Sunday, October 31, 2004

Halloweekend Update

A little of this, a little of that:

--For the first time since I've been in this house, I actually had candy to pass out (though I didn't get back from buying said candy till 8:15 tonight). I had no takers, however; the lack of porch lights on in the neighborhood--combined, no doubt, with the fact that so few people actually know each other out here--probably kept most trick-or-treaters away. I hope my friends like Kit Kat bars, because I sure don't want to eat them all myself.

--Happy 35th anniversary to KNTU, the only real jazz radio station in the Metroplex, and my former employer during college.

--Speaking of KNTU, my ghost story about the station's former home, Smith Hall, is finally up, a year after I started it.

--Also on the subject of the ol' alma mater: UNT won another football game last night; that's four wins in four conference tries, which evens their record at 4-4. Two more wins and we're eligible to go to a bowl game; if we win out, the New Orleans Bowl is ours again.

--Oh no, it's Daylight Wasting Time again. The fact that it gets dark before I finish teaching only reminds me that I work too much. No more denial for me until April.

--Chipotle changed their Halloween promotion this year; they decided not to do "Boo-Rito Day" (where you got a free burrito if you dressed up as one), opting instead for an election special where you buy one today, keep the receipt and get a free one on Tuesday. Their explanation for the change was that "the election is scary enough." I'm just glad we found out about the change before getting a whole bunch of foil, and especially before adorning ourselves with it. Nonetheless, the freebie on Tuesday will be nice.

Saturday, October 30, 2004

A Movie Worth Ray-ving About

I got to see the movie Ray last night, and it lives up to the hype. Jamie Foxx's outstanding portrayal of music legend Ray Charles makes this movie rise above the average biopic. He evokes a wide range of emotions despite not being able to use his eyes to do so. The movie may gloss over some of Charles' indiscretions, focusing on only one wife (he may have actually had two, along with twelve children by various women) and two mistresses on the road, but it also features a chilling portrayal of his heroin usage--superior even to that in Clint Eastwood's Charlie Parker biopic Bird. The rehab-center scenes are probably a better promotion for "Just Say No" than all the public-service spots combined.

As musicians, Halfling and I were of course on the lookout for inaccuracies in that area, but we didn't find too many. We knew that Foxx was lip-synching to music tracks provided by Charles himself before his death this past summer, but he did so well enough that we almost forgot he wasn't singing himself. There was also a scene when Atlantic Records exec Ahmet Ertegun (played, of all people, by Curtis Armstrong--yes, Booger from Revenge of the Nerds) suggests a song idea that became "The Mess Around." He tells Ray to "play it in G"...except the tune comes out in E-flat; I doubt few people noticed that. We also noticed that the bari player was playing a Yamaha low-A bari, which I'm pretty sure didn't exist in the 1950's (and the only Yamaha product in the States at the time had two wheels!). There was one other thing that we found later, but I can't remember it, so it must not have been that important.

So if you like Ray Charles' music (and certainly you must like some of it) or just want to see a great story of a man triumphing over youthful tragedy, racism and a handicap that he refused to let limit his choices, check Ray out.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: "Problem, we have a Houston."--Ben, at the combo gig yesterday afternoon. Our tenor player, named Houston, was running so late that I thought I was going to have to fill in on his parts, but he arrived with about (literally) one minute to spare, which prompted Ben's clever line.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Political Correctness Run Amok

The Volokh Conspiracy reports on an unfortunate case of suppression of free speech at a New England university dormitory:
The University of New Hampshire has evicted a student from housing for posting fliers in his residential hall joking that freshman women could lose the "Freshman 15" by walking up the dormitory stairs. The public university found him guilty of violating policies on affirmative action, harassment, and disorderly conduct, and has sentenced him to mandatory counseling and probation along with his eviction.

Read the whole story.

I ranted last week about the ridiculousness of people passing regulations to limit expression just because said expression might hurt someone else's feelings. The example above is even more dangerous because it appears that someone's speech was limited just because it expressed a view inconsistent with that of "the powers that be." We hear more and more about this on college campuses; I hope there's a lawyer out there who's brave enough to sue the pants off the university on this student's behalf.

The curse is lifted: As a big baseball fan, I was happy to see the Red Sox win the Series last night (Halfling and I caught the last part of the game on TV in the Syndicate during Lab Band Night). Now that the "curse of the Bambino" is no more, it'll be interesting to see how the Sox fans react to being something other than the "lovable losers" they've been for the past 86 years.

So who will shed the mantle next year? How about the Cubs and my beloved Rangers (a.k.a. Sammy Sosa vs. the team who traded him away much too early in his career)? At any rate, the only downside of last night's game is that there's no more baseball till April. Perhaps the Cowboys can start winning games again...but if not, thank goodness for UNT (another game this weekend). The upside is that, with no baseball to watch on TV, I might well practice more...maybe starting now.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Another Milestone

Today is my second anniversary as owner of Kevmobile 1.2. I I recounted the whole story here last year, so I won't repeat myself today. Needless to say, it's been a great little car. It doesn't have anywhere near the mileage of the original Kevmobile, of course, and it's holding up quite nicely. The other day, it hit what we could call Jamey Aebersold mileage on the odometer: 121234. (Laugh if you get the joke.)

