Archive for December, 2008

Quincy Jones at SxSW Music 2009

It was just announced today that Quincy Jones will be the keynote speaker at the South by Southwest 2009 Music festival.

Legenwait for it. . . .dary.

<3Caitlin

A Designer’s Paradise

Among the many things Austin has to offer is a vast number of design firms and really talented independent designers.  It’s no secret that Austin is full of creatives, but let us delve into a little bit of what our great city has to offer.

Zocalo Design and Advertising – Zocalo is one of my favorite firms in Austin.  They create everything from web pages to packaging to identities for companies.  Zocalo’s clients have included The Austin Film Festival, KLRU and and Uchi.  My personal favorite is the environmental  graphics they do for stores.  Check them out at the the Zocalo website under environments.

Ranch RoadRanch Road is a creative solutions company based out of Austin.  They boast a lengthy client list that includes companies from 3M to Howdy Honda to Sweet Leaf Tea.  Ranch Road offers graphic design, digital printing, marketing solutions and personalized URL campaigns.  They are a one stop shop for getting your business or company’s name out there.  But mostly I enjoy the brilliant work their designers have done.  Check out the Ranch Road portfolio here.lodo

Envision Creative Group – Lastly I have to mention Envision Creative Group.  Handling everything from signage to logos to custom Powerpoint templates, Envision caters to clients like Amy’s Ice Cream and the Texas Culinary Academy.  Here is a sample of a logo they did for Let Them Eat Cupcakes. I think this logo is beautiful and memorable – everything a logo should be!

Basically Austin is a hotbed for super talented creatives.  Their amazing work can be seen all over town, at the businesses I mentioned earlier and more. Next time you see a logo or sign or brochure you like, find out who designed it. You may want to check out the designers other work, and you never know when YOU may want to hire a design firm for yourself.

–Brittany

Parking Lots, or Lots of Parks?

Although I feel completely unqualified to make this comparison, I think I’ll piggyback on Samantha’s Austin/New York analogy idea and say that Central Park is to New York City as Zilker Park is to Austin. Granted, I’ve never lived in NYC, but it’s at least the same general idea. Right?

In my estimation, green spaces are a commodity that too few of us stop to really appreciate. Can you imagine living in a concrete jungle every day of your life and not having a park, river or garden to stroll along? On the UT campus, think of the South Mall. Even today, December 2, I sat there and ate my lunch with 30-40 other students. People love being able to relax under the shade of a Spanish Oak or soak up the rays on the cool grass (although, to be honest, it’s more like hay now).

My little town of Beaver, Pa. was laid out on a grid by the founders. The centerpiece of the town? Four parks. And the perimeter of the town (at the time, although now it has expanded) was dotted by a park at each corner, as well. The quaintness of this was ruined for me when I arrived at soccer conditioning in high school and we were required to run “the four parks” (2.2 miles), as they were known, all day long.

Below is a “greatest hits” of sorts of Zilker Park in Austin, produced by Laurel Stalla. Enjoy!

-Jeff

Thank you, Austin, for Enabling My Curry Addiction

To Whom It May Concern:

My name is Saul Elbein, and I’m addicted to curry. It’s taken me a long time to get to a point where I could admit that, but it’s true.

It wasn’t so bad at first. I’d go to someplace like Madam Mam’s and sometimes I’d order a Yellow Curry. Not always, mind. Sometimes I’d order Pad Thai, or Pad Kee Mao, or any kind of other noodle dish. And they were good. They were always good. But looking back, I have to admit, every time I did, I felt a little pang in my heart. Because it wasn’t curry.

But I was doing okay. I really was. It was too expensive for me to go that often. So most of the time I ate normal, healthy things, like pizza or hamburgers. Things that could be found in the line at Kinsolving or Jester dining hall.

And then my friend Mauro turned me on to Thai Noodles House, Etc. Tucked away behind the 7-11 at 26th and the Drag, with an incomprehensible menu, cheap plastic tables, and a staff that spoke neither English nor the language of basic human kindness, it was capital-A Authentic. Best of all, probably since they cut so many corners on their health policy, it was capital-C Cheap.

Or to put this in the drug terms you can all understand, Thai Noodle was crack to Madam Mam’s cocaine.

So I started going there a lot. I’d order a Massaman curry, no rice, slurp it down while the waitress was still standing there, glaring. Then sometimes I’d order another.

I stopped seeing friends and family. Girls would complain that I always smelled like ginger and coconut milk. Those were the bad days. When I saw friends, it would only be at Thai Noodle. If they wanted pizza or a sandwich, I’d say goodbye and traipse off behind the 7-11, alone with my shame.

Looking back, now, I realize that the low point was when I pawned my roommate’s TV for curry money. I bought an industrial size bin—Red curry cut with Panang. I know you’re not supposed to mix, but I was beyond caring. I ate it all in one epic twelve hour binge, my eyes tearing up from hot sauce and ecstasy.

Those were the bad days. Then I moved away, to the far end of West Campus, at 22nd and David Street, far from the Thai Row of 26th and the Drag.

Then Crave opened at 21st. At first, I tried to avoid it. I’d walk blocks out of my way so I wouldn’t have to walk past it, wouldn’t have to smell the succulent, sweet-sour aromas wafting over the Drag.

Until one day I was late for class. I passed by and—well, I want to say that the smell crawled into my room and forced me to skip class, to walk into Crave and put down all the money I had on Yellow Curry, extra spicy. But I’ve learned, by now, that that’s just me refusing to take responsibility for my own actions.

So I stand before you, today, to beg you. Close the Thai restaurants. Why must West Campus have three within four blocks of each other? This is a clear and present danger to the students of Austin. Maybe if we can take a stand now, they’ll go back to safer things, like alcohol, or chocolate, or LSD.

Also, to be on the safe side, we should probably close Pho too.

Thanks for your consideration.

Very Truly Yours,

Saul Elbein

South by Southwest Festival

I know I’m super early, but I love this too much to hold it in any longer – the South by Southwest Festival is one of the coolest things about Austin, hands down.  The festival is broken into 3 parts.  It kicks off this year with the Interactive and Film portions of the festival (both start on March 13; the Interactive runs until March 17, and the Film until March 21.)

Billy Bob Thornton at SxSW 2008 (Photo by kris krüg)

Billy Bob Thornton at SxSW 2008 (Photo by kris krüg)

In 2008, Mark Zuckerberg (the founder of the social networking site Facebook), Frank Warren (from the online phenomenon PostSecret) and Jane McGonigal (an established game designer) were the keynote speakers for the Interactive fest. The Film fest showcased the hit films 21 and Forgetting Sarah Marshall, among many, many others.

Then. . .there is the music part. The SxSW Music Festival is undoubtedly one of the coolest fests to hit Austin, because it attracts people from all across the music industry, and also brings hundreds of bands into town, both big and small. In my three years at the music fest, I’ve had the honor of listening to Neil Young, Pete Townshend, and Lou Reed keynote, have listened to Iain Archer perform in a tiny Irish pub while the guys from Snow Patrol stood next to me, and ran into Teitur (literally) on my way to a show. On a personal note, I always love the fest, because it has always been on my birthday in past years. This is the first year where I will turn 22 two days before the music fest kicks off, but that’s OK – I’m just glad I’ll be 21 for the duration of the festival! (It helps, a LOT.)

A few bands have already been named for the 2009 Music Fest, including St. Vincent, Sage Francis and Anni Rossi. To keep up with all of the SxSW announcements of keynote speakers, performers and panel folk, you can follow them on twitter, but I think it’s more efficient to check out the Austin, TX Showlist and SxSW Baby!

Elijah Wood DJs at SxSW 2008 (Photo by aaron)

Elijah Wood DJs at SxSW 2008 (Photo by aaron)

One huge complaint about the festival is that it is incredibly expensive to attend, and that if you don’t have a badge or wristband, it’s almost impossible to get into shows. I always shell out the money for a badge, because – let’s be honest, this is all I do with my life. I paid $550 for my badge this year, which is definitely a huge sum of money that many can’t afford. Wristbands aren’t on sale yet, but they are usually upwards of $100, if memory serves me. *If* you just want to pay for a few shows, make sure you arrive at the venue REALLY, REALLY early – otherwise, you probably won’t get in. And if it’s a band like Vampire Weekend, who had so much buzz at the 2008 festival that honey came out of their noses, don’t bother; it is highly, highly unlikely you’ll make it in without a wristband or badge. What happens is, three lines are formed – a line for badges, a line for wristbands and a line for everyone else. The badge folk are let in first, followed by the wristband folk, and then everyone else. And as more and more badges show up, they’ll get trickled in to the already-moving lines. It can definitely seem unfair, but remember that badge people are usually industry people, and the bands really need them to see their sets and write about them/get excited about them, etc.

Keynotes should be announced soonish, so get excited about this festival! Hey, we start celebrating winter holidays way too early, why not celebrate an awesome music festival 3 months early?

How do you feel about SxSW? Lemme know!

-Caitlin

Austin’s Park and Pizza

So this may be a random suggestion for fall, but today’s cold weather actually reminded me of another place in Austin that I LOVE – Austin’s Park and Pizza!  Last year my boyfriend and I went one night in November.  It was about 45 degrees outside, but we braved the cold and went putt-putt golfing on the course at Austin’s.  We would have done the batting cages, but they were closed for the night. Despite having to wear gloves to keep from getting frost bitten fingers, we had SO much fun.

austin

Austin’s is a great place to go with friends to feel like you are a kid again.  They have free arcade games, games you play to win tickets (yay, prizes!), go kart racing, mini-golf, batting cages and more.  Show your college ID on Thursdays and get in for half price.

I would recommend eating before you go, though.  The pizza isn’t that great, and eating buffet at a place were kids are running around all over the place is not the most sanitary thing…

–Brittany

High-Rises Suck

Here’s an idea, okay? Let’s say you’re a developer, right, and you want to make a lot of money by building in West Campus. You know college students and their parents, so used to substandard, below-code housing, will gladly pay a-lotsa, lotsa money for a nice, pretty high-rise. You know, someplace with a gate, and a nice paint job, and whatnot. Some place tall and high-density, so we can pack in lots of students, maybe make room for a pool on the roof.

Luckily for you, the city of Austin has rezoned West Campus to allow you to throw up (if you will) all kinds of new high-rises. Now you can charge $1700 for a two bedroom, poorly made apartment. And lo and behold, people pay it. Frat boys and sorority girls, flush with their parents money–of course, you expected that. But also other people. People who want to live somewhere nice. Or that looks nice, at least, when you show it to them.

And so the arms race starts. I see you making money, and I want in. So I by some land and throw up my own. Someplace like The Block (25th Street, 28th Street, et al) or The Texan (Salado, 25th and Pearl), or Stirling, or Quarters, or Jefferson 26. And so within two years, West Campus is filled with high-rises. Gleaming and sterile, they stretch to the sky from the Drag to Lamar, popping against the sky in bolts of creamy paint.

Except you’ve made a mistake. It’s no one’s fault, really, just a law of economics. It’s called a collective action problem, or the tragedy of the commons. None of us big-money developers wants housing prices in West Campus to crash. But we all have every incentive to throw up as many high-rises as possible. More money, right? So it should come as no surprise to find that we’ve over-saturated the market. And that $1700 you used to be getting from that two-bedroom? Well, now it’s more like $1400. Or less.

Now, we might say, okay, so we’re back where we started. The neighborhood is full of cheap housing. So far, so good.

Except that it’s not. Because what used to be an actual, um, what’s the word, ‘neighborhood,’ with actual houses and whatnot, is now a sea of identical beige monstrosities. They’re ugly, they’re poorly made, they have no character.

So thank you, developers. You’ve made my neighborhood suck just a little bit more.

Bastards.