Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Another "Red vs. Blue" Situation

Over the Thanksgiving break, I got in another discussion with my parents over why I prefer Super Target to Wal-Mart. I pointed out how ST is much, much cheaper for groceries than any of the major chain grocery stores, and while they acknowledged that, they said that Wal-Mart was even cheaper yet. My reply was that I just didn't care, because I can't stand to go in the place. Evidently, I'm not alone.

You may have heard how Wal-Mart posted a slight decrease in sales recently, but it didn't seem to reflect what was going on in the rest of the retail industry (many times, the performance of a business as large as WM can be accurately used to reflect retail as a whole). This time, it just seemed to be WM having the problem, and it may well have been unique to them.

Over the weekend, Instapundit posted on the subject, and he received a lot of email about it. One reader may have pretty much nailed down the problem, and it dovetails nicely with my own views:
I have an alternate idea of what is happening to Wal-Mart. They have devalued their brand: Wal-Mart is a place to go for the necessities of life. Target has pulled a brilliant move in placing itself as a more prestigious and higher quality brand covering the same economic demographics.
...Target represents an place that is far more comfortable to shop in: the aisles are clean and wide and there are usually enough cashiers to ensure a speedy experience. The cost is marginally more but is more then worth the psychic cost of going to Wal-Mart.

Many others have hopped into the fray since then, noting that Wal-Mart may well have brought these problems on itself by going for the lowest common denominator. My favorite quote comes from this posting by Matt Stokes of mattcrash.blogspot.com: "Those of us with the option don't want to shop at Wal-Mart; not out of opposition to red state values or capitalism. We shop at Target because our feet don't stick to the floor while walking down the frozen food aisle." As Instapundit would say, read the whole thing, and check out the quotes, which are often hilarious--sometimes painfully blunt, but pretty much on target (pun intended?).

I couldn't have said it better myself. It always seems to me that they've taken some small Third World country, dropped it into the middle of a nice American neighborhood and called it a "supercenter." The dirtiness of the place, the merchandise strewn everywhere, the kids running wild all over the store...sorry, I'll pay a few more bucks for the privilege of a comfortable shopping experience across the street. I sent some of those links to Mom and Dad, just to show them that it's not just me.

Web hijinks, or creative marketing? Speaking of Target, their website has had some really weird stuff on it lately, including marijuana, a prostitute, and something else I won't mention by name on this site. Did they get hacked, or is it just a brilliant-but twisted marketing scheme? Whatever the deal is, it sure has brought a lot of traffic to the site this week.

Monday, November 29, 2004

Glad My Morning Wasn't This Rough...

As is the case with most people, the morning after a long holiday usually hits me like a ton o' bricks; this morning was no exception. So it was amusing to me later on in the day when I read the survey question for the iWon site, which asked how it felt going back to work today. Five percent answered that they felt relaxed and energized (you want to slap those people, don't you?); I was with the 14% who said it was really tough getting out of bed. But another option made me laugh: "Ugghh! - Given the opportunity, I'd have kicked a bunny in the groin this morning." Nine percent agreed with that; glad I'm not in their house. And you know, I was a rabbit owner for over seven years, and not once did the bunny make me mad enough to think about doing that (even when he peed on my sleeping bag exactly five minutes before I was supposed to leave for a campout). Hope your Monday wasn't too bad; I'm only on a short break, so it's back to the grind for me.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

The Cheesiest Post I've Ever Written?

No, no, this has nothing to do with the G-Weasel...

By now, I'm sure you've heard about the grilled cheese sandwich that supposedly contains the likeness of the Virgin Mary, and how it was bought by an online casino for 28 grand. Perhaps you were wondering how the sandwich would actually be shipped from Florida to its new home in Las Vegas. Well, it turns out that a reporter from the Miami Herald is driving it across the country (kept in a locked metal briefcase, to which only he and a casino executive know the combination) in a Cadillac deVille. Now that reporter has a blog so you can track his progress across the country. So far, the lucky sandwich has helped him win money gambling but hasn't prevented him from getting a speeding ticket in Alabama.

And for even more fun, the casino has a new site where you can paste your own picture (or that of a famous person) onto the sandwich. Good stuff...

