Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Publication Notes (October/November 2007)

A couple days ago, I received my contributor's copy of Lachryma: Modern Songs of Lament, which includes my poem "Concurrences." Yesterday, I signed my contract for "Peniel" to be published next year at Farrago's Wainscot. This means three of the five sequences in my book Meditations in Progress (still a working title) will have been published. ("Damnation" was published minus one section when I was in graduate school in The Mayo Review. Now if I could just find someone willing to take a chance on the whole book.

My story "Except the Weather" was rejected by Popular Ink. I usually don't mention the rejections (other than I get plenty!), but the editors took the time to let me know what they liked about my story and what they felt needed to be "flushed out." I really appreciate the feedback.

Electric Velocipede has accepted my story "Partita for continuo." I received an email from the editor the other day stating it would be published Summer 2008.

Today, I got a note from Espresso Fiction that they want my story "The Noisy Neighbor." This is an interesting publication that sends story via email to subscribers. They want to publish my story on January 8. I need to do an online interview for them.

Hope to be able to complete the author page for Sniplits pretty soon. They have accepted my stories "Puppy" and "A Little Accident."

Monday, November 12, 2007

Bookmarks for September and October 2007

Okay, so I'm a little behind, and when I say "a little," I mean a lot. I did read the following books, but I have been so far from being able to write what I want that I nearly just gave up. But I did take some notes, and I'll pass those notes/thoughts on to you. However, if they are less than coherent....well, just tough.

Franz Wright's God's Silence (2006). After his Pulitzer Prize winning volume, Walking to Martha's Vineyard comes this thoughtful sequel (to some degree). Franz Wright has crafted another book that is powerful in its hope, especially when found with the bleak.
Notes about the book:
1. A number of lines are repeated throughout the book, most notably: "And I have heard/God's silence/like the sun"
2. Some parts are like fragments of dreams and books and nightmares.
3. Had read "Prescience" before in The Best Spiritual Writing of 2005. (Can be found on this page.)
4. Some parts "simple" as if conversational--like William Carlos Williams and Raymond Carver.

Claudia Emerson's Late Wife. This book won the 2006 Pulitzer Prize. It is a very strong and thoughtful meditation on endings and beginings. After a prelude poem, "Natural History Exhibits," the book is divided into three main parts. The first (Divorce Epistles) concerns the ending of her first marriage. The second section (Breaking Up The House) is about solitude. The third section (Late Wife: Letters to Kent) is to her husband in her new marriage (a widower) and is mostly made up of blank verse sonnets.
Part I -- instead of anger, seems to focus on loss. Relationship deteriorating, but there is also a sense of what brought them together/attached them.
This morning, though, as I put on my coat.
straightened my hair, I saw outside my face
its frame you made for me, admiring for the first

time the way the cherry you cut and planed
yourself had darkend, just as you said it would.
There also seems to be disappointment without bitterness: "it is the sentence//spoken the second time--truer perhaps,/with the blunt edge of a practiced tongue" ("Aftermath").

Part II -- in "The Audubon Collection" after musing on Audubon dissecting birds in attempt to capture their beauty, she writes: "There will always be/such things I regret knowing" But then she concludes: "I can wake to their voices restored,//transfigured to one, distinctive, clear/but bodiless....the window glass calling out//of something like despair, or hope,/somewhere ni the flightless trees". "The Practice Cage" -- "an absence finished"

Part III -- Sorry. This is a very strong, wonderful section, but my notes are incomplete here. I did notice three poems I really liked that think deserve more commentary: "The Cough," "Stinged Instrument Collection," and the final poem "Buying The Painted Turtle."

I strongly recommend this volume. I wish I had more time and energy to review it. I will pass on the link to a pretty good, more thorough review of the book by Edward Byrne.

