The Manhattan Project--2016 A to Z Theme

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

Friday, September 30, 2016

Yippee-Ki-Yay! Another Flash Back Friday!

      The Western genre has never ridden off into the sunset never to return.  Though not regaining the popularity that it may have experienced prior to about 1965 or so, throughout the years Western films have continued to reemerge intermittently with mixed reactions from the public.

       Recently I watched a 1941 Western called Six-Gun Gold which starred Tim Holt.   I haven't seen many films starring Holt, but I really enjoyed his performance in the classic film The Treasure of  the Sierra Madre which if you've never seen I would highly recommend.   This all got me thinking back to a blog post that I did several years ago which in turn provides me for my September post for Flashback Friday...




No Country Music For Old Men

            My father used to tell me stories about how when he was a kid he and his friends would go to the movie theatre on a Saturday and, for a nickel or a dime, spend the afternoon watching cowboy movies.  He might have mentioned the stars of these movies, but if he did the names never really registered with me. 

         I had grown up with Hopalong Cassidy, Roy Rogers, and Gene Autry-- the cowboys that were on early television. Then later I might have watched Wagon Train, Gunsmoke, or Bat Masterson.  The cowboy stars of my father's day had fallen out of favor in the early network television days and had been replaced with the new guys in town.

          When my dad heard that Colonel Tim McCoy was coming to town with the Tommy Scott Caravan and Wild West Show, he was enthused about it.  I was not able to share his enthusiasm because I wasn't familiar with Tim McCoy and even after my father told me who Tim McCoy was I was not very interested.
         Tommy Scott's Wild West and Medicine Show, as it was also known, passed through Maryville, Tennessee every year and would play in the old armory building in Alcoa, which is a city which borders Maryville.  Each year I would go with my parents to see the show.  In one sense I feigned interest in these shows, though on the other hand my love of show business couldn't keep me away.  Since our family was known in the entertainment business we would be always be welcomed to visit the show and spend time with the entertainers.

          The show was mostly country music interspersed with cornball comedy skits and variety acts. Tommy Scott's show was very much like Hee-Haw, the country comedy TV variety show that was popular at the time, except Tommy Scott had been doing it long before the television show had ever aired.  The highlight of Scott's show would be the headliner, who this year was Colonel Tim McCoy.  He would come out and talk about being a cowboy and present his expertise at fast-draw and gun slinging and then give a demonstration of his skills using a bullwhip.

         After the show, my parents and I visited with the performers and met Tim McCoy. Neatly dressed in a black cowboy outfit, he was a very polite man in his seventies.  His demeanor was dignified and robust.  He seemed like a real gentleman cowboy.  He seemed more than willing to be engaged in conversation and I suppose my father spoke to him a bit, but I wasn't paying attention to what was said.  My curiosity about the show and it's folk had been satisfied and I was ready to get on my way.

         Now I look back wishing I had tried to establish some kind of relationship with this elegant, legendary cowboy star.  This man is a genuine American legend.  He had ties with the real West and actually was a real cowboy before he went to Hollywood.  He had an actual working relationship with Indian tribal leaders and had gained their respect.  He had actually been a Colonel in the U.S. Army.  He was once a marquee idol and has a star on Hollywood Boulevard.  His wife had been at one time associated with Adolf Hitler and John F. Kennedy.  The man had an extraordinary history and hundreds of stories to tell and now toured the country with a country music circus and I didn't even ask for an autograph.
             For that matter Ramblin' "Doc" Tommy Scott came to town every year and I passed him off as some country yokel who put a silly old time medicine show together.  Actually he is a figure of country music history who wrote many songs and was an entertainer, recording artist, television personality, and author.  His show was a springboard for future talents as well as a forum for nearly forgotten stars like Johnny Mack Brown, Clyde Moody, Gabby Hayes, and many others.  He was a man who respected legendary talent because he was one of them.  To see an early Tommy Scott performance check out his  She'll Be Coming Round the Mountain  video on YouTube.  If you remember Hee-Haw I think you'll see the influence from this video that is probably from the late 40s or early 50s.  Why didn't I get to know Tommy Scott?  I was around him every year.

