Thursday, March 31, 2005

"Glen Phillips - Winter Pays For Summer"

Glen Phillips's first solo outting, Abulum, was a studied, subtle affair, a quiet collection of stripped-down folk rock numbers released independently to little public fanfare. It was an album of simple, basic pleasures, one in which Phillips explored the darker corners of his psyche and his life and came away asking more questions than he ever really answered. It was still an excellent album, but one which was calculated to have a narrow appeal.

With his second studio album, Winter Pays for Summer, the former Toad the Wet Sprocket frontman has shifted gears almost entirely. In place of Abulum's stripped-down arrangements are lush, lovingly-crafted tunes full of layers of shimmering guitars, pianos, keyboards, and the occasional string section or brass section. Winter smooths out its predecessor's rough edges, polishing Phillips's songs to a glorious pop sheen.

The key here is songcraft. Phillips has it in spades. The songs here are clever, witty, warm, and introspective. So were the lyrics on Abulum, but that album seemed to distance itself from the listener, while Winter invites you in, tells you to kick off your shoes and sit down by the fire and enjoy yourself. Winter is, on the average, a much more joyful and lighthearted album. There are still songs about strife and pain--the opener, "Duck and Cover," documents the decline and collapse of a dysfunctional family, and "Half Life" makes a plea for honesty in a relationship--but many of these songs deal with happiness, true love, and contentment.

There are several songs on the album that anyone already familiar with Phillips's solo work will recognize. "Thankful" has appeared in three or four different versions since it was debuted on his website a year or two ago. It also made an appearance on his solo acoustic live album, Live at Largo. "Courage" has likewise seen several different versions--he has played different arrangements of the song with Nickel Creek and Toad the Wet Sprocket, and he's cut two or three different versions of it himself (such a scrapped version originally intended for this album cut with producer Glen Johns). "Easier" is one of the first songs Phillips recorded when Toad broke up, and the demo version made the rounds on the internet for ages. There are several live versions of the song as well (it's a fan favorite, after all), including a version on Live at Largo. An acoustic version of "Falling" was also available through the website. The album's closer, "Don't Need Anything," was originally available through Phillips's website in a solo acoustic version, though here it is a beautiful piano ballad. These five songs are reworked from their demo versions or live versions, and the new recordings do each song justice. "Thankful" is a fun rocker, "Courage" has a stately beauty and meloncholy to it, "Falling" is more uptempo and catchy than the original demo, "Easier" is smoother than the original demo (though I'm a little annoyed by the self-censorship in this song. Let's just say that the line "I wouldn't stop with an ear I would cut off my whole freakin' face" originally didn't say "freakin'," if you know what I mean) but no less effective, and "Don't Need Anything" actually benefits from the change in instrumentation.

The new songs on the album are just as strong as the archival material. Musically, Winter is much more varied than Abulum, a record which stuck pretty close to the indie folk-rock style throughout. "Cleareyed" is the best U2 song U2 never recorded; "Gather" frollics dangerously close to Sting-inspired worldbeat; "Released" is a moving, beautiful ballad; and "True" flirts with faux-Philly soul to entertaining effect.

Each song is carried by Phillips's warm, smooth vocals. There's a simplicity to his voice that's disarming and charming. Phillips is an evocative, emotive vocalist, crafting impressive melodies with apparently effortless ease.

Winter Pays for Summer is an excellent pop-rock album. It's unassuming, warm, and joyful. The music is catchy and hummable, the lyrics are thoughtful and almost tailor-made for singalong choruses. Phillips has created a charming, well-crafted album that just gets better with each listen. Highly recommended.


Song of the Moment: Glen Phillips, "Courage"

"But There Is No Bottom"

Well, got a rejection letter from Rutgers this afternoon. To be honest, I didn't expect to get in to any of the schools I applied to, but if you don't try, you never know, right?

Anyway, I still have the others to hear from. Not time to panic yet. Mom also happened to mention this afternoon when I talked with her that dad has a friend who might be able to hook me up with teaching British History at some Catholic college in New York state. I, in all seriousness, told her I'd do it in a heartbeat. I don't care if it's a temporary thing or if I don't know anyone there or anything, I'd definitely love the opportunity to teach, no matter where. So if grad school falls through, that could be another option. That's what I need--options.


Song of the Moment: Glen Phillips, "Falling"

"It Has To Be A Twist"

In what has to be an interesting instance of great minds thinking alike (as I proceed to flatter myself and pump up my ego just a wee bit), I think Adis of Count Your Sheep either has a similar sense of humor as I do, or we're on a brainshare.

Interesting coincidence, you have to admit, because I doubt Adis even reads Dim Bulb in general or Crooked Halo specifically, but it's odd that he posted a comic so similar so soon after mine. Mind you, I'm not even going to begin to think that he tried to rip me off or anything--I doubt either of us was the first person to notice that The Who have a band name that just lends itself to these sorts of jokes. I just find it interesting that we'd both post a comic using that same setup in such rapid succession.



Song of the Moment: The Who, "The Seeker"

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

"B.B. King - The Ultimate Collection"

My familiarity with B.B. King was of a passing nature prior to yesterday. I knew of the man--knew he was a name in the blues, that he was a great blues guitarist and an immediately-recognizable voice in the genre. I knew he'd done a song with U2, "When Love Comes to Town" (still one of my favorite U2 songs). I knew he was well-known for Lucille, his guitar. That was really about all I knew.

God, are my eyes open now.

The Ultimate Collection is a 21 song sampler of King's entire career, ranging from his '50s work to his '60s and '70s heyday, and his latter-day works as the reigning king (dare I say) of the blues. All his best-known songs are here, including the aforementioned tune with U2 and "The Thrill is Gone."

King's guitarwork is some of the smoothest and clearest I've ever heard. His solos and leads are crisp, precise, and impecable. The man knows exactly what sound he wants that guitar to make, and damn if Lucille doesn't comply every time. There's no sloppiness or rough edges to the music--everything is precise and carefully orchestrated for maximum effect.

This include's King's voice, which is a precision instrument just like Lucille. Control is the key for both--in the case of his guitar work, this means the control he has over every note he coaxes from the strings. In the case of his voice, this is the sense that he barely has his emotions in check, that they threaten to overwhelm him at any second. King is one of the best blues moaners out there--he can say more with a wordless syllable than most people can say in an entire paragraph. His voice is evocative and emotive and always teeters on the edge of breakdown but never quite falls over.

The Ultimate Collection is an excellent introduction to King's work. It creates a fairly representative arc of his career, focusing most heavily on his earlier work and thinning out towards the '80s and '90s. King is still a fine musician, as the later cuts prove, but the real joy is in his early work. Besides, the man actually incorporated strings (like violin and cello) into a blues song. Strings, man. You can't tell me that ain't genius.


Song of the Moment: B.B. King, "The Thrill is Gone"

"Bring My Courage Back"

I'm mad. Blogger ate the nice, long review I wrote of Glen Phillips's new album, Winter Pays for Summer. It was a strong review, too; I was real pleased with it. Now I have to re-write it from scratch, from memory, and that's a terrible, terrible fate for anything.

On the positive side, all of the new CDs I got yesterday that I've listened to so far (Glen Phillips and B.B. King) have been excellent. I know the Stones collection will be, but I need to give the Beck album a serious listen. More on all that later.


Song of the Moment: Glen Phillips, "Duck and Cover"

John Mellencamp - Live At The Ford Center

The Mellencamp concert last night was excellent. Easily one of the top ten concerts I've ever attended, and I've attended some damn fine shows in my time.

