Tag Archives: 2000

Ride Captain Ride

Saucony_ProGrid_Ride5_GrayCitronBlue

A review of the Saucony ProGrid Ride 5 running shoe.

In 2000, Saucony released the Grid Azura cushioned running shoe. For a supposed neutral shoe it was a pretty stable runner due to its low profile stance, almost straight last, and durable rubber in the forefoot. It was a lightweight and airy shoe for its time, and I was warned that it might hold up for only a couple of hundred miles. Now, more than twelve years later, it’s a running shoe that I still use a few times each month, and there’s little indication that it’s nearing the end of its useful days.

I had expectations that Saucony’s fifth iteration of the ProGrid Ride would be a current day version of the Grid Azura. They seem to have a few things in common. The Ride is a low profile shoe with a lowered heel height and a close to straight last that’s unique for a neutral, cushioned runner. Appearance wise, it almost looks like a direct descendent of the Azura, even down to the triangular lugs in the front of the shoe. However, the Ride 5 has ultra-soft blown rubber in its forefoot. Surprisingly, the Ride 5 seems to be not just as stable as the old Azura, but even more so which can present issues for some runners.

First, let me point out a few accolades for this shoe. The new Ride looks to be beautifully constructed, has a nice, comfortable feel (size up a half-size), and brings with it some very functional flat shoelaces that stay tied. Unfortunately, this is about it for the positives. I expected that with the lower profile – somewhere in between that of a standard running shoe and a minimalist running shoe – the Ride would feel like a racing flat. No such luck.

I quickly found the Ride’s ride to be overly, surprisingly stable perhaps due to the hard plastic support bar found underneath the arch (the Azura had no such mid-foot support device). I felt as if my feet were being pushed outward on every step, something that would surely result in some fast wearing down of the heels. And the ride seemed indistinct, as if I could feel neither my heel planting nor the soft rubber up front. This was so surprising that I found myself constantly looking down – had I mistakenly put on an old pair of New Balance cross-trainers?

If I were to attempt to describe the feel of the Ride in one word, I would have to use the dreaded technical term “mushy” – generally not a word used in the laudatory sense.

Saucony has made much of the fact that the Ride 5 is an ounce lighter than the Ride 4, because of less cushioning in the midsole and less rubber on its sole. I’m not sure this is such a good thing, as both my feet and my ankles were sore even before the end of my first test run in this version.

Perhaps there are ultra-efficient, blessed runners who’ll run on their toes in the Ride 5 and find it to be an exceptional lightweight trainer. For this runner, it was an experiment that didn’t work. On to the Saucony Virrata or the Grid Fastwitch 6?

Joseph Arellano

The Saucony ProGrid Ride 5 sells for $109.95.

This review was originally posted on the Blogcritics Sports site:

http://blogcritics.org/sports/article/running-shoe-review-the-saucony-progrid

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Take It As It Comes

The Doors: A Lifetime of Listening to Five Mean Years by Greil Marcus (PublicAffairs, $21.99, 210 pages)

“There were thick-headed, battering horns all over the album…  they didn’t make the music better…”   Greil Marcus on The Soft Parade by The Doors

This collection of short essays by Greil Marcus might have been subtitled, The Random Things I Think About While Listening to The Doors.   It is not a band biography, nor a definitive account of their music, so it won’t be of much use to those just discovering the songs and albums of this group; nor will it interest Doors fanatics, as there’s virtually nothing new included here.

With Marcus, it seems to always be hit and miss…  He earlier produced a great collection of essays about Van Morrison which seemed to capture the essential nature of the musician, but when he attempted to do the same with Bob Dylan, it was pretty much a complete failure.   The Van Morrison book was a grand slam – the one on Dylan was a quick strike-out.

Before going further, I need to put my cards on the table about The Doors.   I felt they were one of the most over-rated bands of their time, and the critics have remained strangely kind to them through the years.   (A late-November 2011 article in The Wall Street Journal wondered aloud why the group’s music is still popular.)   Except for some clever placements on movie soundtracks, I don’t see – or rather, don’t hear – their music as having aged well.   That is, it does not adapt well to current times perhaps because when it was originally recorded it seemed to provide a sense – or rather, a preview – of music’s future.   But the promise of The Doors’ first two albums (neither of which hit number 1 on the U.S. music charts) never materialized in what was to follow.   They produced two essentially tedious albums – Waiting for the Sun and The Soft Parade – that included singles so bad (Hello, I Love You; Touch Me) that Jim Morrison usually refused to sing them on stage.   It’s true that they had a sense of redemption before the end, with the decent Morrison Hotel and close-to-excellent L. A. Woman albums, but they nevertheless ended up as a slight version of the music revolutionaries they once threatened to be.

