Monday, January 31, 2005

It Was a Great Place to Play

It's now official--Ke Davi is no more.

I'm not sure exactly when the sign taped to the front door changed from "closed for remodeling" to "the landlord has changed the locks," but I read that sign this afternoon when I was in the area. Needless to say, I'm really sorry to see the place go.

It's hard to make a go of it when you're running an independent business like that; I'm not sure what the failure rate is of new food-and/or-drink establishments, but I bet it's a pretty high number. I'd hope that Plano, where there is a Starbucks on nearly every corner (and one intersection with three all by itself!), still has room for a few homegrown coffee shops.

This place definitely had its own style. It was owned by three Asian guys, and they featured the "boba tea" drinks so popular among Asian teens, but it never felt like a niche market; everyone was welcome. They had lots of games (chess, board games, etc.) available, as well as free computer terminals with Internet access. Oh yeah, and the guys were all very much into sports cars. We'd see one or two of them parked out front every time we were there.

But of course, the reason the place stood out for me is that they had room for live music, encouraged it, and were willing to take a chance on an unknown band like Team Demon/Dingus as well as my college groups. Granted, I'd met the owners when I sat in with 15th Street Jazz back in '03, and being a professor down the street must have helped, but it was still cool that we were able to play there pretty much whenever we wanted to. It was cool that we pretty much packed the place whenever we did, and I'm sorry that we weren't able to tell enough people about the place to keep it afloat.

As I said the other day, TD/D is looking for new places to play, but we'll always remember Ke Davi as the place we got started. I'm sorry it didn't last any longer, but I'm glad it was there for a while. And to Kenny, Danny and Vinh (now you know where the place's name came from), thanks and good luck with your future endeavors.

Weird news story of the day: This week's Sports Illustrated reports that, in Norway, the hand sign that we in Texas know as "Hook 'em Horns" is considered a salute to the devil. The day after the inauguration, a Norwegian newspaper ran a photo of presidential daughter Jenna Bush flashing the hook-em sign with the headline SHOCK GREETING FROM BUSH DAUGHTER. I wonder if UNT's "eagle talons" sign is offensive anywhere in the world...

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Art + Commerce = A Good Thing, In This Case

I read a good article in the DMN today about Bruce Orr, a former advertising executive who founded the nonprofit Social Marketing Resource Center, whose Texas Music Project has produced a series of CD's entitled Don't Mess With Texas Music (in two volumes) and Don't Mess With la Musica de Tejas. All the music has been donated to the project by 57 artists all having Texas connections of some sort. TMEA is a major partner in the project, and the CD's are available at most Starbucks locations in the state.

It was really heartening to see someone from the business world give a great amount of credit to music education in his own development. My favorite question from the interview:
Did music make you a better CEO?
Clearly. Probably in lots of ways I don't know. The research is clear: music education enhances all other learning systems in the body and the mind. It contributes to increases and better performances in math, through better understanding of fractions, and reading.
Students who participate in band perform in higher levels of interesting and creative problem-solving. It helps keep people in school, and while they are there, they develop a tolerance for other nationalities.
I'd say the usual "read the whole thing," but the location on the DMN website where the article should be leads only to a blank page...but try clicking it anyway--maybe it's fixed by now.

As I've said before, music education does provide a certain set of benefits to the student which can't be replicated in traditional subject-matter classes. However, it's easy for people to lose sight of this fact when they're about to swing the budget-cutting axe in the favor of a "back-to-basics" approach. Though business and the arts sometimes mix like oil and water, it's great to see someone from the business world championing music education in such a big way. To revive an old TMEA (I think) catchphrase, music is basic in Texas (and everywhere else, for that matter).

Weekend updates: The first few weeks of school took me away from the computer even more than usual, but this weekend has been a good time to catch up. I have finally made comments to James's political post on American Australian Fun (and also Divulged twice while Blogging Down Under), and even more shockingly, made a new post on the TD/D blog about a good possibility of the band's awakening from its winter hibernation. And in an even more shocking development, I plan to work on my transcription tonight...

QUOTE OF THE DAY: "If you love some instrument, if you like the sound of it, it's like no other sound. It's really yours. It comes from deep within, and it's something you can always connect with inside. How good can that be? Your music, your sound--it's your friend for life. You can express how you feel, send yourself into the larger world. You will always have that voice. That's a pretty powerful thing."--cellist Yo-Yo Ma, in today's Parade Magazine. This really was a good Sunday paper as far as music is concerned.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Someone's Not Getting the Picture

There's been a lot of discussion this week on the use of red-light cameras, which have been in existence where I live for a couple of years now. InstaPundit mentions it here and here, the latter of which quotes a study done in Virginia and reported on here which came up with some interesting, if predictable, results:
A brand new, exhaustive study of all seven Virginia red light camera programs shows an overall increase in injury accidents has occurred where the devices are installed...Despite a distinct sympathy in favor of camera enforcement, the researchers found a "definite" increase in rear-end accidents and only a "possible" decrease in angle accidents. Most importantly, the net effect was that more injuries happened after cameras are installed.
I tend to strongly agree with these results, since they're totally consistent with what happened in my wreck last March. The existence of the cameras in the area (though, unbeknownst to me at the time, not at that particular intersection) was a factor in my stopping for the yellow light instead of racing through it, and it occurred to me soon afterwards that something allegedly designed for safety had in fact made it more dangerous for me that morning. The Virginia study (which is consistent with others done elsewhere) shows that I'm not the only one who's been affected by this. I guess the real question is, does anyone really think that the presence of the cameras is all about safety, or is it, like I've mentioned before in my traffic ticket quota rant, really about making money for the city/county/state? I'm sure there'll be more discussion on this subject as time goes on.

Now I've heard everything: Last night's Clark Howard Show reported on the newest electronic gadget for overindulgent animal lovers: Cell phones for pets. While I'll admit that the GPS function could come in handy if the pet runs away, I think I'd draw the line at shelling out money so that Tasha could "hear my reassuring voice" while I'm on vacation.

Friday, January 28, 2005

Spare the Rod Tazer, Spoil the Child?

Heard a weird/scary story on yesterday's Benajmin Dover show about a father who used a stun gun to discipline his 14-year-old son. Here's an excerpt:
Meet Douglas Dycus. The 40-year-old Florida man was charged yesterday with felony child abuse and domestic battery for allegedly using a stun gun to discipline his 14-year-old son. Dycus, an engineer with a Palm Beach firm, admitted to cops that he used the electrical device on the boy when the child was wrestling with a brother and holding up the family's departure from their home last month. Instead of pulling the boys apart, Dycus--who said the children were "not listening"--went to his dresser drawer and pulled out the stun gun, which he used to zap his son on the arm.
As always, read the whole thing.

Now, I think most reasonable people would agree that using the stun gun was excessive, but the radio show did raise the question of how much, if any, corporal punishment is even allowed to be used today before the parents get brought up on charges. Spank the kids at school, and the lawyers come running in; spank them at home, and Child Protective Services may take them away from you. But the question is this: How much discipline is too much, and does physical discipline have a place in today's society?

I'll admit that I don't have an answer on this one, and, as someone who's not a parent yet, I probably lack the perspective to have a truly balanced opinion as it is. I think I may well be a fence-sitter on this, because I really can see two sides to the story: One, it makes me really uncomfortable to see someone smacking the crap out of their kid in a public place (and causes me to wonder what goes on when nobody's looking), and I certainly agree that the potential for abuse exists if parents use corporal punishment out of anger instead of as a disciplinary device. But on the other hand, it seems like the threat of a whippin' provided the smallest element of fear in a kid that I don't necessarily see in young people today. Just knowing that there might be a (physically) painful aftermath seemed to deter some truly bad behavior when I was a kid, and yes, I saw the business end of my mom's Kappa Delta paddle way too many times for a while there. As many adults would add to that last statement, "but I turned out OK," yet I'm sure there were contemporaries of mine who were truly abused in such a manner and are passing that behavior on to their own kids.

