Sunday, November 21, 2010

A Slice Of Thin-Crust Charity

This weekend was Austin's 5th Annual Pizza Carnival, hosted by Homeslice Pizza. It was delicious and wholesome. The nice thing about Austin is there is always an option to booze at family affairs. In Texas, minors are allowed to consume alcohol as long as its in direct supervision of their parents, so I suppose this makes sense (these people love their freedom). There were a variety of events besides drinking including but not limited to eating, watching people shovel food into their mouth as fast as they could, tossing dough in the air, a pizza box folding race, holding onto a hoagie for as long as possible (I didn't understand that event), drawing mustaches on children's faces (because, duh, that totally screams "pizza") and a couple of bands and performance acts played. Lots of singing "That's Amore." All the proceeds benefited Habit Young Professionals, a division of Habitat For Humanity. From the HYP blog:

"Habitat Young Professionals (HYP) is Austin’s most engaged, active young professionals organization, offering area professionals the opportunity to make a tangible contribution to Austin Habitat’s vision. Over 60,000 working Austin families live in substandard, overcrowded, cost-burdensome housing. Each year, the financial and volunteer commitment of HYP members results in a safe, affordable home for one of those families. Homes are built with volunteer labor and community funding, and sold to home buyers with zero-interest mortgage loans. Each home buyer participates in financial education programs and contributes approximately 400 hours of "sweat equity". . . offering a hand up, not a hand out."

I will eat pizza for most causes (or none at all), but I'm glad this particular one was so altruistic. The Habitat For Humanity group ran the booths, set up events, worked their magic on stage, and all for a charity. It was wonderful to see such pro-pizza unity in these dark times of partisan bickering. It was a lovely day.

Until The Pizza Monsters attacked:

New band name? CHECK.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Stars At Night Are Big and Bright...AND FALLING

The Leonid meteor shower best viewing this year will be in the two to three hours before dawn Wednesday and Thursday, according to the editors of StarDate magazine.

There is always some uncertainty in the number of meteors the Leonid shower will produce, but viewers should expect to see at least 20 meteors per hour if they have clear skies. The nearly full moon will set several hours before dawn, and therefore not wash out any meteors in the hours immediately before dawn.

-From the Austin American Statesmen

See y'all bright 'n' early!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Weddings Announcements!! And Hate Crime Bummers.

Congratulations to Mark Reed and Dante Walkup, Texas' First Gay Texans married in Texas!

On November 11, 2010, Mark Reed married longitme partner Dante Walkup in Dallas, Texas via high-definition skype by an officiant in Washington D.C., where same-sex marriage is legal and who mailed them their D.C. marriage license. From Dallas Voice:

"It’s called “e-marriage,” and it’s a sort of high-tech version of the proxy wedding traditionally held when one of the parties can’t be physically present — because, for example, they’re in the military stationed overseas."

No, the perfect irony of using a service intended for military personnel isn't lost on me either. The couple, besides celebrating their marital bliss with friends and family in Texas, is now helping bring the genius of e-marriage to the masses:

"The couple is now working with legal experts and legislators from states where same-sex marriage is legal to draft statutes that would solidify the practice. Reed and Walkup traveled this week to Michigan for a symposium on e-marriage. While the couple has no intention of using their case to challenge Texas’ bans on same-sex marriage, Reed said they want to make it more convenient and less expensive for same-sex couples to legally wed. Reed is also in the process of changing his surname in a Texas court, and he’s been fighting The Dallas Morning News — thus far unsuccessfully — to print their announcement in “Weddings” instead of in another section called “Commitments.”

It's completely understandable that the Reed-Walkups have no intention of challenging Texas' ban on same-sex marriage. Who'd want to spend the months after planning and executing a wedding arguing in court battle to give the marriage validity? Besides the unjust system to fight, there's the vitriolic hate from the homophobes.

And the violence. Emmanuel Winston of Austin was a victim of a hate crime last February in Austin's Warehouse District. This sort of behavior exists in the gay neighborhood the most liberal city in the state? From KXAN:

"Winston and his friend were leaving a gay bar on 4th Street last February when they were followed to their car and attacked . "The guys, when they attacked us, it was unprovoked. After they attacked us they screamed just a bunch of slurs, homophobic slurs," Winston said. Police are still searching for their attackers. If caught, statistically speaking there's a good chance they will not be charged with a hate crime."

