Monday night November 29 saw Hinder, Saving Abel, My Darkest Days, and Default foll into town on this post Thanksgiving holiday Monday night. This was held at the Palladium Ballroom, Dallas Texas. I could not miss the opportunity to see Hinder in a small venue.  Saving Abel, and My Darkest Days were also on the bill.  Default was as well, but not reviewed as alas, traffic hang ups had us inadvertently hanging up on Default.  No worries, had seen them twice previous with only moderate results.

My Darkest Days

Canadian Band founded by the most successful Canadian band

It started with My Darkest Days. This is an interesting outfit from Toronto, Canada.  Fairly new to the national scene, they were discovered by fellow Canadian Chad Kroger of Nickelback.  Not bad backing.  The group was founded by lead singer Matt Walst, whose brother plays bass for Three Days Grace. So they are no stranger to the head start in a clogged industry.  I was impressed with these lads. They have a straight ahead approach to the music and stage presence.  I had already known them from their single which I down loaded into my iPod a few weeks back (not realizing they were on this bill).  I will be downloading a few more. The music is labeled ‘post grunge’, whatever that means. I found it to be very hard with melodic hooks for choruses that fit well into the music. Nothing musically is too difficult here.  I was impressed with the harmonies, however. The second guitarist, a multi hair do colored Mohawk kind of guy shared vocals with strength, and exquisite harmonies.  There you go….there is no harmonizing in grunge.  Great act.  Hope they see more success.

Saving Abel was next.  This is the third time seeing them, the first in smaller venue.  These guys will release their second album shortly. They played the single off of the new album, one that is decent, but nothing to get too excited about.  It is a clever lyric for the chorus and that is about it.  I was not too impressed this time with this group. I cannot put my finger on it, but it just seem the act and presentation was false on several levels.  It did not help when the lead singer started tearing up during yet another tribute to our military (one day I would really like to see any number of these bands quit the tributes, dawn the battle fatigues, and really understand what the military goes through daily.  Not that I know either, but I’m just sayin’. This guy wiped, or pretended, to wipe tears from his eyes from the moment he introduced the song and throughout.  At a certain moment, I felt like I was listening to, well, most of you know what…will not say it here. And the drummer, he must have been high as a kite. He glared in awesome wonder around the room as he adequately addressed his drumming duties.  His pupils were the size of dollar coins. Oh wow, man. I am not saying that Saving Abel was bad, it just did not do much for me on this night. The friends I attended with enjoyed them immensely, so trust their judgement.  They go to alot of concerts as well. As for my opinion,  They are better suited on a multi-band bill in a larger venue playing the allotted 40 minutes.

Hinder

We will see what the new album brings

Hinder. Now these guys from OKC yield a variety of opinions from music listeners.  There was a group that frequently goes with us to concerts that would not pay to see them. Too soft (not the word he used).  Others write them off as a pop band who has worn out the welcome carpet with their intentional designs to mirror the Motley Crue lifestyle (self admitted by Hinder). Other consider them just plain pop music. However, I tag them as the best band to come out in the last five years.  They have had some staying power.  The first album sold north of 3 Million, the second approached 2 Million…now kids, this is not easy in the days of downloads.  They played four songs off of the new album to be released Tuesday, 7 December. I can tell you that from what I heard, the sound will largely be the same as the previous two. Overall the performance was good and well received by the rather sparse crowd of 200 or so. The highlight of the evening was a strong rendition of “Better Than Me” and a strongly performed “Without You”.  On “Lips of an Angel”, they cheapen the guitar up which makes the song less effective.  Hell, I play the song more complexly when performing it acoustically than he does.

As mentioned, the crowd was small.  Clearly the band names in stock this evening could not draw folks out on a post Thanksgiving holiday Monday.  That says something as well. I estimate total revenue for this event at $7,000, parking, drinks, and ticket prices added up.  Ouch.  Somebody lost their ass………

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Seems Low Budget Review Guy grows restless these days judging by the number of reviews on traveling Texas.  Nice to see he gets out of his den of rum once in a while. And just to spite him, I will post this on Facebook as well as he refuses to use Facebook in some sort of stand against what is popular……..we leave him to his rum, but we always enjoy his LBR write ups

