Monday, September 1, 2014

Battle of the Bands: "Concrete Jungle"

Happy September! It's time again for the "Battle of the Bands (BOTB)," the blogging event originally started by Stephen T. McCarthy and FarAwayEyes back in August of 2013. It occurs twice every month -- on the 1st and the 15th -- and is a fun way to share and discuss music. Each of the bloggers taking part offers their  readers a choice of two (or occasionally more) versions of the same song, performed by different recording artists. And the readers get to vote for their favorite rendition.

In my last BOTB post, I offered two versions of Stevie Wonder's "Higher Ground." I thought it might actually be a close battle since I really like both versions.  But I was wrong.  Very wrong.  The Red Hot Chilli Peppers were severely trounced.

Well, in this post, I'm going completely in the other direction -- I'm featuring a battle where I fully expect it to be a one-sided victory.  I'm doing this for two reasons:  
  • One -- Since I was so off-base about my expectations in the last battle, I'm curious to see if what I think is one-sided ends up being more evenly matched than I predict; and 
  • Two -- I want to highlight a really great song that I've always loved, and in the process, expose you to a sadly unknown and under-appreciated guitarist that you're probably unaware of.

Let the Battle Begin!

In 1972, most of the world had never heard of Bob Marley. In the early part of that year he and the Wailers found themselves broke, dumped by CBS Records, and stranded in England following a failed tour. There they were introduced to record producer Chris Blackwell, who gave them plane fare home as an advance for doing a record for Blackwell's Island Records  The subsequent album, "Catch a Fire," was recorded in Jamaica and the UK, and released in 1973.

The record had mixed commercial success but caught the attention of world critics, even though some traditional reggae fans considered it "overproduced" and not representative of true reggae. However, many now view it one of the greatest reggae album ever made -- it ranked #123 in Rolling Stones's top 500 albums of all time from 2003.

Track one on the album was the song "Concrete Jungle"  -- it's been one of my most favorite songs ever since I first heard it.  Here's the video of that original version from 1973:

Awesome song, isn't it? Moving and evocative. I absolutely love it.

So did you make it all the way through the song and hear all that fabulous guitar, like the cool overdubs in the intro, and especially that blazing solo that dissolves into that haunting echo-laden feedback? If not, go back and listen again -- I'll wait...

When I first heard this song, I was blown away. I mean, I love the whole album, and the songs and the infectious reggae are great, but the guitar on this song and "Stir it Up" REALLY got my attention. The album credits list Peter Tosh as the guitarist. So I made it a point to buy several other Peter Tosh albums and yeah, they were decent reggae records, but there was something missing. On his solo albums or later Bob Marley and the Wailers albums, he never again played guitar with the same amazing lines like he had on "Concrete Jungle."

And I always wondered why.

Here's a clue:  A 1973 video Bob Marley and the Wailers made where they play along with "Concrete Jungle" -- there's plenty of live parts mixed in, but the original recording is also still heavily in the mix.  Check out Peter Tosh (in the cool hat). For some reason, his fingers don't quite seem to match the guitar lines you hear in the background, and even more surprising, that killer guitar solo is totally gone, now replaced by one done on keyboard.


It wasn't until years later that I discovered the truth:  Peter Tosh did NOT play all that awesome guitar.

When Chris Blackwell was doing post-production work on "Catch a Fire" in London, he decided to add a lot of overdubs to the record.  There are many uncredited musicians who played on this album.  In Island Studios at the time happened to be a session guitarist from Muscle Shoals, Alabama named Wayne Perkins.  It turns out that Wayne is actually the guy who did all the wonderful guitar playing on "Stir it Up" and "Concrete Jungle."

Wayne Perkins? Who??? I'd never heard of him -- have you?

It's too bad -- he's done a lot of great work.  HERE's a list of his recording and composing credits. And below is a video of him talking about recording on "Stir it Up" and "Catch a Fire" with Chris Blackwell:

I smile when he talks about how he couldn't "find the 'one' to save his ass." Reggae is all about the backbeat -- the emphasis is on the 'two' and the 'four' of the four-beat measure. And damn -- that solo still gives me goosebumps, too. :) 

Wayne even almost ended up in the Rolling Stones. After Mick Taylor left, they auditioned several guitarists as part of the recording of their album "Black and Blue," before choosing Ronnie Wood. Wayne's playing can be heard on "Hand of Fate" and "Fool to Cry." He's also added guitar to many other artists, including some really tasty guitar on Joni Mitchell's "Car on a Hill" from "Court and Spark."

