Whether the Weather Be Hot. Or Not.

January 25, 2009
It’s been a nutty winter for weather, even by Missouri standards.   The day my parents left the temperature was 20 degrees below zero, when the wind chill was taken into account – and yes, that’s Fahrenheit, if you were wondering.  Exactly a week later it was 60 degrees and brilliant sunshine.
With such unpredictable and extreme swings, it should feel good to have so much technology at my disposal.  I have downloaded two weather-related apps to my iPhone, which can tell me what’s going to happen by the minute, hour, or day, up to two weeks into the future.  With the sweep of a grubby finger I can summon up radar, maps, pretty little pictures, or streaming video of the latest local weather forecast.   My laptop is forever whirring and beeping anxiously whenever clouds gather overhead.  We even have a first-alarm weather-only radio in our bedroom which will erupt in warning whenever bad stuff is on the way so we can go out and rescue the sheep, if we had any sheep.  Since we live in about the only house in the state without a basement, there’s actually not much we can do if we discover a tornado is heading our way, but at least I’ll have a chance to get some worrying in before we all get swept away.
Except that it’s all rubbish, of course.  You’d think, given where we are, with hundreds of miles of flat land in every direction, it would be pretty easy to see what was coming our way.  Apparently not.   Weather forecasts in America are as unreliable as they are in England, and I’m fed up with trying to make plans on the basis of what my arsenal of whizzy gadgetry tells me.  From hereon in I’m going to be using a new brand of hyper-connected, real-time multi-dimensional information transferral technology interface to get my weather news.  It’s called a window.

Jazz in Columbia – two shows not to miss

January 14, 2009
For those of you in central Missouri, I wanted to let you know about two astonishing, world-class jazz gigs that are taking place over the next couple of months as part of the “We Always Swing” Jazz Series.  Both take place at the Missouri Theatre Center for the Arts.  Both will be memorable, wonderful nights.
First off, on February 18, the famed, multiple Grammy-nominated Vanguard Jazz Orchestra comes to town.  This agglomeration of top-tier jazz musicians, a reincarnation of the famous Mel Lewis/Thad Jones band, has played at the Village Vanguard every Monday night since time immemorial, and is a smoking hot unit which will swing the old theatre to its foundations.  That would in and of itself be more than enough reason to go, but this night will be something extra special.  The Jazz Series was one of only a handful of sites selected by the National Endowment for the Arts to receive a NEA Jazz Masters Live grant, and the money has been put to historic use: Bob Brookmeyer, world-renowned trombonist and arranger, has been commissioned to write a piece which will be premiered at the event.  And if that weren’t enough, jazz history guru and writer Dan Morgenstern will host the event.  This will be, in jazz terms anyway, a national event and one not to miss.
And then, on March 19, the Blue Note 7 rolls into town.  In celebration of the seminal jazz label Blue Note’s 70th anniversary, a crack band of present day jazz superstars (all of whom have played in Columbia before) have been assembled to present updated versions of some of Blue Note’s most iconic recordings.  Personally, I cannot wait for this one.  Bill Charlap, one of my favorite pianists, is the musical director and all members of the band (which includes Ravi Coltrane, son of John) have contributed newly arranged charts of familiar tunes.  I am still waiting for my copy of the band’s CD to arrive, but what I have already heard online sounds terrific.  Even if you don’t consider yourself a big fan of jazz, this gig will be a blast, and I would strongly urge everyone to come if you can.
Tickets and more information for both gigs (and for all the other shows in the jazz series) are available here.