Sunday, August 31, 2008

Hunker Down

Like everyone else in the country paying even a modicum of attention to current events, I am very concerned about the terrible storm bearing down on the Gulf Coast.

However, it seems that it is impossible for anybody, and especially the phalanx of news reporters on the scene, to speak for more than three minutes without using the term "hunker down." What a peculiar, idiomatic term that is. If English were not your native tongue, you might puzzle over that linguistic artifact for quite some time before it made any kind of sense at all.

Here is a dubious look at the possible, but not probable, origin of the term.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Schmap! A Guide To Rome

Check out the widget in the right panel.  It is a very cool web-published travel guide to Rome and it features a photo taken by my wife, the international photo-journalist.  After we returned from our vacation in Rome earlier this year, Nancy posted some outstanding photos of our trip on her Flickr page.  The editors of Schmap!, no doubt scouring the internet for quality photo work, expressed interest in her work.  They ultimately selected her photo of the Fountain of Triton for inclusion in their guide.

This guide can be downloaded to most web-enabled personal devices such as the Apple iTouch, the iPhone, of course, and probably any smartphone, as well as blogs or websites.

Nancy at the feet of Triton.

Monday, August 25, 2008

And now for something completely different

This is a great, low-budget video by Aimee Mann, a singer/songwriter I've admired for many, many years.  She sings some of the best sad songs you will ever hear.  If her music is even marginally autobiographical then, poor girl, I don't think she has ever had a relationship that turned out well.  

As humorous as the video piece is, the song itself is poignant, expressing lyrically what many people feel as they approach the middle season of their lives:

"I thought my life would be different somehow,"
"I thought my life would be better by now."

Honestly, there are times when I feel this way, but it is usually just my episodic and passing melancholia, my small portion of "the artist's temperament."  Most of the time I am stunned at how blessed I am.  Really.

That doesn't mean that my life is perfect, or that it is what I thought it might be when I was 22 years old, looking forward.  It doesn't mean that I'm done either, ready to quit the race, cash in my chips, and relax.  Because I'm not.  But, by and large, I am content, happy with the choices I've made, and pleased with the things I've been able to do.  I've done absurdly stupid things and learned some difficult lessons the hard way, as many people do.  But mostly, I've been the beneficiary of such amazing love and consideration, such undeserved blessing.  Gratitude and humility is what I feel most of the time.  So far, I can count my regrets on one hand.

Life is interactive, and the world changes you over time.  More than you are ever going to change it, to be sure.  This is not a bad thing, and it is a true thing.  It takes 30 or 40 years before that realization starts to sink in and make some sense in a usable way.

At the moment, it looks like I will be attending my 30th high school reunion next month, Nimitz High School, Irving, Texas, class of 1978.  I hadn't planned to, but serendipitous events colluded to make it so.  It should be fun.  It will probably be strange. 

h/t Instapundit, who consistently has excellent taste in music.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Accordion stuff

Hey, the accordion is making a comeback.  Don't take it from me, read this article about this accordion guy in Seattle who says it is true.   I am ever willing to suspend my disbelief.

Further corroborating evidence is this advertisement for the Monsters of Accordion Tour.  I've never heard of any of these people, but clearly, on the West Coast at least, the accordion is poised to conquer the entertainment world.  

Reading through the different bands and artists on this bill is pretty interesting.  If they ever do a midwest tour, I'll be there.

That's all, I'm going to go practice.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Cavaliers : Bronze Medalists at DCI World Championships!

Here are a few pics from our weekend at the Drum Corps International Finals in Bloomington. 

This year, with a score of 97.235, the Rosemont Cavaliers show, "Samurai", took third place in the World Class competition, a hairs breadth behind the Blue Devils and the Phantom Regiment. The Cavaliers had an outstanding, superlative performance and finished their season with a nearly perfect show. In my opinion, it was the best and most creative show in the competition, but then I admit some predisposition towards that assessment.

Trumpet section visual rehearsal before the semi-finals.  That's JP in the middle.

Jordan and Nancy in Bloomington.

The IU stadium, hosting the Drum Corps International World Championship competition, "the major league of marching band."

A shot from the finale of "Samurai", the Cavaliers' final 2008 performance.

JP, after the show, wearing his medal.  The rose was awarded by the Cavaliers to all of it's graduates, those young men who, at the age of 21 or 22, will be aging out of the corps.  

