Archive for June, 2013

A diamond in the rough? Sort of…

June 30, 2013

So after the kids left today, Sabra and I went in search of grub. We had several choices and narrowed it down to Garibaldi’s, a little Mexican restaurant tucked away in one of the strip malls in the Castle Hills area. We weren’t sure what to expect, even though it did get rave reviews on Yelp…

…and as it turned out, it was very good indeed, from the chips & tortillas to the entrees themselves. Sabra had the barbacoa and egg plate, while I gorged myself on chorizo-and-egg and chorizo-and-potato tacos. And even Miss Marie ate all her food. (She got a chorizo-and-egg taco, too.) The chips were served with a couple of different salsas, along with some kind of dip that can be best described as “chicken soup without the chicken.” Between food and drinks and a 20% tip, we got out of there for about $30.

Not a bad deal at all. Like I told Sabra, it’s pretty cool, those hidden gems you find among the Starbucks, nail salons and other SWPL…

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Yeah, I’m still here…

June 30, 2013

…just having trouble finding blogfodder, and with the truck broke down again (the symptoms would seem to indicate the fuel pump) I’ve been having to ride the bus in to work every day. And it wears me right the hell out, as it turns a 9-hour day into a 12- or 13-hour day. I feel for you folks who have those long daily commutes.

Meanwhile, have some George Strait.

“Whataburger would never do something like that.”

June 27, 2013

Such was my first thought upon seeing this — for those who don’t want to click on it, a history of ads for the burger chain Carl’s Jr. My second thought was,”You know why they make those ads? Because they have to attract customers somehow.”

Not that I think Carl’s Jr. is bad, mind you — just really overrated. You’re better off spending your money at Whataburger anyway if you’re going for a fast-food burger. Can’t say as I understand the slam at Hardee’s, though. I ate at Hardee’s a fair amount when I was a kid, and it was pretty good from what I remember. In fact, their roast beef sandwiches were at least as good as the ones from Arby’s. (Not that I would defend Arby’s as haute cuisine, but for a fast-food roast beef sandwich it was pretty good.)

Of course, I’ve always looked askance at places that use sex to sell stuff, and food is no exception. I know there are those who say Hooters makes good wings, for example, but really, if the food was so good would they have to resort to marketing it the way they do?

Good thing they have those strong gun laws in New Jersey!

June 26, 2013

Why? You know, to keep guns away from criminals, natch:

A New Jersey woman was viciously attacked by a man while her 3-year-old daughter watched — and the girl’s baby monitor captured the brutal assault….

…”They need to help us get him off the street. He’s not just a burglar, he’s violent.”

Yes, ma’am, yes he is. And your legislators don’t care. Sure, if he’s caught, he’ll do time. But they’ll let him out, as they so often let his kind out even though the only way people like that need to leave prison is in a box. And he’ll go on to bigger and better things, sure as God made little green apples.

Album review: Queensrÿche, self-titled

June 25, 2013

Queensrÿche was definitely in uncharted waters after June of last year, forging on without either their iconic lead singer (Geoff Tate, who of course was fired from the band) or main songwriter (Chris DeGarmo, who departed the band in 1997). Between then and now, with new singer Todd La Torre, they’ve been impressing live audiences nationwide with the classic material.

However, since his termination, Tate has attempted to sow the seeds of doubt in countless interviews, saying among other things that he was the “creative energy” in the band and that the other guys never contributed to the songwriting process. So the question hung in the air: Could the band members write a real, compelling Queensrÿche record on their own, without DeGarmo or Tate — new music that stands with the band’s classic music, as opposed to being just a nostalgia act, living off past glory?

Well, the result of their efforts — the self-titled album that hit the stores today — answers that question with a loud and emphatic yes. Every one of the band members has at least one writing credit on the record; in fact, with the exception of guitarist Parker Lundgren — the latest (and, let’s hope, the last) DeGarmo replacement — all the band members have several writing credits.

However, Lundgren’s lone writing credit, “Where Dreams Go To Die,” is arguably the best song on the album, with its militaristic drumbeat, subtly burning vocals and perhaps the most biting lyrics to make it to a Queensryche record:

You thought you’d get away, but karma made its move;

The bad things that you’ve done will be coming back for you.

