Summer Reading In Progress …

Good morning from Santa Fe!

The Summer Reading Project is off to a great start! You can see my TBR list a few posts ago.  I’ve finished Whispers of the Dead by Tim Ellis featuring Tom Gabriel a retired cop and new PI in St. Augustine, FL. I’ve also finished Spider Woman’s Daughter by Anne Hillerman (Tony’s daughter) which continues the series featuring Navajo policemen, Joe Leaphorn, Jim Chee, and Bernie Manuelito. My reviews of these two excellent books are available on Amazon.

These two USA locations were very interesting reads for me. Although Ellis is an Englishman, his Gabriel series in St. Augustine and Jacksonville is captivating. His UK-isms come into play occasionally – ringing someone instead of calling, measuring weight in stones instead of pounds – but beyond the occasional Queen’s English quip, it’s a delightful read. From Valdosta, we visit St. Augustine and Jacksonville often, so reading this series has a sense of familiarity to it.

Anne Hillerman has more than successfully picked up her father’s mantle in re-starting the Navajo police series which takes place on the Arizona/New Mexico border, just a bit south from where I sit writing this post. What was amazing to me, was when most of the action moved right here to Santa Fe! Even more amazing was the hospital where Joe Leaphorn was sent for a gunshot wound was Christus St. Vincent. This is the very same hospital where, any day now (any moment, actually), Alek and Daniela will welcome their first daughter and I will become a grandpa! Even in fiction it’s a small world!

So, I’ve knocked two off the list so far. I’ve now moved to the Scottish Highlands for Death of a Liar featuring village policeman, Hamish MacBeth. I love this series so much and I’m sad because I’ve now caught up to the author, M.C. Beaton, and must wait for her to write the next Hamish book. This is an “easy read” series. The books are perfect “cozies” and can be read quickly and for great enjoyment. My review will be published on Amazon as soon as I complete the read.

If you’re reading any of the titles on my TBR list, please reply or comment below. I’d love to get your thoughts on any or all of these books.

In other update news: Alek sings Candide tonight and Monday in Vancouver with the Symphony. He’ll return to Santa Fe on Tuesday to begin rehearsals for Daughter of the Regiment. The question is can his first-born daughter wait for him to get here before popping out to greet us! So far, so good – but we’re on serious babywatch!

I wish you all could be here to enjoy this glorious Santa Fe morning! Until next time – Cheers!  -JAS

PS. Don’t forget to share this with your friends, reply, comment, subscribe, like, and all the other good stuff! Now, back to Scotland!

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Santa Fe, Babywatch, and more …

Good morning!

FullSizeRender (1)I’m blogging today from the patio of a heavenly condo/casita in the hills northeast of Santa Fe, very close to the opera complex. The condo is the summer residence of Alek and Daniela, our two opera stars! Alek is here singing Tonio in the Santa Fe production of The Daughter of the Regiment, and Daniela is here expecting their first child, due on or about June 14 (Ye gods – that eleven days from now!). Last summer they were both working here with Daniela starring as Carmen, and Alek as Ernesto in Don Pasquale. The summer before that, Alek sang the title role in Britten’s Albert Herring. So, this is very familiar territory to them and, since we’ve visited them each summer here, it is for us as well. I have a brief history with Santa Fe from the years I spent as Associate Director of Choral Activities at Texas Tech, but that’s for another blog.

This morning I took Alek to the Santa Fe airport where he flew off to Vancouver to sing Bernstein’s Candide with Bramwell Tovey and the Vancouver Symphony. That reveals the real reason that we’re here – we’re on babywatch with Daniela. The fact is that only the baby and God knows when the blessed event will occur, so I could be a grandfather at any moment now actually!

When I was Director of Music and Fine Arts at The First Baptist Church of Greater Cleveland, I wrote a brief piece on Advent as a time of waiting, i.e., waiting for the traffic light to change, waiting for the water to get hot (or cold), waiting for the Messiah, etc. So, now I guess we’re in the advent of a beautiful granddaughter! And I can’t wait …

When Alek returns on June 9, we’ll go home to Georgia for a few days and then return here for another week, hoping to be here to greet the new family member. Later, in August, we’ll be back again to see the Santa Fe shows including Alek’s Daughter (pun intended!).

