Monday, July 15, 2019

Musical Monday - Theme from the Greatest American Hero by Joey Scarbury


#1 on the Billboard Hot 100: Never.
#1 on the Cash Box Top 100: The week of August 8, 1981.
#1 on the U.K. Chart: Never.

Popular music is so profoundly affected by popular culture that the theme song of an early 1980s comedy about a high school teacher gifted a supersuit by mysterious aliens could reach the top of the charts. The song itself is fairly ordinary - it sounds like hundreds of other early 1980s style soft-rock songs, but because it was attached to a weekly television series, it got a lot of airplay, and apparently stuck in people's heads.

I have to admit that in 1981, I loved this series, or rather, I loved the idea of the series and what little of the series I saw. Because I spent the early 1980s mostly out of the United States in countries without access to current American television, my memories of most television of that era are confined to the ten months or so my family lived in Virginia while my father took language training before going overseas and then the once a year month-long trips back to the U.S. that we would take annually.

The end result is that I probably only saw a handful of episodes of the show, but I have fond memories of it anyway, although I can't really tell if it is because the show was actually worth watching or if my recollection is more the result of watching the show while on vacation and intertwining memories about it with memories of visiting my grandparents and having potato chips, actual milk, and Dairy Queen available. Maybe I should find a DVD set of the series and see if it still holds up at all.

Previous Musical Monday: Behind the Green Door by Shakin' Stevens
Subsequent Musical Monday: Endless Love by Lionel Richie and Diana Ross

Previous #1 on the Cash Box Top 100: Elvira by the Oak Ridge Boys
Subsequent #1 on the Cash Box Top 100: Endless Love by Lionel Richie and Diana Ross

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

Joey Scarbury     1980s Project     Musical Monday     Home

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Book Blogger Hop July 12th - July 18th: 3-14 Is My Wedding Anniversary


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 do you like/dislike about self-published works?

The problem with most self-published books is that there is generally simply too much chaff for the amount of wheat one can find - unless one kind of cheats when finding books by self-published authors. There are certainly self-published books that are worth reading - I know a couple of authors who have self-published their books, and their efforts are worth reading, but when one just goes out and looks through the great haystack of self-published works that are out there, finding that needle of worthwhile reading that is out there is simply too much of a hassle to really be worth doing.

In my experience, there are really three kinds of self-published authors. Most self-published books are by authors who simply aren't good enough to get published in any other way. There is just no other way to describe the quality of their writing. Once in a great while you find someone who is worth reading in this sea of flotsam and jetsam, but it is rare (and to be honest, most self-published authors in this category have such a big chip on their shoulder about their failures in "traditional publishing", that they are deeply unpleasant people who aren't any fun to read).

A handful of self-published authors are decent, and are often in the process of leveraging their work into a contract with a publisher of some sort, a path trodden by people like Hugh Howey and Marko Kloos. Their writing can be worth reading, but is often an acquired taste.

The final group of self-published authors are authors who have been published by a more traditional publisher, but are not any more, or want to get a project into print that their publisher isn't interested in. Authors who fall into this category are people like Alethea Kontis and Lawrence M. Schoen, and their self-published work is often good. The difference is that one doesn't have to hunt through the pile of self-published work to find them, rather their reputations were made by getting in print in the traditional way and self-publishing is a bonus added to their other work.

So really, the question of "what do you like or dislike about self-published works" comes down to how easy it is to find the ones that are worth reading and avoid the ones that are not, and that task often seems to come down to whether the author is able to get published in a non-self-published context. Those who are not can sometimes be worth reading, but they seem to be so few and far between that the reading payoff just isn't worth the investment.


Book Blogger Hop     Home

Monday, July 8, 2019

Musical Monday - Green Door by Shakin' Stevens


#1 on the Billboard Hot 100: Never.
#1 on the Cash Box Top 100: Never.
#1 on the U.K. Chart: August 1, 1981 through August 22, 1981.

Music in the U.K. in the early 1980s was almost schizophrenic. When we last visited the U.K. Chart, the number one song was a bitter reggae style song with biting lyrics about urban decay and despair. This song, on the other hand, is a cover of a rockabilly song from the 1950s that is mostly notable because a famous porn movie was inspired by the lyrics.

