Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Justifiable Larceny?

Today was a typical Marathon Wednesday, and on top of that, most of my time at the computer has been spent reading more about the aftermath of the hurricane. I think the soft spot I have for New Orleans as a fun vacation spot has kept me glued to the radio, TV and web browser in what little spare time I've had. I just hope the news starts getting better soon.

There have been a lot of reports and pictures lately of widespread looting by those who stayed behind (or were stuck, in some cases) in New Orleans (some good discussions are over at Metafilter and Althouse, both of which also focus on the racial undertones of some of the coverage). The big question seems to be this: is the widespread looting indicative of a society gone lawless, or are people in desperate times just trying to do whatever they can to survive?

I'll admit to being a fence-sitter here: If we're talking about necessities, like food or water, I'd be inclined to give people a pass in this particular instance. But flat-screen TV's? A basketball goal? That's just stealing for stealing's sake, and it shouldn't be tolerated.

(I'll admit that I also didn't feel as bad when I heard about the looting of a Wal-Mart [save for the fact that all their guns were taken] as I did about small Mom-and-Pop stores that will probably need all the help they can get to reopen. But, as many have pointed out, the food would have spoiled anyway. It's tough to make a general judgement on this one.)

Agree? Disagree? Comments are welcome, of course. And be sure and read Gary's comment on Sunday's post, as well as Eric's essay on growing up in New Orleans.

UPDATE: Evidently, the looting is getting a lot worse, as law enforcement authorities are concentrating more efforts on stopping it than on search and rescue operations. How unfortunate...

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

The First Day (College Edition)

Today was the first day for jazz ensembles at the college, so it was my de facto first day of the fall semester out there as well. There's something about the first day of a college semester that's really energizing, despite the fact that I had already taught for six hours in the public schools by the time I got there. Sure, it's a frantic energy--the lack of empty parking places and the throngs of people in the late-registration lines guarantee that fact--but there's something about the newness of it all that really unleashes some badly-needed optimism in me, and it can't be replicated in the public schools. I think it's because there's so much "new" in the air--new students, new classes, a chance to start fresh (even for those who may not have done well last semester). Nobody's burned out; nobody's disillusioned. And everybody has a sense of purpose today, even if they don't know where to find everything yet.

My afternoon combo has 100% turnover from the spring, which will be a challenge, but an exciting one nontheless. (My quote at the end of the rehearsal was "this is the acorn from whence a mighty oak might grow.") There were several new faces in the big band as well, so there'll be some learning time ahead....but hey, that's why we're there, to help them learn. And by teaching, we ourselves learn as well.
(UPDATE: J-Guar tried calling me on the use of "from whence," saying in effect that it was a redundancy, but I found a few places like this that back me up. I'm keeping it for now, because to edit it would mean I was misquoting myself...)

There will be times later on in the semester when "the grind" is wearing on me a bit (the public school schedule itself is still taxing at times, and my college work follows that a few days a week), but I hope I can bottle some of the optimism of today for those times. In the meantime, there are always certain places where I can slip away for maybe half an hour, just to wash the pungent aroma of work off my psyche. Tonight, after coming home from a twelve-hour teaching day and then having to edit my syllabi ("adult homework," I called it), that was exactly what I did afterwards. In the words of Yoda, hit the spot it did.

Now to work on the sleep thing...

It ain't over yet: Despite yesterday's optimism, the hard times are far from over in New Orleans. Reading the Times-Picayune's newslog is pretty depressing, as a matter of fact. Our prayers are with them.

Oh, and the UNT-LSU game this weekend has been postponed for now.

Home sweet home: With the hurricane dominating most of yesterday's news, I completely forgot what day it was, so I totally neglected to celebrate my fourth anniversary as the owner of Casa de Kev (photo here). Seeing what happened to so many other people's houses in this disaster makes me appreciate mine all the more.

Monday, August 29, 2005

*A* Big One, But Not *The* Big One?

Miraculously, New Orleans didn't take the direct hit that we feared it would, and the French Quarter fared better than most areas. Not to take lightly what did happen, of course; there was plenty of flooding and wind damage and even some loss of life, but the worst-case scenario known as "filling the bowl" didn't take place. The two things that had to happen to keep this from being The Big One did in fact happen: the storm changed direction ever-so-slightly before it came ashore (putting New Orleans proper on the "good" [west] side of the storm), and it also weakened slightly.

(UPDATE: This, of course, was written before the levees broke and much of the bowl did in fact fill. *sigh*)

During the day, I got a lot of good coverage from local radio (it helps when the news station I listen to has a full-time meteorologist as its morning news co-anchor), but I also got an amazing amount of information from bloggers. This new media form is coming through with flying colors in a situation like this; even a loss of power didn't stop some people from getting through, MacGyver-ing a computer connection with a pre-charged laptop and one of those free AOL trial disks (hey, we knew they had to be good for something). If you're interested in some hurricane-blogging, here are some good sites:As soon as I find out the status of some of my favorite haunts, I'll update. In the meantime, we can all be thankful that it wasn't any worse that it was.

Not again: Another place where I've recently played has gone out of business; read more on the TD/D blog.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Dear Katrina: Please Go Easy on the Big Easy.
Thanks, Kev

One of the biggest news stories of the moment is that Hurricane Katrina seems to be headed straight for New Orleans. Since much of the city is below sea level, it's long been known that a direct hit from a really strong hurricane could leave a good portion of the area underwater. A mandatory evacuation has been ordered, but plenty of stranded tourists (the victims of cancelled flights and empty car-rental lots) will have to wait it out in places like the Superdome, which has been designated as an emergency shelter.

Hurricanes are unpredictable, so there's always the chance it could veer off in another direction or even lose steam before making landfall (which is scheduled for sometime tomorrow morning). Still, it's chilling to imagine that, in the city that's one of my top vacation destinations, some of my favorite places--Preservation Hall, the Cafe du Monde, Cafe Maspero, the Hotel Monteleone, Copeland's--might sustain severe damage. Much worse, of course, would be the potential loss of life.

So if you're the praying type, remember the Big Easy tonight; I know I will. It may have a (not entirely undeserved) reputation as a den of iniquity, but it's also possible to completely bypass said iniquity and still have a great time; the music and the food guarantee that by themselves. Sure, it's a funky, gritty place, but that funkiness and grittiness are what make it so special. It's one of the spiciest places in our American casserole, and I for one hope to wake up in the morning and find out that Katrina has landed elsewhere or at least muted her bluster a bit.

IRONIC QUOTE OF THE DAY: "The Original Cafe Du Monde Coffee Stand was established in 1862 in the New Orleans French Market. The Cafe is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It closes only on Christmas Day and on the day an occasional Hurricane passes too close to New Orleans."--from the Cafe's website.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Sportin' Life

It's the week before college football starts in most places around the country, but this was a Saturday filled with sports:
  • My alma mater, UNT, has been talking about building a new football stadium for a long time (its current one, Fouts Field, dates back to 1952). Now comes word that it's likely to happen, and sooner, rather than later.

  • Congratulations to my old college radio buddy, Mark Followill, whose play-by-play gig with the Mavericks just moved from radio to TV.

  • At high noon today, it was sunny, there was no trace of a breeze, and the thermometer read 100 degrees. A perfect day for baseball, right? Umm...not really, but that didn't stop me and J-Guar from continuing the tradtion of seeing a Rangers-Twins game. Decked out in the garb of our respective teams, we cancelled each other out, cheering-wise, but had a great time doing so. The game itself was also good until the Rangers fell apart in the top of the eleventh, surrendering five runs to lose 7-2. J-Guar now leads the annual series 2-0.

