Saturday, April 30, 2005

Lotsa Good Music Tonite

This evening is a real embarrassment of musical talent in our fair city. At the Church of the Friendly Ghost (corner of 3rd and Pedernales), the Golden Hornet Project drops a series of new one-movement string quartets written by Graham Reynolds and Peter Stopshinski. The quartets will be performed by the Red Armada Quartet, four high school students who've been studying music theory with Graham and Peter at the Austin Chamber Music Center. The show starts at 8pm, and admission is pay-what-you-can between $5 and $15.

Kathy McCarty celebrates the long-awaited release of Another Day in the Sun at the Cactus Cafe starting at 10pm. I still haven't heard the new album, but Glass Eye was my first favorite band in Austin and you can read about my fealty to Dead Dog's Eyeball, her just-reissued collection of Daniel Johnston songs, here.

Across the Drag at the Hole in the Wall, the Horsies reunite for a rare performance. Their raffish, intellectual world beat infusion put the groove in the arse of many a PBR-swilling punk back in the mid-Nineties. This'll be a fun show that'll make you want to dance.

I should mention that Horsies drummer Rich Malley played drums in my old band Noodle for about five shows back in 1992. He resigned after an apparently tumultuous set at the Cavity's first anniversary party. I say "apparently" because I drank too much and the only memory I have of the show is Lonesome Dave Fisher flinging canned black beans at my face that I initially mistook for vomit. Good times!

Friday, April 29, 2005

11 Times Dumb

Last week, in the interest of providing "fair and balanced" coverage of Texas' proposed gay foster parent ban, CNN gave airtime to Cathie Adams, a prim hatchet lady representing the Texas Eagle Forum. If it was 1963, you can imagine her ideological ilk being front-and-center in the pack of Dallas hate-fraus that attacked U.N. Ambassador Adlai Stevenson during his visit there shortly before JFK was killed.

In arguing against allowing foster children to be placed in same-sex households, Adams repeatedly cited a study that children in same-sex households were 11 times more likely to be sexually abused than children in differently-sexed abodes. Since having a split-screen shouting match is what passes for cogent analysis in today's media landscape, no one at CNN bothered to make Adams explain where she got the "11 times" statistic.

Not surprisingly, a cursory examination of the statistic by noted socialist rag The Wall Street Journal debunks it as bullshit. Adams has since been forced to admit she overstated her case, but that admission won't reach nearly as many people as her initial falsehoods did.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Reet Petite, Don't Smell Like DEET

Good news for chemophobes who still want to protect themselves from West Nile Virus-bearing mosquitoes this season. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) just announced that mosquito repellents containing oil of lemon eucalyptus offer "long-lasting protection against mosquito bites." Previously, CDC only recommended repellents containing the chemical DEET, saying non-DEET repellents were not likely to offer the same degree of protection. CDC has also added repellents containing the chemical picaridin to its recommended list.

Getting rid of standing water around your domicile, wearing long sleeve shirts (not bloody likely on a hot Texas summer day, I know) and limiting time spent outdoors in the twilight hours when the little bloodsuckers are most active are other ways of avoiding bites. And if you're headed to a region where there's malaria and/or yellow fever, get vaccinated before you leave.

This public health announcement brought to you by the happy hands people at Beetsolonely (cue NBC "The More You Know" musical tag).

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Texas Declares War on Gays and Lesbians

Terri R. asked me to share my thoughts on the Texas Legislature's war on gays and lesbians. I think she's about to get more than she bargained for.

Observing this past week's spate of cynical gay-bashing by the Lege has filled me with an increasingly familar feeling of disgust for my home state. Make no mistake: any legislator who votes for this sort of garbage is standing on the same side of history as rabid segregationists like George Wallace and Lester Maddox. It may take another 100 years, but one day, whatever's left of America will rightfully look back on legislated discrimination against gays and lesbians with the same collective sense of shame we now view Jim Crow laws with.

It's appropriate that a noxious piece of legislation like the proposed gay foster parent ban would be sponsored by a representative from Pasadena, the only place in the world where you roll your car windows up after someone farts. Rep. Robert Talton's ban may wind up being signed into law, but it will definitely be challenged in court, and the case against it will be strengthened now that Texas' gay-only sodomy law has been struck down by the Supremes. Either way, Texas taxpayers should thank all the radical nutballs and cowed moderates who supported the ban because we're all going to be paying the AG's office to defend it.

