Wednesday, August 30, 2006

"Why Do Little Blue Midgets Hit Me With Fish?"

Got the new Bob Dylan and Ray Lamontagne CDs last night. Also picked up Season 1 of The Tick. Man, that show kicked ass. I had high hopes for the live-action version they did a few years back, but it never really lived up to expectations (even if it had Patrick Warburton in it).

The new Dylan album is great. Very mellow, digs deep into traditional American musical styles. Sweet. Ray Lamontagne's new record is also really freakin' cool. Sounds very different from his first album, drops the country-rock-meets-Van Morrison feel of his first record in favor of a very atmospheric, R&B-tinged collection. I'll try to have something more substantial to say about both of those later this week.

I got my schedule for school today. It's pretty good, for the most part, though there are a few things about it that annoy me: for instance, I'm helping out in an Algebra class. My math skills are, of course, pretty pathetic. Non-existant, some might say. But that's okay, 'cause I get to do three history classes (US History, World History I, and World History II). I'm also helping in an English class, since the new woman we hired to teach English quit last week before school even started. I'm also helping out in Art, which is always groovy.

The most interesting class, to me, is that I get to teach a Humanities class. When I asked my boss what she wanted me to do with it, she basically said it was up to me. I've been kicking around ideas with Michelle and Wendy, and I've got five or six different units figured out for the class. We'll see what I come up with (like textbooks...don't have any of those yet).

We learned CPR today at the school. It's been about a decade since I last did CPR, so it was interesting to see how much I'd retained of it (of course, it's not like CPR is that difficult or changed that much in ten years).

Tomorrow's more orientation crap. Most of this stuff is really useful for the new teachers, but not for the returning teachers. I mostly just want time to get the classroom in order and get some lesson plans written up. We'll see.


Song of the Moment: Bob Dylan, "Thunder on the Mountain"

Sunday, August 27, 2006

"As If In A Dream"

So I start back to work tomorrow after my two weeks off. Seems like it was a lot less than that, but that's because I spent so much of it running around Oklahoma. It'll be nice to get back into things, though. I've got a lot of ideas for the new school year that I really want to impliment. We'll see how long this enthusiasm lasts.

I'm really hoping that music appreciation class they asked me about will come through. I'd have a blast teaching that, and I think the students would learn a whole lot from it. Plus, hey, I'd be getting paid to talk about, listen to, and play music. You can't beat that. And genre analysis. That's always fun. I'll have to do some of that.

I'm going to have to take a couple of the guitars back to school with me tomorrow. There's not enough room for all four of the acoustics here in my room. I'll take the Epiphone and the Fender, I think, and then the Yamaha once I get it restrung. Then I'll grab the Fender again, restring it, and take it back to school. I have no idea where I'll store these at school, either, but I'm sure I'll come up with something.

The Martin, of course, remains in its place of power next to the bed, where I can grab it quickly and play to my heart's content.


Song of the Moment: Golden Smog, "I'll be There (Live)"

Friday, August 25, 2006

Dylan Owns You

Bob Dylan's upcoming release, Modern Times, gets a five-star review from Rolling Stone. It comes out on Tuesday, and you know I'll be at the store as soon as possible to pick up my copy.

He's also gonna tour behind the album (of course: Dylan's Never-Ending Tour isn't just a clever name), with bands such as Kings of Leon, the Foo Fighters, and Jack White's Raconteurs opening for him. He'll be in Fairfax on November 17, and I'm planning on being there, too ('cause I just can't get enough Dylan, even if you can't understand a word he sings anymore).

The record sounds like it'll be promising. I've heard some audio clips of it, and this is some very vital if a tad traditional music (we're talking ragtime, blues, folk, rockabilly,'s like the first fifty or sixty years of the 20th century wrapped up in one neat package).


