Monday, December 31, 2012

Wrap It Up

Another year just hurtled by, full of cool stuff and awful stuff and boring stuff. Personally, it was an interesting year. My daughters are growing quickly; it's amazing that I've been a parent for more than a decade now. On the career front, my job took some weird and scary turns this year, but I'm still hanging on. I managed to drop 30 pounds from Jan. 1 to Dec. 15. I gained a little of it back in the last two weeks, but I'm going back to eating well starting tomorrow. I'm doing a fair amount of writing, most of it for free but some of it for pay, and my podcast is still a going concern. Somehow I got sucked back into coaching soccer again, which has been fun and exhausting at the same time. The schedule keeps filling up, which I suppose is better than just sitting around on my butt watching TV.

As for New Year's resolutions, I'm looking to keep the weight off and keep getting faster as a runner. As I mentioned earlier this week, I'm starting guitar lessons tomorrow and hope to become a half-decent player. I want to keep writing. And I want to keep working at being a better father.

I'm in my mid-40s now, which is also weird and scary, but I take comfort in the fact that I don't feel that old. And I'm ready for whatever life throws at me (within reason). Happy New Year!

Completely Conspicuous 259: The Year in Rock Music, Part 2

Part 2 of my conversation with guests Jay Breitling and Mike Piantigini as we review our favorite music of 2012. Listen to the episode below or download it directly (right click and "save as").

Show notes:
- Recorded at Clicky Clicky world HQ
- Breitling's #9 album of 2012 - Piantigini's #9
- The long, strange journey of Drivin N' Cryin
- Kumar's #9
- JB's #8
- MP's #8
- Lou Barlow's talkative
- JK's #8
- JB's #7
- The Breeders are reuniting
- MP's #7
- JK's #7
- Nirvana comparisons abound
- JB's #6
- The Clash meets Big Country
- MP's #6
- JK's #6
- JB's #5
- MP's #5
- JK's #5
- JB's #4
- Hipsters love the cassettes
- In praise of VH's Diver Down
- DLR's ill-fated radio show
- MP's #4
- Prolific Canadian geniuses rule
- JK's #4
- Bonehead of the Week

Hospitality - Betty Wang

Mission of Burma - Second Television
METZ - Wet Blanket
Johnny Foreigner - 3 Hearts
A.C. Newman - Encyclopedia of Classic Takedowns

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

The Hospitality song is on the band's self-titled album on Merge Records. Download the song for free at Epitonic.
The Mission of Burma song is on the album Unsound on Fire Records. Download the song for free at Epitonic
The METZ song is on the band's self-titled album on Sub Pop. Download the song for free at Sub Pop.
The Johnny Foreigner song is on the EP Names. Download the song for free at Bandcamp.
The A.C. Newman song is on the album Shut Down the Streets on Matador Records. Download the song for free at

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 Clicky Clicky. Voiceover work is courtesy of James Gralian

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Watch That Man

One cool thing about being a music fan is that even with all of the streaming and downloading technology available to us, there is still so much that I haven't heard yet. And I'm not even talking about new music. There are many classic albums by classic artists that I've missed or just haven't gotten around to checking out. I'm woefully uneducated on most of the catalog of Bob Dylan, for example. And there are glaring gaps with other artists that I'm ashamed to admit. One such artist is David Bowie.

I know the hits. Just from listening to rock radio as a kid, I heard all the big ones. I really became aware of Bowie in the '80s when he was in his Thin White Duke phase and was on top of the rock world. I picked up ChangesBowie when Rykodisc was re-releasing the Bowie catalog, as well as The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. Not long after, I bought Scary Monsters, mainly on the strength of loving "Ashes to Ashes." And a friend gave me Lodger several years ago. Oh, and I have the two Tin Machine albums when Bowie was doing his band thing in the late '80s/early '90s. But that's it. Which, from a cursory point of view, is enough to give one a decent overview of Bowie's career. But there's a lot missing. I mean, I had never heard "The Man Who Sold the World" until Nirvana covered it on their MTV Unplugged session.

A great way to fill in the gaps is at my local library, which I visit somewhat regularly with my daughters. While they're down browsing in the children's section, I'll dash up to the main floor and check out the CDs available for borrowing and pick four or five. So yeah, I rip the CDs onto my hard drive, but I've spent so much money on vinyl, cassettes, CDs and now MP3s over the years, I don't feel any guilt over it (and that's not even getting into concert tickets and merch).

Earlier this year, I picked up Bowie's Hunky Dory (1971) and Aladdin Sane (1973), the albums that bookended Ziggy Stardust and really brought Bowie to prominence in the rock world. Hunky Dory wasn't a huge hit but it had "Changes" and set the table for Ziggy Stardust, while Aladdin Sane was known (by me, anyway) for songs like "Panic in Detroit," "The Jean Genie" and the cover of the Stones' "Let's Spend the Night Together." Bowie had put together a killer band for these albums, with Mick Ronson on guitar providing much of the musical muscle. Hunky Dory is a little more diverse sonically (featuring Rick Wakeman on piano), with songs like "Oh! You Pretty Things,"  "Life on Mars?" and "Queen Bitch" providing a taste of what the next album would deliver. Aladdin Sane was more of a hard rock record, with "Watch That Man," "Cracked Actor" and "Panic in Detroit" highlighting Ronson's louder guitar work. It's received mixed reviews over the years, but I really enjoy it.

I spent much of the summer cranking both these albums and really digging into them, which is something I tend not to do as much as I once did just because of the sheer volume of music that listen to. And of course now I want to pick up the earlier Bowie albums and the soul and German period stuff from the mid- to late '70s like Young Americans, Station to Station, Low and Heroes. This could take a while, but at the very least I can check that stuff out on Spotify. It's nice to know that musical exploration is something I'll be able to do for the rest of my life, and I still won't even scratch the surface of everything I want to hear.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Mars Needs Guitars

I've always had an on-again, off-again relationship with the guitar. Not in terms of listening to guitar-based music...I haven't wavered on my affection for guitar rock since 1980. But playing the guitar has been another story. I first took a guitar class when I was in high school in Richland, WA, in 1982; my parents  bought me an acoustic. The class was very basic and I can barely remember anything that happened in it, other than the day there was a big rally IN FAVOR of the local nuke plant (you have to remember that many of the inhabitants of this area moved there to work at the Hanford plant). I just remember we got out of school early one day and a kid I know offered me a hit off his joint. I refused and we walked down to watch the rally.

After we moved to New Hampshire, my mom signed me up for guitar lessons from a woman who lived in our town. She was fairly young (I'm guessing late 20s/early 30s) and was pretty cool. I went for several months and was pretty good about practicing, but the classes stopped after a horrific drunk driving accident near our house in which the woman's husband was killed. In the meantime, my mom went to Daddy's Junky Music in Saugus and got me a used Gibson L6-S that dated back to the '70s. Turns out Gibson recently reissued the model. Anyway, it was a nice guitar and I had a small backstage Peavey amp to go with it.

I was listening to a lot of hard rock and metal and subscribed to Guitar World and Guitar for the Practicing Musician; by the mid-'80s, I had developed an appreciation for speed guitarists like Eddie VH, Yngwie Malmsteen, Steve Vai and Joe Satriani. Granted, I still couldn't play for shit, let alone like those cats, but I liked listening to solos played at the speed of light. I briefly joined a band for a week, learning the riff to the Scorpions' "Rock You Like a Hurricane" but nothing came out of it. Part of the problem was we lived out in the outskirts of town; I had friends at school, but never hung out with anybody except a couple of guys. Maybe if I was jamming with buddies who had guitars things would have been different. But eventually the guitars started collecting dust and by the time I got to college, I wasn't playing at all. After freshman year, I left them at home, and then after my dad lost his job and the family was hurting for cash, I let my mom sell my acoustic and my amp.

Thankfully I held on to the Gibson and in the mid-90s when I got my own apartment, I decided to get serious about playing again. I picked up an amp and got some rock books and would practice. But it would go in fits and starts. Pretty much every year around this time, I start thinking about New Year's resolutions and one of them is always to play guitar again. And I'll go through stretches where I play in front of the TV and learn chords and riffs and then at some point lose interest. A couple of years ago, I bought a new acoustic and last year, my buddy Jay let me "have" a BC Rich Warlock that he'd been holding for another friend of his. I've practiced a fair amount with it, although I've yet to plug in and really test it out. It's a ridiculous looking metal guitar, but kinda fun to play.

So there I was on Christmas night, on my third or fourth beer after the girls had all gone to bed, watching the DVD of Led Zeppelin's Celebration Day and marveling at how awesome Jimmy Page still sounded. And pretty much every time I watch a great guitarist play, whether it's live or on TV, I think of how I should be playing. But this time, probably encouraged by the alcohol, I started Googling guitar lessons on my smartphone. And found a music school in Beverly that I had read about in the past, and then sent them an email inquiring about lessons. An instructor called me back yesterday and we set up an appointment for next week. I figure I haven't been able to sustain any kind of discipline about playing, but maybe with a structure in place I'll actually do what I've been trying half-assedly to do for the last 30 years, which is learn to play. I don't have any grand ambitions about it, but I'd love to just be able to play a song from memory instead of having to sit down with a book in front of me. We'll see how it goes, but I'm kind of psyched that I finally went ahead and did it. With any luck, my world tour will start in January 2014.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Completely Conspicuous 258: The Year in Rock Music, Part 1

Part 1 of my conversation with guests Jay Breitling and Mike Piantigini as we review our favorite music of 2012. Listen to the episode below or download it directly (right click and "save as").
Show notes:
- Recorded at Clicky Clicky world HQ
- Brought to you (not really) by Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale
- MP: Saw a lot of older bands this year
- JK: First full album show I saw was Cheap Trick doing "In Color" in '97
- Chloe B. talks about Rudolph
- JB: Most of my favorite albums this year were self-released
- The 12/12/12 benefit had some good performances, especially by The Who
- MP: The Who's Quadrophenia concert was great
- The McCartney-"Nirvana" song was decent
- Praising the Low Times podcast
- JK: "I Want My MTV" is an excellent book
- MP: Favorite live shows included Scud Mountain Boys, New Multitudes, Archers of Loaf
- MP: Also reunions of Small Factory, Human Sexual Response, Fuzzy
- JB: Fave live shows were Johnny Foreigner, Infinity Girl, Autochrome, Midriff Records 10th Anniversary show
- JK: Fave live shows included Afghan Whigs, Bob Mould, Mark Lanegan, Matthew Sweet, Sloan
- The glory days of getting free stuff at college radio stations
- Breitling's #10 album
- Piantigini's #10
- Kumar's #10
- To be continued
- Bonehead of the Week

Sloan - Merry Xmas Everybody

Infinity Girl - Taking Nothing
Guided By Voices - Class Clown Spots a UFO

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

The Sloan song is available for free download (in return for your email address) from Topspin.
The Infinity Girl song is on the EP Just Like Lovers, which is available for free download at Bandcamp
The Guided By Voices song is on the album Class Clown Spots a UFO on Guided By Voices/Fire 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 blog Clicky Clicky. Voiceover work is courtesy of James Gralian

Friday, December 21, 2012

Fuzz War: Best albums of 2012

Editor's note: I've already documented my favorite things of 2012, which included my top 10 albums, for Popblerd and starting next week, Completely Conspicuous will embark on an epic three-parter in which Jay Breitling, Mike Piantigini and I ramble on about our favorite music of the year. But here's my top 15 albums of the year plus a Spotify playlist I made.