Reportedly Lundgren wrote the tune about his experiences with the Tate family, although it could just as well have been a shot across the bow to Tate from the entire band; Lundgren took it to his bandmates, and they were reportedly so impressed with it they made it the opening track to the record, with Scott Rockenfield writing a piece of musique concrete titled “X2” that sets off the song’s vicious m0od quite nicely. “Vindication,” penned by Michael Wilton, Todd La Torre, and Scott Rockenfield, is another one of those songs that could be interpreted as a message to the former lead singer:

The tables have turned on life’s little game

No longer the pawns you’re feeling the strain

There’s also another musique concrete-anchored piece on the album, the dark, moody “Midnight Lullaby/A World Without,” the wrenching tale of a man whose wife died in childbirth, featuring guest vocals from none other than Pamela Moore herself. This one, while somewhat evocative of “Silent Lucidity” with its orchestration, has much more in common with previous epic compositions like “Promised Land” and “Roads to Madness.” There’s even a stab at radio play here with “In This Light,” which is reminiscent of Empire hits “Another Rainy Night” and to a lesser extent “Jet City Woman.”

Of course, it wouldn’t quite be a real Ryche album without some fast-paced rockers and those sweet guitar solos and harmonies Michael Wilton and Chris DeGarmo made a trademark of the QR sound, and they are here too, in spades. We got a taste of them in “Redemption” and “Where Dreams Go to Die” before the record was released, but you’ll find ’em in other places too; the solo on “Don’t Look Back” (which, incidentally, was penned by Parker Lundgren) is particularly great. Not to leave out the rhythm section, though; on the latter tune, and the Rage for Order-reminiscent “Spore” in particular, Scott Rockenfield is pounding the drums like a man possessed, and Eddie Jackson lays down a killer bass groove on “Don’t Look Back.”

And Todd La Torre should definitely not be minimized here. After all, the other four can play — that much as been established — but La Torre brings a lot of those great live performances to the studio as well, as he soars to heights former singer Tate hasn’t seen in some time and sounds great doing it. Prime examples of this include “Redemption,” “Don’t Look Back,” and epic album closer “Open Road,” which evokes memories of “Anybody Listening?” and “Someone Else?”

(Speaking of those live performances, three of them are found on the deluxe edition of the disc — “Queen of the Reich,” “En Force,” and “Prophecy” — all putting an exclamation point on this stunning return to form.)

If you’re getting the idea that the album is good, you’re right. It’s hands-down the best thing the band has done since 1990’s Empire, if not 1988’s Operation: Mindcrime. And this is coming from someone who actually liked and appreciated Promised Land, the controversial follow-up to Empire. The album is self-titled, and such fits as a statement of what the band is in 2013, but it would have been just as well titled Redemption or Vindication. Why? Because that’s exactly what it is.

Welcome back, Queensrÿche. You have been so, so very badly missed.

One more reason for the hatred…

June 24, 2013

…of the Nashville music establishment.

CMT President Brian Philips, speaking about Lenny Kravitz’s ill-fated performance at the CMA Music Fest:

I’ve heard a bit of grumbling about that, to which I say, with all affection for Nashville audiences, Lenny Kravitz fills soccer stadiums all over the world. It makes us sound a bit parochial when I read tweets like, “Why is Lenny Kravitz in Nashville?” It doesn’t make us look smart to take pot shots at great players who are also brave enough to stretch, in my opinion.

“Lenny Kravitz fills soccer stadiums all over the world.” Which is obviously more than enough reason to give him a slot at a(n allegedly) country music show, apparently. Damn George Strait for not taking him on a co-headlining tour.

I’d like to know exactly how Lenny Kravitz was “stretching,” considering that (from what I understand) he played his standard set of middle-of-the-road rock songs. Honestly, as much as I bitch about Darius Rucker anymore, at least he’s trying to be country even if he’s hamstrung by his record label and most of his recent attempts have fallen short. Lenny Kravitz wasn’t even trying. And don’t get me wrong — that is to his credit. After all, we have enough people who don’t have any respect for country music’s roots and core sound trying to get in on it.

