Thursday, May 31, 2007

We "Showed Them" Some Jazz

FARMINGTON, MISSOURI--We made it to the "Show Me" State in record time (our bus driver is awesome like that) and thus had time for a decent nap before tonight's gig at Mineral Area College, where we split a show with their "Kicks" Band, a community group not unlike my own Combo PM (except that this one is bigger and highly populated by local band directors). The venue was much more spacious and much more "live," and both bands did a good job.

And now we have a chill day tomorrow--going into St. Louis itself to see the Arch and eat at my favorite Italian place downtown. But in the meantime, I'm calling it an early night; the two consecutive 5 a.m. wakeups and the "road food" have taken its toll, so I'm using tonight to hopefully regenerate and prepare for the biggest performance of the trip on Saturday.

Blowing out the candles: Happy birthday to Jonathan; I can't believe I've known you for half your life now...

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The Tour: Day One

HOT SPRINGS, ARKANSAS--Day One of the tour went well. There was a lot of rain for most of the trip (which kept me from really getting any good pictures of this place; maybe tomorrow on the way out?), but things went smoothly, and the bus is very nice--the kind that has airplane-like overhead bins, a DVD system, and enough seats that everyone in the touring group got two to him/herself.

Our gig tonight was in the Malco Theatre, a movie house-turned-performance hall in downtown Hot Springs (a short history may be found here). The venue is now the home of illusionist Maxwell Blade's magic show as well as the Hot Springs Documentary Film Institute, but the Hot Springs Jazz Society also hosts events there on occasion, including our concert tonight.

The theatre is a nice, intimate place--a little cozy for a big band, but I've certainly played on smaller stages. The band played well, and we were received warmly by the sizable audience. All in all, it was a great way to top off our first night. It's an early morning again tomorrow, as we head out at the crack o' dawn to drive to a college just south of St. Louis, so I'll call it a night here as well.

Dining tip: If you do happen to come to Hot Springs, you can't go wrong eating here.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Bigtime Travel Advisory

I leave in the morning with the college jazz band for its "Tour of the Ozarks." If you're actually going to be in the Hot Springs or St. Louis areas in the next couple of days, check the sidebar for more details and come out to see us if you can.

I will have computer access at every hotel, so I'll post regular updates and maybe even the occasional picture...and who knows, I might even catch up on the many half-completed posts that have been sitting in the pipe for a while. I'm back on Monday afternoon and start summer teaching the next morning...and I hope to have regular posts throughout the summer.

Monday, May 28, 2007

The Real Reason We Have the Day Off Today

If we're not careful, it's easy to forget why today is a holiday (hint: it's not just "the beginning of summer" or "the day the pools open"). Even though Dad is a veteran, he served in peacetime, so his only "war wound" is the scar from when he split his thumb open playing softball in the Army. Since I don't have any eloquent personal experiences to relate, I'll let others do the talking:I hope you had a safe and wonderful holiday, and that you took some time to remember why it's there. And continued Godspeed to my four former students--Fletch, John, Josh and Scott--who are serving our country in a most honorable way, helping to keep things safe for the rest of us.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

The Class of '007--We Formed a "Bond" Through Music

I just got back from my second graduation in four days, so it seemed like a good time to post a short tribute to the class of 2007. All told, I had eight private students and my Webmaster graduate this year, and six of them are going to be studying music in college, either as majors or as half of a double major. (Having five of them do that in the same year might well be a personal record.)

So my hat's off to them first: Aaron (my protege, bandmate and li'l bro; you've done more in three years than anyone before you), Mark (another one of my "main cats" and another true success story), Carl (a veteran of all seven years with me; I'm glad that you decided to follow your passion), Jason (the future swingin' chef) and Brady (glad we got to work together again this year even if I couldn't make it to the school anymore) along with Nate, the aforementioned Webmaster and a gifted composer (he figured out the "007" connection and wrote original music for his graduation that interspersed James Bond themes throughout the piece). All of them are headed to my alma mater either right away or after a year or two with me at the community college. I'm really looking forward to my continued association with all of you.

And I also wish all the best to John and David and Lawrence; the latter two were also seven-year vets with me. Even though music will not be your vocation (though I know at least one of you will definitely play in a college band), I hope you keep it close to your heart (and, as I've found out at the college, you can always come back and play again later in life).

When I used to work at a music store on weekends, I ran into an older private instructor who said, in an almost bitter tone, that the worst thing about his job was cultivating all those students for all that time and then having them graduate and never hearing from them again. Maybe it's the Internet, or maybe I'm just doing something right, but I've always been happy with how many people I've at least kept in touch with over the years, and sometimes enduring friendships have been formed by graduation time.

The world of music is really small, so one can never have too many friends in the business (one of the benefits of that is, among other things, that there's always someone to jam with). And it's even more rewarding to perform professionally with those whom I used to teach, and to see them become teachers as well. I'm really proud of all these fine young people, and it'll be great to see what kind of an impact they'll make in the years ahead.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Travel Advisory

I'm taking a quick trip to Austin this weekend to help a quartet at State Solo and Ensemble and pop in on the sis and her family for a second (happy anniversary to her and my bro-in-law today!). I'll be back tomorrow and start the task of "catching up on life," which includes blog posts. For anyone who's headed out as well this holiday weekend, have a safe and fun time.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

What Is Hip? ToP Still Is...

A little over two years ago, I had the opportunity to see Tower of Power at the Denton Arts and Jazz Festival, and the review of that show generated more comments than nearly any other post. The major bone of contention between me and some of the commenters was that they said that the Denton show was extremely subpar by ToP standards, whereas I--seeing them for the first time in a decade--was simply happy to experience them again.

So I'm going to do something almost unprecedented today: Admit that I was wrong on something. Because, having seen ToP again last night at the brand-spanking-new House of Blues in Dallas' Victory Park, I will now concur that the Denton appearance was a subpar show, and last night was the best ToP show I've ever seen.

The personnel hasn't changed all that much in the past two years; Larry Braggs remains the lead vocalist, the featured tenor player is still Tom Politzer, and guitarist Bruce Conte has rejoined the band, which means that three-fourths of the "classic" rhythm section is again intact (bassist Francis "Rocco" Prestia and renowned drummer David Garibaldi rounding out the unit).
Without the sound issues that plagued the Denton show, it was a party from beginning to end.

Co-leaders Steve "Doc" Kupka (bari sax) and Emilio Castillo (second tenor, background and occasional lead vocals) have been together for 39 years now, still writing most of the tunes. I had been told by some friends who saw the band in New York recently that the show there was a little lacking in "classic" material, but most of the old favorites were included in last night's show, including "Down to the Nightclub (Bump City)," "So Very Hard to Go," "Oakland Stroke," "What Is Hip?" and the obligatory encore of "You're Still a Young Man."

All in all, it was a really fun show. I'll go out on a limb and say that Braggs has become ToP's best lead vocalist since the early days of Lenny Williams and Hubert Tubbs, and Politzer is the best lead tenor since Lenny Pickett (now of SNL fame). Standing within mere feet of the stage, the sound was great; everytime Kupka played a low A right into the mic, I could feel it in my marrow. Politzer augmented his bluesy licks with some occasional tasty sideslipping, as if to say "the blues is making me some money at the moment, but I can still play." UNT alum Adolfo Acosta had some tasty solos and some thrilling high notes, and he and fellow trumpeter Mike Bogart did a great job of playing some of Greg Adams' classic solos in two-part harmony. The crowd--made up of both diehard contemporaries from ToP's hitmaker days as well as people whose parents weren't even dating when "So Very Hard to Go" was on the charts--was enthusiastic, dancing and singing along to nearly everything.

There may not be a lot of new material these days, but this is one band that can still revisit its classic catalog with great results. After that last show two years ago, it's great to see them back in fine form.

