Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Decline and fall

Since it's all but impossible to find the necessary forms and publications around town and there's no inclination here to invest time and effort in downloading and printing, a mail order was placed for IRS information. We used to get forms from the library, but now the process involves paying for photocopies, even if a desk is staffed and there's someone who knows the location of the materials. The barebones booklet mailed by the IRS doesn't even list many of the relevant forms; for this, it is necessary to go line. It's astonishing that the IRS no longer uses its quasi-governmental relative, the USPS; no; the fat brown envelope was delivered by UPS.

Monday, January 30, 2006

"Magic perfume fills the air"

Okay; so we're not On Broadway, but there's magic perfume all the same. Despite some over-warm days and some rain, the two clumps of dumped paperwhites continue to bloom, now joined by the first of the Montopolis and Bastrop narcissi, the former with blunt-ended wide perianths and the latter with narrower, longer perianths. The former have pale yellow bubble cups, almost half a sphere; the cups of the latter are smaller and more yellow, with a bit of crinkle. Potted nasturtiums now in bloom are pale moon yellow and profuse. What lettuce and peas have survived nibbling by creatures are highly ornamental.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Blues vinyl on the horizon

Blue Horizon album "This One's a Good'un" has come to the turntable. Blue Horizon 7-63222 has 'fifties tracks recorded for Cobra. There are some alternate takes. Joining Otis Rush is Willie Dixon most of the time. The liner notes are dismissive of some tracks, including "Violent Love," a favorite here. This material is out on CD with the same tracks, although in different order. It's not the words, but the music, plus the fabulous sax solo by Harold Ashby, that make "Violent Love" a favorite; I like the words for "If You Were Mine" and "I Can't Quit You Babe." Side two gets played more, and this one has never gone out of rotation here, despite the fact that it's mono (and may never have been issued remastered in stereo). Many of the bands here in Austin have always seemed to be very familiar with this material, either from this album or from Cobra 45s, right down to specific riffs. There's a view of the cover at this site.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Neato gadget

It's called an iSlice and I'm glad that somebody gave it to me. Apparently it's being sold imprinted as a promotional item, billed as a "CD opener and sheet cutter." It's said to be acceptable to airline screeners. It's magnetic so it'll stick to a fridge or a file cabinet. Elsewhere it's shown along with a sister device billed as an EnvelOpener, with the boast that it "lasts forever" and "cuts only the envelope, never your hand." In the Levenger catalogue that came today there's another such device, under another name, perhaps just something like "ceramic cutter." I'm told that mine came from Home Trends. I look forward to receiving this catalogue now that I'm probably on the mailing list.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Trees down

Gone is the Christmas tree. It still smells good and it's still green but it's brittle and now outdoors. Watering has been stopped for a week or so in order to have a lighter object to remove. Thank you, Rudolph's! And Mrs. H's old tree has been taken down. She was first our neighbor on one side and then our neighbor on the other side. We moved from one house to another on the same block on the same side of the street. She used to tie her little "Benjie" dogs to a low limb of that tree while she held the garden hose and talked to passers-by. She sported stockings rolled down to her ankles and very henna'ed flaming-red hair and was out there minding everybody's business until well past her ninetieth year of age and even after that was a backyard person there for the longest time until relatives stepped in. She once owned and ran a downtown cafe. We have enjoyed both households of successors but something of her spirit has now departed with the felling of that tree. Her pomegranate and her vitex and her nandina and one of her loquats are still there; so are a few of her oxblood lillies and leucojums. And just now I saw (and heard) my first stump-grinder. Stump-grinding was offered when one of our pecans leaning way off plumb was felled, but we've never wanted to disturb all those creatures who live amidst the roots. I hope never again to enjoy so close an encounter with a stump-grinder in this earthly existence, thank you very much.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Trio of contentment

A happy state it is to be "content with hips and haws and bramble-berry." This bit by Devereaux is something I don't want to misplace. Perhaps it's in one of the nineteenth-century anthologies around here. Or was the Queen's favorite too bad a man to be collected by the Victorians?

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Three goats on a label

When I wrote about this label, I should have put in, for the sake of the search-engines, some text to help seekers find Heng Num Tong Three Goats Brand Ceylon Best Tea, the text on the label. Let no person think that this has been on the shelves since the days when Sri Lanka was officially Ceylon, or before sometime in 1972. I'm writing this because I dreamed about the Temple of the Tooth (and let's have no Freudian interpretations!) last night, which is depicted on one of my favorite issues of postage stamps. I hope some day to visit the island, perhaps combined with an extended tour of the subcontinent. Leonard Woolf's memoirs are set partly in Ceylon, where he was stationed as part of the British colonial administration. These volumes have probably long since been cleared from the shelves of the library under the deaccessioning policy.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Chronicle of a delivery foretold

We've all had the experience of being required to do something at work for which the resources are not available. When it's do or die, the desperate go into hock to acquire what's missing. It's worst of all when what's needed cannot be acquired locally at short notice at any price. Even with shipping expedited to the maximum and even with blessed Internet tracking of the shipment making its way to its destination, the suspense of awaiting receipt just adds to the stress. Imagine what one feels to hear the delivery truck, fling open the door, and witness the delivery-person stub a toe and lay out horizontally in mid-air, clutching a crucial carton with a grip of steel while attempting to come aright again. All was well, but we were both ashen, the signature tablet and the signing stylus each being held by a trembling hand. Whew!

Monday, January 23, 2006

Lime index sets record

Those who like their margaritas freshly made and with a full quota of the essential newly squeezed juice of the lime are not happy this week. Even at H-E-B, where limes are most often cheapest per ounce of juice, the index was at four limes to a dollar. Individually, they've been upwards of 67 cents at the more expensive grocery outfits. City Market on the east side sometimes has bargains but we didn't get over that way during the weekend.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Noted in passing

There's an extended and very effusive feature in today's edition of the local daily entitled "Long Center director has deep Texas roots, wide-open personality: Cliff Redd is an extreme extrovert, which has helped this native Texan raise more than $15 million for the under-construction performing arts center" in the on-line version and "Long on energy: Cliff Redd, the man orchestrating the Long Center development, has enthusiasm--and a Midas touch" in print (reported by Jeanne Claire van Ryzin). It goes on and on and gets more and more purple. My favorite bit is, "Although Inglis earned his wings as a pilot, he opted to ascend the business ladder, eventually becoming president of corporate conglomerate Gulf & Western and jettisoning the family into a higher socio-economic class [emphasis supplied]." Okay; anybody will concede that this is an informative article, but "jettisoning the family"? Whew!

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Bought for the label

This tea used to be found at Kash-Karry. It just jumped out at the passer-by. It wasn't bad tea but it's not to be found these days. This is a label from the last package that was bought. The effect is of nineteenth-century chromolithographs, with all the clarity and brightness. Who knows but perhaps this was printed from a plate of just that sort. The paper is coated and fairly glossy.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Blues vinyl

In the course of making a start at organizing the albums occupying shelf space in an unorganized way, I've listened to what I've found on the Scout label (parts 1 and 2) and now I'm trying to get all the Blue Horizon stuff in one place. Roosevelt Sykes (Blue Horizon 7-63201) does a great unadorned bendy-voiced thing and bendy notes on the guitar. This album has a great many standards on it. Two favorites are the gospel tracks. Champion Jack Dupree (Blue Horizon 7-63206) is very much a showman and this record has been played a lot. He does a "Pockaway" Indian song and shows off a drum cadence or two, in addition to the rolling barrelhouse piano and much spoken commentary. "When You Feel the Feeling You Was Feeling" contains the first ten numbers on this track list. I like the Income Tax Blues, too. All is very Louisiana-style. This guy seem to have the best discography and it includes this album. I love the up-tempo tracks especially. And then we come to the Midnight Jump and its pig-head cover art, Blue Horizon 7-63213, Sunnyland Slim (I just played a Sunnyland Slim recording on the Scout label recently). Partipants as sidemen in this Chicago session include Walter "Shakey" Horton, Johnny Shines, Willie Dixon, and Clifton James. My favorite track is the third on side one, a rollicking instrumental.

Thursday, January 19, 2006


What passes for the world of listservs here in Austin these days falls pretty much under the sway of Yahoo, since that's where nearly all neighborhood and civic lists ended up after migrating from OneList to eGroups, or however it all happened back in the mists of time. The Y-list front door used to make it evident at once if there were members whose messages were bouncing because only those members receiving messages were counted. Now the number that shows is the entire total of subscribers and it takes at least two clicks to learn whether and how many members are on the "bounce" list. This is annoying and so is the fact that people aren't very intelligent about their anti-spam settings and so is the fact that the Y-world doesn't play well wither other universes. On one of the lists that I administer, one with over 600 subscribers, all of a sudden no Hotmail address is receiving messages. There are few activities quite so tedious as manually and individually sending individual "unbounce" requests to over 100 people. I'm now leaving rant mode for the time being.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

A consumer plaint

It is bad business practice to promise and extract payment for something called "next-day shipment" and then, after the transaction has been completed, and only then, to reveal that the next day refers to the day after the order has been fulfilled and packaged for pickup and delivery. This charge has been lifted, since the order is for goods needed just as soon as possible, which isn't going to to be just as soon as needed, as it turns out.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Sad to say

Indie Pop is gone, I don't see how the business could have made it, given rents, but those Italian-style frozen confections were excellent and the landscaped back yard shared with other businesses there has a very friendly feel. There is another establishment already in place, perhaps breakfast tacos; the new signs are red and orange but we didn't have time to stop and check the place out.

Monday, January 16, 2006


Giving much pleasure are the old, dumped paperwhite narcissus clumps. Mack's yard produced an even dozen bloom stalks from the first clump; the side yard has thus far given three. There are fat bud stalks appearing on the Montopolis and Bastrop (much like Grand Primo, but not quite) clumps of narcissus. Ranunculus and anemone leaves are showing everywhere; so are Dutch iris leaves. There are blossoms on rosemary and English peas. In pots the geraniums (pelargonium) love the wather and so do the jump-ups (violas). Also in pots are probably at least a dozen held-over nasturtiums, mostly old-fashioned trailing ones. Each day there are two or three saffron-yellow flowers divided between two of these nasturtium pots. We invested in two pots of cyclamen for their fragrance. There are some blossoms on the best possted chile plant. Leaves are reappearing on milkweed and chile plants all over the place. Cardinals, bluejays, chickadees, whitewing doves, titmice, and wrens are among the most frequent bathers and drinkers from the plant coasters of water set out on the catio.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Not missed, after all

Because of all the fuss at the stadium and the cross-crossing football fans and operagoers, in addition to the change in parking arrangements on and near campus, KMFA broadcast Lady Macbeth live as it was being recorded. The Sunday matinee began late (the current standard fifteen minutes) so there was some unplanned-for tuning, tuning, tuning before the performance opened, but the singing was excellent across the entire cast, the live sound-mixing wasn't bad, and the orchestra sounded very good (while the current chorus, as usual, sounded a bit muddy and unfocused). I would be interested in attending a future performance, when all isn't so hectic here.

Saturday, January 14, 2006


It still feels great to have dropped Shostakovich from the schedule; we could so easily have been at Bass Hall forever, where no doubt the performance started at least fifteen minutes late, as seems to be the practice under Buckley. That means that, even if the expected running time is furnished, it's impossible to plan to take the bus home. There seems to be a practice under the new regime of extending any intermissions, also, beyond what should be necessary.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Demographics diced

The database at National Priorities uses government figures to show, right down to a given high school anywhere in the nation, fascinating military-recruitment figures, household income, and much other information, including by ZIP code. I see that at my old school by senior year there are still slightly over 100 students enrolled at the beginning of the school year, which means that probably under 100 graduate.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Looking back

Vidocq (on a double-bill with The Big Lebowski) and Alborada (the current telenovela on Univision) are both set in the nineteenth century and rely heavily on it for visual interest. The style of Vidocq is lurid, like a giant sideshow banner combined with a comic-book. All locations seem to be computer-generated. The actors are heavily painted and meant to be noticed as being so, almost like artificial figures come to life. We were seeing Vidocq on a 13-inch television screen; all effects must be much more pronounced when seen in the proper size. There is a background of political unrest, as there is in Alborada, which is set during the time of the viceroys but when there are already stirrings of unrest. It's plain that Alborada uses at least a couple of constructed outdoor sets and several interiors, but it also films many, many historic structures and employs extras, horses, domestic livestock, and horse- and oxen-drawn conveyances in profusion. The locations are all in Michoacan if one's to judge by the thanks given in the credits that roll for each episode.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Scouting, part two

Scout Sc-1 (Bye, Bye Bird . . .), Sc-2 (Look Out, Sam!), and SC-5 (Alabama Blues!) have been found and played. The on-line Scout discography and track list is incomplete for Sc-1, so I'll complete it here: Robert Pete Williams (Midnight Boogie), Little Brother Montgomery (Vicksburg Blues), Willie Dixon (Big-legged Woman), Sunnyland Slim (Leavy [sic] Camp Moan), J. B. Lenoir (Everybody Is Crying About Vietnam), and Hubert Sumlin (When I Feel Better). I'll do the same for Sc-2: side 1 contains Otis Rush Blues Band (It Takes Time), Magic Sam's Blues Band (All Your Love), J. B. Lenoir's Afro-American Blues Band (Down in Mississippi), the Junior Wells Blues Band (Look Out, Sam!), and Joe Turner with the Otis Rush Blues Band (Come On, Baby); side 2 contains Magic Sam's Blues Band (Sometimes), the Junior Wells Blues Band (Over Yonder Walls), Magic Sam's Blues Band (Call Me If You Need Me), the Junior Wells Blues Band (Shake My Hand), Magic Sam's Blues Band (Torchering [sic] My Soul), and J. B. Lenoir and Company (I Feel So Good). And so here's the information for Sc-5, with the Weeping Eye cover: side 1 contains Alabama Blues, The Mojo Boogie, God's Word, The Whale Has Swallowed Me, Remove This Rope, and I Feel So Good; on side 2 are Alabama March, Talk to Your Daughter, Mississippi Road, Good Advice, Vietnam, and I Want to Go.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006


How many Scout LPs are still here I don't know. I find that there's an on-line Scout discography, but I'm not sure that it's complete. Visually, at least, there are some albums here that aren't on this screen and there may be some on the screen that I've never seen. The ones played last night are Hubert's American Blues, Sc-4, and Up the Country, Sc-3, with various artists. I love the jacket copy on the Hubert Sumlin album: "Jimi Hendrix says -- My favorite guitar player is Hubert Sumlin." Sumlin is joined on various tracks by Sunnyland Slim, Willie Dixon, and Clifton James. My favorite track on the Up the Country disc is Sippie Wallace: "Woman be wise; don't advertise your man." She has an old person's voice, but great intonation and expression. This would make a wonderful cover for someone, which no doubt many have realized. (I see that Bonnie Raitt recorded it.) Sumlin used to come through Austin fairly regularly, playing at Emmajoe's or Antone's, as I recall. I may have sold some of these long ago to Half Price Books.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Gone home

Lou Rawls, a great solo singer, has left the earthly plane. One of the obituaries answered a question I had always wondered about and never been able to answer: Lou Rawls was the person singing harmony behind Sam Cooke on Bring It On Home to Me. My other greats, without thinking too much about it, are Smokey Robinson, Chuck Jackson (I Don't Want to Cry, Any Day Now, Since I Don't Have You, and so many more), Bobby "Blue" Bland (too many to mention, but especially his version of Dark End of the Street, plus Farther up the Road and I Pity the Fool), Sam Cooke, Brook Benton, and Jerry Butler. And I'm not forgetting Solomon Burke or the voice of Chuck Berry or the softer side of James Brown or any of the dulcet voices in the Motown and other groups. This is about the sweet voices of the slow song.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

"El Nota"

That's what they call The Dude in the Spanish-subtitled version of The Big Lebowski. That's what we did instead of going to the Shostakovich. It was lots more fun and didn't feel like a chore. I can't find "Nota" in any of my slang dictionaries. I think I remember knowing that or "Notah" as a first name of some Navajo men. It's always surprising to be reminded that hardly anybody saw Lebowski in its theatrical release. We loved it and we're surprised to find that we still do, even with its weak points. Goodman is just as good as the nominal star. The dream sequences were great and so was the soundtrack. For that California feeling, I've taken down the three Youngbloods LPs. They played at the Fillmore East a few times, but the one we heard was the program with Iron Butterfly and Canned Heat on the same bill. Maybe it's time to see if that freaky Manhunter is out there for home viewing, which has the best use ever of Inna-Gadda-Da Vida. I've still got my single of Grizzly Bear, which apparently was no more than a local hit, in some places. Too bad there's so much New Mexico red sandstone dust on "Get Together."

Saturday, January 07, 2006

"Call me up in Dreamland"

"Radio to me, man. Get the message to me, any way you can." Nobody ever plays this great Van Morrison song. Anyhow, it's a real shame that KOOP is in trouble, with a fire in the studio. Whatever its ups and downs, this is truly a local station and very reflective of Austin. No doubt the building's owned in a nominee / partnership name, but I bet that Mr. Whittington still owns it and that he still offices on Brazos. I think he must have given the station a chance when there were physical-access problems to be resolved. I wonder whether writing to him would help expedite building repair or finding a new place for the station's studio. It's been interesting to read of membership lawsuits brought against PBS-affiliated radio stations. I haven't been a member of KUT since it started booting out local programs in favor of syndicated national ones. In the afternoons it's barely worth turning to the station at all since Paul Ray's programs were messed with and I hate it that his Saturday evenings have been shortened. Larry Monroe has been given short shrift, also. Ray and Monroe are the greatest masters of the segue that I've ever heard anywhere. I first listened faithfully to KUT way back when Dan Del Santo was on (of course, we used to hear him at Maggie May's as well).

Friday, January 06, 2006

Gaudy and shiny

For 75 cents apiece and under, we acquired some tawdry seasonal leftovers at Albertsons to satisfy those magpie instincts. The square placemat embossed and cut lace doilies with festive 1950s-style poinsettias printed all over them were not marked as to brand. The backing was corrugated cardboard with large scallops along all four edges, which itself probably will find a reuse of some kind. We came home with three different cardboard reels of Berwick "Brilliance" metallic ribbon. Each reel has four different colors on it. They're very decorative as is, joining our reels of paper serpentine from Mexico, and of course it would be easy to glue something over the writing at the spool-ends. They probably would not be on sale but for the fact that the spool-end has a small Christmas tree on it. They're marked "Perfect For All Decorating Needs" and "Made in USA." Berwick now owns Offray, which had previously acquired Lion Ribbon.

Thursday, January 05, 2006


Some of the most popular search terms luring people here recently have been "keemo kimo," "bruce's pies," "last footprint mine," "monogram four initials," "drabware," "nyquil blues," "criterion bell," "helena pronunciation," "ramah new mexico," "flour box baking," "mexican punitive expedition," "companion vs craftsman," "foohy pencil sharpener," "Berol fontaine," "magic slate," "legitimo polvo coyote," "pine brothers honey drops" (no more, alas!), "morse and stiles," and "abcd goldfish." There's no petty consistency here.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Noted in passing

In today's local daily, page A5, was a half-page display ad thanking First Night sponsors "for all of their generous contributions to our inaugural First Night Austin 2006." Alone under the heading of $10,000 - $14,900 appears the name of Anne Elizabeth Wynn. This is the second-highest cash category and the information is now up at the website also.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

People did skip

A cab driver reports that business was slow, slow, slow, and that there was hardly anybody in town over the holidays. That confirms my impression.

Monday, January 02, 2006


The geraniums, old-fashioned orange-red zonals, and the paperwhites are really showy. The fennell is feathering up from the ground and covering the cut-off stubs. There are new leaves budding on the chile peppers of various kinds that were left outdoors in the frost.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Consistency and perfection

If only they always turned out that way! The racks of spare ribs from Hong King Supermarket were just right and not at all fatty. Mine were plain; others enjoyed Lana's Sweet and Sour Sauce on them (now again to be found at the original Central Market). I love hearing the boleros and rancheras coming from behind the meat and fish counter.