Friday, April 28, 2006

"All The Money You Make Will Never Buy Back Your Soul"

So apparently the Vatican doesn't like The Da Vinci Code because they feel it is offensive to the Christian religion, and they want a boycott of the flick. Personally, I thought the film was offensive because it's based on such a poorly-written book. How they got Ian McKellan and Tom Hanks to be in this crock of fecal matter is beyond me.

Coming home early was definitely the best choice this afternoon. I returned, got my garage spot back (after someone was blocking my driveway all last night), and crashed in bed for several hours. I'm ready to go back to bed already, I think, and just hope I feel even a bit better in the morning.

I've committted myself to something like four or five acts at the school's Soap Box Night next month. It's basically a talent show/open mic night where students and staff can get up and perform for everyone. I'm breakin' out the guitar and playing several songs: the DHT song "Listen to Your Heart" (one of those quasi-Christian tunes that came out in the late '80s/early '90s; this student really needs to start listening to some good music, 'cause he's the same kid who willingly listens to Kenny G); a duet of the Johnny Cash/June Carter tune "Jackson," and an India.Arie song called "Ready for Love" (and I have to say: I really like the idea of acoustic guitar-driven neo-classical soul. There's just something about invoking the heyday of Motown and Atlantic Records that I really dig). I'm also going to do a song by myself, though I haven't decided what just yet. Maybe an original Yeti tune, 'cause I haven't really played enough of those for people yet.

Anyway, the weekend is shaping up to be a busy one. I'm going to see JB again tomorrow night (I saw it last night; they'd definitely improved over the trainwreck in progress I'd seen at Sunday's rehersal) and again Sunday afternoon ('cause they need extra help that day). Should be a good time. I might also do some housecleaning, just 'cause. All of this, of course, assumes that I'm well enough to drag myself out of bed tomorrow.


Song of the Moment: Bruce Springsteen, "Old Dan Tucker"

"Blue Canary In The Outlet Above The Light Switch"

They Might Be Giants rock harder than you ever could. They are also geekier than you could ever hope to be. Plus, they played two new songs that totally didn't have anything to do with The House of Blues. Yeah, totally.

Anyway, it was a great show, and I'm glad to have finally been to a concert again after the better part of a year without any live music in my life. There are several other shows coming up in the next few months that I really want to attend, so this is good.

I'm apparently sick. I don't like being sick. I don't even admitting to being sick. I've been fighting it, but I'm gonna leave early today and go home to sleep this off. Hopefully when I wake up, I'll be healed up.

Okay, there's probably more to say, but I'm tired and not well. Maybe later.


Song of the Moment: They Might Be Giants, "Los Angeles"

Monday, April 17, 2006

Italian Leather Sketchbook

So Wendy and Tim made it back from Italy in one piece (well, two pieces. One each. They're both still whole). They had a good time, despite Tim getting sick while they were there (he's actually still sick. He had to sleep on the couch last night because he didn't want his coughing to wake Wendy up. Which kinda made me laugh a bit, really: just now back from their honeymoon, and already he's sleeping on the couch). They brought me back this beautiful little leather-bound sketchbook that's about the size of my hand, made of genuine Italian leather and all that jazz. It's freakin' sweet.

The return to school after a week of not working wasn't as bad as I feared. The students were pretty well-behaved for the most part, participating in class in a positive and appropriate manner, respecting each other and the teachers...basically they were still kinda wiped out from the break and weren't really up for being ornery.

I also now have a planning period, which is something of a novelty. I had one for a few weeks back in like October, but then it was taken from me and I was shoved into another class. I can actually do some of my lesson planning at school now instead of at home! This is truly a revolutionary idea.

I have a ticket to see They Might Be Giants in a couple of weeks. Michelle called me while my grandparents were visiting last week and told me TMBG was coming to town and that tickets were only $25. I totally jumped on that, so we've got tickets to see them next week. It's been almost a year since I went to a concert, so I'm ready for some live music (and with Glen Phillips hitting next month, and Toad the Wet Sprocket not too long after--and yes, it features Phillips again, I know--and Tom Petty not too long after that...well, it's shaping up to be a good summer for concerts).

