Sunday, October 31, 2004

"I've Been Talking Drunken Gibberish"

Well, the situation I spoke of at length last night has been resolved. The guy emailed me back, apologized for the misunderstanding, and all's well.

Granted, he did have a point, in a way--taken completely out of context, the Apathy Party campaign ad does seem to be a dissuasive to people voting. That was never my intention, as the guy I was talking with apparently knew, but taken completely out of context--which I didn't imagine would happen--it does appear to be very negative in a lot of ways I never intended.

Guess this whole incident goes to show that how people interpret your work isn't necessarily going to be the way you thought they would or wanted them to.


Song of the Moment: David Gray, "Say Hello Wave Goodbye"

"I've Got A Room At The Top Of The World Tonight"

It completely slipped my mind when I woke up that today was Daylight Savings Time, and thus all the clocks needed to be set back an hour. The thing that reminded me was noticing that the computer clock was an hour behind every other clock I own. That sorta clued me in.

Anyway, it's all dreary and crap outside today. After two absolutely gorgeous days, it's gone back to the dull gray sky and strong chance of rain. I don't want it to rain--I have to go to work in a few hours. Blah to work. In the meantime, I need to draw a comic for the paper, since they want those before 2.00.


Song of the Moment: Tom Petty, "Room at the Top"

"And If You're Downright Disgusted"

So I was cruising through Dim Bulb's site logs, checking out where we'd been getting visitors from, and I came across a hit from a Keenspace webcomic I don't really follow but know of. Curious, I clicked on the link to see what the nature of this linkage was.

To my surprise, I found a rant angrily venting on the nature of a comic I did earlier in the current series. Seems the guy thought I was discouraging voter participation and encouraging voter apathy, or something to that effect, and he then referred to the offending comic as "trash."

Now I'll be the first to admit that not all of my comics have a lot of artistic merit, and that the jokes or writing are sometimes flat and not nearly as humorous as I'd like. But I'd hardly call anything I've done "trash," especially not that particular comic. I'm rather proud of that one, actually--it perfectly encapsulates my opinion of most politicians and the ridiculousness of most voters.

Really, the entire series I'm doing has been a satire of the current political system in the United States. I think there are some serious problems with the way we handle politics, important issues, and voter participation in this country. I also think there's something ludicrous about our tendency to complain about these things when we haven't bothered to even try to participate in the electoral process. The number of people who vote in the U.S. is staggering low, but the number of people who bitch and complain is remarkably high. My opinion is that if you didn't think it was important enough to vote on, it's not something you have a right to complain about when things don't go the way you want. Having voted in the previous national election (and against Bush), I feel I have a right to voice my displeasure with the current state of things and an obligation to make my voice heard through voting.

All that being said, the satirical storyline I've been running had a very specific purpose--make fun of politics and maybe convince people that our apathy is stupid. Jerome is not supposed to be a sympathetic character here--he's an idiot, behaving in a way that really just ignores the problems. His opinion of politics--which isn't one I recommend emulating--is expressed in his choice of party names. He calls his political party the Apathy Party because the party does not care what the voters think or want, much like the way most other politicians behave. The difference--to Jerome, anyway--is that at least he's honest about not caring about the general public.

The one sticking point is the phrase I added at the last second--"Apathy: It's the true American Way." Again, this is satire, but one aimed at the general attitude of voters. Traditionally, most American voters don't pay much attention to what's going on. We're very apathetic unless something directly effects us. We just don't care much. This is not a healthy attitude by any stretch of the imagination. The comic was supposed to act, in a way, as a wake-up call for America, a reminder that the issues and concerns of this election are exceptionally important to us as a country and as individuals. If we don't participate in this election--if we don't participate in our own governance--we're throwing away the right to criticize the government and decide how our lives will be lived.

America is a country founded on self-governance; "of the people, by the people, and for the people," as it were. If we don't actively participate in the electoral process, then apathy is truly our way, and we've lost all hope of being free-thinking, independent individuals. As much as I dislike politics, I recognize the importance of voting and of being an active constituency, and thus I heartily encourage everyone to vote for whomever they feel is right, even if that candidate is not the same one I'm voting for. Your vote could determine the direction this country takes over the next four years.


Song of the Moment: The Beatles, "For You Blue"

Friday, October 29, 2004

"Early One Morning The Sun Was Shining"

So I did not have a good morning. In fact, my morning lasted all of about 15 minutes, 'cause I didn't wake up until 11.45.

The annoying thing is that my alarm was set. I hadn't changed the time on it from the previous two mornings, when it was set for 6.30 am. But I never heard the damn thing go off this morning, if it even went off at all (I have my doubts on that...I'd have heard it at one point or another if it went off). Makes me think I should probably get a new alarm clock. I mean, I have had this one for over a decade, after all.

But it's annoying, because not only did I not make it to class (for the third time this semester...that's more classes in one semester than I missed from 1999 to last May), but I was a few minutes late for work, I didn't get a chance to pick up and deposit my paycheck before work (though I did go grab it while one of my coworkers was still here, so I can go deposit it right after work), and I didn't get a chance to eat breakfast or lunch or anything.

Yeah, it was a crappy morning.

Anyway, the rest of the day is gonna be busy. After work, I'm going to run over to the bank and deposit my paycheck post-haste, then back to the apartments to help Ev move (he was able to find a new place, thank goodness). After some moving, I'm going to clean up and drive to Yukon, where my uncle's band is playing tonight.

Tomorrow is shaping up to be just as busy. We've got to get the rest of Ev's stuff moved (well, most of it), then we're having a little Halloween party to kick the dust from our bones and relax a little. And of course, I've got work from 2-10 Saturday. Joy.

On the positive side, my lunch with Audrey was fun yesterday. We chatted about this and that, caught up with one another, had a good meal, and reminded ourselves that we need to hang out together more. Also found out from her that Libbie is, in fact, still around, despite rumors I'd heard through other folks that she maybe wasn't here at OU this semester. Guess that means I can track her down, too (and maybe finally get a couple of my books back from her).


Song of the Moment: Rolling Stones, "Sweet Virginia"

Thursday, October 28, 2004

"I'd Like To Spend Some Time In Mozambeque"

Okay, as much fun as it would be to sit here and continue discussing the pros and cons of the two major candidates and whether it's better to be flexible or steadfast (I really believe there are times for both, but that's a rant for another time) with Adam, I'm tired of talking politics. It's about all I did last night, and I'm ready to think about something more interesting.

For instance, I'm going out for lunch with a friend this afternoon. That'll be fun. The Red Sox won the World Series in four straight games, which was pretty damn cool to watch (even if I'd have preferred to see the Yankees playing).

Yeah, that's about it. Tomorrow's payday, which is nice. Huzzah for payday.


Song of the Moment: Bob Dylan, "Mozambeque"

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

"Rip This Joint"

So I was cruising through my bookmarks, looking at sites I hadn't visited in awhile, and came across the Glen Phillips website. Glen's been one of my favorite musicians for several years now, both in his solo work and his stuff with Toad the Wet Sprocket.

Anyway, I noticed he'd updated his web diary thing (which he does about once every three or four months), and he was talking about politics. Everyone's talking about politics right now, and with good reason. I myself have stated on many occasions that I can't stand politics, and detest discussing them. But noticing Glen's diary entry, it got me thinking about something: of all the people I know, there are maybe a half dozen total who I know for positive are going to vote for Bush. The great majority of people I know or encounter on a daily basis seem to support Kerry, even here in Oklahoma.

It got me wondering, though. I mean, if so many people seem to be tired of Bush, and so many seem to support Kerry, then we should reasonably expect Kerry to win, right? I mean, there seems to be substantial support for him even in Oklahoma, a traditionally conservative state.

I really do hope Kerry wins. The idea of another four years of Bush frightens me in a way that politics has never frightened me before. I've always felt politics never really had that much of an effect on me, that I was always removed from the repercussions of political decisions. Part of this is because I'm a historian--I tend to study the politics of the past, the stuff that's already occurred, and the stuff that happened an ocean or two away. When you combine time and distance, politics lose some of their immediacy and impact, really.

But the stuff that's been happening bothers even me. I just don't trust Bush. I don't trust his "brand" of Christianity, if you will. I don't know where he got the idea that Crusades are what God wants (wait, no, I know exactly where that mentality comes from, and it hasn't been that popular since the Middle Ages. It was much more interesting throughout most of the modern era to fight and beat up on other Christians than it was to attack the infidel). The God I believe in is a peaceful, loving deity, a being a mercy and forgiveness, not one of retribution and violence. I don't know how anyone can equate Bush's actions with Christian principles, but somehow that's how he's managed to portray himself to the country. That saddens me, really. He's a man with very un-Christian attitudes and objectives, and he calls himself a man of God.

Anyway, the election occurs in less than a week. I worry about the what the results will be, but I also hope and pray that things will turn out for the best. That's the hallmark of a true optimist, albeit a cynical one--hope for the best, expect the worst, and prepare to react to whichever actually happens.


Song of the Moment: John Mellencamp, "Wild Night"

"I Wish Someone Would Come And Push Back The Clock For Me"

I swear, sometimes the sheer unfairness of the world really depresses me.

I'm not just talking about the way the world's been unfair to me, because in a lot of ways, I've had a very easy and good life. A few crap things have happened to me, but on the whole, I've had it pretty good. No, I'm thinking more along the lines of the way it's been cruel and unfair to some of my friends, people who deserve better than what life is handing them. I don't know why bad things keep happening to them. I also think I might have my empathy turned up a little too high, because I'm getting depressed over their situations. The complete absurdity of the crap they're's disheartening to think that good people can be treated this way.

It brings up an interesting philosophical/theological point, one which more than a few people have asked over the years: why do bad things happen to good people?

