Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Tunesday: "I Am the Morning," Oceansize

What we have here is a slow burner by a Brit band I stumbled upon about a decade ago at SXSW. I literally chose to attend Oceansize's showcase because of their name. I assumed (correctly) that they were Jane's Addiction fans (some day, I will write about "Ocean Size"). Buuuuut, Oceansize really doesn't sound much like Jane's. Probably more like Muse married to Spiritualized.

A couple of odd things about this song. First, if memory serves me, it's the only instrumental track on the group's debut album, "Effloresce" (beautiful and suitable title for the record). Second, it's in 3/4 — waltz time ain't the most rock 'n' roll meter out there. "I Am the Morning"grows/swells beautifully and ends too soon (note: on the record, it fades and abruptly transitions into "Catalyst," which is very Tool-ish).

Terrible song to run to: "Black Dog," Led Zeppelin
As Cameron Crowe wrote in the liner notes for "The Complete Studio Recordings," bassist John Paul Jones intentionally set out to write a song that would be too complex and involved to dance/groove to. If you attempt to run to this song, Robert Plant will continue to write music with T. Bone Burnett instead of reuniting Zep with Dave Grohl on drums. Oh, and you'll probably lose a toenail or two as you fail to keep a steady stride.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

When plans change for the better

To be certain, those are professional hockey players skating in Dallas, not runners of varying abilities running in Fort Worth. Loui Eriksson scored the game-winner in OT ...  Scott Downard was disqualified at Cowtown.
This was supposed to be a post about the Cowtown Marathon. I hadn't signed up to run or volunteer, so I wasn't fully committed to making the trip. But what I ended up doing was ... not waking up early today, not driving out to Fort Worth, not cheering for runners and not taking pictures with my super-nice, super-neglected camera. All those "nots" bugged me at first; however, it's not like I did nothing today.

Tom Fox shot some exceptional
 for this section.
Prediction: This excellent
graphic by Michael Hogue
(first page of a great doubletruck)
will earn many awards, including
SND honors. 
First, I slept in. I needed this. Then I read an excellent special section on the Margaret Hunt Hill bridge in today's The Dallas Morning News. (Sidenotes: I am very much looking forward to this Saturday's events — even though the bridge won't officially open until the end of March, and the team of reporters, editors, photographers and graphic artists did an outstanding job on the coverage).

Instead of standing for hours at the race, I rode 40 miles before heading out to the Stars game. A few years back, the AAC was like a second home; I split season tickets with a friend, and loved having so many fun nights watching my favorite sport. The good guys with a so-so record shocked the defending Western Conference champion Vancouuuuuuuver Canucks, 3-2 (OT).

So yeah, I packed in some good stuff today. And, truthfully, I would have been in a hurry to get back in time from the marathon. I'm much happier when I am not in a rush, trying to do too much. I enjoy being busy, but I know my limits. Does anyone thrive when their cup is overflowing?

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Tunesday: "Comeback Kid," Sleigh Bells

It's called noise pop, and you either really like it or intensely hate it.

This track is from "Reign of Terror," which hits stores today (the "Comeback Kid" single has been on iTunes for awhile). And yes, you did just see the band on "Saturday Night Live" (lackluster performance by the band, if you ask me)  And yes, you can stream the album, courtesy of The New York Times.

For me, a little bit of Sleigh Bells goes a long way. Mixing distorted guitars, distorted drum machine beats, cheerleader chant-screaming and breathy vocals, Derek Miller (was in a hardcore band) and Alexis Krauss (was in a girl group) are an unlikely pairing that works, but only in small doses. Listening to their first full-length album, "Treats," in its entirety gives me a headache.

Moderation is a sweet thing, and that's why "Comeback Kid" makes it onto my Shuffle's playlist. It's a short song with a good vocal melody and rapid-fire drums. And how about that video. Strange, right? The low-budget piece was shot in Miller's home state of Florida. As The Palm Beach Post reports, the bed scenes were shot in Miller's mom's bedroom in Jupiter, Fla., (that's his rifle, BTW), and the grocery scene (weak "Breakfast Club" fist-pump tribute) was shot in Stuart, Fla.

