The scene is set on the "41st Acre," home of the Longhorn Network transmission tower. A small group is gathered around a tree, sitting atop hay bales, all dressed in tailgate finery – eye black with cows; orange everything. Members of the Longhorn marching band, with their patented zig-zag trouser trim, mill around a Texas landscape (we suspect Enchanted Rock?). The hay-balers clap politely (a cheerleader gently puffs her poms) as a familiar face steps up. "I've got one," Ricky Williams asserts as he unfolds a piece of paper: "Running! Running! Grass green, sky blue …." To hear how our Heisman hero's opus slam poetry foray turns out, you're just going to have to tune in to the Longhorn Network and wait for one of these snicker-worthy promos to pop up. This bit is part of a series of bumpers – others featuring Dale Watson, Jordan Shipley, Earl Campbell, Vince Young, and of course Smokey and Bevo – produced by Preacher PR for the network to promote its 24/7 Texas sports programming, all the live-long day.
The name is far from subtle. Vagina, the quarterly publication headed by Hillary-Anne Crosby, takes submissions by women (although Vagina notes they accept work from all women, vagina or no), and for women. With its most recent issue, released May, 2014, Vagina added the maga- to its 'zine, debuting with a gorgeous, glossy makeover. With opinions, prose, poetry, and beyond, Vagina is a beautifully packaged space for ladies to share their work.
Born out of Richard Lynn’s Eastside living room in 2000 to release the thrilling darkwave punk of locals Manikin, Super Secret Records remains Austin’s most consistent boutique imprint. Forty-four total releases count OBN III's 7-inch “No Way to Rock 'N' Roll” as the bestseller, while the one that got away goes to Chumps LP R.I.P. Good Times. Lynn can still be found on any given night of the week in Downtown dives scouting talent and making it.
Secret City Records
Maudlin. Terse. Bleak. Subversive. Tender. Hilarious. Comedian and public speaker Sean Hill helped kickstart Austin's improv scene when he founded the Hideout Theatre, but his Twitter feed, devoted to evocative, perverse, and brilliant short stories at 140 characters or less, has become an Internet comedy sensation. A novel's worth of ideas in a single breath's worth of words.
Just a month and a half into KXAN's brand new Austin-lifestyle show, Studio 512, effervescent host and relatively new Austinite Amanda Tatom has already introduced her viewers to almost as many CenTex superlatives as one issue of "Best of Austin." Dang, girl! Slow down! Every weekday Tatom and team tackle five to six fun Austin-centric subjects – from JuiceLand Peachy Green smoothie makers and potent Driskill Batini shakers to chillin' with Relax the Back and working your core to get that six-pack. Whew! And no, we don't expect this newbie go-getter to slow down anytime soon. She knows – like any good Austin-booster – that there is no shortage of worthy subjects in this town.
An online magazine originating in UT’s American Studies department, TEOA is an engaging mélange of written and visual material devoted to our city’s anxiety about itself. It’s also a hodgepodge of surprises: A meditation on the state surplus store and history of civic racism both suit it well. And while the quarterly's contributors emigrated mostly after 1995, they’re more invested in the mythology than earlier cranks – see expatriate professor Barry Shank’s corrective, “Cities Do Not Have Souls” – who rein in the nostalgia and validate newcomers. That makes it a most interesting place to drop in on the dialogue – which, like Barton Springs, is eternal.
The End of Austin
We confess a guilty pleasure: Police blotters. Especially college police blotters. College kids do the wackiest things: barfing, random vandalism, bicycle seat theft, streaking …. But unless the transgressions are especially tawdry, a blotter can be a snooze. Enter: Pieper, William R. That's how his name appears on the daily e-blasts we receive. Pieper has a gift, a way with words. We imagine Joe Friday reciting his prose. On illegal racers: "That subject took his victory lap in the back of a squad car." On public intoxication: "A non-UT subject was found struggling with gravity." On theft: "Sadly, a thief couldn’t buy a vowel so he stole two bronze consonants from a display sign. Until the letters are replaced, the plaza area will be known as the _AU_KNER Plaza." On barf: "There was evidence on the back floorboard that matched evidence leaving the subject’s mouth that alcohol and her digestive tract were not compatible." Sometimes, like move-in week, he surely doesn't have time for such embellishment, and it's all "just the facts, ma'am." But on slow days, watch out. Thanks, Piep's, you protect us with information and serve it with a smile.
University of Texas Police Department Campus Watch
2201 Robert Dedman
An unsung local success story, gregarious former pro-wrestler Stig Stench has built an international punk radio empire from an East Austin apartment. In a field (Internet radio) where you're lucky to get 30 listeners per show, StenchRadio.com averages a weekly audience of 10,000 homes across 49 countries. Specializing in live interviews with punk celebrities, Stench featured a recent evening with ex-Misfits guitarist Doyle Wolfgang von Frankenstein, which alone drew 373,000 listeners. Stench Radio decimates all competition, creating a rich niche simply through Stig's warm, friendly verbosity and spinning all the old-school punk rock, hardcore, thrash metal, and psychobilly that fits.
In 2010, Austin music junkies suffered a serious blow when the Federal Communications Commission shut down 95.9FM, the home of the infamous pirate station KAOS. According to the FCC, the station was broadcasting at over 20 times the limit allowed for unlicensed operations. Rather than resign itself to the few yards of signal strength that the limit does allow, KAOS decided to take free music to the murky depths of the Internet, far below the meddling hands of the FCC. At KAOSradioaustin.org, this pirate station continues to blow the minds of Austin audiophiles with its eclectic mix of jazz, lo-fi blues, "spazzcore," storytelling, and everything sound waves are even capable of producing. And then some. With shows like, "Absinthe and Cigarettes" and "Vomit Piñata Party," you're sure to find the right-shaped music for your ear holes.
When KEYE beat reporter Bettie Cross was one of the first local journalists to get interviews with both sides of the unfortunate fracas that erupted over a bra-fitting (or lack thereof) between local transgender activist Kylie Jack and women's foundation garment store Petticoat Fair, she could have done the same thing that handfuls of knee-jerk bloggers, Facebookers, and Tweeters had done before her: She could have picked a side, fired up her torch, and sharpened her pitchfork. Or she could have drowned the story in the bland, safe, issue-avoiding hegemony that oozes out of the compressed formula of TV news. But she didn't. She approached the controversy with measured care, she listened, and she didn't assume guilt before proof or explanation of either side. Bettie Cross performed the radical act of approaching the subjects of the story as fellow humans.
Solar-powered and just as sunny, KDRP has been tenderly tending the roots of roots music since its inception in 2009, and in that short time has become a haven of hamstrung heroes of radio like the dearly departed Larry Monroe. "Roots" is defined by the deejays with a focus on Texas and Americana music. On any given day, that could mean Allman Brothers, Slaid Cleaves, Johnny Cash, Ruthie Foster, Steve Earle, Muddy Waters, Keb' Mo', Billy Joe Shaver, and/or Shelley King, all curated by passionate music lovers and expats of commercial and more tightly controlled radio stations. Their Wednesday night Texas Music Live at Güero's Oak Garden, 6-8pm, has become a staple of the live music scene and perfectly reflects the station's mission to preserve the culture of Texas music with minimal impact on the environment. As the late, great Larry Monroe (who donated his archives, including 50 years of recordings to the station) said of KDRP, "Part of the mission is freedom …. It’s about freedom to express ourselves and for the public to express themselves." Clear ears, full hearts, can't lose.
Austin's Atlas is one of those projects that presents as humble and simple and slowly reveals itself to be hugely ambitious and amazing. As the name implies, maps are the thing, but the range is large. Its pedestrian guides are a good entry point; they aim to deepen our relationship with our surroundings with sort-of scavenger hunts for anything from street oddities and art to decorated trees to "voids," or hidden empty spaces. That's just the beginning; the Atlas features workshops, map-making tools, "mappy hours," and many other ways to think about what mapping – and Austin – is.
How else would a good news reporter handle a profound life change? What if that change involved a Leukemia diagnosis? Former Fox 7 anchor Loriana Hernandez opened up to the world, her friends, and her fans on Facebook and on a personal blog about her battle with cancer. We've followed her through chemotherapy, and watched as the fitness buff struggled to walk seven laps around the cancer ward. Processing her experience like a true journo, Hernandez breaks down her treatment and doctor-speak and shares experiences she picks up from fellow patients. More importantly, she reassures us with pictures of that megawatt smile.
Last year, we introduced this award as a new “Best of Austin” tradition. Named for Chronicle-friend, college prof, and fellow journalist Thea Williams, the award is given to recognize service and to honor Thea’s memory. We knew Thea as an executive producer at KVUE; but it was when we were invited to speak to her class at Austin Community College that we realized how very special she was. As we said last year, Thea treated her students as journalists, not student-journalists. The 2014 Thea Williams Memorial Award for Distinguished Interns goes to Neha Aziz and Nina Hernandez, who both came to us as seniors at UT early last year, and have been essential members of our intern crew since. A friendship struck between Nina and Neha immediately, and their affable natures set other interns at ease. Quickly, they became senior interns, guiding new recruits through the maze of Chronicle databasing, fact-checking, and style. Our fashionista, Neha Aziz is passionate about film and has become a regular at local festivals – even scoring a trip to Sundance this past year. Nina Hernandez is all rock & roll, interviewing local artists, especially up-and-coming women in rock. Both have stuck it out with us, even after graduation, and we are so very fortunate to have them onboard. While each has her own quirky sensibility, their shared eagerness and loyalty results in our sometimes conflating the two. We hope they forgive every time we’ve referred to them as Niha or Nena. And we hope they realize how much we treasure them both. Because for all the times we question our sanity staying in a field where there is no level playing field, where passing fads and smokescreens distract from journalism’s mission, Neha and Nina remind us – with their open hearts and love for this craft – why we’ve stuck around.
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