Monday, January 31, 2011

Today's Pseudo-Scientific Question: Do iPods Hibernate?

I've had my iPod since Christmas of '06, which I realize makes it ancient in gadget years. But it's served me well throughout this entire time, especially compared to some friends who have been through two or three of them in the same duration. I was really happy when I got a new car adapter for Christmas (the old one having given up the ghost in August) and could listen to all my newest music in the car again (my computer's CD burner also having bitten the dust about a year ago). There were times when the 'Pod seemed to freeze up a bit, but it was usually because of a Very Low Battery, which would be fixed by a full-length charge.

So I was somewhat alarmed last Wednesday when it froze up and wouldn't be revived by any method. Plugging in into the computer for 2+ hours? Nothing. Plugging it into the car for the entire outgoing trip to Stephenville on Friday? No response. I busted out my CDs for the whole trip and was almost resigned to not hearing anything new in the car until I could afford a new iPod, which would be a while.

And then yesterday, I decided to give it one more try, plugging it into the computer again. It took about ten minutes, but sure enough, it roared back to life, white Apple logo glowing on black background. I let it charge for quite a long time, and so far, so good at this point.

So my question is: Has anyone ever had an iPod "hibernate" like this? And if so, has it ever taken longer than three tries to revive?

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Playing This Week in the Kevmobile

Even though I was sick for most of this week, I still taught every day and thus listened to music in the car. But when my iPod got sick as well, the nature of the music changed a bit...
  • MONDAY/TUESDAY: Christian Scott, Yesterday You Said Tomorrow. The young New Orleans-born trumpeter came up with his most complete effort to date earlier this year. And while the subject matter of the tunes is often dark and controversial, the music is an enjoyable listen, melding various styles and eras of jazz with rock and pop influences (even covering a tune by Radiohead's Thom Yorke).

  • WEDNESDAY: Le Boeuf Brothers, House Without a Door. As I noted on the Twitter post, this is not some sort of celebrity vanity band, as neither Le Boeuf Brother is named "Shia." Rather, identical twins Remy (saxophone) and Pascal (piano) lead their New York-based band through a collection of innovative original compositions that showcase their varied influences (Debussy and Radiohead among them). Notable band members include Marcus Strickland and Clarence Penn.

  • THURSDAY: Pat Metheny Group, We Live Here. On Thursday afternoon, the iPod froze up and stayed that way for several days, which meant I didn't get to listen to my typical indie jazz that I acquire via eMusic. Still, I do have CDs in the car, and I dipped into the Wallet of Old Favorites for a couple of days. This particular Metheny album, from '95, is one that most listeners either love or hate, since it started his "I'm having fun with electronics" period. But the songwriting is as strong as anything he's ever done, and the playing is beautiful as always (if you haven't figured it out by now, I'm in the "love" camp with regard to this CD).

  • FRIDAY: Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey, Winterwood and They Might Be Giants, Factory Showroom. Being a roadtrip day, I listened to more than one CD. The former, from a group that I've blogged about in the past, is an enjoyable mix of originals and remakes of the likes of Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington (and, best of all, it's still a free download at their website). The latter is from a longtime favorite and includes some of the usual wacky TMBG stuff, such as a tune recorded completely on an Edison cylinder.

  • SATURDAY/SUNDAY: Snarky Puppy, Tell Your Friends; Freiheit, Fantasy; and Brecker Brothers, Return of the Brecker Brothers. Quite a potpourri for yesterday's roadtrip: The newest live effort from the Pups; the English-language classic (at least to me) from my favorite Beatlesque band from Germany (and the subject of a recent blog post); and wrapping it up with the first CD from Michael and Randy's early-90s reunion.
And the iPod sprang back to life again today (I'll discuss that tomorrow), so the offerings should go back to their usual indie flavor during the week ahead.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

OK, I Think I'm Back

Made it through an entire long teaching day with few issues for the first time all week. This has really been a strange illness for me, spread out over an entire week as it has been. While there's still a bit of a cough going on, I seem to have shed the general "malaise" of the past several days, and I should be good to go for the workshop that I'm running over the weekend. This is still really odd for me to get sick both for this long and this early in the year; it's usually an early-spring "change of seasons" period that will spawn the sinus distress that I'm having. But it's nice to be on the upside of things for once.

