Wednesday, June 30, 2004

"Does Whatever A Spider Can"

Went and saw the midnight showing of Spider-Man 2 last night. It was a great flick, and I thought it was even better than the first one (and I really dug the first one). The effects were sharper, the villain not as bizzare (Willem DeFoe was a great villain, I think, but the guy they had playing Doc Ock was just so damn believable in his motivations and the way he expressed his inner dialogue through his expressions), and the characters much more developed. Most of the problems the first one had were in that the film was having to establish most of them and tell Spider-Man's origins. With that already out of the way, the characters were allowed breathing room, growing room. The cinematography was classic Sam Rami, with quick camera cuts and fast zooms. Think Evil Dead Trilogy. There's even a nice homage to Army of Darkness in one scene in the hospital, complete with a little chainsaw and trying to lop off an arm...of sorts. The fight scenes were excellent throughout the film. Spidey and Doc Ock went at it on trains (though as Dom pointed out, there is no elevated train in New York), the sides of buildings, in mid-air, and pretty much all across New York City. Doc's "smart arms" were just damn cool, and worked surprisingly well, despite my initial misgivings about CGI'd arms flailing all over the place.

Whereas the first film dealt mostly with responsibility, Spider-Man 2 focused on choice and issues of identity, specifically with having one's personality split down the middle and caught between two different aspects. Spidey and Doc Ock are the two most obvious examples of that identity crisis, though Harry Osborn gets a bit of it too towards the end.

The film works very well on several levels, managing to continue the threads of the previous movie and seem like a continuation of it, while at the same time standing alone as a film in and of itself and managing to create new threads and plotlines to explore in future installments.

All in all, I was very impressed with the film. It was that rarest of movies--a sequel which was even better than the original. The only flaw was that the soundtrack spawned another of those songs which we'll have to listen to all summer long. Last time, it was some post-grunge sludge from the guy who fronts Nickelback. This time around, it's an emo tune by Dashboard Confessional. You know that'll get annoying 'round about the end of July, by which point in time the pop stations will have played it three or four times a day for almost two months.

~chaos cricket

Song of the Moment: Moxy Fruvous, "Spiderman"

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

"I Know It's Only Rock And Roll (But I Like It)"

My affection--nay, obsession--with music is probably well-known by anyone who has spoken with me for more than about five minutes. A common sight at Ozarks when I was attending there (and now at OU, though no one here knows me) was me walking across campus with my head down, headphones on, and humming a tune. I'm always listening to music. I turn on music when I wake up. I listen to music when I go to bed. I have music playing while I shower, while I work, while I drive, while I walk, while I draw and write and think and exist. Basically, unless I'm dead, I'm probably listening to music.

One thing I've never really given much thought or consideration to, though, is precisely why I'm so addicted to music. Sure, it's fun, it's expressive, and it's got a good beat and you can dance to some of it, but why is music so important to me as an individual? Lots of other people like music, but few of the people I know are so fierce in their expounding of the art's virtues, and so vehement in their defense of what they classify as "good music." So, why me?

I think a lot of it comes from my father. Some of my strongest childhood memories involve he and I sitting in the floor of the living room and listening to Beatles records while he told me about the time when the Beatles were together. Back then, the music was just fun--songs like "Yellow Submarine" and "Lovely Rita" were and are rather infectious pop tunes, and it's hard not to sing along--but more than that, music was a way to connect to my father, a way to relate to him. Listening to music was a shared activity between he and I, and since he was usually gone all the time on business, moments such as that were sometimes hard to come by.

In the fifth grade, my father took me to see my first concert--the Doobie Brothers. The concert was a birthday present for me, though my dad has since admitted that really it was more just an excuse for him to go see one of his favorite bands perform. I knew maybe three Doobie Brothers songs at the time--"Blackwater," "China Grove," and "Jesus is Just Alright"--but enjoyed the show nonetheless. It sparked something inside of me, something which has only grown stronger with time.

After the Doobie Brothers concert, I began attending more and more rock shows, and I loved them all. I saw ZZ Top, Tom Petty, Genesis, Van Halen, CS&N (that's Crosby, Stills, and Nash), Aerosmith, The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, REO Speedwagon, Styx, Eric Clapton, 1964: The Tribute, and other, not-so-well-known acts. I loved every one of them.

Music, then, is my connection with my father. We still talk about music all the time; about bands we like and dislike, about the best albums, about whether or not the new album coming out by some classic rocker is worth the purchase, and about what makes good music. Our tastes run parallel in many cases, though I've since branched out from where I started with my father. But it's a strong common ground for us when we have very little in common as far as interests and aptitudes are concerned. He's a math person, interested in cars. I am more interested in reading and writing and drawing than I ever will be in cars, and I can't do a math problem to save my life (though I can sit and debate philosophy and theology for hours on end). We're very different people, but music connected us. Music connects me to many of my friends. I've used it as a common ground, as a starting point to get to know someone, and as a way of expressing my own thoughts when I couldn't put them in words. People who discount the power of music really have no idea what they're talking about, and I like to think my life, such as it is, is a testament to the fact that music can and does have power. It inspires, it consoles, it expresses what cannot be expressed in mere words, it lights a fire in the soul and lets us soar beyond the merely physical. To quote Blur, "music is my radar."

Maybe that bores other people, and maybe they think I make too much of a big deal out of music and its power, but I can't think of any other form of entertainment that can have the emotional impact music has on me. Let's see a sitcom truly break your heart or heal it.


Song of the Moment: Billy Joel, "It's still rock and roll to me"
"Rock Is Dead They Say--Long Live Rock"

So last night I lifted weights for the first time in about three years.

Today, I hurt like hell. My elbows hurt. My freakin' elbows! What's that about, honestly? I am glad I went and worked out with Jess and Dom, and maybe I'll be able to make it a regular thing (which would be good. I could use some upper body strength, since I have...well, none). Back when I was actually working out fairly regularly, I enjoyed it well enough. Time and my eratic schedule will tell if this is something I can do regularly.

Finally beat the first Mega Man game. The difficulty lay in two issues--first, the final area is divided up into three levels. If you get a game over, you'll start in the level you were in. But if you turn off the Gamecube, even if you've saved your game, you'll start back over at the first level. The second problem came in the last level. You have to fight four of the six robot masters right in a row--Bomb Man, Flame Man, Ice Man, and Guts Man--and then immediately go on to fight Wily. Nothing in between any of these (well, there's an anteroom between the robot masters and Wily's room, where you start if you die against Wily...which is nice). That means you have four boss battles in a row. Bomb Man isn't too hard--you hit him with Flame Man's weapon, avoid his bombs, and you're in the clear. Flame Man is quite a bit more difficult. You literally cannot dodge all of his attacks, so you end up taking a lot of damage while trying to kill him as fast as possible. Ice Man is a lightweight and can be defeated before he's even hit you once. Guts Man falls somewhere between. He usually hits me once or twice, but by the time I get to him, Flame Man's probably roughed me up pretty good, so once or twice can kill me.

But I've beaten that game now, so no worries.

Jess and Dom want to try and go see the midnight premiere of Spider-Man 2 tonight. I'm definitely in favor of that. If I do happen to go, I'll have my thoughts on that available tomorrow.

