Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Tunesday: "Alive & Amplified," The Mooney Suzuki

I was very tempted to choose a more obscure track from The Mooney Suzuki (why yes, it was the soundtrack of a Suzuki Grand Vitara ad), but Noel Gallagher of Oasis compells me to feature it today ("Play it f*&^ing loud and it WILL destroy buildings"). You heard the man.

Why do I like running to this song? For starters, the raw energy, sweet-ass hook and unpolished quality. While it sounds like a live take with few studio tweaks, it's not; in fact, when the record came out, The Mooney Suzuki received a lot of guff for producing a "slick" album with The Matrix — the pop production team best known for working with Avril Lavigne and Hilary Duff and making Liz Phair's worst album (yes, the one that Pitchfork scored 0.0). So, yeah, compared to earlier efforts like "Electric Sweat" and "People Get Ready," "Alive & Amplified" is poppy and polished. Nothing wrong with that when the results are so damn great.

This band also has become a go-to for Madison Avenue. Besides that Suzuki clip, you've heard NYC's greatest living garage rock band in commercials for SAP ... Coors (can't find the clip, but the original video for the song —  "In A Young Man's Mind" — features Jack Black) ... and Nike (The Mooney Suzuki penned a version of "Don't Fence Me In" for the mighty Swoosh, but as you can hear, it's not them performing it in the commercial).

Finally, I greatly respect that the band members look like they graduated from the Ric Ocasek School of How to Not Look Like A Golden God of Rock 'N' Roll. In fact, they took all the same classes as The Ramones.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

For me, not half-bad; for others, half-ass

Mighty-fine medal. Too bad not every finisher 
received his or hers.
Yesterday morning I raced in my second half-marathon, The Texas Half at White Rock Lake. Some bullet points:

• It was a chilly morning, but the outdoor space heaters minimized the shivering; great idea, especially for someone like me who insists on running in a tank and shorts (I get hot quick).
• How'd I do? Great. I felt fast and strong the entire race. I ran "my race" and finished at 1:49:42 — a full 20 minutes faster than my first half-marathon in November. Yeah, I'm very pleased; I know my training is working and I am even more motivated to reach my next running goals. That being said, I haven't signed up for any races yet. A handful of friends are adamant I run the Hot Chocolate 15K. Maybe. At the very least, I'll volunteer. 

Unfortunately, not everyone had a wonderful race experience at the Texas Half. About a half-dozen finishers are voicing their displeasure on the Facebook page (update: comments have been removed) of Mellew Production Eventsthe company that puts on the race. The major problems: Not having enough finisher medals (several finishers received vouchers), running out of food (not even bananas), open-course safety concerns (cyclists weaving through the crowd) and parking. 

Granted, I'm still pretty new to running races and I have never coordinated a race (I'm sure it's incredibly difficult and stressful); but, it seems to me the first two problems are totally unacceptable. 

You finish the race in the allotted time (the course was open for three and a half hours), you get a hard-earned medal and something to eat. Period. The Texas Half site says that much ... and best I can tell, there isn't any fine print stating they may run out of bling and you'll have to wait three or four weeks to receive your medal. But that's what the disappointed medal-less finishers were told after finishing the race. 

As highlighted in Debbie Fetterman's running column for The Dallas Morning News (no paywall so click away), runner Elaine Hillis participated in Mellew's Four Season Challenge (finishing four Mellew half-marathons) for the medals. 

All told, 1,129 runners finished the half and 291 finished the 5K yesterday; that's compared to 740 half finishers and 261 5K finishers at last year's Texas Half. The Texas Half website noted an expected field of 1,200 runners; what they got was 1,420 finishers. 

That number shouldn't have surprised the Mellew crew. Fetterman's column mentions that the Texas Half hasn't drawn more than 1,230 runners, but the 2012 installment could draw 1,500. In response to that figure, Lewis George of Mellew notes "that's big time." Big time enough to either have enough medals and food, or better cover your bases with some fine print saying "due to open registration on race day, you may not receive a medal or food at the finish line"? Apparently not.  

Moving forward, I hope these problems don't occur at future races and Mellew considers a cutoff for its races. 

