Wednesday, December 15, 2010

When I picture the "American Dream", I don't see a house, I see a neighborhood

Photo: by the author in San Marcos, TX - December, 2009

I've often thought that I would prefer not to spend my whole life living in one place, or even one region. Well, I spent a summer in Los Angeles once, so I guess that is guaranteed never to be the case. However, I am beginning to see the emergence of a possibility that I might reside in the same region for the rest of my life, but that it might even be a palatable option considering the abundant positives of the area in which I currently live. This scenario could also include leaving for a couple of years and returning thereafter.

There are significant conditions on that previous statement. Certain places reflect who I am and what I like in a place far more than most others. South Austin, especially closer into the center of the city, and San Marcos are on the short list of areas where I think I'd be content to base the rest of my residential life. I certainly have my misgivings about the State of Texas as a whole, although I have far fewer of them when it comes to Central Texas and the Hill Country (and sometimes the familiarity of Central Texas compels me to daydream of living somewhere else). But, within any region, it's important to me that I live in a neighborhood who's layout and culture reflect the ideas that I consider important in an urban-social structure.

This distinction is important not just to myself, but to a growing number of people in my generation (follow the title link for more on this). For decades, the "American Dream" has been about things such as owning a house and a car for every driving member of the family...and that house is out in the suburbs, away from the noise and trouble of the big city where the public schools are good and violent crime is ostensibly low. Or, even, it's out in the county on a patch of land at the end of a road where you're not forced to interact with people outside of work, home, or the social gatherings of one's choosing. Previously, even rural dwellers would have these uncontrolled interactions when they took trips into town to shop, but the growth of information technology has allowed even most shopping to be done online, removing even more uninitiated social interactions.

But, that's not what I want. I may not be the most outgoing person around people who aren't already my friends, but there is a significant difference in my temperament when I'm in a place where there are lots of people and activity within distances that don't require car travel, than I am when I'm isolated from such community in a suburban or rural environment (both are the same to me as both require extensive car travel just to perform basic consumer and social functions). While many take comfort (whether they like to admit it or not) in living in a place that is dominated by their own ethnicity, I find myself wanting to be in places that to me "look like America", which means they are diverse and you might, God forbid, hear languages other than English spoken while walking down the street. Places where upper-middle class and working class people live in the same neighborhoods, shop at the same grocery stores, pass each other on the same sidewalks. Such places afford people a better quality of life than they'd enjoy in that economic status in a suburban or rural area. In the case of wealthier people, I feel it prevents the warped empathy-destroying perspective that is formed when they and their children grow up in homogeneous suburban fortresses. In the case of the working-class, they feel more included in their community, they are far less likely to be victims of violent crime than in segregated ghettos and they are able to more cheaply and effectively take advantage of services because they are able to reach more of them (through mass transit, cycling or walking) without the expensive suburban-rural necessity of car ownership. For wealthier individuals, the ability to do things without having to use the car every time has unquestioned benifits in terms of overall health, weight and potentially psychologically as well. I know that livable, walkable neighborhoods in the middle of towns and cities may not be for everyone, or may not be best enjoyed by everyone, but I think far more people would enjoy them than is realized by the economic and regulatory forces that have pushed suburbanization and exurbanization (the area beyond the suburbs from which people still largely commute to work in a city) would like us to believe.
I didn't realize the kind of place I most thrive in until I actually got to live in one after enrolling at Texas State University-San Marcos. I remember the thrill of realizing I could actually walk to things that were interesting...and later on realized the benefits of living in a neighborhood where getting around on foot or by bicycle was not only an option, but it was actually preferable and more enjoyable than driving. When I returned to San Marcos for graduate school, I didn't consider any apartment that was not within walking distance of campus, the town square and a supermarket (which actually leaves a lot of options still in place in that town). Now, it's important for me to mention here that I enjoy driving, probably more than someone with my views and inclinations should. It's a lot of fun to me, but being forced to drive makes the whole undertaking a lot less enjoyable to me. We talk a lot about "freedom" in the United States, but how much freedom can we really have when we are fully reliant on expensive and dangerous (not to mention environmentally taxing) machines in order to go about our daily lives. People should always have the option to drive, I'd be a hypocrite to suggest otherwise, but we should also have the freedom to be free of car-dependence.

If you have never considered that before, spend some time thinking about it. Then, take a drive (on second thought, make it a bike trip or a good long walk) around the 78704 (near-south Austin) or 78666 (San Marcos) zip codes and consider the community and social resources that we've collectively lost during the rush to fall in love with the suburbs.

- Jordan

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

On the Transient Nature of Localism in Austin, Texas


I like fish tacos. There is, you could say, a dearth of fish taco selection in our landlocked region. Therefore the rumored opening of a second Wahoo’s Fish Taco location in Austin is welcome news to me, even as local business lover that prefers non-chain establishments whenever possible. We do not exactly have a plethora of local establishments (that I know of) that specialize in making good fish tacos. However, something about the location of the proposed Wahoo’s troubles me, because it further confirms a suspicion that I have that one of Austin’s best local business corridors might be in the first stages of going the way of The Drag.

A little background on this statement: “The Drag”, a.k.a. the row of storefronts along Guadalupe Street directly across from the University of Texas campus, was once regarded as a key hub for the weird/funky/interesting/whatever you want to call it spirit that has long defined the Capital of Texas. The national businesses that located there, such as a well-known Tower Records location, did their best to fit into that motif. As property values around the (sometimes) largest university in the United States began to skyrocket during the last two economic booms in Austin, local shops increasingly found it difficult to afford the sky-high commercial rents in the area and either closed up shop or moved to other neighborhoods. These have largely been replaced by large national chain businesses (such as Chipotle, Mellow Mushroom, Urban Outfitters and others) that were the only tenants who could afford what became one of the most expensive locations in Austin. The change has been so abrupt that, from my recollection, only a few businesses on the drag were there just seven years ago: Hole in the Wall, a 7-11 and the Church of Scientology, and I feel like I’m padding stats by including the latter. Even Tower Records (replaced by Follett’s Intellectual Property, which has since vacated the space) and a Barnes and Noble (next to a 50,000 student campus no less) were forced out.
I’ve seen several iconic businesses close, places such as Little City Coffeehouse and Einstein’s Arcade (sorry, Justin) a favorite of my brothers', local teens and college students, that have vacated what was once a key stretch of Austin business culture. I’ve seen several other national chains (Pete’s Coffee, Baja Fresh) try and fail on the drag. Essentially, the Drag became a victim of Austin’s success and has lots its soul because of it. I can remember the early stages of the decline, and I am starting to (reluctantly) notice the first signs of a similar trend that could lead to an eventually similar loss of soul on a famous stretch of one of Austin’s best streets: South Congress.
Just three or so years ago, it seemed unthinkable that South Congress, between Live Oak and the Texas School for the Deaf campus, could be anything but a haven for the local small business ingenuity and entrepreneurialism that has made the city more than just another urban wasteland of sameness. That naiveté (I'm using this pretentious word on purpose, to set the mood) was shattered for me when I saw the appearance of an American Apparel store in the middle of the local stretch, right between the Continental Club and Homeslice Pizza (as seen in "Death Proof"). Now, I really don’t have that much against American Apparel. They’re anti-sweatshop (a plus), their advertisements can be sketchy/exploitative (a minus) and they serve as a go-to option for Hipsters in need of new monochromatic v-necks (no opinion). But, seeing it open in that particular location served to me as a harbinger that South Congress (or, “SoCo”, as the real estate community likes to call it…please don’t refer to it as that if you’re standing next to me, or I might involuntarily vomit a little on your shoes. Its bad enough that I’ve had to add it to dictionary on my computer) might be at its peak as a key vein of visible Austin culture. American Apparel stores may be kind of weird, but they’re weird less in the funky Austin way and more in the post-modern creepy way. And, being based in Downtown L.A., with stores all over the world, it’s certainly not a “local business”. And, I suspect, it tipped the balance of local vs. national on the street less in the favor of the locals.

The new Wahoo’s (the only current location in Austin is downtown on Rio Grande between 5th and 6th) is, in symbolic fashion, going in place of Texas French Bread, which is pulling out of its South Congress location (presumably, it’s remaining location at 29th and Rio Grande will remain open). I noticed the symbolism in this particular secession, but realistically, any business that it would replace on this stretch of South Congress would be a local one. Again, outside of American Apparel, there isn’t another non-Austin chain business that I can think of on the one-mile stretch between 7-11 and the Starbucks across from the School for the Deaf. Apparently, that number is going up, and presumably, South Congress may look a lot different in a few years as real-estate appreciation and the penetration of chain businesses likely has transformative effects.

