Friday, October 30, 2009

Publication Notes -- October 2009

Okay, I really don't have much to say as far as submissions and rejections. I have received a couple of rejections and have not sent much out, due to busy-ness. But I do have other news. I have published a few things at Smashwords. This is a place for e-books, and you can find them in a variety of formats, so you can download them to your computer or other devices you like to read on. At present, I have four e-books available, one collection of stories and three volumes of poetry. Click here to see my profile. The books are:

Die Laughing includes three of my stories ("Jabba the Cop," "I've Been Killed Before," and "Except the Weather.") All are first person narratives, with the protagonist a young man (late teens/early twenties).
Three Laments is a collection of three suites (some poetry people call them "sequences," but I prefer the musical word). These were written as I went through some of the most difficult times of grief in my life.

Making Rounds is a sequence of its own, a collection of short tanka-like poems written during my time as a security guard.

Walking in Circles is a short collection of early poems.

I do have plans to offer a couple more in the future. I have a couple of longer stories that don't seem to fit any of the publications I typically try to publish in, but they are stories I happen to think deserve an audience. You can click on the covers below for information about any book or to read samples.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Music Notes -- Consequences

I don't know much about Dave Burrell, but I've always like Billy Martin's work with Medeski, Martin, and Wood. So when I found this little project with Martin using a bunch of percussion instruments with a piano player, I got very excited. But Consequences is a major let down.

While I do not listen to a lot of the avant garde side of jazz, I try to at least appreciate it. I try to give the benefit of the doubt that this music may need to grow on me or that musicians of this caliber may be trying to do something I just am not equipped yet to understand.
But the more I listen to this disc, the more I begin to sound like my jazz hating friends. Consequences is a self-indulgent nightmare. Some avant garde projects put me off at first, but grow on me as I begin to tune in to certain elements or instruments that strike my fancy. When I can find something interesting somewhere, I look to see how those pieces fit with the others. Doing so has helped me to at least appreciate, if not always enjoy, work by people like Derek Bailey and Ornette Coleman. But I couldn't find anything interesting here.

I tried. I listened. I put it away. I listened another time. I even tried listening different contexts and places. Nothing worked. It all just sounded like kids playing with instruments, not even like kids who actually play.

I wanted very much to like this, but so far the experience has been quite trying.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Music Notes-- Repercussions

Richard Souther's projects typically include either solo piano material a la his magnificent "Douglas Trowbridge" LPs for the old Meadowlark label or the electronica of his Narada days or the material he produces under the moniker Under the Radar. Repercussions seems to be a project that mixes the two with thoughtfulness and warmth.

I confess I have a preferences for Souther's acoustic piano works. Memories of Twilight and Reminisce are frequently on my playlist, especially when I need something soothing and reflective. So it should be no surprise that "For Philip" is my favorite tune on this project. I don't know who Philip is, but he has one very beautiful song.

But Souther's work is not mere mood music or wallpaper. Songs like "Follow Me (Dance Re-Mix)" and "Loch Ness" may contain simple looped melodies as underpinnings, but they are worth listening to closely for the other instrumentation and recorded sounds and where those take the songs. And what Souther does around and with the guitar riff on "Alice Absynth" is outstanding.

Two songs make use of recorded voice: "Twenty-Three" and "Doughgirls." The first of these combines a bluesy rendition of the 23rd Psalm with an aural palette that suggests real comfort during real storms. The second begins with a recorded conversation that put me off a little at first, but repeated listening has helped me understand that dialogue is also part of the world's musical landscape.

Even if one merely wanted a taste of what Souther's recordings are like, this is a nice introduction. But I think most people listening are likely to return to this project again and again.

Reading Response: Of Online Classes and discrimination

Normally, I try to remember that student journalists are students, in college to learn the art and craft of journalism. I try to leave their opinions alone and keep from responding, especially as a teacher might. However, there are times when I just can't stop myself from providing one of these guys either a strong pat on the back for a job well done or a little extra education.

The following is in response to an article entitled "Online classes discriminate against less-connected" by Brad Powers. It was published in the online version of The East Texan. I had tried to leave a comment, but got an "error" message that said my email address (which I have used for 12 years) is "invalid." Thus, I share it with you.

I am an alum of your school and I also have been teaching online, hybrid, and "face to face" classes for a number of years. These questions seem fine on the surface, but the attacks on professors in this editorial are out of line and show that you have not really looked at all sides of the issue.

A few years ago, the term "digital divide" was used to identify the problem you are writing about: that the poor and others could not have access to technology (or did not have access others more fortunate did). That has not completely gone away despite computer labs and other resources more and more colleges have. But it is getting better.

Calling professors lazy shows you have not taken the time to talk to one. You need to find out just how much work it takes to put together online elements for a course and to maintain those courses. You obviously are not sitting in the same damn seminars teachers all over the country have to where we-- after working late not only putting together syllabi or tests, had to deal with putting the material online in a way that fits some other person's idea of a user-friendly format-- have to listen to some blowhard tell us that our students are "digital natives" and that we (backwards professors) are "digital immigrants."

In most schools, students do have choices and can enroll in classes with no online components. There are still many professors who are willing to teach the "old fashioned" way. Note also that those who are not "technologically inclined" are often people making excuses to avoid gaining the computer literacy they will need to be employed once they leave school.

Why didn't you, before spouting off, ask even one teacher the questions you pose in this article? Why didn't you consider that NO change in the way classes are taught is going to make every student happy? Why didn't you look at the whole story before trying to give the impression that professors had some sort of agenda? Why didn't you do your homework?