Tuesday, November 27, 2007

An Untapped Market

As I mentioned once before in a previous posting, many people who come to this blog have been searching for information about particular musicians. Lately, there have been several hits from people looking for information about Michal Urbaniak and Urszula Dudziak, two jazz musicians whose work is under-represented on CD.

Urszula Dudziak has not yet had Urszula (Arista 4065), Newborn Light (Columbia) and Future Talk (Inner City 1066) released on CD, three albums in which she serves as a leader after having achieved recognition for her vocal work as a member of Michal Urbaniak’s band. Columbia has released Michal Urbaniak’s Fusion on CD, but both Atma and Fusion III remain available only on vinyl. Once Urbaniak left the Columbia label, he recorded several other albums for different labels, including Body English (Arista 4086), Facts of Life (Love Records), Serenade for the City (Motown), Daybreak (Pausa 7114), and Urbaniak (Inner City 1036). Together, Michal Urbaniak and Urszula Dudziak recorded Tribute to Komeda (MPS 21657).

Of all these albums, the ones that would probably attract the largest audience if they were released on CD are Urszula Dudziak’s Future Talk (which features Zbigniew Namyslowski and Michal Urbaniak), Michal Urbaniak’s Atma, Fusion III, Daybreak, and Urbaniak (which features Zbigniew Namyslowski, too), and Michal Urbaniak and Urszula Dudziak's Tribute to Komeda (which features Tomasz Stanko and Zbigniew Seifert).

Zbigniew Namyslowski’s output as a leader is also under-represented outside of Poland because neither Namyslowski (Inner City 1048) nor Air Condition (Affinity, AFF83) is available on CD.

There is an untapped market out there waiting for someone who is able to purchase the master tapes and the rights from, say, Inner City or Columbia.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Pilot Pencil

Quinn at Project for a New Mythology recently described his favorite writing instrument and added a picture of one after he was able to locate a box of twelve to replenish his supply. My own favorite writing instrument is a Pilot Pencil #2, 0.7 mm, with the addition of a rubber grip to cushion my fingers and a replacement eraser, one that is longer and more secure than the eraser supplied with the pencil.

I started using this pencil when I was working on my terminal degree, having found the first one at a bookstore near Eskimo Joe's . I liked how the pencil resembled a regular #2 pencil and once I saw an office worker using a rubber grip on her pencil, I decided to add one to mine because the amount of writing was leaving a deep indentation in my middle finger. This off campus bookstore eventually stopped carrying them, so I had to special order them from a Christian bookstore in Oklahoma City before it, too, stopped carrying them. I have so many now because I have made it a point to stock up whenever the opportunity has presented itself.

Having been spoiled for nearly fifteen years now, I cannot conceive of using any other pencil for most of my writing needs when I'm not using the keyboard. As a person with simple needs, this pencil qualifies as my equivalent of a Montblanc .

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Manu Katche and Playground

For those of you looking for new music, I recommend Manu Katche’s Playground. A French drummer, Manu Katche is known for backing up musicians like Jan Garbarek and Sting. Primarily a jazz drummer, he has now released two jazz albums under his name on the ECM label. Playground, his new CD, was released in September.

Someone picking up a CD in which the drummer is the leader would probably expect to hear an emphasis on the drumming and several drum solos; Katche, on the other hand, seems similar to other contemporary jazz musicians in Europe who prefer not to solo. Norwegian saxophonist Trygve Seim , in describing his own attitude against soloing, and who appears on Playground, says, “I don’t find soloing in the traditional manner particularly interesting; so often it’s more about showing off.” Seim also recognizes the difference between American and European jazz musicians by saying that “in the American tradition, the music always seems to be more about showing how well you can play — impressing the musicians on stage with you, or the people in the audience.” What you will find on Playground, which is composed of Katche’s own compositions, is an emphasis on the group dynamic, i.e., piano, trumpet, bass, saxophone, and drums, with many interesting and haunting rhythms supplied by Katche, as on the tracks titled "Motion" and "Inside Game." I have actually been listening more to Playground than Katche’s Neighborhood, which appeared in 2005 and which I only recently purchased. I give Playground a high recommendation.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Boone Pickens and the Ogallala Aquifer

Boone Pickens, a wealthy oil tycoon who has donated $165 million to Oklahoma State, admitted recently that he sees the validity in Peak Oil and recognizes that demand far exceeds the declining world supply of oil when he was interviewed during the Oklahoma State versus Kansas football game last weekend. Ironically, when asked about a water crisis in Texas, Boone Pickens says he foresees the construction of a massive pipeline bringing water from the Texas panhandle to the Dallas-Fort Worth area and other cities in Texas. The only water located in the Texas panhandle lies underground in the Ogallala aquifer, which extends from Nebraska to Texas.

Primarily used for agriculture, the aquifer loses several feet of water every year, most of which isn’t replenished. Parts of the aquifer have already dropped so much that independent farmers can no longer afford the fuel costs to pump out the water. Rivers and streams in western Kansas, particularly Wallace County, run dry during much of the year now. The Smoky Hill River, which once ran adjacent to Fort Wallace, has so little water now that Cedar Bluff Reservoir, located south of WaKeeney, has experienced a significant reduction in size. Experts foresee the aquifer running dry throughout the Great Plains in twenty years.

If Boone plans on pumping massive quantities of water from the aquifer, it will run dry at a much more alarming rate. Efforts in Texas have been undertaken to thwart Boone’s outlandish and irresponsible plan to deplete the aquifer. See the following link for more information.

Any one who lives in this area should be outraged by schemes that allow someone to profit from the limited natural resources in this area. The Great Plains is so fragile an ecosystem that it cannot sustain life and renew itself annually if its water is drained for profit and if its ground is polluted by the pesticides applied to corn and wheat and the huge feedlots owned and operated by corporations indifferent to the land and the quality of life in this region.

Those people living in eastern Kansas believe that the Flint Hills are absolutely beautiful while the remainder of the state to the west of, say, Junction City, is flat and lacking in natural beauty. That same ignorance and misconception is applied to the whole of the Great Plains. It takes a keen eye to appreciate the area west of the 98th meridian. Some of us know its mystery and would prefer that others either learn to appreciate its subtle beauty and its fragility or go elsewhere. I still think that Frank and Deborah Popper have a good idea in wanting to designate a portion of the Great Plains as a buffalo commons because it would keep people like Boone Pickens from profiting by exploiting what lies below the land.

Fall Color at Its Peak in Eastern Kansas

Fall color in eastern Kansas reached its peak last week. A few trees are still displaying shades of orange and red; many others have lost their leaves. Even this partially colorblind person can appreciate the autumn color present in the pictures appearing below. Click on each image to increase its size.

The bridge linking Kansas and Missouri is present in one of the pictures below. Officially known as the Centennial Bridge, this bridge is known by the locals as the Blue Bridge. The Vh1 biography of Melissa Etheridge, who was born and raised in Leavenworth, features her crossing the bridge in her move to California. In actuality, she would have either taken K-7 south to I-70 or K-192 west, neither of which would have been as dramatic.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Beginnings of Fall Color

Although often thought of as treeless, Kansas actually has a lot of trees. It’s true that farther to the west, outside of the cities and towns, the trees tend to congregate along the creeks and rivers. This part of eastern Kansas, on the other hand, is much more heavily wooded. We are now beginning to see more evidence of fall color. In the pictures provided below, notice the trees in one of the local parks. Despite having about fifty essays to grade, I need to find a way to get outside in the afternoon so that I can enjoy this part of the year. There are few other pleasures than enjoying an autumn afternoon.