Thursday, August 31, 2006

Here's Scratch Acid In Yer Eye

My elongated feature on Scratch Acid came out on the cover of today's Chron. Some lovely illustrations accompany the story, including a band photo featuring a nude-but-tucked David Yow from back in the day. Much like Iggy Pop, whatever outrageous stunt you think of pulling as a frontman, Yow has probably already done it.

The original draft of this story was about 5,000 words, so I had to trim some good stuff. Most memorable was Hickoids singer Jeff Smith's account of how he and Yow used to greet each other in front of Club Foot by rubbing plaque off their teeth and putting it in each other's mouths. Having seen both men perform, I don't doubt that for a second.

I can't wait to see Scratch Acid on Saturday night. Scratch Acid plays around 11pm with Gorch Fock opening around 9:30. Tickets are still available, but I'd definitely get 'em in advance to be sure. Your Scratch Acid stamp also gets you into a late show by porn rap pioneer Blowfly at 12:30 in Emo's Lounge.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Hilly Michaels' "Calling All Girls!"

Here's a rare music video taped off one of the "AL TV" shows "Weird Al" Yankovic did for MTV around 1984.

Hilly Michaels' 1980 shoulda-been-a-hit "Calling All Girls" is one of my favorite videos from the early MTV era. Very silly yet totally stylish. I hadn't seen this video since 1982 until about five minutes ago.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Kyra in the Bathroom

When you're on TV for hours at a time, you don't always take off your mic when you take a break. Therefore, it's a good idea to turn it off when you leave the set. Apparently, helmet-haired CNN bobblehead Kyra Phillips forgot to do that yesterday.

While George Bush tried to put a positive spin on his administration's pathetic response to Hurricane Katrina, viewers overheard Kyra in the bathroom, chatting about men with an unidentified female colleague and deriding her brother's "control freak" wife. That's going to make for some interesting holiday dining.

Someone at CNN master control must really hate that woman.

(Via Wonkette)

Monday, August 28, 2006

Sizzling San Antonio

I spent the weekend in San Antonio with my parents in celebration of their 40th anniversary. As always, we stayed at the historic Menger Hotel next to the Alamo, lunched at Schilo’s Delicatessen on Commerce St. and dinnered at the Menger’s Colonial Room.

I’ve been going to San Antonio with my parents for their anniversary since I was a little kid. I used to sleep on a rollaway bed in their room, which didn’t strike me as conducive to romance even as an eight year-old, but that’s how it was in my compact family unit. I do have my own room now, in case you're wondering.

San Antonio is bone dry these days. It’s even worse than Austin. They’ve quit running fountains because of the drought, which has turned the Convention Center/Hemisfair Park complex into a blazing concrete jungle. I’d hope for a tropical storm if I wasn’t worried it would smash into the coast as a Category 5 hurricane.

Also, Earl Abel’s has reopened in a former HomeTown Buffet out on Austin Highway. It’s a shame developers tore down Earl Abel’s architecturally distinctive building on Broadway, at least the restaurant survives.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

CNN: The "C" Doesn't Stand for Context

With large swaths of New Orleans still in ruins, it's going to be tough for the Bush administration put a positive spin on the first anniversary of the Katrina disaster, but give 'em credit for trying.

The midday news bobbleheads were all atwitter yesterday about a Hurricane Katrina victim named Rockey Vaccarella (cue Bill Conti fanfare) who showed up at the White House towing a FEMA trailer and was invited inside for an audience with our gracious leader.

Rockey was presented as just your average everyday hurricane victim - a guy who decided to roll up to the White House hauling a trailer and was granted admission. Just like that!

While Vaccarella did ride out the storm by holding on to a rope for four hours, what the media didn’t report is that he’s also a former GOP commissioner’s court candidate from St. Bernard Parish. That’s sort of important to know when he goes on TV to gush effusively about what a great job the Bush administration has done to rebuild Louisiana.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Not Doing the Popcorn

Last Saturday afternoon, a den of Cub Scouts was selling popcorn outside H-E-B. I was once a Cub Scout, attaining the lowly rank of “Wolf” before dropping out in favor of not missing ABC's Tuesday night line-up.