If you were to have a betting pool on the next non-local business to move onto South Congress, my money would be on the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf. The Coffee Bean, like Wahoo’s and American Apparel, happens to be a national/international chain that is based out of Southern California. The first Coffee Bean in Austin opened on South Lamar near Riverside in 2009, and has been followed quickly by locations at 38th and Lamar as well as 41st and Red River. While none of these location is a specifically local business haven, the 41st location is in a big box strip mall home to HEB, Old Navy and Sears, they’re all in central parts of the city that generally have a strong local business culture (and seemingly fewer Starbucks than is normal for an urban area). As with all parts of Central Austin, they’re also neighborhoods that have seen substantial increases in real estate values. Given that Jo’s is the only coffee shop on the stretch of South Congress in question, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a Coffee Bean there in the near future. Seemingly, it’s smart for California chains to begin expanding in areas that are not as economically stagnated as their state is as a whole, and it’s a particularly deft move to accentuate that expansion in places such as Austin that have seen considerable in-migration from California.

Of course, I could be wrong about all of this. South Congress may still be a very local area in 20 years. But, given what has happened in Austin over the past 20 years, I doubt that will be the case. It’s a shame in some ways, but optimistically speaking, the local spirit will remain, it’ll just geographically shift to areas of the city that can still afford to have one. It may be harder to “Keep Austin Weird” (a.k.a. “local”) with all of the internal and external economic pressures that are influencing the city, but I am hopeful that Austin’s independent spirit, one that makes it an excellent place to bring local ideas to life, will survive and will live on in the city wherever it can. And as an avid supporter of tacos of all kinds, now is a great time to open a fish taco stand or food cart somewhere before Wahoo’s corners the market.


Friday, December 04, 2009

Simple traffic solutions for South Austin (Individual cases, not the whole place obviously)

I would like to offer up the following suggestions as simply inexpensive semi-solutions to traffic issues in the area. None of these involve all that much construction work but would be really beneficial. If you've toughed through these problems then you might get this, if you haven't you'll just be bored (probably) reading it:

1.

Problem: Traffic slows down ridiculously in the right-lane of northbound I-35 between William Cannon and Ben White

Solution: Add an exit lane so that cars entering the freeway don’t have to merge immediately with cars that are trying to get over to exit, as well as with cars that are going straight but are stuck in the right lane because semi-trucks and people going too slow in the left-lane keep them there. The shoulder could easily be converted into one

2.

Problem: Traffic backs up on the westbound access road of the Ben White Freeway at Congress Ave.

Solution: Only allow left turns onto Congress from the left hand lane and dedicate the 2nd lane to the entrance ramp, also restripe the roadway so that the third lane can enter the ramp as well and merge there instead of what currently happens, which is cars zipper merging in the intersection to enter the ramp that is right after the light. This will also free up traffic at other sides of the intersection as the lights could be retimed since they’ll no longer need to accommodate such a long queue of cars. A better less simple solution is to build an entrance ramp before the light, but with the setup of the freeway there doing so would be complicated. Best solution: flyover ramp from 35 to Ben White…those are apparently going to be built sometime next year…ending one of the worst episodes of transportation planning I have ever seen.

3.

Problem: S. Congress narrows to two-lanes and as it goes through a busy stretch that includes apartments, a school and an intersection with William Cannon Dr.

Solution: For the love of all that is holy, at least build a turn-lane so left turning cars who have to wait for 20 cars to clear before they turn don’t stall traffic anymore.

4.

Problem: Southbound traffic on the Freeway lanes of I-35 slows down even more between William Cannon and Slaughter Lane.

Solution: Invert the on and off ramps between Slaughter and William Cannon so that all of the traffic entering and exiting the freeway there can use the nice and vacant two lane access road and free up room on the freeway for vehicles who aren’t entering and exiting there. This is actually a good idea for a number of places around Austin.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Start Today

I haven't updated this in three months. I think that's because I often think that no one reads it. But, I know a few people probably do and those people are worth a lot to me so I'm going to revive this thing.

I may even do something as simple as discuss observations about this city (or others that I end up in sometimes), talk about problems I see and what I think the potential solutions are.

Example: Mobility in Austin is terrible. Possible solution: Let's tear up a few streets and build a comprehensive mass transit system centered on light rail. Wait, we tried that in 2001 and it got voted down because of the price tag.

Oh well. I'll have to find other things to be positive about.

For one thing, I'm going to the Grand Canyon and then on to Denver this week to visit friends. I just found out I can fly to San Diego from Austin round trip non-stop on Southwest for less than $200 so I hope I can do that soon as well.

- Jordan





I’m still holding out hope that this isn’t serious. Spotted at Mopac and Burnet in North Austin. So probably…

Monday, May 18, 2009

It's All Good from Diego to the Bay

Things that I’m finding to be really annoying.

1) Loud cars

2) Loud motorcycles

3) Loud people

Things that I’m looking forward to:

1) Road trip 2K9 starting this wednesday

2) In-N-Out Burger

3) Seeing the Rocky Mountains of my birth for the first time in a few years

Things I like about summer in San Marcos

1) Sunshine

2) Being outside

3) Most of the people who really don’t appreciate San Marcos are gone

Things San Marcos needs:

1) An independent video store

2) More local fast(er)-food places near campus

3) Bike paths and bike lanes

Places where I like to see live music

1) Emo’s

2) Emo’s

3) Emo’s

Favorite non-sit down places to eat in Austin

1) Tacodeli

2) P. Terry’s Burger Stand

3) The other Tacodeli

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Flight of the Navigator


The Semester ended today at Texas State, except that for me it’s just another day tomorrow…I’m on a pretty steady work and thesis-work schedule that is not exciting enough to write about so I won’t.

I did almost crash my car the other night, that’s a little more interesting. I was driving back from my parents place outside of Temple. For the first time in my life I had the surreal experience of taking a full controlled access highway bypass completely around Austin. They’re all toll roads but I guess you win some and you lose some. I crusied along down SH-130…the final link (SH-45SE) just opened on Thursday so I don’t think a lot of people even realize you don’t have to take I-35 staight though Austin anymore (a fact they should advertise heavily in Dallas-Fort Worth, as that heavily populated region seems to produce a solid percentage of 35 drivers clogging their way through Austin). There was a sign on SH-130 that said “San Marcos 35 miles”…and I could actually take that to mean “under 35 minutes” instead of “I’m going 15 miles per hour…so hopefully traffic picks up”.

That’s the upside. The downside is how apparently dangerous the shiny new SH-45SE is at night. I merged onto it at the end of SH-130, and suddenly there were no lights. It’s understandable to a degree, because there isn’t much development out there (yet), but there will be. And, if TXDOT intends for this to be an urban bypass, they might want to make the drive less-than pitch black. I immediately noticed a pool of blood that was likely the remains of a deer that someone hit over the weekend. I’ve never seen a deer on 35 (most of the animals that live near that freeway have probably been wiped out by cars by now), and I’m not used to deer on freeways (occasionally they’re sighted on Mopac) so I kept my cruise control on and my speed at 70 miles per hour.

I thought nothing more off it until about 3 or 4 minutes later, still crusing at 70, a young but not small deer appeared in the lane right in front of me like a ghost. I immediately thought “if I don’t swerve I could die” so I did…and while swerving I thought “If I over-correct I could still wreck my car and get hurt pretty badly”…so I didn’t. Of course, it all happened in a half-second, so my thoughts weren’t quite in full sentences but that gives you an idea of what flashed through my head. It was a jarring experience. I got on I-35 two minutes later and from the flyover bridge I could see thousands of cars going in either direction between Austin and San Marcos…I can’t remember the last time I was actually excited to see I-35…but I was then.

Basically, a new road through rural terrain is going to have deer on it. And, if there are no lights on the freeway, those deer are going to be pretty invisible until they’re in your headlights (there were a few too many cars on the opposite side of the highway for me to put my brights on). This means that until the deer get scared by traffic, or the lighting is improved, there are going to be deer-car collisions on SH-45SE. Considering the amount of money spent on the highway, and the fact that it’s going to be tolled, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to ask that this gets fixed.

So, yea, be careful when you’re driving at night on new highways.

- Jordan




Monday, May 04, 2009

You Said It Kid. You Said It!


I’d like to start this post by thanking Charlie Day for introducing me to a procession of great and increasingly loud music by bands that are made up of people who are roughly my age, as opposed to being 40 years old and having been in the band since 1986 or whatever. I had previously almost lost hope that bands that made music that I espeically enjoy listening to were going the way of the buffalo.

