Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Massive Nights

Happy Halloween, y'all. Just sitting waiting for trick-or-treaters to knock on our door. Deb took the girls to visit a couple of friends before we take them out in the neighborhood. This is the one time of year when I actually see just about everyone on my street.

I left work early today because they close off the streets of Salem at 5 for the big Nawlins-esque Halloween free-for-all; didn't want to get caught in Witch City. I've never actually gone to Salem on Halloween, even when I lived there for a year. Just never had the desire, and I'm not one of those Halloween haters, either (you know who you are). I certainly enjoy the candy aspect of the season, perhaps a little too much.

I'm feeling surprisingly good today, considering I didn't get home from the Hold Steady show last night until 1:30. That's a tad late on a school night, even by my standards. Last night's show was the final date of the first leg of a monthlong tour to promote their excellent new album, Boys and Girls in America. So we should have known what to expect. The band's old-Springsteen-meets-Led-Zep sound translates well to the bar setting, but last night, they put the "bar" back in bar band. I met up with OJ early in the evening at the Middle East in Cambridge and we checked out openers the Big Sleep and Sean Na Na, the latter act being a power pop band from the Hold Steady's hometown of Minneapolis. They were pretty goofy and pretty fun, and at the rate they were doing shots, well on their way to being pretty drunk. When the Hold Steady came out, frontman Craig Finn was already half in the bag. Things got off to a slow start after a series of technical problems beset the band: Finn's pedal didn't work, the bass sound was cut off, and later keyboardist Franz Nicolay had some sound issues as well. But they plugged on through and soon were ripping through rockin' versions of "Cattle and the Creeping Things," "Your Little Hoodrat Friend" and "Chips Ahoy." Finn is a manic frontman who rants more than sings, is prone to impromptu Ozzy-style clapping, wild gesticulations, and rambling monologues. He looks like a college professor more than a rock singer as he weaves his tales of drug deals, teenage sex and the Twin Cities. He had the crowd eating out of his hand last night, especially the folks right up front who were shouting every word to every song along with him. The band sounded good, but the Sean Na Na guys kept coming up on stage to deliver shots, sing backup and roll around on the floor and the show got progressively messier. Eventually, Finn was staggering and guitarist Tad Kubler was feeling no pain. It was definitely an experience, although it would have been nice to see them when they weren't falling-down drunk. I was trying to think of a singer I've seen live who was more addled than Finn, but I can't. The security guys were right in front of us and were starting to freak out, especially during the final song "Killer Parties" when the band brought at least 50 people up on stage with them. Fortunately nothing bad happened and everybody left peacefully after the song ended. With all the hype surrounding them, it's unlikely the Hold Steady will play a venue that small again. Hopefully, they'll hit the Paradise in the middle of a tour next time.

The cattle and the creeping things:

  • I'm back playing hockey again starting tomorrow night in Lynn. My friend Lee's Wednesday night group needs a few guys, so I'm in. I'm looking forward to it, although I'm sure I'll be sucking major wind tomorrow night after two months off the ice.
  • The price is wrong, bitch: Bob Barker's retiring after 50 years.
  • I dare say this is an exhibit Beavis and Butt-head would love, because it's all about poop.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Raider Man

Happy Friday. Shaking off the cobwebs after rising at about 5:15 with Lily. Looks like we're in for a rainy weekend. Well, at least I don't have to get a long run in.

Up and at them:
  • Watched the Leafs-Senators game last night and man, did Toronto look awful. Part of it is the Senators are starting to play the way they did last year. The other part is, unfortunately, so are the Leafs.
  • Ventured out Tuesday night to see Frank Black. He was supposed to play Avalon, which holds about 2,000, but the show was moved to Axis, which maybe holds half that. Bummer for Frank, but cool for me. He played nearly two hours, starting with a solo acoustic set that included a couple of Pixies tunes (Cactus, Holiday Song) and then bringing about his three-piece backing band for a wide-ranging collection of his solo stuff and obscure covers. Pretty great show. Last time I saw him was at the Middle East in July 1999 with the Catholics, touring for the Pistolero album. Although he's been on a country-roots rock bender lately, FB and the band rocked that stuff pretty hard Tuesday night.
  • When I was in college, Faces of Death was a big deal, with its scenes of real people and animals dying. People were renting it all the time. I could never get myself to watch it, but I heard all about it from folks who did. With the recent resurgence of ultraviolent horror films like Saw and Hostel, it's no surprise that someone's looking to remake Faces. I still won't see it, though. I bet you could find worse stuff online if you really wanted to.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Completely Conspicuous 11: Dance, You Fools!

