Saturday, December 31, 2005

Year-End Wrap-Up

You know you're living in Austin when it's 77 degrees on New Year's Eve and you're watching little kids learn to ice skate on top of Whole Foods Market to the strains of AC/DC's "T.N.T." Our excuse for a winter wonderland is a little odd, but it sure beats having to shovel snow.

Thanks to everyone who came out for the Ron Titter Band debut on Thursday. It was a fun show and we're looking forward to doing more gigs next year. Special thanks to Attic Ted and Churchbus for sharing the bill.

Also, I found out yesterday that Ladies' Nite at the Continental Club raised $890 for the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. That's a lot of flowers, kids! Thanks again to everyone who had a hand in that production.

I'll be spending New Year's Eve at David and Rachel Wyatt's annual house party. Good friends, sexy ladies, a cool buzz, and some Jackson 5 on the iPod is all I need to cruise on into 2006 like a pimp. Not a mean pimp, mind you, but a happy pimp. The kind of jovial pimp who's beloved by hos and johns alike.

I just hope I don't vomit in the bathtub again. Happy New Year!

Friday, December 30, 2005

Trees is Falling

The venerable Dallas nightclub Trees is shutting its doors after one last show on January 1. The owners of the Deep Ellum music venue lost their lease to the building after declaring bankruptcy. Last week, a Dallas judge ordered Trees to vacate the premises no later than 3pm on January 2.

During its early Nineties heyday, Trees hosted all the up-and-coming alternative touring bands in addition to Metroplex favorites like Reverend Horton Heat, Baboon and the Toadies. Robert Wilonsky of the Dallas Observer said Trees served a role similar to that of Austin's late Liberty Lunch.

Accordingly, the Observer ran a nice package of post-mortem Trees stories this week, including a must-read account of Nirvana's insane appearance there on October 19, 1991.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Titter Tonite

One more reminder that The Ron Titter Band plays for the first time tonight at 10pm at Room 710.

It's about time, too. David and I have been writing songs together for more than a year. I wasn't sure we'd start playing before 2005 ran out, but Ron willing, we made it.

Now if you'll excuse me, I've got some Maalox to chug.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

No Fireworks for North Texas

We Texas and Oklahoma types are used to having the occasional grass fire when the rains don't come, but what's going on right now is an anomaly. It's not supposed to be this warm or this windy at the end of December. Wildfires jumping roads is something that happens in Montana, not suburban Arlington. Where's the next Woody Guthrie to chronicle these windswept infernos in song?

I don't know whether to blame God, Satan, Mother Nature, or some flap-happy butterfly in Mongolia, but whoever controls the weather is clearly still quite pissed off at us.

Mr. Butterfly, why do you hate America?!?

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Triple Coupons Up to 75¢!

If you're a coupon clipper, now's a good time to head over to your friendly neighborhood Albertson's. From Tuesday through Thursday only, they're tripling all manufacturer's coupons up to 75¢.

Some restrictions do apply, but if everything works out, I'm going to make them pay me to buy deodorant!

Monday, December 26, 2005

R.I.P. Vincent Schiavelli

Actor Vincent Schiavelli died of lung cancer today at his home in Sicily. He was 57.

Schiavelli was one of those character actors you immediately recognized even if you didn't know his name. For years, whenever Hollywood needed to cast a menacing hangdown weirdo, Schiavelli was at the top of the list.

His best-known role was "Mr. Vargas," the Sanka-drinking biology teacher in Fast Times at Ridgemont High, who took his class on a field trip to the morgue.

More recently, he played washed-up kids TV star cum junkie hitman "Buggy Ding Dong" in 2002's criminally panned Death to Smoochy, uttering the memorable line, "Sorry if I smell like piss. You know how it is."

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Bloody Mary Christmas Morning

Today was a typical traditional Christmas day here in the Beets household. My folks woke up at 5am and I was awakened by them three and a half hours later with the strains of Jose Feliciano's "Feliz Navidad" and my dad's attempt at blowing "Reville" on the bugle. For me, 8:30am is pretty good.

There are only three of us (four if you include Lucky the dog), so opening gifts doesn't take long even when we're leisurely and chatty about it. Once all the gifts are open, we have Bloody Marys. Because of an awful experience I had with Screwdrivers 18 years ago, Christmas is the only time of the year when I'll drink something with vodka in it.

I imagine things would be a lot less mellow if there were children around, but I'm pretty sure we'd still drink Bloody Marys.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Hickoid Holiday

My pal Jonathan Toubin from New York Night Train rolled into Austin last night, which was quite a nice surprise. We met up at Room 710 to see the Hickoids. It was a real old school show with lots of long lost friends in attendance.

The Hickoids played a great set, rolling out standards like "Queen of the BBQ," "Brand New Way," "Corn Foo Fighting," and, just in time for the holidays, "If You've Got the Whiskey, I've Got the Eggnog." I could've stood to have a couple more adult beverages in me to complete the effect, but I had to drive and wanted to remain reasonably presentable for today's family events.

After a somewhat sluggish start to the day, I'm now in Houston chilling at my folks' house. We're about to eat some of my mom's delicious King Ranch Chicken with my uncle and his family. Good stuff all around.

From all of us at Beetsolonely, best wishes for a Merry Christmas and Happy Chanukah (but not in that creepy Fox News way).

Friday, December 23, 2005

Osama's Niece is a Babe

This is Wafah Dufour, a struggling model-musician in New York who happens to be Osama Bin Laden's niece.

While some relatives of the infamous conceal such familial linkages, Wafah knows the value of an irresistible talking point. As long as you're unfortunate enough to have an Uncle Osama, why not parlay it into a sexy photo spread for GQ?

For the record, Dufour has never even met her Uncle Osama and is just one among hundreds of distant Bin Laden kin. She condemns her uncle's actions, too.

"I want to be accepted here, but I feel that everybody's judging me and rejecting me," laments Dufour. "Come on, where's the American spirit? Accept me. I want to be embraced, because my values are like yours. And I'm here. I'm not hiding."

I'll accept you, Wafah. Who needs 72 virgins in heaven with a dish like this right here on earth?

Thursday, December 22, 2005

One Week 'til the Titter Drops!

Time once again for yet another shameless plug...

My new rock combo, The Ron Titter Band plays its first show ever one week from tonight (Thursday, December 29) at Room 710. We go on around 10pm.

After us, my old friend and former high school bandmate Kilian Sweeney's band Churchbus rolls in from Chicago. Some of you old school Houstonians might remember Kilian from deSchmog. The warbly weird masked barkers of Attic Ted headline the show.

We've started a MySpace site where you can hear demo versions of some of the songs guitarist/keyboardist David Wyatt and I wrote early on. Hopefully we'll get in a studio setting to do full band recordings before too long.

I'm not quite sure how to describe The Ron Titter Band. It's the first band I've done in awhile that doesn't have a concrete schtick, which is both scary and liberating. We're trying to write more fully-fleshed out songs and incorporate the occasional non-rock idiom (soul, folk, country, etc.) where appropriate. At the same time, we're still a bunch of goofy dorks who love a good fart joke.

For his part, Kilian says I've gone directly from the "adolescent venting" of the Peenbeets to "the misguided torments of a 'single for the third time' grown man."

Hey, maturity is maturity!

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Santa: To Believe or Not to Believe

A query from a concerned agnostic parent about whether or not to do the Santa Claus with his daughter thing prompted a very interesting thread over at Ask MetaFilter.

Many of the initial posts equated promotion of the Santa myth with lying, but more nuanced arguments emerged later about what really constitutes "lying" to children. Others brought up the role of make-believe as a healthy component of child development and suggested too much realism might be just as bad as too much fantasy.

In any case, this thread took me from ambivalence to leaning toward Santa if I ever wind up having kids. Of course, I'm still ambivalent about having kids in the first place, so it may be a moot point.

My upbringing figures into this, too. I was raised with Santa and believed in him until I was about six. An older kid down the street told me he snuck out of bed on Christmas Eve and saw his dad putting "Santa's" gifts under the tree. After thinking about that for awhile, I gradually realized there was no way one guy could do all the stuff Santa was supposed to do in just one night. Then I asked my mom about it and she confirmed my suspicions.

I don't remember being particularly upset by this revelation. I also don't remember feeling any resentment toward my parents or anyone else for "lying" to me about Santa. My mom told me not to go around telling other kids who still believed that there was no Santa because it was mean.

Every year, there's a story in the paper about how some poor public school teacher (I've noticed this never happens at private schools) let it slip that there's no Santa. This year's story took place in Richardson, and while it's pretty clear the teacher intended no malice, the parental uproar that followed forced the school district to issue an embarrassing press release saying Santa talked to the teacher to prove he's real after all.

At that point, it's more about preserving the parents' lost innocence.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Rock Rock Rock Rock Rock 'N' Roll High School!

