Renewing My Fitbit Vows (part 4 of 10)

OK, fact #1–I am overweight and badly need to lose many, many pounds. Fact #2–I love numbers. This combination of facts led me to purchasing a Fitbit a little more than a year ago. Before I did, I thought the concept of “wearable tech” was a stupid fad. However, my record of exercising has been spotty at best, and the idea of hitting a number on a daily basis appealed to me. Over the next twelve months, my Fitbit has pushed me to hit daily goals on a fairly regular basis. I even upped my thresholds from 10,000 steps to 11,000 steps and 5.0 miles to 5.5 miles daily. I was regularly hitting my exercise goals 5 to 6 times a week and even had 25+ day streaks on three occasions. My cardiac procedure in early April set me back a bit with the hospital time and the recovery, but I think I’m back in business, as yesterday was the fifth consecutive day I hit both step and mile goals.

I know the Fitbit and other wearable tech is not for everyone, but if you’re on the fence, I highly recommend it. There’s nothing more motivating to me than sitting on the couch at night, ready to veg in front of the TV, but looking at your step counter and seeing you’ve done fewer than 5,000 steps is a real call to action. Particularly if you add friends and family to your Friend list. It’s the reason I’d suggest Fitbit over the other wearable tech options–it has the biggest base of current members, so you can add people and then compete against them to see who can get the most steps in a day, work week, or weekend. So when I am nowhere near my goal, it pushes me because I want to do better than others and I am sure they are looking at my lack of activity and judging (which logically, I am sure no one is doing–but leave me to my self-centered paranoia, OK?)

Now the Fitbit isn’t perfect–for example, if the arm that the device is located on is locked, the steps don’t count. So if you are pushing a grocery cart around a store, it will not give you credit for your steps. You have to be moving arms and legs to increase the counter. So in my cart example, there are two workarounds. Push the cart with one hand while continuing to swing the other arm–don’t worry,  it doesn’t make you look like an idiot to all the other shoppers (actually, it does). It also makes steering the cart a bit of an adventure. That’s why the second solution, put the tracker in your pocket, a better workaround. This also works in other armlock situations, like riding a stationary bike or walking on a treadmill (if you plan on holding the heart sensors for any length of time). Speaking of heart sensors, my Fitbit model does not include a heart monitor in it–that was the next model up. However, I heard from a cardiologist that he does not recommend getting an exercise tracker with heart monitor–he thinks people obsess too much about the pulse numbers. He did like the idea of an exercise tracker–so if you want to get onto the wearable tech craze–save yourself some money and get a model without heart rate checking. And let me know if you do–we can be Fitbit friends!

On to part 4 of my 100 favorite songs list. There are links to parts 1-3 at the end, but now that I’m walking more again, let’s look at the next 10 songs that come up when I listen to my top 100 playlist:

  • Welcome to the Terrordome–Public Enemy
  • Around the Dial–The Kinks
  • Eminence Front–The Who
  • Scar Tissue–Red Hot Chili Peppers
  • Set Adrift on Memory Bliss–P.M. Dawn
  • Floating Vibes–Surfer Blood
  • You Can Call Me Al–Paul Simon
  • Invisible Sun–The Police
  • Your Love–The Outfield
  • New Year’s Day–U2

I will admit being late to appreciated the genius that is Public Enemy. I first heard them as part of the Do the Right Thing soundtrack. It was already a powerful film, but I got to see an advanced screening of it introduced by Spike Lee while I was at MIT. Of course, I was disappointed at how the Larry Bird Celtic jersey was used in the film, but the movie blew me away. A big part of that was “Fight the Power.” One can argue that with songs like it and “911 Is a Joke,” Public Enemy was the most effective act to fix popular music and politics since the protest singers of the late 60’s. However, the Public Enemy song I enjoy the most was a different release from Fear of a Black Planet–“Welcome to the Terrordome.” All of their songs have such raw power and anger behind the lyrics, and this one is no different. I know that Flavor Flav has become a punchline in recent years, but his work on “Welcome to the Terrordome specifically and all of Public Enemy’s work in total is amazing.

