Friday, August 31, 2001

I wonder where the old supply of shisha mirrors is to be found?

Thursday, August 30, 2001

So Martha Stewart has locked up the rights to sell Wedgwood Drabware. And Dick Powell and Linda Darnell were in a little movie reissued by Kino.

Wednesday, August 29, 2001

Nothing in the morning, open flowers at night: all it took was a little rain for the schoolhouse lillies to shoot up and bloom (rhodophiala bifida). Magic Town is an okay movie, but I'll never love James Stewart or listening to him talk.

Tuesday, August 28, 2001

Atlantic magazine had a nothing piece by Hamilton on men's suits, but there was a funny drawing of a man wearing the "Bilbao" model, designed by Frank Gehry. Also in that issue was an article delighting in the Alhambra, but reporting it to be sited above the city as though perched atop a pediment, when obviously plinth or podium was meant.

Monday, August 27, 2001

Today was a day of plumbing horror; how wonderful it is to discover that your wastewater line or outgoing sewer line or what it should be called not only is horribly clogged but has a large segment constructed from a roll of roofing paper held together with tar that has already been cut into and repaired once somewhere along the line with a piece of metal that looks like it was taken from a cookie sheet. So there'll be more plumbing fun day after tomorrow, including digging up the rest of the back yard. Now in case I ever need to know what a sharpshooter shovel is and what it's used for, I'll be prepared.

Sunday, August 26, 2001

Sergeant Bilko was most entertaining and it sure was funny to see the Chris Rock of four or five years ago as an auditor of all things. Then there was the Texas Cheerleader case all the way from 1993, made for HBO television and played for laughs by Holly Hunter and Beau Bridges: not bad. Paper magazine did a not great piece on Zhang Zihi that had a sidebar called "Chop Suzies," with brief tributes to Bridge Lin, Maggie Cheung, Michelle Yeoh, Anita Mui, and other favorites.

Saturday, August 25, 2001

Whole Foods for Pedersen's sausage, the downtown post office, Book People, Terrazos branch library to offlload magazines, and Big Red Sun while we waited for the library to open, plus a lively discussion about Balcones fault and escarpment. There was much discussion about where they pass through Austin. It turns out that the fault and the escarpment are more or less the same thing, or at least used interchangeably. We are on the Edwards Plateau. At Book People were acquired two copies of a post card depicting a lurid poster or show card for Love Wanga, also known as Oanga, Crime of Voodoo, Drums in the Night, and Drums of the Jungle. Entertainment du jour was Senseless, very good-humored and well-suited for the 13-inch screen.

Friday, August 24, 2001

Today was truly rantworthy, but I'll refrain. The only funny thing was seeing the AusChron's arts critic try to use "annus horribilis" and get it wrong twice and in two different ways."annus horribilus" and "annus horribulus." Are there no copy editors these days? Proofreaders?

Thursday, August 23, 2001

The irritating movie trailer of the moment is Captain Corelli's Mandolin. I do not ever again with to hear "bella bambina at X o'clock." The NYT had a piece on how the filming of the movie has attracted tourists to Cephalonia. The vogue word of the moment of which I am most weary is snarky: overused and wrongly used. In Texas Monthly there's a piece quoting either Halbouty or Oscar Wyatt and saying, "he whelped." Somhow one doubts that the writer or any of those who passed on the copy were very conversant with the verb "to whelp" or with the noun, either.

Wednesday, August 22, 2001

So today's Austin American-Statesman had a piece patently pulled directly from a press release puffing an online charter school associated with William Bennett or vice versa. The only thing Bennett ever did for me personally is to reprint in his Book of Virtues or whatever he called his little operation where he hired researchers at minimum wage to find copyright-expired material for children the story of Prince Harweda and the Magic Prison, which I had not seen since I was a little kid but had always remembered, partly because the illustrations were Beardsley-influenced, and who could forget that? The word "sweemeats" also captured my fancy and I loved the idea of the mirrored walls moving ever inward.

Tuesday, August 21, 2001

I had never consciously realized that Ricky Skaggs spent time with the Stanley brothers outfit or at least with Ralph Stanley, only finding out courtesy of a New Yorker magazine article on Ralph Stanley. Someday we'll have to own "Crying My Heart Out over You," "I Don't Care," "Don't Cheat in our Hometown," and especially "I Wouldn't Change You If I Could."

