1997 Readers Poll
1997 Critics Picks
Best 'new Media' Biz

Monsterbit Media designs and builds web sites, but anybody who knows Monsterbit knows that's not the whole story. Several Austin bands and musicians call Monsterbit home; it's the best source of multimedia nuggets from quirky local bands, and the home of King Coffey's 24/7 RealAudio jam.

Monsterbit Media
800 Brazos

Best Against-all-odds Media

With rusty old equipment and virtually no budget, the troopers at UT's mini-station, KVR-TV, keep fighting against dead air. These kids are DIY-ing their way to a better education than UT could ever offer, and creating the kind of low-budg cool you used to find on ACTV. Sure, you can only pick up UHF channel 9 within a 20 block radius of UT, but if you're one of the lucky ones to catch shows like Cyclops Wheelbarrow -- featuring naked, drunk sorority girls and vomiting fraternity boys -- you know that the KVR crew is busy bringing new meaning to the First Amendment.


Best Applesauce From Rotten Apples

They've "lost their license for speeding." After just two years as leader of the Mac clone market, the sassy firm that out-marketed and out-innovated Apple Computer itself has sold its core products back to the California computer maker. Refusing to become a victim of Apple's seesawing business strategies, the company that once led the charge to "Fight back for the Mac" is now staking its future on the crowded Wintel laptop market. Can they survive without their fans, or is this just a PowerTrip? Only time will tell.

Best Austinite To Shake Up Hollywood

One day, he was a little kid our editor Louis Black used to see running around collectors' conventions ("with better comics than the adults"), then he's suddenly got Quentin Tarantino calling him "The Wolf Blitzer of the InterNet." Who is Harry J. Knowles and how does he get directors like Joel Schumacher so pissed? Just go to and check out his filmland gossip and news site yourself. And just think, Jodie Foster might be perusing it at the same time you are....

Ain't It Cool News
PO Box 180011

Best Cable Substitute

Can't afford cable or, have no intention of paying for TV when you feel like you already watch too much? Fear not! KNVA will make you forget about Time Warner - the latest late night rerun faves being Barney Miller and All in the Family. Missing ESPN? How about a good four hour fix of major league baseball? Turn on, tune in to the only station with the singing frog. (If you don't count those frogs of beer ad fame.)

Best Community Networking Activists

Sue Beckwith's been working long and hard to create and sustain community networking projects throughout Austin: a project to put 74 computers in Austin's Public Libraries, an East Austin Media Lab to teach East Austin youth job-grabbin' multimedia skills, a project to use Internet connectivity to reduce juvenile crime, and more. Sue's incredible energy electrifies these projects and ensures their vibrancy. Sue and Free-Net are one half of Austin's one-two punch for proliferation of Internet access, the other half being Gene Crick and the Metropolitan Austin Interactive Network (MAIN). &

Best Doorway To Fringe Culture

One of the first virtual corporations, FringeWare, Inc. has always been, as Bob Rossney once said, "at the cutting edge of the cutting edge." FringeWare has cultivated affinities along the technocultural borders of consensus reality, creating a true "temporary autonomous zone" and a great party online and off. The FringeWare book store supplanted the late great Europa Books as coolest source of human code, and the FringeWare web site is chock full o' fringe goodies.

Best Eye On The Tornado

When the May 27 tornado struck the tiny town of Jarrell and generally wreaked havoc all around, the Austin American-Statesman hunkered down and covered the story like there was no tomorrow. They did the same thing the next day and the next, practically leaving no stone unturned with words and visuals. There's nothing like a natural disaster to put journalism teamwork to the test. The Statesman weathered the storm nicely.

Austin American-Statesman
305 S. Congress

Best Good Cause Leap On A Marketing Bandwagon

Women's pro basketball is a hot ticket. For the first time in history, there are two functional pro leagues (ABL & WNBA) enjoying the glow of successful first seasons and looking forward to bright futures ahead. So the Center for Disease Control knew what it was doing when it stategically placed billboards promoting immunization shots just in time for the beginning of the school year, which happened to coincide with the finale of this summer's WNBA season. The billboards, which appear all over Austin, feature a cute little baby girl rolling a basketball on the floor of what looks to be an arena. The telling and edifying text reads: "Give Her a Shot at the Pros!"

