Sunday, September 13, 2020

Running - Weekly Log for September 7, 2020 through September 13, 2020

Last Week's Mileage Goal: 40 miles
Actual Miles Last Week: 33.8 miles
Run/Walk Miles: 5 miles
Cumulative Mileage: 794.3 miles.
This Week's Mileage Goal: 40 miles
Current Weigh-In: Not done (scale not usable)

In good news for this week, I completed the "Run the L" virtual challenge, and have now logged enough miles to have run the entire length of the Chicago L-train system. I'll be looking to sign up for another virtual running challenge in the upcoming week.

In bad news for this week, I got a little bit sick on Saturday and Sunday, and didn't run either of those days. I blame the fact that I got caught out in the rain while running on Wednesday and was soaked to the bone for most of the run. I'm going to be cautious about my mileage goal for the upcoming week and hope to get back out on the roads soon.

In neutral news, I am switching my "running week" from Sunday to Saturday to Monday through Sunday. This will allows my "running week" to coincide with the tracking system used for weekly miles by Strava. This is mostly for my convenience, because this means I won't have to calculate my weekly mileage tallies by hand any more.

Previous Weekly Running Log: August 30, 2020 through September 5, 2020

Running     Home

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Book Blogger Hop - September 11th - September 17th: "368" Was a Project by Casey Nestiat Intended to Offer Space to Creators in New York


Jen at Crazy for Books restarted her weekly Book Blogger Hop to help book bloggers connect with one another, but then couldn't continue, so she handed the hosting responsibilities off to Ramblings of a Coffee Addicted Writer. The only requirements to participate in the Hop are to write and link a post answering the weekly question and then visit other blogs that are also participating to see if you like their blog and would like to follow them.

This week Billy asks: Do you read books by authors from outside your country? Any book recommendations? Also, if non-U.S./U.K., could you name one author/book from your country?

Taking these questions in turn:

If you read any amount of science fiction or fantasy, you will end up reading a lot of books by people from outside the United States, where I currently live. The bulk of such "non-U.S." authors are from the U.K., such as Arthur C. Clarke, J.R.R. Tolkien, Susan Cooper, Bernard Cornwell, J.G. Ballard and Iaian M. Banks. That said, there are a lot of prominent science fiction and fantasy authors from a variety of places - Tansy Rayner Roberts and Greg Egan from Australia, Cixin Liu from China, Isabel Allende from Chile, Nnedi Okorafor from Nigeria, Stanislaw Lem from Poland, and authors of classic works such as Jules Verne and Alexandre Dumas from France. I've even read the entire Tintin series by Belgian author Hergé and almost all of the Asterix series by French authors Goscinny and Uderzo. It is almost impossible to be a well-read science fiction fan and not have read a bunch of works by authors from outside of the United States.

As far as recommendations go, there are so many possibilities that it is difficult to narrow them down to a manageable number. How about The Three Body Problem by Cixin Liu, Binti by Nned Okorafor, and the Cyberiad by Stanislaw Lem. I could come up with a couple dozen more if needed, but that should do for now.

I live in the U.S., so the last question doesn't really apply to me.


Book Blogger Hop     Home

Monday, September 7, 2020

Musical Monday - Candy Girl by New Edition


#1 on the Billboard Hot 100: Never.
#1 on the Cash Box Top 100: Never.
#1 on the U.K. Chart: The week of May 28, 1983.

Candy Girl is crap.

I know that last week I said that I loathed True by Spandau Ballet when it was released in 1983, and that is definitely accurate, but I could at least admire the artistry and talent that went into making True even if it was treacly sweet and so blandly inoffensive as to be the song equivalent of the color beige. Candy Girl (and to a certain extent, New Edition as well at this point in their careers), on the other hand, is cynical, corporate-designed, piece of crappy extruded bubblegum pop. This song is pure, unadulterated, crap and represents every musical trend that had gone wrong in the early 1980s.

Previous Musical Monday: True by Spandau Ballet
Subsequent Musical Monday: Flashdance . . . What a Feeling by Irene Cara

Previous #1 on the U.K. Chart: True by Spandau Ballet
Subsequent #1 on the U.K. Chart: Every Breath You Take by the Police

List of #1 Singles from the Billboard Hot 100 for 1980-1989
List of #1 Singles from the Cash Box Top 100 for 1980-1989
List of #1 Singles on the U.K. Chart for 1980-1989

New Edition     1980s Project     Musical Monday     Home

Sunday, September 6, 2020

Running - Weekly Log for August 30, 2020 through September 5, 2020

Last Week's Mileage Goal: 40 miles
Actual Miles Last Week: 46.2 miles
Run/Walk Miles: 7 miles
Cumulative Mileage: 760.5 miles.
This Week's Mileage Goal: 40 miles
Current Weigh-In: Not done (scale not usable)

So this week obviously went fairly well. I was able to take advantage of being off on Friday to do an extra long run, which I think I will plan on doing from now on. I am almost finished with the "Run the L" virtual challenge, and shouls wrap that up this week. I have signed up for some Strava-based challenges, two of which I have already completed (the 5K challenge and the 10K challenge), two of which I am about 30% through (the distance challenge to run at least 200K in September, and the climbing challenge to climb at least 2,000 meters in September). I'll probably look for some other virtual challenges to sign up for once I've finished the "Run the L" challenge. I saw one the other day that was a "Run Hadrian's Wall" virtual challenge, so may try to find that again.

For next week, I'm going to stay at 40 miles for my goal. After that, I'll see how I feel for the next week.

Previous Weekly Running Log: August 23, 2020 through August 29, 2020
Previous Weekly Running Log: September 7, 2020 through September 13, 2020

Running     Home

Saturday, September 5, 2020

Book Blogger Hop - September 4th - September 10th: GK Persei Went Nova in 367 A.D. No One on Earth Knew About This Until 1901 A.D.


Jen at Crazy for Books restarted her weekly Book Blogger Hop to help book bloggers connect with one another, but then couldn't continue, so she handed the hosting responsibilities off to Ramblings of a Coffee Addicted Writer. The only requirements to participate in the Hop are to write and link a post answering the weekly question and then visit other blogs that are also participating to see if you like their blog and would like to follow them.

This week Billy asks: What book or books are you going to read on Labor Day weekend?

I am still working through The Creature Chronicles, which has turned into kind of a slog as it has run out of interesting material about the Creature from the Black Lagoon trilogy. To add a little levity to my reading, I started on the book The Greeks Until Alexander by R.M. Cook.


Book Blogger Hop     Home

Monday, August 31, 2020

Musical Monday - True by Spandau Ballet


#1 on the Billboard Hot 100: Never.
#1 on the Cash Box Top 100: Never.
#1 on the U.K. Chart: April 30, 1983 through May 21, 1983.

One of the dominant musical styles of the early 1980s was a kind of smooth jazzy music that grew out of the relatively brief New Wave movement. Spandau Ballet's True was more or less the apotheosis of this style of music. The song is a magnificent example of the kind of music that dominated the early 1980s.

In 1983, I hated this song. It was exactly the wrong style of music for my tastes and I loathed the song. I have mellowed a bit on it, but True was not one of my favorites back then, and it isn't a song that I intentionally go back to when I'm feeling nostalgic now.

Previous Musical Monday: Mr. Roboto by Styx
Subsequent Musical Monday: Candy Girl by New Edition

Previous #1 on the U.K. Chart: Let's Dance by David Bowie
Subsequent #1 on the U.K. Chart: Candy Girl by New Edition

List of #1 Singles from the Billboard Hot 100 for 1980-1989
List of #1 Singles from the Cash Box Top 100 for 1980-1989
List of #1 Singles on the U.K. Chart for 1980-1989

Spandau Ballet     1980s Project     Musical Monday     Home

Sunday, August 30, 2020

Running - Weekly Log for August 23, 2020 through August 29, 2020

Last Week's Mileage Goal: 35 miles
Actual Miles Last Week: 36.5 miles
Run/Walk Miles: 7 miles
Cumulative Mileage: 714.3 miles.
This Week's Mileage Goal: 40 miles
Current Weigh-In: Not done (scale not usable)

I hit my mileage goal for the week again, so I am going to up the goal for this week. I will note that I reached the goal despite having to take a day off unexpectedly as we got some pretty heavy rains on Friday - the last vestiges of the recent hurricane working its way up the coast. I'm feeling pretty good most days on my runs - the last day of the week I pushed up to an 8 mile weekend run, which gets me back to where I was for weekend runs before my late-spring layoff. I'm about a week away from getting back to where I want to be as a baseline. If all goes well, the week after this one will get me back to where I want to be.

