Thursday, June 30, 2005

"The Music That We Choose"

I think, when it comes to music, I'm a traitor to my generation. I carry a deep, dark secret that I generally don't share with folks.

See, I don't really care for Nirvana. Don't think they were anything all that exciting or revolutionary or phenomenal. They were okay, but if you asked me to choose between them and, say, the Rolling Stones or Van Morrison, I'd go with the classic rockers in a heartbeat.

I came of age in the few years after Nirvana hit it big. I was eleven when they released Nevermind, and remember enjoying the Weird Al parody of "Smells Like Teen Spirit" (titled, of course, "Smells Like Nirvana") much more than I ever enjoyed the original tune. For the first few years of my adolesence, they were the band, and I just did my best to keep my head down and listen to the Beatles, Tom Petty, Genesis, and Queen (yes, I liked Queen. I still do. One of the first CDs I ever got was a Queen CD from Hong Kong, of all places). I did listen to a couple of contemporary grunge bands, such as Pearl Jam and Stone Temple Pilots, but not nearly as often as I listened to Tom Petty's Wildflowers. My tastes in high school were still decades out of style for the most part, and the gap only got wider the older I got. I kept digging through the past, searching for more musicians to devour aurally. I found Dylan, Van Morrison (entirely Clif's fault), ELO, and dozens of others.

Admittedly, I've come forward in time some since then, too. I've started listening to the Counting Crows and Ben Folds and the Wallflowers. I became obsessed with Toad the Wet Sprocket. But really, it's as though my musical tastes reach back to the 60s (with a couple of strange exceptions) and up to about the mid-90s. I still get new albums by favorite, established artists, but I don't get stuff by brand new artists all that much.

That fact was driven home after a conversation with a friend of mine. Of artists who have only started releasing albums since 2000, I follow about five or six, maybe. A couple of them, like Ryan Adams, Glen Phillips and Wilco, have been making music in other bands for years before that (Whiskeytown, Toad the Wet Sprocket, and Uncle Tupelo, respectively). For the most part, though, I don't really listen to new bands all that much.

And I got to wondering--why is that? I think part of the problem has to do with current trends in music. I don't care for rap and hip-hop, of course, which eliminates a ridiculous number of new albums and artists. I'm also not all that fond of the current trend of New Wave revivalist style bands, like the Killers and Franz Ferdinand. I didn't really like New Wave the first time around, and I don't see what makes it so "fresh" and "exciting" now, to be completely honest.

So I've retreated into roots rock, country-rock, and alt-country. I've stuck with delving into the back catalogs of some of my favorite artists, gathering up almost all of Dylan's albums, a good handful of Van Morrison's best work, and things of that nature. My musical taste hasn't become stunted, by any means--I've expanded and discovered artists I never knew of, albums I never imagined a decade ago I'd like, and generally developed a new love for a broad range of music and styles. The friend I was discussing music with (Michelle, in case you're the sort of reader who needs a name for this sort of thing) mentioned that a lot of people sort of get stuck eventually in the music they listened to when they were in high school. Eventually, we stop wanting to hear something new or different, and we just want to hear the things we're familiar with and comfortable with. My father has become a bit like that with his music, actually. He hasn't found any new bands to listen to since the mid-80s, really (the most recent thing he has, other than a Los Lonely Boys CD that his cousin foisted on him because it is so classic rock, Stevie Ray Vaughn-meets-Carlos Santana that it almost hurts, is the Black Crowes' Shake Your Money Maker). About all he listens to now are the bands he listened to when he was younger. No real expansion, just refinement of the collection.

I doubt I'm in danger of such a thing anytime soon, but I do find it strange that I have such a distaste for (or lack of positive reaction to) current trends in music. Part of me thinks that I should give the music of today a chance, but then I hear something new on the radio, and it just doesn't do anything for me at all.


Song of the Moment: Tom Petty, "Complex Kid (Shadow of a Doubt)"

"It's A Dirty Story Of A Dirty Man"

I actually managed to finish my detective story this morning at work, the one I've been working on for the past several months. Admittedly, this is really only the first draft, and significant changes could still be made, but I'm fairly pleased with the way it turned out. It ended up being about 30 pages single-spaced, making it my longest story thus far (beating out the first detective story by about five or six pages). We'll see what folks think of it tomorrow at writing club.

I ended up spending a good part of the early evening napping, which was probably a mistake. I dozed off about 6.30 or so, and didn't wake up until about 9.30. I'm gonna have a hell of a time falling asleep tonight.


Song of the Moment: Dire Straits, "Private Investigations"

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

"Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat"

This is why you don't mess with old people. I mean, here's this 73 year old man--seventy-three--who gets jumped by a leopard, and his response? Calmly reach into the thing's open mouth (y'know, the one with all the teeth) and rip its tongue out. I'd probably have just flailed helpless and bled all over the place.


Song of the Moment: Rolling Stones, "Street-Fighting Man"

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

"Quit Staying Out Late At Night"

Today was one of those sorta productive days. I went and got my oil changed and had all the fluids checked in preparation for The Move (which I've decided now gets capitol letters since I have a set date). Also picked up the second volume of The Ren & Stimpy Show, season three and a half-ish (that's what the box says, honest). That show was freakin' genius, I swear. As random and bizarre as anime can sometimes be (and as someone who's seen at least a few episodes of Excel Saga, I know this can be pretty random), they still can't hold a candle to Ren & Stimpy.

That's really been about it, though. I didn't have to work today, so I really haven't done a whole lot. Granted, I have to be at work at 8.00 tomorrow, which is gonna suck, but hey, I've been sleeping in the past about week, so it's about time I dragged myself out of bed before noon for once and got something accomplished.