As I said when I first started talking about my 100 list, I refused to place artificial constraints like one song per artist on the list, and a few artists have more than one song from the same album. One such album is Give The People What They Want by the Kinks. I remember my older sister listening to the cassette tape of the album all the time when she got a boom box for Christmas along with it, Working Class Dog, Escape, and Candy-O. I enjoyed all four albums, but the Kinks release was the best. A second song from the album cracks my top 10, but “Around the Dial” has always been a favorite, right from its radio-tuning opening. I’d argue that the message of the song–the corporatizing of radio stations–is more apt today in the Clear Channel era than it was at time of its release, although to make it more timely, we’d have to change the lyric “FM, AM, where are you?” to “FM, XM, where are you?” as you only find political, religious, and sports zealots on AM these days.

After two Who songs in the previous group of 10, they are right back with a third entry on my list. There were almost two versions of this song on the list, as a member of Sons of Sam Horn shared with us a mashup of “Eminence Front” and “Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like That)” by Digable Planets. He called it “Cool Front” and it’s an amazing combination of two distinctly different tunes. I would recommend it, but I know it’s unavailable and I shouldn’t share it for copyright reasons. The Red Hot Chili Peppers then make their first, and only, appearance on the list with “Scar Tissue,” which like many songs by the Peppers effectively mixes rock and mourning.

Remember cass-singles? When I was carless in graduate school, I rode with a friend from Bloomington, Indiana to Tampa, Florida for holiday break. Three of those cass-singles dominated our listening time during the trip–“Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana, “O.P.P.” by Naughty by Nature, and “Set Adrift in Memory Bliss” by P.M. Dawn. The new age-i-ness of the song always drew me in, although the song was almost permanently ruined by the parody of it done in Fear of a Black Hat. By the way, if you haven’t seen the film, I cannot recommend it enough–it’s a rap version of This Is Spinal Tap, but it really nails the different song styles, the gangster culture, and more. The soundtrack is top notch and the parody/homage to the NWA Detroit situation portrayed in Straight Outta Compton is dead on. It’s a hard movie to find, but worth the effort.

I mentioned Sons of Sam Horn earlier, and for those that don’t know, it is a online community devoted to fans of the Boston Red Sox. However, the site is not limited to baseball talk or even just sports. The site has many members knowledgeable about a number of different topics, and thanks to some, I have received some great new music recommendations. It was on the site that I learned about an indie band named Surfer Blood. Looking at the name, I would have assumed they were some sort of heavy metal group, but their sound is more pop, more surf music than blood music. I’ve become a big fan, owning all three of their albums as well as their EP. I can listen to their music at any time, but “Floating Vibes” from their first album is still my favorite.

The list has multiple Simon & Garfunkel songs, but it also has a solo song from Paul Simon. Almost anything from Graceland could have made the list, but I chose the hit, “You Can Call Me Al” (with “Boy in the Bubble” being a close runner-up). Another 80’s group that could have had numerous songs on the list, but just got one, was the Police. I love their hits, but I seem to gravitate toward their odd, darker songs like “Invisible Sun” and “King of Pain.” I’d probably put “Synchronicity II” in that category as well. But the dystopian world presented in “Invisible Sun” takes it to the top for me.

The last two songs in this batch are also 80’s entries, and from opposite bands for a number of reasons. Most guys I know that went to high school in the 80’s loved the Outfield’s album Play Deep and their hit song “Your Love.” Unfortunately for the band, most guys I know did not buy any of their subsequent albums. However, their big hit has had a bit of a resurgence recently, as the Patriots play it in their stadium and the song was part of the soundtrack for Rock Band 4. That game also is the first game of its type to have U2 songs in it. Unfortunately, you can’t play “New Year’s Day” yet, but “Sunday Bloody Sunday” from the same album is available. This is the only U2 song on the top 100, a surprisingly small number, but when you’re this limited, you have to make some tough choices. Sorry “Grace”!

