Wednesday, May 31, 2006

A Ranger for Life

OK, one more baseball post this week and then it's back to the normal topics, whatever they are. I was happy to see in yesterday's paper (which I'm just now getting around to reading) that the entire Rangers broadcast crew is getting contract extensions, and radio play-by-play man Eric Nadel is getting a deal that should keep him with the club for the duration of his career:
Club president Jeff Cogen and assistant vice president for marketing Kelly Calvert confirmed the plan to make Nadel a "Ranger for life." The rest of the broadcast crew – Victor Rojas, Josh Lewin and Tom Grieve – all will receive extensions ranging from three to four years.

[...]Nadel's extension means he'll go over the 30-year mark with the club. Nadel, who turned 55 earlier this month, is in his 28th year with the club. He declined to reveal the exact length of the contract but did acknowledge it takes him to an "age at which many people retire."

It also will put him alongside his boyhood heroes – Mel Allen and Red Barber – in longevity. Both Hall of Famers broadcast more than 30 years each, though neither did it exclusively with one team.
Along with his late former partner, Mark Holtz, Nadel has been synonymous with the Rangers for as long as most fans can remember; his "that one is history!" home-run call joins Holtz's "Hello win column!" among the most beloved phrases in local baseball lore. The rest of the guys--Victor Rojas alongside Nadel on radio, and Josh Lewin and Tom Grieve on television, are also top-notch. (Sure, the people who gripe that Lewin is too much of a "homer" may have a point, but isn't that what a home broadcast team is supposed to do? Save the objectivity for Jon Miller and Joe Morgan and the rest of the national guys.) And with the team still atop the division at the moment, maybe we'll even get to hear more of the broadcast crew this season (he says, optimistically).

Blowing out the candles: Happy birthday to my good buddy Jonathan; I can't believe we've known each other for a decade now.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Another Banner Day

The singing of the National Anthem went well this evening. We had some help from the brothers of my home chapter at UNT, so we numbered about 17 or so in the chorus. (This did cause a brief moment of feedback, as the mics must have been juiced up for a much smaller and less powerful group than they were expecting...but it ended up fine.) Despite an uneven day of weather (hot, then rainy in some parts of town, then hot again), we were in the shade this time, so it was quite pleasant when we were on the field, and we even got to spend most of the time at our seats (down the third-base line again, just outside the foul pole) in the shade as well.

Once again, it was a good game, but in a different way: A well-pitched gem by both sides (our rookie John Rheinecker and the Mariner's Jarrod Washburn) with one big blast by Mark Teixeira resulted in a 2-0 win for the Rangers. The game was over in exactly two hours, and, while there weren't any fireworks (I guess they happened over the weekend), I did get a pretty righteous parking place and was out of there within minutes and home by not much after ten. Since the weather was so nice, most of our group stayed for the entire game this time, so a good time was had by all.

During the game, a photographer came by and took a picture of our whole group, and he told us it would be on a website; you can view it here. Oh, and the funniest non-game moment came when the mascot, Rangers Captain (a guy in a big horse costume) pretended to get into it with a kid selling cotton candy and ended up taking all the candy out of the holder and tossing it to various members of the audience. I just hope the poor kid didn't get charged for it; imagine trying to explain that one to the boss: "Umm, I need a refill, and I don't have any new money; the horse stole my inventory."

At any rate, it was a great time, and there's still a chance we might get the call again if someone backs out at the last minute like they did this time.

(Last year, the Rangers sent us pictures of the performance and of our name on the scoreboard. When I get them, I'll post them here.)
UPDATE: Here's a picture (I'm on the far left)...

Their friendship suffered collateral damage after this: A German woman who didn't have enough money to pay for her gas left her friend behind as human collateral, while she purportedly went to get cash...and then didn't return after two hours.

We pause to remember: I'm lucky enough to say that all of my friends who are serving in the military are still with us this year, but I won't forget those who have given the ultimate sacrifice in the service of our country. And continued Godspeed to Fletch, John, Josh and Scott.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Anniversary in Rhythm

My parents are having a big bash for their anniversary next weekend; I'm providing the band (that's the "private function in Sugar Land, TX" listing in the Upcoming Gigs section of the sidebar), so we were talking about details last night. One of the things I'd asked them was if they could remember the song that was played for their first dance, and I was surprised to find out that there wasn't one. I knew that they had been married in Mom's Baptist church, but even though it was Northern Baptist, not Southern (being in Ohio and all), a first dance was still evidently not part of their tradition. And then Mom dropped the bombshell: The one thing that stood out in her memory was that they really liked the music of Stan Kenton and his orchestra, and one of the musical highlights of their college days was when he came to their college to play a concert.

That's right--my parents got to see Kenton perform live.

