Tuesday, July 31, 2007

This Is Funny and Close to the Truth

This is the funniest thing someone's sent me in a long time: No One Sets Out To Be A Smooth Jazz Musician. Here's a sample:
Look, I'm not going to lie to you. Nobody ever just woke up one morning and thought, "Of all the things possible in the vastness that is life, what I'd really like to do is play smooth jazz 250 nights a year." It just doesn't work that way.

It's not something you can plan for—it's all circumstance, I swear: You want to play music for a living. You bust your ass paying your dues in tiny clubs with six people in the audience. You think about all the talented jazz musicians out there who can't make ends meet and you start to worry. The next thing you know, your agent has you filling out forms to legally change your name from Mel Jablonsky to Michael Langello, and it's seeming like a good idea. Then suddenly you're 40 years old and you open up your dresser drawer to find nothing but linen pants.

[...]I don't want to sound like I'm complaining. Smooth jazz has been very, very, very good to me. But I can't exactly say I spent 80 hours a week practicing at Juilliard only to play watered-down instrumental versions of innocuous pop songs to audiences composed primarily of over-30 middle-class moms and their husbands. On the other hand, it does bring in $6,000 to $14,000 a night, and, no, Juilliard was not free. I mean, honestly, if one day you're just sitting around sipping coffee on your back deck and you get a call from Windham Hill Records, what are you going to do, not take it? There's worse things that could happen.
By all means, read the whole thing. I'm aware that it comes from The Onion and is undoubtedly satire (try Googling the name of the "author," and every hit will point back to this story), but it's close enough to the truth that it might as well be authentic.

(Via Eric, who I'm sure was happy to spread a laugh after a rough dayat work yesterday.)

He won't forget next time! A guy lost first place and a $1000 prize in a text-messaging contest because he forgot to put an exclamation point at the end of his sudden-death sentence.

More dress code silliness: A Pittsburgh hospital has banned the wearing of Crocs by workers in patient-care areas. The reason sounds like something Mom would tell you as a kid: "A syringe might go through one of the ventilation holes and stick you!"

Blowing out the candles: Happy birthday to my sister Kristen! If I'm lucky, I'll manage about ten minutes with her on the phone, for, as you may know, I have three very active nephews who keep her on the run. (UPDATE: It was thirteen minutes; I feel lucky!)

Monday, July 30, 2007

Keep These People In Your Thoughts and Prayers Today

There are so many things I could talk about right now, but I just want to pause from the usual stuff and give a moment of time to a helicopter pilot and two traffic reporters whose copter had to make a hard landing this morning:
A traffic helicopter carrying a pilot and two traffic reporters for Dallas news media outlets made a forced landing early Monday after losing power over Joe Pool Lake in Grand Prairie.

The chopper, piloted by Curtis Crump, was carrying traffic reporters Chip Waggoner and Julie DeHarty. Mr. Waggoner, who reports for KDFW-TV (Channel 4), said Mr. Crump was able to make a hard emergency landing near the lake dam.

[...]Ms. DeHarty, traffic reporter for Dallas radio stations KRLD-AM (1080) and KVIL-FM (103.7), was taken by ambulance to Methodist Dallas Medical Center for treatment. Mr. Waggoner also went to the hospital.
Coming on the heels of last week's midair collision of two news helicopters in Phoenix where all aboard died, I'm sure that some people feared the worst; thankfully, everyone here is expected to be OK.

I'm not familiar with Waggoner's work, since I'm rarely by a TV during rush hour, but Julie DeHarty has been a familiar voice in DFW traffic circles since back in my own radio days; she worked for the service that we used when I did the morning show at KNTU. I wish her and the rest a speedy recovery.

(This story was first brought to my attention in an email from Eric, who's a coworker of everyone involved in the accident. I don't think he was at all being hokey when he referred to these people as his "work family;" I know exactly what he means.)

A farewell to many: As we celebrate the survival of a few, we're also stunned by the passing of the many: Bill Walsh, Tom Snyder, Marvin Zindler. (And I can't neglect to mention Ingmar Bergman, even though I'm not at all familiar with his work.) I can't remember a time when so many well-known people have left us within such a short time.

And a happier milestone: Last year, my alma mater, UNT, inaugurated its first female president. Now, a female provost has been added to the ranks.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Our College Joke Almost Came True

Many of you know that I worked in radio in college, at a station called KNTU, which got its name when my alma mater was called North Texas State University. (I hvae no idea why they didn't try for KNTS, but there had been a movement to change the school's name to North Texas University if the name that it eventually adopted--University of North Texas--hadn't gone through. Incidentally, they had to wait a bit to get KNTU, which was originally assigned to an aircraft carrier, if memory serves.) So when the school changed its name to UNT, you can imagine the jokes that were flying around--would the radio staion follow suit? The answer would seem to be "obviously not," since the FCC didn't seem likely to assign call letters that would (mis)spell out an obscenity.

But what I didn't know until longtime reader Gary P. sent me a link yesterday was that the FCC has gone to computerized assignment of call letters, and, well, mistakes happen:
THE call letters KUNT have landed at a yet-unbuilt low-power digital television station in Wailuku, Maui.

Alarmingly similar to a word the dictionary says is obscene, the call letters were among a 15-page list of new call letters issued by the Federal Communications Commission and released this week.

The same station owner also received KWTF for a station in Arizona.

From Skokie, Ill., comes a sincere apology "to anyone that was offended," said Kevin Bae, vice president of KM Communications Inc., who requested and received KUNT and KWTF. It is "extremely embarrassing for me and my company and we will file to change those call letters immediately."

He thanked your columnist for bringing the matter to his attention and pledged to, "make sure I don't fall asleep on the job when selecting call signs again."
My response to that is simply, LMAO.

And do we really think the guy did that by accident?

(And yes, I'm pushing the PG-13 standards of this blog--which, as you may recall, is actually rated G--by posting this story, but it was too funny not to tell.)

Want to get smarter? Stop watching TV, according to one columnist.

A Scout is loyal, trustworthy, and never, ever gives up: A Florida man receives his Eagle Scout award at the age of 88. (He started as a boy in 1928, but World War II got in the way.)

