Episode 77: The Last One

We’ve got some bittersweet news. The sweet part: Spencer and Jordan rejoined us for another terrific episode. The bitter part: it’s our last ever Off the Chain. This week, our old friends and frequent guests Spencer and Jordan come back for one last ride, in which we give some pro-level small talk advice (including, for the first time ever, a list of topics to avoid), do a segment of Lost the Plot with the classic rom-com Death Race 2050, answer questions from our beloved listeners, and play conclusion worthy music by Beck, Blue, The Beatles, Tom Brosseau, and Wiz Khalifa and Charlie Puth.

Our deepest thanks for following us over the past few years, everyone. We’ll be back soon with a new podcast, which we’re planning to call Theme Song.


Small Talk

Topics to Avoid

  • ‘My kid has lice’
  • ‘So, it turns out it wasn’t a mole it was a tick’
  • ‘So, let me guess that person’s ethnicity or country of origin’
  • ‘How do you feel about your mother?’
  • ‘Make America great again’
  • ‘Your teenage daughter is very attractive’

Topics to Address

Unchained Melodies — Songs about things coming to an end

Book Wisdom

And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.

–James P. McCartney

Featured image: Dave and Spencer in the Santa Cruz Mountains earlier this summer.

Episode 74: Lawyer Up

This week Dave and Steel by Dave’s high-rent lawyer friend Grayson. Together the three of them discuss quick favorites from this year’s NBA playoffs, do a special legal-themed edition of Ask OTC, rank the on/off chainness of various categories of things, play angsty music from Bleached, Fugazi, The Misfits, The Hotelier, PJ Harvey, and Teenage Bottlerocket, and share some immortal book wisdom from JD Salinger’s much beloved Holden Caulfield.


Unchained Melodies: Angsty Edition

Book Wisdom

This week Dave shared a brief passage from J.D. Salinger’s classic coming-of-age novel The Catcher in the Rye.

Episode 65: The Art of Photography

This week Dave and Steel are joined by Steel’s sister-in-law Jennie Bastian, an artist and professional photographer. Together they talk household pets (cats. vs. dogs), take questions from listeners throughout the great state of Illinois, ask Jennie a bunch of questions about her upcoming show on Fear and her photography practice generally, share great music from Mulato Astatke, Gasper Nali, American Wrestlers, Smog, Tim Maia, and Camp Cope, and Jennie shares some dreamy book wisdom from Gaston Bachelard.


Unchained Melodies

Book Wisdom

Jennie shared a brief passage from Gaston Bachelard’s 1958 classic The Poetics of Space, which examines the phenomenology of architecture in beautiful and moving ways.

Featured image: Jennifer Bastian

Episode 50: Our Golden Anniversary

This week Dave and Steel celebrate recording their 50th episode of Off The Chain (our golden anniversary!) by running through several listener questions, playing another round of Lost the Plot, sharing some all-time great contributions to small talk, playing timeless music by The Beatles, Otis Redding, The Refreshments, and Quasi, and sharing some book wisdom from John Steinbeck. This one’s a classic.


A look back on the first 50 episodes

Guest Totals

    • 9 episodes: No guest [eps. 44, 43, 23, 11, 10, 9, 3, 2, 1]
    • 7 episodes: Spencer! [48, 47, 39, 21, 13, 12, 4]
    • 6 episodes: Jordan (if we count #49) [38, 33, 15, 5, 4]
    • 3 episodes: two-way tie: Howard [41, 28, 27] & Katie [26, 25, 14]
    • 2 episodes: seven people: Aaron Peck [46, 45], Matt Brown [37, 36], Zac Beus [35, 34], Josh Harder [32, 31], Julia Dauer [30, 29], Rosie [40, 17], Ryan [7, 6]
    • 1 episode: ten people: Dan Jennejohn [42], Jarom Sidwell [41], Eric Vivier [24] Rose & Emeline [22 — No DAVE!], Jon Stoffer [20], Alan Stoffer [19], Oliver Bendorf [16], Arianne [brief cameo in Ep 18], Amy (Scott) Anderson [8]
    • EPISODES WITH GUESTS: 40 of 50!
    • TOTAL NUMBER OF UNIQUE GUESTS: 21 [7 women in 10 episodes, 14 men in 30 episodes]

