Bowling and Cosplay

The Gaians Come to Houston

You probably just don't understand.

By Chasen Marshall

Raccoon and bunny tails. Pirate and samurai hats. Pizza and bowling. Teenagers and snooping parents. Anime and Manga. Virtual versus the real world. And DJ Helsing behind the microphone on behalf of Gaia Online. That's what a recent Saturday at Lucky Strike in downtown Houston was about.

Maybe you've heard of Facebook — photos, status updates, poking, etc. Well, Online is sort of its geeky, Anime, virtual reality cousin. Users spend countless hours customizing their avatar (a virtual representation), playing various interactive games and messaging in forums, all in the hopes of accumulating digital gold. The appeal didn't make much sense to Hair Balls...until we logged on and created an avatar of our own. But that's beside the point.

The Saturday night in question was, as DJ Helsing put it, "Gaians coming and meeting in real life."

Everyone wore name tags, most of which had user IDs.  According to DJ Helsing (a.k.a. Chris Castagnetto), the event manager for Gaia Online, the aim of the real-life events was to put a face to the user names in the hopes that some in attendance will create real connections. You know, real friendships. Seems like an outdated concept at times.

Gaia Online, which has more than eight million users across the globe, hosted the "meet-up," with Castagnetto, 24, serving as MC. Before the bowling began, after welcoming the group of 200-plus Gaians — some of whom drove as much as eight hours to attend — he unveiled some sneak peeks into developments on the Web site. It was almost like a mini MacWorld, with the attendees hanging on each slide, ready to cheer every new element: from new weapons for avatars to possess to an "OMG Hat" to the expansion of "Buccaneer Boardwalk."

We swear, this all makes sense once you use the Web site.

​This was No. 14 of 20 meet-ups Gaia Online will host across the country this year, but the only time the event comes to Houston. Each gathering brings anywhere from 150 to 450 Gaians to a single location.

Midway through the evening, those who opted to dress up for the occasions were able to display their creativity in a runway-type setting. One by one they came to the front of the crowd, introducing the inspiration for the outfit and waiting on audience applause for approval. The clear favorite was the Captain Hook-like costume, worn by Melissa Logan. For her win, she was awarded a small card granting her online character a "Wing Anklet." Logan was clearly disappointed: "The other items were amazing," Logan said afterward. "I just have bad luck." The OMG Hat was among the other items.

Hair Balls wondered how parents felt about the gathering, if they were worried about their kids coming to a location and meeting people they had, in most cases, only known on the Internet. We found one parent hiding behind a column, trying to catch a glimpse of her 16-year-old daughter, who was with her new boyfriend.

"We were a little worried at first, but when we got here and saw some of the other kids, we were fine," said Tammi Sturm, who drove in from Sugar Land.

Before the evening came to a close, many of the kids sought out Castagnetto for a photo. He smiled, posed in different positions, and we believe we saw one or two autograph requests fulfilled.

We too wish to one day be a big-damn-deal online.

God Hates the KTRU Deal

By Richard Connelly

Recently word broke that the University of Houston's KUHF station was buying up Rice's unique KTRU station.

There were howls of protest. Sunday, August 22, there was an actual protest, on the Rice campus.

Shortly thereafter, God weighed in. And apparently He's a KTRU fan.

A "massive lightning strike" made a direct hit on the KUHF tower August 24, knocking out power for an hour or so, says UH spokesman Richard Bonnin.

That's about as clear a statement of "Play Me some more Pan-African/fusion jazz!!" as we can imagine.

The tower, which is shared by KUHF, KMJQ and KKRW, is in Missouri City, where a line of strong thunderstorms went through that afternoon, shortly after God caught up on His KTRU Google Alerts.

"That antenna is off the air and in the process of being repaired," Bonnin tells Hair Balls. "After the lightning damage, KUHF switched over to its back-up transmitter and antenna, which does not quite have the reach of the main antenna. Thus, some areas to the north, such as The Woodlands, had trouble receiving KUHF."

Other parts of town went black, too, for a while.

Bonnin says there is no estimate on how long repairs will take. God was unavailable for comment.


There is a ton of new stuff each day on the Houston Press blogs; you’re only getting a taste of it here in the print edition. Head to (or “/rocks” or “/eating”) and under “Tools” on the top-right side of the page, use the “categories” drop-down menu to find these stories:


Dr. Michael Brown, the star of TV ads and the society pages for his Hand Center, somehow managed to get arrested yet again on domestic-abuse charges. We highlighted our past coverage of his druggy, thuggish behavior, and wondered why the Houston Chronicle and the Astros keep on giving the guy love. Female cops at Houston Community College discovered a voyeur camera hidden in their changing room, and weren't happy. Neither was an oil-industry employee who claimed an Exxon exec threatened him with death via e-mail.

Political Animals

Mayor Annise Parker tried to tamp down the turmoil over a proposed Heights-area Walmart, without much success. The Chronicle was the only one of 24 Texas papers to reject an ad calling Governor Rick Perry a "coward" for ducking debates with Bill White. And the city council declined to change the term-limits system, even though — or maybe because — the proposed substitute plan wouldn't have changed things all that much.

Art Attack

Our thriving new arts blog interviewed Margaret Cho, took a look at The Menil Collection's latest exhibit, which features possibly demon-possessed items (or possibly not), reviewed the Houston Police Museum and told you six reasons why your drama teacher hates you.


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