I apologize that I have not posted more. I have been reading, but thing are busy as far as work and slow as far as getting what I like done about what I read. During the time (so long ago it seems) I was reading these books, I also began Stephen Dunn's Everything Else in the World. Who knows if I'll get that reviewed. I have been sent three interesting chapbooks from Maverick Duck Press. I do hope to write about them very soon.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Publication Notes (September 2007)

Not much to say this month. I didn't submit anything (busy work schedule has seen to that), and received only a handful of rejections.

My poem "At the Back of the Backyard" has been accepted for the next issue of dotlit. Another international publication. Yea!

I have been asked to write a textbook review. Not the most exciting thing in the world, but the money isn't bad, and the book isn't terrible.

Hopefully things will slow down enough that I can send out some material soon.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Publication Notes (August 2007)

Looks like it has been a pretty good month, but I'm not telling about the rejections....

My poem "The Game On" has been published in Cadenza. This is my first British publication, so it is exciting. My copy arrived in the mail today. I was surprised to find a statue of a naked man on the cover. I'm not offended, but I know this is one publication I can't show to my Mom.

Just sent the contracts out on two stories that are being purchased by Sniplits, "Puppy" and "A Little Accident." The exciting news here -- other than finding a home for two stories and getting paid-- is that they record the stories to be purchased/downloaded, and after the first 500 I can earn some royalties on my work. This appears to be a new venture, but even if it doesn't work, I'm excited to be part of it. More here when I get information, so my legions of fans (hardy har har) can make me rich.

The Green Muse has published three of my poems online: "Sax Sonnet," "Episodes," and "Anna." You can read them here. A print version is avaiable.

My sequence "Peniel" has been accepted for 2008 publication by Farrago's Wainscot.

My sequence "Concurrences" should be available in October in Lachryma: Modern Songs of Lament. The issue can be ordered now.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Bookmarks for July 2007

All The Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy (1992). A number of people have recommended McCarthy's writing to me, but for a number of reasons I have not gotten around to it. I decided that I wanted to change that this summer. And All The Pretty Horses is what I started with. This is the first of McCarthy's "Border Trilogy." I was caught up in the story immediately. In fact, what bothered me most was that I had so much going on that I had to keep putting it down and it took a few days to get through. This is the story of John Grady Cole, a young man who finds himself traveling to Mexico. His friend Rawlins goes with him and soon they meet up with a young boy named Blevins, whom they reluctantly allow to join them on the trail. The rest of the story is about breaking horses and men. But John Grady Cole is not likely to be broken.

I really enjoyed this tale of the changing west. It is set in Texas and Mexico after World War II and highlights a world in flux even as those in it try to make the best of what they have and are. I look forward to more from this author. I have started Blood Meridian and will try to review it next month.

I suppose I haven't read as many books this month as usual, particularly since it is summer. But I have worked on reading, little by little a couple of things. Last week I finished Late Wife by Claudia Emerson, which I was quite moved by. I suppose that should be reviewed now, but since I technically finished it August, I'll keep it for next time, when I can be more detailed. I started Fear and Trembling by Soren Kierkegaard. I don't know if I'll finish it. I started a volume of poems by Ovid, an anthology of narrative poems, and an anthology of short stories called 30/30. I'll probably finish the latter in the next week or so. The stories in this book (so far) have been quite enjoyable and readable. It appears to well represent modern American fiction.

So it appears I haven't read too many books, but I guess I have. I did add two feeds from a couple of my favorite websites to my My Yahoo page. These are from The Academy of American Poets and Poetry Daily. I love the idea of adding feeds, and these don't really disappoint. So nearly every day I have a new (to me) poem or something about poetry to read. I very much recommend these sites.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Overrated television shows (volume one)

I hope the reader will forgive me for not placing hyperlinks or images for this post (and those like it), but after reading, I suppose you'll know why. Hopefully, this will be a continuing (if not so regular) feature of Monk Notes. Thanks for reading:

Roseanne (1988-1997):
I tried to like this show, but couldn't. If this is the "average joe" type of family, then most parents need to be shot. Sometimes the meanness was funny, but most of the time it was just mean.
I watched several episodes before I decided this was among the most overrated series of all time. There are funny moments, and some episodes that were touching, but mostly it was about a mean, mean woman terrorizing those who love her. That just isn't funny to me.