If you want to read any of the earlier parts of this series, the links are below:

In Some Particular Order (part 1 of 10)

Mission Entirely Possible (part 2 of 10)

Self Tributes, and the Reason for the Star Wars Season (part 3 of 10)

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Celebrating My Musical Moralist

For the most part, I am trying to keep my bonus Red Sox walks exactly that–bonus exercise. So when I go to the gym each day, I don’t want the time I spend doing cardio to double up as the commemorative walks as well. So today I needed to pull double duty and get out and walk and go to the gym. It feels great to do both when I have the time (and right now time is something I have in abundance), but it leads to a large list of songs to discuss…

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

4+ mile neighborhood walk to commemorate Red Sox victories #37 and #38 of the 2012 season

  • Cars–Gary Numan
  • Cartwheels–Reindeer Section
  • A Case of You–Joni Mitchell
  • A Case of You–Prince
  • Casey Jones–The Grateful Dead
  • Casey Jones–The Grateful Dead
  • Cassie–Flyleaf
  • Cast No Shadow–Oasis
  • Cat Like Thief–Box Car Racer
  • Cat’s In The Cupboard–Pete Townsend
  • The Catalyst–Linkin Park
  • Catch Hell Blues–The White Stripes
  • Catch My Fall–Billy Idol
  • Catcher in the Rye–Guns N’ Roses
  • Catching On Fire–They Might Be Giants
  • Catfish–Bob Dylan
  • Catholic Pagans–Surfer Blood
  • Caught By The River–The Doves
  • Caught By The River–The Doves
  • ‘Cause Cheap is How I Feel–Cowboy Junkies
  • Cautious Man–Bruce Springsteen
  • The Cave–Mumford & Sons

If you asked me to name a quintessential 80’s song, “Cars” has to be a strong candidate, or at least would have been for me until I just found out it was released in August of 1979. So that would have disqualified the song from being an answer and made me look foolish for even considering it as a choice, so I’m glad we never had that conversation.  I guess I could argue that the song, like car models, came out late in the previous year in order to make buyers/listeners feel like they were on the cutting edge. Perhaps it’s best to move on to the next song, another OC soundtrack selection. It’s a favorite of mine, but not one that got me into a new group, as I guess the Reindeer Section were not going to be a full-time act. Next up is an old original-and-cover combo, but the pairing of Joni Mitchell and Prince was certainly unique and worth my time.

I was just thinking about when I was young and used to object to songs that had the wrong message in them. Now that could pretty much wipe out half of all music to me, as sex, cheating, drugs, etc. are all open season, but I am talking about a time when I was really young and subtlety was generally lost on me. The song had to really hit you on the head for me to understand. As a result, three songs really bothered me back then, starting with the Grateful Dead’s cautionary tale “Casey Jones” (how much clearer can ‘Driving that train, high on cocaine’ be?) As an FYI, the other two were Bob Dylan’s “Rainy Day Woman # 12 & #25, which I was sure was about smoking pot (and may be more  concerning the literal meaning of stoned), and the Carpenters’ “Top Of the World”, and I’m sure this one takes some explaining, but when Karen sang of being ‘on top of the world, looking down on creation’, my young Catholic mind thought she was equating herself with God and I knew that was wrong. Those were the three biggest offenders in my mind. “Brown Sugar” by the Rolling Stones? They were right, it did taste so good–particularly on oatmeal!