That's not a question I'm really qualified to answer, but then again, I don't think anyone is really qualified. I sometimes doubt the existence of an idea like karma, because if something good happens for each bad thing, a few of us have built up enough karma that we're going to have a future life where nothing but good stuff happens. While that would be nice, I think I'd rather just take one go-'round and have some joy mixed in with the sorrow.


Song of the Moment: Bob Dylan, "Not Dark Yet"

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

"You And Me And Baby Makes Three"

So I got a call last night a little before 11.00. It was Jess and Dominic, giving me the good news--Jess is pregnant!

This is, of course, a very happy occasion. It's hard to believe, though, that my friends are of the age where they'll start having kids. Admittedly, people in my high school were having kids back then, but I'm talking about people having kids who're married and stuff and ready to have kids.

Anyway, congrats to them. We're gonna go celebrate tomorrow night by eating out and going to see Spider-Man 2 at the cheap movie theatre. Woo!


Song of the Moment: XTC, "Pink Thing"

Monday, October 25, 2004

"No One Is Ever Gonna Change My Life For Me"

I've held forth many times on my opinions about sprite comics. I think that the great majority of them are simply rehashes of the same garbage over and over again, perpetrated by unoriginal, non-creative people totally lacking in any concept of humor, storytelling, or talent. I think most of the people who do sprite comics are complete hacks. There are a couple of exceptions--8 Bit Theatre makes up for its use of Final Fantasy sprites with its writing (which is generally excellent) and wonderful characterization, and Bob and George is forgiven simply for being the first to actually use the now-at-saturation-level Mega Man sprites. Both comics started a trend, one which unfortunately copies the form but not the heart or creativity of the originals.

But 90% of the sprite comics out there are pure garbage. There's no decent storytelling, no decent jokes, and a blatant overuse of the Photoshop lens flare tool. There are a couple of so-called sprite comics out there which I don't even consider sprite comics, such as the wonderful Diesel Sweeties. However, I'd say it's less a sprite comic and more a comic created with pixel art. There's a very important difference--the guy who created Diesel Sweeties did so by making all new characters, or "sprites," not simply recoloring Mega Man sprites (which is what most sprite comics pass off as their "art").

Admittedly, not everything in my comic is completely original, either. College roommates who're based on real-life people and who get into wacky adventures is not original to me by any stretch of the imagination. Archangel and devil characters who interact with humans isn't particularly new, either. It's true that there's really nothing new under the sun, but let's be honest--even if my comic suffers a bit from Unoriginal Premise Syndrome, I have a few advantages over sprite comics: (1) I'm not basing my stories on Mega Man games and (2) I drew the comics myself. Those facts alone put me in a completely different group than most of the sprite comics out there.

What annoys me most is how much some people seem to like these things. There are actually sprite comics on Keenspace that're more popular (or get more hits) than Dim Bulb. That's just wrong, if you ask me, especially since one of them is a blatant and obvious rip-off of Bob and George (and even says so in the title). Apparently even attempting originality is overrated anymore.

I don't even know what prompted this little rant, especially since it's one I've made before. I guess it just annoys me that there are so many good, worthwhile comics on Keenspace and various other places, and they're swamped with crap like sprite comics. There's something seriously wrong when a comic that focuses on the "hijinks" of two videogame villains--Dr. Wiley from Mega Man and Dr. Robotnic from Sonic the Hedgehog--has more readers than we do. Ugh.


Song of the Moment: Pearl Jam, "Daughter"

"You Wreck Me Baby"

Tomorrow, I am going to the library. Tomorrow, I am picking up the last sources I need to finish my Master's Thesis. By week's end, I will have the Master's Thesis finished. I'm tired of having it hang over my head. I'm tired of not having it finished. Most of all, I'm tired of having to think about it. I'm ready to study something new.

Work seems to be dragging by tonight. I'm ready to be done and home. I'm ready to not be sitting here, twiddling my thumbs and thinking to myself, "I'm wasting my time here."

I think I got in trouble this evening. Ev and I were sitting in the Writing Center, chatting, and in comes a tour group led by our boss' boss, a man whom none of us like. The guy scowls and me and gestures for me to take my feet off the table (I had them propped up and was leaning back in my chair, acting very nonchalant and relaxed), then the tour comes in and he proceeds to talk about the Center (saying some stuff about what we do and the services we provide that was patently absurd and not at all correct). Anyway, I'm sure my boss will hear of my laxitude, and she'll have to scold me for it...and then I'll keep behaving the same way I always have, because we all know that I'm actually very competent at what I do and don't really care what people like this jerk think. Insubordination rocks.

I think I'm gonna watch Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom when I get home. I watched Raiders of the Lost Ark the other night, and now I want to continue the adventures. Of course, I may decide to sit at the computer and do nothing instead. It all depends on my desires when I get home.


Song of the Moment: Pearl Jam, "Last Kiss"
"Pearl Jam - Lost Dogs: Rarities And B-Sides"

Way back in the early '90s, when grunge was just getting underway thanks to the likes of Nirvana and Pearl Jam, I somehow found myself (being of the pubescent age at which angst becomes very appealing) listening to Pearl Jam. I stuck with the band through their third album, Vitalogy, and then lost interest, receeding into rock and roll history and listening to almost exclusively classic rock for the next several years.

Thus it was with a hint of apprehension and a dose of anticipation that I picked up the odds-and-sods collection Lost Dogs yesterday. I knew there would be at least two songs on there I'd like--the incongruous "Last Kiss," an oldies tune the band covered on a whim, and the elegant, emotive "Yellow Ledbetter," arguably one of the coolest songs ever made up on the fly.

To say that I was pleasantly surprised with the rest of the collection would be a gross understatement. Lost Dogs gathers together the best of Pearl Jam's non-album material and presents it in one exceptional package. Over the course of about thirty songs, the listener discovers just how diverse and yet consistant Pearl Jam's music has been over the past almost decade and a half.

There is no thematic or stylistic division between the two discs, though the first disc seems to contain most of the straight-ahead grunge rockers. The songs on the first disc to tend to rock harder and heavier, but this is not uniformly the case. There's not a bad song on the first disc, and tunes such as the aforementioned "Yellow Ledbetter" (which closes the first disc) are a testament to the power this band possesses. The first disc does contain one of the most unusual songs in the band's body of work, the surfer song "Gremmie Out of Control" (complete with a traditional surfer guitar solo courtesy of Brendan O'Brian).

The real gem is the second disc, though, which seems to contain the more adventuresome and tuneful songs the band recorded. Acoustic guitars are more prominent, Eddie Vedder spends more time singing and crooning than screaming, and the melodicism and songcraft that is inherent in Pearl Jam's songs comes to the forefront. Unlike their contemporaries (such as Nirvana), Pearl Jam seemed to realize from the start that there were other ways to use a guitar than just cranking the gain up to 10 and playing as hard and fast as possible. Vedder also proves himself to be a varied and effective vocalist, working in more emotions than just angst and anger. The second disc is full of highlights, including "Footsteps," "Drifting," the amusing and wry "Sweet Lew," and the downright absurd "Dirty Frank" (which proves that Pearl Jam really does have a sense of humor).

It's really a shame that so many of these songs were relegated to b-sides and fan club releases. Lost Dogs proves that Pearl Jam's non-album material is equal to anything they released on an LP, and probably better than 90% of the stuff most bands release as their LP material. This collection is a must for anyone who likes modern rock and remembers when it was played by real bands instead of Creed and dozens of other post-grunge clones.


Song of the Moment: Pearl Jam, "Gremmie Out of Control"

Sunday, October 24, 2004

"Even Richard Nixon Has Got Soul"

Just got back from Shawnee and a good meal. The trip was very rushed--I arrived a little after 11.00 this morning, dad and I went to look at cars for Clif (didn't find much, 'cause Clif is picky as all hell about this vehicle thing), and then went and ate. After we ate, I hopped back in the car and drove back to Norman, and now I'm at work. Wooo.

On the positive side of things, I did get fed well, and my cousin's daughter recognizes me again and doesn't cry just because I'm there. Heck, even got the kid to smile at me once or twice.

When I arrived at work, the door to the Writing Center was standing wide open. I heard in the room next door the voice of one of my boss's superiors, a man none of us can stand. I think he was showing a couple of people around the academic services center, and decided to show them our Writing Center (even though no one was here, the door was shut and locked, and the lights were turned out). The fact that he left the door open and the lights on after he left rather annoys me. I may have to talk with my boss about this.


Song of the Moment: Neil Young, "Campaigner"

Saturday, October 23, 2004

"I Need A Sign To Let Me Know You're Here"

Ev came over this afternoon and we watched a few more episodes of Trigun finally (we started watching Trigun about mid-July). We've got about six or seven left to watch, but who knows when we'll be able to catch those.

Debating whether or not to go home tonight. On the one hand, it means I don't have to get up early tomorrow and drive to Shawnee for the big family meal, and I'll get some laundry done. On the other, it means being at home tonight with little or nothing to do. I'm thinking I'll just suck it up and stay here tonight and do my own laundry sometime later this week.

OU Homecoming was today, and from the sound of things, OU wiped the floor with whoever it was we were playing (you think I paid that much attention? Come on). Things were pretty crowded, but it looks like most of the crowds have disipated now. I'm tempted to go to Wal-Mart, except that I don't really have suicidal tendencies (which is what a trip to Wal-Mart at this hour would require).


Song of the Moment: Ringo Starr, "Photograph"
"Gonna Climb A Mountain"

It's been a busy day. I accidentally overslept for class this morning (an impressive feat, considering the alarm was set, turned on, and I woke up when it went off several times). Anyway, I didn't actually wake up enough to look at the alarm until about 9.00, which is much too late to do anything about class.