Wayne's done some solo stuff too -- some sadly under-heard solo stuff. HERE is a video of the title tune, "Mendo Hotel," from his 1995 album, and HERE is "Many Rivers to Cross" from his 2006 album "Ramblin' Heart."

So there you go -- now you know the secret guitarist on the Bob Marley classic, "Concrete Jungle."

Oh, yeah -- "Concrete Jungle!" This is supposed to be a Battle of the Bands post, right???

Well, try as I might, I could not find many decent covers of this song, and it's one I absolutely wanted you to know about.  There are several other songs with the same name, including a Black Label Society one that Alex might like, ;)  But these other songs are not the Bob Marley tune.

However, after some searching, I finally found one that I think might be worth sharing as part of a BOTB post. It's by the Brazilian singer, Ceu.  She's evidently been performing  this song since her debut album in 2005.  Below is one of the better-recorded videos I've found of that song, although it was made in 2007, when her English pronunciation was not quite as smooth as later phone-made videos I found.  But this video has the best production and a really smooth Latin jazz feel.  There's no Wayne Perkins guitar here, but I still like it quite a bit.  See what you think:

Your Vote

So which appeals to you more? Bob Marley's awesome original version with the uncredited Wayne Perkins playing guitar, or the smooth, sensual, jazzy interpretation by Ceu?

I invite you to listen to each version and give them a chance. And try not to focus on the video images too much (close your eyes if you must) -- the battle is about the music, not the video production.

After listening, please vote in the comments as to which version you think is best, or which speaks to you the deepest. Feel free to also share as much as you would like about how any of the above recordings strike you, even if it's less than positive.

Then -- be sure to check out the other BOTB bloggers to vote on their battles:

Thank you very much for listening and for voting -- come back and visit again the end of next week to find out how the voting has gone.  I'll make a post then with my own vote and also announce the winner.

And in the meantime -- be sure to do what you can to help tame the concrete jungles around you!

Friday, August 29, 2014

Loose Ends: BOTB Results, Seven-Tag, Newsday, and More

Hey all!

Due to my always-hectic schedule, it was again looking like I was not going to get a new post made between my last Battle of the Bands (BOTB) post and the next one coming up in just a few days (September 1st), but I managed to squeeze in some time. 

And there are several quick things I want to offer you: 

Battle of the Bands Results

First is to summarize the results from my last BOTB post:

I admit I was at least a little bit surprised.  I really like the Red Hot Chili Peppers' version of "Higher Ground" and I was expecting a halfway decent showing for them in the voting.  But this ended up being a battle where the original by Stevie Wonder ran away with it.

I guess this is a case where the cover version is good, but not quite good enough.  But that's what I get for picking a Stevie Wonder song.  I mean, I love the RHCP's vibe, all the fun guitar parts added, and Flea does fabulous on the bass, but in the end, I have to agree with the vast majority:  Stevie Wonder's version is THE version of "Higher Ground."  There are very few artists who can top Stevie Wonder, and that's evident in this song:  Every note, every phrase, and every beat come together to make a fabulous recording, and with my vote Stevie ends up winning this battle by a dominant 9 votes to 1.

Come back on Labor Day Monday for my next BOTB post (it's already written and queued up) -- I'll reveal "the secret guitarist" in one of my favorite songs and ask you to choose what version is better. I'm interested to see if this next battle also ends up being a one-sided run-away. 

Tagged to Give Seven

I was tagged on Facebook by my buddy DL Hammons as one of seven writers. The task is to:
  • Go to the seventh page of your current WIP
  • Go to the seventh line on that page
  • Take the seven lines beginning with that line and share them
Well, OK...  I have several WIPs at the moment, but the most recent thing I've worked on is a science-fiction short story that seems to think it wants to become a novel.  Here are the required seven lines:

     "I realize you consider these negotiations as crucial," he said, "but you have to understand that you're gaining nothing with your impatience. You've just made a huge tactical error by presenting your offer too soon. Now it will take even longer for them to eventually accept it." 
     She glared at him. "But you don't understand. I don't have time for these games. I need these negotiations finished as soon as possible. You need to help me get this done. That is why you are here." 
     Corvan snorted. "No, Ambassador. I am here because my ship is in your cruiser's cargo bay and you're holding my crew prisoner."

So there you go.  I was also asked to tag seven other writers, but I'm respectfully going to decline.  It's fun to take part, but this is one ripple I'm not sending downstream.  But if you're a writer and have an interest in taking part, you're free to consider this a blanket tag.

