Monday, December 29, 2008

Jan Garbarek & Dis

One person who stumbled upon my blog recently had been looking for information on Jan Garbarek’s Dis (1977), an album that I include as a desert island pick in an earlier posting . This person apparently had doubts about the album and wondered whether other people find the album boring.

Often, the American critics discount the merits of Jan Garbarek, the majority of whom equate Garbarek with the so-called ECM sound, believing that this sound is characteristically lacking in emotion and representative of the stark arctic regions of Scandinavia. When exploring jazz, particularly European jazz, it’s best to compare the critical evaluations in a discography like the American All Music Guide to Jazz to the ones in The Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD, a discography created in Britain. Richard Cook and Brian Morton, authors of The Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD, believe that Garbarek’s Dis is a “beautiful album,” one composed of “spells and riddles on soprano saxophone (and wood flute) and a deep, mourning tone that floats and drifts over the rhythm.” The All Music Guide to Jazz, on the other hand, doesn’t devote any attention to Dis and simply awards it two stars out of five.

Dis is unique because it combines Garbarek’s saxophone with the recorded sound of a windharp, one that was positioned to record the gusts coming off the North Sea. Like the Aeolian harp in Romantic literature, this windharp, according to the information that accompanies the album, is “an instrument with strings that are brought to vibrate by the wind, thereby creating tones and overtones, which, in turn, are enhanced in a resonant body.” While the windharp isn’t present on the entire album, it does appear on three of the six songs.

This music makes it possible to approach poems like Coleridge’s “The Eolian Harp” and “Dejection: An Ode” with a greater understanding of what the speaker was hearing while he wrote those poems.

Garbarek’s music interests me partly because of its innovation. Dis includes the music of a windharp; Photo with Blue Sky, White Cloud, Wires, Windows, and a Red Roof (1979) contains songs giving voice to the images and sounds associated with those objects in a photograph; It’s Okay to Listen to the Gray Voice (1985) interprets lines from the poems of Tomas Transtromer; Madar (1994) pairs Garbarek’s saxophone with Brahem’s oud; In Praise of Dreams (2004) pairs Garbarek’s saxophone with Kashkashian’s viola; Ragas and Sagas (1992) combines Garbarek’s saxophone with the traditional music of Pakistan and India; and albums like Legend of the Seven Dreams (1988), Twelve Moons (1993), and Visible World (1995) incorporate Norwegian folk tales and landscape. What these albums reveal is a musician who remains committed to exploration.

Lately, I have been sharing some of Jan Garbarek’s CD’s with my son’s saxophone teacher who has been wondering why he hasn’t heard more of this person. At the same time, my son’s teacher has been sharing music by people like Lee Konitz and Warne Marsh, people that have been unknown to me until now.

Ice Sliding Down River

Other parts of the country have been experiencing much more severe cold and more significant amounts of snow than what we have known here in northeastern Kansas. One local weather forecaster says that we have come to an end of one twenty-five day period of active weather, with the next round of severe weather, spread out over a twenty-five day period, not set to arrive until late January. One feature of our weather this winter season has been the rapid changes in temperatures, with sudden drops of thirty degrees or so in a matter of hours. It takes a sustained period of warmth for the ice to completely disappear from the Missouri River.




Thursday, December 18, 2008

Dudziak and Urbaniak at CD Baby

In checking the traffic figures related to this blog, I have discovered that people have been looking for information about Urszula Dudziak and Michal Urbaniak, possibly because they are looking for links to download music from RapidShare. One night when I was idly surfing for information about those records that had not yet been released on CD, I discovered that CD Baby now offers Urszula Dudziak’s Future Talk and many more selections by Michal Urbaniak, including Fusion III , which was originally released on the Columbia label, and the Inner City recording Urbaniak , which features both Urszula Dudziak and Zbigniew Namyslowski. If my own cash flow problems ever come to an end, I hope to add these records to my collection. I’m also hoping that Urbaniak’s Atma and Namyslowski’s Air Condition are eventually made available at CD Baby, too.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

In Lieu of More Topical Comments

In lieu of commentary about the upcoming election, for example, I have added these pictures of autumn in eastern Kansas. More postings are forthcoming once I get out from under the backlog of grading essays.







Friday, October 10, 2008

Fear

One night recently I ended up watching the last half of Mississippi Burning on one of the free movie stations. I had seen parts of the movie before but had never seen all of it. It’s easy to say that America has come so far in its acceptance of all people of color since the Civil Rights Movement. Personally, I think that the bigotry and racism depicted in the movie remains a part of this country today, albeit just below the surface. Sure, there are places where people are progressive and willing to embrace diversity, but that open-mindedness can be found in only small areas of the country like Vermont and San Francisco. I’m tempted to include Lawrence, Kansas in that list of places, but I know from having lived in Lawrence years ago how deep-seated the negative attitudes toward Native Americans remain and how much risk the students run when they leave the campus of Haskell.

I think the smear campaign directed toward Barack Obama by Palin and McCain, one in which they label him a terrorist and a traitor, and one in which members of the audience yell out, “Shoot Him,” will end up causing some gun-toting Republican to take that campaign too far. James Howard Kunstler said in one of his columns early in the campaign that Obama could possibly end up losing his life if he were elected President. If Palin and McCain continue to hide their own ineptitude and continue to evade the more important issues facing this country (like the ten trillion dollar national debt) by finding fault with their opponent, it’s possible that the racism and bigotry lurking in this county will resurface in the kind of violence that I lived through in the 1960’s when political figures and cultural leaders were gunned down. If such an event were to occur, I don’t think that McCain and Palin would ever accept the responsibility but would instead delight in ridding the country of someone not like them.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Greasy Rider: A Review

I recently signed as on as an Early Reviewer at LibraryThing. My first review appears below.