  • Oh, and evidently, there's a Cowboys game going on right now, but I don't tend to pay attention to preseason games, so I probably won't know what the score is until tomorrow morning. UPDATE: That's how it worked, but I was glad to see that they beat the Texans.
That's all for the sports; now it's time for the outdoor report...

Fun Fact #52? If I ever do a second edition of Fun Facts, this could definitely be in there:

52. Despite the fact that I'm allergic to grass, I currently own four lawnmowers.

And the really strange thing is that only one of them works right now. The two gas-powered ones are out of both gas and oil (though, as of this weekend, I finally know where everything goes in the newest one), and the electric one just totally blew out last weekend. That left me with the old-school, Leave it to Beaver-style push mower that an old roommate left behind years ago. It's reasonably good exercise, but it's definitely inefficient. Some people have started using them again to be "green" in a trendy way, but I need something that cuts more consistently, given my limited window of daylight in which yardwork may occur.

Blowing Blogging out the candles: Happy birthday to Professor Glenn Reynolds, who publishes as InstaPundit (and is also sometimes referred to as the "Blogfather"). Also a happy birthday to my old buddy Matt R.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Not a Total Skeptic Yet

I really want to believe Raffy, though that attitude has taken a hit in recent weeks.

But I still believe Lance, and will do so until an entity far more authoritative than a French newspaper reports that he was dirty.

Purr-fect timing: For the past several weeks, my cat Tasha has rushed up to the kitchen sink whenever it's in use, drinking the water in there despite her own water dish being perfectly full. Evidently, I'm not alone; Dave Barry's Blog links to a really unusual website today: Cats in Sinks. I'm gonna definitely try to send a picture in to them.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

A Short-Answer Problem

It hit 102 degrees here in Dallas today, and I was glad I was indoors for most of it. But I was really amused by a post over at Althouse, where the good professor was railing against men in shorts. Granted, she's from Madison, Wisconsin, which might as well be half a world away from here in terms of climate. Still, it was an amusing read for someone here in Texas:
No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no.

That's the short answer about shorts. Men in shorts? No such thing. If you are in shorts, you are not a man. I'll make a small exception for certain sports, or if you are staying at home or in your own yard. But if you're going out in public in a non-sports capacity, put on some pants! This includes the postman!
Needless to say, many of her readers, especially those of us from the South, didn't agree (I'm comment #63, incidentally). I certainly don't begrudge the UPS driver or letter carrier the comfort of wearing shorts to work, even if I can't do so myself (though they'd be quite comfortable in some of my schools with poorly-ventilated practice rooms). And I think they're perfectly acceptable as casual wear when it's as hot as it is now.

Anybody disagree with me on this? I know that most Musings readers (or at least the ones who comment) are from here in Texas too, so I bet we're mostly of one mind on this.

A Napster of sorts: Seeing as how today was my last free Thursday afternoon/evening until Thanksgiving, I did an unusual thing: I took a nap. My parents were visiting today, but I was toast when I came home from teaching, so I snoozed while they cleaned. (Some may thing of that as wrong, but hey, they chose to come here during one of my busiest weeks of the year, and they seem to enjoy that domestic stuff that I don't always have time to do.)

I woke up feeling quite refreshed. It's scary to think that I may not get another nap until Labor Day *shudder*, and it's scarier to think that naps have to be scheduled like that. Anyone think I work too much?

A common-sense approach to kids' treats: I'm a big Lileks fan, and in today's Bleat, he has a lot of great things to say about parenting, but one statement, regarding a trip with his daughter to Krispy Kreme, is about the most sensible parenting advice I've heard in a long time:
She was very impressed by the donut. “It was awesome,” she said.

And yes, I am trying to raise a fat kid. Of course! Goes without saying! McDonald’s, Krispy Kreme – that's all she eats. Look: we do McDonald’s once a fortnight, at the most, and she has a cheeseburger. No soda, no juice, no fries; she gets the apples. Occasionally I buy a small fries, and we split that. We never get donuts. But that’s not POLICY, it’s just the way we live. If it’s POLICY then you make the forbidden things alluring and attractive; if you stigmatize them you undercut your own authority because they see no reason why the items are taboo, and if you make all sorts of heavy food rules whose moral weight exceeds that of the Ten Commandments then the kid's going to have food isssues. Make the fun stuff part of a rotating sequence of balanced indulgences that roll around with predictable regularity,, and you raise a sane kid. Says me. Get back to me in a decade.
Sure makes sense to me.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Mrs. Crabtree, in the Flesh?

No, wait, I take that back. Even Mrs. Crabtree (the perpetually-cranky bus driver on South Park) probably wouldn't skip a kid's bus stop and drop him off at another school over a mile away, like a driver in Little Elm did this week:
Tyler Synatschk's parents have drilled their 6-year-old on safety basics: Don't cross busy streets alone and don't accept rides from strangers.

When Tyler did both after his first day of school Monday, Gary and Denise Synatschk had to assure the Little Elm first-grader he did nothing wrong. He did good.

It's the bus driver who forced Tyler off the bus at the wrong stop they're upset with.

A rookie driver, who has since been suspended, drove past Tyler's stop and continued more than a mile before instructing him to get out, Mrs. Synatschk said.
Thankfully, Little Elm has done more than suspend the driver (who works for a larger company that services several districts); they've banned her from ever driving again in their district.

This story blows my mind; how could anyone do that to a little kid? (And to touch on another point made in the story, it sure seems like the drivers should be required to answer calls on their radios.) It was indeed by the grace of God that little Tyler ended up being found by a good Samaritan and not someone with bad intentions.

Setback for the P.C. police: A while back, I railed on here about the NCAA's decision to ban schools with Native American mascot names form postseason tournaments. Now, they've backpedaled on the issue with regard to Florida State, whose Seminole mascot has the blessing of the local tribe of the same name. Other schools with similar arrangements may be next.

Salute to school: There was a nice article about my college in the paper yesterday.

Got suspension? I posted quite some time ago about the Gallon Challenge, the object of which is to finish a gallon of milk in an hour without throwing up (this makes our 2BC look tame by comparison). Now comes word that a Florida Marlins batboy, given the challenge by an opposing pitcher, not only failed to complete the challenge, but was suspended for trying. Key quote from the pitcher who dared him: "It's kind of ridiculous that you get a 10-game suspension for steroids and a six-game suspension for milk." (Hat tip: J-Guar)

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Name the Mystery Tune?

Over dinner tonight, I heard a most unusual tune; it was sort of a techno-ish thing that featured vocals reminiscent of the "soft side" of Trent Reznor or maybe the guy from Filter (which was pretty much a Nine Inch Nails offshoot anyway). But the most unusual thing about the song was that it contained a fairly substantial sample of Gerry Mulligan's "Song for an Unfinished Woman" (most likely the version recorded by Mulligan/Baker at the Carnegie Hall Concert). Anybody have any idea what this tune is or who does it? (If you're not familiar with "Unfinished Woman," click on the sample on the Amazon link and maybe that'll help.)

We live in trying (-out) times: The stats of my day were as follows--five hours of teaching, five and a half hours of listening to auditions at the college, then another hour and a half of deliberating over said auditions (albeit at a very good place to eat). I'm spent. I'm toast. I also have a nearly twelve-hour teaching day tomorrow, and my parents are visiting on Thursday. Therefore, in the immortal words of Yoda, a short post this will be.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Some Good Local Baseball News...

