12/29/2003

Here's an important plea for help for a Houston family. This is a letter from a very good friend of mine, a local musician here in Houston:
My aunt is in jail!

Back in 1989, my aunt and uncle moved from Houston to Puerto Rico to work for my other uncle's company. They lived in Puerto Rico until about 2000 or so...when they moved to Tampa, Florida.

Well, Dec. 24 (yes, Christmas Eve) my aunt and their 3 children were driving around looking at Tampa's Christmas lights when she was pulled over because she accidentally went down a one way street in a neighborhood she was not familiar with. The officer was super friendly, and even joked about the whole one way street being particularly confusing. But, upon running her DL #, the officer came back andpromptly arrested my aunt- in front of her kids! Handcuffs and all. And took her away. The 3 kids were taken, I assume, by another officer back to the station.

So what happened? Well, back in 1989, a arrest warrant was issued for my aunt because the state has on record that she had a few bad checks written, and for substantial amounts. No one had any idea of this. The bad checks has been returned well after my aunt and uncle closed their bank accounts in Houston. Even well after they moved to Puerto Rico. So, it can be safely assumed that this is a case of identity theft dating back to 1989. Where someone managed to get a hold of some old checks of my aunts (which she may have disposed of improperly, i.e. didn't destroy them) and made purchases with these fraudulent checks. The checks were in her name. Thus, my aunt was considered a felon, since hot check writing is a felony.

As of today, Dec. 29, my aunt is still in jail. The court set NO BAIL since they called her a "flight risk" since "she had left Texas in 1989 right after the bad checks". They assumed "she fled Texas to escape prosecution." So she's stuck in the jailhouse.

My aunt and unclebought a house in Puerto Rico, and a car, and never had heard of any kind arrest warrant for my aunt when the credit checks were run. They were approved for all major credit apps they tried for, so why didn't the warrant show up on any credit checks? This is one way the police and FBI make it hard for criminals on the loose to live a normal life. They should have "caught" my aunt after the first credit check in the early 90's. Nonetheless, she is in jail now.

Some Christmas for my law-abiding aunt huh? She is still incarcerated and will remain there until something can be figured out between my uncle, my mom, and my other uncle, to get her out.

We are pulling out all our resources here in Houston (where this case originated and is still open), seeking legal counsel to help my aunt. Any leads, tips, or resources you can suggest would be great, as every day that goes by my perfect citizen of an aunt sits in prison.
So, as far as I can see there are two main ways you can help.


  1. Important: If you are a lawyer or know any lawyers who are looking to do some pro bono work in the name of justice, please contact me and I will put you in touch with my friend. I know there must be organizations out there for this purpose, but I don't know who they are.
  2. If you have a few minutes, it would be a big help to write a letter to the editor of the Houston Chronicle and let them know about this, and try to attract attention and help for the case. Email me and I'll give you the specifics on the case (names, precincts, etc.). (I'm not posting them here to preserve my friend's privacy.)

We're not seeking monetary donations at present, but we may in the future if her bail is set and is high. Thanks for your generosity and help!

(Update, 1/3/03 - She has been released from jail. No word yet on the next steps.)

12/25/2003

Merry Christmas all! überjam and I are at her folks house, with my mom. Getting ready for Christmas dinner, listening to my new McCoy Tyner CD and my new Niacin CD (which I am particularly excited about). Mmm. How did you all spend your Christmas?

12/22/2003

Naming Contest

OK, I need help. There's a new project I'm working on that is looking to be really cool - a local music calendar site. I don't want to say too much about it now, since it's still so early in the concept phase. Suffice it to say that the idea is to have a VERY comprehensive local music calendar, with the data supported by 3 input streams (automated data capture from other sites, self-entry by bands, and editorial updates by local editors). It'll track genres, individual artists, venues, etc, and it'll all be geared towards getting people more involved in local music by helping them zero in on their favorite music, as well as to be loyal fans for bands they've seen. Similar to JamBase in some ways, but broader in scope (not just for "jam" music - this will have classical, country, hip hop, tejano, etc.) and with more detailed data. This database will also power other sites as well, as a sort of local music tracking engine.

Here's the problem: I don't know what to name it. I've been thinking for a while, but I'm stumped. I want something weird and catchy, something that reminds you of supporting local music. It also needs to be something that I can get the .com for. I like the idea of a "scout" (it finds good local music for you) or the idea of a "glut" (like, there's almost too much good stuff going on, an embarrasment of riches.) Abstract names are OK too. I don't want it to just be a combination of ordinary words like "LocalMusicCalendar.com" or something. I want it to have some spunk.

So ... help me find a name! Put it in the comments or email me your ideas.

12/19/2003

Ah, what a day ... überjam got her new car today, and it's a beauty. The day was spent cleaning and preparing for my family's visit (they arrive tonight) with a few minor emergencies thrown in for good measure. Now we're off to Sambuca to see Mark Dini (with a friend, Austin Biel, on keys), then off to the airport to pick up the fam. Should be a fun few days with them around for the holidays!

12/17/2003

If you have a few minutes, read this cartoon - A Drug War Carol. It's a pretty indepth look at the history and sources of drug prohibition, and the current state of affairs. Very well done, and thought provoking.

12/16/2003

Today, so far, has been a great day:

a) überjam is done with her schoolwork for the year. A collective sigh of relief is heaved.

b) Today at Eatzi's, my salad was made by the Salad Ninja. For those of you who've never had the pleasure, Eatzi's in Houston has one particular salad chef who does all kinds of knife acrobatics while he makes your salad. It rules, he has real ultimate salad power. I'd get his picture, only they don't allow photography. Maybe my friend Marty who works there can hook me up.

c) My family are all coming to visit on Friday and staying with us for a few days. I am very excited to see them all.

d) Tonight I am going to see the best movie ever made for the first time.

Much to be thankful for!
Just read this Salon article about the police crackdown at the Miami FTAA protests, and it's pretty disturbing. People were arresting people - even journalists and legal observers - indiscriminately, shooting senior citizens with pepper spray, etc.

As many people in this article said, I am all about supporting the badge, but this was not "the badge". This was a police force gone crazy, whipped up into a frenzy ... not by protesters, but by their own superiors, who want to make the Miami police force look good. Thankfully we have a legal system that will allow those injured to sue; and since these are such well-documented, flagrant abuses, I would think it'd stand up in court. We'll see.

In the mean time, those of you who are democrats should contact the Democratic National Committee and tell them to fire John Timoney, who was the architect of this crackdown. He has been hired to provide security at the DNC convention in Boston. You can comment on the DNC blog and tell them.

12/15/2003

Thanks to everybody who donated and voted. We raised a couple hundred bucks for Michael, and we'll find out Friday who wins on House Rules.

I spent yesterday re-reading lord of the rings one last time before the movie finally comes out, and then recording in the studio on a few cuts from Plump's new album, which sounds great. Now we're in the home stretch for Christmas, which involves much cleaning, preparing, etc..

12/12/2003

Today I am extending 2 important requests for friends of mine. Please take a moment and help out!

1. Mike Switzer, our friendly neighborhood trombone player, KTRU DJ, and all around wacky guy, had his trombone stolen out of his car last night. If we all pitch in a couple bucks, he'll have a new horn in no time.

Make payments with PayPal - it's fast, free and secure!

2. Cindy Scott, a great jazz singer from Houston, is competing on the TV reality show "House Rules". It's kind of like "Survivor" meets "Trading Spaces." Bill and Cindy are the Blue Team, and if they win, they keep the house and $50,000. Starting tonight at 8pm, you can vote for them this weekend, as many times as you want. Click here for the full scoop!



Please take a moment and help these folks out!

12/10/2003

A few days ago, I saw this lovely internet side effect - type miserable failure into google and click "I'm Feeling Lucky" and you'll see this. It's explained a bit in this BBC article, but it's a prank - a practice formally known as Google Bombing - by using words to link to a page, those words become associated in the google search results.

So that's old news by now, but a couple days back, I got a forward from a friend - someone he knew had written to him regarding this effect, with the subject of "Vast Left Wing Conspiracy":
Why on earth would you be directed to George Bush's official bio page?? That page does not even contain the words "miserable failure". Yahoo has a perfectly good search engine - it's time to switch!
I promise: people's feelings about Bush aren't a vast conspiracy. He invokes that anger one person at a time, and people make their opposition publicly known. And it's not just liberals.