After that, I got up and decided to clean the apartment, since it was a complete wreck and Scott was coming to visit. Scott does not himself care about the state of the apartment; however, I know my sibling and his insatiable desire to get me in trouble, and news that my apartment was a disaster zone would have gotten back to my mother.

So the apartment got a thorough cleaning, I got the dishes washed (for the first time in a week or two...ugh), and Scott made his way over around 1.15 or so. We puttered around Norman for a while, then came back and played a few videogames and such (I got a new battlechip for Battle Network 4 called the Z Saber. You can only get it by connecting Mega Man Zero 3 to Battle Network 4, so you need not only both games, but two Gameboys). Then Scott went home and I went over to Ev's for a little pen-and-paper RPG.

Now, I've never done much pen-and-paper gaming, having been more of a videogame and book person in my youth. But this wasn't your usual group of adventures meets in a bar and goes into a dungeon hacking and slashing for treasure and stuff. No, this was more of a fantasy version of one of my comics. My character is a thief, but he prefers the term "philosopher thief," because what he lacks in actual thieving abilities he makes up for in being able to talk people into trusting him and believing whatever the hell he says. He's also a complete and total coward who tends to survive by alternately running away, cowering in a ball, and standing stock-still. I managed to break into one of the most fearsome prisons in the world (guarded not only by an army of undead spectral soldiers, but manticores and other beasties as well), break one of my companions out, and befriend a group of time-slicing creatures who will answer my summons now, but I managed to do it without once ever actually fighting. I had Ev just a little flabbergasted when I refused to actually take part in a duel between my companion and his doppleganger and just walked off instead. I got bonus points for that.

Anyway, tomorrow is OU homecoming. I'm not looking forward to that, that's for damn sure. A bunch of stupid OU fans roaming around all day, preventing me from even walking across campus...and to top it all off, I kinda need to go home, but since it's an early game (12.00 instead of afternoon or evening) and televised, there's no way to get out of here before about 7.00 or 8.00 tomorrow night...unless I want to leave around 6.00 am tomorrow morning.


Song of the Moment: David Gray, "What am I Doing Wrong"

Thursday, October 21, 2004

"What I Wouldn't Do"

So apparently the Yankees choked last night like a toddler on adult aspirin, and the Red Sox won the American League. Now, I'm a Yankees fan myself (no puns necessary, I've made them all myself already, thank you--including the one that comment just potentially created), and have been ever since I was a small child. I rooted for them when they were sucking in the '80s, rocking hard in the mid-'90s, and even now, when apparently it is very fashionable to hate them with a passion not often encountered in life. I think part of the reason so many people hate the Yankees is that we are all, by our very natures, inclined towards disliking and distrusting those who succeed. We say we like to see people win, but what we really like is to see someone who wins get the crap knocked out of them. You can say it's because we like to see the underdog win, but that's just wrapping it up in a semantical argument and masks the truth--we hate seeing winners continuing to win.

It's a common-enough thing across the board, not just with professional sports. Folks like to deride the winners of life, say that they can't stay on top forever, cheer when they do fall. Folks can't wait to tear into people who win. It's not noble, it's not rooting for the underdog, it's simple hatred of the success of others, that's all.

All that said, I really can't bring myself to care too much about professional baseball, and the Yankees' loss really means very little to me. It means a lot to Scott, because he hates the Yankees more than you'd think humanly possible ('cause Dad likes 'em), but as I pointed out to Scott last night, at least the Yankees made it to the playoffs, which is more than you can say about his crappy team (the Rangers, FYI).


Song of the Moment: Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, "Even the Losers"
"There Ain't None Better"

Went and visited Jess and Dom this evening. Well, really more just Dom, 'cause Jess was holed up in the bedroom out cold (she apparently hasn't been feeling well of late). Anyway, we're gonna try and get together next week on Wednesday (one of the few nights I don't work) and hang out and such.

Found out a friend of mine might be pregnant. Now, four years ago, this would have been a cause for concern. Of course, four years ago, all of my friends were single. Now, 90% of them are not, so pregnancy is something to be celebrated rather than feared at this point, I guess. I kinda hope she is, 'cause it'd be neat to have friends who have kids.

Admittedly, that's just one more reminder that I'm still annoyingly single, but hey, that's alright.


Song of the Moment: Old 97's, "Valentine (Live)"

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

"The Day Breaks, Your Mind Aches"

Morning comes entirely too early most days. Today, I woke up around 7.00 am, and the sun had not yet risen. It's a rather dreary way to begin one's day, waking up before the sun. I don't see how dad does it every single day.

I'm feeling more than physically tired, though. There's a spiritual or mental fatigue as well, a complete lack of motivation to get anything accomplished or to care about anything. This malase, this disease, probably has its root in still being in Oklahoma.

If you look back on things, I've been saying "this is my last semester here" for three semesters now. I planned on being done originally at the end of the fall semester last year. Then it was this past spring. Then it was the summer. Now it's by this December, and I'm starting to worry that my lack of motivation is going to render even that due date null and void.

It truly bothers me that I've become so apathetic towards my goal. I'm listless, restless, bored with what I'm working with and what I'm doing. I can hardly bring myself to even draw comics anymore. There seems to be no joy in anything. I keep finding new music, hoping something I pick up with spark that creativity and joy in me again, but it all seems almost lifeless and pointless.

I need a break. I need to get this Master's Thesis finished and out of the way. I need a change of pace and scenery, and for more than just a handful of hours.

I honestly don't know when or how I'll get a break. I've got to get the Thesis finished first. Putting it off is not going to get me anywhere. It's not going to improve my mood or change the way I feel about anything, except make me more annoyed with myself. That damn Thesis is standing between me and freedom, me and completion, and I'm standing between myself and the Thesis. The stupid thing only needs one more draft. The changes that need to be made to it are minor and deal mostly with adding small details and refining my argument, not unearthing new information. I've really lost interest in it, it seems, and that's bad.

There has to be some way to get myself back on track, something I can do. There has to be a solution, because I refuse to accept the idea that I've condemned myself to never finishing just because I'm bored or in a bad mood.


Song of the Moment: The Beatles, "For No One"

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

"My TV Set Just Keeps It All From Being Clear"

I proofread an accounting paper for my youngest brother last night. In a way, I really hate reading his papers, because he has just enough knowledge of grammar rules to be a decent writer and to argue with me about every single correction, even when I'm right.

See, he seems to think he knows everything, and wants me to explain the exact rule for each correction (because he doesn't always believe me when I say "this doesn't work"). But I don't really work that way--I have an intuitive understanding of grammar; not one based on a comprehensive knowledge of the rules, but rather based on what I can feel is the right way for the sentence to work.

Anyway, thankfully it was only a two-page paper, and we were done with making the corrections (all pretty much minor) within half an hour.

Then I slept in until about 11.00 this morning. I love my Tuesdays.


Song of the Moment: The Beatles, "Honey Don't"
"Seen The Passers-By All Stare"

I forgot to mention it earlier, but the internet was down at the apartment again when I got home last night and earlier today. After a conversation with IT (again), we determined it was not something wrong with my computer (thank God), and that I wouldn't have to take my machine in to IT for them to tinker with it (thank God even more).

I honestly don't know why they keep having problems keeping me connected. I thought that the work they did last weekend on my apartment's network was supposed to improve things. If the network is going to go down every weekend and not come back until Monday afternoon or Tuesday morning, I'm going to have to have some words.

Anyway, work wasn't too bad tonight, it just seemed to drag on and on. I got the first panel of Wednesday's comic drawn, but then stalled out as I tried to figure out how to rework the comic from the rough draft to make it something that's actually funny. Ah, the things I do for my adoring public.


Song of the Moment: Train, "Calling All Angels"

Monday, October 18, 2004

"Rolling Stones - Exile On Main Street"

British rockers have always had a fascination with American musical styles. The Beatles were heavily influenced by early rock and rollers like Elvis and Little Richard; Van Morrison blended jazz and soul and the blues and R&B in his records; Eric Clapton took up music to follow his idol Robert Johnson. The Rolling Stones are no exception to this fact--throught their careers, they have explored several American music styles, including the blues, gospel, rockabilly, and even country. Nowhere is this exploration more readily apparent or prefectly imagined as on Exile on Main Street.

The album takes a stab at working with every single musical style the Stones had toyed with throughout their career, and it works exceptionally well. Before, the Stones had merely been aping a genre, but with Exile they play each style as if that were the kind of music they'd always played.

The album has a loose, sloppy feel to it, but that works in the band's favor. Songs are energetic and spontaneous, feeling live and lived-in. If the Norah Jones album I talked about last week is a mellow afterparty, then Exile on Main Street is a drunken sing-along captured live while the party was in full swing. Vocals are buried deep in the mix, sometimes coming to the forefront, but never becoming clear or discernable. Lyrics are slurred and muttered, and Jagger spits out words like a drunken machine gun. The music is loose and off the cuff, with a grit and edge and enthusiasm to it that most bands could never hope to achieve.

The songs are all genre exercises, but never feel that way. Each song feels as though it is the epitome of that style, capturing the very essence of country, rockabilly, boogie, the blues, balls-out rock, or gospel. None of the songs feel forced or artificial; there is a naturalness to the music that defies belief. Each song stands up impressively on its own, stripping away the gloss and trappings of the genre to get at the core of what each style has to offer. For example, "Sweet Virginia" is a country song that most country musicians wish they could write; its feeling, lyrics, instrumentation, and sonic elements all combine to make the perfect country song. Unlike earlier Stones songs delving into country, such as "The Girl With Far Away Eyes," "Sweet Virginia" is not an ironic genre exercise, but a sincere exploration of themes and style. Taken as a whole, the album is a tour de force of American music, diving straight to the heart of what makes these styles so effective and meaningful. They also manage to merge and blend disparate elements into a coherent synthesis--the aforementioned "Sweet Virginia" features a saxaphone solo, but it fits into the song and doesn't seem out of place or jarring.

