Texas Burlesque Festival

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May 12, 2009

Texas Burlesque Festival Art

No matter how much you pay some people, they still want to take their clothes off. Yes, nudity can be really sexy, but it can also be profoundly disturbing. You can’t smear Vaseline on the lens of reality … well, actually you can smear it on your eyeball, but you’re much better off using K-Y Jelly, or better yet, just look the other way. Even partial nudity can make it hard to hold down your lunch. If you’ve ever spent more than a few minutes in the public showers at Barton Springs, you probably know that Sandy’s frozen custard doesn’t look the same coming out as it does going in. Real bodies are plagued with a mind-boggling variety of liver spots, scars, stretch marks, moles, pimples, cysts, sores, rashes, warts, and calluses; they’re hairy … sometimes furry, saggy, wrinkly, floppy, chubby, bulgy, sweaty, smelly, dirty; they’re disproportionate, misshapen, gnarled, palsied, augmented, amputated, and mutated. Still, there are plenty of people who believe that all God’s bodies are beautiful. Maybe. Any good televangelist would tell you, “God don’t make no junk,” which means that “all that junk inside your trunk” must be the work of the devil … or maybe the Cheesecake Factory. Regardless, the notion that we are all perfect as God created us is as solid as any. Think about it: God has been around presumably for millions and millions of years. It’s understandable that after a while he would want a little variety. In fact, you would expect God to have a serious freak fetish. That’s good news if you have one eye, a third nipple, a sixth toe, a peg leg, and you weigh 450lbs; bad news if you’re Brad Pitt. Mere mortals, on the other hand, aren’t nearly as jaded. For instance, most would happily do Brad Pitt – even with a third nipple, but if Brad Pitt was so big that his shirts were made from sewn together bedsheets, chances are even Angelina wouldn’t boink him, and she’s bumped uglies with Billy Bob “Would you say that to Tom Petty?” Thornton, which pretty much makes her the Mother Teresa of celebrity slummers. Seeing Billy Bob Thornton naked takes a saintly amount of compassion, which is probably why Halle Berry made him go doggy-style in Monster’s Ball: out of sight, out of mind. Sadly, people watching the movie didn’t have that option. They had to keep a laser-accurate, Zen-like focus on Halle Berry to keep from seeing Billy Bob’s old-man ass (aka “OMA,” as in “OMA GAWD!”). Moviegoers with wandering eyes ended up projectile vomiting their Junior Mints into the neck-brace seats. Moral: Never show up late to a Billy Bob Thornton movie. So … not all flesh is suitable for adult audiences, but with careful planning and preparation, nudity can be more than tolerable; it can actually be entertaining. If you’d like to see for yourself, check out this weekend’s Texas Burlesque Festival at Emo’s. Burlesquers from all over Texas and across the nation will converge and compete in categories such as Best Soloist, Best Ensemble, Most Original, Best Costume, Best Gender Bender, and Best Neo-Vaudeville and Miscellany. These aren’t tired old titty dancers just dialing it in for meth money. They’re stripping enthusiasts who do it for the love and the artistry, which makes it cool. Cool enough for Emo’s. Plus, it’s only $15, and there’s no drink minimum. Just don’t expect any lap dances.

