Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Top Ten of 2008

Another year has come and gone, which means it's time to bring you that time-honored tradition of telling you what I thought the best stuff of 2008 was. Sure, it's pretentious to assume that I know better than, well, every single other person with a blog and the ability to type just what the best albums of the year were, or even to assume that my list is somehow more important or worthwhile than theirs. But hey, this is the internet, where everyone assumes their voice is worth more.

Honorable Mentions: some of these albums were good, they just didn't quite make the cut. Sad, really.

My Morning Jacket, Evil Urges: I wanted to love this album, I really did. But so much of it was either just too weird (I'm looking at you, "Highly Suspicious") or just kinda boring ("Librarian," "Sec Walkin"), and I was left wanting more songs like "I'm Amazed" and the awesome title track.

Cat Power, Jukebox: I like the way she interpreted the songs, I just didn't care for the songs she chose. Though it was nice to see Dylan's "I Believe in You" receive such an awesome treatment.

Counting Crows, Saturday Nights & Sunday Mornings: It's not that it was a bad album, per se, just that there wasn't anything that really jumped out and grabbed me about it.

Death Cab for Cutie, Narrow Stairs: Not bad, but again, nothing about it really jumped out and grabbed me.

The National, The Virginia EP: Almost made the cut, but the songs just weren't quite finished enough in many cases. But hey, it's an EP, not a real album, so we can forgive that.

The Decemberists, Always the Bridesmaid: A series of singles and an EP, it was easily some of the most awesome music I heard all year. If this'd been released as a whole thing instead of in a series of singles, it would've totally cracked the top ten.

Jesse Malin, On Your Sleeve: A fun set of covers with just enough of a twist on 'em to make them sound different and familiar. Includes "You Can Make Them Like You," a Hold Steady tune Malin regularly covers in concert.

REM, Accelerate: Fast, energetic, and fun. Three words you don't associate with the REM of the past decade or so. But this record certainly brings those traits back with a vengeance, and thank God for it.

The Fireman, Electric Arguments: A Paul McCartney album with a fresh coat of paint and some youthful production help. This record finds McCartney sounding more with-it and aware of the world around him than anything else he's done in the past ten or fifteen years. He sounds vital and fresh, not rehashed, and you get the sense he still has something left to say with his music, so hurray for that.

The Top Ten: For the longest time, I didn't feel that this year was as strong as last year. That being said, I found some albums this year that were absolutely fantastic.

10. Jenny Lewis, Acid Tongue: This is what I expected last year's Rilo Kiley album to sound like: clever lyrics, soaring vocals, and a variety of instrumental variation from the simple title track (with it's lone acoustic guitar and swelling backing chorus) to "Fernando" (which has some fun slide guitar). Plus, it's got a duet with Elvis Costello, "Carpetbaggers," that is just pure awesome.

9. Elvis Costello, Momofuku: Speaking of Costello, his latest is also wonderful. There's nothing particularly surprising about the record, it's just Costello doing his thing and doing well.

8. The Raconteurs, Consolers of the Lonely: More varied in style and sound than their first record, with a bit more overt Jack White control in evidence. This plays like a full-band version of a White Stripes record in some places, but the Raconteurs have still carved a separate existence apart from White's other band. "Salute Your Salution" is currently the most-played song on my iPod, if that tells you anything.

7. Coldplay, Viva La Vida: I admit it: I only got this album because of the use of the song in that iTunes commercial. I am officially Apple's bitch. That being said, it's a strong album, full of solid craftsmanship and polished, catchy songs that you can't help but sing along and tap your toes to. I know it's stylish to dog on them for being so earnest and bombastic (kinda like U2), but this is honestly a strong album from start to finish and different enough from their usual thing to be worthwhile.

6. The Hold Steady, Stay Positive: "Our songs are singalong songs," the band boasts in the opening number, "Constructive Summer." And it's true: "Sequestered in Memphis" is the sort of shout-along bar song that has everyone joining in, while "Magazines" rocks in a convincing Bruce Springsteen sort of way. This album's been compared to the Boss's The Wild, The Innocent, and the E Street Shuffle, but that comparison only works if you think of every single song on here being as good as "Rosalita."

5. Jakob Dylan, Seeing Things: I'm a sucker for all things related to the Dylan family, so a Jakob Dylan solo album was right up my alley. The spare instrumentation and introspective lyrics are exactly the sort of thing you'd expect from a solo record, but the warmth and occasionally even joy that permeates these songs is a welcome breath of fresh air.

4. The Walkmen, You & Me: Atmospheric, thumping, and jangly as all hell, it's everything I wanted the new My Morning Jacket album to be (but wasn't). The shout of "hey!" in the chorus of "Four Provinces" just invites you to shout along with it, and the reverb-heavy early days of rock and roll vibe that permeates the album is just perfect for these late-night tunes.

3. The Gaslight Anthem, The 59 Sound: Damn, Gina. Talk about energy and owing a debt to the Boss. Not only do they reference his songs in at least three or four tunes here (along with a passing nod to Tom Waits, Tom Petty, and probably a dozen other classic rockers), they manage to do so in a way that doesn't sound like a tribute band or as though they have to cop lyrics and motifs from their idols to make it. There's not a band song on here, from the thunderous opener "Great Expectations" to the title track (the most driving meditation on death and dying I've heard in ages), the Counting Crows-quoting "High and Lonesome," and the quieter closer "The Backseat," this is simply one of the best records I've heard all year.

2. Bob Dylan, The Bootleg Series, Volume 8: Tell Tale Signs: Collecting b-sides, rare cuts, alternate and live takes, and soundtrack work from the past twenty years, the latest entry into the Bootleg Series may not be as essential as the first couple of sets, but it's no less revelatory or amazing to listen to. Hearing the songs that Dylan left on the cutting room floor is always an interesting (and occasionally frustrating) exercise (I'm still not over him dropping "Blind Willie McTell" from Infidels). There are a couple of frustrating points this time out: two versions of "Dignity" seems a little superfluous, especially since I didn't care much for the song to begin with. The two alternate takes on "Mississippi" are less annoying, though I'd have still been fine with just one version of it and maybe some stuff from the Masked and Anonymous soundtrack instead (I'm still waiting for that solo acoustic version of "I'll Remember You" that was featured in the film but never released otherwise!). Definitely a must-have for any fan of Dylan, and a reminder that this man's leftovers are usually just as strong as anyone else's a-game.

