Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Shelter from the [Ice] Storm

Here in the Lone Star State, we pride ourselves on being of a tough cowboy variety. We hunt, shoot, fish, ranch, ride, rope, and rodeo. We drown our food in butter and our sorrows in whiskey, but when we see a little ‘wintry mix’ come our way, we carry on like a bunch of suburban mothers in the eve of Y2K.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Although I only work a short while north of where I stay, it was not required that I report to the office for three consecutive days, for fear of the treacherous commute. My humble employer believed it was in both of our interests to work from home until the ice melted, so that’s what I was doing… working. Working on transcribing interviews and organizing the magazine, yes – but also working on catching up on my much-needed rest, working on laundry, working on getting through several books, and working on getting my creative juices flowing. (All of which are beneficial for both my personal wellbeing, and that of the company.)

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Much of my ice-induced literary focus was directed toward a publication called McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern. Averaging at 300 pages per issue, these hardcover journal collections take readers through captivating fictional scenarios. Amazingly fantastic things happen in McSweeney’s whimsical world. A man marries a tree, pointless wars are fought and lost, a love relation of imperfect proportions develops and thrives, entire secular histories are created and destructed, and young girls come to defy masculine authority.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
Issue 20

As if this weren’t enough, the independent Bay Area-based editor has placed a full-color illustration of brilliance on every fourth page – each by amazing artists, and each enhancing the reader’s experience. The Quarterly Concern is a refreshing twist on literary publication, and it’s sure to bring you more colorful surprises than LeVar Burton’s PBS theatrics.

Speaking of colorful surprises, several may currently be found hanging on the white walls of Austin’s Women & Their Work Gallery. For nearly 30 years, Women & Their Work has functioned as a statewide non-profit organization celebrating the beauty and strength of contemporary art and feminism.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Until February 17, the gallery will host Retreat, which features the amazing work of Theresa Marchetta. To create her large-scale masterpieces, Marchetta pours pigmented acrylic and wax to capture colorful abstract interpretations of the faraway and the familiar. Unbelievable stuff, really.

No American Talent
The guys over at Okay Mountain kicked off their No American Talent series this month with Argentinean artist, Benito Laren. No American Talent – a spoof on Arthouse’s New American Talent - is a three-part series of exhibitions showcasing work from artists in countries other than the 50 great states. Most of Laren’s work looked like it was made in the technological period of the early Windows 'Paint' program, and it shared the radical neon simplicity of the ‘80s peg toy, Lite-Brite.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

It was Laren himself who captivated my attention for the majority of the evening. I wasn’t sure if he was wearing a toupee, a full-on wig, or if he was aware of exactly how much 'it' looked like a gray, matted Himalayan. He was poised, quirky, and full of energy – active, excited eyes behind over sized, tinted transitions lenses. (Tony LaRussa take note: inside/outside single-lens convenience will never be fashionably appropriate.) Laren was an effusive character as well - delighted to speak with any audience, whether they responded or even understood.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Riding on my friend Aldo’s fluency en Espanol, I managed to stick around for the better part of a conversation. Laren was sharing a collection of personal photos, which seemed to share little relevance to one another in terms of characters, symbolism, or even time period. I would like to believe that he was sharing some great wisdom of chemistry and war, love and expression, but I kept hearing the word thong. Every time he would point at a picture of a woman, he would say thong, and laugh. There were quite a few women in his picture collection, and as it turns out, Benito did a stint in undergarment advertising some years ago. The pixilated thongs in Laren’s pieces – a blatantly recurring theme – bore striking similarity to those oddly shaped Tetris blocks in Atari backgrounds. Lite-Brite, like I said.

SXSW 2007
Finally, some long-awaited leakage from SXSW. We’re about a month into the new year, and still no official word about the line-up. Well, the SXSW folks have played hide the salami with the anticipated news for too long. Yesterday, the Austinist posted 340 performers in an unofficial band list. It’s not a complete list by any means, but it’s enough to get your blood pumping.

Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

The Young Folks

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Every day I learn something about myself that I was unaware of the day before, therefore endless discoveries are to be made and much is yet unknown. Some of these discoveries are transient. For example, today I realized that red felt pens are my preferred note-taking utensils. In college, I kept myself stocked up with blue paper-mate ballpoints, and in my less-proud high school days, I didn’t believe that note taking applied to me. I prefer almond milk hand crème to the banana and beeswax variety. I get great thrill out of exclaiming “Cuidado!” in the in the prelude of an event, rather than my previous and more traditional “Watch out!” Just recently I decided that wearing a seatbelt and using a blinker actually hold valid purposes and are reasonable driving activities. With an ever-growing bank of knowledge and experience, all of these things are subject to change on any given day.

There are a few things I have gained in life lessons that I regard as evident truths. Play is equally as necessary as work, Shannon Hoon is the best lead singer ever, OJ is a murderer, pork will never be the other white meat, birthdays are anti-climactic, and my mother is the most amazing woman in the known universe. It is her birthday today, and that should be reason to celebrate.

Here’s to you, mom. Your beauty and spirit become greater and more youthful with every year that passes. Happy Birthday.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Hate-Based Initiative

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Gerald "Wash" Washington, 57, was about to make history by breaking down racial walls and southern political stigmas. On Tuesday, January 2, Washington was to begin his term as the first black mayor of Westlake, Louisiana. Saturday – three days prior to his term, his dead body was found near his truck in a high school parking lot. There was no suicide note, and no motive found.

Westlake Sheriff, Tony Mancuso and his team ‘evaluated’ the scene quickly and delivered the body to the parish coroner, Dr. Terry Welke, who hastily determined that the death was a suicide based on the evaluation that Washington was shot once and the gun barrel had been "pressed tight to his skin" — something which sometimes occurs in suicides. There was no suicide note, and no motive found.

For several weeks following the election, Washington received hate mail from the city’s white residents. The city of Westlake has an estimated population of 4500, nearly 85% of which is white. Blacks and Hispanics make up the remaining 15 percent. Washington would have been the community’s first black leader, and the first new mayor in 24 years.

Headlines from AP and other worldwide publications transitioned from the original, “First black man elected mayor is found shot to death in Louisiana town” to “La. Mayor-Elect's Death Ruled Suicide” then “Late mayor-elect's children say investigation ‘sloppy’” to the current “State Police Probe Mayor's Alleged Suicide” which reads:

It's now the job of state police in Louisiana to find out what happened to the man who was about to become the first black mayor of the town of Westlake.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

I was under the impression that every death should be originally run as a homicide, until nothing of the sort could be suspected or proven. However, Calcasieu Parish Sheriff Tony Mancuso and his team did not investigate beyond a shadow of a doubt, in fact the investigation was nearly nonexistent. There was no suicide note, and no motive found.

According to Washington’s daughter, her father's pickup truck was given back to the family just a few hours after his body was found. She told reporters that deputies did not take fingerprints from the truck, check ballistics on the gun found near her father's body or complete an ownership check of the gun, which – to myself - would seem to be protocol in determining whether a case was homicide or suicide. Especially if there was no suicide note, and no motive found.

Washington’s son had also shared his thoughts with reporters: "Calcasieu Parish is known to be racist. There were lots of folks who didn't want my father to become the mayor. My dad was popular, but you have to understand, he was popular so long as he wasn't running the city. Once he won the election, now that an African-American was going to be running the city, that's where the problem came in."

I risk the persecution that accompanies discussing these topics openly when I ask: Does the fact that Washington was attempting to break down racial barriers in a predominately white southern parish not stand as a viable ‘motive’? The sloppy police work and recklessly incomplete investigation should raise a flag, or at least a few eyebrows. There was no suicide note, but there was hate mail. I believe a motive has been found for homicide: racism.

View a current article here.

In other bizarre Louisiana news, was it the ferret or the pit bull that gnawed off the baby’s toes? The parents don’t know either.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
do you see a baby toe resemblance?

No need to waste your days in worry about decades of continued troubles from Louisiana. I heard rumor that it’s sinking.

As a final disclaimer, I would like to apologize to my best friend LJ for the origin of this content. She’s the best thing to come out of Louisiana since the birth of New Orleans jazz.