Blogging should resume on a regular basis once the workshop is over.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Points to Ponder

I don't have time to elaborate on it right now (as I'm still using the bulk of my energy to stay well, and I spent the bulk of this evening helping a student with an upcoming college audition), but there were some interesting quotes in this article at the Insider Higher Education blog about the importance of restoring the voice of the faculty in higher education, especially as schools face unprecedented cuts to their budgets at the state level.

As one might expect, the article suggested that perhaps the cuts should start within the administration, which is a bit top-heavy at some schools. Here's the main quote:
Some argued that cost efficiencies could be better realized in places other than the classroom, such as administration. When colleges put less than 50 percent of their budgets into what goes on in class, it is, said [Lillian] Taiz [president of the California Faculty Association, which prepared the document discussed in the article] , "plain, flat-out crazy."
This was met with agreement by many faculty who posted comments; I found these quotes to be particularly interesting:
"It might be time to consider Hardt and Negri's insight:" “people don’t need bosses at work. They need an expanding web of others with whom to communicate and collaborate; the boss is increasingly merely an obstacle to getting work done” (Commonwealth 353). I think the same applies to upper (and perhaps middle-) administration at colleges and universities."
--commenter Janet Nhese

"What is needed for an education?

1) Someone to learn
2) Someone to teach

The rest is support!"
--commenter "MnProf"
As I mentioned earlier, I don't have time to elaborate on this right now, but feel free to discuss it in the comments. (And I guess I'll look up the Hardt and Negri study at another time as well. It sounds a bit more extreme than my position; I'm not saying we don't need bosses, but rather that the bosses should themselves be teachers...but you knew that already if you've read this blog for a while.)

Monday, January 24, 2011


About once per school year, I have a day that just hits me like a ton o' bricks--run down, usually a touch of sinus crud, all of that. Today was definitely that day, as I took my first partial "sick day" since my knee surgery. I'll be doing the early-to-bed thing, and hopefully things will be better in the morning; the afternoon and evening off has already done wonders for me.

Blogging should hopefully resume tomorrow.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Playing This Week in the Kevmobile

I love all the different forms of "new media" with which I'm involved. But as someone with no "office time" and no computer beyond an iPhone during the business day, it's impossible to come up with fresh content for this blog, Twitter and Facebook. I'm a consistent Facebooker, and I've recently tethered Twitter to it so that I can post my shorter statuses in both places, and every once in a while, something from either of the other two sites finds its way to this blog as well.

Since I regained the ability to listen to my iPod in the car over Christmas, one of the things I've started doing on Twitter is making note of what I'm listening to in the car that day; most of the stuff on the 'Pod is material that I've downloaded from eMusic, which means there are a lot of "indie" jazz artists that deserve wider recognition. So to further integrate my sites (and since I've often had little "what I'm listening to" blurbs at the bottom of other blog posts in the past), I decided to use Sundays as the day when I'd recount what I listened to all week. These blurbs can be slightly expanded, since they're not limited here by Twitter's 140-character count, and I'll also provide links to the artists' website that can be accessed by clicking on their names. So sit back and enjoy the first weekly edition of this feature, and if you're curious, be sure and visit the artists' sites.
  • TUESDAY: Kneebody, Kneebody. How would one describe this band? They're set up like a traditional jazz combo, but their music is anything but that. Critic Nate Chinen described them as "a band that inhabits the borderland abutted by post-bop, indie-rock and hip-hop, without seeming to give much thought to the borders," and that's pretty accurate. I want to see these guys live...

