Archive for: February 2016

Big League Rivalry: Longhorn majors come home to face off with current players

Current Texas baseball Head Coach Augie Garrido talks with his predecessor Cliff Gustafson at the 2015
Texas baseball alumni game on February 6 2015. (Photo courtesy of Sean Clynch, KVUE Austin)

On his 77th birthday, Texas head baseball coach Augie Garrido stands in front of the first base dugout at UFCU Disch-Falk Field. He smiles as he sees a familiar face walking toward him.

The man Garrido sees gets about 10 yards away and blurts out, “Happy birthday old man!”

Ironically, the man happens to be six days away from his 85th birthday. The voice belongs to former University of Texas head baseball coach Cliff Gustafson.

A half-hour before the University of Texas baseball’s annual alumni game on February 6th, the two living legends share an embrace and a laugh.

The encounter encompasses just how rich the tradition of Texas baseball is.

Both coaches rank in the top 10 in all-time coaching wins (Garrido first, Gustafson tenth) and have over 3,375 career wins between them. A combined all-time win total higher than 296 of the 298 Division I programs (Texas and Fordham being the only two to have more).

“I don’t know how it is at other universities,” Gustafson said, “but I think this alumni game displays the loyalty [to The University of Texas] probably better than anything.”

The game, started by Gustafson when he coached at Texas from 1968-1996, features the current Texas baseball team against former Longhorns who are now somewhere in professional baseball.

Some players, like outfielder Drew Stubbs, pitcher Huston Street, and catcher Cameron Rupp, are already in the MLB. Others are in various locations throughout minor league baseball.

Rupp, a catcher with the Philadelphia Phillies, has come back for the game six years in a row and likes to keep it fun.

During his first at bat Rupp has two strikes on him and current Texas pitcher Josh Sawyer throws a fastball on the outside corner. Catcher Tres Barrera attempts to frame it for a strike, to no avail.

When Rupp sees this, he turns and laughs at Barrera shaking his head saying, “No no no. Not gonna happen Tres.”

Barrera laughs along with Rupp and the crowd. It’s a lighthearted moment that signifies what makes the game unique and fun for both teams.

It is also a time where the former players come together to reminisce on past seasons and play together again. For former Texas outfielder Kevin Keyes, it’s a special event.

“To be able to come back here and play is just amazing,” Keyes, who is now in AAA (one league below the MLB) with the Washington Nationals organization said. “This game has always been a great time to come back and see old friends. I love it.”

In the end, the current Longhorns beat the Alumni 4-0, but the result of the game is almost unimportant to most involved.

What brings fans and players back for this game each year is the camaraderie and ability to reconnect with former players and old teammates.

One of the main reasons for the pure entertainment of the game is because Texas doesn’t shy away from big name guys and the talent pool Texas has to pick from for this game is very rich. Texas is third all-time in producing players to the MLB behind only Arizona State and USC.

Because of this rich talent, the game is viewed as one for both sides to not only come together and have fun, but also get better.

“We goof off and have a good time, but once the first pitch is thrown all of that kind of goes away,” former Longhorn second baseman Brooks Marlow said. “It’s just like any other game where you want to beat the other guy after that.”

The mix of competition and fun makes the game enticing for fans and gets them ready for the regular season, which often starts two weeks after the alumni game.

According to Rupp, the fans are the real reason the game is so fun.

“If it weren’t for the fans this game would be meaningless,” Rupp said. “They meant so much to us when we were here so we make sure we give the love back to them every year. We come back for them, because they were there for us first.”

 

 

Austin Roller Derby: Texas Rollergirls Jam Way to Success

By: Nick Castillo, Sara Eunice Martinez, Kaylee Nemec

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Austin roller derby scene emerges in 2001, leads to sport’s revival

Hundreds of people stand outside a southeast Austin business complex on Feb 13. Inside lays ‘The Blood Shed’ – an old warehouse building modified into a roller derby arena, where the Texas Rollergirls prepare to kick off their 14th season.

Fans cram into ‘The Blood Shed’ – standing or sitting on the concrete floor, searching for a spot to see the action, music blares, an enthusiastic emcee named ‘Chip Queso’ pumps the crowd up, and all while the Hotrod Honeys ‘bout against the Honky Tonk Heartbreakers.

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Julie Hunter, owner of Medusa Skates in Austin and roller derby player for TXRD – a banked roller derby league – said the players feed off the atmosphere surrounding the games.

“When we have a ton of people it feels great,” Hunter said. “I’m really camera shy, but when I get out there I’m like ‘fuck yeah. This is awesome.’ I love it. I eat it up.”

