Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Completely Conspicuous Episode 48: Don't Believe the Hype

I just hacked my way through another episode of the CC. I'm afraid I'm still fighting this cold. Nevertheless, you can download the show here (right click and "save as"). A truly great collection of tunes this week as well.

Dig the show notes...

- The benefits of naps
- Super Bowl hype
- Pinhead of the Week

- The Gutter Twins - Idle Hands
- Frightened Rabbit - The Modern Leper
- Band of Horses - No One's Gonna Love You
- Ladyhawk - I Don't Always Know
- The Besnard Lakes - And You Lied to Me

- New England Podcasting

Completely Conspicuous is available through the iTunes, Yahoo Podcasts and Podcast Pickle podcast directories. Subscribe and write a review!

The song from The Gutter Twins is on their forthcoming album Saturnalia. The song from Band of Horses is on their album Cease to Begin. Both songs are on Sub Pop Records; find out more and download the tracks at their Internet home page.

The song from Frightened Rabbit is on the forthcoming album The Midnight Organ Fight on Fat Cat Records. The song was provided by IODA Promonet.

The Midnight Organ FightFrightened Rabbit
"The Modern Leper" (mp3)
from "The Midnight Organ Fight"
(Fat Cat Records)

More On This Album

The Ladyhawk song is on the forthcoming album Shots. The song from The Besnard Lakes is on the album The Besnard Lakes Are the Dark Horse. Both songs are courtesy of Jagjaguwar Records; find out more and download the songs 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 by visiting his fine music blog. Happy birthday, mang! Additional music used in the show is by Me and Boris the Bull, which is the brainchild of Mark Campbell.

Completely Conspicuous is a Tan God Production. Word.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Daddy Needs a Drink

Gotta admit, I'm moving a little slower today. We were down in Joisey this weekend for Matt and Tricia's annual "midwinter blues" party; we shipped the kids off to Tricia's parents to spend the night. It was a good time. There was a good bunch of folks there, most of whom were enjoying the chance to socialize without their kids around. The drinks were flowing freely; I even did a shot of Goldschlager, which I hadn't had since the mid-90s. Unfortunately for us, we had to hit the road early because Hannah had a birthday party to attend in the early afternoon, so there wasn't much opportunity to sleep off the hangover. Hence the fuzziness of the brain.

Actually, I feel fine, especially now that we're home. I was able to get a 14-mile run in yesterday through the state park near Matt's house, although the hills were tough. Next week, I'm supposed to do a 17-miler.

Pockets of congestion:
  • Even if you're not a hockey fan, you should check out this clip from the press conference announcing the hiring of Cliff Fletcher as the interim general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Go to the 4:45 mark and watch one of the weirdest things I've ever seen. While Fletcher is speaking, team president Richard Peddie mouths the exact same words that Fletcher is delivering. Obviously, the remarks were prepared and they went over them, but it looks like he's a ventriloquist or something. As if they needed any more help to become the laughingstock of the league.
  • Here's an artifact from days gone by: Somebody uploaded three hours of video from MTV circa the fall of 1983. Not just the videos (including Night Ranger, Sammy Hagar, and Huey Lewis and the News), but VJ Mark Goodman yapping and the commercials, too. It's nothing like what you'd see on that channel today, obviously; it's kind of like the video equivalent of an AOR (that's album-oriented rock if you're unfamiliar with old radio formats) station. Very mellow, no programming other than videos and the occasional contest promo. Here's part 1 of 2 (thanks to Idolator for the tip). We didn't get cable in my podunk NH town until late 1985, so I wasn't yet able to watch MTV at this point; I occasionally saw it at a friend's house in a different town. I only saw music videos on shows like NBC's Friday Night Videos and local fare like Hot Hit Video, a daily show that ran in the afternoons on Boston's Channel 7, and V66, a Boston-based video channel that went on (and off) the air in the mid-80s. We could only get it with rabbit ears, so the picture wasn't very clear, but I remember seeing cool stuff like The Smiths' "How Soon Is Now?" and U2 videos before they were huge. Good times.
  • I've been thoroughly enjoying season 5 of The Wire, which sadly will be the last. This season introduced the world of journalism into the show's incisive look at Baltimore. Some have complained that the newspaper stuff isn't as interesting as the gritty crime part of the story, but it all intertwines. Show creator David Simon, a former Baltimore crime reporter, has masterfully incorporated the struggles of the big Baltimore daily to cover the city while dealing with budget cuts and corporate interference. As a former news guy, I can relate to this stuff, but I think it's an important angle for anyone to consider. If you haven't seen this show yet, I recommend renting the first four seasons on DVD because there are so many characters and storylines that you'll be lost if you just start with season 5. It's well worth the time investment.
  • Speaking of the boob tube, Lost is back this week with the first of eight new episodes. Originally, the plan was to air 16 consecutive weeks of the new season uninterrupted, but that was before the writer's strike got in the way. Eight shows have been completed; hopefully the damn strike will end so we can see the rest after this long wait. At ABC's Lost home page, there's an 8:15 (the flight that crashed was Oceanic 815, get it?) clip that recaps the show for folks who haven't seen it since last spring. Check it out.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Idle Hands

