Thursday, November 30, 2006

Goddamn Shower Pan

That's right, folks. I have just asked God to damn my shower pan, for it has failed me by leaking all over and under my bathroom floor, as well as through the exterior wall of my home.

Because the base of my shower is made of fiberglass, they're probably going to have to rip-and-replace instead of repairing it. I'm told there may even be a jackhammer involved.

Anytime someone has to bring a jackhammer into your bathroom, invoking the lord's wrath can no longer be considered to be an act of vanity.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

San Diego Bans Wal-Mart Supercenters

In order to avoid an influx of 24-hour supercenters like the one currently proposed for Northcross Mall, the San Diego City Council voted 5-3 on Tuesday to ban "big box" stores of more than 90,000 square feet that use 10 percent of floor space to sell groceries and other merchandise that is not subject to sales tax. The ban is aimed squarely at Wal-Mart.

"I have a vision for San Diego and that vision is about walkable, livable communities, not big, mega-structures that inhibit people's lives," said San Diego councilman Tony Young.

Mayor Jerry Sanders says he'll veto the ban if it's reaffirmed on a second vote next year, but the council can override Sanders' veto with five votes. Wal-Mart will undoubtedly be pulling out all the stops to sway at least one of the five council members who voted for the ban.

Of course, this sort of thing could never happen in a bend-over-for-business state like Texas. Austin might have the political will to pass such a ban, but state courts would never uphold it and the state legislature would punish the city with a fusillade of Austin-bashing bills.

Airlines Decide All Men Are Potential Molesters

Although I was sort of kidding yesterday about making parents nervous by climbing around the playscape at NASA, we do seem to be reaching a point in society where childless men are commonly viewed with hyper-vigilant, preemptive suspicion in areas where children congregate.

Now Salon reports that major airlines like British Airways, Qantas and Air New Zealand have policies that prohibit unaccompanied children from being seated next to male passengers in the name of child welfare (or more likely, litigation concerns). Personally, I'd just as soon not risk being seated next to a fidgeting germ factory on a long-distance flight to Christchurch, but the implication that having a penis somehow renders me unfit to be seated next to a child is sexist and disgusting.

Moreover, any parent who feels placated by such a policy is a moron. The overwhelming majority of sex offenses against children are committed by non-strangers. If an airline doesn't feel it can protect your child from inflight molestation without segregating men from children, you shouldn't be letting your child fly that airline alone in the first place.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Man On the Playscape!

My Thanksgiving stay in Houston was all that and a bag of leftover turkey. The day after Thanksgiving, Kate was nice enough to invite me on a family excursion to the Johnson Space Center, or "NASA," as most native Houstonians call it.

When I was a kid, just getting to see the enormous Saturn V rocket and some spacesuits was enough to warrant a trip to NASA for anyone visiting Houston. I'm pretty sure the whole thing was free, too.

Nowadays, "NASA" has been supplanted by something called "Space Center Houston" that charges amusement park prices. We can lament the passing of staid government presentations of space-related knowledge as an ends in themselves, but there's something to be said for bells and whistles, too.

Take, for example, the playscape I'm sitting in here. I don't know if a playscape is really necessary to make space interesting to 21st century children, but there's no getting around how cool it is to sit in a Soyuz escape pod-shaped moving turret perched three stories above a bunch of nervous parents.

You too would be nervous if you saw a childless man funning around in the playscape.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Sex Pistols on WFAA-TV Dallas

The Dallas Observer's Robert Wilonsky points the way toward this WFAA news clip posted by Steve Dirkx about the Sex Pistols' 1978 show at the Longhorn Ballroom. The reporter was predictably nonplussed.

Incidentally, the Longhorn Ballroom was once owned by Bob Wills under the name "Bob Wills' Ranch House." When Wills hit a financial rough patch, he sold the club to Jack Ruby.

Although it usually functioned as a country and western venue, the Pistols' fleeting U.S. tour and subsequent implosion made this the Longhorn's most famous bill. Located at 216 Cornith on the southwestern edge of downtown Dallas, the club continues to host events today.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Atonement with All the Trimmings

Last year, UT journalism professor Robert Jensen climbed into hot water (again) by suggesting that Thanksgiving in America should be a day of atoning for visiting extermination upon indigenous Americans instead of eating ourselves into a big fat stupor in front of the TV.

