Monday, December 24, 2007

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O holy night!
The stars are brightly shining
It is the night of our dear Savior's birth.

Long lay the world in sin and ever pining
'Til He appeared and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope; the weary soul rejoices
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.

Fall on your knees!
O hear the angel voices!
O night divine!
O night when Christ was born!
O night divine!
O night, O night divine!

Truly He taught us to love one another.
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Change shall He bring, for the slave is our brother
And in His name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus rising
Let all within us praise His holy name.

Fall on your knees!
O hear the angel voices!
O night divine!
O night when Christ was born!
O night divine!
O night, O night divine!

Just a short reminder what the season is about. Merry Christmas, everyone.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

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It's nearly the end of the year, which means it's time for lists of the top whatevers of the year to come out. I put together a list of my CDs of the year last December, and I was pretty pleased with the results. So now, while my Japanese 1 students make posters for another hour, I give you the five CDs of 2007 that you really ought to have been listening to.

Even with a new Radiohead album, I don't feel like there was any one standout album that demands to be made the album of the year. I'll list my five CDs in alphabetical order this year instead.

1. Armchair Apocrypha, Andrew Bird. This CD came out in March, during Lent, so I missed it and all of its hype at first. I bought the CD and set it aside while I fulfilled my Lenten vow, only to find that I didn't like it quite as much as I thought I might. (This shouldn't be a surprise to me, since I didn't particularly like The Mysterious Production of Eggs at first, either.) Genuine and I took in a concert of Bird's in May, and while it was fun, we just weren't that familiar with his new album. The more I listen to it, though, the more I really like it. While most albums I really enjoy have two or three standout songs and several good ones, Armchair has, by my count, six standout songs. I like "Fiery Crash" enough to have it on the mix playing at our wedding reception, and I've liked "Heretics" since I downloaded it from Bird's website before the official release of the album. "Dark Matter" is the rocker of the bunch, showing that Bird can cut loose, while "Scythian Empires" is the surprisingly beautiful and gentle song at the end. (It occupies the same spot on Armchair that "MX Missiles" occupies on Eggs.) While Armchair isn't Bird's best album, it is a very good album, and the logical progression from Eggs. It shows him growing up just a little bit, and if growing up means he produces more music like this, I say that's just fine.

2. In Rainbows, Radiohead. I've reviewed this once in depth and once in passing already on this blog, but I'll write a little more with the benefit of hindsight. I think so much emphasis was placed on Radiohead's innovative distribution model (you can have it for whatever price you want!) that the music sort of became lost in the shuffle. And it's amazing music. Radiohead has focused for years on being the most avant-garde and cutting-edge band that their music, while both avant-garde and cutting-edge, suffered a bit. (Don't get me wrong - I adore Kid A.) With In Rainbows, it sounds like the band, for the first time in ages, are actually enjoying themselves. The subtle back and forth action of the band playing off of each other is back, something that we haven't seen since the days of OK Computer. "15 Step" at first sounds like the album will be more of the electronica that has dominated the last three records, but once it breaks into something that's almost soul, you can see the band is headed somewhere new. "Arpeggi/Weird Fishes" has a beautiful cascading guitar part that sucks you right in. "Reckoner" does the same thing with both Ed O'Brien's guitar and Phil Selway's drums. And "Faust ARP," a sort of version of "Blackbird" for the millennial generation, brings back images of "Exit Music (for a film)". It feels like the band is relaxed for the first time in years. Ironic that once they stop trying to make the best album in history, they succeed in making something tremendous.

3. Neon Bible, Arcade Fire. This is another album that I missed during Lent. Right from the get-go, you can tell the album is much darker than its predecessor, Funeral. "Black Mirror," the leadoff track, has dark, brooding guitars that draw you in. Really, the only way into Neon Bible is through "Black Mirror" - the bright, optimistic spots on the record don't have the same impact unless contrasted with that dark opening. "Intervention" is clearly the highlight of the record, with its impressive pipe organ and the soaring voice of Win Butler shouting lyrics like "Who's going to reset the bone?" Yet the climax of the album, in my mind, comes at two points - once during sinister bass strum and delicate bells of "Black Wave/Bad Vibrations" ("eating from the ghetto on a hundred dollar plate"), and once, more impressively, during "No Cars Go," in which the band pulls out all the stops for their finale. There are a lot of stops, too - with eight regular members, there's a lot of sound to play with. Neon Bible takes some work to warm up to, but, given time, it's worth the wait.

4. Sound of Silver, LCD Soundsystem. I initially only bought this album so I could be ready for the joint Arcade Fire-LCD Soundsystem concert Genuine and I went to this September. I'm really glad I did, since it's fantastic. James Murphy delivered on his first album, but on Sound of Silver, he ups the ante. Each song is built around one set of beats, slowly assembling itself into a full-fledged dance tune by the end. That's just like his first album, except that on this album, he seems to be focused on making his songs more polished rather than just loud and fast. He also sounds like he's having fun, too - "North American Scum" is, by any account, the funniest song of 2007 ("And to all of you who still think we're from England/We're like, no"). Even if you aren't a huge fan of dance, this is still worth checking out. The beats are infectious enough to get even the most reluctant listener tapping their toes.

5. The Stage Names, Okkervil River. This was probably one of the most anticipated albums of the year until October, when In Rainbows dropped. Okkervil River take a step back from their brooding, melancholy music of the last few years to release something a bit happier. "Our Life is a Movie, Or Maybe" shows that the band are ready to start playing songs in a major key, and without any mournful lyrics, either. Their penchant for well-researched, hyperliterate songs hasn't abated, though. "Savannah Smiles" is about the death by suicide of Shannon Michelle Wilsey (better known as the porn star Savannah) in 1994. The soft ballad is kinder than you might expect from an egotistical porn star, but the tenderness in the song is deeply touching. "Plus Ones" comes in as the runner up to "North American Scum" for funniest song of 2007. Will Sheff put together a list of numerical references in famous songs and added one to each of them. Lyrics like "no one wants to hear about your 97th tear" are both clever and funny, each building on the last. And yet, it's more than just lyrics. Okkervil River make beautiful music, and this record is probably their most approachable one yet.

It's long, but those are my reviews of the five best albums of the year. And with Christmas coming up, these are great ideas for gifts, if you're looking for something to get someone. (Not me, though. I already own all five of these.) Honorable mention goes to Beirut's The Flying Club Cup and Spoon's Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, both of which probably would have ended up on this list if I'd heard anything from them.

Happy 2007, everyone. Here's hoping 2008 is as rewarding, musically.

Monday, December 17, 2007

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One of my kids in class today, in speaking to another student, said, "My dad can beat up your dad."

Which made me think of this:

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

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Fun fact: While helping Genuine Draft carry some boxes home from work so we could pack up our belongings, I earned a gigantic (cf. huge, freakin' enormous) paper cut on the tip of my thumb.

Additional fun fact: If you pour hot water over a paper cut, perhaps while washing your hands, it hurts like a mother.

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During my Japanese 2 class, I had my students memorize a dialog and present it to the class. Three students approached me and asked if they could work in a group of three to memorize it. I would have protested, but they were all good, hardworking students, so I let them go ahead, even though the dialog only had two parts (thus, a dialog). I stopped by as I was walking around the class, helping everyone out, and asked how they were doing. The boy in the group (who was working with two girls) simply said, "This threesome is working out great."

He didn't even intend any innuendo. No one giggled or said anything inappropriate. I'm so used to hearing kids search for any trace of entendre in everything they say that it caught me off guard a little. Way to go.

Friday, December 07, 2007

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The Christmas season is upon us, and I've actually been listening to Christmas music this year. I normally make a point of not listening to Christmas carols, if only because the type you tend to hear are songs like "Feliz Navidad" and Paul McCartney's truly horrid "Wonderful Christmas." I really like Christmas hymns ("The First Noel" especially so), but I have a hard time listening to schmaltz in any form. Last year, however, I managed to pick up a copy of Sufjan Stevens' fantastic Songs for Christmas (which I had as my fifth-best album of 2006), and I've been listening to it to and from work. Stevens writes some really solid music, and though this is mostly gimmicky, it's still really good. He has a balance of traditional hymns ("Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing" makes an appearance) with his own originals ("Hey Everybody, It's Christmas Time!"). It makes for a pleasant, soothing commute.

Listening to Stevens' music, though, has had an effect that I did not anticipate. For the first time in quite a while, I find my thoughts centered on Jesus Christ during the season of the holiday commemorating His birth. In recent years, I've been so wrapped up in school and other things that that true spirit of Christmas has fallen by the wayside. This year, it's almost hard not to think of the Savior, though. How can I not when I'm listening to songs like "Little Drummer Boy" and "Once in Royal David's City"? What might be even stranger, though, is that the primarily Protestant doctrines mentioned in the songs ("God in three persons, blessed Trinity," for example) is strengthening my faith in my own decidedly not Protestant church. If anything, I've heard the contrasts more clearly than I would have normally.

It's a really good set of songs, dear readers. You'd do well to pick it up, or at the very least listen to the streaming audio he's made available on his website. It's good for the soul.

Monday, December 03, 2007

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I taught a killer lesson today in my English class. Teaching English has been really difficult, since it's nowhere near my area of expertise. I know a little bit about the books in question (The Scarlet Letter and The Chosen, for eleventh and tenth grades, respectively), but that's as far as my formal training has gone. I really don't know much beyond the plot. I don't know which symbols to develop or what quotes to build on. That said, I talked about the latent hypocrisy in the society in The Scarlet Letter and compared it to high school. The kids spent the first hour of class talking about what horrible people the characters in the book were, but when I pointed out that it's actually not all that different than their own society, everyone got really quiet. The looks on their faces told me that they understood what point I was driving at. I doubt it's anything that they're going to keep with them long-term (I wouldn't be surprised if some of them are currently being judgmental in passing period), but at the very least, they know that I have some relevant points to make, and that I'm worth listening to. I love knowing that I've made a difference, if only a small one. This is why I got into teaching in the first place.

Two little things that probably aren't worth a post of their own now. I'm also pleased with my outfit choice today. It's not especially snazzy or anything, but I really feel like a teacher wearing this. All I need is a nametag of my own and I'd be set. That, and when I got into my car this morning, the odometer read 66666. It's the little things, you know?

Friday, November 30, 2007

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It's been a little while since I've been in the high school environment, so I'd forgotten some of the quirks of the scene. Notable among them is the vocabulary. Political correctness has driven the word "gay" out of the common parlance nearly everywhere except for high schools, where it can mean just about anything you want it to. Among the probably hundred or so times I've heard the word this week were the following:

"The Scarlet Letter is so gay." (Oh, the irony that a book written about heterosexual adultery would be called gay.)
"Look at the gay hats those Jews are wearing!" (Perhaps they meant goy?)
"What a gay class this is."
"Dude, that's so lesbian."

It's already to the point where I had to be very careful telling a girl in my Japanese class the word for "art" when she asked me. (It's geijutsu, incidentally, with the gei pronounced just like you might think.)

Also notable is a complete inability to think outside the box. I like these kids, most of them, but I'm consistently surprised that they can't (or won't, I'm not sure which) infer anything from my assignments other than exactly what I'm saying. An example: today, I gave my Japanese 1 students some sentences to translate. We were learning how to use negatives, and so I gave them a list of questions to respond to in the negative. (Pardon me, but are you Takeshi? No, I am not Takeshi. And so on.) One of the questions asked if the students were seventeen years old. One student raised his hand and asked what he should do if he were seventeen. I assumed he was kidding at first, but he seemed very earnest. I told him to go ahead and lie, though I felt a little guilty about it.

I'd also forgotten how rude and disrespectful students can be. Several of them actually did dances of joy when I told them I was replacing their regular teacher, expressing the depths of their hatred for her. This lady is a perfectly normal person, having done nothing to deserve any of the treatment she was receiving. I've had my fair share of it as well, hearing students yell out in class how gay the lessons are (see above) and about how pointless the assignments are. Does no one teach these people that saying things like that is rude and unacceptable in general society? Or do I just not count as a person because I'm a teacher and not a friend?

This is what inspired my previous post about jerkhood, incidentally. And yes, Mozilla Firefox, I know that "jerkhood" isn't a word recognized by your dictionary. You get to deal with it.

I also routinely get to pick up shredded pieces of paper that students destroy and leave all over my floor. I enjoy ripping things up as much as the next person, but I've never felt it appropriate to destroy things a teacher handed out and leave them all over the floor. Maybe that should have gone in the rude paragraph.

At any rate, I still really enjoy the experience, despite everything I've said above. I throughly enjoy teaching. It's just that I'd forgotten what it was like to be in a high school. Welcome back, I suppose.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

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I was offered a position as a long-term substitute teacher, and while it's not the permanent position I was looking for, it's a start, so I took it. I started teaching yesterday, and I remember why it was that I wanted to be a teacher in the first place. I love being able to correctly explain new ideas to kids, be a positive role model for them, and I especially love seeing the look of dawning comprehension when someone finally gets a particularly difficult concept. It's terribly rewarding, even if they pay isn't. (cliche!)

What I'd forgotten is that for each of those satisfying moments, there are five or six annoying ones to deal with. My last class today had one student in particular who seemed like she had made it her personal mission to be as obnoxious as possible. She got to me at first, but I trained myself to tune her out by the end of the period. It got me thinking, though. Many of my classes have annoying students like that. That's something that you come to expect as a teacher. The average classroom is probably an average cross-section of people I'm likely to meet in life; attendance is compulsory, at least at this stage. So if one in every twenty or thirty students in each class is obnoxious, it stands to reason that one in every twenty or thirty people I meet in life are going to be obnoxious, too.

As many of five percent of the people I run into are going to be complete jerks, and there's not a whole lot I can do about it. That's a sobering thought. I always just assumed that people who were jerks in high school would just grow out of it, but the more of the real world I see, the less I'm inclined to think so.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

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Thoughts and musings:

I took a call at work last night that really got me worked up. It's not even that this woman was doing anything particularly frustrating. She was standing somewhere that was noisy, and instead of moving somewhere quieter, she just kept asking me to speak up. By the end of the conversation, I was near shouting, and to a point where everyone else in the building could hear me. (It's a big building.) I drove home still steaming from the conversation. I was irritated, and I felt pretty justified in being irritated. And then, after about half an hour of letting myself be irritated, I realized that someone perfect - someone like the Savior - wouldn't have let something like that get to them. And that I'm just not perfect yet. That's not a bad thing, since I am, after all, human, but it reminded me - quite forcibly - just how far I have to go. It's a good thing I have a lifetime and more to work on it.

Sometimes, I put on a CD that I haven't listened to in a while and wonder how I ever forgot about it. Listening to The Crane Wife today brought me back. I could listen to "The Island" forever.

I had a dream a couple of nights ago that I watched Louis Armstrong leap across a parking lot, suddenly bound a few stories into the air, and then crash into the pavement, dying instantly. It came as a shock to the nation, especially since they had found out earlier that day that Marilyn Monroe had also died - and it all coincided with the end of Survivor: Canada. It was all too much for America to bear. I walked past a traffic sign consoling a grieving and wounded nation. Dreams are weird sometimes.

The invitations are finally printed and done. That's about the last thing to take care of before the wedding. I hope.

Sometimes I think about just packing in the blog for good. I still like writing and all, but sometimes it's hard to come up with clever ideas. They just don't hit me as often or as powerfully anymore. Maybe I'm just in a down phase.

I'd really like some Goldfish crackers right about now.

I started reading an Orson Scott Card book that wasn't Ender's Game or Ender's Shadow at the behest of a co-worker last week. I've read several more in the meantime. Man, they're pretty good. I wish I'd known about them earlier.

I still worry that some sort of demon will reach out from under my bed and devour me at night when all the lights are off. I'm usually safe once I'm off the floor, but not always. You're never too old to be afraid of the dark.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

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A ponderable for the ages: why do my farts smell like barbecue sauce?

