The Manhattan Project--2016 A to Z Theme

Always a work in progress--welcome to my blog...

Friday, June 24, 2016

Looking Back (#FlashBack)

It's Flashback Friday - a time of the month where you can republish an old post of yours that maybe didn't get enough attention, or that you're really proud of, or you think is still relevant etc. This blog-go-round is hosted by MICHAEL G D'AGOSTINO FROM A LIFE EXAMINED--THAT'S WHERE YOU'LL FIND THE REST OF THE PARTICIPANTS OR TO JOIN UP YOURSELF.

The post I've chosen for this month first appeared on
Tossing It Out on Friday, April 29, 2011. To see the original comments to that post you can click on the title below to be taken to the original post. My reason for choosing this particular post, besides it being as relevant now as then, is that it is related to my next Battle of the Bands post which will appear on next Friday July 1st. ..

Your Yesterdays

"Refuse to write your life and you have no life." - Patricia Hampl

        Your past is the wellspring that supplies all interpretation of who you are and what you know.  A writer who attempts to shake his past becomes a mere amalgamation of the thoughts of others.  In the end that writer who tries to reject his past is merely a poseur who has betrayed his own true essence and is little more than a puppet master of word manipulation.

"Every author in some way portrays himself in his works, even if it be against his will."    ~Goethe

           Good or bad, everything that has happened to us in our lifetime shapes our world view.  We are who we have been and what we have known in our lives.  In natural writing this will come across organically and without shame.  No matter how much we try to force our words our true self is hiding somewhere within.  

"Everybody needs his memories. They keep the wolf of insignificance from the door."--   Saul Bellow

             Sometimes I hear people saying that they don't want to talk about themselves, they just want to write.  But why do we read a particular writer?  Sure it's the story and the writer's skill, but isn't it also the style?  The style comes from the writer's unique voice and the uniqueness of the writer's voice comes from who that writer is.  That writer persona has been formed and molded from the memories and experiences of the author.  If you want to be known as a writer, then you must speak in your own unique voice.

"Anybody who has survived his childhood has enough information about life to last him the rest of his days." --   Flannery O'Connor

         We sometimes hear the protest, "But my life isn't interesting--I've never done anything and nothing has ever happened in my life that's special!"  Therein lies your mission.  You've witnessed plenty in your lifetime. You've got plenty of data stored in your memory banks.  Now it's up to you to put it together into something interesting.  Like the letters of the alphabet can be formed into an infinite number of words, what you know can be put together in countless ways and told over and over.  No one has seen life from your unique perspective.

"The man who writes about himself and his own time is the only man who writes about all people and about all time." 
 George Bernard Shaw

Still the stubborn cry may be raised, "I can't keep writing about myself--my readers will get bored."  But perhaps you're confusing the uniqueness of your personal story and the shared experience of the human story.  We still read the great authors of the past because they tell a story that still applies to us in our age.  The settings, the nuances of language, the customs may have changed but the emotions and needs are much the same now as they ever were.  If we can successfully write our own story into the story of humanity then we have accomplished one of the main goals of being a writer.

"Everything one invents is true..." 
        -- Gustave Flaubert

        In one final attempt at argument you might say, "But I want to write fiction. I don't want to write a memoir or about anything that is true."

        It's still about you. Even if what you write is the most extreme fantasy, science fiction, or any other form, you are still part of the story. The story you tell is an extension of who you are and what you know and what you believe. If it's not these things, then what is it? Fiction? There is no real fiction, only fictionalized accounts of that which is true. If this is not the case then the story is not to be believed and the author is a liar.

"In a very real sense, the writer writes in order to teach himself, to understand himself, to satisfy himself."
-- Alfred Kazin

         Often on Tossing It Out as well as my memoir blog Wrote By Rote I have written blog posts based on my life and my experiences.  I don't worry too much whether the readers want to hear about what I think or what I've done in the past.  My main concern is whether it has been written engagingly enough for readers to want to read it and to be entertained in the process.  There are times when I might want to attempt to teach a lesson or even persuade a side of some opinion.  Like any writer, my goal is to please my audience, but since I am the first member of my audience who reads what I have written, my primary goal is to please myself with my work.  If you are not pleased with your writing then you need to write until you are pleased.  Always be honest with yourself.

