Thursday, June 28, 2007

City's Approval of Northcross Wal-Mart Prompts Lawsuit

The city approved plans to build a Wal-Mart Supercenter at Northcross Mall earlier this week, but Responsible Growth for Northcross isn’t giving up yet.

Today RG4N filed a lawsuit against the city and mall owner Lincoln Property Company to block what they contend is an illegal site plan. Although distaste for Wal-Mart's corporate conduct is the touchstone for opposition to their presence at Northcross, it was Austin city management that all but ensured the redevelopment’s approval before details were made public and before the "big box" ordinance came up for debate at city council.

Hopefully the lawsuit will at least shed some light on how the city went about approving the site plans. I'm not sure it has much chance of stopping the invasion of blue vests, though.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Howdy, Heathrow!

Starting next spring, London-bound Texans will no longer have to land someplace else to fly into Heathrow Airport.

British Airways’ five daily nonstop London flights from Houston and Dallas/Fort Worth will move from remote Gatwick Airport to Heathrow in March 2008. Heathrow is a relatively short train ride from Central London and worldwide connections abound there.

The shift comes as a result of the “Open Skies” accord, which substantially deregulates air travel between the U.S. and Europe.

Former Astros PA Announcer Dies

Sad news for Houston Astros fans. Longtime Astrodome PA announcer J. Fred Duckett died Monday night at age 74.

You might not know him by name, but if you attended Astros home games during the 80s, Duckett was the guy who boomed “José Cruuuuuuz!” whenever the beloved Puerto Rican outfielder was at bat.

Duckett announced Astros games from 1969 to 1992. He also handled PA duties for the Houston Oilers, the Rice Owls and the Texas Relays.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Shades of Gray

Several people in my office have cheerfully informed me that my hair is starting to go gray, as if I wasn’t capable of noticing this transition myself.

I don’t mind having gray hair, but it’s disturbing to have people point it out on a regular basis. No one would dare call attention to gray hair on a female bureaucrat. That would be asking to have a grievance filed on your ass.

I know perfectly well I’m older than the goddamn furniture. I know the youthful vigor I once tapped to face the workaday world is long gone and my stoic, frown-lined countenance undoubtedly reflects this.

But that’s no reason to remind me I’m dying.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Whole Foods to Sell Sun Harvest if Merger Occurs

Whole Foods Market plans to jettison Wild Oats Market-owned Sun Harvest and Henry's stores if its FTC-contested merger with Wild Oats goes through.

While the merger remains in legal limbo for now, Whole Foods announced yesterday that it plans to sell all 35 Sun Harvest and Henry’s stores, including the two Sun Harvest stores in Austin, to a subsidiary of Los Angeles-based warehouse food retailer Smart & Final, which itself is owned by Apollo Management, LLP.

I’m wary of what often happens to customer service and product quality at companies bought out by private equity firms, but the Sun Harvest in North Austin really has no place to go but up.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Me So Sleepy

After a week and a half of high-quality sleep (the longest period of good sleep I've had since before SXSW), I seem to have fallen back into a pattern of insomnia over the past couple of nights.

Part of this can be explained by the Monday arrival of Kate's two cats, Henry and Poe. They are expressing their move-related confusion with incessant chatter at 5am. I think it'll die down once they realize Kate and I aren't going anywhere. Otherwise, I rather like living in the presence of non-human animals again.

Although the cats' arrival is the most logical explanation for my lack of sleep, my anxious mind assumes the black cloud is back. Hopefully I'll find the groove again soon enough. If not, I still have a decent supply of Ambien on hand.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

TCB Heads for Houston

Congratulations and best wishes are in order for Christopher "TCB" Gray, who is leaving his music columnist post at The Austin Chronicle to assume assistant music editor duties for the Houston Press on July 1. For a die-hard Astros fan like Chris, this may be the best music writing gig in the universe.

