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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

What Are We To Believe?

Melbourne Zombie Shuffle
Melbourne Zombie Shuffle (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

       With our greater access to knowledge via the media and the internet you'd think we'd be up to our brains in truth.  Ironically all of this access has muddied the waters of information more than ever.  Rumors, misinformation, and outright lies are continually disseminated throughout all channels available to us to the extent that sometimes it's difficult to know what we should actually believe.

        Here are some examples:

        Harmful substances:    Various studies have shown that coffee can be bad for you while others suggest that it can be good for you.   Some recent studies suggest that a couple cups a day can stave off or even prevent Alzheimer's and dementia.   Similar conflicting result studies have come out about alcoholic beverages, eggs, and other products.   Anyone remember the "studies" back in the fifties that suggested that smoking could be beneficial.  There was a time not so long ago when smoking was prevalent in public places.   I guess it depends on who's doing the study and what result they want to come up with.   In the meantime much of the public is misguided and confused.

        Global warming:  We keep hearing all sorts of research indicating that the Earth is warming and the polar ice caps are melting.   There have been suggestions from some camps that our coastal areas will eventually be flooded and adverse weather conditions such as hurricanes will increase endangering us all.   Then there are the scientists who believe that we should be more concerned about global cooling.  Some even suggest that we may be seeing the coming of another Ice Age.   There are also the scientists and pundits who believe that the world climate goes in cycles and we will periodically have times of cooling and heating that are not influenced by anything humankind does.

        Overpopulation:   The concept that the Earth would be eventually unable to sustain the growing population was introduced by Thomas Robert Malthus in 1798.  He advocated population control to keep the order of things in check.  Paul Ehrlich revived the Malthus scare tactic in 1968 with his best selling book The Population Bomb.  Now here we are nearly 50 years later with none of the predictions coming to pass quite like Ehrlich speculated.   Famine and pestilence is not the result of overpopulation.  Actually we could move everybody in the world to Texas and with the right infrastructure we could all live quite comfortably while turning the rest of the world into parks and recreation land.  Anyone who's driven across Texas can imagine this.  Texans would undoubtedly hate it if everyone moved there, but I'm just repeating an example others have given for illustrative purposes.

       These are but three areas of debate that politicians, activists, scientists, doomsayers, and others like to banter about.  I'm sure you can think of other studies as could I, but this is a blog and I want to keep this post within reasonable limits.

My Conclusion:

        My own study shows that if you keep looking at all of these studies your brain will turn to mush and gradually seep out of your head.   With your brain gone then you would become part of the zombie population in a constant quest for more brains.

        Zombies are thrilled by this news as an increase in their population means an ever-growing zombie voter block.  Of course it's probable that we already have a majority of zombie voters and we could see an influx of zombies eventually taking office in the United States. 

       Vampires think that prospect sucks.  Vampires think a lot things should suck.  Vampires are interested in all things sucky.  Nearly all of those running things in government are vampires who have a need to keep the zombie population under their control.   The vampires look for issues they can sink their teeth into so they can suck the life-blood out of the rest of us.   They love having brain dead constituents who will follow their commands without any thought. 

       Have a frightful Halloween and may Election Day be a scary one--they usually are.

        What is your favorite conspiracy?   Do you think we stand a ghost of a chance in the coming election?  Are you ready to move to Texas?  

Battle of the Bands coming this Saturday November 1st.   There are some clues about my BOTB theme in this post.  Can you guess the song?   This time around I'm offering versions of a 70's hit as performed by two groups that I like and you might enjoy as well.  Nothing too controversial in this Battle.  It's one of the most accessible I've had so far.   Check it out!

Monday, October 27, 2014

These Girls Know How to Throw a Party!


       For the second year I was invited by Alana Garrigues and Nutschell Anne Windsor to be a guest at the Children's Book Writers of Los Angeles (CBW-LA) book release party.   This year's book is Story Sprouts: Voice.  It's a compilation of the works of 25 different writers with an abundance of helpful information about the art of writing.  

       Once again the ladies at the CBW-LA showed that they are not only fine writers, but outstanding event planners.    I didn't do a head count, but by my estimation there were probably about sixty folks who attended this event and a good time was had by all.   

        There was a lovely buffet table of excellent food and a lot of prizes that were given away in a drawing near the end of the party.  There were gifts for all.   Each of the authors present gave a reading of a brief excerpt of one of their works selected from the volume.  Then the epic book signing where book after book was passed around the tables to be signed by the authors.   What a book signing that was!

        But let me dispense with words to show you some pictures of this grand book release bash:

I received a warm welcome from CBW-LA board members
at the registration desk

Long view of the room looking toward the authors seated
at the front.

Anyone want a book!  (r to l) Nutschell Anne Windsor, Lucy Ravitch,
and Alana Garrigues conduct the program prior to the signings.

Each book at the party was signed by all of the authors present on that day.  I
have my signed copy and have been thoroughly enjoying it.

The mood at the authors table was jubilant and under the
circumstances one would expect it to be!

Part of the assembled audience (myself included) enjoying
 the authors presentation.

CBW-LA Board Members pose prior to cutting the celebratory cake.
 Photos are courtesy of John Hong. 

A Collection of Lessons and Exercises on Voice and the Resulting Creative Works of Poetry and Prose by the Children's Book Writers of Los Angeles.
         Show your support of this writer's group by purchasing a copy of this very well-done and highly useful book.    This would be a wonderful addition to any writing library as well as providing entertaining reading for those who would rather read than write.   Don't forget those writers on your Christmas list.  This is one book that they will use and treasure for years to come.


          Story Sprouts: Voice is available at Amazon in both paperback and kindle editions.   After you've bought your copy don't forget to leave a review.   Story Sprouts 2013 edition is also still available.  If you don't have the first edition yet you might want to consider buying both.


       Have you obtained a copy of either Story Sprouts book?   If so what did you think?    Are you part of a writer's organization that has published a book?   If so, tell us about it.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Blog Stew--Where's the Beef?

Pepper Pot stew, slow-simmered with diced toma...
Pepper Pot stew, slow-simmered with diced tomatoes, black beans, and seasonings. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

       With the cold weather of winter coming upon us (or already upon you depending on where you are), some of us may be thinking of a nice comforting bowl of hot stew.  Even those in the southern parts of the sphere might not mind a dish of stew.   Perhaps not what your belly might be craving, I offer now some mental stew blog-style with some meat to greet your week-end.

Say It Again!

            The Deja Vu Blogfest is being revived this year by D.L. Hammons and Nicole Zoltack.  This is when you can repeat one of your blog posts from the past year that you felt was neglected and give it new life.  Even better to my thinking is that this is a great way for an underperforming blog to give readers a taste of the best of what your blog has to offer.   One day of content with minimal effort can be a win-win situation for you and your readers.   I've already signed up all four of my blogs and have 3 of the posts ready to go.  It all happens on Friday December 19th.   Sign up now!  You can find the Linky List at D.L.'s blog.

Play It Again!

        If you've been shying away from the Battle of the Bands posts I think you're missing out.   A number of music lovers have been joining us regularly to vote on their favorite versions of the songs presented in each post.  You don't have to know the songs or the groups to determine which ones you like best.  You just listen to the choices and pick the ones you prefer.  The participating bloggers add interesting bits of information about the songs and artists featured.  I try to tie in themes concerning topics that are on our minds--or at least my mind--to encourage readers to think beyond the music and stimulate discussion.  Next Battles will be coming up on November 1st so I hope you'll come over and vote for your preferences.  For more information including a participant list please visit the blog Stephen T. McCarthy created especially for this event Stephen T McCarthy Presents "Battle of the Bands".

Sleepy Sheepy Update

         I'm still helping my friend Dan Holom promote his children's book Sleepy Sheepy and Daniel.   I previously blogged about it here, here, and here.  In short, this is a clever retelling of the popular Bible story of Daniel in the Lions Den.   Dan's partner in this endeavor is illustrator and Disney animator Mark Henn. In the few weeks since its release, their book has gotten over 40 rave reviews on Amazon.  They're still looking for reviews for the book so if you'd like to help please get a copy and add your own review.   I talked to Dan just the other day and he told me that the second book of the series should be coming soon.  An informative radio interview with Dan and Mark about the process of creating their book can be found at Shine FM Chicago.  All writers--and especially writers of children's books--will find this interview very helpful.  Listen and get inspired.

Haunting Time Is Nigh

Paranormal Texas by Tui Snider
      I caught part of Tui Snider's interview on BlogTalkRadio this past Wednesday night.  What a bubbly dynamo of energy she is!  Tui's 2nd book was released at the first of October in time for the Halloween haunting season.  It appeared on the Amazon Best Seller's list soon after its release.   This book is called Paranormal TexasIt is a travel guide to haunted places near Dallas and Fort Worth.  For more information about Tui you can visit her blog.

Get Ready to Write!

          With NANO around the corner many minds will be turning to thoughts of writing and many of those writers will be consulting books for ideas, practical advice, and inspiration to write the novel they will be laboring over.   You might want to check out Story Sprouts: Voice from the Children's Book Writers of Los Angeles.   On Monday I'll tell you about the launch party that was held October 11, 2014 with a few photos for your' enjoyment.  In the meantime I hope you'll check out the book on Amazon and maybe even buy a copy for you NANO November.

