Friday, August 29, 2003

Home Sweet Home

Speaking of houses, today is my second anniversary as a homeowner. "Casa de Kev" may not be as big as the "lottery house" I always envision, or those castles in Fairview I wrote about earlier, but it is a really great little house, and dang it, it's mine. It's already been the site of many cool jam sessions and some fun times with friends; here's to many more years of enjoyment.

Everybody Sing Along with Primus: "I'm Goin' Down to South Park Garland???"

OK, now I've seen everything. There's a neighborhood in Garland where all the streets are named after South Park characters.

I'd watched this new neighborhood being built over the past year or so, and I noticed that its entrance street was called Garrison. For some reason, when I saw that name, it reminded me of Mr. Garrison, the fruity teacher on South Park. Little did I know, that was exactly what the developers had in mind! So today, I drove through the neighborhood (I always like looking at new houses), and I started to see a pattern: In addition to Garrison, they had Crabtree (the shrieking bus driver lady), McCormick (Kenny's last name, except they spell it McKormick in the series), Mackey (the school counselor known for saying "mmm-kay?"), and--believe it or not--Cartman. It was when I got to the corner of Cartman and Mackey that I realized this was no coincidence.

So I guess there's nothing wrong with naming a whole neighborhood's worth of streets after cartoon characters; using numbers, letters, trees and Presidents will only get you so far. It must, however, be somewhat awkward to move your small kids onto a street named after someone on a show that they're way too young to watch! But I have to say, if you're gonna do cartoon characters, an all-Simpsons neighborhood should be next. Wouldn't you like to live on Bart Boulevard, Lisa Lane, Krusty Kove or Santa's Little Helper Street?

(UPDATE: It occurred to me on Sunday night, while watching my favorite Fox lineup, that there's another cartoon show that needs a Garland neighborhood named after it: King of the Hill, since Garland is at least the nominal inspiration for the fictional town of "Arlen" where the Hill family resides. Of course, series creator Mike Judge, who used to live in neighboring Richardson, says that the cultural inspiration for Arlen came more from also-neighboring Mesquite. A King neighborhood could be fun, giving us the likes of Peggy Place, Boomhauer Boulevard and (Bill) Dauterive Drive. OK, I'll stop now...)

Wednesday, August 27, 2003

In The Thick Of It

I may not blog much this week--the stuff is coming down. College started today and the rehearsals went great; the groups are gonna be really good. But now they're maybe wanting me to teach another class there....that would be awesome, but would also involve me basically blowing up part of the schedule I've worked so hard on for the past several weeks. And on the other side, I have band directors starting to bug me to take on even more students. Part of me wants to just tell everyone to take a collective chill pill until I can get this all straightened out. It's gonna be cool when it all comes together, but this hanging in limbo until Friday (when I find out if I'm teaching the other class or not) is the hardest part.

In the meantime, enjoy some tunes. My "band of the day" is Copeland. Hear some of their music here. (I recommend "Walking Downtown" or "Testing the Strong Ones.")

Saturday, August 23, 2003

One Down, 34 to Go...

I'm amazed at how quickly the first week of school went. Sure, I taught all day and had things to do almost every night, but it really flew. Of course, I asked one of the band directors I teach with if it was the same way for him, and he said no, not only was it not fast, but it felt like a root canal! Now you know why I'm not a band director...

It was a good week, though. I listened to four hours (!) of auditions at the college on Tuesday, then we had to deliberate over them for an additional hour. (This was mostly because we had some very good players, including walk-ins, as opposed to some semesters where we get a lot of people who just own an instrument.) It should be a great semester for all the groups.

In an effort to keep the Tuesday night tradition intact, Lee and Steven, being the faithful Dingii that they are, waited at Chipotle until 9:00...and I got there at 9:05 (d'oh). Now, I'm not sure which of these is scarier, but they're each a sign that I probably go there too much:

1) When I arrive at Chipotle, the employee that Zack refers to as "Nose Ring Lady" sees me and tells me that my friends have just left.

2) She then makes my exact burrito order from memory.

