Thursday, December 31, 2009

Fave five food deals - 12/31/09

Here's your last chance of the year to savor the savings. Austin's top five grocery deals follow:

1. Boneless skinless chicken breasts, 5 lbs. for $5 at H-E-B (through 1/5/10)

2. Red leaf, green leaf or Romaine lettuce .88 at Sun Harvest (through 1/4/10)

3. Blackberries in 5.6 oz. package .67 at H-E-B (though 1/5/10)

4. Peeled baby carrots in 1 lb. bag .88 at Sun Harvest (through 1/4/10)

5. All natural assorted pork loin chops $1.27/lb. at Newflower (through 1/6/10)

Also, if you're living in North Austin, check your mail for the circular promoting the grand opening of Sprouts' Great Hills Trail location on January 8. The circular contains a coupon for a free 64 oz. bottle of Langers Everyday Fruit Juice and a coupon for a free Green & Black's Organic Chocolate Bar. No purchase is necessary, but the coupon expires January 24.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Detroit throws year-end fire sale

If you’re in the market for a cheap American car nobody else wants to drive, see your Saturn and Pontiac dealers now while you still can. I normally wouldn’t consider buying a brand that’s being phased out, but if you buy a new car for under $10K and keep it running without major repairs for three years, that’s not too shabby. With GM’s new deep discounts, the MSRP for the Pontiac G3 hatchback has fallen to $7,335.

Of course, reliability is not the strong suit of these particular makes. In fact, I can’t think of a strong suit for these makes other than a rock-bottom price point, so a little research would definitely be in order.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Beaumont's Rapping Weatherman

If you're a local TV station in a market that has been slammed by two major hurricanes within the past five years, you need a weatherman viewers can trust.

Just as tornado-prone Oklahoma City has Gary England, Beaumont/Port Arthur's KBTV now has Nick Kosir, a.k.a. the Rapping Weatherman. Pimp C would be proud.

Now let's drop some "Titan Dopp" on this bitch, shall we?

Fave five food deals on hiatus

Fave Five Food Deals is taking a break this week because none of our local grocery stores send out circulars two days before Christmas. We are, however, excited to report that the Great Hills Trail location of Sprouts Farmers Market is scheduled to open its doors on Friday, January 8.

I made a reconnaissance run to the Sprouts in Rollingwood a couple weeks back and was moderately impressed. As is the case with Sun Harvest, you really have to follow the sales to get the deals because Sprouts' regular prices aren't all that earth-shattering. That said, it's a much nicer store than Sun Harvest with particularly superior offerings in the realm of meat and deli.

Frankly, I've always been a bit skeeved out by the meat counter at Sun Harvest on Anderson. It just doesn't smell right back there.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Time Warner shows the love

If you’re a Time Warner Cable subscriber in Austin, you probably know they’re in down-to-the-wire carriage negotiations with KTBC, the local Fox station. If the two multinational media conglomerates fail to reach an agreement by 11:59pm on Dec. 31, Time Warner will yank Fox from its channel line-up. Last time this happened, we went without NBC for nearly a month.

This morning I got an e-mail from Time Warner Cable thanking me for being their customer. There was no mention of the dispute with Fox, but one might figure a company on the precipice of angering and inconveniencing its customers would try to incentivize not fleeing in disgust to the competition. Here’s what the synergy-minded marketing team at Time Warner Cable came up with:

THANK YOU

For being a Time Warner Cable customer!
Enjoy this exclusive Time Warner Cable coupon - $3.00 discount off the purchase of a Six Flags Sport Bottle.

Your 2010 Six Flags Sport Bottle comes with
-FREE refills all day, same day of purchase
-Refills only 99¢ for the entire 2010 season

Print and redeem this coupon at one of the following Six Flags locations:
-Six Flags over Texas, Arlington, TX – All American Café
-Six Flags Fiesta Texas, San Antonio, TX – Mockingbird Funnel Cakes


Now that’s what I call shitting in my mouth and calling it a sundae! So sorry about not being able to renegotiate our carriage agreement with the local Fox station in time for you to be sure you’ll get to see bowl games on New Year’s Day, but here’s a coupon for $3 off a $13 plastic bottle we paid the Chinese 25 cents to manufacture.

Of course, you’ll still have to pay between $30 and $50 to get in to one of our amusement parks to take advantage of this deal, but once you’re there, we’ll give you free high fructose corn water for one whole day. If you can possibly stomach return visits, we’ll fill your faded, dog-eared cup with more sickly sweet corn drink for only 99 cents. By the way, this offer expires on Feb. 16, so don’t show up in August thinking you’re going to squeeze us for a day of free pop when it’s 300 degrees outside.

Time Warner, in exchange for this extraordinary gesture of corporate goodwill, I would like to invite you to suck an endless parade of left ones this holiday season.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Last chance for Evita's Botanitas

From the South Austin desk, my drumming buddy Lance Farley reports that Evita’s Botanitas will be closing on Monday, Dec. 28. This longtime neighborhood Tex-Mex eatery opened in 1990 on N. Lamar in the space now occupied by El Caribe. They moved to their current location on S. 1st several years ago.

Evita’s is best known for the two-tier tower of salsa, generous combination plates and some of the best chicken mole around. If you don’t believe me, just ask roots-rock legend Dave Alvin.

According to Evita’s website, the Rodriguez family was looking to sell the restaurant due to patriarch Ruben Rodriguez’ battle with brain cancer. However, Lance – a frequent diner who swears by Evita’s flautas – says their lease is up and the family has no plans to reopen. So get it while you can.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this post had Evita's last night as Saturday, Dec. 19.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Fave five food deals - 12/17/09

Here are Beetsolonely's fave five Austin area food deals for the week, as selected by the indentured seamstresses of world-renowned fashion designer Ragghi Bouchaine:

1. Russet potatoes, 10 lb. bag for 59 CENTS (stop - chowder time!) at Sun Harvest (through 12/24)

2. Fresh Gulf shrimp, $7.99/lb. (21/25 ct.) at Central Market (through 12/24)

3. 1 lb. strawberries, 2 for $3 at H-E-B (through 12/24)

4. 12-pack Coca-Cola fridge packs, 3 for $6.99 at Randall's with their stupid club card (through 12/25)

5. Green beans .77/lb at Newflower (through 12/23)

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Depressed Christmas

On Thursday, John Seaborn Gray listed his picks for most depressing Christmas songs of all time on the Houston Press music blog. Sure, John Prine’s “Christmas in Prison” is pretty grim, but Gray overlooked the yuletide suicide note right in his own backyard.

Culturcide’s “Depressed Christmas” was the B-side of the experimental Houston group’s 1987 single, “Santa Claus Was My Lover.” I played it just now and Kate offered the following succinct assessment:

“It woke me up from my nap in a very unpleasant way. Make it stop!”

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Fave five food deals - 12/10/09

Here are this week's top five grocery circular deals as selected by our psychologically unbalanced cadre of bargain-hunting vigilantes:

1. Blue Bell Ice Cream half gallons 2 for $7 @ Sun Harvest (through 12/13)

2. Cantaloupes .25/lb. @ Sun Harvest (through 12/16)

3. H-E-B Club Soda and Ginger Ale 2 for $1 @ H-E-B (through 12/15)

4. Natural boneless skinless chicken breasts $1.77/lb. @ Newflower (through 12/16)

5. Cuties Clementines, 2 lb. bag 1.97 @ Newflower (through 12/16)

…and one to grow on:

Sutter Home wine, 750 mL bottles, assorted varieties $3 at Sun Harvest (through 12/13). Sorry, 12-bottle limit!

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

The ugliest buildings in Houston


Last week, the Houston Press Hairballs blog picked the city's top eight ugliest buildings. I have to agree with the new Federal Reserve fortress (post-9/11 design at its most neurotic) on Allen Parkway and that anorexic condo tower overlooking the Southwest Freeway.