Roller derby began in Chicago in 1935, but Austin led to the sports’ revival in 2001.

Austin has emerged as a major roller derby scene with multiple leagues including the Texas Rollergirls, who participate in the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association, and the TXRD – a league that participates in banked roller derby.

“It’s a really big scene,” Hunter said. “This is where the revival of roller derby got started back.”

Since the scene’s development it has added junior leagues, recreational leagues and even high schools have added the sport. There are even men’s leagues developing in Austin.

Film By: Sara Eunice Martinez

The game itself is fast, vicious and sometimes dangerous. The players say it’s a mix of football and speed skating. Two teams play in a game called a ‘bout,’ which consists of two 30 minute halves. Each team has five players on the track – one jammer, one pivot and three blockers, who help their jammer through the pack and try to prevent the other team’s jammer from scoring. The jammer scores after they make it through the opponent’s blockers and are credited points for each pass made within a two-minute period called a ‘jam’ during each half.

Jessica Duran, who goes by Virgo Vengeful and plays for the Hell Marys in the Texas Rollergirls league, said she’s seen the Austin competition increase during her 10 years of participating in the sport.

“The skill level has gotten higher and higher,” Duran said. “Everyone is getting better every year. So every year, I think I learn something new and I also really challenge my brain. As far as the game goes, the strategy is super important to the sport and learning how to tune into it.”

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Duran added that the Austin scene is empowering because of the physical nature of the sport and the ability to speak your mind within leagues.

“It’s very empowering, definitely,” Duran said. “It’s a lot of very opinionated females, which is great. We might butt heads, but it’s also empowering that you can speak your mind and you’re encouraged to be you. You’re a female who cares? When someone says ‘you hit like a girl.’ ‘Yeah, I do hit like a girl. I hit very hard. You wish you could hit like that.'”

“We very much empower every girl that comes in from juniors all the way up to our rec program to our premier programs.”

Miyah Calhoon, who plays for the Honkey Tonk Heartbreakers in the Texas Rollergirls league and goes by Fender Bender, said seeing the growth of the sport down to the youth level has been special.

“It warms my heart, it really does.” Calhoon said. “To see the growth – there’s this empowerment aspect to it too … To see juniors skating today, it really does warm my heart.”

The fans cheer as the final whistle blows on Feb. 13. The Hotrod Honeys claim their first win of the season – a 293-108 clobbering of the Honkey Tonk Heartbreakers.

Both teams share high-fives despite the battle each fought. They all share in the same fun the Austin roller derby scene has created.

“It really feels like a family,” said Diane Sanson, who participates in the Texas Rollergirls recreational league. “They’re like distant relatives that are way above you, but they’re still encouraging you and telling you ‘you will get there.’ Telling you how to get there. It is more of a family. We help each other out. It’s not discouraging even if your team loses.”

Photos by: Kaylee Nemec

Austin’s Cultural Side: Celebrating the 2016 Chinese New Year

Package by Ellen Gonzalez, Will Cobb, Rachael Pikulski and Samantha Grasso

Video by Rachael Pikulski and Samantha Grasso

For Kieu Huynh and other Austinites, the Chinese New Year is not only an opportunity to celebrate, but a chance to connect with ones heritage.

The centuries-old traditions of lion dancing, feasting and honoring ancestors at the change of the lunisolar calendar bring Huynh back to her cultural roots, 10 years after she moved to the United States.

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Keiu Huynh in her traditional Chinese New Year attire. Photo courtesy Keiu Huynh.

Originally from Phan Ri Cua, Binh Thuan, Vietnam, Huynh is a part of the University of Texas at Austin’s Campus Events and Entertainment Asian American Culture Committee that recently put on the “Lunar New Year 2016: Year of the Monkey” celebration for UT students on Feb. 4.

The annual event intends to honor the changing of the Chinese calendar and share the cultural celebration with the UT community.

“My favorite part of the event was seeing people getting hyped up and taking pictures with the decorations,” Huynh says. “One of the main components of new years, is taking pictures. I loved seeing people actually really happy taking pictures.”

The annual event offers a variety of cultural activities, prizes, and performances from UT students with the hope of spreading the traditional themes of happiness, wealth, and longevity. Perhaps the events most exciting aspect comes in the form of dance.

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Lion dancer from the UT Lion/ Dragon Dance Team. Photo by Ellen Gonzalez.

“The one thing that we had to have no matter what are the lion dancers,” Huynh says. “It is so important because in Vietnam there are lion dancers everywhere. They are out on the streets, and you call them into the house. You tie a cabbage or red envelope with money inside it to your roof, and the lion dancers do tricks to try to get their reward.”

