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Music Monday: So Many Genres

Music was the earliest form of artistic creation. It brought together people to share traditions and relay important cultural ideals. Do you know anyone who doesn’t like some form of music? Keep thinking…

Well? That’s right. I think that it is extremely rare. And with so many styles of music to choose from, it’s difficult not to find something that you like. Every style of music has its standouts, and those standouts will differ from person to person. Some will have a narrow range of favorites; others are able to appreciate a wider variety.

My high school buddies and I were into heavy metal. “We’ll never stop rocking out man,” we would declare with conviction. Fast forward and I don’t think there is a genre of music that I can’t find at least one song to enjoy. Some music is a far cry from what we used to listen to.

What do I enjoy listening to? I googled several different genres to see what category(ies) best defines my choice in music. Apparently, according to the Billboard year-end charts, the winner is Adult Alternative. Which means, there are more songs on that chart that I know than on the Billboard Top 100. Not to say there are not some good ones on that one too, The Weeknd, Lizzo, and Drake are there.

I’ll listen to orchestral music quite a bit. You’ll notice I didn’t say classical music-that’s an era of music (for you nik-pickers out there) which I do enjoy along with renaissance, baroque, etc. My nylon string (or classical) guitar compositions, while technically are 20th century “classical” music, are strongly influenced by two widely separated eras: renaissance and modern minimalism. Anne Southam and Philp Glass come to mind. My steel string acoustic pieces have country, folk, and Irish influences. Sunday morning is a good fit for listening to choral concerts.

I really enjoy some of the traditional Latin songs, to the Latin pop that has exploded onto the North American scene in recent years. And yes, I was listening to it before Despasito.  I can do country, when I am in the right mood, some hip-hop, and when a song from the 80’s comes on, I can usually sing most of the words.

There is not a genre that I dislike. There are however, songs within those genres, that I will turn off-or just don’t get what others hear in them, but that goes for anything, doesn’t it.

Music has played a large role in shaping my life. I am grateful for it. Music makes me happy, but it can also make me cry. My feelings and emotions flood out when I am listening, playing, or composing. Songs allow me to travel back in time to recall events in my life. Sometimes, a new song will remind me of a past experience because it just seems to fit.

What would I do without music? I don’t even want to entertain that notion.

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Funny Fridays – Is Science Fiction Funny?

Growing up, I was fascinated with space and science fiction (if you need a recap: Returning to Roots).

Isaac Asimov had several short stories that had humorous endings or situations. But for sci-fi humor writing, Douglas Adams has to be the benchmark-although I do admit, the Hitchhiker series could have ended sooner than it did. John Scalzi seems to have taken the reins for this. Kurt Vonnegut has written many science fiction stories, and his writing always has elements of humor.

There has been many sci-fi based T.V. shows and movies that either had some elements of humor (Star Trek, Star Wars, Dr. Who), while others went straight for the funny-bone, some more successful than others. I’ll list the ones that I think missed the mark, in no particular order-cuz’ they are both bad: Avenue 5 and Moonbase 8. Similar titles, similar bombs.

Now the hits. In my opinion, BBC’s Red Dwarf takes the top spot-hands down. Brilliant writing and hilarious characters made this a must see for my friends each week (in re-runs). It may have have gone on a bit to long, but it continued to make us laugh.

Galaxy Quest: Because I grew up with Star Trek, I could relate to everything they were poking fun at.

The Orville: I find much of Seth MacFarlane’s humor on Family Guy hard to watch, but he is a funny guy. Like Galaxy Quest, he is able to pick out the situations that lend itself to humor.

When I began to write short story science fiction, I knew that humor was going to be involved at some point. The story even made my editor laugh out loud. Now that’s a good sign! I posted it on my Medium.com page, so here is a free reading link: Reasonable Hand-drawn Facsimile

I hope you find it as entertaining as she (my editor) did.

-Leon

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humor poetry thoughts writers

Thursday Thoughts: Laughter

In anticipation of “Funny Fridays” I thought that I would talk about the serious side of laughter. It is easy laugh when you are alone, but I’m sure many will agree that it is easy to cry. There are movies that always make me tear up no matter how many times I’ve seen them-It’s bizarre.

If you passed someone by themselves, and you noticed that they were crying, would you stop and ask if they were OK? Most of you? Problably. Now what if that person was laughing? Walk by a little quicker and try not to make eye contact? Probably.

What’s my point? I’m not sure. All I know is that this past year, with the limited social interactions that we have had to deal with (for our own safety, of course), there is more that likely a dearth of laughter in our lives and a surplus of less desirable emotions.

As a writer, I want to entertain readers. If I can bring a smile to a face, then that is mission accomplished. If something that I write makes you think, reflect, or connect, then I’ve done a good job.

Laughter was written long before we were forced apart, and touches on how laughter is often held too tight, but releasing it can be exactly what we need.