A fiends of mine asked me this week if I was training for something specific. The short answer is no, I am not. One reason is that pretty much every race in 2020 has either been cancelled, postponed indefinitely, or made into a virtual event. I have looked at a couple of races that theoretically might happen in 2021, but thus far the organizers appear not to have decided whether they are going to hold their events or not next year. The other reason is that I have never been a runner who really spends much time racing. In the past, I have gone years without racing. I just don't need the carrot of a race to keep going out and running every day, so I don't bother a lot of the time. I'll probably run a race or two in 2021, but right now I don't have any particular plans for any.

Previous Weekly Running Log: August 16, 2020 through August 22, 2020
Subsequent Weekly Running Log: August 30, 2020 through September 5, 2020

Running     Home

Saturday, August 29, 2020

Book Blogger Hop - August 28th - September 3rd: Emperor Valens Defeated the Usurper Procopius at the Battle of Thyatira in 366 A.D.


Jen at Crazy for Books restarted her weekly Book Blogger Hop to help book bloggers connect with one another, but then couldn't continue, so she handed the hosting responsibilities off to Ramblings of a Coffee Addicted Writer. The only requirements to participate in the Hop are to write and link a post answering the weekly question and then visit other blogs that are also participating to see if you like their blog and would like to follow them.

This week Billy asks: Have you ever read a book that was suggested by another blogger?

No. Not consciously at least. I just have so many books in my backlog, and so many other sources of new book recommendations that I just don't really have the ability to add new books on a whim. On the other hand, it is certainly possible that I saw a book that I eventually read on a blog and simply didn't remember that was where I first saw it referenced. I don't know where I learned all the things I know, and as David Mitchell says, if I knew the source for all the things I knew, I would only know half as many things as I do.

Previous Book Blogger Hop: There Are 365 Days in a Common Year

Book Blogger Hop     Home

Monday, August 24, 2020

Musical Monday - Mr. Roboto by Styx


#1 on the Billboard Hot 100: Never.
#1 on the Cash Box Top 100: The week of April 30, 1983.
#1 on the U.K. Chart: Never.

Mr. Roboto was the signature song of Kilroy Was Here, the concept album that destroyed Styx. The brain child of Dennis DeYoung, Kilroy Was Here told the story of Kilroy, the last rock star in a dystopian future in which rock music has been banned by the Majority for Musical Morality led by Dr. Everett Righteous. Kilroy has been imprisoned for his music, and as part of the story, he uses one of the Japanese-manufactured guard robots assigned to his prison to fashion a disguise and escape. This song details Kilroy's escape from imprisonment, which is the reason for the refrain "Domo arigato, Mr. Roboto": He's thanking the robots for their unwitting assistance in his escape.

Despite the fact that the album debuted at #10 on the charts, and produced two top ten hits (this song and Don't Let It End), the tour supporting the album was a financial disaster for the band. DeYoung envisioned the tour as essentially musical theater featuring a lot of dialogue and other interstitial material connecting the songs. The band booked into smaller musical theaters for this, bringing with them a fairly expensive stage production, and they consequently hemorrhaged money. They then moved to arena shows, and tried to do a modified version of the musical theater routine, but it didn't match well with the venues, and despite the rest of the band pushing to discard the art theater routine, DeYoung was insistent that they continue.

This all came to a head at a music festival when (according to Tommy Shaw) DeYoung wanted the group to forge ahead with long acting sequences in front of what was, by the time they reached the stage, a restless and increasingly hostile crowd. Shaw walked off the stage in the middle of the show. The band disintegrated by the end of the tour. The live album that resulted from the tour was released after the band had already broken up for good.

