Monday, November 27, 2017

Shake your bag of bones.

Uffington White Horse
A few years back Diffuser posted XTC Albums Ranked in Order of Awesomeness and, just as many casual Beatles fans are shocked when such lists don't put Sgt. Pepper at the top of their list, I was surprised when Skylarking wasn't at the top of theirs.

Say what you want about their quirky early work or those weirdos who actually own and listen to the Apple Venus records (they say they're good,) the Todd Rundgren-produced and much gossiped-about Skylarking -- the final version, with "Dear God" included -- is fat-free and complete, every track a classic and with none of those songs which inevitably pop up on every XTC record featuring lyrics of social commentary so humiliatingly jejune and cringe-worthy.

Diffuser ranked Skylarking number three. Number one was reserved for English Settlement.

My son has decided he is unimpressed by modern pop music, and so we tend to listen to the classic rock stations. He likes the production values of the seventies and eighties. But that still means I have to play him albums from that era which even now receive no airtime, and that includes, of course, XTC.

I was looking forward to listening to all of English Settlement on the drive from Athens yesterday, but I was caught flatfooted by the terribleness of some of the songs which deal clumsily with the torpor of modern living, and of gender and race. The male-shaming (and yet not actually pro-female) lyrics of "Down In The Cockpit" are embarrassingly naive, even if the beat is infectious and strong. The sentimentally joyful plea for tolerance in "Knuckle Down" is entirely overwhelmed by its joyfully privileged condescension. And "Leisure" is simply a horrible song to listen to, with or without the words.

This is coming from a guy who really loves XTC.

Distance: 3.25 miles
Route: Forest Hill Loop
Temperature: 34°
Climate: cool. nice.
Mood: okay.

What rocks English Settlement are those songs, naked in their cultural appropriation, employing "African rhythms" which were all the rage among white, male performers in the 1980s from Peter Gabriel and Paul Simon on down. The forced patois and imagery of "It's Nearly Africa" would be as dismissible as those of Toto's "Africa" if it weren't for the irresistibly funky beat and the driving arrangement. It does, indeed, make me want to finger-paint the sun on you.

Also, too, the words in "Melt the Guns" are no less relevant now than they were thirty-five years ago. They are unfortunately much much more so.

Finally, "Snowman" is one my very favorite holiday songs, even though it has nothing to do with Christmas except sleigh bells and the references to snow and cold. It includes one of my most favorite phrases about feel lost and embittered in love; "People will always be tempted to wipe their feet on anything with 'welcome' written on it."

This is where Partridge truly shines, when he is speaking from the heart about emotions that are closest to him. Broken hearts, loss of faith, the British class society. Making grand pronouncements about sex and race, he sounds awfully male and white.

No, seriously. I really love the music of XTC. But though the lyrics were, in my college years, a gateway for me into more progressive thinking, they are, many of them, facile thoughts better left to open the minds of a new generation of young, white men ... like my son.

This is a playlist of the best tracks, and best running tracks, from English Settlement.

English Settlement - XTC (1982)
Runaways (167 bpm)
Melt The Guns (182 bpm)
It's Nearly Africa
Fly On The Wall
Down In The Cockpit (158 bpm)
English Roundabout
Snowman (174 bpm)

See? That is some boss beats per minute.

Sprinting down the street, I bust my supporter. Hmn. Need a new supporter.

Didn't even take my kit to Athens. When was the last time I didn't run at Thanksgiving? Pain shot straight down through my leg at one point, but it eased off. Glad I ran. No regrets.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Words move faster.

As I was saying, the late 90s to me meant deep, dark techno music. Bass and beats and brooding. No idea why this was the case, though the work we did moving into that brief Bad Epitaph Theater phase may have had something to do with it. The opening sounds of Beaucoup Fish by Underworld put me in the center of an urban, winter landscape, just after dusk.

My introduction to Underworld was "Dark and Long," from the heroin withdrawal, baby-on-the-ceiling scene from Trainspotting. Like most albums I bought in 1999, I either read a review somewhere or heard one on NPR. I had almost entirely stopped buying music I'd heard on commercial radio.

Beaucoup Fish - Underworld (1999)
Cups
Push Upstairs
Jumbo
Shudder / King Of Snake

Distance: 3.25 miles
Route: Forest Hill Loop
Temperature: 42°
Climate: overcast & cool
Mood: decent

Last night the boy asked if my stretches were helping. I said no, they really aren't. But it's a choice now. Run and hurt, don't run and don't hurt. The running isn't difficult, it's just not painless.

Keep moving. Just keep moving.

Thursday, November 09, 2017

My whole world is dying.

Here's the thing; I actually brought my running kit to England. Had it with me in Yalding and in Winchester. The two days we spent in Winchester I saw people running through the center of town, I even mapped a run through the city but still. It wasn't happening for me.

Part of that was due to jet lag. I never got a single complete night's sleep, so sleeping in was required. I knew they would be long days walking about, but still. It was disheartening. I used to love running through odd spaces, but I just couldn't make it happen.

Distance: 3.25 miles
Route: Forest Hill Loop
Temperature: 36°
Climate: cool
Mood:not bad, considering.

One year ago today we woke to the news that Donald Trump would be our next president. Actually, most of us did not sleep that night, and knew it already. My daughter crawled into bed with us (which also made it difficult to get any sleep) she was so unhappy. The country was full of people who would elect a man who hates women for president. I didn't tell her that, she was paying attention.

If there is such a thing as woke, she it. Now excuse me, I will never use the word "woke" again.

