Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Jenny the Menace

Jenny is a very sweet, mild mannered dog. She usually responds to vocal commands, albeit very simple ones. She loves attention and usually crashes on the floor or on my bed after she eats. Why then, does she do sneaky mischeavous things when I'm not around? For instance, she chewed the legs off of one of the wise men in my mother's Nativity scene. She also digs huge holes in the flower bed in my parent's back yard! When my friend Eron lived around the corner and I kept Jenny in his backyard, she would chew the collars off of his dogs! Sometimes I feel like I've got a problem child on my hands. She's a perfect angel around me, but gets into trouble when I'm not around! Any dog owners out there have any guesses or suggestions on this behavior?

Monday, December 29, 2008

Me and my Guitar

It's been a busy four days. I enjoy any chance to play my guitar in a performance setting, and this Christmas season saw no shortage of performance opportunities. On Christmas day, we went to my aunt and uncle's house for Christmas dinner. My uncle has a music room full of guitars, keyboards, and sound and recording equipment. My cousin, my uncle, and myself quickly whipped up a few Christmas songs and put on a mini performance for the rest of the family. Cheesy? Perhaps. Fun? You bet. The following day was rehearsal day for the wedding of two very good friends of mine. I was chosen to be a groomsman, as well as perform in the ceremony. I spent just about the whole day at the church on Saturday and the ceremony went very well. Of the various performances I've done in my life, I get the most nervous before weddings. If I screw up, it is captured on film and I'm remembered forever as the guy that ruined their wedding. Fortunately, I didn't screw up and the wedding went off without a hitch. After the reception, I went to my good friend Jake's house for an annual Holiday reunion of high school friends. It was quite possibly the best evening of my break thus far. Yesterday I sang and played "In the Bleak Midwinter" at church as well as directed the church choir. It's been a busy, but fun few days and I'm looking forward to ringing in the new year!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

My Favorite Christmas Gift

Merry Christmas everyone! Here's a picture of my favorite gift that I received this Christmas.It's a Barack Obama action figure. The box in which it came read, "The action figure we can believe in." Merry Christmas Mr. President-elect.

Monday, December 22, 2008

So this is how he spreads Christmas cheer...

Apparently, Santa blows snot rockets on the bad boys and girls.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Ready to Run

Today, my dad and I took our dogs to a local school to let them run around in the open space of the track and football field. I expected Jenny to let out a little energy, drink some dirty water, and call it a day. Instead, she ran. And ran fast. It was awesome to see her just dig in, get her head lunging forward, her ears plastered back, and fly. There is something so inspiring about her love of open space. She never gets it. I keep her inside the house, and when I'm at work she is confined to a small backyard. I bet she dreams of being able to just let loose in an open field. It's a sight to see when she does.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Beard Freakout

When men don't shave for a while, hair grows on their face. This hair, when left unattended for a period of time, is known as a beard. In older times, a beard was a symbol of a boy's arrival into manhood. Apparently now, a beard just makes you a freakazoid. I decided to get a jump start on my Christmas beard this year, letting my facial hair grow since Thanksgiving. Here are some responses I've received:

"What's that on your face?" - a student
"You should get rid of that" - a student
"When we first started coming to this class, you didn't have a beard." - a student
"What do you want for Christmas?" "A million dollars," I replied. "He needs a razor so he can shave that junk off his face." - another student.

It's a beard people. And, for the foreseeable future, it's here to stay. So, quit freaking out.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Soap Box

One of the biggest issues at my Fall Choral Concert in early November was the poor etiquette of the audience and students during the performances. It seemed to be worse this year than last year. I received many compliments on the concert, and sadly, several complaints that the audience (and students) weren't behaving properly. I addressed the issue with my choirs.
Fast forward to tonight. I went to the Jule Collins Smith Art Museum to hear the East Alabama Children's Choir. The EACC is a newly formed choir led by Gayle Smith, of the Auburn Smith choral dynasty. The choir is made up of students in fourth through ninth grades. It's mainly a treble choir and has about thirty six members. It's everything I want my afterschool choir to be. We're just not there, not even close. The EACC is good, very good. As I said, the performnance this evening was held in the main hall of the art museum. If you've ever been there you know that it's got marble floors, marble walls, and a high ceiling; an acoustical heaven.
As they began singing, their glorious treble sound rang all the way to the back of the hall. There wasn't a bad seat in the house, acoustically speaking. As I stood against the left wall, I prepared my ears for the beauty they were about to receive. Suddenly, two women behind me started talking. A child ran in front of me. A mother's shoes squeaked as she shifted her rain soaked soles. Every sound grabbed my attention and violently yanked it away from the choir. I was frustrated. I've come to the conclusion that the general public does not know how to handle themselves in a musical performance. I don't expect everyone to listen as intently as I do, but at least they could sit still for three minutes at a time so those that are listening intensely have a chance to soak it up. I'm not asking for silence the entire time. It is okay to shift, talk briefly, open a piece of candy, clear your throat, etc in between pieces. However, when a conductor takes the stand to begin a piece of music, art is happening. This art is incredibly valuable. It lasts for only a few moments, then it's gone. Sure, you could record it, but it's never the same. We wouldn't walk up to a painter while he/she is painting and interrupt him/her with a cacophony of bodily noises, coughing right before a brush stroke, talking while they are envisioning their next move. So why can't people just freakin' sit still during a piece of music? So, here comes my quick list of things to do and not to do during a musical performance.

Things to do:
1. Sit quietly and listen

Things NOT to do:
1. Talk to yourself, your unruly child, or your neighbor
2. Text or otherwise access your cellular device
3. Cough or incessantly clear your throat
4. Rustle your program, open a piece of candy, or jangle a bracelet
5. Get up to go to the bathroom (Wait to go between pieces. Likewise, if you are out in the lobby and would like to return to your seat, please wait until the current piece being performed is finished.)
6. If your child is misbehaving, promptly remove them from the auditorium or performance venue. Especially if it's a crying baby, because I might come stuff my sock in its mouth.
7. Do anything other than sit quietly and listen.

Of course, I'm referring to classical music performance scenarios such as choral concerts, band concerts, recitals, etc. I know it seems extreme, but the audience deserves silence. Even more so, the performers deserve a pristine canvas on which to paint their picture.

Ok. Everyone breathe. I'm done.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

As you know, I hate shopping. Christmas shopping is no exception, although I try to convince myself to be cheerful about it because I'm shopping for others and spreading Christmas cheer. Christmas shopping in Birmingham is always an extremely stressful experience. I don't plan my trip out well and end up criscrossing the city to get all of the things I need. Traffic is usually terrible, which only adds to my stress. By the time I'm finished with what should be a satisfying deed, I'm only worn out and angry.
Today was the exact opposite of that. It could not have gone better. I'll change the names of retail stores so that my family doesn't know what I'm getting them (even though they emailed me a list of things I should get them). After watching an episode of Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations, I really wanted a sausage dog for lunch. Not readily knowing where to obtain said culinary treat, I decided I would eat a chili dog at Toomer's Drugs. Toomer's Drugs, however, was going to be out of my way, but I really wanted a hot dog. My first stop was Jimmy's Sports Megaplex. I purchased the gift and headed outside. There, I discovered that they were giving away hamburgers, hot dogs, chicken quesadillas, and yes, gourmet sausage dogs. I got a sausage dog and a chicken quesadilla for free! Not only was it a free meal, but it was a meal that fit seamlessly into my shopping flow. I then headed to another store where I found what I needed within three steps of the front door. As I walked outside of that store, I saw a former student and her mother doing free gift wrapping on behalf of their church. So, I got it wrapped. Seamless. I then went to another store and got another thing. As I was checking out, I corresponded via text with someone who told me where to go to get another gift. I searched for the store in my phone, touched the address when it came up, and got turn by turn directions to the store. I got what I needed and was done. Seamless. I'm a little fuzzy, but I think all of the traffic lights turned green as a approached them. I'm doing my Christmas shopping in Auburn every year, no matter where I live.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Wintry Mix

Last night was our Winter Dessert Concert. Both choirs from Drake as well as around fifty singers from the Junior High school presented a concert of Christmas and Holiday choral music. We performed after the PTA meeting, and it was a good thing we did. That place needed a little pick-me-up after the speaker was finished with his forty-five minute frolic through the perils of a teenager's online life. Don't get me wrong, it was valuable information for which I'm sure the parents were grateful. However, all 170 of our choir students didn't need to be in there, and the presentation was about thirty five minutes too long. Regardless, upon its completion we took to the stage to present our Winter Concert. This was uncharted territory for me as I did not put one of these on last year. The night began with my smaller, mostly 6th grade, after school group. They sang "Little Drummer Boy" and "Up on the House Top". Then, I played and sang "In the Bleak Midwinter" on my guitar as the Junior High Choir got in place. The Junior High sang three pieces and sang them well. Then my seventh grade choir took the risers and sang "A Christmas Lullaby", "A Holly Jolly Holiday," and "Deck the Hall." We ended with all singers (Drake and Junior High) singing "We Wish You a Merry Christmas". Each student brought a dessert to be shared after the concert. Thus, when the singing was over, everyone pigged out on desserts. All in all it was a great night. Merry Christmas.