So let me throw this one out to the readers (and since I now have Site Meter, I know there are more than "the four of you" that I always joke about): 1) Does anyone not think that using the stun gun was going overboard, and 2) Would the return of corporal punishment act as an effective deterrent to bad behavior in the home and the school? Anyone can comment, but if you're not registered with Blogger and are using the "anonymous" mode, please identify yourself in the body of your comment.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Funnies of the Day

This came to me in an email today:

FREE YORKSHIRE TERRIER. 8 years old. Hateful little dog. Bites.

FREE PUPPIES: 1/2 Cocker Spaniel, 1/2 sneaky neighbor's dog.

FREE PUPPIES..... Part German Shepherd, part stupid dog.

GERMAN SHEPHERD 85 lbs. Neutered. Speaks German. Free.

FOUND: DIRTY LITTLE WHITE DOG. Looks like a rat... been outdoors
for awhile.........better be reward.

COWS, CALVES: NEVER BRED. Also 1 gay bull for sale

NORDIC TRACK $300 Hardly used, call Chubby

GEORGIA PEACHES, California grown - 89 cents lb.

NICE PARACHUTE: Never opened - used once.

JOINING NUDIST COLONY! Must sell washer and dryer $300.


and the best one...

Complete set of Encyclopedia Britannica. 45 volumes.
Excellent condition. $1000 or best offer. No longer
needed. Just got married last month. Wife knows everything.

(Courtesy of my fraternity brother Marc, one of my generous hosts on the '03 New Orleans Bowl trip. Oddly enough, my other host that night, also named Marc, had emailed it to him before that.)

The big bands are back: Another semester of Lab Band Night at the Syndicate started with the One O'Clock last night, which means that The Hang™ has returned to its usual location for a while. One of the cool things was that, up until the second-to-last chart, everything that the One played all night was something I'd played before (that penultimate tune was a new composition from Lab 2004, so obviously I haven't gotten to play it yet). It was totally packed, and, for the second time in as many Lab Band Nights (going back to the end of last semester, of course), they played "Machito" to close out the night. Good times...

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

The Cool Concert Tour

There are a lot of really good jazz concerts going on in my general vicinity this spring, and Halfling and I decided to catch as many of them as possible. Not all of them are in Dallas, but they are at least within a five-hour drive of here. Though we had even more possibilities, we narrowed it down to four (five, if you count Diane Schuur last Saturday):

February 24: Phil Woods with the One O'Clock Lab Band and the UNT Faculty Combo (Winspear Hall, Murchison Performing Arts Center). A no-brainer; gotta catch this legend one more time.
March 12: "Directions in Music" featuring Michael Brecker, Herbie Hancock and Roy Hargrove, Cullen Theatre, Houston (yes, the same show is coming to Ft. Worth's Bass Hall two days earlier, but I have a conflict with a night class I'm teaching, plus Mom and Dad live in Houston).
UPDATE: Actually, we got the conflict resolved by turning the Bass Hall performance into a field trip for the combo, so we'll be catching it here on the 10th and saving the Houston trip for another time.
March 13: Pat Metheny Group, Nokia Theatre, Grand Prairie. I missed their last swing through town a few years ago and definitely wanted to catch them this time. Besides, the new CD (The Way Up, out yesterday, review coming soon) is really cool.
April 16: Kenny Garrett, Bates Recital Hall, UT-Austin. It's been a few years since I've seen him too, and, like all of the above, it'll be the first time for Halfling.

This has been in the planning stages for a while, but I didn't want to jinx it by posting about it before the tickets were all saved up for and I didn't want others to buy all of them up before that time (heh). But now they're all on the way, so I figured I'd share the news in case others didn't know about these shows. Reviews to follow, no doubt.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Remembering the King of Late Night

I'm sure there are already hundreds of tributes to Johnny Carson all over the Internet by now, but I couldn't let his passing yesterday go unmentioned. Even though he'd been off the air for nearly thirteen years now, it seemed like he had always been around (and would be around forever), and it's really weird to know that he's not. Everyone talks about the youthful rite of passage when you're finally deemed "old enough" to stay up and watch The Tonight Show, and to some extent, that's still true today, though the TV audience is way more fragmented. When Carson took over from Jack Paar in 1962, there were three major networks--a mere pittance compared to the 500-odd channels (and yes, some of them are quite odd) available now. That meant that major TV shows would have a much more comprehensive audience than they do now, so Carson in his heyday really did have a certain stature that a Leno or Letterman or Conan can't match with their smaller, more specialized groups of fans.

I remember my own "rite of passage" quite well: the cool feeling to finally have a "big person's" bedtime; the nervous moments of laughter at a slightly off-color joke that I wasn't sure I wanted Mom and Dad to know that I understood yet; and oh yeah, how was it that someone named "Johnny" (a little kids' name in more-formal times) had white hair?

And yet, despite the coolness of being able to stay up late and watch it, there may have been a time when younger audiences rebelled against Carson in favor of younger, edgier comics. They might find themselves "grown up" and say that Carson suddenly lacked a bit of cool, but, as Lileks points out in today's Bleat, Carson ultimately had this sense of timelessness that gave his material a transcendent sort of coolness. If you were to watch some of his old shows today (which I can do, owning the "best of" collection on VHS), sure, you might laugh at the hideous checked suits he'd wear at times (surpassed in garishness only by the loud pink numbers Doc sometimes wore), and some of the topical humor would have younger viewers scratching their heads, but when it came down to it, his material will last because, corny bits and all, it was just so danged funny.

Personal favorite memories of the Carson-era Tonight Show? Hmm--let me think: "Stump the Band" for sure; the times when he'd make a soap opera out of camera shots of unsuspecting audience members; Carnac the Magnificent. Oh yeah, and anything involving animals. I'll never forget those visits from Joan Embery of the San Diego Zoo, and Johnny's reaction to the various creatures that she would bring to crawl all over him and his desk (especially the marmoset that relieved itself on his head). When the animals did unpredictable things, the looks he'd get on his face were priceless.

I always tape Leno's Headlines on Monday night, so hopefully I'll be able to catch a little tribute on the show tonight. He had a good five minutes when Jack Paar passed away a while back, so I expect an even bigger segment today. One thing's for sure--Carson left a legacy that won't be matched anytime soon; Letterman nailed it when he said, "All of us who came after him are pretenders. We will not see the likes of him again."

Oh yeah, and if I had a big band, they'd be playing Rob McConnell's "A Tribute to Art Fern" (named after one of Carson's most popular characters) this semester.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

A Great Evening for Schuur

Halfling and I saw another amazingly good concert last night when Diane Schuur visited Brookhaven College. It was his first time to see her, and mine too, for all practical purposes (I'll explain that in a minute).

Schuur is a gifted singer (and a fine pianist) with a great set of pipes and a three-and-a-half-octave range. She's most at home on ballads and blues, but she really has the ability to make just about any song her own. Though she's been blind since birth, she manages to sing and play both piano and keyboard at the same time and does a great job on all three. She also possesses an amazing set of ears (as evidenced by her trading licks with the tenor player on one of the Latin numbers). Her small band (tenor sax, bass, drums) followed her through a variety of styles, including several from her forthcoming CD, Schuur Fire, recorded with something called the Caribbean Jazz Project.

She opened the evening with "Deedles' Blues" from her acclaimed recording with the Count Basie Orchestra (Deedles being her longtime nickname and the title of her first CD). Other highlights included Stevie Wonder's "As," the standards "Teach Me Tonight," "The Man I Love" and "The Very Thought of You," and a Latinized version of "I Can't Stop Loving You," which sounded from its intro like it was going to be about a girl from Ipanema.

