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SXRC: Everything else

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Do not be fooled. These are dangerous tacos. My friend ate one nuclear taco and while he was fine afterwards, oh, he was not fine the next day. Poor guy.

The rest of SXSW has been a blur so far. I’m going to Cat Dancers at 1:45 and Helvetica later and out shopping with a dude at some point, but I really took it easy these past couple days- between school and SXSW I’ve been going nonstop for a week and a half, you know? I needed a minute. But once everything settles down I promise to list my favorite movies, etc.

If you’re not doing anything Friday you need to go see Jim Boggia at Cafe Caffeine at 6. He opened for Duncan Sheik at the Cactus Cafe and I really like him. Cafe Caffeine’s far enough away from the whole brouhaha that I think it should be very chill, so come on out!

Unofficial Guide to SXSW Film

In my household, you’d think SXSW Music is the only festival coming up in the next couple of weeks. But SXSW also includes an interactive and a film festival. There are lots of industry types coming into town for all three festivals, and Jette Kernion has conveniently put together a guide to the film venues. Even if you’re a long-time Austinite, you can find out some strategies for enjoying your SXSW film festival experience, including where to eat, where to park, and where to get your wireless fix near the 6 official theaters.

Ararat Crumbling

There are only a few restaurants in Austin where voluptuous dancers perform during meals, but most of them feature a gal named “Destiny” grinding her tribal tattoo into your surf & turf special. For those who prefer the spice in their food rather than their lap, the North Loop restaurant Ararat has been bringing belly dancing and mezzes to packed crowds for over a decade. Since Ararat is rumored to be closing at the end of the month, I can only hope the Yellow Rose starts serving baba ghanoush.

I ate at Ararat several times in the 90’s, mostly for the fun of buying beer across the street, sitting on my ass to eat, and always having a really good time. Whether that’s an indictment of their food or my priorities is beside the point: eating at Ararat is definitely an event.

In the ensuing years, Ararat has developed a reputation for sketchy service, occasionally punctuated by vindictive rudeness. Perhaps the gruff shtick that represents “authenticity” in places like Dry Creek Saloon or GM Steakhouse becomes less appealing when your patrons can’t find parking and wait for non-existent tables. Some purists may not care for Ararat’s mish-mash of Mid-Eastern cuisines, but my recent visit tasted every bit as good as what I remember eating in Istanbul, just a touch whiter.

If you haven’t yet sampled Ararat, try it before March 29th. Reservations are always a good idea, but the best way to beat the crowds or service showdowns is to get there at open. Early birds can pick their table, maybe even do their own belly dancing. It’ll be easy and fast, but then you’ll miss out on the cramped energy that is half the charm.

Ararat
111 E North Loop Blvd
419.1692

Fighting the Beast

I don’t like Wal-Mart. I have lots of reasons for not liking Wal-Mart, but what it all comes down to is, I don’t like Wal-Mart. What I do like is Austin and my home and neighborhood in north-central Austin, carefully selected for its proximity to both work and cool Austin-y things. So imagine my dismay when I learned that the owners of Northcross Mall have made plans to build a 2-story Wal-Mart in a space now occupied by that mall. A space mere blocks from the home and neighborhood I love. I know, of course, that Northcross needs something new to be relevent and money-making again. But I really don’t want it to be a Wal-Mart, much less a 24-hour, 2-story beast with a 3-story parking garage facing my neighborhood. I’ve gone through lots of emotions after hearing the news, mostly anger, sadness, and resignation. But I’m starting to feel some hope and encouragement, because there are people in the neighborhoods surrounding Northcross Mall who are organizing to fight the development. Responsible Growth for Northcross is having a meeting this Thursday, November 30, at the Grace Church of the Nazarene at 7 p.m. One of the things I love about Austin is that Austinites really care about the city and its future, and they’re ready and willing to do what it takes to make their voices heard. So I’m glad there’s a group of my neighbors organizing to work for what they believe in. Join us.

The view from abroad: The Texas Season

My mother-in-law sent me this clipping (a bit out of date now but still a historical curiousity) about a Channel 4 (UK) documentary The Texas Season. The blurb reads, “Channel 4 provides a unique look at the strangest state on earth.” If someone from England steps back aghast when they learn you are from Texas, it could be they watched this show.

Christopher Hitchens “casts his incisive gaze on the Lone Star State to see what Texas stands for, what this says about America today and what it means for the rest of the world.” The show included episodes such as America’s Fattest City. No, not Austin. Houston. The Texas Solution in which Bush halved crime rates by upping incarceration and execution rates. Turning Muslim in Texas: When Christian fundamentalism just isn’t strict enough, Texans find solace in Islam. Texas Teenage Virgins: teenage birth rates and STDs soar in our state where it’s illegal to teach about birth control in our public schools and kids believe you can have oral or anal sex and still be a virgin–well enough to pass God’s law on a technicality.

She shoots, she…tries.

I got picked to do the half-court shot at the Women’s Basketball game vs. Sam Houston State next Monday, Nov. 20. I think I registered for this at Texadelphia, and as to WHY a delicate flower like myself would ever sign up for something involving the suffix -ball…well… I remember the cashier being pretty cute.

Kidding, kidding. I signed up because I can win plane tickets, which is exciting. If the prize were money, I’d spend it on plane tickets, so it all comes out in the wash. And I played (sucked hard at) a little church-league ball back in the day (4th grade) so it’s not like I’ve never touched a basketball before or anything. And…I don’t think I’m going to win it but I sure will try, and I think my friends are going to come cheer for me, so that’s exciting, you know? Hopefully I won’t embarass myself too badly.

If you’re in the mood for a trainwreck, admission to the game is FREE that night if you bring a canned good! So come on out and support the Lady Longhorns and have a nice laugh on me :o)

TV Party at the Alamo Drafthouse

I’m a complete movie snob. I like to think I rarely watch TV. I don’t have cable or a TIVO. But AJ is not much of a movie fan and so over the years of our relationship while he’s working late at nights, I’ve been sucked into the arcing plotlines of Gilmore Girls, 24, Lost, Prison Break, and Veronica Mars.

Now the Alamo Drafthouse (Austin’s most inventive think-outside-the-big-box cinema) has gotten TIVO. I can keep up with some of my favorite shows on the big screen, without commercials, glass of red wine still firmly in hand. Add an order of jalapeno poppers or apple cobbler. Can TV get better than this?

For our anniversary, Tuesday, AJ made the ultimate gesture of love and took me to see Gilmore Girls and Veronica Mars. The sound was too loud so he sat with his fingers in his ears instead of holding my hand. Still watching TV with a group of people while eating and drinking beats watching it alone. (Is that the appeal of sports bars? Who knew.)

Reserve your seat online by buying a $5 food/drink voucher.
Tuesday: Gilmore Girls and Veronica Mars
Thursday: Smallville, My Name is Earl, and The Office
Midnight Friday: 2 hours of Battlestar Galactica

North Austin Gems

As an Austinite, sometimes I feel left out. I don’t work downtown; I don’t live in the ’04; I work and live in North Austin. As a North Austinite, I’ve had to travel further to get to the latest hotspots and coolest venues. I’ve had to do more work to find those uniquely Austin places that make this such a great city to live in. But found them, I have. One such place is Genuine Joe’s on Anderson Lane. Granted, Genuine Joe’s is still technically in Central Austin, it’s the north end of Central Austin and any easy distance from my house. Genuine Joe’s is a great little coffeshop, cozy and homey, but with a lovely patio and ample parking, and serving up a great decaf cappucino.

Another fun North Austin find is The Hideout Pub at Mopac and Waters Park Road. The drinks are tasty, the food is delish (for pub grub at least), and the waitstaff is friendly. There’s a great patio area if you still count smokers among your friends or if you just want to enjoy the latest cool front to hit Austin. And best of all, there’s a fantastic jukebox with just the right mix of tunes to fuel your happy hour.

What are your favorite North Austin gems?

Search for the Perfect Vietnamese Sandwiches

A weekend ritual for my wife and me is to get some tofu sandwiches from Ba Le on North Lamar. They are my favorite sandwiches in town. Incredible cheap too. We usually pick up some of the french bread there. Four loaves for a dollar.

Bad news though. My wife drove out there today and a sign on Ba Le’s door said “closed until December 2006.” No explaination given.

With a craving for Vietnamese sandwiches, she stopped off at nearby Tam’s Deli. We’ve been to Tam’s before on a recommendation from a Vietnamese friend, but didn’t like the sandwiches as much. Today was no different. We both agreed the sandwiches were just not as good.

So where else can I get good Vietnamese sandwiches in town?

UT ranked #1 Party School

Princeton Review’s annual survey ranked UT the #1 party school in the nation. For those keeping score:

It topped the overall list – its first time atop the Princeton Review chart – by ranking second in the use of hard liquor, third in beer drinking and 13th in marijuana smoking.

I doubt if we’ll be seeing the tower lit in orange tonight after this big win. Well done.

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