           Do you think that at its deepest level all of your writing is essentially about you?      How easy is it for you to write without injecting your personal opinions or do you think it is possible not to do so?    Would you rather read something that shared your opinions about issues or something that is very much in opposition to what you believe?

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Should Some Things Stay As They Are? (#BOTB results)

Is It Almost Sacrilege to Tamper with Tradition?

       If it were up to some folks, things would always stay the same.  Over the decades we've seen updates on Shakespeare, Beethoven, and even the Bible.  Some might argue when a story is a good enough one then it doesn't matter how you tell it as long as you tell it true.  Others might bemoan the idea of taking a beloved classic and putting a different twist on it.   Beethoven's Fifth Symphony disco or rock style?   Really?   But actually it did kind of work didn't it?

        There might be some musical works that might be better not tampered with.  Do we want to hear a rock version of Debussy's "Claire de Lune" or an up-tempo jazzed up version of Schubert's "Ave Maria"?   I'm not sure, but I won't pass judgement until I hear a well done version of either if that ever happens.

        The recent mash-ups of 19th century novels such as Pride and Prejudice with an inclusion of zombies and other popular literary works done in similar ways were fun (though I've heard the film version of PP&Zombies wasn't so great), but probably more novelty than any real literary breakthrough.    

        We've come to a time where almost anything goes when it comes to the arts--or it's at least worth giving the change up a try.  Jazz and rock  have probably broken more musical barriers then any other music form, but musical artists in all genres have explored the possibilities of what can be done with music.  The question for some still remains--should you mess with a musical work that was outstanding in its original incarnation?

Sigmund Romberg's Musical Masterpiece Goes to Battle

       My most recent Battle of the Bands contest put a sultry 1930's style jazz version of "Lover, Come Back to Me" that was closer to its intended light opera style up against a swinging upbeat big band jazz arrangement from the fifties.   Either way you look at at the song works well in both styles.  After all, a darn good song is a good song no matter how you play it.

         The voting bore this out well I think.  Each version had its fans which resulted in a nail-biter of a musical battle.   There were turn-offs as well as big pluses to each version depending on the ears of the beholders.  Some preferred the energy of Brenda Lee while others found her version "Las Vegasy", but most agreed she did a good job.  Other listeners felt that Tamar Korn and Gaucho captured the essence of a musical era with their slowed down version.

         In the end I was left with--are you ready?--a tie!  What this means is that I get to break the tie with my vote for my favorite.  I've got to go with that forlorn sound of Gaucho which seems more appropriate to the lyrical content of the song.  The lyrics work for either style, but to me it's more of a sad song about the singer yearning for a lost lover.  And I loved that smoky speakeasy sound of the jazz ensemble.   This was some wonderful music.

         This made for a great battle and kind of a tiring one.  After that I need a slow song to wind me down.

Final Vote Tally

Gaucho           14

Brenda Lee     13

Next Battle Will Be Next Friday July 1st!

          Hopefully you'll enjoy this next Battle of the Bands post.  Between now and then I'll have a couple of posts about looking back and reliving old memories.  My previous Battle may have dealt with an old song in old styles, but my next Battle will consist of two different not as old songs that were released in the 80's a couple of years apart.   The songs will deal with the topic of living in the past and neither one is by Jethro Tull.   Both song artists have ties to one another.   One artist became a huge star while the other remained only a regional favorite.  You're free to take a stab at guessing any part of this upcoming battle or you can just wait for the fun to begin next Friday.  Please don't miss this one!

           Do you enjoy twists on musical classics?   What is your favorite re-imagining of a popular literary work?    Would you prefer that something that works well not be tampered with?  

Monday, June 20, 2016

How Big Is Your Ego?

