Sunday, January 28, 2007

Guitar Town #1

Recently the city of Austin began a street art festival honoring the live music for which the city is so well known. The Guitar Town project produced 33 guitars which have been mounted around town. All are outdoors and accessible to the public at large.

Many of the guitars have sponsors but all were created by local artists. All the guitars are to be auctioned for charity at the end of their public display.

When the weather is cooperative on the weekends and other occasions, I plan to go around town to photograph each of the 33 exhibits and will post them from time to time - well 33 times if I post each one.

Today's guitar is the one posted in front of the Austin City Hall building. I don't know if the artist knew where the guitar would be placed, but the colors and incorporation of Texas symbols (the Capitol and the longhorn) make it a perfect match for the native stone and copperwork around much of the building.

The "new" Austin City Hall is in itself a building worthy of it's own post.

For more information about the Austin Guitartown project check out the website.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Encountering My "Personal Jesus"

In the last month I encountered the song “Personal Jesus” in three remarkably distinct formats. The original Depeche Mode version written by Martin Gore of the group remains one of my favorite songs from the period. Despite being a part of the original electronic music movement and something of a satire of televangelism, the song still represents Jesus in a Christian manner, though the mode of accessing him is certainly not.

A few weeks ago, I purchased American IV: The Man Comes Around which is one of Johnny Cash’s last recording sessions. He covers broad genres of music from the late twentieth century on the American cds, and one of the songs that may surprise country aficionados is “Personal Jesus.” Cash’s baritone captures both the longing for a savior of a lost man and the genuine (smarmy) appeal of the televangelist as though he is the preacher on the other end of the line. The pastor’s plea heard through the line, “reach out and touch faith” almost begs the caller to reach out and save him.

Not long after purchasing, American IV, I broke down and bought The Complete Depeche Mode – 644 songs for under $200 on iTunes is not such a bad deal. One of the selling points to the collection is that it included singles and remixes of Depeche Mode songs. After listening to some of the remixes, I don’t know how we managed to dance in the 80’s. The songs didn’t even last four minutes –we were net able to even get warmed up. Many of the remixes last seven to ten minutes and make the original song sound like a dirge.

There are several remixes of “Personal Jesus” found in The Complete Depeche Mode. The acoustic version comes across almost as hauntingly as the Johnny Cash cover, but the boys of Depeche Mode need to stick to their electronic work. Some of the titles to the remixes pay appropriate homage to the song: “Kazan Cathedral Mix,” “Holier Than Thou Approach,” and “Telephone Stomp Mix” all by their title respect the original tune. Each of them, of course, has its own driving beat and I could still dance to them – but I think the memories going through my head would be more high school, so this 40-year-old better be careful what moves he makes.

My personal neighbors, if the speakers have been loud enough, have heard enough “Personal Jesus” in the last few days that I’m certain their souls are well saved. That which I lack in musical skill, I make up for in musical appreciation. I have replayed, skipped through, and switched back and forth through the many different arrangements of the song. I have spent enough time with “Jesus” that I should have made a decision by now, but I’m still examining which version I want to be my “Personal Jesus.”

Monday, January 22, 2007

Hate Crime of Stupidity

Wheel of Fortune has a puzzle from time to time in which the last word of one phrase is the first word of another phrase. The show annoys me too much to watch it on my own, but I see it from time to time when at my parent’s house or while around other people who do not get so easily annoyed with people who are all too often borderline culturally literate.

For two weeks I have battled the knowledge that someone I know well, told a number of other people (I don’t know how many yet) that she worries about me because of my HIV issues. When I found out what she said, I could do nothing but stand there with my jaw agape: I never talked to her about HIV issues – whether I have them or not. Her statement violated the law, employer policy, and professional ethics: by some definitions – a hate crime.

The workplace knows me as openly gay and there has never been an issue as I work for an organization with inclusive policies. Suddenly, I found myself dealing with someone who assumed my HIV status based on my gayness (I’m not even THAT gay at work). To make such a broad assumption is nothing short of a crime of stupidity.