Actually, the buffalo are making a nice comeback and are no longer endangered and are far from from being extinct. So, I guess in that way, the music I like is still going the way of the buffalo, in that it’s recovering from nearly being hunted to extinction by hipsters and scene kids, who in this case play the role of the Native-Americans and Anglo pioneers driving the buffalo that represent bands that I like off a cliff made out of pretention and petrified scene points. Having killed ska (represented in this analogy by the do-do bird), they needed a new challenge. Emo was too easy. Buy, sucking the fun out of music that was positive and encouraging while still being loud and…um…moshy, that was an accomplishment. It should be noted that the attire of the people pushing the metaphorical buffalo off the cliff is in many cases as outlandish (to a modern perspective) as that which was worn by original Native-Americans.

I want so badly for music to be popularly considered to be simply fun again. No more popularity points based on how many times a band is mentioned at a You Tube party at the Beauty Bar or whether their latest review on Pitchfork passed the necessarily 7.31224 threshold (out of 10.0000) in order to be considered worthy of your precious time. I particularly resent Pitchfork for reasons that I will someday hopefully engage in a cathartic book-writing process about. No more hating ska because “it sucks” or punk because “it’s dead” or hardcore because it’s “too hard”. Music should just be about what you enjoy or don’t enjoy listening to. Bottom line. I may listen to Wolf Parade and Neutral Milk Hotel…but I don’t do so because Pitchfork coronated them into the “indie” royal family…but because I enjoy the music. I listen a lot of bands that can be classified as: punk, ska (*gasp*), ska/punk, hardcore-punk and good old fashioned hardcore (the punk kind more than the metal kind) for the same reasons. If I enjoy listening to a band, then I like them. If I don’t, then I don’t but I try pretty hard to remember that other people may like Fall Out Boy (a band I have never been able to stand listening to) for the same reason…but it’s tempting to overlook that and judge them for it. So, I understand how the scene point system really got going. In fact, I once was falling into that hole where I began to judge bands by what kind of people were into them. Fortunately, I realized that was not the best way to go about it, and music became fun again. I am hoping that I can help other people realize the same thing.

Check out a Buzz N' Bangs show in San Marcos (and hopefully sometime in Austin and other places as well) for a great example of the pure fun that I want music to be again: Another great example is Zlam Dunk...and if you don't like them, then it's whatever but don't just hate on them because you resent that a lot of kids are having fun at their shows. There is going to be a backlash in the next few years involving the reemergence of fun bands and their fans against the tedious scene-point/indie-point doldrums that have taken music hostage. At least, I hope there will be.

- Jordan



The Custom Concern for the People


“I wake up, just about noon. My head sends a message for me to reach for my shoes and then walk…gotta go to work gotta go to work gotta have a job.”

- Modest Mouse: Custom Concern

The sun rises. I tend to rise later. Some mornings I ride my bike to work and other days I just walk. I don’t have to drive, which is great. In fact, I get to work faster on my bike any way and I can’t even park within 3 blocks of the office any way because it’s a restricted zone. I used to have to work up at 5:30 every morning and drive across the middle of Austin to be at work at 6:30. That is pretty much the number one reason why I went back to school. My current job is part-time during the semester and remarkably flexible. I doubt I will have this kind of control of the use of my time in the future…I might though. I’m learning not to limit myself or whatever my options are.

I’ve been recommended a lot of books in the past few years. I usually get around to 5% of them, and only 20% of those do I actually finish. I didn’t get past the first chapter of one of them because it was written in paragraphs that were commonly one or two very short sentences long. Some people might like that or think that it is post-modern or something, but I just found it to be incredibly annoying. It went kind of like this.

// Here’s a couple of short sentences about something sort of vague. This vague something might have meaning because it’s in a book.


Can you see that it has meaning. In the book?


Books are amazing.


So amazing.//

I just unwittingly put that Kanye West song in my head. I’m not a huge fan or anything, but I heard the song in a commercial earlier today. Commercials are another topic that I could write a semi-sarcastic and moderately apathetic note about. In the interest of avoiding instant hypocracy, I’m extending this paragraph by a couple of sentences. Here is the second sentence in that paragraph extention.

- Jordan



Monday, April 27, 2009

"Show Me Potato Salad!"

Note: I understand that the Swine Flu outbreak is a potentially serious pandemic situation. However, I've already seen several of these types of situations inflated to a point way beyond a justifiable representation of reality. Therefore, this continual pattern of - potential problem -> 24/7 media saturation of coverage of potential problem -> overblown public panic -> problem not as bad as reported - is something that bothers me.

Who Needs Facts when You Have Twitter?

Apparently the first thing ever to be truly ruined by Twitter is the Centers for Disease Control and White House's attempts to keep people from needlessly panicking over Swine Flu. Currently, the twitter feed for the "#swineflu" topic is going crazy with news posts that may be factual and a ton of panicked worried statements from someone more likely to be dealing in the realm of hysteria rather than fact. Here is a link to a fantastic example of what I'm talking about. The third and smaller category is people who are already so fed up with the hype that they're already poking fun at it.

Perhaps the most odd thing is that the main criticism of the "twisteria" (which I could take credit for making that word up) is coming from the CNN Network...one of many news holes that have been vomiting up hype and getting people panicked, ostensibly because panic is great for ratings. Right now I'm watching panic-tinged comments from a guest on Larry King Live who is described as the "health expert from the Oprah Winfrey show", which I guess makes him more credible than a regular non-Oprah doctor with a sizable portion of the U.S. population. Then again, his name is "Dr. Oz".

"This is a good example of why [Twitter is] headed in that wrong direction, because it's just propagating fear amongst people as opposed to seeking actual solutions or key information," said Brennon Slattery, a contributing writer for PC World.

Interestingly enough, you could replace the word "Twitter" with "Fox News","CNN" or any other major network or internet news site and still take that statement seriously.

Here's what the mass-coverage and growing International panic over Swine Flu reminds me of:

Killer Bees: They were supposed to sting everyone in Texas and the rest of the Southwest to death according to some reports, forcing survivors to flee to Montana or another colder climate where the coming army of "Americanized Honey Bees" couldn't survive (and odd similarity to a zombie attack). The media coverage of the pending beepocalypse was inundating. Of course, the bees mated with regular bees and got more tranquil. There were a few scattered attacked in Texas and Arizona but, basically, they bred themselves out of their killer instinct We survived...somehow.

The "Four Corners Disease" Scare: Also known as, "the Haunta Virus", this epidemic was supposed to basically wipe out all life in the Southwestern United States, before spreading and causing the end of humanity. I'm being a little hyperbolic in describing the way this "outbreak" was covered...but sadly I'm not stretching it that much. I remember the stunned reactions of some my parents friends when they said we were driving to Colorado for a week. People looked as if we would die if we simply passed through Amarillo or Raton. Later, we wouldn't die or contract the disease, just like 99.99999% of the U.S. population. It's since been relegated to an overblown and overhyped something that happened between Killer Bees and Y2K.

Y2K: I don't feel a need to explain this one...except that it's the number one example I cite when I tell people I'm not as worried about [insert media and public panic driven "apocalypse" here] as they are. The few good things that came out of Y2K were a small fraction of the American population living a more environmentally sensible lifestyle (this was probably undone when they were told to consume as much as possible following the 9/11 attacks), one of the best Simpsons "Treehouse of Horror" shorts ever made, as well as (in my opinion) my favorite Family Guy episode ("Kaboom").

Honorable mentions from this current decade include: SARS, Anthrax, Bird Flu, West Nile Virus, Ebola, Salmonella (at least four or five of these) and "dirty bombs". Remember when your parents or someone you knew made a mad dash to Home Depot to buy 500 rolls of duct tape because the Department of Homeland Security suggested they should?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Punk Rock was my First Girl, She Left Me a Scar so I Have Her Still

Jordan Stewart's Punk Rock Summer Camp '09 initial lineup announcement. Sub-genres and related stuff included. This is just the stuff that I already have and already listen to:

Punk Rock Summer Camp 2009

The Lineup:

-- Adolescents
-- Andrew WK
-- The Ataris
-- Autopilot Off
-- Bad Religion
-- Bandits of the Acoustic Revolution
-- The Bouncing Souls
-- Catch 22 (90's)
-- Champion
-- Comeback Kid
-- Daggermouth
-- Dead Kenedys
-- Dogwood
-- Five Iron Frenzy
-- Good Riddance
-- H2O
-- The Impossibles
-- The International Superheros of Hardcore
-- Lagwagon
-- Less than Jake (90's)
-- The Living End
-- The Mae Shi
-- Mighty Mighty Bosstones
-- Millencolin
-- Minor Threat
-- Mu330
-- Municipal Waste
-- Mustard Plug
-- MxPx
-- NoFX
-- No Trigger
-- Propaghandi
-- Rancid
-- RX Bandits
-- Saves the Day
-- Set Your Goals
-- Slick Shoes
-- Streetlight Manifesto
-- Strung Out
-- Suicide Machines
-- Take it Back!
-- xLooking FowardX
-- Zero Down
-- 7 Seconds

** Additions likely ** Suggestions welcome **

Burned Like A Summer Home

Someone's house going up in flames isn't funny...but this oxymoronic twitter message from KXAN News gave me a chuckle when I first saw it...:

//KXAN_News Controlled fire spreads to home: http://tinyurl.com/cw8pxm//

...then I felt kinda bad when I realized I what I was laughing about.

