Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloversary, KNTU!

There's a lot of celebration in the air today. Not only is it Halloween (and game day for college football fans across the nation), but it's a really big day at my alma mater, UNT: The 40th anniversary of the university-run radio station, KNTU--a place where I spent quite a bit of time as a student, serving as student program director for a year (and a bunch of other supervisory positions as well) and longtime host of the morning show.

KNTU has come a long way in those forty years. Starting out as a 440-watt station that barely made it to Lake Dallas, it now boasts 100,000 watts and covers the bulk of the Metroplex now. (And while reception in the car may be a little dodgy, it's no longer a problem to pick it up at home, thanks to the online steam at their website.) And what started out as a hodgepodge of musical styles--changing every three hours or so in the beginning--has morphed into the only jazz station in the area while still keeping the variety on the weekends.

I had a great time working there; I knew that broadcasting was never likely to be a career for me because of my commitment to music, but it was one of the best avocations someone could ever have. I got to work with a lot of great people, some of whom are prominent on the local airwaves, and I also had the chance to be the first one to introduce the listeners to some new, high-quality music.

I got to tour the studios a few weeks ago during Homecoming weekend, and I was very pleased to see that the current facilities are state-of-the-art and professional-looking in a way that they never were when i was there. The station certainly deserves the best.

So happy anniversary, KNTU! May you continue to blanket the area with great music and serve as a fine training ground for the talent of the future.

Giving up the ghost: This anniversary also gives me the chance to once again link to my ghost story, since the haunted house in question spent its final sixteen years as the home of KNTU. If you haven't had a chance to read it, enjoy The Legend of Smith Hall.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Now They Can Build It, and I WIll Come

Upon my return home this evening, I came upon a great news item: My alma mater can now see the light at the end of the tunnel (and not one that's attached to an oncoming train) with regard to replacing its aging white elephant of a football stadium, Fouts Field. That's right, the plan for a new stadium was given final approval today by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, and the university will waste no time getting started; a groundbreaking is scheduled for November 21, prior to the UNT-Army game.

I think this quote from UNT's president pretty much says it all:
"If you look at America's great universities, you'll see that they all have the three A's in common: great academics, great arts and great athletics. All are key to a vibrant alumni community and continued growth. And all require great facilities," said UNT President Gretchen M. Bataille. "I am committed to ensuring that UNT, like many of the nation's best research universities, strives to be excellent in everything we do."
If you're wondering why this music alumnus has been so highly in favor of this endeavor, check out these posts from this time last year. And you can see a concept drawing of the new stadium at the story linked above; just click the magnifying glass icon to make it bigger.

I was already going to the UNT game this Saturday, and now, no matter the outcome of the game, I think a lot of us will be happy to see that the post-Fouts Field era is closer than ever.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

This Lady Chose the Wrong Source for Her Humiliation

I don't know how much this story has played outside the Dallas/Ft. Worth area, but it certainly covers a few hot-button topics: A Hispanic woman was ticketed for an illegal U-turn by Dallas police back on October 2, and she was also given an additional citation for "driving without being able to speak English." Now, Ernestina Mondragon has lawyered up and wants the city to investigate the police over racial profiling and so on.

Here's the thing: Whether or not you agree with the idea, it's not a crime to drive in Texas without the ability to speak English. But it is illegal to do so if you're a commercial driver. And the reason that the officer who ticketed Mondragon thought it was an infraction could be attributed to a common problem: Software error.
Dallas police said Friday that the charge was on a menu in the department's in-car computers, but it applies only to commercial operators, which means bus, truck and limo drivers.
D'oh. This has evidently happened a total of 39 other times over the past three years, and all those people, as well as Mondragon, will have those charges dropped.

That's as it should be. But Mondragon is upping the ante by asking the city to pay her medical bills:
[Mondragon] also incurred about $7,000 in medical expenses when she appeared to get ill after the traffic stop and her family took her to Baylor Medical Center at Garland. Her daughter said her mom was found to have stress-related symptoms and was admitted and kept overnight.

{Mondragon's attorney Domingo] Garcia said he also will file a claim seeking reimbursement of medical expenses.
According to the story, Mondragon says she was "humiliated" by the incident, which led to her hospitalization. But do we really want to go down that road? If she were to succeed in this effort, I could see all kinds of people trying to get money out of the city by claiming humiliation in the future--and don't forget, our many rights in this country do not include the right to not have one's feelings hurt.