It's a bit unfair to include the windowless AT&T bunker on Weslayan because it's a functional edifice designed to house equipment, not humans. And while the George R. Brown Convention Center is undoubtedly atrocious and dated, at least it's not breadbox boring.

Also check out John Lomax's slideshow on the 10 ugliest buildings in downtown Houston from last year. I agree with a lot of his picks, though not his assessment of the Alley Theater. Even though I'm not particularly drawn to Brutalism, I've always thought the Alley was kind of cool. All it really needs is a good power-washing.

Photo by Imelda

Friday, December 04, 2009

White Denim plunders Wolfgang's Vault

The extraordinary streaming concert archive Wolfgang's Vault enlisted Austin's own White Denim to pick a 13-song playlist this week. I'm not surprised to hear them lead off with the MC5's rare 1970 rendition of James Brown's "It's a Man's Man's Man's World." The eclectic mix also includes cuts from the likes of Al Kooper, Gentle Giant, the Mothers of Invention, Delaney & Bonnie and George Duke. Listen here.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Fave five food deals - 12/3/09

After an hours-long analysis of this week's grocery circulars, here are my fave five food deals in Austin:

1. Large Texas grapefruit .79/lb at Central Market (through 12/8/09)
2. Crystal Geyser 1.25 liter sparkling mineral water .79/each at Natural Grocers (through 1/2/10)
3. Hass avocados - 4 for $1 at Sun Harvest (through 12/9/09)
4. Blackberries - 2 pints for $3 at Sun Harvest (through 12/9/09)
5. 10 lb. bag of Seasons Select Russet potatoes - $1.97 at H-E-B (through 12/8/09)

Also, starting Dec. 4, Central Market will give away a free Wüsthof knife and scissor set with a purchase of $50 or more. Kate and I got a similar set a few years back and it has served us quite well.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Bewitched in Salem


Forget Witch Trials ephemera and the House of Seven Gables. The thing I most enjoyed seeing on our day trip to Salem, Mass. last week was the Bewitched statue. Upon reaching it, I immediately whipped out the Olympus (not a euphemism, folks) and made Kate pose like a tourist. After token resistance, she complied.

The statue is one of several placed by TV Land around the country, including one of Mary Tyler Moore throwing her hat in the air in downtown Minneapolis. Believe it or not, there were protesters when the statue was dedicated in 2005. But the show does have a semi-legitimate historical connection to Salem: Elizabeth Montgomery and company filmed a series of episodes on location there in 1970.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Decrepit Burnet Rd. H-E-B to expand

Here's something for North Austinites to be thankful for: H-E-B is finally getting around to expanding its cramped, understocked and altogether unpleasant location at the corner of Burnet and Allandale next year.

Upon completion, the store will enter its sixth decade at 68,000 square feet, one-third larger than its current size but still smaller than your average modern-day supermarket. Nevertheless, this gives H-E-B an even shot at maintaining its market leadership when the still-delayed Northcross Walmart opens at Burnet and Anderson.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Week in Reviews

After a months-long hiatus from music writing for the Chron, I have a review of the new Fire Marshals of Bethlehem album in this week's issue. Next up on the review block: Frank Sinatra's New York, a 4-CD/1-DVD box set of Big Apple performances from 1955 through 1990. Looks like Ol' Blue Eyes provides the soundtrack for Thanksgiving this year.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Greenberg Turkeys at Central Market

I’m a big fan of Greenberg Smoked Turkeys. My family has been ordering these Tyler-based birds for generations, but recent years have found everyone from Oprah to The New York Times climbing on the Greenberg hosanna wagon.

Not everyone digs the ultra-smoky flavor of a Greenberg turkey. You give up some moisture to achieve that degree of smokiness, too. Nevertheless, I can’t imagine a better Thanksgiving weekend activity that pilaging a dilapidated Greenberg for oversized smoked turkey sandwiches.

After years of being available only via mail order, Central Market is selling a limited number of Greenberg turkeys in stores this year. They’re charging $49.95, which is steep, but worth it unless you have the gear and gumption to smoke your own in the backyard.

Friday, November 13, 2009

In memory of Steve Harrington

We got some very sad news yesterday. Kate’s cousin Steve died in a skydiving accident in California late Wednesday. He was a longtime skydiving enthusiast who had just completed a charity jump with 68 others to set the U.S. record for parachutists in formation wearing wingsuits. Today’s Boston Globe has a nice obituary.

I first met Steve and his husband Adam on Christmas in 2007 at Kate’s Aunt Charlotte’s house in Wellesley. Several months later, Kate and I would follow Steve and Adam’s lead by having our wedding in the backyard.

We’d just gotten engaged and it was my first holiday gathering with the Harrington family. I immediately took note of the tight, quick-witted rapport between Steve and his brothers. It reminded me of my dad and his brothers when they’re together. They heartily welcomed me into their family and I felt privileged to be there.

My heart goes out to Steve’s husband, parents, brothers and everyone else who loved him.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

25 years ago tonight

My 16th birthday was one for the ages. As Ronald Reagan was crushing Walter Mondale in the ’84 presidential election, a group of my friends threw me a surprise party at the long-since-shuttered Pancho’s Mexican Buffet on Bissonnet near the Bellaire Triangle. We commandeered an entire dining room, which saved non-celebrants the pain of watching me show off tasteful gifts like porn magazines and condoms that were doomed to expire long before I had any legitimate use for them.

In the midst of this flauta-fueled festival of pubescent ribaldry, Dana Gritzbaugh and her mom (!) presented me with the bodacious ta-ta cake you see above. I’d been admiring the R-rated display case at Three Brothers Bakery for several years, but my parents were noticeably unenthusiastic about the prospect of buying their son an adult-oriented dessert. Go figure.

As it was, this good deed fell to good friends, and I will forever be grateful to Dana and her mom for it.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Soul Clap slides into Club De Ville

My former bandmate-turned-DJ Jonathan Toubin – a.k.a. New York Night Train – brings his globe-girdling Soul Clap dance party from New York to Austin for Fun Fun Fun Fest this Saturday, Nov. 7 from 9pm ‘til the ugly lights come on at Club De Ville.

Jonathan will be joined at 45 RPM by guest DJ Ian Svenonious (Chain and the Gang, the Make-Up, Nation of Ulysses) and Latin soul collective Brownout!, who perform live at 11pm. Cover is just $10, with reduced admission after Brownout!

And if you think you’ve got the moves, there’s a dance competition at 12:30am for a $100 grand prize. I’ll be judging the contest along with Jason Reece (…Trail of Dead), Dancin’ Erin Jantzen (L.A.X.), Philip Sambol (Strange Boys) and Stacie Smith (DJ Lingerie).

Since I’m hoping to springboard this into a career in judging people on pursuits I have no particular expertise in, expect no mercy from my end of the panel.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

McDonald's leaves Iceland in the cold

As if their tanking currency wasn't bad enough, Iceland will no longer have any McDonald's after midnight tonight due to high imported food prices. Guess that means they're off Thomas Friedman's do-not-bomb list. Sorry, Björk!

New corporate identity

After nearly four years of being content with the Blogger default header, I decided to slap on a new logo today. I think it's just what this 'ol blog needs to attract the hearts and minds of the "now" generation.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Rolling out to Reimers Ranch

Kate's Aunt P.K. is in town this weekend, so we decided to take advantage of the perfect weather by going out to Milton Reimers Ranch Park.

Located on the Pedernales River in the far western reaches of Travis County, Reimers Ranch is well-known to rock-climbers and mountain bikers, but it has only been in the Travis County Parks system since 2006. This was the first time I'd been out there.