Rock 'N' Roll High School, one of my favorite movies ever, was re-released for the third time on DVD last week. The 1979 Roger Corman production was directed by Allan Arkush and starred P.J. Soles, Vincent Van Patten, Clint Howard, Mary Woronov, Paul Bartel and, of course, the Ramones.

The first time I ever heard the Ramones was when Rock 'N' Roll High School aired on cable in 1981. I think I would've eventually discovered the Ramones anyway, but hearing their music against the backdrop of Soles' crush-worthy Riff Randell blowing up her high school certainly amplified their appeal at age 12.

In addition to being a very funny homage to the rock and roll movies of the Fifties, Rock and Roll High School's ironic positioning of Joey Ramone as teen heartthrob - an idea borrowed from John Holmstrom's Punk magazine comic - was geek empowerment at its best.

Likewise, the Riff Randell character is chock full of nascent riot grrlisms. Riff's undeniably hot for Joey, but rather than just making her a doe-eyed groupie, Arkush and screenwriter Richard Whitley imbue her with songwriting prowess (in the movie, Riff wrote "Rock 'N' Roll High School" for the Ramones). More importantly, she's the undisputed rebel leader of the entire school, a role traditionally held by males.

The new Buena Vista edition includes a new retrospective with interviews from Corman, Arkush, Howard, Marky Ramone and Dey Young, who played Riff's "straight" best friend, Kate Rambeau. There's also a new commentary track with Corman and Young. It's too bad they couldn't get P.J. Soles, who continues to be a prolific presence in the B-movie world, having appeared in Murder on the Yellow Brick Road and Pee Stains and Other Disasters just this year.

Arturo Vega's "official" Ramones Web site has some great "reunion" photos of the surviving stars from a prostate cancer benefit screening of Rock 'N' Roll High School that took place in July at Hollywood Forever cemetery, where Johnny and Dee Dee Ramone are buried.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Water Wars

In my quest to avoid drinking too much soda pop, I've taken to swilling an ungodly amount of sparkling mineral water. I usually go through four or five one-liter bottles every week.

Fortunately, our local epicurean supermarket concerns have kept up with my needs. First Whole Foods introduced its own 360 brand sparkling mineral water at 99 cents per liter. Then H-E-B came out with Central Market brand sparkling mineral water at the same price. Now Whole Foods has upped the ante by selling a six-pack of 1-liter bottles for just $4.99. The only catch is that the bottles are plastic instead of glass.

Where'ya at, H-E-B?

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Sunday at the Mall

For the Sunday before Christmas, the traffic at Highland Mall wasn't all that bad this afternoon. Perhaps that's because Highland is no longer the destination it once was.

It's not like they've let it all go to hell, though. The anchor stores (Foley's, Dillard's, JCPenney) are still there, as are most of the usual suspect stores like Foot Locker, B. Dalton and Hot Topic. Highland won't blow anyone away, but I'm not the kind of person who gets blown away by malls. I'm just glad it's close.

The Recliners were playing lounge music out in front of JCPenney, which was pretty fun. They did holiday tunes, of course, but the Recliners' meat and potatoes are easy listening covers of AC/DC, the Ramones and the like. I was surprised how well the mall acoustics suited their Rat Pack-style rendition of Radiohead's "Creep."

Highland also had a good mall Santa with a real white beard and everything. It was nice to see Santa as a bystander, but the line to sit in his lap was quite long and I was hella glad not to be in it either as a child or a parent. Being Santa must be a hard job. The germ thing alone would freak me right out.

Every mall in America has a Deck the Walls, but Highland Mall also has a place called Happy Arts. I can understand selling those office motivational posters that make me want to vomit a river of blood, but I can't figure out why a place called "Happy Arts" would sell pictures of the Last Supper, Ground Zero and veterans consoling each other at the Vietnam Memorial. That's not the sort of thing that ties your breakfast nook together.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Ladies Nite Recap Part 2

Welcome back to the Ladies Nite recap. Our story picks up with the Texas Sapphires doing a stripped down hillbilly rave-up on Kool & the Gang's "Ladies Night." I was particularly happy they decided to do this song because someone just had to do it. In return, Brent Malkus made me promise to never yell out "Ladies Night!" at one of their shows (Gruene Hall, here I come!). They also played "Ladyfest" from their forthcoming Lloyd Maines-produced album.

Going from the Texas Sapphires to the Transgressors made a good transition. The latter band commingles rockabilly, spaghetti western soundtracks, and a rather dark shade of post-punk. It's a pleasingly provocative combination made even stronger by Chad Nichols' presence as a frontman. The Transgressors started with their own "Lady Caroline" followed by an old Lee Hazelwood/Nancy Sinatra chestnut I'd never heard before called "Lady Bird." Guest vocalist Laura Phelan handled the Nancy parts. They finished with Donovan's "Wild Witch Lady," yet another fine song I was unfamiliar with and now wish would've been included on the Donovan box set I had to slam a few weeks back.

Hilary York laid claim to Bob Dylan's "Lay Lady Lay" right when we started putting Ladies Nite together. Together with the Fire Marshals of Bethlehem(the first of four bands Hunter Darby played bass for), Hilary channeled the Isley Brothers' version of "Lay Lady Lay" and totally got down in the groove.

Then FMOB vocalist Julie Lowery returned with Aerosmith's "Dude (Looks Like A Lady)" and it brought the house down. I was impressed with the way Jenny Smith played the horn parts on violin. I'm not a very intuitive shutterbug, but I think this photo of Julie conveys at least a sliver of how much fun it was.

In between bands, I awarded about 15 bucks worth' of prizes to people who correctly answered Lady Bird/LBJ trivia questions. My favorite prize was this colorfully framed photo of LBJ being sworn in aboard Air Force One. I figured it would be the perfect way to introduce tots to Texas history. After all, LBJ was the only U.S. president ever inaugurated on Texas soil. Yee-haw!

The Diamond Smugglers are always fun and spot-on musically. Neil and company delivered a great version of KISS' "Ladies Room" before bringing out the big gun - Styx' "Lady." The older I get, the more I appreciate how Styx was able to penetrate the bubble-scripted romantic aspirations of teen-age girls (okay, perhaps "penetrate" is a poor word choice) while retaining enough balls to bring the boys into the tent as well. So of course "Lady" was a highlight. I even got to dance with my high school smoking area friend Leah, which made the whole thing seem like a re-enactment of the closing scene from the pilot episode of "Freaks and Geeks."

Seth Tiven from Dumptruck did a somber-but-inspired take on Dylan's "Sad Eyed Lady Of the Lowlands." He played the whole thing and sang four sheets' worth of lyrics. Every time he'd finish a page, he'd fling it from the music stand onto the floor. It was altogether different in tone from the other acts, but I really liked what he did.

When I introduced the Barons of Stilton and said it was their first show, they quickly added it was also their last. If that's true, I hope at least one of the guys carries on that band name. My Noodle/Summer Breeze drumming buddy Lance Farley and I always shared an affinity for middle-of-the-road R&B even when our own music was completely removed from that, so it was great to see him sing the Commodores' "Lady (You Bring Me Up)."

The fiery rawk spectacular of the Rockland Eagles made them the natural closer. They were totally kicking ass with Black Sabbath's "Lady Evil" from Heaven and Hell when a short-lived but frightening scrum ensued in front of the stage. It was an unpleasant end to an otherwise wonderful evening and I felt bad the Eagles couldn't finish their set. I'm not going to get any further into it here, other than to say cooler heads eventually prevailed and no one was seriously injured.

Many thanks to all the bands, the Continental Club and our stage manager Jenny for making Ladies Nite an (almost) unqualified success. As soon as I know how much we raised for the Wildflower Center, you'll hear about it here.

And by the way, Hunter and I are already talking about doing Man's Nite.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Ladies Nite Recap Part 1

Despite some Afghan Whigs-flavored closing time ugliness, Ladies Nite was quite a show. Lots of good performances and plenty of love for the Lady Bird. Here is a brief photo recap:

Friends of Lizzy started our marathon night off with what I believe was a Scott Weiland "lady" tune, but I could easily be wrong about that. The fact that Hunter Darby yelled "CHEAH!" at song's end is a good indication I'm at least in the ballpark, though.

Next up were the Daylight Titans, who played a slightly malevolent version of the Little River Band hit, "Lady" bookended by Cheap Trick's "Hello There" and "Goodnight Now" (as in, "Good night now, ladies and gentlemen!"). I'd ordered 20,000 screaming Japanese girls to complete the effect, but they got hung up in customs.

