Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Take This Ball and Chain

One of my coworkers, who goes by the name Miss Lauren Marie, and is the singer for a country/rockabilly-type band, told me the other day that she just booked a West Coast tour opening up for Mike Ness.



Anyone who knows me at all knows that I used to in love with Mike Ness! He was my first post-teeny-bopper crush (George Michael was really my first crush ever), and I got really into Social Distortion in 9th grade, when all I listened to was showtunes. And Social D.



For years afterward, I got so hot for guys with tattoos. Bonus points if they also wore a lot of eyeliner and had bad teeth or a gravelly voice. I started smoking in college because I wanted to ruin my voice and make it sound like Kurt Cobain.

I saw Social D. live at least 3 times in high school and college (or maybe it was just college), and decided I, too, someday wanted tattoo sleeves.

Yes. Sleeves. On me.

After Mike Ness my big crush was Tim Armstrong of Rancid.



Oh, boy, I had it bad for him. Skinny, painted-on pants, the sinewy guitar-playing arms, the attitude, the voice. I also held on to the delusion for years that I was punk rock.

To this day, I still have a soft spot in my heart for the ugly, tattooed, skinny, punk rock boys who smoke too much. Or stocky ones (a la Ness). I met him once, after a show in Dallas, and all I could mutter was that he was awesome. He said "Thank you." I've never been very graceful around celebrities. Have I ever told my story about going backstage after an Imperial Teen show and making a complete idiot out of myself? I haven't? Well, there's a reason for that.

So while I got excited for my co-worker because it's kind of a break for her, I only fondly remembered my past loves. I told her to tell Mike Ness that it was he who was my first love and that in 9th grade I stole my brother's copy of Social Distortion and listened to nothing but that and Andrew Lloyd Webber soundtracks for, like, a year. But I eventually got all the records, and even bought that atrocious documentary Another State of Mind (which I still have).

I'm sure she won't remember to tell him, but maybe she will and he'll find it amusing. That's all I hope.

Social Distortion - Social Distortion

Saturday, April 26, 2008

City Council

For the first time this year, I've decided to really pay attention to City Council and do my homework and actually go vote. I care a great deal about the decisons our city's leaders make about its future, and I care an even greater deal about how those decisions are going to impact my life. It seems this year that density, public transportation and creating a truly "green city" (whatever that really means) are the hot topics.

So, after doing a fair amount of researching interviews, endorsements, my own memories of past city issues, and their own web pages, I've made a list of who I will be voting for and why.

Place 1: Lee Leffingwell
Jason Meeker seems like kind of a douche, and Alan Demling actually seems kinda rad, but ultimately, he's only lived in Austin for 4 years, feels like the "weird, hippy" candidate, and is mostly known for having a big ole beard. He's a big bicycler and wants to create bike highways all over town to actually make it feasible for people to commute to work, not just bike recreationally, and wants to follow the example of European cities and install hundreds of bike rental stations all over Austin. Which I heartily endorse. But that's about all he's got.

Leffingwell's pet issues are water conservation, plastic bag banning, mental care services, disallowing economic incentives for big box retail, and creating more transparency at city hall. He wants to create a "zero waste" city, expand sidewalks and bike lanes, and create a downtown circulator train, in addition to expanded and more frequent bus routes. He cites that Austin is now bigger than D.C., Boston, Atlana, Portland, Seattle, and San Francisco, and the population is expected to double in the next 20 years. He wants to help lead Austin growth in a way that's smart, dense, preserves character and environment, and he's served on the council for 3 years now.

Place 3: Randi Shade
Jennifer Kim holds the current spot, but she's been very controversial, despite advocating for the poor and for neighborhood character. She's given some really dumb answers in interviews, and doesn't get along particularly well with other council members, often switching her vote at the last minute and generally being unreliable.