No, if you really want to see a vast conspiracy, you don't need to look any farther than the connections between corporate board rooms and government.


Also, I think the fact that J Lo and Ben Affleck are still making movies has got to be some kind of vast conspiracy.

12/09/2003

Big news in Deanland today - Al Gore has endorsed Howard Dean for President.

I was never a big Gore fan, but I have become much more of one since he won and subsequently ceded the election in 2000. He's really started speaking out for stuff I believe in, and seems like he's got some guts. He's no longer in the shadow of Bill Clinton (and Bill Clinton's misdeeds).

So at this point, I think pretty much everybody thinks it's sealed up. If anybody else but Dean gets it, all the air will go out of the sails of this new "progressive middle" democratic movement and Bush will certainly win. So I think it's time for the other guys to drop out. But I guess they can't do that easily and still save face. It would just be so much better in the long run, cuz Dean can focus on beating Bush and not the other Dems.

12/08/2003

Busy weekend! Friday night Jill and I attended a party for the Foundation for Modern Music, a really great local music promotion group that advocates for "modern classical music" (for lack of a better word) in Houston. In other words, music by living or recently living composers. I will mention them more later.

Through that, we learned of a volunteer opportunity for Bill White's campaign, which we did on Saturday. And as predicted, Bill White came out ahead. I think that's a good thing for Houston, we will see ...

Last night, after volunteering, we went over to the Alamo Draft House for a performance of Mr. Sinus Theater 3000. It's just like the real MST3K, but they do it live in theaters. It was great - they did Top Gun, with a keen eye for the blatant homosexual overtones that run rampant in the movie. A+.

Then we went to Brasil to check out Righteous Buddha. Those guys are awesome. I wish they had a web site I could direct you to, but you can hear one of their tracks on the Drop Trio blog.

Today was mostly relaxing and winding down, watching west wing and such. Back to the grind tomorrow ...

12/05/2003

For those of you in Houston, it's almost voting time! There is a major runoff election this Saturday, Dec. 6th. To see who is running and read about their positions, check out this awesome site called LocalVoter.com:
http://www.localvoter.com/cityhouston.asp
They've got lots of good info on local races across texas, so if you ever need to know what's going on in local politics, check there. I hope this site branches out to the rest of the country, it's really helpful.

For myself, I'm going with the color guard - White, Brown & Green! Bill White for mayor, Peter Brown for City Council, and Ronald Green for city council. Throw in Anise Parker for good measure. Too bad her name's not a color as well.

But regardless of who you pick, VOTE!

12/04/2003

So last night, I'm driving home from a couple rehearsals, and I turn on the radio. The show on KFPT is Damage Control, a hip hop show with host Matt Sonzala and others. They're talking with some congressman, who I assume to be a state congressman.

Then I realize that it's Dennis Kucinich. And he's in studio.

So naturally, I change course and head over to the studios, a few blocks from my house. I find the studio full to overflowing with people - rappers, hip hop djs, and a few other friends. I shake hands with the guy, and head home.

What I wanted to say (but of course did not) was: Dennis, I think you are a man of great integrity and courage, and your campaign impresses me. Now stop it already, and throw your weight to Dean so we can get him elected and end the most disasterous administration in US history.

But later, I came to a couple realizations. Kucinich will never get the Democratic nod. But he is playing an important role at this stage in the election, in 2 ways.

First, he is giving voice and focus to the left-most element in US politics, giving them a spokesman in a very high position. That has the effect of pulling the whole debate a little bit to the left. If he weren't there, Dean would be as far left as it goes, and he's a blooming centrist for crying out loud. Kucinich says the stuff that needs to be said but that would get Dean thrown out on his ear if he said it.

Second, Kucinich has taken all the super-left politically active people - the wonderful people who are always politically active, but who, for better or worse, have a tendency to alienate the average American - and kept them out of the Dean campaign. So the Dean campaign's infrastructure is dug in with left-leaning moderates, like myself, who don't want revolution, just honesty and improvement. You'll never hear a Dean organizer shout "Free Mumia!". So the campaign actually has a chance of convincing Joe NASCAR Dad to lend his vote.

I don't want to sound like an apologist for the center. I am all for freeing Mumia, legalizing pot, supporting gay marriage, waging peace, and cracking down on corporate and political cronyism. But I also want to a) win this election and then b) heal this artificial rift between left and right that has exploded under Bush. The direction things are going, both sides feel a sort of "with us or against us" mentality (which Bush has even said explicitly). But we all share more in common than we realize. The categorical divisions need to end, and that's the most important thing. Bush is a divider, and the American nation is hurting because of it. Dean is a uniter, and a healer.

12/02/2003

I've been wondering about something lately. Where does my tax money go? I know it goes for public services and such. But, specifically, how much goes to what? That's public information, right? It would be nice to be able to say "I personally paid 400 for that war in Iraq", etc. Sadly, all my searching has turned up no such handy tool.

So since I've been learning a little PHP lately, just for fun, I cooked up this little calculator:
Where's my money?
The figures come from the National Budget Simulator, and I don't know if they're totally accurate (and naturally, the situation is more complex than that, with property taxes, state taxes, sales tax, etc.). But it's interesting to see where your money is actually going, at least roughly.

If you like it, give me some feedback and maybe I'll make a version 2.0 that takes more factors into account.

12/01/2003

Ah, back to the grind.

Hope you all had a nice Thanksgiving. I did, very restful. One minor complaint: I have lately been a bit irked by the emphasis everybody puts on preparing and eating large amounts of food at Thanksgiving. Everybody I talked to about the weekend was pretty psyched about how much food they made and ate. I'm all for feasting - there's a lot to be thankful for, and parties & family are both good things. But I couldn't help thinking that it's time now for a compensating increase in our awarness of hunger. 850 million people go to sleep hungry every day, and 24,000 people die every day from hunger related causes. World hunger is on the rise again, and it's not because we don't have enough food in the world. I don't understand the political and economic causes of hunger, certainly, but I know that the only way to change things is for people who have enough to be aware.

So here's your task for today. If you had a great big Thanksgiving meal, donate $5 to help. It's not gonna set you back much, and if nothing else, it'll put you in a spirit of helpfulness. Better, as Eleanor Roosevelt said, to light one small candle than to curse the darkness. Go do it.

11/28/2003

Happy Buy Nothing Day!

We had a nice Thanksgiving, relaxing with family down here in Crystal Beach. Today I'm in for more of the same - reading, sleeping, visiting. Hopefully I'll make some inroads into ROTK so I can finish it in time for the movie. (Yes, I've read it before, this is just a preparatory re-read.)

11/26/2003

Ah, gay marriage. There has been lots of furor about the Massachussets court stating the right of gay marriage recently. And all the conservative Christians cry foul, stating that this develoment will destroy marriage as we know it, and we'll all go to hell in a handbasket. Hmm.

Here's a great piece on Slate that rebuffs the idea that gay marriage somehow "undermines" hetero marriage:
What's really undermining the sanctity of marriage?
I just don't understand why conservative religious folks are so quick to step on other people's rights when those rights don't conform to their own sense of morality. This is a FREE country, not a christian moral state. As long as people aren't hurting each other, they should be able to do whatever they want, however they want, and believe what they want. Tell me, conservative christians: how are they hurting you by getting married? Or more tellingly, what do you get out of preventing them from doing so?

Imagine this - what if I were to start a new religion tomorrow, called Smurfism. (I have the legal right to start a new religion if I want, and it has exactly the same status as any existing religion.) Let's say that in my religion, I preach that only same sex couples can marry. Well, now we're in a bind. My religion states a moral law that is diometrically opposed to Christianity, yet by the laws of this country, they are both equal. Whose side should the US goverment take?

The answer is, neither. In a fair society, "marriage" and "the governmental benefits associated with marriage" should be separate. If the government sets up a precedent whereby a pair of people can declare themselves a family and receive certain rights and benefits therefrom (like visiting each other in the hospital, for example), they can't allow it according to the statutes of one religion and not allow it acroding to another. Call it civil union if you want to, but stop denying it.

What's really at heart here is bigotry, plain and simple. Just because someone is different from you doesn't mean they're wrong.

11/25/2003

Big news! OK, well, probably not big news for anybody but me. This message from Rhodes Music Corporation co-founder Joseph A. Brandstetter was posted on the Rhodes Supersite:
I have aquired the world wide trade mark for the Rhodes electric piano and musical instruments. Spread the word that I intend to build the greatest electric piano and would love everybody's input. They can talk with me personally by e-mailing at brandstetterajoseph@msn.com. Brad, thanks for all your years of support for Harold, even though not always the right story got out. Hope to hear from you soon. Maybe you would like an interview for your web site. Joseph A. Brandstetter
That means that, in the possibly near future, I won't have to beg various surly repair people in town to please please please look at my Rhodes and maybe tune it or work on the action. No, this raises the possibility that I could actually have someone qualified work on it, maybe even under warranty, with new parts. Realistically, what it does is move Rhodes from the background of vintage land to the modern day world of instrument creation. Gives it a little respect, and possibly makes it so the immediate reaction of other musicians to the Rhodes is something besides "Wow, cool ... but how do you deal with getting it serviced?". Well, a guy can dream.

11/24/2003

The good doctor has been picking up a lot of steam lately. He's ahead in the polls in Iowa (and way ahead in NH). As they say, "nothing succeeds like success". I just read a quote from him that I think really makes sense:
"People basically heal themselves most of the time. The doctor's job for the most part is to set forth a clear plan and recruit the positive part of the patient to execute that plan. And to give confidence to that person that we can succeed again. That's all I'm doing, is giving people confidence." - Howard Dean
He'll be taking part in an 8-way presidential debate today, wish I could watch.

11/22/2003

Being sick is no fun. Jill and I have been sick for a week now, and it doesn't feel like we're getting any better. I'm drinking lots of fluids, resting, taking medecine, drinking wheatgrass juice, taking coldeze, renting comedies ... and I'm still sick. Blegh.

I wonder if it has anything to do with the fact that I've had a rehearsal or gig every night this week, often not getting home until 1:30 am. Hmm. Health is one of those things I take for granted when I've got it, scheduling myself up to the hilt and throwing caution to the wind. Even this week my illness hasn't really slowed my schedule too much. I generally believe that if you keep a positive attitude, you'll kick illness pretty quick by force of will. I guess this particular bug just has a stronger will than I do. Doh.

11/21/2003

Hearkening back to my earlier posts about animal cruelty, here's a great report from The Straight Dope on the question:

Is 'Cage-Free' just another marketing ploy for eggs, or are the chickens really better off?

For those unfamiliar with the Straight Dope, it's a weekly column where Cecil Adams, a Chicago reader columnist, answers those nagging questions like "Why do people say 'Jesus H Christ'" and "If nothing sticks to Teflon, how does Teflon stick to the pan?". Always good for a laugh and generally good for making the world a little bit less confusing. You can even sign up to get it every week by email.

11/19/2003

Got this forwarded to me today and found it pretty genius. I guess I'm a bit behind the ball on this guy's site, but what can I say, I'm a busy guy.
i am better than your kids.
Nice.

11/18/2003

This afternoon after work, I'm heading over to a Howard Dean rally here in Houston. I heard Dean talking on NPR yesterday and, as usual, he sounded like a smart, principled, passionate man. And now it's starting to become clear to people that Dean actually has a chance at winning. Here's why I dig him:
  • He's fiscally conservative (balanced his state budget). He's a penny pincher, not a tax-n-spend democrat (or a cut-n-still-spend republican). Read this great story about when a cancelled flight forced the Dean crew to take a ferry across Lake Champlain - Dean made everybody wait while he searched through his wallet for a free ferry pass he had. That rules.
  • He's socially liberal (supports gay rights, the arts, etc).
  • He's a doctor and really knows health care (got universal health care for children in VT).
  • He believes in a strong military and knows we need to finish strong in Iraq (even though he was against the preemptive action). He wants to get help from the international community to do it right, by opening up the reconstruction bids to them (no more Halliburton sweet heart deals) and not basing our international diplomacy on a "my way or the highway" motto.
  • He wants to cancel the Bush tax cuts (aka welfare for the richest 1%), and use that money to fund projects that will actually help improve our country (like helping people get an affordable college education).
  • He wants to focus on renewable energy sources (wind, solar, fuel cells, etc.) and get us off our oil dependency
  • He will help small businesses and small farmers, which are (IMO) the real strength of America.
And there's plenty more. I would be pretty psyched if he gets the nomination - he's the only one I've seen with the ability to generate that kind of excitement. He raised $15 million in donations that averaged $77. He excites people and brings them back to the democratic process, which is a great thing.

So if you're curious, come by the rally tonight (it's at Miller Outdoor Theater in Hermann Park) and make up your own mind.

11/17/2003

This just came across the wire from my friend Cam:

http://www.candyboots.com/wwcards.html

A bit of brightness in an otherwise rainy day.

11/16/2003

Home again, finally, after a long weekend of travel. Friday morning, the band played a store opening here in Houston (the newly remodeled Specs, which I think might now indeed be the world biggest friggin' liquor store). Then we piled in 2 cars (Ron's wife Tara was along for the trip, thus necessitating 2 vehicles) and caravaned to Baton Rouge. You've got to love Texas. When we pulled up at a drive through burger place in Beaumont for lunch, I said "Have you got any veggie burgers?" to which the woman replied "We've got a BLT burger with bacon lettuce and tomato ... ?"

We made it to Baton Rouge just in time to have a quick interview on the radio station (KLSU). That was pretty neat, right when we walked in they handed us a poster for the next night's show and had us all sign it. What a rock star moment. That rock stardom was quickly dispelled when we got to the venue at 10:30 pm and it was totally empty. Doh. We played for a handful of folks, and they seemed to really like it. Not the screaming throngs we were expecting, however.

Our next day was spend driving around Baton Rouge, watching movies and napping. Fortunately for morale, the 2nd show (at the Mellow Mushroom) was packed, and we had a lot of fun. Almost as much fun as playing was entertaining ourselves with the very drunk clientele at the Mellow Mushroom. One guy had a full conversation with our bass player about what kind of bass he played, etc., and then proceeded to ask me if we had a bass player. He did the exact same thing to the next band as well. The funniest part was that he was a bass player himself. ?? Wasn't playing with all 4 strings, so to speak.

Our trip home was uneventful, though we did have the pleasure to listen to the new (pre-release) CD by Bones (aka Michael Miller), the awesome guy who put us up for 2 nights at his house, made us cookies, and generally took care of us in Baton Rouge. The Bones CD is fantastic, I can't wait to share it with everybody here in Houston (and beyond) once it's released. We also spun the new Galactic record, and old MMW record, the most recent Calexico record, and some Righteous Buddha. Good stuff.

Now I'm settled in at home with a book, a wife, and a thunderstorm. I have much to be thankful for.

11/12/2003

After my musings about McDonalds and veggie burgers, I had some good discussions with people about why I am a vegetarian. I realized that while I would never crusade to get anyone else to be a vegetarian (I think it's a personal decision), I would crusade to get people to change their mind about one thing: eating meat from factory farms. Yesterday I found this very clever link:

http://www.themeatrix.com/

If you are eating meat from factory farms (i.e. meat that doesn't say "free range"), for the love of God, please switch.

11/11/2003

News just arrived that a high school friend of my officemate - an officer named Gary Collins, from Magnolia - was killed this weekend in Iraq. It's the first casualty of anyone I know, even indirectly like this.

Like all of our soldiers, he was fighting for the good of his country and the world, and his bravery and sacrifice makes me proud to be an American. He is survived by a wife and 2 kids.

11/10/2003

I recently heard through the grapevine that McDonald's is finally introducing some Veggie Burgers in Texas. Nevermind that they're 15 years behind the ball on this one; good to see them trying. They started in SoCal last April, and now they have arrived here in Houston.

So last night, Jill and I took the plunge and hit McDonald's for the first time in, well, years. Our experience? The burgers were weird tasting, rubbery and kind of lame. (And the fries were soggy.) Sure they're low fat but they probably contained our week's worth of sodium. Not what I would call a stellar experience.

