Comedian Dave Little is the newest edition to the team here at Best of Texas. As one of the funniest guys around, he’ll pop on a couple of times a month to let us know what’s going through that brain of his. Here’s Dave’s first post for us. Enjoy…
I am not interested in politics. I ran for student council in high school because I was under the impression we would have a longer lunch on the days that we met. That was not true. I think I was elected because I could keep a secret and played on the varsity basketball team. Those were my qualifications. My only contribution to the group was in the yearbook photo where I goosed the kid in front of me so he made a face while I looked on innocently. Wayne Newell was his name. I believe he became a dentist. Sorry for what I did, Wayne.
I am interested in politicians who get caught with their hand in the cookie jar. I believe that euphamism covers it all, whether it’s graft or greed or sexual misconduct. In fact, when I read about someone who is dressed down or publicly skewered, I want to buy them a beer. And some potato skins. Loaded. I trust people who make mistakes. I tell my kids that the worst thing you can do is not admit when you are wrong. And that you will never get in trouble for telling the truth. Okay, that’s probably something that will come back to haunt me: “Dad, I told my teacher that she was stupid.”
I am not interested in the things that politicians say to get elected. They hardly ever come true and are so generic that it’s hard to figure out if they were actually responsible for getting it done. How about a platform consisting of “I’m going to do the best I can and if your life isn’t better in the next two to four years I will give back what I was paid and resign from office but it is up to you to list the things that happened to you and why you consider it my fault.” You’re right. Wordy.
I am interested in everything being okay. I do like chaos as long as it is organized and doesn’t surprise me. I consider myself a liberal but my kids believe I’m a dictator and my wife is certain I’m a moderate and they are all correct. I am a social chameleon who speaks up when I shouldn’t and is a wallflower when it would be in my best interest to interact and make friends and be inquisitive. But if I don’t want to be like that, if it makes me uncomfortable, I would be less than genuine and I couldn’t live with myself. I’d be a phony. And that’s why I’m not interested in politics.
Dave Little is a Dallas-based stand-up comedian, writer, musician and actor. He’s funny for Best of Texas twice a month, but he’s funny all the time on his website www.lovedavelittle.com.
For the longest time I’ve been a little confused about how I feel about the Nissan Xterra. Perhaps that’s because it seems to be a little confused on its own.
The first generation of Nissan’s small truck based SUV was introduced in 2000 in the midst of Nissan’s darkest period. Suffering through a full on collapse of the Asian economy. Nissan had fallen victim to the same self-delusion of infallibility that many big companies fall into after decades of success. They started believing their own hype and found themselves overwhelmed by debt.
It became so bad, at one point, Nissan’s product line had not been updated in years, sales were floundering, and quite possibly the strangest automotive savior came to rescue the massive company. French giant Renault came in and partnered with Nissan creating a Franco-Nippon global company referred to as the Renault/Nissan Global Alliance.
At first the mere idea that Renault, which had been an example of a company with a run-away union problem, beset on all sides by strikes and governmental semi-ownership, being anyone’s savior was ludicrous. But after the French government intervened in a series of particularly nasty strikes and corporate revolts in the early 1980’s Renault quietly became a very well-run global company that completely ignored the American market.
Renault was able to bring stability and financial backing to the deal and Nissan really did have some of the most advanced manufacturing abilities, supply chain, and design expertise in the business. A man who is now somewhat of a legend in the business world, Carlos Goshen, was put in charge and Nissan became the company it could only have dreamed about only a few years before.
One of the first new products out of the alliance was the Xterra. Based on the same frame chassis as the “Hard Body” Frontier small pickup trucks, the Xterra hit the market in North America winning the Motor Trend Truck of the year and other accolades. The only problem was Nissan didn’t have a penny to spend on extra marketing and never really reached out to create the image of the Xterra.
That image and the reality of the Xterra (now second generation) is where my confusion lies. The Xterra has been successful, if not a run-away success, in carving out sales in the multi-functional, athletic and adventurous consumer market. You see dozens of Xterras full of dogs, festooned with mountain bikes, canoes and windsurfers strapped to the roof racks criss-crossing their way from softball games to trips to the REI camping store. The adventure sports-minded consumer comprises a huge chunk of their business but the anomaly that they are almost all female makes for a “Huh? How the hell?”.
Nissan managed to land an affluent, well educated, young and mobile market organically. It just grew seemingly by itself as the corporate money was more focused on pumping life into the Crossover market, backing the Rogue and Morano wagon-utes in pursuit of the “soccer mom,” and the counter culture market wrapped itself around the Xterra.
Nissan did toss some of their marketing dollars into music festivals and X-Game festivals, but the legitimate off-road capabilities, ease of use on-road and functionality of the Xterra grew its own market.
The 2011 Xtera PRO-4X provided to Any Driven Sunday is a great example of how building something with the right combination of form and function works really well. It is like driving with an excellent automotive backpack slung over your shoulder. It has dozens of really smart, well conceived and well executed little touches that may not be obvious at first blush. There are pockets, little doors and slots throughout the truck to stick and store the multitude of bits of stuff you don’t even realize you have.
This package is the high water mark on options for Nissan including: leather seating, XM, Bluetooth, GPS, Rockford Fosgate sound system with Ipod/MP3 integration, and pretty much every power option short of air conditioned seats. It is also one of the pricier packages you can load up on at $32,000.00, only the NISMO package comes in higher.
Any full frame truck like the Xterra is going to have a slightly more harsh on-road ride than a “lifted car” crossover, but after spending a week popping and bopping around in the Xterra that rougher ride is just part of the appeal. The truck frame and real off-road abilities on the PRO-4X are just downright fun. As a small UTE the Xterra has the ability to go pretty deep off the beaten path, turn around, and get you home again in one piece.
Side note, The Pro-4X package came with roof-mounted off-road only lights. They are too powerful to be street legal on road and are activated by depressing a switch on the dash when the high-beams are engaged. These are so powerful that when I tested them out sitting in front of my house, I am not sure, but I think a squirrel spontaneously combusted in the tree in front of the truck. It’s like seeing daylight, and yes, they are blindingly bright. This is not something to try and flash at oncoming cars on I-35 as they might blind them and cause a wreck. This is why they are redundantly switched the way they are.
Running with a 261hp truck-inspired variation of Nissan’s corporate-wide 370Z inspired 4liter V6, the Xterra is not exactly a fuel sipper but EPA estimates of 15/20 are really spot on to the reality experienced on, and off, the roads of North Texas.
All these capabilities and real world functionality might just explain why I have been so confused by my feelings for the Xterra. It stems from the fact that the little truck can do so many things well that it has the ability to be a bit of a chameleon. Whether it’s a truck, car, backpack or pelican box on wheels. My confusion, I now realize, was more that the truck can be what ever you want it to be.
Tired of the red meat are you? What’s that, you say? You’ve never tried meat? Interesting. Perhaps you, like English crooner Morrissey believe that Meat is Murder (Aside from naming one of his albums from his days with the Smiths Meat is Murder, he has famously stormed off of stages mid-set upon simply smelling some form of meat being grilled in the vicinity of his performance).
Well, if you find yourself looking for food that never had a face, then Texas isn’t really that bad of a spot, even with it’s reputation for all things butchered. So, for all of the vegetarian’s and vegans out there, who might be new to the state, or new to the meatless movement, below are a few highlights from some of our major cities in case you find yourself wondering where you can get a killer stack of vegan flapjacks…
- Spiral Diner & Bakery- Speaking of vegan pancakes. Check out either the Dallas spot or the Ft. Worth location.
- Bliss Raw Cafe and Elixir Bar - Takes the vegan experience to creative, new levels.
- Cosmic Cafe - The grand old dame of the vegetarian dining experience in Dallas.
- Counter Culture - Food trailer with a conscience.
- Veggie Heaven - A plain-jane spot, lacking any pretense near the campus, it’s seemingly been around forever.
- Conscious Cravings - Another trailer that shows how Austin just gets it. you know what I mean. They just do.
SAN ANTONIO –
For years now, Centro-matic, a band that began in Denton well over a decade ago, has been known as a prolific group that has risen to a rather lofty status in the world of American Indie-rock. Led by Will Johnson, now an Austinite, the band hasn’t yet put out a record that one would consider anything less than stellar.
The band members themselves are highly sought after when it comes to contributing their individual talents to other’s projects, even. Johnson was the touring drummer for the massive Monsters of Folk project, and he also played guitar on Patterson Hood’s (Drive by Truckers) last solo album. Of course, that’s aside from his many producing projects. Drummer and sound engineer extraordinaire Matt Pence has toured with Jason Isbell while multi-instrumentalist Scott Danbom has played with Slobberbone and Sarah Jaffe. See? In-demand!
Their new album, Candidate Waltz, has reawakened many to the greatness of this band and has already began earning more than its fair share of rave reviews and predictions of the album finding its way onto a solid amount of year-end-best-of lists (Hint: There’s no way it’ll avoid landing on this blog’s list of 2011′s Best Texas Albums. Not a chance).
Enough of me blabbing. Since it’s always nice to see fellow Lone Star dwellers win praise from outside of our own borders, I’ll just let you see for yourself, OK?
- PopMatters digs Will Johnson’s prolific nature…
- Paste loves the straight-forward rockness of the album…
- Prefix Magazine is also a fan of the album’s somewhat “un-hip” straight-forward nature…
- Spin Magazine is yet another admirer of Johnson’s ability to create so much, so well, so often…
So, there. Centro-matic might be a band from our state, but it’s clear that their appeal lies beyond the Red River. Still not sure? Check out the tour schedule for the guys. There aren’t many corners of the great 48 they wont be hitting soon, if not later…
A couple of weeks ago I mentioned how I really want to hit the Disc Golf course soon. It’s something I haven’t done before and Texas provides many an opportunity to do so. Well, here’s something else I want to do, but haven’t yet. Hit Marfa!
The dry, West Texas town not too far from Big Bend National Park has obviously become quite the trendy locale in the past few years, and from what I can tell, that trendiness is for good reason, really. It’s often referred to as a sort of artist’s retreat of hideaway; a bohemian enclave deep in the heat of our state, away from the typical artistic areas of the Hill Country or even certain parts of the Gulf Coast. In recent years, the town famously provided the backdrop for the Oscar-winning Coen Brothers film, No Country For Old Men.
Something even more than all of that recently caught my eye and really made me understand what I’ve been missing by not having visited Marfa before. Back in April, Mumford & Sons, along with a few other bands condcted a tour where they were carried by train and performed at various, funky spots along the way. Marfa was one of the stops and word of the show that resulted is that it was one heck of an event.
The concert took place at El Cosmico, a spot that seems to only be possible in the arid environs of the west. Run by Liz Lambert, who is responsible for the always in-demand Hotel San jose in Austin, El Cosmico’s website describes itself as “part vintage trailer, yurt and teepee hotel and campground, part creative lab, greenhouse and amphitheatre – a community space that fosters and agitates artistic and intellectual exchange.”
Sounds pretty cool, right?
Look, I’m sure there are tons of cool bars and foodie spots in Marfa, and I’m sure the lights are cool and all, but I think I’d be fine figuring all of that out once I got my teepee all set up, first…you?
Look: I know that we can get very wordy here and get all kinds of crazy with trying to label artists and detail exactly what nice, neat little corner of the musical universe a song or album might fit into. No biggie, really. We all just want to understand music and know what something sounds like before we even here it. You know, if someone tells you that a band reminds them of the Replacements, and you aren’t a fan of that band, then you may want to avoid them if you dont want to make the effort to judge for yourself (hey, we’re all busy, you know?). Maybe a friend tells you that a certain song sounds “like what country music should sound like,” and you despise country music in any form, then again, it’s good to have a general idea of what to expect, thanks to a comparison someone you trust provided.
Well, I don’t know what to tell you about Dead Rider. Their sound is just so…so…perplexing? Maybe? I guess? I know that the Chicago-based band’s new album, Raw Dents is a masterwork of odd angles, off-kilter tempos and general weirdness…which is 100% greatness.
Some call them art-rock, others have called them industrial, some even detect some funk in the mix. OK, fair enough. I get all of that…I think. How about this for a description. When I click on their video for “The Pointed Stick” (below), or listen to Raw Dents, I can’t easily tear myself away from either. So, addictive and enthralling. How’s that for describing their sound without actually describing their sound…HUH???
Thankfully, this weekend, many Texas (and even a few Okies) will get to form their own description of this band that has simply taken my brain hostage in recent weeks. On Friday in Austin Dead rider will take over Emo’s, and then make their way north to infest the Doublewide in Dallas on July 2nd, before hitting Oklahoma. Do not miss this band!
For most of my life I’ve been familiar with the phrase “His potential is unlimited, if he would only apply himself.” Such was said about me while I was napping in Geography class, staring out the window in Math class and daydreaming in Biology lab. I heard it so much that it became like the sound of the teachers in Charlie Brown “WahWah Wah Wah Wah.”
Now, I’ve found myself using the same phrase over and over when referring to General Motors marveling at how the biggest corporation in the world could continue to build the kind of cars they did and yet, still keep going. I think the same answer applies to both myself, and GM, really. I was never challenged by school, it came easy to me and I never tried. GM, in a position of overwhelming market dominance in the early 1970’s, never felt challenged either. They built what they built and people would buy their products simply because it was a GM vehicle.
For me, it wasn’t really until I got out on my own and had to pay for my own schooling that I decided to focus some real effort. For GM, however, it took a near death experience.
There’s nothing quite like nearly dying that can make you appreciate living.
Long before the bankruptcy, GM was trying to right the ship, but it turned out to be too little, too late. There was too much rot; the company had become overburdened and they simply couldn’t pull it off any longer.
I first realized what they were capable of when the first Cadillac CTS-V showed up at my place, I couldn’t believe it was a GM product. It was too solid, too well designed and too fun. It moved my preconceived notions and expectations for what the General was capable of to an entirely different place.
Then during the tumultuous years around the debate of whether the global economy could survive GM’s death, there were still glimmers of hope. The truck range was great, cars were better than they had ever been and GM began to embrace their global abilities, bringing Pontiac a couple of products developed in Australia. It was such a refreshing change, and I began to relax, but literally the week I was driving the exceptional Pontiac G8 GT, Pontiac got axed. At that point, I saw the potential evaporate before my eyes.
Today there is a great deal of attention being paid to the exceptional, game-changing, and innovative Electric Chevy Volt and how it’s going to effect how we think about driving. That’s all well and good, but I have to tell you: I’m more excited about the 2011 Chevy Cruze sitting outside my window. It’s the car Chevy has been capable of for years and now they have finally built it.
The reason I’m excited: Chevy has finally built a “meat and potatoes” car that is just plain great.
The small sedan market is the sweet spot of the automotive business. This is the market segment where you sell in bulk and sales are measured in hundreds of thousands of units per month. Honda’s Civic, Toyota’s Carolla, Ford’s Focus and Chrysler’s 200/Dodge Avenger, among many others, share this big chunk of the sales pie chart. The competition is rather heated, but in every way the Cruze is up to the challenge.
On first blush the Cruze is a good looking chunk of metal, which is where the bizzaro world of the new GM starts altering my life’s expectations. The design is fresh, clean and efficient with curves and creases sculpting around wheel arches and windows and gives the Cruze what one should expect from a more expensive European car. The somewhat sported-up LTZ version has some aero bits in front, fascia and rear deck lid treatments which, again counter to my experience, look like they belong on the car rather than hot glue-gunned out of day-old marshmallows.
Even the simple act of opening and closing the drivers door makes someone experienced in all-things-automotive mutter to himself, “It’s a Chevy? Really?” But in reality, it is when you sit in the handsome, well laid-out and functional interior that you might begin to develop a slight facial tick as you try to process the idea that GM has been capable of building something this good all along, and yet they gave us the Lumina. Such a realization almost makes you angry.
My trip through bizzaro world continued when I fired up the little sedan’s engine. It’s quiet, boasts 24-36 MPG ratings, and has 138 horsepower coming out of a little 4-cylinder turbo. These are really good numbers, even in this fuel-sipping segment, but it is the fact that GM has built such a stout power plant that’s really worth noting. In the past their “Little 4’s” managed to get nicknames like the “Iron Duke” and the “Quad-4”. The Duke was at one time considered innovative (in 1973) when it came. The Quad-4 was GM’s first real foray into multi-valve, non-pushrod engines and it ended up being a poster child for underpowered, noisy boat anchors like the GrandAm and Olds Achieva.
The Cruze is propelled by a six speed automatic in a front-wheel drive configuration that at one time would have been a tremendously bad idea with old school turbo’s creating lane hopping torque steer issues, but GM has managed to shed so much of its old, bad tendencies that when driving the Cruze, it’s just hard to believe that it’s really a GM product.
The transmission is seamless, but does have just the slightest turbo lag between pedal application and motivation, but the ride and dynamics of the car are as good as any car I have ever driven in this market, and far better than most.
A few weeks ago I was a little harsh on Dodge’s Avenger and in driving the Cruze, I have come to the conclusion I should’ve been harsher. I said at that time that I believed the standard of care in the Economy car market needed to be higher and GM just delivered on that expectation. This is a packed-full-of-options car that only rings out at $24,500.00 with a base price of $17,000.00, which is exactly the price point of the Avenger. There is simply no comparison. GM has almost embarrassingly trumped the Dodge and even equals the Civic sedan. I think you even get more car for the dollar with the Cruze than even the Civic or Carolla which is a statement I never ever thought I type.
Over the years, GM has done more to harm their once-dominant place in the market than any competitor could. They seemed to forget the reason they became such a colossal corporation was they built pretty good cars for much of their history. It was someplace along the way that they seemed to change from a “car company” to a “financial services company” that just happened to build cars as one of their core business units.
After their near death experience GM seems to have clarified their mission like I’ve never seen them do before. They put a real car guy, Bob Lutz, in charge of developing world-class cars and he has done just that. The Chevy Cruze really is the product that Chevy has been able to do all along and I am so happy they are now using the tremendous talents and abilities they have at their disposal.
Now, if I could just do the same.
Ok, I told you that in order to introduce you to all of the bands on this year’s ACL Fest bill, I would have to cheat a bit here and there. So, here’s a bit of a cheat as I use this week’s video post to slip in an extra (and non-Texan) preview/intro…
Elbow, from The U.K. are a big friggin’ deal accross the Atlantic, yet they’ve failed to make a simliar splash here in the states, even with their latest album, Build a Rocket, Boys! being perhaps better than the one that nabbed them a Mercury Prize a few years ago, signifying the year’s best British or Irish album. They’ll be in the states this fall, so look for them at ACL!
Look, we basically tell you what we think of ourselves with our URL. Yet again, we’ve got others that have no problem backing that lofty claim of ours up.
Our founder and CEO, the lovely and not-yet 40 year-old Carrie Layne was honored and recognized this past week in a ceremony at the House of Blues in Dallas as one of this year’s Dallas Business Journal’s 40 under 40 class.
The magazine says that this year’s class recognizes “executives and entrepreneurs who are at the top of their game professionally, and personally have demonstrated a commitment to the North Texas community.” We here at best of Texas HQ can certainly attest to the fact that Carrie belongs in this class.
Go here to read the full feature and to see what heady comapny Carrie finds herself in this year.
WAY TO GO, CARRIE!
At the risk of sounding like a bit of a pig, it’s hardly a secret that our fine state is especially fine when it comes to the quality of our Lone Star ladies. By quality, I mean, looks. Really good looks, you know?
Yes, the Miss Texas pagaent has a long, storied history of producing well-rounded queens that typically vie for even larger crowns on a regular basis, but let’s face it: This is one place to go where you get to stare at beautiful women and it’s totally cool.
Thanks to the fine folks at the Miss Texas Organization, you, our very attractive readers, have the chance of catching this year’s coronation for FREE, this Friday, July 1st in Arlington! Yes, we’re giving you yet another reason to grab our prolifically beneficial BestBuzz App for iPhone or Android.
Go here for details, and scan in below, once you have the App ready to go, and good luck!