Archive for June, 2006

Freebie fly-by

blanton.jpgTaxpayer dollars should subsidize admission to the Blanton Museum; that, however, is not the policy of the People in Charge. But Thursdays are free to all. Here are some first impressions, starting with the approach to the building. It’s disconcerting that the greensward in front of the Education building has vanished; this was much used and it also set the foreground of what is a building of much greater architectural distinction. The Blanton does not mark its entrance with any visual cue. A guess is that the main door is somewhere beneath the pleasant arcade, and that’s correct. The little allee between the main building and the construction site for the secondary building is attractive now and will only become more so. The signage inside is not distinctive or even particularly informative. The central atrium may or may not be an suitable location for social events; what the acoustics may be when the area is crowded would affect its successful use for such purposes; the treads of the staircase are visually distracting for those with poor vision; the staircase is not half so dramatic or imposing as what can be seen in any 19th-century Texas courthouse. The collection itself is most useful as a teaching aid. The prints and drawings are distinguished. The small but fine collection of landscapes of the American West is also notable. There are those who have commented that they dislike the Battle collection of plaster casts of ancient sculpture. I enjoy them for the sense of scale that they provide for people accustomed to seeing representation of these works only on the printed page. By the way, the portrait statue of Augustus Caesar would lead one to believe that Augustus bore a great resemblance to our own Terry Keel (or vice versa), although perhaps not in stature. A wonderful discovery is the second-floor “e-lounge,” outfitted with toys, coffee-table art books, seating of various kinds, including what appear to be Aeron chairs (they are very comfortable), and computers accessing an intranet mostly having to do with the museum. From the windows of this room can be seen the Capitol and the Bullock museum. On free Thursdays, this will be a great hideaway refuge for nearby workers seeking a little noontime peace and quiet and a good place to read that has plenty of natural light.

Austin, Treksas

A Right to Bear PhasersTim sent me some Star Trek links the other day, probably because I’m the Metblogger who packs a loaded phaser in my desk drawer. In the interest of full disclosure, let’s just say I am to Star Trek what ITPT‘s TJ is to slutty teachers. Sadly, you can’t set a phaser to “score” (except in certain realms of fan fiction).

I grew up dreaming of warp speeds and transporters but ended up as a keyboard jockey, which has always been something of a letdown in comparison. Not as much of a letdown as the Trek franchise, however, which has collapsed into a steaming pile of technobabble, bereft of originality and excitement. Who knew that interstellar travel and alien babes could be so boring until Paramount corralled their cash cow with tight licensing and more “canon” than the Catholic Church.

Thankfully, digital video and production tools have opened the door for DIY Trekkies to create their own interpretations of Star Trek, and so far Paramount seems happy to turn a blind eye. Self-styled Kirks and Klingons are setting up production all around the world, and one of the best is based right here in Austin. Exeter Studio has nearly completed two full-length episodes, using locations from Study Butte to the Austin Studio soundstage to create their Starship Exeter series.

Starship Exeter is the brainchild of Jimm and Joshua Johnson, who spent years developing their first episode (“The Savage Empire”) before releasing it online in 2002. The results were impressive for a home-grown effort, although the second installment (“The Tressaurian Intersection”) is a huge leap forward, with production quality that rivals and occasionally surpasses its 1960’s source material. From the look and feel of the clunky switches to the height of the yeoman’s mini-skirt, it is absolutely spot. on.

If you’ve ever wanted to taste Saurian Brandy or even wondered about kissing a green chick (and who hasn’t?), you owe it to yourself to watch the Quicktime movies available from the Exeter website. Better yet, support the non-profit production by donating to Exeter Studio, which will help speed along current and new episodes. If you’re really motivated, the guys might be willing to let you participate. ‘Cuz you can never have enough red-shirts around to take one for the team.

Blogger on a Mission

Alright kids, be even MORE excited than I previously encouraged because Alamo Drafthouse is having a contest to see who can come up with the best Snakes on a Plane tribute short!
The rules are as follows:

Film Content:
There are no restrictions to the content of the film except for these 3 basic rules:

1) All films must be between 2 and 5 minutes long.
2) All films must be some sort of disaster film wherein your randomly chosen animal ends up on your randomly chosen vehicle.
3) All films must contain the line of dialogue “(your randomly chosen animal) on a mother f**king (your randomly chosen vehicle).”
4) The films can contain violence or nudity but in keeping with Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission regulations, we cannot allow anything that would be deemed pornography. You may not harm real animals or unwilling people in the making of your video.

(more…)

Lady Vengeance at the Dobie!

sflv-dvdcover.jpg
OH MAN! OH MAN!
One of the best films screened at Buttnumbathon 7 last year was Lady Vengeance, a Chan-wook Park movie that blew me away- the final installment in his revenge trilogy. A complex film and a complete story with an ending so bloody it requires a tarp. And now it’s back!
You can see Lady Vengeance starting Friday at the Dobie Theater, where it will run until July 6th. Do not miss it. DO NOT. Any fan of South Korean cinema or suspense or movies in general should crawl over the backs of others to see this film because it’s AWESOME.

AFS@Dobie presents
LADY VENGEANCE
June 30 – July 6
Dobie Theatre
2025 Guadalupe inside Dobie Mall

o Tickets available only at Dobie Theatre box office
or Dobie online
o See Dobie Webpage for show times and ticket prices
o Austin Film Society members presenting current
membership card receive a 25% discount on admission price
o Dobie Webpage:
http://www.landmarktheatres.com/Market/Austin/Austin_Frameset.htm

Chuy’s quick-lunch

Everybody in town seems to have had the same idea: burn some vacation time or just plain skip thoughts of returning to work at all. This afternoon at 2:30 the late lunch wasn’t immediate, which weakened the quick-lunch factor, but the wait-estimate was a good one, and after all it was lunch at Chuy’s, and that makes all the difference. At our table were nachos (huge order, nicely composed) and chicken enchiladas with Hatch green chile and sides of rice and refritos, plus a cheap add-on of one crisp taco and some quacamole. The enchiladas are two on a plate but with contents equal in quantity to four enchiladas from a lot of places. Tea and Cokes are still served in super-sized plastic glasses. The classic margaritas, straight up, are still classic margaritas, and nobody asks whether what you want is a Mexican margarita or one on the rocks or a frozen. This was Chuy’s on Barton. It was conducting quite a take-out business. The take-out menu says, “Order NOW and receive FREE plastic tableware with each entree!” The photo booth was seeing so much action that my turn never came up.

South seems more central

Half Price Books has been a haunt since the days when it was located in a building near the Capitol shared with a dry-cleaners and perhaps an early office of the Chron. Later, the branch on the Drag a bit north of campus remained the main attraction in Austin Half Price world. Half Price Books has always been the friend of the impecunious who have too much of their limited resources frozen in the illiquid form of books, magazines, and recorded music. Sometimes the buyers are more generous in their offers than at other times. Strong of will is the person who leaves without spending all the proceeds right there at Half Price Books. I visited the new “central” store, now at 5555 North Lamar, at Koenig. The stock seems to have shrunk a bit from that of the Guadalupe store that it replaces, but it is carefully chosen and the premises are very pleasant, with plenty of seating to encourage people to linger on the premises. The lighting is excellent, and sellers were receiving good offers. This remains an excellent source of stationery that’s in good taste but very cheap. Computer books were in good supply. It does now seem, though, that the store on South Lamar is closer to downtown and so more convenient as a destination for a noontime foray by central-city workers.

The Movie Musketeers – “Superman Returns”

The Movie Musketeers will once again be out at the Regal Gateway 16 tonight for the 7:00 and 7:30 showings of “Superman Returns”. If you go and see one of these two showings, please come talk to us after the show in front of the theater to give your opinions for our segment on the Austin Movie Show. I’ll be the one dressed as Lex Luthor. I have to go shave my head now.

Competition for the tooth fairy

You’ve heard of cord blood banks? They operate on the idea that the blood from your child’s umbilical cord can be used later to treat diseases like leukemia, sickle cell and metabolic problems among others. The problem is that it’s generally expensive and the likelihood that you’ll actually need it is difficult to predict. Costs range from $600-$2000 for the initial deposit in a private bank and then there’s a yearly storage fee that hovers around $100. The probability that you’ll need it can be anywhere from 1:1,000 to 1:200,000, depending on who you ask. It’s free to donate to a public cord bank, but there you’re not assured that you’d have access to the blood that you deposited.

Now, apparently, there’s a new cheaper option and it’s based here in Austin. BioEden can take your child’s baby teeth and extract stem cells from them that can be used to treat diseases. The cost is somewhat cheaper and for those of us that have kids that were too old or decided to delay the decision, we’ve got another option. I’ve inexplicably been saving my son’s baby teeth as he’s lost them. They’re sitting in a plastic baggie in the top drawer of my dresser. Honestly, I don’t know why I’m saving them. I don’t think I’m shelling out the money on the outside chance that they’ll help later though, especially since we don’t have a history of the types of things it might help. I wonder how long you can keep the teeth and still harvest the cells? I guess you’re SOL once the tooth is out and you haven’t put it in their special ToothSaver solution with ice packs?

Update (2006.07.17): The Statesman wrote a story about this today.

The Supremes: Stop! In the Name of Lloyd

tx-redistricting.jpgThe highest court in the land finally ruled on the partisan power grab known as Texas redistricting (aka Mr. Gerry Mander). Much to the chagrin of Texas Democrats, civil libertarians, and other endangered species, the Supreme Court largely upheld the plan crafted by Tom DeLay and his TRMPAC cronies.

For those wishing to see the stain of corruption and money laundering washed away from political redistricting, the Supreme Court decision is mostly a disappointment. But then, so is the truth about Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. Redistricting has historically been a political mish-mash of favoritism and spoils, prompted by the changing demographics reported in each decennial census. In a broad 7-2 majority, the court rejected the notion that the Texas plan was any more or less putrid than previous efforts simply because it occured mid-decade and favored Republicans rather than Democrats.

But there is some solace for local Democrats, since the court indirectly addressed the tortured district of Austin institution Lloyd Doggett. In a separate vote, the justices narrowly decided that Distict 23 violates the Voting Rights Act by diluting the power of the burgeoning Hispanic vote along the Rio Grande. It also forces San Antonio to share Henry Bonilla with El Paso and Fundamentalist Mormon fugitives, which could make for an entertaining campaign someday.

By redrawing District 23, Doggett’s meandering home from Austin to the border (District 25) will also be affected. Maybe this time Lloyd’s district could be disaggregated to include only rabid secessionists and the Cabela’s in Buda, or perhaps merged with neighboring Districts 15 and 28 into a square circle Demo-take-all deathmatch between Doggett, RubĂ©n Hinojosa, and Henry Cuellar. Even with DeLay now officially a Cavalier, I’m sure someone in the Texas Republican party can get paid enough to creatively derail democracy.

The full, convoluted ruling [.pdf] and a Texas congressional map [.pdf] are online courtesy of our beloved daily.

BSide Wrap Party Tonight

Bside’s having a wrap party tonight for their Roadshow traveling film festival at Sky Lounge (416 Congress Ave). Bside was a company I ran into at SXSW film last year that distributes indie films.

The festivities start at 8pm with a screening of the award-winning drama QUALITY OF LIFE. Written by and starring former San Francisco graffiti writer Brian Burnam, QUALITY OF LIFE is the story of two street artists facing the prospect of doing hard time for graffiti writing. The film features a driving hip-hop soundtrack, and is set against the backdrop of the San Francisco Mission District.

Following the screening, local spinmaster DJ Baby G will rock the Sky Lounge turntable from 10pm until 1am.

Writer and Star Brian Burnam will be in attendance at the screening and afterparty. Also in attendance will be local Austin graffiti writers Sloke, Mez, Dice, Degas, and Jsen, among others. These artists will have their art on display throughout the Sky Lounge.

Admission is $5 for the film, and FREE after 10pm for the party.

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