Far, far more than just a marching band, the two seasons that Jordan has spent as a Cavalier have clearly been a great, life-molding experience.  This organization is, in a real sense, a brotherhood, a fraternity in which he will always belong.  It is a singular, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be a part of something like this and, as parents, we are grateful to the Cavalier organization for the care that they took with our son, and for the inestimable value of the musical instruction, life experience, and love that they have poured into his life.  It will be a touchstone, a significant point of reference for him his entire life.

For more great photos, check out Nancy's Flickr page.  For more info on the Cavaliers, here is their website, and a YouTube link to see some of what they do.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Drum Corps International World Championships

I haven't blogged about it as much this summer, but my son, Jordan, has again been touring the last couple of months, playing trumpet and marching with The Cavaliers Drum and Bugle Corps. This is an elite, world-class group comprised of carefully selected musicians from among hundreds that come from all over the world to audition each year.  It is an all-male corps, the young men ranging in age between 17-21 years old, with the average age being 20.

I've written in detail about the corps and Jordan's involvement  here, here, and here, for those interested in the full backstory.

Tomorrow night, Saturday, August 9th, is the 2008 World Championship Competition at Indiana University/Bloomington.  Nancy is already on-site, attending the quarter-finals and semi-finals.  I will be joining her on Saturday afternoon with my mom, my grandmother, my niece, and one of my nephews.  At present, after last night's quarter-finals, the Cavaliers are locked in a death-match with their historical nemesis, The Blue Devils of Concord, Calfornia, coming in second place.

That has been the case all season, at contests across the country.  The Cavaliers routinely won first place at all the competitions that did not include The Blue Devils.  But when both are on the same bill, they toss it back and forth.  The Blue Devils won the DCI championships last year, with the Cav's coming up behind by a razor's edge.  This year, the competition between the two corps is hotter than ever.  The Blue Devils' show this year is considerably less difficult than the Cavaliers', particularly in terms of the marching, but their music is good, their performance is strong, and they have been able to execute with admirable precision and consistency.  The Cavalier's show is considerably more musically ambitious,  athletically challenging, artistically original, and visually exciting.  If they can nail down a few rough edges in performance, they should be able to take the trophy tomorrow night.  But it ain't gonna be no cakewalk, that's for sure.

I wish I could post some video of the show here, because if you haven't ever seen a world-class drum and bugle corps, you really aren't likely to understand what all of the fuss is about.  But DCI has that all locked up pretty tight with copyrights, etc.  Trust me, this is not a typical marching band contest.  You might be able to find some excerpts on YouTube, but in the past all I've seen is previous season highlights.  Typically, ESPN will rebroadcast it a few weeks after the competition, and you may be able to see it then.

Here are a few pics we took early in the season when we saw them at a contest in Ohio:

The finale, featuring the Cavaliers.  JP is the last Cavalier on the far left, second row, on the very end.

They have a state-of-the-art kitchen truck, easily capable of feeding a 150 or so people a full meal in a very short amount of time.

After the show, hanging out with JP.  That's Dan Merkamp, good friend and one of JP's former band directors.  His band, Northeastern High School, just won 4th place in the State Fair Band Competition.

The Proudest Mom in the World.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Wallpaper Airplanes - MBPYNHO

Everyone has to be from somewhere, of course, so don't be put off by the fact that these guys say they are from Hollywood, CA. Personally, I'm not 100% sure that anyone is actually from there, although there are certainly a lot of people who do try to wind up there. Nevertheless, be willing to suspend your disbelief and enjoy these tunes in today's installment of Music By People You've Never Heard Of.

(And, yes, I am aware that a more grammatically accurate appellation might be Music By People Of Whom You've Never Heard. But that's just silly and pedantic, so let it go....)

So, go listen a bit to the Wallpaper Airplanes. Their music reminds of several classic artists I like. I hear a little Pink Floyd, a little Psychedelic Furs, and a dash Radiohead, but that's just me. I like the creative and balanced song structure, the artfully woven layers of synth, guitar, groove, and, with one exception, vocals.  A lot of the synth timbres are kind of retro, but I like the way they are used compositionally.  There aren't that many indie rock bands nowadays that rely on synthesizers for this much texture, and it is refreshing.

I would buy the album, I think, overlooking the whole "we're from Hollywood" thing. I like all of these songs and I hope you do, too.

Friday, August 01, 2008


"They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory." 

Matthew 24:30b

Nancy took this picture a couple of evenings ago. Evidently, the Lord never tires of either sunrises or sunsets. Not only can He see both occurring continuously somewhere here on our planet, but He has made the universe such that this same phenomenon is rendered unceasingly across the breadth of His creation, in infinite and relentless variety. 

What does that say about Him?