Jesus. Cigarette and Chocolate Milk just came on the Current. That was my earworm all night that night, rolling around in my head, fretting about the future. Nice timing, guys.

Anyway, it's been quite a year. And we're still fighting, aren't we?

Late Night Beats - The Post Club Sound of Britain (1998)
Starwayze - back 2 earth
... And Then You Die - The Receiver
Summer Bummer - Crazy Penis
Can I Be Free From Crying (The Underwolves Remix) * - Bim Sherman
Spudink - Plaid

Tuesday night my hip hurt, and also my knee. I resisted the idea of running yesterday morning, and by evening I felt good. No running two days in a row. We must exercise and then rest.

You may notice I got the idea for the title of my running play from this album. I really love this disc. And a perfect five-and-a-half mile listen.

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

The radio played our song.

We resume. Like starting from scratch. But we've done that before. I cannot understand how I can move from a person who defines himself as a runner to one who does not.

I see runners on the street and think, I used to do that. Like that. That is different. I used to see a runner and think; Hey, I wish I were running right now. I no longer feel that jealousy. I don't feel anything about it.

Well, that's not true. I obviously feel something. I am surprised I have not felt physical fatigue, that my legs have not been aching from disuse. I feel fine. My belly is soft, I haven't gained any more weight but I certainly haven't lost any.

This morning, however, I felt motivated. I began rehearsing a solo performance which opens in a few weeks, it would be nice to work on my breathing. To feel fit. Even a little fit. It would be a good idea to move.

Late Night Beats - The Post Club Sound of Britain (1998)
To Ulrike M (Original Mix) - Doris Days
U R Still Ahead - Kushti
Comfy Club - Pnu Riff
Starbursts Over Orion - Modaji
Can't Stay With You Baby - Jimi Tenor
Gutaris Breeze (6000km To Amsterdam) - John Beltram

In the late 1990s I was given to melancholy and inspired by afterhours club music. The year 1999 gave me Moby's Play and Everything But the Girl's Temperamental. Sometimes I would hear an album in a store and ask what that album is and just buy it. I was shopping at High Tide Rock Bottom in late 1998 and they were playing this sampler of downbeat house music and I just had to have it.

Distance: 3.25 miles
Route: Forest Hill Loop
Temperature: 41°
Climate: cool
Mood: maintaining

Why this album, this morning? Because I want a slow run. I wan to jog, and feel good about it.

It's still a favorite, though I'm not emotionally in sync with it any more. That last one I heard (that's half the album) by John Beltram actually made me break down in tears during the rehearsal process of Hamlet in spring of 1999. Like, bawling.

What am I emotionally in sync with these days? Anything?

Sunday, October 01, 2017

Evening Bike/Run

It has been a couple of weeks. Low motivation, but also very busy. The wife was out of town this weekend, the rest of us kept close to home, seeing friends, doing homework.

Distance: 2.9 miles
Avg. Pace: 9.23
Duration: 27:14
Route: Neighborhood Loop

The three of us took Christine to see The Hunchback of Notre Dame at Great Lakes on Friday night, which surely wins the This-Play-Isn’t-About-Trump-But-It-Kind-Of-Is-Now Award of 2017.

Temperature: 64°
Climate: cool, perfect
Mood: all right

The boy and I took a lovely if a bit gnat-infested run up around Mayfield Road and back. Yeah, I'd like to be running more often. Shorter runs, more often. That would be fine.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Didn't look too good in shorts.

These are challenging days. My wife has spent a great deal of time the past month in Athens, while I have either been getting the kids to their events myself or with the aid of friends, and most evenings I have been doing that or taking care of household chores.

The last time I took an evening run, I was attempting to do that on top of everything else, and I made for a shitty running experience. I was tired, I was in pain, and we didn't have dinner until late. It made me very unhappy.

But I miss the action of running. I just shouldn't run so hard, I guess. I was unsatisfied with physical therapy. I have borrowed a roller, which is interesting, and seems to help. Most of all, I am simply not interested in exercise, which is depressing. Like, literally depressing.

Distance: 3.25 miles
Route: Forest Hill Loop
Temperature: 79°
Climate: hot & humid, but beautiful
Mood: anxious

Took almost an hour to get out. I thought it would hurt. It did hurt. And then it didn't. And then it did again. I ended sprinting, because a song came on to sprint to. To want to sprint to (it's not the one credited below.)

Friday night we saw My Friend Dahmer. Vincent Kartheiser plays a doctor who, in addition to almost becoming Jeffrey Dahmer's first victim, is a runner. Actually, it is because he is a runner that he is marked as a victim. Not that Dahmer hates people who run, it's just that he happens to run by the Dahmer house in Bath, Ohio.

The spot where Dahmer watches him is a road on a slight incline, so the doctor, Kartheiser, is laying it on to keep a steady pace. He's really striking the pavement with his feet. My nerve was stinging that night, I was favoring my right cheek in the chair (watching movies is not as much fun anymore) and I kept thinking how much that kind of exertion and impact hurts now.

But I got out. The wife is home now, she was a great encouragement to run. Now I have the rest of the night to write.

What's That Lyric?
Beat the Clock - Sparks

Not keeping track of weight anymore, not now. My consumption is an issue, yes, and I will try to take it easy there, but what I really need to do is to stop eating sugar. This rehearsal period was obscene, there were bags and bags of candy. People noticed, I couldn't keep my hands off it. And I am going to get sick and I am going to have long-term health problems and I am going to die early.

So I need to stop eating sugar.

Saturday, September 09, 2017

Treadmill: 1.5 miles