Mellencamp played all the songs you'd expect, but that was exactly what everyone wanted to hear. "Little Pink Houses," "Small Town," "Jack and Diane," "Hurts so Good," "ROCK in the USA," "Crumblin' Walls," "Paper in Fire," "I Need a Lover"--they were all there. The best part was that Mellencamp altered each song just enough to make it fresh, tweaking minor things, fiddling with arrangements and pacing, and generally making the songs feel new. At the same time, each song retained enough of its essence, its basic and fundamental core, to remain familiar and recognizable. This is no easy trick, and not everyone can pull it off (folks have long debated whether Bob Dylan, who changes arrangements and lyrics at the drop of a hat, actually manages the trick. Of course, he's known for completely altering a song almost out of recognition just on a whim). One of the most entertaining segments of the show involved the band hunkering down for an acoustic set of five or six songs, with Mellencamp sitting on a stool in the middle of the stage with an acoustic guitar. During this set, they played songs like "Rain on the Scarecrow," which I think was the most successful reinterpretation all night. In an acoustic setting, the poignancy of the song really came out without sacrificing any of the energy or power of the original electric version.

The audience loved every minute of the show. Folks were singing along at the top of their lungs to almost every song, everyone was standing up, and even the sixty-odd year old woman behind us, whom we think came for Donovan (she was sure dancing around during his set, anyway--dad suspects she had a lot of fun in the '60s), tapped her toes and bobbed to the beat.

Everyone left the Ford Center last night in a good mood. The audience had a blast, Mellencamp had a blast, and Donovan was actually still stoned from the '60s, I think, so I'm pretty sure he had a blast. You couldn't have asked for a better concert.


Song of the Moment: John Mellencamp, "Rain on the Scarecrow (Live)"

"R O C K In The U S A"

So, Mellencamp.

Mellencamp kicked seven different kinds of ass. He came up with new kinds of ass, just so he could kick them. Donovan was pretty cool in a psychadelic, hippy-drippy sort of way. The only aspect of the show I didn't like was the quartet of thirty-somethings in front of dad and me. They were what I refer to as "thirty year old frat boys," because, though they might be in their thirties, with sagging features and growing paunches and all that, they still behaved like 19 year olds at a kegger. But that wasn't really Mellencamp's fault, so we don't hold it against him.

Dad and I managed to meet up before the show early enough to do the shopping spree and grab dinner at Arby's (mmm, roast beef sandwiches...). I grabbed four new CDs--Beck's Guero, the Rolling Stones' 40 Licks, B.B. King's Ultimate Collection, and Glen Phillips's Winter Pays for Summer (which I honestly wasn't expecting to be able to find, since it was only just released today. The others didn't surprise me, as they're all pretty mainstream--I grabbed the B.B. King on dad's recommendation and suggestion--but Phillips is fairly indie, or at least really minor mainstream. That's the advantage of moving to a major label, I guess). I also grabbed a spindel of blank CDs, 'cause dad wants copies of about a dozen or so different CDs of Clif's and mine. I also got a Mellencamp t-shirt (perhaps it shall be modelled tomorrow, we'll see). All in all, a very successful endeavour, I must say.

(Note: yes, I know I just used the British spelling of 'endeavour.' I prefer it to the American spelling. Why we think we can just remove vowels willy-nilly from words just because we don't think they need them is pretty arrogant. But then again, this is America. I digress.)

Anyway, tomorrow I'll probably have some thoughts on CD or two. I'll also have more developed thoughts about the Mellencamp concert.


Song of the Moment: John Mellencamp, "Little Pink Houses"

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

"The Apartment Song"

So this morning's been an interesting rollercoaster of a ride.

Started out with me locking myself out of the apartment. I've only managed this thrice in the two and a half years plus I've lived there. The first time was real late at night, and they charged me $50. The second time was New Year's Eve a few months ago, and I'd given Ev a copy of the key mere hours before, so he was able to come let me back in. Then this morning.

The reason was simple--I usually just leave my keys in my jacket pocket (the jacket I got the summer after my freshman year of high school. I've been wearing it for a decade, and I still love it. That jacket is like my trademark, and the chicks really dig it). During the winter, I wear the jacket every time I leave the apartment, so it's real easy to remember my keys--just put on the jacket, there they are in the pocket.

Well, I didn't wear the jacket this morning. I didn't see a reason, warm as it already was. I slipped on my zip-up hoodie instead (which is another common article of clothing for me. Usually I wear it under the jacket when it's really cold outside, 'cause the layers thing works well). Obviously this was not a necessary arrangement this morning, so I left the jacket hanging on its peg and walked out the front door.

As soon as I pulled the door closed behind me, I realized I didn't have my keys. And my doors are always locked from the outside, 'cause I'm usually terrible about remembering to lock them, so they always remain locked on the outside. I'm already running late for work, so I just hop on the bike and ride to the Writing Center. Once there, I call up the apartment office and talk with the apartment manager, Richie. Richie's a nice guy who thinks pretty well of me, and he says he'll let me back in the apartment if I can come during the morning (he wasn't going to be there this afternoon, so it had to be the morning. Thankfully, my boss is very understanding and let me run back to get let in and grab my keys). When I arrive at the apartment office, Richie tells me that I'm apparently about to be evicted. This comes as a bit of a shock to me, since I thought I'd taken care of this crap a month ago when I took a letter to housing verifying my employment by the university. He said that apparently I have to be employed full time, which I'm not. I'm as close as I can be at the Athletic Department, but they'll never let us be full time.

This understandably upsets me, especially since I knew Ev had lived in the same apartment complex last year and was definitely not a student or employed full time. He worked the same hours I did, and they never had any problems with that.

So I get back to work, a little distraught, and call up Housing. We chat for a bit, and they can't find anything that says I'm getting evicted. So they transfer me to Legal, who apparently are now handling deferments and things of that nature in relation to the university apartments. I chat with a woman in Legal who can't find anything saying I'm going to be evicted. So I'm in the clear. I ask for something in writing, 'cause I know how this place works. The woman says she'll mail me a letter saying everything's kosher this week.

In short, I'm not getting evicted, thank God. Everything's been taken care of, and I can stay in the apartment until the summer. I'm glad, because trying to move and find a new apartment for three to five months is ridiculous. For one, I don't think I could find a lease that would run that short that would be at all reasonable, and I definitely couldn't find a better location. And I just really don't want to have to move and then move again in a few months. It'd be pointless. I'd have just quit my job and moved home before I did that. Thankfully, I won't have to do anything like that, but the whole experience just reminded me why I really dislike this place sometimes.


Song of the Moment: The Eagles, "Doolin' Daltins"

Monday, March 28, 2005

"Nobody 'Cept You"

This time tomorrow, I'll be rocking out to John Mellencamp. The Cougar. Mr. "Little Pink Houses" and "Small Town" himself. And Donovan--let's not forget Donovan, the guy who did "Mellow Yellow" and "Sunshine Superman," which are as trippy as the titles imply. It's gonna be fun.

I should also be going on my fun little Best Buy shopping spree beforehand, if dad's able to make it into town early enough (since he's off in Podunk, OK right now).

Had an interesting discussion this afternoon with Beth regarding weather, euthanasia, the deterioration of public education, and the rise of frightening neo-conservative groups that are apparently hell-bent on forcing God's hand and initiating Armageddon (honestly. There are some nutjobs out there who're trying to do that. Our wonderful President is one of 'em. Doesn't that fill your heart with a warm glow?). A somewhat surreal conversation, to be sure, and not one I expect the two of us to agree so much on. But hey, strange things happen sometimes, right?

Glen Phillips's new CD, Winter Pays for Summer, comes out tomorrow. With any luck, it'll be at Best Buy, and thus in my possession.


Song of the Moment: Flaming Lips, "Feeling Yourself Dissentigrate"

"They Say It's Your Birthday"

So my birthday was pretty good. Got well-fed, got some nifty presents (like The Incredibles on DVD and a beautiful sterling silver chain and cross, which I guess will be for special occasions, and lots of money and the promise of a $100 shopping spree at Best Buy with the folks. More on that in a moment), and got to see the family. That was very cool.

Anyway, the folks were the ones who got me stuff, and they gave me $100, and decided to take me on a little shopping trip to Best Buy. So after dinner, off we go for Best Buy. Of course, what we'd failed to take into consideration was that, since it was Easter Sunday, nothing was open. So no Best Buy trip for me until Tuesday evening before the Mellencamp show.

