Monday, February 28, 2005

Roky Erickson CD Release Tomorrow

Shout! Factory's excellent two-disc Roky Erickson compilation, I Have Always Been Here Before, provides the first truly definitive overview of Erickson's career. It includes most of the key 13th Floor Elevators tracks along with a bunch of previously hard-to-find solo tracks from the Godfather of Texas Psychedelia. Best of all, the oft-bootlegged and ripped-off Erickson will see his cut this time. He'll be signing copies of the album at Waterloo tomorrow at 5pm.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Brady Bunch Season One

At last I can own my beloved Brady surrogate siblings forever on DVD! Season One of The Brady Bunch hits stores Tuesday. Having pored over these episodes since the age of six, I'm keenly aware of how butchered they've become as callous cable networks edit out seconds here and there to maximize commercial time. It will please me greatly to watch them as producer Sherwood Schwartz intended them to air back in 1969.

Although I definitely want Season One in the library, my all-time favorite Brady episode is "Peter and the Wolf" from Season Five. It's the one where Greg enlists a poorly mustachioed Peter (alias "Phil Packer") to go on a blind date with his girlfriend's cousin, who turns out to be quite hot. The girls realize they're being had, so they set up a second date where both of them fawn all over "Phil" at the pizza parlor, leaving Greg high and dry. Hijinks ensue when it turns out to be the same pizza parlor where Mike and Carol are entertaining clients from Mexico. Oops!

Next up on my Brady Bunch wish list: a soundtrack album of all the great incidental music composed for the show by Frank DeVol (a.k.a. Happy Kyne from Fernwood 2-Night).

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Winnie Cooper Helps You With Math

Actress Danica McKellar, best known for her portrayal of Kevin Arnold's on-and-off girlfriend Winnie Cooper in The Wonder Years, also has a degree in mathematics from UCLA. Her official Web site allows a lucky few to e-mail her for help with difficult math questions (via Metafilter). What the hell was Kevin thinking when he blew her off?!?

Friday, February 25, 2005

Perverted Son Calls It Quits

If you're planning to tie one on this weekend in honor of the good Dr. Thompson, think about pouring a little something on the block for Perverted Son Records. The Austin avant-punk label, run by Josh Chalmers and J.D. Fanning, is ceasing operations after six years and 18 releases.

I wrote a profile of Perverted Son in 2003 and was very impressed with Josh and J.D.'s work ethic. I'm sure it'll continue to serve them well in their screen printing business, Bearded Lady Printing. Though Perverted Son didn't have the distribution muscle King Coffey's Trance Syndicate had in the Nineties, they still managed to document a vibrant slice of the scene, putting out albums by Tia Carrera, Gorch Fock, Brown Whörnet and their own Oh, Beast!

Running a label is usually one of those labors of love that sucks the love right out of you over time, along with a substantial chunk of your disposable income. Nevertheless, Perverted Son leaves behind a body of work Josh and J.D. should be proud of, even if they can't take it to the bank.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Grand Openings Galore

With SXSW, a decent-sized rodeo and the occasional NCAA basketball tourney, March is always a jam-packed month in Austin. Adding to this year's madness is next week's slate of grand openings. By week's end, the massive Whole Foods flagship at 6th and Lamar, the Alamo Drafthouse multiplex on South Lamar and the new Half Price Books super-store on North Lamar at Koenig will all be up and running.

Some folks find the loss of the venerable Half Price on Guadalupe (as seen in Slacker) and the closing of the barely-used former Whole Foods flagship lamentable. The fact that Austin has more than doubled in size since 1990 is crazy. Wasn't it just a few years ago that Sixth and Lamar was dominated by car dealerships, or am I really that old? I can only imagine how people who lived here in the Seventies feel.

On the whole, though, I'm glad to see the Alamo bringing its edgier fare to a place with ample parking and I'm glad to see Half Price opening a store here that will rival their massive Northwest Highway flagship in Dallas. I don't get to the current Whole Foods much as it is, but I'm looking forward to at least sticking my head in the new one. If growth is inevitable, better to have these sorts of projects flourish in town than lost to suburban sprawl.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Van Dyke Parks

I was fortunate enough to have a short chat last evening with Van Dyke Parks, the lyricist/composer/producer/performer best known as Brian Wilson's collaborator on SMiLE, the "lost" Beach Boys album that finally saw the light of day in its entirety (as a remade Brian solo album) last year. Parks will be in Austin for SXSW next month to discuss SMiLE with Brian and David Leaf, who directed a documentary about the SMiLE saga that recently aired on Showtime.