She was definitely having a great time up there; at one point, her escort came out onstage so she could step away from the piano and dance with him during an extended solo. The evening had a loose, relaxed feel to it, as she would give little instructions to her bandmates and crack jokes between tunes. (At one point, she said she would raise her left hand when she wanted an extended drum solo to end, following it up by invoking the old deodorant commercial, saying "Raise your hands if you're Schuur...which I am!") The fun definitely extended to the near-sellout crowd, of which (surprisingly to us) we were some of the youngest members.

Oh, and as far as the backstory goes: I'd attempted to see her about eight years ago at Caravan of Dreams, but I was at a major fraternity function where someone decided to hijack the meeting with his own personal agenda, which resulted in things running way overtime. That night, my friend and I ended up leaving Denton after the concert in Ft. Worth had already started, and we got there with only one tune left. It was a gorgeous a capella version of "Over the Rainbow," and it was amazing, but it only whetted our appetites at best.

So tonight, it was a perfect ending when, after her band left the stage, she was once again standing alone at the microphone, doing the exact same song as before. There couldn't have beena better way to put the bow on this musical gift...but thankfully, this time we had the whole concert to go with it as well.

UPDATE: Halfling weighs in on the concert as well, filling in some of the details I left out. We're good like that...

Another of the greatest graduation speeches you'll never hear: A while back, I found a really good essay entitled the Neal Boortz Commencement Speech, which I talked about on here. Yesterday, I found another one which, like Boortz's, was written but never delivered (in this case, because the school authorities vetoed the plan to invite him for some reason). It's from essayist Paul Graham, and it's entitled What You'll Wish You'd Known. Check it out; it's a good read, and as practical as Boortz's is political.

QUOTE OF THE DAY (ONLINE VERSION): "[I]f you're over 14 and half your friends are within 5 years of your own age, you're doing something wrong. Widsom and expertise will come to you from a wide range of people."--From a Slashdot reader's comments to the Graham essay. I've certainly always believed this...

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Concert with a Cause

There have been many recent concerts to raise funds for relief from the South Asian tsunami, but there's one that I'd like to tout, because it's at my alma mater and actually includes some jazz. Here's a clip from the press release:

Where: Sunday, January 23rd, at 8 p.m. in Winspear Hall of the Murchison Performing Arts Center.

Who: College of Music jazz faculty ensemble (Mike Steinel, trumpet, Jim Riggs, saxophone, John Murphy, saxophone, Tony Baker, trombone, Stefan Karlsson, piano, Fred Hamilton, guitar, Ed Soph, drums, and Lynn Seaton, bass); UNT One O'Clock Lab Band (Neil Slater, director); College of Music Faculty Brass Quintet (John Holt, trumpet, Keith Johnson, trumpet, William Scharnberg, horn, Tony Baker, trombone, Brian Bowman, euphonium, and Donald Little, tuba) performing Mendelssohn & Brahms; and the UNT A Cappella Choir (Dr. Jerry McCoy, director), who will perform works by Mendelssohn and Ginastera. Also featured: the world premiere of "Panggul Interlace Dua" by Ed Smith, which will performed by I-Jen Fang and Smith on a "gender wayang," an Indonesian instrument.

Admission is free, but donations are requested.
For the moment, the entire press release can be found on the front page of the UNT Jazz Studies website.

One of the driving forces behind this concert is the relationship between UNT and the King of Thailand, His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who lost a grandson in the disaster. All proceeds from the concert will be donated to the American Red Cross in memory of the grandson, Poomi Jensen. As I noted in last year's Lab Band Madness post, the One O'Clock Lab Band went to Thailand last spring break, where the king, a talented multi-instrumentalist and composer, received an honorary doctorate from UNT and sat in with the band, which returned the favor by playing one of his compositions at Madness a few weeks later.

Anyway, just wanted to pass the word along, as this should be a good one.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Something's Brewing in Austin

The Texas Legislature is in session, which means anything can happen, including a whole slew of unusual bills brought before the body. From what I heard on the Benjamin Dover show today, here are a couple of them (and in a rather Dave Barryesque moment, they all have to do with beer):

--House Bill 193 will require registration of all beer kegs purchased in the state. The purchaser will have to sign a sworn affidavit stating that, not only is he/she 21 years old, but that he/she will not serve any of the contents of that keg to underage guests.

--House Bill 36 (referred to as the "birthday binge drinking" bill) would prohibit the sale of alcohol to anyone on their 21st birthday between the hours of 12 midnight and 7 a.m., and House Bill 38 would limit the amount of alcohol contained in a single drink served by a retail establishment to no more than half an ounce.

(All three bills are sponsored by Rep. Rob Eissler, a Republican from The Woodlands. An overview of these issues can be found here.)

It's easy enough to understand the sentiment behind these bills, particularly HB 36, which was filed at the request of one of Eissler's constituents who lost her son to a night of binge-drinking on the night that he turned 21. But think about these bills a little more, and the potential problems start cropping up: Once you register the keg, the authorities have your address; what's to keep the police from showing up at your party? (Keep in mind that the "you" of which I speak is a general "you," as I haven't hosted a keg party since college and certainly have no plan to do so in the future.) The kegs will also be marked with an identification number at the point of purchase; such a number could be used to punish the buyer if the keg was confiscated at a party where minors were being served.

Sure, these bills mean well. But, like the proposal to legalize sobriety checkpoints, my concern is that they will put too much power in the hands of law enforcement and provided too great a temptation to abuse that power. Seeing as how cops already target young drivers (for the "violation" I refer to as DWT, or Driving While Teenaged), I could see things getting out of hand really quickly if they started staking out the residences of those who recently purchased a keg. Besides, there are already laws on the books which punish drunk drivers and those who serve alcohol to minors; do we really need any more such laws?

I have no doubt that Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) is behind a lot of this, and it's really hard in a way to bash on MADD; it's kind of like kicking a puppy. I too am against drunk drivers (to the point where I've wrestled keys away from people in the past), but it seems like MADD won't be satisfied until everyone stops drinking altogether. Am I wrong here? Isn't there a middle ground somewhere, or does the government have to get this involved to properly solve this problem? It just seems like the responsible people are being punished for the transgressions of a few...

Let freedom ring...everywhere I got to hear a bit of President Bush's inaugural speech on the radio today. One of the main themes was the importance of the spread of democracy and liberty throughout the world. It really reinforces the idea I pitched a while back that the United Nations should be replaced with a League of Democracies of sorts. Again, nobody would be forced to join, but if a nation wished to continue under totalitarian rule, they'd forfeit their place in the community of "civilized" people. Considering the oil-for-food scandal and all that, could such a league do any worse that the U.N. has done lately?

QUOTE OF THE DAY: An exchange during one of my jazz combos, where we have an awesome new vocalist (names omitted to protect the goofy)...

ALTO DUDE: You sound like someone, we're trying to figure out who.
TENOR DUDE: Yeah, you definitely sound familiar.
ALTO DUDE: I got it! Do you ever listen to Incubus?

(Say whaaaaaaat?? Incidentally, it turned out that her favorite singer is Astrud Gilberto, who is only slightly stylistically different from Incubus.)

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

A First Day Primer in List Form

The good things that happened on the first day of the college semester:

--Got a righteously good parking place, despite coming in earlier than usual (and thus closer to the height of the student population on campus).
--Found an open copy machine on the first try and got four tunes and a set of syllabi copied in about half an hour (never mind the fact that the syllabus was for the wrong combo and one of the tunes was missing a page of a drum part; I blame that on the lady who came up and asked me how much longer I was going to be on the machine).
--We were only missing one person in combo, and his part (piano) could be covered by others (two guitars).
--Thanks to my "sabbatical" from big band, I got to finish the working part of the day at 5:00. That's barely a nine-and-a-half-hour day (I'm such a slacker!).

