Friday, September 30, 2005

"Dreams Die Hard And We Watch Them Erode"

Today is that most mythic and auspicious of days: Payday. It deserves the capitolization, especially when you haven't seen a Payday in about two months. That's a long time to go without picking up a paycheck. So, to make up for it, I'm getting two today. Not too shabby, really.

Today is also the release day for Serenity, the Firefly movie. Everyone who knows anything about me knows I have been anticipating this movie with a fervor and passion I don't usually have for the visual media. No, this is something akin to the enthusiasm I usually reserve strictly for music. All reports indicate my enthusiasm is not misplaced.

The only question is whether or not I'll be able to see it tonight. I mean, I'm at Accotink until at least 3.00, then I have to go open a bank account, then I have to go tutor at Huntington until 7.00. I'll probably want to eat somewhere in there. Maybe the 9.00/9.30 showing (or whatever the time may be). Of course, this is all also assuming I can find a theatre in the area showing the flick. But that shouldn't be too hard, I don't think.


Song of the Moment: Son Volt, "Afterglow61"

Thursday, September 29, 2005

"Or Remember The Sound Of My Own Name"

In an effort to give me an aneurism before my last day of work, the woman who does the scheduling at Huntington decided to totally disregard most of my scheduling restrictions next week when she decided when I'd be working.

See, I told them a few weeks ago that I could not work before 5.00 or 6.00 on any given day because of the difficulties of getting from Springfield back to Fairfax after teaching, especially given that I have staff meetings and afterschool clubs and the like that I have to participate in. We also arranged it so that I'm only supposed to be working with the SAT students. And they said this was all no problem.

Well, taking a look at my schedule for next week (my last full week with them), I see I have to go in at 4.30 on Tuesday, 4.30 on Thursday, and 4.00 on Friday. Now, the last time I checked a clock, 4.30 still came before 5.00 and definitely before 6.00.

The other problem is that they've got me working next Saturday...y'know, the day of the SAT. Surely there wouldn't be any SAT students that day, y'know? I imagine they'd all be...oh, I don't know, taking the SAT. So who the hell would I be working with, then, since our agreement was that I'd only be tutoring SAT kids?

Clearly, the woman is trying to punish me for deciding to quit because I wanted to have time to do things like plan for my classes and maybe, I dunno, sleep occasionally. It's also not like I didn't have several very legitimate reasons for not wanting to go directly from one job to another and work what are essentially 11 or 12 hour days three days per week. Apparently those concerns and issues are irrelevant to the scheduler, who just put me wherever she wanted.

The good thing is that I've got a couple of hours grace from covering for a coworker on Saturday. I plan to use those next week by convincing her to go in at 4.30 for me on Tuesday and Thursday. It only seems fair.


Gorillaz, "Dare"

Wednesday, September 28, 2005


Today's (Tuesday) been a mixed bag. I obviously didn't get much sleep last night (as anyone who read the previous post would understand), and there were some really rough spots at school today, but a few decent things happened.

First and foremost, I gave Huntington my two weeks' notice today. I told them that the stress of it plus teaching was just too much, especially as they start to heap more and more responsibilities on me at Accotink. It's not that I mind the extra stuff with Accotink; far from it, I rather enjoy what I'm doing there and see the extra responsibility as a challenge and an exciting test of my abilities as a teacher. But it's tough to do all that and do the tutoring with Huntington.

The situation with the English class that was split between myself and the English teacher came to a head this morning. We had the Dean come down and speak with my half of the class about why we'd split the class up. The kids felt they were being singled out and punished for being bright or on a more advanced reading level, which wasn't our intention. The three kids were very vehement in their displeasure at being separated, and really refused to even try this new setup. When the Dean left our little class, nothing had really been resolved. Logic and common sense were not doing the job, so I tried a different approach: I expressed my own feelings about the situation. I told them that it seemed to me that they didn't think I was good enough to be their teacher, and that this hurt my feelings considerably. I told them that they hadn't even given me a chance to try to work with them, that they'd been so against the whole situation that they'd never even seen that I was trying to present them with material that they might find interesting, challenging, and worth their while. One boy in particular, the most outspoken of the group, sat there for a second, then said in a very subdued voice that he was sorry and wanted to actually give me a chance. So we made a deal: they're going to try to work with me for the rest of this week, to give it their honest best shot. If they still aren't happy with the arrangement at the end of the week, I'll go with them to my boss and we'll discuss putting them back in the classroom with the other kids. We then shook on the deal and he sat down and paid close attention to everything else I said and did for the rest of class.

Ultimately, I think I stand a good chance of reaching them now. I've got some interesting ideas already lined up for them for the rest of the week. We flipped through their English book and found an excerpt from a Tolstoy story that interested them, so we're going to read that tomorrow (they were downright fascinated by my description of Anna Karenina, proving once and for all just how good of a liar I am...though I think mentioning that the title character throws herself under a train at the end of the book was probably what piqued their interest). All in all, I'm very positive about what we can get accomplished in there. Time will tell, I'm sure.

The same kid is also in a couple of the other classes I work with, and during Journalism this afternoon he and I struck up another bargain: we're going to write a couple of songs together. He had a few poems that he wanted to try to set to music, and I told him I'd work on some guitar for them. He was really behaving well for a long period of time today: from the end of second period up through club time after school, which I'm sure must be a record for the guy. He's honestly a good kid; he's very charming and funny and smart as hell. His only problem is that he has no filter; if he thinks something is stupid or pointless, he says so. Loudly. Repeatedly. His self control in those instances is almost non-existant, and so he ends up getting in a lot of trouble because of it.

Another deal we made (hey, we spend a lot of time in close quarters, and this one followed closely on the heels of the deciding to write a few songs together) was that I'm going to try to teach him to play guitar. Admittedly, my own skills are so rudimentary that this may not work. I'm not sure I can teach someone else to play. But we want to actually try to create a music club of some sort, get some like-minded students and teachers together, and maybe put together a school band. It'd be a neat project, if nothing else.

The week is going to be long, yet paradoxially there are not nearly enough hours in each day. The number of things I need to get accomplished in the next few days is absurd. The nice thing is that this weekend is a big payday: Accotink and Huntington. Education Connections should follow close behind. I just have to make it to Friday.


Song of the Moment: Flaming Lips, "This Here Giraffe"

Monday, September 26, 2005

"It May Be The Devil, And It May Be The Lord"

The Walls of Jericho eventually tumbled. Things come crashing down around our ears, the credits roll as the film fades to black, the last cressendo of the song reaches its frenzied peak. Things come to an end. All things. "All things must pass," George Harrison once sang in that sad, meloncholy, hopeful voice of his. "All things must pass away." And it's true: nothing lasts forever. Nothing remains unchanged in this world. Entropy reigns, and something is lost in each transformation. Some energy is always lost.

The impending doom from last week is no longer impending. The apocalpyse is here, and it's not nearly as entertaining as Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman would lead you to believe.

This evening, I found out my parents are separating after nearly thirty years of marriage. One of the constants in my life--their stability and connection and love for one another--isn't there anymore. I feel disconnected from it, though, as though it were someone else doing the realization, not me. It seems like a sick joke, a surreal nightmare, a worst fear made manifest by some cruel god. But it's very real. It's happening as we speak. My father is moving out of their house. I don't know what tomorrow or next week or next month will bring. I don't know how to relate to my parents. I don't know what to think about any of this. It feels like a physical blow, like someone walked right up and stabbed me in the gut with a knife, twisted the blade, and left in there. There's a knot in my stomach that I don't think will ever loosen. My head feels like it's wrapped in cotton, muzzled and fuzzy.

I honestly don't know what happens next, and it scares the hell out of me. I don't know how to deal with this. I never thought I'd have to. But now here it is, staring me right in the face, demanding that I become more of an adult than I was a few hours ago. Whatever was left of my childhood is gone now, and I'm left as an adult who is unsure of what his role is supposed to be in the coming days.


Song of the Moment: Bob Dylan, "Simple Twist of Fate"

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Bob Dylan - No Direction Home: The Bootleg Series, Volume 7

Rare and unreleased Dylan music is one of my little fetishes. The Bootleg Series has thus been, of course, a Godsend, a source of pure and unadulterated joy in my life. The latest installment addresses the time period we just can't get enough of: his first recordings up through his trio of electric albums (Bringing it All Back Home, Highway 61 Revisted, and Blonde on Blonde).

The real joy of the collection is, of course, the extra material from his electric period. The first Bootleg Series release, Volumes 1-3, skimped on this period of time, devoting only part of the second disc (only about a half dozen tracks) to those vital years. For No Direction Home, the first disc is devoted to his earliest recordings and his acoustic folk era, drawing on unreleased songs, alternate versions, and live cuts of familiar songs. As always, Dylan completely recasts the mood and feeling often very familiar songs: he speeds them up, slows them down, alters time signatures, and totally reworks lyrics and vocal inflection to achieve a complete reimaging of the songs. The perfect example is his cover of "Man of Constant Sorrow." He coverd the song on his debut album, but the version presented here is totally different. I actually didn't recognize the song at first.

The treat comes on the second disc, which is given over to alternate and live takes on songs that should--by now--feel almost too familiar. But the reworkings of classic tracks such as "Tombstone Blues," "Desolation Row," and "Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again" are all phenomenal. "Desolation Row" and "Stuck Inside of Mobile" in particular are actually superior in these alternate versions than in the official album versions.

In essence, No Direction Home offers up more of the same high-quality rarities we've come to expect from The Bootleg Series. There's not a bad cut on the entire collection, and it even throws in a few songs we've never heard before: the first disc opener, "When I Got Troubles," was recorded before Dylan even had a recording contract, and it sounds totally unlike anything else he'd ever done (it's like an early rock and roll song done only on an acoustic guitar). It's a fantastic set, and a definite must-have for any Dylanophile.


Song of the Moment: Bob Dylan, "Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues (Alternate Take)"

Friday, September 23, 2005

Paul McCartney - Chaos And Creation In The Backyard

Paul McCartney's solo career has been famously uneven. Fantastic constructs of songcraft such as McCartney I or Band on the Run have been offset by albums such as Give my Regards to Broad Street and Off the Ground. Even on albums as impressive as Flaming Pie, McCartney has had a terrible tendency to toss off filler left and right, and one often gets the sense he was simply checking off styles or specific song types from a list of what he felt each album ought to have. "Okay," you can hear McCartney saying, "I've got a rocker, a folksy ballad, two piano-driven sentimental tunes..." Fans of McCartney's solo work have thus come to accept the notion that, on any given album, there are going to be at least two or three filler tracks, but at least those filler tunes will sparkle and glisten with McCartney's unerring sense of songcraft.

That's part of what makes Chaos and Creation in the Backyard so impressive: there's absolutely no filler. McCartney didn't include songs out of some misguided sense of obligation to be all things to all his fans, as he often came across in earlier records (hey, when even Band on the Run contains a couple of filler songs, you can tell it's part and parcel to the records he's going to cut). Each song is on the album because it is an excellent song, period.

Part of the credit must go to producer Nigel Godrich, who is probably best known for his work with Radiohead. Godrich actually had the chutzpah to tell McCartney when he thought Macca could turn out a better song than he'd offered up. Godrich pushed McCartney to create the best album the Cute Beatle could, and the results are outstanding.

McCartney and Godrich stripped away all of the extraneous bits from McCartney's music and revealed its core: melodic tunes, sweet-but-not-too-sacharine lyrics, and charm. McCartney plays virtually all of the instruments on the record, hearkening back to such homespun gems as McCartney I and Ram. All of this gives the songs an immediacy and closeness they would have otherwise lacked, and the album would have felt as distant as Driving Rain did (for all of its charms and good points, Driving Rain did suffer from feeling too purposefully arty, as though McCartney were trying to say "Look, I can do this arty stuff, I can write tunes that wind into jams, I can reference strange things you've never heard of. I can be aloof"). It often recalls the brighter moments of Flaming Pie, actually, which was definitely the best McCartney album in ages when it came out.

Even though he's not out to try to please each one of his demographics this time, McCartney still hits all the styles and themes he's fond of: sweet and lilting ballads, bouncy pop songs, and somber dirges. He doesn't really rock out very much on this record, but let's be honest: McCartney was not really the rocking Beatle. That was John. Many of McCartney's rockers have felt labored, plodding, and stoggy, as though he were having to force something he were not (one of the exceptions, of course, is "Helter Skelter," but that's a Beatles tune, remember: most of McCartney's solo "rock" songs haven't been nearly as good). There are some uptempo numbers here, of course, but don't expect McCartney to break into extended solos here or anything.

McCartney sounds exceptionally relaxed here. The music feels natural (which Driving Rain never managed), comfortable, lived-in. This isn't to say its boring or uninteresting: McCartney is still a masterful songwriter and craftsman. This is familiar ground, but that just makes it that much easier to get caught up in the music. McCartney is clearly having fun, and it's hard not to get sucked into that feeling while you listen to the album.

Really, Chaos and Creation is the sort of album we always hope McCartney will make each time out. It's fun, well-crafted, comfortable music by a man who still seems capable of cranking out perfect pop songs more than forty years into his career. It's worth a listen for that even if nothing else.


Song of the Moment: Paul McCartney, "At the Mercy"

"From This Cup Of Bliss"

It's been a hell of a long week. For a man working three jobs, though, I notice I'm still damn poor. But come next weekend, I should get at least one (possibly two) paychecks, and that'll make things much better. In the meantime, OU apparently decided that they owed me $180 dollars and cut me a check for said amount, which mom deposited in my checking account this afternoon (thank God). So I'm good until next weekend, at least...though given the number of inspections and such not that I need to have done in the next week or so, that money will probably disappear very fast.

I've had this weird sense of impending doom all week. I don't know why or what it's from, but it's hung heavy over everything I've done lately. I feel kinda disconnected from the world around me, and that's really not a good way to be when you're teaching. I keep finding myself zoning out when I really need to be focused. It was especially bad at Huntington tonight, when I kept missing things the students said to me, had to have them repeat answers several times, and still couldn't quite catch everything all the time. Surely I don't already need a break. I mean, it's only been two weeks of this schedule, and this week's wasn't nearly as heavy as last week's.

Some of the kids at Accotink seem surprised when they find out that I share a lot of interests with them. They don't seem to be equipped to recognize the notions of "teacher" and "guy who plays Halo" as possibly applying to the same person. But apparently they actually think I'm hip...which I can only laugh about, 'cause God knows I'm about the least-hip individual you'll ever come across. Though I did apparently have a strong impact on the 4th period history class today when I went off on a twenty minute discussion of religious and political developments in Great Britain during the 1600s and how they applied to colonial development in the New World. Considering we were really only supposed to be discussing the reasons that people such as the Puritans came over to the New World, the lecture was probably a little unnecessary, but they all seemed fascinated by it (and this is a class we often have trouble with, actually) and kept wanting to hear more. The other teacher and I figured that, hey, at least they were interested in the subject matter, and it did relate tangentially, at least. So that was rather gratifying.

More tutoring tomorrow. Part of me is ready to hand in my two weeks' notice at Huntington, 'cause it's just such a drain on my time and energy. At the same time, it's fairly easy work, and it pays for gas and such (though this first paycheck will probably pay for rent and living expenses until I get a local bank account set up).


Song of the Moment: David Gray, "Slow Motion"

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

"Last Night I Had An Awful Dream"

My second week of school has been interesting to say the least. I've spent most of the past two days filling in for the English teacher, who was on a fieldtrip yesterday and out sick today. The history teacher did mention that she could tell a difference between having me (or the other assistant, Sarah) in the room and not having one of us there. But hey, we needed two of us to manage the English classes. Some of them get quite out of hand.

It's been a great learning experience, though. I've had to sort of make up the lessons on the fly as I go; the teacher left us some lesson plans, but we still have to figure out how to best impliment those. So it's good practice for having my own class and all.

Went on a bike ride with Wen this evening. She was surprised that I was able to ride better than she. Of course, I reminded her that I'd been riding a bike to work and back every day for the past year or so (when I was in Norman), so of course I had a little more practice.

Got a passle of CDs in the mail from the folks yesterday: The Beatles' With the Beatles, the first disc of Bob Dylan's Bootleg Series Volume 7, and a CD from my father's cousin's band, Alternate Route, called Bait Shop Beauty (they're a Texas band; that should tell you everything you need to know). More are forthcoming: the new Clapton, the second Dylan disc, more Beatles, George Harrison's All Things Must Pass, and a couple of my uncle's band's CDs. Honestly, I really should have gone through dad's collection and copied all the stuff I wanted before I left for VA.


Song of the Moment: They Might be Giants, "Meet James Ensor"

Friday, September 16, 2005

"Last Words Of Midnight Clyde"

My first week as a teaching assistant (or "Co-teacher," as I'm apparently referred to...and the difference is in how I operate in the classroom with the other teacher) at Accotink has been quite successful, I think. The other teachers are all very positive and friendly, and I've felt nothing but welcomed there. Everyone works together as much as possible to facilitate the kids' learning experience, from the administration to the teachers (which is pretty rare, from what I can tell about the way most schools are run). There's a cohesion and sense of common purpose and drive that's refreshing. Everyone has their own approaches and styles and systems, but it's all working towards the same goal. It's a good place to be, I think.

Today was an interesting day at work, though. Fridays are a little strange: every class is a few minutes shorter to facilitate a longer lunch period, during which students who have earned a certain number of feedback points (given based on things like completed homework, following classroom directions, respecting others, etc.) can go to one of a few restaurants for lunch (we usually have closed campus). There's also a room set up for videogames and the like. I ended up volunteering to work in the game room, since (1) I was the only one of the teachers who really knew how to hook all the stuff up and (2) I stood the best chance of not being hoodwinked by the kids about certain games.

We also had a bake sale today. Students who'd behaved themselves got to go over and participate. They also managed to find out that I own and strum a guitar, so they dragged me over there to play a couple of songs. It was actually quite fun, and everyone seemed to enjoy the experience (I know, I'm as surprised as you are). Even gave a student an impromtu guitar lesson at the end of school this afternoon, which she seemed absolutely thrilled by. Who knew teaching a girl the G, C, and D chords could be such an exciting experience for both the student and the teacher?


Song of the Moment: Blue Mountain, "Last Words of Midnight Clyde"

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

"When I've Forgotten All The Rest"

Tutoring went well tonight. It occurred to me as I was leaving the kid's house that I just love telling people stuff they didn't know before (and probably didn't want to know, but that's hardly the point). Whether or not this makes me well-suited to teaching remains to be seen, of course, but I think I've got a future in education. Or my own afternoon talkshow like Dr. Phil. I'm kinda hoping it's the former, though, 'cause really, Dr. Phil? That'd just be wrong.

I actually managed to buy gas for less than three dollars a gallon this afternoon for the first time in three weeks. Granted, I paid $2.99, but that's still less than $3.00. I also found a bike this evening, so I've got that taken care of finally. Now, if I just had the time to ride it...

The new McCartney CD is fantastic. I'm already working on a review for it in my head, and I'll probably see about posting that sometime tomorrow or Friday (probably Friday, since I really need to try to draw a comic tomorrow evening so I can post one for Friday. I mean, missing one day is bad enough, but two? There's just no excuse).


Song of the Moment: Paul McCartney, "Jenny Wren"

"Take My Hand And You'll Understand"

The news found here was music to my ears. Really. New stuff from Wilco is always fantastic, and their live shows are phenomenal (though I still need to find and watch I am trying to break your heart, the documentary they made about recording Yankee Hotel Foxtrot).

Last night's shift at Huntington just reaffirmed that I am ready to quit that job already. A couple minutes late (because of traffic and a ridiculously slow stoplight), and I was docked half an hour's pay. Absurd, really.

Work at Accotink is going well, though. I like it there alot, and I think I'm settling into it well...if only waking up early wasn't such a trial still. I swear, I have to shift my sleep schedule after about six or seven years of sleeping like a college student.

In other news, the new McCartney CD is every bit as good as I'd hoped. More on that when I have some free time.


Song of the Moment: Paul McCartney, "Riding to Vanity Fair"

Monday, September 12, 2005

"Hot For Teacher"`

My first day at Accotink was great. I really like the place: the teachers are great, and the kids are generally friendly and try very hard. It's going to be a fun place to work...though I've somehow already managed to get roped into taking part in random activities (in this case, singing with a few of the kids on Friday at the school bake sale...but at least it'll be interesting songs I already know, like "Let it Be" and "Stand by Me").

Tonight's tutoring also went well. The three kids I'm working with are all trying to stay on top of it, though the brothers are going to need constant reminders to stay on top of their organization (but hey, that's what they pay me for).

Anyway, tomorrow is going to be another long day. So is Wednesday. And Thursday. Friday will be pretty long, too, though Saturday won't be a long day, but it's annoying that I'm working six days a week (at least the money will be good).


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

Saturday, September 10, 2005

"Telephone Line"

Quiet evening here at the apartment. Tim and Wendy are in Manassas celebrating his sister's birthday, so I'm relaxing and hanging out with the cats. I've been fighting the urge to take a nap since about 4.00 this afternoon, because I know I have to get up early tomorrow (and every day after that for the foreseeable future) and I'd never fall asleep tonight if I'd taken a nap. So the trick now is to stay awake just long enough to fall asleep at a decent hour, get my sleep cycle back on a reasonable pattern, and just roll with it.

Still, I must admit, I'll miss being able to sleep in every morning. But such is my burden.

Talked with Dad for awhile this afternoon. He (as well as most everyone else I've talked with so far) is very proud of me for getting a full-time job, even if it is just as a teaching assistant. He said he could hear the excitement in my voice when I left him a voicemail yesterday afternoon (Wendy mentioned the same thing), so I guess that's a good thing. Enthusiasm for one's job is important. I mean, I'm not real enthused about the job at Huntington anymore (I become more disillusioned with it each day), but I'm still going to try to put in my best effort each day until I finally leave (I'm thinking as soon as my current batch of SAT students are done, so am I. That seems fair. I warned these guys at the start that this was only a temporary job for me, and that I'd very likely leave after I got a full-time job so I actually have some time to do stuff other than work).

Tomorrow Wen's taking me out for lunch after church to celebrate my new job. She said something about "D.C." and "dim-sum," so we'll just have to see what she has in mind. Hey, I'm not gonna complain: I'm getting a free meal regardless of the circumstances. And come the end of September, I ought to have some really nice paychecks coming my way (note to self: ask school in Springfield if there's a signing bonus of any sort).


Song of the Moment: Wallflowers, "All Things New Again"

Friday, September 09, 2005

"Where I Happened To Be Employed"

So. Interview this morning? Turned into a job offer this afternoon. Which, in turn, turned into me starting a full-time job on Monday.

Yes, everything is coming together, just as I'd planned. Soon...very soon...the world will tremble, as though Atlas himself shrugged and the very roots of the earth shook. Or something. It's entirely possible that I've become drunk with power from a teaching assistant job.


Song of the Moment: Bob Dylan, "Simple Twist of Fate"

"Orpheus Looked Back Once"

Had a job interview this morning. Did fairly well (the first thing they asked me was if I thought I was maybe a little over-qualified for the job), and I should know by this afternoon or Monday whether or not I have the job.

The benefits package is pretty nice--health insurance with Blue Cross/Blue Shield, an arrangement with George Mason University that waives out-of-state tuition, gets me a twenty percent discount on the tuition I do pay, guaranteed no rent increase, and a Master's of Education and my certification for both history and special ed. by the time I've completed the program.

One of the other neat things is that both the History teacher and the English teacher at this school are pregnant and will be taking their maternity leaves in the Spring. That means (if I get the job) I'd get bumped up to full teacher status (with the corresponding rise in pay that implies) for the Spring, and then after the other teachers return possibly get my own class (the two largest classes at this school are the English and History classes; the head of the place wants to break those classes up into two smaller classes each, which would both need new teachers of course). Granted, it all depends on budget stuff, but it's still fairly promising.

The nicest part of this job would be easing my way into the teaching experience. First-time teaching is always a hit-and-miss situation anyway: especially if, like me, you haven't really taken any education courses. I know all about the actual content of the classes; it's the technical details of how to run a classroom and manage all the school-related paperwork that'll be my trouble. This will give me the chance to work with an experienced teacher and learn the ins and outs of classroom management, making lesson plans, etc. It's basically like the student-teaching I never got a chance to do, only I get paid for it.

So keep your fingers crossed for me. Come next week, I may have one of those real jobs you hear people talk about.


Song of the Moment: The Wallflowers, "Nearly Beloved" (I honestly think this song is why I've rocked so much on all my interviews...I've listened to it in the car before each interview, and I think it's given me the energy and confidence to go out and do well. Or it could just be a really great song. Whatever)

Thursday, September 08, 2005

"The Devil's Been Busy In Your Backyard"

I don't care what your political leanings are, this ought to depress and infuriate you. Honestly, I'm not just being a tree-hugger here. If we don't take care of our environment, if we don't cut back on harmful emissions and preserve what we've got, this planet won't last through the rest of my lifetime. We're destroying it very quickly, and the current administration just keeps making it easier and easier.

But hey, at least companies like Haliburton are getting theirs, right? I mean, I'd hate for them not to get exclusive deals and all sorts of benefits and such from the raping of our world.


Song of the Moment: Bob Dylan, "Forever Young (Reprise)"

"You Who Philosophize Disgrace"

My first evening of tutoring for Tutor Job B went well. All three of the kids I'm tutoring are very intelligent and willing to work to do well. The problem all three seem to have is one I'm very familiar with: consistency. They start off doing very well, then start to slack and coast. That was pretty much me throughout school. My job is, after getting them set up and started on the right path, to essentially keep riding them to keep up with their stuff. To make the techniques I teach them, in effect, habit. Once something becomes a strong habit, it's there for good. Seems simple enough.

The other interesting thing is that all three kids seem to have similar interests, broadly speaking. They're all three science and math guys, and dislike (or at least don't actively like) history and English, though they're still decent at it (I even spent a good ten minutes explaining to one of them why history is important, mostly because he rattled off the cliched "why do I need to know about history, anyway?" question. Like I was gonna miss a chance to evangelize for my discipline? I think not). My work is mostly in the helping them maintain their habits, so it'll be fairly easy for me. The mother of the two brothers I'm tutoring is actually an author and jokingly asked me if I'd be willing to edit her latest book, and I think I surprised her when I offered a semi-serious answer. So I might actually have even another job, albeit a short-term and probably not high-paying one. It'd be fun, though.

Anyway, tomorrow is just Huntington again. I might (if mom's deposited the money) go buy a bike. If not, I'll probably wait until next week, do a bit more comparison shopping. Friday is my interview with Attotink, so wish me luck with that I guess.


Song of the Moment: Bob Dylan, "Love Minus Zero/No Limit"

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

"You've Got A Lot Of Nerve"

So as part of Dylanfest September '05, I've been watching D. A. Pennebaker's Don't Look Back, a documentary about Dylan's 1965 tour of Britain (his last solo acoustic tour before going electric). Everything about the film seems to indcate that Dylan was becoming particularly frustrated not just with the limitations of the acoustic guitar/voice/harmonica format, but with the people who thought they understood Dylan or his music. There're two or three scenes in the film where Dylan just rips into reporters for not being able to understand his work, for not understanding that there's no way they could understand his work or him. He just goes on tirades for five or six minutes each time where he tells them that it's impossible to actually "know" another person and that he's not a folksinger or a pop singer. The scene when he rips Time Magazine a new one is particularly amusing and vicious.

Dylan has some valid points, and some of his anger is probably understandable and even justifiable, but it's almost frightening to see just how passionate and fiery he was about this stuff. Questions of identity and purpose are implicit throughout the film, even if never really explicitly stated.

This really has me looking forward to Scorsese's flick later this month. No Direction Home picks up about where Don't Look Back leaves off, so it'll be interesting to see more of that.


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

"Stone You When You're Playin' Your Guitar"

I have a job interview Friday. It's with a private school up in Springfield for a teacher's assistant position. Not exactly what I want, but it does have a benefits package. Sounds like I'd probably be working with college-bound LD students, which shouldn't be too much of a trial (famous last words, I'm sure). I mean, I spent four years working with LD college students at Ozarks, and several of the student-athletes at OU were LD, and quite a few of my kids at Huntington are LD...I've got experience, obviously. We'll see how it works out.

Today is my first day of tutoring for the Vienna center. I've got three kids at the moment, and depending on how Friday goes, I probably won't take on anymore (and may request that they cut back on my hours at Huntington...I don't want to spread myself too thin).

I've been on a Dylan kick this week. I picked up a copy of Mojo Magazine the other day at Borders, mostly because it had a disc of Dylan covers with it and an article on the 100 best Dylan songs. And an interview with Paul McCartney about his upcoming album (his producer, Nigel Godrich-- the guy who does Radiohead's albums--actually had the chutzpah to tell McCartney to go back and redo lyrics and tunes if he thought they were too cheesy or corny. That takes some balls, man). Anyway, reading all that Dylan stuff made me want to go and listen to his albums...all of them. Well, all that I own, anyway, which is close to the same thing. So I started with Freewheelin' Bob Dylan and started working my way forward chronologically, through his acoustic albums and into his electric period. I'm throwing in the concert albums from the Bootleg Series as they come up (though I accidentally skipped Live was supposed to come before Blonde on Blonde, but I forgot, so it'll just have to be played after now). I should be through his '70s stuff by the tomorrow, and through the rest of his albums by the end of the week. I keep forgetting sometimes just how many Dylan CDs I actually own...not that it's a bad thing, mind you, to have this much Dylan. Perhaps a bit unhealthy, depending on who you ask...


Song of the Moment: Bob Dylan, "Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands"

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

"That Smell"

At some point during the weekend, one of the cats decided to take a crap in my laundry basket.

I found it today.

I am not, I should point out, in a good mood now. Not at all.

You may proceed to point and giggle and ridicule now.


Song of the Moment: Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, "Something in the Air"

Monday, September 05, 2005

Paul McCartney - "Fine Line"

It's a single. One song off of Macca's upcoming album, Chaos and Creation in the Backyard.

And it sounds exactly like a McCartney song ought to: great hook, slightly-sugary vocals and lyrics, and precise musicianship. It's a well-crafted pop song from the guy who must toss off perfect pop songs in his sleep. It's fun, you can't help tapping your toes to it, and I now have a lot of faith in the album proper when it comes out next week (I mean, after the bizarre arch-artiness of Driving Rain and its often-puriel lyrics, could you blame me for being leary?). Best yet, the fifty cent single came with a coupon for six dollars off on the album itself. And a six dollar discount on an album I'd have probably been willing to purchase at full price anyway? That's worth it. Totally worth it.


Song of the Moment: Paul McCartney, "Fine Line"

"I Like My Sugar Sweet"

I really need a day job, because let's face it: there's nothing worth watching on TV during the day.

Well, okay, I watched an episode of Juniper Lee on Cartoon Network, and it strikes me as something akin to the anime Devil Hunter Yohko, which is always a good thing. I mean, the episode I caught was a wonderful send-up of sci-fi/comic/anime conventions. It's actually a pretty damn funny show, and I like the sense of style.

But it also meant I had to watch commercials, and in doing so I noticed a few things. First of all, those Kidz Bop CDs are a sign of the apocalypse. They have to be. The sort of songs they've got those kids singing is entirely inapporpriate. Why in the hell would kids need to be singing Green Day's "Boulevard of Broken Dreams"? Sure, it's a great song, but it's also downright depressing, and you've got little kids singing it in this lilting, sing-songy manner that totally doesn't fit the song. It's like whoever's in charge of this attrocity of an idea (Kidz Bop in general...and what the hell is with spelling it 'kidz'? Are we that desparate to sound hip and edgy? 'Cause that's a sure sign that you aren't) didn't actually look at the words to any of these songs before they got a bunch of kids together to sing them.

I also witnessed a couple of commercials that make use of rap and hip-hop--not particular rap songs, mind, but that style of music--to sell things like Spaghetti-O's. I think that's when you know you've entered the mainstream: they start using your music to hock microwavable pseudo-pasta. There was another commercial, similar in feel and purpose, that also also used hip-hop music. I think it's a sign of how those genres are becoming more mainstream, more acceptable to (at least the younger generations of) middle America. Of course, it could also just be misguided efforts by advertising firms to seem 'hip' and 'cool' and appeal to a target demographic.

In music news involving decent music, there's a lot of new CDs coming out (or that have just come out) that I'd really like to get my hands on. Eric Clapton and Bob Dylan both released new albums last week: Clapton issued the album Back Home while Dylan issued the seventh installment of the Bootleg Series, the soundtrack to his new biography No Direction Home. The Rolling Stones have finally decided to release a new studio album after eight years (yeah, the last time they put out a studio album of new material, I was in high school. Actually went to see them on that tour, too) tomorrow called A Bigger Bang. Early reports are quite positive, calling it the best Stones record in about twenty years (not a hard trick to manage, mind you, considering that's only a comparison with about five or six other albums).

Next week, though, is gonna be a good one, too: new albums from Paul McCartney and David Gray. Dunno how the McCartney album will turn out, though it's supposedly a kindred spirit with such homemade albums as McCartney I and II. The David Gray album I'll be curious about, too, because I honestly have no idea what direction he's going to go in after his last couple of albums. The synthesis of folk-rock and quasi-techno beats he'd been working with was interesting, but I'm not sure how far he could take it before it became self-parody. Guess I'll find out.

Ryan Adams also supposedly has a new album coming out later this month (his second of three proposed albums this year), though I've heard next to nothing about what it'll sound like (given the variety of genres and styles he's tried over the last three albums alone, it's anyone's guess what this one will sound like). What I think annoys me most about all these albums coming out--and yes, there is an element of annoyance here--is that they all had to wait until I was broke and not receiving paychecks. I mean, for the great majority of the summer, nothing worthwhile was coming out. From May to August, maybe five albums came out that I felt were worth any attention. But now that I'm poor(er), we've got five or six records coming out in rapid succession...not to mention a new Terry Pratchett novel next week and a new Neil Gaiman novel at the end of the month. Eesh. When it rains, as they say, it pours.


Song of the Moment: Mark Knoplfer, "Speedway at Nazareth"

Sunday, September 04, 2005

"Them's Got Ears, Let Them Hear"

Tim finally got around to proposing to Wendy tonight. Which is good, 'cause if he hadn't taken care of that this weekend, we were gonna have to do something drastic. As it stood, a lot of people were taking odds on whether he'd beat the Second Coming. Let's just say that they wouldn't have taken those odds even in Vegas. In fact, my response when they came back from their walk (during which he popped the proverbial Question) was "about f***ing time!"

But seriously, I am extremely happy for them and offer my heartiest congratulations to the both of them. It couldn't have happened to a more deserving couple.

Tomorrow looks like it will involve church, a trip to Tim's folks' place for hamburgers and such, and even getting my car washed (finally!). I'm also probably going to bite the bullet and fill up the car with gas. While we were wandering around Fairfax this afternoon after I got off work (we walked to Borders and Guitar Center and stuff like that), we noticed a lot of the gas pumps in town were covered up...they're running out of gas. It's crazy. We're hoping it hasn't hit Manassas yet, 'cause while I currently have an almost full tank, that won't be the case after tomorrow, and I've got some more driving to do on Wednesday to go tutor.

On the positive side, a conversation with my mother and grandmother yielded an interesting result: they're going to send me money to buy a new bike. See, I'd originally called mom to see what it would cost to have my bike shipped to me from Shawnee. Mom called my grandmother to find out much it had cost to ship my uncle's workout machine to him earlier this year so we could get a comparison price. When my grandmother found out why mom was asking about that, my grandmother just said that she'd send me some money to get a new one. I'm very appreciative of this, seeing as how she only bought me the first bike back in December and I haven't been able to ride it since mid-July. But so it goes. I'm going to spend Tuesday bike hunting, and hopefully I'll have that to ride to work at Huntington by the end of the week. That'd save some nice gas in the long run, honestly.


Song of the Moment: Billy Bragg and Wilco, "Feed of Man"

Thursday, September 01, 2005

"Leave My Kitten All Alone"

So Wen took one of our cats, Pirate, to the Virginia/North Carolina border today. She's meeting up with some woman she's been corresponding with online to give the woman Pirate, 'cause we really just can't keep him. He pukes all the time. We can't deal with that (though he's been real good for the past week).

The big problem is that Pirate needs a different environment than what he has here. He'd do better in a single-cat environment where he can have special food and such. I mean, he's an old cat (10 years thus far), and though he plays with Obe and can usually hold his own, it was very obvious that Obe was the alpha male here. I mean, he would wash Pirate. Most cats won't stand some other cat washing them, but (I think) Obe did it to show he was in charge and so that Pirate smelled like him (after all, a cat's saliva contains chemicals that they use to mark their territory...I mean, you notice how cats always rub up against stuff? Well, since they bathe themselves with their tongues, it means their fur is actually covered in those chemicals, so rubbing against something serves the purpose of marking territory with those chemicals. Now, the only question is why I know all of this crap).

So yeah, Pirate is gone, now. Wen will come back this evening with another cat, Jasmine, who is the same breed as Obe (a Bengal) and much younger than Pirate. The hope is that Miss Jasmine will be able to finally put Obe in his place.

Anyway, the upshot of all this is that I've got the apartment to myself all day, and a pile of laundry taller than a small child to wash. Hurray.


Song of the Moment: Ryan Adams and the Cardinals, "Magnolia Mountain"