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Jeff Lakin (LeffJakin?)

[ website | The Best Songs Will Never Get Sung ]
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What? A Grown-Up Blog? [Jun. 3rd, 2009|11:57 pm]
Jeff Lakin (LeffJakin?)
Yes, I think its time to transition out of LJ land (I say that like I've posted anything here in the last six months) and onto something new.  I might double post here for a while, just because I know people still see this and might be more apt to comment, but go and check things out over at http://leffjakin.wordpress.com


Though it seems kind of cliche to start a new blog with some sort of statement of purpose, I really did have to sit and think about my writing, both public and private, in trying to figure out why I felt the need to start something new.  There's certainly no shortage of ways out there for me to express myself.  To give a quick overview:

The Public:

  • LJ: Currently near defunct.  An artifact of the college years, generally a place for personal introspection in the public sphere.  Experience has now shown that no matter how mindful of audience you are, this is generally not a great idea.
  • Music Blog: Dead as a doornail.  I did love sharing my taste in music with the world for a while, but trying to keep saying something original on a regular basis about just one topic didn't hold up so well over time.
  • Tumblr: I guess the present equivalent to the music blog, in the "hey, look at this" sense... the pop culture minutae junkie in me is hooked.
  • Twitter: The fad's been an interesting lesson in economy of language for me as a chronic rambler, and quick witticisms on the run can be a lot more interesting than I would have thought.

The Private:

  • Private Journal: Though I now know the personal thought-writing is best left to the pen and paper, I've never been great with consistency.  In retrospect, I do appreciate the periods I've kept a record for, however.
  • Random scribblings/imaginary sitcom pilots: Done to stave off boredom at work, its beecome an interesting form of retroblogging, fictionally retelling life stories of the last eight or so years as if they had characters and plot arcs... yeah, I'm serious.

So with all that, what could be missing?  Since leaving college, there's been a lack of analysis.  Be it politics or pop-culture or the mundane details of life, I miss taking real time to upack ideas, draw connections, and make commentary-- thinking about what makes an album particularly tied to some time in my life, or what it was about a current event that got me riled up.  Sometimes, its as much for my own enlightenment as anyone else's, though I also miss the feedback and back and forth discussion that hopefully follows from good writing.

Hence this space.  A real live grown-up blog, if such a thing can be said to exist.  A place for long-form commentary in an 140-character world.  In that sense, I suppose the title I chose for being a favorite lyrical snippet from Wilco is kind of fitting:

"Candy left over from Halloween
A unified theory of everything
Love left over from lovers leaving
Books, they all know they're not worth reading
It's not for the season"

(That song, by the way, was an extra track from Yankee Hotel Foxtrot called "Not For the Season," which later showed up on a Tweedy side project with the far more inexplicable name "Laminated Cat"... go figure)

So, that's it... it'll be a little sentimental, a little self-indulgent, and probably a little pretentious, but more than anything trying  to tie together people, events, emotions, and ideas in a way that makes the world around us seem a little more interesting.

Stick around.  It should be fun.

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On Teaching and Tunes [Jul. 9th, 2008|08:50 pm]
Jeff Lakin (LeffJakin?)
[Current Location |Spoon- Merchants of Soul]
[Current Mood |busy]

I've got my teacher blog (http://mrlakin.blogspot.com) linked into Facebook now, but in case you missed it... I officially have a job!

After some unavoidable hiccups in the TfA placement process, I made a shift in content area from middle school language arts to upper elementary.  As a result, this fall I will be teaching 4th grade at Bethesda Elementary School in Durham, North Carolina.  While its a bit of a curveball to make the switch (along with four more hours of Praxis testing), after spending a summer here in Atlanta with my third graders (who will, after all be fourth graders this fall) I've grown attached to the idea, and am excited about what comes next.

Mostly, however, I opened up the ol' LJ because I felt like writing about music, and sharing some good stuff I've found while taking a break from lesson planning this summer, complete with links (thanks, Hype Machine!)

