Thursday, December 1, 2016

My Favorite Fictional Character is..... LBC

This weeks topic was my suggestion - part of a string of our favorite things that tell  a bit about each of us that choose to write on the topics.

When I suggested the topic  I knew I could not give a single answer that would be totally honest. I have always been a voracious reader. This year alone I have read over 90 books. I freely admit most of my reading is recreational and mystery fiction.  Considering my age - 67 - I have read through multiple generations of fictional characters, beginning with Nero Wolfe, Sherlock Holmes, Phillip Marlowe and Sam Spade to Spenser, the Nameless Detective, Kinsey Milhone, Lucas Davenport, Milan Jacovich  and many more.

With such a breadth  of characters to choose from I have chosen three - Spenser (Robert B Parker), Travis McGee (John D MacDonald) and Kate Shugak (Dana Stabenow).

Spenser appeared in 1973's Godwulf Manuscript and is currently being authored by Ace Atkins since Parker's death in  2010. Spenser is a former cop, extraordinarily literate, cultured hen it suits him and as you would expect  tough as nails. As originally written, Spenser  was at one time heavyweight boxer who once fought Jersey Joe Walcott - which gives a clue to his age. He is a seriously smart-mouthed guy with a committed relationship with his girl - Susan Silverman - and a best friend -Hawk- who defines the bad in bad-ass. His home base is Boston but there are stories based elsewhere.  Learn more about the character here  Spenser

Kate Shugak is a modern-era heroine based in Alaska. Dana Stabenow is a superior writer who has created a delightful series that captures the modern era - warts and  all - as viewed through Kate's eyes. I cannot recommend this 20 title (so far) series enough.  Kate is an Aleut and lives on a homestead in  a fictional park in Alaska. She has an assortment of family and friends - including her current boyfriend, Alaska State Trooper Chopper Jim Chopin and her adopted son (of her deceased former boyfriend) as well as an various Aunties. Kate's stories play out throughout Alaska and offer a look at the history and culture of the state.

Check out Kate and Dana here Kate Shugak.

Were  someone to hold a gun to my head and force me to choose one of the three characters to be my  favorite it would be Travis McGee, the Florida based creation of John D MacDonald. McGee resides at Slip F18, Bahia Mar Florida on a houseboat  - The Busted Flush - that he won in a poker game. McGee is a salvage consultant - he recovers things for people for a flat 50% of the value fee. McGee is the last resort for recovery so the fee is rarely an issue. The series hit the streets in  1964 with the Deep Blue Goodbye and ended with 1985's The Lonely Silver Rain.

McGee's philosophy of life was decidedly anti-group. His best friend and occasional partner in arms is a world renowned  economist named Meyer - who has the physique  and pelt of a bear and lives on a cabin cruiser called the John Meynard Keynes. Travis has attitudes about sex that are definitely a part of the times in which his stories were written but he does learn and grow with the times. He fights corruption, lies and deceit wherever he goes. His vehicle of choice is his customized 1936 Rolls Royce pickup painted a horrid blue by a previous owner that he calls Miss Agnes.

I think it is time to go read a bit. Be sure to see what Ramana 
and Pravin have to say on their blogs.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Free Will LBC 11/24/2016

This weeks topic was suggested by Ramana.

Wikipedia says "Free will is the ability to choose between different possible courses of action." On the surface it sounds simple enough. Further examination suggests otherwise.

 Image result for free will and determinism

Christians, for example, claim to have free will. So the God that  created man in his own image created a bunch of flawed human beings that can choose their own way in life, but unless they choose to follow God's way they are doomed. That  is not free will in my book, simply the typical religious my way or the highway proposition. 

Consider  that we live much of our lives by habit. We  cannot handle the stress of making a conscious decision for everything so we make many decisions simply by rote. Coffee with or without cream, route to drive to work and things like that.  That frees up our brain power for the more important  daily issues which must be resolved. Are those  decisions the result of free will?  Some - not all. Some decisions are made as the result of a set of specific causes.

Yep - this free will stuff can be very confusing.  Religion, guilt, cause/effect, praise, sin, responsibility and more can effect decisions. .

Looks like free will is not often free after all. Fate? Is everything  in life predetermined? That's a topic for another day.

 One final comment - today is Thanksgiving here in the USA. I am relatively certain I exercised free will while eating far too much turkey, stuffing and roast pork to say nothing of  sweet potato pie.  Sorry Dr Tyson - we'll just have to agree to disagree on this one.

