Sunday, June 26, 2005

Hotter than the hinges hangin' off the gates of Hell*

The summer solstice came and went this week, and it's nice that midsummer is over. It's been extremely sunny and hot... and thankfully not that humid since the temps are in the high 90s. We have a long summer here in Austin, but at least it gives folks something to complain about, including me. The triffid hedge recovered from getting flattened by a storm (with the help of the daily ice cream truck music) and now needs weekly dead-heading in a fog of bees. I guess I'm not the gardener type, but it still needs doing.

Friday I took a half-day off the day job to enjoy KGSR's Fan Fare Friday, a whole day of great music that you'd normally pay a pretty penny for, all for a donation of $11 which is the price of a fan for someone who needs it now.

I am also getting ready for the Greencards' new CD to be released. It happens on Tuesday so I will need to update the pages of their website so people can finally buy it without having to pre-order. Also, their new video was supposed to play on CMT (Country Music Television) this morning so I sat and watched cardboard cowboys, plastic paperdoll pornstars, and more Toby Keith than I ever wanted to endure for my whole lifetime for two hours on there waiting for it and it didn't happen! grrrrrrr. CMT must have pulled it from the promised show at the last minute and they have made it available on their website... where it will not play from my Mac. They use their own software app which is incompatible. Still growling. I love country music (the real stuff), and any good music, skillfully played with genuine feeling regardless of genre. I will save all the gushing for a Greencards post... coming soon to the Texas Oasis.

Saturday night we went out to see a friend I know from Eric Johnson world. Brent, from OKC had a gig at the Texas Music Cafe playing bass for Joel Melton. Long drive!

Tonight we will go and see Batman Begins. I imagine that Katie is feeling a little smug that her movie is beating out Nicole's. Meeeeoooow.

*Title is from lyrics in "Play a Train Song" by Todd Snider.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

The Ring Goes South

I visited Middle Earth and all I got was this lousy T-shirt.

The drive to Houston was prettier than I thought it would be, I've never been to Houston by car and was surprised to see lots of pine trees and not much advertising pollution. I have never really heard anything good about Houston, even from native and converted Texans. Our new name for the city is "The Big Ugly". Miles and miles of out-of-control road widening construction snarls, abandoned chain stores and burger joints, malls, and big boxes.

The Houston Museum of Natural Science is where they now have the
Lord of the Rings Motion Picture Trilogy Exhibition, which has just come from Boston, will go to Seattle after this stint, then out of the USA perhaps forever so I am thankful that we were able to drive somewhere to see it. Our Yahoo map didn't account for an exit ramp closed for construction, so before we knew it we were lost in Houston without a map and the neighborhood didn't look friendly. Eventually we bought a map and found the Museum.

The Exhibition was even beyond my expectations! Now I am going to gush because I am so in awe of Peter Jackson (and have been since Fellowship). To keep this post a bit shorter I will only go into the sets, props, and general film-making aspects of the films. If you have seen the "making-of" extras on the DVDs then you know about the insane level of detail and realism that went into the creation of Middle Earth. Things like intricate embroidery on undergarments, tooling and engraving on very small items that are not seen at all. Absolutely amazing!

A quick listing of what is in the Exhibition
Full costumes
- Arwen, riding
- Arwen requiem
- Aragorn as ranger
- Gandalf the grey
- Prologue Sauron
- Ringwraith
- Eowyn, gown
- Theoden
- Galadriel
- Legolas
- Gimli
- generic hobbit, probably Frodo
- Treebeard
- Uruk-Hai (Lurtz), various orcs, goblins, etc.

Full armor sets and weaponry, prologue and third age, elves, humans.
Legolas' Mirkwood quiver and Galadriel's gifts, Anduril and the shards of Narsil, Haldir's weaponry, Gil-Galad's shield and spear, crowns of all kinds, all the rings and important jewelry including Barahir, phial of Galadriel, palantir, more, more, and more. Sculptures included a full-sized cave troll and a smaller version in "Leonardo" pose including twig and berries! Ooooooh!!! TMI!!! Shelob stuff, ugh!! (and this evening I'm watching Arachnophobia on TV) Also lots of original art by John Howe and Alan Lee.

There were some cool demos that you could participate in, like 3-D laser scanning to turn your face to stone, green screen CG, and digital person resizing tricks (we didn't spend the extra $10 for that one, it was funny enough seeing other people do it.)

I think that the most striking display was an extremely realistic Boromir, made of silicone, lying in the elven boat with his shield at the head and sword on his chest. It was absolutely lifelike, or rather, deathlike. Breathtaking. There was even dirt on his shoes.

