Welcome home!

Congress Avenue was made for parades; the Welcome Home, Iraq Veterans parade was made for Congress Avenue. On July 7, we marched up Congress Avenue to the Capitol grounds and then we returned on foot all the way back to the downtown side of the bridge. Many of us followed the wonderful band of the 36th Infantry Division of Camp Mabry, which sounds better than ever. It’s been a long time since we were privileged to hear this outfit. What spirit the band brought to the occasion! Five brass Sousaphones! Trombones out front! Mere pictures and videos cannot capture the event, but they’re souvenirs to remind us of the day and all the volunteers who created the tribute. Thank you!

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Juneteenth parade a spirited event

This year’s Juneteenth parade brought together the largest number of club riders on gaited horses that most of us have ever seen in one place at one time. Missing dignitaries were Austin mayor Leffingwell and council-members Riley and Cole. The elected officials drawing the greatest positive response at our viewing point across from the Fresh Up Club sign were the county judge, the county sheriff, and precinct constable Danny Thomas. Only one marching band turned out, the Greater Houston All Star Band. The percussionists of Spirit of the Drum made lively music, and the ladies drawing sweet music from the pans were most welcome. Volunteers seeking voters to register were having a degree of success. We talked to four of them and saw more; they were covering the entire parade route. The best prize seen was a bouncy soccer-style ball bestowed on a child very happy to receive it. We came home with a new supply of souvenir fans to take to other free Austin hot-weather events and to cool us in the yard when we escape the non-air-conditioned confines of the house this summer. Toy-camera photos and unedited videos give only a hint of the always joyous occasion of the annual Juneteenth parade.


Gilbert & Sullivan’s Patience = happiness

Patience played to a full house, including all the children who arrived early for a special program and remained for the entire matinee performance yesterday, just as entranced as the rest of us.

H.M.S. Pinafore, The Pirates of Penzance, and The Mikado seem to be the most frequently performed masterpieces, but, thanks to our very own Gilbert & Sullivan Society of Austin, we are privileged to enjoy every gem and delight in the Gilbert and Sullivan repertory.

Sparkling in the intimate new performance setting of the arts center of Brentwood Christian School (map), which seats 400 and boasts an orchestra pit that conceals the professional-quality 15-piece orchestra, Patience is a complete theatrical experience. The 22-voice chorus (11 men, 11 women) sang with a snappy vigor and the clarity that made the supertitles showcasing the lyrics really unnecessary.

Every principal singer shone, and the audience welcomed the return of comic and musical stalwarts Arthur Di Bianca, Holton Johnson, Jeanette Jones, and Russell Gregory. Meredith Ruduski, as Patience the dairy maid herself, was a fine lyric and comic presence.

Everyone associated with this production should be very proud. A lot of the stage business and choreography was quite demanding. The audience laughed everywhere it was supposed to and nowhere it was not.

Just five performances remain: Thursday, 14 June, at 8 pm; Friday, 15 June, at 8 pm; Saturday, 16 June, at 3 pm and at 8 pm; and Sunday, 17 June, at 3 pm. For ticket information, call 474-5664; advance prices are $20 for adults ($25 at the door), $15 for students over 18 with identification ($20 at the door), and $7 for those 18 and under ($10 at the door).

Do not deprive yourself. If you love music or theater or both, treat yourself to Patience.

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Times change, Austin Java

Early Saturday we were debating where to go for a late breakfast, Austin Java came up. When I first came to Austin in 2004, Austin Java down on Barton Springs was a joy, eclectic, fun staff, interesting customers, wifi and endless coffee as well as some tasty food and great salads.

Back sometime I think in 2009 it changed to table service. In the “good ole days” you showed up, ordered and paid at the counter, they gave you a number, you found a table and either eat and left, or eat and stayed. Either way, it was simple transaction. I stopped going when they switched top table service, I met early one Thursday with Keith and Dan to discuss arrangements for an upcoming event. The visit went like this… Find a table, wait for menus, wait to order, wait for food, wait for check, wait for credit card processing and then constant “can I get anything else requests”. Even in an efficient, less waiting process, it was still 5-step transaction.

