Month: May 2008

Flipside fragment

I’m not sure I can sit down and squeeze everything I might want to say about Flipside into a single blog post—or that I even want to commit all those thoughts to print. I may wind up dribbling out a few more posts on the subject over the coming days.

In the meantime, here’s one tidbit. In a conversation with someone I met at Flipside, he asked me about firespinning—specifically, if I had noticed any physical benefits. I think my answer might make a good blog entry.

I’ve always been a klutz. I attribute this in part to being left-handed, partly to a growth spurt when I was 13 that left me a stranger in my own body. But I think that a big part of this klutziness was a form of learned helplessness: I had learned that I tend to break, or scratch, or knock over things, so I accepted that as normal, and never made an effort not to.

With firedancing, there’s an obvious need to be precise in your motions. There are also strong incentives to practice—practicing is enjoyable in its own right, and it’s easy to make rapid progress by practicing, especially as a beginner. Firedancing also forces one to be more aware of the spatial relationship between one’s body and its surroundings.

So a lesson that I learned at an intuitive level (and later at an intellectual level) was that I didn’t necessarily need to be a klutz. I was capable of using my body the way I wanted if I put a little care into it. I became more aware of how my body related to my surroundings, and more conscious of how I moved in general.

While I wouldn’t go so far as to claim that I’m graceful today, I’m more mindful and precise in my movements, and that has been a benefit.

Delayed reaction

Burning Flipside officially opens tomorrow. A few key people are out there already. I’ll be heading out with the hoi polloi. I’ve been busy getting everything ready for the theme camp I’m leading, Circle of Fire, showing up for burn-night planning meetings, making lists, lengthening them, and lengthening them again.

Gwen and I went to our first Flipside in 2003. While some people at the time said that participating in Flipside was a life-changing event for them, Gwen and I reflected that we didn’t feel that way—not because we’re jaded, but because we felt that however big a footprint Flipside left, we had done enough living that we could keep it in perspective as part of the continuum of our lives, not see it as a break in it.

I’m about to depart for my fifth Flipside (skipped 2004), and here I am. Going to Flipside meetings, obsessing over my theme camp for weeks in advance of the event. Oh, it’s changed me. It just took longer for me to realize it.

So now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to do some prep work for the bacon-avocado margaritas I’ll be serving at camp.

After the storm

Split tree on Clarkson

Austin was hit by a severe storm, with baseball-sized hail and 80-mph winds, at about 12:30 AM on 15 May 2008.

We came through it OK. There are a few new dings in our car, there’s a small rip in the screen on our porch, and some of our tomato plants look pretty bedraggled, but no big deal. Power was out on our block for over 24 hours, something I’ve never seen before.

Many of the trees in our neighborhood have been very badly damaged. A neighboring house had every west-facing window broken. Oakwood Cemetery, which has many ancient trees, has been ravaged.

I’ve posted some photos of the storm’s aftermath around my neighborhood on flickr.

The Unforeseen

Saw The Unforeseen over the weekend. Despite its flaws, this movie should be mandatory viewing for Austinites.

Austin inspires a strong affection in its citizens, whose pride in the city can sometimes grate on residents of other Texas cities (then again, they’re probably just envious). That, coupled with the long, rapid growth that this city has seen, has led to the widespread nostalgia for how much better the city used to be that is the badge of its citizens and a ready topic of conversation.

The attachment Austinites have for their city, and awareness of its rapid growth, projects forward in time as well as backward. Austinites seem unusually concerned with the shape their city will take. Development is the central political issue in the city. Especially as it affects the environment, and most especially as it affects Barton Springs.

The movie The Unforeseen takes Barton Springs as the nexus for all these issues and dives in.

The movie rolls back the clock to roughly 1970, when Gary Bradley, the developer of Circle C and Barton Creek, came to town. The filmmakers spent a lot of time interviewing Bradley, and it was interesting how they humanized one of the leading demons of Austin progressives. Bradley made the interesting observation that when planning out a development, the only problem he couldn’t fix was access to water. The filmmakers also showed how, right from the beginning, there was strong opposition to these developments—how there was already proto-nostalgia forming.

It also goes into the hydrology of the area—this was one of the most important parts of the movie, and one that really deserved to be expanded. Simply getting to see the interior of the Edwards Aquifer was worth the price of admission—the aquifer was always an abstraction to me. Now it’s a place. Key fact: city hydrologists tested the speed that water flows through the aquifer to the Springs. From 20 miles upstream, it took three days for water to exit at the Springs. Not enough time for significant filtration to occur. The pollution entering the aquifer comes right back out. Underwater footage taken at the Springs in 1994 and 2004 illustrates this fact: water that was once clear is now cloudy.

The movie closes on Hutto, a town to Austin’s northeast that I last saw back in college Back then, it was a small farming community. Today, lots for 11,000 houses have been platted there, and the mayor readily admits that he doesn’t know where they’re going to get the water. Aerial footage of cookie-cutter housing developments butting up against the few remaining farms was enough to get me choked up.

The main flaw in the movie is its ham-fisted sentimentality and preachiness. The facts and the record speak powerfully enough. Cutting away to stock footage of a butterfly emerging from its chrysalis and children frolicking is just whacking the audience upside the head.

A minor flaw is the title. The movie makes very clear that none of this was unforeseen.