First off, the song that's been on repeat on my way to and from school almost every day this week has been Ron Sexsmith's version of the song he co-wrote with Feist, "Brandy Alexander".  The version on Feist's "The Reminder" last year was one of the sleepers of the disc- a sweet, spare ballad filled with longing and sweetness that only Leslie Feist can deliver.  Sexsmith's version, on the excellent just-released "Exit Strategy of the Soul," fleshes things out a lot, making it more of a 70s soft-rock sing-along (and I mean that in a good way), complete with a fantastically bold yet warm Cuban horn section.  (http://download.stereogum.com/mp3/Ron%20Sexsmith%20-%20Brandy%20Alexander.mp3)

Then, there's the inexplicable title song from the upcoming Pineapple Express (the latest from the Judd Apatow comedy factory), performed by... wait for it... Huey Lewis and the News.  Basically, Seth Rogen is so awesome he can just assume that his wacky stoner comedy is on par with both Back to the Futures I and II in deserving a song over the end credits with more 80s saxophones lines packed into one composition than any man thought possible (http://larryfire.files.wordpress.com/2008/07/01-pineapple-express.mp3)

Finally, the concept of a song designed by committee sounds inherently awful and yet not one but two bands have managed to give it a whirl in the past month.  Rivers Cuomo, already riding high on the power of internet celebrity via the ridiculous video for the ridiculously catchy "Pork and Beans", has been working on YouTube with fans to craft a song literally from the ground up... chords, solos, lyrics, the works.  I have to say, the Weezer fanboys and girls seem to have ears as pop-friendly as Cuomo, as "Turning Up The Radio", the resulting single, though nothing earth-shattering, is a nice little summertime rock song (http://boxstr.com/files/2504354_xdsos/turnin-up-the-radio.mp3)

While the cooperative efforts engaged in by Ted Leo and the Pharmicists may only have been lyrical, they drew from the suggestions of the listening audience of the strangely hilarious Best Show on WFMU (where Ted himself is a regular caller).  The result, completed in the course of one three hour program with heavy input as always by host Tom Scharpling, is "The World is in the Terlet," a number that lets Ted go more all-out punk than usual, albeit with a demented smirk the whole way through (http://www.fluxblog.net/tedleo_terlet.mp3).

That's about all the procrastination induced music blogging I can do for now.... before I go though, a quick question: what awesome music would you play in your fourth grade classroom?  I managed to use a rainforest lesson today to play Seu Jorge's Portugese Bowie covers from The Life Aquatic during my students' worktime today as an example of music from South America.  As it went over pretty well, I've been working on a "Class Jams" playlist of music for kids to work along to in class (or to let some energy out to with impromptu dance parties).
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(no subject) [Jun. 24th, 2008|08:51 pm]
Jeff Lakin (LeffJakin?)
[Current Mood |cheerfulcheerful]
[Current Music |Ted Leo R/x- La Costa Brava]

New post on http://mrlakin.blogspot.com, folks... go check it out.

In other news, I'm still here... but busy busy busy.  I think most of the tangents of my life get covered pretty well on the teaching blog this week, save perhaps for this critical classroom self-evaulation:

As a third-grade teacher, I need to express a certain amount of enthusiasm to keep the kids engaged:
-When I'm good, I notice this enthusiasm sounds something like Hank Green of Brotherhood 2.0 fame (or possibly his less manic sibling John).
-When I'm bad, however... think of Michael Scott from "The Office" as an elementary school teacher.... yeah, that bad.

ALSO... last Thursday my lesson focused on "searching for clues" in text passages by skimming, and so I wore my favorite ugly Pitchfork hat to class and told my students it was my "special detective's hat"

...I'll let you decide where that falls on the ol' enthusiasm spectrum ;)
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(no subject) [Jun. 15th, 2008|02:46 pm]
Jeff Lakin (LeffJakin?)
[Current Mood |contentcontent]

So after some deliberation, I decided to start up a TfA-centric blog.  In a lot of ways, I hope my students do come across it, because I'm just the one telling their story at the end of the day.  I want them to see how proud I am to share their successes as a class with people I know, and people interested in the Teach for America movement (which, I have to say, I'm buying into more and more every day).  Anyhow, check that out at http://mrlakin.blogspot.com.

