Monday, February 18, 2019

Musical Monday - Celebration by Kool and the Gang


#1 on the Billboard Hot 100: February 7, 1981 through February 14, 1981.
#1 on the Cash Box Top 100: The week of February 14, 1981.
#1 on the U.K. Chart: Never.

For some songs, there is no subtext. There is no underlying story. No interesting background details. The song simply is what it is. Celebration is one of those songs. At first glance, Celebration is a feel-good party song designed to get people on the dance floor, and upon closer examination, that's pretty much all that it is. There is no underlying meaning, no hidden message, or deeper significance.

That doesn't mean Celebration is a bad song. It does exactly what it sets out to do. This song was Kool and the Gang's biggest hit - it was their only song to reach number one on the Billboard Hot 100 - and went on to become a staple at parties and other gatherings. I think that this song was played at every party I went to from middle-school through college, and then at every wedding, anniversary, and birthday party thereafter. It has become an almost ubiquitous feature of celebrations.

The really weird thing about this phenomenon is that as far as party songs go, Celebration is so very middle-of-the-road, presenting the listener with about the tamest celebratory anthem possible. Paradoxically, this very blandness may be the key to the song's success: It is smooth and easy and entirely nonthreatening. This is a safe party song that people in middle America could dance to while patting themselves on the back for being open-minded and listening to black artists. It is a song that you can play at your child's first dance party without worrying about things getting too wild or the lyrics getting too suggestive.

Celebration is a good song, but it is a safe song.

Previous Musical Monday: Woman by John Lennon
Subsequent Musical Monday: I Love a Rainy Night by Eddie Rabbitt

Previous #1 on the Billboard Hot 100: The Tide Is High by Blondie
Subsequent #1 on the Billboard Hot 100: 9 to 5 by Dolly Parton

Previous #1 on the Cash Box Top 100: The Tide Is High by Blondie
Subsequent #1 on the Cash Box Top 100: I Love a Rainy Night by Eddie Rabbitt

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

Kool and the Gang     1980s Project     Musical Monday     Home

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Book Blogger Hop February 15th - February 21st: Demetrius Poliorcetes Betrayed and Murdered Alexander V to Seize the Throne of Macedon in 294 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: Have you ever thought about taking a break from blogging/Booktubing (if you are a Booktuber)? If you have, how long was the break and what did you learn from it?

I am currently kind of on an unintentional break from book blogging due to my recent move and the lack of time to put into reading and reviewing that has resulted. I have still kept thing kind of limping along by making weekly BookBloggerHop posts and keeping up with the 1980s Project via my Musical Monday posts, but I haven't posted a review in more than two months. I haven't updated any of the author pages or musical artist pages on the blog in weeks. Packing, unpacking, getting our new house in order, and conducting a long overdue cataloging of our book collection has simply consumed almost all of my available free time in the last four months.

My primary takeaway from these past few months is that I really don't like not being able to blog about books, but that there really isn't any solution right now other than to plough ahead and get through the various moving-related projects and hope to get back to book blogging afterwards. I don't really like this, but there's not really any other feasible solution. May be by next month things will be settled enough that I will be able to regularly review books again. Maybe not. I'm not making any promises one way or the other right now.


Book Blogger Hop     Home

Monday, February 11, 2019

Musical Monday - Woman by John Lennon


#1 on the Billboard Hot 100: Never.
#1 on the Cash Box Top 100: March 14, 1981 through March 21, 1981.
#1 on the U.K. Chart: February 7, 1981 through February 14, 1981.

This is it. This is the last time John Lennon will appear on this list. This is the last word from him musically from the last album he would ever make. At this point, it seems almost sacrilegious to talk about the actual content of the song, so I'm going to talk about one of the contemporary reactions to the song, or more accurately, one of the contemporary reactions to the album Double Fantasy.

Before John Lennon's death, the critical reaction to Double Fantasy seems to have been largely negative, mostly due to the album's idealization of the relationship between and family life of John Lennon and Yoko Ono. The negative reviews focused on the album's idealization of Lennon and Ono's marriage. One reviewer, Charles Shaar Murray of the New Musical Express, wished Lennon would have "kept his big happy trap shut until he has something to say that was even vaguely relevant to those of us not married to Yoko Ono". To me, this sounds like an odd complaint. Without putting too fine a point on it, many pop songs are intensely personal to the writer and singer of the song. Is anyone as in love with Beth as Peter Criss, or pine for Jessie's Girl the way Rick Springfield does? Can anyone who is not Irish understand U2's Sunday, Bloody Sunday, or the Cranberries' Zombie? In all of these cases, the message of the song is personal to the singer, but because most humans are empathetic beings, they can place themselves in the position of the singer even though that singer is singing about something that might not be directly of concern to the listener. The oddness of the reaction to Lennon and Yoko's album is that so many music critics decided that this simply wasn't something they could do with these songs.

