Archive for October, 2008

Maker Faire

Maker Faire comes to town this Saturday. Last year was a blast, check out my photos. There’s all kinds of things going on leading up to it this weekend. I’m assuming that Laughing Squid among others will have a drinkup at the GMan.

The first event, which I’m unfortunately going to miss, is escorting the Bike Snake from the IHOP at Koenig and I-35 to the Travis County Expo Center where Maker Faire will once again be held. Bring your bike and your endurance and meet tomorrow night at 11pm and let me know how it goes. I’m really pissed off that I’ll be out of town and missing it. You’ve still got time to get tickets to the faire. It’s an event for all ages and you’ll be kicking yourself if you miss it. All the cool kids are doing it.


Music transcendent

BAM festival 2008

BAM festival 2008

The program was varied, the singers and accompanist could do no wrong, the acoustics were perfect. I’m talking about the Viva la Diva! program of the BAM (Black Arts Movement) performing arts festival. Yesterday’s concert was the only event that I was able to attend in this festival of many venues, and I’m so glad that I was there.

This was an intimate and unmediated performance, with no artificial amplification and, because of the raked seating, no hindrances to seeing every nuance. With the exception of “‘Til There was You,” from The Music Man, the mesmerizing performance of Dalila’s famous song from Samson and Dalila, and the final and comic performance by all three singers together, the program was very dramatic in character, including traditional spirituals, as well as excerpts from musical comedy and from Ballo en Mascara, Carmen, Tannhauser, Street Scene, Turandot, Il Trovatore, Porgy and Bess, The Medium, and Tosca. The music was thrilling, and accessible even to the attendees who had never before heard a program like it

A very big thank-you is deserved by Pro Arts Collective, organizer of the BAM Festival, and, not least of all, to the stirring and inspiring people up on that stage: Othalie Graham, suprano; Lori Brown Mirabal, mezzo-soprano; Judith Skinner, contralto; and Austin’s own Elden Little, piano accompanist.

It’s surprising that the King-Seabrook Chapel at Huston-Tillotson is not used more often for such events. It was perfect. The hilltop campus offers an oustanding panoramic view of Austin. I was surprised to see all the way down to the big overpasses at Ben White, in addition to all the customary visual Austin landmarks in all directions.

Song recitals used to be quite frequent on the UT campus, and well publicized, with many student programs and also nationally known singers appearing in lieder programs. Yesterday’s ambitious program harkened back to those glory days and was excellent in every way, a true artistic success. I hope that this experiment is repeated by Pro Arts and the BAM festival next year and imitated by others before then. Those of us who heard it are fortunate indeed.

u p d a t e : The Austin 360 arm of the local daily has now posted a review. The author was less taken by the dramatic soprano, but this singer had a voice intended for the Wagner-Puccini repertory, made to penetrate, and be heard over, the forte playing of the large and brassy orchestra demanded by those operas. In addition, the reviewer does not mention “Mon coeur s’oevre a ta voix,” from Samson et Dalila. She does mention the expressive dramatic movements of Judith Skinner; she was wonderful, but so were the other two, in a more subtle style. I really do hope that the festival organizers are encouraged to include an event like this next year, perhaps even including the same roster of performers.

Magnum opus concluding

It’s reported that November 2 will bring us the very last Opus Sunday comic strip. Erstwhile Austinite Berkeley Breathed has other plans. Here are two announcements, one in Editor & Publisher and the other a press release from the syndicator of the strip. Opus was born in Austin and he has been revived in the past. Will this truly be the end? Forever?

The Pit quick-lunch

The Pit Barbeque on Burnet Road

The Pit Barbeque on Burnet Road

This is The Pit Barbeque at 4707 Burnet Road. Every time I’ve ever been by there, it has not been possible to stop, or the brisket has been sold out, or it’s been a Sunday. So today was a first. Even so, the small counter dining space and all the tables were occupied. So it had to be takeout. There was a line, a fast-moving one. In a corner and not too loud, there was a TV showing business news. Except for an older, probably retired, couple, everyone seemed to be stepping out from work.

The most prominent decor items were a homemade clock on a background of a wooden jogsawed shape of Texas, plus a lit plastic sign touting the three portion sizes of banana pudding and of peach cobbler. I like it that each table has its own napkin dispenser.

We left with a pound of the extra lean brisket and a large chopped-beef sandwich. These were very pleasing items, with no evidence of “ketchup-y” stuff anywhere to be found. The menu contains all the customary items. I’m happy that this was the luncheon destination today. We saw a lot of happy people there, including the staff. Since it took so long for The Pit’s schedule and location and ours to coincide, I suppose that it may be a while before they do again. I’ll be very pleased when that happens.

Mysterious music

The house I lived in before this one was built around a tree. The tree was enclosed in glass, and inquisitive nocturnal creatures such as raccoons could be seen nightly. There was a sleeping porch atop the back shed and carport. In the carport was an upright piano. And it was in tune. And, until that day when it vanished sometime between morning and evening, at least once a month, at around three in the morning, someone would come and play beautiful music on that piano. Some of the music owed a debt to Thelonious Monk; some betrayed evidence of serious training in the classical repertoire.

I love those evenings when strains of melody are borne on the breeze from afar. This happens more often at night than in the daytime. Some people don’t love it at all, of course, thinking of it as noise, and I myself prefer the full range of sound, from the lowest bass to the most delicate treble. Unfortunately, it’s the bass and percussion that seem to be the last to decay over distance.

This weekend brought accomplished music from somewhere nearby. Had it not been so late, I would have been very tempted to track the music to its source, which must have been very close at hand. Avatars of Django and Stephane were playing, along with all proper accompaniment.

Long ago, I worked in a converted rooming house that was reputed once to have been home to Janis Joplin. Back when certain neighborhood structures were communes, some of them were musicians’ establishments. Even now, there are many working musicians nearby, but they practice elsewhere. I had never heard this particular aggregation before, but I certainly hope to hear it again, and often.

South 1st St Art Walk – Redux

The S 1st Art Walk didn’t disappoint. First up I got a great deal on a Cruiser bike from South side bicycle shop, they were doing 25% off for the day; which was great, as I was a bit short of time and had been looking for a street bike. Next-up was GAGA, I dropped off my canned food in the Capital Area Food Bank collection.

Michelle Olson - Knotty Bags

Michelle Olson - Knotty Bags

Just around the corner and outside Austin Baby, was Knotty bags. Michelle was busy crocheting hand-rolled, used plastic bags into brightly colored and strongs re-cycled and re-usable bags.

Shadymaiden Tattoo Stencil Lampshades

Shadymaiden Tattoo Stencil Lampshades

Over on the east side of S 1st, on the side of Amelia’s Retro-Vogue & Relics was Shadymaiden, Adrienne Pond was creating innovative and unusual lampshades.

milli * starr millinery

milli * starr millinery

Around the back of Amelia’s, Laura Hill, resplendent in smart, 50’s style retro clothing and glasses, was making hats for her milli*starr millinery display.

Happiness, chill out discovery of the day!

Happieness, chill out discovery of the day!

Further back was Happiness. This was the find of the day. Eclectic, quiet, cool(in more ways than one), 78704 at it’s best. I’d seen the signs but never ventured back there before. It was so good I had to call my friend and invite her to join me. Go see it yourself, some great succulents, cacti, and general good vibes.

Henris painting, pictures at the Ultraviolet salon

Henris' painting, pictures at the Ultraviolet salon

Having toured many of the other businesses and art displays, I finally found myself at the Ultraviolet salon. Outside Henri was displaying a collection of his prints, both canvass and paper. My eye was caught by the Broken Spoke picture seen on the right here, possibly perfect for what I wanted to do with my guest room. Sadly, already sold. The picture of Barton Springs pool(center) was also interesting, but a little too photo-realistic for my taste.

Silence and Sunset on South 1st

The sun goes down on TSD\'s homecoming game

The sun goes down on TSD's homecoming game

Life is full of distractions, competing priorities, places to go and people to see, general noise. And so it was late this morning that I found myself going into the Texas School for the Deaf on S 1st St. It was Homecoming day and the school was open with tours, booths and later the Homecoming football game.

Since I live up the street it seemed like a good reason to go visit. $7 entry fee, $1 for the program, was good deal. What happened next both challenged, surprised and pleased me. As I strolled along the various booths, there were people everywhere. Normally this sort of affair would feel oppressive, noise everywhere, music blasting out, children screaming, parents yelling and more. Not here, almost total silence. The sound of a generator running, but not much else, yet everywhere their were people having animated discussions and having fun. It was invigorating, inspirational.

I returned later to watch the Homecoming football game, I’ll readily admit I don’t get home coming at all. My generation(in the UK) didn’t have graduation, homecoming, or for that matter Halloween. It was watching the game I found myself really challenged. American Football which I do understand, but have never played, is indeed a game of sound. Here though, while there was some noise from the crowd, the sounds were primarily the crunch of players colliding and of referees whistles. Despite the large crowds on both sides of the field, and cheerleaders, yet again everything was conducted in near silence. Watching the coaches and players though made me realize what a challenge being deaf must be.

The players on both sides were disciplined, perhaps more so than those with hearing. The slightest gesture, the instructions, the calls, all demanded total concentration. Only a few times did the game go on past the referee calling a play dead, mostly those plays whistled dead before the snap. Fascinating. Unfortunately, while I might not know much about homecoming, I could guess that it wasn’t the way Texas School for the Deaf would have wanted, by half time they were losing 24-0 to Maryland School for the Deaf. As I left about 6-minutes into the 2nd half, Maryland had scored again.

However, I left with a new respect and understanding for the challenges faced by the deaf, and having seen what a great campus, and community that support it.

[Edit: Thanks to SukiFuller for the corrections, Homecoming eh… who’da thought?]

Tejano and conjunto music roundup

Guadalupe Jamaica 2008

Guadalupe Jamaica 2008

  • If you were disappointed that the second-day program for the Fiestas Patrias was cancelled this year, get ready for the Jamaica this Sunday at Nuestra Senora de / Our Lady of Guadalupe. The Hometown Boys, who don’t get down this way very often, will play at 6:30, followed by headliners and local favorites Little Joe y La Familia at 8. Admission is just five dollars, starting at noon, free before then. This is a great even for children. There’s music all day, plus food, raffles, games, and more.
  • There will be another jamaica on Saturday, this one at San Jose, just off South Congress. There will be food, games, prizes, and music. I know that one band will be coming up from San Antonio, but I haven’t been able to find any posters about the event; I’ve just heard about it on the radio, and the parish’s Web site is temporarily down.
  • Tejano radio KTXZ 1560-AM is at last simulcasting on the FM dial at 95.1, a boon for those who’ve been having trouble with reception on the AM band.
  • Also up this week is Hacienda Radio, streaming courtesy of the fabled Texas recording label with its long list of famous artists. Listeners have a choice of Tejano, conjunto, Mexican popular, and cumbia and hip-hop artists.
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