While I always buy cookies from the Girl Scouts, I can’t bring myself to give money to an organization with policies banning gay people from leadership positions and banning atheists and agnostics from taking part in scouting altogether. I know this sort of overt discrimination doesn’t necessarily represent the views of everyone involved with the Boy Scouts of America, so I feel bad about withholding my support for what might otherwise be an enriching experience for boys. But I’d feel even worse giving tacit support to those policies.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Hey, This Isn't Chicken

The posts are few and far between these days because I'm hard at work on a feature story about Scratch Acid in advance of their reunion show at Emo's on September 2nd. Those guys have some pretty amazing stories about what it was like to play punk rock in Austin during the Eighties.

From what I can gather, there was a lot more LSD going around back then. You still saw a bunch of big eyeballs at shows and parties when I first moved here in 1987, but I wouldn't know where to find acid today, and wouldn't know what to do with it if I did. I'm too anxious to fun around with heavy-duty psychedelic drugs.

I like to think I'm relatively balanced, but even on a good day, I can't be more than one or two tiny chemical reactions away from becoming the girl who ate her parakeet.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Grace Slick Taught Me to Count

These animated "Jazz Spies" counting segments on Sesame Street were my favorite part of the show. I remember rocking back and forth and singing along whenever they came on. I didn't learn that I was listening to Grace Slick singing until years later.

As the Seventies wore on, these psychedelic beauties were gradually phased out in favor of the better-known "Pinball" counting animation with vocals provided by the Pointer Sisters.

In addition to finding this on You Tube, I made it to ZOOM: Lost and Found last night at the Alamo Drafthouse and got to meet original ZOOMer Tommy White after the show.

All in all, a banner day indeed for reliving my television past.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Little Miss Sunshine

I saw Little Miss Sunshine on Friday night. It was the first time I’ve seen a major motion picture on opening day in about five years.

Greg Kinnear plays a failing motivational speaker who’s still using an overhead projector in 2006, Steve Carell plays a spurned gay professor recovering from a suicide attempt and Adam Arkin plays a grandfather evicted from the nursing home for snorting heroin. Kinnear’s wife, played by Toni Collette, is fraying in her efforts to hold everything together. His misanthropic 15-year-old son, Dwayne (Paul Dano), has taken a vow of silence, while his endearingly quirky seven-year-old daughter, Olive (Abigail Breslin), is determined to compete in a child beauty pageant. Despite their own collective mess of personal dysfunctions and humiliations, everyone in the family rallies behind Olive and piles into a VW minivan to make sure she gets to the pageant in California.

Despite some hackneyed plot devices, I thought Little Miss Sunshine was well-acted and quite funny. I’ve read a few reviews likening the movie to Harold and Maude (one of my all-time favorites) because of its semi-macabre, offbeat tone, but I think David O. Russell’s Flirting with Disaster might be a more apt comparison. I have a feeling it’ll be one of those "grower" movies that gets a lot of word-of-mouth business.

Upon exiting the Barton Creek Cinemark, I saw a guy in a track suit gesticulating wildly as he praised some movie like he was Quentin Tarantino. I looked again and realized it was Quentin Tarantino.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Friendly Skies, My Ass

I'm glad the Brits managed to foil the alleged terror plot to take out ten airliners over the Atlantic. I don't take anything the Bush administration says about terrorism at face value, and it's certainly not out of character for them to sound the threat alarm whenever ill political winds blow, but there's no evidence at this point to suggest this wasn't a legitimate threat.

Hopefully this carry-on liquid ban won't last forever. Those airport concessionaires selling $2.50 soft drinks beyond the security checkpoints must be creaming at the potential windfall. And even those drinks can't be taken on the plane.

I wonder how much longer will it be before one of these fundie cretins tries to blow up a plane with a kiestered explosive? That's when the real party starts. I can easily imagine taking my nonexistent kids to Disney World in ten years and having to tell them to pretend the TSA finger probe is just another ride.

Oliver Stone sure drew a great opening weekend for World Trade Center, didn't he? See ya at the movies!

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Blood and Ice Cream

Good lord, I sure have been crazy for ice cream lately. Perhaps that's because it's been coming into my possession for absolutely nothing in recent weeks.

