One, two, three, four, one, two …

It may be that you can predict why I have chosen this particular video to grace my humble website tonight.

The other reason is that it was 104 degrees outside today and at least ninety in the halls at my school, and I am tired.

Parenting level +1

My exhaustion level for the last couple of days has been extraordinary even for the first (full) week of school, and today we had to get the boy ready for his upcoming first day of school– which included a meeting with the band director so that he could pick an instrument to play this year and then meeting with the local instrument rental folks to remortgage my house set up a rental plan for the new instrument. My wife, who you may remember makes considerably more than I do, generally handles any sort of payments that school requires, but I’m taking care of instrument rental, more or less because it’s my turn. And after 32 payments, we’ll own an alto saxophone!

Super exciting.

Actually, I am excited, if only because the boy is out of his mind about the idea of getting to play the saxophone, and his enthusiasm is infectious. I have attempted to play a host of instruments in my time– violin, French horn, trombone, ukulele and harmonica come to mind without thinking too hard, and the closest I’ve ever come to being a competent player of an instrument was getting good enough to consistently 100% anything on medium difficulty in Guitar Hero. Once I had to start moving my hand to pick up that blue fret, though, I was done. I think I have a passable, or at least not embarrassing, singing voice, and that’s as close as I’ll ever get to being a musician. My wife is staggeringly more talented than me in that department, so we’ll hope the boy follows in her footsteps and not mine.

What this means, of course, is that there are fourth grade band concerts in my future. I will grit my teeth and clap and be supportive while dying on the inside, like a good dad’s supposed to, and hope that he sticks with this long enough to become legitimately good at it.

We’ll see, I suppose.

Some music thoughts

I actually had a reasonably busy day today– I did not, as planned actually set foot in my classroom, but I spent about $160 at the teacher store for stuff I’ll get put up tomorrow, and I did a lot of prep work at my computer at home, including sending many emails to my principal and sending out invites to my Google Classroom way early to see how many of my kids are on the ball enough that they notice this early. The answer: four in my advisory, three in my first block, three in second, and one in my third, which probably doesn’t represent more than five or six actual kids but I haven’t compared yet. My class webpage is mostly updated and I’ve got some forms that needed to be created and/or updated for this year done. I got a few other errands that I’ve been putting off taken care of while I was out as well, so today wasn’t a complete waste.

I noticed a thing about myself recently that I don’t like, which is that I have this weird idea that there are people out there who might judge me for my music tastes. You can, perhaps, imagine what albums might trigger that impulse when looking at the above. I have decided, now that I’ve noticed this, that I don’t give a shit, and I’m going to listen to whatever the hell I want with no regard to the nonsense of others, which is as it should be. I’ve purchased all three of the above within the last few weeks. I am terrible at writing music reviews, which is why I’m cramming all three of them together into the same post. The short version: I approve of all three.

Willow Smith’s (I guess she just goes by Willow, but that’s that Willow) lately I feel EVERYTHING is the big surprise of the lot, as I already knew I was a big fan of Prince and Billie Eilish. I saw Willow shave her head during her recent performance of Whip My Hair, which was what brought her back into my consciousness, and when I found out there was a new album and it was a lot more rock-themed than what she’d recorded when she was nine (which won’t surprise anyone) I went ahead and grabbed it. And it’s great. The production takes a little getting used to, as the album sort of sounds like it was recorded in a basement, but in a sort of “I want this to sound like it was recorded in a basement” kind of way, but Willow’s got a great voice and, frankly, this is not an album I would ever expect to hear from a young Black woman, which is part of why it was such a damn pleasure to listen to.

Prince’s Welcome 2 America is his first posthumous release, and yes, I’m still mad at God for taking Prince away from me. And … well, I liked it a lot, because it’s fucking Prince, but I can sort of see why he didn’t release it. The album is shockingly topical given that it was written and recorded ten years ago; there’s nothing about it that feels dated, but what I liked about the New Power Generation years was the big, banger-type of songs: Gett Off and Se7en and Thunder and Cream, and there’s nothing on here that sounds like that. It kind of feels like an album of b-sides, in a way– there is plenty on here to like but you’re not going to find your new favorite Prince song or anything like that.

And, well, you’ve probably already heard most of Billie Eilish’s Happier than Ever, since it seems like about half of it has been released already. That said, there are some gems on it that haven’t been released yet– I’m a big fan of Oxytocin, and GOLDWING and the title track are pretty damn good too. It does sound a lot like her previous two albums, which is its only weakness. I don’t know that I feel like her sound has evolved at all since her last album, which isn’t that big a problem– I like that sound– but the other two albums I’m talking about here both represent stylistic differences from what we’ve seen before from those artists.

At any rate, I’d recommend any or all of them, so hit up Spotify or whatever you’re doing to get your music nowadays.

In which I’m listening

I got new albums from Prince and Billie Eilish today, both of which were released today, and I feel like that fact represents most of the breadth of my music tastes pretty accurately. The Prince album was recorded in 2010, at the tail end of the New Power Generation years, which for me is Peak Prince. I’ve only listened to it once (and am currently halfway through the Eilish album) but it’s entirely possible that there will be gushing about it in the near future. I need a couple more spins before I’m going to be able to write coherently about it, though.

Yeah, I said “spins,” even though I’m listening to MP3s. My blog, my grammar. Shuddup.

I went over to work today, as planned, and while there was some stuff that I wanted to do that I wasn’t able to (they had all summer to move my desk, and they haven’t, which … grr) I got a decent start on setting the room up. One thing I’m going to try out this year: I have more bulletin boards than I know what to do with, so I’m going to use one of them to display student compliments for each other. I’ve used this a few times on assignments as a bonus question– literally “say something nice about someone else in the room for a bonus point,” and the kids generally do a pretty good job. It’s also interesting how cleanly the compliments seem to get spread around– I pay attention, and while there are some kids who are more popular than others everybody seems to be getting mentioned every other time or so.

What I’m thinking I’ll do is make a little form– maybe a quarter of a piece of paper– and occasionally pass them out and demand everyone write something nice about somebody and also leave them out so that they can leave compliments for people whenever they want. Maybe on the days where I make them write them I’ll clear the board first so I can pass the kids’ compliments back to them. I figure anything I can do to make the classroom more welcoming is only going to result in good things, and this is going to be a year where I need as much buy-in from my students as I can possibly get, since I’ll be asking for a lot from them. And if it doesn’t work, I can always take it down after the first quarter if I want to.

Off to do some recording. I’ll likely do some live-streaming tonight as well, so swing by the channel this evening if that sounds like fun.

Taking the night off

I‘ve been listening to a lot of Counting Crows this week, so have this phenomenal cover of Friend of the Devil in lieu of a blog post: