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Friday random ten: The best little random ten list in Texas

A moment of silence, please, for Edna Milton Chadwell, the last madam of the Chicken Ranch brothel in La Grange, Texas, who passed away this week at the age of 84. In her memory, I bring you this list:

1. Best Damn Fool – Buddy Guy
2. Little Beggarman – Great Big Sea
3. The Best Is Yet To Come – Frank Sinatra and Count Basie
4. Little Bird – Annie Lennox
5. Best o’ The Barley – Jiggernaut
6. Little Brown Jug – Glenn Miller
7. The Best Of Me – Eddie From Ohio
8. Little By Little – Southside Johnny and The Jukes
9. Best Song Ever – Katie Armiger
10. Little Dreamer – Van Halen

If there are any Aggie boys in heaven, they’re probably dancing right about now. (Warning: The following contains gratuitous glimpses of Aggie ass. Those of you with delicate constitutions, you have been warned.)

No more miles until you get to heaven, Miss Edna. Rest in peace.

Friday random ten: Tongue twisters

Somehow I got to thinking this week about songs that are challenging to sing because of lyrical density and/or complexity. Tongue-twisting songs, in other words. I came up with ten from my collection:

1. Mari Mac – Flying Fish Sailors

Here’s the refrain:

Mari Mac’s father wants Mari Mac to marry me
My father’s making me marry Mari Mac
I’m going to marry Mari to get Mari to take care of me
We’ll all be making merry when I marry Mari Mac

Like many songs of this type, it’s sung once at a modest tempo, then again at about twice the speed. You need loose lips to make it through the second time around. Here’s a Great Big Sea version, with slightly different lyrics, which is another feature of songs like this.

2. What I Want Is A Proper Cup Of Coffee – Trout Fishing In America
The refrain:

All I want is a proper cup of coffee, made in a proper copper coffee pot
I may be off my dot, but I want a proper coffee in a proper copper pot
Iron coffee pots and tin coffee pots, they are no use to me
If I can’t have a proper cup of coffee in a proper copper coffee pot I’ll have a cup of tea

Another song that starts slow, then speeds up for the ending. All those Ps will get you eventually.

3. It’s The End Of The World As We Know It – Great Big Sea

Originally by REM, of course. Once again, my favorite Pearls Before Swine cartoon:

4. The Elements – Tom Lehrer

Lots of good videos for this one, all utilizing the periodic table of course. Here’s one:

5. One Week – Barenaked Ladies

Now that I think about it, this was the song that got me contemplating the matter. I made some kid-friendly CDs for the car to give me some relief from hearing the same ones over and over again, and I included this on one of them. The official video doesn’t allow embedding, so click to see it.

6. Garden State Stomp – Dave Van Ronk

Does for the many oddly-named towns of New Jersey what “The Elements” does for, well, the elements. Couldn’t find a good video, so go listen to a small sample of it here. I prefer the version from the Laugh Tracks Volume 2 CD, where Van Ronk lets loose with his gravelly baritone.

7. Horoscope – Weird Al Yankovic

Mostly for the bridge, which demonstrates another aspect of songs like this – the need to sing long passages without taking a breath.

8. Beer – Asylum Street Spankers

This one’s a bit of a stretch, but I figure any song whose lyrics I can’t quite master after that many listenings should qualify. Note that the song and especially the intro are NFSW:

9. Quartet (A Model Of Decorum And Tranquility) – from the Chess soundtrack

Nothing like a little counterpoint to allow for verbal gymnastics.

I suppose it’s more of an ear-twister, trying to hear everything they’re saying. Of course, you have to be careful not to use too many notes when trying this.

10. All For The Best – from the Godspell soundtrack

One of my two favorite songs (the other being “Turn Back, O Man”) from my favorite musical when I was a kid.

I haven’t seen the movie version of this since the 70s, so I had quite forgotten where the end of that scene was filmed. Be prepared to get choked up if you watch all the way through.

Well, that was fun. What would you add to this list?

Saturday video break: Kiss

Song #84 on the Popsode Top 100 Covers list is “Kiss”, originally by Prince and covered by the Art of Noise with Tom Jones. While I was able to find a Prince song video before, I regret to say that this time I struck out – every one I clicked on had the audio disabled. So you’ll just have to settle for the cover this week, which I must say is its own kind of awesome.

The Art of Noise and Tom Jones are individually two things I’ve never quite gotten, but put together they add up to more than their parts. I love the little commentary at the end, too, even if the announcer is speaking over the music, which I normally consider to be a cardinal sin. Weirdly enough given the artists involved, this isn’t that great a divergence from the original, though it clearly bears the Tom Jones stamp – with that voice, how could it not? I was going to make a joke about Martian heads exploding, but while Tom Jones was in the movie, it was apparently Slim Whitman music that saved the Earth. And to think, all these years I’d remembered it wrong. Oh, well.

Friday random ten: With this ring

This past Monday was my 13th wedding anniversary. I’ve now been married long enough that I have a hard time remembering what it was like to not be married. Of course, I’m also very old, so that may just be the usual degeneration of my faculties. In any event, here are ten songs about weddings and marriage:

1. I Knew The Bride – Nick Lowe
2. I Wanna Marry You – Bruce Springsteen
3. If No One Ever Marries Me – Natalie Merchant
4. Let’s Get Married – Al Green
5. Let’s Pretend We’re Married – Royal Company Scam
6. The Green Wedding – Gordian Knot
7. Gypsy Wedding – Moby Grape
8. Mari’s Wedding – The Mollys
9. White Wedding – Billy Idol
10. Chapel of Love – The Beach Boys

And of course, if you know me at all, once we start talking about weddings, you know what must come next:

Do you realize that next year is the 25th anniversary of that movie? I so hope they re-release it in the theaters so I can take Olivia to see it. In the meantime, tweasure your wuv, and it will fowwow you foweva.

Saturday video break: How do you say “Heigh Ho” in Spanish?

Los Lobos makes everything better:

Kind of fitting for Labor Day weekend, don’t you think? Hope you enjoyed that as much as I did.

“Miss Representation”

The above is a preview for Miss Representation, which is showing this Thursday for one night only at the Alamo Drafthouse, West Oaks Mall, at 7 PM. I’ve got tickets for the screening, which is also a benefit for Annie’s List. There are similar screenings in Austin (Tuesday, 7 PM, The Drafthouse) and San Antonio (Wednesday, 6 PM, Alamo Drafthouse Park North), any of which is worth your time if you live in the vicinity. I figure I’ve got a lot of work to do to help make the world my daughters are growing up in suitable for them, and supporting efforts like this and organizations like Annie’s List are important parts of that. So please do your part, get some tickets, and I’ll see you there.

Saturday video break: We’re off to see the Wizard

Bobby McFerrin sings “The Wizard of Oz” in seven and a half minutes. It’s even more awesome than it sounds.

There’s a more recent version of this performance, with somewhat better video (not having been ripped from someone’s VHS tape, one presumes) here, but I prefer the embedded one, both for the stronger audience participation (the audience in the latter version is mostly kids, and I’m not sure how well they know the material) and of course for the excellent 80s hair and fashion. And I just love the concept. Hope you liked it, too.

Film incentives

Stuff like this always fascinates me.

In a legislative session marked by a slew of high-profile budget cuts, Texas lawmakers opted to continue offering [film and TV production] incentives, but they reduced the amount available by 50 percent. They approved $30 million to use over the next two years, according to Gov. Rick Perry’s office, down from $60 million in the previous biennium.

“Austin’s biggest competition is New Orleans and Shreveport,” said Rebecca Campbell, executive director of the Austin Film Society. “Productions don’t have to wait in a holding pattern while legislators review the law each session, which gives Louisiana a tremendous edge, with 10 films in New Orleans at the moment.”

State Rep. Dawnna Dukes, D-Austin, was among those pushing this session to keep incentive funding at current levels.

“The Texas Moving Image Industry Incentive Program has been extremely successful,” Dukes said. “I am unaware of any other economic stimulus program in the state or the country with such remarkable and proven results, especially in such a short time frame.”

The incentives have had an especially big impact on the Austin area, Dukes said, with more than 100 local projects receiving some sort of state support.

“The 50 percent reduction will certainly slow down the program and its positive outcomes by reducing the number and size of grants which can be awarded,” Dukes said. “Studios and producers are reluctant to start new projects in Texas for fear that the incentive grants will disappear quickly.”

But plenty of projects continue to wind up in Texas, Perry’s office points out. An April report from the Bureau of Business Research at the University of Texas’ IC2 Institute found that $58.1 million in incentives had been awarded between Sept. 1, 2007, and Dec. 31, 2010, with a total economic impact of $1.1 billion and the creation of 10,000-plus full-time jobs.

The Bureau of Business Research’s website is here, and their fairly short report is here (PDF). Note that video games are part of the package. I personally remain skeptical, but perhaps you’ll be persuaded. Mostly, I think these sorts of incentives represent a large public subsidy of various industries that generate no net economic output on a national level. It just moves stuff from one place to another, benefiting one state at the expense of another, while reducing total tax revenues. How many of the movies, TV shows, video games, and whatnot that receive these incentives would not have been made at all in their absence? Very few is my guess, since it’s not the marginal operators that get them. But that’s not the world we live in. What do you think about this?