Most impressively, the Stones seem to tackle all this effortlessly. As I said, everything feels loose and spontaneous, as though these were musicians who had lived this music, not a bunch of guys who were just emulating song styles they'd heard elsewhere.

All in all, Exile on Main Street is damn-near perfect. The album never loses momentum or purpose, and there is no filler to be found (the album was originally a two-disc vinyl set, but all 18 tracks fit on a single CD). Most albums of half the length today can't make that sort of statement. For anyone who wants to experience American music--even if it's played by a bunch of Brits--this is an album you must have.

Plus, it's got "Tumbling Dice," one of the coolest songs ever.


Song of the Moment: Rolling Stones, "Rip This Joint"

Sunday, October 17, 2004

"Where The Winds Hit Heavy"

A year ago today, I began posting rubbish to this particular blog. I've made an average of a post a day, though by no means have I been that consistant. There were days when I posted two or three times, and there were weeks when I posted maybe once.

What's changed in that year? Not a whole lot, it looks like. I still talk about the same things now as I did when I first started--graduate school, my efforts to struggle with my Master's Thesis, unrequited love, trips to Ozarks and sundry other exotic locales, personal insights (though maybe "insights" is too strong of a word), stupid people, music (lots and lots of music), and the random stuff that's been going on in my life and the lives of those close to me.

Despite this superficial consistancy, much has changed below the surface. Who I am is still pretty much the same, but my attitudes and approaches to life have shifted subtlely. I'd be hard pressed to pinpoint exactly how or what, but I know I've altered in many ways.

I think I'm actually more at peace with myself than I used to be. Well, that's not entirely true, but I find it easier to find my center now than I did a year ago. I still wobble off-kilter occasionally, but I regain balance eventually.

All in all, I think this past year has been a rewarding experience, and I don't just mean the stuff I've been typing up for this blog. Life in general has been pretty good, despite money woes, love woes, motivational issues, and concerns about the future. Things are, on average, going well. Who knows where I'll in another year.


Song of the Moment: Bruce Springsteen, "Lucky Town"
"Got Nothing Left To Live Or Die For 'Cept You"

The trip to Arkansas this weekend was good, if a bit long and tiring. I ended up driving about 700 miles between Friday and today. Sarah's wedding was simple and beautiful, taking place at sunset under a gazebo by a lake. As we were all walking to the reception hall, a flock of geese flew overhead, and it was a pretty breathtaking sight, really.

Ended up getting to see lots of friends, a couple of whom I hadn't anticipated seeing, but was all the happier for seeing them because of that.

Anyway, it was a good weekend all around. I got to hang out with friends, see one of 'em get hitched, tease Amanda E. about wearing a dress (I think the last time she wore one--at least that I'm aware of--was three years ago, and that was for a bet), played a little music with Clif, and generally didn't get any sleep.

More stuff to come later, including a reivew of an old Rolling Stones album, Exile on Main Street.


Song of the Moment: Bob Dylan, "Nobody 'Cept You"

Friday, October 15, 2004

"All The Blue Light Reflections"

Well, my test went well this morning. The multiple choice questions were ridiculously easy, and I rocked the essay like nobody's business (whish I'd had more time to go into more detail, though--she left the question open-ended enough that I could've written a book). Didn't do so hot on the identifies, but they were only worth 5 points each (and there were only four of them), and I know I got at least one completely nailed (to make up for the one that I completely bombed. The other two were mediocre, I'm sure).

Anyway, I'm getting myself all packed up, and should be heading Shawneeward here pretty soon. Then it's off to Arkansas for fun, excitement, marital events, and maybe a little Cross-Eyed Yeti reunion.

I only hope I can remember all the words.


Song of the Moment: Bob Dylan, "Girl from the North Country"

Thursday, October 14, 2004

"That's When I Start Bouncin' Around"

There's still two hours before we close up here at work, and I'm ready to leave now. I've got a dozen things to do, most of which cannot be done here at work, and I'm not doing the thing I can do (i.e., study). I did get Saturday's comics drawn (despite Adam and his notion that "since it's Omake, we ought to do two comics instead of just one!" Easy for him to say--I have to draw characters I draw like once every six months, and he just has to come up with a couple of simple gags. Damn him).

I'm ready to leave. So is my coworker. I'm ready for it to be this time tomorrow.


Song of the Moment: Regular Joes, "Restless"
"Junk Is Piling Up; Taking Up Space"

Haven't achieved much in the way of studying, though I have done some reading for the class (and some of it is pretty damn entertaining--our sources are not exactly what you'd call "unbiased"). Did get CDs picked out and packed, which is an important part of any trip of more than about thirty seconds.

There's still a lot to do before I can leave town tomorrow--I need to study lots more, go to work, take my exam, get my paycheck, deposit said paycheck, draw two comics for Saturday, scan and upload said comics, pack clothes/other essentials for the trip, burn several CDs for friends and family (mostly family), and maybe work some sleep in there if I find the time.

I have to agree with Ping--there aren't nearly enough hours in the day.

My mom neglected to arrange for me to get a haircut tomorrow (she usually does this because, if it's left to me, it'll never get done--I don't remember to do it, I usually don't want to be bothered with it, and I don't know the phone number to call). Guess I have to attend Sarah's wedding scruffy. Oh well--that's how she remembers me best anyway. 'Sides, I look endearing when I'm least, that's what I tell myself.

I'm really looking forward to the trip. I wish I was already away, 'cause I'm having trouble concentrating on studying for this damn midterm. Ugh.


Song of the Moment: The Byrds, "Rock 'n' Roll Star"
"I Hear The Voice Of Rage And Ruin"

I'm just damn tired today. Had a tough time falling asleep last night, and then morning rolled around entirely too early. Wasn't late for work or anything, but still wasn't ready to crawl out of bed when the ol' alarm went off.

I really just need a few days to recover, but it's not gonna happen anytime soon. I always come back from my trips to Arkansas more exhausted than when I left, because I stay awake longer than I should to spend more time with my friends. I don't know if that'll be the case this time, and I also don't know where the hell I'm going to sleep Saturday night (since my previous sleeping arrangements fell through...or more accurately, were never confirmed in the first place, which for once wasn't my fault), so I may just drive back to Oklahoma after the wedding Saturday. We'll see.

My paycheck tomorrow will be smaller than I thought because my boss had to roll some of my hours over to the next paycheck to keep us out of trouble with administration. I'll still get paid for all the hours I worked, just not all at once. I guess that works out okay, 'cause now my next paycheck will be a bit bigger than it otherwise would have been, but I'm annoyed to not get it all at once.


Song of the Moment: Genesis, "Invisible Touch"

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

"Norah Jones - Feels Like Home"

Picked up Norah Jones' second album, Feels Like Home, this afternoon. It's rare that I purchase an entire CD based solely on one song, but that was the case with this disc.

The tune was the lead-off single from the album, "What am I to you?" It's got a wonderful feel to it, and Norah Jones' voice is a warm, evocative, and melodic one.

The album has a late-night, the party's just ended and a bunch of friends are sitting around playing old favorites feel to it. It's very mellow, very subdued, almost sleepy. Norah and her band manage to maintain this vibe throughout the album, and it never gets old, though it does almost lull you into a comfortable fuzz.

Instrumentation on the disc is sparse and mostly acoustic. The few examples of electrified instruments--mostly guitars, and only on a couple of songs--are still subtle and low-key, and keep to the mellow mood very well.

There are a couple of effective covers in the set, including an old Duke Ellington tune which Norah Jones wrote lyrics for. There are also a couple of guest spots, such as Dolly Parton and Levon Helm (formerly of the Band), but the guests never overwhelm Norah. Really, this album sounds like the work of a group of musicians who are very comfortable with one another and don't feel the need to attempt to outdo each other with solos or pyrotechnics.

Though the music has a uniformity to it in terms of musicianship and beauty, there is an impressive diversity of musical styles across the album. "Creepin' In," with Dolly Parton, is a fun little bluegrass/jug band tune, while other tunes range from folk to gospel to a jazzy blues. But they all sound of a piece, and fit together very well. None of the tunes seem out of place or jarring, but none of them blur into one another and become indistinguishable, either.

If you dig mellow, subtle music with simple pleasures, then this album will not disappoint. It's chock-full of beauty, smooth arrangements, evocative lyrics, and Norah's warm, appreciable voice.


Song of the Moment: Norah Jones, "Sunrise"
"What Am I To You?"

I need alcohol. Or at least to write some really sappy, mopey, angsty poetry. But the former sounds more entertaining than the latter.

Y'know, you think you're over someone--someone you never really even had to begin with, but that's immaterial, because sometimes unrequited love is harder to get over than the requited kind--and then suddenly, boom, you're hit with something, like she went and got a new boyfriend and never told you, and now you suddenly find out in a random moment.

Admittedly, like I said, I never really had a chance with her. I know I didn't. But I've always harbored this spark, this tiny notion or hope that she might one day suddenly go, "oh, wait, Chuck, yeah, him!" Cue the fireworks, flowers, stirring music, and happily ever after.

Yes, I'm a romantic at heart, and an absurdly optimistic one at that.

I dunno, you just always hope, I guess, and one day realize that hope is a really stupid thing to have, especially when the object of your affection doesn't even know she is. I've been deluding myself all along--she told me from the start, she told me from the start--but I guess that idiotic hope was always there, just beneath the surface, waiting to jump at me when I least expected it.

