Thursday, April 26, 2007

Drinks I've Drunk.

In one of my late-night drinking binges a while back, I got the urge to order some absinthe. Since absinthe is considered something less than kosher by the FDA and cannot be sold in this country, it was necessary to acquire it from foreign sources. God bless the Internet.

One of the ones I ordered was Jade Absinthe Nouvelle-Orléans, which a review I read pegged as "Pretty Damned Good." In fact, all the reviews I read about it contained similar praise. In fact, the Liqueurs de France website (from which I may or may not have bought mine), says that it was the Silver Medal Winner at the 2006 IWSC.
So I guess what I'm going to say now will forever mark me as a Philistine in the absinthe drinking world. And what I'm going to say is that that's some of the nastiest stuff I've ever tasted. I don't think I would have enjoyed it less if it were pure anise extract, which is what it tasted like. Like Sambuca, only a thousand times worse. I can't believe that there are people who actually like this stuff. De gustibus non disputandum est is one thing, but this is quite another. In my opinion.


Wednesday, April 25, 2007

On gun control....

Even Penn and Teller get things right sometimes.

(This link was stolen from the Sandmonkey. Gotta love the Sandmonkey.)

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Thursday, April 19, 2007

Highway 87 is a dangerous place to be....

Highway 87 is a dangerous place to be
When you pissed off all the local boys
and your back’s against the sea....

But if you're just down there for the Stingaree Music Festival, it's not dangerous at all.

Well, I'm finally about recovered from the Stingaree Music Festival at Crystal Beach (and the broken stitches in my eye and bout with strep throat that followed), and I'd like to thank this man for making it all possible:

And that man is, of course, Hayes Carll, the best thing to happen to Texas music since Garth Brooks retired (I know Brooks is technically from Oklahoma, but I'm pretty sure Oklahoma is just a suburb of Dallas-Fort Worth).

I missed the early acts on Friday, but did make it in time to see to of my favorites, Ray Wylie Hubbard:

And Hayes Carll:

Now, outdoors on the Peninsula wasn't the most pleasant place to be weather-wise on Friday afternoon and evening (it was cool-to-cold and raining), so I wasn't too disappointed about missing the other acts. A bit over two hours was just about right.

Weather-wise, Saturday was probably worse that Friday. Although the rain had stopped, the wind had picked up. A lot. So much so that it started pulling up the stakes on the Big Top, so the bands that were supposed to play there moved to the Beer Garden Stage. But somehow with the cold wind blowing and the delay entailed by moving all the equipment from the Big Top Stage to the Beer Garden Stage, it got to seeming like something a little more indoors might be a more pleasant way to spend the evening. If you want to go someplace and come away with an indelible odor of tobacco smoke, Sharky's just can't be beat. And, of course, where there's smoke, there's drinkin', which means a good time was had by all.

By Sunday, the weather had become decidedly more pleasant. The rain was gone, the wind was mild, and the sun was shining. But after a late night at Sharky's, bright sun early in the day has less appeal than you might think, given the weather from the previous couple of days. But by early afternoon, it was shaping up to be a very pleasant day.

Back at the Music Fest, I'm sure the early acts were all very good, but they did not wait for me to get there. But I did get there in time for Sisters Morales, who are very good but seemed just a tad out of place for a lazy Sunday afternoon. I expect the Sisters are at their best whooping it up on a Friday night.

What I really wanted to hear was something more in the folk/Americana vein, like Hayes Carll. And, it being his Music Festival, he obliged, this time with the bass player from the John Evans Band (I think):

And that was about it. except for the extremely entertaining Medicine Show performing on the Tiki Bar Stage on the way out:

And that's all I have to say about that. For more, you can read what Laurie was doing while missing New Orleans, and you can hear more about the weather and see more pictures at the Houston Chronicle Blog.

On another note, Hayes Carll will be performing at the YMBL Rodeo at Ford Arena on May 5, 2007. I'm not crazy about the venue, but I'm sure he'll put on a good show.

I also hear that the John Evans Band occasionally plays at The Vortex. If they come around again, I wouldn't miss them.


Thursday, April 12, 2007

RIP Kurt Vonnegut


Sunday, April 08, 2007

ZZ Top at Ford Park

This was my second time to see ZZ Top at the spectacularly poorly managed Ford Park. For my thoughts on their idiotic security measures, see my previous post, Why I hate Ford Park: Reason # 23. Reason # 24 is that in the whole damn place, they don't have a single ATM. My son asked me to pick up a T-shirt for him, and after I'd spent $35 on that, I had very little cash left for food and beer, and for a show that's supposed to go from about 5:00 p.m. to midnight where everything's seriously overpriced, that can be a problem. Reason # 25 is that they'll let you leave to find an ATM elsewhere, but if you do, you can't get back in without buying another ticket.