WRiTE Club

Speaking of DL Hammons, let me remind you all that his WRiTE Club 2014 is still underway and is nearing the point where the third-round winners are chosen.  If you have not voted in this contest of awesome anonymous writers, please do so! You have until Noon on Sunday August 31st to do so -- you can visit the nine bouts currently open for voting at DL's web site.  Nothing is required for you to vote other than to add a comment, and every vote counts! 

New Newsday Twist 

Finally -- since this supposed to be a blog about my creative output -- let me offer you a short writing snippet.

Over the course of this blog, I've done several "Newsday Two-Hundred" postings where I take an item in the news and generate a 200-word piece of writing about it. They're fun to do, and I'll probably do more in the future, but today, I decided to add a twist.

I still start with a recent news item, but I'll limit myself not to 200 hundred words, but to a word-count determined by the headline. For instance, if the headline has ten words, I'll write ten lines of ten words each; if the headline has six words, I'll only write six lines of six words each.  Also, the headline words will still be in each line, in the correct position. 

Get it?  Well, if not, maybe it will make more sense once I show you one.

HERE's the link to the news item I'm using for today's inspiration, which has the following headline:

"Human skull donated to Goodwill store in Texas"

Okay.  That's eight words, so I'll write eight lines of eight words, using those headline words in the proper order.  Oh -- and why not make it rhyme?  See what you think:

Human beings can be very odd at times:
A skull discovered, but not left from crimes.

It was donated by someone no longer living;
Using another person to do the actual giving.

Not a product that Goodwill tends to carry,
although what's sold in each store does vary.

'Tis a sad case of charity in excess:
Someone was dying to be generous in Texas.


Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful Labor Day weekend!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Battle of the Bands: "Higher Ground"

Today is August 15th -- that means it's time for the "Battle of the Bands (BOTB)."  This is a fun blogging event that allows people to discover, discuss, and dissect music.  It was originally started by Stephen T. McCarthy and FarAwayEyes back in August of 2013, and occurs twice every month -- on the 1st and the 15th. Each of the bloggers taking part offers their  readers a choice of two (or occasionally more) versions of the same song, performed by different recording artists. And then the readers get to vote for their favorite rendition.

But -- as has been known to happen -- I haven't been able to post in a while, so before I go on to today's battle, I still have to give the results from my LAST Battle of the Bands post.

8/1/2014 BOTB Results

The last battle featured two versions of "Sensitive Kind" -- by Santana and by the original composer, JJ Cale. It started out looking like it was going to be a run-away by Santana, but eventually enough JJ Cale votes trickled in to make it competitive.  I understand the appeal of Santana's version -- it's got a lot going for it, and I do enjoy it. It's a great rendition with powerful singing and Santana's powerful guitar playing.

But here's the thing -- in my opinion, this song isn't meant to be powerful.  It's a song about sensitivity, compassion, and gently making a sensual connection with a woman who's been burned before. There's no call for screaming guitars or vocals in this song. I just think the song works so much better when it's soft and understated, and JJ's version delivers that. 

So I vote for JJ, not that it matters.  In the end, Santana's power overcomes, and he wins by a narrow majority, with 7 votes to JJ's 6.

However, if you're interested, HERE's a video of JJ Cale performing the song live at Carnegie Hall, during the band's tour in 1996.  The video production is a little distracting, but this gives a great example of how sensual this song can be, and just how well JJ did it without all the studio orchestration.

Now Let the NEW Battle Begin!

Today again, I have another song that I like BOTH versions of -- I think these make for the best battles.  And this is another bout where I'm eager to see what YOU think!

In 1973, Stevie Wonder released his 16th studio album, Innervisions, three days before he was nearly killed while riding in a car that collided with a log-carrying truck. The album had several hits, including "Living for the City", "Don't You Worry 'bout a Thing", and the first song released, "Higher Ground."

"Higher Ground" was preformed entirely by Stevie -- he sang and played all the instruments including drums, with a bass line done on an early Moog synthesizer.  The beat is infectious and funky; the groove smooth and steady; the playing impeccable; and the lyrics spiritual and optimistic, seeking growth even amid lines of war and lying politicians. It is a song that gets you moving -- both dancing AND thinking.

Here's the original, as recorded by Stevie Wonder:

In 1989, The Red Hot Chili Peppers recovered from singer Anthony Kledis's rehab, the departure of drummer Jack Irons, and the overdose death of guitarist Hillel Slovak to record their fourth album, "Mother's Milk."  With new drummer Chad Smith and guitarist John Frusciante, the album had much more commercial success than their previous ones, lifted in part by MTV's heavy rotation of their cover of "Higher Ground."