So, Saturday with my guest we decided to pass. Early Saturday evening we walked down from deepest Bouldin Creek, did a bit of the trail, the footbridge and decided to head to Shady Grove for dinner, we emerged from around the back of the new apartment building, between Uncle Billys and Austin Java, Uncle Billys seemed packed, Austin Java, not so much tables available inside and out the front. Around at Shady Grove there was a 25-minute wait for a table indoors and longer for outdoors, we waited.

So whats up with Austin Java, anyone else? Are the other Austin Java’s on 12th and Lamar and at City Hall table service? Is there something else at play here?

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Bernie: locally filmed movie a local attraction

Violet Crown CinemaThe movie Bernie is must-see entertainment.

It’s now playing in town at the Violet Crown Cinema and at the Arbor. On-line advance purchase appears to be requisite to see it at the Violet Crown; an attempt to purchase tickets at the door there was met with information that the next two shows were already sold out. So it was on to the Arbor, where the much larger house was nearly sold out.

This movie is laugh-out-loud fun. The audience even applauded spontaneously a few times. Look for familiar scenes from San Marcos, Bastrop, Smithville, Austin, and more. Quita Culpepper and Dale Dudley are on-screen presences.

Everyone loves different aspects of this movie. Here are some of my favorites: Jack Black’s singing, the singing and especially the choreography of the stage scene of “Seventy-Six Trombones” from The Music Man, the dialogue, the costumes, the humor generally, and the performances of everyone, in particular that of Richard Robichaux and, yes, those of Shirley MacLaine and, especially, Matthew McConaughey.

This would be a movie to see even if it weren’t set in Texas and weren’t filmed in part nearby. You won’t have a favorite scene to compare with the favorite scenes of others if you don’t go see it while it’s here.

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Hudson River school of painting: last day for this show

Today’s the very last day for a wonderful traveling exhibition at the Blanton Museum. There’s still time to get there before it closes at five.

It’s called “American Scenery: Different Views in Hudson River School Painting.” Views of the Susquehanna, Hudson, Saco, and other rivers and panoramas of Niagara, Lake George, Saranac astonish in their beauty. The 119 works of art are for the most part quite small, and the frames are as interesting as the art displayed within them. There’s always instructional material in addition to the labels mounted on the walls; look in the slots in the middle of the banks of benches in the exhibition halls.

The Blanton cafe and gift shop are worth visits for their own sake. There’s a gift in every price range for every age: books, toys, stationery, tabletop items, and much, much more.


Cinco de mayo conjunto fest

Fiestas Patrias for el cinco de mayo this year was two days; we had to choose one and were glad that the Sunday weather and the Sunday conjunto music made us and everyone happy, happy, happy! This is an annual event for all ages, and all ages were out on the dance floor.

The talented UT conjunto led off the program, followed by Los Pinkys, Los Texas Wranglers, Henry Zimmerle, Santiago Jimenez, Jr., and many, many more.

See toy-camera images and unedited videos, and make a place on your calendar for this event in 2013. You’ll be so glad you did!

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Train-o-mania 2012

The steam locomotive didn’t make it as far as Austin, but there’s a great big powerful post-WWII E-9 Streamliner hauling the Union Pacific special train that arrived in Austin today, right on time. Visit this special train at the Amtrak station all day tomorrow, Wednesday, April 18; from 10 am to 5 pm, there’ll be an open house on the train. Watch it depart Thursday, 19 April, day after tomorrow, at 8 am, if all goes according to schedule. It will head south from the Amtrak station, cross the railroad bridge over the river, and then run along the Butler Park pitch-and-putt course.

Steam locomotive 844 was in Austin six years ago in May and was a majestic sight arriving and departing, but this newer locomotive is a handsome exemplar of industrial might, too.

A few more toy-camera images and some unedited videos of today’s arrival are available.

The current special train goes on to San Marcos, where the mayor will greet its arrival and a band will play. Thereafter, it will spend a few days in San Antonio for Fiesta, before moving on to Houston and, eventually, to New Orleans.

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Honk!TX: honk if you love it

Music and spectacle, all free; what more could anyone want on a beautiful spring day! Honk!TX community bands paraded from east to west this year, instead of from west to east as was done last year–beginning at Pan Am park instead of disbanding there.