2012 was another good year for music, at least if you look at it in terms of quality and not sales. I cancelled my eMusic subscription early in the year in part to fund my Libsyn podcast hosting account, but the consistently good prices at Amazon MP3 allowed me to purchase most of the albums I wanted. And Spotify allowed me to listen to others that I didn't actually own. So there were plenty of good albums to choose from. Here's the top 15:

15. Torche - Harmonicraft
I've been a fan of this hard rocking Florida band for a few years now, and this album did not disappoint. Loud, catchy, explosive. The song "Kicking" can instantly get me running a few mph faster. Great, fun stuff.

14. The Tragically Hip - Now for Plan A
As a native Canuck, I've been in the tank for these guys since their first album. But the last few have been a little lacking. This time around, the Hip roll out a leaner album that reflects their live sound a little more. The songs are strong, especially "At Transformation," which captures the band at their best.


13. Neil Young and Crazy Horse - Psychedelic Pill
This was actually their second album of the year, the first being Americana, on which Neil and the boys cover a bunch of folk standards like "Oh Susanna." Didn't really appeal to me, but on Psychedelic Pill, they just plug in and jam for seemingly forever. Seriously, there are two songs that clock in at 16-plus minutes and one that's over 27. And Neil's lyrics on "Driftin' Back" are fairly stream of consciousness, but it doesn't matter. It's Neil and Crazy Horse, and they sound terrific.

12. A.C. Newman - Shut Down the Streets
Newman is a prolific songwriter. Between his work with The New Pornographers and solo, he pretty much cranks out a great album every year. Most of his catalog has trended towards the power pop side of things, but on this album Newman is a little more introspective. That doesn't mean there aren't pop gems on Shut Down the Streets; "Encyclopedia of Classic Takedowns" and "I'm Not Talking" are super-catchy. But he shows a quieter side on this album that's well worth exploring.

11. Mission of Burma - Unsound
Now on their fourth album since reuniting in 2002, Burma shows no signs of slowing down. Although 2009's The Sound, The Speed, The Light was not quite at the level of its two predecessors, it was still pretty good. Nevertheless, Matador dropped the band and it took a while to find a new label. Unsound finds Burma playing a little faster and looser, and seemingly having fun doing it as is reflected on songs like "Dust Devil," "Sectionals in Mourning" and "Semi-Pseudo-Sort-of Plan." All band comebacks should kick this much ass.

10. Van Halen - A Different Kind of Truth
This reunion of David Lee Roth with Van Halen (minus poor Michael Anthony, of course) had all the makings of a disaster. Neither had done much of consequence in the last 20 years, and even though they had a successful reunion tour a few years ago, there were plenty of skeptics including me wondering if there was anything left in the tank. The new album's first single, "Tattoo," did little to ease concerns, as it's clearly the weakest track on the album. But that turned out to be something of a bait and switch: VH is musically as powerful as ever, with Eddie Van Halen absolutely ripping it up on pretty much every song and Alex VH and Eddie's song Wolfgang teaming up on some breakneck passages on songs like "China Town" and  "Bullethead." DLR is no longer the sex god he was in the '70s and '80s; now he's more like your crazy Uncle Dave. He's not pulling off those screams of the days of yore, but he wisely sticks to what works and sounds just fine. Bottom line, with this album, VH announced they were back in a big way.

9. Dinosaur Jr. - I Bet on Sky
Unlike Eddie VH, Dino Jr's resident guitar hero never went away. J. Mascis has been wailing away for years, even when Dinosaur Jr. wasn't a thing for about a decade. Since reuniting with Lou Barlow and Murph, Mascis has made three quality records (and an excellent solo album) and reissued their original albums. I Bet on Sky has all the trademarks of Dino Jr.: Heavy riffs, a couple of good Lou songs and Mascis solos all over the damn place. It's a formula but it works well.

8. Cloud Nothings - Attack on Memory
In its previous incarnation, Cloud Nothings was essentially a one-man band consisting of Dylan Baldi. With Attack on Memory, Baldi recorded with his live band and intentionally turned away from the poppier material he had favored to darker, heavier stuff. Having Steve Albini as producer (excuse me, "recorder") didn't hurt, and the album is an angsty but catchy collection that really stood out in 2012.

7. METZ - Metz
This trio out of Toronto is loud, abrasive and awesome. Their self-titled debut came out in the fall and I didn't pick it up until last month, but it really has become one of my favorites of late. Short, punchy songs with shouted vocals and roaring guitars. The band has garnered comparisons to Nirvana, but they remind me more of bands like Fugazi and the Jesus Lizard. "Wasted," "Wet Blanket" and "Headache" are standout tracks, but really, the whole album is a kick in the pants. In a good way.

6. Bob Mould - Silver Age
This has been a triumphant year for Mould, as he celebrated the 20th anniversary of Sugar's masterful Copper Blue with a tour playing the entire album. But not to be forgotten is the fact that Mould's new album Silver Age is terrific, bringing him back to the classic power trio formation of Sugar and that other band he used to be in. Silver Age features his touring band, Jason Narducy on bass and the always great Jon Wurster on drums, and it is relentless from beginning to end. The album opens with three ass-kickers, "Star Machine," "Silver Age" and "The Descent,"and it doesn't let up from there. Mould spits the lyrics with fire and fully re-embraces the heavy guitar sound that has weaved in and out of his solo work for the last decade. A powerful statement from one of alt-rock's godfathers.

