Thursday, June 29, 2006

"If My Heart Could Do The Thinking"

Saw Superman Returns last night with Michelle. Easily beats out any other comic book flicks that've come out in the past year (well, except maybe Batman Begins). They even managed to include (1) a goody-two-shoes character who doesn't annoy the hell out of you with his virtue and (2) a little kid who isn't cutesy or annoying. Kevin Spacey totally stole any scene he was in. Period. The references to the old Christopher Reeve flicks--the title credits, using old Marlon Brando dialogue, having Superman do the little fly out around the Earth at the end--were fantastic, as were the nods to other Superman-related bits (having the picture of him holding up the car in homage to Action Comics #1: pure freakin' genius).

The funeral service for that student who passed away is this Sunday. It'll be a strange moment, to be sure, but it'll give us some closure.

I have a bunch of errands to run tomorrow, including going to Springfield to get my paycheck and talk with my boss about some stuff, help Wendy load some things into her truck, and go see Spamalot up in DC with Wen, Tim, Meg, and Bob (whoa, everyone has three-letter names or nicknames there. I guess I'll have to be Chu now). Saturday is the day I'm helping Cris move out of her apartment in Fredericksburg. Whether this will require driving all the way to Harrisonburg as well remains to be seen. I should actually go call her about that right now.


Song of the Moment: Th' Legendary Shack*Shakers, "No Such Thing"

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

"As I Listened Through The Cemetary Trees"

One of my students passed away yesterday.

It's rather frightening, really, because the kid was only an 11th grader (or going to be one, that is).

He wasn't conventionally nice, as he could be somewhat mean and cruel when the urge took him; but somewhere underneath the heavy metal exterior he attempted to present to everyone was a young man who genuinely cared about his friends and fellow students.

It upsets me, especially since I remember all the things he and I had been talking about and planning at the end of the school year. He was enthusiastic about the coming year, really looking forward to school in both a social and an academic way. He was one of the few kids I felt comfortable letting read my webcomic, knowing he wouldn't be offended by it or find it stupid or tell his parents about the bizarre crap one of his teachers kept putting up on the internet.

And now he's gone. So suddenly. I'd only just gotten to know him, and now no one will have further opportunity for that.

Rest easy, my friend. You will be missed.


Monday, June 26, 2006

"One Step Up And Two Steps Back"

I spent most of the afternoon cleaning my room (especially the closet) and listening to Bruce Springsteen's "One Step Up" over and over on repeat. I can't seem to get tired of this song, even after three or four hours of listening to it. I also learned to play it just 'cause I like it so much, bringing the number of Springsteen tunes I can play relatively well up to about six or seven; still nowhere near the Dylan count, but it's hard for me to rival the number of Dylan tunes I can play.

Our trend of nasty thunderstorms has continued virtually upabated the past few days. It stormed heavy yesterday and is scheduled to tonight. To top it off, apparently the city of Washington, DC, is kinda halfway underwater. I guess there are potential problems with building a city in a swamp? I'm as surprised as you guys are, seriously.

Michelle had me try sushi and watch the movie Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind yesterday. I can honestly I say I enjoyed the flick, though the food was not really to my liking. But hey, I've at least tried it, y'know?

Anyway, I'm gonna go shower now. Cleaning is sweat-inducing work, apparently.


Song of the Moment: Bruce Springsteen, "One Step Up"

Saturday, June 24, 2006

"Though Neither Of Them Are To Be What They Claim"

So the best-laid plans are soon laid to waste, it seems. I was planning on making a jaunt down to the 'Burg this evening to visit friends, but Michelle's not feeling all that well and Cris (the person we were most likely going to visit) is in the throes of packing up all her crap so she can move next weekend. Therefore, I am now without concrete plans.

Which is okay, really. I'll probably spend the evening writing or watching DVDs. I've got a backlog of unwatched DVDs (including Season 2 of Justice League, To Kill a Mocking Bird, King Kong, O Brother, Where Art Thou?, and several others) I still need to watch. Or I could continue playing Kingdom Hearts. I think I'm nearing the end of the game, or at least it feels like I am.

I currently have a cat in my lap. He seems awful comfortable, though he is still a little bitey (it's his way). In order to go do anything, I'm afraid I must unlodge this ball of furry fury. Wish me luck.


Song of the Moment: Bob Dylan, "When I Got Troubles"

Friday, June 23, 2006

"Good News, Everyone!"

Apparently Comedy Central has decided to revive Futurama. The network has ordered 13 new episodes from Matt Groening to air exclusively on Comedy Central starting sometime in 2008.

