Sunday, April 30, 2006

California Love

Greetings from sunny Southern California. I'm out here in the Inland Empire hamlet of Redlands visiting my extended family from Australia. We don't get together often enough, but when we do, the familial groove kicks right back in.

It's not exactly one of those family reunions where you have to rent out a VFW hall and make everyone wear "Hello my name is" badges, but it's good enough for me.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Dondero Rocks

I first became aware of the annual a capella choir pop concerts at Royal Oak, Michigan's Dondero High School a few years ago when I heard their blazingly enthusiastic version of Sweet's "Fox on the Run" (1995). It's awesome to hear longtime classic rock standards given new life through the magic of student choral pop treatment. Which isn't to say they don't rock. In fact, I think the 1996 performance of "More Than a Feeling" comes close to out-Bostoning Boston.

Most of the songs they choose are well-known pop hits, but there are a few surprising deep cuts like Michael Nesmith's latter-day Monkees nugget, "I Won't Be the Same Without Her" (2000). Anyone who really knows me knows I love Chicago, and they were well represented at Dondero's 2001 concert with "Just You 'N' Me" and "Make Me Smile" (they actually pull off most of the "Ballet for a Girl in Buchannon" suite!).

Listening to these songs would make me want to go back to high school if I could go to Dondero and be in choir director Rick Hartsoe's class. If there had been something similar at my high school, I would've been much less likely to commit inane acts of mischief like setting fire to large appliance boxes full of garbage and mooning diners at Taco Cabana while a fellow miscreant yelled, "EAT THIS, YUPPIES!" over a cheap Radio Shack megaphone we'd purchased for just such an occasion.

Sadly, Dondero High School is closing at the end of this school year and Rick Hartsoe is retiring after 39 years of teaching. The 35th and final Dondero Pop Concert was held March 3 and 4, and a five-hour alumni reunion show took place the following week.

Now go to Comfort Stand Recordings to hear recordings of the 1995-1996 and 2000-2005 concerts, and be thankful for teachers like Rick Hartsoe.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

That's the Proper Word

Back in 1984, Henry "Ayyy, we're canceled!" Winkler and some other concerned Hollywood types decided to make an educational video to gently teach children about sexual predators.

It was a noble enough idea, but what the hell were the makers of Strong Kids, Safe Kids thinking when they decided to dress a grown man up in overalls, put him on a slide and have him sing to children about penises and vulvas?

That's right, kids, it's the "Proper Words" song! Get ready to sing along with this time-tested party chestnut, courtesy of your friends at Goodie Bag TV.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

How's This for Freedom?

Read all about Amy Goodman from Democracy Now being kicked out of a FEMA trailer park outside Baton Rouge by a hired goon from Corporate Security Solutions for interviewing a Katrina-displaced resident on "post" without a FEMA flack present.

Them’s your tax dollars at work!

Monday, April 24, 2006

Los Grandes de la Musica Tejana

Though I expected to have a relaxing long weekend on account of the San Jacinto Day state holiday Friday, it wound up being pretty busy.

The Ron Titter Band played at Room 710 Friday night. We didn't get a huge crowd, but I felt pretty good about the show itself. It was the most spirited performance we've given since our first gig and we played three new songs - including what I hope will be America's next big dance hit, "Do the Fonkey Horsey."

If we can just convince Mutt Lange to leave Shania and the Alps for a few months, I think we could bank on that last one. Then I'd be able to quit my state job and bring Pancho's Mexican Buffet back to Austin alongside my attached dream nightclub, "Pancho's After Hours," which would be inaugurated with a concert by the reunited Judy's).

On Saturday, I did an interview with Tejano music pioneer Sunny Ozuna after his "Los Grandes de la Musica Tejana" show with Little Joe and Ruben Ramos at UT's Bass Concert Hall. Ozuna grew up on the south side of San Antonio and had a big hit in 1963 with Sunny & the Sunglows' version of Little Willie John's "Talk to Me." He performed the song on "American Bandstand" when he was still in high school.

In all those years of playing dance halls throughout Texas and beyond, Ozuna has played rock, country, R&B, gospel, Tejano and everything in between. He was an interesting, friendly person to interview and I'm looking forward to writing about him.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Keep Your Purity Off My Balls

I'm all for fathers being more involved in their daughters' lives, but these Father- Daughter Purity Balls sponsored by tax-supported organizations like the Abstinence Clearinghouse really creep me out.

From what I can gather, a Purity Ball is like a cross between a prom and a wedding where daughters pledge virginity-until-marriage to their fathers while the fathers, as "high priests of the home," pledge to protect their daughter's "purity" until she brings home a suitable suitor. I'd love to be that guy (or girl!).

A father claiming dominion in the name of God over his daughter's sexuality reeks of emotional and spiritual incest. The idea that an intact hymen somehow equals purity is no less misbegotten.

There is no similar ceremony for mothers and sons. Apparently, God was smart enough to put the onus of purity on girls alone. And I appreciate that.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Poteet Strawberry Ice Cream is Here!

Late last night after the thunderstorms subsided, I went on a grocery run because H-E-B had an in-store coupon for a free 12-pack of Diet Dr Pepper if you purchased three. Thing is, I had to get there before midnight when the coupon expired.

