The Manhattan Project--2016 A to Z Theme

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

Friday, October 21, 2016

What Do We Really Know? (#BOTB Results)

     The use of hyperbole is as common as air molecules.  Most, if not all, of us flippantly say things like everybody's doing it, everybody says it, or everybody has one.  Sometimes it seems like everybody's an expert on everything.   Those talking heads on television certainly know more than we do--don't they?  There are some things that leave many of us scratching our heads while other things are so obvious that truth cannot be denied.

        In the end we know as much as we are willing to see, hear, read, and learn.   The information that tells the full story is always available if we take the time and effort necessary to uncover what is going on.   But that's not much fun for some of us, while others know so much already they cling to their opinions and sometimes misshapen beliefs just because it's what they've got and it just feels so comfortable.  Getting knocked in the head with a chunk of truth can hurt.  If that truth starts ricocheting off my head and hits others soundly while deflecting off others, it can stir up a riot or a movement depending on the dispositions of those who own the said heads.

         Okay, so I speak in vagaries and veiled vexations.  I'm expressing what some might know already and others might not be quite getting.  But in actuality I think that somewhere inside we all know what I'm saying here.  I'd like to think that everybody knows.   Or to avoid exaggeration I'll keep it to almost everybody knows.

Battle of the Bands

Everybody Knows

         The results of my "Everybody Knows" battle were decisive, but the competing version didn't do all that badly.  I went back and forth on this decision.  Initially I favored the version by Concrete Blonde.  But then, the version by Holly Figueroa O'Reilly started taking hold of me with its catchy rhythm and nifty country instrument backing.  Holly's vocals were the bomb.

          After many listens I decided to go back to the bleaker sound of Concrete Blonde.   The ominous presentation of the song seemed more in keeping with what the lyrics are all about.  This is not meant to be a happy song.  Not that Holly's version was all that happy, but it was bouncy.   I did like how she changed the melody a bit to create a dark edge.  Both are excellent versions in my analysis, but my vote goes to Concrete Blonde.

Final Vote Tally

Concrete Blonde                      12

Holly Figueroa O'Reilly          18


Next Battle on Tuesday November 1st

        My next Battle of the Bands post will be the last in my election season series.   This one will also be the more interesting of the two as it will--or may--be a predictor of how the U.S. presidential election will turn out.   Besides voting on the favorite music recording, there will also be a few optional questions to stimulate more discussion as well as help in my prediction poll based on the music.

         Hope you'll join me for that as well as stop by for a couple of posts next week that will be somewhat of a lead-in to my next Battle.

           Do you totally trust the government of the United States or any other country?   How much of what the media says do you trust?     Has there been a time when you thought that you knew something only to find out that it wasn't the real truth?


Saturday, October 15, 2016

Everybody Knows (#BOTB)

     "Everybody knows that the dice are loaded"-- "The system is rigged" Bernie Sanders might say,  Of course this is correct--isn't it?   This system is rigged in favor of a power beyond little control of the average voter.  Everybody knows.

English: Seal of the President of the United S...
 Seal of the President of the United States
. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
        Rigged or not, running for president as we are seeing more than ever over the past many months is a grueling process.   One might wonder what it is that compels anyone to put themselves in a position of such scrutiny that their lives become open books to the world.

         With the internet, full disclosure of a candidate's background is an ongoing process in the hands of legitimate investigation as well as the most outlandish smears unlike anything the press of the past was ever able to concoct.  Now the press is not so much of a news dissemination service as it is a medium of influence and manipulation of public opinion.  Truth is often indistinguishable from lies and many people don't care that much anyway.

          So the mud is slung and the people wallow in it.  In the process we all become dirtied and disillusioned.  Most of all, the candidates themselves are stripped naked and their dirtiest secrets are revealed.   Their families are put under the microscope and everyone touched by the candidates gets some of the filth rubbed off on them.

         The political scene is nastier than ever.   The candidates who run for president are risking being tainted for life if not being totally ruined.  Friends, allies, and families can be split apart.  Each election in recent decades has brought more distrust among the parties, the factions, and the people who make up an increasingly more divided nation.

          Whoever wins the 2016 election as well as whoever loses will be exposed for things they've said and done as well as things they have been accused of saying and doing.  The next president of the United States will likely face an almost impossibly divided electorate leading to less and less cooperative efforts toward getting things done and a greater threat of a United States ruled by a totalitarian leaning government.

           The legislative branch of the United States government will likely continue in the weak bickering state they've been in over the past administration as the next president issues more executive orders or relies on Supreme Court decisions to make law.  Exactly how all this turns out will depend on the outcome of the election.

           In the days to come we'll see more and more layers of the onion skin peeled away with more and more disturbing evidence about each candidate delivered by biased media.   Truth and lies will be rampant leaving us to figure out which is which.  And the candidates will have to steel themselves up to endure the onslaught.   The voters might have a difficult time sorting it all out and in the end the issues and the impact on the future might not even matter.   Maybe it will just come down to the superficial things.   The nation will pay the price in the years to come.   Or maybe reap the rewards--we can hope.

            Why do you think anyone would subject themselves to such exposure for themselves and their families?    Do you think this current election will sharpen the divide among people in the United States or bring them together?    Do you believe the system is rigged?

The 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.

"Everybody Knows"  (1988)

      This song first came to my attention when I saw Atom Egoyan's 1994 film Exotica.  The original Leonard Cohen version was used in the soundtrack.   My wife liked Cohen's vocal in the song and the song became one of her favorites.   Since my wife liked the song so well I purchased a number of different CD's with covers of the song as well as Cohen's original version which has remained her favorite.   I like the Don Henley cover which got frequent play on Los Angeles radio stations in the latter half of the nineties.

      "Everybody Knows" presents a bleak outlook of the world and human nature in general as it refers to a number of social issues and provides a commentary about the government and those under its rule.   The song doesn't offer much hope for the future while delivering an acerbic judgement about humanity throughout the ages.   Still, I find it to be an interesting song and not an unpleasant listening experience.

          If you want to reference the original Leonard Cohen version you can listen here, but please don't vote on it.   Instead, listen to the following two versions and vote on your favorite of these two.  

Concrete Blonde "Everybody Knows" (1990)

Holly Figueroa O'Reilly  "Everybody Knows"  (2007)

Time to Vote!

       I don't know if everybody knows what to do next so let me explain.  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?   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

The Doglady's Den 

Angel's Bark  

Cherdo on the Flipside  

Jingle, Jangle, Jungle 

Janie Junebug Righting & Editing.
J. A. Scott  

Holli's Hoots and Hollers

Be ReInVintaged

Winner Announced on Friday October 21st

         There will be no post on Monday in order for this post to get maximum exposure. However I'll be here on Friday October 21st to announce the winning version of "Everybody Knows."   Not everybody knows which version is going to win the most votes, but on Friday you'll find out. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Happy Columbus Day--Was He a Hero?

        Should we stop honoring Christopher Columbus?   That's what some people have said.  Certain groups have called for the day to be in the future called "Indigenous People's Day."   The argument points out all of the cruel treatment, enslavement, and death brought to the peoples who already inhabited the land that Columbus "discovered."   He was certainly responsible for many tragic outcomes for those that he called "Indians", believing that he had arrived in the East Indies.

US Postage stamps: Columbian issues of 1893,
          When I was a child we celebrated Christopher Columbus and his great adventure to the New World.  The story was sanitized for the consumption of school children and indeed much was probably known only to history scholars.   On the whole, Columbus was revered with poems, books, and artworks.  Now in recent decades Columbus has been portrayed as a villain, an opportunistic European who took advantage of his conquered lands.  

           The way I see it is that we are dealing with history--events that cannot be changed and therefore should be accepted for what they are.   We cannot fairly judge those in the past according to the standards of our time.  The voyages of Columbus were amazing and courageous.   Christopher Columbus set the groundwork for the settling and development of the United States of America.

           I think Christopher Columbus deserves every accolade that is handed his way.   Unfortunately a trend to revise history often seems to be the rule of our time.   Revisionist history is one of the most deceptive and misguided movements coming out of the realms of academia.   Tear down the old heroes and replace them with some ambiguous ideal standard of lifestyle that was eradicated by those evil explorers,colonizers, Founding Fathers, and many others who came before us.

           Changing the players, events, and mindsets in order to create a new narrative is what it comes down to.  Sounds kind of like what our media does on a regular basis.  "History is written by the victors," is the oft heard claim.  Perhaps now we can more appropriately say that the media are the historians of our time.   This strikes me as a somewhat disturbing thought considering the questionable honesty of most media sources.   Or should I say selective honesty?

             Do you think that Christopher Columbus deserves to be honored?    Is history being tampered with too much in order to present a more politically correct view of the past?   Do you believe that media is trustworthy or does it exhibit a bias that influences many people in making important decisions like who to vote for?  

Happy Columbus Day!


Friday, October 7, 2016

Is Boycotting the Right Thing? (#BOTB Results)

       Rarely do I support boycotting as an effective way of making a statement, but there are those instances where I think it's worth consideration.  One such instance might be in regard to the film opening today (10/7/2016), The Birth of a Nation.

The Birth of a Nation (2016 film).png
Theatrical release poster (photo credit Wikipedia)
       Though rumors of this film had been wafting my way in recent months (I don't keep up with the film industry much these days), The Birth of a Nation was fully brought to my attention in a recent report on 60 Minutes which was aired on October 2nd.

        Since I don't want to delve too deeply into this, for those who want more information on the controversies surrounding this film I'd recommend viewing the 60 Minutes interview or checking out the Chicago Tribune article regarding the interview.    However let me touch upon the points that concern me the most.

         For the sake of clarification for any who might be unfamiliar with the film, this new film has essentially nothing to do with the 1915 D. W. Griffith silent epic of the same name that celebrated the origins of the Ku Klux Klan.  The 1915 film being a racially offensive film to a great extent, I was surprised that anyone would think a remake would be a good idea.  But the new film is not a remake.  Instead it's a depiction of the Nat Turner slave uprising of 1831 which occurred in Virginia--a story that I find almost equally offensive since it involves what I would consider mass murder.

       Granted that some deem Nat Turner a hero since he was leading a rebellion against the injustice of slavery, there are likely more who would disagree with that assessment.  Arguably, Nat Turner's rebellion was almost at a parity with the Manson family murders.  No matter how one views it, both incidents were devised with an intention to incite action through violence.  My comparison would likely raise the ire of some of the defenders of Nat Turner's conspiracy, but to me murder is murder.  Turner and his cohorts viciously and indiscriminately killed men, women, and children in their beds and wherever else they could find them.   The reprisals by the white community against innocent blacks not involved in the Turner rebellion were equally reprehensible.  In its totality the entire episode is a horrible blot on the history of the United States.

        Nate Parker, the film's director who also plays the lead role, stated in the interview that he used the Birth of a Nation title in order that people would forget the Griffith film.  To me, this reeks as a bit of revisionist history thinking.   Though perhaps not a great film in the eyes of many, the 1915 film is a big part of film history.  The film was a box office success by today's standards and even then was a topic of great controversy due to the racially charged subject matter and the insensitive stereotypical depictions of black people.   Relatively few today have seen the film and would even likely be interested in seeing an old silent film over two hours in length.  But it is history and should be remembered in that context.

          The Nat Turner story might be equally obscure to many people today even though there have been a number of books and articles written about the subject.  Most famously William Styron released his controversial best selling Pulitzer prize winning The Confessions of Nat Turner in 1967.  I bought the book a year or so after it was released and read it when I was a high school senior. It's still a highly regarded book well worth reading if you have not done so yet.

          A film version of the Nat Turner story was overdue, but I question the motivation cited by director Nate Parker.  In his interview he states that he hopes that Nat Turner's story will inspire resistance through a "riotous disposition toward injustice" and further saying that the film is not a call for violence, but he would like it to be a call to action.

          This sounds fine in theory, but how does this read to young people who might be inclined toward action in the sense of violence and societal disruption of a highly negative manner.  We already have plenty of racial tension in parts of our country and in the minds of certain segments passionately charged groups that feel they have little to lose in doing harm to others with whom they might feel disgruntled.  Nate Parker might have highly idealistic motivations in his hopes for what his film inspires, but the inference that I got from his words is something that might not be good for our country.

          Sure, it's only a movie and might not amount to much of anything.  Still I'm not particularly thrilled about seeing a big box office return for this film considering what I've heard from its director.  I think the film should be boycotted in theaters and any monetary gain be minimized by avoiding adding to the enrichment of those who made the film.  I might see it if it comes to Netflix or television, but that is about as far as I would go.

         The current buzz about Oscar accolades for the film might fade because of Nate Parker's past rape accusations (you can read the stories about that on the internet).  I hope the Academy carefully considers promoting the status of this film by nominating it for any awards.  Not that I want to see this film disappear, but I don't know that it should become a big deal or an inspiration either.

         But maybe I'm wrong about this.   I'm just going by Nate Parker's interview and the articles I read after hearing that interview.   I was not impressed by what this actor/director had to say.  And not that I want to see the film disappear or be banned, but I don't want it to become a big influence to those disaffected citizens who could be inspired to do the wrong thing.

         In closing I'll leave you with this quote from Vinson Cunningham, an African-American staff writer for The New Yorker magazine who previously served as a staff assistant at the Obama White House.  Mr. Cunningham said in a fine New Yorker article:
 "The Birth of a Nation" isn't worth defending.   Nate Parker's retelling of Nat Turner's rebellion does not succeed as art or as propaganda.
         In the final analysis it's up to you and the public to decide.

Battle of the Bands Results

         My previous Battle of the Bands featured versions of the Grace Jones/Astor Piazzolla song "I've Seen That Face Before".   The outcome of this Battle somewhat surprised me as I was afraid that the unique vocals of Kovacs might not sit well with many voters.  I was wrong about that.  The Kovacs version was appreciated by many of you, but the Brady Harris Band had nearly an equal number of fans.

         I liked the version by Kovacs immensely.  Initially I was a bit iffy about the vocals, but it didn't take long for me to start getting into her jazzy style.  Since there are a number of live performances on YouTube of Kovacs performing this song I got a range of her abilities.  Sharon Kovacs is an excellent jazz vocalist.

        However, from the standpoint of extended listening preference, I much prefer the approach taken by the Brady Harris Band.  As some voters also agreed, this version seems especially haunting with the backing vocals, solid bass line, exquisite guitar work, and nifty reverse tape effects.  This version has a British invasion flavor somewhat reminiscent of Peter and Gordon and other such groups. 

        Although I adore what Kovacs does with this song, my vote goes to the Brady Harris Band.  And as is often the case, I am in the minority.  It wasn't an overwhelming decision, but clearly Kovacs is the favorite with most of the voters.  But barely...

Final Vote Tally:

Brady Harris Band           11

Kovacs                                13

Next Battle October 15th

          I'm going to continue my series of songs with themes that I'm relating to the upcoming presidential election.  Again the topic will be just a general question relating to the election and nothing contentious from my perspective.  Oh, but those comments can be interesting and fun.  Stayed tuned to this blog for some more Battle of the Bands excitement.

       Have you seen the 1915  film The Birth of a Nation and if so, what do you think of it?   Will you see (or have you seen) Nate Parker's new film The Birth of a Nation?    Do you consider Nat Turner a hero?    Explain your reasoning why or why not.  

And to take us out, here is an alternate live version of Kovacs singing "I've Seen That Face Before"