But what else should have been expected? When you go to a festival called the “Country Music Association Fan Fest,” you should have a reasonable expectation of hearing actual country music. And for Brian Philips to sit there and call that audience “parochial” because they rebelled at not getting what they expected is the height of arrogance on his part. Who the hell does he think he is to call them that?

I remember wondering around 2000, when the Texas-red dirt scene started getting more prominent, just how long it could be a viable alternative to the mainstream crap Nashville was churning out and defending as “country music.” As it turns out, it’s still surviving (and even thriving) more than a decade later. While I don’t listen to nearly as much country music as I used to, I am still thankful for that. I am also thankful that we have folks like Jason Boland, Corb Lund, and Aaron Watson (and the elder statesmen like Ray Wylie Hubbard, Rodney Crowell, and Radney Foster) giving us that alternative, and that terrestrial radio’s not the only game in town anymore when it comes to gaining exposure for non-mainstream music — because if mainstream music was all I had to choose from in addition to asshats like Brian Philips calling me names like “parochial,” I would be feeling quite stabby indeed.

(h/t Country California)

Oh hey, that reminds me.

June 23, 2013

What reminds me of what, you ask? Well, Sabra’s post on mascots reminds me of a certain bit I saw from the Daily Caller.

Bit of context: As you all know, Paula Deen basically got fired from the Food Network for certain racist remarks she made in the past. Outraged Deen fans are now threatening to boycott the Food Network, supposedly until Deen is reinstated.

Now, look. I understand that people have past opinions and attitudes they’re not proud of. I know opinions change. But you see something like this:

What I would really like is a bunch of little [N-word] to wear long-sleeve white shirts, black shorts and black bow ties. Now that would be a true Southern wedding, wouldn’t it?

…and you have to wonder if Paula Deen is just covering her ass because her livelihood is on the line, as opposed to being genuinely contrite. Color me skeptical…

And, on the flip side…

June 22, 2013

Why San Antonio’s newspaper is NOT so awesome:

Ex-reality TV star and house flipper Armando Montelongo Jr. did it. So did San Antonio Talons owner A. David Lynd, state District Judge Angus McGinty and newscaster Leslie Bohl.

When their marriages failed, they joined an array of other wealthy, famous and connected Bexar County residents or their spouses by filing for divorce using their initials rather than names in court filings to try to keep their breakups secret.

Disguising cases by using initials conflicts with a basic principle of America’s judicial system — that courts are open to the public. It doesn’t appear to comply with state court rules, either.

Why is this news? Why are the divorces of rich and famous people anyone’s business but the involved parties? Can anyone really blame them for wanting a little bit of privacy when it comes to such a sensitive issue? It strikes me that the Express-News is implying this sort of thing is the business of the public, and for the life of me I can’t figure out why.

And as I just told Sabra, to add insult to injury…

Go to ExpressNews.com for the rest of the story.

…not only do they give us this bit of not-news, they expect us to PAY FOR IT!

Why San Antonio is awesome.

June 22, 2013

As everyone knows by now, the Spurs lost the last game of the NBA finals, thus the championship went to Miami…

…but they still got a winner’s welcome home when the plane landed yesterday.

Next year, y’all.

Wow, I totally missed this.

June 20, 2013

From the Express-News letters to the editor today:

…former OLLU president Tessa Martinez Pollack…is gone because she cut 12 degrees that were not worthy of a university degree, including Spanish and Mexican-American Studies. Faculty and students protested, and Pollack is gone.

Wow, that sucks. I would have expected something like that at a school like the University of Texas, but I never would have expected it to happen at a smaller private school. That being the case, if I was the parent of an OLLU student I’d certainly be questioning the worth of my investment if OLLU is going to waste money paying people to nurse their ethnic grievances and pass them on to others. I would certainly hope for the sake of the students and the folks paying their tuition that OLLU does cut those studies and make those classes electives for other majors. It’ll be interesting to see what happens.