I knew Gretchen Phillips would do something unique for Ladies Nite and she did not disappoint. First she unveiled her new disco hit, "The Lusty Lass Is A Lucky Lady," then she brought my Ron Titter Band compatriot Andy Loomis to the stage to play a moving rendition of "Special Lady at the Waffle House." Next to the James Brown-styled "I Like What I See At the Waffle House" and "Waffle Doo-Wop," "Special Lady" is my favorite Waffle House jukebox song. Gretchen closed with a harrowing version of Kenny Rogers' "Lady" as done by a crazy woman who believed songwriter Lionel Richie had stolen it from her. Sheer conceptual joy.

I played next with the Dead Motley Sex Maidens and sultry sirens Julie Lowery and JenBB on backing vox. We did Tom Jones' "She's A Lady," KISS' "Parasite (Lady)," and the Corneilius Brothers' "Treat Her Like A Lady." Julie and Jennifer really brought the whole thing together and the band played great. All I had to do was remember the words, hit the ol' cowbell on the beat a few times and thrust my pelvis to and fro. Sadly, I forgot to hand off my camera, so there are no photos of us.

Masonic did a buzzingly good version of the Velvet Underground's "Lady Godiva's Operation" with vocalist Eryn nailing Nico's ice princess vibe to a tee. Then they totally shifted gears with LaBelle's "Lady Marmalade." They even snuck in a tune from their upcoming third album. I took it on faith that "lady" was in there somewhere.

Jeez, it's 11:30. I suppose I should finish my coffee, put my liver on overtime with some ibuprofen, and get my ass into work now. Tune in tomorrow for the conclusion of "Ladies Nite Recap," only on Beetsolonely.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Ford Backs Away From AFA

Looks like Ford now realizes the American Family Association doesn't carry that much water after all.

After last week's pile-on of negative publicity, Ford has decided to start running ads for all its luxury brands in gay publications. Before they were only advertising Land Rovers and Jaguars.

This is nothing more than good business sense at work. If you're selling luxury goods, you'd be a damn fool to piss off the gay market just to placate a bunch of backwards-thinking religious bigots. Still, it's nice to see a company change course after being ratted out.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Tomorrow is Ladies Nite!

Don't you dare forget to celebrate Lady Bird's 93rd birthday at Ladies Nite tomorrow at the Continental Club.

The show kicks off at 9pm, so get there early. The first 25 ladies through the door will receive a free small box of chocolates. I mentioned this to a young lady at a holiday party the other night and she asked if it was Russell Stover or Godiva chocolate.

"If it was Godiva," I replied, "I would've said it was Godiva."

Actually, it's a mix of Russell Stover and Whitman's Samplers.

The line-up of bands singing nothing but songs with the word "lady" in them now includes Friends of Lizzy, the Daylight Titans, Gretchen Phillips, the Dead Motley Sex Maidens, Masonic, the Texas Sapphires, the Transgressors, Fire Marshals of Bethlehem with Hilary York, the Diamond Smugglers, Dumptruck, Barons of Stilton, and the Rockland Eagles.

I'll be doing a few "lady" songs myself with the Dead Motley Sex Maidens. Ably handling the backing vox are Julie Lowery from the Fire Marshals of Bethlehem and Felt Up's own JenBB.

I'm psyched so many bands have signed on. It should be a really fun show, and all door proceeds benefit the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. Who can argue with that?

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Protecting My Filth From Children

I’m so sick of hearing people whine about how we have to protect children from what’s on cable television. Unlike over-the-air channels, cable is something you voluntarily pay to have come into your home. The reason I continue to pay ever-escalating cable bills is specifically to circumvent the puerile indecency standards of American broadcast television. If you don't like what's on cable, you don't have to buy it.

Moreover, the tools to keep children safe from shows or channels you don’t want them watching are already there. You can probably learn how to use them in less than 20 minutes if you read the directions. If you’re too stupid or too lazy to figure out how to block objectionable programming using the V-chip or your cable box, your children should probably be placed in foster care or sent to Russia.

While it’s true the more enterprising kids will figure out a way to see exploding heads and bouncing bosoms regardless of V-chips, at least they’ll have to work to see it and they’ll watch with the tee-hee knowledge their parents don’t approve. That alone can go a long way toward steering them clear of moral degeneracy.

In order to avoid further regulation, the cable industry has proposed creating a “family tier” of channels that no one will buy. Predictably, this isn’t good enough for the Parents Television Council. That’s because groups like the PTC use children as pretty little bumper ornaments to disguise their real goal of regulating what adults read, watch and listen to.

Nevertheless, I’m all for consumer choice. As long as we’re going to be creating a “family tier” at the behest of the religious right, how about a “godless tier” for those of us that don’t want our cable bills subsidizing dominionist wankers like Pat Robertson?

Monday, December 12, 2005

Supremes to Reexamine Texas Redistricting

I’m cautiously heartened by the Supreme Court’s decision to review the constitutionality of Tom DeLay’s 2003 gerrymandering that divided Austin into three congressional districts extending from Midland to Houston and all the way down to Mexico.

The court’s review comes on the heels of revelations that Justice Department staff lawyers who said DeLay’s map violated the Voting Rights Act were overruled by Bush appointees. To make sure that doesn't happen again, our Justice Department has banned staff lawyers from issuing such opinions in the future.

Whether the court would overturn a congressional map, however discriminatorily drawn, after it has already been used in an election is anybody’s guess, but anything that keeps DeLay’s name where it belongs - down in the gutter alongside used condoms and blood-flecked loogies - can’t be all bad.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Farewell, Richard

We lost a good one yesterday when Richard Pryor left us at age 65.

With all due respect to Lenny Bruce, the most far-reaching, influential, and revolutionary voice in American comedy was Pryor. He was one of our greatest all-time shit-shakers, right up there with Twain and Mencken. But even as Pryor lobbed "motherfuckers" around with Olympic grace (will anyone ever put that term to better use?), he never let cynicism completely overwhelm his humility.

The title of Desson Thomson's well-done Washington Post appreciation - "So Funny It Hurts to Laugh" - kind of says it all.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Low-Flying C-130 Buzzes Austin

I was out taking my regular morning stroll across the Austin State Hospital campus yesterday when I noticed a large military aircraft making a controlled but highly irregular descent toward the western edge of downtown. The plane quickly dropped below my line of sight and I wondered if maybe I wasn't just seeing things. Then he came barrelling back upward toward the northeast and flew away.

Fortunately for all of us, this wasn't some insurrectionary psychotic aviator taking aim at the Frost Bank Nose Hair Trimmer. It was a C-130 support aircraft for the Blue Angels with FAA clearance to do a low flyover. The Statesman didn't report the occasion for the flyover, which strikes me as sort of odd.

Friday, December 09, 2005

The Invincible Nutcracker

These are the Invincible Czars. They may look a little out of their minds in this photo, but they're actually very nice boys from good families who play art rock without forgetting how to roll.

Last year, I saw the Czars perform the Nutcracker Suite at the Church of the Friendly Ghost. It was a packed house and they sounded great. My patience for Christmas music usually starts to wear thin around noon on the day after Thanksgiving, so it was seasonally refreshing to see them reinterpret Mr. Tchaikovsky in a fresh new way.

If you've had it with being constantly bombarded with the same old holiday spirit, go see the Invincible Czars do their Nutcracker thing this weekend. On Saturday, they're doing "dance-along" shows at 2pm (kids) and 8pm (all ages) at the Austin Boys & Girls Club, 303 W. Johanna. Costumes are encouraged. Then on Sunday, they're doing a more traditional performance at Ruta Maya, 3601 S. Congress. The Czars play at 8pm, followed by the Golden Arm Trio's Christmas show at 9pm.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Ice Storm 2005: The Update!

Braving over two miles of not-so-treacherous surface roadery, I drove in to work at 10am only to find out my government agency made a last-minute decision to close for the day.

No big deal for me, but it sucked for the people already in transit from places like Leander and Georgetown. It's hard to stay mad when you get to turn around and go home, though.

Ice Storm 2005!

Ice storm fever (how's that for an oxymoron?) has gripped our fair city by its grapes this morning. Schools and businesses alike have delayed their openings until 10am and my dental appointment was canceled. It's pure animal madness here. I just had to kill an old lady across the street for her melba toast.

In better news, the Albertson's circular arrived yesterday with a coupon that enables you to buy 10 boxes of Kellogg's Frosted Flakes, 10 cans of Progresso soup, or 10 bags of Lay's potato chips (among other things) for just $1 each. But don't brave the freezing roads just yet - this sale doesn't begin until Friday.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Ford Lied About Deal to End AFA Boycott

In 25 years, will there still be an American auto industry? I ask this question because none of the Big Three seem to have a clue at how to rapidly respond to the needs of consumers. Aiming for the steadily-eroding goodwill demographic that buys an American car regardless of foreign competition is no way to increase market share. The only way I’ll ever buy another American car is if they build an economical car that matches or surpasses Japan’s output for long-term reliability.