Definitely time to start eating healthier.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

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Since they banned enjoyment in any form at work a couple of days ago, I've taken to starting Wikipedia chains. I'll load up an article that interests me (yesterday's was Bo Jackson) and click on other links that seem interesting. From the article on Bo Jackson, I ended up reading about 2001: A Space Odyssey. Today's was pretty interesting, too.

Man, Wikipedia is fun. How did I ever pass the time without it?

Sunday, October 28, 2007

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I've been posting about the exploits of the Colorado Rockies lately. It's been tremendously fun watching their meteoric rise to the World Series - the World Series! - over the last six weeks, and I expected the trend to keep going once they got there.

For those of you unfamiliar with the world of sports, the Boston Red Sox swept the Rockies out in four games.

As colossally one-sided as that may seem, it was actually somewhat competitive. The Rockies had chances to take the lead and put games out of reach more than once, but they always seemed to fail to capitalize. For more than a month, it seemed that everything was going their way - balls barely clearing the fence, hitters barely missing pitches, everything - but once they faced up against Boston, all of that good fortune changed to ill omen. Game 1 ended in a horrific 13-1 loss that couldn't have been fun even for the most hardcore Red Sox fan. (Anyone with a soul had to hurt watching that game. Three consecutive bases loaded walks? That's not a good game, it's a slaughter. I ached during that inning.) Game 2 was close (only 2-1), which game me hope. Game 3 ended up 10-5, although it was 6-5 at one point. And tonight ended up as another one run loss, with a rally coming up just a little too short.

My beef here isn't with the Boston Red Sox. The Rockies had a tremendous run, but the Sox were just better. They consistently outplayed the Rockies, forcing them to cause errors, miss pitches, and look every bit like the World Series rookies they were. No, I'm not bitter about them. What bothers me is the smug, smirking, Beantown fans. For a team that hadn't won a World Series title for 86 years, you'd think they might show a little more class to a team that looked increasingly overmatched. Instead, I heard nothing but how much better their precious Red Sox were, how no one in the National League could possibly compete with team in the American League, and about how ridiculously overrated the Rockies were. Truth be told, the American League does have three or four clubs that are consistently better than any NL team (the Yankees, the Red Sox, the Indians, and possibly the Tigers), but hearing that rubbed in my face over and over and over went well beyond the domain of sportsmanlike rivalry. This was downright classless, and especially from a group known for having to endure season after season of heartwrenching defeat. (You want to see pain? Find any Red Sox fan and bring up Bill Buckner's error in 1986. That's pain.)

Granted, the Rockies haven't endured anything like the Sox have. They've only been in existence since 1993. They've been bad, but fourteen years is nothing compared to eighty-six. I was just surprised at how smug and unfeeling the Red Sox Nation were during this series. Congratulations, Nation. You beat a foe that was probably overmatched, yet hung in there during nearly every game. They rode a magical streak that saw them lose one game in over a month. You beat them good, and now you can rub it in our faces all you want.

(May I point out that I don't mean this about the two Sox fans I know in person? I still like both of them. I mean this more in general than anything else.)

So much for sportsmanship. And speaking of a lack of sportsmanship, another Boston-based team, the New England Patriots, beat the Washington Redskins today by a score of 52-7. Give me a break, Boston.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Thursday, October 18, 2007

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Frustrated with your options for president? Do none of the candidates appear any more qualified than the rest? Are you looking for someone to cut through the red tape and get things accomplished?

Look no further, friends. Out of the fog comes our deliverer.

Metal Man and Knuckles the Echidna for the White House in 2008. Details to follow. Be excited.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

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Anyone who knows me to any degree (or has read this blog) knows that I've been a bit taken with the Colorado Rockies of late. Sports have always been a big deal for me - my dad, whom I respect more than I have words to tell, watched a lot of sports when I was a kid, so I started following them, too. We lived in Colorado Springs when I started paying attention to sports, so I naturally formed an insoluble bond with any and all Colorado-based team. (The Buffaloes of the University of Colorado at Boulder were first. I watched them through their epic 1994 season, in which they finished ranked third in the nation. More on that later.) In all honesty, I follow sports more for the abundance of statistics than anything else; I'm a meticulous and details-oriented person by nature, so knowing precisely how many steals or interceptions a player averages over a given span of time is not only interesting to me, but fascinating.

Sports have a pretty iconic hold over Americans, too. Clearly, it's just a game, but when a player or team pulls off a particularly impressive play, it can take on a larger-than-life aspect. That's part of what I enjoy most about following any team. The Buffs were just the first team I can remember that swept me up as part of something bigger. I remember watching Colorado playing then fourth-ranked Michigan - in Ann Arbor - in September of 1994. Colorado was down by twelve points with less than three minutes to play, and things looked grim. They were having a great season already, but even just one loss could have spelled doom for them. (In college football, you nearly always have to go undefeated to win a national championship. With over 100 teams in the running, there isn't much room for error.) And then, somehow, they scored a touchdown. And got the ball back. And with six seconds to go, quarterback Kordell Stewart, standing on his own 36-yard line, throws the ball seventy-three yards - that's all in the air, folks, none of it bouncing or anything like that - into the end zone where wide receiver Michael Westbrook snatches it up for the improbable comeback.

It's thirteen years later, and even just reading about it makes me giddy. For one moment there, I was part of that team. I was lined up with my heroes, wearing a black jersey and a gold helmet. I stood tall in the pocket, looking down the field at my target. I was running down the field, trying to get away from the Michigan defenders and get into that end zone to give my team the chance to win.

And you'd better believe that I reenacted that play about a thousand times in my back yard.

While they are just games, they allow you to become someone else for a moment. They allow you to become part of something big. They tie you together. The American culture is mostly one of shared references, and sports are no exception. I can meet a total stranger and become an instant friend if we both remember John Elway diving headfirst for that first down in Super Bowl XXXII against the Green Bay Packers. (That's another moment that gives me tingles. Elway's determination was amazing.) Ask any member of the Red Sox Nation. You think there wasn't a feeling of brotherhood in Boston during October 2004 when they came back in the ALCS after losing the first three to the Yankees, the bane of their collective existence? I wouldn't be surprised if there was singing and dancing in the streets.

And this is why the Rockies have meant so much to me over the last month. For those of you unaware, they've now won 21 of their last 22 games, which is nearly unheard of. They've swept two teams out of the playoffs, which has only happened once before in the history of baseball. And it's the Colorado Rockies, a team that didn't even exist fifteen years ago. Denver hasn't had a particularly impressive sports history (with the notable exception of the 1998 Broncos), so for a team that most people considered out of playoff contention six weeks ago to be completely dominating everyone they face, it's a pretty big deal. Big enough, in fact, that the mayor of Denver and the governor of Colorado temporarily renamed the street in front of Coors Field "Rockies Road" last night.

They're calling it "Rocktober."

This team finds a new way to win every night, and every time they play, I'm right there with them. I feel like I'm part of them. It completely energizes me whenever I think about them. (Even as I sit here writing this now, I'm excited. Giddy. I have an urge to jump and make bat-swinging motions.) I can deal with unpleasant calls at work because I have Matt Holliday in front of me hitting a three-run homer in the fourth inning to put the Rockies up for good. I can manage annoying people around me when I've got Troy Tulowitzki at my side turning an unassisted triple play - something that only eleven other people in history have done. I can survive just about anything that comes my way knowing I have Todd Helton - the incredibly long-suffering Todd Helton - at my back making that final out and shouting in elation to the heavens after slogging through eleven years of mediocrity in Denver.

I'm part of something bigger. For a little while, I can be part of the Colorado Rockies and share in this wild ride, even if I'm just watching from my swivel chair at work. That's what the Rockies mean to me. That's why I'm so excited about them.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

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Two points of order:

1. The Rockies look to be absolutely invincible this year. They completely dismantled Philadelphia, and they did the exact same thing to Arizona (and 2006 Cy Young winner Brandon Webb) tonight. I know all good things must come to an end sometime, but it doesn't look like it's going to be anytime soon for them. At this rate, they could go 11-0 in the playoffs.

Also, this is the most rational I've been while talking about them since they pulled off that 13th inning dramatic comeback against the Padres to get into the playoffs.

