Friday, April 30, 2010

Lala Shutting Down May 31

Great gripes! Less than one week after I finally got around to posting a Lala playlist, Lala has announced they’re shutting down on May 31.

Apple bought Lala for $80 million back in Decmeber. Current users of the 4-year-old online music service will have their balances converted to credit for the iTunes store, which is sort of like having your In-N-Out Double Double morph into a half-eaten Big Mac.

Lala’s clean interface was the closest legal thing to having a record store listening booth at your fingertips. I’m a big fan of streaming before purchasing. Lala let you stream a full album once for free, then charged you about 10 cents per song if you wanted unlimited online listening rights. I’m sure that model gives the music industry pause because it keeps people from buying new releases on speculation.

Gil Scott-Heron’s latest is a perfect example. It’s a good album, worthy of acclaim and definitely worth hearing, but if I ever listen to it again, it probably won’t be for several years. There’s nothing wrong with such albums, but I don’t need them taking up disk space or cloud space, let alone physical space in my increasingly cramped home.

When Apple purchased Lala, some speculated the Cupertino brass were going to build their own subscription music service. If such a service worked anything like iTunes, though, I'm one Mac user who would go out of my way to avoid it.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Fave Five Food Deals - 4/28/10

Some folks celebrate May Day. Others celebrate Cinco de Mayo. But a good deal on corn is something we can all rally around.

To that end, here are this week's best Austin area grocery deals.

1. White corn, 6 ears for $1 at Newflower (through May 5)

2. Green beans, .98/lb. at Sun Harvest (through May 5)

3. Sanderson Farms whole chickens, .88/lb. at H-E-B (through May 4)

4. Hass avocados, 3 for $1 at Sprouts (through May 5)

5. Small Texas grapefruit, 10 for $1 at H-E-B (through May 4)

With the start of corn season, ears are on sale all over town. Sun Harvest is selling it for 25 cents an ear and Randall's is selling four ears for 88 cents, but as usual, you have to have a Remarkable card and that price is only good May 1-2.

Also, if Jamie Oliver hasn't completely soured you on enjoying frozen pizza and nacho cheese-flavored Doritos, check out H-E-B's "Texas Showdown" promo this weekend. To promote their store brands, H-E-B is giving them away. Buy specified sizes of DiGiorno Pizza and get an in-store coupon for a free H-E-B Classic Selections Pizza. Or buy specified sizes of Doritos and get an in-store coupon for a free bag of H-E-B flavored tortilla chips.

But remember, kids, frozen pizza and Doritos are "sometimes" foods.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Over the Edge

Last September, Vice published an excellent oral history of Over the Edge, the awesome 1979 suburban teen rebellion film that launched Matt Dillon’s career.

Like many recovering teens my age, I stumbled onto Over the Edge via repeated airings on cable. It was quite a heady rush to see junior high school-aged kids portraying junior high school-aged kids setting police cars on fire while I myself was a junior high school-aged kid.

I don’t think it’s hyperbole for Harry Northrup, the actor who portrayed the much-reviled Sgt. Doberman, to hold Over the Edge in the same esteem as Rebel Without a Cause. Anyone who grew up on reruns will have a hard time watching the latter without likening Jim Backus’ portrayal of James Dean’s dad to Thurston Howell III, or worse, Mr. Magoo.

Although I wasn't much of an adolescent troublemaker, kids who looked and sounded like the kids in Over the Edge were ubiquitous when I was growing up. Maybe you'd go over to their houses when their parents weren't home to blast album-oriented rock music, take a few furtive belts from the liquor cabinet or pass a handgun around the room.

Looking back, I think most of these failed afterschool special auditions arose from boredom rather than delinquency. While Over the Edge took that notion to an exploitative extreme, no other movie does a better job of capturing the overall aesthetic of the late 70s/early 80s suburban latchkey kid generation.

Incidentally, I did a phone interview with Cheap Trick bassist Tom Petersson about 10 years ago and brought up the opening sequence of Over the Edge in which Cheap Trick's version of Terry Reid's "Speak Now Or Forever Hold Your Peace" sets the film's desolate, sneering tone. I was surprised when Petersson said he'd never seen it.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Springing Sounds of Beetsolonely

I just spent entirely too much time crafting the first - and hopefully not the last - Lala playlist for this here blog. I plan to toss up a new one every quarter or so, but we'll see about that.

In the meantime, crank up the widget to your right and find out what happens when Black Randy & the Metrosquad, Bobby Patterson, Funkadelic, Fastway, Titus Andronicus and Tom Rush get shoehorned into the same elevator.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Drunk Girls

Check out Spike Jonze' ridiculous video for the new-ish LCD Soundsystem single, "Drunk Girls." It's no groundbreaker, but you will be entertained. LCD's new album, This is Happening, arrives May 17, but you can stream it now.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

They Shuttered My Fuddruckers!

Yesterday afternoon, I saw a gaggle of men in ties just standing around in front of the Fuddruckers on Anderson Ln. Between their demographically incongruous clothing and the fact that lunch hour had long since passed, their presence struck me as vaguely suspicious.

Turns out my suspicions were well-placed, for that location of Fuddruckers shut down for good at the close of business yesterday after the Tavistock Group agreed to purchase the flagging chain from Magic Brands for $40 million. The 6607 N. IH 35 location also closed.

Not that I really care, since Fuddruckers lost me as a customer with their jingoistic “Freedom Fries” gambit back in 2003.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Fave Five Food Deals - 4/21/10

Straight from the headlines of your weekly supermarket mailers, here's another edition of Austin's best grocery buys.

1. 5 lb. bag of Russet potatoes, $1 at H-E-B (through 4/27/10)

2. 1 lb. of red seedless grapes, $1 at H-E-B (through 4/27/10)

3. Boneless skinless chicken breasts or thighs, $1.99/lb. at Sprouts (through 4/28/10)

4. Green leaf, red leaf or Romaine lettuce, .88/ea. at Sprouts (through 4/28/10)

5. Anjou pears, .98/lb. at H-E-B (through 4/27/10)

Monday, April 19, 2010

I Had a Wet Dream About the Girls from '90210'

Several months back, my drumming buddy Lance Farley digitized and posted some grotesque 1994 video footage of our old band, Noodle. So here we are, 16 years ago, playing our "hit" single, "I Had a Wet Dream About the Girls from 90210."

This aired live over Austin's cable TV airwaves on CapZeyeZ, Dave Prewitt's venerable public access show. Lance is on drums, Mark Fagan is playing bass, Jonathan Toubin is on guitar and I'm singing without a shirt on.

Was I acting out a wee bit? Perhaps, but looking back, there were issues I worked through in Noodle that otherwise would've taken years to tackle on a therapist's couch.

My only regret about this song is that we fell just short of having the opportunity to perform it in the presence of one of the actual girls from Beverly Hills, 90210. In July of 1994, we were offered a last-minute gig opening for Sincola at Antone's. Jennie Garth, who played Kelly Taylor, was in town filming a tawdry made-for-TV movie called Without Consent and she just so happened to turn up at that show.

Would we have had the gall to play this song with Garth in the audience? Sadly, we'll never know - we were already playing in El Paso that night.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Fave Five Food Deals - 4/14/10

If you're a fan of cheap beer and Brenham's best-loved export, this week's edition of Austin's best grocery deals is sure to warm the functioning part of your heart.

1. Blue Bell Ice Cream (all rims), $2.99* at Fiesta (through 4/20/10)

2. 12 packs (cans) of Pabst Blue Ribbon, Bud Ice, Natural Light or Miller High Life, $6/ea. at Fiesta (through 4/20/10)

3. Red seedless grapes or broccoli crowns, .88/lb. at Newflower (through 4/21/10)

4. Roma tomatoes, green beans or broccoli crowns, .88/lb. at Sprouts (through 4/21/10)

5. Extra large peeled and deveined raw shrimp, $4.97/lb. at Newflower (through 4/21/10)

*Limit two with $10 additional purchase, which you can easily cover with a couple of $6 12-packs.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Texas Stadium Imploded

Texas Stadium was returned to dust this morning in a Kraft Macaroni and Cheese-sponsored implosion for the ages. I didn't bother to watch it live on TV, but here's some pretty good footage of the implosion - and nothing but - that was shot from a nearby building.