And now we have Ford pulling ads for Land Rovers and Jaguars from gay publications, quite possibly at the behest of the American Family Association. The AFA, led by longtime fundamentalist busybody Donald Wildmon, started a boycott of Ford in May because they felt the company was too gay-friendly, offering benefits to same-sex couples and such. On November 30, Wildmon called off the boycott, saying, “we feel that our concerns are being addressed in good faith and will continue to be addressed in the future.”

Ford initially denied making a deal with AFA to end the boycott, but further investigation by John Aravosis at AMERICAblog revealed two Ford executives with ties to the Bush Administration went to Tupelo, Miss. on November 29 to meet with AFA leaders. This meeting resulted in the boycott being called off. The smoking gun is this seemingly innocuous article published in, a industry trade rag.

You'll also notice Dallas-area dealer Jerry Reynolds is mentioned as one of the architects of the Ford/AFA agreement. Reynolds owns the Prestige chain of dealerships, and is apparently doing what he can to carry on the John Birch-flavored legacy of Big D aristocrats like H.L. Hunt. Would you buy a used car from this man?

"The dealers are basically our kind of people who share many of our concerns," Wildmon notes.

Our kind of people, eh?

Until Ford finds some new friends, they can kiss my Honda-driving ass.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Hey, Cookies!

Last night, I found myself with a jones for sweets that could not be denied. Popsicles weren't doing the trick, so I moseyed on up to the neighborhood H-E-B.

They had two 20-count packages of Nestlé Toll House "Break-N-Bake" chocolate chunk cookies on sale for just $4. That seemed like a good enough deal.

Then I noticed another Toll House cookie package came affixed with a $1 instant coupon if you bought two. I got out of there with 40 cookies for just $3. Clearly that's far too many cookies for one man.

Furthermore, Nestlé has a long history of promoting infant formula in Third World countries to low-income mothers who don't have access to clean water. But when they're practically giving cookies away, what choice do you have?

I broke, I baked and I ate.

Monday, December 05, 2005

A Charlie Brown Christmas Turns 40

A Charlie Brown Christmas will air for the 40th time this Tuesday at 8/7 Central on ABC. I wish it still aired on CBS, prededed by the exciting "CBS Special Presentation" musical bump. I also wish it was interspersed with spots for Zingers and other neat-to-eat treats from Dolly Madison.

Before TiVo, DVDs, cable and VCRs, the airing of Christmas specials was something to plan an evening around. Especially this one. The lump in my throat when Linus reads the story of Jesus' birth from the Book of Luke gets bigger every year.

Next to Phil Spector's Christmas album, Vince Guaraldi's soundtrack for A Charlie Brown Christmas is my favorite music of the season. The fact that Guaraldi, who passed away in 1976, is not on trial for murder nudges him even closer to the top spot.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

South Africa Legalizes Gay Marriage

Remember South Africa? The oppressive country whose apartheid policies made them the scourge of the thinking world up until about 15 years ago? Well, now their high court has gone and legalized same sex marriage.

This is a bold move on a continent where many religious leaders openly call for gays to be stoned to death. Unlike the United States, South Africa expressly prohibits discriminating against someone on the basis of sexual orientation in its 1996 constitution.

When it comes to same sex marriage, South Africans now have more freedom than Americans do. Think about that next time you hear that stupid Lee Greenwood song.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Dick Van Purina

Actor Dick Van Patten, loved as the father on Eight is Enough and reviled as the death doctor in Soylent Green, is vying to become the George Foreman of dog food with Dick Van Patten's Natural Balance Eatables for Dogs.

The food comes in several flavors, including Irish stew, Chinese takeout and hobo chili. Van Patten illustrated Natural Balance's great taste by chowing down on some for the cameras at a recent media launch party.

It's always sad to see America's senior citizens reduced to eating dog food, but at least Dick's getting paid for it.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Coming Soon: Love to Missouri

A significant pillar of the Wright Amendment toppled Wednesday when President Bush signed a bill opening Dallas' Love Field to passenger flights to and from Missouri. Southwest plans to begin nonstops from Love to St. Louis and Kansas City as soon as they can reposition the aircraft.

In response, American has already slashed fares between its D/FW Airport fortress hub and Missouri. They will also be reactivating three Love Field gates to go head-to-head with Southwest. American last competed against Southwest from Love in 2001 on the Dallas-Austin run, but 9/11 put an end to that. The coming dogfight is particularly welcome news for beleaguered St. Louis, a former hub that has seen significant service reductions since TWA was absorbed into American.

Ultimately, the key to dismantling the anti-competitive Wright Amendment is eliminating the restriction on through-ticketing from Love Field. Although you can now fly from Love to St. Louis, Southwest still can't ticket you through to Chicago.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Oh Yes, It's Ladies Nite!

If you love the ladies and you love the flowers, you’re really gonna love Ladies Nite on Thursday, December 15 at the Continental Club.

To celebrate Lady Bird Johnson’s 93rd birthday this month, Hunter Darby (Wannabes, Diamond Smugglers, Dung Beatles) and I are putting on a Hoot Nite-style jamboree with lots of bands singing songs with the word “lady” in them. Expect to hear hits like “Lady” by Kenny Rogers, “Lady” by Styx, and, of course, “Lady” by the Little River Band.

All proceeds will benefit the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. I suppose one of us should let them know that.

So far, we've got the Diamond Smugglers, the Texas Sapphires, the Fire Marshals of Bethlehem, the Rockland Eagles, Gretchen Phillips, and the Daylight Titans.

Although the TCB blurb in today’s Chron might imply Summer Breeze is playing, that is not the case. Instead, I’ll be belting out a few tunes with the DeadMotleySexMaidens, the live karaoke band helmed by my old Peenbeet comrade Chepo Peña. As always, the whole damn thing is subject to change.

Why are we doing this? I’m not entirely sure. Unlike most schemes hatched over pints at the Dog & Duck Pub, this one somehow sprouted legs.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Earl Abel's Closing

Our Alamo City Correspondent Terri R. informs me that venerable San Antonio landmark Earl Abel's will be demolished soon to make way for a 25-story condominium tower. Known far and wide for its Betty Crocker-approved fried chicken recipe and irresistible pie selection, the architecturally distinctive restaurant is one of those out-of-time places that probably would've been gone years ago in a more frenetic locale.

In 72 years of operation, Earl Abel's served as a meeting point for generations of San Antonio diners. In a celebrated 1986 incident, longtime U.S. Representative Henry B. Gonzalez slugged another diner there for calling him a communist. The city rewarded Gonzalez by putting his name on the convention center.

Mod coffee shop-style restaurants like Earl Abel's remained ubiquitous in Sunbelt cities up through the early 1980s, but rising land prices and dying clientele have whittled the genre onto the endangered list. The corner of Broadway and Hildebrand is too valuable to cede to a restaurant. It's an inevitable transformation, and one that is probably needed in a sprawling city like San Antonio.

But nobody likes saying goodbye to a restaurant they grew up with.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

What's In A Name?

After many months of back-and-forth deliberation, my new bandmates and I finally settled on a moniker last Wednesday night.

Actually, it was early Thanksgiving morning when we made it official. Nevertheless, I decided to wait a few days to unveil the name just to make sure it was a name none of us would be ashamed to take to breakfast.

With that in mind, our new band is called The Ron Titter Band.

"The Ron Titter Band?" you're probably thinking. "How the hell did they wind up with a stupid-ass name like that?"

How We Became The Ron Titter Band:

1. We'd been discussing the name issue over drinks for hours
2. It was almost closing time
3. I suggested the name "Titter & Snivel" (y'know, like Brooks & Dunn!)
4. That idea was shot down
5. Our guitarist, David Wyatt, said we should just be called "Ron"
6. That, too, was shot down
7. Someone (it could've been me - I can't remember) said, "What about Ron Titter?"
8. David (I believe) said, "No! What about The Ron Titter Band?"
9. We all began laughing deliriously
10. We shook on it and went home because we were tired

So there you have it. Our first gig is Thursday, December 29 at Room 710. More on this story as it develops.

Monday, November 28, 2005

More Funky Drawers

One of the things I like most about working in HIV/STD prevention is getting paid to learn all about offbeat methods of sexual gratification. From fisting to fellatio to foot worship, it’s my job to provide people with up-to-date, medically-accurate information about the possible risk factors of any and all sex acts.

Because officialdom often lags far behind what is actually going on in people’s bedrooms, I supplement my knowledge by faithfully reading Dan Savage’s Savage Love column every week. In addition to being hilarious, Savage assesses risks in a manner that is sensible and easy to understand.

For example, let’s say you’re an underpants fetishist. The Internet is fairly brimming with women willing to part with their soiled panties for a fee, but is it safe? To find out, Savage enlisted Planned Parenthood’s Robert Harkins, who said:

“Depending on how recently the panties were worn, there is a danger of contracting an STD. If the woman who was wearing the panties had an actively seeping herpes sore, for example, and the panties were rubbed around the face and mouth, there is some danger of contracting oral herpes. With chlamydia or gonorrhea, if the panties came into contact with the mucus tissue of the eyes, and the panties were fresh enough, there is a chance of transmission."