As a long-time history buff, I  recently took a  day trip from the Austin area to see some of the early sights of the struggles for Texas Independence.  Down 183 we traveled, past Lockhart, the BBQ capital of Texas with at least four quality BBQ places, through Luling, home of the world-famous annual Watermelon Thump festival (and has a water tower painted like a giant Chernobyl melon) to the scenic town of Gonzales,TX.  The pretty county seat of approx 8,000 people on the Guadalupe river, has one of those beautiful 1880-1900 County Courthouses that have undergone renovation.  The architecture is amazing.  It was one of the early settlements of Texas, founded in 1825 and considered as the far west frontier.  The Mexican government gave the settlers a cannon as protection from native-American tribes. As Texas Revolution sentiment grew hotter, the Mexicans sent a military force to repossess the cannon.  At a spot about 5 miles from town,  the Texas settlers faced down the Mexican troops with the loaded cannon and a flag with the words, “Come And Take it”.  The shots fired were the first of what would become the Texas Revolution and would eventually cost Mexico all the land now known as the Western US, including Texas, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, California, etc. From such small actions do mighty countries grow.  There is a beautiful bas-relief monument close to the actual “battle” sight and a small road will take you the 1/8th mile trip to the actual sight.  Flyers in the courthouse will give you precise directions. Gonzales is also famous for the 32 men who left their homes and families to reinforce the Alamo in San Antonio.  It is believed they were the last volunteers to join the mission before it’s famous final stand.

From Gonzales, we traveled east about 5 miles and took a rough country road a couple of miles to see the famous, “Sam Houston” Oak.  This huge oak tree served briefly as a campsite for Houston and the ragtag Texas armed forces and civilians as they fled eastwards away from the Mexican Army.  They had received word that the Alamo had fallen from Susannah Dickinson, one of the few survivors of the Alamo.  Houston ordered the retreat in what became known as “The Runaway Scrape”.

From there it was just a short drive to the town of Shiner.  The “Cleanest Little Town in Texas” is home to Spoetzel Brewery, makers of world-famousShiner Beer (Shiner Bock, Shiner Blonde, and several others).  The town is in a river valley between the Lavaca and Guadalupe Rivers and has a population of around 2000.  Although we had dallied in the Gonzales area longer than planned, we just made the morning brewery tour, joining approximately 25 others in learning how the brewery makes its special liquid delights.  The tour was about 30 minutes and included several free beer tastings at the end.  A sip or two of their holiday season-only “Holiday Cheer” beer  along with a few others and perusing the small gift shop was well worth the trip.

While hunger pangs were starting to be noticed, we had miles to go. So back on the road we headed, with a brief stop at a local Shiner business called, “ Antiques, Art, and Beer” a truly unique business whose title pretty much sums it up.  What a great place!  We also stopped at Howard’s Convenience Store on the way out of town to grab a snack and some cokes while grinning at the  small area inside with 7 beers on tap. At a convenience store. Hilarious!

The last destination in mind was Goliad, but before we got there we stopped in Cuero for a late lunch.  Cuero is the county seat of DeWitt County and boasts another outstanding renovated Courthouse.  This town of 7000-plus has been known as a jump-off spot for Texas hunters for generations. This railroad-founded town of approx 1872   is also home to the famous “Turkey Trot” where they chase/race turkeys to the finish line.  Will have to make that festival one of these years. For you linguists, Cuero means “rawhide” in Spanish.  For lunch we stopped at Barbecue Station on the main street for a delicious lunch (A review on the BBQ will be a later post). We also stopped at the Pecan House, where you can buy a number of different types of pecans, shelled or unshelled, plus gift baskets, flavored pecans, jellies, sauces, marinades.  An unusual store. We bought a bag of sweet-cinnamon pecans for dessert while watching the giant shelling machines do their task.

After approximately 40 minutes from Cuero, we arrived at Goliad.  This town of under 2000 on the San Antonio river was the location of a Spanish Mission, Espiritu Santo De Zuniga and a fort called Presidio La Bahia. This amazing stone structure was built in approx 1747.  It was the scene of perhaps the saddest event in  all of Texas history.  After the fall of The Alamo, Col. James Fannin’s forces, under orders, left The Presidio but by the time  were only about 8 miles away, they came under fire from the Mexican Army.  The next morning found the Texans surrounded and made terms for surrender. The Mexican general advised them that he considered them prisoners of war and should be treated as such, but also said it was not his decision to make.  The Texas forces were marched back to the Presidio and kept under guard for a few weeks. On Palm Sunday, 1836  the group of approx 340 men were marched out in three separate groups all going three different directions.  A few miles away from the fort, the guards opened fire on the prisoners, and used cavalry to hunt down those trying to run away.  A few did escape.  The wounded back at the Presidio were placed against a wall and were shot.  Jim Fannin was the last to be executed.  The fort is still in great condition and the docents were helpful and friendly.  A short film explained the history and guests  can walk the grounds including the beautiful chapel.  There are even guest quarters for those brave enough to stay overnight and perhaps encounter some of the ghosts said to be haunting this ancient fort.  Near the Presidio is the Obelisk where the remains of those massacred that could be gathered were placed.  The structure is very moving.  Also close by is the statue memorializing “The Angel Of Goliad” .  The wife of one of the Mexican Officers, she managed to save the lives of several of the Texas soldiers from the tragedy.  Also nearby is Goliad State Park where the early Spanish Mission has been renovated.  The chapel with its frescoes is well worth the visit.  Goliad is also the birthplace of General Ignacio Zaragoza who lead the Mexican army in defeat of the French Army in 1862 on Cinco De Mayo.  Without General Zaragoza, we may now be drinking Mexican (French) wines instead of Dos Equis, Negro Modelo, and Corona.  The Most Interesting Man in the World would speak French and would  be less interesting….hmmmm….

