Monday, June 28, 2010

Completely Conspicuous 132: All the World's a Stage

Jay Breitling joins me again on the podcast to discuss the power of live rock. Listen to the show in streaming audio or download it directly (right click and "save as").

The show notes...

Topics:

- Kumar only went to arena rock shows in the '80s

- The Worcester Centrum was the big rock venue in the Boston area back then

- Started going to club shows in early '90s

- Breitling camped out for Stones tickets in '89

- Chloe lets rip a mighty screech

- Breitling saw a ton of club shows

- We saw a drunken Hold Steady show in '06 that was awesome

- In late '80s/early '90s, Kumar started seeing bands play in rock club in Beverly, Mass.

- Breitling's friends were playing in bands

- Club shows are great for seeing bands on the way up

- Half time = bath time

- Listen to Ric Dube's More Lost Time podcast

- Big arena shows now suck because of corporate influence

- Kumar and Dube saw the Go-Go's play a JVC private party at CES in 2001

- People got annoyed because we were jumping around

- People don't pay attention at shows anymore

- Only really huge bands and teenybopper acts sell a lot of tickets now

- Established acts like the Eagles and AC/DC are doing store exclusive deals, charging huge ticket prices

- Wear earplugs, people

- Bonehead of the Week

Music:

!!! - AM/FM

The Kominas - High Noon

EELS - Looking Up

Completely Conspicuous is available through the iTunes podcast directory. Subscribe and write a review!

The show is sponsored by Eastbay/Footlocker.com, a leading supplier of athletic footwear, apparel and sports equipment. Find gear from top brands such as Nike, Adidas, Asics and more. Use promo code AFCOMP15 for 15% off any order at Eastbay.com, AFCOMP20 for 20% off any order of $75 or more at Eastbay.com and AFCOMPFL for 15% off any order at Footlocker.com.

The !!! song is on the forthcoming album Strange Weather, Isn't It? on Warp Records. Find out more and download the song for free from the band's website.

The Kominas song is on the EP Escape to Blackout Beach. Find out more and download the EP for free directly from the band.

The EELS song is on the forthcoming album Tomorrow Morning on E Works/Vagrant Records. Download the song for free at the band's website.

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 blogs Clicky Clicky and Keeping Some Dark Secrets. Additional music used in the show is by Me and Boris the Bull, which is the brainchild of the mighty Mark Campbell. Thanks to Bob Durling for the album art; find out more about his photography at his blog.

Completely Conspicuous is a Tan God Production. Word.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

So Fast, So Numb

We're in the dog days of summer, so naturally, it's time for me to start training for another marathon. After the overheated disaster that was my effort in the Providence Marathon in May, I begin another 16 weeks of training for the Baystate Marathon in Lowell on October 17. But this time around, I'm trying something different.

For the last four years, I've been using the Furman FIRST training method, which advocates only three runs per week plus cross-training. The idea is you reduce the wear and tear on your body while focusing your runs: One day is speedwork, the next a tempo run and then a long run on the weekend. You ended up running a lot more long run mileage, but I liked the specialization of the runs. Doing speedwork definitely helped me improve my times in Chicago in 2006 (3:54), Baystate in '07 (3:46), New Jersey in '08 (3:43), Philly in '08 (3:52) and Boston in '09 (3:57). I felt in pretty good shape last month in Providence, but there was nothing to do about the heat (4:31, my second-worst marathon time ever).

Still, going into this next four-month stretch of training, I wasn't looking forward to those grueling long runs in the summer heat (they build up pretty quickly from 13 to 15, 17, 20, 18, 20, etc.). So when I read in the latest Runner's World about a plan designed to help runners break certain goals, I immediately became interested. There was more running during the week; two days of rest (which I'll use for cross-training with weights), three days of easy runs, one day of hill or tempo work and a long run. The long runs start at 9 miles and gradually build up to 22.

After thinking it over and checking out some other plans, I decided to try the RW plan with some adjustments for pace times and scheduled races (including The Salem Half and Reach the Beach in September).

I've been struggling in the last few weeks with tightness in my right leg, so I'm not sure how running more times per week will affect that. Hopefully I can do more stretching and things will work out okay. I felt pretty good Friday night when I did the Danvers Kiwanis 5-miler, but struggled in the heat today on an 8-miler.

Ultimately, I needed to shake things up because I was getting bored with doing the same old training plan. The start of this training plan actually coincides with another shakeup for me: I left my gym in Marblehead after they announced they were jacking up the rates starting in July. I got back on our family YMCA membership and will be working out during the week at the Marblehead Y and on the weekends at the Beverly Y, when needed. It's going to be a little more challenging because I'll have to drive across town instead of just walking next door, but I'll manage. Less socializing and quicker workouts.

Here's hoping it all goes swimmingly.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Mixology: Lawrence Welk--A Tribute to Iowa

Mixology is a recurring feature in which I take a look at one of the many mix tapes I made over the years. Some are better than others, but all of them are fun to revisit.

