Thursday, February 25, 2010

What I'm Listening To

I love podcasts. They are like the choicest bits of radio, just when you want them. And by choicest bits, I mainly mean stuff that should be on the radio, if radio people knew what the hell they were doing.

(It was explained to me once this way: Once upon a time, there were lots of radio station owners with radio station people who knew radio up and down, backwards and forwards. Then all those radio stations were purchased by three great big companies, who let their VPs of Value Driven Parameters run the radio stations. And since radio stations have nothing to do with Value Driven Parameters and all the old radio guys were released like butterflies into early retirement, the radio stations all ended up playing Lady Gaga. The end.)

Where was I? Right. Podcasts. I like podcasts.

Here are my favorites today. (This is fluid. I hear Paul F. Tompkins is working on a podcast and if that comes to pass, that will be my instant new favorite.)

1. The Nerdist. This is Chris Hardwick's new funtime hour. If you don't know who Chris Hardwick is, you will. His career is on a major upswing after years of floundering in MTV reality-host-land. He has a killer stand-up routine, and a LOL-based show on G4 called Web Soup. The name stems from his popular web site,, which is also his Twitter handle. You don't have to be a nerd to listen, but it helps. And as with many of the comic-based podcasts, it also helps to know a little about the alt-comedy scene. (Oooh. "Scene." Okay, "goings-on." Oh, that's ever so much better, Grandma.)

2. Jordan, Jesse GO! This one is hard to describe. It is the chatty, improv-based comedy-chat show by Jesse Thorn of PRI's The Sound of Young America and Jordan Morris, his college buddy and current comic relief clown from Fuel TV. They usually include a guest from the world of comedy and improv. It's silly, silly fun. And profane. NSFW.

3. I Love Movies. This is Doug Benson's 45-minute chat with comedy and film-based guests built around goofing on movies and playing a game Benson invented called The Leonard Maltin Game, which is like Name That Tune using the cast lists from Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide book. Benson is naturally funny and quick-witted. And mellow. He's very mellow. If you know what I mean.

4. Slate Political Gabfest. This is Slate's political editorial staff (John Dickerson, David Plotz, and Emily Bazelon) sitting around a table and jabbing each other with wit and knowledge. And they have lots of both. The Political Gabfest is a Friday morning tradition. Highly recommended. If you are not that into silly, skip my first three recommendations and go straight to this one. The other Slate Gabfests and podcast offerings are good, but this one, the first, is just full of that Alonguin Round Table vibe.

5. Radiolab. If I were able to force The Captain to listen to one podcast, it would be this one. Every week, Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich (neither are misspelled!) make their listeners care about something they didn't know they could care about, and their listeners leave with a gleaming nugget of knowledge that they can take out at cocktail parties or at dinner with their spouses and dazzle them. This is just top notch radio.

6. This American Life. Haven't I gushed about This American Life before? I must have. It has been a staple of my radio listening and then podcast listening habits since its inception in, I don't know, 1996? The veritable Mists of Long Ago. And yet it still keeps its hipster sheen. Ira Glass introduces stories, usually revolving around a theme. The stories are well produced and an hour will fly by. I can't believe you haven't subscribed to this yet. Get cracking.

7. The Bugle. I can't believe I'm at Number 7, and I'm just getting around to the Bugle. A travesty. The Bugle can make me look like an idiot while walking my dog alone in the park, cackling out loud to myself. John Oliver and Andy Zaltzman (again, spelled correctly) cover the world news. Sort of. Do not listen if you are allergic to puns. Andy Zaltzman is the worst pun inflicter in the business. Do not listen if you hate laughing. Do not listen if you have recently mistakenly shot yourself in the thigh by going to a nightclub with a handgun nestled in your sweat pants, because they will NOT stop bringing it up.

8. WTF with Marc Maron. I like to listen to Marc Maron when I am at my most neurotic - when I can't bear to look at myself in the mirror, or when I skip church because I'm feeling all can't-look-people-in-the-eye, then feel all can't-believe-I-can't-look-people-in-the-eye. Marc Maron makes me feel less like a freak for being such a freak. It's a great sanctuary for neurotics, as he is one of us. And he airs his own anxieties in such a light-hearted way (most of the time) that it's good for me. And he interviews interesting guests, 50% of whom he needs to apologize first for past sins, which makes it fun to tune in to find out who he's apologizing to next.