Where the Stevie Wonder version was smooth keyboard-driven funk, the Peppers took that funk, kicked it in the ass, and merged it with Punk attitude, Rock drums, hard-edged distorted guitars, and Flea's throbbing, pulsating bass playing.  The Chili Peppers were no strangers to funk -- George Clinton had produced the band's second album, "Freaky Styley" in 1985. But while Stevie Wonder's funk tickled your heart, the Peppers punched you in the gut with it.

Here's the RHCP version of "Higher Ground:"

Your Vote

So which appeals to you more? Smooth and funky, or hard-edged and funky? Do you like your funk groove straight, or do you want it mixed with equal parts punk and rock?

I invite you to listen to each version and give them a chance. And try not to focus on the video images (close your eyes if you must) -- the battle is about the music, not the video production.

After listening, please vote in the comments as to which version you think is best, or which speaks to you the deepest. Feel free to also share as much as you would like about how any of the above recordings strike you, even if it's less than positive.

Then -- be sure to check out the other BOTB bloggers to vote on their battles:

Thank you very much for listening and for voting -- come back and visit again the end of next week to find out how the voting has gone.  I'll make a post then with my own vote and also announce the winner.

And in the meantime -- be sure to keep on reachin' for that higher ground!

Friday, August 1, 2014

Battle of the Bands: "Sensitive Kind"

I'm Back...

During the end of last year and the first part of 2014, I took part in several posts for the blogging event known as the "Battle of the Bands (BOTB)."  This is a fun way to discover, discuss, and dissect music, and was originally started by Stephen T. McCarthy and FarAwayEyes back in August of 2013.  The event occurs twice every month -- on the 1st and the 15th -- and each of the bloggers taking part offers their  readers a choice of two (or occasionally more) versions of the same song, performed by different recording artists. And then the readers get to vote for their favorite rendition.

I really enjoyed putting together the few BOTB posts I did, but as 2014 started, I had less and less time to blog, and so I stepped aside from it after only a short while. But today, I would like to once again take part.  I can't guarantee that I will be able to do this on a consistent basis, but I had so much fun voting on the last BOTB posts from July 15th, I wanted to join in on this one.

One of the things that lured me back to taking part in the BOTB posts is that last time two of the BOTB posters, Stephen T, McCarthy and DiscConnected, both featured Santana songs in their battles.  Well, I immediately thought of another Santana song that I wanted to do, and it inspired me to come back and take part in this BOTB to highlight it before anyone else took it. ;)

Let the Battle Begin

Santana, with singer Alex Ligertwood, released the album Zebob in 1981.  It had a hit -- "Winning."  It's a great song, although it always sounded to me like Santana's doing something that could be a Steve Winwood song. Carlos Santana's guitar has a single-coil, treble-y Strat sound -- nothing like his normal screaming tone -- and the tune sounds like it would be perfectly at home on Arc of a Diver.

But the song that always grabbed me from Zebob was "Sensitive Kind".  Wonderful groove, fabulous singing, touching lyrics. and there's that expected screamin' Santana-tone guitar, including a scorchin' lead break.

Here's the video of Santana's Zebob album cut of "Sensitive Kind:"

Great song, isn't it?  But here's the deal -- Santana didn't write this song.  It's a cover.

The original composer was a guy named J.J. Cale.  If you've ever heard Eric Clapton do the songs "After Midnight" or "Cocaine," you've heard songs written and performed originally by J.J. Cale.  Also "Call Me the Breeze," covered by Lynyrd Skinner; "Clyde," covered by Waylon Jennings; and "Travelin' Light," covered by Widespread Panic (and others).

J.J. Cale had a career of over 50 years and 15 albums well outside the spotlight of commercial success. The highest-charting song he had with him actually recording it was "Crazy Mama" in 1972 -- it peaked at #22. But he was greatly admired and appreciated by countless musicians.

He released his fifth album in 1979, appropriately but minimally entitled 5. It was a wonderful collection of short, smooth songs of the Okie and rootsy blend of jazz, blues, rockabilly, country, and soul JJ Cale is famous for, and it remains my favorite J.J. Cale album.  This album also had his song "Sensitive Kind."  It's a very different vibe in J.J.'s version. Slower, intimate, and much more sensitive.  It's also kind of a unusual song for J.J. in that it features strings and horns on top of his usual mellow, soulful singing and sensual guitar playing.  But see what you think.

