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« Austin Links for 2006-02-10 | Main | Headliner's Club: Austinites in the News »

Episode 17: Michael Barnes

Our next guest, Michael Barnes, arts and entertainment editor for the Austin American-Statesman is the answer to two of the most frequently asked questions about our show.

For interview, click here to download ArmadilloPodcast17.mp3. 

First, many people outside the state ask the question "Why would anyone ever move to Texas?"

Second, people here in Austin often ask "Why for godsakes would you encourage anyone else to moveMichaelbarnes_2 here?"  This question is usually followed by a rant about the traffic, over-crowding, high housing prices, the breakdown of civil society and an overall destruction of the Austin quality of life.

Let's address the second question first.

"AThe Armadillo Podcast exists solely to convince my best friend living out in California to move to Austin, TX.  That may sound like a small niche but the people who love Austin and its quirky ways are a large and passionate audience.  And I intend to ask every person in Austin to share their affection for the city through my podcast interviews until my friend moves to town.  Previous guests who have joined me on this quest so far have included Melicious, one of the Texas Rollergirls, Kinky Friedman and David Brown, the host of KUT's Texas Music Matters program.

In trying to convince my friend to "come home with the armadillo," like the song says, I’ve so far interviewed 18 people in Austin, the country's 16th largest city.  That's 18 down and 656,544 to go till I either interview them all, or my friend gives in and moves here.

This show is really about the things that make Austin special. It's an online radio postcard that says "Wish you were here," to all our friends abroad.

So why would I encourage yet another person to move to Austin?

You can find the answer to in Michael Barnes.  Or rather, people like Michael.

Like just about everyone in this town, Michael moved here from some where else (Houston). Back in 1984 when Michael first crossed the city line, the Austin arts scene was a scraggly mix of hippies and Judy Garland-Mickey Rooney amateurs throwing productions together in barns.

But "Austin is a sentient city...a thinking city," said Michael during our podcast interview.  He began writing about the arts at the Statesmen and in article after article he praised what was good and encouraged the bad to become better.  Now lo these many years, through Michael's unwavering advocacy and some 5,000 articles later, Austin is now nationally recognized for its ______________.  (Hah-hah! You'll have to listen to the podcast to find out!)

The moral of this story is that once you've reached paradise, you can't simply pull up the ladder behind you.  People will hear of your good fortune and want to follow.

We have built it, they will come.  Get over it.

So this podcast humbly attempts to draw in the like-minded souls, the fellow travelers, the misfits to our little Island of Misfit Toys--people like Michael Barnes.  And in some ways, when we concentrate on what is weird about Austin in our posts, consider these posts to be a digital version of the Great Wall in China, designed to keep the Mongol hordes at bay.

That's what the phrase "Keep Austin Weird" means to me.  Keeping it Weird is a Great Wall that keeps the rest of Texas from invading and holds the Bubbas and their red state values on the other side of the wall.  For example: If your cousin from Midland says he wants to move here, send him this striking collection of Leslie photos, by Italian photographer Carla Cinelli. Then depending upon your cousin's reaction, you'll know whether to complain about the hellish highways or clue him in to the paradise that awaits.

* * * * *

Come back later and we'll talk about the first question: "Why would anyone ever move to Texas?"


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Great episode! and perfect after Wayne Alan Brenner, i don't think people truly appreciate how hard(nonexistent) the art scene can be in other cities, Austin is rare with it's many 'entry level'galleries and music venues. My town, tampa,fl, has one alternative gallery, then it's straight to the high-end venues and our floundering museum. But tampa made it's choice years ago, we gave huge tax breaks to our NFL team,and cut money to the museum, and yeah, they won the damn superbowl, but nobody creative wants to live here, so KEEP AUSTIN WIERD! I'm coming soon to do my part, brandy, tampa, floriduh

Steven Phenix

Thanks, Brandy!

Since you like our podcast, you're obviously smart. 8-) And Austin can always use more smart people. So let me be the first to welcome you to Austin!

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Guests and Armadillos

  • Steven Phenix
    Weekly podcast interviews of Austinites famous and infamous, known and unknown, with the sole intent to convince my good friend Galia, an Israeli woman living way out in California, to move and live with us here in Austin, Texas, the land of the weird and the home of the armadillo.

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