~chaos cricket

Song of the Moment: Traveling Wilburys, "Heading for the Light"

Monday, June 28, 2004

"Oh, The Hours I've Spent Inside The Coliseum"

So I'm taking part in something akin to the now-defunct Keenspace Battle Royale called the Keenspace Colesium. This time, instead of a free-for-all, it's a one-on-one competition, so I guess it's really more like the battle I had with the Noise Monkey. Anyway, the Coliseum battle is taking place here. Each contestant gets to make three responses, basically, and then the referee/judge guy decides which of us won based on his own arbitrary judgment and how funny our respective responses were. My first response is already up, so we'll see how they handle my move.

Today I have to go get fitted for a tux for the Monkey's wedding in August. I'm not a big fan of having to wear the monkey suits, especially in Arkansas in August, but it is for the Monkey, and I think I get to give him a hard time at the reception. So that's worth it.

The network's having trouble again today. It went down while I was typing this up. Thankfully, it came back up (otherwise, you wouldn't be reading this, would you?). I swear, you wouldn't think the network would be that hard to maintain here. But, for reasons I do not understand, it appears to be. Argh.

~chaos cricket

Song of the Moment: Counting Crows, "New Frontier"

Saturday, June 26, 2004

"Just Thinkin' Of A Series Of Dreams"

Went and saw Hellboy last night. Very enjoyable flick, I must say. Better than I thought, though maybe not as great as it coulda been (a couple of things were never explained to my satisfaction). Having never read the comic it's based on, I can't say how faithful it is to the original source material, but from what I understand, it did a fine job of remaining true to the original. And it was just good clean fun, too.

The Mega Man Anniversary Collection and Final Fantasy Tactics Advance continue to dominate my videogame time. I'm almost through all of the first Mega Man game, and discovered that in order to move on to the others, you have to beat them in order. So I kinda need to finish the first one to keep going.

Which would be fine, except the infamous Yellow Devil at the end of the first Wily Stage is a huge pain in the ass. In the original Nintendo version of the game, you could take advantage of a glitch in the game to totally wipe the floor with this guy. You'd set your weapon to the Elec Man weapon, then hit the Yellow Devil with a shot of it. While the hit is actually hitting the enemy, you pause the game. Then you unpause, then pause again really fast. Repeat this. Every time you unpause the game, it hits the Yellow Devil again, so you can take the bastard out with one or two shots if you're good.

But they "fixed" that in the Anniversary Collection. No more pause trick against the Yellow Devil. Instead, he keeps kicking my ass over and over again. Ugh.

Tonight, Ev's gonna show me a Joseph Campbell/Bill Moyer (I think) interview he taped off PBS ages ago. It's supposed to be this really interesting interview, where Campbell (a Jungian thinker whose concept of heroic archetypes and conceptions of mythology and storytelling are world-reknowned and highly revered in many circles) just sits and talks about virtually everything for like six hours (we're only watching the first part tonight, I believe). That'll be cool.

Had a couple of strange dreams which I only half-remember. One dealt with this idea I had for a comic book about Batman. It was a weird cross between Kingdom Come, The Dark Knight Returns, and Batman Beyond. Something about Batman deciding to retire and pass on his legacy to someone else or something, I dunno. It was weird, but in the dream I thought it was a great idea.

The second one is even more fragmented, though no less surreal. I was in a large parking lot, filled with cars and people moving around and between the cars. I was walking towards my car, and there were a couple of middle-aged, white-trash-looking people standing right next to it. For some reason, the passenger window was open, and there was a handful of pocket change on the dashboard. These people, whom I did not know, were digging through the change, looking at the various coins and making comments about rarity and stuff, and keeping the ones they liked. I recall chewing out, but I have no idea what I said, beyond a generic "what the hell do you think you're doing?!" It was rather bizzare.

~chaos cricket

Song of the Moment: Wilco, "The Late Greats"

Friday, June 25, 2004

"Rock And Roll Never Forgets"

Picked up the Mega Man Anniversary Collection for the Gamecube earlier today. Pretty sweet collection--all eight of the original series Mega Man games (the first six were for the old NES, number seven was for the SNES, and the eighth was released for the Playstation and Sega Saturn, I believe). The collection was released simultaneously for both the Gamecube and the Playstation 2, each with unique content. Thing is, Gamecube owners kinda got hosed here.

First problem: the issue of remixed music. It's available for both games, but on the PS2, it's something you can have going while you're actually playing the game. For the Gamecube, it's something you have to unlock, and can then access as a sort of special feature in a soundtest thing, not something that plays during the actual game. This in and of itself isn't that big of a deal, since for me the collection is mostly about getting to play all these games. But there are other concerns as well...

Second problem: controls. In the old NES games, the controls were very simple, very standard, and very ingrained in my mind. The A button was for jumping, the B button for shooting. Simple, yes? That's how it always was. That's how most NES games were set up, from Mario Bros. on. A was always the jump button, and B was always the shoot button. This is not the case on the Gamecube version of the Anniversary Collection. No, here they are reversed, and we have the A button for shooting, and the B button for jumping. That's all well and good, except most people who're like me and grew up playing the games with the controls the other way are confused as hell, and it's messing up my gameplay. This wouldn't be such a problem if they'd included a button configuration option, but they didn't.

Those issues aside--the first being minor, the second being of rather greater importance and annoyance--I love the collection. It's fun getting the chance to play all these old games again. And they've added a few nice innovations that take advantage of the more advanced controllers available with the next generation consoles. For instance, both versions have a button which allows you to do rapidfire (just hold the button down and you get constant fire, essentially) instead of having to tap the fire button as fast as you can. You can still just tap the fire button, but the rapidfire button is rather reminiscent of having a turbo controller for the old NES (anyone remember those? You had the smaller Maxx, and the big arcade joysticked thing, the Advantage. Ah, good times). They also set a button for the slide move (you usually do the slide by holding down and hitting the jump button, but that's sometimes difficult to manage). Of course, the slide isn't activated until Mega Man 3 (the game in which the maneuver was introduced), but that's the way it ought to be. You can also use the shoulder buttons (L and R) to cycle through your available weapons instead of having to go to your menu every time you want to switch weapons.

One of the other nice features is the addition of tons of unlockable bonus material, including a couple of never-before-available-in-the-US arcade games, Power Battle and Power Fighters. There's also interviews with the creators of the Mega Man series, art galleries, and all sorts of stuff. it's going to take forever just to beat the eight games, let alone unlock all the bonus material. But that's alright by me.

Anyway, haven't had much of a chance to play it much yet, since I had to work all afternoon/evening. Dunno how much time I'll have after work, either, since I think I'm supposed to hang out with Dom and Jess tonight. Ah well. Lots of time ahead, right?

I've started playing Final Fantasy Tactics Advance again. I beat Sword of Mana the other day, and had the urge to go play back through Tactics again, since I loved it so much the first time (ended up logging over 75 hours the first time through). Dunno how long it'll take this time. Last time through, I tended to focus on one or two of the races, and completely neglected one of them (the lizard-like bangaas). I think it's because I didn't care for most of the abilities that race had. But this time, I'm making an effort to give them a shot, just 'cause I want to see what they can do.

Oh, I picked up Wilco's latest, A Ghost is Born. It's rather different from Summer Teeth, the only other album I have by Wilco. Very good, but rather quiet at times. Not quite so many songs that just rock, and more that are subtle, melodic, and winding (there are two songs over 10 minutes on the album). It's an album that's going to take a while to sink in, but I think will ultimately be worth the time spent coming to grips with it.

~chaos cricket

Song of the Moment: Wilco, "Theologians"

Thursday, June 24, 2004

"Born In The U.S.A."

I'm on a Scott Kurtz kick today (the past twenty-four hours, anyway, and I guess that was technically "today" when I posted that last one, wasn't it?). He made an interesting comment in his news space today, and I thought I'd share my thoughts on the issue within it.

