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Courtesy of Texas Book Festival

With less than two months before the Texas Book Festival makes its fully in-person return this fall, the anticipation is building like your favorite thriller novel. After announcing the keynotes earlier this summer (including Omar Epps, Angie Cruz, Sandra Brown, David George Haskell, Michaela Goade, and more), the TBF recently released its full author lineup.

Taking place on November 5 and 6, the 27th annual Texas Book Festival will feature nearly 300 national and Texas authors, including debut and bestselling writers, celebrated chefs, and more. Scattered along Austin's iconic Congress Avenue and surrounding the State Capitol, the event is a unique opportunity for attendees to both connect with favorite authors and meet new stars of the literary world.

As always, this year's lineup stretches across all genres, from cookbooks to thrillers and everything in between. Newly announced authors include Top Chef finalist Chris Scott and James Beard Award recipient Vishwesh Bhatt, University of Texas at Austin's own H.W. Brands, New York Times bestselling author Xochitl Gonzalez, and many, many more.

A few new highlights to add to the radar include:

  • Gabino Iglesias, award-winning author, will present The Devil Takes You Home, a genre-defying thriller about a father desperate to salvage what's left of his family — even if it means a descent into violence.
  • Culinary legend and 16-time James Beard Award recipient Jacque Pépin will present Jacques Pépin Art of the Chicken, chock-full of recipes, humorous stories, and his own paintings.
  • Grammy-nominated Margo Price will debut her memoir, Maybe We’ll Make It, a revealing look at loss, motherhood, and the search for artistic freedom.

While the festival always attracts talent from across the country, the event also showcases the incredible homegrown talent from right here in the Lone Star State. Texas authors featured at this year’s festival include Robert Draper, Simran Jeet Singh, LaToya Watkins, Will Hurd, Leon and Tiffany Chen, May Cobb, Alex Kiester, Katherine McGee, Amanda Eyre Ward, Amy Kim Kibuishi, Lise Olsen, Evan Griffith, Natalia Sylvester, and (you guessed it) many more.

Don't leave the kids behind, either! Young adult and children's programming will be as robust as ever, featuring numerous YA and children’s book authors such as Maggie Stiefvater, Aiden Thomas, Natalia Sylvester, R. M. Romero, Carole Boston Weatherford, Michaela Goade, David Bowles, David Levithan, and Mac Barnett.

"We are eager to present authors and exhibitors in person again, for the biggest Texas Book Festival since 2019,” says TBF Literary Director Matthew Patin in a release. “An incredible slate of debut, emerging, and established literary talent from across the state and nationwide will be in Austin this November. And we’re looking forward to connecting audiences with writers they’ve long been fans of, and with those they’ll be lifelong fans of soon.”

For a full list of 2022 authors and to learn more about each one (read: to memorize their photos so you can spot them in the inevitably crowded festival atmosphere), head to the Texas Book Festival website.

Photo by dszc/Getty Images

University of Texas researchers make game-changing discovery for plastic recycling

Breaking it down

KVUE — A new discovery by University of Texas at Austin researchers could be a game-changer when it comes to recycling plastics.

The “plastic-eating enzyme” can break down a certain type of plastic to the molecular level, which can then be used to recreate new plastics, according to researchers.

“When we have that perfect cycle, we're not needing to make any fresh plastic. We're recovering everything that we've used and can use it once over again. And I think this has enormous potential to be able to reduce our overall carbon footprint,” said Hal Alper, a professor at UT Austin’s Cockrell School of Engineering.

Researchers have been able to put big chunks of plastic in the enzyme, breaking them down to the molecular level. It ends up becoming a liquid in up to about 48 hours.

Without the enzyme, the plastics could take hundreds of years to degrade, researchers said. The alternative option would be to throw plastic in a landfill or burn it, but researchers said that’s expensive, energy intensive and puts toxic gasses in the air.

The enzyme works on polyethylene terephthalate — known as PET plastic — which is used in things like water bottles, clear to-go food containers, and fruit packaging, Alper said.

It accounts for 12 percent of all global waste.

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Read the full story and watch the video on KVUE.com.

Photo by Bryce France

University of Texas alum shines in new season of Stranger Things

Stranger Things

A new addition to the highly anticipated fourth season of the Netflix hit series Stranger Things, which premieres Friday, May 27, has close ties to both Texas and Austin. Born in Honolulu, Hawaii, actress Regina Ting Chen grew up in San Antonio and studied at the University of Texas at Austin.