The not-so-good things that happened on the first day:

--I missed one of my before-school beginners because there was a last-minute faculty meeting and he got locked out of the band hall.
--I missed two more beginners at my next school because they went on a field trip and didn't bother to call me. (At least that's "free money for Kev" unless they have a really, really good reason for not calling.)

Hmm, I think that's it in the negative column. It is interesting that, on this weirdest of teaching days (Tuesdays are all middle school and college--no high school), all the good things happened at the college and all the bad things happened at the middle schools. I wonder what that means...that teaching college is more fun? Maybe...but they each have their rewards. At any rate, the first day is done, and I'm looking forward to a good semester.

A good kind of Murphy's Law: I found out a few weeks ago, when we went to hear John Murphy play at Kirby's, that he's an occasional reader of this blog. In the process of putting up links to that post, I ran across his faculty website, and it turns out to be quite "bloggy" itself. I've visited it from time to time, and today's post was quite interesting; it's called How to Have an Argument. Here's a sample:
Intellectual life...centers around three activities: listening closely to others, summarizing them in a fair and accurate way, and making your own argument.

Making an argument means making your own point about a question that is important to a community of researchers. It's different from describing, or telling a story, although these kinds of writing and talking play a role in making an argument.

The reason students remain clueless about the intellectual life of the academy is that they don't get introduced or welcomed into the culture of ideas and arguments, a culture in which one of the central forms of discourse is "whereas X argues _____, I argue _____." They don't get introduced to this culture because too many academics take it for granted. They count on a lucky few students to figure it out for themselves, and from this segment of the student population comes the next generation of intellectuals.
As always, read the whole thing.

John is a cool guy who's a great musician and into all kinds of interesting things, so I highly recommend his site, and I'm happy to add it to the sidebar over here.

Monday, January 17, 2005

The Real Start of the Semester

Classes at the college begin tomorrow, so for yours truly, the semester starts in earnest. I've been spoiled by these Tuesday and Thursday (or "TR" in college schedule-speak) afternoons off, but the long days are now imminent.

Granted, this semester will be a bit more "chill" than the fall; I'm taking the semester off from big band, as there are enough qualified student players to fill the section. I'm still on board for the trip and will likely be doing some guest spots at random times as well. My Wednesday night class is not looking like it will make either, so I won't be completely running myself into the ground on that day. However, it looks like a few of the holes in my public-school schedule are about to be filled, so there should be plenty of activities to keep me out of trouble and off the streets (or on them, actually, getting from place to place).

At any rate, the last two weeks, with their lazy afternoons, were just an appetizer; the meat of the semester starts in the morning.

It's more than just a day off: Today may be really early in the semester for a holiday, but I didn't hear anyone complaining about it. Like many such days, it's easy to consider it just another day off without thinking about the reason for the celebration. Many others in the blogosphere have waxed eloquently about Dr. King and his legacy, so I won't try to duplicate their efforts and will instead point you to a couple of the better essays I've read today, including this one by Jonathan Tilove about Condoleeza Rice (in a way, her rise to prominence is the exact embodiment of Dr. King's dream, yet she remains a controversial figure in some circles) and another one by Jeff Goldstein which debates the importance of race vs. national identity. (Both via Instapundit)

UPDATE: I just found a link to an audio file of Dr. King's speech, of which I read a transcript for the first time in a long while. Hear it here.

Are conservative students "left out" in college culture? Not as much as you might think, according to this article.

A Thai score: I had Thai food for the first time last night, and I really liked it. Halfling had raved about this little place called Oriental Garden (located right across from campus, in a building which had housed a Mr. Gatti's and a Schlotzsky's in my college days), and I finally got to go along. Though it's certainly similar to Chinese food in many ways, the spices and sauces are a little different. The prices were really inexpensive; we ate for just over six bucks apiece, which included a really interesting appetizer. (It was called a basil roll--a bunch of lettuce and what-not wrapped in rice paper with a big basil leaf on top. It really didn't have any taste to it at all until it was dunked in this ginger sauce of sorts. The sauce was really good and also packed a delayed wallop. I joked that it also covered up the fact that we were eating vegetables.) I was quite full and satisfied at meal's end (it would have been nice to have room for dessert, some of whch sounded quite interesting), and we'll definitely be back.

OK, I've had my fill of pop culture for the whole semester now: We watched the Golden Globe Awards last night--the first time I've seen more than an hour of one of those shows in years. Amidst all the big hair and fake smiles, there were some good moments (Robin Williams was hilarious as always in his acceptance speech for the Cecil B. DeMille Award, and Jamie Foxx deserved all the accolades he got for his performance in Ray, which I've touted in an earlier post).

I also thought it was interesting that one of the movies (Million Dollar Baby) isn't even in wide release, and another big winner was something called Sideways, which nobody in the room had heard of before last night's awards. Anyway, except for a glance or two at the Grammys, I could probably go several more years without seeing another awards show.

(Oh, and while doing the links in this post, I noticed that Ray comes out on DVD on February 1. Sweet.)

Sunday, January 16, 2005

(A) State of the Art(s)

I almost never talk politics on here, but this is something that people of any political persuasion can (and should) support. I was reminded yesterday, while attending the middle school all-city concert in my district, that TMEA is sponsoring something called, which has drafted an online petition to the Texas Legislature urging it to fully support arts education when it crafts the education budget during this new session. The petition reads as follows:
To members of the Texas legislature:

Many fine arts programs are being cut back or eliminated in school districts across Texas due to lack of adequate state funding. As a registered voter, I implore you, as you work to resolve the school finance issue, to provide dollars to both restore and fund fine arts programs in our schools throughout the state. We also encourage you to provide full funding for Proclamation 2002, which includes new fine arts textbooks and materials.
If you're a registered voter in the state of Texas and support this initiative, click the GoArts link above and sign the online petition; it takes only a minute or two.

I don't just say this because I am a music educator, but also because I feel that fine arts is an extremely important part of a well-rounded education and teaches many skills that aren't emphasized in a traditional lecture-based classroom experience. We've been lucky so far in Texas to avoid some of the severe effects of the budget axe like some school systems have in the Northeast, but many people are quick to aim that axe at what they consider non-essential programs, and the arts are often erroneously grouped into that category. Let your voice be heard, so that the legislators are reminded again and again that the arts are basic to a good education.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

New Jazz Club Hits a Sour Note with Some

Eric sent me a story this morning about how some of the neighbors of the new and highly-touted jazz club Brooklyn are singing the blues over what they consider to be excessive noise:
Brooklyn is the latest buzz on the street for Dallas jazz lovers.

But it's not the buzz that's bothering one neighboring restaurant of the new jazz cafe in the Bishop Arts District. It's the bass.

"On occasion, the bass is so loud you can feel it in our restaurant," said Hal Dantzler, co-owner of Hattie's. "It's a real distraction."

Brooklyn opened in the early summer, and its siren song of live jazz, great food and relaxed, New Orleans-style atmosphere has drawn music lovers from across North Texas to Oak Cliff's emerging arts area.

Its popularity, however, has come at a price. Brooklyn's landlord has given the hot spot 30 days to do something about the noise or risk eviction.
(Read the whole thing.)

I sure hope this doesn't result in the closing of the club. I haven't gotten to go there yet, but it seems like it's the kind of place that Dallas sorely needs: a jazz club that's all about the music, as opposed to a restaurant where the music is just one of several backdrops. It does seem as though the sound wall mentioned in the article should have been a consideration when the place opened, but it seems as though most of the Bishop Arts District places are mom-and-pop businesses which probably started out on a shoestring budget, so it almost makes sense that owner Lorna Tate would have waited to throw down that kind of money until she knew for sure that her club was going to make it. Now that it has, perhaps that's a really big growing pain coming up. (I'm also happy that, for the way-in-the-future jazz club that Halfling and I plan to open, we already have both a degreed entrepreneur and an acoustician on whom we can call when the time comes.)

