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Monthly Archive for May, 2012

The Last Dance

Posted by on May 18, 2012 at 10:40 pm

Five-time Grammy Award winner and disco icon Donna Summer died yesterday of cancer at the age of 63 at her home in Key West, FL.

Summer helped launch disco’s pop music craze in the 1970s, which served up a unique bass-thumping dance beat and unforgettable sing-along lyrics.

Summer was born in Boston as Ladonna Adrian Gaines in 1948, and was one of seven children. Her father was a butcher, and her mom, a schoolteacher who said that Ladonna always loved to sing. She began singing in church at the age of 10, and her talents were noticed and encouraged as she went on to perform in school musicals.

Weeks before her high school graduation in 1967, Summer left Boston for New York to sing in a blues rock band while trying to also pursue record labels, which failed to materialize. Her first break came a few years later when she auditioned for the rock musical, Hair. She lost out to Melba Moore who landed the original Broadway cast role, but Summer did get cast for the same part for the Munich production of the musical. She moved to Munich where she became fluent in German.

After appearing in several other musicals, Summer signed on as a back-up singer for the rock-and-roll band, Three Dog Night. During this period, she met record producer Giorgio Moroder, whom she partnered with to develop her first hit, “Love to Love You, Baby.” The song’s sexually provocative lyrics and her equally provocative performance drew global attention as some radio stations refused to air it. It went on to become the number two song on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 in 1976. And her 17-minute version of the song soon became a staple in disco clubs around the globe.

Years later she admitted in a Chicago Sun-Times interview that she would’ve preferred to have not recorded “Love to Love You, Baby,” and instead would have first recorded “Last Dance” which became her second big hit in 1978 and led to her first Grammy. She went on to record “Bad Girls,” “Hot Stuff,” “On the Radio,” and “She Works Hard for the Money” over the next few years which brought her more Grammys and accolades.

Although the disco era began to fade around 1980, Summer continued to sing and record up until her death. For my generation who spent our teenage years in the 1970s, we will forever hum and sing and dance to the songs made famous by this artist and trailblazer known as the “Queen of Disco.” And, we thank her for giving us the “Last Dance” and many others.

A Bit of an Obsession

Posted by on May 1, 2012 at 8:54 pm

About a month ago, I read an article in the New York Times about a new hi-tech pedometer called Fitbit Ultra. The reporter, Stephanie Rosenbloom, gave a first-hand account of her Fitbit and credited the little memory stick-size device for motivating her to walk and take stairs like never before.

Now I’ve tried a few pedometers in the past, but after a couple of days, the novelty wears off and the pedometer always finds its way into a drawer. But given the rave review of Rosenbloom, I thought I would give Fitbit a try and I went online to buy one from fitbit.com.

Priced at $99, the Fitbit Ultra isn’t cheap. Yet, I convinced myself I had to have it. And before I clicked “purchase,” I asked my husband if he wanted to buy one too and he scoffed at the suggestion, saying: “I’m already a walker and don’t need this expensive toy to motivate me.”

Within a couple of days, it showed up in the mail, and I installed it on my computer. It comes with a small USB charging station that also serves as a wireless connector for the device. Within minutes my account was set up online. It took about two hours to fully charge, and I proceeded to clip it on my waistband. A full charge lasts about three days.

On the unit I can push a button and get an update on my number of steps that day, my mileage covered, my estimated calories burned, and the number of sets of stairs I’ve climbed. In the morning, it even welcomes me with my name and a random motivational greeting such as “Hold me,” “Burn it,” or “Game On.”

With the online dashboard, you get all this information and plenty more, including charts showing your progress against your own daily or weekly goals or goals provided as a default based on your age and weight. It even comes with a wrist-band if you want to measure your sleep patterns at night, i.e., less movement means a more restful sleep.

By wearing the Fitbit, I immediately found myself taking more walks throughout the day, taking the stairs when possible, parking further away from the store, and even walking around the house before I went to bed if I needed a few more steps to get to my 10,000-step daily goal.

Within days, my husband had witnessed my unprecedented enthusiasm for walking, and he decided he had to have one too – and as soon as possible – so he bought one that day at the new Microsoft Store in Tysons Corner Mall in McLean, VA.

Now he and I compete against each other with our steps, stairs, and mileage covered each day and week. We gladly volunteer to go to the mailbox or put out the trash at night just so we can accumulate more steps. What other little device can do that?!

I don’t expect this obsession to last forever, but while it does, we’ll both be healthier for it and will lose a few pounds in the process. The Fitbit Ultra is not the only new electronic step or activity tracker out there, but it’s clearly one of the most popular and easy to use.

Fitbit took a healthy and low tech idea like a pedometer and used innovative present day technology to make it a very compelling product that might just extend one’s life.

That’s well worth $99 in my book.