Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Vancouver, B.C.

It took us about three hours to drive from Seattle to Vancouver today. We got pulled aside for questioning at the Canadian border for some reason. I’m wondering what sorts of inquiries and probes await us when we try to get back into the States.

Despite the rain and cloud cover, Vancouver is a remarkably picturesque, easily walkable big city. They've built a lot of high-rise apartment buildings in the last decade that make downtown resemble the modern vertical cities of the Pacific Rim. We’re right in the center of town at the Sheraton Wall Centre. It’s a modern, four-star facility I’d normally only be staying in if I convinced someone else to pay for it, but Kevin got us a deal through Hotwire. Our 19th floor room has an awesome view looking west toward Stanley Park, the harbor and the hills beyond.

We ate a late lunch at a reasonably-priced sushi emporium just down the street before strolling through Gastown and Chinatown. Vancouver’s Asian population was already sizable, but a swell of emigrants from Hong Kong just before Red China took it over has apparently added to it.

Kevin’s down in the hot tub right now. I was going to go with him, but I’ve become enthralled with a Canadian TV show called Speaker’s Corner, where people just stand and talk about whatever they want to an automated camera on a Victoria street. I could probably stay up here and watch Canadian TV all night, but we will be “oout and aboot” soon enough.

It’s fun to walk around noticing the subtle differences in things like mailboxes, street signs and brand names. For example, the Denny’s and Wendy’s logos here have tell tale maple leafs in place of the apostrophe between the “y” and “s.” I think they might have another currency in use here, too, but I’ve been ducking the loonie so far, using a credit card for all my purchases.

I think we’re going to find a place for seafood this evening. Then we’ll probably do some bar-hopping. Perhaps we’ll even hit a gentleman’s club. I’ve been told they are good here. Tomorrow, we’re back in Seattle unless the Homeland Security goons send us to Gitmo and flush my Philip Roth paperback down the can.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Camano A Go Go

My first couple of days in Washington State have been enjoyably exhausting. After our last post, Kevin and I went to a Capitol Hill watering hole called the Jade Pagoda. It’s an old Chinese restaurant with a bar attached. The place was oppressively hot and stuffy, but that didn’t matter much in lieu of the $3 highballs. Then my cousin Drew showed up with his pals and we were off. We fed the jukebox and the heat gradually became less of an issue as the booze took hold.

I hadn’t seen Drew in over four years, so we had a lot of catching up to do. Being an only child, my cousins are the closest thing I have to brothers and sisters. I really should do a better job of keeping up with them, but it’s cool that we can fall back into that family groove so easily even if we haven’t seen each other in awhile.

I’m not much of a drinker, but I wound up having three bourbon and waters in addition to two pints of beer with our earlier fish and chips repast. Five drinks are about all I can handle these days without having to worry about throwing up. Between the drinks, the late hour (4 a.m. my time), the fish and chips and the Whopper, Jr. at the Phoenix airport, I’m surprised I didn’t redecorate Kevin’s bathroom.

While Kevin played drums at church Sunday morning, I slept off my depravity and didn’t wake up until almost noon. We slowly packed his car and headed off to Camano Island State Park, about two hours northwest of Seattle. This would be my very first time to sleep in a tent.

We got to the campsite around three. Kevin’s friends were out hiking and canoeing, so we headed for the beach to find them. The day had been chilly and overcast, but the sun had started breaking through and it was just about right. You can’t find that mix of water, relief and huge trees in Texas. I apologize for not having illustrative photos, but as amazing as those towering firs were, money wasn’t growing on them.

Kevin’s friends headed back for Seattle after dinner, but they made sure we were more than adequately provisioned. We kept the fire going with charred wood pilfered from previously abandoned campsites and Kevin managed to set up the tent just as we lost the last bit of daylight around nine. I made it my place to stay out of the way, listen intently and learn in case I ever wind up having to pitch a tent or start a campfire myself once America collapses into anarchy.

After a starry stroll down to the sound, we turned in at one in the morning. While the ground was a bit firm even with a pad under my sleeping bag, I managed to sleep until a couple of cranky-ass crows woke me up around six. Bastards.

The upside of rising early was being packed up and ready to go by ten this morning. We drove over to Fidalgo Island and over to Deception Pass State Park on Whidbey Island. Deception Pass is a swirling gauntlet of water spanned 150 feet above by a bridge you can drive or walk across (if you’re not afraid of heights). We got a decent 1.5-mile hike in, which hopefully compensated for a bite or so of fish and chips.