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Tunesday: "Rite of the Ancients," The Budos Band

Staten Island's own is the greatest instrumental funk act going. Period. Well, except when the fellas do something silly like perform covers; not gonna link to "My Girl" or "Day Tripper" because I know you don't need to hear those.

Budos throws down tight jams, loaded with call-and-response riffs and rhythmic wizardry (Latin percussionists are the business) that remind us that some things from the '70s are worth remembering (funk and supreme afros are the first two that come to mind). The band's tracks churn, you burn calories while running; it's a good formula.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

This post is brought to you by the letter F

F, as in "The Other F Word", as in father. It's a good documentary with a great concept — follow punk rock dads, tell their stories. Which dads, you ask?

First, the film primarily focuses on Jim Lindberg, (now ex) lead singer of Pennywise, and his struggles with incessant touring (200-plus days on the road during the doc's filming) and being a good father. I never cared for Pennywise (sorry, not even "Bro Hymn"); but I am impressed with the group's longevity, and Lindberg seems like a nice guy and a good, caring dad. Funniest moment: Lindberg discusses the necessity of dying his graying goatee (gotta keep the dream alive).

But who else is in the flick, you ask (again)?

How about Fat Mike from NOFX (a favorite band from my teens, due in no small part to the song above)?! Surprise: Mike is not the worst dad in the world. However, in the film, he discusses how he and his (now ex) wife would not allow parenthood to affect who they are. Sure, Mike is cool with making his daughter breakfast (cereal and toast drenched in I Can't Believe It's Not Butter Spray) and dropping her off at an exclusive private school. But he retains his crude/rude personality (farting en route to dropping off his daughter, talking about how dull the other parents at the school are, etc.).

Lars Fredericksen:  He and his second wife have two kids. And despite being the most outrageous looking punk dad in the film (well, Duane Peters is pretty gnarly, too), he is really grounded and likable. Best moment: The film crew follows Fredericksen and his son, Wolfgang Erik Anders Frericksen, to a packed jungle gym. Within minutes, it's empty (best way to clear out a playground is bring a punker and a camera crew, Fredericksen says). Also notable, Matt Freeman, Rancid's bassist (probably my choice for best punk bassist) and a father, appears briefly in the film.

Flea: Sorta-kinda punk (he briefly was in Fear), he's just a badass. Badass bassist (whilst stoned, as the above video proves), badass runner (cool Runner's World profile). And he's a badass dad. Hard to believe Clara is in her 20s. Their segments in the film are touching — they play piano together, Flea cries (twice) and she tells of how her then-Mohawked father freaked out teachers at her school. Good. Stuff.

And ... there are several other fathers ... whose music I do not care for (Mark Hoppus of Blink-182, Art Alexakis of Everclear) but are pretty good dads (Hoppus comments that, as a rock star, the bar is set so low for him to be a good dad) ... and random Tony Hawk interviews (lots of kiddos, lots of wives, lots of affairs, but still the greatest skater in the history of ever).

I definitely recommend checking out "The Other F Word." It's a short doc (90ish minutes) and it's available for download on iTunes. If you do, let me know your thoughts.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Tunesday: "Bad Vibrations," The Black Angels

The tone, the drone, the reverrrrrrb ... it's just a dynamite track. I love the atmosphere of the song. Sure, it's trippy (and druggy) as hell AND it leans heavily on The Velvet Underground and Jefferson Airplane (among countless other psych-rock pioneers), BUT the buildup to the primal scream is perfect (Roky Erickson has to love this band, right?). When the group shifts to double time, I can't help but run faster. It's just that effective (wish the 4/4 section was longer).

The above clip ain't much to look at ... but the same can't be said of this KEXP recording from SXSW 2011 at Mellow Johnny's (dig the true psychedelic inclusion of electric jug, ala The 13th Floor Elevators).

Monday, January 16, 2012

Fair to compare?

In the past few days, I received some comments that I look just like ________. While it's fairly rare that someone mentions that I look like so-and-so celebrity, this isn't a completely new phenomenon. As I mentioned in a Waco days post, children of 4 years ago thought I resembled Eminem. Any skinny white guy wearing a bandana is a reasonable approximation of Marshall Mathers. I'm good with that. But I digress. Back to those recent comparisons.

First, the one I can sorta/kinda see — Steve Carrell. I'm told our mannerisms are similar. I can see that. I have an expressive face; he has an expressive face.