With the recent rains bringing the Hill Country back to life, our quick day trip was well worth the $8 admission. I think we'll bring a picnic next time. Here are a few amateur snapshots to give you a better idea of how bucolic things are right now.

The flowers are blooming...


...and the water is flowing.


The mission-style "village" on the bluff was actually the movie set of the 2004 version of The Alamo.


Not quite the Playboy Mansion grotto, but close.


The Pedernales heads toward Lake Travis under clear blue skies.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Hat Creek can't compete

I finally dropped by the newly opened Hat Creek Burger Company that recently took over the Arby’s at 5400 Burnet Rd. Though I still give Hat Creek high marks for saving the vintage Arby's cowboy hat sign, my overall verdict on their food is adequate at best.

I ordered the Big Hat Combo #1, which retails for $6.93, tax included. The double-pattied burger was unattractive despite the color contrast provided by green leaf lettuce and purple onion. More importantly, it was smallish for its price point. The coarsely ground, Premium Gold Angus beef patties had no real flavor other than that of black pepper. The vegetables and mustard couldn’t compensate, leaving a burger that was bland and lifeless.

On the plus side, the fries were quite good. Served shoestring-style with the skins on, they arrived in my car piping hot and golden brown. Maybe they could’ve been a little more crisp, but that’s a minor quibble. A not-so-minor quibble was that my 20-ounce cup of Diet Dr Pepper (you know, for my health) was mostly ice.

I don’t mind paying a bit more for to support a local chain that uses higher quality ingredients, but Hat Creek pales in comparison to P. Terry’s, which costs less and tastes better.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Changes ahead for Rapid Rewards

Southwest Airlines plans to unveil its retooled Rapid Rewards program late next year. While there’s no word yet on if you’ll be still able to get a free roundtrip ticket for 16 flights, the revamping of frequent flyer programs often means getting less than what you got before. Southwest is trying to make itself more attractive to highfalutin’ business travelers, so I imagine some sort of tiered awards system is inevitable.

One potential upside is that Southwest is looking into codesharing agreements with other airlines under the revised program. If you could earn credit toward international flights on Southwest, many business travelers would happily ditch American for Southwest once they cashed in their OneWorld miles.

Personally, I’d like to see a Southwest/JetBlue codeshare since most of my air travel these days involves intra-Texas hops on Southwest and Austin/Boston runs on JetBlue. I don’t think this will happen because Southwest and JetBlue are direct low-fare competitors, but with a baby on the way and a coterie of relatives in New England, I’m all about mileage maximization.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

When SWAT came a-callin'

It's been a crazy day here in the soul-crushing, pedestrian-hostile North Dallas suburb of Addison. I got no sleep last night, which left me less than fully charged for a full slate of Texas HIV/STD Community Planning Group meetings.

Just as we were wrapping up, I checked the web to see what was going on back home and found out there was a SWAT team standoff on our block. I immediately called Kate and she rushed home from work only to find our street blocked off by an army of APD officers and vehicles.

Fortunately for everyone, the standoff (which, as it turned out, wasn't actually a standoff at all) ended peacefully and without injury around 5:30. The bomb squad truck drove away and Kate was allowed by the authorities to go home and use the bathroom. Good thing it didn't drag on any longer because denying a pregnant lady restroom rights could've easily spiraled into Dog Day Afternoon.

Heard it through the Grapevine

Here’s a bit of bad news for North Austin libation lovers - Austinist reports that Grapevine Market will close on Dec. 15.

While Grapevine’s (ahem) liquidation - which starts next week - may result in some good pre-holiday deals, I will sorely miss their comprehensive beer selection. It was a great place to pick up a decent wine on the way to a party when you didn’t have time to futz with Spec’s or Central Market. Of course, the fact that you could always get in and out of Grapevine quickly is almost certainly a large part of why they won’t be around in 2010.

Monday, October 12, 2009

It's a boy!

Kate and I found out the gender of our baby at last week's ultrasound. Having notified immediate family and friends, I can now say we are having a boy.

At our previous ultrasound, the technician said, "I think this might be a boy...no, wait, that's a finger." Kinda gave a whole new meaning to the term "prick-tease."

I would've been surprised - though not disappointed - if the baby was a girl, but I'm quite elated about the prospect of fathering a son. Although I know it won't necessarily make me a better dad, having some vague recollection of what it was like to be a boy can't hurt. I still act like a 12-year-old boy much of the time, too.

Monday, October 05, 2009

The other marriage penalty

The Oct. 2 New York Times ran an illuminating analysis that attempts to quantify the lifetime financial costs incurred by same-sex couples for living in a country that doesn't recognize their right to marry. Reporters Tara Siegel Bernard and Ron Lieber estimate gay couples could be paying anywhere from $28,595 to $211,993 more than financially similar straight couples.

Few will be surprised to learn that access to affordable health insurance is a big driver of this disparity. Most U.S. companies and governments - including the State of Texas - do not allow their employees to cover same-sex spouses as dependents under their group health plans. Even if a company offers domestic partner coverage, the federal tax code treats a same-sex partner's coverage as taxable income, so you can't use pretax dollars to pay the premiums.

Same-sex couples also get screwed on Social Security benefits, estate taxes, adoption costs, and pension plans that pay a survivor benefit to a heterosexual spouse but not a same-sex one. They cannot fund a non-working spouse's portion of a joint IRA and they wind up paying higher legal fees to codify rights that straight couples take for granted.

The one area where heterosexual couples might pay more is if both of them earn roughly the same amount, which could trigger the so-called "marriage penalty." However, this doesn't even come close to making up for all the ways our system cheats same-sex couples. Equal protection, anyone?

Friday, September 25, 2009

Hard times at Rhino Records

More bad news for the music industry. Variety reports long-heralded back catalog savior Rhino Records is laying off 30-40 people, citing "fundamental transformation of the physical new release and catalog business."

Over the years, Rhino reissues have become a dominant element of my music collection. From the Monkees reissues that helped launch that band's mid-80s critical and commercial revival to the thoughtfully packaged and annotated Nuggets box sets, there has always been a palpable sense of passion in Rhino's products.

Here's hoping there's still a sustainable place for eccentric music nuts in whatever emerges from the wreckage of the old guard.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

No love, no gloves

Think long and hard before buying Isotoner gloves or Totes umbrellas this holiday season. I used to think Isotoners made a nice stocking stuffer gift, but after reading this story from CNN's Campbell Brown about how Totes/Isotoner fired a temp worker/new mother at their Cincinnati warehouse for taking “unauthorized” breaks to pump breast milk in the crapper, they can eat the bird.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Marshall, Marshall, Marshall!

Greetings from behind the Pine Curtain. I'm in Bill Moyers' hometown of Marshall, Texas getting ready for a tri-state summit tomorrow to discuss ways of addressing syphilis in the Ark-La-Tex region.

There's no easy way to get to Marshall from Austin. We didn't get on the road until 3pm and the drive took about five and a half hours. We had middling Tex-Mex at a place called The Jalapeño Tree and had to join a "club" to drink beer. I'll have to add "Jalapeño Tree Club" to my résumé when I get home tomorrow night.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Week in New England

Kate and I just returned from a week visiting family and friends in New England. It was nice to get away from the furnace and even better to arrive home to downpours.

We celebrated Kate's dad's 70th birthday last Sunday (which just so happened to be our first anniversary) in Rhode Island with 70 or so fellow revelers. His wife, Mary, catered the party. I enjoyed catching up with Kate's New England cousins and eating too much. It was the first of many gastronomic overindulgences on my part.

We went over to Cape Cod on Monday to visit Kate's stepmother, Phyllis, and her sister, Eloise. I'd never been to Cape Cod before, but I quickly got into the swing of things with a lobster roll and a dip in Nantucket Sound. Kate and Eloise trounced me at miniature golf on Tuesday at a near-mythic establishment called Steve & Sue's Par-Tee Freeze, but the vanilla and coffee soft-serve swirl made defeat go down a bit easier. We also partook of traditional ice cream at Four Seas, which is one of those institutions you must partake in if you care about ice cream and find yourself anywhere near Cape Cod during the summer months.

