Friday, October 31, 2003

The Legend of Smith Hall

(Here it is--my ghost story. Unlike many of my posts, which have a lot of links and more than a little research behind them, this story has been constructed from hearsay, or "the oral tradition" if you wish. I'm just going to tell the story as I remember it here, and I'll go back and clean up the facts later if new information comes my way.)

The "old Smith house" at Mulberry and Welch in Denton, Texas (on the edge of the campus of what is now the University of North Texas) was built in the early 1900's. The patriarch of the family had been mayor of Denton, and his daughter, Julia Smith, was a noted composer of operettas and the first biographer of Aaron Copland (she also composed "Glory to the Green," which has been the alma mater of UNT since its adoption in 1922). Among the notable visitors to the house were Ignace Paderewski, the piano-playing president of Poland (say that ten times fast!) and former presidential candidate and Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan. There was always a lot of music in the house, which fit nicely with its proximity to North Texas' fast-growing School (now College) of Music.

In 1969, when Julia's mother, also named Julia Smith, was in her early 90's, the University wanted to buy the house for future expansion. The elder Mrs. Smith agreed, on the condition that she be allowed to live out her remaining days there. Considering her advanced age, the University could hardly turn down that offer...except that Mrs. Smith would live on and on, passing away in 1984 at the age of 106. She died in the house, in the front downstairs bedroom.

There was a healthy competition among many University entities to take over the house, but the winner was KNTU, the campus radio station, which had long since outgrown its facilities in the then-Speech and Drama building. The winter of 1984-85 was spent transforming the house into studios, and the station moved in on a snowy day in February.

From the beginning of the renovations, there was unusual activity in the house. The engineer working on the transformation noticed many different things, including feeling hot breath down the back of his neck when he was working underneath a counter. There was also an amusing series of episodes regarding the door to the attic. Since it was the middle of winter, the engineer wanted to keep the cold air from coming down from the attic, so that door was closed and locked at day's end. However, when he returned in the morning, it was often open again. This happened for several days in a row; one time, it was even open and propped open by one of those little wooden triangles. Frustrated by this, he removed the triangle and closed it in a drawer downstairs in the kitchen...but the next day, there it was, propped open by a triangle again. The Physical Plant workers who were doing construction on the house were the only other ones who had keys, yet they swore up and down that they were not the ones opening the door.

Other things happened throughout the next several years: A late-night DJ said that, on several occasions, he would close up and lock the house after midnight sign-off and would walk out the front door, only to see a light come on upstairs. It was reported that several custodians assigned to what was by then called Smith Hall had resigned their positions after experiencing unusual incidents, which included having their brooms and mops moved to completely different rooms while they were elsewhere in the building, or walking up to the side entrance at 4 a.m. (when the station was off the air and the studios were empty) and hearing classical music coming out of the house. The music, of course, would stop when they entered.

In the spring of 1989, the younger Julia Smith died (in New York, I believe). On June 22 of that year, the morning shift at the station arrived to the shocking news that the house had suffered a major fire overnignt. It started in the newsroom, and there were three possible theories as to the cause:
  • Someone put out a cigarette (the campus had not yet gone nonsmoking) in the newsroom trash can, which, being filled with news-wire machine paper, later ignited.

  • The wire machine itself suffered a short-circuit and spit sparks into the wastebasket, igniting it.

  • The ghosts caused the fire.

Is it too far-fetched to believe that the two Julias, united again in the hereafter, teamed up to start the fire? Probably, but here's an interesting coincidence: Every room in the house suffered some sort of major damage except for three: the downstairs room where the elder Mrs. Smith died; the room upstairs where she lived back when she could still get up and down stairs; and the one corner of the attic where the younger Mrs. Smith liked to read as a youngster. Those three rooms were undamaged, save for a coating of ashes on the furniture.

(A funny sidelight: the news director at the time was noted for her vivid dreams. A few days after the fire, she had a dream that she was going up to the house to help in the salvage efforts [which went on for a good week or so], and she was greeted at the door by an elderly lady holding an apple pie in one hand and a baseball bat in the other. She pointed the bat menacingly in the news director's direction and said, "Get out!" At this point, the dream ended. This was funny on several levels: First, the fact that Mrs. Smith had an apple pie, since a very popular brand of said pie is Mrs. Smith's; also, the pie and bat in tandem with her would symbolize three great American icons--baseball, apple pie and Mom.)

The house was eventually completely renovated, with all of the "homey" aspects (the kitchen cabinets, the pink- and green-tiled bathrooms, etc.) removed so that the house looked more like offices on the inside, even if the outer facade remained. After the renovation, the paranormal incidents decreased, though a few people would still hear things at night.

It's interesting to note that, despite my being there early in the morning and late at night, I never saw or heard anything personally, even though I occasionally made jokes about it (I recall one memo I sent out as Program Director saying "you must turn in your aircheck tapes to me by the end of the week, or Mrs. Smith's ghost will haunt you always!"). However, the lack of personal encounters didn't make it any less cool to be working at a haunted house.

Eventually, the roof of the house fell into such bad disrepair that the University decided it was no longer cost-effective to keep the building. A massive addition and renovation to the former Speech and Drama building began in 2000, and KNTU moved to its new home in its old building in the early fall of 2001. Smith Hall was demolished on September 29, 2001; the lot remains vacant today, but the story lives on.

(Little blurbs on the former "haunted house" may be found here and here.)

UPDATE 1/23/10: Welcome, readers of the forums, where this post was referenced during a discussion of Julia Smith. Feel free to have a look around the rest of the blog; topics concerning our alma mater may be found by clicking the "UNT" tag below.


Happy Halloween to all. I'm at the point of life where it's not always that big of a deal--too old to trick-or-treat, and no trick-or-treaters of my own yet. I could go to a party or two, but my parents are in town, so I'll hang with them for dinner and probably do what I did last year: go to a HS football game to see a few of my schools march against each other. Maybe next year, when it's on a Sunday, I'll stay home and do the candy thing.

Also, a happy 34th birthday to KNTU, one of my former workplaces and cool haunts (pun intended, haha) from college. As would fit a place "born" on Halloween, legend has it that the first words uttered over the air were expletives, accidentally spouted out by a student worker who didn't know the mic was open when he started the music at the wrong speed. Speaking of legends, I'm about to recount the tale of the "haunted house" where KNTU spent about 17'll be in the next post in a little bit. (For a short history of KNTU, read the UNT press release from its 30th birthday in 1999.)

QUOTE OF THE DAY: "I've been having a bad week all day."--One of my sixth-graders, in a lesson this morning. I think we can all relate to that...

Thursday, October 30, 2003

Catchin' Up

OK, it's been a long week, I'll just catch up a bit: Tuesday was more r-ball with Ben; I still won all the games, but he's getting way better (and didn't hit me this time). Wednesday was judging for all-state jazz tenors...protocol prohibits me from going into detail, at least until the band is announced sometime next week, but suffice it to say it's always a learning experience. Tonight was the usual--combo PM, burrito night--and then went to visit my parents at their hotel. They're visiting this week even though I hardly have any time to see them, but there were some things they said they needed to do to the house, so who am I to argue?

Oh yeah, and Stephen A. (Gold Dingus) failed in his first 2BC attempt tonight. He was almost as close as Lee--maybe 3 or 4 bites at most. He swears he'll be back to try again, just "not tonight." Wimp (haha).

The Fabled-ness of Fizban: In yesterday's New York Times Crossword Puzzle (#0917), the clue for 51 Across is "Nobody Doesn't Like _____ Lee." I was disappointed to see that it was four letters long, so you can't fit the word "Demon" in there. (Laugh if you get the joke. And yeah, I know it's supposed to be "Sara" for the answer; that commercial was stuck in my head way too many times...)