All this time that I've been a jazz musician, and all the times that I'd played at a school where Kenton had donated his entire library of music (and had a rehearsal/performance hall named after him), and I never knew that my parents had actually seen him perform. From what Mom said, it was very common for big bands to go around from college to college giving concerts (much like Maynard does at high schools these days). It's also interesting to note that the college campus is the one place that's most responsible for keeping the big band tradition alive, except that nowadays, the students themselves are the players.

With the exception of my dad's recent involvement in church choir, Mom and Dad haven't been actively involved in music since they were teenagers, but now I have to wonder if perhaps the same little bit of genetic material that predisposed them to like Kenton seeped into me and grew to humongous proportions. (It's also possible that being a Kentonphile was very normal when they were in school, since jazz hadn't quite morphed from popular music to art form by then.)

At any rate, I'm officially jealous (after all, they may have gotten to hear the original "Machito")...and now I have to figure out if I can scale down something like "Peanut Vendor" or "Eager Beaver" for tenor, guitar, bass and drums before this Saturday.

This car has all the bells and whistles...and reptiles: A Kentucky rental-car customer was rather startled to discover a snake wrapped across the dashboard. (He thought it was a rubber snake at first, so he started to drive, but he realized something was amiss when the snake started to move.)

"Dad, I'd better buy my lunch at school today; the "hash" you sent with me yesterday didn't go over so well:" An elementary-schooler in Minnesota reached into his backpack to get out a folder; instead, out came one of the bags of marijuana that his dad had hidden in there. (Dad was busted, needless to say.)

Friday, May 26, 2006

Travel Advisory

It appears that I'm going to Austin for the weekend, taking a sax quartet to play at State Solo and Ensemble. The original alto player had a conflict with a soccer tournament, so we nailed down a replacement for him last week. That replacement subsequently managed to not make the Wednesday rehearsal and then told us yesterday that he couldn't go after all. The trip and performance seemed dead. But then late last night, I get a call from one of the members, who said that it turns out that the original alto player can make it after all. We'll rehearse it an hour from now, and unless it sounds just totally hopeless, we'll be off shortly after that. (If we don't go, I'll replace this post with whatever it was I was going to talk about today to begin with.) Posting will resume on Sunday evening.

Milestone: I noticed from the post-counter that this is the 900th post to The Musings.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Tin for Ten

Happy tenth anniversary to my sister and brother-in-law, Kristen and Justin! As I noted last year on this day, there's a site that explains the different materials associated with each year's anniversary, and the tenth year brings forth tin (I wonder if that was done because the words sound alike). I'm not sure what the happy couple might get each other that's made out of tin, unless a "Tin Roof" ice cream sundae would count. (The story also notes that diamonds can be used to symbolize the first decade, especially since very few people make it to their 75th anniversary, where the diamond also comes into play.)

I didn't get to see them on their big day, but I might be able to this weekend, or definitely next week when my parents have their own anniversary bash. At any rate, here's to many, many more!

Now everyone knows the muffin man...and his accomplice: Last week, I posted the story of the mysterious "muffin man" who made some teachers and staffers at Lake Highlands High School sick. I found out a few days ago that the guy on the video went to school with one of my friends...and, had I paid attention through the entire ceremony, I would've known which name was skipped at graduation. But now, the entire story's out, including the fact that the perpetrator had a helper on the inside.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Oh Say, Can You Sing, Part II: The Sequel

You may recall that, around this time last year, our fraternity alumni association's chorus sang the National Anthem for a Texas Rangers game. We hadn't received a confirmation for this year until yesterday, when we were told that there had been a cancellation for this coming Monday. I don't know for sure if it'll be on TV or not, but since it's Memorial Day, the game is almost certain to be a sellout, and it may well have cool fireworks afterwards. It also will be a night game, so it may be somewhat less than the 108 degrees that it was on the field a year ago.

It's been funny to see the look on people's faces when I tell them I'm singing at a ballgame, especially during the time before I add the key phrase "in a group." It would indeed be scary if I sang it solo, but I bet I wouldn't blow the lyrics like a guy did in the last year's auditions.

Funny but scary: A Lithuanian man was stopped by police on suspicion of drunk driving; when they gave him the Breathalyzer test, he registered at 18 times the legal limit (that's right, eighteen--not a typo). Key quote from the story: "He was of high spirits and grinning the whole time he was questioned."--the director of the national traffic control service. Yes, "high spirits" would indeed be one way to describe such a condition.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Illinois Kids to Administrators: Get Out of My Space!

The latest story involving the continuing uneasy relationship between education and online technology concerns an Illinois school district's plan to monitor the content of student blogs:
High school students are going to be held accountable for what they post on blogs and on social-networking Web sites such as

The board of Community High School District 128 voted unanimously on Monday to require that all students participating in extracurricular activities sign a pledge agreeing that evidence of "illegal or inappropriate" behavior posted on the Internet could be grounds for disciplinary action.