Laughter

Yes, I hear it But I’m not grabbing onto it It’s not mine It’s yours. Mine’s here somewhere I’m saving it (for what I don’t know yet) A little sneaks out from time to time It makes me smile A brief respite From the dusk emerges A little light

(From Lines by Leon: Poems, Prose, and Pictures)

Until tomorrow,

-Leon

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music thoughts

The Bullying Battle-The Things You Do

I have been reposting (and reworking) some of my earlier blogs-just to get everyone caught up with what I am about. Here is one with a message that has been repeated many times over, but unfortunately bears repeating.

People can be mean. Real mean. From kids to adolescents to adults, it still amazes me when I witness bullying behaviour. I wrote The Things You Do after observing grown men acting like typical schoolyard bullies. You know the ones. the ones in the movies and T.V. shows that when you think about it, is pretty real in today’s schools (still). Some kids learn it from home, others from their peers, and popular culture, and most-thankfully-grow out of it. Credit goes to all the teachers who, on top of all the subjects they teach, also have to teach empathy and humanitarianism-from kindergarten and up.

As a musician, I wrote. Not being much for performing, I decided to record it (also not my forte). It was missing something though. Rudimentary graphics! I pulled out my gel pen and drew what I envisioned-like a storyboard. I’m cheap, so I downloaded a free video editor and a week later, Voila!

So, I hope that you enjoy the message.

Thanks for stickin’ around.

-Leon

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music music Monday

Music on Monday: Places (acoustic guitar)

For me, music is emotional. I think that is true for most people. Music conveys the feelings of the composer without having to explain the impetus behind it. Can these emotions be misinterpreted? Of course they can-but that isn’t a bad thing either.

When I write music, I have certain ideas of what the music is saying to me, and I don’t expect others to feel that same way, but hopefully it does evoke a feeling or memory in the listener. Because that’s what music should do.

I started to write this latest piece, before I decided what it meant to me. I am working on a video for it, which I will share at a later date. The music may mean something completely different to you (it probably will), and that’s OK. It’s kinda like a gift card that you can go buy whatever you feel you need at the time.

-Leon

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humor

Moderation

How much is too much? Anything is OK in moderation, I’ve heard. Think about that. Anything? Of course, we don’t take that saying literally. If we did, there would be a lot less of us around.

There are somethings that I enjoy, that if I enjoyed them too much, wouldn’t be enjoyable anymore.

  • The first big of a Big Mac. Each bite gets exponentially less pleasant. It’s also better if you wait at least a year between attempts (having one, not bites)
  • Chips (potato). So good, but not the whole bag. Well, maybe sometimes…and Pringles don’t count, you have to finish them. You can put the top back on all you want.
  • Exercise. Yes, you can overdo it-and it hurts when you do.
  • Alcohol. Here are a few of may favorites (in no particular order): Beer, wine (red, white, cava), tequila, whiskey, rum. Now that may seem like a lot, but never all at once. And I know that many people struggle with addiction and in no way want to make light of that. Can I have only one drink? Yup. Does two taste better than one? Sometimes…but that’s the limit.
  • Cigars. Yes-smoking is bad for you. But I do enjoy the occasional cigar-usually once/year- especially around a campfire, with one of the above beverages-usually rum or tequila.
  • Food. All types. How can I support this activity? See point #3.
  • Laughing. Hard to get too much of this.
  • Punctuation. What is the rule for commas? Oh yes, there are 634 different rules, so here are a bunch just to be safe: ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,
  • Coffee. In college, I once sat with friends and took advantage of the unlimited refill policy at the local hangout. Twenty cups too much? Want to stay up for 24 hours? (By the way, that aforementioned policy? Yeah, we got that revoked…for everyone.)

Enjoy things that you like, as long as it doesn’t have detrimental effects on your life or the lives of others.

-Leon

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cartoons funny friday humor Just plain weird

Funny Fridays: When Does This Become That?

I started this a few weeks ago, so now I feel compelled to come up with something to amuse readers each week. As you may have noticed before in some of my earlier posts, I have an odd sense of humor, which borders on the surreal at times. If this is your first time here, go ahead, read some of my previous posts. We’ll wait.

(We won’t really wait. They can catch up.)

In my poetry book, I included a comic called, “When Does This Become That?” I have no clue what prompted me to come up with the idea, but it is a good example of what goes on in my head…

When Does This Become That?

I know what you are thinking. Either, “What the heck was that supposed to be?” or “Is there anymore of this hilarity” (see what I did there? No? I’ll give you a moment…)

To answer those questions: I really don’t know, and yes.

Happy Friday.

-Leon

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humor poetry thoughts Uncategorized writers

Thursday Thoughts: Poetic License

Thursday Thoughts vs. Thursday Ideas. Why do we like alliteration? Probably the same reason that we get annoyed when the gas pump goes to $20.01.

We manipulate language, like music, to create a pleasing sound. Kids love saying rhymes, lyrics and poems usually rhyme, and when they don’t, it can be a bit unsettling. It can also be exciting when things done happen in the way we expect.