In any event, all of this criticism was muted after Lennon's death, and to a certain extent I think the critics in question realized in retrospect that they were being ungenerous. The album ended up winning the Grammy Award for Album of the Year in 1981. The outpouring of grief and love following Lennon's death no doubt helped it in the voting, but it is also a really good album and deserved better than the critics originally gave it.

Previous Musical Monday: Imagine by John Lennon
Subsequent Musical Monday: Celebration by Kool and the Gang

Previous #1 on the Cash Box Top 100: Keep on Lovin' You by REO Speedwagon
Subsequent #1 on the Cash Box Top 100: Rapture by Blondie

Previous #1 on the U.K. Chart: Imagine by John Lennon
Subsequent #1 on the U.K. Chart: Shaddap You Face by Joe Dolce Music Theatre

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 Lennon     1980s Project     Musical Monday     Home

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Book Blogger Hop February 8th - February 14th: I-293 Is a Highway That Loops Around Manchester, New Hampshire


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 celebrations for your blog's anniversary such as a giveaway?

Having celebrations for my blog's anniversary would require remembering when my blog's anniversary is, an issue that is complicated by the fact that I don't really know what date I should call the blog's anniversary. When I first started this blog, I didn't really have a particularly good idea of what I was going to do with, and as a result it kind of meandered for a couple of years with almost no posts and no real direction. Should I regard the date I first posted a book review on this blog as the blog anniversary? Should I regard the date of the very first real post as the blog anniversary? I have backdated some posts for administrative purposes, should I regard one of them as the blog anniversary? I don't know. More importantly, I don't really care enough to decide.

After that, I suppose it almost goes without saying that I don't do anything to commemorate the anniversary of the blog.


Book Blogger Hop     Home

Monday, February 4, 2019

Musical Monday - Imagine by John Lennon


#1 on the Billboard Hot 100: Never.
#1 on the Cash Box Top 100: Never.
#1 on the U.K. Chart: January 10, 1981 through January 31, 1981.

This isn't a pop song. This is a prayer. This is a manifesto. This is a creed of peace and love, laid out in exquisite melodic detail. This is a love song to the entire world, and if only the world could live up to the hope it expresses, it will be a far better place than it is now, or ever has been before.

The irony is that it comes to us from a man who was dead when this song reached number one in the U.K. in January 1981, gunned down the previous month in an act of senseless violence on the front steps of his apartment building.

Lennon was too good for this world. He thought it could be better than it was, and in return it killed him.

Previous Musical Monday: There's No One Quite Like Grandma by St. Winifred's School Choir
Subsequent Musical Monday: Woman by John Lennon

Previous #1 on the U.K. Chart: There's No One Quite Like Grandma by St. Winifred's School Choir
Subsequent #1 on the U.K. Chart: Woman by John Lennon

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 Lennon     1980s Project     Musical Monday     Home

Saturday, February 2, 2019

Book Blogger Hop February 1st - February 7th: "292" Is a Medication Consisting of a Combination of ASA, Caffeine, and Codeine


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: Audio books vs eBooks? If the world stopped printing books which would you prefer between the two?

I don't really like either option, as I very much favor paper books, but if I was forced to choose, I suppose I would pick ebooks. I can't really "read" audio books - I don't know why, but I just can't concentrate on listening to a book for that long. My attention simply wanders away from the story when I try to listen to an audio book. With an ebook, although I don't really like reading on a screen, at least there is text that one can read in them. Therefore, I would pick ebooks. I wouldn't be happy about it, but that is the decision I would make.


Book Blogger Hop     Home

Monday, January 28, 2019

Musical Monday - There's No One Quite Like Grandma by St. Winifred's School Choir


#1 on the Billboard Hot 100: Never.
#1 on the Cash Box Top 100: Never.
#1 on the U.K. Chart: December 27, 1980 through January 3, 1981.

What the hell Great Britain?

