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 75: Ken, Yakov, and an Ornamental Hermit Walk Into a Bar …

Cartoon by Sigrid Peterson

This week Dave and Steel are joined by Steel’s friend Sigrid. Together the three of them discuss transportation options for families with tons of kids, Dave and Sig’s shared loved of drawing and illustration, play a few rounds of Indie Band Name Balderdash, present another edition of Small Talk, share great nighttime driving music by De La Soul, Lisa Hannigan, The War on Drugs, Phil Collins, R.L. Burnside, and Phosphorescent, and drop some book wisdom from the late, great David Rakoff.


Small Talk

Unchained Melodies: Music for a Long Drive at Night

Book Wisdom

Sig shared a passage from David Rakoff’s novel (in verse!) Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Cherish, Perish .

Featured image by Sigrid Peterson

Episode 71: We’re Baaaack!

It took Steel three weeks to get this episode edited (which explains all the Valentine’s Day references in early March) but we’re back! This week Dave and Steel make a new induction to the OTC Hall of Fame (congratulations public libraries!), give you some new topics to discuss in another installment of Small Talk, praise two everyday heroes, shared six great songs from Esmé Patterson, Graham Parker & the Rumour, Saintseneca, Hamilton Leithauser & Rostam, Dr. Dog, and Keaton Henson, and drop some book wisdom by the satirical French novelist David Foenikos.


Off the Chain Hall of Fame


OTC Hall of Fame

This week we’re inducting the public library into our Off the Chain Hall of Fame! The greatest idea in the history of Western civilization? The last bastion of pure idealism in the United States? Yes and yes. We think you’re great, public libraries. Thanks for everything!

Small Talk

Everyday Heroes

  • Bike Batman, this otherwise pretty boring normcore guy in Seattle who confronts bike thieves and returns the bikes to their rightful owners [Steel].
  • Scott Mills, the man who stood inside the U-Haul truck while we emptied my house and somehow found a way to fit all of my family’s possessions inside this truck [Dave].

Unchained Melodies: Songs for each other

Book Wisdom

Steel read a passage from David Foenikos’ hilarious satirical novel The Erotic Potential of My Wife [thanks to Ewa Miernowska for the recommendation!].

Featured image by Jan David Hanrath

Episode 62: Eye on the Gold Chain [Rio Olympics 2016!]

This week Dave and Steel are joined by Steel’s old friend Jack Bangerter to talk all things Summer Olympics. We talk about our lack of world-class talent, they also throw in a segment of small talk (this week featuring edible crayons, demonic chimpmunks, and metallic hydrogen) and then spend a solid 40 minutes reliving all the great moments from the Rio Olympics 2016 and suggesting some really outstanding improvements to the lineup of events for future games. We also present to you an Unchained Melodies made up of our ideal medal winning songs and bring to you some ancient Greek poetic Book Wisdom from Pindar, whose Olympic Odes are among the earliest records we have of athletic greatness. It’s a gold medal performance, this week, for sure.


Small Talk

Mastery of these three topics are sure to make you the center of any late summer social gathering you might be lucky enough to attend. You’re welcome.

The 2016 Summer Olympic Games

Personal Olympian Connections

  • I took an art class with Alev Kolter, and Kelsey Card was a student worker in our son’s daycare last year. Had no idea that either were Olympians until after the games ended, though. [Steel]
  • I met Michael Phelps at a karaoke bar. We sang The Turtles’ classic hit “So Happy Together.” I feel directly responsible for at least 5 gold medal perfomances. [Dave]
  • I accidentally stepped on Jeret “Speedy” Peterson’s finger once and he stood up and punched me in the face. It didn’t really hurt but it broke my sunglasses. I was wearing them indoors, so I guess all’s fair? Also, my uncle, mom’s sister’s husband, Jim Osborne won a bronze medal in the 1968 games in Mexico City.

Favorite Athletic Achievement

Favorite Failures

Unchained Melodies: Olympic Anthem Replacements Edition

Book Wisdom

This week Steel shared the ancient Greek poet Pindar‘s victory ode: “Olympian 12“: For Ergoteles of Himera Long Foot Race 466 B. C.

Episode 53: #ToniBraxton

Dave is out for a bit because his wife just had twins, so Steel hosted this episode solo. To remedy Dave’s absence, he brought on two old friends: Kate Kelly and Ashley Sanders. Together the three of them discussed the Virtues (Night) that initially brought the three of them together, shared small talk stories touching on staged child abductions for TV morning shows, dental dams, and failed sperm banks for geniuses (genii?), talked about their current obsessions (changing our minds, the Internet/AI, Charles Rezikoff), had a segment of expert testimony in which we discussed Planned Parenthood, ghostwriting for a legal firm, revealed where Kate gets her iconic cat-eye frames, parsed the definition of style, and gave our male listeners six life-changing style tips, among other things. As if that wasn’t enough, we also played great music by powerful women like Sia, Toni Braxton, Matson Jones, Dar Williams, Nina Simone, and Thunderbitch, and closed with some powerful book wisdom from Doris Lessing’s The Golden Notebook.