Although I've gotten better with time, I still get a little of the "Chris Farley Show" syndrome when I conduct an interview, particularly with someone well-known or whose work holds particular personal significance. It's not really my nature to just start asking people questions and I feel weird about doing it even when I have legitimate credentials to back me up. I'm thankful no one besides me will ever hear the tape of my interview with Brian Wilson, a notoriously uncomfortable interviewee who couldn't have been put any more at ease by all my hems, haws, uhs and you knows.

By contrast, my interview with Parks went quite well. He was very genial and full of great anecdotes about working with Brian Wilson and the Los Angeles music scene in the Sixties. There's a lot more to his career than SMiLE. For example, Parks told me David Crosby asked him to be in the Byrds and he turned Crosby down, saying "I didn't want to be a Byrd."

I'll have more than enough good stuff to write up a short feature for the Chron SXSW dailies; perhaps I'll post what's left here as well.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

The Big One Hits Houston

Ever wonder what would happen if a massive Category 5 hurricane slammed Houston and Galveston head-on? According to this special supplement in the Houston Chronicle, it wouldn't be pretty. In addition to evacuating people from Galveston Island and other low-lying coastal areas before the few roads out get flooded, you'll could also have Tropical Storm Allison-style freeway underpass flooding inside Loop 610. As always, anyone who doesn't have a car (e.g., the poor, elderly, infirm) will be especially screwed when it comes time to leave.

Monday, February 21, 2005

H.S.T. R.I.P.

"Journalism is not a profession or a trade. It is a cheap catch-all for fuckoffs and misfits - a false doorway to the backside of life, a filthy, piss-ridden little hole nailed off by the building inspector, but just deep enough for a wino to curl up from the sidewalk and masturbate like a chimp in a zoo-cage."

-Hunter S. Thompson, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, 1971

My Bodyguard

Over time, I've discovered most of the movies I keep watching over and over and over again were made between the years 1977 and 1985. I started getting dropped off to see matinees right around 1977 and I started driving in 1985, which expanded my entertainment options far beyond the multiplex. I can't say those years were the best in movie history, but they were certainly golden ones for me.

My Bodyguard (1980) is one such movie I've seen dozens of times, including just last night. It stars Chris Makepeace ("Rudy the Rabbit" from Meatballs) as a meek newbie at an inner-city public school. He unwittingly insults the school bully, played by Matt Dillon, on the first day of class and exacerbates matters by refusing to pay Dillon "protection money" to avoid an ass-kicking. Not able to handle Dillon and his gang of pocket comb-toting toughs alone, Makepeace hires the school's misunderstood "Big Bad John" figure (Adam Baldwin) to be his bodyguard. The great Ruth Gordon plays his lushy grandmother and Martin Mull plays his widower dad, who manages the posh downtown Chicago hotel where they live. A young, frizzy-headed Joan Cusack makes her screen debut here, and if you look very closely, you'll catch walk-ons by Second City alums George Wendt and Tim Kazurinsky.

While it could be said that My Bodyguard fairly reeks of a staid NPR sensibility with its overt moralism and light classical score by Dave Grusin, the movie's excellent casting and subtle charm make it all go down like comfort food. In being a bit too salty to be a family movie and too tame to be a teen movie, it hits a uniquely perfect note. Last year, word came down that a My Bodyguard remake is in the works, but it's hard to imagine them not ruining it in trying to apply a post-Columbine sensibility to the age-old bully problem.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

My House Was Not On Fire

No fire at the homestead on Friday night, which is good news indeed. Everything was right where I left it Friday afternoon. Special thanks to JenBB for offering to check the horizon for a tell-tale plume of smoke. I'm glad that wasn't necessary.

I think I will go ahead and figure out a way to "arm" the smoke detector so it goes off when there's smoke but not when there's mist. Perhaps that's the lesson to be learned here. No sense in possibly dying of smoke inhalation just because I like really hot showers, right?

Despite the "fire alarm," I had a fine time with my folks in H-Town. We went to Fajita Flats, their lively neighborhood Mexican restaurant, and drank margaritas as the jukebox boomed out all-star jams like "Mambo No. 5." When it's your birthday, they put a sombrero on your head and make you ride around the restaurant on a stick pony. I found this out by surprise a couple of years ago when the waiters snuck up behind me with the sombrero, but my mom told them not to make me ride the stick pony because she thought it might embarrass me too much. Surely by now she knows I'm more than capable of embarrassing myself on a much grander scale than that!

Saturday, February 19, 2005

I Hope My House Isn't On Fire

My next-door duplex neighbor with whom I share a common wall called me last evening as I dined with my parents in Houston. He asked if there was any way he could get into my place because he thought he smelled burning plastic.

My mind started racing through all of the things that could be on fire. Maybe my cheap plastic bedside lamp purchased at Target in 1989 for $10 had gone up in flames. Or maybe it was the coffee maker. I forget to turn it off at least once a month.

He thought it odd that he wouldn't be hearing a smoke detector if something was on fire. I thought so too until I remembered I'd taken the battery out because mist from the shower was always setting it off. I started wondering if I shouldn't get him to bust a window and look inside or call the landlord. Then he walked outside and told me he no longer thought it was coming from inside my duplex. I thanked him for calling and told him to call me back if anything developed.

I haven't heard back from him yet, which most likely means everything is cool. Still, it's never a good feeling to get a call saying your house might be on fire.

Friday, February 18, 2005

The Business of Being Young

Pong celebrates the release Bubble City tomorrow night at Room 710 with Les Saucy Pants. I scrawled a few words about it for the Chronicle here (you'll need to scroll down a bit). It took them over three years to get it out, but the album sounds great.

Bassist Larry Strub told me he'd done too many recordings where things didn't get done properly because "you're looking at your watch and you're looking at your wallet," so the band made a collective decision to take as long as they needed and spend as much as they needed to get things right. "I'm not going to cringe if that album is playing at a party," he said.

In interviewing the Real Heroes for a forthcoming story, we had a similar conversation about the length of time it took them to finish Greetings from Russia, another very strong second album (that, incidentally, would've been on my year-end local top ten list had I heard it in time). While two bands don't make a trend, I think those stories illustrate the marked difference between teens/twenties and thirties/forties local band life.

The Wannabes have a great song called "The Business of Being Young" that romantically nails the paradigm of ditching college to be in a rock band, getting too drunk to play, having your equipment crap out and always being right on the verge of breaking up. When you're living against such a tenuous backdrop, it seems natural for a sense of get-it-done urgency to follow. So you put out material you're not completely satisfied with because it's better than never having done it at all.

I guess age makes you take a longer view of these things. Once you've proven you can do it, you can start trying to figure out how to do it right.

Thursday, February 17, 2005


I'm happy to report that Austin's PBS station KLRU has decided to air the "Sugartime!" episode of Postcards from Buster made famous by our oxymoronic Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings. It will air on Monday, March 28 at 8 p.m.

Although I've never seen this popular children's show, my understanding about the episode in question is that Buster goes to Vermont to learn how maple sugar is made from some kids who happen to have two moms. The moms say hello, welcome Buster into their home and that's about it. Perhaps that's what Spellings is so upset about - the idea that families headed by two lesbians might not really be that different after all.

"Many parents would not want their young children exposed to the lifestyles portrayed in that episode," Spellings said in a nasty letter to PBS president Pat Mitchell. Her concern about young children not being exposed to lifestyles or ideas their parents disagree with seems reasonable enough. That's why I keep my little moppets safely padlocked away in the snowy ether of my fantasies, never to be exposed to any reality that might compromise my perfect vision of them. It's the only foolproof way of making sure my kids turn out okay, and it saves money on diapers, too.

While it's sad the controversy made KLRU decide they needed to run this episode in prime time, the sweet irony is that everyone is going to watch "Sugartime!" now. Can you say "teachable moment?" I know a lot of us will sit down with impressionable young children and point out the two mommies just to let the kids know that some families are like that and it's okay. Then we'll have some milk and cookies and go to bed with love in our hearts.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Dr Disappointment

In the world of disappointments big and small, I'm like Robert Earl Keen: it's the little things that piss me off. With that in mind, let's talk about new Cherry Vanilla Dr Pepper.