This space will be reserved more for non-Tfa type musings (probably more pop culture observations and inside jokes with the people I know still read this.  That said, here's the "rest" of the news from my first week in Atlanta:

*One of the girls at the school I teach at apparently spent two years as an assistant pastry chef.  She seemed surprised when I told her I knew multiple people back home who would be insanely jealous of this fact.

*I spent a pretty large chunk of my Saturday on my own exploring the city.  After finding the requisite Target and wasting a pretty large chunk of time in Barnes and Noble reading the end of the audio book I took out of the library and didn't get to finish on my drive down (Michael Chabon's "The Yiddish Policemens' Union", which I definitely reccomend), I managed to track down the local indie record store, Criminal Records, in the middle of what appeared to be the hipster-ish district of town.  Paste Magazine called it one of the best record stores in the country, and I'd have to agree with their assessment.  I picked up two promotional copies of CDs I'd been interested in (the new Tokyo Police Club and Love of Diagrams, both band who have at some point shared a bill with Ted Leo) for a total of $5, plus an awesome notebook with a cover made out of an old Elvis Costello "Punch the Clock" LP sleeve.  I'd been wanting a new "post-college" paper journal for a while, and though this is a little oversized, it was too cool to pass up.

*On my way back to Georgia Tech (which is a beautiful campus), I saw the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library, the Coca-Cola building, and CNN.  Though I;d already wasted enough time wandering, I put them on a running list of places to visit.  (Also, I saw a campaign sign on the side of the road for John Lewis for Congress, and remembered I get to spend a month living in the district of one of my favorite congressmen/civil rights legends- though I'm pretty sure that only matters to me).

*I'm sure I'll use to TfA blog to write more about "corps culture" in the future, but the Eastern North Carolina corps have been pretty fantastic here at institute.  Last night a couple of guys who played guitar got going and managed to amass a whole crowd of us out on a hill/grassy knoll type thing outside the dorms, where we all continued to just hang out for the duration of the evening.  I haven't really seen any of the other regions bonding like that, and it really is pretty awesome.

Well, that's pretty much it in Atlanta... one week down, four more to go in institute, and a whole lot more to go in my career as a teacher (not that I'm counting down already).
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The Test Begins.... [Jun. 8th, 2008|09:53 pm]
Jeff Lakin (LeffJakin?)
[Current Mood |anxiousanxious (but the good kind?)]
[Current Music |Institute "Get Pumped" Playlist]

So, I'm in Atlanta for Teach for America Institute.

The past week has been sent in Raleigh, for induction into the Eastern North Carolina corps.  I took four interviews with middle schools, all of which were good in one way or another, and should find out in the next few weeks which of them will be taking me on as a Language Arts teacher.  Also, I met some fantastic people, got to know the beautiful region I'll call home for the next two years.

Tomorrow, I'll be getting up at 5am to catch a big yellow bus at 6:15 sharp to Deerwood Elementary School, where I'll be getting ready to take control of a classroom.  They do their best to give us something close to what we'll be working with come fall, so I'm hoping for upper elementary, but for all I know I could be teaching first graders for the next month and a half (which I wouldn't mind at all... literacy is literacy, after all, and teaching is teaching).

Anyhow, just a quick update before my new early bedtime.... hopefully more as it happens.  I set up a blog, http://mrlakin.blogspot.com, for possible future TfA related writing, but I have my concerns about Google-savvy students reading my reflections on their lives and education, no matter how positive they are.  We shall see.

oh, PS: on my way out of Raleigh to Atlanta today, I stopped to get gas and snapped this picture on my cell of the convenience store:
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Thesis to go [May. 27th, 2008|06:15 pm]
Jeff Lakin (LeffJakin?)
[Current Music |The Impact's great new mp3 (iTunes compatible) stream]

So, remember yesterday, when I mentioned in an aside that I should get my senior thesis online?