On the other hand, in the United States, the two songs that hit number one on the Billboard and Cash Box charts in this same time frame that this song was number one in the U.K. were Rick Springfield's Jessie's Girl, the Oak Ridge Boys' Elvira, Joey Scarbury's Theme from the Greatest American Hero and Lionel Richie and Diana Ross' Endless Love, so maybe those of us on this side of the Atlantic don't have much room to talk when it comes to musical schizophrenia.

The early 1980s were clearly an ever-shifting time of chaos in the music world.

Previous Musical Monday: Elvira by the Oak Ridge Boys
Subsequent Musical Monday: Theme from the Greatest American Hero by Joey Scarbury

Previous #1 on the U.K. Chart: Ghost Town by the Specials
Subsequent #1 on the U.K. Chart: Japanese Boy by Aneka

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

Shakin' Stevens     1980s Project     Musical Monday     Home

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Book Blogger Hop July 5th - July 11th: Donald Duck's Car Has the License Plate Number 313


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 review all the books you read?

I going to answer this question with a conditional yes. For the most part, I review every book I read, but that doesn't include every book I read from. Novels, short story collections, graphic novels, and so on all get reviewed after I read them (sometimes the review writing process starts while I am reading them), but there are a wide array of books that I don't review - mostly RPG books, because I don't really "read" them so much as use them as reference works. I suppose it goes without saying that I also don't write reviews for the reference works and dictionaries that I consult either.

Most everything else I read gets reviewed. At least, that's the goal.

Subsequent Book Blogger Hop: 3-14 Is My Wedding Anniversary

Book Blogger Hop     Home

Monday, July 1, 2019

Musical Monday - Elvira by the Oak Ridge Boys


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

Elvira is a song that became popular because of the bass part. Nothing else about the song is particularly notable - the lyrics are kind of insipid, the harmonies are ordinary, and the backing music is bland. But I recollect that when the bass man sang "Bap-a-mmm, bap-a-mmm, bap-a-mau-mau" everyone would stop what they were doing and say "What's that song?" The little bass interlude was such a critical element of the song, that I remember some people thinking that it happened more often in the song than the four times it actually does.

On a side note, the "southern" accent that the lead singer Joe Bonsall has here is probably an affectation as he was born and raised in Philadelphia. The bass singer Richard Sterban was born in New Jersey, but he doesn't really seem to be trying to sound "southern" in the song.

Previous Musical Monday: Jessie's Girl by Rick Springfield
Subsequent Musical Monday: Green Door by Shakin' Stevens

Previous #1 on the Cash Box Top 100: Jessie's Girl by Rick Springfield
Subsequent #1 on the Cash Box Top 100: Theme from the Greatest American Hero by Joey Scarbury

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

Oak Ridge Boys     1980s Project     Musical Monday     Home

Monday, June 24, 2019

Musical Monday - Jessie's Girl by Rick Springfield


#1 on the Billboard Hot 100: August 1, 1981 through August 8, 1981.
#1 on the Cash Box Top 100: The week of July 25, 1981.
#1 on the U.K. Chart: Never.

One of the recurring themes in 1980s music is extremely bad takes on how relationships work. Jessie's Girl is a prime example of this, with not only an extraordinarily terrible take on how romantic relationships work, but a bonus package consisting of a complete misunderstanding of what friendships are and how they work. At the outset, I will note the biggest issue, which is that Jessie's girl is only referred to as "Jessie's girl", and lacks any identity other than as an object for Jessie to possess and for Rick to covet.

The song starts off with Rick singing that "Jessie is a friend", and not only that he's a "real good friend", but nothing in the song would suggest that this is actually the case. He immediately launches into how Jessie having a girlfriend is a problem for their friendship, because Jessie's girlfriend is too desirable. This is problematic on two levels: First, your friend having a girlfriend really shouldn't be something that threatens your friendship, and second, the fact that your friend's girlfriend is attractive should be something that you are celebrating for them, not being upset by. The implication here is that Rick would be happy for Jessie if only Jessie had a suitably awful girlfriend. In other words, the only way that Rick would be happy is if Jessie was with a woman he considered undesirable. This really seems to call into question just how much of a friend Rick really is.