BUT, but, but ... well, we do really want to encourage them to sell these veggie burgers nationwide. There have been many times when a Veggie Burger option at Mikey D's would've come in handy (on the road, in the airport, etc). So following the advice on the bag, I called customer service. Naturally, they weren't answering the phone outside of business hours, but they did indicate that you can send them an email through their web site. So I did:

Dear McDonald's,

Last night, for the first time in many, many years, my wife and I ate at McDonald's. You see, we are vegetarians, and McDonald's has long been a bastion of vegetarian-less-ness. (That's not a word as far as I know, is it?) Anyhow, we heard that Veggie burgers (sorry, "McVeggie" burgers) had been introduced here in America's fattest city, Houston, and we rushed right out to try 'em. (OK, well, I rushed out and dragged my wife with me. She was never into McDonald's so much, or at least, never really lived on the stuff to the degree that I did.)

Our experience was ... meager? Not particularly exciting, in any case. Our main beef (hahaha) was the taste and texture of the veggie burgers themselves. They were going for the "meat" feel, which I can understand, but it came off as a bit rubbery. Being regular fake meat eaters, we know there are plenty of yummy meat-like veggie burgers out there, so I would suggest that perhaps a bit more research would be in order.

Maybe they weren't cooked thoroughly enough as well - that could be a training issue; the Sunday night graveyard shift in Houston may simply have been among the least well prepared to cook these burgers. No offense to the staff at the Westheimer location, it was near closing time and I'm sure they were eager to get home and not very excited by a couple hippies showing up to make 'em cook some veggie burgers. They were courteous, and in the end not really responsible for the quality of the ingredients.

Anyway, here's the meat of my suggestion (hahaha): rather than making it a separate type of burger on its own, why not offer it as a substitution? Like, for 50 cents more, you can have a veggie big mac, a veggie hamburger, a veggie cheeseburger, heck, even a veggie bacon cheeseburger (to each their own, right?) I would guzzle veggie big macs by the plateful. Mmm, special sauce.

In any case, thanks for introducing these, it's right direction. Cows of the universe thank you.

Ian Varley
Houston, TX


I'll let you know if they respond.

11/06/2003

I happened to notice that today is the birthday of Paul Brindley, the bass player for one of my all time favorite bands, The Sundays. For those not familiar with the Sundays, they're a Brit band with a floaty female singer and virtually indecipherable lyrics - they had a couple hits in the late 80s (one being "Here's Where The Story Ends"). The singer, Harriet, has a gorgeous voice, and together with her guitar-player husband David they wrote some of the most hauntingly beautiful, dissonant, wrenching songs I've ever heard. They produced three of the albums in my (theoretical) "top 100 albums ever" list, and they've been the soundtrack to some of my favorite moments in life.

So naturally, I was poking around today to see if there's any news of a new album by them in the foreseeable future. The basic answer is, no. Harriet and David have 2 young kids now, and don't seem to be in a rush to put out new material. Sadly, most of the information about them on the web has succumbed to link rot - this list of Sundays links is now almost 100% defunct, and Arithmetic (the closest thing to a fan site I could find) hasn't been updated for almost a year. I'll hold out hope, though.

As for Paul, he's now a consultant and music writer with his own web site. Go Paul.

11/05/2003

So, OK, I didn't go see Stryper. :( But I saw something even better...

Raq. They were nothing short of amazing. Opie Hendrix and I were standing around talking about how we felt like we should be seeing these guys in front of a huge crowd at Miller, not in front of 20 people on a Tuesday night at the Rhythm Room. They're similar to Phish in many ways (including the fact that they hail from Vermont), but they play faster than Phish and they've got a more obvious progressive rock bent. Which is great with me! I got their CD and I can recommend it highly.

I was talking to the band after their set, and I mentioned that it was too bad that there was such a meager crowd. The drummer, Greg, said "Yeah, crowds are nice, but it doesn't make a difference to us." That's the kind of attitude that separates the success stories from the failure stories. They're playing at the Vibe in Austin tonight, so if anybody in Austin is reading this, go check 'em out. I will keep tabs on 'em and let you know when they're back in town. Big props to Tapir Productions for bringing these guys in.

11/04/2003

Just found out on Houston Calling that Stryper is playing at the Engine Room tonight. HELLO!?! Stryper! In Houston! At the Engine Room! I am so there.

11/03/2003

For those of you planning on voting in tomorrow's city elections here in Houston (which should be everybody who lives here, right?), check out this fellow, Thomas Zermeno, who's running for city council at large position #4. I have met him at not 1, but 2 separate local improv music events, and in the "60 Musicians" piece I was talking about before, his musical contribution was: chewing. Into a microphone. I think he might have been chewing carrots, or maybe potato chips. That's not important. What is important is that I want a man like this on the city council in Houston. So make sure you vote for him!

Incidentally, besides his prowess as a performance artist, he's also got a neat idea for direct local representation -- meaning that he'll put all the issues up on his web site, and people can vote directly there, thus influencing his decisions. Probably has some technical flaws, but I think experiments with direct democracy are well past nigh in this day and age, with computers and the internet and all. The founding fathers set up our system of representation well based on the world as they knew it, but I think (hope) we're getting closer to a point where people can literally decide issues for themselves directly. Lots of details to work out, but I think the core concept is a good one.

And while I'm on the subject of voting ... did you know that you can look up online whether you're registered or not, and who else is? Pretty nifty, though I'm glad it doesn't list your phone or email or anything, because I'm sure there are nefarious sorts out there who would ignore the part that says "IT IS A CRIMINAL OFFENSE TO USE VOTER REGISTRATION INFORMATION IN CONNECTION WITH ADVERTISING OR PROMOTING COMMERCIAL PRODUCTS OR SERVICES."
Just added myself to a site called GeoURL, which locates web sites in real space (otherwise known by the charming monker "meatspace"). Take a look at who is near me:



Some pretty neat stuff in there, which I've only begun to explore.

11/01/2003

Jill and I went to a really cool short film series last night, at the Axiom theater, an indie theater / punk club. It was a program by Microcinema called Halloweird, and weird it was. The first film, by a local Houston director, wasn't really our cup of tea, but the rest of the shorts - by directors all over the world - were really excellent. Among the highlights were "Pervula", a mock-1920's-silent-film about a perverted cloth-faced vampire chasing a screeching young woman with the intention of spanking her; "Le Corbeau", a french film about a older couple and a crow, and "How To Cope With Death", a cartoon in which the grim reaper comes after an old woman sitting in front of her television, only to have his ass squarely kicked by her, kung-fu style.

Anyway, it's just more proof (to me) that Houston has excellent, interesting, twisted, independent arts events to compete with any other city. The difference is that here, it's just the transplants and French ex-pats who people these excellent events.

Listening to: Ani's double live disc, realizing (again) that she's the best.

10/31/2003

Happy Halloween! I got my first blog comments spam yesterday. Maybe it was due to cabbage night?

10/30/2003

Today's news is that the British MPs have voted to downgrade Marijuana to a less illegal drug, no longer an arrestable offense.

To me (and most sane people I know), this is welcome news. The war on drugs is an illegitimate, moralistic, costly affair that helps nobody and hurts many. If you really want to stop harmful drug use, legalize and control it - people who do enough of it to endanger themselves (or who EVER endanger anyone else by their drug use) are then out in the open and thus can be helped (or imprisoned) as appropriate. Total drug prohibition is like preaching abstinance over condoms in Africa - it doesn't work, and millions of people have their lives ruined as a result.

At the very least, drug use (on its own) should not be a criminal offense - our jails are full of non-violent drug offenders, and that just plain sucks. The history of marijuana criminalization, in particular, is rife with racism (black people mostly smoked it) and economic cronyism (timber companies didn't like that you could make a lot more paper a lot cheaper from hemp). Maybe that's still with us, or maybe it's just momentum, but I can't think of any modern reason why it is criminal to have and use this plant. Drug use (when it doesn't endanger anyone) is a personal choice, just like religion and diet and body modification and whatall else.

10/29/2003

Just rediscovered a piece of time-management software called Life Balance. I had used it a couple years back when it was just for Mac OSX, but now it's on Windows too so I can use it at work.

Basically, it's a to-do list. But the cool thing is, you can put in to-do items, big or small, sweeping or discrete, from all the different competing areas of your life. They can contain sub-tasks, so the whole thing is hierarchically organized. (For example, you could make a task "Get organized", and within that, tasks for "Clean out desk", "Respond to emails", etc.). Then you can state which tasks are most important to their parent tasks. From there, it basically organizes your to-do list based on importance.

Seems kind of silly, but I have found that this software really does work. The typical view of human memory is that short term memory holds an average of 7 items at a time (that's a simple and outdated model, but it's generally agreed that you can only keep a small, discrete set of items in mind at once; see this paper for a fascinating look at human memory). Anyway, I've got way more than 7 things going on at any one time - more like 70. Rather than just dealing with whatever happens to be most in my face at any given time (like, what's an emergency, what's the squeaky wheel), this software lets me focus on what's most important first, even if it's not the most obvious thing. So long term goals, if you've said they're more important than short term stuff, get more priority. You can adjust it over time if you don't think it accurately reflects your priorities, but if you use it right and are honest about what's important, it might surprise you what you need to do next.

There, now I can check "Write in my blog" off. Phew.

10/27/2003

Our wonderful friend Carrie Kirby (Sinophile, Kenoshan, and writer for the SF Chronicle) is having a baby!
Great essay by IdiotProgrammer about leaving Austin. He captured the spirit of what so many of us went through in the dotcom boom (he was in Austin, I was in San Francisco - same difference). I came to Houston for somewhat different reasons (my wife entered graduate school here). But everything else - the high cost of living, job hunting, trying to get by without the resources, doing jobs you hate, worrying about the next layoff, wanting so badly to stay in that wonderful town - yes. And likewise this strange, unfathomable affection for the homely hometown of Houston, that takes you in and lets you live your life.
Two highlights of the evening yesterday:

1. Witnessing 60 musicians in 60 minutes. The superb musical performances ran the gamut - each was totally unique and interesting, surprising and creative. From the dual slide whistles to the giant Hamburg drum, it really was a masterpiece - a quilt of Houston's creative music community. Way to go POF!

2. Seeing J. W. Americana perform for the first time, at the Houston Music Foundation benefit. These guys are wacko and amazing - it's got to be seen to be believed. I am planning decisively to hit their Nov. 18th show at Rudz.

Ed. Note, 11:36 pm - Turns out their site is wrong, and the date at Rudz is 11/15. Which stinks for me cuz I'll be playing out of town, but it's better for them, since that's a Saturday night and not a Tuesday. Ah well.

10/26/2003

We're spending our extra hour this morning listening to Elliot Smith records. Getting ready to go grab some brunch at the Black Lab (best brunch in town, by the way) and then head over to the Call & Converge festival at Barnevelder. It will be really interesting, if you like creative improvisation and amazing art by local artists, you owe it to yourself to come by. It starts at 3, and I'll play at around 8.

10/24/2003

Music outlook this weekend is great, make sure you go see live music! Tonight (Friday):

- Drop Trio (w/ Olospo) @ Rhythm Room
- Houston Indymedia Party @ Helios w/ Free Radicals & DRUM
- Oteil & The Peacemakers (w/ Vibe Committee) @ Last Concert Cafe
- Hilary Sloan @ West Alabama Ice House
- Junior Senior @ Stuka (Jill's pick)
- Clouseaux @ Rudyard's

Tomorrow night (Saturday):

- Drop Trio @ Brasil
- Free Radicals / Persephone / Voltron Harmonix @ Dubtex Warehouse
- Norma Zenteno @ Cosmos
- D.R.U.M. @ Last Concert Cafe
- (Daytime) Joe's Roadhouse @ Rhythm Room (Live broadcast on KPFT)
- Carolyn Wonderland / Buddhacrush @ Rhythm Room

Sunday:
- I play in "60 Musicians in 60 Minutes" for the POF "Call and Converge" @ Barnevelder
- Houston Music Foundation kickoff event @ Engine Room

10/23/2003

Last night as I was loading in for my gig, I had the pleasure of seeing the very first Metro Rail operational test. VERY exciting. They're quite nice looking (I wish I had, or could find, a picture. It's kinda like this but taller and more futuristic looking. Here's a video if you really care to see it.)

All the bartenders on main street were out with bottles of champagne, toasting the train as it went by.

10/22/2003

Terrible news - seems that Elliot Smith has committed suicide.
Neighborhood blogger Claire got her car broken into last night, as we did recently. I wonder if it's just one dude with a penchant for cheap car stereos? I wonder, further, if our neighborhood watch group is making any difference in the crime rate.

After some research I see that you can actually look up crime stats by neighborhood in Houston. Here are the stats for our neighborhood. Looks like there are about 60 car break ins a month in our area of town. That is one busy dude!

10/21/2003

Possibly the most genius. mocumentary. ever.

"Skipping rocks is just too empircal ... too limiting."

10/20/2003

Anybody want to be my sponsor? I am playing this Sunday in a performance called "60 Musicians In 60 Minutes", which is part of the Pauline Oliveros Foundation's "Call and Converge" event happening at the Barnevelder Movement Arts Complex. I am supposed to find one or more people to sponsor me to the tune of $10. All proceeds benefit the Pauline Oliveros Foundation. Any takers?

For more background: the Pauline Oliveros Foundation was founded by (you guessed it) Pauline Oliveros, a 20th century composer (with an impressive discography) who was originally from Houston. She's a big supporter and enthusiast for creative improvisatory music. She comes out of the "classical" tradition (meaning, western-based through-composed music with historical roots in the Classical period), but she pushes any and all boundaries, and her music is now best called "Deep Listening Music", meaning it fuses a spiritual / psychological focus in the listener with a deeply creative & free approach to making sound. Her foundation thrives today in several cities, one of which is Houston. Dave Dove, a local trombonist and improviser, is the head of the foundation locally, and he has gathered to himself a wide array of local Houston (and Austin) musicians interested in free improvisation. Not what you'd expect from a city like Houston, eh? Anyway, this Sunday is their BIG EVENT. There will be an art show, free food, live improvised music, and then the aforementioned "60 Musicians in 60 Minutes" piece, which I'll be participating in. (BTW, some of the other friends of mine in it you might know and / or want to sponsor: Brian Allen, Brian Arthur, Maria Chavez, Chris Cogburn, Thomas Helton, and Mike Switzer.)

Even if you're not interested in sponsoring me, make a point to come by the Barnevelder Movement Arts Complex (east side of downtown) this Sunday, anytime after 3:30 pm (there's a suggested $4 donation). I guarantee it'll be one of the most unique creative experiences you've ever had in Houston.

10/19/2003

Nice review of my good friends m headphone. They recently trekked back east after several years in California (as did I, though to a different destination, mine being somewhat more south than Connecticut). It's a great review, and they deserve it - they are an amazing band. Go check out their site and listen to some of their music, it's totally catchy.

10/17/2003

OK, it's official: I get too much email. It's not yet 5pm, and already today I've gotten over 75 emails, about half of which are important things I need to respond to. Perhaps I need some better email tools.
Mike Switzer points out a great new way to amuse yourself on the web. It's called Googlism, and it basically uses Google search results to suck out a series of more or less sensible phrases that can be applied to the given query. Try it, put in your own name.

It's just the sort of unintentional poetry you might find from the likes of Donald Rumsfeld. I think my favorites are the ones about George Bush and cameltoe. What's your favorite?

10/16/2003

Big news for Windows users who like music: Apple just released iTunes (complete with iTunes music store access) for PC. I just downloaded and installed it, and it works just like my Mac version. Beautiful. It is light years beyond any exsting MP3 players for Windows, especially the piece of crap known as windows media player. Woo hoo!
Weekend music roundup ...

