UT Visual Arts Center opens this weekend

No college major strikes greater fear into the hearts of parents paying thousands of dollars in tertiary education bills than Art History – except maybe Studio Art. “What are you going to do with that?” they ask, in tones ranging from confused (if a student is lucky) to enraged (if she’s not). Thanks to UT’s new Visual Arts Center, Longhorn student artists and art historians now have an answer.

The VAC is a newly built University exhibition space opening Friday, September 24, developed to showcase UT art and give Art Department students a taste of the professional artist’s life.

The UT Visual Arts Center is composed of five gallery spaces, each devoted to a particular educational mission.

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Curbside Parking Downtown in City’s Crosshairs

Finding parking spots downtown is harder than your seedy uncle’s apple cider, but one solution being considered by the city could have people up in arms as the battle for the meter gets underway in the coming months, as the free nights and weekends policy receives scrutiny from the Austin Transportation Department.

A recent study conducted by the ATD finds that both residents and business owners feel the parking situation downtown is bad, with too few spots available, especially at night.

In an effort to improve downtown’s parking congestion problem, the Transportation Department spent the summer examining the opinions of local stakeholders, including 6th Street Austin, 2nd Street, the Greater Austin Chamber, and the West Austin Alliance, through individual and group meetings and surveys.

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Old-fashioned authors speak at New Fiction Confab

Last Saturday the Austin Public Library Friends Foundationheld the New Fiction Confab, a day of readings and panel discussion among local authors ZZ Packer and Doug Dorst, guest authors Wells TowerJulie Orringer, and Nell Freudenberger, and American Short Fiction editor Jill Meyers, moderated by Texas Monthly editor Jake Silverstein.

Though I missed the readings (having stumbled out of bed at 1:00 to find that’s when the readings had begun), I was able to attend the fascinating panel discussion.

Despite their presence at the “New” Fiction Confab, the assembled writers seemed uncomfortable with the label. When asked by Silverstein how they tried make fiction new, they all agreed that they…didn’t. “If I ‘tried’ to make something new, I’d do a terrible job….I kind of trust my wiring to be my wiring,” Dorst replied.

The idea of writing what comes naturally was echoed by the group–who all stated that they favored a very traditional story style. Packer said, “This idea [of writing “new” fiction] has an anxiety, but there’s no choice but to be new just by being an individual. You shouldn’t turn cartwheels to do something utterly new…a better word would be ‘fresh’.”

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New Scrabble to allow proper nouns, “floating” words

Starting in July, Mattel will be releasing a new version of Scrabble. Not one of their annual fancy board updates, with the turntables and the slots for pieces and diamond-encrusted Q tiles and so on, but an actual change to the rules for the first time in the game’s 62-year history. Yes, starting this summer, players will be allowed to use proper nouns.

According to the BBC, a Scrabble spokesperson said that the changed rule will add “a new dimension”  and introduce “an element of pop culture into the game.” Which is of course vital, as there’s an alarming dearth of pop culture in our board games today. To wit: a three-minute Google search only turned up Simpsons MonopolyTrivial Pursuit for Kids Nickelodeon Edition, and the Twilight, Star Trek, and Seinfield editions of Scene It?

Mattel is also apparently considering allowing “floating words”–words unconnected to other pieces–and words spelled backwards. These are all just “number of twists and challenges included that we believe existing fans will enjoy and will also enable younger fans and families to get involved,” according to the spokesperson. In this regard, she’s correct: abandoning rules altogether and playing “throw small plastic squares at a big cardboard square” would enable younger fans to get involved (toddlers love throwing small plastic things almost as much as they love shoving them up their noses). Which is what everyone wants out of their half-century old spelling games, right?

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Indie presses unite, recite crocodile-sex poetry at Peer Pressure

Last night five independent Austin presses gathered at Club de Ville for Peer Pressure: Indie Presses Unite! Held in celebration of Small Press Month (which, emcee Owen Egerton reminded us, “is what March is really known for”), the evening featured readings of authors represented by each press as well as a musical opener by The Whiskey Priest.

The delightfully bearded Seth Woods (Whiskey Priest, the man) was the first surprise of the evening. According to a story I overheard him telling some associates (I am apparently now a gossip columnist), he made a pact with himself several years ago not to trim or shave his beard until he was engaged to be married. “You could shave it on your wedding day!” a friend enthused.

“She might run,” he replied. He’s clearly given this some thought.

After several failed attempts to sneakily photograph him in all his hirsute glory, I was pleased when he got on stage, obviating my need for any spy tactics. I hate it when my creepy impulses look creepy.

He played several lovely little acoustic guitar songs, sounding (and looking) like a slightly rocking-er Iron & Wine. In the middle of the set, he invited us all over to listen to his album when he got it back from the record company, even going to far as to shout out his address to the medium-sized crowd (let’s hope I was the creepiest person there).

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Gay marriage is going to happen, and here’s how I know

The recent Proposition 8 ruling is headed for the Supreme Court, and there’s no guarantee it’ll stand up there. But having read it, I’m not worried, and I’ll tell you why.

Some of Judge Vaughn Walker’s more scathing passages in the eminently quotable ruling (seriously, this thing is like a golden-era Simpsons episode) have become immediate media favorites, particularly the ones shredding William Blankenhorn and Hak-Shing William Tang’s qualifications as credible pro-Prop 8 witnesses and his stunning, unequivocal conclusion on Prop 8′s constitutionality:

Blankenhorn’s book, The Future of Marriage…lists numerous consequences of permitting same-sex couples to marry, some of which are the manifestations of deinstitutionalization listed above. Blankenhorn explained that the list of consequences arose from a group thought experiment in which an idea was written down if someone suggested it.

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Library insists on acknowledging the existence of gay penguins

The Calvert County Board of Library Trustees voted Tuesday to keep the children’s book And Tango Makes Three in the children’s section, rather than segregating it in a separate–but presumably equal–section for the “alternative or non-traditional family”. After Beth Bubser read it with her seven-year-old daughter and discovered it was the true story of the same-sex penguin parents living the Central Park Zoo, she filed a complaint, requesting it be removed from the children’s section and shelved somewhere far, far away.

“It is a great book for a certain family, but not for my family and a lot of families I know,” she said. “I believe in everyone’s rights. I believe in freedom of speech, but this is not right for my family.”

Apparently the only families that are allowed to know about the existence of gay penguins–and presumably by extension gay people–are gay families themselves. Baby Bubser shouldn’t know that gay people exist…because she might turn gay? I wonder what would happen if someone told her about black people.

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