1999 Readers Poll
1999 Critics Picks
Best Corporate Team-building Experience

Work atmosphere tense? Deadlines looming? Clients crying? Boss acting like a real pr!ck? Feel like you could just go off like Dirty Harry, Rambo, or the little kid in Home Alone? A darned fine way to make sure that the atmosphere at your work place doesn't go too "postal" (or "day trader" ) is to blow off steam together in a jaunty little match of laser tag. The staff at Laser Quest knows from experience how to assist us in our group therapy. Here at the Chronicle, we can attest that breaking our staff into three competing armies and going gonzo in a dark room filled with fog and loud techno music has brought our team to new heights of "togetherness." Love your brother-man. Watch your back. Peace through strength.

Laser Quest

Best Exploitation On The Airwaves

Black Belt Jones, look out! Those cats Sara & Jen are bad muthahs- Shut yo' mouff! Blaxploitation! @#!x%! Sexploitation! #^$@!! Trex-ploitation! Hell, if it can be exploited, they'll find a way to exploit it. The outlandish radio promos pimping the show of the primping FM soul sisters, Trexler and Garrison, are a laff-riotous get-your-groove-on stew of the sassiest, sexiest, baddest-ass moments from films and trailers of the above genres. Produced by super-bad butt-boy Patrick Stanger, the segments can be heard throughout KROX's day, turning everyone within listening range into a bunch of brainwashed superfreaks!

101X FM
8309 N. I-35

Best Free Computer Help

For those of us who can barely tell a sewing matching treadle from a Macintosh mouse, the UT computer help line is a godsend. No questions asked. No enrollment necessary. Although intended for the UT community, they do answer, er, "anonymous contacts." The budding Dells, Gates, and Wozniaks at the help line answer over 100,000 questions each year, so chances are they'll be able to answer yours. They won't send a nerd right over, but he or she will be there in spirit. Walk-in and e-mail help also available at During UT calendar days, they are open Monday-Thursday, 9am-8:30pm, and Fridays 9am-6pm. During UT breaks, Monday-Friday, 9am-6pm.

University of Texas at Austin
727 E. Dean Keeton, 512/471-3434
Sarah M. & Charles E. Seay Building, Speedway & Dean Keeton, 512/471-1157
UT Architecture Library, 200 Battle Hall, 512/495-4620
University of Texas Department of Art & Art History, 2301 San Jacinto, 512/475-7718

Best Infotainment Web Site

It's totally fitting that the Alamo Drafthouse's Web site mirrors the theatre's success, for is a veritable feast for film lovers. Chock-full of useful information, the local site features helpful framing bands that provide a quick scan of important information (hours of operation, location, etc.), with secondary pages which contain food and drink menus, relevant links, and other worthwhile information. Easy to navigate, colorful without being busy, informative without being overwhelming and updated along with their film schedule, it's a model for other entertainment sites.

Alamo Drafthouse
Alamo Drafthouse Village, 2700 W. Anderson #701, 512/861-7030
Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar, 1120 S. Lamar, 512/861-7040
Alamo Drafthouse at the Ritz, 320 E. Sixth, 512/861-7020
Alamo Drafthouse Slaughter Lane, 5701 W. Slaughter, 512/861-7060
Alamo Drafthouse Lakeline, 14028 Hwy. 183 N., 512/861-7070

Best Misplaced Modifier

Every Sweetish Hill bag says, "Baked Daily While You Sleep With the Finest of Ingredients." Perhaps this is what they mean by "fresh."

Best Multimedia Receptionist Desk

It's said you only have one chance to make a first impression. Walk into this bustling Austin-based ad agency and prepare to be impressed. Brushed steel panels are broken by a die-cut company logo overlaid on ever-shifting, hypnotic video imagery. Designed by architects Elizabeth Danze and John Blood, with video created by former T3-er Mike Clark, the impression this work leaves is one of cool, cutting-edge competence.

1806 Rio Grande St.

Best Nerds To Call When The Computer Conks Out

So the computer has conked out, and you don't want to haul it to the repair place. Or maybe you're ready to surf the Net but have no idea how to get aboard. Let the pros brave your place, tweak your computer, and actually show you what to do yourself. Not as pricey as the competition and quick to make those appointments, Mobile Nerds tweaked our comp in under an hour. It's been humming along very nicely since, thank you.

Mobile Nerds
3605 Ruby Red

Best Net-based Grassroots Movement

"Environmental awareness is currently an annoying burden to the consumer, who must spend his and her time gazing at plastic recycling labels, washing the garbage and so on. Better information environments can make the invisible visible, however, and this can lead to a swift reevaluation of previously invisible public ills."Since this manifesto was pre-released, Sterling has created a Viridian e-mail list and Web site. The Viridian strategy is to use network tools to hack culture, and to build a fashion conspiracy around environmental awareness before too many greenhouse summers have fried Texas to a crisp. The Viridian design aesthetic is driven by a series of contests. The e-mail list is up to 90 messages and counting, on subjects like "The Coal Burning Net," "The Viridian Botanisphere," "The Greening Earth Society," "American Power Brokers," etc. Heady stuff.

Best Of The Net

As director of TRC, Gene is working to ensure that Net access reaches rural Texans in a meaningful way. TRC, the state's Telecommunications Infrastructure Fund, and emerging community networks (such as Austin Free-Net) are putting Texas way ahead of the rest of the nation in supporting widespread local Net development and universal access to Internet technology. The Internet made us think globally; community networks are teaching us to act locally with network technology, closing the digital divide between the information haves and have-nots.

Telecommunity Resource Center

Best Place To Get A Custom Pc

When Mom needed a new PC for Christmas, the Computer Renaissance team was up to the task. They provided helpful advice, support, and delivery of a sturdy, inexpensive computer they put together themselves. They've been great post-sale, providing technical support for one of the sweetest of new computer users.

Computer Renaissance
10740 Research Blvd., Ste. A, 512/342-2667
1601 S IH35, 512/248-8510

Best PSAs

The FCC mandates that every radio station, public or commercial, dedicate a certain amount of airtime to public service announcements (PSAs). Most college and nonprofit stations trot these out en masse, but few demonstrate the creativity and passion that drives Dave Davis, KOOP radio's PSA stalwart. While most listeners may not recognize his name or his face, we've all heard Dave's masterpieces of production exhorting us to be kind to cats, avoid swearing, and obey the law of karma. We consider that top-notch service.

3823-B Airport

Best Radio Show While Sitting Alone In The Dark

We've gotten really hooked on Jay Trachtenberg's jazz explorations every Wednesday night, 8pm-midnight, while working late to put out the Chronicle. But we really learned to love him while bicycling home. Coasting silently through the dark, and then later sitting alone in an equally dark house, Trachtenberg's selections suit the darkness and solitude like the perfect wine paired with an excellent meal.

KUT 90.5FM
300 W. Dean Keeton

Best Radio Station For Paranoid Insomniacs

The truth is out there, and it's being broadcast to dozens of Austinites awake and listening to KJFK's syndicated talk radio in the middle of the night. Host Art Bell spends hours disseminating information involving flying cars, government conspiracies, apocalyptic Y2K predictions, el chupacabra, and all things alien while never disclosing his physical location and always using a secure phone line. For those of us who think Occam's razor is just so much hooey, it's worth a little sleep deprivation to listen.

KJFK 98.9 FM
1143 Northwestern

Best Reason To Rent A Computer (or Get Yours Serviced)

The trusty laptop died just before a dreaded family reunion - how could we plead having to check e-mail back at the hotel and dodge kissing Aunt Ethel without it? A few calls to rental places revealed high prices and discouragingly expensive deposits until we found Computer Associates of Austin. Not only did they have the lowest rates, their tiny office was so homey we wanted to stay and read the magazines. And next time we will - next time the computer conks out.

Computer Associates of Austin
1708 W. Koenig

Best Satirical Campaign Web Site

It looks just like the official website ( of our resident next president, and that has Shrub hoppin' mad. "There ought to be limits to freedom!" Bush exclaimed after learning of the site that almost exactly mimics the real thing, except that it digs up all those ugly facts that Mr. Compassionate Conservative would rather you didn't know. Thank the stars (and Founding Fathers) for the First Amendment.

Best Silly Local Tv Ads

Comp Nerdz's confoundingly funny and compellingly whacked-out commercials are made on the cheap, in-house, by VP of marketing Rob Lewis. At a sliver of the average ad budget, these ads still rival anything produced locally. Just check out their co-op promotion with Blazer Lazer tag, where a dutiful nerd, ably assisting a family in need, gets grabbed by the tag-bound kids, who shout, "Mom, can we take the nerd, puh-leeeeez?" Then there's that credit card ad homage with the suave nerd emerging from his vehicle to the voiceover, "Watch: $16,000. Shoes: $19.95." And as he reachs the client's front door, "Someone who can help you with your computer: Priceless -" That's exactly what we said. Oh, and Nerd fans: Check out their sexy porno-soundtrack hold music.

Computer Nerdz
2438 W. Anderson, Ste. A-1

Best Speed Dealer

Psst, buddy. Looking for something that'll make you go real fast and keep you up forever? Forget that bathtub biker speed. 1999 brought Austin Web surfers two affordable broadband Internet access choices. Both offer instant, always-up connections at speeds that make 56K modems seem like they are on Quaaludes. There are significant differences between them, but either one of these connections can hook you with some pure speed.

Southwestern Bell
909 Colorado

Time Warner Cable
12012 MoPac N.

Best Statesman Features Writer

Though he writes features, the American-Statesman's Patrick Beach is hardly some human-interest zombie spewing petrified prose about lost puppies and platitude-spouting centenarians. No, like recent departee Hank Steuver, Beach is a writer whose features give readers the feel of a story - the smell of an event, the taste of a life, the texture of mystery. In a smattering of breezy but well-chosen words, Beach can present Polaroid-perfect images of a scene and capture a keen sense of relationship between people and setting. It may be a legislative beer bash, where he notes the humorous juxtaposition of Margo Frasier and Drew Nixon under the same tent, or the UT Tower, where he fills in the final moments of a suicide jumper's life, but Beach consistently nails the human element wherein lies the story.

Patrick Beach
Austin American-Statesman
305 S. Congress

Best Texas History Web Site

The Web site puts the full 7,000-page, six-volume state encyclopedia at the fingertips of casual and serious researchers alike, through the World Wide Web, without a subscription fee. Like the 1996 printed version, the online version includes 23,500 articles on a myriad of subjects dealing with our Lone Star state.

Texas State Historical Association
University of TX Austin2.306 Sid Richardson Hall

Best TV News Features

We've seen his ponytail hanging upside down as he investigated acrobatic massage techniques. We've purred over his piece about a baby squirrel adopted by a mama cat into her new bundle of kitties, and we know we're in for other offbeat treats the several nights a week his "On the Porch" segment wraps up KXAN-36's 10pm news. Jim Swift never fails to give the often mundane prattle of local news a distinctly human touch as he ferrets out real people and heartfelt stories. He knows what makes Austin truly unique, and he knows it's newsworthy. We applaud him.

908 W. MLK

Best Underdog To Cheer

In a year of swirling controversy, they're still on the air. After personnel changes, a much-needed move to permanent facilities, and extended funding from the city, they're working hard to get commercial revenue to ensure survival. Like them or not, they are committed to supporting the local music scene, and on that count alone, we hope they fare well as they kick off their second year under the current management. Catch their special anniversary celebration special called "Willie Week," October, 3-9. Stay tuned; you might find yourself hanging out a while -

Best Weekend Anchor

Though she has what must be one of TV's most thankless jobs, KVUE weekend anchor Kim Barnes not only performs on a par equal to that of her award-winning weekday counterparts, but is a true pleasure to watch. An experienced reporter who typically eschews visual flash for facts, presented clearly and professionally, Barnes brings a newshound's sensibility to the anchor desk. She's there to inform you, not be your pal or give you a dramatic interpretation of the headlines, and she gives you the sense that she knows what she's telling you about. That's not to say Barnes is a news drone - far from it, she has a winning smile and low-key cogeniality - but what keeps us tuning back in is her unabashed allegiance to the news and giving it straight to her viewers.

Kim Barnes
3201 Steck

Coolest Texas Ad In Our Tv Market

Whoa, daddio! It's a mad, mad, mad, mad, mad world, moving faster and faster every day, with wacky innovations and inventions of global proportion. Our world is positively electric! TXU knows this, and knows not to waste our time with hypocritical "clean-burning," enviro-feel-good rationalization ads. No excuses, here, darnit! They're a power utility, and proud of it - and Dallas ad agency Publicis conveys being in love with the modern world like nobody's business. Their TXU commercial, a fast-paced futuro-retro ode to electricity and natural gas, sums up America's fascination with going faster, burning brighter, staying cooler, and lasting longer. The music, a ditty called "Miniskirt" by Boston-Vegas lounge luminaries Combustible Edison, lends just enough space-age bachelor feel to the hi-watt hi-jinx.

Publicis Advertising
3500 Maple, Ste. 450

Most Astounding By A Local Company

Austin-based has been gathering steam for the last year or so, but quietly. Whoever knew that their IPO would fly so high, or that they would make a marketing deal so huge that it would blast breathless headlines all across the weeklies? And that one deal's not all: banners are popping up everywhere, and the site's quickly becoming an online mecca for consumers of allopathic medicine. The bearded ol' ex-Surgeon General and his colleagues have created a site focused on content rather than commerce, with tons of information written from a traditional medical perspective. They'll probably attract billions of eyeballs and make tons of money on advertising alone, despite that hospital smell. You gotta admire the chutzpah of a Web company that'll drop all those millions into AOL's piggy bank without a clue whether they'll ever see a cent returned. Could be far behind?

Tech Ranch
8920 Business Park Dr., #200

Most Welcome Addition To Local Tv News

Time Warner's new cable-only, 24-hour local news channel is still pretty unproven (it just went on the air September 13), but its mere presence is already a nice quick fix - anytime you want it - for Austin news junkies. Since News8 is funded mainly by Time Warner Cable itself and is intended as a lure to gain new subscribers, they promise the channel's coverage will be driven by news rather than profits, ratings, and network tie-ins. If News8 makes good on that, they'll be making appearances in this poll for years to come.

Time Warner Cable
12012 MoPac N., 512/485-5555
Road Runner, 1905 N. Mays, Round Rock, 512/531-3278

Prettiest Goldurn E-commerce Site

You gotta hand it to the guys at Garden Escape: They've managed to create a truly beautiful site while avoiding the bugaboo of fat images and resulting looooong download times. It's not that hard to create a dazzling aesthetic when you've got so many flowers to work with, but to do that, and make it load reasonably fast? Takes our breath away. They don't just "sell flowers," though daisies and roses and azaleas are all over the site, including the chat room, where every participant has a nifty little flower image. sells plants, seeds, books, supplies, ambient decor - a bit of everything for or about the garden. And instead of a shopping cart, they give you a wheelbarrow to push around the virtual store. Naturally!

Garden Escape
704 W. Sixth

Sportiest Use Of Public Airwaves

For some reason, for the longest time the two-time defending NL Central champs got no respect on the Austin radio dial - until this year. KFON SportsFan 1490 brings Austin Astroholics the entire Astros radio package all season long, from the AstroLaunch pregame show and Milo Hamilton's play-by-play to the Alan Ashby Postgame Scoreboard. They even locally produce "Talkin' Baseball," a relentlessly pro-'Stro call-in show (say that three times!). Astros radio in Austin? Ho! Lee! Toledo!

KFON 1490 AM
811 Barton Springs Rd.

Critics: Kids
Critics: Outdoors & Recreation

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