Song of the Moment: Oasis, "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away"

"I Went Down To The Crossroads"

So, Clif and I settled on an exact, specific date for leaving for Virginia tonight: July 23.

This gives me time to get everything packed, stuff that I'm not taking stored (at a storage building which we still need to buy and set up at dad's office), take care of things like getting a trailer hitch and all, and work a bit before leaving. Plenty of time to work out the details (hotels, route, money, etc.) and maybe even get a couple of interviews set up (assuming I can ever get these applications out the door).

It's nice having a concrete, real date set. It's also kinda frightening. The voice of chaos in my head argues that there's no way I can get everything ready in that time. The voice of order says I can, so long as I stay on task.

That's when the voice of chaos snickers.

Anyway, it's scary and exciting all at once. We'll see what happens.


Song of the Moment: Tom Petty, "Hometown Blues"

Monday, June 27, 2005

"Much Ado About Nothing"

Today has been a comedy of errors and "well gee, how's that gonna work out?"

First, boombox is dying. Technically, it's Clif's, but I think I adopted it when I moved to Norman 'cause he didn't need it anymore (and he's got a new one since then, so it doesn't really matter). The boombox decided to stop playing CDs today, which was the only reason I really had it (so I could listen to music when I go to bed and when I'm in the shower). I was hoping it would at least last until I moved to Virginia next month, when all of my stuff would be in one room and I wouldn't have need of the boombox), but I guess it was not to be.

Second problem was with ordering Bob Dylan tickets. Ordering the tickets was not the problem, actually. See, my dad left me his credit card number so I could get the tickets ('cause Clif and I are too poor to afford the tickets ourselves). Got the tickets ordered, no problem, but when I checked the confirmation email, it said that I needed to present the credit card used to purchase the tickets when I picked them up. The problem--the credit card is with my dad, who is in Canada all this week and next.

Anyway, I called the ticket company and explained the situation, and they've helped me get it cleared up so we should be able to get the tickets without a hassle. I hope.

Third problem was with transcripts--I've been trying to get hold of some transcripts from Ozarks for job applications. I sent the request about a week and a half ago, and they still hadn't mailed me the transcripts (which is unusual for Ozarks. They usually get my stuff to me quickly). Anyway, called them up, and they'd somehow never gotten my request. I faxed them another one a little bit ago, so hopefully that's been taken care of now.

That's really been it, but it's been enough. I'm at work until 9.00 tonight. God willing, it won't be busy or anything.


Song of the Moment: Bob Dylan, "Where Teardrops Fall"

Sunday, June 26, 2005

"Ryan Adams - Cold Roses"

Ryan Adams has a chronic case of "record and release every single song I come up with." I mean, the man wants to release three albums this year (that was a lot even when the Beatles first started out). The first album he's put out this year, Cold Roses, is even a double album, containing nineteen songs.

Which isn't to say this is a bad thing.

Cold Roses is the strongest album Adams has put out since he left Whiskeytown, and it's not unrelated that he's slipped back into an alt-country style for it. While not exactly a retreat, it is a movement towards a style with which he is comfortable and assured, and the songs are the better for it. Gone is the blatant experimentation for experimentation's sake that hobbled albums like Rock N Roll and Love is Hell. Instead, we have a set of vaguely country-rock songs, ranging from the high-energy "Beatiful Sorta" to the all-acoustic, mellow and meditative "Rosebud," and a bunch of well-crafted mid-tempo numbers in between. The record relies mostly on acoustic instrumentation, though the occasional pedal steel guitar or electric guitar works its way in to add flavor and dimension.

The most interesting thing about the album is its cohesion--this albums sounds like a single thing, a whole, not a bunch of random songs thrown together (as albums like Rock N Roll did). That's due in part to the fact that his backing band, the Cardinals, had full partnership in the writing of the songs. This is the work of a band, not of an individual, and that gives it a coherent sound and direction.

The record sounds assured, though there are moments when it bogs down. Many of the songs are almost throw-aways, songs of little substance that seem to blend into one another. But the standouts--tracks like the rocking "Let it Ride" or the titular "Cold Roses"--are uniformly excellent. This album is Ryan Adams not trying to be a part of the great tapestry of rock and roll history, and it finds him thus making his best claim for inclusion into that tapestry. When he doesn't try so hard, when he just makes good music, that's when he does his best work. We'll just have to see how the other proposed albums go.


Song of the Moment: Ryan Adams, "Let it Ride"

"Walk Like A Man"

The gout is officially gone, and not a day too soon, if you ask me. I can walk normally, if a bit stiffly, 'cause there's always some stiffness in the joints and such after the gout goes away. But that's a tolerable situation compared to not being able to walk, let me tell you.

Went and saw Miyazaki's latest Howl's Moving Castle, with Ev and Natalie last night. A great flick, though as Ev pointed out, the last few minutes are wee bit trite and syrupy (Miyazaki has a weakness for that sort of sappy happy ending, though, and we decided we could forgive him since the other 115 minutes of the film were spectacular), but it was nonetheless a great movie. Excellent voicework (featuring the likes of Lauren Bachall and Billy Crystal, who did much better as the fire demon Calcifer than I thought he would), beautiful animation (the scenes out in the so-called "Wastes" are breathtakingly beautiful), and an interesting story. Worth seeing, if you can find it anywhere near you (we had to go up to north Oklahoma City to find the one theatre in the area that was playing it).

