Life & Arts

Entertainment, live performance, food, cuisine, dining, theater, film, television, art, broadcasting, SXSW, and other arts and culture news in and around Austin and the Central Texas counties of Travis, Hays, Caldwell, Bastrop and Williamson

Photo courtesy Mindy Tucker

The SXSW Interactive kickoff keynote address was delivered today by Baratunde Thurston. That name may not be widely familiar outside plugged-in circles, but Thurston’s work is: He’s a comedian and political satirist who's driven the digital development of satirical newspaper The Onion.

He’s also an author that discusses topics from an African-American perspective. His first book, “How to Be Black,” was just published. He entwined the threads of his heritage and digital connectivity by describing how his mother, raised in rural Pennsylvania, came to join in the Black Power movement. “She changed her social networks!” Thurston said, displaying pictures on his mother marching in the street.  

But the Onion’s online content – and the strange way fake news can bleed over into real-life events – was another theme of Thurston’s speech: Earlier this year, Republican Rep. John Fleming shared a fictional Onion article, “Planned Parenthood Opens $8 Billion Abortionplex,” with his followers on Facebook, allegedly believing the article to be real.

Photo by Jeff Heimsath for KUT News

SXSW Attendees Are Interacting With Rain

South by Southwest Film and Interactive are well underway, but it's hard to find a bigger trending topic than the wet weather. KUT News' Nathan Bernier reported yesterday that the rain may be dampening festival goers' clothes, but not their spirits:  

When Joss Whedon introduced The Cabin in the Woods to a rowdy, friendly, huge crowd at the Paramount Theater on the opening night of the South by Southwest Film Festival, he explained that one of the challenges of marketing the film is that you really can't say anything about what happens in it. And he begged everyone in the audience not to say anything about what happens in it, either.

image courtesy facebook.com/vday.austin

February 14 was nearly a month ago, but this weekend Austin women are celebrating V-Day.

In this case V doesn’t just stand for Valentine: It also stands for "Victory" and "Vagina."

Two performances of “The Vagina Monologues” are showing at the 29 Street Ballroom this weekend. Originally written by Eve Ensler in 1994, the play – a series of monologues varying in tone and touching on topics including sexuality, reproductive issues, rape and female empowerment – has been continually updated over the years with new stories.  

Image courtesy sxsw.com

Attending South by Southwest is a little like entering IKEA for the first time. The sheer size of it is enough to make anyone sweat, and ask themselves nervously: "So, where do I go first?"


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Get ready Austin: the South by Southwest Interactive and Film festivals are starting Friday, March 9. 

The City of Austin has announced the first of several street closures and lane reductions beginning Friday.

  • Northbound Congress Avenue will be reduced to two lanes between Seventh and Eighth streets from 10 a. m. to 11 p. m.
  • The Rainey St. district will be closed to traffic between Driskill and River streets from 3 p. m. to 11 p.m.
  • Trinity St. will be closed between Cesar Chavez.
  • Fourth streets and East Second and Third streets will be closed between Trinity and San Jacinto streets from 7 a. m. to  6 a. m.

Photo courtesy flickr.com/drbeachvacation

SXSW Film and Interactive Start Tomorrow

Austin’s South by Southwest Film and Interactive Festivals kicks off tomorrow and downtown is preparing.

Watkins photo courtesy twitter.com/scraigwatkins, Feinberg photo courtesy kipp.org, Duncan photo courtesy U.S. Dept. of Education

SXSWedu Starts Today

South by Southwest edu starts today. The conference, in its second year, brings together education professionals and business and policy leaders to discuss innovations in learning. U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is one of this year’s keynote speakers.

Austin Homeless Icon Leslie Transferred to Hospice

Local transgendered celebrity, Leslie Cochran, was transferred out of hospital care and into an area hospice provider this weekend says community activist and friend, Debbie Russell. Russell says Leslie remains in critical condition and is receiving comfort care.

Photo by Nathan Bernier, KUT News

After a rowdier than normal South by Southwest last year, the city sought ways to “prune it back a little bit” in 2012, says city Music Office director Don Pitts.

A trifecta of high-profile incidents marred SXSW in 2011: a crane-camera fall at Stubb’s BBQ; crowds rushing gates at Auditorium Shores at a free concert by The Strokes; and an agitated crowd's  attempt to tear down a fence at the Beauty Bar during Death From Above 1979’s set. The bedlam inspired an April Fool's Day prank from the Austin Chronicle suggesting events be moved to a self-contained dome, and Pitts pitched a proposal to “dial it back” next year.

As a result, this year the rules have changed. Promoters had to apply for sound permits up to a month in advance.

Picture in your mind John C. Reilly, dressed in a filthy shirt that is five sizes too small, rainbow suspenders holding up his shorts, facing off with a wolf he has lured out of hiding by duct-taping slices of pepperoni pizza to his torso.

Then imagine a 90-minute film in which that's one of the least bizarre images to pass before your eyes. Now you have a fairly accurate sense of what to expect of the first feature film from the creators of the cult-hit sketch-comedy program Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!

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SXSW is all about volume, in more ways than one. Roughly 2,000 acts perform at the four-day music festival every year, so to spend just three minutes with each in advance of the big event is to deny your friends and loved ones a solid 100 hours of your waking, undivided attention.

To the list of weird-sounding hybrid words of the digital age, like Googling and tweeting, we can now add "pinning." As in Pinterest. It's sort of an online scrapbook or bulletin board, and it's one of the fastest-growing websites in history.

Last month, more than 10 million unique visitors signed on to Pinterest. But some of them, like Billy Winburn, are still trying to get the hang of it. At an office in Alexandria, Va., Jennifer Folsom, who works a few desks away, is walking him through the process.

Photo courtesy bravotv.com

Spoiler alert: This season of “Top Chef: Texas” is living up to its name.

Only two contestants are left heading into next week’s finale, and (spoiler alert: we really mean it this time) Austinite Paul Qui is one of them. Qui earned a place in the finale and won a trip to Costa Rica last night with his dish of king crab with sunchoke chips, lobster broth and lemon snow.

Austin American-Statesmanfood writers Annie Broyles and Nicole Villalpando say that Uchiko  chef Qui “will either win “Top Chef Texas” or, in what would be the biggest upset in “Top Chef” history, come in second to Chicago chef Sarah Grueneberg.”

Image courtesy Harry Ransom Center

Today, Feb. 21, marks what would have been the 50th birthday of David Foster Wallace.

The postmodern author – famous for his sprawling novel Infinite Jest, and collections of essays and reports – would be 50 years old today. Suffering from depression, Wallace took his life in 2008.

A silent disco at a music festival last year in Gdynia, Poland

Wireless headphone technology now makes it possible for people to have a dance party just about anywhere without large amps and speakers blowing away the entire neighborhood. The “silent disco” phenomenon has been growing over the past several years, and the City of Austin is now considering it as one option to help tackle the controversial issue of sound permits.

The Live Music Capital of the World stands out among its peers as being relatively tolerant of loud music. As Community Impact News recently pointed out in this chart, Austin allows venues to generate up to 85 decibels of sound on weekends, while San Antonio caps music at 63 decibels. Portland, Oregon seems almost sleepy by comparison, with its 60 decibel limit.

The beginning of Raging Bull finds Jake LaMotta, the former middleweight champion played by Robert De Niro, a sad shadow of his former self — a paunchy middle-aged washout reduced to converting his legacy in the ring to a stilted lounge act.

Yet those old rituals persist backstage, when he's alone with his demons and anxiously rehearsing his jabs for the big show. "Just give me a stage/where this bull here can rage," says LaMotta. Though robbed of his dignity and his manhood, he keeps on punching.

Photo courtesy flickr.com/benzies

Whether you’re ready or not, South by Southwest kicks off in just over three weeks. Here’s a compilation of recent festival announcements and reports:

SXSW Music: The music showcase grid is live on the SX Schedule website, showing who is playing where at what time. Let the tough decisions begin. In other music news, influential indie-music website Pitchfork  is trumpeting its booking of Fiona Apple at its Central Presbyterian Church showcase. "The beloved singer-songwriter hasn't played more than a handful of shows since 2007,” the site writes.

SXSW Film: A string of film conference panels and late additions to the festival has just been announced. Panels include A Conversation with Seth MacFarlane, wherein the “Family Guy” creator sounds off; Funny or Die: Future of Comedy & Everything Else, a talk with the minds behind the popular comedy website; and Screaming with Laughter: FEARnet TV's Holliston, featuring players from the horror channel and filmmaker Adam Green, who’s developed a program for the company.

Image courtesy teamcoco.com

A crew of Austin creatives has taken its “Intergalactic Nemesis” show on the road – with a stop on Conan O’Brien’s show last night.

