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Written by Jane Wu

5763Growing up in Houston in the late Sixties when the Chinese community was much smaller (and inconceivable that Texas’ largest city would one day house the one of the largest Asian populations in the U.S.), I didn’t get to see the massive Lunar New Year street festivals and celebrations that cities such as San Francisco are famous for. I missed out on the lion and dragon dances—choreographed performers writhing in bright and elaborate centipede-like costumes, accompanied by firecrackers to chase away evil spirits and make way for good luck in the new year.

2B9A3613These days, Marfa gets all the attention as an arts destination in West Texas. While the reputation is well-deserved, with the Chinati Foundation and globally recognized galleries calling Marfa home, there is also a thriving arts community in nearby Alpine.

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I first heard of papercrete 20 years ago, while visiting friends in Alpine who had moved from Austin. My friends, Tom and Susan Curry were talking about plans to build their next home with a greener and more economical alternative building method to adobe, using a mix of paper, sand, cement, and water.

Pinto Bean Chili1Texas comfort food is the centerpiece of our November issue, featuring 24 pages of our Reader’s Choice Top 40 Comfort Food Destinations. For vegetarians and vegans (who also don’t consume animal by-products such as milk, cheese, or eggs), most of these recommendations are off the table, since most of these classic dishes rely on meat or dairy as the prime ingredients.

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Whatever your political persuasion—or lack thereof—the recently reimagined LBJ Presidential Library provides a colorful journey into an influential era of change.

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After 30 years with Texas Highways, as photo contributor and including six years as Photography Editor, Griff Smith is retiring from the magazine. We just wrapped up the August issue, our last issue with Griff.

The Austin City Limits Festival kicks off the first of two weekends for the very first time on Friday, October 4. With two weekends filled with nearly identical music lineups, will it be as crowded, more crowded, or—wishful thinking—slightly less crowded?

On a recent visit to Houston, I made plans with my sister, Jean to go the Houston Museum of Natural Science to see Titanic, The Artifact Exhibition before it leaves (on view through Sep. 23), and also explore the new Hall of Paleontology.

Long before the 1997 Oscar-winning film, I have always been fascinated with the history of the shipwrecked ocean liner and the class system within it. A traveling exhibit in honor of the 100th anniversary of the tragedy, Titanic, The Artifact Exhibition contains items uncovered from the ship including clothing, jewelry, luggage and leather goods, stationery, perfume bottles (one of the bottles still bears a faint scent) and china used in the first-, second-, and third-class dining rooms. I learned that china imprinted with the simple, smart design of the ship’s White Star Line logo was served in third-class to discourage theft from passengers. (I must admit if I had been a passenger, the opposite would’ve been true!) The items for the most part are remarkably well-preserved, thanks to a combination of the type of chemicals used to tan leather suitcases a century ago, plus the enormous water pressure from the ocean floor helped form a tight seal around the trunks and cabinets containing the contents.

 

F.I.S.H. by Donald Lipski at I-35 underpass

TH's May cover story of San Antonio's River Walk reminded me of a recent visit to the area. After an evening of celebrating my nephew Will's graduation from medical school at Tower of the Americas Chart House, I intended to stop for a nightcap at the Esquire Tavern on the River Walk on the way back to the hotel.  But I overindulged and was ready to turn in for the night. By morning, I was rested and ready to take a stroll on the River Walk, with the goal to walk as far as the Museum Reach extension to see the art installations and recent additions to the area.

As I was covering SXSW Film for TH, I spent my time in line waiting to get into screenings to observe and chat with my queue-neighbors. Like my colleague Lori Moffatt, I attended most of the screenings with a film pass. I kept thinking about my experience as a music fan, going to free SXSW music shows and ACL Fest, and how rabid music fans differ from serial filmgoers, and what these tribes have in common.

Among the film-pass people I’ve met at various theaters, I found that they tend to be local Austinites. In contrast, more of the SXSW music fans, even the wristband- and badge-less, hail from out-of-town, and with ACL Fest it’s about even. Film-pass folks are loyal, too—many buy SXSW Film passes every year, much like ACL Fest goers. My cinephile friends Tina and Michael are in the film-pass camp, and they also get passes for the Austin Film Festival in the fall.

 

Photo by Peter Brown

Texas Photographers: Descriptions of China, now showing at the Institute of Texan Cultures in San Antonio, offers  perceptive views of a vast and fast-developing nation through the eyes of five photographers whose careers and creative visions are widely varied: Peter Brown from Houston, Al Rendon, Ricardo Romo, and Ansen Seale from San Antonio, and Joel Salcido from Austin. I had a chance to view the exhibit with my daughter, Lucy, as Fiesta celebrations drew to a close.

The images, shot last fall in and around Shanghai, Lishui City, Wenzhou, and Beijing, were part of a cultural exchange between the Confucius Institute at The University of Texas at San Antonio and the China Photographers Association. The photographers were also invited to show their Texas work at the association’s International Photographic Art Exhibition in Lishui.

Liliana Saumet of Bomba Estereo at Auditorium Shores

As SXSW Film was winding down, I set aside time for some of the free SXSW music shows. I went to Thursday’s Auditorium Shores concert and saw M. Ward and later, the Shins. I was pleased and surprised by M. Ward’s high-energy set, and also the Shins’ recent addition, guitarist Jessica Dobson, who I think brings an edgier and more distinctive sound to not only the new material, but enhances their older hits without changing the structure. I also spent most of Friday afternoon at Waterloo Records, another major hub for free SXSW shows.  I heard Talib Kweli, Jimmy Cliff, Of Montreal, and Gary Clark Jr. play to a near-capacity crowd and all performed phenomenal shows. And I returned to Auditorium Shores one last time to hear Bomba Estereo perform a short but explosive set before heading to UT for the Big Easy Express film screening with Mumford & Sons headlining a live show.

Two big misses/goofs: I took a break for lunch around 4 and missed Father John Misty, who I later discovered is Josh Tillman, former member of the Fleet Foxes, one of my favorite bands. And I stuck around for the headliner, 80s’ hard-rock veterans the Cult, mistaking them for a younger indie pop band called the Cults. I felt so foolish, as the Cult took over a half-hour to set up and I had plans to meet friends on S. Congress. But the next day I felt somewhat vindicated when one of my young SXSW houseguests revealed to me that she and her friend made the same goof. Legions of middle-aged biker types surrounding the stage also tipped them off that maybe they weren’t here to see the same band!

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