Saturday video break: Seven in seven

Seven “Harry Potter” movies, summarized in seven minutes:

I haven’t seen a Potter movie since the third one – we saw it two days before Olivia was born, if that helps you understand why I’m behind in my movie-watching – but I do hope to see this one. And now I’m prepared for it.

Saturday video break: It’s OK to be Takei

Ladies and gentlemen, George Takei:

I suppose now is as good a time as any to show you this:

George Takei and me, 1994

That was taken at the Houston premier of a slightly bizarre, very cheesy, and mostly fun sci-fi western called Oblivion, at a now long-gone theater on Post Oak near San Felipe. The movie’s director, writer (Peter David, for my fellow geeks), and most of the stars including Takei and Julie Newmar, were there for a post-screening Q&A and autograph-signing. I was with my buddy Matt and a couple other people, but in those ancient pre-cellphone days none of us had a camera. I was standing near Takei when some random dude in the crowd who did have a camera offered to take a picture of me with him. I gave the guy my address, and sure enough, a few days later there it was in the mail.

Anyway, we have a scanner now, so that was the first of what should be many embarrassing old photos that I hope to digitize in my copious spare time. Who’s the most famous person you’ve ever been photographed with? Feel free to include a link to the picture if you have one.

Friday random ten: Songs of the Century, part 7

Continuing with songs in my collection from the Songs of the Century as compiled by the Recording Industry of America and the National Endowment for the Arts.

1. I Got You (I Feel Good) – James Brown (#152)
2. Banana Boat Song (Day-O) – RJD2 (#156, Harry Belafonte)
3. Material Girl – Madonna (#161)
4. Tequila – The MOB (#164, The Champs)
5. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band – Big Daddy (#167, The Beatles)
6. Soul Man – The Blues Brothers (#168, Sam and Dave)
7. I Love Rock and Roll – Hayseed Dixie/The MOB (#177, Joan Jett & The Blackhearts)
8. Fast Car – Tracy Chapman (#178)
9. Will You Love Me Tomorrow – Carole King (#179, The Shirelles)
10. I Can See Clearly Now – Johnny Nash (#183)

I haven’t included a video for one of these in awhile, so here’s my favorite rendition of the Banana Boat Song:

All dinner parties should be like that, don’t you think? Well, maybe minus the face-grabbing. I remember seeing that in the theater. We all laughed our rear ends off.

Round 2 report: Started with “Listening to Levon”, by Marc Cohn. Finished with “My Favorite Mistake”, by Sheryl Crow, song #691, for a total of 86 this week. The last L song was “Lullaby”, by Billy Joel. The first M song was “Make It Funky”, by John Lee Hooker.

Saturday video break: The Magnited States of America, where you are FREE to TEXT in a THE-A-TER

In case you haven’t seen it yet, another reason to love the Alamo Drafthouse:

I wonder if this girl has figured out yet what a spectacle she has made of herself. CNN’s Anderson Cooper picked up on it the other day:

Bravo, I say. See Austin360 for more.

In your grill

I love the opening to this story about the people who call Weber Grills for tech support, and the people who take those calls.

Man. Meat. Fire.

It is supposed to be a foolproof formula. But the guy at the grill is frantic. He has a yard full of hungry guests, and he is fumbling to get the gas flaming properly. It is a Memorial Day weekend nightmare that calls into question the very essence of his suburban manhood. Furtively, he dials the Weber Grill hot line for help, and Janet Olsen is on the line.

“Quick, I need to talk to a man,” he says curtly.

For Ms. Olsen, 67, it was yet another caller insisting that no woman could possibly grasp a grilling issue.

With 14 years on the job, she calmly but firmly explains that she will be able to handle the problem. If the man is especially upset, she suggests, “You might want to grab a beer — and just listen for a while.”

At the Weber hot line center here, this is the busiest week of the year, as thousands of befuddled grillers (overwhelmingly male) are being rescued by a team of about 40 grilling experts (almost all of them women).

You can just see Todd Phillips or Judd Apatow basing a scene, if not an entire movie, on that premise, can’t you? Happy Memorial Day, everyone. May you not need to call your grill company’s tech support today.

“Born To Be Wild”

The family and I had the chance to see a preview of “Born To Be Wild”, a 3D IMAX movie at the Museum of Natural Science about saving orphaned elephants and orangutans on Thursday evening. We all loved it. I knew pretty much nothing about what the childhood (for lack of a better term) of these animals is like, or what the challenges are for saving those whose mothers have been poached or are otherwise unable to care for them so that they can be returned to the wild. The whole thing is about 40 minutes long, and there’s nothing scary or too intense for a little kid. Audrey did just fine watching it, though the 3-D glasses occasionally bothered her; Olivia was rapt from beginning to end. You can see a bit more about the animals and their caretakers at the HMNS blog. It’s good all-around family entertainment, so go check it out.