Why is it not possible for our nation's soft drink bottlers to formulate a cherry-flavored version of their soft drinks? If a 15-year-old kid behind the counter at Dairy Queen can do it, why not the vaunted laboratories of multinational beverage behemoths? Cherry Vanilla Dr Pepper doesn't taste like cherry or vanilla. It tastes like a weak-ass batch of Dr Pepper someone swished around in their mouth and spit back into the bottle as a sick practical joke. And I thought the bottled version of Cherry Coke was bad.

It's a rare thing for me to get excited over a new product, but Cherry Vanilla Dr Pepper sounded like the soft drink of my dreams. I saw it on the TV and purchased it within 72 hours just like a good American should. I did my part and Dr Pepper let me down hard. Now I'm thinking about trying that weird Islamic cola from France to avenge my feelings of betrayal.

By the way, one of the fringe benefits to getting a journalism degree is going to parties and telling people who don't care that the "Dr" in "Dr Pepper" doesn't have a period after it.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Love in the Time of McSweeney's

Being acquainted with both parties but taking no particular side, I first direct your attention to Ada Calhoun's piece on the "Men of McSweeney's." Her essay uses self-regret over an unrequited crush to excoriate the afforementioned men for being cleverly detached commitment-phobes. "The promise of disapproval just doesn't turn me on like it used to," Calhoun writes. "I no longer revel in the upturned nose of the frigidly pompous that used to get me so hot."

In the other corner, we have McSweeney's alum Neal Pollack defending his posse and rebutting Calhoun for what he calls her "full-frontal assault on group sexual potency." He goes on to say his closest compatriots were unlike anything Calhoun described. Moreover, they all grew up to marry women "who don't display any of the neuroses that make their sad parade across Calhoun's article."

Will that be the final word of this juicy little online dust-up? I guess we bystanders will just have to wait and see.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Canine Valentine

Seeing as how this is my second Valentine's Day spent in the midst of divorce proceedings, I'm not terribly inclined to wax virtuous about love right now, but I will say this: I love dogs. They're one of the few things that makes me believe there might could be something like a god somewhere, and that maybe he/she/it isn't indifferent to our plight. I open up to dogs in ways I'm rarely able to bring myself to open up to humans. By its very nature, a friendly dog can cut right through pretension and fear in a manner capable of instantaneously drawing out the purest expressions of fealty.

It's hard to really know how much dogs get out of their interactions with humans. We've gamed the system to make them appreciate us when their ideal life might be roaming in packs through bountiful countryside. Sometimes you'll hear some cynical wiseacre say something like, "You may think your dog loves you, but if you died, your dog would start eating your corpse." To that, I'd say, "Bon appetit for a job well done!"

Much love to all the dogs and their good-hearted human minders this Valentine's Day. And the cats, too, even though y'all make me sneeze.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Dead Sweetheart's Ball

The Carousel Lounge has become my new go-to live music venue. It's close to where I live, there's no downtown parking hassle and the shows end at midnight (1 a.m. on Saturday), which means you can usually beat the drunkest of the drunks home.

After a marathon writing day, I wound up at the Carousel last night for the Dead Sweetheart's Ball. Hosted by Ricky Broussard from veteran roots-rockers Two Hoots & A Holler, the show was themed around cover songs where one or more lovers wind up dead. Other performers included the Hummingbirds and Roger Wallace. They played everything from George Jones' "He Stopped Loving Her Today" to Bobby Goldsboro's "Honey" to Julie Brown's "The Homecoming Queen's Got A Gun." Best of all, there was a "tote board" near the stage where someone kept tally of all the people who died in the songs. Upon departing 15 minutes prior to closing time, I think the body count was somewhere near 75.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Krystal is Koming to Austin

No, I'm not talking about some porn starlet making a personal appearance at an adult bookstore (if that was the case, I almost certainly would've yielded to the temptation to say "kumming").

