Monday, March 30, 2020

Musical Monday - Jack and Diane by John Cougar


#1 on the Billboard Hot 100: October 2, 1982 through October 23, 1982.
#1 on the Cash Box Top 100: October 2, 1982 through October 16, 1982.
#1 on the U.K. Chart: Never.

One of the reasons the the decline of Chicago into producing pallid pablum is so disappointing is that other musical acts, like John Mellencamp, were busy staking out hard edges, biting music that would characterize the entire decade.

John Mellencamp, still using the moniker "John Cougar", had a bigger hit with Hurts So Good a few weeks prior, but the song Jack and Diane is a better song, and a better harbinger of how the bulk of Mellencamp's career would go. This is, in short, a song about the optimism and subsequent disillusionment that results from growing up in a small town in the heartland of America. As Mellencamp's career progressed, it became clear that his musical wheelhouse was songs that were essentially about growing up in rural Indiana.

Jack and Diane captures what little I know about life in small towns in Indiana. I've been to more than one - much of my family lives in one or another tiny town in the rural Midwest - both my parents grew up there, and many of my childhood memories are of spending time in places like McLeansboro, Illinois and Crawfordsville, Indiana. This song simply feels like those places. This song feels both hopeful and desperate, capturing the waste of potential that the narrowness of small town existence often creates. Small towns are a place that a lot of people love and at the same time desperately want to escape from. This song captures that paradox.

One odd note about this song relates to an interview I saw that John Mellencamp gave a while ago. He said that hand claps were used in the song just to keep time, and that the original intent was to go back and edit them out of the recording, leaving just the guitar and vocals. He said that when they did that, the song simply fell apart, and so they left them in.

Previous Musical Monday: Hard to Say I'm Sorry by Chicago
Subsequent Musical Monday: Pass the Dutchie by Musical Youth

Previous #1 on the Billboard Hot 100: Hard to Say I'm Sorry by Chicago
Subsequent #1 on the Billboard Hot 100: Who Can It Be Now? by Men at Work

Previous #1 on the Cash Box Top 100: Abracadabra by the Steve Miller Band
Subsequent #1 on the Cash Box Top 100: Who Can It Be Now? by Men at Work

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

John Cougar     1980s Project     Musical Monday     Home

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Running - Weekly Log for March 22, 2020 through March 28, 2020

Last Week's Mileage Goal: 0 miles
Actual Miles Last Week: 0 miles
Run/Walk Miles: 0 miles
Cumulative Mileage: 450.5 miles.
This Week's Mileage Goal: 10 miles
Current Weigh-In: 197.2 pounds

I didn't run at all again last week. The world is still in lock down indefinitely, and Virginia has a stay-at-home order in place through June 10. Even so, I think I will try to start running again this week, using a fairly conservative schedule of running and trying to go out when there are the fewest other people outside. I'm not running the half-marathon I was planning on running on April 5th, so I can back down from the fairly intense running schedule I was on before the world collapsed and see how things go from there.

Previous Weekly Running Log: March 15, 2020 through March 21, 2020

Running     Home

Monday, March 23, 2020

Musical Monday - Hard to Say I'm Sorry by Chicago


#1 on the Billboard Hot 100: September 11, 1982 through September 18, 1982.
#1 on the Cash Box Top 100: Never.
#1 on the U.K. Chart: Never.

The evolution of Chicago from a pretty kick-ass jazz-fusion band in the late 1960s and early 1970s to a purveyor of tepid easy listening music in the early 1980s will always be perplexing to me. I kind of suspect that the reason Chicago lost its edge was the 1978 death of guitarist Terry Kath, but that is probably too simplistic an answer. It is just hard to square the band that made a song like 25 or 6 to 4 with the band who made, well, this. The only other band I can think of that went through a similar change is the Doobie Brothers, who went from a great bar band performing stuff like China Grove and Long Train Runnin' to transforming into discount Steely Dan with bonus whining and churning out stuff like What a Fool Believes.

This song pretty much set the tone for Chicago for the next several years. Every now and then, Chicago would hit the charts again with a treacly but otherwise entirely bland ballad. In the mid-1980s, Peter Cetera ventured out for a solo career, and produced more treacly but otherwise entirely bland ballads. How the mighty had fallen.