From an early age, we Americans hear a story about the hearty Pilgrims, whose search for freedom took them from England to Massachusetts. There, aided by the friendly Wampanoag Indians, they survived in a new and harsh environment, leading to a harvest feast in 1621 following the Pilgrims first winter.

Some aspects of the conventional story are true enough. But it's also true that by 1637 Massachusetts Gov. John Winthrop was proclaiming a thanksgiving for the successful massacre of hundreds of Pequot Indian men, women and children, part of the long and bloody process of opening up additional land to the English invaders. The pattern would repeat itself across the continent until between 95 and 99 percent of American Indians had been exterminated and the rest were left to assimilate into white society or die off on reservations, out of the view of polite society.

Jensen's polemic is still making waves today, as evidenced by this post on It's interesting to see how many folks reflexively disavow any connection with less-than-savory elements of our history even though the America they tell us to love or leave was clearly afforded in part by those elements.

Unlike Jensen, I wouldn’t go so far as to do away with Thanksgiving, nor would most who’ve ever tasted a Greenberg smoked turkey. I am thankful for all the good things in this country and in my life, but it wouldn’t hurt us to swallow a little crow with our Thanksgiving dinner every now and then.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Let's Go to the Mall

Despite an overly Friends-ly vibe at times, How I Met Your Mother has really grown on me over the past year.

Freaks and Geeks alum Jason Segel and Buffy vet Alyson Hannigan bring a lot of endearment from previous projects to the show, but even without that, Marshall Eriksen and Lily Aldrin would still make a cute TV couple worth rooting for. The newly uncloseted Neil Patrick Harris is also perfectly (and ironically) cast as amoral poon hound Barney Stinson.

That said, I haven't warmed as much to Josh Radnor's Ted Mosby. Nor do I think the device of Bob Saget as old Ted explaining to his kids how he met their mother is particularly effective. Maybe the producers have a bit too much personal investment in him as a protagonist. Who knows?

Cobie Smulders' Robin Scherbatsky is cute, but her character has been a bit flat as well. At least that was the case until this week, when her "big secret" turned out to be that she led a previous life as a Canadian pop star named Robin Sparkles.

This being the age of the Internet, "Sparkles" #1 fan has a MySpace site where you can hear her minor 1993 hit, "Let's Go to the Mall." It's actually a very funny parody of the short-lived teen pop queen age exemplified by Tiffany and pre-Deborah Debbie Gibson.

And just in time for Black Friday, too!

Responsible Growth for Northcross

Neighborhood opposition to the proposed Wal-Mart at Northcross Mall has swiftly given birth to a group called Responsible Growth for Northcross. The new group, started by residents from the Allandale, North Shoal Creek, Brentwood, Crestview, Wooten and Rosedale neighborhoods, will hold a community meeting on Thursday, November 30 at 7pm at Grace Church of the Nazarene, located at 1006 W. Koenig Ln.

From the group's news release...

Northcross Mall, long an underused shopping center in an area which has improved significantly in recent years, is ripe for transformation. The mall property has the potential for a diverse, mixed-use redevelopment such as those underway at the Triangle and Mueller.

However, current redevelopment plans, strongly opposed by many in the surrounding neighborhoods, threaten to undermine that potential and bring a two-story, 24 hour Wal-Mart into the area. Responsible Growth for Northcross envisions a redevelopment aligned with the city’s new model for urban development and planned in partnership with surrounding neighborhoods.

Personally, I think the Triangle development is architecturally hideous, but it would've been ten times worse without sustained push-back from the neighborhoods surrounding it. When the Triangle was first proposed back in 1997, it included a 60,000 square-foot Randall's and an Act III multiplex. Just imagine what that would've done to the Guadalupe/North Lamar bottleneck.

Whether the Wal-Mart at Northcross gets built or not, surrounding neighborhoods will be better off for having held some feet to the fire.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The Spies of Texas

When former University of Texas police chief Allen Hamilton died, his son donated his papers to Half Price Books. The elder Hamilton's papers initially came to light in the context of the 1966 UT Tower shootings, but they also reveal formidable surveillance activities conducted by UT and Austin police on campus area non-conformists during the Sixties.

At the behest of iron-fisted Board of Regents chairman Frank Erwin, UT police infiltrated the campus SDS chapter and also kept tabs on students like Janis Joplin, Lloyd Doggett and Kinky Friedman. With LBJ in the White House, UT had extra impetus to keep a tight lid on dissent.