We kept to the east side of IH-35 again this year, where the streets are shadier and quieter and more peaceful, and we’re not sorry that we did. Two art bicycles turned out again. Music was accompanied by stilt walkers, twirlers of hula hoops, and figures on sticks (see picture).

Here’s a list of the bands participating; Austin’s own Minor Mishap Marching Band took the lead.

Here are some still images, and YouTube is a good place to search for unedited and edited videos. Anyone who missed this weekend festival lost out on a happy Austin time.

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JMueller BBQ: classic for carnivores

If there’s anything at all worth waiting in line for, it’s brisket at JMueller BBQ. Today’s was the first taste, because we do not wait in line for anything, no matter how wonderful. We happened to be there soon after opening this morning and were at the head of the line. There is call-ahead takeout, very much worth considering.

Next tine, we’ll take some sausage. Today was for feasting on the brisket, which had a deep smoke ring and not a hint of ketchup to be tasted in the rub. We enjoy it wiithout sauce, but did taste the JMueller house accompaniment, which was one-of-a-kind and quite mysterious, again without a hint of ketchup, and very tasty taken straight.

JMueller BBQ is to be found at 1502 South First. The schedule, according to the Web site, is from Wednesday through Sunday, and from 10:30 am to sell-out. Call 229-7366 with an order and pick it up in a speedy separate line.

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Austin City Limits Taping – Radiohead

This was my second trip to the Moody Theater for an Austin City Limits taping. I was back in section 1 in the balcony on the left side. We were on row A, right in the front of the balcony. That row has a slightly obscured view of the stage due to the height of the wall that runs around the edge of the balcony. It’s necessary to lean forward to see the entire stage.

This time, it was Radiohead who are playing tonight at the Erwin Center. I had tickets for that show as well in the upper deck. When I got the chance to attend the ACL taping, I sold the tickets to a friend. They’ll get a longer set at the Erwin Center, but it won’t be as intimate and the sound won’t be as good.

Radiohead ACL ProgramTerry Lickona introduced the band and also announced that the development on Block 21 that includes the Moody Theater where the show has been taping for a year has been awarded the LEED Silver Certification for Commitment to Sustainability, the first such award to a mixed use development of its size.

Comparing last night’s set list with the one from Houston, we didn’t get one of my favorites, “Everything In Its Right Place”. However, we did get three b-sides: “Daily Mail”, “The Amazing Sounds of Orgy” and “Staircase”. Thom Yorke introduced “Orgy” as a song he’d written 10 years ago that disappeared like a “wet fart in the wind”. It’s about the banking industry and how it appeared poised for a collapse. It seems that Mr. Yorke was a little early, but still correct. They also played a few new numbers including “Identikit” which has been played throughout the tour and a new one called “Skirting the Surface”.  Looking at the rest of the list, they played the first 5 tracks from The King of Limbs, three from Hail To The Thief, two from In Rainbows, one from Kid A, and one from OK Computer.

The sound, as always, was amazing, particularly during “Daily Mail” which starts with just Thom Yorke on piano. (I highly recommend picking up the Daily Mail / Staircase single). There was a lot of switching out of instruments between songs. The double drummer setup made for some interesting cross-rhythms throughout the show. Bass player, Colin Greenwood, stayed between the two drummers in the back for much of the set while Thom Yorke danced around like a crazed Leprechaun. They did two takes of “Reckoner”. Yorke wasn’t happy with the first take and had the band start over again.

The show will air sometime in October on KLRU (Channel 9) locally or your PBS affiliate.

Set list:

  1. Bloom
  2. Little by Little
  3. Daily Mail
  4. Myxomatosis
  5. Morning Mr. Magpie
  6. The Gloaming
  7. The Amazing Sounds of Orgy
  8. Staircase
  9. Reckoner
  10. Weird Fishes / Arpeggi
  11. Identikit
  12. Lotus Flower
  13. There There
  14. Feral
  15. Idioteque
  16. Skirting on the Surface (encore)
  17. Paranoid Android (encore)

Texas Independence Day parade

Texas Independence Day was yesterday, but the Texas Independence Day parade was today.