There are some things that are inexplicable. This song reaching number one on the U.K. charts is one of those things. Sandwiched in between the John Lennon masterpieces (Just Like) Starting Over and Imagine sits this piece of cloying saccharine like a piece of cold leftover treacle. Once again, I can only say to the entire United Kingdom: What the hell?

Let me be clear on one point: I don't blame these kids for this. For a collection of school age children to song a sickly sweet song about how great their grandmothers are is to be expected. For a school to promote this sort of child choir is also to be expected. The people to blame here are pretty much everyone else in the United Kingdom who decided to make this song a number one hit.

I could possibly understand this song's success if the British music scene was particularly anemic at the time it reached number one, but Lennon's Double Fantasy album was out at this time, and helped produce the three number one hits in the U.K. by Lennon that surround this song (the third was Imagine, which was re-released following Lennon's death and quickly rocketed up the charts). The song wasn't associated with a movie or a television show, and it barely qualifies as a Christmas song. In short, its rise to the top of the musical heap in December 1980 is almost inexplicable. At the very least it kept Stop the Cavalry from reaching number one, so there's that.

But still: What the hell Great Britain?

Previous Musical Monday: (Just Like) Starting Over by John Lennon
Subsequent Musical Monday: Imagine by John Lennon

Previous #1 on the U.K. Chart: (Just Like) Starting Over by John Lennon
Subsequent #1 on the U.K. Chart: Imagine by John Lennon

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 Lennon     1980s Project     Musical Monday     Home

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Book Blogger Hop January 25th - January 31st: Team 291 Is a FIRST Robotics Competition Team from Erie, Pennsylvania


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 many books did you read last year? Will your goal be to match that number or surpass it?

2018 was a terrible reading year for me. I only read (and reviewed) twelve books in the year, which is well below my usual standard. My goal is definitely to surpass that number, although thus far the year has not been going well on that front. I am still unpacking from my move at the end of last November - sorting through, organizing, and shelving my book collection is a massive task that has occupied a significant amount of my time this year. I am hoping that I will be able to find a comfortable pausing point for that task in the near future and knock out a couple of books and book reviews to get myself on track for reading for the rest of the year.


Book Blogger Hop     Home

Monday, January 21, 2019

Musical Monday - (Just Like) Starting Over by John Lennon


#1 on the Billboard Hot 100: December 27, 1980 through January 24, 1981.
#1 on the Cash Box Top 100: December 27, 1980 through January 24, 1981.
#1 on the U.K. Chart: The week of December 20, 1980.

I have noted before that it is somewhat rare for songs to reach the number one position on all three of the charts I'm using for the 1980s Project, but the fact that this song achieved that triple peak position seems almost like a foregone conclusion. By the time this song was released, John Lennon was an almost legendary figure - his membership in the Beatles made him an icon in the musical world, but his high-profile activism and cultural presence in the pos-Beatles era elevated him to a nigh-mythic stature.

This song was released on the album Double Fantasy, which represented Lennon's return to pop music after a layoff of five years as Lennon had retired from public life in 1975 to raise his son, an absence that had only served to elevate his mythic stature. So when he released this album in 1980, it was an almost foregone conclusion that several of its songs would achieve top status.

The album did have the expected success, but there was tragedy here as well. By the time (Just Like) Starting Over was a number one hit, John Lennon was dead, having been assassinated on the front steps of his apartment building on December 8th, 1980. This song is about optimism, and new beginnings, sung by someone full of hope for the future, but by the time this song reached number one, Lennon's future was gone. Listening to this song, you can hear the life and renewed ambition embodied within it, and those of us left behind can only wonder at what Lennon might have created had his life not been cut short.

Previous Musical Monday: Master Blaster (Jammin') by Stevie Wonder
Subsequent Musical Monday: There's No One Quite Like Grandma by St. Winifred's School Choir

Previous #1 on the Billboard Hot 100: Lady by Kenny Rogers
Subsequent #1 on the Billboard Hot 100: The Tide Is High by Blondie

Previous #1 on the Cash Box Top 100: Master Blaster (Jammin') by Stevie Wonder
Subsequent #1 on the Cash Box Top 100: The Tide Is High by Blondie

Previous #1 on the U.K. Chart: Super Trouper by ABBA
Subsequent #1 on the U.K. Chart: There's No One Quite Like Grandma by St. Winifred's School Choir

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 Lennon     1980s Project     Musical Monday     Home

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Book Blogger Hop January 18th - January 24th: 290 Is the Sum of Four Consecutive Prime Numbers


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: Is there anything that drives you bonkers when you're reading a book and it makes you want to tell the author a thing or two?