A house for the blues: Overall, I was impressed with the House of Blues; the tickets were somewhat pricey, but the venue was nice, and there seemed to be plenty of room for everyone. We arrived early enough to get a close-in parking space, so that was not an issue. Security was tight--I hadn't had to empty my pockets or get wanded at a concert since my heavy-metal days--but the personnel were courteous, and they even had the foresight to do gender-specific wanding (which confused a lot of people, who didn't understand at first why they had to wait in line for the guy when the lady had no line in front of her). For a concert like this, we were happy to have not paid extra for the seating area in the balcony, as standing on the floor was much more fun. The drinks looked pricey--and the adjoining restaurant very much so--but we managed to hold off on dinner until later, so it is possible to have an evening here that's not a budget-buster. With the demise of the Bronco Bowl, it's always nice to have another midsized venue for concerts in Dallas.

A sign of victory for the future: Tonight's excursion also included a walk through the Victory Park area adjacent to the HOB. The new-urban development that leads to the south doors of the American Airlines Center (which I have yet to visit; Stars or Mavs game next year, anyone?) has been touted as a sort of "Times Square of Dallas." Having been to the real Times Square a few months ago, I can say that there would have to be a lot more neon to match the original, but it's still a cool place, and having the WFAA-TV (Channel 8) studios in there is a nice touch (we were able to see part of the ten o'clock news as it happened, and might have actually gotten to be on it had we stuck around for a while). There's still not a whole lot of stuff open that late at night, but the area definitely has potential; I'll be back.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

This is a Placeholder

I will post my "Beyond Race" discussion in this spot, but I want to make sure that it gets the time and thought that it deserves before I put it up. If nothing else, I'll have it over the weekend and will note its arrival in that day's post. Thanks for your patience.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

So Much for Letting the Voters Decide...

(Also known as, "after two weeks of being too busy to post anything except fluff, it's time for Kev to get topical again.")

This wasn't unexpected, but it's still disappointing to see that there have been three different lawsuits filed against the recent Farmers Branch ordinance--the one that required landlords to verify the legal status of anyone who rented an apartment from them. Despite the fact that this measure passed overwhelmingly--by more than a 2-to-1 margin--it didn't take long for the usual chorus of "community activists" and identity-politicians to try to do an end-around the will of the voters by using the courts to accomplish what they couldn't get done via the ballot box.

Unfortunately, that's exactly what happened this week. One day before the new ordinance was to go into effect, U.S. District Judge Sam Lindsay issued a temporary restraining order halting the ban for the time being:
Judge Lindsay, in a 20-page ruling granting a temporary restraining order, said Farmers Branch had wrongly used federal laws governing who receives housing subsidies to write its ordinance and had created its own classification system for determining which noncitizens may rent an apartment in the city.

"The court recognizes that illegal immigration is a major problem in this country, and one who asserts otherwise ignores reality," Judge Lindsay wrote. "The court also fully understands the frustration of cities attempting to address a national problem that the federal government should handle; however, such frustration, no matter how great, cannot serve as a basis to pass an ordinance that conflicts with federal law."
Well, color me frustrated here. The voters have spoken, and the activists (who organized under the rather deceptive name of "Let the Voters Decide") convinced an unelected federal official to nullify the results of a fair election.

The judge asserts that the federal government has supremacy in the area of immigration law:
udge Lindsay said in the order that because the city is trying to regulate immigration differently from the federal government, the ordinance is in violation of the supremacy clause of the U.S. Constitution. Lawyers for the plaintiffs have argued that the ordinance ventured into an area – immigration – reserved exclusively for the federal government.
But this wouldn't be necessary if our bloated, inefficient federal government had done its job in the first place (yes, I've ranted about this before). Last week's poor excuse for an immigration bill proposed by Congress (which had the amazing ability to upset people on both sides of the aisle) shows just how out-of-touch our "leaders" really are.

