Archive for November 20th, 2008

Austin Activism

For starters, I’m no activist. I believe in my causes and I’m actively involved in making people care about politics, but I was raised a good Presbyterian. I keep my thoughts, opinions, feelings and emotions to myself. One day I’m sure they’ll all burst forth in a horrible rage, but for now, this is working for me.

But there was something about arriving in Austin that started getting me interested in “causes.” In early 2006, I watched a movie screening in the William C. Hogg building called “Invisible Children.” You may have heard of it, as it was a fairly sizeable “movement” a few years ago. Their Web site asks: If the Greatest Generation sacrificed for war, what will our generation be known as if we sacrifice for peace? Essentially, their movement started with a movie that brought to light terrible atrocities affecting children in Uganda. If you’re interested in watching the film, you can search for screenings or buy the rough cut.

Invisible Children is an activist group that raises money to help make the lives of children in Uganda and throughout Africa a little better.

Invisible Children is an activist group that raises money to help make the lives of children in Uganda and throughout Africa a little better.

Now, like I said, I’m not really an activist, but something about this message and the atmosphere that it fostered in Austin and the UT campus was captivating. On April 29, 2006, they had me camping out on the lawn of the Texas Capitol for their event “The Global Night Commute,” intended to somewhat relate to the journey that many children in Uganda must take each night in order not to be abducted and placed in a militia.

Who’s to say what touched a nerve in me about attending this, or why I have worn a “One” bracelet for nearly four years? The point is that people in Austin are energized. There’s more excitement here about social issues–on either side of the aisle (or neither side, for that matter)–than any other place that I’ve spent significant amounts of time. It’s very exciting to be in a place like this because, dare I say it, this is the type of environment in which ideas are fostered that “change the world.”

What are you passionate about? What really drives your actions and beliefs? I can say almost without a doubt that there is probably an organization in this city for you. If you lean left, ProgressiveAustin.org might be a starting place for you. Or, if you lean right, The Young Conservatives of Texas might support your interests. Web junkie Michael Bluejay has set up a mini-directory for Austin activism, so check it out and see if something there is “for you.” Whatever you do, stop reading this blog and get out there! (Is this bad for business?)

As a brief post-script, if you want to see a short video that was both moving and energizing for me, watch below.  It’s from 2004, so it’s a bit dated, but still excellent.  (Stick with it–it gets good after the first 30 seconds or so.)  Without further ado:  Sarah McLachlan — “World on Fire.”

-Jeff

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BBC’s World Have Your Say

(credit-kut.org)

(credit-kut.org)

This week at noon the BBC program World Have Your Say has been broadcasting live from Austin via KUT 90.5 FM.

“World Have Your Say is a BBC News discussion program where people around the world set the agenda. They use all technology possible to make the program open and indicative of as many contributors as they can. Join Ros Atkins and the rest of the WHYS crew and get involved: we’ll be helping you contribute to the discussions all week. Visit the WHYS Blog to suggest a debate,” according to the KUT website.

The technology used includes: phone calls, calls over the net, text messages, emails and comments on their blog. Their goal is to create a “global conversation where the BBC provides the platform, but our contributors control the topics we discuss and how they are discussed.”

This week they have broadcasted from Killeen, Georgetown, the UT campus and the ACL studios.

This is an awesome program, and I think it is really neat that our school and city were able to be a part of it!

MGM Foods

So don’t get too excited, because this isn’t going to happen a lot, but here’s something I just found that’s really cool.

One of the things that has always bugged me about Austin is that – being, in essence, a really big small town – it doesn’t have a big enough population to support the large East/South Asian or Middle Eastern neighborhoods you find in, say, Houston, with their accompanying awesome, cheap ‘ethnic’ groceries.

So the other day, I was looking forlornly at this awesome recipe for Paneer Masala, an Indian dish of which I am somewhat fond, wondering where I was going to find paneer, the Indian farmer’s cheese with which the recipe is made, or any number of the semi-exotic spices which it called for. Things like coriander, garam masala, etc.

Anyway, I won’t bore you with the details of my epic Google search, but it eventually led me and my friend Tamilla to MGM Indian Foods up on Burnet a little past FM 2222. As soon as I saw their website – so ridden with typos as to be borderline incomprehensible – I knew it would be a quality find. 

And it was. The shelves were packed with everything you could possibly need to make Indian, Pakistani, or Bangladeshi food, from dried chickpeas to frozen naan dough to more spices than you could shake a stick at, were you inclined to go around shaking a stick at spices. Around the edges of the store, stacks of Bollywood videos (in the original Hindi!) reached to the ceiling.

The owners, a sweet older couple from Northern India, were both there, and having nothing better to do, they trailed me around the store helping me find what I needed. The spices were ridiculously, riotously, obscenely cheap. For $2.50 to $3.00 each , I got half pound bags of cumin, coriander, garam masala, and “chilly powder,” which I assume was ‘chili powder,’ although, on closer inspection of the bag, seems to be a magic powder to spray on things to make them cool down.

Oh, and while I didn’t get any, they also have tons of prepared foods, curry mixes, etc. Also very cheap. So let laziness about cooking be no excuse.

So basically: cheap prices, cool ‘authentic’ feel, helpful staff, great selection. Well worth the trip.


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