Saturday is Choose Kind Day in Austin. Here’s what’s happening

You can never have enough kindness, right?

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Austinites are encouraged to choose kindness on Saturday. Martin do Nascimento/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Mayor Steve Adler has declared Saturday, Nov. 11 Choose Kind Day in Austin, a day when Austinites are encouraged to participate in random acts of kindness and volunteer with their favorite nonprofits while using the hashtag #ChooseKindAustin to spread the word.

In honor of Choose Kind Day and in conjunction with the movie “Wonder,” which opens on Nov. 17, a variety of events are being held across the city on Saturday and into next week. Here’s a sample.

  • Austin Pets Alive! mural: Snap a photo next to the new kindness-themed mural at the Austin Pets Alive! thrift store and receive 20 percent off anything in the store on Saturday.
  • Adelphi Acre Gardens Work Day: Generation Serve has coordinated a work day at these gardens, where volunteers will tend to the butterfly gardens and weed, mulch, harvest and plant in the donation garden beds. Produce collected from the harvest will be donated to a local food pantry.
  • Ronald McDonald House meal prep: Generation Serve has also coordinated this opportunity, which will include preparing a meal for families staying at the Ronald McDonald House while they have a family member at the hospital.

Learn more about volunteer opportunities for all ages in the Austin area at

‘Veronica Mars’ started as a YA novel set at Austin-area Westlake High School


A long time ago, “Veronica Mars” used to be set in Austin. But we haven’t thought about that lately at all. Until now.

Kristen Bell plays the title character in “Veronica Mars.” The film version of the ’90s television series opened in March, 2014. CREDIT: ROBERT VOETS

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).

Related: This year’s ATX Television Festival is scheduled for June. Here’s what’s scheduled so far.

“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.

Rob Thomas on the red carpet for the movie Veronica Mars in Austin, Texas on March 7, 2014. (Thao Nguyen/FOR AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

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.

From the archives: Fresh from filming ‘Veronica Mars,’ Rob Thomas returns triumphant

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.

From the archives: ‘Veronica Mars’ film has many Austin music moments

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.

Luke Wilson wants you to wear shirts from this Austin clothing company

Actor Luke Wilson is now a brand ambassador for Austin clothing company Criquet.
Actor Luke Wilson is now a brand ambassador for Austin clothing company Criquet.

Austin-based Criquet – purveyors of retro-cool clothing for men – have linked up with some stylish star power.

The golf lifestyle brand announced it has partnered with actor Luke Wilson, a native of Dallas known for such films as “Idiocracy,” “Old School” and “The Royal Tenenbaums.” Wilson will act as a brand ambassador and minority owner with the official title of “Assistant Pro.”

“I have always been a huge fan of Criquet Shirts’ vintage, classic look and I really love the 19th hole spirit behind the brand,” Wilson said in a news release. “They have managed to capture the laid-back vibe that is unique to Austin and created a product that I can take from the golf course to the set. I am pumped to be part of team and look forward to contributing to their story.”

RELATED: Criquet clothing founders mine classic cool for modern look

One Texas city made the list of best places to raise the ‘next rock star’ … and it’s not Austin

Austin may be the Live Music Capital of the World, but apparently it’s not too great if you’re expecting to raise your child to be a famous musician — at least according to one recent list.

Gary Clark Jr. performs at the Austin City Limits Music Festival in Zilker Park on Friday October 2, 2015. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN
Gary Clark Jr. performs at the Austin City Limits Music Festival in Zilker Park on Friday October 2, 2015. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN released a list of the 10 best cities in America to raise the next rock star, and Austin is nowhere to be found. Inexplicably, College Station is No. 8 on the list, the only Texas city to make the top 10. The whole list is pretty surprising, actually: Gainesville, Fla. tops the list, followed by Tallahassee, Fla. and Ann Arbor, Mich. There are other Texas cities listed outside of the top 10: Lubbock (home of Buddy Holly) comes in at 16, and you can find Austin all the way down at 34, followed by Dallas at 77 and Houston at 83.

Since we’re mostly talking about raising kids here, some of Austin’s major music perks don’t carry much weight in this ranking: Number of live music venues in the city, support for local musicians, overall number of working musicians, etc. This study is all about the availability of music lessons per child, and that metric is based on the number of music tutor profiles listed on, which primarily exists to link parents to child caregivers in their area.

So if your kid wants to be the next Stevie Ray Vaughan, Willie Nelson, Janis Joplin, Townes Van Zandt, Gary Clark Jr., Alejandro Escovedo, Patti Griffin, Robert Earl Keen, Ben Kweller, Carrie Rodriguez, Bob Schneider, Shakey Graves, Ray Benson, Dale Watson … do we need to list any more Austin musical acts to prove that Austin’s actually a pretty great place to be a rock star? Didn’t think so.

This couple got engaged at Alamo Drafthouse’s ‘C4GED’ and Nicolas Cage gave them his blessing

You probably know by now that Nicolas Cage himself popped up at the Alamo Drafthouse’s fourth annual marathon of Cage films to celebrate the actor’s birthday, aptly named “C4GED,” on Sunday.

But that day was extra special for two Nicolas Cage fans, who got engaged at the showing.

photo via Ben Ben Binh / Facebook
photo via Ben Ben Binh / Facebook

Facebook user Ben Ben Binh posted a photo in an Alamo Drafthouse fan group on Facebook, writing, “I want to thank you Drafthouse and all you guys at #C4GED last night, you guys really made the proposal to my girlfriend Jennifer Hedges perfect in every way. This community has been warm and eccentric in Austin and I’m glad to have it a part of my life events. Oh yeah, that’s totally Nicolas Cage giving us his blessings.”

We’re so glad Cage seems to approve of the union. Read more about the event and watch Cage read Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart” here.

Roses are red, violets are blue … this book of poetry about Austin traffic was written just for you

Move over, Lewis Carroll. One writer has dreamed up a beast much more terrifying than the “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” writer’s Jabberwocky: The Traffickwocky.


Local bard Tex MoPac (we’ll bet that’s not their real name) penned a poetry book about the plights of Austinites stuck in traffic called “Traffickwocky: Austin Traffic Poetry & Whatnot” and you can buy it for $11 here, if that’s the kind of thing you want to spend $11 on. According to the website, the book features epic poems such as “Richard Linklater Caught in Traffic” (it seems likely this has happened before), “Shakespeare Stuck in Traffic” (this one is perhaps less likely), “Masters Winner Stuck in Traffic,” “Google Fiber Stuck in Traffic” and everyone’s favorite holiday poem, “Trail of Brake Lights.”

We even get a taste of one of the poems, titled “Stop-n-Go Hipster,” which reads: “We parallel one another at speeds under 5 m.p.h. / I can see the setting sun through the enormous hole in his ear lobe.” Deep.

So who is this Tex MoPac anyway? There’s no way to know, really, but the website gives us a hint (if you want to believe that any of this is actually true): He was born on a Greyhound Bus in traffic on Highway 71, thus dubbing him the Bard of Austin Traffic. The site reads:

“Tex MoPac suggests that Austinites love to think they are united in some glorious and hip way: the love of live music, food trucks or college football. That may be true for some, but when you really get down to it, Tex MoPac maintains, there is only one true unifying (and horrifying) experience, the abominable monster that seems to grow stronger by the day: traffic.”

Is Tex MoPac the alter ego of @EvilMopacATX on Twitter? We may never know. Either way, this “humor” book promises to be 138 pages of traffic poetry (and whatnot) that’s sure to be highly relatable for any Austinite that’s ever been stuck on MoPac. Or I-35. Or Lamar. Or 183. Or anywhere downtown. You get the point.

Image via
Image via


Professor Matthew McConaughey talks about teaching at UT on ‘Late Night with Seth Meyers’

Matthew McConaughey, the patron saint of Longhorn fans everywhere, just finished up teaching his first semester at the University of Texas. Despite Texas’ less-than-great football season this year, he’s still spreading the Longhorn love.


On “Late Night with Seth Meyers” Thursday night, Meyers asked the actor about the class, and McConaughey responded, “It’s the class I wish I would’ve had when I was in film school.”

The university announced in August that the actor, who graduated from UT in 1993 with a radio-television-film degree, signed on to teach a course titled Advanced Producing: Script-to-Screen in the Moody College of Communication. He taught the course mostly through recorded videos, but he made an appearance or two in class for some face time with his students (and he did it all totally pro bono, too).

“Late Night” shared a clip on Twitter from the interview with McConaughey, who plays a koala in the upcoming animated movie “Sing,” on Friday morning, asking, “What would you do if Matthew McConaughey was your college professor at @UTAustin?”

The university responded accordingly, writing, “We’d at least be sure to raise our hand before asking a question.”

Savage, @UTAustin.

See the full interview Meyers did with McConaughey on YouTube.





Home for the holidays: What students are most looking forward to during winter break

At the end of the fall semester, as studying for finals consumes both day and night, there is one thing college students cannot wait for — winter break. We went to Mozart’s Coffee Roasters and asked some what they are looking forward to the most during the weeks off for the holiday.

— Photos and text by Mackenzie Palmer/American-Statesman

University of Texas international relations and global studies junior Samantha Gorny, 20, said she is looking forward to hanging out with her parents and dogs during the break in Houston, her hometown, as well as watching TV, riding bikes and ice skating. She also will be going to New Jersey for a week to visit her father’s side of the family.


Seamus Hawley, 19, is from Minneapolis, Minn., and said he can’t wait to get back to the cold weather. “I only really like winter for about a month, so that is the perfect amount of time to go back,” Hawley said. He said finals burned him out and he is ready to relax.


Sophomore Jessica Plasters, 19, said that after attending the Day for Night festival in Houston, she can’t wait to hang out with her cats and listen to rap music with her friends at home in San Antonio.


Business marketing major Jared Malik Royal, 22, said he is ready to sleep in and wake up to a big breakfast once he gets home to Keller. In the spirit of the holiday, he said he loves giving presents to his friends and family.


Kassidy Knight, 21, is a University of Texas senior computer engineering major from Haslet, outside Fort Worth. She said she is ready to nap a lot and eat a lot but is going to miss her teammates from Texas 4000, a UT biking group, during break.


UT freshman Chris Uvalle, 19, said he is excited to head back home to Edinburg to hang with old friends and family. And after a semesterlong break, Uvalle said he can’t wait to be reunited with his piano at home.


Austin Community College student Danny Fraser, 25, said he is ready to catch up with old friends in Williamsport, Md. Fraser said he’ll spend his time walking his parents’ dogs, visiting his favorite childhood spots and hiking.


UT student Krissa Martin, 20, from Houston, said she can’t wait to mountain bike, play volleyball and see her 16-year-old sister, Wendy.


Cameron Osmond, 20, a UT liberal arts honors program sophomore, said he loves to eat his parents’ cooking (especially the two dishes above). While back in Flower Mound, Osmond said he’ll dedicate his time to writing the second draft of his screenplay.


Cade Stone, 20, said he is excited to return home, even though home is Austin. “It’s a 25-minute drive, but I’m still excited and looking forward to it,” Stone said.

The Factory Cafe on Burnet Road goes laptop-free

In a unique move, Austin’s The Factory Cafe decided this week to ban customers from using laptops in the space.

Image via The Factory Cafe
Image via The Factory Cafe

The cafe, which calls itself a “creative sanctuary,” announced the decision on its social media channels on Tuesday with a graphic saying, “No laptops! Talk to each other” and the caption, “Starting tomorrow, Dec 7th [sic], we are going laptop-free! Make new friends, be inspired, find your muse.”

The Factory Cafe, which opened in the former Saladworks space on Burnet Road earlier this year, is one of Austin’s few coffee shops that doesn’t have a WiFi connection (Cuvee Coffee is another, and Radio Coffee and Beer turns its WiFi off at 5 p.m. when the happy hour crowd begins to show up).

The decision is an interesting one for a coffee shop in a city brimming with bloggers, freelancers, creatives and technology workers. U.S. News and World Report ranked Austin as the top metro area for working remotely, with 6.77 percent of the city’s nearly 1 million workers telecommuting at least half the time they are working. Austin is also home to four universities, a community college and various other institutes of higher education, with more than 70,000 total students who use spaces like Factory Cafe to study and work.

The cafe is open from 9 a.m. to 2 a.m. and serves beer and wine, as well as a variety of decked-out waffles and snacks.

We’ve reached out to Factory Cafe for comment on their decision to go laptop-free.


Signs of gratitude: We asked people at Zilker Park what they’re #thankful for

Thanksgiving is a perfect time of year to reflect and to celebrate what is special to us. With the holiday on the horizon, we went out to Zilker Park and asked people what they were thankful for.



Emory, Adam and their dog Kensho were at the park visiting new friends and having a doggie play date. For Thanksgiving, they plan to visit both sides of the family and, of course, enjoy lots of delicious food.



Stephany Pereira, right, from Colombia said she will be spending the holiday with her host family in Austin. This will be her first Thanksgiving in America.



Carson and her three younger sisters, Blair, Avery and Tabitha, spent the day kicking the ball around and laughing together. For Thanksgiving they plan to go to Amarillo to spend time with their grandparents.



Katie and Chris were practicing their handstands at the park. For Thanksgiving, they are going to Katie’s Mimi’s house to enjoy her traditional cooking.




Skylar Smith and Dmytro Ivanyna came out to watch the sunset. Ivanyna, who is from Ukraine, has been in Austin for two years. This will be his second Thanksgiving in America but his first celebrating with Smith and their friends and family.




Peter spent the day playing with his two pups. Peter plans to spend the holiday taking some time to himself and relaxing at home.



Ryan Tyrell and Melanie Weinberger brought their dog Mary out to Zilker. An injured leg couldn’t keep Tyrell inside on this beautiful day. For Thanksgiving, Weinberger says she plans to volunteer with Travis County Victim Services. She said the best way to give thanks is to give back.



Katie Fingerhut gave thanks to her three cats, Todd, Kimba and Charlie. She said she will be going back home to Arkansas for Thanksgiving to visit family.



For the holiday, Edwin De Angel has planned a special family getaway at La Cantera Resort and Spa in San Antonio. After having a baby (not pictured) less than three months ago, the family is ready for a vacation.