2. If anything, In Rainbows sounds even better now than it did when I first listened to it that exciting night it came out. I'm falling in love with songs I barely noticed that night, like "Faust ARP" and "Jigsaw Falling Into Place." Radiohead's music - especially when they hit on all cylinders like this - brings a joy to my soul that little else can.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

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It's a momentous day here in indie musicdom; Radiohead have just released their long-anticipated seventh LP, In Rainbows. Since I was serving as a missionary when their previous album, Hail to the Thief came out in 2003, I didn't get to listen to it until July 2004, which means I've only had to wait for three years for this new record to come out.

I'm here to tell you that it was absolutely worth waiting for.

Ever since the advent of OK Computer, their third CD (and arguably their magnum opus, depending on how you feel about the next LP, Kid A) every one of their albums have been designed as a whole, rather than merely a collection of songs. That's part of what makes Radiohead's music so rewarding to me; each album becomes something bigger than 12 or 13 snatches of song. With In Rainbows, Radiohead breaks the trend. The new release doesn't have the same cohesion as any of its predecessors had; you could easily listen to this album on shuffle without missing anything, something that couldn't be said of any of their other albums (with the exception of their debut, Pablo Honey).

That said, it doesn't detract from the album in the slightest. These ten songs are fantastic, each of them. Things take off right from the get-go with "15 Step" - a weird sort of electronic crunch accompanies Thom Yorke singing, "How come I end up where I started/How come I end up where I went wrong?" in his trademark falsetto voice. This album has some serious energy, continuing the trend we saw in Hail to the Thief. It moves. It has swagger. "Bodysnatchers" delivers the same high-octane thrills. Yet lest you think this whole album is a series of rockers, "Nude" slows things down. Originally written during the Bends/OK Computer era, it's reminiscent of past quasi-ballads like "Exit Music (for a film)" and "How to Disappear Completely."

And then they pick it right back up with "Weird Fishes/Arpeggi". This album has something for everyone. It has the weird, ethereal sounds that hardcore fans are looking for, soft, sweet chords for neophytes, and general rocking out songs for a casual listener. It's solid. It's also 2.45 AM and I'm only on my third listen, so I'm in no place to tell you this is the best Radiohead album of all time, but I will say it's one of their best. Certainly the best since Kid A.

Man, I still can't get enough of "Arpeggi". Or "Reckoner". And it's all available for download right now. Pay whatever you want for it. The band doesn't care. It's all up to you. I can't recommend it highly enough. Do yourself a favor, shell out a few bucks, and pick up this album. It's easily the album of the year, which isn't to say that there's been much competition. What else has come out? Okkervil River's The Stage Names? Andrew Bird's Armchair Apocrypha?

Seriously. Stop reading this and download the album right now.

Friday, October 05, 2007

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A series of short vignettes.

I was driving home from work the other day when a tumbleweed made its way across the road. Having lived in urban areas my entire life (the smallest city I've lived in - Yonezawa, Japan - had a population of 100,000), I'd never actually seen a tumbleweed before. It felt a little like being in an old Western film, except I was in a car. The tumbleweed was soundly defeated.

I'm really good at my job. Not the best, but probably in the top three. I secretly think that I work much harder than my co-workers, which may or may not actually be true. I resent them for it just the same, though, and often find myself ignoring calls late at night so I can play Kingdom of Loathing while forcing them to pick up the phone for once.

I sold my soul today. I ate food from McDonalds, although I'll be quick to point out that I didn't actually buy it. It was provided for me. Hopefully that negates the evil of what I've done. (I went back for a second burger, too. Crap.)


I'm really happy, for once, with the position my life is in. Absolutely no complaints.

Monday, October 01, 2007

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Ordinarily, this is a fairly erudite blog, discussing matters political, musical, and otherwise introspective.

Allow me to take a brief moment to reflect on something else.


Ahem. As you were.

(untitled 188)

Our apartment is a social one, although, frankly, that's more of a survival mechanism than a choice of free will. Being on the very end of the complex (and out of the view of the courtyard, a veritable wellspring of social interaction), we need to go out of our way to be social if we want people to remember that we exist. Since our door opens out to the stairs to the parking lot, we kept it open through most of September, bidding passers-by hello. It brought friends and well-wishers into the apartment, but with them, an unforeseen foe - flies. Initially, it was only one, which didn't amount to a plague so much as a minor nuisance. What we didn't know is that flies, while certainly not possessing as intricate a social networking system as Facebook, do still possess some sort of primitive fly wireless radio, allowing them to tell others that our apartment was open and accepting new tenants. It seemed like we had four or five new visitors every day. Swatting, shooting them down, and other war tactics had little effect.

It was time to kick it up a notch.

Two of my roommates found a box of strike-anywhere matches and set to work. Tiny torches aloft, they stalked through the kitchen, hunting down our common enemy. The air had a strange smell of sulfur and smoke before I realized what they were doing. "They just sort of...pop," one of them said to me. I imagined a scene of greenish slime coating the walls of the apartment, followed by one of tiny pieces of popcorn littering the floor. When I looked into the kitchen, I saw neither, but rather a clean, fly-free room. It was beautiful. At last, the war had been won.

The flies, however, were not amused.

When I walked into my kitchen this morning, the flies had regrouped. Not only were there more of them, but they were smaller. (I can only assume that some of the flies that had been "popped" last night merely burst into six or seven smaller, more annoying flies.) They hovered erratically around the sink, as though they were protecting something. The dish soap, perhaps? I left the apartment for an hour or so, all the while worrying about what I would find when I got back. I imagined myself entering the apartment to find an eight-foot tall behemoth to dispatch. I would quickly slam the door shut, putting the apartment on lockdown. Spinning around the wall divider, I would pull out the shotgun from its place on the wall, load it with an insecticide dart, and pull back the bolt. It's go time.

In reality, life is a lot less interesting. That said, I might be proven wrong when my roommates come up with a new way of retaliating against our enemies. Setting them on fire could prove to be mere child's play.

Friday, September 28, 2007

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It's almost 12.30, and I'm still in my pajamas. I plan on cleaning the apartment today while blasting music that I love, but my roommates would almost certainly find unbearable, starting with Clap Your Hands Say Yeah.

Working the swing shift is pretty crappy, yes, but it has its benefits.

(spin, twirl, leap!)

Thursday, September 27, 2007

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Yes, it's another concert review. Even if you aren't a fan of indie rock like I am, you're going to want to read this anyway, because I make a non-music related point at the end.

Genuine and I went to Thanksgiving Point last night to take in the joint LCD Soundsystem/Arcade Fire concert. I've been excited about this ever since I read about it on Pitchfork, but, strangely, I didn't feel much one way or the other during the day. Listening to LCD Soundsystem over the previous week helped get me more familiar with the music, but I still felt somewhat removed from it. Even sitting in the amphitheater, I felt somewhat indifferent about the show.

That all changed in a hurry.

LCD Soundsystem took the stage to almost no fanfare. I don't think most people even realized they were on the stage until they started playing. Normally, the house lights dim before a band starts to play, but since we were outside, the only sign we had of their arrival was the opening notes of "Us v. Them" coming from the stage. All of the indifference and lethargy I had immediately disappeared. This was a band that put on an entertaining show. Front man James Murphy came out wearing what looked like 3-D glasses. He seemed to be having the time of his life playing for us. The energy was contagious - before long, we were moving and swaying about, too. "North American Scum" really got things moving; more than half the crowd seemed to have been there solely to hear that song. (Genuine got a huge kick out of the song, shouting "North America!" along with the chorus.) Their set ended after exactly one hour, and I felt completely fulfilled. I could have gone home perfectly happy after that one set (provided, of course, that I had only paid for one set).

And then.

