Thursday, November 26, 2020

2020 Christmas Movie Challenge

Last year I watched a Christmas movie on November 6th.  

I immediately felt full of the Christmas spirit and wanted that feeling of joy and hope to continue.  So I watched another Christmas movie.  And another and another and so on and so forth.  Thus the 50 Christmas Movies in 50 Days Challenge was born!  The plan was to average watching a Christmas movie once a day for a span of 50 days that would culminate with watching A Christmas Story on Christmas Day.  

2020 has been a year where normal is not normal as we are living during a time of pandemic.  So many people started putting up Christmas decorations earlier than ever before because they were looking to embrace that same joyous holiday feeling during a year that has been filled mostly with despair. 

So how could I improve upon last years challenge?  Not that bigger is always better, but the definition of a challenge is that it should be, well, challenging.  Without a notion of a plan, I watched my first Christmas movie on October 26th.  Quickly I realized that it was exactly 60 days until Christmas.  And thus the 60 Christmas Movies in 60 Days challenge was born.
Last year I just one simple rule -- that I had to watch 50 Christmas movies in 50 days -- no more, no less.  This year I expanded on that with just one more rule, which is more of a guideline.  I want to try to not be more than 2 movies ahead (or behind) schedule.  The rationale was that this was not about binge watching eight or 10 movies in a weekend and lapsing until the following weekend.  This is because I want to embody the season on a daily basis, not in mass quantities and then lapse back into despondency or gloom for days at a time.

Last year I was scouring Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hulu and toward the end of the challenge the quality of movies was very poor.  This year the quality of movies vastly improved as I invested in the frndly app which includes the Hallmark family of channels. 

What are some observations for what comprises a Hallmark Christmas movie?  It will contain 3 or more of the following scenarios.
  • A successful business person working in the big city returns home and stays there to work
  • Someone rediscovers the Christmas spirit 
  • A single parent who had shied away from love, finds it again
  • A famous country movie star returns to their home town
  • Some sort of festival, parade or holiday event needs to be planned
  • A kiss happens between the two main characters in the final 30 seconds of the movie
  • A struggling small business in financial hardship is saved just in time for Christmas
  • A young 30 something person is up for a promotion that they are far from qualified for at that age
  • There is a snow storm that forces people to remain in town for longer than planned
  • Will be filmed in Canada, but have a plot that includes New York City + (Vermont, Tennessee or Montana)
  • Will star Candace Cameron-Bure, Lacy Chabert, Brooke D'Orsay, Ashley Williams, Brooke Nevin, Erin Krakow, Sarah Lancaster or Rachel Boston
List of Movies Watched (so far)
  1. Day 1: Oct-26 Christmas in Evergreen: Tidings of Joy
  2. Day 2: Oct-27 Christmas in Evergreen
  3. Day 3: Oct-28 Chateau Christmas
  4. Day 5: Oct-30 'Tis the Season for Love
  5. Day 6: Oct-31 Christmas in Evergreen: Letters to Santa
  6. Day 6: Oct-31 Christmas Scavenger Hunt
  7. Day 7: Nov-01 Christmas Tree Lane
  8. Day 9: Nov-03 Nostalgic Christmas
  9. Day 9: Nov-03 A Blue Ridge Mountain Christmas
  10. Day 11: Nov-05 Rocky Mountain Christmas
  11. Day 12: Nov-06 Fir Crazy
  12. Day 12: Nov-06 On the Twelfth Day of Christmas
  13. Day 13: Nov-07 It’s Christmas, Eve
  14. Day 13: Nov-07 Small Town Christmas
  15. Day 14: Nov-08 A Merry Christmas Match
  16. Day 14: Nov-08 Never Kiss a Man in a Christmas Sweater
  17. Day 15: Nov-09 Christmas in Love
  18. Day 16: Nov-10 Most Wonderful Time of the Year
  19. Day 18: Nov-12 Christmas at the Plaza
  20. Day 19: Nov-13 Christmas Connection
  21. Day 19: Nov-13 A Cookie Cutter Christmas
  22. Day 21: Nov-15 Miss Christmas
  23. Day 24: Nov-18 A Timeless Christmas
  24. Day 25: Nov-19 A Godwink Christmas
  25. Day 26: Nov-20 A Wish for Christmas
  26. Day 26: Nov-20 A Christmas in Tennessee
  27. Day 27: Nov-21 Christmas On Ice
  28. Day 27: Nov-21 Feliz NaviDAD
  29. Day 28: Nov-22 A Royal Christmas
  30. Day 28: Nov-22 Let it Snow
  31. Day 29: Nov-23 Christmas In Vienna
  32. Day 32: Nov-26 The Christmas Cure
  33. Day 34: Nov-28: Just in Time for Christmas

Sunday, November 1, 2020

Best Rock Band



Let's talk about what this is, and what it is not. 

This is an effort to mathematically determine the "best" rock band of my early childhood, which spans from the late 1970's through the entire decade of the 1980's. 

For this challenge, I selected 15 top mainstream bands, and each were allowed to submit their 10 best songs.  All 150 songs were then ranked best to worst through a process of continuing to split the segmented list into halves.  Note that rock bands are allowed to sing (love) ballads and some have been included in their top 10 songs and are judged by their overall quality, not as a pure rock song.

Exclusions (not meeting the inclusion guidelines)
  1. Excluded from this list are bands that were more pop than rock.
  2. Single artists are omitted who fail to meet the criteria of being a band
  3. Bands that could not compile a list of 10 competitive songs were excluded, even if they had several power anthems.
An included band then received two scores:
  • Total score for all of their songs which represents the overall dominance of the band to have multiple hits
  • Total score for a bands top 3 songs which represents the power of band to have mega hits 
Scores for each category were ranked and summed to produce the overall order of best rock band. Yes, I understand that these two categories are mathematically correlated (the top 3 is part of the top 10) but this is how I chose to represent longevity while giving points for substantially big hits.  I understand that this was a mathematical effort but that it still contains a large amount of subjectivity with how I selected the bands, the songs and ranking of the songs.  Life is not perfect. 

