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Monday, October 20, 2014

Survive and Thrive

       Hosted by Stephen Tremp, Michael Di Gesu, Diane Wolfe, and Alex J. CavanaughthIs blogfest is meant to bring awareness of disease prevention and early detection regarding medical conditions that may be averted or treated if caught in the early stages. Our desire is to motivate people to go in for early screening, and if a condition is caught early and treated, then our world just became a little better place to live.

       The topics are wide open. You can post about a particular cause you support. Or you can share a personal or family experience that is near to your heart. What’s great about this Blogfest is you can inspire people to take care of themselves and their loved ones early enough to make a difference in their lives.

Surviving and Thriving?

        I was somewhat reluctant to join in on this blog event, but I decided to jump in at the last minute.  After all, I am not the paragon of fitness and by no means do I set a good example for healthful living.  What could someone like me possibly contribute to an event such as this?   But as I thought upon it further I decided that I must have something going for me that's gotten me this far in life and still able to function somewhat decently and feel well most of the time.

      Often my intentions for healthy living have been good.  Now and then I've set off on some short-lived programs of good eating and some exercise.  Mostly it's been like I am now.  I eat a lot of foods that are not especially good for me and if it weren't for the stairs in my house I'd get hardly any exercise.   Other than hiking and occasional juggling, I am no fan of working out or exercise regimens.   When I was in high school I absolutely abhorred phys ed class.   I don't mind walking long distances, but you'll never see me running--besides my heart arrhythmia prevents me from anything like running or vigorous activity.

       My father and mother were much the same as I have been in my life.  I'm sure I followed in their footsteps.  My father died at age 67 from cancer while my mother who is now 85 is managing to hang on to her life.   There have been family members who have passed early while others have lived a decent number of years with relatively good health.   Is there any rhyme or reason to longevity and good health?

         When I read an obituary of an athlete or some other person who I would have expected to be in very good shape who has died in their 30's or 40's from a heart attack or some other physical affliction, I'm often surprised by my own sustainability of reasonably good health despite my lack of doing anything to be healthy.  Then I'll see an obituary of some person who you might have thought would have never crossed the 50 year threshold living into their 80's, 90's, and beyond.   Sometimes life, death, and good health seems so random.

         I won't deny that good diet and regular exercise can play a huge role in surviving through life with a good quality of living.  Getting regular check-ups in order to screen for developing problems is an excellent strategy that can stave off the onset of dangerous health conditions.   But always?  

       Genetics undoubtedly play a role.  Environment and life circumstances are huge factors that can determine how healthy we are and how long we will live.   However there is one major factor that is the biggest determinant of the outcome of our lives--attitude.

         Happiness, contentment, and goodwill toward others is the most powerful inner force that any of us can possess.   A good attitude will enhance the quality of our lives even if our physical condition is less than optimal.   If we have a sense of direction that moves us forward toward some shining goal that has great meaning to us, then we have more of a will to live.   I'm a strong believer in the power of positive thinking as well as the destructive force of negative thinking.   The mind is a remarkable creative source.    We can will ourselves into feeling well and powerful just as we can cause our bodies to deteriorate and die.

           I'm certainly no scientific expert, but this is what I strongly believe.   I've witnessed this in my own life and in the people with whom I've come into contact.   There is a great deal we can do to enhance the quality of our own lives, but when our time has come then we cannot stop what has be predestined for us. 

        If a fatal disease comes to claim a child or a teenager then it's a sad mystery of life in this world.    A person might live to a ripe old age with perfect health and in an instant be stricken with a death-dealing illness that they never expected.    Death is going to happen, but rarely do we know in advance when, how, or why.  Scheduled health check-ups might provide indications of developing problems and we should by all means take advantage of the medical expertise that is out there to help us.   Advance warnings of those problems can make a huge difference in treatment and healing.    And sometimes the inevitable is going to happen with no miracles to save us.   We should be prepared for the good as well as that we might wish we could delay from happening.

        My inner peace and happiness will help me survive.   The joy of the Lord will give me the strength to thrive.    Without those and without a hope of better things ahead and a reason to live, no amount of healthy living will matter all that much.  I don't want to be like a mere machine that keeps going with proper maintenance.   I am a human with purpose and a desire to flourish.  Sometimes life can be a struggle, but when there is enough good in it then it's worth it.

           Has a positive mindset gotten you through difficult times?     Have you ever made yourself sick with negative thinking?     Can you think of any examples of a person who you thought would have lived far longer than they did or someone who survived through experiences and lifestyles that you would have expected to have done them in at an early age?

           If you have not yet voted on my Battle of the Bands post would you please visit and vote for your favorite artist?    I think I scared off a few people with my selections for this special Halloween edition.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Battle of the Bands: Alabama Song


          It's time for another Battle of the Bands, the event where music loving bloggers offer up two different versions of one song for you to vote on your favorite one.   This popular event which is now in its second year was founded by Stephen T McCarthy and Faraway Eyes.   After you vote on my pairing, please visit their posts and vote on theirs.   More possible participants will be listed at the end of this post.

        Some of my past Battle entries have been reviled and ridiculed.  Believe me, I've liked all of my choices and have felt there was merit in presenting each of them.  The songs I present are songs that I enjoy and I always hope that my visitors to Tossing It Out will enjoy them as well.  But, alas, this is not always the case.   This installment of BOTB is no exception.  "Alabama Song" is a wonderful song in my opinion.  You may not particularly like my choices for the Battle, but I do hope you'll listen with an open mind accepting the song for what it is and appreciating the performances in the context they have been presented.

        The first time I heard "Alabama Song" was on The Doors debut album.   This is one of my favorite songs from that album with its oompah beat, quirky calliope circus organ riffs, and carousing chorus.  About fifteen years later I discovered this was not a song that originated with The Doors, but was composed in the late 1920's by the German songwriting team of Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht, the same duo that gave us classics like "Mack the Knife".  

           This discovery came to light upon my purchase of a cassette of the Kurt Weill tribute album Lost in the Stars in 1985.   It was then that I discovered that the great song performed by The Doors was actually a feature tune in the political-satirical opera The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny.   It was not long after that discovery when I caught a performance of the opera that appeared on the PBS station in Knoxville, Tennessee.  

          Almost a cabaret style musical, it's an interesting modern opera with some fine music and a peculiar story.  Actually I didn't follow the story so much as focus on the music and the spectacle of the presentation. Mahagonny is probably rarely seen on television, but if you ever run across it you might want to check it out.  There are a few YouTube clips of performances that you can find if you'd like to get an idea of what the opera is like.

           If you are interested in hearing and viewing a performance of  "Alabama Song" by an opera company you can check out this clip.  And if you are not familiar with the version by The Doors or just want to refresh your memory about what it sounds like you can find that here.    Please don't vote on these versions.   If The Doors were in the running this Battle would undoubtedly be a landslide in their favor.

          Here are your candidates up for the vote:    

Lotte Lenya  "Alabama Song"  (1930)

        Lotte Lenya was an Austrian performance artist who was married to the composer of the music for "Alabama Song" Kurt Weill.  She also appeared in several American films including the James Bond film From Russia With Love.   This version of "Alabama Song" holds up pretty well in my opinion despite having been recorded 80-some years ago.   Remember, this is opera so it's not quite the same sound of popular songs of that era.   Maybe we should call this style of music "popera"?  I hope you will enjoy this early version of the song.   It has a kind of eerie sound that might work well for Halloween.

Marilyn Manson "Alabama Song"  (2003)

            And speaking of Halloween...

            I'm not a Manson fan and can't say I know much about his music.   I couldn't resist using his version though.   He's kind of scary--or at least weird.  And I think his version is appropriately done.  Before you set off on a tirade of how out of tune and horrid he sounds, keep in mind what this song is about and who might be singing it.   "Alabama Song" is a boozy anthem of debauchery.   I would fully expect off-key wailing drunks staggering down the street singing this.   Don't you think that Manson kind of pulls this off?

Time to Vote!

