The Texas Senate named Chuck Norris an honorary Texan on Tuesday. This was not because Chuck showed up and roundhouse-kicked everyone into submission — naming honorary Texans is something the legislature does on a regular basis. Even for lesser mortals.
Who else, you are asking, has received this honor?
Well, in 2015, the Legislature was busy making Texans. Most notably, British singer Phil Collins got the Lone Star stamp of approval for his efforts on behalf of the Alamo. Also actor Gary Sinise was honored for his work advocating for veterans.
But other honorary Texans minted in 2015 include Albanian artist Genc Mulliqi, Czech Republic exchange student Vladimir Jaskevic, UT basketball coach Shaka Smart and former Philadelphia Eagles player Troy Vincent.
The resolution can be introduced in the House or in the Senate or it can be a concurrent resolution, such as the one in 2015 that declared May 26 to be John Wayne Day for a 10-year period. Often such resolutions simply absolve newborns unlucky enough to be born outside state lines, but lucky enough to have relatives with friends in high places.
Sometimes it’s weird. In 2011, a House Resolution granted posthumous Texan-ness to Italian national hero Giuseppe Garibaldi, for reasons nearly a half-dozen “whereas”es couldn’t make clear.
One particularly good story is the one of famous naturalist John James Audubon. After a visit to Texas in 1837, a senator in Texas’ fledgling government proposed to make Audubon an honorary Texan. Or Texian, as they said then. It went nowhere and stayed that way until 1985, when Sen. Carlos Truan sponsored a new resolution, which was easily adopted.
But the Lege doesn’t have all the fun. Texas governors can declare honorary Texans, too. Then-Gov. Rick Perry went nearly full partisan in his declarations: Sarah Palin, Sean Hannity, Rudy Giuliani, Glenn Beck and … Rush Limbaugh. (He also dubbed singer Chris Knight and actor Russell Crowe, for a little balance.)
Gov. George W. Bush was a little more, ahem, presidential in his selections. He made several prime ministers and other foreign dignitaries honorary Texans … and Bob Dylan, too.
Gov. Ann Richards kept it a little weirder. Under her watch, the parents of Jerry Jeff Walker, Bob Hope, Don McLean and Arnold Schwarzenegger became honorary Texans.
Perhaps the oddest honorary Texan ever was Nicolae Ceaușescu, Romania’s brutal communist leader until 1989. When Gov. Dolph Briscoe honored him, we’re willing to bet he didn’t anticipate Ceaușescu would be the only honorary Texan to be executed by a firing squad.
A black San Antonio-based event planner is speaking out against the racial undertones connected with plantation weddings.
According to ATTN, Jordan A. Maney is the owner and founder of All the Days Event Company in San Antonio. Maney said she received a call from a bride recently asking her to plan a wedding at Kendall Plantation in Boerne, just outside of San Antonio. ATTN reports it’s unclear if Kendall Plantation was the former home of slaves, but the venue’s website states it was built “just for weddings” in 2011.
ATTN excerpted a few lines from the website’s “about us” section, some of which appears to have been removed since the article’s publication.
“The name Kendall Plantation represents the county in which it rests (Kendall) and the architecture of a Southern antebellum home,” the website now reads, without mention of the land’s former use as “a plantation for growing cotton and other crops.”
The website still goes on to state that the venue is modeled after “true Southern Louisiana Plantation homes” and says, “The history of the land has been preserved, as we have kept original items used to work the ranch centuries ago; they are on display in unique spots along the property.”
Maney told ATTN having a wedding at a former plantation was like “having a wedding at a grave-site,” saying she didn’t understand why these aspects of history are “glamorized.”
“In the state of Texas we do have a Confederate history day, and it’s still very well practiced,” Maney told ATTN. “The idea of Southern pride tied to the Civil War is still around, but I don’t know why it gets glamorized and fantasized about.”
After Maney received the phone call from the couple requesting the wedding at Kendall Plantation, she wrote on Facebook (in a post that is now not available on her page), “DON’T CALL MY BLACK-OWNED BUSINESS ASKING ME TO PLAN YOUR PLANTATION WEDDING.” In the comments, she later detailed how the conversation with the bride unfolded, according to a screenshot captured by ATTN.
ATTN says it has reached out to Kendall Plantation for comment, but has not yet heard back. However, Kendall Plantation posted the following photo on their Instagram on Tuesday, clarifying the venue was built “from the ground up exclusively for weddings.”
We had a subscription to National Geographic when I was young, back when you couldn’t buy it on the newsstand, and it seemed like being part of a secret club. And every few issues, a bonus! One would arrive with a map inside.
Not just any map, mind you. A National Geographic map — the best a boy could get. I would pore over them for hours, looking for lochs in Scotland, mountains in Chile, deserts in Namibia, weird places in Yugoslavia.
So I’m feeling a bit sentimental over “Read a Road Map Day,” which I found out just a few minutes ago was today. I didn’t have it circled on my calendar, I admit.
I still have road maps in my car. Perhaps it was seeing the early days of online maps, when asking for directions always steered you toward the nearest interstate (sorry, Yahoo, but I am NOT going from San Angelo to Austin via Abilene). Or perhaps it is an antiquated sense of masculine pride that, damn it, I know where I’m going … but I never cared for GPS. And I’m not going to ask my phone how to get there.
So let’s celebrate road maps today. Here are five odd places you can get to from Austin (with links to an online map, because, well, this is the internet) …
1. Ding Dong Tx. On Highway 195 between Killeen and Florence. The name is said to have come from a sign on a store owned by early settlers Zulis and Bert Bell.
2. Oatmeal Tx. On FM 243, southwest of Bertram. The annual Oatmeal Festival (in nearby Bertram) began in 1978 as a parody of the then-hot chili cookoff craze.
3. Click Tx. Off County Road 308, west of Texas 71 between Horseshoe Bay and Llano. Now a ghost town, it was named for settler Malachi Click.
5. Nada, Tx. On Texas 71, between Columbus and El Campo. Even before I learned the name was Spanish for “nothing,” I was always amused by the sign on the town store. “Well if it’s Nada Grocery Store, what is it?” was the joke that never got old. But the name comes from a third source: najda is the Czechoslovakian word for “hope.” Rounding out the odd, the town’s original name was Vox Populi.
The flamboyant comedy performer, a fixture at Oilcan Harry’s in downtown Austin, was diagnosed with stage 1 liver cancer shortly after returning to town from filming season eight. Fontaine (aka Carlos Hernandez) has since gone into remission, and the storyline featured prominently in her return to the show.
“It’s a wonderful experience to represent Austin, Texas, my Hispanic community, and my community here in Austin,” Fontaine told Austin360 before the debut of “Drag Race” season 8. “We are equipped with great performers — female, male, androgynous, campy, trashy, whatever — and this city provides everything in between. So I’m just proud that I can represent a little piece of that and share it with the entire world.”
Oilcan Harry’s will host “Drag Race” viewing parties all season on Friday nights, so you can root for Fontaine on her home turf. Watch Fontaine’s “Meet the Queens” interview for season 9 below.
If you’re hoping to make slime — the “it” craft project of the moment — you might have to get creative about where you get your glue.
Slime is the latest craft project to go viral, thanks in no small part to YouTube and Instagram, where DIY lovers flock to share their latest and greatest creations.
My kids and I first made galaxy slime last fall, and the recipe for mixing glue and Borax to make a stretchy, mesmerizing goo has grown so much in popularity that we’ve had a hard time finding glue at local stores.
I posted about it online, and lots of parents responded with slime stories of their own, including tips about where you can still find glue (Michael’s and Five Below) and reports of having to throw out large quantities from a classroom.
Although I have been known to ban bottle flipping in certain situations, I like the slime project.
We’ve had fun making it, giving it as gifts and turning it into a lesson about Non-Neutonian fluids, but not everyone loves it. Slime is starting to get banned at schools (and households) for possible burns, stains and plain ol’ parent/teacher annoyance. I also heard on Facebook about some students turning their hobby into a business by selling slime in school.
Have you made slime with your kids? Have you heard about edible slime? Any slime disaster stories to share? We’d love to hear about it in the comments.
Fans of the the CW’s criminally short-lived teen detective series “Veronica Mars” are well aware that the show took place in the radically divided Neptune, Calif., a town where all that separated the elite socialites from the seedy criminals was a murky gray line of questionable morality.
But, as Entertainment Weekly has revealed, the show wasn’t always set in California. In fact, “Veronica Mars” wasn’t even originally imagined as a TV show. At first, it was going to be a Young Adult novel set right here in Austin at Westlake High School, and the titular character later became Veronica’s dad, Keith.
First things first: If you haven’t already seen “Veronica Mars,” you’re missing out. The plot centered around Veronica Mars (Kristen Bell), a high school student who moonlighted as a private eye for her father Keith. Keith was a former sheriff who opened up his own detective agency when he failed to get re-elected after he accused a Neptune socialite of murdering his own daughter (and Veronica’s best friend).
“Veronica Mars” was full of noir, camp, crime, quippy teens and lots of high school mysteries to solve. It also went to some pretty dark places in its examinations of class, race, wealth, sex and morality. The show was cancelled after three seasons, but a crowd-funded film was released in 2014 after a fourth season pilot was ordered by a network but never aired. Since the film’s release, series creator Rob Thomas has partnered with Austin author Jennifer Graham to write two books continuing the story of the plucky sleuth.
Anyway, Thomas originally intended for the story to be told as a young adult novel. He started a draft, “Untitled Teen Detective,” in 1996. That draft was shared with Entertainment Weekly this week for its “Hollywood’s Greatest Untold Stories” issue.
Thomas set “Untitled Teen Detective” in Austin. His story revolved around Keith Mars, teenage detective. Keith became a detective after his father quit a promising career with the Austin Police Department to open up a private investigation agency. Like in the TV show, there is no mother figure in the picture. Also like in the show, the titular young detective starts out by catching the parents of his wealthy Westlake High School classmates in after-hours trysts at seedy motels.
Another Texas twist: Keith pines for a popular girl who’s said to be dating a University of Texas football player.
But perhaps the biggest Austin element to the “Veronica Mars”-that-almost-was is a still-unsolved mystery that’s only hinted at. In the original draft, Keith discovers that the reason his dad left the police force is because he knowingly sent the wrong men to Death Row for involvement in Austin’s “Chocolate Shop Murders case,” a name which bears a striking resemblance to the real-life, still-unsolved Austin yogurt shop murders from 1991.
Years later, when Thomas took ideas from the draft into a spec script he sold to UPN (now The CW), Keith Mars became the disgraced law enforcement father figure, the main character became Veronica, and the main plot centered on a different kid of murder.
All of the Texas setting came natural to Thomas. He grew up in Texas, graduating from San Marcos High school in 1983. His father was a vice-principal at Westlake until the early 1990s, and Thomas attended Texas Christian University on a football scholarship before transferring to UT and graduating in 1987. Thomas was working as a high school teacher at John H. Reagan High School in Austin when he wrote the first draft of “Untitled Teen Detective,” and many characters in “Veronica Mars” were named for Austinites he met or musicians he played with. The music of several Austin bands also played in the show.
Alas, the Texas version of “Veronica Mars” is not the version that made it to the small screen. Maybe someday, if Netflix reboots the series (one can only hope) a mystery might take Veronica all the way to Austin.
It’s a good time to be a wrestling fan who happens to be a feminist.
World Wrestling Entertainment’s biggest event of the year, WrestleMania, is this weekend, and this athlete-turned-academic who once hated everything about commercial sports will watch every minute of it.
I’ve been a feminist for longer than I’ve been a wrestling fan, and when I first watched wrestling as a high schooler — my first boyfriend was a fan — I didn’t quite know how the two might intertwine many years later when I picked it up again.
I’m drawn to wrestling because of the silly, overdramatic plotlines, not unlike the “Days of Our Lives” era of my youth. (My parents never miss an episode, to this day. Mostly because of my dad. That’s a think piece for another day.) I’m fascinated with the history of the brand. Vince McMahon’s ownership of the WWE goes back to 1980, but he’s the third generation McMahon to helm a professional wrestling league. There have been many leagues, many owners, more tragedies and scandals than you could count, and my boyfriend, Eddie, a wrestling savant if there ever was one, can spin those stories all day long.
Wrestling has all the elements of professional sports that I hated for many years, but now that I’ve started to accept that celebrity drama, outrageous salaries and even bigger egos are part of all of them, even the “real” sports of baseball, basketball and football, I can appreciate the narrative and theatrics of entertainment sports.
If wrestling is as much performance art as sport, what kind of story is the WWE telling these days?
From what I’ve seen in the months leading up to WrestleMania, that message is this: Women are bench-pressing, show-stealing badasses, just like men.
In my first round of being a wrestling fan, The Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin were bringing this historic entertainment brand into the 21st century, trying to find just the right balance of flash, crass and sweaty might. They bad boy days of the 80s and 90s were coming to an end, and wrestlers like Chyna and Lita had fans wondering just what women might accomplish in the ring.
Now, as a cover story in USA Today this week explains, power couple Triple H, a wrestler-turned-exec, and Stephanie McMahon, a wrestling heir-turned-wrestler-and-exec, are overseeing a totally different kind of transformation, one that puts women in the center of the ring, not simply as eye candy or token athletes. The female wrestlers are no longer called “Divas” (even though their reality show plays up that image), and they wrestle in some of the most hyped matches of both “Raw” and “SmackDown,” the weekly WWE shows. The brand as a whole now acknowledges women’s athleticism and ability to captivate an audience that is now nearly 40 percent female.
You could make the argument that the women at the center of this WWE revolution are getting more regular airtime and more viewers than any other female athletes in American sports.
More than 70,000 fans will be packed into the stadium when Wrestlemania kicks off on Sunday, and no one will draw larger cheers than Bayley, a bubbly, kid-friendly pop star of a wrestler who is about to dethrone John Cena as the most popular athlete in the WWE right now.
Bayley is sweeter than Hannah Montana, less racy than Miley Cyrus and tough enough to fly off the turnbuckle to take down a 275-pound opponent. (That opponent was Nia Jax, a member of the extended Dwayne Johnson family, who, in case you were wondering, we think is going to win the title this weekend.)
Sunday’s event is a four-hour celebration of machismo, but there’s a fair bit of fem-chismo, too. Bayley is one of more than a dozen female wrestlers on the roster right now. Some of them star in a pair of reality shows on the WWE Network, including Nikki Bella, who is the real-life and character girlfriend of John Cena and star of “Total Bellas.” This weekend, she’ll stand toe-to-toe with Maryse, the wife of another wrestler named The Miz, and the four of them are scheduled for a tag team match.
With Bayley in the pole position and other top female wrestlers, including Charlotte and Sasha Banks, earning top billing, this year’s WrestleMania shows just how far the WWE has come since the Hulk Hogan days, but let’s not get too carried away.
A few weeks ago, my 10-year-old son asked: “Do the men and women ever wrestle each other?” I hemmed and hawed about how they don’t but they should. Eddie cut to a biological fact I like to ignore: That men are, for the most part, fundamentally stronger than women. There are certainly female wrestlers who could match some of the men — it’s been nearly 20 years since Chyna was the first woman to enter the Royal Rumble and Charlotte has been a proponent of more co-ed matches — but I doubt we’ll see full parity in terms of salaries, airtime and match placement, thanks in part to biology but also to the ungodly strength of many of the male athletes that make me question the enforcement of WWE’s rule against steroid use.
WWE still has plenty of misogyny baked into its brand. Xavier Woods, one of the announcers of this year’s Wrestlemania who was also in Austin a few weeks ago to host the SXSW Gaming Awards, got pulled into a sex tape scandal earlier this month, but he’ll still have the mic at Wrestlemania and his career likely won’t take the hit of Paige, the wrestler whose ex-boyfriend allegedly released the tape. We can’t forget that Hulk Hogan’s fragile male ego about a sex tape ultimately took down Gawker. He has been written out of WWE history but because of racial slurs, not the sex tape controversy, even though Chyna’s own sex tape practically derailed her career.
In an arena where it’s hard to separate the drama outside the ring from the drama inside it, we have to pay attention to make sure this women’s revolution in the WWE is actually a revolution and not just a marketing strategy to hook more viewers like me. I still use my critical lens to ask lots of questions about gender, sexuality and race in professional wrestling — the McMahons are, after all, well-known Trump supporters — but that lens also allows me to celebrate small wins.
Right now, that looks like Bayley, a happy-go-lucky 27-year-old millennial dominating the biggest wrestling event of the year.
She’ll be surrounded by super-strong athletic women who are changing our ideas about what women can accomplish in sports entertainment, and a whole bunch of burly men who don’t seem to mind sharing the spotlight.
You know what fries go well with? Burgers. You know what else they go well with? The endorphin-rushing satisfaction of national culinary praise.
The locally beloved French fries served at Hyde Park Bar & Grill have been named among the 20 best in the country by Food & Wine magazine. From the magazine’s accolade:
“Hyde Park treats its fries like many people treat fried chicken: by soaking cut potatoes in buttermilk, battering them, and then frying them. They’re served with a side of mayo that’s kicked up with jalapeños and dill. Possibly the most famous fries in Austin, and deservedly so.”
As a news release from the restaurant points out, this is not the first honor bestowed upon the fried tubers. Last year, the dish also made Food Network Magazine’s list of “10 Best French Fries in the US” list and People’s “15 Best French Fries in the US” list. The fries have been on the Hyde Park Bar & Grill menu since the restaurant opened in 1982.
Also on the list with an Austin connection: the duck fat fries at Salty Sow. Food & Wine spotlights the egg-and-béarnaise-topped dish at the gastropub’s Arizona location, though you can get the same fries at the Austin location on Manor Road.
In Austin, ‘tequila cloud’ could be the hippest new tech company. Maybe the kind of place where you can lounge in the bean bag room on Beer Friday. Or, perhaps, ‘tequila cloud’ could be the hottest band at South by Southwest.
In Germany, a land traditionally a little short on whimsy, the ‘tequila cloud’ was a cloud. It was made of tequila. It rained alcohol.
This is not the best possible side effect of climate change, but rather the invention of the Tourism Promotion Council of Mexico and U.S. marketing agency Lapiz, who created the artificial cloud for display at the Berlin creative space Urban Spree earlier this month. The display was meant to urge Germans (long used to rainclouds during their damp and cold winter) to hightail it to sunny Mexico.
But you do not care about German tourism, presumably. You want to know how to get a tequila cloud to rain booze at your next party. “Lapiz formed the ’tequila cloud’ by using ultrasonic humidifiers to vibrate tequila at a frequency that turned it into visible mist, just like a cloud,” digital magazine designboom reported on their site. “The boozy mist then condensed into liquid form as it came into contact with a plastic container, making a real cloud rain tequila.”
The lucky Berliners to visit the display could simply hold a shot glass under the cloud and fill it up with tequila.
With any luck, somebody already is working on vodka snow.
Spring has sprung. This is old news, of course. Winter — what there was of it — has been in Austin’s rear view mirror for weeks. But don’t get too comfortable.
Summer is looming. In Central Texas, it’s that 5-6 month season when you can’t walk out barefoot to get something from the car. When you can’t check out a new park without setting your alarm clock. When you can work up a sweat just watering your grass.
It will be here before you know it. Here are 8 things you need to do in Central Texas before summer gets here …
1. TAKE THE KIDS TO THE PLAYGROUND
There’s nothing like the sound of a screaming child who has discovered for you that the playground equipment is way too hot. Better find an overcast day and take them now. Repeat until the sizzle makes you stop.
2. GO TO A SHOW AT A CLASSIC HONKY-TONK
Sure, I’m from here. I know full well that there’s something great about a hot summer night at a historic venue. But you just can’t hear Ray Wylie tell his stories when you’re surrounded by people whining about how stuffy and sticky it is.
3. GO FOR A NATURE HIKE
If you think water obstacles are part of the fun while hiking through the Barton Creek greenbelt, you probably don’t want to wait until July.
4. SEE THE WILDFLOWERS
Duh. They got an early start this year. It’ll be crispy grass and cracked earth soon.
5. GET A GOOD JUMP ON THE YARDWORK
If oak pollen allergies allow it, best to get out there now and fight the bugs and the humidity.
6. GO CAMPING AT ENCHANTED ROCK
It takes a certain type of person to lie in a puddle of sweat in a tent at Enchanted Rock in July. If you don’t think you are that person, trust me, you are not.
7. GO EAT CHILI AT THE TEXAS CHILI PARLOR
Traditionally, Texas is still at risk for a cold snap until Easter. That might be optimistic thinking this year. Better get that bowl of XXX chili before the XXX weather hits.
8. BREAK OUT THE BUG ZAPPER
Seriously. A friend gave me a bug zapper and two lawn chairs as a wedding gift. (A good friend who could get away with such a thing.) He said it was a “redneck entertainment center.” And so it has been. The zapping is good now. When it’s 110 degrees in July, the flying bugs will be dead. The bugs will be dead. They’ll all be dead.