Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Here We Go...

Three gigs in three nights, starting tomorrow. Posting may be nonexistent until the weekend, but I promise I'll just be busy and not out getting abducted by aliens or anything. Lots to talk about, no time to talk about it right now. If you're in the area, come see us at the choir concert on Thursday or Friday if you'd like.

But first, I had to post this, because it's hilarious...especially the fact that someone "successfully" bid on the item. I guess there really is big money to be made off the stupidity of others.

Oh, and please scroll down and answer yesterday's poll if you haven't done so already. I know that Gary isn't the only Musings reader with an opinion on this...

Speaking of vocal concerts...scientists have discovered a singing iceberg in Antarctica.

Monday, November 28, 2005

A Quick "Playmaker" Poll

Since this was all over the news today...

1) Do you think that Michael Irvin is guilty of the charges against him?

2) Should he lose his job with ESPN? If so, should that be immediately, or only upon conviction of the charges?

3) Should this incident affect his possible election to the NFL Hall of Fame?

4) Are pro athletes role models, whether they like it or not?

Answer one or all of the questions in the comments section.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Like Clockwork

Anyone who's out here in my neck of the woods could testify to what a beautiful afternoon it was today. But did you go out after dark? I did, and besides the 20-degree temperature drop, the wind was howling like nobody's business. Almost blow away, I did (whoa, a little Yoda-speak there). And I have to say, the timing couldn't have been more perfect, because if tomorrow was going to be as nice as today was, I doubt that anyone would have had the least bit of desire to go back to work or school.

This break was way too short; I think I got spoiled for those couple of years where my public school district took the whole week off. I'm not sure why they discontinued that, but, in the absence of a "fall break" like some of our neighboring districts have, it was pretty nice. Sure, I had to teach college on Tuesday afternoons, but if I griped about having to be somewhere by 2 or 3 in the afternoon, I'd be just plain lazy.

The week ahead will be intense; testimony to that is posted on the sidebar: Three gigs in three days, all with the school combos (and a dress rehearsal tomorrow night after teaching). I'm going to have to rediscover that "sleep" thing during the week to keep myself fresh.

Share the despair: My informed source tells me that the newest 2006 Demotivators Calendars from Despair, Inc. are about ready to ship for the holiday season (two other calendars of the "greatest hits" variety that are already available). I give a lot of them as Christmas presents, and if you have any downtrodden office slaves or "disaffected college students" in your life (or anyone else who likes a good laugh) you should too. (Full disclosure: my brother-in-law heads the company, so every calendar you buy will not only make you laugh, but it will also help put food on the table of my sweet sister and two darling nephews.)

A holiday reminder from the copier guys: The copier manufacturer and distributor Canon reminds everyone to be gentle with their equipment during the holiday season, when far too many people crack the glass by trying to copy their rear ends. (Hat tip: Dave Barry's Blog)

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Turkey Day Is Over, So Here Come the Leftovers

All the random stuff that's been accumulating over the past few days, slathered with virtual gravy and served up as a casserole:
  • From Thursday's paper: Teachers at a local school ask their kindergarten students to come up with instructions for cooking the Thanksgiving turkey; their answers are hilarious. (Sample: " Buy the turkey at a chicken store. Give money to the lady that gives the turkey to you. Put the turkey in the cage so that it will be safe. Then you cut the turkey in half and remove the feathers. Put some salt and pepper on it and fry for 31 years.")

  • In case you missed it last night: R.I.P., Mr. Miyagi.

  • Once upon a time, prison inmates used to while away their sentences by "bustin' rocks" or making license plates. But some prisoners in Alaska have an interesting job: butchering the meat of moose that have been struck by trains. (Key quote: ""We don't want to give the impression that we're celebrating moose being killed. But if it's going to happen, then let's not waste the meat.")

  • From the "I never thought I'd see this" department: Today at the UNT football game, I saw a Chick-Fil-A cow mascot riding a Segway around the stadium concourse. He would later narrowly lose a race across the field on the trendy scooters to Scrappy, the UNT Eagle.

  • This last football game of the season was my first one to attend this year. It was pretty much a lost season, though I would've felt guilty if we'd won today; that would've made me think that I was jinxing them by not being at the earlier games. At any rate, there'll be no trip to the Not New Orleans Bowl (it is being played, but in Lafayette) for us this year.

  • Cool news of the week: Maynard Ferguson will be at our Sinfonia convention this summer, which means I'm likely to be able to meet him.
From the "someone needs to get a life" department: I also wanted to mention in passing that, in yesterday's paper, there was a letter-writer who thought that the new chancellor-designate of the UT System should be disqualified because he told a reporter that he enjoys The Simpsons. They didn't put the letter in the online edition, so I can't link or really even quote it, but my response to the guy would definitely be, "Don't have a cow, man." To drive my point home, maybe I'd even have the Chick-Fil-A cow run into him with a Segway, on general principle. ("You wanna have a cow over something so trivial? Here's your cow!")