I got a Traveling Wilburys collection in the mail today that I'd ordered off eBay late last week. It's got both of their albums, a slew of bonus tracks, and a DVD full of videos and assorted goodies. I'm as giddy as the proverbial school girl.

Yeah, I went there.


Song of the Moment: The Traveling Wilburys, "Last Night"

Sunday, April 16, 2006

"Then I Emerged From A Rioting Blur"

Just wanted to take this opportunity to wish everyone a Happy Easter. Tomorrow (or later today, if you will) is gonna be seven kinds of hectic crazy. I've got church in the morning, then clean the apartment, pick up the roomies, write the lesson plans I should have written several days ago, draw a much to do, and of course I waited until the last day of Spring Break to do them all. Ah well.


Song of the Moment: Elliott Smith, "Twilight"

Friday, April 14, 2006

"What's Wrong With This Picture?"

We were supposed to have a cleaning lady come and give the apartment a thorough cleaning yesterday afternoon. Well, I spent all afternoon here in the apartment, Wendy's cellphone sitting right next to me so I could answer if someone called on the call box (which is connected to her phone), and no one called. At all. No cleaning lady.

I was rather pissed. Not because the apartment didn't get cleaned--I can do that myself, if it comes down to it--but that this woman made a business committment to come clean our apartment, and she didn't keep it. Didn't call to say she couldn't make it, either. That's just rude, if you ask me.

Anyway, I've been sitting here all day today, too, waiting for her to maybe come by and make up for missing yesterday. At this point, though, I'm not convinced that's gonna happen.

Saw V for Vendetta last night with Michelle. Actually quite good, I thought. More comic book movies should be like that one and Batman Begins (and even the the Spider-Man and X-Men flicks), though Natalie Portman's English accent could be the death of us all.


Song of the Moment: Van Morrison, "Whinin' Boy Moan"

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

The Beatles - The Capitol Albums, Volumes 1 & 2

These are the records I grew up listening to. I'd spend evenings sitting in the living room floor with my father; he'd tell me about back when these albums came out, what it was like to be there for that rush of energy and hysteria, to hear that music for the first time. It was unlike anything else, he said, and nothing since has really compared (and this is true. Regardless of whatever other band I get hooked on, what band or album happens to snatch my attention in what seems like a deathgrip, it simply won't compare to the grasp The Beatles have on my soul).

Back in 1987, when The Beatles' catalogue was initially released on CD, they made the decision to standardize the releases across the world and issued only the British albums. These albums are, of course, the way The Beatles and producer George Martin intended the records, and while the '87 releases need to be updated (a remastering along the lines of what Bob Dylan and The Rolling Stones have recently received would definitely be the way to go), they're still exceptional discs. Nothing can hide the fact that these are the records that changed the face of popular music.

But on this side of the Atlantic, those weren't the records that changed lives. No, that duty/honor fell to Capitol, which decided to chop up albums, add singles, remove songs that they didn't like, and reissue albums according to their own whims. Album lengths were reduced from the average 14 tracks of the British albums to 11 or 12 track lengths, meaning Capitol could take two or three albums and stretch them into four releases (especially when you factored in EPs and singles).

Capitol also remixed the albums in a manner that still defies understanding. They created a bizarre false stereo mix, offered a mono mix as well, and saturated the whole thing with lots of echo and reverb (listen to Beatles '65 to really understand what we're talking about here). The sound, then, of the albums is completely different between the US and British releases.

All that being said, these are still amazing albums. When you're cherry picking from the greatest band ever, it's really difficult to go wrong. Sure, the Capitol albums may not hold together as well as the British Parlophone discs do, but they're still collections of absolutely fantastic music. You really can't ignore that fact when you listen to these two collections, which bring together the first eight Beatles albums Capitol released (Meet the Beatles!, The Beatles' Second Album, Something New, Beatles '65, The Early Beatles, Beatles VI, Help! Original Motion Picture Soundtrack, and Rubber Soul). I may have gotten used to the sound and track orders of the British records over the past two decades, but coming back and listening to these American versions was like coming home to a familiar room, returning to a place of childhood and finding it unspoiled. I can really only hope that they'll release the rest of the American albums (like Hey Jude, which collected a bunch of their late singles and was one easily one of the best decisions Capitol ever made), because while these may not be the pristine British remastered recordings that we keep hoping for, they're definitely the next best thing and worth picking up for anyone who considers themselves a fan of good music.