Then there's the human cost of living under a regime that honestly believes foster children are better off in orphanages than with gay and lesbian foster parents. Although there's no credible scientific evidence suggesting kids raised by gay parents are more likely to be gay themselves, that's the carrot in the proverbial hole for these reactionary, self-appointed defenders of "traditional values." If someone polled Texas parents on whether they believe gays "recruit" straights into a life of homosexuality, I'm pretty sure the "yes" votes would win.

Which is why I'd also expect a state constitutional amendment limiting the right of marriage to male/female couples would pass if put before the electorate. The bill sponsored by Pampa Rep. Warren Chism (a.k.a. "Warron Jism") and passed by the Texas House on Monday goes even further than that, banning any sort of contractual agreement designed to provide legal protection for unmarried couples. What will happen in Texas in November if this amendment makes the ballot is exactly what would've happened across the South if the Civil Rights Act of 1964 had been put to a vote.

Personally, I think the government ought to get out of the "marriage" business altogether. Most people tend to view the concept of marriage through highly individualized, hyper-emotive constructs of the eternal love supreme, regardless of whether it actually pans out that way. That's fine from a spiritual perspective, but here on the ground, it's primarily a legal arrangement. This might be wishful thinking on my part, but if those of us who think of that legal arrangement as a basic human right can cede the word "marriage" to the spiritual realm, maybe that would be enough to tip the scales in favor of what is fair and just.

Under such a scenario, the legal concept of marriage would no longer exist for any partnership - gay or straight. Instead, the government would license legally-binding partnership agreements between consenting adults without regard to gender. The legal obligations of parents to their children would not change. "Marriage" would be interpreted however any given house of worship saw fit. Some sects would continue to perform marriage ceremonies for gay couples as they do now, while others would refuse. Whoever wants to selectively interpret sacred texts to justify bigotry has every right to do so. Just keep it the hell out of the government we all have to live with and everyone goes home happy. Get it?

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Hubig's Pies

Do you know what's good about New Orleans besides Jazzfest, drunk girl titties and Cajun-style vomit baking on a Bourbon Street sidewalk? Hubig's Fried Pies, that's what! My Louisiana-born boss brought me a Hubig's 84-cent apple pie yesterday that just about took my breath away with its sugar-glazed, light-crusted shell. Her advice to microwave the pie for 25 seconds before eating also paid off.

Although now considered a New Orleans staple, Simon Hubig's flagship bakery was originally located in Dallas. The German-born baker intended to make Hubig's a coast-to-coast empire, but the Great Depression put the kibosh on those plans. His Dallas bakery was eventually sold to Jack Ruby, who ran a nightclub there before the unpleasantries in 1963. Today, only the New Orleans store at 2417 Dauphine Street remains.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Austin Pop Takes Aim at Target

In rummaging through the "1-Spot" section at Target yesterday, I noticed they're now selling $1 CDs in addition to $1 DVDs of Jack Benny and Dick Van Dyke reruns. Representing Austin's fertile pop panorama are specially packaged versions of the Real Heroes' Greetings from Russia and Kissinger's Charm. Although the bands aren't going to realize a windfall on such a low price point, this unique marketing arrangement gives them national distribution and offers potential listeners a chance to check out an unknown act for cheap.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

The Bush Box on Basin Street

Take a peek at this week's Chron to see my Bush Box, a swart little round-up of music concerning our Dear Leader. Among the albums reviewed is Basin Street's Bush says: Rock & Roll is America's No. 1 Defense Against Terrorism. Although the title led to its Bush Box inclusion, the album doesn't have the novel polemic tone of the other stuff. Basin Street is more interested in delivering stomp-along punk rock with relentless enthusiasm. They're definitely worth checking out regardless of your feelings on political music.

And as long as you're there, don't miss Audra Schroeder's review of Ashlee Simpson's Austin Music Hall show. In addition to enduring a cover of Hole's "Celebrity Skin," Schroeder actually saw a teen-age girl lick her hand after grabbing the arm of Simpson's dad. There's a dissertation in how many levels of creepy that entails.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Julio's Seasoned Tortilla Chips

I'm usually a generic cheapskate when it comes to snack foods, but Julio's Seasoned Tortilla Chips out of Del Rio are a genuine taste treat I'll gladly pay $4.59 a bag for (a 10-ounce bag can be had for $2.19 at H-E-B). These chips are seasoned with a Tex-Mex mix of garlic, paprika, comino and lime that is robust without being overdone. As an added bonus, there's a good backstory to them.

Julio T. Garcia was born in Crystal City and raised in Ciudad Acuña. While working as a cook in Del Rio area restaurants, he developed a special seasoning to put on grilled steaks. Garcia became unemployed when the restaurant he was working in closed, and that led to credit card debt. When he tried to market his seasoning from home, the banks wouldn't give him a loan.

"Then a miracle occurred," the Julio's website relates. "A woman came to Garcia's home asking him for some of the seasoned corn tortilla chips she remembered eating at the restaurant where he worked. Julio went out bought some tortillas, fried them up, sprinkled seasoning on them, put them in a beer carton, and wrapped them with colored paper. Apparently the women took them to a party and the legend of Julio's Seasoned Chips was born.

"People began to come to his door and ask for the chips. He began to get so busy that his son Miguel went to work for him full time. It got so busy that they were getting in the way of Julio's wife, Lillia, so Miguel fixed up the garage next door and began making the chips there.They started making money, and Garcia started paying off his bills. Now, Julio gets phone calls from banks offering to loan him money as his business expands."

Who doesn't love a happy ending? Especially one that tastes good.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Come On Down!

Ever since I was a wee young schoolboy, the best part of staying home on a weekday has been getting to watch The Price is Right. If there's a better encapsulation of Americana on TV today, I can't think of it. Bob Barker is clearly the greatest game show emcee ever, and being able to watch him is as much a privilege as watching Michael Jordan play basketball. I miss the late announcers Johnny Olsen and Rod Roddy (who got his start as a D.J. in Fort Worth), but the new guy they have isn't half bad. The great Score Productions theme and incidental music has been left mostly intact, too.

It's impossible for me to watch TPIR without playing along, awash in empathy for the contestant at hand. This is embarrassing to admit, but just this morning, I found myself pretending to have won "A NEW CAR!" in front of my hallway mirror. Triumphantly thrusting my fists in the air and doing a celebratory Caucasian Cabbage Patch dance, I actually felt connected to mainstream America for almost a full minute.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

San Jacinto Day

Today is San Jacinto Day, yet another somewhat overwrought official state holiday in Texas. On this day in 1836, General Sam Houston and his ragtag bunch of revolutionaries defeated General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna's larger army near Lynch's Ferry. The battle only lasted 18 minutes because the Mexican troops got stuck between a marsh and the advancing Texas Army. Only nine of the 910 Texas troops were killed, while 630 of the 1,300 Mexican troops were lost.

An East Texas historian profiled in today's Houston Chronicle says the British East India-issue rifles used by the Mexican Army may have also played a role in their defeat. Texas troops were using more accurate rifles from Kentucky. After the battle, Santa Anna signed Texas away to Houston. The Republic of Texas lasted just nine years before being annexed by the U.S. as a slave state.

For all his troubles, Sam Houston was deposed as governor for refusing to pledge allegiance to the Confederacy when Texas seceded in 1861. He died in Huntsville two years later, and now they have a Lenin-sized statue of him there greeting weary drivers on Interstate 45.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

10 Things That Don't Keep Austin Weird Anymore

In the tradition of Chuck Shepherd retiring "News of the Weird" stories after they're repeated into ubiquity (e.g., dead political candidates winning elections), here are 10 things about Austin that no longer qualify as weird. I'm not saying any of these things are necessarily bad - they just can't be considered "weird" anymore within the context of day-to-day living in our fair city.

1. Homeless people running for mayor
2. Getting high with the president of your neighborhood association
3. Showing your weenus at a punk rock show
4. Tip jar folk art
5. Closing major thoroughfares every weekend for a street festival and/or 10K run
6. EBTWS (Ex-Pat Breakfast Taco Withdrawl Syndrome)
7. Music lessons where they teach little kids how to play Ramones songs
8. Any person, place or thing featured in Jim Swift's "Out On the Porch" segment on KXAN
9. Being able to drink beer and watch a movie at the same time
10. Government bureaucrats who advocate for revolution

I'm sure there must be dozens more where that came from. Any suggestions?

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

H-Town Hip Hop

Fellow Houston ex-pat Kilian S. was kind enough to point out this article in Sunday's New York Times about the chopped-and-screwed sound of Houston rap and its slow, slurred rise to national prominence. The article also mentions Matt Sonzala's Houstonsoreal blog, which is a good place for bystanders to catch up on the latest happenings.

Despite DJ Screw's untimely cough syrup overdose in 2000, the sound he popularized is bigger than ever. Whether Houston will blow up like Atlanta, Miami and New Orleans remains to be seen, but when hometown acts can move 20,000 units in their own market, the long term viability of the local scene seems well-assured.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Bubblegum Music is the Naked Truth!

The Alamo Downtown's Music Mondays series strikes again tonight at 9:45 with Bubblegum Music is the Naked Truth! This exclusive compendium focuses on the "golden age" of bubblegum (roughly 1967-1972) and features rare footage of 1910 Fruitgum Company, Ohio Express and the Bay City Rollers as well as beloved Saturday morning faves like the Archies, the Banana Splits, the Wombles and Lancelot Link. Resident Alamo musicologist Kier-La Janisse based Bubblegum Music is the Naked Truth! on Kim Cooper and David Smay's same-named book. Admission is just one buck, and you can get your sugar rush on with dollar soda pop, too.

I've always had a sweet tooth for bubblegum music. In fact, it's the very core of my musical foundation. The first album I ever owned was K-Tel's Goofy Greats, which shoe-horned 24 bubblegum-flavored classics onto one flimsy piece of vinyl. When I first heard the Ramones' Rocket to Russia, the Goofy Greats parallels were obvious even before I got to their cover of the Trashmen's "Surfin' Bird." I've learned to appreciate and enjoy more genteel music, but the fun stuff is still what feels like home to me.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Of Pickles and Waffles

I took a nice, quick trip to Houston today to take my mom to lunch for her birthday. My mom wanted to dine at Cafe Express, a locally-based chain that serves simple, decent-tasting and relatively healthy meals for under $10. Zagat calls them "the Mercedes Benz of fast food eateries." The menu is made up of things like roasted chicken, grilled fish, pasta, burgers, soups, salads and the like. Another cool thing about Cafe Express is their "Oasis Table" condiment bar with breadsticks, olives, peppers and pickles (wow, two pickle posts in as many days!). They have Cafe Express in Dallas, but they've never made it to Austin for some reason. I think they would do pretty well here in the right location.

One chain restaurant that did finally make it to Austin last year was Waffle House. My drive back into town on U.S. Hwy. 290 revealed yet another Waffle House going up just east of 183. I hardly ever eat breakfast out anymore, so I haven't been to our existing local Waffle House on Ben White yet. I also have the Waffle House Jukebox Favorites CD, which means I don't need to go to a Waffle House to hear hits like "Waffle Do Wop" and "There Are Raisins In My Toast."

Aside from the jukebox, the main thing I like about Waffle House is sitting at the counter and watching them prepare my food. I always think of Chuck Berry singing about hamburgers sizzling on an open grill night and day when I'm there. The art of public short-order cookery really impresses me because you have to juggle all these different orders at once while diners watch you. It's one thing to overcook eggs in the kitchen, but quite another to do it in full view of a customer. I wouldn't make it through a single lunch rush before a manager ripped the WH-emblazoned paper cap from my pate and told me to get the hell out.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

One Lazy Sod

Man, I'm one lazy sod this weekend. I can't even get motivated to go out and have fun. Last night, I went to happy hour at the Dog & Duck and wound up staying until 11pm. That's kind of the bubble hour where you either go out or go home. I chose the latter and was in bed before 1am. I'm driving to Houston tomorrow to take my mom to lunch for her birthday, so tonight will probably be pretty tame as well. Once you're past 35, it's bad form to show up hungover on your mom's birthday.

