Monday, February 28, 2005

Same Soul, Different Station

I'm a bit under the weather again today, or at least worn out from the non-weekend, but I had to chime in about a great concert I saw last night: Tenorman and UNT prof John Murphy (my former schoolmate and lab band director, as well as the proprietor of a fine new blog) was joined by faculty colleagues Stefan Karlsson (piano), Lynn Seaton (bass) and Ed Soph (drums) in a re-creation of Hank Mobley's classic Blue Note album Soul Station. The concert, held at First United Methodist Church in downtown Denton, featured the quartet, in the same instrumentation as the album, playing the tunes in their exact order and in the style of the original players (Mobley, Wynton Kelly on piano, Paul Chambers on bass and Art Blakey on drums). The solos, of course, were original, but still paid tribute to the masters.

Even though Mobley was often overshadowed by his titanic contemporaries such as Sonny Rollins and John Coltrane, Murphy stated in the program notes for the concert that he always appreciated the lyricism in Mobley's playing, as well as the fact that "[h]e also plays slowly enough for me to hear what he's doing. Many jazz players play awesome lines, but they go by so fast that I dn't have time to savor them." This lyricism shined through in Murphy's playing last night. I also enjoyed Karlsson's great lines and swirling climaxes, Seaton's amazing arco solo on "Split Feelin's" and Soph's tastiness mixed with explosiveness. Even though the album only contained six tunes, Murphy wrote his own encore, a blues entitled "Hank Heaven" that alternated between the keys of B-flat and E--quite a challenge for the soloists, but these guys were more than up to it.

All in all, it was a great evening, and the recreate-an-entire-album format was an enjoyable approach to the repertory; I hope more of this is in store for future years. In the meantime, Murphy has a busy week, as his Jazz Repertory Ensemble presents a special rendition of "Rhapsody in Blue" with faculty pianist Steve Harlos; it will be performed both tomorrow in Denton and Wednesday in Dallas.

Just don't take it to school: An online company has come up with a rubber band machine gun. Also, I wonder what PETA would say about their pig catapult (scroll down a bit to see).
(via Dave Barry's blog)

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Teaching vs. Prison

Just in case you ever got the two mixed up, this should make things a bit clearer:

IN PRISON: You spend the majority of your time in a room with one other person who doesn't want to cooperate.
IN SCHOOL: You spend the majority of the time in a room with 20-30 children who don't want to cooperate.

IN PRISON: You get three free hot meals a day.
IN SCHOOL: You only get one meal, you pay for it and you get to wait in line for the microwave to heat it, so you can have about 3 1/2 minutes left to eat it.

IN PRISON: You get time off for good behavior.
AT SCHOOL: You get more work for good behavior.

IN PRISON: The guard locks and unlocks all the doors for you.
AT SCHOOL: You must open all the doors for yourself while balancing all the papers you took home to grade.

IN PRISON: You can watch TV and play games.
AT SCHOOL: You get fired for watching TV and playing games.

IN PRISON: You get your own toilet.
IN SCHOOL: You have to share your bathroom with some idiot who tinkles on the seat.

IN PRISON: They allow your family and friends to visit.
AT SCHOOL: You can't even speak to your family on the phone because you are usually too busy taking care of someone else's family.

IN PRISON: The taxpayers pay all your expenses with no work required.
AT SCHOOL: You get to pay all the expenses to go to work, and then they deduct taxes from your salary to pay for prisoners.

IN PRISON: You must deal with sadistic wardens.
AT SCHOOL: They are called administrators.

(from an email sent to me by a fellow music prof a few days ago)

QUOTE OF THE DAY: "[The Playboy Jazz Festival] would be a great one to play; you'd get all kinds of exposure."--Halfling, over dinner tonight. He wasn't really talking about the usual "exposure" found in Playboy, of course, but he realized the minute he said it that he'd walked right into that one.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Well, Toto, We're Definitely Not in Dallas Anymore

The trip to Huntsville went great; I'm very tired right now from driving all the way back in nearly constant rain, but the workshop was quite successful and a good time was had by all. The blogworthy event of the trip happened at dinnertime tonight, when I stopped at a Subway in one of those small towns that dot I-45 between Houston and Dallas. (No reason to name the town, since my point is simply to reflect a cultural difference that sometimes exists between small towns and bigger cities or suburbs.)

At any rate, the exchange had to do with the fact that Subway's touting their toasted subs these days, so they ask you if you'd like your sub toasted no matter what's on it. Here's how it went:

SUBWAY LADY: And what kind of sandwich was that again?
ME: Cold Cut Combo.
SUBWAY LADY: Would you like that toasted?
ME: No thanks. That's good with chicken breast or something, but I just can't see eating toasted bologna.
SUBWAY LADY: Oh, it's good; it tastes just like fried bologna.
ME: I'm just not imagining that being good.
SUBWAY LADY: Oh, it's a great Texas treat. Fried bologna is so good!
ME: I don't know about that. I had a college roommate who tried to fry bologna one time, and the kitchen smelled like someone died in there.
SUBWAY LADY: Well, sir, I guess you must recognize death when you smell it.

Huh? Where'd that come from? I guess she took offense to my "insulting" of her "great Texas treat" or something, but that sure doesn't sound like what you say to a customer. I'm certainly not saying that I haven't run into rude service employees in Dallas, but this was a different kind of rude.

She then told me that the total was $6.21, for a combo that cost $5.04 (which is about 50 cents more than Dallas) plus a single cookie. I asked her how many cookies I was charged for, and she said she'd forgotten to charge me for one at all. I then inquired as to how tax could possibly be a dollar for something of that price, and she shot me a derisive look and said, "Everything went up, sir."

Allow me a mini Restau-Rant here: That's just wrong. There was a time when I would've raised a fuss over that, because you simply shouldn't post one price on the menu and charge a higher price, just because "they (whoever they are) changed it in the computer already. That's deceptive advertising, and it might cause some people to change their order completely if they were carrying a limited amount of money. I say either charge what the menu says, or if "they" (as in some remote "home office" somewhere) changed the computer already, fix the menu....even if you have to use Post-It Notes for a while until the new little sticky numbers come in. It's all about honesty.

At any rate, I'm glad I don't live in a place like that (even if they did still have my beloved M&M cookies that the Dallas outlets have already discontinued).