More thoughts on Serenity--still think it was a phenomenal flick. You can tell it was a cathartic film for the cast and crew, a way to deal with the show they loved being cancelled (it works the same for the fans, let me tell you). It ties up most of the important plot points and loose ends (though we still don't know what Shepherd Book's true background is, and his presence in the film was virtually as a secondary character), and we essentially get to say 'goodbye' to Firefly. Though one really has to wonder, since folks in the cast and crew have hinted that this might be the first of three flicks (though I've no idea where they could go from here, unless it's dealing with the Blue Corp. and the guys with the blue hands or maybe finding out what the Shepherd's past was).

The movie was basically an expanded version of one of the episodes--moments of levity, moments of darkness and drama, excellent special effects, great characterization and character development, more of River being nutty (though this time around we get to see more of the "shooting around a corner blind and picking off the bad guys and saying 'no power in the 'verse can stop me' River"...only it's no so much shooting as it's River beating the rutten hell out damn-near everyone--folks in a bar, the crew, Reavers...). It'll make an excellent addition to the Firefly 'verse, I can tell you that.

More to come later, including a couple of album reviews I've got stewing and a meditation on the end of childhood.


Song of the Moment: The Eagles, "Desperado"

Friday, June 24, 2005

"Since I Found Serenity"

Just got back from watching the Firefly movie, Serenity, down in Dallas.

Lemme just say--wow. I know this isn't a final cut (though it's damn close), but that is one phenomenal film. I wasn't happy with some of the stuff that happens (no character is safe in the film, let's just put it that way), but it was still an excellent if dark continuation of the series, and it does a good job of answering most of the big questions from Firefly.

Of course, now I have to wait until September 30th to see it again. But I will, and I'll be dragging as many people along to see it as I can.

In other news, my foot was so sore Wednesday night that I didn't fall asleep until about 7.00 Thursday morning. However, the foot feels pretty good today. I'm still going to prop it up again tonight like I eventually did last night, but I'm starting out from a superior position tonight in terms of how the foot feels from the outset. I think I may be about back to normal, which is a good thing.

Well, off for bed. have to be at work at 8.00.


Song of the Moment: Firefly Theme

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

"Saturday's Bruises And Cold Roses"

The gout is getting better every day, leading me to believe that I'm on the slow, hobbling road to recovery. The gout itself is restricted to the outer edge of the ball of my foot (the part I'd normally walk on if I were striding the way I usually do), and it doesn't hurt quite so bad even there anymore.

The real problem now is that my ankle and shin hurt from the way I've been walking. My arrested stride has given me some nasty shin splints and a ridiculously sore ankle. These will probably continue until I can walk normally again, at which point I swear to drink no more than two soda pops a week. Honest. 'Cause I don't want to do this again anytime soon. I'd really forgotten just how painful it is and how much it restricts my mobility (walking from the bike rack under the stadium up to the Writing Center should not leave me winded. Ever).

Anyway, I'm off for home for the day. I have every stitch of dirty clothes I own (which far outnumber the clean clothes right now) with me. I'm going to milk the "mom said to bring my laundry home" thing as much as I can before I move to Virginia, where I'll have to do it myself again.


Song of the Moment: Leonard Cohen, "Famous Blue Raincoat"

"Lookin' Out My Back Door"

So, bizarre story which reaffirms my faith in humanity of the day...

I, genius that I am, managed to lock myself out of my apartment again this evening when I left for work. This marks twice in less than a week, and that's just ridiculous. Last time, I was able to go to the apartment office, get the spare key from the apartment manager, and get into the apartment with limited hassle. Unfortunately, this time I happened to lock myself out after hours.

After hours lock-outs are a pain in the ass--you have to call Maintenance, and they send someone out to let you in. Then they charge your bursar account $50. A couple of $50 charges puts you in the right frame of mind to remember your keys every time real quick...or so you'd think. Apparently I've yet to learn my lesson.

Anyway, I call up Maintenace while I'm at work and arrange to have someone meet me when I get off at 9.00. The woman who answered my call at the Maintenace was also the woman who came out to let me in. She felt really sorry for me while she was filling out the necessary paperwork and all, and apologized for having to charge me and everything.

Well, I get back up into my apartment and barely have time to sit down before the phone rings. The person on the other end asks for 'Charles,' a sure sign that it's either something official or a telemarketer, because no one else calls me that. I reply that yes, that's me, and the girl (she's college-age, you can tell by her voice) says her name is Lindsay Bryan, and did I remember her? She says she graduated high school with me...and I apologize, saying no, I don't remember her, and I graduated seven years ago, so things are a bit dim.

At this point, she realizes that it wasn't me she graduated with, but my brother Clif. I describe him and his activities (how many people played soccer, ran cross-country, and played tuba in the band all at the same time? Exactly), and sure enough, that's who she thought I was (apparently, according to her, we look "exactly alike," something Clif would take a bit of exception with, but I digress).

Anyway, the whole point of her call was that, having recognized (or thinking she recognized) me, she and her mother decided not to charge me for letting me back into my apartment, even after the realization that I was not my brother.

It's just little things like that which really make me think there are still selfless and decent people in the world. They asked nothing in return, expected nothing, and merely acted because, as Lindsay said, her mother had said I was "having a bad day."

It's the little things, really.


Song of the Moment: George Harrison, "I Live for You"

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

"Three Bodies Lyin' There"

Apparently the Klansman was found guilty of manslaughter. What I find interesting, though, was the bit about how two of the people killed back in 1964 were white activists. I guess the Klansmen figured that associating with "men of color" sorta made you a race traitor or something.

