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Monday, September 1, 2014

Battle of the Bands: September Song & #IWSG

Welcome to My Combined Post!

          This entry on Tossing It Out is a joint posting that will combine the Insecure Writer's Support Group with the Battle of the Bands.   I do this when the two events coincide or are so close together that I prefer to merge the two for the sake of expediency.

           If you're new to either concept I'll briefly explain:   #IWSG is the event that occurs on the first Wednesday of each month where writers talk about the worries, concerns, and travails of the writing life.  To find out more and access the list of participants, visit the blog of the host Alex J. Cavanaugh.  Keep in mind that the official posting day is on Wednesday.

            BOTB takes place on the 1st and 15th of each month.   In this event different versions of one song are presented and you are invited to vote on the version that you prefer the most.   This event is hosted by Stephen T McCarthy and Far Away Eyes.   After you finish here, visit their blogs to vote on their battles.  Additional possible participants are listed at the end of this post.

September Song

         Initially I chose this wistful classic because I'm presenting it on the first day of September--how fitting.  Then the sad passing of our A to Z Challenge co-host Tina Downey as well as some health issues affecting some of my own family members turned my thoughts to the fragile temporal nature of our lives.

        I keep putting off so many things I want to do and I know that some of you do the same.  Time is a death sentence from which there is no reprieve.  Sometimes we are fortunate to have an extension, but rarely do we know exactly when our time is up.   Laziness and distractions are my enemies now.

       You who are young now I exhort you not to wait until you are older or better opportunities come your way to allow you to capture your dreams.   The time for action is now.  I'm talking to myself, but this is one of those times when I hope others who need the message are listening and taking heed.   My door to the future could close at any time.  It's a cause for some insecurity, but it's also a fact of life that I must accept.

        September Song treats the passing of a year as a lifetime.   The song is metaphorical and typically is most effectively sung by middle-aged or older performers.  Originally the song was written by composer Kurt Weill with lyrics by writer Maxwell Anderson for famed actor Walter Huston to sing in a short-lived 1938 musical Knickerbocker Holiday.   The show closed after a six month run and the song was mostly neglected for the next decade.   If you're curious to hear Huston's original version you can hear it by clicking here.

         In 1950 Huston's recording of the song was used in the soundtrack of the dramatic romance film September Affair.   The popularity of the film put Huston's recording at the top of the Hit Parade charts and the song became established as a classic with many recordings being made over the next six decades.   Walter Huston was an acclaimed actor of stage and screen from 1924 to 1950 and not known for his singing.   He is most known now as the grizzled prospector in the great Humphrey Bogart film The Treasure of the Sierra Madre which was directed by Walter's son John Huston.  Walter Huston died before he could enjoy his fame as a Hit Parade charting artist.

        Many artists have done their own versions of September Song with the recording by Willie Nelson being one of the most notable.   Frank Sinatra also covered the song rather nicely on more than one occasion.   My personal favorite is the rendition by Jimmy Durante.   With so many choices of great versions, it was tough to come up with a particularly unusual "boys against the girls" match-up (oh yeah, I've been carrying on with a male version against female version in my last few battles and I'm continuing in that vein for a while).    I hope you find my pairing interesting as well as entertaining.

Anjelica Huston "September Song" (2012)

         Since Angelica's grandfather Walter first introduced the song in 1938, I thought it might be somewhat poignant to have the girls side represented by her updated version.  Her arrangement is simple and traditional.  This was used in an NBC series called Smash--I'd never heard of this show, but it ran during the 2012-2013 seasons.   Give this one a listen--it's short.

Lou Reed "September Song"  (1985)

       In 1985 a unique tribute album honoring the music of Kurt Weill was compiled by music producer Hal Willner.   Lost in the Stars:  The Music of Kurt Weill is a collection of songs as interpreted by a number of different artists.   I'll probably get around to using a few other cuts from this album in future BOTB installments just because I like the album.

        Lou Reed takes a walk on the wild side with his interpretation of September Song.  It's a bit of a different turn than most artists take.  I hope you'll get a kick out of it.

Time to Vote!

           Which do you prefer?   Do you like the more traditional take by Angelica Huston better?   Or are you a bit more turned on by the more cutting edge version by Lou Reed?   Please take time to vote 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





         The results of my Battle will be announced on Monday September 8 at which time I'll also be participating in the Sunflower Tribute for Tina Downey.   More about that tribute can be found here.

           What are your thoughts about getting everything done that you want to accomplish before you leave this Earth?    Have you seen the great John Huston film The Treasure of the Sierra Madre?   To what extent have you followed the career of Lou Reed?


Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Thank You Tina Downey...I'll Miss You


         For those of you who might have missed the sad news, our dear Blogging from A to Z Challenge Team member, Tina Downey, left this earthly life this past Saturday August 23rd.   Many of you have already posted tributes to Tina on your own blogs.   They have been moving heartfelt tributes that show how many lives this wonderful lady touched.   And now I am faced with a page to fill with words for Tina.