The best part about my list, is that it is my list.  While you may appreciate what I have assembled, you will likely disagree somewhere along the way.  The uniqueness of each person in this world is one of the many things that fascinates me. It's what makes lists of this nature, so much fun.

Going into this project I also had speculated how the results may look and have noted that as a preblog ranking.  So, enjoy the results and feel free to debate.

15. Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band - A Detroit based artist, Bob Seger was part of several groups before putting together the Silver Bullet Band in 1973.  Their songs deal with things that the everyday, blue collar worker can relate to.  Most of their mega fame came in a 4-record span from 1976 to 1982 with ten top 25 hits.  In total, Seger would have 7 studio albums with the Silver Bullet Band, with the most recent release coming in 2017.  Their last big hit would be a chart topper as Shakedown from Beverly Hills Cop would peak at #1.  Seger is one of the world's best selling artists of all time, with record sales in excess of 75 million and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004.  Preblog rank: 15

14. Chicago - Chicago was formed fittingly in Chicago in 1967, originally going by the Chicago Transit Authority.  With a wide range of members over the years, they have released 37 albums over the last 6 decades.  Of this total, 11 would reach the top 10 in the US and amazingly four #1 albums in a row in the mid 1970's.  Along with album success, they have had 31 singles that reached the top 10 in the US and three that reached the top.  While they did have success before my childhood, they still reigned supreme well throughout the entire decade of the 1980's.  They have sold 40 million albums and were inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2016.   They are second only to The Beach Boys in Billboard singles among American bands and have had 20 top ten hits, including 3 number ones.  Preblog rank: 7

13. Aerosmith - Formed in Boston in 1970, this band would grow into enormous fame, being billed as the America's Greatest Rock and Roll Band.   Lead vocalist Steven Tyler is pop icon for his energy on stage as well as his sense of fashion. Along with Joe Perry, Tom Hamilton, Joey Kramer and Brad Whitford, Aerosmith have released 15 albums between 1973 and 2012 and own two number one albums with Get and Grip in 1993 and Nine Lives in 1997.  With eight top 10 singles, it took them until 1998 to reach their only US #1 single with I Don't Want to Miss a Thing from the Armageddon soundtrack.  Pump stands as their most successful album with three top 10's with Love in an Elevator, Janie's Got a Gun and What It Takes.  They have been on 34 tours including a current residency in Las Vegas. They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001. Preblog rank: 9

12. Motley Crue - Formed in Los Angeles in 1981, the peak of the Crue coincided with the big-hair-glam-rock-era of the latter part of the decade.  With 9 studio albums and 34 tours, they are part of the 100 million album sales club.  They may only have had 4 hits in the US top 25, they had more success with nine top 10 Billboard albums.  Their biggest hit song would come in 1989 with Dr. Feelgood, which was certified as gold.  They would put on an amazing live show, featuring such firsts as an elevated, rotating drum set where drummer Tommy Lee would play upside down.  They have had several break up and reunions with the most recent reunion coming in 2018. The band recently recorded new material for the Netflix rockumentary The Dirt.  They were set to co-headline a tour with Def Leppard in 2020 before COVID-19.  Preblog rank: 3

11. Queen - A British rock band formed in 1970, Queen was fronted by Freddie Mercury.   With some initial success in the late 70's, they would go on to be one of the biggest stadium rock bands of the 1980s, which was highlighted by an epic performance at Live Aid in 1985.  Queen has over 200 million record sales and where inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001.  All 15 of their studio albums have gone gold or platinum with 7 of them reaching number 1 in the UK.   They have had 21 top 10 singles in the UK, including three number ones. Their biggest hit was Bohemian Rhapsody which went to number one twice; 1975 and 1991.  Sadly, the band lost their lead singer Mercury in 1991 at age 45 due to complications from AIDS.  Preblog rank: 10

10. Journey - Formed in San Francisco in 1973, this band would go on to be ultra successful after hiring lead vocalist Steve Perry in 1978.  They would take a hiatus from 1987 to the mid 90's before making a comeback with their last album featuring Perry in 1995, who would have to leave the band a few years later with health issues.  Journey would produce 14 studio albums, including 3 albums that made the US top 10 and have a single chart topper with Escape in 1981.  With 14 top 25 hits, they never had a #1 single, finishing as high as #2 with Open Arms that held that position in the charts for six weeks. Journey was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with the class of 2017.  The current version of Journey still tours and features a front font man Filipino singer Arnel Pineda, who was found on YouTube and sounds amazingly like Perry.  Preblog rank: 4

9. Heart - Formed in 1970 in Seattle as White Heart, this band would turn into the one we know in 1973 when sisters Ann and Nancy Wilson took center stage sharing lead vocals.  The band has had 16 studio albums including 4 that would be top 5 in the US from 1980 to 1990.  They did have a string of three albums in a row that peaked at #1 (Heart in 1985), #2 (Bad Animals in 1987) and #3 Brigade combining to be 15x platinum in sales.  They never really had that much singles success as they only had eight top 10 singles, but did have two 1's in 1986 (These Dreams) and 1987 (Alone).  With over 35 million records sold worldwide, they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2013.  Preblog rank: 14