High-tailing it away from retail: I was one of the .000034735% of Americans who did absolutely no shopping whatsoever on so-called Black Friday a few days ago. Instead, I drove back from Sugar Land to here, sleeping in like a normal person before doing so. I was totally amazed on my way back to see the parking lot at Town East Mall full all the way to the back, and I was thankful that my freeway view was the closest I came to that place, or any of its ilk. I've bought one Christmas present so far, and it was online; indeed, if I had my way, I, like Instapundit, would do almost all of my shopping here. As a guy on the radio said tonight, brick-and-mortar is being replaced by click-and-order.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

A Trip to Fan

KEV, LIVE FROM SUGAR LAND: Hope everybody had a great Thanksgiving day; mine was nice and quiet around here. Last night, I got to break in the new Murphy bed at Mom and Dad's, and it was so comfortable, I ended up sleeping till noon. And thankfully, the bed didn't fold back up into the wall with me in it or anything (yes, I know, I've watched way too many cartoons).

Speaking of watching cartoons, I saw The Incredibles with Mom and Dad tonight. It was great, which didn't surprise me; has Pixar ever made a lousy movie? Funny, funny stuff, and the animation is just amazing. Oh, and we stayed till the end of the credits to see if there was anything at the end, and I happened to notice that one of the "extra musical scoring" credits went to none other than Gordon Goodwin. I'll bet he got a "big phat" paycheck for that (heh).

Dinner was just the three of us, but what Mom was calling "sparse" was quite satisfying...just enough, with plenty left over for later. Then it was off to the TV room, where we watched the Cowboys actually win a game and look halfway-decent doing so. None of us stayed awake the whole time, as the tryptophan kicked in every once in a while. (I remember as a kid when tryptophan--the amino acid in turkey that makes you sleepy--was explained to me for the first time. We made a little joke about the name and said that, when we fell asleep, we were taking a "trip to Fan." That joke actually got a couple years' worth of mileage, believe it or not.)

At any rate, I'm looking forward to another night of good sleep before coming back home sometime tomorrow. I have a lot to be thankful for this year: friends and family, a job I love, good health, and a whole lot more. I'm also thankful that we live in freedom (a quick look at the paper or the Internet reminds us how many people don't) and for those who risk their lives to keep us that way. One of the classiest things I've seen on TV in a long time happened tonight on The Tonight Show, when Jay Leno's audience consisted entirely of active-duty military personnel--some on their way home, some on their way out. And of course., I am eternally thankful for the blessings of the One who makes it all possible. I hope your day was equally blessed.

A milestone: Last night, on my trip down here, I did something I've never done before: gone over 400 miles on a tank of gas. It was 403, to be more precise, on just a little over 11 gallons of gas. Yes, Kevmobile 1.2 is humming along just fine.

Oh, and while I was at my gas stop, I actually saw some idiot drive off with the gas pump hose still attached to his truck, severing it, totally oblivious to the shouting of the two gas station employees who happened to be out there. Thankfully, they have automatic shut-off devices on the pumps now (for a second there, the thought of "are we gonna blow up now?" did go through my head), but it was still an inconvenience for an insanely busy station, and no doubt a huge blow to the wallet for the guy who did it. I saw him taking out a credit card; ouch, talk about an expensive lesson...

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Along Came Benny

Last night was a great concert at UNT with Benny Golson and the One O'Clock Lab Band. The traditional Tuesday-night-before-Thanksgiving concert has been going on for 45 years now; it always features a world-renowned guest artist, and I was happy to be able to hear Golson for the first time. (He was actually the guest at a festival I'd attended about 10 years ago at Loyola University, but I didn't go to the evening concert where he played, opting instead for a trip to New Orleans' legendary Preservation Hall. This turned out to be a good move, as it was my only opportunity to see the founding Humphrey brothers, Willie and Percy, before they both passed away the following year. Since Golson was a judge at the festival, and I was in a band that performed, that meant that a bizarre situation was in place: He had heard me play before I heard him play! Still, there's no way he would have remembered my performance, whereas I will certainly remember his ten years from now.)

After an energetic opening set by the One O'Clock, which featured a couple selections off the new Lab 2004 CD, Golson took the stage. His biographical info is available on the website, so I won't duplicate it here, but he's the only living jazz musician who's contributed eight compositions that are considered standards to the repertoire, including "Whisper Not," "I Remember Clifford," and "Blues March" (all of which are in the TD/D repertoire), as well as "Along Came Betty" and "Stablemates," all of which were played at the concert. "Whisper Not" was the opener; it's one of my favorites, and the arrangement started with a bass solo, not revealing the melody until near its end. I was starting to figure it out as the changes progressed, and then a little melodic quote made me perk up a bit and go "yeah."

