Friday, June 22, 2012

While I listen: New Smashing Pumpkins album review

Back in a former life, I used to write music reviews for  Well, thanks to the magic of twitter, I found out today that the Smashing Pumpkins have a new album.  So five seconds later, and thanks to the magic of my super-worth-it $9/month Rhapsody subscription, I'm listening to Oceania as I type.  

Welcome to my "reviewing the new Smashing Pumpkins album as I listen to it" diary.

A writer on Grantland dubbed the new SP album Oceania "the best SP album in 20 years."   I wonder if the lazy critics who say shit like that have a review template that starts like this:

"The best _(band name)_ album in _(years since band was any good)_ years".  

Unfortunately for the Pumpkins and for Mr. Review Template User, it's been quite a bit more than 20 years since they had a good album.

That's not to say the Grantland reviewer's opinion is wrong, it's just that saying a new effort is the best since their old shitty old one isn't exactly high praise.  It's like saying that Ben Affleck's direction in The Town was his best work since Gone Baby Gone, the film viewing equivalent of a Rubick's Cube. 

And so far, this album sounds positively mellon collie.  The best I can say about it is "it's better than that last piece of horrible shit they put out five years ago" and "his vocals have never sounded less whiny (but they're still pretty fuckin whiny)."  Another plus, I guess, is that the production is spot on (making the song suckiness even more blatant).

I'm getting the sense in listening to this that Billy Corgan has turned his attention from politicking to love.  Lots of major chordy lovey-dovey sounding crap here.  I wonder if he has a wife or girlfriend.  Let's see....

Through the magic of Wikipedia, I have just learned that, in actuality, he is single.  His last serious fling was Courtney Love, begging the question "WHAT THE FUCK WAS HE THINKING?!"  

So, a couple years since they broke takes him probably a year to write an album...'nother year to record and release it...doing the math, I suddenly understand why he seems so happy on this album: HE'S NOT WITH COURTNEY LOVE ANYMORE.

Here's some Oceania lyric samples for you, straight from his mouth to my fingertips to your eyes: "I'm always on your side....I love you 101%...I'll always follow could I ever have doubted you?"  I feel like I'm swallowing a latte without the coffee or foam or soy - it's all syrup here baby!  

All right, these stevia lyrics have to be about someone.  If it ain't Courtney he's talking about, who the hell is it?  Back to Wiki...

Damn, he was linked with Jessica Simpson?!  Let's give her a WHAT THE FUCK WAS SHE THINKING?  Nevertheless, I can totally see him sitting there, thinking of her tits, and writing all these lovey dovey lyrics.  

On a side note while I'm forcing this into my earholes, I heard new Fiona Apple and it was  interesting, actually.  Very minimalist music, vocal-carried melodies.  I dare say it worked pretty well.  There's nobody out there like her and I wonder if she's itching to reclaim the waify-indie-showtuney/but-somehow-mainstream title from Bjork (Bjork still holds the surprise attack on a media member at the airport title so she probably won't mind relinquishing the waify one).

At some point in listening to a shitty album not by Limp Bizkit, the thought occurs to you that, since every song to this point has sucked, there's no hope for one shockingly cool tune on here.  And you bail.

I need sonic scraping to get the placque residue of Corgan's voice off my eardrums.  I'll be Rhapsodying over to the Deftones Head Up, or as I like to call it when I need a break from my 3-year-old, a song to raise your kids by.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Pat's Peak

Cat 1 Singlespeed, 32/20 gearing (could have gotten away with 21 or maybe even 22), placed 1 of 4