Saturday, July 28, 2007

You Can Still "Buy It Now"

I wasn't even aware that this suit had been filed, but a court has ruled that eBay will still be still be allowed to use its "Buy It Now" feature:
A federal judge Friday denied a request from a small Virginia company to stop the online auction powerhouse eBay Inc. from using a feature that allows shoppers to purchase items at a fixed price.

U.S. District Court Judge Jerome B. Friedman denied a motion by MercExchange LLC for a permanent injunction against San Jose, Calif.-based eBay over the "Buy It Now" feature.

Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that although eBay infringed upon MercExchange's patent for the service, it was up to the lower court to decide whether eBay had to stop using it.

In his ruling, Friedman said the company was not irreparably harmed because it continued to make money from its patents, either by licensing them outright or by threatening litigation against those it believed infringed upon them.
So sometimes, in the business world, David and Goliath can come to a compromise, even if it was sort of a good-news, bad-news ending for each company: eBay gets to use the technology, but they have to pay the smaller company to do so.

As the article notes, "[t]he case became a rallying point for critics who argue the U.S. patent system is riddled with abuse from small businesses that sue established companies to enforce patents for ideas that have never been developed into products." It certainly seems like a compromise should be worked out in cases like that.

Perhaps one of the largest David-beats-Goliath situations occurred in Houston, where a chain called Prince's Hamburgers owned a couple of small outlets known as McDonald's Drive-Ins. Their rights to that name actually kept the "real" McDonald's out of Houston until the early 1970's. (Some background on this may be found here, in the forum section of a site that's a tribute to Houston's late Astroworld theme park.) The big guys, of course, would eventually prevail. But now, in the era of Google, it would be hard to claim ignorance of the name of a national or regional chain just because it hadn't yet opened up in your town.

Putting way too many tigers in your tank: A guy asked ExxonMobil to send him a couple of extra credit cards; they ended up sending him 2000 of them.

The good in people/the bad in people: Someone robbed an 11-year-old boy's lemonade stand in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, but countless people have sent him cards with replacement money, offered to have him set up his stand near their businesses, and so on. (Even better--the robbers were caught.)

Friday, July 27, 2007

Civic Planning: Two Snapshots

I've run across some interesting articles this week that both have to deal with how cities are hoping to breathe new life into old areas. First is a great collection of articles from the Minneapolis Star-Tribune's James Eli Shiffer about the demolition of a 116-year-old house in the Jordan neighborhood of that city; it had become blighted in the eyes of local officials, who decided that it would be best to tear it down and start again rather than trying to rehabilitate it. Here's the link to the demolition video, and be sure and visit the previous seven installments of Shiffer's series on the story of the house's beginning and how it got from there to here; it's a well-done series that totally captivated me.

In the meantime, Ocean City, New Jersey is planning the beach of the future:
Visitors will wear wristbands that automatically debit their bank accounts or credit cards to pay for beach access, food and parking. Garbage cans will e-mail cleanup crews when they're ready to be emptied.

And people won't even think about trying to sneak in: Beach checkers could scan the sands with handheld devices and instantly know who didn't pay.

This southern New Jersey city plans to deliver a variety of public services and Internet access using radio-frequency identification chips and Wi-Fi wireless technology. The $3 million project is expected to be finished by next summer.
This sounds like a cool idea, though I can imagine some people will say that it's a little too Big Brother-ish; they'll also have to find a way to deal with people who don't actually carry credit cards or have bank accounts. But one idea--having parking lots with electronic signs telling how many spaces are still available--probably can't come soon enough.

The story also notes that the same provider of the high-tech gadgetry would make wi-fi available at the beach...but if you absolutely have to access the Internet while at the beach, you may need to rethink the meaning of the word "vacation."

Public service announcement of the day: Never smash a WD-40 can with a stick. (Strong language alert, as you might imagine.)

The naked truth: Brattleboro, Vermont, a town known for its tolerance of public nudity, has reversed course and outlawed the practice. T(he final straw was an elderly man walking through the center of town wearing only a fanny pack.)

They weren't exactly modeling professional behavior: A news program showed a clip of a British runway model falling off her high heels--twice--and the anchors couldn't stop laughing.

How do I love ewe? Let me count the ways; What do you give the woman who has everything? Prince Charles recently gave his wife Camilla two sheep for her birthday.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

More Stuff I MIssed Last Week

One more collection of oddities from while I was teaching camp:
  • After a Wisconsin family's dog ate $750 in cash, they had to search his, umm, leavings to try and get it back. (They managed to recover most of it.)

  • New research project for people with too much time on their hands: Do fish suffer from exposure to rock music being played live nearby?

  • You've heard of the "mile-high club," in all likelihood. Now some people are using private luxury submarines to join the "mile-below club." What's really odd is that such behavior is bothering the dolphins.

  • A teenager in Brooklyn climbed into a mailbox (on a dare from a friend, of course) and had to be rescued by police. Key quote from the story: "It was unclear if the teen was acting on a double-dog dare."

  • And finally, as if we didn't have enough to worry about already, your friends may be making you fat.
I'll have a post of substance tomorrow, I promise.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

While I Was Out...

I'm just now catching up on all my favorite weird news sites, which had to go on the back burner during camp week. Here are a few that got my attention:More where this came from tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

This Power Failure Was An Arch-Enemy to Some St. Louis Tourists

I've been a visitor to St. Louis and the famous Gateway Arch on several occasions in the past year, so my attention was immediately drawn to a story from a few days ago of the Arch being hit by a power failure this past Saturday:
One of the two trams that take visitors to the top of the Gateway Arch was out of service Sunday after a power failure trapped about 200 people for hours inside the landmark the night before.
The Arch's deputy superintendent, Frank Mares, said a fuse blew Saturday night after one of nine cables pulling the south tram apparently failed and came in contact with an electrified rail.

Power went out again Sunday for about 15 minutes after the Arch reopened, in a failure believed to be linked to Saturday's problem.

On Saturday, about 40 people in each tram were stuck, as were another 100 at the top of the Arch and others in loading zones. The St. Louis Fire Department said that at least two people needed medical attention, but that no one was seriously hurt.

Visitors at the top of the Arch had to wait about three hours to get down, Mares said. Those inside the tram cars waited about two hours but were probably the most uncomfortable because they lacked air conditioning, he said.

