Blunt About High Fashion

For Texas corporations looking to up the hip quotient in their logo hats and shirts, the time is now. Four-twenty, to be exact.

A Canadian company called Hemptown -- headquartered in Vancouver, a.k.a. "VanAmsterdam" for its lenient views toward mood-altering substances -- is invading the Texas market with its clothing line.

Hemptown wants you to know that hemp should not be confused with what they call "its colorful cousin marijuana." They note that George Washington grew hemp -- a fact that seems to get pointed out by every stoned autodidact who's determined to bore the shit out of his fellow tokers.

The company's press kit notes that hemp is ecologically friendlier than cotton (although the clothing is still 45 percent cotton). Its list of clients includes the British Columbia Lions of the Canadian Football League, HBO, Hyundai and Toyota.

Oh, and Hunter S. Thompson. Not to mention Phish.

Don't look for the gear in stores -- Hemptown provides the kind of promotional stuff that gets handed out at corporate events. So the next time you're at some car company's golf outing, don't be alarmed if you see a dazed and confused hacker trying to light up his gimme cap -- he simply has his cousins confused.

Just be mellow. And if you get real weirded out, take a deep hit from your shirt. -- Richard Connelly

Ready for the Oral Tests?

The Leisure Learning Unlimited catalog lists courses on making pottery, tasting wine and cooking exotic dishes. And there's the usual Mars and Venus self-help classes teaching how-to-find-a-mate-you-like-who-actually-likes-you-back.

This fall, a new kind of self-help class appeared on the schedule. Former hard-core porn movie director and writer Vaughn Dampier was scheduled to teach "Sex Toys: Exploring the Adult Playground."


For people who feel a little afraid and a lot confused when they walk into a XXX store, Dampier planned to talk about the history of sex toys, what's legal, how to clean them (and that it is a good idea to clean them) and -- most important -- how to use them.

He was even going to give demonstrations.

For people who can't afford the Spice channel or a Susie Bright seminar, the $25 class (batteries not included) sounded like a fine way to spend a Friday night.

But then Dampier canceled. The man who provided the tuition refunds says the teacher got a stand-up comedy gig in California. That left 14 frustrated people, who had perhaps hoped to spend the long Labor Day weekend in bed doing homework. -- Wendy Grossman

Look on the Dark Side

USA Today, September 3 -- "Cancer Deaths Decline: Death rates from cancer are declining, and the number of new cases is leveling off -- solid progress that appears to be a result of longstanding national efforts at prevention, screening and early treatment, federal experts report Wednesday."

Houston Chronicle, September 3 -- "Nation's War on Cancer Stalling: Despite a decade of steep declines in death rates from the four most common cancers -- lung, breast, prostate and colorectal -- the nation's 25-year war on the disease appears stalled, according to a major federal report published today."

Geez, whatever happened to optimism? Guess the folks at the Medical Center, a perennial Chron sacred cow, don't want those grants to dry up. -- R.C.

My Dog Ate It

Dynegy, the Houston energy giant, is in a huge fight with the federal government over whether it unfairly manipulated prices during the California power crisis three years ago.

Well, they're in as much of "a huge fight" as any energy giant can be with the Bush administration, which isn't saying much.

Still, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on June 25 ordered Dynegy and other companies to submit written responses in Washington, D.C., showing why they should not be punished over the California gambit.

Responses were due September 2. Dynegy didn't file. It did the next day, though, with this note asking the court to ignore the blown deadline: "As strange as it may seem," the filing states, "the taxi driver taking our paralegal to the Commission got lost along the way and did not arrive until just after 5 p.m."

Somehow we're sure the Bushies will be sympathetic. -- R.C.

Every Little Bit Helps

In the fight to keep alive the Texas tradition of driving the beaches of San Luis Pass (even if they're more likely to use giant trucks or SUVs than the Corvette Jack Nicholson drove in Terms of Endearment), local fishermen have been mightily outgunned. On August 23, thanks to lots of beer, barbecue and the pursuit of trout, they added at least a little to their arsenal.

The ragtag group that is the Texas Open Beaches Association wants to preserve the right to drive on the last four gulfside miles of western Galveston Island; the giant housing developer Centex wants to see the beaches closed to vehicles in order to make a proposed condominium resort more attractive.

Hoping they'll have more success in court than they're having with local politicians, TOBA members had a fund-raiser that attracted 300 folks to an outdoor pavilion. There was music, a fishing contest and 25 briskets that were donated, TOBA president Tim Lopas says. As the day went on, more food "began pouring in wave upon wave, from boudin and wings to smoked chicken and side dishes too numerous to mention," he says.

The event raised more than $18,000 for TOBA's fight. Which is pretty damn impressive -- until you learn that Centex has annual revenues of $9 billion. And that's without any free boudin or barbecue. -- R.C.


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