Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Where are all the Austin Startups?

An Economist said yesterday that Austin will create 20,800 new jobs over the next 12 months.

That’s great, we are still creating lots of jobs. Excellent. But there does not appear to be a lot of start up activity. That is the area of the economy that I am most interested in. That’s what brought me to Austin in the first place. I can remember driving down Mopac and seeing Dr. Koop on one side, on the other and feeling like I was at the center of something.

There is another boom going on. Some might call it a bubble. Some might call it rational exuberance. Whatever you call it, it does not seem like Austin is one of the major hubs like it was back in 1.0. Sure there are Austin start ups being formed, raising money, and being bought, but it seems like much more activity is in other cities.

If I look down the industry job board at 37 Signals – one of the de factor poster children of Web 2.0 – I don’t see any Austin companies on the list. O’Reilly ranked Austin number 7 for online startup jobs, behind San Diego, Seattle, and Washington DC, all cities I thought we would be ahead of.

So what’s the deal? Have we slipped? Moved on? Is it a good thing? What can we do about it?

I’ll be going back to Blue Star Cafeteria

With my parents in town, I thought I would take them somewhere new to eat. With all the times they took me to Luby’s growing up, the term “cafeteria” is never far from my mind when I associate my parents and going out to eat. So I thought Blue Star Cafeteria might satisfy us all. I was right.

Blue Star is the new restaurant on Burnett by Eddie Bernal. My wife really likes his 34th Street Cafe, but I’m not crazy about his take on tex-mex at Santa Rita. Blue Star hit all the right notes for us. My parents loved the meat loaf, saying the brown gravy was the best they have ever had. That’s saying a lot since brown gravy is a staple of their Southeast Texas fixins. My spinach lasagne was big and tasty. My wife had a vegatable bowl she thought was excellent. We shared an appetizer of fried artichoke, that everybody liked, including my 16 month old. I heard one couple next to us commenting on how good the food was as well.

I thought the pricing was reasonable. Our bill came to just over sixty bucks for 4 people, including two classes of wine and a beer. Most of the entrees were $9.95 or so.

I think my parents have forgotten all about the macaroni and cheese and square fish patties at Luby’s after last night.

Grindhouse Teaser Posters

Robert Rodriguez’s Troublemaker Publishing recently released some teaser posters for Comic-Con promoting the upcoming Grindhouse double feature movie project he’s been working on with Quentin Tarantino. From the posters, we learn the names of the movies (Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof and Robert Rodriguez’s Planet Terror) and the planned release date (April 6, 2007). From what’s reported in this week’s Entertainment Weekly, we learn that the movies will resemble something from a QT Fest at the Drafthouse, as a double bill of blood and guts 70s exploitation movies with an intermission of trailers for fake 70s b-movies. According to IGN’s Chris Carle, who saw a preview at Comic-Con, the footage is “righteous.”:

When describing the tone behind the double feature, Tarantino lamented that in the Seventies, the grind house pictures would always have posters that were much better or more exciting than the movies they advertised. With this collaboration, Tarantino promised, “We’re gonna make two sleazy grind house movies that deliver on the poster and more.” Expounding on the format, he stated, “This isn’t some Twilight Zone type of bullsh*t… This isn’t a faux double feature anymore. This is two movies for the price of one.”

The posters themselves are also quite “righteous,” with Tarantino’s simple red and white poster being reminiscent of a lost 70s Russ Meyer classic and Rodriguez’s taking a more modern “Sin City” approach. The Death Proof poster has a reference to Austin’s Burnet Road Drive-In theater, which is now occupied by a self-storage facility.

Rather than using studio methods to achieve the posters’ worn look, Rodriguez told EW his team did the old fashioned way, “by dragging it around the parking lot.”

Soon to be in sight

steak-n-shake.jpgFriday’s Statesman contained an unobtrusive notice, heralding the arrival of a long-overdue visitor. No, not the Stones, although details were finally announced for the concert, including the $95 ticket price I presaged two weeks ago. Buried in the business section lurked the headline I’d been waiting 14 years to read: Steak n Shake is coming to Austin. My arteries are already celebrating their impending hardening.

Steak n Shake is a chain of 24-hour diners that sprang from my homeown of Normal, Illinois in the mid-30’s. The original location was known for grinding steak into hamburger and churning its milk shakes in full view of the hardy midwestern clientele, although such Jungle-esque displays aren’t exactly up to code in the modern day restaurant. Today, Steak n Shake operates over 430 restaurants, predominantly in the midwest. St. Louis is one of the chain’s most durable markets, proudly supporting more than 40 of the eateries. And before the year is through, Austin will feel the SnS love at Slaughter and I-35.