(Lab) Band in a box: As I mentioned earlier, I purchased the boxed set North Texas Jazz: Fifty Years at the One O'Clock concert the other night (for the obscenely low price of thirty bucks) and listened to almost the whole thing on my trip yesterday and today. I'd heard a lot of the things already, but Disc 1 was fascinating, because it went all the way back to a 1951 acetate recording of the NTSC Lab Dance Band. It sounded quaint by today's standards, and of course nothing at all like the One O'Clock, but it was really cool to ponder the humble acorn from which grew the mighty oak that is the North Texas jazz program. It was also quite interesting to see how little time was wasted in that sound evolving to what it is today.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Into the Woods

Last night was the Phil Woods concert at UNT; it was the eleventh annual guest concert made possible by the Glenn E. Gomez International Endowment for Jazz Studies. This involves bringing in a world-class jazz artist for a four-day residency at the College of Music, where he/she gives clinics, master classes, guest appearances in jazz studies classes, and serves as the guest for that week's edition of the Jazz Lecture Series. The week caps off on Thursday night with a concert at the Murchison Performing Arts Center featuring the guest artist with both the jazz faculty combo and the One O'Clock Lab Band. Past Gomez artists have included Gerry Mulligan, Slide Hampton, the Brecker Brothers and Bob Brookmeyer.

Woods is the greatest living alto player of his generation; born in 1931, he's played with the likes of Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk, Benny Carter, and the great Charlie Parker himself. I didn't get to go to anything during the week and hear all the stories Woods had to offer, but Halfling did and was duly impressed. I'm sure it was as thrilling as listening to Benny Golson's reminiscences at the One O'Clock's Fall Concert last semester. The guy's been everywhere and done it all.

WIth the faculty, Woods played "Alone Together," "Lover Man" and "I'll Remember April." The first selection was a special treat because it became a friendly "alto battle" between Woods and Jim Riggs; I wish I had a recording of that for posterity. In the second half, he joined the One O'Clock for a round of his own compositions and arrangements, including "All Bird's Children," "Goodbye Mr. Evans" (I'm pretty sure about this; it wasn't announced, but it was listed in the program and sounded like an appropriate title for the ballad they played) and "The Rev and I" (from his CD with Johnny Griffin), plus an encore of "How's Your Mama?", which Woods billed as "the chart with the most bebop licks ever known to man."

Though Woods hasn't been in great health lately (and said he felt so bad when he arrived in Denton that he needed the services of a top local doctor to keep from going home "in a pine box"), it really wasn't evident save for his usage of a chair while playing, the occasional labored breathing and a slight Maynardesque wheeze in his voice. His horn came to life as always, mixing stunning technique with a bright, vibrant sound. I had seen him perform before when I was in undergrad school, but it had been in a combo setting, so it was really great to hear him with a big band, since many of my favorite Phil Woods recordings (which I realy need to get on CD now) contain a larger group.

There also was a big sale on One O'Clock CD's in the lobby, and I took advantage of that, scoring Lab 83 (newly remastered on CD as of last semester), Lab 88 and the "Fifty Years of Jazz" boxed set for a mere fifty bucks. I always have said that I could easily drop a C-note at that table on any given occasion, so last night was halfway there.

Once again, they've outdone themselves with an amazing guest artist in the Gomez series. It's very cool how this all got started: Glenn Gomez, an alumnus of the UNT business program, was a big fan of the lab bands when he was in school, so when he made it big in the business world, he started the endowment which pays to bring in a stellar artist (or artists, in the case of the Brecker Brothers) for this extended residency. The students get a lot out of it, and alums like myself get to come back for an awesome concert each year. I think I'll try to make this a field trip for my evening combo every year, because it's well worth the time and the trip.

No A little rest for the weary: I'm off to Huntsville in a little bit for a Sinfonia workshop that goes through dinnertime tomorrow, so no new posts until tomorrow night at the earliest. Even though my energy level was nearly at zero, I got a reprieve today when I got to my middle school and found out that their entire top band (i.e. my last four lessons) was on a field trip. Nobody called or emailed to warn me about it, so that meant it was Free Money for Kev Day to the tune of 60 bucks. It's been nice to chill here at home for a few hours, and I won't be running on empty (literally or figuratively) when I hit the road. The timing for that couldn't have been better...

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Assault with a Deadly What??

One thing about listening to talk radio every now and then--you never run out of blog fodder...

A middle-schooler in Orange County, Florida, was suspended for ten days because of a "level 4" violation. This highest level of offense generally has to do with things like making bomb threats, bringing explosives to school, assault and battery and arson. You might think that this kid brought a knife to school, set a wastebasket on fire, or beat up his teacher. But you would be wrong. This kid was accused of an attempted assault on his teacher, with...get this...a rubber band.

That's not a typo. A rubber band is now considered a weapon in this school system:
A 13-year-old student in Orange County, Fla., was suspended for 10 days and could be banned from school over an alleged assault with a rubber band, according to a Local 6 News report.

Robert Gomez, a seventh-grader at Liberty Middle School, said he picked up a rubber band at school and slipped it on his wrist.

Gomez said when his science teacher demanded the rubber band, the student said he tossed it on her desk.

After the incident, Gomez received a 10-day suspension for threatening his teacher with what administrators say was a weapon, Local 6 News reported.
Need I say, read the whole thing, including the comments at the bottom.

I'm sorry, but I have zero tolerance for "zero tolerance" policies like this. Maybe there's more to the story than we've heard so far, but it sounds on the surface like the teacher was just a bit too thin-skinned, and the administration overreacted bigtime. Nobody got hurt; nobody even got as much as grazed. Give the kid a couple days' detention and make him write 500 sentences about how he'll be more respectful next time. Sure, the administration is trying to gain--or should I say force--the respect of the students by enforcing every rule to the letter in the most punitive way possible, no matter how small the infraction. So far, it's not working too well (just like it didn't for the Nazis, as Charley Jones, the host of the show I was listening to, pointed out last night). The problem is, if administrators keep making idiotic rulings like this, they're going to lose the respect of not only the parents in the community, but the students themselves.

I had the chance to call in to Charley's show last night, when this story took up most of the first hour. I had two points to make:

1) Charley asked if teachers had ever been known to throw things in classrooms. I told the story of my middle-school band director, who threw chalkboard erasers with regularity. They were mostly aimed at the drummers (who, ok, deserved it most of the time), and by the end of the year, he could hit them with pinpoint accuracy, making little chalk marks right in the center of their foreheads. If he tried this today, he'd probably get sued, or at least have to take classes in anger management.

2) I also proposed a theory as to why some administrators act like this: They simply don't get out enough. In other words, they don't hang out enough with people who aren't other school administrators. After sitting around in all their meetings long enough, making contingency plans for every possible horrible thing that could happen, eventually those things become part of their reality. Think like that long enough, and eventually, all those awful things that could happen become things that probably will happen, maybe even today. There's nothing wrong with being careful, but things like the rubber-band incident go beyond reality and into the realm of the absurd.