Ended up getting to talk with both siblings (Clif even informed me that he got accepted to UT-Austin for their graduate program, so congrats to him on that), Amanda E., and Wen by phone, and a whole host of other friends via messenger, email, and comments here. To everyone, I thank you for your kind comments and well-wishes. They really do mean alot to me. I think I have some of the greatest friends in the world, and I'm damn lucky to have each and every one of ya.

So yeah, enough sappy stuff. I'm pretty tired, 'cause I was up too late last night and had a full day. I think I'm off for bed.


Song of the Moment: Flaming Lips, "Unconsciously Screamin'"

Saturday, March 26, 2005

"He's Not Heavy, He's My Brother"

So I chatted on the phone with Clif a little this evening.

(A brief aside--isn't it strange that we live in a day and age when I have to indicate the method by which I chatted with my brother? Isn't it strange that computers have usurped the term "chat" and applied it to a communication system so completely unlike a telephone chat? I don't think these changes are inantely good or bad, they simply are. They're amoral in the truest philosophical sense of the term. Strange, huh?)

Anyway, Clif and I spent most of the time just jawing about music and guitar stuff. He's going to teach me a few more chords and some basic musical mechanics stuff when I go up to visit in April. He's also gonna get me a capo for my birthday, which should allow me to play a good half of Cross-Eyed Yeti's songs.

Tomorrow is, for those who didn't get the memo, my birthday. I turn the ripe ol' age of 25. I don't know that I always feel that old, though I think the fact that I spent a good part of the afternoon watching Ren & Stimpy might have something to do with that. But just maybe.


Song of the Moment: Old 97s, "Doreen"

Friday, March 25, 2005

"Green Day - American Idiot"

Yeah, so the buzz around this album has been over for months. Admittedly, it's still up in the top 10 albums' sold every week, even so long after it came out, so that should tell you something right there (1, that it's a good CD, and 2, that there's really not been much good come out of late). But I only just recently picked it up for myself, so I'm only just not getting around to talking about it.

Let's skip over the stuff about how it's a "punk rock opera" and all of its influences and stuff. Yeah, it takes a lot from the Who's A Quick One. Yeah, it's like the Clash or whatever. These are, of course, very positive things. But they're not important for this discussion.

Let's also skip over the message of the album. Yes, it's an angry rant against Bush and the current administration and the idiocy of American society circa 2004. We all know this. Me rehashing all of that crap for paragraph after paragraph really doesn't bring anything new to the table.

Instead, let's talk about this album as music. In terms of sheer musicality and songwriting, this is probably the finest album this band has ever produced. tight, muscular, varied, and expressive, the music itself is pure joy to listen to. There's hard and fast punk songs, there's subtle acoustic-led ballads, there's layers and mini-suites and attention to detail. This is not a sloppy album, but for all of its polish and shine, it still sounds fresh, energetic, and exciting. This is the sort of thing music is supposed to be.

Lyrically, this is also one of the band's strongest outings, and certainly its most mature. I know it sounds strange talking about maturity with a punk band, since punk is a decidely adolescent genre, but these guys manage to transcend the genre with American Idiot. The lyrics are intelligent, witty, and often understated (which is something for a band that's written songs about masturbation). Not all of the songs are a part of the overarcing narrative about the decay of American society; at least, not directly. There are several character sketch songs scattered throughout the album, including "St. Jimmy" (a name which seems lifted from a Bruce Springsteen song, "Lost in the Flood," which features a character named "Jimmy the Saint") "Whatshername," and "Jesus of Suburbia." These character sketches describe the decline of American society in their idiosyncracies and quirks, their flaws and weaknesses. It's a fairly clever device, and it works well.

Of the two mini-suites on the album, only the second, "Homecoming," really falls flat. The first, "Jesus of Suburbia," is catchy and entertaining, introducing the character and establishing the world in which the character moves. "Homecoming" just tries to cram too much into one song, and the various "movements" of the "suite" really don't fit together the way the five mini-songs in "Jesus of Suburbia" do.

All in all, American Idiot is one of the best albums I've heard in a long time. It works on multiple levels--its narrative is compelling, and the way the songs flow into one another makes sense. On another level, each individual song (with the aforementioned exception) works well on an independent level. There is cohesiveness and variety, a nifty trick to pull off. All of this makes American Idiot a wholly satisfying and enjoyable album, perhaps even in spite of your political leanings.


Song of the Moment: Green Day, "Holiday"

"I'm Bending To The Task"

Well, my work schedule's been altered again. My boss is attempting to accomodate two coworkers who can't seem to get along anymore, so the two or three nights they worked together had to be adjusted so they weren't working together anymore.

On the downside, it annoys me that two of my friends couldn't reconcile, and now I have to deal with the possibility of getting inadvertantly caught between them. It also makes it a little tougher on the rest of us, having to have our schedules shuffled because of their spat.

On the upside, I only have to make it in to work at 8.00 am on one day, Wednesday, and the awful Wednesday schedule I had (8-1 and 3-6) has been replaced with the much more managable 8-1 and 6-10, not only giving me a longer break between shifts but an extra hour of work. It doesn't look like I lost any hours this time, so I'm doing pretty well with 37 hours per week. Add in the two or three hours of tutoring I do a week, and I'm sittin' pretty, as they say.

Did you know that they apparently consider Nirvana "classic rock" in some areas now? Forgive me, but music that's not even two decades old is not yet "classic." When they've had the staying power of the Beatles or the Stones or Dylan, then come back and we'll talk about classic rock status.

And for the record, no, the above mentioned bands are not "oldies." Not by a long shot.

Ev and the gang are coming over this afternoon. In about 2 1/2 hours, actually. I should probably clean up the apartment and myself before then. Off for adventures in housework!


Song of the Moment: The Beatles, "And Your Bird Can Sing"

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

"We're Gonna Have A Good Time"

So my friends at work sorta surprised me this evening. It was about 6.00, when my shift ends and the night shift come in to take over and deal with all the student-athletes who have just remembered that they have a 5-7 page paper due tomorrow that they haven't started on yet. So Ev, Vicki, and Lindsay come in, and we sit and chat for a few minutes about this and that (mostly Ev and I chat about Wittgenstein, which is much more interesting than it sounds, honest). Then Amy, one of the morning crew, happens to come in to the Center. She gives Vicki a card we'd all signed earlier in the day (I got my card last night when I went in to tutor), and then just whips out a tray full of cupcakes she'd baked for us. Everyone breaks into "Happy Birthday," and we laugh and start eating cupcakes. Lindsay gave me a CD of stuff that the band she's in (called Tell Me Yarns, I believe) have recorded, which was spiffy (she also managed to misspell her name--Linsday--on the CD, which led to a wonderful discussion of naming a day of the week after her). It was just a really thoughtful gesture that totally made my day.

In other news, I may actually miss church on Easter for the first time in...well, my life, as far as I can remember. I always go to church on Easter. It just seems...appropriate, y'know? But there's not enough time to go to Shawnee and attend the service there before we're supposed to be in OKC at my aunt and uncle's for dinner at 1.00. I'm thinking about finding a church here in town to go to, but my fear of new places, crowds of people I don't know, and my general inability to drag my sorry carcass out of bed at a reasonable hour may inhibit me. I dunno. We'll just have to see what happens.


Song of the Moment: Norah Jones, "Come Away With Me"

Tuesday, March 22, 2005


So I picked up Flight, Volume 1 at Borders this afternoon after work. It's a collection of short comics by various webcomic artists put out by Image. It contains a couple of comics by a couple of artists I'd heard of (most specifically, Derek Kirk Kim and Vera Brosgol), so I picked it up on a whim.

Anyway, I'm about halfway through it, and it's really good. The theme is, of course, flight, but it's an exceptionally loose theme that leaves a lot of room for variation within. I'm looking forward to finishing it up.