9. Wait, Wait Don't Tell Me. Okay, is this in any order? Hey, if you know me and don't know about this show, then you haven't been paying attention. These guys are like old friends. This is another radio show that I have been listening to since it was in its no-audience infancy. I learned of Adam Felber's blog through Wait Wait, and through those blog posts, found a lot of new friends, some of which I have actually met in person. This is a Sunday morning tradition and a staple of conversation.

10. Popcorn Mafia. I could use this last spot for Studio 360 with Kurt Anderson, but that's what you would expect me to do. Here's something new. Grae Drake and Gariana Abeyta (Spelled right! I looked it up!) get sassy about movies and I end up laughing a lot. The only caveat: they don't mind letting loose with the spoilers. They expect you to do your movie-watching homework before you come to the podcast, so you can laugh along with them.

There's my Top Ten for Today. So go to iTunes and get busy.

This Is Sewious II: Die Harder

The new Thug Life U of O Duck Football Team has found a new mascot.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Colorado Springs Phase: Complete

I made about a dollar sweeping the apartment as Drew and the kids carried the last bits and boxes to the truck. It turned out to be a handfull of bike racer money - coins from five countries on three continents - not enough of any one kind to buy a pack of gum.

We finished loading the little moving van in a windy 15 degrees. We leave Colorado Springs with the van packed to the roof. Dean and Jenny follow in their red Ford pickup truck. It is snowing lightly. The road is wet and dirty with sand, and the windshield, at a nearly perpendicular angle to the road, is catching a lot of the schmutz. This is when we discover that the wiper fluid in this rental is plain water, and the spray freezes instantly on the glass.

We have our tiny new portable speakers hooked up to my iPhone and Eagles of Death Metal are on. Drew is peering out the less opaque spots in the smeared windshield.

Through Denver the snow is deeper and the traffic heavier. We try the slow lane, but the snow here is piling up too fast. We switch to the fast lane, where the wheels have made a clear trail. Once we get past Denver, both the traffic and the snow eases.

We stop in Cheyenne for gas, a sandwich and some real windshield washer fluid, conveniently located in one stop. Go America. I have career advice for the Subway sandwich maker who made my lunch today: learn the fine distinction between vinegar (what I ordered) and oil. Yes, I eat it anyway.

Sorry, Sad Lincoln. We will not forget you.

I feel a liitle guilty as we pass Entombed Lincoln's Head that we didn't stop and sympathize with him a moment, but our bellies were full and our bladders were empty. No time for Sad Lincoln.

Later, at the Fort Steele rest area, we learn that Bella the kitty, stuffed most unwillingly into a cat carrier for the duration, has lost control of her bowels and her dignity.

Every hundred miles or so along this stretch of Southern Wyoming there is a natural gas processing plant. My memory had truncated the distance between them to being within sight of each other. Now I remember how cursedly wide this state is.

Big Sky Country means there is plenty of sky for smokestacks.

Eating out of boredom and fidgeting in my seat. The seats in this van sit ninety-degree-angle straight against the wall of the cargo compartment. I try to slump down, but the seat pushes my head forward so that I'm looking at my lap. I straighten up. And sigh. Yes, I'm sure I sigh.

Animals with other animals painted on them.

Ogden marks the more-or-less halfway point, and we stop for the night at a Best Western. The hoard of children inexplicably roaming the motel had formed itself into a hallway soccer league outside our room. After a few cross words from The Captain, we sleep.

If you are in the market for sparkly birds wearing sweaters, I know where to get some.

When a motel offers free continental breakfast, I feel obligated to get my money's worth no matter how lousy the offering. So I really eat a warmed sausage patty on brownish toast.

The weather this morning is snowy and foggy. I feel like it requires accompaniment by piano jazz courtesy of Vince Guaraldi, but The Captain vetoes that (one vote is always enough to veto jazz, that is ironclad), and we go back to my Compromise Playlist.

Definitely a "black hat" sort.

