Friday, July 31, 2009

Adventures in Education, Chapter 11

Friday, Summer Camp, 1:04pm
Kindergarten Bunk

Counselor: "So when it's your turn, you are going to walk out and find one bag of candy in the scavenger hunt. Once you have your bag, go take a seat on the bench. Do not pick up other camper's candy; everyone only gets one. Are there any questions?"
5-year-old #1: "What if we accidentally take two?"
5-y.o. #2: "What if we don't have time to find one?"
5-y.o. #3: "I have a Spider-man towel."
5-y.o. #4: [picks his nose inquisitively]

Adventures in Education, Chapter 10

Thursday, Summer Camp, 11:27am
Kindergarten Bunk

5-year-old: "Somebody call 911."
Me: "Wait, what?"
5-y.o. [distractedly]: "...shawty's fire burning on the dance floor..."

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Editor Checks In

So I haven't blogged in almost ten days and thought I'd drop by for a completely unfulfilling update.

Lots of things happening in my personal life. Really. I just choose not to blog about it, unless it is only to ruminate on the most mundane and trivial aspects of it. I prefer to post things that are slightly creative, possibly derivative, and utterly useless. I also enjoy matching adverbs to adjectives in at least a 1-to-1 ratio.

I was going to write a post about Fred the Turkey, one of South Easton's most famous ornery locals, but then I found out that he has a Facebook page (!) and 424 fans already. I guess I shouldn't be too surprised; hell, everything has a Facebook page now. "The Cool Side of the Pillow" has (several) pages. By the end of the month, "I Drive With Two Feet When Going Uphill In Traffic" and "Getting the Extra Cup for Dunkin' Iced Coffee, Even If It Now Costs 25 Cents Extra" will probably have pages.

I suppose it's just as well. I've already referenced Easton's wild turkeys in my blog before (as recently as a month ago) and Fred might be getting relocated soon due to his propensity for attacking motorcyclists and his documented habit of causing fender benders. What a guy.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Billy Joel & Elton John: Review

Concert Review
Face 2 Face Tour
Gillette Stadium, Foxboro, MA
July 18, 2009

Double-billed concerts can sometimes be a mixed bag. Often, fans of one artist are left with a perfunctory half-set, hearing only the most obligatory hits before the stage is handed over. These artists are frequently packaged by the promotion company and may not even interact with each other, let alone collaborate. Other double-billings arise from a mutual respect between two artists who complement their counterpart's catalogue in interesting ways and foster an environment where the best in each others' work can shine through. Happily, last nights Elton John and Billy Joel pairing falls in the latter category.

I should clarify that while I am not the biggest Elton John fan, Billy Joel is on my short list of artists I can apply little critical reasoning to. My respect for Sir Elton's work is there and I enjoy many of his projects, but Joel's discography is rife with some of my favorite songs and albums of all time. I've even performed ten or so of his tunes on stage. Last night's ticket to their Gillette Stadium show was a late-breaking surprise and could not have been more exciting.

That said, the show was energetic, electric, and alive with all the accomplished playing and good vibes that one would expect from two of RIAA's ten top-selling musicians of all time. As the pair took the stage and began the first of their two mutual sets, it occured to me that these two gentlemen have produced some of the most well-known songs in the popular rock canon. And while the audience sang along for nearly 90% of the concert, there was not a whiff of weariness in even the most obvious song choices.

The joint sets that opened and closed the show offered perhaps the most highlights. It was genuinely fascinating to hear the two legends trade verses and piano fills on their material. Obviously, each has the chops to both perform and improvise upon the other's music at a moment's notice, and a high point of the show was hearing the pair trade fours in the extended outro of "Bennie and the Jets". Their vocal swapping worked well in most instances, too, making songs like "I Guess That's Why They Call It The Blues" (and even the cliche adult-contemporary lilt of "Just The Way You Are") fresher and arguably better than their recorded counterparts. John found much of his rocker side again contributing to "You May Be Right", and even if Joel's vocal style struggled with "Candle in the Wind", he was able to elevate songs like "The Bitch Is Back" into leaner, more ragged rockers.

Following the opening four tunes, Joel's piano disappeared into the stage and John and his band began their proper set. From the moment he arrived on stage, Elton was a magnetic personality. His mere prescence energized the stadium, and from the opening notes of "Your Song", he had the audience hanging on his every note. Even his (slightly) lesser known songs like "Funeral for a Friend" and "I'm Still Standing" were aired to a nearly delirious reception. That's not to say he didn't include a hefty selection of the standard hits in his set; "Saturday Night's Alright For Fighting", "Philadelphia Freedom", and "Crocodile Rock" all got the standard treatment and had the crowd of mixed ages dancing, jumping around, and--in at least one merry fellow's case--falling over. Elton gave a nod to the live album revival with a suite from 1971's Madman Across the Water: "Levon", the title track, and "Tiny Dancer", the last getting a boost from Almost Famous as the audience sang along word for word. Incidentally, Elton mentioned that he will return to Gillette in October to serve as an honorary captain for the Patriots. I had known that he was a fan (and a personal friend of Robert Kraft's) but I had forgotten.