Also worth adding to a running playlist: "Infinity Guitars" from "Treats"

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Vegetarian dining in Dallas; two-wheeled confidence

I saw Over the Rhine last night at the Granada Theater. Well, sort of. It was a stripped down acoustic affair — just the husband and wife team of Linford Detweiler and Karin Bergquist. No backing musicians, so it wasn't like the video above. You can learn more about the band right here (origin story for the band name, etc.). The concert was great, maybe a shade less than exceptional.

What continues to be super exceptional is the food at Sundown at the Granada. Half the menu is vegetarian or vegan (thank you, thank you, thank you, chef Patrick Stark). I always get the Stuffed Avocados with Endive (writeup at CentralTrack ... with recipe!!!) to start; the Southwestern variety is my fave of the three. I've also had:

The Hammered Goat Flatbread: Marvel at the toppings — Drunken Mushrooms, Zip Code honey, Big D Chevre and white truffle oil. My love for Olivella's in University Park recently soured (I've had my fill of lousy service and cramped quarters); this fantastic pizza fills that void quite nicely.

• Peaceful Indian Chole: Granted, I don't cook much Indian food; but I think the toasted almonds and dried fruit make for a great twist on a traditional chickpea curry. And I'm such a sucker for pappadam.

Macchu Piccu: Best for last! Quinoa is the greatest grain (suck it, rice), and this well-prepared bowl features black beans, a sweet potato puree, avocado sauce, agave and the clincher — peanuts. It's a flavor and texture party that you scoop with Sundown's pita strips. You will not regret ordering this. And, if you insist on having meat, you can add chicken, steak or shrimp to this dish, the chole and other vegan items on Sundown's menu. But why bother; these dishes are perfect as is!

So, if you're going to a show at the Granada, you really must eat at Sundown before ... not only because the food and service are exceptional, but also because the valet parking service (which I typically hate) is much better than hunting for a spot and hiking a quarter-mile to and from the venue.

Cycling update

As I approach the year mark since my last wreck, I'm still not 100 percent confident on two wheels. My slow progress is incredibly frustrating. A new bike, new approach (group rides) and time haven't helped as much as I would like. I've seriously considered hypnosis! At this point, I still can't negotiate corners and hills as fast or as confidently as I'd like (it blows my mind thinking how effortless riding Windhaven/Plano Parkway used to be for me).

Of course, since I started running, I haven't pedaled nearly as many miles as I used to. I am hopeful that it really is just a matter of time.

Greatest hits: I'm fortunate these are the worst things that have happened to me while cycling — sunglasses shoved into my eye when I ate concrete last year ... super hipper, circa 2007 (nerve regeneration took years; take notes, Peyton Manning) ... sliding on wet asphalt sucks (thank God I wore a jacket that day). 

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Tunesday: "Waiting Room," Fugazi

For me, this song is about making the most of your life, not being a passive bystander. The energy is undeniable; the clip above shows the effect the song has. I've been known to hit repeat several times when this or any Fugazi song pops on while I am running.

Taking its name from a Vietnam War term (Fucked Up, Got Ambushed, Zipped In), Fugazi, for my money, is the most genuine hardcore band. Always DIY, always affordable records/concerts, the D.C.-based group formed from the ashes of guitarist/vocalist Ian MacKaye's equally awesome punk band Minor Threat.