8. Van Halen - Formed in California in 1972, Van Halen would go on to have success with two different lead singers from David Lee Roth to Sammy Hagar and back to David Lee Roth.  The Roth Years had a little more pop to their sound while with Hagar on lead vocals it would be more true rock.  Overall they have 12 studio albums which have sold 56 million copies in the US, which ranks them in the top 20 of all time.  Amazingly their last 11 albums have reached the top 6 in the US, with four in a row going to the top from 1986 to 1995 with Sammy Hagar. Like Heart, Van Halen had more album success than single success as they only had two top 5 hits, one with David Lee Roth (#1 Jump in 1983) and one with Sammy Hagar (#3 Why Can't This be Love in 1986).  Anecdotally, most people consider their best album to be 1984 which went diamond, but only peaked at #2 on the charts because it was up against Michael Jackson's Thriller which spent a record 37 weeks at number one on the Billboard 200.  The world lost a great guitarist -- maybe one of the best ever -- recently with the passing of Eddie Van Halen.  He was only 65 years old and fought a long battle with throat cancer.  The band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007.  Preblog rank: 13

7. Bon Jovi - With their famous roots in New Jersey, Bon Jovi was officially formed in 1983 and rose to fame during the MTV generation.  They would go on to sell 100 million albums and continue to be a household name today.  Their 15th studio album is expected to be released later this year, of which 11 reached the top 10 and six were chart toppers.   They have had equal success singles with 10 top 10's and four #1's ("You Give Love a Bad Name" and "Livin' on a Prayer" in 1986, "Bad Medicine" in 1988 and "I'll Be There for You" in 1989).  They have not had a top 100 charted hit since 2009 but their popularity is still there as proven by the $250M their 2013 tour grossed.  They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2018.  Preblog rank: 5

6. Metallica - Labeled as a heavy metal band, Metallica was formed in 1981 in Los Angeles by James Hetfield Lars Ulrich.  With 10 studio albums over the last 40 years, they have sold over 125 million albums worldwide.  Their last six albums have all gone to number one and are all platinum or multi-platinum in sales.  They are 35th on the list of best selling music artists of all time.  Being heavy metal, they never had any luck on the Billboard Hot 100 list but did have 10 number ones on the Mainstream Rock chart.  They have won nine Grammy Awards and were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2009.  Preblog rank: 6

5. Poison - Formed in 1983 in Pennsylvania by Brett Michaels, Bobby Dall and Rikki Rocket, Poison would rise to immediate stardom with their first studio album in August of 1986.  Though releasing 7 total studio albums, it was on the power of their first three (Look What the Cat Dragged, Open Up and Say... Ahh! and Flesh & Blood) that they would have most of their success over a four year period.  All three albums reached at least 3× Platinum in the US and were all in the top 3 of the US charts.  Based mostly on the strength of those three albums, the band has managed to sell 45 million records worldwide.  They also had major success with singles, posting eight top 15 marks in the charts, including a single number one in 1988 with Every Rose Has Its Thorn.  They reach this level in our ranking on the pure strength of a small number of monster hits that carried the rest of their entries.  Ironically their second highest chart placing single, Unskinny Bop (#3 in 1990) is considered one the bands worst songs.  Little known tidbit that when looking for a guitarist in 1985, Poison auditioned Slash (Guns 'N Roses) but selected C.C. DeVille instead.  Preblog rank: 11

4. AC/DC - Formed in Sydney Australia in 1973 by two Scottish-born brothers, AC/DC has been rocking for almost 50 years with new material currently underway.  Though they have had several lineup changes, including a brief period where Axl Rose replaced Malcolm Young who was forced into retirement due to early-onset dementia, the AC/DC heavy metal brand remains strong.  They have sold more than 200 million records worldwide with 17 studio albums, scoring 8 US top 10's and two number one albums (For Those About to Rock We Salute You in 1981 and Black Ice 37 years later).  Back in Black has sold 50 million copies worldwide, making it the highest-selling album by any band. They have also had success with singles, posting 14 top 10's and four times their singles have topped the charts in the US.  AC/DC was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2003.  Preblog rank: 8.

3. Foreigner - This British–American rock band was originally formed in 1976 between London and New York City.  Another band that has had changing members over time, only Mick Jones remains from the original Foreigner lineup.  They have released 9 studio albums between 1979 and 2009, with their first five albums reaching the Billboard top 5.  Their 4th album, named 4, was their only LP to reach number 1, but at 6x platinum, ranks only behind Double Vision which is 7x platinum.  Worldwide they have sold more than 80 million records.  They have had 13 top 25 singles and reached #1 in the US with "I Want to Know What Love Is" in 1984.  They still have not been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, something that seems to baffle a lot of people.  Preblog rank: 12

2. Guns N' Roses - The newest of all bands making the list, Guns N' Roses was formed in 1985 as a hard rock band from Los Angeles.  They hit the ground running with their debut album, Appetite for Destruction (1987) that would go on to sell 18 million copies (18x platinum) and still rank as the 7th most sales of a single album in history.  With only 6 studio albums (2 of which were released simultaneously) they don't have the most content, but all their albums have reached at least the top 4.  They have topped the charts twice (Use Your Illusion II was at #2 because Use Your Illusion I was #1).  Overall they have over 100 million in album sales.  Being hard rock, their singles did not have the same success as their album sales, but they still have six top 10 singles.  People argue that if they had released Welcome to the Jungle first, that they would have had two more top singles as "It's So Easy" and "Mr. Brownstone" (UK Only) were released first.  "Sweet Child o' Mine" would be the bands only #1 hit, coming in 1988.   GNR was the ultimate stadium rock concert band as they played hundreds of shows with their album tours.   The light shined very brightly for this band, but was short lived as they could never reproduce the success of Illusion and Slash would leave the band in the mid 90's.  Fans thought that the differences were too great to ever see GNR together again but were rewarded as GNR got back together for the Not in this Lifetime tour in 2016.  The tour wrapped as the third-highest-grossing tour of all time with sales over $500 million dollars.  They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2012 in their first year of eligibility.  Preblog rank: 1