I probably shouldn't even be writing this right now. There's probably some internet predator out there waiting to pounce. Thanks a lot Officer Doom and Gloom.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

I Could Be Your Hero Baby

I'm hooked on the show Heroes. How did I miss this one? I guess my loyalties have been with Lost and 24. Netflix has made some changes, as I've mentioned, but they recently took things a step further. Many Netflix users have been able to watch movies instantly on their PCs. I, however, own a Mac. Netflix didn't support instant watching for Mac. That is until this past week. I spent my weekend lazing around and watching episode after episode of Heroes. I've always been a sucker for a super hero movie, and Heroes is right along those lines. I love when a new character is introduced and the viewer is left to wonder, "is this person 'special'? What is his/her ability?"

Anyone else out there watch Heroes or am I alone in this new obsession? It's not all good though. Constantly watching Heroes has kept me away from reading my book, The Pillars of the Earth. That's another blog post altogether. I'm only a third of the way through the book, but I'm enjoying it immensely. It's about a stone mason in thirteenth century England. Sorry, I'm off topic. Heroes is great. It's no Lost, but it's incredibly creative and entertaining. I think I might try to squeeze in another episode before bed. Bye!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Away

I came home from work today and made this. Turn up your speakers and consider it a Christmas Card from me to you. Thanks for stopping by. Merry Christmas.


video

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Tubers and Zots

Tommy Tuberville has resigned as head coach of the Auburn University men's American football team. Fine with me. He needs to move on, we need to move on. Things were stagnant. Keep in mind as you read these words that I don't know much about football, nor do I spend any amount of time researching these things. I'm simply stating opinions here. I've felt that for the last few years we've just been getting by. There hasn't been any fire, any passion. I'm ready for some new blood. Let's get someone in here who is passionate, excited, and has some good ideas. I just hope we don't go through a period of years where we cannot find the coach that fits. I guess the only way to know is to hire someone and cross your fingers.

War Eagle.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Hunting For Warmth

As we go through our daily lives, we often encounter some very unique people. It is almost as if they were written into the narrative of our lives to enrich and entertain. I recently had an experience with another one of these characters. He's not a stranger though, he's been around for quite a while. He sings in the choir at my church in Birmingham. He's an older man with a slight hump in his back that makes him appear to stoop over. He comes off as smug, quiet, and reserved. I'm not sure I've ever heard him say much. His defining characteristic, however, is his halitosis. I mean, it's bad. Standing within a few feet of him, one is overpowered with the musty, dank smell of his breath. Standing next to him in the choir loft for an entire church service is quite a challenge and requires careful timing of my own respiration. I digress.

Another of my friends sang in the adult choir at church since I can remember and has had much more interaction with this character. On one occasion, my friend met Frank in the robing room behind the sanctuary. Frank was wearing a down vest of bright orange. "Going hunting Frank?" my friend asked. "Hunting for warmth..." Frank said, his acrid mouth slowly massaging each syllable. It was one of those phrases that has continued in the near-daily speech of my friends and I.

**Warning: Music nerd content to follow. Musically squeamish should look away.***
So I sang in the adult choir this past Sunday at my church back home. Being the Sunday after a holiday, the congregation and the choir were slim. After I finished robing up, I walked into the choir room and took my place... right beside Frank. I knew what I was getting myself into, but the choir director asked me to sing tenor and my undying devotion to her won over. We finished rehearsing and walked out into the sanctuary to take our place at the rear of the church for the choral introit. We were about to sing "O Come O Come Emmanuel". We were only going to sing the first verse of the hymn and then process down the aisle and into the choir loft singing another hymn. "O Come O Come Emmanuel" is in a minor key, which means that the third scale degree is a half step lower. This gives minor keys their sad, somber tonality. At the end of the hymn, the tenors (of which Frank and I were a part) had the third. As we slowed slightly at the final cadence I heard a sound come from Frank that was not authorized by the music. Frank had pulled a Picardy third! The wily old fox! A Picardy third is a musical device in which the final chord is made major instead of minor by raising the third a half step. It can give a piece in a minor key a surprisingly uplifting ending. I adjusted midcourse and went with it, singing the major third rather than the minor. After the choir had been cut off, I glanced over at Frank. With a twinkle in his eye and a slight upturned smile, he simply shrugged his shoulders as if to say "I still got a few tricks up my sleeve, whipper snapper."

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Quantum of How Much was that Ticket?

I saw Quantum of Solace, the newest installement of the James Bond series, last night. The good news, the movie was great. It was action packed and kept me on the edge of my seat. The bad news, movie tickets at the Rave are now $9.25! What in the world!? I'm lucky that I saw a good movie to make it worth what I paid. Had I seen a movie that I wasn't pleased with, I would be really angry with the price of a ticket. I look at it this way: I pay $15 a month for Netflix. This gets me as many movies as I can watch and return in a month as well as some movies streaming through my Xbox. Netflix is a much better deal even if I get a movie that I don't enjoy. $9.25!? Rediculous.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

From Bad to Worse

I knew it was optimistic and largely insane to think that Auburn had a chance in this game. I did not, however, expect such an awful performance. I knew we were bad, but not this bad. I honestly think Hoover High School could beat this year's Auburn Tiger team. It's depressing. I'm trying to be a good sport. I even said "Roll Tide" to an Alabama fan at Ben & Jerry's tonight, just for fun. I try to remind myself that it's football. It's just a game. Then again, that's what the losing team always says. Good game Bama. I think your chances are pretty slim next Saturday, but you proved yourself this Saturday. If you need an Auburn fan in the next year, try looking under a rock or in a cave somewhere. We're probably all hiding in shame and embarassment. I'm actually pleased that I get wireless internet in my cave. Good day to you.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Pointless

The iphone has a built in accelerometer. An accelerometer is a device that measures changes in movement. A few days ago, my phone's accelerometer started acting up. It wouldn't tilt pictures so that they appear in landscape. I thought that this was a result of my dropping it in my parents driveway on Sunday. While it sucks, it's not a game-breaker. Since I'm in Birmingham for the Holidays anyway, I thought I'd swing by Alabama's only Apple store and get the problem checked out. I went this morning and made an appointment, showing one of the Apple employees how my phone's accelerometer was still defunct. I made an appointment and headed to Tip-Top grill for some hot dogs. A couple hours later, I returned to the Summit, a mecca of holiday outdoor shopping (oh boy). I waited for my appointment time and when my name was called, I approached the bar.
"What can I help you with?" said the genius (that's what their called, Apple Genius)
"I'm having some issues with the accelerometer in my phone. When I look at my pictures and try to tilt them this way..." I noticed the genius looking at me in a "and your issue is... WHAT?" kind of way. I glanced back at my phone to find it working perfectly, doing exactly what it was made to do. I've never been so angry to have things work perfectly. Doesn't it always happen that way? The only thing worse than a pointless trip to the Summit, is TWO pointless trips to the Summit. Oh well, I'm off of work and life is good. I'm blessed and thankful.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The New Xbox Experience

I'm a mac guy. I don't give much credit to Microsoft in the way of computers and the like, but they've done some great things with one computer particularly meant for gaming- the Xbox 360. Microsoft recently unveiled "The New Xbox Experience". It's essentially a new operating system for the Xbox. Not only did they update the "look" of the software, but they made some great improvements elsewhere. They added avatars, much like the Nintendo Wii. Players can customize their avatars to look like an animated version of themselves. You can even use your avatar as a playable character in select games through the Xbox arcade. But wait, there's more. Perhaps the best new thing to come to the Xbox 360 is a result of Microsoft's recent partnership with Netflix. I can now watch streaming movies and television shows on my TV through my Xbox! It's awesome! I've started season one of the show Heroes. I'm now getting much more for my money's worth with my Netflix subscription. Thanks, Microsoft, for doing something good.



Sunday, November 23, 2008

Rest and Vision

I spent the weekend nestled in the foothills of North Alabama. I went to Camp Sumatanga, the same place I go for a week in the summer for Music and Arts Week. However, during the summer, the counselors are focused on the campers and their needs. This retreat weekend is just for us. It's a chance for us to catch up, hang out, eat junk food, laugh our butts off, and talk about next summer. Sumatanga literally means "A place of Rest and Vision" and that's just what it was for me this weekend. It's so much fun to hang out with those people, and this time of year up there is simply stunning. I hiked up the mountain Saturday afternoon and enjoyed the amazing view from the top.
There is a small open air chapel at the top of the mountain as well:
It was a fantastic weekend, and the drives were full of fall colors and good music. Now, I'm back in Auburn, a town void of college students. I like it this way. I went through the drive thru at Taco Bell in under three minutes. On top of that, they put a moist towelette, a toothpick, and a peppermint in my bag! I love them, and I used to be one, but life in Auburn is so much easier without college students! Just two more days of work until I can spend some quality time with family and friends at home in Birmingham, my other "Sumatanga".