If Sir Elton's presence was comparable to that of a respected modern British composer, then Billy Joel was the rock-and-roller American everyman. Beginning with the "Wipeout"-inspired piano gymnastics of "Angry Young Man", Joel's set ripped through many of his most upbeat numbers. A tougher sounding "Movin' Out" and gritty "Allentown" followed before Joel introduced the biggest surprise of the evening in the jazzy "Zanzibar" from 1978's 52nd Street. Carl Fischer's trumpet got a fantastic ovation after a lengthy and demanding solo. "Scenes From An Italian Restaurant" was well-received, but it was the interpolation of a complete verse of the Standell's "Dirty Water" in the caesura of "River of Dreams" (and in the same key, no less) that got the loudest roar of approval. A moment that did seem lost on the crowd was Billy's slyly inserted screenshot of Elton synched with the lyric "England's got a new queen" during "We Didn't Start The Fire"--a song that means "nothing at all", according to its composer. On the whole, Joel and his band offered tighter, better performances than when I caught him for his 2006 tour in Boston.

The show was not without its flaws. Several songs were transposed to accomodate their singer's aged vocal range; "Piano Man" in particular seemed uncomfortable for Elton John, while "Uptown Girl" seemed uncomfortable for the entire audience. Still, for a show that consisted of trotting out songs that everyone has heard many, many times, the performances were vibrant, exciting, and amazingly satisfying. The inevitable closer, "Piano Man", rounded out a fantastic show for a very good crowd on a Saturday.

Billy Joel & Elton John: Set List

Just got home from Route 1 (where no one has heard of the every-other-car rule) and I'm still buzzing from a great show. I might do a review tomorrow, but I wanted to jot down the set list before my phone dies (or beat the Globe and score extra blog hits).

Gillette Stadium, Foxboro, MA // July 18, 2009

Show Open: Billy & Elton
"Your Song"
"Just the Way You Are"
"Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me"
"My Life"

Solo set: Elton John
"Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding"
"Saturday Nights Alright For Fighting"
"Madman Across the Water"
"Tiny Dancer"
"Goodbye Yellow Brick Road"
"Philadelphia Freedom"
"I'm Still Standing"
"Crocodile Rock"

Solo set: Billy Joel
"Prelude/Angry Young Man"
"Movin' Out"
"Don't Ask Me Why"
"She's Always A Woman"
"Scenes from an Italian Restaurant"
"River of Dreams/Dirty Water"
"We Didn't Start the Fire"
"Still Rock and Roll to Me"
"Only the Good Die Young"

Closing Set: Billy & Elton
"I Guess That's Why They Call It The Blues"
"Uptown Girl"
"The Bitch is Back"
"You May Be Right"
"Bennie and the Jets"
"Candle in the Wind"
"Piano Man"

Update: You can read my full review here.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Adventures in Education, Chapter 9

Friday, Summer Camp, 3:14pm
Art Room

Four year old: "How much longer are we in here?"
Me: "15 minutes."
Four year old: "When will that time be up?"
Me: "In 15 minutes."
Four year old: "So how much longer until then?"
Me: "...15 minutes."
Four year old: [Mind blown.]

Monday, July 13, 2009

Post-College Options Presented in a Friendly, Comfortably Familiar Format

You have reached the 2009 Education & Job Market River Crossing! You must decide how to cross.
  1. Try to ford the river (and apply for jobs anyway)
  2. Caulk your degree and float it (to an unrelated, entry-level job)
  3. Hire a grad school to ferry you across.
  4. Wait and see if conditions improve.
What are you going to do?

Sunday, July 12, 2009

A Cheesy Fairytale

Once upon a time, in a faraway kingdom, there was a magical Lactaid Cow. Lactaid Cow was the young princess's very best friend, and he lived on the royal farm with all the other animals. He was a very special cow, but he often felt sad because he didn't fit in with the other cows. They were jealous of Lactaid Cow and would put him down just because he was different.

"Whoever heard of a Lactaid Cow? What a ridiculous animal you are," they would jeer. "Everyone knows that milk tastes better with lactose in it. Your milk isn't any good at all! You don't fit in here, Lactaid Cow!"

Lactaid Cow was hurt by how intolerant the other cows were. Their unkind words made his tummy hurt. Late one morning, holding his head low, he decided to leave the royal farm behind and head to the big city. He wandered for days and he was quite lonely.

Back on the farm, young Princess Butterface grew very sad and missed her friend tremendously. "Where do you think Lactaid Cow has gone?" she asked her mother. "I don't really know," said the Dairy Queen, "but I hope that wherever Lactaid Cow is, he knows how very special he is and how much he means to our family."

As the weeks went by, there was no sign of Lactaid Cow. This posed a serious problem, for young Princess Butterface had developed a debilitating case of flatulence. The villagers and countrymen of the kingdom all agreed that this was a very big problem indeed. It was agreed that Princess Butterface would need to give up her daily cheesecake and pizza bites, and switch to the far less satisfying treats made by their boring neighbor, the Soy Fairy. Of course, this made her miss Lactaid Cow even more.

The other cows realized their mistake and regretted their behavior. "I wish we hadn't been so unthoughtful to Lactaid Cow. Being different is important, and part of what makes us all unique! It's nothing to make fun of someone for," the cows lamented. "If Lactaid Cow was here, things sure would be a lot more pleasant!"

Just then, a familiar cowbell clang-a-langing rang out from over the hills. It was Lactaid Cow! He had returned for apparently no reason at all! The other cows rushed over to greet him and gave him a big hug. "We're so sorry for the way we treated you," they said, "but we're really glad that you're back. You're the best cow ever! Let's buy you an ice cream to celebrate!" Lactaid Cow milked their apology for all it was worth and ordered a triple scoop sundae with whipped cream.

Princess Butterface was overjoyed. "I can enjoy dairy again™!" she cried, waving her arms excitedly. "Thank you, Lactaid Cow!" She celebrated with three cheesecakes, four bowls of yogurt, two cups of pudding with whipped cream, and a milkshake. Most importantly, the princess would never have to settle for margarine again!

Everyone learned an important lesson that day: Instead of excluding those who are different, we should celebrate what makes us so unique and special! Also, lactose intolerant kids feel left out, like, all the time. Be nice to them and send out for sandwiches instead. Lactaid Cow, Princess Butterface, the Soy Fairy, and all of their friends lived happily ever after! The end.

Adventures in Education, Chapter 8

Friday, Summer Camp, 7:42am

[Awkward silence, followed by...]

Me: "So, if you spray a mosquito with insect repellent, do you think his friends stay away from him after that?"
4th grade girl: "Yeah. I bet he hates himself and gets a severe case of depression."
Me: [Elects to resume awkward silence.]

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The Most Significant Moment In Time EVER

Ladies and Gentlemen,

You might not be aware that right smack dab in the middle of this week, humanity reaches a tremendous milestone. You read that right. At just a bit past midnight, the official date and time will be:

12:34:56 7/8/9

If you are reading this on Tuesday, you might have noticed that I arbitrarily set the post time ahead to observe this monumental achievement in chronology. 04:05:06 07/08/09 also occurs on Wednesday. Fascinating.

Oh, I almost forgot. This is also my 100th blog post, thereby making this the greatest moment in the history of mankind. I'm glad you were here to share it with me and this piece of potentially unauthorized clip art.

For those of you who might have joined us recently, allow me to pimp my personally selected top 10 greatest hits. Please stroke my ego and take a look back at some of what I think is my least crappy stuff:

Adventures in Education, Chapter 6
A Very Important Pronouncement
Make Way For Jerkbag Loserfaces
On Second Thought, Michael Phelps Isn't Sorry
TV Review: Power Rangers, Season 1!
A Letter to Local Coffee Shop Girl
A Salute to the Bar Room Tough Guy
I can't wait to be a Hilarious Grumpy Old Guy!
Any Karaoke Bar, dissected
An Open Letter to 2008

Everything else I've written sucks. Don't read any of it. Otherwise, thanks for putting up with me. Cheers!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Don't Stop Til You Get Enough

More words on Michael Jackson?!? Yes. You've been warned, so if you don't want to read this, don't.

During the massive media overkill that has been Michael Jackson coverage over the past two weeks, I have been amazed to see just how much the oft-maligned entertainer meant to so many people. I would never have expected to see so many millions, all over the world, expressing their grief and openly crying for a man most had never even seen, never mind met and known. It is both downright bizarre and, in a strange way, quite heartening. The popularity of one man's work, all over the world, almost underlines our common humanity.

Perhaps I'm overstating it. Yet, he definitely had universal appeal like few others before him. Michael Jackson's music shot to the top of the charts all over the planet, almost immediately after his passing. His life and death have been the dominant story on every major news outlet, almost continuously, for the past twelve days. There are few figures in entertainment history that could have ever garnered that kind of following. MJ's global popularity is rivaled only by The Beatles, Elvis Presley, and perhaps Bob Marley as a dark horse. Think about that. Our generation doesn't even have a defining artist (like a Nirvana, a Madonna, or a Led Zeppelin), never mind an artist who transcends all limits of popularity, time, and location. We'll never have an era-defining moment like when MJ debuted the moonwalk on Motown 25.

