Archive for February, 2009

Sales on Sunday

I’ve written here before about my annoyance with Blue Laws and now there’s a chance that the recession could at least start the debate about getting rid of them. News8Austin reports that there’s talk of allowing liquor sales on Sundays to increase sales tax revenue. I’m mostly annoyed at having to wait until after noon to buy beer at grocery stores, but if allowing liquor stores to sell on Sunday gets me closer to being able to buy beer on a Sunday morning grocery trip, then I’m all for it. It’s a completely ridiculous law that doesn’t have a place in 2009 or any other time for that matter. If your religious beliefs dictate that you shouldn’t have access to beer at 11:45am on a Sunday, but it’s ok at 1:59am on the same day, then you go with that, but don’t force it on me.

Eddie Rodriguez, as my state rep., I’d love to hear that you support allowing beer, wine and liquor sales on Sunday just like any other day. And while you’re at it, please support SB754.

Salt and seeds and sauce

seeds for Korean cuisineThe quest was for bamboo salt. Since our customary source has vanished, at least for the time being, we set off in search of a new one. The plan was to start north and head back to town, checking along the way. We found it at the very first place, New Oriental Market (6929 Airport). And we also could not resist these beautiful packets of seeds for growing ingredients of Korean cuisine. These are only three, but there were more varieties in the rack by the register. This store has an active bulletin board: are there any sushi chefs out there who’d like to work at H-E-B? In an adjoining room, we could see groups of happy people dining. This was tempting, but there were too many errands on the list and the time was too short before we were due to appear for a mid-afternoon meal elsewhere.

A second quest was for Cafe Josie Equatorial Eclipse grill sauce, and we had another eureka moment, at the Whole Foods north. The ingredients of this superlative and one-of-a-kind item may seem exotic: shoyu tamari, sun-dried raisins, cider vinegar, canola oil, toasted sesame oil, chiles japones, ginger, and tamarind. They’re just plain delicious. Someone had just bought all the remaining Cafe Josie blue-label jerk sauce, but there were just a few bottles of the eclipse, and we swept all of them into our basket.

At Discount Electronics, the friendly staff found a battery for that notebook ancient of days from Dell. The last stop was the main branch of the library, soon to be closed for a few weeks, where the shelves were picked over and the lines were long, but we did find some of those old-fashioned portable entertainment devices known as books. Now, we’re ready for the week to come.

Office Space 10th Anniversary Round-Up

Office Space 10th Anniversary - Photo by Jette K

Office Space 10th Anniversary - Photo by Jette K

I’m a little late on this, but that’s nothing new. I’ve seen several posts re-capping the Office Space 10th Anniversary screening at the Paramount a little over a week ago and have been insanely jealous and kicking myself for not trying to get tickets.

If you’ve never seen Office Space, go out and rent it immediately. Better yet, buy it. You’ll want to see it again once you’ve seen it the first time anyway (and after that go rent Idiocracy). The 10th anniversary was held here probably because it was filmed in Austin and is Mike Judge’s home town. I used to see him at several South Austin eateries.

I sent out the first link on Twitter a week or so ago. Jette K, Austin film critic extraordinaire, has posts on Cinematical and Slackerwood with reviews of the events along with some pretty great shots.

The Alamo Drafthouse blog also had a couple of posts: one pointing to a Flickr photo set and the other about a  G4 Attack of The Show episode that covered the anniversary festivities.

An old co-worker spent most of the summer of ’98 as an extra in the film for about 5 seconds of screen time.

Dazed and Confused

not to mention appalled.

I was cruising the channels over the w/e and caught the end of a this movie by Richard Linklater. I pressed the “info” button and the description said, Coming to age movie filmed in Austin TX. I scanned through the guide and set-up to record a later showing on HBO.

Seeing “The Unforseen” gave me a great insight into some old Austin politics, places and history. Dazed and Confused, with a long list of todays movie stars including Matthew McConaughey, Jason London, Ben Affleck and an uncredited part by Renée Zellweger, did none of that. There were a few glimpses of the Austin of what was 1993 when the film was made, rather than 1976, when the film was set, but nothing much.

I’d like to hear from folks. Was there any approximation to reality in that film? Did American teenagers really act anything like that in the 1970’s or worse still today? Were any of you extras in the film??

Don’t get me wrong, I’m no prude, I’ve even got the pictures to prove it. Back in the UK I’d gone through the skinhead phase, the Bowie phase and was into disco by 1976 and sure there were some less than shining nights out now I look back. But the hazing stuff, the beatings, the humilation of the girls? Really, in the 1970’s – Wow. No wonder the rasied the drinking age to 21 in the US.

As for the claim in this trailer, the film featured the best music of the 1970’s, actually I’d say the music was mostly offset by 2-4 years before the film was set.

Or was this film about as close to reality as Friday 13th?? Discuss.

Mayoral candidates in bed together?

Chronicle cover for the Feb 13th issueThe Chronicle has a good summary of the Austin mayoral candidates and their cover pitches it as a “Municipal Death Match”.