With any luck, the powers-that-be in Farmers Branch will come up with a slightly revised ordinance that passes Constitutional muster; will the judge lift his restraining order after that? Of course, it would be even better if the federal government actually enforced the laws that it already has on the books, but I'm not holding my breath.

And to add insult to injury, a group filed another lawsuit this week, seeking to change the way that Farmers Branch elects its city council members. The suit alleges that the current at-large system of elections "unlawfully dilutes the voting strength of Latino voters and denies them the right to vote on account of their race, color or ethnicity."

OK, wait a minute here. So you're saying that the only way Hispanic candidates can get elected is if Hispanic voters vote for them? That's wrong on so many levels, but it probably explains why many Hispanic "activists" come down on the side of illegal immigrants in the current debates. As much as I don't want to believe this, I guess there really is a group of people out their who will support someone of their same race no matter what--even if that person is breaking the law.

It's time to move beyond race in this country. I hope to elaborate on that tomorrow. In the meantime, stay tuned, because this story isn't going away anytime soon.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

An Idea Worth Trumpeting

I meant to post on this subject a few months ago, but other things kept coming up. Finally, an article in yesterday's paper has spurred me into action:
Inside Shelter A at Dallas-Fort Worth National Cemetery, a Navy airman in white uniform steps forward to present a crisply folded American flag to the family. All is quiet.

Standing off to the side in a black suit and fedora, Kyle Hantz pulls a silver-plated bugle to his lips. With just 24 notes, he completes a melody at once comforting and haunting: taps.

For family and friends who have gathered for the burial of the 71-year-old military veteran, the moment swells with emotion. Some lower their heads; others nod in affirmation, wipe their eyes or clasp hands.

Mr. Hantz began volunteering his services at military funerals after 9/11. It's his way of expressing gratitude to those who've served their country. "I try to do as many as I can," he said.

Problem is, there just aren't enough buglers to play for the 1,800 veterans who are buried each day across the country – many from World War II and the Korean War.
Since 2000, an organization called Bugles Across America has been helping to locate buglers for military funerals, because, thanks to the shortage, some veterans' families were having to settle for a recording of Taps played on a boom box (which some rightly consider a sacrilege), or an electronic bugle (which looks like the real thing, but the "player" pushes a button and the bugle-shaped device plays a digital recording of Taps).

People who have given their lives for their country ought to be able to be sent off in a dignified manner, and boom boxes just don't cut it. A colleague of mine at jazz camp plays in one of the military bands, and he talked about the emotional experience that playing Taps for a departed service member can be (in fact, he said he prefers not to know anything about the person he's playing for until after he does so, lest he get too choked up while playing). A fraternity brother of mine who works in the financial industry also picks up the horn again to participate in BAA, and he concurs that it's quite a moving experience.

In Texas, there are about 350 buglers who have signed up, but they could always use more. Feel free to pass this information on to any trumpet-playing buddies in your circle.

Now that's a sound sleeper: A man in Minnesota was stabbed nine times in his home and slept through the whole thing.

The No Fun Department: A Florida pub had a good time confusing its customers for years with signs that often sent people into the wrong gender's bathrooms. Now the father of a girl who was interrupted by a man who walked into the ladies' room has gotten the lawyers involved, so the fun is bound to stop.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Fraternal News Twins

This will be a busy day, so I'll devote one more post exclusively to the news. And today, our stories come in pairs...

Stupid criminals, part 1: A thief should've waited a little longer to celebrate after nabbing a woman's purse, as he was caught in the act of counting the loot by the side of the road, not too far from the scene of the crime.

Stupid criminals, part 2: Meanwhile, a guy who had burglarized a number of vehicles was caught after he left his wallet at the scene of one of the burglaries.

Embarrassment is the best punishment, part 1: A seventh-grade girl who was suspended for bullying another student got suspended for a week...but to add insult to injury, her mother made her stand outside her school carrying a sign that said "Don't be like me. Stop bullying."