While I was at Borders, I ran into Lindsay from work. I was rather glad it turned out to be her, since I walked up and popped her in the back of the head (playfully, of course, 'cause I'm not a violent person or anything), and assaulting random people in Borders with sequential art is probably not a wise idea. But it was her, and I got to meet her boyfriend guy, Josh, who seems pretty cool (though he had that "this is my girlfriend's coworker, and I'm making friendly even though I really don't know him" thing going. I'm sure I had something similar). So that was rather amusing.

Anyway, not much else to report. Work's been work the past couple of days. I'm sure that trend will not alter over the next few days.


Song of the Moment: Green Day, "Homecoming"

Sunday, March 20, 2005

"The Sands Of Nevada"

Made it back to Norman without incident (unless you count Clif not remembering to bring the CDs he borrowed from me back even after I called him the night before he came home and reminded him to bring them back an incident). Work's been nice and slow, so I've managed to get absolutely nothing of value accomplished. Wee.

Still need to do tomorrow's comic, but I haven't really felt like drawing. I don't know whether to force myself to draw something (and risk the very strong chance that it comes out complete crap), or figure out some sort of filler for tomorrow. We'll just have to see how the next few hours go.

Picked up the first volume of the Ren & Stimpy Collection yesterday. I'd forgotten just how funny (and seriously messed up) that show was. The most amusing thing about it, Scott and I decided, was that it originally aired on Nickelodeon. The channel was kinda like an edgier Disney, I guess. They had some fun shows on back in the day (and some pretty good cartoons, come to that), but Ren & Stimpy doesn't really seem to fit in with things like Rugrats, y'know?

Dad put new strings on my guitar while I was in Ponca City. The guitar actually sounds like a gutiar again, which is nice. And the strings are a size smaller, I think. They feel smaller, and they're easier to push down. I played through a few songs before I came to work, and it sounded much better than it did before the strings were changed.

Of course, now I have the extra guitar string hanging from the end of the guitar neck, making a strange metallic "ting" every time they bounce off one another (which I usually can't hear because I'm playing, but that's not the point). Have to wait until the strings have settled before I can cut the excess off, because new strings get out of tune easily as the strings settle into their places. So I guess in a week or so, like around my birthday, I can cut the extra off the end and not have to worry about it.

Really, I'm just glad Dad restrung the guitar for me. I tried helping Clif with the Martin back a couple summers ago when we were in Yellowstone, and it all but killed me fingers. Damn those things are sharp and hard to hold onto.


Song of the Moment: Mark Knopfler, "Sands of Nevada"

Friday, March 18, 2005

The Wallflowers In Concert

So. The Wallflowers show Wednesday night up at the Cain's Ballroom in Tulsa.

Lemme tell ya, that was a kickass show. Those boys rock.

Ended up getting there about two hours before the show started...which was okay, since I had to pick up my ticket about an hour before the show opened. Ended up sitting around outside for an hour just chatting with the people who were also waiting for the show.

The band consisted of Jakob Dylan (whom I swear to God looks exactly like his father circa 1964. It's creepy), Rami Jaffe, their bassist and drummer, and producer Brendan O'Brien on lead guitar (we actually got a chance to meet Mr. O'Brien before the show when he came out and hopped into a car and drove off for somewhere. Of course, I had no idea he was Brendan O'Brien at the time).

Anyway, they mostly played stuff off of Bringing Down the Horse. Probably a good 1/2 to 2/3 of the show came from that album, including songs such as "One Headlight," "6th Avenue Heartache," "God Don't Make Lonely Girls," "Invisible City," "Three Marlenas," and "The Difference." They also played three tunes from Breach: "Letters from the Wasteland," "Sleepwalker," and "Some Flowers Bloom Dead." They also played one off of their self-titled debut, "After the Blackbird Sings." The rest of the set was brand new material from their forthcoming album. They didn't play anything from Red Letter Days, oddly enough.

The new songs were uniformly excellent; much better than the stuff on Red Letter Days. All in all, the band was on fire for the whole show. Jakob joked and chatted with the audience throughout, and you could tell everyone on stage and off were enjoying themselves. It was loud, it was energetic, and it was about as good as you could hope for in a concert.

One of the strangest things I noticed during the show (aside from the complete absence of any songs from a whole album) was that Dylan's phrasing was remarkably like his father's. At one point, when a heckler said something about "singing in key," Dylan joked that this was a free-form show, and they could all play and sing in whatever key each person wanted to. This apparently extended to the way he would sing phrases--stretching them out, singing on the off-beat, and basically sounding alot like Dylan the elder. But y'know, it worked, just as it always worked for Papa Bob.

All in all, I'm glad I got to go see this show. Wish I'd been able to track down my friend Rana (who was supposed to try and attend the same show), but never could find her. Show still kicked ass. Can't wait for their next album.


Song of the Moment: Wallflowers, "Three Marlenas (Live)"

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

"The Answer Is Fatal"

So I've been listening to Pearl Jam for the past day or two (actually, I've been alternating between their odds'n'sods collection, Lost Dogs, and Bob Dylan's Infidels), and something occurred to me earlier this afternoon--Eddie Vedder sounds like a dead ringer for Bruce Springsteen. Honest. He sounds like the Boss. It's kinda cool, in a way. I'd like to hear Pearl Jam take a crack at some classic Springsteen tunes, like "Born to Run" or even "Atlantic City."

Well, tomorrow I head home and then up to Tulsa to see the Wallflowers. That's gonna be a kickass show. Anyone in the area should go to the Cain's Ballroom by 8.00 pm and attend the show. A splendid time, as they say, is guaranteed for all.

Anyway, got work in the morning, I'm tired, so it's off to bed with me. Snoogans.


Song of the Moment: Pearl Jam, "Drifting"

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

"Alanis Morissette - Jagged Little Pill"

When one thinks of '90s angst-rock, a couple of bands pop up--Nirvana is one, of course. Another is Alanis Morissette, whose major-label debut, Jagged Little Pill, was quite possibly the most well-known "f**k you" album known to man. But this isn't an entirely accurate or fair portrayal of the album, which moves from angsty diary entries to quiet meditations on spirituality, the self, and redemption.

Above all, this is really an album about redemption--about those who seek it, those who attempt to redeem others, and those who refuse to accept redemption. The song cycle deals in large part with what is called simply "The Relationship," which apparently involved the young waif Alanis and an older record executive gentleman who promised to make her a star and instead took advantage of her. This forms the basis for most of the songs here, especially the breakout tune "You Oughta Know" and "Right Through You." Though many of the songs overt mentions of "The Relationship," these two convey the path the circumstances followed the most.

Lyrically, Alanis's style is very confessional and reads like a diary entry set to Dylanesque verse. Like Dylan, she sometimes tries to cram too many syllables into a single phrase. But the funny thing is, it works. Even her sometimes piercing vocal delivery works. This is catharsis in its most primative and purest sense; this is a young woman exorcising her demons and attempting to move on, as songs such as "You Learn" imply. Songs like "You Learn" and "Head Over Feet" present a smirking, impish side to Alanis's music, proving she's not just about screaming and being angry at the jerk who did her wrong. She recognizes that dwelling in the past prevents personal growth and development, so she uses the songs about "The Relationship" to purge herself and to move beyond the situation.

Especially when you consider that she was only all of 19 when she recorded this album (primarily with producer/multi-instrumentalist Glen Ballard), Alanis's lyrical abilities are still impressive. She has the confessional, personal style down pat, and it works well for the themes and circumstances she writes about. Her introspection is sometimes a little too insular, and some of the songs are hard to penetrate (one feels this is on purpose, even), but they're still good songs, even if you can't quite figure them out.

The album's musical sheen clashes a bit with Alanis's ragged vocals. There is a processed, polished feel to everything--most of the drums are programmed drum machines rather than live drummers, and the guitars are smoothed out and rendered into an almost synth-like drone in many places. This isn't to say the music is bad, just that it doesn't always jive with the vocals. Of interesting note is that Heartbreakers pianist/organist Benmont Tench makes several guest appearances here, providing some excellent and understated organ accompaniment to several of the songs.