1. Def Leppard - Sitting on top of the list as Best Rock Band is Def Leppard.  This British band was formed in 1977 in Sheffield, England.  With only moderate success of their first two albums in the UK, it was High 'n' Dry,  their third album and hit "Bringin' On the Heartbreak" that gave them a presence in the United States to the MTV generation.  But the explosion of popularity for Def Leppard came with the release of Pyromania in 1983.  The album would peak at #2 (behind Thriller) but would sell ten million copies.  The album would have four top 10 singles including two charter toppers in a row with rock anthems Photograph and Rock of Ages.  Their follow up release, Hysteria, would have even more success as it did reach #1 and would go 12x Platinum in sales.  The album took three years to hit stores as the band was also dealing with Rick Allen’s accident that resulted in the loss of his left arm.  Woman, Animal, Love Bites, Rocket, Armageddon It and the title track Hysteria all charted in the top 10, but it was Pour Some Sugar On Me that would become the hit that most people would remember them by.  Their 5th album Adrenalize would also rise to the top of the charts in 1992 proving their sustained success.  To date, they have five #1 singles, two #1 albums and have sold more than 100 million records worldwide.  They are one of only five rock bands with two  studio albums selling more than ten million copies each in the US.  They were finally inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2019.  Preblog rank: 2

Post script
  • After compiling the list I realize that I overlooked Huey Lewis and the News and Duran Duran.  
  • I did miss a few Aerosmith singles in my research that may have made their top 10 but would not have moved the needle on their overall ranking, which included Livin' on the Edge and Amazing
  • You will see that I have omitted The Eagles and Kiss, who had the majority of their popularity prior to 1980.
  • The Police probably should have been considered.  
  • My perception was that U2 had more success in the 90's and were not included in this research, even though later realizing that Joshua Tree was released in 1987 and Rattle and Hum in 1988.  This does not change the fact that I don't like U2.  Remember it is my list.   
  • I only a single band was removed after the initial analysis as their score was so far below the nearest band and that was REO Speedwagon.
Individual Song Rankings 

1. Pour Some Sugar on Me - Def Leppard
2. You Could Be Mine - Guns N’ Roses
3. Wherever I May Roam - Metallica
4. You Give Love a Bad Name - Bon Jovi
5. You Shook Me All Night Long - AC/DC
6. Don't Stop Believin' - Journey
7. Nothin' But A Good Time - Poison
8. Kickstart My Heart - Motley Crue
9. Jump - Van Halen
10. Juke Box Hero - Foreigner

11. Livin' On A Prayer - Bon Jovi
12. Thunderstruck - AC/DC
13. Welcome to the Jungle - Guns N’ Roses
14. Rock of Ages - Def Leppard
15. Dude (Looks Like A Lady) - Aerosmith
16. Urgent - Foreigner
17. Talk Dirty To Me - Poison
18. Dr. Feelgood - Motley Crue
19. Enter Sandman - Metallica
20. Never - Heart

21. Photograph - Def Leppard
22. Head Games - Foreigner
23. Foolin' - Def Leppard
24. Nightrain - Guns N’ Roses
25. Back in Black - AC/DC
26. Bohemian Rhapsody - Queen
27. Stranded - Heart
28. Ride The Wind - Poison
29. Separate Ways - Journey
30. Hot for Teacher - Van Halen

31. Cold As Ice - Foreigner
32. Mr. Brownstone - Guns N’ Roses
33. Look Away - Chicago
34. Rocket - Def Leppard
35. Radio Ga Ga - Queen
36. Love In An Elevator - Aerosmith
37. Turn the Page - Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band
38. It’s So Easy - Guns N’ Roses
39. When It's Love - Van Halen
40. Fallen Angel - Poison

41. Bringin' On the Heartbreak - Def Leppard
42. Money Talks - AC/DC
43. Double Vision - Foreigner
44. Alone - Heart
45. Paradise City - Guns N’ Roses
46. Wanted Dead Or Alive - Bon Jovi
47. I Want it All - Queen
48. Whiskey in the Jar - Metallica
49. Any Way You Want It - Journey
50. Turn The Page - Metallica

51. Every Rose Has Its Thorn - Poison
52. Almost Paradise - Heart
53. Hells Bells - AC/DC
54. The Unforgiven - Metallica
55. We Can Last Forever - Chicago
56. Animal - Def Leppard
57. Panama - Van Halen
58. Under Pressure - Queen
59. Feels Like the First Time - Foreigner
60. You're The Inspiration - Chicago

61. Highway to Hell - AC/DC
62. Against the Wind - Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band
63. We Will Rock You - Queen
64. I Don't Wanna Live Without Your Love - Chicago
65. Sweet Emotion - Aerosmith
66. Why Can't This be Love - Van Halen
67. I Want to Know What Love Is - Foreigner
68. Wheel in the Sky - Journey
69. I Don't Want To Miss A Thing - Aerosmith
70. Blaze Of Glory - Bon Jovi

71. I Want Action - Poison
72. Until It Sleeps - Metallica
73. Open Arms - Journey
74. You'll Accompany Me - Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band
75. Will You Still Love Me? - Chicago
76. Girls, Girls, Girls - Motley Crue
77. Another One Bites The Dust - Queen
78. Sweet Child O' Mine - Guns N’ Roses
79. Hollywood Nights - Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band
80. For Those About to Rock (We Salute You) - AC/DC

81. Bad Medicine - Bon Jovi
82. Shout at the Devil - Motley Crue
83. Sad But True - Metallica
84. Faithfully - Journey
85. What About Love? - Heart
86. Hot Blooded - Foreigner
87. Old Time Rock And Roll - Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band
88. Nothing Else Matters - Metallica
89. Let It Rock - Bon Jovi
90. Shakedown - Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band

91. We are the Champions - Queen
92. Wild Side - Motley Crue
93. Janie's Got A Gun - Aerosmith
94. I'll Be There For You - Bon Jovi
95. These Dreams - Heart
96. Mainstreet - Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band
97. Without You - Motley Crue
98. Women - Def Leppard
99. For Whom The Bell Tolls - Metallica
100. Dream On - Aerosmith

