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.