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With pressures of finals bearing down as the semester comes to an end, a good place to unwind in the beautiful spring weather is the interactive Art on the Green exhibit at the AMOA-Arthouse, a fully-functioning, nine hole mini golf course nestled next to the lake, that gives the classic pastime game of putt-putt a kooky makeover.

Nine local artists, designers, collectives, and architects, including a University of Texas art installation class, contributed a hole to the course that ranged from having multiple platforms, geometric obstacles, giant clown heads, or a post-apocalyptic theme.

Guided by brightly colored “flags” made of recycled materials, players of all ages can leisurely travel through the 12-acres of the picturesque grounds of Laguna Gloria, and are encouraged to tap into their inner child.

“Art on the Green has been a popular draw for visitors of all ages,” explains Curator of Exhibitions and Public Programs Andrea Mellard.

“It’s a great way for my husband and me to entertain our four kids on a weeknight,” Ann Giles, a mom enjoying the exhibit with her family, said. “It’s not easy to find somewhere we can all be entertained for $14, even if it’s temporary.”

Contributing art group Boozefox, known for last year’s Battleberg Ice, a floating art installation in the middle of Ladybird Lake, designed nutrioppossumus, an unidentifiable rodent with large, yellowing teeth and a pathway that projects the ball out the rear-end of the animal.

“The installations are absolutely fantastic,” Nicole Raney, a student from the University of Texas, said. “I am loving interacting with each of the installations and discovering all the cool things you can do with them.”

The exhibit will run until May 20 and is open for play Tuesday 12-8 p.m., Wednesday 12-4 p.m. and Thursday-Sunday 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Players can take advantage of a 50 percent discount on “Twilight Tuesdays” from 4-8 p.m, otherwise prices for non-members are $8 for adults and $4 for children, and $4 an adult and $2 a child for AMOA members.

“The course piques the interest of art lovers, golf aficionados, couples on date night, and parents looking for a family-friendly weekend activity, so there’s a little something for everyone,” Mellard said.

When asked whether she had a favorite piece, Mellard’s response was “no.”

“I can speak on behalf of the AMOA-Arthouse staff in saying that we’re thrilled with how all of the holes turned out.”

The valkyrie rests his broadsword on his shoulders as he jokes with the spell caster about the upcoming mission. A warrior wizard has gathered the adventurers there to discuss the growing unrest in the woods and the evils that lurked there.

Just another typical day for Heroic Interactive Theater.

To most, this sounds like the beginning of an epic movie. However, these are adventurers, not professional actors – gamers participating in live-action role-playing, or LARPing.

LARPing as a Game

This form of gaming brings the fantasy genre to life. It incorporates many of the same elements as video games and the tabletop role-playing games of the 1970s, such as a point-scoring system, different characters and specific characteristics pertaining to appearance and skills. The settings of each adventure can vary from realistic to fantastic and modern to historical.

“Most [role-playing] is done at a computer or at a table, the difference here is that you actually act out anything your character would do,” said John Garcia, the founder of the Austin chapter of Heroic Interactive Theatre, a national non-profit organization that works with groups within the gaming community to create and maintain live-action fantasy games. “Instead of rolling a dice or clicking a button you are like, ‘I want to fight an enemy,’ and you actually get up and swing a sword.”

Discovering the LARPing Community

Garcia began LARPing a few years ago while studying at the University of Nebraska. He had a friend who was already involved in a LARPing group and he convinced Garcia, a big fan of making costumes that utilized his armor and leatherwork, to give it a try.

“We had been playing Dungeons and Dragons every week, and I was like ‘look, I’m nerdy, but I’m not that nerdy,’” said Garcia. “But I tried it out and I’ve been addicted since.”

After the previous leader of the Nebraska chapter of Heroic Interactive Theater left, Garcia stepped up to the plate and gained experience by running the show.

“I stabilized the chapter and recruited some new people to take over for me and now I just figured I would take my experience and bring all the fun down here for everybody else,” Garcia said.

He then went on to host a panel at the Anime convention, IKKiCON in January on the game he would be hosting and inviting new players to come out and try, which is how he founded the Austin chapter.

“There are some aspects that are little bit video game-y, as far as keeping track of your health, because in real life we don’t have a health bar that goes down and requires healing to pick it back up,” Garcia said. “But in a video game you can get hurt and take a healing potion and is a straight numbers game.”

The weapons used in game are typically made from cheap materials, such as PVC pipe, and are altered to make them safer. Foam and tape are used to cushion the blows on all the weaponry and rules govern the lengths. Players are also in charge of announcing what “damage” they are unleashing in the form of “hit points” and keeping track of their health status throughout game play.

LARPing as a Social Event

Unlike a typical video game setting, players involved in LARPing are required to interact and socialize.

“It’s definitely a confidence boost to play in a LARPing game because you are powerful,” Garcia said. “You’re standing up to fierce enemies and you’re among friends…Almost all of my best friends I made in college were through LARPing because we would hang out for 48 hours straight at least once a month.”

Garcia met his now fiancé in the LARPing group in Nebraska.

“Before I was actually dating her, we were really close friends,” Garcia said. “We went to an event where my character turned evil, backstabbed her and killed her. She ended up forgiving me.”

LARPing gives people the opportunity to hide behind their character for a day and act any way they wish.

“It’s no longer you in the spotlight and there’s almost no consequences, so your character can be a jerk and slap the king in his face,” Garcia said. “However, in real like, you can’t rebel against authority and assert yourself in the ways you can in-game. If you want to be the noble knight in shining armor, you can practice it in this game and part of it will rub off on you.”

To most, quizzes are just a torture mechanism used by teachers to make our lives miserable. For others, ‘quiz time’ is synonymous with ‘social hour.’

On any given night, Austinites of all ages can be found playing Geeks Who Drink trivia at various bars and pubs. As the name suggests, self-proclaimed nerds gather to put their knowledge to the test for prizes such as a trivia-branded mugs, gift certificates and discounts toward their bar tabs.  While contestants are being quizzed on their nerd knowledge and pop culture references, they can also enjoy socializing with their fellow geeks over snacks and booze.

Geeks Who Drink originated in Colorado and was modeled after the tradition of pub quizzes from the US and the UK. Each session consists of eight rounds with eight questions that have varying themes. Examples include: recognizing audio clips from television shows, answering questions that are all related to Chevy Chase and visually identifying cartoon characters of varying degrees of obscurity.

“If you go on a particular night, you’ll either know everything if you’re a genius or you’re not going to know a f-ing thing,” said Shelby Wallace, a University of Texas student. “But I’ll definitely go back because I enjoyed the challenge and I’m determined to get better.”

There is no entry cost, but all geeks are encouraged to order more than just a glass of water in order to support the venue that allows the trivia night to take place. Teams can be no larger than six people, so pick your friends wisely.

“We did really well because each of my team members contributed a lot in their different categories,” said Wallace. “We had a music guru, a sci-fi nerd and everyone was pretty up-to-date on current events which helped us a lot.”

By now you’re probably thinking you can handle a round or two with flying colors. Imagine yourself in a crowded bar, surrounded by the larger-than-average brains of people that can name Star Trek characters faster than you can recite the alphabet. Are you really geek enough to hang with the big dogs? Click here to find out.

Finish this sentence: Walk like an __________.

I’m sure the success rate of answering this question correctly is about oh, 100%. And I’m sure you, like I am, now have your arms bent at the wrists and elbows and you’re walking around sideways, right?

Anyways, now take what you know about Egyptians and take a look at this meme:

I saw this picture on one of my favorite websites I visit when I’m bored or uninspired and need to troll. And actually, that was exactly what I was doing as of 5 minutes ago.

But this particular image caught my attention because it is 100% true. Never would I have taken the time to think about how the stereotype for Egyptians has changed from hieroglyphics and that one song by the Banlges to a modern day, youthful, dark-skinned, political protestor.

And maybe you’re not impressed by the fact that this has only been changed in the last year, but I’d like to bet you the $6 I have in cash in my wallet right now that the meme above rang true for you also.

Further, and on a topic I could spend far, far too much time discussing, how cool it is that memes are used in ways that aren’t just to illicit a quick laugh and then completely forgotten, but also serve to add social commentary to the giant, swirling mess known as the interwebz? I’d have to say its pretty damn cool.

So, a few months back, I introduce Pinterest to some of you before it became the fastest growing site in about…ever. At that point, it was made up mostly of pictures of outfits to die for, adorable animals, crafty ideas and enough food porn to last you a lifetime. So, basically a bunch of girly things.

Well, thanks to a Facebook friend, I have encountered the first, at least to me, marketing scheme on 2012s hottest site. GSD&M, a local advertising agency, posted their SXSurvival Guide.

Let’s do some math:

[Austin + (GSD&M + SXSW)] + Pinterest = Genius.

I have been interested in what Pinterest had to offer since it first started gaining popularity, so little discoveries such as this one are fun for me.

Also, you should follow GSD&M’s SXSurvival boards. Obviously.

http://video.ted.com/assets/player/swf/EmbedPlayer.swf

The internet can be a great resource and is, in a lot of ways, our friend. However, there is definitely a darker side. Be weary people.

I’m not going to preach to y’all, because you probably don’t truly care what my opinions are. But this is something I learned about it one of my classes the other day, and it’s a pretty big deal. I just couldn’t allow myself not to share this.

If I am only given one opportunity to convince my readers, as few of you as there may be, to do one thing, and that is my only shot, then I hope you watch the BBC’s Sherlock.

I’m not talking about the Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law films, which aren’t too shabby I must say. I’m talking about the show that is a modern adaptation of the popular novels of the last three centuries (the first was published in the late 1800s), starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman (Fun Fact: both are to star in the much-anticipated Peter Jackson film, The Hobbit).

The plots are great. Each episode is based on a different story, you know, just updated a bit. Granted, this means each episode is around 80 minutes long (at least) which makes them more like full-blown movies, but that’s part of why I love them so much. Each season consists of three episodes, so they’re more like mini-series if you compare than U.S. television seasons.

The filmography is amazing. Going along with the idea that each episode is pretty much a film, the creators have taken great care to make sure that their shots and transitions are never stuffy. From the intro which shows different shots of London, to their use of text on the screen helps keep the show very engaging. It would be so easy to just show a close-up shot of Sherlock’s phone when he has received a text message, completely losing his reaction without incorporating some clumsy shot of his face. Instead, the text floats near him and moves with him, so you’re able to get the full effect.

(Here’s is a video of the intro for Sherlock.)

Finally, the characters are hands down the most fantastic part of Sherlock. Everyone by now has heard of “bromance” and no show does it better than Sherlock. Further, the most fun part about Sherlock is the fact that you get to see Sherlock and Dr. Watson meet and watch their bromance grow through their shared experiences of almost getting killed…a few times. I could gush so, so much more about just this one aspect of the show, but I fear I will give too much of the plot away.

Instead, I just urge every one of you to at least watch the pilot. I am fully confident you will be hooked from there. Lucky for you, the first season of the show is available on Netflix and has been airing after another recently popular show Downton Abbey on PBS.

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