Some people at work actually like me. I’m afraid I’m going to have to make the rounds talking to everyone I know so they are not worrying about my health. I’m remarkably healthy for a forty-year-old man. Well, to be fully honest, after my last blood work, the doctor is concerned about my cholesterol – because I essentially did not have any. I go back to have that blood test redone in a few months: I’ll fry something in butter every day for a few days in advance so my doctor (I may have said this before, but he is so good, I would have his babies if his wife was not already doing that for him) can stop worrying about my low cholesterol.

Now I’m faced with the challenge of approaching co-workers who may or may not have heard something from the person who was so worried about me.

I could do the Troy McClure version: “Hi, I’m Roy Larson, and you know me from my roles as teacher, counselor, and specialist, but I’m here today to tell you about HIV. You may have recently heard a rumor….”

I could write a speech: “Two score and eight days ago, an authority stood before you and declared that I have HIV….” (this would require specific timing and an individual delivery to every person who has accidentally been told [and I would have to learn what a score is]).

I could (oops) send a mass email to a close friend on the employer intranet: “I can’t believe that bitch told you that….”


…I could just blog about it.

Sunday, January 21, 2007


The Super Bowl is set! Now I have two weeks to get ready for the commercials.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

More Austin Ice

Ice along the top of the fence and down the planks.

Railroad ties driven into the ground to stop erosion of the bank at Town Lake. I liked these in black and white.

A crepe myrtle at Town Lake showed the direction of the ice fall. Half the trunk was covered while the other half remained ice-free.

Sadly, the portion of Town Lake nearest my house is not the best maintained. This picnic table sums that up well with the peeling paint and graffiti. The broken ice just goes to further show the attitudes toward things in this part of town.

B&W ice

I never thought I would turn out to be a photo-blogger, but given the ice of the last few days and my enjoyment of taking pictures, there is just so much to share. I started photography as a the photo-chief for my high school yearbook. Our darkroom only had black and white capabilities, so I learned how to do black and white. To this day, I prefer it for many uses. Recently, I learned how to convert the pictures from my digital camera into black and white, so I spent some of my ice day, editing the ice pictures into black and white versions.

My weber grill. The classic design was just made for making icicles.

The chimney of my chiminea. The entire structure is covered with about one-half inch of ice, but it is especially visible in the ring around the top.

The edge of my patio table.

My dogs keep tearing up the chicken wire I have placed around some plants in my garden - to keep the dogs out! Believe it or not, chihuahuas can be very destructive in a pack!

Iced Reptiles

To those of you who don't know, I collect turtle things - turtle pots, turtle figurines, turtle earrings, turtle necklaces, and two pet red-eared sliders who have a pond in the back yard. Two of my turtle things ended up with a bit of ice.

This turtle planter is not usually so glazed looking - that's the ice on it.

I'm not sure exactly what you call this figurine, but I refer to it as a pot sticker - a figurine on a metal spike i stick into the soil of a pot plant. This one was just under the dripline from my roof.

The red-eared sliders are nicely hibernating at the bottom of their pond. I expect to see them when the temperatures get up around 70.

Growing, growing, growing....

We did not get snow/ice coverage that was predicted, but my icicles keep on growing off the eve...

...and the plants...

...and the grill.

And we have another day off work. I love having five television stations in town - they each have a slightly different forecast for tomorrow too, so you can pick which one you want to happen based on whether you want to go to work or not.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

More Ice...

One of the fun things about ice storms in the south is that flowers are still blooming.
This daisy is in my front yard, and though the ice weighs it over, it still provides color amidst the browns of winter.

One does not usually consider ice hanging off a grill, but that's the case today.

We Have Ice!

Ice from my eves.

Ice on the shrubs.

We are not supposed to have this in central Texas. The city is closed. The state is closed.

But Governor Goodhair is still going to be inaugurated today. I heard on the news that they are expecting 1500 invited guests to attend the inauguration which has been moved indoors. The way our last election worked out - turns out he can invite almost everyone who actually voted for him.

More ice and snow is on the way. I may end up having a very short week at work - which will be nuts because I still have to get everything done.