  • WEDNESDAY: Myra Melford's Be Bread, The Image of Your Body. The pianist leads a group that's heavily into electronics, featuring Cuong Vu (of the Pat Metheny Group), among others; the music varies between pretty and skronky, but it's an interesting fusion.

  • THURSDAY: Nils Petter Molvaer, Khmer. I've written about this Norwegian trumpeter in a previous post, and his music is still in my regular rotation to this day.

  • FRIDAY: Bobby Watson, Tailor Made and Tokyo Leaders Big Band, Live at Someday in Tokyo. The amazing alto saxophonist, composer and honorary patron saint of my evening combo (since we've played so many of his compositions) gets together with his post-Horizon combo and a top-notch Japanese big band to stretch on several of his tunes. Includes extended versions of "In Case You Missed It" and "Karita."

  • SATURDAY: Anne Paceo Triphase, Empreintes. A creative trio led by the French drummer, with world-music influences that give it a guitar-less Metheny-ish vibe, or possibly a less-electronic Esbjörn Svensson Trio.

  • SUNDAY: Austin McMahon, Many Muses. Another creative drummer/composer who leads a one-horn quartet (only in this case, the one horn is clarinet or bass clarinet) through a set of enjoyable tunes. And according to his website, a new release is on the way shortly!
I'll try to do this every Sunday from here on out.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Music Hath Charms to Soothe Repel the Savage Beast(s)

Via Dave Barry's Blog comes this unusual story: A kid in Norway managed to repel a pack of wild wolves he encountered on his way home from school by blasting some music through the headphones of his cell phone:
Walter Eikrem listened to music on his mobile phone as he often does as he made his way home from school in the southern Norwegian town of Rakkestad earlier this week. The path leading from the stop where he catches the school bus to his family's farmhouse traverses a gently sloping hillside. All of a sudden, he made out something gray on the hillside. "At first, I thought it might have been the neighbor's dogs," he later told TV2, Norway's largest commercial broadcaster. What he actually encountered, though, were four wolves.

"I was afraid they would attack me," Walter told the Norwegian tabloid VG, describing the incident, which took place on Monday. But he didn't let his fear show. Remembering his parents' advice, Walter pulled the earphones out of his mobile phone, turned the volume all the way up and blasted heavy metal music over its miniature speakers. At the same time, he yelled as loud as he could while flailing his arms about wildly to scare off the pack of wild animals.

[...]The plan worked. Eikrem said he was able to drive away the wolves by playing the song "Overcome" by the American hard-rock band Creed. "They didn't really get scared," Walter said. "They just turned around and simply trotted away."
I'm not sure that Creed qualifies as "heavy metal" (as the story describes it several times), but worked. There's one more example of the power of music. (And I guess it's good that the wolves weren't drug dealers or gang members, or Walter might have had to use classical music to repel them.)

Friday, January 21, 2011

Tonight's Region Concert Was Lights-Out Good

Every year, I happily spend a Friday night listening to my students and other outstanding young musicians perform at the All-Region Bands concert; this year's edition took place tonight. As I say every year, this post is not by any means an attempt to liveblog the concert or even do a traditional review of same; rather, it's just the things that popped into my head while I was listening:
  • As always, the concert runs like clockwork; each band is given 45-minute slots to play 30 minutes of music or less, so ample time is allowed for seating changes between bands, and the families and friends of the performers always know an exact time to arrive for a particular band's portion of the concert. In less than four hours, four high school bands and one ninth-grade band are heard, and the night goes more quickly than one might think. And while the fixed schedule does provide for some long lulls if a band runs less than half an hour, it also gives me the opportunity to schmooze with parents and directors. (And this year, if none of them were around, I had Facebook on my phone as well. Yes, I was that guy...but only during the breaks.)