Here's the original version of "Sensitive Kind" as done by J.J. Cale:

Your Vote

So which appeals to you more?

I invite you to listen to each version and give them a chance. After listening, please vote in the comments as to which version you think is best, or which speaks to you the deepest. Feel free to also share as much as you would like about how any of the above recordings strike you, even if it's less than positive.

Then -- be sure to check out the other BOTB bloggers to vote on their battles:

Thank you very much for listening and for voting -- come back and visit again the end of next week to find out how the voting has gone.  I'll make a post then with my own vote and also announce the winner.

And in the meantime -- be sure to appreciate the sensitive kind in your life!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Sending Ripples Downstream (A Virtual Tour Blog-Hop)

Have you ever been tagged in a blog-hop? Did it make you start wondering where the cascading ripples of tagging originally came from?

I have, and it did.  And if you allow me a few minutes of your time, I'll tell you about it.

First...  The blog-hop itself:

The Creative-Artist Virtual Tour

Last week, Dianne Salerni tagged me to take part in a blog "virtual tour" of creative bloggers who write, paint, draw, make music, and do other creative things.  I'm very flattered that Dianne thought of me. I also enjoyed reading Dianne's post about her current work and her approach to her writing.

Here's Diane's bio:  

DIANNE K. SALERNI is the author of The Eighth Day MG fantasy series (HarperCollins) and YA historical novels, The Caged Graves (Clarion/HMH) and We Hear the Dead (Sourcebooks). Dianne was a public school teacher for 25 years before leaving the profession to spend more time hanging around creepy cemeteries and climbing 2000 year-old pyramids in the name of book research.
Visit Dianne at

So according to the blog-hop "rules," I now have to give my responses to the same questions Dianne posted:

1. What am I currently working on?

Well, besides this blog-hop post, I have several short stories in various stages of getting-ready-ness. I also have a new mystery novel I'm in the outlining and researching stage on. Musically, I'm not getting as much time to visit wikiloops to jam lately, but I do have a new piece in my "Forgotten Voices" series that I've recently started and am working on.  I'm also spending time playing bass or guitar a couple of weekends a month on the worship team at church.

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?

For one thing, it was written (and/or performed) by me. Another thing is that my work tends to be hard to even fit in a single genre. I like adding diverse elements and creating interest by the juxtaposition of things that wouldn't normally be brought together.

3. Why do I write/create what I do?

To rework a flippant response once given by George Mallory: "Because it's not there."  I write and make music because of a desire to create something unique and interesting; to bring to life something that's not yet there.  Plus -- highfalutin artistic pontification aside -- it's kinda fun to do.

4. How does your writing/creating process work?

Sporadically, erratically, and frustratingly haphazardly. A big part of that is I have a very hard time blocking out time to do it, and when I do, it's sometimes even harder to enforce that, "you WILL be creative on this one particular thing right NOW!" nose-to-the-grindstone method of creativity.

OK.  Those are my answers. Now the blog-hop says I have to choose three other creative bloggers to tag. I can think of many, many bloggers who do amazing, creative work, but here are three that you might not be aware of:

David List

David is a writer working on his soon-to-be-released debut fantasy novel "A Sawmill's Hope," set in the land of Silexare.  He led a successful Kickstarter campaign to fund the editing, illustration, and self-publishing costs for the book.  I'm eagerly waiting it's release. He blogs at Regarding Silexare about his writing and more.  But in addition to being a writer, David is also a talented and accomplished musician -- he has a SoundCloud page filled with wonderful music that he has composed and performed, all of it captivating, catchy, and enjoyable.


Suze is a writer with magical powers of transformation. She can deftly weave a spell of words that turns the ordinary into the sublime, the mundane into the mystical, and the familiar into the fantastic. I don't interact in the blogosphere as often as I would like, but Suze's blog Subliminal Coffee is a place that is always worth the visit.  Whether she's blogging about her writing craft, sharing stories about herself or her family, or reviewing books, music, and movies, Suze is always entertaining and a joy to read.

Susan Swiderski

When I want to smile, I visit Susan's blog I Think; Therefore I Yam. Susan is a very creative writer with a wonderful sense of humor.  She has written the highly-rated novel "Hot Flashes and Lemonade" and uses her blog for fabulous posts about everything from writing, book reviews, and travel to personal stories and pun-filled humor.  She has a warm, ever-optimistic, and always welcoming outlook, and -- like David's and Suze's -- I highly recommend her blog.