Randi is a big environmentalist, with a long history of running non-profits benefitting the very poor. She has good ideas about how to deal with traffic (aka, land use), and supports neighborhood density, particularly along high-traffic corridors (although, to be fair, I'm not sure anyone really opposes this, or would admit to it, except maybe Laura Morrison). She doesn't support toll roads, though, which makes me a little nervous, and says she would only vote for them as a last resort. Hmmm. I'll let that one slide, and hopefully it won't come back to bite me.

Place 4: Cid Galindo
He is the only person running for any position that has actually laid out concrete and detailed plans for relieving traffic congestion and creating more walkable neighborhoods and implementing better public transportation. His plan was presented at, and approved by, the Congress for New Urbanism conference that was held in Austin about 3 weeks back. It basically consists of creating 7 different "hubs" or downtown-type centers, around Austin, that would all be walkable, dense neighborhoods, each served by public transportation within and linking them. It grows the city primarily east, to avoid building any more upon the watershed zones west of the city. It has nearly unanimous approval.

Robin Cravey is pretty awesome too, but he just doesn't have the spunk and ideas of Cid Galindo. He's a rabid environmentalist, with a long history of serving Austin well, and it's too bad that they can't both be in different races, instead of competing against each other. A vote for Laura Morrison is a vote for the suburbs and moneyed interest in West Austin and Hyde Park who don't want to see their neighborhoods change anymore. Which means they want no more growth or density in their neighborhoods, and only the construction of single-family homes and McMansions.

Friday, April 25, 2008

If we could survive another 4 years....

From an email written to Andrew Sullivan:

Isn’t it crazy how all the hope you’ve had for your country your whole life can be drained out of you in one primary election cycle? I’m 26 and if this thing takes the turn it looks like it’s going to take, this will be the very last time I submit myself to this. I’m not built for this sort of disappointment. After the last 8 years, I can’t believe we are still trapped in the same gutter of fear and deception.

Maybe everyone was right about Obama. Maybe I have been na├»ve. The Clintons knew all along it would come to this. Maybe they didn’t expect it now, but they knew they’d have to get the White House this way. They’re just breaking out their General Election game early. And it’s genius. They ARE monsters.


I have to say that I agree, but I also really liked Sullivan's response, which is that when it really comes down to it, Obama isn't any more liberal than Clinton, despite what people think, and that real change, true fundamental, grass-roots change takes a long time. It's an uphill battle, and it's frustrating and full of set-backs.

Maybe I can say this now because it's so doubtful that Clinton will actually get the nomination, but I've reverted back to my original position: if she's the nominee, I refuse to vote for her.

Will not. Can not. She's a narcissitic sociopath who would rather destroy the Democratic Party than lose. I know I'll get shit for this, but I cannot reward her behavior. In fact, I might even think about voting for John McCain just to spite her and teach her a lesson.

Am I completely incorrect and naive to think that if we could actually survive 4 more years of Republican rule that it would absolutely, without a doubt, kill the Republican party for the foreseeable future? In all honesty, I don't think there's any way McCain can win anyway. I think I could probably beat McCain in a general election.

But if it comes down to Clinton v. McCain? I just don't know if I can yet again stomach voting for the lesser of two enormous evils.

I haven't lost hope, it's not in my nature. But it all is extremely painful to me.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Can 400 U.S. cities be wrong?

Ever since last summer, one of the biggest banes of my existence has been the shopping center next door, and specifically, the use of leaf blowers at the shopping center next door.

At 7am. For an hour.

Last summer and fall, this was happening 2 days a week, on Monday and Friday mornings. Lately, though, it's only been happening on Mondays. But only happening on Mondays is like saying someone comes into your room with a chainsaw and holds it over your bed for an hour, but only on Monday mornings.

It doesn't usually seem to bother my roommate Dylan too much, but more often than not, after angrily trying to get back to sleep for 30 minutes (ear plugs do nothing), I stumble into the kitchen only to find the other roommate, Garrett, already in there, fuming as much as I am.