This one was a little late in coming because of the long weekend in Chi-town. I'm planning to do another show over the coming weekend.

You can download the episode directly here (right click and save as).

Here are the show notes:

Episode 11

Topics:

  • Caffeine addiction
  • Dancing With the Stars
  • Posthumous recording careers
  • Expanding your waistline in college
  • Pinhead of the Week

Music:

  • Kathy Valentine - Retouch Me
  • What Made Milwaukee Famous - Sweet Lady

Completely Conspicuous is now available through the iTunes and Yahoo podcast directories.
Find out more about Kathy Valentine here. Find out more about What Made Milwaukee Famous here.

The opening and closing theme of Completely Conspicuous is "Theme to Big F'in Pants" by Jay Breitling. Find out more about Senor Breitling here. And the incidental music used in the show was "Clibopb (Fosco Groove)" by Me and Boris the Bull. Find out more about Me and Boris the Bull here.

Completely Conspicuous is a Tan God Production.


Monday, October 23, 2006
















Stephen Colbert and his Indian friend Jay.

Before the End of the Race

I'm back. 'Twas a fun-filled weekend that was highlighted by my 3:54 finish in the Chicago Marathon, beating my previous best time by five minutes. Took me four years to improve on that PR in Maine. So anyway, here's the story of the weekend:

Friday
Deb and the girls dropped me off at the airport before they headed to New Jersey for the weekend. My flight was on time, I picked up my rental (a 2006 Chevy Monte Carlo) and got on the road to Peoria. After crawling through some busy Chicago-area traffic, I found myself on some seriously open roads. There is a whole lotta nothin' out there--just farmland and flat roads. It took me three hours to get to my brother's house, which is pretty nice. In his subdivision, the street signs include the names of people on the street, like a directory or something. Of course, JP didn't buy into that, so he left up the name of the previous owner.

Saturday
Got up early, had some breakfast, and headed back to Chicago. The trip was quicker, only 2.5 hours. I dropped off the car at O'Hare and took the CTA train to the city. After checking in at my hotel, I met up with Jon and Kerry and we went to the race expo so I could pick up my race packet. It was pretty jam-packed and just like the New York Marathon expo last fall, a lot of the official race gear was already sold out by the time I got there. We went back to the hotel and waited for Rick, who arrived in Chicago in the afternoon and went straight to the expo to pick up his stuff before it closed.

We relaxed for a while and then headed over to Scoozi's, an Italian restaurant, for our pre-race pasta meal. We got there a little early and had to wait to be seated because the place was full of marathoners. While we were standing near the entrance, I saw a guy walking towards us who looked a lot like Stephen Colbert. As he went into the men's room, I remembered reading in the Chicago Tribune earlier in the day that he was in town to serve as grand marshal of the homecoming parade at Northwestern, where he went to college. So when he came out of the restroom, I said, "Stephen!" He turns around and says nonchalantly, "Yeah?" and leans against the wall where we were standing. I blubbered something about being a big fan of the show and shook his hand and Jon, Rick and Kerry all said hi to him, and then I asked him if I could get a picture with him and he said "Sure." I handed Jon my camera phone and told Colbert, "I can be your one Indian friend," referring to the photo often used on "The Colbert Report" of him with his one black friend Alan. Colbert said "Good idea," and gave the classic goofy smile and point, although the pointing part was cut off. The place was pretty dark and the photo's grainy, as you can see above.

He went back to eat with his wife and three kids, but we were all awestruck at just how down-to-earth he was. We finally were seated a while later and chowed down some pasta and got back to our hotels early. We were keeping a close eye on the weather forecasts because it was looking like it would be rainy and raw in the a.m. Rick and I were staying right near Millennium Park, where the marathon started and ended. When I checked in, I found out our room had a king bed instead of two doubles, so I asked for a pull-out bed to be brought to the room. Of course, it never arrived, so both of us, secure in our heteroness, slept in the king, although I maturely placed my pillows down the middle like Les Nessman outlining the imaginary walls to his office. We planned on getting up at 6 and walking over to the park by 7. We had to get in our race corrals well before the 8 a.m. start. I was dismayed to find I had forgotten to pack my long-sleeved running shirt, so I planned to wear a short-sleeve shirt and the cheap Tyvek jacket I bought at the expo.