         So perhaps I'll blame my indifference on my youth--I was in my early twenties at this time.  But what excuse do I use when I was in my late thirties and early forties and was around Lash La Rue on many occasions.  Lash La Rue was working with the company that owned the show I managed at that time and on several occasions I was right there working side by side with him.  Somehow I guess I was thinking he was just some weird old guy that my boss was helping out.  Now that I'll never have an opportunity to be around Lash La Rue again I realize that Lash was once a huge cowboy star famous for his skills with a bullwhip.  He's the one who trained Harrison Ford for the Indiana Jones role.  He was also a poet and a wonderfully witty raconteur.  And yet at the events I attended where he was speaking I essentially ignored him, absorbed with my own thoughts.   Couldn't I have just listened for a short while? 

          There have been so many lost opportunities.  I think back once again to that Tommy Scott show passing through town --every one of the entertainers with stories to tell and with talents to exhibit.  And like any one of the other faceless members of the audience I sat dutifully through the program and soon forgot what I saw.  Except I had the opportunity that most of them did not have --I was able to meet with the performers and spend time with them.  I could actually visit with a cowboy star like Sunset "Kit" Carson and shake his hand.  But I squandered my opportunities. Sunset rode off into the sunset and I didn't even say so much as good-bye.

           Cowboy stars were once heroes to Americans, and they sometimes were literally real life heroes.  Do we have any real celebrity heroes now and who are they?  Who were your heroes when you were a kid?  As you look back were they really heroes and what did they do to deserve that label?  

        Check out my current post at the A to Z Challenge Blog for some more information about blogging events such as Flashback Friday.   Also tomorrow I'll be presenting my next Battle of the Bands installment.  It will be the start of a pre-election BOTB series, but don't worry--I'll try not to be overly provocative or antagonizing about the subject.   Of course, you never can tell what the comment section might bring.   Be there to vote on your favorite version of a song that I'm using to start a conversation about political elections in general.   

Monday, September 26, 2016

Hush Sweet Charlotte

Skyline of Charlotte, North Carolina
Skyline of Charlotte, North Carolina (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

       Over the years I've spent a good bit of time in Charlotte, North Carolina and I have a fondness for the city.  The company I worked for most of my working life was based in Charlotte.  When I was working with the World of Fantasy Players touring stage production, our show preparations and  rehearsals were in the warehouse of the Morris Costume Company which owned the show.   Most of our performers came from the Charlotte area so I became close to many of them as well as having a deep love and respect for the Morris family.

      Charlotte is a lovely city and what we've seen over the past week is not a good representation or reflection on this metropolitan area.   Thankfully most of the protest demonstrations have been peaceful and the city officials have shown reasonable restraint in highly tense circumstances.   Though saddened and fearful of some of the events that unfurled, I was relieved to see an attempt to let the justice of the system take its course rather than unraveling under mob rule.

        At this point there seem to be many many unanswered questions that hopefully will be addressed in days and weeks to come.   Changes need to happen on both sides of the fence.  Solutions may not all be simple.  However one thing that the city does not need is professional agitators from the outside.  Hard for me to say how these interlopers are funded or organized, but all indications are that they are giving Charlotte a black eye.  The media isn't helping that much either.  I would wonder how bad things would have turned out if the media hadn't been covering the demonstrations at all.  Then on the other hand one might wonder if justice would ever be served without the pressure from the media and other external forces.

        I suppose this will be an ongoing debate.

         And then there is THAT DEBATE...

         Do you feel that the U.S. news media does a more effective job at reporting the news or creating the news?    Have you any experiences with the city of Charlotte to relate to readers?    Are you interested in the U.S. presidential debates?


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..."?