First there was H-E-B's come hither coupon for a free half-gallon of Creamy Creations. They sent these out in neighborhoods once served by Albertson's to attract displaced customers and I wound up with two since I was in between homes. I snagged half a gallon of Homemade Vanilla and what may have been the last half gallon of Poteet Strawberry for sale in the Austin area.

Then I went to the Blood & Tissue Center of Central Texas this afternoon to donate my regular pint of A-positive. I usually give on the blood bus at work, but my hematocrit count was low last week so I had to try again after bulking up on iron-laden favorites like red meat, fortified bread and raisins.

It just so happens August 7-19 is the Center's "Pint for a Pint" promotion. This means you get a pint of Blue Bell for donating blood. Not that I needed a pint of ice cream to donate blood, but it sure was nice walking into the 101-degree heat with a free pint of Peaches & Homemade Vanilla.

If you're eligible, consider giving blood. You can use the ice cream, and someone can probably use your blood, too.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

We're Gonna Zooma Zooma Zooma Zoom!

I was weaned on Sesame Street, but the TV show I most identified with as a young kid in the Seventies was ZOOM. Produced by Boston’s WGBH from 1972 through 1978 (a revival was produced from 1999 to 2005), ZOOM was the only show you could tune into and see nothing but kids being kids for 30 minutes.

The show featured a forever-rotating cast of 10-to-14-year-old “ZOOMers” who dressed in matching striped rugby shirts and often performed barefoot. After all, it was the Seventies. Can you imagine trying to get a station’s legal counsel to allow children to run barefoot around a TV studio in 2006?

The ZOOMers rapped, sang, did plays, told jokes, played games and showed you how to make things. Location segments showed kids doing stuff like building multi-story treehouses and whipping up a batch of sarsparilla root beer. If you wanted to learn more, or if you had an idea for a future episode, you could write the show. A clever jingle (“Write ZOOM, Z-double-O-M.Box 350/Boston, Mass./0-2-1-3-4/Send it to ZOOM!”) drilled the address deep into your skull. Even if I forget how to eat, I’ll always remember the address for ZOOM.

I really idolized the ZOOMers. I even made my mom “invite” the ZOOMers to my fifth birthday party. Long before Pinky Tuscadero and Blair Warner, my very first TV crushes were on girl ZOOMers. I had it especially bad for Tracy from season one and Lori from season two. My parents somehow managed to get Tracy’s autograph for me at a local PBS function in Dallas, but I could never quite imagine how this girl on TV came to scribble a note to me on the back of an envelope. Even though I’d been inside a TV studio, the people on TV were still somewhat mystical to me at that age.

Unlike the Britney-era Mickey Mouse Club, ZOOM wasn’t a career stepping stone. Aside from not using their last names on the air, ZOOMers had to agree not to do any television for three years after appearing on the show. That's how serious producer Christopher Sarson was about not casting would-be child stars. One former ZOOMer that did eventually go into entertainment was Tommy White (left), who formed Boston-based punk band Unnatural Axe with Rich Parsons. They made a regional underground splash with a song called “They Saved Hitler’s Brain.”

All of this leads us up to 7pm next Tuesday, August 15 at the Alamo Drafthouse Downtown, where Tommy White will present ZOOM: Lost and Found, a collection of rare clips detailing the history of this oft-forgotten yet charming PBS classic.

Missing this would be like pushing my inner-child down a flight of stairs.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Steak 'N Shake Coming to Austin

Although there’s still no word on when the first Austin area Krystal will open, we are scheduled to get our first Steak 'n Shake at IH-35 and Slaughter before year’s end. The Midwestern chain is a bit more upscale than your typical quick-service concept, serving its trademark “steakburgers” on china 24 hours a day. You can also get that wonderful old Rust Belt standby, “Chili 3-Way.”

I remember there were a few Steak 'n Shakes in Houston during the Seventies, but they were all gone by the end of the decade. The franchise’s current, more successful foray into Texas began a few years back in Dallas/Fort Worth, where they now have 18 units.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Court Rejects Perrymandering

Yesterday's court-ordered redistricting was a tiny victory for Austin. It doesn't give the city the contiguous congressional representation it had before Tom DeLay and his dirty brownshirts in the state legislature divided Austin into three districts running all the way to Houston, Midland and Mexico, but at least the court rejected any further gerrymandering efforts by Rick Perry, who wanted to move enough of Lloyd Doggett's district out of Travis County to make it swing Republican.

Sure it's small, but the revolution has to start somewhere.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Arthur Lee R.I.P.

Arthur Lee, leader of the legendary Los Angeles band Love, died of leukemia yesterday afternoon at the age of 61. News of his death was reported on the band's message board.

Love's only Top 40 hit was the 1966 proto-punk screamer, "7 & 7 Is," but their third album, 1967's Forever Changes, was a meticulously-conceived masterpiece that has only grown in stature over the years. Rhino reissued the album in 2001 with outtakes from the "Your Mind and We Belong Together" tracking session. Lee's studio talkbox banter on the track is reminiscent of Brian Wilson's direction during the Pet Sounds sessions.

The classic Love line-up only lasted through Forever Changes. Lee stayed peripherally involved in the L.A. music scene, occasionally reforming Love in some permutation. He was sentenced to 12 years in prison for illegal possession of a firearm in 1996. During his legal troubles, Love members Bryan MacLean and Ken Forssi died, precluding any future reunions.

Upon his 2001 release, Lee took a cue from Brian Wilson and began performing Forever Changes in its entirety with a band called "Love with Arthur Lee." Despite initial rave reviews, Lee left the band in 2005. His illness was revealed earlier this year.

I'll definitely be listening to Forever Changes this weekend along with "Stephanie Knows Who," "She Comes in Colors," "Signed D.C." and several others. Lee was one of the visionary greats.

Masonic: Without Warning

As I noted in my review last month, Masonic's third album, Without Warning, is yet another solid collection of heady pop rock buzz.

The Austin quintet's record release show is tonight at the Parish. They'll be performing the new album front to back. Masonic's cover of ABBA's "S.O.S." ought to be especially tasty live.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Kim McLagan Killed in Car Accident

Some very sad and shocking news for Austin music fans. Kim McLagan, wife of Faces keyboardist Ian McLagan, was killed yesterday in a two-car accident in eastern Travis County. She was 57.

Prior to her marriage to McLagan, the former London-based fashion model was married to Who drummer Keith Moon from 1966 to 1975. The McLagans moved to Austin from Los Angeles in 1994. More recently, Kim had opened a skincare shop while Ian has been packing them in with a Thursday evening residency at Lucky Lounge with the Bump Band.

The Statesman has more information here.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

A Tax Holiday for the Rest of Us

If you're in Texas and need some new duds, wait until Friday. That's when our annual back-to-school sales tax holiday weekend begins. You can avoid paying sales tax through midnight Sunday. Here's a list of what's tax-free, courtesy of Gramma Strayhorn.

Also, JenBB of Felt Up and Blue Velvet reknown informed me last year that used clothes are just as tax-free as new ones. If you see me shopping this weekend, don't get in the way of the vintage Guayaberas.

One place you won't find me is at the fancy new outlet mall in Round Rock. I suppose I'll wind up there eventually, but driving out there on opening weekend during a sales tax holiday would be just the right thing to sour me on humanity forever.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

The Ballad of Charles Whitman

Today is the 40th anniversary of the UT Tower shootings. On August 1, 1966, UT architecture student and former Marine sharpshooter Charles Whitman killed 13 people and wounded 31 others from the tower's 27th floor observation deck. He also killed his wife and mother before going to the tower, bringing the death toll to 15.

In the wake of the shootings, which went on for 96 minutes, local police departments around the country formed SWAT teams to deal more effectively with high-calibered angry men like Whitman. Austin decided maybe it wasn't such a good idea to leave ambulance service to funeral homes and formed the forerunner to today's EMS.

UT officially ignored the shootings for many years. While many assumed the tower's observation deck was shut down after the shootings, it actually remained open until 1974, when one too many suicides prompted UT's Board of Regents to close it. The observation deck finally reopened in 1998 under heavy security.

On Saturday, our local Fox affiliate ran a special on the shootings that claimed Whitman was "our first domestic terrorist." You can call Whitman a lot of things, but minus an established political motive to his crime, calling him a terrorist is kind of silly.

At any rate, Metroblogging Austin's Tim Trentham has compiled a plethora of links about the UT Tower shootings if you're interested in learning more about Austin's most infamous day.