I hope this revival goes well, actually. I love Futurama, perhaps even more than the Simpsons, mostly because I love me some sci-fi satire. They managed to get all the major voice actors back, so that's good, too.


Song of the Moment: Billy Bragg & Wilco, "My Flying Saucer"

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

"No More Pencils, No More Books"

We reached the end of the school year finally. And not a day too soon, I say. We had maybe fifteen students show up for the two hours of school this morning, and the rest of the day was devoted to organizing the classrooms, helping my coworkers finish their journal abstracts, and complaining bitterly about some of the stupid crap we have to deal with. I also found out how the summer will work. I will be a floater, meaning I get to follow the trouble students around most of the time. I'm not terribly happy about this, but it's money. And if the kids get too bad, I'll just duct tape them to something. We've got a few hefty rolls o' duct tape around there somewhere.

Tomorrow is a day of recovery. I'm going to sleep in, do laundry, and maybe clean up my room. Thursday will be the day I head back over to school to take care of some stuff I didn't do this afternoon and help get ready for summer school. I also need to email a couple of parents about history books which weren't returned. Such is the burden of being the only returning history teacher.

Honestly, the number of teachers not returning next year is pretty surprising. I know that our job is fairly stressful and has a tendency to burn people out, but I didn't think it'd be that bad. Admittedly, I think several of the teachers are simply looking for different schools that pay better or don't require the extra effor that's necessary to teach students with disabilities. It can be a tiring job, that's for sure. And I think if I had less patience, I'd have quit myself. But I really do like my coworkers (those who're staying), I like the students for the most part, and I think I can learn a lot from working there.

It sounds like I have the apartment to myself for most of the weekend. This, to me, says "party," but I'll be damned if I actually know how to plan and put together one of those.


Song of the Moment: Ryan Adams, "Friends"

Sunday, June 11, 2006

"I've Got A Little Space To Fill"

So busy these past few days. The last couple of weeks of the school year are apparently destined to be nothing but a blur of activity and very little actual teaching. Ah well.

Crap, that reminds me: I have to do grades for the seniors by tomorrow, and all my stuff is at school. Guess I know what I'll be doing on my planning period.

The school's book sale went very well. We made something like $500 for the two days, all of which is pure profit (ah, the joy of donated books). I myself picked up an interesting assortment of books, including some Tolstoy, James Thurber, Herman Hesse, and three books on American folklore and folk songs (with guitar chords and stuff for the songs). All for less than $10.

The Tom Petty concert last night kicked serious ass. That man knows how to put on a show, and Mike Campbell is still one of the best damn guitarists in rock'n'roll. Period. Also one of the most underrated. His guitar work fits seamlessly into every song, and his guitar is a part of him, almost something organic. And they have a new album coming out within the next month. They played a couple of songs from it. Oh yes, I shall be purchasing it.

The trip to King's Dominion on Thursday was quite enjoyable. We rode rollercoasters, ate expensive (and not terribly good) food, and basically ran around the near-empty park all day and had a grand time. The weather was perfect, and it was nice to have a day to relax and just have fun.

I am insured, as I might have mentioned in a previous post, of having a summer job at the school. From what I understand, the summer is very laid back: we do academics in the morning and fun activities (the park, the pool, etc.) in the afternoon. Plus I get to continue getting paid and don't have to worry about money as much. These are good things.

I shaved off most of the beard o' doom the other day on a whim. I left the chin patch and some sideburns (which look remarkably small after having the full beard thing for so many months). Michelle wants me to grow it back. Since she's the girlfriend, I think I'm obligated to comply as quickly as my facial hair will grow back.


Song of the Moment: Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, "Insider (Live)"

Monday, June 05, 2006

"So I Can Die Easy"

I purchased a new pillow and a new desk fan Saturday. Easily the best sleep- and comfort-related purchases I've made in the past year or so. The new pillow is fantastic, and the new fan actually blows out air and is quiet: two characteristics not shared by my previous fan.

So it's rather frustrating that I slept like crap last night. I think it has something to do with the four-hour nap I took around 4.00 yesterday afternoon, but I can't be certain.

We're getting awful close to the end of the school year. In a way, it seems so far away: still fifteen calendar days until we're done. At the same time, I'm freaking out and thinking, Crap! I've only got fifteen more days to cram my students' heads as full of information as I can! Nooooo! It's quite the position to find one's self in, let me tell you.

This weekend is the school bookfair. The Literacy classes are having a major sale Friday and Saturday to help buy new books for the rather tiny school library. We've had all sorts of donations come in, so there's lots to choose from and plenty of good deals to be had. I'll probably be there at some point on Saturday helping out and possibly entertaining people with my guitar-playing skillz (which are like skills, only cooler because they have a "z").

In conclusion, Wes Anderson is a brilliant director. He can actually make Ben Stiller act like someone other than Ben Stiller. I wasn't aware that was actually possible. But Rushmore and The Royal Tenanbaums are both brilliant films with excellent soundtracks. S'true.


Song of the Moment: The Faces, "Ooh La La"

Friday, June 02, 2006

Bruce Springsteen & the Seeger Sessions Band Live

There's a reason they call Bruce Springsteen "The Boss." It's mostly because he can kick more musical ass than you'll ever hope to, even when he's just playing an acoustic guitar and singing old folk and spiritual tunes.

The Springsteen show at the Nissan Pavilion on Sunday was one of those cliched once-in-a-lifetime experiences for me. There was a fire in that performance, an energy that seems impossible to sustain for two hours. But Springsteen managed. He's always so very earnest about whatever he's doing, putting his entire being into playing and singing or even just chatting with the audience. He connects: with people, with music, with the world. It's what makes his music so remarkable.

The setlist was unexpected and varied. A healthy portion of the tunes he played were from his new Seeger covers album. He kicked off with "O Mary Don't You Weep" and "John Henry" before rumbling through a set that included several Nebraska and The River-era tunes radically reimagined for the mostly-acoustic Seeger Sessions Band. These tunes were unexpected and very welcome: rather than running through the old warhorses, like "Born to Run," "Hungry Heart," "Thunder Road," or "Dancing in the Dark," he stuck to well-known-but-slightly-less-prominent cuts like "Open All Night" (reworked from a rough rockabilly track into a rousing swing tune), "Ramrod" (which was almost unrecognizable in its radical reinterpretation), "If I Should Fall Behind," and "Cadillac Ranch." The covers were equally varied and interesting: several cuts from We Shall Overcome, of course, stretched out to allow for solos and jamming; and a few tunes no one expected, such as a heartachingly beautiful rendition of "When the Saints Go Marching In." The crowd was regularly on its feet, clapping and dancing and singing along.

One of the most interesting aspects of the show was part of the very nature of the performance. There were plenty of solos: by the horn section, the banjo player, the pianist, the accordian player, and the violinists. Springsteen never took a single guitar solo. Part of the explanation lies in the nature of the instruments: he played an acoustic all night long, and it's rather difficult to do a guitar solo on an acoustic when you're surrounded by more than a dozen other musicians. It's also based, in part, on the nature of the kind of music they were playing: in folk, the guitar is there as a base, a rhythmic foundation upon which the other instruments play. This can involve a riff or intricately-finger-picked guitar figure, but usually involves strumming and letting other instruments--such as violin, banjo, or mandolin--take the leads and do the fancy stuff. It points to a change in the nature of Springsteen as a musician: yes, he was the leader of the band, but it was as though he were the first among equals rather than the guy standing out front doing the guitar heroics. Springsteen the folkie is a team player, willing to share or even let someone else dominate the spotlight. He's part of the band, not backed by the band, and that has a drastic effect on his playing style. While you can wish that he'd get up there and tear into a thunderous guitar solo, I rather like the notion of him playing as an integrated part of a larger whole. His guitar work served each song rather than dominate it, and the same could even be said of most of the solos and lead work done by the other musicians. This is simply a group of people who love playing together and have found the joy in their interplay. That means better music for everyone.

Ultimately, the Springsteen show was very satisfying event. It easily ranks in my top ten--probably even top five--concerts of all time. Definitely the best $100 I've spent this year.


Song of the Moment: Bruce Springsteen & The Seeger Sessions Band, "If I Should Fall Behind (Live)"

"This Film Is So Much Like The Movie"

Apparently the folks who make DVDs kinda get it. I was especially interested in the fact that they are embracing rather than denying the potential impact of digital downloads.

I'm kinda torn, though, 'cause these are the same people who put those annoying anti-piracy ads at the beginning of DVDs that you can't skip through. Those ads do nothing more than make me want to go out and pirate a movie, just to spite them.


Song of the Moment: Tom Waits, "Clap Hands"

Thursday, June 01, 2006

"It Overtakes Me"

So yesterday contained some good news: not only am I assured of a job at Accotink next school year (one which involves teaching history almost exclusively), I'll get a slight raise. Raises are always welcome, lemme tell ya.

Okay, time is running out. I have to start teaching now. More when I have the chance.


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