Besides, this was a preventable episode. If Mondragon hadn't made the illegal U-turn in the first place, she never would have been stopped. It didn't help that she left her drivers license at home that day. But here's the thing that really gets me:
Garcia said Mondragon, 48, has been a legal U.S. resident since 1980.
. What? She's been here for at least 29 years and still hasn't bothered to learn the language? To me, that's the most humiliating thing about this story. If you're going to be in a country for nearly three decades, don't you think you should make at least the minimum effort to engage with that country? It seems like your embarrassment is a bit misplaced, ma'am.

Again, feel free to chime in if you think I'm all wet here.

Monday, October 26, 2009

If This Was My "Early" Day, Then Why Didn't I Get Home Till 9:15?

There was a slight deviation to my schedule today that allowed me to finish at 6:00--about 45 minutes earlier than usual. (And yes, when my day started at 7:30 in the morning, there's something kind of sad that a 6:00 stop time is "early," but that's the way things are around here at the moment.) I started eating dinner when it was still light outside, ran a quick errand, and had one more thing to do before I got home; things were looking good.

And then I ran full tilt into a stack of midterm grades to average, and one makeup test to grade. Over two hours later, I was finally done. (Thank goodness my corner of Starbucks was quiet for the duration; not a single person--or a married one, for that matter--shared the area with me.)

I'm not complaining, mind you; I love what I do. And I could have done this over the weekend, but I chose to turn Saturday into a Very Chill Day. Having that day was worth the extra time tonight.

But I suppose this is all a way of saying that, while there are already a few things that have come up which I plan to blog about this week, they'll have to be put off till at least tomorrow (which means, if you read yesterday's post, that they might not be done until the weekend, LOL). Thanks again for your patience.

So how early did your day end today? Anyone go later than I did? Comment away if you wish...

Neither rain, nor snow....OK, well, maybe snow: My high schools' marching contest was rained out last Wednesday, and I was amazed at the swiftness with which that decision was made (they'd called it by ten that morning). The rain day was today, and it rained pretty much the whole time. But if the region's website is to be believed, they held the contest anyway (the rain day for the rain day would have been this Wednesday, and rain was again in the forecast). I guess they just said "to heck with it--we need to get this done." But I feel bad for the kids with nice horns and the schools that used electronics, and I hope none of my students got sick being out in the cold rain. (I can't imagine anyone but the most die-hard parents sitting in the wet bleachers, either.) But if they'd kept kicking the date down the road, we'd be getting into November, and the next thing you know, the contest would be getting snowed out. If it was indeed held, I know that the kids (not to mention the directors) will be happy that the 'meat" of marching season is over. Now, let's make some music...

Sunday, October 25, 2009

This Is Turning Into a Weekly Ritual, So It Seems

I seem to notice a pattern during this, the busiest of all semesters, with regard to blogging by yours truly:

1) Post on Monday, one of my "earliest" finishes (6:45) of the week.

2) Start posts on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday (and sometimes Friday) but never have time to finish them.

3) Catch up on Saturday or Sunday and post links to all the "missed" posts.

Well, here we are again, and this is what I've completed thus far today:
  • I roll out a long-awaited rant about "activists" and how their being so easily offended isn't helping anyone solve problems.

  • Remembering Vic Mizzy, composer of some favorite TV themes.

  • Asking for some advice regarding dry winter skin on the hands.

  • Once again, I chastise Congress (yes, an easy target) for attempting to mess around with college football
I'm pretty sure the week ahead will be just the same, but feel free to check in daily just in case I get to complete a post during the week.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Hey, Congress: Stop Playing Games with College Football

It's a beautiful Saturday afternoon, and across this great nation of ours, cheers ring out across college campuses far and wide as fans enjoy the weekly ritual of college football. Some teams will win, while others will lose; a lucky two will make it all the way to a supposed national championship game under the aegis of the Bowl Championship Series (BCS), which has certainly had its share of detractors over the years.

Among other things, there's a fairly loud chorus of voices calling for some sort of playoff game, since, inevitably, an undefeated team (or at least one with a better record than those listed as #1 or #2 at the end of the season) will be left out of the big dance. But some note that the college football season is too long as it is, while others want to keep the decades-long tradition of the bowl games from falling by the wayside (and the current bowl setup allows many teams to close the year on a winning note), and a playoff system that started after the bowls would extend the season into the spring semester. I've even weighed in on this myself as far back as late 2004.

But about a year after that, an unwelcome party entered into the debate: Congress. Even more strange was that fact that one of the loudest voices in Congress was right here in the area: Rep. Joe Barton of Ennis, who's usually very much against big government. But in this case, Barton was right there in the middle of it, even holding a Congressional hearing on it in late '05. As he said at the time,
"College football is not just an exhilarating sport, but a billion-dollar business as well that Congress cannot ignore. This committee is vested with the responsibility for overseeing sports."
But--as I asked then, as now--are they really? Is there nothing that's free from the oversight of an overreaching government?

