her rendition retains the original melody and the very romantic, almost mystical mood indicated by the lyrics." 

I think that's a pretty good way of putting it.

           Still, Etta won the Battle, but not by much.

Final Vote Tally

Lena Horne       9 votes

Etta Jones         10 votes

  Next Battle on Wednesday November 15th

          I'm sure I'll post something before then so please visit and comment on all of my posts if you can.   On Monday November 13th I'll be participating in Remake Blogfest which will also be the theme of my next BOTB song a few days after that.   Be there!

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Where or When (#BOTB)

I've never seen a pig fly, but I've seen plenty of flies on pigs.  But that doesn't make bacon any less savory.   And what this has to do with anything I don't know...

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 November 1 posting of the IWSG are Tonja Drecker, Diane Burton, MJ Fifield, and Rebecca Douglass.

November 1 Question: Win or not, do you usually finish your NaNo project? Have any of them gone on to be published?

       When I started blogging in September of 2009, I began avidly seeking out all things blogging as well as anything to do with writing.  After all, although my blog started out as a Halloween blog, within a short period I came to the realization that what I'd rather do is write and I began to put an emphasis on writing.  Not so much technique or advice regarding writing, but I just wrote whatever inspired me at the time.  I was also posting daily in that first year, so Tossing It Out became focused on writing--my writing about things that I found interesting.

       It was not long after I began blogging that I heard about NaNo.  Having always been interested in writing for as far back as I can remember, writing a novel in thirty days sounded like an interesting challenge and challenge it was--daily posts, leaving comments, and finishing my 50,000 words in a month.  I became immersed in the writing because I was hellbent on finishing what I started.

        In my first year I came up with 50,000 words in a story that I felt proud of, but that was it.  I didn't go back to finish out the details of the story or edit what was done or anything else.  I saved my work with every intention of coming back to finish it eventually.  I never did.

         Nor did I finish my second NaNo attempt in 2010.  I met my 50,000 word goal and felt good with the product I had created then, but I've yet to go back and do anything more.  In 2011 I dived into another promising idea for about three days, then something came up that put me on a different track.  Since that attempt I've half noticed each November as it passes.  For all intents and purposes I've put writing on hold.   Oh, I'm still blogging, but there are no more NaNo projects for now.  Maybe someday, but I don't know where or when...

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 blogs there is also a Battle on the 1st of the month.  My blog is one of those with a second Battle on the 1st of the month.   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.

Where or When

        This is one of those songs I've heard for as long as I can remember.  It has one of those haunting melodies that seem to evoke memories and dreams.  I suppose that would be appropriate for a song about deja vu.   Recently I watched the 1939 musical film Babes in Arms with Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland and was pleasantly surprised to hear this song in the soundtrack.   Two years earlier in 1937 the Rodgers and Hart musical had been a Broadway hit.

         Since this song has been in my "someday" queue for a long time, I figured this would be a good time to feature this Battle.  And I thought it fit very well into this month's theme for #IWSG.

          There are so many great versions of this song to be found on the internet and done in so many different stylings.  I decided on two musical contemporaries who both are renown in the world of jazz, who have two distinct sounds.  They're both winners as far as I'm concerned, but I guess we all can pick one version as our favorite.

           Take a listen:

Lena Horne   "Where or When"  (1941)

         Lena Horne was a multi-faceted entertainer as well as a civil rights activist.  Besides her numerous recordings, Horne appeared in movies and television performances during her long career which spanned the years from 1933 to 2000.  Lena starts the Battle with her dreamy rendition of "Where or When".

Etta Jones   "Where or When"  (1960)

       Not to be confused with Etta James, the similarity in names might have had some impact on Jones' relative obscurity.  No doubt that Jones is an outstanding artist as displayed in this recording.  Jones came on the musical scene about ten years after Lena Horne though both were essentially contemporaries in their performing careers.  Etta definitely jazzes the tune up at a snappier pace with the help of a smokin' back-up band...

Time to Vote!

I think this is a tough choice, but I have my favorite.   Do you have a preference between these two choices?   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 November 6th

       You can have a few days and most of the weekend to vote, but please don't tarry--you might forget!   In the meantime, be nice on Saturday and every day for that matter.