Another person spied on was Thorne Dreyer, editor of The Rag, an underground newspaper Erwin tried to ban before the Supreme Court stopped him. Dreyer exposes UT’s surveillance in this fascinating Texas Observer story.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Pain in the Pahrump

Recently lampooned as an intolerant backwater on TV’s Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, Pahrump, Nevada did the Hollywood elitist mindset one better last week by banning the display of foreign flags unless Old Glory flies above them.

The law was passed in response to the prominent display of the Mexican flag at last spring’s marches for immigrant rights. Violating this retarded ordinance will net you a $50 fine and 30 hours of community service.

Looks like I’ll have to find another place to pick up snacks and wet-naps after my next perfectly legal sojourn to Sheri’s Ranch (NSFW unless you're the coochie doctor).

Friday, November 17, 2006

The Partridge Family Temple

I've heard about the Partridge Family Temple before, but this Swedish TV clip demonstrates why they're better than any of those silly old Abrahamic religions. Having topless women certainly helps (NSFW outside of Scandinavia).

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Aeromexico Announces Austin-Mexico City Route

Austin-Bergstrom International Airport will truly become international again with nonstop Aeromexico flights to Mexico City beginning December 15. This is the first scheduled international service from Austin since Mexicana pulled its Cancun flight in 2004.

Whether Aeromexico will be any more successful is anybody’s guess. One plus for Aeromexico over Mexicana is that you can earn SkyMiles, which can be used on Delta, Continental and Northwest. Ultimately, though, I’m not sure there’s enough air traffic between Austin and Mexico City to justify such a flight.

Monday, November 13, 2006

It's Wal-Mart, Stupid

I just got back from my first Wooten Neighborhood Association meeting. Last week's announcement about a Wal-Mart Supercenter going into Northcross Mall ensured a healthy turnout.

Approximately 85 percent of those who spoke had negative things to say about Wal-Mart. The familiar litany of complaints included increased traffic, higher crime, adverse environmental impact, decreased property values, damage to existing local businesses and Wal-Mart's legendary history of abhorrent labor practices. Those who spoke positively about Wal-Mart were older residents who want a close-in place to shop. I too would like to see a nearby place to buy groceries. I would also like to see Northcross resurrected from dead mall syndrome, but I don't trust Wal-Mart.

The truth of the matter is that most people don't want Wal-Mart in Northcross because it's Wal-Mart. If H-E-B was coming in (I think they've made a major strategic blunder by not going into Northcross), the for/against percentage in adjacent neighborhoods would be dramatically reversed. All you need to know about Wal-Mart's community relations can be surmised by the way they kept the lid on this project until the site plan had already been approved by the city.

Although Austin is considering a "big box" ordinance that would require public hearings, expanded notice, and conditional use permits for projects larger than 100,000 square feet in a single-occupancy building, the Northcross Wal-Mart will almost certainly be grandfathered in. Someone at the city wanted this site plan issued before the big box ordinance was considered and that pisses me off even more than Wal-Mart's sneakiness.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

The Texas 4000

In addition to being into fencing and rowing, Kate is an avid cyclist. She recently became one of about 50 riders to be selected for the 2007 Texas 4000 team.

The Texas 4000 is a 70-day, 4,500-mile bike ride from Austin to Anchorage, Alaska that takes place in the summer. One team goes through the Rocky Mountains while another follows the West Coast before joining up in Canada for the final leg into Anchorage. Each rider commits to raising at least $4,000 for the American Cancer Society. The riders also visit hospitals and work to raise cancer awareness in the communities they travel through.

The ride was started in 2004 by 25-year-old cancer survivor Chris Condit. Everyone on the team has experience with cancer, either personally or through a loved one. Cancer came into Kate's life when her dad was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Fortunately, he's been in remission for six years. I think it's cool that Kate is using her experience as a springboard toward something so proactive and challenging.

You can learn more about the Texas 4000 and make a donation at the team's website. Kate's online rider journal can be found here.

How 'Bout Them Dynamo?!?

Though all we're hearing in Austin is sulking over UT's season-dashing loss to Kansas State yesterday, the Houston Dynamo managed to win the MLS Cup this afternoon on penalty kicks.

