Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Toastess with the mostes'?

Toaster ovens don't work for us; neither do pop-up toasters. In the winter we use the broiler for those English muffins. In the summer and without air-conditioning, we usually don't toast things. This summer is different. The Toastess theoretically flips over the item being toasted, when the door is opened. We have not witnessed this flip once. The toaster has an on/off switch. The electric elements are tapes, not those spring coils remembered from early electric toasters. The doors are solid, also, so that, different from  old-fashioned toasters with filigreed doors, this toaster requires opening the door to check progress. One person in the household wanted this item and now that person must toast, toast, toast to justify its purchase.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Vinyl variety

Somehow the turntable was knocked half off its table. Now it's back where it's supposed to be, and it does work. This I know, having tested it by playing The pulse of Tanam: chana raga panchakam (Elektra Nonesuch H-72032)  and Corridos y Rancheras by Los Madrugadores del Valle (Discos Joey 2092-LP). The accordionist plays in the style of Ramon Ayala. The Nonesuch came home from CBS; the Joey was bought at one of three places on Congress Avenue downtown: Woolworth's, Strait Music, or the other music store that used to be there. This is old-style and great, a reminder of the days when there were three conjunto bars on Sixth Street west of IH-35: the Green Spot, the JJJ, and a third one. There was always live music floating out into the air on Sunday afternoons.

Monday, June 28, 2004

Two favorite Texas words, plus Libertad

In Caramelo may be found "urracas" (Texas peacocks, or grackles; written material always says that grackles are zanates, but in Texas they're always urracas) and "canicula." There's also evidence of a fondness for Libertad LaMarque on the part of the author, Sandra Cisneros. Her purple house, evidently, is still purple.

Sunday, June 27, 2004

With the duke of Plaza-Toro

The Gondoliers, this year's production by the Gilbert & Sullivan Society of Austin, was mercilessly panned in the Statesman by some ignorant person. That did not seem to affect turnout. There was another of this season's torrential downpours just before the show was to begin, but the house was quite full nonetheless. The performance space is on the campus of the Texas School for the Deaf. Not long ago, the hall was probably one of the newest buildings; now, it's one of the oldest. The seats allowed for plenty of leg room. The acoustics were not of the best, but they were better than the old Scottish Rite Temple and not much worse than at St. Stephen's School. The set and custumes were professionally done and vey good. There was also professional choreography, which added a great deal of pleasure to the occasion and used the small, raked stage very well. We always love the small pit band. All of the singers were excellent, though we don't care much for the particular quality of one voice, and the acting was excellent also. In these unhappy times, an opportunity to laugh and to be with others who are amused really does brighten the day. It's a sort of miracle that the State has not leased out this beautiful piece of property, as it has leased or sold other pieces of valuable real estate, some held in trust for the people of Texas since the days of the independent Republic.

Saturday, June 26, 2004

A lucky day is on the way

Manuel's was very busy with girls' volleyball teams and the players' mothers and coaches. Maybe that gift certificate is on its way to me. Or maybe that laptop from Chango's is headed in this direction.

Friday, June 25, 2004

Never-ending quest

We bagged some Lana's sweet and sour sauce, unobtainable for almost a year, at least anywhere we looked. This little condiment, made by the local egg-roll people (the mysterious Lana's Enterprises), gets its kick from serrano chiles and plenty of ginger. Fiesta failed us in that it didn't have a Mexican lime-squeezer (they all eventually fall apart where they're joined), but Breed & Co. (the former Everett) hardware did have one, for a not-low price. At least we came home from Fiesta with some Sabroza salsa verde and an armload of gossipy magazines straight from el otro lado.