When Black Friday comes, I'm gonna dig myself a hole...in my wallet (or not): Here's a quick poll question--Did you go shopping yesterday or avoid the malls like the plague? (Me, I was chillin' with the family in Austin and not driving back until late, so no shopping for me yet.)

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Another Holiday Cornucopia

Happy Thanksgiving to all! Our family is converging (assuming that it's possible for seven people to "converge") on my sister's place in Austin, so I'm out the door in a few minutes to join the celebration. I'lll be back late tomorrow night, and until then, I'll leave you with a couple of quick stories that have been lying around waiting to be posted:
  • If you live in Massachusetts, I hope you don't run out of food or accidentally burn the stuffing. The state's centuries-old "blue laws" don't allow any grocery stores to be open today, and the state has warned Whole Foods Market, which was hoping to buck the trend, that they'll face criminal charges if they do.

  • I really enjoyed reading Kurt Vonnegut's novels when I was younger, but now I hear that he's praising terrorists and suicide bombers. Is it creeping senility, or has the man just lost his mind? James Lileks takes him to task in a recent Screedblog entry.

  • On to the lighter side: A French woman was arrested after she tried to open an airplane door in mid-flight so she could go outside and smoke a cigarette.

  • On my way to Denton last night, I was very happy to have to stop in Lewisville and pay $2.01 a gallon for regular gas...until I actually got to Denton and saw that it was $1.99. The magic number has been broken!
I have a review of the One O'Clock/Lou Marini concert in progress; it'll go up when I get back. Until then, everyone have a safe and happy Thanksgiving.

Tongue-twister of the day: At the social gathering I attended last night, one of the things they were serving was "spiked, spiced cider." Try saying that ten times fast...

Monday, November 21, 2005

If You Can't Beat 'Em....Ignore 'Em

As I usually do during the teaching day, I was listening to little snippets of the Ernie Brown show on my trips between schools, and today, he was in rare form, ridiculing political correctness (a favorite whipping boy here at The Musings as well) once again . The story du jour was the recent flap about Wal-Mart replacing the use of "Merry Christmas" with "Happy Holidays":
Wal-Mart Stores Inc. on Thursday said it no longer employs a worker who wrote to a shopper that Christmas is a mix of world religions, but that the company does support the generic greeting, "Happy Holidays," as being more inclusive amid year-end celebrations by numerous faiths.

The Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights criticized the world's largest retailer and called for a boycott over Wal-Mart's approach to Christmas.

"We want a) an apology for insulting Christians by effectively banning Christmas and b) a withdrawal of its insane statement regarding the origins of Christmas and c) a revision on its website," Catholic League President Bill Donohue said on the group's Web site.
Heh, I thought to myself, boycott Wal-Mart? That shouldn't be too hard for me, even though I did have to go in one in Stephenville the other night, strictly by default.

As Ernie pointed out, it used to be an uplifting thing to tell someone "Merry Christmas," but now it's considered an insult by some. But you know what? If someone gets offended by such an innocent, almost always well-intentioned greeting, that's their problem, not mine. And I think that Ernie was onto something good when he said that the best way to fight the PC problem is just not to let yourself get sucked in by it at all. Give people whatever holiday greetings you see fit, and if someone doesn't like it, they don't have to listen. (The funny thing is, I'm probably even a bit more accommodating, since I'll readily wish someone I know to be Jewish a Happy Hanukkah, but yet I wouldn't be offended in the least if they responded in kind. Can there ever really be too much happiness spread around?)

The callers on the show today brought up some good points, including the fact that many of the people who are offended by the use of "Merry Christmas" would squeal like a stuck pig if the perks of the holiday were taken away from them. Offended by the word Christmas? OK, then you lose your Christmas bonus. You don't get December 25th as a holiday, either. What's that, you say--that's different? But hang on--can you really have it both ways?

At some point in time, most sane, rational, mature people will have some sort of "tipping point"-type event that will make them say "enough already!" to the PC plague. Me, I got there a long time ago, but then, I was born white and male, so I guess I never had a chance with the PC crowd. But as I've said before, I've read the Constitution, and among those "inalienable rights" listed in the Preamble, "the right to not get one's feelings hurt" is nowhere to be found. So those who waste their lives (and lungs) complaining about things like that should indeed just be ignored, just like little kids throwing temper tantrums...which is really what they are, in adult bodies, most of the time.

I'm sure this subject won't go away anytime soon, so I'm likely to make fun of it again in future posts.