In other personal news, my darling wife of 37 years, Aija, had a birthday yesterday! The four of us had a wonderful dinner at the Four Seasons Resort. When we moved to Georgia, Aija re-invented herself from being an outstanding singer and vocal pedagog, to one of the top realtors in Valdosta. Even as I write this she is inside on the phone and web keeping her team of professionals busy and productive. She is a marvel!

In other news, I have again been asked to do a masterclass with the voice majors of the Georgia Govenor’s Honor Program. This will be my third one with them and it is always a very enjoyable event. It will happen in July somewhere between Santa Fe trips.

As for reading, today I’m embarking on the summer reading program starting with Tim Ellis’s Whispers of the Dead featuring retired and now reactivated private investigator, Tom Gabriel. The details can be found in the previous post about my TBR list. I hope you join me in a reading regimen this summer – it’s good for the mind and the soul!

Finally, I’m using this babywatch time to try to move the Adrian Stone mystery/thriller (Venice Key)into act two. As a matter of fact, when I post this blog, I’ll mentally head for the Gulf coast of Florida to see how far the investigation of the skull found atop the Indian burial mound has progressed. When I can better determine the direction of the action, I’ll post some small snippets here to whet your appetite for the whole thing.

IMG_1172That’s all for now …  I’ll close with an “artsy” shot of the morning sky as I aim my iphone camera up over the patio.

Cheers!  -JAS


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A Day for Tweaking …

Good inside gazeboafternoon! Working in the gazebo again today – you can catch a glimpse over there. It’s hard to believe it’s been eight days since last I blogged! Anyway, it’s a beautiful day in the deep south! After several days of excruciating heat, it’s actually quite pleasant today with a gentle breeze. The evidence of the high heat lately may be found in the pool which has assumed it’s annual temperature of what I term “bathtub!”

The Tweaking in the title refers to the effort I’ve been putting into the music page on this site. I’ve uploaded several recordings of my choral works, both published and not; a video of the premiere performance of my Really Short Opera, Frogs Always Get You in the End (This is in front of a gym full of 3-5 graders! BTW, we do eventually get the “musical bugs” worked out!); a performance of the first movement of my Sonatina for Oboe and Piano; and a complete recording of 140 – A Cycle of Songs with texts from Twitter!

There are still some pieces that need to be recorded, so if you are a choral director and would like to tackle one of those, let me help you access the music. Also, if you have performed any of my pieces, I love to know about it! Maybe you have a recording …

I’m initiating a new Really Short Opera project and I’m collaborating with some literary, and just downright creative, friends to construct a unique libretto. If you read this and have any libretto-istic ideas, please pass them on – or maybe you want to join in the collaboration?! Just let me know and I will get you the details.

The Venice Key (working title) book is chugging along in the background. I spend a little time each day plotting ahead and writing the first draft of those scenes already plotted.  I confess that I’m a very slow novelist, but there is progress. Meanwhile, the completion of Twin Killing also looms on the horizon.

I hope you waded through my summer reading list last time and will try a few of the books on the list. I’m currently finishing up A Death of Distinction by Marjorie Eccles, and then I’ll dive into the list.

Enjoy your holiday weekend and stay safe! I’ll talk to you next week! Remember to reply, comment, subscribe, share, like, and all the stuff I can’t think of right now!  Cheers!  -Jim





PS: Moxie went to the spa yesterday to get her summer cut! Here she is – I can’t tell if she’s impressed or not!


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TBR for the Summer – wanna join me? …

Good afternoon! I’m in the gazebo about to encounter a summer shower!

Today I want to share some thoughts on suggestions about my summer reading list – the infamous TBR (To Be Read) for the summer of 2015.

These are some of my favorite authors and through them I travel around the world watching intrepid detectives solve mystifying mysteries with uncanny skill! I read all my authors in order of publication so I have direct insight into character development and the historical facts of the series. It’s not necessary to do that as each of these books can stand on their own merits and offer very satisfying reading – IF – you’re a fan of mysteries and thrillers.

