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Monday
Sep012014

WHO KILLED 'TOM JONES'? takes Bronze in Readers' Fave Award

This is the first year I entered the Readers' Favorite International Book Contest. Since I published WHO KILLED 'TOM JONES'? in 2014, I decided to enter that novel. First, it was named a finalist. And today I learned it won the Bronze Award.

I am so happy for this recognition and am grateful to my creative and editorial team--editor Toddie Downs, proofreader Evelyne Topfer, and cover designer Greg Simanson for their help.

And a special shout out to Ellen Sterling and the best Tom Jones impersonator working today Steve McCoy for their special contributions to the book's success.

Sunday
Aug312014

Here they are: Best popular songs of all time, per me!

Enough with the deliberation. Time to end the hand wringing. Without further adieu, here are my votes for the TEN best contemporary popular songs for WXPN-FM's Annual Countdown, in order of release date.

1. 1967 - RESPECT - Aretha Franklin
Nobody does R&B like Aretha--not then not now. Aretha, you are the queen of my Motown-loving heart. Props to Otis Redding for the songwriting credits on this one, too.

2. 1968 - WITCHITA LINEMAN - Glen Campbell
Glen Campbell didn't write this tune--Jimmy Webb did--but Campbell made it a hit. He felt it, he breathed it, he owned it. It carved a place in my soul when I first heard it and many decades later, it still moves me.

3. 1970 - LAYLA - Derek and the Dominoes
For a whole year after I heard this song written by Eric Clapton and Jim Gordon, I fervently wished I had been named Layla. Need I see anymore than that about this mindblowing song?

4. 1972 - SUPERSTITION - Stevie Wonder
You can rock out to it; you can take a social lesson from it. It's a stunning piece of work, just like so many other songs he recorded around that time. This song grabs me in the gut from the opening drum beat in anticipation of an exciting and incredible musical journey each time I hear this song. Can you believe this dates back to 1972? It's like I just heard it yesterday.

5. 1973- JOLENE - Dolly Parton
Other artists have recorded this tune, but Dolly wrote it, and darn, if she doesn't also sing it the best though she never got enough credit as a songwriter, I mean, her breasts were more heralded than her musical gifts. You rock, Dolly, even if you don't know it at the time of this taping.

6. 1977 - JUST THE WAY YOU ARE - Billy Joel
There are so many Billy Joel tunes I could have chosen ("Always a Woman," "New York State of Mind") but this one is ubiquitous. It was a Grammy Song the Year. It's a Gale Martin Song of My Lifetime.

7. 1982 - BEAT IT - Michael Jackson
Michael wrote this song, Quincy Jones produced it, and the music world changed as a result of "Beat It." This song offered a powerful West Side Story-esque vibe/message for the Big Hair generation, including me. The Michael Jackson who remade himself from child star was at his prime and simply an incredible performer.

8. 1982- ALWAYS ON MY MIND - Willie Nelson
It's not Willie's song, but every time I hear him sing this it moves me to tears. Like Jackson, he had become a caricature of himself later in his career, he is authentic in this gifted rendition.

9. 1991- WALKING IN MEMPHIS - Marc Cohn
I never tire of hearing this song. Love the ambiguity of the key, the blue notes, the lyrics, the reflection combined with urgency, the back-up gospel choir, the plantive piano riffs. Perfection!

10. 2002- LOSE YOURSELF - Eminem
As an anthem for the downtrodden who are ambitious to do something, to be something the world will respect you for and remember you for, it just doesn't get any better than this. This is from the movie 8 Mile, which is a powerful and incredible film. Gritty but affirming just like this anthem.

It was interesting to me that recording artists today are expected to be the songwriters of their own hits whereas that wasn't the norm decades ago. Renditions or "covers" as they now call them can also be powerful, as Willie Nelson proved with his version of "Always On My Mind." 

There were so many others that I could have and should have mentioned on this list. Thankfully, my husband's list is less idiosyncratic and fills in my gaps (yes, he has the Beatles, Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones, Ray Charles). If you disagree with my choices, why don't you make your own list and vote yourself?

Sunday
Aug172014

The greatest modern songs? My head is spinning!

The world's hardest contest?Each year, WXPN-FM out of Philadelphia (the station with whom I have an enduring love/hate relationship) asks listeners to submit their nominations for songs based on a theme. This year's theme is nearly impossible for someone who loves music as much as I do:

"885 All-Time Greatest and Worst Songs"

This is almost undoable on many levels. First, what kind of songs do they mean? Songs played on WXPN? They've played opera arias on WXPN such as "The Flower Duet" by Delibes. Can we submit those? They've played show tunes and movie themes? Are those eligible?

So you can see the theme is too broad. Even if you toss out show tunes and opera arias/classical and stick to contemporary music, the theme is still too broad. Should Benny Goodman's "Sing, Sing, Sing" be included or perhaps "Rhapsody in Blue" by Gershwin or will they be a throwaway votes, once again sending Bruce Springsteen into the top ten?

If I vote for "The Christmas Song" sung by Nat King Cole and "Thunder Road" by Springsteen wins this contest AGAIN, I am going to blow a gasket.

I don't live in the heads of WXPN radio show hosts, and I don't know what they mean by "All-Time Greatest Songs." This is an unfortunate case of GM Executive Syndrome, where all those at WXPN making the decisions are thinking too insularly, as if all of their listeners think just like them.