On Wednesday I got to hang with my great friend Jonathan from Virginia, and stayed up way too late for a school night, but it was well worth it since he's usually only here once a year, and I missed any chance to get together during my "24 hours in D.C." in July.

Last night I saw "Freddy vs. Jason." I can't remember ever laughing so hard at a horror movie (ok, except for the "Scary Movie" series, which is supposed to be funny). Lee has posted a review on his site, so I won't duplicate it here.

Anyway, it's hard to believe that a whole week is already done. College starts Monday (Tuesday for my classes), and I already have my first round of music pulled and ready for both combos. Thanks to not having a Saturday job this year, I start the new semester more prepared and more relaxed than ever before. It should be a great one...

Wednesday, August 20, 2003

Hold the Mayo?

A snippet of an actual conversation I heard over lunch today:

Customer in sandwich shop: "What kind of mayonnaise is that?"
Sandwich shop worker: "White."

Really? They use white mayonnaise here? How exotic; I should eat here more often (haha).

Of course, if she had said it was any other color (i.e. yellow, green, etc.), I would've high-tailed it outta there and never come back...

Tuesday, August 19, 2003

Off and Running...

I'm only one day into it, and the semester is already back in full force. Seven hours of teaching, followed by four hours of listening to auditions at the college...all I can say is, I'm glad I was so lazy over the summer, because I really don't feel too wiped out yet. Ask me the same question in December, I suppose, but so far, the sailing is smooth.

But the best part of it all was just how fun teaching was today. I certainly hope the sheer volume of it won't dilute that feeling as the year goes on; days like today remind me of why I do what I do in the first place.

Monday, August 18, 2003

Ode to a Summer

Well, summer's over. Your calendar (and mine) may say otherwise, but in the world of academia, the first day of the fall semester dictates the seasons more than any equinox could ever think of doing.

And I have to say it's been a great one! A lot of the things that have gone on have been chronicled in these pages over the past few months, and there have been plenty of other things that were too mundane to mention but were still really fun.

Because of the seasonal nature of my business, I never make a whole bunch of money over the summer, so that puts a cramp in most big travel plans; but, considering the hours I put in during the year, it's great just to have some time to recharge the batteries. I certainly did lots of that this summer--plenty of naps, plenty of sleeping late. I know you can't "stock up" on sleep or anything, but at least I feel quite rested and energized as the 12-hour workdays are about to come a-knocking.

So besides the obvious highlights (Vermont, jazz camp and my whirlwind trip to D.C.), and the things that come with the territory (the joy of the learning process as my students make tons of improvement during the long break from school) the best times have just been hanging with my friends. That's one thing I've noticed recently--there's just something about this particular group of friends; all I can say is that I'm happier than I've been in a long time. And I'm so aware that this is a bonus: God never guarantees that we'll be happy down here, so I consider this to be the icing on what's already a very good cake.

Sure, I'm still looking for "Ms. Right" to co-rule with me over this not-so-castle (or maybe go in with me on a bigger one), but as a cynical-but-tenacious friend who's wise beyond his years told me recently, it's hard to be happy in a relationship until you're happy with yourself, and I do believe I'm there. Not to say that supermodels are gonna come knocking at the door now, but when the right situation arrives, I'll be more ready than I've ever been (and I can afford a date again--yay!).

So I bid a fond farewell to the summer of '03. It'll live on in my memory, and the pages of this blog. A new chapter starts in the morning...

Sunday, August 17, 2003

Fly the Funny Skies

Here are some humorous quotes from flight crew announcements, taken from a site that's also my favorite source for debunking urban legends.

Thursday, August 14, 2003

The Best Kind of Preventive Medicine...

With all the news about the new virus this week--especially after reading Zack's essay on the lengthy steps to remove it, I just can't help thinking what a great week it is to be a Mac owner. I wonder how many people will consider switching after this latest episode.

Now granted, the Internet was a little weird last night; AIM was crashing on me left and right, and for a while, not a single webpage was loading...but "the fault did not lie with my equipment," and at least I could turn my machine on! And while I don't condone virus-creation as a way to send a message, I have to echo its content: "Billy G." evidently does need to fix his software.