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Eureka!

It worked! I sat in the humidified room all night, then put the humidifier in my bedroom as I slept all night. Today, my voice is back! I can even sing. It's such a relief. It's not completely back, but well on the way. Damn you, dry air.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Vocal Rest

I've always had a healthy voice. I have never randomly lost my voice or had laryngitis. Occasionally, when I'm sick or have a sinus infection, I take it easy vocally and try not to talk much or sing. When I became serious about my voice late in high school, I became much more conscious of vocal health. I avoided smoky restaurants or at least always sat in the non smoking section.
This weekend, I began to feel a slight tickle in my throat, usually indicative of an oncoming sore throat. I went out that night to Supper Club, a smoky bar here in Auburn. The next day, my voice was raspy and slightly hoarse, but I felt fine. It's now been four days and the situation hasn't improved. I thought it was a side effect of another illness, but that illness never came. For the first time since I can remember, I'm just losing my voice! I continued to teach Monday and Tuesday, thinking that the problem would right itself. I woke up today and my voice was still not 100%. For most, this may not be a big deal. For a music teacher and singer, vocal problems like this are dangerous territory and need to be handled delicately. I decided to take the day off vocally. I put in a video about Jazz music and had my students watch and answer questions. (It's actually a really great video, complete with commentary from some of the old jazz players that were young when jazz greats like Louis Armstrong and Charlie Parker were at their best.) It helped me because I didn't have to talk and teach and continue to overuse a vocal mechanism that is already suffering.
I got to thinking about the situation. With no other illnesses, it's got to be strictly vocal. I think it's the extremely dry air that I'm breathing in all night while I sleep and all day. After work, I went to CVS to purchase a machine that I haven't used since I was a child: a humidifier. So, now I'm sitting in my living room with my humidifier running and plans to stay here all night. I'm going to sit on my couch, play xbox, watch a movie, and breath in this moisture-filled air.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

An Interest of Conflicts

A student approached me today and said that her softball coach told them to always put softball first. He said that if they are involved in other things, softball should take first priority. She questioned him saying, "but we have choir practices, mostly in the mornings, but sometimes after school." He replied with "Mr. Cater and I are like this (fingers crossed in the air), I can talk to him. We are fraternity brothers." Now, this is true. The middle school softball coach, who teaches at the high school, is one of my fraternity brothers. That's not what I want to discuss. It got me thinking about conflicts between extra curricular activities. It happens to every choir teacher. I want to have one after school rehearsal, and fifteen kids say they can't come because of soccer, basketball, cheerleading, wrestling, etc.
I'm still working these things out in my mind, but shouldn't there be some sort of universal rule about this? I say yes. Here's my crack at said universal rule:
A game takes precedence over a practice. If I want to have a choir practice, and a student has a soccer GAME, the student should go to the game. Likewise, if I've got a concert on a day when a student has a cheerleading PRACTICE, I get the student at my concert. The trouble comes when I need a student for a practice, and she's got another practice. Here, I defer to the frequency and importance of the practice. These two variables have an indirect relationship, meaning that the less frequent a practice occurs, the more important that practice is. If she has softball practice every day, and I only ask for one extracurricular practice every now and then, shouldn't my practice come first? Lastly, we come to a variable that carries much weight: proximity to performance. If it's just a soccer practice, but the soccer game is the next day, soccer practice wins. I ought to publish these rules. I think it's fair. I'd love to hear what you think.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Way It Should Be

Finally, we had a cold weather Auburn football game. As the morning wore on, the temperature steadily dropped. By halftime, it had grown pretty brisk. This is the way things should be. It reminded me of my childhood, coming to Auburn for football games in the cold weather. We would park in front of Lowder and play football on the lawn. Rooster's was right across the street. The cold weather would hurt my lungs as we played.
The game didn't go our way, which is no surprise. But the experience of watching Auburn football with my dad in the cold weather was awesome. War Eagle.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Intergalactic Planetary

It's huge news. At least to me it is, (and with the bust of the atom smasher, we need something new and exciting in the science world). Scientists have captured the first images of planets outside our solar system. We're one step closer to Star Wars and Star Trek. This kind of stuff still blows my mind. Every star we see is potentially the center of it's own solar system? Wait, is that true? Someone factcheck me on that. Regardless, we've taken pictures of three planets in the HR8799 system (love those catchy solar system names). Mom, fire up the Starship Enterprise and call Captain Picard. It's time to get our inter-solar-system travel on. I can't wait! And why, in movies, are aliens and humans always hostile toward one another? Has anyone ever considered the possibility of meeting a friendly alien race? We could share technology, share ideas, and form a Galactic Republic!

For all we think we know, we still have so much to learn. May the force be with you.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Stuff of Dreams

I dreamt last night that I could levitate. It was awesome. Dreams have always fascinated me. Perhaps it's because I have so many of them, or because they are so vivid in detail and so convincingly real. Of course, I wonder what they mean, but I also realize that the quest for a dream's meaning is pointless. I've told you about the teeth dreams, those aren't so fun. However, every now and then I have a real roller coaster ride of a dream. Last night I had the ability to levitate simply by concentrating on the task. Then, I could move in any direction. It was almost Back-to-the-future-esque with the hoverboard, except there was no board. I loved it. I can't remember much that actually happened in the dream, but I do remember the feeling of levitation transportation. On a really good night, I can simply fly. Last night wasn't so much flying, I was standing upright the whole time. Flying dreams are my favorite. Absolute freedom. Is the quality of a dream, or perhaps the clarity of a dream, related to the depth of the dreamer's sleep? I ask because I slept so soundly last night. I didn't make a peep until wakey time. That's all for now. Sweet dreams.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Honored

Every Veteran's Day for the last ten years, the mayor of Auburn and many local veterans gather to honor veterans and active service personnel. This year, due to a last minute cancellation, Mayor Ham asked the Drake Choir to perform at the ceremony. Aside from the fact that it was last minute and semi-stressful, I was very honored and began scrambling my "troops". The ceremony took place this morning at 10:00 a.m. at the Veteran's memorial. The Mayor gave a few words of welcome and then we filed on in front of the memorial to sing the Star Spangled Banner. If I may brag on them for a moment, my students were very professional during the whole thing. We sang the National Anthem and filed off in a very orderly manner. The mayor said a few more things, followed by a few musical selections performed by members of the Drake Band. Then, I had the pleasure of singing with several members of the AU Concert Choir. We sang "America the Beautiful", which is traditionally performed at the conclusion of every AU Concert Choir concert. It was a great ceremony that honored our military service men and women. I was honored to have the opportunity for my choir to perform.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Debut

I went to church this morning at a church down the street from where I live. I've been told that this particular pastor "steps on toes", so of course I wanted to go. It wasn't too steppy, but still very good. After lunch, I went to the Auburn University Fall Choral concert. It's always good to take a break from my beginning singers and go hear some excellent choral music. Dr. William Powell, the head of choral activities at Auburn has made some changes to the choral program. This concert was the debut of the newly formed "Auburn University Chamber Choir". This is the "elite" choir at Auburn now. They were incredible. They lived up to the hype. I miss being on the singing end of the choral spectrum. Don't get me wrong, I love teaching kids to sing. The joy that I saw on some of their faces during and after our first concert on Thursday, I wouldn't trade for anything. However, I selfishly miss making deep, beautiful, complex music with a focused choir.

The end.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Refurbished

I bit the bullet today. For months I've been having issues with my Xbox 360. Lately, it's been so bad that when I turn it on, it says "To play this disc, please put it in an Xbox 360 console." Sounds like an identity crisis. With new blockbuster games coming out in the fall, I had to take action. I went to Gamestop in the mall and traded in my broken Xbox for a refurbished one. They gave me some store credit for the trade in, which reduced the overall price of the "new" Xbox. I don't like spending money, but this was a nerd emergency. A game called Gears of War 2 came out this week. I'm calling it the "game of the fall". It's a must-have. And now, I have. I always feel selfish when I make silly purchases like this. However, to make myself feel better, I took a garbage bag full of my old t-shirts to Salvation Army.