As darkness fell, we headed our weary way home with memories of Texas History, BBQ, and Beer.  It’s hard to get better than that!

In Summary:  Well worth the trip.  If not into the architecture and old Courthouses, can been done much quicker, depending on the time spent at the Presidio. Traffic was mostly light, and small-town Texas residents are helpful and very friendly.

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Baylor Bowl Bound: Now Fire Art Briles

On November 22, 2010, in Other Interests, by admin

All right, some of you will think I am way too cynical quite like others of my group. Fine.  Some of you will think this is way too harsh.  What you say?  Baylor is going to a bowl for the first time since, well, I am not really sure, and you are bitching and moaning? Coaches are measured in part by appearances in bowls.  I understand. Briles is a great recruiter in Texas, I understand. Sure he turned University of Houston program around in three years.  I understand. There is great improvement.  I understand.  The media tries to build up Briles and the program improvements. I understand.

But the thing is, he is not a good coach.  Week in and week out, he gets out coached and puts teams on the field who are not prepared to play the competition. His defense has been non-existent. His play calling is highly questionable. His teams execution on offense is inconsistent at best. Penalties and untimely errors occur way too much. He does not understand that teams against him adjust at half time, he does not. 20 straight losses against Oklahoma…..the list goes on and on. In short, Briles lacks the mental toughness of a coach, and his talented kids reflect their coach’s mental toughness.  OK.  Maybe I should give him a break. After all, just a short 6 years ago he was a high school coach. And turning U of H around, well, this is a weak conference, a sort of B league if you will.  So his lack of experience shows in the Big 12.  BU will return a lot of players next year, but I expect a similar result as this year.  Another bowl appearance, OK. But really, I am looking for so much more. I am not satisfied with the feel good story of the football program turning around.  You see, I actually believe in the talents of these kids. I see others as thinking it so dramatic that they have achieved what they did as if they are Jerry’s kids stepping on the big stage for the first time. No, I believe BU has talent, a lot of it.  It is raw talent that remains under coached.

I make no secret that I think that football is a game the dwells more on the mental side of the mind than the talent.  I know Baylor Football will not recruit on the same level of the state schools who have the branding, think Texas, Oklahoma; or with the schools who’s programs have been purchased by a wealthy donor aka OSU.  But I think at this level, talent is relatively flat across most players, and the difference is attitude, mental toughness, and sheer will to win. This is what a coach must instill in the players. I do not think Briles is the guy to do this. What he does have in motivation, he lacks in coaching skills.  He is solidly out coached in most games.

I am not a cynic for the sake of being one. I am a true supporter of the program, and the other Baylor Sports. I also demand more out of programs than apparently most of our supporters do.  So Art, either figure it out or step aside.  These players deserve more than you have to offer.

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Friends Are Worth Their Weight in Beer

On November 17, 2010, in Travel, by admin

Yes, that is right.  Friends are worth their weight in beer.  Tonight I had the opportunity to meet a friend at a half way point of the nearly 100 miles that separates us in the daily lives.  Good times..great to catch up on old times, new times, and bag on our other friends who do not have the personalities and the resulting inclination to drive to meet someone for an hour and half at dinner.  Most of our friends are sheltered or pussies.  You decide.  We met at BJs Brewhouse in Temple TX. This is a great place with great food. Now I will tell you right off, I own stock in this business….so I am jaded.  But there is a reason I choose to buy stock in this place.  Even though the menu has too many items on it, and I always have suspected that restaurants with many choices do things decent, but nothing really well (think high end steak joints), their food is great.  Couple that with the wide choice of beers brewed, and you have the set up for a great time with a friend batting the rat around, and really discussing nothing that really matters. The pizza here is extraordinary, at least by most pizza standards.  I am from the north where pizza is a whole different world, and BJs Brewhouse is not better than that.  But it is great by most standards.  Great atmosphere as well.  There are many big screen TVs for your favorite sporting event as well.  This added up with usually good service make this place a winner. Our server kept bringing out samples of home made sodas, Black Cherry, Root Beer, Cream Soda, all in really, I mean really frosted glasses.  Nice touch. All of this, and the company is expanding in a calculated way while taking on no debt whatsoever.  This last point is a rule that I invest by.