Now residing in Atlanta, Georgia, Chen was a 2016 finalist for CBS’s Diversity Drama Initiative Program. She has been featured in the popular USA crime drama Queen of the South, Marvel’s The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, and HBO's Emmy-winning limited series Watchmen. In the new season of Stranger Things, Chen plays a guidance counselor at Hawkins High.

CultureMap connected with Chen for a few questions about her career so far, and about what fans can expect from the next season of Stranger Things.

CultureMap: So you were born in Honolulu, Hawaii. What brought you to Texas originally?

Regina Ting Chen: My dad’s business was not doing well and we had to close shop. We all relocated to San Antonio where my aunt was working and said that it’s a much more affordable place with great education opportunities.

CM: What inspired you to study at the University of Texas at Austin?

RTC: My aunt is a pharmacy professor at UT! She gave me the idea from the get-go, and I wanted to stay close to home as I am extremely close to family.

CM: What are some of your favorite memories of Austin or UT from that time?

RTC: College was difficult for me, I’m not great at test-taking haha! But it taught me so much about discipline, how to stay organized, and work my butt off. I also worked full-time as a hostess and makeup artist in order to pay my way through college as I had no help. Austin always had the best food options! But more importantly, Austin is such a great place to find all kinds of creative outlets. That’s the only way I got to explore doing different things like makeup and acting to find out what I would like to do, how to network, and just grow as a human! Austin is beautiful and will always be dear to me. It was hard leaving the city.

CM: You earned your degree in Spanish and business. How did you first get into acting?

RTC: When I was a kid, I wasn’t allowed to take drama classes so I would just put on “shows” for my family during the holidays. I would come up with different acts, have my family members partake, build a set, all of it! So I always had the spirit in me. My grandma, being an immigrant, was afraid to venture out much. So I always enjoyed helping her live vicariously through my eyes by reenacting my days, sometimes embellishing basic things as long as it made her smile and laugh. She was my rock. She’s gone now, sadly, but I have all those memories I re-enacted for her and created with her to last me my whole lifetime.

As an adult, I was actually scouted by a local photographer who suggested that I try modeling. It almost sounds like a story that would end with me in trouble. I then did some local photo shoots, and, eventually, it led me to sign with Kim Dawson Agency in Dallas. They suggested acting classes for me and thus began my Meisner journey with Austin Meisner coach Laurel Vouvray.

CM: When did you decide to take the plunge and make it your full-time career?

RTC: In 2016, I had decided I was going to just go full-time corporate and take a break from acting for a few years, as I was burned out and not getting opportunities. Three months later, I realized I was miserable without the life of storytelling in any capacity. That’s when I realized acting is for the rest of my life. And everything else I did from that point forward was done to support that realization.

CM: Can you tell us more about the CBS Diversity Drama Initiative Program?

RTC: Yes! So CBS had a nationwide initiative for diverse talent to submit tapes as an audition for the program. They received over 10,000 tapes! The next step was callbacks, which I did in Austin, and finally, they selected 12 finalists to be flown out to LA for a week-long, paid-for intensive. I learned so much on that trip. I have never been on a real big-budget set before in my life, nor met other actors in different markets across the nation. It truly opened my eyes to see how big that world can really be.

CM: What have been some of your favorite roles until now?

RTC: I loved playing a money laundering banker on Queen of the South. I am such a person of honor that it was fun to play someone who was so deceiving. Plus, working with Alice Braga was amazing! I also enjoyed playing the female lead in a local indie feature (Lion Killer) shot in Houston back in 2018, because the creators gave me a chance to show my talent and believed that I could carry the film before I even knew I could. And ultimately, my role in Stranger Things is by far my favorite, because my character Ms. Kelly is truly me — caring, kind, and quirky. I cannot wait for the world to meet her! I’m also just so proud to represent the Asian community every chance I get.

CM: How did the role in Stranger Things come about?

RTC: Just like any other show, I received an audition from my agent for the role. The script (sides) were different names so that we wouldn’t know who was involved in it. It was great, actually, because that allowed me to just bring myself authentically to the character of how I would be in that world.

CM: Were you already a fan of the show before you signed on for Season 4?

RTC: Yes!!! I’m a big sci-fi nerd and I loved the show prior to even getting the audition. So you know how stoked I was to have gotten a chance to read for the show. It’s so rare!

CM: Can you tell us anything particularly exciting to look forward to in this next season?

RTC: The world is darker and scarier than it ever has been before. It’s impossible. Hang on tight! I’m right there with you because I’m scared of the dark and everything spooky!

