Sunday, January 31, 2010

Mind Over Music

Finally, I have a chance to put decades of wasting brain cells on music-related mental minutiae toward something worthwhile.

Mind Over Music: The Austin Underground Music Trivia Smackdown happens at 7pm tomorrow at the Palm Door, located at 401 E. Sabine. I'll be rubbing wits with the Austin Chronicle's "Twenty Tinnitus" team, one of about 25 teams looking to achieve local music trivia supremacy.

Although there's no room for more teams, you can pay $10 to sit in the peanut gallery and heckle. All proceeds benefit Grounded in Music, a local non-profit providing music programs to kids who otherwise couldn't afford them.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

UT Cuts the Cactus Cafe

In a classic weekend news dump reminiscent of Nixon's "Saturday Night Massacre," UT's Texas Union Board of Directors announced that it is shutting down both the Cactus Cafe and Informal Classes program in August due to budget cuts.

The Cactus is a nationally renowned listening room that helped launch and sustain the careers of everyone from Lyle Lovett to Townes Van Zandt to Peter Case. The venue's reputation is due in large part to manager Griff Luneburg, who has run the place for almost 30 years. Clubs open and close, but you can't replace a room like the Cactus.

Although the Cactus is primarily known for presenting singer/songwriters, my pal Jonathan Toubin once somehow convinced Griff to book our old band Cheezus there on a Saturday night in 1991. We wore turtlenecks, drew black Sharpie goatees on our faces and made as much contrarian racket as we could. I thought it was pretty cool that Griff made room for an obnoxious, unpracticed punk band on his stage. I don't even think he complained about all the thrown cheese products.

Losing the Informal Classes program will also be a major blow. If it wasn't for their cost-effective adult education offerings, I wouldn't know how to half-ass my way through Adobe InDesign or a Texas Two-Step.

UT says the Cactus and Informal Classes had not been self-sufficient in recent years. Moreover, neither entity drew large numbers of UT students. According to Texas Union executive director Andy Smith, cutting the Cactus Cafe and Informal Classes will save about $122,000 annually.

Virtually every UT student forks over a fee to the Texas Union every semester, so I can understand why the board would want to make sure that budget cuts - which are a reality at all state agencies right now - don't impact the union's core functions for enrolled students.

Even so, shuttering these two venerable institutions will likely prove to be one of UT's historic blunders. It's a short-term budgetary bandage that will have a long tail in the form of more alums not giving and more Austinites not having any connection whatsoever with the burnt orange monolith in their midst.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

The S from Hell!

Seeing and hearing the 1964 Screen Gems logo with its proto-synth score by Eric Siday takes me right back to the earliest days of my lifelong affair with television. Somehow, the logo evokes way more nostalgia than the TV shows that preceded it. Perhaps the logo's incidental, effervescent nature makes it feel like a more authentic totem to my lost childhood.

Sadly, not all of my generational contemporaries remember the Screen Gems logo with such fondness. In fact, some are downright terrified by it. Brave filmmaker Rodney Ascher chronicles the horror in his short documentary, The S From Hell.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Fave Five Food Deals - 1/28/09

Read all about the best grocery deals in Austin and discover why the coming week is likely to have our town awash in waves of funny-smelling urine.

1. Asparagus, .97/lb. at Sun Harvest and .99/lb. at Sprouts (through 2/3/10)

2. Texas small red grapefruit, 10 for $1 at H-E-B (through 2/2/10)

3. Harris Ranch all natural top round roast, $2.99/lb. at Newflower (through 2/3/10)

4. Roasted chicken, $3.99/ea. at Sprouts (through 2/3/10)

5. Brooklyn beers (6-pack), including Brooklyn Lager, Brown Ale, Pennant Ale and East India Pale Ale, $6.99/ea. at Central Market

Monday, January 25, 2010

Pazz and Jop '09

The 2009 Pazz and Jop critics poll came out in last week’s Village Voice. I was one of about five bajillion music writers from around the country who submitted ballots. I’m always interested to see how my picks stack up against the critical consensus.

Here are the top 10 albums in the 2009 Pazz and Jop poll:

1. Animal Collective, Merriweather Post Pavillion
2. Phoenix, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
3. Neko Case, Middle Cyclone
4. Yeah Yeah Yeahs, It’s Blitz!
5. Dirty Projectors, Bitte Orca
6. Grizzly Bear, Veckatimest
7. The xx, xx
8. Raekwon, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx…Part II
9. The Flaming Lips, Embryonic
10.Girls, Album

And here are the top 10 albums I submitted, along with their placement in the overall poll:

1. Girls, Album (10)
2. Heavy Trash, Midnight Soul Serenade (1,431)
3. Rainy Day Saints, Reflected (1,145)
4. Yo La Tengo, Popular Songs (40)
5. Dirty Projectors, Bitte Orca (5)
6. Tinariwen, Imidiwan: Companions (59)
7. Neon Indian, Psychic Chasms (110)
8. Pissed Jeans, King of Jeans (54)
9. Love Me Nots, Upsidedown Insideout (1,011)
10. Strange Boys, The Strange Boys and Girls Club (566)