So yesterday morning, after an already fitful night of sleep, and having absolutely no reason to get up early, I'd finally had enough. It took only 2 Google searches to figure out who owned the property next door. Turns out, Seton Hospital (another issue - I will never, ever, ever live within 40 miles of a hospital ever again, especially the busiest one in the city) owns the property. So I found 3 separate email addresses, addressed a new email to them all, and fired it off.

I was nice enough, but basically stated that it was ridiculously absurd to use leaf blowers in the first place, but to use them at 7am was not only thoughtless, it was downright cruel. And that frankly, it was creating a lot of ill will towards the shopping center in my neighborhood. Which is true.

I received a pretty immediate response from one of the recipients, informing me that Seton only owned the property, but didn't manage it. However, she gave me the name, phone number and email address of who I should talk to about it. Then was even kind enough to forward my email on to said person for me.

Shortly thereafter, I received an email from this person to whom it had been forwarded (Belva is her name) saying that she appreciated my concern and would speak to the landscaping company about trying to at least move the leaf-blowing hour up until 8. (By city law, you can use leaf blowers in Austin between the hours of 7am and 9pm.) She did, however, provide some pretty dubious evidence as to why leaf blowers were necessary on the property:

I can understand your confusion about why leaf blowers are even needed, but please understand that it is necessary to use them particularly at a center such as 26 Doors that has many trees that continually drop their leaves. Our landscapers blow the leaves into the parking lot and bag most of them. We then have sweepers that come through at night and vacuum up the rest. So, they are actually accomplishing something. Otherwise, we would not be able to walk through the center as the leaves would be gathered into tall piles.


I was pretty happy about all of this so I forwarded the email on to my roommate Garrett, because I thought he might be interested. He was overjoyed at my progress, all stemming from one polite email, so he thought he might push it a bit further if he could.

He emailed Belva himself, questioning her justification for the use of leaf blowers at all, which I also really wanted to do, but didn't think I should push my luck. I quote now from Garrett's email:

The neighborhood is dense and diverse. It is filled with students and people who have different work schedules that are
not the traditional 8 to 5. I understand the need for the property to be clean. However, may I suggest the use
of industrial sized push brooms instead of leaf blowers? To me, this would be a true compromise as the
neighbors get their silence in the morning and your property gets the job done that is needed at the time
that is most convenient to you and your workers. I would even buy the brooms necessary for this job because I feel
so strongly this compromise will make everyone the happiest as everyone gets what they want and there is no chance
any more animocity can be spurred on with the work being done in silence at any hour.



Apparently, (and I haven't read the actual email, but Garrett told me about it) this enraged Belva, who shot back that getting rid of leaf blowers would "exponentially" raise the cost of landscaping services and that Garrett had no business trying to dictate how she ran her property.

So, once again, Garrett responded back, genuinely questioning why it would "exponentially" raise landscaping costs, considering you wouldn't have to buy the blowers, you wouldn't have to buy gas for the blowers, you wouldn't have to pay for maintenance on the blowers, and the workers would probably prefer to do without the noise and weight of carrying them around.

No word yet if she responded to this.

I started doing some research though, and discovered that over 400 U.S. cities and towns have either banned, or placed serious restrictions on, leaf blowers, largely due to the noise disturbance they create, but also because they guzzle gas and pollute worse than cars. Arizona and New Jersey have even debated putting statewide bans on them.

Once school is over I'm going to try to make it my mission to get those fuckers banned in Austin. The stupid-ass condos across the street from me use them too. Twice a week in the summer and fall (twice a week!!) they have a landscaping service come in and mow, edge, and leaf-blow for at least an hour and a half in the afternoons. It's so loud in my house when they do that, I can't concentrate on anything. I can't even watch TV. Seriously. That's how loud it all is. I can't read or do homework. Multiple times I've been working on papers or something and had to leave my own house and go somewhere else because their leaf blowers were too loud across the street.

Anybody have any advice as to the best way to approach this kind of stuff with City Council? I'm not fucking around.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Would you live in the world's tallest vibrator?