Oh, Please... (10/22/04)
Political Correctness Run Amok (10/28/04)
P.C. as a Jazz Bassist? Good. P.C. as a Lifestyle? Ridiculous (8/6/05)
P.C. Takes It on the Chin, For Once (11/8/05)

What can Brown do for you, or the importance of being Ernest: I've mentioned the Ernie Brown show before, because it's very entertaining and covers a lot of good topics, but I haven't yet discussed this cool personal connection (which could almost qualify as a Fun Fact): I've learned in the past month that the Ernie Brown who's on the air now is the same one who was my Little League teammate in Houston when I was in fourth grade (he was in fifth). I'd listened to the show during his previous stint on KRLD and noted the name coincidence, but I didn't think much of it until he came back to Dallas a few months ago and mentioned quite a few things about growing up in Houston, which led me to believe that he was indeed the same guy. I eventually contacted him; we compared notes by email and discovered that it was true. He stopped by my Broadway Bistro gig a few weeks ago, and it was great to talk to him after all that time. Not only is he a really cool guy, but he's 100% real; the guy on the air and the guy in the flesh are totally one and the same--a refreshing thing in a business where so many people are fake. It just makes me appreciate the show even more. At any rate, that's my "full disclosure," I suppose; if I quote the show a few times, it's not just because I enjoy it as a listener.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: "We thought you guys were Mormon....or maybe a hockey team."--a couple of off-duty Chili's waitresses/bartenders at Bennigan's last night, after seeing our group of fifty or so fraternity brothers--mostly all dressed up in coats and ties--arrive after an induction.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

They Still Don't Get It

There was another article a few weeks ago about the continued efforts of the UT System regents to try and get students to graduate "on time."
At five of the system's nine undergraduate campuses, less than 37 percent of full-time freshmen who started college in fall 1997 received a bachelor's degree from the school within six years. The statewide six-year graduation rate is 52 percent, while the national rate is about 55 percent.

The UT System's four-year graduation rates are even worse.

Just 4.5 percent of UT-El Paso students who entered as freshmen in fall 1999 graduated on time. UT-San Antonio's four-year graduation rate was 6.1 percent for that period, while UT-Pan American's was 8.4 percent.
The problem is, using the old four-year idea as their standard of timeliness is horribly outdated; the real world just doesn't work like that anymore.

I've posted on this subject before, because it really irritates me that the old-school thinking of the regents (and state legislators, who have tried to pass "professional student" bills in the past--bills that would actually penalize students for not finishing "on time") is so far removed from new-school reality. I see it at the community college level all the time; I haven't taken a scientific survey or anything, but experience has shown that many of my traditional students are either working multiple jobs to eke out a living on their own while going to school or working to try and get out of their parents' houses and/or transfer to a four-year school. Certain specialized degrees, like my music education undergrad (currently set at a minimum of 139 credit hours), have only been four-year degrees on paper for years now, and, because of the rising cost of tuition and the necessity of working through school for many more students, most other degrees are headed that way.

I'm not the only one who realizes this; another local college professor takes the regents to task for their antiquated views in a letter today:
It's clear that these University of Texas regents – rich, old political appointees – have never met a modern college student.

I teach at a state university and can tell you that my students often work full time, take care of a family or deal with medical crises. As tuition and fees rise, fewer students can afford full-time college. Few have parents who support them.
--Susan P. Chizeck, UT-Dallas
Prof. Chizeck goes on to say that it's not likely that graduation rates will speed up until financial aid is increased, and today's reality is often that it has in fact decreased. Plus, many students would rather work their way through school than be faced with a mountain of student-loan debt after graduation.

As I said before, sure, there are some slackers in there, but the majority of long-term students are just trying to balance their studies with paying for those studies as best they can. Besides, these students aren't really "taking up space" at their colleges; if the school is getting "full" and doesn't want to turn away new students, there are several ways to serve everyone, including adding more night classes, and yes, maybe even adding more classroom space. After all, in the logical world, more students = more tuition money, and there shouldn't be a reason that such extra money couldn't go to making the school's physical plant bigger.

At any rate, I'm glad someone called these people out on their misguided views. Perhaps all regents should be required to spend a week on their respective campuses (apart from their regular meetings), talking with students and seeing what college life is really like in this day and age. Hmm--this sounds suspiciously like the same reason that administrators should also teach. I sense a pattern here...

Blowing out the candles: Happy birthday to Jim--my friend, fraternity brother, teaching colleague and occasional Musings commenter.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Notes from the Road (Stephenville Edition #2)

As promised, here are some unusual observations from this weekend's roadtrip:
  • I saw several unique mailboxes along the way, the best two being the one shaped like a horse (which had its back to the road, so one would have to open the box by pulling on the tail) and the one that had tractor wheels on it.

