Friday, March 27, 2009

Professional Development

I am in a professional development class right now. Why is it that when you get a bunch of teachers together to take a class, they always do all the things that drive them crazy when their students do them... like getting online and doing personal things while the instructor tries to teach. Should have turned on LANSchool so she could see my screen from the front. That's what I do. Who knows, maybe she could have saved me from myself and made me learn something. Or maybe it's just my responsibility.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Feelies live in DC

Went to see the Feelies with friends David, Jonathan, and Jason on Saturday night, and they were everything I'd hoped. I've never seen them live; most people haven't, as their legendarily "anti-careerist" career kept the New Jersey / New York postpunk legends from touring very much during their heyday in the 80s.

The whole band sounded great and played really assertively, especially frontman Glenn Mercer. His guitar solos were riveting, never meandering, and we cheered them spontaneously like at a jazz show. His voice surprised me, deep but more out front and confident than on the albums. He's a Lou Reed kind of talk-singer, but he can also really actually sing. It helped that it was some of the best, clearest sound I'd ever heard at a club. (In part because the size of the room was essentially halved for the non-sellout crowd, with the movable stage pushed forward quite a ways.)

Mercer, fact-checking-cuz /percussionist Dave Weckerman, and the rest of the original-mach II band looked really comfortable rocking out post-40 (post 50? It's possible, though they were pretty young when they started out in the late 70s.) Except for Bill Million, who I didn't expect to look comfortable, given that his "personal and family problems" broke up the band in '91 when he moved his family to Florida for a job at Disneyland without telling anyone. He looked kind of anxious and weird, the effort of concentration required to keep up with the "hyper-strum" rhythm guitar evident in his face. But I wouldn't be surprised to hear that he looked that way at the height of his powers either.

They played very lively versions of songs from all their albums, with energy building throughout the show as Mercer began to jump around and Weckerman worked himself into a frenzy. Then FIVE two-song encores, which seemed like a lot of leaving and coming back. Maybe Million dashing from the stage while the last note of several of the encores had something to do with it. The encores were mostly all covers--the VU covers available on Feelies albums, Patti Smith's "Dancing Barefoot," and Jonathan Richman's "I Wanna Sleep in Your Arms" paid tribute to the band's 70s New York roots. The cover of REM's early "Boxcar," presumably learned for the tribute to REM at Carnegie Hall a couple of nights earlier, worked in the opposite direction, paying tribute to themselves as an influence on REM and the whole indie underground. Neil Young's "Barstool Blues" was my favorite--a perfect choice for Feelie-ization, with metronomic strum replacing Young's quavery swing.

The first time I heard the Feelies was on cassette in Dave's Toyota Tercel in the middle of the night. He, my future wife Diane, and I were coming home to DC from New York, where Dave had taken us to see the Mekons for the first time. With "Crazy Rhythms" cranked and the trees rushing by in the headlights, it felt like were in a time machine. Later, when my wife took me to New Jersey in HER Toyota Tercel for the first time, we made a pilgrimage to Crazy Rhythms Records, where the selection was disappointing and they claimed never to have heard of the Feelies. But they pointed us to a very cool record store around the corner. I bought Mojo Nixon's "Whereabouts Unknown," produced by Roscoe Ambel with Will Rigby from the dBs on drums. The guy behind the counter in that second store looked like he could have been a Feelie or a dB himself.

Check out this interview with Glenn Mercer and Dave Weckerman in the great online magazine Perfect Sound Forever. The interviewer, Jason Gross, also has a music blog, Ye Wei aka Wild Taste.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Baby Borrowers and family relationships

When I saw episode two of Baby Borrowers, it made me want to be really nice to my wife. Seeing the teens sleep deprived, irritable, and fighting with each other struck a cord. Just the night before, my wife and I had had a terrible night of getting up with our little Daphne, who, as they told us in the hospital when whe was born seven months ago, is "very alert," and "loves to be held." Yeah, we noticed: when does that kid ever sleep? Anyway, the night before seeing episode two, I was up until 3 a.m. with her, trying to rock her to sleep and put her down, then I couldn't take it anymore and woke my wife up to take over. In my sleep deprived state, I got it in my mind that it was some kind of affront to me that my wife was sleeping while I was up. I don't remember, but I think I wasn't that nice to her when I crashed. Trying to get a baby to sleep when she doesn't want to is incredibly frustrating. It is absolutely not the baby's fault, and in Daphne's case, she just wanted to lay on our shoulders, not in her bed. Further, there's nothing you can do if she doesn't want to sleep. It's a complete loss of control. Add to that to a happily snoozing spouse (so it seems to a sleep deprived brain), and it can kind of feel like everyone's against you, like it's not fair somehow. I'm amazed that Cory did as well as he did under those circumstances, with Alicia just checking out altogether.

Update: Daphne doesn't like it when I grade papers late at night--that makes her not want to sleep. So I'm planning ahead better during the day...and remembering to be nice to my wife!