Well, I've taken care of it-- and then some.

First, the paper itself is up in final, PDF form on my MSU webspace, for anyone who has the time to peruse its 68 some odd pages:


Second, during my defense, I was lucky enough to have a pretty involved filming detail with me in JMC Library, courtesy of a family friend. He put it on DVD within a week, so I could self consciously analyze my own work, but just now got it broken down into a ten part series of YouTube videos, which is sure to dissapoint countless Wilco fans in the coming weeks*:

*for those of you that don't know, I took the title of my thesis from a Wilco song/live album/tour. Don't act all surprised now

Take a look if you've got the time, and be sure to let me know what you think!
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There's a whole lotta walkin' to do... [May. 26th, 2008|11:50 pm]
Jeff Lakin (LeffJakin?)
[Current Mood |busy]
[Current Music |Limbeck- Big Drag]

So.  A month after graduating, and more than two months after posting here.  I'll spare you all the month of April, since its pretty typical end of college stuff and most of you lived it with me (though I'd still like to get a copy of my thesis in final draft form online), and fast forward to life post-MSU (as it seems a lot of folks are doing this Memorial Day weekend).

In the month or so since leaving college, but before starting much else...

  • Celebrated a lot, both my graduation and those of other family members.  Today sort of capped it off with a Memorial Day picnic in Midland with my four other cousins who graduated college.  Of the four of us, three are leaving the state and one is leaving the country (the one staying in Michigan is getting his MBA paid for, which is always a good reason to stay put), and it was weird to realize that my extended family was becoming so scattered apart for the foreseeable future, after most of us keeping roots in Michigan for our childhood and college years.

  • Slowly immersed myself in the Teach for America philosophy via the 'pre-institute' work.  Some of it is daunting, other parts are inspiring, and to be honest, I'm not sure how any of it will translate to my life as a teacher, which I suppose is normal.  The biggest boost probably came this past week, doing classroom observations out in Chelsea and Manchester Public Schools.  I hadn't been through an actual K-12 school day since graduating high school, and just to experience that routine again and see how other teachers achieved lesson plans and objectives gave me enough confidence to propel me into institute.

  • Did a ton of packing/inventory/cleaning up of my college stuff, bedroom, closet, and anywhere else I've been storing stuff for the past four years.  Among the many lessons learned from this were that I bought far too many CDs in college, far too few pleasure reading books, and that teaching was going to require a lot more new clothes than I'd thought (apparently I needed more than tweed jackets- who knew?)

  • Despite my newfound commitment to kick my CD buying addiction, I got myself hooked on a new band while on an alt-country kick in anticipation of my move south.  Limbeck sounds something like early-era Wilco with Fountains of Wayne lyrics and Phantom Planet's West Coast roots- its weird on paper, but is actually really catchy and pleasant, perfect for road trips.  Speaking of which, I've got about 24 hours of driving to do next week to North Carolina and then Atlanta... suggestions for the soundtrack are appreciated.

  • In the midst of all this busyness, I've still managed to miss hanging out with folks in general.  I got to see Steve and Bridget in Ann Arbor last week for the fantastic Avett Brothers, but other than that, its been whoever is still left around here from middle/high school to hang out with (and my family, who aren't bad either).... nevertheless, something must be planned in the second half of July in Metro Detroit and/or East Lansing before I leave for good... consider youselves on notice.
That's about it, unless anyone really wants to hear me gush about how awesome Season 3 of The Wire was.  Also, I'm trying to figure out what to do with all my online writing I've left dormant, this space included.  Tentatively, I'm thinking a new grown up blog to write and reflect on the TfA stuff, and keeping up a space here to write about music/TV/movies I'm enjoying and other assorted, less specific stuff (assuming I have time to consume music/TV/movies, let alone write about them... though I have missed it a lot as of late).  Or should I just let the LJ fall by the wayside as a relic of college days gone by, peeking in now and again on the friends page to stay up to date?  Thoughts, as always, are appreciated.