Overall, Jagged Little Pill is an excellent album that seems like something of an acquired taste. This is due in large part to Alanis's ragged and histrionic vocal delivery. Once you get past that, though, and dig into the meat of the songs, it's well-worth the trip and discovery.


Song of the Moment: Alanis Morissette, "You Learn"

Monday, March 14, 2005

"Bathed In A Stream Of Pure Heat"

Work's been slow this morning. I did the crossword puzzle, I drew a comic, I putzed around the internet. We had one student come in, but he was here specifically to work with the Colonel's wife, so I had nothing to do with that.

The weekend went pretty well. Went and saw my uncle play again Satuday night, though I didn't stay the whole time 'cause I was tired. Yesterday, Ev came over and we watched some anime (Samurai Champloo and Project A-Ko, for those who're curious). That's really about all the excitement I've had going on. I'm ready for it to be Wednesday evening already. I'm ready to go hear the Wallflowers in concert up in Tulsa. But alas, it is but Monday, and I have two days to go.

Started reading Gulliver's Travels last night. The introduction to the book was quite interesting and went into a lot of detail about the various ways folks have viewed Swift's work over the years. He went from being a well-loved satirist to a demonized, misanthropic jerk over the course of a century or so, back to a good guy, back to a bad guy, and now I think he's generally viewed as an amazing writer whose work is worth reading...unless you're one of those people who doesn't want anyone thinking for themselves. But if that's the case, you probably don't like books much to begin with and you probably aren't reading this.

Anyway, I got it in my head that I want to try to read as many of the books on that top 110 banned books list as possible. I've only read all of 27 of them, and read bits and pieces of about another couple dozen. That's not even half. That's pathetic. I'm going to endeavor to read as many of the books as possible, which means I guess I know what I'll be reading over the next several months or until something else grabs my attention and shakes me violently.


Song of the Moment: Bob Dylan, "Clean-Cut Kid"

Saturday, March 12, 2005

"The Wind In My Hair"

Beth, in a bid to prove she is the single coolest person I know, just called to tell me that she'd found me a birthday present and that it was en route--Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, the latest DVD Miyazaki release.

Which really just proves she is one of the coolest people I know. Period. Why does this woman have to live in Florida?


Song of the Moment: The Beatles, "Across the Universe"

"Radio Free Europe"

I swiped this from a friend of mine's LiveJournal because, let's face it, I'm a reading fiend. Half the books on here surprise me. Some of not. But anyway, read on.

List of the top 110 banned books. Bold the ones you've read. Underline the ones you specifically want to read (at least some of). Italicize the ones you've read part of. Read more. Convince others to read some.

#1 The Bible
#2 Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
#3 Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes
#4 The Koran
#5 Arabian Nights
#6 Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
#7 Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift
#8 Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer
#9 Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
#10 Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman
#11 The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli
#12 Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe
#13 Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
#14 Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
#15 Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
#16 Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
#17 Dracula by Bram Stoker
#18 Autobiography by Benjamin Franklin
#19 Tom Jones by Henry Fielding
#20 Essays by Michel de Montaigne
#21 Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
#22 History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon
#23 Tess of the D'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy
#24 Origin of Species by Charles Darwin
#25 Ulysses by James Joyce
#26 Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio
#27 Animal Farm by George Orwell
#28 Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell
#29 Candide by Voltaire
#30 To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
#31 Analects by Confucius
#32 Dubliners by James Joyce
#33 Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
#34 Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway
#35 Red and the Black by Stendhal
#36 Das Capital by Karl Marx
#37 Flowers of Evil by Charles Baudelaire
#38 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
#39 Lady Chatterley's Lover by D. H. Lawrence
#40 Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
#41 Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser
#42 Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchel
#43 Jungle by Upton Sinclair
#44 All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque
#45 Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx
#46 Lord of the Flies by William Golding
#47 Diary by Samuel Pepys
#48 Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
#49 Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy
#50 Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
#51 Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak
#52 Critique of Pure Reason by Immanuel Kant
#53 One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
#54 Praise of Folly by Desiderius Erasmus
#55 Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
#56 Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X
#57 Color Purple by Alice Walker
#59 Essay Concerning Human Understanding by John Locke
#60 Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
#61 Moll Flanders by Daniel Defoe
#62 One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
#63 East of Eden by John Steinbeck
#64 Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
#65 I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
#66 Confessions by Jean Jacques Rousseau
#67 Gargantua and Pantagruel by Francois Rabelais
#68 Leviathan by Thomas Hobbes
#69 The Talmud
#70 Social Contract by Jean Jacques Rousseau
#71 Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
#72 Women in Love by D. H. Lawrence
#73 American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser
#74 Mein Kampf by Adolf Hitler
#75 Separate Peace by John Knowles
#76 Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
#77 Red Pony by John Steinbeck
#78 Popol Vuh
#79 Affluent Society by John Kenneth Galbraith
#80 Satyricon by Petronius
#81 James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
#82 Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
#83 Black Boy by Richard Wright
#84 Spirit of the Laws by Charles de Secondat Baron de Montesquieu
#85 Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut
#86 Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George
#87 Metaphysics by Aristotle
#88 Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
#89 Institutes of the Christian Religion by Jean Calvin
#90 Steppenwolf by Hermann Hesse
#91 Power and the Glory by Graham Greene
#92 Sanctuary by William Faulkner
#93 As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
#94 Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin
#95 Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig
#96 Sorrows of Young Werther by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
#97 General Introduction to Psychoanalysis Handby Sigmund Freud
#98 Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
#99 Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Alexander Brown
#100 Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
#101 Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman by Ernest J. Gaines
#102 Emile Jean by Jacques Rousseau
#103 Nana by Emile Zola
#104 Chocolate War by Robert Cormier
#105 Go Tell It on the Mountain by James Baldwin
#106 Gulag Archipelago by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
#107 Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein
#108 Day No Pigs Would Die by Robert Peck
#109 Ox-Bow Incident by Walter Van Tilburg Clark
#110 Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes

I was surprised how many of these I'd read, but I'm still trying to figure out why something like Aristotle's Metaphysics is on the list. Why not Plato's Republic? And is Machiavelli's The Prince on there because the current administration is afraid folks will read it and figure out that's where their foreign policy came from? Curious.


Song of the Moment: The Beatles, "I Me Mine"

Friday, March 11, 2005

"I Recommend Sticking Your Foot In Your Mouth"

So I woke up this morning in a worse mood than I went to bed in, never a good sign. Didn't even want to get out of bed, because it was so damn early and because I knew I'd have to deal with the stupid thing between my coworkers...which I did, eventually, though not in the way I feared I would have to. Apparently the only thing the two of them agreed upon before going for each other's throat was that they would not drag me into the middle of it. But apparently their friendship--which I'd always thought was fairly strong--is all but over. They'll be cordial to one another at work when they have to, but only because doing otherwise would have a negative effect on the students.

Really what annoys me most about this whole situation is that it seems like it was over stuff that's really, when you get right down to it, not all that important. I mean, no one's life was in danger. Neither of them had some sort of epic problem they needed the other's help for. It was over something abstract, and while I think that philosphy and the way one views the world are important things, it's stupid to end a long-standing friendship over an ideological disagreement of this minor magnitude. They'd probably both disagree with me, but I've always thought that it's better to try and get along with folks and maybe see their side of it before just deciding that they're wrong. But that's just me.

The day sorta went uphill from there, thankfully. I took the unnecessary power supply back to the store. They couldn't give me the refund right then, since I'd paid with a check, but they're going to mail me a refund check in a week or so. Then I called up Dell, and after sitting on hold for a bit, got connected to a real live human being. First guy I talked to sounded like he was from this area of the country. Problem was that he wasn't in the division I needed--he transferred me to the small business line (since my computer was purchased through my father's office, it's technically through the small business department). The woman I talked to there had a wee bit of an accent of the India/Near East variety, and we had a few communication problems. I was able to order a new power supply that would actually fit my computer, and it ended up being cheaper than the one I'd originally purchased from the store here in town. Only thing is that they have to ship it to my dad's office--trying to explain to her why she was mailing the package to a college kid's apartment when this computer was clearly owned by a small business would have taken more effort than it was worth, and the part should arrive right before I go home anyway (so I can just pick up my part and drop off my loaner all at the same time).