Let the gaming go on.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Come to the Music

Last night was the second annual Auburn City Schools Fall Choral Concert. This is the biggest event in which my choirs participate in the fall semester. It's a combined concert featuring the choirs of Drake, Auburn Junior High, and Auburn High School. Last year, the concert was amazing. It was incredible to be a part of something so big. This year, I feel safe saying we topped it on all levels.
Appearance: Every choir looked better. I know that looks aren't everything, but when you are a performer it is something to take into account. My kids wore embroidered polos and khaki pants (a common middle school choir uniform, yet an improvement from last year's T-shirts and jeans). The girls from the junior high and high school had new concert dresses that looked great on everyone!
Sound: Every choir sounded better. My choir this year is an actual choir, so of course they sounded better. We also were the largest choir, at eighty six singers strong! We are a force. The junior high choirs blew me away with their sound. It was vastly improved from last year. It was also great to sit in the audience and count former students. This being only my second year, it was awesome to even have former students to reconnect with. Many of them came up to me after the concert to say hello. Then there was the high school. They were incredible. The men's choir had the audience rolling with a novelty piece. The women's choir was excellent as well. The Varsity Singers (a mixed choir) sang three pieces that I had sung before in college. They sang difficult music and sang it well.
There's no doubt that big things are happening in Choral Music in Auburn City Schools. I feel blessed to be able to do what I do. I'm considering creating a youtube account so that I can upload some of these videos and my students can go watch them. What a great week this has been. We elected an awesome new president, and my kids had an incredibly successful Fall concert.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

America Has Spoken

Last night, America chose Barack Obama to be its next president. I couldn't be happier, or more hopeful for the future of our nation. Sadly, the nature of the campaign in which he participated was a negative one. Rumors were started, emails were sent, accusations were made. Falsehoods came out of nowhere to try to stop the snowball of hope that was Obama's presidential bid. Perhaps more disheartening than the rumors themselves is the fact that people believe them. There are people who believe we have a Muslim entering the White House. There are people who actually believe he is "the Anti-Christ". One of my students said today, "Someone told me Obama was going to enslave all Americans, but he can't actually do that because Congress has a say." I laughed and told her it was the most rediculous thing I'd ever heard. I sincerely hope that people will step out of the campaign fog and see what a transformative figure we just elected. Brush away the falshoods that were brewed to create dissent and stop change.
In response to news coverage of the reaction of African-Americans, a friend of mine said, "Why is it suddenly all about black people?" Again, I calmly quieted the rage that began to boil within me. "This is so huge for black people in America!" I responded. Less than fifty years ago, black people in America were being treated like dirt. People actually believed (there it is again) that because someone's skin was a different color, they were somehow inferior. Last night, a black man was elected to the highest office in the world. It makes me proud. Proud of Obama, yes. Proud of black people, yes. But proud, most of all, of America. It shows that we have grown up as a nation. I wanted to hug every black person I saw last night.
I explained to my first period class this morning that, had Obama lost, I would have been dissapointed, but I would bring myself to support the newly elected leader of our nation. Some couldn't understand this. Just then, I got a text message from my father, a McCain supporter, that read, "USA!" I'm unsure of his intent, but being his son and knowing him well I can almost certainly say it was a message of pride in his country. Displaying a maturity after which I daily strive, my father moved past McCain's loss and decided to rally behind America in its next chapter. I hope all those who did not vote for Obama can do the same. "I hear your voice, and I will be your president too." said Obama last night to those who cast their vote for someone other than him.
I honestly feel like last night's election, and Obama's victory is and will be one of the most significant events in American politics in my lifetime. I'm not being hyperbolic either. We will see changes in the next four years that will have positive lasting effects. As he said last night, simply electing him is not the change we seek. As I watched his acceptance speech last night, I took special note of his dimeanor. He smiled much less than I thought he would. He seemed to project a sense of humility, and a overarching sense of duty. I felt like he already knows what lies ahead. He knows that the work begins today.
I look forward to the next four years. I'm proud to be an American.

Monday, November 3, 2008

I love my...

Here's to another "I love my... Mondays"

1. I love my choir t-shirts. The new Drake Choir t-shirts came in and they look really good.

2. I love November. November is when Fall really grabs hold of you. It toyed with our hearts in October. You just wait. By the end of this month we'll be shivering in our boots. Speaking of getting cold...

3. I love my down jacket. It is an impregnable fortress of warmth.

4. I love my dog. I'm so glad she came back. I've noticed that she's afraid of cars now. She must have really been traumatized by her 16 hour excursion into the urban wild.

5. I love the feeling of a successful performance and I can't wait for my students to experience that same feeling on Thursday evening.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Big Week Ahead

What a big week I've got ahead of me. On Tuesday, America will decide who they want as their next president. No matter the outcome, the whole process is fascinating and I can't wait to see what happens. On the same day, I'll be taking over 120 kids to Lakeview Baptist church for a dress rehearsal for our Fall Choral Concert. It's an extremely important rehearsal, and I ancipate high levels of stress. I like it though. I've found that I thrive on stress. When the going gets tough, the tough get going right? Then, on Thursday we have our Fall Choral concert. It'll include the choirs of Drake, Auburn Junior High, and Auburn High school. I'll go ahead and say it: it's a big deal. Last year, we had an estimated 800 people attend the concert (printed 1000 programs and had 200 left over after the concert). This year, each of our choirs have grown and we anticipate an even bigger crowd. If you're in Auburn, please come to the concert. Not only will it mean a lot to me, but it will mean a lot to the kids. If you teach at Drake, come to the concert. It really makes an impact on a kid when one of their teachers comes to see them do something outside of school. Even if you just go to shut me up, they'll think you came to see them!

So I'm enjoying the last few stress free moments before I lower my head and charge full speed at this really big week. Wish America luck. Wish my kids luck. I'll see you at Lakeview Baptist Church on Thursday evening at 6:00 p.m.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Halloween Hatred

Dear Tow Truck Drivers of America,

I hate you. I know that sounds harsh, but it's actually probably an understatement. I really hate you. I don't hate many things, but you are one of the things that I do hate. Thank you for the fifty-eight dollar pita I had for dinner tonight. I wonder how you sleep at night. Your only source of peace must be the fact that your children have food and clothes thanks to your efforts. Or perhaps you are one of those crazy people who gets their jollies from the misery of others. That doesn't diminish my dislike for your kind. The list of harmful things I would like to do to your vehicles is quite long.

Okay, I'm over it. Screw you.

Love,
Dan

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Once Was Lost, But Now Is Found

At 8:00 a.m. this morning, right after my combined rehearsal, I got a phonecall from an unknown number asking for Mr. Catcher. After I corrected her on my last name, the caller informed me that she had Jenny! She lives in the same complex from which Jenny ran. She said Jenny just walked right up to her. I immediately left school (luckily I had a thirty minute time where I didn't have THAT much responsibility) and went to get her. I picked her up, thanked her rescuer Katie profusely, and took her home. I gave her another scoop of food (Katie had given her two scoops already) and put her in her crate to rest for the day. I'm sure she's exhausted and just wants to chill. She doesn't seem to be hurt from the car that grazed her. Hopefully she has seen that the grass is indeed not greener on the other side. Rather, the grass is cold, dark, lonely and offers no food.
So Jenny is back. All is right with the world.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Jenny Is Gone

I know that sometimes my words can be dramatic. However, there is no better way to say it. Jenny is gone. Having gone for a short jog, I was on foot when I came to the fence in which she stays every day. I opened it up and let her out, holding on to her collar. I clasped the training collar on her (or so I thought). As soon as she thought I had accomplished this task, she jerked forward. The training collar popped off, and she was free. She ran into the street, got sideswiped by a slowing car, and sped off down a side street. I chased after on foot, as fast as I could given my ankle issue. The next time I saw her she was half a mile down the street. It was the last time I saw her.
Chandler and I drove around in separate cars for about an hour looking for her. But, with her speed and insatiable curiosity, she could be anywhere. We never found her.
I don't know what to think. I don't know if she's hurt. I don't know if she knows her way back home. I don't know if she even cares to come back home. I'm pretty sad. I could never see her again, and I'm already trying to prepare myself for that outcome. As of now, I see my options as: 1) she runs away for good, never to come back 2) she gets hit by a car and dies 3) she finds her way home or 4) someone finds her and calls me. She's a needle in a haystack. I feel hopeless and helpless.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Blow, Blow, Thou Winter Wind

You know the old saying, "Be careful what you wish for"? I wished for cooler weather, for fall. I got immediate winter. I wore my down jacket this morning! I usually don't get that out until at least Thanksgiving. Don't get me wrong, I'm grateful. I love cold weather. I just would have liked a few more weeks (months) of cool, autumn glory. I'm no meteorologist, but I think it's just a "snap", (as in OH SNAP it's cold!).
I turned the heat on in my house for the first time. I'm still waiting on the air that's blowing to become warm and for that familiar stinky-just-turned-on-the-heat-for-the-first-time smell to fill the house.
Heck, if winter's here this early, I'll take a Sam Adams Winter Lager this early. Cheers.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Rock n Rolla

If you know me well, you know I secretly want to be a rock star. I played in a band for several years in middle and high school. In the later iterations of the band, I played electric guitar. I'm not the best electric guitarist, but it's fun to try. I can't play these face-melting solos that hardcore shredders can. Thus, I consider myself a rhythm guitarist. 
I got the opportunity recently to do something I haven't done in over six years. My good friend Eron is the choir director at Auburn High School. His show choir is doing two really rockin' songs that I just got the urge to play on: "Hold the Line" by Toto, and "Breathing" by Yellowcard. I asked him if I could play electric guitar in the show choir band and he answered in the affirmative. At rehearsal tonight, we ran through "Hold the Line" with the choir. It was awesome. It's so much fun playing electric guitar in a band again! The Auburn High show choirs and lab band are having a halloween concert tomorrow night called the "Kookie Concert". The students wear halloween costumes and provide musical entertainment, with cookies to follow. If you're in Auburn and don't have anything to do tomorrow night, come to AHS for the Kookie concert. Bring the kids along. It'll be a great time. What's my costume? I'll be the rockstar with the purple electric guitar. 