Did I mention that it was about 40 degrees and raining? That part wasn't Ford Park's fault, but the fact that I had to spend at least an hour waiting in line in the 40 degree rain was. That was at least 45 minutes to get through "security," and then at least another 15 minutes waiting for someone to check my ID (I'm only 43 years old after all) so I could get a wristband and stamp that would allow me to buy their over-priced beer. Frickin' over-priced lite beer. Does that even count as beer?

But enough about the venue. Suffice it to say that it is something to be avoided. The bands were another matter altogether.

The first band to play after I got through all the lines was Cross Canadian Ragweed. I don't know if any other bands played before them. I could hear music coming from the pavilion while I was waiting in line, but I couldn't tell whether it was recorded music or a real live band. I wouldn't be surprised if Image 6 did a set early on, it being a Coondog Productions production and all.

I like Cross Canadian Ragweed. I like their music and I liked their show, but I think they need a smaller venue to really be at their best. But then, I think everyone needs a smaller venue to be at their best. At least from my perspective. I'm sure that if I'd been sitting closer or they were playing a smaller room, I'd have more to say. But they weren't and I don't.

After a not too long intermission, Los Lonely Boys took the stage. Although I'd heard of them, I'd never actually heard Los Lonely Boys play before last night. And dang, those guys can play. I'd seen a few people play a guitar one handed before, but I'd never seen a guy play the bass with one hand and the guitar with the other at the same time. They're an amazing act to watch, and the songs aren't bad either.

When Los Lonely Boys were finished, I was really looking forward to not hearing a set by Kid Rock, and he did not disappoint. maybe he closed the show or something after I'd left, but the only thing I saw him do was introduce ZZ Top. I'm not a Kid Rock fan, as you may have guessed.

ZZ Top does a lot of songs that I'm not particularly interested in hearing, and during the first half of the show, about the only song I even recognized was "Nationwide," and it's not one of my favorites. But ZZ Top isn't just a band, it's a show, and there was plenty to look at even though the songs weren't among my favorites.

Then about halfway through, Billy Gibbons started talking about going to the mall and buying jewelry for his girlfriend. (Or was it Dusty Hill? One of the bearded guys, anyway.) Something like that, anyway. The upshot was that she wasn't interested in sparkly things, she just wanted a pearl necklace. And at that point, things started looking up. El Loco came out when I was about 17, and it was my first ZZ Top album. And although I don't consider it to be a particularly good album overall, "Tube Snake Boogie" and especially "Pearl Necklace" have a tremendous adolescent appeal that has never worn off. Not long after that, it was "Gimme All Your Lovin'" segueing into "Sharp Dress Man," and a bunch of other good stuff until they finally switched to their furry guitars for "Legs," after which they left the stage.

But, of course, it wasn't over yet. After a few minutes they came back out and did "Viva Las Vegas" and then "La Grange" (which is really really good live), but at that point, I'd really had enough, and I didn't hang around to find out what, if anything, was next. I'm sure whatever it was was good, but five and a half hour was enough for me.

Incidentally, the boys' beards looked considerably whiter in person than they did in this picture, which was supposedly taken within the past couple months:

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Why I hate Ford Park: Reason # 23

A while back I wrote this about Ford Park:

The first time I went to Ford Park was for a ZZ Top concert a few months back. It was a nightmare. It took more than an hour from the time I exited the freeway to the time I got in the parking lot. And then it was about another hour to clear security. This time, there was no wait for anything. But then, this wasn't ZZ Top and the parking lot wasn't nearly as full. Nor was the pavilion. But there was still a pretty good crowd.

I knew I should have known better, but I guess I never learn.

Anyway, that little ol' band from Texas was back last night, along with Cross Canadian Ragweed and Los Lonley Boys. Kid Rock might have been there too, but if he did anything other than introduce ZZ Top, it was before I got there or after I left. Or maybe while I was waiting in one of their interminable lines. This is not the concert review. This is a rant. If I get around to doing a review, it'll be in a separate post.

I guess it wasn't quite as bad as last time. This time, it only took about half an hour from the time I exited I-10 to the time I got to the parking lot. And then probably only another 45 minutes to clear "security."

"Security" is quotated for a reason.

And that reason is that it has nothing to do with making the place more secure. It's all about the idiots who hold power trying to look like they're doing something to protect us from all those swarthy guys in Iraq who want nothing more than to come to Beaumont and take out a whole bunch of us infidels at a concert. Something like that, anyway.

Anyway, whatever the reason, it seems that one can no longer go to government owned facilities where lots of people congregate without giving up your Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches. (They do the same thing, although somewhat more competently, for Texans games at Reliant Stadium, which is owned by Harris County.) But on top of the insult of the search, the morons who run the thing don't hire enough people or buy enough wands or whatever, which means the lines get ridiculously long and the people who are supposed to be doing the searches get more and more careless and perfunctory.

So almost an hour was wasted standing out in a cold rain waiting for the opportunity for someone to run a wand over me in a manner that would not even have detected it if I'd been carrying my Kel-Tec P-3AT in my pocket. I was told by people who arrived a couple hours later that they'd tired of this and just waived people through without treating them like criminals.

I remember back when this was America. Hell, I remember back when this was Texas. Now it's seeming more and more like a pussified wannabe police state. It seems that's what a "Post 9/11 World" is all about. (These intrusive "security" measures are almost invariably blamed on 9/11, after all.)

I am not happy about this.

And I think that if Osama & Company wanted to punish ordinary Americans for our government's officious foreign policy, they've succeeded brilliantly. They had the resources to make one big show, but that was about it. And in response our government has done more to diminish our quality of life than Osama & Company could have ever hoped to achieve.

To put things in perspective, Osama & Company killed about 3000 people on 9/11, an, in this country, we've heard barely a peep out of them since, but you can't get on an airplane without being subjected to all sorts of idiotic, completely pointless "security" measures that don't do one damned thing to make flying safer, but that are enormously annoying and time consuming. Same goes for concerts and football games. On the other hand, doctors and nurses kill about 30 times as many people each year because it's too much trouble to observe proper hygiene between patients. And what do we do about it? Do we round up hospital administrators and the head doctors and ship them off to Gitmo until they learn to wash their hands properly? Hell no! We enact "tort reform" to make sure they aren't held accountable for the damage they do.

* * *

As Judge Wiener observed in his dissenting opinion in U.S. v. Zapata Ibarra, the Fourth Amendment no longer applies within a hundred (or more) miles from the Mexican border because any reason that a law enforcement officer might give for search will be accepted as reasonable by the courts. In one of my favorite pieces of legal writing (which I include here only because I love to quote this passage), Judge Wiener cataloged facts which the Fifth Circuit had, in previous cases, accepted as creating a "reasonable suspicion" justifying vehicle stops that would otherwise offend the Fourth Amendment:

The vehicle was suspiciously dirty and muddy, or the vehicle was suspiciously squeaky-clean;the driver was suspiciously dirty, shabbily dressed and unkempt, or the driver was too clean; the vehicle was suspiciously traveling fast, or was traveling suspiciously slow (or even was traveling suspiciously at precisely the legal speed limit); the [old car, new car, big car, station wagon, camper, oilfield service truck, SUV, van] is the kind of vehicle typically used for smuggling aliens or drugs; the driver would not make eye contact with the agent, or the driver made eye contact too readily; the driver appeared nervous (or the driver even appeared too cool, calm, and collected); the time of day[early morning, mid-morning, late afternoon, early evening, late evening, middle of the night] is when "they" tend to smuggle contraband or aliens; the vehicle was riding suspiciously low (overloaded), or suspiciously high (equipped with heavy duty shocks and springs); the passengers were slumped suspiciously in their seats, presumably to avoid detection, or the passengers were sitting suspiciously ramrod-erect; the vehicle suspiciously slowed when being overtaken by the patrol car traveling at a high rate of speed with its high-beam lights on, or the vehicle suspiciously maintained its same speed and direction despite being overtaken by a patrol car traveling at a high speed with its high-beam lights on; and on and on ad nauseam.

Judge Wiener wrote that back in August of 2000. But that was then, and this is now. In this Post 9/11 World, with Islamofascist Terrorists hiding under every bed and unchecked illegal immigration, are we not all living "on the border" now? How much longer before we have swarms of smartly dressed Homeland Security Officers to greet us on every corner with a cherry, "Papiere, bitte!"? Or to periodically make unannounced home inspections to ensure that there are no undocumented Islamofascist Terrorists living in the spare room? Or to rummage through our garages to make sure we don't have any diesel fuel and fertilizer stashed away?
All this has me in the mood to watch my favorite movie about the day after tomorrow, when it'll feel like we're all living in Brazil.


How 'bout that Billy Joe Shaver?

Shot a man in Reno, just to watch him die....

Well, maybe it was Lorena rather than Reno, and maybe it was self defense rather than murder, and maybe the other guy didn't actually die but still, I think I hear that whistle blowin'....

Anyway, it seems that one of our favorite performers from Courville's has got himself in a bit of trouble with the law. According to the Houston Chronicle, Billy Joe Shaver shot a man outside Papa Joe's Texas Saloon in Lorena. (Lorena is just down the road a bit from Waco. What is it about Waco that makes people want to shoot each other?) Billy Joe says self defense, the other guy says it was unprovoked.

Note to self, don't heckle Shaver.

And buy his Greatest Hits album.

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