Monday, August 20, 2001

Since the Ringling Brothers circus never came to Austin this year, we were very happy to see posters on poles and then a circus tent for Circo Hermanos Vazquez, in town for the first time ever, for four days, with shows at 7 and 9 p.m. on Thursday and Monday, and an added 5 p.m. show on Saturday and Sunday. I heard two commercials on 1490-AM and that was about it. The tent was new and even in the 95-degree heat, the show brought in a full house. The tickets were at two prices--ringside was five dollars more than bleachers. The bleachers were red metal frames with boards lashed to them with nylon cords. The aisles, such as they were, formed where the boards made it uncomfortable to sit. Refreshments were raspas, cacuahuates, and palomitas. The acts were great, and the owners came out to introduce themselves once the show was over. During the intermission, people had Polaroids taken of them seated in a folding chair, accompanied by a potted palm, and with a large serpiente of some sort draped around their necks and over their shoulders. The first takers were mothers with small boys, and all the others seemed to be mothers with small girls. Where were the fathers?

Sunday, August 19, 2001

Thunder is heard afar, but no rain here. Broadcast television actually offered up a movie last night, though it was evident there were cuts. It was one of the Jean-Claude Van Damme Chinese-directed efforts, in this case Double Team, courtesy of Tsui Hark, whose penchant for artiness didn't harm the plot, which was confused anyway. Dennis Rodman did the best acting in the flick; Mickey Roarke probably did the worst. The amusement-park scenes were very beautiful visually. We do all our cooking early and outdoors on one of those little portable chef's gas burners that run on cartridges. This morning it was a treat of steak, accompanied by summer squash cooked in the 60-watt microwave oven in a glass bowl. Tufted titmice are the latest birds attracted to the little bowls of water that we've been setting out in all this heat; apparently it was 104 degrees yesterday.

Saturday, August 18, 2001

Right up there in the billing for Liberty Heights should have been all those beautiful vintage cars, mostly GM, with a bounteous number of my favorite, the 1955 Cadillac, though none with a metal visor--oh, the wonders of the Hydra-Matic drive. I had never realized that among the Barthelme brothers was a Peter, who wrote three mysteries set patly in Houston and partly around Port O'Connor, mostly. They're phony hard-boiled, and the most interesting thing about the tree is that the protagonist is an advertising person, and there's much tehnical detail about all sorts of things that are done digitally these days. Two other brothers wree recently heard from as co-authors of Double Down, their memoir of gambling trouble amidst the "riverboats" of Mississippi. I bought "Come Back, Doctor Caligari" by Donald Barthelme as a trade paperback, because I loved the surreal Edward Gorey cover illustration. I'm not sure whether I still have my copy; it was published in 1965 and I think I bought it in Poughkeepsie, but it could have been in Manhattan.

Thursday, August 16, 2001

Today I was tempted to take the time to go on a search mission to find my old Paradox floppies. Even old flat-file PCFile would have done the job in a trice. Microsoft Access is designed to keep people from using it. I suppose that, for flat-file purposes, just making tables in WinWord and using simple sorts on two or three columns will do the work that most people need. This was a sort of e-mail list that was presented in text form and not delimited in any way. I've really got to get to work on all this. Ughl.

Wednesday, August 15, 2001

So last night, Hollywood Shuffle took up the slack. My favorite Robert Townsend movie is The Meteor Man, particularly the episode of the making of the Hero Costume. After yesterday's brief respite, it's as hot as ever, so we've put out little bowls of water everywhere that's near shrubbery to serve as a safety zone; this morning there were three half-grown cardinal birds out drinking at one time just outside the dining-room French doors. Just as the heat is bad for auto batteries, it seems to be bad for light bulbs also: three were out this morning. It's time for the weather to change.

Tuesday, August 14, 2001

So this is what is was like to be Tantalus--he wanted water, too. To smell the ozone, see the lightning, feel the cool air, hear the thunder, and know that it was raining not far away, but that all we were to enjoy were a few big drops, not even enough to really wet the pavement, is a true disappointment. Supposedly it's been over forty days now without measurable rain at either of the two official locations, and for us it's been longer than that.

