A to Z Theme 2016

For my 2016 A to Z theme I used a meme that I ran across on the blog of Bridget Straub who first saw it on the blog of Paula Acton. This meme is a natural for me to use on my memoir blog. It's an A to Z concept and it's about me. No research and nothing complicated. I'm given twenty six questions or topics to discuss that are about me.

In April I kept my posts short and uncomplicated. In the midst of it all you might learn a few things about me that you didn't previously know.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

The Ultimate Roller Coaster

English: The 1/500 scale model for the Euthana...
English: The 1/500 scale model for the Euthanasia Coaster, a hypothetical roller coaster that kills its passengers, made by Julijonas Urbonas, on display at the Trinity College in Dublin during the HUMAN+ exhibition. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Low-resolution photograph of the scale-model o...
Low-resolution photograph of the scale-model of the Euthanasia Coaster, a concept by Julijonas Urbonas (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

          Julijonas Urbonas has designed a euthanasia coaster which is a roller coaster that is designed to kill its riders. Perhaps going out with a thrill might be better than being hung, electrocuted, or shot, but this is certainly a crazy concept for someone to sit around and concoct. Who in the world would come up with such a crazy idea as this? Well, I suppose I might.

        When I was young I feared riding roller coasters. At about age six I would watch my younger sister, who was four or five, ride amusement park coasters with my mother while I cowardly stayed behind with my father who was no fan of thrill rides. I felt equal parts of embarrassment and envy as I looked on as she seemed to have no problem with the big scary looking rides. Maybe she was too young to be afraid. Keep in mind this was in a time when there were more lax attitudes toward safety issues. No height or age restrictions on roller coasters and no seat belts in cars.

        By the time I was nine or so I felt brave enough to venture onto the Giant Dipper Coaster at Belmont Park in San Diego. After that I was hooked on roller coasters. I would face each ride with a sense of trepidation, but would leave with the exhilaration of the accomplishment after the ride was over. Riding roller coasters and thrill rides became something I would look forward to when summer came each year.

         After my family moved to East Tennessee when I was starting high school, roller coasters were essentially a memory for me. There were no amusement parks nearby with a big roller coaster. But my memories often took me back to the fun I had riding that coaster in San Diego--the only coaster I had ridden so far in my life at that time.

         When I was in college and often spending leisurely mind-meandering hours with friends, our conversations would at times go off into crazy thinking and my imagination could easily wander into the realms of the absurd. A roller coaster pipedream was one of the wilder thoughts my mind would revisit many times.

         My friends and I would spend a great deal of our free time driving and hiking through the nearby Great Smoky Mountains. I developed a real love of those mountains and the spectacular scenery. Somehow at sometime I began to envision a roller coaster that would be built through the Smokies--a ride that would combine thrills with beautiful scenery and go for forty miles or more and last for a couple of hours. This would be an ultimate roller coaster unlike anything humankind had ever known. A wild and crazy yo-yo of a trip up and down mountains through a seeming endless expanse of forest.

        Of course I was only focused on the thrill involved and not taking into consideration ecological issues. I was seeing no incongruity of a roller coaster traversing one of the more visited and more beautiful of the national parks of the United States. It was one of those deranged notions of youth.   Essentially unproductive conceptually, but promising a great deal of jolting speedy excitement.

        Or would a roller coaster like that kill you? Thinking back on this fantastic notion I realize that a roller coaster ride lasting for an hour or more could be very taxing to the body and the mind. There would be no getting off a ride like that once it got started. If the riders didn't die from that sort of a ride they probably would be in great pain.

       On the other hand there have been people who have participated in marathon coaster experiences in order to win a valuable prize. If those people survive that experience, why couldn't people also survive a multi-mile coaster through the mountains of a national park?

        Oh, the crazy dreams we have sometimes. Some of you might say, "Dreams you have!" pointing at me. Okay, I concede I get some crazy ideas at times. But a euthanasia coaster? I never thought of that.

         Not intentionally at least.

         Do you like roller coasters and other thrill rides? What is your favorite coaster or thrill ride? Had you heard about the "euthanasia coaster"? If you were going to be executed would you rather ride the death coaster or would you prefer another method? What do you think about a roller coaster ride through a national park or some other extended coaster experience?

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Saturday, February 15, 2014

In My Life with the Beatles

Rubber Soul
Rubber Soul (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
        Anyone in my generation who was not affected by the Beatles must have been living on a desert island or something of that nature.  The past 50 years have been so acutely touched by the influence of Beatlemania and the drastic culture quake that shook up the world with its coming.   In the future historians may even label our time as the Beatles Era.

           Who could miss all of the attention the media has been giving the 50th anniversary of the arrival of the Beatles to America?   We'd just gotten past the 50th anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy--the date that anyone with an awareness of what was going on at that time has indelibly etched in their memory.  Since the arrival of the Beatles came so soon after the assassination of JFK, the two events seem to be somehow tied to one another.   We moved from sorrow and disbelief to elation and anticipation of things to come.

           Most in my age group probably saw the Beatles when they debuted on the Ed Sullivan Show.   Some of you may have been somewhat cynical about those mop topped boys from the UK.  I know I was.   My younger sister was totally caught up in the fervor of the fad.  I made fun of her for getting so excited about it all, yet I watched with a curiosity.  It was hard not to like the Beatles and the music really was kind of catchy.

           After their films A Hard Day's Night and Help! came out I started counting myself as a fan.  My sister still was the one who owned their albums, but I was now listening to them as much as she was.  I was bitten by the bug of the whole British Invasion and began to keep track of which groups were doing what songs.    So much good and intriguing music was pervading the airwaves and starting to end up in our record collections.

           I was still in junior high school and living in Northern Indiana.    I began to listen faithfully to Chicagoland AM radio station WLS and was buying 45 rpm records of the hits that appealed to me.  Not the Beatles though.  This group still belonged to my sister.  I listened to them, but my sister owned the records, fan mags, and other memorabilia.    She even went with one of her friends to a Beatles concert in Chicago.  She said later that she couldn't hear the music for all the screaming in the audience.

          Then something happened to turn things topsy turvy.  As Christmas approached in 1965 there were reports that the Beatles next album would be a radical change from anything that had come before.   I was there by my radio on the day they began debuting songs from the album.  The reports had been right.  This was now a new sound--a deeper, more complex Beatles.  The song "Michelle" received repeated airplay.  The new album Rubber Soul was my top request on my Christmas list for that year and my mother got it for me.  

          I was now the boss of the Beatles in our household.  My sister grew out of her infatuation with the boys.  The pictures came down off her walls and she became interested in other music.  From that album on,  every Beatle album thereafter became a revered part of my ever growing collection of vinyl LP's.  So many fond memories are connected with the hours I spent listening to that music.

         Today the music of the Beatles still sounds good to me and holds a special place in my heart.   My tastes have expanded far beyond the Beatles and I have a much more diverse range of musical interest.   The Beatles impacted so many others in the same way as they did me.   The nature of music and entertainment still remains influenced by their music.   The adjective "Beatlesque" has often been used to describe certain musical styles that are reminiscent of what the lads from Liverpool did in their time.

          Like them or not, the Beatles impacted history in a notable way.  And they certainly influenced me and the way I listen to music.

           Were you around when the Beatles arrived on the cultural scene?   What did you think of the Beatles?    Do you like their music now?     How much do you think the Beatles and their music will be remembered a hundred years from now?

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Saturday, February 8, 2014

Attention Stonewall Jackson Relatives and Fans

English: A portrait of Stonewall Jackson (1864...
English: A portrait of Stonewall Jackson (1864, J. W. King) located in the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
         All of us have some claim to fame with a celebrity or historical personage in our family trees.  We might hear an allusion in rumors or detailed stories and pictures of a famous person who preceded us or even might be still living.  It can be fun and even a source of a certain amount of pride to have bragging rights about so and so who did such and such.   Especially when that person has a fairly reasonable amount of fame.

        Among my familial precursors have been an officer in the Revolutionary War, a U.S. congressman, a federal judge, a state governor, and many other influential men and women who shaped the destiny of the United States.    The city of Jackson Hole, Wyoming is named after one of my relatives.   One of our greatest claims to fame is our relationship to the famous Confederate general Thomas Jonathan Jackson who is best known as "Stonewall" Jackson.   A DNA test has verified that I descend from the same descendant as Stonewall.
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Saturday, February 1, 2014

Do I Dare Tackle the #atozchallenge on This Blog?

       The title question is one that I posed on my dream blog A Faraway View--should I enter the blog into the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge?   For those who don't know what I'm talking about you can click on the link for complete information, but in brief the Challenge entails blogging every day in the month of April except Sundays using daily prompts of each successive letter of the alphabet.

        And now I pose the same question for this memoir blog that you're currently reading.

       Yes, the Challenge is fun, but it's a bit of work if you're keeping up four blogs in the Challenge like I've done over the past couple of years.  Then on top of that I'm the one the started this Challenge.   I've got a fantastic backup A to Z Team of support so that alleviates a lot of the work for me, but still since it's a networking Challenge, it can be rather time-consuming if done right.  Like all of you, my time is limited.

       One of the main points of participating in the A to Z Challenge is to build up blog following and gain new readers.   Each year I've added the following on my secondary blogs, but it doesn't appear that I do much in gaining readership.  What I may be doing in actuality is diffusing readership among my multiple blogs rather than keeping a focus on one primary blog.   This could have its advantages, but I'm not sure those advantages are worth the efforts I put into my blogs.

       So I'm pondering where to go with this.   I'm preparing my posts at Tossing It Out--that blog stays in the Challenge since that is my anchor blog.  Perhaps when I finish those posts I'll do posts for another blog and so on.  Ideally all my blogs would be in the Challenge and I would find ways to grow all four more efficiently.

       Don't get me wrong in what I'm saying here.  The Blogging from A to Z April Challenge is one of the best ways I've seen to attract an audience to ones blog and network into a strong community.  If you are interested in building your own blog and have never tried the Challenge I encourage you to do so.  Thousands have participated so far and many have done so repeatedly.   There is a very strong A to Z following.    I think all bloggers should try to complete at least one April Challenge to see what it does for them.

       The 2014 Challenge will be the 5th year.   If you want more information about it then visit the official Blogging from A to Z April Challenge Blog.   You'll find a sign up list there.   And if you want to sign up to do more than one blog you won't be the only one.  Many have entered multiple blogs and finished.  As one of those who has done so I assure you that it can be done.

         If I keep this up I'm going to talk myself into entering more than one blog again.

         Have you signed up for this year's Blogging from A to Z Challenge?    Have you participated in the past?   If you aren't doing it, what is it that keeps you from doing so?    Do you have more than one blog?

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