Friends (1994-2004):
This isn’t a bad show; it just isn’t really a good show. (Remember this is about overrated t.v.) I watched many episodes and must admit to laughing quite a bit. But I also didn’t laugh at times when the laugh track tried to encourage me. The characters are mostly unlikable except when being stupid. I suppose idiocy has its charm. Rachel, though the character who experiences the most growth over the course of the series, is, frankly, a despicable person. Most of the humor seems to be zingers based on the situations and the characters don’t really do much of anything or have real world problems. When they do, those problems become part of the humor and little is solved unless the character just learns to “deal with it.” And don’t get me started about how the show trivializes sex.

Full House (1987-1995):
Full House is one of the most irresponsible pieces of crap ever aired. Like so many television shows, this trades on the “cuteness” of its characters. And I don’t find any of them cute. The children are spoiled brats, and the plot of many shows revolves around the uptight father who each time has to learn the lesson that his children are really in charge of their lives and they know better what they should be doing. The other men, one a struggling musician and the other a struggling comedian, fill in different roles of cute “uncle”. In other words, there are three grown men who get walked on by three minor females. There are almost no laughs, and the presumed adorableness of the kids wore off really, really quickly. And every time I hear that theme song, I look for weapons. How they stayed on television beyond two years continually baffles me.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Bookmarks for June 2007

Have done more reading that these two reviews show, but much of it has been a poem here or story there in books I might be reviewing next time. Enjoy.

Despite its flaws, Donald Miller's Blue Like Jazz (2003) should be required reading for every Christian. Non-believers might also find this book refreshing and interesting. The book is a loose memoir of Miller's spiritual journey from a young child whose images of God are formed by a father who has left him through fundamentalist Christianity to what he often refers to as Christian Spirituality. Perhaps the word "journey" is a misnomer, since what Miller accurately details is that spiritual life is not a journey with an end. Sure, he finds answers, but they don't become the crux of theology he can force on others, but only share as one shares other experiences.

I found Miller's stories fascinating, funny, and touching. Miller appears to be striving for something real in all the religious rhetoric, something that changes lives and gives them strength. His various tales are really inspiring and challenging in the way honest reflections about God must be.

The book is not perfect. Relying so much on one's experiences with God can make one's theology a bit suspect. But there is nothing out of traditional orthodoxy here if one considers that God is one that meets us on the road, whereever we are, really to shape us from whatever state we come to Him in. I believe in a God that is more interesting in our hearts being honest before Him than in "getting it right." Blue Like Jazz book that focuses on the love God has for his creation and not on sqashing sinners (especially "sinners" as defined by humans). This is not to say the book is all "God loves you and nothing is wrong." In witnessing Miller's challenges one might be forced to recognize that change is necessary for all of us. However, painful or difficult this change, there is a God who will leave us, a Savior always willing to love even the most unlovable of us.

The City in Which I Love You (1990) is Li-Young Lee's second book of poems. Here Lee combines childhood memory with (then) present images of a family struggling with the past and with death. One gets the sense that the child who could not make complete sense of events as they happened is still unable to fit all the pieces together, but must render those images and anecdotes, must make the attempt to understand them. The language here is beautiful, carefully wrought. There is plenty of emotion, but no maudlin sentimentality, no "woe is me." Lee presents these pictures and stories and allows the reader to either identify with them or to listen as one would to a friend healing.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Music Notes for June 2007

Have listened to a lot of good stuff recently, but haven't had much chance to write. The review of the Metheny-Mehldau disc first appeared on iTunes (under the name Blue Monk) after some wrangling about them messing up the info on the disc at first. I tried to post the review of the Stryker/Slagle disc first at Blogcritics. However, I had trouble getting it posted, and the editor will not respond to my queries, so it is going to have to be first here.

