Saturday, April 30, 2005

"Don't Panic"

So I went and saw Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy this afternoon. It was...better than I thought it'd be. They didn't excise all the humor out of it (as I'd heard and thus feared they might), but they did alter the story in significant and sometimes head-scratching ways.

One of the key differences--and Ev was the first to mention it, and I have to agree with his assessment--is that they altered the focus of the humor. Part of the joke in Hitchhiker's, whether it was the book, radio play, or old BBC TV show, was that it made fun of the British for being so...well, British, really. Everyone was always so serious about everything--Arthur was unnecessarily serious about anything and everything he encountered, Ford was ridiculously serious about his research for the Guide (well, sort of), and Zaphod was serious about never being serious and having a wild time. These characters were typical Brits--stoic and impassive. Sure, Arthur got upset by every single thing that happened to him, but the thing that most upset him about his entire ordeal was that he couldn't get a decent cup of tea.

The movie shifts this focus--it's about Americans now. Well, except Arthur--he's still very much British (in fact, one of my favorite lines in the movie was when he said, "Leave this to me. I'm British--we know how to queue"). But Ford, Zaphod, Trillian--all Americans, really. Ford is like that friend you have who would be an excellent middle manager--he attempts to be accomodating and friendly to everyone in a vague, naive sort of way. He keeps offering to give people hugs, because that's what you do when people are having a bad day. Zaphod is...well, he's what we'll end up electing as our next president, if the current one is any indication. And Trillian falls into the almost cliched strong-woman-on-the-outside-type that we seem to favor in heroines these days.

So, was the movie itself good? Well, it was okay. It was pleasant. It had funny moments, especially the opener (where the dolphins sing "So Long, and Thanks for all the Fish"). But the ending annoyed the hell out of me (it's not supposed to have a happy ending--that runs contrary to being British! But then again, this isn't British. A pity, too). It was too contrived, and it really didn't jive with the rest of the movie, I didn't think. Neither did the scene where they met Humma, the religious leader and former campaign opponent of Zaphod. That whole scene really existed just to set up the ending, and neither was really necessary. But not everything they inserted into this version was bad--the stuff on Vogsphere was excellent and really fit the tone of the previous Hitchhiker's stuff.

The movie was neither an excellent adaptation nor a totally crappy one. It fell somewhere in the middle--bits were good, other bits weren't so good. I'm sorta ambivalent about it. I'm sure I'll end up purchasing the DVD when it comes out, and maybe they'll include some bits (such as the "the Babel fish is proof of God's non-existence" bit in the Guide, which they lead you up to but never actually give you) that should've been in the theatrical release. I really think this is one of those movies that would benefit from a "Director's Cut" DVD, assuming they even bothered to create some of the scenes I'm thinking of. So if you've got seven bucks and a couple of hours to kill, go check it out--it's at least worth seeing, I think.


Song of the Moment: Ryan Adams, "This Is It"

Friday, April 29, 2005

"You Don't Know Me, But I Know You"

So, I took the Praxis I this afternoon.

Test went remarkably well. I passed (at least, I passed the Reading and Math sections...won't know about the Writing section until they go over my essay, which wasn't the best piece I've ever written, but should suffice), so that's good. Funny thing--I actually scored a point higher on the Math section than I did the Reading. That's just weird; I mean, my math skills are awful. Guess that tells you just how hard the Math section was.

Anyway, next step is to wait to hear back from the folks in VA. I'll get a teaching job and get out of this state yet.


Song of the Moment: Wilco, "SummerTeeth"

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

"On A Bed Of California Stars"

So I'm taking the Praxis I tomorrow at noon. This exam (assuming I pass) will be the first step in getting hired as a teacher in Virginia. Wish me luck.


Song of the Moment: Billy Bragg & Wilco, "California Stars"

"Hot For Teacher"

Wendy emailed me this morning to tell me that there's an AP History position opening at her school. The only catch is that I need to take the Praxis I & II to qualify to teach in Virginia.

Two fairly simple tests are my gateway to getting to move to the same place where my best friend is? Seems fair enough.

Now I just need to go register for the damn tests.


Song of the Moment: Bruce Springsteen, "Devils + Dust"

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

"Tears In Heaven"

Found out this evening that my old pastor, Max Shumake, passed away over the weekend.

Max was a phenomenal man. He'd tried his hand at photography, music (he played a mean sax), and who knows what else before he became a Presbyterian minister in Shawnee. He had prostate cancer, and he'd had it for years. For awhile, we thought he'd beaten it--thanks to chemo and various other treatments, the cancer had gone into remission. But a couple of years ago, it came back in full force. He ended up having to retire about a year and a half ago because his health had declined so much. Apparently he'd had a real bad turn a couple of weeks ago, and just slipped quickly away.

Max was the man who taught me that theology and religion could be fascinating not just on a spiritual level, but as an academic and intellectual pursuit. He was a warm, friendly man who made church interesting and fun. He always opened his sermons with a joke. His sermons were more like intellectual treatises than the typical fire-and-brimstone-repent-or-else stuff you usually get in Oklahoma. He'd bring in major theologians, scholars both secular and spiritual, various other religious texts, and any number of random and bizarre sources just to make his point.

I wish I'd been able to attend the funeral. Apparently it was this afternoon at 2.00, but mom didn't find out until late yesterday and had no way to let me know. I couldn't have made it to Shawnee in time anyway.

I'm sad to see Max go. He was a genuinely good man in an era when such indivuals are all too few. He had patience, love, and virtue. He was a teacher, a guide, a guru. I'll miss him dearly, but I know he's gone on to a better place.


Song of the Moment: Jars of Clay, "Goodbye, Goodnight"

"'The Whiz Man' Will Never Fit You Like 'The Whiz Kid' Did"

So I went out and grabbed two new CDs today, just for the hell of it--Bruce Springsteen's latest, Devils + Dust, and Ben Folds' latest, Songs for Silverman. I've only had a chance to listen to the first three or four tracks on the Folds CD, so I can't really say much about either of them yet. I do like what I've heard so far on Songs for Silverman, and I can't figure out what the review for the OU Daily (who gave the CD a "D" grade) had against it. I mean, I guess if you were looking for the thrashing instrumentation and smirking smartass of the first two Ben Folds Five CDs, you'd be disappointed, but so far it strikes me as a mature, well-crafted release full of beautiful melodies and simple pleasures. Then again, I like mellow music.

But albums are that new Dual Disc format--CD audio on one side, DVD on the other. The benefit of this, apparently, is that they can cram all sorts of goodies on the DVD side--5.1 digital surround mix of the album, interviews, music videos, making of features, etc. Part of me is annoyed by the dual format, because it means you don't get art on the actual disc and there's a good chance of scratching at least one side on accident (since neither side is technically the label side now), but I can see how it has a lot of potential, too. Each of the CDs I grabbed has the 5.1 audio mix on the DVD side, and the Springsteen album has four or five live performances, while the Ben Folds album has several videos, an alternate version, and a making of feature.

Anyway, I'm sure I'll have thoughts on both albums before too long. And just think--next month, we get a new Gorillaz album and a new Wallflowers album.


Song of the Moment: Ben Folds, "Bastard"

Top Ten Concerts

I've been to a lot of concerts since my first back in the fifth grade. My father and I go to concerts the way some fathers and sons go to ball games or car shows. It's the way we bond and something we have in common.

