Archive for January, 2008

Trashcart chronicles

solid waste“Put a brick on it.” That was the on-the-spot advice. It was a collection slide day and it all happened before our very eyes. Somehow, the cart was grabbed the wrong way by the lift on the truck. When it came down, one side of the cart bulged way out to a point, the cover was crooked and warped, and the cylindrical push-handle had been pinched and crushed to a fare-thee-well. I caught up with the truck, and apologies were offered and accepted. The illustration here is the top part of a 15-point checklist. Altering the cart is not among the apologies offered and, in fact, this list is more a list telling people what they did wrong in the way they set out their trash or what trash they set out. I think it’s funny that this is item 11 on the checklist: “Seal loose animal waste and cat litter in bags to control odor.” There is no equivalent instruction for disposable diapers.

The guys handed this out for the telephone number, which of course dumps right to the fabulous 3-1-1, where the people are nice but are there merely as intermediaries. I thought we’d need a new cart; the promise was that sometime during the next two collection days (meaning next two weeks) someone would come by to “repair” the damage and the instruction was to leave the cart at the curb. I thought that repair would be impossible and that the useful life of the cart was over. The cover that didn’t cover, and couldn’t, because of the misshapen container, was the problem. We see raccoons, opossums, and gray foxes frequently, and, even in daylight, the same goes these days for roof rats fleeing demolitions. So we didn’t want to wait.

Before the next collection, one day we noticed that the side of the cart no longer bulged way, way out. It seemed to have been knocked back inward, judging by what appeared to be mallet marks, although not enough for the cover to fit. On collection day, we arrived home to find the cart, still our cart and not a new one, was, astonishingly, useful and creature-proof once more. The side had been pushed in even more, the handle had been pinched from another direction so that the crushed part was barely evident, and I think that the cover itself had been replaced, although perhaps it, too, had been reformed to its original shape.

The cart in question is just about two years old now (see trashcart blues, part one, and trashcart blues, part two). We’ve been renting it for $7.50 per month. I wonder at what cost the City buys these and how much labor was invested in returning this particular 2-year-old item to animal-resistant use.

Roky Erickson on Austin City Limits Tonight

I was lucky enough to score tickets to the taping of the Austin City Limits episode featuring Roky Erickson back in November. The performance airs tonight at 7pm locally on KLRU. Kings of Leon will be featured first, followed by Roky.

Roky’s backing band included Billy Gibbons from ZZ Top and members of Summer Wardrobe. The list of songs that will air are on the ACL show page. If I remember correctly, they played both “Night of the Vampire” and “I Walked With A Zombie”, but it appears that those two were dropped from the broadcast. It was a great performance and I saw several local Austin musicians at the taping, including King Coffey from the Butthole Surfers. Roky’s come a long way in the last 15 years and he never lost that awesome voice.

Here’s the schedule for January:

Jan. 5 – Crowded House
Jan. 12 – Kings of Leon, Roky Erickson
Jan. 19 – Coldplay (encore presentation from last season)
Jan. 26 – Brad Paisley, Dierks Bentley

It’s a pretty good representation of the breadth of music that the show is presenting these days. They’ve made attempts to update themselves and having bands like Kings of Leon and Coldplay are an attempt to do just that. Crowded House isn’t really keeping up-to-date, but it’s a little more pop oriented than would have been typical of the show in the past. Kings of Leon fall into the Blues / Rock category and Brad Paisley and Dierks Bentley are solidly Country.

Flying Saucer Lands in Austin


The local beer blogs are atwitter since Ft. Worth-based chain Flying Saucer opened up its first location in Austin last night in the Triangle near 47th and Lamar (see allowing development there brought us more beer!).

I’ve been to their location in Dallas and it was one of the only places that I could tolerate (other than the Gingerman location there). That being said, if you’re used to Draught House, Gingerman or Dog & Duck, you’re going to feel a little out of place at Flying Saucer. It definitely has more of a Dallas feel to it (I know Ft. Worth is like Dallas’s neglected little brother, but still). I don’t want to rip on the place since any place that offers up a good variety of beers is ok in my book.

I’ve been meaning to check out Mandola’s for months. Now that there are two destinations in The Triangle (does anyone else hear Twilight Zone music when they refer to that development?), I’m going to have to make a stop.

Image from Flying Saucer’s web site

Soul to soul

SoulCiti has done very well in garnering paid ads and from the very beginning, back in 1998, has been a dynamic on-line resource, beginning, I believe, as an arm of, although it may perhaps since have been spun off. Its weekly SoulCiti Distro list has become indispensable to nearly 13,000 subscribers as an alert to events around Central Texas of special interest to urban professionals. I especially appreciate the event format and that who submitted each item is shown. announces itself as “the fastest growing site for Austin’s urban community.” When Soul of Austin first came to my attention, I wondered who was behind it; there are contact names but the domain-registration information is masked. There don’t seem to be equivalent domains for Dallas or Houston, as at first seemed possible, but there is a I like the Soul of Austin event calendar for its big-picture qualities, although it’s inside a nested menu, not accessible in one click. Soul of Austin appears to be aggressively pursuing paid ads, just as SoulCiti does. Its motto is: “It’s more than information. It’s interaction.” I’m not sure what that encompasses in its entirety, but Soul of Austin, unlike SoulCiti, offers a restricted-access area to registered members only. It is here that a user wishing to take advantage of the networking feature can create a free personal profile, upload a photograph, and create and share other content. Ad rates for SoulCiti are revealed; those seeking information on Soul of Austin ad rates are counseled to seek it by e-mail. In some ways, these two ventures might be considered to be competitors; each, however, offers features that the other does not and so they are complementary in offering information-sharing to the diverse African-American community of central Texas.

Blade Runner Redux at The Paramount


Blade Runner: The Final Cut is coming back to the Paramount for a third week, so if you missed it last month, you’ve got one more chance. It’s impossible to describe the influence of this film, particularly on my generation. I remember seeing it the first time in the summer of 1982 in a small two screen theater in Dallas. It had a huge impact on me.

I caught it on the first run at the Paramount and it’s a must see. I don’t care if you saw it when it was originally released or if you already saw the director’s cut or if you own one of the many versions on DVD. Go see it at the Paramount on the big screen. There are subtle differences to this cut and I do think they’ve finally gotten it right. You won’t be disappointed.

Show Times:

January 16-20
Wed-Fri @ 7:30 pm | Sat @ 4:30, 7 & 9:30 pm | Sun @ 2, 4:30 & 7 pm

Purchase Tickets Online or at the Paramount Theatre Box Office on the day of show.

Not what it appears to be

Poinsettias have long been a favored seasonal gift here in Austin. They go to colleagues, customers, friends, relatives, and anybody else who might be on a list to be given a token of esteem or affection. Some years, a lucky person might receive a dozen or more of these environment-brighteners. More often than not, they came from Marbridge Farms; more often than not, given proper conditions including the total darkness required at certain times, they could be coaxed into growing and producing colorful red bracts for at least one more year. Marbrdge closed down its retail nursery. This morning, I noticed that a flor de noche buena was drooping badly. When I looked more closely, I realized for the first time that it’s not a plant at all, just a sprig poked into a block of florists’ foam. And that’s what all the others are, too. Maybe they can be rooted; maybe not. I’m glad that Marbridge continues to exist in whatever form is best for this local institution, but I’m sorry all over again about the nursery.

Close shaves

Here’s one way that Austinites maintain that clean-shaven appearance. So says the staff at the drugstore we frequent for the good prices on house-brand disposable blades. We had noticed that the plastic dispenser case seemed to be broken or jammed or something. Attempts to remove blades resulted in a buzzing noise and the appearance of an employee on the spot to “fix” the case. Finally, we noticed that this happened every single time and asked a few questions. A friend in retail confirms what we were told: razor blades are among the most-stolen items in any establishment that sells them. Many of them are reported to be resold very cheaply at flea markets. Sometimes, given the wild assortment of hirsute facial adornment in this town, one might be under the impression that the per-capita sale of blades and razors in Austin might fall below the national norm; on second, thought, though, many of these designs must require at least as much trimming and edging as a manicured lawn does.

Tough to tell the difference

remodel vs. demolitionThe building permit (and, unusually, there is one and it is displayed) includes ths language: “Remodel existing 1st fl residence.” The person who can see any portion of the house that used to stand on this spot has better vision than I do. What differentiates this from a demolition?

It’s only hearsay, but people have told me that it’s more difficult to obtain a demolition permit and that there must be a review of the history of a structure before one will be issued. The flow-chart for the building-permit process is a bit cryptic but for the most part quite informative about the process as it’s intended to proceed. We’ve been taking pictures of similar construction sites all over close-in Austin, but sometimes they don’t turn out well and often we can find no permit in the City’s database. I first started looking more closely after I noticed the house that appeared to have been demolished altogether except for one pillar of the front porch.

On the December 6 agenda for the city council, this was the language of item 50: “Approve a resolution directing the City Manager to process an amendment to the City Code regarding the standards for defining the remodel of a residential structure. (Council Member Jennifer Kim, Council Member Lee Leffingwell, Council Member Mike Martinez).” The official minutes record that this item was approved. That doesn’t mean that anything substantive will happen or that it will happen anytime soon. The agenda item isn’t especially revelatory, but the Chron reported this (“Beside the Point,” byline Wells Dunbar, 12/7/07): “Summarizing, Kim says remodelers can’t remove more than 50% of exterior walls and must hew to the roof-line, horizontal and vertical lines – ‘otherwise, go for an additional permit, or brand-new building permit.'”

Only some painters

And they were using brushes today, not compressors and sprayers, because the paint was going onto existing trim and not onto any part of the large blank-walled gigantic addition that overpowers the tiny bit that’s left of the original house. And there weren’t many painters. And the chainsaw was being used down the block, not practically next door, for a change. This is what passes for peaceful, even on weekends, these days. So, except for a quick trip to the South Austin Farmers Market for some of the beyond wonderful organic spinach that’s very much in season these days, this has been a day at home. Potted plants sojourning indoors briefly to avoid predicted frosts have gone back outdoors. Leaves from the ornamental pear tree have been raked. English peas have been planted. We didn’t need to wear hearing-preserving earmuffs even once all day, inside the house or outdoors. I could really use a lot more weekend days even this peaceful. One of these days I’ll post some of the pictures taken of “remodels” that are really demolitions in all but name followed by construction of gigantic replacements. In the meantime, just for today, just because it’s rare to be able to, I’m enjoying what tranquility there is, and I’m enjoying it in the fresh air, right here at El Mirador, domestic headquarters.

Velvet Revolver at Stubb’s, Jan. 31

Velvet Revolver will be playing at Stubb’s on Thursday January 31. Tickets go on sale on January 5.

For anyone who might not know, Velvet Revolver consists of Slash, Duff McKagan, and Matt Sorum from Guns N’ Roses, along with Scott Weiland who was the vocalist for Stone Temple Pilots. Dave Kushner is the other guitar player in the band who always seems to get completely overlooked since he wasn’t part of a super famous previous band.

They have become one of my favorite bands. They really do sound like a perfect mix of GNR and STP to me. We saw them last time they came through here and they put on a great show.

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