This, That, T’Other

I finished a 7,000 word paper for my Law and Policy class this afternoon. Or at least the first write-through of the paper. I expect it’s going to need some heavy re-reading and editing before I turn it in on Wednesday, since I tend to research and write fast, omitting little details like two-letter words, punctuation and paragraph breaks. After that, I have a take home exam in the same class that should be about 12 pages, a 12 page paper in my Policy Evaluation class, and then an in-class final exam in Policy Evaluation. The semester will be done on December 13, and it can’t come any faster for me. When I began this degree, I was working in Troy, ten minutes from my home and 15 minutes from school, and I was pretty much in full control of my work schedule. Now I’m working an hour away from home and school in a job with much less schedule flexibility, doing three hours of class on Wednesday and Thursday nights (with related homework and readings) on top of 40 hours in the office and 10 hours a week on the road commuting. That situation makes for really, really long semesters, but I’m stubborn, and plan to complete what I started. Good thing is, there’s only one semester left after next week: in the spring I will have to take two evening classes (also Wednesday and Thursday, on Strategic Planning and Urban Policy) and complete a roughly 15,000 word master’s paper (on policy, problems and recommendations related to government funding of broadcast media like NPR and PBS) to complete the degree. If I had a fast forward machine, I would use it. No question.

On a music front, I did my monthly download of my pre-paid 75 songs from eMusic, picking a combination of new (to me) artists and some old favorites. After a couple of passes through the discs (the long commute is good from that standpoint), I would rate Einsturzende Neubauten’s new Alles Wieder Offen is the best of the lot. I’ve been listening to them since the early ’80s, and this is one of their better records. It’s less clangorous and metallic than some of their classic industrial discs, but it’s got some lovely arrangement and melodies, and Blixa Bargeld’s voice remains a thing of wonder. South African Chris Letcher’s Frieze opens with a masterpiece number, “Deep Frieze,” one of the most exciting and unexpectedly rich songs I’ve heard in ages. It reminds me of the better bits of early Split Enz. Maybe there’s something in water down there in the deep Southern Hemisphere. The rest of Letcher’s album has some other exciting high points as well, but it violates my sense of musical economy (it’s over an hour long, 20 minutes more than is necessary), so it’s been harder for me to grasp and appreciate as a full disc. That said, there’s a wonderful video of “Deep Frieze” that I recommend you watch here. It’s really lovely. Marmoset’s Florist Fired has some goosebump inducing great moments, too, especially when the trio gets fuzzy and furry and droney like some hairy Midwestern reinvention of the Jesus and Mary Chain. Their album is economically short, but the freaky bits are out-numbered by some more straightforward, dirgy, soft pop bits, pulling the overall quality rating down a smidge. Film School’s Hideout wraps up the month’s list, and it’s a solid guitar-driven album with all the decadent ambience and world-weary elegance you’d expect when you see that the disc was released by Beggar’s Banquet, once home of Britain’s finest shoegazing and goth ensembles. This record has got some great rhythms and melodies, with sonorous, resonant vocals that make it a perfect follow-on to The National’s Boxer, which I reviewed a couple of months ago. It’s stately, it is. And that’s nice. While I didn’t download them from eMusic, and while neither of them is brand spanking new, I would also be remiss if I didn’t mention scoring and enjoying Ween’s 2005 odds and sods collection Shinola, Vol. 1 and the complete 2007 released works of The Bird and The Bee. Both of them goofy. Both of them good.

Okay, off to check out the sports page to see if LSU and Ohio State will be playing for the BCS national championship, which will make me very unhappy, since I hate the greed-driven competitive ambiguity of a system that rewards the same teams year after year because of the conferences they play in, not because of the quality of their teams in any given year. Undefeated Hawaii may not play in a power conference, but their conference (Western Athletic) never will get a chance to be a power conference as long as they’re relegated to the Division I-A ghetto of non-BCS-dom. We should all be watching the Division I-AA playoffs, where things make sense, and brackets lead to a championship game that means something other than a paycheck. Bigtime college football is broke bad, for sure. But it gives something to be annoyed about, and that’s worth something, I suppose.

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