Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Back on the Scene


Saw the movie La La Land a few weeks back. Although I usually don't go for musicals, I really liked it. One of the reasons I liked it is because it brought Jazz back into the mainstream consciousness, at least for a few months. It showed the problem of how there are few venues left where you can find and enjoy true classic jazz. 

So I was happy to read today that one of the legendary old jazz clubs in New York is re-opening for business later this year. Minton's in Harlem was was one of the great spots to hear some of the legends of be-bop and hard bop back in the day. Some say be-bop was invented there. Everybody played there. Monk, Diz, Bird, Charlie Christian, Duke, Louis, Ella, Billie, Benny, The Hawk, Prez, Ben Webster, Sarah Vaughan, Eck, Erroll, Krupa, Miles, Art (Tatum and Blakey) and tons more jammed there. The pic above shows Thelonious Monk, Howard McGhee, Roy Eldridge and Teddy Hill hanging out in front of Minton's in 1947. Now, seventy years later, the place will hop again. 

Anytime a jazz joint opens, that's reason to celebrate...but especially when a legendary place like Minton's comes back on the scene. 

Thursday, January 12, 2017

New Room


Well, admittedly, I haven't gotten used to my new classroom. After sixteen years in one room I knew any change to a new room would not be easy. But, I'm reluctant to get too attached since I'm only in this particular room for one calendar year. The plan is to move upstairs next January.

The new rooms are a bit too sterile for me. White walls, white tile floor, white boards. I'm sure it will grow on me, but I sure do miss my carpet. Once I get into my permanent room I'll have to invest in an area rug.

To make matters worse they weren't done with this building. They were supposed to be. But they are still drilling, hammering and making lots of noise as they continue to work on this wing. We shouldn't have moved this early. We should have waited until summer. Would have been better for teachers and students. I was breathing in dust the first few days. Now, instead of being next to a construction zone, we are actually in the construction zone.

We knew construction would continue next to us as they demolished my old wing and built a anew. But to not even be done with the building we now inhabit...unacceptable. This isn't hindsight. Teachers were expressing these concerns months ago. But we kept hearing the same promise...

"It will be finished." "Oh yeah, it will be done on time."

Nope. Not even a little bit.

They are still not done or even close to being done with this building.

I guess I shouldn't complain too much. I don't have to float between rooms like some. My current room has been functional. My technology has worked for the most part. It will get better.

However,

I still miss the old place.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

The New Year



Well, It's January 11th. Guess I should get to blogging again. I took a bit of rest from the tech grind. Now back at it. 

The Holidays went very well. Enjoyed seeing family. Had a tire blowout right outside of St. Louis on our way to Indiana. Fortunately it blew right by an exit with a gas station and I was able to change to a temp donut in a safe area. It was 6 pm, the day after Christmas, yet we were able to find an open tire place and replace our tires. Only delayed our trip three hours. Not bad when we realize it could have been much much worse. 

We enjoyed our visits in Tulsa and Southern Indiana. Life has resumed its busy-ness with a new kitchen renovation, moving to a new classroom in a new high school building and my son's birthday last week. I'll revisit these fun times down the road. It seems now the Holidays are almost a distant memory at this point. 

Thursday, December 08, 2016

Done


Well, it's done. Last night I fulfilled the final requirement for my Masters Degree. I presented my final project at the SMU Capstone Forum. Students in the Graduate Program for the Liberal Arts are required to attend the forum and present their final projects. I brought Kim and Jackson along for this last jaunt in the process. 


My project took me down an unexpected path. As a history teacher I expected to write a research thesis. I had many ideas in mind. However, one of my creative writing projects caught the attention of my Academic Advisor. He thought I had the beginnings of a novel in one of my short stories. So I went with it and the process kind of snowballed until a novel began to take shape. It was going so good that I decided to submit it as my Capstone Project. 


I owe a great deal of thanks to Dr. Gary Swaim for his great advice and encouragement. He was a great help to me. He is a legend in the Dallas literary community. My novel is a satirical road novel that details the changes in social dynamics that occurred in the mid-1990's with the advent of the internet, right before social media and smart phones ruined everything. It's filled with existential angst, self-loathing and unresolved narratives: basically all your garden variety cliches of Generation X fiction. 


After the forum, my wife and son walked around the campus to look at the Christmas lights. Above is Dallas Hall, the oldest building on campus and where I had many of my classes. I will miss coming to The Hilltop every week. Southern Methodist University was a great place to learn and I met a lot of great people over the years.


So, I still have a lot of work to do. I have a lot of revisions and editing yet to do before I submit it for publication. But that's the goal, publication with a real publishing house. And I'm in no hurry. I want to get this right.