So I was thinking after last night's Wilco show about my favorite concerts. I came up with a list of the ten best shows I've seen:

1. Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, Into the Great Wide Open Tour: the first truly great concert I went to, way back in 1991. We managed to get front row center tickets somehow, and I was on my feet the whole time. At the end of the show, Tom Petty leaned down and handed me his guitar pick. I think that was the moment music became an integral part of my life.

2. Eric Clapton, Me & Mr. Johnson Tour: last summer. I'd heard the two disc CD of his previous tour, One More Car, One More Rider, and hadn't been all that impressed. He seemed to focus on his pop side, and I was worried he'd do the same here. But my fears were unfounded--Clapton ripped through a set of classics, playing harder and better than I'd heard him play in ages. I left that show with ringing ears and a burning desire to scrawl "Clapton is God" on the nearest flat surface.

3. Bob Dylan, Love and Theft Tour: I saw Dylan for the first time at the Zoo Ampitheatre in OKC in 2001, the day before I went back to Ozarks to start my senior year. I'd only really just started getting into Dylan, and that concert was what kickstarted my current Dylan obsession. I've seen him again since, and I'll see him again at every available opportunity, but that first show just opened my eyes and mind.

4. Doobie Brothers, Brotherhood Tour: My first concert back in 1991. It was a present for my birthday, though in actuality we went more because my father is a huge fan of theirs. I only knew a couple of their songs at that point, but that was okay--I still had more fun at that show than I'd ever had in my life. This was where it all began, and I'll always have fond memories of it...even the part where the weird guy next to me offered me a joint.

5. Wallflowers, Red Letter Days Tour: just last month, up in Tulsa. I got there so early I got to hear part of the soundcheck. They rocked harder than I thought imaginable, and they had a hell of a good time. They were real laid back, friendly, and had a great raporte with the audience. I'd go see them again in a heartbeat, and this time I'd remember to take my camera.

6. Wilco, A Ghost is Born Tour: well, my thoughts on this show from last night are in the post below, but the recap--these guys kick ass, and they'll do anything to please their audience, like coming out for three separate encores. An impressive display of musicianship, this was.

7. John Mellencamp, Words and Music Tour: another highlight from last month. Mellencamp knows just what his audience wants to hear, and he gives it to them. He's a great showman, and his backing band is tight and muscular. He also knew how to change his songs just enough so that they seemed fresh while remaining familiar, which is no small feat.

8. Rolling Stones, Bridges to Babylon Tour: Norman back in 1997. I remember this show well--it was freakin' cold, I was nearly crushed getting to my seat, and Mick and the boys rocked the stadium for a good two hours. A Rolling Stones show isn't just a concert, it's a freakin' experience.

9. Aerosmith, Nine Lives Tour: one of the last shows I got to see up in the Myriad Convention Center in OKC in late 1997 (they built the Ford Center not long after, so I don't think they even use the Myriad for concerts anymore...which is a shame, really). I actually went with my high school drama teacher, Mr. Guptill, who was (and still is) the biggest Aerosmith fan I know. Great show, and watching Steven Tyler running around the stage and doing backflips while they perform is great.

10. Genesis, We Can't Dance Tour: dad and I went down to Dallas for this one in 1992. It was held in Texas Stadium, and it was a packed house. I remember watching the band do their little walk/dance thing from the "I Can't Dance" video, a walk/dance thing I myself would do around the house while the song blarred from the stereo (much to my mother's chagrin and my father's grinning). My interest in Genesis wanned after this show, but it was still a great exprience.

These are just a handful of the shows I've seen over the years. I've enjoyed every show I've been to, but these were the best.

And it doesn't stop there. There are so many bands I still want to see live. Here's a short list:

1. Van Morrison: I'd love to see The Man. From what I understand, on the night's that he's hitting on all cylinders, he's an astounding showman. And let's face it--his work just cries out for live improvisation.

2. Flaming Lips: Oklahoma's favorite weird sons. These guys are amazing in the studio, so I'm curious what their live stuff would sound like, since a lot of the layers and blips in their studio work would be tough to reproduce live.

3. Pink Floyd: I've been a Floyd fan since high school, and their shows are supposed to be epic. I mean, hell, they performed the entirety of Dark Side of the Moon in the show on their last tour.

4. Paul McCartney: I've missed out the last two times he came anywhere near here, and I refuse to miss a third time. The fact that he's playing a bunch of Beatles stuff now and that his backing band seems to drive him forward really make this a must-see.

5. Glen Phillips: duno if I'll ever get to see Toad the Wet Sprocket (Phillips' old band), but he tours quite extensively (though never around here. Moving to Virginia ought to help with that, though, since I know he's played a few shows up in DC). I've heard a lot of his live solo acoustic stuff, and I'm always a fan of his studio work, so this'd be well worth my while.

6. Counting Crows: they'd just be fun, y'know? And they're supposed to be phenomenal live.

7. Ben Folds: I missed him when he came through Norman last year, but I'm sure he'll be touring for quite some time still.

8. Sting: another one of those I've been wanting to see for years who never comes around this area. Again, moving to a better location might help.

9. Moxy Früvous: these guys are still one of my favorite bands. Alas, they've been on indefinite hiatus since about 2001.

10. Bruce Springsteen: c'mon, how could you not enjoy the Boss? The man's live shows are marathons, tests of the will and endurance and human spirit. You come out of a Springsteen concert knowing the contents of your soul.

There are others I'd like to see I'm sure, but those are the biggies. I'll probably fall in love with several other bands between now and the time I die, and I'll want to see them in concert, too. Such is life, right?


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

Wilco Live in OKC

Wilco was easily one of the best shows I've ever seen. Definitely in my top ten concerts (I'll list those sometime just for giggles).

The band was in fine form, rocking hard on the rock numbers and laying down layers of noise and distortion for the artier tunes. They managed to play songs from every album except their debut, A.M., and the second Mermaid Avenue record, but that was okay. I think I remember all the songs they played, which were (in order of album, not of performance):

"Misunderstood," "Monday," Outtasite (Outtamind)," and "Kingpin" from Being There; "A Shot in the Arm" and "I'm Always in Love" from SummerTeeth; "Hesitating Beauty" and "One by One" from Mermaid Avenue; "I am Trying to Break Your Heart," "Radio Cure," Jesus, Etc.," Heavy Metal Drummer" (the final encore, prefaced as their "only hit Portugal"), "I'm the man who Loves You," and "Poor Places" from Yankee Hotel Foxtrot; and "At Least That's What You Said," "Hell is Chrome" (the show opener), "Spiders (Kidsmoke)," "Muzzle of Bees," "Hummingbird," "Handshake Drugs," "I'm a Wheel," "Theologians" (dedicated to the new Pope. That's a bit of a slap in the face, I'd think, since the song starts, "Theologians/They don't know nothin'/'Bout my soul"), "Less Than You Think," and "The Late Greats" from A Ghost is Born. That's 24 songs. These guys came out for not one, but three encores. And it's not like they played just one song per encore, either--the first encore set was four songs, the second was three, and the third and final encore was a single song. But these guys played for over two hours, never letting up, never relenting, and giving the audience their money's worth, that's for damn sure.

We left the show exhausted, sweaty, and satisfied. There were songs I wished they'd played (such as "Pot Kettle Black" or "How to Fight Loneliness"), but the thing is, you didn't notice those songs missing while the band was playing. That's a very good thing.

I'm glad I had the opportunity to see these guys. I'd do it again in a heartbeat. I wish Rana'd been able to join me for it, but I know Lindsay had a hell of a good time, so it all worked out okay.