1. She & Him, Volume 1: Maybe I'll catch flack for this. it's not an Important Album, it's not some experimental conceptual record designed to challenge our notions of what music can do. All it is is great music. Simple, direct, fun, with a sense of humor, longing, and sentimentality. I wouldn't have thought the record could have grabbed me the way it did, but it's held sway over my listening since essentially the moment I first downloaded it. I don't get tired of listening to it, and that's as high a compliment as you can really pay to a piece of music, I feel.


Sunday, December 21, 2008

"Here We Are In The Middle Of The First World"

Just what the hell have I been doing with myself?

1. Teaching. Apparently it's something that can be time consuming. Who knew?

2. Tutoring. Two to three nights per week and Saturdays, I'm sitting at a table surrounded by knee biters, tutoring the crap outta them. It's different enough from my day job to keep me at least halfway interested, though it does make some of my days rather long.

3. Music. A lot of good stuff's come out in the last couple of months. More than I've actually been able to keep up with, as a matter of fact. The new Ryan Adams isn't too shabby (far superior to last year's Easy Tiger, for certain), and I'm absolutely enamored of the Gaslight Anthem. I should have a list of my top ten or so albums of the year by the end of next week, so hurray for that.

4. Reading Comics. Lots of stuff here lately. Been trying to follow the happenings in the Batman titles, what with Batman supposedly dying and all. But mostly I do trade paperbacks, since they're more economical and I get to read a whole story in one go. I finally got all of BPRD (well, all the stuff that's been collected so far), all the new Blue Beetle trades, and a couple of odds and ends. Some of Keith Giffen's Justice League stuff (I Can't Believe it's Not the Justice League and Formerly Known as the Justice League), which is hysterical and exactly what a comic should be, I feel.

5. Waiting for Winter Break. I mean, seriously, I'm freakin' exhausted from work. Even when I get a full night's sleep, I don't feel very rested. I am ready for 2008 to be over.


Song of the Moment: The Submarines, "You, Me, & the Bourgeoisie"

Thursday, December 04, 2008

"She Blinded Me With Science!"

Heading up to New York for a three-day weekend tomorrow (hurray for taking the day off from school!), but before I left the science teacher here at school asked me to put together a playlist for the Science Fair tomorrow. Being the music nerd that I am, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to foist my musical tastes on other people, even if (especially if) I wasn't going to be there to do it in person. He asked for mostly mellow, low-key stuff, and I only had whatever was available on my computer (as opposed to the external hard drive where the vast majority of our music lives), so it was an interesting challenge. Thought it might be something worth sharing.

Interesting side note: many of the songs are from this year, which is surprising for me...since, y'know, I usually only really dig stuff recorded before I was born.

1. Jakob Dylan, "Something Good This Way Comes." I have a soft spot for the Dylan family and any project it's involved in, and I really dug the younger Dylan's solo record from this year. Probably in my top ten for the year (but that's a post for another time).

2. Ingrid Michaelson, "Over the Rainbow." This was a year for indie girls for me, I guess. She does a beautiful read of the old standard with just an acoustic guitar to back her vocals.

3. Jackson Browne, "Oh, My Love." Jackson Browne doing John Lennon? Sure, why the hell not! Definitely one of the best tunes to come off the otherwise bland (or occasionally infuriating) double-album Lennon covers thing.

4. Graham Dolby & the Grahamophones, "Jeeves & Wooster." Because you can never have too much Jeeves and Wooster in your life. Or your playlist.

5. Jack Johnson, "If I Had Eyes." The laid-back surfer shtick is one of my guilty pleasures.

6. Hem, "Jackson." I think every cover I've ever heard done by Hem has been perfect. Yes, perfect.

7. The Dave Clark Five, "Because." British Invasion goodness from the band that once went toe to toe with The Beatles.

8. Martin Sexton, "Diner." I love this song entirely because it was used in an episode of Scrubs. That quite possibly makes me very lame.

9. Delaney & Bonnie, "Piece of My Heart." Not as well-known or as definitive as the Janis Joplin version, but a nice read of the song nonetheless.

10. The Watson Twins, "Fall." I have a soft spot for these sisters after their turn as the backing vocalists for Jenny Lewis's first (excellent) solo album.

11. Marc Cohn, "Walking in Memphis." I have no excuse. Really.

12. The Weepies, "Wish I Could Forget." Dunno what prompted me to download them in the first place, but they're exactly what I wanted out of strummy indie folk pop (that is totally a genre).

13. She & Him, "Sentimental Heart." I've listened to this song over 20 times easily this year. It's that catchy.

14. Glen Hansard & Marketa Irgolva, "Falling Slowly." I really dug the movie Once, though I feel the music loses a bit of something outside of the context of the film.

15. Robert Plant & Alison Krauss, "Killing the Blues." Whoever decided these two needed to make an album together deserves some sort of award.

16. Don McClean, "Vincent." I'm a sucker for Don McClean, I can't help it. And this was way less obvious than "American Pie."

17. The National, "Gospel." Still one of my favorite albums from last year, Boxer just sounds better and better with each listen. I totally missed this song somehow last year, but I love it now.


Song of the Moment: Hem, "Jackson"

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

"We've Got A Lot To Be Thankful For"

It's nice to finally have a break, though it's not nearly as long a break as I'd like. It also seems as though, given all of the social obligations Michelle and I have this weekend, we'll be even busier on our days off than we would be going to work. I think I'll need a vacation from my vacation.

A Wednesday afternoon nap and a nice, relaxing evening here at the house have done wonders for my mental health. The cat and I are currently sequestered on the couch, though I think the cat is quite a bit more comfortable than I am.

Our fish keep having babies. There's at least two dozen fish in the tank now, possibly topping 30 even. We think the male fish is the one that has a broken swim bladder (a condition which makes it impossible for him to float, so he tends to sink to the bottom of the tank. This apparently does not prevent him from gettin' it on with the ladies.


Song of the Moment: Glen Phillips, "Thankful"

Sunday, November 16, 2008

"So Hip To Be Square"

I completed my first week of actual tutoring yesterday. The more I do this, the easier it seems to be. The system they've put in place is pretty straightforward and easy to follow, it turns out, and for the most part I enjoy what I'm doing (when I can get past my nervousness at jumping into a new, if only part-time, job). Working with elementary school students is very different than working with high schoolers. Part of it is their attitude: these kids haven't hit that point where learning is an unpleasant or undesirable thing yet. I remember high school with at least a measure of clarity still (I mean, it's only been a decade since I was there), and I do recall a certain reluctance to listen to most of my teachers and a general lack of desire to work or put effort into things. Admittedly, I apparently had the same lack of initiative back in elementary school and middle school, at least according to my parents, so maybe I'm not a good case study. But these kids, for the most part, are really enthusiastic about the tutoring, and they generally have a good attitude and do whatever I put in front of them.

