Archive for January, 2010

Something stirring in Bouldin?

Saturday saw the streets blocked, not by parking for Polvos, or South Congress, but for the Austin Home tour. Ok, that wasn’t A change; but it at least it was at least different from the normal clogged streets, if you live in close proximity.

Change is in the air though. Turns out that iconic Bouldin Creek coffee shop will be moving sometime over the summer. According to the latest Bouldin bulletin, the newsletter of the neighborhood that proudly claims “weird starts here”, Bouldin Creek Coffee is moving to the long vacant Big G tire store location on the corner of S 1st and W Mary. Just up the street really, but it will be interesting to see how they handle the move.

Real change though is at Becker Elementary school on W Milton. Long a neighborhood corner stone, the small South Austin public elementary school is going dual language. What this means is that on top of the already excellent classes provided at the school, now the children will work together in English and Spanish. As someone who has long admired the ability of the Dutch to speak better English than many Brits and Americans, they do exactly this in their elementary schools. This is a massive opportunity for elementary age school kids.

Becker is having an open evening on Tuesday 2nd between 5-6:30pm, open to kids and parents. Come see what the school can offer your family. Becker is one of four AISD elementary schools chosen to pilot this program.

Next change for Bouldin Creek neighborhood, is that its’ neighborhood associations Annual General Meeting is moving to Austin City Hall on the 9th at 6:45pm. All residents from the West side of Congress to the East side of S Lamar, from Barton Springs to Oltorf are welcome and encouraged.

In fact, if you’ve ever been to a Bouldin Creek Neighborhood Plan Contact Team (BCNPCT) meeting before, at least one, then you are strongly encouraged to come to their meeting on Wednesday 3rd from 6-7pm at Morning Star on South 1st. BCNPT will be discussing and voting on two key ordinances, front and side parking, and Mobile Food vending. Arguably, the neighborhood has more mobile food vending than any other neighborhood in Austin.

They will also be electing officers, in order to vote on either of the ordinances or the elections, you need to have attended at least one prior meeting on the BCNAPT according to its’ rules. Even if you’ve not previously attended, this could be your first, and you’ll be able to vote at a future meeting.

The Star / L’Etoile: don’t miss it!

The Star (Austin Lyric Opera)This Chabrier operetta is seldom performed, for reasons difficult to understand. The weather was on the chilly side last night, but not a single seat was vacant after the intermission, quite unusual. I heard a man say, “I didn’t want to come to this, but it’s really, really funny!” and it is.

The laughter began as soon as the curtain rose following the spritely overture. This production is absurdist and witty. It employs a small orchestra, a large chorus, a starring cast of fine singers and actors (I’d single out the king, plus his astrologer), costumes to which photos do no justice, and a wonderful set and lighting design. The choreography is truly outstanding. Everyone participates in these clever movements and dances, and performs very well. The choreographic elements are a true enhancement and are integral to the success of the show.

We in Austin are fortunate indeed to have an opportunity to see and hear The Star and in this first-rate production. The Austin Lyric Opera production has three performances remaining: on February 3, 5 (Wednesday and Friday at 7:30 pm), and 7 (Sunday at 3:30 pm).

Pulling up the drawbridge

Farewell to the Cactus Cafe, scene of countless wonderful musical experience for countless Austinites, whether affiliated officially with the campus or not. Farewell to Union Informal Classes, where people from every part of our community could be introduced to or continue learning about subjects that they might not otherwise encounter, meeting their neighbors and paying a modest fee. It makes me too sad to think about all the music over all the years, for which so many of us are so grateful. I’ll never forget the instructors or the fellow students in various wine-tasting classes, dance classes, and Spanish classes. It was via UT that so many of us here in Austin heard our first operas, being lectured on the bus by Dr. Walter Ducloux of sainted memory or Dr. William Reber. We’d travel to Houston or to Dallas by bus, and dine before the matinee performance, returning to Austin very late and stepping out into the real world again at the Villa Capri parking lot. Support for the formation of Austin Lyric Opera arose directly from those entertaining and educational jaunts. And I’ll never forget the sight of Placido Domingo being borne across the stage (precariously, it seemed) standing on a shield carried on the shoulders of a bunch of hefty guys during the Aida triumphal procession. Long gone are the fascinating movie series at the Union and elsewhere, which showed many, many movies each week and which introduced the best of Hong Kong productions to us. The obliteration of the Cactus and informal claases will result in paltry monetary savings and a great loss to our community. The fine folks at the local daily (Michael Corcoran and Tony Plohetsky) write about these latest planned curtailments at length.