  • This year, I had seven people from my studio make the bands, which is one shy of last year. (Although it must be said that a pretty decent saxophone section could be made out of people from my studio alone who didn't make the band.) The distribution was two seniors, two juniors, a sophomore and two freshmen, so things look good for the future.

  • The concert started in a rather unique manner: As the freshman band started its first number, someone in the light booth made an attempt to dim the house lights...and managed to douse nearly every light in the place, including those onstage. The band continued on valiantly from memory for a few bars, but they eventually stopped and waited for the lights to come on again; it would take a few more bands before the proper balance was achieved. Nothing like a good tech-crew FAIL to get things started.

  • Musically, there wasn't a "dud" piece programmed all evening, which was a pleasant contrast from last year. While most of the music was of the newer "wind ensemble" variety (more on that shortly), even the older pieces were played well and with lots of enthusiasm; it was easy to forget that 1) everyone on stage is in high school, and 2) they had about nine hours of rehearsal over the past 24 hours to put everything together. My proverbial hat is off to all the performers and clinicians.

  • Speaking of the clinicians, each one of them talked to the audience at least once this year, which hasn't always happened. Sure, in my perfect world, the programs would either list the pieces in their concert order (rather than saying "program to be selected from..." as they do now) or each clinician would back-announce anything that deviated from what was printed. (And the programs would also go into a bit more detail: First name of composer, if the piece is divided into movements, etc. But I'm probably being picky here..).

  • One less-than-pleasant surprise was the large showing exhibited by the Dorky Parents' Brigade this year. It's one thing to clap for your kids, but there were way too many people making spectacles of themselves by either shouting, "[insert kid's name here], we love you!" or standing up and waving incessantly at the stage (one guy was so bad that a few kids--whom I assume didn't even know him--stood up and waved back just to mess with him). These are the same people who ruin graduations for everyone else, and I've never seen quite so many of them at this concert before tonight.

  • But those folks aside, we had more proof tonight that audiences can in fact be trained: If the conductor left one hand up between movements of a piece, the audience would get the signal and refrain from clapping; if he didn't, inappropriate clappage would occur.

  • One thing that's never happened before, at least in my memory: The auditorium really brought out the sound of the saxophone section. (I wonder if the fact that I was seated dead-center instead of off to one side made a difference.) Sure, the bands are big--the Concert Band had six altos, three tenors and two baris, and the sections got smaller as the bands did as well--but I've never heard saxes quite so "high in the mix" as I did tonight. (I always wondered what it would have been like if balance between the saxophone sound and the clarinet sound were reversed in the band, and I got a small picture of that tonight. Need I say that I liked it?)

  • I always use this occasion to restate my belief that the newer "wind ensemble music" (with its film-score influences, reliance on interesting tonal colors and expanded percussion sections) is far superior to the older "band music" (which was written in a more tonally homogeneous fashion). And while I do prefer the newer stuff (represented tonight by the likes of Brian Balmages, Samuel Hazo and birthday boy Frank Ticheli), an old chestnut like Gustav Holst's Second Suite in F is always welcome when played well, and a Sousa march is still two or three minutes of perfection.

  • After the above discussion, this is where I state that I really need to write my blog post on "how film scoring saved classical music." Someone please hold me to it this year.

  • Every band played extremely well tonight--in no way, for example, did the Concert Band sound like a "fourth" band (and I'd say that even if several of my guys weren't in there)--but the top two bands, the Wind Ensemble and the Wind Symphony, were at another level altogether. These two bands are traditionally conducted by college directors (and lately, that's meant two from the same school; tonight's came from UTEP), and no matter what they play, the music crackles with new energy from the get-go. The Wind Symphony had a cool bit of programming by pairing Sousa's The Fairest of the Fair with a newer fantasy written on the theme of that march, and the Wind Ensemble had me from the first measure with their opener, Clifton Williams' The Sinfonians (featuring a couple of my fraternity's beloved songs), followed by one of my favorite pieces from my own Region days, Howard Hanson's Laude (which, after listening to it with new ears, may have been the first film-score band piece).