Greg Melville’s Greasy Rider describes the author’s effort at converting a 1985 Mercedes wagon to run on used fry grease from restaurants and driving it from Vermont to California. Encouraged by the prospect of locating free energy, Melville opts to operate his car exclusively on fry grease instead of biodiesel, which still contains a percentage of petroleum. As a test of the feasibility of this alternative fuel, Melville decides to emulate the cross-country trip of H. Nelson Jackson, who, as Melville says, was the first person to cross the country in a car running on petroleum. Relatively challenged by auto mechanics, however, Melville enlists the help of Iggy, his former college roommate, to help maintain the engine and to help fill the container in the trunk with waste restaurant grease.

Prompted by Iggy, who gives Melville various challenges or errands to discover more about green energy, the narrative is broken up by six of these errands, most of which occur after the initial trip and are included as addendums or side-trips, so to speak. These errands include research into Al Gore’s own 10,000 foot mansion to determine whether his house is heated and cooled with green energy; how a few Minnesota farmers are in the midst of making wind power profitable; how cellulosic ethanol, the conversion of plants into energy without using corn and without using the expensive distillation process currently employed to create ethanol, could, according to Lee Lynd, a professor at Dartmouth, significantly reduce our reliance on fossil fuels; a visit to Google’s headquarters where solar energy is generated and could, conceivably, power a portion of the buildings on the Google campus if the energy weren’t sold to the energy grid in that area; the creation of geothermal energy at Fort Knox; and a visit to a green Wal-Mart in Texas. These explorations reveal not only the hypocrisy of Al Gore but also the individual and corporate efforts at adopting green alternatives.

Often humorous because of Melville’s initial attempts at locating restaurant grease at fast food restaurants, the narrative describes the system that Melville and Iggy adopt to fill their fuel container. By the time that these two guys reach California, it is possible as a reader to smell the grease stored and emitted by this Mercedes, a smell which is so strong, Melville says, that every article of clothing he brought along for the trip became permeated with the smell. Coupled with this problem, the narrator finds it difficult to remain in such close quarters with his former college roommate, eventually exploding at what he considers as his friend’s irritating mannerisms.

While this narrative proves that it is possible to make a cross country trip on the grease gathered from restaurants, it also calls into question the viability of such an alternative to gasoline because of the potential run on restaurant grease if enough people converted their own cars to operate on the same alternative fuel. It may be possible to subsist on this fuel when driving locally if the car owner reserves a constant supply of this fuel supply. Should the restaurant close down, or once enough other people start clamoring for the same fuel, the possibility of relying exclusively on this free fuel becomes remote.

Ultimately, I would have liked seeing more exploration into alternative fuels and green energy. If the narrative were widened to include what’s being done elsewhere in the world and how the oil corporations have resisted pumping their billions into green energy, the book would have been more than a trip across the country, one containing the adventure of pumping restaurant grease, the difficulty of maintaining a lengthy car trip with another male, and side trips to consult other mavericks and other sites of green energy.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Political Paragraphs

For anyone who may be looking for political commentary on the recent conventions and the upcoming election, it may be best to go elsewhere. Both conventions were unnecessary in my view since the presidential candidate for each party had already been decided prior to the convention. The conventions seemed like a waste of money that could have been spent elsewhere and on more important things than political rhetoric.

I ultimately think that the political system in this country is deeply flawed. Both the Democratic and Republican presidential candidates are funded by corporations, who seek to ensure that the elected candidate rewards each donor after the election. Neither candidate will put real change into place, despite what they say, and neither candidate will address the problems affecting this country, that is, to name just a few, global warming, overdependence on fossil fuels, and the trillions of dollars owed to foreign powers.

It's unfortunate that two months remain before the election and another two months will pass before the inauguration. I'm so tired of hearing about each candidate.

I sincerely doubt that whatever happens will be the result of a fair and honest election. We have already seen how the last two presidential elections were manipulated. More than likely, this one will be, too. Maybe some other country needs to teach us about democracy because we certainly don't have it here. If democracy existed, we would have a system in place that would allow third party candidates to assume office--within the state, in Congress, and within the executive branch. The election itself would be one in which the people, not the electoral college, decides who wins the election based on the number of votes. No real change will occur until such a transformation takes place.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Imagining a Dragon



Exhausted from the summer session while, apparently, still stressed, I was unable to sleep more than four hours at a time during my first week of vacation. Such a warped perspective caused me to imagine that I was looking at a dragon when I was out taking pictures last Friday. Am I wrong to imagine such a sight? (Click on the picture to see it enlarged.)

Thursday, July 31, 2008

End of Summer Teaching

My summer session of teaching finally came to an end. Although I have taught four sections of writing in previous semesters, this one was particularly hard because the number of students remained constant. A large amount of attrition usually occurs in online classes. Two of my classes this time remained large because so many of the students were either transfer students from other schools or students about to start college elsewhere. Some of the students apparently postponed taking my writing class until they approached the end of their sophomore year; it’s possible, too, that some of the students may have taken the equivalent of my course at their home institution but found that class especially challenging. My course was no less challenging. I suspect that the intensity of the class was greater than the students probably imagined would occur in a course offered during the summer.

Two problems for students this summer were documentation and the bibliographic information required for a citation in MLA Style. About a third of the students couldn’t find the editors of the anthology we use in class. The names of the editors appear on the front cover, on the spine, and on the title page. For some reason, the students preferred to ignore that information and listed the acquisition editor or the editor-in-chief at the publishing company as the editor of the textbook. Some of them thought the editors had given their names to the publishing company or that the publishing company had the same name as the place of publication. I continually reminded students of their misinformation and provided citations of an article found in an anthology in the sample student essays. The handbook included examples; the students were quizzed over this information, and the class provided links to the Writing Center at Purdue University. None of that information was sufficient. The students managed to provide parenthetical documentation when working with one to three sources. Once the students began working with more than three sources and began using sources that were not found in the textbook, some of them thought that documentation meant providing the name of the source in which the article appeared. I wish I knew why these things proved so difficult.

One consolation of this online teaching, despite the frustrations and the difficulty I faced in completing the grading in a timely fashion, is having one tankful of gas last about seven weeks. When going to the movies or shopping, we usually took my wife’s car; her Camry is more comfortable and younger than my Corolla. I would have used more gas, of course, if my car had served all of our transportation needs. Typically, I go through a tankful in a month's time.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

An Update at Last



I managed to get outside for a little while on Wednesday. My life for the past month has been spent grading essays. Teaching four sections has made me busier than I remember from previous summers. Last summer, after several summers of teaching four sections, I had a somewhat lighter load by only teaching three sections. Apparently, that experience last summer spoiled me because it has been extremely difficult keeping up with the grading this time. I won't be out from under these freshman essays for two more weeks. Until then, I have posted two pictures of bees collecting the pollen from the purple coneflowers in my yard. Clicking on each picture will make it larger. I recommend enlarging the first picture so that you can fully appreciate the pollen visible in that picture.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Missouri River Pictures

My blog has gained more popularity of late—all because of that painting by Lucian Freud that I added a few weeks ago. Nearly everyday now, there are people directed to this site because of their search for that particular painting and other paintings of naked women. That degree of popularity makes me lose interest in blogging. My relative obscurity was more appealing. This entry marks my first attempt at updating this blog in several weeks.





My heart goes out to those people flooded out of their homes in Iowa and those victims of tornadoes in Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska. A natural disaster, and losing one's home, compounds the heartache that many of us have known because of a job loss, high gas prices, and economic uncertainty in general. Our weather in this part of the country has been particularly severe. We haven’t gone a week without rain this spring. The Missouri River in this part of Kansas has been running high since May.



The first two pictures are the most recent while the other ones here record the extent of the flooding in May. Because much of the rain this spring has either been to the south or to the north, the Missouri River hasn't been as destructive as the Des Moines River or the Cedar River. The flooding around here occurred earlier in the season last year, with the greatest amount of destruction occurring along the Platte River (in Missouri) and downriver along the Missouri.

Even though Colonel Leavenworth in his 1827 expedition to create a fort on the eastern side of the Missouri violated his orders and crossed into Indian Territory, he, in hindsight, had the sense to build the fort on the bluffs overlooking the Missouri instead of on the floodplain on the eastern side. Flooding does occur here, nonetheless. Several downtown businesses were flooded out a couple of years ago when one of the creeks that empties into the Missouri grew so swollen that it left its banks and backed up to a height of at least six feet.



Back in May, the current on the Missouri was so swift that I had to use a faster setting on my camera to avoid having my shots of the river blur. The triangular cable tie-ups on the white dock in these pictures were buffeted by the current so much that the rapid up and down motion created a kind of music, making the movement of the river audible.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Computer Programs and Recommendations

Both my desktop and laptop were experiencing problems recently. Trend Micro, a combination firewall and anti-virus program, was slowing down each computer considerably. It seemed as though the file for Trend Micro had gotten so large with its various updates that it was taking up much of the gig of Ram on my desktop. When I had about six Word documents opened up and attempted to save one, after altering the margins, the process of saving that file caused the computer to come to a virtual standstill for up to a minute. I have since deleted Trend Micro (its subscription was about to expire) and added PC Tools Firewall Plus, which is freeware available at Major Geeks , and I have found the performance of each computer has improved tremendously. It’s now evident that I have gotten Turbo (10mbps) added to Road Runner (7mbps), which can be acquired for about ten additional dollars a month. The extra speed is worth the expense. I have also added the PC Tools Anti-Virus Free Edition, which is freeware available at Major Geeks as well.

I found it unfortunate that Ad Aware updated its programming in 2007. The previous version worked without any problems. Once I discovered that updates were no longer available for the previous version, I installed the 2007 version and experienced a lot of problems, such as the program not loading, despite repeated efforts, when I wanted to delete cookies, malware, and spyware. In an effort to find a replacement, I went through several different programs before I discovered Super AntiSpyware, the free edition, which is also available at Major Geeks .

Super AntiSpyware, PC Tools Firewall Plus, and PC Tools Anti-Virus get my recommendation.

Myself as a Tree

My spring semester finally came to a close last Wednesday. I was thinking the other day about how wonderful it would be cultivating the life of a graduate student this summer, this is, taking lengthy bike rides through the city and engaging in a regular habit of writing. Unfortunately, I will be teaching four sections of college English this summer, beginning in a week’s time. Nearly all of my classes are already full and have been for about a month. Sometimes I feel as weary as the box elder in the picture I’m enclosing; it’s located in a park about a couple of miles from where I live.



***************

I’m hoping to submit my poetry manuscript to yet another chapbook contest before the end of the month. I’ve been thinking of changing the title and reexamining the poems. It has been a year since I last submitted any of my poems. Unlike Jilly Dybka , I haven’t yet sworn off all poetry contests even though I know that my manuscript hasn’t been given much if any attention at some of the contests I’ve entered. I had considered entering a recent chapbook contest that a friend from graduate school oversees, but such an action would have been unethical. A blogger named Anne Haines has her chapbook coming out from Finishing Line. My chapbook was accepted by Finishing Line, too, almost two years ago. I declined the offer because I couldn’t see myself getting the necessary sales prior to publication. My wife and agree that I probably should have bought those copies myself and then sold them at readings after my chapbook came out, assuming, of course, that we could have come up with the money. But I would prefer having my book accepted without stipulations. Wish me luck.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Topeka, A City of Contrasts

Topeka was especially pretty when I was there last week. These pictures all come from Gage Park, which is the location of the city zoo. The zoo itself, like most small zoos, is depressing because of how only one or two representatives of a species are caged within a confined space. The humane thing would be closing the zoo down and sending the animals to larger facilities where the animals can interact with more members of their species within an environment resembling their native habitat. Some people were snapping pictures of the animals. Seeing these zoo animals reminds me of that scene in the recent version of King Kong where he, as the last surviving member of his species, sits among the bones of his ancestors and gazes toward the sunset, finding but a few minutes of beauty in a life of loneliness and heartache.