Eric asked me when he emailed this article if noise has ever been a problem at any of my gigs, and the answer would be "almost never." An old group of mine even played a gig on the rooftop stage of a club in Denton one time without any evidence of complaints from the neighbors (though evidently the roof gigs stopped later on after they had a few rock bands up there). I've certainly never heard anything specifically lamenting too much bass; you'd think that would be more of an issue with rock bands. Even the backyard gigs I've played have usually not had any problems with the neighbors, who (as was the case with this one) were always warned well in advance and even invited to the festivities.

So I certainly hope this works out for Brooklyn; it'd be a shame to lose a venue like this before it even had a chance to mature. If Tate ends up having to build a wall, perhaps some of the regulars could stage a benefit night over there, with the proceeds going to a "wall fund" of sorts. I'll update this story as more develops.

How much will the NTB bill be for this? Yesterday afternoon, on my way up to Denton, I heard about a traffic snarl on the 121 Bypass where a Hummer had not one, not two, but three flat tires.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

the iTunes Shuffle

Yeah, yeah, I know that one of the highly-touted new offerings from Apple is called the iPod Shuffle, but this is just a bit different. It's my name for a little game (posted by Will of Crescat Sententia yesterday) that's evidently making the rounds, so I decided to try it. Here's how it works:

1. Open up the music player on your computer (or your iPod, possibly).
2. Set it to play your entire music collection.
3. Hit the "shuffle" command.
4. Tell us the title of the next ten songs that show up (with their musicians), no matter how embarrassing. ...

This is what mine produced:

1. XTC: I'd Like That
2. Phil Woods Quintet with Dizzy Gillespie: Love for Sale
3. Eddie Murphy: Boogie in Your Butt (heh, forgot that was on there)
4. Aphex Twin: Come to Daddy
5. Lee Konitz: Checkerboard
6. Gerry Mulligan: Moonlight in Vermont
7. Saga: Don't Be Late
8. Maynard Ferguson: Pagliacci
9. UNT One O'Clock Lab Band: What Was
10. Saga: Once in a Lifetime (wow, Saga twice)

Interestingly enough, I've seen four of those artists/groups (Woods, Mulligan, Maynard and the One O'Clock [duh]) perform live, and another one (Konitz) in a lecture/clinic situation.

I'm sure at some point in time, I'll actually join the cult of good tunes, as the Blogfather might say. I'm willing to bet, however, that I'll spring for one of the bigger models--at least the Mini if not the full-sized iPod. Even though it's possible to have the Shuffle on a sort of not-random mode, I think I like the whole control-over-my-tunes thing too much to ever go all-random, all-the-time. But I will say that this shuffle game has been fun; I'll do a second round and post those results here as well.

Now this is just cool: And while we're on the subject, here's an article about a Mercedes with a fully-integrated iPod that sits safely in the glove box while you operate it with the sterring wheel. (via UNEASYsilence, who also posted a helpful photographic diagram of how to turn your traditional iPod into a Shuffle model)

A good one from the archives: A conversation with Halfling tonight reminded me of a great story from about a pair of brothers-in-law who gave each other the same pair of pants (in increasingly elaborate packaging, of course), for 25 years! I laughed like crazy all over again when I read it this time.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

That's Not the Ticket...

OK, here's my rant o' the day:

Dallas' police chief favors a change in the state law that prohibits traffic ticket quotas:
Dallas Police Chief David Kunkle said [last]Wednesday that he favors repealing certain aspects of a state law prohibiting traffic ticket quotas to hold his officers more accountable for what they do while on patrol.
But civil rights and police groups believe tinkering with the state law could lead to officers writing some tickets backed up with little or no probable cause just to get better evaluations.
(Read the whole thing).

Anyone else think this is a bad idea? It's been my experience that, more often than not, the presence of ticket-writing officers on a busy highway may be a nice revenue stream for whatever governmental enitity the officers represent, but it does not fulfill its stated objective of making the streets and highways safer. If anything, it seems that more often that not, by being there, they make the roads even more dangerous, since traffic often grinds to a halt whenever the officer is spotted, increasing the potential for accidents.

Don't get me wrong, I"m not a chronic speeder or anything (I've had but one ticket my entire life, on a rural highway, in a brand-new car whose power was still being discovered). I'm just saying that our streets are clogged enough as it is without something else thrown into the mix. Sure, catch and ticket the drivers going 90 and weaving in and out of lanes, but otherwise, just let people go with the flow. Otherwise, traffic gets as annoying as an overly-officiated high school basketball game, where the refs keep stopping the game every thirty seconds instead of just letting the players play.

And besides, the whole quota thing could get out of hand, what with the potential for racial profiling, stopping young drivers for DWT (driving while teenaged), and so on. There's just too much potential for abuse.

Am I all wet here? I'd love to hear some comments on this one, especially from Eric, who observes this stuff for a living.

So happy to be in America: The Communist government in North Korea has been issuing propaganda messages on state-run TV exhorting men to get their hair cut "in accordance with socialist lifstyle." The campaign stresses the "negative effects" of long hair on "human intelligence development", noting that long hair "consumes a great deal of nutrition" and could thus rob the brain of energy. (via Dave Barry's Blog)

Hmm, this might explain Carrot Top, though...

A "schnappi" little tune: Yesterday morning on the radio, I heard a snippet of a really unusual song. Evidently, a 4-year-old German girl's made-up song "Snappy the Little Crocodile" is at the top of the German pop charts at the moment, beating out industry veterans Kylie Minogue and Robbie Williams. The song (with it's hook-laden chorus "Schni schna schnappi schnappi schnappi schnapp") was originally posted on the family's website and eventually got picked up by a radio station in Cologne, and MTV Germany has made a dance remix that is being played in some German clubs. The girl, Joy Gruttmann, now has her own website where Snappy merchandise is being sold. (Listen to an mp3 here.)

Hmm, maybe Joy should've done the Orange Bowl halftime instead of Ashlee Simpson...

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Checkin' In

Don't worry, I haven't fallen off the face of the earth. It's been a pretty busy beginning of the week, what with jamming with Halfling before his lab band audition and listening to four hours of our own auditions at the college. I have some interesting tidbits I've collected over the past few days, and I'll post them here sometime Wednesday evening, so hang in there for just a bit longer and normal blogging will resume.

UPDATE: I went ahead and put everything I was going to say in the next post, so head on over there. (Move along, nothing to see here...)

Sunday, January 09, 2005

"Polar" Opposites, But Both Great Fun

I got to do two cool things last night. First off, Halfling, Angie and I saw The Polar Express in 3-D at the IMAX in north Dallas. I had never seen the movie before in any rendering (the two of them had seen the "regular" version a while back), nor had I ever been to an IMAX, so it was a double treat for me.

The IMAX screen is five stories high and seven stories wide; before the film, they even gave warnings on what to do in case of dizziness. I also have to say that 3-D glasses have improved a lot since I was a kid; the last time I saw a movie like that, they were still using those old cardboard ones with the funny-colored lenses. Now they have something that's more like a pair of wraparound sunglasses (with special oversize ones for those of us who already wear regular glasses). The fit wasn't perfect for me, but I only had to adjust them a few times.

The overall effect is amazing; I'm not sure if it was because we were sitting in the front row, but in many instances we appeared to be right up next to the action. During one of the previews, fish swam up right next to us, and sometimes things gave the illusion of coming up from behind us. I was really impressed by the technology, and despite the somewhat hefty price ($11 per ticket for the special feature), I'm sure I'll see some more movies again there soon.