Please note that I'm not painting all school administrators with this broad brush; there are plenty of people out there who actually take the time to consider each infraction individually instead of lazily sitting back and letting a one-size-fits-all policy do the thinking for them. But it's evident, from stories like this and others recently, that this problem is not an isolated one.

One more sidebar here: It could be said that the reason that school districts have to react so harshly to even the smallest incidents is due to the total lack of respect given by many kids to adults these days. One could also counter that such respect has been eroded by the end of capital corporal punishment in schools. (Whoops, that typo was the lack of sleep talking...) Which came first here, the chicken or the egg? Is there another way to engender respect besides beating the crap out of a kid when he gets out of line? And finally, does anyone think that this school district responded to this incident in an appropriate manner, and that their actions will gain, rather than lose, the respect of the parents and students in their district? The comments await...

QUOTE OF THE DAY: "All of my mistakes are giving me ideas."--James Lileks, quoting his six-year-old daughter "Gnat," in his Bleat for today. That sure sounds like a metaphor for jazz improvisation, doesn't it?

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Something Really Stinks Here

I haven't seen much about this in the blogosphere, but it's been all over the midday talk radio shows (or at least the ones that I catch little snippets of between schools): the teacher in Ohio who made a kid spray himself with Lysol in front of the whole class:
ELYRIA, Ohio (AP) — A school district was sued by parents who say their son's fourth-grade teacher made the boy spray himself with Lysol in front of classmates because of body odor.
The lawsuit was filed Wednesday in Lorain County Common Pleas Court against the Sheffield-Sheffield Lake district in suburban Cleveland. It asks for $50,000 in damages for public humiliation and subsequent harassment by classmates.
As always, read the whole thing.

Now it goes without saying that the teacher was wrong here. Kids get humiliated enough in school by other kids; if the teacher joins in, or, as in this case, instigates it, then the kid has nowhere to turn. But one of the talk-show hosts had a good point: Did anyone talk to the parents in this case to find out why the kid showed up to school stinky in the first place? Was it poor hygiene? A lack of clean clothes? Malnutrition? Or was it something he just couldn't help?

I actually taught a stinky kid for a while (and you can imagine what that was like in a stuffy little 8'x8' practice room!). I never knew the cause of his stench, or even if he was aware of the problem. Everyone else was; other kids would say, "Eww, you're teaching (name deleted) next? I'm sorry!" I think he was the last lesson before lunch, so nobody had to directly follow him. But after hearing this case, I wonder now if anyone did contact the parents of this kid, because even the classroom teachers had to know. Still, there were about 257 more tactful ways that situation could be handled than it was in Ohio.

Anybody disagree with me? Think the teacher was justified? Comment away... (I'm also curious as to why, if this happened nearly two years ago as the story said, the lawsuit if just being filed now.)

The $120 nap: I'm at home now because, as I mentioned yesterday, they're giving the TAKS test at all my schools. I guess the timing couldn't have been any better, though, as I try to shake this allergy thing. Cost of eight missed lessons: $120. The chance to relax some more and get caught up on my backlog of work: Priceless. Still, things will get back to "normal" (whatever that is) soon enough, and I may not be able to post every day like I have been (even though my Site Meter numbers are slightly up since I started that), but I will pop on at least every other day like check by every day just in case, will ya?

This rules: Someone has made a book of the Shotgun Rules and posted it online; very cool. I noted with interest the "barefoot rule," which says that everyone can't just grab their shoes and jump outside to call Shotgun; all shoes must be put on first. Since I live in a house where nearly everyone walks around unshod, I'm surprised nobody ever tried that. (And with Kevmobile 1.2 being a Civic, you'd best believe that Shotgun wars go on every time we leave the house in large groups; I'll never forget the time that Halfling (who's 5'7") won one, forcing the 6'4" Dingus to ride in the back all the way to Denton.)

Monday, February 21, 2005

Putting the Brakes on Camera Projects?

Not too long ago, I griped about the use of red-light traffic cameras, putting forth the opinion that they were driven by revenue rather than safety and may in fact make intersections less safe. Evidently, I'm not alone here in Texas, as a bill banning their use made it through a state House committee last week; it will now be taken up by the full House once it passes muster with the Calendars Committee. Early word has it that most of the state representatives are in favor of the ban.

They put a new one of those cameras at an intersection close to my house not too long ago. While they do have a sign warning of the camera's existence about a quarter mile beforehand, I find that traffic screeches to a halt even as soon as seeing the sign, which bolsters my argument about the whole thing making traffic less safe. With any luck, there won't be a lot of accidents like mine from a year ago because of it. I'll update as more info comes in.

The beast backs away slowly: The update on yesterday's sickness is that it's mostly gone away--sore throat gave way to an occasional cough, and I felt tired all day when I was teaching, despite having slept more this weekend than any time since Christmas. Tomorrow is a six-hour break from teaching, thanks to the dreaded TAKS test, which takes place at every single one of my schools, so there's no way to swap one out with another. That should allow for plenty of relaxation and maybe even the chance to do some of the stuff I put off yesterday.

Get 'em while they're hot: Lots of new comments on the hockey post from the other day.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: "Remember that staccatos are never accented! Use 1 taste bud, not 100. (From a comment sheet at last weekend's middle-school solo and ensemble contest; I've never heard the "taste buds" metaphor before. Seems like you'd need precision aim to use just one bud, but that's probably his point.)

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Fighting the Beast

I saw it coming yesterday: the headache that lasted far after I'd had my morning (OK, it was actually afternoon) cup of coffee, the feeling that my sinuses were going haywire. Thus far, I'd been lucky enough to avoid all the sickness that was going around (a big feat, considering how many sick kids came into my studio every week). Halfling had it a few weeks ago, but he was well enough by the day of The Hang™ that I wasn't exposed to anything. But after not much sleep this past week, I knew I was susceptible, and when I woke up this morning, my throat was raw, raw, raw.

I'm not sure that what I get every year around this time is actually contagious; I think it's more like sinus stuff related to allergies, and it gets me when the change of seasons (which happens about 27 times between January and April) lines up with my being more than a little run-down. But still, I can't really afford to be sick; when I don't teach, I don't get paid, so my goal was simple: get whatever it is out of my system in one day, that day being today.

I saw no reason to push myself this morning; playing for two hours, singing when I wasn't playing--none of that seemed conducive to quick healing. Plus, if I really did have something contagious, there was no reason to share that with everyone else in the band, so I put a quick call in to the worship leader and "opted out" of playing today. That actually did seem to help a lot, because by the time I actually did make it to church (late service, skipped the singing, up in the balcony with a chair's space between me and anyone else), the extra sleep and fluids had taken most of the rawness away and I felt much, much better.