I like the way the roof span in the left half of the frame just sort of hangs there for a few seconds before crashing down.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Houston's Variety Fair Closing

Variety Fair 5 & 10 has been selling this and that in Houston’s Rice Village since 1948. Growing up in the nearby bedroom enclaves of West University and Bellaire, I purchased a healthy chunk of my Topps football card collection from Variety Fair during the late 70s and early 80s. It seemed like founder Ben Klinger was always there working the mechanical cash register, which was old-fashioned even in 1978.

After 61 years, Variety Fair will close up shop in June. So if you happen to be near Houston anytime soon, make a pilgrimage to see one of the last authentic five-and-dime stores in America.

Video on Variety Fair closing from Houston Chronicle:

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Fave Five Food Deals - 4/7/10

The berry wars heat up in this week's installment of Austin's best grocery deals.

1. 1 lb. strawberries or 5.6 oz. blackberries, .69 at Newflower (through 4/14/10)

2. Asparagus, .98/lb. at Sun Harvest (through 4/14/10)

3. Romaine, green leaf or red leaf lettuce, .77/ea. at Sprouts (through 4/14/10)

4. Red and green seedless grapes, .88/lb. at Sprouts (through 4/14/10)

5. Green beans, $1.48/lb. at H-E-B (through 4/13/10)

If you're heading to Sun Harvest at Anderson and Rockwood anytime soon, you'll notice they're now in the beginning stages of a renovation. Here's hoping this results in wider aisles and a more appetizing meat counter. Between the new Sprouts on Great Hills Trail and the forthcoming Walmart mothership at Northcross, Sun Harvest definitely needs to up their game.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Remembering Ron Turk

I found out last week that my old friend Ron Turk has passed away. The initial shock of this unexpected shard of news gradually gave way to sadness, longing and – most of all – profound appreciation for Ron’s friendship over the years.

Ron and I met 25 years ago in sophomore biology class at Bellaire High School. Even back then, Ron was a great conversationalist, which may explain why my biology grade went from A to C as we got to know each other better. I'm pretty sure he was the only person in class who thought it was hilarious when I stood up from my desk one day and turned out the classroom lights because I mistakenly thought I heard the teacher ask me to.

Ron was both smart and wise. While I was immersed in the obnoxious words and deeds of generalized adolescent rebellion and blanket disdain for convention, Ron was able to see beyond all that. He sought out the good in people and didn't allow himself to be constrained by social boundaries.

Our friendship continued when we both landed in Austin to attend UT. We had a couple of auditorium-sized undergraduate classes together and I admired the way Ron would get to know the professors. I was always too shy to do that. A few years later, Ron had the ear of the UT System Board of Regents when he led an effort to get UT to divest its tobacco holdings. He understood the incremental nature of social change and knew studied pragmatism would take his causes much further than a thousand holier-than-thou rants.

Many times over the course of our college years, Ron listened patiently to my inebriated, self-depreciating discourse on being perennially lovelorn. Deep down, I bet Ron knew the culprits of my condition were emotional immaturity coupled with abject fear of rejection, but he never blew me off with a blunt summation like that. On the contrary, his counsel was always offered with a great deal of both wit and affection. When you were talking with Ron, you were talking. The things he said stuck with you.

Even though we'd only been in touch sporadically in the post-graduate years, I always thought in the back of my mind that Ron and I would reconnect over beers one day and pick back up right where we left off. Days after hearing the news, I still can't fully believe I won't see him again, but I will always treasure memories of the times we had together. He is truly a friend for the ages.