5. Japandroids - Celebration Rock
For its second album, the Vancouver duo unleashes an exhilarating 35-minute punk rock rush of uptempo songs about partying and being young and awesome. The title of the record says it all, really. Celebration Rock is all shouted vocals, loud guitars, pounding drums and “whoa-oh-oh” choruses, and damn if it isn’t just great. “The Nights of Wine and Roses,” “Fire’s Highway” and “Adrenaline Nightshift” are fist-pumpingly fun tales of youth gone wild, catchy and loud. Sure, there isn’t much in the way of dynamics or quieter songs, but who cares? Turn it up and enjoy, dammit.

4. Titus Andronicus - Local Business
At first, the new full-length from New Jersey’s purveyor of literate punk rock didn’t grab me, especially after the mastery of 2010’s epic The Monitor. But with repeated listens, Local Business really took hold, insinuating itself in my consciousness with its boozy shouted refrains and sturdy riffs. Bandleader Patrick Stickles isn’t afraid to write umpteen-word song titles and make references to high-falutin’ artists and concepts while echoing the riffs of The Clash. Ergo songs like “Ecce Homo” and “Upon Viewing Oregon’s Landscape with the Flood of Detritus” can coexist with the Johnny Thunders-esque “Food Fight” and the terrific “In a Big City,” as well as longer songs like “In a Small Body,” “Tried to Quit Smoking” and “My Eating Disorder,” which veers from punk sneering to near prog-rock in its final few minutes. Local Business is a mish-mash, but it’s great.

3. Divine Fits - A Thing Called Divine Fits
When it came out, this was just a quickie side project from Britt Daniel of Spoon and Dan Boeckner of Wolf Parade/Handsome Furs that nobody had high expectations for.  But holy crap, A Thing Called Divine Fits is a terrific album. Daniel’s contributions, which include “Flaggin’ a Ride” and “Would That Not Be Nice” are typically excellent and have that Spoon-ish quality that Daniel has been producing for more than a decade now. But it’s Boeckner  who really shines with synthy concoctions like “My Love is Real,” “For Your Heart” and “Baby Gets Worse” that are super-catchy and propelled by his urgent, yelpy  vocals. A winner through and through, and hopefully not the last we’ll hear from this band.

2. Mark Lanegan Band - Blues Funeral
Mark Lanegan has spent much of the last decade making guest appearances on other artists’ albums, from Queens of the Stone Age to the Twilight Singers to Isobel Campbell. On his first solo album since 2004’s Bubblegum, Lanegan explored some interesting electronic directions; he cited Joy Division, Roxy Music and The Gun Club as key influences on the album. It’s a long way from his beginnings in the mid-‘80s with Screaming Trees, forging a psychedelic grunge sound that predated many of their Northwest peers. “The Gravedigger’s Song” is an epic leadoff single that combines synths with harder edged sounds, while “Riot in My House” and “Quiver Syndrome” are out-and-out rockers and “Ode to Sad Disco” takes the experimentation to a surprisingly danceable conclusion.

1. Ty Segall Band - Slaughterhouse
Garage rocker Ty Segall had a ridiculously prolific year, releasing three albums that were all highly praised by critics and fans alike. I only heard two of them, this one and Segall’s collaboration with White Fence (Hair), and both reveal a super-talented guitarist with a penchant for scuzz-rock freakouts mixed with spacey psychedelia. On Slaughterhouse, Segall is backed by his touring band and the group is tight. “Wave Goodbye,” “Death” and “I Bought My Eyes” lead a bracing collection of songs that culminates in the 10-minute feedback drone of “Fuzz War.” It’s a winning formula. Segall is a worthy successor to the late Jay Reatard’s DIY excellence.

Honorable mentions:  Henry Clay People - 25 for the Rest of Our Lives; Soundgarden - King Animal; Two Gallants - The Bloom and the Blight; Rush - Clockwork Angels; Smashing Pumpkins - Oceania; High on Fire - De Vermis Mysteriis; Guided By Voices - Let's Go Eat the Factory; Led Zeppelin - Celebration Day; El-P - Cancer 4 Cure.

And here's a Spotify playlist of some of my favorite songs of the year:

Monday, December 17, 2012

Completely Conspicuous 257: Love, Exciting and New

Part 2 of my conversation with guest Ric Dube as we climb aboard and dissect an episode of The Love Boat. Listen to the episode below or download it directly (right click and "save as").

Show notes:
- Recorded at More Lost Time world HQ
- Inspired by MST3K and Rifftrax, we're commenting while watching video
- Watch the episode along with us at the CompCon YouTube channel
- Jay: Used to watch Love Boat and Fantasy Island back to back
- Both shows featured cameos from so-called stars
- Episode 23 from season 1, 1978
- Featured Paul Williams, Michele Lee, Marcia Wallace
- Gopher went on to be a Congressman
- Romantic hijinks ensue each week
- Cartoonish male chauvinism
- Let the wacky subplots begin
- Love American Style was the predecessor to The Love Boat
- Booked to the gunnels
- The mysterious sexual allure of Bernie Kopell
- Julie just wants to get some
- The show's like bad improv
- Marcia Wallace is comic relief
- Dick Van Patten played Doc in the Love Boat pilot
- Capt. Stubing is the cruise ship Pepe Le Pew
- The third act results in partner switching
- Paul Williams gets the hot chick
- Gopher nailed Mrs. Krabappel
- Bonehead of the Week

Pile - Prom Song

They Might Be Giants - Call You Mom

Completely Conspicuous is available through the iTunes podcast directory. Subscribe and write a review!
The Pile song is on the album Dripping. Download it for free on Bandcamp.
The They Might Be Giants song is on the album Nanobots on Idlewild Recordings. Download it 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 blog Clicky Clicky. Voiceover work is courtesy of James Gralian.