Fortunately, these dirty bugs don’t live long once they’re outside the body, so the risk is effectively minimal. Savage recommends airing the mail-order undies out before use, which is good advice all around.

And just in case you’re wondering, the fact that I’ve done two posts about underwear in less than a week is purely coincidental. Really. Stop looking at me!

Sunday, November 27, 2005

One More Big Meal

My parents and I had one more big meal last night at Fajita Flats, their go-to Tex-Mex place on Fondren between Westheimer and Richmond. I had their beef, chicken and shrimp fajita platter, which only sets you back 10 bucks. How could I resist such an amazing deal?

From now until Christmas, I'm eating nothing but celery.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

I Ated Too Much Cake

I've done nothing but eat and sleep in the last 24 hours. My folks and I went to Denis' Seafood House on Westheimer last night for huge portions of everything.

After gorging myself on fried shrimp and catfish, I started hot-dogging and ordered Key Lime Cheesecake for dessert. The one slice was more than all three of us could possibly finish. I walked out of there high on food.

With meals like this, it's no wonder Houston is Fat City. People here love to eat out, and aside from Las Vegas, there's no other metro area in America where you can eat so much for so little. Even the fancy places tend to pile it on here.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Hey, Underpants!

Tony Bennett left his heart in San Francisco. I left my underpants in Austin, Texas.

When it comes to packing, you can't get much more well-duh than clean underwear. I'm pretty sure I had some laid out and ready to go, but in my haste to get out the door, they all got left behind. This is a particularly bad realization to arrive at on the busiest shopping day of the year.

Somehow I managed a round-trip to Target and an abbreviated shower routine in less than an hour. My parents and I had lunch with our former next-door neighbors from Bellaire at an Italian place near Greenway Plaza. I can't recall the name, but it was pretty tasty.

Then we went to the casino-like Edwards Cinema megaplex to see Walk the Line. It's gotten a few less-than-stellar reviews, but I thought it was quite good. I've had a hard time warming up to Reese Witherspoon because I could never put her spot-on embodiment of Tracy Flick in Election out of my mind, but as June Carter Cash, she's pure angelic charm.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Smokin' Down to H-Town

Happy Thanksgiving from balmy Houston. I zipped down here this morning on blissfully traffic-free highways at speeds last night's drivers could only dream about. The trip took me less than two and a half hours door-to-door.

With the exception of the years when we went to Dallas to see the Cowboys play, my family always gets a Greenberg Smoked Turkey shipped to us from Tyler. They're not cheap as turkeys go, but nothing but nothing beats the smoky, pepper-laden flavor of a Greenberg in my book.

Between the turkey, the ham, the stuffing, the potatoes, the green bean casserole, the pumpkin pie and the red wine, I think I need a long health walk now.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Bill Moyers Just Gets It

"Texas is run by the rich and the righteous, and the result is a state of piracy and piety that puts the medieval papacy to shame."
-Bill Moyers

Seeing as how it happened right in my own backyard, I feel sort of embarrassed for not having seen the speech that line came from sooner.

Yesterday, The Huffington Post reprinted Moyers' speech from The Texas Observer's September 30th fundraiser here in Austin. Every Texan should read it.

As usual, Moyers breathes well-articulated form into the horrible, sinking feeling more and more of us are waking up to these days. He also reminds us that today's fight is just a variation on yesterday's, which will be a variation on tomorrow's. It's great stuff all around.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Texas Takes A Shot At Sony

Kudos to Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott for filing a lawsuit against Sony/BMG for putting damaging anti-piracy spyware on 52 of its CDs. I hope he is just one of many state AGs who sue Sony for its stupid, malicious crime against consumers. Boing Boing has a good rundown of the whole sordid affair.

The bitter irony is that Sony's spyware is corrupting the computers of people who actually go out and buy CDs instead of downloading music illegally. They're screwing people for doing the right thing. I can't imagine too many businesses I'd feel less guilty about stealing from.

Now who says I never have nothing nice to say about Republicans?

Monday, November 21, 2005

Merry Christmas, You Godless Scum!

Today's issue of Salon carries a nice historical dissection by Michelle Goldberg of the anti-Christmas hysteria our poor persecuted evangelicals dutifully drag out every year like beat-up yuletide lawn ornaments. Reading it will make you feel a bit like never saying "Merry Christmas" to a stranger again, lest they think you're part of this deranged campaign.

This year, the Christanists have their knickers in a twist over department stores wishing shoppers "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas." Fatuous blimp Jerry Falwell is calling for a boycott of Target this weekend because he claims they refuse to allow the phrase "Merry Christmas" in its advertising and promotion.

Meanwhile, Fox News has made the "War On Christmas" its pet cause, scanning the globe for nativity scene controversies and sending a helmet-haired blonde in stilletto heels out on location to every last hamlet where Plastic Baby Jesus faces real or imagined peril.

The veracity of these anti-Christmas claims matters not to those whose religious convictions apparently become meaningless without a phony sense of embattlement. Their hue and cry has nothing to do with reality and everything to do with being able to mail out urgent appeals for cash in envelopes marked "Christmas Under Attack!"

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Microsoft Unhinged

Why the hell did I decide to install Windows XP on my six-year-old Gateway PC?

The already-sluggish machine has now gone completely shithouse. Windows says it needs to go online to fix itself but I can't get online because Windows XP no longer recognizes my connection. Every time I try to something normal and mundane to improve my PC's performance, it bites me in the ass.

If Bill Gates was at my house right now, I'd beat him in the head with a lead pipe.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Hole in Me Head

Suddenly it was 1993 all over again last night at the Hole in the Wall. The vibe for the Wannabes' 20th anniversary show was that of a high school reunion. Soaking up the ambience, I quickly downed a few beers and cultivated a nice glowing buzz before switching to water for the rest of the evening.

The packed showroom became fully jammed when Sincola took to the stage for their first full set since breaking up in 1997. Despite the layoff, the band's altogether unlikely chemistry came through loud and clear on tunes like "Rundown," "Happy M.F." (which Chepo noted went to #30 for a week in the U.K.), and the obligatory set-closer, "Bitch." It was jovial and fun but spot-on when it had to be.

Trivia note: 12 years ago this month at Kilamanjaro (now Elysium) on Red River, Sincola headlined the first-ever Peenbeets show. We opened with a jerky 15-minute set and then another new band called Spoon played. I'm not sure whatever became of them.

The Wannabes were up next. They gamely plowed through old faves like "Itchin' Jenny" and "Ex-Girlfriend Record Review," to name but two. They even had original vocalist Mike Comiskey join in the excitement. As 2am approached, the unabashed covers came out. Among them were Duran Duran's "Hungry Like the Wolf" (which I remembered them doing at a KTSB-sponsored "New Wave Hoot Night" I emceed in 1990) and the Tubes' "She's A Beauty." I was dancing and having beer spilt on me and I didn't mind one bit.

Somehow I made it out this afternoon when Hunter invited me for a post-show lunch at El Patio, but I'm not sure I'll be going anywhere tonight. Between the beer and Tex-Mex, my brain and body just don't bounce back like they used to.

Meanwhile, my mom just called from Houston to say she's going to see Paul McCartney. When you're being out-rocked by your mom, it's time to start yourself asking some serious questions.

Friday, November 18, 2005

20 Years of Wannabes

Tonight at the Hole in the Wall, the Wannabes celebrate 20 years of gigs alongside Nineties K-Nack faves Sincola, who are reuniting for the occasion.

I first saw the Wannabes back in '88 or '89 at the Cannibal Club. Whenever a slot needed filling there, the Fort Worth-born Wannabes were willing and able. I probably saw them play the Cannibal more than any other band.

While the 'bes made some noteworthy records, particularly 1995's Popsucker, there's no substitute for seeing them live at a bar after several frosty mugs of Shiner Bock. You sometimes hear the term "bar band" spit out like an epithet, but ably warming the cold, cynical cockles of pie-faced lonely hearts with a slurry rendition of Bob Welch's "Sentimental Lady" is as noble a calling as pastoral work.

The Wannabes were the very first band I saw play in the 21st century. They were onstage at the Hole in the Wall when the clock struck the year 2000. After an impromptu "Auld Lang Syne," the quartet launched into a boisterous version of "Freeze Frame." It struck the perfect opening note for a decade that will never be any lighter than it was right then.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Jury Doody

After three days of secrecy, I'm now free to discuss my virgin jury experience. I've done jury duty several times without ever making it past voir dire, but Monday was my "lucky" day. Perhaps the fact that I reported to the courtroom with a big clod of dog shit on my shoe had something to do with it.