Check out my cohorts at Ramana 
and Pravin


Thursday, November 17, 2016

My Favorite Cartoon Character LBC 11/18/2016

This week's topic is my  suggestion. My favorite cartoon character is Charlie Brown's pet  Beagle Snoopy. I h ave been a fan as long as I can remember. Truth be told, each character in the Peanuts gang is deserving of the honor but a Sopwith Camel (that looks remarkably  like a dog house)  flying Beagle  is hard to resist.
Snoopy has his own twitter page, a Facebook page and even a  hit song about him.  Snoopy wwi ace lb.jpg 
Not bad for a Beagle. Snoopy is simply the most loyal, lovable pal a guy could  ask for. Just ask his owner, Charlie Brown. And to top it off Snoopy is a better man than most men. Since his debut on October 4, 1950, Snoopy has become one of the most recognizable and iconic characters in the comic strip (according to Wikipedia).Check out my cohorts at Ramanaand Pravin

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Favorite Movie Star LBC 11/11/2016

Ramana lobbed another softball with this topic. It is a welcome respite from our recently concluded presidential election.

Like many things, my favorite movie star is not etched inn stone - more like water. I am old enough to have lived through several generations of actors/actresses.

When I was a kid my favorite actors were Leo Gorcey and Huntz Hall. That's hall in the black shirt and Gorcey in the hat with the upturned bill - better known as Slip (Gorcey) and Satch Hall).

The Bowery boys evolved from the movies Dead End Kids and  East Side Kids. I used to see the Bowery Boys almost every Saturday at the Uptown Theater in Pueblo, Colorado.

 The Uptown is also significant for this clip, an early example of the popular Clint Eastwood - easily one of my all time favorites in a film called Tarantula - horror fun in the fifties.

As I aged and developed a taste for more serious film fare my fave was Robert Mitchum, a self professed journeyman actor. Check his bio and credits here.  He never failed to entertain - and he was an interesting character in real life. Heaven Knows Mr. Allison has always been a fave movie of mine along with Thunder Road, Cape Fear, The Night of the Hunter, Farewell My Lovely, El Dorado and many others.

Evolution led me to my current favorite -actor/director extraordinaire Clint Eastwood.  From Rawhide on TV to the Italian spaghetti westerns he captured my eye. His western pedigree is nearly unmatched and who doesn't love Harry Callahan. Those  movies certainly made my day. 

One of my favorite early Eastwood  films is 1971s Play Misty for Me. It was also his directorial debut. It was clear he had directorial chops. I still get chills when I see Jessica Walter in anything to this day.

Clint's last movie as an actor is Trouble With the Curve. Not surprisingly I loved it - the story of  an  aging baseball scout and his relationship with his daughter. 

My  favorite female movie star is Helen Mirren. No question, she has been for decades. She has had a long, diverse career and can do comedy, heavy drama and action. Check her out in the Hundred Foot Journey

That's it for this weeks fun topic. Check out my partners at their blogs - Ramana and Pravin

Thursday, November 3, 2016

My Favorite Music LBC 11/04/2016

Ramana lobbed me a watermelon with this weeks topic. Relax and have a listen. I don't expect anyone to listen to them all but these are  a good example of my somewhat eclectic musical tastes. Genres under represented but still loved include classical, classic Memphis blues and the greatest beer drinking music ever - Zydeco. The last 3 always make my all time top10 and there is also a song in this list inspired by the Kama Sutra - happily snuck by the censors in the sixties. 

I love show tunes - I also love Ed Ames' voice so here is a song that fits both

 I spent 6 months in Hawaii and developed a taste for Hawaiian music  and here is my fave Hawaiian tune.

Being a baby boomer it is only natural I love the British invasion - this tune is from my favorite group back then and it is the uncredited work of my pal Ron Ryan


These guys still tour every year

I am also an old folkie and this song reminds me of home in California and of my late wife

Some tunes - regardless of genre - are simply so good you never forget them, like the next 2

My favorite female   singer?  Back in the sixties the voice of Bev Bivens did it for me - here is a great sample (also a show tune)

If I were to pick a sound I prefer above others it would be the jingle jangle sound of a Rickenbacker 12 string guitar, usually played by Roger McGuinn

Most of the previous songs periodically make my all time fave to 10 but the next 3 always make the list

That's my take on this weeks topic. There are more current artists i enjoy - Hootie and the Blowfish, The Gin Blossoms, 2 Celloes and  others but I really enjoy the older stuff. Greatest songwriter? Lennon.McCartney, Brian Wilson, Springsteen, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Carol King. Best  songs not on this list? If You Could Read My Mind by Gordon Lightfoot, God Only Knows - Beach Boys.  Artists that never got famous but should have? Ron Ryan, Gary Owen and  John Hesterman  (check them all out on Facebook).

Friday, October 28, 2016

Religion vs spirituality LBC 10/28/2016

Ramana  offered this weeks topic. Religion vs. spirituality.