Even if Golson hadn't played a note all night, I would've given him a standing ovation at the end on the merits of his compositions alone. However, at the age of nearly 76, he's still got it as a player as well. Though he started off with a subdued, breathy tone and sparse figures, he let loose a few tunes into the set and would return to that peak again and again. I was extremely impressed, and, sitting in the fourth row as I was, it was also fun to watch the reactions of the sax players in the band.

But the writing and playing were just part of the package. He had stories--oh, the stories! One of the best tales of the night involved a 16-year-old Golson and his piano player buddy, future fellow giant Ray Bryant, having "am sessions" at Golson's house in Philly (he said they were "am sessions" because they weren't good enough to earn the "J" at first). One day, Bryant brought over this shy "country bumpkin" alto player who had just moved into the projects. At first, the new kid didn't want to play, but he did when asked...and he was pretty good. Golson's mother came downstairs and asked the new kid his name, and he told her--John Coltrane! He had several more stories like that; just like with last year's guest, Jimmy Heath, we felt like we were witnessing the entire history of jazz embodied in one person up there on stage.

All in all, it was a great night of music. The encore was an uptempo version of "Blues March" that brought the house to its feet. I could have listened for several more sets, but in the end, I walked away satisfied, knowing that I'd gotten to see and hear one more of the greats.

Oh, and I guess it's time to rent this movie, which features Golson in a speaking part. In a happy coincidence, it just came out on DVD today. Sounds like a great idea for the holidays... (Incidentally, that's not Benny's first foray into filmdom; he's been both a composer and an actor. Read it here.)

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Kev, Live from School? Not These Days...

Today was a totally pointless day of teaching. They decided to do an early dismissal, even though it wasn't listed in the original calendar (in fact, I didn't find out about it until I heard it on the announcements at one of my schools just over a week ago). Perhaps we should have just had this day off...which means we might as well have had the whole week off like we did a few years ago. The teachers I spoke with said not much learning was going on during these two days anyway.

So I raced over to my second middle school, since they decided to slice a little bit off every class (unlike the first one I went to, where the morning classes were normal length and the afternoon ones were cut short). When I got there, I found out that one of the two beginners had to leave in five minutes for an eye appointment and the other one wasn't there at all. Neither of them contacted me about their situations, so....free money for Kev. But now I had time to kill, and I'd forgotten to bring the newspaper in with me. Ahh, the computer in the band office was open--that'll work.

Like most everyplace else, I'm sure, the district has been blocking more and more stuff on its computers lately. It's not just "offensive" material anymore; it's almost reached the point where anything that could be considered fun is taboo. They started blocking web-based email last year, which makes it a major inconvenience for non-district employees like myself to get anything done. But at least I could still visit some of my favorite sites and update my blog...

Oh, wait, scratch that last one. That's right, Blogger can no longer be accessed at school. It's considered a "message board or club" now, and those aren't allowed. I used to have fun doing the occasional "Live from School" post (an idea I got from some of my friends back in their high school webmastering days), but I guess those are no more. I can't quite see what's so subversive about Blogger, but then the ban on web-based email makes no sense to me either. (Oddly enough, however, individual blogs can still be accessed with no problem most of the time.)

So I decided to surf some of my other favorite sites, and some of them were blocked as well, also under the "message boards or clubs" category. Dave Barry's Blog was off-limits, surprisingly. Thankfully, I still was able to read Lileks and Instapundit or I would have gone crazy from boredom.

Oh yeah, and the period after that, another kid skipped without calling. That puts the "free money for Kev" total for the day up to $45.00; nice work if you can get it.

And now I'm on a little break before combo and big band, and then I'll be off to UNT to hear Benny Golson with the One O'Clock. Review to follow, of course.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Regarding the NBA Melee

Unless you've been living in a cave for the past week, you've heard about what happened at the Pistons/Pacers game last Friday. Today, the NBA announced that many of the principal offenders have been suspended (without pay) for some fairly large amounts of time, including the whole season for Ron Artest. It's all over talk radio today, but here's some things I haven't heard about yet, but would like to:

--The players have been disciplined, but what about the offending fans? If the players can be suspended for X-number of games, why can't the fans be banned from the arena for a similar length of time? I sure hope it's not because the NBA doesn't want to alienate its "paying customers"...

--I almost gagged the other night when I heard that the players' union was going to appeal these suspensions. Never mind the fact that the league had to send a strong message like this, lest someone be maimed or killed next time, but this just shows the lunacy of these guys having a union in the first place. C'mon, does anyone think their working conditions are that oppressive?

I'll save my rant for why I don't care for unions later (yes, I grew up, live and work in Texas, a right-to-work state, so that certainly colors my opinions), but they're sure not putting themselves in the best light right now by opposing the league's actions.

Directionally challenged? This morning, while getting coffee at On the Run like I usually do, a young lady came in asking for directions . Being the walking Mapsco that I am, I offered to help. Here's how it went:

Her: How do you get to I-70?
Me: Do you maybe mean U.S. 75? Because I-70 is up in Indiana and Ohio and places like that.
Her: (looks puzzled) Well, I need to get to Arkansas.

I sent her out to I-30 from where we were, but I noticed that she turned out of the parking lot the wrong way; I hope she eventually made it there.

Fraterniversary: Today is the anniversary of my initiation into Sinfonia, a great brotherhood of musicians. I'll drop in on the guys at my home chapter later on tonight.

Blow out the candles: Happy birthday to Dan, a fellow alumnus of said chapter, who's living over in England at the moment.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Eating Tea at Clock Tower

I'm back from the Austin trip. It really wasn't as bad going there and back in one day as I'd thought it might be. The weather wasn't horrible, though there was lots of fog both going and coming. It was a really nice ceremony--very similar to the baby dedications they do in my own church, except that the fathers get to lead the prayers instead of the pastor. The boys were pretty well-behaved throughout the whole thing.

One of the highlights of the trip was getting to hang with Noah, my older nephew, who's really developing a great personality. I've mentioned before about how he's a great conversationalist, especially regarding me and the saxophone. This trip had several more "kids say the darndest things" moments like these:

--When a couple of friends of my sister and brother-in-law's had to leave the post-church lunch, Noah turned to them and said. "You have fun."

--After my younger nephew Caleb came into the kitchen, spinning around and making funny noises, Noah piped up with "Caleb is a wacky baby."

--They made prayer books in Noah's Sunday school class, and some of the pages had blanks they were supposed to fill in. The first page said, "I will pray ________" and Noah put "for a baby snake" in the blank.

Caleb is also talking a little bit now; one of the things he can say is "juice." He also refers to milk as juice, perhaps because he drinks them both out of a similar sippy cup. Of course, Noah pointed out that milk, in a way, is juice...cow juice, that is. Heh.

But one of the best ones came late in the day. Ever since I can remember, my parents will have wine and cheese and crackers at 5:00 in the afternoon, usually while watching the news (although lately it's more likely to be HGTV). They refer to this as "cocktail hour." Noah can't say that yet, so he refers to it as Clock Tower, and he knows that, whenever Grandma and Grandpa visit, they'll have Clock Tower when the big hand is on the twelve and the little hand is on the five. He also knows that they "eat wine" at Clock Tower, and he asked me if I was going to do that as well. Notwithstanding the fact that I don't like wine, I was about to drive back home, so I told him I wasn't. He gave me a quizzical look and asked, "Spwite?" I said yes, though I ultimately opted for juice...and that's regular juice, not cow juice.

Kids are something, huh? Man, when I have some of my own, I'll have to make a separate blog for posts about them just to keep this one from redlining on the Sap-O-Meter.

So here I am, a few days to teach and then chill before I head to Mom and Dad's for Thanksgiving. What a week of driving this will be...