I bought the car (and myself) an anniversary present of sorts on Monday: a new key. Since my job requires me to put my horn(s) in the trunk about five or six different times a day, the key gets worn down so much that the edges become nearly smooth. After a while, the trunk will no longer open; eventually, the ignition won't always start (oddly enough, however, the doors will always unlock no matter how smooth it gets). I carry the valet key with me at all times, so I've never been stranded or anything, but it just gets to be a pain sometimes. After a weekend of the car not starting with the key enough times, I decided to take advantage of a short break and get the new one.

I have no clue how soon I'll get the RSX that will be dubbed Kevmobile 2, but until then, my ride may not be fancy, but it's OK by me.

Best bloggers: Congrats to Lileks and Instapundit for their wins in the Washington Post Blog Awards announced this week. Lileks won in the Most Original category and received honorable mention for Best Rant; Instapundit won both the Most Likely to Last Beyond Election Day and Best Outside the Beltway categories. Way to go!

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Freaky

An unusual epilogue to my jury-duty story:

One thing I don't think I mentioned about all this was that I found out that the plaintiff couple in the lawsuit live about five minutes from me (they plastered their address up on the screen enough on various legal documents and so on, and their street has a really unusual name). I didn't want to be the jury foreman for that reason; if I read the verdict, and it wasn't in their favor (which it turned out not to be), I didn't want to see them the next day at Super Target or something. (A fellow juror pointed out afterwards that maybe in that case, I would want to see them, so we wouldn't collide in the parking lot. Heh.)

At any rate, my trip home from teaching last night sent me through that neighborhood, and that was on my mind as I approached the major street taking me there. As I neared the stoplight, a car in the next lane signaled to turn into my lane. It waited for me to go first, though, and I noticed that it was a Lexus that closely resembled the one I'd seen way too many pictures of last week. But nah, couldn't be him....there are plenty of Lexii in this area. He was going slowly, so I passed him going into the left turn lane. I took a glance into the driver's side window, and sure enough. It was him. The kung-fu master. It was dark, but I could see the outline of the funky beard perfectly.

So how weird is that? The first time I go through their neighborhood since the trial, and there he is. I doubt he recognized me, as he was looking straight ahead (plus he didn't have the benefit of knowing what kind of car I drive, as I did for him). Still, it was a very unusual coda to last week's happenings.

Unusual food of the week: Someone has come up with pine-flavored gum to help deer hunters mask any personal odors that might scare their prey away.

(via Dave Barry's Blog)

QUOTE OF THE DAY: An exchange between me and Kris during "tator tot time" today. (Both the rhythm section and the trombones were having sectionals, so attendance at TTT was sparse.)

KRIS: Where is everybody today?
ME: They're all having sectionals.

And then laughter ensued, because, of course, Kris didn't hear the "tionals" part of my sentence. Hey, we may do TTT to "bond with the band," but I don't think anyone wants to bond that much.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

My Day(s) in Court

It's taken me a few days to come up with this post, mostly because I wanted to tread carefully, recounting the story while still making everything anonymous enough that there would be almost no way the parties involved could possibly run across this post on a Google search. However, it was an interesting (if personally expensive) experience, and I wanted to tell the tale here because I haven't been able to tell a lot of people in person yet. I won't attempt to make this an exhaustive narrative; rather, I'll just recount everything as a series of interesting points:
  • The trial itself was a civil case stemming from injuries in a low-speed parking lot auto accident. A lady in an SUV backed into a couple in a Lexus; it appeared from the testimony given that neither party saw the other prior to the accident.

  • The thing that added intrigue to this was the fact that the husband of the couple was a Shaolin kung fu master, with the cool hair and beard appropriate to the trade, though they also owned other businesses.

  • The couple was trying to get the lady to pay all their medical bills since the accident, though most of their conditions were pre-existing at the time.

  • During the course of the trial, the couple's entire lives were recounted; there's no doubt these poor people would be contenders for the designation of "unluckiest couple alive" (they'd also experienced business failures, being swindled out of their retirement savings, some unfortunate run-ins with the police, etc.). But the underlying thought in my mind the whole time was that very little of what had happened to them had anything to do with this specific accident.

  • The plaintiffs' attorney was brand-new; he'd just recently become a lawyer, and even though he seemed like the nicest guy, he was totally in over his head here. The defense attorney, on the other hand, was a pit bull--with 20 years in the business, he was cold, calculating and efficient. You might not invite him to your next party, but you'd sure want him on your side if someone sued you for something like this.

  • This didn't necessarily sink to the level of a frivolous lawsuit like the kind you would imagine being filed by those personal-injury attorneys who advertise on daytime TV. Several other suits filed by this couple had never made it to trial, so at least they had "their day in court" to air everything out. However, it still seemed to us that very little of what had gone wrong in their lives was connected to the accident in question.

  • I enjoyed being with the other members of the jury; everyone was quite amiable, and when we finally got to talk about the case during deliberations, we rendered our decision fairly quickly. It was also interesting that the panel seemed to be packed with teachers (at least a third of us fit that description). Someone suggested that the reason for that is that teachers are good at mediating disputes and weighing both sides of an issue.

  • The long and short of the case was if we didn't find either party to be negligent (as defined by the court), we couldn't award any money to anyone. From the evidence and testimony, it just looked like an accident, plain and simple: she looked back in all directions but didn't see them before backing out; they drove carefully and slowly in the parking lot but didn't see her backing out...an unfortunate occurrence, but an accident nonetheless. That was how our verdict went.