The Fray Expands: There's been a lot of activity since I jumped into the fray this weekend; I'll probably have more to say myself once the teaching week is over.

Boo-Rito Day: If you're a fan, you probably know this already, but if you go to Chipotle tomorrow dressed as a burrito (basically, you cover yourself in foil, just like a few years ago when I went to a party as a baked potato), they'll give you one for free, and take your picture for possible use on their website.
(UPDATE: Matt D., Fizban and Dingus actually did this; I had to teach too late and my parents were in town, but next's all about the foil.)

MUSIC OF THE DAY: Elastic, Joshua Redman. He's playing as great as ever, and the tunes are the best since Mood Swing, my favorite Redman CD of all time. The organ-trio format is groove-a-licious, and Brian Blade is back on drums. Cool stuff!

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

Quick Plug (about a quick plug)

I tuned my car radio to KRLD today (it's my default setting for when I change CD's, so I can check traffic, weather, etc.), and what did I hear but Despair, Inc. being profiled on Mike Rogers' The Other Side of the News feature. They interviewed Dr. E.L. (Larry) Kersten, the COO, who usually does all the TV and radio stuff (my bro-in-law Justin is the CEO and usually handles the newspaper articles). It was basically a summary of some of the favorite "Demotivator" designs over the years (kinda hard to describe on radio, of course).

This year, they're re-releasing the original 12 designs ("digitally remastered from the original film," as the website says) as a "classic" 2004 calendar, and one with 12 new designs will be available in about a month. If you haven't been to the site yet, check it out; it's all kinds of cool, and I would say that even if my brother-in-law didn't own the company and if the sales didn't help put food on the table of my dear sister and two darling nephews. :-) But he does, and they do, so that's all the better. In times like these, there's great money to be made from Despair...

Monday, October 27, 2003

A Little Civic Discourse

Today is my first anniversary of being the owner of Kevmobile 1.2, and I have to say, the little green 1996 Honda Civic has served me well so far.

I won't re-tell the story of the original Kevmobile here, since it's available on my other website, but suffice it to say I was shocked a year ago when my beloved '91 Acura Integra (with 338,000 miles on it!) failed the new emissions inspection and left me with less than two weeks to get it off the road. I knew that, at that time and on such short notice, I was not going to be able to afford the RSX that will ultimately become Kevmobile 2.0, but I had to have it was off to Carmax (with whom I was very satisfied, by the way) to see what I could afford.

Of course, I ended up choosing the car at the very top of my price list. I just decided that 1) I wanted to stay in the Honda family because my Acura had been so amazingly reliable, and 2) I wanted something that actually looked cool, that I wouldn't be ashamed to be seen in (unlike the purple Saturn that was nearby on the lot...ack!). So I tied myself down to the very first car payments of my entire life (my previous cars were HS/college graduation presents) and went for it. The test drive was great, I was able to use the old Kevmobile as a downpayment (basically because it had a CD player in it, I think), and I didn't have to pay anything for three months. I was set. (The only downside was, if you look at "Today in Sports History" from a year ago, I missed Emmitt Smith's record-setting run--even on the radio--while I was doing the car deal. It's not like they didn't replay it a zillion times down here, but still, I was sorry to not see it as it happened.)

So looking back a year later, I have to say that, as a "holdover" car, this one's been great. The only problem I've had with it so far was...about thirty minutes after I bought it (d'oh). I was taking my "celebration cruise" through Frisco and stopped to get some money from an ATM, and the window wouldn't roll all the way back up...right as it started to drizzle. I'm thinking, great, my first experience with power windows and this is what i get. The service department wasn't open on Sunday, but they fixed it the next day (for free, of course), giving me a loaner for the day...and that's it, no other problems since then. I've taken it from 74,000 miles a year ago to 97,000 today, and I figure that, if I can get another good year or so out of it, I'll be ready to start looking for the RSX in early '05.

(UPDATE FROM EARLY '05: Nah, gonna wait a bit longer. It gets paid off at the end of December, so I want to enjoy at least a little while with no car payment; maybe I'll use that extra money to save up for Kevmobile 2.0 a little later.)

Sunday, October 26, 2003

Jumping Into the Fray

(This is the first time I've really delved into religion on this blog. If it makes you uncomfortable, skip to the fluffy stuff... but it'd be really cool if you read it no matter where you are in the spectrum of things. Bear with me, because this is looooong.)

The past couple days, Fizban and Dingus have gone back and forth about hypocrisy in Christianity (the Duelling Dingii of Dogma, if you wish), and I decided to put my two cents' dollars' worth in. For some background, you can read Fizban's post and Dingus's post beforehand, but I'll quote some of the main things I'm responding to.

Although they're working from opposite ends of the spectrum (Fizban from a Christian's standpoint, and Dingus from that of a nonbeliever), they both agree on one thing: There are way too many Christians out there who "talk the talk" but don't "walk the walk." I couldn't agree more. They also note that this is a particular problem in the late high school/early college-aged crowd. They also agree that the followers of Christianity are, by their actions, not always its greatest advertisement. Fizban takes his fellow believers--and himself--to task for this because he says it skews the perception of Christianity among both other Christians and those who are struggling with a decision on faith. Dingus says that being around the hypocrites helped shape his decision not to believe (correct me if I'm wrong on any of this, guys--that's what the comments function is for).

Fizban points out that he's about to enter a precarious time in a Christian's life:

I'm about to go to college, where I'm going to be assaulted on all sides about what I believe and my character. If I can't do what I should in this weak microcosm of the world that is high school, how will I survive college and life beyond that?

This brings up a great question: Why do so many college students undergo crises of faith--or lose it completely--during this time in their lives? Some will blame the "professorial liberalist dogma being crammed down their throats" for this happening, and certainly that might be a contributing factor for some, but I'm looking in a different direction. I'm not saying there's a one-size-fits-all answer here, but I have a theory: A faith that doesn't survive college (in other words, the time of being on one's own, having freedom to think, etc.), was probably never very strong in the first place.

So how could this happen? How could such a beautiful palace be built upon a foundation of sand? Let's examine a few possibilities by looking at the building blocks of a potentially shallow faith:

1) My parents are Christians, so I became one too. There is nothing wrong with this approach; in fact, that's what we as Christians are called to do: raise our children in the love of the Lord so that they might choose His path when the time comes. But I sometimes wonder if some kids aren't pushed to make a decision too early, before they really know what they're doing. One statement from Fizban blew me away: I've been saved since I was 6. Part of me said wow, how awesome to have been in The Walk for that much of one's life. Yet another part of me wondered just how much he understood what he was doing when he made his decision and how much was simply following the example of his family. (In this case, however, I consider it a moot point, because, despite his taking himself to task for his shortcomings, I think that even if he didn't truly "get" what he was doing in first grade, he "gets" it now. More on this subject later.)

Dingus also mentions his parents, passively, as part of his own decision:

These views were never instilled upon me by my parents. They are Athiests themselves, however they never mentioned anything for or against God.

I don't doubt this, but surely the absence of Christianity in his home had an influence on his decision, whether he was aware of it or not. Kids model their parents, and until they spend more time away from home, the world they grow up in may well be the only world they know.