Song of the Moment: The Beatles, "I Feel Fine"

"Just Somebody That I Used To Know"

Man, talk about a busy couple of days. I'm glad my grandparents came to visit me, but I'm glad I don't have to play tourguide anymore. That's freakin' exhausting, let me tell ya.

We had a good time, though. They got in late Sunday afternoon, and we went to dinner with Michelle. Monday, the grandparents and I went down to the Shenandoah Valley National Park and did Skyline Drive, which was absolutely gorgeous. We also managed to spend virtually the whole day in the car, which sucked. After Skyline, we headed up to Potomac Mills, which they liked but found overwhelming (a word I'd hear repeated often on Tuesday).

Tuesday was spent in our nation's capital. We saw the major monuments and memorials along the Mall, enjoyed the beautiful weather, and basically just sorta wandered around. We took the Metro in, thank God, 'cause I really didn't want to try to navigate DC or find a parking space (especially that second one...dear Lord, is parking there ever a nightmare).

My grandparents had a good time, thankfully. I miss being able to see them regularly, and I think they do, too: why else would they drive all the way out here for a two-day visit? I mean, they'd already driven all the way to Wisconsin on Thursday and Friday, then turned around and drove an additional who knows how many miles to come see me? It's crazy. But they did it, and I'm glad.

Supposedly my father will be coming out to visit at the end of June/beginning of July. We'll see.

Anyway, with the grandparents gone, the rest of the week is given over to doing the things around here that I need to do. Today, I'm going to run errands, such as a trip to the bank and the post office, wash the car, etc. Tomorrow, we've got a cleaning lady coming in to clean the apartment from top to bottom, so I guess another of my responsibilities today is to pick up everything in my room so the lady can clean. So much to do, so little time.

I also need to write up lesson plans for the coming week. We're starting the 4th Quarter on Monday, and I'm wanting to get my students moving. I want to try to get through the Civil War before the 4th Quarter ends. Weather or not that's possible (and-- given my plodding speed thusfar in the school year--it may not be) is another question entirely, but we'll see if we can do this thing.

Oh, and last night, I picked up the two Beatles Capitol Box Sets: the first eight American Beatles albums, all in one place. These are the records I grew up listening to, so there's probably an element of nostalgia in this. But I don't care: these were the records dad had, they were the records I sat in the living room floor listening to, and they're the records I intend to rock out to now. Snoogans.


Song of the Moment: The Beatles, "Twist and Shout"

Sunday, April 09, 2006

"In These Small Dark Movies"

The wedding went off beauitfully, aside from the rain. It rained the whole bloody day, which I guess is lucky. I dunno. Regardless, we still had a nice ceremony filled with Wendy and Tim trying not to cry, the bridesmaids trying not to cry, and half the audience trying not to cry (apparently Wendy managed to make it through the whole ceremony by staring at the single hair the stylist forgot to cut on Tim's head. I guess it stuck out considerably). I got to spend most of the day running around like the proverbial chicken sans head coordinating between everyone, making sure musicians got paid, and getting the bride, groom, and pastor back to the airport for their respective flights (theirs to Venice, his to Oklahoma).

I spent most of yesterday afternoon and last night asleep, in large part because I didn't have time to get much sleep Friday night. I got home from the airport around 3.30 or so, and I was out by 4.00. I woke up once around 5.00, when my grandparents called, and then again at 10.00 when Michelle called. I stayed awake for a few hours at that point, then crashed again around 3.00. Sleep felt so very, very good. I ought to make a habit out of it.

My grandparents will be here sometime late this afternoon (at least, I hope it's late this afternoon...I don't think I'll be ready for them to get here in the early afternoon. My room is still a mess). We're gonna kick around the area over the next few days and pretend to be tourists. Oughta be fun. If anyone can think of someplace interesting in DC to take them, please feel free to make a recommendation.