In a very real sense, this song and the album it was on were not only the swan song for Styx, they were the nails in their coffin. The really annoying thing about this is that as interesting an idea a concept album that presents a science-fictional dystopian future is, the album itself is one of Styx's weaker efforts. Most of their previous albums were notably better, with better songs, than Kilroy Was Here. But it was this one that ended their run and destroyed the band.

Previous Musical Monday: Let's Dance by David Bowie
Subsequent Musical Monday: True by Spandau Ballet

Previous #1 on the Cash Box Top 100: Come On Eileen by Dexys Midnight Runners
Subsequent #1 on the Cash Box Top 100: Beat It by Michael Jackson

List of #1 Singles from the Billboard Hot 100 for 1980-1989
List of #1 Singles from the Cash Box Top 100 for 1980-1989
List of #1 Singles on the U.K. Chart for 1980-1989

Styx     1980s Project     Musical Monday     Home

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Running - Weekly Log for August 16, 2020 through August 22, 2020

Last Week's Mileage Goal: 30 miles
Actual Miles Last Week: 35.8 miles
Run/Walk Miles: 0 miles
Cumulative Mileage: 677.8 miles.
This Week's Mileage Goal: 35 miles
Current Weigh-In: 195.8

This week marks my entry into the 21st century, as I downloaded Strava onto an old cell phone we keep around for emergencies and started using it combined with the phone's GPS to track my mileage. It turns out that the running routes that I thought were 4 miles long and 5 miles long are actually 4.5 miles long and 5.5 miles long, so I've been running further than I thought. It also turns out that I;ve been running a bit faster than I thought - about a minute a mile faster. This seems to me to be good news, and it means that I don't have quite as much between my current status and my long-term running goals. It does, however, mean that I will not be able to deceive myself about my progress towards those goals.

In any event, I'm upping my mileage goal for the week, pushing to run the 5.5 mile route every weekday and running a new 6.3 mile route I've put together on the weekends. I'm basically going to keep pushing up the mileage for the next few weeks and then hold there for a bit before I decide how much more my body can handle and make an assessment from there.

Previous Weekly Running Log: August 9, 2020 through August 15, 2020
Subsequent Weekly Running Log: August 23, 2020 through August 29, 2020

Running     Home

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Book Blogger Hop - August 21st - August 27th: There Are 365 Days in a Common Year


Jen at Crazy for Books restarted her weekly Book Blogger Hop to help book bloggers connect with one another, but then couldn't continue, so she handed the hosting responsibilities off to Ramblings of a Coffee Addicted Writer. The only requirements to participate in the Hop are to write and link a post answering the weekly question and then visit other blogs that are also participating to see if you like their blog and would like to follow them.

This week Billy asks: Do you look at your shelves and stacks and books and wonder how you have ever read so many?

No. I look at my shelves and stacks of books and wonder why I haven't read so many.

I've read a lot of books in my lifetime. If you include books that I read for my pre-college schooling, undergaduate degrees, my law degree, and my general reading, the total is in the thousands. And yet I still have many more thousands than that piled up waiting to be read. I doubt I will ever catch up. I will die with an enormous pile of unread books sitting beside me. That is the wonder - I have read a lot of books, and somehow I have an even larger pile still left to read.

Previous Book Blogger Hop: Pelopidas Died in 364 B.C.

Book Blogger Hop     Home

Monday, August 17, 2020

Musical Monday - Let's Dance by David Bowie


#1 on the Billboard Hot 100: The week of May 21, 1983.
#1 on the Cash Box Top 100: The week of May 21, 1983.
#1 on the U.K. Chart: April 9, 1983 to April 23, 1983.

Let's Dance became the number one song on the U.K. chart the same day that I turned fourteen. I was living in Nigeria, I had my first real girlfriend (Sandy, if you are out there reading this, I still remember that year fondly), and I knew I was there on borrowed time as I would have to leave the next year for boarding school because the American International School only went through the ninth grade.

I've said that one of the things that propelled Michael Jackson to the forefront of pop culture in the early 1980s was his music videos, but the reality is that pretty much every musician who remained successful through the decade jumped into the music video arena with gusto. Those that didn't found themselves consigned to being cultural afterthoughts.

