Math Tests

I have been in a high speed wobble between parent teacher conferences, kids in crisis, new animals and a pretty important test this Saturday. This time, I think I got it because it’s English, but it is three hours so I’ve been trying to fit in studying whenever I have free time which has been rare. So enjoy this one from last summer and expect some serious posts coming from me soon!

More White Stripes brother….they truly do rock and I hope they get back together because I missed them last time they were in Maine

I am getting closer to getting a real job in my field and one thing I have to do is pass a test early Saturday morning to become highly qualified in middle school mathematics. I have never taken a math course at the college level, majored in History and got my Masters in Teaching Social Studies to grades seven through twelve. Thus, on paper, I am inept at math and this becomes reality as I slog through the Cliff’s Notes study guide I broke down and bought.

I mean, I’ve tutored in this subject for years and thought I knew it well because I‘m often telling other teachers little tips on math stuff. I may be able to teach remedial math to students and adults alike, but my actual grasp of formulas, tangents and so on is weak. I’m freaking out.

Hopefully this isn’t me at the test.

I am supposed to be also finishing up my Female Artists part 2 right now which I’m also not doing because I keep starting to write then going back to studying math and realizing more that I don’t know. It’s my own fault for waiting so long to study. See, my whole academic life, I really did not do a bunch of studying. Sure, for big history finals and the like, I’d copy my notes over once and read them a bunch of times. Most of the time, it worked.

In grad school, I never took tests and have a pretty good track record with projects/papers because I like to write and to see a final product that took a lot of organization and time to complete. Math is not like this, at least math the middle school level. It’s knowing what all of the formulas are, how to identify curves in graphs and what discrete math mathematics actually means. It’s discrete goddammit, aren’t we not supposed to know what it means?

Now if this song was just about adding 46 and 2, I could certainly handle that. However, it’s actually about a theory Carl Jung had about the human genome chain. It is currently at 44 autosomes and  2 sex chromosomes with our evolution, by Jung’s ideas, moving to 46 and 2 to get out of what he perceived as humans disharmonious state. The cool part of this song for me is how the unbelievable drummer Danny Carey will be playing in a 7/8 beat while the rest of the band is in 4/4 and then bringing it back all together on the downbeat. This is math I can get into.  The song also talks about Jung’s “shadow” theory, the “shadow” being the part of ourselves we fear and hate. Can my “shadow” take my test for me?

Best case scenario, I pass this test and become highly qualified in a subject I’m probably not standard qualified in as of right now. Worst case, I fail miserably and have to take the test again. Of further significance would be the realization that I do need to study for subjects that I am not so familiar with and am a moron for again procrastinating. I could tell how the extreme heat and working outside has sapped me of my strength and required literal hours of watering my vegetables, how I am very close to getting a new job through networking, how my band played two gigs last weekend after weeks of a show every week, and on and on.

It’s all bullshit because the Elder J is busier than I am and way better at time management. I have what he always loves to call “hubris” or tragic pride in thinking I can get everything done I need to and well. I can’t and I just may end up feeling like this song. Wish me luck!

I can just take it again and put hours of time in and really learn this stuff so it will probably be a good life lesson if I do fail. I prefer lessons I choose to take but who doesn’t?

On the Radio: Caribou

A few weeks back I had to get up earlier than early to take my mother to the airport. It was another typically fast and emotional visit. As I have intimated before, my mother and I don’t always seem to communicate in ‘real time’. This is symptomatic less of her than of my rather typically closed approach to relationships: I think I am being laconic; I am observed as being distant and unfeeling.

Man or Band? It doesn't matter. D. V. Smith is Caribou

Man or Band? It doesn’t matter. D. V. Snaith is Caribou

On the way back from the airport, swooning a bit from the early hour and senseless thoughts on the fragility of self and the passage of time, I turned the local jazz radio station up to an uncomfortable volume and rolled all the windows down. (Not a cool sight: remember, I am the one in the rapidly aging blue Prius.) Yet, much to my surprise, the local jazz station straight-out gremlins over night and becomes an Indie-Rock madhouse.

Now the thing about Indie-Rock is that it is mostly described by what it is not: mainstream, major label fare. Beyond the boundaries of delivery device and popularity, it can be anything. So, an overnight, red-eye into the belly of the beast will, in all likelihood, be a mixture of depression, delight and digression. For every moment of wonder, there is another Pavement wannabe or Velvet Underground worshiping poseur.

After languishing through some local act falling somewhere between Stevie-Ray Vaughn and the post-breakdown side of Daniel Johnston (seriously if you don’t know Daniel Johnston and want to be Austin-hip, check out the fine documentary, The Devil and Daniel Johnston) this track came on:

I love everything about this song from the name (“Every time she turns about Its Her Birthday) to the fantastic rhythms, free-jazz inspired horns, and especially, as anyone who has read this blog before can imagine, the indirect and almost incoherent lyrics:

Spinning round you weigh me down
Gravel hands of green and brown

In your cells both red and white
On the sun that gives us light
In your cells both white and red
From the mouth our kids get fed

Now, what I also love about this track is that there is an essential compatability of sound and lyric-sense–both are fluid, mixed and, for lack of better descriptive, cloudy. The music is somewhere between jazz, rock, and ambient while the lyrics are slightly post-modern and impressionistic. Both, and especially together, invite interpretation and contemplation.

Of course, before it was dawn, I had downloaded the whole album Up in Flames by Caribou who used to be called Manitoba. Caribou, I discovered, is not a band but a man masquerading as one with all the skill of an Aphex Twin blended with a Beck unsullied by mainstream success. The album? One of the most interesting and challenging compilations I have heard in a while. The music is thick and layered, like a sonic parfait doing battle with a milkshake. The lyrics are exceptionally oblique and always wrapped up or buried beneath steppes of rhythm and sluiced by horns.

I thought I had heard of the band Caribou before and bad the mistake of dismissing it as some Train wannabe or fringely progressive one-off. I am so glad I was wrong.  Before that morning, the only musical Caribou I knew about was this one I have heard my brother singing to many times before:

I can’t say that I understand what is going on in Caribou’s music or lyrics; I can say that I will try to. I can also say I am thankful to the randomness of the universe for giving me this song at that time. It took me away from myself and the monotonous road. It took me away from that marginal and displaced feeling in between the end of someone’s visit and the resumption of ‘normal life’. And, whatever normal life is, it saved me from that for a bit too.

Hungry for some more Caribou, my brother?