           Which do you prefer?  Please vote on your favorite before heading out to search for the next whiskey bar.   Let us know in the comment section and tell us why you prefer the one 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.


 StMcC Presents Battle of the Bands




 Alex J. Cavanaugh

           The results of my Battle will be announced on Wednesday October 22nd.  Other stuff might even be happening on this blog from time to time.  I know I've become somewhat unpredictable on Tossing It Out, but I assure you that it's not because I've been carousing in the city of Mahagonny. 

             Was this one of my most horrendous offerings or did you enjoy it?   Are you familiar with the "Mahagonny" opera?   Would you consider the Weill/Brecht work to be opera or something else?       

Monday, October 13, 2014

Sleepy Sheepy and Daniel and Other Stuff

Is It or Isn't It?

Taken over the wall behind my house.
        When I saw the "NOW OPEN" sign in the window of the Habit Burger last Friday I was excited, but there seemed to be a dueling message.   Was it really open or was it "COMING SOON"?   I walked over to see for myself.  The sign on the front door said they were going to be conducting job interviews from October 13th until the 17th so I guess someone put up the "OPEN" sign too soon.   That same afternoon the "NOW OPEN" sign was replaced by "NOW HIRING".   Maybe they'll be open the following week?

        If you're wondering what this is about then you might have missed my earlier post about Habit Burger which you can find here.   I'll give a report on the establishment once I've tried it.   There is another Habit Burger being constructed a couple miles away from me in Downey.  They must be doing a real push to expand the chain.

New Book Arrival

        The 2014 compilation from Children's Book Writers of Los Angeles is here.  I was fortunate to have been invited by Nutschell Anne Windsor and Alana Garrigues as a special guest to their book release party this past Saturday October 11th.   It was an event royale.  I'll be having more on the event and the book in an upcoming post when CBW-LA does their official book release blog tour.  Some of you will be undoubtedly be contacted to help out with the tour.  

        To buy the book so you can add your review and write about it on your blog, be sure to visit Story Sprouts: Voice at Amazon.   Support this wonderful group--all book proceeds go to help out with their education programs.  The book will be a welcome addition to anyone's library.

Sleepy Sheepy and Daniel

        If you follow my blogs Wrote By Rote or A Few Words you may have read about the recent release on Kindle of the children's book Sleepy Sheepy and Daniel.   The book was originally published in 2008 and has recently been released via Amazon on Kindle.

         Since I'm always willing to help out my writer friends, I've given author and my good friend Dan Holom reviews on the book as well as spreading the word on social media.

Read more about the book in my Goodreads review:

Sleepy Sheepy and DanielSleepy Sheepy and Daniel by Daniel Holom
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This charming rendition of the Bible story of Daniel in the lions den is one that will delight children and parents. Illustrated by renown Disney animator Mark Henn, the visuals will captivate all who enter this story. The narrative by author Dan Holom is intelligent, but easy to understand.

"Sleepy Sheepy and Daniel" is the first of what will be a series of Bible stories presented in a similar manner. Sleepy and his animal friends Sifter, a wise old horse, and Coco, a comical camel, are characters that are apt to become classics of children's literature.

Anyone looking for values based stories that interpret the Bible in a way suitable for children will welcome this book and the others to follow. The message is not heavy handed so it should not be particularly offensive to those who are not religious. This is the kind of book that will do kids good without being too serious in doing it.

View all my reviews

          Dan and Mark hope to see a series of books after this, but a lot depends on the market.  If you'd like to support this kind of series I hope you will purchase a copy and then leave a review on Amazon and wherever else you think might help.  Check out the book on Amazon and see what you think.

          And don't forget to help us promote this by sharing this post and all of the other pages on social media as much as you can.    If I can convince Dan of the power of social media I might even be able to talk Dan into starting a blog so you all can communicate with him.

           Do you tend to leave book reviews and the like?    Where do you leave most of your reviews?   Has anybody tried Habit Burger yet?

Friday, October 10, 2014

Travel Warning: I-81 Speed Trap!