All told, this is a great restaurant with great beers.  Drink three, and the conversation with your friend gets even more animated at the expense of our other friends with too limited vision to come out and do something like this.  Hats off. Try BJs Brewhouse.  They are nationwide. Check out their site on the link above. And for God sake, invite a friend, and go hang.  You will be glad you did.

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Instead of merely putting this in our comments field from the last post on Baylor Football on Redd, I decided to put the comments on Baylor Football from Low Budget Review Guy as a separate post.  I believe they are worthy of their own marquee……I wonder of LBR Guy was liquored up as well as I was when he posted…….either way, it makes for great entertainment.  My comments are also included, because, well, I am on a roll.

Low Budget Review Guy states:

1)      Hats off to the Ag’s for playing tough, hardnosed football.  They ratcheted up their intensity the 2nd half and we wilted under pressure, just like the week before.

2)      BU players and coaches are NOT strong mentally or physically.  Push them a bit and they self destruct  like a old rusty  Pinto in a rear-end collision.

Ed:  My point exactly. At least Ford knew to get rid of the Pinto

3)      Why does BU (and UT and a lot of other teams) continue to call that damn WR screen that gains 2 yrds when it works at all. It is a wasted play and should NEVER be called again.

Ed:  Could not agree more. Baylor Football coaches will tell you it is because their receivers  are quick, and these plays ‘create space’ to run the field. Seems they forget that other coaches (not even good coaches, but average coaches and above) watch film. And react to film. Apparently this confuses the Baylor Football (and UT and others) coaching staffs

4)      BU has very little talent on the Defense side of ball.  I believe the coaches are aware of that so instruct the DB’s to play 8+ yrds off the receiver—but still get burned.  If I was an opposing Off Coordinator, I would run 5-7 yrd slants ALL DAY, all the way up and down the field.  It would be 15 play drive for TD every time, and the BU offense would seldom see the field.

Ed Note:  And Bob Stoops will. So will our worthy bowl opponent: University of Minnesota, Duluth

5)      OU will try to score 80 on us next weekend, and just might do it.

Ed Note:  Stoops has new bar to cross for this year, he must beat the 83 the Wisconsin Badgers put up on the board yesterday.  My prediction, he blows by it in late third quarter.  My I am generous.

6)      When we go to the Crest Whitestrips Bowl, if we play any team that can throw the ball, we will lose. The only people watching that bowl game will be parents and friends of the team members from both sides.  No one else in America will care.  It may be the lowest bowl ratings of all time.  Oh wait,( M*^%$y) will watch—if he is not working…

Ed Note:  Sorry Low Budget Review Guy, you have been edited from using names.  I am afraid that all of our Russian and Eastern European spammers will contact Marty directly.  Not sure what he would do with a Russian girl….oh yeah, the parents will stay home.  Far too cold in Duluth, Minnesota.  Ed Note again:  We have heard that TV would not pick up coverage of the Crest White Strips Bowl, leaving the game to played not in a neutral location, but on the home school turf since they had the better record. Stadium capacity, 210 miners.

7)      Having said that, 7-6 (after the bowl loss) is a marked improvement for a team that has gone 3-9, 4-8 or 2-10 or worse for the last 10 years…..

Ed Note:  Good for you.  You are so positive. Find the bright star in a sky that has no stars………

8)      Having said THAT, how many people believe that this is a sign of better things to come, and how many believe the program is topped out, that 7 wins a year max  is pretty much it?

Ed Note:  With the current coaching staff, they have blown their load. It goes back our argument (which I am rapidly loosing), you can recruit athletes, and kids who can get the job done.  If you do not teach mental toughness and possess the skills to coach them, you will never excel beyond the current.

9)      Is D III  (or at least D II) looking better ?

Ed Note:  I have lost this argument. My hats off to you.  I am glad we have basketball…….now if Skippy can control his thugs

10)   Is the glass half-full? Half-empty?  Or, do you look at it like me and say the glass is dirty and needs to be washed?

Ed Note:  The glass has been washed many a time, it still comes out of the dishwasher caked with the foul smell that our defender experiences as he chases the Aggie receiver lumbering to the end zone ahead of him.

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Baylor Football: Another Bridesmaid Night

On November 13, 2010, in Other Interests, by admin

This has been part of a fantastic weekend in Waco, Texas where 5 separate sporting events took place. 3 BU Lady Bears basketball games, one Men’s BU Basketball game, and one football game. Great time.  So far, all the basketball teams have won solidly with one Lady Bears game to go. But let us this time focus on football.  No doubt, the Baylor football team has enjoyed a year of resurrection, to some degree.  Bowl eligible for the first time in over a decade, and in the hunt for the top spot in Big 12 South.  Or was, more appropriately put. Great. But the thing is, it is still Baylor football.  Tonights clash with Texas A&M only proved, the old BU ghosts still fly uncontrolled. Yes, BU has a great offense, and a star quarterback in RG III.  Great. My hats off to these guys. This posts is not meant to take anything away from the RG III or any other hard playing BU football player. Nope.  This one is squarely on Art Briles. I know he came packaged with RGIII.  Yes he is a good guy. Yes he fits the BU coaching mold. But in the end, he is outcoached regularly in these tough Big 12 games.  I loved watching the first half as BU piled up yardage and points to take an 8 point lead.  If not for questionable special teams play, the lead would have been more.