Thursday, June 24, 2004

At the feed and seed

Time stands still at Buck Moore's Feed and Supply. During some seasons, there are tomato and pepper plants, along with other starts, set outdoors. Inside there are various pet accessories and foods. There's a stock of pottery from East Texas, just like the old Austin Feed & Seed on South Congress used to feature, with pitchers, dog dishes, and crocks of various shapes and sizes, with the traditional blue stripe or two. In fact, the entire place is quite reminiscent of the old store, now occupied by Guero's in its second incarnation. The old store used to have chicks and rabbits, also. Buck Moore's has some bulk seed, though not in such quantities as there were on South Congress. There's quite a variety of Lone Star seed packets (look at the bottom of the linked page in order to see some of the packet designs using the old chromolithograph plates or some version of them), set out in an old wooden rack. One of the great things about the information on the back of the packets is that it's usually both in English and Spanish, but the information, although the versions never conflict, don't convey the same facts and suggestions at all. In days gone by, there was usually information in German, also, which now survives only in that there's usually a German name on the packet for whatever flower or vegetable seeds are within. For the fall season, what was recently $.95 now costs $1.05. Buck Moore's has two Dayton scales, one a balance-beam model and the other one of those white-enamel items with the cylindrical display up above the weigh plate. There's also a veyr large old-style mechanical cash register, and a pre-WWII comptometer, brand unknown. All of these are in good working order. We stocked up on seeds.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Hoy llega el sol

La Fiebre has a CD out called Reunidos, which has a very sweet Spanish-language version of "Here Comes the Sun," with a mild cumbia beat. It's got old-school synth stuff, but it's really quite nice, despite the trappings. El Rey doesn't fare as well; synth stuff and a cumbia beat just don't cut it for this!

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

With bleary eyes

Also screened at the Escapist Home Film Fest were yet more K. selections to distract the immobilized. The Princess Comes Across (on an ocean liner, that is) stars Carole Lombard (she of the bulging forehead) and Fred McMurray (who has always reminded me of Richard M. Nixon). I'd classified this as a very labored grade Z but still enjoy the 1936 atmosphere. Tight Spot, very obviously from a play (confirmed, when the credits rolled: Dead Pigeon), is reported to be later than one would have thought (1954). Ginger Rogers was very good, as were Edward G. Robinson and Brian Keith. This is not my favorite period, but this b&w is much better than one would expect. Fashion warning: it's the era of shirtwaists and petticoats; even the women's prison garb is wasp-waisted; the men are still wearing felt hats. And then there was the creepy, over-the-top with plot twists Wild Things. Every actor in it is very evidently having a great time chewing the scenery, which is Floridian, by the way.

Monday, June 21, 2004


An immobilized person must be Vulcanized. For the person without cable television, once the telenovela has been watched, there's nothing else left for the viewing pleasure of the person unable to hold up a book or magazine. If Vulcan Video doesn't have it, then we won't be seeing it. The first was a crummy Tai Seng badly cut Jet Li that may have been called The Assassin King or Killer Angel or something along those lines. We've seen at least parts of it in one version or another, because we remember all the business with the old man and the wheelbarrow, the elevator shaft, and the villain (Paul Rapovski) with the blinding ring and shoe. Eric Tsang was in it; a younger Eric was in the Lucky Stars movie that we saw. This Lucky Stars had some brief Jackie Chan scenes; beyond that it was all Sammo's. Sammo Hung directed, starred in, and co-wrote Close Encounters of the Spooky Kind. This was a beautiful print and very, very funny, with inventive fights and stunts and a wondrous fairy-tale quality. One of my favorite scenes in it was the hopping mummy. K. loved the dueling fraternal wizards. Yuen Biao was in this and the Lucky Stars movie also.

Sunday, June 20, 2004

They don't know beans about beans

Thanks to the ignorance of some who frequent the South Austin organic farmers' market, even if we arrive late, we make off with armloads of the most delicious wax beans in the world. The person selling them says that people reject them, asking him why he picks them before they're ripe! They are blemish-free, sweet, and crisp-tender. These may even be better than the ones we used to grow. We keep forgetting to ask which variety these are. We grew at least three, but the only ones I can remember are Pencil Pod and Brittle Wax. Green bush beans are wonderful, but yellow wax beans taste even better!