Sunday (race day)
Our wakeup call was set for 5:45, but I woke up at 5:30 to go to the bathroom and was wide awake. The weather reports seemed to indicate the rain was moving away, but also said to expect 25-30 mph winds as the race progressed. We got outside and it was damn chilly. I almost immediately regretted not wearing running pants, but I knew I would hate running a marathon in them, so I gritted my teeth and kept walking. We found the start area and split up; I was in the Preferred Start II corral (which was after the competitive and Preferred I areas) and Rick was in the open corral. He's way faster than me, but he forgot to send in proof of his race times and was stuck with everyone else in the back. Jon and Kerry were up with the faster groups.

I went to the front of my corral and stood with folks who were planning to run the race in 3:30, 3:40, 3:45. I was hoping for 3:55, but I figured starting up there was no big deal. After 30 teeth-chattering minutes, the race started. You could see shirts, sweatpants and other articles of clothing flying through the air as runners shed their outergarments and started running. After a few minutes, a light drizzle started, but it never got worse than that. The temperature was right around 40 and after the first mile, I was feeling pretty sweaty in my jacket. I took it off after a few miles and tied it around my waist in case I'd need it later. I felt good and ran strong, not trying to keep with anyone but just keeping a good pace going of about 8:30 miles.

I had a bottle of water with me but I never used it because the water and Gatorade stations were so well organized. Plus the cooler weather made me less thirsty than some of the other races I've run. As for the race itself, it reminded me of the NY Marathon in that you get to see the whole city. It was a blast. People were out in every neighborhood--Greektown, Chinatown, the South Side, Little Italy--and you could really feel the support.

I felt good physically throughout. My quads were tight and one of my arches bothered me at one point, but other than that, I was fine. I just kept going and never hit the wall, although the last three or four miles were more of a struggle. I brought my iPod and it definitely helped keep me going: I listened to all three Hold Steady albums, Danko Jones' Sleep is the Enemy, Fugazi's Repeater and then a couple of shuffle songs, culminating in the Sloan rocker "Ill Placed Trust" as I came in at the finish. Unlike New York and Vermont, I felt fine at the finish and was not woozy at all, just sore. I got my medal, posed for a finisher's photo and then met up with JP, Mary Beth and Elliot. I made a few calls and found out that Jon had finished in 2:59 (wow!), Kerry finished in 3:22 and Rick finished in 3:31. My buddy Bob finished his first marathon in 3:58, which is awesome.

We went back to the hotel so I could shower and get changed, and then we went with Rick out to lunch at a nearby Bennigan's so we could get the burgers and beer we'd been craving. Jon and Kerry met us there. JP and family took off afterwards and the rest of us headed back to relax for a few hours before going to the post-race party at Millennium Park. There were two party tents going; one was already full by the time we got there, so went to the quieter one with a jazz band and free Michelob Ultra (yecch--but we drank it anyway). Bob joined us there and we hung out for a while before going out for some deep dish pizza. By the time we got our food, we had already eaten bread sticks and had little room for the massive, heart-attack inducing slabs of pizza we had ordered (a large and a medium). We probably ate about half the pizza before we all were just full, so we ditched the rest and headed back to our hotels. Triumphant, but stuffed.

Today
My legs are feeling pretty sore, but they're not that bad. My flight made it back without a hitch and Deb and the girls picked me up. It's good to be home. As fired up as I am about my race, I'm still thinking that I'm only going to do one marathon next year instead of two. I just want to reduce the wear and tear on my body. I also want to do smaller races and try to run faster times in those, as well as get back to playing hockey.

Well, that's plenty for now. Time to drag my weary carcass to bed.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Borrow Your Cape

It's finally here. Race weekend. I'm flying to Chicago tomorrow for the marathon on Sunday. I've been watching the weather forecasts all week and they all seem to be predicting temps in the mid-40s with possible rain or even snow. I hope it's snow or nothing; running in the rain and raw temps for four hours would not be fun. I'm still planning to run in a long sleeve shirt and shorts, although I'm bringing pants in case it gets really cold.

I'm feeling pretty good. My cold has diminished instead of gotten worse. Went for a five-miler today with Rick, who's also running Chicago. I'll meet up with him, Jon and Kerry--my compadres on the Road Warriors relay team from August--on Saturday. My buddy Bob is also running; this is his first marathon. After I get into town tomorrow, I'm driving to Peoria to hang out at my brother's house for the night. Then Saturday it's back to Chicago to check into my hotel and go to the race expo. And Sunday is the race. Wish me luck.