Spirits were high, even though turnout was low, perhaps because of the blustery weather. This longhorn was a great favorite of the crowd. We all loved the East Side Panther Band.

We’ve never seen so many replicas of the “Come and take it” Gonzalez flag in one place. See some and images of more parade participants here.

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Dreams of a life (SXSW)

So, I’ve never formally attended SXSW, and always wondered how I’d justify buying a wristband with so much free stuff already happening. Of course, I’ve never taken a week off work to attend either. This year see’s the normal chaotic schedule but one item is a standout for me.

British film, Dreams of a Life is scheduled for four showings between the 10th and 17th of March, starting on the 10th at 4:45pm at the Alamo Drafthouse on South Lamar. The Director Carol Morely will be on hand on Saturday to answer questions about the film, the background to the film and, inevitably the real life of Joyce Vincent and implications for a society which increasingly is moving from real to virtual, and online “friendships”.

The film explores how a young, popular party girl could disappear effectively without anyone noticing, only to be found 3-years later in her own apartment, dead, in front of the TV which was still turned-on. It’s part dramatic recreation, part documentary, part forensic anthropology and forensic archaeology. Director Morely(1) handles the topic inquisitively and sensitively, walking a fine line between being sensationalist or depressing. I left thinking about “lost” friends and actually did get in touch with a number of people in my immediate past, but also reached out to a number from a more distant past and was delighted to learn that someone I’d “heard” was dead, was in fact alive and well touring with musicians.

Dreams of a Life will make you wonder, who you are, and what happened to that friend, you know, the one you have not heard from for a while, go ahead, get in touch now, don’t wait until you’ve seen the film.

(1) Carol Morley received the Best Documentary Award at Melbourne International Film Festival for “The Alcohol Years”. In 2001 she was nominated for a BAFTA and received a special Grierson Award. Her first feature film “Edge” has been officially selected for the BFI London and Shanghai International Film Festivals.

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Fresh Plus at fresh location

new Fresh Plus groceryOpen just since yesterday, the third store for Fresh Plus now occupies the location where neighbors shopped happily when it was a Sun Harvest store before being fixed up as a Sprouts market and then closed.

Everything we have come to love at Fresh Plus (once Kash-Karry) on West Lynn is now available at 2917 West Anderson Lane (telephone 419-7379).

There’s a butcher counter and an extensive produce department. The fish appeared to be in an excellent state of freshness. We found such local favorites as Buddy’s Natural Chicken, a complete range of soaps and other products from South Austin People (So.A.P.), and Margarita’s delicious tortillas in all varieties. The store is still being stocked, so let people there know what you’d like to see. There’s plenty of space. Parking is ample, the staff is friendly and helpful, and shopping is fast.

We love our family-owned local businesses!


Lucia di Lammermoor: operatic wonder

“Enthralling” is the one-word description for the current Austin Lyric Opera production of Lucia di Lammermoor. We all know that this is a peak allergy season, but there was seldom even a half-suppressed cough or sneeze to be heard; through most of the evening there was not a sound except from the stage and the orchestra pit. Once the performance was under way, the audience was all but mesmerized.

Lucia di Lammermoor from start to finish offered beautiful music. It would be worth the price of admission to hear only the overture. The singing is a high-wire act for the principal singers in the cast and we heard some spectacular vocal fireworks. We were fortunate indeed to hear not just a fine Lucia, but also fine performances from all the men, Edgardo in particular. Physical agility was demanded and it was not lacking.

It’s not a favorite practice for there to be action while the overture is playing (as there is here). The chorus attacked its first number in a way that sounded a bit muddy. Thereafter, though, there was no reason at all to quibble about anything.

Staging, costumes, lighting, and sets matched the superlative singing and playing. Our orchestra just sounds better and better and better.

We’ll probably never have the opportunity to attend a finer Lucia here in Austin. Tickets are still available for the remaining performances (Friday, February 2, at 7:30 pm, and Sunday, February 5, at 3 pm). There are no bad seats in the house and there’s an affordable ticket for everyone, starting from $19. Lucia di Lammermoor is for everyone who loves any type of music, and this production embodies excellence in every aspect.


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