It has been a strange day in the news world. This morning, the local papers were all aflutter because Tom Brady was spotted wearing an air cast in NYC yesterday while going to his girlfriend's apartment. The Herald's now reporting it's a high ankle sprain, but a mild one. The New York papers had fun with it, calling him a "girly man," among other things. Ah, just 11 more days of this.

After I got back to my desk after a midday run, I found out the Leafs had finally fired GM John Ferguson Jr. and replaced him with former GM Cliff Fletcher on an interim basis. JFJ's four years on the job had been marked with bad move after bad move, taking a perennial contender and turning it into a non-playoff team the last two seasons. The Leafs are currently in last place in the Eastern Conference and hopefully Fletcher (who worked wonders with the team in the early to mid-90s) will move some of their high-priced veterans and stockpile draft picks and prospects. That includes captain Mats Sundin, who has a no-trade clause and would have to consent to a trade; even though he's one of the greatest players in team history, I think they should move him and get as much as they can. The current lineup of this team is going nowhere fast.

So then right before I left work for the day I heard about Heath Ledger's death, which appears to be a drug overdose. Dude was just 28. I don't get it. I was still in shock over Sam the Butcher and Suzanne Pleshette.

Play that funky music:
  • In the spirit of National Novel Writing Month, next month is host to The RPM Challenge, in which musicians and wannabe musicians must record 10 songs or 35 minutes worth of music in 29 days. Pretty cool. If I had my shiznitt together musically, I would give it a shot, but it ain't gonna happen. But maybe my buddies OJ, Doobs, Briggy or Mahk may want to give it a shot. Besides, I'm probably going to give Script Frenzy a shot in April. Why the hell not?
  • Check out the Flickr page for plenty of cute photos from the holidays and whatnot.
  • With all the back-and-forth with Barack Obama lately, it's no wonder Bill Clinton nodded off during a speech by MLK III the other day. Unfortunately for him, he was sitting behind the podium and in full view of the video cameras. Of course, he isn't the only politician to be caught napping. And I can relate: I fall asleep in church all the time. I just don't get caught on camera. I hope.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Let's Do It Again

Man, it's amazing how quickly a week goes by. Sorry for the lack of blogification. No excuses. I just spent much of the day watching football. The Pats beat the Chargers in the AFC championship, 21-12 (Neil Peart would approve) to advance to the Super Bowl in two weeks. Tom Brady didn't have his greatest game, but the Pats played just well enough to win and are now 18-0 on the season. The defense was immense, holding the Chargers to just four field goals. Awesome. Then I watched the Giants knock off the Packers 23-20 in an overtime game that neither team seemed to want to win. The Packers were at home, but it was -24 with the wind chill and they looked awful. No offense, Brett Favre looked washed up and it was only because the Giants' kicker missed a couple of field goals late in the game that it even went to OT. Favre threw an interception early in the extra period and the Giants marched back down the field, where kicker Lawrence Tynes blasted a 47-yard field goal to win it (longer than either of the ones he missed). So it's Pats vs. Giants on February 3. Get ready for the unbearable two weeks of overhype.

I also watched the Leafs lose to the Devils, 3-2, in a 5 p.m. start in New Jersey that was even more sparsely attended than most Devils games because of the NFC championship game. The loss snapped the Leafs' three-game winning streak, which they began after losing 11 of 13 and fueling endless rumors about firings and trades.

My first week of marathon training went well, culminating in a 14-miler yesterday. It was challenging because of the ice and snow on the roads, but hey, it's winter.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Completely Conspicuous Episode 47: Question the Answers

Finally, the first episode of CC of 2008. Busy, busy, you know how it is.

Anyhoo, you can download it here (right click and "save as") or stream it by clicking on the link above.

The show notes...