Pat's Peak is not a singlespeed-friendly course; let's just get that out of the way early.  Could explain why our field was small.  I enjoy climbing as much as anyone, but there were fairly long sections of steep and slick singletrack that was nearly impossible to ride on a SS, and I even saw lots of geared riders walking those sections.  That being said, much of the rest of the climbing was thigh-busting, lung-sucking fun.  And nearer to the end of the lap was a sinewy piece of sweet smooth singletrack climb that was super.
Then there was the down.  Awesome. Technical in spots, flowy most of the way - it was a real treat and I couldn't stop grinning the whole way down.  I love bike racing.
From the lot. What goes up.
Our SS field of four lined up with the 30-39s, and off we went with Ricky H taking the lead, then his teammate Dave R and me keeping an eye on Ricky.  After a few minutes of mostly climbing, I decided to inch past Dave and got to Ricky and he seemed a bit off. He said he was ok, so I passed and went on. Dave, good teammate that he is, stayed back with Ricky for a bit.  Then I went up and down and up and down and up and down and won.  Dave came in a couple minutes after, then Ricky and few minutes back - not his day, happens to us all.
I won a case of Red Bull.
Promptly gave it to a DH-er who was beyond psyched.
(photo Scott Snyder)
Pat's Peak puts on a great day of racing.  And props to S&W Sports in Concord NH for sponsoring, as well as Red Bull and Mt Dew and whoever else I'm missing.
Some cool things about the race:
> Our team, Sea Sports / Cape Cod Mt Bike Racing, was all over the podium. Bryan, shop owner Jeff, Jim, Karen, myself all got on the podium.  Mark, who spends him time making sure our bikes are podium-worthy, ironically had a mechanical issue and his placing suffered as a result.  He'll have to resume climbing the Cat2 40-49 race at the next stop.  I think everyone else on the team got points.  We flatlanders did pretty darn good up there on yonder mountains.
Bry up top, Jeff (and Katie) on left
(photo Scott Snyder)

> The Pro men went off a few minutes before us.  As I was coming down the mountain on lap 3, I heard someone coming up from behind very fast.  I glanced back and saw Adam Snyder (Jamis Bikes) bearing down on me, so I pulled over and he flew past (clipping my bar in the process, but thankfully he didn't crash).  I immediately jumped on his wheel and re-passed him by jumping over him as he walked a rock section. Uhhhmmm...ok, what really happened was I hopped in behind him and he skittered over the rocks and snaked through the turns while I ploughed my way like an ox.  The 5 seconds I got to watch him was frickin' cool though. Then he was gone, leaving me to wonder if it ever really happened.
> I'm a big fan of cyclocross even though I don't race it myself.  One of my favorite CX racers is Maureen Bruno Roy - she's from Boston, rides for Bob's Red Mill, rocks the plant-based diet, and seems funny as hell.  Well as I adjusting my brakes before the race, she comes rolling up the hill (warming up before she won the pro women's field).  I said hi and we chatted a bit.  Met her hubby after the race too - both really nice peeps.  I told Kristy about it later and this is about how our conversation went:
Me: So you know that female vegan pro cross racer I talk about?
K: Yeah.
Me: I met her today before the race.
K: Oh cool.
Me: Then I got my picture taken with her afterwards.
K: (slight pause) Geek.

It's true, I'm a bike geek.  I don't care.  Me and MBR:
Mo Bruno Roy with Prince of BikeGeekerdom
> Julian hung out with my folks and his cousins while I raced.  Kristy and Helena went to some Cape Cod Militia Rally (or maybe it was a holistic families bbq).  My parents' bdays were this weekend and it dawned on me that they're both in really frickin good shape for slightly older folk.
> On Monday I took my compensatory post-race vacation day and pplanted some ppeppers with J-man while Helena celebrated her 11th monthday by playing in a basket:
Jude loves the garden
Helena loves being adorable

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Domnarski Farm 2012: The Confidence Game

Recap: My first Cat 1 race on a course I love.  Climbed well, could have gone down better. Took 2 mud puddle swims. Got 4th out of 10 (2 DNFs). I felt strong, gassed near end but dug deep, and learned a lot.
Heading into lap 2 and another mud puddle dunk.