The case involved a cement truck driver carrying a full load to a new subdivision out near Wimberley in 2000. Upon reaching a rather treacherous downward grade, the driver apparently missed his gear and the truck began coasting down the hill at a high rate of speed. He lost control of the truck and hit a tree. The impact ejected the driver from the truck and he was killed.

The autopsy found trace amounts of a cocaine metabolite (but no actual cocaine) in the driver's urine, which the insurance company immediately set upon as justification for denying the driver's wife's worker's compensation claim. The Texas Worker's Compensation Commission (TWCC) also denied her claim, stating the driver was intoxicated. The driver had tested positive for cocaine in random drug tests on two separate occasions, but the question wasn't whether he used cocaine.

Instead, we were trying to determine whether or not he was intoxicated at the time of the accident. All of the medical evidence presented to us indicated that the amount of metabolite found in his body at the time of death was far too small to have caused intoxication. There was also testimony from the driver's wife and colleagues stating he didn't appear to be intoxicated, but it was the testimony from the Travis County Deputy Medical Examiner that convinced me he probably wasn't high when he crashed. She wasn't inclined to favor either side, and yet it was her strong opinion the driver wasn't intoxicated.

Most of my fellow jurors agreed. We returned a 10-2 vote after the presiding juror read the charge. A unanimous verdict wasn't necessary, so deliberations were over in about 15 minutes. I was glad the evidence overwhelmingly supported the widow because I wasn't looking forward to the possibility of returning a verdict against her.

Frankly, I was surprised the insurance company's attorney didn't introduce more evidence supporting the intoxication charge when the driver's wife's attorney had plenty to indicate the driver was not intoxicated. I for one would've liked to see what TWCC was looking at when they made their ruling. If they were seeing the same evidence we saw, I can't see how they could possibly say the driver was intoxicated without having a strong predisposition toward the insurance industry. But that's just me.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Plan B: Politics Before Science

Is anyone surprised that the Food and Drug Administration rejected an application for non-prescription sales of Plan B emergency contraception pills under less than above-the-board circumstances that reek of political interference?

Although the FDA's own advisory committee recommended acceptance of the Plan B application, the FDA rejected Barr Laboratories' application for over-the-counter sales in May 2004. A review of the process published yesterday by the Government Accountability Office suggests FDA officials discussed rejecting the application in December 2003, long before the advisory committee made its recommendations.

After all, who needs science when you have busybody religionists to placate?

Peanut Brittle Ice Cream

The good folks at the H-E-B ice cream laboratory recently introduced Creamy Creations peanut brittle ice cream in the $2.50 half-gallon model. I haven't been this swept off my feet by a beckoning grocery product since they came out with roasted garlic-flavored Triscuits.

While not as successful as H-E-B's Texas Seasons Poteet strawberry ice cream in execution, their peanut brittle ice cream is still a novel treat. The tiny bits of peanut brittle are more akin to Atkinson's peanut butter bars in texture (good news for your dental work), but the flavor is all there. Together with vanilla ice cream and a caramel ribbon, the end result is not unlike a caramel pecan ice cream with peanuts subbing for pecans. Finishing off a half-gallon should be no problem.

Aside from their razors and their Ranch Style Beans knock-off, I can't think of any other H-E-B brand products I absolutely won't use.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Kevin's Gone, One More Round

After one more round at Club DeVille last night, I dropped Kevin off at the airport this morning. Despite getting off to a bad start with the vehicle-burgling degenerates, it was still good to see Mr. Fullerton again. The whole weekend felt like being on vacation in my own town.

We're thinking of meeting up in Vegas this winter to win enough keno to buy Kevin a new laptop and maybe catch Gladys Knight with a Pip or two.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Hitting the Spot

One of the best parts of hosting out-of-town visitors - aside from helping them search for stolen luggage - is going on a barbecue pilgrimage to Lockhart (Kreuz, Smitty's, Black's), Taylor (Louie Mueller's) and/or Llano (Cooper's).

We didn't get out until 1pm yesterday, and knowing Louie Mueller's shuts down when they run out of meat, we figured Lockhart would be the best bet. Kreuz and Smitty's are the two main contenders there for meat alone, but Kevin was also in the mood for sides, so we chose Black's. It hit the spot. We each had a quarter pound of brisket and a sausage link along with a whole mess of beans, slaw and potato salad.

Since we were only 17 miles from San Marcos, we decided to hit the outlet stores to further replenish Kevin's wardrobe. He bought two pairs of shoes, some Gold Toe socks and a pair of running shorts. I got in on the action myself with a pair of Steve Madden loafers - a highly unorthodox impulse buy for me - but Kevin goaded me into it and I'm glad he did.

Upon arriving back in Austin, we caught up with David and Rachel for an early-evening pint at Billy's on Burnet before hitting the Hole in the Wall to see the Fighting Brothers McCarthy. They hit the spot with the same accuracy as Black's BBQ when they broke out their cover of "S.O.S." by ABBA.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Healing Food

Kevin and I were wiped out but still adrenalized after Thursday night's vehicle break-in. Despite not going to sleep until six in the morning, we woke up around ten yesterday and filed a police report. APD sent a forensics van to my house to dust the car for prints. Frankly, I was surprised they went to that much trouble.

The healing started around lunchtime when we drove out to far North Austin to get some soul food at Dot's Place. Dot's was destroyed by an electrical fire in October 2004. Owner Dot Hewitt didn't have insurance, but the restaurant is now being rebuilt with assistance from East Side Baptist Church and various other well-wishers.

Until then, Dot's is serving $7 lunch plates out of a trailer on the property at 13805 Orchid Lane. Kevin had moist, flaky catfish and I had my old favorite beef tips with rice. We both got sides of black-eyed peas and collard greens. Kevin had an extra side of stewed okra and we shared sweet potato pie, peach cobbler and banana pudding. The whole shebang was only $19. I used to eat at Dot's semi-regularly when I worked up north, but I'd forgotten just how good it is.

Then we set about finding Kevin some duds for the rest of his stay by making a vintage run down the Drag. Of course that included a stop at Blue Velvet (a.k.a., the house of Felt Up), where Kevin scored a sharp cream-colored Guayabera. Since we were running on four hours sleep, the day ended somewhat early with a few pints over a few hours at the Dog & Duck Pub.

I think we'll be making a barbecue run out to Lockhart today.

Friday, November 11, 2005

The Baggage Smugglers

My former roommate Kevin rolled into town from Seattle last night for a three-day birthday weekend of frolic and relaxation. Things started out pretty good. We went directly from the airport to the Continental Club to get down with the Bloody Tears and the Diamond Smugglers doing their respective Sixties R&B garage and Neil Diamond tribute things. It was a good show all around.

Unfortunately, when we opened up my trunk at 2:30 in the morning to retrieve Kevin's luggage, it was all gone. No laptop, no clothes, no toiletries. Nothing else was missing in my car as far as I could tell, though the glovebox was open. We think someone must've seen us put his luggage in the trunk before going into the club.

We drove back down to South Congress and managed to find Kevin's book bag abandoned by the side of the road along with removed luggage tags, but that was it. Dirty fucking thieves.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

New York Night Train

If you played music in Austin at any time during the mid-Nineties, you probably sat at a club or bar next to my pal Jonathan Toubin at least once. If not, maybe he made flyers for you at the old 6th Street Kinko's. He's lived in New York for more than seven years now, but he still runs into more old friends than I do whenever he's in town.

Jonathan and I have been friends since high school in Houston. We were in the anti-nuclear war club together. Later on, we were in a couple of bands called Cheezus and Noodle. Whether we were disrupting lunch with a die-in in front of the school cafeteria or throwing cheese slices at clubgoers, we always talked a lot about music. From Big Joe Turner to the Butthole Surfers, Jonathan knows his stuff.

That's why I'm glad to hear he started a music website called New York Night Train. He just posted a lengthy oral history-style interview with guitarist Kid Congo Powers from the Gun Club and the Cramps. It's good stuff and there's more on the way. You should go read it now so I can stop writing and go to bed.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Ashamed, But Not Surprised

Well, at least only three out of four Texans voted to constitutionally strip their fellow citizens of equal protection under the law.

It sucks to get beat that bad, but we were going up against the Republican Party, a not-insubstantial chunk of the Democratic Party, the Vatican and the Southern Baptist Convention, to name but a few. That's like me and some of my drinking buddies playing the '86 Chicago Bears and only losing 21-7. There's a lot of dogged ignorance in Texas. Overcoming well-entrenched ninnyisms - especially when they're associated with the anus - is bound to be a decades-long process.

I wonder if these so-called people of faith realize just how many spiritually hungry souls they've alienated with this gay marriage bullshit? If there really is a Judgment Day, I hope I'm standing in line behind some smug, holy rolling gay-baiters because the mere spillage of a few trillion gametes is going to look pretty good by comparison.

