Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Tunesday: What I'm listening to these days

There is no spray tan in Iceland.
Of Monsters and Men, 
"My Head Is An Animal"

How is it possible that I love every Icelandic band I hear? From The Sugarcubes/Björk to Sigur Rós ("Valtari"!) and Amiina, I am enchanted with the country's artists. Unlike Sigur Rós, this folk group sings in English and sounds like The Arcade Fire and The XX ... if they got together and shared some happy pills.

Since releasing "Little Things" two years ago, America has patiently waited for this album. The wait was worth it. Listen to the whole beautiful thing at NPR's First Listen.

"Dude, where's our car?"
Chappo, "Come Home"

I'm kinda late on the Chappo bandwagon. This song also was released a couple of years ago, but it's seemingly on SiriusXM's Alt Nation every other hour. 

If you don't sing along to the falsetto part, well, I dunno ... you just don't know how to get down. Give it a shot — check out the video ... and be prepared to scratch your head trying to comprehend the nonsensical, space-traveling bizarre artistic statement the band fails to make.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Thoughts on a decent half marathon

At this point — mile 7 on Mockingbird — there were a couple of things going through my mind: 1. Maybe I won't DNF and 2. I'm really glad I got the blue shirt/dark shorts memo like the two dudes in front of me. ... Lots of thanks to frunner That Pink Girl for cheering at one of the 500 hills (check out her fun cheering recap) and taking this photo. 

On Sunday, I (and about 12,000 of my close, personal friends) ran 13.1 miles at the Dallas Rock 'N' Roll Half Marathon. While I didn't PR (2:00:06, over 10 minutes slower than my time at the Texas Half), I had a good time running a challenging course in "hot" weather. Some recap thoughts:

1. I would have never considered late-March temps in the 70s hot ... that is until I ran this race. Limited shade on the back-half of the course didn't help.

2. No one will confuse Dallas for the Hill Country any time soon. BUT, this was a hilly course.

3. Salt packets saved my life. I diluted a couple in water and Gatorade (pretty gross), and even emptied some directly in my mouth. Just typing that makes me want a glass of water.

4. I saw the Ticket's Craig Miller cheering on Skillman Street, near Cosmo's before mile 10.  In case you didn't know, he's a great cyclist who sorta-kinda-totally killed a 3:29 in his first marathon in 2007. Read about his marathon experiences at his blog.

5. I would die a happy man if I never run another race that ends at Fair Park. The final stretch for races ending in Fair Park is not pleasant.

6. I drank a beer during the race. This is something I recommend everyone do at least once. Thanks to Runners Drink Beer for the hook up (read that fun group's recap).

7. As a musician who has played in a bunch of bands at a bunch of strange events and venues, I must commend the local groups for performing. I especially liked the bassist for the band near mile 10 — he played well while running backwards right near me for 20 yards (he had a wireless transmitter). Pretty cool.

8. The headlining act — former American Idol contestant James Durbin — was awful. RNR would have done better by picking a good local group or even a cover band. Durbin's brand of rock is best categorized as a PG version of Buckcherry (with whom he's touring).

9. Even though I didn't race as well as I wanted to, I am glad I finished without injury and I learned more about racing in the process. Can't wait until the OKC Memorial Marathon in about a month!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Tunesday: "Hustlin," Rick Ross

Today's choice is clearly different than my usual Tuesday selection. First, I only have a small understanding of Rick Ross and his music. What I do know: a. He's a former corrections officer who now sings songs glamorizing the drug trade. b. That fact has made him the subject of ridicule to several rappers, especially 50 Cent.

So ... yeah, I don't make it a habit to listen to a lot of Rick Ross' music. Tales of slanging yayo/llello aren't the kind of songs I seek out; but this one, however, is something I hear practically every other day at work (note: the company I work for, MultiView, has a full-time DJ we call the MJ). "Hustlin" is a popular track with the sales team. They'll sing along to certain parts (Whip it, whip it, real hard), which cracks me up.

Honorable mention in this category: "Strange Clouds," B.o.B., featuring Lil Wayne

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Overtraining for OKC, the best LBS, Texas Half 2013 heads west

After a fantastic Friday and Saturday (highlight: seeing a superb Dallas Symphony Orchestra performance that The Dallas Morning News critic Scott Cantrell called strange but compelling), today I successfully resisted the urge to log serious running miles.

First, I should probably let y'all know that I am training for the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon. So I am back into the swing of accruing serious mileage each week — 35-40-ish, depending on how I feel.

And that last word — FEEL — is an important one. See, last Wednesday, I felt good after work. Good enough to decide I could run 15 miles in the warm/humid mess that is March in Dallas. This, my friends, was a bad idea. I ran well; I felt good, although I could have used an extra sodium-infused energy gel to offset all the sweating.