Still woozy from a morning of mini-golf, we drove back to Kate's hometown of Worcester to stay with Kate's mom and her stepdad, Michael, for the remainder of the week. Michael treated us to a Boston Red Sox game at Fenway Park on Wednesday night. It was a good one against the Baltimore Orioles, but the Sox prevailed with a three-run double by Victor Martinez in the seventh inning that led to a 7-5 win. While all this was going on, the couple in the seats next to us stood up with an officiant and got married. Hopefully the Red Sox will maintain their wild-card lead over the Texas Rangers or the happy couple's honeymoon will be flat-out scotched.

Once we settled in Worcester, the days became more languid. Despite losing an hour, I found myself getting tired uncharacteristically early and having uncharacteristically vivid dreams once I fell asleep. As Kate and I hiked in Wachussett Meadow on Thursday afternoon, you could feel the end of summer approach in the cool, crisp air.

By Friday, it was rainy and overcast, with daytime temps in the mid-50s. We warmed up with corned beef on bulky rolls, matzo ball soup and birch beer at Weintraub's Deli. You just can't get everyday Jewish deli comfort food like that in Austin.

Our flight back home on Saturday was non-eventful, but after a week in the remote parking lot at Austin-Bergstrom, my car wouldn't start. Fortunately, AMPCO dispatched someone to jump-start the car and that gave us enough juice to get home, unload the bags with the car running and go to Pep Boys for a new battery. Not the best way to conclude a vacation, but at least it wasn't the alternator.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

7-Eleven wants virtual groupies

Hey, kids! 7-Eleven's Slurpee Battle of the Bands wants you to be a "virtual groupie."

Wouldn't such an exhortation skirt illegality if it was proffered to someone who hasn't reached the age of majority? Also, I'm pretty sure a "Slurpee" didn't denote frozen sugar water in the lively patois of the Butter Queen and her crew.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Elmo fights flu with PSAs

CNN reports that beloved Sesame Street character Elmo has joined the war against H1N1 flu. So has Gordon, but apparently he's no longer the stuff of sexy news pegs.

A previously developed PSA campaign encouraging kids to wash their hands and sneeze into their arm bends is being relaunched as part of the federal government's pandemic flu response. You can view the four TV spots at flu.gov. Now that Elmo is enlisted in the H1N1 battle and Cookie Monster is fighting obesity, I'm thinking Oscar would be a perfect spokesgrouch for a campaign against pubic lice.

"We are thrilled to partner with Elmo, Gordon, and Sesame Workshop again to emphasize the steps kids and their parents can take to stay happy and healthy this school year," says U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius in a prepared statement.

Man or Muppet, we bureaucrats are always "thrilled to partner."

Thursday, August 27, 2009

She's having a baby

Now that we've made it past the three-month mark, I guess it's high time Kate and I went wide with the news that we are expecting a child.

The above ultrasound was taken last week. Although we were able to see the baby moving around, the technician had a hard time coaxing it into all the necessary positions at 8am. We still don't know if we are having a boy or girl, but I'm pretty sure he or she won't be a morning person.

Kate is grateful to be done with the first trimester. Morning sickness and fatigue are never pleasant, especially in extreme drought conditions. Fortunately, these symptoms seem to be abating as she moves into the second trimester. I find it amazing that she didn't stay in bed for the entire month of July.

This baby of ours is due sometime in the latter half of February. Impending parenthood has us both vacillating between excitement, anticipation and anxiety, but one thing is certain: I couldn't be happier to be embarking on this ride alongside Kate.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Cholesterol, ho!

For me, the only thing better than a plate of shrimp is a plate of shrimp that never ends. Accordingly, I'm a little too excited about the limited-time return of Endless Shrimp at Red Lobster. I'm guessing this is not the mindset of those who have to serve it.

In Austin, Endless Shrimp can be yours for a mere $15.99. This includes a salad that won't fool anyone and plenty of Cheddar Bay biscuits. Go easy on the latter or you'll lose valuable digestive tract real estate that ought to house gobs of hastily masticated shrimp.

I know endless shrimp is unsustainable and morally suspect, but as Sting once sang, when the world is running down, order more scampi.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Of beers and buses

If you live in North Central Austin and you like to drink some beers, congratulations. You sound like my kinda people. Now go read about reporter/beer blogger Lee Nichols' "No. 3 Bus Pub Crawl" in this week's Austin Chronicle.

I'm not a big fan of the No. 3 Burnet/Manchaca bus as a means of getting to and from the center of town. Its convoluted routing down Medical Pkwy. and through West Campus greatly hampers the line's utility in comparison to the No. 1 and the No. 5.

The No. 3 does hit a fantastic array of good places to drink beer, though. And it stops within a 3-block stumble of my home.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

The thrill of the chase


I've always wanted to shadow a tornado chaser, but as the Travel Channel's Tornado Alley U.S.A. demonstrates, it ain't all funnel clouds and grapefruit-sized hail.

There are no guarantees with weather, so you could fork over $2,000 to minivan your way around America's big wide middle and never witness a single wall cloud. Imagine hauling your ass all the way from London to Nebraska and coming up vortex-less. What a damn shame that would be.

Clearly there is a market need for a tornado chase outfit that balances the uncertainty of finding the business end of Mother Nature's wrath with the restorative powers of being on the business end of a table dance. If I were Warren Buffett, I'd double down on the first company that breaks up the monotony of fruitless chase days with a sampling of Midwestern men's clubs, particularly those with steak-and-shrimp lunch specials.

And what would this weather-porn dream factory on wheels be called? Titty Twisters!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Hat Creek lassos former Arby's sign


Kate called me in Atlanta earlier this week to say the former Arby's "big hat" neon sign on Burnet has a new lease on life thanks to Hat Creek Burger Company. I couldn't wait to see the sign for myself because that's just the kind of dork I am.

I think the design is pretty smart overall. While I wish they could've used neon, I imagine it would've been inefficient and expensive compared to backlit plastic.

Best known for their trailer at 6th and Nueces, Hat Creek features fresh Angus beef patties, hand-cut fries and Blue Bell shakes. It'll be interesting to see how this new location fares against nearby competitors like P. Terry's and Moo-Yah.

Either way, I give 'em props for thoughtfully re-purposing a fading symbol of American fast food history.

UPDATE (10/5/09): Turns out they used some neon in the sign after all. Sweet.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Hi honey, I'm stupid!

From our neighbors to the north, here's an interesting essay by Susan Krashinsky in today's Globe and Mail that dissects advertising's dependency on positing men as hopeless dumbasses in order to sell things to women.

With women controlling the majority of household purchases, marketers have determined that one of the easiest routes to a woman's pocketbook is by taking a swipe at bumbling male significant others. Krashinsky dissects five TV spots selling everything from hardware to ice cream that employ this formula.

Of course, men and boys watch these ads, too. While some men resent being portrayed in a light that would likely result in boycotts if the genders were flipped, it isn't very macho to whine about a TV commercial. More importantly, men stand to derive a tangible benefit from these stereotypes. If your wife thinks you're an idiot, she'll probably just give up on pursuing an equitable division of household labor.

Meanwhile, back on the couch, the crumb-crusted manboys of the world can safely pop open another beer, scratch their balls and say, "See that, baby? I is normal!"

Monday, August 03, 2009

Corporate parents send pundits to time out

The New York Times broke a story this weekend about the corporate backers of Bill O'Reilly and Keith Olbermann brokering an end to their on-air feud.