The Rangers didn't lose tonight!

(Oh yeah, that's because they didn't play.)

This season is pretty much in the tank (losing 12 of 13 on the recent roadtrip guaranteed that, I'm afraid), but those of us who are die-hard supporters will slog on (I have lots and lots of ticket vouchers left, so I'll be at plenty of games in September) and hope for a better year next year. Hey, it worked for the Red Sox last year, so miracles can happen.

But it begs the question: What's the best thing that can be done to "fix" the Rangers? I heard a talk-show host on TV last night say that the only solution was to get rid of Buck Showalter and GM John Hart, and bring back Doug Melvin (the GM during the playoff years of the mid-late '90s).

I'm skeptical of the fire-Buck idea; he seems to do the best with what he's been given. Hart? I've never warmed to him; maybe that's where the change needs to take place. Fellow Rangers fans--chime in with your thoughts. Everyone else--well, there'll be a fresh post tomorrow.

He pioneered the electronic keyboard, and music hasn't been the same ever synth: R.I.P. Robert Moog. He developed the first commercial modular synthesizer, and can thus be credited/blamed (depending on your personal taste , of course) for everything from electronica to Switched-On Bach. I also thought it was fascinating that he put himself through college by building and selling theremins (c'mon, everybody say wooo-OOOO-oooo). But no matter your opinion of electronic music, Moog definitely broke new ground.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Playing This Weekend in the Kevmobile

It's been a while since I've done one of these posts, but my adventures yesterday took me to that wonderful and dangerous (to the wallet) place called CD of course, I had to go in, and of course, I found some cool stuff. That means I can once again talk about the interesting new stuff I've been listening to all weekend:
  • Kenny Garrett: African Exchange Student (Atlantic 7-82156-2). Though Garrett is a bigtime personal favorite of mine, my collection has been sorely lacking in anything before his (IMHO) definitive album, Songbook. This 1990 release features Ron Carter and Elvin Jones on several tracks, which is worth the purchase price alone. Garrett hadn't become the prolific writer he is today, but the covers (including Trane's "Straight Street," Herbie's "One Finger Snap" and even "Mack the Knife") all bear his distinctive stamp. A great addition to the library.

  • Bobby Watson and Horizon: Horizon Reassembled (Palmetto Records). I've been a big fan of Watson (both as an alto player and a composer) since my college radio days. He's been keeping a somewhat lower profile lately, but he's recently taken a teaching gig in Missouri and put his band Horizon back together (thus the title of this CD). On first listening, none of the tunes scream "instant classic" a la "In Case You Missed It" or "Dreams So Real" (from the group's Blue Note days), but the cool interplay between Watson and trumpeter Terell Stafford is featured extensively just like before, and Edward Simon's piano playing and the drumming of Victor Lewis never fail to please. I've almost worn out their old recordings, so it's cool to have this new offering. Watson's teaching gig will obviously limit their touring, but this is one group I'd really like to see in concert.

  • Bob Mintzer Big Band: Departure (DMP CD-493). (This is not from the CD Source "haul," but it was a late birthday present from Matt this weekend, so I'll review it here too.) As longtime readers know, I'm a huge Mintzer fan, but I haven't gotten around to collecting the entire output of his great New York-based big band. This 1993 release is a good mixture of originals and covers. My personal favorites are the opening "Dialogue," a friendly battle between Mintzer's tenor and the rest of the band minus piano and bass; "Freedomland," the Yellowjackets tune that one of my college combos played last fall; Victor Feldman's "Joshua" (made famous by Miles); and "Horns Alone," a rhythm section-less sequel of sorts to the earlier "Beyond the Limit." Sure, Mintzer has a formula to his writing, but it's a great formula, and I love to hear him play--'nuff said.

  • Kenny Garrett: Triology (Atlantic 45731). I haven't gotten to listen to this yet, but it has Charnett Moffett and Brian Blade, so I'm expecting greatness. I'll update later.

Multi-purpose and then some: I had a gig last night for a corporate function at one of those big multi-purpose convention/banquet facilities. I had no idea exactly what it was that I was playing for, knowing only the names of the banquet hall and the contact person. When I got there, I encountered two extremely diverse events going on simultaneously: a wedding and one of those "ultimate fighting" competitions. I was pretty sure that I wasn't playing for either of those, and I was correct, eventually finding the right room. Still, that was quite a cross-section of clientele for one location at the same time.

Bizarro world: My friend who got married last week has returned from his honeymoon in Cabo San Lucas, and reports an odd thing: in that portion of Mexico, at least, the housekeeping employees speak English!

Jumpin' jack flash is a gas, gas, gas: I can't believe I'm celebrating this, but I found regular unleaded for $2.54 a gallon today. (It's at the Chevron at Belt Line and N. Garland Ave. if you're in the area, and I hope it doesn't go up before morning. Needless to say, they were quite crowded.)

Saturday, August 20, 2005

How to Win Friends and Influence People, Union-Style

I've mentioned before that I'm no huge fans of unions, mostly because the things that union members "demand" seem to get in the way of their helping people, which is supposed to be a primary reason why people are in business in the first place (yeah yeah, making money, etc., but let me at least view the world through one rose-colored lens every once in a while). The last time we discussed this, it was the striking hockey players' union; this time, it's the striking mechanics at Northwest Airlines. My only personal dog in this hunt is that a good friend is booked on Northwest in a few days, but his flight looks to be less in jeopardy now that the airline has brought in replacement workers.

Anyway, it was a sentence in the article about the replacements that really jumped out at me:
After months of talks broke off in Washington just before midnight Friday, union spokesman Jim Young said the mechanics would rather see the airline go into bankruptcy than agree to Northwest's terms. The Airline Mechanics Fraternal Association represents about 11 percent of Northwest's 40,000 workers.
Wow. Can you say "selfish," boys and girls? These guys would prefer to see as many as forty thousand people lose their jobs rather than take a pay cut that might help the company stay afloat?

Incidentally, the mechanics are flying solo on this one, as it were:
The mechanics are striking alone. Pilots, flight attendants and other ground workers all said they would keep working, and a federal judge barred mechanics at Northwest regional carrier Mesaba Airlines from conducting a sympathy strike.
In all seriousness, I hope the replacement mechanics do a much better job than, say, the replacement NFL players of days gone by, since much more than a team's won-loss record is at stake. Yes, the airline industry is doing badly (save for a local carrier that's still legislatively hamstrung in its hometown...but that's a subject for later), and it will take some shared sacrifice to keep some of these companies in the air. It's too bad these union members can't see beyond their own bottom line, because they're cutting off their own nose to spite their face. I am still so glad that I live in a right-to-work state.

Would "Pleistocene Park" be a bad idea? You ain't lion! One of the big topics in the blogosphere this week has been the proposal to transplant African wildlife, such as lions, elephants and cheetahs (oh my!), to the Great Plains area of the American southwest. We were talking about this at dinner last night, and several of us figured out that, if this were to happen, a new rural teenage fad would emerge: Lion-tipping!
(I also posted this thought in the comments at Althouse, where other interesting theories abound.)

Friday, August 19, 2005

Power Trio

Tonight was a rare treat, musically speaking. If the Earl Harvin Trio is performing in the area, I'm going to move heaven and earth to try and get out and see them. Thankfully, all it took today was a quick trip downtown.