Sunday, October 26, 2008

He is

These two words have resonated with me all weekend. He is. Through various scenarios this weekend, he is. Here's how:

He is... the hero. Friday night I went to the Auburn High v. Opelika High football game. This is a huge rival game (although it can't touch Hoover v. Vestavia). I heard that out of the last fifteen years, Auburn has defeated Opelika only twice. Auburn was 8-0 and needed to keep the win streak alive. It took quite an effort on their part. Auburn's star quarterback was scrambling all over the place. Eventually, he was brought down hard on his ankle. The crowd collectively gasped. This could mean the end of the game, the streak, the hopes. Not if Calvin Jenkins had anything to say about it. Calvin continued to play, handing the football off to his backs while hobbling on his hurt leg. He marched Auburn down the field to score and go ahead of Opelika with only a couple minutes left. Auburn's defense held strong as time expired, making Auburn 9-0 for the first time ever.

He is... soppin. I went to Syrup Soppin' day at Loachapoka. I took Jenny, sopped some biscuits in cane syrup, perused the homemade crafts, and left. Syrup soppin is always sounds better than it actually is, but it was worth going and I'm glad I did.

He is... chillin. This one refers to me. I spent most of Saturday sitting on the recliner at Lee's watching football and enjoying myself, my friends, and some beverages. When I say "most of Saturday", I mean it. I sat down at around 1:30. I was up several times throughout the day, but for the most part, I sat in that chair for about nine hours. Woah.

He is... back in America. My best friend Daniel and his new wife Mary Catherine are back from their fifty-day, 'round the world honeymoon. Lee and I drove to Birmingham this morning to have lunch with them and our parents before they move to Pasadena next week. Lee and I have recently joked about how, while he was traveling, Daniel slipped out of reality and into legend. We would speak of him as if he was a fairy tale hero that only exists in folklore. Turns out he's real. And he's back. It was so good to see him. Daniel, see you at Christmas: mele kaliki maka.

He is... joy. I had an excellent conversation with Lee on the way back from Bham today. I could try to sum it up for you, but I can't. I wouldn't do it justice. I wish I had just recorded it. I came to some very meaningful conclusions and got more out of that one conversation with my Christian brother Lee than I have from any sermon I've heard in quite a while. Basically, (and I hate even having to boil it down this much) if we (Christians) focus more on having healthy relationships with Christ, we will exude a joy that only Christ can give us. As a result, hopefully, people will notice. As they notice, they will ask. This starts a conversation and hopefully a relationship that could lead to someone accepting Christ for the first time. This only happens through relationships, not through cramming Christ down anyone's throat. I get so frustrated at evangelists who insist on forcing Christ on people. When we have a healthy relationship with Christ, one of the fruits of that relationship is joy. This joy is spreadable, like butter. So, churches, stop with all the other stuff that doesn't really matter. Let's focus on Christ, and spread the butter.

He is... tired. Needless to say, I'm pretty tired from this weekend's events. I will sleep well tonight.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Waxed

When I went to physical therapy Wednesday, Chuck put some super sticky physical therapy tape on the upper part of my ankle. It helped ease the pain of transferring weight from my heel to the ball of my foot. As I was leaving, he told me I could leave the tape on for a few days if I thought it helped the pain. He said it wouldn't be affected by showering. So, I did. I left it on for a couple of days but decided I wanted it off this afternoon. I began peeling the edge of the super sticky physical therapy tape away from my leg when the burning needles began attacking my leg. The tape was placed smack on top of my leg hair. Again, I attempted to remove the tape but had to stop because it hurt so badly. Finally, I called in reinforcements. I got Chandler to rip it off of my ankle in one swift movement. I was so afraid it would only rip halfway off and I would have to endure two rounds of this torture. He counted to three as I gripped the arms of the chair with white knuckles. Then, he pulled. I screamed as hundreds of leg hairs were violently jerked from their fleshly homes. The whole thing came off. It was over. I don't want any more super sticky physical therapy tape.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Perfect

There's not much time to write. I'm too busy enjoying the perfectness of this very moment. Right now, it is 63 degrees outside. The sky is overcast. It's Thursday, which means burger night. There's Auburn Football on tonight. One of my students actually came up to me after class and said, "You did a really good on the piano today Mr. Cater". Could things get any more perfect? Yeah, yeah... I hear ya. An Auburn win would be nice.

War Eagle.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Terrible Toe


They say that the tongue is the strongest muscle in the body relative to its own size. I beg to differ. My big toe on my left foot is one for the record books! I don't know how or why, but it has become a force to be reckoned with! For whatever reason, my left big toe eats through everything. It has now broken through four left socks, and is on its way to freedom from my left tennis shoe (see above). I keep my toenails trimmed properly, and I eat all the right foods and vegetables to maintain proper toe health. This one must be a mutant. My right big toe isn't this way. I feel like such a freak. I'm going to go hide in my bell tower. Just call me Quasi MoTOE.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Pure Genius

The newest version of Itunes boasts a feature known as "the Genius". The genius is to your iTunes library what Pandora radio is to internet radio. Let's say you're listening a song, I'll use the one I was listening to, called "Skeleton Key" by Margo and the Nuclear So & Sos. You decide that you're going to be here for a while and would like to stay in this vein, you like this flavor and want to keep it going. You simply click the genius icon at the top of iTunes and viola! The Genius creates a 25 song playlist of songs that are similar to the one you were originally listening to comprised of songs already in your library. Everybody loves a mixtape, but sometimes it takes time to dig through and find the songs you want to include. The genius handles all of that for you. I have to say, I'm nine songs through my playlist and I'm loving it! I always wish I would spend more time simply listening to music with headphones on. This helps me accomplish that task by keeping things interesting and doing all the work for me!
UPDATE: so if you really like the playlist it has created, you have the option to save said playlist! Then, I imagine, you could burn CDs of it, or import it to your iPod to have on the go.

May the Music Never End!

Monday, October 20, 2008

I love my...

It's Monday again, and that means it's time for another round of "I love my Mondays".

1. I love my electric guitar. I got it out last night, changed the strings, cleaned it up, and learned a couple new songs. I rarely play my electric guitar anymore since I'm no longer in a band, but I enjoy playing it whenever I do.

2. I love this weather! I might have to turn on the heat tonight... stinky.

3. I love the Rays! Did you see game seven last night? The Tampa Bay Rays are going to the world series. "From worst to first" is the slogan. Tampa Bay has been through some ROUGH times, finishing in last place 9 out of the last 10 seasons. But, for whatever reason, they are really good this year! I love their new look (Navy and Carolina blue), their manager Joe Maddon, and their domed park. I had the pleasure of going to a Rays game two years ago, so I feel like I'm allowed to be a fan.

4. I love(d) my Friday. After school on Friday, I went with my friend Lee and shot his gun at a range in Tuskeegee. Then, we went to Good Ole Boys and I had blackened catfish. I then cleaned myself up, fell asleep listening to Ray Lamontagne, and went to see Body of Lies. Great night.

5. I love today. It's parent-teacher conference day today, which means no students. I don't have any conferences, so I'm just hanging out in my office getting stuff done... or blogging.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Where the Magic Happens


I have a lot of posts that are about events that happen in my classroom. If you're anything like me, you like to envision where things are taking place when you hear such stories. I realized that many of you have never seen my classroom. Thus, here is a snapshot of where the magic happens.


Thursday, October 16, 2008

Good times, Bad times

I always prefer the bad news first, so I'll talk about the bad stuff and then end on a higher note. My seventh grade choir had morning rehearsal this morning. We have it every other week because throughout the normal school day, the choir is split up into four different classes. Morning rehearsals give them a chance, albeit a very small chance, to practice singing together as a large group. I get really antsy about these rehearsals. I realize and am overcome by their importance and am almost rendered useless by that fact. I am hurried; I try to do too much, or not enough. It's like I can't just calm down and run my rehearsal. I tried again today. This time I wasn't the problem. My kids were dead. Perhaps they were still asleep. Perhaps they were ill-motivated. Regardless, their sound was discouragingly wimpy. Sixty-eight kids sounded like twenty anemic kids. The concert is three weeks away. My nerves are daily getting more and more on edge as my mind is flooded with things I and the choir have yet to do or accomplish. We don't have T-shirts, we don't have our performance polo shirts, we haven't memorized our music, we have yet to finish learning the combined piece. So why was I so disappointed in my choir this morning? I think it's because I have such high expectations. I see the potential not only in each voice, but in the combined efforts of all voices. It's almost like one of those Spiderman-blessing/curse things. It's great that I have such high expectations, but it kills me this time of year as I'm preparing for performance. I was reminded by a good friend that it's not me, its 7th graders. Perhaps it was simply an "off day". I suppose time will tell.

Okay, enough of that. Here's a story from yesterday. I had choir classes all day (love those days). When fourth period came, I zipped over to the band room to ask Ms. Marshall something. She was showing a new band student his instrument. That's right, it's the middle of October and someone transferred into band. I went back to my room and began class with fourth period. Within minutes, we were shaken from our seats as a blaring sound came from the hallway. One student was teaching the new band student how to play his saxaphone... for the first time! The blind leading the blind! Every time I tried to speakHONK! or SQUARK! It's like that commercial with the couple in the hotel room. Every time the guy tries to talk to his wife, he gets interrupted by construction! Eventually, he stopped, or so we thought. I had my class singing a major scale on solfege. I told them that I wouldn't be using the piano this time and gradually wanted them to be able to sing a major scale completely on their own without my help at all. "Why don't we just try to do that now?" one student asked. Bold. "Ok," I said. I gave them their starting pitch and they were on their own. It was like I had pushed them out of the nest and they were flying by themselves! They went all the way up, and were on their way down staying perfectly in tune! It was a magical moment! .... Fa, Mi, Re, Do (they nailed it!) Before I could even catch my breath... HONK! It was perfectly timed. We lost it. It ruined all their hard work in a hilarious way. We sat and laughed for a good two minutes before we could continue rehearsal. I love when I genuinely laugh at work, which I do often.

One final note to other DMS teachers: anyone else sick of seeing seventh grade girls on crutches? I'm not buying it.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Let's get Physical, Physical

This post is mostly for Holly. She's my cousin and she lives in Greensboro with her husband Mike. She's a physical therapist. I went to physical therapy today. We spoke yesterday and she told me to "take copious notes". What better way to document the events of my first ever physical therapy experience than right here, on the world wide interwebs.

Chuck is my physical therapist. He's young and seems to know what he's talking about. He has what some might call "hoover hair". If you've known me for a while, it's the hairstyle I sport (although it was it's most "hoovery" in high school). I digress.

After some question and answer time, some measurements, and some ankle fondling, we were ready to begin. I warmed up on the stationary bike for six minutes. Then I went to the "total gym". This was a sliding plane on about a 45 degree angle. I did sets of toe and heel raises. Then I would go to the calf stretch board and do three sets of calf stretches. Then back to toe and heel raises. Then I did the thera-band. In the wrong hands, this could be a serious weapon. It's a large stretchy rubber band. I put one end around my toes and stretch my ankle away from me, then to the left, then to the right, then towards me. Then I did a belt stretch where I use a belt to pull the top of my foot toward me. After that we went to the balance board. This is a square board with half a cylinder attached to the underside. It's kinda like an indo board that skaters and surfers use to work on balance, except twenty times less deadly. I did two minutes of that; first rocking front to back, keeping my knees bent. Ten I did side to side. After surfin' USA I got plugged into the electronic death machine. It's so weird how our bodies react to electricity. Science. They put four electrodes (not even sure if that's the right word, but I really like saying electrodes) on my ankle and wrapped it in ice. After about ten minutes of that, I was done.

He gave me a sheet of stuff to work on at home and my very own thera-band! (I can really see myself doing a set of ankle workout, then using it to fling eggs at the public library).

So there ya have it Holly. I go back Wednesday.

May your days be merry and bright, and may all your ankles be strong.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Gastronomical

It's no news that the News is usually negative. By that I mean that news broadcasts are usually stories about how bad things are: murders, failing economy, and high gas prices. It seems that in the last several months, the news has been dominated by election coverage and gasoline woes. I was almost more annoyed by the news coverage about high gas prices than the prices themselves.

Have you noticed? Gas is way down! I drove by a station here in Auburn today that was advertising 3.08 for regular! That's incredible. Yet, I don't see it all over the news! I should be seeing interviews with overjoyed hillbillies at the gas pump talking about how happy they are that gas prices have fallen so drastically. I don't. I should see it all over CNN's home page: "Relief comes in the form of much lower gas prices" or "Hey, here's a news story about how happy everyone is that gas is cheaper now." Nope. Heaven forbid we actually show some joy in these "tough times". They just report the most recent negative story, forgoing the gas altogether. This just goes to show how negative and annoying the media can be.

So, if they aren't going to rejoice about it, let us do it for them.

HEY, GAS PRICES HAVE GONE WAY DOWN, HOORAY!

Feel free to express your petroleum pleasure, your gas giddiness, or your fuel felicity in the form of a comment on my blog. Let's rejoice together.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Joliet Jake and Elwood

I watched Blues Brothers last night. I can't believe I've never seen this movie. The two main characters are still pop culture icons. People dress like them for Halloween. Yet, I've never seen it. It was before my time.

If I had to choose one word to describe it: hijinks, pure, unadulterated, swashbuckling hijinks! It was incredible! There were so many smashed cars, explosions, cars driving through shopping malls, good music, hilarious moments, and one liners.

Some of my favorites:

"We're on a mission from God."

The Mystery Woman that kept trying to kill them.

The scene with the nun where they keep cussing and she keeps hitting them.

When Cab Callaway tells the band to play Moochin Millie and he turns around and suddenly the band is decked out in tuxes and they are on a brilliant white stage!

The Nazi's car free falling for like thirty seconds.

The look on the crowd's face when the Blues Brothers first arrive onstage (blank stare).

"this is glue, dangerous stuff"

Aretha Franklin after her man leaves to go play in the band: "Sh*t"

Murphy and the Magic Tones

These are just a few of the moments and lines I loved about this movie. I'm going to be laughing to myself about it for a good week. I really feel like my friend Kent would love it. He loves John Belushi and it's full of his kind of comedy. So Kent, if you read this, go watch Blues Brothers. Wow. Consider me pleasantly surprised.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Never Ending

Remember this? That was June 22, 2008. It is now October 9. It's been almost three and a half months since I broke my ankle and it's still not 100%. I'm very frustrated. Lately, it hasn't hurt to walk, which was a new thing. However, I still can't run, frolic, skip, jump, or any other gleeful activity involving heavy ankle action.
I went back to the orthopedic doctor today. They took another X-ray and it's not still broken (which is what I thought was going on).
There's nothing worse wrong with my recently broken ankle other than the fact that it just isn't better yet. He felt both of my ankles and concluded that I simply have "loose" ankles (I know, sounds gross). "Is that bad?" I asked. "No," he said, "it just lends itself to injury." Well then, that explains the painful ankles throughout little league baseball and church basketball.

So, I'll be going to physical therapy next week. I went to the physical therapy office to make my appointment and got really excited! It looks like a playground in there! There are colorful objects of all shapes and sizes. I can't wait! Physical therapy, more like recess!


Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Tony the Tiger No More

I stepped outside this afternoon for my daily courtyard duty. I watch students leave school and make sure nobody does anything crazy. Another teacher walked up to me and said, "I just got off the phone, Tony Franklin's been fired." The time was about 3:20. I immediately called my brother and my dad, but they didn't answer because they were with a client (Cater Design and Landscape, LLC). Thus, I was forced to tell their voicemail the news.

Later, my dad called me back. "What's going on down there?" he asked, as if there were riots in the streets and complete mayhem everywhere. Truthfully, I don't know what to think. I don't really know enough about the situation. I know that most Auburn fans simply see us playing terribly, and want SOMEONE to get fired. Well, there you go. Happy? I really doubt anything will change. I think we will see the same puzzled, impotent offense on Saturday against the hogs. It also makes me sad. Chandler read an article in which Tony said he never got to really do what he wanted. Were there other members of the coaching staff that wouldn't buy into the Franklin Doctrine? We may never know.

Start praying to the football gods. It's going to be a rough ride.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Child's Play

Names changed to protect the innocent:

Here's what happened today. A question was asked today to Billy. Billy answered the question and things moved on. Then, a question was asked to Johnny. Johnny began to answer the question, but then diverted into making fun of Billy's answer to the question. Of course, Billy couldn't let this go undefended. Billy had to speak up and defend himself. This went on for quite a while. In the end, I was unable to make a fair assessment of Billy's or Johnny's knowledge because the actual questions weren't answered.

This may sound like a middle school classroom squabble. It is not. This is my boiled down reduction of tonight's Presidential debate. I hated it. I watched the whole thing. I thought they acted like middle school children. Instead of making clear to Americans their positions on various issues, like the questions asked, they spent their time smearing their opponent. Then, when the time came for the other to answer the same question, they couldn't because they had to clear up the mud that had been slung in the previous candidate's answer. I think that's ridiculous. If I were indeed one of these confused and still undecided American voters, I learned nothing tonight. I would still be in the same confused stupor that I was in before the debate began because THERE WERE NO REAL ANSWERS.