Thanksgiving is fast approaching. I guess we're doing it with Michelle's folks again this year, as has become our tradition. I do admit that I rather miss some of my old traditions, such as falling asleep on the couch while football plays on the TV.

We're still trying to figure out what we're doing for Christmas: staying here or going up to New York. I'd personally like to go to Oklahoma again, but I know it's unrealistic and not something we can really handle again just yet. We're thinking about it for next year, though, which'd be nice. And I'll see the family in March anyway for Clif's wedding...and again in May for Scott's wedding.

Part of me really wants to hear the new Guns 'N' Roses album, Chinese Democracy, that comes out in a week and a half or so. Not because I particularly like the band, but because any album that took something like 15 years to get recorded is either going to be pretty solid or really, really crappy. I kinda lean towards crappy, but like I said, I'm not really a fan.


Song of the Moment: Huey Lewis and the News, "Hip to be Square"

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Nerdin' It Up

So it turns out my apartment complex is just full of giant nerds. Nerds even bigger than me, if you can believe it.

Don't believe it? Take a look...

A Star Wars reference and a Superman reference? Side by side, even! Truly, this is a wonderful complex to live in.


Song of the Moment: Donovan, "Sunshine Superman"

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Rock the Vote

I'm out voting early this morning because I have tutor training later today and wanted to make sure I still had the chance. It really is strange being in such a place as Northern Virginia, where people take politics so seriously and so many of them are willin to stand in line at the crack of dawn to vote.

Regardless of which candidate you favor, I encourage everyone who can to get out there and vote today. I don't have to tell you just how important or critical or historic this election is. I know people are getting burnt out on all the election coverage, but don't let the media saturation keep you from doing what you should.


Song of the Moment: Bruce Springsteen, "This American Land"

Saturday, October 25, 2008

"Knock Your Can On Down"

Michelle's been a wee bit sick this weekend, having actually taken off part of Friday from work to get some sleep and try to fight off a more serious illness. She seems to be doing better, and will hopefully not miss anymore work because of this malady.

As a general rule, I try not to discuss politics with my family. I used to think I was a political moderate, but my time here in Virginia has proven to me that I'm actually just a liberal who didn't know it. Most of my family, true Oklahomans that they are, are quite conservative. Knowing this, and also knowing that they don't actually follow politics the way that I do (what with living within spitting distance of the nation's capital), I recognize that trying to change their minds about anything political is a task akin to Sisyphus: I can keep rolling the stone of fact and whatnot up the hill, but their opinions are just gonna shove it right back down to the bottom of the hill.

This isn't to say my family's ignorant; far from it: my parents are both college-educated, as are some of my grandparents, and the ones who don't have "fancy college learnin'" are still quite intelligent in that "I can fix things with my hands and know how the world in Oklahoma works" sort of way. None of them (with the exception of my brother, Clif) has any sort of historical or political science training, or really understands how politics work. Clif does, and it's possible to have an intelligent discussion on the issues with him, even if we don't agree on things.

With the rest of my family, though, it just isn't possible. I know what I believe to be right, and I know that they disagree. I know I'm not going to change their minds, and they know they're not going to change mine. So we...don't talk about it.

Anyway, yeah, I don't talk about politics with my family. Does mean that, come November 4, one side or the other may do some gloating that the other doesn't want to hear. It's a very distinct possibility.

And now, a kitten!


Song of the Moment: The White Stripes, "Your Southern Can Is Mine"

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

"Don't You Give No Jive To Me"

We finally set up the new fish tank over the long weekend. As I'd suspected, setting it up didn't take more than an hour, it was just difficult for us to find the time and energy to spend that hour getting things up and running.

The tank looks great, though. I'll try to post a picture of it when I think about it.

Spent a lot of time last week listening to the latest in Dylan's Bootleg Series (volume 8, for those keeping score at home). It's nice to hear unreleased and alternate stuff from the past couple of decades (it's hard to believe that the 1980s are a couple of decades ago. Ugh! Like I need to feel old or something). I do have one beef, though: some of the song selection was a little week. For instance, did we need two different versions of "Mississippi" and "Dignity?" Honestly, "Dignity" isn't that great a song to begin with, and one version would've been more than enough. Why not some more of his soundtrack stuff, or maybe an alternate take of "Things Have Changed" (from the fantastic Wonderboys soundtrack)? I'm also still waiting for him to actually release the amazing solo acoustic version he did of "I'll Remember You" on the movie Masked and Anonymous. I mean, it was absolutely gorgeous, but wasn't anywhere to be found on the soundtrack to that film. C'mon, Dylan, it's a great reinterpretation of your own work!

I notice how Apple's put out the new MacBooks and MacBook Pros this week. I know that my own computer is still in perfect working order and doesn't need to be replaced yet, but I can't help salivating over these things. I am a little put off by the fact that they've completely done away with the mouse button, though. I mean, I get that the touchpad has reached some sort of new plateau or whatever, but I'm old fashioned and liked having a button.

Also, I'm afraid it'll just be that much easier for the cats to jump up on the computer and accidentally purchase a song from iTunes.

I have an interview on Thursday for an after-school tutoring job. Don't ask me why I want to spend more of my time working.

I leave you with this: the cats spent a good half hour watching me clean out the old fish tank a couple of weeks ago. They were absolutely fascinated by it. They are also tiny as hell still, even though they're already over a year old. Michelle and I think they will remain tiny forever, 'cause other cats we've seen that are younger than they are significantly bigger. Our cats are scrappier, though.


Song of the Moment: Blind Willie McTell, "Southern Can Is Mine"

Sunday, October 05, 2008

"I Am A Warrior"

So a pencil company, Mirado, makes a pencil called the Black Warrior.

Personally, when I think of the term "Black Warrior," I think of this:

That's totally not what you get in the store, though.


Song of the Moment: Jenny Lewis and Elvis Costello, "Carpetbagger"

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

"Maria Came From Nashville"

We've made it through the first month of school. Michelle's settled into the reading position pretty well. In a way, it seems like it's what she was always supposed to do. She also knows she'll be teaching at the school at least a year past the time it takes her to earn her degree, so there's an element of job security there which is nice.

We've been celebrating her new position by updating our wardrobe. I hadn't really bought new clothes since...well, basically since I moved out here. I'd purchased a few shirts and a couple pairs of jeans, but that was three years ago. New clothes were in order for both of us, and I think we look pretty spiffy. Michelle has decided that this is the Year of the Cardigan, and to that end she's purchased a few that are very versatile and look really nice. As for me, I picked up a blazer jacket thing that's a little more casual than a sports coat or suit jacket. I basically wore it all last week, regardless of what shirt I had on underneath. Each outfit had approval from Michelle, but I secretly think she was sending me out of the house looking like a reject from Beverley Hills 90210 on occasion. I do have an inordinate love for the jacket, though.