Feeling satisfied with our physical activity, we went to Anacortes and stopped at an A&W Root Beer stand for a root beer float with soft-serve ice cream that failed to provide the fizzing normally associated with a float. We also split an order of onion rings and a crab sandwich inhumanely slathered with mayonnaise. The plan was to drive up into the Cascades, but visibility was bad and I was getting tired, so we bought two cups of Americano in lieu of drip coffee from a tan, fresh-faced teenage girl I’m damn near old enough to have grandfathered.

“That girl could’ve put a brown crayon in hot water and made me like it,” Kevin lamented just now.

I want to eat a little something and get my first good night’s sleep since Wednesday, but maybe a glass of wine will imbue me with a second wind. Tomorrow, we head back up I-5 to Vancouver, B.C.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Sweating in the Emerald City

I left Austin Saturday morning on my 2005 West Coast solo tour. By the time I got to Phoenix, I was hungry. Hungry enough for a Whopper Jr. At least I managed to get a brisk walk in between the gates of the Barry Goldwater Memorial Terminal at Sky Harbor Airport. You can even buy a box of the Senator’s famous chili mix. In your heart, you know it burns.

While most of the terminal is a model of bland efficiency, the new D concourse incorporates an open-air Southwestern motif with a nice overlook of airfield operations. I wanted to walk over to the other terminal housing airlines other than America West and Southwest, but that would’ve involved going through security again, which is not something you want to mess with over Memorial Day weekend.

The flight from Phoenix to Seattle was punctuated with what aviators like to refer to as “light chop.” My buddy Kevin met me and we took the bus to downtown Seattle for a leisurely repast at a pub called the Owl and Thistle. It was something like the Dog & Duck in Austin, only I didn’t know anyone. They had $2 Budweiser and $2.95 fish and chips for happy hour. It's unseasonably warm here, but no one from Texas would complain.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

On the Dark Side, Oh Yeah!

If there's such a thing as Judgment Day, it's going to be awfully rough on my soul when I have to account for getting divorced and switching back to Time Warner on the same day. Capping it all off with an Eddie & the Cruisers reference in the post title surely seals my damnward fate.

I couldn't refuse Time Warner when they were offering free installation and a cable/phone/high-speed Internet package that should run $20-25 less than Grande each month. My bundle includes HBO at $6 per month (normally $11.95), which I didn't get with Grande. With new seasons of Six Feet Under in June and Curb Your Enthusiasm in September, it made sense to lock in HBO at the $6 rate now. My rates will stay the same for one year, too.

I spoke with the salesperson for about half an hour. His scuttlebutt was that Grande may be selling out to Time Warner at some point in the not-too-distant future. You have to consider the source with a rumor like that, but if the Texas Legislature allows SBC and Verizon to offer TV services without having to negotiate municipal franchise agreements, Grande is definitely going to be in a vulnerable spot.

But enough about cable TV. I'm headed to Seattle later today to visit my old roommate, my cousin and a whole bunch of fresh fish.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Today I Am Divorced

Well, it's now official. My D-I-V-O-R-C-E became final at Travis County Court House this morning. The judge swore me in, I answered a few questions and that was that. There's no such thing as a "good" divorce, but this one was a lot cleaner than it could've been. My ex-wife is no Ivana Trump and I'm no Ike Turner, so that helped.

Closing the legal book on a marriage triggers a weird mash of emotions. I feel sad about not being able to work it out, but I'm also relieved to no longer be living in the purgatory of the pending. Perhaps not enough to get drunk and stick dollar bills in g-strings, but relieved nonetheless.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Time Warner vs. Grande

Last night, a sales rep from Time Warner came by and said he could get me a digital cable/phone/high-speed Internet package for $99. That monthly rate would be good for two years, but I could disconnect at any time. I’m still not sure about installation fees. Taxes and fees would push it up a bit, but I imagine it would still be less than the $150 I’m now paying Grande Communications.

I switched from Time Warner to Grande last year because their package was a little cheaper and I liked the idea of switching to an upstart company headquartered just down the road in San Marcos. As it turns out, the cost savings has been negated by rate hikes, my reception of local channels (particularly KTBC) is poor and the high digital channels block up on me half the time.