Flyleaf led into my first Oasis song from their incredible (What’s The Story) Morning Glory? album. I was not an Oasis fan when I started watching Lost back in 2004, so I didn’t initially get the Oasis/Driveshaft links that I get now. Box Car Racer is a Blink-182 spinoff band my son loves, but if I met them, I’d have to chastise what I think is their poor syntax. I believe they need a hyphen in the title “Cat Like Thief” between the first two words unless they are expressing the affection their feline has for a burglar. The Pete Townsend song is from his Empty Glass album, a particular favorite of my wife, and the Linkin Park song is from one of my son’s albums. I like the band, but I’m finding that a number of their songs are bleeding together in my opinion. I was able to push myself on the walk thanks to the rocking efforts of the White Stripes, Billy Idol, and Guns N’ Roses.

They They Might Be Giants song is one of their quick numbers from the “Fingertips” section of the Apollo 18 album. There was certainly a flavor to the closing of the list that my wife would enjoy, as she has always been the family’s biggest fan of Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, and the Cowboy Junkies, but her current interest (or I may go so far as to say obsession is Mumford & Sons. Their CD is being worn out in the car and she has finally learned that youtube can be used for band videos and live performances. When I played for her the Ray Davies and Mumford & Sons collaboration from the former’s recent See My Friends album, the joy in her face was evident. The remaining songs were favorites of mine, with a Surfer Blood selection from their first album and two versions of the Doves’ “Caught By The River” (we own it on both an OC soundtrack and an MTV compilation album)

3 miles on the elliptical plus upper-arm weight work at the gym

  • Cave In–Owl City
  • Cecilia–Simon & Garfunkel
  • Cecilia–Simon & Garfunkel
  • Cecilia Ann–The Pixies
  • Cedars of Lebanon–U2
  • Celebrate Me Home–Kenny Loggins
  • Celebration–They Might Be Giants
  • Celebration Day–Led Zeppelin
  • Celebration Day–Led Zeppelin
  • Celebration of the Lizard–The Doors
  • Celebrity–Barenaked Ladies
  • Celebrity Skin–Hole
  • Cell Block Tango–Music from the film Chicago
  • Cell Block Tango–Music from the film Chicago
  • Cell Block Tango–Music from the film Chicago

Gym time began with the techno pop of Owl City. While it’s not the catchy hook of “Fireflies”, it’s still a fun song to both listen to in stationary mode or while working out. I got to hear two copies of “Cecilia”, which I think is the biggest Simon & Garfunkel song to not make the Concert in Central Park. It did however, get a nice mention in an episode of How I Met Your Mother a few years back, complete with a visual aid to the gag. (I will not spoil it for those who haven’t seen it). I guess the Pixies felt like it wasn’t enough for there to be a song celebrating girls named Cecilia, they wanted to be a bit more specific with their tribute to gals with the moniker “Cecilia Ann”. I think I’ve mentioned before that I haven’t given a close enough listen to U2’s newest album, so I wasn’t familiar at all with “Cedars of Lebanon”, the album’s closing tracks.

Time to celebrate! (Not that I have good news yet, I’m just to the four “Celebration…” songs on my list!) The first is by decades the most recent, and the one I like listening to the most from old friends They Might Be Giants. I also have studio and live versions of Led Zeppelin’s song, and apparently the Doors track was a previously unreleased number from the group, although it’s nice to see our friend the Lizard get his proper celebratory due, particularly as he makes his film debut in The Amazing Spiderman, out today in theaters. (Of course my daughter saw it at midnight and loved it!)  I heard two songs that cover the pitfalls of fame, with Barenaked Ladies singing about how amazing it would be to be famous and Hole covering the darker side of it all. My last three songs were from the film adaptation of the musical Chicago. Now I don’t want to get your hopes up if you haven’t seen it–it’s not like Mama Mia, only with the songs of Peter Cetera and Chicago. It’s a musical about jail, fame, and jazz. It’s supposed to be a great film (it won the Oscar for Best Picture), but to date I have had no interest in seeing it.