English: Then President of the United States o...
 Then President of the United States of America, George W. Bush invited then President-Elect Barack Obama and former Presidents George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Jimmy Carter for a Meeting and Lunch at The White House. Photo taken Wednesday, Jan. 7, 2009 in the Oval Office at The White House. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

       Summer's ego is flaring with a vengeance in the southwestern U.S.   Predictions are that we in Los Angeles will be seeing unusually high temperatures for the next ten days or so.   Forecasters are saying that places like Las Vegas and Phoenix will be seeing temps in the 120 degree range.  Not especially unique for those folks who live there, but damn hot any way you look at it.  And summer of 2016 has barely begun.  What does this bode for the upcoming months?

        One thing we in the U.S. are facing is a heated political climate with an idiosyncratic presidential race ahead of us.  The primaries were kindergarten stuff compared to what we might be seeing in the months ahead of us.  Divisiveness of the parties and the nation as a whole may set tempers flaring and nasty words flying.

        Plenty is said about the over-inflated ego of Donald Trump.  No denying that the guy has a super big ego.  What public figure doesn't?   Bill and Hillary Clinton both have such humongous egos that one can only wonder how they can stand each other's company.  The ego of Barack Obama shows an air of superiority that gives him a sense that he's talking down at us or lecturing us. Even the good out boy presidents like George W. Bush or Jimmy Carter are driven by ego otherwise they would have never made it as far as they did.

        An egoistic Fidel Castro fueled a revolution to overthrow one dictator's grandiosity to replace it with his own bloated self-image that expected total allegiance or else from the citizens of his nation.  Recently, the passing of Muhammad Ali reminded us of the swaggering young Cassius Clay who pronounced "I am the greatest" and charmed much of the public with his egotistical antics. By no means was I a fan of Ali, but I will admit I was amused by his early escapades before he changed his name and became what some feel was a traitor to his country.

       We are entitled to our opinions just as we have a right to brand ourselves in whatever way we wish.  Criticism can be expected when we put ourselves in the public eye, but when we attack another we are attacking ego and that is like going for the throat.  Backlash can be expected from some while hurt might be the outcome for others.   Even those with the most fragile egos will usually make some attempt to defend their pride, their image, and their sense of self-worth.   My opinions reflect my own ego and when someone attacks my opinion, they are attacking a certain part of who I am.

        Openness to discussing differences is a good thing as is amicable debate concerning why one party believes what they think is right.   If we are open to listening to each other rather than jumping to the conclusion that we have the right answer and nobody can come up with a reasonable counter argument, we might end up learning more about others as well as ourselves.  There are some points, especially those dealing with preference, where there is no right or wrong, but merely a difference of opinion.   If I were dictator of the world, it might be assuaging to my ego for a while, but eventually that world would likely get pretty boring if everyone else were forced to share every opinion that I have.

        This will be the last post in my "Love and Ego" series in the official sense, though this blog will always be some reflection of my own ego and a study of ego in general.  And love will always make appearances here, especially in the many more songs of love that I have in waiting for future Battle of the Bands blog posts.

         Love and ego are ever present with all of us.  Just as the heat that scorches us here in Los Angeles affects the moods and attitudes of those of us who have to deal with feeling the burn (I'm talking climate here), love and ego will shape the directions we take in our lives and influence the way we treat others.

         Between love and ego, do you think one force tends to overpower the other or do you feel there is a parity between the two?    Do you feel that your ego is strong or do you tend be a relatively acquiescent person?     Can you think of any politician without a strong ego?  If so, explain why you think this.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Lover Come Back to Me (#BOTB)

    "Sorry" seemed to be the hardest word--or at least song--in my previous BOTB post.   Now I have different song with a similar subject matter.  I hope you will enjoy this song more than that Justin Bieber classic "Sorry"...

Film poster for Deep in My Heart - Copyright 1...
Film poster for Deep in My Heart - Copyright 1954, MGM (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

       Back in April, in the midst of the A to Z Challenge, a movie that was showing on TCM one night caught my eye. I felt like I needed a break from blogging so I decided to watch a film from 1954 called Deep in My Heart. I'd never heard of this film, but since the film was a musical biopic about a composer's life, I felt compelled to watch it.  I'm glad I did.

      This film is essentially like a variety show of many great performers of that time strung together with dialog and story to fill the gaps between musical numbers.  I didn't recall ever having heard of the story's subject, Sigmund Romberg, but once the songs started playing I realized they were all great standards that I have known and loved since childhood.  That's when the inspiration for today's Battle of the Bands came about.

         If you're a fan of good old-fashioned musical biopics, I think you might enjoy Deep In My Heart.  The lead role is played José Ferrer.   I don't recall much of what this actor has done, but I know I've seen him in many films.  I thought his portrayal of Romberg was quite well acted though maybe many modern day audiences might find him to be stilted and stuffy.  

        In any case, I loved the film and I love this song from the film...

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 twice each month on the 1st and 15th.   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.

"Lover Come Back To Me"

         With lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein and music by Sigmund Romberg, "Lover Come Back to Me"  was published in 1928 for the Broadway show The New Moon where the song was first introduced to audiences by Evelyn Herbert and Robert Halliday.  The original version (click here to listen) is almost in a light operatic style popular at the time.   The influence of classical music on Romberg's composing style is especially apparent in the middle section of the song which makes reference to "June: Barcarolle" from Tchaikovsky's The Seasons, opus 37b.

          Over the years this song has been recorded numerous times by a wide variety of artists in many styles.   Now the song is considered more of a jazz or pop standard than what it was originally intended to sound like.  The selections I've chosen for this Battle were recorded nearly fifty years apart with the newest recording performed in a style that sounds 30 years older than the older recording.  Sounds crazy perhaps, but take a listen and you'll see what I mean...

Gaucho w/ Tamar Korn  "Lover, Come Back To Me"  (2010)

       Tamar Korn is a respected jazz artist with world renown.  On this cover of our featured song of Battle she is backed by an ensemble of world class jazz musicians who have played with artists as diverse as Tom Waits and the B-52's.  The vocals might be off-putting to some of you at first, but try to stick with it.  The song presentation is done in the style of 1920's jazz as performed by artists such as Rudy Vallee, Annette Hanshaw, Tiny Tim, and Betty Boop.  During the instrumental trade-offs, about half way through the performance, Korn's vocal violin imitation caught my ear as this was something I used to hear some vocalists do back when I was a kid--don't hear this done much these days.  This version immediately captivated me when I first heard it.  I hope you enjoy it as well...

Brenda Lee  "Lover, Come Back To Me" (1963)

  Known for hits like "I'm Sorry" (shades of my last BOTB installment!), Brenda Lee was a dynamo of a singer as seen in the next video. Though the previous video might have sounded older, this Brenda Lee video predates it by nearly 50 years. Let's step up the tempo with Brenda Lee's jazzy version of "Lover, Come Back To Me"...

Time to Vote!

       This is an old oldie so I hope that's not a turn off for too many of you.  Just try to feel the music.  Let us know what you think about these two versions. Is there one that you prefer over the other?    If you're visiting a Battle of the Bands post for the first time then let me briefly explain.  Please give each song version a fair listen to decide which one you enjoy the most.  If you don't like either then at least tell us which recording was least innocuous to you. This comes down to your preference and it's as easy as that.

     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

DC Relief Battle of the Bands

The Doglady's Den 

Angel's Bark  

Cherdo on the Flipside  

Jingle, Jangle, Jungle 

Janie Junebug Righting & Editing.
J. A. Scott  

Quiet Laughter

Holli's Hoots and Hollers

Be ReInVintaged

Winner Announced on Wednesday, June 22nd

        On my next Wrote By Rote post this Saturday June 18th I'm going to be speculating the concept of haunting melodies such as I consider the song "Lover Come Back to Me" to be.  This will be a Soundtrack of my Life post.   I'll also be posting here on Tossing It Out next Monday June 20th.  But definitely be here for my June 22nd Wednesday post to see which artist comes out ahead in this current Battle of the Bands.

      Do you welcome back old friends after a disagreement or do you feel that relationship is forever tainted thereafter?   What old films have recently taken you by surprise?   Do you think that there is anything wrong with "borrowing" musical phrases when creating an new piece of music?