Although the back-and-forth was good for ratings, the suits decided it wasn't so good for the long-term health of News Corporation or General Electric. According to the Times, Olbermann is standing down on O'Reilly's reactionary spew of half-truths in exchange for an end to O'Reilly's rant about GE's business in Iran. Salon's Glenn Greenwald explains how this agreement fits in nicely alongside other under-reported TV news scandals like the use of "military analysts" paid by the Pentagon.

Punditry masquerading as news is obnoxious, but quelling it via boardroom détente is downright disturbing. Somewhere in the great beyond, Paddy Chayefsky is either giggling or gagging.

UPDATE (11:49pm): Olbermann broke his O'Reilly attack fast this evening, denying that he was ever party to a truce. However, his denial is at odds with the suspect timing of his previously announced moratorium on discussing O'Reilly and the statements made by GE in the Times story.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

The flea market's on fire

Just moments ago, Kate and I were driving home from lunch with Rachel and David Wyatt when we saw a large cloud of smoke to the east. Apparently, the Austin Country Flea Market on U.S. 290 is on fire. That is no good. I used to love buying used vinyl, Mexican vanilla and silly T-shirts out there.

UPDATE (8/3/09, 11:50pm): Although about 200 booths were destroyed in Saturday's fire, the Austin Country Flea Market plans to reopen this weekend.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Get well, Todd Wolfson

I've had the pleasure of collaborating with longtime music photographer Todd Wolfson on several occasions over the years.

He shot many of the bands I wrote about for the Chron and once endured an Friday night photo shoot of the Peenbeets clowning around at Denny's over a table of Moons Over My Hammy (or is it Moon Over My Hammys?). While that assignment was far from glamorous, Todd is equally revered for his breathtaking fashion photography. Regardless of his subject, Todd is a true Austin mensch whose passion is palpable in his work.

Earlier this month, Todd was in a bad bicycle accident. He hit a rough spot of pavement and flew over the handlebars, landing on his head and right elbow. His injuries were numerous, including a split right elbow joint and two compound fractures in his right arm.

Aside from being unable to work, Todd now faces a long rehabilitation and a sea of medical expenses. A benefit is forthcoming at Antone's on Sept. 9. In the meantime, you can make a donation here.

All of us here at Beetsolonely wish Todd a rapid recovery.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Pangaea is history

In what should come as no surprise to anyone, the trendy, overpriced bottle lounge Pangaea has closed down for some (ahem) retooling. Principal owner Michael Ault now plans to turn the space into something called The Phoenix.

Ault says Pangaea had attracted "a growing number of haters," which is putting it mildly. In flaunting their velvet rope exclusivity, the club made itself an easy target for everyone who finds fault with the "new" Austin. There aren't many other businesses in town whose (temporary) demise could elicit more grave-dancing.

In an October 2007 story preceding Pangaea's opening, Statesman arts reporter Michael Barnes described Ault as "a self-effacing, self-made offspring of New York gentry." Now Ault may well be self-effacing and a nice guy to boot, but calling someone a "self-made offspring of New York gentry" is a contradiction in terms worthy of a million spit takes. If there is such thing as a self-made man, it certainly isn't someone whose prep school roomie was the King of Jordan. Nevertheless, when Kate scored guest list spots for Pangaea's press preview, we figured it was something we had to see for ourselves.

The club's aesthetic recalled the good ol' days of colonial Africa, when any rich honky in a pith hat could plunder the Dark Continent's spoils for tacky parlor decorations. Game trophies from Ault's personal collection adorned the walls. A DJ spun Beyoncé while a saxophonist and several percussionists played along to no real effect whatsoever. Scantily clad women danced on perches in a manner best described as sizzle without the steak. It reminded me of a Las Vegas topless show - mouth-breathing titillation re-imagined as a bad musical to make it palatable enough for conventioneers who want to drag their wives along.

I wasn't about to complain to people serving me free drinks, but I got the impression they found my earnest-yet-paltry tipping slightly pathetic despite the fact that no one else even bothered to tip. And why should they? Pangaea's target audience was the expense account and swag bag crowd, not people who get pissed when a club charges more than $3 for Lone Star.

While pursuing the highbrow wasn't necessarily a bad business decision, not being more demure about it ensured the club would forever be perceived as the place most likely to attract doppelgangers of James Spader's character from Pretty in Pink. Given the perilous economy, it's a wonder they held on this long.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Free Slurpees tomorrow!

In celebration of the calendar providing 7-Eleven with a free publicity opportunity, the Dallas-based convenience store chain will give away 7.11-ounce Slurpees tomorrow.

I’m under no illusion that seven ounces and change is enough Slurpee goodness to combat the mind-roasting heat wave now plaguing Texas, but free is free and there’s nothing stopping you from hitting up every 7-Eleven in town.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

I love a good sale, but...


...I think I would've chosen some different wording to promote this one.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Huey drops the mic



Last year's edition of A Capitol Fourth featured a performance from Huey Lewis and the News aired live over most PBS stations. By gray-maned Washington standards, hiring Lewis constitutes bringing in "someone for the kids." Maybe it was 25 years too late, but that's not bad by federal bureaucracy standards.

Huey was not in particularly fine vocal form for "The Power of Love." The acoustic challenges of the performance setting probably play a role in that. Nevertheless, he gamely soldiers through until 2:04, when an lapse in dexterity caused him to loudly drop the microphone.

Fortunately, the televised members of the VIP section were apparently too busy waving tiny flags to notice.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Arby's big hat sign goes dark

The long-standing Arby's at the corner of Burnet Rd. and Longmont went to fast food heaven this week. I do not care for what passes for food at Arby's (and apparently I'm not alone), but as a fan of 60s pre-fab restaurant style, I've always liked the old-school neon "big hat" sign out front.

Now covered with a tarp, I imagine the sign isn't long for this world, either.

NOTE: The above photo is not the Burnet Rd. Arby's, but that's what the sign looked like with the tarp off and the neon blazing.

The ultimate career move, revisited

If pop catalog albums weren't ineligible to appear on the Billboard Top 200 albums chart, Michael Jackson would have the top three albums in the U.S. for the week ending June 30. Thriller, The Essential Michael Jackson and Number Ones moved over 315,000 copies combined. I'm guessing 98 percent of those albums were sold after 5pm last Thursday.

This is the first time since Billboard began using Nielsen SoundScan to track album sales in 1991 that a pop catalog album (let alone three of 'em) sold more copies than the current number one album. It doesn't speak highly of the Black Eyed Peas, whose The E.N.D. will go down in history as the week's number one album despite selling fewer than 86,000 copies.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Gloria's in excelsis beanus

Gloria's, a Salvadoran/Mexican restaurant that started in Oak Cliff and now has locations throughout Dallas/Fort Worth, plans to open its first Austin location at the Domain ("Defining the Urban Austin Lifestyle for the Next 100 Years") by the end of 2009. They are moving into the short-lived former location of Oakville Grocery.

Between good food and relatively reasonable prices, I expect Gloria's to do quite well against more expensive competitors in the area. Their free hot black bean dip is worth a trip by itself.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Manboy in the Mirror


I was at Sound Lab recording studio on W. 5th this afternoon for the production of a work-related radio spot. As I pulled into the parking lot around 2pm, Jammin’ 105.9 was playing “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’.” I had to cut the engine right as Michael Jackson got to that “tee-hahaha!” breakdown. Little did I know it would be the last time I heard a Michael Jackson song while he was still alive (to the best of our knowledge, anyway).

As the recording session inched toward closure, our assistant account executive said Michael Jackson had just died. Conflicting news reports made this difficult to confirm, but by the time I got home, everyone but CNN was reporting Jackson’s death as fact.

In November of 1984, I saw the Jacksons perform at the Astrodome in Houston on the Victory tour. The tour set a new bar for fevered hype and there was widespread outrage at the lofty $28 ticket price. I had no plans on going myself, but on the day of the show, a high school pal offered me his extra ticket as a birthday present.