First off, hats off to you Aggie people.  Just know, I do not like you. I heartedly resisted putting up rebuttal posts in Facebook tonight on some of the Aggie pro comments.  But in the end tonight, your team showed great resilience, and your questionable coach Sherman adjusted to out score BU 28-0 in the second half.  You won, and you won firmly.  And I tip my hat to your team for this and your coach, who clearly, once again out coached Art Briles. What team goes into half time down not looking to adjust?  Apparently, not Baylor.  With all that talent, not Baylor. This is Coaching 101, and Briles has failed once again. Sure you can say we played them well, blah, blah. But in the end, you must close the deal.  You must play an entire game. You must keep the intensity that brought you to the half time dance to begin with.  The players talents did not change at half time, they were every bit still capable as in the first half.  But coaching;  a) attitude, b) play calling, and c) overall player mental preparation has to be there as well. This is the coaches responsibility. If you cannot prepare accordingly, go back to high school coaching.

Oklahoma looms as the final game.  Each week I hold out the possibility that something good will happen as it has several times this season. Baylor will likely be headed to a bowl game for the first time in a long time.  But, in the end, resting on that achievement, doesn’t that feel a bit like accepting a brides maid role to each you?  It does to me…………

Baylor Mens Basketball Review

On November 10, 2010, in Other Interests, Uncategorized, by admin

This is a rather quick post to review the opening game for the Baylor Men’s Basketball team, a team that went to the Elite 8 last year. Although there are significant losses of personel from last year, namely Epke Udoh, who was drafted as the sixth pick in the NBA draft, there is (was) significant anticipation for this year as well. Newcomer Perry Jones III arrives as the nations Number 2 recruit last year, according to ESPN.  Returning scoring star Lace Dunn would provide the senior leadership for the team. Mesquite Texas’ own Quincy Acy returns to scare the hell out of the opposition.  A strong supporting cast of returning players now with more experience under their sneakers.

Well Coach Scott Drew (I call him Skippy, and hereto forward in this article, that is what he shall be called), known for turning this titanic of a basketball program around, has seemed to run into a few bumps in the road. All that glitters is not gold, at least for too long apparently.  You see, it seems that Lace Dunn allegedly rearranged his girl friends face….oops, one star player out while they sort this matter out.  Please note, I said “allegedly”  God only knows how accurate this is.  But, Dunn is out indefinitely as a result. Skippy is also now a bit tarnished as NCAA is investigating the program for allegedly (there I go again, using that “A” word) texting a Columbian recruit…a clear violation of rules, if it indeed did happen. And further, the texts allegedly (thats three) were very aggressive and basically threatening the kid that he will never leave his native Columbia if he does not come and play for BU.  Now thats not very Baptist, Skippy.

Bottom line:  Distractions are a plenty at the beginning of this season.  The game I witnessed was an exhibition game against a very scrappy, aggressive DII school, Midwestern State, coached by ex-BU basketball players.  The starting line up for BU was Anthony Jones, a third year underachiever from Houston area, AJ Walton, a sophomore point guard who got a lot of playing time last year, Quincy Acy, best known for the blown call by incompetent refs in the game against Duke last year when they called Acy for a charge in a drive to the basket which was no more than me bumping into my grandmother…..(believe me Mr. Incompetent Boob of a Ref, you will know when Acy really charges, and next time may it be at you). Perry Jones started as well.  Perennial journey player Fred Ellis was the fifth starter. The team continued its normal tact of 5 individuals playing a basketball game while the Midwestern State team put on a clinic on passing around a zone defense.  In the end, BU won 68-59.  But they were out hustled, out played, and nearly out rebounded even though at any given time BU has at least three player on the floor 6-7 or more. Jones did not do much. 5 total points, and I think 5 rebounds.  The one thing I witnessed that was impressive, however, was his ball handling. After a rebound, he took the floor, and for a 6-11 dude, he looked like a natural point guard.  Rumor has it he is a three point threat.  But then again, so was Anthony Jones to be as well, and his three point game has spiraled to hell since his freshman year. The impressive player in this group was junior transfer J’Mison (think ‘Jameson’) Morgan, transferring in from UCLA.  This dude served up a double double with 15 rebounds playing half the game. I consider him to be the potential impact player on this squad. Match him with ever aggressive Quincy Acy (love this guy), and if the Dunn situation does work itself out before the season wears on too long, this could be a great combination.  Jones III? Hey, first game.  But if he going to be the one and done like I think he think he is, and certainly the way Skippy likely did the recruiting sales job for one and done, the kid will have to make a impact quickly.  This was no Kevin Durant out there.  As number two pick in the nation, I expected more