Last night, my husband Bill and I discussed our top ten lists. I told Bill I wasn't going to name artists who should be on anyone's top ten list and then select one of their songs. Instead, I would try to recall the songs that really moved me, that sent me into orbit, the first time I heard them. And there are so many that didn't make my list such as these great tunes:

  • "Spinning Wheel" by Blood, Sweat and Tears
  • "Fields of Gold" by Sting
  • "Wicked Game" by Chris Issac
  • "Another Star" or "Superstition" by Stevie Wonder
  • "Walking on Broken Glass" by Annie Lennox
  • "Don't Know Why" by Norah Jones
  • "Up, Up, and Away" by the Fifth Dimension
  • "Baby, Now That I've Found You" by Allison Krauss
  • "Bohemian Rhapsody" by Queen
  • "Stairway to Heaven" by Led Zeppelin

I can't fit everyone who needs to be on my list on my list. How can I not include Billy Joel, James Taylor, Stevie Wonder, and The Beatles? Or Steely Dan, Annie Lennox, Sly and the Family Stone, and Ray Charles?

So, who did make my list? Well, I'm still finalizing it. In the meantime, I'll leave you to ponder my quandary while listening to this little gem from my lifetime:

And a noodge to WXPN--once again, you didn't list a #hashtag on the contest info page. Sheesh! You guys are killing me. (It happens to be #885countdown but I had to go digging for it.)

Sunday
Aug102014

Finally, a recipe for moist ground chicken burgers!

Ground chicken burgers are a nice subsitute for beef, provided they are moist.Round about this point in the summer, I'm looking for reasons NOT to grill the good old hamburger or fix the all-too familiar hot dog. I've had my fill of both.

(Parenthetically speaking, I am also one of those people who never knows what to do with chutney when I get it as a gift. Which means someone always gives me chutney, and, in fact, the chutney in my cupboard has been sitting there since the holidays untouched until yesterday!)

Okay, back to my dilemma. Usually in August, I I'm desperate for workable, practical substitutions in recipes for ground beef--such as ground turkey, veggie burger which I use in taco salads, or even ground chicken.

I need to put it right out there that ground chicken and I have a past--a checkered past. It can cost plenty and has dried out quickly whenever I've cooked it before, leaving me high and dry with family or guests.

For some reason, whenever I fix ground chicken, it has either been too dry after cooking or too darn soggy and sticky to form into meatballs or patties. (This just happened. My chicken burgers using an Internet recipe turned into chicken goo. So one keeps adding breadcrumbs, which is one reason why the chicken comes out too dry. The other is that it doesn't have a lot of fat content, so you have to find ways to put the fat back into chicken burger.)

That's why I am so excited (or as my friend's granddaughter says, "I so 'cited!") to share this recipe with you for a deliciously moist chicken burger patty.

Gale's Glorious Summer Chicken Burgers

1) Take one pound of fresh ground chicken or defrosted frozen ground chicken and place it in a medium sized bowl.

2) Add a half cup shredded cheese to the bowl. I used low-fat mild cheddar and had several tablespoons of gorgonzola leftover in a tub, so I threw all the gorgonzola in the mix, too.

The ingredients in this chutney perfectly complement chicken!3) Add several tablespoons (4-5) of fruit chutney. I used Stonewall Kitchen's Old Farmhouse Chutney, which is made from apples, cranberries, peaches, and raisins, to name a few fruits. 

Sidebar: Where they came up with the name "Old Farmhouse" I'll never know. I lived in a 100-year-old farmhouse for 17 years and had to leave the farm before I'd ever heard of chutney.

4) Mix well. Shape into four or five chicken burgers.

5) Grill or broil. After turning the burgers, spread a little bottled chili sauce on top and let that heat through.

I can't say I have EVER truly savored a chicken burger before I fixed these moist juicy burgers. 

And I found a super way to use the dreaded chutney Christmas gift.

Enjoy!

 

Sunday
Jul272014

Crosswalk blues

Last September I became a daily commuter on Amtrak and SEPTA (Philly's public transit system) to get to my job at Harcum College in Bryn Mawr. For the most part, it's a great way to get to work except for one sticking point.

Getting to my office means using a pedestrian crosswalk on Morris Avenue between the train station and the college campus.

Silly me, I thought if a crosswalk had markings on the road and neon yellow pedestrian crossing signs, drivers would well--stop and let pedestrians pass.

The reality is that I have been in the middle of the crosswalk and almost run over by moms on their cell phones, people hurrying to work, commercial vans--you name it.

Drivers have hurled obscenities at me for impeding their travels. I have felt so embattled using this crosswalk that I considered carrying a crow bar to arm myself against belligerent drivers who have called me, among other things, a "f#@%ing moron."

And I had a few choice things to say in response to these drivers, believe me.

When I called the Lower Merion Township Police, they patiently listened to my complaint but said they wished that we didn't have pedestrian crosswalks because they are not safe for pedestrians.

I already have high blood pressure. This final leg of my daily commute wasn't helping.

So, after months of worry and aggrevation, I gave up trying to use the pedestrian crosswalk. My commuting buddy and I have taken to a long way around to get to work--working beside the train tracks and through the back entrance of the Septa Parking Lot to get to campus.

While it's gratifying being in the right, it is more gratifying being alive. I mean, I know I am not going to live forever. But if I stop using that crosswalk, nature will just have to find another way to take me out.

Shame on all you drivers who are too distracted and hurried to allow decent people on foot to cross busy streets safely. And shame on me for giving up on humanity. Realistically, if the police can't help, if drivers won't cooperate with driving laws, then what else am I to do?