Lawrence Welk--A Tribute to Iowa (6/12/88)

By now, you already know this isn't a Lawrence Welk compilation. In the summer of '88, I was making a pittance working as a reporting intern at the Peabody Times. I made the 45-minute drive from Kingston, NH, to Peabody every day, earning the impressive total of $57 and change after taxes each week. To make up for that, I worked night crews at the Market Basket in Plaistow, NH; at the very least, I'd have some beer money for my upcoming senior year at UNH. So I was working 60-70 hours a week and having a blast.

Even though I did little to no partying that summer, I was okay with that. There was plenty of time for that foolishness when I got back to school; this was my future I was working for. Besides, my parents wouldn't have been too thrilled if I was out getting trashed every night. I was too damn tired by the time I got home to do much, anyway.

One of the first stories I wrote was about a preschool class in Peabody; those kids are in their mid-20s now. Damn. I was only 20 when I wrote the article.

I remember making this mix to give me something to listen to on my drives to and from work in my dad's Pontiac J2000. It was a lot mellower than the stuff I was normally listening, more reflective of a lazy summer mood. Too bad it wasn't a lazy summer. It's funny, I probably worked harder during my summer and Christmas vacations than I did in college. Physically, anyway. Mentally, I was already in the working world. The light at the end of the tunnel, however, was the fact that I'd be back at college in a few short months for one last year of carefree living. I made the most of it, too.

Side A:
Take Your Whiskey Home - Van Halen
Hangman Jury - Aerosmith
Cold Shot - Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble
Right Next Door (Because of Me) - Robert Cray
Down to the Waterline - Dire Straits
People Get Ready - Jeff Beck with Rod Stewart
Big Log - Robert Plant
Private Life - The Pretenders
Feel It Burn - Kim Mitchell
Shine Like It Does - INXS

Side B:
Friends - Led Zeppelin
Getting in Tune - The Who
In a Simple Rhyme - Van Halen
Summer's Up - Max Webster
Sweet Sixteen - Billy Idol
Wishes - Jon Butcher
That Voice Again - Peter Gabriel
Little Wing - Sting
Rain in the Summertime - The Alarm
Somewhere Down the Crazy River - Robbie Robertson








Private Life:


Somewhere Down the Crazy River:

Monday, June 21, 2010

Completely Conspicuous 131: Double Live Gonzo

I'm joined this week on the podcast by special guest Jay Breitling as we discuss the power of live rock. Listen to the show in streaming audio or download it directly (right click and "save as").

The show notes...

Topics:

- Breitling thought we were going to talk about beer

- It was much easier to see bands before becoming a parent

- Chloe's trashing the place

- We saw The Feelies play six encores recently

- Remembering Dread Zeppelin

- Hammer of the Gods is a classic rock biography

- Fond memories of cranking Triumph and Bad Co.

- Gotta love when bands open and close with the same song

- House of Pain had a wussy posse

- Breitling was inspired by seeing classmate's band in high school

- Breitling's first concert: Super '70s Fest with BTO, Guess Who, Dr. Hook, Grand Funk Railroad

- As a 12-year-old, Kumar hoped to see Led Zep...but then Bonham died

- Kumar's first concert: Cheap Trick, Ratt, Twisted Sister, Lita Ford

- Twisted Sister had a great live show

- Cheap Trick was one of the first bands to play old albums in their entirety

- Now everyone's doing it

- Bands can alienate audience by playing entire new album

- Some bands you want to see while they're still around

- Seeing bands in smaller venues is preferable

- Breitling saw The Cure, The Grateful Dead and Nitzer Ebb in same week

- Bonehead of the Week

Music:

Iron Maiden - El Dorado

The Melvins - Evil New War God

The Black Angels - Bad Vibrations

Completely Conspicuous is available through the iTunes podcast directory. Subscribe and write a review!

The show is sponsored by Budget, the country's premier car rental service with 900 locations. Go to Budget.com/CompCon and save 10% off any reservation or $30 off a weekly rental.

The Iron Maiden song is on the forthcoming album The Final Frontier on EMI Records. Download the song for free through the band's website.

The Melvins song is on the album The Bride Screamed Murder on Ipecac Records. Download the song for free at RCRDLBL.

The Black Angels song is on the forthcoming album Phosphene Dream on Blue Horizon Records. Download the song for free at the Black Angels' website.

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 blogs Clicky Clicky and Keeping Some Dark Secrets. Additional music used in the show is by Me and Boris the Bull, which is the brainchild of the mighty Mark Campbell. Thanks to Bob Durling for the album art; find out more about his photography at his blog.