Texas deserves a big 'ol karmic horse kick in its double-wide kiester for this.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Bless Their Little Hearts

Texans head to the polls today to decide if we need to make non-hetero marriage even more illegal than it already is.

Here in North Central Austin, which is about as far from representative of the rest of Texas as you can get, there are a fair amount of No Nonsense in November yard signs out. It's a heartening sight, but I know the rest of the state too well to read too much into it.

Not to be outdone, the One Man/One Woman crowd made up yard signs of their own depicting a child's drawing of a stick figure man and a stick figure woman. Isn't that just the cutest thing you've ever seen?

I've always thought people who selectively use the Bible to justify their own
otherwise-indefensible prejudices were moral infants, and this graphic design choice proves that point better than I ever could.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Buttoned Down in H-Town

Houston is somewhat well-known as the comic launch pad for Bill Hicks and Sam Kinison, but I had no idea The Button-Down Mind of Bob Newhart was recorded there.

According to this story by Bruce Westbrook in today's Houston Chronicle, the million-selling album was recorded in 1960 over two nights at the Tidelands Motor Inn, a now-demolished motor hotel adjacent to Rice Univeristy and the Texas Medical Center.

"We were taping the show, and the first night we had a drunken woman in the front row who kept saying, 'That's a bunch of crap,'" Newhart tells Westbrook. "You could hear her (on the tape) clearer than me. So we taped both shows Saturday night, and out of that we put together my first album."

Newhart is back in Houston tonight to receive the Denton A. Cooley Leadership Award.

I seem to recall sneaking into their tropically-themed swimming area during the hotel's waning days in the late Eighties, but that might've been a sister property called the Tides Inn. I don't remember if the Tides and the Tidelands were one in the same or not.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Good Clean Fun

It's been a most pleasant birthday weekend thus far. I met up with my folks yesterday in the sleepy (except when there's a street festival) hamlet of Fayetteville for lunch.

Upon arriving back in Austin, my drumming buddy Lance took me to Banzai for a nice bento box. Then we went to Room 710 to see Mandible and Viper Horse. This being the first time I've been downtown without having to drive home in recent memory, I drank four whole pints of beer. Lance brought me home around 1:30 and we watched some rare Chicago concert footage because that's just how we roll.

My bandmate David and his loverly wife Rachel took me to breakfast at the Frisco Shop this morning. There's nothing like a good American breakfast and several cups of coffee to soak up the previous night's excess. Tomorrow, I'll be asking my doctor about Zocor.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Another Ring Around the Trunk

I'm 37 years old today. Is that still the mid-30s or do I have to start saying I'm now in my late 30s?

Roger Staubach was 37 when he retired from the Dallas Cowboys. Accordingly, before the year is out, I plan to retire from my government job to sell Rolaids and real estate. Lord knows I could use a whole bunch of both.

Friday, November 04, 2005


Recently, I stumbled upon Bedazzled! via a Boing Boing link and now I can't quit going back. Cookie's got the hook-up for rare music footage from the Sixties and Seventies.

Bedazzled! features a healthy assortment of Scopitones (French-developed precursors to music videos that played on coin-operated "film jukeboxes" in bars), as well as bizarre TV appearances like The Beach Boys on The Mike Douglas Show singing "Never Learn Not To Love," which infamously began its life as a Charlie Manson composition called "Cease To Exist."

There's even a song from the ever-elusive Peppermint Trolley Company, best known as singers of The Brady Bunch theme during the first season before the kids started singing it themselves.

With a good broadband connection, you could easily piss away the whole weekend here.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Brownout at CNN

CNN anchor Aaron Brown, once thought by a few misguided souls to be the next grand old man of TV news, is leaving the network. A company-wide memo issued yesterday says he wants to, ahem, "spend some well-deserved time off with his family."

I say good riddance, and take that caked-up Junior League mannequin Kyra Phillips with you.

Aside from his whiny cadence, Brown's sycophantic homerism during the opening days of the war was made all the more galling by his sustained indignance toward Arab news outlets like Al Jazeera for doing exactly what the American media was doing. You could've driven a small church through this gape-brained hypocrisy.

So much of what comes on CNN these days is a thinly-veiled aping of Fox News, but without the face-stomping Chyron assault and fascist-chic bumper music, it's not even successful on those terms. Time Warner has managed to render CNN both insipid and flaccid, and Brown was the pseudo-genteel poster boy for that transformation.

Anderson Cooper will be taking over Brown's 9pm spot. While I harbor fears of Cooper's career track following Geraldo Rivera's, it's still an improvement.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Cheaters on DVD!

I'd never trade living in Austin for living in Waco, Odessa or Abilene, but all three of those cities have something we don't: a TV channel that shows Cheaters.

Filmed on location in Dallas (already home to the most outrageous local TV spots for seedy divorce lawyers you've ever seen), Cheaters is a pseudo-reality show in which lovers/spouses who suspect they're being two-timed "hire" Cheaters' crack team of private investigators to find out if their suspicions bear fruit, which of course they always do. Video evidence is proffered to the cuckolds, reducing them to pathetic, quivering messes as the cameras roll.

The best part of the show is when the Cheaters crew accompanies the victim to ambush the cheater in the very act of cheating. Revenge is sought in the form of publicly humiliating the cheater. One time, the show's host trespassed onto the boat of a cheater who promptly stabbed him right in the stomach. It was hilarious. Cheaters is always dramatic, anguished and very obviously staged, but you don't care because the swindle itself is worth the price of admission.

I'll never understand why this All-American train wreck doesn't air in Austin, but now we can all own Cheaters forever on a four DVD box set loaded with bonus materials. I'm going to have to throw a Cheaters party real soon.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

The Elephant's Graveyard

I was a total lame ass on Halloween night. I thought about going out, but I had writing to do. As it was, I didn't even get much writing done because the time change and cold front left me feeling lethargic.

At least I cut up a pumpkin and handed out most of my candy to trick-or-treaters. If they ever quit showing up, I'll eat all those Reese's, Kit-Kats and Tootsie Rolls myself.

Instead of writing, I watched Gus Van Sant's Elephant, a ham-fisted, sub-moronic piece of art school thwackery masquerading as oh-so-transgressive and esoteric social commentary about school shootings.

I'll gladly watch a musical comedy about Columbine if it's funny and Paul Williams writes the score, but Elephant is nothing more than a 90-minute wank celebrating technique without soul.

After this, I think I'm done with Van Sant.

Monday, October 31, 2005

A Halloween Fotonovel

Once upon a time when I was a wee Methodist preschooler in Dallas, some kid showed up on the playground with plastic fangs in his mouth. I think it was right around Halloween, but I can't be sure.

I'd never seen plastic fangs before. When this kid beared his fangs and growled, it scared the holy hell out of me. I thought he was some sort of monster.

So I punched him right in the mouth as hard as I could.

The fangs trailed long strands of spittle as they tumbled out of the boy's mouth and landed in the dirt.

Then he began wailing like...well, like a little boy who'd been punched in the mouth.

I just stood there looking completely stunned. My young mind couldn't process the scene quickly enough. The teacher came over and scolded me because I was unable to articulate that I honestly thought those fangs were real.

Happy Halloween. Don't scare me.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

We've Got Jumpers

I don't know what I did to deserve it, but the car fairy was smiling on me yesterday. Instead of needing a new alternator or starter, I just needed a new battery and (here's the critical part) a new set of battery cables. Mine were apparently too rusty to move juice anymore, but the tow truck driver's worked like a charm.

I left my car at Pep Boys and took a stroll up the 183 service road to Sunflower, my favorite Vietnamese restaurant in town. Their $6.50 five spice chicken lunch special was exquisite. The special included a pineapple, tomato and green onion soup that made perfect sense once you tasted it.

It was a great day for walking around in general, so I didn't mind being on foot in the least. Between walking, the IGA market up the street and Capital Metro's No. 5 route, I could do most everything I need to do from here without a car if I needed to.

Once night fell, my duplex neighbors had a costume keg party. I came as a vampire prom king, but the plastic fangs impeded my drinking, so I spit 'em out early on. All of the college-aged girls wore sexy costumes, which got me to thinking about how girls' costumes are almost always sexy while guys' costumes are almost always hideous.

To wit, one guy "came" as a giant penis, complete with a portable fan mechanism to create tumescence. Another was a turd with a little yellow dot of fabric to signify corn. Meanwhile, the vastly outnumbered girls were low-cut, short-skirted and full of Jell-O shots. I just smiled and tried not to look like too dirty of an old man.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Breakdown Dead Ahead

Last night started out as a most pleasant evening. I went directly from work to the Chron fall party at the Elks' Lodge where I loaded up on BBQ and Indian food. Then I got caught up in a beer drinking game called Flip Cup for a few rounds, but I bowed out very early in the name of public safety.

