Month: November 2008

East Austin Studio Tour: an incomplete preview

This year’s edition of the East Austin Studio Tour is daunting, with some 200 artists taking part. I plan to see as many as possible, and encourage everyone else to, too. But if that’s just not in the cards, here are some tips for places to see that should give a good sampling on a limited time budget.

First off, ride your bike. Places are so close together you’ll likely spend at least as much time driving, parking, walking from car to each venue, and so on as you would if you rode—plus, bikes are more fun.

Second, there are a lot of different locations, but there are a few locations that have a lot of artists.

Here are some highlights. I am unapologetically playing favorites and calling out my friends here. The numbers below are the numbers given on the map.

9. Big Red Sun. Landscape architects. Always beautiful stuff here.

12. Okay Mountain. They always have interesting stuff.

14. Ethan Azarian. Whimsical paintings.

15. Barry George. Sculptures made out of scrapmetal. Do not miss.

30. Doghouse Studios. My friend Jen Balkan, who just got a nice writeup in the Chronicle, is based here.

151. Obsolete Industries. Poster printers. Yes, this is numbered out of sequence

45. Lisa Crowder. Jewelry with really nice silversmithing that combines fine work with a slightly industrial aesthetic. One of her studio-mates is a ceramicist who I don’t know but does nice work. And the Seussian building facade by Lance is a work of art in its own right.

49. Veronica Ceci Blasphemous robot art. Need I say more? There’s other good stuff at her location.

59. Splinter Group. Several furniture makers are based here, and they do stunning work.

60. Pump Project. This location probably has the most art, and the most artists, per square foot, of any place on the tour.

68. Big Medium. These are the guys who started E.A.S.T. Another high-density art complex.

70. Craig Newswanger is the mad scientist responsible for the singing Tesla coils. ‘Nuff said. He’s in a complex with a lot of other worthy artists, making this another high-value target.

78/79. Gingko Studios/Philippe Kleinfelter. Ceramics and monuments. It’s fun just to walk around this place. Sort of out of the way, but worth it.

84. Austin Artistic Reconstruction. These are my people. They are creative and weird.

91-99. Tillery Studios. This is where my good friend and neighbor Mychal has her studio, which is where Gwen will be the guest artist. This is a very big complex with a lot of very good stuff. Another high-value target.

127. Flatbed Press.

I know there’s a lot of other great stuff on the tour, and I don’t mean to give short shrift to anyone, but I feel confident recommending all these locations.

Do not patronize World Secure Channel

Today, this site (and some others that I manage on the same server) was hacked by world-secure-channel.com, or more likely a piece-of-shit script-kiddie they contracted with, making me an unwilling part of a link-farm. World Secure Channel supposedly offers VPN services for anonymous browsing, but considering the respect they show for the integrity of my website, I can only wonder what they do with the data you would route through their servers.

Mutts like me

In an his first press briefing as president-elect, Barack Obama referred to shelter dogs as “mutts like me.” Apart from the bracing self-deprecation, that offhand remark resonates for many Americans, who consider themselves mutts and are proud of it. Indeed, in a melting-pot society, what could be more American than being a mutt?

There’s some sublime conceptual jiu-jiutsu in this phrase. The enlightened position is that race is a cultural construction. We know that there is more genetic diversity among the members of one race than between races, and the lines separating one race from another are arbitrary. For America’s first black president and first biracial president—the fact that both of these are valid statements reinforces the arbitrariness of race—to identify himself in this way turns his race, which could be a point of division, into a point of commonality.

I like that. I decided it should be on T-shirts. And now it is. Go get yourself one.

The text is set in Gotham, the typeface used in Obama’s campaign materials. The dog is Suki, and I worked up the image from a photo taken by my friend and his person, Casey.

We won—now what?

It’s been hard for me to organize my thoughts about this election, and I won’t even try to cram them all into one blog post. Suffice to say I am very pleased with the outcome.

The big question in my mind is “now what?” When Bush was re-elected in 2004 with a razor-slim margin in both the popular and electoral vote, he claimed a mandate; he and his party were remarkably corrupt and high-handed in government. Obama has been elected with a healthy margin in the popular vote and a near-landslide in the electoral vote, despite which he is taking a conciliatory, cautious tone. But he was elected on a message of change, and right now, with national and world events such as they are, change is going to happen—the question is whether he’ll be engineering the changes or be tossed around by them. Hope has gotten him this far. Now is the time for audacity.

When one party has had the run of Congress and the White House, they’ve tended to overreach and then get beat down in short order. One time when this conspicuously was not the case was during the Great Depression, when one party in the legislative and executive took bold action that was met with public approval. Everyone in the news telling us that our current economic peril is like nothing since that time.

And then there’s the Republicans. Shortly before the election, I wrote a comment on Metafilter that when the GOP is reduced to a bunch of anti-gay, anti-science, anti-abortion, anti-rest-of-the-world populists, it becomes self-limiting and easy to dismiss. If the USA had a GOP that stood mainly for things like limited government and fiscal responsibility—Eisenhower Republicans, you could say—it might bring something useful to the table.

Having lost the presidency and seen their contingents in the House and Senate reduced, the GOP is now in the introspection and wound-licking mode. One might hope that those Eisenhower Republicans would stand up and guide their party back to sanity. As Paul Krugman predicted, one would be disappointed. I had previously thought of RedState as one of the saner right-wing community sites. And they’re not as frothingly mad as, say, Free Republic (where some members were suggesting that Obama killed his own grandmother), but it is clear they have allied themselves with what we might call the Palin wing of the GOP: anti-gay, anti-science, anti-abortion, anti-rest-of-the-world, and from what I’ve read, party leaders are headed in that direction as well. If this really happens, it guarantees that the party will marginalize itself not only in terms of its representation in Washington, but in terms of its relevance to the country at large and questions of policy. Politics benefits from multiple viewpoints, but only when all of those viewpoints are founded on informed, open-minded, and reality-based positions.

The Democrats are not going to have a supermajority in the Senate, so the Republicans there may choose to gum up the works with filibusters. They may choose to sit back and watch while the Democrats screw things up (or so they will hope). They may not be able to filibuster at all if a few of their more moderate members decide to play along with the Democrats and the Democrats manage to maintain party unity. There may even be a few party-switchers coming over the to Democrats, as there were going the other way following the Republican revolution in 1994. If the GOP takes a more dogmatic tilt, this seems likely.

There’s a lot of work for Obama to do. There’s a lot that his supporters are expecting from him. And there may be little standing in the way of his taking bold action. He’s already made history and moved the country forward simply by being elected. I hope he keeps the momentum up.