Probably the best thing working in my favor today is the weather: warm. It's a "shorts day," as Halfling raved about in his ode to Texas weather earlier in the week, and that should definitely help things if I'm not shivering in my own house. I'll continue to pour on the fluids in heavy fashion, including the old hot-tea-and-honey trick from my radio days (which also worked well for Eric when I recommended it to him a while back), and I'll probably swap out this for my usual nighttime dosage of the generic version of this. This afternoon will be devoted to reading, with some little naps thrown in; maybe I'll work on a combo arrangement for a bit. My transcription may have to wait a day or two, because it's probably better not to play at all today, since there aren't that many days where it's possible to do that.

So we'll see what happens; if this is the worst it gets, I'll consider today a success, and I'll definitely go to school tomorrow since last Monday was a holiday and all. With any luck, the beast of illness will meet defeat quickly...and I have to say, it's incredibly convenient that I managed to get sick on the one weekend that I actually had time to do so.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

They Spel Their Names with One Les Leter Than Usual

I was relieved to read that New England Patriots defenseman Tedy Bruschi went home from the hospital yesterday after suffering a mild stroke earlier in the week; he seems like a good guy and obviously did a great job for his team in the Super Bowl. It also got me to thinking about the unusual spelling of his name (I've never heard of another Tedy with one "d" before) and how that usually seems to happen only in sports; joining Tedy on this unusual roster would be hockey player Dany Heatley and former baseball manager Jimy Williams. I wonder if that's all of them; has anyone ever heard of a Boby, Bily, Lary or Tomy, in sports or otherwise?

Now I have run across a plethora of truncated nicknames before, but minus the "y" on the end: joining me as groomsmen in my sister's wedding party were Jef with one "f," Mat with one "t" and Jud with one "d." (And yes, technically I would be Kev with one "v," but I've never, ever heard of a "Kevv" before and would feel bad for him if I did.) And although the best man in that same wedding joined me in lacking a shortened name, he did share his with a former drummer for Weather Report (and no, it wasn't this guy).

Speaking of missing letters: I passed a Taco Bell sign earlier today that was attempting to advertise SPICY CHICKEN, but the Y was missing from the word "spicy"--a particularly unfortunate occurrence, considering the ethnicity of the restaurant. I wondered if the letter accidentally fell off, or if someone swiped it; this would have required climbing a ladder, which seems like an awful lot of trouble to create a racial epithet that's not even in common usage anymore. At any rate, I hope someone notices and fixes it before too long, because all I could say when I saw it was "ouch."

This also reminded me of when I was a little kid and I saw an ad on one of those portable roadside signs on wheels (which I think have, thankfully, been outlawed in many communities now) for a company called DRAPES BY VIRGINIA. As you can imagine, people were always stealing the D--so much so that she changed the first word to "draperies"...after which people still stole the D. Maybe she should have just given up and gone with "curtains."

Friday, February 18, 2005

A Less Perfect Union

A brief conversation during my lunch hour today:

SUBWAY GUY (noticing the issue of Sports Illustrated in my hand as I'm waiting in line): Too bad about hockey, huh?
ME: All I can say is this: People who are making a million dollars a year don't need a union.

And that's pretty much all I can say on that. Having been in Texas (a Right to Work state) since third grade, I've never been a big fan of unions in the first place, but having them in pro sports is ridiculous. Unions were formed so that average working Joes could collectivize to avoid mistreatment at the hands of their blue-collar employers. Equating the typical professional athlete in any of the four big "money" sports of football, baseball, basketball and hockey with the "average working Joe" is just wrong. The fact that the union representatives shot down every proposal offered by the league as "unfair" just shows how out-of-touch with the rest of society these guys really are.

Sure, the owners are partially to blame on this; it's easy to say that the reason they're proposing a salary cap in the first place is so they can protect themselves from runaway spending. However, the players also need to realize that, in a sport whose TV revenues trail far behind the other majors, their continually-increasing salaries can't be borne by the league all by itself. That usually means that the cost overruns have to be made up for in ticket prices, which keep the average Joe from being able to afford to go to the games (I for one would love to see a Stars game, but it has indeed been the ticket prices that have kept me away thus far).

Paul Grant of the Sporting News posted an interesting set of figures which compare the average salaries, revenues, etc. of the four major sports leagues. He has this to say about the NHL's current model:
The NHL has to get its act together financially to have a shot at fulfilling the promise it had in the early 1990s. Select owners are to blame for letting the percentage of revenue designated to salaries get so far out of control, but the players have to realize their league can't bear salaries in the same ballpark as those of other pro athletes. To think otherwise means pricing the fans out of the rink -- fans already are near the breaking point -- and therefore alienating the core revenue stream. Once the snowball gets rolling down the hill, it's hard to stop.
It's interesting to note that the leagues with a salary cap are the ones which are flourishing the most. (As always, read the whole thing.)

Even though the 2004-05 season was declared officially dead by Commissioner Gary Bettman a few days ago, rumor has it that the two sides may return to the table this weekend. I certainly hope that something gets worked out, but I think that, in order to do so, the players will have to lower the threshold of greed a little bit and think about the fans who have brought the game to its highest level of popularity in its history. They might also have to decide whether or not the current union leadership really has their--or hockey's--best interests at heart.

And I should point out that it's not just having grown up in Texas that has colored my perception of unions in this way. It all stems from a specific incident when i was a young teenager: My dad and I went to the grocery store for a few items (no names here, but the store is a highly-unionized chain based in the Midwest), one of which was a tub of potato salad. At the moment we were there, nobody was working in the deli, so we had to wait quite some time for someone from another part of the store to help us. When a guy finally got there (from the meat-wrapping department), he complained the whole time that his union contract said he didn't have to do this (keep in mind that "this" involved scooping potato salad from a big bin into a small plastic tub, putting the lid on the tub and affixing a price tag). The thought hit me at that moment that it just wasn't right if someone's union contract at a retail establishment actually prohibited him from helping customers, and nothing in the intervening years has done anything to change that perception for me.

I guess we'll have to wait and see if this weekend brings any eleventh- thirteenth-hour miracle, but I'm not exactly holding my breath over here.

Hukd an fonix wurked fer mee (purentel edishun): I had a really weird thing happen in lessons the other day--a kid gave me an envelope full of cash for his lesson payment with his own last name misspelled on it! I won't reveal the actual last name, but I'll give a fake example that gets the point across: if their last name was "Feliciano," it was spelled "Feliciona" on the envelope. According to the kid, his mom does that all the time...

Thursday, February 17, 2005

A Little Place at the Vanguard of Jazz

New York's celebrated jazz spot, the Village Vanguard, turns 70 this year and kicked off a weeklong celebration on Tuesday. That even made the paper locally (yay), though not in linkable form (boo). However, the same story is available here, from the site of a classical radio station in D.C., of all things.

As the article says, this place has evidently changed very little in its history. It still has a limited drink menu and serves no food; it's all about the music. I've seen their famous (and now eponymous) big band a few times, but this place is definitely on my short list of places to visit the next time I'm in New York (during a future "Kev and Halfling's Excellent Musical Adventure," no doubt). Here's to 70 more years (and then some) of great jazz...

This one really quacked me up: Yesterday at one of my schools, I noticed a can of chewing gum remover sitting in the band library. This was unusual in itself--people actually pay money for something like that?--but the name of its manufacturer really made me laugh: AFFLAB. (Yes, it's a real company; its website is here.) Now maybe I've seen way too many AFLAC commercials featuring the famous spokesduck, but the word AFFLAB just conjured up the mental picture of a flabby, overweight version of the duck. Can't you just see him arriving at the end of the commercial, waddling and out of breath, yelling "AFFLAB!" in a wheezing voice?

Blowing out partial candles: I have to mention this every year--not just because he's my best friend, but also because it's such a funny-sounding sentence: Happy half-birthday, Halfling! One of these days, I'm going to remember to get someone half a card for their half-birthday and make them wait the other six months to read the punch line...

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Murphy's Law of Auto Mechanics

This comes up every once in a while in lessons: a student will play a piece for me, and then we'll encounter a problem. We'll stop, go back to the problem area and try to replicate it, paying careful attention to that spot in the music. But more often than not, the passage goes perfectly when subjected to such further scrutiny. However, in a later rendition, the same mistake may crop up again, but only if it's not expected to happen. I think this is a variation of Murphy's Law...
Your car will start making a funny noise at an inopportune time, forcing you to take it into the shop. Once there, the mechanic will not be able to get the car to replicate the offending noise no matter how many times he/she tries. However, the noise will return promptly upon your leaving for home.
Has this ever happened to you? I sure see the musical version all the time in teaching, and it happened more than once today, so I thought it was blog-worthy. Chime in using the comments if you can relate to this.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Fun Fact #51

Over a year ago, I started an entry entitled 50 Fun Facts About Kev. It took quite a while to complete, but I think it's probably become one of the most-read of the older entries. Halfling suggested quite a while back that I start a second set (realizing that it might take even longer to find fifty more), and maybe I will once I remember the three or four things we came up with back then. But last night spawned a pretty good starter for that list:

51. The Temptations have heard me play.

I had a gig last night at a fancy downtown hotel, playing in a trio (piano, bass and me) as cocktail-hour entertainment for a bunch of corporate executives. Following our gig was the main show in the next room, headlined by the Temptations, and one of the corporate guys broke in with an announcement (during what was otherwise a nonstop two-hour gig for us) that the group would be coming in for a short meet-and-greet in a few minutes. We scrambled to find a lead sheet for one of their tunes, settling for "My Girl" in the unusual key of F (it's normally in C) since that was the only version we had. We used that as walk-on music for their grand entrance, and then we launched into a rousing version of "St. Thomas" as they walked right by us, stopping to listen for a bit as a few guys smiled and flashed us the thumbs-up. Think about all the people they've entertained over the years; tonight, we got to entertain them for a little while.

(And yeah, there was this part of me that was secretly hoping that their scheduled sax player would get sick at the last minute and I'd get tapped to fill in. It didn't happen, of course, or there'd be a biiiiig picture as part of this entry, but as the song says, I can dream, can't I?)

Anyway, it was a fun night; according to the leader, you can tell if the audience is having a good time if they're talking really loudly. If that's the case, they had a great time; we even had to open the piano lid most of the way up just to hear ourselves. The whole thing was done in a few hours and was quite profitable for us; as another song says, nice work if you can get it. I'm not sure I'd want to do that kind of thing every night (especially with teaching starting at 7:45 this morning), but it's sure cool every now and then.

Monday, February 14, 2005

A Great Hang in the Alamo City (Part 2)

Taking up where we left off yesterday...

Having been burned on parking the day before, we made a concerted effort (pun somewhat intended) to wake up much earlier and snag a place in the Rivercenter garage before the All-State jazz concert at 11:30, and we succeeded in said effort. The jazz ensemble was directed by Steve Wiest, an amazing trombonist and old schoolmate of mine who's probably the only person to go from Maynard Ferguson to the One O'Clock instead of the other way around. He had a unique way of introducing the concert, bringing out the whole band one by one starting with the drums and leading up to the two tenors, who proceeded to battle on the same "Jumpin' at the Woodside" arrangement we play at camp. The twist on all this was that the rest of the horns were in a big line across the front of the stage, playing the chart from memory. They played some enjoyable stuff (including a new Wiest arrangement of "Cheek to Cheek," which he said had never been performed outside of "Wiest-consin") and had a surprise appearance by the noted trombonist and educator Phil Wilson (we had been given the erroneous information that it would be Phil Woods making the guest appearance, but no biggie; we'll see him in two weeks at UNT). A little later in the afternoon, after a few hours in the exhibits, we saw Neil Slater direct an all-state group of community college players; the special guest was Jim Riggs, and it's always a treat to hear him play. What a sound, what a sound...

Following some chill time at the Rivercenter (where we listened to the Andean Fusion band that plays there every year at this time), we braved the hourlong line to listen to the All-State Symphonic Band, which is probably the largest indoor band there is. We felt bad for the few people who had to wear their marching band uniform for this concert instead of the usual black tux or dress; once upon a time, everyone wore uniforms, but now it just really sticks out (though the drum major in the long, flowing cape onstage a few years ago did score some cool points in my book).

We dined on (or at least near) the river one last time at a fun, fifties-themed burger joint called Johnny Rockets. Halfling had been to the one that used to be in the West End in Dallas before closing a few years ago, but it was my first time and I really liked it--good burger, great shake, and the staff danced to the old-school soul tunes blaring from the jukebox, for which the customers are given nickels to make their selections.

But we had unfinished business; we wanted to sit in with someone that night. The duo at the Landing seemed to be pretty self-contained, but we had gotten a flier at the All-State jazz concert about a Latin jazz group (playing at a club located remarkably near our hotel) that was letting people sit in during their second set. Off we went...

It took a little while to find a table, as Luna was full to capacity. The band was led by a percussionist, and they also had sax, trumpet, piano, bass, and drums, as well as a female vocalist. We talked to the leader and he agreed to let us sit in like the flyer promised. We did so on "Route 66," and it actually went over pretty well; we got some nice comments and high-fives on the way back to our table. We were hoping for the invite again in the last set, but they were wrapping things up; still, we had a good time and got an open invitation to sit in again the next time we're in town. We also got some ideas for our future jazz club, some of which Halfling actually sketched on a cocktail napkin (you always hear about so many good ideas starting out this way).

Not much to say about the trip home, except that we got to stop and see my sister, brother-in-law and nephews for a while and give Noah his birthday present (a San Antonio t-shirt from the Rivercenter; my sister was happy that it wasn't a present that made noise, as Noah already has a surplus of these). It was cool for my "brother from a different mother" to meet my sister from my actual mother, and it's always great to get some hang time with the young'uns.

All in all, it was a great weekend. I have a pseudo-holiday today with a big gig tonight...updates are sure to follow.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

A Great Hang in the Alamo City (Part 1)

I'm back. The trip was great--a badly-needed break and a most excellent time. There wasn't even time for a "Live from TMEA" post this time, as the Internet court had a pretty substantial line to use it every time we passed by. But that was no biggie; two days without the Net never killed anyone who was on vacation. Sure, there are spots in the convention center that are now equipped with wi-fi, so someday there'll be a year where I'll do a post while waiting in the long cattle-pen-like line for an All-State concert, but yesterday I just enjoyed the steel band they had playing in the lobby instead.

I relaxed a lot, learned a lot, and saw a whole bunch of people whom I might only see at this time every year. I guess the easiest way to recount this is to list the high points of each day, so here goes:

We made great time on the trip down, arriving around 4:00 (since registration would close an hour later, there wasn't time to see Noah in Austin on his birthday; that would have to wait till Sunday). After a quick walk through the exhibit hall (which is gargantuan, as you might imagine), it was on to the first thing we came to see: a clinic on rhythm by Peter Erskine, the veteran drummer who's played with everyone from Weather Report to Steely Dan to the Bob Mintzer Big Band (he was also the guest artist with us at the college back in '01). He had a lot of great things to say; a point he drove home repeatedly was that players had to learn to "respect the space between the notes." He also had an engaging back-and-forth with a special guest in the audience: another veteran drummer, Ed Shaughnessy (he's the guy with the bushy sideburns behind the drum kit in Doc Severinsen's Tonight Show band from the Carson era).

From there, it was a dynamic duo from my alma mater as the UNT Wind Symphony and the One O'Clock played back-to-back in the massive Lila Cockrell Theatre. I hadn't seen the Wind Symphony since its current director, Eugene Corporon, took the reins, and it was quite impressive. The music being written for wind ensemble these days is much more appealing than the "band music" of several decades ago; writers have learned to get a lot of interesting colors out of wind instruments instead of going for the old organ-like sound (I'll write my thoughts later on how film-score composers saved classical music; this concert bolstered my opinion in that area). A piece featuring piano professor Steve Harlos was very enjoyable.

The One O'Clock was very "on" for the capacity crowd, and while they played mostly pieces that helped define their signature sound (call them flag-wavers, barnburners or whatever), they played them well. Halfling predicted almost their entire program (including "For Openers," "AWJ" and "A Study Was Done" from Lab 2004), and then I figured out that they still had one more chart to go after their "final" selection: an encore of "Machito." Sure enough, that's what happened, and it was much more polished than it was when they trotted it out at the Syndicate a few weeks ago.

The night of music was capped off with a trip to The Landing, the famous jazz club on the river level of the Hyatt. The Jim Cullum Jazz Band plays traditional New Orleans jazz (what some would call Dixieland) indoors; I spent an evening there last year, but this time, the weather was nicer, so the outdoor riverside area was open as well, and there was a trio of trumpet, piano, bass and drums that played some enjoyable standards. We hoped the weather would hold up for the rest of the weekend so we could see more.

This was a morning of rest; nothing we wanted to see was happening until 2:00, so we took advantage of that and took our time getting downtown (even scoring some Thin Mints from a Girl Scout Cookie booth at a shopping center). However, we underestimated the parking problem downtown on a Friday (this was the first time in four years that I hadn't gotten a downtown hotel to begin with), so we ended up a bit late to another fine Peter Erskine clinic. This time, however, I got to say hello to him for the first time since he'd been our guest artist, which was cool.

Most of the rest of the afternoon was spent in the exhibits; as I mentioned before, the hall is probably the size of a couple of football fields, and it features anything that's remotely connected with music education: instrument manufacturers, music publishers, retail stores, fundraisers, professional organizations, and so on. Halfling and I brought a menagerie of mouthpieces and tried out a bunch of different horns; some were much better than others, but nothing would quite pry me away from my Mark VI's quite yet. I did get to play the straight alto that was on display there, which was fun but weird; the sound is just so much farther away than you'd expect it to be. Oh, and I came up with 2/3 of a blues head while testing out the Cannonball alto, so maybe I can actually finish it and add it to TD/D's repertoire before long.

The musical highlight of the day was the concert by Dimensions in Blue, the jazz unit of the Air Force Band of the West, based right there in San Antonio. Their guest artist was Eric Marienthal, an amazing alto player who's best known for his work with the Chick Corea Elektric Band and Gordon Goodwin's Big Phat Band. Though his own solo recordings have leaned quite a bit toward the smooth side, he's got quite a lot of technique and a full bag of tricks, and it was a pleasure to hear him live for the first time since I'd seen the Elektric Band in college. Dimensions in Blue have recorded a CD of the music of Gordon Goodwin, so the program was heavy on Big Phat Band tunes, including "Hunting Wabbits," "High Maintenance," and the as-yet-unrecorded-by-Goodwin "Count Bubba's Revenge."

From there, we had Mexican food on the river at Casa Rio (lucking into a table after only five minutes) and made a quick visit to the UNT reception at the Hilton before heading back to the convention center for the Sinfonia sing, which ran as efficiently as ever; we actually had time to spare before the building's midnight closing time. This day would also end in jazzful fashion, as we went back down to the Landing to catch the trumpet player again; this time he had some folks sitting in, including a few of the All-State Jazz Ensemble members. I asked him afterwards if this were a normal thing and if he'd be back the next night, and he said he wouldn't, but maybe the guys who would be there would let us sit in with them. We made it a point to bring horns with us the next day.

(continued tomorrow in Part 2)

Thursday, February 10, 2005

The Five-Day Weekend Commences

I'm off to San Antonio this morning for the annual TMEA convention, a.k.a. Old Home Week, Pre-Spring Break Spring Break, etc. Halfling will be going with me this time, which will be all kinds of cool. Among the things we're planning to see are concerts by Peter Erskine, Eric Marienthal and the One O'Clock, and of course we'll get to try out all the cool new horns and what-not. Blogging will be limited until Sunday, though there is a little computer bank in the exhibit hall; if I don't have too many emails to reply to when I'm there, I'll sneak over to Blogger for a quick post. It's not supposed to be much warmer down there than it is here, but I'll bet it doesn't snow like it did last year.

Oh yeah, and Monday is a school holiday in my district too. I'll teach a few lessons (and have a gig that night), but it's also a relaxing day since I won't have to get up at six in the morning. I'm really looking forward to this.

Regional rivalry resumes: I read in the paper yesterday that, not this year, but in '06 and '07, UNT and SMU will once again meet in football. 'Bout time...

Blowing out a third of a dozen candles: Happy birthday to my nephew Noah, who turns four today. We should actually get to see him on our trip down, as Austin's right on the way. I posted the story of Noah's arrival into the world on this site last year; he was actually born during TMEA, and I received the news of his birth at the same hotel we'll be staying in this year. He's a great kid, and I'm looking forward to a visit or two during the trip.

QUOTE OF THE (YESTER)DAY: "So basically this thing is like a Trekkie convention for old music people?"--A rather eccentric student of mine, referring to TMEA, of course. I assured him that many of the attendees were not, in fact, old.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

I Don't Know Jack....But I'm Getting There

This was bound to happen eventually...

Even though it's in its fourth season, I had never taken the opportunity to observe the exploits of agent Jack Bauer on Fox. But after many weeks of Dave Barry giving regular updates on his blog, J-Guar raving repeatedly, and Halfling flat-out telling me I just had to watch this show, I tuned in last night for the first time, and I can now say that I am officially addicted to 24. No surprise, really...

And, unlike some people, I don't think that they use of Muslims as terrorists means that our society is regressing. Who did you think they'd use, the Amish?? I think Lileks said it best when he noted this morning that "it seems a bit much to complain that a show about terrorism gets around to Islamofascists in its third season."

But yeah, great stuff (not that Halfling, J-Guar or Dave could possibly steer me wrong). Mondays just got a little less Monday-ish for a while.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Now I've Heard It All

You may recall that, a year or so ago, the music industry sued a grandfather here in the Metroplex over file-sharing offenses that it turned out he didn't even commit (his visiting grandkids turned out to be the culprits). Well, now they've gone and sued an 83-year-old woman for the same thing. However, they'll have trouble getting her to show up in court, seeing as how she died in December.

Key quote: ""I believe that if music companies are going to set examples they need to do it to appropriate people and not dead people," [the woman's daughter] said. "I am pretty sure she is not going to leave Greenwood Memorial Park (where she is buried) to attend the hearing."

Read the whole thing. (via InstaPundit)

Finally, a Game That Was Better Than the Commercials

I actually enjoyed watching the Super Bowl last night. As we might say in Texas, I didn't have a dog in this fight (since my favorite team, the Cowboys, were awful this year), but I was definitely pulling for New England, because it's hard to be a Dallas fan and root for Philly (and I bet people from other places might feel the same way, seeing as how Eagles fans have booed Santa Claus and applauded when Michael Irvin got injured at a game there). The big game is so often a blowout by the end of the first half; this one kept us (somewhat literally) on the edge of our chairs the whole time.

The halftime was obviously a bit tamer than last year's, seeing as how everyone in broadcasting has been feeling a bit under-the-gun since last year's "wardrobe malfunction" fiasco. Sir Paul did a fine job, although Halfling and I thought it would've been fun if they'd trotted out Maynard Ferguson during the obligatory rendition of "Hey Jude."

As for the commercials, everyone was a bit more subdued as well. I liked the FedEx spot with the "top ten ways to make a successful Super Bowl commercial," as well as the one with the cat and the tomato sauce and the mean old man who kept throwing things (their baseball, a car, MC Hammer) back to the kids over the fence after they gave him a bag of potato chips. What was your favorite commercial?

The department of redundancy department: I keep hearing an ad on the radio that talks about a "ceremonial Chinese tea ceremony." Doesn't the fact that it's a ceremony make it, well, ceremonial?

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Forget Ranting; These Guys Are Building Their Own Machine

Longtime Musings readers know that I've been ranting against the Machine for almost as long as I've been a blogger. (For the uninitiated, the Machine is my name for the corporate-driven recording industry, or Big Music if you wish; read the whole thing to understand why I believe the industry is no friend of musicians.) Yesterday, I read an encouraging article in this month's issue of Down Beat magazine that talks about how many jazz artists are taking the bull by the horns and bypassing the Machine completely by starting their own labels:
Maria Schneider pulled off a coup in 2004. The composer/bandleader didn't sell one copy of her new Maria Schneider Orchestra album, Concert in the Garden, in a retail store. This wasn't a catastrophic failure for Schneider, though. When Grammy nominations were announced in December, she received four nominations for the album, more than any other jazz artist or album in 2004.
Schneider released Concert in the Garden through ArtistShare...and sold thousands of copies of it exclusively through She has taken control of her recording career and found working outside the traditional label-artist relationship can lead to commercial success.
--Jason Koransky, "First Take: The Artist as Businessman"
Unfortunately, the article is not linked on DB's website, but it goes on to tout some of the aritists who have started their own labels in recent years (including Kevin Mahogany, Branford Marsalis, Dave Holland (no link yet), Ravi Coltrane and Dave Douglas). It's well worth tracking down the magazine on newsstands if you're a big jazz fan.

This is great news for jazz musicians, who have pretty much become the red-headed stepchild* of the recorded music industry in the first place. Jazz has become a really specialized genre in the past several decades, and while its devotees are often fiercely loyal, most jazz recordings will never sell in numbers nearly close enough to "help them pay their rents in Times Square," as Ravi Coltrane notes. Having jazz musicians at the helm of smaller, artist-friendly labels will also ensure that musical integrity is the top priority whenever a recording is released, and these new musician/entrepreneurs are sharing the wealth by signing new artists to their labels. Sure, the two major jazz labels have been able to peacefully coexist with the Machine without going over to the Dark Side, but as Mahogany points out, "[E]verybody can't be on [Verve and Blue Note]. But this is better for jazz, as there are more opportunities for more artists to do their own thing. It'll make jazz better."

We in the jazz world were never going to win at the Machine's game, so it only makes sense that some enterprising jazzers decided to form their own league. Bravo to the pioneers in an area that's likely to be the model for recorded jazz for decades to come.

*Sorry, Dingus, I couldn't resist that one. Heh. (Oh, and speaking of Dingus, he returns from the blogospheric dead with a new post on the TD/D site.)

QUOTE OF THE (YESTER)DAY: "One good thing about music is, it takes your mind off everything else. You get lost in the action. You become part of it. No matter how down you are, music lifts you up."--'April Patterson,' in yesterday's strip of the comic For Better or For Worse.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Toy Soldiers in Trouble

News-blog junkies certainly caught this story already, but I had to mention it for those regular Musings readers who may have missed it:
BAGHDAD, Iraq - The U.S. military said Tuesday that no U.S. soldiers were known to be missing in Iraq after Iraqi militants claimed in a Web statement to have taken a soldier hostage and threatened to behead him.

“No units have reported anyone missing,” said Staff Sgt. Nick Minecci of the U.S. military's press office in Baghdad.

Doubts were also raised about the authenticity of a photograph posted on the Web site, which the militants claimed depicted the kidnapped soldier. A toy manufacturer said the figure in the photo resembled one of its military action figures, originally produced for sale at U.S. bases in Kuwait.
Read the whole thing.

Glenn Reynolds (a.k.a. InstaPundit) has more on his other site, Others in the blogosphere have gotten into the game, writing satire like G.I.Joe's POW Diaries and so on.

It's obvious to me that the bad guys are losing if they're resorting to "kidnapping" action figures to get attention...

Irony of the day: Out of all the Microsoft employees who own a portable music player, 80 percent own an iPod. Heh.
(via UNEASYsilence)

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Phil Sees His Shadow

According to a report I heard on the radio on the way home, the famous groundhog known as Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow today, so there is supposed to be six more weeks of winter. (I'm really doubting that here in Texas, of course.)

Here's some groundhog trivia:

Yes! Punxsutawney Phil is the only true weather forecasting groundhog. The others are just impostors.

. There has only been one Punxsutawney Phil. He has been making predictions for over 119 years!

. Punxsutawney Phil gets his longevity from drinking "groundhog punch," a secret recipe. Phil takes one sip every summer at the Groundhog Picnic and it magically gives him seven more years of life.

. On February 2, Phil comes out of his burrow on Gobbler's Knob - in front of thousands of followers from all over the world - to predict the weather for the rest of winter.

. According to legend, if Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow, there will be six more weeks of winter weather. If he does not see his shadow, there will be an early spring.

.The celebration of Groundhog Day began with Pennsylvania's earliest settlers. They brought with them the legend of Candlemas Day, which states, "For as the sun shines on Candlemas Day, so far will the snow swirl in May..."


At any rate, I bet it still gets warm here before spring break...

Blowing out the candles: Happy birthday to Kevin D. in Austin; maybe this year our paths will finally cross again.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Just One More (The Gig from Hell)

Wow, a triple-post day. Either I have no life, or the combination of bad weather and the flu-thing that's sweeping UNT has cancelled my usual racquetball match with Halfling tonight and given me all kinds of spare time (I'm voting for the latter, of course).

Anyway, I just read a post that deserves mention. I've written before about my experiences on a so-called "wallpaper" gig (i.e. one where the music is strictly a background presence and not the focal point of the event). At least that gig was a relatively pleasant one; John Murphy writes about a party he played over the weekend that didn't turn out nearly so well:
(W)hen it was time for you to get everyone's attention so that you could read what you found out about the wine in Wine Spectator, or to introduce the chef so that he could tell everyone about the Texas Kobe beef and the artisanal cheeses from California, you didn't wait until one of our short selections was finished. Instead, you tapped on your glass to get everyone's attention, and then one of the guests (who would make an excellent gym teacher) shouted "Yo!!" in such a way that his voice echoed off the walls and bare floors of your large living room (which, by the way, is decorated in an extremely tasteful contemporary way).
This brought our music to an unexpected halt in a way that I found upsetting. And it happened numerous times. I was too embarrassed to call your attention to it as it was happening. Embarrassed both for myself, since I was playing background music rather than foreground music, and for you, since your obvious cultivation in matters of wine, food, and visual art apparently does not extend to music.
Ouch--the gig from hell. Read the whole thing...

UPDATE: I noticed a few days later that this post is no longer up on John's site; I hope that he didn't receive any pressure from above to do that. With any luck, he and the person who hired him for the gig (who was not at all mentioned by name) were able to work things out amicably.

Will It, or Won't It?

An annual North Texas ritual began this afternoon with the confirmation that the rain we had been experiencing most of the day was about to turn to snow. This guarantees that people who don't normally watch or listen to the news on TV or radio will be huddled by the nearest electronic device, hoping to find out whether or not we'll get a snow day tomorrow.

True winter weather never makes enough appearances in this area to lessen the excitement factor of having it in the forecast. Even the snow we had right before Christmas almost didn't "count," because most people were already off from school or work, and half the fun of a snow day is getting an unexpected holiday out of it.

More often than not, the forecast of snow in this area is much ado about nothing, because it so rarely pans out at all, much less give anyone a day off. If I were a betting man, I'd say that this one would fall into that category, just because it's not supposed to get below freezing tonight. (Part of this is wishful thinking, too, because this is "pay week" for me in the public schools, and Wednesday is an awfully long teaching day to miss collecting all those checks for a whole week. Besides, it's solo and ensemble for the high schoolers this weekend, and I don't want to miss their last lessons before the competition.) The only sign that favored the snow so far was that, when I left the college a little bit ago, the sky just looked like snow was on the way; I can't describe it any better than that.

So, like just about everybody else around here, I'll plan for a school day, with the only change being that I'll look out the window and turn on the radio right when I wake up. Time will tell...

NEXT DAY UPDATE: No snow at all; not diddley squat. Pretty much what I expected.

Silly signage update: Last school year, I devoted a fair amount of space on this site to making fun of a local restaurant for its badly-spelled or poor-grammar-ridden signs. That place has gotten much better since then, but in the past week, I've seen some new ones:

At a McDonald's in the area: TRY OUR NEW McGRIDDELS
(this did get fixed a few days ago)

At a local middle school: BENCHMARK TESTING THIS WEEK. DO GOOD.
(One hopes that English was not among the subjects being tested, if the goal is for everyone to do "good." Unless, of course, the students are expected to exhibit outstanding citizenship in addition to doing well on the tests...)

Joke of the Day: (actually from yesterday, but still funny)
A beautiful student goes to a male professor's office and says, in a breathy voice, "Professor . . . . I'd do anything to get an A on your exam."

"Anything?," the professor asks, conspiratorially.

The student leans closer. "Anything," she says.

The professor says, "Would you . . . study?"
(from a recent post on the Volokh Conspiracy)

Blowing out the candles: Happy birthday to my frat bro James; hope to see ya soon.

We Still Remember

It's hard to believe that it was two years ago today that the space shuttle Columbia disintegrated in midair over Texas. Since I was an unknowing (at the time) witness to this event, I posted a narrative a year ago as if it were taking place that day (I couldn't post on the day itself, since I didn't become a blogger until April of that year).

And now, NASA Is preparing for a new shuttle launch later in the year, and the small Texas town of Hemphill, where some of the remains fell to earth, wants to erect a permanent Columbia memorial.

We still have not forgotten you, Columbia Seven...