Song of the Moment: Beck, "Pay No Mind"

Thursday, April 06, 2006

"If You Could Take All The Love Without Giving Any Back, Would You Do It?"

What a hell of a week it's been. First and foremost, I got a pay raise at work. I now earn $30,000 a year, which is like adult money. That right there is really reason enough to celebrate, I think.

We had an Oklahoma-like storm Monday night. There was lightning, thunder, torrential rain, high winds, tornado warnings, and it was all over in half an hour. Exactly like Oklahoma. Michelle and I were going to go out for dinner that evening, but we decided to have a pizza delivered instead (I felt sorta bad for making the delivery guy go out in such shitty weather, so I tipped him pretty decent).

I had to drive the bus for the school basketball team on Wednesday. We went up to Gaithersburg in Maryland, which meant I got to drive through DC traffic in that damned bus again. I was still tense the next day. Thankfully, though, the students were very well-behaved for the whole thing, keeping very quiet so I could focus on driving and not killing us all. We didn't win the game, but it was a near thing, and the kids played pretty well. The only class that really happened Wednesday was first period, and even that was mostly just playing games and not doing much of anything.

Today wasn't much different, really. The students were ready to be done with school, and so were most of the teachers if the truth be told. We had a big breakfast in first period (a treat the students had been working towards for the better part of the quarter) and a guest speaker (the father of one of our substitute teachers, who happens to be a town manager. Since we're getting ready to discuss local government in that class, it was a great opportunity). The kids did exceptionally well during the speaker's presentation, asking relevant and insightful questions, raising their hands, listening attentively, and essentially behaving in such a way that you couldn't tell most of them usually have trouble sitting still and quiet for more than ten seconds at a shot.

I've basically got tomorrow off. I have to go in at some point and take care of a couple of things (narratives, a couple of grades, things like that) and get a haircut, but everything else on my agenda is related to the impending nuptuals (heck, even the haircut is really connected to that. If it weren't for the wedding, I'd probably just keep letting it grow). Things're gonna be crazy starting late tomorrow afternoon, but I think it'll all be worth it in the end.

I've got the apartment to myself tonight. Tim's staying at his folks' place for the next couple of nights in preparation for the wedding, and Wendy's off with Michelle and Meg having her bachelorette party (there was talk of "male" and "strip club" in their discussion of the evening, at which point I tuned out and started thinking about what I was going to have for dinner. For those of you who're curious, the answer was "pizza"). I did get a belated birthday gift from Michelle: the movie Orgazmo (which I love) and a hard-boiled detective novel called simply Pulp. Which are really just further evidence that Michelle rocks out hardcore.

I think it's probably safe to openly discuss it at this point, since she's told all the family now, but my mom's officially remarried to her beau, Kevin Simmons. They got married a couple of weeks back in Eureka Springs, AR. I'm very happy for the both of them, and hope that they are happy together. It was sorta strange thinking about my mom being married to someone other than my dad, but that's how it is.

Okay, Wen just called. I've been commanded to go get alcohol, for the girls are returning and are hankerin' for some booze. Off I go!


Song of the Moment: Flaming Lips, "Mr. Ambulance Driver"

Sunday, April 02, 2006

"I Try To Get By On Wine And Poetry"

Had a really good weekend. Like a phenomenally good weekend, especially considering I was expecting part of it to be kinda miserable.

This turn of fortunes is due in no small part to Michelle agreeing to have anything to do with me again. That totally made the weekend. The good food and good wine we had at Cris's was a plus, too.

I spent most of today running around looking at guitars. I'm trying to find myself either a good 12 string (thinking Fender or--God please--Martin, though the Ovation 12 string I played today sounded damn good) or a nice electric (found a hollow body--it looks like an Epiphone--on Craigslist. I emailed the person but haven't heard back yet. Someone else may have already snatched it). This is by no means an indication of displeasure or a lack of interest in my 6 string, mind you. No, the Martin holds a special place in my heart. It deserves every bit of the definite article.

I also spent a tremendous amount of time this weekend listening to the Tom Petty box set, and that is always a good thing. Might be why I spent more time looking at 12 strings than electrics at Guitar Center, too; but that's neither here nor there.


Song of the Moment: Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, "Rebel"