Completely Conspicuous is a Tan God Production. Word.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Daddy Learned to Fly

Happy Father's Day to all the dads out there. It's a nice day for those of us with little kids because they do their best to be extra nice on Father's Day. We spent the weekend in NJ as Deb and Tricia did their second triathlon in two months; they both did great. This was Deb's first-ever tri with a lake swim and she did better than she thought she would, finishing the half-mile swim in 26 minutes and the entire event in 2:43. Tricia finished in 2:13. It was a beautiful morning and the kids were all well-behaved as we waited for their moms to come in. Afterwards, we threw a big blow-out party to celebrate. I played much beer pong and was a tad hungover this morning, but nothing a fistful of Advil couldn't handle. We got home by 3 and just relaxed the rest of the day before grilling up some delicious chicken.

Father's Day has traditionally been rather bittersweet for me. My dad was a difficult guy, especially in his later years. My mom always claimed he was very into the whole dad gig when I was a baby, but by the time my brother came along nearly five years later, Dad had mentally checked out. He just wasn't interested in doing much more than bringing home the proverbial bacon. Part of it was the old-school Indian dad in him; his role was king of the household. All others were there to serve him. He got home from work, he expected food on the table and then he went to watch TV. My brother and I were supposed to do well in the school and bring him whatever beverages he desired (coffee, water, booze).

Of course, he wasn't always such a despot. I have fond memories of goofing off with him, listening to the crazy nonsensical songs he would make up, playing badminton in the backyard. He took me to my first Leafs game, but a few years, it was my mom who took us to our first Jays game. And she had no interest whatsoever in baseball, but by that point, he couldn't be bothered. He still liked to watch sports; we watched Hockey Night in Canada every Saturday. But things really went downhill after he took a job in the U.S. and moved the family out of a pretty stable existence to an uncertain future (at the time). My mom suddenly went from working as a nurse to unemployed because she had to take the Washington state nursing exam nearly 20 years into her career. My brother and I were suddenly new kids in school, and then moved to another school a month later. Two years later, we moved again to NH. We all managed to settle in well there, but my dad started hitting the sauce pretty hard. Then he lost his job in '87 or so and it was just an endless cycle of booze, cigarettes, TV and wallowing in self-pity. I was in college then and only heard about it once a month when I would come home, but my mom and brother took the brunt of that shitstorm. Dad already had diabetes, so the alcohol abuse was like lighting a match to a stick of dynamite. He became sickly looking and eventually developed a seizure disorder that would slowly rob him of his memory.

By 1996, his body had taken enough and started shutting down. He was in and out of the hospital several times before his kidneys shut down and he died. In the hospital before he passed, I made my peace with him. The poor guy had been through enough; he didn't need to go into the next world knowing that I thought he was an asshole. Of course, he was, but part of that was his upbringing.

He made many mistakes, but his greatest gift to me was helping me become a better dad than he could ever hope to be. I learned from his mistakes, but I also would like to think that the good parts of him live on through me and my brother. That's a pretty good legacy.

Papa's Got a Brand New Bag:

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Mixology: Songs for the Terminally Deranged

Mixology is a recurring feature in which I take a look at one of the many mix tapes I made over the years. Some are better than others, but all of them are fun to revisit.

Songs for the Terminally Deranged (9/10/93)

I've documented in the past about the suckiosity of 1993 for me, so there's no need to go into that now. At the time this mix was made, I was living in Middleton, working a copy desk job at the paper that I believe was giving me an ulcer, single and generally unhappy. Hey, shit happens. I prefer to dwell on the positives: It was a good year for rock.

I saw a lot of rock shows in '93, most of them with my brother, who was still living with our parents and had just graduated from Dartmouth. I saw Dinosaur Jr., Mudhoney, Living Colour, The Tragically Hip. Two days before I made this mix, we went to see Urge Overkill at the Paradise in a particularly excellent show.

A few months earlier, we went to Lollapalooza. We had an excellent time in 1992 seeing the show at Great Woods in Mansfield (now known as the Comcast Center). It was a hell of a bill: Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Ministry, Ice Cube, Jesus and Mary Chain, and Lush. By the time it got dark, the fans on the lawn were going nuts for Ministry, who were awesome, and ripped up the back fence to start a bonfire, which they then danced around. It was pretty cool to look at from our vantage point in the seats, but it got the festival banned for a few years from Mansfield.

So in '93, we had to schlep out to Quonset Point, Rhode Island, to a former Air Force base. It wasn't that much further away, but it took us forever to drive the last few miles to get into the place. As a result, we missed the first few bands including Tool and Rage Against the Machine. I went with my brother and his girlfriend, but unlike the year before, there were no seats. It was just a zillion people in a huge dusty field and the crowd surfing was relentless. There was literally no relief from the jabronies flying overhead, kicking you in the skull or shoving you. JP and I basically spent the whole time protecting Angela from flying meatheads. It was exhausting. It was hard to enjoy the show, which was pretty good, with bands like Fishbone, Alice in Chains, Primus and Dinosaur Jr. We were all covered in an inch-thick layer of dust by the time the thing was over. I was 25, but I already felt like I was too old for that standing-in-a-field BS.

