Thursday, October 30, 2003

Extreme pumpkin carving

A search term that's been bringing lots of people to one of my sites is "extreme pumpkin carving." The extreme pumpkins domain is what comes up first in Google. The first five pages of results don't include any domain of mine. What's with this?

Wednesday, October 29, 2003

Cake disaster

It's not the end of the world, but, for the second time ever, the fabulous Breton chocolate pound cake exited from the tube pan in two pieces. With one piece stacked atop the other, the cake doesn't obviously appear to be damaged. Was it not left long enough to cool and shrink away from the sides of the pan? Should it have been loosened with a knife? Not enough butter and cocoa coating the pan? The pan's become misshapen and beaten up over the years. Does that have something to do with the exit difficulties? This pan was acquired long ago at the Thrifty Drug in Gallup, New Mexico.

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

Gone since 1973, but not forgotten

These oval-shaped cigarettes with the fine-quality tobacco and the great package were available at Wiggy's until they weren't. I first smoked them in London and always found them in Canada too. The brand dates from 1874. Passing Clouds had the only pink cigarette packaging I've ever seen. They were mild but flavorful. Another personal favorite has always been Balkan or Black Russian Sobranie. Evidently State Express 555s are no longer out there in hinged tins, either.

Monday, October 27, 2003

Creative copywriting

"These pieces have clean, unembellished designs that are executed of a substantial wood known for its unique markings and distinctive grain." So what's the mystery? Could it be knotty pine? Yes; our speculation may be correct: on line there's mention of "organic knots." The color is "mahogany." The collection is "Sumatra," but only the bed from the collection appears to be available on line. How do people live without this stuff?

Revisiting some vinyl

Seldom does this happen, because Austin is a great, great radio town, but there've been times this weekend when we needed to be home by the telephone and there was nothing being broadcast that was just right. Because there are at least a few things about the weekend that I would actually like to recall, some of the items heard will be listed as a mnemonic aid. Some albums are too old to be stereo. Some jackets still have red sandstone dust from New Mexico. Some are cutouts or radio-station copies. Several still have their J.R. Reed Music or Woolworth's labels and prices on the jackets; these were bought before the bus came. Charles Black, in a 1979 Yale Law Review article called "My World with Louis Armstrong," mentions buying records at Reed.
That Makes Two of Us (Merle Haggard & Bonnie Owens): From this, favorites are the title song; Stranger in My Arms; So Much for Me, So Much for You; Just Between the Two of Us; and (I Stopped Livin' When Our Love Died and Now) I Wanta Live Again (1966)
Dan Hicks & His Hot Licks
The Jasmine Isle: Javanese Gamelan Music: this is one of those great original Electra Nonesuch Explorer records, and has been raided by every "New Age" music outfit that exists
Frederica von Stade Song Recital: everything still sounds good, except that "Jenny Rebecca" is still a song I don't ever want to hear again
Monk's Dream (Thelonious Monk Quartet): still great in every way, every track; it's so wonderful to have heard him as many times as I did
Miles and Monk at Newport: love that Coltrane bonus; can do without Pee Wee Russell (but all tracks are great nonetheless)
Lush Life (John Coltrane, of course): this is the first LP ever bought with my very own money and I never, never get tired of it; love that Prestige "modern" center label
A Tribute to the Best Damn Fiddle Player in the World (or, My Salute to Bob Wills)(Merle Haggard): plenty of original Playboys, with hot work by Johnny Gimble; I'll always love "Time Changes Everything" and "I've Got an Old-Fashioned Love in My Heart" in particular
Los Madrugadores del Valle: Discos Joey has never let me down
Mis 25 Anos en la musica (Flaco Jimenez): this has two very extended medleys of his hits and his father's and I can't get Viva Seguin out of my head now
Los Intocables: in addition to originals, this album features some greats from the epoca de oro of the movies
El Gran Flaco Jimenez: thank you again, Discos Joey, with lots of songs by Don Santiago
Flaco Jimenez y su conjunto (Arhoolie reissue compiled mostly from 45s )

