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January 2011 – Page 2 – Stephen Skory

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Month: January 2011

John Lennon & Yoko Ono – Double Fantasy

John Lennon & Yoko Ono – Double Fantasy

It is easy to imagine a teen movie plot as follows: A group of guy friends are having an amazing time during summer break. Pretty girls are everywhere and always interested in them, and every night is an adventure. Life is good. But then, one of the guys starts dating a girl who all the others despise. The others can't see what is so great about her. She has destroyed the group dynamic, and offers no redeeming qualities that they can discern. The group attempts to break up the pair to no avail (with plenty of hijinks along the way), but by the end of the movie she has proven her worth in some grandiose and unlikely way.

After listening to the album Double Fantasy by John Lennon and Yoko Ono, I think this movie plot almost describes what happened to the Beatles when Yoko Ono met John Lennon. The Beatles had a really great thing going: hit album after hit album, adoring fans, and any woman they wanted. But when Yoko Ono came on the scene, things went sour, and the group became dysfunctional. The other three did not like the effect Yoko was having on John, she distracted him and pulled him away from the group. Except there was no happy ending, and the Beatles disbanded. Unlike in Hollywood, not all guys are shallow and can tell when a woman is a bad influence on one of their friends (also, in real life friends do not stay friends forever).

In short, Yoko Ono is a talentless singer with a little girl's voice who performs songs terribly. I suppose her physical artwork might be better (which is what she was doing when she met John), but that is the kind of art she should have stuck with. As far as I can tell, on this album the songs are either sung only by John or Yoko, but never together. John's songs range from merely OK to quite good and memorable. In between are Yoko's songs, which are like audible sandpaper. Maybe John was an evil genius and realized that placing his songs next to Yoko's songs would make his songs sound that much better, but I suspect this was not the case. Love can be stupid.

The reason this album is high on the charts is that just a little over 30 years ago, in early December, John was killed. Before that, the album was poorly received and wasn't getting much traction in sales or on the radio. It is unfortunate that it took his death for the album to reach #1, but that is what happened. It is testament to his popularity that the album sold so well, despite Yoko's presence on the album.

Below are the notes I took listening to this album, verbatim. I can't make it any more pleasant and polite than this:

1 - good, you've heard it before.
2 - awful. terrible. pornoaudioic.
3 - bleh
4 - Terrible. Yoko again. Wow.
5 - John again, so not terrible.
6 - voice reverb/echo on Yoko, double terrible. "moving on" sounds like "looking on" with the "L" dropped. Speech impediment, or ESL?
7 - dreamy and OK, but not stellar.
8 - good, quality, you've heard it before.
9 - more ono, more suckage.
10 - OK, John.
11 - pointless, useless voice trembles, awful falsetto (Yoko, of course)
12 - about/to Yoko, but it's by John, so it's OK
13 - best Yoko because she is hidden behind the music.
14 - Ugh. Yoko.

It is always easier to write a negative review, and who-boy, this week was easy! I think I never quite understood just how awful Yoko was until I listened to this album, and now I think I have a better understanding of why everyone blames Yoko for the end of the Beatles. They did have some right to be angry, and that is one of the emotions I felt listening to this album. If you want to listen to this album, skip any and all songs by Yoko, and listen only to John's, some of which are worthwhile.

Last Week: The Police - Zenyattà Mondatta

Next Week: Neil Diamond - The Jazz Singer
What Earning a PhD Does to Physical Activity

What Earning a PhD Does to Physical Activity

Above is a plot showing how many hours I have logged on my Garmin GPS devices since I got my first one in April 2005. This is mostly cycling, but also walking, running and some hiking. However, this is not a true measure of my physical activity over this period because it is missing data. Up to late 2007, I was active on the velodrome, and I didn't bother using my GPS there. In the last year, I've tried to walk to school more often, and for the most part I haven't used my Garmin on those walks. But it does capture the majority of my physical activity, which is road and mountain biking, where I always use a GPS.

In green I've over-plotted a linear fit to the data. I have chosen a linear fit as it shows the overall trend in the clearest way possible. For some reason, June 2006 shows zero hours, which I believe to be wrong. I can't believe I did nothing at all during any summer month in 2006. Therefore, for purposes of the fit, I have given that month the average hours of the four bracketing months.

Even knowing that lots of data is missing from both the front- and back-ends of the figure, it is still clear what the overall trend was. Down - down significantly from nearly 30 hours a month five years ago to just above 10. There of course is a great variability from month to month, but the fit shows clearly the overall trend of what trying to finish graduate school does to physical activity.

I find the lack of patterns interesting. Some years, I really struggled to stay active during the late fall, which makes a certain amount of sense when weather and schoolwork is factored in. However, other years it apparently didn't affect me at all. The bounce in hours since October 2010 makes sense because that's when I graduated, but the two months in 2010 with 25+ hours is confusing. I can't remember how I achieved that!

Nerd time: I made the figure in Python using matplotlib and numpy. Excel is for suckers!

The Police – Zenyattà Mondatta

The Police – Zenyattà Mondatta

It's hard to form a fresh opinion (but I'll try!) about the album Zenyattà Mondatta by The Police because I've heard this album many times before without fully realizing it. I've owned The Police complete box set since high school, and as it turns out, the order of the last eleven songs on disc 2 is identical to the tracks on Zenyattà Mondatta. This means that to a large extent I formed my opinions about this album a long time ago.

The Police have roots in punk rock, which is evident from their early work (see disc 1 of the box set), but by this album, their style definitely shifted away from that. This album has a few kinds of songs: the political "Bombs Away", "De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da"; the cute "Man In A Suitcase"; the creepy/literary "Don't Stand So Close To Me"; and the rare instrumentals "Behind My Camel", "The Other Way of Stopping". It is certainly a more mature style, that overall I prefer over the intellectually lighter punk songs.

In fact, this album kind of hits the sweet spot for me between their early punk and their later, extremely political work. This is due to the lead singer of The Police, Sting, who is very active in these sorts of things around the world. However, just like Christian music, too-political music stinks because it's preachy and bland.

I would recommend this album, or the whole box set.

Last Week: Eagles - Eagles Live

Next Week: John Lennon & Yoko Ono - Double Fantasy
New Years 2011

New Years 2011

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To celebrate New Years we stayed for a few days at a cabin belonging to the family of our friend Chris in Allenspark. Chris, his ladyfriend Emily, and our friends Matt, Erin, and Steve all got together for winter sports and good times. The cabin is in a very pretty place, in the shadow of Mt. Meeker (pictured above), at about 8,600 feet above sea level.

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Two days before the new year a storm front arrived dropping less than a foot of snow, but bringing behind it very cold temperatures and high winds. The coldest day (New Years Eve) never rose above 10 degrees Fahrenheit, and with wind chill it felt colder than 20 below. Our friends bravely skied, and we (Melissa and I) tried to snowshoe, but we gave up after a few minutes because it was so miserable. New years day was a bit warmer, and a few of us went snowshoeing near the cabin.

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Overall, it was a very fun weekend and we were glad to see our friends. And, happy new year to you!