Tuesday, August 12, 2003

Kev's Poetry Corner

If I can have your attention *clears throat*'s a new one for you:

I am a poet;
I am very fond of bananas.
I am bananas;
I am very fond of a poet.*

No, I haven't been eating funny mushrooms. Those are the actual opening lyrics to Track #5 on the new Kurt Elling CD, Man in the Air. It's mostly well-known instrumentals that Kurt wrote lyrics to, such as Pat Metheny's "Minuano," Josef Zawinul's "A Remark You Made," and the "Resolution" portion of John Coltrane's "A Love Supreme."

There's nothing as wacky on there as "Endless" from The Messenger (a story I still have to tell sometime), but the above-quoted song is a nice touch. If you're already a Kurt fan, I highly recommend this one as an addition to your library. If you're unfamiliar with him, check him out, and read my short review of his performance here back in May.

(*"The Uncertainty of the Poet"--lyrics by Wendy Cope, to music by Cary John Franklin)

Random Funnies O' The Day

Dave Barry has a blog now, and, like everything else Dave does, it's hilarious. A lot of it is links to funny websites or ridiculous stories sent in by Alert Readers, just like in his column. Check it out...

Here's another funny one:
The English-to-12-Year-Old-AOLer Translator

Sunday, August 10, 2003

No Sophomore Slump for Shaun

Speaking of worshipful music, I got the new CD Twilight by Shaun Groves yesterday. It's the second offering from the Texas-born, Tennessee-based musician who made a huge impression on the Christian pop music world with his 2001 debut, blending thoughtful, heartfelt lyrics with catchy melodies. I won't give a track-by-track review or anything, but suffice it to say, I dig it, and Shaun should avoid the dreaded "sophomore slump" with this new collection.

The funny thing is, he didn't set out to be a performer himself at all. He graduated from Baylor, where he studied church music and composition; his major instrument at the time was the saxophone. As he said in an interview following his debut a few years ago, one of the professors there took him aside and basically told him that the saxophone was not an instrument that was normally used to worship God (obviously not true, considering what I do on Sunday mornings; see above). So while he was there, he started working on his guitar, piano and singing, and he set off to Nashville with the idea of writing songs for other people. However, most of the people who heard his work thought that his songs were so personal, he should be performing them himself. Suddenly the "reluctant performer" had a contract with Rocketown Records, the label run by eminent Christian artist Michael W. Smith, and the rest, as they say, is history.

And there is a personal connection here: The semester before he went to Baylor, Shaun was my saxophone student at Tyler Junior College! We didn't regain contact until recently (though he probably was one of those people I would have kept up with if we all had email ten years ago), but our paths did cross again when he played a concert in Coppell in the spring. It's kind of ironic that my first former student to gain national prominence in music did so without actually playing the saxophone (there's not a lick of it on either CD, though if he ever wants some, I would drive to Nashville to play on the recording)...but still, it's great that he's becoming well-known in the field and that he's able to combine an effective ministry with great music.

For a good recent interview with Shaun, go here.

A Real Blessing

We started a new service at church today, and I think everything went really well for the first day. Recently, we did like many churches do and had a 9:30 and an 11:00, with the first service being a little more traditional (choir and organ, but with an "unplugged" band and the occasional praise chorus thrown in there) and the second one being totally contemporary, with the rock band and all that. Though I would play a little bit (on soprano, or as several of the elderly attendees called it, the "metal clarinet") at the earlier service at times, I've been mostly used in the second one, where I bust out on tenor and tend to "fill in the space" between the lyrics, generally living out my Saturday Night Live fantasies (but without so much of the Lenny Pickett histrionics...both for taste considerations and because I can't always play the notes so high that only dogs can hear them *grin*).

So what has happened is that the early service, which skews older, wasn't completely full, but the late one was totally overflowing every week, to the point that it was hard to bring visitors in. It's a great problem to have, but something had to be done, so they decided to move the early service to 8:30 and make the two other ones "twin" contemporary services starting fifteen minutes later than usual. They asked about 400 people from the 11:00 to commit to the 9:45, and, despite the overall youth of the contemporary crowd, enough people's alarm clocks went off this morning that the downstairs was about 3/4 full. We then wondered how many people would be at the 11:15, and that ended up being nearly full downstairs and a half-full balcony. So all in all, we'd have to call it a real blessing that everything has worked out this well so far, and I can only imagine how awesome it would be if, down the road, all three services were full to the gills...again, a great "problem" to have.

Krispy Kids

So I was a little bored last night and had to get out of the house for a little bit. I ended up going to Frisco to satisfy my occasional Krispy Kreme hankering (plus I had $2 worth of "KK Bucks" that someone had given me). The amazing thing was how many little kids--I mean like pre-kindergartners--were in there at 10:45 at night. Maybe they were all at the Roughriders game (minor league baseball team just down the street), but I was really surprised that they were still awake, much less out doing stuff. And all that sugar...I bet some of 'em still haven't gotten to sleep yet, heh heh (and I write this over 14 hours later).

Also noticed while I was there that Essenza, the Italian restaurant where 15th Street had their first steady indoor gig, had closed. I'm not sure it was even open a year, which is actually fairly common in the cutthroat D/FW restaurant business. Still, it was a nice place that served an awesome Tiramisu...too bad it didn't make it.

Saturday, August 09, 2003

What's This Wet Stuff Again?

I woke up this morning to the sound of...rain? It's been so long since those little water droplets fell from the sky, I'd almost forgotten what it was like. :-)

Of course it figures that it would do it on a weekend, when my poor sunburned students in marching band wouldn't be able to benefit from it (they were all hating it when the mercury in Dallas hit 109 on Wednesday...ugh), and on a day when one of my schools had an all-day, two-location car wash scheduled. Oh well. At least I won't have to dodge a sprinkler in the front yard again for a few days...

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

So the gig with 15th Street Jazz went really well last night. They did the first two sets by themselves, and then Collin (up-and-coming saxist I mentioned last week) and I joined them for the last set. It's almost a shame that they're scattering to four different places for college, because they've gotten really tight recently. But the CD they just recorded, which is likely to find a place on the Internet somewhere, will be not only a lasting memento but also a way to keep their music out there while they're away, as well as an easy avenue for securing gigs when they're back in town. It'll be cool to see what kind of new stuff they pick up at their respective schools.

And as I said before, they've opened the door for more of this stuff to happen. There may not be too many places that are paying enough to keep professional groups out there, but the young jazzers have found a fertile market in the exploding coffeehouse phenomenon, especially the independent ones. I mean, I love my Starbucks, but I also want to have an alternative from time to time, and I'm definitely interested in keeping the little guy in business if they're providing an outlet for live music, especially live jazz. I'll be trying to hook up groups from the college and other collections of Renegades during the next semester.

I'm supposed to get an advance copy of the CD from the guys, and when I do, I'll post comments and links for when the music goes online. In the meantime, guys, again, I salute you for doing what so many young musicians only dream of doing before they graduate. In this case, it's worked out great.

Friday, August 08, 2003

Farewell to 15th Street (For Now)

Tonight is the "15th Street Jazz" farewell-for-now gig. Don't know if the CD got finished yet, but it'll be fun; I'll be one of several guests sitting in for the last set. I'll have a full report tomorrow.

But first, I'm off to the Big "C" to remind myself what eating a single burrito is like. :-)

A Show About Nothing...But It's a Good Nothing

Everyone knows there's a lot of junk on TV, especially in the summer. Between things like Survivor VI: The South Pole and Who Wants to Marry My Escaped Convict Grandmother?, the pickings are rather slim, and I often only turn on the TV for the same reasons I would the radio: news and sports.

But this summer, I discovered a little diamond in the rough: The Brendan Leonard Show (ABC Family, 4:30 pm Central--hey, I'm in Texas, so I'll use my time zone; let the East Coasters do the math for once). Now ABC Family could easily be considered a "kids' channel," and I know I'm not part of this show's target demographic, but I nonetheless find it a lot funnier than most stuff on TV today.