Saturday, October 25, 2003

Another tradition trashed

To save a puny amount of money, state government is getting rid of the remaining nine House "parking attendants," as the tiny press release called them. These are the ParKings, the elderly men who've always haunted the Capitol grounds shooing tourists away from parking spots belonging to elected officials. Even though they're relatives and other patronage objects of the influential, they are far more than "parking attendants." They welcome tourists, give directions, tell tall tales, tame squirrels, pass along news, crack pecans and give them away, and even grow unofficial gardens in the grounds. People encountering them for the first time seldom fail to remark about what a nice tradition this is. I've always been surprised that official state and city tourist brochures, ads, and other forms of publicity have never featured these (always) guys. Supposedly DPS troopers are their replacements. What a joke! These are the folks who sit and doze in their cars all day, whereas the ParKings rose from their varied personal lawn chairs and ambled around checking into everything. Most legislative sessions pass a resolution of thanks and recognition, and at least some of these will remain on the public record as memorials attesting to a tradition that should never have been abandoned. Farewell, local color and genuine friendliness.

Friday, October 24, 2003


Seeing the obituary of the original president of the First Women's Bank, about which there's not much out there on the Web (it appears mainly when cited in the resumes of those now, apparently, beginning to drop like flies). There's at least one document regarding the First Women's Bank catalogued among the Bernard Rapoport papers, apparently now resting here in Austin and garnering who knows what sort of tax deduction for everything from Christmas cards to extended correspondence with various luminaries of the state and national Democratic party. When I get around to framing all those other things I plan to get around to framing, maybe the stock certificate for the First Women's Bank should be among them.

Thursday, October 23, 2003

Small-town greatness

Enfolded in the Austin Chronicle picked up at the Whip In was the July 24, 2003, issue of the Shiner Gazette. The Gazette, now in its 111th year of publishing weekly, certainly deserves its survival. Every story on every one of the 12 pages was worth publishing. The front page shows two slogans: "Things are Brewing in Shiner" and "Serving the cleanest little city in Texas." Right there on the front page were photographs and a story about the introduction of Shiner Light, featuring the mayor, a far-from-young woman, hoisting the brew with every sign of approval. Going to the Shiner site enables one to become an honorary citizen of Shiner and receive a complimentary copy of the Shiner Gazette. The newspaper adheres to the small-town practice of not publishing asking prices for real estate. There's a long and informative (and opinionated) weekly column by the chief of police, obviously written by no one else. The weekly police report reveals that the greater part of the work is unlocking vehicles for those who locked their keys inside them. There are numerous photographs of local school children. Scholarships and graduations are featured. Nearly all help-wanted ads seek nursing-home staff members. Since it is a small town, there are fewer engagements and weddings (no births in this issue) than there are obituaries, one of which is for the great Lee Roy Matocha.

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

Not again!

It seems as though only yesterday our lives were being made a living hell for days at a time, thanks to movie crews all over the place, complete with cables and generators (and bucks, for the non-naive). Today we found a notification on the door that we're to be blessed again. Last time we got some free rain, in addition to other freebies; this time it's going to be pure nuisance, it appears. It's the Wendell Baker Story. Maybe location people removed all the lost-pet signs. It'll be interesting to see whether peace signs stay up in the right-of-way. If we sit out front in some of our less savory habitual garb maybe we'll be paid to go indoors. That worked really well last time, as did Tejano music.

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

Not forgotten

The Statesman makes people sign in these days, but published a lengthy reminiscence of Ed Idar (the Express obit is brief and uninformative). But here's an interview. And another, about the poll tax. And yet another, about the G.I. Forum days. Nobody seems to have covered or conducted interviews about MALDEF or the later days, though. The Handbook of Texas has entries for Eduardo Idar the elder, and for Jovita Idar.

Monday, October 20, 2003

Courting bad luck

Some officious person has found it necessary to remove the lost-pets notices that had been posted on the utility pole. This was certainly not anyone with the City, since it occurred during the weekend.

Sunday, October 19, 2003

As Hamlet said

"The readiness is all." And we've been ready. We've been waiting for T. to give us a call. Unless he does, there's no way to find out at which hotel he's bunking, and the Hispanic Engineers outfit puts on a very big conference.

Saturday, October 18, 2003

So it is called scopa

We were talking about having the water rising over the bottom steps of the porch and running over Cosey Beach Avenue. That made me try to remember the card game that the old men at the Sons of Garibaldi were playing, the same one I used to see other old men playing when I was a kid. (It was probably really the Sons of Italy, though. Whichever it was, the stars and stripes and the Italian flag, as well as the Lodge flag, were always out there when the weather was good enough.) During the night I must have remembered, because this morning I was sure it was scopa, and it was! Without the 'net how could we be sure of any factoid? If "scopa" is related to "sweep," then "escoba" or "broom" in Spanish must be a cognate of some kind, even though I think that the Spanish verb is "barrer."

Friday, October 17, 2003

Not heretofore known about snare drums

Without snares, a snare drum would sound like a tom-tom. K. knew this because his great-grandfather was a drummer boy before bugles came in. This arose because we were reading a review of a book about the Rolling Stones and there was commentary on how much behind-the-scenes detailed stuff there is in it about the music business and every possible subject remotely connected with it. An example given was from an interview with Charlie Watts, who was talking about a set of toy drums he was given as a child, still has, and used as percussion in one of their big recordings (can't remember which!). He talked about the snare drum in such a specific way that I stopped to think about why it's called that. K. immediately knew because of having played his great-grandfather's drum. The snares on it were catgut. This is a page with neat photographs and daguerreotypes of drummer boys. There are even companies making reproductions for battlefield re-enactments.

Thursday, October 16, 2003

They just won't change their stripes

Well; they'll change some, but not the important ones. While rant mode is in full operation, let's just report that, for the third time in under a year, the City has repainted the center line on the street in front of our house. It's easy to tell that it's new, because it's bright and because it has been smeared already by people crossing over it before it was dry. Why the striping? Again? When it has been years since the dangerous pedestrian crosswalk a couple of blocks away has been repainted? It's so dim as not to be there at all for any practical purpose. The obliterated features include the lines at which people are supposed to stop, but don't.

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Nothing has changed

This was not the document sought, but it does reveal that nothing has changed around here (or, as our dear Gallic friends like to say in their own lingo, "the more things change, the more they stay the same"). It's an addendum to a 1999 neighborhood planning survey. Recently, we responded to just such another. Here's what was said in 1999 (a few details have been changed to protect the guilty):

Enclosed is a completed copy of the "Masterplan Summary and Ballot." Comments were invited, so here are some—

1. As was noted on the ballot, "All issues affect us all!" It seems methodologically and statistically suspect to have so few survey items to be answered by all who would be affected. The method is especially dubious as concerns those of us who live on our street—the residents are divided into quadrants, as though what happens across the street or up the hill has no effect on the rest of us.

2. "Lower tax rate for central city residents," though certainly greatly desirable, would seem to be a matter for state legislation, not a master plan. Have you noticed how, on most properties in our neighborhoods, the appraised value of the land, without improvements, has been artificially boosted? There should certainly be account taken of airplane noise and traffic noise and dirt when appraisals are done. We really are aware of sales of real estate prompted by tax burdens in this neighborhood.

3. Though this has nothing directly to do with the survey, the neighborhood association may or may not wish to be aware that several of us repeatedly, and without success, have requested traffic enforcement on our street. If there were some, particularly at night after clubs close, there would certainly be arrests, for drunken driving if nothing else, to judge by the alcoholic-beverage bottles to be retrieved in the morning. There are graffiti to be found at both ends of the street.

4. As concerns the survey item on mercury-vapor lights, we hope that this pertains both to private "security" lights and to city streetlights. It should also apply to any unshielded lights that spill over onto neighboring property. The sky is red at night and many heavenly objects are no longer visible to the unassisted eye. Some plants will not bloom if exposed to light. We suspect that some nocturnal birds are affected, as we no longer hear the whip-poor-will at all or nearly so many screech owls as we used to. We live on a corner and suffer from two city lights, which have only grown brighter over the years. They do more lighting of our yard and the interior of our house than anything else. We have no air-conditioning and rely on open windows, so they are especially troublesome during the summer months. At just one intersection here in this neighborhood there is a shielded light—a sort of halo-ring that directs the light downward and to the street; why can't all neighborhood lights be fitted with these?

5. Sidewalks are great—we have them—but even more important is educating property owners about the right-of-way or easement along curbs. Everywhere people are blocking them by installing permanent large vegetation and trees or large gates, fences, and walls. People need to be informed and pedestrian rights need to be preserved.

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Even at the NYT

Sunday's paper brought "dufflecoat" and in Monday's "accordian" was to be seen.

Monday, October 13, 2003

Living it up

T. ducked out of his reunion (only he and the former principal were of the older generation). Saturday night we hit the Tree House. We didn't want to be across the river because of the loss to Oklahoma. Our waiter had also found our neighborhood to be too Yuppified and had moved eastward. He'd been trout-fishing in the Gila wilderness this summer and is enrolled in a graduate program for something called "comparative education." K. treated himself to an extremely generous plate of mussels. Veal of one sort or another was on every plate but mine, where a hefty chunk o' salmon was fine. At 6:30 yesterday morning, K. and T. headed for Sweetish Hill, then we hit the educators' discount event at Borders, Central Market for the benefit of the tourist, who sampled the samples generously, and then Mimosa Cafe before heading to the airport. The tempura was generous and great; T. had katsu don, again I mightily enjoyed a huge helping of fresh salmon straight from the pan. T. decided that the people there are mostly Korean.

Sunday, October 12, 2003


Even though he'll be here again in less than a week, T. was here this week for a Taipei American School reunion. He seemed to be eager to escape, having tried chicken-fried steak at Threadgill's and sampled the glories of the big Imax movie at the Story of Texas Museum (formerly the Bob Bullock State History Museum, but we don't mention Democrats these days around the capitol complex). All Bullock mention has been changed to smaller-size type and moved to interior pages of the website.

Saturday, October 11, 2003

Tidywork in a rush

The afflictions just keep on a-coming. It's obviously all stress-related stuff ensuing from the identity-theft problem. Not to complain or anything like that, but this time it's the foot, which causes a problem when it comes to clutter-clearing in anticipation of an arrival from New Mexico. Luckily Epsom salt seems again to be helpful. It must have been an insect or a spider bite, but it kept getting worse. Love that logotype for the Epsom Salt Industry Council. Love that Epsom salt.

Friday, October 10, 2003

Yuppie? Yuppy?

Whichever spelling prevails, this neighborhood is being inundated by Y-people. Call them yucky; call them yuckie. Not content with one Y-vehicle per person, the newcomers seem to have one super-large vehicle, one super-expensive sporty, roadster-type vehicle, and one very clean pickup, per person, and no gainful daily employment. And I didn't mention the untrained Y-for-yappy dogs trailing in their wake. At any hour of the day or night four or five of them (the incumbent tenants and some of their hangers-on) can be seen, and heard, milling around outdoors, each engaged in a cell-phone conversation. Who are these people? Some were observed to have Colorado plates upon arrival; perhaps they're trust-funders fleeing Boulder.

Thursday, October 09, 2003

Correct me if I'm wrong

I just can't bring myself to believe that busy students want to be hunted up (or down) by contemporaries of their parents who happen to be visiting the very town where the younger generation has gone no doubt to escape daily attentions from their parents (or friends of their parents).

Wednesday, October 08, 2003

Still can't find it

Neat heaps are what make for tidy surroundings, but sometimes the heaps become commingled as to their contents. The errant appliance manual is not to be found in the expected heap, although other items of interest are floating up to the surface.

Tuesday, October 07, 2003

Looking for H&H, found Fast Freddy

While trying to learn more about the H&H Ballroom because all of a sudden there are weekly Friday night old-school Tejano bills there, I solved the mystery of Fast Freddy's salons de belleza, courtesy of the Limon family. There can't be all that many chances to hear a great double-booking here in Austin like this one: el Gato Negro and Roberto Pulido, two great shows for the price of one.

Monday, October 06, 2003

Light inventory shrinkage

The City of Austin is missing a streetlight. Or at least it can't find one. Of course, it's Austin Energy, as it likes to call itself, pretending not to be a part of the City of Austin. A City truck forlornly cruises the streets most mornings early, a truck with a bucket crane. This may have been going on now for weeks. The light or cobrahead luminaire that it's probably seeking is on as much as it's off. It may have a faulty ballast or wiring because it behaves in this way every year or so. Somebody always reports it, which is not a good thing to do because, when it's out, the speed of nighttime traffic drops considerably. What's happening must be either that the light's always on when the truck goes by so early or that the crew just plain can't find it. The latter supposition is probably the correct one. The address was probably given as Such-and-such Street and So-and-so Place. There are two luminaires that can be located that way, one a long block away from the other, because the cross street is offset. Eventually the truck will find what it's looking for, but the fix probably won't last all that long.

Sunday, October 05, 2003

Way better than expected

Lost in Translation was a true pleasure. It wasn't at all thin and could have been only a movie and nothng else. I hope that T. has seen it; we'll know when he hits town.

Saturday, October 04, 2003

Basil reader???

So nobody at New York magazine ever heard of a basal reader? And a Google search on "basil reader" elicits five pages of results, including several from school-district sites (or perhaps it should be "sights"? or "cites"?). New York has made a correction for its on-line version, but the original "basil reader" is out there (or should it be "their"? or "they're"?) in cached (or should it be "cashed"?) form. There's nothing wrong with spelling disability; but why do these people become proofreaders and copy editors?

Friday, October 03, 2003

"Chicken Soup" doesn't agree with everybody

The people at "Chicken Soup for the you-fill-in-the-blank Soul" own the chickensoup domain. What an empire has grown over a ten-year period. The October 6 issue of The New Yorker magazine has a great article by Cynthia Gorney called "Chicken Soup Nation." One of the many astonishing aspects of this outfit is that big chunks of it run on material that people submit that, if accepted, makes publication its own reward. For some reason, these Chicken Soup books are thought to be appropriate presents for the elderly. All oldest-generation people in this family are in their nineties or older and they uniformly loathe these books and throw them away at once. If taxpaper money is buying any of these items for the library, then they merit at least a look, since it's for free and this is such a phenomenon.

Thursday, October 02, 2003

Coffee mugs: why?

Okay; so, in the office, they're acceptable. And everybody knows that people who have real jobs that require real work use Thermos bottles. But why would anybody use coffee mugs at home? Will the saucer become extinct? More and more cheap sets of dishes omit that fancy cup-and-saucer option and provide a mug only. I come from a long line of people who prefer coffee in its unadulterated form, but one can't help but wonder: what do the people who use cream or sugar or their odious substitutes do with their spoons? Or are coffee stirrers coming into home use? By the way, a Google on "disappearing saucers" brings up mysterious UFO occurrences.

Wednesday, October 01, 2003

On purpose?

What's the deal with slippery shoelaces? The hint that's usually given for dealing with them is to put some candlewax on them. This is not at all an appealing idea; nor can I believe that it's a solution that works. A search on "slippery shoelaces" surprisingly elicits pages of results. The shoelace becomes a blog topic regularly. Some sites, including ones devoted to walking and also to assistive living, counsel just giving up and either buying all-cotton flat laces or switching to Velcro fasteners for the shoes. There are mentions of the recurring nature of the problem, even when laces are double-knotted. This is the third pair of these shoes bought, but the first with the possessed shoelaces. And then there are trademarked "Lock Laces," with the patented spring-activated locking device. Talk about technology!