Saturday video break: Select all robots

All movies should be like this:

Plot? Dialog? Those pesky laws of physics, not to mention logic? Pshaw. Who needs them when you have that much awesomeness? Via Gizmodo.

Saturday video break: Ease on down the road

We took the girls to see a children’s-theater production of “The Wizard of Oz” last weekend, and that made me think of this:

Alas, I couldn’t find a clip of this from the movie, but if you just want to hear the original, uninterrupted song, go here. Thinking about that also got me to thinking about the late, great Nipsey Russell, about whom you can hear a tribute from NPR here. I’d say someone needs to revive “The Wiz”, but honestly I don’t know how you can top the talent from the original.

Friday random ten: The top 500, part 11

Continuing on with the songs in my collection from the Rolling Stone Top 500 list.

1. Train In Vain – Annie Lennox (#292, orig. The Clash)
2. Heart of Gold – Neil Young (#297)
3. Like A Prayer – Madonna (#300)
4. With A Little Help From My Friends – Big Daddy (#304, orig. The Beatles)
5. Wake Up Little Susie – Simon & Garfunkel (#311, orig. The Everly Brothers)
6. I Put A Spell On You – CCR/Pete Townshend (#313, orig. Screamin’ Jay Hawkins)
7. Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood – Elvis Costello (#315, orig. The Animals)
8. Wish You Were Here – Pink Floyd (#316)
9. Alison – Tufts Beelzebubs (#318, orig. Elvis Costello)
10. School’s Out – Alice Cooper – (#319)

We’ve already discussed the awesomeness of “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood”. If you’re not familiar with Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, you should be. Here’s his inimitable version of “I Put A Spell On You”:

As the Wikipedia article notes, Hawkins directly influenced performers like Alice Cooper, whose appearance in “Wayne’s World” was one of my favorite bits from that movie:

Yeah, I know, they did essentially this same bit with Aerosmith on SNL before the movie. I still love hearing ol’ Alice talking about Milwaukee.

Entire song list report: Started with “Sultans of Swing”, by Dire Straits. Ended with “Take Five”, the jazz classic from the Dave Brubeck Quartet. That was song #5200, for a total of 97 tunes this week. And we made it into the T songs at last. The last S song was “Syndicated Incorporated”, by Weird Al Yankovic, and the first T song was “T & J Waltz”, by Hot Club of Cowtown. As was the case with S, we’ll be in the T songs for awhile.

Saturday video break: Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious

The other day I heard Olivia saying – trying to say, anyway – fourteen-syllable words are quite the mouthful – that fabled construction from “Mary Poppins”, “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious”, to Audrey. I sang her a verse of the song, and they were duly impressed. Then Olivia wanted me to spell it for her. I’m a pretty good speller, but I figured it would be easier just to show her the video instead:

That’s from the stage musical that’s been touring; Tiffany and I saw it a few months ago here. It’s different in some ways from the movie but like the movie is based on the books. We thought it was outstanding. And the girls liked the video. What more do you need?

Friday random ten: The top 500, part 9

Continuing on with the songs in my collection from the Rolling Stone Top 500 list.

1. Walk Away Renee – Southside Johnny and The Jukes (#220, orig. The Left Bank)
2. Moondance – Van Morrison (#226)
3. Fire and Rain – James Taylor (#227)
4. Mannish Boy – Muddy Waters (#229)
5. I Got A Woman – Ray Charles (#235)
6. I Fall To Pieces – Patsy Cline (#238)
7. Rocket Man – Kate Bush (#242, orig. Elton John)
8. Love Shack – The B-52’s (#243)
9. Gimme Some Lovin’ – The MOB (#244, orig. The Spencer Davis Group)
10. Mack The Knife – Bobby Darin (#251)

Back in the day when I did karaoke (we call this day “the 90s”), I loved performing “Mack The Knife”. It’s right in my range, and you can easily get a little fancy with it. Just off the top of my head, there are at least three songs here that were prominently featured in movies. “Moondance” was in “An American Werewolf In London” (the original, along with “Blue Moon” and “Bad Moon Rising”). “Gimme Some Lovin'” is another Blues Brothers song – it’s what they began their set with at Bob’s Country Bunker:

“Mannish Boy” has been in multiple movies, including “Goodfellas” and “Risky Business”, which is what I associate it with. Skip ahead to about the 5:20 mark here to see how they used it, or just watch all 15 minutes of gooey 80s goodness:

Remember when people thought Tom Cruise was cool? Those were the days. I have two versions of “Mannish Boy” in my collection, one a more folk-y version, and one more electrified, though neither is quite the same as that one. If you want to hear it through without any annoying dialog, here you go.

Entire song list report: Started with “Soul Meets Body”, by Death Cab for Cutie. Finished with “Stinkin'”, by the Asylum Street Spankers, song #5039, for a total of 117 this week. Still in the S songs, but definitely moving along. What’s on your playlist this week?

Willingham documentary

From the Trib:

As you’re reading this, Steve Mims and Joe Bailey Jr. are putting the finishing touches onIncendiary, a new documentary about theCameron Todd Willingham case that focuses almost entirely on forensics — on the science behind arson investigations like the one that led to the Corsicana man’s arrest, conviction and execution following the death of his three small children in a 1991 house fire.

Mims and Bailey aren’t political activists; the former lectures in the University of Texas’ Department of Radio-Television-Film, while the latter is a graduate of UT’s law school. But they were so moved by an article about the Willingham case in The New Yorker that they decided to tackle one of the most controversial topics in the modern era of state’s criminal justice system.

Featured in the film are two arson science experts, Gerald Hurst and John Lentini, talking about the case and about forensics in general. Willingham’s original defense attorney, David Martin, also gets a lot of screen time — although, given his skepticism about any wrongdoing by the authorities, he could easily be mistaken for a prosecutor. Barry Scheck, co-director of the New York-based Innocence Project (and best known as a member of O.J. Simpson’s criminal defense team), plays a leading role as well.

But the breakout performance is that of Williamson County District Attorney John Bradley, who was appointed by Rick Perry to chair the Texas Forensic Science Commission just as the commission and its previous chair were inconveniently set to weigh in on the Willingham case during the gubernatorial campaign. Bradley is combative, bordering on hostile, from the moment he appears in Incendiary, both in his dealings with the press and with his fellow commissioners.

There’s an 8-minute preview at the Trib link, which is well worth your time to watch, plus a brief Q&A with the filmmakers. I look forward to seeing the finished product.

RIP, Blake Edwards

The man who gave us the one true “Pink Panther” movies has passed away at the age of 88.

One of Hollywood’s most successful specialists in comedy, Edwards was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in 1922 and started out as an actor.

After appearing in about 30 films, he worked as a TV scriptwriter before becoming a director. His first significant success came with the 1959 film, Operation Petticoat, starring Cary Grant and Tony Curtis.

He then charmed audiences with his adaptation of Truman Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s, which gave Audrey Hepburn one of her most memorable roles.

In 1963, Edwards created one of film comedy’s classic characters. After Peter Ustinov dropped out before production, Edwards persuaded Peter Sellers to play the accident-prone Inspector Clouseau in The Pink Panther.

Mere words cannot adequately convey how much I love the Pink Panther movies. I simply refuse to acknowledge the recent remakes, which are abominations before God and man. Here’s a highlight clip to give you a small taste of what Inspector Clouseau is supposed to be like:

For hiring Peter Sellers to play this role, the world owes a debt to Blake Edwards that it can never repay. Rest in peace, Blake Edwards.

RIP, Leslie Nielsen

As Mel Brooks said when his friend Harvey Korman passed away, the world is a more serious place today.

Leslie Nielsen, the actor best known for starring in such comedies as Airplane! and the Naked Gun film franchise, died Sunday of complications from pneumonia at a hospital near his home in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. He was 84.

“We are sadden by the passing of beloved actor Leslie Nielsen, probably best remembered as Lt. Frank Drebin in The Naked Gun series of pictures, but who enjoyed a more than 60-year career in motion pictures and television,” said a statement from Nielsen’s family released through his rep.

Nielsen was born Feb. 11, 1926, in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada. His acting career spanned several decades, starting in the 1950s with episodes of series including The Philco-Goodyear Television Playhouse and Tales of Tomorrow and encompassing several genres. But he became known in later years for his deadpan delivery in comedies featuring absurd situations, including 1980s’s Airplane!, a parody of Zero! Hour, Airport and other movies about flying.

Airplane! is, of course, one of the greatest movies ever made. The Naked Gun was sheer genius, too. Here are the opening credits to its first show, for those of you who never had the pleasure:

It goes on like that – if you’ve seen Airplane!, you’re familiar with the idea. Don’t care how many times I’ve seen it, it still makes me laugh. For more on Nielsen’s long and distinguished career, see Roger Ebert and Mark Evanier. Rest in peace, Leslie Nielsen.

Saturday video break: This is Halloween

And this is how you celebrate it:

Happy Halloween!

“Lunch Line”

Want to understand the history of the school lunch program and what’s going on with it today? Then you’ll want to see the documentary “Lunch Line”, for which The Lunch Tray is, fittingly enough, a sponsor:

Here’s a trailer of the film and a recent review from The Atlantic Monthly. The film makers, Uji Films, give this synopsis:

Lunch Line reframes the school lunch debate through an examination of the program’s surprising past, uncertain present, and possible future. In the film, six kids from one of the toughest neighborhoods in Chicago set out to fix school lunch and end up at the White House. Their unlikely journey parallels the dramatic transformation of school lunch from a weak patchwork of local anti-hunger efforts to a robust national feeding program. The film tracks key moments in school food and child nutrition from 1940s, 1960s, and 1980s to the present – revealing political twists, surprising alliances, and more common ground than people realize.

The event will be held at The Health Museum and will begin at 6:30pm with a reception featuring local and organic refreshments. Immediately following the screening of the film, I’ll be introducing a panel discussion featuring the film makers along with celebrity chef Monica Pope (Bravo Top Chef Masters and a Food & Wine Best New Chef); Recipe for Success‘s Director of Operations, chef Molly Graham; and Brian Giles, General Manager of Houston ISD/Aramark Food Services. Lisa Brooks, a writer, teacher and public school parent, will moderate.

Admission and parking are free. You just have to be one of the first people to RSVP to secure a seat in the theater. For more information and to RSVP, click here.

The screening is this Thursday, October 28, with the film itself beginning at 7 PM. Enjoy!

“For the Sake of the Song: The Story of Anderson Fair”

From the inbox:

Gish Creative ( and Southwest Alternate Media Project/SWAMP ( have come together to celebrate the arts and cultural landmarks with a public screening of “For the Sake of the Song: The Story of Anderson Fair” ( on Tuesday, October 26, 7pm at the River Oaks Theatre, 2009 W. Gray. All proceeds from the evening will go to SWAMP.

This event was organized to honor SWAMP as a cultural landmark and to celebrate the tenth anniversary of Gish Creative. SWAMP is a 33-year-old nonprofit media arts organization serving independent filmmakers in Houston and statewide; they were the fiscal sponsor for the documentary film being screened. Gish Creative is a marketing company that specializes in personal and family enrichment as well as local cultural explorations. Sarah Gish, owner of Gish Creative, chose SWAMP as the funds beneficiary because they were her first client. Sarah used to manage the historic River Oaks Theatre and helped get it designated as a city landmark in 2007.

“For the Sake of the Song” tells the extraordinary tale of another venerable Houston landmark, Anderson Fair, a small music venue in Montrose with a loyal following and major impact in the world of artists working in the singer/songwriter tradition. Featured in the film are artists who got their start at the “politically subversive and neighborhood coffee house and restaurant,” including Lyle Lovett and Nanci Griffith.

Advance tickets are $15 online at and $20 at the door. There will be an intimate after party at Anderson Fair, 2007 Grant Street, which includes one movie ticket. Confirmed after-party musicians are Don Sanders, Vince Bell, Denice Franke, Bill Cade, Shake Russell, with more to come!

Small World Department: I once lived in Don Sanders’ old house. He and his wife, whose name I have unfortunately forgotten, sold their little north Montrose bungalow to their longtime next-door neighbor in the early 90s after the birth of their son. The neighbor, whose name was also Charles, rented the house to me and my then-roommate Matt. I was there for a bit more than three years, before moving to the Heights. Houston is just a big ol’ small town sometimes. Anyway, here’s the flyer for the event:

Go here to learn more about the film, and here to buy tickets. Sounds like it will be a good time.

“Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter”

From the twisted mind that brought us Pride and Prejudice and Zombies comes a new work that sounds just as excellent. Here’s the nickel description, from the Murder by the Book email newsletter:

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (by Seth Grahame-Smith; Grand Central; $21.99) From the best-selling author of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies! Indiana, 1818. Moonlight falls through the dense woods that surround a one-room cabin, where a nine-year-old Abraham Lincoln kneels at his suffering mother’s bedside. She’s been stricken with something the old-timers call “Milk Sickness.” “My baby boy…” she whispers before dying. Only later will the grieving Abe learn that his mother’s fatal affliction was actually the work of a vampire. When the truth becomes known to young Lincoln, he writes in his journal, “henceforth my life shall be one of rigorous study and devotion. I shall become a master of mind and body. And this mastery shall have but one purpose…” Gifted with his legendary height, strength, and skill with an ax, Abe sets out on a path of vengeance that will lead him all the way to the White House. While Abraham Lincoln is widely lauded for saving a Union and freeing millions of slaves, his valiant fight against the forces of the undead has remained in the shadows for hundreds of years. That is, until Seth Grahame-Smith stumbled upon The Secret Journal of Abraham Lincoln, and became the first living person to lay eyes on it in more than 140 years. Using the journal as his guide and writing in the grand biographical style of Doris Kearns Goodwin and David McCullough, Seth has reconstructed the true life story of our greatest president for the first time-all while revealing the hidden history behind the Civil War and uncovering the role vampires played in the birth, growth, and near-death of our nation.

You always suspected as much, right? Here’s a positive review of the book, whose movie rights have already been bought by Tim Burton; its predecessor is also headed to the big screen. I can’t wait.

Saturday video break: Do the android!

I don’t even know how to introduce this one, so let’s just dive right in. Don’t be distracted by the fact that it starts out in French. It’s totally worth it, trust me.

What can I say? It was the 70’s. You had to be there. My thanks to those hard-working websurfers at Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me for the catch.

Hector Uribe may be my favorite candidate for this cycle

Anyone who can send out a press release like this is someone who can make the election season just a little more enjoyable.

In Stunning Move, Land Commissioner Candidate Hector Uribe Already up on Statewide TV

(Austin) Democratic candidate for Texas Land Commissioner Hector Uribe announced today that he’s already on TV state-wide, when the USA cable network aired “No Country For Old Men” on January 6, and twice during their programming yesterday. Uribe had a speaking role in the film, which garnered four Academy Awards…for other actors. Uribe, for his part, managed to become one of only a few actors in the film to achieve the vaulted status of not being violently murdered by the end of it.

This surprise move makes Uribe the first candidate for Land Commissioner to be up on TV state-wide this election season.

“This is the kind of publicity that makes people. Things are going to start happening to me now,” said Uribe, shamelessly pilfering a line from another movie, “The Jerk.”

Uribe’s campaign will focus on maximizing revenue from state lands to help fund neighborhood schools, while also concentrating on how the state can best promote renewable energy.

Meanwhile, Uribe’s Republican opponent threatened to shoot him last week. Uribe said he isn’t at all disturbed by the empty threat, explaining that if he can survive a Coen Brothers script, he can survive Jerry Patterson.

I presume it helps when you have Harold Cook writing those releases.

Happy 2010!

Happy New Year, everybody! May this year be a peaceful and prosperous one, and may any alien species we encounter be benevolent.

Terrible Yellow Eyes

Please allow me to introduce you to Terrible Yellow Eyes.

What I’ve wanted to do for sometime is make a collection of paintings inspired by Where the Wild Things Are as a tribute and celebration of the book. And now with the release of the film later in the year, the world of Wild Things has opened even wider.

My goal for this project is really just that, expressing of my love for the story. None of the art has been done for any profit but has all been created out of admiration for Maurice Sendak and Where the Wild Things Are.

Over the coming weeks and months I’ll display a growing collection of works created by invited contributing artists and myself. We share a love and admiration for Sendak’s work and the pieces we present here are done as a tribute to his life and legacy.

Simply put, like a visual love letter to the book, with Terrible Yellow Eyes I am seeking to celebrate and promote the original masterwork by Maurice Sendak in the best way I know how — with pictures.

Do yourself a favor and click here and scroll down through all the contributions he’s received for this. I dare you to stop without looking at them all. There’s some truly amazing artwork in there. Both our girls love the book, and I’m thinking maybe we’ll take Olivia to see the movie. I’m sure we’ll get the DVD in any event – we already have a Scholastic DVD with an animation of the book. And speaking of the movie, go watch this Film School Rejects trailer/feature about it, which if you’re not already giddy with anticipation about, this will help you get there. Maybe between the two, MeMo will finally come to get what it’s all about

RIP, John Hughes

John Hughes, iconic 80s movie director, has passed away from a heart attack at the age of 59.

A native of Lansing, Mich., who later moved to suburban Chicago and set much of his work there, Hughes rose from ad writer to comedy writer to silver screen champ with his affectionate and idealized portraits of teens, whether the romantic and sexual insecurity of “Sixteen Candles,” or the J.D. Salinger-esque rebellion against conformity in “The Breakfast Club.”

Hughes’ ensemble comedies helped make stars out of Molly Ringwald, Anthony Michael Hall, Ally Sheedy and many other young performers. He also scripted the phenomenally popular “Home Alone,” which made little-known Macaulay Culkin a sensation as the 8-year-old accidentally abandoned by his vacationing family, and wrote or directed such hits as “National Lampoon’s Vacation,” “Pretty in Pink,” “Planes, Trains & Automobiles” and “Uncle Buck.”