After this kind of exertion, I usually feel tired and have no problem sleeping (after rehydrating and eating, of course). This was not the case. I tossed and turned the entire night; I "slept" two hours and I felt like an absolute space cadet at work on Thursday. I couldn't understand what was wrong with me. Ah, but Rachael did. She has run more races than I've drank beers. She also has coached runners. Which means she has a lot of experience and knowledge I don't have ... such as awareness of overtraining.

Basically, I was overdoing it, and my body let me have it. One restless evening was my body's way of telling me to slow down, take a break.  So that's what I am doing. I went for an easy bike ride this morning. I won't run again until Sunday's Rock 'N' Roll Half Marathon. I'm hopeful that I'll set another PR, but more than anything, I want to have fun running, see friends and not overdo it. The bigger goal is kicking ass at the OKC marathon at the end of April. As long as I stay focused, listen to my body and others' sage advice, I am confident I can do that.

Bicycles Plus
I recently wrote about lousy service at local bike shops. The urge to call out the offending shops was strong, but I resisted. I also noted that there is one shop that I really like but didn't namecheck. I'm fixing that today by professing Bicycles Plus at Snider Plaza my official go-to LBS.

What makes this shop so good? Let me describe yesterday's visit for a drop-off tuneup:

• The shop was crowded, not slammed. But certainly busy. At any other shop, I would have been lucky to have an employee acknowledge my presence within 5 minutes. At Bicycles Plus, I waited two minutes before I talked to the first shop employee.
• I bought my bike here, so minor fixes/tuneups are on the house. When I told the employee what was wrong (loose crankset that I can't tweak because I don't have the right tools), he said he would fix it in 10 minutes. He did it in 5. (Side note: Two other shop employees asked if they could help me while I waited and walked around the store). Better yet, if I had dropped it off, he said it probably would have sat until Wednesday.

So yeah, it's a great shop with an array of brands (bikes and gear). And no, even though it is in the heart of University Park, it is not filled with the folks that are on the ridiculous "GCB."

Texas Half 2013
The 2012 edition of the race was a mess (For me, not half-bad; for others, half-ass). It appears the race organizers are addressing participants' complaints about parking trouble because next year's race is heading west: start/finish will be at the Irving Convention Center. The Texas Half site doesn't offer many details. The race will be Feb. 3, the DART rail Orange Line should be open (fingers crossed) and there will be plenty of free parking. The site says the 5K and 13.1 routes are TBA. No word on whether there will be plenty of medals for finishers (yes is the only acceptable answer).

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Tunesday: SXSW edition, Part 2

As promised in Saturday's post (in which I waxed nostalgic about five excellent songs from bands I saw at 2002's SXSW), I have selected five exceptional songs by bands I would see at this year's SXSW (which starts today). Picking just five was difficult, but here they are:






  Damn, it really hurt picking just five from this awesome lineup. Who did I miss? Who's in your top 5?

Saturday, March 10, 2012

SXSW Music edition, Part One

The SXSW Music festival kicks off March 13. As a UT alum and former 6th Street musician, I harbor great memories of the annual all-things awesome music event. It's hard to believe I haven't attended or performed at SXSW in exactly 10 years.

This shocking fact will be fixed some day (next year?); but on this 10-year anniversary since the 2002 edition, I am offering five awesome songs to run to by four texas artists and one Brit I saw that year (that's today's post); and on Tuesday, I'll hit you up with five awesome songs to run to by bands I would see this year.

Easily my favorite video of this song because it:  a. captures the band's ebullient stage presence; b. shows how great a showman Tim DeLaughter is (such a beautiful talent, and dig that Japanese sun on his robe); and c. showcases Flower Mound/UNT product Andrew Tinker (French horn/vocals) 

Yes, you've heard this song everywhere — Scrubs, The Lorax, VW/Apple. But I heard this song during the Spree's show at Stubb's that year, and — not trying to sound too dramatic — it changed my life (and yes, I have written about the Spree a lot). March of 2002, I was going on 4 months of being unemployed (fresh journalism degree and no job prospects). This song, and really the entire set, made me smile and dance for the first time during that depressing period. And, about a month later, I landed my first job at the San Angelo Standard Times. When this song comes on during a run, a smile instantly appears and I get the urge to hug everybody I pass (y'know, kinda like Judah). Any pain or desire to shorten a long run ceases.

Endochine: One of Austin's best bands from the early '00s that never "made it." On "Fire," the band is honing its sound — a tribute to Foo Fighters' and Bends era RH's styles. The group's second album features a sound more reminiscent of Coldplay (you may remember a few of those "Day Two" tracks on "One Tree Hill" and JC Penney commercials). In 2002, the band had a proper video for this song, which I saw often on Austin Music Network (damn, another R.I.P.) when I'd take a break from sending out resumes/portfolios and searching for jobs. Anyway, I saw this band crush it at Red Eye Fly. Nowadays, I crush it when "Fire" pops up during a run (20 miles in 3 hours on Friday, in fact).