At least, if the fire is still "controlled", then someone must be getting revenge or something like that.

In retrospect, a Fire Department doing a "controlled burn" on a day where 95+ degree temperatures and 15% humidity were forecast (and happened) wasn't a good call. Hindsight is...

For everyone keeping score at home: The current temperature is 97F with 18% humidity with a 21 MPH wind.

The Rising Sun Brings Little Change to this City with a Stolen Name

The average Texas county is about the size of the state of Rhode Island, and Texas has 254 of them.

In most counties, there are anywhere from a few to a couple of dozen municipalities. While some of these towns have typical American city names, such as Franklin, Vernon or Columbus, there are quite a few that are far more interesting. In almost any given Texas county, you can find a town or city whose name stands out...even in a state that has a significant share of towns with interesting, descriptive, or downright weird names.

The names I tend to notice and like the most seem to fall into specific categories. They're named after physical features in or near the town, they're in Spanish (and thus a reference to a settlement's age going back to the days of Spanish and Mexican settlement of the Southwest), or they have some kind of connection to a mythical character or story (and names like this, thus, have a story behind them).

Towns named after physical features have a connection through that name to their landscape. Two that I always think of are not even named after features that are all that impressive. Flower Mound, now a booming suburb of Dallas, is named after a small mound covered with flowers just to the east of the original settlement. Round Rock, now a similarly booming suburb of Austin that is transforming into a city in its own right, is named for a, well, round boulder that is found on the shore of Brushy Creek in the original part of town.

There are others, of course. One of my favorites is a small settlement that I've never actually been to called "Notrees" west of Midland. In an almost theological fashion, it's named not for something, but for the absence of it. According to legend, when a settler was picking a name for the place, the lack of trees in the surrounding landscape was so prominent that he found it to be the best description of the place. Apparently the town actually had one native tree before 100% of the community's trees were removed in the construction of a large gas plant.

I like names that are in Spanish because they sound cool, and they can be both a reference to history or to physical landscapes as well. There are plenty of them, especially in the south half of Texas. Spanish settlers only pushed so far before the landscape's difficulties became too much of a barrier for extensive settlement. The footprint they've left can be seen in the gradual transition of river and creek names in Texas from English to Spanish as you drive south in I-35, with the Brazos river (named for it's many arms in West Texas that collect to form the giant river) being the northernmost prominent one. From Waco south, every major stream crossed by I-35 has a spanish name (including the Leon River in Temple, which means "Lion" in Spanish). Many were named for patron saints by Roman Catholic Spanish and Latin-American settlers. Interestingly, the Colorado River and the Red River are both named the "Red River", just in different languages.

I mention the rivers, because almost each one has a town that gets its name from the river, San Antonio included. Some of these towns, such as San Marcos, are located near or around the springs that form the headwaters of their namesake stream. San Marcos is an interesting example of both a name that is derived from a landscape feature as well as a historical reference to when Franciscan settlers apparently found the springs on Saint Mark's day in 1755. Others examples include Blanco, west of San Marcos, which is named for the Blanco river which gets its name from the white limestone rocks that form the bed of the clear stream, and Seguin to the east, which is a historical nod to Texas revolutionary hero Juan N. Seguin. Others such as El Paso (located in a mountain pass), Presidio (named for the historic Spanish fort nearby) and Del Rio (which is next to the Rio Grande) are more self-explanatory. There are also a substantial number of settlements with German names given by German settlers, especially in Central and South-Central Texas. Conversely, in North Texas, there are a significant number of towns, such as Waxahachie, whose current names have Native American origins.

Finally, there are plenty of names of towns in Texas that sound strange, or just are strange, and do not have a straightforward surface explanation. There are a couple I can think of that are simply literary references. Tarzan, Texas is a tiny speck of a place (population 80) on a flat highway west of Big Spring in West Texas. I remember it having a few buildings and a shop that repairs and services oil pump jacks. According to the Handbook of Texas: a settler by the name of Tant Lindsay "submitted a list of possible town names to the post office department. Postal officials chose Tarzan and made Lindsay the first postmaster."

Probably much more famous is Marfa located on a wide plateau in the mountainous Big Bend Region, a town that is well-known for its size due mainly to the presence of a continual community of artists from all over the world that have relocated (or spent time) there since Donald Judd moved there in 1971. The odd name is either derived from a character in the Jules Verne novel Michael Strogoff according to an article from the time in the Galveston Daily News, or Fyodor Dostoyevsky's The Brothers Karamazov, which apparently the railroad director's wife was reading at the time the town was founded. Having her be the town's name-giver isn't so far fetched because apparently railroad builders in some cases liked to name towns after their wives.

There are plenty of other examples of oddly named cities in Texas such as perhaps the most Texan name of all: Gun Barrel City, as well as Muleshoe, Zorn (a little town between San Marcos and Seguin named for a settler whose name roughly translates to "Anger" in German), Oatmeal (in Burnet County) and Wink (near the New Mexico state line). Some cities were originally given names that are far different than they have today. Austin, for example, was originally called "Waterloo", which is why you see so many references to the name in the city today such as Waterloo Park and Waterloo Records.

Now if I could only figure out where the name Austin comes from.

Monday, April 20, 2009

So Sick, So Sick of being Tired...

The bro-bar next to the Coffee Pot (Dillinger's: a "killer club") is playing Taking Back Sunday's "Tell All Your Friends" album. This is confusing me on a number of levels. They usually play the kind of music that reminds you of why you stopped listening to the radio. At the moment, they're playing something that I used to listen to constantly, and is now relegated to semi-ironic nostalgic listenings in the car with other people who also listened to the album constantly 5 years ago.

But, aside from two specific establishments (the other one starts with the letter "N-" ends with "-ephew's"...the name says it all), I really like the San Marcos Square. Aside from being a classic Back to the Future style town square, it has other merits in that it's alive during the day (with regular activities) and at night with food and beverage (mostly beverage) consumption. Yeah, it's no 6th Street, but that means less vomit and horse poop. I'll talk more about 6th street in an upcoming post about the things that I actually *don't* like in Austin (unlike most things about the city, which I do like). I was reminded of how refreshingly nice our square is when I visited my old-stomping grounds of Temple (or driving grounds, more accurately, because you were chained to your car there). Downtown Temple has been renevated somewhat, but is still one of the most uninteresting places on Earth...desptie the fact that the city is significantly larger than San Marcos. See also: Bryan, Texas.

I guess my pain point is that cities large and small need to move back downtown...it's great to have stuff going on in the middle of town. No matter what town you're talking about. I think the health of a city is greatly tied too how healthy it is not just in the downtown area, but in the surrounding areas. This is one way in which Austin (on the large scale) and San Marcos (on the small scale) prove to be excellent.

Peace and queso,

- Jordan

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

In Defense of My Friends in San Marcos who Ride Fixed Gear Bikes

This note is written as a response to this opinion column published in the University Star on Wednesday, Feb. 25, 2009. I felt compelled to write it so that there will be a defense coming from someone who also does not ride a fixed gear bike, but obviously has a far different (and substantially more qualified) impression of the lives, attitudes and character of those in San Marcos who chose to do so, several of whom I consider to be close friends, and two of which are my roommates.

Link to article: http://star.txstate.edu/content/fixed-gear-biking-just-useless-fad

---


In Defense of SM-Fixed

- Jordan Stewart

March 3, 2009

San Marcos-

I should begin by clarifying that I do not have a fixed gear bike. I do not plan on ever having one. However, I am friends with more than several people that ride fixed and I hang out with them regularly. Many of my other closer friends who do not ride fixed (or even bikes at all) are friends with, and hang out, with those same fixed gear riders. How can this be you ask? Aren't they a snobby self-absorbed fad-crazed group of nihilistic snobs?

I think what has been forgotten here is that maybe every "group" in San Marcos isn't exactly like those similar groups in larger cities like N.Y. or San Francisco (or anywhere in the U.S.). Maybe, just maybe, being San Martians and all, they're concerned about not leaving people out or being so superficial as to base their friendships on what people own, not on who they are. Here's the deal, the people described in this article are nothing...nothing at all like the guys that I am friends with, and go to gatherings with and friends that I see almost every day.