- The pointlessness of political polls
- Message board culture
- Pinhead of the Week

- The Black Crowes - Goodbye Daughters of the Revolution
- Black Mountain - Tyrants
- Okkervil River - Our Life is Not a Movie or Maybe
- Maritime - Parade of Punk Rock T-Shirts
- Jawbox - Reel

- New England Podcasting

Completely Conspicuous is available through the iTunes, Yahoo Podcasts and Podcast Pickle podcast directories. Subscribe and write a review!

The song from The Black Crowes is on their new album Warpaint on Silver Arrow Records. It comes courtesy of the Podsafe Music Network.

The song from Maritime is on the album We, the Vehicles on Flameshovel Records. The Jawbox song is on the album For Your Own Special Sweetheart on Desoto Records. Both songs were provided by IODA Promonet.

We, the VehiclesMaritime
"Parade of Punk Rock T-Shirts" (mp3)
from "We, the Vehicles"
(Flameshovel Records)

Buy at iTunes Music Store
Buy at eMusic
Buy at Napster
Buy at Rhapsody
Stream from Rhapsody
Buy at Amazon
Buy at GroupieTunes
Buy at DownloadPunk
Buy at Insound
More On This Album

For Your Own Special SweetheartJawbox
"Reel" (mp3)
from "For Your Own Special Sweetheart"
(DeSoto Records)

Buy at iTunes Music Store
Buy at eMusic
Buy at Napster
Buy at Rhapsody
Stream from Rhapsody
Buy at Amazon
Buy at GroupieTunes
Buy at Insound
More On This Album

The Black Mountain song is on the new album In the Future. The Okkervil River song is on the album The Stage Names. Both songs are courtesy of Jagjaguwar Records, where you can find out more and download the songs.

The opening and closing theme of Completely Conspicuous is "Theme to Big F'in Pants" by Jay Breitling. Find out more about Senor Breitling by checking out his fine music blog. Additional music used in the show is by Me and Boris the Bull, which is the brainchild of Mark Campbell.

Completely Conspicuous is a Tan God Production. Word.

Monday, January 14, 2008

This House is a Circus

After a week of mild temps, winter was back today as a Nor'easter dumped a bunch of snow on us. School was cancelled and I worked from home to avoid the messy road conditions. We only ended up getting about 8 to 10 inches, but there was much more north and west of us. The girls had fun playing inside for much of the morning before we went outside to shovel out around noon. They played with a pair of sisters who live a few doors down and go to Hannah's school.

The rest of the weekend was pretty mellow. Deb and I went out for dinner Friday night while Deb's mom watched the girls. We were served so quickly we ended up going to another establishment for a few drinks before coming home. Saturday, I ran 12 miles in the morning with my running buddy Molly before we took the girls to Barnes and Noble to spend the gift cards they got for Christmas. Then we hit the supermarket, which was totally slammed with shoppers stocking up for the Pats-Jaguars game and the anticipated Monday storm. It was a total zoo; the lines of carriages at the cash registers wound their way through the store. The game was great, with Tom Brady nearly perfect as the Pats fought off a determined Jags squad to advance to the AFC championship game. Then I stayed up to watch the Leafs blow another one to San Jose; they led 2-0 after two periods and then lost 3-2. Looks like heads will roll this week.

Yesterday was pretty chill. Lily didn't feel too good and spent much of the afternoon on the couch on top of Deb. I went to the gym and then the office to pick up some work for today.

Week 1 of my spring marathon training starts tomorrow with what looks to be a 6-mile tempo run on the treadmill. Not ideal, but I don't expect there be a lot of room on those Marblehead streets tomorrow. Then I have speedwork on Thursday and a 13-miler Saturday. Ah, the sled dog days of January...

Kibbles and blurbs:
  • The IAAF ruled that a double amputee sprinter was ineligible to compete in the Beijing Olympics because the prosthetic legs he uses give him an unfair advantage. Oscar Pistorius (cool name alert) plans to appeal the decision, but the IAAF cited studies that showed that the curved blades he used helped Pistorius exert himself less in races than able-bodied runners he competed against.
  • Check out this ridiculous hockey brawl from the Russian Superleague (courtesy of Dump Dolan). Apparently, they don't suspend guys for going over the bench. That was like the NHL in the '70s before they started cracking down on the bench-clearing stuff. Apparently the Russian broadcasters on big on the whole, you know, broadcasting thing. Not a word is uttered during the entire clip.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

A Dab'll Do Ya

Hindsight is a wonderful thing. It's easy to look back at a situation in your past and consider how you would have handled it differently. Hopefully by the time you hit the ripe old age of 40 like me, you've accumulated some wisdom. Not a lot, but some. I think we can all look back on our high school days and think of how we could have done things better. A former high school classmate of mine from my Washington state days, Andy Monko, posted a funny clip of a spoken word/comedy bit he did on the YouTubes. Specifically, as his description says, it details "Andrew Monko's debut reading of cringy teenage writing: his letter to a girl after their first date (his first ever) wherein he used Def Leppard lyrics to apologetically explain his lack of 'action.'" Funny stuff. He invoked the lyrics of the Def Leppard song "Action! Not Words" from the classic Pyromania album.