Embarrassment is the best punishment, part 2: In a similar incident, a high-schooler who was suspended for roughhousing with a teacher was also made to wear a sign by his mother, and he had to do so while picking up trash by the side of the highway.

Weird animal behavior, part 1: A set of tiger triplets at a Chinese zoo, having been rejected by their mother, are being nursed by a dog instead.

Weird animal behavior, part 2: A young bear walked into a medical clinic in Albuquerque and did in fact get treatment--in the form of a tranquilizer gun.

Bizarre lawsuits, part 1: A pair of Rhode Island plumbers are going at it in court over the phone number 867-5309, made famous in the early '80s song.

Bizarre lawsuits, part 2: A judge in Washington D.C., upset over the fact that a dry cleaners lost his favorite pair of pants, is suing the cleaners for $67 million. Read what the commenters are saying, and check out this key quote:
"People in America are now scared of each other," legal expert Philip Howard told ABC News' Law & Justice Unit. "That's why teachers won't put an arm around a crying child, and doctors order unnecessary tests, and ministers won't meet with parishioners. It's a distrust of justice and it's changing our culture."
I couldn't agree more; I hope this guy loses and gets countersued, and he certainly isn't the type of person we need on the judicial bench.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

News Blast, Part 2

Continuing to clean out the bookmarks...

A good day for blogging: Colleges are now linking selected students' blogs to their websites; the often-unvarnished true look at college life from a student's point of view is said to aid in recruiting.

A bad day for blogging: The Department of Defense has blocked sites such as MySpace and YouTube from departmental computers and networks.

Orange you glad it's not Dallas topping the list? The annual listing of America's rudest drivers is out; Miami tops the list again, and Dallas/Ft. Worth is the fifth-friendliest among cities surveyed.

This guy's a walking advertisement for helmets now: A bicyclist in Wisconsin had his head run over by a delivery truck but escaped with only a concussion (and a very messed-up helmet, needless to say).

...and Eye-talian food: A California school's beachside walk-a-thon had an unusual guest when a sea lion waddled ashore and joined them for a lap.

Funny story of the week: A blues singer's woman tells her side of the story and claims she didn't do her man nearly so wrong as the song would suggest.

Weird criminal of the week: Most people try to break out of a jail cell. A New Zealand man did this, but only after breaking into one first.

That sounds like fun--now, how about letting a musician be president for the day? A Mother's Day concert in Jamestown, Virginia last weekend had an extra added bonus when President Bush conducted part of The Stars and Stripes Forever.

Regular posts should resume tomorrow...

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

News Blast, Part 1

I haven't been able to post consistently for a while now, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel that I'm reasonably sure is not attached to an oncoming train. One of the results of this erratic period is that I have a whole bunch of news stories that have been stockpiled for the past couple of weeks, so I decided to just bring them all out in one fell swoop...

Gassed: A Wisconsin gas station owner who gave discounts to senior citizens and supporters of youth sports has been ordered by the state government to raise his prices.

The scarlet sandwich board, in a way: An Alabama judge ordered two convicted shoplifters to stand in front of Wal-Mart with signs reading "I am a thief."

Music didn't soothe these savage beasts: Patrons of a recent Boston Pops concert were surprised when a fight broke out between concertgoers

Watch out; they'll come for your Frisbee next: Administrators at Tennessee State University have banned squirt guns from campus.

A crime of Paralympic proportions: Police in Florida were led on a high-speed chase by a legless, one-armed man.

Weird animal stories: What's up with all the unusual animals being born lately?That's all for now; more tomorrow Thursday.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

The End of an Era on Fry Street

In just a little more than thirty minutes after I've started this post, the Tomato will close the doors of its original Hickory and Fry location for good.

I went up there yesterday with some friends, and of course I took pictures:

View from across Fry St.

The traditional view from across Hickory
(And for a really old picture of that block, go here.)

It was pretty crowded inside the whole time we were there.

Headed out the door one last time.