However, last Thursdays council meeting where the Wildflower Commons PUD was up for discussion, debate and possibly vote, rather than it being a death match with Leffingwell taking one position, and McCracken taking the opposite, it was more like John and Yokos love-in, except the protest was from the public, not the lovers.

I arrived at City Hall around 4pm, listened to some of the heated discussion on the East Austin Solar farm, then the Town Lake trail extension and boardwalk. After 2-hours I left, there were a large number of people milling around, more than 90-had signed up to speak on the PUD. I got back later, but no debate, no discussion, just a postponment, apperently with the prior agreement of the developers lobbyist.

Rather than either McCraken or Leffingwell “grasping the nettle” and one or both of them taking an environmental stand, they both ducked the issue. Worse they moved the issue until after the Mayoral election, ducking the issue completely and allowing both of them to claim the anti-developer, pro-environment, which are likely to be vote winners.

Laura Morrison was the only dissenting voice in the 6-1 approval to postpone. I’d guess that both Leffingwell and McCraken would claim the revised conditions that have been placed on the developer before they come back to council in August over the 100,000 sq. foot supermarket, retail, restaurants, and 550 condos in the Barton Springs Recharge Zone, however, since neither spoke during the process we don’t have a clue what they really think. Give peace a chance?

The Save Our Springs Alliance has numerous documents explaining the Wildflower Commons PUD.

Strawberries, limes, pineapples, lobster tails

Newflower Market These were some of the items on special at Newflower Farmers Market, just opened this week at the old south Hobby Lobby (6920 Manchaca Road). People were walking around with stacks of strawberry packages. The lobster tails weren’t even going into the case; they were selling very fast before they even got to the counter.

Meat and fish appeared to be very fresh, even featuring a fine selection of natural lamb. There’s housemade sausage prepared daily, and we’re trying two varieties. The deli counter was in a state of confusion when it came to service, but I’m sure that will be ironed out. The case is full of Boar’s Head products, and sushi-making was proceeding apace. There are bulk nuts, spices, candies, herbs, and other items. The florist department is much like the ones in the old Albertsons. Cosmetics, vitamins, and supplement aisles were not checked out, but they were busy. Newflower has one of the most extensive selection of zippy reading glasses that I’ve seen anywhere around town. And look for the big rack of Botanical Interests seed packets. There are rolling stands for those small baskets that other stores make people tote around themselves.

The produce department is the true star of this market, but the natural brands of poultry, beef, pork, and lamb appeared to be packaged in-house, and we’re certainly going to try some of these items. On Wednesdays, the weekly ad savings are doubled. We were out of the store before noon and by that time the parking lot was full and every checkout stand, although operating swiftly, had a line.

You can get there from here…

Funny how you take things for granted. I’ve just switched to a new corporate Blackberry phone, and as I had a busy day downtown yesterday my first reaction was to use the phone to look-up the next bus rather than take the car. I don’t know where I first learned about it, but since I arrived in Austin I’ve been using a service called “dadnab” to find out the bus schedule.

It’s simple, painless, and quick. 5-mins before I’m ready to leave I just send a txt message on my phone to austin@dadnab.com with my current location and my destination. Yesterdays txt message read: s 1st and live oak to Austin convention center

Except on this new fanlged, all singing, all dancing phone it wouldn’t take a txt message with an email like address. It turns out that I had send the txt to 121 on the AT&T network, and the first part of the txt message had to include austin@dadnab.com – within 30-seconds I got the response:S 1ST ST & W LIVE OAK ST to AUSTIN CONVENTION CENTER/depart SOUTH 1ST & LIVE OAK at 11:54 AM/10-NB/arrive BRAZOS & 4TH at 12:03 PM back as a txt message.

I walked up the street, waited a few minutes and Cap metro arrived as promised. All very quick and efficient. So I figured I’d post this tip here, only to find that Austin metroblogger ttrentham had posted on this topic in time for SXSW in 2007. So here’s an update, the service is still working, if you have problems txting to austin@dadnab.com checkout their website for the tip above and others, also to try out the service.

Not just shelter-related shopping

Domino magazine devotes three pages of its very last issue to small businesses on Burnet, North Lamar, the east side, downtown, and South Lamar, with an extensive visit to South Congress. Austin itself is tagged with all the usual cliches: “home to cowboys, hipsters, musicians and other metropolitan transplants looking for a laid-back way of life” is a sample. Nevertheless, the photographs (by Justin Bernhaut) are evocative, and the reporter (Rita Konig) visits some unique-to-Austin shops and such food-related establishments as Chez Nous, Jo’s, Enoteca Vespaio, Torchy’s, Hey Cupcake, and Flip Happy Crepes. Here’s a puzzler, though, about Allens Boots: “This is true Texas in a gun-toting, hardscrabble, slightly scary way.” The March issue is on the stands now. Browsers will find the listings and pix on pages 14-16. There are a few inspirations here for entertaining out-of-town visitors. Note to self: make a point of checking out Domy Books.

Pangaea + Evil Nine, two plus two not equals four

Music+club+people=dancing

Well apparently not. It’s been a long time since two rights made a wrong for me. Friday saw two of the hottest words of the European and the UK’s club scene here in town, Evil Nine, at what is supposed to be one of Austin’s hottest after dark night spots. According to their own myspace page, Pangaea is “The latest incarnation of the enormously successful Pangaea lounges in New York, London and Marbella, Spain, Pangaea Austin is the next chapter in what has been called a New York nightlife institution.”