Watching it reminded me of some of my own high school dating mishaps, including the elaborate idea I had to serenade my girlfriend. It was back in the spring of '84. She was my first girlfriend and I was head over heels because, frankly, I didn't know any better. The relationship didn't last very long; she dumped me only days before the junior prom. But during the time when things were good, I had hatched this scheme to take her out in our rowboat on the pond behind our house in lovely Kingston, NH, and serenade with a rendition of Van Halen's "Little Guitars," which I thought was both romantic and pretty frickin' cool. I was taking guitar lessons at the time, so I figured I could learn it and that that summer, I could bring my acoustic out with us and sing the song to her. And then she would, like, totally swoon and think I was the greatest and pledge her eternal love to me. I mean, this wasn't some sappy-ass love song, it was VH. But alas, it wasn't to be, what with the dumping and all that. Ah, the best-laid plans of mice and teenage dorks. It's just as well. I probably would have dropped my guitar in the drink or tipped the boat over or something.

Take me to the bridge:
  • It has been unusually warm this week, with temps getting up to 65 on Tuesday. I took advantage of it and ran outside in shorts all week. Gotta love it. The cold weather will return right in time for me to start training for New Jersey next week.
  • On Tuesday, I went to the Bruins-Carolina game with my buddy Bob after scoring some sweet free tickets from a friend of Deb's who got them after volunteering at the Bruins Wives Carnival last weekend. It was kind of a lackluster game with the B's losing 1-0, but when you have fourth-row seats, even standard hits against the glass are exciting.
  • Tuesday was also the New Hampshire primary and going into it, all the pollsters were predicting a decisive win for Obama. So what happens? Hillary knocks him off, which analysts now say was partly due to voter sympathy over the beating she had been taking in the press and from the other candidates. It was still a pretty narrow victory, so it's certainly not over yet. As for the Republicans, John McCain coasted to a win over Mitt Romney, with Iowa victor Mike Huckabee trailing far behind. Should be an interesting next few weeks until Super Duper Tuesday (yes, that's what they're calling it) on February 5.
  • Well, I'm off to watch some of the Leafs-Kings game. They've been absolutely horrendous lately and the stories are flying that they need to think about trading captain Mats Sundin. He's arguably the greatest Leaf ever, but the team's in such a mess that I agree that it's in the team's best interests to deal him for prospects and begin the rebuilding process. He has to waive his no-trade clause and he has said he wants to stay, but they're going nowhere and he's the most valuable asset they have. It's just going to get uglier with that team, I'm afraid.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Bamboo Banga

I have to admit, I enjoy those rare weekends where we have nothing planned. No parties, no road trips, no visitors. S'nice. Although we did have plans Friday night, as my company's annual post-holiday party was held at a nearby banquet hall. It was a good time. We did much socializing and the like at the party, despite the fact that the DJs were pretty cheesy. A bunch of us headed to a bar for last call. We ended up getting home just before 1, which is waaaaaay past our bedtimes. But since it happens so rarely that the two of us are out that late (as opposed to me alone, since my Wednesday night hockey games get me home around 12:30), it was no big deal.

I've always enjoyed parties, not so much for the drinking or scamming on wimmenz, but just for the sheer fun of socialization. I like huge parties where you can just walk around and get into conversations with people you know and don't know about any number of things. You know those people who can't stand social situations and would rather stay home curled up with a good book? That ain't me. I honed my love of parties in college and in the first decade or so after I graduated. Nowadays, they happen much more infrequently. But I still love them. I don't need to do shots or play cards or dance the night away, although I have done all of those things at some point in the past. Just give me some good beer and some good friends and I'm happy. Of course, nowadays I'm much more apt to stay home, put the kids to bed and watch a movie or game on TV, but I can still get into party mode if need be.

