Sunday, October 30, 2005

"Baby You Can Drive My Car"

So I spent most of my weekend trying to fix my car. This was not how I'd originally planned to spend my weekend, but car repairs are the sort of thing that just pop up whenever they want to, regardless of your prior plans. They're like pop quizes or your in-laws, really.

See, I went to a party with Michelle Friday night, and after dropping her off, the battery light in my car came on. This was pretty disconcerting, I have to tell you, but at least it waited until after I'd driven to Fredericksburg and back to do this. Anyway, I got up sometime around noon Saturday (hey, I was out until around 5.00 am, I felt I deserved at least a few hours of sleep) and took my car to the local GMC dealer, explaining what had happened and asking for assistance. Sadly, the guy said they were all booked up, and I should try the Chevy place up the street (they're all GM vehicles, anyway, so it really doesn't matter one way or the other). Unfortunately for me, the Chevy place was already closed by the time I got up there.

"No problem," I say to myself, "I'll just find the nearest Autozone and have them test the battery. If that's the problem, I'm sure we can get it fixed easily."

Well, after searching around, I discovered the nearest Autozone was clear over in Manassas, about 20 miles away. Undaunted, I drove to Manassas. I actually made it as far as the parking lot of the place before the car gave out, which would be the last bit of good luck I'd have this weekend.

The folks at Autozone tested my battery and told me it was deader than a doornail and stood no chance of resurrection, so I purchased a new one, they popped it in, and I drove off, thinking I'd defeated my problem with aplomb.

Oh, how naive I was.

See, I noticed as I was getting ready to leave that the battery light was still on, so I went back in to mention this. "Oh, no problem," said the woman who'd replaced my battery, "the system just takes awhile to reset sometimes, that's all." So off I go, traipsing around Fairfax to run a couple of errands and go help Wendy with her students' one acts again (as I'd done before Friday night's party). My car made it back to the apartment afterwards, but just barely. The battery, despite being brand new, was not holding a charge. "Crap," I think to myself, "this is almost exactly like when the alternator went out in the Sunfire a few years ago."

So I decide this morning to head to Autozone again to see about getting a new alternator. Tim agrees to follow me out there in case I need a jump. We get about five miles down the road and the car dies. So Tim pulls up beside me and gives me a jump (after some annoying rearranging...I swear to high holy Heaven, it was so much more difficult getting the cars in position to jump than it should have been. I won't even recount the problems I had with car keys and the removing said keys from the ignition. Be content, gentle reader, in the knowledge that many curse words were cursed, many oaths were sworn to hunt down whatever genius decided cars ought to be more electronic than mechanical, and my keys ultimately stayed in the dead car in the lonely parking lot while Tim and I continued on our quest for an alternator). Sadly, jumping the car proved fruitless, as the car would die as soon as we took off the jumper cables. "Let's just go on to Autozone, grab the alternator, and come back and put it in. It can't be that hard, right?" I say to Tim. "Yeah, we can do that," Tim says, and off we go to Manassas, none the wiser of just what asses we were about to make of ourselves.

A trip to Manasssas and $220 later, we head back to my car, new alternator in hand. We know we need to loosen the tensor arm so we can slip the belt off the old alternator and unbolt it and install the new one.

We couldn't loosen the belt. We couldn't figure out how to get the tensor arm to move, so we sat there, fiddling with crap that we didn't really understand, until Tim hit upon the brilliant idea of going and getting his dad.

"This thing has proven we are not true men, Tim," I said, my head bowed in defeat.

"Yeah," he agreed, "there's clearly a gap in our knowledge base" (okay, that's not how he said it, but that was the gist. Go with the narrative flow here, okay?)?

Anyway, it's getting on near dark by this point, and Tim goes off to get his dad while I stay with the car. Tim and his father finally return about an hour and a half or so after he left, and it's pitch dark by this point. Tim's father breaks out a prybar and goes after the tensor arm, finally shifting it and getting the damn belt off the alternator. It took less than thirty minutes to unbolt the old alternator and bolt on the new one after that, and all told about one hour of actual work was all it took to get the new alternator in place, the jumper cables attached, the car juiced back up, and my car to be running the way it's supposed to.

Yes, today my masculinity was put to the test. I failed. Miserably.