Most visited episodes

  1. Ep. 01 [1565 hits]
  2. Ep. 21 [1260 hits]
  3. Ep. 33 [605 hits]
  4. Ep. 31 [566 hits]
  5. Ep. 23 [462 hits]
  6. Ep. 03 [439 hits]
  7. Ep. 10 [406 hits]
  8. Ep. 17 [397 hits]
  9. Ep. 08 [371 hits]
  10. Ep. 13 [359 hits

Unchained Melodies Data

231 Songs in the Spotify Master playlist by 200ish bands.

Most Common Letter Names for Bands We’ve Played:

B: 34
S: 19
M, C: 16
D: 15
A, R: 13
L, P: 12

Least Common Letter Names for Bands We’ve Played:

I, X, Y, Z: 0
Q, U: 1
E, O: 2

Small Talk

  • The Penuma, a silicon Penis Implant, is real. James Elist, an LA surgeon, is the only person approved to use it by the FDA and has inserted it in about 1300 men.
  • NBA 2K is being sued for copyright infringement due to tattoo reproduction.

Unchained Melodies

Book Wisdom

This week Dave read a passage from John Steinbeck’s Dust Bowl classic The Grapes of Wrath.

Featured image by takomabibelot

Episode 47: Occupy OTC

In this episode, Dave and Steel are joined once again by their old friend Spencer. Together the three of them discuss the top ten topics of conversation among the ‘patriots’ occupying the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in eastern Oregon, answer listener questions about what to eat and how to keep yourself entertained if you decided to occupy a federal building, talk about ghost towns, share great music to occupy federal buildings to by Rage Against the Machine, Courtney Barnett, Twisted Sister, Ted Nugent, Woody Guthrie, and T. Powell, and drop some immortal book wisdom from Henry David Thoreau’s essay “Resistance to Civil Government”.


Top 10 Topics of Conversation Among the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge Occupationists

10. Best attire for occupation.
9. Supplies.
8. Guns & ammunition (and their various -bores)
7. How socialism is the worst
6. Soldering stuff. Your favorite soldering iron, techniques, etc.
5. Beard grooming
4. MREs and other food served in pouches
3. Survivalism: including how to catch rabbits in snares; making fires out of nothing; tracking stuff [esp. people]; walking silently like you’re a native, primitive shelter building; also yurts and snow caves; leather working.
2. Making your own jerky
1. What manner of heartbreak led you to this place today (she was probably beautiful).


Best Films to Watch During a Federal Occupation

Red Dawn

The Rescue

The Full List of Supplies Required by Malheur Occupationists

Ghost Towns

Unchained Melodies: The Occupying Federal Buildings Edition

Book Wisdom

This week Steel shared passages from Henry David Thoreau’s classic essay urging nonviolent resistance to unjust governments, “Resistance to Civil Government.”

Featured image by DonkeyHotey

Episode 40: Characters

Dave’s old neighbor Rosie joins us for our latest episode, in which we discuss times we pretended to be something we weren’t, share some small talk stories featuring some incredible characters, describe some of our most memorable literary personas, take some ‘everyday questions’ with Rosie, play great songs by The Cure, Led Zeppelin, Phish, Jefferson Airplane, Bruce Springsteen, and Loggins & Messina, and hear some book wisdom from Benjamin Hoff’s wonderful little book The Tao of Pooh.


Small Talk

OTC Literary Characters

Unchained Melodies

Book Wisdom

Rosie shared the foreward to Benjamin Hoff’s philosophical classic The Tao of Pooh.

Episode 30: The Skunk & Following People, Expert Testimony: Lexington, Kentucky Edition, Ask OTC, Unchained Melodies: Songs About Animals, and The Seed Beneath the Snow

This week Dave and Steel are joined once again by their friend Julia. Together they share stories of spying and following people, quiz Julia about all things Kentucky and ancient Greece, answer listener questions about Vin Diesel, eighteenth century literature and college, share great music from Beth Orton, Hayden Thorpe, David Gray, Joanna Newsom, Warren Zevon, and CocoRosie, and Steel shared a passage from Ignazio Silone’s novel The Seed Beneath The Snow.


The Skunk

Dave recommends the children’s psychological thriller The Skunk by Mac Barnett.

Expert Testimony


  • Check out Vin Diesel’s fake beard in his new witch-hunter movie.
  • Carry your book in a wagon when you go to college kids. That is all.