  • And finally, the obligatory "it's nice to be recognized" part: It's always cool when they recognize the teachers before every band (by having all the directors and private teachers of the students currently on stage stand up for a moment). Most of the work that my colleagues and I do is behind the scenes, and that's OK; the real reward is watching them progress over the years and develop a love for music that will hopefully last far beyond their public schooling, no matter what their major will be in college. But I'd be a liar if I said it wasn't nice to be among those standing up every year. (Wow--looking back, this post is almost as long as the concert itself!)
As I've said before, I try to make this a must-see on my calendar; I may not get to attend too many individual schools' concerts, but I like to be at this one to support the students who have put in the extra work to earn the chance to play on this night. (And it's crazy to think that I began the tradition of blogging this concert in 2006, when tonight's seniors were in seventh grade.)

Previous Region Band concert posts: 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006.

Quoteworthy: The Wind Ensemble conductor, Dr. Lowell Graham, used to direct the top Air Force band. In an age when educational budgets are being slashed, leading some to call for reductions in arts education, Graham left us with five great qualities found in...fighter pilots:
  • Personal responsibility

  • Teamwork

  • Multitasking

  • Looking ahead over the horizon

  • Real-time problem solving
Guess what--all those qualities were exhibited by the musicians onstage tonight as well! And all the aesthetic pleasures of music are just the frosting...

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Another Money Quote from Lileks (Music Edition)

As Thursdays have become 14-hour teaching days again, I'll rarely have time to write a blog post of substance on this day of the week. But my favorite blogger, James Lileks, comes through again today with this gem from the part of this morning's Bleat where he's talking about piano lessons:
I kick myself for not being harder, but I’ve never thought you should take piano so you can learn piano. You should take piano so you get a feel for music from the production side, as a participant, not an onlooker.
Beautiful. We music teachers have to keep an arsenal of profound statements around to battle with those who would try to diminish our programs because they (falsely, IMHO) claim that music is not a "basic" subject. And the above is a nice, fresh angle on the subject, and a nice departure from the usual "music makes you smarter" idea.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Is College Tuition Weighing Heavily on the Minds of Students? Let's Literally Find Out

I'm a fan of creative thinking, and this story--like yesterday's "school prank" episode--fits the bill. A University of Colorado student, wishing to make the point to school administrators that tuition might be a bit too expensive--decided to pay his spring balance in person using only $1 bills:
Nic Ramos wanted to send an eye-grabbing message about the rising cost of tuition at the University of Colorado in Boulder.

So, the 20-year-old economics major paid his $14,300 tuition entirely in $1 bills.

[...]Ramos packed the 33 pounds of cash into a big duffle and was ready when the CU business office opened Friday morning.

"I walked in there and put it on the counter and said: 'I'm here to pay my tuition,'" Ramos recounted.
The bursar's office employees, to their credit, took the situation in good humor; they accepted Ramos' unusual payment, even though it took three clerks almost an hour to count the cash.

College certainly has gotten a lot more expensive in the past several decades, and hopefully, that point is reinforced by Ramos' outside-the-box thinking and the attention being drawn to this story. And it also hit home in a different way with one of his classmates:
Ramos' buddy, Dan Order, chimed in: "It makes me not want to skip class." They calculated it costs $65 for each hour of missed class, Order said.
As they say, read the whole thing.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Greatest School Prank Ever!
(Even Better--It Was Done By a Parent)

Via Dave Barry's Blog comes one of the funniest stories I've read all week: A school district in Maryland used the common practice of sending a robo-call out to parents to alert them to a late start on a snowy day recently. But thanks to a glitch of some sort, the calls came out at 4:30 in the morning! One parent in that district, Aaron Titus, annoyed by the early wake-up, plotted his revenge: He got a list of publicly-available phone numbers for every district official that he could find, and he set up a program to robo-call them at 4:30 a.m. as well:
"This is a Prince George's County School District parent, calling to thank you for the robocall yesterday at 4:30 in the morning. I decided to return the favor. While I know the school district wanted to ensure I drop my child off two hours late on a snow day, I already knew that before I went to bed. I hope this call demonstrates why a 4:30 a.m. call does more to annoy than to inform.''