David Bowie, noted rock chameleon, jumped headlong into the music video world, and Let's Dance is an example of this. The song itself is decent, but really there's not much to it. It has a memorable hook, a good bass line, and lyrics that are pretty banal. There's nothing really special about the song itself that makes it stand out from other hit pop songs. It seems odd to say about a song that reached the top spot on the Billboard, Cash Box, and U/K. Charts, but Let's Dance is pretty mediocre.

What made Let's Dance memorable was the music video, featuring two Australian aboriginal teenagers who show up in a collection of circumstances pitting them and their traditional way of life against the encroachment of white Australian culture and society. They dance at a bar while white patrons make fun of them They find red shoes in the wilderness and are suddenly able to dance. They end up working jobs in civilized society - he in a factory and she as a cleaning lady. They get sucked in by western capitalism and the culture of consumption before rejecting it and walking off into the outback.

The only trouble with the video is that it makes the viewer think the song is saying something more significant than it is. Highlighting the fact that Australian aborigines are not treated well by Australian society is notable, as are the elements of the video that critique the exploitative nature of the capitalist consumerist society that they live adjacent to, but there's not all that much in the song itself that connects to these themes. The video wants to be socially significant, but the song simply is not, and as a result, it simply isn't as powerful a statement as it thinks it is. In fact, it comes off as somewhat pretentious, which is a shame, but there's not really anything that can be done about that.

Previous Musical Monday: Beat It by Michael Jackson
Subsequent Musical Monday: Mr. Roboto by Styx

Previous #1 on the Billboard Hot 100: Beat It by Michael Jackson
Subsequent #1 on the Billboard Hot 100: Flashdance . . . What a Feeling by Irene Cara

Previous #1 on the Cash Box Top 100: Beat It by Michael Jackson
Subsequent #1 on the Cash Box Top 100: Flashdance . . . What a Feeling by Irene Cara

Previous #1 on the U.K. Chart: Is There Something I Should Know? by Duran Duran
Subsequent #1 on the U.K. Chart: True by Spandau Ballet

List of #1 Singles from the Billboard Hot 100 for 1980-1989
List of #1 Singles from the Cash Box Top 100 for 1980-1989
List of #1 Singles on the U.K. Chart for 1980-1989

David Bowie     1980s Project     Musical Monday     Home

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Running - Weekly Log for August 9, 2020 through August 15, 2020

Last Week's Mileage Goal: 25 miles
Actual Miles Last Week: 29 miles
Run/Walk Miles: 0 miles
Cumulative Mileage: 642 miles.
This Week's Mileage Goal: 30 miles
Current Weigh-In: Not done

Last week went well. I alternated three mile days with five mile days, and put in all the miles I wanted to for the week and then some. This week I'm going to bump up to alternating four mile days and five mile days and aim for slightly more total weekly mileage. I am tempted to try to push to my final "baseline" goal for weekly mileage, but patience is a key component of distance running, so I will hold off on that and continue to ease myself towards my hoped-for weekly mileage goals. I should get there later this month, but we'll see how that goes.

In other news, I've signed up for the Hoka One One "Run the L" virtual event, which consists of running the total distance covered by Chicago's "L-train" network, or 131 miles. The even runs until October 4, so I have until then to complete the total distance. I figured that since I was going to be aiming for 30+ miles per week over that time span anyway, I may as well get a medal out of it.

Previous Weekly Running Log: August 2, 2020 through August 8, 2020
Subsequent Weekly Running Log: August 16, 2020 through August 22, 2020

Running     Home

Saturday, August 15, 2020

Book Blogger Hop - August 14th - August 20th: Pelopidas Died in 364 B.C.


Jen at Crazy for Books restarted her weekly Book Blogger Hop to help book bloggers connect with one another, but then couldn't continue, so she handed the hosting responsibilities off to Ramblings of a Coffee Addicted Writer. The only requirements to participate in the Hop are to write and link a post answering the weekly question and then visit other blogs that are also participating to see if you like their blog and would like to follow them.

This week Billy asks: How often do you visit your local library?

These days, not at all. Then again, I don't go much of anywhere these days. I haven't gone anywhere other than to purchase groceries or go for training runs for several months now. Sadly, given how badly mismanaged the response to the Coronavirus pandemic has been, I don't see this changing any time soon.