More beans, please:
  • I was getting ambitious and thinking I'd do another podcast this week before I left, but I quickly realized that was a dumb idea. Why stress out any more than I have to? I've got some ideas already and hope to get it done Monday night after I get back.
  • I like Coke and all, but fried Coke nuggets just sounds nasty.
  • Stings says today's rock music is boring. Well, if anyone's an authority on boring, it's senor Sumner. Of course, the Onion had him pegged years ago (thanks to Idolator for the tip).

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

#10

Episode 10 of Completely Conspicuous is available here (right click and save as). Here are the show notes:

Topics:

  • Space travel
  • Menudo's back
  • Tower Records, R.I.P.
  • The Tigers win the pennant!
  • Pinhead of the Week

Music:

  • The Supersuckers - Bubblegum and Beer
  • The Walkmen - Rue the Day

Completely Conspicuous is now available through the iTunes and Yahoo podcast directories.

Find out more about the Supersuckers here. Find out more about the Walkmen here.

The opening and closing theme of Completely Conspicuous is "Theme to Big F'in Pants" by Jay Breitling. Find out more about Senor Breitling here. And the incidental music used in the show was "Clibopb (Fosco Groove)" by Me and Boris the Bull. Find out more about Me and Boris the Bull here.

Completely Conspicuous is a Tan God Production.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Let's Just Laugh

Just shaking my head after the Leafs blew a 6-3 lead against NJ to lose 7-6 in a shootout. Ugh. Anyhoo, we enjoyed a nice 75-degree day today while in Chicago, they got snow. I suspect it won't be around when I get to Chi-town next Friday. Got in a nice 6-miler at lunch. I just have a 10-miler on Sunday, and a couple of short runs next week and then the marathon.

Drop the leash:
  • The whole Cory Lidle plane crash thing yesterday was nuts. I was listening to Boston sports talk station WEEI when the show hosts mentioned a plane had crashed into a building in NYC and it was unclear whether it was terrorism. The first thing I thought of was the 15-year-old kid who crashed a plane into a 28-story building in Tampa back in January 2002; everybody was freaked out about it being a possible terrorist act, but it ended up just being a stupid kid. It's not clear what happened with Lidle yesterday, but he loved flying and had his license, so obviously something mechanical went wrong with the plane. How would you like to be the lady whose condo the plane crashed into? Damn. Lidle was a journeyman pitcher; he pitched for the Jays back in 2003. The Lidle accident brings back bad memories for older Yankees fans, who remember Thurman Munson's tragic death in 1979 after the Cessna he was piloting crashed. Meanwhile, guys like Alex Kovalev of the Canadiens have no plans to stop flying.
  • Sony still trying to fight the iPod, this time with a new version of the Walkman that promises better sound quality. Nothing like being five years late to the party. Get in line behind the Microsoft Zune, which comes out November 14. I'm not convinced any competing device will truly be an iPod killer, at least not yet.
  • Someday I would love to enter a team in the U.S. Pond Hockey Championships, held in Minnesota in January. It totally looks like a blast. Must be ridiculously cold, but still. Pond hockey's the best.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Different World

Long weekends...gotta love 'em! Just hanging out in the house with Lily; Deb and Hannah went out to lunch. It's a pretty nice day out, sunny with temps in the mid-70s. No big plans today. I just ran a few errands this morning and went to the gym. I'm going to grill up some chicken in a little while and enjoy some Sam Adams Octoberfest.

Yesterday, I got out on the road early and did 15 miles. It was 40 degrees when I started; nice running weather. I felt good. The back's not bothering me at all, so that's a good sign two weeks from race day.

Friday night, I went to the Iron Maiden show at BU's Agganis Arena. I met my buddy Gary and my coworker Paul and his girlfriend there. We fell into the contingent of old-school Maiden fans who thought it'd be fun to see them live again. I saw them back in '88 and '91, so it has definitely been a while. Maiden was one of my favorite bands in high school during my teenage metalhead years. By the time I had graduated from college, I didn't listen to much metal. I had grown more interested in so-called alternative rock. I guess in the last few years I've embraced some of that old stuff I used to listen to, so Paul and I thought it'd be fun to see Maiden when they came around again. They actually came through the Tweeter Center last year with the Ozzfest, playing songs from their first four albums to promote their DVD Early Days, which is excellent. I would have loved to have seen that show, except for the Ozzfest thing, which I had no interest in. So we waited until they released their new album A Matter of Life and Death last month; it debuted at number 9 on the Billboard album charts, the best position of their career. It's a great album, examining war-related themes, and it really kicks butt. The show Friday was the second on Maiden's new tour and was a little different because they played the entire album from start to finish before playing five other classics. We actually found out the setlist the day before and it was a bit disappointing because they have so many great songs we would have liked to hear. But I understand that they played that oldies-only show last year and will be touring to support a DVD based on albums five through eight next year or the year after, so they wanted to highlight the new stuff. The crowd was pretty receptive, but when they started playing the older stuff, the place really went nuts. The audience itself was pretty interesting--a lot of older guys in their 30s, 40s, and 50s; some guys with their kids; younger fans; and the crazier, costume-wearing ones like the guy with a giant, papier-mache Eddie head. Gary noted that singer Bruce Dickinson, who now has short hair, was wearing a jacket that kinda made him look like Simon LeBon, but he still belted out the songs and ran around like a madman. I would have liked to see a couple more old songs, but it was a great time nonetheless.