It was already dark outside, so they couldn't darken the lights further. Instead, they raised them, shining the Neon Bible image some twenty times across the stage, creating a backdrop of what looked like red, glowing, skeletal spiders. All ten (ten!) members of the band walked out to the cacophonous opening sounds of "Black Mirror," dressed in various outfits of black. (Comment from Genuine: "They look Satanic.") They weren't quite what I was expecting; I wouldn't have been surprised to have seen an emaciated bat swoop down from the scaffolding during that first song. Lead singer Win Butler was wearing a black shirt with glow-in-the-dark strips on it, so you could almost see him when the lights fell between songs. I was worried it was going to be a dark show, but things lightened up almost immediately with "Neighborhood #2 (Laika)." This was a band with energy. Seeing ten people on the stage all moving around crazily was enough to set the crowd moving. I was dancing more than I had at any other concert. (After the show ended, I noticed that I was nearly two inches lower than at the start, due to my stomping and dancing. This was a triumph, in my mind.) Not only were the band full of energy, but they let it go in all sorts of creative ways. In addition to the main drummer in the back, two band members had drumsticks in the front and were hitting anything they could find. One of them was hitting motorcycle helmets mounted on poles; another was climbing on the scaffolding and hitting random poles and pipes. It was a sight to see. Every one of them was having a blast. We were, too. It seemed to be a poignant show for Butler, who said he spent time in the Wasatch mountains as a child fishing with his grandfather. In his memory, he played "Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)" for us, which made the song even more incredible. (I've referenced the song twice before on this blog, once at the end of the fall 2006 semester, and once in the blog's tagline, "from my window to yours.") Their set lasted nearly two hours, but I would have stayed for twice that listening to them play. It was easily the best concert I've ever been to, and I'm including that Joanna Newsom concert from last November.

But now, the reason those of you who haven't even heard of Arcade Fire are still reading this. More than any other concert I've been to, I felt completely at home here. People of all shapes, sizes, and appearances were at this concert, and I felt that we all had a connection. It was cold outside, so many people brought blankets. When Arcade Fire took the stage, hundreds of people ran up to be closer to them, leaving their blankets behind. No one took anything. No one even thought about it. For a couple of hours, we were all brothers and sisters, just there to enjoy some good music. I could feel it the whole time, but perhaps not better than during "Intervention," when I heard a thousand people shout out simultaneously, "Who's going to reset the bone?"

It was the closest to Zion I'd ever been, the occasional puff of cigarette smoke blowing past my face notwithstanding.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

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Happy International Talk Like a Pirate Day!

Friday, September 14, 2007

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Live, from Diamond Fork Junior High School in Spanish Fork, Utah, it's Mr. Optimistic.'s class!

I'm substituting for a woodworking teacher for the day today, and even though I don't know the first thing about woodworking, I'm having a blast. I had my doubts after this summer about whether or not I was supposed to be teaching, but today has reminded me that I really do enjoy this. I like going around and helping kids understand an assignment. I like yelling at kids to get back in their seats. I like standing up with my tie and tag on telling everyone who I am (and having a "Mr." in front of my name). It's great.

Despite being the busiest I've ever been, life is really good, friends.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

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Being along isn't entirely without benefits. I'm up in Salt Lake right now working as a translator for a conferences, so they're putting me up in a hotel. It's not the ritziest hotel in the world, but it's pretty nice, and I have the room all to myself. I was able to sprawl out over two beds without worrying about getting in anyone's way. When I noticed the clothes I was wearing needed ironing, I just took them off and ironed them. (In retrospect, I should have drawn the curtains first, even though I was on the tenth floor.) I took myself to the Olive Garden for dinner and felt no guilt whatsoever at picking through the bowl of salad for the tomatoes and croutons. Once safely back in my room, I watched SportsCenter while clipping my toenails. All told, it was a pretty relaxing night.

Laying in the darkness in my too-large bed, however, I grew a little wistful. Being on your own is pleasant for a while, but it would have been more so with one more. It was nice to sprawl my things over two beds, but it would have been nicer to have someone mad at me for taking up her bed. (We both could have fit in one bed easily, but that's another matter entirely.) It was a treat to have a solely tomato and crouton salad, but it would have been a delight to have fought with her for them, even though she doesn't particularly care for tomatoes. (It's a metaphor, friends. Stay with me.) I suppose this is what it feels like to be without one's "better half," to use the cliche.

I was awoken at about 12.30 to a vicious pounding at my door that filled the room. My roommmate (who didn't show up for work that morning, which led me to assume he wasn't coming at all) was shouting to me to open the door. While I had been pining for companionship, his wasn't exactly what I was yearning for.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

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Things have been stressful for me lately, and I find myself snapping at people far more often than I would like. Even if I don't come out and say something rude to someone, I catch myself thinking snarky and rude thoughts about people a lot. It's disconcerting to me, and so I'm working very hard on preventing it. Treating an illness at its source is nearly always more effective than treating symptoms, however, so I've spent some time trying to figure out what exactly is bothering me so much lately. It seems a bit of a cop-out to blame my irritation on stress, so I've searched deeper. Today at church, however, a realization hit me: not everyone has the same values as I do.

This may seem self-evident to many of you reading in the tubes, but to me, it was a revelation.

I place a high value on friendship. More often than not, I am willing to go out of my way to do something for a friend, or even just to avoid inconveniencing them. In my mind, this is a common courtesy. I would expect my friends to do the same for me. Recently, however, I've been on the short end of this stick. I've watched as friends have, in my mind, left me out to dry, and I've been irritated about it. As it turns out, though, they simply don't place the same degree of value on friendship as I do. They value me as a friend, sure. That doesn't mean that they would go to the same lengths as I would to maintain the friendship.

Lest I equivocate, this isn't a bad thing. It's simply a different thing, and it's only now that I'm beginning to understand that those aren't synonyms.

Little things make a big difference to me, as tired and cliché as that sounds. Just today, Angry Block and his girlfriend were about to leave the apartment to head up to church. Clearly, I was headed to the same place, but they just up and left without asking if I wanted to come along. It's not a big deal, really. I'm quite sure I could have made it up to church on my own without becoming lost or injured. To me, however, it hurt that they wouldn't value my friendship enough to ask if I wanted to come along or to wait for me. It took some thinking and soul-searching to realize that they didn't mean that at all. If it were me, that's what I would have meant by that action, but, clearly, it wasn't me.

I have a hard time separating my thoughts and motivations from those of others around me. I tend to assume that everyone thinks the same way as I do, and it gets me into trouble sometimes. It's only when I take a moment to step back and try to understand how someone else is thinking and why they are acting the way that they are that I start to see the bigger picture.

Still, though, it's not easy.

Friday, August 24, 2007

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An actual summary of what I did today:

7.00 - turned off alarm clock
7.05 - got out of bed
7.15 - breakfast
7.40 - left for work
8.00 - cleaned grounds of Gordon B. Hinckley Alumni and Visitor Center with leaf blower
9.00 - swept up piles of leaves, grass, and dirt
10.00 - retreated to basement-level shower in said building with two NYT crosswords and three sudoku puzzles
10.45 - moved to upstairs closet to complete sudoku and second crossword
11.45 - found doorstops for construction worker
12.00 - went home
12.15 - started watching "Jeopardy!"
12.30 - then "Family Feud"
1.15 - played Mario Kart: Double Dash
2.30 - read Wikipedia
3.00 - took a nap while watching ESPN's "Around the Horn"
3.30 - spoke with Genuine Draft while watching "Pardon the Interruption"
4.00 - then "SportsCenter"
4.30 - more Mario Kart: Double Dash
5.45 - shower
6.00 - watched "The Simpsons" while eating half a sleeve of Keebler Townhouse crackers
6.30 - blogging while watching Seinfeld

Now that I look at it, I don't suppose I would have had time for a teaching job.

Monday, August 20, 2007

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While driving back from taking Genuine and M-Lite the airport, I heard a report on NPR saying that Utah school districts are having problems hiring enough teachers to meet their needs for the coming year.

I offered a gesture of solidarity by proudly extending my middle finger at the radio.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

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Until fairly recently, I thought I knew what it meant to have faith. If you'd asked me what I thought it meant, I likely would have responded by quoting the following to you:

"Behold, I say unto you that whoso believeth in Christ, doubting nothing, whatsoever he shall ask the Father in the name of Christ it shall be granted him; and this promise is unto all, even unto the ends of the earth." (Moroni 9:21)

Sounds pretty good, doesn't it? As long as you believe in Christ, anything you ask Him will be given to you. That's the way I understood it, and it sounded to me like I had a ticket to anything I wanted, so long as I asked in faith.