The basic premise is this: Brendan is a college student from the Chicago suburb of Winnetka (a place I actually lived for a short time before kindergarten) who got his own cable access show when he was 15 (he says on the website that he got it just by asking for it, but having a network news correspondent for a father gave him the know-how to actually pull it off). He and his gang of friends are pretty much just being themselves on the show, doing stunts and gags and things a lot of people wish they could do but don't have the guts to try. (When I first read about the show, it sounded like it might be kind of a "Jackass Jr.", but these guys are way more wholesome than that cast, and I don't think you'll be seeing them on a police blotter anytime soon.)

On one episode, they recreated the Tour de France using tricycles and Big Wheels; on another, they donned white dress shirts and ties and then went around town in two teams seeing who could get the muddiest; the whole scene climaxed with them slopping through the pricey gift shop where Brendan's mother is employed. She's appropriately horrified, of course, and shoos them out the door rather quickly. (Incidentally, the show is very much a family affair, with Mom being Mom, an older brother and brother-in-law on the production team and Brendan's two older sisters totally bewildered by the fact that their lazy little brother actually has a national TV show. Dad is prohibited by his contract--he's with a different network--from actually being on the show, but I'm certain he's a major technical advisor.)

They've also taken little catch-phrases we all use and tried to see if they're really true (Can you have your cake and eat it too? Is the grass really greener on the other side?). Each show spotlights a "Band of the Day," which is generally a local or indie act, handpicked by Brendan; the bands must be salivating at the thought of getting exposure on this scale.

I can't put my finger on exactly why I like the show so much; in many ways, it's a show-about-nothing a la Seinfeld, but maybe that's what makes it refreshing. It never claims to be high art. The guys in the cast are generally quite funny, and there are more hits than misses. Maybe there's a little bit of the vicarious-experience thing going on when they actually do the crazy things that a lot of people only think about all the time.

There is a tie-in here to our subject of the week: One of the things you can do on the website is send Brendan an idea for a stunt. I wish it had hit me sooner, but there's an obvious one: the 2BC! Like most college students, the cast members eat everything in sight (except Brendan, who's the picky one). There are several Chipotle locations near Winnetka, so I sent the idea in to the site. The only thing is, the guys go to college all over the country, so there probably aren't many filming days left this summer. However, if they get renewed for a second season, maybe this could be part of it...and if they wanted, they could even use the second part of my idea: Come down to Texas and pit their guys against mine in a sort of 2BC-off. I'll post again if he actually replies...

Wednesday, August 06, 2003

Now We Are Six

Well, I survived my first, and quite possibly only, 2BC last night. Lee and Micah went for it as well, and Micah actually broke the previous record of 20 minutes, clocking in at a brisk 13 or so. Lee came very close, finishing about 99% of the thing (maybe two bites left, really) before throwing in the towel despite everyone's encouragements. I probably took around 45 minutes (that would include the time standing in line for the second one; the place was packed the whole time we were there) but managed to make it through.

So from our experience, it would seem there are several "secrets" to completing the 2BC, and they can vary from person to person: Stephen S., Micah, and Lee and Steven's friend Mark did the speed-eating thing (Mark nearly bit one of his clean in half *shudder*), while Steven D., Zack and I took our time. I took Zack's advice about drinking a lot of water during the day beforehand, and I didn't have too much Dr Pepper during the first one; indeed, the need for it during the second one (I hit a particularly spicy patch near the end) almost sank me, but I recovered. I think every 2BCer agrees that the second one is more of a chore, unlike the usual joy of eating one.

After that, several of us took off for the movies (Micah was really up for one); we saw "American Wedding," which was probably better than the second one, but still had the usual ratio of funny/gross that we've come to know from the "American Pie" franchise. At one point, Micah and I noted that we probably had too much food in us to be laughing that hard...oh, and there was a rare moment in the parking lot on the way in, where Lee and I were singing variations on Bernstein ("I feel fatty, oh so fatty...") You get the idea. (And due to my current state of not-having-a-girlfriend, you won't be catching me singing showtunes again anytime soon; don't want anyone to get the wrong idea...)