What I found particularly worthy of note in Gage Park were the flowers. Topeka, unlike the capital city in other states I've visited, seems to care about its appearance. Take a look at the following pictures. Clicking on each one will enlarge it.











Soon after leaving this park, I encountered members of the Phelps' church holding a demonstration on one of the street corners, one in which kids, with the adults looking on, were holding up signs proclaiming bigotry and hatred as worthy virtues. No one was harassing them, I noticed. I cannot speak for what transpired during the entire length of the demonstration. When I drove past that street corner about two hours later, no one remained from that demonstration.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Magnolia Blossoms

Photos of the magnolia in my yard appear below. These photos reflect my efforts at capturing individual flowers, using the macro setting on my camera. Not of all of the blossoms have opened up as of yet, so I was limited in taking shots of only a few blossoms. As with the other photos on this blog, clicking on each one will increase its size.





Travis Ford Bites Boone Pickens' Carrot

Travis Ford, the men’s basketball coach at U of Massachusetts, has been hired to coach the men’s team at Oklahoma State. Mike Holder, the athletic director, will make the official announcement on Thursday. Oddly, Travis Ford had told UMass last week that he would be staying after having dangled an offer from Providence as a way of forcing UMass to increase the $400,000 compensation he had been receiving annually. Ford experienced a problem with money when he left Eastern Kentucky for UMass in 2005; he ended up having to repay Eastern Kentucky $150,000, apparently because he had been paid up to 2007, according to news reports. Although it’s doubtful that Ford was offered the $750,000 that Sean Sutton was making per year at Oklahoma State, I suspect that it’s the money that caused him to leave UMass, despite having agreed to remain there. Holder said he wanted to hire a person of integrity, a person who won’t bring shame or controversy to the program. One has to question the kind of person that Travis Ford is, having gone back on his word so quickly when more money was dangled in front of him.

Ever since college when he first enrolled at Missouri as a freshman and then transferred to Kentucky for the remainder of his undergraduate years, Ford has been moving every few years. His coaching career began at Campbellsville University in 1997 before he left for Eastern Kentucky in 2000 and then left for UMass in 2005. It’s doubtful that he will remain at Oklahoma State for more than one or two seasons. He currently has a record of 123-116 in the Division I league (both Eastern Kentucky and UMass) and a 190-146 record overall. I foresee a mediocre season next year at Oklahoma State, with the Cowboys only reaching the NIT yet again.

Addendum: For those of you looking for the amount of money that Ford has been promised for heading the men's basketball program at Oklahoma State, that amount has not yet been released. During his news conference today, Ford says he told his UMass players that he is taking the job at Oklahoma State because he wants to win a national championship and can achieve that goal at OK-State. I'm sure his players felt great hearing that. Why can't he win a national championship at UMass? It's doubtful that the Big XII is any easier than the Atlantic conference, not with Kansas and Texas as part of this conference.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

More Odds & Ends

Mike Holder, the athletic director at Oklahoma State, has been discovering how difficult it can be finding someone to coach the men’s basketball program. Both Bill Self of Kansas and Chris Lowery of Southern Illinois have now refused Holder’s offer. I still think that forcing Sean Sutton to resign was a bad decision. It’s fortunate that Holder’s action is slowly coming back to haunt him. Sean, at least, will be getting $20,000 per month as part of his settlement with the university. The university cannot pay him what remains on his contract in one lump sum although it could offer Bill Self a six million dollar signing bonus along with a four million dollar a year contract. A clause to stop paying Sean if he were to get another coaching job was removed from his contract, fortunately.

******

Some of you might remember that I mentioned the exorbitant amount of money that Amazon was charging for Marilyn Mazur’s CD Elixir. The cost of that CD has since been reduced significantly. An excellent review of this CD appears at All About Jazz . Not yet owning a copy, I cannot add whether I agree with the critic.

******

The character development that I mentioned wanting in Edward Abbey’s The Monkey Wrench Gang was present in the novel. I just hadn’t reached that portion of the novel when I added my earlier comment. It’s actually quite a good novel and contains a lengthy climax, one that reveals an intimate awareness of Utah’s landscape.

I am currently reading Edward Abbey’s The Fool’s Progress: An Honest Novel and enjoying this nonlinear narrative. More comments will follow.

******

The magnolia blossoms where I live are slowly opening up. I hope to post photographic evidence sometime soon unless the high winds we’re having and the rain forecasted for Thursday and Friday destroy the blossoms. These blossoms, miraculously, survived the freeze that we had Sunday night/Monday morning.

Something, at least, has managed to escape those "thorns of life" that cause so many of us to apply pressure to our wounds.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Sean Sutton and Oklahoma State

Sean Sutton, the basketball coach at Oklahoma State, has been asked to leave after two years of a five year contract. Mike Holder, the athletic director who is essentially controlled by Boone Pickens, apparently had differences with Sean and wanted him replaced. Someone has suggested that Bill Self, the basketball coach at Kansas and an Oklahoma State alumnus, would return to his alma mater for the right amount of money, but that idea won’t go anywhere. Bill Self says he is happy at Kansas and will probably get a substantial pay increase after the NCAA tournament ends.

At $750,000 a year, it seems as though Sean will be leaving Oklahoma State with $2,250,000, the amount of money remaining on his contract. He wouldn’t have to work at all with that kind of money, but he probably will find a more responsive program to his kind of coaching. If Sean had been given a chance, he would have done good things with his team next year. Oklahoma State was one of the few schools to beat Kansas during this past season. Things were looking up for the program.