For all those who argue that he was only an entertainer, it is worth remembering that he is the most successful solo artist of all time. For those who argue that he was a bizarre character, it's also worth remembering the massive amounts of charity work he both spearheaded and privately funded. For those who argue that his peak was in the mid-80's, over twenty years ago, it's absolutely worth remembering that a lot of his music is still massively popular today.

Popular, I think, beyond what anyone would have expected. And good, too. Thriller is still the greatest selling album of all time, by anyone. "Billie Jean" is a rock solid 10/10 on even the curmudgeoniest critic's scale. The song is genius, and every last piece of it was conceived and written by Jackson himself. "Beat It" is the best thing Eddie Van Halen ever did, by far. "Smooth Criminal" is just as popular now as it was then. "The Way You Make Me Feel" livens up any party even twenty years later. "Don't Stop Til You Get Enough" and "Wanna Be Startin' Something" are so damn danceworthy that they have probably caused car accidents.

The undeniable transcendence of his music is, for me, the most surprising part. I'm old enough to remember when Dangerous came out, and his subsequent performance at Super Bowl XXVII. Michael Jackson was a big deal for a lot of people back then. What I wasn't aware of is, after over a decade of basically being a punchline, kids today actually love his music. The students (in the summertime, we call them "campers") that I work with love it whenever "Billie Jean" or "Beat It" is played over our PA system in the mornings. Just today, someone played "Thriller" and I had a kindergartner tell me that she saw the video with her mom and loved it ("This is Michael Jackson! This is the prom video with the dancing!"). The girls always dance to "I Want You Back" while the boys seem to prefer "Smooth Criminal", though not for dancing. More for just standing around to. Even as they're making jokes or informing me of their knowledge ("he died, you know"), they still really love his music.

And, although it might not be the coolest thing to say... I do too. While the onslaught of Jackson memorial coverage is suffocating (and no, I didn't watch it), you can count me among those who was quietly hoping he'd make a comeback and felt sad at his passing. He might have had some major issues later in life, but the man had talents that most of us can only dream of, he inspired millions of people, and his music is still damn good.

Profiles In Snobbery: Hingham, Mass.

Today, let's hear it for the snooty, snotty old town of Hingham. For those of you who might have missed this tremendous, late-breaking news flash from the lovely little town of 19,882, residents are up in arms and simply demanding a Special Town Meeting over the School Committee's decision to name a new elementary school after the superintendent who made it possible.

Well hold my pancakes and call me Petunia--what an earth-shattering issue! The outraged (outraged? really?) folks in Hingham have forced the town to hold a Special Town Meeting, to the tune of five to ten thousand dollars. That's right, in a day and age where budget cuts are forcing layoffs at all education levels, the upper crust in Hingham want to know that their money is well spent. The hell if they'll be sending their kids to Dorothy Galo Elementary School. No way, no how.

Hingham stinks. What kind of a Puritan, WASPy attic of a town spends thousands of dollars (which they want taken from the education budget) to debate the naming of an elementary school? Who the eff cares? It's an elementary school. The name might, just might, show up on a t-shirt. It's not like letterman jackets and diplomas will be printed with the name on it in bold.

Is it a bit weird to name a school after a living person? Sure. Is it a bit weirder for said person to be offering tours of the school? I sure think so. Should the naming have been discussed? Perhaps. Does it make a hill of beans of difference toward the quality of the education or the common good? Not one bit. Oh wah, we weren't consulted! Get over yourselves, Hinghamburgers. Taking thousands of dollars away from your children's education to air your squabbles with the education department's insulated but otherwise harmless decision is irresponsible and, frankly, childish.

You suck, Hingham. Glad I don't live there.

Editor's Note: Snobbery probably has very little to do with this story. However, I wrote the title first and the post went in a fairly different direction. Hingham really is pretty snobby, though.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Vicious Cycle

Today, I did some thinking. I spend all my money on booze to cope with the fact that I'm bummed out about spending all my money on booze. This was a very sobering realization. I'm going to go buy some booze to cope.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

English Majors Don't Have Much to Show Off

Ostensibly, any time you start a sentence with the word 'ostensibly', you're being erudite to the point of pretentiousness. If this pretension manifests itself in an application essay to a fairly prestigious English program, does this necessarily impugn your entreaty as obsequious? Even more pressing, if I used even a third of those words in Scrabble, would my score be higher than my GRE?