After the Museum we went to the Hobbit Cafe, which I found out about on the Rings on the Range board. It was hobbity good! Lots of vegetarian choices and the sandwiches came with diced carrots on the side. I have to think the veggie choices might be a rare thing in H-town. Just a hunch.

It was definitely worth the trip, and if you are a lover of these movies it's probably worth an airline trip. We went there and and back again the same day.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Rock Stars and Rock Island

Lake Wobegon had a quiet week, but we don’t have those in Austin. There’s always too much to do. Last Saturday, the 4th, we went to see the Annie Leibovitz photography exhibition at the Austin Museum of Art. There were some amazing photos there. I have always loved her work. The Willie Nelson was my favorite with the Iggy Pop set coming in second. Most of them were taken in the last couple of years or so, she apparently is pretty busy.

On Wednesday, I got to see Eric Johnson at Blues on the Green at Rock Island in Zilker Park. Eric is simply my favorite guitar player. I got hooked on his music back in the late 90s but it was after his Venus Isle tour brought him to St. Louis where I lived. He tours occasionally, twice a year, something like that... he's more likely to stay in Texas or does limited regional tours, and I was growing impatient waiting for a local gig so I traveled to Austin to see him record a live album at Antone’s in Austin. That was late 1999, my first time to see him and my first time in Austin. Traveling to see a band I really liked wasn’t unusual for me back then. I had plenty of money, and besides that I have always been a hopeless fangirl for one geek thing or another.

EJ is not the reason we moved to Austin, the reason(s) were personal and had more to do with leaving St. Louis than going TO anywhere. It was time to leave, and having crossed off a dozen or more other places from the short list, Austin rose to the top. This was at the end of the year 2000. We had strongly considered moving to Dallas. We would both have been able to find good-paying work there, and arranged interviews to coincide with an upcoming visit to Ft. Worth to see Eric at the Caravan of Dreams. The vibes in Dallas were a huge turn-off (I was giving it a second chance. I had been freaked out in Dallas the only other time I had visited in 1998[?] because I had gone to Dealey Plaza and cried my eyes out. I decided that I wasn’t sure I could ever live in the same town with Dealey Plaza). The job I was assured to get was with the same company I already worked for, and they told me that it was really more like 2 jobs. Lots of overtime, lot of burnout. Exactly what I didn’t need and the biggest pitfall I always have to avoid in my line of work. My husband’s interview went alright, it was with a company where his good friend was a Vice-President so that’s a pretty good connection even though he wasn’t sure he was right for the job. I drove from my interview over to pick him up at his. It was raining by then. Miraculously I found the place, got out of the car to walk around to the passenger side, and the car accidentally got locked! Grrrrrrrrrrr. It’s now Friday after dark, we are stranded in a fancy corporate lobby with just a security guard who doesn’t really know how to help us, the rental car is locked and still running, sitting in the pouring rain, and it’s looking like we are going to miss the Caravan show... which was the original %$#*^ reason we had bought airline tickets to come down here! The business about relocating had come along after the fact. Oh merciful whatever, get me out of this awful place and get me near some healing music before I completely lose it. I was so angry, frantic, and frazzled! And what kind of a damned car lets you get locked out with the key in the ignition?
--->Ford Focus<----

We managed to get a locksmith to rescue us, and tore up the road heading for Ft. Worth. We got there after about 4 songs had been played already. This was my husband's first show, and he ended up in my stageside seat, just inches away from the band, and I was a little further back (I let him have my seat. I figured we both need a blessing and this was his first time so he got that along with a baptism.) I had been raving about Eric for months, but he found out it was all true. The Hendrix tunes are the ones that can clinch the first-timers. EJ plays him better than anyone I’ve heard... I mean ANYONE short of the man himself.


Alright, what was the topic again? Oh yes, saw Eric Johnson on Wednesday. I wrote a bit about it on his board, here. My board name is Paula (and my real name too). I didn't go backstage, but a friend of mine did and she told me that Eric had asked about us and where we went. She told him that we had to get up in the morning (sadly true, at 5 am). Now I really wish that we'd stayed around for a quick chat and good luck wishes for the tour, but I always want to make sure that I'm not annoying him or imposing on his time. To me there is nothing worse than being a fan of someone who dreads seeing you. How could you miss the mark any more than that? I am not as star-struck by EJ as I used to be, thankfully, but no less dazzled by his music. Oh yeah, Chris and Tommy are fantastic too, and worthy.

