Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Still can't open these

These came from the Winns variety store that used to be in the Twin Oaks shopping center at Oltorf and Congress, gone since 1990 or so and still very much missed. The price was 85 cents. Needing a brush of a certain sort for tempera poster paints, I went digging around, but, apart from some water-color brushes, these are all that are to be found. They're smaller than I remembered them to be and still too pretty to open and use. Intense, handsome colors are used for the paint on the handles. The card bears letterpress printing front and back. There's a grommet at the top for hanging the item from a nail for display. Using one piece of white thread, with the two ends hand-knotted together on the back, these brushes are sewn to the card, held at the non-working end of the ferrule and about three quarters of the way toward the end of the handle. The sans-serif type face employed for all but the "DO IT YOURSELF" UTILITY BRUSH heading has a 'Thirties or 'Forties feel. The origin is Japan.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

For music, not hair

Whether the Tonette home permanent for children still endures, I don't know; the Tonette recorder-like plastic musical instrument still does, and deservedly so. The permanent produced discomfort and ugly frizz for thousands; the musical instrument has always been a source of enjoyment and even reasonably decent sound. The decal is courtesy of Woolworth; the green streak is where the Tonette merged body and soul with a green rubber band. There's always some confusion between the Tonette and the Flutophone. This is really a Flutophone. Is a Flutophone perhaps one kind of Tonette? I think that a Flutophone is taller and thinner than a Tonette. Hohner now seems to be the source for Flutophones. Was it always? Still available at under four dollars and sometimes under three. What a bargain for so many hours of fun! I see that my green Melodica (the cheapest sort) is still manufactured.

Monday, August 29, 2005


This case looks like new and still contains its Hohner Echo harmonica. Accompanying it is an instructional booklet by Sigmund Spaeth (printed price of the booklet is 35 cents). Other than technical illustrations, this booklet contains a comical illustration of a guy and a gal of the era with a giant harmonica held up before the two of them. Oddly, there's very little up on the Internet about Sigmund Spaeth, who was quite prominent in his day as a sort of popular musicologist. I can remember hearing him on the radio, perhaps as a panel-member on the Metropolitan Opera quiz.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Redemption predicts demise

On La Madrastra it was easy to guess that the slimy Carlitos was about to bite the dust, as indeed he did, in defense of the father of whom he was so long ashamed. Now Ana Rosa will probably meet an untimely end as well, just as she has straightened up and found true love. There aren't many modern narratives that follow such a pre-ordained plot trajectory.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Pax vobiscum

This is a button from a certain long-ago event in Washington, found in a search for something else altogether.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Stripped and striped

At this rate the fig tree and the redbuds soon will be leafless. More attention should have been paid to watering them. There are zebra longwings about for the first time all summer. We're just longing for the end of la canícula.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Mirabile dictu

We saw just a short segment of the KRLU fundraiser tonight, tied in with Ralph Emory. The wonder was that Kris Kristofferson sang on pitch, perhaps for the first time ever, and on two songs! Billy Joe Shaver and Willie Nelson were on and, in the background, we could see Sammy Allred, but didn't watch long enough to see whether he was credited or played the mandolin or anything. The revelation was Gene Watson, who used to come through here all the time, but we never went to hear him. Now we certainly would. I like it that his current tour dates include an event called The Smoked Meat Festival. Just as was the case the prior evening, when we did more or less the same thing, it was all pretty much a come-on for sales of video recordings. The production the night before was a peculiar selection of Motown artists. For the Miracles there was an unnamed Smokey stand-in and another substitute. The Miracles From the Beginning is just about grooveless after all these years and so is the Tempts album so full of songs penned by Smokey. That's my favorite era, with Claudette, but others argue for the later, smoother stuff.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Skewed survey

People are justified in being skeptical about the City of Austin neighborhood-planning process. There was a survey answered by just 109 people. The reported results do include some of the responses from this household; others are not included at all. Because some comments and responses are recorded, one can only conclude the others were deliberately omitted. Accuracy is not to be expected, if one is to draw conclusions from the documents furnished (and not furnished) in response to public information requests (still called open records requests by many, although the official terminology has changed). It would be easy, were one to have the time and the determination, to set oneself up as a general gadfly to follow some of these matters.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Resin and non-ferrous metals

In the September 2005 Harper's Magazine, not yet on line, is an excerpt from a piece published in the 2004 Sewanee Review (not found on line, but perhaps available via a library database). Anwar F. Accawi writes about the arrival of canned goods and of articles made of plastic and how they changed the Lebanese community in which he grew up. The library does own The Boy From the Tower of the Moon (call number 956.9204309 Ac). Cans constituted the village's first trash-disposal problem. Items of plastic brought with them entirely different ways of doing things. I can't drink milk these days myself because I can taste the containers. This was not true of glass or of waxed-paper containers, and the taste imparted by plastic-lined cartons was not so off-putting as what the newer plastic containers throw off.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Phenom of the age

We've been seeing commercials for telenovela DVDs, some for ones recently ended, and some going as far back as La Usupadora. Today's WSJ notes, in an article entitled "'Telenovelas' Become A Vibrant New Niche In the DVD Market," that, whereas predicted DVD best-sellers have been anything but, novelas have been doing very well indeed. Apparently, they're sold in many Wal-Mart, Target, and Best Buy stores. They're reported to have English subtitles. They are definitely re-edited and abridged, which is not true to the generous and discursive treatment of plot and subplot elements. If a standard novela has 150 one-hour episodes and a very successful one may go on and on and on, I wonder what gets cut.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

A new necessity

Since Manhattan lime paletas from San Antonio have vanished, apparently forever, it now becomes necessary to head for indie Pop at least once a week for a small key lime Italian ice (sorbetto), cold and tart and true in flavor. Some try a new flavor every week; others remain in the limon zone.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Looking up instead of across

Even though our preferred seats were not on sale, so that we couldn't watch at the level of the aerial performers, we did decide to go to the circus anyhow. And we're glad that we did. For the first time, following the practice of Mexican circuses, there was a photo opportunity for kids, and the backdrop was very fine indeed, involving the forms of two tigers. This was very popular. The Barnum & Bailey site claims that it will be impossible to explain the upside-down act way up high, and it certainly mystifies everybody, including us. There was a wonderful troupe of very young female acrobats from mainland China, and there must have been promotions directed toward the Asian community, because many, many of its members turned out for the show. Just as the opera is a bargain, so is the circus. And good binoculars add to the pleasure of both.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Kinksters surprise

Which people are collecting petition signatures in the attempt to place Kinky Friedman's name on the ballot is one of the more interesting aspects of the campaign. It appears that there are as many Libertarians as Democrats as Republicans. Most people don't realize how limited are the powers of the governor in Texas. The petition documents make it clear that a good petition signature is from a voter who shuns the primaries. And that's the tough part of the campaign. The most recent New Yorker, the one containing no ads but Target's throughout, has a little piece on the Kinky campaign. The writer seems bemused.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Ornamentality high, functionality low

The H-E-B grand tour took us to the Allandale branch, where the average age of the shoppers generally is not low. Nevertheless, there was quite a display of back-to-school items, including products branded Foohy: "Unleash your Foohy! Release your inner Foohy!" This is another guise of the Sanford Sharpie people, Sanford itself being a division of Newell Rubbermaid. It was all too much to resist. We still haven't tried the secret writing markers or the pseudo-airbrush ones, but we did find that the pencil-sharpener was not everything it could be. It does, however, make a decent paperweight and the LavaLamp feature is a great conversation-starter. Its hourglass shape just begs people to flip it over, to begin the Lava action anew.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Spinning wheels

There are those who don't like fancy ornamental wheel covers, and they reserve special detestation for spinners. There are even some jurisdictions that claim they constitute some sort of safety hazard and therefore seek to ban them. What nonsense! I think that the impulse to install them is very much akin to the one that leads kids to thread crepe paper through the spokes of their bicycles and to attach baseball cards with clothespins to make a noise when the spokes pass the card. The cheapest wheel covers are held in place with springs and bounce out sometimes when the vehicle to which they're attached hits a rough spot wrong. Are squirrel tails on the handlebars very different from welded chain-link surrounds for license plates or even made into a substitute for a steering wheel? There are spinners for trucks and also, of course, for bikes. People usually return to retrieve their bounced-out covers, but the one completely abandoned graces our gate and is very ornamental there, too.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005


The August Vanity Fair contains a list of VF's "greatest films of all time." Here are the ones yet and never to be seen: Dumbo, both Godfather movies, Jaws, and Toy Story. Jaws and the Godfather movies hogged countless screens for months at a time. This list of movies is a lot like "classical lite" music, the equivalent of the Blue Danube Waltz multiplied fifty times. And I've never seen the Wizard of Oz in its entirety at one time, merely bits on television, and never in color. I like the music but not the movie. There's nothing wrong with the movies on the list or with the Blue Danube, but there are lots of other potential selections out there.

Monday, August 15, 2005


The spider, name unknown, is large and builds a correspondingly large web, characterized by an extra-thick zig-zag ladderlike vertical feature in or near the center. This morning a gulf fritillary had been trammeled in the web, which had been constructed in the midst of the passionvine. The butterfly was already dead when observed. This evening the butterfly was gone and the spider was there. We have so many fritillaries and not quite so many pipevine swallowtails right now.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Others must be doing the same

Scattered about, in this drawer and that one, are a great many of those simulacra of credit cards, enough to make quite a stack. Nobody's been throwing them out, and they now make quite a collection of phony MasterCard, VISA, and Discovery cards, plus green, gold, and platinum American Express cards. There are GEICO promotion cards of the same size, also, along with cards to be presented for discounts at various establishments. Since they take up so little space, they're not going to be trashed this time around. Somewhere there's someone building a giant collection of these things.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Lard and adhesive

Whatever glue goes into glue guns must last approximately a decade and a half in a house without air-conditioning. When I picked up the basket to dust it, a couple of the pointsettias fell off and the rest came off with a small tug. So did the dyed weeds, the paper doilies, and the red-and-green plaid taffeta ribbon wrapped around the handle. This is a good and sturdy basket, of a very generous size. It came to me decorated for Christmas and filled with polvorones de canela. Thanks to Armida's bountiful baking and generosity that basket was filled and refilled and filled yet again. There is nothing like these cookies when made with home-rendered lard for shortening and with very fresh cinnamon freshly ground. The cookies are not at all sweet, but the memories are. Whenever I look at that basket I'm reminded of those cookies and those times and those people.

Friday, August 12, 2005

They won't give us our seats

When the circus comes to Austin, we like to sit where we're at a level with the aerial performers and can also see the band. That means an upper level. This year, the box office says that no seats will be sold there until the bottom levels are filled. The bottom levels are never filled for the performance that we like. This is a David Larible year, so it's a good guess that it's a circus requirement, so as to provide as many audience participants as handily as possible for his performances. So we haven't decided whether we'll attend or not.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Staving off boredom, part two

Again, when imprisoned against one's will in a boring place where it's not acceptable to read or even appear to be taking notes, another thing that helps (besides mentally designing custom postage) is to try to think of a one- or two-word domain name that someone else hasn't already registered. Thinking of good Austin-related names is one category; anyone can think of others.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Staving off boredom

On those occasions when the captive is not permitted to read or write, it helps to consider designs for custom postage stamps from or Zazzle.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

How the punters and railbirds got there

In 1962, the flights were mostly Mohawk; the closest air destinations were Albany and Glens Falls. The train from Manhattan left Grand Central at 9 in the morning, then departed from Albany at one minute after noon, to arrive at Saratoga Springs at 12:54. There was a special track flight, requiring reservations, for just two of the biggest race days in 1962, leaving Idlewild (as it was then) at 11 in the morning, to arrive at Albany at 12 noon, taking passengers by bus to the track. All this and the return journey cost $20.63, including tax.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Tout sheet

This is the Lawton tip sheet from the Saratoga race meeting of 1962, for the fifteenth day of racing, way back when it did not begin before August. My favorite names from the day are Winter Squash and Cut Bait. Of all the thoroughbreds running that day, I think that Rao Raja is the best remembered. I really hate it that announcers talk about first, second, and third instead of about win, place, and show.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Modern material culture, division of frozen treats

This little cup is from Indie Pop on South Lamar. It's made in Italy. The tiny little cross between a spoon and an ice-cream spade is also from Indie Pop. It says "ALCAS 15" on it. The cup may possibly say "Alcas" in script. K. reported his pistachio cold confection to be delicious, and my own lime sorbetto, natural in color and intense and tart in flavor, will draw us back. The garden out back is ingenious and pretty, and it was also a treat to hear Rod Moag and three other musicians playing informally inside the establishment. One of the musicians was the father of the young woman working behind the counter.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Placing that product

Motor-vehicle tie-ins have always been evident in the telenovelas. In La Madrastra, lately, nearly everybody has been glugging Coca-Cola straight from the bottle at every opportunity. The newly-wed Angel and Alma were sitting down to one of their first home meals when she said to him something to the effect that the food would taste better with these refrescos. I don't find that anyone has remarked on this. All action seems to come to a halt while people down their Cokes.

Between silent and boom

So, if the Silent Generation was born in the years 1925 through 1942, and the Baby Boomers were born in the years 1946 through 1960, is everybody born in the years 1943 through 1945 a War Baby? And does the demographic cohort born before the Silent Generation have a nickname? And don't say it's "The Greatest Generation"! The links come from a schlocky site with "ThinkQuest" in the name.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Why there's not more fuss

The inspection of one out of five subway carry-on items has just caused the filing of a lawsuit. Here are my guesses about why people haven't complained more than they have, even though New Yorkers are expert as dashing and weaving in dense pedestrian traffic and hate to lose even a second. Most luggage is probably actually student backpack stuff, and kids don't complain as much. Other people carry shoes, knitting, and reading material. Shoes can be left at the office or else carried in an open-top tote bag for a quick look. There's no guessing what's done about knitting needles and crochet hooks, in view of what people report concerning air travel. Are they really inspecting hand-carried newspapers and books? Most people, male and female, can carry all in a pocket. That, of course, doesn't help those with babies and diaper bags. Surprisingly few people carry briefcases or briefcase equivalents. All can be done via cell-phone and computer synchronization, so, except for students (again, the young-person thing), most people don't transport laptops. I read everything I see about inspections in NYC, but there's not as much written as I thought there'd be. I do think it's understandable to do a lot of inspecting of people coming over from Jersey on the PATH system!

Wednesday, August 03, 2005


This is the modern physical and spiritual discipline of the day, stooping down and individually picking up leaves, one at a time. Of course, the fact that they're loquat leaves, as large as tobacco leaves, practically large enough to shelter an entire family, means that this is not a discipline of fine discrimination. How many loquat leaves does it take to fill a yard-waste bag or a compost pile? Not many. We'd never choose to plant loquats, but we don't get rid of them, either. The honeybees flock to them in the fall when other sources of nectar are not plentiful. If these leaves are left on the ground, they curl up and can hold enough liquid to constitute a demi-tasse of coffee or to engender flocks and flocks of mosquitoes.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Wood's, Woods, and the new weekly journal of defiance

In the second volume of the Library of America publication of selected short stories by Edith Wharton, being read courtesy of the library, is mentioned the imaginary Zig-zag, touting itself as "The Weekly Journal of Defiance" (Writing a War Story). It must be that in the past, using libraries with real collections, I had read all these stories, because not one seems to be new, and the collection omits a remembered favorite or two. I liked the imaginary town of Onondaigua and some of the titles of imaginary novels, poems, and volumes of poetry mentioned in these stories. A couple of errata have been noted. An oddity that is not an erratum is mention of the biological laboratory at "Wood's Holl." This must be what's now called Woods Hole. The first word is different because of modern government policies concerning possessives in place names, but I don't know what accounts for the old usage of "Holl," found in so many 19-century sources. One theory contends that it's Norse for "hill." This is a brief history.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Cryptic clues for a good cause

Save October 1 for the Austin Found clue hunt to benefit Austin's schools. Registration begins any day now, so keep checking the site. Austin used to be included among cities taking place in a similar event. Now Austin's going it alone, for Austin only. This is a purely volunteer effort, though corporate help is always welcome. It's starting late and October's a really busy month, but this should all be lots of fun and a great way to meet the people who know their Austin, not people who know South Waco or North San Marcos or the confines of Westlake Hills.