Friday, February 27, 2009

Completely Conspicuous Episode 71: The Needle and the Damage Done

Here are the details on the latest episode of CompCon. Click here to listen to it in streaming audio or download it directly here (right click and "save as").

The show notes...

- Banning trans fats in restaurants
- Should baseball cheaters be erased from the record books?
- Pinhead of the Week

- Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit - Seven-Mile Island
- The Riverboat Gamblers - A Choppy, Yet Sincere Apology
- Swan Lake - Spanish Gold, 2044
- Obits - Pine On

- New England Podcasting.

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

The Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit song is on their self-titled album on Lightning Rod Records, where you can find out more and download the track.

The Riverboat Gamblers song is on their new album Underneath the Owl on Volcom Entertainment. Find out more and download the track here.

The Swan Lake song is on the new album Enemy Mine on Jagjaguwar Records, where you can find out more and download the track.

The Obits song is on the album I Blame You on Sub Pop Records, where you can find out more and download the trizznack.

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

Completely Conspicuous is a Tan God Production. Word.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

No Choice in the Matter

I've been dragging ass all week, mainly because on Tuesday night, I went to see Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit at TT the Bears in Cambridge. I was accompanied by my old buddy Dave, with whom I went to college and who is now the editor of the local daily paper. We got there a bit early and hung out next door at the Middle East. The show was sold out and we went over in time to catch Deer Tick's set. They're an alt-country (for lack of a better term) act out of Providence and they had quite a devoted following. In fact, after their set ended, their following took off. It was weird. I figured they'd stick around for Isbell, but whatevs. At any rate, Deer Tick was a pretty entertaining act, with songs that ranged from old school country to raging rockers to a cover of "La Bamba." Good stuff. I'm definitely going to download their album off eMusic.

Isbell, ex of the Drive-By Truckers, came out about half an hour past the posted 10:45 start time; those times are always wrong, anyway. We had jammed in right up front and were so close that the bass player could have clocked me with the headstock of his bass if he wanted to. The band is a five-piece, with two guitars and a keyboard player; not quite the three-guitar army that DBT rolls out, but still pretty rockin'. They dipped heavily into Isbell's two excellent solo albums, the new Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit and 2007's Sirens of the Ditch. The new album is a little slower-paced, but live, the guitars really took them to a new level. Isbell didn't shy away from his past, playing DBT classics "Outfit," "Danko/Manuel," "Goddamn Lonely Love" and "Never Gonna Change." A local three-piece horn section came up and joined the band on the extremely tiny stage for a few songs, including the cover of Van Morrison's "Into the Mystic" that closed the evening. The band also covered "Psycho Killer" by the Talking Heads, with second guitarist Browan Lollar on vocals. Isbell seemed genuinely disappointed that the band had to stop playing at 12:50; I suspect he would have kept going for at least another half hour. As cool as that would have been, I was half glad the show was over because I knew I wouldn't get to bed until 2. It was worth it, though.

I knew I would be wiped on Wednesday and I was, and I briefly considered going to hockey that night, but I would have been up until 1 a.m. again and I figured that wouldn't be a good idea. I hate skipping hockey, but it was for the best, I guess.

It was supposed to get up into the 50s today, but I went for a run at lunch and it was barely 40. I ran in shorts and got in a good tempo run. Speaking of running, here's the latest running column, this time about running through illness.

Drop the leash:

  • While I was at the Isbell show the other night, President Obama addressed the nation. Louisiana Gov. (and Indian homie) Bobby Jindal gave the Republican response and came off kinda dorky, reminding some of Kenneth the Page on "30 Rock." The sing-song, yokel-sounding voice was an attempt to connect, but he just sounded like Mr. Rogers. He slammed the stimulus package as irresponsible, but in the process also pissed off some folks. He has been painted as a possible 2012 Republican prez nominee, so it'll be interesting to see where he goes from here. Even the Fox News commentators trashed him. Better luck next time, Bobby.