The rule will take effect at the start of the next school year, officials said.

District officials won't regularly search students' sites, but will monitor them if they get a worrisome tip from another student, a parent or a community member.
Needless to say, as an advocate of blogging, and a frequent critic of the actions of school administrators, this bothers me for a number of reasons, and it raises a few questions as well:
  • Who gets to decide what's inappropriate? While illegal behavior is pretty cut-and-dried in most states, appropriateness is in the eye of the beholder. Someone who threatens their teacher should be disciplined, but how about someone who simply insults the teacher, or says that he/she is mean, unfair, etc.? Yet does anyone doubt that both hypothetical people would likely be punished under this regulation?

  • Do we really want to pay attention to people who have time to monitor students' sites? I'm relieved to read that there won't be a district employee assigned specifically to this task. There are far too many resources wasted on bureaucracy as it is; nobody needs an Associate Vice Superintendent for Student Content Monitoring in their district. So who would be the ones to do it, then? According to the story, it would be "another student, a parent or a community member." I see the potential for a lot of abuse of this: Students trying to get other students in trouble (or even makng fake MySpace pages in the name of another student whom they want to get in trouble), parents upset with other students who beat their own kids at some get the idea. And as for "a community member"--you mean someone who's not a parent or teacher who's just reading kids' blogs for kicks? Such a person obviously has way too much time on his/her hands and needs to get a hobby that involves not telling others how to live their lives (ooh, there goes that libertarian streak again).

  • Why is this only required for students in extracurricular activities? The district really blew it by including this provision, in my opinion. Why place the kids who are actually involved in school activities (who tend to be better kids anyway) under closer scrutiny than those who aren't involved in anything (and may well need said scrutiny)? Just put it in the "student code of conduct" that everyone has to sign, and be done with it.

    (Granted, I was in band from sixth grade on, so I can't even imagine being "just a student." In fact, that's the first thing I ask my students who quit band: What activity will you be pursuing in its place? You really need to be doing something...)

  • This is another way for the district to act like a parent, and that's not the district's job. One of the parents in Libertyville said it best: "I don't think they need to police what students are doing online. That's my job."

    Sure, an associate superintendent did make the obvious point that blogs and MySpace are part of the World Wide Web, and people do need to use discretion when they post things online. (The kids who got busted for setting fires after they bragged about it on MySpace would be a good example of a lack of such discretion. And it's interesting to note that the kids got arrested because someone went straight to police, not to their school, when they saw the MySpace.) But again, shouldn't this be up to the parents? And if the parents aren't involved (or if a Columbine-style threat is issued), then the district should step in, but I for one don't trust them to be the everyday Web Police.
School districts have enough to do during the school day without trying to play parent or check up on the students outside of school hours. What's the solution here? Bring back the methodology to deal with the truly bad kids (expulsions that stick--without some meddling ACLU lawyer getting in the way--might help, as would the return of the "Board of Education"), and stop treating the good ones like suspects all the time. Oh, and administrators must teach; I can't plug that idea enough, even though I'm not sure that anyone has the guts to try it.

A really loose definition of "emergency": If you lost your TV remote, saw somebody running around in a too-skimpy bikini, or your neighborhood was "terrorized" by a loitering duck, you wouldn't call 911, would you? Evidently, some people do. (And, as Dave Barry might say, Loitering Duck would be a good name for a rock band.)

Monday, May 22, 2006

...and the Livin' Is Easy

As of a little after 7:30 this evening, I am officially in summer mode. (If you want to be technical, it really happened as of about 2:30 this afternoon, since the music store students whom I taught tonight go year-round, so they don't really figure into the semester equation at all.) Forget what the calendar might say; those of us who work in education operate by the academic calendar, so when the spring semester ends, summer it is.

It's been a good year for teaching in terms of being musically rewarding and all that; my students improved over the course of the year--some of them dramatically--and there was hardly a slug in the bunch. With the exception of one morning, there wasn't really a bad travel day (and even that one morning still gave me sufficient time to get where I needed to go; the trip itself was just long), and I wasn't stuck with a fifteen-minute lunch break at 10:15 in the morning like I was a number of years ago. The scheduling thing is pretty much down to a science; the days themselves are pretty long, but I've been successful in not punishing myself too much beyond the length of the day itself.