From there, it was off to the Dog & Duck Pub for a pint with my drumming buddy Lance, who was making a special north-of-the-river appearance. As the night wore down, I climbed in my car only to discover it was dead. Jumping the battery didn't help, either, so I'm thinking it's probably the starter or alternator, but who knows? That kinda sucked. If I'd known I wouldn't have a car at night's end, I would've had a couple more pints.

Fortunately, Julie L. of the Diamond Smugglers was still there and graciously gave me a ride home. I was also glad I hadn't taken my car to East Texas last week. Getting stuck at the Duck wasn't half as bad as being stranded somewhere in the Davy Crockett National Forest.

This afternoon will be dedicated to getting my car towed to the mechanic. I'll probably be hoofing it until at least Monday afternoon.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Out of the KKKloset for Traditional Marriage

Wake up wahte people! If you support the gay marriage ban, I'm afraid you're now in bed with the Ku Klux Klan.

The Klannies will be in Austin on November 5th to rally in support of "traditional" marriage. November 5th is also my birthday, so they'd better be bringing presents. If not, I'll gladly accept their white sheets if they've got a decent thread count.

On a related note, early voting started this week on the amendment that would enshrine discrimination in the Texas constitution by defining marriage exclusively as a one man/one woman contract and prohibiting the recognition of any legal status conferring marriage-like rights on anyone else. That latter part could potentially be used to screw all unmarried couples - gay and straight - out of health insurance, hospital visitation, family sick leave and much more.

While the Klanvangelical alliance is a formidable foe, there's a slight chance this amendment can be defeated. It's all a matter of which side gets out the vote.

From a purely pragmatic perspective, this hateful little turd is not something any sane person wants clogging up their constitution. Gay marriage is illegal enough as it is. However, in several decades when gay marriage bans are as anathema to decent society as colored water fountains, Texas is going to lose Super Bowls, conventions and businesses because of it. Smart people will refuse to relocate here and conscientious tourists will steer around Texas on principle.

When the pendulum finally forces Texas to change, it'll be a lot easier to do so if it's not part of our silly-ass constitution, which is a horrible enough document as it is.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Bush Drops Gulf Coast Wage Cut

Finally, the Dems in Congress put up a united spine for working people and
forced the Bush corporate cabal to stand down.

Last month, Bush cynically used Hurricane Katrina as pretense to suspend the
Davis-Bacon Act in areas damaged by the hurricane. This would've allowed
bloated crony contractors like KBR/Halliburton and Bechtel to pay workers less than the already-low prevailing local wage to rebuild the Gulf Coast.

Last week, Rep. George Miller (D-CA) introduced a joint resolution that would've forced a Congressional vote to overturn Bush's suspension of what Miller called the Gulf Coast Wage Cut. With all House Democrats and 37 Republicans opposing the Davis-Bacon suspension (and the Smilin' Hammer under indictment), the White House had no choice but to back down. Bush quietly announced yesterday than he would overturn the Davis-Bacon suspension on his own, effective November 8.

It's about time progressives accomplished something concrete besides letting Terri Schiavo die, which wasn't exactly one of those champagne-popping victories.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

White Sox Win World Series

Wow, four games to none. The Astros kept all four games close, but their anemic offense and inability to put the White Sox away when they had the chance did them in every time. I actually turned last night's marathon off and went to bed in the 12th inning, secure in the knowledge that Houston would fail to come through.

Clearly the better team won. Congrats to the southside of Chicago.

As for the Astros, it was a fun ride no one was expecting. I just hope we don't have to wait another 44 years for a World Series win because there's a real chance I'll be screaming gibberish at private duty nurses by then if I'm still alive.

ACL 2006 Set for September

The fourth annual Austin City Limits Music Festival will take place September 15-17, 2006 in Zilker Park.

So why didn't organizers move it to October? Let's go to the website:

"We have to pick a weekend that doesn't have other competing major events, such as a University of Texas home football game. Logistically, the city is incapable of handling both ACL Festival and other activities that draw a large number of tourists on the same weekend because of limitations on hotel capacity and downtown parking facilities. That leaves a narrow window of availability in late September through early October.

The traditional touring season for bands is May through September. By holding the event in September, we can route bands through Austin as part of their tours and get the bands we want that make our lineups the most exciting and diverse in the industry.

Also, historical temperatures in October don't differ that much from September, but the chance of rain dramatically increases. The 30-year average high for the last two weeks of September is 88 degrees Fahrenheit (vs. 84 degrees Fahrenheit for first two weeks of October).

But, the 10-year average rainfall for the first two weeks of October is almost 3 times as high as for the last two weeks of September."

Those are all good reasons, but they all fall flat when it's 108 degrees and you're standing in line for one of only two free water fountains.

Can't Get There From Here

Has anyone else noticed the highway signs directing motorists onto U.S. 290 and Highway 71 West at the new Ben White/IH-35 interchange have been altered? These signs initially listed El Paso and San Angelo as destinations, but now those two cities have been deleted in favor of Johnson City.

Prior to the interchange being built, the old signs said Johnson City, so maybe TxDOT determined the new destination cities confused people. The routes to both San Angelo and El Paso aren't straight shots; 290 takes you to IH-10 west of Fredricksburg and 71 hooks you up with U.S. 87 at Brady.

Nevertheless, I liked the idea of a sign in Austin beckoning drivers to El Paso. In contemplating that torturous 11-hour trek, you can't help but think about how big Texas is, and isn't that what we want visitors to think?

I'm going to contact the TxDOT public affairs folks about this and let you know what they say.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Thank You, Rosa Parks

Rosa Parks died last night at age 92. It was almost 50 years ago when Parks refused to give up her bus seat to a white man in Montgomery, Alabama. In doing so, she provided a dignified but determined face to the civil rights movement. The resulting 381-day bus boycott by Montgomery's black community helped thrust Martin Luther King, Jr. into the national spotlight.

There are those who will venerate Parks in a manner suggesting her struggle is a part of history. Part of celebrating her life will be dismissing flaccid assertions that racism is merely a "legacy" issue, as Bush II stated during his post-Katrina photo-op in New Orleans' Jackson Square.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Portland Pumpkin Pickin' and TSA Toenail Tumult

The World Series is on travel status today, so let's go back to Portland for a spell.

After my Friday afternoon stroll down NE Alberta, I took the bus downtown and walked over to Powell’s City of Books. I bought Alan Hess’ Googie Redux, the definitive exploration of Southern California coffee shop architecture and stared at bookish women for an hour or so.

I caught up with Noah and Trish for dinner. We went to a place downtown called Higgins that prides itself on innovative uses of fresh, regionally-grown ingredients. I made Noah and Trish pose next to this pumpkin in the bar. I ordered rigatoni with fennel sausage and a garlic cream sauce, which our waiter described as “fucking excellent.”

Austin is a progressive place, but you're highly unlikely to hear your waitperson use that kind of language unless s/he knows you. Nevertheless, the pasta dish was pretty fucking excellent.

The Indian summer weather continued on through Saturday, so we decided to go to Portland’s farmers market. Located along one of the famed “city park blocks” on the Portland State University campus, the market brimmed with vendors hawking fresh fruits and vegetables, jams and jellies, breads, cheeses, meats and various pickled items. Trish bought some lavender peach preserves that were awesome.

Then we drove 10 miles west of town to Sauvie Island, where several pumpkin patches attracted throngs to pick the perfect pumpkin in anticipation of Halloween. I’m not sure I’ve ever experienced such an intense autumnal vibe in my life as a Texan. We tromped around the muddy patch, fetched two impressive, green-hued pumpkins and hopped aboard a hay ride that took us back to the parking area.

The only catch was getting off the island. Since there’s only one two-lane bridge, traffic backed up for almost two hours. Nevertheless, you could do a lot worse than sitting in traffic on a picturesque island in mild weather while the sun goes down.

We went to McMenamin’s Kennedy School for dinner. It’s an old elementary school the McMenamin’s people turned into a restaurant/bar/club/movie theater/hotel. Their red snapper sandwich hit the spot after a day of pumpkin picking.

We’d planned on hitting a club or something, but we were all too beat to do so, so we came back to the house, had a few beers and passed out.

My flight on Sunday didn’t leave until 11:35, so I didn’t have to wake up too early. The airport wasn’t too crowded, either, but the TSA confiscated my damn toenail clippers.

I've carried these clippers on airplanes many times since 9/11, but the Portland agents claimed I could use them to cut wires and compromise the plane’s airworthiness. The latex-gloved woman behind the counter looked at me like I'd tried to bring boxcutters on board.

They gave me the option of mailing my toenail clippers to myself, but I decided to surrender them to the War on Some Terror since they were kind of old and grody anyway.

Apparently, they don’t realize my unclipped toenails could do a lot more damage than those clippers.

Other than that, it was a smooth, uneventful journey home. The planes were full, but I landed in Austin with plenty of time to watch the Astros lose.