Also that summer, I drove my brother to New York City for the day so he could interview for a law firm internship. While JP was at the interview, I met up with my old buddy Bryan, who was interning at People Magazine in the city. JP didn't get the internship, but he ended up interning at a law firm in Exeter and digging it, and eventually went to law school the next year down in Austin and became a law-talking guy.

As for me, the highlight of 1993 was when the Blue Jays beat the Phillies in the World Series for their second straight title on Joe Carter's historic homer. And then the year was over, and I was thankful.

Side A
Cherub Rock - Smashing Pumpkins
Sister Havana - Urge Overkill
Ugly Truth Rock - Matthew Sweet
Los Angeles - Frank Black
Someday I Suppose - Mighty Mighty Bosstones
Touch Me I'm Sick - Mudhoney
Swallow My Pride - Soundgarden
Aneurysm - Nirvana
Kool Thing - Sonic Youth
50-ft. Queenie - PJ Harvey
The Downward Road - The Pursuit of Happiness
Tommy the Cat - Primus
Catholic School Girls Rule - Red Hot Chili Peppers
N.F.B. - Anthrax
Rudderless - Lemonheads

Side B
New Orleans is Sinking - The Tragically Hip
Toys in the Attic - R.E.M.
Dancing in the Moonlight - Thin Lizzy
Here Among the Cats - Max Webster
Intruder - Peter Gabriel
Daddy's Gonna Pay for Your Crashed Car - U2
I Should've Known - Aimee Mann
Knowing People - Matthew Sweet
Positive Bleeding - Urge Overkill
Quiet - Smashing Pumpkins
Dive - Nirvana
You Got It (Keep It to Yourself) - Mudhoney
Me-Jane - PJ Harvey




Los Angeles:


Dancing in the Moonlight:

Monday, June 14, 2010

Completely Conspicuous 130: Over the Hills and Far Away

I'm joined on the podcast by special guest Matt Phillion as we conclude our conversation about his experiences in Ireland. Listen to the show in streaming audio or download it directly (right click and "save as").

The show notes...

Topics:

- In Ireland, liquor stores are called "off licenses"

- They loves the hard cider

- Not a great beer selection in stores

- No anti-American sentiment

- The Irish call McDonald's "Maccy D's"

- Matt bonded with the immigrants

- Irish don't pronounce "th" sounds

- Fashion: They rock the popped collar

- Matt left a few shirts behind to avoid getting his ass kicked here

- The skinny jeans incident

- Mullets live on

- The women are "makeup ninjas"

- Tales of airport security

- Tough to break into Irish acting scene

- Shocked to get some modeling offers

- Sorting out customs paperwork

- A care package of 6 lbs. of Twizzlers

- Missing Dunkin' Donuts

- Metric still confounds

- Bonehead of the Week

Music:

Black Mountain - Old Fangs

Japandroids - Younger Us

The Vaselines - I Hate the '80s

Completely Conspicuous is available through the iTunes podcast directory. Subscribe and write a review!

The show is sponsored by Eastbay/Footlocker.com, a leading supplier of athletic footwear, apparel and sports equipment. Find gear from top brands such as Nike, Adidas and Asics. Use the promo code AFCOMP15 to get 15% off any order at Eastbay.com, AFCOMP20 to get 20% off any order at Eastbay.com and AFCOMPFL to get 15% off any order at Footlocker.com.

The Black Mountain song is on the forthcoming album Wilderness Heart on Jagjaguwar Records, where you can download the song for free.

The Japandroids song is on the band's Younger Us 7-inch. Download the song for free at Pitchfork.

The Vaselines song is on the forthcoming album Sex With an X on Sub Pop Records. Download the song for free from the Vaselines' site.

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 blogs Clicky Clicky and Keeping Some Dark Secrets. Additional music used in the show is by Me and Boris the Bull, which is the brainchild of the mighty Mark Campbell. Thanks to Bob Durling for the album art; find out more about his photography at his blog.

Completely Conspicuous is a Tan God Production. Word.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Mixology: Can't You Hear Me Knocking?

Mixology is a recurring feature in which I take a look at one of the many mix tapes I made over the years. Some are better than others, but all of them are fun to revisit.

Can't You Hear Me Knocking? (1981)

I've discussed the first mix tapes I made on my old clock radio cassette player before. Here's another one from 1981. Again, not sure of the exact date, but I'm going to guess it was around May or June, because Tom Petty's "The Waiting" came out in May. I was up in Toronto, about to finish eighth grade. My dad was getting ready to move to Washington State to take a new job; we would eventually follow him in November. At that point, I think it didn't really sink in that we would be moving, even though a realtor had been showing our house to prospective buyers.

