Monday, May 27, 2019

Musical Monday - Stars on 45 Medley by Stars on 45


#1 on the Billboard Hot 100: The week of June 20, 1981.
#1 on the Cash Box Top 100: June 20, 1981 through June 27, 1981.
#1 on the U.K. Chart: Never.

In 1981, disco was in its last death throes, but it wasn't going to go down without taking some good music with it. Apparently, what the world needed was a mash-up of the intro to Shocking Blue's Venus followed by snippets from the Archies' Sugar, Sugar, and then bits of the Beatles' No Reply, I'll Be Back, Drive My Car, Do You Want to Know a Secret, We Can Work It Out, I Should Have Known Better, Nowhere Man, and You're Going to Lose That Girl, all set to a common disco beat. It is a hypnotically horrific travesty, and a crime of epic proportions against good music.

The really weird thing is that this sort of thing is sometimes done by comedy groups to show how similar many pop hits are. For example, the Axis of Awesome has a song they call Four Chord Songs in which they run through a bunch of pop hits that all use the same four chords. Similarly, a few years ago, comedian Rob Paravonian went on a famous rant about how all modern pop music was basically just a disguised version of Pachelbel's Canon in D. The difference is that those groups are doing the medley for laughs, while Stars on 45 was doing it because they thought it was somehow a worthwhile way to present this music.

It isn't. This medley offends me to my very core.

Previous Musical Monday: Being With You by Smokey Robinson
Subsequent Musical Monday: One Day in Your Life by Michael Jackson

Previous #1 on the Billboard Hot 100: Bette Davis Eyes by Kim Carnes
Subsequent #1 on the Billboard Hot 100: The One That You Love by Air Supply

Previous #1 on the Cash Box Top 100: Bette Davis Eyes by Kim Carnes
Subsequent #1 on the Cash Box Top 100: The One That You Love by Air Supply

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

Stars on 45     1980s Project     Musical Monday     Home

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Book Blogger Hop May 24th - May 30th: The .308 Round Can Be Used in Hunting Rifles and Sniper Rifles in Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas


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 continue with a book even though you aren't liking it?

The answer to this question mostly depends on whether the book is a review copy or not.

If the book is one that I have accepted for a review, I will finish the book even if I don't like it. That way, when I write my review, I can do so armed with full knowledge of the contents of the book. I will point out that this is probably not really a good thing for books that are really bad - reading more just gives me more to use to highlight the inadequacies of the text.

If a book is one that I am simply reading for my own enjoyment, I will put it down if I'm not really enjoying it. Usually I don't even make a conscious decision to abandon a book. I just set it down, move on to other things, and lose interest in picking it up again.

The only notable exceptions to these tendencies are books that I am reading either to participate in voting for awards, such as books I am reading so I can cast a ballot in the Hugo Awards, or stories I am reading so I can vote in the WSFA Small Press Award, or books that I am reading as part of one off my reading projects. For example, I am currently in the middle of reading and reviewing all of the books that won the International Fantasy Award. I'll finish all of the books that won that award, even if I don't particularly like them.


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Monday, May 20, 2019

Musical Monday - Being With You by Smokey Robinson


#1 on the Billboard Hot 100: Never.
#1 on the Cash Box Top 100: The week of May 23, 1981.
#1 on the U.K. Chart: June 13, 1981 through June 20, 1981.

The early 1980s were a time of transition for music, and this hit by Smokey Robinson seems to be part of that. It is rooted in Robinson's R&B background, but it seems to bear some Bee Gees-like influences from the disco era, but it also anticipates the smooth sound that many other artists will adopt in the upcoming years of the decade. Other than that, there isn't really too much to the song. The lyrics describe a man so entirely in love with a woman that he simply doesn't care about anything other than being with her. There's not really any subtext or deeper meaning than that.

Previous Musical Monday: Bette Davis Eyes by Kim Carnes
Subsequent Musical Monday: Stars on 45 Medley by Stars on 45

Previous #1 on the Cash Box Top 100: Morning Train (Nine to Five) by Sheena Easton
Subsequent #1 on the Cash Box Top 100: Bette Davis Eyes by Kim Carnes

Previous #1 on the U.K. Chart: Stand and Deliver by Adam and the Ants
Subsequent #1 on the U.K. Chart: One Day in Your Life 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

Smokey Robinson     1980s Project     Musical Monday     Home

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Book Blogger Hop May 17th - May 23rd: 307 Is the Only Area Code for Wyoming, and Has Been Since Area Codes Were Created in 1947


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: Which author would you most like to interview and why?


I will preface this answer by pointing out that I don't really do interviews. I have never actually done an interview for this blog, and I have no current plans to do any in the future. That may change at some point, but for now, I just don't really have a lot of interest in doing them.

This is the point where I would normally say "Ursula K. Le Guin" due to my deep and abiding love for her work, but she has left us, and isn't available for interviews any more.

My usual second choice for things like this is Samuel R. Delany, but when I thought about that for a bit it occurred to me that there are already lots of interviews with Delany. I'm not sure I could add anything new or interesting by interviewing him. The same holds true for many of the popular authors one might think of to interview. Sure, people like John Scalzi, George R.R. Martin, Ann Leckie, Seanan McGuire, and Neil Gaiman are interesting and always seem to give good interviews, but interviewing them is like covering well-trodden ground. There probably isn't a whole lot that one can learn in such an interview that is really new to the world.

I think that if I were to interview an author, I would pick someone whose work I love, but who may not have gotten all the exposure they should have. Perhaps someone like Tom Doyle, or Day al-Mohamed, or Ceallaigh MacCath-Moran, or Hildy Silverman. If I can't use this platform to highlight authors who are excellent writers but just don't seem to get all the love I think they deserve, then there really isn't much of a point to having it.


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Monday, May 13, 2019

Musical Monday - Bette Davis Eyes by Kim Carnes


#1 on the Billboard Hot 100: May 16, 1981 through June 13, 1981 and June 27, 1981 through July 18, 1981.
#1 on the Cash Box Top 100: May 30, 1981 through June 13, 1981 and July 4, 1981 through July 11, 1981.
#1 on the U.K. Chart: Never.

A remake of a 1974 release originally recorded by Jackie DeShannon, Bette Davis Eyes is the first hit song I remember becoming tired of hearing. This song spent nine nonconsecutive weeks at number one on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart (interrupted in the middle by the Stars on 45 Medley) and was the biggest hit of 1981. The song received near constant radio airplay: I'm convinced that there were times when you could have listened to this song and this song alone if you switched radio stations strategically throughout the day.

I think that it is pretty clear that what made Kim Carnes' version a hit was the synthesizer riff. DeShannon's original version is essentially a big band style song, which thematically fits the lyrics much better, but that version of the song not only had no impact on the charts, it appears that it wasn't even released as a single. Carnes' version, on the other hand, reached number one in more than twenty countries. The synthesizers on Carnes' version do give the song an ethereal, almost dreamlike quality, but they also make it sound quintessentially early 1980s.

The other thing I am struck by is just how old the references in this song were when it became a hit. Bette Davis Eyes references three actresses: Bette Davis, Greta Garbo, and Jean Harlow. Harlow died in 1937, and while the other two actresses were still alive, their heydays were long in the past. Garbo had not appeared in a movie since 1941, and all of Davis' notable roles were behind her. In her career, Bette Davis won two Oscars, and was nominated eight more times, but her last nomination was in 1963. By 1981, Davis was mostly relegated to small roles and cameos, although she did regularly continue to work on the small screen well into the 1980s. Essentially, Carnes sang a techno-themed version of a song featuring three actresses who hadn't been part of pop culture for several decades. And somehow this became a huge hit.

Previous Musical Monday: Stand and Deliver by Adam and the Ants
Subsequent Musical Monday: Being With You by Smokey Robinson

Previous #1 on the Billboard Hot 100: Morning Train (Nine to Five) by Sheena Easton
Subsequent #1 on the Billboard Hot 100: Stars on 45 Medley by Stars on 45

Previous #1 on the Cash Box Top 100: Being With You by Smokey Robinson
Subsequent #1 on the Cash Box Top 100: Stars on 45 Medley by Stars on 45

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

Kim Carnes     1980s Project     Musical Monday     Home

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Book Blogger Hop May 10th - May 16th: In 306 A.D., the Synod of Elvira Declared That Killing With a Magic Spell Is a Sin


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 have a favorite classic? When did you read it? High School or as an adult?

The first question one has to answer is "what is a classic novel". For example, is Catch-22 a classic novel? It has been the subject of frequent academic study which seems to be one of the prime indicators of being a "classic", but it was published in 1961, which seems to recent to qualify for "classic" status. The issue one must confront is whether age is a primary determiner of whether a novel is "classic" or not?. Foundation was published in 1951, well before Catch-22, but outside of science fiction circles, pretty much no one regards Foundation as a classic work of literature.

On the other hand, books like As I Lay Dying and Light in August were published in the 1930s, and very few people would question their "classic" status. The same holds true for The Sun Also Rise and A Farewell to Arms, both published in the 1920s. But is the difference between being a classic or not really just thirty years of age? I don't know.

Alternatively, one could go back to the nineteenth century to look for a "classic" novel, since some people seem to think that anything published in the twentieth century or later is too recent to be a "classic" - perhaps something like The Three Musketeers or The Count of Monte Christo, which were published in the 1840s, although those books may not be regarded as "classic" literature by some despite their age. What qualifies as "classic" seems to me to be mostly in the eye of the beholder.

So, with that in Mind:

If Catch-22 by Joseph Heller qualifies as a classic, then that is my favorite classic. I read it in high school, but not as part of the high school curriculum.

If Catch-22 isn't a "classic", then Light in August by William Faulkner is my favorite classic. I read it in high school as part of the school's curriculum (I believe in Fifth Form English class).

If a classic has to be written before the twentieth century, then The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas is my favorite classic. I read it in high school, but once again, not as part of the school curriculum.


Book Blogger Hop     Home

Monday, May 6, 2019

Musical Monday - Stand and Deliver by Adam and the Ants


#1 on the Billboard Hot 100: Never.
#1 on the Cash Box Top 100: Never.
#1 on the U.K. Chart: May 9, 1981 through June 6, 1981.

New Wave music of the early 1980s was weird. Sometimes that weirdness resulted in brilliance. Other times, it just resulted in weirdness for weirdness sake. This song has always seemed to me to be the second kind of weirdness.

I must admit that I didn't get the appeal of Adam and the Ants back then, and I don't get their appeal now. Their popularity was then and remains now, completely inexplicable to me. The music was kind of mediocre, the were lyrics pretentious for pretentiousness's sake, their personal style was "shocking" in a boring way, and Adam's singing voice topped everything off by being thin and annoying.

This specific song is a prime example of everything inexplicable about Adam and the Ants' popularity. The lyrics are Adam basically chiding people for their fashion sense while wearing an incredibly ridiculous get up himself. I'm not sure if this is supposed to be some sort of subtle dig at traditional clothing, or a criticism of pop style trends, or something else, but the irony in the fact that these lyrics are sung by a trend-chasing front-man seems not to be noticed by anyone in the band. Self-awareness seems not to have been their strong suit.

Previous Musical Monday: Morning Train (Nine to Five) by Sheena Easton
Subsequent Musical Monday: Bette Davis Eyes by Kim Carnes

Previous #1 on the U.K. Chart: Making Your Mind Up by Bucks Fizz
Subsequent #1 on the U.K. Chart: Being With You by Smokey Robinson

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

Adam and the Ants     1980s Project     Musical Monday     Home

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Book Blogger Hop May 3rd - May 9th: "305" Is a 2008 Movie About Five Spartans Assigned to Guard a Goat Path


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: Which book do you wish you'd written?

A Wizard of Earthsea

I definitely would pick a book by Ursula K. Le Guin. I've made no secret of my love of Le Guin's writing, although Le Guin poses something of a problem for answering this question because there are so very many excellent books of hers to choose from. I would be completely satisfied with having written The Lathe of Heaven, or The Left Hand of Darkness, or The Word for World Is Forest, or any number of other books, but I am going to pick A Wizard of Earthsea because it is one of the books that formed my understanding of what fantasy fiction can be.

My foundational fantasy authors were J.R.R. Tolkien, Lloyd Alexander, and Ursula K. Le Guin. These three authors, for better or worse, shaped my view of what constitutes fantasy fiction. While I still adore Tolkien and Alexander, their fiction is more or less an outgrowth of previously existing British mythical roots. Tolkien's fantasy is heavily influence by Anglo-Saxon and Scandanavian myth, and Alexander's primary work of fiction is based in large part on Welsh myth. Le Guin's fiction, on the other hand, is more expansive, and breaking free of the Eurocentric rut that fantasy fiction so often falls into. She changed my view of what fantasy fiction could be with her Earthsea series, and the book that started that off was A Wizard of Earthsea. Le Guin showed me that fantasy fiction could move beyond Western-based tropes.

It also doesn't hurt that A Wizard of Earthsea is a brilliant story. It is simultaneously an excellent coming of age story, an example of superior world-building, and a fantasy quest that somehow hits all of the expected notes while being unpredictable at the same time. The book is beautifully written while remaining accessible to juvenile readers. It is, to put it bluntly, a masterful piece of fiction.

And those are the reasons why this is the book I wish I had written.


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