The trio features Harvin, a UNT alumnus and former member of the One O'Clock Lab Band drummer (Lab '88) who's also toured extensively with Seal and The The; Dave Palmer, another NT alum, on keyboard (usually a Rhodes, but tonight he was playing a white Yamaha upright); and Fred Hamilton, the UNT jazz guitar professor who's also an outstanding bass player (he plays both in the trio). Once Palmer integrated the Rhodes into their live performances, the group moved beyond the simple profile of a jazz trio and into the "beyond category" description...unless the category is "great music," and then you're right on the money. Sure, they play plenty of straight-ahead sounding tunes, but they're also into extended jams (the "final chord" of their closing tune last September lasted a good ten minutes) and otherworldly sounds.

In a recent profile in the UNT alumni magazine, The North Texan, Harvin noted that the only reason the trio bears his name is because he was "the only consistent member" of a pool of around ten people, but his drumming is a huge part of the group's unique sound. While his playing could be described as "busy," that statement is meant in the best possible way; perhaps "intricate" is a better description, and "extremely tasty" needs to go in there as well. He's been known to double the melody on a tune, and he uses every part of the kit at some time or another, coming up with some very distinctive sounds in the process.

Tonight's gig was at the Dallas Museum of Art as part of a "Late Night Friday" series that happens monthly (sponsored by Starbucks, as the emcee reminded us about 47 times). The fact that Palmer was on acoustic piano added a new twist to the group's sound all by itself. He also had what appeared to be a very small computer of sorts atop the piano, which generated some interesting sequences on a totally-improvised number halfway through the show. Only afterwards did we find out what the device was: a Game Boy! There's a company in Germany that makes a little cartridge that goes into the Game Boy and produces sequences using the unit's own sounds, and Dave decided that would be a perfect accompaniment to the modern art hanging in the atrium.

The only downside of the show was that it was so short. I'm used to the trio's gigs at the Gypsy Tea Room, where the sets last for hours on end. Tonight was a tight, hourlong show that only whetted our appetites...but it'll do for now. In the meantime, there's a live DVD that's on the way, the release of which I'll be sure and make note on here.

We didn't venture into any of the side corridors, but I was quite impressed with the DMA itself. I'd been to plenty of the summer outdoor concerts before (including the Branford show last summer), but this was my first time inside the building, and I had no idea how deep and wide the whole complex really was. It definitely merits revisiting when there's more time.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

We're Not Speaking the Same Language Here

OK, back to real content after a few days of cheap levity...

A while back, a Dallas school board trustee named Joe May came up with the questionable idea of forcing all the district's principals to learn Spanish, so that they would ostensibly be able to communicate better with the parents of Hispanic students, which make up 43 percent of the district. As you can imagine, many people were outraged, saying that it would be far more productive for the parents in question to learn English.

The proposal, which will be voted on later this month, was addressed again in an editorial column in yesterday's paper. The author was Edward Rincón, president of a research firm that specializes in measuring multicultural markets. According to the article,
[N]umerous studies of Latino adults show that more than 80 percent of those not born in the U.S. prefer to communicate in Spanish when given the choice. Why should this matter? When communicating in their dominant or preferred language, Latinos are more likely to comprehend and act on important information. The advertising industry has recognized this concept for many years and uses it to shape the buying behavior of Latinos.
OK, so education should look to the advertising industry as a role model? Shouldn't the students be treated as more than just "clients" (or, even worse, as "product")?

So maybe these parents prefer to communicate in Spanish; does that mean we need to indulge that preference? I'll bet I could go to school tomorrow and take a poll that would show that 80 percent of students would prefer to play video games instead of studying Shakespeare, but don't hold your breath waiting for that to happen.

But here was the statement that really got me:
Dallas school trustees have an opportunity to reverse this trend by supporting Mr. May's proposal and sending a message to the broader Dallas community that speaking the language of your customer is an important priority.
Maybe so, Mr. Rincón...but isn't speaking the language of your nation an even more important priority?

I was thinking about sending that question in as a letter-to-the-editor. Good idea? Bad idea? I don't totally shy away from controversy on this blog, but a lot more people read the paper than read The Musings.

A new definition for the word "milkweed": A herd of cows in Russia will be grazing this winter on confiscated marijuana obtained in drug busts.

Visiting the safari park in a mini-car? Not a very Smart idea: When I was in Switzerland a fw years ago, I got a kick out of the boxy little Smart cars that were often seen around town. Now comes word that, at a safari park north of London, lions are stalked by lions as prey.
(Hat tip for both the above: Dave Barry's Blog)

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Thank You, I'm Here All Week. Try the Veal.

I've really been wanting to do a post of substance; there are quite a few things in the news that I'm wanting to comment about this week, but, as you know, I'm back to full days of teaching now, and the evenings online have just been...busy. I'll get to these pressing issues in the next day or two (trust me, they'll still be "pressing" by then), but in the meantime, well, musician jokes are still running rampant on that listserv, so here's the latest batch (hopefully, they'll make up for that pseudo-lame one from last night):
  • Two musicians are walking down the street, and one says to the other,
    "Who was that piccolo I saw you with last night?"
    The other replies, "That was no piccolo, that was my fife."

  • How do you improve the aerodynamics of a trombonist's car?
    Take the Domino's Pizza sign off the roof.

  • How do you fix a broken tuba?
    With a tuba glue.

  • What's the difference between a soprano and a terrorist?
    You can negotiate with a terrorist.

  • One the other hand, what to a soprano and a terrorist have in common?
    Each can destroy a bridge in a matter of seconds

  • What's the difference between a soprano and a Porsche?
    Most musicians have never been in a Porsche.

  • What's the least-used sentence in the English language?
    "Isn't that the banjo player's Porsche?"

  • What's the difference between an opera conductor and a baby?
    A baby sucks its fingers.

  • Ralph loves to drink coffee. Each week, he drinks three more cups of coffee than Harold, who drinks exactly one-third the amount that the entire brass section consumes in beer. How much longer is Ralph going to live?

  • Maestro (to Horns): "Give us the F in tune!"
    Violist (to Maestro): "Please can we have the F-in' tune too?"

  • Why did the Philharmonic disband?
    Excessive sax and violins.
I'll have real content on here tomorrow, I promise. In the meantime, I once again invite you to add your own in the comments.

Blowing out the candles: Happy birthday to Matt, my cohort in TD/D and The Artist Formerly Known as Halfling.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

This Joke Is "Desafinado"

Yet another music joke, once again courtesy of my fraternity listserv:
There once was a man named Opper Nockatees, who was a travelling piano
tuner. During the course of his travels, he came to a small village
that was full of very friendly people who made him feel welcome at once.
While standing outside of the village church, Opper Nockatees noticed
that the piano they were using in their services was badly out of tune.
As his gift to the people that had been so nice to him, he tuned
the piano in the church. The villagers had never heard the piano sound
so beautiful. Enthralled with the wonderful music coming from the
church, they played and played and played as though they couldn't get
enough of it.
Eventually, the piano went out of tune from overuse. The
villagers sent a committee to go down the road and catch up with Opper
Nockatees to bring him back to tune the piano again. When they found
him, the asked him and he refused. They begged him, for they had never
heard the piano sound so beautiful. Again he refused. When they asked
him why not, he replied, "Haven't you heard? Opper Nockatees only tunes
UPDATE: If you don't get it at first, try reading the last sentence out loud.