So it was a great way to cap off the summer big band nights, and we broke a new record by cramming nine people around one of the big round tables at Chipotle (thank goodness 15th Street has those, as I haven't seen them anywhere else that I can recall). The League of Lunatics now has six members: Stephen S., Steven D., Mark, Zack, Micah and myself. Lee will be joining us eventually, as he's determined like that (Tenacious Lee?). And I'll be happy as can be if I never eat that much in one sitting for the rest of my life... :-)

Tuesday, August 05, 2003

Now I Really Need to Have My Head (or Stomach?) Examined

I did it (urp). More in the morning...


So it's the last night of summer big band, and there'll be a huge burrito hang afterwards (we have people who can't even make the rehearsal but will be there for Chipotle).

And possibly as many as three people will attempt the 2BC tonight...

...and I may be one of them. What am I thinking??

Monday, August 04, 2003

The Corner Cynic

I am happy to announce that my good buddy Lee has joined the blogging world. He'll have a lot to say, so check out his site from time to time.

Funny Slogan

I saw this on a T-shirt slogan I've seen in a while:

(Unfortunately, it's Buddha)

Ironically, I saw the shirt while walking a lap around Grapevine Mills Mall...not because I needed to get somewhere, but rather in an effort to be Not Buddha. :-)

Sunday, August 03, 2003

Opening the Door

Went out tonight to hear 15th Street Jazz and sit in for the last set again. Since the guys have graduated, they're heading off to four different colleges later this month, so this was one of their last gigs together for a while. They actually did a CD recording recently--they're just waiting on the finishing touches--so maybe there'll be a "release party" before they scatter for a while.

It's still so awesome to me that they actually got this group together and snagged some paying gigs before they even graduated from high school. They've blazed a trail that others can follow; in fact, another up-and-coming young sax player sat in this evening as well--perhaps a "passing of the torch" of sorts. He was talking about how cool the whole experience was, and I was encouraging him to do the same thing with a new group of people. The door has been opened...

Saturday, August 02, 2003

Tour de Rants (or Rants for Lance?)

The other day, I was offering congratulations on this site to Lance Armstrong on winning the Tour again, and I said that he had "done Plano and Austin...and America...very proud." Turns out that, in the words of Meat Loaf, two out of three ain't bad, because I read in the paper today that Lance actually hates Plano.

His basic thing was that if you didn't wear the right designer clothes or play football, you didn't fit in over there at the time (I'm sure this still happens, but I've also taught many Planonians who thrived outside those parameters). But the last straw, evidently, was when the administration wouldn't let him miss school late in his senior year to go to Moscow for a prestigious pre-Olympic race of some sort. They said if he did, he'd have to make up all his missed work in less than a week or not be eligible to graduate. As the story goes, his mom got so mad that she pulled him out of PISD and he graduated from a small private school that transferred all his credits. And when his would-have-been graduating class had its reunion, their most famous almost-alumnus wasn't invited. How ridiculous...

So...sorry, Lance, if you didn't want to be associated with Plano. My friend who grew up across the alley from you thought you were a really cool guy, for whatever that's worth. (And of course there's plenty of good things about Plano, including a great little college just down the street from your old neighborhood *grin*.) You can also take solace in the fact that none of those administrators who stood in your way have touched nearly as many lives as you have these last five years. So I will amend my previous statement to say that you've done Austin, and Texas, and America proud...and too bad the Plano thing didn't work out; I bet a lot of people there are still proud of you.

And maybe this serves as a cautionary tale to anyone who might be in a similar position as those administrators: When you have someone who's really, really good at what they do, try to work with them a bit. By that, I'm not saying to give anyone preferential treatment (especially athletes, because we've seen the fruit of that); I just mean treat each person as an individual instead of trying to squeeze everyone into a one-size-fits-all box or making the process more important than the person. The same thing happened to a student of mine once; he was turning into a pretty decent jazz saxophonist at the same time he was rewriting all his school's swimming records, but the director eventually ran him out of band just because he kept having conflicts with marching rehearsal to do his swimming training. It's too bad everyone couldn't have worked together for him, because it would seem to be a feather in all their caps if someone excels at multiple things.

A story like Lance's, which has had so many happy endings already, could have had another one...but I don't see Lance supporting any PISD cycling efforts, or kicking in for a district velodrome, anytime soon. Too bad...their loss.