Thinking back, I should've taken some pictures of the Graffiti Wall. There used to be murals along the wall in the non-smoking section where I often sat, and the most recent one was painted over a few months ago to allow patrons to sign their names and offer their memories, but as Becky, the co-owner, told me a few weeks ago, it sort of turned into something else entirely. Seeing as how I lack Mad Photoshop Skillz, I doubt I could've cleaned up a picture of the wall enough to use in this blog; some of what was written really was quite, umm, "interesting."

My favorite (clean) graffito carved into a table? "TOBIAS LOVES BROCOLI [sic]." That would also be a cool name for a rock band. My favorite (also clean) graffito from the wall itself? "ALL MY BASE ARE BELONG TO THE TOMATO." (Raise your hand if you knew that "graffiti" was plural and "graffito" was its singular. "Broccoli"--at least when spelled correctly--is also plural, with the singular being "broccolo," though my radio audience in college never could tell me if the singular form would apply to an entire stalk or each individual branch of said stalk. These are the kind of thing one thinks about in idle college moments...and a lot of those idle moments for me were spent at the Tomato.)

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
I couldn't disagree more with what the developers are doing to this historical block--an area which really has been a major part of the heart and soul of Denton. Perhaps nothing sums up my frustration with the whole thing better than the following sentence from this story in Friday's paper:
The company plans to tear down the existing strip center, built in the mid-1920s, and replace it with a retail center featuring 1920s-style architecture.
Got that? They're tearing down buildings from the '20s and replacing them with...umm, buildings that look like they were built in the '20s. Am I missing something here, or does that make no sense at all?

It sure seems like they could've gotten off on the right foot with the locals (and loyal alums like myself) by incorporating the original buildings into the new development and making room for some of the stalwart local businesses to join the new ones. But despite all the preservation efforts and petition drives, the developers decided to bow to the almighty dollar and nothing else.

They may yet regret that decision. I for one harbor not the slightest bit of enthusiasm for anything that gets built in this new project, and most of my friends who are current students feel the same way. I think I even convinced a future student to drive across town for his Starbucks--or patronize the local Kharma Cafe across the street (in the part of Fry Street that hasn't been targeted by "renewal"--yet) to satisfy his coffee jones, rather than visit the Starbucks that's supposed to be built in the new area. (Yes, I normally think that it's bad to indoctrinate college students with propaganda before they even start classes, but I'll happily make an exception in this case.)

As I finish this post (lengthened by the process of remembering how to get pictures off my phone), it nears midnight; the aforementioned doors are closing. So I will close this post as well, with three simple sentences:

Good night, Tomato. Thanks for the pizza and memories. I eagerly await your rebirth.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Kids Say the Darnedest Things, Part XXV

As a teacher, I often encounter really humorous stuff (sometimes on purpose, sometimes not) said by the kids I teach. Here are some more:

SIXTH-GRADER: I rememberized my chromatic scale already.
(At least he had the basic idea of what he meant to say.)

And then the next kid came in...

SIXTH-GRADER #2: I don't got stuff.
ME: What's that?
SIXTH-GRADER #2: I don't got my check. My brother has the chicken pox, so we're focusing on that right now.
(I was laughing too hard at that to get mad at him for forgetting the money.)

And I never did post one from this same kid from a few months ago. He was playing a piece with two flats in it and kept missing the E-flats. That set up the following exchange:

ME: Someone kidnapped the E-flat! It's the case of the missing E-flat....
SIXTH-GRADER #2: Who cares? Who cares about flats? Sharps are what matter. The E-flat is like some wannabe off the streets. The F-sharp is the president.

There's rarely a dull moment in my job...

This circumstance deserves a little pomp: With a lot of college graduation ceremonies taking place this weekend, among the cap-and-gown wearers at Fort Hays State University in Kansas tomorrow will be a 95-year-old great-grandmother, who should break the Guinness world record for the oldest person ever to graduate from college.