I wish Sean all the best. It would be great if his players were to go elsewhere next year and let Oklahoma State flounder, just to prove to Mike Holder the folly of his ways. The players have said they will stay, however. It's possible that the Oklahoma State team will encounter Sean Sutton again at some point next year; that pair off would be as enjoyable as seeing Bill Self face Roy Williams on Saturday.

Stalling, aka Odds & Ends

Work has connotations of tedium and repetitiveness. Grading freshman essays certainly fits those connotations, and I sometimes can think of anything I would rather do instead. Writing this entry serves as a way of delaying having to grade evaluations, which usually turns out to be a difficult assignment for students. Establishing criteria and supporting criteria with evidence are not easy tasks for my students.

Like many Americans, I have been finding ways to reduce my spending. Instead of buying new books, I have been going through my shelves to find those books I have not yet read. My wife was shocked when I started reading another novel so soon after having read Kunstler’s World Made by Hand. I’m currently reading Edward Abbey’s The Monkey Wrench Gang. Edward Abbey remained unknown to me until a few years ago when I saw his books listed among what some writers consider as environmental classics. Soon after, I picked up a remaindered copy of Desert Solitaire and enjoyed it immensely. Abbey, unlike Barry Lopez, is idiosyncratic and iconoclastic. Abbey articulated a hatred of corporate America and the environmental damage wrought by development before some of us were awakened to those concerns. The Monkey Wrench Gang contains characters who attempt to stop the spread of this environmental damage. My only criticism of the novel, at this point in my reading, is that the characters aren’t fully developed. While it’s true that Seldom Seen Smith, for example, acquired that name because of his absence from his three wives, it would seem as though the narrator would have Smith return to one or more of his wives during the novel. Smith, too, hasn’t taken tourists on a river raft trip since early in the novel. The narrator focuses almost exclusively on the eco-terrorism perpetuated by this gang of four. But it may be too soon for me to comment on the novel, not having completed it as of yet.

Last Christmas, when I was using a gift card for Barnes & Noble, I picked up Dave Holland’s Prime Directive. Dave Holland has such a strong reputation, beginning with his playing bass on such Miles Davis albums as In a Silent Way, Filles de Kilimanjaro, Bitches Brew, and Big Fun, that his albums are sure to satisfy. Featuring Chris Potter on saxophone, Robin Eubanks on trombone, Steve Nelson on vibraphone, Billy Kilson on drums, and Dave Holland on bass, and containing about seventy-four minutes of music, Prime Directive is a worthy introduction to the Dave Holland Quintet, which has released about four CDs, including Extended Play, a live recording. Some critics have compared Dave Holland’s quintet to Charles Mingus and his band around the time of Mingus Ah Um and Mingus at Antibes. This comparison applies to a quintet being lead by a bassist. Mingus’ music was often topical as in “Fables of Faubus.” Holland on his CDs shares the writing with his band mates and while it would seem as though songs composed by a particular musician would feature extended solos by that musician, the opposite is true because there is a strong group dynamic within the songs, with each member contributing. Prime Directive is currently in my alarm clock, and, periodically, I change the song that I initially wake to. It’s difficult to oust myself out of bed, however, because I want to continue listening to the music.

When I’m grading, I want music that will keep me on task. Lately, I have been typing up my grading comments while listening to Manu Katche’s Neighborhood and Playground and Stephen Micus’ Twilight Fields and Wings Over Water. These two Micus CDs feature him playing flower pots filled with water among other instruments. Some people discount Micus and place his music under the New Age label. These two particular CDs interest me because of the innovation, that is, his ability to create music from something seemingly so ordinary.

My classmates from high school in their postings at various locations on the Internet, like the Dayroom Years , still seem enamored with the music of the late 1960’s. My thirteen-year-old son loves the Beatles’ Magical Mystery Tour and Sgt. Peppers’ Lonely Hearts Club Band. Some of those songs are good and bring back memories of that time in my life, but when I want to stretch my imagination, soothe my world weariness, or start up and keep myself motivated to get my work done, I turn to music that I’ve discovered since high school.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Corporate Radio

One thing I’ve noticed lately is how corporate radio pollutes the work place and public spaces. The excessive amount of commercials, the repetitive range of songs, and the format itself create a truly mind-numbing experience. When I visited the office of a new optometrist recently, I had the misfortunate of hearing a Christian station—AM, presumably—in which all of the songs glorify one’s religious faith. Since I’m not usually exposed to the radio, I had a hard time tuning out what I was hearing. It was really ridiculous when some caller received airtime to say that she was giving praise to her God while listening to this station at work.

Similarly, when I was at a local pharmacy to get a prescription filled, the radio, when not devoted to excessive amounts of commercials, which took up most of the airtime, played popular songs from previous decades, something like Diana Ross and The Supremes. Most of every song was devoted to the refrain.

I frankly don’t know how people can stand listening to corporate radio. My workplace, if I were the boss in a commercial operation and had control over its ambience, would not subject the employees to the radio. Each employee could bring a radio or CD player and listen to that device through a headset so long as no other employer would be subjected to someone else’s idea of music.

I gave up listening to the radio in the car several years ago. Now, more often than not, I drive in silence, not having a CD player in my twelve-year-old car. When I was commuting, I occasionally tried listening to the public radio stations, one in Lawrence and one in Kansas City, but neither station helped in keeping me awake, and I grew weary of hearing someone talk at me. Silence was more appealing and comforting.

There are no FM stations in Kansas City worth hearing. The radio shows in the mornings are devoted to talk and commercials. I last remember having a pleasant radio experience when I was living in Oklahoma. KRXO, a classic rock station, had triple-play Thursdays and featured Lisa Mirick during the day. It was worth taking a longer route through town on Thursdays just so that I could hear the radio station a little longer.

Anymore, the radio has become as devoted to commercials as the television, with its five minutes of commercials after ten minutes or less of programming. It seems as though we Americans have chosen to entertain ourselves by either listening to or watching commercials. I would be willing to adopt the British system of paying a tax for every radio and television that one owns so that we can receive commercial-free programming. Such a change would cause the corporations to lose so much revenue that they would probably find a way to ensure we are held immobile as our heads are filled with messages that voice an unfulfilled longing for more crap in our lives.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

World Made By Hand by James Howard Kunstler: A Review

James Howard Kunstler is best known as a novelist, social critic, and prognosticator. Two recent works of nonfiction of his are The Geography of Nowhere, a critique of American architecture, suburbia, and the absence of city and community planning, and The Long Emergency, an examination of those problems that will accompany the forthcoming absence of fossil fuels. Howard’s newest novel, World Made By Hand, creates a time and place where his characters have to negotiate an America without government, without oil, and without any goods or services except for what the people grow themselves or offer in trade.

Set in Union Grove, a small community in upstate New York, the novel occurs at a time when both Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., have been “bombed” because of what the narrator refers to as a “Jihad,” brought about because of America’s role in a protracted war in the “Holy Land.” Although the military had ousted the president that kept the country embroiled in the Middle East, the bombing of Washington, D.C., destroyed the last visages of government and its “revolving cast of political characters.” Oil-producing countries seem to exist within this fictional world, but they aren’t trading with the United States; this absence of imported fossil fuels has caused the country to collapse in on itself. “Everything was local now,” the narrator says. Any news about the world outside of Union Grove is brought by travelers and is either outdated or filled with rumor.

Narrated by Robert Earle, a former marketing executive for security software, and now a carpenter and musician, the novel occurs within a single summer. Widowed by the Mexican Flu, “when every community was shuttered up in desperate quarantine,” and which killed a large portion of the population in Union Grove and elsewhere, Robert lives alone when the novel opens and finds moments of comfort in the quick but amorous liaisons with Jane Ann, the preacher’s wife.

Those townspeople who have lost hope work for Mr. Bullock, someone who provides them with shelter and food in return and who has created a prosperous enterprise on the land he owns outside of town and who sends goods down river to Albany. Wayne Karp provides a similar umbrella operation for people and has them either digging through the former landfill for what can be salvaged and what can be sold or traded or has them scouring the county for building supplies and whatever else can be carried off by horse from the deserted houses and the barren retail outlets.

Religion, as to be expected because of the comfort it offers, is omnipresent in this world. Preachers prepare the people for the apocalypse in their radio broadcasts. The narrator keeps his radio on constantly, even though “the electricity had been on for half an hour all…month” and powers nothing but these reminders of mass communication. Brother Jobe, the leader of a religious cult, has brought his people to Union Grove, after having lived in Virginia and Pennsylvania. This religious cult purchased the old town high school, which they begin to renovate. Loren, the town preacher, and Robert meet Brother Jobe outside of town as the novel opens.

Robert works on improving the town after he is elected mayor and seeks the help of both Brother Jobe and Mr. Bullock in his first project, renovating the town's water supply. Robert and Brother Jobe’s followers later assist Mr. Bullock in finding and returning the crew of a boat that had carried cider to Albany. This journey allows the narrator to provide a clearer view of the hopelessness and fear that prevails among the people on the route to Albany.

While reading the novel, I had hoped that Daniel, Robert’s adult son, would return from his travels through the country with Evan, Loren’s son, to provide a larger view of what had been occurring elsewhere in America. In keeping with its focus on the local, the narrator emphasizes what occurs among the people in Union Grove and how they work together, in spite of conflict and loss, to improve their environment.

This future of the Long Emergency is one punctuated with violence. It’s this violence that might repel some readers. Not merely an observer of the violence, some of which is told in too much detail, the narrator is a participant. Fortunately, there is plenty of marijuana and home-brewed alcohol to make this future more tolerable. The narrator, too, is sexually active and descriptive in its liaisons, which is a strong element in the genre of science fiction.

Ultimately, the novel provides a unique look at our future and, while focused on the particular, allows the reader to visualize what could happen in this country in the years ahead and causes the reader to wonder whether it would be possible to survive solely on oneself and others in a time when nothing else that currently makes up our society exists. Would we exploit those weaker or sell our labor to someone more powerful? Would we be willing to sacrifice our notions of right and wrong? Or would we do whatever it takes to maintain a semblence of normalcy?

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

One Million Four Hundred Thousand Snow Geese


Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge , near Mound City, Missouri, reported on Monday that 1,425,000 snow geese are laying over at the refuge in their migration north. How the resident biologist comes up with number is not readily known. In any case, this Wednesday, with forecasted daytime high temperatures around 70 degrees Fahrenheit, would be a great time to take the mile long walk to the observation tower at the refuge and to take pictures of that mind-bogglingly number of geese. I only wish I could spare the time.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Growing Spring Indoors





My wife has been growing tulips and crocuses indoors this year. She had some left over after planting bulbs in the fall and decided to try growing them in a pot. She has them in the kitchen underneath a grow light. The tulips have slowly been opening up over the past couple of weeks while only one crocus has started to bloom. I find them especially pretty. Since the bulbs she had planted last year were killed by a late freeze soon after they opened up, it probably is a good idea to grow them indoors because it gives us a chance to appreciate them for a longer period of time. Those ephemeral moments of beauty can be savored a bit longer under certain conditions.



The sawblades in the background of the first two pictures were created by my mother-in-law. It's called tole painting in this part of the world. We have five of her sawblades along with one of her watercolors on the same wall in the kitchen. We started to collect her artwork about ten years before she died. We now consider ourselves quite fortunate to have this small collection of her art. I think she would be pleased.