Life for me around this time generally involved a lot of street hockey with my buddies, soccer, bike-riding and TV. In addition, I was all about music at this point; listening to it, anyway. I had a small black Panasonic transistor radio that I used to carry with me when I walked our dog Sammy. I distinctly remember walking her and hearing "Tom Sawyer" by Rush for the first time on that radio; pretty mind-blowing stuff.

My musical tastes in '81 were primarily AOR (album-oriented radio) fare: Lots of soon-to-be classic rock, hard rock, prog rock, etc. Those tastes come through on this tape, which was recorded on a Memorex cassette primarily off CHUM-FM and Q107-FM, the two big rock radio stations in Toronto at the time. Of the songs on the tape, the only ones I actually had on vinyl were "Who Are You" and "You Better, You Bet" off the Who's Who Are You and Face Dances albums and "Follow You, Follow Me," which was from the Genesis record And Then There Were Three.

When I listened to this tape again for the first time in probably 28 years, I didn't even recognize the Styx song. I had to look it up to see that it was on the Cornerstone album in 1979 and actually hit #26 on the singles chart. "Babe" was the monster single that preceded it. I had purchased the 1981 album Paradise Theater, which was a huge hit and had pretty cool etchings on the vinyl, as I recall. AC/DC was coming off the huge success of Back in Black a year earlier and re-released Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap, which had come out in the mid-70s in Australia. The title track was a big hit on rock radio and paved the way for the release of For Those About To Rock later in the year.

I listened to this tape a lot after we moved to Richland, Washington, but what it reminds me of the most was that carefree time before we left Canada.

Side A
Who Are You - The Who
Watching the Wheels - John Lennon
In the Air Tonight - Phil Collins
Can't You Hear Me Knocking? - The Rolling Stones
Breathe - Pink Floyd
Jumpin' Jack Flash - The Rolling Stones

Side B
You Better, You Bet - The Who
Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap - AC/DC
Why Me? - Styx
Follow You, Follow Me - Genesis
Let Go the Line - Max Webster
The Waiting - Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
Find Your Way Home - Jefferson Starship
Life of Illusion - Joe Walsh




The Waiting:


You Better, You Bet:

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Quest for the Cup

It's a great time of year to be a sports fan. The Chicago Blackhawks just won their first Stanley Cup in 49 years, the Celtics are battling the Lakers in the NBA finals, the baseball season is in full swing and the World Cup is about to begin. I live-Tweeted the hell out of that Cup-clinching win last night, so I'm not going to get into it here, but I did want to talk about soccer.

Soccer, or football to the rest of the world, has never been able to truly catch on in a big way in the U.S. And yet every four years, the World Cup takes place and garners at least some attention Stateside. I'm not really sure why it hasn't caught on here. I hear folks argue that it's boring and low-scoring, and yet the same people are perfectly willing to spend three hours watching a baseball game or a golf tournament (I love both those sports, but you see what I mean). Seems to me there's just an inherent mistrust of anything that's really popular in Europe. Whatever the case, ESPN is going all out with its World Cup coverage and the USA-England game on Saturday will likely be the most-watched soccer game in American history.

My relationship with soccer goes back to my days as a yute in the suburbs of Toronto. I started playing organized soccer in fifth grade when my parents signed me up for an indoor soccer team. Before that, I would play in pickup games that would take place at Douglas Park in Pickering, the town I lived in. The indoor league held its games in a gym in the town community center, using a softer ball on a regular gym surface.

The real reason my parents pushed me towards soccer was because I wanted to play hockey and they didn't want me to. Many of my friends were playing in organized leagues and my parents agreed to send me and my little brother to hockey school, which was the introductory level for kids. I was 8 and my brother was 4; my parents bought us full equipment and took us every Saturday to Don Beer Arena. So I figured the following year, I'd be playing in the local pee wee hockey league, which was the next level. But no, my parents were dead set against it. They said they didn't want me to get hurt, but I think they didn't want to drive me to 5 a.m. practices and the like. I even went so far as to have some of my buddies who played come over to the house to talk about how it wasn't a hassle and how they'd give me rides on occasion, but my parents wouldn't budge. It pissed me off to no end; still bothers me. My parents every so often would just make these edicts that made no sense whatsoever. Why buy all that equipment and then tell me I couldn't play? It was just cruel.

But they didn't have a problem with me playing soccer, hence the indoor league. A few years later, I started playing "house league" soccer, which was essentially a league run by the town rec department. I was a scrawny little puke back then and didn't have much of a shot, so they pretty much always put me at fullback. I played two years, including one year when my dad's union sponsored our team. It was about as involved as my dad ever got in my sports career. Our name was really long, something like the "Ontario Hydro CUPE Union Local 513"; it was 1980, so I don't remember the exact name, but it was sure unwieldy. I used to ride my bike about 10 miles to practice, do the practice, and then ride home. I don't remember ever being sore, either. After we moved to Richland, Washington, in late '81, I didn't play soccer again for two years because there was no organized soccer (or hockey) at my school at the time. I remember we played soccer a few times in gym class and I dominated, scoring a bunch of goals. But that was all the soccer I'd play for a while.

When we moved to New Hampshire, I ended up going out for the soccer team at my new high school. I was a junior, but I hadn't played in a few years, so the coach put me on the JV squad my first year. I was still scrawny and did my best, but I only scored one goal that year. Senior year, I was on the varsity. However, the coach didn't put me in much, so I was essentially a well-conditioned benchwarmer. We were a small school and didn't have a huge talent pool, but we were in good shape because he ran us into the ground.

I played some intramural soccer, outdoor and indoor, at UNH, but it wasn't until a few years after graduation that I started playing again. It was 1992 and I was at the Peabody Times when my editor decided to put an indoor team together at Soccer Etc. in Beverly. I had a blast and ended up playing for the next 10 years, first in Beverly and then at the Topsfield Fairgrounds. With a lot of playing time, I actually became a better player than I was in high school. I actually scored a shootout goal that won us the championship one session. And afterwards, we would go to a nearby bar and close the place. When I turned 30, I started playing in an over-30 outdoor league with a lot of the guys from my indoor team. It was a traveling team, so my Sundays would be full of driving all over the area for a few years. It was the combination of Hannah's birth and training for my first marathon that finally got me to quit, in addition to the hassle of all the travel. I also eventually stopped playing indoor, which was a lot of fun.

Now my connection to the game is primarily through the girls, who both play soccer. I've coached both Hannah and Lily. It has been fun to watch Hannah especially really enjoy playing outdoor and indoor soccer; Lily's in a kindergarten soccer program and is having fun for the most part.

Despite that history, I've never really gotten into watching much soccer on TV, except for the World Cup. I've followed the New England Revolution over the years from a distance, but have never really gotten into the team. It's not that I don't like watching it, but I just haven't had the attachment to a particular team. As a kid, I rooted for the Toronto Blizzard in the NASL, back in the days when Pele played for the New York Cosmos. But this World Cup feels different. There seems to be a palpable buzz built up this time around. I'm really looking forward to it.

And someday when I have more time, I hope to get back to playing soccer as well. Although I must say I really like watching my girls play. I hope they stick with it as they get older. It truly is a great game to watch and play.



Kick:

Monday, June 07, 2010

Completely Conspicuous 129: Whiskey in the Jar

Special guest Matt Phillion joins me on the podcast as we continue our discussion of his adventures in Ireland. Listen to the show in streaming audio or download it directly (right click and "save as").

The show notes...

Topics:

- Running in Ireland: Matt gets racially profiled

- Rarely see runners there

- Irish drivers are either really slow or really fast

- Drunk driving laws are much stricter

- "A distinct Irish ear"

- TV in Ireland: Lots of American shows air

- Law & Order: London (real show)

- Matt wants to audition for the Irish soap opera Fair City

- Gaelic version of American Idol

- Gaelic is subtitled on TV

- You can see boobs on regular TV

- Call a restroom a "bog" or "jax," not "the loo"

- Following baseball from abroad

- Fantasy baseball challenges

- Spotting Americans

- Eating strange foods for sport

- Eating flies on the run

- Matt discovers cows and "flying chickens"

- Matt's girlfriend coming here for a visit

- Irish moonshine = "holy water"

- Bonehead of the Week

Music:

Ted Leo and the Pharmacists - Bottled in Cork

Johnny Foreigner - With Who, Who and What I've Got

Ugly Casanova - Lay Me Down

Completely Conspicuous is available through the iTunes podcast directory. Subscribe and write a review!

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The Ted Leo and the Pharmacists song is on the album The Brutalist Bricks on Matador Records, where you can download the song for free.

The Johnny Foreigner song is an unreleased track you can download for free here.

The Ugly Casanova song is on the soundtrack to the documentary 180 Degrees South on Brushfire Records. Download the song for free at Stereogum.

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 blogs Clicky Clicky and Keeping Some Dark Secrets. Additional music used in the show is by Me and Boris the Bull, which is the brainchild of the mighty Mark Campbell. Thanks to Bob Durling for the album art; find out more about his photography at his blog.

Completely Conspicuous is a Tan God Production. Word.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Sharia Law in the USA

Ever have one of those nights where everything just seems to come together perfectly? Last night worked out that way for me thematically. I got to OJ's place a little after 7 and we had a good discussion for the podcast about live music and our love of club shows.

Then a little after 9:30, I schlepped over to the Middle East downstairs to catch The Kominas, a Boston-based group of Pakistani dudes who have garnered plenty of press over the last three years for their unique brand of Islamic-themed political punk. I first became aware of the band after reading about them a few years back on Sepia Mutiny, a blog that focuses on the concerns of folks of South Asian descent (i.e., brown dudes like me whose roots trace back to India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, etc.). The band formed in 2005, inspired by the Michael Muhammad Knight book The Taqwacores, which described a fictional Muslim punk scene; sure enough, a scene sprung up soon afterward. A documentary and upcoming feature film have followed.