Keep posted to the news - this is just going to get wilder and wilder.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

It Could be Worse....

You Are 46% Addicted to the Internet

You're somewhat addicted to the internet - but who isn't?
You can keep it under check, and you're by no means a hermit.
Are You Addicted to the Internet?

I feared it could be much worse since I spend so much time on the computer, but it is not all about social purposes - I read hundreds of pages of professional writing/research each week, so I guess that made up for some of the bad habits - yes, I like those of you I chat with more than most of the people I know in real life.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Mexican Civil Unions!

This week, the border state of Coahuila, Mexcio, which is along the central Texas border with Mexico, appoved gay unions.

Somehow this failed to make the big news in Austin where the legislature convened and the border web-cam test results were released.

Now that Mexico and Canada have gay unions, maybe the cameras need to be on their side of the borders since they certainly are setting the standards for human rights while the Bush administration continues to dismantle the U.S. leadership position in that regard.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Give me Truthiness or give me....

I hope you don’t decide to Pluto this blog because of its truthiness, but if you are a real decider, you may.

The former English teacher in me has enjoyed the revelation of the best new words of the past year across the last few days. I still love words and the evolution of our language across generations. New vocabulary, other than the temporary catch phrases popularized by certain entertainers, recognizes that our society is not static. The words create a verbal cue that we are not the same today as we were yesterday, and it excites me to be reminded of change.

Change does not always mean progress as indicated by two of the most copied new words of the year. Colbert’s “truthiness” indicates the lack of integrity to many of the facts we are given and resorts to the gut feeling we all have for understanding real from fact. It is too bad that we have to rely on truthiness instead of the word of our journalists and leaders.

Likewise, decider became another oft used word after President Bush declared himself a “decider” as the leader of our nation. Sadly our leader does not have a vocabulary reflective of the Ivy League degree he holds. While the word was often used, it failed to gain acceptance as one of the best new words of the years from either group to rate the new words much in the same way as Republicans failed to gain acceptance by the public who rate the government and go out and vote.

After being demoted from planet, Pluto was promoted to verb, and in the transition came to stand for something that loses rank or prestige (see Republicans in the preceding paragraph).

I’m looking forward to the vocabulariazation of 2007!

Monday, January 08, 2007

Bird Brain?

Photo credit: Brian K. Diggs

Someone else hates the grackles as much as I do!

For over half the day today, much of downtown Austin was closed due to some five dozen dead birds which appeared overnight. No reason for the mass die-off has yet been given but the dead birds included pigeons, sparrows, but mostly grackles.

There was not anything in the air by the time the tests were run and it will take a few days before the medical tests from A&M come back, but I'd be willing to wager that someone got tired of the grackles keeping him awake at night.

Or maybe they just pooped on God's car!

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Food Review: Black-eyed Pea Pie

I suppose not every recipe comes out perfectly on the first try and that was the case with black-eyed pie. I needed a way to finish off the leftovers from my New Year's good luck feast. I decided to combine two foods commonly eaten together - black-eyed peas and cornbread.

The dish has a nice variety of textures with a firm crust of cornbread all the way around and the soft, almost creamy, filling of black-eyed peas. The bottom crust was a little rigid, but the top crust was a perfectly textured cornbread. The very bottom of the top crust was a bit mushy, but I'm not certain it is possible to get all of cornbread to firm up when there is essentially a wet bottom to it.

The flavor was good and the well seasoned black-eyed peas were essential to the taste. Cornbread tends to be cornbread.

While the paring of two foods which have long been associated is a masterful stroke, a few details of the recipe need to be worked out. When the cook perfects the timing of the crust, the pie will be a flavorful part of a meal; however, it lacks the substance to fully satisfy on it's own.

Kitchen 41(1)

I have named my kitchen. I was creating a new recipe today because I needed to get rid of the extra black-eyed peas from New Year’s Day. I ate as much luck* as I could, but I still had leftovers.

Cooking is one of my joys and if I had realized in high school how much money successful chefs make, I probably would have gone to culinary school instead of earning degrees in Radio/Television Production, Secondary Education (really English but I was missing a Spanish class), and Counselor Education {more another time on what ideal career I could have with those degrees!}. I learned to cook from my mother and grandmother and most of what they cooked was without recipe. They cooked by appearance and taste and both mastered it.