The oft-middling Burnet/Allandale store was completely out of Diet Dr Pepper 12-packs, which forced me to speed across town to the Far West store to redeem my coupon (a $3.34 value!) with just minutes to spare. I probably would've tried another H-E-B if necessary because learning to revel in tiny, fleeting accomplishments like redeeming a coupon will be key to maintaining emotional balance during the coming global catastrophe.

Although Burnet/Allandale didn't bear fruit of the soda pop variety, I did spot my beloved H-E-B Creamy Creations Poteet Strawberry Ice Cream in an endcap display there for the first time this season. I'm not sure why it has taken longer to reach shelves this year, but it could have something to do with the switch from traditional circular half-gallon cartons to space-saving square ones.

Whatever the case, I've got mine and you better get yours before it's all gone.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Oshinsky Wins Pulitzer Prize

Congratulations to University of Texas history professor David Oshinsky for winning the 2006 Pulitzer Prize in history for his book, Polio: An American Story. He is only the second UT faculty member to win a Pulitzer.

I was fortunate to have a post-WWII American history class with Oshinsky many years ago that damn near made me switch my major from journalism.

As a public health buff (hey, the ladies love it!), I look forward to checking out this book. I can definitely vouch for Oshinsky’s book on Joe McCarthy, A Conspiracy So Immense.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Joey Ramone 1951-2001

Joey Ramone died five years ago today. The Ramones may not have actually saved my life, but they sure made it a lot better. I already loved music when I first heard them in 1981, but I don't think I would've started writing about music and playing music without the Ramones. They never sold tons of records, but they changed more lives than a thousand Peter Framptons.

It was particularly sad Joey didn't live to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Out of all the Ramones, I think it would've mattered to him the most.

I knew nothing about Joey Ramone as a person, but I feel like he must've been a fellow traveler to some degree. Anyone who once called the Banana Splits one of the best bands ever knew what the hell he was talking about.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Ron Titter Rides Again

After an elongated performance hiatus, The Ron Titter Band will be playing at Room 710 on Friday, April 21 with New York's Back to Blonde and home-grown acts StunGun and Exeter.

When I was 21, I would've said we're headlining this bill. Now I just say we're going last because I'm old. Of course, going last also means I might be drunk enough by showtime to engage in some good old-fashioned trou-dropping.

There's nothing funnier than a grown man stumbling around with his pants around his knees. It's comic frickin' gold, baby!

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Capitol Screws Pooch on Beatles Reissue

Many Beatles fans are in a frenzy right now because Capitol Records screwed up the mono remasters for Beatles VI and Rubber Soul on the just-issued Capitol Albums Vol. 2 set. Apparently, the pressing plant used a “fold-down” stereo-to-mono reduction mix instead of the true British mono mix they were supposed to use. As a result, as many as 170,000 defective copies of the album hit stores on Tuesday. The only reason Capitol even acknowledged the problem is because astute fans with advance copies made a stink about it.

The irony here is two-fold. The whole reason we have a Capitol Albums series is because the label rooked American record buyers the first time around by cutting tracks from British versions of Beatles albums through Sgt. Pepper. The Beatles’ umbrage at this practice was the trigger for the Yesterday and Today “butcher cover.” Secondly, by knowingly releasing a defective product, Capitol has – intentionally or not – created yet another Beatles collectible. Now all the completists will have to buy two copies of Capitol Albums Vol. 2 instead of one.

My pal Kent B. says Waterloo Records received corrected copies of the set. To make sure you’re buying the corrected set, check the box’s yellow stick-on label for an “SK1” at the end of the catalog number.

If you hear a false start on the mono version of “I’m Looking Through You,” congratulations! You’re the proud owner of a defective set. Although it was their snafu, Capitol is making consumers jump through rebate-style hoops to the right discs. They won’t send you corrected discs unless you mail them your original dated receipt and the defective discs within 60 days of purchase.

Between this and the Sony malware fracas, is it any wonder so few people consider illegal downloading a crime?

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh

In 27 years, has anyone managed to make a better astrological disco basketball comedy than The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh? I think not.

This 1979 bomb starred Julius "Dr. J." Erving, Meadowlark Lemon, Jonathan Winters and Stockard Channing. I remember seeing it at the dumpy old Shamrock 6 in Houston when it came out. Even if you can't stomach the plot in which the lowly Pittsburgh Pythons become contenders after assembling an all-Pisces roster at the behest of team astrologer Mona Mondieu, the ABA-on-LSD set design is a visual feast. The Thom Bell-produced soundtrack isn't bad, either.

Sadly, The Fish is unavailable on DVD and hard-to-find on VHS. Cable stopped showing it sometime during Reagan's first term. You can, however, check out this awesome tribute page.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Lebowski Fest in Austin

Four years after its Louisville, KY founding, Lebowski Fest is coming to Austin on May 19-20.

A special screening of The Big Lebowski will take place May 19th at Maggie Mae's and the "main event" happens May 20th at Highland Lanes. There will be bowling, trivia, look-a-like contests, copious caucasians and what-have-you. Although a townie would've picked Dart Bowl instead of Highland Lanes for the fries and enchiladas, it still sounds like a real swinging deal.