The opening act was a guy who juggled to Beatles songs. Then they showed the S&M/jungle-themed video for “Torture,” which allegedly featured a wax dummy stand-in for Michael and was the only hint that the Victory tour was ostensibly undertaken to promote a new Jacksons album called Victory.

Finally, the Jacksons took the stage, opening with “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’.” Although they ran a perfunctory medley of Motown hits, the brothers focused on the scintillating Quincy Jones productions from the 1979 template,“Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground)” all the way through to “Billie Jean.” Despite the Astrodome’s lousy acoustics, it was a pretty amazing show.

Although his death was shocking in its suddenness, I can’t say I’m surprised Michael Jackson didn’t live to a ripe old age. Succumbing to a massive heart attack at age 50 is tragic, but taken alongside Jackson’s post-Thriller unraveling, the suspected cause of death seems almost conventional.

As Jackson stood trial for child molestation, hearing the 10-year-old Jackson deliver his timeless performance of “I Want You Back” became a sad exercise in dissonance. Putting aside the question of did he or didn’t he, I couldn’t hear him sing without wishing that 10-year-old kid something better.

R.I.P. Sky Saxon

Sadly, Sky Saxon passed away this morning at St. David's Hospital. The leader of 60s L.A. garage rock titans the Seeds had just moved to Austin and played his first show as a resident last Saturday with Shapes Have Fangs at Antone's. I'm really kicking myself for not going to that show or his Fuzz Club gig a few weeks back.

The Seeds' Sky Saxon hospitalized in Austin

Just got this alarming news about Sky Sunlight Saxon from music publicist Cary Baker at Conqueroo. Here's hoping the newly minted Austinite makes a quick and full recovery.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 25, 2009

THE SEEDS’ SKY SUNLIGHT SAXON IN THE HOSPITAL IN CRITICAL CONDITION IN AUSTIN, TX

AUSTIN, Texas — Early Monday, June 22, 2009, Sky Sunlight Saxon of garage rock legends the Seeds was hospitalized in South Austin, Texas due to an undiagnosed condition. He remains in critical condition in the ICU at this date in St. David’s South Austin Hospital. Doctors suspect an infection of the internal organs; further tests are pending upon stabilization. Temporary dialysis of the kidneys will begin in the next few days.

Sky Sunlight Saxon fell ill last Thursday in his new home of Austin. Despite feeling under the weather, on Saturday he performed a short set of Seeds classics at the local legendary nightclub Antone’s.

Sky’s wife Sabrina Saxon encourages fans and friends worldwide to send cards and balloons of encouragement, love and support to Sky at his room in the ICU. No flowers are allowed in this facility, but cards and balloons are welcome. It is Sabrina’s wish to create a visual illustration of the positive healing vibes that are being generated for the much beloved musician in full support of his recovery.

Please send cards and balloons to:

St David’s South Austin Hospital
901 West Ben White Boulevard
ICU-10 (Richard Marsh)
Austin, Texas 78704

(Note: Sky Saxon’s legal name is Richard Marsh)

Monday, June 22, 2009

Alaska Airlines saves the Nerd Bird

Although they haven’t even started flying to Austin yet, Alaska Airlines is already planning to expand service here.

On the heels of American’s announcement that it will no longer fly the so-called “Nerd Bird” route between Austin and San Jose, Calif. after Aug. 23, Alaska is picking up the slack with a daily Austin-San Jose flight starting Sept. 2. This is in addition to their previously announced Austin-Seattle service (another abandoned AA route), which begins Aug. 3.

Unfortunately, the outbound Alaska flight doesn’t leave until 3 p.m., which makes a same-day return impossible.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

WFAA signs off forever (in analog)

In honor of last week's nationwide analog TV shutdown, WFAA-TV in Dallas aired a historic retrospective along with their vintage sign-off tape from the 70s just before flipping the switch.

Taking the low road


Years after the highway department gave up on rebuilding the low-lying stretch of Texas 87 between High Island and Sabine Pass, plans are afoot to move the Caplan-High Island stretch further inland from the Gulf of Mexico in the wake of Hurricane Ike.

In the interim, work is underway to raise Texas 87 between Port Bolivar and High Island to a lofty six feet above sea level so Bolivar Peninsula residents have more time to get out when (not if) there's another storm. This would presumably include odious state Rep. Wayne Christian (R-Center), who slipped an amendment into a bill during the 11th hour of this year's legislative session that would allow him to rebuild his Ike-razed vacation home on what is now public beach.

Texas 87 detour photo - pre-Rita and Ike - from texasfreeway.com

Friday, June 19, 2009

Cash for clunkers

Did you buy a stupid car during the Go Go Nineties? If so, the government wants to write you a check.

The Obama administration's latest stimulating salvo to our beleaguered economy is the so-called "Cash for Clunkers" program. Under the program, drivers of fuel-hogging crapheaps like the Ford Bronco and Chevy Blazer may be eligible for up to $4,500 in incentive money toward buying a more sensible, fuel-efficient car like the Honda Civic I've been driving all along.

While the notion of rewarding people for short-sighted purchases chaps me, it may help get large, unwieldy vehicles off our roads and out of "compact car only" parking spaces. Then we could repurpose junked SUVs as housing for homeless people.

Hey, it worked in Americathon.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Unrequited discounts

Did you know you can save five percent on shipping at UPS Stores by whipping out your AAA card?

I didn’t learn about this until yesterday, which is too bad, because Kate and I ship stuff to Massachusetts all the time. Between Christmas and birthdays, I bet we could’ve saved enough scratch to pay for a couple of matinee tickets by now.

It’s easy to miss out on AAA discounts that aren’t related to travel. I often forget I’m even a member unless I’m stranded and cursing fate on the side of the road, but an AAA card can get you discounts on everything from contact lenses to soft pretzels. It pays to review the list of discounts every now and then.

In the meantime, does anyone out there have a not-so-obvious AAA discount they’d like to share with fellow turnip-squeezers?

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

A brief jaunt to Blanco - continued

Picking up where we left off, Kate and I woke up Sunday morning and availed ourselves of in-room coffee, croissants, mixed fruit and the Blanco Settlement's homemade breakfast quiches. The quiches, prepared in ramekins and left for us in the fridge, survived a brief nuking and were surprisingly tasty.

Then we drove out to Texas Specialty Cut Flowers. Located at the junction of Ranch Roads 165 and 2325, this working farm is a great place to buy flowers, herbs and seasonal veggies. They usually operate on the honor system, so you just select what you want and drop your cash (or check) in a red strongbox.


After a failed attempt at finding a lavender farm took us almost all the way to Wimberley, we turned around and returned to Blanco for lunch. Our destination was Riley's BBQ.

Riley's may not have the best barbecue in Texas, but their brisket and sausage are consistently above average. I think Riley's would stack up well against most anyplace in the last half of Texas Monthly's vaunted Top 50, though I wouldn't extend that assessment to their Dripping Springs location.

Moreover, Riley's serves all-you-can-eat pinto beans for $1.95, which is a great deal for penny-pinchers (if not the people who have to ride home with them). For atmosphere, it's hard to beat Blanco's town square. The brisket was a little dry on the day we were there, but that was a small quibble for an otherwise excellent barbecue repast.


Kate and I finally made it to a lavender farm north of Blanco on U.S. 281. After purchasing enough lavender-laden product to make a trip to the recognized "Lavender Capital of Texas" worth our while, we headed back home via Marble Falls. All in all, it was a perfect close-in overnight vacation.

Monday, June 01, 2009

A brief jaunt to Blanco

Last Christmas, my parents gave Kate and I a gift certificate for Blanco Settlement, a small cabin-and-RV park on the banks of the Blanco River. We finally got around to using it two weekends ago. Below is our dog-trot cabin, which came equipped with a TV, Jacuzzi tub, mini-fridge, microwave and drip coffee maker. Needless to say, "roughing it" like that for a night took some getting used to.


