Monday, September 22, 2008

Adios to Austin

I flew down to Austin for business last Friday, staying for the weekend.

Austin is one of my favorite places. Not necessarily for the food, the live music, the attractive UT coeds, or the scenic landscape.

Austin Texas is where I spent too much of my first 3 years of college. Because I went to school in College Station, going to Austin was a convenient diversion from what I was supposed to be doing, namely, getting an education.

I learned a lot about myself from this experience. I learned that I was too immature to fall in love, I learned that no matter what shithole I put myself into, only I have the capablility to extract myself from said shithole, and that I really enjoyed new experiences, and should not be afraid to jump into the deep end of the pool.

When I first left Austin for the last time, it was 1983, and as I drove north on IH-35 toward Illinois, I thought it would take some doing to get me back there.

In the early 1990's, however, I was back, at the time scouting for a place to live, as my friend Artist James and his wife, Kathy, were going to move to Austin, and my wife was going to transfer to Austin with Motorola. My hopes were dashed when we could not make the move. The Austin of the early 90's was similar to the Austin of the mid '80's. I found that I still loved the city, the Capital, the food, the nightlife, etc. It could do no wrong.

After James and Kathy settled in Austin, my wife and would make annual trips to see them, just a 2 1/2 hour plane ride and I could be back in Utopia. We'd always go in the Spring during Bluebonnet time. We still made regular trips after our daughter was born. I felt it was important to return as often as possible so I could retain my Texas 'citizenship'.

Sadly, after our son was born, we only made one more trip down. I guess our family decided to make future vacations more destination driven, and Austin sort of fell off our screen. I'd make the suggestion to go, but it was shot down. My wife seemed to think that my love of Bluebonnets and Indian Paintbrushes was a bit provincial, saying that they really weren't any different from the yellow dandelions and other 'weeds' that grew along Illinois roadsides. I continue to love my wife even though she doesn't understand.

By some great collision of fortune and ability, James and Kathy (and Emma and Murray) are leaving Austin soon to spend a year in New York City. After that year, they have no idea where they will go. Probably not back to Austin. And now, suddenly, any excuse I have to visit Austin is gone.

That thought occured to me Sunday morning as I left my hotel and drove down Guadalope one last time, remembering the dragworms, the BK Lounge, all the sights, sounds and smells of a magical time long ago. A wave of great emotion overtook me, and I found myself wanting to call the old girlfriend who lured me to Austin over 25 years ago. I didn't call her, of course, I really wasn't sure what to say or how to say it. I just thought that in some ways, my greatest joy was experienced in those blocks between 15th street and 30th street. Despite the turmoil my hopelessly romantic heart experienced back then, I know that in some ways I was never happier.

Austin in 2008 has changed a lot since 1983. More high-rise buildings compete with the view of the Capital, Sixth Street parties a little too hearty, although the UT Coeds going to the football game in their short denim skirts and cowgirl boots remind me of my youth, poorly spent.

An older, perhaps wiser, 45 year-old man left Austin yesterday, eagerly returning to the family that he loves in Illinois. I really don't know if I'll ever find myself in Austin again, but until then, adios, dear friend.

Plakovic's "The Live Music Capital of the World" adorns this post. Visit to purchase.

Friday, September 12, 2008

September 12

Now that my son is 8, he is very interested in history and science.

I had the History Channel on last night, with it's various September 11 programs. My son was very interested in them, as he was just 1 and a half back in 2001. So we watched a show about the evacuation of the World Trade Centers, and the heroic sacrifice of one of the security chiefs who had been anticipated a terrorist attack since the bombing in 1993.

At some point, watching the planes crash and the buildings fall became too much for me. As I watch the famous footage of the second jet collide with the tower, the fact that 300 lives ended at that moment hits me very hard. To know that as the buildings fall (in the span it takes to write this sentence), thousands of regular, innocent people will die overcomes me.

While I was fortunate enough not to have known anyone personally who died that day, I do have a friend who was across the river watching it happen, fearful of what was coming next. The husband of a good friend of mine was working in the pentagon that day. Just regular people, doing regular jobs.

Along with the sense of loss, it was the fear of not knowing when the planes would stop crashing that I still carry with me. I live 30 miles due east of a nuclear power plant, and yes, our family has an 'escape plan' if it is ever attacked.

September 11, 2008.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Intellectual Property

Those darn Republicans!

First the use Jackson Browne's Running on Empty "without permission", then they use a Bon Jovi or Mellencamp song "without permission", and, by golly, they've used Heart's Barracuda for VP candidate Sarah Palin, again, without asking the recording artists permission to do so.

If it were only so easy.

Do you think that a radio station has to ask permission to play a record?

As long as the music publisher and composer's rights organization are paid, anyone can usually use a recorded work for whatever reason. That's why music publishers and organizations such as ASCAP and BMI exist.

The most an artist can do is complain, and if they still own the rights to the song, collect the royalty check. If the offending organization, in this instance the Republicans, are using the song without paying (pirating), then the artist can be outraged.

Certainly, Browne does not want one of his greatest hits (and one of my favorite songs) associated with the McCain Campaign. But a lawsuit? Sort of a waste of money, if you ask me.

A recent AP story states "Despite the Wilson sisters' objections, one of the song's co-writers said he was "thrilled" that the song was used.

In an e-mail to Reuters, the band's former guitarist, Roger Fisher, said it was a win-win situation. Heart gets publicity and royalties, while the Republicans benefit from "the ingenious placement of a kick-ass song," Fisher said.

But in a subsequent email, Fisher said he strongly endorsed the Democratic ticket, and would donate a portion of royalties he receives from the Republicans' airing of "Barracuda" to the campaign of Sen. Barack Obama.

I think this is the best way to handle the situation.

By the way, any song in the Hansen/Plakovic catalog is available to either presidential nominee. For a fee, of course.

We're all about airplay.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Sarah big and tall

Yes, I had heard of Sarah Palin before last Friday. As anyone who knows me understands: I'm all about attractive women over 40.

However, as a "Dennis Miller Republican", I have to confess that I am not on board with her selection as running mate. Sure, I can see VP hopeful Joe Biden get terrorist brains on his Ivy League suit (Godfather reference), but I can't get past Sarah needing to hand the baby over to the au pair just to reach in her purse to pull out her Glock.

I have reached the age where important leaders are older than me. But I just don't know about Sarah yet.

She gave a swell speech last night, but I don't think the disenfranchised Hillary supporters are buying it.

I'm not sure I can watch McCain give his speech (speechifying is not his strong suit) tonight, but I sure hope it is full of IDEAS and SOLUTIONS and not the same old crap.

We'll see.