Archive for June, 2005

Here’s a how-de-do!

mikado.jpgGilbert and Sullivan productions have been staged here in Austin at the old Capitol Theater (in the round, with the audience on bleachers, where Halcyon succeeded the original Ruta Maya), at various venues on campus, at the Scottish Rite Theater, at the School for the Deaf, at St. Stephen’s School, at Westlake High, and now, best of all, at the performing-arts hall at Austin High School.

The Mikado will play Thursdays through Sundays through July 3. A 13-piece orchestra accompanies. The production qualities show what miracles of charm and atmosphere can be worked on a small budget, with entertaining costumes, ingenious sets, and excellent lighting.

I knew that I had to attend after hearing three members of the cast performing live to piano accompaniment one evening this past week in a studio at KMFA radio. Today’s matinee was attended by many children, who were completely attentive (tickets for those aged 18 and under are just five dollars).

Special favorites among the cast were Yum-Yum (just nineteen years old), Pooh-Bah, and Ko-Ko. But you’ll have your own favorites. It’s wonderful when the audience exists smiling and laughing. The air-conditioning is fierce, the parking is plentiful.

Fresh Up

steps.jpg We’ve always liked to stand across from the Fresh Up Club when we go to the Juneteenth parade. There’s a vacant lot, terraced from the sidewalk and with a bit of shade. Chicon was filled from curb to curb when the bands came through. What a sight! What a sound! It’s not too late to hear everybody, at the second part of the battle of the bands and drumline competition tonight. The troop of fancy gaited horses formed the last contingent in the parade, followed closely by the City of Austin Tymco sweeper.

Power marching

hearne.jpg This afternoon’s parade up the Avenue toward the Capitol was just a foretaste of Juneteenth music yet to come.

This evening is the first installment of the Battle of the Bands; there will be a second tomorrow evening. These are in honor of Alvin Patterson, longtime band director here in Austin at the old Anderson High. The location is Nelson Field at Reagan High and the doors open at six. Among the invited bands are these: Houston All-Star Band; Dallas-Fort Worth All-Star Band; Beaumont Central High School Band; Beaumont Ozen High School Band; Lafayette, Louisiana, Black Heritage All-Star Band; Memphis, Tennessee, All-Star Band; Hearne High School Band; and Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Leadership All-Star Band.

I loved the Hearne Band’s marching uniforms today. Every single person was wearing a T-shirt in the school colors, but it seemed as though there were at least a couple dozen different designs.

Today’s parade was in the sun; tomorrow’s will be along a shade-lined route, running from MLK and Comal to Rosewood, most likely. It will start at ten o’clock in the morning or shortly thereafter. Just listen for the percussion and you’ll find the parade.

Old Star

06-16-05_2305.jpgSitting in the heavy open air outside Ruta Maya last night, I was in desperate need of a Lone Star as both thirst quencher and social analgesic. The bartender (eventually) cured my thirst, with the added benefit that I got to experience the retro tallboy design for the first time. Lone Star turns 65 this year, so apparantly that warrants dusting off a 30-year old design.

The beer doesn’t taste any different, but the retro packaging seems to have its intended effect. I was mesmerized by the can much longer than is warranted by its contents. Metblog’s own TimT even got all misty-eyed recalling the old “giant armadillos drank my beer!” ad campaign, proving yet again that marketing to children is a highly effective tactic for building long-term brand affinity.

And of course, this is all about marketing beer. To experience the whimsical unreality of the press release [with editorial commentary], read on past the break.

Willie’s Hip: June 24 Benefit

Via Ed Ward (blogging from Berlin!) – one of the great Austin songwriters, Jon Dee Graham, has a son Willie who’s been a big part of his life and music. Willie has been diagnosed with a rare condition called Legg Perthes, which according to Ed is a childhood form of avascular necrosis of the hip. The head of the femur loses its blood circulation and dies. Willie’s may be facing several years of medical treatment including possible surgery. Austin’s music community is responding with a benefit at the Continental Club on June 24. The lineup is like a who’s who of Austin musical talent: The Resentments, Matt The Electrician & Beaver Nelson, Walter Tragert, Troy Campbell, Kathy McCarty, Steve Poltz, Bob Schneider, Shawn Colvin, The New Hot Damn (Trish Murphy, Kacy Crowley, Renee Woodward, Honky, Ian McLagan & The Bump Band, James McMurtry, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Alejandro Escovedo & Charlie Sexton and (of course) Jon Dee Graham. Chet Himes of Freedom Records is recording the event for a benefit CD. There’s also a silent auction at Gomi, and if you can’t make it but want to help, contributions can be made payable to the Willie Graham Legg Perthes Fund and mailed to: The Willie Graham Legg Perthes Fund, c/o RajiWorld, 1810 Airole Way, Austin TX 78704.


At Casa María on South First, the restaurant was very busy. This establishment has a liquor license, but it was morning, and everybody was there for breakfast. I was on the way to the dentist.

The associated bakery is next door. The bolillos (torpedo-shaped white-bread rolls) were too soft and not at all crusty. The best are made of flour, water, yeast, and a bit of salt, with no sugar and no dough conditioners. The marranitos (gingerbread pigs) were very good, though.

All was extremely fresh. There were at least thirty varieties of pan dulce. Judging by the crowds on a weekday just before eight o’clock in the morning, the food must be more than acceptable. A lot of people were ordering carne guisada; I haven’t had any that I’ve truly liked since the old days at the original Casita Jorge’s on Elmont.

Have you been getting the best, the best, the best

A couple of months ago, I posted about the new Metroblogging Best Of feature. Well, it’s well beyond 100 posts and growing each week. Check it out the newest gems or the complete archives to experience the highlights from Metroblogging’s 27 member cities. Good stuff.

Speaking of the best, if you check it out and think you can do better, do something about it. Sign up to become a contributor and give your perspective on our fair city.

Act, upload

ACTLab TV, born out of a division of UT’s RTF department, had a coming out day of sorts yesterday kicked off by a post on /. and then an article in the Daily Texan.

The site currently focuses on the technology behind its offerings. Alluvium, open source software which allows peer-to-peer streaming of video content, kind of like a cross between BitTorrent and RealPlayer. There isn’t much content yet, but the site hints at a June 20th launch date. There appears to be at least one sample here.

From what I can gather, in addition to the software being open sourced, much of the content will be Creative Commons or CopyLeft licensed, which can mean that you can remix or repurpose the content in your own works. The site hints at a blend of technology and activism. It’ll be interesting to see where they go with this.

Update: I just got news of yet another article about ACTLab TV on Tom’s Hardware.

Canoe Canoe?

DSCN2263.jpgWhen I moved to Austin in the waning days of the Bush (I) administration, UT was kind enough to send me a pamphlet of activities in my soon-to-be new home. Number 114 out of 250 Great Things To Do was “rent a canoe on Town Lake.” Even 13 years later, that pamphlet is no lie.

On a scorching weekend, water-related activities take on new life in Austin as combined entertainment and survival. In defiance of the blazing Saturday afternoon sun, the wife and I took to the cool currents of Town Lake, courtesy of Zilker Park Boat Rentals. For $10 an hour, we paddled and splashed our way around Town Lake, joining an impromptu regatta of like-minded explorers. Once we mastered moving in a straight line, we made easy time East towards I-35.

Along the way, I saw details I’d never noticed before (islands beneath the railroad crossing) along with new perspectives on sites I’d taken for granted (Stevie Ray’s backside). We puttered past the Congress Ave. Bridge and its screeching freetailed denizens until we were within reach of I-35, and turned around at the giant crane that presumably marks the construction site for the Rainey Street Apartments. It’s interesting how easily the new mixes with the old when you view it from the detached perch of old man river.

But time caught back up once I consulted the list for the next Great Thing To Do in Austin. I won’t be watching Willie or any other performers at the long-gone Opera House, and it’s been awhile since Aqua Fest underwhelmed Auditorium Shores. But for each item that’s dropped off this early 90’s itinerary, there are five more events and attractions that have taken its place. And the ones that remain, like canoeing on Town Lake, have certainly stood the test of time.

Traffic Info Discovery

I was looking for something else and stumbled across the Austin-Travis County Traffic Report Page. It’s updated every 5 minutes (and the page itself auto-refreshes at that rate) and obviously only includes those incidents that have been reported. I don’t know how useful it is for your morning/evening commute, but it can’t hurt. The page is pretty basic, but it didn’t render all that well in the browser on my phone. Perhaps someone with more time on their hands that I’ve got can come up with a Google Maps hack to incorporate the traffic info.

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