This led to some confusion on my part when I asked for things in what I believed was faith recently. I've been searching for a job as a high school teacher lately, since I've just graduated from college. Getting a job is the next reasonable step. I did what I felt was my part. I searched through school districts. I filled out applications. I made phone calls. I networked with people in administration. I created attractive resumes. I felt like a pretty attractive candidate. Yet I never got any further than an interview. Six times I drove out to meet people for a job, and six times I was told to wait for a phone call in return. That phone call never came. I spent entire days staring forlornly at my phone, begging the display to light up with the glow of an incoming call. (Fun fact: it's difficult to hold a conversation when most of your brain power is spent training your ear for the cheerful ring of your phone.) Nothing ever came.

I couldn't understand it. I'd prayed for a job. I believed that the Lord could give me a job. Why wasn't it coming? Wasn't this a righteous desire on my part? Wasn't it a good thing I was trying to do? Why on earth would I not be rewarded? I found myself doing some pretty serious soul-searching, struggling desperately to figure out what I was doing wrong. After my sixth interview and sixth rejection, another faith-related scripture came to mind, illuminating my problem somewhat. This comes from the Old Testament book of Daniel, when Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego are to be cast into the fiery furnace at the hands of King Nebuchanezzar for not worshiping him.

"If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king.
But if not [italics added], be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up." (Daniel 3:17-18)

But if not. In those three little words are found a treasure trove of faith. These three men has faith that the Lord could deliver them from the furnace. He could. He absolutely could. As an all-powerful being, he was in no way less than capable of doing so. The question lay in whether or not He saw fit to do so. But if not. Even if He chose not to, they would still be loyal and true to Him. Therein lay their faith. They did not believe in Him contingent on His providing them with a reward. That would be somewhat like a child agreeing to play a game so long as he or she was guaranteed to win. No, these men were God's men through and through.

I thought about this, and compared it to my own situation. I believed that God could give me a job, but I hadn't given any thought to what might happen if He, in His infinite wisdom, should choose not to. It's entirely possible that He, seeing as far as He does, knows that I don't need a job in education right now. Part of faith, then, is trust in a higher power. I may not know where my path leads or what lies ahead, but He does, and I simply need to trust in Him. Developing that trust, however, is something else altogether, but I think this episode in my life is helping me to cultivate that trust.

Now, if you were to ask me in five years if I thought I understood faith, I'm sure I'd have a lot more to tell you. For all my prattlings on about the subject, I'm sure I'll be wrapped back up in a blanket of false assumptions before too long.

Friday, August 10, 2007

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The concept of an afterlife terrifies me, and for a member of the LDS Church, that's pretty unusual, I think. LDS doctrine states that members who have striven to follow Christ in their lives will be rewarded with exaltation - essentially, assuming godlike powers and having the opportunity to create worlds of one's own. Sounds like a pretty good deal, right?

For some reason that I cannot for the life of me figure out, it terrifies me. I lie awake in bed at nights, breaking out in cold sweats and having panic attacks. The notion that I will endure forever - absolutely, unequivocally, irreversibly forever - scares the daylights out of me. The trouble is that the converse scares me just as much. I cannot fathom nonexistence. If possible, that scares me even more than living forever. There aren't any other possibilities - one can only exist or not exist - so I'm stuck between a rock and a hard place here. I've tried everything I can think of to solve the problem, but nothing's working. I've prayed, fasted, studied the scriptures, all without improvement. Then, a few nights ago, something amazing happened. I was worrying about what I would do for a job in the fall, when I had an image of myself flying back, back, back from the Earth. I could see the timeline of my life, and I was struck by how small and insignificant (eternally) events here on Earth were. It disappeared quite as quickly as it came, but it did wonders for my perspective.

Everything looks different out here.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

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Elder Carp got his glasses fixed this morning without any problems. It turned out to be a simple repair, and he got into the MTC on time. God lives and answers prayers.

Seeing him leave for his mission was very different than when I left for my own. I remember being anxious, nervous, and excited, but primarily nervous. Elder Carp seemed enthusiastic and ready to go. Nothing seemed to faze him. When the obligatory missionary video ended after about six minutes, he said (uncomfortably loudly), "Is that it?" My mom responded, only half jesting, "Don't embarrass us."

He gave everyone a big hug, even Genuine Draft, who isn't technically part of the family just yet. Especially touching was watching him hug my youngest brother (whom we'll call "Matt"), who he was especially close with growing up. They shared a room for maybe eight or nine years. Matt is terrible at remembering the birthdays of even his family members, but he never has any trouble remembering Elder Carp's. (It's May 31, in case you were wondering.) Elder Carp walked to Matt, looked at him, and said, "Happy 18th, 19th, 20th, and 21st birthdays," since Matt will hopefully leave for his own mission just before Elder Carp gets back. This sent poor Matt over the edge. The two of them held each other for probably a full two minutes, Matt bawling. It's been years since I've seen Matt cry. It was a tender moment.

Elder Carp quickly shattered the moment by attempting to run off through the missionary exit without his suit jacket. Only him. Once fully robed, he headed through the door, only to turn around, look at us with the glint of the promise of a young man in his eye, and form the Weezer sign with his hands.

Look out, Florida. Hurricane Carp is coming your way on August 28.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

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Elder Carp enters the MTC in about twelve hours, and I just got a call from my mom informing me that he shattered his glasses in a freak soccer mishap. For one heart-stopping second, I thought she was going to tell me that he shattered his leg or something, which would have been terrifying. As it is, it's nothing more than an annoyance.

Still, though. Only him.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

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Yesterday's lyric: "Song 2," Blur, Blur

The contest is over, primarily due to Somewhat Human's clinching the victory, but also due to a general increase in apathy from the contestants. Well done, everyone. You've all competed nobly. You can see how you finished by checking the leaderboard in the sidebar on the blog. For those of you that read this blog via RSS feed, that means that you get to take a special trip to the blog itself. Congratulations.

As far as an update on my life goes, I'm increasingly convinced I'm never going to get a job.

Monday, July 16, 2007

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Yesterday's lyric: "Desire," U2, Rattle and Hum

Since we're already got a winner decided, I'll just make this the last lyric for a nice even total of eighty points.

Lyric the last

when i feel heavy metal
when i'm pins and i'm needles
well i lie and i'm easy
all of the time but i never show why i need you
pleased to meet you

Sunday, July 15, 2007

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Yesterday's lyric: "Bye, Bye, Bye," N*SYNC, No Strings Attached

Lyric the nineteenth

she's the dollars
she's my protection
yeah she's a promise
in the year of election

Friday, July 13, 2007

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Yesterday's lyric: "I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)," The Proclaimers, Springtime for Leith

Lyric the eighteenth

just hit me with the truth
now girl you're more than welcome to
so give me one good reason
baby come on

Thursday, July 12, 2007

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Yesterday's lyric: "Girl," Beck, Guero

Lyric the seventeenth

but i would walk 500 miles
and i would walk 500 more
just to be the man who walked 1000 miles
to fall down at your door

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

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Yesterday's lyric: "Today," Smashing Pumpkins, Siamese Dream

Only five more days, friends.

Lyric the sixteenth

and i know i'm gonna steal her eye
she doesn't even know what's wrong
and i know i'm gonna make her die
take her where her soul belongs

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

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Yesterday's lyric: "The Sound of Settling," Death Cab for Cutie, Transatlanticism

Lyric the fifteenth

pink ribbon scars that never forget
i’ve tried so hard to cleanse these regrets
my angel wings were bruised and restrained
my belly stings

Monday, July 09, 2007

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Yesterday's lyric: "Southside," Moby, Play

Did I mention that the grand prize is going to be a commemorative Theodore T-shirt?

Lyric the fourteenth

our youth is fleeting
old age is just around the bend
and i can't wait to go grey

Sunday, July 08, 2007

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Yesterday's lyric: "There There," Radiohead, Hail to the Thief

Lyric the thirteenth

see myself in the pouring home
see the light come over now
see myself in the pouring rain
i watch hope come over me

Saturday, July 07, 2007

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Yesterday's lyric: "Paint it, Black," The Rolling Stones, Aftermath

Maybe I've made these a bit too difficult.