I hope they don't revoke my penis.


Song of the Moment: Led Zeppelin, "Trampled Under Foot"

Friday, October 28, 2005

"I've Got A Couple Of Chords And A Lyrical Stance"

I am so ready to just throttle a couple of my students who think that arguing with everything just for the sake of arguing with everything is okay. I'm about to lose what little temper I have, because it's the same students and the same battles every single day, several times a day.

What really irks me is a particular student who only wants to accept the rights and privileges of being 17 without any of the corresponding responsibility. He only plays the "I'm an adult" card when it benefits him, not when he has to take responsibility for his actions or decisions. It's all I can do to just reach over and smack the kid upside the head.

The rest of the day is given over to a Halloween party. Starting with lunch, we're just giving over the day to games, food, and pumpkin carving. Should be an interesting afternoon.


Song of the Moment: Blue Mountain, "Bloody 98"

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

My Morning Jacket - Z

I've said I try not to make it a habit of buying albums by bands I've never listened to. I've mentioned how it's dangerous and doesn't often yield positive results. Yet I persist in buying albums randomly through recommendations by trusted reviewers or just hearing them compared to bands I really like.

So when I heard that My Morning Jacket was something of a cross between Wilco and the Flaming Lips, I felt they deserved my attention. Damn, am I glad I took a chance on these guys.

Z is simply one of the best albums I've listened to in quite awhile, and I've listened to some damn good albums in the past year. It's a brilliant mix of Americana, psychadelia, jangly guitars, aching vocals, and Beach Boys harmonies. The band melds genres in much the same way the Flaming Lips do; the best way to describe the band, in fact, is as a more radio-friendly version of the Lips. The easiest parallel between the two bands is in the vocals: both bands feature Neil Young-ish vocalists who croon semi-cryptic lyrics about love, loss, and zoos.

Musically, the album follows plenty of interesting detours, chasing after whatever whimsical muse caught the band's fancy. "Lay Low" is a fantastic, thumping song that lifts you up on its beautiful synth and guitar figures and carries you into the powerful jam that doubles the length of the song with spidery guitar lines. "Wordless Chorus" has just that: a chorus of soaring "Ahhh"s in the refrain that sets the tone and mood of the rest of the album. This is a record full of somber yet positive music, full of instruments that meander and twine around one another, creating layers of sound and a sonic palette that's exceptionally satisfying. "Off the Record" is a reggae-tinged rave-up, a jouyous and raucous four minutes that have you tapping your toes and humming along whether you want to or not.

This is a very cohesive album, a record that feels whole and complete in and of itself. It successfully synthesizes different sounds and styles into a single, unified direction. There's a sense of purpose to this music, and it ties everything together regardless of how odd or unusual the musical turns may be. I highly recommend this album to everyone. You owe it to yourself to hear this music.


Song of the Moment: My Morning Jacket, "Lay Low"

Friday, October 21, 2005

Minus 5 - At The Organ

It's really hard not to wish At the Organ, an EP by the Minus 5, was longer. Much longer. Like a full-length LP. Sadly, this is not the case, but the seven songs on the CD are fantastic.

Two of the songs are alternate versions of tracks off of the Minus 5's fantastic Down with Wilco release: "The Days of Wine and Booze" and "The Town that Lost its Groove Supply." Everything else is unique to this disc, and it's a pity that the band couldn't give you a few more tracks and make a full album out of it.

That complaint aside, what we do have is uniformly excellent. "Lyrical Stance" is a punky romp, deceptively simple and more fun than it has any right to be. "Hotel Senator" and "Formerly Hail Centurion" make absolutely no sense, but are fun and clever nonetheless. "Film of the Movie" is a wonderful pot shot at Hollywood's tendency to remake every single damn movie ever released. The strangest track is the closer, "One More Bottle to Go," and of which the liner notes ask "Is it even music?" The answer is a definite "yes," and very entertaining music at that. The Minus 5 pull their usual trick: an eclectic mix of Beach Boys harmonies and modular music, chiming guitars, oddball instruments (though oddly enough, there are no organs evident on the recording, despite the title), and surreal lyrics.

Ultimately, if you like the Minus 5, this will be a no-brainer for you. If you're not sure about the band, this probably isn't the place to start.


Song of the Moment: Minus 5, "Formerly Hail Centurion"

Thursday, October 20, 2005

"Steady Crushing Hand"

The Music Club at school met this afternoon. I only had two kids there--a brother and a sister--but they were making good effort, so I didn't mind that so few showed up. I knew one other kid wouldn't be there, and the other two (another who wants to learn guitar and our drummer) sorta just forgot, I guess. Overall, I have a good feeling about the whole situation, really. I think that if the kids actually keep trying and practicing everyday, they'll be decent pretty quick.

As anyone who has visited the Dim Bulb site lately probably knows, I've been struggling with creativity lately. I just...don't feel all that inspired. I hate the notion of taking a break/hiatus, because I know how I am: if I take a break, I end up just not going back to it. It's what happened with running, and God knows when the last time I was able to go on a long jog was.

The best I can do, then, is just push through, try to get back to where I'm happy with what I'm doing. I have a couple of ideas for what to do next with the comic, but I just wish I was feeling the groove better.

Talked with my niece (well, cousin's daughter, but "niece" isn't as unwieldy) this afternoon. Had a good conversation, considering the fact that she's been sick and she's only three. She actually willing took the phone and chatted this afternoon, which is a very positive move in the direction we've been wanting.

Conversations with my mother have not gone as well. Not that she's been chewing me out about things; she and dad apparently had a conversation about money yesterday evening. Y'know, one of those prelude to divorce conversations that have to occur so they can divy everything up and figure out how much she gets and how much he gets. My father, weird as it sounds, apparently thinks that since he's done all the work, he owes mom no money. Y'know, totally ignoring her raising three children, shuttling them all over the place, doing the laundry and the dishes, cooking meals, shopping for clothes and food and everything in between, planning and organizing everything from vacations to the monthly father wasn't even aware that we had a pharmacy bill every month. He's completely oblivious, essentially, to what mom's spent the past nearly 30 years doing for him. He just doesn't get it. It's pretty upsetting, to say the least. Mom was not looking forward to the conversation when I talked with her early yesterday afternoon. Of course, a big part of it simply depends on which version of my father showed up. If it was my father the way he's been acting the past few months, then she probably had no chance. But if it was my real father, she might've been able to talk some sense into the man. Either way, I feel bad that she even had to go through this whole thing.


Song of the Moment: Wilco, "Kicking Television (Live)"

Sunday, October 16, 2005

"Staring At The Sun"

Spent the afternoon at the Rennaisance Festival with Wen, Tim, and a girl from the church choir, Felicity. We had a good time, really: watched a "German" juggler do some pretty cool stuff, saw a guy doing some glass blowing, and wandered around checking out the nifty shops that sold everything from fairy wings to swords to corsets. At some point, Wendy and Tim disappeared, and Felicity and I stood in line for free beer quoting Monty Python and the Holy Grail and giggling.

So it was a fun afternoon, though I've got a bit of a post-beer headache (not that I drank enough to get a hangover, mind you; it's just that if I have a couple of beers, I tend to get a headache. It's one of those things). Also managed to buy gas in Manassas for $2.49 this evening, which is about as cheap as it's been since I moved to the area three months ago (God, it's already been three months?). Then I came home and Wendy made me an excellent omlette.

I talked with dad for awhile this evening, and we're setting up tentative plans for him to come visit at the beginning of December. I also need to get my plane ticket for my trip home for Christmas, which is going to put a major dent in my funds. Speaking of, I think I might have accidentally overdrafted on my Arvest account this week. I didn't mean to, I just forgot that I'd spent most of what was in there on car stuff on Monday. So I should probably call the bank tomorrow and find out, then have them transfer some money from savings to checking so I don't have anymore problems.

In other news, I turned on the comment word verification thing in an effort to combat spam. Also turned it on over at the Dim Bulb rantspace blog. I want folks to be able to comment on stuff, even anonymously, but the spam was annoying the hell out of me. This should fix that. If not, I'll hunt down the spammers and destroy them using my mind powers.


Song of the Moment: Charlie Sexton, "Gospel"

Saturday, October 15, 2005

"Welcome To The Stage Of History"

Spent most of the day helping Wen with Wizard of Oz rehersal. She's already got the first act blocked, and the kids did pretty well considering it's still early in the process. I'm really looking forward to seeing what she's able to do with it as things progress.

After rehersals, Wen and I went to Borders for their Educator Appreciation weekend. Anyone who is an educator or retired educator can get 25% off any purchase all weekend. Granted, I didn't have any way to prove my current employment (having left my paycheck stub at home and not having any sort of ID or badge from Accotink, since apparently they don't go in for for that sort of stuff), but I bought a couple of books that could be useful anyway: the complete works of Edgar A. Poe and Joseph Campbell's The Hero with 1000 Faces. Wen managed to grab about $100 worth of plays, monologues, and the like, and that was with her discount.

One thing I noticed while we were at Borders, though. It's something that'd nagged at the back of my mind since my days at Ozarks, but it was really put in sharp focus today. While browsing through the history books in an effort to find something for my classes, I wandered through both the Eurpoean and American history sections. I know I'm not teaching any classes on world history or anything right now, but I still like to dig through the books and see if there's anything interesting (saw a couple of British history books I was sorely tempted to pick up, but didn't). While I perused the American history books, I noticed a couple of trends: first, that most American history books deal with wars. We're fascinated with wars, whether the Revolution, the Civil War, or especially World War II. Second, we glorify war in a rather frightening manner. The words "glory" and "honor" popped up in entirely too many titles. We almost revel in the gory details, nearly deify battle and death and destruction. It's disturbing, really, the point to which we glorify war and the extent to which we obsess over it in our history. Yes, much of our history has been shaped by war. That's undeniable, in the same way that the English language's diversity and flexibility was undeniably shaped by Britian's conquest by various peoples and groups over the centuries. But to idolize warfare the way we's unhealthy and creates a distorted impression of what war is actually like. American historians (especially such popular "historians" as Stephen "never had an original thought or book" Amrbose) seem to think that all the guys fighting for America over the years have been these idealogues who were always fighting for Truth, Justice, Freedom, and The American Way.

And while I'm not discounting the possibility that some people of that nature did fight for America--it would be foolish to deny their existence--presenting this as the general character of our armies as a whole is ridiculous. The Founding Fathers may have been attempting to create a better life and a country where all citizens could pursue life, liberty, and happiness as they saw fit, but they were also greedy bastards who didn't want to pay Britain's steep taxes (even though those taxes were levied to pay for a war that had been fought to protect the colonists). Folks in the Civil War may have been fighting over whether or not a state ought to have more power than the federal government and vice-versa, or even over the issue of the morality of slavery, but they were also fighting because they just couldn't get along and were spoiling for a good fight.

Part of the problem, I think, is that America has viewed war as the path we took to becoming the world's only remaining superpower. And this is, to a great extent, true: our involvement in the two World Wars established us as the new Britain, the new Rome, and we took to the role after the Second World War as though it were our birthright. Warfare was our path to greatness. Once there, we assumed the only way to remain at the top of the heap was through the occasional flexing of the military muscle (okay, so maybe "occasional" is a bit facetious), as all major world powers from Athens on down had seen fit to do.

Ultimately, this is why I really do not like American history: the focus is so heavily on warfare, and that focus is always in terms which are much too positive. "Look at war," American history books say. "Look at America in war. We are glorious, we are mighty, we are here because we fought bravely, and our bravery makes us morally good." We do not fight because we are right, we are right because we fight. This seems to be the dominant view of America's involvement in war. It's unsettling, really, but this mentality has existed for as long as America has. The notion that we are a nation destined (destined to be great, destined to grow--i.e., "Manifest Destiny"--destined to rule) is one intimately tied up the creation and evolution of our country and our ideals. All men may be created equal, but not all countries are created equal. Some are, apparently, better than others. We sought "a more perfect union," and we believe we have found it here. In many ways, America is still stuck in the old Enlightenment ideal of continual progress: we are always improving things, always moving forward, getting closer to some idealized utopia that can be attained if we just keep going.

But you can't progress indefinitely. History moves in cycles, not straight lines. The wheel turns, things reach a peak and then decline. It's natural for this to happen. We can't possibly remain the biggest kid on the block. Babylon couldn't do it. Athens couldn't manage it. Rome fell. Spain rose and slid into weakness. Britain had an empire upon which the sun never set, and now they are essentially limited to a few tiny islands off the coast of Europe. It's only been fifty or sixty years since they were still an empire. The downswing can come quickly.

America must learn the lessons of history. War is not a glorious thing. It's brutal, it's vicious. It is sometimes necessary, but it is not something to be celebrated or rejoiced in. To slip into cliches for a moment, those who live by the sword do eventually die by it, and those who do not learn from the past are doomed to repeat it. Unless we as a country and as a society understand that we cannot continue behaving the way we do, one day we'll wake up to find the Vandals and the Visigoths at our doorstep, the Empire revolting all over, and the people incapable of doing anything but standing by and watching.


Song of the Moment: My Morning Jacket, "Wordless Chorus"

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

"You Say You Want A Revolution"

So last night was, thankfully, my last night at Huntington. I'd say I'm sad to see the back of the place, but I'd be lying. I really was starting to dislike the very nature of the job, and I'm glad I got out before my feelings started to negatively impact my performance. That wouldn't have been fair to anyone, so this was really for the best.

Additionally, this actually gives me time to plan my classes. I came up with some good ideas for lessons in my English class, stuff that applies to their interests, stuff that applies to what they need to learn for their standardized tests, and stuff that won't be like pulling teeth.

Got a paycheck from the Vienna job today, which was very welcome. I'm always in favor of someone sending me money. Large wads of cash are one of the quickest ways wallet.

What, they can't all be gut-busters.


Song of the Moment: Eric Clapton, "Love Comes to Everyone"

Monday, October 10, 2005

"If Not For You, My Sky Would Fall"

So I lost all the kids I'm tutoring now through Vienna. The first kid's mother decided he didn't really need the tutoring after all back a couple of weeks ago, and the mother of the other two kids decided today that she didn't think they needed it, either (or that the one who did need help didn't need subject tutoring, just a little organizational help every day).

Part of me really doesn't mind, but another part of me is kinda miffed. First, because I'm now not getting paid to tutor those kids. But that's not as much an issue, since I've already emailed them about tutoring someone else who needs writing help (and that will be a major endeavour akin to what I just spent seven years doing at Ozarks and OU).

The bigger issue is that I feel like I've just been discarded after my usefulness ended. I mean, I got those kids organized. I introduced a half dozen strategies for each of them, strategies which they are using to keep organized. I know part of me should feel good, 'cause I did my job correctly: they're organized now, they're staying on top of everything, etc. But a bigger part of me feels like they just took what they needed from me and then did a runner. Feels a bit exploitative, really.

Anyway, I'm not too worried about it. Just with the few hours I did tutor those three kids, I made over $350. The way I figure it, if I can get even two or three hours a week with this stuff, I've got gas paid for, easy.


Song of the Moment: Barenaked Ladies, "Light Up My Room"

Saturday, October 08, 2005

"Lefty He Can't Sing The Blues"

Saw the Wallace and Gromit movie Curse of the Were-Rabbit this evening with Tim and Wen. Funny, funny movie. You have to love a movie that keeps throwing deadpan puns at you the whole time. The fact that it included stuff like a book on monsters written by Claude Viciously and featured a vegetable shop called Harvey's (with a giant carrot for the sign) is just classic. There's also a wonderful Snoopy reference (as the World War I Flying Ace at that) that had me giggling. Tim decided it was definitely a must-buy when it comes to DVD, and I have to say I agree.

It's funny: I've only been awake about 12 hours, and I'm already tired. Doesn't seem like it should be time for that yet.


Song of the Moment: Pink Floyd, "Run Like Hell"

Bob Dylan - Slow Train Coming

When I first started really listening to Dylan records, I told myself I would avoid his trio of evangelical Christian releases; not because I disliked the messge, but simply because everything I'd read or heard seemed to imply that they just weren't very good albums. I'd heard about everything from lackluster tunes to bland lyrics, bored vocals, and repetative themes. I vowed I wouldn't get so caught up in Dylan as to actually think, "well, every other Dylan album I've heard had at least a few good songs on it, so these must as well. There can't be any harm in getting them, right?"

Well, I succumbed to temptation. I picked up Slow Train Coming, mostly because I'd run out of essential Dylan albums (and even the less-than-essential: I mean, did I really need Planet Waves or New Morning? Empire Burlesque? Street Legal?) to collect, and I broke down. The flesh and the will were both weak.

Turns out the record isn't the horrible train wreck (sorry, couldn't help myself) that I'd been told it was. Slow Train Coming has its problems, but it's far from one of the worst records he's ever cut (that dubious honor probably goes to Self Portrait, another record I've been tempted many times to pick up).

Let's start with the strengths. Musically, this record is a continuation of the sound of its predecessor, Street Legal. This isn't an entirely bad thing; Street Legal had a good sound to it, it's just that the batch of songs Dylan came up with weren't his strongest (though "Changing of the Guard," "Journey Through Dark Heat (Where are you tonight?)," and "Senor (Tales of Yankee Power)" are among the best of middle period Dylan), but the record was fun. Slow Train Coming has the added advantage of having a young Mark "Dire Straits" Knoplfer on guitar, and Knopfler's guitar fills do wonders to keep the songs (which tend to run on the long side: there's nary a song that comes in under the four-minute mark) interesting. The rest of the backing band is strong and versatile, cranking out slightly Gospel- and raggae-tinged tunes to back Dylan. The music feels appropriate for the subject matter, really.

In terms of the actual lyrics, they aren't the best that Dylan's ever penned. Granted, even a mediocre Dylan song would be the crown jewel of many recording artists' catalogues, but here, it just comes across as faintly disappointing at times. Some of the songs are pretty good, though. "Gotta Serve Somebody" is one of Dylan's slyest and wittiest songs in ages. "Precious Angel" occasionally dips its toes too deeply into dogma and even sexism (as Dylan songs sometimes do), but is fairly strong throughout and shows a sort of internal consistency. "I Believe in You" is a strong statement of faith, though Dylan actually manages to keep the object of his faith ambiguous until almost the end (is he singing to Jesus? To a woman? You don't know until he ruins the spell at the end by coming right out and telling you). The lyrics, on the whole, are fairly strong--if not exactly outstanding--and stand up pretty well compared to what they could have been. Dylan does occasionally stray too deep into reciting dogmatic phrases and lines, but he can be forgiven for that sin when you keep in mind that all of us have our off days.

The place where the album really falls flat is in the vocal delivery. Dylan totally phoned in his vocals for this record. For an album that's all about newfound faith, zeal, and fervor, his voice is flat, bland, and almost bored-sounding. There's no energy or emotion, and the times when he does attempt to inject a little spirit into the proceedings actually come across as strained and forced rather than emotional or powerful. At least on Street Legal he seemed to have some conviction in his voice; here, he's almost lifeless, and it nearly ruins some of the better songs.

The sole exception to this problem is "Gotta Serve Somebody," which is sung with power and conviction and true feeling. Dylan lays it all out on the line, opens up the album with an exceptionally strong track that leaves you hoping the rest of the album will follow suit. It sets you up for an entire album of that sort, and makes you think that if he can craft tunes of this power and authenticity, then he can convert to whatever faith he wants to. Sadly, the rest of the album does not make good on the promise of that opening track. There are small highlights, and the album isn't necessarily bad, per se, it's just that you start thinking of what a lyrical mastermind like Dylan really could have done with this subject matter if he'd been at the top of his game. Ultimately, it's hard not to see this album in terms of what it might have been instead of what it is, which is a fairly decent if not entirely remarkable middle-period Dylan record.


Song of the Moment: Bob Dylan, "Slow Train"

Friday, October 07, 2005

"How Many Times Will The Teeth Bite The Tongue?"

God, I'm glad this week is over. Talk about long. Tutoring every night except Monday on top of teaching more classes at Accotink (today I had to sub in the Spanish class for one period since the teacher was out...actually knew more Spanish than the kids, which was surprising since I haven't had Spanish since 1996 at the most recent). It's not that I mind the extra responsibility there, just that I'd appreciate having some time to prepare for the classes. I still don't have a planning period, and I can't really use the afterschool hour yet because I'm still having to get back to Fairfax right after Accotink lets out to tutor at Huntington.

