Friday, March 30, 2007

I Hate Atmos Energy

What we paid on our gas bill DOUBLED last year. But that's not enough for Atmos Energy. Instead of the recommended rate cut, looks like bills will actually be GOING UP AGAIN! Except for industrial users, who get a hefty cut. Welcome to Dick Cheney's America. Hey, those $800 and $900 hotel rooms, limousine rides, cases of expensive wine and meals at high-dollar restaurants don't pay for themselves!

More than $20 million in recommended savings for customers of Atmos Energy turned into a residential rate increase of $10 million because of action taken Thursday by the Texas Railroad Commission.

As a result, home-heating bills will go up by about 70 cents beginning in April, according to estimates.

The elected railroad commission also shifted much of the burden for paying gas bills onto residential customers and off the shoulders of big industrial users. That means that although home customers will pay more, industrial customers should see steep rate cuts.

The commission's decision Thursday marks the end of a long-running rate case. It also marks a departure from recommendations by the railroad commissioners' own hearing examiners, who reviewed the company's books and then recommended a $23 million rate cut.

A coalition of cities had called for rate cuts of $30 million. The company sought to increase them by about $60 million annually, or $4 on a typical monthly bill. ...

Discounting the fluctuating cost of natural gas, the changes mean that typical monthly residential bills will go up by about 4 percent from the same time last year, while industrial customers will see savings of 22 percent.

Hacienda Brothers To-nite!

The Hacienda Brothers come rolling in to the McDavid Studio at Bass Hall tonight. I saw these guys with Dave Alvin last September and they are a hell of a lot of fun. For those playing Six Degrees of Steve, HB drummer Dale Daniel used to work at the old Fantasia Record in Arlington, where I bought many an LP back in the day. The only question remains: will Steve Ray be there?

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Trash Can on Bluebonnet Circle

Haven't posted a photo in a while. And who doesn't love a monkey?

Joe Ely Coming Back to Cowtown

He'll be at the Borders Books on Hulen at 5 p.m. on Saturday, April 14 promoting doing an instore performance and (I'm willing to bet) promoting his new book, Bonfire of Roadmaps. See you there. If not, you can find tour stop near you.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Bill Paxton's Brush With History

Bill Paxton isn't just a famous actor from Fort Worth. Turns out he's got his own JFK assassination story (thanks to Robert Wilonsky at Unfair Park for the scoop.) But, hey, who doesn't have an assassination story.

Turns out the Paxton saw JFK as he left the Texas Hotel downtown on the morning of that fateful trip to Dallas. And, not only does he have a story, he's got the photo above to prove it (Photo courtesy of Roy Cooper Collection, KTVT-TV/Courtesy The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza). He's the kid sitting on the guy's shoulders.

Prairie Fest Rocking the East Side

If you hear the sound of granola crunching on the horizon, that just the Second Annual Fort Worth Prairie Fest bringing a little bit of green to Funkytown. The Fest is scheduled for Saturday, April 28 from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. at Tandy Hills Nature Area. Brave Combo, The Theater Fire, The Ackermans and some other bands will be playing. And there will be lots of earth-friendly products for you to consume. Huzzah!

Darkness on the Edge of Town

If you want to know what's going on in this picture, visit The Haven of Contentment, also known as the Moose Lodge. It's kind of like what the Andy Griffith Show would be like if directed by David Lynch. Courtesy of Swapatorium.

Ignore This Man at Your Peril

My old friend Jeff Siegel once told me that you never need to spend more than 10 bucks to get a nice bottle of wine. I thought he was full of it. However, I came to find out through sweet experience that he was right. Damn him.

In today's Star-Telegram, Jeff turns takes his knowledge of wine on the road in a tour of North Texas wineries. Now, I've always been of the opinion that Texas wine is ... how to delicately put this ... oh, yeah, horse piss. But, says Jeff, not true. With a caveat:

Don't expect California-style or California-quality wine. North Texas doesn't have the climate or the soil to produce those kinds of wine, and many of the winemakers here are relative newcomers to the trade. Nor do most of them have Napa-level budgets. This doesn't mean it's not worth your while to check out what they have to offer, though. Each of our capsules includes the winery's most popular wine -- under the "house wine" category -- and in some cases, when we've found a wine we think is worth a special recommendation, we've added a "critic's pick" suggestion.

To make it simple, here are his critic's picks:

  • La Buena Vida Vineyards, Grapevine: Walnut Creek Cellars 1985 Reserve Vintage Port, $34.99.

  • Times Ten Cellars, Dallas: Times Ten Cellars Rosé 2005, dry and fruity, $13.

  • Wales Manor Winery & Vineyard, McKinney: Wales Manor Viognier 2004, $22.

  • Brennan Vineyards, Comanche: Brennan Vineyards Viognier 2005, $15.95.