After taking care of that, I did my usual thing for handling depression--I went shopping. I always do this when I'm upset and unhappy. Finding a new movie or especially new music does wonders for cheering me up. So I hit my digital entertainment crack dealer, Best Buy, and picked up Alanis Morrissette's Jagged Little Pill. Stop laughing, it's a good album. Honest. Yeah, the vocal histrionics are a little overbearing sometimes, but this is a solid record. Hard to believe it's already almost a decade old (will be this summer, when she plans on releasing an acoustic version of the entire album that she's currently recording. Since her voice has evolved since then, it ought to be worth hearing). Hearing her angst all over the place really helped me mellow out. Funny how that works, eh? I'll probably have to listen to Sting and Van Morrison next, 'cause those are my usual "I'm angsty and depressed and want to shut out the world until I'm in a more social mood" musicians. They're just good for that, y'know?

Also talked to mom today (dear God, it was a busy day, wasn't it?). She was rather helpful in many ways--helped to cheer me up a bit about the whole situation with my friends at work, didn't yell at me about stuff, and is apparently going to deposit some money in my account for various things (which is good, since not getting a refund for the one power supply meant I was kinda more strapped for cash than I thought I would be...of course, I say this, and I went and bought a new CD anyway. 'Cause that was different, and $14 won't make or break me. Or hasn't yet, anyway).

Anyway, I'm glad the weekend (for me) is here. I need one, dammit. Gonna go hear my uncle play on Friday and Saturday over on Peably Road (out in the middle of freakin' nowhere, but hey, it's not really that far away and I get to hear good music). That's really the only solid plan thus far, aside from hanging out with Ev a bit for various stuff on Friday and Sunday.


Song of the Moment: Alanis Morrissette, "You Learn"

Thursday, March 10, 2005

"And There's No Time For Fussing And Fighting"

A couple of my friends at work are fighting over some stupid something that happened at work tonight (Wednesday). I don't even know what it was, since I wasn't there when it went down.

But one of them called me on the phone about it.

The other sent me an email about it.

The two stories only slightly mesh. We're talking about some very subjective views of the same event, enough to give even a world-class historian a headache.

But yeah, I wasn't even there, and somehow I'm dragged into the fucking middle of it, as per usual. They're adults, and yet they're acting like two fucking children. I don't want to have to mediate this time, I really don't. I'd much rather they behave like mature individuals and work it out. But apparently that won't happen.

Why do I always end up in the middle of other people's arguments? Is it because someone or something out there thinks I don't have enough arguments and disagreements of my own, so I need to borrow from other people?

Ugh. I'm just ready for it to be next Wednesday night. Then I can see the Wallflowers, go home, and just shut out the world for a few days as I hang with the family and get pampered for my birthday.


Song of the Moment: The Beatles, "We Can Work It Out" (because I have a wicked, snarky sense of humor, dammit)

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

"The Handshake Drugs I Bought Downtown"

Finally managed to download the new Wilco songs today. Took awhile for the server to free up long enough for me to get access and download them.

I'm listening to the first song, "Panthers," right now. Stylistically, it's pretty much like most of the rest of A Ghost is Born, except that maybe the drums are a little more processed-sounding. And no guitars. But interesting nonetheless.

Then we'll have three live songs: "At least that's what you said," the album opener, "The late greats," which closed Ghost, and "Handshake drugs." Then there's another new song, "Kicking Television." Should be fun stuff.


Song of the Moment: Wilco, "Panthers"

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

"Bitterness Is Reserved For Stupid People"

T'was a busy day. After work, I managed to get a ticket to the Wallflowers concert ordered. Then I went and filled up the car with gas (which had gone from $1.88 to $1.95, unfortunately).

My next stop was a computer repair store, where I bought a new power supply for only $35. I figured I'd install it myself, but I didn't count on two things: first, that I can't figure out for the life of me how to get the power supply out of my damn computer. I just can't figure it out. Second, the power supply is the wrong shape and size. Won't fix in my tower (one of those slimline Dell 4500S models. Damn things require a different size of power supply, apparently). So that means I have to find time tomorrow or (more likely) Thursday to take the power supply back and order a different one, which will probably cost more money.

Of interesting note was something I heard outside of Best Buy this afternoon. A man maybe a couple of years older than myself, his girlfriend/wife/whatever, and a young boy about 10 or 12 years old. The adult male was what I'll call a hip-hop redneck--pure Oklahoma white boy, but thinks he's from the 'hood. Well, his kid brother/son/whatever was even worse. Little tot thought he was straight outta Compton or something, 'cause he was standing there cussin' like a rapper. I just couldn't believe that a kid that young was talking like that, and that neither adult said anything about it. Hell, I don't even like hearing the student-athletes curse. I'm not a prude or goody-two-shoes by any stretch of the imagination, but honestly, the sort of language this kid was using was simply the sign of poor education and (probable) mental retardation in the sense that someone had obviously been retarding this child's opportunities to learn anything of value.

I think that actually points to my biggest problem with rap: aside from the fact that I just don't like the musical style (I have a thing for guitars, what can I say? Drums and bass and samples just don't really do it for me), the fact that so many people attempt to emulate the lifestyle rappers rap about bothers me. I think someone wasn't listening to the guys in NWA and all that. This wasn't something folks ought to be imitating. They're talking about the hardships they've gone through, the hell they lived in, and it's not something they necessarily wanted others to have to live with. I think folks (especially the hip-hop rednecks I mentioned earlier) just don't seem to get. Then again, that's what you almost have to expect from people who absorb pop culture without fully understanding what the source material is.


Song of the Moment: Minus 5, "Dear Employer (The Reason That I Quit)"

Monday, March 07, 2005

"You Can't Hear Them On The Radio"

I'm really becoming fond of Wilco, not just because of their music, but because of their attitude towards their fans.

For instance, that EP I talked about last week, the one that's available to download for free from their website. They even provide you with three different hi-res covers you can print out and use for the EP if you want to burn it to a CD.

They also have a section on their website called "Roadcase," where they have a streaming concert available. Not just a couple of songs, but well over an hour's worth of music.

Then I popped A Ghost is Born into my CD-ROM drive. Some of the enhanced content on the CD includes access to another show they did in Chicago. The sound quality for both the show on the website and the one through the CD are excellent, especially for streamed music.

Now, there's also supposed to be five songs available for download by dropping Ghost into your CD-ROM drive today. So far, I've seen no sign of them, but it could be that they just forgot to do it today. There are delays, stuff happens. No worries.

Anyway, I'm currently listening to the enhanced concert content from the Ghost CD. I figure I'll give finding the new songs another shot tomorrow afternoon or something. Like I said, no worries.


Song of the Moment: Wilco, "Company in my Back (Live)"

Just As I Say Something...

...the comic uploads.

So yeah, forget what I said. There's a comic now.


Song of the Moment: Wilco, "Dash-7"

"When The World Is Running Down"

Keenspace hasn't updated yet. Mind you, I had all of this week's comics uploaded to the server like last Thursday. But for some reason, all of Keenspace seems to be struggling today, so Monday's Crooked Halo has yet to appear. This annoys me.

I checked the queue of sites waiting to be updated for today about half an hour ago, and it was at around 3,400. This was an improvement over the 6,500 it was at when I checked at 8.30 this morning, but not much of an improvement.

Anyway, there should be a comic up sometime today, God willing. Guess it's a good thing I didn't try to take part in the Daily Grind Challenge.


Song of the Moment: Wilco, "Passenger Side"

Sunday, March 06, 2005

"That Sugarcane That Tasted Good"

It's been quiet today at work...well, I say "quiet," but I've had music going the whole time. I guess I mean it hasn't been particularly busy. We've had like three or four students come in. Two of them are athletes I tutor in Ethics. Apparently they have a paper due tonight, so of course they're just now getting to it. But it's been mostly quiet. I've had the place to myself for most of the day (Vicki didn't come in today, and neither did Andrea. Ev showed up at his appointed time, 6.00).