As for the movie itself, I had read some criticism of a lack of plot (perhaps understandable when a filmmaker is trying to turn a brief children's picture book into a full-length motion picture), but to me, the computer wizardry more than made up for anything that may have been lacking in that area. I also didn't perceicve an excessive amount of the darkness that was a complaint of many reviewers. Director Robert Zemeckis (of Back to the Future fame) must be a roller-coaster buff, because many scenes (the train itself; some of the kids careening backwards in a detached train car, the same kids on a spiral conveyor belt in Santa's workshop) suggested such a ride. The computer imagery was remarkably lifelike (evidently, the whole thing was acted out by live humans and then rendered on the computer), and Tom Hanks did a good job playing a variety of characters, even if many of them seemed a lot like...well, Tom Hanks. If you haven't seen The Polar Express or an IMAX movie yet, this is a great opportunity to do both in one fell swoop.

After that, we headed out to Southlake to see John Murphy's quartet at Kirby's Steakhouse. John was one of my lab band directors at UNT and is now back as a professor, directing the Jazz Repertory Ensemble, which I got to hear a few times last semester. It was great to hear him play again, since I don't think I'd had the opportunity since he played in the One O'Clock when we were in school. Also in the group was drummer (and ex-One O'Clocker as well) Mike Drake, who's on the Jazz Camp faculty and was the person who emailed me about the gig.

In terms of atmosphere, this was of course the polar opposite (heh) of the theatre, which was filled with noisy kids. Kirby's was what I would call "elegant but accessible," because, while there was certainly a fair share of dressed-to-the-nines socialites (not to mention some rather elaborate fur coats being brought from the cloakroom), the three of us ordinary folks didn't feel at all out of place. It was actually a pretty cool setup; there's a little recessed area where the band plays that has maybe six or seven tables, so people can show up to hear the music, have a drink or two and not feel obligated to eat. (It's also small enough that they rarely book a group larger than a quartet, which rules out TD/D, though Halfling and I joked about the possibility of having each of the three horns anchor a separate set.)

Of course, the guys played great; it was mostly standards like "Donna Lee," "Soul Station" and a personal favorite, "Bolivia" (where Murphy played some great tenor lines that I totally intend to steal *grin*). The great thing about professional jazzers is that they can show up and do an entire evening without even having to rehearse. There was a lot of tasty playing going on, even if most of the crowd was probably paying more attention to the Jets-Chargers game on the TV in the bar. Oh well--their loss. We appreciated it, at any rate, and look forward to a return trip.

What would you call this, an RWI? A judge in Florida threw out the case of a woman accused of "driving drunk" while operating her wheelchair. It's amazing that the case ever got filed in the first place, since successfully prosecuting her could have opened the door to charging any wheelchair-bound person who was in the chair and drinking with a DWI...which would be just like charging any able-bodied person who was drunk and standing up. (via The Volokh Conspiracy)

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Nice Work If You Can Get It

This week's Dallas Observer has a feature story about a guy here in the Metroplex who made over 80 grand last year playing Halo professionally. And no, he's not a pasty-white, obese geek either; he actually lettered in swimming at Allen High. He may end up being to video games what Tony Hawk has become to skateboarding. Read the whole thing.

I broke the rules and didn't even get (block)busted for it: Starting last weekend, Blockbuster decided to eliminate late fees. Even though I don't usually rent that many movies, I managed to invoke the new policy as soon as yesterday. I didn't realize until around midnight Thursday that one of my movies was due at noon the next day, and I don't pass that Blockbuster (two other ones, yes, but not the one I rented from) on the way to my Friday schools. I was only late by about four hours, but it was still nice that the new policy was in effect.

(Incidentally, it's not like you can keep the movies forever; anything that's more than seven days late is converted to a sale, at which point your credit card is charged. Even that is not set in stone, because you can still return it within 30 days of the rental and have the sale changed back to a rental, minus a restocking fee. Wow, I think my head is spinning...)

Friday, January 07, 2005

Take Me Out to the...Big Band?

Over lunch today, Halfling and I got on the subject of people reading chord changes for the first time, and the conversation veered over to how, during one of the semesters I directed the Nine O'Clock, my so-called "jazz chair" trumpet player (that's the one who gets most of the solos, for you non-jazzheads) came up to me one time after rehearsal and asked me what "those letters and slashes" were on his music. (I was diplomatic in person, but recoiled in horror later, and I was not the least bit heartbroken when a work conflict knocked the guy out of the ensemble.)

Halfling wondered why I didn't just move someone else in the section over to jazz chair, and I replied that, to the best of my recollection, none of the others really read changes either (except for the lead player, who of course needed to stay on lead). Halfling then made a remark about how so many trumpet players specialized in only one thing, whereas we saxes were called upon to do everything under the sun. Then it hit me--this was a perfect example of how jazz is At the very least, two sections of the jazz big band have parallels on the baseball team:

Trumpets = pitchers. The lead player who sits out on some of the less-screaming section parts (I guess he'd be some weird amalgam of the starter and the closer?), the second player who jumps in on lead on occasion (middle reliever?), the fifth trumpet who pretty much only solos, especially on printed charts where they only have four actual parts, so the "fifth part" consists of reading the lead part down an octave (the reliever whom they send in to pitch to one specific batter, maybe). In short, the trumpet section is a finely-tuned pitching squad where nobody would be asked to carry the whole concert/game alone.

Saxes = utility infielders. Maybe one night, you're playing shortstop; another night, it's second base. You might even spell the first baseman for a while if the game's out of reach on either side. Sound familiar? It does to me, and most other sax players as well, I'm sure. Your folder may say "second alto," but on one chart, you're busting out a flute; the next one calls for clarinet. You might play the "top" bari part from the second alto book on a Kenton chart. If you're the bari player on Lyle Mays' "The Continuing Adventures of Supertonic," the part calls for oboe--no lie. The funny thing is, I went to school with a guy who could pull that off quite nicely.

OK, that's a start, but how else would the big band and the baseball team match up? Feel free to chime in using the comments (I sense there'll be some trombone jokes ahead, heh). It's not exactly Dreamland Big Band, but it could be a lot of fun.

(UPDATE: Come to think of it, that might be cool too: make a DBB where you list famous jazzers side-by-side with the baseball players who are most similar to them. For example, if starting pitchers are like lead players, which famous lead player would be the Roger Clemens of jazz? Hmm, sounds like a summer project...)

I've spoken before of the virtues of baseball; there's even a small comparison to jazz in that post as well. And don't worry, Eric, I won't be OD-ing on baseball like some of those blogs you found to be so boring, though I will mention it a bit in season.

Meter made: I've made jokes before about the "four people who read this blog," but I was always curious as to what its actual readership was, so I added a Site Meter to The Musings the other day. This will never be a widely-read blog (compared to, say, Instapundit, who averages 108,000 hits a day), but I was happy to see that my actual daily average was over two-and-a-half times the amount I'd suggested in jest. If you want to see how many people read me, just click the Site Meter icon at the bottom of the sidebar text. (And in the spirit of total honesty, I set it up so that it doesn't include visits from my own IP address in the count; seeing as how my browser's default page is The Musings, those numbers would totally skew the results.)

From across the pond: At American Australian Fun, James posts a list of common Aussie-isms (their equivalent to "You might be a redneck if..."). Read, enjoy, and then ask him what the heck some of that stuff means. And this week on Divulge, we're talking toys. Read the post and add your own.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

What's Next, "Titanic" Brand Deck Chairs?

I've been meaning to post this one for a few days: Eugene Volokh recently questioned the wisdom of naming both a brand of parachute and a skydiving school after Icarus, and pointed to a previous article he'd written on unfortunately-named trademarks in general, a syndrome he calls the "Trojan Doctrine" (the article explains the name).

One of the items he mentioned is Amelia Earhart luggage, which is very compact and thus designed to go on....planes. Why anyone would name an airline bag after someone whose plane disappeared is beyond me. Even weirder is the fact that my dad gave me this exact brand of suitcase as a hand-me-down a few years ago. I didn't actually notice the brand name until I got it home, but the first thought that ran through my mind when I saw it was "no way am I ever getting on a plane with this thing." Needless to say, when the suitcase in question suffered a broken zipper the first time I was packing it, I wasn't at all upset that I had to change to another one.

