Archive for February, 2007

SXSW Music Releases Torrent of Bands

SXSWSXSW released a torrent of 739 mp3s featuring showcase bands (you’ll need a bittorrent client for that link to work). It’s 3.1 GBs, so I hope you’ve got a lot of room on that hard drive, iPod or whatever it is you use to listen to the digital music that the kids are into these days.

There’s all kinds of other fun stuff at the SXSW Toolbox. Check it out.

Scraps and orts

Austin has been listed by the National Trust for Historic Preservation as one of 100 communities most rapidly losing historic buildings to teardowns. Neighborhoods named specifically are East Eleventh Street, Fairview Park, Travis Heights, and Hyde Park. (Fairview Park runs from South Congress east to Blunn Creek; Travis Heights, from Blunn Creek east.) Architect and urban theorist Andres Duany writes in this month’s Metropolis about dwellings that are affordable because they’ve not been subject to standards imposed when a mortgage is taken out. He writes specifically about New Orleans, but there’s also much housing stock in Austin that has remained affordable because it’s long since been paid up and has passed through inheritance to the second, third, and even more distant generations. This era now seems to be drawing to a close here in Austin. Duany emphasizes the importance of affordable housing as a factor contributing to a city life enriched by the arts. >>> The art director for Metropolis magazine has recently left that job and moved to Austin, but where she’s landed remains a bit of a mystery. The magazine reports that Nancy Nowacek is “busy renovating her new cottage and pursuing a slew of projects.” Since TexMo recently lost its art director to Wired, maybe that’s where she’s headed. >>> Austin market-research firm Perceptive Sciences, whose clients are reported to include Eastman Kodak, Dell, and Diebold (these are pluses?), garners three paragraphs in the February 26 issue of Business Week (“Trimming the Fat from Technology,” byline Elizabeth Woyke, page 14; scroll down; free registration may be required to view).

Pizza inside and out

pizza.jpgThis is the transom light over the entry of East Side Pies, at Rosewood and Angelina, catty-corner from the Prince Hall Masonic Temple and just across from the Carver branch of the library. The view’s from the indoors side. Because we arrived just as Eklavya was beginning and didn’t want to miss a moment of it by taking time to buy popcorn (especially not the great camels and train scene), we needed refreshment afterwards, so after stopping at the library we checked out East Side Pies (East Side Pizza also works on line). As a dedicated lifelong non-pizza consumer, I can only report what others said. Pies were going by the slice, but nobody was up for variety; it was sausage all the way. It smelled very good and the partakers say it’s real Italian-style sausage, with lots of fennel. The crust seems to have little yeast and therefore no bubbles; it’s tending toward cracker-style in the crispness department. There are seats in front and seats out back. All were in use. East Side does deliver where many won’t. It was wonderful to see it so busy on this beautiful day. Probably because of all the downtown marathon-related snarls, Carver was particularly busy, also.

Obama Visits The Island of Blue

…in this sea of red.

Next Friday, February 23, Senator Barack Obama brings his presidential campaign to Auditorium Shores. I’m not sure of I can face nearly two years of campaigning but I’m definitely going to walk down the street for this one.

SXSW Music Showcase Schedules Announced!

SXSW has released the band showcase schedules. Some of the times are still TBA, but you can get an idea of how much walking you’re going to have to do. They’ve also got the panel schedules up for the conference. I didn’t see anything about the free shows at Auditorium Shores yet.

Back to ramen and popcorn

Austin’s legions of low-paid desk-jockey survivalists, the ones who never have time to eat a real lunch, rely for emergency rations, it seems, on three major food groups (excluding the morning breakfast tacos; this is about the rest of the day): ramen, peanut butter, and microwave popcorn, with chocolate enrichment added as required. If your stores of sustenance include Peter Pan (or Great Value, made at the same plant) peanut butter, you may want to check the cover for the batch number. If it begins with 2111, discard your supply. This batch has been sold in Austin. How do I know? A member of the household had bought some. A container was found on a pantry shelf. The workplace supply has yet to be checked but may be from the same batch. One account reports that this batch has been sold (and tagged as the likely cause of salmonella-related illness for some) since March, 2006. What will replace it at work? Another brand? Do-it-yourself Frito pie? The local daily reports that Houston schoolkids have had their peanut-butter sandwiches confiscated, but our local schools have not gone to such lengths. Here are the two manufacturer press releases on the subject: February 15 and February 14.

Stay away from downtown for a while

The Statesman’s reporting a three alarm fire at the Stephen F Austin hotel at 7th and Congress and also a multiple 18 wheeler accident on southbound I-35 at 11th street.

Not sure if it’s all cleared up by now, but there’s sure to be increased traffic delays.

Update (2007.02.15 12:52 CST) News8 says that I-35 southbound could be closed into the evening commute and that northbound traffic is bad as well. This is a bad one folks, one fatality and multiple injured. They’re advising Mopac as an alternative. Plan for extra time getting home tonight.

“Capital of construction” and “boomtown for building”

Concert of VoicesAlliteration runs wild in the headlines for this look at downtown Austin from a national commercial-property-investment viewpoint in today’s NYT (byline Kristina Shevory). Illustrated with the customary view of the Capitol in the background and construction activities in the foreground, as well as with a photo of Las Manitas and another of condos going up, this article quotes McCracken and follows the CofC line fairly closely. “Low cost of living” is in there somewhere and a claim of “70,000 new jobs,” over what period and of what type not disclosed. Fool that I am when it comes to completely extraneous alliteration, I’m disappointed that the on-line version omits this sub-headline: “With Corporations Flocking In, Austin Is a Boomtown for Building.”

Anyone who suspects that those 70,000 new jobs, if any such number materializes, will amount to temporary construction work and many, many hotel housekeeping jobs may want to reserve the date of Friday, February 23, to attend a concert to benefit Las Manitas and the Escuelita del Alma. This is planned for La Zona Rosa at 8, with a preceding fajita supper from 6:30 to 7:30. On the musical bill of fare as posted is a wonderful menu of Austin music: Grupo Fantasma, Alejandro Escovedo, Patty Griffin, Ruben Ramos (brass!), James McMurtry, Jimmie Dale Gilmore and special guests. The handsome promotional graphic shown here, by Gary Houston, is as delightful to the eye as the music will be to the ears. Tickets to a Concert of Voices are available at Waterloo Records and RunTex.

It was just in mid-December that there was a similar alluring look at Austin from the same come-and-get-it stance. Perhaps the next feature of this sort will focus specifically on the emerging Town Lake condo corridor, advising potential purchaser-occupants to buy early and enjoy their views before all they have for a prospect is their counterpart across the river.

The Stampede


My job just got a billion times more interesting. Not that it isn’t on any given day- it is, that’s why I love it, but this week’s been unbelievably hectic with Lion King loading in. There’s dozens of people working on it in various ways and this whole production, on our end and their end, has been tremendous to mount… but what a show.

Usually cutting through Bass from our office to the front of the house is quite peaceful. Bass is beautiful, with the lights in the back mezzanine cutting through the shadows like tiny stars, and the cavernous hall as still as a sanctuary.

Not so at the moment. Not even close.

More condos. But at least no Star Jones.

IMG_0054A longtime zoning quirk has been leveled to make way for The View. No, not that “View.” This View is a new … wait for it … condo project that will be sprouting along South Lamar in between the Barton’s Lodge Apartments (3816) and the newly-converted Citibank office park (3508) just north of Ben White.

You may remember the lot as the site of a small limestone building perched on an improbably huge lot overlooking the Barton Creek Greenbelt. For several years, the site had been a gallery for artist Robert Ellis Patterson. With his untimely passing in 2004, the sign out front pitched real estate for a few years, then went blank. I had often dreamed of buying the land to raise llamas, maybe run a philosophy shop / lemonade stand out front, but those dreams went down with the bulldozers last week.

The project’s name is indicative that the 69 units will have clear line-of-sight to the office and residential buildings built up to the opposite edge of the Greenbelt. Prices are quoted in the usual range from merely expensive ($260k / 760 sqft.) to broadly unaffordable ($850k / 2,280 sqft.). According to the Statesman, the condos will feature a meditation garden and cabanas to take advantage of the scenic location. No mention of llamas.

The View is also seeking one-ness with its location through the U.S. Building Council’s LEED certification program. If realized, this would put Madison Partners on a different, and greener, path than many of their developer breathren. Other popular components currently lacking from this development are height (4 stories), variance requests (no up-zoning), or mixed-use entitlements (no street-level retail). And the name, despite its unfortunate association with daytime TV, is simple and descriptive rather than ostentatious and embarrassing. S. Lamar could do a lot worse.

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