The one thing that is sure to drive me bonkers is when an author is writing a science fiction or alternative history story and they don't really work through the consequences of the changes they made to the world.

For example, Naomi Novik has a generally excellent historical fantasy series called Temeraire that is essentially the Napoleonic Wars with the addition of dragons to the world. The series could probably best be described as "Horatio Hornblower with dragons". For the most part, the series is really good, but Novik just didn't work through the consequences of adding dragons to her world completely, often stopping at the most obvious initial change, and not considering what that change implies. Adding dragons to the world results in some obvious changes, most notably the power differential between the European powers and the rest of the world is reduced, or even eliminated. China, for example, is depicted as having integrated dragons into their society more thoroughly than Britain, making China arguably a more potent military power than the British. African tribes have dragons allied with them that make them more than a match for the expeditionary forces the Europeans send to their continent, and so on. This all makes sense, but what doesn't make sense is that the British characters act like this is all a surprise to them. The British characters all act like they stepped out of our world circa 1800 A.D. into the contemporaneous Temeraire universe, expecting that Europeans generally, and the Brutish specifically, could still treat the rest of the world like inferiors without consequence. It isn't even like dragons are supposed to be a recent phenomenon in the Temeraire universe - several references are made to the medieval era and how people of that era dealt with domesticated dragons, and yet the British officers are consistently surprised when dragons allied to people whose lands they want to colonize pop up and spoil their plans.

Basically, the most sure-fire way to raise my reader hackles is to introduce a change to your fictional world and then ignore the relatively obvious implications of that change.


Book Blogger Hop     Home

Monday, January 14, 2019

Musical Monday - Master Blaster (Jammin') by Stevie Wonder


#1 on the Billboard Hot 100: Never.
#1 on the Cash Box Top 100: December 6, 1980 through December 13, 1980.
#1 on the U.K. Chart: Never.

Stevie Wonder was, and is, one of the funkiest men who ever lived and this song (along with Superstition) is one of the primary exhibits I would advance in support of that assertion. The only thing that I wonder is how Wonder got from the upper realms of funkdom to the soft rock swamps of songs like I Just Called to Say I Love You, but that's a head scratcher for another day.

This song is, at its core, Stevie Wonder paying homage to another one of the great musicians of his day, specifically Bob Marley, and to the Afrocentrism that he represented. Master Blaster is not quite a memorial to Bob Marley - since Bob Marley wouldn't die until 1981, well after this song was released, but it is clearly inspired by Marley's association with the Zimbabwean independence movement that bore fruit in 1980 and was celebrated with Marley's two concerts in Harare on April 18th and 19th of 1980. You can feel the optimism and elation in this song. Sure, in subsequent years, Zimbabwe has had some hard times - some of them at least partially self-inflicted - but in 1980, you can see how it felt like a new age for Africa was dawning. To a certain extent that was true, it just took longer to get here than anyone expected. Despite the uncertainty that faced nations like Zimbabwe, in 1980 it was still possible to believe in a bright future, and Stevie eagerly joined Marley in celebrating from the beginning. His joy is infectious.

Previous Musical Monday: Super Trouper by ABBA
Subsequent Musical Monday: (Just like) Starting Over by John Lennon

Previous #1 on the Cash Box Top 100: Lady by Kenny Rogers
Subsequent #1 on the Cash Box Top 100: (Just like) Starting Over by John Lennon

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

Stevie Wonder     1980s Project     Musical Monday     Home

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Challenges - SpaceTime Reading Challenge


Every year I try to find a science fiction oriented reading challenge to participate in. Thus far, I have been disappointed every year, as these genre challenges always seem to founder and fall apart due to poor administration or disinterest on the part of the hosts. I keep searching, hoping that every year I will finally find the challenge that will stay around. In furtherance of that quest, in 2019 I am going to take on the SpaceTime Reading Challenge hosted by Jemima Pett. The parameters are simple: Read science fiction and time travel books. Since I was going to do that anyway, this seems like a good challenge for me to jump into.