One thing that I never truly got down this year was the whole business of sleep. A few years ago, I was pretty good at getting to bed by eleven and waking up on the first alarm of the second clock, which was around (artificially early) six (I set the clocks in my room fifteen minutes ahead for the psychological effect). This year, I was lucky to make it by midnight on any night during the year; between getting home pretty late most nights, having a bunch of friends on AIM who stayed up later than I did, and simply needing to get my "office stuff" done, I just never could force myself to bed on time, which resulted in beaucoups of snooze alarms being hit the next morning. My goal, once summer teaching begins in a few weeks, is to not stay up any later than now while reaping the benefits of the 7:30 summer wake-up (my first lesson never starts before nine over the summer, and, since everything's taught at the home studio, it's a wonderful fifteen-step commute from my room to this one). And I really need to regain that night/morning discipline in the fall.

I'm also looking forward to getting a lot done musically this summer. Teaching as many people as I do often, by its very nature, gets in the way of the things I need to do for my own playing. I'm looking to take advantage of having a horn out all the time and being in this room most of the day by getting a lot of practicing and transcribing done, as well as playing stuff just for fun. And the sleeping giant known as TD/D is about to rise again.

I'm going to be really lazy in terms of sleep tonight/tomorrow morning, and after that, I'm going to get a lot done this week.

Oh, and one more thing: Go Mavs!

Throwing more caps into the air: Happy graduation to my friend and fellow jazzblogger Shawn. Just like Colin yesterday (who is Shawn's future roomie, incidentally), my alma mater now awaits him as well. (I also realized that I have yet to give shout-outs to those in my teaching studio who graduated last week; that'll come soon. The earlier-than-usual ceremonies, combined with last week's busy-ness, just caught me by surprise blog-wise.)

Sunday, May 21, 2006

This Might Be My Lamest Reason Ever for Not Doing an Actual Blog Post

When I got home tonight (after being gone for over 13 hours), I had to watch enough TV to clear two hours' worth of space on the tape to catch the 24 finale tomorrow night. (Yeah, I need a TiVo, but let me get the new laptop first...and the iPod...and get the idea.)

Throwing caps into the air: Happy graduation to Colin (I was there). My alma mater awaits him...

Friday, May 19, 2006

Do You Know the Muffin Man?

...because if you do, some people at Lake Highlands High School would probably like to talk to you.

I'm not sure how much attention this story has gotten outside of Dallas/Ft. Worth, but it's been a really weird week for the school in the neighboring Richardson district. On Tuesday, 18 school employees got sick from eating tainted muffins that had been brought to the teachers' lounge, allegedly by a young man who said they'd been made for an Eagle Scout project. It turns out that the muffins were laced with marijuana and possibly Benadryl, and the school's 86-year-old volunteer receptionist, "Miss Rita" Greenfield, was knocked particularly loopy by the mixture, dissolving into giggles on several occasions. (She was the only staffer who had to be held overnight at the hospital, but she's fine; in fact, she was planning on returning to work either today or Monday. And if it seems weird to think about someone's grandmother being high on weed, a friend of mine to whom I told this story said that he actually knows someone whose grandmother gets high on weed on a regular basis. Yikes.)

After another way-too-eventful day on Wednesday, when the power went out in the morning, forcing the cancellation of classes for the day, things got back to normal yesterday. Today was probably pretty interesting as well, as students were scheduled to view the surveillance tape of the muffin-bringer entering the building, in the hopes that someone would recognize him. This may have seemed at first like some sort of senior prank, but product-tampering is serious business, and the FBI has gotten involved.

I also thought about this incident today when one of my schools' band parents' group threw a cookout for the top band during lunch. How long will it be before things like the muffin incident end up tightening the reins on end-of-the-year festivities like that? Will every band parent behind the grill have to have a food handlers' license? (After all, it's been proposed in Dallas that people who feed the homeless might have to do just that.) I'm hoping that a few bad apples like the muffin man don't spoil everyone else's fun.

UPDATE: A week later, everyone knows the muffin man (scroll down for story).

Another chapter in the story: Happy Chapter Day to my fraternity chapter, Gamma Theta of Phi Mu Alpha at UNT. The local brotherhood is 66 years old today, and we've had many notable musicians pass through our portals, such as Herb Ellis, Frank Mantooth, Bob Dorough (of "Schoolhouse Rock" fame), Jimmy Giuffre (composer of "Four Brothers") and Gene Hall (the first lab band director at what was then called North Texas State Teachers College)--and those are just the jazz guys. To quote a popular fraternity song, may our banner "float for aye."