Another outstanding achievement: Last week, a blind pilot successfully flew from London to Sydney.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

I Bet the Colonel Isn't Lovin' This News

Surprising news item of the day: McDonald's now sells more chicken than KFC. They also evidently sell nearly as much chicken as they do burgers these days.

In the past several years, out of a desire to eat healthier, my visits to Mickey D's have dropped off precipitously. When i do go there, it's usually for breakfast on a roadtrip, and if it is at lunch or dinner, my meal of choice will pretty much always be a chicken sandwich instead of the beloved Quarter Pounder with Cheese of my youth.

And even though they've been offering salads for the past few years, I'll admit that I have yet to try one. I'm often leery of eating salads from a fast-food place; just how long has it been sitting in that little plastic box, anyway? But on the other hand, my hat goes off to Wendy's for offering that little Caesar salad as an alternative to fries; they've gotten my business quite a bit because of that. Those salads have never been anything but good and fresh, so I have no idea as to the source of my skepticism about the same salad in an entree-sized portion.

At any rate, I just thought this was somewhat interesting that a place known for its hamburgers would sell more chicken than a place which specializes in chicken; I was also surprised to find out that the most T-bone steaks in the world are sold at Waffle House. I guess you really do learn something new every day...

Animal stories: A staple of my old KNTU radio show resurfaces from time to time on this blog...I've been saving these up for a while, and I'm sure I'll have another set before long.

Blowing out the candles: Happy birthday to my old friend Danny in Indiana, a fine musician if there ever were one.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Allow Me to Bleat About Something for a Moment

(Originally a Monday post, but bumped up to the top for the rest of Tuesday)

James Liieks' weekday blog The Bleat is my second stop over breakfast every morning (right after my news browser that gives me the chance to win money every day). When he's not Bleating over the weekend, I stop by the homepage of his employer, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, to read his "Daily Quirk" columns that are published in their paper six days a week. So I couldn't believe what I read in this morning's Bleat:
Yes, friends, it’s finally happened! Synergy! Synthesis! Brand consolidation! In a move that was as welcome as it was unexpected, I’ve been moved – you could almost say promoted – over to the StarTribune online division.

I’ll be developing new content, both video and audio, as well as blogging throughout the day in a new, improved, evolving Bleat!

[...]Hah! Just kidding.

That didn't happen.

As it happens, they've killed my column, and assigned me to write straight local news stories.

OK--allow me a brief moment to push the PG-13 envelope of this blog and say...WTF??

Sure, I realize that most corporate (empty) "suits" don't have a creative bone in their bodies, nor do they really have all that much talent for management, either. The vast majority of them could be blasted into space on a Golgafrinchan "B" Ark and the world would be none the poorer (OK, except that maybe their wives and kids would miss them). But how could they "reassign" a talent such as Lileks to a beat-reporting job? Isn't that like having Leonard Bernstein in your employ and only letting him conduct a middle-school orchestra?

It's been said that newspapers are a dying breed. I'm one of the rare ones who still subscribes, mostly because I can't/won't carry my laptop everywhere (and I have my doubts that a good, sanitary way to take one into the bathroom will ever be discovered). But what I read a newspaper for is not the front section, because everything in there ends up being something that I already read online 24 hours ago. I read the paper for local news coverage, sports, the comics and a few columnists. And I would have never been to the Strib's site, and read their ads, were it not for Lileks. But I bet the empty suits never thought of that, did they? It's amazing how a dying medium could obliterate so much of their readers' goodwill by marginalizing one of the brightest stars in their universe.

Needless to say, the blogosphere is abuzz about this. There's a good roundup over at InstaPundit, as you might imagine. Here's one of the better reactions, from Vodkapundit:
It probably won't do James much good with his bosses for me to point this out, but how dumb do you have to be to spike Lileks? You're talking about the best-connected and very likely best-read online columnist in America, and what do the geniuses at the Star-Tribune do? They demote him and strip the paper of his signature in-print work.

Ideological payback? Maybe. Dinosaur thinking? Obviously. Stupid? Without question.