Actor Matthew Broderick, who starred in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” released this statement, “I am truly shocked and saddened by the news about my old friend John Hughes. He was a wonderful, very talented guy and my heart goes out to his family.”

Other actors who got early breaks from Hughes included John Cusack (“Sixteen Candles”), Judd Nelson (“The Breakfast Club”), Steve Carell (“Curly Sue”) and Lili Taylor (“She’s Having a Baby”).

Damn. I guess this means the 80s really are over. Rest in peace, John Hughes.

Saturday video break: The stations are alive with the sound of music

Best reason I can imagine to have trains: So you can do this in the train station.

Awesome. Of course, it helps to have a train station like that one, but still. And have I mentioned how I can’t wait to watch “The Sound Of Music” with my daughters? Yes, I have. Thanks to ‘stina for the catch.

Midtown not feeling the recession

Good to know some parts of town are still thriving.

The recession seems to have forgotten about Midtown.

A drive around the neighborhood reveals forgotten buildings undergoing restoration and new apartments being framed.

This area between the Central Business District and the Texas Medical Center began its transformation in the late 1990s when Post Properties built an upscale apartment complex above street-level retail that’s attracted sidewalk cafes and boutiques. A tax increment reinvestment zone formed in 1995 has helped fuel development by pumping money into the area’s infrastructure.

Matt Stovall, vice president of Midtown property owner Crosspoint Properties, said inquiries to lease office space in the company’s commercial buildings are on the rise.

It’s just too bad that that original Post property remains the only such example of truly pedestrian-friendly mixed use development. If only there was to be a revision to the city codes that governed new development so that policies that encouraged that kind of building could be enacted.

Having said that, as one who remembers what Midtown looked like 20 years ago, when it was used as the filming location for a movie set in post-apocalyptic Detroit, the place is several orders of magnitude better now. We didn’t call it “Midtown” back then – we didn’t call it anything, because there was no good reason to be there. Even if it’s a missed opportunity for urbanism, Midtown is a huge asset to the city now.

Houston attorney Genora Boykins was able to persuade a lender to finance a roughly $2 million bed and breakfast called La Maison in Midtown that has broken ground at 2800 Brazos.

“It was a little challenging early on in the process,” Boykins said. “The thing that made the difference is we really didn’t give up on the vision we have.”

The amount of real estate activity in the area helped too, she said. One of the largest projects is a $39  million apartment complex being developed on Travis by local developer Camden Property Trust. It’s going up just behind the Crosspoint retail and office project that houses acclaimed restaurant Reef.

Boykins and her business partner, Sharon Owens, plan to open their B&B in next year’s first quarter.

The seven-room property will be in a three-story build-ing designed to evoke New Orleans-style architecture. Rooms will run from about $175 to as much as $300 for one of the two suites.

Gotta admire the optimism in that. I’m unsure how good an idea such a B&B would be in good times, but best of luck to ’em. I will note that this location is seven blocks away from the McGowen light rail stop, which will surely be a plus for them. I’d say the Main Street line overall has been a sizable boon for Midtown.

RIP, Farrah Fawcett

Not unexpected, but still sad.

Fawcett was voted “most beautiful” her sophomore, junior and senior years at Ray High School [in Corpus Christi]. Her freshman year at the University of Texas, where she was majoring in microbiology and minoring in art, Fawcett was voted one of the university’s 10 most beautiful coeds.

Back then, to local attorney and former state Rep. Bill Harrison and his group of friends, Farrah was just another girl hanging out with Harrison’s younger sister Kathy.

“We called her ‘Drippy (Fawcett),’” Harrison recalled. “She was just another little punk coming over to my sister’s house.”

When Fawcett was a sophomore and Harrison and his friends were seniors the boys took real notice.

Harrison introduced Fawcett to his best friend Gary Roberts, the guy she dated all the way through high school and into college.

Fawcett’s father thought that Roberts and his daughter were getting too serious so it was up to Bill Harrison to pick Fawcett up for dates, he said.

“He liked me because I was the son of a minister,” Bill Harrison recalled. “Gary would be sitting next to my date and I’d go pick up Farrah. And we’d go around the corner and Farrah would jump in the back with Gary and my date would get in the front.”

Roberts, now a Kerrville banker watched Fawcett evolve from a Catholic school girl into one of the world’s most renowned beauties.

She was more than that, of course. Her performance in The Burning Bed and Extremities proved she had acting chops. I’m not sure what happened to her career-wise after that, but whatever it was, she deserved better. Texas Monthly has more from their archives. Rest in peace, Farrah Fawcett.