WE will see how this sordid saga of distractions mix into this season’s agenda.  Heres to hoping that somehow, God sweeps in and makes everything better with the NCAA and personal issues on the team….and they just get to playing ball.  Ranked 14th in the nation, they have an opportunity, and the personnel, to make this another great season.

Fall in Texas brings cooler weather (eventually), football, and Fall Festivals in abundance.  It seems like every town and city is celebrating the turning of the season in some fashion, usually by a festival of one sort or another.  It’s as good excuse as any to walk around, drink beer, eat a turkey leg or BBQ, shop at vendors stalls and enjoy whatever special event has to offer.  Two that we checked out this year for the first time were, The Scarecrow Festival in Chappell Hill and the Hogeye Festival in Elgin.

Chappell Hill is a small community 8 miles east of Brenham, almost exactly 2 hrs east of Austin on 290.  They have two festivals every year, one in the fall and a Bluebonnet Festival in the spring.  Vendors selling clothes, jewelry, arts and crafts, plants, yard art, birdhouses, homemade salsa/sauces/dips, candles, honey, homemade soaps and lotions, paintings, and food trailers were among many others at this event.  I had heard for years about the Scarecrow festival but was not really prepared for the size and number of booths.  After the quiet scenic drive to the area, we followed the signs to a huge field for parking, $5.  We joined  a crowd through a small sidestreet to the main street of Chappell Hill, which consists of approximately 6 buildings.  The street was blocked off to traffic and there were booths as far as the eye could see.  We followed the tried and true plan of attack, always go to the right and make a loop where you will eventually see it all.  As we browsed through the vendors, we quickly realized it was even bigger than we thought.  In vacant lots and  alleys, more vendors set up  for business so it was a larger gathering than I had thot.  While passing on the turkey legs and funnel cakes (smelled heavenly) we did try an ice tea slushy that was refreshing as the day grew warmer. Think of it as an Icee but sweet-tea flavored. Sounds strange but very good.  The aroma of BBQ and fried Oreos wafted over the whole area.  There were several makeshift stages where live music was playing (I wish my favorite band was there—The Dazzling Weasel Faces.  They would have been perfect for that venue. Oh well, maybe next year).  There was also no sign of Redd Granite, but the performers we heard, a 3 man group doing oldies and a solo guitarist doing country, were both talented and worth listening to.  However, we didn’t have much time to rest as more vendors beckoned.  There were over 250 booths all in all, people bringing their wares from as far as Houston, Dallas, Beaumont, Austin, Kerrville.  A large number of these merchants travel to various fairs and festivals every weekend during the fall and spring to sell their (mostly) homemade items.  I saw several meet and greet each other as old friends, which they probably are, going to similar events for a good portion of the year every weekend.  I think it is a fascinating sub-culture, working during the week at a day job, at night working on your particular art/craft items to sell, then on weekends packing everything into a trailer, van, truck and driving to whatever festival you have paid for a vendor spot at, setting up your wares for Sat and/or Sunday, then packing it all up, driving for hours home, then doing it all again next week.  Some vendors are obviously retired folks, some are obviously not.   All seem to enjoy what they do.  It is amazing the creative items that people can make and with quality that make them worth buying.  After half the day, we finally managed to go by every booth.  We had picked up a few decorations for our yard and thoroughly enjoyed the experience.  The crowds were heavy and sometimes made for a challenge to navigate and were still coming in as we made our way back to the parking lot and headed home, tired but pleased at the experience.

The second festival was the Hogeye Festival in Elgin, which lies about 20 minutes east of Austin.  This annual festival is a fundraiser for the community for Arts, and Parks programs.  It turns out that Hogeye was a small community in the area.  The theme of this fun festival is, logically enough, the Hog.  There was a BBQ Cook-off, a Chili Cook-off, a Car Show, live music, an appearance by the Sow-premes a group of ladies in eye-searing pink outfits performing on stage but arrived each perched on the back of an ear-splitting Harley Davidson (a Hog, get it?), vendors booths, and more.  Parking was not centralized, but people found spots up and down the side streets of town.  The main street was again blocked off to traffic for several blocks.  While the vendors were not as numerous as the ones in Chappell Hill, they were from more local areas, like Austin, Georgetown, and San Marcos.  This was what I consider more of an old-time city fall festival.  More Old-School as it were.  They had lots of games and art for the kids to do, they had a booth where you could shoot paint guns at targets, they had a brick-toss game where you try to toss a brick that has not been fired (hence still sorta spongy) into a trash can from a distance ranging from 15 to 40+ feet into a large garbage can.  My distance was just about as if I was pitching slow pitch softball again.  While “back in the day” I threw a few “bricks” I had never really pitched a brick before.  I did use the same pitching motion, but alas, out of three tries the closest I got was clanging one off the side.    The smell of the food booths, cotton candy, made-on-the-spot Kettle Corn, shaved ice, peanuts and pecans, corn on the cob, enticed us until we were suddenly stopped, mesmerized by the overpowering aroma of BBQ and chili being lovingly smoked and prepared by the competitors in the area set aside especially for them.  There were over 25 different teams each cooking and smoking, each with their own elaborate set up from small pull-behind trailers with a smoker on top, to huge rigs with wood carved tables and chairs in front. The smokers themselves were worth the visit, just to see the different kinds and sizes.  Almost all had brought stacks of the preferred wood to use for smoking. Some had mesquite, some oak, some hickory (where did they get hickory?).  Alas, we were too early to sample the mouth watering meats,  as most teams were still hours away from being able to offer bites.  We did try some chili from one team—outstanding!

After perusing all the vendor booths, buying a few Christmas presents, and checking out the antique cars and souped -up cars from the 50-70’s (my fav was the purple Dodge Charger, it looked like it was going 85 just sitting there—power personified)it was time to  buy tickets for Cow Patty Bingo.  This fundraiser sounds too much fun to believe.  There is a small area fenced off with hundreds of squares painted on the ground.  Each square has a number assigned to it.  At the appointed time, a cow, in this case a young longhorn, is led into the fenced off area where the crowd waits for him to walk around and uh–  leave a deposit.  The judges then decide which square has the largest contribution and that square wins the grand prize.  Surrounding squares win smaller prizes.  Alas, we were not winners, but what a hoot!

To summarize, both Festivals were worth a Saturday day trip– fun, food, shopping, people-watching.  The Hog-Eye Festival was more “home-grown” and family friendly.  I will be back next year for more brick-tossing and Cow Patty Bingo!

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Now that I am nearly over the loss of the Rangers in the World Series, I am ready to move on.  Oh, hold it, I kind of moved on Monday night as instead of watching the Rangers loose, I went to a Baylor Lady Bears Basketball game.  This is a exhibition game for the Baylor Lady Bears.  This means that the stats and results do not count toward NCAA stats and rankings. These games are ‘tune up’ games.  The Baylor Lady Bears were definitely tuning on Monday.  They played St Edwards University from Austin Texas.  This is a D III school; hence the exhibition game.

The Baylor Lady Bears come in nationally rank #2 in all polls, behind UConn, who has won (don’t quote me) 79 straight games.  One of those most recent victories was in the Final Four against the Baylor Lady Bears.  What surprised me somehwat is that there were not many new faces on the Baylor Lady Bears bench. Missing was their top recruit, Odyssey Sims.  No one seemed to know, (of my peeps who keep up with the scoop there) where she was or the story behind her MIA.  Sims tore an ACL in mid senior year of high school, so perhaps she is redshirted. That left two new faces on the bench that I saw. Brooklyn Pope, a transfer from C Vivien’s Rutgers, and Coach Mulkey’s very own daughter.

As one would expect, the Baylor Lady Bears had no trouble against an extremely out manned, yet scrappy St Edwards. The 89-46 final score was slightly less margin than last year’s 89-43 against the same St Edward’s scrappiness. With this trend, the Baylor Lady Bears would loose sometime in 2024….Brittney Griner had 28 points and 12 rebounds.  Encouraging signs this year is that she has seemed to develop a 6-8 ft. jump shot, hitting with accuracy.  This is good news, as it will make her harder to defend. Ashley Fields, a junior got the start.  Interesting choice.  Not particularly fast, with only decent shot potential, she seemed an odd choice.  Must have worked her butt off in practice.  She answered with 14 points and I think 8 rebounds. She is kind of a blue collar player.  OH yeah, her sister plays for St Edwards.

The impressive one, in my opinion, was Pope.  She ended with 9 points and 15 rebounds.  As is the case in most years for the Baylor Lady Bears, there has always been one player that scares me, me and the rat in the alley.  Pope is that person.  She stands about 6′ 2″. But she has a vertical jump that impresses.  Her 9 points were a result of the one weakness she showed, that is missing short shots. If she had hit 1/2 of the short shots she had, she would have been high in double figures scoring.  This chick never smiles.  She acted pissed that Fields got the start. She is quick. If she can be harnessed by hard ass Mulkey, this one could be a great player. I think she has two years left…..we will see.  She got into issues with C Vivien at Rutgers, who also scares me….a truly ‘take no shit’ coach.  We will see how attitude plays into this story line.