The blog "rules" now say that these people I've tagged need to post next week with their own answers to the questions, and to tag others.  But truthfully-- I don't care if they do.  They can if they want, of course -- but I'm not tagging them because I want them to feel obligated.  I just want to recognize them for the enjoyment their blogs have given me, and perhaps point a few more readers their way.

Exploring the Ripples

Okay. so now the "rules" of the blog-hop have been followed, and I've done my part to appease the blogosphere gods.  At this point, most bloggers would consider this post done and move on.

But I didn't.  Because, like I said at the top of this post -- my curiosity was piqued. I appreciate Dianne for thinking of me for this blog-hop, but who tagged her?  Where do these blog-hops come from? Who started this one?  Was it even possible to find out?

So I decided to become a virtual Henry Schoolcraft and, if possible, explore the river of links and see if I could trace the blog-hop back to its head-waters.

It took quite a while, a whole lot of clicking, and at some points a bit of internet detective work (thanks, Google!) to get the tagging source of a few people who didn't explicitly say or give a link on their blog.  But I found the Lake Itasca of this blog-hop.

Here are the series of taggings that rippled down through the rivers of the blogosphere to me:

Me < Dianne K. Salerni < April Lindner < Anna M. Evans < Bruce W. Niedt < Janet Rice Carnahan < Sharon E. Ingraham < Pearl Ketover Prilik < Walt Wojtanik < Laurie Kolp < Susie Clevenger < Kathryn Dyche Dechairo < Kim Stevens < Cathy Sly < Michelle Gyauch Dzema < Lisa Hofmann < Latisha Guthrie < Sara Galactica < Jory Mickelson < S J Sindu < JS Kuiken < Bran Mydwynter < Elinor Gray < Katie YoungLaertes < Sylvia Petter < Shirley Golden < Laura Wilkinson < Jenny Kane < Jane Jackson < Anne Stenhouse < Jane Riddell < Beth Elliot < Penny Grubb < Linda Acaster < Lindsay Townsend < Adam Haviaras < Luciana Cavallaro < Jay Scott < Erin Albert < Brad Johnson < Debbie Nance < Sandra Warren < Joan Edwards < Eyvonna Rains < Meira Pentermann < Anna Del C. Dye < Stephanie Fowers < Stacy Lynn Carroll < Mikey Brooks < Cordelia Dinsmore < Lisa Cole Orchard < Jodi Desautels < Virginia Wright < Diana Jenkins < Peggy Archer < Cynthia Reeg < Cheryl Malandrinos < Mary Cunningham

...and after 58 links, that's where the blogging river dries up.

Mary posted on June 17th, 2013 and said she was tagged by Cheryl; Cheryl posted on June 18th, 2013 and said she was tagged by Mary.

Huh.  I suspect collusion and a clear intent to defraud unsuspecting blog readers.  :)

But -- all joking aside -- even if they weren't entirely upfront about it, it appears that Mary and/or Cheryl started this particular blog-hop in June of last year.  I can find no reference of either of them getting "tagged" by anyone else before that timeframe on their blogs or though Google searches.

So, 13 months and almost 60 blogs later, the ripples that Mary and Cheryl started reached me.

Back then, at its headwaters, the "wandering tour of blogs by artists -- writers, painters, photographers, and more" (to quote Dianne's blog) was a "blog hop interview" entirely geared towards writers of children's books. In between, in the space of just over a year, it rippled its way through writers and poets, photographers and painters. It covered a wide range of locations across the United States, Canada, and the UK to get to me, and evolved from people who created children's books to travel through artists of many other genres, including a few whose work is clearly NOT intended for children (and borderline NSFW).

And this was just one of the many possible cascading paths the blog-hop may have taken.  Each person tagged typically named two or three other bloggers to take part, in an ever-expanding chain-reaction of connections.

So let's figure it out:

Even if each blogger only named two others to take part, and we assume all of them actually did, and that each multiplying chain has taken the same number of steps, it would mean that 2 ^ 58th power of blogs are now feeling the ripples of the stone that Mary or Cheryl originally kicked into the rivers of the blogosphere.  That would be 288,230,376,151,711,744 blogs which are now involved.

Well, clearly those assumptions are incorrect -- that's many, many times more blogs than there are people on Earth!

This blog-hop ripple has behaved like a real river -- only certain currents have found their way downstream. Others led to dead-end eddies or arid flatlands that dried up any forward progress. Not every path allows the water to keep flowing. 

Not every person tagged in a blog-hop takes part.

But I have.

And so the ripples keep flowing downstream...

