The Manhattan Project--2016 A to Z Theme

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

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Where Did Your Friends Go? (#BOTB results)

      As I've grown older I've seen old friendships become more distant even though those friends have never been forgotten.   In my case this distancing is due to a great extent by my geographical location across the country from where those friends mostly live.  However it's also due to my own negligence in staying in touch with telephone calls or other means of communication and not going to visit them when I do go back to Tennessee for a visit.

       In fairness to myself, my Tennessee visits are usually relatively short and I spend most of my time with family members.   I examined this phenomena of growing apart from friends in my recent Soundtrack of My Life post at my Wrote By Rote blog so I won't delve too deeply about this in my current post, but the gist is that as we all do get older we might have more family issues, work obligations, health complications, and so on.  

       Possibly if I lived back in Tennessee I'd see those friends on a regular basis, but then again whenever I talk to old friends they often will say that they don't see any old friends either.   I was surprised and happy to receive comments on my "Dragon" post as well as my Wrote By Rote post from my long time friend Jackie Covington back in the Maryville area and he basically said the same thing about seeing our friends from the past.    Maybe one day a bunch of us can get together again.


Battle Results

       In my current Battle of the Bands round I used two different songs that address the topic of looking back on the past.  My song picks in this round of battle were "People Are Crazy" by Billy Currington and "January 23-30, 1978" by Steve Forbert.  Both good songs that most voters liked and the closeness of the outcome attests to that.

         I think I clearly hinted at my favorite of the two songs, especially if you read the Wrote By Rote post.  But my pick of Steve Forbert's wonderful bit of song memoir was on the losing side of this contest.  It was a pretty close one though.

           As for my take on the songs, "People Are Crazy" is a classic formula country song with a pleasant but cliched melody.  Even though a bit contrived, the story is a lot of fun.  The dialogue makes the song come across almost like a play.  Several voters mentioned that they thought Currington has a nice voice.  The chorus hook of "God is great, beer is good, and people are crazy" is memorable.  This is a catchy country tune and I like it a lot.

         Between the two songs, the one I might sing around the house would be "People Are Crazy."   If one were made into a movie, "People Are Crazy" might be the more entertaining story.  However, if one were going to be turned into a literary work I think Forbert's story would be more to my liking.  The lyrics contain some nice imagery and description.  To me there is more a depth of an unseen story and a subtlety of the story told in the song.  It's a simple story, but one very similar to my own.

          Melody-wise I much prefer Forbert's song.   There is a sense of melancholy behind the bright delivery of the marvelous lyrics that I guess I'd call bittersweet in a way.  The backing vocals are a nice touch as is the folkish harmonica.   The part that strikes me most is that closing line of "It's often said that life is strange, but compared to what?"   I hear that and I get all philosophical deep in thought.  Forbert's hook needs only be said once in order for it to have impact.  This is one of the most perfectly constructed songs according to my standards of judgement.

Final Vote Tally:

Steve Forbert               11 votes

Billy Currington          15 votes

Next Battle Saturday October 1st

        I've got another Battle of the Bands contest coming up on October 1st which is a Saturday.  I don't aim to get overly political before the U.S presidential election, but my next three battles will be somewhat inspired by the election.  I might get a bit tongue-in-cheek for a couple songs or I might just be observational.  I don't want to scare anyone off since I know politics can upset folks.  So don't worry--it will still be Battle of the Bands and I hope they will be battles you can have some fun with.

         Of friendships, how long have your longest lasted?   Have you lost touch with many of your friends from your past?   Do you continue to make many new friends (excluding the virtual ones that you might never meet in person)?


Monday, September 19, 2016

Two Writers Walk into a Bar...


        "Two writers walk into a bar" sounds like a variation on a cliched joke opening.  And really the observation has little to do with the point I wanted to make in this post.  First though, if you haven't voted on my current Battle of the Bands you might want to click this link in order to vote and read  the story and then skim through the comments   My words today are reflective of what was said there.

          Also, you might want to check out my most recent post on Wrote By Rote for some more backstory regarding the Battle of the Bands post.  In my Battle winner's announcement on Wednesday I'll continue on with my reflections and then hope to hear your thoughts as well.  Come to that post with your philosopher's robe and your memory cap.

            Concerning present thoughts about the two writers walking into a bar--I'll state right here that in my life I have been no stranger to going to bars, but for the most part I have neither been a frequent bar patron.  Not like Stephen T. McCarthy seemed to indicate about himself in his comment on my post.   Here's part of what McCarthy said:
It's occurred to me lately that probably there is no place you can go and meet a wider spectrum of people -- good and bad -- than in a bar. And I don't mean any bar. Not some rundown ghetto bar. But your average bar and grill in an average neighborhood.
That does pretty much describe people I've found in bars.  I have these vague recollections of some pretty interesting people that I've met and spent an hour or two or more with and then I never see them again and can't even remember their names.  

         However,  me being in a bar by myself is unlikely.  Most of my visits to bars were because I was with other people who were going there.  I'd go, but I usually didn't drink much.   For one thing I'm cheap--or should I say frugal?--and don't like spending money drinking.  Happy hour can be nice--especially if there are cheap (or even free!) snacks to nosh on while sipping inexpensive drinks. Then I save money on dinner and that ain't bad at all.

          My bar days are essentially behind me though so if two writers walk into a bar then one of them would probably not be me.   So the question in order to arrive at the punch line is who are these writers?  What are their genres?   Or for that matter, do they write fiction?

           As a joke teller you'd want to establish character motivation and set the scene.   Maybe some backstory would be good.  Are the writers married?   What are their genders?  What are their educational backgrounds?   And who else is in the bar?