Song of the Moment: Wilco, "Hell is Chrome"

Monday, April 25, 2005

"Kissing You By Proxy"

So Rana called me up this afternoon to let me know she wouldn't be able to attend the Wilco concert tonight. Her ride down here apparently got a flat tire, thus rendering transportation a little difficult. Rana was obviously distraught by this turn of events, but I did my best to convince her that it was okay and not her fault. We've made tentative plans to go see Bob Dylan & Willie Nelson this summer instead, since they'll be playing up in Tulsa (about twenty minutes from where she lives, actually). I'm disappointed that I won't get to see Rana tonight, but we're going to try to get together in a few weeks and hang out anyway. I think a daytrip to Tulsa could be fun.

Thankfully, I was able to convince my coworker Lindsay to join me for the concert in Rana's stead. Lindsay's about the only person I know around here who likes Wilco, and who doesn't enjoy a free concert? I'm just glad I didn't end up with a $30 ticket going to waste. Rana wanted to pay me for the ticket, but I wouldn't let her--paying for a ticket she wasn't going to use struck me as absurd and not at all fair to her. It wasn't her fault the car has a flat tire.

Another positive is that now I don't have to try to get the apartment cleaned up. Rana said she wouldn't have cared, but it's a personal issue--I don't like letting people see my place dirty. It's just not good hosting, really.


Song of the Moment: Wilco, "Less Than You Think"

Sunday, April 24, 2005

"The Captain Of The Rant"

So I went to Arkansas (again) this weekend to hear Clif give his senior seminar presentation. The presentation itself was quite good--Clif has an excellent, laidback delivery style, and he injects bits of humor into the proceedings to keep it from getting boring (and, as one who has studied the Tudor/Stuart era quite a bit, I know how boring it can get). He also dubbed me "Captain of the Rant" after one of the guys he was studying. I think it's a title I'll keep.

The downside of the trip was the fact that I had to wake up yesterday morning at 4.30. Four thirty. That's no decent hour to be waking up at. Hell, that's an hour to be falling asleep at. I ended up sleeping in the car for most of the trip up there and the trip back, though this wasn't as pleasant as you'd imagine--I was running on only about four or five hours of sleep to begin, with, had to wake up too damn early, and I ached all over from sleeping at uncomfortable angles. My neck is actually still sore.

Anyway, Clif's presentation, as I said, went well. Watched Monica give hers immediately afterwards, which was interesting to me and maybe one or two other people in the room who knew how postmodernism worked in literature and had actually heard of Joseph Campbell's monomyth (thank you, Everett, for showing me that interview series with Bill Moyers. I'd have been completely clueless otherwise).

After the presentations, the folks took Clif, Clif's roommate (Mike, known almost exclusively by his last name, Luers), myself, and Dr. Dippel and his wife Nadine out for lunch at Wiediker's (please pardon my horrible misspelling of a German name). It's this nifty winery thing up in Altus, AR, the alcohol capitol of Western Arkansas (it's just west of the dry county line and a popular destination for Clarksvillians who have a hankering for moonshine). Had a wonderful lunch, got to freak mom out when Clif and I both ordered a beer with lunch (Grolsch, which I decided was far superior to any American beer I've ever had. It actually almost tasted good). Also ran into some folks from high school up in Altus. You don't expect to see people you've known since you were like six or seven in a completely different state at a winery, of all places.

Spent the night at the folks' place last night, and we ended up watching Tango and Cash. I remember that being a great flick when I was 12. Now...well, not so much. Maybe my tastes have gotten more sophisticated? I dunno. This morning, though, I sat down with dad and he taught me several Beatles songs on the guitar. I now have chord progressions for "Let it Be," "Get Back," "Hey Jude," and "I've Just Seen a Face." He also taught me Lennon's "Imagine" and Harrison's "My Sweet Lord." Admittedly, I'm not very good at playing most of these songs yet, but I have chord progressions I can play for them.

I'm excited about seeing Wilco tomorrow night. Hell, I'm excited about seeing Rana tomorrow night. I haven't seen her since I graduated three years ago, which is a damned shame. Rana is just one of the most lovable people I've ever met. And she gives really good hugs. I've needed one of those lately.


Song of the Moment: Wilco, "War on War"

Friday, April 22, 2005

"Baffled By Bullshit"

To prove how much of a geek I am:

I have an idea for an article I want to write (for the Keenspace Newsletter) that compares the old haigiographies of the saints done by the Medieval Church with so-called autobiographical webcomics (such as Real Life), which tend to embelish an individual's life almost as much as the haigiographies did (I mean, to read some of those things, you'd think each saint had single-handly converted entire continents. If you believed everything you read in those things, you'd wonder how there were any non-Christians left in the medieval world. Likewise, autobiographical comics tend to feature main characters--usually the author and his/her closest buddies--being able to do things you know they can't do, such as travel through time, build giant robots, etc.). It's something that interests me, both as a historian and an artist who sorta bases his own comic on himself with a few embelishments (though I'd hardly call Crooked Halo autobiographical. The main roommate characters may be based on real people, but only slightly--I mean, Clyde's pretty much Clif, but Simon is really only one facet of my personality, and Jerome is nothing like my old roommate anymore, really, except that he does totally random things). I mean, it's not like I have an angel and a temptor sitting on either shoulder, and I sure don't have a succubus pursuing me.

But yeah. The very idea of the article excites my intellect. I think I need help.


Song of the Moment: Moxy Früvous, "My Poor Generation"

Thursday, April 21, 2005

"I Went Down To Saint James Infirmary"

I watched the second half of the anime series Serial Experiments Lain the other night. I'd purchased the entire 13 episode series a month or so back, and watched the first half. Then other things vied for my attention and time, and the second half of the series languished on the shelf until Tuesday evening.

I have to admit, the way the series ended surprised me a bit. I was expecting something...darker, I guess. The whole series was dark, with this sense of overwhelming loneliness to it. There were several scenes where the only noise was the hum of power lines or the background noise of lots of voices, none of which were speaking to the main character (the titular Lain). There was a feel of...isolation to the whole thing, of her being separate and apart from everyone and everything she encountered.

Yet the ending was affirming, with a sense of peace and contentment. Lain finds who and what she is, and she reconciles herself to that knowledge. She smiles at the end, something she really hadn't done much throughout the whole series.

But the rest of the series was dark and disturbing as hell. Not the sort of thing that's really good to watch by yourself in the dead of night, even though that's exactly what I did. Felt like I needed a hug afterwards.

Also finished up watching Martian Successor Nadesico this week (on Monday, actually). An anime and a mirror of anime, Nadesico was at turns lighthearted, whimsical, sad, meloncholy, and angsty. You sorta got the feeling while you watched it that a big part of it was just a continuously running in-joke, and since I've watched a fair amount of anime over the past five or six years, I caught a lot of it. I just wish the ending of the series were, y'know? It's a weakness a lot of anime series have--the endings don't really feel like endings. There's no conclusion or sense of closure. Admittedly, there is a Nadesico movie available, and I've watched it (well, a subtitled bootleg version way back before it was officially released here, so there's a good chance the sub wasn't even really that good, and it was on my computer, so I couldn't always see what was going on), but I'm not sure it answers anymore questions, and it certainly raises several more (which is another bad habit in anime).

Beyond cutting a swath through anime lately, I finished reading Dashiell Hammett's The Maltese Falcon this afternoon. Had a good twist at the end. Now I need to go rent the movie (yes, I know, it's crazy that I've never seen The Maltese Falcon. But hey, until about a year ago, I hadn't seen Casablanca, either. It's taken awhile for me to get to the point where I can appreciate the classics a little more, but I think I'm finally there).