Pat Metheny and Brad Mehldau: Quartet. This is a new and fresh recording from the same sessions that brought us the first (mostly duets) album. Some might find that some of these songs are similar to PMG recordings, minus the lush arrangements, Latin percussion, and occasional vocalese. But listen close and you’ll find some significant differences. A couple of tunes feature some little guitar crunches and nuances from Metheny you won’t likely hear on the group’s recordings. "A Night Away" starts the disc off right with a groove. "The Sound of Water" seems to use the Pikasso guitar in a way that builds nicely from "Into the Dream" from Imaginary Day. "Fear and Trembling" and "Toward the Light" take some risks, but they pay off. On some tunes, Metheny uses the synth guitar in tasty doses where one might find a good horn solo. Mehldau does not just accompany either. He jams along with Metheny as if they have been playing together for 20 years instead of just admiring each other’s playing from a distance as they had. At first I was put off that they put a couple quartet pieces on the first disc and a handful of duets on this one. But both sets work together naturally. Get this one.

The Stryker/Slagle Band: Latest Outlook. If you went into a nice restaurant or club and as you ate your meal or chatted with friends, you heard The Stryker/Slagle Band playing the tunes from Latest Outlook, you might leave thinking that the "music was nice. What was that group again?" All this is to say that I think Latest Outlook gives me some mixed feelings. This is real jazz, played well, and it all sounds good. Most songs wouldn’t upset those who prefer their music as wallpaper. But I’m not sure it will knock the socks off the hardcore fan. Read the entire review whenever they get around to posting it at Blogcritics.
I've also been listening a lot lately to both of Keith Jarrett's most recent cds of improved music, Radience and The Carnegie Hall Concert. I first heard the latter in a special broadcast on KNTU the day of its release. The was one of the most enjoyable concerts I've ever heard. I suspect this might rival the magnificent and legendary Koln Concert. Radience was also delightful to hear. Jarrett has said that in interviews that the tunes on these projects are shorter because he now has a stronger sense of when a song is coming to an end. I hope these disc do earn him a stronger fan base among those who have no knowledge of his work. Listen well and I think you'll see why Jarrett is my favorite pianist.

A couple weeks ago, I got to see the Bill Frisell Trio outside the Dallas Museum of Art. The group was in fine form, playing tunes mostly from Frisell's vast repetoire of originals and unique takes on standard pop and jazz tunes. A highlight for the crowd seems to have been Frisell's version of "What the World Needs Now." My wife and I were particularly taken by his version of "Shenendoah." I loved everything: the loops, the distortion, the odd seques between songs. Frisell has great chops and wonderfully incorporates playing from many different styles. His band of Tony Scherr on bass and Kenny Wollesen at the drum kit was fun to watch (well, I couldn't always see Scherr), appearing to be having a lot of fun hanging out with the master musician. I would like to have heard Frisell play more than one guitar during the evening. Since he is so good, one or two accoustic numbers might have been great. However, he did a lot more with that one guitar than many could have done with a dozen. I was also a little put off that Frisell didn't face the audience much, but I understand he is notoriously shy. And since he didn't talk very much, he did leave more room for great music. The avant garde style did send a few fans away fairly early, but I think they missed a great opportunity to see a terrific performing making fascinating music.

I also saw the Jonas Brothers in concert some time ago. As any of my friends and family can attest, this is not my cup of tea. But I took the girls and they had a good time. They played
a mix of selections of tunes from their first album and their (then) upcoming second (which they mentioned about eight times in a set that lasted just over an hour. I can say that it was fun to watch them, though the songs are pretty much the same kind of thing that is popular on Radio Disney, who (surprise!) sponsored the show.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Open letter concerning the Governor's veto

This morning, I wrote the following letters to my state senators and representatives and the governor of the state of Texas because of recent events concerning health care for state employees. I do not expect anything more than form letters, so I post these here for your information.

