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Put Your Money Where Your Beads Are
Partiers, art and culture freaks, patrons of the Big Easy, the hurricane of all charitable party causes is upon us. According to the Associated Press, the city of New Orleans has started an online and text-message fundraising campaign to help pay for its annual Mardi Gras celebration. It's too late to get in on the hardcore revelry this year, as Carnival season peaked Feb. 20 with Fat Tuesday, but that doesn't mean the well for giving to the mother of all U.S. Carnival celebrations has run dry. The campaign's goal is to generate $1 million by Carnival 2008. Cell-phone users with PayPal accounts can donate by texting a code and a dollar amount to a specified phone number. To donate online, go here and click on "Mardi Gras Sponsorship & Support Program."

2:27PM Fri. Feb. 23, 2007, Cheryl Smith Read More | Comment »

Everyone's Nancy Grace Now
So why exactly was the kidnapping of a Florida teen (and his release, unharmed, less than four hours later) of such massive importance that every TV news channel felt it had to carry the Manatee County Sheriff Office's press conference about it live?

Could it be because half the world's broadcast media was down in Florida anyway, covering the Anna Nicole Smith circus? Now Crazy Larry (aka his honor Judge Larry Seidlin of the 17th Judicial Circuit of Florida) is no longer giving those wacky quotes to camera, and they had to justify spending the weekend down on the coast somehow.

1:12PM Fri. Feb. 23, 2007, Richard Whittaker Read More | Comment »

Chronic: Burka Approval Tanks
Continuing Beating Burka week here at Chronic, let's turn to the mustached soothsayer's prognostications on the president's poll numbers: "SurveyUSA: Bush Approval Soars."

The evidence of this amazing bounce? "One month after posting an approval rating in Texas of just 40%, with 58% disapproval, President Bush rebounded in SurveyUSA's monthly tracking poll to 47% approval, 50% disapproval." Stop the press! To his credit, Burka says that even these numbers are such the anomaly that he thinks they should be tossed, but c'mon – to anyone scurrying through the granite bowels of the Capitol, browsing Burka's RSS feed on their BlackBerry, what's the underlying message here?

Paul Burka, while an entertaining writer, has done nothing to warrant his absurd position as the dean of Texas political reporting. His status and access is, in fact, seemingly nothing but a reward for what he's done over the decades – regurgitate establishment, right-of-center conventional wisdom, under the guise of some noble third-way that's best for Texas. Worse, when his words lead to action, he downplays any role he has in propping up the status quo.

12:12PM Fri. Feb. 23, 2007, Wells Dunbar Read More | Comment »

Look Into the Light Light Light Light …
If you're like me, your last interaction with a cassette involved P.M. Dawn's single “I’d Die Without You” and an overheated dashboard, so you may be reluctant to dare cross paths with such an antiquated form of recorded music ever again. Everyone knows we'll all soon have iPods the size of contact lenses.

Furniture Records, the Austin/Chicago bastion of loud, lewd, and totally crude (and whose revolving-door band policy has birthed Tuxedo Killers, Daniel Francis Doyle, Awesome Cool Dudes, and When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth, among others), has started a singles club which entails you listen to and appreciate a cassette.

Wait, come back! It's totally worth it. Each tape in the club (there will be six tapes in all, released every other month in 2007, all with cover designs by different artists) features varying versions of the same song: Oneida's drone masterpiece "Sheets of Easter," the 15-minute rifftastic opener from their 2002 album, Each One Teach One. The club, dubbed Sheets of Easter Everywhere, features covers by locals Dick Price; Assacre; Oh, Beast!; and Jana Hunter, as well as Jagjaguwar's Parts & Labor and the awesome Coke Dares. Recorded with all the charm of cassettes, Parts & Labor’s version, recorded by Oneida’s Hanoi Jane, is truest to the original, albeit slowed down. Assacre’s electro-wizzzard power-violence version is mind-altering, Oh, Beast! clocks in at 35 seconds with typically Oh, Beast!-y panache. But the Coke Dares might be the best, and they saved it for last.

12:08PM Fri. Feb. 23, 2007, Audra Schroeder Read More | Comment »

Road Closures a-Go-Go
Obama's in town, Intel's going down – don't expect to go anywhere Downtown.

For the Obama rally, today: Riverside will be closed between South First and Lee Barton Drive from 11am to 6pm.

For the Intel implosion, Sunday, Feb. 28:
• West Sixth will be reduced to one lane from San Jacinto Boulevard to Rio Grande Street. During the implosion, West Sixth will be closed to through traffic.
• Guadalupe will be reduced to two lanes from Third to 10th. During the implosion, Guadalupe will be closed to through traffic.
• West Fifth will be reduced to one lane from Lamar to West Avenue, then detoured north to 12th by way of West Street.
• West Fourth will be closed from Lavaca to Rio Grande.
• West Third will be closed from Lavaca to Nueces.
• San Antonio Street will be closed at Cesar Chavez to Sixth.
• Anyone wishing to view the implosion is encouraged to watch Austin media. Public viewing near the implosion site will be limited. However, pedestrian access will be allowed on Third, Fourth, and Fifth streets between Guadalupe and Lavaca. Pedestrian access also will be allowed on the north curb line of Sixth between Lavaca and Nueces.
• Within the implosion area between Nueces and Lavaca and Second and Sixth, parking will not be allowed after 5am, Sunday, Feb. 25. No parking signs will be posted warning motorists of towing enforcement. The designated towing vendor is Southside Towing Inc.