It was interesting to see our legal system in action; it may not be perfect all the time, but it's sure better than anything else. This point was driven home by some German law students who were sitting in the gallery observing the trial; they pointed out to us that their courts have no juries, only a panel of three (appointed, not elected) judges. I think I'd take our system any day over something like that. It is indeed costly to someone in a business like mine (I got paid--or will, in 4 to 6 weeks--a grand total of $18 for my three days of service, while losing around $400 in missed lesson revenue), but I'm not sure what the answer is to that either; with any luck, it'll be another two or three years before my name comes up again.

The trial also spawned a few QUOTES OF THE DAY, which I'll share now, in chronological order:

"Is that a standard or a stick?"--Plaintiffs' lawyer to defendant, asking about her SUV. It was pretty funny watching him ask her all these technical questions about the engine and so on and seeing her response.

"OK, if you guys just turn your heads for a minute, I'll go through here in my underwear."--A lady on Wednesday morning who kept setting off the metal detector even after shedding jewelry, shoes, and nearly everything else. (That's one thing that's gotten tighter since 9/11; while courthouse security isn't quite as intense as the airport--my shoes passed muster, for one thing--they're definitely being more thorough now.)

"Well guys, it's been a lot of fun..."--Jury foreman, upon the rendering of our verdict.
"...and I hope we don't do it again for a long time."--My interjection.

Guys' guide to shopping: Phil Dokas, the artist formerly known as Stereoboy, is back after a short hiatus, and he's come up with a guide to buying stuff at the mall that any guy can appreciate.

Comin' home: I went to Homecoming at UNT last night with Halfling and Angie; I had such a good time last year that I definitely wanted to go again. We got there a bit late and missed most of the tailgating activities, but the game was good. Freshman running back Jamario Thomas added to his amazing year by rushing for 258 yards, including a 77-yarder late in the game to seal the 36-26 victory over New Mexico State (oddly enough, another maroon-and-white squad of Aggies). Nick Bazaldua also kicked a 51-yard field goal to pad the lead earlier in the game. All in all, a great time, followed of course by the traditional postgame trip to the Tomato. Another game happens next week, where we hope to catch more tailgating.

And speaking of sports: GO SOX! I'm off to watch Game 2 now...

Friday, October 22, 2004

Oh, Please...

A school district in Washington state has banned Halloween in the entire district for this year. Surprisingly, it had nothing to do with conservative Christian parents concerned about the pagan origins of the holiday; instead, it had to do with the district's concern that children dressed in traditional witch costumes might be offensive to real witches.

Yes, you read that correctly. Here's what a district official said, in an email dating back to 2000:
"...the Wiccan religion is a bona fide religion under the law, and its followers are entitled to all the protections afforded more mainstream religions. Building administrators should not tolerate such inappropriate stereotyping (images such as Witches on flying brooms, stirring cauldrons, casting spells, or with long noses and pointed hats) and instead address them as you would hurtful stereotypes of any other minority."

I heard a mother from that school district quoted on the news tonight, and she said something to the effect that the minority actually rules in this country on so many occasions, while the majority has no right to do something if it might hurt someone's feelings. Thinking about that gave birth to my rant this evening...

I've been bothered by this whole political correctness thing ever since it first started making news (perhaps because I was born white and male, which makes it impossible for me to ever be PC). We may have Constitutional guarantees of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, but I don't think that last category includes "the right not to have your feelings hurt." To me, that's part of life. You learn to work through it and become a bigger, better person because of the experience. If you're having trouble with that, a monosyllabic response comes to mind: Waaaah. Somebody call them a wambulance, will ya?

The problem with PC is that it takes one of the better pieces of wisdom that most moms give to their kids and turns it totally on its side. I remember the first time I got teased in school; when I came home and complained to Mom about it, she said the old standby: "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me." Political correctness has changed that to "If you hurt me with words, I'll break your bones with sticks and stones." It's definitely been a contributing factor to the nation of whiners and victims that we've seemingly become around here. Another mom in the Washington district worries about a slippery-slope effect if the district gets away with this restriction: "I'm afraid next it will be St Patrick's Day," says parent Katie McCoy. "Can we not wear green? Can I not send cupcakes for my baby's birthday? Where does it end? That is my question."

And you know what? Banning St. Patrick's day would really get my Irish up.

More on this later, no doubt. I'll also tell the tale of the trial; I'm still figuring out a way to get the story across without the parties involved ever accidentally running across it on the Web someday (I'd never use names, but I'm trying to anonymize the whole story as best I can without omitting the truly interesting parts). I'm sure this'll happen over the weekend sometime.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Freedom

The trial is over. My service to the county is done, and now I'll get my normal life back.

It was an interesting experience. Now that I can speak freely, I'll tell some interesting stuff about the case, either here or in a separate post. After all, it's Wednesday afternoon, which means it's almost time for The Hang™. Tomorrow, let the teaching (and moneymaking--yay) begin anew.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

D'oh

We're going into a third day at the trial. Personally, I would've preferred to go really late tonight and not have to do the extra day, but the panel is two-thirds women, and I understand the idea of not making the ladies walk around downtown after dark. At any rate, only the final stages are left, so with any luck we'll be done by lunchtime.

Still can't talk about anything, of course, but there will be tales to tell when it's done.