Fry has a fan in Floyd: Speaking of Denton, there was a good column in the paper today from writer Jacquielynn Floyd about the efforts to save Fry Street. While many people concede that there's nothing the local government can do to stop the developer, she notes that he could still be sweet-talked into being a hero...and if nothing else, embarking on an possibly-quixotic quest like this could help mold today's students into the preservationists of the future.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

This Idea Gets a Failing Grade From Me

For quite some time, Texas school students have been subject to the "no-pass, no-play" rule, which prohibits anyone who fails a class during the previous six-weeks grading period from participating in extracurricular activities for the next six weeks (though one may be reinstated by having a passing progress report at the three-week mark). In DeSoto, a southern suburb of Dallas, officials are considering taking this rule even farther by prohibiting failing students from even attending such activities:
To bolster academics, officials are discussing a proposal that would keep any student who fails any classes from attending extracurricular events – from band concerts to football games. The "no-pass, no-attend" proposal would transcend no-pass, no-play, the state rule prohibiting a student who fails a class from participating in extracurricular activities.

Although they were concerned some students might cause trouble if banned from school events, DeSoto school board members generally seemed to favor the proposal during a recent meeting.
Does anyone think this is really a good idea? The article raises several concerns: Administrators having to police attendance at games. the dilemma of single-parent families with, say, one kid failing and others passing, and the inevitable legal questions, which have yet to be resolved.

I'm not in favor of such an idea because I doubt it would accomplish what it sets out to do, and because it might have unintended negative consequences. For one thing, if a student is attending a game, concert or similar event, at least he's at school and under adult supervision. The alternative might be, what....out on the streets? Besides, a kid who's not doing well might already have a negative attitude toward school; take away something that might be the one enjoyable thing about school for that student, and the downward spiral could continue.

Besides, I've never actually been on board with the way no-pass, no-play is done in Texas. I don't agree with the idea of penalizing a student who fails one class. That student simply could have had a bad day, a bad test...or a bad teacher. If I could reform Texas education (and boy, would I), that whole thing would be tied to cumulative grade point average, which is what counts in college...and I'm all in favor of making high school more like college in many ways (but that's a different post for a different time). Taking away what might be the student's only passion because of a bad grade in a single class has never held water with me. (And if you're wondering, it never was an issue with me, because I can name you the four things I've failed in school right here: Two consecutive sixth-grade math tests, my clarinet proficiency barrier in college, and a midterm in [thankfully] the only music history course I took in grad school.)

I'm especially interested in hearing from my fellow educators on this one--Super Anonymous JP? Ms. Worley? I realize that I might get people agreeing with me on the DeSoto proposal being a bad idea, yet thinking I'm all wet on the no-pass issue, but hopefully, it'll be a good debate.

Cool + beans: I've gone to Starbucks every night this week so far, not just because the new banana fraps are awesome (though they are), but so I could enjoy these cool nights on the patio. I know we'll be missing them in a month or so, when it's 89 degrees at ten o'clock at night, but for's been gorgeous.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

A Springtime Smorgasbord

It's been pretty busy recently, so I haven't had a lot of time for blogging. Whenever I see an interesting article that looks like it could turn into a topic (or at least a little bottom-of-the-post "news" item), I bookmark it in a file called Blogworthy Articles. So before they go stale, here are some of the things from the past week which haven't quite made it onto the blog yet...

This is a test. This is only a test. This is...ZZZZZZZZZZ: SAT scores are dropping, and experts may have found a reason--the test is just too danged long.

Just remember, kids, there's a reason they call it the World Wide Web: A couple of teenagers set several suspicious fires in their hometown of Rockville, Maryland, and then got busted for it after they bragged about it on their MySpace sites--complete with pictures.

The reason I still buy CD's: When you download a song from a paid service, do you subsequently own the song? Not necessarily...

What do you call a guy who hangs out with musicians: Scanning the friend-o-sphere, I found a post from Eric that asks the profound question, Are drummers musicians? (Jokes aside, I certainly say that they are.)

Monday, May 15, 2006

Next Year, The Cool Concert Tour Goes South

Even though the 2006 Cool Concert Tour isn't quite over yet (I'm very much looking forward to Dave Holland in San Antonio in September), I'm already pretty psyched about next year's edition. I received a brochure in the mail today from Da Camera of Houston (the series to which we almost went to see Directions in Music a year ago, until we turned it into a combo "field trip" to Ft. Worth instead), and their '06-'07 season looks pretty promising. Here's a sampler:

Saturday, October 28: Dianne Reeves Trio
Saturday, March 3: Chris Potter's Underground Quartet
Saturday, March 17: SFJAZZ Collective (featuring Joshua Redman, Bobby Hutcherson, Nicholas Payton, and others)

Needless to say, this could bring about some righteous roadtrips, and if any of the above decided to include a Dallas stint while they were in the state...hey, all the better.

One more way to spare the Tomato: In a recent comment to Friday's post, I got word of one more site dedicated to the preservation of Denton's historic Fry St. area;

Sunday, May 14, 2006


I'm pretty sure I've mentioned before that my brother-in-law's company owns the trademark for the frowny emoticon (but, after a later compromise, they will happily sell you one). The frowny trademark was fairly easy to obtain, but this one is proving more difficult: Wal-Mart is trying to get the trademark for the smiley face (not necessarily the emoticon, but the actual yellow image that it uses in its ads), and the French man who claims he invented it is fighting back. (Hat tip: Instapundit)

They'd get a lighter sentence if they'd included the meatballs, too: Student protesters in Denmark aired their grievances by throwing cooked spaghetti (and a little tomato sauce) on the steps of the Finance Ministry.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Save Fry Street!

I first heard the news this morning from my friend, colleague and occasional Musings commenter Super Anonymous JP. By the time I got home this afternoon, I'd gotten an email about it from J-Guar's mom (a usually-stealthful Musings reader herself). This came from the blog of some other UNT music student (if you see this and it's yours, send me a URL and I'll link to you), and I'll reproduce it in its entirety here:
Here's the big news: If you've heard the rumors lately about a teardown of Fry Street - it's true.

Buster Freedman, the president of United Equities Inc. of Bellaire (Houston area), has just bought the block of land from Fry Street to Welch, from Hickory to Oak. Everything will be torn down except for a couple small spots - my understanding is that The Corkscrew is staying, and that the little patch of land on the corner of Welch and Hickory (where a gas station used to be) is also staying.

A woman at work, Anne, said that she's good friends with the man who owns that patch of land with the old gas station. They offered that man $2 million - and he refused. Good for him.

SO, all these businesses along Fry Street are being taken out. THE TOMATO. COOL BEANS. TJ'S. MR CHOPSTICKS. Bagheri...that bubble tea place...that parking lot behind it all...sold.

There's been a big reaction to it all, as you might expect. Brooke, the owner of Wine Squared, was the one who informed me of all this and told me about the myspace pages. If you're interested, some of the pages are:
and the proposed parking exhibit...

I know that I don't spend the greatest amount of time on Fry Street. But seriously, tearing down places like the Tomato? Cool Beans? That's not right. They (and the other places) are so much a part of Denton history for me that it'd be a shame to see it all go, just like that.

There's voting taking place on Saturday, graduation day. I'm not sure what it's for, but it's probably for mayor and other things. I want to look into it more. My understanding is that Justin Bell (as well as candidates for a couple other offices) is supporting those trying to stop it.

Save Fry Street, y'all.
All I could say when I heard this was...No. No. No.

Every college town has that little area of old buildings that have morphed over time into student-friendly hangouts. This particular strip dates back to the 1920's, and I've seen UNT yearbooks dating back to the 1940's which had pictures of them in their original incarnations as drugstores and diners. I would be opposed to the demolition of any of those blocks, but take away the Tomato? Them's fightin' words...

The Tomato has been a staple of Denton life for almost 22 years now, and it would be nearly impossible to replace it. It's one of the few places where people of every element--goths, preps, greeks, my fellow jazzers (of course) and everyday "normal" college students could congregate and usually all get along (and when they didn't, the management wouldn't hesitate to toss somebody out to the street.

Even worse is that the rumored "replacement" businesses would be things like CVS Pharmacy and Starbucks. Sure, I'm a CVS patron, and I loves me my Starbucks (and Denton needs one)...but not on Fry Street, and not in place of The Tomato.

And you know there's no way that the "improved" retail would be affordable to these local merchants:
Mike Slusarski and his wife, Becky, have been a part of The Tomato restaurant at Hickory and Fry streets since it opened in 1984.

As managers, the couple saw the restaurant become an icon among students over the years. Formerly known as The Flying Tomato, the restaurant features a wooden maze of seating arrangements arranged like small lofts. The couple bought the business in 1996, changing the name to The Tomato in 1998.

Slusarski said he has looked at several spots in Golden Triangle Mall but has found they arent cost-effective.

Julie Glover, Denton Downtown Development director, said that according to the proposal that shes seen, the rents at the new project would almost triple for merchants.
(from a Denton Record-Chronicle article quoted on the Save Fry Street Myspace site)
I'm not sure what, if anything, we as loyal UNT alums and current students can do to try to keep this from happening, but it sure doesn't seem like "progress" to destroy the heart and soul of a neighborhood. There's no doubt that there will be a large and vocal opposition to this...and in the meantime, I'm planning on making as many Tomato runs as I can in the next few months.

UPDATE: A bit of gallows humor here: My buddy and bandmate Steven notes that, if they were to build a Starbucks on Fry Street, all we have to do to get rid of it is have TD/D booked there for a gig; it would then close down shortly thereafter, just like so many other places have already done.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Yeah, It's All About Safety...