        What can I say in a time like this?   Since hearing the news about Tina on Sunday morning, my mind has been a muddle of whys and what next.   Tuesday morning in the wee early hours I awoke from my dreams as words formed in my head.  This is what I would say: beautiful words that would change the world.   With my mind roiling, the words dissipated into empty inadequacy.   How can my words truly express what I feel--what Tina meant to me?   To all of us?

           Tina was a driving force behind the A to Z Team.   To many she was a behind the scenes figure of the Challenge, but to those who were most aware of the goings on in the A to Z community, Tina was a dynamo who made things go.  

            She called herself "Schedule Woman" because she made sure posts were going up as they should on the A to Z Blog.   All of us on the A to Z Team are well familiar with the fun and funny missives she would regularly send out to us.   She'd scold, praise, and commiserate as the occasion called for.  It was all done in the name of friendship and love.   And she was loved back by everyone she touched with her communications.

          I'm going to miss Tina in so many ways.   Many of you will surely miss her as well.  And if we who never actually encountered Tina in person miss her as much as we all do, then our loss must be mighty small in contrast to Tina's family and friends--those who were with her in the world beyond our virtual world of blogging and with her in her everyday world.  In a way I envy those who were in that real world of family meals, gatherings of friends, and camping trip adventures.   Then again, could I stand the pain of losing someone that close?

          Tina, someday I hope we can actually meet face to face.  Meet in a place beyond this small world where there are no more tears or loss or emptiness.   You are gone for now, yet you fill my life and my memories.   Despite your struggles with health you showed us all that Life Is Good.   I believe that with all my heart.   Life is good.   I'll try to keep that as my motto too.

            Thank you, Tina, for everything.    I will miss you greatly.

         If you have not yet done so, please visit Tina's blog Life Is Good to leave a message in her remembrance.    You can also add your blog link to the list following this post if you have done or will be doing a tribute post in honor of Tina.  Read below for more information.

English: Sunflowers in Fargo, North Dakota. Es...
 Sunflowers in Fargo, North Dakota.  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In memory of Tina Downey, the A to Z Team is hosting a  sunflower tribute on September 8, 2014 – Remembering Tina Downey.
Prior to that date, purchase or plant a sunflower in her honor. (If you have to resort to plastic, that’s cool.) Take a photo of your sunflower and post in in her memory on Monday, September 8. Tina loved her sunflowers, and we want to splash the blogging world with sunflowers that day and honor a truly amazing woman who was friend and family to so many.
You can sign up now or add your link when you post your sunflower.
Please help us spread the word! Let’s brighten the Internet with sunflowers the way Tina brightened the lives of so many.


Friday, August 22, 2014

Just A-Swingin': BOTB Results

A Close One!

        Benny Goodman was known as "The King of Swing" and Lena Horne was a "queen" of female vocalists during the Swing Era.   Putting up the two of them against each other in my most recent Battle of the Bands contest was like swinging at the playground.   The vote went back and forth--and understandably so.

        Like me, many of you were torn about which way to go with your vote.   This was a tough decision.  If any contest so far deserved to be a tie then this was the one.   I like both Horne's and Goodman's versions of "The Man I Love" so much that I am tempted to call it a tie for my own vote, but I prefer to state a clear winner instead of establishing a precedent of wishy-washy decision making.   So I made a choice.

       Before I tell you who I voted for, let me tell you the predicament that I have here.   At my final count, according to your voting Goodman takes a narrow win with 13 votes against Horne's 12 votes.    As you can see, the outcome of my vote will either result in a tie or it will mean a win for Benny.  So what to do?

A Dilemma

      In the comment section of his own Battle post, BOTB co-host Stephen T. McCarthy made the following bold prediction about who my choice would be in my own contest:

         On your own August 15th 'BOTB' installment, without the slightest hesitation, undoubtedly, unquestionably, and with 100% certainty I can predict that you will cast your own vote for Lena Horne.

       Well, now what?  With that statement I feel almost an obligation to vote for Lena.   Her recording is indeed top notch.  It's not just the vocal either.   The orchestration is sublime to my ears.  Mr. McCarthy knows that I have a particular fondness for strings in music and the string section in this arrangement is sublime.  Then when that beautiful brief violin solo comes in my musical heart melts.   This recording by Lena is a real winner.

        If I vote for Benny Goodman's version I might be accused of just trying to prove Mr. McCarthy wrong.  The Goodman version is a winner as well, but do I dare vote in that direction appearing in the end as just attempting to be a contrarian?   I may have a bit of a reputation at times for going against the grain just for the sake of controversy so voting the opposite way that my good blog buddy predicted could appear to be suspect.

        Perhaps some further explanation is warranted in this case.

The Story Behind My Vote

       Throughout my childhood I'd been very familiar with Benny Goodman's music.   I'd seen the movie biopic of his life which starred Steve Allen, one of my childhood heroes--I loved Allen's television show.  Goodman himself had also appeared in several movies which were sometimes played on television.  The clarinetist was an iconic representative from the Swing Era who maintained a presence on the entertainment scene when I was a kid.