Here are the top 10 singles in the 2009 Pazz and Jop poll:

1. Jay-Z feat. Alicia Keys, “Empire State of Mind”
2. Phoenix, “1901”
3. Animal Collective, “My Girls”
4. Grizzly Bear, “Two Weeks”
5. Dirty Projectors, “Stillness is the Move”
6. Yeah Yeah Yeahs, “Zero”
7. Lady Gaga, “Bad Romance”
8. Girls, “Lust for Life”
9. Phoenix, “Lisztomania”
10. Taylor Swift, “You Belong with Me”

And here are mine:

1. Girls, “Lust for Life” (8)
2. Wilco, “You Never Know” (181)
3. Neon Indian, “Deadbeat Summer” (119)
4. Chalie Boy, “I Look Good” (751)
5. Phoenix, “1901” (2)
6. Dirty Projectors, “Stillness is the Move” (6)
7. Yeah Yeah Yeahs, “Zero” (7)
8. Dorrough, “Ice Cream Paint Job” (1,649)
9. Snoop Dogg, “I Wanna Rock” (252)
10. The Drums, “Let’s Go Surfing” (113)

For albums, I was the only person who mentioned the Love Me Nots, Rainy Day Saints and Heavy Trash. I’m somewhat baffled that the latter didn’t get more traction, what with Jon Spencer and all. It’s also interesting that despite my ranking and an equal assignation of 10 points for all of my albums, Heavy Trash finished lower in the overall rankings than my other solitary picks. Given my own inability to balance a checkbook or calculate a tip, I think I will refrain from snarking off about that.

As for singles, I’ve always had an embarrassingly major soft spot for really obnoxious regional rap radio hits, as previous-year picks like the GS Boys’ “Stanky Legg” (2008) and D4L’s “Laffy Taffy” (2006) can attest. In fact, if any rap artist cuts a hit song called “Peenie Weenie” over the next 11 months, I can pretty much guarantee it’ll wind up on my 2010 ballot.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Hitler Blows Top Over Mass. Senate Race

Boy, I haven't seen Hitler this angry since the Cowboys lost to the Giants in the NFC divisional playoffs back in '07.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Ebert on the Loss of Dining

Film critic Roger Ebert can no longer eat, drink or speak due to complications from thyroid cancer. He discusses his predicament with typical wit and eloquence in a blog entry from earlier this month. Interestingly, it's the dining, not the food, that he misses most.

Isn't it sad to be unable eat or drink? Not as sad as you might imagine. I save an enormous amount of time. I have control of my weight. Everything agrees with me. And so on.

What I miss is the society. Lunch and dinner are the two occasions when we most easily meet with friends and family. They're the first way we experience places far from home. Where we sit to regard the passing parade. How we learn indirectly of other cultures. When we feel good together. Meals are when we get a lot of our talking done -- probably most of our recreational talking. That's what I miss.

I don't think you can read this without getting a lump in your throat while cataloging the great meals of your life and being thankful for every last one of them.

As Warren Zevon once reminded us, "...enjoy every sandwich."

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Torchy's Takes Over Wok-N-Roll

Torchy's Tacos, one of the early instigators of our local trailer food revolution, is opening a new (stationary) location on Burnet Rd. in the space formerly occupied by Wok-N-Roll. I'm looking forward to getting my workaday Trailer Park/Dirty Sanchez fix sated without having to drive all the way to campus.

I used to eat at Wok-N-Roll quite a bit. Their food was quick, cheap and relatively good. I took pride in having a greasy, yellowed 1995 fast food review I wrote for the Chron posted to their wall. Unfortunately, I noticed a gradual but steady decline in their food beginning around 2002. By 2005, I just couldn't stomach Wok-N-Roll anymore - and that's really saying something.

Fave Five Food Deals - 1/21/10

By the power vested in me by the commonwealth of cheapness, here are Austin's best grocery store deals for the week:

1. Broccoli crowns .77/lb. at Sprouts and Sun Harvest (through 1/27/10)

2. Chicken breasts (bone-in), beef back ribs, country-style pork ribs, pork steaks, free range whole turkey and/or 5 oz. stuffed clams 10 lbs. for $10 at Sprouts (through 1/27/10)

3. Organic green leaf or red leaf lettuce .77/ea. at Sun Harvest (through 1/27/10)

4. Organic Braeburn or Gala apples at Central Market .99/lb. (through 1/26/10)

5. Asparagus $1.77/lb. at Newflower (through 1/27/10)

And be sure to grab this week's Sprouts circular for the Great Hills location. It contains coupons for a free 16 oz. bag of tropical yogurt pretzels and a free 1.4 oz. Cascade Fresh probiotic bar (expires 2/4/10). I don't even know what the hell a probiotic bar does to my innards, but if it's free, chances are I'll chew it up and swallow.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Paciugo May Give Austin Another Lick

Dallas-based Paciugo Gelato and Caffè has announced plans to open 100 new franchise locations in the next year, including at least one in Austin to replace their shuttered 2nd St. store.