Kate is a native of Worcester, Massachusetts, so once she realized that Houston was playing New England, she asked if I cared to make a friendly wager. As much as I enjoyed seeing the Rockets break Houston's long-running pro championship drought back in 1994, the Dynamo won me dinner, which is something I can bank on.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Houston's Got the Dynamo Hum

With the Texans playing like ass, it’s nice that Houston’s new Major League Soccer team made it to the MLS Cup game in their first season in town. The Houston Dynamo, formerly the San Jose Earthquakes, take on the New England Revolution at 2:30pm Sunday at Frisco’s Pizza Hut Park.

The Dynamo started off its Texas residency as Houston 1836, but they quickly realized that calling attention to the Texas Revolution might not help in marketing the team to Mexican immigrants. Now playing in Robertson Stadium on the UH campus, the Dynamo’s long-term goal (ha) is to build a soccer-only stadium complex that also houses youth leagues. Maybe the youth tie-in can give pro soccer the boost it needs to gain a permanent foothold (ha ha) in the U.S.

I played soccer for four years when I was a kid in Dallas and Houston. I wasn’t very good, but all that running around depleted energy that would’ve otherwise been spent setting things on fire. The long-defunct North American Soccer League (NASL) fielded both the Dallas Tornado and the Houston Hurricane at the time. My dad occasionally took me to games and it was a lot of fun. We even got to see the Tornado play an exhibition game against Manchester United at SMU’s now-razed Ownby Stadium.

Andy Warhol and Sonny Liston for Braniff

Dallas-based Braniff International Airlines was all about capturing the style market before a hideously poor strategic response to deregulation caused the once-proud carrier to cease operations in 1982.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Wal-Mart Supercenter Coming to Northcross

Today's announcement that Wal-Mart will begin building a Supercenter at the redeveloped Northcross Mall next year is a disappointment that comes as no surprise. I'm also not surprised by the fact that they waited until the day of midterm elections to slide this announcement under the radar.

Despite the positive quote from the president of the Allendale Neighborhood Association in today's Statesman, Wal-Mart will face significant resistance in North Central Austin. The Statesman article implies that Wal-Mart will effect a water-to-wine retail revitalization at Burnet and Anderson, but demographics are already bringing about revitalization without Wal-Mart in the mix.

The one positive side effect of all this is that H-E-B will absolutely have to improve its sorely-lacking Burnet/Allendale location before Wal-Mart snakes all its customers.

Dem Victory Prompts Rumsfeld Resignation

In a perfect world, Donald Rumsfeld would be perp-marched on live TV from the Pentagon into the cargo hold of a plane and taken to The Hague pending trial for war crimes, but seeing that henny penny scourge on humanity resign in disgrace less than 24 hours after the Democrats take Congress is good enough for now. Let’s see what the Aggie can do.

Things Have Changed

That was one heck of an election last night.

1. The Democrats convincingly captured the House
2. The Democrats appear poised to capture the Senate when all the votes are counted in Virginia
3. South Dakota voted down its draconian abortion ban
4. Arizona (of all places) voted down a gay marriage ban – the first state to do so
5. Missouri passed a stem cell research initiative
6. Rick Santorum and Katherine Harris crashed and burned like photogenic air show disasters
7. All seven of Austin’s bond issues passed
8. Democrat Nick Lampson picked up Tom DeLay’s old seat
9. New York Democrat John Hall, who wrote perennial 70s faves “Still the One” and “Dance with Me,” is now a U.S. Congressman
10. Former Texas Republican state legislator Rick Green was charged with assault after starting a fight at Sunset Canyon Baptist Church with current Democratic state legislator Patrick Rose

George Bush is president for two more years, but his cheese is now flailing in the wind. I’m not na├»ve or optimistic enough to think last night fixed a whole lot of what’s wrong with this country, but at least we have a barrier in place now against the Bush regime’s pursuit of the neo-conservative agenda. Now our spoiled little leader will actually face some push-back for trying to privatize Social Security or start another war under false pretenses. Whether the Dems pick up the Senate or not, that body will remain closely divided and will have a hard time overriding a presidential veto. Still, a larger-than-expected win in the House is a big step in the right direction.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Vote, Dammit!

If you haven't already voted, be sure to get out and vote tomorrow. Don't let long lines, a little rain or a poll observer in a Brooks Brothers suit make you forget what's at stake right now.

Here in Texas, it looks like our Christ-baiting incumbent governor will coast to victory with less than 40 percent of the vote. Since Chris Bell has the best chance of the three spoilers of defeating Rick Perry by most accounts, that's who I voted for.

Despite getting only a fraction of the media coverage given to Kinky and One Tough Grandma, Bell gained a surprising amount of traction this fall while Grandma stalled out (despite premature teacher and state employee union endorsements) and Kinky's once-hopeful candidacy degenerated into a sideshow of tired quips and stupid gaffes.

As much as I detest the two-party system, after what happened in 2000 with Ralph Nader, I think it's better to try and slow the bleeding with an imperfect Democrat than vote for someone who has no chance in hell of winning. A "protest vote" is a self-indulgence I can't afford anymore.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Chicken Fried Birthday

In honor of having slipped softly off the coil of my mid-30s today, Kate and I met my folks in Round Top for lunch. I'd been having a hankering for good fried chicken and it just so happened that Royer's Round Top Cafe was having a Sunday chicken dinner special.

We each got four pieces of chicken, mashed potatoes and creamed corn. The corn would've been replaced by green beans if I ran the show, but the buttermilk and garlic-battered chicken was both crispy and succulent in all the right places. Then we had apple pie a la mode for dessert. You can't have a much more American birthday than that.

I don't eat fried chicken all that often because it's not healthy and I'm almost always disappointed by it. Popeye's is okay for a chain store, but I've yet to find a really good down-home fried chicken dinner anywhere near Austin. Does anyone out there know if such a place exists outside of my extra-crispy dreams?

Friday, November 03, 2006

A Bird in the Bush Gets Bus Driver Fired

When I first heard about the middle school bus driver who was fired for flipping off President Bush in Seattle last June, my initial reaction was to begrudgingly side with the school district. Even though being flipped off is the least of what Bush deserves, it’s inappropriate for a school employee to make such a gesture in front of students. Now, though, we have Rep. Dave Reichert (R-WA) taking credit for the bus driver's termination at a GOP rally on August 12.

As the motorcade went by the President and I drove by on I-5. The President was having a great time. He was waving at everybody. And waving at the kids he got the biggest kick out of the kids leaning out the window to say hello to the President of the United States. The sad part of it is, though, we got to the last bus...the bus driver flipped the President off (loud boos). So the very next day, you know what I did? I called the superintendent of that school district. And that bus driver no longer works for that school (loud cheers). That's the old sheriff part of me still around.

Up until the tape surfaced, Reichert and the school district both denied that he had anything to do with the firing. No word yet on how they’re going to reconcile the conflicting accounts. Regardless of what really happened, Reichert either wielded his political influence to get a school bus driver fired or falsely took credit for the firing to boost his image for the red-meat crowd, which makes him an all-around horse dick no matter how you slice it.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Rent Boy Alleges Fling with Pastor Ted

Pastor Ted Haggard of the 14,000-member New Life Church in Colorado Springs resigned leadership of the National Association of Evangelicals today because of his alleged ongoing patronage of a male prostitute.

While Haggard denies the allegations, it would be strange for him to resign if there was nothing to the claims made to the Denver Post by former prostitute Mike Jones.

You may remember Haggard from the movie Jesus Camp. While Haggard had enough public relations sense to avoid asking children if they were ready to "die for Jesus" like the sweet-heartedly insane Pastor Becky Fischer, the fact that he has (or had) a standing weekly phone call with the President of the United States ought to scare the unholy crap out of anyone who doesn't want to live in an iron-booted theocracy.

If I was the down-low pastor of a browbeating evangelical congregation whose apparent life-or-death issue is keeping the gay folks from getting married, I think it would be wise to avoid sleeping with the same male prostitute over and over again. Sooner or later, you're bound to leave some tracks. If Ted did have a thing going on with Mr. Jones, I'll bet he now wishes he would've settled for getting sucked off through glory holes.

While I sympathize with good people who struggle with sexual identity, leaders of the religious right who sublimate their homosexual tendencies with gay-bashing sermons and legislation deserve no quarter whatsoever. May they all be exposed for the hateful hypocrites they are.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Bob Barker Retiring from "The Price is Right"

If you haven’t made it out to CBS Television City in Hollywood to see a live taping of The Price is Right with Bob Barker, time is running out.

The 83-year-old host announced Tuesday that he will be be retiring in June 2007 after 35 years of hosting the popular price-guessing show. Once Barker steps down, unbridled American consumerism will never be celebrated so unironically ever again.

Even worse, calling in sick will never be as much fun and our nation’s unwanted pet population is sure to spiral out of control.