Second, the one that I have a harder time seeing/accepting — Steve Jobs. Perhaps I can't see it because he was such an icon and a visionary I respect immensely. Sure, the glasses, the laugh lines, the smile ... I guess I see it.

It's just bizarre to be compared to two completely different Steves in a matter of days. I rarely receive these types of comments/compliments. But really, these comparisons don't bother me; I find them interesting. They say a good bit about the people who are making the comparisons and how they see me. On top of that, the thought of Steve Carrell portraying Steve Jobs makes me smile. I could see it.

Who do you favor? Who do people think you look like?

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Fit to be tied

Yep, I paired a pink tie with a military overcoat.
I recommend you deal with it.
I work at an extremely laid-back office. We have a DJ who pumps music throughout MultiView's several-floor operation in Irving. Standard office attire is jeans, T-shirts and tennis shoes. Some of the women tend to dress up a bit more; but it's still nothing like a standard office.

Every now and then, we class it up, like this Tuesday — "Tie Tuesday," when all the guys had to wear ties and all the gals needed to get dressy. My friend Shawn went all out; he wore a tux ... and looked like a waiter at a French restaurant. I have an entire closet dedicated to slacks, dress shirts, ties and suits (no tux or tuxedo shirt) that I've mostly neglected for 9 months; so I welcomed Tie Tuesday.

The mandate and chilly temps gave me the perfect reason to finally wear my new-old coat — an authentic 1943 ACB Stockholm topcoat worn by Swedish Air Force officers during World War II. It's wool, it's warm and it's one of the coolest gifts I've received. Style-wise, I've been a fan of double-breasted coats since 1993, which is exactly when I started watching "The Late Show with David Letterman." I think it's a classic look. The design elements I appreciate the most on this coat are the buttons, which are marked with Sweden's Tre Kroner insignia.  

It's almost been 6 years since my awesome trip to Sweden to attend a wedding with my sister. This coat reminds me of a fun vacation to a country where I ... a. felt extremely short (Swedish men are all 6' 8" ... look it up); b. hung out with a world-class athlete for the first time (Olympic gold-medalist and World Cup champ downhill skier Anja Pärson, the bride's sister); and c. last willingly ate meat (reindeer jerky = gross).

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Tunesday: "Atlas," Battles

I started this morning off right: Running 9 miles in the rain. I had an absolute blast; of course, wearing a rain-resistant jacket, tights and super-warm gloves makes playing in the puddles possible.

Since Tuesdays are running days for me, I'll make it a point to share a track from my playlists. Today, we have this gem from math rockers Battles. "Atlas" is about 5 years old, but I still find it incredibly fresh. Really, "Mirrored" is one of the better debut albums since 2007. 

For starters, the drumming is so great. John Stanier (formerly of Helmet) is as precise a rock drummer I've heard ... and who doesn't love that his crash cymbal is 7 feet high? Tons of layers to the song (ideal for headphones), catchy helium vocals (too bad Tyondai Braxton quit the group), great keyboard/guitar riff and that awesome floor tom ... I feel like I'm mechanical when I run to it!

Monday, January 2, 2012

Two quick things | 01.02.12

Volunteering: On Sunday, I spent the better part of six hours at the New Years Double in Allen. I love running races, but volunteering at a race is great, too. I saw frunners from November's Donkey Ride (a scenic Collin County road cycling route that features all manner of animals, including, yep, you guessed it, donkeys) and loved seeing the finishers' tired faces beam when they received their hard-earned loot — dig those damn swanky challenge plates.

Northshore: Miles of unpaved perfection.
Trails: Oh, man, this 9-day holiday break has spoiled me. In addition to hitting up RCP, I ran Northshore at Lake Grapevine a few days ago (I am officially hooked on trail running) and celebrated the reopening of Cedar Hill State Park's trails with a couple of 12-mile loops on the ol' hardtail today. CHSP is fast-fast-fast in the prairie sections (save some incredibly rutty spots and a few burrows) and mostly tacky throughout most sections ... but it's super-muddy in areas with significant tree coverage, e.g., Poison Ivy Alley, Bush's Secret Garden and Rattlesnake Alley. Barring any precipitation, the entire trail system should be perfect by the weekend.