Thursday, March 29, 2012

Spring observations

This is my weird lamp that I made from a rabbit-shaped basket (white metal, but you can't tell), some rope light and an ostrich egg. It's Easter-themed but it's used year-round, and I don't celebrate Easter. It's a weird lamp, and that's why I like it.

Even back when I was a kid and always in Church with my mother, I didn't care for Easter. It was probably mostly because my mother couldn't disguise her negative attitude about Easter (the dressing up part of it was hypocrisy, showing-off and "snootiness" to her, and I've never really disagreed with that). I already ranted about that in a previous post, but it was so long ago that I think it's OK to repost this picture of me at my maximum cuteness.

I do think that the coming of Spring is a thing to celebrate, for most people anyway. We are at maximum wildflower stage here now, and it's going to start feeling like Summer probably in April - and Summer is way too long and too hot here...

The yard is full of sunflowers (which I adore), red poppies, orange crossvine... really pretty... and the bugs, squirrels and birds are just munching away on stuff. That's fine. That's why it's there.
I don't even think of Easter as something associated with Jesus anymore. Eggs? Chocolate? Bunnies? Baskets? Peeps? Fancy hats (Easter bonnets)? It doesn't make any difference to me how people choose to do to commemorate an annual event. Celebrate away, don't hurt people or animals, and be tolerant of those who make a different choice. Here's a lovely song to leave with you, Let it Grow by Eric Clapton.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Friday, March 23, 2012

All the rage

These are from a slideshow of Japanese Fashion Week. Specific details are at the link. Do you think these will go over big? They are hilarious. Could be made useful though, perhaps you could add a wifi hotspot or something that would charge your batteries.
The caption on this one says that the designer is popular with celebrities such as Lady Gaga. OK, this might be suitable for her but who are the other celebrities who would wear this? Who are the other humans who would wear it? Also, is there a matching jacket?

Reason Rally

March 24 (Saturday) is the Reason Rally in D.C., I wish I could go but instead will show some solidarity here. I wish the media would not call it "Woodstock for atheists." Woodstock was not a march or rally having to do with civil rights or any other political causes, and this event is expecting about 30,000 people rather than 500,000. In fact, please stop calling everything "Woodstock this" or "Woodstock that."

[more recent NPR article without the Woodstock references

It's going to an uphill battle to get regular people to become tolerant of atheists. There are so many wrong-headed misconceptions about non-belief out there, and many (usually) intelligent and civilized people fall for them because they were told these things by people they trusted, such as parents, pastors, and whoever wrote the Bible.

1. Atheists are without morals, ethics, or even "goodness" because those things only come from God or from belief in God. Morals and ethics come from within. We learn right from wrong. We feel right from wrong. Just like everybody else. I respect life itself so much more since I became a non-believer, because I do not think that there is an afterlife. Death is very sad, because it means the end. For real. No Heaven. No Jesus, streets of gold, angels, reunions with loved ones. There is no comfort of hope for going to a better place other than getting my dust reunited with the earth. It's not a better place. It's the place I am now and always will be.

2. Atheists worship Satan or Satan is controlling them. No. Satan is another one of those myths, most religions and cultural mythologies have this character by some name or another. Atheists do not believe in Satan, much less worship Satan. Evidence for Satan's existence is not reality-based. Satanism is a religion, and has quite a few varying sects, just like other religions.

3. Atheism is a religion, or belief-system. No, it isn't. It's the opposite of those things. Next...

4. Atheists are pagans. No. It is very odd, and very incorrect for reference materials (dictionaries, thesauruses) to say that "pagan," "heathen" and "infidel" should be synonymous. Pagans have religion that goes back to the beginning of humans and culture. I have had pagan friends for as long as I can remember, and they are some of the nicest, most tolerant, most interesting and peaceful people you can imagine. They also have a battle to fight against ignorance and intolerance, just like atheists do.

There are sooo many more, but I will stop there. Facts are good things. Truth is elusive. Freedom of religion or freedom FROM religion without discrimination, well, the importance of that is self-evident, or should be.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

What does it all mean?

So many new murals! This one is enhancing an otherwise ugly alleyway.

Monday, March 19, 2012

The lines are worth it, SXSW Day 4

Well, all week I had been showing up to things embarrassingly early, and had been first in line more than once. This day I gave MrB a break and agreed to show up only maybe a half hour before doors opened - but then nearly freaked out when I saw the line to get into Rachael Ray's party. She has a great lineup with not only free drinks but free food. The first people in line got there at 6:40 AM for 10:30 doors. Very hard core. The line, from this point of view, turned a corner on the right and went another half city block. I was ready to give up, but he said we might as well stay to see what happened, and sure enough, we got in and there was plenty of room to spare. The food line was about as long as this one, so we called our orange wedge Blue Moon beer garnishes and Bloody Marys "food."

Skipping the food line allowed us to head to the indoor stage where we miraculously snagged a table and chairs on the upper level with a perfect rail view. I was amazed. Here's an example of the view of Jack White's label all-female The Black Belles. I was sort of hoping he might make an appearance, but this year I did not get to lay eyes on him.

The Black Belles

Rachael Ray
Also viewed from this vantage point: The Wild Feathers and Click Clack Boom. Then it was outside for GIVERS and we were headed home to prep for our final event. By 'prep' I just mean get off the bus and get the car.

One last walk down 6th St. for Southby sightseeing. Here is the weirdest-looking stage I ever saw (Rolling Stones excepted). It's hard to tell, but at ground level it's a music stage and the top of it is a giant Doritos vending machine.

To draw attention to your band, put a penis on the sign.

We were 2 of ~10,000 people who had won free tickets to an outdoor screening of Big Easy Express, a tour documentary about the Railroad Revival Tour including Mumford & Sons, Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros and the Old Crow Medicine Show - so we faced our second monster line of the day. This one must have been a couple of miles long, but it was very organized and moved quickly. I was starting to feel the effects of a cold coming on, so it didn't matter to me (for once) that I didn't get up close to the stage.

Here's the trailer for the film, which was absolutely pure joy, especially given the way that we got to see it - sitting on the lawn of the LBJ Library on the UT campus on a beautiful night - followed by a full concert performance by the musicians involved. Old Crow has sort of broken up since this happened, but they had representation there by a former member.

They even brought in the Austin High School Marching Band to perform with them on a number, because they had done that during the filming of the documentary. It was just so cool. We got a video here, and more goodies on my channel here. It was an amazing finale for our annual mad music bash. Cost for today's tickets = $0.

SXSW is a Rite of Spring. Very soon it will be hot as blazes and I won't want to go out. Very soon. Time to get some rest, and hit the Cold-Eeze. Tomorrow is another work day.

Blues club in pretty blue, SXSW Day 3

We have been to Antone's many times, and think of it as a concrete floor where it's always hot and sweaty (even in Winter) and overcrowded. Not necessarily bad things, but it is what it is. On this day, it looked like they had it all dressed up for the Prom or something. They took down all the pictures and posters hanging on the wall, the Stevie Ray Vaughan, the Doug Sahm, the old framed antiques showing unrecognizably young versions of the regular house band, and the big picture of Clifford Antone himself. They did keep that blue neon that just says BLUES, and it looked really good with all the added hanging Japanese paper lampshades. The other thing they did was to actually run the air conditioner enough to cool the place down. We easily found a little turf by the stage monitors where it remained uncrowded and we could sit down between sets. I wasn't the least bit tired after 4 hours of music.

This was the party, and started out with CHAPPO (feathered clothing, confetti, sonic and visual experimentation), Field Report (singer/songwriter, very good), and LP (woman with a big rock voice, think "Annie Lennox").

Then there was Gary Clark Jr., who was born and raised in this town and has been slinging guitar in these clubs since he was a kid. He's finally become an overnight success, just played for President Obama at the White House sharing the stage with Jeff Beck, Mick Jagger, Buddy Guy and many more, then a couple days after that played at the big Hubert Sumlin memorial bash with the likes of Eric Clapton and Keith Richards. He is someone you should definitely try to see, esp. if you love a mean, rockin' bluesy guitar.

Finally there was (were?) The Dunwells (Leeds UK), and they were my discovery of the day. Contemporary folk, I suppose, wonderful harmony vocals. The sound was beautiful in Antone's this time, and the party was so pleasant it just made my day.
The Dunwells

After Antone's we headed down to Home Slice Pizza, where they were having their music party. Saw Family of the Year and Dan Mangan (pictured below). Very good stuff. We ended our day on a high note. (noooo, not that kind of 'high'). Ticket cost for today = $0.