I'll have more stuff tomorrow; tonight will be a hang-and-jam with Halfling, and then this short-but-still-too-long teaching week is done around 3:00 tomorrow afternoon. I sense a nap after that...

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

This Was Probably the Monday-est Wednesday of the Year

OK, indulge me here for a second. Twice a year, I'll write a post about how rough it is to get back in the swing of things on the first day of a school semester. For Spring 2005, this is that post.

Sleeping was minimal last night; didn't get to bed until one, partially because I jammed with Halfling till midnight, and partially because the intended effort to wake up at eight yesterday fell short (or would that be long?) by almost two more hours. Once I did get to bed, sleep was slow to arrive, as I tossed and turned until way past two. I didn't actually hit that many snooze alarms and got out of the house on time, but I knew that going from leisure time to a 10+ hour workday would eventually take its toll. (I almost accidentally typed "take its tool." Huh huh, he said "tool.")

I do have to say that it was a perfect day to start a new semester, if by "perfect" I mean "perfectly ugly, and thus not conducive to missing the leisure time." Two days ago, it was in the 70's, and not much cooler than that yesterday. When I left the house at 7:25 this morning, it was falling into the 30's, accompanied by a nasty rain. On top of that, the warmth from previous days was still trapped inside the practice rooms at the first few schools, so I experienced a temperature swing of some 50 degrees for a bit...yecch.

I was impressed with something, though: I made it through the first two hours of teaching without yawning, despite the fact that the first two people I taught yawned incessantly. People have gone round and round about whether or not yawning is "contagious," but my experience would lead me to agree that it is. Of course, once the yawning started for me, it came in droves.

One cool thing about today was that almost everyone paid me. For once, emailing the bills a few days beforehand actually worked. Yay, no eating cat food for me this year.

It was really funny how many people thought today was a Monday. I got a few funny looks from students when I walked in, because they thought their lesson wasn't for two more days; some even tried to invoke the "Monday excuse" if they made a goofy mistake. But while this may have been the Monday-est Wednesday of the year, Friday will be here in just two more days.

Unfortunate Web name, part deux: About a year ago, I made note of a company whose name, Landpro Creations, resulted in unintentional humor when the two words were combined to make a domain name. Today I found another one, which begs the question: what were the people at "Pen Island" thinking? If any domain name ever deserved a well-placed hyphen, this is it.
(via Dave Barry's Blog)

Maybe it was just a mis-labeled version of John Cage's 4'33": It is now possible to download silence--for 99 cents a pop, of course--on iTunes.
And the scary thing is, I bet it still sounds better than the latest Britney Spears single.
(via UNEASYsilence, which only seems appropriate)

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

2004: Year of the Blog?

The Pew Internet and American Life Project did a couple of studies in November that produced some interesting data on the state of the blogosphere:
8 million American adults say they have created blogs; blog readership jumped 58% in 2004 and now stands at 27% of internet users; 5% of internet users say they use RSS aggregators or XML readers to get the news and other information delivered from blogs and content-rich Web sites as it is posted online; and 12% of internet users have posted comments or other material on blogs. Still, 62% of internet users do not know what a blog is.
It could certainly be said that 2004 was the "year of the blog." The most-searched word on was "blog." Bloggers received honorable mention for Time Magazine's Person of the Year; they also ran a feature called Ten Things We Learned About Blogs and named PowerLine its first-ever Blog of the Year.

Bloggers got invited to the two major national political conventions this past year, they offered all kinds of coverage (from both sides) leading up to the presidential election, and they've proven to be major figures in both news-gathering and donation-collecting during the recent South Asian tsunami disaster. Many of the bigwigs in the mainstream media (MSM)--meaning both broadcast and paper journalism--are suspicious of bloggers because of a perceived lack of editorial oversight, but the truth is, first, we're notorious for being self-editors (and can correct our mistakes much more easily than the print or broadcast media can do), and second, if a blogger makes a factual mistake, the readers will not hesitate to let him/her know. Some in the MSM have also railed about bloggers' posts being overwhelmingly composed of opinions, but most bloggers will counter that they never claim to be objective, while the MSM (which is supposed to be objective) tends to write many articles which are simply opinions masquerading as facts.

After all that, it's amazing to me that 62% of Internet users don't know what a blog is. Granted, the demographic still skews young; according to a Perseus Development Corporation study, over 90% of bloggers are between the ages of 13 and 29, with over half of them in the 13-19 group. So while, at the moment, that means that the majority of blogs are still Xanga sites where the topics of the day are how much the writer misses his/her ex-boyfriend/girlfriend and how much homework sucks (often typed in all lower-case letters with a liberal usage of IM-speak, OMG LOL), it also tells us that the next generation is already up to speed in the usage of an amazing tool that's done more than anything in recent years to advance the rapid dissemination of information and commentary. This is a good thing.

A little over three years ago, my buddy Zack sent me a link to one of his sites, posted at a place called Blogspot. That's a weird name, I thought to myself; what's a Blogspot? Oh, it says it here in the sidebar: it's...a spot for your blog. Oooook, that explains it. Little did I know that, as we start 2005, I would have been the author of one of these sites for nearly two years. It will be quite interesting to see what this year has in store for the blogosphere, and how much that 62% number decreases.

Other voices: Dave Ross, guest-hosting The Osgood Files yesterday, discusses the future of the blog. I don't necessarily agree with his conclusion, but it's an interesting perspective (and certainly one of the nicer treatments of the blogosphere by an MSM member recently).

A meeting of giants: Two of my favorite online humorists "met up" yesterday when Lileks posted comments on Dave Barry's Blog (scroll down about halfway through the comments to find Lileks). The subject was irate letters from obviously humor-impaired readers, and it was great to read these two in the same place. I was trying to think of a good analogy to the unexpected meeting of two superheroes who never worked together before, but nothing came to mind (too much cross-pollination between comic books, I guess). Maybe the jazz musician equivalent would be a Michael Brecker/Sonny Rollins summit, but for all I know, that could've happened already at a major festival.

What's in a name? Too much, in this case: For those who thought "The Ballpark in Arlington" was too much of a mouthful, check this out--the baseball team that plays near Disneyland will now be known as The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Wait a minute; "los angeles" already means "the angels." So now they're "The Angels Angels?" That's as redundant as "ATM machine" or "PIN number."

Oh, and naturally, Anaheim is not pleased and is pursuing legal action (I think we all saw that coming).

Nearly Back to the Grind

The major part of my vacation ends tomorrow morning, way too early. I tried to force myself to get up at eight today, just so the 6:00 alarm in the morning won't be too much of a shock to the system, but that didn't work at all. I finally ended up rolling out of bed around 10:45. Now the big trick will be forcing myself to go to bed before midnight tonight.

I guess it could be said that this break was somewhat productive; I got a bit done in the "office stuff" area that always seems to pile up when I don't have any desk time during the teaching day. I watched a bunch of movies and TV episodes on DVD (as well as more than a little football), and I actually got a bit of cleaning done around the house (it seems I work best in binges like that). And if the true purpose of down time like this is to recharge the proverbial batteries for the semester ahead, these few weeks have definitely been a success.

As it is, the spring semester always seems a little easier than the fall semester. Maybe it's because the bulk of the Dreaded Teaching Schedule is already put together and only necessitates a few tweaks to be ready for spring. Maybe it's because there are more holidays: TMEA in February, followed by spring break a month later, a long weekend at Easter time (yes, it's my blog, so I can call it that), and so on. At any rate, I rarely feel as worn out after the spring semester as I did a few weeks ago at fall's end.

At least tomorrow will not be full-strength; in fact, the first two weeks will be lighter than usual, since the college doesn't start until the 18th. There's usually at least a week's lag time every semester, and for that I'm truly thankful, for it means the beginning of the semester only hits me like a small lead balloon.

