Sunday, January 30, 2011

There'sssNo Day Like a Snow Day

I really couldn't get over the back-to-back snow days in the middle of last week. That's 3 full days of classes that DCCC has cancelled so far this semester, plus a couple evenings and some late starts. There have been more snow cancellations in the first 3 weeks of this semester than in the 6 years I was at Binghamton University in upstate New York. I have somewhat mixed feelings about it, too. In one sense, like my students, I'm happy to get an unexpected day off. On the other hand, it makes it hard to do the necessary things one must do at the beginning of a semester to ensure a good class (i.e. get to know your students, set a regular rhythm for workload, etc.).

I guess I should just be grateful that I have a job that not only gives me summers off, but also random off-days in the winter. And -- as good fortune would have it -- I found out that I am going to be offered a permanent faculty position here at DCCC. When I was first hired last year, I was only given a one-year contract. I had to re-apply this past fall for a permanent, tenure-track position. After 3 separate interviews (one on the phone, one with the "search committee," and one with the Provost), I was finally offered the job! I absolutely plan on accepting it, as I've really enjoyed my first year teaching here and also like the area very much. (Compared to upstate New York, PA winters are no big deal.)

This weekend, Yuriko and I went to see a Reading Royals hockey game (they won, yay; no major fights, boo). We also saw Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings at the Grand Opera House in Wilmington. This turned out to be one of the best concerts I have ever seen. For anyone who loves soul music, know that it is still alive and well. Sharon Jones and her opening act (Charles Bradley) summoned the spirits of great artists like James Brown as they did their thing, singing and dancing with tremendous passion and virtuosity.

I wasn't able to take any pictures from the concert, but I'll close by posting some shots from the hockey game.

Now can we get through a full week of classes without a blizzard? I guess we'll see soon enough.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Ya Gotta Love Live Music

Last Friday turned out to be doubly delicious. Not only did the Sharon Little show in Kennett Square turn out to be really good, but I also was generously and thoughtfully given tickets to see Dan Bern next month in Philadelphia. What a great birthday!

Sharon Little apparently used to work at Kooma in West Chester, which is literally two blocks away from my apartment building. I'm not sure if she lives in Chester County or in Philly right now, but I'd recommend catching one of her shows before she becomes a big pop star. She is a little woman with a big voice, sort of in the Ani DiFranco tradition, but perhaps a little less angsty. What most impressed me, even more so than just her pure singing and songwriting talent, was her ability to really throw herself--in her entirety--into every song. This was accentuated by the fact that we saw her in a very small venue, the Kennett Flash. Every song felt like she was reliving the emotional experience that inspired her to write it in the first place. Here she is on TV:

Dan Bern is a singer-songwriter that I've been following since I was in high school. I first saw him open for Ani DiFranco in Albany, NY's Palace Theatre. Since then I've seen him over a dozen times, and at various venues (The Iron Horse in Northampton, MA; Club Passim in Boston, MA; Revolution Hall in Troy, NY; Maxwell's in Hoboken, NJ; The Bowery Ballroom in New York, NY). Now I get to see him next month in Philadelphia! His songs are about all sorts of things: God, politics, pop-culture, baseball, tennis, Van Gogh. His voice has somewhat of a Bob Dylan nasally sound, but if that doesn't bother you too much, his melodic words can really make you think, laugh, and feel.

And finally I just bought tickets to see Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings in Wilmington next weekend. She is sort of a "retro" soul singer, with an amazing voice and a great band. I saw her this past summer in Brooklyn at a free, outdoor concert, but the sound quality was very poor. This time I will be seeing her in an opera house, so I'm guessing the acoustics will be a hell of a lot better.

Hooray live music! There were so few opportunities to see great bands and singers during my long 6 years in Binghamton. This has certainly been one of the biggest pluses of moving to the greater Philly area.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Week 1!

This semester I have asked all students in my writing classes to keep blogs that they are to update weekly. I figured it might be a good idea for me to do the same, so here goes. My students were told that they could write about virtually anything, and I'm giving myself the same freedom. I'm hoping at some point down the road, this blog gets a sense of identity and purpose, but for now, I'll be content to just say a little about this, a little about that.

The first week of the Spring semester is nearly at a close, and it has been kind to me so far. I was a little behind schedule preparing for all of the 5 classes I am teaching (1 section of Developmental English, 3 sections of Comp. I, and 1 section of American Literature II), but Wednesday's snow day allowed me to get on track. As an added bonus, I just realized this morning that Monday is Martin Luther King Day, and consequently, no classes. I can't complain about a 3 day weekend, but I wish I had realized this earlier, when I was planning my course schedules. With the snow day and the holiday, my Monday / Wednesday classes will be a full week behind right out of the gate. I supposed I'll just have to make some cuts later in the term.

Other exciting things about this week: Yuriko and I went to our second dance lesson on Wednesday night. I think I am not quite as horrible as I thought I would be. Our fox trot and jitterbug are coming along, though we tend to get a little disoriented when spinning. We're thinking of asking for an "intro to salsa" next week. I don't know if we're ready for that, but why not? Oh, and tomorrow (Friday) is my birthday! We have tickets for a show at the Kennett Flash in Kennett Square (never been there before), to see Sharon Little (whom I know little about). Not sure what to expect, but hopes are high.

More soon! Off to teach...