Monday, July 21, 2014

Hot Monday

"Too Hot..." (photo by C. Fries)

It's a hot Monday here. After an unseasonable cold spell last week, the temperature is building into the upper 80's and will go higher throughout the week.

I'm like my dog Max in the photo above.  When it gets too hot, I don't want to go out and play Frisbee -- I don't even want to be outside.

So today, I'll stay inside and offer you  some hot blog updates.

Hot Newsday

A while ago, I experimented with a blog idea I called "Tuesday Newsday Two-Hundred."  It was a feature I would post on a Tuesday, where I'd take a recent news story and create a short 200-word story about it.  Not 199 words, not 201 words -- 200 words exactly.

I enjoyed putting them together, but as anyone who visits here a short while realizes, my posting is far too erratic to have a regular weekly feature.

But it doesn't mean I can't still do them, right?  No!  (...and there was much rejoicing...)

I'll just take the "Tuesday" part out and post them as the mood strikes me.  Well, the mood has struck.  So, today, I offer you "Burning Fear" -- a 200-hundred-word story about a recent news item.  I invite you to read the story below, and then click the link to check out the original news piece:

Burning Fear

Tom had a burning fear of spiders.

He couldn't stand the sight of them. He would rather stick his hand into a roaring fire than touch one of the vile things, even to kill it.

An all-consuming hatred and loathing that constantly smoldered, Tom's phobia threatened to blaze into full-blown panic at the mere thought of a spider.

It was one reason why he put off doing laundry. He'd rather wear dirty clothes than have to spend time in the basement laundry room of the house he rented. It was dark and dingy, with plenty of shadowy corners for spiders to hide in.  Tom's landlord used the basement for storage, and shelves of paint cans, bins of stray hardware, and dust-covered tools provided ample cover for spider nests. 

But he could put it off no longer.  Taking his overflowing basket of clothes down, Tom scanned every corner for any spiders.  All seemed clear as he set his clothes on the rickety table.  Until he saw a huge, black spider on the wall above the washer.  

Tom knew he had to kill it.  But no way was he going to squash it.

Then he got the spark of a bright idea...

Original news story: Man Using 'Blowtorch' to Kill Spider Started Fire

Hot Blog Hop

Dianne Salerni, author of many wonderful books including "We Hear the Dead," "The Caged Graves," and "The Eighth Day" has today named me to take part in the "Not So Accidental Blog-Tourist Hop."

I have to admit that I'm normally not one for blog-hops, tagging, or blogging awards. Not that I'm some sort of elitist snob who feels I'm above all that frivolity -- I don't.  It's just that my sporadic blogging limits the amount of time I have to devote to those kinds of things, so I generally say, "no, thank you."

But I respect Dianne and her writing, know her as a really nice person, and I like the idea of the blog-hop being short and simple and open to any kind of "Creative" work, not just writing.  Plus, I admit it -- I was flattered when she asked me.  Really? You mean you want me to take part???  This still-unpublished writer who dabbles in basement-recording? Uh, wow... Okay, sure. 

You can read Dianne's answers to the blog-hop questions about her current creative project at her blog HERE.

And then -- next week (July 28), stop by here to read my answers to the same questions, and to also see the three talented people I nominate to take part.  I'm not even going to give them a heads-up.  Because I don't want to them to feel obligated that they have to keep the blog-hop going.  I just want to recognize three creative people and perhaps get you to visit their blogs. 

Hot Blog-Hop II

In another nod to some former blogging activities, I'm giving some advance notice that I'm again going to take part in the Battle of The Bands blog hop on August 1st. 

I did several of these before, but then stepped aside.  It's the same old story -- no time, limited blogging activity, rarely post, eratic schedule, yada-yada-yada...

I may not take part every time the semi-monthly blog event is held. Heck, I may never do another one after the one I post on the 1st.  Who knows? I've given up trying to figure me out.

But after seeing some of the songs featured on the 15th, I've been inspired to feature a song that I've always loved.  It's like cool water on the sensitive skin that's been out in the hot sun for too long.

Stop back on the first to take part and vote for your favorite version of the tune!

Friday, July 11, 2014

Songs of Summer

Warren Dunes State Park (image from Michigan Science & Nature blog)

Lately, I must admit that I haven't been very social on the blogosphere. Because I haven't had much time to devote to it, this blog has been mainly a one-way street where I've made an occasional post and then disappeared, rarely getting out to visit other bloggers. 

But I've decided that in spite of my limited time, I do need to improve my on-line presence and interaction.  Taking part in a fun blog-hop is one way to do that, and so this is my entry in the Songs of Summer blog-hop sponsored by the bloggers The Armchair Squid, Cygnus, and Suze from the wonderful Subliminal Coffee.