Treasure at the taco bar, SXSW Day 2

Continuing on with the Townie's Unofficial SXSW Day Party Journals, Day 2. There will be 2 more installments after this one, so hang in there!! On Thursday AM we went up to Stubb's. Mainly, I wanted to see The Punch Brothers again, and preferred this 10AM party to the earlier one staged by the radio morning show.

Highlights from Stubb's:
Alpha Rev, good local indie band that was already an old favorite, played first, and we enjoyed the cool temperatures and good sound from the stage.

Kopecky Family Band was a nice discovery. Not sure how we've managed to miss them so many times before.

I got a kick out of the superfan next to us for Lucero. So stoked!! And he loudly told the bandleader before the show started that, other than Springsteen, he was the greatest songwriter of our generation! That's some big love. I do understand it... I really do.

Alabama Shakes was the headliner at this party, and the radio gal on the announcement mic made what I thought was a rude faux pas. With the Punch Brothers standing on the stage ready to start, all she can come up with initially was something like "Bet you all can't wait for Alabama Shakes! We're all here for that, right?" The crowd attempted to correct and convince her that many of us were here for these guys!

Punch BrothersThe band was great, and we got some video, but the sound on that stage was no longer something that would show them off, it was hard to hear, especially the vocals. Instead of our video, here's one created the following day by radio KFUV a day later.

Actually, we did stick around for Alabama Shakes, because there is a HUGE buzz for this band right now... magazine covers, an Austin City Limits taping (look for it this Fall), critics choice lists... Their set also suffered from muffled, bad sound, and although I thought they were really pretty good, they did NOT knock my socks off.

Alabama Shakes

By then I was hot and tired, but the long walk to the bus stop is always entertaining on 6th street during the festival. These people are not really naked. They are wearing skin-tight flesh-colored leotards for some promotional purpose.

We went down to South Congress to Guero's Taco Bar courtyard, where we saw 2 really good bands. I really want to recommend The Belle Brigade. It's fronted by a brother and sister who have sweet harmonies and great songwriting skills. Their harmonies reminded me of The Indigo Girls, but they claim influence from Paul Simon and Fleetwood Mac. Good stuff, anyway. Children were romping wildly, dancing and playing in the mulch in front of the stage, we were sitting in the dirt in the shade of a tent, there was a light breeze and the music was so good.

The Belle Brigade (LA)

The band after them, Ivan and Alyosha (Seattle), was so good that I bought both their CDs!

We decided to call it a day at that point, and remember it all as a good time. I will leave you with the image of this pair of busking cuties on South Congress. Ticket money spent today = $0.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Swan Dive and Springsteen, SXSW day 1

Wednesday was a long one. Started out at a place/party where I hadn't been before, it was the Billy Reid American Songwriter held at the Swan Dive. It turned out to be a pretty stylish little hole-in-the-wall, kind of shabby chic decor and (best of all) the walls were lined with padded seating. We were so grateful for those! I had expected we would be standing up in a crowded, sweaty room for 6 hours - something I was better at when I was a lot younger. Instead we managed to get a wall seat with a sidelong view of the stage that wouldn't be obstructed by people. The "sweaty" part still applied though.

The lineup was great!

The Punch Brothers, Delta Spirit, The Apache Relay, Phosphorescent, Brendan Benson, Jonny Corndawg, Wild Cub, & Shelly Colvin.

Jonny Corndawg was new for us. Really good music in what I would call "California Country" style, or perhaps "Western" (and I can't write that without thinking of that scene in the Blues Brothers where Bob's Country Bunker informs the band that their club plays both kinds of music, country AND western). J. Corndawg featured a damned good fiddler, an amazing pedal steel, and the added feature of guest Taylor Goldsmith of Dawes (a band I love).

Matt Vasquez (from Delta Spirit/Middle Brother) was enjoying the show from stage front and even jumped up for a quick chorus. John McCauley (Deer Tick/Diamond Rugs/Middle Brother) was spied up there too... and as much as I was hoping for a Middle Brother surprise quickie (Middle Brother is Vasquez, Goldsmith and McCauley), that's as close as it got to happening. I just got their CD and can't leave it alone.

Brendan Benson was really good. I didn't realize (by name) that he was part of The Raconteurs and is generally related to much of Jack White's music with mutual influence on each other. Recommended!

The Apache Relay also a discovery act for me, really want to see them again. Check them out.

Delta Spirit is a band we already liked, and in fact, saw them the previous day at their CD release at Waterloo Records. Great songs, great energy!

I dearly love The Punch Brothers, and they played a rowdy, energetic set to finish out Billy Ried's party. All kinds of awesome.

We needed to get to the Austin Music Awards as quickly as possible. The doors opened while we were still at Swan Dive, and the seats fill up fast. I was grateful to a friend of mine who managed to save us 2nd row seats! This is a combo awards show/concert, so they have a little music interspersed with a few awards. They tailor the lineup with local new hotness, local legends, and everything in-between or both. They had Quiet Company, Austin's hottest indie band, performances from Ruthie Foster, Patty Griffin, Carolyn Wonderland, Joe "King" Carrasco, and Christopher Cross with his original Austin band..

It was strongly rumored that Bruce Springsteen just might put in a surprise appearance at the Awards, and they kept on building that suspense. Sure enough, out he came to sit in with Alejandro Escovedo, Joe Ely, Garland Jeffreys and a whole lot of folks. I'm in the process of getting some videos up on my channel, so check it out if you want (and excuse the gawd awful shitty acoustics at the Austin Music Hall).

Spectacular first day. Started out at noon (not counting the earlier line-waiting time - I am an obsessive early bird to the annoyance of certain people - but there are often big advantages to being first in line) and went until after midnight. Ticket cost for all = $15.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

SXSW, Day 0

We both had to work today, but still went to an in-store performance from Delta Spirit. We like this band, and are planning to see them again tomorrow along with our beloved Punch Brothers and a bunch of others.

The weather couldn't have been more perfect for an evening walk, which we did after the show, but riding is sometimes a good idea too. The pedicabs compete for your business, and I'd say this one's doing a good job of that.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Men in silly bird hats day

First, I get this one in an email.
Then, almost immediately afterward, I see this:

Yes, Johnny Depp in his Tonto character (with Armie Hammer), and the second one is these guys. This sort of thing has been going on for a loooong time.

Monday, March 05, 2012

Cats and jammers

Time for a bit of a status update here. Have been spending really far too much of the free time working in the house, although I guess what's 'too much' is a matter of opinion. There are still 3 ladders in the foyer, but I have reached a point where the 8ft. and the 16ft. can possibly go back in the garage for a short time. What a pain in the ass it is to have high ceilings, especially if you want to paint to hang stuff up - and, of course, painting involves as much "taking stuff down" as "hanging stuff up," and my favorite, "moving stuff around."

I also opened the can of worms which is my art collection. It's stuff I created myself throughout my earlier life, and I figured I may as well hang up a few choice items. The figure drawing classes left me with an overabundance of nudes, with a solid number of still-lifes featuring skulls, vases, and drapes. I'm being very selective here. Mentally tiring trying to figure out which ones are worth hanging... I will try to get some photos up here as soon as there's something to show.

Helping out in the process have been some neighbor-cat visitors. We've been allowing a couple of block cats to come inside the house for brief visits (just kidding about the helping out. Cats are unhelpful with tasks - always). Definitely not more than an hour, and no snacks. We have made a vow that we will not take in any pets for a good long time - and that's going to stick. Anyway, these 2 cats in particular are going to break our hearts for sure. They are sweet and affectionate. These cats have homes (2 different ones) but they are left out to roam a lot. They are friends with each other, so I'm glad of that. Such nice kitties.

Making himself at home.
Most of my energy is being directed toward planning our SXSW day party crawl this month, which means narrowing down an insane number of choices to something humanly possible - and then figuring out the proper combination of buses and boots that will provide the transportation. Parking is a pain, at best, and lots of streets are closed anyway. Looking forward to seeing some of our favorite bands and maybe discovering a new one or two. Here's a favorite we hope to catch once or twice, Punch Brothers, based in NYC.

Here's another one we like, GIVERS, from Lafayette LA:

I will be very glad when festival-time gets here.