SPORTS: Rodeo season is already here. That’s right. In January. Central Texans associate Western the sport with March, when, for several weeks, 75-year-old Rodeo Austin hosts a livestock show, carnival, concerts, riding events and lots of socializing out at the Travis County Expo Center. Yet, for several such seasons, rodeo events have filtered back into Central Austin — where, in decades past, the huge, culturally essential event would shut down the town — set earlier on the calendar than usual. Saturday night, a boisterous crowd filled Austin Music Hall for a barbecue, auction and dance. When I say "boisterous," I’m not kidding. I’m not sure how anybody heard the auction bids. Lots of hats. Lots of hugs. And reminders that March is just around the corner. (Feb 8: Rodeo Austin Gala.)

MUSIC: The line was long and the guests distinguished. Beloved Asleep at the Wheel vocalist Elizabeth McQueen partied with a raft of music insiders and followers at Lamberts late on Saturday. The occasion was the release of a remix EP put together with the nimble St. Louis-based Brothers Lazaroff. Among her onstage collaborators were Nakia and Erin Ivey. Famed for her versions of the jazz standard, "The Laziest Girl in Town," McQueen is one of those quintessential Austin musical figures who seems to exite admiration across the spectrum of the local scene. (Upstairs at Lamberts is just the right sort of clubhouse for such a gathering.)

HISTORY: Honoring gay past in Texas. From my story in the Statesman: "The Texas Historical Commission links to more than 300,000 entries on its digital Texas Historical Sites Atlas. Yet Bob Brinkman, who oversees the Texas Historical Markers for the agency, believes that none of the official monuments honor a specific person, place or event in gay history. Not even the Harris County Civil Courthouse, where, on June 8, 2000, the Texas Fourteenth Court of Appeals ruled that, in Lawrence v Texas, the statute that outlawed same-gender sex was unconstitutional. That Houston case led to the landmark Supreme Court decision of June 26, 2003, that struck down the Texas law and has informed virtually every subsequent legal contest on gay rights, including those that led to expanded marriage equality. "Events need to be at least 30 years old," Brinkman explains about the rules for official state markers. "And individuals need to be deceased at least 10 years to be mentioned in marker inscriptions."" http://shar.es/9TEz9 (Proud of this story.)

TRAVEL: Savoring the Red Meat Road. From my story in the Statesman: "Let’s redub U.S. 290 between Austin and Houston the "Red Meat Road." It’s not just the herds of cattle grazing roadside pastures greened by autumnal rains. It seems that even the smallest town along this four-lane highway now operates a meat market, barbecue stand, steakhouse and/or sausage factory. You can’t drive 20 miles without passing one of these purveyors of brawny victuals. The grandaddies are, of course, Southside Market and Meyer’s Texas BBQ in Elgin. These massive tourist magnets have beckoned to drivers for decades. And unlike other famous barbecue joints in Lockhart, Taylor, Luling or Driftwood, they are right there on the road between two of the state’s biggest cities, with giant signs and plenty of parking. They are now joined on 290 in Elgin by the substantive Cattle Company Steakhouse and Saloon." http://shar.es/9TI2d(Print version of story that appeared here on the blog first.)

MEDIA: The hate-watching of Washington. From T.A. Frank’s story in The New Republic: "One strain brought on by "The West Wing," the White House drama that ran from 1999 to 2006 on NBC, was a feeling of being trapped with the show’s creator, Aaron Sorkin, and forced to watch him play with his action figures, or possibly himself. When President Josiah Bartlet delivered lines like "get your fat asses out of my White House" to leaders of the Christian right, you could almost detect a giant thumb and forefinger holding Bartlet by the waist to bounce him up and down and move him from room to room—or was that a sigh of ecstasy? Still, "The West Wing" was daring in its time, even subversive. Traditionally, at least as far back as 1880, when Henry Adams anonymously released his satirical novel Democracy, fictional accounts of Washington have focused on pettiness, betrayal, hypocrisy, and depravity. But "The West Wing" offered up honorable public servants with oddly uniform patter trying to steer the nation to a better place. It made public policy fashionable, and it didn’t hate Washington." http://bit.ly/1fpMwrO(Some of the sharpest thinking yet on the current spate of D.C. shows.)