Friday, December 14, 2012


As Fridays in December go, this was a pretty good day. I took a vacation day, as I have with all the Fridays this month because I have to use that time or lose it. Once the kids were off to school, I went to the gym to work out, ran some errands and then went to play hockey at noon with a buddy in Peabody. It was a blast and even though I had to leave a little early to get home for a work call (yeah, yeah, I know), I had that tired but exhilarated feeling I get when I've exhausted my body in a good way. So I'm in the lobby of the rink and a TV is on CNN with a breaking news alert about a mass shooting at an elementary school in Connecticut that left TWENTY kids dead.

Talk about a mood changer. These types of events tend to happen fairly often these days, but this one is especially horrifying because the shooter allegedly went into the school and killed his mother and her entire kindergarten class. Makes no fucking sense at all. Of course, with the heightened awareness brought on via social media, I'm reading constant references to the need for gun control, the need to hug your kids and just plain sadness.

I understand it all. As a former reporter, I'm pretty desensitized to horrible stories, but having kids really makes this shit hit home. I'm typing this as my kids play with some friends, blissfully unaware of the mind-fuckingly awful situation that took place just a few hours away to kids just a few years younger than them. We don't let them watch the news because of stuff like this, horrendous child abuse arrests and of course, all the idiotic wars going on all over the world. There's plenty of time for them to learn about how shitty the world can be. Let them enjoy their childhoods while they still can.

As for me, I'm going to my buddy Jay's house tonight to do some podcast recording about our favorite music of 2012. The kids have activities planned. Life will go on as planned, but we'll mourn the dead of Newtown and wait for the next senseless atrocity to happen.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Completely Conspicuous 256: Watching the Detectives

Part 1 of my conversation with guest Ric Dube as we dissect an episode of a classic 1970s detective show. Listen to the episode below or download it directly (right click and "save as").
Show notes:
- Recorded at More Lost Time world HQ
- Inspired by MST3K and Rifftrax, we're commenting while watching video
- Watch the episode along with us at the CompCon YouTube channel
- Dube apologizes for his last booze-soaked appearance on the show
- Barnaby Jones was a spinoff of the private investigator drama Cannon
- We're watching the first episode of the series
- Star Buddy Ebsen was Tin Man in Wizard of Oz and Jed Clampett on Beverly Hillbillies
- A Quinn Martin production
- Cool theme song
- Cannon's perpetually hungry
- Barnaby Jones' son is murdered in the opening scene
- Ebsen's performance is flat as a pancake
- A modern-day Barnaby Jones would be played by Hugh Laurie
- "You have a rather distinctive silhouette"
- Kumar confuses Lee Meriwether with Mary Ann Mobley--a common mistake
- Barnaby is decidedly anti-China
- "Could I trouble you for a glass of milk?"
- Dube: Blackmailers never say goodbye on the phone
- By golly, Barnaby figures it all out
- The Random '70s Detective Show Plot Generator
- Next week, we take on an Aaron Spelling production- Bonehead of the Week

The Night Marchers - All Hits

Divine Fits - For Your Heart
Completely Conspicuous is available through the iTunes podcast directory. Subscribe and write a review!
The Night Marchers song is on the forthcoming album Allez Allez on Swami Records. Download it for free on Soundcloud.
The Divine Fits song is on the album A Thing Called Divine Fits on Merge Records. Download it for free at Epitonic.

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 Clicky Clicky. Voiceover work is courtesy of James Gralian.

Friday, December 07, 2012

A Farewell to Kings

The Couch is dead. Long live the Couch.

I've carried many things with me through various phases of my life, but I finally bade farewell today to one of the biggest. It's an ugly-ass blue plaid couch that my mom bought me back in the fall of 1990 after I moved into an apartment with my buddy Bryan. I'm guessing it was a combination birthday/housewarming present and it probably cost a couple hundred bucks from Sears. The apartment didn't exactly have wide stairwells, so we had to hoist the couch up through the living room window. Back then, I spent hours on that couch watching Bruins games, the first season of The Real World, The Simpsons, Cheers and whatever the hell else was on TV.

I lived in that shithole on Butman Street in Beverly for a year until the lease expired and I moved in with my girlfriend, and of course brought the couch with me to our apartment on Essex Street. We were there for about nine months and then moved across town to the very house I'm sitting in right now, renting the downstairs apartment. About 15 months later, we broke up and I moved to Middleton, where I rented a room in a house. While many of my other possessions (comic books and other stuff stored in the basement) stayed here, the couch came with me.

That place sucked and I was pretty depressed about my existence in general for nine months until I moved back to Beverly to an apartment downtown on Essex Street with three female friends of mine. Even though the heat didn't work in the winter and the upstairs and downstairs neighbors were annoying and/or psychotic, it was dirt cheap and there was a fair amount of room. The women all got married and moved out, but two buddies of mine moved in. My roommate John had this habit of sleeping on my couch every night instead of in his own bed; we eventually discovered his room looked like a bomb had gone off, with clothes and crap everywhere, so he chose not to sleep in it most nights. Eventually the couch started to smell like his cologne. When I finally moved out in the spring of '96, my other roomie Eric and I dubbed it Operation Couch Liberation.

I got my own apartment in Salem for a year. It was convenient for work but nothing else, and the basement aspect was kind of depressing. But the worst part was having to pay for all the bills on my own instead of being able to split them with roommates. I moved back to Beverly with my buddies Mike and Roger, sharing half a house. That place was terrific and we had many raucous parties there, no doubt to the consternation of our neighbors. Not too long after I moved in there, I met my future wife and in the fall of '99, we got engaged and moved in together on Lovett Street, near the ocean. It was a nice apartment and I figured we'd be there for a few years after we got married in 2000, but then we ended up buying this house on Roosevelt Avenue with Deb's mom just three months after our wedding.

The Kumars at Christmas
Deb never liked the look of the couch (can't really blame her on that count) and got different couch covers to hide the plaidiosity of the thing. But it was a fixture in our living room for the last 12 years. We both spent plenty of time on it, watching TV, snuggling with our kids, finding Cheerios in the couch cushions. We finally bought a new couch earlier this year and moved the old one to the sun room, where we have another TV. Unfortunately when we were putting the legs back on it, the threads on one were totally stripped, making it impossible to screw the leg back in. We could stand the couch on it, but if you moved in the wrong direction, it would slip out. The girls didn't care and would hang out on the couch, but its days were numbered. We dragged it out to the street this week and I sadly watched it get eaten by a trash truck this morning.

I'm not trying to get overly sentimental about a friggin' couch, but it had traveled with me for 22 years and through many phases of my adult life. Farewell, you magnificent bastard.

Monday, December 03, 2012

Completely Conspicuous 255: The Future is Unwritten

Part 2 of my conversation with guest Dave Brigham about our society's neglect for history. Listen to the episode below or download it directly (right click and "save as").

Show notes:
- Recorded at the BrigHAAAAM Estates
- Dave's doing a reading of one of his short stories on Dec. 11 in Arlington, MA
- Check out Dave's photo blog, The Backside of America
- Kids don't get our references anymore
- Brigham: "Too damn much of everything"
- Reality TV is ubiquitous
- Pop culture ignorance
- Brigham: Even a Luddite like me buys digital music
- Knowledge of older bands is limited now
- Talking to kids about history and current events
- Don't let our kids watch TV newscasts
- We shelter our kids these days
- Playground education
- The ads during televised sporting events are all about "cars, boners and beer"
- Parents may filter too much
- Can we fix our lack of historical knowledge?
- We can try to encourage kids to take an interest
- Collecting baseball cards was a fun hobby
- Too much focus on present and future to look at the past
- American populace is fairly passive about major problems
- Bonehead of the Week

The Hush Now - I'm Always Broke in December

Low - Waiting (live)
Varsity Drag - Animal
The Linus Pauling Quartet - Crom
Completely Conspicuous is available through the iTunes podcast directory. Subscribe and write a review!

The Hush Now song is available for free download at Bandcamp.
The Low song is on the live EP Plays Nice Places. Download it for free (in exchange for your email address) at Sub Pop.
The Varsity Drag song is on the album Night Owls and is available for free download at Bandcamp.
The Linus Pauling Quartet song is on the album Bag of Hammers on Musebox Records. Download it for free from Spinner.
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 Clicky Clicky. Voiceover work is courtesy of James Gralian.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Inevitability of Death

Once you hit your mid-40s, certain things become inevitable. Even if you're in great shape physically, you notice that you can't do the same things you did in your 20s and 30s, whether that's partying til all hours of the night or living on junk food or just being immature. Which is fine, as long as you accept these changes. We all have to grow up eventually, it just takes some of us longer to do so than others.

Unfortunately, there are other inevitabilities that are harder to process. Like the inevitability of death. I got a taste of this 16 years ago when my father died, but he went early (he was 55). It was an anomaly. But now as I get older, folks I knew when I was first starting my career are falling into that zone. Lately, this has been hitting home for me as several people I either worked with or was acquainted with in my 20s have died, two of them in the last week. One was a state representative from Peabody who I knew well when I worked for the Peabody Times as a reporter; she worked in the court system and was on various city boards while I was there and was always extremely friendly and a great source. The other was the general manager of the Essex County Newspapers chain, of which Peabody was a part. I was never particularly close to him, but I respected the hell out of him and his accomplishments. He did a lot for young reporters, regularly allowing UNH interns to stay at his family's Rockport home each semester (I commuted from home during my internship, but I knew plenty of friends who took advantage of the offer. He was also a big runner back when I couldn't understand why anyone would want to be; he had a shower installed in his office in Beverly to use after his midday runs. And I would see him at local races regularly right up until a few years ago.

I've also had other friends or colleagues die at younger ages, including a co-worker (working remotely in Colorado) who had a heart attack at age 58 and dropped dead on the spot a few months ago. It doesn't matter the age, though, it's always shocking when somebody you know is no longer walking the Earth. There's nothing you can do except hope nobody else dies any time soon, even though there's no way of knowing these things. Better to remember these people the best we can and move along.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Completely Conspicuous 254: History Repeating

Part 1 of my conversation with guest Dave Brigham about our society's neglect for history. Listen to the episode below or download it directly (right click and "save as").

Show notes:
- Recorded at the BrigHAAAAM Estates
- Dave's doing a reading of one of his short stories on Dec. 11 in Arlington, MA
- Brigham: Working as a volunteer archivist uncovers interesting finds
- Check out Dave's photo blog, The Backside of America
- You can find lots of hidden historical discoveries when you pay attention
- Kumar: Our culture is so focused inward that we forget about history
- Brigham: Finding old collection of dad's military stuff sparked interest in history
- The 2010s are much more of a "Me Decade" than the 1970s
- Dave's got a dumb phone
- American Girl dolls focus on historical settings
- History shows again and again how nature points out the folly of man
- "Kids these days..."
- The Petraeus scandal: How is it possible to send 30,000 pages of emails?
- Any technological advance tends to get folks distracted: TV, radio, the car- To be continued
- Bonehead of the Week

Interpol - Roland (demo)

Parquet Courts - Light Up Gold
The Bohannons - Goodbye Bill
Titus Andronicus - Ecce Homo
Completely Conspicuous is available through the iTunes podcast directory. Subscribe and write a review!

The Interpol song is on the Tenth Anniversary Edition reissue of Turn on the Bright Lights on Matador Records. Download the song for free from
The Parquet Courts song is on the album Light Up Gold on Dull Tools Records. Download it for free at Stereogum.
The Bohannons song is on the album Unaka Rising on This is American Music. Download it for free from Soundcloud.
The Titus Andronicus song is on the album Local Business on XL Recordings. Download it for free from Epitonic.
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 Clicky Clicky. Voiceover work is courtesy of James Gralian.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Mixology: The Joy of Angst-Ridden, Gen X-er Slacker Rock

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

The Joy of Angst-Ridden, Gen X-er Slacker Rock (2/4/94)

It's been many moons since the last installment of Mixology, mainly because I've been busy with other stuff and my inventory of mix tapes has dwindled down. But I did have this one kicking around. Alas, I just popped it into my tape deck to get in the mood for this post and about halfway through the first song, the tape deck started eating the tape. This has been part of a complete mutiny on the part of my stereo equipment. It started last year when my turntable (purchased in 1989) finally crapped out. Then a few weeks ago, my CD player (purchased in 1993) just stopped working; whenever I put a CD in,  it spins for a moment before being ejected. And today, the tape deck (purchased a few years back off Craigslist) shit the bed. The only thing that still works is the receiver, which I also bought from someone off Craigslist a couple of years ago. I want to replace all these pieces so I can play my CD, vinyl and cassettes from time to time. Granted, most of the time I'm listening to music on my computer or iPod, but every so often I like to crank up something old-school.

Which brings me to this tape, which I've listened to many times in the car (and on the damn tape deck before it decided to defect to the underworld). The title was a reflection of my distaste with the obvious marketing going on at the time targeted at my generation, the so-called "Generation X." It was all pretty lazy stuff, and with movies like Reality Bites hitting the theaters and commercials and TVs shows all portraying flannel-clad, shiftless 20somethings, I was getting pretty sick of the whole thing.

But the music was still good, although it wouldn't be long before grunge copycats would start taking over the rock scene and making alt-rock rather tiresome. This tape is a good representation of what I was into at the time and I still like everything on it except the Counting Crows song (which isn't a bad song, per se, but overplayed and worn out for me. Saw them at Axis before they hit it big and they were fine, but I quickly tired of Adam Duritz and the band got a little too boring for me). I believe I recorded this while I was still living in Middleton, a few weeks before I moved back to Beverly. Things were turning around for me after a depressing stretch of months, and this mix reflected that. Fairly dark stuff, but in a good way.

Alas, I'll never be able to listen to this mix again (unless I make it again). So rest in pieces, faithful mix. You had a good 19-year run.

Side A
Gentlemen - Afghan Whigs
Rotten Apple - Alice in Chains
Veronica - Paw
Monolith - Redd Kross
Solar Sister - The Posies
Dogman - King's X
Crackbabies - Urge Overkill
Blood - Pearl Jam
Only - Anthrax
Scentless Apprentice - Nirvana
Last Chance for a Slow Dance - Fugazi
Latest Monkey - Buffalo Tom

Side B
Reeling - PJ Harvey
Fuck and Run - Liz Phair
Do You Love Me Now? - Breeders
Forbidden World - The Pursuit of Happiness
Dream All Day - The Posies
Time Capsule - Matthew Sweet
Mr. Jones - Counting Crows
Disarm - Smashing Pumpkins
Anything That Way - Buffalo Tom
All Apologies - Nirvana
Can't Fight It - Bob Mould
Take a Walk - Urge Overkill
Rearviewmirror - Pearl Jam


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Completely Conspicuous 253: Smokin' in the Boys Room

Part 3 of my conversation with guest Ric Dube as we dissect a legendary mid-'70s boogie rock classic. Listen to the episode below or download it directly (right click and "save as").

Show notes:
- Recorded late at night at More Lost Time world HQ
- "Smokin' in the Boys Room" came out in 1973, was revived in the Ramones movie Rock 'n Roll High School
- Ric questions the deeper meanings of the song: Is it about drugs, sex or both?
- Rebellion took on a much different meaning in the '70s
- 12 years later, Motley Crue covered the song and hit #16 on the charts
- Cub Koda reportedly influenced stage style of Peter Wolf of J. Geils Band
- Brownsville Station's had a radio "hit" called "Martian Boogie"
- Seven minutes of cheesy effects and stupidity
- ZZ Top was much better at boogie rock
- Koda was making rockabilly solo albums on the side and selling them himself
- Not many weed songs in rock anymore
- Dube talks about the origins of beatboxing, in 1971 from a band called The Counts
- Those awkward moments watching risque TV with your parents

Titus Andronicus - In a Big City

The Henry Clay People - Everybandweeverloved
Action Jets - Rock Like Pollard

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

The Titus Andronicus song is on the album Local Business on XL Recordings. Download it for free from Epitonic.
The Henry Clay People song is on the album Twenty-Five for the Rest of Our Lives on TBD Records. Download the song for free from Soundcloud.
The Action Jets song is available for free download from 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 blog Clicky Clicky. Voiceover work is courtesy of James Gralian; check out his site PodGeek.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Hopeless Case of a Kid in Denial

Just a few weeks ago, I was reflecting on the glory days of the Toronto Blue Jays with not much hope for them returning to that level of excellence anytime soon. After a .500 season in 2011, hopes were somewhat high for at least some improvement in 2012, but a ridiculous swath of injuries cut through the team and left them four games under .500 and 22 games out of first place. The team was in a shambles and manager John Farrell bolted right after the season to take the helm in Boston, which he called his "dream job." Despite the seemingly capable mind of general manager Alex Anthopoulous, the Jays had a lot of holes to fill and fans were pretty down about the future.

And then this week happened. AA pulled off a monster of a 12-player deal with the Miami Marlins, getting three bonafide star players in shortstop Jose Reyes and starters Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle and sending several young players and prospects in return. MLB commish Bud Selig is taking his sweet time signing off on the deal, mainly because there has been such an outcry about the Marlins pulling off yet another fire sale (something they did after winning the World Series in '97 and '03). The difference this time is the Marlins had spent the last offseason amping up expectations in the Miami area, unveiling a $634 million taxpayer-funded stadium, new uniforms and pricey free agent signings including Reyes and Buehrle. But the team stumbled out of the gate and owner Jeffrey Loria started selling off assets before the season ended. It's a mess down there.

But in Toronto, the city's going nuts. The Jays used to sell out the then-Skydome every night in the early '90s, but after the baseball strike of 1994, attendance and the team's performance dropped off considerably, as did ownership's interest in keeping up with big-spending teams like the Yankees and Red Sox. Hockey has always been number one in Toronto, but with the lockout inching inexorably toward another lost season, the Jays have a great opportunity to capitalize.

AA didn't wait for Selig to approve the deal before adding another key piece, signing free agent Melky Cabrera to a two-year deal. Cabrera is notorious for leading the National League in hitting before getting suspended for 50 games for using performance-enhancing drugs. Whether he's able to repeat last year's performance or drop back to his former self is to be seen, but Cabrera is an upgrade over the Jays' current left field situation and he makes the lineup that much more dangerous. And Anthopoulos got him fairly cheaply. The Jays still need to name a new manager, but reports are they're closing in on one.

What all of this means is right now, on paper anyway, the Jays have their strongest team since that early '90s squad that was a perennial contender. They've had superstars in the interim, like Roger Clemens (albeit steroid-aided), Carlos Delgado, Shawn Green, etc., but they've never had the full complement needed to really be considered a threat to make the postseason. Now it appears they could do that, if everyone performs to their potential and injuries don't take a toll. That's a lot of ifs, but I'll take them over the dispiriting reality of the last 18 years or so. Hope is never a bad thing, as long as you've got something to back it up with. We'll see if the Jays can actually do some damage next season, but I'm glad they're at least making the effort.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

All Over Again

The month of October was an interesting one for me because I spent most of it engaged in a serious diet. The Game On diet was more of a test of willpower, because I had to forgo favorite staples of my diet like sugar and alcohol and bread and eat a whole lot of vegetables and other good stuff.

On October 1, I weighed in at 167.8 pounds and I hoped to get down to 160 by the end of the month. It wasn't easy; I was constantly confronted with temptation at work in the form of pizza, cake and our office Halloween party, which was chock full of candy and other goodies. Game On isn't just a diet, it's a team challenge, so we got points for sticking to our meals and were penalized for any slip-ups. We had to get at least seven hours of sleep a night (which meant I had to start going to bed earlier), drink 3 liters of water a day and take up a good new habit while giving up an old one. You can have a free meal and a day off from the whole thing each week, but the trick was not to go overboard and blow the gains you'd made all week.

I'm glad to say I was good in the face of all the candy and beer and other stuff and finished the four weeks at 153.0, which is the lightest I'd been in over a decade. My team won the challenge and then we took two weeks off, which coincided with Halloween itself. Deb and I stuck to the meals for the most part, but I did indulge in Halloween candy, desserts and beer. When it was time to start up again for round 2 this week, I weighed 157.2, although a few of those pounds were due to overdoing it a bit on Saturday night. As of this morning, I'd already dropped four pounds. Amazing what a little discipline can do. Deb has also been pleased with the results of the game and is enthused about this round, although we're now on different teams.

The benefits were immediately noticeable for me. I shed the flab around my midsection, I can wear clothes that were too tight a few months ago and I just feel better. And I can feel the difference when I'm running. In September when I did Reach the Beach, I was struggling to run 8-minute miles when a year earlier I was much faster. Even my regular runs were in the 8:30 range. Now I've got more jump, which makes sense since I'm not carrying around those extra 15 pounds. I've got a couple of races scheduled in the next few weeks and I'm excited to see how I'll do.

The goal this time around is to get down to the mid-140s, where I haven't been since the mid-'90s. It's encouraging to know that doing something as simple as changing what you eat can make such a difference. For years, I've eaten somewhat healthily and gotten plenty of exercise, but it would be difficult to shed pounds. Now I know I really have to sacrifice certain things to get results. And this doesn't mean I'm giving up beer, because I'm looking forward to having a few this weekend. There's also the matter of Thanksgiving coming up next week, but I can deal with it.