Best Idea Whose Time Has Come

Internet Service Providers have a rough business. They're in a market so new that nobody knows how it's supposed to work. Internet legislation's being proposed at state and federal levels. Way-deregulated telcos heap gobs of drool on the market as the tiny ISPs try to gain a foothold. The SPA wants ISPs to patrol for copyright infringement. An ISP is busted for Usenet porn, others face potential lawsuits over contents of their members' web pages. Texas ISPs saw the handwriting on the wall and created the first-ever ISP trade association, based in Austin. TISPA has already been effective in influencing legislation that effects ISPs by clarifying for legislators what an ISP is all about.

Texas Internet Service Providers' Association (TISPA)

Best Ink Jet Recharge

The fine folks at ALBAAT work with you to get the most out of that expensive computer printer ink cartridge. Ink cartridges can be recycled five to seven times at about half the cost of a new cartridge. Each cartridge is tested, and if it cannot be recharged then the cartridge and ink left in it will be disposed of properly.

ALBAAT (A Little Bit at a Time)
12129 N. Hwy. 620 #540

Best Internet Tool

Austin software company's been getting great press for its product, a tool for realtime interactive group or individual communication on the Internet. iChat is the platform of choice for chat rooms on Yahoo, Pathfinder, iVillage, Sony, and other high-end web sites. A new iChat gadget, the pager, allows individuals to find each other and chat online without popping into chat rooms.


Best Linux Users Group

For many people, Linux, an inexpensive PC-based implementation of the multi-user, multi-tasking, industrial strength UNIX operating system, is becoming the OS of choice. The Austin Linux Group takes an informal, hands-on, seminar-like approach to Linux which appeals equally to beginners and old system administrators. Lab sessions focus on installing Linux and resolving hardware conflicts, while lecture sessions focus on programming, software, networking and theoretical issues. Almost all meetings feature communal pizzas seasoned with liberal amounts of Bill Gates-bashing.

Austin Linux Group

Best Little Screen In Town

Rob Campanell's dream to produce an online soap opera was finally realized recently through InterneTV, which he operates with Austin multimediast Jay Ashcraft. Both have been talking the Internet's multimedia potential for years now, and with InterneTV they're pushing the envelope. I gotta warn you, it's a rather small envelope-like 2 inches wide and an inch and a half tall, the dimensions of InterneTV's screen within a screen. Only a matter of time, though, 'til Internet pipes are fat enough for all to support big video, big sound. Meanwhile that soap opera, "Austin," is into its eighth episode, "Karen gets into trouble."


Best Local Food Web Site

Visiting Larry Butler & Carol Ann Sayle down on the virtual farm is our new favorite recreational activity. We can catch up on what's available at the Wednesday and Saturday markets, order Tubby Totes or farm T-shirts by mail, download some delicious recipes for cooking with fresh, local organic produce, and read up on the history of the 150-year old farm-house and surrounding acreage. The Boggy Creek farmers have become masters at promoting their five acre "market garden" in East Austin.

Boggy Creek Farm
3414 Lyons

Best Local Usenet Watchdog & Helpful Guy

Most users of Internet e-mail have to spend at least a few minutes each day shoveling unsolicited messages – spam, in the parlance – out of their inboxes. Software developer Chip Rosenthal argues that spam costs not only time, but money, and he's been doing something about it. An active participant in Austin's Usenet scene from its early days, Rosenthal has written posting guidelines for local newsgroups. He actively patrols for – and cancels – posts that come from unscrupulous Net abusers. Still, his presence makes him a regular target of complaints. To avoid the perception that he works capriciously, Rosenthal keeps a public record of the posts he cancels on his website. Until the courts give us more protection from junk e-mail, we're glad Chip's around: In these info-glutted times, spam-free living is worth the fight.

304 E. Fifth, 442-9503,

Best Looking Crank

Alex Jones Libertarian posterboy Alex Jones has a radio show on KJFK called The Real Spin. But if you limit your Alex exposure to just radio, you are missing half the fun. No, the real show is on ACAC, on his access TV show called Reality Check. Damn, he's good-looking. Now, we hope this doesn't go to his head, because he does seem to be an impressionable young lad. But Jones' heart always seems to be in the right place, expressing outrage at the dominant media and the Clinton administration and whatever other windmill he can topple. His nicely chiseled features contort shockingly into all sorts of configurations to accent his disdain and chagrin. It's kinda fun to watch. And damn, he is cute....

Alex Jones

Best Mindtrip

We can't pretend that we really know what's going on when we watch Space Channel, but we are sure that it's not bad for us. Beth Clare and OVA, a "a group of teachers of Pleiades" channel we're not sure who... but it's probably someone dead. The first time we stumbled across this program, we were mesmerized. Clare looms in front of a keyed-in backdrop of the Eagle Nebula with her eyes shut tight and words tumbling out of her mouth. She speaks in an odd meter, almost with the accent of a Southern Hemispherian about things like fear, remote viewing (?), depression, being human, and hallucinogenic plants. (Heeeeyyyyyy, this is starting to make sense!) At first we thought she might be South African because of how she would put heavy stresses on the first syllables of certain words. Then we thought Australian or New Zealander. But an ACAC staffer assures us she's all-American, and says, "Now, don't quote me, but I think she's making all that stuff up." Hmmmmmm. Tune in... same Space Time, same Space Channel!

Cable Channel 10, Fridays, 10pm; ACAC, 478-8600

Best More Than A Pretty Face TV Reporter

Fletcher recently moved from KTBC Fox 7 to KVUE 24. And she's the rare TV reporter who rises at the crack of dawn to make the Mayor's 8am kaffeklatch, who shows up every week to council work sessions and meetings, and who actually knows enough to ask intelligent questions and move beyond pointing a microphone in someone's face and saying, "Tell us what happened today." Fletcher can articulate her own unscripted, informed thoughts live on camera because she bothers to know the issues and the players.

3201 Steck

Best New Austin American-Statesman Writer

Richard Oppel stated his intention to hire "up" when filling writing positions when he took over at the daily. We think his best new hire is lifestyle writer Patrick Beach who hit the ground running with a dead-on profile of local legend Eddie Wilson during his first week in Austin and then impressed us with a personal story about fighting leukemia with a bone marrow transplant in his own family. In a few short months, we've come to expect revealing, insightful writing beneath his byline and Beach does not disappoint.

Austin American-Statesman
305 S. Congress

Best Online Community

Allucquere Rosanne Stone, aka Sandy, has participated in online communities since her days on Communitree, one of the earliest, so it was natural that her unconventional multimedia lab at the UT School of Communications would develop as its backbone a strong sense of virtual community spirit. Sandy herself represents a postmodern, poststructural media vision past the McLuhanesque edge, where every representation of identity is acknowledged as a performance piece, and multiple personalilty is not a syndrome, but a way of life. The ACTLab itself is a creative hotbed within Austin's multimedia gulch; the best and brightest of UT's students clamor to participate. The current rumor that Sandy's been denied tenure is reminiscent of John Silber's treatment in the late 60s; Austinites and others concerned over UT's commitment to the cutting edges of technology should protest.

Advanced Communications Technology Lab (ACTLab)
RTF Dept., University of Texas

Best Overworked And Underused Elections Reporter

Statesman city reporter Ben Wear covered every campaign forum for every single race, but his hard work often ended up buried in the back of the Statesman's Metro-State section or never appeared at all. Although he was the only Statesman reporter assigned to all four council races, Wear managed to pull off some excellent reporting on the election season, if you could find it. His coverage after the Place 6 run-off was particularly enlightening. Attention Statesman: Someone needs a raise.

Austin American-Statesman
305 S. Congress

Best Print Ad Rip-off? Or Homage?