What is “The Intergalactic Nemesis” you may ask? Essentially, it’s a live-action comic book where performers enact a fantastic sci-fi story with live music and sound effects. The crew last night featured “Nemesis” producer and director Jason Neulander, musician and composer Graham ReynoldsBuzz Moran providing foley effects, and others – including O’Brien and his sidekick Andy Richeter. The art behind the performers was also created by another Austinite, Tim Doyle.

You can view the performance on the “Conan” website. The “Nemesis” crew concludes its tour in March, and will present a rough cut of its newest piece, “Book Two: Robot Planet Rising,” at the Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar that same month

Below is Adam Davidson's latest New York Times Magazine column, "Don't Mock the Artisanal-Pickle Makers." Read all of Davidson's Times Magazine columns here.

This Valentine's Day, NPR brings you more than just news—we are bringing you love. Back by popular demand this year, our Valentine's Day cards will certainly tickle your funny bone and just maybe add some love to your life.

Check out all the NPR Valentines, and choose the card that best suits your NPR-lovin' sweetheart.

PBS's hit series Downton Abbey has been praised for its subtle and witty dialogue. But a few anachronisms have slipped into the characters' conversations, and spotting them has become a hobby for many fans.

Photo courtesy flickr.com/starbright31

It’s safe to say a music-loving town like Austin’s familiar with Bon Iver, the folk-tinged indie band fronted by Justin Vernon. But that might not be the case for the public at large.

Bon Iver has made numerous stops in Austin: at South by Southwest, the Austin City Limits Music Festival, and most recently, a performance at the Long Center. (KUT is a fan as well.)

Nationally, Vernon’s stature has grown since appearing on Kanye West’s platinum-selling “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy”, and Bon Iver’s self-titled 2011 album was named album of the year by numerous critics, including music-review site Pitchfork.

But for many, Vernon’s Grammy win for “Best New Artist” last night was the first many had heard of him. And moments after his acceptance speech, the confusion took to Twitter, with hilarious results.

Here’s a tale for you: each year, The Austin Chronicle issues a call for short stories, previously-unpublished manuscripts with a limit of 2,500 words. After a winnowing and judging, one story is selected for publication, with the winner taking home $800.

Tonight, that winning entry in the Chronicle’s 20th annual Short Story Contest will be announced in a reception at BookPeople.

Chronicle Books editor Kimberley Jones tells us that “we had just under 560 submissions this year, significantly up from last year. But not only were the numbers up, I think the overall quality of the submissions improved this year, too. In the first round, every story is read twice by a Chronicle staffer or ‘friend of the family’ and rated 0 to 5. The scores were a lot higher this year. I might've worried we're all just getting soft, but I read about 150 or so of the stories myself and was pretty knocked out by the talent out there. “

Photo courtesy flickr.com/chrisgallevo

You'd think owning the distribution rights to an Academy Award-nominated film might be enough, but the Alamo Drafthouse has never been known to rest on its laurels.

The Drafthouse Films distribution of “Bullhead” is only part of the story. In addition, the venerable local theater is announcing new developments almost daily.

Alamo Slaughter Lane Opens in March: The Circle C Alamo outpost will be opening in mere weeks, with an elaborate, “Little Shop of Horrors”-esque design. (It’s a nod to the nearby Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, Drafthouse CEO Tim League tells Austin360 in a victory-lap interview.)  The grand opening is March 22, but an open-to-the-public soft launch begins March 8.

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A triptych of chilly flicks blows into Austin theaters this weekend. Among the new releases: Indie-horror auteur Ti West’s “The Innkeepers;” “We Need to Talk About Kevin,” an austere drama anchored by Tilda Swinton; and “The Woman in Black,” released under the storied Hammer Films franchise with an up-and-coming young actor named Daniel Radcliffe. (Maybe you’ve heard of him?)

Austin audiences have had a few chances to catch “The Innkeepers” previously, having screened at South by Southwest and the Alamo Drafthouse’s Fantastic Fest. The follow-up to director West’s well-received “The House of the Devil,” “The Innkeepers” shares a similar retro-horror sensibility to his breakout film. Two slacker clerks at a storied northwestern inn investigate reports of workplace hauntings on the weekend the inn is slated to close. Suffice to say, mysterious visitors check in, nerves slowly fray, and plenty of things begin to go bump in the night. Light on gore and long on tension, “The Innkeepers” is certain to keep audiences unnerved.

Photo courtesy flickr.com/dennis

SXSW Wristbands For Sale this Morning at 10 am

South by Southwest begins wristband sales for its music festival this morning. Purchases can only be made online to people with an Austin area zipcode:

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