Tonight is Writing Club. I about doubled the amount I have finished on the story I took last week, and I'm still just getting into the beginning of the whole sordid debacle. I'm looking forward to seeing where my story goes, actually.


Song of the Moment: Opening Theme, Serial Experiments Lain

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

"You'll Probably Be Living There Soon"

So yesterday was my youngest brother's 20th birthday. Hard to believe my baby brother is already that old. When I went away to college 7 years ago, he was still playing with wrestling figures. Now he plays with much more expensive toys, like PS2's and Nintendo DS's.

Yesterday also marked the arrival of the Neon Genesis Evangelion box set I ordered off eBay. This lightened my mood from Monday considerably. For those of you not familiar with Eva, it's one of the most critically acclaimed anime series ever. Giant robots and lots of teenage angst. It's wonderful.

I've been hard at work learning new songs for the guitar and improving my playing on songs I already know. I learned the Moxy Früvous tune "The Drinking Song" the other night, though it's still a little rough and I really need to work out the kinks in the strumming. But I was proud that I could halfway play it. I also worked on a couple of Cross-Eyed Yeti tunes I had Clif show me over the weekend. I can do "Philosopher King" pretty well, but my "Clyde's Blues" is still rough because it uses three chords I've never really used before and am still having to learn, essentially.


Song of the Moment: Moxy Früvous, "The Great Medicine Show"

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

"Moxy Früvous - You Will Go To The Moon"

I remember the first song I ever downloaded. It was Moxy Früvous' "King of Spain," the live version from Live Noise. It was my sophomore year at Ozarks, and I'd just gotten my first computer that semester. A friend of mine, Josh, was over chatting with Chris, James, and I, and said there was this band that we "had to hear." This was just before Napster took off, mind you, so we had to get our mp3s the old fashioned way--through FTP clients.

And the fun thing about the old FTP clients was that you had to upload stuff before they'd let you download anything, usually. A few folks would be nice enough to allow you to download without first uploading, which I thought was good--otherwise, how would I have anything to upload? So we went and found Moxy Früvous. And we loved it.

Moxy was one of the first contemporary bands I really got into. And this was both wonderful and a terrible, terrible curse, because it was nigh impossible to find their albums in Arkansas. I managed to find several of their songs via things like Napster, but rarely did I find an actual album in the store. I did manage to pick up Live Noise, Thornhill, and Bargainville over the course of the past several years, but that meant there were still a good five or so albums left to find. I'd check every record store I visited for their stuff, rarely having any success.

So I ordered You Will go to the Moon through last week, thinking it'd be well worth it to finally grab another Moxy album. And, of course, it was.

I'd heard probably about half of Moon prior to purchasing the album, either through the mp3s I'd downloaded or through the live versions on Live Noise (still the best Moxy album, hands down).

Musically, this album is much more diverse than Bargainville or Thornhill, which both take their cues from the folky pop style that similar bands such as the Barenaked Ladies have mined. Moon branches out, adding Eastern rhythms and instrumentation on tracks like "Sahara" and "No No Raja." "Lee" features a dirge-like waltz tune, meloncholy and somber. "Michigan Militia" is a bizarre and effective blending of bluegrass, folk, rock, and hip-hop (listen to the wurlitzer and drum loops) with what sounds for all the world like an electrified banjo riff. The album also features a bizarre cover of the Bee Gee's "I've got to get a Message to You," complete with drum loops and a funky wah-wah guitar straight out of '70s porn. Tracks like "Get in the Car" are more traditional Moxy fare, with a Beatlesque feel and a classic guitar solo in the middle. "Your New Boyfriend" is a bouncy tune about a "right-wing shit" of a boyfriend who seems completely unlike the previous boys the girl has dated. "Love Set Fire" is a drunken funeral march (I really have to wonder if there's any other kind, honestly), and the accordion sounds like it's been plugged into an amp swiped from Neil Young. "Boo Time," which features a fun call and response scat section in the live version, is here a funky, haunting ditty with a fuzzed out bass that's downright menacing. "Kick in the Ass" and "You Will go to the Moon" are a capella (well, "Kick in the Ass" features a snare drum, but that's in in terms of instruments) numbers that feature wry lyrics, clever asides, and the excellent harmonies I've come to expect from Moxy.

This is, I think, one of their best albums. I like virtually all of their work (I can just sit there and listen to Bargainville or Live Noise straight through over and over), and this is a solid, solid record. If it's musically more diverse than its predecessor, Bargainville, it still features the same sort of quirky lyrics and sly allusions I've come to know and love in their songs. You can almost hear them smirking in each tune. These are guys who have fun with their music, and what's better than that?


Song of the Moment: Moxy Früvous, "Lazlo's Career"

Monday, April 18, 2005

"I Dole Out Justice With The Tip Of My Boot"

So the day started off crap, but it's gotten a bit better. Applying to jobs helped ease my annoyance a little, and the arrival of a package I ordered from helped cheer me up as well.

Why, you ask? Well, first of all, I like getting mail. Second, it contained two CDs--a Carl Perkin's collection for Clif's birthday (he doesn't read this damn thing, so why shouldn't I mention it here?), and a Moxy Früvous CD, You Will go to the Moon.

Moxy is one of those bands I've always meant to gather up all the albums by, but the process is made difficult by the fact that most of their albums are out of print and probably weren't even available in this area of the country back when they were in print.


Song of the Moment: Moxy Früvous, "Kick in the Ass"

"Another One Bites The Dust"

Well, got an email from Vanderbilt today.

It wasn't a happy email. It was the sort that informed that, despite my desires to the contrary, I would not be attending graduate school in the fall.

So now I'm feeling...well, numb, actually. I don't think it's sunk in that my chances of going straight to my PhD are shot completely through. There's no more schools to hear from (Minnesota's unversity deadline was in June, but the history department's deadline was back in January).

So instead I applied to three teaching jobs today in Maryland and Virginia. I don't know if I'll get them. I don't know if they'll even give me a second glance. But I have to do something. I can't stay here anymore. I can't stay here.


Song of the Moment: Pearl Jam, "Drifting"

Sunday, April 17, 2005

"Walking After Midnight"

Time for the weekend recap, 'cause I know you all care so much...

Made it up to Clarksville about 3.30 or 4.00 Friday afternoon, which was about an hour after I thought I'd get there. Went up to Clif's room and played guitars with him for awhile (he taught me a few Yeti songs and a couple of cover tunes, all of which I've managed to forget already. Go me). Hung around his place until about 6.00, when Amanda E. showed up. We putzed around campus for awhile, then she went off to visit some other friends and I headed over to Adam's place to hang out until it was time to go to Adam's parents' place to eat.

Basically spent Friday night hanging out with the Monkey and his family. After awhile, Adam and I decided to draw a couple of random sketches for the Keenspace Forum-goers, which we promptly did. The results were amusing and, since we posted them through Adam's username, attributed only to him (despite the fact that there's clearly two art styles going on in each drawing and we stated in the text that accompanied each drawing that we collaborated. Ah well). Eventually I made my way back to his parents' place, where I proceeded to fall very fast asleep.

Saturday, I slept in a bit, got up, and eventually went to visit Dr. Dippel. Had Holly meet me over there, and we sat and chatted with him for a couple of hours. We left Dippel's and headed to Brandy and Paul's to pester them for awhile and chat for another couple of hours. By this time, it was about 6.00 or so, and Amanda and Karra and Lindsey S. (there are lots of Lindseys and Lindsays about, so it became necessarily to append an initial to their names to tell them apart. I'd personally been in favor of the mudwrestling match to decide who would be called what, but the girls didn't care as much for that idea) were all chomping at the bit to go eat. Thus was a Dodge's run undertaken, and pizza sticks in hand, we were content to head to the "Young Alumni" function they were having at a nearby bar.

The function turned out to be a dozen or so people sitting around in what looked like the bar's storeroom chatting for an hour or two. We got pretty bored with that pretty fast, and headed back into town. The girls headed to their hotel room to start drinking, and I went up to Adam's parents' place to visit with the Askins clan before I went back to hang out with the girls some more. Turns out it was a good thing I went back up that way--Adam's brother and said brother's wife and sister-in-law had come in from Missouri to visit and stay the night. The problem was that we were one bed short, so I moved over to Adam's house for Saturday night. He and I sat around and chatted and played videogames for awhile, then I headed down to the hotel where the girls were staying and hung out with them for awhile. Amanda and Lindsey crashed pretty early, but Karra and I ended up chatting about this and that until around 2.30. Then I went and crashed on Adam's couch, where I was periodically attacked by their cat, who thought that a person in the room meant the person would obviously want to pay attention to said cat, no matter what the hour might be. From what I understand, this is perfectly normal for a cat.

Anyway, because of the cat, I really didn't get much sleep, and never more than an hour at any given stretch. Got up around 8.30 or 9.00, but wasn't early enough to get into the shower before Adam and his wife, Andria, did their stuff (he didn't take so long--she, on the other hand, had to straighten her hair and a half dozen other things). Had I been quicker on the ball, I'd have been able to leave Clarksville when I'd planned to; as it is, I didn't get out of town till 10.00. Was actually late for work, but not significantly so, and it's not like we had dozens of people beating down the door on a Sunday afternoon.

But I enjoyed my weekend. I wish it'd been longer. I wish I'd been able to visit with everyone longer (Clif's probably especially mad at me, since I only got to see him for a couple of hours on Friday...but I'm going back next weekend specifically for his Senior Seminar presentation, so he can't complain too much). But it was good to see everyone, and I'm glad I had the chance.


Song of the Moment: Eric Clapton, "Stop Breaking Down Blues"

Friday, April 15, 2005

"Hellhounds On My Trail"

So I woke up earlier than expected this morning because Maintenance came by to service my air conditioner...which was sorta annoying, since this wouldn've been my only day to sleep in for the next week or so. Ah well, I'm sure I'll survive. At least they had the decency to replace the foam stripping under the unit when they put it back in. There's this awful gap under my window unit air conditioner that allowed bugs and all sorts of crap into the apartment, so I'd stuffed a piece of foam insulating stuff under it to stop the gap. They were good enough to put it in more firmly when they replaced the unit.

Tomorrow I head out for Clarksville for Alumni Weekend. I'm looking forward to it because I'll get to see some friends whom I haven't seen in ages. I know of at least four or five friends I ought to run into and get to hang out with, so I'm excited. I'm also taking guitars so Clif and I can rock out old school.

Anyway, much to do between now and then. Off to get things accomplished.


Song of the Moment: Eric Clapton, "If I Had Possession Over Judgment Day"

Thursday, April 14, 2005

"Flaming Lips - The Day They Shot A Hole In The Jesus Egg"

First impressions always color subsequent interactions. Doesn't matter what kind of interaction--whether it's with another person, with a piece of technology, with a book, with music, with a movie...we use our first impressions to gauge how we ought to react to something the next time we encounter it, we use them as a baseline for what comes after.

This is especially true for me when it comes to music. The first song or album by a particular artist that I hear shapes the way I think of that artist when I approach other albums they've done. Take Van Morrison, for example. The first album of his I ever heard was Moondance, easily the best record he ever cut. Every other Van Morrison album I've heard since then has been compared, in one way or another, to Moondance. Is it as good as that one was? Does it fit the same style? Do I, in effect, like it as much as I did Moondance? That first impression from Moondance shaped the way I thought about Van Morrison's music--it established what I thought of as his style. When something didn't mesh with the style I thought of as Van Morrison's (based on that one album), I had to find a way to reconcile it in my mind.

Well, the same holds true in the case of the Flaming Lips. My first encounter with their stuff was through the song "She Don't Use Jelly," but I don't really count that because I wasn't aware of who they were at the time and I'd forgotten about that song by the time I started actually listening to the Flaming Lips a couple of years ago. I've been hesitant to get their earlier albums, because I knew their style back then was a little different, so until recently I only owned Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots and The Soft Bulletin. Both are excellent albums that sound, while different, as though they came from the same band. It's like what would happen if Neil Young took modern day psychedelia and blending it with folk, rock, and electronica, and I dig it.

Then I picked up The Day They Shot a Hole in the Jesus Egg, a compilation containing the album In a Priest-Driven Ambulance and all sorts of demos and outtakes and extra songs cut during the sessions for that album. Ambulance came at the end of the first phase of the Lips' career, right before they signed to a major label and polished up their musicianship and songcraft considerably. In a lot of ways, this sounds like a completely different band--they're doing noise rock here rather than the more polished amalgam I'd heard in Yoshimi or Soft Bulletin.

But the music is still very interesting, and you get to see the embryonic form of what was to come later. Ambulance is excellent for what it attempts, and several of the cuts here could have appeared on later albums (with a little polish) and fit right in. There's a sort of unrestrained energy running through the entire album, an enthusiasm for playing loud and hard and sloppy that subsequent albums would lack. And its this enthusiasm and energy that ultimately makes Ambulance (and the assorted other songs included in the Jesus Egg collection) worthwhile.

Some of the best songs on this collection are the rocker "Unconsciously Screamin'," the lovely ballad "There You Are," and a bizarrely affecting cover of the Louis Armstrong classic "(What a) Wonderful World." A lot of the extra tracks tacked onto the end of the album and all of the second disc seem a little superfluous to the casual fan, but there are some interesting moments--the several versions of "Unconsciously Screamin'" help give a sense of the creative process involved in crafting that song, and the cover of Elvis Costello's "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding?" is a joy to listen to.

I can see why some folks wouldn't like this album; especially if, like me, they came to the Flaming Lips via their more recent work. But it's still an interesting set full of quirks, tiny pleasures, and occasional glimpses of brilliance. This probably isn't the best place to start with the Flaming Lips, but it's a worthwhile trip once you're sure you like the band's work.


Song of the Moment: Flaming Lips, "There You Are"

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

"You, And Me, And Baby Makes Three"

Does it frighten anyone else that Britney Spears is having a child and I still can't even get a date? Where is the justice in the world? She really doesn't need to be reproducing, while I owe it to future generations to further my genes.

I really think we should look into getting our celebrities spayed and neutered. The world would be a better place, I think.


Song of the Moment: XTC, "Pink Thing"

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

"Biker Like An Icon"

So my bike seat broke today. I was riding along on my way to work, and the seat just sorta...gave out.

See, the seat is on a pair of rails which are held to the rest of the bike via a pair of metal plates. A couple of months ago, when I had an accident (ice + bike = pain), the bottom plate got messed up. See, the two plates are bolted together through the middle to the bike frame. The bottom plate has (or rather, had, now) an oval-shaped hole in the middle to allow the bolt through. The back half of the plate got broken somehow in the accident, which meant that the plate started slipping around all the time (hence the problems I've been having with keeping my bike seat from being wobbly). Well, the front half of the plate gave out this evening, and the bottom plate just sorta snapped in half.