The Confidence Game
Confidence is a funny thing in bike racing.  I've found that my confidence in my own abilities is rarely a reflection of reality, and in the course of one race, I can go from having too too much...and back to too little.

Lack of Confidence: I lined up next to a bunch of guys I don't know...I just know OF.  There were two exceptions - Ricky Hartman, who was also racing his first Cat 1, and Dave Terrell, another Cat1 newbie who I battled at Massasoit. Having beaten both of those guys previously, I suppose I had a bit of confidence, but I was nervous about the rest of the guys slaughtering me and propping me up on a pole at the finish line as a warning to other Cat1 wannabes.

Whistle and we're off.  I float to the back, thinking the first turn and sharp climb might give some guys trouble.  I'm correct, and pass the carnage to go from 10th to about 6th.  I settle in the train and keep pace as we head up for the next 10 minutes or so.

Misplaced Confidence: I make a couple passes, feeling good, starting to build confidence a bit. I figure I'm now in 4th and I see Charlie Beal up the trail - Charlie Beal! - and I seem to be gaining on him. Huh?  Soon I'm closing in on his back wheel.  I actually feel like I may need to pass him to keep my cadence, but who am I to be passing Charlie Beal? Damn, I think -- I must be stronger than I think. All right, cool, here we go, I'm going to pass Charlie frickin Bea......hold on....Charlie's pulling over...getting off his bike...flat tire.

Ah, I'm not the badass I think I am. Fantasy dispatched, reality restored.  

Of course, now I'm putting "don't let Charlie catch me after he changes his flat" into my motivation file, next to "catch Lucas by end of race" (my teammate Lucas started in the geared 40-49 class just before our group).

At this point I've lost the leaders and there's nobody in sight behind me.  In a Cat 2 race, this would be the time to settle in, maintain and conserve a bit, and maybe make a push towards the middle of lap 2. Then Dave Richardson flies past me on a downhill towards the end of lap 1 and and Gerry Lafleur catches me in a technical section 1/3 through lap 2.  Now I figure I'm back in about 5th place.  Gerry seems content to settle in behind me - possibly to laugh at my lack of skillz.  At the next hill, I decide to attack a bit, and I get a gap on Gerry.  Now I go hunting Dave, hoping I can catch him on the powerline climb before things go down again and he blows me away.

I get out to the powerlines and see Dave up ahead.  Two singlespeeders grinding it out on a steep hill must look like some ridiculous slow-motion race parody.  I finally catch and then creep past Dave, but I really put the hurt in my quads doing it and now cramps are threatening with every pedal stroke.  Close to the top - "$10 pass" - I catch teammate Lucas.  He looks like he's hurtin more than me so I yell some motivation and then down we head.  I hit it really hard, take way more chances than I did the first lap.  Lucas holds on, and we take the turn for the finish straightaway.  I spin my 32/20 like a blender, but it's no match for his saucers and he nips me at the line in a sprint.  Dave comes in about 20 seconds later.  I figure I had about a minute gap on him at the top, so he must have killed it coming down.

Strangely enough, I find Ricky Hartman at the bottom - he had passed me when I was stuck in a mud puddle and I never saw him go by. Damn!  It's not like I could have caught him anyway - I pretty much left it all out there.

What I learned: my climbing is solid, but could always be better - keep working on it.  Losing a few lbs would help.  My downhill and technical skills need improving.  As the saying goes - the race can be won on the climbs, and lost on the descents (at least I think that's a saying).

All in all, it was a great experience and I really look forward to racing these guys again.  I think the middle-packers could really finish in any order given the course and how we feel on any particular day.

Just one of the flock
The very best part of the weekend was that I slept over my parents' house in Central Mass with my 3-year-old, Julian. Whilst I was at my race ("working" as Julian calls it), he was having an awesome time with his grandparents at the playground and feeding geese.  I might try to pawn him off on them this weekend for Pat's Peak!