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 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."