Why the F not?

"It's very hard to obtain a conviction beyond a reasonable doubt based on someone's hate," said KXAN Legal Analyst Mindy Montford. According to statistics from the Texas Department of Public Safety, since Texas enacted its hate crime law back in 2001, more than 2500 hate crimes offenses have been reported. Of those, only 11 have been prosecuted.

"You've got to really have strong evidence to show that's why the crime was committed," Montford said.

State Rep. Marc Veasey , a Democrat from Tarrant County has introduced a bill the state to merely study the law and why it's not used 3 times. The state enacted a law but refuses to use it, then refuses to figure out why it isn't being used. This from the government that hates government. Veasey is quite clear about why he can't get support for the bill/prosecutors aren't using the law:

"You have some people on the right that have said that it is a bill that protects gays and so they are against it for that reason," Veasey said.

Did you know Republicans hold an almost-super-majority in the Texas House of Representatives after the November elections?

Austin, apparently, is addressing hate crimes in next weeks agenda, hopefully with intent to help the city assist in prosecuting them. What about addressing the idea of preventing them? Are we not a tolerant community? Are we not in Austin?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Texas Government Hates Government

The Texas Government is proposing a new solution to the state's $25 million dollar deficit: dropping out of the federal Medicaid program. The New York Times reports,

"Far-right conservatives are offering [dropping out of the program] in impassioned news conferences. Moderate Republicans are studying it behind closed doors. And the party’s advisers on health care policy say it is being discussed more seriously than ever, though they admit it may be as much a huge in-your-face to Washington as anything else."

In your face Obama! In your face poor people! High fives all around!

"The Heritage Foundation, a conservative research organization, estimates Texas could save $60 billion from 2013 to 2019 by opting out of Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, dropping coverage for acute care but continuing to finance long-term care services. The Texas Health and Human Services Commission, which has 3.6 million children, people with disabilities and impoverished Texans enrolled in Medicaid and CHIP, will release its own study on the effect of ending the state’s participation in the federal match program at some point between now and January."

Guess who's poor and gets her health insurance through the Texas Health and Human Services Commission? As opposed to the Heritage Foundation, whose mission statement is "WON'T

"Currently, the Texas program costs $40 billion for a period of two years, with the federal government paying 60 percent of the bill. As a result of federal health care changes, Ms. Nelson said, millions of additional Texans will be eligible for Medicaid."

Including my boyfriend, my friends, and many other people living in Texas who are barely ineligible for Healthcare yet still poor enough to get food stamps and other social services. But I'm sure the thriving economy here will take care of them; they will all pull themselves up by their bootstraps, open their own businesses, dive into piles of money, and live the American Dream by shelling out cash for private insurance. Yay, problem solved! Oh wait. From the Dallas Morning News:

"The government announced [September 16, 2010] that nearly 4.3 million Texans lived in poverty last year, a whopping 11 percent increase. The Census Bureau study released said that Texas' poverty rate last year was 17.3 percent, once again the nation's sixth-highest. The rate among Texas children also has increased since 2008. Poverty now affects almost 1.8 million Texans younger than 18. That's just more than one of every four."

The idea that the Texan government could use Medicaid as a bargaining chip or a ploy to make Obama look bad is despicable. People in Texas desperately need this Medicaid, and perhaps the government should stop giving the government the middle finger and realize that they might actually be shooting themselves in the foot.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

FunFunFunFest 2010

The reigning "UnFest" of Austin, FunFunFunFest 2010 is the most tame yet fun of all the festivals offered in the city. The festival is purposely kept small due to the boundaries of Waterloo Park (which the festival refers to as "bucolic"; I'd consider it "dusty") and never feels panicky-overcrowded. The stages are short spurts away from each other so that it's possible to see multiple bands playing at the same time.

The organizers really pat themselves on the back, touting, "This is a festival created by people in the music scene, that are in it everyday, and are driven by the DIY attitude and work ethic found in the music they love. Broken out into genres, FFF provides unique experiences in the punk/hardcore, indie rock, hip hop/DJ, and comedy scenes. At FFF, you will see 4 core stages of some of the most progressive music and comedy in the scene today.... At this fest, show goers get more for less. They get to catch artists close up and personal before they explode, they get to see some of their favorite bands of the past reunite, and they get to discover music that they have never even heard that they'll love .... [FFF] is a true urban event in the middle of the Live Music Capitol of the World and most importantly it’s a fest that we in the scene would want to go to, without all of the filler that tends to show up at the corporate music carnivals around the world these days. Point is, our fest promoters don’t ride around in golf carts, they stage dive because they can’t help it. Fun Fun Fun Fest: the fest before the fest...where you go to see what’s about to happen as opposed to what's already been happening — booking the biggest fests biggest influences since 2005."

The stages were grouped according to artist appeal: Blue was dancey/electronic, Orange was the big band/main stage, Black was harder, rougher, and had a metal taste, and Yellow was the zanier stuff, including a comedy and video show.

I didn't make it to the Friday night kickoff party but I heard “Weird Al” Yankovic did a lot of new stuff, and Apples in Stereo are always fun.

Here are some highlights.


Monotrix: Not only did they crowd surf their entire band while playing their instruments, gave way for the best joke of the festival. At the end of their set and in thick foreign accents, they petitioned the crowd, "Do you agree that America is a monster?" Austin, normally a political crowd, was more interested in having fun. Festivals bring in a lot of out-of-towners and the answer was mixed. People kind of shrugged, some yelled, "YES!", others, "NO!" but mostly people just scratched their head. "DO YOU THINK SHE IS A MONSTER?" the lead singer tried to rally us. "That's a very complicated question!" was shouted in return.
Then they jumped off a giant boulder into the crowd.

Delorean, Barcelona based electronic dance quartet really brought it for the kids with glowsticks. I enjoyed their zone-y beats and the fact that the band danced so hard while they played. Wavves gave us their stoney San Diego surf rock and mentioned that they were happy to play during the sunny hours. Devin the Dude commanded that everyone in the crowd immediately start smoking weed and sang "I Just Wanna Fuck You" by Dr. Dre, which he is featured on.

Dirty Projectors crooned "oooh" and "ahhh" and the crowd totally dug it. Meanwhile, GWAR melted faces on the Black Stage, but thankfully not their own, as they are very durable plastic. They actually came out to sign autographs in full getup, sans appropriate underwear + fake feet. Amazeballz.

MGMT closed the blue stage and it was to be expected. They played the hits, the people liked it. Everyone goes home happy. RJD2 closed on the blue stage mixing his own beats with old school funk and soul. People on drugs rejoiced, as well as everyone else. The only major WTF moment of the day was a brief appearance by The New Movement Comedy Group, which were terrible. I was so sad for them. Not funny at all.


Ladies ruled the Sunday stages. The afternoon really started with underground rapper Jean Grae, who was was amazing. She rapped about math problems and her backup singer sang quite a lot of the number π. Tots ridic! Best Coast was fantastic, with their sunny lo-fi sing-along pop, and it was exciting to see California well represented in the crowd.

After that, Deerhunter zoned out the crowd, singing lulling melodies with long instrumental interludes while pop sensation Yelle killed it on the Blue Stage with her glittery spandex pants, dancing all over the place like manic pixie dream girl of the European variety. She will definitely be giving Karen O a run for her money. High on Fire brought equal but separate intensity to the Black Stage. Unfortunately, the Yellow Stage experienced what I saw as the only technical difficulties of the festival, showing video clips from the weirdos of Blackmagic Rollercoaster without sound! Very disappointing.

Devo had to cancel due to a hand wound (a cut to the bone!) but The Descendants and Mastodon finished out the day, along with the DJ A-Trak on the Blue Stage.

Along with the hours of music, the festival showcased lots of food, drink, and party. There were also places to ride a mechanical bull, do trampoline bungee jumping, get a hair cut, and of course, consume and shop. Lastly, the Beard-os (Austin Facial Hair Club) of town offered a kissing booth ($3 or less, more for tongue), honorary memberships bestowed, and a challenge to all persons: DON'T SHAVE!