There are ways for poets to get away with “almost rhymes”. I believe it is call poetic license, which is short for “I can to whatever I want because I like it that way”. This can also be applied to how a poem is crafted into its individual lines. For example, here is a funny poem from my first book:

Give it a read and we’ll discuss my thinking.

The Sock

Is there anything lonelier than discarded clothing?
A sign of disappointment, of rejection, of loathing
Threadbare and stained, no fight left within
Wondering what events caused this great sin
Did you wear out your welcome, what did you do?
Was it a weakness of cotton that allowed the big toe to come through?
Was it your owner’s odd gait that wore through the heel?
Taking the blame, how did that feel?
Was your partner discarded or saved for another
Pair that shares the same fate and just the right color?

For the most part, the poem has a simple rhyme scheme: AABBCCDDEE. I’ve had readers question the last two lines. Firstly, another and color don’t really rhyme. I’ll pull out the poetic license card on the one-they are pretty close, well close enough. Secondly, what’s up with last line? It doesn’t make sense. Well, it does to me. Kinda.

It took a lot of crafting to get it to say what I wanted it to. Read it this way:

Was your partner discarded or saved for another pair that shares the same fate and just the right color?

See what I mean. Kinda…I find that it feels like it is hitting the crest of a hill on the word another, then falls away quickly on the last line. I’ll give you a moment to try it. Like I said, it took a bit of manipulation, and it’s not perfect. But guess what? That’s that way I want it.

The power of poetic license.

-Leon

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Returning to Roots

November 2019

When I was growing up, my father would read or make up science fiction stories when I went to bed.  As I got older, I began to read short story anthologies and novels from some of the pioneers of science fiction writing. I was filled with wonder at the fantastic visions of the future. Just like a child’s imagination is unfettered by boundaries, these writers were able to make the unknown their own.

I grew with the writers, following the up and comers with their new approaches, styles, and understandings. More discoveries made for more scientifically accurate writing, and gave the next generation of authors the opportunity to stretch the boundaries of belief even farther. The advances in science however, revealed the folly in some of the earlier ideas that were put forward, making some of the stories that I was so fond of just a little more absurd. While the new technical knowledge gave credibility and possibility to the stories, I missed the early days when any idea was considered  fair game.

I decided to write a series of short stories in the style of the early years of science fiction, where scientific knowledge wasn’t king and imagination drove the author to create something that a young boy could read and dream about travelling to the stars and having fantastical adventures, while falling asleep to the voice of his father… 

(Addendum to post – November 28, 2020)

So, that was a year ago. When I wrote it, I was close to publishing my first book, a book of poetry. I had a few science fiction stories written, but at that point, I don’t think that I was planning on publishing it anytime soon.

While my poems were a therapeutic activity, which I decided to share because I thought that others could relate to many of the themes, or to simply entertain, my science fiction writing was pure imagination. Some of the stories came out fast and furious, others took longer to hone. My stories tend to come to a natural conclusion sooner rather than later (say what you will about my attention span). My early reading memories were of short stories – Ray Bradbury’s The Illustrated Man comes to mind.

Not to leave poetry by the wayside, I included a series of poems I call Found. I envisioned these writings being stumbled upon by a traveler in a post-apocalyptic world. Remind you of the book: A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter Miller Jr? As I was writing them, I realized that too.

Here is a sample:

Found

I can feel it seep

Through my boots

         the heat

My skin, it crawls

My hair,

         it falls

The pain, it lingers

Till I can barely feel

         my fingers

Vision is weak and fading fast

I do not know how long

         it will last

Too tired to move, I take a seat

Nothing left to drink

         or eat

So, I leave my body and this note to be found

Beside this shallow grave

          in the rocky ground

And if the horror you can face

Please lay me in my final

         resting place

When I was putting the book together, I couldn’t think of anyone but my dad to thank, so I wrote this dedication: To my father, who gave me the imagination to dream about the stars.

Thanks, Dad.

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Creations from Quarantine

Today I am going to share some of the poems that I wrote this year. Most writing, like music, art, and all the other expressions are meant to be shared-I say most because there are some on my creations that are just for me to enjoy.

2020 is a year that will not be forgotten, although many of us probably would like to. We are all waiting for that arbitrary date of December 31, 2020, so that we can put this year behind us. Things will change-hopefully, and the world will move forward.

Here are some of my creations inspired by 2020.

Written after the murder of George Floyd and the ensuing protests:

I wrote this after seeing news stories about the environment during the lockdown. Smog levels in major cities were falling, you could see the summit of Mt. Everest for the first time in many years, wildlife began to take back parks, trails, and harbors, and bees were enjoying all the wildflowers that normally would be mowed. It got me thinking about the positive effects of the lockdown measures.


My cartoon, “The Miniscules,” were affected as well.

I wrote a few blogs on my website-mostly satirical/humorous. Here are some favorites:

How to Shop Without Looking Like a Doomsday Prepper

Spring Cleaning: Isolation Edition 

Shopping…sigh…

Fitter or Fatter

And finally, lockdown inspired music. Despite the name, it’s a lively tune!

I hope you have enjoyed my 2020 recap!

-Leon