11:50AM Fri. Feb. 23, 2007, Wells Dunbar Read More | Comment »

Those Crazy Brits
In a baffling week for war-watchers, British Prime Minister Tony Blair announced the UK will be withdrawing 1,600 of its 7,100 troops from Iraq. At the same time, Prince Harry is being sent out to fight there. As the experts say, huh?

Blair, unlike President George Bush, seems to have worked out that no one in the UK backs the war in Iraq. His Labor Party is facing a vicious election in the next year, and even though he's standing down from Parliament, the party may lose because of his inheritance. So, time for a quick policy switch.

The British Army has been picking up a lot of slack in Afghanistan and needs 1,000 more troops there - troops to be freed up from Iraq. There's still a sliver of support for that war, so he's trying to salvage the last of his reputation. After all, he's still young, and it's speculated he'd like to be either European Union president or UN secretary general.

So if the British Army is pulling out of Iraq, why is the man third in line to the throne being sent out to the front line?

11:30AM Fri. Feb. 23, 2007, Richard Whittaker Read More | Comment »

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Parsley Keeps Power Over Power
In an unsurprising move, the Senate confirmed the reappointment of Julie Parsley to the Public Utilities Commission of Texas on Wednesday. The former solicitor general and Rick Perry appointee sits on the three-person body that's supposed to keep some sort of control in the newly deregulated electricity market. Not that she's ever really shown any sign of that.

Last April, Parsley and fellow Commissioner Barry Smitherman out-voted commission Chairman Paul Hudson in a pivotal showdown. Hudson wanted to force the incumbent energy companies like TXU and Reliant to appear before the PUC over possible price gouging. The big firms had sought permission to raise their electricity prices in the wake of Katrina, due to high fuel prices. Months later, the fuel prices had dropped, but the electricity prices hadn't. Parsley said that it was very sad, but the PUC had no power to do anything about it.

It was a significant message to the big electricity companies that one of the industry's main regulators wasn't a big fan of regulation.

Parsley also sat on Perry's Energy Planning Council, whose 2005 report (see the .pdf here) pushed Texas further down the path of coal and oil reliance.

10:05AM Fri. Feb. 23, 2007, Richard Whittaker Read More | Comment »

Trivium's 'Crusade'
Trivium wears its influences like a badge of honor. After the infamous Bruce Dickinson/Sharon Osbourne altercation at Ozzfest 2005, the Florida-based quartet clothed itself in Iron Maiden uniforms and marched with “The Trooper” on the second stage. Two years later, the metal band is now launching a Crusade of its own.

Into the Void: I like to think of you as the Lebron James of metal. What did you try to do to up your game for The Crusade?
Matt Heafy: We just wanted to make the type of music that we wanted to listen to, regardless of whether or not it’s metal. We just did it the way we wanted to.

ITV: I spoke to Corey Beaulieu last year, and he told me that he was listening to a ton of hair metal, and I could really hear that influence creeping into the album in terms of the texture of the sound and the stadium feel.
MH: I never really got into the hair metal myself, but everybody in the band has such eclectic tastes that the record doesn’t really make sense in terms of influences. When we were writing The Crusade I was listening to Kelly Clarkson mostly and some jazz, Elton John, the Beach Boys, and Elvis Costello. Now that I’m writing again, I’m coming up with all of this really weird, technical shit on one end and heavy metal rock on the other. Our favorite bands are still Maiden, Metallica, and Pantera. It’s just kind of bizarre.

5:48PM Thu. Feb. 22, 2007, Austin Powell Read More | Comment »

Sad Day for the Toros, Basketball, and Austin: Dennis Johnson Dead at 52
I hate to be the bearer of absolutely terrible news, but Toros coach Dennis Johnson died today, Feb. 22, after collapsing on the court during the team's practice. He was 52 years old.

Johnson, better known to basketball fans as D.J., was an NBA legend who helped two teams win the championship trophy during his storied 14-year career. He was the Finals MVP in 1979, when he was playing with the Seattle Supersonics, and was an integral part of the legendary Boston Celtics team of the 1980s, the team that also featured Larry Bird and Kevin McHale. Together they won two titles, in '84 and '86, and reached the finals in 1987, when they fell to the Los Angeles Lakers.

One of the league's finest all-around guards, Johnson was named to the All-Defensive First Team six times, and he played in five All-Star games. Over the course of his career he averaged 14.1 points per game, and he raised that average during the playoffs to 17.3. (Not bad for a defensive specialist.)

Johnson came to the Toros last year for their inaugural season, leading them to a 24-24 record. Despite a rough start to this year's campaign, the Toros have won 14 of their last 18. I guess his players were finally starting to get the message.

Larry Bird once said of Johnson, "He's the best I've ever played with."

Update: The Chronicle just received this press release from the NBDL: "The NBA Development League announced today that Austin Toros home games scheduled for Friday, February 23 against Fort Worth and Saturday, Feb. 24 against Tulsa have been postponed due to the sudden death of Toros head coach and former NBA great Dennis Johnson. The games will be rescheduled for later this season."

3:31PM Thu. Feb. 22, 2007, Josh Rosenblatt Read More | Comment »

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