2) All the cool kids are doing it. Granted, if you had to pick something for your kid to do that "all the cool kids" are doing, you could go a lot worse than being a Christian! Actually, I'd be hard-pressed to think of anything better. There are a lot of places out there where the Christian kids are, if not the majority, at least a very big slice of the pie. Kids will slide naturally into a group to be accepted; if, say, goth-ism is the cultural norm, most of the kids will start wearing all black and listening to Nine Inch Nails or Marilyn Manson. If Christianity is the norm, most of the kids will join an evangelical church, wear "W.W.J.D." bracelets and listen to Five Iron Frenzy. There's definitely a pack mentality going on, and at least this is a good pack to run around in.

3) I checked out all the major religions, and Christianity was the one that appealed to my way of thinking. I've known people who have done this before--the strictly intellectual approach, no matter where they are on the path of faith. I've had friends who were strong Christians read, say, the Q'uran, to either expand their minds or strengthen their existing faith. Dingus says that he has studied all the major ones and still chooses "none of the above." This is certainly a component of making one's decision; you might say that it's like reading a contract before you sign it.

(Oh, and I have to clarify one statement of Dingus's: He says he's studied all the major religions and has a fair understanding of them, but...Not of the sects though. Jeez, even the sects can't define themselves. It makes me laugh when some churches declare themselves as "Non-secular." I believe the word he's looking for is "non-sectarian." Actually, I go to a non-sectarian or non-denominational church and love every minute of it. All churches by their nature are "non-secular," i.e. sacred. Sorry, Dingus, I know this is as bad as when I correct your spelling on AIM. Haha.)

Now, understand, there's nothing wrong with these long as they're a means to an end and not the end itself. And this is why one's faith may not survive the challenges of the "real world"--the approaches listed above are generally made with the head, while a true decision to follow Christ must be made with the heart. If the heart isn't involved, it's easy to see how that sandy foundation remains, and how people can "go through the motions" of being a Christian without actually being changed...and how those "motions" can be counteracted when other influences come into play. If the heart is not the major part of the equation, the faith may not thrive or even survive.

You might be wondering about my own story at this point. Of course, I'll share: I came to know the Lord as a freshman in high school. I had gone through the typical youth program at my Methodist church, but, looking back, it seemed more like pop psychology at times. (Indeed, when my parents moved to another suburb and changed churches, they were amazed to find "a Methodist church that actually talks about Jesus.") I joined the youth group at another church, led by a local judge who visited my parents' Sunday school class (he was famous locally for having smuggled Bibles into the Soviet Union), and I went on one of their retreats. I definitely had something missing in my life, and I was looking for answers. I was a "good kid," but I had already gotten roaring drunk at age 14 at a post-UIL marching contest party. I was also a shy kid who didn't make friends easily, and one of my few good friends in band had been killed in a senseless accident the semester before. I could have gone down any number of different paths, but thank God (literally) I chose the right one.

What got me about this new youth group was one of those things that's hard to describe. There was just something "different" about these people, and, looking back, I realize that it was the fact that their hearts had been changed by letting God into them. I can't tell you for sure that I was thinking with my heart that day when I made my decision, but I know that my heart, and my life, was changed over time.

Now I'd like to tell you that everything continued that way up until this day...but I'd be a liar. Did my faith survive college? Yes, but only because I had that foundation of the heart. Sometimes it was only a foundation, without the top part. So I made it, but not as well as I would have liked it to; there was plenty of rebuilding to be done along the way. I often said that I spent time "walking on the edge of darkness so that I could more fully define the light." My involvement with the youth group ended before I graduated from high school; I felt like I had to pull back a bit, because they placed a lot of stock in evangelism, in helping to save your friends....and I was lousy at it (still am). That has yet to happen with me. The apostle Paul says that we're all given different spiritual gifts, and evangelism is not mine. I think I might be better at helping existing Christians stay on the right path, but at the time, I hadn't come to that realization, so I considered myself a failure. I also found myself being quite judgmental of others, so I had to cool off for a while.

I actually didn't attend church at all during college. I said that I never found one to my liking in Denton, though it probably could be attributed to laziness as well. The one thing that never left me was my prayerful relationship with God, which did sustain me through a lot of the really bad times. However, I had convinced myself that that was all I needed, that I didn't need to be overt about my religion as long as that relationship remained. My mom and sister worried about my soul at times (needlessly, I told them), but I wasn't about to join my sister's Baptist church here in Dallas because of the judgmentalism I'd acquired from the Baptist-overtoned youth group growing up.

Then, in 1997, my sister invited me to her new church, where she and my brother-in-law attended and had gotten married the summer before. I had pretty much decided to go "church-shopping" pretty soon anyway, and she invited me to hear her play handbells. Long story short, I've been back every week since then unless I was out of town. I also found out the error of my ways in thinking that a prayerful relationship was sufficient (funny, I was just talking with a good friend about this very subject a few days ago): part of the important part of going to church is the interaction with other believers, which not only helps you strengthen each other's faith, but also counteracts some of the isolation that Christians find in a sometimes-hostile world. I didn't get the concept back then, but I sure get it now.

So I challenge all my college-aged and soon-to-be-college-aged Christian friends to examine their hearts, to nurture that part of their walk, so that their faith has a strong foundation to survive the hurricane that is the next four or five years. Fizban, I think, will weather the storm, because he does "get it" and does, by example, help keep some of his fellow believers (like me) on track. We'll be happy to return the favor when you're out in the trenches.

Oh, and one more thing in reply to something Fizban wrote:

I'm tired of people looking up to me. Stop it. You're gonna be disappointed over and over again. I screw up as much as any other person on this planet, my Christianity has nothing to do with it.

I'm guessing he's aiming that at the crowd who calls him "Demon Lee" and idolizes him for his exceptional musical talent. But there's one exception to that: the sign of true friendship is when you can look up to someone despite their shortcomings. 'Nuff said.

OK, this is long-winded even for me. I look forward to reading the comments column on this one, so fire away, folks...

UPDATE: Matt B. has added his two pennies on the subject as well. It's way shorter than my post; check it out.

Daylight Wasting Time

So I hope everyone has changed all their clocks back by now, otherwise you've been really, really early to everything all day. Personally, I'm a big fan of Daylight Savings Time, and I wish it could go on all year. I refer to Standard Time as "Daylight Wasting Time," because the extra hour of daylight that we slice off the evening gets stuck in the really early morning, when almost nobody uses it. Oh, certainly someone benefits from it (early morning joggers, kids who have to stand in line for the school bus), but to most of us, that hour of light is simply "lost."

I think the really depressing part of DWT is that it almost always gets dark before I'm done teaching now. It seems to me that if you don't finish work until after dark, you've worked too long. In a way, I know my days are too long, but at least I can hide behind a little denial if I get home while the sun is still out. DWT blows that all out of the water, and I'm forced to come to terms with my workaholic self. Bleh.

So I often say that the clock is not always my friend, and for the next five and a half months, it will be less so on certain days. At least, almost on cue, it got cooler outside last night, and now we can get on to "winter mode" here in Texas...

...for a few days, anyway, before it hits the 80's again--haha (with apologies to my frozen northern brethren).

Odds and Ends

OK, haven't done an entry in a few days so I'll catch up: Friday after teaching, played almost 3 more games of racquetball with Ben. I won the two complete games and was winning the third when the lights went out (that's one way to make sure people stop playing at closing time!). The weird thing was, I got hit by the ball twice! Once in the lower neck, once on the cheek (which sent my glasses flying across the room, an experience from which they emerged unscathed--a good thing). The neck one looked a lot like a hickey, so I could've made up a story about finally having a date, but the redness didn't last into the next day. I was laughing like crazy both times after it happened, but it seemed to screw up Ben's game (guilt?), as he only scored one point in the second game and one in the third.