It ended: "Quit robocalling parents at 4:30 in the morning or at least allow us to opt out of these intrusive calls."
Thankfully, the message was duly noted in fairly good humor by school officials:
School board member Edward Burroughs III said he had not personally gotten one of Titus's robocall rebukes, but considered it "very clever."

"I definitely appreciate his creativity," he said.

On a more serious note, Burroughs said that "I think, in the future, if we know the night before, we need to make the call the night before." Ten o'clock or so may seem late, he said, "but 4:30 in the morning?"

The robocall, he concluded, made a point. "It's certainly something that I welcome all parents to do - communicate with us, by any means necessary," he said.
I'm sure that Titus is a hero to anyone who thought about pulling off such a prank, but was afraid to do so. Chalk one up for the little guy...

Friday, January 14, 2011

I Won't Even Try to Top This Quote Today

I looked out and saw nothing, but then I shielded my eyes and leaned over and waited . . .

. . . and all the stars came out.

James Lileks has been blogging aboard a cruise ship all week, producing little gems like the above. Read the whole thing, and just keep scrolling for his earlier entries.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

I Could Listen to This Masterful Mash-Up All Day

Who says the newspaper's not good for anything anymore? In yesterday's Dallas Morning News, I found, courtesy of its sister publication Quick, a brief Q&A with mash-up artist Gregg Gillis, who plies his craft under the name of Girl Talk. His newest effort, All Day, references 373 songs in just a little over 70 minutes. And musically, it's all over the map:
Ludacris raps over the power chords of Black Sabbath. Dallas rapper Dorrough's verses from "Ice Cream Paint Job" are made warmer by the backing track from "Strawberry Letter 23." Rick Ross, Bananarama and Lady Gaga work together during a few seconds of danceable bliss. And so on.
And how in the world did he license all those songs? Well, he didn't:
Gillis has managed to get around any major copyright-related setbacks by contending that what he does with the samples constitutes fair use. And it doesn't hurt that many of the artists sampled are thrilled they've made the latest Girl Talk mix. North Texas rockers the Toadies even posted and tweeted about the use of "Possum Kingdom" in a key section of All Day.
I downloaded it last night--hey, why not? It's free!--and I'm listening to it as we speak. So far, I'm quite impressed; Gillis does a great job of mixing everything together, and it's amusing how seamlessly a lot of these songs go with each other.

If you want to download it yourself, go here. (And be happy that the big rush is over; evidently, listeners pretty much broke the Internet downloading this on the day it came out.) If you just want to read the staggering list of tunes sampled, it's here.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


Today is the third anniversary of my purchase of Kevmobile 2.0 (as noted here on the big day itself), and once again, I couldn't be happier with my decision of which car to get. As I noted a year ago,
Really, I have no complaints at all. The gas mileage is really good (even if the smaller tank sends me to the station a bit more, the MPG itself is superb), the capacity to haul various combinations of people and stuff has worked out really nicely (take note of the time I was able to haul 17 cases of laminate flooring in a single trip), and it's a lot of fun to drive. (I missed this a great deal when I was recovering from knee surgery and couldn't drive a stick; nothing else was quite the same.)

I also got in on this during a good model year. To me, there's something not quite as appealing about the design of the newer ('09 and later) models; the older ones have more personality, I guess. (My buddy Coop, who got me into this whole Fit thing in the first place, concurs with this, and we've noted in the past that neither of us anticipates buying a new car until ours are around ten years old or so.)
Again, here's to many more years of trouble-free driving.

