Archive for May, 2005

Austin bypassed

As has been widely reported, the recent runaway bride of Georgia had planned to skip out to Austin, but changed her mind in Dallas, whence she continued to Las Vegas and then to Albuquerque, where her flight ended. Shouldn’t the Austin Convention & Visitors Bureau be looking into why she scratched Austin off her list?

And today’s Wall Street Journal contains a feature entitled “Metropolitan Magnet,” on the national trend of building condos atop Whole Foods establishments, supposedly to the benefit of both the real-estate developers and of WF. Miami and San Francisco already enjoy this amenity, and there are at least a dozen more reported to be in the pipeline at various locations around the U.S., but not Austin. If Austinites are the usual and customary WF experimental subjects, why have we not seen this here?

Latin American Smoke May Hit Austin

As if to show us that no matter how much we vote to ban smoking, God has the final word, KXAN reports that smoke annually used to clear crops by South Mexican and Guatemalan farmers may be on the way to Austin. Though the winds up until now have blown the smoke away from Austin, the smoke has now hit Corpus Christi and should make its way through West Texas and the Panhandle. Now that the agricultural fires are reaching their peak, Austin has the chance to see some of that smoke if the weather remains dry.

Happy to be in this company?

According to the May 23 issue of Forbes magazine, which has a feature ranking the 150 largest U.S. metro areas as places to do business, Austin’s in the top three overall, with Boise being one and Raleigh-Durham two. We are credited with “one of the nation’s smartest work forces.” Austin is ranked at 97 out of 150 cities on a cost-of-living index.

Statesman round-up

I noticed this photo in the Metro section of the Statesman today. It’s a cool shot of a lightning strike and the Thundercloud Subs on Riverside near the Statesman offices during yesterday’s storms.

They’ve also got a feature on the Real World – Austin cast. Apparently, filming wraps up this week. The finished product airs June 21st. I thought the two most interesting bits of information in the article were:

  1. Their favorite bar downtown is Dizzy Rooster!?!?! Why am I not surprised?
  2. Nehemiah, the only african-american cast member is “The least in love with Austin.”. Hmmm, could that have something to do with the recent forums on the quality of life in Austin for African Americans? I wonder.

Finally, I hadn’t noticed this until today, but what the hell is Michael Corcoran doing writing sports columns? I thought he was a music critic?

The show must go on

conjunto.jpg This picture shows members of Los Fantasmas del Valle waiting to go on after Ricky Naranjo y Los Gamblers. Their teeshirts show a ghost playing an accordion. Before these two conjuntos were Los Texas Wranglers and Santiago Jimenez, Jr. In the photo can be seen the puddles from one of the passing downpours. The only concession to the winds, rains, thunder, and lightning was that there was a brief pause between the Wranglers and Santiago Jimenez while one of the worst storms went over.

Whenever there was a letup people would go out from the canopy to buy fajitas, tacos, popcorn, fruit cups, or other refreshments. Funnel cakes were selling the best. At the beer tent, business was practically nil. Mighty Thomas, which winters in Austin, had set up the rides, which were mostly new, but running only in the brief waterless interludes. The guy running the fun slide said he might as well have called it a water slide.

The conjunto fest celebrated its tenth year this time around. Before becoming affiliated with the cinco de mayo fund-raiser of the Greater East Austin Youth League, the conjunto festival used to be held in the heat of July, starting out under the trees at Parque Zaragoza. This event is always so friendly that there’s never a need to ask to have your belongings watched when you step out for a stroll. People just keep an eye on everything anyhow.

There were supposed to be photo opportunities for kids with Spongebob Squarepants, but I suppose he didn’t want to ruin his costume in the rain and mud. Besides, astonishingly, most small children slept right through the worst of every deluge, and noise was pretty loud under the new canopy that now covers the dancefloor and stage over at Fiesta Gardens.

… And Smoke, It Goes

DSCN2168.jpgThe vox populi have spoken, and they want to ban smoking in bars. Well, 51.8% of them want to, which is a higher percentage than George Bush received in either election, and enough to snuff out smoking in Austin.

The City issued a press release on Thursday that City Hall would be open for viewing election returns. Thinking there might be some action at “Austin’s newest community gathering place,” the wife and I walked downtown to watch events unfold. The City might want to review their PR strategy, because City Hall saw less action than Ron Jeremy in a convent. We sat outside City Hall with Eric the bicycle activist and Arnold the new downtown resident, and the four of us watched the events unfold from an underwatched battery of flat-screen monitors. Although hardly a groundswell of activism, it was a nice moment of impromptu civic socializing.

As for the smoking ban, I voted against it, primarily due to a dislike of further sanitization and homogenization of the Austin bar and music scene. But I also recognize the substantial benefits to those who patronize and work in what will now be a smoke-free environment. Now that it’s law, the remaining question is how many non-smokers will indulge in this benefit, and whether it will counterbalance any drop-off among smokers. Despite the hyperbole on both sides, I imagine the impact will be relatively subtle. Some smokers will get sick of ducking outside for a toke every few minutes, but mostly they’ll just deal with the situation. Conversely, most people who voted for the ban won’t actually spend more time or money in bars because things other than smoking kept them out of bars in the first place. The smoking ban may seem severe, but I doubt it will easily overcome the inertia of social habits among either group.

Discovery Channel’s “Pop Nation” To Hit Austin

Lori from Austin’s excellent vintage store Room Service Vintage emailed this afternoon to let us know that the Discovery Channel show “Pop Nation” will be visiting the Austin Convention Center on Saturday, June 18th. From the description on their site, the show sounds like an Antiques Road Show for post-1960s collectibles. So hit your attics and garages for the cereal boxes, Barbie dolls and Batman figurines if your interested in getting your items appraised and possibly receiving cash on the spot. An RSVP is required, and you can register here.

    Here’s a list of items they’re interested in (remember, no pre-1960 items):

  • TV Memorabilia: lunchboxes, props, photos, figures, posters, costumes, games, bobble heads
  • Toys: Creepy Crawlers, Rock ’em Sock ’em Robots, Barbie dolls, GI Joes, games, Matchbox cars
  • Movie Memorabilia: posters, props, autographs, actual costumes, bobble heads, scripts, action figures, games
  • Clothing/Jewelry: vintage clothing, costume jewelry, go-go boots, hot pants, miniskirts, leisure suits (no T-shirts)
  • Science/Tech/Military: trading cards, Gulf War memorabilia, pins, combat flags, uniforms, draft cards, computer games, Pong, telephones, calculators, telephones, microscopes
  • Sports and Leisure: uniforms, trading cards, game-used balls, bats, signed programs, baseball gloves, vintage tennis rackets (no home trophies)
  • Music: vintage albums, concert ticket stubs, posters, instruments, band figurines, stage-worn costumes, eight-track players
  • Around the House: appliances, dishes, tools, portable furniture, lamps, print collectibles, clocks

I’ve added it to if you want to set a reminder for yourself to attend.

City Council Support, By the Numbers

Remember folks, tomorrow is election day in Austin. If you haven’t voted early, go to your precinct between 7am and 7pm and let your voice be heard.

Leading up to tomorrow’s vote, you’ve probably heard something about which interest groups are backing which candidates. There are the big endorsements, such as the local papers, but there are a litany of smaller endorsements from groups you have never heard of. I did a little detective work and tracked down as many of these endorsements as I could find online. 51 different groups have given public council endorsements, ranging from 14 single-candidate backers to one group backing 5 different candidates.

If you care about what interest groups have to say, here is how the influence is being peddled leading up to tomorrow’s election (percent of all endorsements):

Place 1
78% Lee Leffingwell
15% Andrew Bucknall
5% Casey Walker
3% Steve Adams

Place 3
45% Margot Clarke
21% Jennifer Kim
19% Gregg Knaupe
15% Mandy Dealey

Place 4
84% Betty Dunkerley
5% Wes Benedict
3% Jennifer Gale

It’s probably no surprise to anyone that Lee Leffingwell and Betty Dunkerley are running away with the Place 1 and 4 popularity contests, but I was a bit surprised at how tight Place 3 is. Margot Clarke is favored relative to any individual opponent, but each challenger has a substantial base of support. I’m assuming Place 3 is headed for a run-off, but I’m not familiar with the rules on this. Anyone have the details handy?

UPDATE: Endorsement listings are now available in the extended entry. These are based on my informal research of candidate websites, interest groups, and aggregators such as the Austin Chronicle and Burnt Orange Report. In other words, it’s a reasonable shot but I’m sure it ain’t perfect.

Travis Heights invites you

travisht.jpg The Heritage Society of Austin sponsors a tour on Saturday, May 7, from 10 am to 6 pm. Seven houses will be open within walking distance of one another in Travis Heights. This year every house is historic. There’s usually a poster for sale. T-shirts are generally reserved for the volunteer guides or docents. If you get tired, just stop for a rest in the shade of an oak tree or perch on some porch steps; have a friendly chat with a fellow Austinite, old friend or new acquaintance.

The Heritage Society of Austin has saved many buildings from destruction. The Heritage Homes Tour is a latecomer as a fund-raiser for HSA. For years, volunteers raised money by running the 1886 cafe and bakery in the Driskill.

Borrow the cookbook from the library sometime and see where some of Austin’s long-time menu favorites originated.

Great CD with local artists for local non-profit

Just wanted to tell you that GENaustin
(Girl Empowerment Network of Austin) compiled a CD as fundraiser that is for sale here:

Blues Traveler

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