Monday, April 28, 2008

Review - Search the City

Tooth & Nail Records has a reputation as a trendsetting label with an uncanny ability to unearth unheard talents and bring them to an indie-rock audience hungering for something more than the latest single from the newest Nickelback clone. But the dirty truth is that for all of the innovative artists Tooth & Nail has introduced to the world, they have produced twice as many who are derivative of more popular artists—including their own labelmates. This explains, for example, the stream of emotional, ambient bands emulating The Juliana Theory and Further Seems Forever, and the copycats of the 80s-esque synth-pop-rock revival led by the likes of Anberlin, Emery, and Mae. That overly recognizable sound has a new incarnation—Detroit-based Search the City....
(Read the rest of the review here.)

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Rookie of the year

The NHL recently released the names of the three candidates for the annually awarded Calder Trophy, which is given to the best rookie in any given year. As I read through the names - Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews of Chicago and Nicklas Backstrom of Washington - and the analysis of their accomplishments, it suddenly struck me that these rookies are evaluated differently than other players. They are allowed time to learn the game and to adjust to the high level of play in the NHL, and it is rare that rookies come in and make an immediate impact on a team or the league (Crosby, Ovechkin, and Phaneuf come to mind, but they are not common talents). Those expectations are increased accordingly as the rookies enter their second and third years, until the point at which they have established themselves and their expectations can be more clearly standardized. As I thought about this whole process, I reflected on my year of teaching, and how it has been a rookie year that has featured a steep learning curve in which I have to learn a new system, new teammates, new "coaches", and a new level of responsibility. But as much as I think I should be able to do, others are still developing expectations for me, and I will hopefully keep learning for several years to come before I can know more clearly what I should be able to expect of myself. For now, I believe that I have helped my team, and that I have done the best job possible adjusting to the "big leagues" of teaching. I have made it through different obstacles and trials, and I am more talented at what I do now than I was in September. Maybe I will not win any awards for being the best first-year teacher ever (I'm pretty sure I won't), but at least I know that I have continued to improve and that I have better "goals" [pun intended] than I did eight months ago. And that's enough for me to hold my head high and start training for next season, in which I hope to not play as much "out of position", as long as the team re-signs me.

Monday, April 21, 2008

No longer Relevant

This space has never really been a place for reviews for me. I don't know why I didn't really get into it on this blog; perhaps I feel that my discussions here are more informal, or that the audience is not wide enough - I'm just not sure. At any rate, I have realized that I need an outlet for my writing other than this forum. For years, I wrote articles in the student press until I essentially outgrew the medium (I could not do much more to challenge myself, and I became bored with the writing). A friend and I then tried to pioneer our own site to satisfy our needs. BBV lasted for the better part of a year, but died after I went to camp and he lost access to the internet. So to fill the void, about this time last year I began writing movie reviews for Relevantmagazine.com. It began as a relatively promising enterprise, but the vast amount of content on the site - as well as a lack of diligence in publishing articles with expedience - made that situation less than great. A month ago, the same good friend introduced me to Patrolmag.com, a site that is dedicated to writing intelligent commentary on music and culture. He began writing reviews, and encouraged me to do the same. So now Patrolmag.com is my new outlet, and my first review - of Gnarls Barkley's The Odd Couple has been posted on the site. I will link to the reviews from here when I post them, but please take the time to check out the rest of the site. It's worth your time.

After two years of touring, publicizing, and dropping hints of the album to come, Gnarls Barkley released their sophomore effort, The Odd Couple. And while it’s still a little odd, it’s far more mainstream than its predecessor. The first thing most will notice is that The Odd Couple is decidedly more upbeat and positive than St. Elsewhere. In place of the murky depression of their debut, the record exhibits a stronger sense of hope and purpose. To read the full review, click here.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

NHL playoff picks

I love the middle of April, when NHL playoff hockey is just starting to get going. It's still new and fresh, and you're not so sick of defensive hockey that you just want someone to win already. And so the Chance comes again, and with it comes my picks (in brief).

Eastern Conference:
Montreal vs. Boston - This could almost be a sweep, but I'll call Montreal in five.
Pittsburgh vs. Ottawa - I say Ottawa concludes their stunning collapse by being swept and losing at home. By being shut out. Pittsburgh in four.
Washington vs. Philadelphia - This series will be the toughest in the East. The difference is Ovechkin. Washington in seven.
New Jersey vs. New York - The Rangers owned the Devils this season, and they're too hungry not to win this series. New York in six.

For the record, that would put the second round as Montreal vs. New York (New York in six) and Pittsburgh vs. Washington (Pittsburgh in seven). I think then that New York would travail over Pittsburgh in six in the Conference Finals.

Western Conference:
Detroit vs. Nashville - I'll be nice to Nashville. Detroit in five.
San Jose vs. Calgary - Iggy and Kipper are good enough to steal a game or two, but this series is going to San Jose in six.
Minnesota vs. Colorado - The toughest series for me to pick, but I think Colorado will get the best of the Wild in six.
Anaheim vs. Dallas - Never underestimate Marty Turco. But I will. Anaheim in five.

That puts the second round as Detroit vs. Colorado (Colorado in six) and San Jose vs. Anaheim (San Jose in seven). Then San Jose beats Colorado in seven in the Conference Finals.

So, San Jose faces New York in the Finals, and I think that San Jose will win in seven. That's the pick...unless San Jose is beaten by Calgary...that would be bad.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Chillaxin'

One of the most important things I am learning about myself as a professional this year is how to relax. Teaching is relatively high-stress, and I am slowly learning the things that I can do that can help me de-stress. I did not succeed over this past weekend: I did not fully get into my work, so I did not get much work done; neither did I fully get out of my work, so I did not get much relaxing done. I find that I am more frustrated after those kind of weekends, and that I really need to relax. That is why tonight I left my work at home and I spent some time with my beloved, just enjoying her company, as well as watching the NCAA Men's Basketball Final on TV (the first March Madness game I watched this year - and I missed it). And I remembered that watching sports is something that relaxes me - and I do not do it enough. That is why I think that part of my goal this summer will be to re-discover the things that relax me and to decide to pursue those things deliberately. Life is stressful - but it should not always be that way. That is why we have the NHL playoffs for the next two months - to help me de-stress.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Tuesday's blog

I have written posts like this before - blogging for the sake of blogging. There is no real impetus to the writing - just the acknowledgement that something new should go up on the site soon, and that I have the time to say something now. But this post is interesting, because it came out of my realization that today was Tuesday, and I have often blogged on Tuesday night. I do not know why or how that routine came about; maybe it was because Tuesday used to be my TV night, but neither Chuck nor Heroes have aired many new episodes in the last three months. At any rate, I have realized that I have gotten into some routines over the past few months, and that I now have certain built-in expectations for almost every night of the week. The surprise here is not that I am in a routine (I always end up in one), but just how those routines shape up. And what is also strange is that, although I have developed these routines just like I have in any other four-month-long period of life, and I will be changing these routines soon just like I have in any other four-month-long period of life, these routines feel different from any other four-month-long period of life. Perhaps it's because the next routines I develop will be in an entirely new context, and I will not be able to fall back on any of the old routines. This is what Jerry Seinfeld must have felt like near the end of his stand-up career - he did not want to leave the old routines behind, but he also had to leave them behind for his own good. I still have a little bit of time with the old routines, but with only a month to go in my contract and only three months to go until the wedding, pretty much everything is now in flux. That means that my main routine will be not having routines until things settle down in about six months, when school is going in October. Tuesday's gone, with a blog....

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