Archive for June, 2008

30 Days and Badass Cinema

BadassMorgan Spurlock’s show on FX, 30 Days, started its new season at the beginning of June. I’ve been recording them on my DVR and finally watched the first two during a lazy Father’s Day on the couch. The first episode features Spurlock returning to West Virginia, his home state, to spend 30 days as a coal miner. If you’re not familiar with the show, the idea is that someone with a particular point of view spends 30 days living a an opposing point of view to see how the other side lives. Spurlock typically subjects himself to the treatment at least one or two episodes each season and uses others to fill out the rest of the shows. Former NFL Cornerback, Ray Crockett, is featured in last week’s episode.

During the episode, there are a couple of shots of Spurlock clearly sporting an Alamo Drafthouse Badass Cinema t-shirt. Hooray for plugging everyone’s favorite Austin theater chain. You can pick up your very own Badass Cinema shirt at the Alamo Drafthouse store, but the version with Pam Grier that Spurlock wears in the show in apparently out-of-print. I tried finding a photo of it on Alamo’s Flickr page, but didn’t have any luck. As always though, somebody on Flickr has my back.

Photo via Gudrun on Flickr

Hail, hail to piracy

Austin Gilbert & Sullivan Pirates of Penzance Only two performances remain, one tonight at 8 o’clock and one tomorrow afternoon at 3 o’clock. Today’s matinee performance of The Pirates of Penzance was dedicated to children. Even after a precurtain show of costume-making, balloon-twisting, and swordplay, most of the kids, some of them very young, lasted well for the entire performance.

The production puts a grand chorus of 18 singers on the stage, each capable of a solo turn, and a delightful and professional 15-piece orchestra in the pit. These shows are at the performing arts center at Crockett High, 5601 Manchaca. I’ve been to a performance there once before, but a long time ago. The acoustics best those at the new Long Center, if you ask me (not that anyone has!). Everything is audible and very natural-sounding.

The Austin Gilbert & Sullivan Society is an organization of volunteers. Generous gifts from stout local supporters pay for the orchestra, I believe, and many are those who vie for the featured roles. Those selected to fill them did an admirable job.

Even with all the small children there, which some (not I) consider to be a drawback, the house was nearly full. Buying a ticket at the door is very informal and refreshments are available. There’s lots to incite laughter and the many sentimental and affecting tunes do their work as well. Remember; it will be another year before the next big performance comes around. Don’t miss your chance to enjoy this one.

Witnessed on watering day

One of the two official watering days for this household began at midnight. We usually take advantage of just one of the two and then hand-water on other days as needed, using the garden hose fitted with a sprayer that can be turned off as it’s carried from one location to another.

The sprinklers were to be set up this morning by the first in the household to awake. I was that person, as it happened, jolted upright when the police helicopter buzzed our rooftop at about 1:30 this morning.

Here’s some of what I saw and heard while on irrigation duty through the night. Three taxicabs passed by and two of them were yellow. Three lone bicyclists went by; two of them had flashing lights and one did not. All three rode helmetless. There was a fourth person on a bike: he was coasting downhilll accompanied by a guy on a skateboard. At 2:30, a working musician returned home from a gig and took his guitars into the house. At 3:00, a neighbor who’s awake every time we are and perhaps even more often than that, came out on his front porch and smoked a cigarette, sitting on the steps next to his faithful canine companion. At 3:50, the newspapers were delivered all along the block. Those with irrigation systems had them running all night long, official watering day or not. By the light of the beautiful golden crescent moon, toads were to be seen everywhere enjoying the sprays of water. Owls could be heard calling from the trees not under the glare of the streetlights.

Next on the personal agenda is a performance of Pirates of Penzance, thanks to our local Gilbert & Sullivan Society. Tomorrow’s the last performance day of this run, but I’m planning to attend today, leaving tomorrow as a fall-back in case anything unforeseen prevents attendance today. I can use some laughter, music, and general good humor; and Pirates is a sure source of all three. Watering completed, I retire to refresh myself for the day to come.

Sushi Sake quick-lunch

Sushi SakeThere were four working behind the sushi bar and four perched on stools in front of it. At the tables, most seemed to be ordering bento lunches. Sushi Sake was busy during the lunch hour yesterday, alive with the hum of conversation. The bento offerings may all be priced at $8.95, or at least the ones at our table were (featuring shrimp tempura and salmon teriyaki). Call them gyoza, as the menu does, or just think of them as pot-stickers; they are among the best in town and worth the price of $4.95 for an order of four. It was good to be at a table where not everyone cares for miso; I traded some vegetable tempura for more soup. I also love the iced tea here, whether not-plain-old-brown or refreshing green. It’s not weak, it’s served in glass not plastic, and, in a town where lime is presented most often, there’s actually a big lemon wedge for each glass of tea for those who care (and many do). I know people who go to Sushi Sake just for the oddly addictive salad dressing, which is somehow citrus-y and otherwise mysterious. Sometimes Sushi Sake has a Web site and sometimes it does not; this seems to be one of the “not” times. Sushi Sake has lasted a long time at 9503 Research, #500; telephone 527-0888. It’s open continuously throughout the afternoon, seven days a week, which makes it a good bet for a pre-movie meal before adjourning to the nearby Arbor theater. Service is gracious and, although it appears to be leisurely, almost always manages to meet the quick-lunch standard.

Drought + Development = No More Tecolote Organic Farm?

Austin Farmers Market muralOne of the mainstays of the Austin Farmers Market and, until recently, one of the more successful organic farms in the area, Tecolote Farm is in danger.  Just east of town, near Manor and Webberville, its wells are apparently going dry – not only because of terrible heat and drought, but because the local community is sucking lots more water from the ground, for athletic fields and new houses.  First reported by the Statesman in May, with an  update done on KXAN-TV, courtesy of the Home Sweet Farm blog, this is another example of our priorities gone awry.  According to the Sustainable Food Center, Texas is loosing prime farmland at a rate higher than any other state. Do you want your food to have to be shipped from California, or even China? The owners of Tecolote Farm are asking people to contact their Travis County Commissioner to express concern about water use in eastern Travis County and support for sustainable agriculture.

Swept from the ice

It was with great sadness that I removed the link to the Austin Ice Bats hockey team from my personal home page. The fate of our team has received attention from Texas Monthly (“Empty Netter,” byline Jacon Cohen, June issue), the NYT slap shot blog (“As Time Expires, Memories of the Austin Ice Bats”), and this morning’s NYT sports page (“A Hockey Team Built on Showmanship Is Sidelined Indefinitely,” byline Michael Brick). Predictably, there are players who hope to discover a way to stay on in Austin, finding the idea of leaving unpalatable indeed. I never did see the Bats take to the ice after the move to the Chaparral rink. The author of today’s piece tries to have some fun with the notion of the livestock arena, but I liked the old-time fieldhouse atmosphere there at the Expo Center. I loved it that there were always people attending their first hockey game and delighting in it. I’ll always remember those times fondly; they were fun and there was some fine hockey, too.

India Kitchen: weekend self-serve

It’s easy to be busy and suddenly become way too hungry to endure a wait to eat. Buffets and cafeterias and places where the chips and salsa are on the table immediately are for those times. Saturday was one of them, and India Kitchen was nearby.

Boldly opening south of the river and east of IH-35 a little more than a year ago, India Kitchen maintains its quality, cleanliness, and hospitality. The naan comes to the table hot from the oven and in generous portions. The chutneys taste freshly made. I skipped the goat and ate tiny samples only of the palak paneer (a sort of creamed spinach) and other dishes very rich in yogurt or clarified butter or both. The lamb kofta or meatballs were delicious. I thought that the rice was wonderful. My favorite favorite dish this time around was one made of yellow lentils (not chickpeas); the first bite seemed a bit bland, although the texture was perfect, but a second one began to reveal the complexity and pleasure of the seasoning. There were those who could not get enough of the onion pakore or fritters; my return visit to the biffet was for the dal (this one’s thin in texture, but extremely flavorful). Desserts that pleased those who sampled them were a type of rice pudding, a sweetened carrot dish, and watermelon wedges.

A neighbor reports that this is a good place for those who must observe gluten-free diets, that the owners will advise on ingredients and tailor dishes. Beer is available. Food may be picked up for takeout, and delivery is offered at certain hours within a radius from the restaurant.

We enjoyed the music on the sound system very much. So did a pair of visitors whose native language could not be determined, although they could speak both English and Spanish to an equal, sometimes not useful, extent. The owner offered to burn them a CD.

Here’s what Yelp reports; here’s my first report. All apart from the food, I still love those giant cloth napkins.

Hillbilly Heights in Danger

There’s a little jumble of cottages just south of Oltorf on Wilson Street that I’d been to a few times but never knew was called Hillbilly Heights. The lead singer of the Lucky Strikes lived there and may still, and so did a friend of mine who is a massage therapist. They are basic but comfortable and in a great location, especially if you’re a musician.  Apparently, the place has been and is still home to a large number of Austin (Live Music Capital!) musicians.  And now, will Hillbilly Heights follow Liberty Lunch, Les Amis, and numerous others to merely be a fleeting memory? Apparently, there are condos planned for this little spot, which means that this unique little community will be gone.  That is, unless a group of the current residents and others in the Dawson neighborhood can somehow finagle the place into being a historic property.  Not sure what the chances of that happening are, at this late stage. But if you’d like to support them, you can join them tonight from 6:30 to 8 pm at the Multipurpose Center in Gillis Park near Oltorf and South First.

My Empty Phantom

My Empty Phantom at End of an EarFriday evening I wandered up to End of an Ear for 6pm and My Empty Phantom.

I’d heard some tracks from Jesses my space page and do from time to time enjoy ambient, down tempo music. It somehow conveys feeling without lyrics, it has style in that it generally has no style. Jesse was ready to play when I arrived but the store was almost deserted. On cue, just as he was about to start, a small crowd arrived and Jesse played a short set.

Unlike lots of ambient, and other music made in the bedroom, Jesse played instruments, including haunting synths, and a psychedelic guitar, no computer in sight. It was only a short set, and quietly spoken Jesse seemed unsure, some what insecure, but his music spoke for him, unlike film music, a genre most often compared to this sort of ambient music, the music was the foreground here, not the background.

Although billed as a CD release party, there were no CD’s in evidence. Jesse can be seen in a show on July 15th at 10pm at The Hideout Theater with hotel,hotel and the Improv Tuesday jam..

Bike racing downtown this w/e

No, it’s not an ROT do-over, the engines this time are human powered.

With the Tour de France about to start, the timing of this weekends 5th Annual AT&T Downtown Austin crit couldn’t have been better placed, unless that is you need to get around on the course.

Saturday afternoon and evening will see the roads around City Hall and the 2nd St District including The one-kilometer course will be laid out around City Hall, including Guadalupe, 2nd Street, Colorado, and 4th Street, closed completely, or partially while the races going on.

Crit racing is possibly the most interesting of cycle racing since it normally uses small circuits such as the one out in East Austin, everyone starts at the same time and the first person across the line wins. If only it were that simple though. Bicycle racing has as much to do with aerodynamics as it does with muscle, jump out of the pack at the right moment and you can get a 50yd lead. While Saturday afternoon and Sunday see the regular cyclists racing(aka the amatuers), Saturday evening from 7pm sees the pro’s race and there are some good teams, such as Rock Racing and Toyota United Racing, including international riders such as Ivan Dominguez from CUBA and Henk Vogels of Austria, as well as Sean Sullivan from Austrlia to give local team Hotel San Jose and the US domestic riders a hard time.

There is a PDF flyer here with an overview of the racing, and you can find a list of the pro teams here. I’ve considered having a go a couple of times, only I really don’t think my sprinting is up to it, besides I don’t want to be responsible for a crash.

So, feel free to go along. Unlike last nights Yoga at the Blanton, which I knew I shouldn’t have written about, as it was full when I got there, there will be plenty of room on the streets for more spectators!

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