Be watching the A to Z Blog for a special announcement soon to come.

        Are you planning to do NANO in November?   Are you interesting in exploring paranormal locations?  If you stay away from Battle of the Bands is there any certain reason why?

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

That Wasn't Very Nice!-- A BOTB Results Post

Poster for 100th anniversary performances of the Joffrey Ballet restaging of
original Rite of  Spring choreography from 1913.  
If you're not a ballet fan you might actually like this one.

        There is some debate as to what riled the audience at the 1913 premiere of Igor Stravinsky's ballet The Rite of Spring.   Some suggest a furor arose over the musical style which was alien and cacophonous  to most ears, others believe some audience members were offended by the primitive choreography and staging, and still others think it was a combination of both of these things.   There are even some music historians who believe that the events of that night were blown out of proportion by the press and perhaps a publicity stunt to attract larger audiences to the next performances.

         Whatever happened that night is the stuff of music history legend.  Several conflicting reports have been recorded, but alas there is no film of the occasion so we must rely on what has been written.  There is no question that some find the music of Stravinsky's ballet to be strange and maybe even unpleasant listening, but at the same time The Rite of Spring has become a highly regarded and much beloved work even to the point of there being several jazz adaptations recorded by various artists and even an excerpt having been used in the Disney animated feature Fantasia.  

         For some fun reading you might like to check out the Wikipedia article about The Rite of Spring.  That article gives a good account of what eyewitnesses reported from that premiere performance.  There is a BBC movie Riot at the Rite which you can watch on YouTube if you're willing to devote 90 minutes. I haven't watched the film in its entirety, but from what I watched it seems to be a fairly credible interpretation of what might have happened on that premier night.   Also on YouTube you can find the performance recreation of the original choreography and costuming as presented by the Joffrey Ballet in 1989.  The complete 30 minute video can be found at this link as well as several others.  I quite enjoyed the video and I've been a big fan of the Stravinsky musical piece since my college years.

          So what's all this have to do with my most recent Battle of the Bands post?    Well, to say the least, my match of Lotte Lenya versus Marilyn Manson doing their respective versions of the Kurt Weill/Bertold Brecht composition "Alabama Song" was not overly appreciated by most of the readers who stopped by to vote.   Most voters were almost reluctant to vote for either version, a few outright refused to vote, and a couple insisted on voting for the Doors version--votes which I threw out in order to keep the contest according to my parameters. 
          Why the adverse reactions?  In part it was due to the strange nature of the song.  I think just about any artist who would perform this song would not do a version that would be palpable to many listeners.   Even the Doors version apparently is not overwhelmingly loved.   
           I'll concede that it is a somewhat strange song, but those are the kinds of songs Weill and Brecht generally wrote.  Even their biggest hit "Mack the Knife" would not be something many of you would probably like in its original rendering.  Later artists were able to jazz that one up for the modern listening audience, a feat which I'm not sure anyone could do as well with "Alabama Song".
          In any case I happen to like the song a great deal and a handful of you enjoy it as well, perhaps not as much as I do, but have an appreciation for nevertheless.  

"Alabama Song" comes from the opera
The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny

The Outcome of the Voting

          I was surprised by the outcome of the voting.   My expectation was that most of you would have been so taken aback by the Marilyn Manson performance that Lotte Lenya would have swept the contest with an overwhelming victory.   Indeed, there were some of you who detested Manson not only in the way he looked but by the way he sang.  "Evil" was the description suggested by a couple of voters.

          In my opinion Manson delivered a fascinating interpretation.  The sparse staging with the freaky twin piano accompanists gave his performance an appropriately cabaret-like appearance.  He was a bit hard on my ears, but at the same time growled drunkenly like one might expect a singer of this song to sound.  Manson was interesting, but not interesting enough to get my vote.

           My preference for the Lenya version is based on the orchestral accompaniment--especially the muted trumpet, the background singers, and the haunting phrasing in Lenya's vocals.   This version has so much texture and variation.  I could listen to this kind of music all day--well, maybe half the day.   Apparently the majority of you agreed with me to some degree since Lotte Lenya's rendition won this Battle of the Bands edition at Tossing It Out.

Final Tally:

Marilyn Manson      8 votes

Lotte Lenya            12 votes

         Don't miss the next Battle of the Bands coming on Saturday November 1st.   My next BOTB post should be an innocuous matching that hopefully more of you will find appealing.   It's an early 70's minor hit that will be themed for the day on which it will be first appearing.

            Do you feel like you can judge a song that you've never heard before?    If music sounds different or strange to you do you automatically dismiss it as something you don't like?   Do you enjoy Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring?