As any world-changing Austin activist can attest, world-changing is a pretty tough task – especially when no one even knows you're trying to do it. See, for years now, the problem has been that only the activist community knew about their activism. No more! Along came the Web site ThirdCoastActivist.org, a shining beacon of thoughtful news and essays on international, national, and local issues from fearless reporters like Dar Jamahl and important thinkers like Dr. Robert Jensen and Raul Mahajan. Not to mention the up-to-the-minute event postings for all manner of progressive actions that are happening right under our noses, actions that truly could change the world, if we only knew they were happening. So, get on the NOWAR listserve! Bookmark ThirdCoastActivist.org! Don't let one more potential world-changing moment consist of three weird dudes with signs and hackysacks. Third Coast activists, unite!
In a city known for its live music, so many bands are destined to slowly fade away into obscurity. Each day more and more groups fall from our collective consciousness and are soon forgotten. This fate, however, will never befall a band who plays a show postered by Jack Barfield. His screen-printed posters are truly a sight to behold; rich colors, brilliant design, and a never-ending well of creativity put Jack Barfield head and shoulders above every other poster artist working in Austin. Just as amazing as his work is Barfield's dedication to the DIY Austin punk scene, a scene that, thanks to his work, will never be forgotten.
Driving along I-35 is like attending a UT advertising seminar. If you're not bombarded by the radio waves, then the billboards will guide you in the proper consumer direction. Well, most of them. More accessible than a blog, larger than a picket-line sign, and purchaseable by just about anyone with an agenda and enough dough, the humble yet obnoxious billboard is the medium of choice for our choice for this award. Has Bonnie, a self-described "curmudgeonly and cranky freelance writer living in Austin, TX," blogger and director of the Billboard Project, stumbled upon the political mouthpiece of the future? Let's just put it this way: Chick-fil-A's cows aren't the only guerillas subverting the dominant paradigm and making traffic messages their own.
InThePinkTexas.com or "Politics on the Lege of Reason," gives an insider's view to the goings-on at the state Capitol and beyond. Eileen Smith's blog is controversial, often offensive, mostly nonpartisan, and totally thought-provoking. The photos and text are updated many times a day, and a loyal group of commentators keeps the conversation going beyond the daily installments.
No snide comments about FEMA here. This award is to acknowledge our peeps manning the keyboards during the Gulf Coast's time of need, battling Katrina's waves with the communication wave of the future. Responding quicker than most print or televised media and in considerably more detail, the Austin Web – once it learned of our role in taking in thousands of hurricane evacuees – put the information out almost as quickly as it was available. Now, we don't have space to acknowledge all the cool Web wonders, but we'll name a few. Whether it was specific needs like African-American hair care products (ShugsHairAustin.blogspot.com, katrina.mayfirst.org), notices of benefits and cultural concerns (UnknownCity.com, SoulCiti.com), or general postings of local services (AustinHelpingNewOrleans.org, FromAustin.org, AustinHelpsKatrina.org, AustinBloggers.org, etc.), it is comforting to know that the tech kids had our backs covered. Now if only George W. paid more attention to online sources. Okay okay, just one comment.
Wiring the community: Regulation. Deregulation. Franchising. Monopolies. Red-lining. Sometimes the insidious nature of corporate telecommunications in Texas makes a citizen just want to hang up and unplug. Well, we'd like to shine a light on two efforts that make it a bit easier to forget, if for one moment, that most American media is held in the maws of greedy bottom-feeding bottom-line entities, and remember that sometimes corporations can use their muscle for good: Grande Communications, the li'l upstart Texas-based communications company providing telephone, high-speed internet, cable TV, and home security, has donated internet connectivity to serve three local public libraries; Advanced Micro Devices stepped in during Austin's Katrina crisis and donated 50 "personal internet communicators" (minicomputers) to the city, with a priority given to organizations conducting Katrina relief services. Kudos, Grande and AMD, for reminding us that communication can still be a noble cause.
The brainchild of the Downtown Austin Alliance, design firm Action Figure, and local PBS affiliate KLRU, Downtown is a love letter to the city's urban core. In each episode, top-notch production values help highlight three different aspects of the city's throbbing heart. Informative and amazing to look at (and accompanied by a well-selected soundtrack), Downtown shows the city at its best and dreams of the triumphs lying ahead.
Founded in 1997, this venerable magazine covering all things fitness-related made the leap from a tabloid format to a sleek and clean glossy in March of this year. Transcending the advertainment trappings of other freebie glossies, AFM offers information on health, fitness, and diet, while turning an eye toward sport, style, and life.
If you have a serious need to stay in touch with city politics, Jo Clifton and her busy-bee staff at this online newsletter can't be beat. With yearly subscriptions starting at $399 for government officials and employees and going up from there, it's not for the casual gadfly, but with reports on seemingly every single meeting that occurs in this area delivered before sunrise the next morning, it is essential reading for those directly plugged-in to the civic affairs of Austin and surrounding communities.
"You will need to be patient and a good listener. Sometimes the good listener part is the most important part of this work..." So began the job description for Austin Free-Net's call up to good citizens to come help offer our Katrina guests a virtual hookup with the outside world ... with their families, with their pasts, with their futures. "Assist evacuees with little or no computer experience in registering on the Red Cross Family Links database so their friends and family can find out where they are..." This year, Austin Free-Net, a nonprofit corporation driven by the mission to bridge digital divides, celebrated 10 years of service to our community. Their presence at the Austin Convention Center during the aftermath of the evacuation of New Orleans helped to create lifelines for countless folks, some passing through, some now calling Austin home. Thank you, Austin Free-Net.
We let you down, Austin Music Network. After enjoying 11 years of your faithful service, we let a true light on Austin television go dim. After more than a decade's struggle through the morass of dumbfounding city and telecommunications hoo-haw, you muddled through, always presenting quirky, offbeat visuals to accompany the soundtrack to Austin life. And then, just when you finally got it right, when your budgets sustained and your programming was the most community-focused and innovative thing seen on local airwaves in ages, we let the powers that be come in and pull the plug. To the peeps at the Losers Lounge Show, you will never know how many Fridays you kept us rapt with your teenage kicks, your goofball antics, and your sheer adoration for all things musical. Nadia, what can we say? You've come and gone on that frequency with a frequency that tells us you'll be back and bigger than ever. Clay, we watched as you held your tongue and your dignity at all those ridonkulous city meetings in front of so many clueless bureaucrats who just didn't get it. And we, the press, let you down the hardest. Not rising to our role as the advocate of cool, and you were the coolest. We are so sorry. But we take comfort knowing you'll be back. Somewhere, somehow. And when you are, we promise, we'll be watching, and more importantly, we'll have your back. Lastly, a message to Louis: Hang onto those tapes, buddy, hang onto those tapes.
Roiled that Hollywood Video's out of Noam Chomsky's latest lecture? Blockbuster a tad light on 9/11 investigations? Well, while these may or may not be legitimate options, Liberation Video delivers edgy and informative, left-of-center political programming directly to your doorstep. Created by local entrepreneur Michael Polachek, Liberation offers subscribers dozens of titles listed on the Web site, delivered by mail.
PO Box 15168
Want to become a socialite? Dying to find out about philanthropic balls? Holly's Hot Happenings weekly e-mails and Web site provide the skinny on what Austin's elite are doing, as well as events for the rest of us. It is a great resource for those who are new in town or for sixth generation Austinites, like Holly. To join the thousands of others who are in the know, go to www.hollyshothappenings.com.
The insidious threat to Austin's music community is not AIDS but Hepatitis C. The virus has already taken three figures near and dear to Austin's musical heart this year - Chet Helms, Biscuit Turner, and T.J. McFarland. Hope and help, however are on the way: Karen Mueller of Travis County Health & Human Services, along with Jean Brender and Suzanne Anderson, put together a 41-page document so well-informed and complete, it is used as a model by other organizations. It not only educates about the disease but offers assistance and resources to those with it. The printable document is available at: www.ci.austin.tx.us/health/downloads/resmanual.pdf.
Travis County Health and Human Services Building
4614 N. I-35
For every waiter you almost gave your number to, every barista you were almost overfriendly with, every hook-up that almost happened - there's hope. Why self-flagellate over the little moment that could've? Our very own Chronicle "A Shot in the Dark" section or its distant online cousin in matchmaking crime, Craigslist's "Missed Connections," are ready to help. Why leave it up to fickle fate? If your intended is looking for you looking for them, these are the resources to find out. And the most popular place to garner your own Desperately Seeking moment? Dolled up and shopping produce at the grocery store, baby.
And you thought public radio deejays were all white guys of a certain age and nasal condition. KUT this year added a couple velvet-throated hostesses to their lineup, turning up the sultry quotient to levels unheard-of since some lost, forgotten golden age of Sultry (or at least the day Teresa Ferguson was hired!). Laurie Gallardo's Before the Break segments, currently archived online, spotlight independent and dare-we-say underappreciated Austin bands. Hosting the Saturday-overnight shift, Shrawder plays a sophisticated selection of midnight melodies like a vodka-tonic for the auditory nerve. A fine accompaniment to whatever your various and sundry Saturday activities may be.
For many in Central Texas, "back home" means someplace where it rained so much even rolling stones gathered moss. If Austin’s your adopted hometown – or you simply need a primer for our region’s best photosynthetic bets – get the just-sprouted third edition of the TCMGA Garden Guide, with monthly planting schedules custom-tailored to our region’s finicky climate, proven variety lists, and frankly an overabundance of other resources for the inquisitive local gardener. If it’s roses in February and your tomatoes peak by June, you know you’re in Austin – now just watch out for that first frost Nov. 28.
Travis County Master Gardener Association
Armadillo World Headquarters is gone but not forgotten. Townes Van Zandt and the 13th Floor Elevators and Liberty Lunch and Stevie Ray Vaughan and Raul's and Doug Sahm and the Dicks and Les Amis: all very much gone and all very much not forgotten. Welcome to Austin, where every day is slightly worse than the day before it, leading a trail back to some golden past you weren't lucky enough to be here for. The good news? That trail goes in both directions; you just have to know where to find it. When night falls and 91.7FM becomes KVRX, the student deejays at UT throw on the lights and – by way of fuzzed-out guitars, glitchy laptops, or whatever else they get their hands on – shine new music into the darkest corners of our nostalgic city and show the way forward. Every night, KVRX plays the bands the bands you’ve never heard of have never heard of, dragging Austin reluctantly out of its past and into the bright light of day, come hell or the high swell of "Whiskey River."
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