If you're a true Fugazi fan, you owe it to yourself to check out the live series at Dischord Records. The goal is to make downloads of the band's 800-plus recorded shows available to fans — suggested $5 per show (but you can haggle) or $500 for every concert. Photos from the shows and flyers promoting the concerts add extra flavor. Damn cool! Also cool: Wugazi.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Good food, good beer, good Gerardo, good Thurston Moore,
good Hot Chocolate, good friends

You'll need to read this entire blog post for this to really make any sense (or at least skip to no. 4).
But yes, I just might dress as a runner/Kenny/Unabomber for Halloween this year.
I don't watch a whole helluva lot of television anymore. But when I do watch, I'd love to say I pursue quality programming. But nope, I typically watch something pointless, such as MTV2's "Guy Code." It's guilty-pleasure, brain-off garbage, and I'm not ashamed to like it. One segment of the show — Good-Ass Night — features a moderately famous person (T.I., Wiz Khalifa, Method Man, Machine Gun Kelly, etc.) who details all the elements of his perfect evening.

My idea of a Good-Ass Night (Afternoon or Morning) is vastly different. Here are a handful of Good-Ass moments from what I consider a Good-Ass Week.

1. Tuesday night at The Libertine: This pub has the best cheese board in town ... even if it isn't half-off on Half Price Night. And its beer selection is quality. This is my go-to spot for hanging out and meeting folks — pretty good people watching, too. I may or may not have been more entertaining to watch than usual last Tuesday.

Rico? Suave? Loitering in front
of Best Thai for 30 minutes?
2. Thai food and "Rico Suave": The down-side of working in Irving? Commuting on 635. The best part? The lunch options are better than you'd guess, especially for a vegetarian. Sure, the city is littered with every crappy, veggie unfriendly fast-food option imaginable; but it also has several really good ethnic options. Best Thai is at the top of the list. Cheap, authentic and, if you so desire, B.Y.O.B. And, on top of that, you never know who you're gonna see. I spotted a dead ringer for 1990s one-hit-wonder Gerardo. You be the judge.

3. Thurston Moore at the Texas Theatre: I never had the chance to see Sonic Youth (one of the bands that influenced me the most as a teen), so seeing its leader perform at this historic venue was a real treat. Y'know what wasn't a real treat? The opening act — Christina Carter. She was painful to watch. Her first song lasted 10-plus minutes, had one chord and her legs shook nervously (get a taste right here). My friend Christen and I couldn't watch the rest of her set and left the auditorium. Thurston, on the other hand, was great. His acoustic set exploded into SY-style distorted chaos (Ono Soul) and he even deconstructed the term "douche canoe."

4. Volunteering at Hot Chocolate 15K/5K: I opted not to run because I like my pattern of running a race, volunteering at a race, running a race, volunteering at a race. ... It was a Cold-Ass Morning (30 degrees and windchill in the teens) and I barely arrived for my 5:30 a.m. shift (the late concert and snooze button made waking up challenging). Free food, ample coffee and an orange "Will Run For Chocolate" hoodie (a-ha, now the South Park photo makes some sense) brightened things considerably.

My volunteer shift started outside. I directed runners to the Automobile Building at Fair Park and answered any questions they had. "What are the start times?" "Where are the restrooms?" "Where can I drop off my gear?" "Can I exchange my jacket?" "Have you seen my keys?" "Did you lose a bet and have to stand out here?" So, yeah, I handled these questions while I paced back and forth, clutching the handwarmers in my pouch and watching the sun rise. It was beautiful. Cold, but beautiful.

Once the 15K started at 7:55 a.m., I returned to the Automobile Building and worked at Hot Chocolate's retail "store" in the expo area. I spent most of the next two hours straightening gear, hanging shirts/replenishing stock and telling the majority-female runners/customers that we didn't have anything in their size (unless they want small). Granted, I didn't necessarily love this role, but it was kinda cool reliving my retail days — three years selling/repairing skates/hockey gear/skateboards and selling shoes at Oshman's SuperSports in Mesquite, Dallas and Austin.

The real highlight was providing an essential race item to friends who ran. While RAM Racing put on a great event (well-run, good chocolate, decent cover band and good swag), they didn't give medals to finishers. A quick trip and purchase at Party City earlier in the week rectified that!

All in all, it was a Good-Ass Week; and this week is going to be excellent, too (running, riding and Over the Rhine). I hope y'all had and are having Good-Ass Days/Weeks/Months/Years, too!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Tunesday: "Talk on Indolence," The Avett Brothers

Most people only know the mighty Avett Brothers for "Kick Drum Heart," "I and Love and You," and/or "Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promise." All three are excellent songs from the 2009 album "I and Love and You," but none is particularly awesome for running (an argument can be made for "KDH").

"Talk on Indolence," on the other hand, is made for running playlists. Lyrically, we have two songs — the intro where North Carolinians Scott and Seth Avett "rap" on not being indolent (funny how an energetic song about not liking work or exerting much energy is awesome for running) and the sing-song verses reminiscing wild, carefree days.

Overall, this track is raucous and fun. And you really can't beat the live video. Have you ever seen a cellist rock out as hard as Joe Kwon? Speaking of, definitely read this excellent Charlotte Observer piece on Kwon. Turns out he's quite the foodie ... and he blogs about it — Taste on Tour.  

And if you're looking for something a bit more quiet and painfully beautiful, give "Murder in the City" a go. Best lyric: "Always remember there is nothing worth sharing, like the love that let us share our name." Just another wonderful song that makes The Avett Brothers one of my favorites. I cannot wait to hear their new Rick Rubin-produced album, which is slated for a spring release (so says Rolling Stone).

Sunday, February 5, 2012

On 'phthongs, stereotypes and a song

On an average week, I read about 20 truly interesting stories (and maybe 100 less-than-interesting stories); it's the most-enjoyable aspect of my job. Those who follow me on Twitter know that the bulk of my tweets link to several of those items and sundry pieces that appeal to industries and their insiders.

And then the weekend arrives. I get to read for pleasure. I found this story (accompanying video above) from the Austin American-Statesman. It was featured in today's edition of The Dallas Morning News. The gist: Texans no longer sound like Texans because so many of us are from different states (particularly those in the North) and countries.

Growing up, not sounding like a Texan was a goal. Thinking about it now, there were several factors at play. First, as a young singer, I worked every day on performing with clear, intelligible, proper vowels. True Texas accents have vowels that dance, mosey and draaaaaawl (see the American-Statesman's graphic on monophthongs and diphthongs). Those types of vowels are not desirable in most musical styles (save those "good ol' songs" that glamorize swervin' like George Jones).

Second, both my parents aren't native Texans; my sister and I learned their mostly Midwestern-derived versions of the language. Third, I consumed a lot of broadcast TV at an early age (my father was in the biz), and most broadcast journalists speak without accents (at least they're trained to minimize their accents).

Finally — and I hate to say it — but Texas/Southern accents sounded uneducated to my ear; so I figured if I sounded like a Texan, people would think I was not intelligent. I know that's really terrible. I have incredibly intelligent friends who have very thick accents, so I know it's not true. However, TV and movies have perpetuated this stereotype in a lazy way to establish characters as dumb.

There are so many excellent examples of "stupid" Southern characters, but there are too many great examples from one of my all-time favorite movies — "Raising Arizona" — that I just have to share:

Dot & Glen  |  Gale and Evelle Snoats (They blow up in funny shapes?)  |  Nathan Huffheinz Arizona

And even if the characters aren't dumb, they often sound ridiculous, as New York magazine (of all publications!) points out in its fun 11 Mediocre Southern Accents slideshow ("I don't want your lahhhhhhfe"). Classic!

All that being the case, there have been times when I embraced the Southern accent and words, especially when I've lived outside of Texas. When I lived in Northern Illinois — where "you guys" and "pop" were the norm — I steadfastly said "y'all" and "Coke."

Bottom line, there's nothing wrong with sounding Southern, Northern, etc. We should all appreciate our cultures — from the way we dress and sound to the food we eat and values we hold. But don't take it from me. Take it from Johnny Cash (by way of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers). What a badass.