So either the bottom plate wasn't structurally sound enough with the back half already broken, or my ass is way too heavy. Either way, it means my bike is out of commission until I can go to a repair shop and get this fixed. And of course this had to happen the night before I have my early shift at work, so I'll have to freakin' walk to work at like 7.30 in the morning. *grumble grumble grumble*

Just ignore me, I'm annoyed by this.


Song of the Moment: Ryan Adams, "Answering Bell"

"Waiting For The Telephone To Tell Me I'm Alive"

So I'm excited. Why, you ask, am I excited (well, you might ask. Just go with the imposed rhetorical question for a minute, will ya?)? Simple--in two weeks, we get some damn fine new music.

Bruce Springsteen has a new album due out on April 26. Ben Folds likewise has a new album out on the same date. On the 25th, I get to go see Wilco up in OKC. If that won't be a week for great music, I'll scrape out my eardrums with a guitar pick.

On top of that, we can expect a new Gorillaz album out in late May (like the 24th or so), and the lead-off single, "Feel Good Inc.," already looks kick-ass (and sounds it, as well. You can find a link to the video for it via Ink Tank or Mac Hall, where I first found the video). New material from the Gorillaz is a cause for celebration, especially when it truly is new material (rather than remixes of existing material).

So yeah, that's all quite groovy. I think you'd agree that music stuff is looking pretty good right now, even if Maria Carey just put out a new album (and the world is still wondering why she thought one was necessary).


Song of the Moment: Eric Clapton, "Rolling and Tumbling (Live)"

"Little Angels Of The Silences"

So I had to chew out a student again this morning. Same one I chewed out Sunday night, actually. He came in for his tutoring session with me this morning, and he hadn't done any of the reading (which is sorta normal for this guy, but I digress). Anyway, I got really pissed off (because I told him Sunday to come prepared or not to come at all) and told him I wasn't going to tutor him, so he might as well just leave. He did so like a puppy with its tail tucked between its legs. It just frustrates me to see this guy show up and expect me to just tell him everything he needs to know, to do all his thinking for him. As an educator (or someone who wants to be one), it irks me that a student would want someone to tell them what to think. Now, helping a student figure things out on their own...that, I'm cool with. That's the whole point--to aid a student to the point that he or she can make decisions and judgments about information and ideas without having to ask me every other sentence, "Is that right?"

Bah. I just hate having to be mean. I may have a vicious streak in me when I'm pushed far enough, but that doesn't mean I enjoy being cruel or mean to people. But dammit, sometimes they just go out of their way to force you into behaving like that.


Song of the Moment: Counting Crows, "Angels of the Silence"

Monday, April 11, 2005

"Jars Of Clay - Redemption Songs"

Jars of Clay is one of the few Christian bands I really care for. The problem with most Christian bands is the music. Sure, the message is the focus, but does that mean we can't be tuneful? Does that mean we can't have decent lyrics? The message is the important factor, but you have to have a decent messenger and format for the message, y'know?

And I think that's part of the reason I like Jars of Clay so much. They get it--they understand that the message is easier to spread if it's done with excellent music. Their stuff works on two levels--the lyrics and the message, and the music. Not only are these guys consumate musicians, but they're steeped in musical tradition and history--they know the old gospel stuff, they know the hymns and everything from years in the church. But they also know their classic rock--the Beatles, Van Morrison, America, Tom Petty, the Byrds, Dylan--they know the musical history of the country, and they've assimilated it into their style. Sonically, they mine a territory similar to secular bands like Counting Crows (former Crows drummer Ben Mize plays on the album with them) and Toad the Wet Sprocket (and, even moreso, former Toad frontman Glen Phillips's solo stuff). They make compelling, thoughtful, rootsy folk-rock, and they never make any apologies for the lyrics and themes they marry to that sound.

And it works, really. Their mellow, joyful songs are not only thoughtful and spiritual, but they're fun. And their newest album, Redemption Songs, showcases their abilities in a familiar yet different light. The album features traditional hymns and church songs set to new music by the band. Jars of Clay has always explored its roots, both spiritually and musically, adding in dashes of modern style and production. Their fascination with rural blues, Nashville pop, classic folk- and roots-rock, and virtually everything in between has always been levelled with electronic florishes, drum loops, and sonic diversions that keep old styles feeling fresh. Redemption Songs is no different in that respect. It's very similar in style and feel to their previous effort, the excellent Who We are Instead, and feels like a backyard sing-along or tent revival with a little added heft from some studio work. It's very comfortable, ebulent music. You can tell by listening that the band enjoyed recording the songs. There's a simplicity to the songs that belies the complexity and layered nature of each arrangement.

Beyond anything else, the music and the message blend well. There's a certain down-home feel to the songs, and it fits the songs here perfectly. One song in particular, "Nothing but the Blood," recorded with the Blind Boys of Alabama (who recently did some work with secular slide guitarist Ben Harper), feels like a bunch of guys sitting around playing, taking turns singing as though this were a tent revival or old Negro slave song. It's joyful and powerful and gets under your skin in the way that only the best songs can. Everything else on the album features that same power and joy, even songs about pain and sorrow are shot through with a sort of ellation that most artists (whether secular or otherwise) have a difficult time managing (it's the sort of joy you hear on a lot of early Beatles albums--for all of their fledgling abilities as writers and musicians, the Beatles were having fun with their music in the early '60s).

And really, that's what makes this such a wonderful album--that overwhelming sense of joy. This is the sort of album that you can't help but smile while you listen to it, and that's a rare and beautiful thing in itself.


Song of the Moment: Jars of Clay, "Nothing But the Blood"

Picture Dump

So last weekend I went to a cousin's first birthday party. He was really sorta irrelevant to the proceedings (as is often the case with things like first birthday, first Christmas, etc. or, perhaps more annoyingly, the way the bride and groom are mostly irrelevant to a wedding. It doesn't matter who is actually standing up there, for the most part, so long as someone fills the space). While there, I took a good number of pictures, both of the child (which I won't bore you with) and of various other members of my family (which I will bore you with). So we have:

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My mom, who took it upon herself to fold every single piece of tissue paper used to wrap presents. Have I mentioned she's something of a neat-freak?

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My mom and my great-aunt Bev, who is about as southern-fried as they come (except for the bad teeth, no shoes, and no education thing--she's a very bright woman). My dad lived with her and her husband, Gary, for his first year or two of college. Speaking of my great-uncle Gary...

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This mountain of man (seen here with his grandson, the child who was celebrating his first birthday) is a retired Tulsa cop. From what I understand, you didn't try to resist arrest when he was the guy arresting you, or things went poorly for you. Thing is, the guy's about as gentle a giant as they come. But man, you didn't want him pinning you down when you were a small child, mostly because the man always had gas and wasn't afraid to use it. Ah, memories.

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That's my cousin, Chris, the one whose daughter (Bailey) I'm always talking about. He's also talking with another great-aunt, Linda (at least, I think she's another great-aunt...I've never been too clear on most of my familial connections). He wasn't too keen on having his picture snapped that day, I don't think.

I also have pictures of the wheels my youngest brother and I are selling on eBay this week, in case anyone is interested in a set of near-mint factory wheels from a 1998 Mustang GT. We're sellin' 'em cheap, honest.


Song of the Moment: Green Day, "American Idiot"

Sunday, April 10, 2005

"Here Comes The Flood"

We're getting ready to have the first real big storm of the spring season. As an Oklahoman, I'm always excited about the spring storm season. There's an energy in it, an allure that I really can't explain. There's a deadly beauty to the storms here, I guess. I've always loved storms, and love sitting in bed and listening to them beat against the windows while the lightning lights up the room in brilliant blues and whites. Thunder will rattle the windows and things on shelves, and car alarms will be set off.

And I'll sit here, loving every minute of it...assuming my car isn't out in any hail or anything.


Song of the Moment: Ben Folds 5, "Song for the Dumped (Japanese Version)"

"I'm A Man"

I feel very manly today. Why? Because sitting in the living room of my apartment are four Mustang wheels. I have the urge to go change the oil in my car and, like, do manly things like scratch myself in public, watch professional sports, and drink American beer.

But maybe that's just a little too crazy, y'know?


Song of the Moment: Chicago, "25 or 6 to 4"

Saturday, April 09, 2005

"I'd Rather Go It Alone"

You know what really annoys me? It's something that happens all too often around here--folks pull up in the parking lot to pick someone up from one of the apartments, and rather than getting out of the car and walking up to the door and knocking, they sit in the damn car and honk their horn. Repeatedly.

It's not like it's raining outside or freezing cold. It's not like it's sweltering (it's about 80, so it's a bit warm, but there's enough wind that it's not so bad walking twenty yards to someone's door). Their legs obviously work, or they wouldn't be driving. It doesn't save any time--they spend a good three or four minutes honking the damn horn sometimes, and it wouldn've taken half that to get out of the car and walk up to the door. And it's an annoyance--our apartment complex is pretty quiet (except on game days during football season), and I rather like the peacefulness of the place. But this sort of thing shatters that peace and quiet in ways which are far worse than my guitar playing or singing (heck, when I was outside yesterday afternoon playing, there was a little girl sitting there listening to me). This sort of thing is a disturbance, and it aggravates me that it happens a few times a day at least.

Okay, gripe over. I'll step down off the soapbox now.


Song of the Moment: Beck, "Scarecrow"

"Stuck In Lodi Again"

Yesterday was a busy day. I got up and tutored for an hour, then came back to the apartment and tried to straighten things out a bit for the crew to come over to watch Neon Genesis Evangelion. I also spent a good amount of time playing guitar--learned the CCR song "Lodi" yesterday, which is just a lot of fun to play. Natalie (one of the members of the Friday Crew) mentioned that she's enjoyed watching me improve over the past couple of months. And she's right--there is a marked improvement in my abilities over the past two and half months. I'm much better at changing chords, my strumming has improved at least tenfold, and my singing is starting to get stronger (it's hard, as Clif has mentioned to me before, to sing and play at the same time. Either you screw up with the playing, or you don't sing as strong as you otherwise would. I'm finally starting to get good enough with the guitar that I don't have to concentrate on where my hands are or my strumming and chord changing as much. I can actually focus a little on singing as well).

After all that, I went out and heard my uncle play. My cousin and a few of his friends (including his new S.O. interest, a young lady named Leslie) came out for a bit. Funny thing is, they were dressed to go clubbing, which really sorta stands out in a country (or, as I prefer to think of it, shit-kicker) bar. Guys in cowboy hats, mullets, and a pretty poor teeth-to-head ratio don't really mix with guys in fancy shirts, girls in strapless tops, and the fancy mixed drinks they tend to order. Culture clash at its finest, really.

Of interesting note is that my cousin, who is still in the middle of his divorce, must be freakin' blind, or at least use a very different vocabulary than I. When he says a girl is "homely," to use the term he originally used to describe this girl Leslie, I was assuming something around my definition of it--someone who, while not ugly, is not drop-dead gorgeous. Someone probably rather simple and plain in appearance.

Apparently my cousin either doesn't know what the word means, or must have really high standards when it comes to a girl's looks, because this young woman was exceptionally attractive. I think he needs his eyes checked, I really do.

Anyway, the folks will be in town in a few hours to take Scott out for dinner and shopping for his birthday. Apparently I get to get fed as well, which is always nice--I'm never against a free meal.


Song of the Moment: Beck, "E-Pro"

Thursday, April 07, 2005

"But I'm Not Bitter"

Rejection notice #2 arrived today from Tulane. Didn't really want to live in New Orleans anyway.

I'm starting to feel really frustrated by all of this, though. It's a bit of a blow to the ego to be told that something you've spent the better part of the last six and a half years studying and refining isn't good enough for these people. Like I'm not good enough for them. It's hard to push past that sense of failure and worthlessness.

If I were a different person than I am, I'd spend tonight getting drunk. As it stands, I'll probably hit Hastings and Best Buy and purchase a new CD or something instead. I'm not sure if that's better or not.


Song of the Moment: Rolling Stones, "19th Nervous Breakdown"

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

"Rolling Stones - Forty Licks"

It's really kinda hard to mess up a Rolling Stones greatest hits collection. All of their big hits are pretty obvious--"Honky Tonk Women," "Satisfaction," "Gimmie Shelter," "19th Nervous Breakdown," "You Can't Always Get What You Want"...the list goes on. There are lots of them, and 40 Licks is a good sampler of the arc of the Stones' career.

The two-disc set eschews chronology in favor of creating a fun mix tape, juxtaposing early tunes with latter-day works. This works in the collection's favor most of the time--you get a sampling and smattering of all the styles the Stones have dabbled in, and you don't end up going on a run of four or five songs that all have a similar style (since several of the Stones' albums are genre exercises, in a way, this is always a distinct possibility--of course, the Stones have also evolved and changed over the years, going in different directions on whims. I mean, the Stones did some disco stuff. You can't tell me that's normal for a band that started out as a basic British Invasion/rhythm-and-blues combo). The differences can be jarring--putting "Miss You" and "Wild Horses" right next to each other is just downright weird. But for the most part, it keeps each style from feeling too repetitive or redundant, and that's a good thing.

The one problem with the collection is the inclusion of four--four--brand new songs. It's common practice to round out and pad a greatest hits album with a new song or two (Sheryl Crow did it, John Mellencamp did it, Tom Petty did it, though "Mary Jane's Last Dance" ended up becoming one of the band's best-known songs), but four is rather unnecessary. There were plenty of classic Stones songs they could have included instead--their cover of "Time is on my Side" or "Playing with Fire," both found on the old Hot Rocks set, or even the country pastiche of "The Girl with Faraway Eyes," or hell, even "Saint of Me" from 1997's Bridges to Babylon (a song which I felt was far superior to the offering from that album that does appear here, "Has Anybody Seen my Baby?"). It's not that the four new songs aren't good; they're actually quite decent, especially for latter-day Stones. But they're not really greatest hits, are they? It's just sorta frustrating to see them padding out an album that didn't necessarily need padding, and placing all four new tracks on the second disc really bogs the latter half of the collection down (especially since the second disc also contained the lion's share of latter day Stones songs already).

But this is a minor quibble, and it's to the collection's credit that you never notice the songs that could have been included. What you do have works very well, and is a thoroughly enjoyable listening experience. Now, if we could just get them to actually do a new studio album (something we haven't seen from the Stones since 1997's Bridges to Babylon), we'd probably be doing pretty well.


Song of the Moment: Rolling Stones, "Gimmie Shelter"

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

"One More Cup Of Coffee"

These early mornings are killing me. Actually, it's the late nights that're doing that. I need to start getting to bed at a decent hour...y'know, before 2.00 or 2.30.

Started watching Martian Successor Nadesico last night. I'd forgotten how much I love that series. It's also fun trying to see which voice actors I recognize from other anime, of which there were a few.

I'm hoping to finally be able to watch Nausicaa this evening. I mean, I got it like three weeks ago, and I still haven't had a chance to sit down and watch it. Granted, I have movies from Christmas (the Stars Wars trilogy, Return of the King Special Edition) that I haven't watched yet because they're these huge time sinks. I can find the time to watch an episode or two of an anime, but a whole movie or series of movies in one go is tougher.


Song of the Moment: Tom Petty, "King's Highway"

"It's A Long Hard Wait"

So I realized something rather amusing and rather sad this evening.

See, I was on the phone with Dr. Dippel, my old advisor from Ozarks. It was just sort of an update call, keeping him abreast of things going on with grad school applications, job prospects, and life in general. Dr. Dippel sounds like a gruff, grizzled man. He looks like one, too. But he genuinely cares about his students, and not just academically--he takes an interest in them as people. He's definitely my favorite teacher from Ozarks, a school which I felt was populated with excellent educators.

Anyway, it struck me, as I was speaking with him, that he's been more of an advisor to me while I was here at OU than my advisor here, Dr. Hart, was. This isn't to knock Dr. Hart--he's a great guy and an excellent historian. But let's face it--this is one of the key differences between a place like Ozarks, with its 700 students, and a place like OU, with its 25,000 or so. It's just harder to get perosnal attention at a place like OU. It's part of why I eventually want to teach at an institution like Ozarks instead of someplace like OU.

But the conversation with Dippel was good. He wants me to drop by and visit when I come up to Ozarks for Alumni Weekend in a couple of weeks, which I will most definitely do. Until then, I just have to sit back and wait for Adam's mom to email me back (she emails me about once every other week to remind me that I'm welcome to crash at their place whenever I come into town. I'm gonna take her up on the offer, because the alternative is crashing on Clif's couch or getting a hotel room).


Song of the Moment: Minus 5, "That's not the way that it's Done"

Monday, April 04, 2005

"Aerosmith - Honkin' On Bobo"

When you think of Aerosmith, you don't usually think of the blues. Sleazy, slinky lust, sure; huge riffs and vocal histrionics, of course; but they're not really a blues band.

That's what makes Honkin' on Bobo (aside from the title) such a strange affair--it's a series of blues covers done in Aerosmith's style. When most bands or musicians play the blues--the Rolling Stones or Eric Clapton, for instance--it's fairly straightforward and traditional. There is a sort of reverence to their interpretations, which are really less interpretations and more homages or genre exercises.

Aerosmith doesn't understand reverence, though, except in terms of being irreverent. When they play the blues, they play it like a rock and roll song--hard, fast, loose, gritty, sleazy, and fun. Above all, Aerosmith's best stuff has always been fun and bouncy--there's a joy in their lust and juvenile exuberance. And this album is all about having fun with the songs--you can almost hear Steven Tyler's grin as he yelps, yowls, and growls his way though these cuts. Joe Perry's guitar cuts through the mix like a buzzsaw, tearing at the songs and leaving nothing unchanged. These songs are uncompromising in their attack, and the album is stronger for it.

So this isn't really a blues album per se. It's inspired by the blues, it's hopped up on methamphetamines and booze and fast women, and it rocks hard, harder than any of Aerosmith's regular albums in about a decade. This is Aerosmith cutting loose and having fun, and we all get to benefit from it.


Song of the Moment: Aerosmith, "Baby Please Don't Go"

"Time For Me To Fly"

So, my boss happened to send a rather interesting email this morning. Allow me to excerpt the part of it that we're concerned with:

New employment policy effective April 1, 2005. Non-students employees (7/8
of our staff members) are now under this new 90/30 day appointment
policy. As it stands, if you are a non-student, you can only work for 90
days at a time before being terminatated for 30 days; afterwhich you
may be reappointed. Yes, this means a gap in employment.
However, we are pursuing special status provisions because of the necessity of
our staff to work beyond the 90 days at a time.
Yeah, most of the folks who work at the Writing Center (myself included) are non-students. Apparently we're not allowed to work more than 90 days at a stretch. This will, as the email states, create a bit of a problem for the Writing Center--namely, 7 of the 8 employees would be ineligible to work come the end of June.

Now, one way to fix this is to let us go right after finals week and then rehire us in June after 30 days. The only problem with this is that it leaves a monthlong gap in our finances, something which none of us can really afford. My boss is pursuing special provisions, as she mentions, to attempt to keep us employed without a gap. But it's frightening to think that I may not be able to work because of some stupid new policy which they implimented over the weekend and didn't tell us about until after the fact. I mean, three or four of us won't be working beyond August anyway, if things go as planned, but that just means that we need to work straight through until then so we can afford to move or whatever.

It all just strikes me as ridiculously stupid. It's like the university wants to punish people for having graduated and, indirectly, punish those whom we help at work. The folks who work at the Writing Center really need to be graduated already or in a graduate program, because otherwise we don't have the abilities and experience necessary to really work effectively.

Anyway, not exactly a great way to start the work week, especially since I only got a few hours of sleep last night. Daylight Savings Time is playing merry hell with my sleep schedule.


Song of the Moment: Tom Petty, "Into the Great Wide Open"

Sunday, April 03, 2005

"In The Dark Of The Sun"

So, the weekend. T'was a good weekend, the weekend of a pay week, which we always like. The Pope died, which is kind of depressing (though you have to think now that he's at peace, which is good, 'cept that now we (and I say "we," even though I'm not Catholic...I'm not sure why) will probably end up with a Pope who's not quite so liberal as he was. Sad, really). But my personal weekend was good. Friday night I went and heard my uncle play. The band somehow convinced me to get up on stage and sing The Eagles' "Take it Easy." It went well, except that I flubbed a couple of lyrics. The bar was all but deserted, though, so it didn't really matter that much (and the folks who were there were most likely fairly inebriated).

Saturday, I woke up at 6.00 am (a time I often refer to as "ass-early" because I hate having to drag my ass out of bed that early) and drove to Shawnee. I met up with my grandparents and cousin there, and we all piled into my grandparents' Buick and drove up to Tulsa for the day. Apparently one of my other cousins has a son whose first birthday was Saturday, so we were up there to celebrate it. My folks met us up there as well, and we all gathered 'round and ate well, laughed at the infant when he masacred a piece of cake, and generally had a decent if long day. I ended up driving back from Tulsa, and I was pretty wiped out by the time I got back to my parents' place to do some laundry and just relax. Watched McClintock!, one of John Wayne's best flicks, and did my laundry. Ended up crashing around 11.30 or 12.00, and was sound asleep when my brother decided to call at 1.00 in the morning...which annoyed the hell out of me, even if his reason for calling was somewhat understandable. Apparently his Hotmail address is having problems; it won't accept his password, even from my computer or through various different browsers. In turn, this caused his eBay account to get temporarily suspended, since he didn't have a working email address all the sudden. But it annoyed me nonetheless, since I'd been sound asleep.

Got up this morning, vaccumed out the car (which dad had washed for me), had some pancakes, and loaded up and came back to Norman. Work's been quiet this afternoon. We've had three students come in--one needed a two page paper read, the other two just needed photocopies. Easy, right?

Anyway, plans for the evening include drawing a comic or two, maybe playing some more Minish Cap, and playing a spot of guitar when I get back to the ol' apartment. Learned how to play Tom Petty's "In the Dark of the Sun" this afternoon before I came to work, so I want to practice it some more. The chorus is fun, 'cause you play three chords in rapid succession at the end of a phrase, and you have to be pretty quick to pull it off. I discovered I could actually change chords that fast, which really made my day.


Song of the Moment: John Mellencamp, "Paper in Fire"