Huynh, a public relations sophomore, has lived in Texas for a decade, and shared how she celebrates the new year here with her family. To them, the Huynhs believe the first three days of the new year are the most important.

In the days leading up to the new year, it is tradition to clean the house, do laundry, get a haircut, and repay all debts to avoid bad luck in the new year. Other traditions are more out of the ordinary.

“Every family has to have a watermelon on New Year’s Day,” Huynh says. “The insides of a watermelon are red, and on the new years we are obsessed with the colors red and yellow, especially red, because we think that red and yellow bring luck and will make the whole year have luck. Everything has to be red.”

The Chinese New Year is celebrated at the turn of the traditional Chinese lunisolar calendar, and is also known as the Spring Festival. Each year represents a different animal in the Chinese Zodiac cycle.

This year is the year of the Monkey, the ninth of the 12 animals in the cycle. Observed in countries all over Asia, the New Year festival has traditional roots in honoring deities and ancestors.  

“On New Year’s Eve day, we got to the temple in our traditional clothes to take pictures and attend the ceremonies,” Huynh says. “At home, my family worships a figure in the kitchen because we believe that on New Year’s, he will go to heaven and talk about our family, what we have done wrong and what we have not done wrong. We buy fruits and put it on the tables with incense to have our worshiping ceremonies.”

Though a decade removed from her life in Vietnam, Huynh sees the changing of the Lunar New Year as a way of connecting to her heritage. 

“I love going to the temple,” Huynh says. “It makes it seem like home. I’ve been here for ten years, and a lot of people told me that by this time I would already be Americanized, but I am still really traditional. All the lessons and trips to the temple with my grandma greatly influenced me.”

Story by Ellen Gonzalez and Will Cobb

Photos by Ellen Gonzales and Samantha Grasso

Infographic by Will Cobb

Sugaring Through College

By Faith Ann Ruszkowski, Marysabel Cordozo, Trisha Seelig and Ashley Lopez

A hushed society with culturally taboo practices is steadily gaining new members at the University of Texas at Austin. Members rarely know each other and are often reluctant to disclose information to outsiders, so their numbers grow in relative silence. Despite stigma and secrecy, over 150 UT students joined their ranks in 2015. Welcome to the world of “sugaring,” where young people, usually women, are showered with riches in exchange for providing companionship to older, wealthy men.

SeekingArrangement.com, the dating site that matches “sugar babies” with their generous “sugar daddies,” ranked UT third highest among universities with the most sign-ups in 2015. The website promises members a “relationship on your terms” and actively markets to college students with a pitch they call “Sugar Baby University.” In a video promotion for the site, a scantily clad spokeswoman states, “Our mission is to provide a quality education completely paid for by wealthy benefactors.”

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Almost 2 million college students have joined so far, according to site statistics, which are tracked by the amount of registrations with university email addresses. The company provides premium accounts to those who sign up with an .edu address.

Although SeekingArrangement promotes the site as a way to pay for tuition, Alexis*, a junior advertising student at UT, said she signed up last January as a joke.

“My friend and I saw an article last year about how UT was one of the campuses with the most girls on SeekingArrangement.com,” Alexis said. “We both signed up for it and got messages within the first couple of days that we were on it.”

She only began to take the sugar daddy scenario seriously when she saw men were actually willing to give her money and gifts.

“It was completely online, that encouraged me. There’s like zero risk, I had it sent to a P.O. Box,” said Alexis. “I was like, this is ridiculous, this is so easy. I milked it for what is was worth. It started to work out for me.”

In her first online relationship, she and her sugar daddy messaged on the site and then transitioned to text messaging. During the week of Valentine’s Day that year, he sent her a present everyday. Among the gifts she received were $200 Jeffrey Campbell shoes, a $600 Tory Burch bag and a matching $200 Tory Burch wallet. Encouraged by her success online, she began to date sugar daddies in person.

“At the end of the day, when I’m getting these gifts, I just feel smarter than the men I’m manipulating to get them,” Alexis said.

While Alexis never used SeekingArrangement as a way to pay for tuition, because she receives scholarships that cover her costs at UT, she knows other sugar babies who have benefitted from their arrangements and are able to cover school fees with their “allowances”.

“I do know a guy who lived with his sugar daddy and had his entire semester’s tuition paid for,” Alexis said.

Trina Manor, associate director for the Office of Financial Aid at UT, said that students are often unaware of the financial aid options available to them, which may explain why sugar babies seek assistance from sugar daddies. Financial aid information can be convoluted and overwhelming, and SeekingArrangment offers students an easy, debt-free alternative.

“I know one thing that has been a challenge in our community is getting our information out in a user-friendly way that students can understand it and in a way that is going to catch their attention,” Manor said.

Alexis’ approach to the dating site was heavily researched and methodical to ensure her safety and privacy. She created a new email, bank account and even a P.O. box to make sure she was untraceable to her potential sugar daddies. In Alexis’ case, she said she never really wanted to set up an arrangement where she was given an agreed-upon allowance because it was too serious. She would casually mention her plans or things she needed, and the sugar daddies would take care of it or send her the money to do so.

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Infographic by Trisha Seelig

“It was more like, “Oh, I’m going on a trip next week with my family” and he would be like, “Here let me give you some money to have fun.” It was just like that,” Alexis said.

The cost of living in a booming city like Austin has proved to be a factor in Alexis’s decision to start sugaring. She has been on a break from the sugar baby lifestyle for about two months, but said she wants to start back up again soon.

“My friend and I have been talking about getting back into it because we are looking for places for next year and they’re expensive, so we were thinking we can just sugar on the side and get some money,” Alexis said.

The monetary benefits of sugaring are an example of what graduate research assistant in sociology, Katherine Hill, considers a new type of informal economy. Along with working at a restaurant illegally or selling crafts online, sugaring is an unconventional way for people to make money.

“People get into sugaring because they need or want money, and those are the reasons people usually get into any kind of business,” Hill said. “I don’t see sugaring as something that is sexual; I see it as a job.”

This is how SeekingArrangement.com creates its appeal: young people make easy money by soliciting their company to older men or women. But it’s not as easy as it may sound. Alexis said that it is time consuming and can be a lot to handle, but in the end the reward is always worth it.

“I don’t feel bad about the stereotypes or the guilt when I have a $600 bag or my phone and car note paid for,” Alexis said. It’s a calming feeling to know I don’t have to worry about anything because I know somebody is going to take care of it for me.”

 

*This name has been changed to protect the Sugar Baby’s privacy and safety.

 

 

When Walmart Leaves

By Jacqueline Sanchez, Sarah Talaat & Ashlyn Warblow

Shopping carts at closed Walmart; Austin, Texas. Photo by Sarah Talaat

Shopping carts at closed Walmart; Austin, Texas. Photo by Sarah Talaat

 

Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. announced in a press release on Jan. 15 that it would close 269 stores globally by Feb. 6. While many large cities, such as Los Angeles or Chicago, will lose only one or two of their numerous Walmart locations, small towns across the country, including here in Texas, are losing their only grocery store.

In some cases, they are also losing their only pharmacy.

Italy, Texas, is one such town. Their only grocery store and pharmacy within the town was a Walmart Express. The location closed on Jan. 28, only 13 days after Walmart made the announcement.


Map of Walmart stores closing in Texas in January 2016. Roll over map with mouse to see locations.

 

The closure left many residents, especially the elderly who do not drive, feeling unsure of how to get their prescriptions. The nearest pharmacies are in Hillsboro and Waxahachie; both are approximately 20 miles from Italy.

“The closing of Walmart was a boom [shock] to this town. Walmart chose Italy; we didn’t choose it,” Italy resident Elmerine Bell said. “Folks my age now either have to drive 20 miles for their prescription or get help from someone to get it for them.”

Small-business owners in Italy are also feeling the loss of the grocery store. Many bought supplies in bulk from the store and will now have to take off work for a full day to purchase supplies in Waxahachie.

Esteban Martinez, owner of Mama’s Place Restaurant, got his condiments and other supplies from the Italy Walmart if he ran out unexpectedly, but he will now have to go without replacements until he can get to the nearest grocery store.

“The big peoples don’t care about the small peoples,” he said.

Texas is a huge market for Walmart. According to Hours Info there were 458 stores operating in Texas before Walmart’s announcement came that certain locations would close in January.

With the departure of the only grocery store and pharmacy in town, residents assumed that another store would immediately take over the empty space.

“We thought other things were going to come, and then nothing came. People that now come in will say we were such a small town you couldn’t even keep a Walmart open,” Dynamic Kutz and Styles Beauty Shop employee Taylor Sped said.

Residents of the town are still unsure why the store closed. Many of them are still finding new ways to compensate for Walmart’s departure.

“In the next few years, if it stayed, it could [have fed] the businesses here,” Ellis County Commissioner Paul Perry said.

 

 

Not all Texas Walmart closings are having a wide impact, though. The Walmart Supercenter at US-Highway 183 and Texas Highway 45 also closed on Jan. 28, but it did not come as a surprise to some Austin residents.

“I saw the story about the Walmart closures and decided to check it out and see if [this location] was closed yet or not,” John Sabala, 45, an Austin-based consultant, said. “I was surprised that there was even a Walmart out here. I feel like in this part of town, choosing Walmart has a stigma. This is a nice area, and there’s always the Target nearby.”

The parking lot was mostly empty the day after the store closed. One employee was seen exiting the store but declined to comment.

“It is a hidden location. People can’t find it because it is so set back from the road, and you can’t see the sign,” Sabala said.

Four cars drove through the parking lot in a 20-minutes window, and each driver was aware that the store was closing but was curious to see if the store had officially locked its doors.

I feel like [Walmart] makes the anticipated earnings for new locations too high and when they don’t meet the numbers, they have an excuse to close,” Sylvia Sabala, 68, retired mother of John Sabala, said. “Here in Austin it doesn’t really matter if they close one location. But it’s so greedy that they closed locations in small towns.”

ASL in American Theatre

By: Alejandra Martinez, Kristen Hubby, Jayelyn Jackson, and Taylor Villarreal

 


 

Tribes, a theatrical play by Nina Raine, is the story of Billy who is the only deaf member in his family. In the play Billy lives with his parents who believe that integrating him into the deaf community would only stunt his personal growth. Because his father did not want him to be defined by his deafness, Billy never learned sign language.

Stephen Drabicki, a hard of hearing actor, plays Billy in Tribes and has been wearing hearing aids in both ears since he was 4 years-old. Drabicki has been acting since 1998, and has acted in six tours of Tribes.

Drabicki worked as an actor taking roles mostly with mainstream, hearing theatres. According to him, most theatres are not always able to accommodate a deaf or hard of hearing person due to the fact that the theatres have not worked with very many deaf or hard of hearing people.

The Zach Theatre one hour before the Tribes performance.

The Zach Theatre one hour before the Tribes performance. 

“Often times [there are actors that] win an Oscar for portraying a disability when there’s actually actors with that same disability who are just as talented,” Drabicki said. “They get overlooked because they are not a big enough name or because able bodied directors are too scared to give them a chance.”

In 2013, hearing actors were cast as the role of Billy in the production of Tribes at the Phoenix Theatre in Indianapolis and the Oregon Contemporary Theatre. At the time this evoked negative reactions from both hearing and deaf people alike, including the original Billy in Raine’s first performance of Tribes.

“This is interesting…. As the original Billy for the West End London, the play was a rave. It became one of the most watched plays of the year,” Jags Cassie commented on Facebook. “So why the sudden change of heart for a hearing actor to play a deaf character? I would even fly over [and] perform again, anytime!”

“One of the things that’s very important to me with [the business of visual interpretation] is making sure that I always have deaf people involved,” Visual Voice Interpreting, LLC owner Marianna Craig said. “I pay them first. I’ve done many shows where I pay the interpreters and I don’t pay myself because its most important to me know we are doing this with them and not for them and it’s for the both us.”

Stephen Drabicki gets mic’d before his performance in Tribes

 

Visual Voice Interpreting is a sign language interpreting agency in Austin, Texas focused on providing the community with interpreting services in the performance industries, particularly music and theatre. Marianna Craig, the Founder for Visual Voice Interpreting, LLC says she was inspired to create her company in 2012 when she saw a deaf interpreter perform.

According to Craig, deaf and hard of hearing people can reach the same capabilities as hearing people without being able to hear and without equal opportunities in the workforce.

 

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Stage worker checking the lights and sounds during the TRIBES rehearsal. -Kristen Hubby

 

Austin, Texas is known amongst actors as a “deaf friendly” community, likely because over 20 percent of deaf or hard of hearing Texans live in Austin. Additionally, according to Texas School for the Deaf Foundation, over 20 of the 300 deaf-owned businesses in the U.S. are located in Austin.

“[The awareness of the deaf community] is definitely increasing,” Craig said, “I think [American Sign Language] is attractive and is growing in popularity. It’s becoming a [form of] pop culture now.”

 

As crowds line up to take their seats, the actors prepare for a night in the spotlight. -Kristen Hubby

 

 

 


 

Deaf and HH Statistics


 

Madding Hussing, University of Texas student, has been practicing American Sign Language for over six years. Hussing hopes to become a performing arts interpreter.

Madding Hussing, University of Texas student, has been practicing American Sign Language for over six years. Hussing hopes to become a performing arts interpreter. -Taylor Villarreal


 

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