Previous Musical Monday: Abracadabra by the Steve Miller Band
Subsequent Musical Monday: Jack and Diane by John Cougar

Previous #1 on the Billboard Hot 100: Abracadabra by the Steve Miller Band
Subsequent #1 on the Billboard Hot 100: Jack and Diane by John Cougar

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

Chicago     1980s Project     Musical Monday     Home

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Running - Weekly Log for March 15, 2020 through March 21, 2020

Last Week's Mileage Goal: 0 miles
Actual Miles Last Week: 0 miles
Run/Walk Miles: 0 miles
Cumulative Mileage: 450.5 miles.
This Week's Mileage Goal: 0 miles
Current Weigh-In: 199.2 pounds

I didn't do any running this week. Instead I got sick and stayed home. as far as I know, I don't have Covid-19, just a normal late-Winter cold, but it kept me off the streets this week. Next week looks like a write-off as well. Maybe after that I'll do some cautious expeditions out when no one else is on the streets, but as I am officially in a high-risk category for Covid-19, I'm not going to be taking a lot of chances.

Previous Weekly Running Log: March 8, 2020 through March 14, 2020
Subsequent Weekly Running Log: March 22, 2020 through March 28, 2020

Running     Home

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Book Blogger Hop March 20th - March 26th: DC Bar Ethics Opinion 346 Clarifies What Elements Are Required to Trigger Confidentiality With a Client


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: If you could add one interactive feature to reading books, what would it be?

None. Books are perfect just the way they are.


Book Blogger Hop     Home

Monday, March 16, 2020

Musical Monday - Abracadabra by the Steve Miller Band


#1 on the Billboard Hot 100: The weeks of September 4, 1982 and September 25, 1982.
#1 on the Cash Box Top 100: The weeks of August 28, 1982 and September 25, 1982.
#1 on the U.K. Chart: Never.

Abracadabra is pretty close to being my least favorite song by the Steve Miller Band. Even as a kid, I really liked the Steve Miller Band - I played my copy of their 1978 Greatest Hits album all the time, and loved pretty much every song on it. When I heard that the band was releasing a new album, I was really excited. And then I heard this song. And I truly knew what disappointment was like.

This isn't a terrible song. It just isn't a very good Steve Miller Band song. It lacks the guitar riffs that are the hallmark of the band. The song is gimmicky, with a wacky drum machine solo in the middle. It is as if Steven Miller's crew was channeling Kraftwerk or something - following trends and imitating the kind of music other groups were putting out instead of trying to stake out their own territory.

Sadly, Abracadabra was kind of a last hurrah for the Steve Miller Band. They released more music after this song came out, but none of it had any real impact - none of their subsequent songs managed to crack the top 50 on the main Billboard and Cash Box charts, although they did have some success on the "Mainstream Rock" charts. It was kind of predictable, but it is still kind of sad that the group went out of the popular consciousness on this note.

Previous Musical Monday: Come On Eileen by Dexys Midnight Runners
Subsequent Musical Monday: Hard to Say I'm Sorry by Chicago

Previous #1 on the Billboard Hot 100: Eye of the Tiger by Survivor
Subsequent #1 on the Billboard Hot 100: Hard to Say I'm Sorry by Chicago

Previous #1 on the Cash Box Top 100: Eye of the Tiger by Survivor
Subsequent #1 on the Cash Box Top 100: Jack and Diane by John Cougar

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

Steve Miller Band     1980s Project     Musical Monday     Home

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Running - Weekly Log for March 8, 2020 through March 14, 2020

Last Week's Mileage Goal: 30 miles
Actual Miles Last Week: 20 miles
Run/Walk Miles: 0 miles
Cumulative Mileage: 450.5 miles.
This Week's Mileage Goal: 30 miles
Current Weigh-In: 199.2 pounds

I was on track to hit my mileage goal this week, but then sinus issues knocked me out of action and I lost a couple of days, and then I wound up with only twenty miles on the road this week. That isn't such an issue now, since the half-marathon that I was planning on running in April has been cancelled due to the pandemic. Now I'm just trying to ride out a sore throat and get back to running this week.

Previous Weekly Running Log: February 29, 2020 through March 7, 2020
Subsequent Weekly Running Log: March 15, 2020 through March 21, 2020

Running     Home

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Book Blogger Hop March 13th - March 19th: Phillip II Was Admitted to the Amphictyonic League in 345 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: Other than book reviews, what do you feature on your blog?

I feature a number of non-book review items on this blog.


Book Blogger Hop     Home

Monday, March 9, 2020

Musical Monday - Come On Eileen by Dexys Midnight Runners


#1 on the Billboard Hot 100: The week of April 23, 1983.
#1 on the Cash Box Top 100: The week of April 23, 1983.
#1 on the U.K. Chart: August 7, 1982 through August 28, 1982.