The Virginia welcome sign at the Virginia welc...
The Virginia welcome sign at the Virginia welcome center on I-95 employs the state bird, the cardinal, and the state tree and flower, the dogwood.
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

         I'm annoyed.  This past summer while traveling through the state of Virginia I got a speeding ticket on I-81 near Wytheville.   The last ticket I had gotten for speeding was in Las Vegas in April of 2009 shortly after I had become unemployed.  That time I was on my way to work one last trade show for the company that I had been employed with for over 30 years.  I'll admit that I was speeding because I was anxious to get to the show facility.   I couldn't really afford that ticket, but I was at fault.  The officer cut me a break on the reported speed so the penalty would be less.

           Ever since receiving that Las Vegas ticket I have been very careful about my speed.   Most of the time on the highway I use the cruise control so I don't inadvertently go too fast.  Often newer cars run so smoothly that it doesn't feel like you're going as fast as you really are and it's easy to exceed the speed limit. I was using my cruise control on that Monday morning of July 21st near Wytheville, Virginia.   That's why I was taken aback to see the flashing police lights appear behind me.

          The officer claimed that I was going 82 MPH in a 70 MPH zone.   I told him that I had been using cruise control and did not think I had been going as fast as he said.   He wrote me the ticket anyway.   Since I was anxious to continue my trip I let it be.  What else could I do?  He said he was cutting me a break by reducing my reported speed to less than 80 since for over that amount would result in a charge of reckless driving which was a far worse offense.  I accepted the ticket and continued on my trip.

        A few days later, still annoyed with having gotten this traffic citation, I did a Google search using "Wytheville Speed Trap".   I had known that this area had a notorious reputation as being a speed trap, but I was shocked at the results I found on the internet.   Case after case of drivers cited for speeding in this same stretch of I-81 told the same story as mine.   They were almost all driving newer vehicles with out-of-state licenses and given speed reductions of less than 80 after reportedly being clocked at 82 MPH.  This seems like more than coincidence to me.    There are lengthy threads to be found about this speed trap with stories just like mine.  This is really annoying.

         The officer was very courteous and professional, but now I understand that Wythe County Virginia is doing business as a ticket mill.  Of course the officer wants to come across as a good representative for the business.   The ticket was only for $121.00 which is relatively cheap in comparison to other tickets I've gotten in the past.  I guess I can be thankful for that.  It appears that they are operating on volume sales like Walmart.

       Another thing many of the folks said on the internet sites about this speed trap was that a few weeks after having received their citations they began receiving letters from attorneys in that area offering to take their cases.   Lo and behold I too received a couple of attorney letters.  I was tempted to call one of these attorneys, but I was not overly trusting in them either. They are undoubtedly in collusion with the traffic courts in Wythe County.

          My hearing date is coming up in a few days, but of course I won't be traveling back to Southwest Virginia from Los Angeles.  No one does from the accounts that I read.  A few hired one of the attorneys who had contacted them but most were unhappy with the outcome the attorneys gave them.  That's another reason I don't have an interest in contacting one of those attorneys.

         Yeah, maybe it's sour grapes on my behalf, but a hundred dollars is more than I care to have taken from me in what is literally highway robbery.   I had to do a post on this to add my voice to the many others to be found on the search engines.   Also to warn any of you should you happen to have to travel up I-81 in Virginia.  Be careful!   Travel in packs with other vehicles if you can.   It was relatively early in the morning with little traffic when I was pulled over.   I was an easy mark.

           I've stayed in Wytheville a few times, eaten in restaurants there, and stopped for gas.  In the future I'll make it a point to boycott this town of pernicious speed trappery.   It's really a shame too because that's a beautiful part of the country.   Taking advantage of travelers is a sad industry that has provided income to the county's coffers for many years.   I hope to see the day when they strive to be more traveler friendly.   That's when Wytheville will get my business again.  For now Wytheville gets a bad rap from me and now I'm sharing it with the world.

          Have you ever been caught in a speed trap?  If so, how did you handle your ticket?   Are you familiar with this part of Virginia and I-81?