Some people were taken down staircases to a service elevator, but most waited for a tram to begin running again.
"There was never any danger, just a lot of inconvenience," Mares said.
I especially feel for the people who were inside the trams at the time, because not only are they unairconditioned, as the story pointed out, but also because they're extremely cramped in there. Last time, we had made jokes about having to walk down all those stairs, but we never thought anyone would have to use them this soon. (And I still can't figure out how in the world they fit 100 people at the top; it's just not that big up there.)

And as one might expect from a well-run place like the Arch, the people who got stuck up there got refreshments and refunds when all was said and done. I certainly won't be nervous on my next visit, as the place has a great track record (and my next visit to STL will also likely mean that a cool jazz concert is in the offing).

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!: Starbucks announced that it's raising its beverage prices by nine cents starting next week.

Let this be a lesson to all stupid criminals out there: If you break into a place that's labeled "K-9 FACILITY," you're likely to be caught by dogs.

Monday, July 23, 2007

This School System May Take "TGIF" a Bit Too Seriously

This story came out last week, when I was too busy with jazz camp to properly address it, so here we go: An area school district wants to eliminate Friday classes by going to a four-day school week with longer hours:
Nearly 1,000 parents and students packed into Lancaster High School's auditorium Thursday night to hear district officials pitch a plan for a four-day school week that drew fiery criticism from the crowd.

Many parents at the emotion-charged meeting said the proposal – which would take effect this fall and is being presented as a one-year pilot program – would allow unsupervised students to get into trouble while home alone Fridays and would force parents to spend hundreds of dollars on child care for young children.

"People will move out of this area if they have more expenses out of pocket," Sheri Brisco, the mother of a second-grader and a pre-kindergartner, said before addressing the crowd.
It sounds on the surface like they're trying to do this to save money, though Superintendent Larry Lewis says otherwise. But there are still some glaring problems here:
  • The superintendent did his research using Google and not much else.

  • The schools that have used this program were almost all in remote, rural locations; one was even on the island of Micronesia. None was in a mid-sized suburban district.

  • The district's only provision thus far for Friday day care would cost $25 a week, or $900 a year. Many families in the area probably can't afford that. (Also, that's only for one kid. The district has pledged to cap the fees at $50 a week for those with multiple enrollees in a family, but that's also likely to be beyond the budgets of many.)

  • Shortening one day makes the others longer; how many kids will be able to concentrate through an entire school day that runs from 8:30 a.m. until 5 p.m.? That's Lancaster's proposed schedule for high schoolers. (And let's not even talk about people who have to practice for band, athletics, etc.)

  • And here's the biggest question: School starts in just over a month. Why are they just discussing this now? People need time to prepare for a major change like this.
I'll once again call on my fellow educators for comments. Good idea? Horrible one? I tend to lean towards the latter, especially when the change is being proposed on such short notice. This kind of schedule can work great for college students, but they're also adults who don't need supervision during their time off. The same can't be said for younger students, especially in a lower-income area where most kids don't have the luxury of having a parent at home. I think this idea needs to go back to the drawing board.

UPDATE: An editorial in the Tuesday Dallas Morning News also comes out against Lancaster's proposal, and has a good quote:
District officials should abandon this plan and find other ways to close the budget gap. And since Lancaster spends more money on administration than state guidelines advise, cutting back at the central office might be a good place to start.
Amen to that last part. I've had that idea myself for a while now...

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Some Plane Facts

I'm back from my trip and will resume regular posting tomorrow, but in the meantime, here are a few observations from my travels:
  • On the first leg of yesterday morning's flight, from DFW to Memphis, the flight attendant came on and said, "Our flying time will be one minute and....umm, make that one hour and eight minutes." Laughter ensued, and my own reply was "Really now?"

  • On the first leg of yesterday's flight back, from Evansville to Memphis, we were on a small regional turbo-prop plane that many call a "puddle jumper." Their engines say "GE Jet Power" on the side. I've gotten used to this by now, and I'm aware that GE is now a huge multinational corporation that specializes in things like finance, but it was still unsettling the first time that I rode in a plane like this to think that its engines were being built by the same company that made my toaster.

  • On the Saturday layover in Memphis, I heard an announcement that elicited more than a few chuckles from some of us in the gate area: "Attention Springfield passengers, I need to see a representative of the Adams family." I'm sure I wasn't the only one who had "Ba-da-da-DUM *snap, snap*" going through my head after that.

  • On tonight's layover, I noticed quite a few people having to run like crazy through the airport to make their next flight ("O.J.-ing it," as we used to call it, though that needs clarification on several levels now). It made me wonder if they shouldn't schedule the connecting flights closer to each other, or do they all work on paper and the problems are caused by delays? The funniest airport runner was the girl who ran completely out of her flip-flop and took several attempts to get it back on.
More tomorrow; I've had some subjects sitting in the pipe for a while.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Travel Advisory

As often happens after the end of jazz camp, I'm off to Indiana for the tail end of a fraternity conference that actually started on Thursday night (once again, my paid gig had to take precedence over my volunteer one). Posting will resume tomorrow night.

Thursday, July 19, 2007


...having the right equipment really can make a difference.

(It was a great evening performing with John Fedchock; more later.)

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

A Few Quick Animal Stories

Reviving a feature of my old radio show while I continue to have a busy week at camp...Sorry for the small, fluffy posts this week, but as I said, jazz camp week is busy. Much more in a few days.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

And Now for the News

Some random things caught in those rare spare moments during camp week:
  • Paratroopers in Colorado landed at a prison recently. All in a day's work? Quelling a riot? Nope, they landed there completely by mistake.

  • Scientists have announced a new species of orchid that was originally considered a subspecies of another kind. Its most distinctive quality? It smelly like sweaty feet.

  • Anyone for a new movie sequel? Snakes in a Car's Engine.

  • Our ridiculous story of the day (Government inaction department): A couple was nearly in danger of losing their home because of a $1.63 tax bill from 1996 that they never even actually received.
Camp's half done now. Come see a concert if you're in the area and haven't done so yet.

Blowing out the candles: Happy birthday to two great old friends, Micah and (Original) Mark.