Haven't been able to access Dim Bulb's FTP all day, which means I can't upload anything to the server. Thankfully, this does not affect the comic--I uploaded all of this week's comics back on Thursday or so.


Song of the Moment: REM, "Daysleeper"

"Jack Johnson - In Between Dreams"

Jack Johnson is a very consistent musician. He just keeps cranking out mellow, folky rock that you can just sit and listen to on a rainy afternoon. On his third album, In Between Dreams, he doesn't fix what isn't broken, though he does tinker with a few new elements that ultimately give the album a bit of depth it might've otherwise lacked.

The basic setup for a Jack Johnson song is simple: guitar (usually acoustic), voice, bass, and percussion. Johnson has had the accusation that his songs all sound the same, taking a similar groove and guitar playing style in every single song. This is an unfair accusation. The songs are subtle in their differences, and Johnson adds a few sonic flourishes (piano and accordion) in a few songs to create a slightly different atmosphere. Johnson's mastery of laid-back acoustic groove is as impressive as ever. Each song on here is fun, thoughtful, and slightly wistful. The band is tight but not wound-up. They're very comfortable, both with the music and one another.

Lyrically, Johnson is just as strong as his two previous outtings. Topics range from the recent birth of his son to love won and lost and the current state of the world. But Johnson never gets up on a soapbox. He is of the impression that the answer to most every question in his mind is love: love fixes everything. He genuinely believes that if everyone learned to love one another, we'd all get along just fine and all the problems would be gone. He's a peacenick in the best sense of the term. It makes for very affirming lyrics: yes, things are messed up at the moment, but we can get through this if we just try. Coupled with Johnson's warm, half-spoken vocal delivery, it makes for some warm, peaceful music.

All in all, In Between Dreams follows the same paths and byways that Brushfire Fairytales and On and On followed. If you liked those two albums, you'll like this record. It offers no surprises, either musically or lyrically, but that's not the point. Johnson has fun with his music, and after the first few tracks (especially standouts like "Sitting, Waiting, Wishing," "Banana Pancakes," and "Good People"), you can't help but tap your toes and smile along with him.


Song of the Moment: Jack Johnson, "Belle"

"O.K. Computer"

This (Saturday) afternoon did not go as I planned.

See, I figured it'd be a nice, leisurely afternoon spent finishing up my laundry (only got half of it done...though it was the important half), maybe watch a little anime, maybe take a walk to continue my assault on my weight (hey, lost five pounds this week).

But all of my plans changed when I came back from grabbing my laundry from the dryers. As I entered the apartment, I noticed a strange smell of burnt wiring. "Strange," I thought to myself, "that smells like burnt wiring." As I made my way back to the computer room, the smell only got stronger. I'm not yet worried, but I think you could say I was mildly concerned. I reach the computer, and notice that, while I had left the machine running while I was out, it was no longer running. "Odd," I think to myself, entering the state of mind known as "mildly panicked." I reach down and hit the power button. Nothing. Nada. Enter stage "freaking out." I hit the button again. Again, nothing. Again I hit the button, as if the previous two tries were mere aberations and hitting the button a third time would magically make the computer go, "Oh, wait, I'm supposed to turn on now, aren't I?"

So I'm freaked completely out. I call up my parents' house, trying to reach my father, but he's not there. I call his office. He's not there, either, but the woman who does tech stuff there happens to answer the phone, so we make a plan--I take a trip to Shawnee, try to drop my hard drive into my old computer (the one I got when I was going to Ozarks back in 1999) and make sure I did't lose any of my files when my computer putzed out.

I get to Shawnee, pick up the computer, and start swapping out hard drives. I get everything switched over, plug in the old Compaq (aka the Comcrap), hit the power button, and get a message which does nothing for my already frazzled and jangled nerves: "Unable to load operating system." "Oh sweet Mother of God," I think, "I've lost everything."

As a last ditch effort, I call up the tech woman again, and she says there's another computer out at the office I can try popping my hard drive into that isn't a Compaq. Thinking that maybe that will make a difference, I rush back out to the office, swap out hard drives again (in like a quarter of the time it took to swap the drive into the Comcrap), and fire the new computer up. Miracle of miracles, the computer booted up, no worries, and I hadn't lost anything.

So I've got a loaner tower with my hard drive dropped in it right now. It's not my computer, really, but it works for the time being. It means I don't go without access to my stuff.

Now, the question remains: what happened to my computer? The only thing we can figure out (and I've talked not only to my dad's tech person, but my uncle and another friend of ours, Tom, who does IT for some big company) is that my power supply got fried. Guess that's what I get for leaving my computer turned on all the time. If it is the power supply, then I'm in luck--my uncle has a spare at his house that I can have. He and I can probably pop a new power supply into the computer easily. It'd definitely be cheaper than paying someone else to take my computer for a week, buy a new power supply, and let them do the work. I mean, free versus potentially hundreds of dollars (I've no idea how much they'd charge or how much a power supply even costs, but I'm sure that, with my luck, it wouldn't be cheap).

Anyway, long story short, my afternoon plans were shot pretty well to hell. All thanks to technology. Stupid damn technology.


Song of the Moment: Radiohead, "Paranoid Android"

Saturday, March 05, 2005

"Pretend Like Its The Weekend Now"

Yesterday was a rather busy day. Work in the morning, then Ev and company coming over around 2.00 for the last of the Joseph Campbell interviews. So they were over from about 2.00 or 2.30 until about 8.30, when we parted and I headed out to the bar to hear my uncle play. Was there until I was exhausted, then came home, showered, and crashed. Slept in ridiculously late this afternoon (1.00), so now I'm finally rested and such.

In a rather interesting coincidence, after mentioning that one Jack Johnson song yesterday, I went out and found his latest CD (In Between Dreams) on sale at Hastings for $8.99. Being a sucker for the guy's music and for really good sales like that, I grabbed the CD. And damn it's good. Much like his first two in terms of style and mellow groove, but why fix what ain't broke, right?

Anyway, today is laundry day. God, do I need to wash some clothes. I think I'm wearing my last pair of clean underwear. And there's your tidbit of personal information you never wanted to hear for the day. I'm off to wash clothes!--or stick clothes in the washing machine, which is close enough.


Song of the Moment: Jack Johnson, "Banana Pancakes"

Friday, March 04, 2005

"It Was You, It Was Me, It Was Every Man"

Saw a couple of interesting interviews on video game violence: one with gamer and gaming comic artist Tim Buckley, and a counter opinion full of idiocy from a guy named Jack Thompson. Buckley's responses are pretty strong, and he makes the same sort of argument I do about video game violence and real-life violence: first, most kids can tell the difference between real and fantasy violence; second, that most of the responsibility lies with the parents. Parents need to pay attention to what their kids are doing and playing, not buy the violent video games for the kids, and basically be parents. Thompson made the sort of argument you'd expect--video game companies ought to be responsible, shouldn't make these games, blah blah blah. He even purposely misinterprets one of the questions (whether or not he thought age and sex had any impact on violence, a question obviously asking whether the age and gender of the kid have anything to do with it) so he can set up a straw man argument about sex and violence linked in the brain and all that crap.

The whole video game violence argument annoys me to no end. I've been playing video games for years. I played Mortal Kombat. I played Halo. I played the Grand Theft Auto games (and got pretty bored with them after awhile). I played all sorts of games with killing, blood, guts, etc., and I'm a pretty well-adjusted individual. I don't go around trying to emulate those games, because I know they're games. Fantasy. Pretend. Not real. I recognize this, as do most gamers. As Buckley points out, the sort of kid who goes out and does something violent after playing a video game was most likely predisposed towards that sort of behavior before they ever picked up a controller. The great majority of gamers can tell the difference between fantasy and reality, right and wrong, and blaming gamers or games for the stupidity or inability to tell the difference of a few individuals is ludicrous.

