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2011CriticsMedia

Best Aural Quest
'Adventures in Sound,' KOOP 91.7FM

Like his terra-bound contemporaries, sound adventurer Dennis Campa, gentleman crate-digger and noted community radio host, whacks the aural thicket to unearth exciting nuggets of recorded history. But instead of a machete, the tools this easygoing disc jockey uses are in the form of waves. Encountering this old-timey explorer out in the pop-culture wild might elicit queries of "Dr. Demento, I presume?" But Campa dredges up more than mere novelty knock-offs. When he's not culling a theme show exploring topics as broad as 1920s black history, Looney Tunes, all-organ music, and the beat era or as specific as Spike Jones, Mississippi John Hurt, Bessie Smith, or an all-Frank Zappa show, he's spinning live at Vintage Vivant, Swan Dive's monthly trek through the dust bowl via the Jazz Age.

KOOP 91.7FM, 3823-B Airport, 512/472-1369, www.koop.org

Best Content-Rich Venue Website Update
The Hideout

Not content to rest after updating its website with details and descriptions of all the events happening at the Hideout each month, the team behind this Downtown bastion of improv entertainment also presents frequent interviews with and soapbox statements by performers, students, designers, and anyone of interest who falls across its path. It's not just come-see-this hype: It's a visually appealing, constantly refreshed, delightful look into the beating heart of a fiercely creative organization.

The Hideout Theatre, 617 Congress, 512/443-3688, www.hideouttheatre.com

Best Eye on Design
Public School

Apparently it isn't enough that the supercreative types who make up this Eastside design collective are crazy-talented: They want to sing the praises of other artists, too? The stylishly assembled blog shines a light on local and international graphic designers, photographers, illustrators, poster mavens, experimental filmmakers, and just about anybody else the Public School gang thinks is doing good work. A+, guys.

Public School, www.gotopublicschool.com

Best HomeGrown Home Shopping Host
L.A. Brown, the Liquidation Channel

Amber alert! Did you know where most amber sold in the United States comes from? We didn't until we watched L.A. Brown on the Liquidation Channel. More than a hocker of jewels, this lady host knows the answer to that question and is not afraid to break out a miniature globe and commence a geography lesson midpitch. She appeals to buyers' higher minds instead of their lizard brains. Her wit burns with the intensity of a Jalisco fire opal, her sales ability rivals any tanzanite smackdown, and if you ask her a question, she's likely to answer it with the clarity and strength of a diamond set in tungsten … on a national broadcast, originating right here in the heart of Texas.

Liquidation Channel, 100 Michael Angelo Ste. 400-D, 877/899-0099, www.liquidationchannel.com

Best Hunt for a Good Read
Mike Leggett, 'Austin American-Statesman'

Say you're not into hunting or fishing but you enjoy reading about the wonders of nature. Meet longtime Statesman writer Mike Leggett. Reading his dispatches from the world beyond our windows, one gets the impression he draws as much pleasure from snapping off a perfect round with his camera as with his rifle. The sharp-eyed East Texan has been compiling a must-read: 24 Things Every Texan Should Do Before He Dies.

Austin American-Statesman, 305 S. Congress, 512/445-3500, www.statesman.com

Best Kaiju King
Matt Frank

Talk about a monster-sized challenge. When IDW Publishing needed 100 variant covers for its new Godzilla comic, only one artist was up to the job: superfan-turned-superstar artist Matt Frank. The UT grad and expert in all rubber-suited monsters doesn't just know his Mothra from his Rodan. His daikaiju explosions helped put the crown back on the king of monsters.

Matt Frank, www.mattfrankart.com

Best Listen to Your Mother
Library of Maternal Nagging

In missives to Amsden, her son, mom blogger Sigers weaves together pictures, anecdotes, and advice, creating a fluid time capsule of who they both are and the man she believes he will one day be. As she relates those important (and so easily forgotten) rules for growing up – keep your word, strive to be your best, and don't be friends with losers – readers, too, receive the benefit of her wisdom. Tough, honest, and often hilarious, Library of Maternal Nagging is a tender snapshot of parenthood, family, and the importance of listening to your mother.

Library of Maternal Nagging, www.libraryofmaternalnagging.com

Best One-Man Media Outlet
Chase Martin - therepubliq.com

The charming and affable Chase Martin is a fixture on the gay social and charity scenes. His website, TheRepubliq.com, is hands down the best source of news, arts, entertainment, health, travel, life, business, and sports as it relates to gays. No other local publication online or in print does such a thorough job of documenting gay events in Austin. With listings of gay-friendly businesses; multiple comprehensive calendars of various activities; and the writing of veteran journalist Ann Rostow, TheRepubliq.com is where the gays in the know go to find out.

Best Reportorial Use of Twitter
Steven Kreytak, 'Austin American-Statesman'

Statesman court reporter Steven Kreytak (@StevenKreytak) has embraced Twitter for its highest and best use: reporting the minute details of criminal trials for those of us addicted to court watching but who have to hold down a real job and can't spend every damn day in court. He's given us the blow-by-blow in a number of Austin cases – including the cold case murder of Natalie Antonetti – and has kept us apprised of all manner of important in-court facts, like what Cedric Benson was wearing in court the day he accepted a plea deal on an assault charge. Keep on tweetin', Steven!

Austin American-Statesman, 305 S. Congress, 512/445-3500, www.statesman.com

Best Virtual Veggies
TIE: VegAustin; Vegetarian Network of Austin

Here are two good resources for those interested in vegan and vegetarian lifestyles. VegAustin.com is a complete source for information on restaurants, groceries, catering companies, and bakeries, plus events and other resources of interest to the ATX vegetarian and vegan communities. It includes links to articles and reviews, vegan-friendly doctors, and local action groups. One such group, the Vegetarian Network of Austin, offers a variety of services through its own website, where you'll find information on membership, a calendar of events, and public education and awareness on vegetarianism.

VegAustin.com, www.vegaustin.com

VegNetAustin.com, www.vegnetaustin.org

Most Gaybiquitous
Chase Martin

The charming and affable Chase Martin is a fixture on the gay social and charity scenes. His website, The Republiq, is one of many bright rays in Austin's gaysplosion of queer culture, news, y más. Lez be honest,: The dude's everywhere – OutCasting on KOOP, running a consulting firm, reporting on gay this and queer that, volunteering for the Octopus Club, and we hear he's no benchwarmer on the Austin Gay Basketball League, either. All that and a certain Chronicle unicorn thinks he's got a shayna punim for days. Sometimes life is just so unfair!

Planet Chase, LLC, 512/364-0034, www.therepubliq.com

Most Tech-Savvy Party Starter
Hurricane Party

In these hyper-plugged-in times, it's hard to imagine anything happening organically anymore, but that's precisely what Hurricane Party is attempting to approximate. A free, ATX-incubated app, Hurricane Party uses social-networking tools to locate your peeps around town, then helps you take that information and turn it into an occasion to shindig offline, old-school-style. We'll bring the party hats.

Hurricane Party, www.hurricaneparty.com

Critics: Kids
Critics: Outdoors & Recreation
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