After that, we went to the Owl-Themed Restaurant of Friendly Attractive Women and then I was off to Denton to catch the end of the Sinfonia chapter recital and the Black Night ceremony. There was a break between the two things, so I got to chill with some of the bro's at The Tomato, a favorite college haunt.

Yesterday I went to the Lakeview Band "Fiesta"--basically a thing where the marching band plays their show in the cafeteria while people eat, then the jazz band, a.k.a. LMOJO, did its first performance of the year also. Everyone in there with whom I'm associated had a solo, and Lee and Steven even had a feature (Duelling Dingii?). There was a mandatory burrito run after that, since I hadn't eaten anything since The Tomato the previous night.

The rest of the day was just chillin'; I missed a call from Micah for the movies while I was taking a beautiful nap, so I just chilled and enjoyed the extra hour we got last night (check below for my entry on Daylight Wasting Time). I'm about to head back to Denton to do the chapter history for the probationary members, and then the new week starts tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 22, 2003


OK, despite last night's post, I did not wake up hating myself in the morning (yay). I was really tired but otherwise got through the experience unscathed. I think I'll try to make r-ball a weekly thing again.

Went to marching contest tonight; hadn't been in a year or two. It's not so much that I was "getting in touch with my inner band geek" as it was just supporting my schools and seeing the big picture of what my students had been working on. While I would never actually like to work with marching band as an occupation (that actually was a big factor that pointed me away from band directing and into private/college instruction), I do appreciate the medium itself as a form of entertainment. I'm not always sure how much it accomplishes musically, but it sure is fun to watch, and it's way more meaningful to me if there are people on the field whom I've worked with and really care about.

Anyway, most of my bands got first divisions; I especially liked the Rowlett show. Lakeview got 2's--too harsh in my opinion, but at least I got to see Matt D. do the drum major thing, which totally ruled. I get really tired of seeing stiff, robotical conductors up there, and he was totally getting into it, which added so much to the energy of the show. Lakeview had the misfortune of going right after Allen, the biggest band in the state with over 500 members. I teach three of their saxophones at the store, which means that .0058939 of the band is from my studio (haha). They were really loud (duhh), and it was almost hard to catch a lot of the show because so much was going on at the same time. At any rate, not a bad way to spend an evening (I can say that from where I was in the stadium; those who were on the field may beg to differ), and the end of contest marks the beginning of "freedom" for the seniors out there.

Oh yeah, forgot to post this on Tuesday: I got to hear a little bit of the "first final mix" for the Jazz Camp faculty CD. They had Frank Mantooth come in to help with the mixing. What I heard sounded great; I had to remind myself, "oh yeah--I'm in this band!" I'll have updates here and on my website as to the progress of the CD's production and release.

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

I'm Gonna Hate Myself in the Morning For This...

Played five games of racquetball tonight with Ben Z. from big band. I hadn't played in two years *shudder* but I seemed not to have lost too much off my game. I was fairly sore afterwards, but I know that might only be a prelude to what I feel in the morning. I'll be happy if I can get out of bed. Haha.

But at least I can say I got something resembling exercise (besides the usual "running myself ragged" that's part of a normal teaching week), and it forced me to replace my racquetball equipment that Josh stole lost sold accidentally took to San Antonio when he moved, so now I can play whenever I want to (hurry up and get that toe healed, Lee, so we can play that game we tried to play in July).

Anyway, time to hit the sack...for the first time in a while, this is one of those "good kinds of tired."

Monday, October 20, 2003

Getting a Good "Reed" on the Subject

I can't believe I forgot to mention this long last, I got my hands on some boxes of Vandoren ZZ reeds over the weekend! I'd only been waiting for them since February, when I got some freebies at TMEA. (As a matter of fact, I liked the alto reed so much, I used it off and on for four months, until it died on me onstage at the Vermont concert. Bleh.) Anyway, I've been waiting for them to come out in general distribution, and then waiting even longer for the Brook Mays where I teach to stock 'em...finally, I got the hookup from a fraternity brother at homecoming (he works for a small store somewhere near Denton).

I got a box of alto, one of tenor and one of bari (YES! they finally make a jazz reed for bari! I almost fell over when I found out.) I haven't actually gotten to play them yet, as everyone was working on "regular" All-Region music today, but the alto will take one for a spin in big band tomorrow. At any rate, if they prove to be as consistently awesome as the demo's were, I'll only be griping about my jazz sound maybe half of the time now. Haha.

Oh yeah, and I'm playing racquetball tomorrow for the first time in...two years? Let's hope I can walk outta there under my own power. *grin*

Sunday, October 19, 2003


For the first time in a week, I feel completely "well." There's a bit of a lingering cough, but I haven't taken any extra medication since the Aleve caplet I had for the killer headache after Homecoming last night. I'm considering things to be back to normal and will act accordingly, though I plan to try for a bit of extra sleep this week.

Played a 30-minute gig in McKinney with Andrew from Combo 2. Just us, tenor and guitar (actually the sign by the stage said we were a trio, so I made a lot of jokes about having to lay off our bass player due to the bad economy). He wanted some more experience in front of an audience before playing recital hour next month, and I'm always happy to help with stuff like that. It was for some sort of barbecue festival or something, though the food wasn't ready till after we left. It was waaay too hot on stage for being October 19, but we replenished ourselves with Chipotle afterwards, so it's all good.

Anyway, I hope this is the end of the allergy season till spring; I'm looking forward to new topics for next week.

Saturday, October 18, 2003

The Color of Money

One more thing that happened today was that I got a couple of the new $20 bills from an ATM today. I've read a lot of things about them in blogs and online columns, but this was my first time to see them up close.

So here's my take on the whole thing: It's not that bad. It doesn't look as much like Monopoly money as I had feared. The peach coloring isn't that obvious, and I didn't even notice the tiny little gold 20's on the back side until someone else pointed it out. The extra "hidden" Andrew Jackson portrait on the lower right-hand side is a little freaky, and the "USA TWENTY" markings are a bit over the top, but I like the color-changing "20" that's in the same corner. Some have said it's undignified, but I think it still looks less "fake" than most foreign currency, and I'm sure it'll be a lot more difficult to counterfeit.

But here's the thing that strikes me as funny: Opening up newspapers and magazines and seeing full-page ads for the bill. That's right, the treasury is advertising money! It's like I read somewhere earlier in the week: What's the point in advertising? What else are we going to use? It's not like we're going to go back to trading with sheep and goats again (man, wouldn't that be awful if I got paid for lessons that way). I guess the ad blitz is mostly for merchants who are out-of-the loop so they'll know the new bills aren't fake.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: "That eagle on Jackson’s left, is it having a seizure?  It looks like it’s in mortal anguish!  I swear that it’s twisting and writhing in death throes."--Phil of, who wasn't as charitable towards the new money in his post on the subject.

You Can Go Home Again...

I went to Homecoming at UNT today and had a great time.

First of all, there have been a lot of positive changes up there since I was in school, and I'm not just talking about the new buildings. One of the things was the huge crowd, both for the game and the tailgating beforehand. When I was in school, tailgating would have involved literally the tailgate of a single truck, maybe (and they would have been running afoul of the law by doing so), and almost nobody came to the games. But now the whole parking lot was full (winning will do that, I guess); they had a special tent village set up in the practice field for reunions of campus organizations (I stopped by the KNTU booth and talked with Russ, the station manager then and now, for a bit), and then the lot itself was reserved for tailgaters. I hung out with some of the Sinfonia brothers, at least one of whom had been there since 8 a.m.! I found it really funny that all the bro's were so shocked to see me there. I mean sure, I'm not there every week like I was when I ran the chapter's alumni program, but it's not like I've fallen off the face of the earth or anything. At any rate, it was great to be missed and appreciated.

And then came the game. This was the change that really impressed me. When I was in school, the student side would be mostly full, and the alumni side would have maybe 20 people in it (OK, maybe not that few, but definitely what Letterman would call a "smattering"). Today, the alumni side was nearly full! And they were rowdy too; the people over there when I was in school looked like they were barely alive sometimes. Oh, and they've also "borrowed" that old Texas Tech tradition of throwing tortillas up in the air whenever a touchdown is scored. Loads of fun. And yes, we won, 37-27, to go 3-0 in conference play. Looks like another trip to the New Orleans Bowl could be around the corner if the rest of the season goes so well.

Near the end of the game, I went over to the student side near the band for a while. The poor bandmembers were up at 10:30 for a parade (better than the 7:30 a.m. call we had a few times when I was in there), then the 3:00 game and an exhibition at a high school contest later on that night (yikes). One of my Sinfonia bro's is the director of the marching band now, and another serves as its P.A. announcer; it's so great to see all these people doing well.

All in all, a great day; I would love to see the team get into a slightly more high-profile conference (maybe one where they play SMU and TCU every year, for one thing), but it's so much better than when I was in school and had to get my "real" college football fix by going to my sister's Texas A&M games. And getting to see old friends is always cool, along with being able to go somewhere that was a major part of your life for a while and still feel welcome. Sometimes, you really can go home again...

QUOTE OF THE DAY: "I know you!...What's your name?"--a friend of Micah's, who I met when we were at TMEA back in February. I didn't recognize her right away because she was in a marching band uniform when I saw her today. She at least remembered me as "Micah's friend," and there's no dishonor in that.

Friday, October 17, 2003


Thank goodness the teaching week is over. As you probably know, I love my job, but I'm still fighting this allergy thing. The worst part has gone away, but what I'm left with is a condition I call "bullfrog throat." It's not quite as bad as laryngitis (though that's how I sounded a few days ago), but it basically just makes me sound scratchy and allows only the lowest register of my voice to work.

What I really need, besides the usual rest and fluids, is a day without talking (those who know me well will go "yeah right, Kev, like you can do that!"). It is, of course, impossible to do that while teaching--not like I can just grunt and point. It also makes it difficult to sing in lessons; I can't sing anyway, and now I can't sing even worse, and it's about an octave below where it should be.

If I don't go anywhere tonight, that'll help a bit, as all my talking can be reserved for AIM, which won't tax my throat any further. Tomorrow I'm headed up to UNT for Homecoming, so there'll be a lot of talking as I run into lots of old college friends, and hopefully the game won't cause me to yell too much. Maybe on Sunday, after this 30-minute gig I'm playing in McKinney, I can rest the ol' vox-box some more.

Oh, and talk about cures gone awry: On Wednesday, I decided to bust out the scratchy-throat remedy I got from a vocalist friend in college: hot tea and honey. Unfortunately, I had neither of those things in the house, so I had to go get a little plastic bear full of honey (honey simply must be purchased in little plastic bears--no exceptions) and a box of tea bags. But stupid me--I forgot to buy the decaf tea! *slaps forehead* While you may know that I'm an admitted coffee addict in the morning, I try not to over-caffeinate myself the rest of the day. So imagine my frustration as I went to bed, after having four HT&H's since 3:00 that afternoon, and found myself so wired I couldn't sleep. Dumb, dumb, dumb.

Needless to say, it hasn't been a great "change of seasons" on the allergy front; I think it's time to gripe at the allergy doc and trade in the $80 nasal spray for something that works. And hopefully the froggy thing will go (hop?) away soon...

QUOTE OF THE DAY (actually yesterday, but who's counting?): "If worship is a cake, then I'm the chocolate sprinkles."--Me, in an email to my worship leader about not being able to play this Sunday due to an earlier-than-expected gig. That really is my place as the saxophonist in a worship band--you could certainly do without it, but you might miss it if it's not there.

Wednesday, October 15, 2003


(GROSSNESS ALERT: Do not read this while eating! You have been warned...)

I've been playing saxophone for a long time, and teaching it for a little less time than that, and all the while, I never knew for sure if what I'm about to tell you was an urban legend or was actually true. But now I know it can happen: One of my students informed me today that he actually grew a colony of maggots inside his mouthpiece!

I first heard the story from my sixth-grade band director, who told us about a girl in his own high school band who never changed her reed, and when she finally decided to, the mouthpiece was swarming with maggots. That was enough to keep me from ever leaving the reed on when I put the horn away--a practice which continued until a few years ago, when some of my colleagues at Jazz Camp mentioned that they left theirs on most of the time, so that the reed wouldn't have to re-adjust itself to the mouthpiece on every playing. Since I play virtually every day, this made sense to me, and I have done this often without ever growing a single "science fair project."

My student didn't grow the colony on purpose, mind you; he had been in the habit of leaving the mouthpiece on the neck after marching band, to save a little time. Unfortunately, the extra moisture from the neck, in combination with a really humid football game and the horn being in the case from Friday through Sunday made for the perfect habitat for the flies-to-be. Needless to say, he was totally disgusted and may never use that mouthpiece again.

So all this time we had thought maybe this idea was a myth created by band directors to scare students into proper horn maintenance...and now we know it's true. Who woulda thunk it?

(As an epilogue to this, I have to throw in a funny maggot story: I was once taking a class in Denton to get my restaurant-worker's card from the Health Department, and the instructor wanted to make a point about how gross it was when flies landed on your food in a restaurant. His thinking was that, since flies started out life as maggots, they were never really clean animals to begin with. So he asked the class, "Now, who can tell me what flies are before they become flies?" One good-ol'-boy in a gimme cap from a local catfish restaurant raised his hand and said, "Ants?" The whole room busted out laughing, imagining these ants sprouting wings and turning into flies. That became a running joke at the pizza place where I worked: "Hey, close the door; you're letting all the grown-up ants in.")

QUOTE OF THE DAY: "BEWARE HE WILL BE BITTING..."--on a poster advertising a performance of Dracula at one of my high schools. I know I always hate it when I get "bitted" by a vampire...
(Maybe the kid who made that poster also has a job changing the sign at Sonic.)

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Kev, Live from School

OK, I'm following in the footsteps (keystrokes?) of my cronies Fizban and Matt D. and posting from school, where a series of pep rallies (why in the world is there a middle school pep rally anyway?) have taken my students from me. So here I am...bored, bored, bored. I guess it'll be interesting to see why they "forgot" to come to their lessons, when the director evidently told them specifically that they had to go. Maybe they just opted out and it's Free Money for Kev Day.

I hear people coming back now. Time to hear a legion of excuses. Kev out.

Monday, October 13, 2003

Catch the WAVs

It's only Monday and I'm already completely beat. Time to be a complete weirdo (for me) and go to bed before 10 p.m. in an attempt to rejuvenate a bit. So it seems like the perfect time to share some entertainment that I've gotten recently: A couple of weird Asian videos (or WAVs for short).

The first one came to me through Dave Barry's Blog last month--the Japanese Singing Eggplants video. It's pretty amusing.

Last night, I sent that link to Zack, because he's into all things Asian, and the song on the video sounded like something he'd put on the various "Zax Mixes" I've gotten over the years. He thought it was pretty wacked-out, which is saying something 'cuz he's into some rather unusual stuff. He replied in kind with this, which was a pretty cool video (I really liked the animated cat) and a rather frantic song much more in "Zack's tempo" (you may know from these pages or elsewhere that Zack is the state DDR champ). Anyway, I hope you enjoy this little slice of Asiana. Back for more talk tomorrow, if the extra rest does its trick.