On Saturday we went to see one of the local bands made up of some rock legends: Ian McLagan and the Bump Band. If Ian McLagan doesn't ring a bell, maybe you've heard of Small Faces, Steve Marriott, Faces, Rod Stewart, Ron Wood, Ronnie Lane, some of those guys? Ian is the keyboard player, also songwriter, singer, etc., and largely responsible for it all sounding that way. He's also quite a character! Here's his website, which he probably does himself, and includes a nice Jokes page. The other rock legend in the band is Mark Andes on bass. Mark was in one of my very favorite bands of the sixties, Spirit. He was also in Jo Jo Gunne, Firefall, and Heart. These days he plays with lots of the local talent. "Scrappy" Jud Newcomb is one of the best guitar players in town, usually a sideman, probably has a gig nearly every night, has played with some very big names but never seems to have the big ego. I always love to hear Scrappy. He is terrific. We had a great time at the show, but none of my pictures turned out. Gurf Morlix was enjoying the show as a spectator. Gurf is pretty darned good too. he plays a beer bottle slide, and you may have heard him play on those great old Lucinda records.

On Tuesday, June 14th, Eric Johnson releases his new album, Bloom! He will be playing in St. Louis at Mississippi Nights that night.

I recommend picking up a copy!

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

How Sweet It Is

I’ve had the guilty pleasure lately of listening to James Taylor. Guilty pleasures are those you might be ashamed to admit, like that piece of cake you ate this afternoon.

I hadn't listened to James Taylor in quite a long time. I can't even categorize what I've been listening to, and I think that's a good thing. I can say that a lot of it has twang in varying degrees. Twang doesn't mean country... or maybe it does if, by "country", you mean "America" (including South America and the Atlantic and Pacific Islands) or even another country or culture... Irish (Celtic), Greek, Romany, Mexican, French, Italian... pedal steel, mandolin, fiddle, accordion, flamenco guitars, pure percussion, bouzouki, sax, trumpet, harp (well, that's not the usual definition of "country" and it's not mine either, but that's another topic). But I've had a thang for the twang. It's an in-your-face sound... pure celebration of ancient and modern rhythms and tones.

James Taylor is not twangy, he is very, very smooth, but smooth and delicious like a chocolate sundae. His lyrics might be the nuts on top, they are really not very smooth and are always thought-provoking, something with crunch. He seems to be near perfect, never off-key, always incredibly melodic and beautiful. His voice is a bath in butter. He could sing the phone book, even without that lovely Martin. Our Mothers were both fond of JT and both called him by some cutesy version of his name, mine called him "Sweet Baby James Taylor". My Mother liked lots of current rock and pop stars in the 60s and 70s, and wasn't bothered by his long hair (oh where did it go?) and drug addiction. We both went to see him in the early 70s when he was touring with Carole King and Fire and Rain was a recent release, we traveled 100 miles for the show. Boy, that's embarrassing dating myself like that! Now I need another sweet fix.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Friday, June 03, 2005

The Corporation

We rented The Corporation this week. Everyone in the world should be made to watch this, I mean, what's more important than the decline of civilization? This whole situation has really spun out of control, especially since the Bushies took over. Corporations (and organized religions... but that's another topic) have been running the world for some time, practically no holds barred.

I don't know what I can do to change all that, so I just think try to think about my own involvement and how I have contributed to the problem. It is next to impossible to get through life taking care of basic needs as a human in a truly ethical way. No matter what, you are going to be supporting something you don't believe in. I am a graphic designer, web designer, technical illustrator... basically I provide ways for other people to communicate things visually in order to sell a product of some kind. Before I was a designer, I was just a working stiff doing unskilled labor.

Here are some jobs that I've had and how they promote unhealthy, unsavory, or unethical things:

Barmaid, Cocktail waitress: (a) Promotes drinking, which can cause death, destruction, addiction, or just generally embarrassing behavior. (b) Promotes sexism. Yes, they do only want the young pretty, flirty ones. They wouldn't want me now. To address (a), people have been boozing and getting stoned since the first plant fermented or caught fire, so I don't think this situation is changeable, and probably shouldn't be changed. As for (b), well, what can you do? The preference for young and pretty waitstaff isn't going anywhere. Young and pretty applies to all gender options.

Automobile Assembly Line Worker: Evil Cars. I wish they weren't, I wish there were a better way to get around (Don't tell me to ride a bike. I don't know how. I tried to learn as an adult and all it does is plunge me into deep white-knuckled tear-filled states of phobia, panic and paranoia. I will admit, I am different. I also cannot swim, skate, or ski for many of the same reasons. Again, that's another topic). I wish I could walk or use public transportation to get where I need to go, and maybe I could if I didn't mind adding an hour or so to my commute time. I wish the dependance on oil would go away, and that cars didn't pollute and require pavement and kill living things by hitting them or slamming them into things. I wish I didn't have to sit in a car for a couple of hours a day. I've wondered, was it really better in the days when they used horses? Didn't that cause a lot of pollution too, as well as being cruel to animals? OK, I admit that cars are worse... probably. Mainly because they are part of the big Corporate Structure of the World, and besides the above things, car companies are into plenty of other stuff, including the Defense Industry.