I’ve listed this summer’s books in alphabetical order by author. I’m not exactly sure the order in which I will read them, but it’s OK to start anywhere. Since the locations are all over the world, mix them up and do some armchair (or patio lounge) traveling this summer.

One final note: about 95% of all my reading I now do with the Kindle App on my iPhone. I know there has been some controversy in the publishing world about ebooks and author compensation. For me, the Kindle App is simply a matter of convenience and I’m glad that some of my authors have been able to return to Amazon where I can continue the read a series using that medium. However, I do sympathize with the authors most of whom struggle to make a living. I know my Mozart reference book (see the Books Tab) sells for $129 and mostly goes to college and university libraries (It’s probably not your summer beach reading, but there are parts that you might find entertaining!). Anyway, here we go the TBR List for Summer, 2015 – I hope you’ll join me somewhere along the way!

We start in the Scottish Highlands …

M.C. BeatonDeath of a Liar – Sergeant Hamish Macbeth (Scottish Highlands) is alarmed to receive a report from a woman in the small village of Cronish in the Scottish Highlands. She has been brutally attacked and the criminal is on the loose. But upon further investigation, Hamish discovers that she was lying about the crime.

Now, a bit farther south for a two book extension in the UK …

Marjorie EcclesAn Accidental Shroud – When a local antique dealer’s body turns up dead at his cousin’s building site, the case seems open and shut, but D.C.I. Gil Mayo and D.I. Abigail Moon (UK) soon find out that the family relationship is a lot more complicated than they had thought.

Tim EllisFragments that RemainJed Parish and Mary Richards (UK) are given the baffling case of a man drained of blood and left suspended in a Community Centre in the position of The Hanging Man from a pack of Tarot cards with a number on a piece of paper inserted into his heart, but this murder is only the beginning . . .

Back across the pond to sunny Florida …

Tim EllisWhispers of the DeadTom Gabriel (St. Augustine, FL) has now got his PI’s licence and has been asked to find a woman’s missing husband, but nothing is what it seems. The more he finds, the less he understands.

Then up the Atlantic coast to Philly …

Jane HaddamFestival of Deaths – A killer stalks an outrageous talk show host and Gregor Demarkian (Philadelphia, USA) agrees to appear on the show, but soon finds himself drawn into backstage politics and off-camera malice as he struggles to outbluff a murderer.

A quick run back to the UK. …

Cynthia Harrod-EaglesDear Departed – It’s Detective Inspector Bill Slider’s (UK) day off and he had hoped to have some quiet time with Joanna, his pregnant fiancée. But a woman’s body is found in the park and he finds himself back to work sooner than he expected. At first glance, it looks as though the woman is the latest victim of the “Park Killer.”

Now for the Arizona desert! …

J.A. JanceRemains of InocenceSheriff Joanna Brady (AZ, USA) must solve two perplexing cases that may be tied together.

Time travel is next as we’re off to medieval France …

Michael JecksBlood on the Sand – The Siege of Calais, (Medieval France) during the Hundred Years’ Wars. The thrilling second novel in a new series for master of the historical adventure, Michael Jecks.  (Out on June 4)

Back to modern day, but still in Europe – actually Venice …

Donna LeonBeastly Things – When an unidentified murder victim winds up in a canal, Guido Brunetti (Venice) travels beyond his usual sphere to find the connection between the dead man and a local slaughterhouse.

To escape the heat, Vermont is calling …

Archer MayorThe Surrogate Thief – Torn between righting the past and confronting his demons, the veteran cop, Joe Gunther (VT, USA), faces the most personal and dangerous case of his career. For somewhere on the idyllic Brattleboro streets stalks a long-lost murderer who never quite disappeared-and with Joe’s renewed interest, now has good reason to kill again…

But we miss Europe too much – back to the UK …

Peter RobinsonThe Hanging Valley – Visitors have long been drawn to the beauty and serenity of the Yorkshire countryside. Some never leave—like the hiker whose decomposing corpse is discovered in a wooded valley outside the tiny village of Swainshead. (D.I. Alan Banks)

Now over to Amsterdam …

Jan Willen Van de WeteringHard Rain – How can they catch a gang of murderous criminals when, as de Gier (Amsterdam) says, “We’re the only good guys left”? Happily, they manage to, in a fast-moving story that combines action, detection, satire, Zen philosophy and pure fun, and shows van de Wetering to be at the top of his form.