One has to wonder what you do with an 80 year old man, though, especially since the crime happened so long ago. I mean, he's lived a complete life since then, and it's not like you can punish him by going back and taking away the last 40 years. Tossing the old bugger in jail won't do you much good, either, 'cause he'll most likely die well before his sentence is even close to being completed. Hell, as bad a shape as he's currently in, the guy would be lucky to live long enough to get to jail, let alone serve out his sentence (which could be up to 20 years for each death. He won't live another 60 years). So one has to wonder what they'll do with him.

He'll probably end up in some minimum security hospital or something, living out his few remaining days in a hospital bed with armed guards at the door (though I doubt he'd have any intention of escaping--I mean, he's essentially guaranteed that his last few years of life will be paid for by the state. Do you have any idea how convenient that is for someone with failing health?). Anything else would qualify as cruel and unusual.


Song of the Moment: Bob Dylan, "Hurricane"

"I've Seen The Needle And The Damage Done"

Today was the first day since the gout hit Saturday morning that I woke up and it didn't hurt worse than it had when I went to bed. In fact, it feels about the way it did when I crashed last night. This is a good sign--the stuff is in remission, as it were, and I ought to be back to normal (hopefully) by the end of the week. I'd really prefer if I were healthy again by Thursday, since I'm supposed to go down to Dallas with a friend from work and her crew to see the Firefly movie, Serenity.

Oh, I hadn't mentioned that, had I? Yeah, her husband managed to get hold of a handful of tickets to the prescreening in Dallas, and she knew I liked the show, so she offered me one of the tickets. It's gonna be a blast, though I have to be at work Friday morning at 8.00 (Chuck may not be getting any sleep tonight).

In other news, I'm probably going to go home tonight after work to visit the folks, since they leave on vacation at the end of the week and won't be back for awhile. Chances are I won't see them very much between now and the time I leave for Virginia, so I probably ought to get in some quality time with the folks. Tonight's really the only night I can pull it off, since I don't work tomorrow until the night shift, but have a midday shift Thursday and a morning shift Friday (not to mention a trip to Dallas in between the two).

Anyway, I'm gonna hobble off for breakfast now.


Song of the Moment: Elliot Smith, "Clementine"

Monday, June 20, 2005

"I Can't Get Through To Myself"

Foot was hurting worse this morning than it did when I went to bed last night. I think the acid buildup was shifting or something. Maybe I shouldn't prop my foot up when I go to sleep. On the positive side, sitting up seems to have helped immensely in terms of how my foot feels. We'll just have to see.

I was putzing around news sites earlier this afternoon, reading about the 80 year old Klansman on trial for 40 year old murders. Personally, I think it's probably a little late to be trying the man now, though I see how it would give the victims' survivors a sense of conclusion and all. But what really got me was this guy who was testifying for the Klansman. The article is here, but I'll recap the bit that I found jaw-dropping: the guy didn't think the Klan had ever done anything wrong. He believed the KKK (y'know, the guys who burned crosses and lynched people and preached hatred and bigotry...y'know, them) were a "peaceful organization." Now, is this a guy with his head buried in the sand (or up his ass) or what? I mean, honestly, even a cursory glance at the Klan's activities--especially in the 1960s--would reveal a group hell-bent on causing pain and death and destruction. I can people be so freakin' blind to reality? It makes no sense to me.


Song of the Moment: Bruce Springsteen, "Maria's Bed"

Sunday, June 19, 2005

"Disturbance At The Heron House"

Well, my foot has improved immensely. It still hurts like hell to put much pressure on it, but I think that has as much to do with the fact that I kept walking around and such last night when I went to hear my uncle play. I discovered I can actually manage a halfway decent hobble if I'm wearing shoes--the extra padding eases the strain on my foot, so it's actually easier to walk with shoes on than without.

Anyway, my foot didn't keep me awake or wake me up this morning, so we're already several steps ahead of where we were yesterday (pun intended, of course). I'm hoping to have decent mobility again by the middle of the week at the latest. I picked up some cranberry juice and Advil at the store on my way home last night (at the advice of about a half dozen people, so I'm guessing this stuff is what I need to go with). Between that and drinking something like a gallon of water yesterday, I should be doing pretty good...I hope. Time will tell.

Well, must go get ready for work. Thankfully there's not much walking required there. I'd be boned if I worked construction or something.


Song of the Moment: REM, "It's the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)"

Saturday, June 18, 2005

"Walk On Down That Dirt Road"

Dear God, the pain in my foot increased tenfold from the time I went to bed last night (when I could still walk halfway normal) to when I woke up at 10.00 because my damn foot hurt so much (and now even putting my foot on the ground while sitting hurts like hell. We're not even talking about trying to stand on it, just letting it rest on the ground).

I don't remember it hurting quite this much last time, though I think it might've for the first day or so. This really, really sucks. Hopefully it'll be better with a shoe on, but that just means I have to somehow slip a shoe on over this throbbing mass of pain that I call a foot.

I'm going to try to go to Wal-Mart this afternoon and grab some Advil. That seemed to help last time. I'm also, as I mentioned last night, going to drink as much water as possible. Maybe if I drink a gallon of water today, it'll flush out my system. Maybe I should also consider just staying in the bathroom all day if that's my plan.

Stupid freakin' foot.


Song of the Moment: Tom Petty, "House in the Woods"

"Back Up On My Feet Before Too Long"

My foot started aching again this afternoon after seven or eight months of gout-free living. I knew I'd been drinking too much soda pop lately, and this just confirms it. My foot can still take some weight, so I'm going to spend the next week drinking nothing but water and see if I can't flush out my system and get back where I need to be.