Song of the Moment: Bob Dylan, "High Water (for Charlie Patton)

"Pick Up My Guitar And Play"

The time I spent with Clif in the past two weeks greatly increased certain aspects of my understanding of the guitar. He helped me figure out two songs I'd been wanting to play, and taught me (in large part) how to pick up a song by ear.

It's relatively simple, actually, if you can pick up on at least one or two chords in a song. Most songs rely on groups of chords. The grouping I'm most familiar with is good ol' GCDEm (many Dylan songs, a couple of Bruce Springsteen tunes, most of the songs Clif and I have written). About half of all rock and roll (and a lot of country and folk) songs use these four chords, mixing them up and rearranging them to suit the individual song. After you know that's what chord progression they're using, it's a simple matter of picking up on the way they've arranged the chords, which is pretty easy when you know what each chord is supposed to sound like. I can pick up on GCDEm songs very quickly now, though occasionally someone throws in a strange chord in a GCDEm song and I have to adapt.

But that's certainly not the only chord grouping out there. I don't know how many there are (hell, I'm not even sure how many guitar chords there are, technically), but I know of at least a couple other groupings. One is the ever-popular EADB7. EAD is another common rock and roll progression (U2's "Desire," the Romantics' "What I Like About You," and who knows how many others), and the EAB7 is the progression for virtually all blues and rockabilly songs. I kinda lump them all togther because I'm fairly certain they're in the same grouping.

But Clif taught me another grouping during our visit: CFGAm. It's commonly used in country music, and the three songs I've been playing lately that use that grouping are Tom Petty's "Rebels" (from Southern Accents, his concept album about the South), the Old 97's "Barrier Reef," and Golden Smog's "V." They're all fun songs to play, though the F still gives me trouble (curse you, barre chords!).

Anyway, it's been fun expanding my musical abilties and knowledge, even if it's not by all that much.


Song of the Moment: Golden Smog, "V"

Thursday, August 24, 2006

"I've Never Been To Heaven, But I've Been To Oklahoma"

Well, I've made a safe trip to and from Oklahoma, seen numerous family members, and driven much more than I really wanted to. A rundown of the trip:

Monday, August 14: Wendy and I take Clif to the Metro so he can get to National, then Wendy takes me to Dulles. Turns out, however, that I'm supposed to fly out of National myself. A rush back to National brings me to the airport about four hours too early. Manage to get to Tulsa, Oklahoma on time, where dad picks us up and drives us to his house. Spend the night in Grove with dad. Meet dad's girlfriend, Vivian, who bakes a mean double chocolate cookie.

Tuesday: Dad drives us to Shawnee, where we pick up Clif's truck and stay over with my dad's parents. We are fed. This will become something of a pattern wherever we go. Crash with grandparents.

Wednesday: Clif and I drive up to Witchita, Kansas by way of Ponca City. We stop in Ponca to say hi to mom's parents and grab a bite to eat. Manage to get lost between Ponca and Witchita, though not too bad. Make it to Witchita mid-afternoon, visit with mom and meet her new husband, Kevin. Kevin is loud and boisterous and charming. Also ex-military. Also a creampuff on the inside. They fix us a tasty dinner.

Thursday: We get up and mom takes Clif and I shopping. Clif finds new running shoes, I find a couple of new shirts for work. Everything is coming up Milhouse. More excellent food for dinner.

Friday: Clif heads off for Shawnee and I borrow mom's car and head to Norman. See Ev and go to hear my uncle's band play. Crash at Randy and Donna's house on their couch.

Saturday: Drive to Shawnee for big family dinner. Eat good food, hang out with all sorts of family members (both siblings, dad, Vivian, Randy & Donna, my cousin Chris and his daughter Bailey and Chris's girlfriend, my great-aunt Bev, and my grandparents), play some guitar with Clif, dad, and Randy. Head back to Norman to visit with Ev some more, then go hear my uncle's band play again. Get to get on stage and sing and play "Brown-Eyed Girl" with them using my uncle's Stratocaster. Totally makes my day. Crash at Randy and Donna's again, this time in a bed.