Look for Gray's traditional "-30-" column in the Chron on June 29.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Chips and Circuses

Samsung held a rather quaint ribbon-cutting ceremony at their giant new chip plant in Northeast Austin yesterday. Statesman reporter Kirk Ladendorf described it thusly:

The UT marching band played rousing music under a hot Texas sun Thursday, while the UT cheerleading squad led a crowd of more than 1,000 people in a cheer of "SAM - - - - SUNG!" (LeAnn) Rimes belted out the national anthem just before Challenger, a trained bald eagle, flew over the crowd.

Shortly afterward, four giant flags — one each for the United States, South Korea, the State of Texas and Samsung — were unfurled in front of the building.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to teach my pet parrot how to say, “Let’s roll!”

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Kate's Favorite Smells

I don’t remember how Kate and I wound up discussing odor during last night’s post-supper conversation, but I’ll never forget that this was when she decided to reveal her list of favorite smells to me. I'm lucky she happened to have her Powerbook when the talk turned noseward.

Having no list of my own favorite smells to share, I began rattling off some of my own scents of choice. I was surprised how excited this made me.

Then we decided to slap the whole thing on the Internet because I can’t think of anything better to write about today.

My contributions are the ones with a “G” next to them.

1. Cellars
2. Freshly cut grass
3. Ice cream shops
4. Teak
5. Tire stores (G)
6. Peaches (G)
7. Fiberglass, or the way a boatyard smells
8. Wet trees in the woods after it rains
9. Chocolate
10. New car smell (G)
11. Bubblegum
12. The smell of freshly fried foods (G)
13. Fenway Park
14. Pipe smoke
15. A storm right before the rain comes
16. The pages of old books
17. Freshly ground coffee
18. The ocean
19. My Grandma's kitchen
20. Wood smoke on a cold autumn day (this is more applicable in New England)
21. Wet leaves in the fall
22. Rain
23. Lily of the valley flowers
24. Henry the cat’s tummy
25. Cheese shops
26. Horses (*not* horse shit)
27. Cookouts
28. Bakeries (G)
29. Underground T stops in Boston, especially the red line
30. The Menger Hotel in San Antonio (G)

Monday, June 11, 2007

"Becoming" Lisa Cameron

Glass Eye was my first favorite Austin band. The first time I saw them at Liberty Lunch in April 1988 symbolized the moment at which I realized I actually lived in Austin.

Dave Cameron was Glass Eye's drummer at the time. I got to know Dave a few years later when he was in a band called the Personalities. They did something called "The Beatles Pus Medley," which was a medley of Beatles songs with the word "pus" (e.g., "All You Need is Pus.").

I didn't know Dave had gender dysphoria until 2005 when she "became" Lisa.

Of course transsexualism is not as simple as "becoming," as former Glass Eye guitarist/vocalist Kathy McCarty's interview with Cameron in this week's Chron explains.

Photo by Todd V. Wolfson

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Cat Scratch Queso

Last night I dreamt I was at Pancho's Mexican Buffet with Kate and Ted Nugent was our waiter.

He kept popping mints in his mouth while taking our order and I found that very unappetizing.

I'd almost forgotten the dream until I turned on the car radio while going to buy eggs this morning and heard "Stranglehold."

Friday, June 08, 2007

Sailing Toward Excellence

After too many weeks of dormancy, I finally cranked out a new post for my Austin Chronicle music blog yesterday on former Austinite Christopher Cross' recent victory in the VH-1 40 Most Softsational Soft Rock Songs countdown.

I don't think "softsational" is a good word to describe music unless you can wipe your hiny with it.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Free Floats at Sonic!

Hot on the unhealthy heels of free slice night at Pizza Hut and free scoop night at Baskin-Robbins, your friendly neighborhood Sonic Drive-In will be giving away 10-ounce root beer floats tonight from 8pm to midnight.

All you have to do is show up, mash down the call button and say “Gimme a free float!” You should probably tip your carhop for karma, though.

There are three Sonics within a five-mile radius of my home and I plan to hit all of them with the wily tenacity of a professional jewel thief.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

An Apostrophe Makes All the Difference

I saw this banner while driving home on Burnet Rd. a few afternoons back and something just didn't seem right about it. I finally figured it out yesterday.

"Darling, will you please bring me father's love knives?"

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Whole Foods/Wild Oats: An Unnatural Alliance?

Well, this is a surprise. Austin-based Whole Foods Market says the FTC is going to court to block their $565 million acquisition of Boulder, Co.-based Wild Oats Markets because of antitrust concerns. Both companies plan to fight the feds.

I wonder if this means anything for my ever-middling neighborhood Sun Harvest store at Anderson Ln. and Rockwood?

Monday, June 04, 2007

Notes on Knocked Up

I saw Knocked Up last night. It's rare that I brave opening weekend crowds to see a movie, but I'm a big Judd Apatow fan.

Despite having to sit in the front row, I thought Knocked Up was a funny, poignant film – recalling much of the awkward, melancholic humor that made Freaks and Geeks so endearing.

Apatow isn’t always the most elegant filmmaker, but his ability to depict the everyday back-and-forth between characters is remarkable. Paul Rudd and Leslie “Fuckin’ FRANSH toast” Mann (Apatow’s real-life wife) are almost too real as a wistfully dysfunctional married couple with kids. You can't help but wince at some of their exchanges, yet Apatow is a master of tempering those Scenes from a Marriage moments with gut-busting laughs and take-home redemption. It's a date movie that won't leave either party feeling short-changed.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Riding with Ron Titter

The Texas 4,000 for Cancer cycling team officially launched its 70-day trek to Alaska today with an affinity fundraising ride from Cedar Park to Lampasas. Kate and my Seattle-based former roommate Kevin completed the 70-mile ATLAS Ride in about five hours, which I think is pretty impressive.

The Ron Titter Band played the post-ride barbecue bash at The Roadhouse on U.S. 281. I know it's hard to believe, but this was our first-ever performance in Lampasas. Between getting only three hours' sleep last night and drinking nothing but beer and sweet tea at the party, I'm feeling a little drag-assy right now

Beer and sweet tea. That's the way the Titter rolls, man.

Friday, June 01, 2007

U-G-L-Y, You Ain't Got No Alibi

Check out this oblong, cheap-looking condo that just broke ground on the once-sleepy corner of Rainey and Cummings at the southeastern edge of downtown Austin.

I'm not against bringing the rich and their tax receipts downtown, but let's leave the ones who don't have enough taste to avoid this 31-story doo doo log to Williamson County.

It's enough to make you pray for a recession.

25 Self-Destructive Thoughts

The following is a list of 25 self-destructive thoughts that have outlived their psychological usefulness – if they ever had any to begin with – in helping me live a happy, fufilling and balanced life.

My goal is to train myself to stop giving these knee-jerk nuggets the credence of legitimacy.

1. I don’t deserve to be happy because I haven’t suffered enough.

2. I have no right to complain and I should feel guilty for doing so.

3. I should be ashamed of myself for not buying into the Protestant work ethic.

4. Enjoy happiness while it lasts because things will turn to shit soon enough.

5. No one would like or love me if they knew who I really was.

6. It’s only a matter of time before everyone I care about figures this out.

7. I can’t fall in love without comparing myself unfavorably to the person I love.

8. I wouldn’t know what to do with myself if I wasn’t pissed off about

9. Everything is fucked.

10. Shit happens even when it doesn’t have to because I’m too lazy to avoid it.

11. My way of thinking is doomed to extinction and deservedly so.

12. The universe meant for me to be alone.

13. My inability to sleep is due to chronic laziness during waking hours.

14. My pragmatic, mitigation-based approach to living is nothing more than a cop-out borne of fear.

15. I should be ashamed of myself for trying to take the easy road.

16. People who have passion for their work are better than me.

17. My anxiety is a character flaw.

18. I know what other people think about me.

19. I’m bound to find a way to fuck things up.

20. I’m not capable of expressing my emotions appropriately.

21. If I let myself get angry, I won’t be able to stop being angry.

22. Beating myself up over mistakes and wrongdoings is the only way to hold myself accountable.

23. I’m never going to get better at handling my feelings.

24. I am slowly squandering away my existence.

25. I can’t adopt a more positive mindset without giving into the uncontemplative “fascism of happy thoughts” espoused by the motivational-industrial complex.