See, he was talking about this game called "City of Heroes." It's one of those massively multiplayer online roleplaying games, kinda like Everquest, only not so tedious and with superheroes instead of swords'n'sorcery. Anyway, seems Mr. Kurtz decided to create a character on the game similar to the Marvel superhero Captain America (if you don't know who Captain America is...well, I pity you). Anyway, he comes up with this patriotic-based superhero, and takes him out into the game.

And people start verbally abusing him for having a patriotic-based character.

Kurtz was flabberghasted. Folks were talking about how much they hate not only Bush, but America, as though the two were synonymous. This rather upset and aggitated Kurtz, and brought up an interesting thing I hadn't really thought about much myself.

I am an American. For better or worse, this was the country I was born in, and I kinda like it here. I may not always agree with everything other Americans do, or how they behave, or our government's policies and decisions and things like that, but I'm not about to close shop and move to South Africa or anything. I'm not going to say there isn't room for improvement--there obviously is in any place you go, and anyone who thinks this country is fine the way it is needs to seriously re-examine reality--but it's still a damn sight better than most of the places you could end up in throughout the world.

I'll admit that I don't like Bush at all. I've yet to find anything about him that I do like, except for maybe the way he handled most of the immediate aftermath of 9/11. I'm not entirely sure Gore could've done any better, to be honest. However, that was almost three years ago, and really early in Bush's administration. I don't think he's done a lot right since then, and I'm scared of the things he might do, though not directly to me (I am, after all, pretty much the sort of person they had in mind when they came up with the term "the majority": a white male Protestant, of Anglo-Saxon descent, middle-class from a traditional family).

But really, when you get down to it, this country's got a lot of things going for it, and a lot of possibilities to become a better place than it is. I'm an optimist, and think this is one of the best countries in the world, if perhaps a bit arrogant and bullying sometimes.

Just for the record, I'm a fairly moderate person in pretty much everything, especially politics. I'm not exceedingly liberal or exceedingly conservative, though I have bits and pieces in my philosophy that come from either side. But I don't think patriotism needs to be co-opted like it has been by the right. Bruce Springsteen wrote the song "Born in the USA" about disenfranchised and embittered Vietnam vets, and then Ronald Reagan tried to co-opt it as his campaign song--even though it was completely contrary to the message of the song for the conservative Reagan to use the song. The Boss's response was then--as it was when he released his album The Rising, which dealt with the aftereffects of 9/11 and the "war on terrorism"--that patriotism was something which the right had attempted to claim as its own, but that people of a more liberal or moderate perspective could still love their country while seeing that there was room for improvement in our attitudes. And y'know, the Boss is right.

~chaos cricket

Song of the Moment: Bruce Springsteen, "Worlds Apart"
"The Devil's Radio"

Today (well, yesterday now), I participated in a roleplaying game for the first time in quite a while (last summer was the last time, I think, or thereabouts). There's three of us playing, and Ev is game mastering. It looks like it'll be a fairly interesting game, with a fairly easy and intuitive game system that Ev cobbled together from three or four others. I'm playing a philosopher thief who is better at convincing people to let him take their stuff than he is at just taking someone's stuff. It'll be an amusing character to work with, I think.

I read something over at PVP that I found rather interesting, though the rant has since disappeared (and this is just in the last few minutes, mind you...I'd think I was slightly insane if I wasn't positive I just read the damn thing). Scott Kurtz was talking about a guy who'd created a webcomic with characters startlingly similar in appearance to characters in Kurtz's own comic. He'd apparently had communications back and forth with the guy drawing this other comic, and the other guy said something about how apparently Kurtz was afraid that someone with a similar style would be intimidated by this newcomer because he (the newcomer) had fresher ideas and something new to offer, while Kurtz was just rehashing the same schtick over and over.

Now, I'll be the first to admit that I've incorporated elements of other artists' styles into my own. I've adapted things I liked--the way one guy draws hands, or another draws facial expressions, or whatever--and applied those things to the way I draw my own characters. I don't lift whole characters or character designs just for shits and giggles, though, and then claim they're mine. I think Scott Kurtz was completely justified in his annoyance and outright anger with this other guy's stuff, especially when the guy pretty much flat out admitted that he was lifting Kurtz's drawing style. That's like saying you borrowed the tune from, say, the Beatles' "Yesterday," but then put slightly different words to it (that analogy probably tells you everything you need to know about my opinion on musical "sampling" in hip-hop and rap, but that's a rant for another time).

For me (and for Kurtz, I imagine), the issue here is not "who can make the best jokes using this art style," as the other guy seems to think it is, but rather an issue of intellectual property. Those character designs are the product of Scott Kurtz, and someone else claiming them as his own (even if slightly modified, as these appear to be...though only very slightly), and not only that, but trying to make money off of those designs (the guy had a Paypal button with one of "his" images on it), is inexcusable. It's one thing to have a similar style, but it's another to have the same character designs.

Scott Kurtz kind of has a reputation as a bit of an asshole, one which is probably drawn from his tendency to simply say what he thinks without filtering it through a "how would other people react to this?" filter. Admittedly, that's not such a bad thing all the time--sometimes, we need folks to say what they believe before really thinking about it. I may not always agree with his opinions, but I think Kurtz has the right to voice them, especially in his own webspace. I also happen to think that he is in the right here, and that this other cartoonist is doing something which is unfair to Kurtz and not entirely honest.

This sort of thing can be taken too far in both directions, though. Let someone do what they will with your art and your style, and you have no control over your own intellectual property. But then there are guys who take even fair usage too seriously (there was an example of this being discussed over at Penny Arcade earlier this week and, prior to that, about two or three months ago...all involving the same idiot). There's a fine line to tread between claiming something which is clearly based on someone else's work as your own, and using something fairly (as, say, a forum avatar...which was the case in the Penny Arcade incident I mentioned). One is essentially stealing and not bothering to come up with original character designs. The other is actually a completely different issue, though both perhaps deal with copyrights and the like.

All in all, I think I have to agree with Kurtz in this instance. The other guy, from what I can gather (there was no link nor mention of the name of the offending comic, and I couldn't come up with anything in my search, so I can't actually verify much of what Kurtz was arguing except from the snippets of this other guy's art which Kurtz had to compare with his own work in the rant), is in the wrong here, and ought to have working a little harder at coming up with original characters. Plagiarism is a serious offense, whether in writing or art or whatever. As a writer myself, and as a scholar especially, I take that sort of thing seriously. Intellectual property is very, very important, and with something like this art style and character design debacle, citing your source simply isn't enough.

~chaos cricket

Song of the Moment: Moxy Früvous, "Green Eggs and Ham"

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

"But Nobody Can Sing The Blues Like Blind Willie McTell"

Some musicians have a difficult time recognizing their best songs. Of the songs I have on my computer by the band Wilco, only about four of them are songs I've seen on their available CDs. Dave Matthews (though I'm almost embarrassed to even admit I listen to him) shelved a highly anticipated album helmed by uber-producer Steve Lillywhite in favor of the mediocre material on Everyday. Throughout rock music's history, some guys just don't recognize when they've got a great song on their hands.

The most notorious of these musicians, though, is Bob Dylan. He's one of the most prolific songwriters ever, churning out song after song and album after album. Admittedly, some of these songs (and even albums--especially most anything from the late seventies and early eighties) are sub-par and sound like Zimmy was just going through the motions. But if you dig deeper into Dylan's catalogue, you start coming across songs you've never heard, but that are at least as good as anything he did put on his actual albums, if not better.