The weather's starting to turn, and I for one couldn't be happier. Late fall and winter are always my favorite time of the year, even if it does mean occasionally having to scrape ice off the windshield. Plus, it gives me an excuse to wear that new jacket all the more often.

I've been digging a band called The Gaslight Anthem lately. They've got a Hold Steady/Bruce Springsteen vibe that's great, and the energy in their music just grabs you by the throat and doesn't let go. I heartily recommend their latest, the 59 Sound, to anyone looking for exciting new music.


Song of the Moment: The Gaslight Anthem, "High and Lonesome"

Saturday, September 13, 2008

"Hungry Like The Wolf"

I have only become more of a geek as I've aged. I mean, I wasn't really sure it was possible, but compare me ten years ago to me now, and it's pretty clear that the geek quotient has risen considerably.

Me Ten Years Ago
Played Magic: The Gathering (25 Geek Points)
Watched anime, including Dragonball Z (50 Geek Points)
Owned all the Star Wars films on VHS (10 Geek Points)
Read sci-fi/fantasy books for pleasure (20 Geek Points)
Read roughly 50 webcomics on a regular basis (50 Geek Points)
Total Geek Points: 155

Me Today
Play/Game Master a Star Wars Role Playing Game at school (40 Geek Points)
Own an entire bookshelf of Comic Book Trade Paper Backs (50 Geek Points)
Own all of the Star Wars films on DVD (20 Geek Points, 'cause I re-bought them)
Watch the DC Animated Universe shows (Batman, Superman, Justice League, etc.) (25 Geek Points)
Read roughly 20 webcomics on a regular basis (20 Geek Points)
Watch Doctor Who (25 Geek Points)
Total Geek Points: 180

Okay, so maybe not as wide a gulf as I thought, but it's still there. And I traded in some lower geek interests (Magic) for some higher ones (comic books).

Speaking of comic books, I've started following a few titles in their actual monthly issue format rather than waiting for trades. I'm trying to keep the number of titles I follow to a minimum, 'cause I feel that paying $3 for a 26 page comic is a bit expensive. But here's what I've been reading...

Wonder Woman: Mostly 'cause Gail Simone is writing, and I love her stuff. The first story arc she wrote was great, the second one was okay, but the third one left me a little cold. It was too scattered and disjointed, and I felt that, while Simone's got a great grasp on the character of Wonder Woman, she's not really sure what story she wants to tell with the character yet. This month's issue, though, with her boyfriend Nemesis meeting her mother, was pretty great. The second half of the story with the movie thing and all was pretty cool, too. This is the sort of story I was expecting out of Simone.

Secret Six: Speaking of Gail Simone comics, I'm also digging Secret Six. The first issue just came out, and it maintains the spirit of the original six-issue miniseries pretty well. The relationships of the main characters, while pretty screwed up, make a whole lot of sense in the context of their world. I'm really excited to see where this series is going.

Final Crisis: The only reason I'm reading this is that I have great faith in Grant Morrison. I'm not following any of the spinoffs, nor do I have any desire to. Our Lord and Savior Grant is enough for me.

Invincible Iron Man: This is a great title. I've just started getting into Matt Fraction's work (his run with co-writer Ed Brubaker and artist David Aja on Immortal Iron Fist was awesome), and this book is absolutely great. The tone and story are excellent, the characters are spot-on, and it's significantly more interesting than any of the other Iron Man titles currently available (I'm looking at you, Director of S.H.I.E.L.D.). The only thing that bugs me is the art. You can tell that, especially in certain places, it's all based on photo references. The people feel too stiff. And the digital coloring doesn't help much. Everyone kinda looks...fake, I guess, but not cartoony. Like plastic people, I guess. When it's Tony Stark in the Iron Man suit, though, it's just fine (though there was an image in issue #1 where he was flying against a cloud background, and the background just looked like a photograph, while Iron Man looked like a drawing. It really bugged me).

So yes, my geekiness knows no bounds, it's true. But I'm content with it.


Song of the Moment: The Walkmen, "Four Provinces"

Saturday, September 06, 2008

"We Wouldn't Have To Eat Kraft Dinners"

Another school year has started. I'm pretty content with my classes this year. I've got U.S. History and World History II (as usual), and I'm teaching Civics and Humanities again. I haven't taught Humanities since the 2006-2007 school year, and I haven't taught Civics since my first year (2005-2006, for those keeping score). I'm also doing a Geography independent study for three students. It's the same period as Civics, but it only lasts for a semester (then someone else will have to deal with the three darling children).

We've got a new Director, and it seems like she'll be a decent fit with the school. I dunno, it's hard to make a judgment call on it since she's only been there for two weeks (and only had students for one of those weeks). I guess we'll see if she's a good match the first time there's a crisis or major issue.

Well, speaking of a crisis, we still don't have a reading teacher. For a school full of kids who have reading issues, that's a problem. We'd found someone right before the school year started, but they had to give 30 days' notice to their previous employer before they could join us. That means we've got at least two weeks before we'd have her with us, assuming that she actually decided to come join the school (we haven't been able to get ahold of her since we technically hired her two weeks ago, so that's a problem). The Director's solution? Ask my wife, Michelle, to be the new reading teacher. Michelle doesn't know if that's something she's really ready for or even wants to do. She's going to try it for a week and see what happens. There are a lot of logistical problems associated with her taking that position, but we desperately need someone there. Michelle may be just what we need.

Our friend Lauren is visiting this evening. She brought with her a variety of sausages and wines and all sorts of other crazy crap. Together with the macaroni and cheese I bought earlier this afternoon, they combine to form an evening of entertainment and excitement! Honestly.


Song of the Moment: The Gaslight Anthem, "The 59 Sound"

Thursday, August 07, 2008

"Every Girl's Crazy 'Bout A Sharp-Dressed Man"

For someone like me who is of the, shall we say, larger persuasion, clothes shopping can be an exercise in frustration and humiliation. It's either difficult to find clothes in my size (if it's big enough for my torso, the arms are often too short on a shirt...as though I'm some rolly-polly with stub arms or somesuch) or difficult to find something worth wearing. The only thing I can figure out is that clothing designers must believe that, once people reach a certain weight, they lose the ability to discern between what looks good and what looks like crap. "Fashion" isn't something they've really considered for big guys.