Sunday: Have lunch with Jessica and Dominic and their little son, Jack, at Tarahumara's in Norman (still my favorite Mexican restaurant), then drive back to Shawnee to visit with my grandparents. End up staying the night, getting to see dad again on his way back from taking Scott up to school. Clif also leaves for Austin on this day. Talk to a couple of friends on the phone that night, including Mary, a girl from church. Crash with grandparents again.

Monday: Get up and have donuts with Mary, whom I'd managed to con into waking up early to meet me for breakfast. Hard to believe she's grown up so much. I remember this girl and her sisters from when they came up to about my waist and spent most of their time kicking me in the shins and running away giggling. We chat for a couple of hours about various things, then I get on the road to go back to Witchita to give mom her car back. I stop in Ponca City so my grandparents can go up there with me (I have to get back somehow, after all). We get to mom's place, I give her the car back, and mom and grandma go shopping. My grandfather proceeds to wipe the floor with me in 9 out of 10 games of pool. The ladies return, the grandparents take me out for dinner, and we go back to Ponca.

Tuesday: Grandad and I go golfing. I play poorly, but it's been a good five years since my last round of golf, so I think I have an excuse. Towards the end I'd actually started remembering how to play. Had fun regardless. Spend the rest of the afternoon and evening just lounging around my grandparents' house.

Wednesday: We get up and hit the road for Tulsa, stopping in Cleveland, Oklahoma for lunch. Great little place there on Main Street called the Broadway Cafe. Then we continue on, arriving at the airport amidst a bit of a rain shower. It clears up by the time my flight leaves. First flight has no air conditioning, so there's the stench of lots of B.O. in the air. It's a full flight on one of those little puddle jumpers, so this kinda sucks. Second flight - from Memphis to DC - is fantastic. It's a bigger plane and only about half-full. I actually have room for my legs and there's no one in the seat next to me. I arrive early at the airport, and Michelle meets me. She's having an eye issue, so I end up driving us back to Fairfax, thus ending my vacation.

Anyway, it was a good time. I was glad I got to see so many of my relatives. I wish the trip had been either a lot longer or a lot shorter (longer so I could have had more time to visit with folks, or shorter so that I only had time to go one or two places). It's good to be back in one place, though, especially since I have to start back to school next week with preparatory work and all that.

My plans for of the rest of the week are quite simple: I'm gonna sit around and relax. I might re-organize (well, organize. Re-organize implies there was organization to begin with) the closet. That in itself is a major undertaking, but one I feel I have the time to tackle.


Song of the Moment: Stevie Ray Vaughn & Double Trouble, "Pride and Joy"

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

"Weary And Worn Out"

Got a call from Clif earlier this afternoon. He has arrived safely in the DC area, which is good. He'll do his conference thing until Friday, then we shall get together and all hell will break loose. Or we'll play some music. Y'know, whatever.

Wen and Tim are loaning me their iPod for the trip home. They never use the thing, so it just sits there gathering dust. I started putting my CDs in iTunes last night. I'm not doing all of my CDs, obviously, 'cause I don't need all of them and that'd take forever. I'm just cherry-picking the stuff I really want to have (most of my Dylan, my Beatles, Van, The Boss, Wilco, Elliott Smith, Tom Petty, the Flaming Lips...y'know, essentials), and I've already a day's worth of music put on the thing. 1.3 days' worth, actually, and I'm not even through the Dylan (keep in mind, I'm going through my collection alphabetically). I think I'll have enough music to keep me occupied in Oklahoma.


Song of the Moment: The Band and Friends, "I Shall Be Released (Live)"

Monday, August 07, 2006

"We Start This Time With Open Ears"

I stayed back this afternoon while the rest of the school went rollerblading. I'm not entirely heartbroken about this. I don't really care for rollerblading, and they were gonna have to go all the way to Manassas to do it. I stayed here and did a couple of errands for tomorrow's field trip.