Monday, July 16, 2007

The Tenor(s) of Our Times

Just checking in quickly during camp week, with a couple of quick notes:
  • Down Beat Magazine has a category in its readers' and critics' polls called "Talent Deserving Wider Recognition." Tonight, I want to talk about two people in our camp so far who definitely fall in the TDWR category. One is Chris Vadala, our special guest for tonight. He's known for his tenor work with Chuck Mangione from the "Feels So Good" days, but he's also a very fine alto player with touches of Phil Woods (one of his former teachers), a very exciting soprano player, and--though he didn't bust it out tonight--a standard-setting flautist, one that any saxophonist could use as a role model when picking up the flute. It was a thrill to share the stage with him, and it's a shame that he's not more well-known by the larger jazz audience. Check out his site and pick up his recording.

  • As a few friends and I were saying tonight, it boggles the mind that Ed Petersen isn't a household name in jazz (yet). His creativity and technique are dazzling, and he's just a constant wellspring of ideas. It's a privilege to sit next to him in faculty big band, and I have to tell you that I've missed more than my share of entrances on backgrounds during his solos because I'm just sitting there in amazement.
If you wanted to expand your list of jazz players worth checking out, just go to my MySpace and check out the list of players in the faculty big band, and then Google any name; there's not a person in there who's not worth listening to. This is definitely one of my favorite weeks of the year.

Long day; more later.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

A Happy Camper

Jazz Camp starts in just a few hours, so posting will be spotty this week; I may still have something every day, but it will be more of the "weird news" variety as opposed to hard-hitting commentary, just because the camp will "own" me from 8:30 a.m. until about ten at night. I'll definitely post some accounts of getting to play with our two guest artists this week.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Mr. Smith? The Doctor Robot Will See You Now

OK, this is not as bad as it sounds; they're not actually replacing doctors with robots per se. It's actually pretty cool:
Has it come to this? Robots standing in for doctors at the hospital patients' bedside?

Not exactly, but some doctors have found a way to use a videoconferencing robot to check on patients while they're miles from the hospital.

One is at Baltimore's Sinai Hospital. Outfitted with cameras, a screen and microphone, the joystick-controlled robot is guided into the rooms of Dr. Alex Gandsas' patients where he speaks to them as if he were right there.

"The system allows you to be anywhere in the hospital from anywhere in the world," said the surgeon, who specializes in weight-loss surgery.

Besides his normal morning and afternoon in-person rounds, Gandsas uses the $150,000 robot to visit patients at night or when problems arise. The robot can circle the bed and adjust the position of its two cameras, giving "the perception from the patient's standpoint that the doctor is there," the surgeon said.
I for one was relieved to find out that Dr. Robot was visiting mostly weight-loss surgery patients and not something more intense like heart surgery. Used in this way, it sounds like a clever use of technology when a doctor can't literally be several places at the same time.

Would you object to a visit from Dr. Robot if he were used in this manner?

FOR SALE: A bit of a fixer-upper: Realtors in Rhode Island are having trouble selling what would ordinarily be a nice house, because of one feature that the builder never intended to have: Vultures.

This is good to know, I suppose: For humans, eating other humans is hazardous to one's health.

At least he would have gotten a good seat: A Canadian man flew to Wales for a friend's July 6 wedding, only to discover upon his arrival that the wedding won't take place until 2008.

Friday, July 13, 2007


My favorite trivial news item of the week so far: "ginormous" will be in the dictionary, or at least the Merriam-Webster collegiate edition. So will "crunk," "Bollywood" and "sudoku."

The major criterion for inclusion in the collegiate edition is for the word to show up enough in mainstream writing. (Some English professors don't care for this, as you might imagine.)

What word would you like to see in the dictionary that's not already there?

They're flush with cash: Visitors to public toilets in Japan have been discovering envelopes filled with money from an unknown benefactor.

An unusual Kodak moment: Workers in Minnesota used a video camera to rescue a dog that had become trapped in a sewer pipe.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

The iPod Is a Very Cool Thing, But...

...don't use one in a thunderstorm, or you might have a truly electrifying experience. Seriously:
Listen to an iPod during a storm, and you may get more than electrifying tunes.

A Canadian jogger suffered wishbone-shaped chest and neck burns, ruptured eardrums and a broken jaw when lightning traveled through his music player's wires.

Last summer, a Colorado teen ended up with similar injuries when lightning struck nearby as he was listening to his iPod while mowing the lawn.

[...]Michael Utley, a former stockbroker from West Yarmouth, Mass., who survived being struck by lightning while golfing, has tracked 13 cases since 2004 of people hit while talking on cellphones. They are described on his Web site, www.struckbylightning.org.

Contrary to some urban legends and media reports, electronic devices don't attract lightning the way a tall tree or a lightning rod does.

"It's going to hit where it's going to hit, but once it contacts metal, the metal conducts the electricity," said Dr. Mary Ann Cooper of the American College of Emergency Physicians and an ER doctor at University of Illinois Medical Center at Chicago.
Read the whole thing. The most amazing thing to me was that there were reports of injuries to people who were using laptops outdoors in a thunderstorm. I'm way more protective of my MacBook than that. (Also note the clever quote, "When thunder roars, go indoors.")

A really natural way to do yardwork: Need a good way to weed your garden? Buy a sheep; that's the subject of some university research in California, where they're working with the sheep to get rid of the weeds in vineyards while staying away from the precious grapes. (And what's up with the headline writer calling them "sheeps" in the story? Most people learn to pluralize that word when they're "childrens.")

A real "senior trip": We've all heard stories of an elderly person leaving home, becoming disoriented and ending up far from home, but this guy takes the cake: An 87-year-old Utah man left his retirement home and ended up in Pennsylvania, claiming to have hitchhiked at least part of the way.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

When Dinosaurs Roamed the (Live) Earth

Longtime readers know that I enjoy rant against the Machine every once in a while, and I found a bit of that today at this post by Don Surber, where he notes that many of the performers at last weekend's Live Earth concerts were quite a bit farther removed from their heyday than the artists at, say, Woodstock:
Andy Williams didn’t play at Woodstock. He was 41 that summer.

Ray Charles, then 38, wasn’t invited either.

And at age 52, Dean Martin certainly wasn’t.

So what were and Jon Bon Jovi at 45, Madonna at 48, and ex-Pink Floyd Roger Waters, 63, doing headlining a rock concert? None of their top hits were within a decade of the “Live Earth” concert. Williams, Charles and Martin each had released his signature recording within a few years of Woodstock.

In fact, Pink Floyd’s hit — “The Wall” — is as contemporary today as “Chattanooga Choo-Choo” was in 1969.
A lively procession of comments follows, with some people lamenting that today's music is lacking in quality compared to the music of "their day" (which prompts another commenter to say "Geez, people, you all sound like your parents"). There's also a good discussion of the fragmentation of popular culture over the past several decades. When someone mentioned that a few of the so-called dinosaur performers had indeed produced hits in the past few years, it prompted me to chime in:
What’s a “hit” these days? Do people actually listen to the radio anymore (after all, it’s the same station all over the country, owned by one or two companies). I thought people just listened to bands that they found on MySpace or downloaded off the Net.

(Tongue halfway in cheek here, but it does speak to the fragmented state of today’s entertainment; just like it’s doubtful that the whole nation would watch the same TV program, it’s even more doubtful that anyone’s listening to the same music anymore.)
. The flip side (pun slightly intended) of all this is that today's technology allows younger people to have easy access to older music, which helps explain the preponderance of 15-year-old Pink Floyd fans even now.

And the debate over why so many "older" performers were at this concert produced at least one good Rant Against the Machine, from commenter "lovechild:"
Anyone who is surprised that BIG BUSINESS is out of touch with the populus [sic] must be high. [...] [A]ny time Suits get together and try to figure out what the young folks want, you know it’s going to be a disaster. If they had more sense and perhaps therefore less money, they would know to put this kind of decision-making in the hands of college students — let them submit votes for a band/performer and take it from there. One of the great things about the old mega concerts was that you heard all sorts of new music — now all you get is prefab canned crap. Some days I feel like veal.
Read the whole thing, including the comments; there's a lot of good stuff in there. I'll close with one from "Captain Scarlet":
There’s a real valid argument to this piece. Regarding the contemporary relevance of much of Live Earth’s roster: think of it in terms of the huge bucks veteran acts are getting for touring on albums nobody buys. Someone (I wish I could remember who) once said, “whenever a band says, ‘here’s something from our new album’ they might as well be saying, ‘you can all sit down or go to the rest room now…’”
Well said.

It's 7/11: Have you gotten your free Slurpee yet? (I probably won't get one, since the only 7-Eleven in my neck of the woods got closed and razed a while back, after only a few years in business.) And over at buzz.mn, Lileks and the commentariat (myself included) are discussing odd names for convenience stores. (My two contributions: Sac 'N' Pac from South Texas and Loaf 'N Jug from Colorado.)

It was their Luckey day: I talked the other day about weddings on 7/7/07, and now it turns out that a family whose last name is Luckey had a baby born on that day as well.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Let Me "Knock Out" a Quick Post Here

It's fairly late on a weeknight, the AL has won the All-Star Game again (Ten in a row? Wow), and a ten-hour teaching day tomorrow will keep me from seeing Harry Potter at midnight tonight. I'm pretty wiped out, so I don't feel up to waxing philosophical on this or that, but I did have to share a couple of weird stories that I heard about today:
  • A teenager accidentally rams his SUV into a porta-potty on the beach, temporarily knocking out the guy inside (whose last name was "Fear," incidentally). I also thought it was interesting that the story described the teenager as temporarily reversing his SUV over the "kerb." I didn't realize that they spelled it that way in California.
    Hat tip: Dave Barry's Blog

  • A one-and-a-half ton wrecking ball, which was being used to demolish a building at Allegheny College in Pennsylvania, broke loose from its cable yesterday and went on a mini-rampage of sorts, damaging a dozen cars and injuring three people before coming to rest in the trunk of a car at an intersection. This story about the incident notes that the college student whose car served as the wrecking ball's final resting place was probably spared from more serious injury by the presence of eight soccer balls in his backseat, which minimized the impact of the much bigger ball. (And yet another funny-name link: The driver of the crane that lost the wrecking ball has the last name of "Boring." Not today, he wasn't...)
    Hat tip: The KRLD Afternoon News, on my way to big band
I'll try to have something of more substance tomorrow during my break, but I just couldn't resist posting those two stories.

The long arm of the lawn: An elderly widow in Utah was arrested for failure to water her lawn. ( I'm glad they didn't do this here during our drought a few years ago, or I may have gotten a trip to the pokey myself; but then again, this lady hadn't watered hers in more than a year.)

A side order of spam: You can imagine how intrigued I was to receive a message with the subject "©w´Á©wÃB°òª÷¨C¤ë¤@¸U¤¸,¤£¥Î©â°e§Awii" in my inbox today; I just wish I recognized the name of the sender. (It came from someone called §õÅU°Ý , in case that name rings a bell.)

Monday, July 09, 2007

Are You Where You Want to Be?

Today, I'm picking up on an idea put forth by Eric in his blog yesterday: Are you happy with where you're living now? As he says, "It's pretty interesting to ask why someone lives somewhere. More often than not, there's a really engaging story behind it."

OK--I'll bite. At the moment, I'm quite happy with where I'm living now. I really enjoy my house, I'm no more than five hours from anyone in my immediate family, the majority of my closest friends are here, and I really like what I'm doing for a living. Sure, it gets ridiculously hot in the summertime (though not yet this year *knocks wood*), there's no topography to speak of in this part of town, and--most importantly--there could be a much bigger jazz scene. But I'm not sure that I could live in some of the places that do have such a scene (I loved my visit to NYC in January, but it's über-expensive, and I'm not sure that I'd like to raise a family there; I've heard much the same about L.A.), so at the moment, I'm trying to bloom where I've planted myself, and when my band comes out of hibernation in the near future, we'll try our hand at adding to what scene there is here.

So are you where you want to be right now? Why or why not?

Opening the gates of to Hell: A family in Australia is upset that a local Catholic school initially refused to admit their son because of the family's last name--Hell. (If it were my family, I would have changed it a long time ago--to something like Heller or Helling--just to avoid going through...well, hell, for having a name like that.)

There's a bad movie in this somewhere: A lakeside area in China has become overrun with two billion mice after a recent flood of the Yangtze River.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

The 5-Second Rule: Myth or Reality?

I somehow missed this a few months ago, but evidently, some student researchers at Connecticut College are claiming to have debunked the famous "5-second rule for dropped food, but in a good way: Evidently, it can be up to 30 seconds for wet food and even longer for dry food before it will be excessively contaminated by bacteria. (By the way, the bacteria don't seem to care for Skittles candy all that much, as no sign of contamination was evident until five minutes after the candy was dropped.)

But on the other side of the coin, researchers at Clemson Unversity have come to the opposite conclusion: food dropped on a contaminated surface will become contaminated regardless of the time it spends there.

Not that either one of these studies is likely to change someone's mind, of course. Most people fall into either the category of those who will retrieve food off the floor and those who won't, no matter the length of time. Still, it's fun (even as an adult, in certain situations) to yell "5-second rule!" and see if the food-dropper actually retrieves the item or not (and, as the second linked story points out, it's even an act of kindness: "Go ahead. Eat it. I won't judge you.").

The "rule" is the subject of a post at Althouse, where the commenters are having fun with it. I agree with the general consensus that it's much more common (and less gross) to try and retrieve a "dry" item (cookie, potato chip) than a "wet" one (someone cites potato salad), and that the whole question is usually moot if an animal is present. Commenter Finn Kristiansen lays out a reasonable set of guidelines:
Wet recovery can only be attempted at home, and without guests. Dry recovery can only be done at home as well. There should never be public recovery, unless you have a kid and the ice cream ball on their cone falls off and you can put it back on without anyone noticing (toddlers and little people have remarkable recovery skills for eating floor dropped food).

At a friends house, they may recover dry things-fig newtons and such-though chip recovery (given the number of chips in a bag) seems a bit piggy. But close friends only.
The commenters also have fun speculating as to which Supreme Court justices and probable '08 presidential candidates would eat food that had been dropped on the floor.

So where do you fall in this spectrum? Do you follow the 5-second rule, will you let it go even longer than that before recovery, or does the whole idea just turn your stomach?

A "poler" bear: My traffic-reporter buddy Eric would get a kick out of covering a story like this: Traffic was stopped for miles in California as motorists stopped to gawk and take pictures of a bear that had climbed up a power pole by the side of the highway.

Brotherly not-so-love: A Florida man was charged with assaulting his brother with a garden gnome.

Saturday, July 07, 2007


Was today a lucky day for you? (After all, it only happens every hundred years.) A lot of people planned their weddings for today.

No complaints here. The car made it to Denton and back with no issues. I got to sleep in and hang with good friends. And even a bizarre electrical problem at the house this morning (things going off in part of one room, but not another, and never the whole house) turned out to be a problem with the city's transmission lines (thanks to all the rain) and not anything that I have to pay to repair. This is the last truly "chill" weekend before jazz camp starts, so I was happy with an uneventful day.

UPDATE: Here's a story of a baby that was born on 7/7/07, weighing in at 7 pounds, 7 ounces.

And now on to the usual cornucopia o' stuff; how 'bout some animal stories?

Another holiday leftover: An expected task after the Fourth is cleaning up the residue of spent fireworks. One that might not be expected is having to chase down animals who ran away after being spooked by fireworks.

The panther's aquatic cousin: Check out these photos of a rare pink dolphin.

Weirdest outdoor sport of the day: Using bologna to catch an alligator.

They're in the habit of being guinea pigs: A popular group to use in medical research? Nuns.

VIDEO OF THE DAY: I can't promise that this will be a daily occurrence, but I figured that, as a jazz educator, I should link to cool jazz videos whenever I find them. Today's subject: trumpeter Terell Stafford. I got to see him in multiple settings both at last year's Port Townsend festival and at IAJE this past January.

Friday, July 06, 2007

You Can Have My Dasani Bottle When You Pry It From My Cold, Dead Fingers

Over at Buzz.mn a few days ago, James Lileks noted that some green-minded people are coming out in opposition to bottled water:
Bottled water used to be a sign you led a healthy life, drinking only Alpine water gleaned from glacier shavings hand-melted by nuns, but since issues of waste and “climate change” have been introduced, the use of bottled water will start to have a different moral component. You may see some people wince or tut-tut when you pull out the Aquafina. Just wait: In a few years, bottled-water users will get the same gentle lecture smokers got in the early 60s; five years from now, the sale of bottled water will sag, and city after city will ban the use of bottled water for official functions. Only rebels will drink bottled water! Movies will be automatically rated R if anyone smokes or swigs from the Evian! Ridiculous? Yes. Then again, the mayor of San Francisco has banned city employees from buying bottled water, and has an online pledge to convince residents to give up bottled water.
There's more on bottled water here, where taste tests are cited and many people said that they still buy bottled water even if the tap water came out on top in the test.

My opinion on the matter is easy to discern from the title of this post. As I said in the comments to Lileks' piece,
Not only do I like bottled water better than what comes out of my tap (which has always had a "muddy" quality to me), but I like one particular brand of bottled water (Dasani) better than any other one.

As a music instructor who spends the bulk of the day in cramped practice rooms, I pretty much have a bottle of water with me all the time; it's a lot easier than having to fight the crowds in the school hallways and then find a water fountain that 1) actually works and 2) doesn't have massive wads of someone's spent gum in there.

But not a one of my bottles ends up in the trash; they all go either into one of those giant bottle-shaped recycling bins at school or into my own bin at home.

And re the San Francisco thing: Boo to nanny-statism. The only purpose of government should be to protect our shores, help the proverbial trains run on time, and otherwise leave us alone.
(Sorry--I can't resist taking a dig at nanny-staters whenever possible.)

Can you tell the difference between tap water and bottled water? If so, what's your preference?

A holiday leftover: We always tell kids to be careful when playing with fireworks; evidently, we should also tell the dog.

Land of a thousand stalls: A public restroom in China has over a thousand toilets spread out over 32,000 feet of space.

Get your Potsicles here: An ice-cream truck driver in Michigan has been arrested for selling marijuana alongside his frozen treats.