         Sorry but I could keep rambling on about this idea. Maybe there is no joke here from my telling.  I should write a story about this.  I was never very good at telling jokes.    Actually maybe I should write a book about it.  Be watching for the release of my forthcoming book Two Writers Walk into a Bar.   Yeah, right, sure--just as soon as I write it.

           Hmmm...I kind of like that title:  Two Writers Walk into a Bar.

            Are you good at telling jokes?   Have you (or do you still) ever hung out in bars?  What would be a good way to end the joke that starts "Two writers walk into a bar..."?

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Songs about Looking Back (#BOTB)

     Some song lyrics grab me and it's often because they tell a story.
      Ironically, in the post for my previous Battle of the Bands I observed that I usually don't pay that much attention to song lyrics.  Now in this Battle I'm going to present two different songs where the lyrics do speak to me to the extent that I am moved by them.  It helps that the lyrics are easy to understand, but I think that when lyrics tell a story they are easier to follow.

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.

Steve Forbert   "January 23-30, 1978" (1979)
If not available in your region for alternate recording click here.

         Steve Forbert is one of those artists who probably should have been more famous. His songs are impeccably composed and performed with a Dylanesque style, yet displaying a unique sound. This song about an adult man's week-long visit to his hometown where he relives old memories first caught my attention after I got a copy of the album on cassette in the early 1980's.  The closing line, "It's often said that life is strange, but compared to what?", kind of sums up much of my own outlook on life.  To me this is one of the most perfectly constructed and presented story songs that I know.  

Billy Currington  "People Are Crazy" (2009)
(For an alternate version please click here.)

         This song has that twang that might turn some of you off and you might not agree with the sentiments expressed, but, hey, it's a country song so it is what it is.   The story is fun.  It's a story about drinking, talking, and reminiscing with a bit of a twist at the end.

Time to Vote!

      Two songs with two stories.  I hope that  you've enjoyed them.  Maybe it's not your style of music, but hopefully you'll keep a musically open mind in assessing the two versions.   Let us know what you think about these two recordings. 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

the pedestrian writer

Winner Announced on Wednesday September 21st

         I'll have a post up on Monday the 19th so I hope you visit for that post, but the results of the above battle will be posted a couple days later.  Who will win?   Your votes will decide.

          Do you tend to pay more attention to a song if the lyrics tell a story?   What is your favorite story song of all time?    Have you ever written or tried to write a story song?

Monday, September 12, 2016

Tail of the Dragon

        Riding the Dragon can be a pretty harrowing experience, yet each year thousands of bikers flock to this stretch of two-lane Highway 129 that winds along the border of the Great Smoky Mountains between Tennessee and North Carolina.   

The embayment of Hazel Creek along the Little ...
The embayment of Hazel Creek along the Little Tennessee River (Fontana Lake) in the Great Smoky Mountains of North Carolina, located in the Southeastern United States. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Riding the Dragon

        Here's a short overview video of some highlights of the ride on The Dragon.  For best effect view full screen.

        The 11 mile stretch of 318 curves has become a well-known lure for motorcycle and sports car enthusiasts throughout the U.S.    This piece of highway is part of U.S. route 129 passing through Deals Gap along the border of the Smokey Mountains National Park.   The scenery is spectacular and the ride can be pretty scary, especially on those days when the bikers are out in force taking the curves like madmen.   During the summer almost every day is one of those days.

         I've driven this route numerous times over the past many years so I'm familiar with the ride, but the thrill never dissipates no matter how often I drive it.   My trips have always been in an enclosed vehicle so I never drive as fast as the bikers do.   Those motorcyclists will ride your rear end until they find an opening to pass.   Even though I feel more safe and secure in my vehicle, having a biker flying past from behind or from the opposite direction can be a tense sensation.   More than once have I seen a biker who has gone down for one reason or another.  Indeed, so many accidents occur on this stretch of road that the Blount County Rescue Squad maintains a presence in the ready during summer week-ends.  Fortunately most of the accidents are relatively minor, but death and serious injury is no stranger to many who have taken a tumble on their rides.

         During my vacation I drove the stretch twice.  The first trip was southbound to Fontana Dam, then on to Cherokee, NC and up through the Smokey Mountain Park to return home.  On the second trip I drove a group of family members down to Blue Ridge, GA, then over to Murphy, NC, and finally up through the Dragon during the sunset hours.  Either direction you go it's twenty minutes or so of thrilling driving or riding.

          With so many travelers going this route, photo concessions are set up at a number of places along the way so visitors can get a souvenir shot of their vehicles or motorcycles on the road.  To follow are some links where you can see my van as I pass by the various photographers.  If you go to the linked photo you can click on the arrows at the sides to see other shots of my van in action.

X-treme Sports Photography

KillBoy Photos

Moonshine Photo

     Whether you are a fan of extreme sport driving or just enjoy mountain roads in a beautiful setting, this route is a destination that you might want to think about driving if you're going to be in the Great Smokey Mountain National Park area.  There is plenty in the area to keep you busy for a vacation whether it be for a few days or a few weeks.   Highly recommended.

The Dragon From the Biker's View

      If you're interested in the full Dragon ride experience,  here's a GoPro video from a biker's perspective.   Those who experience motion sickness might want to avoid this video.   But if you like those virtual reality amusement park rides then this might be entertainment you'll enjoy.  For full effect, crank up the sound and watch full screen--the bigger the screen, the better the effect.  If you want more views of Dragon riding, there are hundreds of videos about this to be found on YouTube.

Try this one first...

         Did  you enjoy the ride?   What is the most thrilling road that you've ever been on?   Have you been on this road through Deals Gap (the Dragon)?     Do you tend to get carsick?