Unchained Melodies

Beth Orton — Dolphins

Hayden Thorpe — Goodbye Horses

David Gray — One with the Birds [Bonnie “Prince” Billy cover]

Joanna Newsom — Clam, Crab, Cockle, Cowrie

Warren Zevon — Werewolves of London

CocoRosie — Werewolf

Book Wisdom

This week’s edition of Book Wisdom comes from Ignazio Silone’s The Seed Beneath the Snow, the third novel in his Abruzzo trilogy, which also includes Fontamara and Bread & Wine.

Episode 28: Expert Testimony: Self-Help, Teen Boys and Tull edition, To the Limits, Ask OTC, Unchained Melodies: Jethro Tull Forever, and The Things They Carried

He’s back, by popular demand! Following up on last week’s amazing appearance, Dave and Steel bring back their old buddy Matt Howard. In this episode, Howard explains his love of self-help books, troubled adolescent boys, and Jethro Tull, the trio discuss the incredible exploits of the Iron Cowboy, the unnamed peasant woman who gave birth to 69 children, and Jack LaLanne, take some great listener questions, put together a life-changing Jethro Tull musical marathon and drop some sobering book wisdom from Tim O’Brien’s collection The Things They Carried.


To the Limits


Paul O’Neill — A True Yankee

Rickey Henderson — The Greatest Basestealer of all-time

Jim Abbott’s No-hitter

Unchained Melodies — Jethro Tull Edition

Skating Away (on the Thin Ice of a New Day)

Bungle in the Jungle


Life is a Long Song

Thick as a Brick

My Sunday Feeling

Book Wisdom

This week’s passage came from the opening story of Tim O’Brien’s Vietnam book The Things They Carried.



Episode 25: Summer Movies, On Death and Dying, Ask OTC, Unchained Melodies: Funeral Music, and Preparing for Death

On this week’s episode, Steel and Dave are joined by Katie, Dave’s friend and fellow nurse. Together, the trio discusses favorite summer blockbusters from their adolescence, discuss their views on death, modern medicine, and what constitutes a good death, answer listener questions (in which Dave confesses his most embarrassing medical secret) and endure another of Katie’s lightning round of questions. They end the episode with great music from Bonnie “Prince” Billy, Silver Jews, Israel Kamakawiwo’ole, Neil Diamond, The Weather Girls, and Lisa Hannigan, and some deep wisdom from the Renaissance humanist Desiderius Erasmus’ treatise “Preparing for Death”.


Summer Movies

  • In God’s Hands [Steel]
  • The Goonies [Katie]
  • Star Wars: The Phantom Menace [Dave]

 On Death and Dying

Unchained Melodies

Bonnie “Prince” Billy — I See A Darkness

Version Two:

Silver Jews — Random Rules

Israel Kamakawiwo’ole — Somewhere Over the Rainbow

Neil Diamond — Hell Yeah

The Weather Girls — It’s Raining Men

Lisa Hannigan — Safe Travels, Don’t Die

Book Wisdom

Today’s passage came from Desiderius Erasmus’ classic treatise De Praeparatione ad Mortem [Preparing for Death].

Episode 20: The Tennant, OTC Time Travel, Ask OTC, Brother vs. Brother, Unchained Melodies, and Richard Feynman

This week Dave and Steel are joined by Jon, the infamous younger brother of Alan, their guest last week. Together, the trio discusses Jon’s acting chops, amateur physicists and Jon’s impressively detailed theory of time travel (first developed when he was in the 6th grade!), answer listener questions about dating, The Hulk, space travel, and NASA’s dreamiest astronaut, hear Jon’s versions of the family stories Alan shared last week, talk about their favorite video games (old and new), share nerdly music from They Might Be Giants, Socalled, The Aquabats, Bombadil, The Uncluded, and the Thomas Was Alone video game soundtrack, and share some book wisdom from the illustrious physicist and science popularizer Richard Feynman.


The Tennant [The Tenant]

The Tennant’s End

OTC Science

  • Dave loves the idea of amateur physicists. See here and here and here for more on why.
  • Peter Vranas’ faculty page (see the research page to read about his thoughts on the retrosuicide paradox).


OTC Video Games

Favorite Game of All Time

Favorite Game Currently

Unchained Melodies

They Might Be Giants — Purple Toupee

Socalled — Work with What You Got

The Aquabats — Cat with Two Heads

Bombadil — Laundromat

The Uncluded — Delicate Cycle

Book Wisdom

This week’s book wisdom was taken primarily from Richard Feynman’s book The Meaning of It All: Thoughts of a Citizen-Scientist, which collected three of his best known lectures on science and human understanding.