I admit it, I’ve never been to any of their other incarnations, but for the lavish, Beduin tent style decorations, this club just doesn’t deserve a great dance music act. Things were not looking good from the time I arrived. Yeah, I admit it, I’m probably a bit old for this type of gig. But as a child of the 70’s disco revolution with a daughter who is from the current clubbing generation, I still enjoy the freedom of dance. When I arrived I declared to the “doorman” that I had a paid for VIP ticket. He gestured for me to stay where I was, and then gave some kid in a t-shirt a free ticket. Next-up the people on the entry desk had no record of my online booking and just let me in.

I was taken upstairs and she gestured “the VIP section is over there by the wall”, since I had no visible proof that I’d paid for VIP, I didn’t bother. Inside the club was every bit as good as the pictures. Except there was almost no dance floor. I should have guessed that the night wasn’t going to go well, despite the great warm-up DJ, no one, but none, one was dancing, and there amongst the numerous “bottle service”, red leather covered loungers, were two guys close to puking and spilling drink all over the floor. Nice.

When Evil Nine came on their was no announcement, they just took over the decks to a huge blast of dry ice. Once it had cleared, still no one was dancing, except all but 15 or so people right up next to the DJ stand. Looking around, there wasn’t a glow stick to be found, no luminous clothing, in fact the women dancing on the dance stands aka tables, made the place look more like a strip club where the women were not paid enough to take off their clothes and that was mostly where they’d learned to dance. Trance it wasn’t.

Try as they might, Evil Nine couldn’t get the attention of the crowd. What a wasted opportunity. Not sure who booked them into Pangaea, they’d have been much better off over at Sky Lounge on Congress, or down at the Cowboy Dance hall in San Antonio. Turns out the Earthbird Music had it pretty much right before the gig.

Pangaea either need to remove at least half the “bottle service” loungers for a gig like this, especially since the most obvious use was for people to fall/trip over them or try to move them, but then I’ve never run a club, so what do I know?

Apparently Evil Nine will be back in town for South by South West. I’m sure Pangaea would be great for after parties, I’m at a loss to see what else, nice as it is.

I just read this somewhere

  • This little story about Austin’s commercial real estate has been floating around in parts for the last month or so. Following is some language from today’s NYT (“Sam Zell’s Empire, Underwater in a Big Way,” byline Charles V. Bagli):

    In Austin, when the Thomas Properties Group formed a partnership with the California teachers’ pension fund and Lehman Brothers, which was also a lender in the deal, to buy 10 Equity Office buildings downtown and in the surrounding suburbs for $1.15 billion, it instantly became the biggest commercial landlord in town.

    Like many of the other deals, it was highly leveraged and dependent on rising rents. The problem is that rents are now declining in Austin, particularly in suburban areas, where vacancy rates have climbed to 14.4 percent as several new buildings are coming on line without tenants.

    There are other quotes specific to Austin; just scroll on down. The local daily has been whipping up quite a bit of suspense over whether certain property taxes will be paid.

  • This book’s been out there for a while, but I finally caught up with it at the library, where it’s constantly on hold. Julie and Julia (365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen: How One Girl Risked Her Marriage, Her Job, and Her Sanity to Master the Art of Living) started with a blog by Julie Powell, who grew up right here in Austin. Her blog documented her project, which was to prepare every recipe in the first volume of Mastering the Art of French Cooking, the cookbook that first brought Julia Child to the attention of the world at large. There’s not much of Austin in this book, except a misspelling of Pok-E-Jo’s and passing mention of Austin High. It’s more about friendship and about living in the Big City, working (apparently for the Port Authority) in the aftermath of September 11. I enjoyed this book and recommend it, even though the Austin connection is on the slight side and the cooking parts are as much about shopping as anything else, but that’s one of the ways that Real Life enters in. The author had never really eaten eggs until she started cooking them. She says that people found that difficult to believe, but there’s at least one more person who’s pretty much the same in that respect. I never ate eggs myself and still don’t, except tucked into baked goods. The closest I’ve ever come was when I was starving to death on staff food at a resort that shall go unnamed here and I found that, beyond boxed cereals and steaks filched by friends working at a tonier resort, very lightly egged French toast could be endured for the sake of survival.
  • Mongo: Adventures in Trash, by John Botha, recounts the author’s adventures among scavengers of various types. He’s writing about the Big City, but Austin comes in for a tribute from one in a group of experienced seekers of food and other useful necessities: “In Austin Texas, where he spent the past few winters, he came across a five-gallon drum of solid chocolate–not once, but several times. . . . “We’ve also found whole crates of soy milk and a load of maple syrup and waffle mix. Whole crates! We fed a crew of fifty people out of the Dumpsters. I’ve found bikes, even library Dumpsters. . . . Austin is the best place in the world for Dumpster diving.” I think that this may be true, but I was surprised to find it in print (pages 78 and 78 from the library’s hard-cover edition).
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