For months we watched a woman's crotch, a pair of fishnets, and some stilettos. Then, this new, jungle print wonder arrived for our viewing pleasure, spoofing the Forbidden Fruit ad that caused no end of controversy, this new concoction was swiftly followed by shots of several baristas in the altogether - a series parading the creative cojones of those responsible for Mojo's Daily Grind naked-as-they-wanna-be campaign.

Best Radio Station You Can't Get

Almost as if to taunt us Austinites and damn us to corporate airwaves, the signal for the Hill Country's Rebel Radio-KFAN, 107.9-fades just about 10 miles west of town; and with it fades sets of music that'll sandwich the V-Roys between the Derailers and Ray Wylie Hubbard. Could you tune in, you might find that followed up with Wilco and Willie and the boys. Hmm- who sells really good antennae?


Best Religious Partridge Family

Ricky Sparkman loves Jesus like nobody's business. He makes it everybody's business on an access TV program called Sparks Speaks, which unfortunately does not have a regular time slot (call for schedule). The baby boomer loves the music of the Sixties, too, but has seen fit to change the words around a little to bring the Gospel into brand new territories, with the music of the Beatles and Steppenwolf. So, in between his monologue for the day, his band, comprised of Sparkman on guitar and lead vox and his cute little towhead daughters on bass and drums, belt out the hits with a twist. A Jesus Twist. You go, God!

Channel Austin
1143 Northwestern

Best Roadside Exclamations

When it comes to thoroughfare signage that proffers pithy satire - that sort of savvy wise-ass commentary on local follies that provokes a good guffaw as you cruise past - El Arroyo is el rey; it has the sign of the times. But for roadside messages that speak more to a state of mind than the state of the city that express some inner condition - a mood an attitude - in a bright burst of language Peoples Pharmacy rules. Whether it's an Elvisary "Hunka Hunka" or a Roy Rogers-esque "Whoa Trigger!" Peoples' signed exclamations communicate something primal - and fun. Hey! We love \'em!

Peoples Rx
4018 N. Lamar, 512/459-0845
3801 S. Lamar, 512/444-8866
13860 Hwy. 183 N. Ste. C, 512/219-9499
4201 Westbank, 512/327-8868

Best Sabotaged Bumper Sticker

The absolute best splicing job goes to whoever emblazoned: "I'm Pro Blues Explosion & I Vote" on back of his or her Honda. Too bad there's nothing particularly local about it. For sheer length, a nod goes to the Saab with "Animals are like mom, I like them better alive" done entirely in sliced up Waterloo Records stickers. But the winner, for its subtlety and obscurity, goes to the Say Anything fan who doctored up a Lloyd Doggett sticker to read Lloyd Dobler.

Lloyd Doggett

Best Self-indulgent Nepotism In Advertising

When local chef and sauce master Raymond Tatum first went to work for Eddie Wilson early this year, we couldn't see anything but an odd couple. However, the hilarious, tongue-in-cheek summer ad campaign touting Tatum's menu specials at the original Threadgill's location revealed they share a self-deprecating sense of humor and love of good food. Similarly, the Threadgill's ads placed on the local broadcasts of the syndicated series Xena: Warrior Princess are also hysterical and full of self-parody.And it's no secret that Threadgill's Eddie Wilson is the proud step-pop of Renee O'Connor, the local hero actress-cum-superhero sidekick to Xena. As Gabrielle, O'Connor kicks ass and takes notes as the bard who records the adventures of Xena. And this just makes Eddie Wilson beam.

Best Slack Pickup

This past election showed that the major television news outlets in this town care little about city elections. Thankfully, those of us who are concerned about local government found relief - and immediate election results - on the city-owned Channel 6. The channel featured a good team-up with KLBJ in the primaries and KVET in the runoff for frequent updates, interviews, and analysis - but we still miss Brigid Shea's insights from 1996.

Cable Channel 6
309 W. Second

Best Story We Thought We'd Never See

After years of watching the local daily ignore the wheelings and dealings of Gary Bradley, it was a pleasant surprise to see the Statesman examine our least favorite aquifer-busting mustachioed millionaire developer in a three-part series in mid-June (albeit a decade late).