This morning, I decided to go check out the Sunset Valley Farmer's Market (formerly the West Lake Farmer's Market) at its new Burger Center locale. It was okay. They had lots of cute dogs, plenty of Poteet strawberries and a drum circle doing its part to keep us all weird, but no homegrown tomatoes yet. I would've bought some pickles, but I'm still working my way through a Claussen jar and one man living alone can only eat so many pickles. Frankly, I felt a little guilty leaving without buying anything.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Nothing But Good Thoughts

My ex-wife is having surgery today. Hopefully it will alleviate the debilitating back pain she's been dealing with for many years. We may be in the middle of a divorce, but I'm thinking nothing but good thoughts for her.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Piano Great Johnnie Johnson Dies

Johnnie Johnson, pioneering pianist for Chuck Berry, died Wednesday at his St. Louis home. He was 80 years old. It's safe to say there wouldn't have been a Chuck Berry as we know him without a Johnnie Johnson. And without Chuck Berry, you've lost the template for rock and roll.

In addition to giving the young guitarist a job filling in for a sick member of the Johnnie Johnson Trio on New Year's Eve in 1952, Johnson actually composed the music for several of Berry's biggest hits on piano. However, he was never properly credited, so he missed out on the royalty train. Johnson parted ways with Barry in the early Seventies, and he had to drive a bus for senior citizens to make ends meet.

After being prominently featured in the 1987 Chuck Berry documentary, Hail! Hail! Rock 'N' Roll!, Johnson's musical contributions were more widely acknowledged. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001. Johnson finally sued Berry for unpaid royalties in 2000, but a judge dismissed the suit in 2002, saying too much time had passed since the songs in question were written.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Albertson's $10 Secret

Here's a moderately fearless business prediction from someone who really has very little idea of what he's talking about: within the next five years, either Albertson's or Randall's will pull out of the Austin market due to the influx of Super Wal-Mart and Super Target. Personally, I hope Albertson's isn't the one to go.

Despite having no real beef with my tenure as a sacker at a Houston-area Randall's Flagship during high school, I refuse to shop there because you have to get a Remarkable Card to get the sale prices. I get pissed off when I see how much they want to penalize me for not getting one of those stupid cards. If you're going to reward faithful customers in exchange for giving you personal data, you should do it in a way that doesn't discourage potential customers from shopping at your store. Besides, even with the Remarkable Card price, your overall bill would probably still be lower at H-E-B.

Albertson's, on the other hand, has gotten more serious about price competition in recent months. They still can't top H-E-B on the overall cost of the items I typically buy, but you can do pretty well on certain things with their 10-for-1o promotion. The idea is that you can mix or match any 10 specially-designated items in the weekly circular for $10. They want to make you think you need to buy 10 items to get the special price, but here's a little secret: you don't!

The other thing to know about Albertson's is that their circular goes out Wednesday to beat H-E-B's circular in reaching your mailbox. However, the prices in that week's circular don't go into effect until Thursday. If there's an Albertson's within reasonable distance of your domicile, it might not hurt to do a little circular comparison.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

ACL Fest Tix On Sale Friday

Tickets for the 2005 Austin City Limits Music Festival go on sale this Friday. This year's fest will be held September 23-25 in Zilker Park. Pushing ACL deeper into September decreases the chance of unbearable heat, while selling 10,000 fewer tickets per day should allieviate the crowd suffocation factor. Organizers have also promised improved sound, which is welcome news in lieu of the horrendous sound that plagued the Pixies and Elvis Costello last year. Three-day tickets will sell for $85.

Although the full line-up hasn't been announced yet, Pollstar shows Dave Alvin & the Guilty Men, Robert Earl Keen and the Ditty Bops are booked for Friday, September 23. Low, Dierks Bentley, and Bettye LeVette are booked on Saturday, September 24. Austin's own Real Heroes are also playing.

As unwieldy as festival shows are by nature, I think ACL is run pretty well. The concessions are reasonable, the presence of children keeps a lid on drunken buffoonery, and you can always leave to take a quick dip in Barton Springs or Deep Eddy if it gets too hot.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Sleepee in a Teepee!

Roadside America reports that a restoration is underway at the Tee Pee Motel in Wharton, Texas. The Tee Pee Motel was built in 1942 and was operational into the Eighties. Today, it is one of the last remaining teepee motels left in America. When the 11 renovated teepees open for business, it should pump some kitsch-crazed tourist dollars into the local economy.