The one big problem is that one student who didn't want to go stayed back. He's a nice-enough kid, but he can be very off-putting and frustrating. He never shuts up. Talks and mutters to himself constantly, but loud enough that I can hear him across the room. It's frustrating because I want to just turn around and yell "shut up!" at the top of my voice, but I can't do that. Gentle reminders don't really seem to do the trick, either, 'cause he starts right back up after a minute or two.

My friend Chad's driver's license somehow ended up in my school bag. I think it fell into the bag when he was laying down in the backseat on the way back to Fairfax after the trip to Fredericksburg on Saturday. Very strange.


Song of the Moment: My Morning Jacket, "The Way that he Sings"

"Pick Up My Guitar And Play"

Yesterday was a good day. I got to eat Arby's, and I always dig the roast beef. Michelle took a good nap on my bed while I cruised the internet last night, though apparently her ability to sleep disappeared as soon as she left my place.

Apparently one of my classes in the upcoming school year might be "music appreciation." I'll basically be paid to have the kids listen to music and learn guitar chords. Can't really beat a deal like that, and it's a lot better than ending up helping in a math class or something one period a day.

Anyway, off to do teacher-type things.


Song of the Moment: Glen Phillips, "Thank You"

Sunday, August 06, 2006

"You'll Get Paid On The Moon"

It's been a gorgeous weekend here in Northern VA. The sun's been out, but the temperature is a good fifteen degrees cooler than it was earlier in the week (brining daytime highs down into the mid-80s). At night, it's actually dropped into the 70s, meaning I was able to drive home after dropping Chad and Michelle off with my windows down. It's fantastic.

Friday night was spent hanging out with Chad and Michelle. We watched a couple of episodes of Curb Your Enthusiasm and then the Woody Allen film Crimes and Misdemeanors, so it was an evening well-spent. Saturday morning and afternoon were spent shopping for presents for various family members. I found stuff for Clif and Dad; now I just need to find something for mom and for Bailey (whose birthday will come next month).

Saturday evening, Michelle, Chad, and I made a jaunt down to Fredericksburg for a gathering at some friends' apartment. Stories were told, discussions were had, and we listened to some Eric Clapton. When we finally left, Michelle was exhausted, Chad had a headache, and my eyes were sore. We were a motley crew.

It's been a pretty relaxed weekend, overall. Which is probably good, considering I won't really have any chances to relax for the next couple of weeks and weekends. Next week is the last week of summer school. I also need to get my room in some semblance of order before Clif arrives on Friday. He'll be in the DC area starting Tuesday, but he has a conference thing he has to participate in until Friday afternoon. We're going to hang out together next weekend, then board separate planes to head to Oklahoma. Then it's time for my week and a half where the winds come sweepin' down the plains, during which I'll visit many friends and family (note to self: need to contact friends to let them know I'm coming). Then I come back to Virginia, rest for a couple of days, and then teacher orientation/preparation arrives and I have to start work and stuff. The summer is rushing to its conclusion, and I only hope there's some time in there somewhere for me to relax a bit.


Song of the Moment: Moxy Fruvous, "You Will go to the Moon"

Thursday, August 03, 2006

"We've Got Three Chords And Some Compelling Lies"

So you might notice I stuck a new link the sidebar there: one which says "Cross-Eyed Yeti." I broke down and got a MySpace thingie for the Yeti. I added four of our songs to the site, all of which can be downloaded (if that's the sort of thing you like). It's something I decided to do as part of efforts to get a gig or two in the northern VA area. I can point folks towards this and say, "hey, here's a sample of our stuff."

I went rock climbing with the students this afternoon. My brain said, "hey, you can climb this wall." My body said, "are you insane?! Do you have any idea how much we weigh now?!" My arms, wrists, and hands are very sore right now as a result. Typing is difficult, and I don't think there's gonna be a comic tonight as a result. We'll just have to see.


Song of the Moment: Led Zeppelin, "Babe I'm Gonna Leave You"