This mostly applies to shirts, which are almost uniformly awful. The colors, the patterns...you'd think that all fat people are blind (or at least color blind). That's why I tend to wear t-shirts that're just a solid color (gray or black for preference). Dress shirts are almost as bad. Finding a dress shirt in my size isn't difficult, but finding a nice one in my size is. I searched last week for a new dress shirt for half an hour, and anything that looked halfway decent or interesting didn't come in my size.

Suffice to say, I'm not a big fan of shopping for clothes. That just makes it all the more frustrating that I'll have to go buy new clothes before the school year starts, as all of my work pants bit the dust at the end of the year (considering I'd been wearing them pretty much constantly for three years, I'd say they served their time).


Song of the Moment: Don Henley, "Dirty Laundry"

Thursday, July 31, 2008

"Our Songs Are Sing-Along Songs"

Only a little over a week to go in summer school. Lord knows I'm ready for the break now (and I have to spend my weekend writing progress notes. AND I have to attend a wedding. Mine is truly a charmed life).

Michelle and I have been sucked into a few new things over the past week:

(1) Twitter. It's like instant messaging with lots of people, which is groovy.

(2) Eureka, the quirky, whimsical show on the Sci-Fi Channel. Reminds me a lot of Gail Simone's Welcome to Tranquility comic, and anything reminiscent of Gail Simone's work is okay by me.

Tried getting into Burn Notice because of the Bruce Campbell involvement, but the couple of episodes I've seen of that did not impress. The main character (who isn't Bruce. How can he be in a TV show and NOT be the main character? It's a travesty) is too generic and cookie-cutter, the dialog has no real life to it (and most people's delivery in the show is nothing short of atrocious), and Bruce just isn't in the show enough. I think if the show were more focused on him, it'd be worth watching, but I'm just a big Bruce Campbell fan (there's always re-watching Jack of All Trades and The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr., which I for some reason don't own).

In other news, my parents keep sending me politically-conservative email forwards. I kinda want to call them up and scream, "I'm a liberal! I don't think taxes are bad! I don't think war is good! And you can take your hillbilly interpretation of the 2nd Amendment and blow it out your ass!" But I can't do that, because I am a polite and well-mannered son.

Oh, and the new Hold Steady album is pretty awesome. I've seen reviews comparing it to Bruce Springsteen's The Wild, The Innocent, and the E Street Shuffle (my least-favorite Bruce album, and the one that I never listen to except for "Rosalita"). I guess you could say it's like E Street Shuffle...if that album had kicked off with "Rosalita," and then played more songs like that for the rest of the album. So yeah, nothing like E Street Shuffle, really.


Song of the Moment: The Hold Steady, "Constructive Summer"

Friday, July 25, 2008

"I Used To Be Disgusted"

I find myself becoming increasingly frustrated with some of my students in summer school. Their lack of effort or motivation, their willful disregard of rules and instructions, their tendency to just do...well, nothing. It's all getting to me. I'd say I need a break, but I know there's only two weeks left and that I can make it that long.

Still, it's difficult some days during summer school to remind myself why I enjoy teaching. I don't have that problem during the regular school year, but that's probably because I'm teaching history then and I feel more in my element.

Finally got my updated GMU transcript this morning and delivered it to the Powers That Be (PTB) at the other school so we can get my full teaching license. For those who don't know the story, one of my classes wasn't showing up on my transcript. I called about it, and they said they had to file something called retro-enrollment papers to get it added back, and that it was all on their end and I just had to sit back and wait a couple of weeks for it to appear on my unofficial transcript. Well, a month passed, and no word. I called back and discovered that, since the class was more than a year old, the Dean's Office had to send a memo to the Vice Provost's Office to get it approved, then it had to be sent back to the Dean's Office, who would then send it on to the Registrar, who would finally put the class on my transcript. That took another month. It should've taken a week, tops, even with the inherent lack of communication between departments that you find at universities. I mean, I'd've walked the damn paperwork back and forth across campus if it'd have got the stuff done faster.

But now it's taken care of, and I should have my official license from the PTB in a few weeks (give or take). Hurray!


Song of the Moment: Elvis Costello, "(The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes"

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Where'd I leave the torch and pitchfork?

Michelle pointed me towards this article about a recent diatribe by syndicated whackjob Micahel Savage. Calling autism a "fraud" just reveals how ignorant the man actually is.

And while we're at it, what's with the whole rant about gender essentialism? Seriously, teaching young men to actually give two tugs about how other people feel makes them weak? What? How is not treating everyone like they were subhuman a bad thing?

I swear to God, if he invokes the 1950s as some sort of nostalgic golden age, when men were men and women kept their mouths shut and cooked, I may have to commit a hate crime.


Song of the Moment: Don Henley, "Dirty Laundry"

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Too Quiet

Without Michelle around, it's too quiet. I'm starting to get kinda lonely, and it's only been a day.

It's gonna be a long week.


Song of the Moment: My Morning Jacket, "I'm Amazed"


Chrono Trigger? Chrono Trigger.

Looks like it's coming out in Japan in Winter 2008, so we can expect it sometime next year? God, I hope so. A port of the Trigger would be glorious.

I know SquareEnix is just trying to profit off our nostalgia by repackaging games that're over a decade old, but I think it says something about how high the quality of those games was that I still shell out the cash to buy them again.


Song of the Moment: Chrono Trigger, "Brink of Time"

Monday, July 07, 2008

"All By Myself"

Michelle's out of town for the week up in New York City, visiting her family. I'm thus left here to my own devices. The house is rather dark and quiet, just me and the cats. I've only got one light, my computer, and the TV/DVD on.

Next week I head out to Oklahoma for a few days. I really need to play the guitar quite a bit before I head out, because otherwise my fingers are not going to make it when we do the big family singalong at my uncle's birthday party. Even if I play for an hour or two every night, though, I'm pretty sure this is gonna be rough on 'em.

Summer school continues well. Kinda wish I could just laze about all day, doing nothing, but that ain't gonna happen.

The cats are getting into the crazy period of the evening where they run circles around the living room and claw at things (the furniture, the walls, me). My only hope is that they'll calm down by the time I go to bed.


Song of the Moment: Rancid, "Time Bomb"

Thursday, July 03, 2008

"I'm On Fire"

I have some rather unpleasant heartburn this morning. It woke me up at 4:30 and never really let me get back to sleep. That sucks.


Song of the Moment: Charlie Sexton, "Burn"

Thursday, June 19, 2008


I woke up to find Michelle watching a Doctor Who marathon on TV.

So yeah, today is the day we prove our geekiness and just watch Doctor Who all day long, apparently. Summer vacation rocks.