Thursday
- Cezanne Jazz Jam
- Phuz @ Grabba Java
- Beetle @ Continental Club
- Carla Bozulich @ Super Happy Fun Land (Mike Switzer recommends)
- Melinda Mones @ Blanco's
- Norma Zenteno @ Sambuca
Friday
- Plump & Brothers Past @ Rhythm Room (Charles Bishop recommends)
- Tru Sol @ Warehouse Music Cafe & Icehouse
- Ulu @ Last Concert Cafe
- New Jack Hippies @ Rowdy's
- Southern Backtones @ Continental Club
Saturday
- Drop Trio, Dubtex, DJ Swift & DJ Suma @ Dubtex Warehouse (1211 Hutchins @ Polk)
- Rosta Jazz Avengers @ Super Happy Fun Land (8pm, so you can go see them and still make it over to the Drop Trio Fire & Ice party w/ Dubtex)

Of course, there's a lot more than that ... check out the KFPT Music Calendar for the full details.

10/15/2003

Just got home from a couple hours of practice, and it feels great. This fall, thanks in large part to piano lessons I'm taking, I have found a renewed sense of joy in practice. Or maybe "renewed" is the wrong word, since that implies that it was there before. No, I have never really enjoyed practice before. But now it feels right. I am learning from it, almost every time, and seeing (small) progress. Tonight I also wrote the 2nd half of a new jazz tune I'm working on. (Any name suggestions? Leave a comment...)

10/14/2003

OK, finally I have gotten my blogroll together. (A blogroll is a list of other blogs that you link to.) Here's the list (also on the right now) with a bit of explanation for each:

Friends o' mine:
Polyphony - Good friend from Skidmore, now living in DC, and just engaged to be married.
Nino - Sometimes bass player for my band, Drop Trio.
Alpern - Fascinating guy I know from Skidmore - a fellow fan of Hofstaedter and cognitive philosophy. Now working as a UI designer at eBay.

Locals:
Not A Compliment - Mike Switzer, local trombonist and misantrhopic populist.
Poopscape - Montrose resident, craftswoman, restraunt critic and new mom.
Houston Calling - High quality local music blog by David Cobb.
Idiotprogrammer - Fellow computer guy & music fan in Houston who is experimenting with listening only to freely available MP3s.
Overflow - Cody, a Houston dad & computer guy; writes really insightful stuff about spirituality and its continual clash with daily life.
Perfectly Cromulent - Local music fan & left leaning political observer
Dan Workman - Producer at SugarHill studios

National:
Dr. Howard Dean - Howard Dean's campaign blog (the original, the busiest, the best). Dean is my man - a smart, down to earth guy with sensible policies.
Cho - Margaret Cho rocks my world, now on a daily basis.
OM Trio - Stories of the road from America's hardest travelling metal funk jazz trio.

I'm always looking for new ones - I figure that I can fit about a dozen or so in my daily reading list, so as I find new ones, I'll bump others off to make room.
Ani was most righteously, outrageously amazing. She is one of the few celebrities who I actually look up to. She is an inspired, honest performer, a brilliant songwriter, a straight up poet. She makes me want to be the best, highest version of myself; she inspires me to keep trying lofty things no matter how many times I fail. She can laugh at herself, which is the best thing.

"When I look down, I miss all the good stuff;
when I look up, I just trip over things."
Go Ani, we are right there.

10/13/2003

Getting ready to head over to see Ms. Ani Difranco downtown! I am very very excited. I bought the tickets (v. good seats) off somebody who got them right when the box office opened and then had to get married or something instead. Just goes to show that there's something worth reading on Hands Up Houston.

10/12/2003

OK, ignore my previous endorsements of eMusic. From a message titled "important subscriber information" they just posted:

As of November 8, EMusic will be discontinuing the unlimited service offering and replacing it with a new service offering that places a reasonable limit on the number of downloads available to each subscriber in a billing month.

At that time, EMusic will offer two service plans:

EMusic Basic: $9.99 per month/maximum 40 downloads
EMusic Plus: $14.99 per month/maximum 65 downloads
I guess I will be downloading everything I can from eMusic between now and then and then promptly cancelling my subscription in favor of the iTunes music store, which has much better selection ...

10/11/2003

Dang am I tired. It's 3am and I just got home from our Super Happy Fun Land show tonight. And of course, after playing an intense show, schlepping my gear in and out of the venue and the van, and driving home ... now I can't sleep! Isn't that always the way. It could be worse, I could be stuck on a couch in Allentown, PA. But no, I must go rest, we've got big stuff to do tomorrow.

10/10/2003

I've been listening to Sebastian Whittaker for the first time today - he's a nationally recognized drummer from here in Houston. It's awesome - just good solid straight ahead jazz, played masterfully. I downloaded all of his records from eMusic, which if you've not heard of it, you should check out. It's a legit mp3 downloading company; you pay a monthly fee of $14.95, and then you can download a basically unlimited number of entire albums in mp3 format. The downside is that their catalog is somewhat limited. But if you like jazz, they will hook you up. Every Bill Evans record ever made is on there (and yes, I have downloaded them all, though I haven't listened to them all yet). Lots of Miles Davis, Coltrane, Monk, etc.. And little gems like, well, Bash. You can sign up for a free trial, where they give you something like 50 mp3s.

10/09/2003

It is pouring rain right now - people are talking about floods and tornados and stuff. Meanwhile, I have to cross the city twice this evening: once to get over to a lesson at HCC (on the far west side of town) and then again to get to a gig downtown (east side of town) tonight. Of course, if it's really flooding, we probably won't get to play our gig. Or maybe people will just treat it like a swim up bar?

10/08/2003

Ahhhhh! It's freaking me out! This picture has no moving parts.
Saw my friend Turlach Boylan and his group Glen Road last night at the Mucky Duck. It was a wonderful show - Turlach was funny and is a truly amazing player - he just makes the music feel right. Mike Dugger, an old favorite of mine from my radio days, was on guitar and mandola, and his songs were really touching, especially Tender Mercies and Rosemary's Sister. The group is rounded out by Greg Brown, a Newfoundlander who plays fiddle, concertina and guitar like nobody's business. I picked up a copy of their new album, "Round The Bend", and I've already listened to it twice. They played lots of the tunes from the record at the Duck - my favorite part was the end of Queen Amongst the Heather, where they broke into double time and played the tune Morning Dew. All in all, it was a great show, and I'm glad I caught it. I only wish they would play in Houston a bit more often!

10/07/2003

OK, time to fess up - Jill and I have been taking dance lessons. There, I said it.

And you know what? It's actually fun. We're taking lessons with a guy named Rabih (yes, that's him in all the pictures). But I've noticed since starting that there are actually lots of dance events in Houston - one this Thursday at the Black Swan, and lots of others scattered around. The City Cafe web site actually has lots of information about dancing (as well as other good events).

10/06/2003

Hey, my good friend Carey from Skidmore is engaged! Who would ever have thought that all that flirting in the music building would actually lead something? ;-)

Carey also illuminated me as to the etymology of my internet namesake, esemplastic. I never even knew it was connected with Samuel Taylor Coleridge.
Finally back in H-town after a whirlwind trip up north. The wedding was wonderful and went off without a hitch. The reception was awesome (held in the old Cambridge Hotel - which, I will have you know, is the original home of pie a la mode). We stayed the night in their lovely Autumn Delight room (which would have been all the more delightful had there not been a neighboring room with the TV on full blast all night). All in all, it was a much needed and appreciated visit (though I can't say we were sad to step off the plane into Houston's 70 degree weather, after freezing in the northeast for a few cold, soggy days.)

10/04/2003

Grandfathers have been collected, mascara has been located, dance lessons and wedding rehearsals have been accomplished ... now all we've got to do is get her married! It's been a drizzly morning, but it was brigtened immeasurably by Happy Bob's Polka Magic show, a standard bearer at WSPN for years.

Now I'm off to don my tux and try to act calm.

10/03/2003

I'm sitting here at the Skidmore library in Saratoga Springs, NY. It's the day before my sister's wedding, and there's a flurry of activity. My part is mostly done, except for the random grandfather & mascara pickup, figuring out how to get a pair of tuxedo pants that doesn't have cuffs just below my knees, etc.

But it's wonderful to be here, in upstate New York. Skidmore is beautiful at this time of year - I remember being in awe of the surroundings every fall while I was an undergrad here. I've been eating Macoun apples pretty much continuously since we got here, and I actually have to wear a coat! I visited with my good high school friends who have kids (!!) and got to stroll around Saratoga a bit. This is such a good place, and I miss it.