In a small bit of irony, one can sing "Covid-19" to the tune of Come On Eileen.

The hidden secret of this song is that it's lyrics are quite racy. Basically, the song is about a guy trying to convince Eileen to take off her clothes so they can have some sexy times. That is pretty much the entirety of the song. There is a little bit at the beginning about Johnnie ray and how much older women loved him back in the day, but the rest of the song is basically pleading with Eileen to take off her dress.

The really interesting thing about this song is that it took nearly a year for it to reach the United States. It hit the top of the U.K. charts in August of 1982, but didn't peak in the U.S. until April of 1983. This kind of delay in cultural transmission would be almost unthinkable now - the internet has ensured that once something breaks out in one area of the world, it is pretty much instantly known elsewhere. Songs like Come On Eileen taking months to wend their way from the U.K. to the U.S. is probably an artifact of the past at this point, although who knows, maybe the global pandemic will be devastating enough to isolate countries from one another again.

Previous Musical Monday: Eye of the Tiger by Survivor
Subsequent Musical Monday: Abracadabra by the Steve Miller Band

Previous #1 on the Billboard Hot 100: Billie Jean by Michael Jackson
Subsequent #1 on the Billboard Hot 100: Beat It by Michael Jackson

Previous #1 on the Cash Box Top 100: Billie Jean by Michael Jackson
Subsequent #1 on the Cash Box Top 100: Mr. Roboto by Styx

Previous #1 on the U.K. Chart: Fame by Irene Cara
Subsequent #1 on the U.K. Chart: Eye of the Tiger by Survivor

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

Dexys Midnight Runners     1980s Project     Musical Monday     Home

Sunday, March 8, 2020

Running - Weekly Log for February 29, 2020 through March 7, 2020

Last Week's Mileage Goal: 40 miles
Actual Miles Last Week: 30 miles
Run/Walk Miles: 0 miles
Cumulative Mileage: 430.5 miles.
This Week's Mileage Goal: 30 miles
Current Weigh-In: 196.2 pounds

I think I am going to have to accept that my heel is not going to stop being sore. I still don't think it is an injury - it just doesn't feel bad enough for that. It is, however, very persistent. I had expected the pain to go away after a week or two as my body got acclimated to running again, but doing the high mileage days that I have been doing on weekends seems to have pushed my right heel slightly over the edge to the point that it is simply sore all the time. I'll keep running on it unless something seems seriously wrong, but it is annoying.

I am losing weight though, so that should help.

Previous Weekly Running Log: February 23, 2020 through February 28, 2020
Subsequent Weekly Running Log: March 8, 2020 through March 14, 2020

Running     Home

Saturday, March 7, 2020

Book Blogger Hop March 6th - March 12th: "344 Questions: The Creative Person's Do-It-Yourself Guide to Insight, Survival, and Artistic Fulfillment" Is a Book by Stefan G. Bucher


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: When did you first know you're truly a bookworm? Did you lose sleep over a novel?

I think that the moment I was transformed into a bookworm was when my family moved to Tanzania when I was nine. I was a reader before then - I learned to read early, and I was always interested in books, but when we moved to Tanzania, I was cut off from most other forms of entertainment. There were no television channels, and the radio only broadcast in Swahili, a language of which I could barely speak more than a handful of words. The only thing I was left with was the collection of books my parents provided for me. I had a collection of flip books called the "Companion Library" that included a whole bunch of works of classic literature that were considered suitable for young readers - Call of the Wild, Huckleberry Finn, Tom Sawyer, Little Women, Little Men, Robinson Crusoe, Swiss Family Robinson, Toby Tyler, Heidi, 1,001 Nights, Grimm's Fairy Tales, Gulliver's Travels, and so on. I started at one end of the bookshelf and worked my way to the other. Then I started on the other books that I had available to me such as The Pink Motel and Castaways in Lilliput.

When I was in Tanzania, I read The Hobbit for the first time. I was aware of the story before I read the book: I had seen the Rankin-Bass animated adaptation and I had an album made from that adaptation narrated by John Huston. I had never read the actual book though, so one summer night between my fourth and fifth grade year, I read the book, staying up all night to do so. That was the summer I turned into a serious fantasy and science fiction fan. I also recall staying up into the wee hours of the morning reading Samuel R. Delany's Nova, and reading the Silmarillion during a long plane ride.

In short, moving to Africa turned me into a bookworm.


Book Blogger Hop     Home

Friday, March 6, 2020

2019 Campbell Award Nominees

Location: Campbell Conference Awards Banquet at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, Kansas.

Comments: With the renaming of the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, this award is now the only major award that is named for the late editor. One has to wonder, however, how long that will last. Naming awards after people is problematic, in large part because people often do not age well. attitudes and opinions that are fine in one era are often considered abhorrent in later ones. Actions that were understandable in the past are actions that would likely lead to widespread condemnation, if not arrest and imprisonment now. Thomas Jefferson was one of the most enlightened minds of his era. He also kept slaves. John Adams didn't keep slaves, but he was willing to compromise on the basic humanity of black people to accomplish other political goals. Figures of the past often have feet of clay. Campbell didn't keep slaves, but he certainly had a lot of attitudes about slavery that have not aged well. He supported segregation. He was an impediment to the publication of black and female writers. In short, he is not someone that many in the present would find admirable. The question is, how long will he continue to be honored by having awards named after him?

Best Novel

Winner:
Blackfish City by Sam J. Miller

Finalists:
The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal
The Freeze-Frame Revolution by Peter Watts
The Loosening Skin by Aliya Whiteley
Moon of the Crusted Snow by Waubgeshig Rice
Semiosis by Sue Burke
Space Opera by Catherynne M. Valente
A Spy in Time by Imraan Coovadia
Theory of Bastards by Audrey Sculman
Time Was by Ian McDonald
Unholy Land by Lavie Tidhar

Go to previous year's nominees: 2018
Go to subsequent year's nominees: 2019

Book Award Reviews     Home

Thursday, March 5, 2020

2019 Clarke Award Nominees

Location: Sci-Fi London at Foyles Bookshop in London, United Kingdom.

Comments: One of the reasons that I track the Arthur C. Clarke award is that it seems to march to its own beat. The requirements for eligibility - basically being published in the U.K. - don't really seem to shut out many English-language books, and yet the shortlist for this award always seems to be dramatically at odds with most other science fiction and fantasy related awards. I don't see this as a drawback to the award - after all, this just gives a new range of books and authors for me to explore. It is, however, always kind of odd for me to see a shortlist for a speculative fiction award that only includes one book by an author whose name I recognize.

Winner

Rosewater by Tade Thompson

Shortlist
The Electric State by Simon Stålenhag
Frankenstein in Baghdad by Ahmed Saadawi
The Loosening Skin by Aliya Whiteley
Revenant Gun by Yoon Ha Lee
Semiosis by Sue Burke

What Are the Arthur C. Clarke Awards?

Go to previous year's nominees: 2018
Go to subsequent year's nominees: 2020

Book Award Reviews     Home

2020 Nebula Award Nominees

Location: Woodland Hills, California.

Comments: So, the slate of 2020 Nebula Award nominees are fine. This isn't a criticism. It has been quite a while since one could have a reasonable expectation that a set of award nominees would simply be fine. There isn't a nominee that I am dreading reading. There isn't a nominee who secured their position on the list through questionable means. This set of nominees is, in a certain sense, completely boring.


This doesn't mean that this isn't a good set of nominees. There are great books, stories, and films up and down this list of nominees, which still feels kind of refreshing for an awards list even a couple of years removed from the controversies and shenanigans of the past decade. From a particular perspective, it feels sad that to be able to simply read and enjoy the nominees is a welcome change of pace. On the other hand, it is a welcome change of pace no matter how sad that is, and for that I am grateful.

Best Novel

Winner:
TBD

Other Nominees:
Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir
Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Marque of Caine by Charles E. Gannon
A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine
A Song for a New Day by Sarah Pinsker
The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow

Best Novella

Winner:
TBD

Other Nominees:
Anxiety Is the Dizziness of Freedom by Ted Chiang
Catfish Lullaby by A.C. Wise
The Deep by Rivers Solomon, Daveed Diggs, William Hutson, and Jonathan Snipes
The Haunting of Tram Car 015 by P. Djèlí Clark
Her Silhouette, Drawn in Water by Vylar Kaftan
This Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone

Best Novelette

Winner:
TBD

Other Nominees:
The Archronology of Love by Caroline M. Yoachim
The Blur in the Corner of Your Eye by Sarah Pinsker
) Carpe Glitter by Cat Rambo
For He Can Creep by Siobhan Carroll
His Footsteps, Through Darkness and Light by Mimi Mondal
A Strange Uncertain Light by G.V. Anderson