(UPDATE: Here's a third one--evidently a soy sauce commercial--also courtesy of Dave Barry's Blog.)

"NORMAL" MUSIC OF THE DAY: Spymob. Great stuff; check it out. The mp3's are a little slow to download, but they have samples of their whole CD on the site.

Saturday, October 11, 2003

Farewell to a Jazz Legend

The jazz world lost one of its greats this week with the passing of the eminent trombonist Carl Fontana on Thursday. Lee has an eloquent, heartfelt post on this subject, so I'll direct you there as I don't think I could top what he had to say. I'm just glad I got to see Carl live on a few occasions, most recently at the TCU Jazz Festival a few years back.

50 Fun Facts About Kev

As I navigate the blogosphere, I've noticed that one thing a lot of sites have is an "About Me" section. If you're really dying to find out the mundane stuff, like where I teach and where I'm performing in the near future, look on the sidebar or go to the front page of my website. This entry is devoted to some of the lesser-known stuff about me that still might be interesting (I hope!). Though I'm topping it out at 50, I might replace some of the less-fun facts with more-fun ones as time goes on.

1. I was born a month prematurely and spent the first three weeks of my life in an incubator, like a common chicken (though the chickens that were hatched on my birthday have no doubt suffered a fate far worse than mine…).

2. My family moved twelve times before I was in kindergarten. This included two stints in Chicagoland and three different times in the greater St. Louis area, plus both coasts.

3. Because of this, I learned to read when I was three years old (sure made kindergarten a breeze!)

4. I have lived in Texas since the third grade, but I have never used the phrase "fixin’ to" unless I was making a joke.

5. However, the word "y’all" is a fixture of my vocabulary and is pretty much the only second-person plural term I use.

6. If my grandmother’s facts were correct, I am a direct descendant of William Henry Harrison, the first President of the United States to die in office. (He did so because he gave a two-hour inauguration speech, in the rain, with no hat; this might explain my occasional long-windedness, but at least I have enough sense to come in from the rain.)

7. I have been a homeowner since August of 2001, and I love it! Beats the heck out of renting…

8. My house has a driveway that’s pitched at a 45-degree angle, but the truly brave souls will park there anyway.

9. I never wear shoes in my house, ever. Most of my friends have adopted this practice here as well, so the big pile of shoes inside the door makes it look like an Asian house, even though I’m not the least bit Asian.

10. I own a psychotic cat named Tasha who licks all the fur off her stomach. (She wasn’t originally my cat; she was my sister’s before I got her, and a stray before that.) Incidentally, Tasha is short for "Countach," the name of a classic car made by Lamborghini in the '70's and '80's. (UPDATE: R.I.P. Tasha, 6/23/06; tribute here)

11. Even though cats almost never come when called, Tasha will come when I whistle Clifford Brown’s "Joy Spring" (but only in the original key of F).

12. Before the cat, I had a Netherland Dwarf Albino rabbit named Mr. P.C. (yes, after the John Coltrane tune). He lived for over 7 years (a long time for a rabbit) and would lick your face like a puppy.

13. I was an extra in the movie Necessary Roughness, which filmed at UNT when I was in school there. I got supermodel Kathy Ireland’s autograph during the filming. (Yay!)

14. I have been in a mosh pit (at a Primus concert, in case you’re wondering).

15. I have been in a tornado--not physically sucked up into the vortex like in The Wizard of Oz, but one did drop shingles from the roof of the building I had just left through the window of a car in which I was riding.

16. I was almost in a riot once (at a rock concert that was cancelled by rain, despite the tickets saying "rain or shine"), but we bailed when the first person threw a bottle at a police officer. The riot ensued a bit later without us.

17. MUSIC STUFF: I have played a bass saxophone before, and have been recorded doing so. Great fun!

18. I teach at ten eight public schools (6 4 high schools, 4 middle schools), a community college, a music store, and my house. And in my spare time…

19. Before I started teaching a lot of college courses, I once taught 80 private saxophone students a week (and yes, I remembered all their names).

20. Now, however, I teach a mere 74 of them (Fall ’03 numbers).

21. I have performed at the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland, and I want to go back…soon.

22. BRUSH WITH GREATNESS I: I got to shake hands with George W. Bush, back when he owned the Texas Rangers and I was a college radio reporter.

23. BRUSH WITH GREATNESS II: Jazz great Clark Terry rode in my car when he was here for the college jazz festival. (UPDATE: Another jazz great of the same generation, Jimmy Heath, would do the same when he was here for the 2006 jazz camp.)

24. BRUSH WITH GREATNESS III: I rode an elevator with Wynton Marsalis during the Wichita Jazz Festival. Unfortunately, there were a whole bunch of real-estate-convention ladies in there with us, so I didn’t get to "talk shop" with him (out of respect for his privacy, because I don’t think they recognized him).

25. ACTUAL ENCOUNTERS WITH GREATNESS I-VIII : I have been lucky enough to share the stage, as a soloist in a combo setting, with the above-mentioned Clark Terry, as well as Randy Brecker, Peter Erskine, Kevin Mahogany, Frank Mantooth, Mike Vax, Bobby Shew, Kim Park, Tim Ishii, Denis DiBlasio, Gregg Bissonette and Mike Drake. You’ve probably heard of the first six, and if you’re really into jazz, you should familiarize yourself with the other six also.

26. I started composing music when I was in seventh grade, and actually got to conduct my eighth-grade band in one of my own compositions. That composition, incidentally, won the state level of the Reflections Contest.

27. We got to march to another one of my compositions in the Astrodome for the high school football playoffs my senior year.

28. I have perfect pitch, the ability to tell you what note is being played without looking. I don’t have the extreme degree, where you can tell how many cents sharp or flat a note is, but what I have is really cool 90% of the time.

29. My brother-in-law is the CEO of Despair, Inc., the company that (among other things) makes spoofs of those sickeningly-sweet motivational posters that show up in offices and schools.

30. I worked in a supposedly "haunted" building at UNT, but I never, ever saw the ghost (story here).

31. I almost won the Texas Lottery one time, missing what would have been a $5 million jackpot for me by one number. It was cool to win the second prize anyway, as it was over $600 and I was in the process of moving to Garland.

32. I once got to serve as the P.A. announcer for a UNT football game. (I was usually the "spotter," the guy who looks through binoculars to see who tackled whom and so on—a funny job for a nearsighted guy with glasses.)

33. I have not yet had any former students "make it big" as saxophone performers (though some have become very fine educators), but Shaun Groves, an up-and-coming Christian recording artist on piano, guitar and vocals, was once my saxophone student at Tyler Junior College. (Read my review of his second CD here.)

34. HERE ARE A FEW OF MY FAVORITE THINGS: My favorite type of music is jazz (duhh), but I also like classical, rock, techno, punk, some non-Satanic heavy metal, and many different forms of Christian music.

35. My favorite foods are Mexican, Italian, Cajun, and a good ol’ American burger and fries.

36. My favorite fast-food restaurants are Chipotle (duhh, if you’ve read this site for more than a few seconds). Chick-Fil-A, Subway, Schlotzsky’s, Whataburger and Wendy’s. (UPDATE: I have to add Panda Express to the list; it wasn't in my neighborhood when I first wrote this section, but now, I'm lovin' the panda.) (FURTHER UPDATE: Have to add Potbelly too.)

37. My favorite sit-down restaurants are Chili’s, Cheddar's, Bennigan’s (yes, I know these are basically all the same restaurant in different packaging), Outback Steakhouse and this place called Copeland’s of New Orleans (yes, they have had a Dallas outlet, and I go went there for almost every birthday).

38. My favorite coffeehouse is Starbucks, but I also support local places, especially when they have live jazz.

39. I actually have a favorite brand of bottled water (it’s Dasani, and yes, I can tell a difference).

40. I once won second prize at a joke-telling competition in college. Of course, the joke is too gross to print in this blog (haha).

41. My left ear is slightly lower than my right ear (makes wearing glasses, which I’ve done since third grade, a challenge). My left foot is also a half size bigger than my right foot; I wonder if the extra gravity generated by the bigger foot is what pulled the ear down…

42. During the wintertime, the skin on my hands get so dry that I inevitably snap part of the skin off the tip of my right middle finger (due to snapping my fingers to keep time during so many lessons). During the past few years, the skin has broken at the point of contact on my palm as well.

43. TAKE ME OUT TO THE BALLGAME: I am a bigtime baseball fan, attending at least 15 Texas Rangers games every season.

44. During my college radio days, I used to do live sportscasts from Rangers games and get interview tape afterwards. In this process, I got to shake hands with Nolan Ryan.

45. I was also at the game where Nolan got his 5,000th strikeout, and I have the ticket stub and commemorative certificate to prove it.

46. I attended the All-Star Game in 1995 when it came to Texas. It was around 103 degrees outside and we were sitting in deep left field (i.e. in the sunniest part of the park), but I loved every minute of it.

47. I was at the very last game Tom Landry coached for the Cowboys, though nobody knew at the time that he would be fired after the season.

48. The day after attending the 2003 New Orleans Bowl will probably be the only day in my entire life that the length of the movie I watched (Return of the King) was equal to the amount of sleep I had the night before—3 1/2 hours.

49. In high school, I ate an entire 20-inch pizza with all the toppings (it was from Noble Roman's and called a "Maximus Masterpizza") in less than an hour without getting sick. (Much more recently, I managed to eat two Chipotle burritos in one sitting, but that already has its own blog entry, so it doesn’t count as a Fun Fact.)

50. It took three months of sporadic work to finish this entry (this "first final update" came on 1/9/04). As I said, I may replace some of the lesser facts in this collection with stuff that’s even more fun…watch the main page for update notices.

Friday, October 10, 2003

A Sign of the Apocalypse a Really Poor Speller?

Seen on a sign at a Sonic that I drove past today:


And I was really confused. Either this meant that the person had intended to say "MMM...DELICIOUS" (and how in the world do you misspell a word that's just one letter over and over again?) or else they couldn't make up their mind whether they liked the food or not ("So, what did you think of the melts?" "Umm...delicious?").

Needless to say, I ate somewhere else. Figure out whether or not you actually like the melts and get back to me, will ya?

Talk to Me, People...Talk to Me

I've said before that I read a lot of other blogs, and one of the things that a lot of people have is the ability to post comments (I've certainly done this on other sites). Now, thanks to Haloscan, you can post comments to The Musings of Kev. Just click the link below and let me know what's on your mind from time to time.

Thursday, October 09, 2003

It's Spreading

This is great...I mentioned the 2BC on the Stereoboy site the other day, and now it looks like some folks in Ann Arbor are going to try it. They don't actually have Chipotle but somebody up there has been to one and says they have a local place with burritos of a comparable size. We'll have to give honorary League of Lunatics memberships to anyone who does it.

Oh, and everybody who's read the post about the Gallon Challenge thinks that's the most disgusting thing ever--even people who are really big milk-drinkers. I don't see that one happening around here anytime soon.

Wednesday, October 08, 2003

Hi, My Name is Kev and I'm a Coffee-holic ("Hi, Kev.")

Stay with me here; the first part of the story has nothing to do with coffee, but it gets there eventually:

I've been fighting allergies for about a week now. I could go on a rant about how the new medicine the allergy doctor gave me in March isn't working very well, despite being twice the price of the old stuff...but nahh, that's all the ranting I'll do on that for now. At any rate, the coughing fits hit their peak right in the middle of Jose' Feghali's performance at the Founders Day Concert...ack. I was nearly in tears trying to hold it in and restrict my coughing only to the loud spots in the performance.

Then on Monday night I started getting this awful headache, and it never totally went away, even when I woke up the next morning. I don't usually get sinus headaches that badly, so I was trying to figure out what the deal was. Then it hit me: *slaps forehead* "D'oh! I never had my coffee yesterday!"

OK, so I've known since undergrad school that I was probably at least somewhat clinically addicted to caffeine--at least that was the suspicion of my saxophone professor. I also have known for a while that I'm not the same person if I don't have my coffee before my 7:30 lessons every morning. But I never suspected that, by skipping a single day, I'd actually have the headache that wouldn't quit.

And it's not like I didn't have caffeine at all on Monday. I went to Chipotle for lunch and Boston Market for dinner, and had ample amounts of Dr Pepper at both meals...but still the monster headache. So evidently I'm addicted specifically to the caffeine in coffee. Weird.

So when I got up yesterday, with the headache still raging, I was happy to be in suburbia and not on some remote Alaskan outpost. Fortunately, I'm not a total coffee snob. I won't just drink anything you put in front of me, but it doesn't have to be Starbucks; I'm also fine with the coffee at Exxon On the Run (nee Tigermarket) convenience stores, one of which is near my house. I got my blessed cup o' java, picked up some Tylenol Sinus at Tom Thumb and made my way back home. Sure enough, problem solved; the headache went away and hasn't returned. That's right, an 89-cent cup of coffee and a $4.99 box of Tylenol did better for my overall condition than my $80 nasal spray from the doctor. Ugh.

So it's not like you'll see me checking into Coffeeholics Anonymous anytime soon. If that's what fuels my daily flight, so be it. Who would ever think, though, that Lady Coffee would be such a demanding mistress that I would be punished for missing but a single day. Don't worry, m'lady, it won't happen again for a long time.

Monday, October 06, 2003

OK, This May Be Sicker Than The 2BC...

As an avid blogger, I often read other people's blogs as well; not just those of my friends, but also some random ones that either pop up on the "Just Published" page of Blogger, but also things that I find while getting distracted during Google searches for other stuff. I've run across some real junk, but also some quite enjoyable sites.

So today I read that Phil, a.k.a. Stereoboy, a college student from Michigan, participated in something at least as twisted as the 2BC: The Gallon Challenge, which involves consuming an entire gallon of milk and keeping it down/in for an hour (i.e. none of it can pass out of any bodily exit during that time). Our protagonist didn't succeed this time, but his R.A. did; wonder how that felt the next morning? I left a comment suggesting the 2BC to them for their "next trick" even though there are no Chipotle's in Michigan (not like college students are averse to roadtrips, though). Anyway, glad to know that the League of Lunatics has counterparts in other places.

Singin' Shrooms?

A noted Czech orchestral composer has revealed a secret to his success: the ability to hear mushrooms sing.

Click here for full story.

I bet some people will wonder if he's doing anything with the mushrooms besides listening to them... :-)

Founders Day

My fraternity, Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia, is 105 years old today. May your proud banner "float for aye" (it's a quote from one of our songs). Happy Founders Day to all my brothers out there!

In celebration, we had a huge concert at TCU yesterday. It's a joint venture between the province and the DFWAAA, and since I'm an officer in both, I had a big hand in putting it together. The first half was the annual Province Big Band, where we get people from all over the province (three schools participated this time) to form a big band that gets to rehearse a full 45 minutes before performing. I've gotten to conduct that the past few years and it's always fun. After that, the TCU chapter's chorus did a song, and then all the Brothers did several of our fraternity songs, led by Jervis, the past national president and author of the Centennial History.

The second half was a real treat, as we had a performance by the amazing pianist Jose' Feghali. He's the winner of the Seventh Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in 1985 and Artist-in-Residence at TCU. His program was a mix of Chopin (a nocturne and a scherzo) and some music from his native Brazil. One of the pieces, he explained, would sound a lot like ragtime; the composer (an obscure one whose name escapes me) and Scott Joplin grew up at the same time, but in different parts of the world and (according to all his research) completely unaware of each other or their music. The similarity was astounding...

After the concert, we had a barbecue, though it had to be moved to someone's house because of the rain (it was sunny and humid by then, but the grass was wet). Moral of the story: Barbecue and white dress shirts don't mix! (No, it was somebody else that got all messy.) But a great time was had by all.

Since I was already at TCU, I got to hang with my buddy Micah, which was really cool because I hadn't seen him since school started. He's one of the only people I know who is as busy as I am, which happens when you're a really great player at a smaller school (especially when you're on scholarship, which means they "own your butt"). We got to catch up at Starbucks for a good long while before I came back.

Oh, this was funny: I stayed up fairly late on AIM last night, so the first Sinfonian I got to wish a happy Founders Day to was my old chapter brother Dan. The weird thing about this is that Dan lives in Paris now. That's France, not Texas. I got an invite to visit; he says the jazz scene is great there. Not sure how soon I can afford that, but yeah, I'd go...despite the tensions between the two countries, everyone should probably see Paris at least once, especially if it's during the Tour.

So, once again, a happy Founders Day to any Brothers who may have stumbled upon this site!

Saturday, October 04, 2003

Go Google Yourself!

I've promised to blog about this for a while now, ever since the post about how one of the "other" Kevin McNerney's in the world got a new job, which then got posted somewhere online, and one of my fraternity brothers jokingly asked me if I was moving to California. It took a while, but here goes.

If you're a Jim Smith or a Mary Williams, this won't be a big deal to you, because you will likely already have run into at least one other person who shares your name. But if you have an unusual name like I do, it's sort of weird/cool to think that there are "other you's" running around out there.

So the best way to find out about your alter-egos is to take your name, put it in quotes, and type it into Google or another comparable search engine. I've done this a few times, and here are some of the other me's I've discovered...

The brewery owner from Georgia...
(If I'm ever in Atlanta, I have to go meet this guy, since he's the only one of the other me's who actually has a job that serves the public. How cool would it be to walk in there and say, "Hi, I'd like to speak with Kevin McNerney. Tell him that Kevin McNerney's here to see him.")

The search firm executive from Virginia...

The medical-devices guy from California...

The children's-book illustrator from England...

The U.S. Army spokesman in Europe.

There are others out there--the owner of a coin company, someone from the legal department of the Royal College of Nursing, a firefighter from Connecticut--but you get the idea. (I'm actually amazed that, with this many other me's, I was able to secure as my domain name on the first try.)

As for the frequency of appearances on Google, my unscientific survey shows the brewer with the most entries by a mile, followed by the executive search guy, followed by the medical guy, followed by me. That's not bad for a humble musician who hasn't even released a CD yet.

Oh, one final link: Click here and scroll down to the second picture; I'm not sure why this struck me as funny; maybe it's the look on the guy's face. At least he has a "college job" too...

If you find anything amusing when you Google yourself, send me an email and maybe I'll include it in a future post. (UPDATE: Now that I have the comments feature enabled, you could also just click the link below.)

Music As Sport - Page2 - The best band in the land: Wow, there's a story about marching band on the ESPN site, and it's actually complimentary. Check it out.

We Knew This Would Happen Eventually...

Fresh-Mex Restaurant Chains Get Grilled ( The Food Police are on the prowl again, and they're coming after "Fresh-Mex" places like Chipotle. Will that stop me from going there once (twice?) a week? Nope. Will it convince me to add the lettuce a few more times? Sure. Will I ever do the 2BC again? Not likely, but I felt that way before I knew the caloric content of my beloved burrito. (No need to repeat the feat; my place in the League of Lunatics is secure.) Will it convince me to get some new racquetball equipment sooner rather than later? Sure, but I was gonna do that anyway. Have I gained any appreciable amount of weight in the 2 1/2 years I've been eating there? Uh-uh.

The bottom line is, even if the famed "foil torpedo" is a bit higher in calories than one might desire, it's still better food than a Quarter Pounder. And there's no reason I couldn't go back to eating only half of it sometimes and saving the rest for a future lunch. I'm not as skinny as I'd like to be (yet), but the fact of the matter is, the "Kev Diet" works to an extent: Running around as much as I do (between schools, carrying 30 pounds worth of saxophone and music) obviously makes up for those big dinners a few times a week. They're not adding to my girth, so they must be being burned off by the frenzied activity of my week. Now if I can get the good-vs.-fast lunch thing down....but that's a subject for another post.

Wednesday, October 01, 2003

Happy Birth-Dingus (A Dingus Primer)

Happy Birthday Steven D., a.k.a. Dingus. I suppose it's time to explain the whole Dingus phenomenon, so here goes:

A few years ago in Big Band, we had a trombone player who acquired the nickname Dingus. It was bestowed upon him by Jeromy, longtime trumpet player and my former "Assistant Coach" in Combo II. Actually, the guy got mad if anyone except Jeromy called him Dingus, but it caught on like wildfire, so the name stuck anyway. I'm not sure why, exactly, but, as one of the bandmembers last year said, "you just look at the guy and think...Dingus."

So what is a Dingus, exactly? According to, a dingus is:
1. n. A stupid person, or a person who is a dork.
2. n. An unknown object.

plural dingii

1. Kevin is such a dingus!

2. So what is that dingus?

(And don't you love that they used my name as an example?)
Another contributor on the same site disagrees with the stupid part:

another word for a spaz.
NOTE: a dingus is NOT a stupid person, because a dingus is someone who can make you laugh by doing stupid THINGS, but they are not stupid people. a stupid person is an idiot. idiot and dingus are different.

(your friend is rocking back and forth on their chair and it topples over, thus flinging them across the room)

you say "dude, you're such a DINGUS"

At any rate, Dingus was in the band for several years, first playing bass trombone (though it was new to him and never quite worked) and later tenor; when he left, Lee came in on bass and brought his buddy Steven on tenor. Since Steven was sitting in Dingus's old chair, the trumpets automatically started calling him Dingus too (technically Dingus 2). A few months later, another Stephen also joined the section and was dubbed Dingus 3.

So the Dingus phenomenon grew and grew, to the point where many people in the band didn't know either of the Dingii's actual names until the concert programs were printed. It reached the heights of nonsense a few weeks ago when Ryan thought Steven's given last name was Dingus.

(Incidentally, there has always been debate on whether Lee is also a Dingus. Though he has exhibited a few moments of "dingosity" here and there, Lee maintains that he's more of a Renegade--a name given to any jazz-improv "padawan" of yours truly. Plus, if you heard Lee's bass bone playing vs. that of the original Dingus, you'd give him a free pass--some "leeway" if you wish--on any bit of dingosity he might ever commit.)

At any rate, it's kind of a fun word to throw around. It's also a cool name for a band, as evidenced by a recent Google search on the word "dingus." Among the ones I found:

Dingus, the punk band from New Jersey: (I kinda like these guys, actually)

Dingus, the ska band from South Africa: (Being a ska band, they have a trombone....but not named Steven or Stephen, or even John, like the original Dingus)

Captain Dingus, a band that just recently broke up:

So anyway, seemed like a good time to update the whole Dingus thing since the word appears on this site. And Dingus, your birthday burrito is coming soon.