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

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

"Jesus Of Suburbia"

So I came one step closer to becoming suburban middle class scum yesterday: Michelle and I got a Costco membership.

I've resisted places like Costco for years. Hate them. Hate the idea of purchasing a palate of breakfast cereal because it was "on sale cheap." I feel kinda like I've sold out, even if the only reason we got it was so we could purchase stuff for the school.

Oh, and a case of Vitamin Water. I don't care for the stuff, but Michelle does, and 24 bottles for under $20 is a ridiculously good deal. Seriously.

Only a couple more days to go. The end is nigh, people, the end is nigh!


Song of the Moment: My Morning Jacket, "I'm Amazed"

Monday, June 09, 2008

"The Good Times Are Killing Me"

My boss announced that she's leaving midway though the summer. Part of it is the possibility of her husband moving midway through the next school year, and part of it is exhaustion.

This job wears people to the bone. The burnout rate is ridiculous, though it's better this year than last (when we had 9 of our 22 staff leave, including the director).

Just three and a half days to go, then I get a break. It's all I can do to hold off panic and bolt myself. I hate these moments of self-doubt.

In other news, the computer at my desk here in the classroom is wheezing like an asthmatic running a marathon at 7,000 ft. elevation. It's a bad scene, yo.


Song of the Moment: Modest Mouse, "Bukowski"

Monday, June 02, 2008

In Defense of The Bends

You'd think that, after more than a decade, an argument like this would be over and done with. You'd be wrong. Most people, to my knowledge, still say OK Computer is the best Radiohead album. The usual counterproposal is that it's actually Kid A. Me, I've always preferred The Bends.

Don't get me wrong, I recognize the importance of OK Computer and Kid A, I really do. But I think, for my money, The Bends is stronger from start to finish.

Sonically, The Bends is more interesting than either of the other two. While OK Computer and Kid A may each manage to develop a very specific sonic palette, with the former full of murky foreboding and the latter full of all manner of electronic squiggles and blips, The Bends goes for a clean, crisp production style that puts the guitars and Thom Yorke's vocals up front. While OK Computer and Kid A may create a strong sense of mood with their productions, a strong sense of mood does not great music make.

A lot is made of the thematic content of OK Computer, and I will admit that you've got me there. There's no overarching thematic concept to The Bends, unless "let's make a great record full of great songs" counts as a theme. And really, what makes a record great: the theme, or the songs? Let me answer that question for you: the songs. If the songs aren't great, the album won't be great, no matter how compelling the concept (just ask Pink Floyd). Taken on a song-by-song basis, The Bends is stronger, more varied, and more interesting. There are great rockers ("Iron Lung," opener "Planet Telex"), cerebral ballads (the glorious "Fake Plastic Trees," the lilting "Nice Dream"), and songs that fall somewhere in between (the breathtaking closer, "Street Spirit (Fade Out)"). While there are arguably some great songs on OK Computer ("Paranoid Android" and "Karma Police," of course, and the off=putting "Climbing up the Walls"), they get lost in the murk and virtually all slower, downtempo songs. Too much gets lost in the swell of shimmer and ephemera.

Honestly, whenever I reach for a Radiohead album, it's usually The Bends or Hail to the Thief (which isn't as consistent as The Bends but is still fantastic). OK Computer may be the one that folks crow about, and Kid A may be the one that changed all the rules about what rock and roll is supposed to be, but for my money, The Bends is the best record.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

"Almost Cut My Hair"

Well, I got a haircut.

The last time I got it cut was August of last year, and that was really just a trim to keep things even. It had become long enough to pull back into a ponytail in the past month or so, though some of the hair in the front didn't always stay in the ponytail.

Which is pretty boring to you, I'm sure. What the hell do you care about my hair issues?

Anyway, it's now the shortest it's been since I moved out to Virginia in 2005. I'm kinda fond of the way it looks, and my head feels about five pounds lighter.

Tomorrow is the school prom...or, as we're calling it, Spring Fling (calling it "Prom" freaked students out too much, apparently). Michelle and I have to attend as chaperones, which is an idea that I still find odd at best.

Just two weeks left of school. I keep telling myself that so I can survive. Two more weeks.


Song of the Moment: Oasis, "She's Electric"

Monday, May 26, 2008

"Let's Go Fly A Kite"

Thank God for Memorial Day Weekend, that's all I'm saying.

The last month or two has been busy as all hell. Between events at school, activities taking up every weekend, and trying to get the last little bit of knowledge crammed into our students' heads before they close up for the summer, it's been crazy. Not to mention we haven't had a short week at school since Spring Break in the middle of March. Kids and teachers were getting stir crazy, lemme tell ya.

But despite all the busyness, it's been a good time. School activities have gone extremely well, including the school fun fair and the lock-in (which we substituted in for the camping trip due to flood-like rain). We had a weird scare at the lock-in when one of our students went into grand mal seizures, but everyone kept their cool and pulled together and I got to go to the hospital, which was...well, fun isn't really the word for it.

I feel I've really come into my own as a teacher this year. My classes feel more structured and organized, I feel more on top of things, and my pacing is much better. I'm still not getting as far in U.S. History as I'd like (only up to about World War II this year), but it's still a damn sight better than last year (Reconstruction) or the year before that (the freakin' 1850s. That was a rough year for all of us).

We flew kites with Michelle's sisters today out in the field across from our apartment building. The wind wasn't as cooperative as we'd have liked, but it was still a lot of fun. Doing an outdoor-type activity for Memorial Day just seemed right somehow.

Speaking of physical activity, we picked up Wii Fit last week. It's neat because it actually manages to make exercising (which I'm not too fond of) fun and interesting. I especially like how playing more unlocks new exercises and such, so it's like it's a game where I'm encouraged to compete in a totally healthy (pun intended) way.

Only 14 more days with students. The end is so close I can almost touch it.


Song of the Moment: The National, "Slow Show (Demo)"

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Curse the Blue Shell

For the past week, we've been playing an awful lot of MarioKart Wii. Let me tell ya, it's a hell of a lot of fun, though the cursed Blue Shell seems to pop up way more than it really should. I've seen it hit three times in the same lap, which is a bit much, I feel.

I was sad to see that they'd dropped the cooperative element of that made Double Dash so much fun. However, that being said, it's still a fantastic game. The new courses are fun, the bikes are pretty cool (and I definitely prefer the way they handle compared to the karts), and there's the ability to use your Mii as your character (though only as one of the "heavies," which is frustrating if you're used to using one of the medium- or light-weight racers). It's getting lots of play around here, though, and anything that gets Michelle and me playing games together is pretty groovy.