Aerospace Company: It was a very cool place to work, especially the part that had to do with NASA, (things go fast, go high, blow up big, ooooh, aaaah, oh nooooo) but not so big in the ethical department. I was in the missile systems division, a part of a larger company that made fighter jets, with a parent company that made commercial aircraft. Basically, I supported the missile industry, and some of the missiles were nuclear. Not all of them were made for the United States to use, not that it's any more ethical if they were. I will also add to the already stated obvious things, that the Military-Industrial Complex uses plenty of money for things that were not intended by the poor tax-paying joe who just wants the country defended, things that are, in fact, completely unrelated to that. It's a big topic.

Medical Equipment: The worst thing about this is that there is animal testing done at some levels, and of course it was part of the huge corporate megalo-world takeover. When I first started at the company, it had been recently acquired by a large corporation, which in turn was gobbled up by a super-megalo corporation. By the time they sorted out the spoils, they found they didn't need our little company and sold it to a smaller corporation which merged us with a stronger company, our jobs were obsoleted through redundancy and we were all laid-off.

Geological Research Company: Sounds fairly benign on the surface, but the chief function of this entity to to figure out where to drill for oil. Not only is this not necessarily the best move for the environment and delicate eco-systems, some of it employs deep-water seismic techniques that are very bad news for dolphins and whales. And's all about the oil. Some of the research is done FOR ecology and conservation, so it's not all bad (and what is?), but that functionality would not be able to continue without the support of the oil-seeking corporations. I don't have any warm-fuzzy feelings about being part of this problem. If you are one of my "superiors" reading this, you can fire me. I promise you I will float. No hard feelings, OK? (not TRYING to dooce myself, just exercising freedom of speech without naming names)

Musician and Band Support: It's very difficult to find something negative about this. Music is a beneficial thing. I pronounce it to be a good cause. If you want to pick nits, I guess you could say that animals died to provide guitar straps and drums, and that vehicles are required to move all that stuff around. Unfortunately, I don't think I'll ever be able to make a good living supporting music, but it's still a good cause and more a labor of love than anything else.

So, What can we do to help? How can we fix this? Years ago, I used to just get up in the morning, give myself a virtual lobotomy, and hit the road for work to make that living and cement my road to security in retirement. Now I know that it's a big deception. The Corporation may be legally a "person" but that " person" is a psychopath (see the movie!). They will all just use you up, wring you out, and get someone younger and cheaper as soon as they possibly can, and don't let the door hit you in the ass on they way out.

First Thursday and Wednesday too.

A break in the weather has made it nice for some evening outdoor activity. Wednesday night, Doyle Bramhall played free at Scholz Bier Garten. Doyle is a local legend, he was in Jimmie Vaughan's band when Stevie was a 12 year old kid, and when you hear SRV sing you are really hearing Doyle. Mike Keller is in his band, and Mike is one of the best electric blues players in Austin. That's a high compliment, but Mike is just awesome. I danced all evening. How could anyone resist?

On First Thursday we started at the Treehouse Grill to hear Mundi, which was billed as a First Thursday event, but in reality if you have to be seated by a waiter at a table with a white tablecloth and overpriced drinks. I really like this band that we recently discovered, but the atmosphere in the place was all wrong for First Thursday so we left to join the crowds on South Congress where there are bands playing every few feet, dancing in the streets and on the sidewalk, art cars, and lots and lots of funky shopping. Watched a good Zydeco band and a good Latin band (don't even know their names), and Gary Primich played as usual at Jo's. This event seems to be really growing, there must be a hundred more kiosks than there used to be. Got a slinky dress at that great thrift store for $12, and a cute pewter dragon pendant for $5. It was another beautiful hot and dry night.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Fire and Rain

After all the watching and waiting, a hellish storm comes along and flattens the Triffid hedge! We will lose most of these flowers, unfortunately.
It was an even worse night and morning for the Oasis bar and restaurant, a place with fabulous lake views and a bazillion patios. It was hit by lightning (most likely) and burned.

I was really sad to see it, but the owner will rebuild, and no one was hurt. We'd considered going out there on Memorial Day... now it's gone!