Grande tells me it’s because I’m running the signal through a TiVo DVR, but I never had this problem with Time Warner. Bypassing TiVo doesn’t fix things and I’ve spoken with several other Grande subscribers who also get a crappy signal from KTBC. Now Grande’s telling me I’ll have to pay for service visits if the technician arbitrarily blames my equipment for the problems. Needless to say, I’m no longer quite so enthused about supporting the little guy.

I’m still not sure about going back to Time Warner, though. It feels a bit like returning to the dark side, and part of me just wants to cut cable out of my life altogether. Anyone have any thoughts or experiences related to this ongoing cable conundrum?

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Early Voting Begins Today

Austinites take note: early voting begins today for the June 11 runoff election that will decide whether Margot Clarke or Jennifer Kim takes over City Council Place 3 from Jackie Goodman. Kim and Clark are both good candidates with similar platforms, but Clarke’s history of progressive and environmental activism gives her a slight edge in my book.

Early voting runs through June 7, but you won’t be able to vote over the Memorial Day weekend. You can cast a ballot at any early voting location, regardless of your normal polling place.

As long as we’re on the subject, it sure would be nice to have instant runoff voting so we don’t have to keep wasting money on runoff elections. Unfortunately, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has opined that instant runoffs are against state law.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

He Hit Me and It Felt Like A Kiss

I’m no lawyer, but wouldn’t it have been prudent for someone on Phil Spector’s defense team to make sure he didn’t show up for his murder trial looking like this?

Monday, May 23, 2005

Stranger In My Old Hometown

I grew up in the tidy suburban Houston enclave of Bellaire, but the house I lived in was torn down in 1999, and virtually every place I hung out is either gone or completely unrecognizable now.

Shortly after getting my first job sacking groceries at Randall’s, I opened a savings account at the building pictured above. I chose United Savings (formerly Southwestern Savings) at 5301 Bissonnet largely because of its groovy architecture. Well, that and its proximity to a Pancho’s Mexican Buffet just across the parking lot.

Sadly, the bank currently occupying the property recently decided to demolish this classic 1960 edifice in order to squeeze in more drive-thru lanes.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Partridge Family Soul Club

I've been catching up with my old friends The Partridge Family this weekend. They released season one on DVD a couple of weeks back and it has some fine moments. Unlike The Brady Bunch, which has been rerun to a point where I can almost recite some episodes word-for-word, shotgunning 25 Partridge episodes back-to-back is a voyage of rediscovery.

I think my favorite episode is "Soul Club," in which the Partridges accidentally get booked in place of the Temptations at a struggling Detroit club run by Richard Pryor and a pre-bald Lou Gossett, Jr. Pryor and Gossett have been running the club as a "community center" for "the people," but a loan shark is trying to take it away from them. The Partridges volunteer to help them save the club, with Keith contributing a new song he describes as "kind of an Afro thing" and Danny enlisting a local black militant group to stand up to the loan shark and provide orchestration for Keith's song.

Most of the show's funniest scenes involve Danny Bonaduce and/or Dave Madden, who played Rueben Kincaid, the family's hypertense manager. As Bonaduce says of Madden on the commentary track, "Every muscle in that man's face acts!" Madden was also really good in the recurring role of Earl, a Mel's Diner regular on Alice.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

10th Congressional District Cuisine

I met my folks in Round Top this afternoon to celebrate my dad’s birthday a bit early. We ate really good food at Royer’s Round Top CafĂ©. My dad and I had their shrimp BLT and my mom had the hamburger, all served on sweet homemade bread. They also make the best pie for miles around.

Thanks to Tom DeLay, I now reside in the same congressional district as Round Top. I noticed they still had campaign flyers up for John Devine, the most rabid of the three wingnuts who ran in the 2004 Republican primary won by Michael McCaul. The Democrats didn’t even bother fielding an official candidate in the general election because Texas' 10th District is gerrymandered from Austin down U.S 290 all the way to the Northwest Houston suburbs in a manner that guarantees a Republican win.

There’s probably not much political common ground between North Central Austin and rural Fayette County, but a good slice of peach pie a la mode can make for some mighty strange bedfellows.

Friday, May 20, 2005

A Nation of Narcs

If you know someone who uses illegal drugs and don’t want to tell the police about it, Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wisconsin) wants to lock your ass up. One of the many odious provisions in his totalitarian drug bill creates a new offense for people who witness or learn about certain drug offenses and fail to inform the police within 24 hours and/or cooperate with law enforcement in going after the offender.