It reminds me of a song by Jack Johnson called "Cookie Jar." Just like the old children's song that asks, "who stole the cookie from the cookie jar?" and then passes the blame along the line, Johnson explores a series of groups and individuals who refuse to take responsibility for a single violent act. Johnson ultimately decides that everyone is to blame: "we all have the blood on our hands." No one and everyone is responsible because we all denied our responsibilities. And that's the case here, with these video games. The games in and of themselves are not what is wrong. What is wrong is that parents aren't teaching their kids right, kids aren't bothering to learn the difference, video game makers are creating these games, retailers aren't bothering to check the age of the people buying the games. We're all responsible, and none of us want to be the one caught with our hand in the cookie jar.


Song of the Moment: Jack Johnson, "Cookie Jar"

Thursday, March 03, 2005

"Life Of Riley"

One of my favorite webcomics, Life of Riley, has finally returned.

It's been gone for a long time. The site went down about a year or so ago, no warning. It stayed down for...well, almost that whole year. It came back up about two months ago, except that LoR was no longer updating. The guys who run the site (it's more than just the webcomic. I think it's mostly just a site for the guys who run it to host all their gaming clan stuff on) said the comic was on indefinite hiatus, which usually means "comic ain't comin' back, go find some other way to waste all your time." But they did come back, and sooner than I thought they would.

So now we have nice, shiney new LoR every Friday. Not as nice as the thrice-weekly schedule we had before the site's collapse, but they're making up for it in terms of the size of each comic and the fact that, though the artist says he hasn't picked up a pencil to draw in about six months, the art kicks just as much ass (if not more) as it did before.

So go check it out. Very worthwhile read, and I'm glad the Bobs are back in business.


Song of the Moment: Samurai Champloo, "Battlecry"


I got another comic drawn this morning at work, which means I have all of next week's comics drawn. I'm going to try to continue getting ahead like this; I figure developing a backlog/buffer of comics would be useful for those days when I have a bad case of artist or writer's block (which does happen...happened for most of this week, actually, until about yesterday. Awful artist's block. Couldn't draw a damn thing). Might also provide me with some leeway for working on other projects, something which I'd really like to have.

It's been busy this morning, but not unbearably so. With four of us working mornings now, the load's pretty evenly distributed. And in another hour and a half, I get to go home.

I don't rightly know why, but I spent a good part of last night listening to the Samurai Champloo soundtrack. It's not normally the sort of music I'd listen to (for one thing, there are only like three songs with lyrics--the song that they use in the opening credits, the song they use in the closing credits that's in Japanese, and a song that sounds like Destiny's Child. So really only one song that I can sing along to). They call it hip-hop, but I'm not entirely convinced it's straight hip-hop. Like with anything else the Japanese do, they can't just leave something alone. They have to fiddle with it, creating these strange hybrids that end up working very well. Such is the case with this CD. There are a few tracks that are very much hip-hop, but without lyrics (which I thought was an important part of the genre, but what do I know?). The music, more than anything else, is fun. I'm a big fan of fun music, whatever genre it may be in.


Song of the Moment: Wilco, "Hummingbird"

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

"Our Luck May Have Died"

Not much going on today. I've worked, and that's about it. Worked this morning, when I managed to get a comic done. Then I went home and spent most of the afternoon napping, which means I'll never get to sleep tonight. Then I came back to work and got another comic drawn, discussed the major differences between Asian religions, faiths, and philosophies compared to Western ones (the main thing Ev and I figured out is that the west treats everything as a substance, an object which can be grasped in some way. Look at the Christian notion of the Holy Spirit--it is a substance which fills an individual. Eastern faiths--and this is, of course, a broad generalization--tend to see faith and holiness as a state of being, a state of mind, a moment in which one exists, not something tangible. It's focus versus locus, which only makes sense if you've been sitting in on the conversations Ev and I have been having for the past few weeks, but oh well. I digress), and talked about how sad the state of education in Oklahoma high schools is (one of my coworkers, Vicki, teaches at Little Axe High School. It's out in the boonies, even for Oklahoma. Apparently she had to go to a meeting today where they were told to dumb down certain terms for the "at risk" kids; that is, the kids who aren't quite as swift or bright or whatever. And they've got words like "describe" and "predict" on there. I was very sad after hearing this).

Anyway, I'm glad it's almost the end of the week. I look forward to Friday arriving, because Lord am I ready for payday. I'm also ready to hear my uncle rock out, since he's playing here in Norman this weekend (and playing somewhere nearby basically every weekend for the next month or two, barring Easter weekend, when I'll be home anyway).

That's about it. The next half hour cannot go by fast enough.


Song of the Moment: Wilco, "Muzzle of Bees"

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Damn Parking Nazis

They freakin' went and did it again--I happened to drive to work, and one of the damn OU parking nazis gave me a freakin' ticket at 8.15 at night! What the hell?! It pisses me off mostly because I can't understand why (1) they're out there that late issuing tickets and (2) mine was the only car with a ticket. That's just bullshit right there, so I'm gonna be calling them up tomorrow and trying to get out of paying the $25 fine.

Damn parking nazis.


Song of the Moment: Wilco, "Camera"

"Wilco - More Like The Moon EP"

I was kicking around on the Wilco site today, just looking around, when I came across their records page. On said page was a section of downloadable tracks--six of them, an EP entitled More Like the Moon. Thinking to myself, "hey, I like free, legitimate music," I downloaded the six songs.

The EP opens with a pair of alternate versions--one of "Kamera" (here called "Camera") from Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, and one of "Handshake Drugs" from A Ghost is Born. Both songs are grittier and rougher than their final album conterparts, but the grit and edges work in favor of the songs. "Camera" is a Stones-y, clattering bash, and "Handshake Drugs" takes a faster and sloppier tempo than the album version. The third song on the EP is called "Woodgrain," a strange, short little mostly-acoustic number with electronic blips and bleeps scattered throughout that give it a haunting edge. Track four is one of my favorite Wilco tunes (and the reason I'd been searching for this EP, in whatever form, for ages), "A Magazine Called Sunset." It begins with a faint, lounge act piano, then moves into a smooth, bittersweet melody with lyrics that only make a little sense (and seem to be about an airplane ride, but I'm not entirely certain). Next up is a song with one of the strangest titles ever, "Bob Dylan's 49th Beard," a bizarre little love dirge that invokes Zimmy's facial hair as a sign of mourning. The EP closes with the title track, "More Like the Moon," a beautiful six minute ode to love in typical Jeff Tweedy style (meaning it's anything but your standard love song).

All in all, More Like the Moon is an entertaining little EP and worth downloading. While you're at the site, check out the rest of the stuff they've got there. I wouldn't mind one of the show posters they've got (and I'm sure that, sometime in April or so, they'll have a poster for the show in OKC. The show I intend to attend. I definitely wouldn't mind a poster from that). Of additional interest to Wilco fans is the fact that, on March 7th (this coming Monday), they'll be making five new songs (well, a couple of new songs and three live tracks) available through the website. All you have to do is pop A Ghost is Born into your CD-ROM drive to access the songs for free. This corresponds with the release of the album in Europe, where the five songs are actually included on the CD (so I thought it was nice that the band made the tracks available for free to folks over here who already owned the album. Right decent of them). That'll be sweet, I think.


Song of the Moment: Wilco, "Handshake Drugs"

"Too Much Of Nothing"

Keenspace, apparently, is down. This probably annoys Monkey to no end, as he actually had the comic for today uploaded early. Hopefully it'll all be fixed before the end of the day.

It's been a fairly slow day at work today...which is kinda funny, since we've got like four employees here in the mornings now. Not that I'm going to complain--it means we're not as overloaded. Hurray.

Really not a whole lot going on today. I have to tutor tonight, and between now and then I need to work on a letter of recommendation for Ev. Beyond that, there's really nothing much going on.


Song of the Moment: David Gray, "Kangaroo"