Tuesday, January 31, 2006

"Suffering From A Kind Of Indecision"

So today was not one of our better days at school.

The 8th graders...well, let's just say that if it'd been me who was the new teacher in the classroom, I'd've quit then and there. They treated our new student-teacher like shit today, and they are going to catch hell from me tomorrow because of it. They totally disrespected her the whole class period, acted more poorly than I've seen them behave in a long time, and essentially made complete asses of themselves for an hour.

So I plan on sitting them down tomorrow and having a nice, long talk. They don't realize it, but the rest of the school year can go two ways: it can be filled with interesting activities, field trips, and worthwhile educational fun; or it can be dull, dreary, mind-numbing bookwork with no fun, no interesting activities, and no freedom. Really, the choice is theirs to make. I'd be fine with lecturing to them every day, assigning massive amounts of homework, and flunking anyone who didn't do what I told them to first time. Really. I would sleep the sleep of the righteous every night, knowing that they'd brought it on themselves. Regardless, we are not going to have a repeat of today's behavior. Not if I have anything to say about it.

Beyond that, it was just a day that seemed to drag on forever. We had class this evening after work, and none of us were really up for sitting through four hours of lecture. We managed, but I'm so glad we're halfway through this cursed thing.

Tomorrow I get to start helping out in the Art class. Should be fun: two class periods every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday of art, and I have to actually take solo control Wednesdays for half of it. A strange arrangement, to be sure, but I'm sure I'll manage.


Song of the Moment: Butch Walker, "Mixtape"

Monday, January 30, 2006

Ringo Starr - Ringo

Poor Ringo was always the least of The Beatles. He wasn't the writing genius like Lennon or McCartney, he wasn't a spiritual guru like Harrison. He was this affable little man with a big nose who had an extremely limited vocal range and who occasionally sang songs about underwater gardens and brightly-colored submarines. It's difficult to take Ringo seriously, honestly.

This isn't to say that Ringo is without his charms. He is affable, after all, and he has a certain charm to him that's hard to deny. Ringo is just so damn likeable. He's loveable, and you honestly want to see him do well. You root for Ringo.

And so when The Beatles broke up in 1970 and inevitably started releasing solo records, you knew it was only a matter of time before even Ringo jumped into it; because honestly, he's a Beatle, and Beatle = instant chance. So he put out a couple of almost noveltyish records, and then released Ringo in 1972.

The thing about Ringo? It's really pretty damn good. Ringo knows what folks want to hear from him--vaguely folky, bright, uptempo songs that are poppy, fun, and probably just a little superficial; it's what we expect of Ringo--and he delivers here. There's not really any filler on the record, which is to say that all the songs are pretty decent. There are standouts, of course: "Photograph," a song he co-wrote with George Harrison, is a fantastic number, as is his cover of "You're Sixteen." "Oh, My My" is fun, and "I'm the Greatest" (written by Lennon) is a tongue-firmly-in-cheek celebration of status, even if it's only presumed status in one's own imagination. The record maintains a consistent feel, which is that of a good time with old friends. There's nothing groundbreaking here, nothing as overwhelming as All Things Must Pass or as daring as Plastic Ono Band or as self-consciously homemade as McCartney. This is just a fun record, and it succeeds on that level very, very well.

The record also serves as an unofficial Beatles reunion of sorts. All three of Ringo's former bandmates contribute not only songs for the record but themselves: each appear on at least the track they penned, and their presence offers a legitimacy to the whole affair. Also on hand are Klaus Voormann, old Beatle pal from the Hamburg days, Billy Preseton, and The Band, who offer assistance (along with Harrison) on the excellent "Sunshine Life for Me (Sail Away Raymond)."

The CD release of the album actually manages to sweeten the deal, adding three bonus tracks--including the single "It Don't Come Easy"--to the already strong record. Really, if you have any love at all for old Ringo, this is a fantastic record (much better than...well, pretty much anything else he's released). It's a comfortable, fun, almost superficial (in the best possible sense of the word) album that it's hard not to enjoy. You'll tap your toes, you'll sing along, you'll be glad you're listening to it. Not liking it would be like not liking a puppy, and do you really want to be known as the person who doesn't like puppies?


Song of the Moment: Ringo Starr, "Six O'Clock"

Saturday, January 28, 2006

"Looking Out On The Substitute Scene"

Spent most of yesterday at school rearranging and redocoration the classroom with our student-teacher, Ms. Yassai. She's quite an engaging person, really, which is good I suppose. She's really approaching this whole thing as a team effort, which I like, and she's just generally a swell person to be around. To say I've got a mild crush would be accurate.

We also had a school Happy Hour yesterday afternoon: booze and food on the boss! Anytime the boss is willing to buy you alcohol, accept it, I say. I mean, how often do you really have the chance to see half of your coworkers tipsy after a single drink? Not often enough, I say. I'm half-tempted to take a bottle of tequila to work on Monday (since it's another workday) and see if I can't get some blackmail material.

I've only got one parent-teacher conference scheduled for Monday, which means I've got plenty of time to figure out grades and write up my quarterly reports on all my students (well, I say "all," but really I only have to do 4th period, which is fine by me. Those quarterlies are ridiculous). We've also apparently got some sort of stupid training meeting thing that I really don't want to go to, but what can you do?

Michelle and I went to see King Kong Thursday night (which was why you didn't have a comic. Deal with it). It was a pretty decent flick. Peter Jackson has a great visual sense, though you could look at certain camera angles and techniques and say, "Gee, that wasn't lifted right out of Lord of the Rings at all." Admittedly, part of that is because it's part of his style to use those sweeping pans of the landscape (constantly), but I honestly don't think they were absolutely necessary nearly as often as he used them. Special effects were uniformly excellent, and Jack Black as a semi-serious actor actually worked, frighteningly enough. I still think you could've cut about an hour's worth of stuff from the film and not really lost anything. There were a lot of scenes that lasted longer than needed, a lot of scene setups that could've been parred down, a lot of worldbuilding that just wasn't necessary. It's 1930s America, we get it. The Hoovervilles are a nice historic touch, but totally not needed. We understand that it's the Depression, now get to the giant monkey already.

Anyway, going to Fredericksburg here in a little while. Cris is apparently having a party of some sort, so we're gonna make the trek and raise some heck (what? It rhymed. I like to rhyme sometimes). Alcohol may very well be imbibed. Uncouth jokes will most likely be told at inappropriate volumes. There may even be all sorts of hanky-panky in backrooms, though I doubt I'll have a chance to have anything to do with that. Such is my lot in life.


Song of the Moment: Ringo Starr, "I'm the Greatest"

R.K. Milholland is a Son of a Bitch

What? He is.

He's been setting us up for ages now for Fred MacIntire to come clean with his family about having Alzeihmer's, and then...this.

Dude. I knew the guy had balls and would do all sorts of cruel things to his characters, but this is almost too much. I mean, seriously, this was the last thing I expected.


Song of the Moment: Ringo Starr, "Oh, My My"

Monday, January 23, 2006

"Remind Me To Show You The Scars"

So, good developments on the work front. I found out why the director gave all the history classes to the student-teacher: it's her grade. Apparently she has to turn in so many lesson plans to earn her credit hours, and we'd rather not take those credit hours away from her just because I'm too damn prideful to let go a little. The girl (well, okay, she's maybe a year or two younger than I am, so "girl" is probably the wrong word to use) and I have an understanding, though, and we're going to treat this as an equal partnership/co-teacher situation. I'll gladly give up the tedious tasks of lesson planning and grading and all that crap if I still get to actually teach. I mean, hell, I was making most of my stuff up as I went along anyway, so now I at least have a decent reason for doing that.

I'm also going to switch from assisting in Geometry to assisting in Art next quarter (which starts next week). This seems like a much better fit for everyone involved, as God only knows how much longer I could've faked knowing anything about Geometry. Art, hell, I can fake my way through that until I fall over dead (I mean, I've managed it in the comic for ages now).

The student-teacher seems like she'll work out fairly well. She's a pleasant-enough individual, quick to smile, though a little soft spoken. I'm sure that'll change after a few weeks with our kids. Part of me is actually sad that she'll only be with us until April (mostly because it means I then have to spend the last two months of school getting the kids back under my control...just in time for school to end, of course. So it goes). Besides, she's rather cute, though I doubt that (1) she'd have any interest in me or (2) she's single.

Anyway, things're pretty good. Sounds like Vicki, my friend from the OU Writing Center, will be coming out to DC early next month for a job interview, so we're gonna try to get together a bit while she's visiting and tear up the Capitol Town a bit. Should be fun; I haven't seen Vicki since I left (of course, I haven't really seen any of my other Oklahoma friends since I left, but that's what makes the fact that one of them is coming out this direction a cause for celebration).

Dad is apparently moving up to Grove this weekend. I had a good, long talk with him about all sorts of stuff last night, mostly the way he's restructuring his accounting firm (by which I mean the old firm--Carlson & Cottrell, CPAs--no longer exists, 'cause his partner is retiring, and dad is starting a solo firm up in Grove) and what he's actually learned from this whole divorce thing (scale way the hell back on the workload. If he's taken nothing else from this whole situation, he's at least realized that part of the reason his marriage to mom fell apart was that he worked too much, too often. While this revelation may not benefit her, at least he learned the lesson). He also sounds happier than I've heard him in for quite a while, and maybe a little bit...scared, actually. He's making a very big transition--one not unakin to the one I made back in July when I moved up here--and he's making it alone. It's a pretty damn frightening thing, but he's an adult and he'll just have to deal with it. This is the path he's chosen, and I think he realizes that, so he's just going to walk it and see what happens.


Song of the Moment: Radiohead, "Go to Sleep"

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

"Does Whatever A Spider Can"

Apparently, having the comparable strength, speed, and agility of a spider isn't enough...in Japan, Spiderman also has a giant mech.

Though to be honest, if I were Spiderman, I'd want my own giant mech, too. Hell, I'm just plain ol' Chuck, and I want a mech.


Song of the Moment: Moxy Fruvous, "Spiderman"

"Rain On The Scarecrow, Blood On The Plow"

So the first day back after a three-day weekend is always kind of rough. The students are a little more wound-up than usual, it's not very easy to get anything taught, and you basically spend the day fighting them for their attention.

Add to this an assembly that threw off the entire day's schedule (meaning we only had thirty minutes each for 2nd through 7th periods and over an hour total with first period), a new student-teacher/co-teacher in the history classes, and no structured lesson plans...folks, I was ready to quit today, let me tell you.

Which is sad, 'cause I've got so many good and fun things planned for these classes. It turns out the student-teacher won't be totally taking over everything. We're apparently supposed to work as a team, trading off duties and working cooperatively to create the lessons and manage the classroom. How well that will work in practice, I don't yet know. I know I will be doing the lesson planning for at least the rest of the week (already got it figured out, too), and possibly on into next week. I still really don't want to give up the US/VA History class. I'll gladly let her take the lead in the Civics class. Hell, she can have it for all I care. They were little demons this morning, and I think they might've scared the new student-teacher more than a little. It's probably for the best that she won't be there tomorrow because of the class she's taking that meets every Wednesday (wow, though, that's really poor scheduling on someone's part).

I had phone trouble all evening. This happened last week, too: when I came out of my education class, my phone said "analog roaming." Actually, it didn't say anything, 'cause it was dead. Which is odd, since I'd had close to a full charge not three or four hours earlier. It did this to me last Tuesday, too. I have this suspicion that there's some sort of bizarre electrical interference where the school that I'm taking my class is, and that it just does something weird to my phone. Calls from my brothers (who're both programmed into my phone) were coming up as "unavailable." Anytime I wanted to answer the phone or make a call, it would ask me if I would accept the roaming fee first (I decided not to answer or make any calls until this all cleared up as a result. I'm not getting saddled with a fee when I'm in my freakin' calling area. Hell, I was still in my area code, even. That's just absurd).

Anyway, long story short, I'm going to the Sprint Store tomorrow to ask them what the deal is. I might end up with a new phone in the deal...which'll make me sad, in a way. I like my current phone, with its Crooked Halo motif on the back. Who else has that on their phone, y'know?


Song of the Moment: John Mellencamp, "Farewell, Angelina"

Friday, January 13, 2006

The Rolling Stones - A Bigger Bang

I should have bought this album earlier, I really should. I should have listened to the critical praise it was getting, heeded the advice of wiser minds than my own. I shouldn't have doubted the power of the Stones, but I did.

The upshot, of course, is that I get to be extremely surprised and pleased with a CD I came into with only middling expectations. The record is a compulsive listen; it creeps into your skin and hides out, digging deeper in with each spin, until it has engratiated itself so much that you can't stop listening to it.

It's hard to put your finger on just what it is about this record that makes it so good. Lyrically, musically, it's pretty much what the Stones have done for years and years and years: solid rhythm, hooky riffs, swagger and sneer and tongue firmly planted in cheek. The trick here, I think, is that the Stones aren't trying so hard this time out. They're not trying to be the biggest rock'n'roll band on earth, they simply are the biggest rock'n'roll band on earth. The swagger is genuine, the music is loose and natural, and nothing feels forced or tired. These 16 songs are all in forms and styles that the Stones have been playing for the past thirty or more years, but it never feels tired or old. There's a vigor to this music, a renewed sense of purpose that hasn't been present in the Stones' work in a long, long time.

If none of the tracks particularly stand above the rest, it's not because none of them are any good, but because every single song is uniformly strong. Every track has something to recommend it. There are tough rockers, barrelhouse country blues, moving ballads, and everything you'd expect from the Stones. Keith Richards even takes a couple of vocals, sounding for all the world like Tom Waits (I mean this in a good way: for a man who looks and sounds--when he talks, anyway--like a corpse, he can actually sing halfway well).

All in all, it's nice to see the Stones reinvigorated after middling (or even downright awful) previous efforts. I mean, Bridges to Babylon was okay as far as efforts to contemporize the Stones' sound, but it wasn't that strong of a record. Really, nothing they've made since the early '80s (and that's being generous) has been all that strong. A Bigger Bang definitely proves that they've still got something to say and can still say it in an engaging, consuming way.


Song of the Moment: The Rolling Stones, "This Place is Empty"

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

"Smother People To Death Inside Of Holler Logs"

I did something very adult-like tonight: I signed up for my own car insurance.

I've been on my parents' car insurance since I was able to drive. It was one of the deals they made with me when I started driving: keep the grades up, we'll keep your car going. As I went on to college, it was a way of guaranteeing that I wouldn't have to get a full-time job just to make ends meet. As I've grown older, I've just stayed on their insurance because...well, I was in grad school, I wasn't able to work full time still, and it just made more sense.

Now, though...now, I'm on my own. Completely. I have cut all the purse strings between myself and the folks. Granted, it's not like I'm completely financially independent even now. If it weren't for Wendy and Tim, I'd be living in a cardboard box down by the school (or in the school, even). Lord knows I can't afford to live here by myself (especially with the crappy pay that comes with my job), but I'm still more independent than I ever have been before.

This might seem sad when you consider that I'm twenty-five and just now breaking away from mommy and daddy. Well, if you think that, screw you. They were just being helpful, and God knows I wasn't in any profession that was going to net me big bucks. I've been a tutor and a teacher, neither of which are high up there on the great ladder of decent-paying jobs.

Now, if I could get a job in the public schools, that'd maybe be a different matter...

Anyway, it was kind of interesting to think about, really. I mean, here I was, signing up for car insurance. Something of a rite of passage for me, I guess. I'm sure there are more important rites of passage, but this one was pretty big for me. Cars are an important symbol, I think. Of course, that might be because I've listened to so much popular music and seen so many movies (look at American Grafitti, for instance). The car is a symbol of freedom, of power, of responsibility and control. A car is a ton or two of steel and fiberglass and internal combustion power that grants you the ability to go where you want, when you want, in a way that a bicycle never could. I've felt that way about cars for a long time. When I had a car accident my junior year of college, no one could understand why it upset me so much. I'd messed up my car, so what? It was being fixed, no worries. Except it was a worry to me. I had to rely on someone else to go anywhere or do anything. I didn't have that freedom or control of my own destiny. It was taken from me by a split second's slip of concentration, and that disturbed me greatly. Not having my car for those couple of months felt very restrictive.

Now, Ev might remind me that having a car is a luxury, not a right. And it's true: having a car is definitely a privilege, and not one that everyone is lucky enough to have. I know this. But we have a tendency to make the miraculous seem mundane, to make gifts seem like birthrights. You get used to having a certain amount of mobility and freedom...and it's taken from you. Like having your legs knocked out from under you, or having the entire lower half of your body go numb and limp.

Anyway, I have insurance now. My own insurance. It's a fairly powerful feeling, really. I just wish it didn't cost so damn much.


Song of the Moment: Billy Bragg & Wilco, "Meanest Man"

"Waiting On A Factory Girl"

So, interesting news from the work front:

Someone new will be showing up next Tuesday, a student teacher for the history classes. This in and of itself is no big deal, except for the way the administration is presenting the situation.

They're making it sound as though she'll be in charge of the history classes.

Now, when I was hired by this school, I was told I and the other teaching assistant would be taking over the history and English classes when the teachers of those two subjects went on maternity leave and that we'd get assistants of our own when that happened.

What they did in English, though, was rehire an old English teacher to lead those classes, and now they're hiring a student teacher to lead the history classes.

The other co-teacher and I are up in arms about this. We've already developed a rapport with the students, we've been in there since September, we know where the kids are, what they respond to, etc. More than anything else, we were told this was how it would work. This is how the original history and English teachers were told it would be. It's how we've told the students it would be. They're almost as upset about it as we are. They've got a natural aversion to sudden change anyway, and they can't understand why--if the other assistant teacher and I are already in the history and English classes--we need anyone else in there in the first place, let alone someone who is going to take over the class. It was kinda touching in a way when the 8th graders threw a fit about it this morning.

Tonight I start my first class for my certification. The first class was technically last Tuesday, but no one bothered to tell me that...or where the class tonight is...or when it starts...

I'm starting to think public school sounds better and better.


Song of the Moment: The Rolling Stones, "Rough Justice"

Monday, January 09, 2006

"But Every Junkie's Like A Setting Sun"

I went running tonight for the first time in...well, probably over a year, to be honest. The last time I remember making an active effort to run was Thanksgiving of 2004, when I went to the Turkey Trot in Oklahoma City with Clif and dad. I ran the one mile race while they did the 5K, and my time was something like 10 minutes for a single mile. There was a time--shortly after Clif and I returned home from Yellowstone 3 1/2 years ago (God, has it really been that long?)--that I could run a mile in 7.20. I sometimes wonder what happened to that version of me, the one who was motivated and enthusiastic and ready to jump into everything, even if it was grad school in Oklahoma (anyone who's read for awhile knows I really didn't want to be there). I was...well, happy, I guess. Not completely and totally happy, but close enough.

Though it's not that I'm unhappy now. I mean, I may have some things I'd like to change--my weight, my ability to actually get off my ass and do what I need to do--but I like where I am in a lot of ways. I enjoy my job (on the good days; I tend to get frustrated on the bad days because I know the good days can be so rewarding), I like my roommates, I've got some friends in the area, and I seem to be on fairly good terms with pretty much everyone at the moment.

So why does it sometimes feel like I'm miserable?

A large part of it--no pun intended--is probably very likely my weight. It's always been a sticking point with me. It's no secret that I have a very negative self-body image. I'm comfortable in my own skin, just not in the extra pounds of fat between said skin and my organs. The solution, of course, is to work it all off: go running, eat right, etc. And I pledge to do that, and I do for a day or two, maybe even a week, and then I slack off again. It's terrible. Consistency is the key, I know, but it's also the catch: if I'm not consistent, nothing will come of it.

I'm hoping this time will be different, I really am. It'd be nice for all my pants to fit. It'd be nice to not be disgusted by what I see in the mirror. It'd be nice not to have to worry about looking like I have no chin if I shave my goatee off. It'd be nice.

But part of what I'm doing this time is getting others to join me in my efforts. Tim went running tonight as well, and his jog was actually the motivation behind my getting up and going: I wasn't about to be outdone by him. He may not be overweight like I am, but I know I'm capable of running. I've done it before, and I'll do it again, dammit. It's that competitve spirit my family seems to have that I sometimes feel twinges of, and it's not always a bad thing.

Anyway, here's to consistent effort and not falling off the wagon again. Or maybe falling off the wagon, 'cause then I'd have to run to catch back up to it.


Song of the Moment: The Rolling Stones, "Sweet Neo-Con"

Saturday, January 07, 2006

"They Might Be Giants Got Lost Driving Around"

So I went up to Maryland last night with Michelle and Chad to visit Dav, whom I haven't seen in like three years. I left Michelle in charge of navigating, which turned out to be a problem when the first half of Dav's directions were something to the effect of "go to Maryland, cross the bridge." What should have been about a 45 minute trip took about twice that, what with the getting lost, going the wrong direction several times, etc.

The trip back was even worse. We had Dav draw us a map to get us back home, but the map only got us as far as DC. Well, Michelle always takes the Metro into DC, as does Chad I guess, and I've only been to DC about twice and don't really know my way around. It took us two hours to get home, an hour and a half of which was spent trying to navigate through DC because I couldn't figure out how to get around on the Beltway and assumed that cutting through town would be easier on me. God, was I wrong. I finally rolled into the apartment complex at 5.15 am, much later than I'd anticipated.

The time between these two driving adventures, though, was quite fun. We somehow ended up spending most of the evening discussing comic books, which didn't seem to bother anyone. Some alcohol was imbibed, some pizza was eaten, and a splendid time was had by all. Next time, though, I think I'm just gonna get my directions from MapQuest.

As a result of last night's rather lengthy car trip, I slept in really late today. I finally dragged myself out of bed around 2.00 pm, sat around watching Batman: The Animated Series for a few hours (the last couple of discs of the fourth volume, which were much better than I thought they'd be, given that Volume 4 was all the revamped series. But I guess when you've got the same writers and folks behind the show, it means the show can remain good, even if the art is streamlined a little more). I'm kinda sad that I don't have anymore left to watch now, though not so sad that I want to seek out the atrocious new The Batman that they've got running on TV right now. I mean, you gotta have standards, and by all reports, the new show is a steaming pile of feces designed to make a buck rather than tell a compelling story.

On the positive side, Michelle dropped by and loaned me the Aeon Flux series DVD collection, so I can relive some more of my childhood watching that (I had a childhood filled with cartoons, what can I say? Liquid Television, the show that Aeon Flux was on, totally blew my mind when I saw it all those years ago. At the time, I didn't know you could do stuff like that with animation. My more experienced older self knows you can do a hell of a lot with animation now, but I feel Aeon Flux will remind me that knowing something like that and being able to believe what you're seeing anyway can be two very different things). My one fear is that watching the show will make me want to go see that wretched movie, but I doubt that'll happen. I mean, from what Michelle told me, they've altered the characters and plot and world that it all happened in so much that it should have a completely different name, 'cause it's certainly not Aeon Flux. It's amazing how Hollywood can take a masterfully-done series about political intrigue, sexuality, identity, good and evil, and the fine line between morality and dogma, and create something that bears no resemblence to the source material. Remarkable, really. They took something original and made it a shitty generic b-level sci-fi flick.

Tomorrow, Wen wants us to visit some church here in town that we might start attending. From what she's said, it's a nice enough little place. Guess I'll find out tomorrow.


Song of the Moment: Foo Fighters, "Cold Day in the Sun"

Monday, January 02, 2006

Ryan Adams - 29

Ryan Adams is a prolific songwriter. He also has a tendency to release every single musical whim he conceives, which might explain the concept album duo of Rock'n'Roll and Love is Hell in 2003 and the trio of albums--Cold Roses, Jacksonville City Nights, and 29--he released in 2005.

Each of his albums in 2005 seemed to be a retreat into older and more basic musical styles. The double-disc Cold Roses was a return to the alt-country of his Whiskeytown days; Jacksonville City Nights was a further retreat into straight-up classic Bakersfield country. His third release of the year, 29, digs even deeper into the primordial soup of Americana, exploring folk, a bit of rockabilly, and country blues roots. In a way, it's like Adams's own version of Nebraska, a stark, monocromatic affair that feels like a late night inside a whiskey bottle.

However, the Nebraska comparison is rather misleading. Springsteen's haunting 1980 masterpiece was a solo effort; just the Boss with a guitar, harmonica, and 4-track tape recorder in his bedroom. Minimal overdubs (things like the mandolin in "Atlantic City," adding his own vocal harmonies, etc.), but everything was Springsteen. Ryan Adams usually has at least Ethan Johns (who also produces) playing with him on every track, and they each usually play two or three instruments. Adams layers in two or three guitars, maybe a piano, while Johns adds bass, drums, and other guitarwork. One song--"Blue Sky Blues"--features cellos and a trombone, even. So while these songs feel more skeletal than even most of the songs on Nebraska did, there's more involved in each track. Nebraska was an off-the-cuff solo recording because that's what it needed to be. The songs on that record don't work in the context of a full band, and so there's a simplicity, a stripped-down approach to them that works because that's what the songs demand. But with 29, you get the feeling that this--like so much else that Adams does--is an affectation, a style he is playing in not because the songs need that treatment, but because he likes to show off his knowledge of rock and roll history and of genre. This is, like virtually every album Adams has ever released, a genre exercise. And while he does indeed know these genres very well and can play convincingly within them, you can't help but wish he'd find a voice that belongs to him rather than someone else.

All that being said, is 29 a good album? Yes, on its own terms. It's decidedly not the best album that Adams has ever released, and it could definitely have done with some serious editing (I mean, the faux-tango of "The Sadness" is just unnecessary, and "29" is a straight-up rip off of The Grateful Dead's "Truckin'," though at least it's done fairly well). The nine songs on this record seem to drag for longer than they need to, and the lyrics are too word heavy. "Strawberry Wine," for instance, is one of the strongest songs on the record, but could have done with being about two minutes and a couple of verses shorter than it was. You get the feeling that Adams was either (a) making the songs up off the top of his head or (b) suffered from serious blunt trauma which rendered him incapable of knowing when a song should be over or how many words to cram into a single song. Honestly, there are some decent tracks on here--"29," for all its lack of originiality, is at least interesting and fun, and "Strawberry Wine," Carolina Rain," and "Voices" (which suffers from a few too many vocal tics to be a truly excellent song) are fairly strong--but most of it feels like filler. It's strange, since Adams surely didn't need to worry about recording more to fulfill some sort of contractual obligation (I mean, this is his third album of the year. He released 41 tracks over four discs. Surely he was, if anything, ahead of the game). With strong song selection and fuller arrangements, this could have been a fantastic album. As it is, 29 turns out to be a relatively weak record from someone whom we know can do better.


Song of the Moment: Ryan Adams, "Carolina Rain"

"Using Ideas As My Maps"

Today is the last day of freedom before I return to teaching. I used the first half of it sleeping, because apparently I decided not to go to bed last night until about 4.00 am. The rest of this week is going to suck in that respect: no more sleeping in, no more late nights. I went and totally ruined my sleep pattern in the space of a single week.

I'm going to take some time this afternoon to get some lesson plans worked up for the next couple of weeks of school (getting ahead never hurt anyone) and try to get some more of Crooked Halo - The Musical! scripted out so I can post the first musical number on Wednesday. I'm still not quite sure how I'm going to show it's a musical--none of the lyrics I've written are actually to any tune or anything except in my head and I don't know how to translate that to the comic--but I think I've got a few rather entertaining songs ready. At least three or four are already started, I have ideas for two or three more, and this could be some sort of major undertaking. Ah well. It amuses the hell out of me, and we established long ago that I don't do anything that doesn't amuse me.

Later on this afternoon I'm going to watch some Aeon Flux with Michelle. No, not the crappy generic sci-fi movie version, but the old-school MTV cartoon. Y'know, the interesting one. So I should probably also clean up my room a little at some point, 'cause I've got lots of (albeit clean) laundry lying around all over the place.


Song of the Moment: Alison Krauss and Union Station, "Pastures of Plenty"