I actually wrote a song about her a few years ago. It's one of the better lament/love ballads I've written, and one of the few slow songs we've done that Clif and I both like. The words are pretty simple, and go:

She wouldn't do that kind of thing to discourage me
She wouldn't try to push me in to jealousy
It's not her, it's not him, it's just me
She's a much better person than I am
I only half-ass while she does the best she can
So I take heart, it's not her fault, I'll be damned
It's not her, it's not him, it's just me
I can't help feeling the way I do
I can't help wonderin' if this is true
And I can't help who I am, how 'bout you?
She wouldn't do that kind of thing to discourage me
She wouldn't try to push me in to jealousy
So I know, yes I know
What it all comes down to is
It's not her, it's not him, it's just me
It's not her, it's not him, it's just me.

There's something in there about the realization that someone can't purposely hurt you the way I feel I've been hurt by her if she's unaware of how I feel. It's stupid of me to expect her to read my mind, I guess, and she hasn't been doing these things as a personal affront or anything like that. I take things too personally, I read into things too much, and I assume people know things they don't necessarily know.

Bah. I'm seriously tired of being depressed all the time. It's not solved anything for me yet.


Song of the Moment: Norah Jones, "What am I to You?"

"I'm Just Tryin' To Find The Bridge"

I found it amusing that Ping thinks I'm "irrepressable."


Song of the Moment: Bruce Springsteen, "Cover Me"

"They Call Me The Tumbling Dice"

I've decided I really enjoy my Medieval Italy class. The professor, Dr. Magnusson, keeps things interesting, informative, and entertaining (her descriptions of groups such as the Normans are particularly amusing). I find myself happy to attend class, even if it is at 8.30 in the freakin' morning. For someone who is not by natural inclination a morning person, that's saying a lot.

The new guy at work seems to be integrating pretty well. We all seem to get along with him, and he seems to get along with all of us. He's had a few lengthy conversations with Ev, which is sort of the litmus test. So far, the kid's surviving and getting on, so it looks like we done good.

Of course, as Ev has pointed out, the guy's still a little rough around the edges as far as his correction methods, but we're breaking him in still. I know it probably took a few weeks at least to get me up to snuff when I started, and I'd been doing that sort of thing all the time at Ozarks for four years.

I think I'm tired of being sick now. This low-level allergy/cold/congestion stuff I've had the past few weeks is about to drive me insane. All I really need is one shot of vodka--that'd clear my head up a treat. At least, it always has in the past.


Song of the Moment: Rolling Stones, "Tumbling Dice"

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

"He's The One Who Likes All Our Pretty Songs"

I've never really cared much for Nirvana. I know they're like one of the most important bands of the last twenty years, that they changed the face of music by blending arena rock and hard rock and punk, that their album Nevermind is one of the cornerstones of grunge, and that Kurt Cobain is some sort of flannel-clad messiah. Despite all this, I just really don't care for much of their music. Cobain, while a good lyricist, was a little too heavy on the angst for my tastes, and tended to scream his lyrics rather than sing them.

I was just never really very thrilled by their work. It didn't do all that much for me. While I did listen to some grunge--I can admit, with only a twinge of guilt, that I owned albums by Pearl Jam and Stone Temple Pilots--I was never really all that into it (remember, this was back in the early- to mid-90s, when my musical taste was still firmly entrenched in the 60s and 70s). "Smells Like Teen Spirit" grated on my nerves, as did "Come as You Are."

I will admit I've listened to and do like some of Nirvana's stuff. Like I said, Cobain was a decent lyricist, and he also tended to marry his lyrics to some decent melodies. The problem was that it was hard to find those melodies and lyrics underneath the bashing on the instruments and screaming into the mic approach that Nirvana took to music.

Except for Unplugged in New York. It's the only Nirvana album I can listen to all the way through, and the only one where I think their songcraft and musical ability really shone through. I tend to like the singer/songwriter approach to music anyway, so this album was always the most pleasing of their work for me, and really exemplified their diversity (something I don't feel their three "proper" albums ever really did).

I bring this up because I'd noticed on a website today this little "Today in Music History" blurb, and today's mentioned that Nirvana's Nevermind went gold on this date back in 1991. It would of course go on to Platinum and all that, selling millions of copies and cementing Nirvana's place in pop music history, but it's also hard to believe that the album came out when I was 11 years old.

Anyway, I never really did listen to their stuff much. I've since picked up copies of both Nevermind and Unplugged in New York (both by way of CD burner), but they're not discs I spin with anything approaching regularity.

Of course, it also occurs to me that this might be because I'm a pansy-boy who only likes mellow, "sissy" music, but I think we all know it's only because I actually listen to music that's good.


Song of the Moment: Nirvana, "In Bloom"

"Back In The Saddle Again"

Today is shaping up to be a much better day than yesterday was.

For one, the weather is simply nicer. While yesterday consisted of dull grayness, today is bright and sunny and beautiful. It's in the upper 60s, which is really perfect. I might even manage to go jogging before work this evening.

Second, guess where I'm writing this from? That's right, the internet returned unexpectedly to my apartment this morning! Which made me glad, 'cause I really wasn't looking forward to lugging my damn computer across campus.

Third, I finally got a decent night's sleep--'round about 10 1/2 hours, to be precise. Sleeping in did me a world of good--I think I can now face the rest of the week with a bit of energy, if not exactly enthusiasm.

Anyway, with any luck, things will continue along these good lines through the weekend, when I really need to have good luck on my side (what with travel and a wedding and whatnot). Now I just need to go catch up on all my webcomics.


Song of the Moment: The Byrds, "My Back Pages"

Monday, October 11, 2004

"Dead In The Water Now"

So tired, and there's still another hour of work left to go. I swear, it's a good thing I don't have to wake up early tomorrow.

Of course, I do have to lug my computer to IT to get the damn thing fixed, but that's beside the point.

Anyway, on a more positive note than things have been over the past few days, I'm anticipating my trip to Arkansas this weekend. You know what that means? It means I'm compiling a list of CDs to take. I wrote the list out already (though it is, of course, subject to change at a moment's notice), and there's a nice balance between classic rock and new stuff. There's some Dylan, some Van, some Ben Folds, some Cowboy Bebop (always a must), some Old 97's, Wilco, the Beatles, Zeppelin, and a dozen others in between. I'm taking the 48-disc case, so I'll have plenty of tunes for the trip to Little Rock and back.

So ready for work to be over. So ready.


Song of the Moment: David Grey, "Caroline"

"Tight Connection To My Heart"

I am still without internet. And get this--it's not something on the school's end for once.

Apparently when they took the server down for maintenance, it did something wonky to my computer, because now said machine will not connect to the LAN. After half an hour to an hour on the phone with the folks over at IT, they were only able to conclude that I needed to bring my computer to them to let them look at it.

Now, that's all well and good for them to say, but it's gonna be a pain in the ass hauling my computer halfway across campus. To say that I'm not looking forward to the prospect is to put it lightly.

The potentially frustrating part of all this is that I expect what they'll do when I arrive is switch out the network cards. This is frustrating because that's something I can do myself without having to unplug everything and carry my computer all over Norman. And I know I won't charge me labor to do it.

Of course, if that's not the problem, I have no idea what's gone wrong or how to fix it. Bleh.

But the computer stuff has just added to the length of the day. I didn't get much sleep last night, mostly of my own volition (I stayed up chatting with Ev until entirely too damn early instead of getting a full night's sleep), struggled with the computer, and now I'm at work. Bollucks to work, I say.

Anyway, it's been kinda blah all day. I've been trying to find a birthday present for a friend of mine (who turns 22 Saturday, I believe), and had absolutely no luck. She's hard to shop for, 'cause I don't get to talk with her much, and then it's usually the two of us taking turns complaining about life. Hopefully I can find something in the next few days.

On the positive side, I finally made some headway in Skies of Arcadia. I got stuck a couple of weeks ago against a rather tough boss battle, and finally managed to squeak my way through it. Man, some of the boss fights in that game are tough, mostly because they take so long, the enemies hit really freakin' hard, and you often don't have time to save/heal/prepare in between a couple of tough battles. Ugh.


Song of the Moment: Old 97's, "Smokers"

Sunday, October 10, 2004

"Admit That The Waters Around You Have Grown"

It's been raining all day. Really, it started raining sometime last night, but that was off-and-on, and it's been coming down pretty consistantly since I woke up this morning.

What this all means is that I drove to work for the first time this semester. Drove right into the stadium and parked not twenty feet from the door I come in to get to work. I figured it was better than arriving drenched to the bone.

It's been dead quiet this afternoon. I had a couple of students in earlier, but one of them didn't need any help (except that he thought I was his personal spell-check--apparently the boy needs to learn how to sound out things phonetically, or just how to spell basic words) and the other had a paper that was real easy to look at because it was well written. Beyond that, it's been silent and empty.

Which is really fine by me, because it means I don't have to do much. But I wish there were someone else here, 'cause it's kinda lonely and time is dragging. It feels like I've been here for an eternity, and it's only been 3 1/2 hours.


Song of the Moment: REM, "Finest Worksong"
"Walk In The Rain"

Well, I'm back in Norman now, and Wendy is either en route to Virginia or back there already. The funeral was a very low-key affair and fairly short (we were in and out within a half hour). It was an understandably somber weekend, though Wendy did manage to smile and laugh some and act like herself. She really did not want to be at that funeral, and for reasons that seem very rational to me. She didn't want to admit that her grandmother was gone, for which I can't blame her. She also didn't want this to be the way she remembered her grandmother, and though I'd never really thought of funerals in that way, it made a great deal of sense to me. She actually went so far as to tell us (me and her boyfriend, Tim) that she did not want a funeral of any sort when she died. I don't know if that makes us semi-official executors of her will or anything, but she made us promise.

