Musings, Nits, and Praises: February 2009

Musings, Nits, and Praises

A farrago of all things deemed blog-worthy by a music-loving, poetry-writing, humor-seeking English teacher

9:30 on a Tuesday Night - The End of an Era

Well, it wasn't 9:30 exactly, but it was Tuesday night that Barenaked Ladies announced Steven Page was leaving the band after forming the band twenty years ago with Ed Robertson. For ardent BNL lovers like myself, the news comes as a major disappointment. Based on multiple interviews, his departure seems devoid of acrimony. According to Page, his goals were no longer in line with the rest of the band's. He's working on a new solo record, has recorded an album with a side project band, and plans to continue his work with theatre music, including scoring for the Stratford Festival and working on writing his own musical.

Naturally, fans have speculated that his drug arrest from the summer contributed to the split, but Page says it had no direct bearing on the decision. He did admit, though, that the arrest caused him to reevaluate what he wanted to do with his life. Playing armchair psychologist, I think his divorce, new girlfriend, drug arrest, and parting with the band all speak to a discontent, a searching for a spark and direction.

As far as his leaving the band goes, if he finds greater fulfillment in pursuing solo projects, then good for him. You can't fault anyone for taking a new career route when the one he's been on has gotten stale. Nonetheless, I fear the split will diminish the band's work as well as his own--at least as far as his pop/rock writing goes. I know soon enough, I guess. The remaining four "Ladies" are set to record a new album in April, and Page will likely release something this year. As the band's co-founders, Page and Robertson have been the driving force of the band not only as the primary songwriters (usually writing together) but as the tone setters for their energetic live shows. Robertson says the band doesn't intend to look for a replacement. I think that's wise as any replacement would seem like a lesser imitation. Still, though I'm sure they'll perform some of the songs Steve sang, no one in the band has the pipes he has, and showstoppers like "Break Your Heart" and "What a Good Boy" probably won't be heard again. For readers unfamiliar with BNL, let me direct you to exhibits A and B:

"Break Your Heart"

"What a Good Boy"

On the plus side, "When I Fall," arguably their best song, should get played more regularly:

"When I Fall" from the Bathroom Sessions

"But I spent hours writing this paper"

Teaching high school, I face the "I worked hard therefore I deserve a good grade" mentality as well. At times to a frustrating degree.

One of the quotes I post in my room is from Samuel Johnson: "What is written without effort is in general read without pleasure." At the beginning of the year, I point out that quote and explain to my students that working hard is imperative if they want to earn a good grade but that assiduousness alone doesn't translate into good grades. Of course, come research paper time I still have a few students say, "I worked for hours on this and I made a C." I try to respond as gently as possible, but the crux of my explanation is always "That's because it's a C paper."

I think it's helpful sometimes to combat the "hard work is tantamount to an A" mentality by drawing parallels to non-academic activities. For example, athletes understand full well that they have to work hard to win games but that winning a game requires more than diligence.

The more difficult--but more important task--the writer in the NY Times alludes to is teaching students to view education as more than just a grade-earning system.

© 2006 Musings, Nits, and Praises | No part of the content or the blog may be reproduced without prior written permission.
Learn how to