At 150 stories tall, including a $40 million penthouse with a view of four states (!!!), the Chicago Spire, when complete, will be the world's tallest residential building, and the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere.



Spanish architect Santiago Calantrava says he was inspired by nature, but I can't think of much else that gets you farther away from nature than being 150 stories up in the air pretending to be God. I hate to be a jerk about a building, but is all this small-dicked, Napoleonic, hubritic exclusivity really necessary? Each unit's front door is going to be custom-designed for god's sake!


Meanwhile, a couple of weeks ago, the Congress for New Urbanism held its annual conference in Austin (I snicker every time I hear "new" urbanism....), and gave an its prestigious Athena Medal award to Austin's own Synclair Black. According to the Chronicle, Over four decades, he's remained tirelessly devoted to inspiring, cajoling, haranguing and goading Austin to embrace better urban design.

In the accompanying article in the Chronicle, they note that he was commissioned to design the vacant lot on north Lamar, between 38th and 45th street, but that the developer didn't comprehend the value of the plan to integrate the residential, shopping, and commercial/medical components to create community synergy. It eliminated almost all traces of the New Urbanist principles, one by one, and instead built a suburban-style project with disconnected shopping, housing, open space, and a hospital. Aka, it became what is now Central Market, with that hideous and foreboding parking lot and dead space.

He also had a plan to sink I-35 and create park space on top of where it now is, but Texas Department of Transportation has no intention to ever do so.

The "sunken" I-35 plan, where local drivers would use handsome new tree-lined boulevards at street level.

And in 1981, apparently he drew up a "master plan" of downtown Austin consisting of incredibly dense 4-6 story buildings, using Barcelona, Washington D.C., and Paris as his models.

Beautiful Barcelona.

Ah, what might have been. If Austin had been forward-thinking enough 30 years ago to have started implementing some of these "new urbanist" ideas, instead of saying "Oh, shit!" and scrambling to save its ass now by building 180-story condos (which, don't get me wrong, I'm all in favor of, although I think a more European-style plan, with smaller buildings closer together and much larger sidewalks creates a far more welcoming and vibrant street life), imagine how different and amazing it could probably be today. For one thing, we wouldn't have all these box stores and gigantic parking lots in the central city, and it would probably all have much more of West Campus feel. I drove through West Campus the other night just to check out all the new construction and stuff, and damn, that neighborhood is dense! There's not a square inch there left uncovered. And it's beautiful and really vibrant. Too bad the whole city's not like that.

Anyway, there's a short list of some of Sinclair Black's other architectural plans (most not ever built, sadly) here if you'd like to check them out.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Moldy

Right now I'm eating a peanut butter sandwich on expensive bread that I bought quite awhile ago and never ate, and I can't decide if the white powder is flour or mold. The expiration date was 4 days ago. I'm also having a glass of milk from a $5 gallon of organic milk that I've only had about half of, and it expires tomorrow. The milk also tastes a little sour. My cat is stalking invisible bugs on my rug.

I can't help but feel all of this is a metaphor for my life.

Today as my cleaning expedition continued I came across a whole cache of notebooks. Some were from school, some were half-hearted journals with, like, 2 pages written in them. One was a dream journal I actually bothered to keep for about an hour. That was fun to read, and I did recall having those dreams as I read about them. But I came across a single sheet of paper I remember filling out, but not why I was filling it out. Was it for school, for therapy?

Not sure.

Anyway, it had some questions, and some answers put down by myself.

Question 1: Best part of being in love?
My response: Realizing that there are people out there I can connect with.

Question 2: Worst part of being in love?
My response: insecurity.

Question 3: What do you let slide?
My response: Indifference.

Question 4: How do you stop taking care of yourself?
My response: I put his emotional needs before mine.

Question 5: Survival Mechanisms?
My responses: ignoring hurts; submitting; making excuses.