Let's say I'm car shopping. I've narrowed it down to two vehicles and want to really get down deep and figure out what each vehicle has to offer. I want the Mazda to tell me all the good things a Mazda can do for me. I want to know exactly what it has to offer. I DO NOT want the MAZDA to tell me bad things about the HONDA. I'll go to the Honda dealership and let the Honda speak for itself! Then, after hearing from each vehicle, that car's strengths and weaknesses I can make the best, most informed decision.

Instead, the Mazda trashtalked the Honda. The Honda trashtalked the Mazda. Stupid cars.

They both claim that they are not "politics as usual". I didn't see that tonight. I guess politics will always be politics. It did serve as a good reminder of why I disliked politics so much prior to this election. Alas, my loyalties remain, as does my frustration at the two hours I wasted watching these two men act like children.

Monday, October 6, 2008

I love my...

It's been a while since I've done an "I love my Mondays". That's because I forgot about "I love my Mondays". Til now. I know it's late, but it's still technically Monday, so here goes:

1. I love my car. I washed it last week and it still looks good. Atta girl.

2. I love Giants, Wizards, and Gnomes: this is a life size version of paper rock scissors involving fifty screaming middle school (or any age for that matter) kids.

3. I love Fall: It's in the air. Ok, forget the fact that it was 85 degrees today, fall is still in the air. I had a discussion tonight with some friends about when we were going to go to Pope's haunted hayride!

4. I love Auburn football... oh wait... that one's left-over from when we used to win games.

5. I love the feeling you get when a student's mother tells you that you really impacted her son's life last year. Also the feeling you get when you realize you were able to impact anyone's life at all last year, given that fact that you had no clue what you were doing.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

A Rose by Any Other Name

I pulled a double shift yesterday. I went to work at 7:20 and taught all day. Then, I drove to Birmingham to help out a friend of mine. He's the choir director at a middle school in Birmingham and was having a music-learning/team-building lock-in for his show choir. He hired me to lead boy's sectionals and teach them their music. Simmons Middle School is sixth, seventh, and eighth grade. The choir in question is made up of seventh and eighth graders. My choir is made up of just seventh graders. Even still, I learned last night that middle schoolers are middle schoolers no matter where they're from. It was fun to use things in rehearsal with these kids that I know have worked/amused my students in Auburn and watch them work like a charm last night. The whole thing was pretty exhausting. We would rehearse for an hour, then play games for forty-five minutes. Then rehearse again for an hour, then shove a couple slices of pizza down their throats and go play more games. This continued well into the wee hours of the morning. They learned four pieces of music in one night. Wow. It's intense, but it works. It's way more than you could do in weeks of class time!
Needless to say, I slept for quite a while this morning and am now ready to watch some football with friends at a favorite Birmingham establishment.

War Eagle
War Steelers
War Choir

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Does Not Compute

I took my sixth grade classes to the computer lab today to do web-based research for their music performer projects. So I'm thinking, "a day in the computer lab will be great, a very easy day." Boy, was I ever wrong? This turned out to be one of the more exhausting days of the year so far! I was constantly pulled around the room by calls of "How do I print?", "Do I have to read this whole thing?", and "My login won't work!" It was crazy!

On the other hand, I had a great rehearsal this morning with my combined seventh grade choir. After discussing their behavior in the last morning rehearsal, the kids were much more focused and on task this time. I was even less frantic than I normally am, or tend to get in those situations. Two girls even made cookies for the whole choir! It was a great morning, and a great day... I'm just exhausted.

But guess what? It's burger night!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

...mmmm Good

Forgive me if I'm beginning to sound reduntant, but I love my job (at least every other day)! I just "like" it on those other days. But, days like today make me love my job. On "blue" days I teach seventh grade choir. I feel like a "real" choir teacher, inasmuch as I can given the current circumstances. Today in second period we were working on one of our pieces for the Fall Choral Concert called "Shoshone Love Song" by Roger Emerson. The piece is in A flat major. As such, "F" is minor six. However, a beautiful moment occurs when the guys sing an A natural, making the F chord major instead of minor. It's known as a deceptive cadence (called such because it does something deceptively different from what it would "normally" do... musically speaking). In layman's terms, it's a surprisingly beautiful chord that your ear doesn't expect to hear in the key of A flat. Second period NAILED IT. We were also working on dynamics and tone today. Not only did they nail the chord, but they sang it with musicianship and attention to detail. I was almost moved to tears. If you are in the Auburn area, we will be singing on November 6th at Lakeview Baptitst Church at 6:30 p.m. Please come hear us. I can't wait. There's lots of work ahead of us, but the end result is going to be great.

I also announced my 7th grade choir officers today. These are positions of leadership applied for by the student and decided upon by me and a team teacher from each team. This was an exciting moment for some, and a heartbreaking moment for others. Regardless, I got a dozen students that I know I can count on when I need them. I'm very happy with the direction this choir is going and the future that lies ahead of us. Let there be light, let there be love, let there be music.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Ethno-religiositic confusification

It was the same class as apple blaster. I'm telling you, this class keeps me on my toes as far as incredible quotes. I'm having my sixth grade students do a project on a musical performer of their choice. I have instructed them to ask me if they are questioning the appropriateness of either their performer or their listening example. The following conversation took place today:

Names have been changed to protect the innocent.

Sally: Mr. Cater, can I do (song title here) by Barlow Girl?
Me: Isn't Barlow girl a Christian band? (giving her a "why would you even ask me that" look)
Sally: well yeah, (she said as she kinda trailed off) they are Christianic... I just didn't know if there were any Hispanics in here that might have a problem with it.

---

Woah. I was floored. What did she mean? First of all, I'm not one to hide my Christianic-ness in my classroom. I'm not openly evangelical, but if it comes up, I don't shy away from it. Second... hispanics? Did she mean Atheists or does she think Hispanics are anti-Christianic? The world may never know. I just sat and laughed as her voice trailed off and she walked away.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Is the world ending?

Numbers. Scary numbers.

A) the Dow Jones dropped 778 points today. It was the worst single day point loss ever. It was worse than the day after Sept. 11, 2001. I don't really know much about this whole financial crisis, but that sounds bad. They say money makes the world go 'round. What happens when there's a money crisis? Does the world stop?

2) Perhaps an even more frightening number: 2. That's The University of Alabama's Associated Press Top 25 football rank. What the devil? I had physics class with Alabama's starting quarterback. That fact does nothing to change the intensity with which I dislike Alabama. I guess I'll look on the bright side. The higher they climb, the more upsetting it will be when we beat them.

SELL, SELL, SELL!!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Burning out his fuse up there alone

As long as we've been human, we've wanted to fly. We've dreamed about it, attempted it, failed at it. I'm not talking about flying in airplanes. I'm talking about one man, flying. There's a game on Facebook called "Jetman". Stay within the floor and the ceiling, avoid the middle barriers for as long as possible, and get a higher score than Lee. That's how the game works.

It's not a game anymore. Yves Rossy has become the Jet man. As I flipped through the channels tonight, I stumbled on Flight of the Jet Man on National Geographic. It quickly became the coolest thing I'd seen all day. Rossy built a carbon fiber wing equipped with four kerosene powered jet engines. He controls throttle, and the rest is up to his own body movements. Watch the video and see for yourself. It's incredible. I'm so jealous. On Natgeo, he flew across the English Channel in fifteen minutes! They also call him Fusion Man- man fused with a jet. I think that name sounds way more badass than Jetman (maybe because Jetman makes me think of the dumb little game). Take a moment to let this sink in. Sure, it's a huge accomplishment for him personally. But it's also a HUGE accomplishment for humankind! We've all seen the goofy old videos of the crazy contraptions people have built to try to fly. They all end the same way: the pilot does a faceplant in the dirt while years of his hard work caves in on itself like a toothpick bridge. This guy actually did it. Too bad we can't elect HIM president! Fusion Man '08! What's that? He needs to be at a debate in Nashville next week? No problem, he'll fly there... by himself!

Fly Fusion Man, fly!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Least of These

Tonight was Burger Night. You knew that, I know you knew that. Because I went to my school's football game at 5:30, we had to push BN back to 7:00. This puts us in the thick of Burger Night primetime. When I arrived, I went straight to the men's room just to wash my hands (ever get that feeling that you just NEED to wash your hands?) On my way out, I saw Sarah. She commented that "Of course you're here, It's burger night!" She was saying this because she knew I always go to Burger Night because she reads this blog, just like you. This made me realize that I haven't reported on Burger Night in a while. You may find tonight's results shocking, I sure did.

Let's say you've got a basket full of peaches. They are all beautiful, ripe, succulent peaches. I mean, they look good. You begin to sort through them and find that they are all of a very high quality. You decide to line them up according to their quality. Here's the conundrum: the one at the end of the line is the least appetizing peach of them all. Keep in mind, they are ALL great peaches, but this one is the least. Does being the least good peach mean that it's the worst peach? If so, then tonight was the worst burger night in burger night history. That sounds so harsh, but understand that it was still a burger night and still a great thing, it was just the least good of all the great things.

We arrived at 7:00. We got our food at 8:45! We've never had to wait that long for a) a table and b) our food. Maybe tonight was an "off" night. Then, we were seated at the worst table in the restaurant. And this time I don't mean worst in the sense of "least good". It was horrible. It was a high top, smashed in the corner of the elevated section of the restaurant, directly in the path of the arctic blast coming from the AC. We quickly asked to be reseated. They politely obliged and we were moved... to another high top. Then there was the wait.

Still, a great, cost effective meal. It was, however, just the least good burger night ever.

---

In other news, I created another line to the popular Alanis Morissette song "Ironic".

A traffic jam when you're already late 
A no-smoking sign on your cigarette break
It's like ten thousand spoons when all you need is a knife
It's paying fifty dollars for an Auburn v. Tennesse ticket
And then your mom leaves you a message on your voicemail
saying she'll give you hers for free.

And isn't it ironic?

Don't you think?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Presto Change-O

White days (the days I teach sixth graders all day) always bring about interesting and humorous quotes from the mouths of my students. There are usually two or three memorable quotes in each class, but due to my terrible memory, I can hardly ever recall them. There was one in fourth period today though that struck me.

A male student got up from his seat to go sharpen his pencil. This is nothing unusual. He usually finds things to do around the classroom to amuse himself (get a drink of water, sharpen his pencil, go to the bathroom, etc.) He finished honing his writing utensil and began returning to his seat. Suddenly, he stopped dead in his tracks. A look of utter perplexity covered his face as he looked down at his own torso, grasping at his clothing. "What!? I SWORE I put on a black shirt today!" He was wearing a red striped shirt. This was fourth period, roughly 1:15 p.m. Assuming he got dressed this morning at 6:15 a.m., we can estimate that he has been wearing said red shirt four seven hours. Yet at that moment, he was completely convinced that he had indeed put on a black shirt. This is but a glimpse into the scattered mind of a middle school boy. Then, with a shrug of the shoulders and a "eh, oh well" the bumfuzzlement left him as swiftly as it had come.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Simply Smashing

Remember the Atom Smasher (or apple blaster)? After all the hype, all the impressive statistics, it's broken. Buzzkill. Part of the LHC (Large Hadron Collider) is broken. In order to fix it, they must thaw that section out from its NEAR 0 DEGREES KELVIN in order to work on it. It'll be down for two months. Lame.

In other news, how about that Auburn game? Wow. That was what football should be! Yeah, we lost and that sucks, but it was a great game. I was impressed with the changes we've made on offense. Franklin coached from the box instead of the field. We went under center a few times. I still would've liked to see Kodi Burns at least take a snap or two. I'm not saying completely take Todd out, but I think putting Burns in for a play at a critical time would have whipped the crowd into a frenzy and given Auburn the boost they needed as they got tired toward the end of the game.

War Eagle.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

An Apple A Day

There are two kinds of people in this world. Mac lovers, and Mac haters. But, regardless of your persuasion, I think we all can agree that Apple, Inc. is doing some things right! Their stock is huge (I'm assuming.... that hypothesis is really not based on any research or fact), their products are selling like crazy, and they make a really bad ass cell phone. But is it too much? Apple just released the new iPod nano. Wait... I thought they released a new nano less than a year ago! Now there's a new one!? Now, it's long been a fact in the tech world that as soon as you buy something, it starts to become obsolete, but this is crazy. Imagine the joy of someone getting their first ipod nano... then less than a year later their shiny, expensive new ipod is now the "old one". That sucks! Apple times these things perfectly to keep their sales going. About every couple of months they release a "new" something: the new ipod, the new iphone, the new macbook, the new igottahavethatthing. So, what do you think? Is Apple just using their marketing genius to stay on the cutting edge of a market they practically own, or are they taking customers for a ride? Don't get me wrong, I love all my Apple gear, but sometimes I wonder...

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Fab 5

It's time I introduce you to four of the most awesome people in my life. They are four people that I became very close friends with during my last couple years of college. We had every class together. We suffered together. We rejoiced together. They are Amy, Amanda, Krista, and Eron. Together, we became known as the Fab Five. During internships, we had dinner together once a week to catch up, vent, and just hang out since we didn't see each other in class anymore. We once pulled an all nighter together in the music building. Yeah, that night ended with us running barefoot races down the hallway and me being in a horrible mood going to Waffle House before class in the morning.

Now, we are teaching. We are slightly scattered, but we stay in touch through email. Here's the coolest part of the Fab Five. I was having dinner with Amy last night and we realized that, with our powers combined, the Fab Five teaches every kind of student that could possibly be taught! Amy teaches kindergarteners, Amanda teaches elementary, I teach middle school, Eron teaches high school, and Krista is teaching college kids as a GTA in Georgia! We are a vast, sweeping, music-educational force to be reckoned with! Guard your children, the Fab Five just might educate them... musically!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire

Did you feel the air outside today? Ok, I guess I'm just talking to inhabitants of the Southern United States of America. Reid, I'm not sure about the weather in Morocco. D and MC, I'm not sure about the weather AROUND THE WHOLE FREAKIN WORLD. Anyways, for those of us here in the good ole south, the weather was a delightfully cool seventy-something. When I got up this morning to let Jenny out, it was actually a little chilly. Know this: I love cold weather. I know, I know, don't get your hopes up just yet. Next week it will be forty million degrees again. Then we'll have another cooler spell, then another boiler maker. However, you can't stop me from getting excited. It makes football season feel that much better.

It got me thinking though (what doesn't get me thinking, really). I contemplated human complacency. I'll love cold weather for the first month or so. Then, I'll be begging for warmth. What's up with that? Why do we get "used to" things so quickly? I wish I could always remember what it feels like to melt with 90,000 other fans while watching an Auburn football game. Sure, I'll remember melting, but I won't remember what it FELT like to melt. If I could, I would always appreciate the cold weather. Does that make any sense? I digress.

Shake the dust off of your fall decorations. Dad, get out the Steelers Christmas wreath. Its finally fall (even if only for a week).

Sunday, September 14, 2008

A Good Weekend

It was a good weekend. I went to the Auburn High football game on Friday night. I haven't been to a high school football game since high school. It was a great game, and Auburn came out on top of Enterprise. Saturday I woke up early (for a Saturday) and rekindled an old flame: with my bike. It's a yellow Trek 4900. I've had it since senior year of high school. It got me to and from every class in college and around the seventeen mile loop at Oak Mountain several times. It was even stolen and recovered freshman year! It has been neglected since I finished college. I pumped up the tires, cleaned up the chain, and hit the road yesterday. With my ankle still in limbo, I felt like this was a great way for me to get some exercise without all the impact of running.

Then, the game. What. The. Hell. That might have been the most painful four quarters of Auburn football I've ever had to sit through. Enough about that. A win's a win, no matter how dumb.

Sunday- a day of rest indeed.

Go Steelers.


Friday, September 12, 2008

Same Class, New Sass

It was the same class as apple blaster. The "Bellringer" question for today was: "Could a robot compose or perform music better than a human?" One girl answered, "No. Robots don't have good taste in music." The smart kid, the one I asked about the atom smasher turned around to her and said under his breath, "They don't have ANY taste at all!"

I love how I use the word "robot" and these kids answer like they know everything about robots. I'm not even sure what a robot is. Here were some other answers:

No, not if their batteries ran out.
Yes, they are programmed to be perfect.
No, because techno stinks.

And my favorite- No, because music comes from the heart, and robots don't have a heart.

stupid robots.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Blasting Forth in Three Part Harmony!

I didn't know what I was doing last year. My "choir" students didn't actually sign up for choir. They weren't singers. This year is a whole new ball game. I've got eighty seven kids in seventh grade choir, and they signed up for it too! Madness.

Today we began rehearsing one of the pieces I have picked out for the Fall concert (Thursday, November 6 at 6:30 p.m. at Lakeview Baptist Church). It's a Kirby Shaw arrangement of the popular spiritual "Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho" (or, as some of my fourth period kids sang it, "Joshua fit the battle of Cherry Coke"). And, for the first time ever, we sang three parts. This would've been crazy talk last year. We were doing good to bumble through two parts (with awkwardly voiced guys- and rightly so- there was not a part for them). Today, in first period, we sang three parts! I was on cloud nine afterward. It not only was a first for them, it was a first for me! I've never had a choir sing three parts before. Even my church choir (God love 'em) couldn't sing three parts. This shows great promise for this choir and this year. I just can't wait until our next combined rehearsal when I can hear the whole choir, eighty seven strong!

I love my job.