Why I Love Jezebel

If you are just so out of touch with all that is wonderful and enjoyable and you have never read an article on Jezebel.com, then you should consider doing so in the very, very near future. It is no doubt my favorite outlet for news commentary because it approaches and critiques headline-making stories and the media in an oftentimes sarcastic and dry manner, similar to that of Jon Stewart and even The Onion newspaper. The conversational commentary that the editors embed throughout their stories are almost, by themselves, entirely worth visiting the site on a daily basis.

My favorite series of articles that Jezebel puts out are the collections of various pop culture stories. They are seriously hilariously clever, but the sort of humor that appeals to a particular audience (my guess is trendy, socially conscious females in their 20s.) The site heavily focuses on, acknowledges, and discusses issues regarding women’s health, particularly abortion and access to birth control, considering that has been a steaming hot controversial issue in the past several years. The editors approach these topics with an “Um, duh…” attitude, boiling the arguments down to a rational and discernable level that is much easier for the youth to digest than the arguments we often hear straight from the politicians representing each side of the whatever issue.

I love Jezebel, and you should, too.

Next Stop….

In case I haven’t made it clear enough thus far in my previous blog posts, I was born and raised in Austin, Texas, and am incredibly proud of where I come from. The only time that I have lived elsewhere was the one year of college I did in Savannah, GA. I only did a year at SCAD before transferring because I was so seriously homesick for my house, my city, and my state.

That being said, and considering I only have one more year of school left, I have begun to think of what I will be doing post-college. And I am absolutely dying to go explore other cities. As long as there is lots….and lots….of nature, I am fairly open-minded about where I could live, even if just temporarily. For whatever reason, during a game of Apples to Apples with my grandma, sister, and aunt, I had the realization that I want to move to San Francisco—a place I have never visited, but have always had a fantastical and lovely perception for.

I began doing some frivolously curious research about San Francisco, starting at Craigslist’s housing. The cheapest apartment I found *brace yourself* was $2,000 A MONTH for a tiny 1 bedroom/1 bathroom apartment. I was floored. I then moved to Google to explore the cost of living in San Francisco. Turns out, SF has the 4th highest cost of living in the country. *Le sigh.* Not exactly ideal for a poor post-grad student. But San Fran is still #1 on my list, considering the thriving art community and the consistent praise I have heard about the city. My #2 choice (as of now) is my other favorite city, Chapel Hill, North Carolina. So stay tuned, folks! Let’s see if Whitney will be able to maintain outside of her familiar Texas borders!

Buccaneer Basketball

Even just walking into the gymnasium brought back memories of anxiety, celebration, and competition. Tonight was my little sister’s first home basketball game at Hudson Bend Middle School, the same middle school that my brother and I went to. Jessie is on the 7th grade B team, and although they got beat by Marble Falls (perhaps the term “annihilated” would be more fitting), it was very enjoyable to, in a sense, momentarily bask in the memories that I had formed in that same gym when I played basketball. Different coaches, different uniforms, different students, but I am willing to bet that the sense of feeling part of the group, the 5th-grade level of humor, and ridiculously silly locker room talk is still the same.

I loved watching sis play, sure, but what I really enjoyed about her basketball game was the opportunity to quietly observe the anxiety-ridden dynamic that is middle school interaction. Lord knows ya couldn’t pay me enough to have to relive middle school.

Infowars Paranoia

October 2012 Infowars cover

I recently picked up the October issue of Infowars, a new, free monthly publication released by infamous conspiracy theorist, Alex Jones. Honestly, I liked the design of the cover and the few pages that I quickly flipped through, so I grabbed it, always curious to explore new and seemingly interesting pieces of print.

The theme of this issue is zombies. One of the first articles in the magazine, “Breaking the Zombie Programming: We Can Become Conscious!,” introduces the concept of human beings existing in a “zombie-like” consciousness. Steve Watson, the author, elaborates on his belief that the huge majority of modern day people—himself included—spend about 99% of their lives simply going through the motions. Watson references (or entirely repeats, I’m not sure) Todd C. Moody, a philosophy professor at St. Joseph’s University, and Charles T. Tart, a professor (?) at the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology.

“These zombie qualities,” Tart explains, “include: a) a greatly reduced sense of aliveness and vitality [and] b) a great narrowing of perspective and perception,” among several other zombie-esque qualities.

Watson’s article was the only one I read in its entirety. I just couldn’t get through any more. I skimmed the remainder of the publication and from the story headers, images, and pull quotes of the other articles, it is as if the writers become more and more paranoid, more insistent on spreading fear, more skeptical of every single component of society.

Infowars is a well designed publication and successfully appeals to a very particular audience, but I am certainly not a member of this audience. It is a dark and borderline fictional magazine. If anything, I can use it to make my collages with.

Smoked Turkey

I think it is safe to say that the essence of American Thanksgiving is the turkey. It is also safe to say that I have finally acknowledged the fact that…I don’t like turkey.

At least, I thought I didn’t like turkey.

For our Thanksgiving meal this year, my parents smoked a turkey with my dad’s new smoker. And I liked it (!!!). My dad explained that by smoking it instead of roasting or frying it, all of the natural juices of the meat were preserved.

Mom does it yet again. Another meal that blew my mind.

Formula 1 Clarification

I admit that I have done nothing but complain about how much Austin’s new Formula One Track is affecting this city. However, the Austin Chronicle’s Jordan Smith did a great piece in this week’s Chronicle. It explains exactly what the buzz about the sport is.