Alas, Friday night's socialization (plus the half hour I spent after we got home taking out the trash and recycling so I wouldn't have to in the a.m.) kicked my butt. I was pretty wiped yesterday morning. Deb got up and went running at 7 a.m. Me, I made it downstairs and was snoozing on the couch while the girls watched cartoons. I rallied later to run some errands and then went for a 5-mile run in the afternoon. Got out for a 10-miler at noon today. The weather has been great for running, temps in the 40s and dry. The next few days it's supposed to warm up into the 50s. Break out the shorts, baby!

Bullets over Broadway:
  • I don't write much about the NBA on this here Internet home page, but I've gotta give props to the Boston Celtics, who have gotten off to a ridiculous 29-3 start this season after being one of the worst teams in the league last year. It's a testament to how much of an impact a couple of marquee players can make on a basketball team. Bringing in Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen has totally turned the team around. Unlike football, baseball or hockey, which all have many more players on the field or ice, in hoops if you can count the aforementioned duo and Paul Pierce as members of your starting five, you can kick some serious ass. So good for them. But I had to crack up when I read about the American Bandstand video clip they play at C's games of a disco-dancing dude who shakes his booty while wearing a vintage Gino Vannelli t-shirt. This video clip provides more information on this phenomenon. Who's Gino Vannelli? Glad you asked. He's a Montreal-born singer who had several hits in the '70s and '80s. As a kid growing up in Toronto, I heard him on the radio all the freakin' time. Here's one of his big hits: I Just Wanna Stop. He was also a manly man, as SCTV showed in this parody featuring the great Eugene Levy as Gino. Awesome.
  • So the late-night talk shows came back this week. While I don't give a rat's ass about Leno, I was happy to see Letterman and Conan back. Both guys have grown beards in support of the striking writers. Dave's is especially awe-inspiring, giving him a deranged mountain man look. Next week, the Daily Show and Colbert Report are back, without their writers. Should be innaresting.
  • I was late to the party on M.I.A.'s latest album, Kala, because I kept waiting for it to show up on eMusic. Finally, I just bought it the other day off iTunes. But this song, "Paper Planes," has been stuck in my head for a couple of weeks. Doesn't hurt that she samples the Clash's "Straight to Hell" and swipes a verse from the mighty "Rumpshaker" (caution: plenty of early '90s booty and cheesy double entendres).

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Starts Off With a Bang

Happy New Year! Deb and I both got the new year off to a good start by running the inaugural Wicked Frosty Four race in Salem this morning. Fortunately, we didn't get any precipitation to speak of the last few days, so the ground was pretty much ice-free.

Spent the rest of the day bumming around the house, watching hockey. At 1, the NHL held its so-called Winter Classic, an outdoor game at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Buffalo that saw the Pittsburgh Penguins edge the Buffalo Sabres 2-1 in a shootout. Being a big fan of pond hockey, I thoroughly enjoyed the game, even though there were plenty of delays to repair the ice and clear off snow. The league had six days to build the ice surface after the Bills season ended and even though the temperature cooperated, it was snowing pretty hard at times and there were divots in the ice that needed attention. Still, it was an exciting game with good goaltending, hitting and fast action, not to mention 73,000 screaming fans in attendance. The NHL had a similar game five years ago in Edmonton, and it was fun, but it was 19 below that day and the action wasn't quite as compelling as today's game. I'm sure there will be future Winter Classics rolled out. Most of all, it made me want to get out and play some shinny on a pond, but unfortunately we've had too much snow and not enough consistent cold weather for good pond ice.

For New Year's Eve, we took the girls to the First Night festivities in downtown Beverly, which run from 3 to 7 p.m. and include face painting, clowns, storytelling and other kids' activities. I was psyched to see soul belter Barrence Whitfield performing on Cabot Street in the cold. He lives in town and is an amazing singer. I used to see him play with his band the Savages all around the North Shore back in the late '80s/early '90s. He's playing some local clubs in the next little while, so I might have to go check him out.

Ah, and it's time for the New Year's resolutions. Last year, I resolved to improve my marathon PR, play my guitar more, and do more non-work-related writing. I did all of those things in '07 and would like to build on them this year. This year, I plan to run two marathons and would like to get my PR (currently at 3:46) down in the 3:30s. The guitar thing still stands; I'd like to play enough where I'm actually passable. It's a challenge to find the time. And I've written close to 40,000 words through NaNoWriMo. I want to finish that book and then work on another. And as always, I'd like to keep getting better as a dad and a husband. Plenty of things to strive for, and all of them are achievable.