It also just throws into sharp relief the fact that I really need to exercise more. I've been ridiculously slack about exercising the past month or so. I'd gotten pretty good about walking several times a week and keeping my soda intake down, but lately I've just slipped into too many old, bad habits.

Anyway, hopefully I won't wake up tomorrow with so much pain that I can't walk. I can't afford to not be able to get around, and I refuse to let this keep me from doing the things I need and want to do.


Song of the Moment: Bob Dylan, "I Can't Wait"

Friday, June 17, 2005

"Shelter From The Storm"

Had a hell of a storm blow through this evening around midnight or so...which wouldn't have been so bad except that I was in Wal-Mart buying some bottled water when it happened, and the rain didn't abate for almost half an hour. So I ended up braving the rain and getting soaked clear through on my way back to the car (and it wasn't like I even parked as far out as I usually do, it was just raining that hard).

Anyway, not a whole lot else of note going on. Have to be at work in six hours, so I'm off to grab a few hours of sleep. Hope the power doesn't go out, because I know for damn sure I will not wake up at a decent time in the morning if my alarm doesn't go off. Ugh.


Song of the Moment: Radiohead, "Wish You Were Here"

Thursday, June 16, 2005

"Face Down Like The Jack Of Hearts"

My obsession with Bob Dylan is old hat to most the folks who know me. It's just an accepted quirk amongst most of them, I think, and a tolerated nuisance to everyone else.

What I've always dug about Dylan was the way he turns phrases so effortlessly. Regardless of whether you like his work, voice, or style at all, the man can rattle of the most natural-sounding phrases that make perfect sense and no sense all at once.

"Face down like the Jack of Hearts" is exactly the sort of phrase I'm thinking of. It comes from a song off Blood on the Tracks, "Lily, Rosemary, and the Jack of Hearts." It's not even a song I care for all that much--musically, it's pretty bland, the story the song tells doesn't really engage me that much, and I just think there are better songs on the album. But even with that being said, I find this phrase/line amusing and thoughtful. One of the characters, the titular Jack of Hearts, wanders into the saloon and goes to the corner, where he sits down and apparently lays his head on the table. There's a wonderful double meaning to it--there's a card game metaphor that runs throughout the entire song (various characters are playing cards, for instance), and the character Jack lying face down is a wonderful reference to getting a new card in a game of poker or blackjack (where a new card would be placed on the table face down).

I think this is what Dylan does best, and why I love his stuff so much--even in an otherwise mundane or lackluster song, he always tosses out a phrase or two that can grab your attention and shake your mind. And you get the feeling he could just rattle off phrases like this all day long--hell, on some of his songs, he does--and it wouldn't be a strain.

Yeah, that's all. Just something I wanted to yammer about.


Song of the Moment: Bob Dylan, "Lily, Rosemary, and the Jack of Hearts"

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

"Crumbs From The Table"

I've had a fairly accomplished afternoon. Went out for a late lunch with Audrey to a place called Jason's Deli (not sure if it's a chain or just a local-only place), where I had a baked potato the size of a small child covered in barbeque (both sauce and beef...mmm, barbeque beef) and cheese. I feel as though I shall never need to eat again.

After lunch, I came back and actually started going through boxes. I ended up with a large pile of crap I'm throwing away, and I cleared off two or three of the built-in bookshelves in my living room. The books from said shelves are now deposited in large tupperware bins for transport. There's still about two and a half shelves to clear off there, and then two or three other bookcases to clear out, but those will probably not be cleared for awhile (need more boxes. Must remember to pick those up at work this evening). I felt mighty productive after all that, because it meant I'd essentially gone through a whole closet's worth of boxes and consolidated/packed. Admittedly, all the other three closets in the apartment contain significantly more boxes and crap to go through than that closet did, and I still have all the rooms to go through, but hey, it's an accomplishment nonetheless.


Song of the Moment: Uncle Tupelo, "High Water"

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

"Who Will Ignore Me When I'm Gone?"

Got the bound copy of my master's thesis today. It really looks good; the guy did a fantastic job. Very professional-looking. Makes the whole "I have a Master's Degree" thing seem much more real to me.

Also helped Dom move some furniture over at his and Jessica's new place this afternoon. It's a really nice house with plenty of space and lots of light (something their previous home rather lacked). Hopefully they'll have the place ready by the time the kid arrives.

That's basically been the day. Not a whole lot going on, really, except that I'm at work and Adam somehow managed to break his freakin' drawing hand. Way to go, Monkey.


Song of the Moment: Sting, "Valparisso"

Learning Music History Backwards

Sometimes you don't start at the beginning.

I've been exploring a very different type of music over the past three or four years than I could have imagined myself listening to six, ten, fifteen years ago. I mean, if you took my musical tastes at the age of 10 (a silly thing to do, anyway) and compared them to today, it's a striking difference. Even comparing the sort of music I listened to at the beginning of college or when I came here three years ago, it's very different. I've actually started listening

Not a lot, mind you, or even anything particularly new. Some Johnny Cash, some Willie Nelson, that's about it. Some occasional Hank Williams or Merle Haggard or George Jones. Old country, good country, back before it became pop with a twang.

And I approached it because of the Old 97's. Actually, because of their singer, Rhett Miller.

That's where this journey begins, actually. I heard something off of one of his solo discs one night in Borders a couple of years ago, and his voice and musical style and lyrics were pretty strong. So I grabbed the album, and liked it well enough. The girl at the music counter told me he'd been in another band that was even better called the Old 97s, and I eventually checked their stuff out.

And it floored me. Country and punk mixed together into a style I'd never imagined. Country played at break-neck speed, punk with a twang and a lot of was great.

Then I heard about a band called Wilco, and they were supposedly the pinnacle of this alt-country style I'd found in the Old 97s. This turned out to be not quite true, but they blew me completely away. These guys had stripped away the layers of pop music, found the core of what American music was supposed to be, and rebuilt from that foundation up.

About this time, I was also digging deeper into Bob Dylan's catalogue, and I discovered the music he made with the Band on the Basement Tapes. And they'd done what Wilco was doing again, even if the results were rather different--taking the roots, the blues and folk and bluegrass and rock and gospel and everything else that went into American music--Americana, if you will--distilling it, rebuilding on the foundation. It was rootsy, raw, and real. It had my full attention.

And then I started pulling these various strands together, tying them and twisting them into a single, unified whole of my own. And then I started going backwards. I started looking at Woody Guthrie, Willie and Johnny. I started looking at Wilco's pre-Wilco stuff, in the band Uncle Tupelo, at the roots they'd explored and made their own. And music started to make so much sense to me on more than just a sonic level.

And recently, I found Gram Parsons, the guy who pioneered country-rock and probably had the greatest influence on guys like Uncle Tupelo and Wilco, the Old 97s and Ryan Adams (the guy behind another alt-country band, Whiskeytown, and whose own solo work has often reflected an urge to ape and occasionally synthesize various disparate musical traditions). And more Neil Young, who made country-rock the force that it is.

And I took all these musicians, these styles, these genres and ideas and forms and themes, and I've begun to internalize them. I've begun to understand them as expressions of the human condition, as ways of thinking about life and expressing life. I've started to look at the things the music says and what it doesn't need to say. I've been looking at music backwards, working my way back through the paths others have walked, coming to both similar and different conclusions. I've come away with a deeper appreciation for music.

I still love the music I started out listening to. I still love the Beatles and all the other bands I grew up listening to. You can see their roots, too, even if it's not always the same roots of these other guys (though there's often crossover). But I see the direction I want to take my own music, I see the direction it's come from. I hear it.


Song of the Moment: Uncle Tupelo, "No Depression"

Monday, June 13, 2005

"I Fought The Law And The Law Won"

Look, Michael Jackson got off.

Yes, I had to phrase like that. What would have been the fun otherwise?


Song of the Moment: Uncle Tupelo, "Graveyard Shift"

"Grab That Cash With Both Hands And Make A Stash"

Check this out. Don't get me wrong, Hawk (the guy who draws Applegeeks) is a fabulous artist. I love his style. But someone was willing to pay $650 for one of his sketches? Damn. Just...damn. As Hawk says in his post, the success of this auction has convinced him to make it a monthly thing. And hell, if your art fetched that much, wouldn't you? I mean, that's either rent or a heckuva mess of videogames all in one shot every month. Not too shabby, I must say.

A friend of mine actually tried to convince me to do something similar, though I don't think it'd work. Even if it did, I'd be happy (and probably very, very lucky) just to get five or ten bucks for something I drew...then again, there's nothing like the detail Hawk puts in one of his drawings in one of mine.

Anyway, yeah. Pretty amazing, really.


Song of the Moment: Bob Dylan, "Isis (Live)"

Sunday, June 12, 2005

"Once Upon A Time You Dressed So Fine"

I've been awake for the past 20 hours, with the exception of a 20 minute power nap on the way back to Shawnee from Stillwater after taking the Praxis II. A lot's happened in those 20 hours. For instance, I took the Praxis II, an exam that was scheduled for two hours and which I completed in one. I ended up going back over my answers twice in the next half hour after that, correcting a couple I'd been uncertain about, and spent the last half hour either staring off into space or doodling on the inside cover of the test booklet (too bad they wouldn't let me keep that--I actually had a neat character design there). It stormed on mom and I the whole way up to Stillwater. We watched the squall line move over us as we drove out towards Highway 177, and the sky opened up about the time we got to said highway. It never stopped between Shawnee and Stillwater. By the time I got out of the test, though, it had stopped raining, and by the time we left Stillwater, the sun had come out as though the storm of the morning had never occurred.

Drove back to Norman right after I got home so I could meet Ev's family (his mother, sister, and his sister's five kids). The children were about how I expected--the eldest, a 14 year old, was petulant and affected an "I'm too cool to really be here" attitude that all 14 year olds affect, the other two boys (aged somewhere between 9 and 12, I think) behaved like pre-pubescents, and the twin girls (aged 5) behaved like typical five year olds (which is to say they ran around alot and demanded plenty of attention). His sister and mother were not at all as I'd expected them, either in terms of personality or appearance. This is neither here nor there--they were very pleasant individuals, and you could tell they were very proud of who Ev was and is, and that's what's really important. He (and they, and even I, if you get right down to it) may not be happy with the situation Ev currently finds himself in appropos jobs and finances, but that's of minor consequence.

After the two hour visit with his family, I retired to my apartment, where I showered and proceeded to laze around for the rest of the evening. I have to be at work at 2.00 pm tomorrow/today, so I'm getting ready to turn in and get a full night's sleep...I hope. I dunno, I didn't get a single hour of consecutive sleep Thursday night, and Friday night was much too short (what with waking up at 5.30 in the morning Saturday). I've had a spot of insomnia all week, really, probably in part a reaction to the Praxis II. With that out of the way, perhaps I can finally relax a bit. I do know the notion of moving to Virginia in a little over a month seems much more real now than it did even a week or two ago. Every step I take along the path to getting a teaching job makes it a little more real.

Anyway, there's plenty of other stuff I want to talk about, but that can wait until after I've got more sleep. Gotta figure, I've only had about 6 hours of sleep in the past three days, which begs the question--why am I still awake now?


Song of the Moment: Samurai Champloo Soundtrack, "Vagrancy"

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

The Eight Songs I Can't Stop Listening To Right Now

An idea borrowed from a friend's Live Journal that was probably borrowed from someone else's Live Journal, et cetera. Not sure why it's eight songs, but hey, whatever. So, in no particular order:

Regular Joes - Flame On, Fire of Love: a song by my uncle's band. It's got a beautiful All Things Must Pass-era George Harrison vibe to it, and would be a perfect song if it weren't for the singer's hammy vocals and mediocre lyrics (my uncle wrote the music part, though, and that's what I really pay attention to).

The Minus 5 - I'm Not Bitter: I learned to play this song the other day, so I've been listening to it almost constantly. Despite that, the song never gets old, and it sounds like Rubber Soul/Revolver-era Beatles, which is always a good quality in a song.

Led Zeppelin - Hey, Hey, What Can I Do: one of the greatest songs about a prostitute ever.

The Beatles - You've Got to Hide Your Love Away: the Beatles song that proves even Lennon and McCartney were listening to Bob Dylan back in 1964-65. Beautiful folk-rock feel and an impassioned, lovelorn vocal from Lennon make this one of my favorite Beatles songs.

Wallflowers - From the Bottom of My Heart: mostly just Jakob Dylan and an acoustic guitar, but he sounds more like his dad here than ever before. And when the rest of the band kicks in halfway through the song and it just builds...excellent.

Ryan Adams - Let It Ride: a fun country-rock tune that I swear could've fit on a Neil Young album.

Billy Bragg & Wilco - Blood of the Lamb: with lyrics by Woody Guthrie, you really can't go wrong. Wilco's interpretation of the lyrics and the music they set the words to are beautiful and somber, like a funeral march for God.

Ben Harper & the Blind Boys of Alabama - Well, Well, Well: a Southern blues/Gospel cover of a Dylan tune that's just downright haunting. The acoustic guitar is perfect, the harmonies are spot-on and bone-chilling, and the song just grabs you by the lapels.


Song of the Moment: Hey, I just listed 8 songs. Pick one.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

"Changed The Locks On My Back Door"

So George Thoroughgood and the Destroyers rocked last night. The area where Clif and I were supposed to sit was actually closed off, so they upgraded our tickets for free, giving us much better seats (at the best possible cost, which is none).

Thoroughgood doesn't understand the meaning of the term "slow song;" he tears through every song as though his life depended on him playing as loud and hard as possible every second. Which makes for some damn fine entertainment, I must say--the man works the auidence very well, and his songs (even if we didn't know most of them) are great fun.

Clif brought back my guitar last night as well, which I was glad to have. I will say this much for having played his for a week--it makes playing mine much easier. So at least some good came of it.

Clif also brought the fan my grandfather had fixed for me. This fan needs a bit of backstory, though. I originally bought an oscillating pedestal fan my freshman or sophomore year at Ozarks, 'cause the dorm rooms were not well known for their great air circulation. It was a decent fan, especially for the price (I think I paid like $20 for it), and I kept it running virtually non-stop for three to three and a half years.

When I came to OU, the fan struggled a bit. I sent it to my grandfather, who managed to fix it up so it was in perfect working order again. I continued to use it all last summer, again rarely turning the thing off. When winter came around, I shut off my fans, assuming I'd just turn them on when it started getting warm again in April.

Well, one of my fans (one my grandfather had given to me the first time my fan died; it is significantly older and in great shape still, and it sits in my bedroom and runs constantly) started up first thing, but my old Ozarks pedestal fan did not. So I took it home a couple of weeks ago to see if my grandfather could fix it again.

Sadly, the engine for the fan had burnt out completely, and the fan was pronounced dead.

Enter the second fan, a cheap $10 box fan Clif and I bought in Bozeman, Montana, while we were staying in Yellowstone. It was a great investment for a room that had no climate control whatsoever (no heater, no A/C, nothing); we would set the fan in the window and let it suck in cool air from outside every night, to the point that one of us would inevitably have to wake up at some point in the night and turn off the fan because the room was too cold even when we used blankets.

So this box fan was just gathered dust in my parents' shed, and my grandfather dug it out and cleaned it up for me. This would have been plenty--the box fan would have circulated enough air in my computer room to make it a tolerable place. But my grandfather did not stop there. No, he took the pedestal from my old, kaput fan, and bolted the box fan onto it.

The resulting Frankenfan (which is my name for the creation) works wonders. In hindsight, I shouldn't be so surprised that my grandfather did something like that. I mean, he jury-rigs all sorts of bizarre solutions to mechanical problems all the time. I'm actually rather surprised that he didn't find a way to make this fan oscillate, but so it goes.

In fact, here's a picture I snapped of Frankenfan:

Image hosted by

Please ignore the mess of boxes behind it. I am in the middle of getting ready to move, after all (which isn't why those boxes are there. No, those are there because I don't have enough room for all the crap I own in my closests, so I have to stack some boxes in the computer room. Such is life).


Song of the Moment: Green Day, "Novacaine"

Monday, June 06, 2005

"Bad To The Bone"

Clif'll be coming over in a few hours. We're going to see George Thoroughgood and the Destroyers tonight up in OKC. Ought to be fun. I don't expect anything deep out of Thoroughgood--I mean, the guy is a three-chord gritty blues-bar type, growling his way through songs that are all built on similar (fun) riffs. It's just fun music with little to no substance, but sometimes there's a place for that, y'know?