A Benefit for Max Moses

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May 5, 2009

Max Moses Benefit Poster

Getting laid on Mother’s Day is, to say the very least, problematic – unless, of course, you’re actually a mother. Then you can get it pretty much any way you want it as long as you’re not too tired, cranky, or bitter from the memory of having to force an extra-large coconut out of your vajayjay. Cheer up, Mom, at least you know you’ve more than earned your plaster of Paris ashtray with the tiny hand print, the construction-paper flower with Junior’s picture in it, your husband’s thoughtful gift of spiced-pear bath salts from Bed Bath & Beyond. Just think, if the Ghost of Mother’s Day Future had the mercy to lead you down this dark road years ago, you might have ripped out your ovaries with your bare hands … or at least remembered to take your birth control pills. Still, no use crying over spilled placenta, eh? There’s a statute of limitations on postpartum depression. Certainly you should perk up once your bundle of joy starts trying to make his or her own – unless she’s 12 and dating a biker who looks like David Allan Coe. If your kids are younger than that, you’re all set to get freaky. Just wedge a chair under the bedroom doorknob, and hope your ankle-biters don’t fall down an abandoned well or find Daddy’s hair-triggered Glock in the roughly 15 minutes it’s going to take him to drive you to Bliss City. If you’re a dad looking to score on Mother’s Day, tread lightly. Remember your paternal credit rating is based almost entirely on the one good sperm you managed to donate when the time was right, which is why it doesn’t hurt to score a really good dinner reservation. If you don’t have kids, your odds are slightly better but still a far cry from spectacular. Just because you haven’t yet spawned doesn’t mean you don’t have a mother, and she’s probably going to want to know what you’re up to on this special day, very likely at a highly inopportune moment. Try to remember to wipe off the Astroglide before you answer the cell phone, and, more importantly, remember that you’re not going to be able to wrap up the call in time to save the mood, so try to work out some hand signals to let your lover know that he or she might as well slap on a bathrobe and go whip up some French toast. If you actually are one of those happy few who manage to reach climax on Mother’s Day, pause for a moment and give your creator (hairy thunderer or cosmic muffin) props for providing such a wonderful motherhood incentive program. You should give your mom props, too. Even if you forgot to send her a card or a handprint ashtray, it will still probably make her day. Lastly, if you can’t make your own mother’s day, how about making someone else’s? Sunday night Antone’s is hosting a benefit for Max Moses, a 9-year-old who contracted Leukemia back in January. For $15, you can listen to live music by the Calm Blue Sea, Exit, Johnny Goudie, Shane Bartell, John Pointer, Topaz, Uncle Bruno, the Jolly Garogers, and Fort Worth’s Chatterton. You can also bid in the silent auction for things such as Austin City Limits Music Fest passes, vintage clothes, massages, and haircuts. Your mom probably wanted you to get a haircut anyway, right?

Next Up: U18 Showcase

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April 27, 2009

Chief Rival

There’s a good chance that if you do it enough times and with an opposite gender, you’re going to have a baby. Maybe even several. If you want to up the chances, try one of the following: Drink a few extra Jell-O shots with the rugby team. Buy condoms from a vending machine in the bathroom of a last-chance gas station out in West Texas. Promise to “pull” at the last second. Pray desperately that you don’t have to give birth to the spawn of that loser you picked up at Tangerine’s last night. If none of that works, you might try joining the Catholic Church, moving into a mobile home, or spending your teen years in rural Oklahoma. There’s no hard and fast rule for getting pregnant. Sometimes you can go soft and slow. Sometimes you can get knocked up from behind. You can also get preggers by “making the beast with two backs,” “squashing the deckchair,” “spooning,” or “playing the cello.” Equally effective are the Reverse Asian Cowgirl, the Italian Chandelier, the Thigh Master, the Octopus, and the Piledriver. If all that seems like too much work, you can always get a box of cheap wine and a turkey baster. Surprisingly, the result of all this sordid behavior is often referred to as a “miracle” – at least until the paternity test comes back – and it is, really. Who could believe that doing the work of the devil could produce a little angel? And who could imagine the hell it would put you through? What else could pee in your eye and get away with it? What else could projectile vomit into your breakfast cereal, scream at you all night, and make you wipe its ass several thousand times? Is that not proof of a miracle? Sure, your Sunday football buddies might giggle when they fart or burp obnoxiously, but they don’t sit there bawling in a putrid funk after they drop a load waiting for you to take care of the problem. As the extended stay motel incident in Waco proves, even really smelly farts can seem sufficient justification for stabbing someone in the chest. Imagine if the victim had been screaming petulantly in a pool of diarrhea? Mopping up an acrid blown out diaper at 4 in the morning is just about as close to unconditional love as you can get – well, unless you’re Jesus or something. This is not to say that in those dark hours you might not fantasize about crucifixion, but you’d never actually do it. Why? 1) You’re not God, and 2) if you can’t even bring yourself to shake a baby, there’s no way you’re going to love it enough to nail it to a cross, even by proxy. So yes, children are bona fide miracles, each and every one. Sadly though, the older they get, the less miraculous they seem – especially when they’re dirty, grizzled, and holding up a cardboard sign at a freeway intersection. With any luck however, the fruit of your loins will at least do something interesting and entertaining – perhaps it will make you beam with pride and say something sentimental like, “Not bad for a little fuck stain!” Ah, the joys of parenthood. This weekend a whole bushel of entertaining loin fruit will be playing at the Next Up U18 Austin Music Showcase at Threadgill’s World Headquarters. Next Up is a showcase for up-and-coming bands and artists in Austin who are younger than 20 years old, though most are squarely in their teens. This weekend’s show benefits the Palmer Drug Abuse Program, an support group for teenagers struggling with chemical dependency. For a mere $5, you can see the El Guapos, Chief Rival, AfterMath, the Aviators, Edison Chair, and the Diving Captain. You might even help save a few miracles.