  • Something that's not likely to be seen in Dallas: A sign on a store in the small town of Bluff Dale said WELCOME DEER HUNTERS. Indeed, I would see several people decked out in camouflage in the Hard Eight; I would at first mistake them for military personnel, until I realized that it was hunters' camo (the haircuts gave them away).

  • Another "we're not in Dallas anymore, Toto" moment came when I read a sign that pointed to hay being sold on Campbell Road. Such a thing would never happen anymore on "our" Campbell Road in Garland/Richardson/north Dallas. Thirty years ago, maybe, but not now, when a shopping center or telecom building would be much more common.

  • A sign outside a flea market advertised some of its wares: MAGIC SCARFS (sic), SEQUIN PURSES and PUPPIES. Wait--puppies? That doesn't exactly go with the other stuff being sold, but I guess that's where this particular flea market gets its fleas...

  • And finally, in the "Huh?" department, a sign in the town of Cresson read "OUTSIDE YARD SALE INSIDE."
I've done a post about a trip along this route before; here's the first set of Notes from the Road (Stephenville Edition) from last time.

I think somebody forgot to pay the barking meter: For the first time in a long time, I had trouble sleeping in my hotel, because a dog in the next room barked incessantly for the entire first hour after I went to bed. I saw a guy walking a dog (the little yappy kind) out by the pool area when I got there, and I thought at first that they were still in the courtyard area. I poked my head outside to see where it was, and at that point, the desk clerk walked by with another guest. I asked her where the dog was, and of course, at that point, the barking stopped. We all stood there in uncomfortable silence for a moment (especially me, since I didn't want anyone to think I was crazy) until the barking resumed and we realized it was coming from next door. The desk clerk looked surprised and assured me she'd get on it after she finished helping the guest she was with at the moment. The barking would keep going for a while, which made me guess that perhaps the owners just left the dog in the room while they were out.

So here's my little rantlet: If you're going to take the dog on vacation, either a) don't leave it alone for prolonged periods, or b) ask for a room far, far away from any other guests. And if you're the hotel owner, the question of the day is whether or not it's possible to be pet-friendly without stopping being people-friendly in the process.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Travel Advisory

I'm headed out to Stephenville tomorrow to visit one of my fraternity chapters. I'm taking advantage of my main Friday middle school being out of town on a band trip in order to make this visit; sometimes things just work out like that. It's only a little over an hour southwest of Ft. Worth, and if you take 377 like I do, it's really a pretty nice drive. I'll hopefully get the chance to eat barbecue at the Hard Eight, and it should go without saying that I'll be picking up cases upon cases of Dublin Dr Pepper while I'm down there (Stephenville is close enough to Dublin that the magic, sugary elixir is even available as a fountain drink at most local restaurants).

I'd love to do some more hard-hitting, issue-based posts like the one I did a few days ago, but I'm pretty swamped right now. The daytime combo is getting ready to do a gig at a food-tasting at one of our other campuses, the night combo is accompanying the jazz choir on their concerts the week after Thanksgiving, and I'm trying to book the next gig for TD/D and/or Kev and Friends. Oh, and all my high-schoolers have All-Region tryouts in a few weeks. I am a perpetual motion machine.

I'll be back on Saturday late morning/early afternoon with a new post and hopefully some "notes from the road." I do tend to see the most unusual things on roadtrips...

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Another Milestone

This morning, Kevmobile 1.2 hit the magic mark of 150,000 miles. With the amount of money I've put into her in the past month alone, I hope she's around for a while. I'm not sure if this car is meant to top the 338,000 miles I put on the original Kevmobile (and I really doubt I'll catch my friend Kris and his 400,000-mile 4Runner), but you never know. The cool thing is that it took me nearly two years to get there from the 100K mark (which happened two Thanksgivings ago in Austin), which means I'm driving a lot less than I was a few years ago, when my yearly average was 33,000. Less driving = less gas = mo' money. Yay.

Tomorrow will bring a regular-sized post, I hope.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

A Quick Funny

The possibility of a bird flu outbreak among humans is not funny...but this email forward is:
The Center for Disease Control has released a list of symptoms of bird flu.
If you experience any of the following, please seek medical treatment immediately:

1. High fever
2. Congestion
3. Nausea
4. Fatigue
5. Aching in the joints
6. An irresistible urge to crap on someone's windshield.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Going Too Far?

I read an interesting article last week about a recent Pew Internet survey, which notes that 57 percent of all teenagers onilne create sort of digital content--be it photo sharing, digital remixing or blogs. It's a good article on its own merit, as it examines how these so-called "screenagers" are transforming the traditional relationship between producers and consumers of media.

But, needless to say, many adults aren't warming to this new digital world. This paragraph in particular caught my eye:
Last week, Pope John XXIII Regional High School in Sparta, N.J., announced that students who posted on MySpace.com or similar sites faced possible suspension from school, citing concerns that students were unwittingly revealing too much information about themselves to potential cyberpredators.
Wait a minute---they're going to get suspended for blogging? On their own time? I can understand if the school wants to limit or prohibit things like that during school hours, but can they really reach that far into a student's home life? Sure, the scholastic arm can extend past school grounds when it comes to illegal behavior (like benching students from extracurricular activities if they're caught drinking, even off-campus), but the last time I checked, blogging was legal. They've overstepped their bounds on this one.

(It should go without saying that I don't necessarily agree with even an on-campus blogging ban; heck, I used to update The Musings whenever I was stuck at a school during a down period, until my district blocked access to Blogger last school year. If the student is finished with his or her work, there are plenty of idle-time activities that are worse than blogging; ask Dingus about his high-school classmate who used to download cartoon porn.)

Am I all wet here? Does anyone think this school is being reasonable? Rather than fear the new technology (which plenty of older folks don't understand themselves), use this situation as a teachable moment: Tell the kids that they can blog all they want to, but use common sense--don't put your address or phone number on the Web, and maybe not even your last name. And remind them that anything they write does in fact go out over the World Wide Web, so one might want to use discretion when, say, writing bad things about people by name.

Besides, the online revolution is here to stay; it's not like the genie can be put back in the bottle. As the article notes,
[T]he Pew survey seems to suggest that the concern over the dangers of adolescent activity online - while perhaps well placed - is a mere cul-de-sac in a larger landscape where a new generation, armed to the teeth with digital sophistication, is redefining media on its own terms.
They sure are, and count me in as one adult who's very enthusiastic about all this stuff...not to mention a little jealous that it wasn't around when I was a kid.

(Hat tip: Althouse, who received some good comments to her own post on the subject.)

The ministry of silly animal names: Monty Python's John Cleese was the recipient of an unusual honor, as a new species of lemur was recently named after him.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

...And We're Back

I have successfully completed one combo arrangement, one adaptation of an old arrangement for new instrumentation, and finished/sent out two letters of recommendation for current students headed to four-year schools...all of which had been "pending" for quite some time. So now I can lift my self-imposed moratorium on blogging and resume regular posts.

It's hard for me to get "office stuff" done sometimes, because 1) the only physical office I have is shared with around 100 other professors (thankfully, all of us are never in there at the same time!); 2) my breaks between lessons usually involve driving to another school for more lessons, or to the college; 3) home is not usually conducive to getting work done; I'm often wiped out from a teaching day that's already gone 12+ hours, and there are plenty of distractions here (TV, internet, the occasional nap). I've always said that if I had one hour during the school day for "office hours" and the actual office in which to spend that hour, I'd never be behind on paperwork/arranging again. Until then, I have to resort to cram sessions like today.

If I get home early enough tonight, I'll do one a post of substance; if not, it'll go up tomorrow.

Bloggin' with Mr. Cooper: I'm happy to see that my buddy Coop is returning to regular weekday blogging, thanks to a college English assignment. He's allowed to write about whatever he wants, but I bet some of his posts will discuss being a music major in the "bubble" that is SMU.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Sparseness Alert

Posting may be light over the next several days as I get caught up on some arrangements that really must be done for the school combo this weekend, so they can be used for the fall concert and other stuff around that time. I have a lot I'd like to post about, but, as anyone in my combos knows, I arrange at a glacial pace (or at least it takes me a long time to get started; it's sort of like how the hardest part of practicing is opening up the case), so it's getting down to the wire. I'll catch up eventually, and quoteworthy stuff will of course go up as it happens, even if it's a short little post like yesterday's. I think I'll feel a lot less pressure when all this is done.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Kids Say the Darnedest Things, Vol. XXVII

This will be a short post, as I'm out for the evening in just a few moments. It came during one of the first lessons of the day, from yet another in a series of really funny middle-school kids. It happened after I came back from throwing away some trash from my practice room while he was putting together his horn, and he said...

"You took out the trash, but you forgot the biggest piece....me!!!!!"

As always, maybe you had to be there, but it cracked me up. And yeah, I'm pretty sure he was just being funny and didn't have repressed self-esteem issues or anything.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

P.C. Takes It on the Chin, For Once

Longtime Musings readers may recall how I've railed against political correctness in all its forms in several previous posts. Actually, except for the bassist Paul Chambers, the great tune ("Mr. P.C.") that John Coltrane named after him, and my late pet rabbit that I named after the tune, I'm not a big fan of anything with the initials P.C. (including computers, since I'm a die-hard Mac man). But political correctness has been running amok in our society for a long time, so it's nice to see it get turned back at the gate every now and then.

