Monday, November 23, 2015

A Day Late and a Few Dollars Short (#BOTB Winner)

English: Trump Hotel in Las Vegas (tilt corrected)
Trump Hotel in Las Vegas  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

       As of my writing of this post, it's been a few hours since my having returned from a short vacation to Las Vegas with my wife.  We'd gone there to meet up with our daughter and her family--she was there for a conference for a few days and my wife wanted to be able to spend some time with them.  It was a nice little vacation trip and I only lost about fifty dollars or so playing the slots.  Not a bad sum to have lost, but I'd rather had come home with my pockets bulging with winnings.

       I had made reservations for four nights at Harrah's which is where we'd usually been staying for our past several visits.   Later my wife requested that I add Saturday night to our stay.  The rate was increased for that night and the hotel said we'd have to change rooms, so for about the same price I found that we could move to the Trump Hotel for the one night so that's what we decided to do.  We'd never stayed in a Trump property so we thought why not check it out with all the current Trump hoopla and all.

       In the end I'm glad we made that decision because the Trump is indeed a beautiful hotel.  The pricing was essentially the same as other properties that I had checked so it wasn't like we could have saved much without staying at some property with which we were unfamiliar or one that might have been a dump.   No dump the Trump.  Not in our normal budgetary range, but it was a fun stay even though we weren't in the room very long.

      Everything in Vegas is so much more expensive than it used to be years ago.  I didn't see any advertisements about the ninety-nine cent shrimp cocktails or $6.99 buffets.  Vegas is crowds of people--though it wasn't as crowded as I'd seen on previous visits--and casinos reeking of cigarette smoke--though not as bad as it used to be.  I think less people smoke these days.

      Everywhere we went there were opportunities to spend, spend, spend and plenty of people doing just that.   We tried to take care about our own spending, but money seems to fly out of your pockets--or get charged to your credit card--wherever you go.  Bye-bye hard-earned money.  Play now, pay later.

        We left early enough on Sunday to avoid the worst traffic heading back to Los Angeles.  Aside from a couple of slow downs, the trip went smoothly.  We got home before dark (thank goodness) and I collapsed on the bed for a one hour nap.  Then for dinner I opened a big can of hot and spicy Juanita's menudo and ate all three servings of the tripe and hominy stew in a spicy broth all by my lonesome.  My wife won't even try the stuff and leaves the room when I eat it.  What can I say other than I have acquired a taste for menudo and get a craving for it every now and then.

         And that brings me to the Battle of the Band winner between the two versions of the song "Preso".    And the preceding story explains in part why this winner announcement post is coming a day or two later than everyone else's.

The Winner:  "Preso"

       My most recent Battle of the Bands post featured the Spanish language song "Preso" as performed by Mexican artists Cristian Castro and Aleks Syntek.  I wasn't overly surprised about which version won the most votes, though I didn't expect the victory to be so overwhelming.

       First let me explain which version I voted for and why.  When I listen to music, no matter what language it's in, I tend not to listen to the lyrics as much as I take in the overall effect of the music along with the style of the vocals.  I'm more interested in how a song sounds than what it says.  Prior to putting this Battle together I never really thought about what the song was about so lyrics were of no influence on me.

        The romantic styling of Cristian Castro is something that I enjoy listening to and there's nothing bad I can say about this artist.   His style is soothing and comforting like a bowl of good chicken noodle soup.  When I'm in the mood for soothing and comforting and romantic then give me Castro's version.

         On the other hand, for me at least, Syntek has an original modern sound that I can dig--he's the menudo of my soup analogy (not to be confused with the band Menudo).  As I'd mentioned in my previous post, Syntek first caught my attention when I saw the video for his very cool song Historias De Danzón Y De Arrabal.   Later I realized that I had the José José tribute album which included Syntek's version of "Preso".   I like the edgy style of Syntek's recording right from the sampling of the violins at the opening to the catchy funk style that he uses in his version.
         My vote goes to the Aleks Syntek version of "Preso".     I can listen to this version more often than the Castro version though that's not to cast any aspersion on the romantic styling that Castro puts into his.  They are both good to my ears.

         Most of you were not in agreement with me on this as can be seen in the final outcome of the voting.

Final Vote Tally

Cristian Castro                26 votes

Aleks Syntek                   12 votes

       As a bonus I offer the video of Historias De Danzón Y De Arrabal which has become a favorite song and video for me.  This song gives a good idea of the type of pop music that I enjoy.    Hope you'll take a listen and let me know what you think.

         My next Battle of the Bands post will be on Tuesday December 1st.  At that time I will be presenting a song for our times and one related to the season in a sense.  One of my artist choices will be one that Stephen T McCarthy loves while the other he may not like so much.  I'm going to take my chances with this Battle.   You won't want to miss it!

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Preso (#BOTB)

        It's November 15th which means the end of the year is growing nearer.  It also means that it's time for another installment of Battle of the Bands!   This event which takes place on the 1st and 15th of each month was started by Far Away Eyes at Far Away Series Blogger 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.   

        Here's what I'm asking of you:  Listen to the song versions 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.

        And now my song pick for this round of Battle of the Bands:


        "Preso" is Spanish for "prisoner" or "imprisoned".   In this song the term is used as a metaphor for being so involved in a love relationship that it's like being hopelessly ensnared.   The song first appeared on the album Gracias by popular Mexican singer José José in 1981.  If you're interested in hearing the original version then click here, but please don't vote on this version.

Here are the contestants for your consideration:

Cristian Castro  "Preso"  (2011)

       To start this Battle we have the uber romantic song styling of Cristian Castro.  Mexican singing star Castro is the son of the renown actress/entertainer Verónica Castro  and popular comedian/actor Manuel "El Loco" Valdes .  Cristian started his acting career as a baby when he began appearing in telenovelas and commercials with his mother.  In 1992 when he was still a teenager he recorded his first album and has recorded many since.

       Castro's version of "Preso" stays true to the original recording by José José.

Aleks Syntek  "Preso"  (1998)

        Considered by some to be a genius of pop music, Aleks Syntek first caught my attention in 2006 when I heard his amazing recording of the song Historias De Danzón Y De Arrabal (linked here in case you're interested--it's well worth hearing and the video is very nicely produced).  After I bought Syntek's album Leccion de Vuelo and enjoyed it for a while I discovered Syntek's version of "Preso" on the José José tribute album that I had owned for several years but apparently not listened to very often.

       Syntek has received and been nominated for many awards for his music and his albums have garnered gold and platinum record status.  He was also part of the first judging panel on the Mexican version of the television show The Voice.   This is a favorite version of Guilie Castillo-Oriard who this past Wednesday introduced my song choice for the BOTB round. If you missed Guilie's guest post I hope you'll check it out. Thanks again Guilie.

          Now take a listen to the techno pop version of "Preso" by Aleks Syntek.

Time to Vote!

         Exercise your freedom to vote!   Please don't let the language deter you from enjoying these song versions--you don't have to understand the words to appreciate the music. Which song version do you like the best? Judge what you hear in the above videos. 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. 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.
Book Lover

J. A. Scott  

Quiet Laughter

Holli's Hoots and Hollers


Results on Monday November 23rd

       Due to my schedule in the upcoming week, the winner of this Battle will be announced on Monday November 23rd.  After that day, during the Thanksgiving week my posting could be sporadic to none.  I'll figure that out when the time comes.

       Now please vote!

Friday, November 13, 2015

Power of the mind

English: Unlimited Potential of the Human Mind
 Unlimited Potential of the Human Mind (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
      If you saw Guilie Castillo Oriard's guest post from Wednesday, you know what song I've picked for my Battle of the Bands post this Sunday November 15th.  She's already told you that I'll be using the Mexican hit song "Preso" which was originally performed by José José .  If you missed Guilie's post I hope you'll go back to check it out and leave her a word of encouragement or whatever you want to tell her.   And though I don't need to give any more song clues, I will continue to stay on the topic that Guilie and I have been discussing--prison as a metaphor.

        Actually I'd like to expand on the subject of the mind and how it can affect our physical existence and our perception of our world.  This is a huge topic so I can only scratch the surface in one single blog post.  I'll return to this one day I'm sure.  It's the kind of topic you could write a book about and many have already been written.

The Mental Prison Metaphor

      If we are considering a metaphorical prison we are not necessarily dealing with a physical place with walls and locked doors, nor are we thinking of sentencing times administered by a judge.  A symbolic prison metaphor instead entails a matter of the personal perception of ones own circumstance.  We may feel trapped by real things such as a job, a relationship, or a financial situation for example, but in reality if we are able to adjust our own thinking we can be free from that prison of perception.   The prison devised by the mind is confining, but only to the extent that the mind is willing or able to do this.

      The mind has extraordinary power that most, if not all of us have not tapped. Our minds can set us free or keep us imprisoned.  Knowledge of how to use the mind can help us find that freedom, but sometimes we settle into a comfortable place that fears any change in our situation.  We are mostly confined by that fear and the unwillingness to step out of the comfort zone.

        Fear, health, finances, or personal circumstances can all be forces that hold us back, but ultimately these are mostly a matter of mind.   The mind can put all of these things into proper perspective and even control the root of the problems.  Indeed, the mind can make us sick as well as bring us healing.  What we are and what we do with what we have available to us is measured by and ultimately controlled by the mind.      

       What powers do you think the human mind has?   What holds you back from overcoming your life obstacles by using the power of your mind?    Do you think the power of suggestion is viable to influencing your personal condition or do you think this is mostly an illusion?

         Join me here on Sunday November 15th for the Battle of the Bands showdown between two very different cover versions of José José's "Preso".  

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The Miracle of Small Things


       Please welcome Guilie Castillo Oriard from Quiet Laughter as she drops by for a stop on her tour to promote her book The Miracle of Small Things.  She'll also be revealing my song pick for the Battle of the Bands coming up on Sunday November 15th.

The Miracle of Small Things Book Tour 

       Thank you so much, Lee, for hosting me here at Tossing It Out today! What a treat it's been to work with you on this Battle of The Bands tie-in... And thanks for the honor of revealing your song choice for the upcoming Battle of the 15th! Luis Villalobos, the protagonist of THE MIRACLE OF SMALL THINGS, might be uniquely suited to introduce that tune...

Hint #1: The song is one that Luis—and probably every other Mexican—knows well. BUT it's not a mariachi song, or a ranchera. No, it's not the Mexican anthem, either.

      Luis Villalobos moved to Curaçao for two reasons, and two reasons only. And beaches had nothing to do with it. First, the position he was offered with Ehrlich Fiduciary, one of the largest fiduciary service providers in the world, was one he'd coveted for a long time: Managing Director. A whole office — and one of international monster Ehrlich's busiest — under his responsibility. Everyone knows responsibility is the reverse side of opportunity, and Luis feels in his ambitious gut the exhilarating twitch of golden circumstances aligning. Second, the MD position wouldn't be forever. No self-respecting international company would expect someone with his track record to agree to permanent exile in a Caribbean island. Temporary exile, however, is the key to opening doors at any other Ehrlich office. Geneva. São Paulo. Madrid. Luxembourg. Manila. Johannesburg. Shanghai. Or, of course, Singapore, home to the neural center of the Ehrlich empire.

      Curaçao is just a stepping stone. A peeled grape. After living in New York and London and Hong Kong; after working at the biggest wealth management advisory firms and with three of the Big Five tax firms... Really, in spite of its size Ehrlich will be a piece of pie, and this island out in the middle of nowhere only a challenge in terms of staying awake until he can move back into the big-time.

        But the Caribbean is treacherous. Ask any pirate, from Blackbeard to offshore finance experts. It is especially treacherous—perfidious and unreliable—for those single-minded victims of arrogance who believe they've got any sort of control on the future. And Luis is lured straight into the ambush.

         The book opens with Luis driving back to his condo on the morning of New Year's Day, after having spent the night with Milena Durant, Ehrlich Curaçao's current Managing Director. The woman he's been hired to replace (she's moving to Singapore later that year). And she's going to use this transgression to control him, to make him toe the line—her line. He's trapped. A prisoner. And he has no one to blame except himself. So why doesn't he just leave? I mean, really. Just get on a plane, Jack. (I mean Luis.) Put to work one of those 50 ways to leave your lover—and the island.
(No, this is not a hint.)

       But, see, it's not the island, or the situation he blames it for, that hold him prisoner. Prisons come in really alternative shapes, and often these are more permanent, if less obvious, than steel bars and high walls. We can be prisoners to ambition, for instance. To passion, or to emotion. To family. To commitments. To society. To our belief systems. To expectations.

  Hint #2: One can also be prisoner to good things... Like besos—oops, sorry. Kisses, I mean.

Luis considers leaving, briefly, and then discards it as a non-option. He can't break his contract, for one: what's he going to do, tell the Ehrlich CEO he slept with Milena? Make something up, then? Like what? What could possibly be so serious that he'd leave a two-year contract only two months in? And what about his resumé? How does he explain this break in employment? At the level he functions, it'll be a black mark in an otherwise enviable career. No one will hire him. No one that matters. Backing out of this Ehrlich thing will, quite literally, cost him his career. A career that defines not just his life or his future, but his very sense of identity. So he lowers his head, he bends a knee, and settles in for the long haul.

       What else can he do? The Caribbean is treacherous, but it also has a (sometimes infamous) reputation as refuge for those escaping... well, whatever's kept them prisoner. But freedom is for the intrepid, for those alert enough to spot the opportunity before it vanishes like a mirage at sunset. Will Luis see it? Will he recognize it? Even if he does, freedom won't come at an easy price. It'll be a painful process of loss and shattered dreams. The question will be whether it's worth it.

Hint #4: Some prisons masquerade as luxury resorts of the type we'd be crazy to want to escape.

         Have you ever felt a prisoner of something? How did you break free? Was it painful? Was the sense of liberation worth it? Do you think mental prisons are part of human nature? Would we be better off without them, or do they play an essential function in our psyche—and our interactions? 

Hint #5: Have you ever been a prisoner to love? Can that be a good thing?

Lee's song choice for the Battle of The Bands on the 15th is none other than José José's Preso... An ode to prisons not of steel or concrete but of flesh and blood (and hips and lips).

          Thank you, Lee, for making me a part of a Battle with this song. It brings back all sorts of wonderful memories... The original, certainly, but also (especially?) one of the covers you've chosen for the Battle. I'm really looking forward to seeing how the votes fall with this one.
~ * ~

About THE MIRACLE OF SMALL THINGS (Truth Serum Press, Aug 2015): Mexican tax lawyer Luis Villalobos is lured to the tiny island of Curaçao anticipating a fast track to the cusp of an already stellar career. But the paradise we expect is so rarely the paradise we find.

Now available in:
Follow MIRACLE on Facebook, or add it to your Goodreads shelf.

About THE AUTHOR: Guilie is a Mexican export herself who transferred to Curaçao "for six months"—and, twelve years later, has yet to find a reason to leave. Her work has been published online and in print anthologies, such as Pure Slush's 2014 A Year In Stories and gorge. THE MIRACLE OF SMALL THINGS is her first book. Connect with Guilie on Facebook and Twitter, at Quiet Laughter, where she blogs about life and writing, and at Life In Dogs, where she blogs about... well, dogs.

 About THE TOUR: To celebrate the release of MIRACLE in e-book formats, several blogs will be hosting Guilie throughout November to talk about writing, about the book, its island setting and its characters—including a 100-lb. monster dog rescued from the streets—and some of the issues MIRACLE touches on, such as the role of large and small things in the realignment of our values, and the power of place in our definition of self.


Gracias por visitar Tossing It Out, Guilie!