13 Rules For Having Fun At SXSW

It's the fourth day of SXSW Music. It's crowded. The schedule app is overwhelming. And badge or no badge, you can’t get into everything you want to. But the festival is what you make of it. Here are a few of my personal coping strategies for getting through it all.

1. Pay for all of your own food and drink 
Look, I get it. Everybody loves free stuff. But how much is your time worth? Get out of line, eat the food you actually want (which is better than the free food) and go see another band.

Austin Bag Ban Generates Mixed Bag of Reactions

Many grocery-shopping Austinites got a shock Friday, when they remembered that their foodstuffs would no longer be conveniently tucked into free plastic bags. On March 1, the city's ban on single-use paper and plastic bags was officially implemented. The following days brought a mixed bag of reactions around the city and state. Voices on both sides of the issue make valid pointshere are the highlights:

QBs and Pass Catchers Report

There's construction being done at Darrell K. Royal-Memorial Stadium in Austin. Rebuilding. Football season is still months away, but certain aspects are a wreck.

This is not a metaphor.  

The work meant UT fans who came out to the Longhorns' two public spring practices this past Friday and Saturday were restricted to one end zone, not that it mattered: the low emotional temperature of the football fan base combined with UT's disappointing hoops season had a Twitter follower of the San Antonio Express-News' Mike Finger and the Cedric Golden of the Austin American-Statesman making the same joke one day apart.

The tweets:


And Golden:

So I went to Royal-Memorial Stadium for a spring football practice, and judging from the fan count, a UT basketball game broke out.

All jokes aside — and it’s a joke that just over 1,000 fans ventured out to watch their football team practice — the Horns are confronting a major problem this spring. 

Jetsons Cars To Become A Reality in Round Rock? Sort of, Maybe

Where are the promised flying cars of the 21st century? Will Round Rock take the first step toward that future? 

Maybe! Yesterday, the City Council responded favorably to a proposal for an airborne public transit system that would closely resemble a ski lift. The pitch came from Frog Design, an international innovation firm based in Austin, who said the “system is proven, reliable and safe."

F1, Take One

Special precautions were in order. You needed only look skyward one weekend last November to realize it. Helicopters hoisted bigwigs from various spots in Austin to the recently constructed Circuit of the Americas, where the city’s inaugural Formula 1 Grand Prix would be held on Sunday, November 18. Rich people filled the skies like a late-season mosquito hatch, and many Austin residents shut themselves in their houses to wait out the infestation. 

Among the people hitching a ride on a charter bird was Mario Andretti, the 72-year-old race car driver who’d been hired as COTA’s “official ambassador.” And so it was that I found myself, at six-thirty in the morning on the Friday before the race, in a meeting room at the downtown Embassy Suites, where a smiling man behind a bar was already offering chilled champagne. Andretti, diminutive but robust, arrived casually dressed and loaded down with entry badges. I trotted after him to the top floor of the parking garage, where the helicopter was waiting. He slipped on his sunglasses, and as we waited for the boarding signal, I shouted over the copter’s noise, “What’s it like to go two hundred miles an hour?” 

He shrugged and answered in an Italian accent, “The speed is, to some degree, irrelevant. Speed will surprise a beginner. But I’ve trained since I was twelve years old. If you never experience it, you notice it.” He added that he has driven people in three-seater demonstration cars to give them a taste of the experience. “The reaction is ‘Waaaaa!’ ” he said, crying like a baby. “When I go out, I don’t ease into it. There’s a panic button, but I ignore it. They pass out and come to later.”

He turned around and saw that the pilot was ready. “All right,” he said. “Let’s go!”

This weekend was the culmination of years of deal-making and wheel-greasing, in which a handful of businessmen, aided by state comptroller Susan Combs, conjured a multimillion-dollar race operation. The flak had started early and hadn’t subsided in the weeks before the race: dissatisfied residents had already begun grumbling about pollution, helicopter noise, and traffic. But state officials had courted the profitable enterprise with the enthusiasm of an AV club president who stumbles upon a chance to date the prom queen. (On race weekend, Governor Rick Perry himself rode by shuttle to the race site to size up the extent of the traffic.) By the time the race lovers flooded the city, even the most disgruntled citizens had resigned themselves to the peculiar reality that every year for the next ten years, one of the most prestigious car races in the world, watched on TV by 500 million people, was going to take place in their backyard.

Our helicopter climbed up into the clear, sunny sky. From downtown, we flew over Interstate 35, heading southeast, the clusters of apartment complexes and housing developments giving way to puzzle pieces of brown scrub and stock tanks. After about ten minutes we reached the track—a 3.4-mile course with long straightaways and switchbacks, gradual curves and sharp corners. From the sky, its irregular shape looked something like a giant women’s stacked-heel shoe. The entire COTA installation covered 1,300 acres and included the track, a 14,000-capacity amphitheater, a main grandstand built to accommodate 8,000, and auxiliary stands for another 88,000.

A year and a half earlier, this had all been raw land, and F1 had seemed little more than a whimsical theater of press conferences. But now the track and all its fresh plumage had been installed as if it were just another (unusually loud) subdivision. We landed a short drive from the track, and as we exited the helicopter, we could already hear the buzz in the distance, like a swarm of bees.

So Governor Brown Called Governor Perry's Pitch to Californian Businesses "Barely A Fart"

How did California Governor Jerry Brown respond to Rick Perry’s $24,000 radio ad to lure California businesses? He called it “barely a fart.”

Brown continued, “It’s a big nothing,” claiming that businesses, in fact, were pouring into California. “Everybody's coming. . . . Look, when you've got something good, people want to be here,” Brown retorted.

So which cheeky governor is right? *

What Nobody Says About Austin

When I moved to Austin in the fall of 2008 to teach at the University of Texas, I was the envy of nearly everyone I knew. Wasn’t it the coolest city in the state? The country? Quite possibly the earth?! Yet still I was dragging my feet, which many Austinites found offensive (ever tried arguing with one about the superiority of any other place?). I’d lived previously in Brownsville, San Antonio, El Paso, and Houston, and I’d visited Austin countless times as a contributor to this magazine.


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