 

AND I should really remember to give these things titles…

So I write my post last night as usual, and then when I wake up this morning I get ready for the usual ego-bruising procedure of seeing how many people have viewed both my recent posting and my overall blog. This morning the total was 0. 1 or 3 was bad enough, but 0? Something had to be wrong. And something was wrong–I hadn’t given the post a title, which isn’t the most inviting method to get people to read these things. So I went back, titled the post, and re-publicized it. But if you missed it, give it a look. There’s a DiVinci Code-like secret nestled among the words!*

* Not Really (or is there?)**

** There isn’t

April 3, 2012

3.31 miles on the elliptical plus upper-body weight work at the gym

  • Anchorage–Surfer Blood
  • And All Things Will End–Avenged Sevenfold
  • And I–Box Car Racer
  • And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going–Glee
  • And I Love Her–The Beatles
  • And I Love Her [Live, unplugged]–Paul McCartney
  • And I Moved–Pete Townsend
  • ….And In Every Home–Elvis Costello
  • And Now I’m Nothing–The Wonder Years
  • And She Was–The Talking Heads
  • And So It Goes–Billy Joel
  • And So It Goes [Live]–Billy Joel
  • And That’s What Hurts–Hall & Oates
  • And Through The Wire–Peter Gabriel
  • And We Danced–The Hooters

It doesn’t matter how you get there, there’s something so satisfying about finding a new singer or band to love, particularly if it’s not one getting love on radio (although this is fairly irrelevant to my musical interests, as I spend more time listening to my iPod than the radio). The most recent band like this for me is Surfer Blood. Somebody on my Red Sox fan board (Sons of Sam Horn) touted their first album, Astro Coast, and I’ve loved both it and last year’s EP, Tarot Classics, ever since.

The next three songs come from my kids. Both of my twins are big Avenged Sevenfold (or A7X) fans, so I feel bad that I made the easy and stupid joke of calling them Avenged Sixfold after their drummer died in 2009. But it puts them in amazing “losing a drummer” company with Zeppelin, The Who, and Spinal Tap (many times over on the latter). Box Car Racer is also a favorite of my son, and the band is a Blink-182 side project so to speak, with just 1 album to their name. And of course I can’t go to manydays without getting something from the Glee juggernaut.

Glee, Elvis Costello, Bob Dylan, They Might Be Giants, and The Beatles are probably the five acts that have the most content in our collection, and I got to hear three of them today. The Beatles song was also represented by a solo McCartney live album, one of two that I own. Speaking of solo performers spinning off from huge bands, how good an album is Pete Townsend’s Empty Glass? Clearly (to me), “Let My Love Open the Door” carries the album, but the rest of the tracks, including “And I Moved” are enjoyable listens.

Elvis again crops up. I believe I’ve now heard 19 Elvis Costello songs from his various group and incarnations. Then I got a band that is my to my son what Surfer Blood was to me. The Wonder Years is a pop punk band that has his full attention. An Aunt recently gave him an iTunes gift card and he excitedly proclaimed that he’ll be able to buy more Wonder Years material.

“And She Was” is one of my three favorite Talking Heads songs from an album, Little Creatures, that doesn’t get its due within the Talking Heads discography, as critics and fans seem to gravitate toward Remain in Light and their other earlier albums. Again with Billy Joel I get the studio and live version of a song, as I copied my sister’s two-disc 12 Gardens collection, giving me a full set of live Billy Joel songs. Hall & Oates were a favorite band of mine in high school (although I also saw them in concert in college), but this song was one I stumbled into by borrowing the soundtrack to The Runaway Bride from my local library. I really only wanted the Dixie Chicks cover of “You Can’t Hurry Love”, but I have a hard time just burning a single song when I have an album in hand. I don’t have a problem buying single songs from iTunes, and did just that recently with “And We Danced” to cover a Hooters hankering (sounds dirty, but it isn’t). But before I heard the Hooters, I got a song from the Peter Gabriel melted face cover. Great songs, spooky image.

And with that I almost finished all my “And…” songs. Just two to go tomorrow, although one clocks in at a hefty 10+ minutes.