And we finish up in the peaceful French countryside …

Martin WalkerThe Crowded Grave – It’s spring in the idyllic village of St. Denis, and for Chief of Police Bruno Courrèges (France) that means lamb stews, bottles of his beloved Pomerol, morning walks with his hound, Gigi, and a new string of regional crimes and international capers.

If you are a mystery fan, I hope you will investigate at least some of these tomes. If you do, please send me a reply or comment. I will try to update my journey here as well. And of course, it would be great if you could do all the regular stuff: reply, comment, share, subscribe, like, and all those other little icons.

Sorry for the length of this post – I hope you made it to the end. BTW – no rain yet, but VERY heavy air!  See you soon!  -JAS

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Oh, somewhere in this favored land …

Good hot, hot, hot afternoon!

Today’s story is about softball. If you know Ernest Thayer’s famous work, quoted in the title above, you already know the end of the story! The Valdosta State Blazers softball team stood on top the national rankings for a good portion of the season. Even though one of our star players was hit by a pitch in mid-season which resulted in a broken arm and a personal hiatus of six weeks, the team pulled together and maintained it’s position of excellence. During the final series of the regular season, it seemed like the wheels were just slightly beginning to come off. The hitting slumped, the pitching lacked its usual sharpness, defensive errors appeared, and base running miscues became troublesome.

If you’re a baseball/softball fan, you know that slumps are part of the long season and hope springs eternal that good will triumph over evil and the ship will eventually be righted and all will be right in the world! And so the Blazers entered the Gulf South Conference Tournament with high hopes. We finished the season in first place and thereby earned the right to host the six-team tourney. The friendly confines of our home park would surely secure another shot at the national championship (after all, we were runners up last year).

Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright,

In a double elimination tournament, if you keep winning, you stay in the “winners bracket” until you lose twice. If you lose once, you are assigned to the “loser’s bracket” where each subsequent game is a possible elimination contest. Suffice it to say the Blazers lost … twice! Elimination was a reality! Eventually the Shorter University Lady Hawks were crowned GSC Champions.

But wait …

Now, in an entirely separate regional tournament, the NCAA II folks ranked the Blazers in the top spot in the South Region! AND, we get to host the tournament here again! Who says there are no second chances? This is the regional tournament that feeds the “super-regional” tournament which produces the sixteen teams that will vie for the national championship. This is BIG!

The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light,

The region was split into two four-team tournaments, one here in Valdosta and the other one hosted by North Alabama in Florence, AL. Once again the format was double elimination – two losses and you’re out!

In the first game, the Blazers dominated Tuskegee 8-0 and talk around town was, “They’re back!” We went into day two in the winner’s bracket where we faced (guess!), Shorter University. Well, the Lady Hawks didn’t let their fans down and once again the Blazers were relegated to the loser’s bracket where they faced elimination. But wait … we won! We beat arch-rival Alabama Huntsville to get another shot at defeating the dreaded Hawks!

And somewhere folks are laughing, and somewhere children shout,

It was a blazing hot Sunday afternoon and we were faced with the prospect of having to beat Shorter TWICE to advance. You see, they hadn’t lost, but we had – so “one and done” for us! The V-town fans were out in full force hoping for a double-header.

Alas – no … We lost the first game, making the second game superfluous. Shorter will go on to play Florida Tech in the super-regional for the right to represent the South in the “Sweet Sixteen!”

But there is no joy in V-town — the Blazers now are out!

Of course we had a storybook season. The future is bright because we’re only graduating two seniors and almost all the the team will be back with value-added experience. We fans got to witness some incredible games provided by these talented young athletes. BUT – as I used to tell  my players and parents when I was coaching little league in Lubbock: “It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game … but, it’s a lot more fun when you win!

Thanks for a great season ladies – we love you!