After buying some Real Ale Fireman's #4 and Julio's chips at the Super S Market in town, we sat on the porch and read until the sun started setting.
Driving west from Austin, we'd run into a brief but heavy downpour near Dripping Springs that forced us to pull over to the side of the road. They didn't get much rain at all in Blanco, though. As you can see, the river is barely flowing right now.


Even so, the nearby thunderstorms cooled things off and made for a sweet sunset.




We had dinner at the Blanco Bowling Club, a nine-pin bowling alley by night and cafe by day that serves above-average renditions of greasy fare like cheeseburgers and chicken fried steak. I hear the pies and cinnamon buns are good, but dessert was out of the question. By 10pm, we were ready to retire to uncommon silence broken only by the whirr of the fan.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Energy Star sales tax holiday this weekend

If you’re in Texas and thinking about buying a new washing machine, air conditioner, refrigerator or dishwasher, listen up.

Our munificent state comptroller has declared Memorial Day weekend a sales tax holiday for certain Energy Star appliances. The holiday starts at 12:01am Saturday and ends at 11:59pm Monday.

Click here for the full skinny and save yourself some scratch.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

For whom the stool tolls

The hours leading up to last Saturday's Stool Pigeon show at ColdTowne Theater had me on tenterhooks. I'm accustomed to being onstage, but not without a band of compatriots bearing amplification devices. As showtime approached, I became hyper-aware of every verbal tic and wished I'd given more consideration to debate as an elective in high school.

Fortunately, the evening's improv players really put my mind at ease. Before going out, everyone literally told me they had my back. It was a simple enough acknowledgment, but it made a big difference.

I ran through my three true-life stories quicker than I expected, but I didn't get mired in any narrative cul-de-sacs, which was good. Then the laser-witted Stool Pigeon crew extrapolated all kinds of crazy-funny tangents from some of my favorite embarrassing actualities.

Nearly 25 years after the fact, I can now say it was totally worth it when I stepped in a pile of livestock shit on Ag Day and got it all over the back of my jeans while kneeling down to perform CPR on the Resuscitation Annie doll during health class. Thanks, Stool Pigeon!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Stool Pigeon this Saturday!

If you're reading this in the Austin area, come on out to ColdTowne Theater this Saturday, May 16 at 8pm as I submit to the exciting, red-faced whimsy of “Stool Pigeon.”

As the evening’s designated “Stool Pigeon,” I will tell true-life stories about myself, which will then be spun into comedic gold by some of Austin’s most talented improv performers. I won’t say anything about the stories I’ll be telling, but I guarantee plenty of anxiety on my part.

ColdTowne Theater is at 4803 Airport, right next to I Luv Video. Cover is just $5 and you can buy advance tickets here. Arrive at least 15 minutes early because it’s a small room, and unlike a Gallagher concert, there won’t be any plastic sheeting to protect you from my residual flop-sweat.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

The port never sleeps

When I was in sixth grade, they sent us across town to the Port of Houston magnet elementary school for a week to teach us the rudiments of international trade. It was a nice respite from the triple R's. By the time Friday rolled around, I hardly noticed the not-so-sweet smell of heavy industry anymore.

The week's highlight was taking a boat tour of the port aboard the Sam Houston. We even got free bottles of Coke.

Cool as that was, it can't possibly compare to this time-lapse footage from LouVest of a night run down the Houston Ship Channel to Galveston Bay (via MetaFilter).

Friday, May 08, 2009

Five things you might want to know

Legendary Texas sportswriter Edwin “Bud” Shrake died this morning at age 77. The longtime companion of former governor Ann Richards was diagnosed with advanced lung cancer last August.

Though not as well-known as Texas A&M’s Aggie Muster, UT has been quietly memorializing its departed associates for 21 years with its “UT Remembers” ceremony. The tower lights will be dimmed tonight in honor of 157 UT students, graduates and associates who died this past year.

The former Gap Women location in the Central Market shopping center off N. Lamar is now a regular Gap with clothes for the menfolk.

Gunther von Hagens, the creepy-looking German doctor who brought us Body Worlds, has opened a controversial new exhibit in Berlin that features skinless, plasticized corpses "having sex."

Why not have a quick guffaw at the expense of hipsters and families who made the mistake of having their photos taken?

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Last Ron Titter show (for awhile)

Friday, May 8 is your last chance to catch The Ron Titter Band in action for the foreseeable future.

Bassist Reed Burnam is heading to India with his new fiancée for the summer, so the boys and I will be taking another sabbatical of unknown duration. As we've all learned in one form or another, real life has a way of stymieing a perfectly servicable non-career in the lower arts.

If the thought of enduring an entire season (or more) without the sweet salve of Titter sends red hot rails of fear up your spine, grab three bucks for cover and shake yourself on down to the Hole in the Wall at 10pm this Friday. It'll be a stone gas, but not in the way you're thinking.

Then stick around for the proletarian poptones of the Service Industry and Churchwood, a new, Beefheart-infused quintet featuring Austin music vets like guitarist Bill Anderson (Meat Purveyors, Horsies, Poison 13), bassist-turned-drummer Julien Peterson (Brown Whornet, Cat Scientist), vocalist Joe Doerr (Hand of Glory), guitarist Billy Steve Korpi (Crack Pipes) and my Summer Breeze/Captain Smoothe mate Adam Kahan (Invincible Czars, Jazzus Lizard) on bass.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Famous architect

When I was in preschool, a teacher once asked me what my dad did for a living.

“He’s a famous architect,” I replied.

That wise-beyond-years observation became even more irrefutable last week when my dad was elevated to the American Institute of Architects’ College of Fellows for making significant contributions to the profession. Becoming a fellow is a high honor for architects; out of 86,000 AIA members, fewer than 2,600 are fellows.

Kate and I were privileged to witness the investiture ceremony, which was held Friday afternoon at San Francisco’s historic Grace Cathedral on Nob Hill. Despite persistent rain, I can't imagine a better city to be invested in.

Now that my dad is a fellow, his professional acronym has been upgraded to “FAIA,” which I believe stands for “Famous Architect I Admire.”

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Hot 'n' Nasty

First there was Yacht Rock. Then Confidence Rock. Now the youth have rebranded yet another vein of our musical heritage.

Meet Roguish Rock. To hear Alamo Drafthouse programmers/Roguish behavior archivists Lars Nilsen and Zack Carlsen describe it, Roguish Rock is distinguished by coliseum-sized acts of autoerotic bombast that make witnesses cringe while secretly wishing they were the perpetrators. Nilsen and Carlsen present their full case at 10pm on Monday, May 11 as the Alamo Ritz's "Music Mondays" series presents "Hot & Nasty," a Roguish Rock retrospective featuring footage from Van Halen, Grand Funk Railroad, Edgar Winter, Black Oak Arkansas and more.

In lieu of a proper trailer, the Alamo offers this traumatically compelling clip of undeniably Roguish vocalist Jim Dandy Mangrum and Black Oak Arkansas performing "Hot & Nasty" in concert circa 1973.



Careful, kids. I'm pretty sure you can catch an STD from staring at that bulge for too long.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Sprouts plans North Austin store

Sprouts Farmer’s Market plans to open a North Austin location later this year in the space vacated by Borders in the Great Hills Station shopping center at the corner of Research Blvd. and Great Hills Trail. The Phoenix-based grocery retailer is also opening locations in Rollingwood, Sunset Valley and Round Rock in 2009.

Sprouts is part of the discount natural food niche that targets those of us living downmarket from Whole Foods Market. The chain was founded in 2002 by the family of Henry Boney, who started the business that became Henry’s Farmer’s Market in 1943 as a street corner peach stand in San Diego.

