South by So What?
For those jaded souls who question the continued relevance of SXSW, now in its thirtieth year, consider that President Barack Obama is skipping former First Lady Nancy Reagan’s funeral in order to have a sit-down with Evan Smith, editor-in-chief of The Texas Tribune and host of the PBS talk show Overheard with Evan Smith, this Friday afternoon as part of the opening of the Interactive portion of the festival.
According to Smith’s blog, they will discuss “how the technology sector—the community of visionaries, innovators, and disruptors revolutionizing our lives—can be harnessed on behalf of the public interest.” But Smith, a “political junkie” as per his Twitter bio, is bound to slip in a couple of questions about pressing national matters in hope of making national news.
Other Interactive speakers include chef Jose Andres, on fresh fast food; Dallas entrepreneur Amber Venz Box, on fashion blogging for profit; filmmaker Ken Burns and historian Henry Louis Gates Jr., on race; journalists Ana Marie Cox and Rachel Sklar on the “bro” mentality in politics; and the Broad City comedians Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer, on meme life.
But probably the thing people most want to know about Interactive is what app is going to win. Ryan Hoover of Product Hunt has his eyes on three: Anchor, a social network for short audio clips; Shorts, for easy sharing of content on the iPhone camera roll; and Roger, a “walkie-talkie”-style app.
Concurrent with Interactive is Film, opening with the world premiere of Everybody Wants Some by hometown hero Richard Linklater, who calls the movie the spiritual sequel to his cult classic Dazed and Confused. The spotlight will stay on Linklater on Saturday with a screening of the documentary Richard Linklater: Dream is Destiny and with the Mondo Gallery exhibit “No Longer/Not Yet: A Tribute to Richard Linklater,” celebrating his filmography in art.
Other highlights of Film include the premiere screenings of Pee-wee’s Big Holiday, the new Pee-wee Herman film created by Paul Reubens and Judd Apatow; Midnight Special, about a boy with special powers, by the Austin filmmaker Jeff Nichols; and In a Valley of Violence, a western starring Austin native Ethan Hawke.
The final installment of SXSW is Music, featuring a kajillion bands trying to strike a chord. These final six days of the ten-day festival will bring programming full circle with a keynote and Q&A from First Lady Michelle Obama (who is attending Nancy Reagan’s funeral). She won’t talk about music but instead Let Girls Learn, an initiative to provide education to the 62 million girls around the world who are not enrolled in school.
Various locations, March 11-20, sxsw.com
Baseball is called America’s Pastime because it has a rich history going back to its creation by Abner Doubleday in 1839. Go into this season with expanded knowledge of the game at the Institute of Texan Cultures’ second annual Spring Training program focusing on how baseball has been an instigator of social inclusion and community-building among the state’s ethnic communities. Last year’s program, “Los Peloteros,” focused on Mexican-Americans and this year’s program, “Invisible Diamonds,” considers African-Americans’ contributions to the sport.
The event, which is held in tandem with the Institute’s Buffalo Soldier Day honoring the all-black cavalry, will focus on amateur black baseball during segregation, from the thirties to the sixties. Former players will attend and bring with them personal artifacts including trophies, pictures, and gloves. There will also be three speakers. At 1 p.m., Mark Presswood, a contributor to the Texas Almanac, will provide a Negro League research primer for those interested in doing their own studies. At 2 p.m., Luis Padilla of the Texas Parks & Wildlife’s Buffalo Soldiers program will discuss “trap ball,” a sort of pre-baseball T-ball played by Buffalo Soldiers stationed at West Texas forts during the Indian Wars. And lastly, at 3 p.m., Gregory Garrett of the Institute will talk about baseball’s importance to the black communities of Kerrville and San Antonio. Throughout the day, there will be chances to win tickets to San Antonio Missions minor league games.
Institute of Texan Cultures, March 13, 12 p.m., texancultures.com
The Rattlesnake Roundup in Sweetwater, billed as the “world’s largest rattlesnake roundup,” attracts all of the attention because of the sheer volume of snakes and seemingly insane feats their handlers are willing to demonstrate with them. But the Texas Rattlesnake Festival in Conroe, while smaller and not as storied, is equally worthy, for slightly different reasons: the Texas Rattlesnake Festival takes pity on the poisonous serpents. On the event’s website it says, “Our desire is to end the torture, slaughter, and abuse that occurs at the present day roundups. It is not our goal to hurt the local economies but to reform the roundups into educational events.”
Taking the stance that rattlesnakes are good, not bad, and even vital to the ecosystem—Texas’ rattlesnake population is second only to Arizona in size—this festival tries to dispel our ingrained phobia of that ominous sound and the slither that comes with it. This will happen through talks like “Native Snake Identification,” “Treating Envenomations,” and “How Children Can Be Advocates.” And for the really brave, there is an opportunity to participate in “herping,” as in going out into the field and rooting around for snakes.
Lone Star Convention Center, March 12 & 13, texasrattlesnakefestival.com
Flush with Green
There are certain cities that are green with envy over Houston’s evolution from smog-caked concrete jungle to exemplar of urban beautification. The key, as Mimi Swartz pointed out in her October 2015 Texas Monthly story “Green Acres,” has been converting the likes of strip malls and freeways into parks and bike trails.
This weekend, the Cultural Landscape Foundation, a national non-profit that promotes landscape architecture, will host the conference Leading with Landscape II: The Houston Transformation. Urban planners and government officials from the around the country will converge to explore the benefits of public-private partnerships in urban park stewardship as a new model, using as examples Discovery Green, Hermann Park, and Buffalo Bayou. While the majority of analysis will occur in a lecture hall, there are scheduled field trips to the aforementioned destinations, plus two dozen other sites, for people who are visual learners.
Various locations, March 11-13, tclf.org
Kent Finlay was a songwriter’s songwriter, a man who nurtured acts including George Strait, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and James McMurtry at his Cheatham Street Warehouse. A year after his death—on Texas Independence Day 2015—his daughter, Jenni Finlay, and the music journalist Brian T. Atkinson have published the biography Kent Finlay, Dreamer: The Musical Legacy Behind Cheatham Street Warehouse, which will be celebrated on Friday in Finlay’s hometown, in song of course.
Superfly’s Lone Star Music Emporium, March 11, 6 p.m., kentfinlaydreamer.com
All That Jazz
Spring is here, and it’s officially okay to wear white again. Get into a sartorial state of mind and sport your finest light linens at the 3rd Annual Dallas Jazz Age Sunday Social, a Roaring Twenties-themed lawn party featuring croquet, antique cars, and an opportunity to do the Charleston to an 18-person band called the Singapore Slingers without feeling too self-conscious about it.
Dallas Heritage Village, March 13, 2 p.m., dallasheritagevillage.org