PLEASE reply, comment, share, subscribe, like, and all that good stuff!  Thanks!  -JAS

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Relief is just a grade away …

Hello friends!

Gazebo 2It’s a beautiful day in South Georgia! I’m sitting in the breezy gazebo feature in our back garden enjoying life! I’ve already been to the gym, played frisbee with Moxie, had coffee and breakfast, read the paper, caught up on the news, and submitted the last of my grades (hence the title of this post!). As you know, I teach three types of classes: the private voice lesson, the face-to-face discussion-based creativity class, and two online classes (music appreciation and rock & roll).

I’ve been teaching online classes since I was music chair at Northwestern Oklahoma State, many moons ago! Over the years, from semester to semester, there seems to be one major stumbling block to success in an online class, i.e., students don’t read instructions and follow through!

An online class is not designed to simulate the structure of a face-to-face lecture class. Everything a student needs to know should be available to her/him on the website, however, it takes some exploration, self-motivation, and initiative (yup – Oxford commas – I’m a geezer!).

I recognized several issues when I started teaching online classes. First, I wanted the students to know that I was a real person and not just a respondent in an email thread. To achieve that goal, I produce my own videos that run the gamut from reading enhancement lectures to clarifications of confusing issues. You can probably see some of these if you visit my YouTube channel. Second, I send out weekly posts titled something like “What to Work on This Week” or “Focus for This Week.” I also send posts with tips for achieving a successful grade on the weekly writing assignments. In the Rock class this semester, I uploaded thirty-three posts including one entitled “Roadmap for Success in this Class!” The latter was a complete course outline with weekly work suggestions and a list of hard and fast due dates.

All of this is designed to apportion out the work load so that a student will not become overwhelmed (as so many online students do) when they realize that their self-motivation genie has failed them and they are hopelessly behind in their studies. At that point, my experience is that they get sloppy and send in substandard work just to get everything submitted.

I’m still frustrated when on the last day of classes I get emails from online students saying they couldn’t find something or they didn’t understand the rules, etc. Of course, for online students, computer technical issues are the equivalent of “the dog ate my homework!”  I could really run this rant for a long time, there are so many irritating details to unload …

Even so, the grade distribution is not too bad. Music Appreciation had 34% A, 17% B, 34% C, 5% D, and 11% F; while Rock & Roll had 34% A, 34% B, 10% C, 10% D, and 12% F. Obviously some students are “getting it!”

I oftentimes feel that when students read instructions they say to themselves, “I know that’s what he said (or wrote), but he doesn’t really mean that. I’ll just do it my way and he’ll surely accept it. Well, guess what: I REALLY MEAN IT! Just do what it says and you will get a good grade and I will avoid HBP!

Oh well, it’s getting really hot – the iPhone temperature says 83 – time for the first dip of the day. I need to tell you about the Blazer softball team who dropped to number TWO in the nation, but will be playing in the south regional tournament this weekend (which we are hosting here in V-Town). But, that is for another time, maybe tomorrow.  Until then –

Rant is over, go and sin no more!  Cheers!  -JAS

Relaxed Moxie

Moxie is bored and wants to get splashed!

PLEASE, PLEASE reply, comment, share this with your friends – I would like to snatch a few more followers who may possibly be interested in my drivel!  Thanks!

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It’s POOL day and other ramblings …

Greetings everyone and Happy May!

I was supposed to jump in the pool yesterday (my own personal polar bear club), but instead I spent a frustrating day at the Gulf South Conference Softball Tournament – more on that later!

Pool 050215So, I got in the pool today! It was refreshing and invigorating The new liner was installed a few months ago and it is really beautiful, a nice mosaic blue and fits perfectly with the “villa” theme of the back garden. We have yet to fill the stone pots surrounding the pool, but that’s on the list! I’m writing this from the gazebo while Moxie is relaxing on her elevated bed! Moxie Outdoor Bed

It looks like it’s going to be a great week and I’ll probably move into the gazebo for it to become my outdoor office for the summer.