  • So "The Simpsons" has been renewed for two more seasons. I have to admit, I haven't been watching much this season. Mostly because my TiVo won't do a Season Pass for the show and I always forget. It's certainly not what it used to be, but it's still got some good moments in each episode. And I'm certain it's better than whatever Fox will replace it with.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Laughter From the Rafters

So last night I made the ear-splitting drive to Somerville (my car's exhaust has a massive hole in it, causing my Maxima to sound like a 767) to see Cinematic Titanic live at the Somerville Theater. I met up with my buddy Frank to catch five of the original folks behind Mystery Science Theater 3000 riffin' on a craptastic '70s kung fu-sploitation flick called The Dynamite Brothers. It was the second of two nights and the place was sold out. It was basically Nerd Central (myself included). We managed to score second row seats, which was pretty sweet. The show opener was Dave "Gruber" Allen, a funny guy who's been in a ton of stuff but most notably (to me, anyways) played guidance counselor Mr. Rosso on "Freaks and Geeks." He was joined by CTer J. Elvis Weinstein, who played some bass on a few songs they did together. Then the rest of the CT crew came out: Joel Hodgson, the original host of MST3K, Trace Beaulieau, Frank Conniff, and Mary Jo Pehl. They were set up on stage in front of the movie screen with stools and microphones and proceeded to hilariously riff on the flick for the next 90 minutes. The movie was a kung fu knockoff of The Defiant Ones, with a black guy and a Chinese guy handcuffed together by a crooked cop. They escape and unintentional hilarity ensues. The 1974 movie featured some familiar faces: Aldo Ray, a character actor from the '50s-'70s and James Hong, who has played Asian characters on "MASH" and "Seinfeld" and just about every other TV show or movie that has ever featured an Asian character. The CT crew had us all in stitches, whether it was Joel's spit-take when one of the cops drops an early f-bomb, or just their repeated tooling on the director's insistence on showing characters just walking around. After the movie ended, they did a quick reel of some of their MST3K "greatest hits" and then stuck around to sign autographs in the lobby. We didn't bother to get in line, which by the time we got out was already into the street. But definitely a great evening.

I came home and watched the Leafs-Canucks game. I was pleased to see Mats Sundin get a standing ovation after a tribute was shown on the Jumbotron, although there were some fans who booed him every time he touched the puck. As has been the case his entire career, the night ended in classic and clutch fashion: It came down to a shootout and then Sundin won the game with a beautiful deke. Pretty great stuff.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Not That Social

Here I sit on a lazy Saturday morning and I already have my 20-miler behind me. It's a nice feeling. It wasn't a nice feeling yesterday while I was actually doing the run. The girls were off at Disney on Ice and I headed out on a cold morning--temps in the mid-20s, strong winds, and an unexpected inch of snow on the ground from the night before. My legs felt heavy and I struggled throughout the run; it took me longer than expected and Deb and the girls caught an earlier train. I was supposed to pick them up, but I was still a mile out when the train pulled in; fortunately some friends of ours were on the train and gave them a ride home. I had skipped my Thursday tempo run because I was running long yesterday, so I'll get that in tomorrow.

Tonight I'm heading to the Somerville Theater to check out Cinematic Titanic, the latest venture from most of the old Mystery Science Theater 3K crew. They'll be showing some crappy old martial arts flick and making with the jokey-jokes throughout. Should be a blast. They've been releasing DVDs for about a year, but this is their first tour.

While I'm out tonight, I'll miss the Leafs-Canucks game, which features the return of Mats Sundin to Toronto. There's been a lot of back and forth up in TO about whether fans will boo or cheer their former captain. Anybody who boos him is a moron. That guy busted his butt for 13 years for the Leafs and is one of the greatest players in franchise history. Sure, he didn't lead them to a Cup, but I blame that on the GMs over the years as much as anything. I'll be TiVoing the game and watching it after I get home tonight, and I'll cheer him on.

Speaking of TiVo, I've still got to watch the last two shows of Late Night with Conan O'Brien that just aired, wrapping up his 16-year run at 12:30 on NBC. In June, he takes over for Jay Leno as host of The Tonight Show. Hopefully, he won't tone it down too much, because it's been fun watching his consistently hilarious show over the years. One of the best things on the show was Robert Smigel's Triumph the Insult Comic Dog; I sure hope he still makes appearances on the new show. In the meantime, here's a collection of some of his greatest moments. Classic.

Monday, February 16, 2009


Happy Presidents Day. I celebrated it by going to work. Woo hoo.

'Twas a busy weekend. We spent much of the day Saturday getting ready to have friends over for a little Valentine's Day bash for the kids. I used to take the girls to a father-daughter dance at the Y, but the last few years we've joined forces with some of our other friends with kids to get together for dinner. This year, we hosted. But first, I had to run some errands, getting a haircut and picking up a V-day card for Deb. Then I took the girls to the library for a few hours while Deb finished getting the house ready for the party. Matt and Tricia also came up for the weekend, so they arrived first, followed by three other couples and their kids. It was a good time. Matt and I didn't drink too much because we were heading up to Hampton, NH, on Sunday to run a half marathon. Fortunately the race was at 11, so we didn't have to get up too early.

My cold is still bothering me, but I was able to run a good race at the Half at the Hamptons, finishing in 1:44 (basically an 8:00/mile pace). The weather was nice, sunny in the 30s, and the race was well organized. I enjoyed a Harpoon Celtic Ale afterwards. Matt finished in 2:21. We headed over to my mom's place to change and then went to the Amesbury Sports Park, where we met the wives and the kids to do some snow tubing. It was a blast. There were five or six lanes and we did a bunch of runs for three hours. Lily decided after a couple that she didn't want to do it anymore, so I went in the lodge with her for about a half hour before everyone came in and talked her into going out again. Everyone had their own tube. Hannah and Danny were able to go by themselves but an adult went down with Lily and Timmy each time. Lots of fun, but we were pretty exhausted by the time we got home. We made a Nick's Roast Beef run for dinner. Good times.

Matt and Tricia headed home this morning after I went to work. Meanwhile, Deb and the girls are enjoying their February vacation. I was planning to take Friday off to spend a day with the girls, but Deb's mom got tickets to take them to Disney on Ice that day. I can't take another day off because of deadlines and I was looking forward to a long weekend, but Deb may have a bunch of chores lined up for me while they're gone. I'm still debating my options.

This just in:
  • Just a decade ago, the ridiculous (and fun) movie Face/Off with Nic Cage and John Travolta featured a crazy sounding face transplant. Now face transplants are a reality. I suspect it'll be some time before criminal masterminds get them, but you never know.
  • So the dude who started an Islamic TV station in New York designed to counter negative stereotypes about Muslims goes and (allegedly) beheads his estranged wife. Yeah, that'll really win people over, pal.
  • Poor Octomom. Even her PR team has abandoned her after the overwhelmingly negative response to her attempt to seek donations to help support her 14-kid brood. And it doesn't look like a TV show's happening anytime soon. She'd better hope those kids grow up to be a football team or something.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Blame Game

Another long week nears the end. I've been battling a cold. At the beginning of the week, it was primarily head congestion but now it's moved into my chest. I feel the worst in the morning, after everything has settled all night long. I ended up skipping hockey last night so I would get a little more rest. Figured the last thing I need is to be worn down right now. Plus I'm running the Half at the Hamptons up in NH on Sunday and want to be healthy for it; last year, I was signed up but had to skip it because I was too sick to run.

I've been quiet in this space but busy writing in others this week. In addition to my latest running column on the endless battle between runners and drivers, I've also been posting daily at my work blog and a new Salem News blog for local runners who are training for the Boston Marathon.

Speaking of training, I got a good 20-miler in last Sunday, although I don't think it helped me in my battle to stave off this cold. We've had a warmer than usual week, but I ran on the treadmill at lunch today because my stomach was a little hinky. So I get a good sweaty 5 miles done only to discover that the water at the gym was shut off because of construction work they were doing in the women's locker room. As a result, I had to take a deodorant shower. Thankfully, I didn't have to go to any meetings this afternoon.