To legislators:I am writing to protest not only the governor's veto concerning health benefits for community college employees, but his characterization of those employees.
I have been working as an English Instructor at Eastfield College for ten years. Nearly every year, what I have to pay for health care goes up as my benefits decrease. What the governor has done is make a statement, again, about his real values concerning education. He does not value those who work to educate in this state, in particular those in community colleges. Now he has gone even further to call them liars in public.
How he or any public official can rest while the employees who are and will be teaching the majority of the state's citizens languish in poor pay, decreasing benefits, and growing disrespect, is beyond the scope of my understanding. I strongly urge you to do more than take a stand on this issue. I urge you to compel the governor to retract his statements and publicly vow to protect our community college teachers.

To the governor:Governor Perry, you have continued to deceive and devalue to the citizens of this state. You have called my chancellor a liar, and by vetoing legislation have single-handedly taken away health care dollars for thousands of already underpaid, under-appreciated state workers.
I have been teaching at Eastfield College for ten years. When we do get raises, they do not keep up with the cost of living. It seems that each year I have to pay more for my health insurance, yet each year that insurance covers less. In other words, it is getting increasingly more difficult to keep this job.
I want a public commitment not to some general principles of education, but to truth, and to the welfare of educators at ALL levels. Don't give me a PR photo of you with some elementary school kids. Don't give me some vague comments about how education is the future. Give me a real, tangible sign that this state is going to reverse what it has been doing to teachers during my lifetime.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Bookmarks for April/May 2007

Okay, so this is a bit late, but I've been doing the paying job and so haven't gotten to much else in the past few weeks.

First, let me note that I have let my subscription to Poetry lapse. I have had it now for just over two years (and I bought copies now and then before that), but I have been conflicted about the magazine for a while, and having gotten about three issues behind in reading, wondered if it was worth the $35 a year to keep it coming. Few of the poems do much for me, the reviews are sometimes helpful and often times piss me off (their anti-religion bias, in particular, really upsets me), and the special features either thrill me or just frustrate me with their pretentiousness.

I originally subscribed for two main reasons. First, as a poet, I wanted to read what is considered, by many whose judgement is beter than mine, good work, to find what I could do to improve my own poetry. Second, I love poetry, and this is the premier publication. But I don't know that I should keep it up. Any comments would be helpful.

Speaking of things I've read in Poetry, an essay I read there a few months ago lead me to purchase a copy of Poems of Paul Celan. I am probably a sucker for stuff that connects art and suffering, and when I found Michael Hamberger's translation (1980) for a small price, I decided to get a copy. After a couple of months of trudging through it, I've come to the conclusion that either I am not reading right, or the poems are indecipherable. I don't mind working to read poetry, but there is nothing to hold most of these poems together. They seem to work on a juxtapostion of images and distorted syntax, much like that of E.E. Cummings. But unlike Cummings' verse, these just hang there. Celan appears to have had a much darker vision of the universe than Cummings, but there isnt much to even look at in the images. I just didn't get it.

A few weeks ago, I finished reading Robert B. Parker's version of the gunfight at O.K. Corral (and I guess the events leading up to it), entitled Gunman's Rhapsody. This was, as usual with Parker, an entertaining read, but not much more. The draw for many readers is going to be that we get to see, supposedly, Wyatt Earp and his brothers in a more real, human light than history books typically render them. Maybe that happens, but I couldn't help thinking I had Spenser in a cowboy hat. The story moves along well enough, and I did find myself caring for the characters, but while Parker gives us, in Wyatt Earp, a man with scruples and foiables of his own, he paints his villians so broadly that the old Time/Life books seem interesting. And I hope I was not the only one to see the irony in that Earp is supposed to be the quintessential "man of few words," but that he had an awful lot to say.

Several months ago, I set out to read an anthology I've had on my shelf for some time, Contemporary American Poetry, edited by A. Poulin Jr. and Michael Waters (seventh edition, 2001). I am finishing it now. I won't quibble about the exclusion of poets that have come into more reknown since this edition was published, but I am a little concerned that writers like Stephen Dunn and Raymond Carver are omitted. I know that like "best of" lists, none can make everyone happy. However, leaving Dunn, in particular, out seems almost criminal. That said, I do very much recommend this book. Each poet, from Ai to James Wright, is amply represented here, and there is much to demonstrate that American Poetry did not die with Frost.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Bookmarks for March 2007

Reflections on Classrooms and Their Characters by Elizabeth Joseph. I have to admit up front that Elizabeth Joseph is a friend and colleague. I also have to be honest I am a sucker for good teacher stories. So you should not be surprised when I heap praise on her book. I won't gush for now, but I do want to recommend this collection of wonderful stories to anyone who can find it. Betsy writes about the people, mostly students, she has encountered in her fascinating journey as a teacher. She now teaches English at Eastfield College, but has also worked at the high school and middle school levels, and has taught kids at a school for Orthodox Jewish boys and inner city students at W.T. White. What I like best about these stories is that although the book as a whole is about her journey, the focus is not on her. There is nothing that screams "Look at what I did!" in these memoirs. That is a difficult achievement to pull off. One gets an honest glimpse, without overexuberance and without the bitterness that could mark years of teaching, but not without real feeling for the women, men, and children that have had the great blessing to be in her classrooms.

A Thousand Nights of Stars by Walt McDonald (2004). Readers of this blog will note that I am a fan of McDonald's poetry. The book jacket notes that this may be his final collection, and that makes me sad. Here, McDonald's usual subject matter is present. He writes about childhood, raising children (and letting them go), his experience with war (as a young man watching relatives and friends go off to it and as a former pilot). Some of the poems here could use a little revision, but on the whole this is a very satisfying and sometimes powerful collection.

In preparation for my American Literature class, I also re-read Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson. Anyone wanting to learn to write fiction would do well to read this book. These are some of the most beautifully sad stories I've read in my life.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Bookmarks for January/February 2007

After I'd finished Franz Wright's Walking To Martha's Vineyard (2003), I immediately started over and read it again. Something about the collection bothered me. I'd read a handful of Wright's poems before, some from this book, and I had found most moving and thought provoking, but as I read the whole book the first time, I couldn't shake the fact that this volume had earned Wright a Pulitzer Prize, and I just couldn't see why. However, after a second helping, I began to realize that the first time through I was focused on the pieces here that seem to rely mostly on image for their effect on the reader, and I just wasn't always sure what that effect was supposed to be. During the second reading, I noticed that there is a narrative here that is like real life: in one moment disjointed, in another fluid, days and nights filled with startling moments of sadness and joy, thrill and disgust. Walking to Martha's Vineyard is also an inspiring volume of poems, not because one reads them and feels vaguely better, but because one senses that the poet has encountered grace, a frightening and beautiful communion with God.

I tried reading A Coney Island of the Mind by Lawrence Ferlinghetti (1958) more years ago than I care to admit, but I know it was when I was quite young. I never finished it then, and ironically, my youth probably worked against me. I say this is ironic because the book is filled with the brashness and vigor of youth. The poems rebel against many things, but they are not about rebellion for rebellion's sake. The bring the reader to rethink the world in lines that are as fresh today as when they were first read (or heard), and even if one does not come to the same philosophical place as Ferlinghetti, one does have to realize that powerful thoughts have fueled these verses. Ferlinghetti has no problem dropping in lines from other poets, often in parody (especially of Eliot). The poet is "constantly risking absurdity," but these poems aren't act, but a call to action.

Have started reading an interesting book by Ted Kooser, Winter Morning Walks: 100 Postcards to Jim Harrison. These poems were written during Kooser's convelescence from his chemotherapy, and so far they are a bit different from the crafted poems of his other books. These seem to be just what they say they are: notes on postcards. But oh what notes! Most of these poems don't drop the kind of bombs I found in Kooser's Delights and Shadows, but they hit with short jabs, image and mood driving action that takes place mostly within.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Music Notes for January/February 2007

Pat Metheny and The Heath Brothers: Move To The Groove. This is a disappointing release not because the material isn't good, but because it is uneven. Metheny's guitar is a bit subdued in some places, but the solos are nice, and the Heath Brothers are terrific to listen to. But the disc as a whole seems like a bit of a compilation, rather than a cohesive whole.

The first two songs, "Sassy Samba" and "Arthurdoc" are a nice collaborations of what might seem too disparate musical entities. They swing nicely and provide plenty of room for nice solos. The final, title track works the same. But in the middle are also good pieces that just don't seem to fit the disc. I really like the "Guitar Improvisation." Metheny transmits a lucid, beautiful solo that takes a piece of his composition "James" near the end. Next comes the group's take on "All The Things You Are," a classic nicely rendered.

My liner notes say that the next two songs, "Is That So" and "I Waited For You" have someone other than Metheny at the guitar. One of these songs, however, has guitar/and vocal (as instrument, not singing words) lines that remind me of some of the pieces on Metheny's fantastic Secret Story.

This is a disc that fans of Pat Metheny and/or The Heath Brothers will want in their collections. But I suspect it won't get as much play as others.

I am very happy to see that one of my favorite radio stations, KNTU, has finally gone twenty four hours a day. For years, they have gone off the air at midnight and returned at six in the morning. Now we can get more of that sweet jazz (and some interesting classical programs on Sunday) in the middle of the night/early morning (during the time I'm usually working!). I know that with the Internet, there are many good stations available playing jazz, but I am thrilled to be able to get more of the station I probably listen to most.

Speaking of Internet radio, I did run across something (through iTunes) recently that I have enjoyed: Modernera.fm. This station provided a fascinating mix of classical, new age, and ambient music that is not only relaxing, but actually works very well together. Instead of solo or chamber pieces that are called classical, but are really not, this station actually plays real classical music and seques it well with the other genres. I've not been much of a fan of ambient music, but whoever runs this station has managed to pick good material (like Fripp and Eno). I don't care for their website, as it is only a portal for the station. I'd like to see a bit more information about the music, playlists, and that sort of thing. But the station is well worth listening to.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Observations (#5)

There are wounds
that cannot be dressed
cuts that cannot be stanched
and mending that will
not hold together.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Sports Notes for January 2007

Shut up, Dale Hansen. You and the rest of the Dallas media wouldn't know a good coach if he went undefeated. The problem is that you and the rest of the sport media world get pissed when someone thinks questions are stupid or gets tired of answering the same old questions. Or just doesn't want to talk at all. Whatever happened to the right to remain silent?

Usually I don't give a damn about the idiotic things that come out of the mouths of athletes and sometimes coaches. But isn't it odd that players and coaches are fined and hated by sports media when they choose to not talk and the same often happens when they choose to give less than pat answers?

Beckham is coming to the U.S. Here's is what doesn't surprise me. 1. Rock star soccer player goes to the city of stars rather than a team he'd be a fit for. 2. The sports media uses the event to further make fun of the world's most popular sport. Next time some football fanatic spouts some crap about how "boring" he thinks soccer is, remind him of that sham-event-travesty-dull-as-rust piece o' crap called the BCS Championship game.

What was that bullpucky Sha-squeal O'Neal was saying about he and Martin Luther King? Can anyone actually believe him?
What's the matter with my Stars? They did beat the Kings the other night without some of their top players, so maybe things are looking up. I'm happy for Turco and Boucher making the All-Star squad, but there are some other names that deserve the be there too.
The Mavericks are going to win it all this year. Tremble, Miami. My man Dirk should win the MVP, unless something goes horribly wrong in the second half of the season. Clearly no one is better so far this year. Again tonight he lights up the fourth quarter. The team is making a way to win nearly every game. Even the most recent loss (to the much hated Lakers) was close. Tremble, foes. Tremble.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Music Notes for December 2006

Okay, I haven't been able to get any new music, and no one has sent anything to me to review, so I don't have much to say right now. However, I figured I could pass on a few thoughts on that have been going through my speakers as I work.