In more normal times, I generally visit my local library two or three times a year. One of those times is for the annual library book sale, and the others are usually for special events they are holding. I am lucky to be in a position where my book and information needs can be handled adequately at home, so I don't need to avail myself of the library's resources. Now that the littlest starship captain is three, I will likely end up going to the library more often when "normal life" returns to take her to activities there, but that's likely a ways off in the future at this point.

There was a time, not all that long ago, when my life was unsettled and my resources depleted such that the local library was very important to me, and I would go two or three times a week, because I needed to use their internet, and their book collection, and their other resources. I don't have to any more, so I don't, but I still appreciate that they are always there if they are needed.

Subsequent Book Blogger Hop: There Are 365 Days in a Common Year

Book Blogger Hop     Home

Monday, August 10, 2020

Musical Monday - Beat It by Michael Jackson


#1 on the Billboard Hot 100: April 30, 1983 through May 14, 1983.
#1 on the Cash Box Top 100: May 7, 1983 through May 14, 1983.
#1 on the U.K. Chart: Never.

Beat It made Michael Jackson the King of Pop. Thriller in general was a huge titanic hit of an album that produced multiple top ten hits, and Billie Jean stayed at the top of the charts for longer, but Beat It was the extra kick that transformed Jackson from "successful pop star" to "biggest musical superstar on the planet".

Billie Jean is a good song, as are most of the rest of the tracks on Thriller, but when you get down to it, they are basically the same sort of thing that Jackson has been putting out for the better part of a decade. Most of the songs on Thriller aren't really any different in kind from previous Jackson hits like Rock With You and Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough or even Jackson 5 tunes like Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground). Had the album not had Beat It on it, it still would have been hugely successful, but it would have just been more of the same danceable R&B Michael Jackson music that everyone had grown familiar with.

Beat It, driven by a hammer blow of a synthesizer opening, an Eddie Van Halen guitar riff (which Van Halen provided for free, just because he was asked to), and a hard-edged rock beat, was different from anything else Jackson had done before. People who didn't particularly like Michael Jackson's music liked Beat It. Essentially, Jackson made a bold statement with this song: He could make a song that sounds like something a hard rock band would put out but that is still unmistakably a Michael Jackson tune, and make it into a huge hit. This song broke Jackson out of being just a superlative R&B performer, and made him into a superstar.

Oddly, this is one of the few Michael Jackson songs of the 1980s where the song is actually better than the associated music video. The music video isn't bad, it just isn't all that groundbreaking. Billie Jean, for example, was a decent dance song with a really innovative music video. Beat It was a breakout song with a fairly ordinary music video. The idea behind the video - depicting two rival gangs getting into a rumble before Jackson the peacemaker shows up and stops the fracas - is fairly well-meaning, and fits the lyrics of the song, but there's nothing particularly notable about it other than the fact that they hired actual gang members as extras for the production. The video really dives into ridiculousness when Jackson more or less makes peace with the power of dance and no other explanation as to why these people who were ready to knife one another seconds before are now doing coordinated group body rolls.

Even though the video was kind of ordinary - well except for the fact that Jackson's dancing always elevated anything he was in - the song was what made Thriller into the life-changing event that it was for the pop star. It is odd to call something that happened to a music artist after he already had multiple number one hits a "breakout hit", but functionally, that is what this was. Beat It was the birth of the King of Pop.

Previous Musical Monday: Is There Something I Should Know? by Duran Duran
Subsequent Musical Monday: Let's Dance by David Bowie

Previous #1 on the Billboard Hot 100: Come On Eileen by Dexys Midnight Runner
Subsequent #1 on the Billboard Hot 100: Let's Dance by David Bowie

Previous #1 on the Cash Box Top 100: Mr. Roboto by Styx
Subsequent #1 on the Cash Box Top 100: Let's Dance by David Bowie

List of #1 Singles from the Billboard Hot 100 for 1980-1989
List of #1 Singles from the Cash Box Top 100 for 1980-1989
List of #1 Singles on the U.K. Chart for 1980-1989

Michael Jackson     1980s Project     Musical Monday     Home