Thursday, June 26, 2008

New Venture

I now have an Etsy site for my plastic bag-crochet venture. I will post links and more details once things are fully underway.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Stuff that White People Like Me Like

I am a fan of most things satirical, and my most recent favorite bit of web satire is the blog Stuff White People Like.

Whenever I introduce a friend to this blog, I always mention, "Well, this is only a certain kind of white person. You know, the type of white person that's typical of Austin, but not, say, Lubbock."

Or if you're from Georgia instead of Texas, you could substitute Decatur for Austin and Douglasville (or Rome or Statesboro or just about anywhere else in Georgia) for Lubbock. The point being, this blog is not representative of most white people. Only progressive yuppies and hipsters who are quite common in urban areas outside of the Deep South.

I will openly and honestly admit that I am a stereotypical "white person" as defined by this blog. My new Indian roommate likes to make fun of me for this. So he counted the list and had about 30 characteristics. I counted and had 45. I guess he's whiter than he thought...

Here's my list (and feel free to compare it to my list of blog post labels for further proof of whiteness):
film festivals
farmer's markets
organic food
Barack Obama
making you feel bad about not going outside
Wes Anderson movies
non-profit organizations
gifted children
writers workshops
having two last names
David Sedaris
Manhattan (now Brooklyn too!)
not having a TV
80s night
The Daily Show/Colbert Report
Arrested Development
Apple products
indie music
public radio
arts degrees
Whole Foods and grocery co-ops
Sarah Silverman
kitchen gadgets
natural medicine
Toyota Prius
knowing what's best for poor people
expensive sandwiches
standing still at concerts
Michel Gondry
study abroad
threatening to move to Canada
musical comedy
multilingual children
the idea of soccer
graduate school
hating corporations
bad memories of high school
outdoor performance clothes
having gay friends
St. Patrick's Day
San Francisco
free healthcare
children's games as adults

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Does Democracy Really Exist Now?

On the surface, it still does. It appears to. We vote every couple of years for our lawmakers, and we talk a lot about the American ideals of democracy - equality, the people having a voice, blah blah, so on and so on.

Yet in the last week, I've had some conversations about the reality of things, about how we the people don't really have a say anymore. Anslee and I were talking about the war and how powerless we seem to be. Sure, we can vote for Obama or McCain and that will help determine the direction of the war. But when did the people loose so much power when it came to these big decisions? Why are we so cynical?

Then I saw the documentary The Corporation, which came about four years ago and seems even more relevant now as gas prices increase and recession seems inevitable. The end of the documentary focuses on how localized, grassroots democracy is successfully fighting big corporations in small communities.

Yet even when I think about Austin, I don't see the hippies and the weirdos making enough effort to fight off the big corporate powers. People just don't care enough. There were a few petitions to keep out the Domain, and they didn't stop anything. I wonder how long it will take for Austin to no longer be so weird.

I was talking to Heather last night before the Rilo Kiley show (which was incredible, really beyond words). The show was at Stubb's, one of Austin's most famous downtown venues on Red River. Red River has some of the best music venues in the city. Sure, it's run-down, but it's pure Austin and vital to local music scene. It has everything from country to metal to indie to punk. Plus, it's one of the main South by Southwest hotspots. The Red River scene makes Austin the Live Music Capital of the World. It's integral to the city's biggest tourist draw.

But the city has plans to tear down many of the venues on Red River between 6th and 12th in order to build a park. This park will pretty much cater to the wealthy who can afford to live in downtown lofts. The vibrant local music scene on Red River will have to relocate somewhere else. I don't doubt that Austin will loose the variety of music venues, but they probably won't relocate to one central location like Red River. I can't imagine downtown without the Mohawk, Red Eyed Fly and especially Stubb's.

Heather was saying that one of her friends is a local business owner, and he said that despite the surveys and public meetings, the city will do whatever it wants. And it wants a park there. It doesn't want run-down clubs and bars.

What happened to democracy and local action? What happened to the government being representative of the people? What happened to having a voice and making things change?

In some ways, this isn't a big deal. People aren't losing their homes. No one is being unjustly persecuted. Yet, the character of this city is in jeopardy, and I would think the hipsters and scenesters would care enough to do something. But they're probably pretty politically apathetic and didn't know of the city's plans. Even if they had known and somehow were motivated to take some action, I doubt it would have changed anything. The city is going to do what it wants.

My cynicism has taken over - I seriously doubt democracy really exists in this country. People don't care enough to take action, and the larger institutions - the government, the corporations - have gotten to much power as we've sunk into apathy.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Wrong Number, Buddy

Every few weeks, I get a call on my cell phone from someone in Philadelphia asking for a man named Bill. This man happens to be my ex-uncle.

