Archive for October, 2007

Lance Hahn: A Reminder that Brings Us Together

The folks over at Metroblogging San Francisco have a better post about Lance Hahn, his life and his music than I could ever put together, so go check out their eulogy when you have a chance.

Lance was a musician and writer who moved to Austin from San Francisco in 2000. You can check out articles at the Austin American-Statesman and Austinist as well. There’s also a memorial web site with information on services and linking photos and other remembrances.

For me, Lance was one of those guys that you see around town all the time, but don’t really know. I’m not very familiar with his music, but my family and I rent videos from Vulcan Video off South Congress and it’s his familiar face among a few others that I’ll always associate with that location. He was always good for a short chat or a smile about whatever films we were renting and he’s one of those people who, even though you didn’t know him, made your life a little better. It’ll be sad going into Vulcan and not seeing him. Maybe it’s because he was just a few years older than me, but It feels to me like a little part of the Austin that I love has died. My condolences to his family and those close to him.

Anthony Bourdain at the Paramount

1690263629_508be17b0e_m.jpgMy wife and I went to see Tony Bourdain at the Paramount on Saturday night. We’re big fans of both Cooks Tour and No Reservations. My wife worked in the restaurant industry here in town and remembers reading parts of Kitchen Confidential with the kitchen crew at Chez Nous and howling at his description of vegetarians and their “Hezbollah-like splinter faction, the vegans”. The show was completely sold out. Bourdain came out and talked about how amazed and thankful he was for how his life has turned out. He’s still completely shocked that he’s been able to do Cook’s Tour and No Reservations after writing Kitchen Confidential.

He reiterated a lot of the themes that appear in his shows: how food brings people together and how a society’s culture is tied to their food. He referred a lot to specific No Reservations shows, so audience members who weren’t familiar with him probably felt a little left out. Since the Paramount sells season tickets and many people end up picking an unfamiliar performer for at least one show, it was clear there were some people who fell into that category. The annoying jerk of the night award goes to the guy in the upper right balcony who answered a cell phone call during the performance, then stood up while talking and moved out into the right aisle and then slowing walked in front of several rows while still talking. What an inconsiderate a-hole. There was a lengthy Q&A session after his talk. At least half of the questions were pretty bad, but he fielded them all gracefully, including the shouts from overenthusiastic groupies. He recommended Bill Bruford’s Heat and, not surprisingly, named French Laundry and Masa as his top restaurant picks even if you have to rob a bank to get the cash to afford eating at either one.
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Peddling a view that money can’t buy

Austonian false viewHave you noticed that ads for all the high-rise living quarters planned to go up downtown always show expansive, even panoramic, views pasted by digital means into the renderings depicted? Sometimes there’s a skyline without the Frost Tower where it now stands. In this view, composed for the yet to be built Austonian planned for Second and Congress downtown, the half-collapsed shell of the Intel building that never was can be seen. This is from a full-page print ad facing page 24 in the October 29 issue of Business Week. Included on the Austonian Web site is this text: “The developers reserve the right to make modifications and changes to the information contained herein. Renderings, photos and sketches are representational and may not be accurate. Dimensions, sizes, specifications, layouts and materials are approximate and subject to change without notice.” Such disclaimers are obviously there for a reason.

Hither, thither, and yon: the peripatetic shopper

Wheatsville bulletin boardAvoiding the crowds today, we enjoyed our shoppng excursions to Fiesta Mart South, Gardens, and Wheatsville Co-op.

Fiesta has a great stock of pinatas right now. At the little cafe, each table had a seasonal centerpiece of artificial fall leaves arranged prettily and stuck into real gourds or small pumpkins. We return again and again for the so-called St. Louis cut pork spare ribs, beautifully fresh and trimmed without waste, for $1.19 a pound. Today it was because it’s a good day to fire up the oven in celebration of our new autumn weather. All was being set up for the beginning of early voting tomorrow.

At Gardens, there are seeds for every sort of nasturtium variety anyone can think of. I like the way they’re packed after paid for: in muslin drawstring bags. Also stocked, although I forget at what price, are bulbs for the hard-to-find oxblood lilies (rhodophiala bifida). Kitizawa seed packets for various exotic greens are there, also. There are discounts for bulbs bought in quantity. As always, anyone just walking through this shop comes out smelling delicious. People were buying potted cyclamens in bloom, not just in the common pink, red, and white, and in several more exotic colors, including white with feathery swirls of maroon.

Fiesta had the beautiful zucchini, and Wheatsville had the beautiful yellow summer squash. We found at Wheatsville only the blander varieties of Pederson’s smoked sausage (no jalapeno in stock), but we were really there to order our fresh Mary’s turkey for November. We intended to check out the Maine Root ginger brew (Austin is now the home of Maine Root), but forgot. I like the listing of local suppliers to Wheatsville, complete with the distance from the co-op for each vendor.

The photo here shows today’s version of one of the best bulletin boards in town, Wheatsville’s. It’s easy to pick out the unmistakable profile of Dino Lee (on October 26, he returns to Antone’s with the White Trash Revue). The news for me on that board is that Lamberts downtown fancy barbeque joint is having Monday football nights, with a big screen and everything a carnivore needs for complete happiness.

Martial music and more

Congress Avenue was made wide just for parades, but there aren’t as many of them as there used to be. We love bands here in Austin, as evidenced by the turnout for the Alvin Patterson Battle of the Bands and the regional high school marching-band events hald at Toney Burger Center and elsewhere. I made it home just in time from St. Iggy’s Family Affair (all those baked goods!) and the pumpkin patch at Grace United Methodist Church (one block east of South Congress) just in time for the new show from KNCT, 91.3 -FM radio, easily heard in Austin. Today’s featured band is the Second Armored Division Band. Tune in now and hear the remaining 45 minutes of this spirited music. Concert Time USA has been broadcast only about a month, but we try to hear it every week, Saturdays from 5 to 6 pm. KNCT offers streaming audio.

Update: Concert Time USA has its own Web site. Now up is streaming audio for last week’s complete show (October 13), with amazingly accomplished performances by three Texas high school band ensembles.

Bathroom Alcohol Warnings – Intended Audience?

1622269945_6554cb45fc_m.jpgI noticed a sign a week or two ago in the men’s restroom at the GingerMan. I thought it was a bit odd, but went about my business (heh, heh). Then last night, I was at a demo at the Hyatt downtown and stopped in a restroom off of the lobby where I encountered a similar sign. I was the only one in there, so I decided to risk looking like a perv and pulled out the camphone to get a shot of the sign…the perils of a citizen journalist.

According to the surgeon general, women should not drink alcoholic beverages, including distilled spirits, beer, coolers, and wine during pregnancy because of the risk of birth defects.

Is this some crazy new law? Are they in women’s restrooms as well? Are they only in bars (or near them anyway, I suppose this one was near the hotel lobby bar)? Is Warren Chisum somehow involved? Why the hell are there warnings targeted at pregnant women and alcohol in the one place where there shouldn’t be any pregnant women with alcohol: a men’s restroom urinal?

Club emphemera

urban party promotional literature“Club emphemera” could be a new venue or merely one of those once-a-week parties or even a one-time-only event. I’ve always collected Austin souvenirs (promotional fans on a stick, campaign posters, restaurant menus, fund-raising brochures, and invitations are some of the examples). There are so many inventive graphic artists around here, under-employed and generous with their talents. Periodically, I gather up such items and donate them to the Austin History Center.

During the past couple of years or so, I’ve been finding more and more little cards like these, announcing parties, plays, release of new music, game-day events, and more. Thse are examples distributed during the past month or so by tucking them under windshield wipers. There are few, if any, design credits ever to be found on these items. I admire the night Austin skyline at the top of the center card, for VIP Saturdays at Spiros on Red River. The Powerhour was to be held at Club AfterMath (formerly Club Visions). The third card is for a Thursday event “@ The Red Room, behind Church’s Chicken on Riverside Dr., also known as Club La Rumba.” I didn’t copy it here, but a recent favorite little ad, much simpler than these (black on orange paper), but distributed the same way, offers a discount on a longhorn tattoo; this one goes out when there are home football games, but just now it’s temporarily misplaced so I couldn’t show it here.

Austin history comes in all sorts of guises. I try to remember this and not discard any parts of Austin today that the Austin of tomorrow might find to be of interest.

Set your Tivos, y’all!

Ghostland at Hogg Memorial Auditorium
taken by roxannejomitchell on flickr.

One of Austin’s hottest hometown bands, Ghostland Observatory, will be the musical guest tonight on Late Night with Conan O’Brien, which comes on NBC around 11:30-11:40ish. (Also, some guy named Jake Gyllenhaal. Wonder if he’s in anything I’ve seen?)

This is such great news for them and not-so-great news for those of us who miss getting our toes stepped on at their early Emo’s shows. Way to go, guys!

Thomas coming and going

Thomas the Tank Engine Wave at those kids riding in the cars in between! I promise they’ll wave back at you.

This is the Thomas the Tank Engine effigy moving backward, drawn by the real locomotive at the other end of the train. You’ve been hearing the whistle for this downtown all week long, and tomorrow’s the last day for these brief excursions.doing the work for Thomas the Tank Engine

I’m guessing that for the most part, the rides themselves may be sold out, but this is a great sight for those young and old who love things railroad. The Austin Steam Train people do report that a limited number of walk-up tickets will be sold each day. It’s neat to see a flagman out there.

Tracking the temps

There are only two measures of temperature that matter in our house: the reading on the souvenir Shiner Beer thermometer in the coolest room and the reading on the Galileo thermometer in the warmest room. It’s now officially fall. All summer long, the Galileo glass blobs, once having sunk to the bottom of the glass tube, lie there inert; all winter long, the blobs, once having risen to the top of the glass tube, float there in one stack of five. But there are those in-between times of the year. This morning, not one, but two, blobs rose from the buttom of the tube to the very top of it. The window fans can now be set to run on lower speeds. Summer is truly over!

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