It’s a buyers market

Thanks to @darenkrause over on twitter comes this report from the Housing Predictor that puts Austin number-2 on it’s places to buy list, with Huntsville, AL #1.

The reasons cited for this are a strong local economies(I guess they didn’t check with city hall on tax revenues) and good prospects for job growth; also that we are a college town. Described as a “smaller market” it says we tend to thrive during recessions as more people enroll at universities.

Something about Austin #opscamp

I’m in my 4th year in Austin, one of the things that continues to surprise me, is how I’m continually discovering new places and things. I find myself today at the Spider House at Fruth st. Never heard of it, but another really cool Austin coffee shop and location.

I’m up here for Ops Camp Austin. What? One of the other new cool things thats happening in the tech industry, and in which Austin is also a major driver, an “un-conference”.

Unlike the big commercial conferences that spend a fortune on big locations, put on endless sessions in parallel, all indiscernible from each other and attendees suffer through death by powerpoint multiple times a day. They also tend to be expensive to attend, the hotels are expensive etc.

So an un-conference is the opposite. It costs nothing to attend, it’s informal, there is no pre-set agenda, talks get posted to an informal grid, they are limited in time and thus powerpoint charts, and theres both an air of excitement and anticipation, we don’t know what we are going to do but it’s a big turnout from a lot of new and established Austin Tech companies.

Austin a delicious destination

So says Bon Appetit magazine in its February issue, giving us a two-page spread complete with map and atmospheric pix (byline Jon Paul Buchmeyer) and offering a downloadable guide in Adobe PDF form. We know that we’re a delicious destination, but sometimes it’s good to be reminded, complete with a couple of places we haven’t yet tried. We’re described as “a mecca for the eco-minded.” Food, of course, is the focus, and beyond Whole Foods, attention is devoted to establishments that “use local organic produce and all-natural Texas meats.” The list includes Wink, the Mighty Cone, Olivia, Thai Fresh, Somnio’s, House Pizzeria, and the Eastside Cafe. Bookmark this to have handy when all your SxSW visitors begin descending upon you.


Amigoland: mayor's book club

  • The idea of the Mayor’s Book Club is a little bit hokey. Some years I read the book selected and some years I don’t. I’d been passing this year’s by each time I saw it displayed at a library branch, but eventually my resistance broke bown and I borrowed it. You should, too. The various summaries I’ve seen don’t do Amigoland justice. It’s a fast read and an entertaining and good-humored one. I look forward to reading more by Oscar Casares, who teaches at UT.
  • John Mackey, nearly synonymous with Whole Foods, is the subject of a long article in the New Yorker of January 4, with extended quotations from JM himself (“Food Fighter: Does Whole Foods’ C.E.O. know what’s best for you?” by Nick Paumgarten). We read about the WH origin story, with passing reference to Central Market. Although the writer draws out JM very well, he doesn’t have much, if any, success in coaxing others to talk about JM and WF on the record. I enjoyed reading the description of the fountain of chocolate and the brief passing reviews of prepared foods from those counters.
  • Taking his place on a very short list, our own James McMurtry is named Most Valuable Rocker in The Nation of January 11. That is one category among the many in “MVPs of 2009” (byline John Nichols).
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