101. Rock and Roll Never Forgets - Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band
102. Say You Will - Foreigner
103. November Rain - Guns N’ Roses
104. Barracuda - Heart
105. Poundcake - Van Halen
106. I Won't Forget You - Poison
107. Who Will You Run To - Heart
108. Raise Your Hands - Bon Jovi
109. Hard Habit To Break - Chicago
110. Dreams - Van Halen

111. Same Ol' Situation (S.O.S.) - Motley Crue
112. Waiting for a Girl Like You - Foreigner
113. What It Takes - Aerosmith
114. Shoot to Thrill - AC/DC
115. My Michelle - Guns N’ Roses
116. Right Now - Van Halen
117. Hysteria - Def Leppard
118. You Really Got Me - Van Halen
119. One - Metallica
120. Smokin' in the Boys Room - Motley Crue

121. Runnin' With the Devil - Van Halen
122. Rocket Queen - Guns N’ Roses
123. Living in Sin - Bon Jovi
124. Let There be Rock - AC/DC
125. Walk This Way - Aerosmith
126. Love Bites - Def Leppard
127. Home Sweet Home - Motley Crue
128. Stay The Night - Chicago
129. I'll Be Alright Without You - Journey
130. Something To Believe In - Poison

131. Nothin' At All - Heart
132. Love Me Tomorrow - Chicago
133. Send Her My Love - Journey
134. Like a Rock - Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band
135. Don't Go Away Mad (Just Go Away) - Motley Crue
136. Hard To Say I'm Sorry - Chicago
137. Jaded - Aerosmith
138. Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap - AC/DC
139. Amazing - Aerosmith
140. Look What the Cat Dragged In - Poison

141. Crazy Little Thing Called Love - Queen
142. Night Moves - Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band
143. Always - Bon Jovi
144. All I Wanna Do Is Make Love To You - Heart
145. Who's Crying Now - Journey
146. Fat Bottomed Girls - Queen
147. Life Goes On - Poison
148. Along Comes A Woman - Chicago
149. Feeling That Way - Journey
150. Somebody to Love - Queen

Monday, October 5, 2020

My Uncle Chuck

To most, you were Charles Mitchem. 

To some, you were Charlie.

To me, you were my Uncle Chuck.

As my Mom's brother, you married my Dad's sister which meant that it always felt like we had a special bond even tighter than just regular family.  I am sure it was the way you treated all the nieces and nephews but you made me feel like I was your favorite.  

Some of my first memories in this world were with you.  I remember that you always had a bag of M&Ms in your pocket for me.  And apparently I had a proclivity of chewing your "coddar."  You see, flannel shirts used to have a plastic piece in the "collar" and apparently when people would pick me up, I would start to chew on the collar of their shirt.  Of course they didn't realize until they put me down that they had a wet collar!  I am sure that I chewed my fair share of your "coddars."

Growing up, the Mitchem's lived on the corner of Emmet and Roseland Street, and the Charette's were just two blocks away on Emmet and Hooper.  As was in the 70's and 80's, family would just drop by and end up staying for a beer or sometimes dinner and the closer they lived the more often you saw them.  Of all my relatives, I probably saw you and Auntie Sandie the most.  

This extended to most major holidays as well.  I could count on seeing you every 4th of July as we hosted the annual backyard - grill out - pool party - badminton match at our house.  Then in late November, Thanksgiving was another mainstay with our close knit family as the Charette-Mitchem's made our way to the north side of Iron Mountain to enjoy turkey with Rocheleau's.  Just a few weeks later, we would be together again as a family for Christmas Eve at our house (well at your house when I was very small) followed by Rocheleau's on Christmas Day.  On Phil's first Christmas at our house we introduced ourselves collectively as the loud family.  

Back when you had to develop a roll of film, pictures were really only taken at major holidays or birthdays, so most of the photos that I have of my childhood, which paint the background of my memories, have you in them.  When I look at the picture of you wearing that hunter orange knit chook folded up with the black whitetail deer circular logo and your blue flannel shirt, along with your epic mustache, it puts me back into that moment of my 10th birthday like it was yesterday.  

While it is not a major holiday for the rest of the world, November 15th is a holiday in Michigan.  That is because it is the opening day of deer (rifle hunting) season.  Your camp was a stone's throw from ours and long before I was old enough to hunt, my Dad would bring me to camp during deer season.  I have so many fond memories of sitting at the table in your camp listening to your stories.  As I got older, I found that the more PBR's that we had, the taller the stories became and the more cards that were dealt off the bottom of the deck.  From the 15th to Thanksgiving, we were either at our camp or yours and while the memories are about as clear as the cigarette smoke that blanketed the ceiling, you were a key part of them. 

Your move to Kentucky while I was in high school meant that we saw less of each other.   It feels like a lot of years, maybe too many, passed in the 1990's when I don't have many memories of you.  Then as you moved to Florida in retirement, followed by my move to Alabama meant that we were no longer two blocks apart like we were once upon a time.  But that didn't mean that you still weren't my favorite uncle. 


We were together for the Christmas in July celebration on the Menominee River in 2004 and apparently had graduated from PBR up to Miller Lite according to this picture.  Your mustache was a thing of the past but your knack for the occasional inappropriate joke or comment was just as strong as ever!  That was what made you, you -- that carefree attitude of saying what was on your mind that could both make people laugh and cringe at the same time but always good natured. 


And I can only the BS that must have been flying here as two brothers shot the shit. 


The last time that we got a chance to see each other in person was in August, 2016.  It was another family gathering at my parents Tiki Bar on the Menominee River.  You never know when it will be the last time you see someone.  This would be ours.  

Eventually your heart, your mind and your spirit were let down by your body, which just could not fight the cancer any longer.  We tried valiantly to get to Florida to say goodbye in person, but it just wasn't meant to be.  From what I've heard, you were full of  stories right up until the very end.  I wouldn't have expected any less.  