Chivalry's not dead; it just smells funny: I saw some old-school manners in action today, as several men actually gave up their seats to ladies on the train! (I would have been one of said men if a few more ladies had boarded, but in the end, I vegged with my newspaper for the duration of the trip.) It almost made me wish for rain, just to see if these same guys would spread their coats over a puddle for the ladies to walk on. (I talk in half-jest, but it really is refreshing to see this kind of behavior, and to see its recipients accept it as well.)

Speaking of the train, I still love it; tomorrow I ride the Blue Line from downtown Garland in the optimistic hope of getting done by midday.

Monday, October 18, 2004

Yes, the County Still Owns Me

OK, here's the latest: I got picked. I have to go back tomorrow too, but with any luck that'll be it and I'll get back in time for big band tomorrow night. Can't talk about the case yet, of course, but I'll have plenty of stories when it's done.

I then came back and taught one lesson at the store, effectively quadrupling my income for today (it only pays $6 a day for jury duty, not the $10 I mentioned yesterday).

Tonight's been a great night for baseball: Sox beat Yankees (in all kinds of extra innings); Astros beat Cards. Dad is thrilled, no doubt, watching the 'Stros from his hospital room (yes, the surgery went fine this morning).

Oh yeah, and the train is great; I hadn't ridden it since it was extended north of Park Lane. I would so ride the train all the time if I worked downtown and didn't have a gazillion errand to run after work. It's all kinds of convenient now, and cheap (train=$2.50 for an all-day pass; parking garage=$3.00 a day at the reduced juror rate...and hey, I need that 50 cents about now). I'm riding it again tomorrow.

A wild pair: Jazzer extraordinaire Wynton Marsalis and actress Erin Moran (Joanie of Happy Days and Joanie Loves Chachi fame) were both born on this day in 1961.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: "I'll see you all back here at 9:30 in the morning...and I am not cooking breakfast."--Steve the bailiff, at the end of the day (in the jury room, not the courtroom, which is why I can quote it already).

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Doing My Duty

I have jury duty in the morning. This is rarely a pleasant task for anyone, but it hits the self-employed particularly hard, because they almost undoubtedly will lose money in the deal somehow. This is very much the case with me, because my business is not only school-specific by day but also day-specific; in other words, even if I only miss the morning time, I'll still never be able to teach the morning of October 18, 2004 again (my schedule renders makeups virtually impossible in most cases), and the $10 the county will pay me will only make up for 2/3 of the first lesson I'll miss.

I certainly understand the obligation to do my civic duty and all that, but I really wish that business hardship was a vaild reason for dismissal of service, especially for sole proprietors like myself. (On the other hand, I also understand how that would be abused if it were allowed, so I'm not sure of the ideal answer here.) Dallas County has a one day/one trial policy, which means that if you're not picked the first day, your term of service is considered complete. My only big concern is if I were to get selected and have to spend more than one day down there. Two days would cause me significant financial hardship; three days would be an even more serious dent, and a week or longer would be devastating. I understand that you can talk to the judge if this scenario occurs, and I would hope so, seeing as how nobody should be forced to go near-bankrupt just to fulfill this duty. But hopefully it'll be like last time, where I was done by 11 a.m. *crosses fingers*

I said a few days ago that I was going to take a poll asking how long you thought I'd be stuck down there and whether I should drive or take the train (the train is free on the first day you serve). I'm pretty sure I'm taking the train (just to be different, and to save on gas/stress), but I'm hoping that what happened the last time I did that doesn't happen again: I was in a group that was promptly bused to the juvenile center, several miles away in West Dallas, and then left there and told that we had two hours for lunch. Keep in mind that my car was at the train station, and the closest thing to us was a cafeteria, which was a 20-minute walk through a bad neighborhood. Thus, I ended up eating my lunch from vending machines that day, which pretty much soured me on the whole deal. I didn't get picked that time, either, thankfully; I probably sealed my place on the "bad" list when I objected to the dad in this child-custody case not showing up for the selection process because he was self-employed and didn't want to miss work. Wait a minute, I was missing work too, but I was there! You get the idea...

Anyway, wish me luck on this and feel free to use the comments for your predictions of how long I'll be stuck there. And if you're so inclined, pray for my Dad, who's having hip replacement in the morning (it's his second one, and he's made a lot of "bionic" jokes already).

Saturday, October 16, 2004

A Setback for the Machine

The Supreme Court handed Internet services providers and privacy advocates a crucial victory this week--at the expense of the RIAA--when it decided not to hear an important Internet piracy case.
"The recording industry may not agree, but the U.S. Supreme Court thinks personal privacy is far more important that music piracy," Red Herring reported. "On Tuesday, the high court refused to entertain an appeal of a unanimous 2003 decision by the District of Columbia Court of Appeals that held that copyright holders cannot force Internet providers to identify file sharers using a mere subpoena. Industry watchers see this as yet another blow that the recording industry has taken in its fight against online file sharing -- a fight it is slowly losing. The lawsuits in question were between New York's Verizon Internet Services and the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), headquartered in Washington, D.C."

Wired News also weighs in on the story. If you're wondering why this musician doesn't support the recording industry in this matter, read this.

What's next, a MIDI autoharp? Roland has come up with the world's first all-digital accordion. (I bet John Linnell from They Might Be Giants already has one, and maybe Weird Al too.)