Rick then moves on to describing what it is about Jessie's relationship that bothers him. Jessie's s girlfriend is watching Jessie, loving him with "that body" (I won't even go into the kind of problematic phrasing in that statements), and Jessie is holding her late at night. In other words, Jessie's and Jessie's girlfriend are doing normal things that couples do. One wonders what they could be doing that would not bother Rick.

Later in the song, Rick explains how he thinks relationships work, and it is amazingly awful. Talking about Jessie's girl, he sings "Wondering what she don't see in me/I've been funny/I've been cool with the lines/'Aint that the way love's supposed to be?" My answer to Rick is, no, that's not what love is supposed to be. This plaintive cry by Springfield almost reads like a whine issued by a failed pick-up artist who thinks that relationships are transactional: You say the right lines, push the right buttons, and then the girl has no choice but to fall into your arms. That's not how relationships actually work, and it definitely isn't how relationships are supposed to work. Women aren't vending machines that you deposit clever lines and jokes into and receive love and sex in return.

Of course, there is also the fact that if Rick's "cool lines" did work, then presumably he would expect Jessie's girlfriend to ditch Jessie for him. One would presume that this would make Jessie quite unhappy and would show Jessie's girl to be a kind of cold-hearted woman, which seems to be something that Rick has never considered. The cavalier disregard shown by Rick for Jessie's happiness paints Rick as not merely a really terrible friend, but also a really terrible person.

If Jessie's girl was smart, she'd get herself as far away from Rick as possible, and probably try to get her boyfriend to drop his "friend" as well.

Previous Musical Monday: The One That You Love by Air Supply
Subsequent Musical Monday: Elvira by the Oak Ridge Boys

Previous #1 on the Billboard Hot 100: The One That You Love by Air Supply
Subsequent #1 on the Billboard Hot 100: Endless Love by Diana Ross and Lionel Richie

Previous #1 on the Cash Box Top 100: The One That You Love by Air Supply
Subsequent #1 on the Cash Box Top 100: Elvira by the Oak Ridge Boys

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

Rick Springfield     1980s Project     Musical Monday     Home

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Book Blogger Hop June 21st - June 27th: Constantine I Defeated Maxentius at the Battle of the Milvian Bridge in 312 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: Which is your favorite library (or which would you most like to visit)? How often do you visit the library?

I think I would most want to visit the Great Library of Alexandria, or possibly the Great Library of Pergamum. In both cases I would need a time machine to do so, and I would need to be able to read ancient Greek and probably a collection of other ancient languages to make it worthwhile, so there are some obstacles. If they could be overcome, however, those would be the places I would choose to visit.

As far as the second question is concerned, the answer is "not nearly as often as I probably should". Our local library is quite nice, and I've gone to a couple of their semi-annual book sales, but I haven't been very often other wise. They have several programs aimed at younger kids like the littlest starship captain, and the redhead has taken her to some of them, but those are during the day when I am away at work, so I haven't been to any.


Book Blogger Hop     Home

Monday, June 17, 2019

Musical Monday - The One That You Love by Air Supply


#1 on the Billboard Hot 100: The week of July 25, 1981.
#1 on the Cash Box Top 100: The week of July 18, 1981.
#1 on the U.K. Chart: Never.

The thing I remember most about Air Supply is that my mother had their greatest hits album, and copied it onto a cassette tape that had Hooked on Classics on the reverse side. As a result, Air Supply occupies a space in my mind that is a cross between "Mom rock" and "classical music set to a disco beat". They were the near ubiquitous soundtrack to the middle-school dances I attended, at least until Foreigner came out with Waiting for a Girl Like You and drove Air Supply's songs out of the regular party rotation.

To a certain extent, Air Supply was Journey before Journey became Journey!, turning out ballad after ballad and dominating the charts with piles of syrupy love songs. On the other hand, Air Supply was almost a caricature of a band. I've seen attempts to parody them - most notably Paul & Storm's song Right Here With You, which is a riff on the video for All Out of Love and the video for this song.

To be blunt, I can't think of a way one could parody Air Supply more than they do themselves. The lead singer with his giant tiger head print shirt and Conway Twitty style perm. The other lead singer with his oh-so-very-earnest acoustic guitar, gold medallion, and shirt unbuttoned halfway down his torso. The soft focus slow-motion scenes of the pair of them cavorting with their girlfriends on a playground. It would simply be impossible to come up with anything more ridiculous than this video.

