Thursday, December 28, 2006


I called it!

By now you've probably heard about Time Magazine's 2006 Person of the Year: You.
And I think I might have to agree with Heather Orne that the Time Magazine employee in charge of choosing the Person of the Year must've called in sick that day...but, anyway.

What are the odds? Jon and I were just having this conversation not too long ago. About the "Information Age" that we now live in and how people actually aquire said information--how much that process has changed. While Wikipedia is a great resource for many things it still can't be cited as a relevant source of knowledge. (My co-worker's grad-student husband has had a multitude of undergrads try it in one of the political science courses that he's TA-ing. How funny is that?)

Whilst we used to take pen to paper and log a personal file of feelings, emotions, and events, we now have weblogs--where we publicly fill virtual space with the same (usually--but no offense fellow Bloggers!) fodder.

At the same time, I get it, I get it: it's nice to have a voice and know that somebody, somewhere out there might actually be listening and might actually agree. But mostly it's just a nice way to stay closer in touch with those loved ones that are further away.

Where all of this becomes slightly dangerous (and I get slightly agitato) is when people can sit back, voice an opinion, and because someone else sees it in print form, takes it for the truth.
(Trust me, I'm guilty too. "2007 New Year's Resolutions...")
Which is why our socio-political Sensei Stephen Colbert's Wikiality (where "if enough people believe something is is!") is so vital to our new way of Information Gathering. A lot of it has to be done tongue-in-cheek. Most of us at home, slackers and non, have the opportunity to just keep adding to that vault of "knowledge" and there's no bouncer at the door. It's "All Skate." And it's all just OUT THERE for us to stumble upon. (Why do I have to know about Rosie O'Donnell's blog? Oh yeah, because I read about it on another blog.)
And you know it's true, you just read it on the internets.

Ok, so like it or not, Congratulations YOU!
The Dude approves.

(p.s. -- Download "Vigo Bay" by Minotaur Shock!)

Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmakkah!

So, we picked out our Christmas tree last weekend and when Jono got the lights on it, he told me of his childhood wish to have simply a Light Tree. No ornaments. Just lights.

It didn't take me too long to realize just how energy efficient this actually was...because, you know, it had never occurred to, this is your year, Jono!

Merry Christmas to all of our loved ones!

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Scene from a Texas Turkey Day

So Jamye and I pulled off an honest-to-God Thanksgiving dinner last Thursday. We were so impressed with ourselves that we could barely eat for patting each other on the back.

It was our first Thanksgiving for two, and even with the unmitigated success of our inaugural turkey day in Texas, I'd be lying if I said we didn't miss being with our families. When you cut through all the mashed potatoes, dressing and cranberries, I know that's what Thanksgiving is all about.

We hope they know how thankful we are for all of them, and that I really could've used a large slice of my mom's homemade lemon pound cake and ice cream with raspberry sauce that afternoon, and by used, I mean eaten... and by that afternoon, I mean that afternoon and evening.

Insert additional "having your cake and eating it too" joke here.

Friday, November 17, 2006


I am Spider-Man.
I am intelligent, witty, a bit geeky and have great power and responsibility.
CLICK HERE to take the Superhero Personality Test

Also, click on the picture ol' webhead above for a blast from the past.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Election Day 2006

Everything's bigger in Texas... including the field of gubernatorial candidates.

It seems odd that someone who only gets 25% of the popular vote can become the governor, but in a race that has 5 candidates, it's very possible. Preliminary polls show incumbent Rick Perry retaining his post with about a third of the vote. But you never know.

Did you know the Spanish word for Governor is Gobernador? Try saying that without thinking about California Gobernador "Ahnuld" Schwarzenegger.

The odd thing is that the governor's race has consumed so much of the local media's attention that I actually had to do some digging to check out the candidates for the House and the Senate. . . . . . . . . That was fun.

Also, I was unaware until I stepped into the voting booth that you could make a selection that would automatically cast votes right down party lines... you know, without being bothered by the candidates themselves. How mindlessly convenient!

So, yeah, I voted. I like voting. Even though I know very little about politics, I like to push the buttons and get my "I voted" sticker (which is now in the trash can since it had been removed and reapplied twice to a couple of different baseball caps). It's like I'm part of a club. Plus, I reserve the right to have an opinion about the state of affairs in my little corner of the world, and if I don't vote, how can I do that in all good conscience.

"The only sure bulwark of continuing liberty is a government strong enough to protect the interests of the people, and a people strong enough and well enough informed to maintain its sovereign control over the government." -FDR

"Politics is supposed to be the second oldest profession. I have come to realize that it bears a very close resemblance to the first." -Ronald Reagan

Thursday, October 19, 2006

The Stone Age

"If I'm still singing 'Satisfaction' when I'm 40, I'll kill myself." - Mick Jagger, 1972

If my math is correct, ol' Mick should have offed himself about 23 years ago. Instead, the Rolling Stones are playing their first Austin show ever Sunday night in Zilker Park as part of their Bigger Bang Tour. To be fair, I'm not sure "Satisfaction" is on the set list these days, but I'll get to that in a minute.

I've never been a big Rolling Stones fan, but I suppose I respect them for continuing to play sold-out shows and make records long past the age when most bands would have put themselves out to pasture.

Here's what I don't respect. Let's say Jamye and I wanted to get seats close to the stage for the show on Sunday night. Let's run that through Ticketmaster, shall we?
OK, Section G, Row 16, Seats 11 and 12... that comes to... $757.90.


Let's just look at getting a pair of General Admission lawn tickets, shall we? Wow. A relative bargain at $225.60.

I realize that this is a big production with lots of people working behind the scenes who need to get paid, but I'm sure a few guys over at American Express, the sponsor of this tour, are getting more than their fair share of my hypothetical ticket purchase.

So, I guess that's what really bugs me. The Stones appeal to a large set of baby boomers with large amounts of disposable income, and that's fine. Like I said, I'm not a big fan, so I'd be hard pressed to pay much more than $50 a ticket for that show even if some magazine says they are the #1 band to see before they/I croak. Conversely, I didn't bat an eye at the $70 ticket price to see The Who on our honeymoon four years ago, which was about when this article on ticket prices was written.

While ticket prices may be trending back to "normal" according to this data, it all boils down to value. If people can't put a price on the experience, people may well pay any price for that experience, and I'm down with that.

Hell, the Stones could probably charge Barbra Streisand money for smaller shows and still make a killing, but this picture from last year's Stones show on Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil is more their scene...

It's worth mentioning that 3-day tickets for this year's ACL Festival (featuring 130 bands) were $100 if you bought them early. They could charge twice as much and have half the people, but the ACL promoters value John Q. Music Fan. Maybe that's why the Rolling Stones' first visit to Austin is not yet a sell-out.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

A Little Viral Marketing Courtesy of QT

So, it's no secret that Quentin Tarantino has been in town (rumored to have actually bought a house here, as well) filming Grindhouse , his two-parter film with Robert Rodriguez. In fact, co-worker, Tracy and her husband Matt live pretty darn close to The Omelettry, where they've been doing quite a bit of filming.
...I do wonder if Tracy and Matt made it to craft services...

Alas, we saw this Billboard on the South side of the Congress St. Bridge about a month ago.
Tip of the Hat, Mr. Tarantino.
Strong work. Very cool.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

You Call That Music???

On occasion, I like to lay in bed on a weekend morning and catch VH-1's Top 20 Countdown.
You know...I like to keep my hand in.
But when Brooke Hogan (yep, daughter of Hulk) and Paris Hilton and even Weird Al Yankovic (although, at least his lyrics are usually kind of creative) start appearing on the charts, it makes me want to break the TV. (And DON'T EVEN get me started on Nickelback. What Crap!)

Now, HERE'S a group that's making some creative ear-candy.

This local Austin duo is called Ghostland Observatory and they will ROCK YOU.
And I'll have more on them later.
Until then, stop voting on that crap, Nation! You're officially On Notice!

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Stop Flipping That Flipping House

A recent ad in the Austin American-Statesman trumpeted that 88,000 Austin adults owned homes for investment purposes, and as the housing market begins to cool nationwide, a recent article in the same paper stated that sales of single-family homes in Austin for the month of August were up 6% from the same month last year and the median sales price was up 8% to a record $182,500. Homes are on the market an average of 60 days, down from 67 days last year. For the first 8 months of 2006, the number of homes sold in Austin are up 12% over last year's figures.

While Austin is still well below the national median sales price of $231,100, the sale of homes nationwide has dropped 5% while Austin's housing market continues to climb. The same article states that Austin home sales in the $900k to $1 million range were up an astonishing 70% and the sale of homes priced in excess of $1 million saw a jaw-dropping 60% increase.

The article also alludes to the influx of buyers from pricey markets out-of-state. The people driving around town with California tags still on their cars sure do have a guilty look on their faces, but who can blame them? Young families have been scattered to the four winds in search of more affordable housing, unfortunately, affordable for a Californian is quite pricey for the rest of us.

It doesn't take a genius to know that real estate has been a solid, stable and lucrative investment over the past few years as the stock market has fluctuated enough to make even the most patient investor woozy, but the dark side of this shiny coin comes from a story I caught the tail end of on ABC news.

The source of the story was data released by a Here's an excerpt from their press release:
RealtyTrac, the leading online marketplace for foreclosure properties, today released its August 2006 U.S. Foreclosure Market Report, which shows 115,292 properties nationwide entered some stage of foreclosure during the month, a 24 percent increase from the previous month and an increase of nearly 53 percent from August 2005. The report also shows a national foreclosure rate of one new foreclosure filing for every 1,003 U.S. households, the second highest monthly foreclosure rate reported year to date.
For the rest of the data, you can check out the entire press release here.

So, I know that there are a lot of factors at work here, but this is just the set-up for my rant:

Greed has blinded us to risk. Banks have loaned money to people they shouldn't have. Ordinary people have leveraged all their assets to buy and flip houses just to have a taste of "the good life," thereby creating a bloated and unrealistic picture of the value of the American home, you know, the place where people actually live, raise families and create memories.

The people who didn't jump on the real estate bandwagon live miles and miles outside of town in cookie-cutter developments where their good incomes are no match for the rate of appreciation closer to town. Forced to sit in bumper-to-bumper traffic feeding into the places where they work from hither and yon, the unfortunates know that the price paid for a decently-sized house with a little bit of lawn is dear indeed and far greater than the sale price. Their communities have all begun to look alike. There's a Starbucks here and a McDonalds there. There's a Home Depot there and a Wal Mart here. These folks are the poster childs for the squeezing of the middle class. They've been squeezed right out of town.

As for those foreclusure rates, are they a harbinger of a return to normalcy, or are we too far gone? Don't get me wrong. America was built on brave, innovative and/or desperate people taking risks, but too many people taking the same risks reminds me of Deadwood. While some strike it rich, others go back to picking apples in Washington State... or even worse, end up cooling in the creek.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

I mean, Seriously!

What on Earth???!?!!

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

The ACL Fest Test

Eight stages, 130 bands over three days, and 65,000 people a day has an overwhelming ring to it. We opted for single day tickets this year just to get our feet wet. With Mark, Cindy and Jason coming in from Nashville for a long weekend, we figured all three days was a big time commitment, and there was a lot we wanted to see and do while our friends were here in Central Texas.
Maybe I'll have more on that later, but for now here are my personal highlights from our first ACL Fest last weekend.

1. The Shade. September in Austin is hot AND muggy. Fortunately, it's breezy too, and on Saturday we had some big fluffy clouds to block out that big ball of fire in the sky from time to time. We set up headquarters under a big tree by the Washington Mutual stage and were reluctant to leave it.

2. The Long Winters. This is the set I was most excited about, so I scrambled up close to the stage to snap this pic of Winters' frontman John Roderick performing my favorite tune of theirs (Cinnamon) on the patriotic guitar he said that he purchased for the festival.

This stage was the only one that was situated under a large tent, so it was a fairly popular way station for people traversing the festival grounds in between some of the bigger acts.

During this set we learned that the Winters were playing a set at the newly opened Mohawk on Red River later that night. In hindsight, I wish we had gone, but we're old and opted for a trip to Whataburger en route to the house.

3. Sunset. When the sun started to go down behind the clouds for good, there was renewed life among the festival attendees. The wind kicked up, and we finally left our shade tree to set up camp near the stage where The Raconteurs were performing.

Directly behind us, Iron and Wine's set quickly followed at the Heineken stage, and for a guy with a reputation for putting crowds to sleep he put on a pretty exciting show, unlike Aimee Mann who seemed to suck the life out of that corner of the park with her droning performance earlier.

4. The End of the Day. We temporarily lost Mark and Cindy in the teeming mass of people that had flooded the western end of the grounds for Willie Nelson's first ACL Fest appearance ever. From our extreme angle to the right of the stage, we got to see the massive Texas state flag rise from the stage to reveal Willie and his trademark red bandana. About thirty minutes into Willie's set and sometime after getting to hear "Crazy" (for once, not the Gnarls Barkley song), Mark and Cindy emerged from the crowd, and we began our one-mile trek back to the car.

For more on the festival, check out the Official 2006 ACL Recaps

Friday, September 08, 2006

An Idiots Guide to Idiocracy

Yep, that's us at the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema on South Lamar last Friday. The picture was taken and included in a review of the film we were about to watch by Austin resident, Jette Kernion.

It's a tiny tragedy that you haven't heard of this movie, and it's not because it's that good. It's because there is so much that gets released that's one hundred times worse. You see, Mike Judge, the mind behind the cult hit Office Space, the long-running television show King of the Hill, and a couple of kids named Beavis and Butt-head, has a new movie out. It's called Idiocracy, and it premiered last weekend in a piddling 7 cities: Austin, Los Angeles, Houston, Dallas, Atlanta, Chicago, and Toronto (that's right, New York, you'll have to wait for the DVD). Twentieth Century Fox has no plans to release the film any wider. In addition, the decision was made not to market the movie. There were no trailers or television spots, and there certainly weren't any advance press screenings. In other words, Friday night was probably the closest I've been to a World Premiere, albeit one without a shred of fanfare.

Much of Idiocracy was filmed here in Austin with several locals in the cast and crew. Mike Judge lives here as well. The theater was pretty full so it crossed my mind that this might be an impromptu cast party for a film that had completed principal photography over two years ago, but they probably didn't get the news that the film was opening that day either.

As for the movie itself, here's a synopsis:
Writer-director Mike Judge's ("Office Space") unique brand of humor examines an average guy who volunteers to be the subject of a hibernation experiment that goes awry. He wakes up 500 years in the future, discovering that he's the smartest guy on the planet.
Funny premise, right? Well, I can tell you that the first twenty minutes of this film is a riot. The remaining 75 minutes is as much funny as it is wildly uneven. It sustains clever idea after clever idea while trafficking in the lowest of lowbrow humor, but in the dumbed-down society of the future, we're not all that surprised to see that Starbucks has started selling sexual favors in lieu of grande mocha frappucinos and that everone wears Crocs. If the movie has an overriding fault, it's that it's overstuffed with similar ideas, a few of which miss the mark or get too much attention. In this movie's case, the devil really is in the details.

While you don't go see a movie of this type for character development and an intriguing plot, the whole thing hangs on the hope that the premise and its accompanying sight gags don't wear out their welcome before the credits roll. Luckily, the movie makes it across the finish line just in time by leaving out the protracted parts that malign most modern comedies, namely, the long denouement where the film's protagonist mends his errant and anti-social ways just in time to be the hero, virtually pulling the rug out from under everything that made his antics funny in the first place. This time we know the guy's gonna be the hero. He's the smartest person in the room (nevermind the planet), but he's also the straight man. The hilarity is running rampant around him, and this is truly a hilarious film.

It's too bad that most of you won't see it.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

"But I went out and achieved anyway!"

My friend the Mouse Asthmatologist brings up a very interesting point in his latest blog posting. One that I will need to dig into and report back on later. But for now, I have something that's fairly loosely related. Something, that once I do the aforementioned digging and do the aforementioned reporting, should, in a circuitous fashion, make sense.
At any rate, for now...

So, I was recently doing a little backgrounding into the history of the PCR for a lab presentation and was a little shocked and very amused at what I found. For those of you in science, this is a probably an integral part of your daily lives. For those of you not in science--as creatures of our modern day society--you will no doubt be able to find a link to it as well. In a nutshell, it's a process by which small amounts of DNA can be repeated and amplified into millions, even billions of copies. It is, for all practical purposes, what has changed the face of pretty much any science in the last 20 years. From Forensics and Genetic Fingerprinting (ever seen an episode of CSI?), to parental testing, Archeology, Paleontology, to any and all medical/biological research. And THIS GUY is apparently the brains behind it. That's all well and good, but the part that got me was his admission (and now I'm paraphrasing here) that if it hadn't been for the LSD...
Heh-heh. I'll repeat that.

If it hadn't been for the LSD, Kary Mullis may never have conceived of the PCR. Yeah. Wha?
As I poked around a little more I found this article which actually lists several famous "Stoned Scientists," from Stephen Jay Gould and famous naturopath Andrew Weil to Sigmund Freud and, of course, Timothy Leary and the awards they went on to achieve. Mr. Mullis went on to win the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1993.
He's also written an autobiography that will most likely end up on my Wish List.

So, no, it's not like brilliant minds and their ground-breaking triumphs in association with drug use is a new phenomena. And I'm in no way condoning the use of illegal substances. I'm just, quite honestly, flabbergasted. And fascinated.
But that shouldn't and doesn't surprise me. I hadn't really given it much thought. (See last posting's small hometown and college references. A little green and naive, perhaps?)
I'm just amazed at what leaps and bounds (not to mention how much easier my life is--or IS it?-- because of the technology) can be made at the hands of the human mind and the alteration thereof.
I realize that's a pretty dodgy statement. But it's certainly something to think about. And who knows? Who will be the next Giant in Science and what will he or she discover and will or won't drugs be involved?

Because you know what that means.....

Monday, September 04, 2006

Another version of the Chicken and Egg Debate.

Ok, ok, ok. I know you've been wondering, because I have too. It's been a little over 3 months since Jon and I moved to Austin and I began working at the University of Texas. And now that school has started back and the sidewalks are literally CLOGGED with wide-eyed undergrads and already-jaded graduate students, faculty and the ever-present-sometimes-maladjusted staff, my hopes and dreams of going just one day without seeing SOMEONE wearing burnt orange have been dashed to pieces.
And then there's THIS. For a non-native Texan it's a bit confusing on the onset (Heavy Metal and all things Ozzy, Satanism, right?) Yes, true. BUT it's also the "Hook 'Em Horns" UT pep rally unifier. It's also School Spirit! And in a state where you've got nothing unless you've got your state pride, it only stands to reason that there would also be overwhelming amounts of school spirit.
Apparently a hand gesture brought about by the imagination of a cheerleader by the name of Harley Clark in 1955--which actually predates heavy metal music, but unfortunately not Satanism.
And NOT to be confused with the Corna or the American Sign Language symbol for "I Love You."
You'd be AMAZED. It's everywhere.

Fans do it.

Students do it.

Kids do it.

Random people do it.

Famous people do it.
(Yep, that's McConaughey--it was cold out that day--he had to keep his shirt on--drats.)

Leann Rimes does it.
(A native Mississippian and current resident of Nashville, TN, but Whatev.)

Even George Foreman does it.

Only trouble is: it's apparently a little offensive in other cultures and can be mistaken for a symbol of infidelity.
Which is what makes these next pics so darn amusing.

But I digress...

Don't get me wrong. It's great to have school spirit. But at one of the nation's largest universities it's a tad overwhelming and well, shocking. Rather, over-the-top and annoying. Especially since it's so fun to actually do--so natural to the fingers. Especially for one who never really had any school spirit. C'mon--Band Geek from a small hometown where my every Friday night for 4 years was dictated by the high school football team and we had to sit on the track next to the field so it wasn't like we ever got to really watch the games--it just resulted in a lot of missed X-Files episodes.
And the college I went to didn't even have a football'd you expect??
At any rate, Hook 'Em Horns!

Wednesday, August 23, 2006


Make that 12 professional major victories and 51 PGA Tour wins for Tiger Woods.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Jack Nicklaus is a whiner.

He is the greatest champion of all time, so why does he feel the need to grouse about how he could have been better? Tiger Woods will eventually eclipse The Golden Bear's accomplishments on the golf course. Woods has won 50 times in his first ten years as a professional golfer (compared to 73 career wins for Nicklaus), and he's already amassed 11 major victories (seven shy of Nicklaus' professional major record). Now Nicklaus feels the need to qualify his milestone by saying he has attempted to lead a balanced life in deference to trying to win more tournaments.

Maybe he's bitter because his career tournament winnings are a fraction of Tiger Woods'. For example, Nicklaus earned $15,000 for his 1962 U.S. Open victory compared to Tiger's $1.4 million for his recent win at the British Open. Thank God that Nicklaus Design has built over 200 courses worldwide (most of them exclusive or very expensive or both), otherwise he'd be in the poorhouse. Arnold Palmer designs expensive courses too, but he is a lovable ambassador for the game of golf with an affable personality. Sometimes The Golden Bear seems more like a mean old Grizzly.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

What I'm readin'.

I've hardly been able to put this down since I bought it on Saturday, but a book this jaw-dropping almost demands to be read in small... um... bites in order to fully... ur... digest it all.

It's truly fascinating. Shocking, but fascinating.

Here's my favorite review blurb from the opening pages:

"God strike me dead before I consume another fast-food product..."

You can read that review in its entirety HERE and two more articles about the book and author HERE. There's a lot more to be googled as well. You can also check out the upcoming film based on the book which is directed by Austin's own Richard Linklater HERE.

So, next time you're in Austin and are craving a fast food burger and fries, I'll direct you to THIS PLACE, and if you're in California, you probably already know to go HERE.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Hittin' the Trail

The warning signs are there. I'm becoming an addict, a Town Lake Trail junkie, and I have the blister on the back of my ankle to prove it. Jamye's jealous. You see, I've been out there without her twice since we went this weekend for the first time. I'm getting good use out of my iPod and its accompanying MarWare armband though, and most importantly I'm back on the trail (pun intended) to losing weight after a couple of months of substance abuse. The substance in question being queso, of course.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Music City U.S.A vs. The Live Music Capital of the World

In January of this year, KUT 90.5 in Austin aired this feature on the differences between the Nashville and Austin music industries. It's a debate viewed through Austin-colored glasses in this piece, but it's interesting nonetheless. Click the links below to listen.
Part One . . . Part Two

Here's the Nashville Chamber of Commerce Press Release regarding the music industry's impact in Nashville.

My two cents: The publishing epicenter of country music is located in Nashville. It is home to the Grand Ole Opry and the Country Music Hall of Fame. Austin offers more live music venues per capita than any other U.S. city and is home to the longest-running concert music program on American television, Austin City Limits. While Nashville has a monopoly on country music, Austin strives to be more communal and diverse. It's the buffet to Nashville's steakhouse... which is a bad analogy because I don't like buffets and love steakhouses. You get the picture though.

Friday, July 21, 2006

NoCal Nuptials: Part Two

Jamye and I whiled away the morning around the hotel before heading into nearby Stinson Beach, an idyllic little vacation spot snuggled up against the base of Mount Tamalpais. After stopping in the local market and bookstore, we followed a tiny road down to the crescent-shaped beach where we were surprised at the number of people lounging about on the fog-enshrouded shoreline. While Jamye took a walk down the beach, I opted to stay put and rehearse the e.e. cummings poem Laura had given me to read in her ceremony.

Jamye returned with three tide-smoothed black rocks, and we headed back to the main street where we settled onto two barstools at the Sand Dollar Cafe, a Stinson Beach institution since 1921. The interior of the restaurant resembled the interior hull of a boat, and we sat and made small talk with the bartender while we lunched on fish and chips and fish tacos (yes, even here we can't escape them). As the afternoon began to wane, we headed back up and down the windy road from whence we came, stopping by the Pelican Inn to see everyone making preparations for the ceremony. Jamye snapped this picture of the misty hillsides from the balcony outside Kristen and Stuart's room before we returned to the hotel to get ready.

Two hours later, we were back at the Pelican Inn. The pre-ceremony wedding pictures were in full swing as we stepped into the Inn, and before long, we were all being seated on the front lawn of the property as an eclectic band of musicians filled the air with a collection of English tunes.

Laura looked radiant, and Greg looked cool as a cucumber as my tough-talking, no-nonsense friend stymied tears during the ceremony, which was short, simple and classy. I pulled off my reading towards the end of the ceremony without getting tongue-tied, and moments later the priest from New Jersey(?!?) was introducing Laura and Greg as husband and wife.

As the quaint, yet elaborate reception passed well into the night and a handful of people apart from the wedding party remained, Jamye and I helped set up a bonfire on nearby Muir Beach where we said our goodbyes shortly thereafter. We returned down the path to the Pelican Inn in the cool, wet air.

In the morning, we would leave and come home to Austin where we would spend the late afternoon having dinner and cold Lone Stars at Shady Grove. California had felt more foreign to me on this visit, but the glistening faces at our favorite restaurant looked as welcome as ever.

Monday, July 17, 2006

NoCal Nuptials: Part One

As we sped toward the Golden Gate Bridge on Highway 101, I was reminded why I hadn't left my heart in San Francisco (sorry, you knew it was coming). It had been seven years since I last visited this area of the Golden State and nothing had happened to change my mind that Frisco was an overstuffed, overhyped and overcrowded city with little to offer anybody who made less than six figures. I'm sorry if I'm stepping on somebody's toes here, but the place is a zoo. While it's a marvel of civil engineering and a veritable funhouse of amazing architecture, I couldn't imagine living there. I know, who invited me, right?

As the fog poured through the bay, we zipped across the bridge and into Marin County. My friend Laura was getting married at a little English inn in Muir Beach, and we were staying at a hotel in nearby Mill Valley just one exit north of Sausalito.

On the northside of the bridge, the hills folded out as the highway curved and tilted slightly upward. I had never been here, and as we churned forward in our rented Pontiac Vibe, I began to wonder why. This was the California I fell in love with in my youth, and it seemed miles and miles away from the teaming masses we had left behind only minutes earlier.

Our hotel was an unassuming little three-story building situated on the westside of the 101 and on a little inlet north of the bay. It shared what little parking it had with a nearby bank building. After we found a spot and piled into our equally unassuming little room, we set up shop for our 48-hour visit. From the sliding glass doors that led into a mulch bed (how odd) we could peer across the inlet at the hills separating us from the Pacific Ocean, and since we had a few hours to relax before we headed out to the rehearsal dinner that evening and little sleep the night before, we both kicked off our shoes and stretched out on our bed for what would inevitably become a two-hour nap.

We awoke to that post-nap afternoon haze and trudged around our little room aimlessly before getting cleaned up and dressed for the rehearsal dinner in nearby Sausalito.

It was a fine little establishment that neighbored a dock packed full of sailboats. The food was excellent, and we easily wiled away the next few hours reconnecting with the bride and groom and chatting with a table full of Laura and Greg's family and friends. Kristen and Stuart, Laura's friends from Malibu that we had the pleasure of meeting a year before, were a welcome sight in a sea of unfamiliar faces, and after the festivities ended, we lingered over a drink with them at the bar before heading back to the hotel and quickly going to sleep.

The wedding was set for the following afternoon, and my next post is set for the same.

Monday, July 10, 2006

The Anticlimactic 4th of July Story

There we were on the top floor of Opal Divine's Freehouse. We had secured a spot by the rail in hopes of seeing the city's fireworks show which was set to start at 9:30 in nearby Zilker Park. As thunderstorms rolled through town less than thirty minutes before the scheduled start time, we watched people scramble to and fro across Sixth Street. From our dry, comfortable, upstairs perch, we laughed at our good fortune regarding our decision not to go to the park to watch the show.

Then, the fireworks started, and we were laughing for another reason.

Situated directly southwest of our location, the Austin City Lofts building rises some 14 stories above the pavement, and this lone structure just happened to be in the direct eye line between us and the fireworks show. Naturally, it completely obstructed our view of said fireworks.

The following photo shows the building from the northwest as opposed to our vantage point from the northeast, but you get the picture.

We could hear the echoing booms and see the colors reflecting off the dense cloud cover, but that was it. Never in our wildest dreams would the city's big fireworks spectacular (which was over in less than 20 minutes) be concealed by one building, and since such a thing was even possible, I'm not sure that we missed much.

Nevertheless, the joke was on us.

The 4th of July was effectively over, but we still enjoyed our pints (only 2 apiece, moms and dads), cracked pepper fries with dill ranch, and divine quesadilla and managed to laugh about our tiny tragedy all the way home.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Ye Olde Muni

Today, I have a funny story about Austin's Fourth of July fireworks display, but first, dear reader, I feel compelled to tell the story of my experience at "Old Muni", Austin's oldest municipal golf course and formally known as Lions Municipal Golf Course. A selection of hats in the clubhouse are emblazoned simply with "Muny", and this is the course's preferred nomenclature amongst the locals.

It's the kind of track I like to play alone so I can take in the surroundings and linger over certain aspects of the course and clubhouse without having to worry about holding up a playing partner. Measuring only 6001 yards from the tips, it's also the kind of course at which many players would look down their noses, and many more would consider too short in this world of 460cc drivers and Pro V1's. To be sure, its defenses are decidedly old school. The tight, twisting fairways are bound on either side by wide trees, and the small greens dare you to go long.

The place still has some caché with the area's best players though. Texas' oldest Amateur championship, The Firecracker Open, was held there this weekend, so the course was in great shape. The rough was up, the fairways were manicured, and the greens were speedier than I would have imagined.

The guy who maintains this website has a great hole-by-hole breakdown of the course with pictures, and I wish I had read his advice about everything breaking toward the river. Several putts outside of 15 feet left me scratching my head.

That's "Hogan's Hole" pictured at the top of this post. I don't know if the story about Hogan's "Where's the fairway?" comment upon seeing the hole is equal parts truth and equal parts Texas tall tale, but I do know that I made a heck of a double bogey on it after an attempted 3-iron draw found the trees down the right side and my chip out found the rough on the left side. Otherwise, I acquitted myself fairly admirably on the 78-year-old layout. After starting the round with a bogey and two doubles, I went on to shoot an 87, and I celebrated the palindromic feat with a trip through the Long John Silver's drive-in for lunch.

Tonight, I continue to go over today's round in my mind (as I'm prone to do), but the thing that keeps popping up instead of the individual shots is the unassuming little course with a big history.

Oh yeah, there was a story about fireworks wasn't there? I guess I'll save that for "tomorrow."

Monday, July 03, 2006

The Parent Trip: Part Four

Sunday morning in San Antonio found us checked out of the hotel and back at Mi Tierra for brunch. After that, we drove down the street to La Villita, a little arts and craft center near the Hemisfair Park before we made our way down the Mission Trail, a 10 mile stretch of back roads that connect four 18th century Spanish missions and comprise a National Historic Park on the southside of San Antonio. I only took pictures at the first one, Mission Concepcion. The other three were equally impressive in their own ways, but this is the one that grabbed me.

Take a gander at Concepcion below:

I was genuinely shocked when I first laid eyes on this structure. I believe I halfway expected a 300-year-old pile of rocks that sort of resembled an old church.

There's Mom craning her neck to take in Concepcion's Spanish Colonial architecture.

I think this is Mom's favorite picture... probably because she can envision those early Franciscans trudging down this arched, candlelit corridor with heads bowed.

Next on the trail were the Missions San Jose, San Juan and Espada. You can read about them all here. The sun was already beating down on us, and even though it was a dry heat... ahem... we took in these last three through the tinted windows of Dad's air-conditioned truck before heading back north to home and hearth.

The few days that my parents stayed after our return to Austin seemed like a uneventful denouement to the climax that was the historic treasures of San Antonio. I'm glad my parents were game companions, because we'll never be able to see the old San Antone through new eyes again. It won't stop us from going back though.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

The Parent Trip: Part Three

From the Alamo, we crossed the street to Pat O'Brien's for a quick snack and a cold drink. I had misgivings about stepping into this transplanted New Orleans staple, but I was craving a hurricane. It was good, but Ralph and Kacoo's was better. I didn't have trouble walking after this one. Afterwards, we headed back to the hotel for an afternoon siesta. We were in San Antonio after all.

We met back up later to go to the 35th Annual Texas Folklife Festival at the Hemisfair Park, which, incidentally, was the site of the 1968 World's Fair. I won't bore you with the details of our multicultural experience as you can look at the website yourself, but here are a couple of highlights from the Festival:

The kid drummer at the New Orleans/Cajun pavilion:

The bagpipe players exiting the arts and crafts area:

After leaving the festival, we took a trolley to Mi Tierra. Even at 9:00 it was still an hour wait so we resolved to come back for breakfast and caught the return trolley to the Riverwalk and had dinner at Casa Rio. A bushel of chips and queso, plates full of tortillas, and a carafe of Sangria later, we returned to our respective rooms to go to bed.

We had a couple more stops planned for Sunday. I'll share those tomorrow.

As for today's postscript, here is one of our last glimpses of the Alamo from the trolley on Saturday night:

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

It's super, man.

In deference to my favorite critic, Roger Ebert, Superman Returns is a thrilling film on an epic scale full of iconic moments.

The film takes up the story of our hero after the events of the first Superman sequel. He's been gone for five years in search of the remnants of his Krypton home, and he returns to Earth to find that many things have changed in his absence. For starters, Lois Lane has a child and a fiance and Lex Luthor is out of prison and plotting another insidious scheme.

While this film doesn't have quite the pop grandeur of Richard Donner's 1978 touchstone, Superman Returns director Bryan Singer pays homage to that film's legacy by casting a virtual unknown in the lead role and staging scenes that recall both Christopher Reeve's seminal performance and the character's DC Comics origins. Where Singer surpasses the original is with outright spectacle and an understated and unrequited love story on par with a Merchant-Ivory film.

Sure, maybe the running time is a little long, but since almost 20 years have passed since the last Superman adventure (the abysmal Superman IV: The Quest for Peace) and over 25 years have passed since Superman II, the last respectable portrayal of the Man of Steel on screen, this is forgivable.

Jamye and I went to the 10 o'clock screening at the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema last night. We arrived at 9:00 to the following scene which I snapped a murky picture of with Jamye's phone.

They had four screenings from 10:00 to 10:15. They were all sold out. Luckily, I ordered our tickets three weeks ago for the privilege of standing in line and viewing the movie with comic book geeks of every shape and size, and judging by the audience reactions, most of them left the theater late last night just as satisfied as this recovering comic book geek.

As a postscript to the evening's events, here's a bit of hilarity that was shown before the film's trailers.

Monday, June 26, 2006

The Parent Trip: Part Two

If you can cast your mind back to the post from over a week ago (and I can cast my mind back to an event that occurred over two weeks ago), you (and I) may recall that there was the matter of a weekend trip to San Antonio with my parents.

We took off in the big white truck Friday afternoon, June 9th, Two Thousand and Six, A.D. from South Austin, and by 8:30 p.m. we were pulling into the parking lot across the street from the Westin Riverwalk in Old San Antone. A short time after checking in, we set out to find some food. After wandering around aimlessly for what seemed like hours, we eventually settled at a table along the Riverwalk at a place called Rita's on the River. My cold beer was welcome and the boilerplate Tex Mex fare was a godsend. All in all it wasn't half bad.

As an aside, my first impression of San Antonio's Riverwalk at night was that of an elaborate Disney World ride. Think Pirates of the Caribbean but with women pushing strollers instead of slinging pints and rebuffing the advances of scurvy pirates. The amount of alcohol being consumed was roughly equivalent, however.

Saturday morning found us at Zuni Grill for a Texas-sized breakfast, and from there, we left the riverwalk area...

...and headed over to the Alamo by way of a souvenir shop to buy some big straw hats for the lady folk. After taking the prequisite touristy-type pictures of Mom and Dad out front...

...we passed through the historic facade of the old mission. The following words, "Be silent, friend. Here, heroes died to blaze a trail for other men." set the tone for the somber history of the structure and its surroundings, long since converted to lush, visitor-friendly courtyards. State flags representing the home states and countries of the nearly 200 men who gave their lives in defense of the fortified mission lined the interior walls of the shrine. Plaques on the back wall listed the names and origins of the defenders of the Alamo who had held out for thirteen days against Santa Anna's Mexican army in the 1836. Outside, the remaining original structure, the Long Barrack, had been converted into a museum devoted to Texas history.

I took Jamye's picture in her new straw hat near the northeast corner of the shrine. Notice the Texas flag fluttering in the immediate background and an American flag far-off in the distance.

On the shrine's southside, I had Jamye take my picture at the fountain commemorating the four commanders at the Alamo. Naturally, I chose the Tennessee native.

Despite the encroachements on the site's solemnity by snow cone vendors in the front courtyards and the Ripley's Believe It or Not across the street, the whole experience remained moving and inspirational, and it has left a lasting impression on me.

More on San Antonio tomorrow. Seriously.