Here's an interview with Lebowski Fest founders Will Russell and Scott Shuffitt from PopMatters about how it all got started.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Defenders of the Faith?

If the Gospel of Judas is true, and Judas Iscariot betrayed Jesus only because Jesus asked him to, doesn't that make Judas Priest a really lame name for a heavy metal band?

Friday, April 07, 2006

Gimme Gimme Tornado Porn!

I stayed up way too late last night watching Perfect Disaster, a wonderful disaster porn series now airing on the Discovery Channel. Each show assumes the most toxic combination of disaster-fomenting factors actually comes to fruition and then lets the hypothetical chaos unfold for our entertainment.

Last night’s episode was about a massive F-Shit "super tornado" plowing through downtown Dallas during rush hour. It’s not a matter of if this will happen, the announcer solemnly intoned, but when. Yeah, baby! Work that wall cloud!

A real disaster porn auteur knows you have to make the actors extra obnoxious so audiences will actively root for the disaster. I was disappointed when the bratty little Cub Scout kid didn’t get sucked up into the funnel. In real life, most second graders in the twister belt know the safety drill, but Perfect Disaster assumes the entire town will behave in the stupidest manner possible because, well, this is a Perfect Disaster.

When the sirens sound, everybody goes outside for a look-see. Drones set out for their flimsy homes instead of sheltering themselves in sturdier buildings and get trapped on gridlocked freeways. Window-gazing office workers get sucked out of skyscrapers or sluiced by flying glass.

The money shot came when the twister slammed into an anonymous “Dallas stadium” clearly representing Arlington’s Ameriquest Field, presumably strewing spectators about like plastic grocery bags full of chum – and offering conclusive proof that God hates the Texas Rangers.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Glass Eye Returns

I’m very excited about tomorrow night’s Glass Eye reunion show at Room 710 with Daniel Johnston and Cat Scientist. Glass Eye was my first favorite local band in Austin and 1988’s Bent By Nature remains my favorite local release. While time and circumstance undoubtedly played roles in turning me on to Glass Eye, their meticulous yet slightly unhinged take on pop music still sounds fresh.

Right before SXSW, I did a short interview with bassist/producer Brian Beattie for the Chron. He talked about how the band’s decade-long run came to a less-than- auspicious end in 1993 after a proposed record deal ran amok. Just before their final show at Liberty Lunch, they announced plans for a final album that wound up taking 13 years to materialize. The just-released Every Woman’s Fantasy has a harder, angrier tone than any of Glass Eye’s other albums, which is understandable in light of where they were when they started making it. Click here for my full review.

It’s always hard to articulate why the music that changed your life had such a profound effect on you, but I took an old college stab with this mash note review (scroll down) about the first time I saw Glass Eye at Liberty Lunch 18 years ago this week. I wrote it in 1999 on the occasion of Liberty Lunch’s demise.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Why I Quit Missing Elections

On May 13, Austin voters will get to decide whether the city should repeal its current ban on offering benefits to domestic partners of city employees.

The city council approved domestic partner benefits in 1993, but the religious right mobilized to overturn this policy in a 1994 referendum. The loving hearts at Skyview Baptist Church on Koenig Lane went so far as to announce that God voted to ban domestic partner benefits on their marquee. I thought that was really funny until they pulled 62% of the vote.

Unfortunately, I didn’t bother to vote in that election because I figured Austin was liberal enough to reject such a discriminatory measure without me. Because people like me stayed home, there is at least one same sex couple that had to pay $25,000 out of pocket to diagnose a benign tumor. I can't remember why I missed the election, but I haven't forgotten that I helped keep life a bit more unfair for a lot of good people by not voting.

I don't think I've missed an election since then and I won't be missing this one.

Monday, April 03, 2006


I've received several reports of a "giant, balls-out pillow fight" being planned for Thursday, April 6 at Auditorium Shores in Austin. The pillow fighting will commence when the Town Lake bell tower clock strikes 8pm. But you didn't hear that from me.

And even though it's billed as "balls-out," I'd wear a cup if I were you.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Another (Burp) Saturday Night

There are a lot of things I miss about being a kid, but one thing I like about being an adult is the fact that no one can stop me from going to H-E-B at 10:45pm on a Saturday night and buying a bottle of wine, a frozen pizza and some popsicles.

While all this left my guts burning with the heat of a thousand poison suns at bedtime, at least I didn't have to break Lent.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Molester Protectors Sack Shutterbug

The Archdiocese of Boston, known far and wide for its rampant coddling of child molesting clergy, has fired the freelance photographer who released a photo of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia making an obscene Italian hand gesture inside a cathedral. Hell, even I don't do that sort of thing in cathedrals. It's sorta disrespectful, yeah?

Photographer Peter Smith, who worked for the archdiocese’ newspaper for over a decade, released the photo after Scalia said reporters who witnessed the incident were lying about it. Too bad Smith wasn’t just "fiddling about" or he’d probably still have a job.

Tranny Scalia image from the Digital Museum of Modern Art.