(Both stories via Instapundit)

Hail, hail, the gang's all halfway here: I played a gig at a new coffee and tea place tonight with 50% of the original lineup of Team Demon/Dingus; the recap is on the TD/D site.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

A Fuelish Way to Advertise

What with gas prices being the way they are, I'm far more prone to use price as the primary determining factor in where I stop than anything else. RaceTrac and QuikTrip are my friends these days. I'm sure that Dad would be disappointed that I don't stop at a Shell station every time (he's retired from that company), but the fact is, there aren't that many of those on my teaching route, and right now, it really is all about the price.

So today, I was running out of gas during the middle of the day, which prompted me to do something I'd rarely do: stop at the gas station in front of the Evil Empire (actually its corporate cousin) because they had gas advertised at $1.82 on their sign. Yet when I pulled up to the pump, the display asked me if I had their club card (which I obviously don't). Lacking one, my price suddenly jumped up to $1.87...yes, a nickel more a gallon than the sign said. Needless to say, I bailed. If you're gonna advertise a price, and it's a "members only" price, you'd better put that in big letters on your sign so unsuspecting bargain-hunters like myself don't get lured over there on false pretenses.

After that, I went and did what I should have done in the first place: got my gas at Tom Thumb, where I do have a club card. They list the "full" price on the marquee, which also notes that gas is 3 cents cheaper with the card. That's the way it should be done: honest, accurate advertising, and nobody's fooled. Yet another reason why the good guys get my business, and the others don't.

UPDATE: We just think we have it bad here; check out the comments to this post, where James tells us how much worse gas prices are in Australia (thankfully, he does all the math and conversions for us).

I think we know where the Sonic sign guy works now: Last fall and winter, I made fun of a local Sonic drive-in that had all kinds of spelling and grammar issues on its marquee sign. Eventually, they got better, which means the Sign Dude either learned to spell or found work elsewhere (I suspect the latter). This week, I noticed similar handiwork on a sign at a local credit union:

LINE OF CREDITS
ARE HERE

"Line of credits," huh? Maybe I can get some "Certificate of Deposits" while I'm there. I guess it could be worse; they could have invited us to TRY ARE NEW LINE OF CREDITS or something. Still, I hadn't had a laugh like that in a while.

Really, officer...the squirrel made me do it: There are a lot of stories at UNT about the albino squirrel that hangs around campus. Up in Ohio, however, those kind of squirrels must not be as friendly, because one of them forced a teenage driver to crash his car this week.

(via Dave Barry's Blog)

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

LJS Update

A reader saw the Long John Silver's story on here the other day and sent the company an email inquiry about the situation. The company's response is posted in the comments to that entry. Like the reader, I don't know if my mind is changed or not, but it's food for thought.

(And again, I have to request you anonymous posters to please sign your comments...even if I don't know who you are. I wish that Blogger didn't require every commenter to have a Blogger account, but I'll keep the anonymous option open so long as people sign their comments at the bottom, just like an email.)

Other than that, not much to update about right now. I've been teaching, and teaching, and teaching...and in my spare time I've been teaching. Oh, and slept a little. Yesterday was kinda chill due to my Allen students being on fall break this week. Tomorrow is rather chill after 3:00, since the high schools will be at marching contest, so The Hang™ can start early for once. Oh, and I'm kinda sweating the fact that I got called for jury duty next week; I'll have a poll later on about how long you think I'll be stuck there and which mode of transportation (free train? Kevmobile?) I should take when I go downtown.

Hit the road, jack-o-lantern: G has carved a pumpkin with a silhouette of Ray Charles on it.

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Hangin' with da Boyz

I got to see my nephews today for a little bit after church, as my sister and brother-in-law were in town for the weekend. Noah will be 4 in February, and Caleb turned 1 last month, and they're a lot of fun to be around. Caleb is walking now, in that knobby-kneed, off-balance way that must have inspired the term "toddler," while Noah is quite the conversationalist. He's really gotten into the fact that I play the saxophone; it's evidently the first thing he says upon hearing my name.

There's a music store near the Fuddruckers in Austin where they go almost every week, and evidently there's some sort of saxophone on their sign. Whenever they pass by it, Noah says something like this:

"Look, there's a saxophone! Uncle Kevin plays the saxophone! He has lots of them. He has...five saxophones!"

...which actually is pretty close. I can't wait till they're old enough to catch at least the first set of one of my gigs; TD/D has actually been playing during both of the weekends they've been in town this semester, but obviously that's way past their bedtimes at the moment.

At any rate, it was great to spend time with them today. During the course of my usual 300-miles-an-hour weeks, hanging with a three-year-old, shooting miniature hoops and playing with a Sesame Street playhouse aren't usually on my agenda, but it was awesome. I can't wait until I have some kids of my own someday.

Playing this weekend in the Kevmobile: Halfling and I visited Recycled Records, Tapes and CD's on the Denton square last week; that's always a dangerous place for the wallet. I used restraint and only ended up with three CD's...

Shelley Carrol-Shelley Carrol with Members of the Duke Ellington Orchestra (Leaning House Records): I'd owned this CD before--in fact, I was there for its release party at the late Jazz Connection club in Dallas--but someone borrowed it and subsequently got all his CD's stolen. Leaning House is no more (though I found in researching the Joey posting [below] that you can get some of the titles on Amazon), so I really wanted to get a copy of this again. Highlights include some great trumpet work by Ellington mainstay Barrie Lee Hall and a guest appearance by Shelley's fellow local tenor hero Marchel Ivery.