The bill mandates a two-year prison term for a person who fails to report a friend, relative or neighbor with kids who is storing or selling drugs. If you offer drugs to a person who has ever been enrolled in drug treatment, it’s a five-year minimum prison sentence. If you’re 21 and you give marijuana to someone under 18 (e.g., a college junior passing a joint to a freshman), that’s ten years in prison. Do it a second time and it’s life.

Sensenbrenner’s bill promotes the spread of HIV and Hepatitis C by making it a federal crime to give someone a sterile syringe in large swaths of the country that have not explicitly legalized needle exchange. He’ll also make sure we have to keep building more prisons for non-violent drug offenders by further restricting federal judges’ ability to issue sentences that don’t conform to mandatory minimum guidelines.

For someone who really seems to hate drugs, Sensenbrenner had no problem taking money from the National Beer Wholesalers Association ($6,000), the Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of America ($5,000), Anheuser-Busch ($5,000), Miller Brewing Company ($2,000) and Bacardi USA ($1,000) for his last campaign.

Naturally, this proposed assault on your freedom is being carried out in the name of “Protecting Your Children.” Just pray you don’t wind up having to narc on them one day.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Freaks and Geeks Marathon

When it originally aired all over NBC’s schedule in the late Nineties, I remember thinking Freaks and Geeks was a good show, but I didn’t realize it was a classic until I sat down and watched all 18 episodes back-to-back on DVD last spring. With no toilet bowl cleaner spots to intervene, I became engrossed in the gradually unfolding plotlines and well-developed characters as they continually triggered reference points from my own high school days.

My favorite scene in the entire series is the one where Bill Haverchuck comes home from school, makes himself a grilled cheese, flips on the TV and begins laughing out loud in unconstrained solitude at Garry Shandling on The Dinah Shore Show as the Who’s “I’m One” plays. Can you say “shock of recognition?” By the time I got to the final scene where Lindsay sneaks off to follow the Grateful Dead with Kim Kelly, there was a very real lump in my throat.

On Saturday, June 4, our friends at the Alamo Drafthouse downtown are hosting “The Freaks and Geeks Marathon.” In addition to showing the entire series, Martin Starr (Bill Haverchuck) and Sarah Hagan (Millie Kentner) will be there to answer questions. You can even purchase one of 20 VIP tickets that get you a pre-marathon Garza High School cafeteria brunch with Starr and Hagan.

Tickets go on sale this Friday at 3:30pm, so if you’re a fan or just Freak-curious, get ‘em while they’re hot because this show will almost certainly sell out fast.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Tornado Time!

One of these days, I'm going to go chase tornadoes. Hopefully, it won't be a day like the one captured in this riveting video, where two bickering chasers get caught between a tornado and a hailstorm near South Plains, Texas on May 12. You'll have to forgive them for the language, because even Mother Teresa would've screeched off a few goddamns if softballs of ice started crashing through her windshield.

As long as we're on the subject, Salon is running a series of storm-chasing essays this week, including this excerpt from Mark Svenfold's new book, Big Weather. Svenfold also wrote a companion piece about chase culture where we get to meet the Twister Sisters, two (unrelated) chaser ladies who imbue their male-dominated field with a much-needed dash of ooh-la-la. Chicks that dig tornadoes - man, that's HOT!

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

The Education of Elizabeth Eckleman

I'm officially hooked on Dallas Observer music editor (and former Chron comrade) Sarah Hepola's ongoing serial, "The Education of Elizabeth Eckleman," which appears regularly in The Morning News. Sarah takes us through the tumultuous psychosexual development of an 18-year-old college freshman named Elizabeth and invites readers to vote on our protagonist's next course of action at the end of each installment. Her tone reminds me of a more dramatic take on Judd Apatow's ill-fated Freaks and Geeks follow-up, Undeclared. I can see Elizabeth Eckleman becoming a TV series, too. After all, every episode's a cliffhanger and her fate rests in your hands!

Monday, May 16, 2005

Who Wants Pickles?

