Reset your preset, despite what the billboard says.

Longtime Austin radio station (now owned by Emmis Communications) KGSR, or as we call it in my family K-Geezer, has moved from 107.1 to 93.3 FM, citing a desire for additional signal strength to reach wider audiences in the Austin area.

I didn't find out about this switch while listening to the radio. I didn't first see it on TV either. By the time a friend and fellow listener told me, I already knew. I saw it on Twitter. And I know, it's not any shock that I spend a good part of my day with an eye on some form of a Twitter stream or another.

But I was a little caught off guard when I drove by a billboard last night on South Lamar advertising their annual compilation CD, KGSR Broadcast Volume 17. They go on sale every year around Christmas and are snapped up by local music fans. On the billboard, no doubt slapped up before the channel debacle, the logo still says 107.1 FM. Whether it's too expensive to change or they just haven't gotten around to doing it yet is unknown to me.

But it's odd, really, to see such a physical representation of how print advertising is a dying and expensive breed of communicating to an audience. For free, KGSR can reach thousands of listeners, a captive audience that has nothing better to do than "reset their preset." Meanwhile, their billboard sits vulture-like looking down over the city, serving as a tombstone to a mode of advertising that has seen its day.
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Giving Thanks

I'm headed to the Gulf for the long weekend to celebrate Thanksgiving. Our annual trek to Port Aransas has been my favorite tradition since we invented it in 2006. I plan on doing lots of sitting, sleeping, eating, beach-walking, ocean-gazing and fiddling (on a fiddle). I'm also bringing my laptop so I might try to do some writing.

Happy Thanksgiving. When I'm at the beach, I reflect on what I'm grateful for this year. What are you grateful for?

While you ponder that, feel free to read some of the highlights below and enjoy some pictures from Thanksgivings the past few years.

2006
Beachcombing
Lucky Shots

2007
A Memory at Every Port

2008
Shameless Confession Regarding Thanksgiving
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Adios Mofo: Schieffer Drops Out [Updated]

Tom Schieffer will announce he's dropping out of the Governor's race today in a press conference at 3 PM in Austin, sources say.

To put it bluntly, I was never much of a fan. It seems Christmas, for me, is coming a month early!

Now, an important question: I've had a bet going since August with another blogger that anyone would win the primary over Schieffer, including Kinky. Does Schieffer dropping out mean I won or does it void the contest entirely? I have a Sullivan's steak dinner riding on this.

Update:
Bill White is now going to run for Texas Governor. Texas Monthly recently had a plush piece on him and Ross Ramsey at the Tribune brings a good perspective this afternoon about what makes White a serious contender.

Things are getting interesting and perhaps a bit less dismal for Democrats in 2010. I was really looking forward to taking a nice long nap after the primary but sounds like the times may be a-changin' after all. I can't complain.
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Comedy Gold

Over the last few weeks, I had the opportunity to take improv comedy classes at a local theater called The New Movement. Set in an old, triangular building off of 11th in East Austin, the theater is the baby of Chris Trew and Tami Nelson, two talented and funny people who say "y'all" a lot.

Improv kind of goes against everything I'm used to - I'm a planner and a thinker, so the idea of standing on a stage without a plan is not only frightening but a little like breathing underwater to me. It took a few times on stage for me to realize the simple fact that it really is improv and you really can't plan for it. You might have a hilarious script in your head about an alcoholic woman yelling at her husband who's cooking sausage but when you start saying the part of an alcoholic woman, the other person on stage starts playing the part of a safari guide on a zebra hunt.

Needless to say, you have to adapt.

But what I found most rewarding about improv was the insight it gave me to others and, strangely, how to work with them. At work I operate in an insular bubble, with my own ideas about how I want something done and how it should be done. It's led to struggles oftentimes of my own making because rather than delegate, I end up just doing what I want done myself. Improv teaches you -- forces you, really -- to take your ego and your preconceived notions about what might be funny out of the equation. You are just there to talk and make motions with your hands. You let the others around you do the work and, when you really let go of the control, that's what becomes funny.

One attitude that I've taken with me from the classes was a sincere respect for those around me that I don't think I had before. The New Movement mantra "Your teammates are the smartest people in the room" is something that can be applicable to nearly everything in life: work, relationships, family. Once you've accepted this belief (it's a little like having faith in God, hold the jihad) it's amazing how easy it becomes to see the strengths in others around you.

And for a girl who spends most of her time in a cynical funk about the world, that acceptance is pretty damn funny.
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State of the Texas Democratic Primary Address

Isn't it a great time to be a Texas Democrat's hair?

Tom Schieffer has got to be considering his exit strategy to the Crawford ranch right about now. Hank Gilbert got into the race and ruined all his fun. Schieffer's also being upstaged by not one but two men who sound like they belong on Dancing With the Stars instead of a campaign for Governor of Texas. "Humorist Kinky Friedman and hair magnate Farouk Shami" is how the Ft. Worth Star Telegram described them in a story today about how they didn't attend a candidate forum last night. Why bother? It's not like they're running for office or anything!

[Pause for laughter; applause.]

Now, I can't blame Schieffer for not wanting to spend any of his own money on a campaign against someone who's garnering headlines like "Kinky Friedman’s Pet Parade Has Hungry Armadillo, Gassy Horses." But "hair magnate" Farouk Shami brings a whole level of Sham-wow! to the podium. It's the stuff of little Texas rodeo queens' dreams: a handsome Palestinian, who scraped together millions by selling handheld griddles guaranteed to tame your mane, takes on Governor Good Hair, shifting the debate from health care and home foreclosures to hair products and humidity control.

I know we all have more important things in this state to discuss that don't involve frizz and follicles. As a Democrat, and more importantly, as a Texan, I get that. But as a girl with a long history of hair issues that have been less than Democratic, I'm thrilled to see Mr. Shami bringing the plight of untamed tresses to statewide attention. Millions of Texas women, young and old, struggle with their hair every day. And, for many years, I was one of them. As the daughter of a hardworking woman with multiple cow-licks and a self-made man with a tangle of curls, I've always walked the line of having sort of straight, sort of curly hair. And you know what? It's never been Just. Right.

That was until I bought a CHI iron, produced and distributed by Farouk Systems. It changed my life. Suddenly my curly hair fell straight and, more importantly, stayed straight for 8-10 hours no matter what the weather. It brought me a new level of hope and -- I like to think -- a commitment to maintaining our state's hair quality.

Let me set the record straight: I did pay $200 for it at one point in 2005, which will no doubt be exposed on Mr. Shami's TEC report. However, this does not mean I endorse Mr. Shami for Governor -- but I am proud to stand before you today and say: Two true blue thumbs up on his fantastic line of hair care!

Fellow Democrats, this is our time. No, not our time to have a serious Democratic candidate for Governor. That would be too much to ask for. But it is our time to cast aside our stale Paul Mitchell products and our low-wattage blow-driers. It is our time for good hair.

Because if we're going to lose in 2010, and as of now, we're going to lose big, then we might as well look good doing it.

Thank you and may God Bless Texas!
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If blogs are killing newspapers, is Twitter killing blogs?

Today I fell in love with a blog. I wandered onto the blog through an online petition and couldn't stop reading. Her writing was witty. Her posts were intriguing. Her layout was fun and inviting. Her blog was…last updated in January 2009?

How could this happen? This smart, funny DC-based gal called herself a social media junkie but her blog was a graveyard of social media conventions past. Maybe she joined the Peace Corps, I thought. Maybe she had to stop writing because she's running for office. Maybe she's in the hospital in a coma. Then I clicked over to her Twitter page. She was definitely not in a coma or in the Peace Corps. She's just been twittering. A lot. Like, every hour.

My initial instinct was to send her a snarky @ reply on Twitter telling her she needed to get back to blogging more. But then I realized that I was, frighteningly, becoming That Girl.

My blog is dying.

Twitter's just easier. There's a definite advantage to being able to write in short spurts whenever you feel the impulse. As a kid, I wrote pages and pages of scrawling print about horses and families of twelve who go on cruises. Never mind the fact that I didn't have a horse and my mom would sooner catch on fire than take us on a family cruise, my creativity poured out of me. I wrote all the time, everywhere -- much like I do now. It was just more than 140 characters at a time back then.

I signed up for Twitter fairly early on, when only one or two of my friends were on it and I, like most others who have been out of their house within the last five years, took one look at the fail-whale-ridden site and quickly left the page. But since the mass adoption of Twitter, which for me was early 2009, I've noticed a sharp drop-off in the amount of content I'm producing on my blog. I tweet in the morning carpool (when I'm not driving of course), when I'm in a bar, when I'm at dinner, when I'm at work and when I'm not doing anything. And I've started to notice - all of this twittering has got me chattering more and blogging less.