Monday, August 13, 2001

Wallace Shawn is quoted as saying, "Being my own personal assistant is a full-time job." ITA, but around here it's always been known as the Daily Bureaucracy of Living. Here's a case in point. The car sounded peculiar when it started yesterday and had to be abandoned on the east side because it wouldn't start again. Capital Metro persists in running a Sunday abbreviated schedule, a practice that should be shelved on the busiest lines. Even on weekedays, some lines, e.g., Dove Springs, no matter how frequent, must pass people by on the curb at times. It's no different on Sundays. Yesterday, going from downtown to across the river, there were two riders in wheelchairs and one of the locations had a broken safety belt, and of course there was a full load of standees, plus the "stop" notification didn't work. So today involves finding out whether it's a battery, lack of gas in the tank, or something more dire. The jumpers are broken and American Cab won't officially take on that chore any more (liability advice?). I bet Roy's will still do it. Personally, I think that life is simpler and easier those times when the household is without a vehicle altogether. Errands take longer, but then you cut to essential errands only. And the buses are air-conditioned, which is always a plus. The silly heat-beater movie was Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo, not a bad choice. In real life, it would be view-worthy at the discount movies.

Sunday, August 12, 2001

Did Ready to Rumble ever receive theatrical distribution? If so, I sure don't remember. It really is much better than there's any right to expect. The last 20 or 30 minutes are disposable; all the good stuff is from the beginning to there. We were talking last night about heights and how they still use those bamboo scaffolds in Hong Kong. K. was up there on those summer jobs without a safety belt or even steel-capped shoes. For a long time, Papa still had his leather belt from working for the power company.. He broke his collarbone twice going off bridges into the water. That was when he was doing riveting; he never fell when he was a steeplejack. To add insult to injury, one of those times he'd just been paid and lost his billfold with everythiing in it; those were the days when people were often paid in cash. I used to love to look at his rigger's handbook. I think he used that, and even had to take tests on it periodically, for when he was a crane operator. No matter what kind of work he was doing, he was never outdoors on the cold days of winter without his Johnson greenies. These were so heavy that they took extra-strong leather braces to keep them up. I was surprised to find that the mill sells over the 'Net; it says that they've been making this stuff for 156 years. K's father worked on the plant floor before and after WWII, so he grew up thinking that anyone who wore a suit wasn't really working. I grew up thinking that anybody who worked indoors wasn't really working. Those who want to raise the retirement age are people who know nothing about real work and the toll that it takes.

Saturday, August 11, 2001

People complain a lot about their passport photos, but ours are some of the best pix we have. At least, black-and-white photographs seem to flatter. Birth certificates are funny documents as well. So many people learn for the first time under what names they were really registered with the authorities when they first see their birth certificates; some even find that their birthdays are not what they thought. A marriage certificate just copied this morning shows that the license was number 322 for that jurisdiction; was that for the year or from the beginning of time?

Friday, August 10, 2001

All missions accomplished and deadlines met for today. If there's not too much work-related stuff on deck for this weekend, maybe at last we'll get to try Little Mexico. We have it on reliable authority that the owning family's from San Luis Potosi and that those pork dishes are really good. We must be in that stage of summer where food comes to the forefront; the part where the appetite declines or decreases either was skipped over too rapidly to be noticed or hasn't arrived yet.

Thursday, August 09, 2001

"Endurance" is the watchword of the day. It's getting to be a real pain to water on watering day. The plants are all pretty far gone, but I guess it's worth it to keep it up for the sake of the toads, tree lizards, hummingbirds, wrens, and butterflies. Now that the passion vine has been entirely consumed everywhere it had managed to struggle one, butterfly attention turns to the pride of Barbados, also attracting hummingbirds now.

Wednesday, August 08, 2001

To-dah! All periodicals are current except for three telenovela pulps. In Mexico, week 24 of Amigas y rivales is showing; here we're only on week 2.

Tuesday, August 07, 2001

When the Chron polls readers for the best City department, the firefighters always win, but Solid Waste Services truly seems to have the most esprit. These people work with zip, even in the hottest weather. But our City-issued trash receptable suffered a big gash in the bottom. We waited two weeks for the new one only to find that the replacement, ostensibly the same size, has the corners rounded off and therefore has a substantially diminished capacity. It's also a flimsier gauge of plastic.