Being back, it's hard to concieve of the intervening 6 years - living on Martha's Vineyard, working through the dotcom boom in San Francisco, getting married in Beaumont, moving to Houston and starting a funk jazz band ... time moves quickly, doesn't it?

10/01/2003

For some reason, it's been an amazingly busy couple days. Last night I stayed up late watching the numbers and comments roll in for the Dean campaign. There's so much energy in this campaign, it's unbelieveable. They raised over 5 million dollars in 10 days, and the average donation size was $86. Tonight there's a meetup over at Schlotzky's that I'm going to hit. Then it's off to packing for a trip up to the northeast for my sister's wedding this weekend!

9/30/2003

If you have been thinking about making a political contribution, today's a good day to do it, because today is the quarterly filing deadline for candidates' financial reports. That means a donation today will go a lot further than a donation tomorrow. It's easy to get busy and forget (or not care) about "politics", but it really is important, so take a few minutes today if you can.

If you're not sure who to support, this is a good time to do some research and get involved! You can see what all the major politicians say about the issues online - http://www.ontheissues.org is a neutral source that will explain what all the major candidates stand for, in their own words.

What's important isn't who you support, but just that you get involved. If you think Bush is great, well, get out there and support him. If you think he's terrible, you owe it to yourself to get out there and help somebody oust him.

(My own plug: I'm steadily getting to be a bigger fan of Dr. Howard Dean, the former Governor of Vermont. He's fiscally conservative but socially liberal, and is big on universal health care and increased international cooperation as a solution to the situations in Iraq and elsewhere. I've heard him speak, and everything he says seems pretty right on to me. There are even lots of Republicans who are starting to support Dean out of frustration with what Bush is doing. If you want to learn more, check out http://www.deanforamerica.com.)

Anyway, the important thing is, get out there and decide for yourself! :)

9/26/2003

So ... our car got broken in to last night, again, and they stole our stereo, again. Last time was a few months back, on campus over at U of H, but this time was right out in front of our own house in the Montrose area, under a streetlight no less, sometime between 1:30 am and 7am. The perpetrator also ripped up the dashboard and messed up the window (not broken, thankfully).

If the perpetrator is reading this blog, I just want to say: a) if you had just asked me for the stereo, I would have given it to you, and b) it's a crappy stereo anyhow, the CD player skips and the EQ options are pretty poor. And good luck setting the clock, man, I never figured that out. Now, can I have my Deathray Davies CD back?

9/24/2003

Choices choices ... there is so much good stuff going on this week, I don't even know where to start. I wish I could be in 10 places at once.

Tonight, Joe LoCascio (my piano teacher and probably the best pianist in Houston) is playing at the Argentina Grill. There's also an poetry reading / open mic at Helios hosted by Mike McGuire, and an improv workshop with Andy (from the Ex) at MECA hosted by Dave Dove and the Pauline Oliveros foundation (not to mention Hands up Houston). And if you've got time between everything else, at 6pm, Welsh band Super Furry Animals will be hanging out in-store at Cactus (not playing, just hanging out while their record gets some play) before their Numbers show tonight. Free beer, hard to pass up.

Tomorrow night is a ton of cool stuff, of which the only one I can make it to is my own show at the Twelve Spot. But of course, the Cezanne Jazz Jam is also a great spot to hit, and Phuz will be at VII lounge.

And then Friday, there's the Society for the Performing Arts' performance of Philip Glass's soundtrack to Koyaanisqatsi (with a showing of the movie, of course), there's Ivan the Fool, a cool puppet show at the Barnevelder that Mike Switzer is involved with, there's a Gulf Coast reading at Brazos bookstore

Don't even get me started on Saturday ... Drop @ Borders Books & Music (at 3pm), a big 1-year birthday bash at the Proletariat featuring The Singles (as they are still temporarily known), a daytime benefit for Reprogram Radio ... Drop will hit the radio on the Soular Grooves show at 10pm that night, so definitely tune in for that (90.1 FM, or online). And Tru Sol is at the Industry Cafe.

Let it never be said that there's nothing to do in Houston.
Happy Birthday Jim Henson!


9/23/2003

More jam bands entering my listening sphere now, like it or not ... I am listening to Umphrey's McGee for the first time (I've heard a bit here and there but never really spent any time with it) and I have to admit that love it! Similar to Phish, but with thicker arrangements and a different approach to songwriting (that I actually like a bit more than Phish). I only have this one tune, on a sampler from Homegrown Music. I wonder if all their stuff is like this? Through this same sampler, I learned about another band I now love, called Uncle Sammy. However, I guess I was a little too late on that one, as their web site announces they'll be breaking up this month. Doh.

9/22/2003

Sorry for being incommunicado for a couple days. I had a good time at the ACL Music festival this weekend, despite the non-stop drizzle. I headed out Saturday morning (too bad, many of my favorites played Friday) and got there in time for Los Lobos and an all-star Johnny Cash Tribute. After a bite to eat, I then got down with Robert Randolph and the Family Band. This guy is amazing - one of the most rockin' pedal steel players ever, with a super positive attitude. He even covered a couple Hendrix tunes (and pulled them off mightily). I saw some of the North Mississippi All-Stars and Bright Eyes, and then caught a full set of Josh Ritter (with Nickel Creek pouring in between (or sometimes during) his songs). The rest of the evening's entertainment was great as well - Michael Franti and String Cheese in particular.

Sunday I had some breakfast at Little Joe's (alas, too early for vegetarian Frito Pie) and then hoofed it back to see some of the Shins (pretty good) and then my favorite show of the weekend, Soulive. Next I managed to pick up Lucinda's show (of course) and followed it with some Polyphonic Spree and Yo La Tengo. They did some beautiful stuff, and also they obviously don't give a flying fig what their audience thinks of them (which is, honestly, kind of refreshing). Last but not least I caught up with Ween and they totally rocked.

I have to say that this was one of the best organized music festivals I have ever been to. The food was good, there were never terrible lines at the bathrooms, you could hear almost every band really well, there were plenty of official folks around to help out - just well done on the whole. Looking forward to next year.

9/19/2003

This was passed on from a friend - let me know if you have any leads.

My family and I were burned out of our home this week. It started in the attic and we were told it was electrical. The owner is an elderly gentleman was having work done on the apartments. We were Blessed with all of our lives. The fire happened in the early morning on Monday and every thing but few clothing and prayer books were saved. All praises to God we are fine. We are staying with friends and family until we find another place. If anyone knows of a place in midtown which is pretty nice, Please call me at ... .We need a 2 bedroom apt., house or townhome. If you are not familiar with this area it is from the Children's Museum all the way to Downtown, the Medical Center and to University of Houston. We don't need anything fancy. We would appreciate the help with a search for a new home.
Oops, almost forgot today is International Talk Like A Pirate Day. Arrr! Here be a repost of me original poste:

Shiver me timbers! In addition to bein' with me own mateys this night, I wish I could see Hilarrrrrrrrrry Sloan tonight at ye olde West Alabama Ice House. Perhaps I'll get to sail over there in my carrrrrr before my gig. Arr.

OK, talking like a pirate is harder than it seems. I'll keep working on it. I guess I could always break down and use the English to Pirate translator.
Dang, if I didn't have me a gig tonight I would be all over going to see Hilary Sloan tonight at the finest little ice house in Montrose (the West Alabama one, naturally). They start early so maybe I'll get to see some of it before I have to load in over at Brasil. Hilary Sloan is a fine songwriter and fiddle player, and she's got a top notch band (including Ben Collis on bass, a nominee for best bassist in this year's Houston Press awards.)

9/17/2003

Been listening to The Motet all day (snagged a live record from eMusic). You should def. catch them on Oct 13th when they're here at Last Concert Cafe. I probably will not, actually, because hopefully I'll be seeing Ani that night, and I can't pass that up. But who knows, maybe I'll hit 'em both. Our pals Greyhounds open for 'em.
I was over at the Volcano and saw lots of good folks last night, and met a couple new ones too, at the weekly musicians' networking meeting. I got a good chance to talk to Kenny and Sheri from Houston Music Hour about the new idea they're working on starting, the Houston Music Foundation. Basically, it's a booster organization (nonprofit) for local music in Houston, under the idea that "a rising tide lifts all boats". Nifty, eh? It'll be vaguely modeled after the Austin Music Foundation. Stay tuned here and I'll keep you up on what they get up to.
Just the other day, Jill and I were driving through Galveston and marvelling at the giant concrete grain elevator on Harborside drive. Glad we got a look while we could, it was just toppled today!

9/16/2003

Hey, today is Jon Hendricks' birthday! Jon is one of the best Jazz vocalists ever - he really treated his voice as an instrument and could keep up with even the best Beboppers in his solos. He also wrote lyrics to lots of fast Bebop tunes, and in fact wrote the only approved-of set of lyrics to a Thelonious Monk tune ever (approved by Monk, that is). I remember seeing Jon at Yoshi's a couple years back with my friend Peter. He put on a great show.

Happy birthday, Jon.
Good news - the Senate voted to shoot down the FCC regulation changes that would've allowed more media consolidation. But they didn't do on their own steam, I think - they were encouraged by a few signatures from MoveOn.org folks. Good going everybody, keep the public airwaves public.
Today at lunch, KTSU (the local jazz station, such as it is) played a 2 hour block of Cannonball Adderley. Rules. I think at this point, my world would be immensely improved by two things:

1. If KTSU would go back to a more straight ahead jazz format all the time (I'm told that's how they used to be), or at the very least, eliminate all tracks with drum machines and / or Kenny G. As it is now, it seems like 90% of the time when I switch to the station, there's a giant glob of cheese pouring out of my stereo.

2. If KTSU would start broadcasting online like my old favorite KCSM does in the San Francisco Bay Area.

You know, KCSM is an immensely popular station (they've been overshooting their fund drive numbers recently) and they play serious good jazz pretty much non-stop. Sure, Houston ain't SF, but I think KTSU could be bigger & better if they stayed more true to the music. There are so many serious music lovers in Houston, and it's such a big city ... I've got to believe it could work.
Got an email today about supporting the "Ten Commandments Protection Act of 2003". I laughed and thought it was a joke.

But it wasn't. From the writeup on the petition web site:

Throughout the nation, secularist organizations such as the ACLU and others are systematically working to strip the Ten Commandments from public eye.
"Secularist organizations"? Perhaps these folks missed the memo that the United States is a secular nation. It is a cornerstone of our constitution that the state will neither prohibit nor endorse the practice of any one religion. That's why the puritans left England in the first place - for freedom! And we are free, to worship as we choose, tell people about our faith, build churches and monuments, write praise music, whatever our hearts desire. That is awesome. But what we are not free to do is endorse any one religion from an official (state) stance.

Perhaps showing the 10 commandments in a court house doesn't seem like a big deal to you, but it is specifically forbidden in the constitution, and it should be. Common governance and personal faith are separate for good reason - everyone is entitled to his or her own beliefs, and state sponsorship of religion has always been messy and oppressive.

Maybe you don't believe that our fellow Hindus, Buddhists, Pagans, etc. are "right". You're entitled to think that. But think about it: would you like to pass a law that says everyone has to be Christian? If you answer yes to that question, your idea of America is so far from mine that any further discussion is impossible.

Don't make this out to be a fight between Christians and heathens. It isn't. It's a battle between people who have respect for the religious freedoms of our country, and people who feel a moral obligation to make their religion compulsory for everyone else.

9/12/2003

I've been listening to the Houston Symphony doing Webern's Passacaglia today. Webern rocks. OK, well, I guess it's not quite accurate to say that Webern "rocks". But you get my drift.

You know who else rocked? Johnny Cash.

9/11/2003

Thinking back on what I did on 9/11 two years ago. Jill and I heard the news in the car on our long morning drive from Oakland to Menlo Park and Woodside. I remember that when Amy Goodman said "The tower has collapsed", I couldn't fathom it. I just couldn't believe it. I figured she meant some other thing by "collapsed". Because how could that happen? She must have meant "partially collapsed" or something.

I can't remember any time before or since that an event in the news made me cry.
Had dinner last night with my friend Ian (pronounced "Yan"). We ate, ironically, at the new Yan sushi, over on Westheimer. Jill and I were fans of the original Yan sushi location, over in the village. It's the only drive-through sushi place I've ever been to. The new one isn't drive-through, but it has the same appeal - good fresh sushi, without the pristine presentation and high price tag. It's good looking, too:



(Image compliments of Poopscape)
Join the revolution ... Flip Off A Hummer! Hee hee.

9/10/2003

From the Motherland Entertainment web site:

ALERT! - Motherland Entertainment's home office was robbed this weekend, and our computer database was stolen, along with our entire collection of world music CDs. If you have any information, or if you hear of anyone trying to sell a large collection of very rare world music at a local music store, please contact Julie DeRossi via email at survivorgal@hotmail.com.


(Note: post edited for legal reasons, 5/20/04.)

9/09/2003

I've started going through my year-old emails again, and I find it to be a tremendously rewarding experience. One year ago today, I got a tip from a friend about a recruiter who eventually ended up landing me the job I have today. I think I'll write her a note and say thanks again. I also got an email informing me that a good friend of mine was expecting his first child. Looking back through your old email gives you a chance to reflect on what was really important and what was just noise. It's like keeping a diary without doing any extra work.

Of course, this year-old email review requires that you actually keep all your email, and that's not something everybody does. I think it's a great idea, but then I have somewhat unconventional ideas about email anyway.

9/08/2003

OK, I'm going to get back on the blog train here. I've been out of the loop on this for a while, but I've recently started reading a couple other local folks' blogs, and I find it's a fun way to spend a few minutes each morning, and makes me feel like a part of a bigger community. So I'm going to get back into it. I've also been starting to keep a Drop Trio blog, which gives me an excuse to get in there and write / post. So you'll be hearing more from me starting now I think.

6/01/2003

Marketing, promotions & publicity. These words have been on my mind a lot lately. Which is funny, because never in my life, until now, have I given a flying fig about them. In fact, I had always treated them with what I considered to be a healthy disdain. But now I'm getting curious.

So my band, Drop Trio, has an email list. Right now, there are about 160 people on it, mostly people who have signed up at our shows. I send out emails weekly, telling people where we're playing, letting them know about new mp3 tracks on our web site, etc. It's been working more and more as the list grows; at every show, now, we've got at least 5 people there who got the email and came out specifically for the show. Not bad for a band that's been around such a short time. (Well, hell, I'm amazed when anyone I don't personally know shows up to see me play.)

So 160 people is okay. But there are 4 MILLION PEOPLE in Houston. Let's say one in ten might actually like our music. Nah, let's even say 1 in 100. That's still 39,840 people in Houston who haven't heard of us but would really like us.

So how do I bridge that gap?

Last night Jill and I went to a concert over at Diverse Works, put on by the Pauline Oliveros Foundation of Houston. It ruled, not least because of the drummer, a woman named Susie Ibarra, who I highly recommend checking out. Anyhow, while we were there, I picked up a flyer - just a half sheet of paper, hand drawn and photocopied - for a band called Quantum 5, playing at Helios, a bar / live music venue a few blocks from my house. No other information - no web site, no genre, nothing but 3 scribbled little alien figures and a place & time. So what did I do? Naturally, I went to see them.

Now, I'm a bit of a special case - I am a musician, and I have a vested interest in seeing every other band in town who even remotely shares a genre with me. But that's not the point - the point is, it worked. Their meager marketing effort, even if it worked on no one else but me, did bring in at least one person to their event. They're a 5 piece instrumental free jazz / improv groove band. They were good, and had some interesting things to say musically. But I was there, I heard about it and paid my $5 and went. Because of a flyer.

As a programmer, working like this makes me uneasy. I like to see results of effort as definite, measurable, repeatable. When someone picks up a flyer, though, it's invisible. The machinations that brought them to your show are untraceable, and uncontrollable. My wife stayed home and watched a movie, and I could've just as easily done that. They put that flyer out there as a guess, a stab in the dark, and it was equal parts effort and chance that I showed up.

But I guess that's the thing - without the flyer, I wouldn't have gone, and the chance would've dropped from a probability of 1/2 to 0. Nobody can come to your event if they don't know about it, eh? So that's today's lesson - find those 39,840 people who will like your music, and just let them know. Which is marketing, which, as it turns out, isn't entirely as pointless as I thought.