In 1999, Henry’s was acquired by Boulder, Colo.-based Wild Oats along with San Antonio’s Sun Harvest. Wild Oats co-founder Mike Gililland started Sunflower Farmer’s Market (branded as Newflower in Texas) in 2002. Then Whole Foods bought Wild Oats in 2007 in a transaction that incurred the wrath of federal antitrust regulators, but not before jettisoning Henry’s and Sun Harvest to California-based Smart and Final. Jeez, that’s more incestuous than our local music scene.

Sprouts’ newly announced Great Hills location should keep North Austinites from smarting too much about having to drive way the hell south to get to Newflower. And no, I don’t know when or if we’ll ever get a Trader Joe’s here.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Houston, We Have a Solution

Shockingly, if Texas were to secede, not everyone would be sad to see us go. Especially this Andy Cobb fella, though he does exempt "parts of Austin" from his hateful You Tube missive.



As for ZZ Top, well, look who they're making buddies with these days. Yep, that's Gub'nor Rick himself sitting in for Frank Beard in the pic next to the deer head.


Photo by Peggy Fikac/Houston Chronicle

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Talkin' Texas Secession Whites

Ask a Confederate apologist about the Civil War and he or she will invariably invoke the concept of state's rights. There's even a giant monument to the Confederate war dead in front of the Texas State Capitol (above) that suggests as much.

What the apologists and the monuments don't like to admit is that the state right of primary contention was slavery. John Aravosis at AmericaBlog points out a telling excerpt from the Declaration of Causes adopted at the Secession Convention of Texas in 1861:

We hold as undeniable truths that the governments of the various States, and of the confederacy itself, were established exclusively by the white race, for themselves and their posterity; that the African race had no agency in their establishment; that they were rightfully held and regarded as an inferior and dependent race, and in that condition only could their existence in this country be rendered beneficial or tolerable.

It's not uncommon for Texans to joke about secession. Most of the time, it comes from the same tongue-in-cheek pride that prompted Saul Steinberg's New Yorker map of the world. But there's a big difference between slapping a Texas flag-themed "secede" sticker on your bumper and the governor of Texas alluding to the threat of secession in front of an overwhelmingly white crowd three months after the first black president in U.S. history takes office.

By the way, since today is the 173rd anniversary of the Battle of San Jacinto, it should be noted that then-Governor Sam Houston opposed secession back in 1861 and was removed from office for it.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Wannabes, Ron Titter Band this Friday!

Now that we've shaken the rust off, come bask in the dank, musty goodness of The Ron Titter Band this Friday as we do show number two following our 17-month hiatus.

We'll be laying down the smackum yackum around 9:45pm at the fabulous Carousel Lounge. Then stick around for local beer light pop-punk legends the Wannabes and treat 'em right or they'll break out Bob Welch's "Ebony Eyes" on your skinny ass.

No cover. Plenty of free parking. It all happens this Friday in beautiful North Austin.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Poteet strawberry ice cream arrives!

I just made my first H-E-B Creamy Creations Poteet Strawberry Ice Cream sighting of the season.

As of about an hour ago, the H-E-B at Burnet and Allandale has this ritual springtime treat in stock. If you're a fan of strawberry ice cream who knows what's good for you, you'll pick up a carton soon because it won't be around for long.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Madam Mam's heads north

Fans of Thai food in North Central Austin rejoice. Madam Mam's is opening a third location next month across from the Alamo Drafthouse Village in the space formerly occupied by Shanghai River at 2700 W. Anderson Ln.

Though I spent many hours grazing at Shanghai River's "lavish" Chinese buffet during the 90s - informing everyone I dined with how much I loved the Lavish people and their cuisine - that restaurant became an inhospitable dump in its dying days. Any way you slice it, Madam Mam's is a considerable step up.

Here's to no more futzing around with UT area parking when I need a Panang Beef Curry fix.

Mayyors at SXSW 2009


One of the best sets I saw at SXSW this year was from Mayyors. No, they don't have a website or MySpace account.

Even so, this elusive Sacramento, Calif. supersonic spaz-punk quartet laid figurative waste to Spiro's in a manner that reminded me of when that space housed the Cavity in the early 90s. It was as if a hundred sun-warped hardcore singles were playing simultaneously at 78rpm on a shitty (but unimaginably loud) transistor radio. This was music you felt in your bones.

I reviewed Mayyors' take-no-prisoners squall here, but you can actually hear it for yourself at WFMU's Beware of the Blog.

Photo: Mayyors at SXSW 2009 from WFMU's Beware of the Blog

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Pancho's returns to New Orleans area

After shuttering their Metairie, La. location in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, Pancho's Mexican Buffet returned to the New Orleans suburb last week with a raucous grand opening celebration.

Although this event has been mostly ignored by the mainstream media, historians will one day rank Pancho's return to Southern Louisiana on par with MacArthur's return to the Philippines or the Eagles getting back together.

To wit, here's a little footage of Panchito tearing it up next to the salsa bar.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

The many moods of Pizza Land

I picked up this flyer for a new restaurant called "Pizza Land" at Tammy's Cleaners on Burnet Rd. yesterday. This humble takeaway joint is housed between Tammy's and Gyro Plus.

In addition to its namesake dish, Pizza Land boasts an extensive menu featuring Indian and Chinese food. Because you never know when you're going to want a side of fish masala with your pepperoni pie. They also plan to stay open until 3 a.m. Sunday through Thursday and until 5 a.m. Friday and Saturday.

Is it just me, or does this place bear striking resemblance to the burned-out A+ Buffet, only without the buffet?

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Eight is Enough to fill our lives with KISS!

Choice clips from the hit ABC-TV series Eight is Enough set to the music of the hottest band in the world...KISS! Does it get any better than that?

Friday, March 20, 2009

Chariots of Funk

I finished the second night of SXSW watching the Bar-Kays funk it up at the Memphis music showcase. They covered everything from "Soul Finger" through "Freakshow on the Dance Floor" before I ducked out to beat the drunks home. It was an altogether solid revue, though I missed hearing "Son of Shaft."

Speaking of, here's a related aside from a short interview I did with original Bar-Kays bassist James Alexander that ran in Thursday's Chron SXSW daily edition. By the time I got done covering the 1967 plane crash that killed Otis Redding and four members of the Bar-Kays, I knew I wouldn't have room for this. I still think it's a great story, though:.

As Isaac Hayes’ longtime backing band, it makes perfect sense that the Bar-Kays first significant hit after “Soul Finger” was “Son of Shaft.” The mostly-instrumental “answer” record was a Top 10 R&B hit in 1972. Their elongated performance of the song was a highlight of 1972’s Wattstax festival.

If the Bar-Kays had their way, though, that performance in front of over 100,000 at L.A. Memorial Coliseum would’ve been even more spectacular.

“We were like little bad kids,” says bassist James Alexander. “We always wanted to do something dramatic to draw attention to us rather than other people. So we wanted to ride out on the field with some horses and chariots. You know, like Chariots of Fire or something like that.”

According to the liner notes of 2007’s Wattstax box set, Bar-Kays producer Allen Jones went so far as to call a movie studio to arrange for the rental of horses and chariots.

“To be quite honest with you, Isaac Hayes found out about it and then said we couldn’t do that,” Alexander laughs. “Because that would’ve upstaged everybody. Nobody would’ve been able to come in behind that.

“We’re coming out there with all this white on and on some chariots? And then we run up on the stage and turn it out?”

As it was, you’d be hard-pressed to pick a more electric single moment in the Wattstax film than when Bar-Kays vocalist Larry Dodson stoically approaches the microphone, raises his fringe-draped arms and screams, “I’m the son of a baaad…!”

If you've never seen this clip before, watch it now: