Archive for January, 2008

Men’s Health Rates Austin 7th Drunkest City

48858803_5bbcd351f1_m.jpgMen’s Health has ranked Austin as the seventh drunkest city in America.

Seventh? Come on people, we need to drink more.

Here’s how they ranked the cities. We didn’t rank in the top ten on any of the criteria, so it must’ve been a cumulative effect. I suspect that having a large university and being in Texas helps us the most.

At least Texas has 3 cities in the top ten: Austin, San Antonio and Lubbock. San Antonio beat us out of sixth by only one point. Colorado scored two cities in the top three with Denver scoring first and Colorado Springs taking third, another city with a large university.

Plenty o’ somethin’

A feature on Porgy and Bess, as adapted and now being performed by the Zach Scott company at the refurbished Austin Music Hall, accompanied by a nine-piece orchestra, takes a prominent place on the front page of today’s NYT arts section (byline Ralph Blumenthal). This short run of two weeks only (January 25 – February 3), with six performances remaining has, according to the local daily, experienced some acoustical problems affecting those in selected balcony seats, but it’s promised that remedies are being initiated. Dave Steakley and members of the cast are quoted extensively. The print version has two photographs; the on-line version goes it better, with the better photograph in color and a couple of audio excerpts from the production.

Caught in the act

Here’s how the offense is described: “He was observed reading a book at one of the only sporting activities he has been known to attend this year.” This is from a list of charges contained in a letter sent by aggrieved parents to the superintendent of the school district, seeking ouster of the principal of Austin High. Another among the list of charges is that he has cut the number of pep rallies. There are further allegations, but these stand out and are treated in the letter just as seriously as the others. Here’s the story in today’s local daily (byline Raven L. Hill). Is snubbing school tradition a misdemeanor, or a felony, or merely grounds for seeking termination of employment? It’s a good thing I was never caught reading by flashlight under the bed-covers when I was a kid. There might have been penalties up to and including almost anything.

Return of 91.7

The KO-OP Web site is mysterious, but reports that the station will return to the air this Friday, day after tomorrow, January 26. I’ve been checking the site twice a day since fire number three shut the station down. Again. A quick search reveals that Burnt Orange Report seems to know more. I’ve really hated being without KO-OP. I tuned in to Thomas Durnin’s Big Band Sound show on Saturday, January 5; then, on Sunday, Czech Melody Time could not be heard and there was nothing but dead air. KO-OP is as local as they come and I welcome its return.

Austin’s vital economy

It’s not enough that many Austinites are near-professional human subjects in clinical research trials testing new pharmaceuticals. Chances are good that the co-worker who recently “enjoyed” bunion surgery was testing either a experimental drug intended to combat pain or a was being administered a worthless placebo. It’s not enough that so many seem to live by barter alone: “I’ll trade a mssage for a haircut.” “I’ll paint your livingroom if you’ll cut my hair.” It’s not enough that there are those who can’t be bothered to walk their own dogs, those who sign them up for “doggie day care,” those who keep a dog outside in a fenced yard and pay a service to come by and clean things up periodically.

Austin is the original location (joined now by Los Angeles and to be followed by San Francisco) offering what’s billed as “your very own paparazzi experience.” The operators of this “service” secured an entire page of coverage in this week’s Time magazine (1/28/08; byline Jeninne Lee-St. John). Here’s the subhead: “Want to feel like a celebrity? Just hire people to follow and photograph you for a night.”

The Web site of Celeb 4 a Day has changed since I first looked at it, yesterday. The MyStar cover at the top of the page pictures the Austin couple featured in the article. These revelers were trailed from a performance of the Nutcracker all the way to Qua. Apparently, this sort of star treatment ranges from $249 to $1,499, depending mostly on the number of photographers and the length of time they follow and take pictures. My favorite segment on the FAQ page is the answer to question “Will my Personal Paparazzi follow me anywhere?” because it’s easy to see that an attorney reviewed it.

Instead of “Live music capital of the world,” perhaps Austin’s “brand” should be framed as “defining and meeting hitherto unknown needs.” What prompted the coverage? Maybe a bold publicist affiliated with Celeb 4 a Day fired off a press release and Time bit. I’d like to know.

Faces of Austin’s Homeless

Phive has a stunning photo set on Flickr of the homeless in Austin. The photos are copyrighted so I can’t display them here. The Kind Hippie. Captain John. Joker. Jerry Monk. Scott. Zonker. Loco Coyote. Go look at their faces. Read their stories. Wonder how they’re doing out there on this cold Austin night.

Settling for the housing allowance

Lots of Austinites would be happy to have a housing allowance, especially such a generous one. Buried in the article on the new city manager in today’s local daily (“With new job, Ott keeps a vow,” byline Sarah Coppola; the on-line title of the article, probably updated since the print edition went to press, is “New city manager says he’s got dream job“) is the salary offered and accepted ($242,000) and the fact that there’s to be a housing allowance “of up to $4,500 per month for up to nine months.” The salary (probably without including such perquisites as car allowances) stated for outgoing manager Futrell is $240,639.