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Major Minor Victories [Mar. 28th, 2008|11:52 am]
Jeff Lakin (LeffJakin?)
[Current Mood |accomplished]
[Current Music |The Raconteurs- Salute Your Solution]

Because I enjoy sharing those small moments where everything suddenly seems much closer to being completed.... I finished a full first draft of my thesis yesterday, and you can check it out here.

It's far far far from complete.  The sections don't all mesh together yet, and there's a whole chunk of literature missing, not to mention half my citations and the all important diagrams.... but it's a full 42 pages long, with more than enough to add (I think) to make it to that elusive 50 page mark, and has a beginning, middle, and end, and that's good enough for me right now. 

By the way, that ending part?  Only completed after a chance encounter with the front section of The New York Times yesterday...that's how current this research is- truly cutting edge stuff ;)

Anyhow, now its just under three weeks to craft this giant chunk of words into something slightly more palatable and a little under a month to present it before faculty who stand ready to tear it to shreds.  But I thought I'd give my friends (who've heard much about my working ON this, and might have wondered what exactly the fuss was about) a chance to get a first look... though you might want to skip the technical stuff for now and go straight for the discussion section.
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His goal in life was to be an echo... [Mar. 11th, 2008|06:40 pm]
Jeff Lakin (LeffJakin?)
[Current Mood |contemplativecontemplative]

Wow, so long time no post.

The brief recap: It's my last semester, I'm insanely busy with two Madison classes, two jobs, and actually writing my 50 page thesis as opposed to just tinkering with numbers every now and again.

Most importantly, though most people who read this are already aware, I have accepted a position with Teach for America in Eastern North Carolina for Fall 2008.  Less than a month after graduating, I'll be headed down to Atlanta for a month of intensive teacher training/actually getting hired by a school, then its off to anywhere up to two hours outside Raleigh to live and work for the next two years.  Which brings me to the event that prompted this long overdue post.

I got an email today from- I kid you not- the "National Mental Health Consultant" for TFA.  As I'm a big fan of artifacts from one's life being symbolic of where they stand in it, I've reprinted it below.

I'm not quite sure how I feel about it, aside from being mildly amused.  I suppose there's a lot to be said on a broader cultural level for a society where we scope out shrinks in advance of a big move, but on a more personal level the letter brought to the surface a lot of things that I've been thinking and feeling since I got back from Spring Break.

Basically, in two months, all of this is gone.  The support structures, the foundations, the people and institutions that form the boundaries of my daily life and keep me sane, will simply no longer be.  In a lot of ways, I can already feel myself fading from them, as faces in the hallways and at meetings grow less familiar and planning gets underway for events I won't be present for.  In its place, I'll be building a new life essentially from scratch, which is both a tremendous and terrifying opportunity. 

And apparently, it all starts now.
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...oh wow. [Dec. 11th, 2007|02:37 pm]
Jeff Lakin (LeffJakin?)
[Current Mood |excitedgeeked]

Better than a box set: Wilco to do it live

By Greg Kot

December 11, 2007

Wilco will play a five-night residency at the Riviera Theatre in February in which it promises to play every song the band has recorded.

Wilco's career covers six studio albums, including last year's "Sky Blue Sky," and two "Mermaid Avenue" collaborations with Billy Bragg on the lyrics of Woody Guthrie.

"Over the five nights we will attempt the 'complete Wilco' and try to clear out the dusty corners of the catalog that we haven't attended to in a while," singer Jeff Tweedy said Monday in a statement. The shows will be Feb. 15, 16, 18, 19 and 20. Each set will be different.

Tickets ($35 plus service fees) go on sale at 10 a.m. Saturday through Ticketmaster.


$35+approx $5 service fees= $40 x 5 nights= $200, a little more than a festival pass.
plus I can stay with my aunt and uncle for  free.
and I'd only miss two days of class.

Is it bad that I'm slowly rationalizing this?
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