Thursday, May 22, 2008

No Sea-Tac for you!

Hmmm. I'm home, listening to music. Various things, here and there. A nice little song from Portishead's latest. A lovely saxophone riff from my man Wayne Shorter on Herbie Hancock's Grammy-winner.

I'm sick. I really do sound like Marge Simpson. C is also sick, though so far sounding mostly like himself.

But grades are in. That's a good thing.

Tomorrow the Rhetoric Society of America Conference begins. After the last RSA, I declared I would always go to RSA. And I planned to. I'm on the program. But even before so many other things happened, I was beginning to wonder if I could really swing it. For one thing, there's the whole cost of going to Seattle, yeah? And that kind of bucks up against this big purchase C and I are still hoping to make but that has been in process since, well, January.

And then there are some things I haven't reported on this humble blog. The wrecking of my beloved blue Escort, for example. It was my first new car, purchased in Milwaukee, at a dealership practically across the street from our apartment there. And I lived on the fashionable eastside!

The dealership is gone now, replaced by Whole Foods.

And now my blue Escort is gone, totaled when a teenager in an SUV ran a redlight. Sigh. She cried. I didn't. But it made me sad, all the same.

Other things, too. Some things reported here, some things not. It's been maybe one of the most concentrated periods of "major life events" that I've ever experienced. Perhaps a hip fracture is next? (Bad taste. Shouldn't joke.)

So things have been a wee bit chaotic here. And so I decided no RSA for me. Not this year. It makes me sad. Because I do think it's the greatest conference ever. So if you're there, you better enjoy it. Just think of me, sitting here in my house, talking like Marge Simpson. How much I wish I were you, staring out at Pugent Sound.

You'd better enjoy it. Are you enjoying it yet?

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Jazz lists

My soon to be former neighbor has a list of jazz greats, of jazz albums he likes, that he can remember without looking at his collection.

OK, then. I like jazz. It may not say that over on my sidebar, but I do. I go to jazz concerts whenever I can (and when I like). Last one: Kurt Elling in KC, to celebrate an anniversary in December. But this isn't about concerts, is it? It's about albums. Here's my list of albums I love, that may or may not be "great":

1. Miles Davis, Kind of Blue. Yeah, it's on everyone's list. But it's the one that turned me on to jazz and that never gets old. Doo-do-doo-do. I heard a jazz singer in Carbondale, IL do a vocalese version of Freddie the Freeloader. Didn't like that so much. But the original version is what interpellation means. It's calling you.

2. John Coltrane, Love Supreme. (I seem to have inadvertently deleted #2-4. I'll have to restore them a little later.)

5. Kurt Elling, Live at the Green Mill
. Kurt Elling is getting a lot of love in this entry. My first exposure to Elling was this CD (bought in Indianapolis during my one year there). His version of "Going to Chicago," with vocalese great Jon Hendricks, is as memorable as songs get.

6. Patricia Barber, Modern Cool. Another vocal CD by a Chicago-based musician, also purchased during my one year in Indy. (Or The Nap, as some of my summer students at IU called it.) She does an amazing version of "Light My Fire." Also a be-a-utiful vocal dance on "Constantinople." (And features my favorite contemporary trumpet player, Dave Douglas, on one track.)

7. Dave Douglas, Charms of the Night Sky. Oh but I love this CD. I love the mingling of jazz trumpet and Eastern European instruments (accordian, violin). I love the ease, the delight. Mmmm. (He did A Thousand Evenings with the same musicians. Also unforgettable. But those are just two of many, many great discs.)

8. Wayne Shorter, Footprints Live! . The greatest living jazz musician and composer, imho. This CD was his accoustic comeback. Astounding music. But let's not forget the old ones: Juju. Night Dreamer. Speak No Evil. Hearing McCoy Tyner play the opening notes of Juju always takes my breath away.

9. McCoy Tyner, Quartet. His latest. A Christmas gift last year. A current favorite. No one hits the keys like McCoy. (I've also loved The Real McCoy and Trident.)

10. Dave Holland, Prime Directive. Another one that has seen a lot of play. Another (along with Coltrane, Shorter) Miles Davis alum. Another (along with Mingus) bass player. I like the bass.

11. Ben Allison, Peace Pipe. A third bass player. He teamed up with Malian kora player Mamadou Diabate to produce sounds that resonate deep in the gut.

12. Duke Ellington, Ellington at Newport, 1956. The classic recording of a classic set. "Take the A Train." "Mood Indigo." Good stuff. Good energy.

13. Cassandra Wilson, Blue Light Till Dawn. Another vocalist who blurs lines. Her version of "Tupelo Honey" often gets lodged in my brain, and I don't mind at all.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Help with reading

It's finals week, and as summer quickly approaches, I'm thinking of celebrating in my usual way: reading a novel.

But what to read? I'm having a hard time deciding. And then I thought: surely there's an app out there that will tell me. Or will at least suggest something.

Behold: What should I read next? I'm currently adding titles to see what they recommend.

Update: Um, I kind of think its database is kind of limited. I'm not getting great recommendations. I mean, like they're suggesting I read the Complete Works of Shakespeare. Not that there's anything wrong with that. It's just not what I had in mind.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Disaster relief

The death toll in Myanmar/Burma may top 100,000 and those who are left face long term food shortages (especially given that they were already facing food shortages). I have it from a source I trust that the Foundation for the People of Burma has a long history of good work in that area. If you're wondering what to do in the wake of so much suffering, you might consider a donation to FPB.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Thanks on this disorienting day

I'm grateful to all of you who stopped by and left a comment about my father's passing or have otherwise sent condolences. I used to wonder what a person can possibly say to someone who has lost a significant person. And now I know that it's simple: a kind word. A memory, if you have one. A shared experience, if that's there. But, mostly, it's meant a lot to me to have the loss acknowledged. To know there's support. And so I very much appreciate all of you who have sent those words, those thoughts.

And so it's also my birthday today. I usually make a big deal out of it and write some sort of silly post about Kenneth Burke or cats or something. Today, I'm just not feeling it.

But I am feeling gratitude. So that's what's here.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

With love

My father, circa 1945

Travis Houston Strickland
June 27, 1926-April 27, 2008

My father died of a massive heart attack Sunday morning. Although we knew he had heart disease (he had a quadruple bypass six or seven years ago), we were much more concerned lately about the hydrocephalus that was causing memory loss, dizziness, and trouble walking. I talked to him Saturday night. He was starting to sound better. I wasn't prepared at all to get the frantic calls early Sunday morning. Not at all.

But rather than dwell on that, I'll just point to what he loved. He loved that he served in the Navy during World War II. He loved Branson, MO, and laughing. Folks loved his easy smile and his friendliness. He loved carving wood figures with a group of friends who called themselves the Wood Chippers. There's a photo of him I'd like to have, sitting in front of a store on the road between Weatherford (where he lived) and Stephenville (where my sisters live). He and his wood chipping buddies are carving for crowds who visit. He has a piece of wood in his hand, and he's smiling.

He told my mother he loves her. Those were, I think, his last words.

I already miss him so much.