Photo courtesy the John and Drucie Chase Collection

Successful Houston businessman donates $1M to UT in honor of his father — Texas' first Black architect

doing john proud

Houston entrepreneur and law professor Tony Chase is no stranger to philanthropy. The founder and CEO of ChaseSource LP — a staffing, facilities management, and construction firm — has long been a generous contributor to myriad city causes. But his newest gift is decidedly personal.

Chase and his wife, Dr. Dina Alsowayel, have donated $1 million to the University of Texas at Austin’s School of Architecture in honor of his late father, John S. Chase, FAIA (M. Arch ’52). Notably, John Chase is the first Black graduate of UT’s school of architecture and the first Black licensed architect in the state.

This new gift from Tony Chase will create two new permanent endowments. The John S. Chase Family Endowed Graduate Fellowship will be used primarily to recruit graduates of historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) to the school and increase representation in the profession. Meanwhile, the John S. Chase Family Endowed Professorship in Architecture is meant to help recruit and retain outstanding faculty members and support their study of the built environment, according to the university.

John Chase enrolled at UT in 1950 as one of the school’s earliest Black students. He moved his family to Houston in the 1950s and eventually started his own firm — namely because no white architects would hire him. Undeterred, John Chase became the first Black licensed architect in Texas.

In 1952, he designed the headquarters for the Colored Teachers State Association of Texas, according to his bio. UT acquired the building in 2018, restored and converted it to an outreach center for the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement, and dedicated it as the John S. and Drucie R. Chase Building last fall.

He would go on to design numerous churches, private homes, eventually — and perhaps his crowning achievement — the Texas Southern University campus.

A dedicated business and community leader, Chase was also a passionate volunteer at UT; he served as a member of UT’s Development Board and Commission of 125, and was the first Black president of the Texas Exes. Chase received Texas Exes’ Distinguished Alumni Award in 1990.

“Throughout his life and as reflected in his built works, John Chase was a connector and a community-builder,” said Michelle Addington, dean of the School of Architecture, in a statement. “Not only did Chase design spaces that brought people together, but he used his pioneering position to create opportunities for others. We are extremely grateful for Tony’s incredible gift and honored to continue John Chase’s legacy of creating opportunities for a whole new generation.”

In 2019, UT’s school of architecture hosted “Chasing Perfection: The Legacy of Architect John S. Chase,” an exhibition curated by the Houston Public Library, and an accompanying panel discussion. In 2020, Professor David Heymann co-authored “John S. Chase—The Chase Residence” with Houston architecture critic Stephen Fox, which explores the significance of the home Chase designed and built for his family in Houston, both as a work of modernist residential architecture and as a setting for many important social, cultural and political events, according to a press release. The first biography of John Chase is set to publish next year, penned by assistant professor Tara Dudley.

Following in his father’s footsteps, the prolific businessman and professor Tony Chase is eager to give back with this gift, noting in a statement, “My father always said, ‘A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.”

John S. Chase stands in front of his family home in Houston with two of his three children, Anthony (left) and John Jr. (right).

Photo courtesy the John and Drucie Chase Collection
John S. Chase stands in front of his family home in Houston with two of his three children, Anthony (left) and John Jr. (right).

Texas student wins Jeopardy! college championship and scores $250,000 grand prize

longhorn legend

On Tuesday night, February 22, Jaskaran Singh, a senior finance and economic major at the University of Texas at Austin, won the final round of the Jeopardy! national college championship.

Singh walks away with a grand prize of $250,000 after facing off against Liz Feltner of Northeastern University and Raymond Goslow of Kennesaw State. Singh dominated the night and found all six Daily Doubles.

The tournament started with 36 students from 36 colleges and universities from across the country during nine days of competition. Singh was one of two students from Texas universities who appeared in the national college championship. Rice University student Jasmine Manansala made it to the quarterfinals, but didn't advance as she placed second.

Singh won the February 11 quarterfinals with a question about Ukraine and earned $19,900.

He then advanced from the semis to the final round on February 18, earning $24,000 total after betting — and winning — all of his $12,200 total at the end of the Double Jeopardy round.

The 22-year-old from Plano said he first applied to be on the popular trivia game show when he was 13, thanks to his mom. He didn’t make it then, but he applied again last year and has now taken the $250,000 grand prize.

Singh says he’s been interested in trivia since he was in high school. He was on the quiz bowl team and won the national championship then. He’s also on the UT Quiz Bowl team, which is competing in nationals this spring.