Saturday, June 19, 2004

Drumlines in Austin

It's a beautiful day for a Juneteenth parade. The shady side of the street was the most densely populated. The bands were wonderful: two from Beaumont, one from Louisiana, one from Hearne, one from Forth Worth, one from Houston. The mayor and the city manager rode in one car. Carole Keeton McClellan Rylander Strayhorn followed the two color guards, one military and one made of up G.A.R. re-enactors. Last night's battle of the bands and drumline competition was named in honor of Alvin Patterson, who single-handedly founded the old L. C. Anderson high school band. One of the more amazing sights was that of Stanley Knee, Austin's police chief, walking along the route and handing out candy to children. It's sad to see all the empty lots where houses once stood, with sidewalks leading to no front door. Where we were standing, there was an old-fashioned cream-colored oleander in bloom, just like ours.

Friday, June 18, 2004

Beanstalks and clothespoles

Turn your back and it grows while you're not looking. We're training hyacinth beans to grow up nylon netting to drape over an old T-bar clothes pole. The seeds for dolichos lablab are beautiful to look at, and they always germinate. Something about the plant is extremely attractive to pests, though, so many do not survive. We're still enjoying one larkspur plant, black-eyed susans, nasturtiums, thunbergia, coreopsis, and an astonishing number of blooming Drummond phlox plants, but right now what we go out to check every day is the progress of hyacinth beans.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

Hooked on three farandula mags

Junky gossip publications on show business are now regularly read in this household: Mira, TVnotas, and TV y Novelas (the latter is a house publication for Univision, pretty much). Patricia Manterola must have a blacksmith relative; every piece of furniture in her Miami Beach house appears to use some wrought iron, which, apart from furniture, appears everywhere throughout the house in ornamental and useful guise. This information is sure to be useful sometime.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004


K. is already nearly done with rereading (again) The Prime Minister. Lately, there have been lots of quotes in print from the Palliser novels, related to aspects of politics these days. Something that Mr. Bonteen said was even quoted. We had fun looking up "guano" in the Chambers's Encyclopaedia that was issued in a succession of volumes beginning with the first, in 1859, and continuing into the 1860's. There's even a guano domain. The boards on our copy have this marble design, but much more worn. These 10 original volumes we bought for a quarter apiece long ago. No matter how much we use them, they always release the nostalgic smell of woodsmoke when taken down from the shelf.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004


We've been sending lots of business the way of the cab companies. Drivers so far have included a middle-aged hill guy with ten acres outside Elgin, a tough Latina of a certain age, a perpetual student who has spent time in Taiwan, a guy who had recently negotiated a great fare deal from his perspective for a ride to Houston, and many, many more. K. went off without his required referral document on one of these jaunts. Luckily there was someone around to notice the left-behind item, someone who ascertained the fax number and persuaded the person at the other end of the telephone line that a facsimile is as good as an original in such cases, and someone who can operate MightyFax in conjunction with the ancient scanner, which does not always initialize. MightyFax may once have been free; then it was very, very cheap. It has been a lifesaver many, many times.

Monday, June 14, 2004

Mujer de madera

When there's time and when the mood strikes, we'll be watching "Mujer de madera." The male stars so far are pretty blah, but K. has a soft spot for Adamari Lopez. One of the main elements of the plot seems to be that everybody who's supposedly dead (and they are legion) is really secretly alive. Most of the people playing juveniles are at least 10 or 15 years too old, but maybe this will turn out to be one of those multi-year epics. Maria Sorte is wasted as the cocinera.

Sunday, June 13, 2004

Ray Charles isn't forgotten in Austin

KAZI on Friday was off the air during the time that the Breakfast Club would have been heard. Paul Ray on KUT didn't disappoint and played many tracks not heard for years. KVET Saturday morning played plenty of Ray. KOOP's Saturday-morning jazz show, which usually plays much earlier stuff, played lots of Ray. Sunday Mojo Time on KOOP played another batch of the seldom heard. There probably haven't been so many worn-out tracks and so many hissing vinyl items broadcast in a long time. It was wonderful to hear so much big-band and all-instrumental stuff. It had been many years since I'd heard the Ray Charles version of "It Makes No Difference Now." Recorded music always sounds its most real over the radio (ideally on the road) or on a jukebox. We'll never forget hearing Floyd Tillman sing that song and accompany himself down at the Paramount.

Saturday, June 12, 2004

Cedric entertained

Johnson Family Vacation had its moments. The audience at the Wells Branch dollar movies was full of kids, who enjoyed every minute. The alligator, the Bun Place, and Uncle Earl were among the best parts. Steve Harvey had a nothing, straight-man role, and Vanessa Williams was a good sport. We had gone intending to see Starsky and Hutch but would have had to walk in late. Even if the arrival is late, it's better to take the shaded, eastside back streets than to be on the major ways to get there.

Friday, June 11, 2004

Justifying the existence of the electric piano

What'd I Say must be on anybody's list of the top five songs that every successful cover band is required to know. (A couple of others that spring to mind are Oop-boop-a-do and Walkin' the Dog.) I wonder whether anybody has ever compiled a list of every one of the Raelettes. He said that his vocal influences were Nat Cole and Charles Brown. This site claims to offer 20 hits in a continuous stream, courtesy of Rhino Records, but it's overloaded today. The Rhino direct stream works. B. owned all the Atlantic and all the early ABC Paramount albums. It's a shame that KAZI was off the air this morning (probably because of the storms) and so the Breakfast Club wasn't available. The guys would have had plenty to say on plenty of topics, including this one and the stuff going on in D.C. Maybe next week. In the meantime, maybe Paul Ray will give us a Twine Time that's all Ray Charles.

Thursday, June 10, 2004

Return of female mobile-home dweller

Trailer Park Girl has been missing but has now returned. Whew! Some were beginning to think that the absence might be permanent. There are not so many South Austin weblogs out there that any can be spared, all apart from the fact that this is one of those interesting 78704-type blogs and one that hasn't gone to the format of displaying just one or two lines per entry and then requiring dial-up folks to jump to another page to see the rest.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Playing hooky

Gadding about, we renewed library books at Cepeda, bought watermelon from a pickup on Pleasant Valley, voted at the Riverside ACC campus, and went to a movie. The grower had both seeded and seedless varieties. It's K.'s theory that the ones with seeds have more flavor. The Ruiz library was just as busy as Cepeda. There was a sort of break in the weather, so a few people were out on the golf course, which once belonged to the Austin Country Club. We hadn't been all the way out to the campus since it was being built. The old golf-course clubhouse is dwarfed by the ACC buildings. The election judges said that the weather had knocked down all the direction signs. We really had a look around a lot to find where to vote. Kill Bill: Vol. 2 wasn't as good as Vol. 1. The best segments were with the old martial-arts sensei, in the trailer, and involving Michael Madsen. Uma Thurman's not-pretty feet took the foreground again in a couple of scenes. Carradine was excruciating: "Schufferin' Schuccotash!"

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Illumination restored

In the wake of the power outage, the ladder's been getting plenty of use. Several light bulbs burned out, either as the power went out or when it was restored. We don't dare put anything stronger than 40 or 60 watts in most of these fixtures. Luckily, except for a couple of freebie, cheapo, battery-powered alarm clocks, timekeeping devices around the house are wind-up; and there are no devices containing a clock.

Monday, June 07, 2004

Installation success

The little cheapo camera has been installed successfully, no mean trick with an ancient version of Windows and a sketchy instruction manual. The Concord Eye-Q mini-camera is hooked up, the driver actually has been found, the device is recognized, and the photographs are transferred, almost instantaneously. This little item mimics a much more expensive Canon model. It has no flash and no display, and it's "focus-free," as the promotional material announces. Without a flash, indoor photographs require a lot of natural light, because artificial light results in a photograph lying mostly in the red and yellow parts of the spectrum. Color quality is really not bad, and the fuzzy effect of low resolution is appealing for some subjects. The greatest thing about this camera is its cheapness, size, and ease of use. It fits in a pocket and has just two controls: one to turn it on and one to press to take the picture. Surprisingly, it activates quickly. This will do just fine while better cameras become cheaper and cheaper.

Sunday, June 06, 2004

"90% of the time it's squirrels"

That was the word from the grizzled veteran of "Austin Energy," as the City-owned utility department is now pleased to call itself. He appeared not five minutes after the call. We had heard a series of seven loud pops before the power went out completely. I thought it was a neighbor bouncing from one level of the roof to another, having tripped over the cord of the whining electric leaf blower that had been in use all day. K. had thought it was gunshots. B. hadn't really heard the noise, but had just noticed the dimming. The outage seemed to affect just seven households, including the house up the hill built around an oak tree where we once lived. Luckily, the transformer was back in action in practically no time. B. had activated his air-conditioning for the season just the day before, so he wasn't going to suffer, and we don't have air-conditioning at any time, but all those farther up the hill were very unhappy. It was wonderful to have power restored because we had just stocked up the fridge for the week.

Saturday, June 05, 2004

Tiny little tents

At Target in search of a new screen pavilion and those cheap generic razor blades, we found miniature Coleman tents set up in the camping aisle. They seemed to be perfect in scale and detail. They should be sold as toys. We didn't escape without buying a very chinzty, although cheap, oscillating floor fan and a 21-dollar digital camera with no flash and low, low resolution. This marks the major consumer outbreak in at least the past six months.

Friday, June 04, 2004

Not the "Mexican War" but Pershing's expedition

It was always referred to as the Mexican War, but it was really the Pershing expedition or the Mexican border incursion, as far a quick search on the Internet reveals. Because of the humidity, the drawer was sticking, so it wasn't possible to scan in any of the military memorabilia from my father, among which are photographic post cards and camp photographs from the punitive expedition. As I recall from the last time they were examined, they have to do with patrolling the border in Texas. I did find some interesting photographic identification from the Great War, permitting admission to the New York port of embarcation (really in Hoboken) and to the Brooklyn Army piers. There's at least one photograph showing a steam locomotive being loaded for shipment. We'd been talking about parades and wreaths, both for graves and to set afloat on the water.

Thursday, June 03, 2004

Modern vacuum technology and alabaster

Upon stopping by the house, we found a Dig-N-Vac and a truck from Miller Pipeline. The slip of paper stuck in the screen door reports that this work is on behalf of Texas Gas (better known, still, as Southern Union), to provide "maintenance and a safer product." In some cases, the ultrasound locator devices don't seem to be all that accurate in finding the T-cap or T-joint, or whatever it is, leading from the street to the meter. In some places, two or three potholes have been excavated quite close together. One supposes that eventually all will be backfilled, but in the meantime there are circular raised metal plates, held by two bolts, that sit quite high above normal pavement level. Alabaster is the theme of the thirty-seventh anniversary. The day was spent "undimmed by human tears" or any other kind, at least around here.

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

A new five-foot shelf

In our house were some of the original Harvard Classics and all of the Harvard Classics Shelf of Fiction. I first read Tom Jones from two volumes in this set. The bindings of these volumes were a very distinctive shade of blue, and the illustrations are something I'd like to know more about now, but I haven't seen any of these for years. Now there's a project, "The New Five Foot Shelf."

Tuesday, June 01, 2004


I put on a Chelo Silva album of rancheras and picked up the Chronicle. In it, there was an article on the Texas Music Museum and its current exhibit featuring Tejana singers, with particular mention of Chelo Silva. The album is a compilation from Mexico, exitos rancheros, Discos Musart, date unknown, with no information about the various conjunto, mariachi, and orquesta accompaniments. The arrangements sound like they're from the late 'fifties or very early 'sixties.