If I had been there, I would have simply told you that you will always be my uncle Chuck, whether it is in this world or the next.  Then I would have pulled these out of my pocket and show you that life had come full circle.  

We will do our best to care care for and watch over Auntie Sandie and Missy for you.  Come this deer season I will be wearing my hunter orange chook in your memory and as we throw down the PBRs, we will be telling stories of the many deer seasons of the past.  As the playing cards get thicker with the progression of the night, I will see if I can master dealing from the bottom of the deck in your honor.  

Thursday, September 10, 2020

The Impossible Has Happened

"In the year that has been so improbable, the impossible has happened." - Vin Scully calling Kirk Gibson's pinch-hit walk-off home run for national TV of game 1 of the 1988 World Series.

 

Not long after qualifying for Boston at the 2016 California International Marathon in December, I decided that I was going to focus on my health.  I needed to step away from running, not knowing the effects of the interferon treatment protocol I was about to take to address my recurrent respiratory papillomatosis.  In other words, I retired from competition not knowing if I would ever be able to return, or for that matter, ever run again.  

Then 2017 came and went.  Running got shorter and shorter, slower and slower and less frequent.  

Then 2018 arrived.  I was part of a drug trial at the National Institute of Health (NIH) in Washington, DC which was prematurely cancelled.  My condition did not improve.  2018 went.  Running turned into jogging.  

In April 2019 I made it official.  I could no longer run, at any level, and was no longer going to try.  This was a very emotional revelation, when I knew that it was over and there was nothing I could do about it.  Jogging turned into walking.  The months that would follow in 2019 would only solidify the notion that running was something of the past for me.  In December I would require knee surgery to repair a torn meniscus in my right knee.  

Just about when COVID-19 was starting to be a household term in the spring of 2020, I started noticing that I was feeling fatigued more and more.  I was going to bed early, and having to take several naps during the day.  I had zero energy even for normal daily activities, which I attributed to the interferon injections.  Though I had been taking it for three full years at that point, I wondered if it was causing anemia based on my symptoms.  

In parallel, I was having some irregular heart rate issues.  Upon any activity such as going up more than a few stairs or other minor exertion, my heart would begin to beat rapidly and if I did not immediately sit down to recover, would spiral out of control at an insane rate.  In early June, I could run about 10 steps and I would be so out of breath that I would gasp for air.  

I didn't know if I had developed a new arrhythmia or worse, but I knew that I needed to seek medical attention.  When I met with the cardiologist, I knew immediately that something was seriously wrong.  The scale reading showed I was 157 pounds, a weight I had not seen since I was at the height of ultra running in 2014.  Post retirement and as recently as Christmas I had been stable around 172 pounds, so without an increase of exercise or change in diet, there was no GOOD reason why I should drop nearly 10% of my body weight.  My mind raced immediately to some form of aggressive cancer.  Deep sigh. 

After a months worth of tests, I was finally diagnosed with Graves' disease.  The fast and irregular heartbeat, heat intolerance, fatigue, weight loss, light sensitivity and double vision could all be attributed to an autoimmune disorder stemming from the interferon which resulted in my thyroid being hyperactive and accelerating my body's metabolism at an alarming rate.  My TSH was <0.01 mU/L with the normal range being 0.40 - 4.00 mU/L while my T4 was 3.25 ng/dL with a normal range of 0.76 - 1.46 ng/dL.  

But, I had never been so happy to get such bad news.  Though mildly common (about 1 in every 200 people have it) it would be treatable with a single radioiodine therapy that would shock my thyroid into stop producing so much hormone.  It likely would swing too far the other way, and eventually I will have to take daily medication to regulate it back up to normal.  So on July 30, I took the radioactive iodine pill and for 5 days following, was mostly isolated from Rachel and Fiina to limit their radiation exposure.  And I felt REALLY BAD.  The symptoms typically magnify for a few days before they get better and I had a hard time getting out of bed until through the weekend.  I was skeptical if this was actually working for me. 

Then on Sunday August 16, I took Fiina Beagle for our typical weekend long walk -- Lake Harriet, Lake Calhoun and Lake of the Isles.  But something felt, different.  The normal 17-18 minute walking pace was replaced by small sections of running.  It was not very far or very fast, but Fiina and I were jogging toward the end and we averaged under 15 minute miles for the 8 mile three lake loop.

"I don't believe what I just saw!" - Jack Buck calling Kirk Gibson's pinch-hit walk-off home run on national radio for game 1 of the 1988 World Series 

 