Up and Running x2

After quite a bit of time spent dealing with Broken Stuff, I'm happy to say that all the major conveniences in my life are working again:

I gots mobility. I was hoping not to have to post anything Kevmobile-related again after my recent adventures of a few weeks ago, but I pretty much had a Bad Car Week from Sunday until yesterday:
  • SUNDAY: The car does a weird thing on the way to my alumni meeting--the speedometer and tachometer suddenly went to zero while I was driving. There were no further issues until about five minutes after my meeting, when it sputtered to a halt at a four-way stop. Thanks to a helpful local police officer who "bumped" me out of the intersection into a less-busy lane, I was able to make enough space for a nearby friend to come give me a jump.

    Still, i was bewildered by all this, because the alternator was two weeks old and the battery maybe five weeks. But I limped along the service road to the local outpost of the chain which had sold me my battery. Sure enough, it was dead; the old alternator had probably killed it. Replaced it, went on my merry way in about 20 minutes.

  • MONDAY: No issues. Yay.

  • TUESDAY: Most of the day went fine, until I followed a friend home after dinner (so he wouldn't have to drive anymore that night after taking pain meds for his wisdom teeth). Upon leaving his house, the car made a rather sputtery noise while starting, and then it was Sunday all over again, on steroids: Speedometer zeroing out while in motion, dash lights and headlights browning out. Fortunately, another friend with a car was there to follow us back from dessert. Car dies again; we take it to the battery place and leave it for the morning.

  • WEDNESDAY: The Fourth. Battery place is open. They check it out, discover some sort of electrical problem. Electrical place is a small business that's not open on holidays. Bum rides off friends to fireworks.

  • YESTERDAY: Get car towed to electrical place in driving rainstorm. It takes an hour and a half of troubleshooting to find out that the new alternator from a few weeks ago was never completely tightened when it was installed. Cables that should have been taut were flapping around, etc. Wish I'd been able to take it to the original place to begin with, but the car never had the common decency to break down close to home this time. Hopefully, this saga is over for quite a while.
I also need to rant a bit about the experience with the wrecker, the driver of which was undoubtedly the least competent at his craft of anyone I'd ever employed for such a task. Besides an obvious language barrier (I think he may have been from Pakistan or India?), this guy (let's call him Genius) didn't seem to follow directions well and seemed unable to drive faster than 20 mph, even when my car was no longer attached to his truck. My friend and I were supposed to lead him from Point A to Point B, but--despite having given him what we thought was ample space to pull out on the service road, Genius was nowhere to be found; we had to pull over twice just so he could catch up with us. When we got to the garage (after he missed it and was about to drop the car off at the wrong place across the street), it took him a good ten minutes to back the car into the open bay (he tried to put it both in the occupied one and between the two bays at first). Even the garage owner, who's probably seen hundreds of wrecker drivers over the years, agreed that Genius was perhaps the worst he'd ever seen. I was glad to air my views when AAA called a bit later for feedback.

I gots cable. You may recall that I haven't had cable TV for two weeks, starting at the exact time that my new entertainment cabinets had been completed. This was the first day that someone could come out to look at the line (which originated at some unknown place in the wall as opposed to being screwed into the actual outlet).

The guy showed up five hours early (!) and was in and out in twenty minutes. It turns out that the outlet was attached to a line after all, but it was a poor-quality line that only fed basic cable (I have expanded). He made a new line come out of the outlet, hid the other line in the wall, and voilà--all my channels are back. The cabinets are finally in position, the mess off the floor is stowed away, and things are back to normal--all in time for the Tour this weekend.

That didn't iTake very long: Hackers are already close to unlocking the iPhone. Also, some consumers and advocates are mad about Apple's battery-replacement program for the phone.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Screaming Banner Headline of the Day

Study: chocolate lowers blood pressure

(But before you go buy that giant Hershey's bar, read the whole thing; it turns out that it's one specific kind of dark chocolate that does the trick, and only in an amount equal to about 1 1/2 Hershey's Kisses.)

And here's more news about food:
  • Chinese villagers dug up some bones that they thought came from "magic dragons," grinding them up and eating them for their supposed healing powers. But it turns out that they were actually dinosaur bones, so the job of digging has gone over to archaeologists.

  • In Winnipeg, there's a new pizza place that includes pornographic material in every box of its pizza. (And no, they didn't risk a trademark lawsuit by trying to call it "Pizza Slut.")

  • And a Hong Kong woman has been jailed for stabbing her boyfriend in the eye with a chopstick. (She had already blinded him in the other eye in a fight several years ago.)
I'll have a post of more substance tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Happy Fourth!

I'm actually taking most of the day as a holiday, so there won't be any real posts of substance today (though I might catch up on the things I didn't have time to finish yesterday). If you want a little patriotic essay, Lileks is glad to oblige (scroll down to just past the video).

So have a great day. Remember what, and why, we celebrate, and enjoy the fireworks. And if they happen to get rained out in your neck of the woods, make your own display.

UPDATE: Here's a real display you can watch, set in part to Star Wars music. Hat tip: Don Surber.

Still my all-time favorite Fourth of July quote: "Do they have the Fourth of July in Switzerland?"--many, many students in the summer of '99, right before I left with the college jazz band to go play at the Montreux festival. (I reassured them that the calendars over there did not just jump from the 3rd to the 5th.) Incidentally, the second-most common question I was asked regarding that trip was, "Are you going to have to learn to speak Swedish?"

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Don't Hate Me Because I'm Single...

There was an interesting post at Althouse yesterday that posed the question, "Is there a word for animosity toward the unmarried?"
s it just slipping my mind or is there no word for this? I'm looking for a word for the attitude -- something like sexism or homophobia -- to signify hostility toward people for their failure to be married. I don't mean mere discrimination, such as we find in the tax code or employment insurance plans. I mean actual negative feelings toward the disfavored group. And I don't mean the attitude that has to do only with the suspicion that an unmarried person is gay.

I mean something more general that would apply to the way people feel toward someone who remains single for any reason, including the inability to find a suitable partner or an unwillingness to accept monogamy.
There are a lot of interesting responses in the comments; I have a few, noting in one of them that once anybody gets past the age of maybe 30 or 35, there are people who will seemingly look down on the unmarried as somehow being irresponsibile or maybe even a little less "adult." As I also noted, I tend to ignore those comments that are directed toward me, because most of the people who have said that over the years seem to be stuck in less-than-ideal marriages themselves--probably ones that were entered into because they felt like they "should be married by now" rather than actually having a truly marriageable bond with the person who ended up becoming their spouse. (I should point out that I've only found out about these comments secondhand; nobody's actually said that to my face.)

It was also interesting to read some of the comments of the married people who viewed their single friends with "a mixture of pity and envy." (Most of the envy part came from married men, as you might imagine.) There also was a widely differing view of people who have been unlucky, uninterested or just "waiting for Ms. Right" vs. those who stay single because they find themselves unable to remain monogamous.

Perhaps the best comment on the thread came from a minister named Mark Daniels, who put up his own post on the subject. Here's my favorite excerpt:
Some people feel that adults have to go through certain proscribed life-hoops in order to truly be considered an adult. They tend to believe this all the more if they have, in fact, gone through those hoops, no matter the quality of their marital or family relationships. They see themselves as part of an adults' club and looking down their noses on those who haven't gone through the hoops is one of the "privileges" of membership.
I think the good Reverend nailed it here. I for one am certainly looking forward to joining this "club," though I certainly won't have the least bit of disdain for "nonmembers." If I had jumped through the marriage hoop at 25, I would've fallen and broken my face. Now, whenever it happens, I'll be much more prepared.

If you're single, have you experienced this attitude? And if you're married, have you (intentionally or not) projected this attitude?

IN THE COMMENTS: Eric links to two earlier posts of his on the subject, and Mark Daniels pays a visit as well.

www.burglaryfordummies.com: A guy in Delaware surfed the Web while trying to break into the safe of the restaurant he had formerly managed. (He was searching for instructions on how to crack a safe.)

Thank you, now I can come again: I posted the other day about certain 7-Eleven stores being rebranded as "Kwik-E-Marts" this month in anticipation of the new Simpsons movie. The one in Dallas is here. (It's very close to my church, so there's almost certainly a Squishee in my near future.

Monday, July 02, 2007

The Green Will Be Even Meaner in '08

Ever since Todd Dodge was named head coach at my alma mater, UNT, a lot more local high school players have shown an interest in joining the Mean Green for their college careers. As I said in a post announcing that hiring, it would be very cool if Dodge's son, the now-senior quarterback Riley Dodge (who led his dad's team, Southlake Carroll, to a state championship this year), would follow his dad to Denton in a year. That seemed to be a pipe dream when Riley committed to UT (which is Todd's alma mater) earlier in the spring. But now comes word that Riley has changed his mind:
A few days of discussions and second thoughts culminated in a dramatic turn of events for North Texas and the family of head coach Todd Dodge this weekend.

Southlake Carroll quarterback Riley Dodge is going to follow his father to UNT after all.

The reigning Associated Press Class 5A offensive player of the year said Saturday that he has changed his oral commitment from Texas to UNT. Riley , who is entering his senior season, said he broke the news to Texas head coach Mack Brown and also talked to offensive coordinator Greg Davis this week.

[...]"It was probably the hardest phone call I ever made in my life," Riley said. "But they were very cool about it and very nice. I really appreciated that.

"Coach Brown told me, 'You have the opportunity to play for your dad again. You need to hop all over it.'"

Riley (6-0, 183) said he made the decision for the good of his family and because he believes his father will turn around UNT's program.
Read the whole thing, as well as this update, in which the writer believes that landing Riley will be a significant boost to Mean Green recruiting.

I'm really excited about going to UNT games in the fall; I'll be there for a lot more than just homecoming this year. Perhaps the trip to Norman, Oklahoma will even be in the cards again for this year.

Why did the camel cross the road fjord? A dead camel was discovered alongside a Swedish highway, and authorities are trying to figure out how it got there. (Cruise ship??)

You broke my heart, so I'm breaking your bankbook: A man in Illinois successfully sued another man for stealing his wife's affections.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Perform in the Subway Station? Get Ignored.
Perform in the Street? Get Busted.

A few months ago, I discussed the story of how the great classical violinist Joshua Bell started playing anonymously in a D.C. subway station during morning rush hour; he was largely ignored.

Now, here's the other side of that coin: Police in Philadelphia, responding to complaints about street musicians in one of its neighborhoods, arrested a classical flautist and a singer on consecutive days a few months ago for performing in the street; both were charged with "disorderly conduct." Now the flautist is suing the city.

Being a street musician would be a tough gig anyway, but being subject to arrest simply for playing is something that people would never expect when entering into that line of work. I hope a compromise can be worked out between all the parties involved--maybe limiting the performances to certain hours or something of that nature. And if the neighbors want complete and utter silence at all times, that's probably not realistic. I mean, this was classical flute, for crying out loud. What will they do next--bust the ice cream truck? (Now watch, someone will send me a link that says it's already happened.)

This will be an interesting story to follow; on the one hand, we have freedom of expression. Do we have freedom of silence, if the performances are taking place on public streets? Music is part of the rich tapestry of life (and yes, I'd say that even if it weren't my profession), but I know that not everyone shares that opinion. Is there a right or wrong here, and will the legal system come up with an answer that satisfies most people?

And now the instruments themselves are under suspicion: A Salt Lake City police robot blew up a trumpet that had been left outside a fast-food restaurant; authorities considered it a "suspicious package."

Getting all their ducks in a row: Fifteen years after they fell off a cargo ship, part of a flock of nearly 30,000 rubber ducks is arriving on British shores. They were lost in the Pacific Ocean, and scientists have been tracking them to learn more about ocean currents.

Thank you, come again: In preparation for the upcoming Simpsons movie later this month, nearly a dozen 7-Eleven stores are temporarliy turning into Kwik-E-Marts, and one of them is here in the Dallas area. One of the Slurpee flavors is even being rebranded as a "WooHoo! Blue Vanilla" Squishee for the month (but sorry, no Duff beer; the movie is PG-13, after all.). And the store in Vegas adds an extra touch of authenticity, as it's run by an Indian guy (who's perfectly OK with the joke).