Since I love to cook and cook for friends. I was thinking about these things as I stood at the counter inventing black-eyed pea pie. Since friends eat here, the place needed a name. I wanted something chic, something trendy, something personal.

And so I arrived at Kitchen 41.

Kitchen – that’s where the table is.

41 – that’s the last two digits of the zip code where the kitchen is.

Kitchen41: come by and eat sometime.

*black-eyed peas are more than a contemporary music group; they are a traditional Southern good luck food since the times of the Civil War. The story goes that due to the war many crops were not tended and black-eyed peas were the only plentiful food. If you’ve ever raised black-eyed peas, they grow like weeds, so I can believe it.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Friday Night Favorite

Most Friday evenings you will find a regular crowd dining and drinking at LaFeria. It's almost a tradition for M., G., and I as it is with so many others we see

Actually - it's a bad week for LaFeria if we are all there only one time. I'll admit it - I'm addicted to chips and salsa.

Friday, January 05, 2007

The Perfect Mix

With apologies to Avenue Q:

“A mix cd.

I made a mix cd.”

Or is it:

“A mix playlist.

I made a mix playlist.”

None of those have the ring of “mix tape!” Maybe it’s just because I’m a kid of the ‘80s when piracy involved trying to hit the record button before the song started on the radio.

Now with iTunes and other such online services, we just click “purchase” and our bank account grows a little bit smaller as our music library increases.

One drawback to this since I rarely buy a whole cd anymore (really I don’t despite the three reviews I’ve done here earlier) is how to put the songs together into the perfect mix cd or playlist. I don’t envy D.J.’s trying to balance bpm (beats per minute) with style and variety of artists, etc. They have a real job doing that.

I remix my collections constantly. I don’t trust my iPod to do the right mix for a five mile run or an eight hour drive.

And I like some odd mixes – yes, you can run to classical music! And electronica. And metal.

Country, though, is a little iffy.

I have almost three days worth of music in iTunes at this point. Last night I visited with a friend who has twenty-five days of music. Yes, that is correct – twenty-five days! I don’t know if I could ever make a mix from that much selection. My brain nearly exploded from the choices as I scrolled down the pages and pages and pages of music: “Which Carpenters? Which Clash? Which James Brown?” Short circuit, my brain would.

My search for the perfect mix continues. If you see me jogging around Town Lake with my iPod, then you will know I’m getting close to it since I rarely run with music.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Pocket Me

Apparently I’m a pocket queer!

I had never heard the term.

Then a person I had just met declares, “Oh, you’re a pocket queer!” after reading my profile.

I didn’t know whether to cyber-punch him or cyber-hug him in the chat window. Since I just met him, I decided to give him the benefit of the doubt and ask him to clarify.

Pocket Queer \päk ət kwir\ [gay American slang from the late twentieth century] n: a gay man less than five feet seven inches tall

I resolved to cyber-accept it. Technically, I am, being only five feet six inches tall.

This was not the first time I had been called a pocket-something. A few years ago a friend declared me “Pocket Hercules” after I carried his dining room table down three flights of stairs by myself. Honestly, it was not that large – about 40” in diameter – but it was solid wood. I just flipped it over my head and down the stairs I went.

No, I’m not that strong: the adrenaline burst allowed me to do it. Several friends and I had been drafted to help him move and they all were taking their sweet time getting everything done. I boxed and carried and kept up the pace. I didn’t care that the dish towels came from Aunt Grace in Memphis and that was funny because Graceland is located in Memphis.

Give me a job: it gets done.

While everyone else lollygagged around, my frustration mounted until it came time for the table. In a burst of “I’ll show you about being lazy,” I grabbed the table by the edges and flipped it over my head.

Thirty minutes later, the apartment was empty and cleaned and we were on the road to unloading!

And I had a new nick-name.

And now, thanks to Southern Boy, I have a new descriptor. I need to design a new shirt to go with the other one I designed.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

I Surrender!