The best example of Dylan's apparent inability to recognize a brilliant song when he writes it is the tune "Blind Willie McTell," which can be found on The Bootleg Series, Vol. 1-3. It's a simple song--Dylan does vocals and plays piano, and Mark Knopfler (of Dire Straits fame) accompanies him on a softly strummed acoustic guitar. But the simplicity of the arrangement--based on an old blues standard, "St. James Infirmary"--belies the song's purity and deceptive beauty. Dylan turns in one of his absolute best vocal performances ever (I know, to some, that's not saying a whole lot, but trust me), and is evocative and emotive and stirring. In the lyric, Dylan laments that there are no great blues singers--no Blind Willie McTell or Leadbelly or Blind Lemon--to sing about the woes and troubles the world is currently in. There is no bluesman capable of expressing the pain of today's society, or of coming to terms with it. "Blind Willie McTell" is a breathtaking, heartbreaking song, and Dylan wasn't happy with his performance and thought the song wouldn't fit on his album Infidels, for which it was recorded.

A few listens to the song, though, make you scratch your head and wonder what Dylan was thinking. He's done this to us several times, though, relegating absolutely marvelous tunes to relative obscurity by not placing them on proper albums, but rather leaving them to collect dust until someone finds them and collects them on a work such as The Bootleg Series or a rarities compliation. Two other perfect examples spring to mind, both of which are found on Dylan's Greatest Hits, Volume Two (the only Dylan CD where either song appears)--"Tomorrow is Such a Long Time" and "When I Paint My Masterpiece."

Admittedly, "When I Paint My Masterpiece" isn't an obscure song by any means, nor is "Tomorrow is Such a Long Time," actually. Both have been covered heavily by other bands. But neither has ever appeared on a regular album, and "Masterpiece" is at least equal to the songs Dylan was putting on albums at the time (early '70s), and "Tomorrow" is a beautiful, simple acoustic song from very early in his career ('62 or '63, I think) that happened to be recorded live at one of his shows. It seems, given the number of covers of both of these songs, that other musicians are better able to spot superior Dylan songs than Dylan himself sometimes.

My Dylan obsession is fairly obvious, as it has been for a while now. I started really listening to his stuff only about four years ago, and his visuals and stories struck me in a way that few other musicians have ever done. When I started really listening to his work, getting beyond his voice or even the instrumentation, and looked at what he was saying and how he was saying it, I suddenly realized I, like Adam Duritz of the Counting Crows, "want to be Bob Dylan." If I were to ever become a musician, I'd want to be a musician like Dylan, someone who played and wrote the music he wanted to, who defied understanding in many cases, and who wrote amazing songs. I want to write amazing songs. I want to be able to write something like "Blind Willie McTell," and be such a good songwriter that I barely even recognize that a song I consider a throwaway is actually absolutely brilliant. I want to be Bob Dylan.

~chaos cricket

Song of the Moment: Bob Dlyan, "Blind Willie McTell" (who didn't see that coming?)

Monday, June 21, 2004

"It's Just A Dream He Keeps Having"

Jess and Dominic are back in town already. I know this because Jess called me up at 7.00 am this morning to ask for her car keys (as I had both of the car keys to the Sunfire. See, Beth had just driven the Sunfire back to Norman after the wedding, as Jess and Dom were going to Shawnee for the night in the truck. Then they gave me a set of keys for the house--Jessica's keys, as it turns out, which had the other key to the Sunfire on it. So I ended up with both keys). So I went over and gave her the keys so she could go to work this morning. Turns out they got back around midnight Saturday/Sunday, and actually came over to the house on Sunday morning (I noticed when I went over yesterday morning that the truck was missing and that lights were on in the house which I had never turned on). So yeah, they're back, and that's groovy and all. For me, it means no more having to keep track of the cats. It also means that many more people to hang out with now, which is nice. It's been getting too quiet around here.

Ev wants me to join a roleplaying game he's starting Wednesday. I'm gonna give it a shot, 'cause it could be a lot of fun and a nice distraction from other stuff. Plus, Ev's a rather creative game master, to put it mildly (it's like saying the Beatles were a decent little band, or that the mobsters in the Godfather movies had an interesting way of doing business).

I've been listening to a lot of Americana lately. What's that, you ask? Well, it's rather hard to describe as a genre. It's rather like alternative country, though not as heavily influenced by punk. Americana is a weird fusion of country, folk, blues, rock, and bluegrass, with even a bit of gospel thrown in for good measure. As a musical form, it was really defined by Bob Dylan and the Band on The Basement Tapes, a collection of demos and song ideas that moved through American musical genres like ducks through water. The thematic content of Americana deals with love, both requited and unrequited, as do most songs in contemporary music (by contemporary I basically mean anything that's not classical, opera, or musical soundtrack. Pop music, basically). But more often, Americana deals with crafting a mythology of America. The Band--though four of the five members were Canadian--was masterful at this, with such songs as "The Weight" and "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down." Americana conjures images of times gone by; of what used to be, for better or ill.

Contemporary Americana doesn't focus on this mythology-making as much, though it does draw from it and from that tradition. The line between Americana and alternative country is fuzzy at best, and many bands could fall into one or both categories quite easily. Groups such as the Old 97s, Wilco, and Whiskeytown exemplify the best that contemporary Americana has to offer.

I think the reason I like the style so much is that it's so hard to define. Since Americana incorporates elements from so many different musical traditions, it's hard to pin it down. Americana is more of a metagenre, like Rock and Roll (it's hard to think of hard rockers like Led Zeppelin and singer/songwriters like James Taylor as being in the same genre, but putting them in the same broad metagenre works). This ambiguity is one of the strengths of Americana--bands aren't tied down to one specific style, but can move fluidly from one style to the next, incoporating it all into one broader form.

The genre's other strength is that it tends to retain some of the rough edges in the music. While the albums may have a warm, inviting sound and feel, there are still a few ragged spots in the sound, allowing the music to retain that warmth and a sense of immediacy and energy. It's not too slick or over-produced, something that a lot of contemporary music--no matter the genre--seems to suffer from. Don't get me wrong--sometimes, I'm in favor of slick music, too, but most of the time, I'd rather get something that hasn't smoothed over every little quirk in the music. It's those quirks that give the music personality.

Not to put to fine a point on it, I actually think Cross-Eyed Yeti would basically fall into this meta-genre. Clif and I genre-hop all the time, one minute playing a straight-ahead blues or boogie song, the next playing a country-rock song, and then switching it up to roots-rock. Styles and genres aren't supposed to confine a band, but to allow them to stretch out and explore possibilities. That's what most artists in the Americana metagenre are doing.

~chaos cricket

Song of the Moment: Wilco, "Summer Teeth"

Saturday, June 19, 2004

"When I Paint My Masterpiece"

Y'know, the more I think about it, the more I really want to be a professional writer or cartoonist. I'd love to make a living telling stories, whether in short story, novel, or comic format. I really am just a storyteller at heart. That's part of why I love history so much--there are so many stories in there, buried behind politics and names and dates.

I really need to get off my ass and finish some stuff. Several stories, for instance. My damned Master's Thesis. Chapter Three of Troubled Times. The reworked Yellowstone Saga. Guest comics for various webcomics. Etcetera, etcetera. I've been damned lazy of late, and I don't really know why. Guess there's been no one immediate to encourage, cajole, and otherwise coerce me into action. I need some sort of structure. Blah.