Of course, it got me thinking (morbidly) about my own funeral and what I want to happen. I gave it some thought, and decided I wanted everyone to have a party. Bury me or whatever, I don't really care about that. But when you're done, get everyone I love together, break out the champagne, and rock the house. I'm already working on a song list of the stuff I want played (and everyone will have to subject themselves to classic rock). What I think would be really fun is to have a picture of me on a stick at the party...a proxy, if you will. Just don't let me drink too much, it'd be bad for my health.

I'm making light of this stuff, but honestly, I think the only reason we mourn most people is they were taken from us before we were ready for it. I remember crying when my great-grandmother died back in 1995 (admittedly, mom told me while she was taking me to play practice that my great-grandmother had died almost a week earlier, and I was only 14 or 15, but I wasn't ready to hear that), but I didn't cry three years ago when my great-grandfather died. I guess I knew he was ready to finally let go (he was a tired, tired man by that point, and ready for a little rest, he said), and we were all at peace with that. I was still very sad to see him go, as his presence had been a fixture in my life (as had my great-grandmother's), but I was able to deal with it better.

Of course, I don't think I'll respond nearly so well to any of my grandparents dying. I'm not ready to cope with that, and I hope I don't have to for a long, long time.

Death is one of those unfortunate aspects of life which everyone has to face. There's no way around it, ultimately, and we don't always get to choose the time or the manner. All we can do is face it and accept the unavoidable, to meet death without fear and without anxiety. It's not easy to do. I don't know that I could do it right now. But when my time does come, I hope folks remember the good that I've done, whatever it may be.


Song of the Moment: REM, "The One I Love"

Friday, October 08, 2004

"I See The Sun Coming Up At The Funeral At Dawn"

I have to go home. I have to attend the funeral of Wendy's grandmother, who passed away Wednesday.

I'm glad I'll get to see Wendy. I'm saddened that it's under these circumstances. I wish her grandmother Godspeed.


Song of the Moment: Wallflowers, "One Headlight"

Thursday, October 07, 2004

"I'm Not Sleeping Anymore"

Well, babysitting was something of a disaster. Bailey was sound asleep when I arrived, and spent most of the hour I was watching her sleeping.

Thing is, when she did wake up, she didn't recognize me. That, coupled with the fact that my aunt and uncle weren't there, freaked her out. She started crying, and wouldn't let me anywhere near her.

Then her other grandmother showed up to take her and spend some time with her. Bailey went right to her, and did her damnedest to avoid me for the rest of the time they were there. I thought Bailey was actually going to get sick when I was buckling her into her carseat, she was crying and sobbing so hard.

It was rather strange. I wonder if part of it is that I've been regrowing the mustache, which she's never seen me with. I think looking different, on top of my aunt and uncle being gone and just waking up, just made me out to be something of a complete stranger to her. Which my aunt found strange, really--when she mentioned to Bailey earlier today that I was coming to visit, Bailey knew who I was (and referred to me as "Sing-Sing," since what she really remembers of me is that I sing for her). Guess that doesn't mean she remembered what I looked like. Then again, she's only two, and since Bailey and her parents are going to be living in the area come the end of the month, I'm sure Bailey will eventually remember me and not be freaked out by my appearance.

Of course, it also occurs to me that maybe I'm just really ugly and my appearance scared her.

The day since then has been tiring. I waited around until my aunt and uncle came back, mostly 'cause my aunt said she was gonna feed me (which she did). Then I drove back home, nearly falling asleep on the road. Then I got back to the apartment and did fall asleep, albeit only for a few minutes, because then I had to get up and come to work.

And now I'm at work, and it's quiet as a tomb. Everyone's gone to OU-Texas or just gone home for the three-day weekend. Personally, I'd like to be at home in bed right now, but that's not gonna happen for at least a few more hours. Ugh.


Song of the Moment: Jackson Browne, "The Pretender"
"Long As I Remember Rain's Been Pouring Down"

So today's a full day. I leave work in half an hour, then head to my aunt and uncle's place to watch Bailey. Then I come back to work. Then I collapse in a twitching heap and thank God Almighty that there's no class tomorrow and I can sleep in.

So my folks and my mom's parents are heading to Red River, New Mexico today for a nice little weekend getaway. Personally, I'd love to have a weekend getaway. I'd love to have month-long getaway, but that's not likely to happen. I will get the weekend, though--next weekend, when I head off to Arkansas for Sarah's wedding.

Clif and I plan on doing some music while I'm over that direction. Dunno yet what all we'll do--probably just find a place to chill and play--but I'm sure it'll be fun.

I'm ready for a nap. After taking care of Bailey this afternoon, I'll be even more ready for one.


Song of the Moment: Eric Clapton, "They're Red Hot"

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

"This Should Cheer You Up For Sure"

So the previous post originally started out having some sort of point or meaning to it, but that quickly got lost as I got distracted while I was sitting at work. I get distracted easily--looking up websites, checking my email, answering the constantly-ringing phone, and watching particles of dust float through the air. Regardless, the meaning got lost somewhere in the translation, I guess, but that's a common problem when you're dealing with me.

It really gets back to what I was attempting to say--things that we think are important at the moment are probably not really what is truly important, but importance is really a function of perspective, so it doesn't matter all that much. Taken from the long view, anything that occurs in our life, anything that we take for granted or assume is important, is ultimately viewed from a point in time far removed from the actually event or the importance of the event, so we are always doing sketches from memory. Or something like that.


Song of the Moment: David Bowie, "Young American"
"Too Much Carbon Monoxide"

I think life and the things I write here are sketches from memory--bits and pieces turn up that are ultimately inconsequential, the big stuff is left out because it didn't seem important at the time or it got lost in the wash of history, and things are generally approached in a manner that does not represent the whole story.

But that's really what living is all about, y'know? The big stuff we pretty much ignore. We focus on the tiny, immaterial and ultimately minor things, and since they are from fuzzy memories, we allow their importance to bloat and expand in our minds until the tiniest things seem like they were the most important. I think most people are like that.

When I reach the end of my life, what things will seem important then? What things will have truly mattered? Will I have changed anyone, even myself? These are questions which shall most likely remain unanswered. And maybe they don't really matter--importance depends a lot on perspective, and the perspective from the end is a very skewed one.


Song of the Moment: Bob Dylan, "Highlands"
"Cake - Pressure Chief"

I must admit, when I first heard samples of the 11 songs on Cake's fifth album, I was apprehensive. The classic Cake sound was there, but it was so much more processed and sequenced, all drum loops and hip-hop beats, electronic squiggles and almost-buried guitars. I feared that Cake had just abandoned any semblance of decent music and gone off in a weird direction.

To say that I was pleasantly surprised by the album, then, would be a fair and accurate statement. Cake's sound is more processed, but it works in their favor. Their early albums had a ragged, live-in-the-studio feel to them--stuttering drums, sloppily-strummed guitars, and vocals that occasionally faded to the background a little when John McCrea moved a bit away from the microphone. But with the departure of their regular drummer, Cake had to rely either on drum machines or guest drummers for Pressure Chief, and that necessity pushed them into a slight sonic evolution.

The vintage Cake sound is still there, complete with "ah yeah"s and "hey"s. The tunes build on that trademark sound, expanding it with synths, drum loops, and tight playing. That's really the key difference between this record and earlier Cake albums--the performance has tightened up considerably, and the musicians are no longer just goofing around and jamming, but playing well-constructed postmodern rock.

The smirk is still in the lyrics and vocal delivery. John McCrea turns an interesting phrase, and his lyrics are very strong on this album (I found most of the lyrics off Cake's previous effort, Comfort Eagle, to be a little weak). His half-spoken vocal stylings fit the music perfectly, and the words are funny, whimsical, wry, and literate. The opener, "Wheels," features one of the more amusing and thoughtful verses in recent music: "In a seedy karaoke bar on the banks of the mighty Bospherous/Is a Japanese man in a business suit sings 'Smoke Gets in Your Eyes'/And the muscular cyborg German dudes dance with sexy French-Canadians/while the overweight Americans wear their patriotic jumpsuits."

Other songs of interest include a cover of Bread's "The Guitar Man" that works surprisingly well as a postmodern reinterpretation of the tune; "Carbon Monoxide" is a great punk-rock tune; "She'll Hang the Baskets," "Take it All Away," "Palm of Your Hand," and "Tougher Than it Is" are classic Cake. The only song I really don't care for (and it's not so much a dislike as a feeling that the song could become annoying very easily) is "No Phone," which is something of a re-write of Prolonging the Magic's "Never There." But the complaint with that song is negligible at best, and when only one song in eleven isn't instantly likeable (and it's not that it's a bad song, mind, just that I think I'd become annoyed if I heard it too much in too short a time), that's pretty high praise.

Ultimately, Pressure Chief is an excellent album full of memorable tunes, great hooks, and all that you expect from Cake. My only real concern is the "Anti-Piracy" label it carries on it. I don't know if this means it cannot be copied, or if they're just attempting to discourage piracy, or if it's something the label itself did, but it's an annoyingly large label that is on both the disc itself and the back cover. I also don't know if this means it won't play in a computer--I know it didn't play in mine, but my CD-ROM drive doesn't always cooperate, so that may be unrelated. On the positive side, the CD case inserts are printed on recycled paper, which is always nice.

Anyway, give Pressure Chief a shot, especially if you like any of Cake's stuff. The sound has changed a bit, but it's still most definitely Cake.


Song of the Moment: Cake, "Carbon Monoxide"

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

"I've Got Street Savoir-Faire"

Just got done watching Disney's Oliver & Company. I always enjoyed that flick--I think it was the fact that they had such a fun cast (Billy Joel, Bette Midler, Cheech Marron, Dom Deluese). But I noticed something else about it tonight--it used some CGI.