For an unsigned band, the Kominas have drawn a lot of attention both positive and negative for their in-your-face attitude and songs like "Sharia Law in the USA," "Blow Shit Up," "Walqaeda Superstore" and "Suicide Bomb the Gap." Knee-jerk reactionaries take one look at the track listing and just start voicing outrage. But if you actually listen to the songs, you realize they take aim both at post-9/11 racial profiling of Muslims and the traditional hardline stances of Islamic fundamentalists. I bought the band's first full-length album, Wild Nights in Guantanamo Bay, a few days ago and it's evident that there's equal amounts of anger and humor on display. Musically, the band has described itself as "Bollywood Muslim punk," but you can hear elements of punk, Bhangra, ska, hip hop and metal in their sound. They sing in both English and Urdu, but it's not hard to get the point.

Last night, there were probably only a little more than 100 in attendance to see the Kominas and openers Sunny Ali and the Kid (who were excellent, BTW), Uncle Lefty and Mojo Kick. I was hanging out watching Uncle Lefty when Kominas guitarist-singer Shahjehan Khan, decked out in a shalwar kameez and an "I [Heart] Jesus" ballcap, walked by. Actually, he almost tripped on a security rope right in front of me. We laughed about it and he asked my name; when I told him, he asked if I had posted something on my blog about seeing the band (indeed I had; guess he checks out Google blog search).

When the Kominas took the stage at 11:40, Khan tossed the hat almost immediately. Bassist Basim Usmani took the majority of the lead vocals, with guitarist Arjun Ray and drummer Imran Malik chipping in. The band kicked off with "Sharia Law" and "Suicide Bomb the Gap," a hell of a one-two punch. They had a horn player named Alistair (I think) helping out. Total party vibe. The band played a few new songs, including "High Noon," from the new album that's out June 15. This was one of their last local shows before they head over to Europe to play some gigs.

There was a healthy mix of brown, white and black folks in attendance. Folks were dancing, slamming and shouting throughout the 65-minute set. Like Jay and I had discussed earlier, it doesn't matter how many people are at the show, but rather how the band can take their music to a higher place. It didn't matter if you were a Muslim, Christian or atheist watching the Kominas rock shit up last night. Apparently, we CAN all get along.

Sharia Law in the USA:

Friday, June 04, 2010

Mixology: Yuletide Yodeling, Vol. 12

Mixology is a recurring feature in which I take a look at one of the many mix tapes I made over the years. Some are better than others, but all of them are fun to revisit.

Yuletide Yodeling, Vol. 12 (12/20/95)

Yeah, I know it's not Christmas, but despite the title, this isn't really a Christmas mix. Sure, it was made in December and there's three Christmas songs on it, but it's really just another mix that rocks most steadfastly.

Things were rolling along for me quite nicely at this point, although that was about to change. I was three months into a complete career shift, from the world of newspaper reporting to something altogether different, the world of business-to-business publishing. It was a big adjustment, getting used to regular hours and sitting at a desk all day, not to mention learning about the intricacies of healthcare credentialing. At this point, I was just starting to really understand what I was writing about.

The apartment I was living in had some roommate turnover; I went from having three female roommates in '94 to having two male roomies by the end of '95 (the women all got married). I was friends with the guys, but I was starting to think about getting my own place. I also had a girlfriend who I'd been dating for about five months. I thought it was going well, but when she got back from spending the holidays with her family a week later, she unceremoniously dumped my ass. I didn't see it coming and it hit me pretty hard because I really dug her. Christ, I even sat through a Natalie Merchant concert for her (shudder). It wasn't until a year later that she told me her mom was behind the breakup; she was religious and I wasn't, so that was that. It was good to know the real reason, but still small consolation. And really, who wants to date someone who takes orders like that from their parents? Yeesh. Think for yourself.

I didn't have too much time to dwell on the whole thing because right after the new year, my dad got really sick. He was already in rough shape thanks to a nasty combination of diabetes, alcoholism and stupidity, and now it was catching up to him. He was suffering from a seizure disorder that had left him disoriented and forgetful. He was in and out of the hospital for a few months before he finally died at the end of March '96. Not fun times.

But at least at the time I made this tape, everything was hunky dory. Just about every song on this mix with a couple of exceptions was recently released. It was a good time for alt-rock; while there were still a lot of Nirvana and Pearl Jam knockoffs, it was before the advent of so-called nu-metal like Korn and Limp Bizkit. My buddy Bob and I had pulled off a cool concert doubleshot just five days earlier, catching The Amps (Kim Deal's non-Breeders side project) at the Paradise and then zipping over to the Middle East to see the Mighty Mighty Bosstones. Good stuff.