Small Talk

  • I am on an email listserv for media stuff in NYC and the other day, an email came over the server from The Today Show asking for parents who would be willing to to let their kid be pretend-abducted on national television while a child abduction expert watched and analyzed what the kid did so he could give the kid and parents TIPS later on how to … be abducted better? Anyway, they were offering 15 minutes of fame and maybe, they didn’t know, a couple of martial arts classes if they could swing it? The response was amazing. [Ashley]
  • In another galaxy, on another podcast far, far away I explained what a dental dam is to a pretty large live audience. So, that is my life now, I guess. [Kate]
  • Robert Graham, super insane millionaire shatterproof eyeglasses magnate who tried to start his own utopian island and The Repository for Germinal Choice, a racist sperm bank for people with super high IQs. [Steel]

Unchained Melodies: Powerful Women Edition


#ToniBraxton #4eva! #ThnxAshleysDad!

Book Wisdom

This week Ashley shared an inspiring passage from Doris Lessing’s classic The Golden Notebook.

Episode 52: Mornin' Mark

This week Dave and Steel are joined by one of their oldest friends, Mark Eliason. Together the three of them discuss Mark’s untreated tuberculosis, wow each other with some great small talk topics ($100,000 trash men, the long history of professional farting, and intermodal freight transport), ask Mark a bunch of questions about Bane & Company, his three advanced degrees, and his longstanding love affair with Bono, The Edge, Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen, Jr., play six songs by U2, and hear some Wright brothers inspired book wisdom from David McCullogh’s biography of the aviation pioneers.


Opening Segment

A list of great lives felled by tuberculosis.

Small Talk

Expert Testimony

Adam Clayton
Adam Clayton in full Jetsons regalia

Unchained Melodies: U2 Edition

Book Wisdom

This week Mark shared a passage from David McCullough’s biography of the Wright Brothers.

Featured image: Mark Eliason performing at NoiseFest 2K5 (Provo, UT).

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 48: Cities of the Future

This week Dave and Steel were joined once again by their old friend Spencer to discuss the perils and joys of home ownership, what cities of the future will look like, share some fantastic ideas for small talk (laying the heat when you next play Uno, gold-plated donuts, and Bigfoot hunting), share great music from Coldplay, Cake, Clem Snide, The Shins, The Fruit Bats, and Vajra, and Book Wisdom from Leo Tolstoy’s epic novel War and Peace.


Cities of the Future

    • Futurama: The 1939 World’s Fair in NYC
      • Thanks to The Institute for the Future, you can become a foresight practitioner [just $4500 for governmental employees!]
      • A recent Wired Magazine Future of Cities feature. Highlights: pneumatic tube garbage cans, cable cars in Medellin, informal transit system in Nairobi.
      • The World Future Society [Futurist magazine]’s weirdly super-specific predictions. Highlights: Traffic congestion will increase by more than 30% in 18 U.S. cities by 2030 [topped by Raleigh, NC of all places!]; Biofuel-powered hypersonic jets will shuttle passengers between London & Tokyo in less than 2 ½ hours by 2050; Dubai’s airport will be the busiest in the world, serving over 75 million passengers annually by 2015.
      • BBC predictions. Living street lights, farm scrapers, robo-taxis, etc. Pretty sensible, really.
      • CNN predictionsTop 10 future engineering predictions: super deep basements, floating sea cities, High-rise or rooftop farms, 3D printed homes, buildings with their own micro climates, huge bridges that span entire cities, spaceports with easy access to the Moon / Mars, super high buildings — cities in the sky, underwater cities, collapsible / stackable living pods
      • Elon Musk’s Hyperloop
      • Technology Ages in Reverse. According to one view of the future, 500 years from now our cities are more likely to look like they did during the American Revolution than what they look like now.

Small Talk

Unchained Melodies: Old Buddy, Old Pal Edition

Book Wisdom

Spencer shared passages from Volume III, Part I, Chapter I of Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace.

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 36: Wonka!

This week Dave and Steel are joined by Dave’s old neighbor Matt Brown. Together the trio discuss their coldest ever nights, cover some important small talk topics (French Scrabble champions who don’t speak French, achievement beards and Bastrop, Texas’ Chicken Refuge), have the first ever segment of OTC Debate, and play great Wonka-approved music from Mary Lou Lord & Semisonic, The Flaming Lips, The Silver Jews, Cibo Matto, Woods, and Abner Jay before Dave closes the episode with some book wisdom from Roald Dahl’s classic children’s book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.


Small Talk

OTC Debate

Topics Covered:

  • Willy Wonka: artistic genius or weird candy guy?
  • Poems should rhyme or maybe they don’t have to?
  • Cursive: let it die or teach the children?
  • Apes or Bears?
  • Kenny Rogers or Dolly Parton?
  • Magic the Gathering: cool or uncool?
  • Phil Collins or Peter Gabriel?
  • Turtles or tortoises?
  • Should the NCAA pay its student/athletes?

Listen to the episode for our hot takes on these pressing issues!

Unchained Melodies: Songs Willy Wonka Would Dig

Book Wisdom

This week’s book wisdom comes from Roald Dahl’s classic children’s book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

Featured image by JaredFrazer