Paciugo was one of the few spots in the Second Street District I could afford to frequent even if it wasn't a special occasion. Moreover, their gelato was the best stuff I’ve tasted outside of Italy. Perhaps a new, slightly more accessible location will improve the chain’s local fortunes next time.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Fave Five Food Deals - 1/14/10

Keep a little change in your pocket for the weekend with the week's best Austin grocery deals:

1. Bunched broccoli or Roma tomatoes .69/lb. at Newflower (through 1/20/10)

2. Boneless skinless chicken thighs $1.49/lb. at Sprouts (through 1/20/10)

3. 1 lb. bag of organic peeled baby carrots .99 at Sun Harvest (through 1/20/10)

4. Cameo apples .67/lb. at H-E-B (through 1/19/10)

5. 1 pint of grape tomatoes .99 at Sprouts (through 1/20/10)

Also, for all our gluten-free friends, Sprouts is holding its "Gluten-Free Jubilee" this week. Get 25% off all tagged gluten-free grocery and frozen food items along with select items in other departments through January 20.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Tufts Attempts to Rescue the Sexiled

Don't even think about hanging a sock on the door at Tufts University. Following an uptick in complaints from sexiled roomies, the Medford, Mass. institution has banned sex in campus dorm rooms when a roommate is present.

Call me old-fashioned, but it seems awfully nannyish for a university to enact such a reactionary, far-reaching policy. If one of my dormmates was in flagrante, I either found someplace else to go or put a pillow over my head. A c-block would've been downright unbromanly, especially when my own bouts of alcohol-fueled stupidity were every bit as disruptive as whatever furtive groping took place on the other side of the room.

It is difficult for me to fathom the apparent trauma that writer (and Tufts alum) J. Bruce Daley inflicted upon his roommate by having sex in his presence.

"I will never forget the look on my roommate's face the next morning," Daley regretfully recounts. "I could see that he felt is privacy had been violated...He transferred schools after our freshman year and has spent the rest of his life living in Asia."

Asia? Dude, you could've just gone to the study lounge!

Of course, I never had to share a room with a steady couple that copulated like jackrabbits at all hours. I can see how that would become a problem requiring intervention from residential advisors, but if two ostensibly adult roommates can't work it out amongst themselves, why should dorm sex be handled differently than any other untenable living situation?

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Fave Five Food Deals - 1/7/10

From our intrepid team of deal-hunters to your family's dining table, here are the best grocery deals in Austin for the week:

1. Large navel oranges .19/lb. at Sprouts (through 1/13/10)

2. Natural boneless skinless chicken breasts $1.77/lb. at Sprouts (through 1/13/10)

3. Light Mini Babybel cheese rounds or Laughing Cow cheese wedges 2 for $6 at Sprouts (through 1/13/10)

4. Bartlett pears .67/lb. at H-E-B (through 1/12/10)

5. Roasted almonds $2.99/lb. at Sprouts (through 1/13/10)

Frugal Austin shoppers are probably familiar with Sun Harvest's "Double Ad Wednesdays," which enables you to avail yourself of deals in both the previous and current weekly circulars. Well, it turns out Sprouts and Newflower offer the same promotion. By shopping on Hump Day, you maximize the number of sale items you can potentially buy, thus reducing the chance of impulsively picking up something at a price point surpassing that of Whole Foods.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Count Five

Today is Beetsolonely’s 5-year anniversary. To celebrate, I’ve decided to revert to all-caps headlines. That’s all the rebranding I’m up for right now.

Occasionally I wonder if this here blog needs more focus. Perhaps it would make sense to define a niche and work to fill it. Maybe I’ll do that one day, but a large part of why I enjoy blogging is being able to write about whatever happens to pop into my head.

So unless I hear the elusive “true calling” that would enable me to monetize a singular bloggerly pursuit I’m passionate about, the rambling mélange of musings on life in Austin, obscure pop culture curiosities, impending parenthood and where to find a good deal on potatoes will continue unabated.

Friday, January 01, 2010

New Year's Day, Dallas, 1973

From Robert Wilonsky at the Dallas Observer's Unfair Park blog via Dallas radio know-it-all George Gimarc, here's a six-minute snippet of a January 1, 1973 aircheck tape from Dallas progressive rock station KAFM.

The DJ on duty epitomizes the laid-back prog attitude mocked by Bill Murray's "Mel Brewer" character on the 1975 National Lampoon album, Goodbye Pop. A little Boz Scaggs, something obscure from a cat named Jack Schnectman and a spot for the upcoming Traffic/Free concert at Tarrant County Convention Center makes this a super-mellow New Year's Day come-down.