That proposed legislation failed to come to pass back then, but fast-forward four years to now, and they're at it again, with Barton once again leading the call by announcing that he and a fellow legislator are backing a federal political action committee called Playoff PAC, whose mission appears to be to take down the BCS. The stated purpose of the group is this:
Playoff PAC is a federal political committee dedicated to establishing a competitive post-season championship for college football. The Bowl Championship Series is inherently flawed. It crowns champions arbitrarily and stifles inter-conference competition. Fans, players, schools, and corporate sponsors will be better served when the BCS is replaced with an accessible playoff system that recognizes and rewards on-the-field accomplishment. To that end, Playoff PAC helps elect pro-reform political candidates, mobilizes public support, and provides a centralized source of pro-reform news, thought, and scholarship.

The new group “helps elect pro-reform political candidates, mobilizes public support and provides a centralized source of pro-reform news, thought and scholarship,” according to a press release. “Change will only happen when there are more college football reformers in Congress,” the group said.
But again, the question remains this: Is it really Congress' business to get involved in this? Brian Davidson of the National Collegiate Scouting Association makes a good point at the above link when he asks, "Is it the responsibility of Congress to dictate to Universities how they decide sports championships? The schools do receive enormous amounts of federal money in addition to the state revenues that help fund their sports teams. However, if a playoff fails to generate the current amount of revenue won’t taxpayers be called upon to fill the gap?"

As I said last December, we need Congress "fixing" the BCS about as much as we need football coaches making laws (although they couldn't do any worse than the current Congress, but that's another post for another time). Really, it comes down to this: If our elected "leaders" feel like they have time to do this, then they must have solved all the other pressing problems of the nation already. What's that--they haven't? OK, get to work on real business, then, and let the schools and their supporters figure this one out.

But if they really do end up tackling (heh) this problem, we can find some solace in a quote by David Boaz, from a post earlier in the year at the blog Cato at Liberty:
The best thing that can be said for this is that it’s probably actually safer to have Congress screwing around with amateur sports championships than with matters of war, spending, and central planning.
Amen to that.

And if nothing gets done this time, does anyone doubt that we'll be talking about this in another four years?

Friday, October 23, 2009

This Weather Is Cracking Me Up (In a Bad Way)

I've posted in the past about what happens to the skin on my hands when the weather starts to get cold outisde. It's actually morphed over the years; at first, as noted in Fun Facts #42, it pretty much limited itself to the part of my fingers that were involved with snapping (a common requirement for a music instructor, of course), and then, the past few years, it led to my knuckles cracking open seemingly without warning.

This year, it really did come out of the blue (if you think about it, it hasn't been that cold here yet). One middle knuckle cracked open this morning, and by the time I got home, three other places (the "upper knuckles," perhaps--is that what you call the place where your fingers join the main part of your hand?) came open almost one right after another.

I know the usual solution--lotion. I tend to put it on every night before bedtime during the colder months, and I'll certainly start that tonight. But has anyone out there found an additional solution? Again, it seems weird that the whole process started so soon, since a few days of lows in the 40s doesn't really count as "winter" (I haven't had to turn the heat on in the house yet). Any suggestions would be kindly appreciated in the comments.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

We Pause to Remember Another Guy Who Could Say, "This Song Bought My House."

Once again, the world mourns the loss of someone whose name is virtually unknown, but his contribution to the culture is immediately recognizable. In fact, the name Vic Mizzy might only ring a very small bell with fans of classic TV shows, while drawing blank stares from others at its mention. But I bet I can refresh your memory in a few short syllables. Here goes:

Ba-da-da-DUM (click, click)

That's right--Mizzy was the composer of the famed Addams Family TV theme, and many others, including the well-known opening to Green Acres. A great L..A. Times story about him features some interesting trivia connected with the Addams theme:
For his theme song, Mizzy played a harpsichord, which gives the theme its unique flavor. And because the production company, Filmways, refused to pay for singers, Mizzy sang it himself and overdubbed it three times. The song, memorably punctuated by finger-snapping, begins with: "They're creepy and they're kooky, mysterious and spooky, they're altogether ooky: the Addams family."

In the 1996 book "TV's Biggest Hits: The Story of Television Themes From 'Dragnet' to 'Friends,' " author Jon Burlingame writes that Mizzy's "musical conception was so specific that he became deeply involved with the filming of the main-title sequence, which involved all seven actors snapping their fingers in carefully timed rhythm to Mizzy's music."
The story also identifies the unusual instrument employed in the Green Acres theme as a bass harmonica; that was a new one on me.

Mizzy was smart enough to retain the publishing rights to the theme, and it literally did end up buying his house:
"I sat down; I went 'buh-buh-buh-bump [snap-snap], buh-buh-buh-bump," he recalled in a 2008 interview on CBS' "Sunday Morning" show. "That's why I'm living in Bel-Air: Two finger snaps and you live in Bel-Air."
As I noted just over a year ago, the composer Neal Hefti likely found himself in a similar situation with the theme from the Batman TV show, no matter how many great jazz tunes he wrote (which he did; think "Li'l Darlin'," "Splanky" and "Cute," just to name a few).

R.I.P, Vic. Your tunes will live on in reruns (and the back of people's minds) for years to come.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Response of the "Activists" Is Scarier Than the Costume

Let me say from the outset that I'm not really impressed by "activists." If that's something you want to do in your spare time, that's fine, but if you identify yourself to me as an "activist" first and foremost, the first thing I'll ask you is, "What's your real job?" Far too often, activist groups don't seek to honestly debate their pet grievance, they simply want to guarantee that their voices are the loudest in such debates, so that they can get maximum face time on TV and in the newspapers and possibly secure more financial contributions to their groups.

Here's the latest burr under the saddle of one such group: You may have seen the story about the controversial Halloween costume that retailers such as Target and Wal-Mart have been selling online. It consists of an orange prison-like jumpsuit with the words ILLEGAL ALIEN written on the front, along with a space alien mask and a "green card" that actually says that and is, in fact, green.

I think it's clever; it's obviously a play on words, combining a common term for an undocumented immigrant with the typical sci-fi imagery of a "little green man." It doesn't in any way reference any particular ethnic or racial group (unless I've missed seeing a bunch of green-skinned people in our country recently), so how could anyone be offended?

Leave it to an activist who likes to see his name in the paper to do just that. Jesse Diaz, president of the Dallas Chapter of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) is "offended" by the costumes, and even though both Target and Wal-Mart have dropped the costume from their websites, he's still asking for the stores to offer apologies as well.

Check out the costume yourself at the link above and tell me what you think. As I said, it doesn't look the least bit Hispanic, so why is Diaz so upset? And why would he identify so strongly with someone who's breaking our laws, just because that person shares his skin color and national origin? And is Diaz forgetting that the last word in his group's name is "citizens," or is he ignoring that in favor of getting his name in the news again?

This isn't the first time that's happened, mind you; If memory serves, Diaz was also at the forefront of the protest marches in Dallas a few years ago, and he even went as far to say that the reason that so many illegals were habitual criminals was because American citizens were corrupting them. Good grief!

(I should mention that Diaz is far from the only one offended by this costume, but they all tend to wear the same hat--"Immigrant advocate" or what have you. And besides, I try to give this blog a local angle whenever possible.)

And this leads me to repeat something that I said when I got the chance to call in to the Ernie and Jay radio show a week ago; the subject was another activist group and another protest, but the sentiment is all the same: People who dwell on our differences, rather than our commonalities, are only hurting the debate, and these so-called activists are a major source of the problem. Sure, the multiculturalists say that we should "celebrate our diversity," and that's fine--to a point. But when it goes far past celebration, to the point where people allow their differences to define them, that's where the wheels fall off. Are you really saying that your difference is the only important thing about you? I find that hard to believe.

I won't be wearing this costume myself, of course; I'll continue the yearly tradition of dressing up like a burrito in order to get free food from Chipotle (I hope Diaz isn't offended by that!). But I really grow tired of these groups that find offense in the smallest things; it ends up being like the kid who cried "Wolf!"--if a true grievance really exists, nobody will listen anymore, because they're tired of being pummeled with all the small stuff.

Sure, there are plenty of problems that need solving. But let's stop all the shouting, attention mongering, and quick-to-take-offense tactics and engage in some real debate for once.

Monday, October 19, 2009

While Kev Sleeps Tonight, Learn a Bit About the Lion

I'm not sure how the word got into my head today; I'm pretty sure I didn't hear it on the way home from teaching, since i was listening to jazz on my iPod at the time. But as I walked in the door, it stuck in my ears loud and clear: "Wimoweh."

You've probably heard those syllables before; they're chanted in the background of what I suppose constitutes the chorus of the song "The Lion Sleeps Tonight," which has been around for decades. I first heard it as a kid on a record made in 1971 by Robert John (listen here, and I'd seen it on those "Best of the '60s" compilation recordings by a group called The Tokens (listen here). They Might Be Giants glommed it onto an original song called The Guitar in the '90s (enjoy the video here; my favorite line: "Hush, my darling, be still my darling, the lion's on the phone."), and the whole rest of the universe got to know it when it appeared in Disney's The Lion King. (True confession: I've never seen this movie in its entirety; even though I have three nephews younger than the age of ten who can probably recite it line-for-line [or would that be lion-for-lion? LOL], my visits with them usually involve trying to beat them at Wii games or actually playing outside.)