Let’s take a brief look at some categories:

What I’m reading: In the last few weeks I finished Fields of Glory by Michael Jecks. If you enjoy historical fiction, particularly the medieval period, you must get to know the works of Michael Jecks.  The next read was a visit to Vermont and Gatekeeper by Archer Mayor. I really enjoy the Joe Gunther series. It’s great American dectective fiction somewhere between a “cozy” and a police procedural. The characters are interesting and the plots are filled with intensity and drama. Currently, I’m reading in France through Black Diamond  by Martin Walker. The featured protagonist is Bruno Courreges, the police chief in St. Denis, a small village in the South of France. I’m relatively new to this author and series (this is the third book), but I’m thoroughly enjoying it. Walker has the knack of making the countryside come alive and the characters have a distinctive European flavor. I recommend all of these authors for your summer reading. As always, I suggest you start at the beginning of the series and read the books in order. This allows you to see the character development from book to book.

What I’m writing: Not much! I plan to return to full-time writer mode on May 12 which is the day after my grades are due. I’ll be working on completing the first draft of Twin Killing featuring Pennsylvania State Police sergeant, Nick Flemons solving a murder at Spring Training. And I’ll be plotting and writing the synopsis of Venice Key (working title) about Police Lieutenant Adrian Stone and the intrigues of a small island village off the west coast of Florida. In the world of music composition, I haven’t heard from Colla Voce in quite a while. I’m not sure what the problem is – I thought the last piece I submitted was pretty good, but who knows … perhaps it’s time to look for a new publisher. I’m working on a new setting of the carol There Is No Rose, and also looking for a one-act opera libreetto. There always seems to be something of interest on the horizon.

What I’m teaching: My classes were over yesterday, although I’m doing some makeup leasons on Monday. The online classes in music appreciation and rock & roll have proceeded as usual. It’s always a real “wake up call” when students realize that the self-motivation factor required to successfully complete an online class makes it much more difficult that a regular face-to-face class. As always, I love my Honors class. It’s a small class of very intelligent students and it focused on creativity and education using the ideas of Sir Ken Robinson. I’ll be sorry to not teach it next fall, but I be returning to an Honors Perspectives class in Leadership which I really enjoyed the last time it came around. My voice students have all worked diligently and are well-prepared for juries which take place on Tuesday. One final excitement takes place next Friday evening when I hood soon-to-be Doctor Rebecca Lanning, EdD. I have enjoyed chairing Rebecca’s doctoral committee and she has done outstanding work in developing some “cutting edge” ideas for new directions in music in higher education.

Oh yeah, softball …  Well, our Blazer women are ranked number one in the country (NCAA II) and we have won the Gulf South Conference Championship for the last six years in a row! BUT – all great teams must eventually endure a slump and ours arrived last Thursday. Actually it arrived a few games before that. We were the top seed in the six team  tournament and drew a bye for the opening games. Our first game was against Shorter University and we lost! We left many, many runners in scoring position but couldn’t get them in! But it was fine because this was a double elimination tournament and the loss put us in the loser bracket from which we could still recover and gain the championship! On Friday we played our arch-rivals, Alabama-Huntsville in an elimination (one and done!) game. Uh … we lost!  The bats came alive for one inning, but then went back to sleep, AND we started to struggle in the field with errors and misplays. Alabama-Huntsville eventually lost another game as well, so they’re also out. North Alabama and Shorter will play for the championship tomorrow.  Now for the good news! We’re still ranked number one in the nation and we’ll play in the regional tournament next weekend which will probably be held right here in Valdosta. Second chances are alive and well in college softball! I have no doubt that the Blazers will recover from their doldrums and return to knock the snot out of the other teams in the national tournament. Hope springs eternal – but for now, “there’s no joy in Mudville!”  See you ONLINE!  -JAS

Please reply, comment, like, follow and share my ramblings with your friends and colleagues!

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Good Morning Valdosta! “That our flag was still there …”

Well, I’m sitting at the kitchen table on an imposed and mandatory vacation! Yes, I live in Valdosta, that hotbed of political unrest (hee hee)! The campus at my workplace, Valdosta State University, is shut down and classes have been canceled. Only essential personnel are allowed on campus and they must wear their identification on a lanyard around their necks. Meanwhile, our somewhat schizophrenic community, while struggling to determine an identity that is either rural or urban depending on who you talk to, finds itself thrust upon the national news stage (I just watched a major segment on Fox News Channel)!