Previous Musical Monday: Ghost Town by the Specials
Subsequent Musical Monday: Jessie's Girl by Rick Springfield

Previous #1 on the Billboard Hot 100: Stars on 45 Medley by Stars on 45
Subsequent #1 on the Billboard Hot 100: Jessie's Girl by Rick Springfield

Previous #1 on the Cash Box Top 100: Stars on 45 Medley by Stars on 45
Subsequent #1 on the Cash Box Top 100: Jessie's Girl by Rick Springfield

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

Air Supply     1980s Project     Musical Monday     Home

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Book Blogger Hop June 14th - June 20th: Dialing 3-1-1 in the United States and Canada Will Connect You to Non-Emergency Municipal Services in Most Areas


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 been called a "book nerd"? If so, how did you react?

I have been called so many varieties of nerd that I have lost count. Gamer nerd. Role-playing nerd. Comic book nerd. Science fiction nerd. Fantasy nerd. History nerd. Theater nerd. Even math nerd. And yes, book nerd as well. I'm sure there are numerous other variations that I have simply forgotten. To be blunt, I stopped caring about this sort of thing decades ago. I've been much happier since I became comfortable just loving the things I love and ignoring the people who just don't "get it".

We have a finite amount of time to love what we love. Don't worry so much about what other people think about your passions and just enjoy pursuing them.


Book Blogger Hop     Home

Monday, June 10, 2019

Musical Monday - Ghost Town by the Specials


#1 on the Billboard Hot 100: Never.
#1 on the Cash Box Top 100: Never.
#1 on the U.K. Chart: July 11, 1981 through July 25, 1981.

One of the reasons I included the U.K. Charts in the 1980s Project is that the U.K. had weird songs reach number one in the 1980s. As further evidence of this fact, I point to Ghost Town, a quirky Arabian inspired song with creepy lyrics and a reggae beat. This is, however, a kind of cool weird, which sets it apart from some of the terrible weird songs that also reached the top spot in the U.K.

Ghost Town is kind of cool and kind of weird, but it is about a society in crisis - a dysfunctional country with no jobs, a neglectful government and not even any clubs or bands as a diversion, with basically nothing for anyone to do but fight one another. The fact that this odd but bitter and biting song reached number one immediately after the bland and almost insipid One Day in Your Life seems almost impossible, but that seems to be the U.K. in the early 1980s in a nutshell.

Previous Musical Monday: One Day In Your Life by Michael Jackson
Subsequent Musical Monday: The One That You Love by Air Supply

Previous #1 on the U.K. Chart: One Day In Your Life by Michael Jackson
Subsequent #1 on the U.K. Chart: Green Door by Shakin' Stevens

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

Specials     1980s Project     Musical Monday     Home

Sunday, June 9, 2019

2019 Mythopoeic Award Nominees

Location: Mythcon 50 in San Diego, California.

Comments: This year's crop of Mythopoeic Award nominees features three different trilogies. Based on this, one might think that the selection committee has a hard time making up its mind, and consequently simply punted the decision by giving nominations to groups of books. This may be to offset the extremely narrow focus of some of the other categories, which seem to have the same collection of nominees show up year after year. For example, three of the nominees in the Scholarship in Inklings Studies category are returning nominees from 2018, as are three of the nominees in the Myth and Fantasy Studies category. The limited focus of the award is somewhat worrying, as it results in a very restricted, and consequently somewhat less than interesting range of nominees.

Best Adult Fantasy Literature

Winner:
TBD

Other Nominees:
The Arcadia Project: Borderline, Phantom Pains, Impostor Syndrome by Mishell Baker
Circe by Madeline Miller
In Other Lands by Sarah Rees Brennan
The Innsmouth Legacy: The Litany of Earth, Winter Tide, Deep Roots by Ruthanna Emrys
Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik

Best Children's Fantasy Literature

Winner:
TBD

Other Nominees:
Bob by Wendy Mass and Rebecca Stead
The Chronicles of Claudette: Giants Beware!, Dragons Beware!, Monsters Beware! by Jorge Aguirre and Rafael Rosado
The Stone Girl’s Story by Sarah Beth Durst
Sweep: The Story of a Girl and Her Monster by Jonathan Auxier
Tiger vs. Nightmare by Emily Tetri