I've always been a big fan of Claussen pickles, but at $3 a jar, they're a bit of an indulgence to my Hill Country Fare state of mind. Consequently, I was indeed psyched to find a 55-cent Claussen coupon in Sunday's paper. Then I discovered the pickles were already on sale this week at H-E-B for $2.50. That's over a dollar in savings (unless you count the cost of the newspaper, which I would've bought anyway). The sale price is only good through Tuesday, so get your pickle on now in the refrigerated section.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Sexy Stews Stripped (Of Their Pensions)

In response to having their pensions whacked in bankruptcy court, a group of United Airlines flight attendants nearing retirement age decided to pose for a pin-up calendar to raise money, awareness and blood pressure. These ladies are quite hot, and it would be a shame for any one of them to wind up having to halve pills or eat dog food because United grossly mismanaged their pension plan. You can find out more about their cause and order a calendar here.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Judy's Reunion

The original David Bean/Jeff Walton/Dane Cessac line-up of the Judy's played their first show in two decades on April 2 at a cancer benefit held in an old elementary school auditorium in their hometown of Pearland, just south of Houston. Staying true to their odd inscrutability, the Judy's didn't publicize the reunion at all. In fact, the Houston Press just wrote about it this week.

Back in the Eighties, the Judy's were rock stars in Houston. Their high-concept minimalist pop irreverence resonated with suburban high school kids from Clear Creek all the way out to FM 1960. The Judy's smartly avoided the disaffected posturing of punk, which gave their irreverent waxings on the Jonestown mass suicide ("Guyana Punch") and the Iranian hostage crisis ("Vacation in Tehran") an added burst of insurrection. They influenced a ton of Texas bands that followed in their footsteps, including mine.

The Judy's catalog has been out of print for years. Vinyl copies of Judy's albums now fetch premium prices on eBay. In 2000, guitarist/vocalist David Bean said there would be a 20-year anniversary CD reissue of Washarama released in 2001 alongside a disc of tribute covers, but this didn't happen.

Following last month's reunion show, bassist Jeff Walton said more shows could be in the works, but as the Press' John Nova Lomax correctly surmises, "could be" is far from a sure thing with the Judy's. In the meantime, check out these great photos from the April 2 show.

Friday, May 13, 2005

EXTRA: Free Frosty Weekend!

Today through Sunday, you can walk into any participating Wendy's in the U.S. and get a junior-size Frosty dairy dessert treat for doing nothing more than saying "Free Frosty!" The offer is supposed to be limited to one per customer, but what's going to stop someone from driving around from Wendy's to Wendy's, getting free Frosty after free Frosty, then returning to previously-targeted Wendy's after the shifts change to get even more free Frostys?

With a good map, a full tank of gas and some Lactaid, you could easily stay balls-deep in free Frostys all weekend long.

Theocrats Scared by Potential HPV Vaccines

Comic legend Bill Hicks used to have a bit where he envisioned rampant lovemaking in the streets on the day HIV was cured. Sadly, many Americans would rather have people keep on dying than bear witness to such a celebration.

You can get a taste of what these theocrats are all about in the Family Research Council's response to progress in developing a vaccine for HPV. HPV, or human papillomavirus, is a very common and very confusing sexually transmitted disease. Since it's not a reportable condition, there are no firm numbers on how many people are infected, but estimates suggest more than 50 percent of sexually active Americans will get HPV at some point in their lives.

There are many different strains of HPV. Some cause genital warts, while others lead to cervical cancer in women. Many people become infected with HPV and never even know it because they don't have symptoms. While some remain infected for life, others clear HPV from the body with no treatment. Condoms provide some protection against HPV, but since it can be spread via skin-to-skin contact in areas not covered by the condom, they're not as effective in preventing HPV as they are in preventing other diseases like HIV and gonorrhea.

The theocrats have succeeded in exploiting this confusion to their own political ends. Instead of emphasizing the need for young women to get annual Pap tests to detect cervical cancer early and significantly increase the odds of successful treatment, they simply say HPV gives you cervical cancer and condoms can't stop it. Such willful misrepresentations are a hallmark of many abstinence-only education programs for youth, which are legally barred from mentioning condoms except in terms of failure rates.

So what's their response to news that two potential HPV vaccines had a 90 percent success rate in preventing new infections in clinical trials? Interviewed in New Scientist, the Family Research Council's Bridget Maher says, "Giving the HPV vaccine to young women could be potentially harmful, because they may see it as a license to engage in premarital sex."

To put it another way, Bridget's not sure if the health benefits of not having women die from cervical cancer outweigh the political benefits of having HPV remain a possible consequence of premarital sex.

If and when a vaccine does hit the market, you can rest assured there will be plenty of parents who will refuse to get their kids vaccinated against HPV for the very same reason. And don't expect the Bush administration to go out of its way in getting the word out to adults about this vaccine, either. The propagation of HPV hysteria is too useful to their moral crusade to expect them to let go of it just because of a potentially life-saving vaccine.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

UPDATE: Comments Appear Fixed

I think comments are working now. If you have any problems with comments, be sure to comment on them.