Krystal is the White Castle of the South. Founded in 1932, the Chattanooga, Tn.-based company sells square two and one half-inch hamburgers by the sackful with grilled onions, a pickle and a tiny dollop of mustard for that extra kick. The mustard is key to delineating Krystal from White Castle. Being in direct competition with Chick-Fil-A, Krystal also sells a yummy miniature chicken sandwich called the Krystal Chik.

As with most fast food guilty pleasures, eating six or more Krystal burgers at once is best accomplished in the wee early hours while under the influence of your favorite mind-altering substance(s). Unfortunately, the first area location (opening later this year) will be way the hell out in Georgetown off I-35 at Williams Rd. Designated driver, anyone?

Friday, February 11, 2005

Deadlines and Tacos

With South By Southwest coming up fast, I'm starting to feel the burn writing-wise. In fact, writing is really all I should be doing this weekend. The writing itself won't take all weekend, but I have to build in plenty of time for procrastination. After all, that's when I get my household chores done. Nothing motivates me to tidy up more than an imminent deadline.

Nevertheless, the head must be fed, and there's a swell new Mexican place just down the street from me called Taqueria Jalisco at 1304 W. Koenig. I've long been a fan of Taqueria Arandas #3 on Burnet, but sometimes it fills up and becomes too noisy for a solo diner just looking to read his Thrifty Nickel in peace. Taqueria Jalisco makes a savory taco al pastor, which is the first thing I look for in a Jalisco-style restaurant. They also do three breakfast tacos for $2.75 until noon, which is one of the better deals you'll find this side of Tamale House. Best of all, if you need to do some laundry, the Woodrow Washateria is right next door.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Uniquely American, Isn't It?

This remarkable exchange took place during President Bush's "Desocialized Security" tour at its Omaha, Nebraska stop last Friday. Like most everyone allowed within questioning distance of the President, Mary Mornin is a registered Republican who volunteered for Bush's re-election campaign.

PRESIDENT BUSH: Mary's with us, Mary Mornin. How are you, Mary?
MARY MORNIN: Hello. I'm fine.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Good. Okay, Mary, tell us about yourself.
MS. MORNIN: Okay. I'm a divorced single mother with three grown adult children. I have one child, Robbie, who is mentally challenged, and I have two daughters.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Fantastic. First of all, you've got the hardest job in America, being a single mom.
MS. MORNIN: Thank you. Thank you. (Applause.) It is.
PRESIDENT BUSH: You and I are Baby Boomers.
MS. MORNIN: Yes. And I am concerned about - that the system stays the same for me.
MS. MORNIN: But I do want to see change and reform for my children because I realize that we will be in trouble down the road.
PRESIDENT BUSH: An interesting point, and I hear this a lot, you know. You just heard her say, will the system be the same for me? And the answer is absolutely. One of the things we have to continue to clarify to people who have retired or are near retirement - you fall in the near retirement.
MS. MORNIN: Retirement, yeah. Unfortunately, yeah.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Well, I don't know. I mean, you know, I'm not going to tell your age, but you're one year younger than me, and I'm just getting started. (Laughter.)
MS. MORNIN: (Laughs.) Okay. Okay. (Applause.)
PRESIDENT BUSH: Huh? I feel great, don't you?
MS. MORNIN: Yeah, I do.
PRESIDENT BUSH: I mean, when I turned 50, I used to think 50 was really old. Now I think it's young and getting ready to turn 60 here in a couple of years and I still feel young. I mean, we are living longer and people are working longer, and the truth of the matter is, elderly Baby Boomers have got a lot to offer to our society and we shouldn't think about giving up our responsibilities in society. (Cheers, applause.) Isn't that right.
MS. MORNIN: That's right.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Yeah. But nevertheless, there's a certain comfort to know that the promises made will be kept by the government.
PRESIDENT BUSH: And so thank you for asking that. You don't have to worry.
MS. MORNIN: That's good because I work three jobs and I feel like I contribute.
PRESIDENT BUSH: You work three jobs?
MS. MORNIN: Three jobs, yes.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Uniquely American, isn't it? I mean, that is fantastic that you're doing that. (Applause.)
MS. MORNIN: Thank you.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Get any sleep?
MS. MORNIN: Not much.
MS. MORNIN: Not much.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Well hopefully this will help you get your sleep to know that when we talk about Social Security, nothing changes.
PRESIDENT BUSH: (Laughs.) Yeah, that's great.
MS. MORNIN: Thank you.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Amtrak Travel Posters

The golden age of travel posters is long gone, but our beleaguered national railroad is doing what it can to breathe new life into the form with these posters designed by Michael Schwab to promote the high-speed Acela Express line between Boston, New York and Washington. You can order all four of the 24 x 36" posters for just $15 at the link above. They're sure to become collector's items once Amtrak gets the switch.

And don't forget the 26th annual Mooning of Amtrak on July 9 in Laguna Niguel, California. There are no full-dorsal bum shots on the home page, so even the modest among us can learn about this wonderful tradition without risking an eyeful of arse.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

The Puppy Bowl

This year's Super Bowl turned out to be a pretty decent game, but the real fun was over on Animal Planet's Puppy Bowl. Not since WPIX in New York first aired the Yule Log on Christmas Day in 1966 has there been such wonderfully esoteric counter-programming. After all, who doesn't like watching a scrum of unbearably cute puppies roughhousing with each other for two and one-half hours?

Even if you missed this year's Puppy Bowl, you can still own it forever when Animal Planet releases the DVD next month.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Chisholm '72: Unbought and Unbossed

Tonight at 9 p.m. on KLRU, P.O.V. explores the 1972 presidential campaign of Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm in the documentary, "Chisholm '72: Unbought and Unbossed."

After becoming the first black woman elected to Congress in 1968, representing the Bedford Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, Chisholm sought the 1972 Democratic presidential nomination that ultimately went to George McGovern. She was the first woman and the first African American to seek the presidency. "I ran because somebody had to do it first," Chisholm said of her campaign, which sought to enfranchise women, people of color, gays and others traditionally left out of the political process.

Chisholm passed away on New Year's Day at age 80. She didn't want to just be known as the first black woman in Congress. "I'd like them to say that Shirley Chisholm had guts," she said upon leaving Congress in 1982. "That's how I'd like to be remembered."

"Chisholm '72" was directed by 1992 UT alum Shola Lynch, who will be honored as an Outstanding Texas Ex at this year's commencement. Thanks to Terri R. for the tip!

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Office Surplus Blues

Yesterday afternoon, I stopped by an surplus warehouse/rock shop called Tops at the corner of Kramer and Braker Lanes. What an odd combination of goods that was. The guy working there said one spouse runs the office surplus side and the other runs the precious stones side. This seems like the ideal way for spouses to run a business together.

Anyway, I was scoping out a blue Knoll office chair for possible placement in my living room. The chair still had an inventory tag from IBM on the bottom. Tops wanted $125 for it, which probably isn't a bad price for used Knoll chair in decent shape, but I couldn't commit. I guess I was a little freaked out by the presence of framed wedding and school pictures scattered among the old calculators, desks and dry erase boards.

Just how does a picture of someone's daughter wind up in a dusty box on the floor of an office surplus warehouse? Was this person fired or laid off? Did he or she die? Maybe the person just got sick of things one day and walked out of the office, never looking back. Whatever the case, seeing family photos in such a context never fails to conjure up all sorts of dire scenarios in my mind. It seems highly unlikely that those photos would be there if something bad didn't happen, but who knows?

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Glorium's Fantasmas

Here's a link to my review of Glorium's Fantasmas in this week's Chron. I don't remember the last time I gave a local release four stars, but Glorium's "lost" album deserves it. The songs they recorded in 1996 with John Croslin are especially good. I hear a lot of parallels between what Glorium was doing then and what the NYC "it" bands are doing now.

In addition to pushing boundaries with their music, they were really good guys who did a lot to support other bands as well as the underground music scene itself. Individually and/or collectively, Glorium helped new bands get booked, put out a fanzine and released a bunch of tapes on their Golden Hour imprint during the waning days of the cassette. Their all-for-one attitude was rare and right-on. I have nothing but respect for Glorium.

By the way, they printed only 200 copies of Fantasmas, so good luck tracking it down.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Picking Up Where I Left Off...

Felt Up celebrity blogette Jennifer requested some updates on whether I actually follow through on my own suggestions of things to do when you're out and about in the Big ATX. Seems fair enough to me.

Last Saturday, faithful readers will recall I mentioned being torn between a bevy of rock shows and staying home to watch "Seinfeld" reruns. I'm happy to report that I caught one of two sets by the Ugly Beats at the Carousel Lounge. I can't think of a better place to see Sixties-style garage rock. The Beats opened with "I'm the One" from their Get Hip debut, Bring On the Beats! They also did a fine cover of the 13th Floor Elevators' "Splash 1." The set's highlight was a guest appearance by Chris Gernitottis, former vocalist for Corpus Christi's Zachary Thaks. He sang the Thaks' 1966 regional hit "Bad Girl" as the Beats provided enthusiastic and reverent backing. The crowd loved it. I like a band with a sense of history.

On Tuesday, I mentioned the February installment of the Dionysium at the Ritz. I attended that, too. The evening's theme was love. I got there just in time to see Neal Pollack read two selections from his "Bad Sex" column in Nerve. It's one thing to write about bad sexual experiences for the page, but quite another to read those pages aloud before an audience. Occasionally Neal would just have to stop and shake his head as the audience broke down laughing. It was hilarious.

Tim League from the Alamo Drafthouse brought in a shockingly explicit 1972 sex education film with full frontal nudity and challenged us to figure out who the audience could've been. I can't imagine you could've shown such a thing in high school, but then again, we've regressed a long way in 33 years when it comes to having a healthy attitude about sexuality. In addition, L.B. Deyo debated Meridith Boyd on a resolution to legalize prostitution. Although both Deyo (pro) and Boyd (con) did a good job debating the virtue of vice law, the resolution was narrowly approved by audience members. I had an early call at my desk job the next morning, so I left shortly thereafter, happily besotted with both knowledge and imported beer.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Get Sick, Go Bankrupt

A study published this week in the medical journal Health Affairs finds that half of all U.S. bankruptcies are caused by high medical bills. An estimated two million Americans are affected by health-related bankruptcies every year if you include both debtors and their dependents in the equation. Moreover, most of the people who go bankrupt because of medical bills have health insurance.

"Unless you're Bill Gates," says lead researcher Dr. David Himmelstein, "you're just one serious illness away from bankruptcy."

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Bebe Buell's Rebel Heart

I just finished reading noted rock muse Bebe Buell's autobiography, Rebel Heart. Half Price Books had a bunch of $6 copies and I couldn't resist. First published in 2001, this juicy tell-all offers a riveting portrait of what it was like to be a celebrated model cum rock star girlfriend in the Seventies.

Buell's first teen steady was Don Cowsill of the Cowsills, which proved to be the beginning of a long line of band boyfriends. From New York's downtown punk scene to the highest eschelons of rock royalty, her list of intimacies included Todd Rundgren, Mick Jagger, Stiv Bators, Rod Stewart, Elvis Costello and Steven Tyler. The latter union produced daughter Liv Tyler, though Liv grew up thinking Rundgren was her father until her biological dad cleaned up.

It would be a mistake to call Buell a groupie. She wasn't hanging by the backstage door waiting for tour buses to disgorge their cargo of road-weary horndogs. Her desire to get close to musicians came primarily from a passion to be near the creative fire, not an insecure need to rack up notches on her proverbial lipstick case. Buell's unorthodox lifestyle made her a pioneer of the sexual revolution, and while her choices sometimes led to profound heartbreak, she's very careful to at least try to present her past relations even-handedly.

That said, she's not above dishing out the goods on personality quirks, bedroom manner and even the occasional package size. Good for us, not so good for Rod Stewart.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

February Dionysium

If you have three bucks and a thirst for intellectual stimulation (mit bier!), head on down to the Ritz Lounge tonight (Tuesday) at 9 p.m. for February's installment of the Dionysium. Helmed by esteemed Dionysium president Buzz Moran and chairman L.B. Deyo, this month's love-themed cerebral omnibus will feature:

-a lecture on Chicago's St. Valentine's Day Massacre
-a reading from Neal Pollack
-a selection of educational films from the collection of Tim League
-Meredith Boyd reading Border Walls by Forugh Farrokhzad
-a debate on whether or not prostitution should be legal
-ten-minute stories presented by Two Note Solo
-the piano stylings of Golden Arm Trio maestro Graham Reynolds

So long as you're going to be out destroying brain cells, you might as well keep the ones you have left engaged.