Still no sign of Michelle's wedding ring. When we get our economic stimulus checks, we're going to invest in a new ring for her...which is probably the same day we'll find the old ring.

We watched Iron Man on Saturday. It was easily one of the best comic book adaptations I've ever seen (rivaling even Batman Begins, X-Men 2, and Spider-Man). Casting Robert Downey, Jr. as Tony Stark was just perfect. And you definitely need to stick around until after all the credits have rolled for a sweet little extra that'll make your geek lobe tingle.

The MacGuyver Special Mythbusters episode is one of the greatest things ever. Just sayin'.


Song of the Moment: Frank Black, "If Your Poison Gets You"

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

An Open Letter to Gas Stations in the Northern Virginia Area

Dear Gas Stations,

Hey, I'm glad you're around. Really. It is endearing that we're paying $3.50 for fuel now (didn't we invade the Cradle of Freakin' Civilization so oil prices will stay down? How's that working out for us?). I mean, honestly, I'll apparently continue to pay the prices, since I kinda need my car and all.

But seriously, why did you have to go and install the damn tvs?

The gas station was one of the last places I didn't have to deal with commercials. Sure, you had the print ads that were all over the place, but I can ignore them. But the tv screens with sound...was this really necessary? I don't have a refuge anymore. Movies have more commercials at the beginning of them than previews, radio plays like equal parts music and commercials (granted, all the stations are playing the same five songs all the damn time), and now this!

Well, congrats, America, you've finally broken my will to live.


Song of the Moment: Daniel Lanois, "Where Will I Be"

Monday, April 14, 2008

"Wrapped Around Your Finger"

Michelle's wedding ring is missing.

We have no idea what happened to it. Sometime earlier last week, it disappeared off of her nightstand. We think the cats stole it. They tend to like things that're shiny and small enough to bat around.

So we've been turning the apartment upside down all week trying to find the damn thing. It's been very upsetting for the both of us. We haven' given up hope on finding it yet, but it seems less likely with each passing day.


Song of the Moment: Talking Heads, "Life During Wartime"

Sunday, April 13, 2008

"You've Done It Again, Virginia"

Friday was the school's annual talent show, Soap Box. As per usual, I was dragged up on stage quite a few times. One of my students (the only one left in my Thursday afternoon Music Club) and I worked up a song that we recorded for the show, and that went over very well. The whole thing worked out pretty good; the students all performed well, the crowd was appreciative, and everyone left very happy.

Michelle's grandfather is coming into town this week from New York. A lot of our week will probably be devoted to his visit in one way or another, but it's good that he's taking the trip and getting out of the house.

I've been listening to She & Him a lot this past week. Though it's kinda slight in terms of lyrical content (mostly just straight forward love songs), it's a fun collection that's well-done and entertaining. What more could you really want?


Song of the Moment: She & Him, "Sentimental Heart"

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

I Feel Like Bob Barker

We got the cats spayed today. They're kinda groggy but still pretty crazy (Cecilia apparently slipped out of the spare room when Michelle went to check on them, ran down the stairs, around the living room, back up the stairs, into the main bedroom, then back into the spare room. The pain killers are really screwing them up). We have the Wellness Protection Plan thing for the cats, so the spaying only cost 1/10 of what it would've been otherwise (seriously. To get both cats spayed without the plan would've been over $1,000).

April 1st passed without much incident, though supposedly a couple of students are getting suspended for having TP'd the Dean of Students' office. Weird, really, since they're good kids who weren't malicious.


Song of the Moment: Wilco, "Glad It's Over"

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Heroes Original TV Soundtrack

I was originally rather skeptical about the whole Heroes thing. "Sounds kinda like X-Men," I commented on more than one occasion. "It's a TV show on a major network, how good could it actually be?" When I picked up the show on DVD late last year, I became a believer.

So when I saw a Heroes soundtrack, I was excited. Especially when I saw the tracklist: Wilco? My Morning Jacket? Huzzah!

Granted, the first thing you'll notice about the soundtrack is that most of the songs never appeared on the show. They do include the show's incidental music (which is great, if way too brief), including what is possibly the shortest theme song ever (a fantastic ambient swell that always sets things off right).

There's a definite indie bent to the song selection. With new songs from Wilco, the New Pornographers, My Morning Jacket, and Death Cab for Cutie, this is definitely a show with a fairly contemporary sensibility. According to the liner notes, these are the sorts of songs and bands the creators of the show listen to, the bands that inspired them in the making of the series.

There are a few missteps. While I like David Bowie as much as the next person, "Heroes" really doesn't fit in with the rest of the stuff on the disc (it's also the only track that really tries to force a connection to the show's title). The inclusion of Panic at the Disco just set my teeth on edge, as one might expect. I also felt that Sheila Chandra's "Aboneconedrone 3 (Excerpt)" and the Chemical Brothers' "Keep My Composure" just didn't fit in with the style of the rest of the album, and "Maya's Theme" by Cucu Diamantes & Yerba Buena just annoyed me (which might be, at least in part, because I despise the Hispanic Wonder Twins characters so much).

Everything else, though, hits the right tone. The Brighton Port Authority/Iggy Pop collaboration, "He's Frank," is absolutely fantastic, getting just the right mix of menace and funk. The New Pornographers bounce along in exactly the way they should, adding a wonderful power pop/alt-country vibe to the proceedings. Wilco's offering, the excellent "Glad It's Over," could have easily been a stand-out track on last year's Sky Blue Sky, and points to one of the strengths of this collection: the songs don't try to force a connection to the TV show. Instead, they're just a collection of great tunes from great bands. The songs that do seem connected to the themes of the show, such as Bob Dylan's excellent "Man in the Long Black Coat" (originally from 1989's Oh Mercy) are still great songs first, thematically coherent second.

The best track on here, though, is My Morning Jacket's "Chills." A fantastic mixture of their earlier, more country-inflected work, and their more recent reverb-drenched efforts, it finds a vibe that matches the tone of the show perfectly.

Best of all, the liner notes include paintings of each of the bands/musicians done by Tim Sale, the guy who did all the artwork for the show. Pretty sweet.

Really, the set is ideal for anyone who likes indie-infused rock, not just fans of the show. With new tracks from the New Pornographers, Wilco, My Morning Jacket, Nada Surf, and Death Cab for Cutie, it's hard to pass this one up.


Song of the Moment: My Morning Jacket, "Chills"

Sunday, March 23, 2008

"Tell Me Where It All Went Wrong"

Another Spring Break is drawing to a close, and I have to say I wish it'd last another three or four days at least. Time off is nice, y'know? And there's really not another break until the end of school in June. It annoyed me the last couple of years, but having Spring Break in April makes more sense when the school year ends that late.