Lyric the twelfth

there's always a siren singing you to shipwreck
steer away from these rocks
we'd be a walking disaster
just cause you feel it doesn't mean it's there

Friday, July 06, 2007

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Yesterday's lyric: "Lithium," Nirvana, Nevermind

Lyric the eleventh

no more will my green sea go turn a deeper blue
i could not foresee this thing happening to you
if i look hard enough into the setting sun
my love will laugh with me before the morning comes

Thursday, July 05, 2007

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Yesterday's lyric: "Cornflake Girl," Tori Amos, Under the Pink

No one? Really?

Lyric the tenth

sunday morning is every day for all i care
i'm not scared light my candles
in a daze cause i've found god

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

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Yesterday's lyric: "O! Valencia", The Decemberists, The Crane Wife

In the face of criticism that this lyric wasn't hard enough, I give you...

Lyric the ninth

rabbit where'd you put the keys girl
and the man with the golden gun
thinks he knows so much
thinks he knows so much
rabbit where'd you put the keys girl

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

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Yesterday's lyric: "Chicago," Sufjan Stevens, Come on Feel the Illinoise!

And now, to kick things up a notch.

well the shot it hit hard
and your frame went limp in my arms
and the lull of love was your dying cry

Monday, July 02, 2007

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Yesterday's lyric: "Losing My Religion," R.E.M., Out of Time

That lyric went a long way toward separating the men from the boys, so to speak. So will this next week. This is the last lyric before I kick it up a notch. (Bam!)

Lyric the seventh

if i was crying in the van with my friends
it was for freedom from myself and from the land

Sunday, July 01, 2007

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Yesterday's lyric: "Float On," Modest Mouse, Good News for People Who Love Bad News

Lyric the sixth

every whisper of every waking hour
i'm choosing my confessions
trying to keep an eye on you
like a hurt lost and blinded foal

Saturday, June 30, 2007

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Yesterday's lyric: "Birdhouse in Your Soul," They Might Be Giants, Flood

Good job, everyone. Lots of people got that one right.

Lyric the fifth

well a fake jamaican took every last dime with that scam
it was worth it just to learn some sleight of hand
bad news comes don't you worry even when it lands
good news will work its way to all them plans

Friday, June 29, 2007

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Yesterday's lyric: "Say it Ain't So," Weezer, Weezer (blue album)

Remember, dear readers, you need to include the album title if you want the full four points. Many of you correctly identified the song, but forgot to specify the album, and thus are slipping in the standings.

Lyric the fourth

there's a picture opposite me
of my primitive ancestry
which stood on rocky shores and kept the beaches shipwreck free

Thursday, June 28, 2007

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Yesterday's lyric - "Clocks," Coldplay, A Rush of Blood to the Head

Lyric the third

flip on the telly
wrestle with jimmy
something is bubblin' behind my back

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

(untitled 156)

Yesterday's lyric: "Just a Girl," No Doubt, Tragic Kingdom

Apparently that one was a little tricky for most readers, so I'll go with something easier today. Also, for those of you that visit via RSS feed, be sure to come to the actual site to see the leaderboard.

Lyric the second

come out of things unsaid
shoot an apple off my head
trouble that can't be named
a tiger's waiting to be tamed

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

(untitled 155)

Lyric the first

the moment that i step outside
so many reasons for me to run and hide

Did I mention the fantastic prize for the winner of the contest? Because there is one. And it will be fantastic. Let this be your motivation.

Monday, June 25, 2007

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Some years ago, Robert Poste conducted a lyric identification contest that I participated in. I did well, but not nearly enough so to win. Regardless, I remember it being a lot of fun. So much so, in fact, that I'm going to host one of my own through this blog.

21 days, 21 lyrics. Each day I post a lyric, you are invited to submit what you think are the artist, song title, and album title. I imagine album titles will be more difficult to come up with, so I'll make those worth two points (compared to the one an artist or song title correctly identified will earn you). All told, that means a perfect score will be 84 points. Here's a sample of what you can expect starting tomorrow:

when i find myself in times of trouble
mother mary comes to me
speaking words of wisdom

The answer "Let it Be" would earn you one point. Responding with "'Let it Be' by the Beatles" would earn you an additional point. For all four points, however, you would have to respond with '"Let it Be' by the Beatles, from their album Let it Be."

Email (theboardoptimistic at is probably the optimal way to send me your responses; blog comments, while effective, will give those after you an unfair advantage. Please refrain from doing so. Also, this contest will be conducted on the honor system. Looking up lyrics on the Googles is easier than a drunken cheerleader. It's also easy to tell when someone is cheating. As the contest goes on, the lyrics will get progressively more difficult. If I post a lyric from the Deftones and you get it when I know you've never heard "Engine No. 9" in your entire life, I'll know something is afoot. Cheating will not be tolerated.

Artists will not be repeated. I'll try to stay away from covers as much as possible to avoid confusion.

Be excited, readers. It's going to be a thing to be remembered.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

(untitled 153)

More stories from work:

The building is nearing completion, which means it's finally time to put the floors in. Most of them have already been installed, such as the marble floor in the atrium and most of the first floor (which looks really nice, but is going to be a pain to clean) and the basic carpet on the second and third floors. They've been holding off on the really expensive stuff, though, so it doesn't get sawdust and the like all over it. One of the expensive floor coverings was a Persian rug that cost about $27,000. (They decided to wait until the dedication to lay down the $30,000 rug.) They have black plastic covering the rugs so they don't get dirty before Saturday, so it looks like the rugs are covered in enormous garbage bags. The other carpet they were waiting on was for the gallery, and it's nice stuff. It's also extremely furry stuff; I was vacuuming the room today and managed to fill two (two!) vacuum bags with carpet fuzz. It took me nearly an hour to clean the thing out.

The carpet gets progressively more expensive as you climb the corporate ladder here, too. The basic carpet costs $30 a square yard, if I remember correctly. The vice presidents get nicer carpet in their offices; this stuff costs about $90 per square foot. It's quite a jump. The jump from the vice presidents to the gallery, however, is even more impressive. The gallery carpet costs a whopping $270 per square foot. I hear they imported it from England, which, as we all know, is renowned worldwide for its superior carpet. It's nice stuff, but I don't imagine I'll purchase it for my own home. I did like it enough to snatch a bit (about two square inches) of it and take it with me. This piece of carpet would have cost me around four dollars.

Maybe I'll go home and rub it against my face or something to get my money's worth out of it.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

(untitled 152)

Actual story from work:

Recently, I threw my back out, as attentive readers of this blog will already know. I went to a physical therapist to get things fixed, and he gave me some stretches to do to strengthen my hamstring, which was the cause of the whole problem in the first place. (He also gave my back an ultrasound, which was a surreal experience.) I do these stretches at work as I see fit. One of them involves me starting on my hands and knees and lowering my weight onto my feet, leaving me in a sort of kowtow position. I was in an office with a closed door dusting, when I decided to do this particular stretch. A construction worker came in to find me in the kowtow position facing toward - you guessed it - Mecca.

He seemed surprised, and quickly backed out of the room, shutting the door behind him.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

(untitled 151)

My younger brother, who I'll call Piece-a-carp, has been the source of many a fantastic story throughout his life. (Most recent was a conversation with him, myself, and Genuine involving drinking paint and beating babies.) One of his greatest is how he earned his online moniker. When he was three, we were living in Colorado in the lap of luxury, a phrase which here means "buying really, really crappy off-brand cereal because we couldn't afford proper cereal." We had a box of fourth-tier Froot Loops with a neon green background and a white tiger with Froot Loops for spots advertising the cereal to unsuspecting consumers.

"Piece-a-carp," it seemed to say to young Piece-a-carp.

None of us were really quite sure what he was talking about when he first referred to it as Piece-a-carp. He just gestured toward the box with increasing intensity, saying, "Piece-a-carp." We assumed he was referring to Froot Loops in general. When we came into a bit of money and could move up to third-tier cereals, we got another brand of Froot Loops. Young Piece-a-carp was presented with the box in grand fashion. "Look," we said. "Piece-a-carp."