Although he’s well-versed in trivia, Singh says there were some tense moments while competing.

“There was one category with a series of clues for phrases that have three words that rhyme. My brain was not working in that moment. Just the experience of being in a TV studio and having lights bearing down on you, and makeup put on you, that sort of gets to you,” he told UT.

His interest in trivia follows him into the classroom as well, where he studies more than finance and economics.

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Continue reading this story and watch the video on KVUE.

Photo courtesy of University of Houston

Houston makes the grade as a top place to live after college, says new report

honor roll

For many college students, it’s tough to imagine life after college when they’re cramming for exams and cranking out research papers. Yet the time does come when they’ll venture into the “real world” with their degrees.

Before graduation rolls around, college students often find themselves wondering where to start their after-school journeys. To help with this homework, real estate website Point2 has developed a list of the best places for life after college, and Houston — home of University of Houston and Rice University — lands at No. 33 overall.

The website looked at an array of factors to come up with its ranking, such as population growth, business growth, median age, household income growth, poverty rate, and housing availability and prices.

Point2 considered only the 86 places that host the country’s 100 most successful colleges and universities, as rated by U.S. News & World Report.

Other Texas communities on the list are:

  • No. 1 Austin, home of University of Texas.
  • No. 5 Fort Worth, home of Texas Christian University.
  • No. 17 College Station, home of Texas A&M University.
  • No. 21 Dallas, home of Southern Methodist University.
  • No. 24 Waco, home of Baylor University.

“While education and innovation keep these educational institutions on the map, it’s the economic and social conditions in the city that convince students to pursue a career and build a life in their college town. That’s why household incomes, home prices, the number of businesses and startups, and even the city’s poverty rates weigh heavy,” Point2 says.

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Iconic Austin blues club brings the show to fans with new indie livestreaming platform

Live on Live

If legendary Austin blues club Antone’s is your vibe, but the drive to Capital City isn't, you’re in luck. Antone’s Nightclub launched a new service for livestreaming its shows in November.

Kicking off with New Orleans-based funk and jam band Dumpstaphunk, for their special “Phunksgiving” show last month with Michael Hale Trio, the full lineup is delineated on the Antone’s website. Specifics were still loose before the launch, allowing the famous blues club to call the shots. The partner agency that created the streaming service, 3rd + Lamar, created the system to give Antone’s as much freedom as possible.

"Partnering with Antone's to build their livestreaming platform and produce each of their shows is an incredible opportunity for 3rd + Lamar," said the agency’s co-founder Nick Schenck in a press release. "The amazing talent that performs at Antone's – and their fans worldwide – deserve best-in-class live production quality, and we're thrilled to play a part in this operation."

Not that Antone’s needed to stand out more in the music industry (the nearly 50-year-old venue has always been one of the best places to see both local and national talent), but this achievement places it among relatively few venues across the country, especially those that operate their system independently.

The intimate Antone's shows are filmed by four Blackmagic 4K cinema cameras on tracks overhead, which ensure that the whole space is easily visible without having camera operators amid the audience.

“We did over 430 individually ticketed shows in 2019 and we felt like we were bursting at the seams,” said Antone’s owner Will Bridges. “Then when livestreams became more prominent during the pandemic we realized, this is our opportunity to take Antone’s outside of our four walls. … [W]e see people in the comment threads all the time saying ‘If I could only be teleported to Antone’s!’ Well now they can.”

The release emphasizes that the system means Antone’s “fully retain[s] ownership of their content, which can then be utilized at their discretion.” It also calls the service “an add-on option for all artists performing at Antone’s,” positioning the service as not just an audience luxury but a performer’s low-cost marketing tool. Suddenly, artists playing at Antone’s are afforded a choice without needing to be invited to record or pay an independent video team, while reaching even more viewers with no extra time spent advertising.

“Our ultimate goal is to make these amazing musical experiences accessible to everyone. Life is busy, but we want to give everyone the opportunity to participate no matter where they are or what they have going on,” said Bridges. “We want to make livestreams from Antone’s totally commonplace. When we announce our upcoming shows, fans have two options: watch it at the club our watch it at home.”

Livestreams are at antonesnightclub.com, and links also appear with each applicable event across the site. Prices are listed on the website, and livestreams start 10-20 minutes before each show.

Alt-rock legends Red Hot Chili Peppers heading to Houston for 2023 North American tour

one hot minute

One of alternative rock's most pioneering and enduring acts is headed to Houston to close out a highly anticipated North American tour next year. Red Hot Chili Peppers will play Minute Maid Park on Thursday, May 25, 2023 as part of a North American trek that kicks off in Vancouver, British Columbia on March 29.

Houston lands the honor of the closeout city for the North American tour (the band will also play a slew of dates in Europe). Effortlessly hip, celeb-fave modern rock band The Strokes will support the Chili Peppers, along with the talented bassist-vocalist Thundercat.

Tickets go on sale this week at 10 am Friday, December 9 online.

Houston fans who can't get enough can also catch the Chili Peppers when they hit The Alamodome in San Antonio on Wednesday, May 17 — the only other Texas date.

Aside from The Strokes and Thundercat, supporting acts along the way include Iggy Pop, The Roots, The Mars Volta, St. Vincent, City and Colour, and King Princess.

Touring in support of their two No. 1 studio albums released in 2022, Unlimited Love and Return of the Dream Canteen, the Chili Peppers have been played sold-out shows in London, Paris, Los Angeles, and more with major names such as Notable artists such as A$AP Rocky, Anderson.Paak, Beck, and HAIM.

The first rock band in 17 years to score two No. 1 albums in one year, the band has been red hot on the Billboard charts and at the MTV Video Music Awards, where they received the Global Icon Award and brought the house down with a performance of the No. 1 single “Black Summer,'' which also won the award for Best Rock Video.

Fronted by the impossibly chiseled and ageless (he's 60!) Anthony Kiedis, the Chili Peppers formed in 1983. Unabashedly proud of their LA roots, the band burst onto the scene with early singles such as "Higher Ground" and "Give It Away," both showcases of bassist Flea's slappin', funk-fueled basslines.

Throughout the peak of alternative music in the '90s, the band saw tragedy, personnel changes at guitar, and reinventions — Kiedes' rap-singing, Flea's bass grooves, and singalong choruses all constants over the decades.

While many '90s alt-rock acts fizzled, the Chili Peppers stayed relevant; the band boasts two anthemic singles with more than 1 billion streams — "Californication" and "Under the Bridge" — and more than 25 million followers on Spotify.

Expect this show to be packed with Gen Xers and new fans for what promises to be one hot minute.

Red Hot Chili Peppers 2023 tour dates:

  • Wednesday, March 29 – Vancouver – BC Place
  • Saturday, April 1 – Las Vegas – Allegiant Stadium
  • Thursday, April 6 – Fargo, North Dakota – FargoDome
  • Saturday, April 8 – Minneapolis – US Bank Stadium
  • Friday, April 14 – Syracuse, New York – JMA Wireless Dome
  • Friday, May 12 – San Diego – Snap Dragon Stadium
  • Sunday, May 14 – Phoenix – State Farm Stadium
  • Wednesday, May 17 – San Antonio – Alamodome
  • Friday, May 19 – Gulf Shores, Alabama – Hangout Music Festival
  • Thursday, May 25 – Houston – Minute Maid Park

Fan-favorite, wood-fired Houston pizzeria quietly opens in the Heights

enough (pizza) to love

A popular Houston pizzeria has opened its second location in the Heights. The Gypsy Poet has begun a quiet soft opening in the former Fegen’s space at 1050 Studewood St.

Since its 2019 debut in Midtown, the Gypsy Poet has earned a devoted following for its wood-fired pizzas. The restaurant’s personal-sized, 13-inch pizzas exist somewhere on the spectrum between traditional Neapolitan and classic New York — too crispy for the Italians but not quite foldable like an East Coast slice. Options include a classic Margherita and the signature Fancy Backpacker, which is topped with prosciutto, truffle oil, and arugula.

Part of the restaurant’s appeal stems from its friendly service and easy going atmosphere. It regularly hosts informal musical performances and other artistic happenings.

Taken together, Gypsy Poet has earned legions on fans. Yelp users ranked it as Texas’s second best restaurant in 2021. More recently, Barstool Sports founder Dave Portnoy awarded it a high 7.8 rating during a pizza review.

The restaurant opens at a time of transition for pizzerias in the Heights. Dallas-based Neapolitan restaurant Cane Rosso closed last year, and suburban favorite Crust Pizza Co. opened this summer in the former Mellow Mushroom space at N. Shepherd and 20th.

The Heights location of Gypsy Poet will be open Tuesday-Thursday from 5-9 pm; Friday from 12-2 pm and 5-10 pm; Saturday 2-10 pm; and Sunday 2-9 pm.