Yellowjackets-Like a River (GRP): I've been on a 'Jackets kick since we saw them in Ft. Worth a few weeks ago. In their pre-Bob Mintzer days, they had always been a step above the generic fusion that's so pervasive on "lite" jazz stations (they really need to find something to call that music that doesn't contain the word "jazz"), but Mintzer has pulled them more towards straight-ahead jazz. I should have guessed that and kept up with the band over the years, but I'm making up for lost time now. While there are a few radio-friendly tunes, there's also a lot of great musicianship, especially from Mintzer and bass titan Jimmy Haslip.

Rufus Reid Quintet-The Gait Keeper (Sunnyside Communications): I got to hear this fine bassist/educator in Greeley last April, and this was the CD he was promoting at the time. I'm glad I finally have my hands on it; it's a mix of mostly originals and a few covers, with a fine supporting cast both old (longtime Jones/Lewis/Vanguard member Rich Perry on tenor) and new (Reid's former student Freddie Hendrix on trumpet and flugel). Oh, and I was fooled by the opener, "The Meddler," which I thought was a twisted cover of Sonny and Cher's "The Beat Goes On" (as always, I was listening in the car and thus didn't have the liner notes at my disposal). I'm pretty sure the "dah-be dah-be dee, dah-be dah-be dai" figure shows up almost note-for-note in this tune.

A team effort: Dingus chimes in about last night's TD/D gig. We were really happy with the outcome, as we added three new tunes ("In Case You Missed It," Dingus's arrangement of "Foosball" and my original "Samba de ZuachiƱu") to the rep with only one rehearsal. We're not sure of when the November gig at Ke Davi will be yet, but it'll be on the sidebar here and of course on the team blog.

Saturday, October 09, 2004

Jumpin' for Joey

One of the coolest concerts I saw last year may be turning into an annual event, as Joey DeFrancesco came back to UTD last night. Just like last November, I was accompanied by Halfling and Angie (only this time we had enough tickets before we got there!). Miles joined us as well, and Alex (from Combo PM and TD/D) came with a friend to snap up my remaining two tickets.

Last time, Joey was reunited with the three local heroes (Marchel Ivery, Clint Strong and Andrew Griffith) who collaborated with him on the "Marchel Ivery Meets Joey DeFrancesco" CD (released on the late, lamented Leaning House label, but somehow still available through Amazon--yay!). This year, he brought his own trio, featuring Paul Bollenback on guitar and Byron "Wookie" Landham on drums.

The venue was different as well; unlike last year's concert (about which I posted extensively at the time), which took place in a small, sold-out theatre, last night took place in the Conference Center, where the One O'Clock Lab Band performs once a year and where I'd gotten to see the Kenny Barron Trio a few years back. There were a few empty seats, the room itself had a sort of drab, lecture-hall vibe (I'm pretty sure that's what its purpose is during the week), and the house lights couldn't be turned off separately from the stage lights. That last thing weirded Joey out for a bit, but he eventually warmed to the idea of being able to actually see the members of the audience.

Once again, Joey burned all night long. His technique was nothing short of amazing, and he coaxed a variety of colors from his Hammond B-3. His rapport with his longtime bandmates was obvious as they negotiated style changes on a dime and raised and lowered the energy level as one. Bollenback used a plethora of effects, well..effectively, turning his guitar into everything from a space-age sitar on an extended romp through "Fly Me to the Moon" (which pretty much went to the moon and back before the head ever came in) to a full orchestra's worth of strings on Joey's vocal take on "In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning." His clean sound reminded me of American Garage-era Metheny, and his energy ranged from a slow burn to a rolling boil throughout the night. Landham played tastefully all night behind the other two soloists and got several chances to shine on his own near the end of the night. Though the evening was mostly straight-ahead, there was a certain underpinning of funk in his playing--a reminder of what makes the classic jazz organ trio so cool.

The trio's repertoire was mostly standards, including the aforementioned Sinatra tunes, "Witchcraft" and a rollicking encore of "Kansas City." They also did a jazz turn on "Home on the Range," of all things; Joey invited the audience to sing along on one chorus, and, being Texas, we all knew the words. An audience member pointed out that the singing wouldn't have gone over so well in Philly (where Joey hails from), and the exchange ended with a gutsy admission from Joey that he's a die-hard Eagles fan and hates the Cowboys. Ehh, we all let it slide.

Joey made an important point when he came on the mic after the second tune of the evening. He said that he hoped that everyone was having a good time, because the three of them sure were. Some people, he noted, thought that you had to be all serious to play jazz (he adopted a stiff, stodgy pose as he said this), but they felt like it was really important to have a good time while playing and listening. This feeling came through all night, and the audience responded in kind.

Same time, next year?

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

No (Long John) Silver Lining Here

I don't know if this story has made the news outside of here in Dallas, but it certainly should have: Back on September 18, in the neighboring suburb of Richardson, two men--one wearing a mask and at least appearing to carry a gun, attempted to rob a Long John Silver's restaurant. They took the money--about $500--from the register, forced the teenage employees to get down on the floor, and the masked one made the manager go with him to the back of the store, hoping to get more cash from the safe. (The manager is not being identified because one of the suspects is still at large.)