The point of the blog hop is to create a five-song personal summer soundtrack, and so I've put together the songs below.  I will admit that my list is entirely subjective and personal -- rather than just being "about" summer, most of these songs bring back memories I associate with summer, like my fond memories of the time I spent at Warren Dunes on Lake Michigan (see pic above) during my summers as a teen.

But here's my list -- see if I hit any ones that you might have on your own soundtrack:

  • Hot Fun in the Summertime (Sly and the Family Stone):  OK -- this first one IS indeed "about summer."  But as a kid, I remember hearing this a lot in the summer, and it brings back many happy memories of the times at my friend's grandmother's pool, listening to music on a small transistor radio.  It's a fun mix of mellow and funky, with some incredibly infectious bass, and it holds up surprisingly well for a song recorded in 1969 -- 45 years ago.  It's a song that just feels like summer. Here's a recording of it where the old original mono has been redone into stereo (yes, they were still recording in mono in 1969):
  • Stranglehold (Ted Nugent):  Ted Nugent's first, self-titled 1975 solo album after leaving the Amboy Dukes was a record that I played a LOT during the summer of '76, and this track was the main reason.  As a 15-year-old struggling, wanna-be guitar-player, I loved the power and vibe of the long, extended solo. The vocals and all-around bravado also appealed to my immature masculinity, despite my overwhelming introverted shyness and awkwardness. But man-oh-man, that in-your-face, screamin' guitar just called to me (and now I have the tinnitus to prove it how loud and how often it did, LOL!).  Here's the original studio recording:

  • Blue Sky (The Allman Brothers): This was recorded in 1972, but I didn't really discover the Allman Brothers until the late '70s in my later teens.  This song was on Eat a Peach, the album the band was working on in 1971 when Duane Allman died in a motorcycle accident at the age of 24. The song was written (and sung) by Dickey Betts and has some of my most-favorite guitar playing of all time -- Duane's first solo, Dickey's second, and their harmonies are simply exquisite.  This song just oozes joy and warmth, and is such a perfect song for a lazy, sunny summer day.  Still a staple of the band's live shows, here's the original version from Eat a Peach:

  • Are You Going With Me? (Pat Metheny) -- Nine minutes of haunting, ethereal, and (eventually) intense playing over a simple, catchy groove, this is from my favorite Pat Metheny album, Offramp. Released, in 1982, right when I was really starting to get into his music, I completely associate it with summer because of one special night: July 12, 1983.  That's when I saw the Pat Metheny Group live at Meadowbrook  It was a warm, clear summer night at a gorgeous outdoor, wooded amphitheater on the campus of Oakland University in Auburn Hills, MI. The band's playing that night completely blew me away -- it was a magic event and still stays in my memory as one of the best concerts I've ever seen.  No "big production" -- just incredible musicians making amazing music in a beautiful setting. This concert had most of the pieces from Offramp, including the jaw-dropping Ornette Coleman inspired title track, the beautiful James, the groovin' Eighteen, and the moody Au Lait among them. Below is a live version of Are You Going With Me -- I still smile and get goosebumps when I hear it.  It's mostly keyboardist Lyle Mays in the beginning, with Pat coming in on his guitar-synth just before the 4:00 mark:

  • There are also several movies I associate strongly with summer, so it's natural for me to think of their theme songs as part of my "summer soundtrack."   The soundtrack from Caddyshack (summer of 1980 -- love the version of "I'm Alright" as used in the film's openings) and the soundtrack from Ghostbusters (summer of 1984 -- note the '80's synth drums and the low-budget cheesy early MTV video) are especially relevant here.  But after thinking about it, there is one soundtrack that stands out as having particular significance. So, from the summer of 1975: The Theme from Jaws, by John Williams.  No summer at the beach was ever the same after this movie.  For  years, even small ponds in Iowa had kids chanting this "duh-duh... DUH-DUH..." Jaws theme music when they went anywhere near the water:

So there you have it -- my personal five-song "Summer Soundtrack."  But I supposed I could also add a write-in sixth song of my own. How about my wikiloops jam, Summertime Smile? I think it's the most summer-y of anything I've done so far (click on the image to go to the jam):

So that makes my "Summer Soundtrack (+1)" -- what do you think?

Thank you very much for stopping by! I encourage you to visit all the blogs in this blog hop. You can see the linky-list at The Armchair Squid's blog:  HERE