As with the other photos on this blog, clicking on each picture will enlarge it. The last one here is especially gorgeous when enlarged.



Friday, February 29, 2008

Memoir in Six Words


Land Mammal has challenged her regular readers to come up with a six-word memoir. After several days of gestation and several attempts that I rejected, I came up with the following effort: Once alone, naïve, impulsive, now not.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Sleep and Sleeplessness

Many people I know have been talking about their problems sleeping. A niece says she has only been able to sleep for four hours at a time. This basic bodily function is often the most difficult one to obtain at length and to enjoy. It’s no wonder that the advertisements on television late at night are for more comfortable beds or sleep aids. Advertisers are targeting those of us who spend so much of our lives sleep-deprived.

One misconception many of us used to have about sleep is that it cannot be made up once it has been lost. Sleep researchers now have admitted that any sleep debt we incur will continue to accumulate until we find a way to repay what we owe. My sleep debt dates from graduate school—beginning about twenty-two years ago.

Before I started teaching the remainder of my five sections this semester, I was having a recurring dream in which it’s the end of the semester, and I’m late in posting my students’ grades, having failed to make the deadline for submitting my grades online. It seemed as though I was concerned about updating my online classes, even though a couple of weeks remained before the remaining classes got underway. After three or four hours of sleep, during the long weekend in mid-January, I woke up from this dream and couldn’t get back to sleep. Even the attempts to picture myself in a favorite place didn't help to bring on sleep. It got to a point when I couldn’t remain in bed and couldn’t relax enough to rest my head on the pillow. This inability to remain in bed has now occurred often enough that I refer to it as the crazies; usually it happens when I’m forced to sleep away from the house. I ended up sitting in the living room on those nights and reading The Long Emergency while surrounded with our three cats, only getting back to bed after the sun came up.

Going without sleep can be so draining. I can usually get through the day if I am forced to remain awake (with the aid of vitamins, herbs, and caffeine) but finding enthusiasm or interest in anything is extremely difficult. It’s as though I’m one of the zombies that my son and his friends find so fascinating and so frightening.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Lunar Eclipse

My own attempts at photographing the eclipse were not successful. I can make a few recommendations, however. For a time lapse view of the eclipse, click on this link . Notice this picture , too. For other views of previous eclipses, try these links: here and here .

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Living with the Second Amendment

The best analysis I've seen regarding the school shooting last week at Northern Illinois U, and the three additional shootings that occurred in the US last week, appears at the World Socialist Web Site . Something is terribly wrong when four people in one week pick up guns and shoot others. Obama, at least, recognizes that something needs to be done, but he refuses to tamper with the Second Amendment, fearing, apparently, that the gun lobby will organize against him. Having the right to bear arms, I guess, means accepting that crackpots will suddenly kill and injure others, as a means of crying out in pain, before shooting themselves. I don't think the founding fathers had in mind murder and suicide (away from the battlefield) when creating the Second Amendment.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Work to Live

Revising two online classes caused me to neglect this blog for a few weeks. Once again, I am teaching five sections and have already gotten the first assignments to grade in three of these classes. The grading will now be constant until the end of the semester.

All I really want to do is write. I was once naïve enough to think that I could solicit funds from someone by placing an advertisement in the newspaper for a wealthy patron. I had been reading the poems of Sir Philip Sidney, along with other poets of England in the 15th and 16th centuries, and thought that maybe someone with a sizeable amount of disposable income would fund me to produce nothing but poems. No one in Wichita, where I was living at the time, cared enough about the arts to help out a hungry poet. There are, of course, grants available. Someone I once knew had gotten a federal grant of $20,000. per year for a period of two years. That amount of money would help by at least allowing me to reduce my teaching load, but I don’t foresee a time when I will get that kind of money for my writing.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

What's in a Name

This blog experienced more traffic than usual on Friday morning. The great majority of hits came from the navigational bar in Blogger, which is one way to discover new and interesting blogs. Perhaps I’ll be lucky enough to have some of the people who happened by return to my small corner of the Internet.

I don’t remember ever having seen a red moon and haven’t ever visited any of the restaurants or bars in Oklahoma City, Los Angeles, and elsewhere named the Red Moon Café. This blog title comes from a sidewalk café that once existed in Paris and may still exist. I discovered the name when I was studying French as an undergraduate and found the name appealing. It wasn’t revealed how the café earned its name. If I were to create a literary journal, I would probably name it the Red Moon Café. Similarly, if I were to create my own press and publish a chapbook of poems annually, I would probably use the name Red Moon Press. That name has stuck with me because of its associations with poetry and magic.

Although I haven’t had much interest in traveling overseas, I would like to visit Paris at some point in my life. Even before Michael Moore created such an idealized view of France in his documentary Sicko, I have wanted to see some of the museums of art, to walk along the Seine, and to get out into the country. My son, on the other hand, wants to visit Canada. He has taken down some of his Star Wars posters and replaced them with a large flag of Canada. Canada appeals to him because of its socialized medicine, its history as a place of refuge from the militarism in this country, and its allure of freedom from the policies of George Bush and other politicians in Washington. He would love it if his mom and dad were to get jobs in Canada.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Huddled in a Deep Freeze



The Arctic blasts of air descending from Canada have made this winter unusually cold for what seems like a longer period of time. These chunks of ice on the Missouri River are not solid as of yet because they create a hissing sound when they hit against the shoreline as though the impact causes them to decrease in size. A brief patch of sun appeared on the opposite shore when I was at the river yesterday afternoon. Another cold blast of air made its presence known an hour or two later, causing the temperature to fall below zero last night.



Acquiring Jazz & Money

Jazz Times has now made available online the selections for the best jazz CD’s released in 2007. If you click on the link in the previous sentence, you’ll be able to see what about thirty-five jazz critics have chosen as their picks for the past year. Downbeat, unfortunately, doesn’t make its selections available online and requires the purchase of the magazine, a trip to the library, or access to a university library database.