         After I started college in 1970, I continued to expand my musical knowledge and sought out recordings of music beyond the rock that I had been mostly been listening to.  Most of the classical, jazz, and world music albums that I began to purchase I obtained through some clearance house that would send out a catalog through the mail.  That's where I got my copy of "The Benny Goodman Quartet Live at Carnegie Hall".

          The music thrilled me.  I gained a new perspective of what jazz was all about and this album fueled my interest in the genre.  The Goodman Quartet album was on my turntable frequently.  The standout song on the album was "The Man I Love".   This was not frantic wild music like I had associated with the term "jazz", but it was mellow relaxing music where Goodman let his fellow musicians shine in their quiet elegant solos.  This album has been a big favorite of mine for over 40 years.

          Lena Horne was a frequent presence on television during my younger years, but her music never much caught my attention until around the mid 1990's when I ordered a compilation CD of her earlier music.  It was older sounding music from a music era that I love.  This disc had great classics that I'd known all my life--some of my favorite songs.   This is an album I continue to listen to with regularity.   Her voice, the orchestration, the songs, the style--this is music that I truly enjoy.

         In the end though, if I have to pick my favorite version of "The Man I Love" between Goodman and Horne, then I'll go with the Quartet.  This is not to say that I like Lena's less because there is a parity between the two.  However going with personal favorite in terms of the version that has been with me the longest and provides me with the best memories then I vote for the version by the Benny Goodman Quartet.

         My vote is not a "swing vote", but just an affirmation of the outcome as voted by the voters in this contest.   Benny wins this one, but Lena is right there close to the top.   Great contest!

Final Tally:

Benny Goodman Quartet    14 votes
Lena Horne                        12 votes 

          Thanks for voting in this BOTB!   Join me again on Monday September 1 for another classic song contest pitting the girls against the boys.   My next Battle is one that I think you will find interesting.  It's one that will be tough for me to predict as my choices may be considered rather odd.

          What do you think of my explanation for my vote?    Have you seen The Benny Goodman Story?    If Lena Horne's style turns you off, why is that?

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Economic Update: Fast Food in My Future

         Last week I talked about the recent business closures in my neighborhood of Staples and an AT&T phone store.  The space previously occupied by Staples shows no indication of any new business moving in, however I noticed that there was a great deal of activity occurring in the much smaller phone store space.  On my morning walk last Thursday morning, I decided to check in to see if I could figure what exactly was going on there.

         As neared the store I could see one of the front doors propped wide open.  I moved in closer to read a notice posted in the window.  There were no clues given as to what was happening since the paper was merely an obligatory posting of a city license allowing the contractors to renovate the store space.  Looking inside I could see that progress was well underway as the entire place was gutted and the new business was being set up.

         Suddenly a friendly looking fellow appeared before me. "It's going to be a Habit Burger."  Seeing my puzzlement he continued, "They're kind of like In-and-Out Burger but less expensive".

         "Habit Burger?" I said.   "I've never heard of them."

          "There are quite a few of them.  We've already installed several locations around L.A."   I don't know if the guy was a construction company foreman or a spokesperson for the hamburger chain.   It was almost like he was doing a sales pitch for the restaurant.  He continued, "The hamburgers are really good.  They also have sides like onion rings."

           He would have to mention onion rings.   I love onion rings.  I also like In-and-Out Burger.   Anyone in California and a few other fortunate localities know this chain which has rabid fans and has been named in many polls as one of America's best hamburgers.   This guys pitch was starting to make my mouth water and my stomach rumble for lunch and it was only 9 AM.  Visions of burgers and onion rings danced in my head.

ETR 102 The Habit Burger Grill 05 2012-12-02 12-47-53
Check out the review at "Eating Through Roseville"
          "You'll have to try them when they open," the unofficial spokesman persisted with a grin.  He could have been one of Santa's helpers with his impish demeanor.

         "Well, I live just across the street so I'm sure I'll be here."  I thanked the fellow for the information and continued on my walk.

          Habit Burger?  Talk about a business name that gets right to the point.  The goal of any fast food restaurant is to get patrons hooked on a habit.   Many of us have become fast food junkies with a habit as bad as any drug addict.   I've never even tasted the food at Habit Burger, yet I'm salivating as I think of it.  My visit to the Habit Burger website didn't help matters.

          After they've opened I'll give you my thoughts on it as well as my observations on my local fast food scene.  The way those contractors are going at it, this Habit location will probably be ready to go in a couple of weeks.  Fast construction for fast food.  Makes total sense to me.

         Here's a promo about the place--you'd think I've got some kind of investment in this establishment the way I'm going on about it:

          Have you eaten at Habit Burger?    What is your favorite fast food habit?   Do you have any fast food restaurants within easy walking distance from where you live?