Austinites can expect “steakburgers” (flat patties, like Sandy’s) and skinny fries, with awesome shakes and the usual assortment of diner offerings. Sit-down meals are served on china plates, which provides an oddly domestic departure from the usual 3am drunken greasefest at Whataburger. Those on the go can get theirs via takhomasak, which gets funnier with slurred speech.

I’m not sure how Steak n Shake will fare in the anti-chain environs of Austin, where Kerbey and Magnolia pretty much own my late night stomach. But Slaughter is probably a good place to start, far enough from Star Seeds to present a compelling 24-hour stop along South I-35 in a chain-friendly part of town. It’s a bit of a haul, but at some point I’ll have to make the trek to relive the glory of a Frisco Melt with an Orange Freeze. It’s an unfortunate but necessary condition of my upbringing that recalling my youth will simultaneously reduce my longevity.

Fall Ball

If you’ve got a kid who’s 5-18 and they play baseball, South Austin Little League and PONY Baseball are signing kids up for their fall baseball program. The fall program is not restricted by zip code so anyone can sign up.

Music Recommendations

This is one of those rare weekends for me where I might go out both nights. It’s hard getting old.

Last night I checked out my good friend Douglas Greer at Jovita’s. Doug is kind of a late bloomer musically, but has assembled a great set of musicians behind him (Chip Dolan, Robert McEntee) and written some great songs. I’ve been humming “Black Train” all morning. You should give it a listen.

Tonight, my wife and I are planning to go see Buttercup at Hole in the Wall. My wife fell in love with them at SXSW.

The Movie Musketeers – “Superman Returns”

The Movie Musketeers will once again be out at the Regal Gateway 16 tonight for the 7:00 and 7:30 showings of “Superman Returns”. If you go and see one of these two showings, please come talk to us after the show in front of the theater to give your opinions for our segment on the Austin Movie Show. I’ll be the one dressed as Lex Luthor. I have to go shave my head now.

The Supremes: Stop! In the Name of Lloyd

tx-redistricting.jpgThe highest court in the land finally ruled on the partisan power grab known as Texas redistricting (aka Mr. Gerry Mander). Much to the chagrin of Texas Democrats, civil libertarians, and other endangered species, the Supreme Court largely upheld the plan crafted by Tom DeLay and his TRMPAC cronies.

For those wishing to see the stain of corruption and money laundering washed away from political redistricting, the Supreme Court decision is mostly a disappointment. But then, so is the truth about Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. Redistricting has historically been a political mish-mash of favoritism and spoils, prompted by the changing demographics reported in each decennial census. In a broad 7-2 majority, the court rejected the notion that the Texas plan was any more or less putrid than previous efforts simply because it occured mid-decade and favored Republicans rather than Democrats.

But there is some solace for local Democrats, since the court indirectly addressed the tortured district of Austin institution Lloyd Doggett. In a separate vote, the justices narrowly decided that Distict 23 violates the Voting Rights Act by diluting the power of the burgeoning Hispanic vote along the Rio Grande. It also forces San Antonio to share Henry Bonilla with El Paso and Fundamentalist Mormon fugitives, which could make for an entertaining campaign someday.

By redrawing District 23, Doggett’s meandering home from Austin to the border (District 25) will also be affected. Maybe this time Lloyd’s district could be disaggregated to include only rabid secessionists and the Cabela’s in Buda, or perhaps merged with neighboring Districts 15 and 28 into a square circle Demo-take-all deathmatch between Doggett, RubĂ©n Hinojosa, and Henry Cuellar. Even with DeLay now officially a Cavalier, I’m sure someone in the Texas Republican party can get paid enough to creatively derail democracy.

The full, convoluted ruling [.pdf] and a Texas congressional map [.pdf] are online courtesy of our beloved daily.

AFS screening Elephant tonight

elephant_150x200.jpgAustin Film Society’s De/Re: Constructing the Narrative series is screening the Gus Van Sant masterpiece Elephant tonight. The movie’s about a school shooting on the scale of Columbine, and in direct contrast to its subject matter it’s very dreamlike, almost as if there’s no reaction or consequence. The kids in the movie were picked from screen tests Van Sant did with regular teenagers, adding to the realism in the film. Elephant won the 2003 Palme D’Or in Cannes and you should jump at the chance to see it on the big screen.

Tickets are $4 for the public and free to AFS members. The show is tonight at 7 at the Alamo Downtown.

Spinning on SoCo

Friends of Sound is hosting a Grand Opening party today from noon to 10pm. There will be DJs all day, and 50 cent specials on thousands of records. And oh yes, there is free beer.

FoS is located at 1704 (or 1407) S. Congress and more information can be found at

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