Run to the hills:
  • I recorded my latest podcast last night, so check it out. Figured out what was causing the mix problems, so it should sound a lot better now. UPDATE: Apparently, there's a problem with the file and folks, including me, haven't been able to download it. I am consulting with the good folks at Podshow to find out what the dealio, so I will let you know when I find out anything. UPDATE OF UPDATE: Apparently there was an eff-up with Podshow's domain name being allowed to expire, so all Podshow podcasts were unavailable Sunday and Monday. But all is working now. The end.
  • Some folks have been printing up t-shirts hyping a Jon Stewart/Stephen Colbert presidential ticket in 2008. Stewart downplayed it, and really, who would make fun of the White House if he was in there?
  • CBGB's is closing after 33 years as a historic punk venue in NYC. Patti Smith is playing the final show next Sunday night. Owner Hilly Kristal may be moving the club to Vegas, of all places.
  • I was shocked to see the Detroit Tigers upset the Yankees over the weekend. Never saw that coming. Damn. So...go Tigers!

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Stuck Between Stations

I admit it, I've been slacking off. No excuses.

So I'm nearly two weeks away from the Chicago Marathon. My back's doing a lot better than it was a few weekends ago, but I'm still a little sore. I was especially bummed last Sunday when my planned 20-mile run didn't happen because it was just pouring out. I made it about a mile out when the skies opened up and I was soaked to the bone. Unfortunately, I had a tight window to run in and of course, three hours later, the sun came out. I got up early on Monday morning and managed to get 12 in before work, which is better than nothing, I guess. My training plan had me doing four 20-milers, but I've only done one: one of the weeks I was in Florida and only did 10, another week was the day I hurt my back and I did 18, and last week I did 12. I'm planning to do 15 this weekend just to get another quality long run in.

Gimme a C, a bouncy C:
  • Hockey's back! We had our fantasy hockey draft Sunday night. I had to phone in my picks for the first 45 minutes or so, but I think I've got a decent squad. The first games of the season were last night, and the Leafs were terrible, losing 4-1 to Ottawa. Tonight was the second in the home-and-home series between the two teams, and of course, Toronto absolutely shellacked the Sens 6-0. It was like night and day. The Leafs have a lot of rookies in the lineup this year, so things will be interesting. Hopefully they'll gain some confidence from tonight's game.
  • The Jays managed to finish second in the AL East, a game ahead of the Red Sox. It's the first time since Toronto's back to back World Series wins in '92 and '93 that they've finished higher than third. The Yankees look scary in the playoffs with that 1-9 murderers' row they've got (although they lost today), but I'm going to root for the Mets because Carlos Delgado's playing for them. In his first playoff game ever last night, he went 4-5 with a homer.
  • What a strange turn of events in Congress with the whole Mark Foley page scandal. A similar scandal took place 23 years ago, when one of the parties involved was a congressman from Massachusetts. I'd like to say it's shocking, but it's really not. Just sad.
  • Lance Armstrong's gearing up to run the New York Marathon. He hasn't been doing a lot of long runs, but I have a feeling he'll do fine.
  • Usually, I'm suspicious of massive hype about bands. The new Hold Steady album, Boys and Girls in America, has been getting serious praise from all comers (Pitchfork, the NY Times, et al). But damn if it isn't an amazing piece of work. Frontman Craig Finn continues his boozy chronicling of partying youth, backed by a younger version of the E Street Band. I also was psyched to get Sloan's Never Hear the End of It in the mail this week; it's a tremendous, 30-song power pop opus that features contributions from all four band songwriters. It's a crime that these guys don't even have a record deal in the U.S. right now.