Hot CDs

Salt? Fat? Excess? You’ll get none of that from the women of Pork. On their second album, Slop (Emperor Jones/Trance Syndicate), the Austin trio gets maximum results from a minimalist approach. Like a modern-day Modern Lovers, the band has a simple, timeless garage-rock sound that thrives on a patchwork of bold guitars, sugary vocals, and melodic rough edges, with a rhythmic attack—half incompetent and half unyielding—that’s a definition of rock and roll all its own. JASON COHEN

All these alternative-country groups with their heartland gothic songs: They’re so earnest, so mournful. That’s what makes Dem’s Good Beeble (Munich America) by the Austin quartet The Gourds so welcome. Sure, Kevin Russell’s voice creaks like a staircase in a haunted house, and his harmonies with Jimmy Smith echo Appalachian fatalism at its darkest, and some songs are as grim as they come. But the acoustic sound, featuring mandolin and accordion, is both ingenious and infectious, creating a musical landscape that stands out among the trendy rustic sourpusses without sounding glib. JOHN MORTHLAND

So timeless is the allure of blues music that the genre is able to revive itself every few years. One of the brightest works from the latest wave of blues hounds is Big Foot Chester’s The Devil in Me (Sympathy for the Record Industry), which celebrates the straight-razor attack of harmonica legend Howlin’ Wolf in an alternative rock context. Ferocious originals like “Hellbound Train” and “That Man Is Bad News” serve notice that these Austin kids were born to juke. JOE NICK PATOSKI

Hot Books

The only thing the world needs less than another 25-year-old fiction writer is a 25-year-old fiction writer who also happens to be a movie star. Still, it would be unfair to judge The Hottest State (Little, Brown, $19.95) on either the fame of Austin-born author Ethan Hawke or his reportedly hefty advance. A woeful tale of turbulent love and obsessive heartbreak, this first novel is neither as good nor as bad as one might expect: It’s accurate and well observed but also callow, short on original insight, and—though most of the story unfolds in Manhattan—egregious in its symbolic attachment to Texas. JASON COHEN

With Halloween only a few weeks away, publishers are readying their usual assortment of tricks and treats. Here are the treats. In A Hero All His Life (HarperCollins, $25), the Dallas-based survivors of baseball great Mickey Mantle recount with surprising warmth the domestic strikeouts of the lifelong alcoholic. Another memoir, Hello, He Lied—And Other Truths From the Hollywood Trenches (Little, Brown, $23.95), comes from Fredericksburg’s Lynda Obst, who chronicles her life from studio flunkydom to certified success as the producer of Sleepless in Seattle. William Martin of Rice University (a Texas Monthly contributing editor) has one hell of a good book in With God on Our Side: The Rise of the Religious Right in America (Broadway Books, $27.50), a companion to the PBS series that debuted September 27. And Eddie Wilson’s folksy Threadgill’s: The Cookbook (Longstreet Press, $21.95) combines scores of recipes for his Austin roadhouse’s heart-stopping fare with a social history of Southern food and American music. ANNE DINGUS

Hot Self-Defense Course

On the first day of the fall semester, an employee of the University of Texas—San Antonio library was murdered on the job. All the more reason, perhaps, for the increasing interest in Library Pugilism, a class offered by A-Step Seminars of Austin. “Librarians are investigators and problem solvers—they want a method against a menace,” says instructor Robert Williams. Perpetrators are profiled (“They’re not necessarily good fighters,” Williams notes) and students are taught how to make a fist (“like John Wayne”) and execute a haymaker (arm strokes designed to knock an attacker for a loop). RENEE BOENSCH

Hot Smoke House

Cigars have caught fire in Texas, and no one is profiting more than Cedar Street, Austin’s top cigar bar: More than $1,500 worth of cigars are sold each weekend night, which is why a new Cedar Street opened this summer in Dallas. But for a truly memorable puff, you have to take the Cordova Free Bridge from El Paso into Juárez and kick back at Ajuua!! Restaurant and Bar. Not only do they stock Macanudos, H. Upmanns, and Royal Jamaicas, but they also carry brands you won’t find anywhere in Texas, such as Cohibas and Romeo y Julietas. These and other Cuban cigars are illegal in the United States, so takeout customers beware: Customs won’t hesitate to confiscate them. ERIC O’KEEFE

Hot Connection

The information superhighway is about to become the information speedway. San Antonio’s Southwestern Bell and other phone companies are testing an asymmetrical digital subscriber line, or ADSL, which will let your computer receive data at up to six million bits per second. That’s fifty times faster than ISDN, the swiftest hookup now available to residential users, meaning you’ll be able to load a typical Web page in less than half a second. But ADSL’s breakneck speed won’t break the bank. Though it will cost $35 to $65 a month—more than basic phone service—you’ll be able to link up to the Net and make voice calls simultaneously, so you won’t need a second line. Look for ADSL in 1997. JOSH DANIEL