As for other information about the song--I knew that "The Lion" had two subtitles: "Wimoweh" (which was obvious) and "Mbube" (not so much.) And after running across the Wikipedia entry on the song a few months ago, I learned that "Wimoweh" was a mis-hearing by American ears of "uyimbube" (Zulu for "you're a lion"), and the original song was written in the late 1930's by a South African named Solomon Linda who barely received any money for it (although that situation is finally being rectified), and there were many, many recorded versions of it in the U.S. before The Tokens' version ever hit the charts.

So today, after doing a search for "Wimoweh," I came upon this fascinating story by South African writer Rian Malan; it traces the development from the original recording of "Mbube" by Solomon Linda's group, all the way through its various American permutations and into the Disney movie, and he also recounts the long, difficult road it's taken to get Linda's family (the man himself is long gone, but lived to hear the Tokens' version of "Lion") the royalties that he should have gotten all along, It's a fascinating read; check it out; you'll learn a lot about the seamy underbelly of the music publishing business, as well as a rather comprehensive history of a song that nearly everybody knows.

And one more: There's also an amazing bit of trivia in another story on the subject: Two of the Tokens sang backup vocals on Robert John's recording ten years later; they helped create their own remake! (Perhaps even more odd: The bass singer on that record was a woman: songwriter Ellie Greenwich, who passed away a little over a month ago and was responsible for songs like "Do Wah DIddy DIddy" and "River Deep, Mountain High.".)

Friday, October 16, 2009

Me, a Philly Phan? That's Phreaky!

Stopped off to grab a bite last night after a gig, at a sports bar-type place. There was baseball going on, but, despite my affinity for the game, I was barely paying attention.

And it's not just that the Rangers aren't in the playoffs; if that was what kept me from watching postseason baseball, I'd hardly have any contact with the sport at all after early October. Rather, it's the fact that all the other teams I could have rooted for have already bowed out in the divisional series.

I didn't have a lot to work with in the first place. I can justify rooting for the Cardinals, since I lived in the St. Louis metro area three different times as a kid, and one of the first games I ever attended in person was a Cardinals game at old Busch Stadium. Boston was a possibility, as I generally like the team (except when the Rangers were going back and forth with them for the wild card slot this year), and I have a soft spot for MInnesota since I have several good friends who hail from the area.

But all those teams are out now, and that leaves me with what--the Yankees? Yeah, right; as a longtime Rangers fan, I've often said that I'll root for the Rangers and whoever is playing the Yankees. The Angels? Our fierce division rival? As if! And I've always been "meh" about the Dodgers as well, for who knows what reason; I've just never warmed to them.

So that leaves me with the Phillies. I enjoyed watching their trip through the playoffs last year, culminating in a World Series win that I was able to see on the TV at a nearby luxury suite when I went to my first Stars game. While, like any self-respecting Cowboy fan, I could never root for the NFL team who shares a hometown with the Phillies, I guess I'll be adopting them for the next week or so (or longer, if they can dispatch the Dodgers).

So, umm....Go Phillies!?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Now That Was One Fast News Cycle...

It's amazing how quickly the main elements of a news story can change, especially if you're away from any media for a while. This afternoon, while on a quick coffee break, the TV in the coffeehouse was showing a most unusual and potentially heartbreaking story: Some sort of odd-shaped Mylar balloon had broken free of its moorings in Colorado and was floating away, and the big concern was that it appeared that a little six-year-old kid was inside it when it took off. I followed the story during my break and all the way up to school, and it seemed at the time that things would come to a horrible end, as the balloon kept going higher and higher, and it didn't seem like there would be a way to get it down at all, much less with the kid still alive.

So imagine my surprise when, over eight hours later (yes, the teaching days run long right now), I turned on the radio and found out that the kid had been in his attic the whole time. Evidently, he had been the one to cause the balloon to come unmoored in the first place, and he was afraid that his dad would yell at him.

I don't know if any more will come out of this story in the next few days or not, but it's possible that little Falcon Heene's fifteen minutes of fame will barely last more than, well, fifteen minutes.

UPDATE: OK, after several days of this, it's obvious that the fifteen minutes may have gone into overtime.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

In This Fairly New School Year, Kids Still Say the Darnedest Things

Ever since I've been teaching, I've always taught kids who said really funny stuff, and it seems like the middle-schoolers are the ones who seem to be the most quotable. For the first time this school year, one of them said something that I wrote down, saying to myself "This has to go on the blog!" as i did so.