One of the issues with Greil’s approach is that he – being a Berkeley resident – lumps them in with the San Francisco bands of the time in terms of their somewhat psychedelic approach to their music and their lives.   Yes, Marcus is fully aware that they were a Los Angeles band (Morrison being a UCLA graduate) but he never seems able to capture the relationship between their place and their music.   He does try, in an essay about the L. A. Woman album, one which is interesting reading but empty on the actual mental nutritional calories it offers.

In discussing the band and southern California, Marcus also falls into the trap of seeing some kind of connection between their songs (Break On Through, The End, Riders On The Storm) and the violence of the Manson Family.   Which is nonsense, as Charles Manson made clear that he was irrationally influenced by the music of The Beatles on the White Album (specifically Helter Skelter) but never by The Doors.   It’s an interesting straw man argument that Marcus sets up, but it is essentially such a weak one that there’s no need to do more than set it aside.

Well, then, should one read Greil Marcus because he does such a valiant job of retaining the spirit of Gonzo rock journalism?   In other words, should you read him because he writes now as if he were writing for Rolling Stone, Creem, New West, Ramparts and other publications of the dear-departed 60s and 70s?   You might elect to, but I would suggest a couple of alternatives if this is your thing (or your bag, as it would have been called back in the day).

One fine choice is Out of the Vinyl Deeps: Ellen Willis on Rock Music, edited by Nona Willis Aronowitz.   Willis began writing rock criticism for The New Yorker in 1968 and almost created the genre of rock criticism tied to cultural and political events.   And then there was the master, the late Lester Bangs of San Diego, California.   There are two compilations of Bang’s work – Main Lines, Blood Feasts and Bad Taste: A Lester Bangs Reader and Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung: Rock’N’Roll as Literature and Literature as Rock’N’Roll.   There’s also an essential biography from 2000, Let it Blurt: The Life and Times of Lester Bangs, America’s Greatest Rock Critic by Jim Derogatis.

Trust me, reading or re-reading Lester Bangs and Ellen Willis will take you to some places that you won’t find in The Doors: A Lifetime of Listening to Five Mean Years.   And I wonder if that subtitle was actually meant to refer to Five Lean Years.

Joseph Arellano

A review copy was provided by the publisher.   Note:  If you’re still wondering about whether you should read Marcus’ account of The Doors, keep in mind that he loves their live recordings (sigh) and the dreadful (“excoriated”) 1991 film The Doors by Oliver Stone – something which is truly hard to believe.

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When We Were Orphans

When We Were Orphans by Kazuo Ishiguro

Having enjoyed other novels by Kazuo Ishiguro (The Remains of the Day, Never Let Me Go), when I was offered the chance to borrow a copy of When We Were Orphans – written in 2000 – I decided to accept.   This is an agreeable read which, although I found it slow to start with, made me think about childhood loss and how memory can play tricks.

The protagonist is Christopher Banks, born in Shanghai to a British couple early in the twentieth century.   There he led the happy sheltered life of an expatriate of the time until the mysterious disappearance of his parents.   The story is narrated by Christopher as now some twenty years later he is living in London, having been sent to England after becoming an orphan.   He comes across as a bumbling tragic character and it is difficult to imagine him as the well-respected detective he has become.

Since he was orphaned at the age of nine, Christopher has been haunted by the unresolved case of his parents’ disappearance, which he has always believed was a kidnapping.   Now as a detective he’s more determined than ever to return to Shanghai to solve the case; this despite the fact that the city is under attack by the Japanese army.   His memories of the city and the difficulties he encounters – especially in attempting to trust the people around him – make this latter part of the novel far more atmospheric than the earlier stages.

By the end, I was thoroughly drawn in to this story that had built slowly but which the author managed to bring to a convincing (and satisfying) conclusion.

This review was written by LindyLouMac and is reprinted with her permission.   She is an expatriate who lives in Italy with her husband.   Read more of her informative reviews at http://lindyloumacbookreviews.blogspot.com/ .

 

 

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