This week is my birthday, though. So it's got that going for it. Dunno if I'm ready to be 28. I feel that, at that age, I should be an adult. But I don't feel like an adult. I mean, I spent a good amount of time this past week playing Super Smash Bros. Brawl (I've unlocked a lot of characters, too!). Adults are supposed to be interested in investing and yardwork and stuff like that, right? I still watch cartoons.

Michelle's been baking all weekend. We're heading over to her parents' place later this afternoon for Easter dinner. We have no idea what it will include, but there will be pies at least.


Song of the Moment: Camera Obscura, "If Looks Could Kill"

Friday, March 14, 2008

"I Used To Be Disgusted"

Where to start?

1. The Department of Education came to the school last week for what basically amounted to an audit. They visit every three years, and God only knows it put everyone into a bit of a tizzy. The visit was fine, we'll have no trouble getting re-accredited, but it was a tense couple of weeks.

2. Michelle's parents are giving us their old van, making us a two-car household again. The van's got quite a few miles on it, but if it breaks down, we're just selling the sucker. We're not going through another situation like we did with my car last April where I put more money into it in one week than the damn thing was worth.

3. Spring Break next week. Woo!

4. On said Spring Break, we'll be spending the first half up in New York (we actually leave tonight). Michelle's uncle got us plane tickets, so we're not having to drive (hurray! I don't have to go through Jersey again!).

5. Picked up Super Smash Bros. Brawl on Sunday. I've been playing every night, and damn if it isn't the best reason to own a Wii right now. Seriously. Anyone who says differently is a liar and deserves nothing but your contempt.


Song of the Moment: Elvis Costello, "(Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes"

Saturday, February 16, 2008

"We Live In A Poltical World"

Living in the Washington, DC area, you tend to get a higher dose of politics than is probably healthy for anyone. Everyone's got an opinion, everyone thinks they know the way to solve the nation's problems.

As a result, I've been watching stuff on the primaries the past month or so. It's made for less than exciting television, but without new episodes of The Office or Heroes to keep me entertained (thank God the writers' strike finally ended this week!), I've had to watch something.

Both races have been interesting to watch, I will admit. I feel more invested in the Democratic primary (for obvious reasons), though I still can't decide which candidate I like more. That doesn't mean I haven't watched the Republican primary with careful attention, though: it's good to know who the competition will be in November. With McCain the (fairly) clear leader in this set, I don't see why the others haven't just conceded and concentrated on getting him as much support across the party as possible.

It's strange, though: before I moved to this area, I really didn't care that much about politics. I'd have called myself moderate when I lived in Oklahoma, but I really think I was a liberal who just didn't recognize it.

So now is when my parents both decide to send me constant email forwards of crappy political jokes. Most of them are conservative. The one my mom sent yesterday was a series of quotes from Reagan that was basically designed to say, "man, Reagan was awesome!" I wanted to reply back that Reagan was responsible for most of the evil in the 1980s and 1990s, and that he did more to destroy the public education system and the environment than any president before or after. But I didn't, because I have restraint...barely.


Song of the Moment: Bob Dylan, "Political World"

Monday, January 28, 2008

Why I Can't Keep Up

I may just have to give up on music, I tell ya.

See, just when I think I'm starting to catch up and get a bit ahead of the curve on music, either some previously-unknown-to-me band comes along that I have to now catch up on, or they re-release an old album that I love that's either remastered or has added bonus tracks (or, often, both).

Take, for instance, that the Van Morrison catalog is being re-released this week with remastering and bonus tracks. Now, considering that most of Van's catalog was released on CD a couple of decades ago now, the sound quality on the original discs ain't great. Remastered CDs would be a great draw.

So what do I do? Do I just stick with my old, don't sound as good CDs, knowing in my heart that there's a better-sounding version out there with bonus tracks? Or do I buy new copies of all these albums that I've already got?

Argh! Music just doesn't want me to catch up.


Song of the Moment: Van Morrison, "You Make Me Feel So Free"

Thursday, January 24, 2008

"Beep Beep, Beep Beep, Yeah"

I have come to hate driving on the East Coast, and by extension, every single person who lives here.

It took us an hour to get home from work last night. It's a drive that, even with traffic, shouldn't take more than 30 to 35 minutes. On top of that, I had some asshole pass me on a windy, hilly two-lane road. And all it got him was just ahead of me. That's it. Not like he got miles and miles of distance on me from that asinine, that cockslap.

But I've noticed this about East Coast drivers: every single one of them acts as though they were the only person on the road. When there are thousands of cars around you all the time, you can't act like that. It's one thing to act like you're the only one on the road in Oklahoma, where there's at least a 50% chance you are the only car on the road, but it's absurd to do that here.


Song of the Moment: The Beatles, "Drive My Car"

Saturday, January 19, 2008

"Provide Some Distraction"

Spent most of the past week up in New York. The trip was sudden, and the reason for it rather sad: Michelle's grandmother passed away on Tuesday. We left early Wednesday and didn't come back until Saturday afternoon.

Her family's taken it rather hard, understandably. But man, they come out of the woodwork for funerals up there. There must have been over 200 people at the wake Wednesday night, and the funeral on Thursday had a good 75 to 100 in attendance.

The post-funeral lunch was an event unlike any I've ever seen. Some 60 family members crammed into a single room, eating pasta and drinking wine. Lots of wine. Sooooo much wine. Michelle's family went through a lot of wine this week.

It was a sad event, all told, but there was a sense of relief in everyone's eyes. Her grandmother had been suffering for quite awhile, having dealt with kidney failure for the past couple of years and going in and out of the hospital quite often. She was in pain, and now she's not.

She's been posthumously sainted by the family, we noticed. Michelle's grandmother was quite the crazy character, but you wouldn't know it from the way they all talk about her now.


Song of the Moment: Rufus Wainwright, "Katonah"

Saturday, January 12, 2008

"We Got Married"

A year ago tomorrow, Michelle Branco and I got married.

So this weekend, we're heading out of town to celebrate. We're going down to Fredericksburg, where she'll get a massage and a facial (her anniversary present from me). We're also probably going to see a movie to kill time between the end of that and the beginning of the next part of her gift: a big dinner at one of her favorite restaurants with lots of our friends. Should be a blast.

We're also staying at the Kenmore Inn, which I've heard nothing but good things about. I also happened to snag the last room in the joint when I made the reservations earlier this week, so this was clearly meant to be.


Song of the Moment: Spoon, "The Book I Write"