Of course, this means that most computer access is out during the school day. I envision a time when I'll be carrying a laptop around, having all my attendance/payment data, all my Aebersolds and solo-literature recordings (on mp3's, of course) and maybe even some sheet-music pdf's all in one neat little place...but that's not anytime soon. (In the ultimate fantasy version of this, the practice rooms would have wi-fi and I could surf and blog whenever a student was absent.) I'll still try to post at least every few days, assuming no other pressing business hits me when I get home.

Jumpin' for java joy (home version): Speaking of "the grind," I'm happy to report that I've successfully been making coffee here at home instead of going to On the Run for it every morning. I've had a coffeemaker for a while, but it's never really been used, thanks to a combination of not always having time and mock-trepidation about burning the house down (my lack of culinary skills is somewhat legendary). I haven't quite gotten it to taste the exact same way as what I'm used to, but there's still some experimentation between brands of coffee, exact amounts, etc. We'll see how long this lasts when school starts (i.e. how late I wake up and how much the morning ritual has to be time-compressed), but at least it's now a viable option on weekends, holidays, etc.

Blowing out the belated candles: Happy birthday to my cousin Matt in Indiana (yesterday) and my old college buddy Ben (two days ago), who's now a successful pianist and educator in Boston.

Monday, January 03, 2005

Sundays May Be a Bit Less Funny For a While...

Yes, it's true: Humorist Dave Barry is taking a year's hiatus from writing his column; he may or may not resume it after that time. If you don't get the Sunday paper, you can read his farewell-for-now column here. Thankfully, his blog is still up and running, and his page-a-day calendar is out for this year as well. The first place I stopped last night actually had one in stock (for half-off, of course); that was even easier than last year.

I'm number one: As of last night, Googling "kevin mcnerney" (either with or without the quotes) actually brings up my website at the top of the list! My understanding is that the top spot is reserved for the site receiving the most hits of all the ones containing the keywords. That means I finally beat the brewer and the corporate guy...yay. My site is nothing special at the moment, but if you want to visit it for a second to help maintain my ranking, I would be most appreciative. (If only there were a monetary prize attached, huh?) Go ahead and sign the guestbook if you'd like; it's been pretty quiet over there lately.

We're LSSU, and we did not approve this message: Lake Superior State University has come out with its annual Banned Words List, a collection of sayings that people have grown tired of hearing over the past year. Included on the 2005 list are ├╝ber, carbs, "-izzle" - speak, flip-flop (unless it's on your foot), "...and I approved this message" and wardrobe malfunction. Oddly enough, also on the list is "blog," but the comments with the entry seem very much indicative of non-bloggers. They don't know what they're missing, I say.

UPDATE: Speaking of malfunctions, I just managed to drop half a pitcher of tea (a plastic one, thankfully) on my kitchen floor. Would that be called a "beverage malfunction?"

Sunday, January 02, 2005

A Rantlet

I encountered an annoying situation on the way home from church today when the middle two lanes of Central were effectively blocked for a while by two vehicles that were 1) going way below the speed limit, and 2) not using their headlights. It made for a really big and really unnecessary backup, and probably made the roads even more dangerous than they already were.

As far as the headlights thing goes, a good rule of thumb that I've always heard is that if you're using your windshield wipers, your lights should be on too. To me, this seems like common sense, but we all know how little common sense is in evidence on Texas roads. I wonder how many people almost ran into the slow guys because they couldn't see them in the driving rain (and why do they call it a 'driving' rain anyway? Seems like that's the last thing you'd want to be doing in that weather).

As for the going-40-on-the-freeway thing: Sure, you should use caution in wet weather, but going substantially below the speed limit doesn't help things at all, because anyone going the speed limit who comes up behind you may have to use their brakes, which is hardly desirable behavior in wet weather. Sure, people going too fast when it's wet are also dangerous, but probably not as much as the creepers are. If you're too uneasy about driving on the freeway in wet weather, well, that's what the service roads are for. (Incidentally, I was not at all surprised to see Oklahoma plates on the slower of the two offending cars. Apologies to my northern neighbors, but it does fit the stereotype.)

OK, I feel much better now...

Saturday, January 01, 2005

Cross-Continental Cultural Capers

Anyone who's read this site for a while has seen the interesting comments from James, a fellow blogger who's from Australia. A lot of the way we do things in our respective countries, and especially the terms used to describe things, are really entertaining when compared to each other. Well, the other day, James, having only a half-day of work, sat down and created a site just for those exchanges with both of us as co-bloggers. So I draw your attention to American Australian Fun; it's still in its fledgling stages, but I'm sure it'll have lots of funny--and some serious--stuff as time goes by. (I haven't done my first post yet, but--seeing as how he titled his first one with the stereotypical "G'day," I suppose my first one will be called "Howdy." Heh.)

The Ball Drops...Twice?

Happy New Year to all!

Last night was one of those quiet New Years Eve's at home: no gig, no date, just me and the TV and the cat. (Yeah, that might sound pathetic in a way, but at least I stayed out of trouble, right? The only party I was invited to was 40 miles away and probably would have gone a little overboard in the "milk and cookies" department, if you know what I mean.)

Since I was home, I actually got to partake of the longtime tradition of watching the ball in Times Square drop down during New Year's Rockin' Eve, with Regis Philbin subbing for the ailing Dick Clark. It was a bit premature, since New York is an hour ahead of us, but it was cool to watch the lights and confetti and fireworks and all that. The music was OK; Earth, Wind & Fire was pretty good, and lead singer Philip Bailey deserves props for singing both his part (the screamin' high stuff) and that of the ailing Maurice White (the lower-voiced guy), who no longer tours with the band. I didn't stick around for any more music for a while, since most Top 40 isn't my cup of tea (but as Halfling and I were discussing the other night, a New Year's Jazzin' Eve would be all kinds of cool, so long as it was actual jazz).

When it approached midnight in our time zone, I went back into the living room to see if they would replay the ball dropping for us CST-types. However, I changed the channel very quickly when I noticed (speaking of not-actual jazz) that the G-weasel was playing with EWF's rhythm section--ouch. So I turned to the Ryan Seacrest special on Fox, and I discovered that they were doing the whole New York celebration on tape-delay so that it hit midnight at the proper time for each time zone (smart idea). That means I got to see the same ball drop once again, an hour later, with slightly different camera angles. It was almost, but not quite, like Groundhog Day.

Today's been chill as well; got up early enough to watch the Rose Parade, a tradition that goes all the way back to when I was four and actually saw it in person. The 55-year streak of not having rain on the parade (and hopefully the game in a few hours) continued unabated, despite the fact that it rained yesterday and is scheduled to do so tomorrow.

The year 2004 was great for me, and I'm hoping that 2005 is even better for all of us.

A divulger's display of power: I don't usually do a year-end review on here, but I did make a posting to Divulge, a weekly five-question quiz hosted by a friend of James's who's also in Australia. You can read my entry here if you're interested, and feel free to add your own.
(Bonus points to the first person who figures out the meaning of the title of this subheading; it's related to a recent news story. Smart money says that Eric gets it first.)

Castle-gazing, part 3: Just as I did in the very early days of this blog, I took a drive to Fairview yesterday afternoon to gawk at the really huge houses again. I was actually checking to see how many people had lights up so I'd know if it was worth adding to the annual Tour of Lights or not. I sometimes wonder how many gawkers drive through there in a given day (there seemed to be one right behind me for a while), but I suppose it couldn't be too many, because the locals didn't seem to mind; I got friendly waves from several people on my journey. All I can say is...these places are huge. As much as I'd love to live in a big house sometimes, I think I'd definitely have to marry a doctor or lawyer to live in that neighborhood...or else hope for straight-ahead jazz to make a really big comeback without diluting its musicality. (Yeah, and then I woke up.) But still, it's nice to dream from time to time...