On iTunes:
I have been listening to a couple different radio stations. The last few days, I've listened to Pat Metheny Radio (which can also be accessed by his website). They rotate about three or four different playlists, but I don't know how often. This gives a wonderful cross section of his work in all contexts, demonstrating the breadth of Metheny's music without a lot of the jarring feeling one might get moving from a piece he might have recorded with his group to something he did for a soundtrack. Speaking of which, I even got to hear pieces from his Passagio Per Il Paradiso, one of the few cds he has recorded that I have not hear all the way through. Each playlist contains at least one track from his latest with Brad Mehldau. Right now, the playlist features two songs from the upcoming quartet disc with Mehldau (Metheny Mehldau 2).

In the "Classical" section of iTunes radio, there is a stations called Whisperings. It is solo piano, but it really isn't classical music. I could see most people categorizing it as new age, but I don't quite see it that way. It is relaxing and enjoyable. I have listened to it mostly in the morning during my quiet reading time or while I was trying to relax at work.

In the "Jazz" section is a pretty nice station called Forever Cool. This is a pretty nice place for some classic jazz, particularly if you are into West Coast or "Cool" jazz. I have really liked this station not only for the good tunes I already enjoy, but they do play some cuts that aren't likely to make it to KNTU, my regular jazz station, like from imports or alternate takes. It is the one place lately I'm likely to hear Wes Montgomery, Miles Davis, and Dave Brubeck in the same hour. That makes for some nice listening!

All these iTunes stations have free and pay versions, though the only "commercial" on the Pat Metheny station is really for the station itself and his website. I'm too cheap and broke to listen to radio I have to pay for, but the commercials aren't too bad. My main problem with this, and often with iTunes in general, is that the player takes so much memory or something to play that if I am multi-tasking too much, then I sometimes end up with my machine freezing up as I'm working. That can be more than a bit of a hassle.

Welcome back Mark Chapman!
Alright, I know Mark and his show, The Art of Sound, didn't really go away, but I didn't get to listen to it for awhile, and when I came back, there was a lot of stuff in its place, including a Big Band show that was really the same damn thing every single time I listened. But it does appear that his show is back to mostly regular times (about 7 to 10 p.m., weekdays, with some other jazz shows following). If you enjoy an eclectic mix of great jazz then this is the place to be. Mark (with Bruce Tator joining on Wednesdays) knows a lot about the history of America's music, and is fascinating to listen to, but doesn't talk so much that you forget the music.

And for those who like Smooth Jazz (I prefer to call it Safe Jazz mixed with R&B), KETR does play this from 5-7 weeknights and from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. overnight.

Playlists on Winamp
Of course, I've been listening to a few of my playlists through Winamp lately too. I have a good playlist for jazz piano trios and one for jazz guitar. Also there is one for my quiet times called "relax." That one sometimes gets started and stays on as I work. Too much stress for the holidays. I love Winamp because it does not require a lot of memory and there are hundreds of skins that make it a bit fun. I've actually set mine to change skins with each song. Doing that is fun, but sometimes when it goes from a "Classic" skin to a "Modern" one and back again, there are problems. But overall, this is an excellent player for listening to stuff on your computer, which for me, is the best stereo I've ever had. Anyway, i don't know who or what the llama is, but its ass is definitely kicked with Winamp.

Christmas Pageant
Of course the highlight of my Christmas in the past few years has been the Pageant at my church. This year my Christina has a little solo and it was delicious. The whole thing went really well this year and I again found myself warmed and actually ready to enjoy Christmas. Much praise to God and thanks to Helen and the multitude of volunteers for a truly edifying experience.