Wharton is located on the Colorado River on U.S. Highway 59 about halfway between Houston and Victoria (or "Big Vic," as my dad calls it).

Sunday, April 10, 2005

The Long Emergency and Eyesores of the Month

Rolling Stone just published "The Long Emergency," a harrowing article adapted from James Howard Kunstler's book explaining just how poorly positioned the United States is for the end of cheap oil. As we're forced to wean ourselves from our 20 billion barrel per year addiction, Kunstler predicts the collapse of Wal-Mart-style distribution networks, massive loss of equity in car-dependent suburbs, and most of our ugly functionality reduced to just plain fugly. It's a timely read given the dime-a-gallon price jump at the pump over the last week.

Kunstler has a great feature on his website called "Eyesore of the Month," where he offers ball-breaking design critiques with all the subtlety of Lester Bangs. Although I disagree with his dismissal with the whimsical work of Frank Gehry and Rem Koolhaas, most of the crap he takes apart (like the red, white and blue eagle perched atop a deflated planet earth in front of a Hummer dealer as seen above) richly deserves it. And if we continue on this path, so do we.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Too Much Japanese, I Really Think So

Last night, I went to Musachino for a sushi throwdown with my married pals David and Rachel. They've been very cool about letting me be their "third wheel" as of late, alleviating the somewhat disconcerting sense that my current state of tetherless in-betweendom is in fact a permanent condition.

Anyway, I went hog-wild and ordered the $25 bento box because I like to get a little of everything. Turns out I got a lot of everything. The bento crate had huge portions of chicken and salmon teriyaki, tempura, sushi, rice, miso soup and something chewy I believed to be octopus. This was the first I've ever eaten myself sick with Japanese food. My "food indiscretion" caught up with me around two in the morning, forcing me to hit the anti-nausea syrup in order to get to sleep. Still, much like falling in love for the night, it was fun while it lasted.

What still baffles me is the tiny American flag they stuck in the wasabi. Just what the hell is that supposed to mean, anyway? Did it signify victory over Japan in WWII? Support for the Global War on Some Terror? Or was it a sly comment on how Americans eat way too damn much?

Friday, April 08, 2005

Salvation Through Spectacle

"Now when I die
I hope you're not appalled
Don't want no fancy funeral
Just one like ole John Paul!"
-Steve Martin (in a manner of speaking)

Regardless of how you feel about the Roman Catholic Church and its politics, they sure know how to throw a funeral. A scene like this really drives home the ever-creeping aesthetic tackiness of modern-day American religiosity. Must everything in this country be reduced to a storefront? Just because you can go for a walk with Jesus in sweat pants doesn't mean you should.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Heading for the Border? Bring A Passport.

If the Department of Homeland Security gets its way, you'll soon need a passport to get back into the U.S. from Mexico or Canada. The proposed new rules would apply to overland border crossings no later than 2008. "We want folks to think about their travel to and from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Bermuda as equivalent to taking a trip to Europe or Asia," says Homeland Security acting assistant secretary Elaine Dezenski.

Aside from putting the kibosh on spur-of-the-moment border runs, the new rules will likely put the hurt on fragile U.S./Mexican border economies that depend on tourism. It will also force a lot of poor people to fork over $100 to get passports. Currently, only about 20 percent of Americans have passports.

In addition, according to this Salon story, the State Department wants to start installing radio frequency identification technology (RFID) in U.S. passports. The RFID chips would transmit your unencrypted vital statistics to passport control officials and anyone else who gets their hands on the right kind of reader. Take that, freedom haters!

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

HGTV Failed Me

In case you're wondering, HGTV's suggestion to get rid of the burnt microwave popcorn odor by boiling water and vanilla extract in the microwave did not work. In fact, now my kitchen smells like burnt vanilla-flavored popcorn, which is even worse than regular burnt popcorn. I'm going to have to bust out the volatile chemicals if the odor doesn't abate soon.

Who's actually testing these unhelpful hints out? Is there a laboratory kitchen where this stuff can be given proper scientific scrutiny, or did some punk kid with the marijuana giggles send the vanilla extract idea to HGTV as a joke? I want answers, dammit!

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Dionysium Tackles the Smoking Ban

I ran into Dionysium high muckety man L.B. Deyo at a party this weekend. He told me all about tonight's slate of intellectual amusements, which includes a lecture by defending "Ten Minute Story" champion Wayne Allen Brenner entitled, "Five Simple Steps to Greater Joy in This World of Sorrow," and a debate on the proposed smoking ban for local bars. Given that the latter is a real bread-and-butter issue which will be decided at the polls next month, expect an extra lively exchange. The show starts at 9pm at the Ritz Lounge Upstairs, 320 E. 6th St.

With one foot in music and one foot in public health, I'm of mixed minds about the smoking ban. Anyone who tries to pooh-pooh the potential health risks of second-hand smoke is playing ostrich, but it's easy to understand why bar owners would feel singled-out and over-regulated, especially given the draconian state alcohol laws they're already operating under. Though I doubt the drinking age will ever be lowered again in my lifetime, I'd much rather have an 18-year-old drinking beer next to me than a 45-year-old blowing turd-scented cigar smoke in my face.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Do the (Burnt) Popcorn

You know how those bags of microwave popcorn always tell you not to leave the room while they're popping? Turns out that's really good advice. I completely contaminated my living quarters with the smell of burnt popcorn yesterday and almost passed out from the horrid smoke. After an hour of strolling around in the great outdoors, I could still detect the faint scent of burnt popcorn on my person.

The good folks at HGTV say boiling equal amounts of water and vanilla extract in the microwave and letting it sit in there overnight will get rid of the smell. We'll just see about that.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

4th Annual Ponderosa Stomp

The 4th Annual Ponderosa Stomp takes place April 26 and 27 at the Rock 'N Bowl Mid City Lanes in New Orleans. This year's enticing line-up of R&B, swamp pop, garage rock and rockabilly cats features Scotty Moore (Elvis' Sun Records-era guitarist), Link Wray, Roy Head, Archie Bell, Barbara Lynn, Billy Swan, Blowfly, Lazy Lester and lots more. Ace drummer Earl Palmer will serve as master of ceremonies.

Running for eight hours each day, the Ponderosa Stomp is an Allan Freed-style revue show with short sets and quick turns. The Stomp is sponsored by the Mystic Knights of the Mau Mau, a secret organization "dedicated to the preservation and promotion of sainthood in New Orleans rock 'n' roll." Best of all, you can also do some bowling.

If'n it wasn't happening in the middle of the week, I'd be making my reservations right now.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Saturday in the Frozen Foods Section

I finally located a supply of H-E-B Creamy Creations Poteet Strawberry Ice Cream at the store on North Lamar at Rundberg. They're selling it for $3.99, which is a buck less than Blue Bell. Not a bad deal at all.

Speaking of deals, I went garage sale hopping this afternoon and bought two Guayabera shirts for a buck. This is probably the nicest day for a garage sale we'll have all year. It's not too hot and there's not a cloud in the sky.

The pope's passing this afternoon mercifully ended the ghoulish 24-hour death watch coverage. Although I didn't agree with a lot of JPII's pronouncements and actions, I think the balance of history will ultimately tip in his favor as far as popes go. His role in helping to end the Cold War in a manner that didn't involve all of us getting blown up shouldn't be underestimated. Sadly, I'm betting the next pope will make JPII seem like Noam Chomsky by comparison.

Amid all the photogenic funeral and new pope selection coverage, be sure to keep your eyes on the White House and Congress, who'll probably try to do something screwy while no one's looking.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Poteet Strawberry Ice Cream

I'm normally a Blue Bell man through and through, but all that changes in the spring when H-E-B releases its limited edition Creamy Creations Poteet Strawberry Ice Cream. Generously overstuffed with strawberries, it's easily the best store brand ice cream I've ever tasted. According to this week's circular, it should be on shelves now. However, a brief glance of the frozen food sections of the Hancock Center and Allandale Road stores revealed no Poteet Strawberry Ice Cream. Given its growing popularity and limited availability, you should grab the first half-gallon you see.

For the uninitiated, Poteet is a town just south of San Antonio that happens to be the official strawberry capital of Texas. The annual Poteet Strawberry Festival, which draws crowds in excess of 100,000, takes place next weekend.