Archive for June, 2007

Spats and drumbeats

Austin JuneteenthThis is a line of the Smooth Steppers band all the way from Sacramento, California. It wasn’t the only band. Again, the Austin All Star Band won the hearts of the onlookers.

The early arrivals lined the shady side of the street for the Juneteenth parade. The sellers of water and of snow-cones did a brisk trade on both sides of the street. We took up our favorite spot, which is on the sunny side and across from the Fresh Up sign, but we couldn’t resist stepping out along the entire parade route for each of the bands and also for the Pan-African drummer group.

Dignitaries seen were Danny Thomas and the mayor. The most welcome freebies were fans, which were put to immediate use. I love a parade, and I love this parade especially.

Test-driving the freebie

“Try before you buy” was obviously his motto, even though the price was zero. The article on offer curbside was a heavy steel ooky-pinky-brown heavy steel typing table. It had four wheels, with brakes, and two drop-down side leaves. We rescued it in the same way many years ago, and it served in turn as the typing table it was intended to be, a sewing table, a computer table, an end table, and so on and so on. This guy really deliberated and, while he did, he checked on the brakes, he wheeled it forward and backward in every direction, and he dropped the side leaves and put them back up again more than once apiece. Then he finally loaded it into his van. I checked, and found the same table in steel gray on a Craig’s List somewhere, offered for $35. Whether there will be a taker for that table at that price remained to be seen, but our discard is on its way to a new life. I think that if the intention had been to turn it into scrap there would have been no trial run and no long deliberation.

Rawk Show Saturday

Last night I went out with my friend Becky to Beerland to see my friend’s band play. We thought the music would start around nineish so we get there……and the only thing on stage is a semi-nude lady with big feather fans.

Ohhhhh-kay.

It turns out we had stumbled in on Dr. Sketchy, which involves drawing and drinking once a month, usually at Beerland. Pretty cool, guys. Now that I know they exist I may show up with my sketchpad next time.

Becky and I hung around the bar until the first band showed up, then we moved to a table closer to the stage. I apologize for not knowing the band’s name but they were rockers from Beaumont and, from the sound of it they were a last-minute add to the lineup. But they were really good, loud but still listenable, and I wish I knew who they were so I could go see them again.

Next up were the Jungle Rockers, and when we saw them loading an upright bass and conga drums onto the stage we knew we were in for something awesome. Sure enough the Jungle Rockers are a rockabillyesque band reminiscent of the stray cats and there was a fair bit of shimmying going on in the crowd. Seemed like they were well-known among the crowd and they sounded great- I really want to see them again soon.

Finally Sons of Hercules took the stage and blew my mind. Frank Pugliese’s an amalgamation of every Rolling Stone, a writhing, yelling banshee of a lead singer backed by blasting beats and roaring rock n’ roll. It was so intense I had to go to the back for some air but still, by all accounts they were badass. Awesome band- shame all their shows are in San Antonio for awhile… watch that myspace and the second they come back, plan to check them out.

All in all it was a great night for a little live music :)

Preview of the drumline competition

Austin All Star BandThe Austin All Star Band may be in contention this year to win the Alvin Patterson Battle of the Bands and Drumline Competition. This local group has grown in confidence and also in membership since our last sighting and the kids were crowd favorites, and not just because they’re local, today on the Avenue. Now that the legislature has skipped town, downtown seems very empty. Even at noontime, there were parking spaces everywhere. “Juneteenth” was a new term to all the tourists asking what was going on.

Bulky, not bulky

Clyde L. Rackley Tool & HardwareSolid Waste Services reports that it (no longer?) publishes schedules for residential bulk collection “to discourage illegal scavenging and dumping.” On the City notifications, “bulky waste” became “bulky collection” (see the illustration) and then assumed its current form, “bulk collection.” I love the word “bulky.”

I try not to accumulate bulky waste, as it used to be called on the notices, but inevitably there seem to be objects that linger for a while in storage limbo before a certain member of the household is willing to concede that they are indeed waste and therefore eligible for disposition. This time around, one of them is an orange traffic cone that somebody dumped in front of the house. We never did find a use for it. Also destined for the curb is a disintegrating old chest of drawers whose contents must find a new home. In one of the drawers I found miscellaneous window hardware for French doors, transoms, and double-hung windows, along with this paper sack.

Davis Hardware was always my favorite, maybe just because I loved the giant sign in the form of a clawhammer, but also because it stocked household goods such as glass shades for the sort of ceiling fixtures not made since the 1920s and miscellaneous crockery, mostly from East Texas. At Davis Hardware, asking helped you find things. At Rackley’s, though, items for frivolous household beautification were not in stock. The principles of the tidy organization were immediately apparent, and help in finding things was seldom required. Rackley’s had the most complete selection of dowels I’ve ever seen and also had a grinding and sharpening shop in the back. Where Rackley’s was, Escuelita del Alma now is, though perhaps not for long.

Stirring music, spirited marching

The Alvin Patterson Battle of the Bands and Drumline Competition is set for this Saturday, and you can preview it all for free tomorrow afternoon. Watch the bands form up and then set off toward the Capitol, complete with brass, drumlines, and plenty of SWAC-style everything. If you work downtown, spend an hour’s vacation time; if you’re at home with the kids head downtown to see it all begin, at 2 pm (or be there earlier to see the bands form up). The local traditional Juneteenth parade will be on Tuesday, June 19, scheduled to begin at 10 am, with a route from MLK along Comal, then Rosewood to the park. This may be a third opportunity within a week to catch our own Austin All Star Band, with participants from many AISD schools working on their SWAC style. (See links to past entries about these wonderful recurring events.)

Dale Rice and Foie Gras Debate in Austin

Dale Rice had blog post yesterday foreshadowing his Statesman article today about foie gras. I was the first to comment on the blog post, which was followed by the typical uninformed anti-foie gras blather. I tried to continue posting over there, but I can’t stand waiting for comments to appear and you can’t use HTML (thanks, Statesman).

This is a debate that’s already been going on around the country for the past year or so. Chefs Anthony Bourdain and Michael Ruhlman are at the forefront defending foie gras when a ban was threatened in NYC. There’s a Salon article from last year, a Ruhlman post on Megnut and several more on his own blog.

So now the debate is here (6-12 months behind the rest of the country as usual) and I have to deal with it.

I happen to not just like foie gras. I love it. I only get a chance to eat it once or twice a year, but it’s not for Noah Cooper and his cronies to decide whether or not I can have it. I’d like to know how many foie gras farms he’s personally visited? How many commercial poultry farms or commercial pork farms like Smithfield, which was profiled in Rolling Stone recently? Has he read Omnivore’s Dilemma? I have. It made me switch from eating commercially produced beef to trying to find grass-fed alternatives.

I made that choice. Am I on a campaign to get Austin restaurants to stop serving steak? No. So stay the hell away from my foie gras.

Gutenberg and beyond

We don’t hear much about the Gutenberg Bible at the HRC these days, although it used to seem, just after its acquisition, as though it occasioned a press release a week. After the obligatory mention of it, though, the article in the current New Yorker in its letter from Austin (“Final Destination: Why do the archives of so many great writers end up in Texas?”) tracks the successful acquisition of some correspondence of Graham Greene. The author of the article, D. T. Max, accompanies the Ransom Center’s current director and interviews him at some length on several subjects. I used to spend quite a bit of time at the HRC before its renovation but haven’t really explored the building since its completion. In the past, though, I devoted a certain amount of time to contemplating the study of Erle Stanley Gardner and wondering why it occupied such a prominent place in the building. I see that the HRC still offers the service of making reproductions of certain photographic materials (and this is one of the great photographic collections in existence). The article reports that the papers of various literary luminaries or those with connections to them are ranked in order of desirabllity of acquisition. I don’t know into which class Russell Banks, one of my favorite modern authors, falls according to this system, but I was interested to learn that his papers are now at the Ransom Center. There’s mention of ten boxes of documents “from a local humorist.” The implication is that the local humorist is still among us, so that rules out John Henry Faulk. Would Kelso fall into the category? I’m betting that the local humorist is Cactus Pryor, but I wish the article had named the name. Kerry Awn? Kinky Friedman? Somebody from the Esther’s Follies troupe past or present?

“Deadly Obsession”

“Deadly Obsession”, a psychological suspense/horror film is filming at the Studio Estates in Kyle, TX. It also just so happens that yours truly is one of the stars. I didn’t even know this place existed. It’s pretty cool. There is a “guest house” where the top 5 stars of the film can stay and so far it’s just been me and my creative partner (who was also cast in one of the lead roles) in the whole house. This has been, by far, my best film experience so far. The cast and crew are some of the best people I’ve ever worked with. Some of my adventures thus far can be found in this saga.

If you’re interested in getting some experience on a feature film crew, they are still looking for more Production Assistants. There is no pay, but you do get three meals a day and can stay on site if you like (there are a couple of houses where many people are staying and sleeping on air mattresses).

If you’re interested, contact the production office at 512-535-0446 and ask for Lara Gwinn, the Production Manager.

The usual cast of characters

I borrowed Literary Austin (edited by Don Graham) expecting to dip into the interesting parts and skip the rest but I read it all. Even though there are over 450 pages, there’s plenty of white space in this sturdily bound and heavy book. Chronologically ordered, this collection devotes the expected amount of space or perhaps even more to the usual: O. Henry, The Bedichek-Dobie-Webb triumvirate, Billy Lee Brammer and company, and the TexMo people, but there are a few surprises, and these are what make this book worth reading. It’s carelessly edited (Governor “Clemens,” “Hayes” County, every possible variation on Scholz Garten, and more), and it’s generally a collection of light journalism and light-hearted gossip. I was interested to learn that, at least at one time, the Austin parks department was keeping the head of Stephen F. Austin in storage. Stephen F. Austin’s feet remained in place long after the rest of the statue depicting him disappeared, there at the little triangle favored as a lounging spot by those with no better way to pass their time, just off South Congress by the county precinct offices. I loved Robert Draper’s brief account of working for Jeff Nightbyrd of Austin Sun and powdered-urine fame. A great feature of this book is the brief annotated bibliography of works not excerpted in the compilation. Of course, it includes brief descriptions of some of the works of Shelby Hearon and Sarah Bird, but it also gathers in one place information about quite a number of the many mysteries set in Austin. This book is already at some library branches and is on order at others.

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