Religions are all "isms" and as such tend to think of themselves as the one true religion. Their leadership may pay lip service to other religions but behind closed doors they all think of themselves as the only real way to whichever God or Gods they worship.  While Christianity has many different "sects" they are essentially all either Catholic or Protestant. Martin Luther spurred the creation of Protestant sects when he broke from the Roman Catholic church over his disagreements with several practices and teachings therein. And then apparently God was frustrated and pressed the reset button and created the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints - a  church that is considered by its followers to be the restoration of the original church founded by Jesus Christ (and in the spirit of full disclosure the church into which I was baptized). Of course all Christian based religions owe a debt of gratitude and  dogma to Judaism and its 10 Commandments.  Of course the religion most often in the news lately is Islam. 

What do they all have in common? A specific set of rules and dogma that one must follow to reach the promised land. The rules are mostly established by the management team of the religion. Of course that is not what they are called. They use names like Apostles, Pope, bishops and the like.Did you ever wonder why Catholics ate fish on Fridays? Why Mormons do not drink alcohol?

Religions include many spiritual people. One might even say all religious people think they are spiritual. But not all spiritual people are  religious. Therein lies the difference.

My late friend Pete Dintino was a devout Seventh Day Adventist. We had many discussions about religion. He always considered me one of he most spiritual people he knew yet he fully understood my distrust  of and dislike of religion. 

Quite the opposite of religion, spirituality is a broad concept with room for many perspectives. In general, it includes a sense of connection to something bigger than ourselves, and it typically involves a search for meaning in life. As such, it is a universal human experience—something that touches us all. I wish I knew who said it that way but the quote I found in Google lists no author.

Spirituality means different things to different people. Atheists can be spiritual beings. Their spirituality is just not directed at nor referencing any god. A spiritual awakening is a very
individual experience.

I grew up in Colorado - John Denver's  song resonated with me the first time I heard it. I have seen the things of which he sings. I know there is a bigger picture than just me. I think 'ol Tom Jefferson may have gotten it right.  Check out the Jefferson Bible. Then again,

Check what my  cohorts have to say.  Ramana  Pravin

Friday, October 21, 2016

The Olympics - yes or no

This weeks topic was my suggestion.  I simply wondered what my cohorts thought about the Olympics - are they worthwhile?

I have always been a fan of the quadrennial athletic competition I always enjoyed watching the swimming competition and the field events like the shot put, discus and javelin. The fellow that was my best man when Lynn and I got married was an outstanding swimmer and he was very active in AAU swimming. Being a big guy I naturally gravitated toward the big guy events - shot put and discus and the more nuanced javelin.

I also loved the pomp and circumstance that surrounded the games. Watching the teams enter the arena in the colorful colors of their countries was always a  kick. 

Things changed in the sixties - the supposedly amateur athletes became  much more as the eastern block teams  became essentially professionals, supported year round by their countries. It became tougher and tougher for the countries that played by the rules so-to-speak, including the US. That made the so-called Miracle on Ic e all the more miraculous when the truly amateur US hockey team upset the Soviet hockey team in the 1980  Olympics held in Lake Placid, NY. Here,s the last minute of that historic event.

That game inspired a nation. Mine.  It also solidified my love of ice hockey which in turn made me a bigger fan of the winter Olympics than the summer games.

Eventually real professional athletes were allowed to participate in the Olympic Games.  Not surprisingly the US became almost unbeatable in basketball and in the winter games Canada, Russia  the US, Sweden, Finland and the Czech Republic became the best teams. Not surprisingly, the National Hockey League teams were comprised primarily of players from those countries. But to me it made perfect sense for an event meant to showcase the best athletes actually allow the best athletes to compete.

Since the Berlin games of 1936 the games were used to promote a political agenda. Jesse Owens ruined Adolph Hitler's plans in those games. President Jimmy Carter led a boycott of the 1980 summer games held in Moscow too protest the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.the 1984 games held in Los Angeles were boycotted by the Soviets and 14 of their allies.

The 1972 Munich Games included the massacre of 
eleven Israeli team members and officials by the Black September terrorist organization.

Yet the games continue. They have become financial disasters for some host nations but the audiences are still there. People still love to root for their teams. Most participants know they have little or no chance of winning - the want to compete with and against the best. A Jamaican bobsled team? Remember Eddie the Eagle Edwards?  

I say a  resounding YES to the Olympic Games. For a couple of weeks every two years (the winter and summer games are held two years apart, maintaining the four-year cycle of each competition) we get a brief respite from the problems of the world. It is not much but it is something.  And you can secretly root for the underdogs.  There is almost always a major upset in some event.

Check what my cohorts have to say - Ramana  Pravin