And do I have a picture from today? Why, of course I do:

Blowing out the candles: Happy birthday to my protege and li'l bro, Aaron. He shares his day with a lot of well-known people, including radio hosts Rush Limbaugh and Howard Stern, as well as prolific blogress Ann Althouse.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

As They MIght Say at Band Contest, This Day Got Straight "Ones"

It's 1/11/11 at 11:11 p.m. Why am I posting this? Because I can (and because all the cool kids are doing it.)

I'm sure I'll do this again on Veterans Day, when there's one more One to add to the proceedings.

Monday, January 10, 2011

[Insert Obligatory Snow Picture Here]

I meant to post this yesterday when similarly doing so on Facebook, but I had to get the picture off the phone before doing this. Anyway, in honor of the (at least) once-a-year snowfall that seems to hit North Texas, here's my seemingly annual picture of Casa de Kev in the snow:

That is all. You may now resume your snowball fight, if anything is left in the yard.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

And in Heaven, They're Calling Out, "Play Ball!"

I'm just catching up on the past two days of newspapers this afternoon, and I noticed something from yesterday's article about the memorial service for former Arlington Mayor Tom Vandergriff that really made me smile:
At the start of the memorial service for Tom Vandergriff – the former Arlington mayor, congressman and Tarrant County judge – an announcement was piped over the loudspeaker: "Please remove your caps for the singing of our National Anthem."

Baseball and the Texas Rangers were a constant theme as hundreds gathered Friday in Texas Hall at the University of Texas at Arlington to pay tribute to Vandergriff, the man who helped turn a small town into a North Texas destination.
The baseball theme was certainly fitting, because without Vendergriff's tenacity, there's a pretty good chance that the Metroplex wouldn't have landed the then-Washington Senators and turned them into the Texas Rangers we know and love; at best, it would have been a much longer time before that happened.

I meant to mark the passing of Vandergriff when it happened last week. He certainly did a lot for the city of Arlington, helping it become, as he was fond of saying, the hyphen between Dallas and Ft. Worth. He also helped the city land the GM plant and Six Flags, and he was instrumental in UTA becoming a four-year school. (Additionally, he owned an auto dealership which resided for years at Division and Collins streets, and I wish they'd been able to keep the iconic "V" sign at that corner after the dealership moved south to I-20 and was replaced with a QT station.) He certainly deserves to be remembered for a lot more than just being "that other guy with a statue at the Ballpark besides Nolan Ryan."

The ceremony ended on an appropriate note as well:
[A]t the end of the memorial, the crowd was asked to sing along on a Vandergriff favorite – "a sacred hymn."

The Arlington Community Band then struck up with "Take Me Out the Ballgame."
Perfect. My (baseball) hat is off to whomever decided to do that.

R.I.P., Mayor Tom. The Metroplex owes you a great deal.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

This Music Has Been Given Its Freiheit from Out-of-Print Purgatory

A few weeks ago, I made note of the German pop band Freiheit (known as Münchener Freiheit in Europe) as I rejoiced upon discovering a video of their biggest (only?) English-language hit, "Keeping the Dream Alive." I noted that the album containing that song, Fantasy, had been out of print of a long time, so my copy was considered a rarity; I was glad that I got it when I did, because most of the songs hold up really well in a Beatlesque sort of way.

And now, after a bit of research, I've discovered that the group's three English-language albums have been re-released in a "three-in-one" format, and--at least at Amazon--it's a very reasonably-priced import.

Again, I have no idea if any other Musings readers share my enthusiasm for this band, but I just thought I'd pass it along. (And by the way, Freiheit is German for "freedom," in case you're wondering about the cryptic title of this post.)

Friday, January 07, 2011

The 'Boys Will Be Back

As I noted a few days ago, I was pulling for Jason Garrett to have the "interim" stripped from his title and to be named the next head coach of the Cowboys. And now, it's been announced that this has now happened.

