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."