Sure, I'll bang out a long thoughtful post every once in a while, when its raining outside or I've been drinking too much wine. But all the little nuggets that I used to drop onto my blog over the last four years -- a video, a random musing of a few sentences, a shout-out to a friend having an art show or a candidate having a fundraiser -- have been sheared down into tiny, bite-sized tweets that oftentimes are merely a regurgitation of someone else's self promotion or discovery (that's a 140+ way of saying that I'm not afraid to RT). I went through a phase in 2007 where I took a camera everywhere and posted lengthy blogs with photos of people I met who I gave my blog address out to in hopes they would leave a comment or start reading my blog more regularly. Now I use my phone to snap a TwitPic and assume they'll figure out how to find me through Google. My style and even my social dialogue has completely changed.

Tomorrow night, I'm going to a tweetup. I probably will tweet the whole time I’m there ("OMG, just met @fillintheblank!") but I doubt I'll blog about it. After all, this post gets me off the hook for a few more days.
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The Decider, Deconstructed

Cross-posted on Huffington Post.

The Statesman ran a full-color review of the new Molly Ivins biography, Molly Ivins: A Rebel Life, by Bill Minutaglio and W. Michael Smith, today. I picked up a copy of the book at the Texas Book Festival a few weeks ago, where I also got to see a panel with co-author Minutaglio, who spoke to a packed Capitol auditorium.

I never met Molly - in fact, I never even laid eyes on her in real life. Molly as a person has always been more of an intangible spirit to me. When I'm around any of her close friends, it often feels as if she just walked through the room and I happened to miss her. Next time.

Reading her biography has been much like poking through my sister's diary when I was eleven, or meeting a television star when you only know them as having played one role. It's easy to forget that people have lives much different from the one you might assign to them, and the book uncovers stories about Molly that I haven't heard told in the bars before.

She grew up with more privilege and with less chickens in her backyard than I'd always imagined. The daughter of an oil executive in Houston, her prescient world views came from rather narrow-minded beginnings. Lovingly inserted early excerpts of her childhood scribbles - a letter to herself warning herself not to read the letter, and at the end of the letter, admonishing herself for having read it; dispatches from the miseries (read: bunkmates) of camp - all reveal a much more vulnerable, albeit equally opinionated, Molly of yesterday than is portrayed in the caricatures of today.

But while her physical being might elude me, her voice never ceases to stomp its way across a page and in A Rebel Life, it is no different. It evolves and matures, but it is always hers, in letters and opinions that hang in the air. And even though I might have missed her when she was leaving, it's a comfort to get to see where she was coming from.

Read an excerpt from Molly Ivins: A Rebel Life at The Texas Observer here.
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News to Me: Quickie-Mart Now Sells Womanhood

Damn, is there any better fix than being a woman?

Every day I get to wake up, shave my legs, wrestle my hair into something that more often than not resembles a squirrel's nest and think "By God. I sure am lucky to be a woman." Sometimes I even get a thrill when I wear a skirt outside on a particularly blustery day and the wind blows it straight up in the air.

But, like any good thing, there's the comedown. About once a month, my spine feels like a woodland creature is chewing through it, my forearms tingle with rage when a coworker says something outrageous like "Good morning" and I get the urge to either curl in a ball and sleep forever or get out a voodoo doll when I come home from work.

All of this, in the eyes of Texas Republican Congressman Pete Sessions, is merely penance for my poor choices in life, no different than a marijuana burnout or a particularly nasty hangover. In debating the health care reform bill, Congressman Frank Pallone (D-NJ) referenced discrimination by insurance companies by citing disparities in cost based on gender. When Rep. Sessions argued this was not against the law, Pallone explained it would become against the law and asked why this would be a problem.

"Well, we're all different," Sessions explained. "Why should a smoker pay more?"

Why should a smoker pay more? I don't know, Pete. But I'll take a crack at it. Maybe because a smoker chooses to smoke. As thrilling as it is, and as much as I enjoy your Party trying your best to control my uterus at every turn, it may come as a surprise to you that I didn't choose to be a woman. When I was thirteen, I didn't decide "Wow, PMS sounds awesome. All my friends are doing it. I'm going to try it!" I didn't buy my chromosomes from some red-eyed college student and I sure as hell didn't pick up my ovaries in a 7-11.

If I seem a bit irrational in my argument, don't blame me. It's just a side affect of my womanhood.
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Electile Dysfunction

Cross-posted on HuffPo.

Last Monday, I had the opportunity to go to the fifth annual fundraiser luncheon in Dallas for Annie's List, an organization that raises money and provides resources for progressive female candidates in the state of Texas. Donna Brazile, a woman whose cadence often makes me feel like I'm living in a moment in time much more important than the one I'm in, was to be the wild-eyed liberal keynote at the luncheon.