Ah yes, Cruiserweight. Brothers/sister team (Urny, Yogi and Stella) ruled. I saw them play all over the damn place, including Jester dorm at UT. At SXSW 2002, they played Emo's (R.I.P., original Emo's) And how about this video? This is the type of house party I fondly remember attending and playing. And, finally, I'd be remiss if I didn't say I adored Stella. How cute is she? Anyway, good memories and a good song to sing and run to simultaneously (y'know, cause it's like keeping a conversational pace and it strengthens your abs and diaphragm.

Oceansize, "I Am the Morning": Check out that post from weeks ago.

Unfortunately, there isn't a quality live video of Soulhat performing this track; either the audio is crap, the performance is weak or it's not the extended version of the track. So here's a video with the album audio paired with irrelevant images.

One of my favorite bands from my ATX days, namely because Timado (my college band), opened up for these great guys several times. It's cool Soulhat is still performing, even Frosty is back behind the drums. Johnny Walker at KLBJ-FM used to play this song every Friday at 5 p.m. It's almost 9 minutes long, so it gets me through well over a mile of running. That's good value for your dollar, my friends (Note, you actually cannot buy the extended version of the song on iTunes, just the 5:22 track. That sucks, right?)

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Tunesday: "Time For Livin," Beastie Boys

I've been listening to Beastie Boys' "Check Your Head" for 20 damn years. It's a vital album. It best reflects the guys' biggest and earliest musical influences — punk and hip-hop.

First, a little history lesson. This is the B-Boys' take on a Sly and the Family Stone tune. No, seriously. It is. Cool, huh? Also, I think this is the first video the Beasties did with Spike Jonze (he of "Sabotage," "Being John Malkovich" and "Jackass" fame). Jonze started out shooting stills and videos of skaters (note: he is part owner of Girl Skateboards ... could be Mike Carroll and Rick Howard skating in this video).

Anyway, this song never fails to get me hyped. I used to play this track before every singing audition back in the day. I even started writing the words "Time For Livin" on my hands on audition day. Nowadays it's just an energizing lightning bolt that is ideal for running hill repeats or busting through an em-effin' brick wall to twart bank robbers and quench thirst.

Terrible song to run to: "Netty's Girl," Beastie Boys 
Quite simply, it's too damn funny. "And she had her shit to-GEH-tha." 1:53-2:20 = gold (LOL at Money Mark's face at 2:13).

Two quick things: A bridge & bike shops

Large Marge
Try as you might, it's impossible to take a
 bad picture of the MHH bridge
while standing directly below it.
The biggest thing going this weekend is the celebration of Santiago Calatrava's span connecting, more or less, Uptown with Oak Cliff. The Dallas Morning News has a gang of coverage — not all gushing, glowing, gee-whiz look at our lovely bridge. Some stories are quite critical, and others are fun, like this marriage proposal at yesterday's 5K/10K race.

Last night's celebration was superb. I can only heap praise. It's a beautiful piece of architecture, which I appreciate more having launched the Architecture Executive Briefing. And the city of Dallas put on a great party — even parking and traffic were headache-free. Seriously, no long lines to wait in when we arrived a little before 8 p.m. It was shocking. My hope is that the city finds a way to turn the Trinity River into a destination, because last night was too cool and fun for it to never happen again.

Lousy service at bike shops
First, I am withholding names. Alhough the customer service at DFW local bike shops leaves much to be desired, I still have to shop at them. I don't want to give reason for each to offer even shittier service (if that's possible). There is one shop I really like. So each can assume it is the shop that is A-OK in my book!

Second, I understand that weekends are crazy. I've worked weekend retail gigs. They're nuts. Better service is guaranteed on weekdays.

So, yeah, here are some descriptions of the offending shops and their style of service:

• At this shop you will receive crap service unless you're best friends with the shop owner, you wheel in a $5,000 carbon fiber Cervelo, you ride every group ride, you own the shop's racing kit, you walk in with $5,000 cash in hand to purchase aforemetioned high-end bike and/or you are the former president of the United States.

• At this shop you will receive crap service because it never has enough people working. You will stand alone at the cash register; the shop employees, who are busy taking care of customers, will not even acknowledge your presence at the register. Yes, they totally see you; but no, they totally will not say, "I'll ring you up in just a second." You will stand there for 5 additional minutes until someone finally rings you up (if you're lucky) or you opt to leave without your gear.

• At this shop you will receive crap service because the staff is stoned. Not functionally high. They are baked beyond usefulness at this shop. These dudes are cool if you want to shoot the shit about how awesome cyclocross is or how you totally want to drop everything and live in the woods of Whistler, B.C. Otherwise, you are screwed.

• At this shop you will receive crap service because you ride a bike brand it does not sell. This shop is a licensed "fill-in-the-blank" dealer and is awesome working on those bikes. If you bring in a rival brand for repair, you will receive negative/confused/resentful looks.  

I'm not alone either. I know longtime cyclists and newbies who have experienced the same treatment. As much as we want to shop local and support the LBS, they aren't making it easy. It's why I tend to purchase gear online and only frequent an LBS for repairs or to buy gear I gotta have now.