The SpaceTime Reading Challenge:
None Yet

2019 Challenge Tracking Pages
12th Annual Graphic Novel & Manga Challenge 2019
2019 Dystopia Reading Challenge
2019 Linz Reading Challenge
2019 Outdo Yourself Reading Challenge
2019 TBR Pile Challenge
Dancing with Fantasy and Sci-Fi – A (2019) Reading Challenge
Print Only 2019 Reading Challenge

Multi-Year Challenge Tracking Pages
101 Fantasy Reading Challenge
Read All the Books Challenge

Not a Challenge:
The Big List of Everything I've Reviewed in 2019

2019 Challenges     Home

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Book Blogger Hop January 11th - January 17th: Emperor Maximian Attempted to Invade Britain and Wrest Control of the Island from the Usurper Carausius in 289 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 is your first book of the year?

My first book of the year is The Clingerman Files by Mildred Clingerman, a compilation of the author's short fiction. I am currently in the middle of the book, and I should have a review of it posted by early next week.


Book Blogger Hop     Home

Friday, January 11, 2019

Challenges - Print Only 2019 Reading Challenge


This year, I am participating in a print only reading challenge, specifically the Print Only 2019 Reading Challenge hosted by As Told by Tina. The parameters of the challenge are in the title - reading physical printed copies of books. Any kind of printed book will do: hardback, trade paperback, mass market paperback, even board books, so long as they are not e-books. Given that I don't actually own any e-books, and all of the thousands of books on by to-be-read pile are physical copies, this challenge is a natural fit for me.

The Print Only 2019 Challenge:
None Yet

2019 Challenge Tracking Pages
12th Annual Graphic Novel & Manga Challenge 2019
2019 Dystopia Reading Challenge
2019 Linz Reading Challenge
2019 Outdo Yourself Reading Challenge
2019 TBR Pile Challenge
Dancing with Fantasy and Sci-Fi – A (2019) Reading Challenge
SpaceTime Reading Challenge

Multi-Year Challenge Tracking Pages
101 Fantasy Reading Challenge
Read All the Books Challenge

Not a Challenge:
The Big List of Everything I've Reviewed in 2019

2019 Challenges     Home

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Challenges - Dancing with Fantasy and Sci-Fi – A (2019) Reading Challenge


Every year I try to find a science fiction or fantasy related challenge. In the past, these types of genre challenges have always seemed to kind of fall apart as a result of bad administration by the hosts. This year, I am participating in the Dancing with Fantasy and Sci-Fi – A (2019) Reading Challenge hosted by A Dance With Books, and I am quite obviously hoping that this challenge is better run than its predecessors. The challenge consists of three sets of prompts, and completing each section earns the participant a "title". The prompts are as follows:

Fantasy:
1. Classic fantasy
2. Magic school
3. Necromancers
4. PTSD
5. Dragons
6. Fairytale (retelling)
7. Grimdark
8. Ghosts
9. Uncommon fantasy creatures
10. Shapeshifters
11. Gods
12. Animal companion
13. Maternal heritage
14. Set in our world
15. Witches
16. Magical law enforcement
17. Thief
18. Pirates
19. Portal fantasy
20. Warrior

Those who complete this section earn the title Fire Breathing Dragon.

Sci-Fi:
1. On a different planet
2. Utopia
3. Space ship
4. Steampunk
5. Time travel
6. Artificial intelligence POV
7. Proto science-fiction
8. Hive
9. Alien
10. Virtual reality
11. Super powers
12. Science
13. Replicate
14. Space colonization
15. Mecha
16. Space creatures/beasts
17. Teleportation
18. Space Western
19. The Moon
20. Invasion

Those who complete this section earn the title Complete Alien.

Generic:
1. Satire
2. Under 500 pages
3. Under 800 pages
4. Novella
5. Finish a series
6. Mental health
7. Disability
8. Published before 1990
9. Set in Africa
10. Library
11. By a woman of color
12. One word title

Those who complete this section earn the title Generic Robot.

Those who complete all three sections earn the title Dragon Alien Robot.

2018 Challenge Tracking Pages
12th Annual Graphic Novel & Manga Challenge 2019
2019 Dystopia Reading Challenge
2019 Linz Reading Challenge
2019 Outdo Yourself Reading Challenge
2019 TBR Pile Challenge
Print Only 2019 Reading Challenge
SpaceTime Reading Challenge

Multi-Year Challenge Tracking Pages
101 Fantasy Reading Challenge
Read All the Books Challenge

Not a Challenge:
The Big List of Everything I've Reviewed in 2019

2019 Challenges     Home