I'm on a family plan with my aunt in Pennsylvania, and it was more cost effective for me to continue paying her $15 a month rather than get my own plan. The stipulation is that I keep a Philadelphia number. This isn't a problem because many of my friends in Austin have numbers from elsewhere.

However, it just so happens that the number I currently have was my uncle's before the divorce. My aunt was still paying for the extra line about a year after the split. When I moved in with her, she let me take the number, seeing as it was no extra expense to her.

But Ex-uncle Bill never updated several contacts with his new cell phone number. I get calls from his clients, old friends, doctors. I always politely say, "I'm sorry, he no longer has this number."

I've been tempted to find his new number and tell him I'm tired of getting his phone calls. But then considering the family dynamics that have developed since the divorce, I've decided against it. Somehow, it's sweet revenge knowing these people can't get a hold of him and it's what he deserves for not sharing his new number.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Car Damage

My car survived 16 months of Pennsylvania roads and Philly drivers without so much as a scratch. That includes surviving my first commutes in snow.

Then I moved to little Austin, Texas. Sure, the highways and feeder roads are (very) poorly planned, unable to support the city's rapid growth. Central Austin has an increasing population density, and there's just not enough space for all those cars.

But in comparison with urban areas in the Northeast, driving here is a total breeze. I can get anywhere in less than 20 minutes, and I spend the majority of my time in a 7 mile radius. It's not that hard to get around this city.

But in the last six months, my car has suffered:
  • A stolen stereo, which I have yet to replace. So there's a gaping hole in my dashboard. The stereo wasn't in great condition and I never got good radio reception, so in some ways, I think the joke is on them. However, I'm still not quite used to driving in silence.
  • A dent on the back passenger's side door, thanks to a dent-and-run by a tipsy asshole at Polvo's. (A very nice woman watched him do it and tried to get his license number, but he drove off too soon. Apparently, he got out of the car, surveyed the damage had a moment of moral crisis, and then drove off. Jerk.)
  • Most recently, a broken driver's side door handle. However, I blame this on years of use, rather than the city of Austin. My car just gets more and more pathetic. I'm now exiting on the passenger side. At least I can still open it on the outside...

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

The Postmodern Christian: Not an oposition of terms

I don't usually blog about faith. It's sticky, especially at this time in my life when I've been questioning pretty much everything I believe and rejecting a lot of trappings of the evangelical subculture I was raised in.

I'm finally reading Brian McLaren's book A New Kind of Christian. It was published about eight years ago, and since 2001, it seems the emerging church has become fuller, more vibrant. Or maybe it's just come to my attention.

But I'm not going to get into the emerging church. Not today. This book is more about the paradigm shift from modernism to postmodernism. I spent half of my education (pre-college) in Christian schools and heard a lot about the importance of "a Christian worldview." I was warned of the dangerous relativism that was seeping into our society. I was told to be careful in college, that I might be tempted intellectually to leave my faith. I was told greater culture was dangerous and our sequestered Christian subculture was safer and better.

Then I went to Berry, where the secular and evangelical worlds collide in odd ways. I wasn't tempted intellectually, but I came to realize after four years of a solid yet secular education that I am postmodern. I can't help it. Despite my upbringing, I am ingrained in my culture and have a postmodern point-of-view. Or worldview. Take your pick of vocabulary.

So the past three years have been a battle over the question, "How do I reconcile my postmodern worldview to my faith?" This has led to a lot of doubt, frustration, anger, and resentment. I'm not out of this yet. There's a lot I'm still figuring out, but I know now that I'm not going to pretend I have a nice, neat list of answers. I'm struggling, wrestling, and finally, I'm trying earnestly to seek the truth.

Interestingly, the name of my church is Vox Veniae, which means Voice of Truth in Latin. The truth may not come in a systematic theology. That worked for the modernist church, but I'm beyond that. I don't want a system. We're deconstructing right now, but still trying to maintain something holistic, spiritual, and beautiful. And there's truth in it. I have a sense deep inside of me that despite my rejection of what I considered to be Christian and therefore true, I'm finding the real truth. It hasn't come through Bible study. It hasn't come through mission work. It hasn't come through traditional worship. Yet, it is more true and natural and right than anything I had been told in my Christian schools or Bible camps.

McLaren's book tells the story of a burnt-out pastor's search for the truth and his reconciliation with his faith - all within the context or a paradigm shift to postmodernism This is not something to fear. Evangelicals are afraid of the emerging church and postmodernism because of the deconstruction of everything they know and believe. But God is bigger, so much bigger. And he/she is moving in the midst of this transition and I want to be a part of that movement.