I was seated at a table whose seats were donated by one of the Ellis County women's groups, and when I sat down, introductions among the mixed array of women at my table were already underway. The two women next to me introduced themselves as Sandy* and June*, both of whom were longtime residents of the Dallas area region and and had the fashions to prove it. They glittered in gilded cocktail rings, perfectly coiffed hair and the lipstick-ringed smile rarely seen at events in Austin, where climbing out of one's jeans is socially equivalent to putting on makeup.

They asked me why I was there and I mentioned that I was a blogger, which immediately piqued their interest. Sandy asked whether I wrote about national or state politics. I told her the truth: a little of both, sometimes neither, and lately a lot about Rick Perry. "I'm kind of enraged at Rick Perry right now," I said, and as the words escaped me, I had a brief moment of fear. This was, after all, Dallas.

But to my relief, both Sandy and June were nodding furiously in agreement. "Oh honey," June cackled in a North Texas drawl, "who isn't. Now, what I wanna' know is -- if it comes to it, of course -- can I still vote for Kay in the Republican primary but vote for the Democrat in the general?"

I explained to them the pro's and con's of voting in the Republican primary, reminding them that their preference of down-ballot candidates -- if any -- would be left by the riverside. They listened carefully, but didn't seem concerned about the other Democratic races. "I'm for Anyone But Rick," Denise said. "Yes," June agreed, "I think that's what I'm going to do. Vote for Kay to get that awful man out of there."

It occurred to me that neither of these women had mentioned a single Democratic name. I sipped on my iced tea, hoping to look civilized, and said "So here's a question...what do you think about our Democratic field for Governor?"

June and Sandy looked perplexed. I felt their momentary pain, until June appeared to think of something. "Well, we have Kinky and now, who else?"

In the glare of a white linen table cloth and two women's eyes who were wanting to be informed, I felt ashamed. But politics doesn't leave much time for self-pity. "That's right," I said. "We have Kinky. Does the name Mark Thompson ring a bell to either of you?" They shook their heads. Sandy picked up a dinner roll and tore off a corner. I continued, "Hank Gilbert?" No. "What about Tom Schieffer?" Sandy chewed thoughtfully, and June started to shake her head before a light went off.

"Why, yes. Yes, I have heard of him, come to think of it. I've been invited to a couple of his luncheons but never went because I'm just so busy and you know..." She trailed off before leaning toward me and dropping her tone. "Besides, doesn't he have something to do with Bush?" She said the last word like she was spitting out an olive pit, the sound tumbling out of her mouth with a downturn of disapproval.

"He does," I said. Both of them recoiled at the thought. But I wasn't done with my poll.

"So you both say you'd vote for Kay over Rick. And if Rick Perry wins the primary, you'll vote for the Democrat I assume?" They both nodded vigorously. "So," I said, "What happens if Kay wins? Who do you vote for in the general? What if it was Kinky versus Kay?"

Both of them shook their heads. "I can't stand to say this," June said, "but I think I'd vote for Kay Bailey. How could I vote for that awful man?" The conversation turned to Kinky's penchant for cigars. They'd both recently seen him promoting his book on the local news, puffing away. Using a cigar as a prop in a post-Clinton world is, best I can tell, a Democratic deal breaker. How, I thought, is this guy staying ahead of other qualified candidates?

Without a doubt, organizations like Annie's List are helping to pave the way. Donna Brazile spoke about the importance of women being in the room when decisions are being made about their lives and their bodies, saying, "There's no reason [women] should lack on anything when we're the majority of everything,"a line that sent nearly every woman in the room (including myself) reaching for her checkbook. Brazile also continued the Obama chorus of this being "our moment," but wisely failed to mention what a squandered one it has become for Texas progressives. The Democratic women who could be running for Governor -- should be running -- are not. Other candidates hide in the pockets of their lobbyists. Someone whose underfunded message might deserve to make it to the masses is lost behind a celebrity press junket disguised as a campaign. Others are simply helped by their dowry to the Bush era, with a wink and a nod from the political machine saying, "He'll do." It's the political equivalent of taking the Devil's money to do God's work, while forgetting that at the end of the day, it is the Devil who gets all the power.

This is our moment, but it's one that has left Democratic candidates staring off the edge of a cliff saying, "You go first." Is it any wonder we end up with the few who are merely dumb enough to jump? At one point, a slide of Ann Richards flashed on the screens behind the stage and an audible murmur rippled through the crowd. I heard Sandy whisper to June, "She was a heroine." I pulled my eyes away from Ann Richards to look over at Sandy and June, in their early sixties, and wondered when I'm their age, who that heroine might be.

Well, we have Kinky and now, who else?




*Names have been changed to protect the progressive. I asked both Sandy and June if I could use their quotes if I changed their names, and they happily agreed. Thank you ladies for being such excellent lunch mates.
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