It seems that everyone has been doing end of year summaries and resolutions. I really try to avoid those things, but since I have friends and relatives so far dispersed around the world, I decided maybe it was not such a bad idea. So here, a day late, is the letter I composed for those I love (or have at least chatted with online):

Christmas cards, shmistmas cards. Why not New Year cards?! Well, not exactly a card either but more one of those annoying ‘this is how great my year was’ letters.

So here’s how great my year was:

January: I don’t remember anything. Must have been a boring month…

February: See January!

March: Closed on my house and moved in! I’m truly enjoying living in a house instead of the apartment. I have a real yard and can get my hands in the dirt with a garden. Now I just need to build an arbor over my back patio and put a hot tub out there!

April: Had the first big party at the new house – the housewarming - and it was really a blast.

May: Death month in the secondary schools it seemed – it was a rough and sad month.

June: Ordered a new car. Began attending and joined University Baptist Church. It is the most Christian fellowship I’ve ever attended and I’m very happy there.

July: New car arrived. Remembered that I had started a blog and started writing to it regularly again.

August: See January!

September: Went to Kansas for a few days just to get away from Austin. I also lucked into a last minute three-day pass to the Austin City Limits Music Festival. It was the best one yet, so I’m excited again about going this next September.

October: Turned 40 and hosted another big party (if you host it, people have to be nice on your 40th)! Attended the 10th Annual GLBT Baptist Retreat and found many others who believe the love of God is for all people, not just the extremist religious right’s interpretation of who they want Him to love.

November: Hosted Thanksgiving at the new house! I’ll do that again – loved cooking everything. Went to San Diego for a conference, added a vacation day, and met some of the nicest guys ever while there. I definitely plan to go back!

December: I don’t remember much of it because of Sinus Infection Hell!

Most of the year has revolved around the new house. It has been a source of constant work and joy throughout the year. I am so excited to have a yard and garden where I can raise vegetables. I think I’m going to cut down on the number of tomato plants I raise this year: fifteen is too many. I did enjoy all the various peppers I raised and would like to find a way next year to preserve them into the winter beyond the first freeze.

The other major focus this year was getting involved in a church again. My friends Greg and Michael went to University Baptist Church for Easter Sunday, started attending every Sunday, and joined. They started inviting me to go with them, so I finally went in June. The first time I attended, I knew I belonged there. I attended three more times before I joined, but it has been one of the wisest moves I’ve made.

My spiritual center has returned and the joy of fellowship has been rediscovered. The church inspires me with its focus on missions and ministry rather than doctrine and dogma. Sadly, the doctrine and dogma focus has cursed so many churches in the last years as some of the more conservative denominations and congregations have focused more on politics than faith.

Socially, I have a wonderful group of friends who keep me from being a hermit. Having a house has made me more a hermit than ever: I so enjoy being here and am so comfortable, I never want to leave. Despite the nice social group, they have done nothing to change my status of being perpetually single. I was dating for a couple months this summer, but that was doomed from the start: he was just a little bit earthy for me (read: use deodorant!).

I have come to enjoy blogging regularly and post about a variety of topics. Sometimes it is commentary on news, sometimes observations, and sometimes music reviews. You never know what you are going to get when I update. A few of the observations have even showcased my sense of humor which occasionally surfaces.

Log on. Read regularly. Tell your friends. Give me enough hits that I can start selling ad space!

In addition to my own blog, there are a number that I read regularly and those links can be found on my blogsite. And thanks to one of the bloggers, I learned how to set up a RSS account so I can check only the ones that have updated rather than checking each one to see if there is something new. Technology can be a joy.

I hope 2007 provides you with the same joy and fulfillment 2006 did for me. May your year be filled with blessings big and small, joy that overwhelms the soul, and love that fills your heart.

Love and hugs,


Monday, January 01, 2007

Obligatory New Year Post

So it's January 1, 2007. Judging by the response of all the blogs I regularly read, clearly I'm obligated by the blogger's code to say something about the date.

Here goes:
2006 - could have been worse.
2007 - you can do better!