Archive for September, 2007

Festival brightness

parasols and fansThe sun was strong at the Pecan Street Festival all afternoon, despite the occasional passing cloud, and that’s why this booth was rarely without customers. In fact, just after this photo was taken, our party bought two parasols and then a guy stepped up and bought a parasol and a folding fan for his lady love, which encouraged others to follow his example. We saw these parasols all over, adding color to the crowd and providing a practical, though not large, shield against the rays for just seven dollars. It seemed to take two people to fill in for David Farias, one on accordion and one to sing, neither as well as he does both together, but a good percentage of the many, many Tropa F hits were played, to the delight of the crowd. Gary Hobbs has sold a lot of records, but I’d never heard him live before, and he does his recordings one better in person. I was blessed by a tiny miracle today. The back of my toy camera fell off in the middle of the dance floor and its absence wasn’t noted for quite a while. The small bit of plastic was found intact, though. There was an announcement that Sunday nights there will be a Tejano music show from 6 to 10 pm, on Recuerdos 107.7-FM, I think. The news was greeted with cheers. People who brought personal vehicles found free parking without trouble just east of IH-35; ours was in front of Cothron’s Lock & Safe. It wasn’t clear whether the police keeping beer from coming in or going out of the blocked-off streets were on private or public duty. I did not find a beercan pinwheel, alas.

The Internets Notice K-EYE Report on Texas Legislature

A YouTube posting of a May K-EYE investigative report on Texas lawmakers voting multiple times for each other has caught fire after BoingBoing posted about it this morning. The comments range from outrage to people who know it goes on and shrug their shoulders.

The point of the report is that it’s a little hypocritical of Rep. Debbie Riddle to introduce voter integrity legislation when she can’t be trusted to adhere to the voting rules in the Texas House. Of course, she’s a Republican, a party with a long tradition of howling for voter integrity which ultimately means voter suppression.

I doubt we’ll hear from any legislators themselves, though I’d bet that if you asked any of them, they’d admit to the practice. Anybody work at the legislature and want to elaborate on this? No big deal? Is this just a result of a broken system? I’ll ask my Rep., Eddie Rodriguez, the next time I see him. It seems like half of the stuff that’s passed through the US House and Senate is never even read by the people voting for it.

Quest with musical attractions

I’ll be a seeker at the Old Pecan Street Fall Festival this weekend, always on the lookout to replace some favorite yard art. The coveted object may or may not be found, but I know for sure that I will find some of the music that’s not so easy to hear live these days in Austin at all, let alone at absolutely no cost and in great variety.

The performance schedule is confusing and seems to change constantly. I’ve even e-mailed the festival people about my favorite, and the answer received was a bit different from the latest revision on the site. I never, ever miss an opportunity to hear La Tropa F live. The accordion and voice of David Farias are exceptional, and this band plays two of my four favorite happy songs with Spanish lyrics (Me Enamore and Juan Sabor; the others are No Tengo Dinero and El Coco Rayado). David has been in Austin more than once during the past year as one of the three Texmaniacs, but this is a rare chance to hear the entire big band (at 3 or 3:30, depending on the schedule version). Tejano stars Gary Hobbs (preceding La Tropa) and Jimmy Gonzalez and Grupo Mazz (following) are also scheduled for Sunday on Seventh Street and Neches.

The revivified soulciti.com on-line community sponsors the SoulCiti stage on Saturday from 8 to 10 pm at Sixth and San Jacinto, and I hope to catch some of this, too. Hear some samples of the attractions, which include Austin’s Les and the Funk Mob.

So I’ll be in search of a beer-can pinwheel or spinning aluminum can art in some form, because my old-logo Jolt Cola airplane with the spinning propeller and the tail that turns it into the wind is a little the worse for wear.

Fantastic Fest Round-Up

ffposter.jpgEvery year for the last several years, I’ve longingly gazed at the Fantastic Fest schedules before the event and then jealously read the reviews coming out of the festival. If you’re like me, your “real life” (work, family, etc.) doesn’t allow you to commit the kind of time that you need to really take advantage of Fantastic Fest. On top of that, it always falls right around the same time as ACL and who has the kind of cash to shell out for both of these things? I might have a better chance next year as my four e-mail addresses falied to win the $50 3 day passes this week (Did anybody get them?) and I’ve decided that I’m going to wait for the lineups and decide if a single day pass is in order for next year.

Anyway, I digress. Even though I couldn’t make Fantastic Fest, which ends tonight, there’s a slew of local bloggers who’ve been posting their impressions. Here’s just a few of them:

Update (2007.09.28 18:16 CDT): I would’ve linked SXSW Flim organizer, Matt Dentler’s, blog, but I didn’t have a good way of linking just his Fantastic Fest posts. You should check out his blog anyway. Also, last night’s surprise closer was Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood.

PS The Alamo Drafthouse newsletter says that VIP badges for next year’s Fantastic Fest are already half gone. So if you want to get in on this stuff yourself next year, you’d better get on it.

California blamin’

I don’t blame former Californians for anything I don’t like about Austin, but a lot of people do. Most recently, John Kelso ascribes a plague of valet parking and fish tacos to outlanders from the West Coast. Fish tacos? I’ve never tried them. Someday, maybe. Valet parking is a plague, but it has nothing to do with Californians. Just blame the city government for granting those permits, and so cheaply. And if people didn’t patronize these services, they wouldn’t exist. I detest those blocked parking spaces; the hoods seem to go onto the meters well before the hour permitted. So, just as I don’t wait in line or go anywhere that requires reservations, neither do I ever use valet parking, “free” or not, although it’s certainly an interesting concept in theory and practice, wherever it came from. Sushi seemed to be here long before I met the first new Austinite hailing from California. Kyoto says it opened in 1984. Everybody I’ve consulted believes it to be the first, and for a long time the sole, sushi emporium, although only the brave (and I wasn’t one of them) sat at the counter in the front room while the rest of us felt very bold enjoying the exoticism of bento-box lunches. No Californians were in evidence, just adventuresome Austinites. It isn’t former Californians who go caroming around parking lots at high speed in Chevy Suburbans, is it? I hold no Californians responsible for the fact, reported in the local daily this morning, that on Stassney between Congress and IH-35, there’s nearly a mile between one pedestrian crossing and the next one. Is there really any degradation in the quality of life here or failure to improve it for which out-of-staters in general or Californians in particular should be held to account? I don’t think so; we can probably lay all the blame at our very own doorsteps.

Daily Commute Notes

My daily commute takes me across town two times a day. It means that I see a lot of things. Here’s a small sample from this week:

  • If you were wondering why South Lamar was a nightmare this morning, here’s your reason.
  • It took them a week to get Zilker Park back to normal after this year’s ACL festival. Everything looked back to normal yesterday morning, except for the old guy combing the deserted fields with a metal detector. I wonder if he found anything?
  • Oltorf’s a total nightmare right now between South Congress and South Lamar. Avoid it at all costs. As if that damn train crossing, which gets me every time, wasn’t enough incentive.
  • Not sure if it’s over yet, but I-35 in central Austin has also been blocked down to one lane for several nights out of the past week or two.
  • Eastbound Cesar Chavez between Mopac and Congress was particularly backed up yesterday evening for no good reason that I could see.
  • Everybody and their brother seems to have figured out the exit ramp shortcut between 45th and 35th on southbound Mopac. I think it’s actually faster now if you don’t use it.
  • If you’re picking something up in the Brodie Oaks shopping center at the NorthWest corner of Lamar and Ben White in the morning and you’re going to head west on Ben White, don’t forget to cut through the parking lot past Toys R Us and down that steep road to the light at the office park. It’s much faster taking a right from there than dealing with all of the traffic that’s backed up at the light at Mopac, especially if you’re then heading north on Mopac.
  • Looks like the new Specs location at Arbor Walk near 360 and Mopac is close to opening.

Free Museum Day

Tomorrow, Sunday, September 23rd is Free Museum Day. Museums all over Austin will have free admission and will have activities for the whole family. We went last year, walking down Congress and hitting the Austin Museum of Art, Mexic-Arte and the Austin Children’s Museum. It’s also a great opportunity to check out the Blanton, Harry Ransom Center and LBJ Library on the UT campus.

Made in the shade

A favorite getaway spot is one where there’s little likelihood of rubbing elbows with crowds of people, where the treetops meet to form arches, placing the roadway in a tunnel, and where the birds sing and the waters rush. The ostensible destination is St. Edward’s Park, but the true attraction is the very narrow two-lane byway itself. Old Spicewood Springs Road winds and winds, so serpentine that it seems to have no straightaways at all, and it encompasses several low-water crossings. Its accompanying waterway is Bull Creek, replete with stone ledges and little waterfalls. This haven has been particularly beautiful through the long summer season. The downpours have kept the vegetation green and the stream coursing along. This is one of the few places in town where the pale can forget about sunscreen and is one of those little corners of Austin where peace reigns, where cares seem a world away and so does Austin.

Eden for singles?

Austin doesn’t make the top quartile among the forty cities ranked this year by Forbes magazine as best for the unattached who are “young, successful and looking for love.” Some of the qualities under consideration are nightlife, job growth, coolness, culture, and the cost of living alone. Some of these are more quantifiable than others, obviously. Among all forty cities named, we’re number one for job growth, as measured for the list, and thirty-third for cost of living in blessed singledom. In Forbes list-land, we don’t earn high marks for “culture” and just barely make the top half for “coolness.” We’re still holding our own in the drunkenness ranks, and the photo illustration is current enough to include the Frost building. I guess this is one lens through which to view Austin, which I’ve always thought of as a town where anyone may be happy no matter what the state of his or her affections.

Shakespeare’s “A Comedy of Errors” at The Curtain Theater

This Saturday, September 22, The Baron’s Men will present their one and only public performance of “A comedy of Errors” by William Shakespeare. It will be at The Curtain Theater which is not normally open to the public, so here’s your chance to come see Shakespeare and check out a cool little theater based on The Globe Theater where Shakespeare himself put on his plays. All the pertinent info can be found at the link above including a map. It’s kind of a strange trip down windy gravel roads on hills through normally private wooded property, so if you feel like you’re getting lost then your probably on the right track!

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