If the Strib had any institutional sense whatsoever, they'd make James the poobah-in-chief of their online division, and turn him loose. They'd have the best online paper in the country in less than a month. What they're doing now is an idiotic waste of talent.
Even Dave Barry weighs in:
This is like the Miami Heat deciding to relieve Dwyane Wade of his basketball-playing obligations so he can keep stats.

Sometimes I don't understand the newspaper business. What's left of it.
I have no doubt that Lileks will land on his feet, but as someone in the creative industry, I just really hate to see fellow creative types getting shafted by the aforementioned empty suits. Is that "B" ark ready yet?

And while it's not like Lileks is going to have to give up Jasperwood or eat Ramen noodles anytime soon, feel free to buy some of his stuff.

UPDATE: I should also point out that, despite what I'm sure is still an overflowing inbox, the man himself took the time to respond to an email of support within an hour of when I sent it to him. (He liked the Bernstein analogy, incidentally.)

Monday, May 07, 2007

Getting There

I've had a little time this morning, so I've finished some posts that were sitting around half-done; there's one from a few weeks ago about the FCC asking Congress to further regulate TV content and a more recent "what should we do now" questionnaire for Mavs fans. Read and enjoy, and I'll have more old (and new) stuff up during this much-more-relaxed week. (Isn't it funny how exam week is very relaxing...for professors?)

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Want To Know How Not to Teach Music?

Here's Exhibit A:
A music teacher who twice ordered a seven-year-old pupil to hit himself in the head with drum mallets will not return to the Parkway School District next year.

The incident happened on February Ninth in teacher Paul Provencio's music class at Carman Trails Elementary School in suburban St. Louis.

State officials say the 36-year-old teacher intended the head-banging as a lesson to Justin Barricklow about hitting the drums too hard.
Great; that's all we need--one more student who probably won't stick with music because of an experience with a bad teacher.

In a college methods class, I once had a professor hit me on the hands with a violin bow because he didn't like my hand position. As a timid freshman at the time, I did nothing; the "current me" would have reported him to the dean. I also heard that the person I replaced as saxophone teacher in a few of my schools hit students with sticks and used to threaten to super-glue their fingers to the keys to keep them from lifting their fingers too high when they played.

I often wonder how many people abandon something they might have ended up doing really well just because of a bad experience like that; it's one more reason that a teacher's job is so, so important. This story would almost be funny if it weren't so wrong.

This one would be funny unless it happened to you: A gang of robbers in South Africa robbed a man's house while he was forced to watch them; they kept him subdued by gluing him to his exercise cycle.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Hey Mavs Fans...

(assuming you'll still admit to being one today), I have a few questions prompted by last night's debacle:
  • Did the Mavs show themselves to be pretenders rather than contenders in this series, or was it more that Nellie got inside their heads and messed them up but good? (I'll admit to believing that they would've, could've should've beaten any other team besides Golden State in this round.)

  • Would getting rid of Dirk really do the job, or does he simply need a teammate who's more of a vocal leader?

  • What would you do if you were Mark Cuban at this moment?
Back to bigger, news-laden posts soon; it's still Busy Time in Kev-land.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

A Good Sign?

I was happy to notice this recent devlopment at my favorite gas station near the college: On Tuesday, a gallon of regular unleaded would set one back $2.84, but tonight, it was back down to $2.79. And though I realize that it's completely wrong to get excited about paying only $2.79, at least it's not rapidly approaching three bucks again. Anyone want to make a prediction about what it will do this summer?

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Pretty Cool So Far

Sorry about the lack of posts; the busiest portion of the Busiest Semester Ever is in full swing; things should be easier after the jazz concert at the college this weekend.

Anyway, a small piece of trivia here: Thanks to a colder-than-usual April and a lot of rainy weather lately, I've managed to go this far into May without turning the air conditioner on even once since last fall. Anyone else have me beat on that?

And i trust that everyone out here made it through yet another round of storms tonight with no problems. What an odd spring it's been...