And if you saw me, I was running.  
  • Aug 17: The very next day I thought I would try to just run.  And I did, sort of.  4 miles in 43 minutes but stopped to walk 22 times.  At 10:44 pace I still declared it a victory as the last mile was under 10 minutes per mile.  
  • Aug 19 (+2 days): At 6:44am I stepped out the front door and ran 5 kilometers, steady state, no walking.  The benchmark had been set at 31:40 (10:05 pace).  
  • Aug 25 (+8 days) : After a failed steady state run over the weekend that turned into repeats and fartleks, I had my longest stated state run with NO STOPS.  Back to the 4-mile loop fro the previous week, I was a touch slower at 10:50 pace, but was able to hold pace and not walk until the run was over.  This was encouraging as it was 75 degrees and 84% humidity for the 6am start.
  • Aug 27 (+10 days): Back to the 5km time trial, this time breaking the 30-minute mark, running 29:16 on another muggy and warm morning run.  No warm up, just 9's out the door.  
  • Aug 29 (+12 days): With ideal temperatures, I was ready to run in public and headed to Lake Harriet.  I hadn't intended to time trial again so quickly, but in the first mile I was out waaaay to fast and realized that it was on.  I would have splits of 8:13, 8:32, 8:38 and a slow kick for a new TT benchmark of 26:21.  
  • Aug 30 (+13 days): Having gone back and read some of my old books I training, I was ready to try the track again to see what it felt like to run a perceived hard effort, one lap at a time.  So on a Sunday morning, I was out the door by 7am and warmed up over to Minnehaha Academy.  Only recently had I learned how the public gained access to the rubberized track and was excited to try some 400s.  The goal pace based on my 5km time from the day before was around 1:55 per lap (or just over 7:40 pace).  It was harder than I thought it would be for an 8x400m session, but managed splits of 1:55, 1:53, 1:52, 1:51, 1:50, 1:51, 1:49, 1:47 for an average pace of 7:25.  It was a slow cool down back home, but I was beaming with excitement from moderate success on the track, a place I loved to train from back when I used to train.  
  • Sept 3 (+17 days): After a two-day trip back to Huntsville for work which featured some lackluster jogging in soupy 90% humidity, I was back home in Minnesota and ready to stretch out my legs.  Just a short run, but looking for steady state at a pace that felt comfortable.  This turned out to be just over 9 minute miles for 3.5 miles but with only a stop to stretch at the turn, I was left not feeling as gassed as I had been on similar runs.  My legs felt a little heavy but breathing and heart rate were under control.  
  • Sept 4 (+18 days): I went back to the track at Minnehaha Academy with a plan to run the same pace as the week prior, but for slightly longer repeats, 6x600m to be exact.  The temperature was to my liking as I had to put on arm sleeves and gloves in the warm up for the 6:30am start.  I found that right from the start, my 400m splits were faster than last time and I was able to finish up at 2:48, 2:46, 2:44, 2:43, 2:42, 2:40 for a 7:19 average pace.  So in just a week, I was running faster, for longer repeat distances.  I could tell that I had a little bit of acid build up when trying to kick, but overall my legs felt like the turnover was there.  Still in comparison, I once ran a trail 50km race just a tad slower pace, so I am still keeping all of this in perspective.  
  • Sept 5 (+19 days): The next test would be to stretch out the distance a little and slow the pace.  The running paths around Medicine Lake in the northwestern suburbs of the Twin Cities are very quiet, and apparently featured far more rolling hills than I remembered!  Regardless, after a slow warm up mile, I was able to sustain 9:15 pace for the next 7 miles.  I definitely started to feel leg fatigue in the second half and had a few more stops to rest than hoped.  I realize that I bit off more than I could chew as if I was looking for a steady state run I should have targeted a route more in the 5-6 mile range based on my fitness.  
  • Sept 7 (+21 days): On another cool morning, I was out early to run a loop around Bush Lake in the southwestern suburbs.  I had a pace of something in the low 9's in my mind but with an 8:47 first mile I knew that it was ON again!  Mile two was flat, and I cranked out an 8:33 without laboring.  The rollers started next which slowed the pace to 8:40/8:36 for miles 3 and 4 before a steady drop back down to the beach in the 5th mile which I clocked an 8:25.  Total time 43:02 for 8:36 average pace.  

So in the year that was so improbable, the impossible has happened.  I started running again!

I don't know where this goes from here.  All I know is that I am going to enjoy running again and take it day by day.   I am just happy to be able to explore my city or in my travels, afoot at a decent clip.

Maybe there is a race or an ultra run in my distant future.  Maybe.  But not right now.

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Donruss Rated Rookies 1984-1989

Being 9 years old in 1984, I was playing Little League and living and breathing baseball.  My Chicago Cubs were enroute to the NLCS and Donruss had introduced a new subset, the Rated Rookie.  I started baseball cards heavily in 1986 and the Jose Canseco was card every kid chased.  As a member of the bash brothers, Canseco and McGwire were at the core of my colelctions.



Recently I was thinking about the Donruss Rated Rookies from the 80's.   I am sure that there is a future blog of Rated Rookies that should have been like Will Clark, Barry Bonds, Barry Larkin and even Don Mattingky.  But for this blog, I focised on the 118 players who were Rated Rookies from 1984-1989.

Here are some stats of these cards/players.
  • 118 Rated Rookies (not counting Danny Tartabull twice)
  • Career WAR 1633.8 (13.84 average per player)
  • 43 players with a career WAR 10 or higher
  • 43 players with a career WAR of less than 1 (26 are negative WAR)
  • Greg Maddux had the highest WAR with 106.6 (27th all time)
  • Gary Thurman had the worst WAR with a -2.4
  • Only 4 Hall of Famers





What was the best crop of Rated Rookies?  1987 which has the highest total WAR, highest individual player WAR and most players with WAR of 10 or higher.  1985 was the worst.

YearPlayerWARTotal War# over 10 WAR
1987Greg Maddux106.6459.311
1989Randy Johnson101.1427.19
1988Roberto Alomar67250.96
1986Fred McGriff52.6226.37
1984Tony Fernandez45.8215.87
1985Danny Tartabull23.354.42




Considering only those players with a career WAR of 10 or higher

The Cubs lead  with the most players finishing with a career WAR of 10+ as well as the highest combined WAR.

# Of PlayersTeamCombined WAR
5Cubs256
4Padres138.2
2Expos132.8
3A's132.6
3Blue Jays108
2Mariners105.9
2Brewers94.9
3Angels83.5
3Cardinals71.5
2Royals58.3
3Mets54.5
2Twins41.6
2Rangers26.6




The Tigers, Pirates, Phillies, Giants, Astros and the Braves did not have any Rated Rookies from 1984-1989 with a career WAR of 10 or higher.

Looking by position of the players with a career WAR of 10 or more, most of them were infielders and they had the highest combined and average WAR.  But considering that 44% of players on the field are infielders, there were a higher percentage of pitchers, given there is only 1 on the field at t time.

#PositionCombined WARAverage
16Infield571.835.7375
15Pitchers523.234.88
8Outfielders311.738.9625
4Catchers103.525.875




Was there a certain card number that had more success than others?  Given there were roughly 6 Rated Rookies for card numbers 28-47 (3 for 47 and 2 for 27) there were 8 card numbers that had a total WAR of 100+.  Card #34 ranked the highest with a 134.4.

