MUSIC: Austin’s Carter Beckworth defies labels. My story in Tuesday’s Statesman: "Half a lifetime ago, Carter Beckworth made his first recording. He was 13. Because of the way that people passed around whole libraries of songs on Napster in 1999, more than a million people ended up sharing what Beckworth had put together with fellow Houston eighth-grader Tom Banks and their band Lithium. "It was crazy, because that wouldn’t happen today," the Austinite, 27, says. "It was viral before there was viral." Listen carefully to the callow but well-constructed songs, "When You Kiss Me" and "In Good Time," and one hears the unclouded vocals, textured instrumentals and even tentative steps toward the adept balladry that has characterized Beckworth’s work with later bands, such as Baker Hotel, and variations on his current, eponymous act." http://shar.es/DozNo(Thanks to Carter for the gift of his music.)

LAW: Senators chastice ulility commissioners on power policies. Reported by Laylan Copelin in Tuesday’s Statesman: "Several Texas senators on Monday questioned the direction and cost of the Public Utility Commission’s attempt to guard against rolling blackouts, suggesting the agency is overstepping its authority by pursuing a solution that would cost consumers billions. Sen. Troy Fraser, chairman of the Senate Committee on Natural Resources, called Monday’s hearing to criticize the utility commission for a 2-1 decision to begin mandating the level of electricity reserves instead of leaving it up to the private sector to achieve a target for surplus power. Despite the inclement weather on Monday, a dozen senators — several of whom are not even committee members — traveled to Austin to attend the hearing. Several senators — Republicans and Democrats — echoed Fraser’s concerns. None came to the utility commission’s defense. "They have totally left the Legislature out and are operating in a vacuum," said Fraser, R-Horseshoe Bay." http://shar.es/DoiUb(Keep ‘em honest, senator. The whole thing sounds fishy.)

MEDIA: Will Cormac McCarthy’s movies tarnish his literary reputation? Reported by Christopher Kelly in Texas Monthly: "Movies don’t come much more anticipated than "The Counselor," a twisty tale of drug dealing and backstabbing along the Texas border written by Cormac McCarthy, directed by Ridley Scott, and starring Brad Pitt, Cameron Diaz, Penelope Cruz, Javier Bardem, and Michael Fassbender. Yet what on paper sounded like a sure thing turned out to be this fall’s most crushing disappointment. The film, which opened in late October, is less a taut thriller than a series of exasperatingly talky scenes circling around McCarthy’s pet themes: honor, revenge, sexual obsession, and the lengths to which desperate people will go to survive. The contrived plot seems mostly an excuse for the acclaimed novelist to indulge his love of torture, beheadings, and sadistic weaponry (including something he calls the "bolito"—a motor-operated loop of wire that slices through the carotid arteries). The dialogue, meanwhile, is plain laughable, with drug dealers pausing to deliver cryptic philosophical musings on such subjects as "the extinction of all reality." Not exactly what anyone was hoping for from the writer whose "No Country for Old Men" provided the basis for the Coen brothers’ 2007 Oscar-winning movie. http://bit.ly/1dwFmB7(Always thought-provoking, Mr. Kelly.)

POLITICS: The hate-watching of Washington. Reported by T.A. Frank in the New Republic: "One strain brought on by "The West Wing," the White House drama that ran from 1999 to 2006 on NBC, was a feeling of being trapped with the show’s creator, Aaron Sorkin, and forced to watch him play with his action figures, or possibly himself. When President Josiah Bartlet delivered lines like "get your fat asses out of my White House" to leaders of the Christian right, you could almost detect a giant thumb and forefinger holding Bartlet by the waist to bounce him up and down and move him from room to room — or was that a sigh of ecstasy? Still, "The West Wing" was daring in its time, even subversive. Traditionally, at least as far back as 1880, when Henry Adams anonymously released his satirical novel "Democracy," fictional accounts of Washington have focused on pettiness, betrayal, hypocrisy, and depravity. But "The West Wing" offered up honorable public servants with oddly uniform patter trying to steer the nation to a better place. It made public policy fashionable, and it didn’t hate Washington." http://on.tnr.com/1gdbMyh(Worth a read.)

BUSINESS: Can Amazon escape its predatory ways? Reported by James Marcus in Harper’s. "A shilling life will give you all the facts," wrote W. H. Auden, tipping his hat to the biographer’s art while lamenting its utter inadequacy. Jeff Bezos, whose total conquest of e-commerce has made him one of the most famous people on the planet, has until now evaded any serious biographer. There have been shilling lives in the strictest sense, from the cut-and-paste job of Richard L. Brandt’s "One Click: Jeff Bezos and the Rise of Amazon.com" to the YA hagiography of Josepha Sherman’s "Jeff Bezos: King of Amazon.com" ("From the time he was a toddler, Bezos was busy trying to change his world. He felt he was too old to sleep in a ‘baby’ crib, so he found a screwdriver and took the crib apart!"). But Bezos has tightly controlled the flow of information about himself and his company. What readers have encountered is the same small fund of recycled anecdotes, most of them focusing on his childhood (brilliant nerd, inveterate tinkerer, ardent Trekkie) and the creation myth of Amazon itself, complete with the now obligatory reference to the role played by the founder’s suburban garage." http://harp.rs/1b0hwba (More insights.)