  • LightCatcher Vineyard, Fort Worth: LightCatcher Winery Merlot 2003, $32.
  • It's Hard To Fathom This Darkness

    There has been an unfortunate series of murder-suicides around Fort Worth in the past month, including one in Fairmount involving a couple from my church. Today, UCC pastor Tim Carson addresses this tragedy in his Wednesday e-mail to the congregation.

    Monday, March 26, 2007

    Fighting Words

    Have you ever been offended by a comment you read on the Internet? If not, do you know of this thing called the Internet?

    Pretty much, if you read, you've been offended. Here an interesting column from Howard Kurtz on racist comments on the Washington Post Web site and how their paper is struggling with it: Executive Editor Jim Brady says he does not have the resources to screen the roughly 2,000 daily comments in advance. He has one staffer deleting offensive comments after the fact, and banning the authors from further feedback, based on complaints from readers. Brady plans to devote more staff to the process and to use new filtering technology. ...

    Post reporter Darryl Fears is among those in the newsroom who believe the comments should be junked if offensive postings can't be filtered out in advance. "If you're an African American and you read about someone being called a porch monkey, that overrides any positive thing that you would read in the comments," he says. "You're starting to see some of the language you see on neo-Nazi sites, and that's not good for The Washington Post or for the subjects in those stories."

    I bring this up because of a conversation I had several weeks ago with a reporter friend discussing this very thing. She had written an article about an education initiative at Carter-Riverside High School, a school that is 73 percent Hispanic. What she found when she looked online at the comments shocked her. Most of the comments didn't have anything to do with the specific education initiative. Most of the comments were the vile, racist comments that you'd expect from the people who believe that building a wall at the border will solve American immigration problems.

    "If I am a young Hispanic kid," she asked. "Do I look at this newspaper and think it has anything for me? No I don't. I'm thinking that this is for white people." That's a pretty powerful argument. Newspapers need all the reader they can get.

    Kurtz's solution: "What is spreading this Web pollution is the widespread practice of allowing posters to spew their venom anonymously. If people's full names were required -- even though some might resort to aliases -- it would go a long way toward cleaning up the neighborhood."

    That's right on target. People are bound to say anything anonymously. If you make them back it up with even an e-mail address, that's something.

    The Scarlett Letter

    There's not a lot of need for me to link to Vogue, but when it has to do with Scarlett Johansson's album of Tom Waits covers, well, then link away. And run a gratuitous cheesecake photo, too. Thanks to The Eyeball Kid for the tip.

    But why Tom Waits? She sez:

    Some fans may have been surprised by her first appearance on Saturday Night Live in 2006, when she sang in several skits and more than held her own. Not surprisingly, her voice is a velvety alto. Less predictably, her first CD is a collection of her favorite Tom Waits songs. I assumed her parents might have introduced her to his music—Waits has had a cult following since the seventies—but she said that musician friends in high school brought his music to her attention, and she remains an avid fan. She had originally planned to record an album of standards, then changed her mind after adding "I Never Talk to Strangers" to her repertoire. "I've always considered Tom Waits to be kind of a composer of modern standards; he has a lot of beautiful ballads and really heartbreaking songs."

    RELATED TW NOTE: RIP Joel Brodsky. He took the cover photo for Tom Waits' Small Change and another photo of Jim Morrison that you might have seen.

    SXSW Wrap-up

    A pretty nice quick wrap-up of the annual Austin music-gasm, with a nice nod to some local acts. For those too lazy to link, here's the money graf:

    Though you're unlikely to see them on MTV anytime soon (and thank god for that), a few local acts did North Texas proud, with the Theater Fire playing five shows in four days and Hogpig delivering a crushing set of Denton hard-core at a cheesy joint called Bourbon Rocks (test tube shooters, anyone?). Fort Worth's Bosque Brown fared best of all, though, playing perhaps their finest set ever and silencing a large crowd in the 18th-floor ballroom of the Hilton Garden, where Mara Lee Miller's ghostly country-folk tunes floated softly over the sparkling Austin skyline. Tellingly, in the sea of noise that was SXSW 2007, it was often these quiet moments that proved the most profound.

    Thank You, Stash Dauber

    Mucho thanks for the kind words from The Stash Dauber, a fellow lover of Fort Worth and Stooges fan numero uno.

    Bonfire of Roadmaps

    A nice read from Malcolm Mayhew on Joe Ely. Joe has two new albums and a book coming out, as well as an exhibit of drawings at the University of Texas HRC that ends on April 2. I guess I have something to do after I attend the Spring Football Game on Saturday.

    Above is one of my favorite Joe Ely pics -- him with the Clash in Lubbock in 1980. Photo by my old S-T colleague Milton Adams.

    Benbrook Soldier Killed in Iraq

    Lance C. Springer II was home just two weeks ago. The Western Hills High School graduate liked to play Santa Claus with the Iraqi kids and gave out candy, crayons and stuffed animals.

    Tuesday, March 20, 2007

    Herding Cats

    Found this on Stash Dauber. It makes me laugh.

    Lest We Forget

    A great post by Pete at Cowtown Chronicles on yet another local soldier killed in Iraq, Spc. Marieo Guerrero. His mom is a waitress at Ol' South Pancake House. Next time you're there, drop a buck or two in the till to help her out.

    RELATED: Bob Ray Sanders on the local cost of four years of war -- only five other U.S. cities have lost more soldiers in Iraq than Fort Worth. A closer look at local Iraq casualties.

    Bluebonnet Circle Park To Get A Facelift

    I'm trying to be more involved in the community, and I'm failing miserably. For instance, I planned to attend this community meeting on the Bluebonnet Circle Park. And I whiffed it. The city was presenting the proposed designs. Every design presented had the standard needed elements/criteria within (ex: shade, benches, lighting, paths, etc.). The difference between the designs was the overall feel and style portrayed. See what you think.

    Concepts 1a and 1b honor the traditional, formal style of the park. It restores and updates the historical nature of the park and pays tribute to the original designers, Hare & Hare.

    Concept 2 breaks from the traditional lines of the park and takes on a more free form style. The park flows back and forth with grade changes and open space.

    Concept 3 concentrates on massing of vegetative styles; trees, grasses, open lawn. The massings break the parks uniformity slightly for interest.

    Which do I prefer? Number 2, I guess. I like the asymetrical aspect to the design. But honestly, I'd probably be OK with any of them.

    Dust in the Wind

    I want to tell you a story about this house. It's not true -- I have a vivid imagination. But here it is.

    It's a bit much, isn't it? The guy who designed made a bundle in sanitation, not in a Tony Soprano kind of way, but on the up and up, as far as I know. Then he took his bundle and built this Beverly Hillbillies looking thing. The dogs have their own bedroom. Seven chimneys. Lots of class, in the Tony Soprano sense.

    But this story isn't really about the house as it is my friend, let's call him Phil. It's not his real name, and this story isn't true, remember? In fact, it probably didn't happen.

    Anyway, Phil was a great guy. His wife, Leslie (not her real name), worked with my wife (or not). Anyway, Phil and I became friends. He wanted to come to work at this dot-com I was at (or not) back in the late 1990s. He'd just finished his MBA, and was looking for something new and I tried to hook him up. We had lunch and some great talks. Really great guy. He restored a Porsche 356 by hand. He was very mechanical that way.

    So Phil was fascinated with this house. He lived close by, so he walked down every day while it was under construction. He was there so much that the crew actually thought he was the architect. So he'd just bop on down there with a clipboard and he had his run of the place. He wanted to know how everything worked. He LOVED this place.

    Well, Phil didn't get the job at the dot-com, which turned out to be a great thing when the whole thing went in the tank. I found a new job, Phil and I had lunch a couple of more times, then we just sort of lost touch.

    Anyway, Leslie called my wife one day and said Phil dropped dead of a heart attack while he was on a business trip. He was only 50 and it was completely unexpected. Leslie, needless to say, was devastated. It rained torrentially at Phil's funeral. I ruined a pair of shoes.

    Leslie was kind of lost for a while. My wife and I would see her from time to time, have a few drinks, tell a few jokes, just make sure she was feeling OK. She did as well as she could under the circumstances.

    One day she told us this story. Or maybe she didn't, because this isn't a true story. It seems Phil was cremated and Leslie didn't know what to do with Phil's ashes.

    You see where I'm going with this, don't you?

    So Leslie had a couple too many martinis with some other friends of ours (NOT me or my wife and NOT anyone I know) one night and decided she knew where Phil's ashes needed to go: on the lawn of this house. So Leslie had her friend drive her down to the house, drop her off and circle the block. I don't know how she got over the fence, but she entered the grounds and dumps Phil's ashes ALL OVER THE FRONT YARD. Then she ran like hell. You know you have a good friend when they'll act as a getaway driver.

    So if your ever driving down Cheek-Sparger Road in Colleyville and pass by this house, say hi to Phil. Just remember that's not his real name. And this story is absolutely, positively not true. But it'd be a hell of a story if it was.

    Thursday, March 01, 2007

    Low Country Audio at Tipitina's

    If you don't know about the Low Country Audio yet, take time to check out their Webcast tonight from the legendary New Orleans club Tipitina's. Their set will be web cast LIVE from 9:30 to 11:15 Central Time. I had a chance to check these guys out at the Wreck Room a couple of weeks back and they are powerful good, like a more bluesy version of Wilco.