Clearly, we were mistaken. The cereal we had procured was a cheap (or, rather, slightly more expensive) counterfeit of the real Piece-a-carp, and my brother would accept no imitations. We found him the real deal forthwith.

He never explained to us why he called it Piece-a-carp, and fifteen years later, he can't remember. (He doesn't even remember ever calling it Piece-a-carp, actually.) Something in his warped little mind made him call it Piece-a-carp, and it made perfect sense to him. This story is a perfect way to summarize him. And now he's being sent out as a missionary to CALL NOT RECEIVED AS OF 08 JUN 2007. It's going to be exciting. He's going to be a riot.

(addendum, 21 jun 2007: florida, ft. lauderdale.)

Monday, June 04, 2007

(untitled 150)

While walking to work today, I got caught behing a young woman on the stairs who was walking slightly slower than I was. I don't feel that it's in keeping with traffic etiquette to pass someone on the stairs, so I waited until we both got to the top to take an alternate route that would allow me to pass her. As our paths converged again about forty yards later, I found myself slightly ahead of her. Silently congratulating myself on this maneuver, I continued on my way.

Imagine my surprise when I find that she was catching up to me. She slowly came even with me and then passed me, only to move to another path. We were neck and neck, and I wasn't about to back down. I tend to take it a bit too personally when someone passes me, whether it's on the road or on foot, and I wasn't about to let this woman strut past me like she owns the world. I increased my pace. She seemed to match. Once again, our paths met, and once again, I came out slightly ahead.

We entered a straightaway. The two of us tore down the sidewalk, neither offering nor asking for quarter. I had the slight advantage, but I kept casting glances over my shoulder to see how much room I had. She wasn't gaining, but she was keeping pace. I was about ready to open up the throttle on her when I saw her enter another building, presumably to go to class.

I won, of course, but I don't think she knew we were racing.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

(untitled 149)

Every so often in my life, I have moments of doubt and second-guessing. Who doesn't? I'll be at the grocery store, for instance, with a Jones soda in my cart, when I'll catch myself wondering about the correctness of my intended purchase. (Note: This is especially true when it's something I haven't tried before. For the sake of this discussion, let's assume that I've never had a Jones soda before.) Will I like this soda? Wouldn't I be better off with something else - something safe?

Sometimes I buy the soda, and sometimes I don't. Sometimes I end up liking the soda, and sometimes I don't, and if I don't always like the soda, you can imagine why there's more than a small amount of hesitancy when I make larger, more life-altering decisions.

Some of those recent decisions follow, in ascending order of life-altering potential.

I tend to stock my iPod with music that I know and am familiar with - the old standbys, like Radiohead, the Decemberists, Joanna Newsom, the Arcade Fire, and so on. Recently, I decided to empty my iPod completely and fill it with artists whose music I'd never heard before (2G of it!) just before an eight-hour workday. While walking toward work, I began to have second thoughts. What if I didn't like Built to Spill? What if A. C. Newman wasn't who I wanted to hear? What if it turned out that the Flaming Lips were a sound I wouldn't agree with? Wouldn't I have been safer with Radiohead?

Of course it turned out for the best. I can imagine more than one of you out there screaming at your monitor, "Built to Spill? The Flaming Lips?! How could you not like those bands?" Yes, in retrospect, of course it was a good idea. That didn't stop me from worrying about it beforehand, though.

I was scheduled to start my student teaching experience in January of this year. The last three and a half years of my undergraduate education had been building up to this point, and I was pretty excited about it. However, as the date drew nearer, I began to worry. What if this wasn't what I wanted to do after all? What if those last three and a half years had been a waste? What was I going to do with my life after that? Maybe it wasn't too late to back out and do something safe - something where I'd never have to deal with people. Something where I could just read books all day.

Of course, it turned out that I loved the experience. It was insanely difficult and demanding, but it was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. It's definitely what I want to do with my career. It's scary, and it's going to involve me putting myself out on the line sometimes, but it's what I want to do.

About a month ago, I managed to convince Genuine Draft that she wanted to marry me. At the time, it not only seemed like a good idea, but a perfectly rational one - one that felt inevitable. I came back home feeling as though nothing out of the ordinary had happened. When I woke up the next morning, though, the full impact of what I had just done hit me. What on earth had I done? Supposing I made the wrong decision. Had I just tied my fate to someone who was going to bring me down in life? What if I ended up miserable? And was I anywhere close to ready to start a grown-up and responsible life?

Between that moment and now, I've had about a thousand little moments where I realize that yes, I made the right decision. (We made the right decision, Genuine.) Really, I've had those little moments that come after I make big decisions nearly every time. I'm a worrier, by nature (and I know that I'm not the only one), so it's nice to have little things like this to reinforce my resolve every so often. It's nice to know that every once in a while, I make the right decision.

More than ever, I'm realizing that God is in the details.

Friday, May 18, 2007

(untitled 148)

I destroyed my back at work a couple of days ago. It started hurting a little more than an hour into the shift, and it just intensified as the day went on. It's a miracle that I made it home at all, teetering and tottering down the street. Once I got home, I threw myself on my couch and didn't get back up for quite some time.

I'm not actually looking for sympathy here. Rather, I've found quite a few things that were normally second nature to me that have become extraordinarily difficult. There are few things like losing the use of part of your body to give you perspective. For instance, standing up is a chore now. My sister took me to a health center so I could get things looked at, and it took me the better part of five minutes to stand up and get to her car, something which would have normally taken ten seconds. I even had to crawl for part of the way.

Coughing doesn't hurt. Sneezing hurts like you wouldn't imagine. Who knew that back muscles contracted when you sneeze?

Sometimes I'll be laying on the couch when my phone rings. I reach and reach for it, but it lies just outside my grasp, and moving to where I can pick it up causes far more pain than answering the phone is worth. (Friends, if you've called me and I haven't answered lately, that's why.)

Going to the bathroom is surprisingly difficult, as well. Standing up is difficult in and of itself, but finding a way to remove my pants and reclothe myself is far more arduous than I could have imagined. Taking a shower today was every bit as difficult. Holy cow.

Here's hoping this never happens to you, dear readers.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

(untitled 147)

1 Action star ____ Damme
4 "Once _____ a time..."
9 After noons?
12 "Dies _____"
14 Really funny, online?
15 Computer support org.
16 "_____ Yankees"
17 Rabbi ben Joseph
18 Peter Fonda title role
20 Advil rival
22 Indiana Senator Bayh
23 D'Back, say
24 "No way!"
27 "_____ a Bad, Bad Man"
30 Second Amendment org.
31 It's often found in brackets
32 Car starters?
34 One of twelve?
37 _______ Lama
41 "No way!"
44 James and others
45 Jazzy Fitzgerald
46 Thermal beginning?
47 Student activist soc.
49 One of two?
51 Like Br'er Fox's baby?
52 "No way!"
58 Concerning (abbr.)
59 Profanity
60 Four A.M., say
64 Nevada Senator Harry
65 To incur excessive costs, as a bill
67 Movie watchdog (abbr.)
68 Sash
69 The year (Sp.)
70 Tall tale
71 Marsh
72 Ntwks.
73 Jet ______

1 "La _____ Loca," Ricky Martin hit
2 Russian sea
3 1995 Goo Goo Dolls hit
4 Lithuanian river
5 Start to a game
6 Occasional pizza topping
7 The Office's BJ
8 Rocker Morissette
9 Weighty dessert?
10 Singer Vanilli
11 Dutch painter Jan
13 One of seven?
19 Energy unit
21 A long, long time
25 Genesis author
27 "_____ have faith..."
28 Irrelevant
29 To be next to
33 Like sardines, say
35 Part of CNN (abbr.)
36 Twister co-star
38 Navel development?
39 Words before partridge
40 J. K. Rowling's Karkaroff
42 Food regulation assoc.
43 Rockies catcher
48 Fungus propagators
50 Washington to New York dir.
52 IP address org.
53 "You're _____ a kind"
54 Clan, e.g.
55 Shore of Biodome
56 Vesuvii?
57 Shandling or Olandis
61 Middle Eastern currency
62 Tomb Raider's Croft
63 Part of a Taoist symbol
66 Not neg.

I wrote it myself. Enjoy.