Card #WARPlayer 1Player 2Player 3
34134.4Roberto AlomarKevin McReynoldsTerry Steinbach
43129.4Rafael PalmeiroAl LeiterTodd Worrell
33120.8Ken Griffey Jr.Andres GalarragaDaryl Boston
39120.3Jose CansecoCris CarpenterGreg Gagne
31119.9Gary SheffieldBenito SantiagoLance Johnson
36112.7Greg MadduxBrad KomminskLarry Sheets
42112.1Randy JohnsonJohn FarrellChris James
28105.2Fred McGriffB.J. SurhoffSandy Alomar Jr.





Who were the biggest surprises on the list?  Clearly I had not been paying attention to Angels or Cardinals baseball because I had no idea these 5 guys had such productive careers.

9 - Devon White 47.3
17 - Cris Carpenter 34.2
25 - Lance Johnson 26.4
33 - Dick Schofield 18.8
34 - Mark McLemore 17.4




Note that stats for Cris Carpenter are actually for Chris Carpenter.  This changes rankings throughout the blog. 

Who were the guys that I knew were sneaky good that most people would forget about because they did not have flashy careers? Lead by Sid Fernandez, this list of low key guys amassed solid careers after starting off as Rated Rookies.

18 - Sid Fernandez 32.8
20 - Greg Swindell 30.5
21 - Kevin McReynolds 30.1
23 - Jack McDowell 27.8
26 - Greg Gagne 26.3





Here is the full list of every Rated Rookie from 1984-1989 ranked by career WAR.

RankYearCard #PlayerWAR
1198736Greg Maddux106.6
2198942Randy Johnson101.1
3198933Ken Griffey Jr.83.8
4198743Rafael Palmeiro71.9
5198834Roberto Alomar67
6198746Mark McGwire62.2
7198931Gary Sheffield60.5
8198628Fred McGriff52.6
9198738Devon White47.3
10198840Mark Grace46.4
11198432Tony Fernandez45.3
12198639Jose Canseco42.4
13198843Al Leiter40
14198637Paul O'Neill38.8
15198945Tom Gordon35
16198728B.J. Surhoff34.4
17198939Cris Carpenter34.2
18198444Sid Fernandez32.8
19198633Andres Galarraga31.7
20198732Greg Swindell30.5
21198434Kevin McReynolds30.1
22198734Terry Steinbach28
23198847Jack McDowell27.8
24198731Benito Santiago27.4
25198831Lance Johnson26.4
26198439Greg Gagne26.3
27198527Danny Tartabull23.3
28198932Erik Hanson22.1
29198944Pete Harnisch20.6
30198430Ron Darling19.6
31198441Joe Carter19.6
32198935Gregg Jefferies19.6
33198435Dick Schofield18.8
34198635Mark McLemore17.4
35198630Jose Guzman16.6
36198437Tim Teufel15.3
37198729Randy Myers15.3
38198841Jody Reed15
39198928Sandy Alomar Jr.13.7
40198539Shawon Dunston11.5
41198643Todd Worrell10.9
42198741Jerry Browne10.3
43198745Duane Ward10.1
44198946Gregg Olson9.8
45198934Greg Harris9
46198735Bo Jackson8.3
47198938Felix Jose7.1
48198842John Farrell6.3
49198431Dion James6.2
50198837Kevin Elster6.2
51198645John Habyan6.1
52198829Jeff Treadway6.1
53198528Mike Bielecki5.9
54198640Juan Nieves5.4
55198839Kirt Manwaring5.2
56198943Mike Harkey4.8
57198530Jeff Reed4.4
58198533Daryl Boston4.3
59198541Billy Hatcher3.9
60198838Jose Lind3.9
61198742Chris James3.8
62198538Calvin Schiraldi3.5
63198641Lance McCullers3
64198733Mike Birkbeck3
65198443Mike Jeffcoat2.8
66198937Carlos Quintana2.8
67198436Brad Komminsk2.2
68198941David West2.1
69198529Steve Lyons1.9
70198536Larry Sheets1.9
71198636Marty Clary1.8
72198835Shawn Hillegas1.7
73198940Ron Jones1.5
74198832Nelson Liriano1.4
75198845Vicente Palacios1.1
76198442Mike C. Brown0.9
77198629Cory Snyder0.7
78198739Eric Bell0.7
79198445Brian Dayett0.6
80198546Doug Loman0.4
81198634Dave Shipanoff0.4
82198737Jim Lindeman0.4
83198740Willie Fraser0.4
84198828Mackey Sasser0.2
85198836Joey Meyer0.2
86198440Mike Fuentes0.1
87198446Chris Smith0.1
88198632Johnny Abrego0.1
89198427Joel Skinner0
90198542Russ Stephans0
91198642Rick Surhoff0
92198930Cameron Drew0
93198936Luis Medina0
94198534Alfonso Pulido-0.1
95198540Charlie Mitchell-0.1
96198631Ty Gainey-0.1
97198830Mike Campbell-0.1
98198747Bruce Fields-0.2
99198947Alex Sanchez-0.2
100198544Steve Jeltz-0.3
101198846Eddie Williams-0.3
102198929Steve Searcy-0.4
103198531Tony Brewer-0.5
104198744Pat Dodson-0.5
105198532John Morris-0.6
106198646Mike Woodard-0.6
107198730Ken Gerhart-0.6
108198433Angel Salazar-0.8
109198545Jim Traber-0.9
110198644Bob Kipper-0.9
111198543Alejandro Sanchez-1
112198438Doug Frobel-1.1
113198833Shawn Abner-1.2
114198429Mike Stenhouse-1.4
115198537Scott Bradley-1.5
116198428Tommy Dunbar-1.6
117198535Steve Kiefer-1.6
118198844Gary Thurman-2.4