Scholarship Award in Inklings Studies

Winner:
TBD

Other Nominees:
The Flame Imperishable: Tolkien, St. Thomas, and the Metaphysics of Faërie by Jonathan S. McIntosh
There Would Always Be a Fairy Tale: More Essays on Tolkien by Verlyn Flieger
Tolkien: Maker of Middle-Earth by Catherine McIlwaine
Tolkien, Self and Other: This Queer Creature by Jane Chance
Tolkien’s Theology of Beauty: Majesty, Splendor, and Transcendence in Middle-Earth by Lisa Coutras

Myth and Fantasy Studies

Winner:
TBD

Other Nominees:
Celtic Myth in Contemporary Children’s Fantasy: Idealization, Identity, Ideology by Dimitra Fimi
Genres of Doubt: Science Fiction, Fantasy and the Victorian Crisis of Faith by Elizabeth M. Sanders
Gods and Humans in Medieval Scandinavia: Retying the Bonds by Jonas Wellendorf
Race and Popular Fantasy Literature: Habits of Whiteness by Helen Young
The Routledge Companion to Imaginary Worlds edited by Mark J.P. Wolf

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

Book Award Reviews     Home

Saturday, June 8, 2019

Book Blogger Hop June 7th - June 13th: The Romans Defeated the Etruscans in the Battle of Lake Vadimo in 310 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: What's the oldest work (by publication date) you've read?

This is an interesting question, because it raises the issue of what one means by "published". I've read some very old works, but only in translation, since I don't speak Ancient Greek and my Latin is rudimentary at best. The question to be confronted is when were they "published"? Do we consider their publication when they were first written, or when they were translated? I'm leaning towards "when they were first written", but I can see an argument for the other position. of course, once you go back far enough, "publication date" becomes a fuzzy issue, mostly because there aren't really good records for when a particular story was first written.

For example, I have read the Iliad and the Odyssey, both in multiple translations. As far as I can tell, general consensus is that these stories were first written (as opposed to being recounted in oral form) some time in the 8th century B.C. I have also read Antigone by Sophocles, which is usually dated to some time around 441 B.C. This does take a somewhat expansive view of what a "work" is, as the Iliad is an epic poem and Antigone is a play. If we are confining the question to prose novels, another older work I have read is The Golden Ass by Apuleius, which is the oldest known surviving novel and is dated to some time in the late 2nd century A.D.

If we are only counting works of more recent vintage published in English, I have read Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott, which was published in 1820.


Book Blogger Hop     Home

Monday, June 3, 2019

Musical Monday - One Day in Your Life by Michael Jackson


#1 on the Billboard Hot 100: Never.
#1 on the Cash Box Top 100: Never.
#1 on the U.K. Chart: June 27, 1981 through July 4, 1981.

One Day in Your Life was a song out of time, even in 1981. Originally released in 1975, the song was rereleased by Motown records in 1981 in order to capitalize on Jackson's success with his Epic Record album Off the Wall. The fact that this song reached the U.K. chart in this decade is the result of a cynical cash grab by Jackson's former label - a label he dumped because he thought they were stifling his creative efforts. There is a kind of irony in the fact that as soon as Jackson gained some creative freedom and as a result garnered greater success than he had while under their banner, Motown attempted to profit from that success by proxy.

The difference between this song and the songs on Off the Wall is noticeable. There isn't anything wrong with it, but there isn't anything particularly memorable about it either. This song is kind of dull, even by the relatively bland standards of most of Jackson's music. I've never been a huge fan of Jackson's music, mostly because he always seemed to be making mostly safe, mostly middle-of-the-road choices presumably to be able to appeal to as many suburban teenagers as possible. That said, when compared to this slice of Wonder bread masquerading as a song, his music from the 1980s seems almost radical.

Previous Musical Monday: Stars on 45 Medley by Stars on 45
Subsequent Musical Monday: Ghost Town by the Specials

Previous #1 on the U.K. Chart: Being With You by Smokey Robinson
Subsequent #1 on the U.K. Chart: Ghost Town by the Specials

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

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Book Blogger Hop May 31st - June 6th: Cassander Killed Alexander IV, the Nominal King of Macedon, in 309 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: Do you read books over 400 pages?