I entertain myself with finding fleeting signals to update Twitter and Facebook on my iPhone while The Captain navigates past small Utah and Idaho towns. We make cell-phone-negotiated rest and gas stops, some with tourist lures like sparkly unicorns on sticks and western-themed "art," such as animals with other animals painted on them, which pleases me. Thank you, highway entrepreneurs.

This, I swear to God, is a pig wearing cow shaped fuzzy slippers.

We celebrate our re-entry into Oregon with a late lunch at Baker's Geiser Grand Hotel which has been recently restored and is quite grand, however, their buffalo patty melt could use some mustard or something.

We pass a few hours with the "Jordan Jesse Go!" podcast and Doug Benson's "I Love Movies." We try an audiobook, but it was a group of humorous essays from various artists (containing widely varying amounts of humor), and Drew has little patience with mediocrity, so we switch back to Compromise Music for the final leg from Hood River.

And then we are home. And that's not the royal "we." That's all four of us.

Monday, February 08, 2010

The Captain Chronicles: The Saga Begins

The Captain is meticulously ethical and would not allow any hint of the identities or embarrassing peccadillos of the citizens of the fine city in which he works, let's call it Fort Chinook, which oftentimes spill out during spousal confessions of fatigue over his burden as Personal Clean-Up Crew to thousands of taxpayers, to leak out.

I, however, am not so ethically bound.

These are the occasional chronicles of some of the more ridiculous of those taxpayer stories.

Relative to, say, Thanksgiving (flaming turkeys) or Independence Day (flaming city), the Super Bowl is a pretty low-key day at the fire station (Let's call it Fire Station Cobra). A station can expect a lull in the call volume during the game itself, and then a pick-up in activity once the beery spectators attempt to drive home.

Last Sunday was no exception with one exception. There is always a chance, on any holiday (and let's face it: Super Bowl Sunday is an American holiday), for simmering family feuds to boil over.

The call came in during the third quarter of the game for a woman with severe leg pain. Ouch, right?

So they pull up at the domicile. The husband of said woman is, as loving and supportive husbands naturally would, standing outside, smoking a cigarette. The woman with the ambulance-worthy leg pain is inside, waiting to tell her story. It seems as if her biggest complaint isn't that her leg hurt. In fact, it has been hurting for five days. What was really throbbing was her frustration with her husband for ignoring her complaints for five days (and, I suspect, her inability call a doctor or drive to a clinic on her own without whatever boost her husband's sympathy might have given her). So when the torture of their own passive-aggressive relationship hit its peak - in the third quarter of the biggest football game of the year - she chooses to call 911, and tell her story to three firefighters and an ambulance crew.

Touche, lady. Touche.

Don't forget, friends: firefighters are people, too.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Do You Believe in Love After Love, Green Couch Edition

This weekend we said goodbye to a couple of old friends. Green ones - a couch and love seat combo. Twenty years we had been together, through lots of fun stuff.

Here's the couch, making a background for Dean's birthday present - his first racing bike.

Here it is again, a few years later, assisting in the viewing experience of the Great Snowpocalypse of 2004.

Here's the love seat even more recently, looking on as Scotty wins another doggy race. He always wins the doggy race (but while he's winning the race, Annie is typically stealing his toys or treats).

Here's a young couch looking on as a young Dean tries on his new cowboy boots (his only wish that Christmas). The fact that we lived in Bend at the time might explain this a little. But not much.

There they go. We might have loved them a little longer, but they took the brunt of the stink from my little burnt-chicken-stock fiasco this week.

Yeah, that. Um, I put a chicken carcass in water on the stove after dinner, as per usual so I can have chicken stock by bedtime, but I forgot to take it off the stove. I finally smelled the smoke at about 4:00 a.m. By then, there was just a black, smoking lump in the bottom of the pot. The ex-pot.

I have finally managed to clear the rest of the house of the smell after a lot of kitchen cleaning and carpet shampooing, but the couches were not so simple. After a Febreze treatment, they smelled like chicken smoke and Febreze. They were goners.

So thanks, couches. Hope there's a couch heaven. Pretty sure there's a love seat heaven. I mean, it's got "love" right there in the name.