But that's going to change after Tuesday. Yes, only two more days of tutoring at Huntington, and I'm done! Believe me, that is something of a Godsend, 'cause that job was about to wear me out. I've noticed that my patience with both the kids at Accotink and the kids at Huntington isn't as much as it ought to be. Thing is, I can pretty much handle the kids at Accotink until a given time...around 4.00, usually, and then I've reached my limit. Only problem is that I then have to go deal with other kids at Huntington, where my disciplining options are fewer and less effective. So I never get any downtime, and that means I'm harder on the students at Accotink and Huntington than they probably deserve. This strikes me as a greater problem than my lack of sleep (which I'm used to) or even my lack of planning time (I can always just make it up as I go along...for now).

Got to talk to my niece Bailey this evening. It took a few minutes to convince her to get on the phone and chat with me, but she actually talked to me this time (a great improvement over previous attempts), and we think what we're going to do from now on is have her and Aunt Donna call me instead of the other way around. We think part of the problem is that I keep surprising her and suddenly reminding her that I'm not around, and she gets mad at me for it.

Of course, when I did talk to her, she had to ask me what I was doing right that second, what my mom was doing, what my dad was doing...she has to go through every member of the family each time. It's her ritual, her way of keeping track and making sure no other members of the family have suddenly disappeared. Probably her way of coping with/understanding her parents' split. She's also just used to everyone being around, to all of us showing up at the same time for gatherings and all. I don't think she quite understands what it means when we tell her I've moved across the country, though she did say she was happy she'd get to see me at Christmas. I'll have to find her a good Christmas present, I guess.

Found volume six of Trigun Maximum this afternoon, which made me happy. My only complaint about manga graphic novels is the length of time I have to wait between volumes: it's been months since volume 5 came out. Shaman King is much worse about this than Shaman King, though: volume 7 came out in August, and volume 8 won't come out until January of 2006. This annoys me. I'm not a particularly patient person, I'm afraid, which is probably why I don't follow more manga and anime series than I do (though I notice volume 5 of Samurai Champloo is out now, so I'll probably have to grab that at some point...that series ought to be completed by January, if what I've read is correct).

We've decided to start a music club at Accotink. I'm apparently going to be in charge of it. We've got about four or five people already interested in it and another teacher interested in helping me, which is good. Assistance is always a plus. What we hope to do is teach those who want to learn, say, the guitar, how to actually play. Once everyone has the basics (which may take awhile), we're going to try to perform. Probably small stuff at first: school functions, things like that.

Tomorrow will be the first day I get to sleep in I've had since I started working at Accotink nearly a month ago (wow, already almost a month). I plan to take full advantage of this fact, and then maybe get around to discussing what works and doesn't work with Dylan's evangelical Christian album Slow Train Coming. Surprisingly, it's not as bad as I feared.


Song of the Moment: Uncle Tupelo, "Atomic Power"

Monday, October 03, 2005

"From Across The Canyon A Guitar Plays"

Long weekend. Much accomplished, but much left undone.

For example: I now have Virginia license plates (which are good until October 2007), thus absolving me of any potential problems with expired plates. However, I was unable to get a Virginia driver's license because I did not have my passport or birth certificate. Apparently, my old Oklahoma driver's license wasn't enough to convince them I was me. Didn't get a chance to see Serenity, which I think makes me a really bad Firefly fan. However, I did help Wendy Saturday afternoon with various stuff at her first Oz rehersal. She introduced me to her stage managers, whom she told I would be around to help with various stuff and act as a surrogate Ms. Flora (or, as one stage director so suscinctly put it, "He's Ms. Flora with a penis"). I didn't get my laundry done, though it's being washed at the moment.

The history teacher at Accotink is lobbying to have me become the official teacher for the 4th period US/VA History class. The class has responded well to me when I have been in charge, and she could really use the break. It's fine by me, but as I pointed out to her, I'm starting to take on an awful lot of responsibility for an assistant teacher. If they're going to have me teach classes as a full-fledged teacher, I ought to receive the benefits commiserate with that: things like higher pay and a planning period. We'll have to see how that works out.

I chatted with my aunt this afternoon for about an hour about various things, including my parents' current problems. Though she's married to my father's brother, she's been very supportive of my mother, which I think annoys dad. He doesn't understand why his family has been there for my mother but not for him so much. I think part of it has to do with him closing himself off from everyone while she's actually gone to them for comfort and conversation. Of course, he might also just be behaving like a complete dick for the hell of it, but I'm trying to give him the benefit of the doubt.