That's right, an animated flick back in 1988 used computers to aid in certain bits of animation. It wasn't so blatant that you'd really notice it (such as the big song and dance stuff in Beauty and the Beast or the magic carpet in Aladdin). What really struck me as interesting wasn't so much that they used CGI (which they'd already done two years earlier in 1986's The Great Mouse Detective), but how subtle the use was and for what purposes.

See, unlike the current line of thinking at Disney (which is that traditional hand animation should be left in the past), the animators in 1988 saw computers as a way of aiding their work, not supplanting or replacing it. Computers were a way to allow them to work with angles and geometric designs they couldn't do by hand, or at least couldn't do very easily. And like I said, the use of CGI was subtle--it didn't look completely different from the traditional animation, but rather had an almost seamless integration (there were parts that I was fairly certain were CGI--such as Sykes' car--but other things I was unaware were CGI). The texture and feel of the CGI work fit blended with the rest of the animation very well.

The DVD for Oliver & Company included a quick little "Making of" featurette that briefly discussed the use of CGI in the film. What I found very telling was Roy E. Disney's comment that CGI was in no way going to replace traditional animation at Disney. Now, here we are, 15 or 16 years down the road, and Disney is doing just that--closing its traditional animation studio and going all-CGI. As much as I love Pixar films, we really have Pixar to thank (or blame) for this decision. Michael Eisner saw how successful things like Toy Story, Finding Nemo, and Monsters, Inc. were, and now all he sees are dollar signs. And with Pixar and Disney's distribution deal ending after the next film or two (I'm pretty certain The Incredibles is the last movie with the contract, and then Pixar is free), Disney is looking for a way to replicate that success.

And really, there is a dearth of traditional animated films out now. The last couple of Disney animated movies were pretty slight affairs, not doing very good box office business. Meanwhile, Pixar scores hit after hit, Dreamworks has met with some decent success with the Shrek flicks, and Ice Age did fairly well, too. Beyond Disney's last couple of efforts, I can't even think of a traditional animated film from America in the recent past. Everyone's jumping on the CGI bandwagon. Which is fine, in a way, because computers do offer a whole new world of possibilities for animators. But part of me likes the way traditional, hand-painted cels look. Part of me doesn't like the stiffness or over-exagerated-yet-still-stiff fluidity most CGI work has. The cartoonist/comic artist in me still loves hand-animation. The Japanese still do a lot of it, but even they've been moving more towards CGI stuff lately (I don't really like a lot of more recent imports from Japan. The animation style is too stiff and unexpressive, too smooth, too obviously CGI).

I dunno. At least Miyazaki still does old-school hand-animation. And he manages to integrate CGI into his work in such a fluid, seamless fashion that I don't mind it. Of course, his understanding of the way people (and damn-near everything else) move is still so breath-taking, he could make a film about people walking around a town, so long as he animated it the way he always does. The man's attention to detail is mind-boggling.

Tangent aside, Oliver & Company is still a fun little flick, and the use of CGI in it was an interesting little tidbit for the geek in me.


Song of the Moment: Billy Joel, "Why Should I Worry?"

Monday, October 04, 2004

"Yours Is The Last House On The Street"

Just got back from jogging. My goal is to run four days this week, up from last week's three days. Next week, I'll try for five days. I may not be going very far yet, but I'll make sure I'm doing it as often as I can handle.

While I was out jogging, I saw a guy ride by on a bicycle. He had a helmet on--something I never bother with, because I've never worn one to ride a bike in my life--but what struck me as odd was that he was talking on a cellphone while he pedalled.

Now, call me silly, but I'm thinking that riding a bike and talking on a cellphone at the same time is even stupider than driving and talking on a cellphone in a lot of ways. I mean, if you go to brake in a car while you're on the phone, you've (hopefully) got a seatbelt on and won't get tossed through the windshield and into the street. But if you're on a bike and have to brake suddenly, if you have one hand holding a cellphone up to your ear, I can't see that that would end well. Well, unless you're a bystander who, like me, finds watching stupid people injure themselves in unnecessary ways amusing, in which case the scenario ends with the best possible results.

Anyway, that just struck me as kinda stupid. On top of that, the guy was wearing bike shorts, which are not only too tight for anyone to wear, but completely devoid of pockets.

Talked with my aunt yesterday, and she may have me babysit Bailey (my cousin's daughter) while my aunt and uncle attend a funeral Wednesday (that all makes sense when you realize that my aunt and uncle are watching their son's daughter, Bailey, while he and his wife get all packed up to move back to Oklahoma from New Mexico. They didn't want Bailey underfoot while they were trying to pack, and this also gives my aunt and uncle a chance to entertain their granddaughter for a couple of weeks...except that this funeral came up and they need someone to watch Bailey, 'cause two year olds don't do well at funerals).


Song of the Moment: Cake, "No Phone" (no, the album that song is on has not come out yet; but it does tomorrow, and I'll be getting it)
"Van Morrison - Astral Weeks"

Astral Weeks is an album unlike anything else in Van Morrison's catalogue. The fact that this can be said about virtually every single album he's made doesn't discount the uniqueness of this record, nor does it mean there is no cohesion or a sense of connected style across his body of work. It simply means that Van is flexible enough to be able to ingest a huge number of styles, synthesize them, and make them his own.

Astral Weeks is Van's first true solo album, and it marks a radical departure from his work with the R&B combo Them. The making of the album is an amazing story--originally, Van signed to Bang Records after he left Them in 1968, and recorded songs such as "TB Sheets" and "Brown-Eyed Girl" for the label. However, they wanted him to replicate "Brown-Eyed Girl" with other singles, and Morrison wanted to follow a very different muse. He was under contract to record a set number of songs for Bang, so he went about recording a couple dozen song tidbits that are so completely throwaway that even completists and total fanatics dismiss them as irrelevant. His contractual obligations thus fulfilled, Van struck out on his own, eventually landing with Warner Brothers.

The album he recorded for Warner Bros. came from left field. He had the engineer for the record hire a group of session players, none of whom had ever even met each other, let alone Van. They recorded the album in the space of a few nights, coming together in the studio at the tail end of the night after they'd been playing with other bands and musicians all evening. This adds to the tone of late night, pre-dawn dreaminess that pervades the record. Musically, the instrumentation--which is very sparse, consisting mostly of acoustic guitar, acoustic bass, light drums (usually just the cymbals and high-hat), a few dashes of strings, a flute every now and then, and Van's vocals--melds together well, especially for musicians who had never really worked together and didn't really know the songs beforehand. The music threatens to float off into the ether at any moment, and words like "effervescent" and "ephemeral" are good descriptors. Most of the songs consist of rather repetitive chord progressions with little variation within a single song, giving the songs a pulse that lulls you.

Thematically, Van attempts to create a new mythology of his hometown of Belfast. The songs not only address the town, but Van's attempts to come to grips with where he came from and where he is going, which is far away from home. However, he can never truly escape Belfast, as he is always "caught one more time" there, unable to truly let go of the past, but wanting desperately to break through to someplace better.

The album boasts some exceptional songs, lyrically. "Sweet Thing" is a beautiful paean to a lover, "Cyprus Avenue" paints a portrait of Van's Belfast in such striking terms and colors that you feel you are walking down the street with him, and "Madam George" is a character sketch that only really hints at the true identity of the titular character.

Overall, Van Morrison's Astral Weeks is a beautiful, moving album, one which speaks quietly rather than screaming from the speakers. There are layers of sound and meaning hidden within the record, and for those willing to dig into it, the rewards are great.


Song of the Moment: Van Morrison, "Sweet Thing"
"We Don't Eat In No White Restaurant"

Just got off the phone with Clif. The boy managed to mess up his knee again in a cross-country race Saturday morning.

The history of Clif's knee trouble is varied and rather squishy. It all started when he was in high school and playing soccer. Someone came in for a slide tackle from a very bad angle, and Clif's left knee bent inwards in a way that knees are specifically designed not to do. He ended up having surgery (fun!) and sitting out for most of the rest of the season. The next year, he twisted his knee the wrong way, popped the sacs of fluid that keep the knee floating the way it's supposed to, and had to have the thing drained.

Anyway, he managed to twist it wrong again while running Saturday, and then he proceeded to run the rest of the race (he was less than halfway through) on the bad knee. On the positive side, he ran an exceptionally fast last mile because he was in serious pain and wanted to get the race over with. Now he says it's swollen and squishy, meaning it's probably filling up with fluid and he'll have to go have it drained. He can't bend his knee to even a right angle, so it's definitely having trouble.

Basically, each Cottrell kid has foot or leg troubles all his own--Clif has his knee (and several problems with his heels--when he was younger, he was growing too quickly, and the growth plates in his heels heated up from the friction and fused together. He's also got these weird lumps on the back of each heel which are probably bone spurs). Scott has weak ankles and a club foot. I was born with my toes touching my shins, and now I've got gout (which isn't hurting anymore, thank God). From the thighs down, we're in sad shape (hell, from the waist up, I'm in sad shape. I'm in sad shape basically all over).

Anyway, aside from discussing his wonderful knee affliction, we also talked a bit about history (I've got a few books I need to loan him for his Senior Seminar), and a bit about Yeti. We're probably going to try to play some music when I go visit Arkansas in a couple of weeks. Might even put on a little show for those interested in being there. Just don't know location yet. We'll figure something out, I'm sure.


Song of the Moment: Led Zeppelin, "The Ocean"

Sunday, October 03, 2004

"I Got My Orange Crush"

So I was watching Die Hard last night, and several aspects of the movie amused the historian in me. A lot of the things that movie got away with in 1988 seem very anachronistic to us now, and are throwbacks of a more innocent time, if the term "innocent" can be applied to the decade that featured Prince and hair metal.