I also understand that, considering the tone with which this article was written, invoking NASCAR and the confederate flag has no purpose except to be as insulting as possible. It’s also so absurd that it really takes away from whatever point it is that is trying to be made (I can only get a vague sense of one, to be honest). The same can be said for UGG boots. Attempts to use this imagery are only done to cast a completely unrelated group in a negative tone. This can be a brilliant Karl Rove style (see, I just did it) tactic in political advertising and campaigning…but is ill-suited here unless the purpose is simply to stir up emotionally-seated animosity toward the fixed gear crew here among the general “enlightened” populace.

Here’s a quick geography lesson that I think will help with this: Higher order places (i.e. Los Angeles) dominate and influence lower order centers (i.e. Austin…which in turn culturally, economically and politically influences San Marcos). It perfectly logical to think that activities enjoyed by larger groups in larger cities (i.e. San Francisco and New York), might also be enjoyed by smaller groups in smaller cities such as the Austin-Central Texas area. One of these things enjoyed by people in both larger and smaller cities could be fixed gear bikes. It shouldn’t be a shock that people in smaller cities look to bigger cities for inspiration and ideas…that’s how it’s almost always worked in almost ever facet of life. This is made possible through the magic of technology, namely the internet…which makes places like Austin culturally capable of a lot more connectivity with other cities that it may have much in common with (such as Portland) than it used to because of the distance between the cities.

What's strange is that, after verbally flogging the San Marcos fixed gear riders with a scornful lashing of stinging insults and bewilderingly vague behavioral condemnation...the article becomes very self-engrossed and morphs into a verbose pat on the back to the author and his own “evolved” choice of bike. In fact, it takes on a tone that is almost purposefully like the kind of supposed attitude that the author feels is reflected by the fixed gear community in San Marcos towards himself and toward others. This came across as extremely odd.

I have never caught dirty looks from kids on fixed gear bikes when I am walking or riding my own second-hand road bike (being friends with many of them may also be a reason for the absence of malicious stares)...and I firmly believe that the impression that the fixed gear riders here are some sort of stuck-up clique are extremely unfair and inaccurate...and I know this because it is proven to me every day. In fact, some of the most inclusive people I know can be seen skidding (safely and skillfully with no brakes needed) to stops all over San Marcos and Austin. You could also, for a moment, consider the fact that the physical exertion sometimes needed to ride a bike on one of the hilliest college campuses anywhere might lead to some strange strained facial expressions, especially after riding uphill for a while. I theorize that most of the time these tired looks are not anything personally directed against the author.

I could go on a point by point rebuttal...but I'll save that for something else, and I am also giving the benefit of the doubt to the possibility that this is just some weird social-experiment. Even if it is, the amount of (I feel) undeserved consternation, drama and strife that it is creating in our extremely laid-back and comparatively peaceful town is not at all justified...even if this is just a big ruse. But, even if that’s the case, no matter how funny the punch-line is…it’s not worth sitting through the painful and aggravating reading of the joke…or the unneeded discord that it has brought.

Thanks for reading this, and I hope it makes an impact on anyone who doesn't know or respect these guys as much as I do.

Peace and queso,

- Jordan

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

This Place is a Prison, and these People Aren't Your Friends

"...Oh dear God, what a tangled web we weave..."
- At the Drive In

I've often thought of the prospect of writing about Facebook...on Facebook...as being either kind of lame, or simply a reflection of a lack of ideas of things to write about that are actually substantive. However, I've realized something about this weird place inhabited by 150,000,000 people (and rapidly growing) that I think is actually worth knowing. Also, a few small-time publications have been writing about Facebook lately, such as Newsweek... which featured one of their writers announcing that he was quitting Facebook ...on the pages of the internationally read magazine's website...as well as Time Magazine's recent Twenty-five Things I Didn't Want to Know About You... which featured a "reporter" complaining about the sudden omnipresence of the "25 'random' things about me" lists that have been multiplying faster than the woman in L.A. who just had fertility-science assisted Octuplets...to follow up on having 6 previous kids.

My reason, unlike the aforementioned professional journalist-types, for writing about the Face-maze, is that I have finally found something in the tangible and physical world that we still (yes, even you World of Warcraft kids) actually inhabit that I can use to describe exactly what Facebook is. And that real-life concept is that of the panopticon. Now, I could go ahead and explain what a panopticon is, but instead I'm just going to discuss the concept through some observations I've had during the 4 or 5 years I've been on Facebook...and watching the steadily eroding remnants of anonymity as it has gone from it's original status as the secure and relatively "private" and controlled college alternative to MySpace to a wide-open anyone can join slightly less jumbled and sleazy alternative to Myspace. I guess another alternative that you, the reader, has is clicking on the link I just posted. But, realistically, who clicks on hyperlinks before they finish reading an article? And who really bothers to finish articles with lots of hyperlinks in almost every sentence. They're ultimately there to back up what I'm saying, but for the most part they're there to make me look smart for having found them and put them there.

The thing that has gradually become more and more unnerving to me is the propensity to gain a feeling that hardly anyone knows what I'm doing or saying when I write one someone's facebook wall or announce something on an event page. But, in reality, that statement is immediately accessible to all of my "friends" on Facebook, as well as anyone on Facebook who is in the Austin, TX network (because I have, perhaps mistakenly, enabled my privacy settings to allow that). There is a stream of warnings and stories in the online popular press and on blogs about people being fired for posting things on Facebook that, were they thinking more prudently, they shouldn't have. One survey found that managers doing background searches on potential hires have had their jobs made much easier through the easy ability to research those candidates on social networking sites, mainly MySpace and Facebook. According to the survey, roughly one third of those searches lead to instant rejections due to the overtly personal content that is often posted on those sites. Additionally, there is little substantial legislation on any level in the United States concerning limiting employers ability to consider Facebook pages and other online information when selecting among job applicants. With this in mind, I am often amazed at the sheer amount of potentially career damaging information people place on Facebook. It is even more amazing to me than the amount of personal contact info that is submitted to the site. I'm guilty of the, but not so much of the first part...although with the ability for anyone to tag anyone in a photo on Facebook, it's becoming harder for anyone to keep personal indiscretions from being documented on the site...even if they are not actually "on Facebook" themselves. However, I have certainly fallen victim to the panoptical nature of Facebook by saying rather personal things on people's public walls, instead of sending them a message. It is easy, it seems, to be lulled into equating public Facebook interaction with private conversations...and this is assisted by the ever more intrusive Facebook "news feed"...which caused a tremendous amount of controversy on the site when it suddenly and without much warning began altering the "friends" of everyone on Facebook to almost every single thing that their other "friends" were doing or saying publicly...even if a lot of those things were done within a context that treated them as at least "semi-private", which naturally adds a level of sensitivity to what is being said, even if it is in all reality completely public among that person's community of friends.

I'm not the first person to bring up the concept of a "participatory panopticon" in reference to the online world. However, the moment I found out what the word meant after seeing it used in an interview, and then looking it up, I immediately thought of Facebook. The word panopticon was derived from the name of a style of prison designed by an English social theorist. Inmates of such a prison are led to believe by the design of the circular building that they are sometimes living in relative privacy, when in reality then can and for the most part would be under constant surveillance. Like someone behind a one-sided mirror (or a suspect who's phone may or may not be bugged by investigators), the prisoners are unable to tell when exactly they are or are not being watched. Clearly, an obvious allusion to Facebook in that a user cannot tell who else is looking, or has looked at, the page on which they are writing some piece of personal information. Likewise, almost anyone in your "networks" (in my case, Texas State University and Austin, TX) may or may not have looked at your page in the last hour. There is no way to tell for sure...you can limited the viewing of your Facebook page to only people who you have accepted as friends on the site, but you still can't tell how they are observing you. Despite this, many people (including myself) often operate on Facebook as if they only people that are cognizant of that they are communicating is they and the person they are communicating with. And, with the expansion of Facebook to older generations who previously avoided much in the way of online social-networking, more and more parents, teachers and bosses will be aware of what their underlings are doing when they're "not around". The fact that interview advice sources have to tell people to take their half-naked drunken pictures off of facebook is a sign, not just of mass stupidity, but of the fact that the panoptical nature of Facebook is much stronger than a lot of people realize. Also, concern exists that Facebook may be (or already is) taking advantage of the taking advantage of the vast store of personal information (age, phone numbers, interests, addresses and the like) that the site's millions of users (including myself) have freely provided to them over the past 5 to 6 years, by using data mining to enhance "targeted" advertisement sales. Some have gone so far as to speculate that Facebook is working with the Department of Homeland Security and the C.I.A. and allowing those agencies to mine their data in order to hunt down subversive and/or terrorist groups in the U.S. These allegations are less substantiated and may be the result of something understandably and psychologically common to those inside of a panopticon, which is paranoia. Still, who knows the limits to which information on the internet is actually safe from outside parties.

The reality is that, in this participatory panopticon in which we have, en mass, placed ourselves, we can never be sure as to who is watching. I'm not the type to lose sleep over this sort of thing, but I do like to point it out because so many go about their daily lives on Facebook as if no one, not even their friends, are watching them at a given point in time. I'm okay with it for now because I am beginning to see this as one of the most fascinating social-changes in the recent history of human life in Planet Earth. And, of course, we are all free to cut away from Facebook at any time. But, there seems to be a protective culture among many facebook users that I have observed that reminds me of my favorite episode of the Simpsons: the one involving the Movementarians, the cult that Homer Simpson signs up his family to join...where anyone who tries to leave is met with a bright-light shining on them and a loud voice saying "you're free to leave at any time, but would you mind telling us why?...". [JS]

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Maybe I'm Being Selfish, Maybe I'm Just Scared

The idea of romantic love seems so fictional to me right now.

Every girl I know that I could see myself dating is either taken, or doesn't seem to think I exist...until they are dating someone. What is it that scares them away from me? Or maybe I'm the one who's scared.

And now here comes Valentines Day". The day pushed by corporate America to make up for the post-Christmas lull by guilt tripping people to spend a lot of money on their significant other...because "it's Valentines Day". Or, if you're single you're supposed to find a date to spend money on, even if you never talk to that person again. Or...if you can't find a date you're supposed to feel miserable and less important and less of a human being because you don't have a date on Valentine's Day. It's so fucked up. I've never had a date on Valentines Day. I don't know why, that's just the way things have happen. I've dated people (not all that much but I have), but not on Valentines Day.

People have been telling me that "God has someone out there for me"...and they're very well meaning for doing so...but since that has tortuously failed to ever fully materialize, does that mean I blame God for it? It doesn't make sense. I don't know why I write these notes. I hate them, but I'm so miserable ultimately deep down about it that I can't just talk about it. And I don't think that people understand, although I'm sure they do. I just have a more long-term case with this than most.

I know that "dating around" isn't a solution. I'm afraid that more and more I'm going to look for a solution in temporary stuff that is not satisfying. But then, I'm also incredibly fearful and I need someone to be with who understands that and knows how to calm that fear. I've only had experience with girls that are nerve-wracking to date (but I still cared about them enough to put myself through the emotional roller coaster of hell that it was) because they are so "unsure if this is for real" and then suddenly it's not real and I'm left in the cold. I always feel embarrassed after writing these because I'm just admitting to being a loser...or something...either way my pride takes a hit with each revealing note. I need an outlet for this. I need somebody to love me more than someone who is simply a "great friend" can love me. I need to love someone. I pour so much time into my friends because they're all I have, but I still can't share everything with them.

I thought this would be prolonged when I came back to San Marcos. For some reason, this place seems devoid of girls with which I could actually connect with well enough to have a relationship with...well, those that I know I could are flat out taken...or maybe I've tried with them already and it didn't work. Most of the girls I've met that I could see myself having a chance with (and it being a good match) are in other places. It's sad. It sucks. I don't know what to do. I'm just getting older...and, like for Matthew McConaghey's character noted in Dazed and Confused...the girls "stay the same age". That's good for a creep but not so much for me. I don't know what girls think of me. I don't know anything about how I come off to them. I think they're scared of me, and the only reason I am friends with girls when they're already in relationships is because they're safely in a relationship.

Dammit I hate writing about this. Why am I doing this? I feel like I've wasted years of my life on dwelling on thoughts like this.

Goodnight.

- Jordan

Monday, January 26, 2009

I Didn't Understand

I am coming to terms with the fact that some (a lot of) people think very differently than me and always will. As such, I have decided I will probably never understand the following:

- Why some people stay inside when they're not working and don't have much else to do and it's a really nice day

- Why some people playing video games all of the time instead of having a consistent social life or passing their classes

- Why some value nothing over how much money they make or will make someday

- Why some never question why the believe what they believe, or vote the way they do (if they vote)

- Why some don't think voting is at all important

- Why girls often date douchebags and shy away from guys who would actually treat them like a human being (same goes for some guys with girls I guess)

- Why dude-bros and others think driving a big truck enlarges their manhood in anyway

- Dude-bros in general

- Why some people flat out hate the environment, and any policy that preserves any part of it

- The idiots who think Barack Obama is somehow a Muslim

- Racism in general

- Why so many people "only watch Fox News". I'm a liberal and I don't just watch MSNBC. Sometimes I even check out what extreme-right wing thing that Fox News is saying.

- Why some refuse to read things that they think they will disagree with. "The sign of an educated mind is the ability to entertain a thought without accepting it."

- The general anti-intellectualism that is holding sway over a good part of the electorate (especially the modern GOP - For example, see: "Sarah Palin was qualified to be President")

- Why Fall Out Boy is so popular...I really don't understand it

- Why some would rather eat at IHOP than Kerbey Lane or Magnolia Cafe

- Why some don't see the importance of supporting the few local businesses we have left in any given city (it's a suburban mentality, but I didn't really grow up in the suburbs)

- Those who lack a sense of humor in most areas

- Street racing (killed one of my best friends who was innocent, an ultimate form of narcissism)

- People who don't understand why the "N-word" is offensive to a lot of people, or don't understand the history of civil rights and racism in the U.S. in general. See also: people who refuse to admit the Civil War was primarily about slavery so as to feel better about thinking that the South was "okay". See also: people who don't see why so many people are offended by the confederate flag, or think that it should still be flown over capital buildings in places like South Carolina

- People (especially who aren't from Central Texas) that think Texas is way better than any other place in the U.S. I like to think that this part of Texas is better than most places, but is Houston better than San Diego? Or Amarillo a better place to live than Portland or the Colorado Rockies? Let's be realistic...

- People who enjoy Mexican food, driving on freeways or living in a new house, and then complain about the immigrants that made them.

- Interior state (mainly Republican) politicians like Tom Tancredo and Mitt Romney who think they know more about the border than people in TX, CA, NM and AZ.

- Why some people think onions taste good. I can't imagine the idea of onions tasting like anything other than rocky dirt soaked in urine.

- Aggies, anything about Aggies, Aggie traditions, pretty much anything about Texas A&M - Believe me, I know a lot about that place and the way it is, but to this day I still don't see the appeal.

- Why some don't understand why driving slower in the left lane of the freeway is a bad idea (for your safety, and the 50 or so cars bunching up behind the semi that you're not passing)

- How some people can believe that being poor (even in the U.S.) is somehow always a choice and that everyone is born with an equal chance to be rich (which involves equal education opportunities, but who really believes a kid in Southlake and a kid in South Dallas have an equal start?) everyone who is poor is lazy and chooses to be. It's just flat out wrong and untrue. See also: The belief that no one on welfare has a job (often they have two or three and are supporting their kids alone).

- The use of a single weather event (a hurricane, a blizzard in north Texas or a heat wave in Seattle) as evidence for or against long-term Climate change (most Global warming detractors and people like Al Gore are guilty of this). Seriously...

- The propensity for so many to believe anything the read or see on the internet

- People who move to Central Austin and complain about noise from live music venues

- How anyone that's not a vegetarian could not like In-N-Out burgers

- Oklahoma...I just don't get it

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

To Find Someone You Love, You've Got To Be Someone You Love

I thing I learned things today, well at least I had euphonious moments today were I realized some things. It's usually stuff I already new, but either I forget about it or I decide it's not important (even if it really actually is) and then forget about it (at least temporarily).

On Jealousy

Jealousy is an awful thing. Everyone deals with it at some level. Everyone envies something. So much of the greed that rots our society (and politics) simply emanates from basic forms for envy and jealousy. I have so much in my life that I am blessed with that I know a lot of people could be jealous of...in spite of that, I deal with jealousy of things I don't have that I percieve would make my life more complete (of course, this perception is hardly reality but when in a self-absorbed state of mind it's easy to bend reality to fit with what you think you need).

When it comes to falling for the jealousy trap, which is something that can rob you of even a basic appreciation for what one has to be thankful for, there are several pitfalls that I experience. A natural one for me (and probably the most significant) is with girls and relationships. I'm not the type to be "the jealous type" in a relationship...I would want a girlfriend/wife/whatever to have other friends and have a life outside of just me. The jealousy I'm talking about is an extreme jealousy of people who are currently in successful relationships. This is not a malicious jealousy...if a friend or someone I care about is in a good relationship I want that to flourish because I want the best for that friend, which also means in the case of a bad relationship I'll be honest about how I see it, but not to the point where I would sabotage anything. In my life I have been solicited by my closest friends for relationship advice and given some surprisingly good advice that in many cases was in retrospect proven to be the right call. This, however, doesn't mean that I myself know much about what to do with my own life because my track record of starting and maintaining anything resembling a romantic relationship with someone is at best disappointing, and at worst abysmal (I see it as one or the other, depending on how good I am feeling about myself at the time).

I'm not the "jealous type" as a boyfriend, I know that for sure. I will always want my girlfriend/wife/whatever to have other friends and a life outside of just me (although of course I would want them to be as faithful to me as I would be to her). But, my lack of success (at least as society would define it) in relationships has led to the development (over year after year) of an often intense jealousy toward people in relationships (even if that relationship has obvious problems). I often feel this so strongly that it's hard to be around couples who are showing any kind of affection for each other. In fact, I have realized that this is a bigger issue for me than I originally thought. I've recognized that I get jealous feelings towards other people around me when they are simply getting attention from a cute girl, whether or not that attention is romantic in nature, or even regardless of whether I am attracted to that girl or interested in her. I feel that this is a significant problem not only to my prospects of finding someone to fully share my life with, but also with my relationships with friends or with girls that are my friends.

With this in mind, I should point out that it's difficult for me to be more than acquaintances with girls that are in a relationship with another dude. For one thing, I might be jealous. Or, I would not want to do anything that would undermine that relationship (even if I'm jealous of it). I think that due to the limited amount of time that I've spent in relationships, I have a hard time being close friends to a girl that I have things in common with or get along with without feeling romantically attracted to them at some point. It happens a lot of times (with a few notable exceptions). But, self-confidence issues and fear keep me from pursuing anything further, or worse, that girl finds someone else to be with. Or, I find out that they're with someone after starting to have feelings for them. That's the worst. Both guys and girls should be up front with friends of the opposite sex about their relationship status. It may seem like an awkward thing to talk about up front but it's far less awkward than the alternative...trust me.

My jealousy is rooted in the fear that I will never find someone to share my life with. That would be tragic. I feel that I would be a really good boyfriend etc...although I'm not perfect. No one is. That shouldn't be a standard. People are so caught up looking for the "right" guy or girl that they may simply be waiting for someone that really doesn't exist. That said, I'm not attracted to every girl I meet, and that usually has a lot more to do with personality than anything else. I may not believe in perfect matches...but everyone does have a type. I hope I am someone's type. I feel that I'm kind of a rare personality...it's hard to define or explain. Kind of like if you need a blood transplant, but have a rare blood type, it may take longer to find a match and there's a greater risk (it would seem) that you won't find another person with that match at all.

Monday, January 12, 2009

He's Moving Now to a Different Beat

The title of this note is the last sentence I heard before the cops arrived.

This past week was amazing. My birthday was incredible. Here's how it went:

I took the day off work and just hung around San Marcos with my best friends/neighbors. It was 72 degrees, sunny with no humidity...just how I would want the weather to be on my birthday. About 5 p.m. we went to the Taproom...Brett got my dinner and everyone else got everything else. Brett handed me a square piece of paper on which was handwritten: "Spurs vs. Rockets admit 1". The dudes read my mind...I had been talking about going to see the Spurs play another Western rival for weeks...a group of us are going to go and the other guys paid for my ticket. It was a really great surprise. Almost 20 people...all of whom are my friends...appeared at the Taproom (which is one of my favorite spots on Planet Earth, at least the spots that I've been too, which I'll mention in a later note about my favorite spots on Planet Earth)...that shouldn't have surprised me but it did. The level to which everyone was nice to me on my birthday still has me in awe days later. All day, Brett had been mentioning that he and the other guys in Zlam Dunk (almost all of whom were at the Taproom, minus Ross and Tim who were going to come down later when they could) had to go into Austin to meet with their manager at Chuy's (which made sense because they had met him there for the first time) and talk about the upcoming EP and such. This plan had been mentioned to me a few times throughout the day and in phone conversations Brett had with his bandmates. So I fully believed that they were headed to Austin but they promised they would be back as soon as the meeting was over. Things were wrapping up at the Taproom as Walch bought a round for anyone interested (which couldn't have been cheap and was much appreciated).

I got the waitresses attention so that she could get the bill so the 5/7ths of Zlam Dunk that were there would have time to make it to Austin. As everyone left, Baker and Walch said we should go around the corner to another place and I went along not thinking much of it. I knew that the party would eventually move to his place ("White Castle") and that we would be over there afterward as well and that most of the crowd would go there early. This made some sort of surprise seem inevitable but I didn't know what was up so I didn't think about it and figured that the surprise would be better that way. I was give an hour of free (for myself) distraction at the Showdown with Baker, Walch, Zach and Ben...Zach and I teamed up to beat Baker and Ben at pool. After an hour...Baker drove me over to his place.

I was a little nervous at this point as to what the surprise would be. I had an idea that perhaps Zlam was going to do something for me later that night, just a hunch, but they were probably just now driving back from Austin. We pulled up to the White Castle on M.L.K...we parked...there were a couple people out front but Baker said to go to the backyard. So I did...and there was everyone...the first person I noticed that wasn't at Taproom was Garrett so I greeted him appropriately (with some serious bro-grabs). But the first thing I noticed was a band set up with a p.a. and instruments and drums and everyone. It was freakin' Zlam Dunk. I couldn't figure out how they had gotten back from Austin in time to do all of the work and play a show...later I would ask if they had actually gone to Austin. The answer was no...but Brett had done such a good job of making me think that they had that I was really confused (but happy) at this point. Coolest surprise of my life.

Certain thoughts went through my head:

'I can't believe they're doing this for me'.

'How did they get back from Austin in time to do this'.

'This is a lot of work just to do this for me'.

'We're outside and it's night on a weekday and we're in a very quiet residential neighborhood, so the cops will probably be here in 15 minutes'.

It took a couple of minutes into the first song (Patrick, the new one that's really good) for me to settle down and just enjoy it but I was able too. Then they went into Vice...I was still almost in too much surprised shock...but I was enjoying every second because I seriously couldn't believe that I had this many friends who cared about me this much. Well, I knew that I did, and now that knowledge was being validated in the best possible way. After the bridge I was ready to jump into the middle of those dudes and go nuts for the final part of the song...but before I did I looked over and saw two San Marcos police officers talking to a couple of my friends outside the backyard. 'That was fun but the show's over and I'm not surprised but whatever...' was my basic thought process. I tapped Charlie on the shoulder and after about ten seconds the music came to a halt like a boulder finally resting after an avalanche.

I stood around with the guys and our friends waiting a little anxiously to see if a ticket would be issued. Chachi came back and told us that it was just going to be a warning. Everyone was a little miffed that the show was stopped so fast but I tried to make sure everyone knew that I wasn't surprised by that, but that I was very much surprised at the surprise show and how promptly it happened. Taylor gathered some of the dudes around and broke into a cool sounding acoustic version of "Feet on Fire"...but that was stopped short due to nervousness that the cops would come back and transform the warning into a noise violation ticket. I tried to communicate as much as possible that they cool part was that they simply put so much time and effort into setting the whole thing up.

The rest of the night was almost as magical. Hanging out...a trip to Taco C before a drive out to Devil's Backbone (my idea, kind of off the cuff) to hang out and look at the stars and stuff. I used to go out there with friends at night sometimes, but hadn't in quite a while. I'm really thankful to have lived that day...it wasn't far off from how I would imagine heaven to be. Me, my friends, and one of the best and most caring and loving displays I have ever received from them.

Thanks to anyone that was there and especially thanks to everyone who was involved and double especially thanks to Brett (for being awesome at pulling off a surprise and for the Spurs ticket idea) and Baker for being the MVP of the pre-show part of the night and too all of the guys in Zlam and to everyone that helped them transport and load their stuff so that they could have a show in a backyard. And also thanks to SMPD for responding to their calls so fast, but for also being understanding enough not to ticket White Castle. Considering the circumstances and geography of the event, things could not have gone better. It was the birthday that I have always wanted to have. There's so much that happened that I could write about, and that I will definitely remember after many more birthdays have passed. It was, for lack of a better word (there really isn't a better word), totally gnarly.

- Jordan

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

I Can't Hear with these Clouds in My Ears

Jan 5.

Back early from what I thought was going to be an extended road trip, I went back into work. The office was quieter than usual but pretty relaxed as well so I didn't mind and was fairly productive. I will have to be more productive in other areas of life very soon but for the moment I am enjoying a time of intense relaxation. 2009 so far has been quite a good year. The weather is cooler than normal (still can't complain) and it was cloudy today but it didn't rain (as usual). The absence of rainfall (it's been months since we've had more than a few hundredths of an inch in a single day) is making allergies and stuff like that more prevalent and I'm noticing it for sure. Tomorrow the sun is back and it should be sunny and 70 degrees on my birthday (Wednesday)...perfect.

Jon Z. called me...I need to call that dude back. It's 3 a.m. there so I'm going to wait until tomorrow.

My first resolution for the new year was simple, write something every day...so here it is.

The second is to stop needlessly (and annoyingly) apologize for things that I don't need to apologize for (mainly out of insecurity)...so far so good on that as well. If I ever do anything that actually needs apologizing for, then I'll act accordingly...but most of the time when I've said "I'm sorry"...it's usually out of insecurity and to make sure that people like me as much as possible and don't think I'm a jerk...but this has been a deluded state of mind because really it's all about me and not about the person I'm supposedly apologizing to for something that may or may not be bad, or may or may not be my fault.

I'm glad that so many of my friends that are students have jobs in San Marcos that require them to be here during some of the break. It's so nice to have people around while this town is in a state of pure-mellowness. It's a mellow enough place with people here...but without so many people it's almost perfect. I'm just going to appreciate that for what it is, and when the hustle and bustle of the semester begins...I'll hopefully appreciate that as well.

I hope this note finds you doing well. Take time to appreciate the things you have...I go too long sometimes without doing that myself and it's not healthy.

Also...This Will Destroy You's self-titled album was my favorite album of 2008. The fact that they are actually from San Marcos happens to be a bonus...and I think the experiences I've had while listening to that album, and the landscapes that I've passed (either around Austin/San Marcos, or in West Texas, or even in Germany...where it simply reminded me of Texas) while listening to it have made it even better. But it's a great album even if you listened to it while never leaving your room for your whole life. It's like poetry without words. I don't know how they've pulled off what they have done with this album...but they've pulled it off.

Peace and such,

- Jordan

Monday, January 05, 2009

We Carry On...We Sing Our Songs

Jan 3-4

For the first time in my life I went to Houston and was actually excited about going there. Zlam Dunk (better known as my friends who happened to be in Zlam Dunk) played their first show outside of the I-35 corridor region at Java Jazz in the North Houston area. Several other friends made the trip out for the show including Baker, Danny G. Sara and Emily. Glynn was already out there. Driver F got Zlam on the bill for the show which was a huge favor considering how well-liked they are in that particular region. Despite some strange equipment problems, among other things, their set was a smash success. I'm really happy for them because I think it cracked open a door there.

Houston is a difficult place though in a lot of ways. It's large, kind of the anti-Austin in a lot of respects...and as far as live music culture goes it was a real culture shock to see how a non-bar suburban venue (in a shopping mall next to a swingers club...weird right? Houston has no zoning laws and little regulation on out things develop so you get weird mixtures of businesses and things there) operated compared to the live music bars and venues in Austin that have to compete with several dozen other venues in a much smaller city on the same night. The crowd was a lot younger and the venue had some things that were pretty unnecessary...among them:

- A barricade in front of the stage. Good maybe for bigger metal shows (which they sometimes manage to book) but not at all needed for a show like this one

- No re-entry for anyone not in a band (even over 21). In the suburbs, when you're not serving alcohol, and everyone who pays to get in gets a highly visible and very recognizable java jazz wristband...this restriction was about as needed as a swat team at summer camp.

Weirdness of the venue experience aside (and the fact that 95% of the crowd appeared to be high school or younger, also very different from a downtown Austin show) things went well and it was definitely worth the trip for them to get that kind of exposure in a new area. They got massive props after the show. Also, Driver F's set was awesome..."Destroyed in Seconds" awesome. Great night. Afterward we made a 45 minute crosstown trek to Vega's parents house. They were ridiculously hospitable to us (a group totaling something like 15-180 people) and made some of the best breakfast I've had in a while. Migas type stuff with homemade tortillas, awesome homemade salsa, beans and picadillo (if you don't know what it is, just know that it's delicious).

Before heading back to San Marcos, we went out to Galveston. It was interesting to see how the city is doing after Hurricane Ike. I wish it were doing better than it apparently is. It was still a fun afternoon.

This weekend was amazing. I have the best friends I could ever imagine having. I'm back in San Marcos now (and happy to be back for sure) and at a loss to explain how blessed I am.

- Jordan

Saturday, January 03, 2009

I Hope the Weather Holds

Jan 2, 2009.

So much I want to write about, but I need to sleep in a big way. Zlam Dunk owned everything tonight at the Mohawk. The place was totally packed and several decent bands played. It was a great night. Magnolia Cafe at 3 a.m. is better than almost anything. I'm going to Houston with everyone tomorrow...I haven't been there in a year and a half and I haven't been excited about going there in...well...I've never been excited about going there. But tomorrow I actually am. I just hope the weather out there is nice tomorrow.

My brother is going back to the Army early tomorrow, his leave is over. It was great to have my whole family together for the first time since the past summer. It's in the 60's at night, in January, I can't complain about that. Supposed to be in the 80's in Austin tomorrow. 18 days until Obama is finally inaugurated...something I've been looking forward to for quite some time. I could write a ton of things about political stuff but I am too tired to bother and usually it's not productive anyway.

- Jordan

Thursday, January 01, 2009

I Wish the World were Flat Like the Old Days

Today I took a quick trip up to Temple to see my family and specifically my brother Justin who is on leave from the Army until Saturday. He's stationed in Georgia while training before being deployed overseas (but likely not to the Middle East, thankfully). I think he made a great decision to go into the Army, even though it's tough sometimes I can tell it's really positive for him.

My hometown-area of Temple/Belton, Texas is still the same even though it's been growing a great deal. The only real changes really are that there are even more chain restaurants, stores and subdivisions...with the only other change being that none of my best friends from there are ever there anymore. Either they've moved on, or in many cases, their families have moved on to somewhere else...probably someplace more interesting. Temple's still okay I guess if you like excessive and near-constant wind, Starbucks, and flat landscapes, Republicans, dispersed and pointlessly sprawling urban spaces, and driving on streets with people who are shockingly bad at driving cars. Everyone either drives like a really old lady or a 16-year-old. There's a mall with one story and a movie theater. The movie theater is usually packed due to the high amount of disposalble income vs. the lack of things to do. Temple, as a large medical center (mainly because of Scott and White Hospital, where my dad and many of my friend's moms and dads have worked over the years) has more doctors per capita than any other city in the United States...and yet most of them have to still drive (thankfully, just an hour) to Austin if they want to do something out of the ordinary.

Growing up, I was reminded by the smaller and more dull places I would see while driving to other places in Texas, that there were far worse places to live. Being close enough to Austin to be able to easily go to shows there or to avert stir-craziness was a plus...but only being an hour away from a place that radically different (and in my opinion much livelier and better) makes the urge to grow up and leave that painfully average place even stronger. I've known several people who have just upped and moved to Austin, even without getting a job first, just to achieve that almost universal dream of every kid in Bell County of actually living in Austin instead. It was a primary factor in my decision to live in an apartment in South Austin for one of the years that I attended Texas State. I had only lived in the dorms there so I had not yet been able to fully appreciate San Marcos (I definitely do now). And while it was preferable to Temple for sure (and closer to downtown Austin) I still had that need to finally live in a larger city (San Marcos is smaller than Temple, but much cooler, especially for its size). So I did, and it was alright. But, school was far less enjoyable and I didn't connect with my community in San Marcos quite as well (although it was not a social disaster either and in fact I did a lot of growing up living self-supported financially on my own with roommates in Austin). Another equally important factor was, as a financially independent student, I really needed a job that paid the bills and I found it in West Austin. Thus, my apartment was a logical halfway point between work and school. I'm glad to be in San Marcos instead now though, it's a much better fit for me now than it would have been then. I just needed to experience more to understand what I truly liked. I think more people should take those kinds of leaps even if they are not sure it will be better for them...you can't find out unless you actually try to find out. I think all of my experiences over the past few years have led to more agreeable results even if they led to some temporarily very disagreeable circumstances.

My goal is to write something on a journal every day during 2009. I might not accomplish that, but in the attempt I am sure that I will write more. Today at my Grandparent's house I plucked the Diaries of Ronald Reagan (surprise!...remember what I said about Republicans?) off of their shelf. It was fascinating to see the rather human nature of what was written coming from a famous American President. Personal notes, reflections and exclamations of emotion about friends, family and sports interspersed with the geopolitical and national political stuff going on in the nation that he was currently supervising. It was also interesting that he didn't write ever day...sometimes he would cover two or three days in a short note, which is what I usually end up doing when I try to write something every day. I doubt he would have kept such an extensive diary without the goal or writing in it every day...it's a natural goal. But what I gathered is that I shouldn't feel too down if I don't always 100% achieve what I set out to do...because even the most accomplished among us are not always able to accomplish 100% of what they set out to do either. I shouldn't let the fear of not finishing what I set out to do keep me from striving for goals or setting out to do or try new things.

Cheers,

- Jordan