OK, that was kind of a groaner compared to the one from last week. Have any of your own? Put 'em in the comments (and keep it clean; I do have students who read this, so I attempt to maintain a PG-13 blog over here).

A car powered this way would really "whiz" along: From Dave Barry's Blog, we get word of a new battery that is powered by urine. Once you get past the "eww" factor, you have to admit that it would be a cheap source of renewable energy. Granted, it would change the whole concept of filling stations--they'd be pretty much a set of private little bays where you could, umm, fill up again, and I bet the adjacent convenience store would make a killing on drinks so that drivers could have more "fuel" for later.

Monday, August 15, 2005

There Is Such a Thing As a Free Lunch...If I Can Get There

Regular blogging will be delayed one day due to an unexpected snag in my teaching schedule that needs to be resolved....but I do have to pass along a funny story.

On both of the Vermont trips that I've taken since I became a blogger, I've raved about a place in downtown Burlington called Henry's Diner. This past summer, on a whim, I put my business card in the little fishbowl they used for a drawing for a free dinner--just to be funny, since I live so far away from Burlington. Well, today I got an email telling me that I won!

I wrote them back asking how long they'd wait for me to redeem it, hoping that the answer would be at least until the next Burlington Discover Jazz Festival (yes, that's next June). Either that, or I need to win the lotto really soon, or talk some of my friends into a pretty substantial roadtrip.

With this blog, I thee wed: Last week, I made a joke about instituting "commenter dating" to go along with the new feature of "comment dating." Now, Eric has noted, in the comments to that post, that a couple here in Texas actually did get married by blog! What'll they think of next?

Sunday, August 14, 2005

One More Lazy Weekend

Wow, I can't believe summer's over.

And yes, non-academics will argue that, according to the "regular" calendar, summer doesn't officially end until September 21 or something. But to us academics, equinoxes matter not; when the bell rings on the first day of school, the entity known as "summer" has ceased to exist. In light of that, besides playing in church this morning, I didn't do jack squat today.

So does school just start too early? Sure, the state legislature has been trying to tinker with the calendar for next year, forcing everyone to start after Labor Day. As you might know, I'm not in favor of that, since it would push final exams into January, so if you go back eighteen weeks from mid-December, you pretty much I guess there's not much we can do about it, besides eliminating every school holiday known to man...and I gotta tell ya, those holidays are nice.

I don't actually teach the first day of school, and this year, I'm not likely to even darken the hallway of a school tomorrow. Normally I'd go in and post my schedules and all that, but I've been pretty good about emailing the directors and reserving my practice rooms that way, and I also have email addresses for nearly every student and/or parent that I teach, so I'll notify that way. I'll still force myself to get up at six in the morning tomorrow, so that'll be a great time to send the emails. Besides with gas at $2.45 a gallon and rising, the less driving I can do, the better.

Last year I did an ode to summer on this day. I'm not sure if this entry will qualify as an ode...maybe a sonnet? (Is an ode longer than a sonnet? I have no clue, and I'm too tired to Google it.) So will I call it the "best summer ever" like I did a year ago? Meh. I'll just say it was a really, really good one. The trip to Vermont was excellent (to read about it, start here and scroll up in succession), both musically and in terms of seeing Really Cool Scenery. It was the busiest summer I've ever had, thanks to more students than ever, along with the addition of the summer combo. It was also the first summer that I didn't go broke (OK, I have 52 cents on me at the moment--the result of draining a Starbucks card to get my evening Frap tonight--but the money starts coming in during my post-school stuff tomorrow). I also made some great new friends and really strengthened the bond with some existing ones, so yeah, this one was good.

But the big break is over. Time to "edjamacate" the young'uns in full force and make the most money of the year. And when I come up for air...well, it'll be time for a blog post.

(An essay on the good and bad of summer-vs.-fall, from a year ago, can be found here.)

Move mania: A miniature "bon voyage" to Dingus, who moved into his new place in Arlington today. A bigger bon voyage to Houston, who moved to Austin (don't think about that one too much, OK?) Also, Coop is comfortably ensconced at his new school, and the UNT crowd has another week before they take off. It's that migratory time of year...

Stupid criminal of the week: Two guys robbed a popular TV host in Ft. Smith, Arkansas; unfortunately for them, they did so while he was on the air, seen by hundreds of viewers, some of whom called the cops.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Saluting a Local Legend

I enjoyed reading an article in the sports section today that "caught up" with Bill Mercer, the former longtime voice of athletics at my alma mater, UNT. Mercer has actually had a really varied career, working high school football, the Cowboys (as well as the AFL's Dallas Texans, before they left for Kansas City to become the Chiefs), the Rangers, for whom he was the original radio voice. But the gig that remains his claim to fame was hosting the program World Championship Wrestling from Dallas' Sportatorium, featuring the exploits of the legendary Von Erich family and their cohorts.

Bill was the play-by-play voice of North Texas athletics for 34 years, and for many of those years, he was a broadcasting instructor at UNT, helping develop the talents of such notables as ESPN's Dave Barnett, the Mavericks' Mark Followill, and The Ticket's Dunham and Miller--the last three being old radio colleagues of mine as well. (He was also the original station manager of KNTU, if memory serves.) Even though I was never a broadcasting student per se, I had the privilege of working with Bill from time to time, cutting some commercials for UNT football games and so on. Even though I was a music student who lucked his way into broadcasting, he treated me as nothing short of a professional, and I think he got me to excel in ways that I thought I never could. I also remember years of listening to away football games, and to him I give the highest compliment one can bestow upon a sports broadcaster: He made you feel like you were at the game.

Bill's nearly 80 years old now, and though his UNT stint ended quite some time ago, he's still in the business, doing weekend games for the Round Rock Express, the Astros' minor-league affiliate that's part-owned by Noaln Ryan. It's great to see him still in the game, because whatever game he's calling is better for it.

(Incidentally, the article says that he's the subject of a charity roast next week at UNT; I wonder if tickets are left.)

Spamalot II: I promise I won't do this every day, but I did get some oddly-titled spam again today...
Re: be open no lodging
He speak he undercover midday
Re: That go go sweet row
Re: so read an ethics

The funny thing is, it's almost always the exact same letter--an ad for a product that claims to help you lose body fat, reduce wrinkles, boost your energy level, and increase your muscle strength, sexual potency, emotional stability and memory. The "snake oil" of a hundred years ago has gone high-tech on us...

Oh nooooooooooo! Brace yourselves for the annual "crunch," fellow North Texans; according to today's paper, the crickets are here early this year.

Friday, August 12, 2005

This "Spamalot" Doesn't Have Monty Python Characters In It

I'm sure everyone has gotten these: the same generic spam (mostly for "cheap meds") that comes through several times a week. Lately, the "subjects" have been really funny, because they're just random words stuck together. Here are the ones I received today alone:

Re: It speak my often
Herbert is taking the plane [wow, a real sentence!--Ed.]
Have find or earl sinhalese
As study of rapist saxophone

That last one was bizarre; I never expected to get one with the word "saxophone" in it. (And you'd think that even the spammers would check their random word generator's output before sending things; wouldn't many people be offended by an email with the word "rapist" in the subject, even before they knew it was spam?)

Ever get any weird spam like that? Post the "subjects" in the comments.

That was the problem--he gave too much of his heart away already: A man wakes up from triple-bypass heart surgery to find that all three of his wives are waiting for him at the hospital. D'oh...

A little too "real" in this case: Last week, I wrote a post that touted the new, legal Real Books. It turns out there's a hazard to mixing the Sixth Edition with the old Fifth Edition on a gig: Not only have the mistakes been cleaned up, but some tunes have been returned to their original keys. Some friends of mine found that out tonight when they played "Cotton Tail," as the horns (with their Sixth Editons) were in Bb while the rhythm section (playing out of the Fifth) was in Ab. It was quite an unusual sound, needless to say. (Another one that's definitely off like that is "Blue Train," which was erroneously put in the old edition in C minor, while the Sixth Edition has it in Eb major like Trane did it.)

Thursday, August 11, 2005

This Joke Will Probably Fall Flat

Back to serious blogging later...but tonight, a joke (aimed at my fellow musicians):
C, Eb, & G go into a bar.
The bartender says “Sorry, but I don’t serve minors in here," so the Eb left.
The C & G decided to open a fifth between them.
(Thanks to a brother named Joe, who posted this on our fraternity listserv today.)

This might sound like a joke, but isn't: A new world record was set in British Columbia last month, when 644 people played accordions simultaneously for half an hour.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Jazzin' the News

While reading my paper at dinner tonight, I couldn't help but notice that there were a lot of jazz stories:
  • The Nesuhi Ertegun Jazz Hall of Fame, an offshoot of Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York, has announced this year's class of inductees, highlighted by Ella Fitzgerald and Benny Goodman. Others include Charles Mingus, Roy Eldridge, Joe "King" Oliver, Earl "Fatha" Hines, "Papa Jo" Jones and Fats Waller, as well as the first two living inductees, Sonny Rollins and Max Roach. (The Hall's namesake, Ertegun, was a pioneer in the jazz recording industry, working as an A&R man for Atlantic Records, founded by his brother Ahmet, who gained recent attention by being portrayed in the movie Ray.)

  • Bassist Keter Betts, who passed away this week, is the subject of a moving tribute by the Washington Post's Eugene Robinson. Here's a key quote from the article:
    A great jazz number is evanescent; attempts to capture it on vinyl or magnetic tape, or to translate it into bits and bytes, are like putting a bird in a cage. Great jazz is meant to be performed live and appreciated live. When the music is gone, only memory can do it justice.
    Betts was one of those guys who was never a household name, but I promise you've heard his work; among other things, he recorded extensively with Ella Fitzgerald and returned from a South American trip infected with the rhythms that became the backbone of Stan Getz and Charlie Byrd's pioneering Jazz Samba recording.

  • After months of fighting with its landlord and neighboring businesses over noise issues (about which I've written here a couple of times), the Brooklyn jazz cafe is moving to the Cedars area. I didn't get to visit Brooklyn in its old digs, but I hope to check out the new place (which will be substantially bigger) and maybe get my band a gig there someday.

Speedin' in Sweden: A Swedish insurance company is claming to be the first in its field to offer insurance against both speeding and parking tickets.

Another European guy in the doghouse: A driver in Germany accidentally backed over his wife in a parking lot; when he found out what he had done, he was so stunned that he managed to run over her again. (Miraculously, she survived.)

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Cover Your Ears, I Anticipate Feedback...

All the news fit to blog, for the low, low price of free (and you can even talk back to me!):
  • I was very happy to read this morning that the space shuttle landed safely. (My eyewitness account of Columbia disintegrating over Texas--without my realizing it at the time--can be found here.)

  • I had lots of comments on the Raffy situation a while back; what does everyone think about Kenny Rogers' suspension getting lifted today?

  • Last week's comment thread that won't die is up to 23 24 entries now, but today's post should knock it off the bottom of the page. Here's the permalink if you want to keep the thread going. (Jim P. points out the irony in having that many comments on a post that was entitled "Short and Random.")

  • And finally, speaking of comments, I have enabled comment dating, as requested by several readers. Let me know what you think of the format I chose. (The other project, "commenter dating," which will allow single commenters on The Musings to meet up for a no-strings-attached lunch date, is still in the very early development stages.)

Taking the "Jonny Cat" concept a little too far, maybe: My cat, Tasha, has had some issues lately with missing her litterbox more often than not, but does anyone who's met her think that she'd ever go for this?

Blowing out the candles: Happy birthday to Lileks, one of my favorite bloggers...or, better put, one of my favorite writers, who just happens to blog.

Monday, August 08, 2005

The Top: 40 Hits

Despite the fact that the title of this post looks as though it might have a misplaced colon (which sounds like quite a painful medical condition, if I do say so myself), I'm going for the double meaning: For the first time since I started using Site Meter, I've averaged forty hits per day this past week:
The Musings of Kev

-- Site Summary ---

Total ........................ 6,087
Average per Day ................. 40
Average Visit Length .......... 4:48
This Week ...................... 282

Page Views

Total ....................... 12,418
Average per Day ................. 94
Average per Visit .............. 2.3
This Week ...................... 655
With the exception of the poltical-correctness screed from the other day, this hasn't even been a week of my meatiest stuff. But hey, no complaints. Thank you for visiting, whether or not we've met (online or for real). I do appreciate you taking the time out of your day, and I hope that, even on a blog that promised from day one to be "all over the map." you'll find something that keeps you coming back regularly. We know that you have a choice when reading blogs, and we appreciate you choosing the Musings of Kev.

Oh, and I bet it would've been funny if I'd had a Site Meter since the very beginning, registering those three- or four-hit averages a week. Ya gotta start somewhere, I suppose...

Time to build an ark, maybe? This one's aimed at my fellow Metroplex residents: Did anyone float away today? The sudden storm that came through the northeast part of town today was pretty brutal, knocking out the power in the hallways of the college for a while and drenching those of us unfortunate enough to have to walk in it (my shoes were still wet three hours later).

They say the same thing might happen again tomorrow, but this time I'll be prepared...and no way will I leave my car window cracked, no matter how sunny it is at the time.

Showing your true colo(u)rs: Got a minute or two? Try this really cool color perception test from England. (Hat tip: The Volokh Conspiracy)

This guy's sleeping on the couch tonight: A Macedonian man drove off from an Italian gas station without his wife and didn't realize it until six hours later.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Five More Months Till Day Five

I'm using Sunday as the day of rest it was meant to be, but I'll pop on long enough to note that a few small details have been released about the next season of 24 (hat tip: Dave Barry's Blog). They're keeping almost everything very much under wraps, save for announcing a few new characters. I hope I have time to rent/buy the DVD's from the first three seasons in the meantime, so I can catch up on some of the backstory that eluded me last season.

They could name it the "Holiday Fin": The other day, we heard about cell phones for tots. Now, in Chicago, someone has developed a hotel for fish.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Let's Hear It for Little D

The first-ever college music guide published by Rolling Stone magazine has plenty of kind words for Denton, according to an article in today's Dallas Morning News
The University of North Texas serves as Denton's biggest claim to college-town fame, but Rolling Stone raves also go out to Denton music venues Rubber Gloves Rehearsal Studios, Hailey's Club, Dan's Silverleaf and J&J's Pizza. The guide also gives a thumbs up to Recycled Books, Records & CDs on the downtown square. Two defunct venues earned nods: Brickhaus Café, which is now serving coffee and open-mic activity as Banter, and Seasick Records, which closed its doors on campus last spring to vend hard-to-find music on disc and vinyl online.

"From my perspective, it's great to get some national recognition in a national publication like this," said Jon Nelson, director of the Center for Experimental Music and Intermedia at UNT. The center was one of the programs noted in the guide, along with UNT's world-renowned jazz-studies program.
Sure, when I was in college, we'd complain that there wasn't always a lot to do in Denton, but I guess we probably took the great music scene for granted, not realizing that every college town wasn't so richly endowed. The excellent music program at my alma mater has a lot to do with it, of course; the school provides a fertile ground for creativity that spills over into the community and guarantees a well-educated populace both onstage and in the audience. Sure, I wish there was a full-time jazz club there, but things like Lab Band Night at the Syndicate and various local jams will have to fill the void for now.

The new guide is called Schools that Rock: The Rolling Stone College Guide, published by Wenner Books. More information is available here.

P.C. as a Jazz Bassist? Good.
P.C. as a Lifestyle? Ridiculous.

I opened my news browser this morning to find this headline screaming at me:
NCAA Bans Indian Names, Mascots from Postseason Events
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - The NCAA's decision to ban "hostile" and "abusive" American Indian nicknames from its postseason events has stirred a new debate, and a threat of legal action from at least one school.

Florida State and Illinois are among the 18 schools with an American Indian nickname or logo that will be prohibited by the NCAA from displaying them in postseason events, starting in February. The names will not be allowed on team uniforms and mascots - such as the Fighting Illini's Chief Illiniwek - will not be allowed to perform at games. Even band members and cheerleaders will be barred from using American Indians on their uniforms beginning in 2008.
You've got to be kidding. Everybody off the street; the P.C. police are out in full force.

I'm sorry, but I have little patience for people passing legislation with the sole intention of keeping people from getting their feelings hurt. Why would one automatically assume that teams employing Indian mascots are doing so to make fun of them? I'm reasonably sure that the opposite is true: the schools are either paying tribute to a local tribe with a rich history in their area, or they're saluting the admirable qualities ("noble warrior" etc.) of Native Americans in general. With the exception of the Cleveland Indians mascot (found here) and the Florida State/Atlanta Braves Tomahawk Chop, one would be hard-pressed to say that these teams are making fun of their namesakes. (Besides, the Tomahawk Chop is simply annoying on general principle, all political correctness aside.)

Granted, the action isn't as extreme as it could have been:
While NCAA officials admit they cannot force schools to change nicknames or logos, they want to make a statement they believe is long overdue: It's time for the Indian names to go.

The 18 schools will not be permitted to host future NCAA tournament games, and if events have already been awarded to those schools, they must cover any logos or nicknames that appear.
One school isn't taking this action lying down:
Florida State president T.K. Wetherell was already threatening legal action to keep his school's nickname - Seminoles - intact.

"I intend to pursue all legal avenues to ensure that this unacceptable decision is overturned, and that this university will forever be associated with the 'unconquered' spirit of the Seminole Tribe of Florida," he said in a written statement.
And he makes a good point later in the article:
"The rules as we understand them would have us cover the Seminole name and symbol as if we were embarrassed, and any committee that would think that is a proper and respectful treatment of Native Americans should be ashamed," Wetherell said.
I'm sure that some could call me insensitive for saying things like this. But let me point you to a team whose mascot could also be considered offensive, save for the fact that it almost never happens: the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.

As you may be able to tell from my name, I'm at least a quarter Irish. My ancestors probably struggled when they first arrived in the States, and they probably came here in the first place as a result of bad conditions back home (just think of two words: potato famine). Notre Dame's mascot--a little leprechaun guy--could certainly be considered offensive by those of us with Irish ancestry, but you never hear about efforts to force them to change it. We could also be offended by the stereotype of the Irish as people who drink all the time...but generally speaking, we're not. Why is that?

I offer a couple of theories:
  • Maybe the vast majority of people of Irish ancestry have been here long enough that we've become fully assimilated into American culture; seeing as how any wounds that were sustained by prejudice have long since healed, the use of one of our own as a team mascot doesn't really bug anyone. It might even be seen as cool...

  • Or maybe it's just that it's not specific to those with an Irish background--that there are just a whole lot of people out there, regardless of ethnicity, who think that life's too short to be so easily offended all the time.
I remember when I was a little kid, and I would (as kids always do) get teased by other kids who called me bad names. I'd run home and complain to Mom about it, and she'd usually offer that timeless motherly pearl of wisdom: Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me. But since the whole political-correctness movement took hold in the early '90s, that old "momily" has been turned on its that now, it's more like If you hurt me with words, I'll break your bones with sticks and stones. Bleh. And people wonder how we've cultivated such a culture of victims and whiners who sue each other at the drop of a hat. (It's very interesting to note that Florida State's use of the Seminoles mascot has the support of the Seminole Nation in the school's own state; it's Seminoles in completely different states [as far away as Oklahoma] who are objecting.)

To those people, I say: lighten up, will ya? Yes, there are lines that can't be crossed--derogatory racial epithets, certain racial jokes, and so on--but naming a team after Native Americans, tribally or generally, doesn't even approach that line over here. It's dangerous to assume that anyone who uses those names does so with malice aforethought. It would take a really ignorant person to think that all Native Americans live in teepees and wear war paint and headdresses, just like it would be equally ignorant to think that all Irish people drink all the time. People like that can be dealt with on an individual basis, but that's no reason to mess things up for the rest of us by making mountains out of proverbial molehills. Because, after a while, the "boy who cried wolf" theory kicks in: if someone spends too much time squawking about the little things, people will have grown tired of listening when something really big comes up.

Am I all wet here? Feel free to comment. (Incidentally, if you're confused about the title of this post, "P.C." was the nickname of the great jazz bassist Paul Chambers; John Coltrane wrote a great tune ["Mr. P.C."] in his honor, and I ended up naming a pet rabbit after the tune title.)

Gig report: I have posted a summary of last night's gig up on the TD/D blog. Eric made it out to hear us, and it was definitely cool to meet him in person for the first time (a process that J-Guar and I have dubbed "de-fictionalization," when someone morphs from a blogger-buddy into a real human being). Eric's in a band too, so I'll definitely return the favor at one of his future gigs down the road.

Sports Illustrated would call this a "sign of the apocalypse": Just what the world needs--cell phones for tots. I'm still dealing with the fact that some of my sixth-graders have them.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Oops, I Broke Blog Curfew Tonight...

I try to have a post each day, though I will take a day off if there's simply nothing of substance that can be written (no sense writing just for writing's sake). But I totally missed "actual Thursday" this week (that's as opposed to what I call "fiscal Thursday," which means it's still "today" until I go to bed, no matter what the clock says). The day just got away from me: the college-combo-and-special-guests had a gig at the ArtCentre tonight (much fun was had), and, while at post-concert dinner with half of said combo, I got a call from some old friends who wanted to hang afterwards, hangage ensued, and suddenly it was one in the morning. All I can say is: meh. Catching up with people is good, and it's not like I lose money if I miss a blogging day.

Besides, I have no big topic at hand except one: if you're in the area, come see TD/D tomorrow night (that's fiscal tomorrow, actual today) at the Coffee Haus from 8-10 p.m. Since two of the three rhythm section players will be subs, we may not pull out the heavy artillery (i.e. Foosball), but I think it'll be fun. In addition to our rhythm guests, we're likely to have guest appearances from my alto protege, Aaron, as well as Colin from combo, an emerging talent on the drums. And of course we'll bring out Collin on alto (that's two-L Collin vs. the one-L Colin I just mentioned) from behind the counter, since he's working there during our gig.

Directions, parking details, etc. are now posted on the TD/D blog. Help us pack the place again!

So what'll they call it--Adibok or Reedas? In today's business news, Adidas announced that it's buying Reebok. (They're going to keep the individual brand names, however, wisely choosing not to come up with a hybrid like the ones listed above, or something completely random like "Accenture.")

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

This Book is for Real

Today, I did something I would never have imagined doing even a year ago: I walked into a local music store and bought a Real Book off the shelf.

It's weird even talking about this, but now that the book has gone legit, I guess we can. Here's a primer for the non-jazzer readers: There's a type of music book out there called a "fake book." It was originally aimed at skilled keyboard players who wanted to make up their own accompaniments to tunes rather than play someone else's arrangements of said tunes. Instead of a two-staff format with bass lines and all that, a fake book features just the main melody of a tune and its accompanying chord symbols. It's also known as a lead-sheet format, and it lends itself well to horn players, since that's all the information they really need.

In the 1970's, an underground publication came out called the "Real Book" (a play on the term fake book, obviously), which contained most of the well-known jazz standards in concert-pitch, Eb and Bb editions. The editing was somewhat sloppy at times, but it was a great resource for "pickup" bands playing standards without a rehearsal (as I'll be doing on a few tunes with my school combo tomorrow night). There was only one problem: No publishers were listed, and no royalties were paid...which made them totally illegal.

The Wikipedia article linked above credits the compilation of the books to Berklee College of Music students and the original lead sheet production to noted jazz composers Carla Bley and Steve Swallow (which would explain the preponderance of their tunes in there), but one would think that they would've been busted for it a long time ago if that were the case. At any rate, the books could be found with little difficulty if you knew where to go (in the back alley in an unmarked brown truck at midnight, etc.; I saw someone selling them literally under the table at a jazz festival one time). They really were an indispensable part of a jazz musician's library, but the stigma of illegality was always there. In the late 80's, a company called Sher Music came out with three volumes of "The New Real Book," which gained points for accuracy while losing some for including 80's pop-fusion tunes in there; the shelf-life of those tunes had expired by the time the books hit the stores. (I mean, really, would anyone ever play Michael Jackson's "P.Y.T." on a gig? If so...I'm really glad I don't get gigs like that.)

But a funny thing happened this year. The world's largest music publisher, the Hal Leonard Corporation, bought up all the rights to the Real Book tunes and published their own legal one. It's called the Real Book Sixth Edition (acknowledging the five previous illegal versions). The cover is identical to the old ones, and they even use the same "jazz manuscript" font that was employed (albeit by hand at the time) in the originals. But the difference is that most of the hideous editing mistakes have been corrected, and, best of all, everything is legal and the composers get paid. In a very shrewd move, they priced the books at $25.00 (ten bucks cheaper than the illegal ones), which should drive the underground distributors out of business, and rumor has it that they've pursued legal action against those distributors, if any can be found.

Since it's legal now, I'm going to make it the official "textbook" for combo in the fall, but I bought my first one today, and it really did feel odd to just get one off the shelf like that. I wonder if this is how it felt when Prohibition was lifted (yes, that's a wild analogy, but it was the first one that popped into my head).

UPDATE: Lest there be any doubt of the legitimacy of these books, they can now be bought on Amazon!

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: I edited the Wikipedia entry linked above so that it now contains information on the legal version. That was my first time to do such an edit,, I thought I was an anal self-editor on this blog, but I was five times more careful with the Wiki. Compare that entry's paragraph with mine and you'll also see that I used a more formal style over there.

The thread that just won't die: My readers are still talking about Raffy; in the midst of that, we hear some good news for local hockey fans.

Someone took them on, I guess: Last night, a friend sent me the link to a download of the clip from the July 24 episode of Family Guy where they brilliantly parodied the video for the song "Take on Me" by the band a-ha. When I went to post it today, it had been taken down, so I guess we'll have to wait for the DVD now.

So moooove already! I'm not sure which is funnier about this story--the fact that a cow blocked a busy turnpike in Pennsylvania, or that actual cattle rustlers were called in to remedy the situation. (I'm sure Eric and his traffic-reporter buds would have a field day *rim shot* with that one.)

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Not Just Any Plain Ol' Band Director

As most of the high schools in the area are in the thick of marching band (much to the chagrin of most of my students, who have had to become reacquainted with early-morning hours again), I was saddened to note the passing of a local icon in the profession:
During his nearly 40 years as a high school band director – including a dozen years at Plano Senior High School – Charles Eugene Forque won the respect and affection of students, colleagues and his fellow professional musicians.

He took 36 bands to University Interscholastic League competitions and brought home 34 sweepstakes awards. Former Tonight Show bandleader Doc Severinsen performed 43 concerts with Mr. Forque's high school bands, whose public concerts included one at the first baseball game in Houston's Astrodome.

Mr. Forque, 75, died Saturday of complications of Alzheimer's disease at his McKinney home.
The whole article may be found here.

I first met Mr. Forque in high school, when he was a guest clinician at a camp I attended. One of his former assistants was one of my high school band directors, so we crossed paths again when our school played Plano in the playoffs. Later on, I auditioned to teach lessons at his school when I was in college (I didn't get the job, but benefited from the experience, as it was the only time I've had to do such an audition for a private teaching job). And more recently, I would see him at my old music-store job when he, by then the director of the Plano Community Band, would come in to purchase band music. I only reminded him once that we'd first met when I was in high school, but it was cool to have bridged the gap from calling him "Mr. Forque" to "Charles" by that time.

Forque always struck me as one of those gruff-but-caring individuals who got results. According to former student Jim Carter, who succeeded him as director of the community band,
"[w]hile he was a disciplinarian – when it came to wanting things done a certain way and making sure it was done that way – everybody saw the reasons why," Mr. Carter said. "In the end, when you finished that particular performance or that show at contest, you realized you'd done an incredible job and you felt basically fulfilled."
He will definitely be missed in our profession, but his contribution will live on through the many alumni and supporters of his programs.

What a miracle: ...that everyone survived this plane crash today.

A new form of 'roid rage: There's quite a spirited discussion of the Raffy situation in the comments to yesterday's post.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: In a continuing series taken from a set of notebook sketches made during an Amsterdam trip in 1993, Ann Althouse describes the European electrical socket as "a space-baby looking out a porthole." I have a couple of friends who used to refer to Chipotle burritos as space babies, so I got an extra big laugh out of that.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Short and Random

Blogging will be briefer than usual this week until the dreaded fall schedule (a.k.a. the Dread Sked) is a little farther along in the process. At the moment, the time period from 10:00-11:00 a.m. has approximately twenty students in it, so there's still a bit of work to do (seeing as how I underestimated yesterday; I would have to add five more weekdays to the school week to give everyone an in-class slot, not the single day I stated yesterday).

At any rate, a few small items:
  • Dave Barry's Blog has a new URL, which I will also change on the sidebar link as soon as I can. The fonts are different, and there are a few ads here and there, but otherwise, it's still the same great daily dose of America's favorite living humor writer that we've been used to for so many years.

  • I've raved in these pages about the imminent opening of Firewheel Town Center in two months and six days (no, I'm not counting at all!), but I did find out one little setback today, courtesy of the new issue of the Garland City Press: the AMC theatre won't be ready by grand opening weekend; we have to wait until December for that. D'oh!

  • And I'm sorry, but there's no way I believe that Raffy did steroids. This has to be one of those "false positives" that you hear about sometimes.
More tomorrow. Kev out.