Gawd! How depressing. At least I've moved beyond that mind-set a bit, if only a bit. It's funny how your last relationship seems to shape and form every relationship you've ever had (or will ever have!), and suddenly the dynamic of that relationship seems to be the model for all of them. At least until the next one comes along.

Never mind that maybe your dysfunction was just a function of that particular relationship, and his inability to communicate. Or express feelings. Or act remotely interested in anything you had to say. Or be nice.

Yeah, thank God I've moved beyond that. I guess sometimes you have to realize how badly you're being treated by someone you're in love with to realize how well you believe you deserve to be treated.

Tonight I found some little trinket, bead-like things on my windowsill that I've never seen before. I've lived in this room for almost 2 years. They're square and metal and have letters engraved on them.

Weird.

Friday, April 18, 2008

I'm just sitting on the shelf

Having only 2 weeks of school left (!!), I somehow ended up this week, post-Wednesday, with nary a shred of homework. Nada. Nothing. I turned in the last draft of my thesis this week (well, techincally I have one draft left, but it's done; the last draft is simply a "cleaning up"), turned in some final papers this week, and had homework due on Wednesday.

So I've found myself with some spare time for the first time in 3 months. The first thing that went out the window this semester was my typically impeccable level of tidiness in my bedroom. My bedroom has been a wreck! So I decided this morning to clean it up. Including cleaning out my file drawers full of crap that I've barely looked at in years.

I am not a pack rat. I hate having stuff. Until I'd moved enough times that there was very little left, evey time I moved I'd throw away multiple trash bags full of stuff. Just crap that I'd collected. Some useful, some not. Some sentimental, mostly not. It's weird when I get into these moods to purge: I always fancy myself overly sentimental, but when it comes down to stuff, I'm about as unsentimental as it gets. I can throw almost anything away. Except gifts that were given to me. I can't get rid of those. I actually have a box full of gifts from ex-boyfriends that I either don't care to use (clothing and such), or just don't want sitting around. But I also can't bring myself to just toss, either.

Although sometimes I just want to set fire to the damn thing and be done with it.

But I digress. I like my collections: books, music, films. Although I don't buy films anymore, and rarely buy music anymore, I still buy books. That's pretty much the one thing I have no guilt accumulating. In fact, one day I hope to have a whole house full of books. But as it goes, aside from my couch, everything I own can fit fairly neatly into my little bedroom. (I actually did a big book purge about 4 moves ago, selling a couple of boxes full to Half-Price Books, and I've regretted it ever since.)

I like things that way. When I have too much stuff I feel consumed by it. I feel responsible for it. I get nervous when I go into people's homes who just have stuff everywhere, like a goddamn museum. I guess for some people that's a sign of a full life lived, but I hate it. I have a couple of momentos from foreign countries, but mostly I prefer my memories in words and a few photographs.

There's something I find very romantic about occupying a very small space and utilizing it as efficiently as possible. I love cute little small houses and small apartments (as long as they have natural light, and preferably a little balcony). I guess I've just never understood why so many people wanted to live in the suburbs in big houses, with big rooms, and huge yards, only to then have to fill them up with stuff.

Small spaces make me feel safer, more protected, less separated from the world around me. It's cozy. To me.

Now I must get back to cleaning out my file cabinets. Purging is such a great feeling. I love it.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

"Honey, I'm moved."

I would say last night's little birthday bash was a resounding success. I have a hangover from hell today, combined with an incoming sinus infection. I woke up at 3:30 this a.m., my lips chapped, and my throat sticky and sore. I'm also pretty sure my glands were a bit swollen.

Every time this happens, I'm just positive that I have the AIDS. Never fails. That's the first thing that pops into my head. Swollen glands (although they probably weren't even really swollen; I was just imagining it) and a sore throat (although that's just from sleeping with my mouth open and nasal drip). Mmm...nasal drip.

Then my second thought after that was that I don't think my first drink at the bar was ever paid for. Although much of last night is just a blur, as I was far more drunk than any 31-year-old needs to be. I do vividly remember, however, Laura taking one look at my new haircut and asking me if I was already having a mid-life crisis. Which of course was the funniest thing I'd ever heard, because pretty much everything Laura says is the funniest thing I've ever heard.