Next comes graduation. I could have walked this Saturday but there's too much going on with the Holiday Season. I decided awhile ago to attend the May ceremonies. That's when I'll get my diploma. It's been a fun ride.

A Master of Liberal Studies in the Humanities. 




Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Packing Up


For the past sixteen years, this (above) was my view as I looked out from my lectern at my classroom. This week I started packing it up. I have to have it all packed up by Friday, December 16th. Over Christmas Break, movers will take my stuff to my new room in the new building. I will be allowed to say good-bye to the room and give it the once-over on January 3rd. Then it gets roped off and becomes a demolition zone. 


This (above) was the view as you walked into my room. I'd feel a whole lot better if I was actually moving into my permanent room. But the room I'm moving to is only my temporary home. I'll be in a first floor corner room for two semesters. Then, next December (2017), I'll have to pack it all up and move to what will be my final stop on the second floor. 


So I won't be decorating the first next room very much. I'm going to keep it all pretty simple since I'll have to pack it up in a calendar year anyway. 


Here's the direct view (above) as you walked into my room. My Grandfather White made that lattice divider, one of the last things he made before his sight gave out. 


This is a view of my work space. My little office area back there in the corner. This room was very comfortable and was a second home. I'm going to miss it. The new room, both of them, will be corner rooms with four windows. I will be giving up some space and I'm losing carpet. But they will be very nice and decked out with a 70 inch monitor screen. The new wing will be great and when I move to my final room I'll have great views. But I will miss the old Temple of Doom a lot. It was a good home. 


Monday, December 05, 2016

Dolly


Saturday night we went to see Dolly Parton in Grand Prairie. I've never been a big Dolly fan, but my wife grew up loving her music. My wife, fearful that Dolly's touring days may not be long being that she's now 70 years old, wanted to go. So we bought tix and admittedly I was kind of meh about going. But man oh man I left that show extremely impressed.

Dolly Parton's talent is often overshadowed by her big hair, plastic surgery and out-sized personality. But her musicianship was on full display Saturday. She played guitar (both acoustic and electric), banjo, dulcimer, mountain flute, autoharp, harmonica and even the saxophone during her two hour set. Her songwriting skills have never been in question. Her connection to the audience is hard to fabricate. You can't conjure up charisma. She connects naturally and effortlessly. She's a showman (show woman?) in the truest since of the word. Saturday, she put on a show for the ages. 

Dolly is one of America's greatest entertainment icons. I've been thinking of who else would fit on that list, American entertainment icons who span decades, changed their art form, performed across many mediums and had success across genres.

Here's a few I'd put on the list along with Dolly Parton...

Elvis Presley
Will Rogers
Louis Armstrong
Frank Sinatra
Bing Crosby

These guys were big in music or movies or TV. Will Rogers even had a column in the New York Times. We need some more women on that list. 

I've had trouble coming up with other American artists so iconic over a long period of time. Willie Nelson is close and maybe Johnny Cash. If the Beatles were American, they'd be on the list. Charlie Chaplin comes close but he seems too pinned into one medium. There's been big stars who've had huge influence. But many of them are focused in one art form. Many of them are tied to only one era. It's a fun question to think about. I know I'm probably leaving off some big time names that are pretty obvious. 

Dolly definitely belongs on that list even if her music is not necessarily the music I listen to a lot. I like her stripped down blue grass the most. But on Saturday night, we were all moving to everything she did on stage. I've been to a lot of great concerts...but that was a transcendent experience. 


Wednesday, November 16, 2016

New Digs


So a friend of mine in the District Administration was able to swing a private tour of the new high school currently under construction. We will be moving into my wing this January. But the room I'll be moving in January will only be my room for a calendar year. Once they get the elevators operational I'll be moving to the second floor to what should be my permanent home. Seriously, there is a chance that room could be the last classroom I ever have. There's a good possibility I'll retire in that room. I only have ten years left if I retire when eligible. The rooms are a little smaller than what I've been in for the past sixteen years. And they won't have carpet. I may have to add some cheap Persian looking rugs...but not until I move into my permanent space.

Below, will be my view once I move upstairs in January 2018. Staff parking will be directly below so I'll be able to keep an eye on my truck. This corner room has four windows and very nice views. This January I will be moving into a first floor corner room. It will be nice, as well, with four windows. But I'd rather be upstairs. It will be chaotic. They are giving us one day to move. January 3rd. We're not allowed until then. Students come back January 4th. May be quite a scramble. And that's if they actually get it done in time!