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Welcome to our annual free-floating thought-association game.

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What a catalog of treasures you hold in your hand. Whether you love this issue or hate it, agree or constantly disagree, The Austin Chronicle's "Best of Austin 2000" is a free-floating thought-association game about Austin. Go for it. Enjoy the issue. Send in additions, arguments, corrections, or contradictions. Much of this issue was decided by you, our readers, and we thank you for voting.

The "Best of" issue should not be thought of as a definitive work. It is just another volume in a library of great Austin items, a library that includes past "Best of" issues and future ones as well. This is really an ongoing, impressionistic mosaic about Austin.

Last night I went to a reading of Larry Wright's new screenplay at The Hideout. A new coffeehouse/arts venue between Sixth and Seventh on Congress, it offers an intimate performance space in the back as well as a smaller stage upstairs. The reading was terrific, the cast complemented by pros G.W. Bailey and Barry Corbin. The venue proved ideal for such a reading. After the show, I thought about the realities of "Best of Austin"; here was a wonderful event in a space I'd never even been to before. Sure, the town is growing to busting, but this has also bred activity all over the city. There is no way to keep track of the ever-changing Austin, but this issue sure is an attempt. With a nod to the past and a look toward the future, we present a portrait of Austin present. These "Best of"s are a celebration by our readers and our writers of the people, places, and things that make this community special.

There was a time, after the first couple years we'd done "Best of Austin," that I had reservations about the issue. The whole qualitative ranking at the heart of "Best of"s seemed out of whack with the Chronicle's core beliefs. Myopic as usual, I didn't consider that I've always enjoyed reading these issues from other cities. Looking back over year after year of "Best of Austin,"I was reassured as to how much fun these past issues are to read.

This is an issue that involves the whole staff but a special nod to Kate Messer for heading up (editing is too small a designation) the "Best of" team. Art director Taylor Holland masterminded the design. But by voting, you, the readers, really steered this issue.

I've taken to bitching and moaning about current Austin with the worst of them -- hideous middle-aged men with big bellies standing around, endlessly rambling about the good old days and how much better everything was back then. This usually lasts until I leave town. Flying in and driving back through Austin, I'm always reminded of how much I love this town. The "Best of" issue is a taxi ride back home from the airport when you've been away from Austin awhile.

Howard Stern disappeared from the radio the other morning as KJFK changed formats. I've ranted before about how great local morning radio is, especially in contrast to radio during the rest of the day. It is probably appropriate in the "Best of" issue to give my annual nod to the impressive line-up. Dale and Bob on KLBJ-FM, Sam and Bob on KVET-FM, Kevin and Kevin of KGSR-FM, John Aielli of KUT-FM: Our cup still runneth over.

One of the driving forces behind this issue was Cindy Widner, an editor I've been in awe of since our Daily Texan days together two decades ago. A few months back, Cindy became our managing editor and has since helped the staff focus on making production smoother. I think this is reflected in the paper in many ways. Having more time to think about what we are doing improves the quality of the paper. end story

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

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