Going home tomorrow afternoon for Father's Day. Dunno what's being cooked for us to eat yet, but I'm sure it'll be better than whatever I'd prepare for myself otherwise. Besides, I'll get leftovers and get to go grocery shopping while I'm home, and those're very good things.

On another note, the Mega Man Anniversary Collection is coming out on Tuesday. What's that, you ask? Well, it's all eight of the original Mega Man games (the first six were for the original Nintendo, number seven was for the Super Nintendo, and number eight appeared on the Playstation) together with two arcade Mega Man games--Power Fighters and Power Battle (fighting games using Mega Man characters)--all on one disc for both the Gamecube and the Playstation Two. My youngest brother, Scott, is a Mega Man fanatic, and has been anticipating the release of this game since it was announced sometime late last year. He's got all eight individual games (actually, come to think of it, the only Mega Man games he doesn't own are ones which were never released here in the United States), but he'll be getting the Anniversary Collection for the PS2 this week because he wants them all conveniently on one disc along with the two arcade games and the load of extra stuff coming with the collection. I'll be getting the Gamecube version myself (since that's what I have), partly so Scott and I can compare the extra material (each one supposedly has different bonus stuff) and because I dig Mega Man myself, though not nearly with the same devotion as my sibling.

~chaos cricket

Song of the Moment: Bob Dylan, "Tomorrow is a Long Time"

Thursday, June 17, 2004

"There's A Magazine Called Sunset"

Internet was out this morning at the apartment. Something about the network for Parkview (my complex) was just really messed up, or so I discovered after half an hour on the phone with IT. But it was back up again this afternoon, so I was able to get all of tomorrow's comic stuff uploaded to the Dim Bulb server in time for the 1 year anniversary.

So last night, I found a link to a rather interesting contest. Seems you submit a short story to the people, and if you win, they turn your story into (1) an off-Broadway play and (2) an 80 page graphic novel.

The possibility of having a group of artists turn one of my short stories into a graphic novel was pretty damn compelling, I have to say, so I decided to submit a story last night. The final decision will be made sometime middle of next month, so I'll be sure to let everyone know how that turns out.

I also--after noting that Dav has sent some stories off for possible publication--want to try and get a few of my stories published. Dunno yet what all is involved in getting something published, or even if I've got anything worth publishing, but hey, I've received enough rejection letters from grad schools. Rejection letters from publishers can't be worse, right?

~chaos cricket

Song of the Moment: Wilco, "Someday Soon"
"Them's Got Ears, Let Them Hear"

So yeah, when it rains, it pours.

Earlier this week, I was complaining about feeling trapped and wanting to go somewhere, anywhere. Well, I keep forgetting that other people read this damn thing. Wendy (though she doesn't read it, I don't think) wanted me to come visit her to see Glen Phillips and Nickel Creek in Alexandria (where she lives, coincidentally). And just yesterday, Dav emails me wanting to know if I want to join him in Chicago for Wizard World.

And of course, let us not forget that I am going with Jessica and Dominic to take Beth to Florida.

Now, guess what? All three of these things occur on exactly the same weekend.

Granted, I'm already committed to helping Beth move. Means I had to turn down the other two offers, which were very attractive. I still do want to visit Wen, and Dav's a blast to hang out with (I think I need to arrange a get-together with several of my friends of the geek persuasion sometime, just for the hell of it. The concentration of geekiness could well make the world implode). And it'd be fun--gaming, movies, gaming, probably.

Anyway, I'm gonna go watch Return of the King now. I bought it right when it came out on DVD last month, thinking I'd be able to have a LOTR marathon with Jess, Dom, and Beth. Yeah, three guess as to how well that worked out. But I'll have the last laugh--I'm gonna watch it now! Mwahahahaha!

~chaos cricket

Song of the Moment: Wilco, "I am trying to break your heart"

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

"What's My Line? I'm Happy Cleaning Windows"

I've noticed something I find rather amusing. Most of my posts in this thing come when I'm at work, sitting around with nothing to do or lots on my mind (those two things often coincide, I've noticed).

For those who are interested, I have a guest comic up over at Shadow Dragon Executive Force, a nifty comic done by Jops. Jops linked us ages ago, round about the time I promised him a guest strip in exchange for a link (though he maintains he linked us not because of any bargain, but because he genuinely likes our work). Anyway, it took me ages to actually come up with anything worthwhile, and he turns right around and posts it before I even have a chance to wake up this morning (I only sent it to him late last night). Go give that a looksee if you want.

~chaos cricket

Song of the Moment: Van Morrison, "Cleaning Windows"

Monday, June 14, 2004

"Are You Ready For The Country?"

Well, Clyde turns 21 today. Kinda hard to believe my baby brother's that old. Hard to believe the youngest one turns twenty next April. It's starting to make me feel kinda old, y'know?

I'm starting to feel restless again. I want to go somewhere, be somewhere else. Anywhere but here. Dunno how I'd get there, or what I'd do when I got there, or how I'd afford to take a road trip at this point, but I have the urge to leave this town and not return for a while. I'll probably just go home and play video games instead, though. I've already got those.

In other news, I'm hungry, 'cause I haven't eaten yet today, and I've been awake since 9.00 am. Good thing I get off work in half an hour.

~chaos cricket

Song of the Moment: Neil Young, "Are you ready for the country?"

Sunday, June 13, 2004

"Two Dollar Pistol But The Gun Won't Shoot"

The internet in my apartment has been sporadically connected at best for the better part of the past week. I think it has something to do with all the rain we've been having--this area of the University was built decades ago (we're talking World War II era), and not much about it has been updated since then. The fact that I even have internet access in my apartment sometimes astounds me, to be honest.

But for some reason, whenever we have really heavy rain for a prolonged period of time (as we have most of this past week), it makes the connection go wonky. It's almost as bad at work over in the stadium, a scant couple of blocks away from my apartment. the wiring over there is really old, too, and they're not only prone to having internet trouble in heavy rain, but to having electrical outages at the drop of a raindrop. At least my place isn't quite that bad.

Anyway, the internet problem means I've had trouble staying connected for more than a few minutes at a time during the worst periods, and for even an hour or so when it's not quite as bad. It's made MSN Messenger especially touchy, and since several of the people I talk to on a daily basis use that program, it means that I'll be in the middle of a conversation, and suddenly I'll get booted. or I'll be trying to load up my email or something, and it won't load. Stuff should load on this computer (and this network) nigh instantaneously, but I'm lucky right now if it loads at all. Blarg.

Got to talk to Amanda E. earlier this afternoon, which was nice. Haven't had a good, long conversation with her in much too long, probably since the last time I was at Ozarks (back in February, that was). I'm probably going to go visit her before Heather's wedding at the end of July, since I have the two or three days prior to that wedding off from work.

In completely unrelated news, Dim Bulb Comics turns 1 on Friday, and my brother Clif turns 21 tomorrow. Hard to believe Adam and I have been doing the website that long, or that we have as many readers as we do (at the same time, sometimes I feel we don't have anywhere near as many readers as we should have or deserve, but that's a rant that's already been made). Equally hard to believe that my middle brother will be legally able to drink tomorrow. Not that he will. Clif's one of the most straight-laced people I know. I mean, you think I'm boring when it comes to alcohol and things of that nature...Clif's even more so. Scott's about the same. We're boring young adults, y'know?

~chaos cricket

Song of the Moment: Tom Waits, "Jockey Full of Bourbon"
"If I Could Go On Sleeping"

It's entirely too warm in the back bedroom of my apartment. I know it's the room furthest from the air conditioner unit in the living room, but with windows shut and blinds closed and the fact that the sun went down well over five hours ago, you'd think it would cool off at least a bit.