It started out in a fairly common thing: The kid made a mistake that many, many other kids had made in the past, including virtually every beginner who'd played this same line from the book so far this year. That prompted a typical quote from me, and a funny response from the kid:

ME: Don't worry; that's a really common mistake. If I had a dollar for every time someone had made that mistake, I could take a morning off someday.
KID (after subsequently playing the line again, and messing up someplace else): If you had a dollar for every time I made a mistake, you'd be rich!!!

(Again, maybe you had to be there, but I got a kick out of it.)

Radio daze: I was on the radio for a long time in college, but it's been a while since I was on the air--February of '05, to be precise, when I called the Charley Jones Overnight program about zero tolerance in schools (a topic that would have spawned the loudest rant in the history of this blog today if it hadn't been resolved by the time I got home; as it is, I'll probably talk about it tomorrow with a much calmer demeanor). Today, I finally got the opportunity to call in to the Ernie and Jay Midday program (I listen a lot, but rarely have time between schools to actually hear the topic, formulate my response and wait in the queue to get on the air; today, thanks to one sick kid and another with a doctor's appointment, I had time to do both). I'll save the discussion of what I called in about today for another post, but it was cool to talk with Ernie, my old Little League teammate (I identified myself as such once I got on the air), for a second and actually respond to what I'd been listening to for once.

And this is crazy: Check out the bottom of the linked post in the previous paragraph for a cool quote from James Lileks' daughter; I used that same quote just a few weeks ago in one of my college classes.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Dude--I'm Talkin' To Ya Caneless*

After a weekend of continuing to wean myself away, today was the first day that I went completely without my cane. (It was still there in the car, as a "security blanket" of sorts, but I didn't actually use it to get anywhere.) And after a trip to physical therapy this afternoon, the therapist confirmed that I really don't need a cane anymore unless I was going to walk "three miles or so." I don't see that in my immediate future, so it looks like the can will be retired (though it will still stay in the car for a few more days, "just in case").

And with the end of the cane should come the end of the handicapped parking placard as well; I was given that wonderful blue-and-white piece of plastic because of my mobility impairment, but without visual proof of said impairment (i.e. the cane), I can't really justify taking a place from someone who might be much farther back in the process than myself--no matter how crappy the parking might be at school now.

At any rate, it's good to record another milestone on my road to progress. The therapist says that it will probably be a month before I can try running again, but I'm still covering good ground with my walking.

And I should mention that only one person--the last student of the day--noticed my caneless condition, and he noticed it right away.

*Bonus points to anyone who can name the obscure movie reference that's the source of the this post's title.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

And Yet Again...

I'm all caught up on posts. It's amazing what an idle Saturday morning can do in that regard.

As always, since I don't want my work to go for naught, here's what I started talking about the past few weeks but didn't have time to finish until now:I'm organizing a big concert that takes place tomorrow, but once that's over, I hope to be able to post regularly again for the foreseeable future (please don't be snarky and start taking bets on that).

Friday, October 09, 2009

Welcome to Dallaseattle

I can't remember a time when it's rained as much during the fall semester as it has recently. While it's not so unusual to see this much rain during the spring and summer, it's definitely weird to see it in September and October. Maybe it's trying to catch up from the dry spells of earlier in the year...

And how about that almost 40-degree temperature drop from yesterday? It was 87 degrees when I went to dinner last night, and it's supposed to be near 47 for the low tonight. (Thankfully, that isn't happening yet, since my high school students are just finishing up their football games in marching band as I write this. At least, for their sakes, it stopped raining in plenty of time for them to get to the stadium, and, with any luck, the seats were able to dry off before then.)

Someone on the radio the other morning made the crack that this really was Dallas and not Seattle (the latter does have a few more Starbucks), but anyone visiting from out of town the past month or so would be hard-pressed to tell the difference.

Are you a fan of all this rain, or would you like it a little drier? And if you're not from Dallas, how's the weather in your part of the world?

Thursday, October 08, 2009

I Love the Java JIve, and It Loves Denton Again

It had been a couple years since I'd been to the Kharma Cafe in Denton--so long, in fact, that I wasn't even aware that it had been shuttered for some time now. The loss of the Tomato a few years ago meant that, for me, there wasn't much of a reason to visit Fry Street anymore (and, as I noted in a very old post, the Kharma was always so dark that it was possible to walk right up to it and not be sure that it was in business until you opened the door).

But an active college town like Denton needs a 24-hour coffeehouse, because not everyone wants to go bar-hopping all the time, and even the hard-core partiers occasionally want a much quieter place to study or chill with their friends. And now, I'm happy to report that this can happen in Denton once again with the opening of Big Mike's Coffee(in the former Voyager's Dream space on Hickory just west of Fry St.:
According to the Facebook page for Big Mike's Coffee, the new venture by former Voyager's Dream owner Mike Sutton is now open and running. The North Texas Daily jumped on news in August that the first coffee shop near the UNT campus to stay open all night since the days of smoky Kharma Cafe would take over the prime spot on Hickory Street.
I also have read that BIg Mike's will offer live music--not just for its grand opening, slated for this weekend, but also on a regular basis after that. It sounds like a win all around for the area. Now, if we could just get the Tomato to reopen somewhere... (Read more about Big Mike's from this August article in the North Texas Daily.)

And speaking of Fry Street: while searching for articles about Big Mike's, I also came across this, from the Daily via Pegasus News: Fry Street development remains untouched by developer. Basically, nothing has changed since the last time I discussed Fry Street here; the economic climate isn't friendly to development, and the developer, United Equities, doesn't appear to be willing or able to charge rents low enough to attract the type of student-friendly businesses that the area really needs to thrive (you know, the kind of businesses that were already there before UE came in and knocked all the buildings down). I'd love to see UE bought out and the area returned to local ownership, and I've summarized my own plan for the area--which differs from UE's plan by only a single, crucial tweak--on many occasions. Now, if only the folks in Austin would draw my six lottery numbers, I'd be all over this. Until then, I fear that it's more of the same.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Sunny News on a Cloudy Day: Brad's Back!

A few months ago, I got rather irate with my usual news-talk station of choice, KRLD, for letting 30-year veteran meteorologist Brad Barton go in a "cost-cutting move" orchestrated by some corporate suit in New York. A lot of us in the Metroplex hoped that Barton would land a new job somewhere else in the area, and I read the happy news in the DMN this morning: He's back on the local airwaves again, on WBAP:
Two months, to the day, after leaving KRLD-AM (1080), Barton is back on the air as meteorologist for WBAP-AM (820), delivering his first forecast at noon on Tuesday.

"We had some weather rolling in, and we put him to work," said Tyler Cox, WBAP operations manager.

"We're really excited to have him join our team. Brad is the best, and we're already getting e-mails and calls from listeners who are happy to hear his voice on the radio again."
I never did totally abandon KRLD after Barton's dismissal (I can't really bail on Ernie and Jay, seeing as how Ernie Brown and I were on the same LIttle League team back in the day), but during the hours they're not on, I've found myself listening to news less and less and my iPod more and more. And while I haven't listened to WBAP since back when they carried Rangers games, I know where I'll be turning when the big storms roll through.

I know that broadcasting is a game of being fired many times over for most people (that's one of the reasons I didn't pursue it as a career, despite my extensive time in college radio), but it's nice when the really good ones can land on their feet--especially in the same market where they've made a name for themselves. Welcome back, Brad!

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

This One Goes to 111 (and Beyond)

Happy Founders Day to my brothers in Sinfonia, a fine collection of men of music; we're 111 years old today and going strong. I look forward to celebrating with a lot of you in the area at Sunday's concert. At the moment, I'm listening to a tune by Brother Branford Marsalis, but, if you were so inclined, you could also fire up some Count Basie, Cannonball Adderley, Clark Terry, Maynard Ferguson, Herb Ellis, Jimmy Guiffre, Chuck Mangione, or countless others (go here for a ginormous list).

Filling in the blanks: Still catching up on old posts; it seems like, whenever there are distractions, blogging is the first to suffer. I'll get there...

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Second Place: Not the "First Loser" in This Case, But an Improvement

The Rangers' season ended today with somewhat of a whimper, with the team falling to Seattle, 4-3. I saw the bottom of the eighth inning and intended to watch the top of the ninth to see if the Rangers could pull it off, but I was switching back and forth between that game and the Cowboys game (which didn't turn out well, either), and I just got distracted by the latter; by the time I switched back to the Rangers, the postgame show was already on.

So was this a lost season? It was certainly better than the past few years, and better than people had predicted back in April. Many people had said that 2010 was going to be the Rangers' year (and they're still saying that, of course), while this would continue to be a rebuilding year, but the team made it interesting for a long time (it was fun to go to a meaningful September game last Sunday, for example).

There certainly were a lot of young players who made some noise this season: Elvis Andrus, Neftali Feliz, Julio Borbon. And even though some of the promising young pitchers--Derek Holland and Tommy Hunter--struggled a bit at the end of the season, I see nothing but good things from them as they get some more experience under their belts. On the veteran side, Marlon Byrd had a career year (it was also his free-agent year, and I hope the club can keep him), and Michael Young, after some initial squawking in the off-season, not only accepted his move from shortstop to third base with grace and class but also excelled there; I wonder if the season would have ended differently if he hadn't gone down to injury in the final month.

So as much as I wish that I could still be watching the Rangers this week instead of the Angels (the eventual division winner) or the Red Sox (the wild-card), it was good to see them at least come in second in the division, fighting off a Seattle surge at the end. And if the "2010 will be the Rangers' year' meme is still in effect, well...this year was a heck of a prelude.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

I'm "Böhm-Halle-Sold" on This Group

I've been meaning to post about some more of the cool musicians I've discovered recently (thanks to the likes of eMusic, they just keep coming!), but I've found a band that I think deserves mention all by itself.

For the past few years, I've really gotten into some jazz from European musicians. I've always had a thing for ECM Records releases, and lately, that's grown into a strong affinity for a couple of specific artists. It started two years ago, when I first discovered Tomasz Stanko, the Polish trumpeter (whose backing trio led by pianist Marcin Wasilewski also caught my fancy). Last fall, I was introduced to the music of Nik Bärtsch, a Swiss pianist who refers to his jazz-meets-minimalism as "ritual groove music." Then, at the beginning of this past summer, the artist who caught my ears was Nils Petter Molvaer, a Norwegian trumpeter whose sound could best be described as "what would have happened if Miles Davis had lived long enough to work with modern techno musicians."

One of my good friends--in a constant effort to replace my iPod with his on car trips--often complains that everything I enjoy listening to ends up being "some weird trumpet player from another country" (referring, no doubt, to Stanko and Molvaer). And I won't lie--sometimes, while perusing the new acquisitions at eMusic, I'll stop and listen to something that sounds European, and sometimes, that listening will pay off. And now, well, my friend may have to suffer some more in the future, because, while on just such an eMusic excursion a few weeks ago, I came across another group that has turned my listening upside down: Böhm-Halle-Sell.

The group's members, Rainer Böhm (Germany), Gunnar Halle (Norway) and Rainer Sell (Germany--and how cool is it that both Germans are named Rainer!), play piano, trumpet and laptop respectively (and it wouldn't surprise me if "laptop" became such a common "instrument" in the future that nobody would bat an eye at seeing it listed in a band). The threesome are very active in other bands throughout the year, and they seem to unite as a trio mostly at various summer music festivals in Europe. Their own recorded output consists of two CDs, Try to Org (2003) and OZON (2006), both on the German jazzcuisine label (also available at the iTunes store, and OZON--the album that first caught my eye--can be purchased from eMusic as well).

With the presence of both electronics (via the laptop, of course), and a Norwegian trumpeter, you might think that the group's sound is similar to that of Molvaer. And you would be correct (so much so that B-H-S's releases are noted on, a German fan site for NPM), but there are a few added twists: The presence of acoustic piano adds a more organic feel to the proceedings, and there's more of an emphasis on memorable melodies as well; whereas Molvaer often follows the Miles/Stanko school of sparseness--to great effect, mind you--it's more likely that you'll find something you could whistle while walking down the street on a B-H-S recording (with plenty of the expected skronky electronic sounds to keep fans of such things more than happy).

The band's MySpace page (linked above) offers two full tunes apiece from each of the two CDs for your listening pleasure. Though the group's recorded output is fairly small, I look forward to the next effort, and--assuming that the jazzcuisine site will include a secure page for purchases one of these days--I'll eventually acquire the group's concert DVD, featuring video contributions from virtual fourth bandmember Thomas Fuchs. (Does anyone know if a European DVD will play in American players?)

My friend who lamented the whole "weird trumpet player from another country" thing jokingly asked me why I didn't "listen American"--what was wrong with musicians from over here? But it's always been interesting to me to see what musicians from abroad have done when filtering our unique American art form through their own experiences and cultures, and there's room on my plate for both domestic and foreign "jazz cuisine" (heh). If your tastes run in a similar direction, I heartily encourage you to add Böhm-Halle-Sell to your menu.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Entering the Homestretch

I went to the orthopedist today for the first time in six weeks, and, as I expected, he's very pleased with my progress; I won't have to visit again for another two months.

At this point, as I noted last week, I really am in the homestretch of my rehabilitation of this injury. While I won't be running or jumping or playing racquetball quite yet, I'm starting to approach normal functionality with everything else. My priorities now are to continue what I started in therapy last time--balance, alternating legs on stairs, and so on--while starting to wean myself from the cane outdoors (I've been doing this in the house quite a bit already).

Now that it's October, I have only one month left on my handicapped parking placard, and there's no reason (other than convenience, I suppose) to renew it. As I take longer and longer walks anyway (and will work toward doing so without the cane), I'm looking forward to more fully joining the "abled" world again.