It’s interesting and coincidental that the VSU sports teams are known as the “Blazers” and our new brand slogan is “Ignite!” What ignited all this hullabaloo was a flawed protest against racial inequality which culminated in protesters walking on and even stomping on an American flag.

The protesters were subsequently confronted by a former air force officer who took umbrage with the method of protest and played “capture the flag” with them. I won’t mention motivation here, but to report that this officer left the air force after posing  nude in Playboy magazine while draped by an American flag (irony anyone?).

The intrepid campus police arrived, rescued the flag and returned it to the protesters, handcuffed the anti-protest protester, escorted her off campus, and banned her from ever returning. All this was filmed by her daughter armed with a handy phone-cam. Was this pre-planned? “We report – you decide!” Did the news outlets pay for access to the video or the subsequent national interviews? (Hmmmm …) But, I digress!

I said “flawed” protest. No question about the existence of racial inequality in this country (and in all countries, actually). However, stomping on the stars and stripes seems a bit misguided – shouldn’t it be the “stars and bars?” The American flag team fought hard to overcome the racial tenets of the Confederate flag team. (I’m walking gingerly here because, after all, I live in the deep south!) Perhaps the original campus protesters couldn’t find a Confederate flag.

Anyway, it’s all academic (where did that phrase come from?) because the US Supreme Court has determined that walking/stomping on the American flag is an accepted form of free speech. Well, maybe not accepted but at least not illegal. I’ll bet if the anti-protester had been wearing her Playboy costume, many people would have tried to abscond with the flag! (Sorry …)

This “scena” was exacerbated when it was discovered that one of the student leaders of the original protest (the stompers) had brought a backpack containing a handgun onto the campus. In an eerie turn of fate, this act was also captured on video as well as a pawn shop receipt identifying the purchaser. So, an arrest warrant was issued, the stomping perpetrator has disappeared into the fabric of society, and he is now considered “armed and dangerous.”

Meanwhile, in about three hours, as many as 4,000 people are expected to ring the campus (they must stay on the surrounding sidewalks because they’re not allowed on campus), motorcyclists are supposed to ride around the campus perimeter carrying American flags. The Valdosta mayor has declared today as our very own flag day and the VSU president has declared today to be a Day of Reaffirmation. I haven’t heard whether there are anti anti-protests planned. I wonder if there will be live TV coverage? I’m almost tempted to go watch the excitement unfold – but only almost.

Instead, I’ll enjoy this beautiful day in our “Italian villa-like” back yard and think about the students I could be helping prepare for their final exams. I’ll be figuratively watching their tuition dollars circling the porcelain facility. And finally, as lots of attention focuses on our location, I’ll be contemplating whether the original protesters realize that their efforts have backfired and that the spotlight has instead been turned on flag supporters rather than detractors?

Let’s fight against racial inequality, but let’s learn how to do it rationally and successfully. Maybe through this incident, we have – after all, learning is supposed to be the primary function on campus, right?

See you next time!  -Jim

PS. Don’t forget to comment, reply, like, subscribe – hit all those buttons over there! I’d love to hear from you!

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Storm Warning …

Good afternoon! Hunkered down in the middle of a severe storm! Lots of rain, thunder, lightning, etc. Looking out the French doors to the back yard – pool filling up! Yikes!

Moxie - stormI hope I don’t have to brave the storm to drain it a bit – nasty weather! Moxie is riding it out over there on the couch.

Today has been dedicated to reading and assessing several essays and writing assignments from the Honors Creativity class and the Development of Rock class. The last day of classes is May 4 and most of my classes are winding down and preparing for final project submissions.

Thinking of Alek who is in Toronto right now singing a matinee performance of Barbiere with Canadian Opera. You can google him to read several reviews. Next is Candide in Vancouver and then Santa Fe for Daughter of the Regiment. 