12th Annual Buda Wiener Dog Races

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April 21, 2009

Wiener Dog Races Poster

Wiener dogs are one of those curious evolutionary oddities that contradict the notion of a loving and benevolent God. Upon further investigation, however, it turns out God didn’t have much to do with wiener dogs – at least not in a direct sense. No, wiener dogs, like sauerkraut, lederhosen, and techno, are the ingenious product of the German mind. Interestingly, they all still make a fairly strong argument against the existence of God – or maybe for the existence of a cruel one. That seems to be one of Germany’s special talents. You might think that the Germans bred the wiener dog to just look fucking ridiculous – remember the lederhosen? But wiener dogs were actually bred for a purpose: badger hunting. Yes, apparently, several hundred years ago, Deutschland had enough of a badger problem (need?) to actually necessitate a special breed of dog that could easily crawl into a hole and drag out a badger. So, either badgers were a scourge or a delectable entrée. Either scenario is frightening. Maybe the badgers back in the 1700s were badass badgers with a taste for human flesh. Perhaps bloodthirsty badgers roamed the German countryside slaughtering chubby-cheeked little Hansels and Gretels with slow 40-yard-dash times. Actually, just the prospect of being eaten by a badger is sufficient motivation to breed a master race of badger-killing wiener dogs, even if the danger of said badgers is completely fabricated. The other equally horrifying possibility is that Germans had a taste for badger meat, which would make them no better than the French, who, come to think of it, are responsible for their own genetic aberration: the poodle. Makes you suspect that somehow Europeans took a few wrong forks in the road in the area of animal husbandry. If badgerschnitzel was truly so delicious, why not breed a race of slow, fat, veal badgers instead of fucking around experimenting with tenacious, stubby-legged, sausage-shaped dogs? Maybe it was a flavor thing. Whatever, animal breeding in Europe isn’t easily explained. The cart doesn’t always follow the horse. One thing is for certain: A dachshund fits down a badger hole like nothing else – save perhaps an actual badger. Crunk genius, yes, but it certainly makes you wonder if in some secret laboratory in the sewers of Paris, gay Frenchmen are breeding legless gerbils with sleek, oily fur. And Bush wanted a moratorium on stem cell research! Unlike Republicans, though, wiener dogs are a friendly and lovable breed, though maybe a bit yappy. They also think their shit don’t stink, but who could blame them? It’s so far away when it happens. Most importantly, because they’re so goofy looking, they’re fun to watch in nearly any activity, which is why wiener dog racing was bound to happen sooner or later – and really, it’s taken more than 300 years to reach this entertaining turn of evolution, so there’s no use being snotty about it. Watching little stubby-legged dogs racing is high-larry-us – at least for the first few races. This Saturday at Buda City Park, the Buda Lions Club will be hosting the 12th annual Buda Country Fair and Wiener Dog Races. This year’s theme is Wienerdog Millionaire. See? The fun has started already. The tension mounts. Who will win? Scooter? Quasar? Dixie? Scamp? Elvis? Cowboy? Dapper Dan? Certainly not Darwin. Don’t forget: There’s also a pet parade, the BudaBee spelling contest, a bake-off, and a cook-off. Don’t hold your breath on the badgerschnitzel, however.

ArtErotica 2009

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April 14, 2009

ArtErotica 2009 Poster

Question is: Who isn’t throwing a festival this weekend? You got your winos (Texas Hill Country Wine & Food Festival), your stoners (Austin Reggae Festival), your hillbillies (Old Settler’s Music Festival), and your rockabillies (Lonestar Rod & Kustom Round Up). Reckless Kelly is even throwing a celebrity softball game and concert out at the Dell Diamond. There are so many white people in town this weekend it’s a wonder Barton Creek Mall isn’t closing down. Of course, any developer with the chutzpah to build a huge shopping mall right over the Edwards Aquifer Recharge Zone isn’t going to close up shop just because it gets overrun with Caucasians. Besides, Barton Creek Mall has been tea-bagging the aquifer now for nearly 30 years, and no one’s dead yet … right? Maybe our descendants will be angling for gigantic two-headed mutant snail darters, but right now we’re sitting pretty. We’ve only had to close down Barton Springs a few times, and really, the mall is nothing compared to the big chemical crap Barton Creek Country Club has been taking upstream. If you want verdant, lush fairways on top of craggy limestone, you have to be macho enough to stir the environmental turd, so to speak, and Barton Creek’s investors have been involved in environmental hellscaping for decades. Check out what Freeport-McMoRan (BCCC’s original developer) has done with riverfront property in West Papua New Guinea, and you’ll begin to understand that Austin is lucky they’re only polluting our swimming holes. If the Barton Springs Watershed had the misfortune of being lined with copper, the BCCC would be a huge strip mine. Freeport goes after copper like a jonesing meth-head, and a few endangered salamanders are light collateral damage compared to the wholesale environmental devastation it would have surely wrought if the value of its property was below the ground rather than above it. Fortunately for us, we scored four championship golf courses and a full-service spa and fitness center instead of 30 miles of mine tailings, contaminated groundwater, and a laundry list of human rights abuses. Whether you’re into it or not, Austin is in dire need of more golf courses and spas. Why? We’re freakin’ lousy with rich people. We have way more than our share. The good news is that the proliferation of rich people can be contained by strategically placed developments – ideally with spas and golf courses. These developments effectively “ghettoize” the rich people and keep them from overrunning the cool parts of Austin. Genius really. Hill Country Galleria? Hells yeah! Anything to keep them from clogging up the queue at Maria’s Taco Xpress or Top Notch or Sandy’s. Plus, if we need them for their money, we can always call them down to Coolsville to drop coin on our charitable causes. As they say in the bene business, “Black tie and priced high!” That way the rich folk get a taste of the local culture but without the grit that comes with it. If you happen to actually be one of those rich people, you should definitely check out the Octopus Club’s ArtErotica event at the Copper Tank this Saturday. ArtErotica is a sex-themed art show consisting of donated works by local Austin artists. It’s also a fundraiser for AIDS Services of Austin (emphasis on “fun”), so you can buy something really expensive and really nasty and feel really good about it – as opposed to say, a copper mine in New Guinea.

Lyndon Lambert Memorial Easter Pet Parade Costume Contest

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April 7, 2009

Easter Pet Parade Contest Poster

When you think about it, what better way to celebrate Easter than a parade? After all, Easter itself started out with a rather colorful (especially if you’re into crimson) parade up the Via Dolorosa. There weren’t any huge inflatable cartoon characters, floats made of roses, or insightful commentary by Kathie Lee Gifford, but credit the Romans for at least having a flair for spectacle. It would have been easy enough to just let the Pharisees take Jesus out back and stone him to death, but Pontius Pilate needed to set an example lest some other blissed out upstart from the provinces ride into town on an ass and start flapping his jaws about being the son of God. Regardless of all the arm-twisting by the townies, Pilate was smart enough to know that Caesar didn’t keep gold rims on his chariot by letting his tax base erode, so he gave Jesus the thumbs down. Were it not for the money, he might have let Jesus off with just a scourging. That would have spoiled the whole resurrection and in turn undermined the foundation of Christian faith. It’s unlikely God would have resurrected Jesus for a simple scourging – well, maybe if they had whipped him to death like Clint Eastwood in High Plains Drifter – but then Jesus would have had to come back from the dead in a vengeful, whiskey-drinking, ass-kicking, date-raping mood. He would have appointed the town midget as sheriff and insisted that the Pharisees paint Jerusalem red. Not being Jewish himself however, Pontius didn’t have full buy-in with the Pharisees. Like any smart politician, he chose a solution that buttered his bread, and Christianity was saved. Plus, being Easter and all, the weather was probably perfect for outdoor activities. Thus, Jesus began his slow, torturous slog toward Golgotha. Slow indeed. No doubt he lacked motivation. It’s hard to keep a spring in your step when you know the journey ends with having your feet nailed to a plank. Jesus took his time. He talked with his mother. He had his face wiped by Veronica. He comforted the ladies. He stumbled a few times. All in all, he dragged out the spectacle to a memorable extreme – Godlike even. Turned out to be a win-win situation for Romans and Jews and eventually Christians, too. Apparently, parades are a good way to promote your cause. The Animal Trustees of Austin certainly feel that way. This Saturday, along with Jo’s on South Congress and Hotel San José, they’re hosting the Lyndon Lambert Memorial Easter Pet Parade Costume Contest. To cut to the chase: It’s a parade of pets in costumes. Who couldn’t get behind that? The parade begins at noon, starts at Annie and South Congress and ends at Jo’s. Prizes will be awarded for best-dressed pets. If you dress your Shih Tzu in a blood-splattered loincloth and place a crown of thorns on his head and an old rugged cross on his back, you might capture the spirit of Easter, but don’t count on winning any prizes. You dog will probably hate you too, but that was probably going to happen anyway.

Fourth Annual Urban Music Festival

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March 31, 2009

Gary Clark Jr.

When you’re out and about this weekend, you may notice a preponderance of black people. No, Austin is not the new Atlanta. We’re not Houston or Memphis or Detroit or even New Orleans, even though we are working pretty hard on building our own Bourbon Street. Austin may be a cultural Mecca, but it certainly isn’t for black people … at least not for 360 days of the year when the Texas Relays aren’t happening. This weekend they are, however, so if you should mount the stair to Momo’s this Friday expecting to see a twangy alt.country act and instead feel your chest crushed by the heavy bass thud of a house mix, just roll with it. It’s only temporary. Austin will revert back to Hooterville hippie chic next week. Don’t expect the Texas Relays fans to hang around. They don’t share the naiveté of, for instance, South by Southwest attendees. They’re not snowed in to relocating to Austin by the nice weather, friendly people, and great entertainment. They know the nice weather won’t last, that the clubs aren’t always full of famous DJs, and the friendly people get cranky when the asphalt starts to melt. They don’t go back home thinking they’d like to move here. They go home thinking, “Nice place to visit.” Austin is to Texas Relay fans what Sturgis, S.D., is to bikers, and understandably. Austin isn’t exactly the standard bearer for black culture. Our two biggest blues legends are Stevie Ray Vaughan and Clifford Antone. Badasses to be sure but missing one crucial element. This is not to say that Austin is entirely bereft of black culture. We have Bavu Blakes, Mitchie’s Gallery, the Carver Museum & Cultural Center, Huston-Tillotson University, and more than our share of dreadlocks – both East and West of I-35 – but all that is a drop in the bucket compared to places like Atlanta, Houston, or Washington, D.C. For now, Austinites have one weekend a year to dip our big toes into the unfamiliar waters of black culture. Might as well get in and splash around a bit. The easiest way to do that this weekend is to head down to Auditorium Shores on Saturday for the fourth annual Urban Music Festival. This year’s fest has one of the best bills ever, featuring crossover acts Cameo, Boyz II Men, and members of the Sugar Hill Gang. OK, so maybe those names are a little bit “last millennium,” but back in the day, they were all huge. Don’t even try to act like you can’t throw down at least a couple of verses from “Rapper’s Delight.” If you’re looking for something a little fresher, BET on-air talent Toccara Jones from America’s Next Top Model will be on hand as well as LeToya Luckett, a founding member of Destiny’s Child. If you really want to get cutting edge, go early and catch local acts Musik Hertz, Spirit Groove, All U Need, Ha-Style, and Bavu Blakes, who will be working double time at the Urban Music Festival afterparty later that night at Antone’s along with Neckbone and Gary Clark Jr. You might want to pop by the house, shower up, and rethread before going to the afterparty. It will surely be grown and sexy.

Holy Cross Sucks!

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March 24, 2009

Rob Nash

Loud music and shitty beer: Over it. You probably also feel the same about lukewarm catered barbecue, nutrition bars, and sickly sweet energy drinks – at least until your plane goes down in the Andes. Then again, offered the choice, you might actually opt for frozen human flesh. Morality aside, it would surely be the healthiest way to go. If you’re thinking you could survive off Red Bull, think again. You might as well just have the other remaining passengers pee in your mouth. At least you’d stay warmer that way, and if you actually do make it out alive, you’ll have a fetish skill that might earn you a little income on the side. Act indignant if you want, but in these hard economic times, it’s good to have a fall-back plan. Hopefully you didn’t spend a lot of money at South by Southwest. You need to stay flush for the lean months ahead. Besides, you’re supposed to leave the heavy spending to the out-of-towners. SXSW rule of thumb: Always let the guy with the bleached highlights and the square-tipped shoes pay for dinner. He wants you to believe he rolls like that even if he lives in the backseat of his leased BMW. It’s OK if you dropped a 10 spot on a CD by some perky Canadian pop band, but if you blew a few large at the Levi’s Fader Fort on jeans that fit really great until the first wash, you’re fucking up SXSW’s economic impact estimates. Besides, Austin deserves a reach-around for the sheer, relentless cacophony of SXSW – all the dueling parking-lot showcases with pegged amps, crashing symbols, and farting, cone blowing bass lines. Your auditory nerve endings are so trashed that you just want to curl up in a little ball in your bedroom all week and listen to Iron and Wine … on low. We’re also due a little payback for the litter of promotional materials: posters, flyers, handbills, stickers, and business cards – a virgin rain forest worth of wasted marketing salted by the sick, desperate sweat of frenetic fame-seekers. It’s a good thing you walked around for three days with that colorful, glossy Japanese music showcase postcard flapping out of your back pocket, otherwise you might have forgotten a week later (when you pulled it out of your Maytag’s filter) that you forgot about that Japanese showcase and went to Kanye West. Listen closely. Somewhere in the Amazon, a Yanomami tribesman is revving up his chainsaw … then again, maybe you’re just having a death metal showcase flashback. It’s a fortunate thing for your central nervous system that Austin isn’t a one-trick pony, artistically speaking. We have musicians, artists, filmmakers, and actors, and the latter three only get on your nerves at cocktail parties, otherwise, they’re pretty quiet. If you want to tone it down a bit this weekend, check out Holy Cross Sucks! at the the Vortex this weekend. Holy Cross Sucks! is an award-winning one-man comedy performed by Austin’s own Rob Nash that explores being in high school in the Eighties. If you made the rounds last week, you know that the Eighties are back in a big way. Exciting times indeed. Don’t worry; If this theatre thing doesn’t work out, the loud music and shitty beer will still be waiting for you.

Elvis Perkins in Dearland, Cold War Kids, and M. Ward

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March 16, 2009

You can break South by Southwest attendees down into basically two categories: people who think they’re cooler than you and people who actually are cooler than you. Both categories are goddamned annoying. In fact, it is a huge struggle not to sulk around all week in a misanthropic funk, brooding like Robert Pattinson in Twilight, tortured by the idea that other people are at better parties with better drugs, better liquor, better music, and richer, better looking people. Damn you, Bobby Bones! Dig deep, Sparky. Go to your happy place. Think back to those simpler, unjaded years when going to see live music was more about seeing the band rather than being seen seeing the band. Sure, it’s awesome to say you were at the show where Billy Corgan played backup bagpipe in a crotchless kilt (thank God for Twitter, right?), but sometimes the buzz band gets drowned out by the buzz. In all likelihood the buzz is coming from your cell phone, because you’re getting tweeted that Jack White, Dolly Parton, and the Dalai Lama are sitting in with Daniel Johnston at Emo’s. Doh! And you just blew your bankroll on the pedicab ride to the Corgan spectacle! As any hipster will tell you (if you can somehow get them to make eye contact), staying on top of what’s cool is fucking exhausting. It’s 24/7 obsession, except for the parts where you’re sleeping or making sandwiches at Thundercloud. If that’s how you like to roll, SXSW provides ample opportunities. More than likely however, you’ll just be just setting yourself up for disappointment. Here’s a pearl of wisdom that they don’t drop into your registrant’s bag: The truly wonderful thing about SXSW isn’t that you have the opportunity to go see bands you’ve been hearing about, it’s that you can stumble into bands you’ve never heard of and be absolutely amazed. To do that, however, you’re going to have to open up your heart and mind and embrace the unknown – not just unfamiliar music but unfamiliar people, as well. Just because a band is playing the Cabana Calle 6 Patio doesn’t necessarily mean they won’t blow your mind as much as the headliner at Stubb’s – especially if they’re buzzing hard on crank and standing next to you at the urinal. If that actually happens, make sure to remind him that Cabana Calle 6 Patio isn’t an actual venue the other 361 days of the year. It may save them a few awkward phone calls. There are plenty of other “venues” as well – nearly 100, especially if you count unofficial showcases – and most of those have urinals, too, or at least an obligatory full-to-the-brim Porta-potty. Urinal or no, you’ll have plenty of chances for interaction at SXSW: musical, cultural, and even carnal (if you like to roll the dice with your privates). Keep an open mind. Anything can happen, and if you run into a few buzz bands on your voyage of discovery, try not to let it harsh your groove. Sometimes bands are popular for a reason. You can investigate that premise this Thursday night for free at SXSW’s Auditorium Shores concert series. You may not have heard of them, but Elvis Perkins in Dearland, Cold War Kids, and M. Ward are bands with considerable buzz. They’ll get a chance to justify it before several thousand music lovers at SXSW’s largest venue. Who knows? You might start buzzing about them too.