Well done, Jerry Jones. As I said earlier, the team didn't need a high-profile retread this time; they needed the guy who had turned around a really lousy season and gave them some things to build on for the future. And it's a great story, too; no former Cowboys player has ever ascended to the head coaching position here before.

He'll have to deliver, of course. But for today, Cowboys fans can smile a little bit.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Gerry's Iconic Melody Echoes from City to City

And believe it or not, the Gerry I'm talking about is, for once, not Mulligan...

Yesterday morning, commenter sonicfrog asked the following:
Hey Sax Man - I know you're a jazz man, but any thoughts on the death of Gerry Rafferty? Baker Street had one of the great sax lines ever laid down on a rock record.
Agreed; the sax part is basically the "chorus" of the song, and, while it's not really complex, it's certainly etched in the collective memory of all kinds of music fans.

You do remember the song, right?

I was on a Gerry Rafferty kick for a while; his first solo album, City to City, which contains "Baker Street," was a pretty solid outing through and through. And although "Baker Street" (with the iconic sax line provided by the wonderfully-named Raphael Ravenscroft) has stood the test of time, it wasn't my favorite song on City to City. This was:

It's such a happy, bouncing, uplifting song. And the tag ending (starting at 2:32), with its simple arpeggiated melody and unpredictable harmonic flow, never fails to make me smile.

Like most people, I'd become acquainted with Rafferty as part of the duo Stealers Wheel, who produced a huge hit in the '70s called "Stuck in the Middle With You," which still turns up in various places today. And while I liked a few things on his second solo album, Night Owl (most notably the opener, "Days Gone Down (Still Got That Light in Your Eyes)"), he sort of faded out after that for all except the most die-hard fans.

But even if the star flickered over time, the contribution of "Baker Street" cemented Rafferty's place in popular music history. It's been covered successfully (by Foo Fighters) and less so (by Maynard Ferguson, sorry to say), and as sonicfrog noted, it certainly pushed the saxophone to the forefront of a rock song in a very memorable way.

RIP, Gerry, and thanks for the music.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

It's Time For Jerry to Grin and Garrett, or Others Will Be Chasin' Jason

A disappointing season for the Dallas Cowboys came to an end today, but the last nine games with Jason Garrett at the helm definitely showed an improvement, as far as I'm concerned.

Will Garrett get the "interim" removed from his title in the next week or so? The smart money says yes. Jerry Jones has noted that he'd like to make a decision sooner than later, and a lot of us out here feel like the younger guy deserves a chance instead of a big-name retread. (And does anyone really think that Bill Cowher or Jon Gruden would work for Jones?) I realize there are a few things that need to happen, such as satisfying the Rooney Rule, but I'm pretty sure that Jones won't make the mistake of letting Garrett go, only to watch him shine on someone else's sideline.

What do you think? Does Garrett deserve the full-time gig? Chime in by hitting the comment button.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Welcome to Twenty-Eleven

First of all, Happy New Year to all! I hope the year will be enjoyable and rewarding for all of us.

Last year at this time, we discussed the burning question that arose as the 21st century hit its teen years: Is it time to switch over from "two thousand and..." to "twenty..." when pronouncing the name of the year? If one is looking for economy of syllables, the former certainly makes sense, though casual listening to personal conversations and various media showed a split between "twenty-ten" and "two thousand and ten" for the year that was just completed. Still, I noted that the problem might solve itself today, since "twenty-eleven" rolls off the tongue much more easily than does "two thousand and eleven," and if worse comes to worst, we're bound to return to the "classic" (i.e. pre-2000) pronunciation by 2020, just because that number is so strongly associated with both the TV show and perfect vision.

An informal poll on Facebook earlier today seems to bear this out, as nobody who responded was strongly in the more-syllables camp, and the vast majority were in complete agreement with me. So what do you think; will the classic pronunciation finally take hold this year.

And again, Happy New Year, no matter how you say it.