Austin American-Statesman
305 S. Congress

Best Technophiliac History:

Austin's resident cyberpunk archivist Bruce Sterling and author Richard Kadrey, perceiving the romance of technological acceleration with planned obsolescence, realized that new media was burying old so fast and so deep that a historical index was needed, pronto. Sterling ran with it, but he wisely shared the responsibility for the archive with, well, anybody who crossed his virtual path. The Dead Media email list and archive rocks on; no doubt an encycopedic hardcopy version will ultimately emerge. There are several web pages mentioning the Dead Media Project. One of the better pages is at

Best Television Performances By A Former Governor

Whether she's sharing her informed perspective on the death penalty with the panel on Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher or enlightening Dennis Miller about her recovery from alcoholism, the former guv with the signature bouffantus-erectus hairdo always entertains. Within minutes of taking the stage, Richards had each of the irreverant, smirking bad boys of late night talk eating right out of her hand. Armed with disarming self-awareness and a rapier wit punctuated by her raucous laughter, Ann Richards is simply a great talk-show guest.

Ann Richards

Best Truth Test

The Austin American-Statesman after the Willie Lewis campaign asserted that Eric Mitchell had missed over 25 percent of city council votes in seven months, the Statesman performed their own detailed study of council voting records - and consequently provided the ammunition which helped sink their own endorsed candidate. The Statesman's detailed chart chronicling the voting records of all seven councilmembers covered an entire year and showed without a doubt that Mitchell was the worst offender on the dais in absences and abstentions. The meticulous research and willingness to print the damaging results are applauded - and appreciated - by the Chronicle.

Austin American-Statesman
305 S. Congress

Best Use Of $287,000

For roughly what it costs to pave one block of city street, the Austin Music Network gives local cable subscribers a year's worth of music video-some national, most local. Sure there are lots of reruns; but, given the minuscule budget by TV standards, the staff does a deft job of covering all bases. Plus if you're watching that much TV, you probably have time enough to get out and see some live music. Don't cha think?

Best Virtual Storefront

I resisted this, but I gotta admit: underneath that slick corporate veneer, there's real juice. At Dell's online store, you can build 'n buy your own computer and pick up the requisite peripheral warez or buy one of Dell's packages, zippo-bang, just like that. The word on the street is that the service is great, and Dell's raking it in, yet again.


Susan Dell's Clothes Store, 3801 Capital of TX Hwy. N. Ste. A-100, 512/708-9550

Best Way To Check On Your Potential Internet Pal Or Sweetie

It's an Ether out there! Anybody could be anybody. How do you find out more about a mysterious new pen-pal you found on How do you know that he or she is a regular troll on Thank the dieties for DejaNews. This local firm has cornered a slice of the Internet idea pie by providing an on-going archive of all Unenet posts. And their service doesn't end there. The user-friendliness of their search engine is so inviting, and their path to way-too-much information is so logical, you'll be checking up on yourself!

Deja News
5407 Clay

Best Women's Show Host Who Is A Woman

Saturday night and you aint got nobody... Or, maybe you do but you just don't feel like facing the crowds that will inevitably be out there on a weekend night. Grab yourself a cool drink and turn your radio dial to 90.5 FM. Not only will you hear the smooth and soothing voice of DJ Teresa Ferguson, you'll also hear a full two hours of women musicians and singers - including occasional live sets by local fem faves. Music by women but not for women only.

KUT 90.5FM
300 W. Dean Keeton

Best Women's Show Host Who's Not A Woman

He's charming, sexy, deboiner- the Cary Grant of the Austin airwaves. We all know that the best man for the job is a woman, but in a brilliant fit of Nineties reverse open-mindedism, the best woman for the job of hosting KVRX's Women's Show this summer was a man - all man. Foxy, Ipswich, England-native Richard Whymark held down the femme-fort - and ooooh, what an accent! This semester, he's back to gender-free freeform radio on Tuesday nights. Cheers, man; good job!

PO Box D

Critics: Kids
Critics: Outdoors & Recreation

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