I meant to post on this topic quite some time ago, when I first heard the story: The Fort Worth suburb of White Settlement was contemplating changing its name to "West Settlement" because the current name is...well, un-P.C.:
The "White'' part is just not right for today's business world, Mayor James Ouzts said.

"When people see the name, the question of race comes to mind. They ask `What is that all about? Why is that name there?' '' Ouzts said.

"If you start out in a negative spot, it's hard to overcome that.''
Granted, many locals were not in agreement with the name-change idea; one city official noted that if this change were to take place, they might as well change the name of the White House too. Where does it stop?

OK, if the town had a history as a Klan stronghold or something, it might have been a different story. But that's not the case at all: The town got its name back in the 1840's when a small enclave of Anglos settled near a number of Indian camps. (And I'm not paying any mind to those who might even say that I'm un-P.C. for using the word "Indian" to describe someone not from the vicinity of New Delhi. Sheesh.) And if the voters were to approve the measure, a city that's already strapped for cash would have to spend thousands upon thousands of dollars to change everything from stationery to city vehicles to the water tower...all because someone might get their feelings hurt. As the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram's history columnist pointed out, "[i]t just means that there was a group of whites who were daring enough to come west and settle in the midst of the Indians. We are going to lose the record of what the city meant historically.''

My definitive thoughts on this matter were posted a few months ago:
I remember when I was a little kid, and I would (as kids always do) get teased by other kids who called me bad names. I'd run home and complain to Mom about it, and she'd usually offer that timeless motherly pearl of wisdom: "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me." But since the whole political-correctness movement took hold in the early '90s, that old "momily" has been turned on its side...so that now, it's more like "If you hurt me with words, I'll break your bones with sticks and stones." Bleh. And people wonder how we've cultivated such a culture of victims and whiners who sue each other at the drop of a hat.
As Joe Bob Briggs might say, I don't want to have to tell you this again.

But the best news came just a few minutes ago, when I was watching the 10:00 news: The voters rejected the name change by a huge margin (2388 against, 219 for). The good guys win one this time.

How low can you go? A bass-trombonist friend sent me a link to a page for a very unusual horn called the tubax. It has the same range as a contrabass saxophone (an octave below the bari!), but it's smaller (relatively speaking, of course) and much cheaper than having an actual "contra" custom-made for you. Be sure and listen to this clip of a guy playing "Stardust" on the tubax.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Musician, Heal Thyself

I think I'm over the hump as far as the allergy misery goes. I may have hit my lowest point this morning; it could have been the practice room (located in a school where there's never been any air circulation in that wing since the building opened) or the fact that some of the students were making the same goofy mistakes over and over again, but nonetheless, I soldiered on, and by the time I had lunch (which perked me up considerably, as it always does), I knew that the worst was behind me. Indeed, for a while, the coughing and congestion were totally gone, and all that lingered was the worn-out feeling. That's cool. I can handle worn-out. It's a part of many of my teaching days...

So last night, when I was lamenting the fact that this whole thing hadn't passed yet, a friend of mine asked me if I was going to go to the doctor. "No way," was my reply. It would have to be way worse than this before I would consider that option. After all, in my line of work, if I go to the doctor (thanks to their totally annoying habit of not being open during hours when I'm not working [he says with tongue partially planted in cheek]), I end up paying twice--once, to pay him, and the second time, by losing lesson income.

If anything, I'd been an idiot for not doing something about the fact that I'd run out of both cough drops and Nyquil when the malaise hit last week. But now, I was armed with both, and I fully expected them to do their job. So far, so good. There's a little bit of a lingering cough tonight, and my throat was a bit scratchy at the end of teaching...but then, how can I really teach without speaking (notwithstanding my strategy from Friday)? One more good night of sleep--aided by the cup of cherry-flavored elixir--and one more subdued day of teaching, and I should be OK.

But going back to my friend's question made me revisit a subject I've thought about many times before: Do people go to the doctor too much? I just can't imagine running to the medical building every time I had some minor ailment. I think about my late grandparents, who seemed to have every pill under the sun on their bathroom counter, and I think it might be overkill. Sure, there'll probably be a time later in life when I'll have some things wrong with me that can't be treated over the counter, but I hope that I won't be tempted to go in for every little thing. If anything, I'd be more afraid of catching something worse from other people there.

This all goes back to when I was a freshman at UNT and I got sick from the Denton water the first two weeks I was there (that was the best that anyone could offer up as a reason, and indeed, I would use melted ice for drinking water the entire time I lived in the dorm--this being pre-Dasani days, after all). After a few weeks of excessive hurling at inopportune times (OK, is there ever really an opportune time to hurl?) and even having a messed-up blood count, I just decided I needed to get well, right then and there, or I would never get this new phase in my life underway. I grabbed life by the cojones and yanked hard, and I did end up thinking myself well, more or less.