Spent the weekend doing a whole lot of nothing. Friday I just sorta putzed around the apartment, Saturday I went to hear my uncle play up in Guthrie, and yesterday I putzed around some more and went out for dinner with Ev. Nothing too exciting.

Of course, the coming week has plenty going on. In fact, the rest of today is going to be hectic and rather busy. I need to finish cleaning the apartment in the next hour or so (there's not much left to do...or, to be more accurate, there's not much more that I'm going to do before Clif gets here), then go help Jess and Dom move a few things (they closed on the house they're buying earlier today, so their move begins), then get back to the apartment, shower, and be ready for Clif to show up around 6.30. From there, we'll head up to OKC for the concert, which starts at 8.00. And in the morning, I get to wake up bright and early and go to work. Won't that be a joy?

Okay, yeah, not really, but hey, it's money.

I should probably do a couple of album reviews, as I've got a whole slew of new CDs I've picked up recently that I sorta want to talk about. Haven't worked up the motivation or energy yet, but maybe this week will see a few of them written and posted.


Song of the Moment: Regular Joes, "Red Tide"

Saturday, June 04, 2005

"We Live In A Political World"

See, it's when Bush pulls crap like this that I really have to wonder how anyone can support the man.

"Gee, I don't like people having sex, so we're gonna stop promoting condom usage in Africa and just tell them all to abstain from sex. 'Cause that works so well with our own teenagers." Regardless of your stance on premarital sex or any sexual activity outside of marriage, you have to face the facts that even monogamous, heterosexual relationships in sub-Saharan Africa, so many people already have AIDS that even if you're only having sex with your spouse, there's a good chance at least one of you already has AIDS. The statistic was something like 40% in some countries, and that's only going to get higher with the sort of absurd policies Bush is putting forth. Do we have to wait until HIV and AIDS rates are that high in America before we start trying to do something about it? Or does it have to affect our access to oil before we start taking some sort of action?

Bah. I hate getting political, but things like this just really upset me. If Bush is a Christian as he so often claims, why the hell isn't he trying to actually ease people's suffering? Why isn't he trying to make a positive change in the world instead of just running around willy-nilly doing whatever he damn well pleases? I mean, he's giving money to groups that have no idea how to deal with the AIDS epidemic and taking it away from groups that have proven time and again that their methods are effective and already having a noticeable impact (the HIV/AIDS rate in Uganda, for example, dropped significantly with the condom usage and sex education tactics).

I just keep hoping more people recognize the current administration's lack of caring for humanity or anyone else's opinions, and that we shut them down on every possible front. I still maintain that Bush is no man of God, despite his claims, because it seems to me that he has a very narrow definition of mercy and forgiveness (so long as you believe exactly as he does, you're probably okay).

Forget it. I'm going to bed before I fume anymore.


Song of the Moment: Eagles, "Peaceful, Easy Feeling"

Thursday, June 02, 2005

"The Internet Is For Porn"

So goes a song from the bizarre musical Avenue Q, a sort of Seasame Street for people with warped senses of humor (so of course I need to see this show someday).

Anyway, the point of all this: read this article about the potential creation of a ".xxx" url. Kind of interesting. It's strange to see how far the internet is evolving and changing, and how rapidly it is doing so. Only a few years ago, people thought this internet thing would be a passing fad (I know I did, oddly enough. Wasn't until I got into college that I thought otherwise). Now look at it. I bet more people surf the 'net than watch TV every day...well, I know I do more surfing than TV watching, anyway, so that should count for something.


Song of the Moment: Ben Harper and the Blind Boys of Alabama, "Well, Well, Well"

"We Work The Black Seam"

Just got my work schedule for June. It's...weird.

Next week, I'm scheduled to work 9.8 hours...yes, 9.8. Gretchen's got us scheduled in quarter and 1/3 hours and such at working 3.25 hours, or 3.33 hours, etc. It's weird. Then the next week, I work 30.85 hours, then 21 hours, then 10 hours. Grand total (assuming all my math's been right and I didn't mess something up somewhere, which is always possible) of 71.65 hours for the month of June. Before the spring semester let out, I was working more than that per pay period (i.e., every two weeks).

Admittedly, Gretchen's told us this is just the base schedule, the skeleton upon which we shall heap more and more hours and personnel, so there's a good chance I'll be working more than that. It's just that the next couple of paychecks are gonna be pretty lean, really. Thank God I've got some money saved back in my checking account, or I'd be in a pinch paying my last month's rent in July.

Funny, that--I have to pay rent only two more times (since I still need to pay this month's rent) at this apartment, and then I won't ever owe OU anymore money...though they've apparently already started asking me to donate money as an alumni. I knew this day would come, it just annoys me. I mean, haven't they taken enough of my money already?


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

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

"A Storm On The Horizon"

One of the things I'll really miss about Oklahoma is the storms. Oklahoma has spectacular storms in the spring. Thunder, lightning, rain pounding the landscape into a muddy's great to just lay in bed late at night and listen to rain drum on the windows, watch the flash of lightning light up the sky like day, and hear the rumble of thunder as it echoes down the plains. You see clouds build up into these monolithic towers on the horizon and come swooping in, dumping their payload of rain on the surrounding area.

Yeah, you get tornadoes, but that's part of the fun--there's always an element of energy in the air when a tornado is about to hit, and Oklahoma's weather service system is good enough that we can usually get advanced warning for the things.

I don't know if Virginia has storms the way Oklahoma does. I doubt they do, 'cause there's really no place like this in the US (well, maybe Kansas, but even they're dryer. So's Texas, and those two states are the closest to us in terms of climate). I will miss the storms.


Song of the Moment: Wilco, "A Shot in the Arm"