Granted, the easy solution would be to simply not come into this room. Sadly, it is the one which houses the computer. Sometimes I think I should have set up this apartment differently. Then again, that would mean my bedroom would have been in this room, and that would making sleeping in the summer rather difficult. I hate heat.

So one of my coworkers is getting ready for a trip to England to visit her beau. Depending on that trip, she might even being moving there permanently. To say that I'm jealous would be a gross understatement. I really do need to find a way to get myself to that country on some sort of permanent basis. I'm willing to be an expatriot. I'm willing to be made fun of for my accent. Hell, I'm even willing to deal with British food. Part of me thinks I'm so enamoured of England and all things British because they're not Oklahoma. There are days when I truly hate living here, to be honest. I cannot stand this state for much longer.

On the other hand, part of me is, I have to admit, loathe to leave this place. The great majority of my family--and all of my immediate family--live here. It would be (and will be) hard to live far away from my parents, grandparents, and siblings. Everett has remarked on several occasions how odd it is to him that I'm so close to my family, and really, I'm not even as close to mine as some people I know are to theirs. I know that I'd be able to live far away from them, and even deal with not being able to see them more than a couple of times a year. But part of me would miss them greatly. I may hate Oklahoma, but I also love it, in a strange way, because my family is intimately tied up with this state in my mind.

And it's kind of strange to me to have that love/hate relationship with this place. Part of me desperately needs and wants to be free of Oklahoma, but another part of me also realizes I'll always carry this state with me in my mind and my attitudes. Everett commented earlier that, in many ways, I'm a small-town, conventional individual who is very comfortable in the midwest. And that's pretty true. When they were looking to craft a definition of the average midwesterner, I think they probably had me in mind, or at least were thinking of someone quite like me.

That being said, I still want to go to England. Maybe I can still try to get my PhD from there.

~chaos cricket

Song of the Moment: The Eagles, "Best of my Love"

Friday, June 11, 2004

"Take A Load For Free"

Spent a quiet evening at the apartment last night. It really has been quiet and empty there since Beth left, though I keep finding long hairs of hers all over the place (there was one in the shower today, even). I miss having her around to hang out with, but my wallet is significantly fuller now that she's gone, which is probably for the best at this point.

Paid for summer tuition today. That was...loads of fun. Really. Personally, I think I've given this damn school more money than they deserve already. But I digress.

One thing I meant to talk about when I reviewed the Clapton concert yesterday was the opening act. It was this combo called Robert Randolph and the Family Band. Robert Randolph is a guitarist...well, I say "guitarist," but he doesn't play guitar in the way you think he does. He plays a pedal steel guitar, but he plays it like a man possessed. His act had more energy and high-octaine guitar work than damn-near anyone I've ever heard. That man could play, and soloed on the steel guitar like Jimi Hendrix crossed with Mark Knopfler. I half expected to see smoke pouring off of his fingertips. They were a phenomenal band, and I'm actually looking around for one of their albums now (Best Buy here in Norman actually has both of it's just a matter of determining which one I want). Randolph himself came back out during Clapton's encores to join him for a number, and you had Clapton, Randolph, and Clapton's other guitarist taking turns trading 12 bars of soloing for like five minutes. Damn, it was impressive.

Anyone ever heard of a musical called Avenue Q? Everett wants me to hear the soundtrack tomorrow, but I'm almost a little afraid to hear it. But I'm also curious. Just not bi-curious.

Okay, no more gay jokes, honest. I only use them when I'm around him, because (being bisexual himself), he finds them funny as hell. And so do I, now that I think about it. I'm probably also using them as a way to deal with my own homophobia, which isn't nearly as bad as it was, say, even a few years ago.

What any of that had to do with anything else I've been talking about, I have no idea.

~chaos cricket

Song of the Moment: Bob Dylan & The Band, "Tears of Rage"

Thursday, June 10, 2004

"Before They Bring The Curtain Down"

Well, the easiest way to sum up the Eric Clapton concert last night is in one word: wow.

I admit, when I first decided I wanted to see Clapton, I was also a wee bit skeptical. I've heard a lot of his '90s material, and it was...well, it was crap. He decided to go with some adult contemporary/R&B/pop crap that didn't even have guitar solos in it, and sometimes didn't even have guitars. Part of the blame rests with the otherwise phenomenal Unplugged album he did in the early '90s. The acoustic show wasn't really pop in and of itself--it featured several very good acoustic blues songs--but its two biggest hits, "Tears in Heaven" and a completely reworked and much slower "Layla"--sort of laid the foundation. His next big hit was the single "Change the World," another mostly acoustic number that really leaned heavily towards the adult contemporary style. Then he put out the album Pilgrim, which featured heavy drum loops, synths, and a load of rubbish songs.

In short, Clapton hit a slump in the mid- to late-90s that he's finally starting to pull out of. Clapton's most recent offering, Me and Mr. Johnson, is a set of acoustic blues covers originally done by bluesman Robert Johnson. It's a great album, or the songs I heard from it last night were great.

And that's the sort of thing we received all night last night--great rock and blues songs. Clapton put away all of his '90s crap (with the exception of a couple of cuts from Me and Mr. Johnson and a cut or two from the decent Reptile), and played nothing newer than the song "Wonderful Tonight." All the rest were old standards, great numbers with loads of killer guitar and piano/organ work. Clapton's soloing--and there was a hell of a lot of soloing in those two plus hours--was spot-on, fast as lightning, and as sharp as anything he's done in his entire career. The music sounded fresh, immediate, and heartfelt, as though Clapton were actually enjoying himself up there on stage instead of just going through the motions (as he sounded on the live album from his last tour, One More Car, One More Driver, a bland, blah record with very little to recommend it). And he wasn't the only one--his backing band had energy, chops, and enthusiasm to spare. And Clapton wasn't the only one up there soloing--the second guitarist could hold his own pretty well, and had several opportunities to cut loose with very tight, precise solos that fit that spot in the particular song perfectly. The pianist was just the sort you'd expect for a great blues/jazz jam band, with speed, precision, and just enough fluidity and improvisation to keep it interesting. And the organist was none other than Billy Preston, the guy who played keyboards on the Beatles' Let It Be. And let me tell you, Mr. Preston was no slouch, either--at one point, he was actually playing the organ with his knees.

All in all, the Clapton concert was one of the most rewarding live musical experiences I've had in a long time, probably the most rewarding since the first time I saw Tom Petty back in like 1991-92 or so. Clapton kept up the energy, the audience interaction, and the rockin' music the whole night, never letting up even for a minute. He opened the show with a smirk, playing the song "Let it Rain" (which is what it had been doing all freakin' day long in Oklahoma), and just kept going for the next two and some hours. And when he broke into "Layla" near the end of the show--the real "Layla," not the acoustic version--there wasn't a person in the audience who wasn't singing along at the top of their lungs.

It was magic. It was the blues. I see why they scrawled "Clapton is God" on subway walls in London in the late '60s.

~chaos cricket

Song of the Moment: Eric Clapton, "Let it Rain"

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

"What Am I Doing Wrong?"

So on a whim, I was glancing through the Keenspace Guide a while ago, just to see who was in the top 25 and, because I'm a curious little sod, where Dim Bulb Comics fell in the grand scheme of things.

I probably shouldn't have done this.

I hadn't heard of at least half of the top 25 comics. I only knew about a third of the top 50. Turns out Dim Bulb is sittin' pretty in the top 200 (round about 175 or so, I think), which isn't too bad, all things considered.