While on the way back, the manager (who, 25 years earlier, had been robbed on the street, cooperating with the robber in the process but getting shot anyway) saw a hammer lying around. He picked up the hammer and whacked the masked assailant, who fell to the ground. The pair of would-be robbers dropped the money and left the restaurant; no employees were harmed.

So you might think that the company would give the manager a commendation--maybe even a raise--for his heroics. But you would think wrong. After suspending him for two days, the company fired him. The official word was that he endangered the lives of his employees and violated company policy, which prohibits trying to disarm a robber. Read the whole story here.

So the first thing that comes to my mind is...are those corporate "suits" just nuts? I'd like to see what some of them would do in the same situation. Don't get me wrong--I may have a bit of a rebel streak in me at times, but I understand the importance of rules in a civilized society. However, every rule has an exception, and if ever there were an exception to the rule, this situation fits the bill. Yet the powers that be were unwavering in the support of the rule over the person, and as a result, a 46-year-old man who'd been with the company for ten years is now out of a job, his corporate "reward" for saving the lives of three teenagers.

So this begs a fundamental question: Are we a nation of rules, or a nation of people? I know of plenty of people who would support the first position, but as far as I'm concerned, that's the lazy way to go. One-size-fits-all regulations need to at least be able to be bent enough to accommodate a situation where the one size does not in fact fit all. It just requires some flexibility, as well as...get ready...some thinking on the part of those in charge. The teenagers who were working with him at the time of the robbery have already testified in his support. Even the grandmother of the jailed suspect has come forward in support of reinstating the manager.

So come on, LJS, and do right by this guy. The official word is that they're "discussing" the matter. Sure, your rule was put in place to help people, but this time it's actually hurting someone. Let's put the person before the rule this time so this story can have a happy ending.

(UPDATE: The second suspect has been caught....now there's only one piece of this puzzle left to go.)

Founders Day

My fraternity, Sinfonia, a fine brotherhood of musicians, is 206 years old today. Out here, we did our formal celebration on Sunday in Stephenville, as mentioned below, but today I raise a virtual glass to my brothers around the world on the birthday of our great order.

Monday, October 04, 2004

Notes from the Road (Stephenville Edition)

I've done a post like this before after a Sinfonia roadtrip (one of the cool things about being governor is that I get to go on several little sojourns like this every semester)--a collection of random interesting stuff from the trip:

--In Benbrook, the place where you get off I-20 and join Hwy. 377 for the scenic route (which is recommended; going I-20 to 281 bores me to tears), there's a local restaurant called "Riscky's Barbeque." I'm sure that's a fine old family name, but I wonder how many people would be uneasy eating a Riscky meal? (On another trip, I noticed a small airport south of Ft. Worth called "Luck Field." I imagine those who are afraid of flying would be quite uneasy about flying out of Luck.)

--Also in Benbrook, there's a restaurant that bills itself as a "Mexican Grill/Oriental Cafe." Imagine the food combinations there: Noodles & Salsa, Enchiladas Chow Mein, Fajita Egg Rolls, and so on.

--Somewhere off 377 is a sign for the sidestreets in each direction: One is ELECTRIC, the other is BILLINGS. Seeing that made me wonder if I'd paid my utilities for the month yet.

--In downtown Stephenville, there's a big fiberglass cow on a tall pole on the courthouse square. The cow is named "Moo-La" in honor of the great amounts of money that the dairy industry brings into Erath County (no, that's not a typo) every year. I understand that climbing Moo-La is a common college prank, especially if you can get your picture taken atop her.

I'll update if I can remember anything else; those are what came to mind at the moment.

Weekend Update

It's weird to be home at this time on a Monday. I'm really happy about it, though, because this weekend was so busy that I quite possibly would have passed out if I'd had to get up and teach today. Thankfully, today is Fair Day for my district (and I notice from the storms that woke me up this morning that it's just a lovely day for that), and tomorrow's an in-service for the classroom teachers, so I get a day off then as well. Granted, I'll have two full hours of teaching at the store today *shudder*, and combo and big band tomorrow, but I caught up on a lot of sleep last night and will get quite a few things done in the next two days.

The weekend started way too early on Saturday morning, as once again, one of my middle schools scheduled a master class at 10 a.m. (they did this on Labor Day weekend too). That went fine, and there was air conditioning in the building, unlike last time. The rest of the early afternoon was devoted to getting things ready for the province big band the next day, and then Angie came over to ride up to the UNT football game with me. We met up with Halfling and his family at the tailgating area (it was Family Weekend, so they had been there since the night before).

At the last game we had attended, it was almost unbearably hot; this time was quite pleasant. There had been a cold front of sorts the night before, though I think the radio/TV guys overestimated its power; the hoodie I brought remained unused the whole time I was there. The best thing was that UNT won! After an 0-4 start through a set of challenging non-conference games (Texas, Colorado, etc.), the Mean Green continued their dominance of the Sun Belt, extending their conference win streak to 19 games. We went up to the Administration Building to watch the clock tower get lit up in green (this has always happened after a victory, but now they make a big deal out of it. It's still just throwing a switch--no flaming-arrow-fired-into-a-bowl like at the Olympics or anything--but it was nice to see at least a small crowd in attendance. The obligatory trip to the Tomato would end the evening.

The first part of yesterday was devoted to the Sinfonia Founders Day concert. Though the event is run by the DFW Area Alumni Association (DFWAAA), we decided to expand our definition of the Metroplex this year and take the show to Stephenville, home of Tarleton State University. Tarleton got its start as an agricultural college (and I understand that 60% of the student body majors in agriculture now), but it's also part of the Texas A&M system, so they have lots of financial support and the nice facilities that go with said support. It's pretty isolated but a nice place to visit.

I'll chronicle the roadtrip in a separate post; there are always little funny-named places and what-not that come with a trip like that. When I got there, my first stop was pre-ordained: a little gas station on the edge of town that sells Dublin Dr Pepper. If you've never heard of this stuff, there's a bottling company in Dublin, Texas (not too far from Stephenville) that still makes Dr Pepper with Imperial Sugar, rather than that "high fructose corn syrup" stuff that's in use now. (Imperial, of course, is the company which used to be headquartered in the place my parents live, as I noted at Christmas.) It's really good stuff, even better than regular DP. I snagged a few cases and went on about my business. (UPDATE: I realized from linking to the Dublin site that I just missed 10-2-4 by one day; "10, 2 and 4" were the times you were supposed to drink DP during the day in a classic ad campaign from back in the day.)

One of the highlights of the Founders Day Concert is the province big band, which I've had the privilege of directing the past few times. It's a band that plays only one day a year, and this was that day. We basically have an hour to put together three tunes with players from however many chapters show up, plus the DFWAAA. I think this year was the best one so far; it helped that 3/4 of the rhythm section was local (meaning that they'd played together already and there were no equipment panics like we'd had in previous years) and the other 1/4 plays professionally. When no bari player showed up, the faculty advisor from Tarleton (an old schoolmate of mine and an alumnus of the One O'Clock) stepped in, so we had a really cool Duel of the Pros on our opener, Big Dipper. We also did Li'l Darlin' and Kris's tune Matt's Mexican Special, and I was really happy with what we got done in an hour's rehearsal.

After the concert (which also included a brass quartet, province chorus and a jazz quartet featuring the two aforementioned pros), we went to this barbecue place on the edge of town called the Hard Eight. I'd highly recommend it if you ever end up in Stephenville. The pit is right there on the side of the building under a metal roof; you order and pick up your meat from there before you even go inside. I had an insanely huge pork chop and some corn-on-the-cob; the beans and bread were free, and Dublin DP flowed from the soda fountain. Great stuff.

By the time this ended, it was 5:30, but my day was nowhere near done. As I'd said previously, there was a benefit concert for my old schoolmate Jonathan Beckett at Hailey's in Denton, so I took the Fort Worth leg of I-35 to head up there and snag Halfling. The concert had been going on since 3:30 in the afternoon, so we missed the One O'Clock, Jim Riggs' big band and Wayne Delano's group, but got there in time for Shelley Carrol (his set started late, so we got to catch the end of Buddy Mohmed and American Bedouin, a Middle-Eastern flavored trio of guitar, violin and tabla). We stuck around for the other two acts, the Nawlins Gumbo Kings (part dixieland, part comedy) and the "nuclear polka" band Brave Combo, who got their start right there in Denton. It was a great night of music, and all the proceeds went to Jonathan's medical fund (he's battling lymphoma). Good stuff for a good cause.

And now I'm gonna enjoy these next two days to the hilt, catching up on sleep, practicing, arranging...and all those TV shows I've taped for the past month or so. It may not be a full week like Plano gets, but it'll hit the spot for me.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: "Will that be all for you?"--Cashier at the Chevron station, as I plopped my two cases of Dublins on the counter. I said that it must have been obvious that I was from out of town and this place was my Dublin hookup, but she said that one lady bought over $100 worth every time she came in!

Friday, October 01, 2004

A Fall Cornucopia

A totally random collection of this 'n' that:

--Here we are, just one day into October, and it's supposed to get cold here overnight. I'm not sure I'm ready for that yet, especially with a UNT football game tomorrow evening. (Granted, "cold" is a relative statement in Texas; in this case, it means it'll only reach the 70's tomorrow afternoon. Still, I'll miss wearing shorts this weekend, but we should have a few more warm ones left.)

--There will be a benefit concert on Sunday for Jonathan Beckett, a former classmate of mine and recent member of the UNT One O'Clock Lab Band who's battling lymphoma. The concert is from 3:30 p.m. till midnight at Hailey's in Denton, and a $10 donation, all of which goes to Jonathan's medical fund, gets you in the door. Featured artists include the Jim Riggs Big Band, the One O'Clock Lab Band, Shelley Carrol, Wayne Delano and Brave Combo.

--The fall concert guest artist and Gomez International Guest Artist have been announced on the UNT Jazz Studies website. I'm more than a little happy to see that they're both saxophonists. *grin*

--Didja catch that weird baseball story from yesterday? A Cleveland Indians pitcher was hit in the right calf by a shot that came through the team bus...but he was spared serious injury due to the fact that he was wearing go-go boots--part of the cheerleader outfit he was wearing during a rookie hazing ritual. I guess they couldn't have picked a better time for that...

--I don't get political on this site, but Lileks has some interesting things to say about last night's debate.

Blowing out the candles: Happy birthday Dingus! I recounted the story of how he got the nickname on his birthday a year ago, so I won't repeat myself now.

UPDATE: More baseball--I just watched on TV as Ichiro broke the all-time hits-in-a-season record while I was doing this post. It was against my beloved Rangers, but still, it was cool to watch history being made like that.