<p><img alt="" class="media-image attr__typeof__foaf:Image img__fid__32970 img__view_mode__media_original attr__format__media_original attr__field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]__ attr__field_file_image_title_text[und][0][value]__" height="384" src="http://www.texasmonthly.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/AP613507730557.jpg" title="" typeof="foaf:Image" width="680" /></p> <p>For the past year, Huston-Tillotson University associate professor Jeff Wilson has been the subject of more than two hundred articles thanks to his unusual living arrangement: the dude has spent most nights between February 2014 and February 2015 sleeping in a 33-square-foot dumpster on the school’s campus. The dumpster has got<span style="line-height: 18.9090900421143px;"> little but a mattress, A/C window unit, and a false floor under which he can </span>keep his clothing and cooking equipment.</p> <p>The backstory on Wilson’s decision to begin the experiment is basically what you might expect, if you had to guess. As the <em>Washington Post</em> explained in its exit-interview with Wilson, after he moved out of his dumpster home: </p> <!--break--> <blockquote> <p>[H]e was living in a comfortable, 3,000-square-foot Brownsville, Tex., home with a large walk-in closet, an easily accessible bathroom and a $1,600 monthly mortgage payment. He had a tenure-track professorship at a state university, an hour-long commute and a matrimonial social arrangement with a fellow professional.</p> <p>Today, Wilson has none of those things — and insists that he’s never been happier.</p> <p>Between then and now, there was a divorce, a new job in a new city, a surrendering of worldly possessions, a new social arrangement with a new romantic partner and — perhaps most importantly — an olive green dumpster that he called home.</p> </blockquote> <p>Wilson’s stunt got lots of attention because the ideas behind Wilson’s dumpster life are fashionable. <a href="http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2011/07/25/lets-get-small" target="_blank">The “Tiny Houses” movement</a> has picked up speed in the<b> </b>wake of the 2007-2008 recession. IKEA stores, perhaps in a nod to their European roots, make big shows of demonstrating how comfortable a two-hundred-square-foot living space can be. </p> <p>According to the FAQ on the Dumpster Project website, <a href="http://dumpsterproject.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/DUMPSTER-MEDIA-KIT_OCT2014.pdf" target="_blank">the focus of Wilson’s year-long stunt was much bigger than just one professor</a>: </p> <blockquote> <p>This whole endeavor is way more than a weird professor living in a metal wastebasket. Beyond the obvious goal of creating one of the smallest sustainable living spaces on the planet, the project is heavily focused on engaging students and enhancing the Huston-Tillotson campus where it’s located. Ultimately we’re partnering with students to create a lively (and entertaining) discussion about what a good, sustainable life can look like and how to make that life available to more communities.</p> </blockquote> <p><span style="line-height: 1.6;">Although Wilson’s website may have noted that “if all goes well, Professor Dumpster has stated that he is not opposed to taking up permanent residence in his dumpster dwelling,” he’s out of it now—and of course he’s on to his next project. </span></p> <p>The new social experiment or whatever it is that Wilson will be undertaking is called “99 Nights ATX,” and it involves sleeping on 99 different couches, over 99 days, in Austin. Pretty self-explanatory, really. <a href="http://www.99nightsatx.com" target="_blank">According to the new project’s website</a>, it was a response to the idea “<span class="s1">that dissecting and debating the inexorable winds of change is practically the city’s unofficial pastime—right behind music festivals and craft beer tastings.”</span></p> <p><span class="s1">Let’s just quickly acknowledge the irony that a guy whose famously minimalist lifestyle included “<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NRpQNdlttDs" target="_blank">eight or nine bowties</a>” is now mocking hipster trappings</span><span class="s1"> like music festivals and craft-beer tastings. Okay, moving on, his project appears to be a bit of Morgan Spurlock-like first-person investigation: Wilson will sleep on couches to see a variety of ways that people in Austin live, with a photographer and writer in tow to document the experience. </span>He is also seeking sponsors.</p> <p>But how revelatory can 99 Nights ATX really be? The project will limit him to a self-selected group of homes by its nature—he can only go where he’s invited, obviously—and it’s unclear <span class="s1"><a href="http://www.99nightsatx.com/partners/" target="_blank">why he needs sponsors</a> for something that will have him sleeping rent-free in other people’s living rooms, though it seems mostly harmless. <em>(update: after this post went live, Wilson removed the “partners” link from the 99 Nights ATX website; <a href="http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:9iwbdfnlOWoJ:www.99nightsatx.com/partners/+&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us" target="_blank">the page is cached here</a>.)</em></span></p> <p>Still, if your reaction to all of Wilson’s projects is that something feels off, well, you’re not alone. <a href="https://www.google.com/webhp?sourceid=chrome-instant&ion=1&espv=2&ie=UTF-8#q=dumpsterprofessordouchebag" target="_blank">Most stories about Wilson feature commentary from readers</a> who take issue with the fact that he’s becoming a minor celebrity through these gimmicks, and that’s understandable. </p> <p>There are <em>already</em> people who live in dumpsters without A/C units or garden gnomes or eight to nine bowties, of course<span style="line-height: 20.7999992370605px;">—it’s just that they’re homeless. They’re unlikely to end up enjoying media attention from “</span><em>The Atlantic</em>, MSNBC, NPR, BBC, HuffPo, <em>USA Today</em>, CNET, <em>Fast Company</em>, <em>The Guardian</em>,The Weather Channel, Al Jazeera & 200+ others,” as the page on his 99 Nights website boasts. They don’t get sponsorship opportunities at all, and they’re unlikely to be able to parlay their experience into a book deal, something Wilson told the <em>Washington Post</em> was on his agenda.</p> <p><span style="line-height: 20.7999992370605px;">Similarly, there are a lot of people who sleep on couches whose “social experiment” is based on having nowhere else to go. </span><a href="http://nationalhomeless.org/publications/precariouslyhoused/index.html" style="line-height: 20.7999992370605px;" target="_blank">The National Coalition for the Homeless reports that an estimated 1.65 percent of the population is “couch-homeless,”</a><span style="line-height: 20.7999992370605px;"> or people who have no permanent residence but stay with friends or family. In Dallas </span><a href="http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20081103006109/en/Teens-Helping-Teens-Promise-House-Partners-Area#.VPiiglPF83Q" style="line-height: 20.7999992370605px;" target="_blank">youth shelter Promise House claimed in 2008 that roughly one thousand homeless teenagers in the city are “sofa-surfers”</a><span style="line-height: 20.7999992370605px;"> (full disclosure: my mother-in-law is the former executive director of Promise House). In the UK, </span><a href="http://streetconcern.org/news/new-homelessness-figures-falling-through-safety-nets/" style="line-height: 20.7999992370605px;" target="_blank">sofa-surfing homelessness is an issue getting serious attention</a><span style="line-height: 20.7999992370605px;"> as part of a campaign to consider the mostly-invisible homeless population.</span></p> <p style="line-height: 20.7999992370605px;">Wilson’s website talked about sustainability and furthering the availability of sustainable living to more communities, but his own project was buoyed by extensive corporate sponsorship <span style="line-height: 18.9090900421143px;">from Ford and Freescale as well as other corporations, and a pair of local hipster home outfitting retailers interested in being associated with Wilson’s impressive media reach</span>. (If any of these sponsors want to invest in things that benefit people in need of low-cost sustainable housing, we might <a href="http://mlf.org" target="_blank">suggest a</a> <a href="http://www.frontsteps.org" target="_blank">few other</a> <a href="http://www.lifeworksaustin.org" target="_blank">worthy causes</a>.)</p> <p style="line-height: 20.7999992370605px;"><span style="line-height: 18.9090900421143px;">Also, living in a dumpster is also actually illegal, unless you happen to own the dumpster in question. (Wilson was able to secure permission to occupy his particular dumpster from the university.)</span></p> <p>None of that makes the fun, quirky “experiments” that Wilson is performing <em>wrong</em>, but it does make them kind of obtuse. Wilson’s experiments are fundamentally about homelessness—you don’t move into a dumpster unaware of the association—but when he talks about “What does home look like in a world of ten billion people” by celebrating the gimmicks behind what he’s doing, there’s an important thing he’s missing: for many people, it just looks a lot like living in a f#%$ing dumpster.  </p> <p>We certainly don’t wish Wilson ill as he brings his bowties into 99 different people’s homes, but it’s hard not to see these projects as very interesting ways for the guy to get on television and in magazines, creating opportunities for corporate partners to co-brand #DumpsterLife or #CouchSurfing as a quirky way to challenge middle-class conceptions of how we live. But if the majority of the time we spend talking about people who live in dumpsters or on other people’s couches involves a university professor on the hunt for a book deal, we’re not creating an interesting dialogue. We’re avoiding one. </p> <p><em>(AP Photo/Austin American-Statesman, Laura Skelding.)</em></p>

If you’re looking to diverse your Halloween diet beyond candies, chocolates, and confections, check out some of these Halloween-inspired cocktails and cuisine from around the state of Texas. Philippe Restaurant/Phil’s Wine Lounge Phil’s Patch L’Autumn (Houston) 1.5 oz. Stolichnaya Vanilla vodka .75 oz. pumpkin pie syrup (recipe to follow) .5 oz. lemon juice 1 egg white Shake above ingredients with ice vigorously for 60 seconds. Strain into cocktail coupe rimmed with cinnamon sugar. Pumpkin pie syrup recipe Heat 1 cup water to boiling. Remove from heat and stir in 1 cup turbinado sugar, 1 can pumpkin puree, 4 cinnamon sticks, 1 clove, and 1 vanilla bean. Let cool for at least 4 hours. Strain through coffee filter. icenhauer‘s Trick or Treat Shots (Austin) Candy Corn Vodka Shot 1.5 cups of candy corn 1 liter of vodka Put ingredients in a jar and let infuse until the candy is gone. Strain with cheese cloth or coffee filter. Chill in freezer or fridge and serve cold. If you would rather order the candy corn vodka as a cocktail, pour 2 ounces of candy corn vodka over ice and top with club soda. Spindletop‘s Apple Jalapeño Tart (Houston) 2 cups granulated sugar 3 ounces all-purpose flour ¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon 6 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced 1 lemon, zested and juiced dash cayenne pepper 1 jalapeño, chopped and roasted egg wash, for brushing sugar, for sprinkling Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix together the sugar, flour, cinnamon, and cayenne pepper in a small bowl. In another bowl, sprinkle apples with the juice of 1 lemon and toss. Stir in the sugar mixture to evenly coat the apples. In a small sauce pan, roast chopped jalapeños with 2 dashes granulated sugar and 1 tablespoon butter until jalapeños are translucent. When the jalapeños have cooled down, add to filling and set aside. Pie dough recipe 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour 8 ounces butter (cold) 1 teaspoon salt 1 teaspoon granulated sugar 6 ounces cold water To make the dough by hand: in a large bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, and salt. Using a pastry cutter or two knives, cut the butter into the flour mixture until the texture resembles coarse cornmeal, with butter pieces no larger than small peas. Add the water and mix with a fork just until the dough pulls together. To make the dough in a stand mixer: fit the mixer with the flat beater and stir together the flour, sugar, and salt in the mixer bowl. Add the butter and toss with a fork to coat with the flour mixture. Mix on medium-low speed until the texture resembles coarse cornmeal, with the butter pieces no larger than small peas. Add the water and mix on low speed just until the dough pulls together. Transfer the dough to a work surface, pat into a ball, and flatten into a disk. (Although many dough recipes call for chilling the dough at this point, this dough should be rolled out immediately for the best results.) Lightly flour work surface, and then flatten the disk with six to eight gentle taps of the rolling pin. Lift the dough and give it a quarter turn. Lightly dust the top of the dough or the rolling pin with flour as needed, then roll out into a round at least 6 inches in diameter and about 1/8 inch thick. Add a quarter of the apple jalapeño filling mix to dough. Place filling in the center of dough then gather the sides of the dough all around the tart closing it slightly, but not completely, shut. Brush the top of the tart with egg wash and sprinkle with a dash of cinnamon and sugar. Bake for 30-45 minutes, or until dough is done depending on oven. Ooh La La Dessert Boutique‘s Candy Corn Cheesecake and Shortbread Cookies (Three Houston-area locations)