SIGN OF THE DAY: "Please flush twice"-- in the restroom at the church. That seemed most un-Austinlike, considering the conservation-mindedness of that city, but I guess it really was necessary. I was happy to see that nobody had added the middle-school graffito "...it's a long way to the cafeteria" to the sign, which was good, because they actually had a cafeteria only two doors down.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: "If you want any cousins anytime soon, you'll watch where you jump."--Me, to Noah, who was jumping from the table onto my lap and occasionally landing way too close to the family jewels.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Yogi Berra Explains Jazz

Interviewer: Can you explain jazz?
Yogi: I can't, but I will. 90% of all jazz is half improvisation. The other half is the part people play while others are playing something they never played with anyone who played that part. So if you play the wrong part, it's right. If you play the right part, it might be right if you play it wrong enough. But if you play it too right, it's wrong.
Interviewer: I don't understand.
Yogi: Anyone who understands jazz knows that you can't understand it. It's too complicated. That's what's so simple about it.
Interviewer: Do you understand it?
Yogi: No. That's why I can explain it. If I understood it, I wouldn't know anything about it.
Interviewer: Are there any great jazz players alive today?
Yogi: No. All the great jazz players alive today are dead. Except for the ones that are still alive. But so many of them are dead, that the ones that are still alive are dying to be like the ones that are dead.
Interviewer: What is syncopation?
Yogi: That's when the note that you should hear now happens either before or after you hear it. In jazz, you don't hear notes when they happen because that would be some other type of music. Other types of music can be jazz, but only if they're the same as something different from those other kinds.
Interviewer: Now I really don't understand.
Yogi: I haven't taught you enough for you to not understand jazz that well.

(The above came in an email I received yesterday, and the funny thing is, a lot of it really does make sense.)

No explanation needed for this jazz: Halfling and I made it to The Jam last night, eventually. We were late in leaving here, and it took a while to find a parking place, but we did catch the last hour of it (that would be 2 until 3 a.m., incidentally). The whole vibe was much more relaxed than I had anticipated (somehow, I had pictured all the local young lions locking horns, if you'll forgive the mismatched animal metaphors); everyone was just up there playing and having a good time. As the lady in charge said at one point, where else could you hear such great music, for free, with no cigarette smoke in the air? The next one is in January and we'll be back for sure.

Alex was there, also for the first time, and he joined me and Halfling for 4 a.m. breakfast at Cafe Brazil. Amazingly enough, the place was still packed at that hour. I've never seen it slow in there. By the time Halfling and I turned in, it was nearly 6 a.m. Just the way a night of jazz should be...

And now, I'm hittin' it early for once: Here it is, a Saturday night just past eleven, and I'm sitting at home and nearly ready for bed. No, I'm not sick (in fact, last week's allergy problem is much better, thanks); it's just that I have a day trip to Austin that starts really early tomorrow. My two adorably cute nephews are going through "baby dedication" at their church in the morning, and the whole rest of the family will be there. It'll be a nice-but-short visit, since I have lessons to teach on Monday morning. I think the late night last night has actually succeeded in making me tired now, so I'll stop here and continue my thoughts when I'm back.

Blowing out the candles: Happy birthday to Jim--fraternity brother, teaching colleague, brand-new father and regular reader of this blog.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

A New Twist on Brazilian Jazz

I got to see a great concert last night featuring Dave Pietro and Banda Brazil. (They were appearing as guests at the TCU fall combo concert; Micah invited me to the show, and we managed to get there just in time to hear his combo. Among their numbers was a funky original by Micah that was dedicated to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles--really, the horns even wore the different-colored headbands.) Dave, a fine alto player, is a UNT alumnus and one of many people I went to school with who have become well-known in the world of jazz. He spent ten years as the lead alto for the Toshiko Akiyoshi Jazz Orchestra and has also toured with Maria Schneider's big band.

It was a Schneider tour that took him to Brazil several years ago, and he said his life hasn't been the same since. His newest CD, Embrace, features a fusion of Dave's odd-meter-laced originals with the traditional sounds of Brazil. (This new CD is a followup to 2001's Standard Wonder, featuring new takes on Stevie Wonder originals. Micah turned me onto that a couple years ago after Dave's previous visit to TCU.)

While Dave didn't bring the entire band from the CD (which featured 13 people), all his cohorts were originally from Brazil and now live in either Boston or New York. Pianist Helio Alves was a carryover from the recording, but the new guys formed a cohesive unit, deftly navigating the challenging material that sometimes changed meters on a dime while keeping the Brazilian rhythms intact. I was especially impressed with the work of percussionist/vocalist Pedro Ito, who played a barrage of instruments, from congas and hand drums to the more exotic cuica and berimbau. We also noticed at the end that his whole body was used as a percussion instrument--there was a little green shaker attached to the back of his right shoe, and he raised his left pants leg to reveal a set of bells wrapped around his lower calf. We were sitting closer to him than anyone else, and it really was the best seat in the house.

Afterwards, Dave told me and Halfling that it was a real challenge adapting his concept to existing Brazilian rhythmic material (he was emphatic in not wanting to just do the typical "American jazz guy goes Brazilian" thing by playing a bunch of Jobim tunes or something), because certain things he was used to doing wouldn't work with what the rhythm section was doing. He said it was like being back at square one again; we thought his square one was pretty amazing.

And yes, I bought the CD. You should too.

Just say no to drums? Tonight in combo, there was no drummer. He's usually a really responsible guy, but the pianist said she saw him earlier in the day and he'd looked like death warmed over, so maybe he went home sick. We pretty much made it through everything without much trouble; after all, everyone is supposed to be responsible for keeping time, so it was a good exercise.

We also had some fun with it:
Trading fours with the air--We have one tune where we wanted to trade fours with the drums, so we just played it as usual and left a blank space where his spot should have been. Everyone pretty much came in on time, so that worked.

Heavy metal be-bop?--The vocal arrangement of "Night and Day" pretty much requires some sort of drumming, since it alternates between rhumba and swing, so I did the honors on a music stand. (In case you have to try this at home, a Wenger stand works way better than a Manhasset--the thicker metal makes for a beefier sound.)

Pump up the jam: Tomorrow night, Halfling and I should be checking out The Jam in South Dallas; I'll have a full report afterwards.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Hmm, This Might ADD Up to Something

Earlier today, I was talking with a friend who's going into the military at the end of the school year. He's already doing some pre-training stuff, and one of the stipulations was that he had to stop taking his ADD medicine before he entered the program. I asked him how that was working out, and he said, as a matter of fact, he was having no problems at all. Sometimes he had to remind himself to concentrate in classes, but otherwise, it was all good.

He also talked about a book that, among other things, states that men really are wired differently than women, especially in the way they learn. Basically what it says is that we're more into activity rather than passivity; we're not programmed to sit still and take notes and all that for a long period of time, and perhaps the reason that so many more guys are (mis-?) diagnosed with ADD is because they're just being guys!

I haven't read the book yet--though I will when I have time (Christmas? summer?)--but it sure makes me think about a few things: First, I wonder how many kids are hopped up on happy pills for all the wrong reasons, and second, I'm really glad that they didn't know too much about all that when I was a kid.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

I Am a Perpetual-Motion Machine

Wow, such a long time between posts again. But what a week this was--busy, busy, busy. I'll hit the highlights:

--The Hang™ was a bit different this week, as it started with Halfling's concert band concert. It was only the second time I'd ever seen "legit" at the Murchison (the first time was a middle-school band festival, of all things), and it was nice to watch my old buddy Nick direct "indoors" for a change (he, of course, also leads the Green Brigade marching band). From there, it was Lab Band Night as usual, as the Six O'Clock became the 257th at least the fourth lab band this semester to play "F.M." One highlight of this one was when J-Guar busted out the bell set for the last part of the tune.

--Thursday was a personal record of dubious distinction, as I endured a--get ready--seventeen-hour work day! It started at 7:30 a.m. with school lessons, then I taught at the college all afternoon and evening till 8:15, and I capped off the day with a 3 1/2-hour gig at Django with Shelley's big band. It was a lot of fun, but not nearly as crowded as over the summer. That ended at 12:30 in the morning, and I had to teach at 7:30 the next morning as well.

--There was no rest for the weary on Friday either, as Chris Vadala was in town for a performance with the TI Band, but he was also made available to clinic the college band. (If you're unfamiliar with him, he runs the jazz program at the University of Maryland and has performed with all kinds of people, though he made his name with the Chuck Mangione group in the "Feels So Good" days--but he's way more versatile than those recordings might indicate.) He had a lot of good stuff to say and really liked my soprano feature. From there, I hauled up to Denton for a Sinfonia ceremony and then hung with Halfling afterwards (he beat me a game in bowling, among other things).

--Saturday was also full, and no chance to sleep in either, as Vadala gave a special clinic just for saxes. He had a lot of great stuff to say and had some really cool handouts of stuff that should keep me in practice material for a year.