SXSW Screening of ‘Sweethearts of the Prison Rodeo’

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March 10, 2009

Sweethearts of the Prison Rodeo

Texas did away with its prison rodeo back in 1986. It wasn’t because Texans drank the PETA punch and had some sort of animal rights epiphany. No, believe it or not, the state of Texas was reacting to budgetary shortages that resulted from a sudden collapse in oil prices in 1986 (yes, this isn’t the first time Texas has been the economy’s prison bitch). In 1986 the rodeo arena in Huntsville needed repair, and the Lege just wasn’t willing to cough up the half-mil needed to fix it. Think about that for a minute. Remember the Frisbee golf course on the city of Austin’s economic stimulus package wish list? That was going to clock in at nearly $900,000 … but … it was going to create four new jobs, thereby taking the same number of perpetually baked trustafarians off the street to man the clubhouse and keep the squirrels from making the beast with two backs in the disc baskets (or “pole holes,” as they’re referred to by their glossy-eyed users). A prison rodeo arena, on the other hand, wouldn’t create any new jobs, because all the employees work for free, unless you count the “I Got Fatally Gored in the Texas Prison Rodeo and All I Got Was This Stupid Bloody T-Shirt” T-shirts the losers received as a consolation prize. Besides, no legislator of sound mind is going to spend money on something that benefits an education and recreation fund for prisoners, no matter how popular or entertaining it is. Thus, Texans, in 1986, were deprived of the brutal spectacle of prison rodeo. Nowadays, if you want to see prisoners tossed around like a rag doll by a 2,000-pound bull, you’ll need to go to either McAlester, Okla., or Angola … not the one in Africa but the one in an even stranger and scarier place: Louisiana. Oklahoma at least has a reasonable claim on rodeo culture: Will Rogers, Gene Autry, Lane Frost, Freckles Brown. Louisiana? Maybe alligator-skin boots? Throwing a Cajun in a rodeo ring without a frog gig, fishing pole, or broken Budweiser longneck to defend himself is cruel sport indeed: fascinating, gory, heartbreaking – similar to feeding Christians to lions – but it ain’t rodeo. On the other hand, Oklahomans’ familiarity with the genus Bovinae makes even hardcore Texans a bit uncomfortable. It’s only natural they would pony up with a prison rodeo of their own … which they did, a scant nine years after Texas started throwing its convicts to the bulls in 1931, Oklahoma followed suit. They’re still at it 68 years later, and to spice things up, they added chicks to the mix a few years ago. Backward as they may seem, at least Okies aren’t sexist when it comes to exploiting their inmates by subjecting them to senseless violence. Is it worth the drive? Maybe not, especially when you can head over to the Paramount on Saturday for the 11am world premiere of Sweethearts of the Prison Rodeo, a documentary about the Oklahoma Prison Rodeo by acclaimed Okie filmmaker Bradley Beesley, whose previous works include Flaming Lips documentary The Fearless Freaks and the definitive primer on barehanded sport fishing, Okie Noodling.