On the flip side of the coin, I had the use of the UNT Student Health Center (lovingly dubbed the "Quack Shack" in those days) for the next several years. Doctor visits were free and prescriptions were cheap, and I pretty much did go in for every little thing for a while, and I recall feeling less healthy during this time; maybe I was catching stuff from the actual sick people who were there? (This would also seem to be a good argument against socialized medicine; when the service was free, people used it more than they probably needed to, which gummed up the system. Eventually, the lines got so long that I think they now charge a small fee for an appointment.)

So who knows why this works. Maybe I've just been really lucky so far. Certainly, I've built up quite an immune system over the years. (This likely stems both from spending my days in the aforementioned stuffy practice rooms--sometimes teaching kids who are technically too sick to be there--and from the fact that I'm not married yet, so I've lived under a guy's system of cleanliness for a long time, which is bound to build up immunity to something. Indeed, I fully expect to get sick more often once I'm married...but it'll be totally worth it.) But hey, I'm not complaining.

So what do you think about this whole thing? Do you agree that people tend to go to the doctor too often, weakening their own immune system in the process? Can one really think oneself well? And is there any substance to my theory that I'm hardier than many folks because I only live under "guy cleanliness?"

Also, feel free to include any helpful hints for staying well during the cold and flu season. Personally, I wash my hands frequently, don't shake hands with anyone who's coughing or sneezing, etc. All I can say is, it works for me.

And now, it's time to chug the red stuff and go to bed.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: " It’s fine if your day doesn’t start with dog, but it ought to end with dog."--James Lileks, in today's Bleat. My day starts with cat (or sometimes, cleaning up the unpleasant expulsions from cat, if she's in her "What litter box?" phase), but hopefully there'll be a dog in the mix somewhere down the road.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

With Friends Like These...

...I can put on a good gig on the fly.

That's a roundabout way of saying that things went well last night. What I didn't tell anyone when I was announcing tunes (granted, the announcements were pretty brief because of the raspy-voice thing) was that the band we assembled didn't even have a chance to rehearse a single measure before we started the gig.

But that's the beauty of jazz. Since so much of it is improvised, all you really need is a group of players who are well-versed in soloing and style and listen with "big ears." That way, no matter what tunes you put in front of them (OK, within reason--maybe not "Giant Steps" at half note equals 200), it will sound pretty good. Indeed, we pulled it off, and it seemed to go over well with the audience, which was a mixture of the venue's regulars and the people that we invited. We've been asked back for both another public gig as well as a private holiday party, and I also gave a card out to a guy looking for a band for a wedding. Not bad for a group that didn't exist except on paper (or would that be in cyberspace?) before last night.

At any rate, it looks like the start of a long relationship, and hopefully it will lead to other stuff, not only for this band, but TD/D (and I can certainly envision plenty of cross-pollination, as it were, between the two groups).

I have other tales to tell, and I've read plenty of things in the news I'd like to talk about...but tonight, I just need to get well. I cancelled my speaking engagement with my fraternity chapter in Denton to save what's left of my voice (announcing the gig was not kind to me last night) and hope to get some extra sleep tonight to kick-start the process of getting well. I was out of cough drops and Nyquil all weekend, but that has also been rectified, so hopefully, the road to recovery starts tonight.

Oh, and I did want to mention how relieved I was to find out that nobody I knew was directly affected by the tornado that hit Evansville, Indiana early this morning. My fraternity has its headquarters there, but the path of destruction was well to the east, and even the staffers who lived near the damaged areas were spared.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Speak Softly and Carry a Small Saxophone

What started out yesterday as a medical condition ended up turning into an interesting sociological experiment. The condition: Having been wracked by allergies the past few days, I ended up nearly losing my voice by the end of my last combo class on Thursday night. The dilemma: I was asked to go down and assist one of my fraternity chapters with a ceremony last night, which required me to make a speech. This is, of course, very hard to do without a voice. The remedy (with its own dilemma): Rest my voice as much as possible yesterday, which is hard to do during a day of one-on-one music lessons. The solution: What I did was pretty close to the "grunting and hand gestures" that Dingus jokingly suggested on Thursday night; I actually made it through the whole teaching day speaking as little, and as softly, as possible.

My Friday consists only of middle-school students save for one (whom I didn't catch until after school anyway due to trimester exams). Middle-schoolers are often known for their "exuberance" (i.e. most of them are really, really hyper), so it was interesting how they responded to sparse and quiet verbal instructions. I was especially amused by the couple of sixth-graders who replied to near-whispered instructions by whispering themselves. It was also funny to see the looks on their faces when they first heard me speaking so softly; while I may not be as animated as most of them are, I am by nature a fairly loud and talkative person, so hearing "quiet me" must have had them feeling like they were in Bizarro World.