Monday, August 06, 2001

It was not a surprise to learn that Rush Hour 2 is doing blockbuster business, at least if one is to extrapolate from South Austin patronage. Even at a Sunday-morning matinee showing there was brisk business. The lighting was bad and the directing was so inept that it didn't take full advantage of the choreography. Nonetheless, there is a market out there for entertainment that's light-hearted and gore-free.

Sunday, August 05, 2001

It's getting to be impossible to get anything done around here. At Half Price Books, there was a two-and-a-half-hour wait to have items appraised for purchase. This is the worst ever. At the movies, the next two shows of Rush Hour 2 were sold out. And it's not as though this is an all-night town. It's just crowded and impossible all day long.

Saturday, August 04, 2001

Hearing Freddy Fender do Wasted Days and Wasted Nights on KVET truly did bring back that summer of '75. On our way to camp at Red Point Beach on Prince Edward Island, we heard that song over and over again on the radio. When it got really cold and windy and rainy in the tent, we'd go in to Souris to eat some fish and drink some beer, leaving Brownie and Mack in the VW. At the campground there was just a three-sided shelter that a couple of cold-water shower stalls. We were often the only people camping there. It was the first place we ever saw people doing tai chi. A disabled war veteran did any picking up that was necessary. He sounded just the way people talk in the movie "Brother's Keeper." At every farmhouse where we saw the "fresh-baked break and rolls" sign out, we were sure to stop. Almost everybody made potato rolls and break, so light and fluffy without being cakelike, because of all the potatoes that people grew and ate. We loved going to the island on the Abegweit, the most beautiful vessel you could ever hope to see, with the most elegant moderne interiors; she went out of service in the early 'eighties, and now there's that horrible bridge.

Friday, August 03, 2001

Both Sammy and Bob on KVET and the Breakfast Club on KAZI were making jokes about how pathetic the Statesman was today. It made me think about how this excuse for a paper doesn't even do features covering the deaths of the illustrious spending time among us (though there was a piece about distribution of fans for cooling, which did not go far to make up for the asinine feature about enduring the "cruel, cruel summer" for two days without air-conditioning).. When Charles Hartshorne died, I don't recall seeing even a short piece, yet the New York Times obituary was extensive. Doesn't anybody even use Lexis/Nexis to search for "death" and "Austin"? When Charles Moore died, it was the same story; nothing, until a belated couple of weeks afterward. At least KOOP radio had a tribute when Roy Montelongo died, even though he wasn't Statesman-worthy. In the freaky coincidence department is the article just now on the newstand about Korey Stringer; it discusses his weight and talks a lot about his sweat. Ooh, that's scarey, folks.

Thursday, August 02, 2001

No more backlogged issues of the New York Review of Books to read. Jane Jacobs wrote on a reissue of Hard Times. She skips rather lightly over the circus. "Tiempos dificilies" was the first non-Agatha-Christie book that I read in Spanish. The edition was from a set of cheap left-leaning books sold at Buena Vista railroad station in Mexico City. I think that Merrylegs was called "patos de alegre" or something like that. Other books in the series included writings of Chairman Mao, Che Guevara, etc. Also reviewed (by Elizabeth Hardwick) is the best-selling book on Seabiscuit. How great it would be to be at the flats at Saratoga right now! In the August 9 issue, dauntingly called the "midsummer issue," McMurtry writes about the anthropologists who have associated themselves with Zuni, among them Frank Cushing. The piece is entertaining. McMurtry can't get over seeing a video-rental place next to the church. Also in that issue is a consideration by Updike of "The Blithedale Romance."

Wednesday, August 01, 2001

Well, now's the time when it's clear who has been "good" about watering days and who has not. Those who just plain don't water no longer have much of a lawn, if they ever did. Those who ostentatiously put their sprinklers on the "Old Faithful" setting on their official watering day are the same ones who set their sprinklers on "Secret Soak" the other six days, or shall I say nights, of the week. Their grass stands up. Their grass requires mowing, usually by someone with a complete set of high-decibel equipment. Their lawns are now showing signs of yellowing and disease in all sorts of manifestations; over-watering has taken its toll. The righteous have lawns that survive, sort of, but don't stand up very tall, and certainly don't need to be mowed, since they don't receive enough water to grow. Here endeth the reading of the word.