Here is a list of bulleted items:
  • It's been a crazy week in the baseball world. First, A-Rod admits to using steroids while playing for Texas in 2001-03. Now MLB Commish and all-around nitwit Bud Selig is trying to figure out whether he should suspend A-Roid. And Astros ace Roy Oswalt thinks A-Fraud's statistics should be disqualified from the record books. Man, this thing ain't even close to being over.
  • Even crazier is a lawsuit filed against retired ballplayer and sure-thing Hall of Famer Roberto Alomar by an ex-girlfriend, claiming he has full-blown AIDS and insisted on having unprotected sex with her. He has denied the allegations, which do sound kind of kooky. The suit claims Alomar was foaming at the mouth and had purple skin, but others who have seen him make public appearances in the last year say he looks fine. I hope it's not true; the guy was the greatest second baseman I'd ever seen when he played for the Jays in the '90s.
  • Man, this peanut butter salmonella outbreak story gets worse by the day. It's like the company was run by one of those crazy cat ladies who has 150 cats and 35 years' worth of newspapers stacked up in her apartment. It's times like these I'm glad I'm allergic to nuts.
  • Looks like Joaquin Phoenix is trying his best to turn into Andy Kaufman. Lately, he's claimed that he quit acting to become a rapper, has grown a crazy mountain man beard, and he had a particularly wiggity wack appearance on Letterman the other night. Like Kaufman, I think it's all just a wacky stunt, but kudos to Phoenix for keeping things interesting.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Things I Like to Do

Just checking in on a Saturday afternoon before I run some errands. After some bitterly cold days, it's supposed to warm up this weekend into the 40s and possibly 50s. I'm going to do a 20-miler tomorrow; normally, I've been running on Saturdays but I ran yesterday. Wednesday night at hockey, I took a shot off the left calf, where there's conveniently no protection from my shin pads. It hurt pretty bad but I played the rest of the night. But Thursday morning it was really sore, kind of like having a charley horse. I tried running on the treadmill but it really killed, so I waited a day and it felt better. It's still sore to the touch, but I don't foresee any problems tomorrow (knock on wood-like skull).

Hannah had great indoor soccer game today. She played well as goalie in the first half, making a bunch of saves and giving up two goals. Then in the second half, she played out and scored a goal and two assists. She kind of reminds me of myself as a soccer player (and in every other sport I play/played): not the most talented player, but the hardest worker. She hustles and makes stuff happen. Even though she's one of the smaller if not the smallest player out there, Hannah never stops battling. And she does it with a smile on her face. It has really been a blast to see her learn and enjoy the game.

The critter situation: So we decided to hold off on cutting a hole in the wall of our eaves. Instead, we're going to pick up some mousetraps and put a couple in the other eaves, which we have access to. We'll also put a couple in the basement. Deb's mom says she's heard what she thinks is a mouse running around in one of the walls downstairs. Before we commit to anything too expensive or destructive, let's see if we can take care of the problem the old-fashioned way.

I've got some plans to revamp the podcast format a little by incorporating some other voices. Inspired by the banter in shows like Smodcast and No Agenda, I want to record some segments in which I talk to folks about various topics; not so much an interview as a back-and-forth discussion. The hardest part will be the scheduling, but I've got some ideas about that. Hoping to debut the new format next month if everything goes as planned. Stay tuned for details.

Thaw out:
  • I suppose I shouldn't be shocked, but SI is reporting that Alex Rodriguez tested positive for steroids in 2003. As much as I think he's a douche, I always believed he came by his abilities naturally. Now I'm wondering if we should call him A-Fraud or A-Roid? Both work for me.
  • Okay, this whole story about the lady who had octuplets in California is just bugging the hell out of me. She's a single mom who already had six kids, so now she's up to 14 freakin' kids under the age of 7. WTF? She had six kids and she was going for fertility treatments? The doctors at that clinic need to be investigated. That's just wrong.
  • The Grammy Awards are tomorrow night, but honestly, I have no interest in it whatsoever. I'm a huge music fan, but the Grammies are just a record industry grab-ass ceremony that doesn't reflect anything I care about. Radiohead is supposed to be performing, but I'll catch a clip of it online. I'm more interested in the Oscars, but even that show is questionable.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Completely Conspicuous Episode 70: Never Say Die

At long last, I finally got my act together long enough to crank out the latest episode of CompCon. Go here to listen to it in streaming audio or download it directly here (right click and "save as," yo).

The show notes...

- The strange saga of Rod Blagojevich
- The scary impact of sports concussions
- Pinhead of the Week

- ...And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead - Isis Unveiled (Radio Edit)
- The Apples in Stereo - High Tide
- Franz Nicolay - Jeff Penalty
- Bon Iver - Blood Bank

- New England Podcasting.

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

The song from ...And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead is on the new album The Century of Self on Justice Records. Find out more at . The song is courtesy of Podsafe Music Network.

The Bon Iver song is on the new EP Blood Bank on Jagjaguwar Records, where you can find out more and download the track.

The Apples in Stereo song is on the self-released album Fun Trick Noisemaker. The Franz Nicolay song is on the album Major General on Fistolo Records. Both songs are courtesy were provided by IODA Promonet:

Fun Trick NoisemakerThe Apples in Stereo
"High Tide" (mp3)
from "Fun Trick Noisemaker"
(The Apples in stereo)

Buy at Rhapsody
Stream from Rhapsody
More On This Album

Major GeneralFranz Nicolay
"Jeff Penalty (featuring Demander)" (mp3)
from "Major General"
(Fistolo Records LLC)

Buy at Interpunk
Buy at Very
Buy at iTunes Music Store
Buy at Rhapsody
Stream from Rhapsody
More On This Album

The opening and closing theme of Completely Conspicuous is "Theme to Big F'in Pants" by Jay Breitling. Find out more about Senor Breitling at 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, February 02, 2009

Animal Party

Happy Groundhog Day. Of course, if you actually believe in Punxsutawney Phil's forecast, you're not too happy because he saw his shadow today. Ergo, six more weeks of winter. Let's hope he's wrong, because I'm sick of it already. After two mild days, we're supposed to get 3 to 6 more inches of snow starting tomorrow. Enuff Z'nuff!

So the weekend in Jersey was fun. I headed out at 8 a.m. Saturday for my 20-miler. Alas, I wasn't quite prepared for it to be so damn cold: it was 17 degrees with some serious winds kicking in from time to time. I had three layers on, but I skipped the face protection thinking it wouldn't be too bad. I was wrong. Part of the route I was supposed to do was a fire road that cuts through the woods in the state park near Matt and Tricia's house, but it was still covered in the six inches of snow they got last week. So I did a couple of loops through the park and ended up running about 14.5 miles in 2:10. I could have added on some more miles but I was so damn cold that I just wanted to get back.

The party that night was a blast. The theme was a luau, so I got to bust out my Hawaiian shirt. I steered clear of any mixed drinks and stuck to Sam Adams Winter Lager for most of the evening, but I was still pretty toasted by night's end. I played darts late in the night and actually hit a couple of bullseyes. But it was a late one. I usually avoid late-night snacks, but I chowed on meatballs and desserts and all sorts of stuff that was laying around. Didn't hit the hay until 3 a.m. I got up at 8:30, awakened by the kids running around. I felt pretty lousy, but seemed to do better after getting up and showered. We got on the road by 10, but I didn't feel great. It wasn't my head, it was my stomach. I also had trouble focusing on anything I was reading, so I nodded off for much of the trip. Fortunately, Deb was driving. I skipped lunch and didn't feel like my appetite was back until 2:30. We picked up some groceries and I grilled up some delicious steak tips in the backyard.

I had no intentions of watching the entire Super Bowl game, but it ended up being a terrific contest. I was hoping the Cards would win, but that ridiculously awesome TD by Santonio Holmes was a great finish. It reminded me of the Cassell-to-Moss play the Pats pulled off with a second to go to tie the Jets a few months back.

I know I said I would record the podcast yesterday, but it got so late after I watched the game that I waited until tonight. But I was having printer issues (i.e., the piece of crap isn't working), so I'll have to do the show tomorrow.

Deb and I both slept downstairs last night. We've had some sort of critter scurrying around in the attic ceiling above our bedroom for a while now, on and off. Deb's been hearing it for the last week or so and when she does, she can't sleep. I can usually fall asleep, but last night, I could hear the little bastard (or bastards) squeaking away and couldn't get the sound out of my head. Even though I'm pretty confident there's no way they can actually get into our bedroom, I knew I was getting no sleep up there. So I came down and slept on the futon in our guest room while Deb slept on the couch in the living room. I called the pest removal guy we had come out after the bat attack in the summer and he said we'd have to cut a hole in the wall in the attic eaves so he could put some traps down. He said the animals could be mice or squirrels. A friend of ours does a lot of carpentry work on the side, so we're hoping he can help us out. The fun never ends.