Best Short Story

Winner:
TBD

Other Nominees:
And Now His Lordship Is Laughing by Shiv Ramdas
A Catalog of Storms by Fran Wilde
The Dead, In Their Uncontrollable Power by Karen Osborne
Give the Family My Love by A.T. Greenblatt
How the Trick Is Done by A.C. Wise
Ten Excerpts from an Annotated Bibliography on the Cannibal Women of Ratnabar Island by Nibedita Sen

Best Game Writing

Winner:
TBD

Other Nominees:
Disco Elysium by Robert Kurvitz
Fate Accessibility Toolkit by Elsa Sjunneson-Henry
The Magician's Workshop by Kate Heartfield
Outer Wilds by Kelsey Beachum
The Outer Worlds by Leonard Boyarsky, Megan Starks, Kate Dollarhyde, and Chris L'Etoile

Ray Bradbury Award

Winner:
TBD

Other Nominees:
Avengers: Endgame
Captain Marvel
Good Omens: Hard Times
The Mandalorian: The Child
Russian Doll: The Way Out
Watchmen: A God Walks Into Abar

Andre Norton Award

Winner:
TBD

Other Nominees:
Catfishing on CatNet by Naomi Kritzer
Cog by Greg van Eekhout
Dragon Pearl by Yoon Ha Lee
Peasprout Chen: Battle of Champions by Henry Lien
Riverland by Fran Wilde
Sal and Gabi Break the Universe by Carlos Hernandez

Go to previous year's nominees: 2019

Book Award Reviews     Home

Monday, March 2, 2020

Musical Monday - Eye of the Tiger by Survivor


#1 on the Billboard Hot 100: July 24, 1982 through August 28, 1982.
#1 on the Cash Box Top 100: July 31, 1982 through August 21, 1982.
#1 on the U.K. Chart: September 4, 1982 through September 25, 1982.

I've noted before how many songs appear on this list that were driven to the forefront of popular culture as a result of their association with movies. By the middle of 1982, there had already been two songs reach number one that were tied to movies - Chariots of Fire and Fame. In addition, Open Arms by Journey received a substantial boost as a result of appearing on the soundtrack to the movie Heavy Metal, and the Rogers & Hammerstein song Happy Talk from the play and movie South Pacific hit the top of the charts in the U.K. Eye of the Tiger was, of course, the theme song from Rocky III, and the association with that movie launched the song to the top of all three of the charts that I track as part of the 1980s Project.

One of the more unexpected developments of doing the 1980s Project has been the realization as to just how much popular music was influenced by movies and television during the era. I would have expected such movie-related dominance in an earlier era, such as the 1940s or 1950s, when movie musicals dominated the film industry and songs drawn from those were routinely the top selling songs of the era. Musical stars such as Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra were movie stars as well, and the crossover between popular movies and popular music was obvious. By the 1980s, the movie musical was, for the most part, a moribund genre, and yet numerous movie-related songs continued to dominate the charts. I don't know what that says about popular culture, but it is interesting.

I couldn't let this video go by without pointing out the most obvious piece of weirdness within it. The video starts off with the members of the band walking around on the street all clad in leather jackets, looking like a gang of sorts. Well, all of them wearing leather jackets except for the keyboard player, who apparently thought that an unbuttoned blue dress shirt could serve as a reasonable substitute. He looks completely out of place, like he walking in from a completely different band that was doing a completely different video shoot. He's also kind of an awkward guy, and that compounds the discordant nature of his outfit. On the other hand, he's one of the songwriters for this song, and appears to be the source of a substantial portion of the writing talent in the band, so he can be forgiven for looking like he doesn't belong.

Previous Musical Monday: Hurt So Good by John Cougar
Subsequent Musical Monday: Come On Eileen by Dexys Midnight Runners

Previous #1 on the Billboard Hot 100: Don't You Want Me by the Human League
Subsequent #1 on the Billboard Hot 100: Abracadabra by the Steve Miller Band

Previous #1 on the Cash Box Top 100: Hurt So Good by John Cougar
Subsequent #1 on the Cash Box Top 100: Abracadabra by the Steve Miller Band

Previous #1 on the U.K. Chart: Come On Eileen by Dexys Midnight Runners
Subsequent #1 on the U.K. Chart: Pass the Dutchie by Musical Youth

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

Survivor     1980s Project     Musical Monday     Home