Absent for the most part as well was the three point game. This is absolutely crucial if the Baylor Lady Bears are to live up to their #2 billing. It must be present if they have any hope of winning at UConn the second real game of the year. Senior Melissa Jones was 1 of around 5 at three point range.  She needs to improve.  The only other three pointers (2) were drained by Mulkey’s daughter…she was 2-3 from the three point line.  No reaction from Mulkey on either.  The dynamics of coaching one’s own daughter must be interesting. Two players did not get into the game, two who played a  lot last year. One name I cannot for the life of me remember…but the other was Mariah Chandler. Not sure what the story is on these two.  Both did well last year. The Mulkey dog house can have thick walls. Not a good place to be.

It is very difficult to gage where they are after this game. With all of the jaded stats in favor of the Baylor Lady Bears, you just cannot draw conclusions against a St Edwards.  UConn looms quickly. One area that was not good stat wise was turn overs.  Way too many.  They had 11 at half time, and fortunately ended up with less than twenty.  But that is way too many to play at a ranked level. Baylor once again shot less than 45% from the field.  This too must improve.

Total attendance for an exhibition game was just short of 6,000. Quite impressive.  I guess everyone is ready for Baylor Basketball.

We look forward to the next game…..depending upon what Friday brings…..

PS…this related post below is not mine…..shame on them

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World Series Musings

On November 2, 2010, in Other Interests, by admin

With the 2010 world Series unfortunately behind, it is now time to look towards the season….basketball.  But first, I wanted to muse a bit about the results of the 2010 world series.  I am a Texas Rangers fan. So naturally it pains me to see the loss in game five last night in Texas Rangers stadium, (actually, Ballpark in Arlington). Lets start with San Fransisco.  Hats off to them. They played deserving of this series.  Their story is a good one, one that we all should feel good about in that this was a team tagged together by mid season changes, waiver claims, and no names doing a great job on the big stage.  You could see it in their eyes when they batted. There was shear determination in nearly every player who stepped up to the plate. Rangers? not so much. I also wished to express my appreciation that the Rangers did not loose to a team of, well, whatever you wish to call the Yankees….insert it here . Four letter words allowed.  San Fransisco is what I would consider a friendly team, and I am glad a good group of guys (and some characters) won it.

But focusing on the Texas Rangers, it again pains me to say that I just do not think they were ready for the biggest stage. The top hitting team in baseball was held to just a little under 2.5 runs per game.  SF pitchers were good, but not that good.  Our guys did not have the look.  They looked clueless many times, if not scared. Fortunately, our starting pitching, for the most part was good. Lee pretty much did what he is paid to do. CJ Wilson, well, he did well also, with the exception when the Texas Rangers did not play well behind him, then he would fall apart…..as Washington would say:  “that just what CJ do”. Tommy Hunter did not do well overall, but you know, in the end, his performances were not that bad if the offense had a clue. No run support equals game loss.  The math works every time.

But in the end, my hats are completely tilted toward the Texas Rangers.  “White Lines” Washington said it best after the second loss in SF.  He said that if you would have told me that we would be in the World Series, down 2-0 at the beginning of the season, would you feel good about that?  I would. Washington said.  You know, I completely agree. I have never been one for being satisfied with a consolation prize, but in the end, this team was special, and they a had a mi-rad of stories of their own. There was no real leader on this club.  While most sports analysts would question whether this was good or not, I believe this team was, well, a team. They played the season as a team.  They had many a screw up, yes. And with my own lack of patience throughout the year, I called for Washington’s head several times. But, he got them there.  And the NY series for the most part was a total pleasure to watch with all of the aggressive Texas Ranger baseball inserted that helped them win a bunch of games in the regular season, then pummel the best two teams on paper throughout the playoffs. Hats off to them.

I believe the team is swelling with potential. Great new ownership. OK. Cliff Lee is probably gone. Really, I do not think he was that good in the club house.  If the Stankeys want him, well, it is his loss. Maybe he should think long and hard going to play in the streets of NY….it is a frigin long way from Benton, Arkansas.  Do you sign Vlad again, hell yes. In fact, I believe this team has a future no matter what the player moves are, because, while they failed on the big stage due to lack of experience, they have hit a home run in team chemistry and getting the most out of the farm system. In the end, two teams with very reasonable payrolls played the 2010 World Series.  Ok. The other team won.  But I appreciate San Fransisco, and I appreciate the Texas Rangers for all they did this year, and what I firmly believe, will continue to do in the future.

Maybe its time to get season tickets again……..

And to follow up on the opening line of this post, I will review the Number Two ranked Baylor Lady Bears in a following post.

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