Song of the Moment: Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, "Making Some Noise"

Saturday, October 01, 2005

"In The Parking Lots, In The Headlights Of Cars"

So I was at the Seven Eleven earlier this evening getting something to drink, and I saw one of the other cars in the parking lot with a license plate which read "MENSA IQ." "Oh, a genius," I thought to myself, walking towards the entrance to the convenience store. Then the people who were in the car got out, and I noticed the girl who'd been driving was wearing a College Republicans t-shirt. "Oh, she's obviously borrowing the car," I thought to myself, "or else the license plate is a lie."

Speaking of license plates, I get to go to the DMV tomorrow morning bright and early to get a new license, plates, and all that jazz. The average wait time (according to the website, which doesn't list the location I was planning on going to for some reason) is something like half an hour, statistically speaking. Of course, as the old saying goes, nine out of ten statistics are made up (including that one), so who knows. I'm planning to be there for the long haul, though: I'm taking a book (Bob Dylan's Chronicles, Volume 1, which I've been re-reading just for the hell of it), music (assorted, along with my archaic discman of doom), and maybe the Gameboy ('cause I still haven't beat Megaman Battle Network 5, which I was playing before I even moved here. God, I've been slow). I've got everything I think I need: title, license, proof of residence (I hope), proof of my registering with the county for tax purposes, insurance card, and money. It's an expensive proposition, though it doesn't look as expensive as I originally thought. That's good, at least.

On the topic of money (see how these paragraphs are all flowing into one another? I only wish we could teach the students in the English classes how to do this), I got paid today at Accotink and Huntington (which is good, since my Arvest bank account was down to about a dollar and a half before my Huntington check appeared in it...that's cutting it awful close, I have to admit). The Accotink paycheck was fantastic: even though it was only for three weeks of work, it was nearly two thousand dollars. A full paycheck is going to be great.

The Huntington paycheck...wasn't so great. Either I worked fewer hours than I'd thought, or they're really gyping me, 'cause it barely topped $800. It's enough to pay my share of rent and all, but it's still annoying.

I took my paycheck from Accotink this afternoon and started a local bank account at Sun Trust. I set up both checking and savings, deposited $800 in each, ordered checks, a debit/ATM card, and a credit card (1.7% introductory APR, up to 8.99% after the introductory period, which is still pretty good, and since I plan to pay it off in full at the end of each month, it shouldn't be much of an issue). I also withdrew some cash so I wouldn't have to worry about whether or not the DMV would take temporary checks tomorrow.

Wendy, Tim, and I went to see Corpse Bride this evening. It wasn't too bad; the flick has an amazing sense of style and setting, like a cross between Beetlejuice and The Nightmare Before Christmas (appropriately enough), and we loved the idea of having the living world in the drab, lifeless graytones and the underworld in brilliant and vibrant colors. It was a clever way to highlight the differences between the two settings. But what it had in style it totally lacked in character development and plot. The characters were all a little too one-dimensional, and the plot's twists were predictable and too few. Wendy and I had the plot twists figured out by about the second scene of the movie, which was rather disappointing. There was a lot of potential with the characters, and we wanted to see more of the actual relationship between Johnny Depp's character and either of the principle female characters. You never really got a feel for why he loved either girl, and since the whole story really hinged on his love for at least one of them at any given time, it really weakened the movie as a whole. It was basically your typical Tim Burton flick: long on style, falls short in the last quarter of the film. Burton seems more interested in world building than in the actual movie. We also thought the movie seemed...abrupt. There wasn't much buildup to things. The climax in particular could have used more build, more detail. It just sorta happened, and then...the movie was over. Boom, like that, to quote Mark Knopfler quoting Ray Kroc.

Tomorrow night, I think, I'll go see Serenity, since I couldn't convince Wen and Tim to go tonight. I needed other people around tonight, but I think I'll be up for a solo flick tomorrow. Besides, hey, it's Serenity, and they haven't actually seen Firefly, so they wouldn't be able to appreciate it as I could.


Song of the Moment: The Band, "Makes No Difference (Live)"