Probably the best thing this tape does is remind me of how one minute you can be having a blast and the next, you can turn a corner and have a piano fall on your head. Valuable life lessons.

Side A: Yuletide
Natural One - Folk Implosion
Stupid Girl - Garbage
On a Rope - Rocket from the Crypt
Jellybelly - Smashing Pumpkins
Roots Radicals - Rancid
Brain Stew - Green Day
Fireman - Jawbreaker
You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch - Thurl Ravenscroft
I Got Id - Pearl Jam
Aeroplane - Red Hot Chili Peppers
Heaven Beside You - Alice in Chains
Winn Coma - Boss Hog

Side B: Yodelay-hee-ho
Electra Made Me Blind - Everclear
Cobbler - Meat Puppets
Becuz - Sonic Youth
Tipp City - The Amps
It's Christmastime - James Brown
Tangerine - Buffalo Tom
I'm Not Cool - Smackmelon
Max the Silent - Paw
X-French Tee Shirt - Shudder to Think
Cachita - Esquivel
Search and Destroy - Iggy and the Stooges
Heater Hands - Rocket from the Crypt
Zero - Smashing Pumpkins
Welcome Christmas (Grinch soundtrack)



Fireman:


Tipp City:

Thursday, June 03, 2010

More Lost Time

Normally, on a Thursday night in the spring/summer, you can find me playing hockey at Pingree. However, my groin really tightened up over the last few days, so I'm doing the smart thing and taking a break. This happens to me on occasion, where all the running and skating and the GLAAAAYYYYYYVEN catches up to me. Funny thing is, before yesterday the last time I ran was Sunday in New Jersey, but I've been pretty sore the last few days. I did a fast 5 miles with my pal Molly yesterday and aggravated my groin, I guess. Today, I've been limping around like an old man. I just signed up for the Baystate Marathon in October, but fortunately I don't start training for it until next month.

Anyhoo, that actually isn't the real reason for this blogmafication. I wanted to help get the word out about a new podcast from my buddy Doobs, who's a frequent guest on CompCon and an all-around good guy. He's already been doing a movie review blog called More Lost Time, but the podcast of the same name centers around rare music from his vast collection. Seriously, anyone who thinks I have a lot of music should see Ric's collection; it's immense. I'm listening to the first episode as I type this and it's excellent. Great tunes from obscure acts like the Celibate Rifles and a few you might recognize: Guided by Voices and Beck. You will dig it.

As for my own podcasting efforts, I'm in the midst of a three-part series of shows done with my friend Matt Phillion. And this Saturday, I'm heading in town to catch The Kominas at the Middle East, but before the show, I'll be hanging with Senor Jay Breitling to do some recording on the topic of live music. Should be fun as always.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Completely Conspicuous 128: Stranger in a Strange Land

My guest on the podcast this week is Matt Phillion, who discusses his adventures in Ireland. Listen to the show in streaming audio or download it directly (right click and "save as").

The show notes...

Topics:

- Matt moved to Ireland in late February

- Followed a girl

- Had never been out of the U.S. before

- Fun with Irish border agents

- Home straightening out his paperwork

- Massive life change

- Culture shock: Lack of water pressure

- Matt's proud to be an American

- Food's fine if you don't eat Irish

- Guinness makes a meal

- Matt ate a lot of lamb, Chinese food

- (Visit from my 6-year-old)

- Saw Hope Sandoval play

- In Ireland, everything requires a conversation

- Picking up different pronunciations

- Tipping differences

- Irish moonshine tastes sweet, smells like turpentine

- Hurling is Matt's new favorite sport: Kill the man with the ball

- Irish follow rugby, soccer, hurling--but not cricket

- Matt confronts Polish bouncer with unintelligible accent

- Never turn down a drink in Ireland

- Bonehead of the Week

Music:

The Hold Steady - Hurricane J

The Roots with Jim James - Dear God, 2.0

Wolf Parade - Ghost Pressure

Completely Conspicuous is available through the iTunes podcast directory. Subscribe and write a review!

The show is sponsored by Budget, the country's premier car rental service with 900 locations. Go to Budget.com/CompCon and save 10% off any reservation or $30 off a weekly rental.

The Hold Steady song is on the album Heaven is Whenever on Vagrant Records. Download the song for free at Insound.

The Roots song is on the forthcoming album How I Got Over on Island Def Jam Records, where you can download the song for free.

The Wolf Parade song is on the band's album Expo 86 on Sub Pop Records. Download the song for free at Soundcloud.

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 blogs Clicky Clicky and Keeping Some Dark Secrets. Additional music used in the show is by Me and Boris the Bull, which is the brainchild of the mighty Mark Campbell. Thanks to Bob Durling for the album art; find out more about his photography at his blog.

Completely Conspicuous is a Tan God Production. Word.