UPDATE: Comments Problem

We are currently experiencing a problem with the "Comments" function that (apparently) won't allow the first comment on a thread to be posted until a second comment has also been posted. Should you care to comment, my proposed interim work-around is to post a blank "dummy" comment followed by your real comment.

I'll sound the all-clear as soon as the problem is solved. Until then, don't panic, stay in your homes and remember to eat all your perishables before they turn on you.

Happy Birthday, Mac!

Small Faces keyboardist and transplanted Austinite Ian McLagan celebrates his 60th birthday at 6pm tonight with a Bump Band happy hour show at the Lucky Lounge, 209-A West 5th St.

In addition to Small Faces/Faces classics like "Whatcha Gonna Do About It," "Itchycoo Park," "Three Button Hand Me Down" and "Stay With Me," Mac played on Rod Stewart's early solo work (that's him on "Maggie May"). He also toured with the Rolling Stones and played on Some Girls. Mac's Bump Band is all A-list, with Scrappy Jud Newcomb on guitar, Don Harvey on drums and Mark Andes on bass. You may recall Andes from his work in Spirit, Firefall and the Eighties edition of Heart.

Believe it or not, these guys get together at Lucky Lounge almost every Thursday and play for tips. And that's just one of the reasons I feel fortunate to be a music fan living in Austin.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

What Happened in Ohio?

At 5pm Eastern on Election Day 2004, sportscaster Jim Lampley says Vegas sportsbooks were giving Kerry two-to-one odds of winning the election. He says there's no way they could've been that far off if all of the votes had been counted. He also asserts that exit polls varied by beyond-error margins in 10 states, something that hasn't happened since 1948 when modern exit polling began.

It would be easy enough to dismiss Lampley's sportsbook logic as inflammatory loser talk if not for all the reports of voting irregularities in Ohio. Christopher Hitchens' must-read story in the March issue of Vanity Fair discusses these irregularities in depth and makes it clear that electronic voting machines with unchecked secret codes could be manipulated by just a few insiders, and no one would be the wiser for it. Anyone interested in fair elections - which will include a losing Republican presidential candidate sooner or later - should view Hitchens' story with grave concern.

Something smells about what went down in Ohio and it ought to be investigated.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

The Advocate Thinks I'm Gay

If the world of magazine subscription offers is any indication, I am having some serious issues with my sexual identity. In less than a week, I've gone from being offered Stuff, the silicone-powered lad rag, to getting solicitations from The Advocate, which is sort of like a gay version of Time. What could've given the direct mail overlords the idea I'm gay, anyway? Here are some possibilities, listed from most likely to least:

1. I donated to the Human Rights Campaign last year
2. I used to roll in a gay bowling league I didn't know was gay until I got there
3. I drink between four and five one-liter bottles of mineral water every week
4. I've been told I sing like Fred Schneider from the B-52's
5. I took a survey on the Internet a few years ago that said I was 47% gay
6. I haven't "done" heterosexuality particularly well, and there are court records to prove it
7. I always got a big kick out of Paul Lynde when I was a kid
8. I had a dream in college that I was cuddling with Grover the Monster from Sesame Street
9. I'll drink mimosas if they're included in the price of a brunch buffet
10. I guess I am "questioning" in the larger, more existential sense of the word

Monday, May 09, 2005

The Huffington Post

Center-left pundit and former California gubernatorial candidate Arianna Huffington went live with her new bookmark-worthy superblog today. The Huffington Post features posts from big wheels of all walks like Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., Ellen DeGeneres, Mike Nichols, David Mamet, Michael Iskikoff and Laurie David (who reveals Larry likes to watch American Idol). Harry Shearer will be putting those years of voicing Kent Brockman to good use with a media column called "Eat the Press."

For now, though, check out this alarming post about Gerald Posner's upcoming new book, which claims Saudi Arabia has wired its oilfields and refineries with explosives and radiation dispersal devices in case anyone tries to get uppity with the Royal Saud. That would sort of explain all the hand-holding with Prince Abdullah out in Crawford a few weeks back.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Smoking Ban Passes 52-48%

Austin voted to extend the current smoking ban to bars yesterday by just four points. Whether you were for or against the ban, it's good to have this contentious election behind us. In 18 years of living here, I've never seen live music fans so divided by an issue.

Come September 1st, when the ban takes effect, I think it's vitally important for all the live music fans who voted for the ban to redouble their support of our venues. If you told people you'd go out more if it didn't mean coming home smelling like an ashtray, then get your butt out of the house and prove it.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Over the Line!

You couldn't pick a much better night than Friday for viewing The Big Lebowski in a bowling alley parking lot as part of the Alamo Drafthouse's "Rolling Roadshow" series. A nice breeze, bowling pin-shaped Budwisers and Dart Bowl French fries cinched it for me. Then we went inside to roll and drink White Russians. I'm not sure I could drink something like that on a regular basis, but one was pretty good. Special thanks to Jamie J. for hooking me up with a ticket to this fun-filled, sold-out extravaganza.

Friday, May 06, 2005

EXTRA: Give Birth, Get TiVo!

Are you a pregnant woman in the Dallas area likely to give birth this Mother's Day weekend? Then head on over to Parkland Memorial Hospital, push that puppy out and get a free TiVo DVR with lifetime service!

Wright Amendment, Wrong Time

While other single men are planning exciting weekends of oat-sowing frolic, I'm sitting here thinking about the airline industry. After all, nothing gets a girl "ready to go" like a good debate about the Wright Amendment.

One of the reasons for Southwest Airlines' continued success is its ability to pounce on growth opportunities at just the right moment. Against the backdrop of flux generated by Delta abandoning its Dallas/Fort Worth hub, Southwest has deftly decided to step up its opposition to the Wright Amendment, which currently limits the airline's interstate service from Dallas' Love Field to states adjoining Texas along with Alabama, Mississippi and Kansas.

Under this law, Southwest cannot sell you a single ticket from Love Field to Phoenix even if you're connecting in El Paso. Instead, you'd have to buy two completely separate tickets - one from Dallas to El Paso and another from El Paso to Phoenix. Upon your arrival in El Paso, you'd have to retrieve your baggage at baggage claim, go back through security and check in again before finally boarding your connecting flight. It's a stupid, anti-competitive law that outlived its usefulness as protectionism for the newly-constructed DFW Airport long ago.

Before resigning in disgrace in 1989, House majority leader Jim Wright was a lucrative waterboy for Fort Worth in its quixotic battles against being overshadowed by Dallas. The Wright Amendment restrictions became law in 1979, not coincidentally the same year American Airlines moved its headquarters from New York to Fort Worth under a tax-free bond deal. American moved in just as years of gross mismanagement and a horribly miscalculated response to deregulation conspired to drive Braniff into the ground. With Braniff's demise, Delta stepped up its DFW presence and served as a healthy counter-weight to American's growing dominance for many years. Now that Delta's hub is gone, though, American owns DFW. Despite incentives from DFW's board to fill the void, no airline is willing to risk a predatory price war with American on its home turf.

Meanwhile, Southwest is reducing frequency at Love Field because post-9/11 security procedures have cut into the time savings once realized in flying their heritage intrastate routes like Dallas-Austin. If Southwest can't grow out of Love Field, it doesn't have a whole lot of incentive for continuing to maintain its headquarters there. Although close-in airports in Washington and New York have perimeter restrictions limiting the distance of nonstop service (which is why you can't fly nonstop from Austin to National and LaGuardia), no other airport besides Love is saddled with an arcane federal regulation like the Wright Amendment.

Will growth at Love hurt the long-term viability of DFW? Highly unlikely. DFW is spread across a huge parcel of land with room to grow, while Love Field is constrained both by size and a local master use plan limiting the number of flights there. The Houston metro area, a bit less populous than the overall Metroplex, has supported two unrestricted airports for years. Moreover, a lot of the growth in the Metroplex is taking place in areas more convenient to DFW than Love. It's high time our state's largely-Republican lawmakers began acting in accordance with the market-worship dogma they normally espouse and put this amendment out to pasture.

If you're still awake, you can learn more at these websites outlining the pro-Wright and anti-Wright positions.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Herb Alpert & Other Delights

Last month, Shout! Factory began reissuing several classic albums from Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass, including Whipped Cream & Other Delights. Spending eight weeks at number one in 1965, Whipped Cream became something of a fixture in suburban American households during the Sixties. In the early Nineties, the album was rediscovered by a whole new generation of ironic, hipster-doofus types at garage sales and second hand stores.

Of course, what sets Whipped Cream apart from other Alpert albums of the era is the cover. Safe enough for mom but alluringly provocative, it undoubtedly helped introduce many a teen-age boy to the art of self-release.

Unfortunately, Soul Asylum's brilliant 1990 parody cover, Clam Dip & Other Delights, sullied that aspect of the image forever.

And just who was that cream-coated coquette, anyway? Her name is Dolores Erickson, and you can buy a signed vinyl copy of Whipped Cream from her for $50 (link via Boing Boing).

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

The Wrong Stuff

You just gotta love those beleaguered NASA astronauts having to tell the restless public to "hang in there" in light of the latest shuttle delays. "We will fly our space shuttle someday, and we will fly this mission," said upbeat commander Eileen Collins. "This is something that we're very excited about, and we want you to hang with us, be patient. We know that we're doing the right thing, and we ask you to hang in there in the interest on the mission."

Now if I was an astronaut, my message to the public would be a bit more direct."Hey, I know y'all have a short attention span, but the last time NASA didn't second guess itself, seven of my colleagues BLEW UP over Texas! You earthbound looky-loos are lucky not to have gotten smacked upside the head by falling debris! I know being an astronaut is risky. In fact, most actuarial tables rank astronaut as the second most deadly profession on the planet next to playing keyboards for the Grateful Dead. Nevertheless, only a fool would climb aboard this old warhorse again without making sure all the i's are dotted. So you have to wait a little while longer to watch a manned spacecraft lift off from American soil. So what? Go watch "Desperate Housewives" and get off our backs already!"

I guess maybe that's why my astronaut application form was rejected. At least it still comes in handy as a second form of identification when I open bank accounts.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Mama Don't Come Cheap

Did you know that a stay-at-home mother of two should be earning $133,000 per year? It's true because a man in a suit from Salary.com said it on Today yesterday morning.

This sort of thing epitomizes the most vacuous brand of planted news - a fabricated water cooler statistic strategically and solely designed to get a company's name into the public eye. Furthermore, it commodifies the act of child-rearing, reducing children to the economic status of widgets. At the same time, it creates a phony sense of market entitlement among stay-at-home moms, who already tend to reside in our society's more advantaged strata. Meanwhile, the struggle of poor single working moms and our government's zeal for dismantling the human services infrastructure for women and children goes duly unnoted because it doesn't make a nice soundbite.

There are some folks who really believe stay-at-home moms should be compensated because they're "adding value" to "future human capital." Following this line of reasoning, I guess we should also be able to dock moms (and dads, for that matter) whose kids grow up to become criminals. "No blood pressure pills for you today, Mrs. Jones. Your son got pinched for soliciting prostitution at a truck stop last night."

Raising children is time-consuming and expensive, but it's also a choice. You have to take care of them for free or else they get taken away from you. If you're concerned about this meager compensation package (no sick days! no adult interaction!), the time to think about that is before reproductive fluids are exchanged. Happy Mother's Day!

Monday, May 02, 2005

Violet Crown Festival

The Violet Crown Festival isn't the biggest or most spectacular annual neighborhood event in town, but it's my neighborhood event. Come next Saturday, I'll be all up in there representin' Crestview / Brentwood for the o-five, beeyotch!

The VCF goes from noon to 7pm on Saturday, May 7 at the Brentwood Park + Pool, which is just off Arroyo Seco between Brentwood and Justin. Musical guests include the McCallum High School Steel Drum Band, Dale Watson, Jim Scarborough, Hop Culture, the Good Looks and Patrice Pike. Dale Watson's always great, and the Good Looks are sure to be the hardest rockin' band in the three-year-old festival's history. This is a family-friendly event, though, so keep your booze, porno mags and form-fitting Speedos in your own damn backyard!

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Holes and Horsies

After catching the tail end of the drum circling, funnel caked eye candy that is Eeyore's Birthday Party, David W. and myself made it to Hole in the Wall for some Horsies. What a fine show! Although the Horsies now play only once a year or so, you'd never know it by how tight they were. The crowd up front danced unabashedly and I finally had to join in with my attempted polyrhythmic herky-jerk motions toward night's end.

Paul Minor has been doing a great job booking the Hole since it reopened. I can't think of another venue in town with a more consistently diverse array of music. While I still miss the old Hole as it existed prior to temporarily closing in 2002, I'm finding myself over there a lot more often these days. The lack of cover charge is nice (bands play for tips), but the earlier start times are an even bigger selling point for my increasingly tired old ass.