I wish that the article had answered some questions. Does Austin expect that a city manager will need to rent something for $4,500 per month? What is Ott’s salary in Fort Worth? What were the Austin in-house candidates earning as assistant city managers? Was this the salary and housing allowance to be offered to all candidates? Or only to the two finalists? When was this deal negotiated? How does this housing allowance compare (if drawn for nine months, the total would be $40,500) with household average and median income, and also with housing expense, for an Austin family of four? Is this housing allowance a common feature of compensation packages for city managers of municipalities the size of Austin? Is it offered in this case because of the state of the market for existing houses? The Tarrant Appraisal District appears to report that our new city manager now owns a 2002-built property with over 3,100 square feet of improvements, appraised at $255,100 and sitting on real property appraised at $55,000 (total appraised value $310,500). Where would anyone find a parcel of land of any size here in Austin valued at $55,000 or lower these days? Or with the appraised value of the land remaining flat for five years in a row?

I don’t have time to look into some of the information that must be available on line (e.g., the Austin budget front page is not especially seeker-friendly and it gets worse after that). There must be plenty of other questions out there and I wish that a professional info-finder would track down answers to the questions posed here and to all the others that easily come to mind.

It’s not us, it’s them!

154868141_a9bcd97674_m.jpgJason Burns from Metroblogging Los Angeles called us out on the recent news that Texas was named as the biggest carbon polluter in the nation. Sure, our governor is a complete moron and whore to special interests, but it doesn’t mean that all of us are truck driving rednecks who don’t care about the environment.

I’m pretty sure that on most days, I can see less smog than Jason can. Of course, I’m only speaking for Austin. I’m not too sure about Houston and the surrounding area. I’ll point to current Austin Mayor Will Wynn’s presentations on climate change and we’re at the top or near the top of green cities in the US for the last several years. The Austin City Council is even looking at banning plastic bags. Take that, Los Angeles!

I’d be willing to be that Debbie Howden is one of those California transplants.

Bar Lists: Good and Bad

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Austinist points out that Mohawk has topped Esquire’s list of best bars in America. Other local bars mentioned in the list are Mean Eyed Cat, Donn’s Depot, and Ginnys Little Longhorn. The lists are generated by users submitting a location and then voting on it, so it only takes a few zealous fans and some high ratings to get on to the list. That probably explains the weird results.

I’ve been to Donn’s Depot a few times. It’s a bit quirky and has an old Austin feel, but unless you’re into swing dancing, there’s not much to recommend it. I’ve been meaning to get over to Mean Eyed Cat since it opened, but still haven’t made it over there. I’ve never set foot in Ginny’s Little Longhorn. Isn’t that the one with chicken shit bingo or is that the Poodle Dog? I always confuse the two. I’m still partial to La La’s Little Nugget when I’m in that neighborhood. Mohawk seems pretty cool. I’ve seen some great live photos from the patio, but have yet to experience a live show there other than a Rock N Romp during SXSW last year, which isn’t a good show on which to base an opinion.

That being said, I 100% agree with their other two Texas choices: La Tuna in San Antonio and Inwood Lounge in Dallas.

The Esquire list coincides with another list involving bars: APD’s annual list of most frequently mentioned bars during drunk driving arrests. None of the bars on Esquire’s list show up on APDs list. In fact, I don’t frequent any of the bars listed on APDs list either. My theory is that these places are where the amateurs hang out. Dallas Nightclub, the perennial list-topper is still on the list, but far below the number of arrests of Oilcan Harry’s. Between that and Rain, it looks like APD was targeting gay clubs in 2007. Bars west of Congress are more frequently mentioned than their eastern brethren.

Sign o’ the times

elote en vasoThis guy’s from the elote en vaso stand at Fiesta Mart South. I’ve never caught it when it’s open. Mr. corn-on-the-cob who’s decorating the corn-off-the-cob outfit has hair or a tassel that’s applied black electrical tape, I think.

Austin will never be the big, important city that it seems to have aspirations to be until it’s open through the night and until there is the fine-arts presence that we’re far from even close to enjoying. But we’re right up there when it comes to talent as represented by hand-created commercial, religious, and merely ornamental folk art. There are still people trained in classic lettering and sign-painting. Magnetic signs haven’t taken over everywhere. Handsome examples of ornamental welding work and hand lettering and hand pin-striping are to be seen on some dump-trucks and other commercial vehicles.

I try to keep one of my toy pocket cameras with me so that these ephemera that enliven our streetscapes can be recorded. Favorite examples can and do disappear overnight. Some just plain vanish when a building is demolished or a cart or trailer is moved; others are painted over.

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