Given that I read a lot of fantasy novels, the answer to this question is "yes". So many modern fantasy novels are so big and weighty due to their high page count that the term "doorstop fantasy" is fairly commonly used. Though not quite a common, lengthy science fiction novels are also not unheard of, and I read a lot in that genre as well, so that's another vector for books in excess of 400 pages to find their way into my reading pile.

Although not novels, I note that for decades the late Gardner Dozois produced very popular a "year's best" collection of science fiction stories every year, and pretty much every single one of those exceeded 400 pages in length, so regular science fiction readers probably have read a lot of long books.


Book Blogger Hop     Home

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.


Book Blogger Hop     Home

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.


Book Blogger Hop     Home

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.


Book Blogger Hop     Home

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

2019 Prometheus Award Nominees

Location: Dublin 2019: An Irish Worldcon in Dublin, Ireland..

Comments: One of the notable things about the 2019 Prometheus Nominees is the complete lack of any Sad Puppies on the list. To be fair, the Pups never really got any significant traction with the Prometheus Awards - the only significant member of the Pups who has been nominated recently was Sarah Hoyt. This seems odd, since given the political proclivities of the Sad Pups, this award seems like it would be the natural home for them. In more than a few cases Pups have engaged in some rather obvious pandering in their works in an effort to get nominations for this award, but they never made a concerted effort to get their selections on the ballot in the same way they did for the Hugo Awards. There is probably an entire dissertation one could write about why the Pups almost completely ignored the Prometheus Award and instead battered their heads against the Hugo Awards, but since the Pups have mostly faded into well-deserved cultural irrelevance, there just doesn't seem to be much point in writing about it further now.

The larger issue with the Prometheus Awards is the repetitive nature of the Hall of Fame nominees. Of the five nominees, five of them had been nominated previously for the Hall of Fame. Harrison Bergeron has been nominated once before, while Conquest by Default has previously been nominated twice. Sam Hall has been nominated three times, while As Easy as A.B.C. has been nominated a total of thirteen times. The only Hall of Fame nominee that has not been previously nominated is Schrödinger's Cat: The Universe Next Door. Having nominees show up year after year until they get inducted is not a new phenomenon for the Prometheus Awards, and that seems to me to be something of a problem. If the range of potential nominees is so limited that one needs to renominate the same things over and over again until they win, the Hall of Fame seems less than impressive.

Best Novel

Winner:
TBD

Finalists:
Causes of Separation by Travis Corcoran
The Fractal Man by J. Neil Schulman
Kingdom of the Wicked by Helen Dale
The Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells
State Tectonics by Malka Older

Hall of Fame

Winner:
TBD

Finalists:
Conquest by Default by Vernor Vinge
As Easy as A.B.C. by Rudyard Kipling
Harrison Bergeron by Kurt Vonnegut
Sam Hall by Poul Anderson
Schrödinger's Cat: The Universe Next Door by Robert Anton Wilson

Other Works Considered for the Hall of Fame

Demon and Freedom by Daniel Suarez (considered as a combined nomination)
Even the Queen by Connie Willis
ILU-486 by Amanda Ching
The Man Who Sold the Stars by Gregory Benford
A Mirror for Observers by Edgar Pangborn
The Mirror Maze by James P. Hogan
The Once and Future King and The Book of Merlyn by T.H. White (considered as a combined nomination)
That Hideous Strength by C.S. Lewis
A Time of Changes by Robert Silverberg

Previous year's nominees: 2018
Subsequent year's nominees: 2020

Book Award Reviews     Home

Monday, April 29, 2019

Musical Monday - Morning Train (Nine to Five) by Sheena Easton


#1 on the Billboard Hot 100: May 2, 1981 through May 9 1981.
#1 on the Cash Box Top 100: April 18, 1981 through May 16, 1981.
#1 on the U.K. Chart: Never.

Originally titled simply Nine to Five when released in the U.K., this song was famously renamed for its release in the United States in order to avoid confusion between it and the Dolly Parton hit 9 to 5 which reached number one on the U.S. charts just a handful of weeks before Morning Train (Nine to Five) did. I guess being a country music icon outweighs being an up and comer from Scotland.

The odd thing about Morning Train (Nine to Five) is that it reached number one in the U.S., but peaked at number three in the U.K. More accurately, I should say that this is an odd thing about the U.K., given that while this song was reaching the top of the charts in the U.S., ridiculous songs like Bucks Fizz's Making Your Mind Up were the number one hits in Britain. Morning Train isn't a great song - it is basically a pretty standard by the numbers pop hit about a woman pining for her significant other - but at least it isn't a schlockfest like Making Your Mind Up or Shaddup You Face.

I'm sure there is something deep and meaningful to say about the difference in the U.S. and the U.K. music markets that explains the fact that the U.K. seems to consistently reward the silly in a way the U.S. does not, but other than simply saying "the U.K. just likes weird in a way the U.S. does not", I don't know what that might be.

Previous Musical Monday: Making Your Mind Up by Bucks Fizz
Subsequent Musical Monday: Stand and Deliver by Adam and the Ants

Previous #1 on the Billboard Hot 100: Kiss On My List by Hall and Oates
Subsequent #1 on the Billboard Hot 100: Bette Davis Eyes by Kim Carnes

Previous #1 on the Cash Box Top 100: Kiss On My List by Hall and Oates
Subsequent #1 on the Cash Box Top 100: 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

Sheena Easton     1980s Project     Musical Monday     Home

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Book Blogger Hop April 26th - May 2nd: 304 Was the Only Area Code for West Virginia Until 2009


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: At the end of a hard day, how do you get yourself psyched about writing a book review?

For the last couple of months, I haven't been getting myself psyched to write book reviews, which is why there haven't been any since 2018. Between work and the attention the littlest starship captain needs, I just haven't had the energy to write reviews for the last few months. More accurately, I should say that I don't have the energy to complete reviews - I have three reviews in various stages of completion and another two incomplete blog posts that I simply haven't been able to get to the finish line. I always hope that next week will be when I am able to get them finished, but thus far that has been a forlorn hope.

However, this week will be the week. I have misplaced confidence.


Book Blogger Hop     Home

Monday, April 22, 2019

Musical Monday - Making Your Mind Up by Bucks Fizz


#1 on the Billboard Hot 100: Never.
#1 on the Cash Box Top 100: Never.
#1 on the U.K. Chart: April 18, 1981 through May 2, 1981.

Making Your Mind Up is the second Eurovision Song Contest winner to reach number one on the U.K. chart in the 1980s, the first being Johnny Logan's What's Another Year. Other than that, it would be difficult for the two songs to be more different. Whereas Logan's song is a kind of introspective look at getting old and the kind of loss that comes with it, Making Your Mind Up is an almost meaningless piece of pop fluff that is mostly notable for its choreographed dance routine.

The odd thing about the notability of the dance routine that goes with this song is just how silly the reason it is notable. The Eurovision Song Contest is a kind of goofball pop circus, and Making Your Mind Up is just another example of this fact. What made this dance routine notable takes place at about 1:31 in the video, when the two male members of the band pull the skirts off the two female members of the band, revealing that they are wearing shorter skirts underneath. This was considered to be a particularly clever touch that swung the Eurovision vote in the band's favor and is regarded by some as a defining moment in the competition's history. To me, the fact that "pulling skirts off some band members" could be considered a "defining moment" of the competition indicates that the Eurovision Song Contest is basically ludicrous.

After winning the Eurovision Song Contest, Making Your Mind Up went on to become one of the most successful singles in the U.K. for 1981. The song was so notable that the annual U.K. competition to determine who would represent the U.K. in the Eurovision Song Contest was named "Eurovision: Making Your Mind Up" for four years from 2004 through 2007.

Sometimes the U.K. is just a little bit ridiculous, and everything relating to this song is just evidence confirming this.

Previous Musical Monday: Kiss On My List by Hall and Oates
Subsequent Musical Monday: Morning Train (Nine to Five) by Sheena Easton

Previous #1 on the U.K. Chart: This Ole House by Shakin' Stevens
Subsequent #1 on the U.K. Chart: Stand and Deliver by Adam and the Ants

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

Bucks Fizz     1980s Project     Musical Monday     Home