This morning I worked on travel planning. We’re going to Santa Fe three times this summer. During one of those trips I will become a grandfather for the first time! Alek and Daniela are about to bring forth their first child, a daughter! With those two as parents, this child will be beautiful beyond words! I plan to spoil her shamelessly!

I finished reading Michael Jecks’s Fields of Glory last night. If you haven’t discovered this brilliant author yet, you must immediately run to a bookstore and grab a copy of The Last Templar to begin an incredible journey through the medieval world guided by Sir Baldwin de Furnshill and Simon Puttock! Michael Jecks is an outstanding medievalist, but, most of all, he is a gifted story teller. I highly recommend his ouvre! I must read my authors in the order their books are published and I’ve read more than thirty of Jeck’s works. You will not be disappointed!

So, that meant starting a new book. I chose to renew my interest in the Joe Gunther series with Gatekeeper by Archer Mayor. It’s deeply embedded  in Vermont and the Vermont Bureau of Investigation. It’s great looking in on old friends to see what they’re up to and what mysteries they are confronting.

Finally, the VSU softball team has finished atop the Gulf South Conference and we will host the GSC post-seasonn tournament in two weeks. Since they are currently ranked number one in the country (NCAA-II), there’s a good chance we’ll host the regional and perhaps even the super regional as well!

It looks like the storm has abated a bit, so I’ll return to my assessment chores. I hope you will reply, comment, and tell your friends to visit. You can also follow me on Facebook and Twitter.

Upcoming events include the May 1 first time in the pool and the May 6 opening of the full-time author/composer summer season!  Meanwhile, I hope to see you ONLINE! -Jim


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Academia Update

Good morning!

There’s lots of stuff going on at the university (that’s Valdosta State University)!

After some negotiations, I have decided to delay retirement and “re-up” for another year as a tenured, full professor. I will continue to split my time between the Department of Music and the Honors College. I will maintain my office in the Honors College. I will teach the honors section of Perspectives in Leadership and continue to assist Dean Mike Savoie in the administration of the college.

In the music department I will continue my online sections of Introduction to Music (Music Appreciation) and the Development of Rock and Roll, and I will do a new preparation by teaching the Song Literature I class while continuing to teach some private voice lessons.

For the Leadership class, I will again use “The Leadership Challenge” by James Kouzes and Barry Posner. I will also continue to use David Willoughby’s “The World of Music” and the Megill brothers’ “The History of Rock and Roll Online.” I have not yet selected a text for the Song Literature class, but I’m taking a serious look at Carol Kimball’s “Song: A Guide to Art Song Style and Literature.”

I will miss teaching my honors class on Creativity in the fall, but I will return to it for the spring term of 2016.

This past week I had the honor to narrate Aaron Copland’s “Lincoln Portrait” in a performance by the VSU Wind Ensemble as part of the Regional Honor Band Weekend. It was conducted by my friend and colleague, Dr. Joe Brashier.

Our VSU president, Dr. William McKinney has resigned and the University System of Georgia has already appointed an interim president – Dr. Cecil Staton. For me, this marks four presidents (Zaccari, Schloss, Levy, McKinney) since I came here in 2006. I’m afraid this indicates an ongoing problem. There needs to be a culture and vision change at the university and perhaps the speed at which the USG appointed the interim indicates that there will be a strong push to deal with a variety of issues.

I have been chairing the doctoral committee for Rebecca Lanning who is completing fascinating research on the viability of entrepreneurship studies in higher education. Last week Rebecca successfully defended her dissertation in an excellent presentation before the committee and members of the public. In May, I will have the distinct honor to “hood” Rebecca at the Graduate School graduation ceremonies.

I can’t leave the academic segment without mentioning the VSU Softball team. Since coming to Valdosta in 2006, I have become addicted to VSU Blazer softball. We were national champions in 2012 and have competed at the national level for quite a while. This talented squad of young ladies is currently ranked first in the nation in NCAA II softball with a record of 42-4 and they sit atop the Gulf South Conference at 23-3. There is plenty of excitement ahead as they pursue another national championship. Go Blazers!

Looking ahead, the next post will detail some of the family activities including a new Shrader on the way! Don’t forget to leave a comment and have a great week!  See you ONLINE!  -JAS

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