Monday, February 27, 2006

"She May Cleave Me Like A Snow Plow"

Spent most of last night driving between Fairfax and Harrisonburg, VA. I took Cristabel to Harrisonburg so she could work this week. Apparently her ride had flaked out on her, so I offerred to give her a ride ('cause I'm a nice guy like that). The trip took longer than I thought it would, but I didn't really mind all that much. It was fun getting to hang out and chat with Cris on the way down there, and nice to have a chance on the ride back to just drive without having to worry about making it to work on time or deal with all the damned traffic. I actually got to set my cruise control for the first time since I came to this state, which was a novelty.

Spent most of this evening working on the journal abstracts that are due for my education class tomorrow night. I got them all written, but not without a measure of ADD creeping into my work habits and rendering me incapable of focusing on something for more than thirty seconds. They're done and all, and they're decent, but I don't feel I actually gleaned anything useful from this assignment (which is actually how I feel about the class in general).

Watched Mirrormask with Michelle and Cris Saturday night. Very groovy flick. It's like Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal and anything cool and fantasy that the Jim Henson Company was connected to in the 1980s. The fact that it was written by Neil Gaiman didn't hurt, either. The movie had a very definite sense of style that couldn't have been pulled off if anyone but Dave McKean (the guy who's collaborated with Gaiman on covers for The Sandman and all sorts of other interesting projects) had directed it. He's got a style and feel to his work that no one else out there has, and I think the film really benefited from his rather strange point of view.

Anyway, as much as I'd like to sit here and yammer on and on about all sorts of inane stuff, I can't. I can hear the siren song of sleep calling out to me from my pillow. I should probably answer it. Tomorrow is my long day, with my class after school, and I have to take some of my students to the public library to introduce them to real research tomorrow. Glee.


Song of the Moment: The Minus 5, "Twilight Distillery"

Thursday, February 23, 2006


Submitted for your approval...

Honestly, I can't think of anything that could make this year better than an album of new Dylan stuff. And I'm always in favor of Springsteen cranking out a new record.

So yeah. Good times.


Song of the Moment: Bruce Springsteen, "Open All Night"

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Masked And Anonymous: Music From The Motion Picture Soundtrack

This collection is an exercise in frustration. The soundtrack to the film Masked and Anonymous--a bizarre and surreal mirror held up to contemporary America and starring Bob Dylan as himself by another name--features covers in various languages of Dylan classics. Some of these work (though I still question needing a cover from both the Grateful Dead and The Jerry Garcia Band), but a lot of them lose their impact when you can't understand what's being sung.

The larger frustration, though, lies in the fact that several songs featured in the film ("Blind Willie McTell," a reworking of "I'll Remember You," and a gorgeous Gospel-style a capella version of "The Times They are A'Changin'") are totally absent from this collection. The liner notes mention that Dylan and his band recorded 8 new songs for the movie's soundtrack, but only four of these are included here. It seems downright absurd to record new songs (or even new versions of old songs) and not include them here, but give us a rap version of "Like a Rolling Stone" (and in Italian, of all things).

Admittedly, some of the covers work quite well, especially Los Lobos' bilingual version of "On a Night Like This" and Jerry Garcia's "Senor (Tales of Yankee Power)." The real strong point of this record is that it features lesser-known Dylan tracks rather than just the old warhorses. Admittedly, some of the warhorses do make an appearance--the aforementioned "Like a Rolling Stone" and a Japanese version of "My Back Pages"--but you've got some more obscure tracks to balance it out. Dylan's own contributions are quite good, including a nice reworking of "Down in the Flood" and a completely different "Diamond Joe" (which is totally unrelated to the song of the same name on Good as I've Been to You). "Dixie" is a neat reading of a traditional standard, while "Cold Irons Bound" isn't really all that different from the studio version from Time Out of Mind.

What remains is a song by The Dixie Hummingbirds, "City of Gold." It's a previously-unreleased Dylan tune, never even recorded by the man himself, and it's a solid way to round out the album. Too bad you have to wade through so much muck to get to the end. With a little editing and better song selection, this could have been a fantastic soundtrack to a weird little film.


Song of the Moment: Bob Dylan, "Dixie"

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

An Open Letter To Record Companies

Dear Record Companies,

Please stop putting CDs in those damned digipacks instead of real jewel cases. The digipacks start to wear at the edges quickly, so they look terrible; and often they don't actually protect the CDs at all. I've opened many where the center plastic piece--y'know, the one that's supposed to hold the CD in place--is broken or shattered, meaning that the CD can fall out of the case at any moment. This is not a good thing, and it makes me a very unhappy consumer.

So please, stick to the standard jewel cases. Think of the children.



Song of the Moment: Cake, "Sheep go to Heaven"

Sunday, February 19, 2006

"It's The Terror Of Knowing What This World Is All About"

So that was an interesting weekend, I have to say.

Our field trip to Congress was really rather cool and went off without much of a hitch. I must say that I despise driving the school bus, especially at 9.00 in the morning in DC traffic. Not an experience I want to relive anytime soon. The students were actually pretty well behaved, and we got to see lots of nifty stuff.

Friday night was mostly spent sleeping, because dear God did I need to catch up on that. But that was the least interesting part of the weekend.

No, the real fun started yesterday morning, when Michelle and I braved the Virginia DMV. I finally got my Virginia driver's license, complete with the obligatory crappy license photo. Then we headed down to Mansassas to put gas in the car and find some food. We searched far and wide for an IHOP-esque place, but the only IHOP we found had a line out the door, so we had Thai food instead (yeah, so very like IHOP, I know). On our way back to Fairfax, we saw a used book/CD store and decided to stop by. $35 later, I emerged with a bag full of goodies. Michelle got out spending less but with far more books (I found three books, two CDs, and two old VHS animes; she only bought books). We made our way home, and I putzed around for a few hours and then headed over to her place for dinner and a party. Much alcohol was consumed...too much, really, as I discovered the hard way.

I also decided that letting Michelle's friends mix my drinks for me is a bad idea. I only had three, all of them in those 16 oz. plastic cups that are so popular for parties. The first drink was 1/3 soda and 2/3 various types of alcohol. The second drink was 1/3 orange juice and 2/3 various types of alcohol. The third drink--the one which did me in--was, I'm fairly certain, totally alcohol with some orange food coloring in it. I was done for the night after that one...well, aside from stumbling to the bathroom to vomit and then stumbling back to the living room to pass out in the floor (after taking 4 tylenol, that is). In the process, I earned Lauren's grudging respect, no mean feat.

Anyway, when I woke this morning, I wasn't hung over (amazingly!), and Michelle fixed us all a lovely breakfast of eggs, bacon, sausage, pancakes, and cinammon rolls. Then I went and helped Wendy strike set at the high school.

So all in all, a rather eventful weekend. Thankfully, tomorrow is President's Day, which means a day off! God knows I need one after the weekend.


Song of the Moment: Ben Folds Five, "She Don't Use Jelly (Lounge Version)"

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

"Don't Be Sad - I Know You Will"

Went to see Complete Works of William Shakespeare [Abridged] tonight at Fairfax High School. The show was decent, though this is apparently the lesser of the two casts they've put together for the show. We're gonna go see the A Cast tomorrow night, see how that goes.

Got to meet Wendy's principal tonight. Told him I was looking to do public high school history, especially European/World History, and he told me to send a resume his way. Thus have I emailed Wen a copy of my resume to give to him. He said they're looking to do a pre-AP European History course in the next year or two, which would be fantastic. I would love to teach something like that.

Getting an in with the principal is great, really. If something comes up, he'll remember that Wendy has a roommate who is a history teacher and he'll have my resume. Maybe I could be a public school teacher next year or something. We'll have to see.


Song of the Moment: Wilco, "Just a Kid"

Monday, February 13, 2006

"A Rock To Wind The String Around"

So tomorrow is Valentine's Day, usually a day for which I reserve a fair amount of vitrol, hatred, and animosity (and other big, fancy words for "angst and whining"). But to be honest, at this point it's more of a show, a sham, a facade than actual ill will. I don't much care at this point in the game. Sure, it'd be nice to be not single, but aren't there other, more important things? Don't I still have a good number of friends? Etc., etc. It goes on and on. I don't want to bore you with that crap.

Valentine's Day usually also signals the arrival of another Losers: The Soundtrack volume. Well, this year, I'm doing things a little different: it's not just songs about being a loser, but rather a selection of quirky, offbeat love songs...and songs about being a loser, because why totally throw out a tradition, y'know?

So, without further ado or gilding of the proverbial lily, here's this year's Valentine's Day Mix, complete with commentary:

1. They Might Be Giants, "She's an Angel": Honestly, if you're going to do quirky, offbeat love songs, you have to include TMBG. It's actually in the Constitution. They slipped it into the Fifth Amendment when you weren't looking.

2. Ben Folds 5, "Kate": One of the things he likes about her is that she "plays 'Wipeout' on the drums"? Weird. Love song for a hippy.

3. Barenaked Ladies, "Be My Yoko Ono": It's actually a rather sweet sentiment, if you think about it: "I'd do anything for you, even give up a big part of what defines me as a human being, simply because I love you that much."

4. Cake, "Love Her Madly": Mostly for the line "I don't want to sit across the table from you wishing I could run." That sort of fear, elation, and confusion is easy to identify with for me.

5. Elvis Costello, "Spooky Girlfriend": There are probably better, more essential Elvis Costello songs I could have picked, but the idea of having a spooky girlfriend just makes me giggle. Asking someone to be that...that's just golden, that is.

6. Billy Joel, "She's Always a Woman": I like the idea that, regardless of what she says or does to the singer or anyone else, she's still a lady, still a woman. It's a powerful idea to me.

7. Kinks, "Lola": Who hasn't been picked up by a woman in a Soho bar, only to later discover it was actually a man?

8. Flaming Lips, "Fight Test": Still one of the most poignant lost love songs I've ever heard, hands down. The idea of needing to be willing to fight for the person you love instead of standing by and letting them go off with the other guy...damn, the number of times I've done this.

9. Glen Phillips, "Easier": Nothing says love like a Van Gogh reference, really. Self mutilation is sexy, after all.

10. Goldfinger, "Feel Like Making Love": This is one of the crassest ways of trying to seduce a woman I've ever heard. The fact that it probably actually works in some cases is just mind-boggling.

11. Stroke 9, "Little Black Backpack": Really more about wanting to beat the crap out of the guy who stole your girl and then throwing her baggage of choice after her than love, but it's about heartbreak, I guess, so that counts.

12. Moxy Fruvous, "My Baby Loves a Bunch of Authors": Seriously, if my girl was in love with a bunch of writers instead of me, I'd just go find a new girlfriend. Of course, the fact that I'd probably be the one fixated on the writers myself is totally irrelevant to this whole conversation. Really.

13. Old 97s, "Big Brown Eyes": Honestly, when you're so down that you're "calling Time and Temperature just for some company," it's time to just accept that it's over and go find yourself a hooker.

14. Blues Traveler, "Canadian Rose": Who doesn't love a pet name like "Ugly American"?

15. Deep Blue Something, "Breakfast at Tiffany's": If the only thing you've got in common with someone is both liking Breakfast at Tiffany's, it's time to just accept the facts that it's over, buddy.

16. Marvelous 3, "You're So Yesterday": The final kiss off, power-pop style. Plus it's got the line "Cool as hell like e-mail/but still timeless like a letter."

17. Mr. T Experience, "Even Hitler had a Girlfriend": I mean, dude, even Hitler got some nookie once in awhile. What the hell's wrong with you that you can't manage to top that fascist bastard?

18. Tenacious D, "Fuck Her Gently": What? Sometimes you need to.

19. Traveling Wilburys, "Dirty World": I'm still not sure if the guy they sing about is in love with her for her body or her car. Regardless, there's some bizarre love triangle/vehicular sodomy thing going that's really funny. Plus you hear Bob Dylan sing that someone's "sexy," and that's surreal enough to warrant a listen.

20. Van Morrison & Bob Dylan, "Crazy Love": A stripped-down, acoustic version of one of Van's most beautiful songs, this time featuring Bob Dylan. It actually works better in this sparser arrangement.

21. Weird Al Yankovic, "You Don't Love Me Anymore": Seriously, if he didn't realize it by the end of the song, then he's got some serious issues.

22. Bob Dylan, "Just Like a Woman": There's a theory that the women featured in Dylan's songs are all either angels or devils, though this one falls somewhere in between. He explores the dichotomy between her apparent toughness and the fact that "she breaks just like a little girl." Maybe not the sweetest song ever, but there's a tenderness to it nonetheless.

So yeah, that's the list. Pretty random in places, but it's got a lot of fun songs on it. Have a good Hallmark Holiday. I've got class, so I get to skip most of the silliness.


Song of the Moment: Traveling Wilburys, "Dirty World"

Printer Blues

So as I mentioned earlier, I decided to purchase a new printer for the History classroom at school. Waiting for the administration to deal with this would've taken too long, we felt, so I decided to take matters into my own hands.

I only wanted something simple. Something easy to use. Something small. Something cheap.

So to Best Buy I sallied forth, in search of a simple deskjet printer. I arrive, make a beeline for the printers (which involves a quick meander through, y'know, the music section. Just because any visit to Best Buy requires a perusal of CDs), and discover the biggest obstacle to my endeavor: the almost complete and total lack of basic printers.

See, virtually all the printers they sell at Best Buy are those all-in-one printers, the kind that can print, copy, scan, fax, and do all but make you coffee. These are all well and good, and for a moment I considered buying myself one of those and giving the school my old printer. Except I already have a perfectly functional scanner. I have no need of one of these multifunctional monstrocities, nor does the history classroom. Plus, the thing's run from $150 to $300, way more than I'm looking to spend here. I finally find a basic HP printer for like $70, which is tolerable, so I ask the guy for it. He says they are out of stock (so why keep the display model sitting out, taunting me?), but they have them available in Tyson's Corner. So to Tyson's Corner I sally, snagging Michelle for company and entertainment on the way. They do indeed have the printer, and I purchase it.

But what annoys me here is the dearth of decent, basic printers. I appreciate the move towards consolidating desktop computer accessories as much as the next geek; hell, if my scanner were to go on the fritz next month, I'd be out like a shot purchasing one of those nice HP all-in-ones. But sometimes you just don't need all that extra stuff, especially when cost is an issue. Yeah, they're nice and all, but that was way more money than I wanted to even think about spending for school, especially since I'll only be one of the three people using it but the only person paying for it (which may be an entirely separate issue, but I digress). Consolidating computer peripherals into a single unit is all well and good, but let's not count the basic printer out as obsolete just yet. I mean, c'mon, I don't think I'm asking too much here.

Okay, it's late now, later than I should have stayed up (lack of school tomorrow or no; Wen and I have a bunch of stuff to do). I'm off for bed.


Song of the Moment: Butch Walker, "My Way"

Sunday, February 12, 2006

"February Made Me Shiver"

So school's closed tomorrow because of the weather. Apparently, even though the streets are pretty damn clear, we're afraid of someone dying on the way to the school or something. I don't know. Not that I'm complaining, mind: that's one day less I have to plan for and one day less I have to deal with the students.

Vicki and I got to hang out last night. We went to dinner and I gave her a quick car tour of DC (and managed not to get lost, a first for me). I wish we'd had more time to hang out and chat, but it just wasn't in the cards, what with the weather and all.

So yeah, today I spent a good two hours with Tim shoveling the driveways and clearing off the snow from on top of and around the cars. My back hurts like hell from the shoveling, so I'm gonna take some Aleeve here in a minute and sorta collapse on the bed for awhile, then maybe draw tomorrow's comic. Michelle and I had amazing adventures in Tyson's Corner, searching for their Best Buy (which didn't have a huge-ass sign sitting out by the street; no, their huge-ass sign was inside the freakin' building behind a couple of large windows. We totally missed it the first time through). I purchased a cheap new printer for the History classroom at school, 'cause the printer we've got has decided (despite the installation of two new ink cartridges) that it no longer wants to print anything, black & white, color, or otherwise. If I wait for the administration to get around to repairing and/or replacing it, I'll be an old man, so I took matters into my own hands.

Anyway, plans for tomorrow include sleeping in a bit and helping Wendy get some stuff set up at her school for their dinner theatre (which is happening this week, Tuesday through Saturday). Shouldn't be anything too stressful, and I get tomorrow night to work on my lesson plans and stuff for school. Excitement.


Song of the Moment: The Minus 5, "There Is No Music"

Thursday, February 09, 2006

"I Shake Like A Toothache"

Lord, what a week it's been. They keep asking me to cover other classes at school, and while I'm more than willing to be flexible and a team player and all that jazz, they keep taking me out of the one or two classes I really need to be in. Isn't this why we hired a new substitute teacher last week? Or was I mistaken when I believed she was going to take care of stuff like this?

Vicki, a friend from the OU Writing Center, is in DC this weekend for a job interview. I'm gonna try to meet with her tomorrow after work and go have dinner or something fun like that. Haven't seen her since I left in July, so it should be an entertaining and chatty reunion.

I haven't been getting nearly as much sleep as I should lately. At least, that's how it feels. It's strange, but I seem to need more and more sleep lately. The six hours a night thing that I'd survived on for the past year so isn't doing it anymore. I need more. I keep wanting to crash at like 7.00 pm, and then I accidentally take a nap and wake up around 9.00 and then can't get to sleep and it starts all over again. I'm hoping to reset the old internal clock this weekend with a couple of nights of good sleep. Man, it makes me his the heady days of college, when I could survive on a couple hours of sleep a night for weeks on end. Stupid growing up and taking responsibilities and crap.

Also, a note to the CD-selling stores in the Fairfax area: get in the latest Minus 5 CD. I want to hear it now, and you bastards (and I'm especially looking at you here, Tower Records, with your little yellow tag on the rack saying the album is on sale) are just taunting me by not having it. C'mon, not everyone is buying Mariah Carey and Kelly Clarkson albums, you jerks. We want some good music.


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

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Butch Walker - Letters

I'll admit, I have a weakness for well-crafted California pop-rock that reflects a love of classic rock. I can't help it. The sunny arrangements, the harmonies, the jangly electric and strummy acoustic gets to me. Always has.

So Butch Walker's Letters is a fantastic album for me, really. The record is tight, well-crafted, and shows enough diversity to keep things interesting throughout. Butch knows how to turn a clever phrase, and the songs are chock-full of wry asides, puns, and lyrics that are saved from being saccharine by containing just enough irony. When he's ernest--and it happens quite often on this album, believe it or not--you can tell there's a sincerity to what he's singing, an honesty to it. This is, to be sure, a good thing, as it puts the sarcasm and ironic hipster pose in perspective. The man's certainly no one trick pony, that's for sure.

Musically, it's a fairly diverse offering: the aforementioned jangly guitars, strummy acoustics, the occasional piano or wurlitzer stepping forward in the mix. Occasional touches of modernism--a turntable scratch at the end of one song, various electronic blips throughout--keep things interesting, as do the range and variety of instrumentation.

Probably my favorite song on the album lyrically is "Mixtape," which features such lines as "you gave me the best mixtape I have/even the bad songs ain't so bad/I just wish there was so much more than that/about me and you." It's very poignant and funny, all at the same time.

Overall, the record has a summery, California feel to it. The songs are bounce along bouyantly, and it's hard not to hum or sing along even if you don't know the words. The surface of each song pulls you in, but repeated listens reveal layers and depth to each track, nuances that you missed the last time around. It's details like those that keep you coming back for more. Butch Walker has created a compulsively listenable record, and you owe it to yourself to seek it out and give it a try.


Song of the Moment: Butch Walker, "#1 Summer Jam"

"My Guts Have Shit For Brains"

The poor weekend is nearly spent. I still think that, with teaching, two days off is never enough. Alas, they don't ask me what I think about our time off. Too bad, really.

Last night, Michelle and I had a John Cusack Fest of Gross Pointe Blank and High Fidelity. We were frightened that we can both quote High Fidelity almost verbatim the whole way through. We're not quite sure what this says about us as people, other than we really like the movie.

At some point tonight, I have to draw tomorrow's comic and create a quiz for the Civics class. Mine is an exciting and event-filled life, yes?

Okay, not really.


Song of the Moment: Bruce Springsteen, "Independence Day"

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

"Hard To Be A Saint In The City"

So yesterday? Total shit. Complete wash. Worthless. Craptastic.

Today? Reminded me why I love teaching.

Irony? Same class was responsible for both sentiments.

See, I had a chat with the first period class this morning. I brought the Dean of Students in on it. We heard the students' concerns, I told 'em where we as their teachers were coming from, and I think we convinced all but maybe one student (who has a whole host of issues, starting with the need for a severe beating) to give our student-teacher a chance and to try to see it from her side. We've worked out a plan of action, we're dedicated to it, and I think I've got most of them solidly on my side at this point. And then they paid attention to the lesson I taught them. It was bizarre.

I also ended up teaching all the history classes today because Ms. Yasai is out every Wednesday for a class and Ms. Mandzak was also out for some reason today. Most of the classes did really well, though, and I hardly had any discipline/behavior issues. I chatted briefly with my boss, and we're probably going to see about getting some sort of permanent sub for Wednesdays, since Ms. Yasai will always be out that day. Should be beneficial.

Also got to jump into the art class this afternoon, which was a lot of fun. Any class that's combining medieval/Arthurian characters with comic strips (the idea is that they're going to construct a comic strip featuring a scene from Arthurian lore or something similar) is okay by me.

Anyway, away to bed with me. Duty calls, as per usual.


Song of the Moment: Billy Bragg, "A New England"