One of my students was really, really late to his lesson here at the house today. It seems that there was a spectacular accident at a nearby incident--one of the ones where a red-light camera was installed. Granted, I wasn't there, and my student and his dad weren't eyewitnesses or anything, but from what they were able to tell just by looking at the scene, it appeared that the light had turned yellow while a car was approaching the intersection, and that driver simply chickened out and slammed on his or her brakes...which made someone rear-end them, and that second someone was subsequently rear-ended by a third person. This is exactly the thing I predicted would happen when those cameras were installed. Couple that with the story this week that the red-light cameras in Denton will now be collecting fines (after a warning period in which they averaged sending out 137 notices a day--at $75 a pop, do the math), and it's pretty obvious that these cameras have very little to do with safety and a whole lot to do with generating a lot of revenue for the cities which use them. I just wish one municipal government would be honest with the public on this subject...

Previous traffic-camera rants:
Someone's Not Getting the Picture (1/29/05)
It's Still About Revenue, Not Safety (10/14/05)
They Still Don't Get the Picture (1/12/06)

And now they have cat cameras too: People in Claremont, Iowa will now be fined for feeding stray cats, and one way they may be caught is by having their picture taken "in the act" by police and subsequently sent a citation.

The cats are out of the bag...and the elephants, too: Three Swedish circus elephants escaped from their van after the truck which was towing it overturned. Rather than stampeding or even dispersing, passersby found them just chillin'--grazing nonchalantly by the side of the highway.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Apple vs. Apple: The Verdict

A while back, I made note of the interesting court cased called Apple vs. Apple--as in the computer company vs. the Beatles' old record label. The case had to do with the rights to use an apple-shaped logo, specifically on the computer company's iTunes Music Store. And now, the verdict is in, and, as you might guess, Apple won.

Which Apple, you ask? Well, the maker of the iPod, of course. Here's an excerpt of the story:
Apple Corps, the guardian of the Beatles' commercial interests, contended that the U.S. company's use of the logo on its popular online music store had broken a 1991 agreement in which each side agreed not to enter into the other's field of business.

But High Court Judge Anthony Mann disagreed, saying that the computer company's logo is used in association with the store - not the music - and so did not breach the agreement.

"I conclude that the use of the apple logo ... does not suggest a relevant connection with the creative work," Mann said in his written judgment. "I think that the use of the apple logo is a fair and reasonable use of the mark in connection with the service, which does not go further and unfairly or unreasonably suggest an additional association with the creative works themselves."
Apple Corps is planning on appealing, so, while this case may be taking the long and winding road, I'm hoping that things will get back to normal pretty soon. It would be better, in my opinion, if Apple Corps would just let it be.

Patent court, part 2: In other news, the Seattle Seahawks and Texas A&M (my sister's alma mater) have reached an agreement over the rights to the phrase "the 12th man," which is a longtime Aggie tradition and a less-recent Seahawks one. The NFL team can use the phrase, but only in marketing geared to the immediate four-state area surrounding it.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

A Space of My Own

OK, for those of you who've been bugging me about this for a while (and haven't already found out about it today), I now have a MySpace page. It's a music page, so there'll eventually be songs up there, plus a gig list that mirrors the one on the sidebar of this blog. Needless to say, with 3+ years' worth of posts over here, I won't be taking advantage of their blog function very often, but it'll just be another way to network a bit.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

This Prank Is Their Best By Far

I saw this last night while surfing around, and I had to post it: Improv comedy group gathers a large group of people to dress up in blue polo shirts and khaki pants and descend on a Manhattan Best Buy store, where customers will of course think they work there. (Oddly enough, I try to avoid wearing blue polos to Best Buy, or red ones to Super Target, to avoid that exact confusion.) The results are funny, if predictable: Customers are confused, some of the "regular" employees think it's funny, and managers and security guards start freaking out. Read the whole thing.

Incidentally, I first heard about this group a few months ago when they positioned a fake bathroom attendant inside a McDonald's; the results were pretty much the same.

This kid's grades are probably going to pot: A Pennsylvania mom required her son to do his homework the minute he got off the school bus in the afternoon. When he finished, she smoked marijuana with him as a "reward."

Thursday, May 04, 2006

"Canned" Cokes on Campus

By now, you may have read that the nation's largest beverage companies will stop selling to public schools by the end of the decade. Elementary and middle schools will only get water, unsweetened juice and low-fat milk, and high schools can also sell diet soda, diet/unsweetened tea, flavored water and low-calorie sports drinks. The stated reason for the agreement is the effort to combat childhood obesity. But will it work?

I don't really have a proverbial dog in this fight; I haven't bought a soda in school in years, except by accident (i.e. if I put my money in the machine for a water, but water was sold out and it wouldn't give me my change back); if I have a soft drink at all, it's usually a Dublin at home or a rare DP at lunch. This new policy might actually benefit me if it means that more machines will be turned on during the school day; in middle schools, as it stands now, I have to hope that one of the water/juice machines is there, or I can't even buy water out of a "mixed" machine before two o'clock in the afternoon.

But my question is, will simply cutting off access to the product actually keep kids from being overweight? This seems a lot like the mentality of blaming McDonald's for the same problem. Perhaps it might be even more beneficial to ensure that students have P.E. class or recess more often during the day (I've heard that funding shortfalls have cut this down to two or three days a week in some areas). It seems easy to make a sixteen-ounce scapegoat out of what comes out of a machine rather than putting the onus on parents and schools to ensure that kids are getting enough physical activity during the day.

And here's an interesting side topic: Let's assume the kids do switch from sodas to juice or water (I'm assuming that the diet sodas won't be so popular, because, well, eww...not to mention that a lot of people, myself included, can't process NutraSweet). Will the lack of caffeine and sugar suddenly cause them to fall asleep in class more often? I see the potential for a big Starbucks market here...

The neighbor has an unsightly weed problem: The owner of a house in Connecticut has agreed to remove the cannabis leaves painted on the side of the house after multiple complaints from neighbors. (Incidentally, he also got busted for growing the stuff in his house, which, coincidentally, is on High Street. Heh.)

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Sprummertime (And The Hangin' Is Easy)

It's that weird time of year again, when the days are still like spring (i.e. I have to teach my full load) but the nights are like summer (meaning that friends from all aspects of academia start having lighter days a little bit before I do, so a lot of things tend to go on at night). So yeah, it's a spring/summer hybrid; I guess you could call it "sprummer," and the result means this: Not much sleep, but I'm having a great time.

This means that on a day like yesterday, when I had a concert with the college jazz band at a local high school (this after a full day of public school teaching and college teaching already), I thought nothing of having dinner out afterwards (with Jordan in town, this place becomes a regular stop again), and then letting dinner morph into Starbucks. I didn't get back to Casa de Kev until after 11:00 at night--that's sixteen hours from departure to return--but I felt strangely energized, and twelve hours of teaching today hardly affected me at all. Sure, it makes me somewhat of a slacker in other areas of my life: newspapers and magazines go unread, recorded TV shows go unwatched...and blog posts go unwritten (d'oh!). It's as if this college professor has become like a college student again. (But wait...I get paid decent money for what I do, especially compared to when I was in college. Maybe this setup isn't so bad after all...)

So there are now less than three weeks of public school teaching, and the college has but a week and a half, with the big concert after finals. Even though the summertime is often lighter in the wallet for me, I'm looking forward to the extra downtime (as well as the 15-step commute and the whole starting-at-9 a.m. thing). I plan on being really productive in terms of practicing, transcribing and maybe even (*shudder*) arranging, and I'm hoping for quite a few gigs for TD/D and/or Kev and Friends. All in all, it should be a great there's no reason not to go ahead and start the fun part now.

I'm not too hungry right now; let's just eat some finger foods: A diner at a Bloomington, Indiana restaurant was accidentally served part of a human finger after a worker lost it in a food-preparation accident. Unlike the Wendy's chili lady of a while back, this situation wasn't manufactured, and the customer and the restaurant are trying to solve the problem amicably (at least after the customer found out that the police couldn't help him).

Monday, May 01, 2006

I Wonder If Anyone Is Boycotting Blogging Today

Your mileage may have varied, but thus far, the so-called Day Without an Immigrant boycott hasn't collided with the Kev World at all. My usual Monday lunch place was open as usual, and their one Hispanic employee was there and, in fact, doing all the work while her two coworkers were standing around and talking on the phone, respectively. Neither did I see any rampant absenteeism at any of my schools.

So will today's action achieve the purpose that its organizers set out to achieve, or will it backfire, strengthening even more the resolve of those who wish to crack down on illegal immigration? Count me in on the latter side, especially when I read quotes like this:
"I want my children to know their mother is not a criminal," said Benita Olmedo, a nanny who came here illegally in 1986 from Mexico and pulled her 11-year-old daughter and 7-year-old son from school to march in San Diego. "I want them to be as strong I am. This shows our strength."
So wait a minute--you've been here twenty years, and in all that time, you haven't had made the time to get your immigration status in order? Oh, and what a great example you're setting by pulling the kids out of school...

I'm just at a loss as to how anyone could think that such an action would compel people to have even more sympathy for lawbreakers...or for that matter, why people who are here legally, or are natural-born citizens, would feel a kinship with illegals just because they're of the same race. Granted, I'm one who feels that race is about as important as...oh, I don't know, eye color? I fail to see how that could be the defining point of one's existence to such an extent.

I've ranted on this subject before, so I'll direct you there instead of repeating myself. Oh, and I did want to mention that, once again, Ernie Brown had a great take on the boycott this morning; go here and click "5/1/06" to hear the audio.