But a glance at several of the comics that're ahead of us kind of annoyed me.

Not so much because I didn't recognize many of them. No, I'm more than willing to accept that there are popular comics out there I've never read. I know Elf Only Inn, one of the most popular Keenspace comics, was getting 25% of all Keenspace page views a month or two back (which is damn impressive), and has just been tapped by big brother Keenspot. I've never read the comic.

No, what annoyed me was the number of sprite comics that are apparently more popular than Dim Bulb.

I'll admit--there are a couple of sprite comics--8 Bit Theatre and Bob & George, to be precise--that I read regularly. I read 8 Bit because it's damn funny and exceeds the limitations of the sprites through the writing and characterization. I can forgive poor art or using sprites if the writing makes up for it. Bob and George is really mostly just a habit, because I know the guy who does that one established the time-worn tradition of Mega Man sprite comics ("I want to make a comic, and it's gonna be great! I'll retell the story of the Mega Man games, only the characters will be really stupid or really funny somehow! It's the most original idea EVAR!!!!!11111 And they'll all speak in l33t, because l33t is teh funny!"). But Bob and George even occasionally makes me chuckle, so it's acceptable.

But I've seen some of these sprite comics. They're awful. One of the ones that's ahead of us even proclaims it's complete lack of originality by referring to itself as a Bob and George Rip Off.

Now, I'll admit that the idea of a comic based on a couple of college roommates and their wacky hijinks isn't the most original comic idea ever either, but a quick look at my comic would reveal that I've strayed a bit from the formula by adding characters like Tim and Earl into the mix. There's an element in my comics that does not exist in your average "real-life college kids, only with wacky stuff thrown in" comic. That, and I'm actually funny (not always, but 9 times out of 10, it's a pretty solid bet that my comic would be humorous).

And the writing. I like to think I come up with pretty good stories and that my characters are believable within the constraints of the world I've created for them. You couldn't have someone like Tim running around in the real world, but I'll be the first to admit that the world in which Crooked Halo exists is not the same world as this one. A parallel world, perhaps, where things are nearly the same, but not the "real world."

The kicker, though, is that at least I'm drawing something, dammit, and not just recoloring Mega Man sprites and claiming them as "artwork." It seems petty and elitist and conceited, but there it is. I can handle those guys who come up with their own sprites (such as the guy who does Diesel Sweeties, which is another comic where the writing is excellent and far exceeds the art). That takes talent, patience, and creativity. If you want to tell a story, but don't have artistic ability, then be a writer. That's what writers do--they tell stories! You don't have to have a comic to tell a story, y'know.

And for the people vapid enough to actually read these steaming piles of bull honkey, go read a real comic, why don't you?

The previous statement was brought to you by bitterness and bile. Bitterness and bile--making swallowing your pride all the more difficult since 1980.

~chaos cricket

Song of the Moment: Tom Lehrer, "Poisoning Pigeons in the Park"

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

"I Seem To Recognize Your Face"

So a strange thing happened yesterday when I was at the tux shop returning the tuxedoes from Jess & Dom's wedding.

See, I was in the shop with Jessica's parents (who'd come down to Norman to help me sort all the tuxes out and figure out if we were missing anything and cover the charges if we were missing anything), and the girl working at the shop suddenly stops what she's doing and stares at me. "I get the feeling I know you," she says. "You look familiar." Now I have to admit, random attractive blondes saying they think they know me is a bit of an unusual occurance, so I'm curious about this, 'cause I know I don't recognize her. She asks me where I'm from, but the bustling metropolis of Shawnee, Oklahoma rings no bells. She asks me if I was ever involved in any yearbook stuff or anything like that. I told her no, but I do comics for the OU paper. Again, no sign of recognition. She even asks me if I'd ever played baseball; I chuckled, because I haven't played baseball since I was like six years old.

Eventually, we just decide I must have a face that looks similar to someone else she knows, 'cause I'll be damned if I actually even know who this girl is.

In hindsight, perhaps we should have asked each other for our names. That might've caused some sort of flicker of recognition.

The other possibility is that I'm actually famous in Norman, Oklahoma, and don't even know it. I could be a celebrity. If anyone wants my autograph, I'd be more than happy to long as you're not wanting it on a bill or a confession or something. That probably wouldn't work for me.

~chaos cricket

Song of the Moment: Charlie Biddle Trio, "They All Laughed"

Monday, June 07, 2004

"She Gave A Smile But I Was Shy And I Looked Down--So Down"

So it turns out my money woes aren't nearly as woeful as I assumed them to be.

For starters, Jess and Dom paid me more than I thought they were going to for watching their cats. Part of me is annoyed by this--the amount they gave me was the amount I initially refused, telling them it was way too much. But I'm just gonna accept it, and take them out for dinner sometime after they get back and I've got enough cash to do so.

Second, when I go home Wednesday for the Eric Clapton concert (wooo!), mom's going to do my laundry, take me shopping (for groceries and various and sundry necessaries), and fill my car up with gas.

Third, it turns out I have a lot more money in my savings account than I thought I did, due to two facts: (1) I couldn't actually remember how much was in my account, and (2) my parents took the money from when we sold my old car to Jess & Dom and, instead of keeping it as I'd assumed they would (since they just gave me mom's old car gratis, and I thought we'd decided they were going to use the money from the sale of my car as a down payment for mom's new vehicle), they deposited it in my account. So I've pretty good on cash. Mom's going to deposit another $700 or so in my checking account later this week for me to use to pay tuition for the summer and to pay rent in July.

So things aren't nearly as bad as I'd thought. I still need to work on my money management, but at least I have some money to manage now.

In other news, I helped Jessica's parents haul all the tuxedos back to the tux shop this afternoon. I think we actually managed to get everything returned without losing anything, which was an impressive feat. That was basically the afternoon's activity, aside from writing some lyrics down for a bluesy tune while waiting for her parents to show up. I'll maybe post 'em here or over at the Livejournal later.

~chaos cricket

Song of the Moment: Wilco, "No Poetry"
"Via Con Dios"

Well, the wedding of Jessica and Dominic occurred this past Saturday. It was a good day--rather hectic, with last minute things to do, wonky sound (not my fault--stupid stereo didn't want to cooperate round about 11.30), and the officiant not remembering that we had a microphone up by the podium for him to speak in to so we could actually hear the service (then again, even when they did remember the microphone, the sound system wasn't turned up loud enough for it to have been much use). All in all, though, it was a great time, and the wedding turned out beautifully.

Also got to meet several of Dominic's friends from back east. His best man, a guy named John, was a real good guy; very warm and friendly. John took me aside yesterday at a brunch (given for Dominic's mother's 50th birthday party), and told me if I was ever in Boston and needed a place to stay, I had one. Thought that was rather cool.

The wedding itself was full of strange, amusingly surreal moments. The little kids had possession of the dance floor throughout dinner, though we eventually won it back in a series of engagements and offerings of candy. At around 12.00 or so, we had stereo troubles, but eventually got it to play again. When the song "Glory Days," by Bruce Springsteen, came up, the wedding party--all the groomsmen, the bride and groom, and myself--all started singing along at the top of our lungs. The few other people remaining (including Beth) probably thought we were insane, especially when we did it again less than an hour later. Towards the end of the night, most of us (that is, the groomsmen, the bride and groom, and myself) had a shot of tequila with Mom Bowie (that is, Jessica's mom...I've called her Mom Bowie since high school, because the woman was like a second mother to us all back then, and she just emanates a cool mom vibe). That was kinda funny--were I to try and even have a beer with my mom, she'd spend the whole time scowling.