Since yesterday consisted of run-throughs and mock auditions for the older kids, who have their all-city tryouts on Monday, it was a fortunate coincidence that I really didn't have to do too much explaining of things, though I certainly didn't hold back just to "save my voice" if someone needed a lot of verbal instructions. Overall, everyone was less hyper during these subdued lessons, though that could have been attributed to their nerves at being put into an (admittedly simulated) audition situation. So will I be that quiet in the future on general principle, just to make the students calmer? Nahh--that's not me. But it is a good tactic to use work if someone is just bouncing off the walls.

Oh, and if you're wondering, my voice made it just fine through my presentation, even if it lacked its usual resonance. Now I just need to rest it some more for my MC-ing duties at tonight's gig and a history presentation tomorrow for another one of my chapters. Great timing, one might say, but allergy season is something which is a given for me at this time of the year.

With a little help from my friends: Don't forget that the "Kev and Friends" gig is tonight at the Broadway Bistro from 7:30 until 10:30. If you're in the area, please drop by.

Could I be this fortune-ate? At Panda for lunch today, I got a fortune cookie with two fortunes inside: FAME AND FORTUNE LIE AHEAD and YOUR HARD WORK IS ABOUT TO PAY OFF. They go surprisingly well together, and it would be nice if they actually came true.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

My Next Gig

OK, I can officially talk about it now; my next gig is in two days. It's on Saturday night, 7:30 to 10:30, at the Broadway Bistro in old downtown Carrollton (the place I played with Gordon's band back in September). It's not a Team Demon/Dingus gig, because the rest of the band couldn't make it this weekend, but I wanted to take this date when it was offered to me, so that it might pave the way for other TD/D gigs down the road. (Also, we'll be playing a lot of things from the TD/D book.)

Joining me for this gig will be my good friend Colin Hinton on drums, along with four buddies of mine from UNT: John Guari on trumpet (known as J-Guar on this blog), Collin Hauser (recently in the college big band) on alto, Bryan Aduddell (formerly of 15th Street Jazz) on guitar, and Andy Rogers (my fraternity brother from Tennessee) on bass. I know it's short notice, but if you're in the area, come out and see us!

(cross-posted in slightly different form at Team Demon/DIngus)

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

I Don't Believe in Astrology, But...

...my horoscope really nailed it today:
GEMINI (May 21-June 21): Again, you're overloaded. The end should be almost in sight. (source)
That pretty much described my day today. I've been feeling burned out with my nonstop teaching schedule as well as fighting the beast of seasonal allergies, and I really wasn't sure I'd make it through afternoon lessons today. (I even tried to get a long-empty prescription refilled today, only to find out that my allergy doctor's office is closed on Wednesday. Wow...they still do that? I thought the whole closed-on-Wednesday thing had gone the way of house calls. Next, they'll be telling me that the doctor still uses that day off to play golf...)

In the end, it was one forgotten lesson that perked me up; it was the first week of no Wednesday marching band at this particular school, and one kid didn't remember to stay. The little break that ensued, between that school and the two lessons at my house, was enough to carry me through the rest of the teaching day, and taking the evening off--to eat dinner at home, watch TV, even nap a little--seems to be just what the doctor ordered. Musician, heal thyself.

And, like the horoscope said, the end is in sight, in a way; with the start of the second trimester next week, for those schools who observe that format, I have the chance to shuffle some things around so that Wednesday afternoons aren't such a beating for the rest of the year. A solid night of sleep tonight should help the short-term concerns, and maybe I can get caught up on all my "office stuff" in the next few days.

I have a gig this weekend...I think. The venue owner hasn't returned my email asking for a confirmation of the time, but I'll clear that up tomorrow no matter what. Once it's confirmed, the sidebar will be updated and festive flyers will go up; if something causes it to fall through, I'll be looking for another date (or even another venue for the same date--that'd be wild). Should be fun, at any rate.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

A Good Discussion

I don't have anything really exciting to post today, but I invite you to (re-?)visit the post from Saturday regarding my ideas to improve public education. It seems that quite a good discussion has broken out in the comments to that post, thanks to a private-school educator who blogs under the name of Green Goblin. I'll have more to talk about tomorrow when I'm not so dog-tired.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: From two different students today, who both have all-city band tryouts next Monday...

ME: Best of luck on Monday!
KID: You too!

We've gotten so used to responding to any positive statement with "you too!" that sometimes it shows up in odd places like that. I think I even got a "you too!" out of someone to whom I was wishing a happy birthday...

SPAM EMAIL SUBJECT OF THE DAY: "He teach my bumpkin taxi," courtesy of "Marylou Hensley." (The email was an ad for online pharmaceuticals, as you might imagine.)