Three things in particular caught my attention--Bruce Willis's character was allowed onto a plane with a gun (regardless of the fact that he's a cop, no one in today's society would be allowed to board a plane with anything even close to a weapon), he was smoking in the airport (a definite no-no now), and the bad guys were eastern European/German (and West German at that).

It's nuances like that which point to how much has changed in the last decade and a half, especially since the turn of the new century. As much as I hate to use this phrase, since 9/11, things have really changed. The changes have been subtle in a lot of cases--we don't realize just how different things were in the 1980s or even the 1990s until we are presented with something that wouldn't have even caused anyone to bat an eye back then (Willis is able to dismiss concern over his gun by saying, "Don't worry, I'm a cop," which the man accepts without hesitation). Had Willis's character tried something like that today, he'd have been busy getting a full cavity search in a windowless room somewhere in the airport.

It's also interesting to note that the bad guys were mostly European. There was not a single Arab or Middle-Eastern character among them. This was still before the Berlin Wall fell, mind you, and before we'd realized that Communism was all but dead. The bad guys were still European militants, not Muslim ones. I'd be interested to see how the movie would have been different if it were made today rather than in 1988.


Song of the Moment: Regular Joes, "Samsonite Blues"
"Your Eyes Are Burning Holes Through Me"

So tomorrow marks the beginning of my foray into political humor. I have high hopes for the series--I think what I've written so far is pretty damn funny, and that this will actually be a worthwhile series.

I've never really liked political cartoons all that much. Most of them strike me as uninspired and bland. Worse, I think nine-tenths of them are simply an excuse for partisan bickering. Most of the time, a political cartoonist espouses his or her point of view not by making any sort of concrete statement about it, but by deriding the opposing point of view. In short, political cartoons are too reactionary. They're inert. They don't do anything except go, "hur hur, I made fun of so-and-so's opinion; that makes me topical and witty. Hur hur." Mind you, most of them wouldn't know what a semi-colon is (or how to use one), so that was my addition.

Admittedly, reaction is a big part of humor. Without something to react against, I wouldn't have made many comics, and I'd have only come up with one or two for the OU Daily. Reacting against something provides a context for the comic--the comic is really at its most amusing when you know what it's in response to. But the problem is that most political cartoonists respond in such an obvious, formulaic manner--so-and-so did this, so it must be stupid, let us attempt to make fun of it. Let us stand in shock and awe at what ignorant thing such-and-such a politician did yesterday in Congress. My, gas prices are high, let's do a comic where the price sign at the gas station says "Arm" and "Leg" instead of listing prices. That'd be original. I bet no one is doing anything like that.

But I'm thinking my series will actually be different. For one, I'm not responding to any particular incident in current affairs or politics. Rather, I'm responding to the general state of affairs in politics in America, poking fun at the way we conduct our electoral process (which is in need of an overhaul, I think), and hopefully provoking some thoughtful examination of what politics and politicians ought to be doing for the American people.

Yeah, that's a lot of work to make a comic which is usually about smiting and stealth bussers do, but I think my characters and my setting are flexible enough to pull off the trick. We'll have to see, I guess.


Song of the Moment: Regular Joes, "Money Blues"
"That Blinding Whiteness At Sunrise"

We finally got a new work schedule today. No longer shall I exhaust myself with a 50 hour work week--no, now I get to languish in the sub-30 hour lethargy. But 28 hours isn't too bad; that's what I was basically working before we went into "we have no employees" mode.

We're also supposed to get a new employee pretty soon (down on the schedule as "Newbie," proving my boss has a sense of humor). Of course, I feel sorry for the new person, because they'll have to spend at least one night a week working with Ev and me. If that's not saddling the new person with a hell of a tough shift, I don't know what is.

Somehow, with all the other CDs I've been listening to the past couple of days, I've managed to make time to listen to my uncle's band's two albums. Their self-titled first album, The Regular Joes, is probably my favorite of the two. It certainly rocks the hardest of the two. While Every Little Bit Helps is more melodic and features slightly stronger lyrics (and even features one of my favorite tunes, "Restless," as the opener), the album itself gets bogged down in mid-tempo sludge that really never flexes its musical muscle. My uncle is an excellent guitar player, but isn't given much to do on most of the album (whereas he's soloing left and right on the eponymous debute).

The first album also has my two favorite Regular Joes tunes currently available on CD--"Babylon Last Night" and "Sight Unseen." Lyrically, they're pretty basic--the former is about a morning-after hangover, essentially, while the latter is a by-the-numbers blues/rock love song. But the guitar work on both is phenomenal. It's the music for those two songs that really convinces me that, with a better lyricist/vocalist, my uncle's band could do really well.

Their third CD should be ready sometime this month, and from what I've heard of it (which is most of the album), it's their strongest outing yet. For one thing, the guy who does all the singing doesn't do all the singing this time around--there's also a guy named Chris (who plays guitar and violin) who steps up to do a couple of self-penned tunes that aren't half-bad. He's a decent country/bluegrass-style vocalist, but his vocal style fits the songs he's written (which are pretty traditional country fare, but good despite that). My uncle's also had more of a hand in writing this new album, co-writing at least four or five of the songs (he worked on the music part, of course) and writing one song by himself (called "Flame On," I think. Absolutely beautiful song with one of the best melodies I've heard in a long time). Having another vocalist/songwriter to compete with has led the usual singer to try a little harder, too, and his contributions are much stronger than before. I really look forward to the CD.

As I think about it, it strikes me as strange just how much I've been writing about music lately. Probably about half of the past month's posts have dealt with or mentioned music in some way. Admittedly, music is a big part of my life--not just the music my brother and I are always working on (which is probably little more than a pipedream, I know)--but simply the fact that everything I do seems to involve music, if I can help it. I listen to music when I shower, when I go to class or work, when I'm at work if I can get away with it, when I'm in the car, when I'm at the computer, going to sleep, reading, sitting around doing nothing, playing videogames, and damn-near any other time I can find to fit more music in. I won't even drive to the store sometimes if there's not a CD in my car or my hand, because that means I'd have to listen to the radio and there's a good chance I won't find anything on the radio I want to listen to (or worse yet, it'll all be commercials. I hate commercials). I mean, I go so far as to include a "Song of the Moment" at the bottom of every post I make here. How ridiculous is that?

I don't really know when music became this important to me, to be honest. I just know that it is.


Song of the Moment: Regular Joes, "Restless"
"REM - In Time: The Best Of 1988-2003"

The first time I heard REM was back in 1991-92. "Losing My Religion" had just hit it big, and the video was in heavy rotation on MTV (this was back when MTV played music videos). My initial impression was that the song and the band were crap. What was with the dinky guitar-like thing the one guy was playing (mandolin)? The little bald guy singing had a voice that was worse that Dylan's, because while Dylan may have a nasal mumble, he didn't aim for those cracking high notes like this guy did.

Admittedly, those intial impressions were informed by a musical taste that assumed anything made after about 1983 was complete and total crap. I had no idea Sting had been in the Police, I'd never heard of Toad the Wet Sprocket, Radiohead wasn't turning pop music upside down, and I automatically lumped REM into that category of "stuff dad doesn't listen to, so it must be crap."

Twelve or thirteen years down the line, my tastes have evolved somewhat. I now recognize "Losing my Religion" and REM as the important musical contributions they are. And REM's best of collection from their tenure at Warner Brothers makes a pretty convincing argument for REM being the alternative rock band of the past twenty years.

Some of the reviews I read for this collection were rather annoyed with the song selection, saying it relied too heavily on latter-day stuff and missed key tracks that were more "hits" than some of the songs included in the set. Since I'm relatively unfamiliar with their work (I own only this collection and New Adventures in Hi-Fi, and I've heard Automatic For the People and probably most of Out of Time), I can't really address that complaint (though personally I'd have left off "The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite" in favor of the album version of "Drive"). However, to my thus untrained ears, the songs collected on In Time strike me as a wonderful sampler of what REM has had to offer over the past fifteen or so years.

In Time uses a non-chronological sequencing, which actually works well for the album as a whole. There are distinct differences between their stuff from circa 1988 and their stuff from Reveal (the last album covered by the compilation), but the textured, jangly pop-rock vibe remains consistant throughout the CD. It seems to hit all the highlights--"Man on the Moon" and "The Great Beyond," their two songs about Andy Kaufman; "What's the Frequency, Kenneth?" from their straight-rock album Monster, "Losing my Religion" from Out of Time, and "Everybody Hurts," one of the most achingly and nakedly emotional songs recorded in the past twenty years, from Automatic for the People. The majority of the songs are slow or mid-tempo, though the band occasionally cranks up the amps (such as on the aforementioned "What's the Frequency, Kenneth?" or "Orange Crush," which sounds like a U2 song from around 1983).

The real joy for this collection, though, comes in the bonus disc of rarities and b-sides that came in the deluxe package. Most of the tracks here are demos and live cuts, though it does include the fabulous alternate version of "Leave" originally recorded for the movie A Life Less Ordinary (that song was the whole reason I sprung for the more expensive deluxe edition). The tune is more subdued and dirge-like than the original New Adventures in Hi-Fi version, but no less effective for that. That song alone would have been enough for me to enjoy the second disc, but it's also chock-full of other fun stuff--an acoustic version of "Pop Song '89" (which I swear is using a chord progression straight out of Dylan circa Another Side of Bob Dylan), a rocking electric live version of "Drive," and the beautiful piano ballad "Fretless." It also has some weird quirks--there's the simply bizzare "Chance (Dub)," and the even stranger "Star Me Kitten" (featuring William S. Boroughs on "vocals"...or random mutterings, whatever you want to call it).

All in all, In Time is an excellent introduction to REM for the curious. It points to where the band's been and where it's going, and the future looks good.


Song of the Moment: REM, "Leave (Alternate Version)"