But anyway, the weekend was a blast, though I'm still sore from standing, dancing, and squatting down on the floor for seven hours straight.

So now Jess and Dom have left for Ireland, and Beth has left for Rochester. I took Beth to the airport yesterday afternoon after the brunch to celebrate Dom's mother's birthday. I don't think it's really set in yet that Beth has gone, and that I won't see her until August, and then only briefly. When it does set in, I'll probably be depressed, but that's just how this sort of thing goes, y'know?

Guess I hadn't really realized how much that girl was a part of my life, even if it's really only been since about Thanksgiving that that's been the case. You just get used to people being there, get to used to having them around to talk to, laugh with, and bounce ideas around with. You get used to a presence, and I got used to hers. I wouldn't go so far as to say I fell in love with her, except in so far as I love all of my friends dearly. But I will definitely miss her being around. There's going to be a Beth-shaped gap in my life for quite a while, I think.

There's a Spanish phrase--via con Dios. It means "go with God." It's something you say to those who are departing, who are leaving your presence for the time being. We don't really have any equivalent phrase in the English language that we use with regularity as a greeting or farewell. Godspeed, perhaps, though that's not used much anymore. That's why I like via con Dios. It's still used, and it is a very powerful phrase. Wherever you go, go with God's grace and protection. I like that sort of sentiment. Go with God. Via con Dios, my friends.

~chuck cottrell

Song of the Moment: Bruce Springsteen, "Glory Days"

Friday, June 04, 2004

"There Is Nothing That Doesn't Matter"

Hey folks. Odd time for posting, I'm sure, but there's crap on my mind, and it must be written down before I burst.

First, I'm worried as hell about money. I reconciled my checkbook this evening, and I have $125 to my name. That's it. Thankfully, I've paid rent for this month, but I'll have rent again in July, and as of right now, I'm looking at six to nine hours per week at work for the next month and a half. That's, as we say in the business, really really bad.

I haven't ever really had to worry about money. As a high school student, I didn't have to work part-time jobs to support myself or pay for my car or anything. My folks took care of all of it. When I got into college, it was much the same--I had scholarships covering most of my school costs, and my folks covered the rest. I worked a bit for the school, but the money I made at the Learning Center was basically pocket money for whatever I wanted to spend it on, which was usually CDs. I worked during the summers, earning a good amount of money, which I'd use during the school year to live on (for eating out, laundry, gas, whatever).

Graduate school has been a bit different. My folks have still been helping me out, but I have to pay for my rent and food and such. And the money my parents had saved up for me to attend school is now...gone. I've spent it all getting these--currently--absolutely worthless degrees. I have a BA and almost an MA in History, and they aren't getting me all that much closer to achieving my goal of being a college professor. I say that because I still haven't managed to get accepted to a graduate school. What good is a BA or an MA if they don't get me into a PhD program? I can't really do a whole lot with what I've got.

But I digress. Money issues. Not working enough, too many expenses, rent goes up next month to an as-yet unknown amount (I'm guessing it'll be about $475). I guess I have a few options...

(1) Quit school, move back home, get a job flippin' burgers or sackin' groceries.
(2) Sell plasma, my kidney, extra crap I've got, my very soul to save up enough cash to survive the summer.
(3) Get an extra part-time job, something nigh-impossible to do in Norman in the summer (though possibly manageable...if I want to go into fast food or retail. Ugh).
(4) Ask folks for money.

None of these are guaranteed sources of good income. The first option has the obvious flaws. The second is difficult because I really don't have all that much that'd be worth anything, or that I'd be willing to part with. The doable, though not something I'd relish. I don't want to have to have another job, I just want to be able to get enough hours with the job I already have to not have to worry about money. The fourth...well, the biggest problem with the fourth is that I don't know that my parents will give me money anymore. I think my father's fed up with the fact that I'm taking as long as I am with my degrees, and I think that both he and my mother are a little upset (and, admittedly, understandably so) with my spending habits of late: they've been, in truth, rather lavish for someone with such a weak income. I've been spending way more than I need to on crap I didn't need to spend it on, and I know it. I've behaved very poorly with my money. I've no head for budgeting, but something tells me I'm going to have to learn how to budget real fast, or I'm gonna be up shit creek without the proverbial paddle.

It's also really just starting to hit me how alone I'm gonna be at the end of the week. Sure, Jess and Dom will be coming back in a couple of weeks, but Beth'll be gone. And it's really just occurring to me how much time I spend with that girl. We hang out a lot. Almost every day, really, even before she started crashing at my place last weekend. I've come to depend on her company, not for some deep intellectual conversation (though we do have those) or the "you're the person who completes me" sort of thing, but just to be there to do things with, to hang out with. She is a presence, a person who is there often and willingly. I'll miss that, and I'll miss her, because I have no idea how often I'll see her--if ever--after we move her down to Florida in August. And that's hard to deal with.

So yeah, it seems there's a lot on my plate right now. I'm sure I'll get through somehow--I have thusfar, and so I have every expectation of coming out of this a better and stronger person than I was before. I'm already working on ways to to improve my situation. We'll just have to see what I can manage.


Song of the Moment: David Gray, "Babylon II"

Thursday, June 03, 2004

"The Real Folk Blues"

It's been an interesting week, to say the least. Hanging out with Beth's been fun, but I'm glad her crashing at my place isn't permanent. I never get anything done. I've been really damn lazy all week, got next to nothing accomplished, and I only feel slightly guilty about that.

I have gotten a few things accomplished--I took care of that overdue Interlibrary Loan book (turns out I did still have it--it was buried under a stack of papers). Emailed Ohio State (still waiting for a reply back). Conversed with a guy from Louisville Presbyterian Seminary about the possibility of me attending there and whatnot (they have spring admission! I may go there in the spring). Mostly, I've been watching lots of anime (Beth and I have gone through all of Sorcerer Hunters, Blue Seed, Trigun, and Cowboy Bebop in the past two weeks), playing a significant amount of Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles (we're almost done), and helping Jessica and Dominic prepare for their wedding. They're nearly ready--just a few odds and ends to get taken care of, and we're set. Got all the sound stuff figured out (it'll actually be quite easy), got all but one of the CDs made, the girls are making the cakes tomorrow during the day, and we've got most of the out-of-town guests figured out and in town already. Things are progressing.

Today was interesting for other reasons as well. Beth and I went up to OKC with Dominic this afternoon in the Sunfire (my old car). It was weird riding in the passenger seat of a car I drove for almost six years. It was even stranger riding in the backseat of said car. And it was stranger still driving it back to Norman while Dominic rode with his father in said father's rental car. But fun, in a strange way.

Beth pointed out something interesting on that drive, too--there was a good chance that August would be the last time she'd ever come to Oklahoma. If Jessica & Dominic and I leave soon--as we're all hoping to do, really--then she'll have no reason to return to this state. In a way, I'm hoping August is the last time she has to come here. That means we're all out of this place finally.

There's so much I could say, but so very little of it is actually important enough to mention. I miss many of my Ozarks friends right now, more than ever, and the idea that three of the four people I spend time with here in Norman are leaving on Sunday (Jess & Dom for their two-week honeymoon, Beth for the summer) is really starting to sink in and leave me with a big vacant feeling in the pit of my stomach. But there's really not much I can do about it, y'know?

~chaos cricket

Song of the Moment: Yoko Kanno & The Seatbelts, "Call Me, Call Me"