Discovering the current releases in jazz has only been a recent interest of mine. As I worked at putting together a collection of those classic jazz albums, my interest was more in the timelessness of jazz, that is, those jazz albums that remain worthy of attention today and that exemplify the best work of certain musicians within specific periods of time, such as John Coltrane’s work during the years he recorded on the Atlantic label (as in Giant Steps, My Favorite Things, Coltrane Plays the Blues, Coltrane’s Sound, and Ole).

When my son’s saxophone teacher recommended that I go back and listen to Joe Henderson’s Double Rainbow, an album that I had previously neglected in favor of So Near, So Fear, I discovered that Double Rainbow is indeed worthy of attention. I apparently hadn’t been ready for it when I heard that album initially. I have now been rediscovering some of the other albums previously neglected in my collection.

I also need to see whether my local library carries any jazz that I have been looking for. Perhaps I’ll get lucky. I didn’t discover Gerry Mulligan and Chet Baker Live at Carnegie Hall until I rented it from a library about ten years ago. Kenny Wheeler’s Deer Wan has been on my list for twenty years or so. A new copy of Wheeler's classic is now much too expensive, running about $25., probably because of the declining value of the dollar (the cost of CD’s imported from Europe will continue to get more expensive, unfortunately).

I can see that my cash flow problem will lead to alternatives in acquiring music. That tax relief from the government, if it indeed comes, has already been budgeted toward our state and federal taxes. But it's possible that it will be intercepted by our student loan people. If it were up to me, I would just as soon see the government do nothing more than increase unemployment benefits with some of the $155 billion it has ear-marked for its tax relief program. This country can ill-afford giving away money to its citizens when it already owes trillions of dollars to those foreign governments holding treasury bonds.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Another Semester Online

After nearly a month away from my students, I start teaching again on Wednesday when three of my five sections start up. In some ways, I’m lucky to have an additional two weeks before the other two sections begin because it gives me time to prepare those classes well and to get used to the classes that I’ll have at first. Usually, I have little time to devote to each class and struggle to get the grading completed in a timely fashion.

If I were teaching in the classroom, I would only need to have the syllabus prepared for Wednesday. My students, on the other hand, will be able to see the entire course when they log into the class for the first time. An online instructor, I have to devote a portion of my break to altering and preparing my classes. In an effort to eliminate the confusion my students have had with some of the assignments, I made some corrections in the hope of making these assignments clearer. Analysis of a text and evaluation in general are particularly hard for freshmen. I have also altered the due dates and made a few other corrections in the forty or so pages that make up each class.

As much as I might grumble about my teaching schedule, I am actually fortunate to teach online. Online courses fill much quicker than classes meeting onground, ensuring that my income will remain steady because I lose money whenever a course is cancelled for insufficient enrollment. My twelve-year-old car would not perform as well if it were driven three hundred miles a week, so I save money on repair bills and manage to forego buying a newer car and making payments. The amount of money spent on gas would take a significant portion of my income. I’m currently only having to fill up about once a month. If I were also teaching in the classroom, I would have nothing to wear because my clothes anymore are only suitable for extremely casual Fridays—blue jeans, t-shirts, sweatshirts, etc. With the weather forecasters now calling for about four weeks of cold and snowy weather, I am fortunate at not having to deal with the hassle of negotiating the ice and snow packed streets. I would like to say that more and more jobs in the future will be performed online; that statement assumes that the workers have the education and training that will allow them to transmit their work through the Internet. Many people, unfortunately, are limited in what they can do for a living. I appreciate my degree the most when I compare my work life to those other people I encounter at the grocery store, for example. In the long term, I am at a disadvantage by not working for a retirement income; in the short term, I benefit in ways that others would probably relish if the opportunity were available.

Probably the people who see me at the grocery store mistake me for someone who works in a warehouse because of how I am dressed. I was surprised recently when the checker and the man behind me in line started talking to me. I’m not one to put on airs or to think of myself as privileged; my wife and I struggle as much as any other family if not more so because of the massive student loan debt that hangs over our heads. It’s as though these people accepted me as a Kansan and as a regular working stiff, which are things I have wanted a good part of my life. At long last, I have finally blended into my environment, and it has only taken fourteen years of college, three degrees, and an online teaching schedule to accomplish that feat.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Jazz From 2007

Anyone visiting this blog in the hope of finding a list of jazz CDs worthy of attention from the year 2007 would be better off visiting All About Jazz , Jazz Times , or Jazz After Hours . I only purchased one CD released in 2007, and that is Manu Katche’s Playground.

My other purchases were released prior to 2007, such as Eberhard Weber’s Pendulum (2001), Anouar Brahem’s Barzakh (1991), Anouar Brahem’s (with John Surman and Dave Holland) Thimar, Manu Katche’s Neighborhood (2005), Iro Haarla’s Northbound (2005), Arild Anderson’s (with Vassilis Tsabropoulos and John Marshall) Triangle (2004), and Dave Holland Quintet’s Prime Directive (1999). This last year was an exceptional one because I don’t usually buy that much music during any one year.

Only Jim Wilke, as of this writing, at Jazz After Hours recommends Playground. Manu Katche’s new CD has been receiving more attention in Europe.

Jazz Times hasn’t yet released its critics’ list of the best CDs; one CD the critics at All About Jazz nearly all agree on is Michael Brecker’s Pilgrimage, which is something I haven’t heard in its entirety as of yet. My son’s saxophone teacher recommends Pilgrimage, too. We’re fortunate to have the option of purchasing either recent or older CDs; only Tomasz Stanko’s CDs (like Leosia) seem to become scarce over time. Vinyl records were even harder to find within a couple of years of their release date--at least within this particular genre.