In my sexuality class this past week I heard a statistic that was something like, if you've sucked more than 5 dicks in your life, you have a 250% higher chance of getting throat cancer than someone who hasn't sucked 5 dicks.

Which I'm sure is a ridiculous and mostly made-up statistic, but I would really, really love to hear how they came to that conclusion (no pun intended). I mean, if you've only sucked 4 dicks are you still okay, on a throat cancer par, and equal to someone who's never sucked a dick, but then at #5, suddenly you shoot up 250% (again, geez, I'm sorry, no pun intended....)? Why does that fifth dick make all the difference?

These are the things I think about when I wake up at 3:30 in the morning with a sore throat.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Mr. Bush, tear down that wall.

I've been extremely pissed off about this for the past 9 days. It makes me want to go down to the border and start dynamiting those fucks building that goddamn wall. Or move to Mexico and become a coyote to help people sneak across. I love how conservatives love to yammer on about "small government" and "individual rights" until it comes down to something they care about, then all that stuff goes out the window and the government is free to come in and do whatever it pleases, as long as it fulfills their fucking racist, xenophobic agenda. Oh yeah, that's right, the conservatives only oppose "big government" when it involves liberals doing something that might actually help people.

But when they're ruining people's farms, destroying fragile ecosystems, damaging already economically depressed towns, turning the United States into a hateful, fearsome police state, and possibly tearing people's families apart, that's okay, because it might keep a couple of extra brown people out of the country.

Chertoff has said the fence is good for the environment because immigrants degrade the land with trash and human waste when they sneak illegally into the country.


If that isn't the weakest, most limp-dicked rationale I've ever heard for anything in my life, then somebody shoot me. Are these people seriously running our country? Seriously? God, it's like they're not even trying anymore.

Fuck those fuckers. Nothing could possibly make me more ashamed to live in Texas than a fucking border wall. For Christ's sake. I have to stop now because it makes too depressed to think about it.

"Don't Rest. Don't Stop."

When Brionne Davis came in and auditioned for my short film black-eyed, I had no clue who he was or where he came from, but he scared the shit out of me.

When he was done auditioning, I was shaky and literally sweating, and I just curtly said thank you and told him he was done. We were all sort of speechless.

But since the role he was auditioning for required him to be a scary, raping psychopath, needless to say, he got the job.

Now it looks as though he's capitalizing on that fear-inducing pathos, because he plays the scary, murderous psychopath in the new Rest Stop sequel. In case you don't know him, or don't recognize him, he's the guy in the plaid shirt, with the trucker cap and moustache (sp?).

And I'm sure he's nothing if not terrifying.

Which is really funny if you know him, because he's one of the most gentle, soft-spoken people you'll ever meet. And his ability to play scary is all the more disarming because he's also really good looking.

Again, needless to say, I'm so excited to see this I could piss my pants. I can't wait!

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

And Here I Go

Despite last night's American Idol tribute to Dolly Parton being overall fairly disappointing (she didn't even perform; Martina McBride performed at her tribute night they had a couple of years ago....), it was still lots of fun to watch.

The only performance I really liked was "Jolene" by whoever that girl is that did it, and partly because that's just such a great song. The rest were pretty lifeless, uninspired and didn't much seem to suit the singers performing them.

I was really hoping someone would do "Here You Come Again," which is my all-time favorite Dolly song, and sure enough someone did, but I hated her rendition of it. She turned it from a jangly, fun, sort of wistful pop tune into a boring, mournful ballad to showcase her lackluster voice. Of course, it was astronomically good compared to Clay Aiken's heinously boring and awful version performed at some dedication thing a couple years ago (and sadly, that's probably the only version of that song that last night's performer was familiar with....).

So to cleanse my mental palette, I went online this morning to find an authentic version performed the way it's supposed to be performed. This one's great: