Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Earl Abel's Closing

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

What's In A Name?

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

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

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

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

How We Became The Ron Titter Band:

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

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

Monday, November 28, 2005

More Funky Drawers

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, November 27, 2005

One More Big Meal

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

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

Saturday, November 26, 2005

I Ated Too Much Cake

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

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

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

Friday, November 25, 2005

Hey, Underpants!

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Smokin' Down to H-Town

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Bill Moyers Just Gets It

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Texas Takes A Shot At Sony

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

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

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

Monday, November 21, 2005

Merry Christmas, You Godless Scum!

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

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

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

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

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Microsoft Unhinged

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

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

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

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Hole in Me Head

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 18, 2005

20 Years of Wannabes

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Jury Doody

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Plan B: Politics Before Science

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

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

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

Peanut Brittle Ice Cream

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

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

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

Monday, November 14, 2005

Kevin's Gone, One More Round

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

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

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Hitting the Spot

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

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

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

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

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Healing Food

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 11, 2005

The Baggage Smugglers

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

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

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

Thursday, November 10, 2005

New York Night Train

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Ashamed, But Not Surprised

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Bless Their Little Hearts

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 07, 2005

Buttoned Down in H-Town

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Good Clean Fun

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

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

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

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Another Ring Around the Trunk

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

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

Friday, November 04, 2005


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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Brownout at CNN

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Cheaters on DVD!

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

The Elephant's Graveyard

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

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

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

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

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