Oh, and the Mean Green beat Idaho that night, which means that another trip to the New Orleans Bowl is in the offing next month.

That takes me to today, just trying to catch up on stuff. I'm really happy that there's only a little over a week until Thanksgiving break.

QUOTE OF THE WEEKEND: "If you don't have some sort of connection to the melody, you might as well get on a jet and fly as far away from that tune as possible."--Chris Vadala, on the melodic aspect of improvisation.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

OK, This is the First Step of Many, But....

...it's still cool. The Jazz Camp CD has been submitted to NARAS for a Grammy nomination in the jazz-large ensemble category. There are still several more layers to go through before it would become a finalist, but no matter what happens, it's pretty awesome. Just imagine this thing played out to the end, as in us winning and Ed doing an acceptance speech...TV would never be the same.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

'Tis the Season...Already??

Yesterday, while on my Starbucks break between schools, a prematurely festive thing occurred: I got my mocha in one of those red, snowflake-emblazoned holiday cups. That's right, it was just five days into November--when leftover Halloween candy is still lying around most houses--and someone's using the Christmas stuff already!

I know we can blame the retail industry for this apparent seamlessness of the fall holidays; I guess they can't stand to not be celebrating something (granted, there aren't too many Veterans Day decorations, though it could certainly be argued that we should make a bigger deal out of that holiday than we do). Halloween candy goes on the shelves right after Labor Day, and the Christmas decorations follow hot on the heels of Halloween. I saw a few houses with those orange Halloween lights up last week; I wonder how many of them change out the bulbs for Christmas ones in a few weeks, and I wonder how many people use Halloween as an excuse for leaving the light strings up all year.

It seems like it was simpler when I was a kid; in Houston, the Foley's Thanksgiving Day Parade marked the beginning of the Christmas season. Santa was the last float in the parade, and when he got to Foley's, he climbed out of his sleigh and into an upstairs entrance to the store. You'd never see a Christmas advertisement before that weekend. But now, I wouldn't be surprised if someone has their trees out already, as if Thanksgiving is being totally bypassed. (OK, I did see a huge inflatable turkey in someone's front yard today.)

Part of me says, ehh, it's a sign of the times. The other part of me wants to mildly panic, because I'm not even sure where I'm going for Thanksgiving this year (I'm assuming Mom and Dad's; it just depends on how Dad is doing in recovering from his hip replacement, I suppose), so how can it be almost Christmas? I think this happens to busy folks like me--the holidays can just sneak up on you sometimes.

But one thing is for sure: if I hear "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer" in any retail establishment before the end of this month, I think I'll scream.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Checking In

Wow...four days since my last post. Anyone who doesn't see me regularly in person probably thought I got abducted by aliens...

Actually, it's just been a really busy week. I was up way, way too late on Tuesday night watching the election returns; it's a good thing that only happens every four years. As you know, I don't talk politics on this blog (it has to do with being a teacher, since we're supposed to at least give the appearance of being apolitical), but suffice it to say, with the race as close as it was, I was on pins and needles like most of the rest of the country that night.

Last night, I had enough Latin music for the next month or so, I think; I was at the Syndicate for Lab Band Night during The Hang™, except this week, it was two specialty ensembles: the Jazz Repertory Ensemble (or Jazz Rep for short) and the Latin Ensemble. Jazz Rep was extremely cool; this semester, they're focusing on the music of Brazilian composer Hermeto Pascoal. It was great stuff, varying in texture from a three-horn combo to a full big band with vocalist (the vocalist, by the way, was all kinds of amazing; her being in the band was almost like having a second lead trumpet, and she did lots of interesting things with her voice). The Latin ensemble came out and did, well...more Latin stuff. They definitely had some cool rhythm section stuff going on, but after 2 1/2 hours of the same genre, Halfling and I were all Latin-ed out.

Today was the last Thursday to sleep in late, as the public schools that are on trimesters change their schedules next week...but even though The Hang™ will have to end a bit earlier, it will also likely be able to start earlier too, as Marathon Wednesday should be reduced by an hour or so.

And that brings us up to now; not much else going on at the moment. Oh, check "Upcoming Gigs" portion of the sidebar; Shelley's doing the big band thang again next week at Django.

(I might add in a Quote of the Day if I can remember what it was...man, I'm tired. Heh.)