A Beginner’s Guide to Formula One

Debunking myths in a crash course to race weekend

So you live here and can’t avoid the race talk anymore, huh? Maybe you’re singing those inimitable words of Rhett Miller: “Where did all these people come from, and how soon can they leave?”

We’ve been bracing for this for years now, folks. You’ve followed all the twists and turns of the tale so far (see here if you need a refresher), and Formula One is finally in our midst.

When the rubber meets the road at the new Circuit of the Americas this weekend, it will mark the first time in five years that a Grand Prix, the crown jewel of international motor sports, will be run in the U.S. With that in mind, we offer you this brief primer on Formula One racing. It’s at least enough to give you something to talk about around the watercooler on Monday.

It’s just like NASCAR, right?

Wrong. The Formula One World Champ-ionship is the pinnacle of single-seat, open-cockpit, and open-wheel auto racing. The cars must adhere to a specific set of engineering standards – the “formula” – and are the fastest and most innovative automobiles of their kind – hence, the “one.” The carbon-fiber-based cars, with driver, weigh just over 1,000 pounds; the car’s hallmark wings – mounted at front and rear – provide significant downforce, which keeps the cars stable and allows them to corner at high speed.

Don’t they only turn left?

At ease, Zoolander. The Formula One season is made up of a series of races, or Grand Prix, held around the world – from Bahrain to Australia to Singapore and now, Austin. Races are held on special F1 tracks – like Austin’s 3.4-mile Circuit of the Americas – or on courses created on existing city streets. Either way, an F1 circuit is much more than the left-left-left-left turns that NASCAR and other stock car racing fans are used to. They’re full of switchbacks, elevation changes, and straightaways along which the cars can reach speeds well over 200 mph.

All this for one race?

Not exactly. This is a three-day event that culminates with the running of the Grand Prix on Sunday at 1pm. Things really get going on Friday morning, starting at 9am, with the first of three practice sessions. These allow the drivers and their teams to get a feel for the track – and its challenges – and to begin to plot strategy for the race. On Saturday at noon, the drivers will begin the qualifying sessions. In a series of three heats, drivers will shoot for their fastest laps, earning their spots on the starting grid and shooting for the coveted pole position – the No. 1 spot, which affords the driver the greatest physical advantage to pull ahead and set the pace of the race. (It is possible to be disqualified if the car and driver don’t perform up to par – known as the 107% rule, all cars must be within 107% of the fastest qualifying time in order to remain in the race; in essence, this is a safety rule: Slow cars can be dangerous obstacles.)

On Sunday, drivers take to the track a half-hour before start time to warm up their cars – key to this is warming up the tires, to achieve maximum grip on the track. At race time, the cars are lined up according to grid position and, after one last relatively slow “formation” or warm-up lap, they’re off! The Austin race will consist of 56 laps around the track, for a total distance of about 192 miles.

So, what are the rules?

As you’d expect, and generally speaking, the first person to cross the finish line after completing all 56 laps is the winner. (Fun fact: The race must finish within two hours or it is called, regardless of the number of laps completed – this is mostly an issue for racing in extreme weather conditions, and thus isn’t likely this weekend in Austin.) Points are awarded to the top 10 finishers, with the first-place driver receiving 25 points and the 10th place finisher earning one point.

During the race, drivers may make any number of pit stops, where crews can fix damage to the car or replace tires. No refuel­ing is allowed. There are two types of tires used on these cars, and during the course of the race each car must use both types. When to pit and when to change tires is a matter of strategy among the racing teams. The goal, of course, is to maximize the car’s potential.

I have a seat, but what will I see?

Because an F1 track is longer and more involved than, say, Texas Motor Speedway, you can’t sit in one seat and see all the action. Some folks like the straightaway, where cars go the fastest and where the start/finish line is located. At Austin’s track, the main grandstand is located along this straight. Others prefer to watch from a turn, where more technical driving is on display and where most of the passing action happens. Wherever you stand or sit, remember this: Bring ear protection – preferably the over-the-ear variety. Shooting sport ear protection works well, and you can pick up a decent pair for cheap at any local sporting goods store. Motor sports are incredibly loud – the sort of piercing sound you can’t appreciate until you’ve actually experienced it. Yes, this is the live music capital of the world, but trust us, standing near the Wall of Sound is nothing compared to the roar of dozens of engines blasting by you. Also good to bring to race day: binoculars, rain protection (you never know), and a small radio (satellite, transistor) that can be used with earbuds, because you can’t see everything at the track, and it’s nice to listen in to find out what’s going on at other points along the circuit. Austin’s race will be carried live on SiriusXM channel 208, 104.9FM ESPN the Horn, and KLBJ News Radio 590AM.

East Austin Studio Tour

This weekend I briefly attended a part of the annual East Austin Studio Tour (EAST). One of my really good friends participated in “The Modern Nomad: A pop Up Art Gallery,” which was held out of the back of a U-HAUL truck, though I regret not attending as many of the exhibits as possible.

EAST was started 11 years ago by Big Medium, “an Austin-based non-profit organization dedicated to supporting visual arts and artists in Texas” [EAST website]. The nine-day event celebrates the sculptors, painters, illustrators, designers, creators of Austin by giving them the opportunity to display their work in one of the many exhibits or venues set up throughout the eastside (the area east of I-35, west of 183, south of 290, and north of Ladybird Lake/Colorado River).

The event is very relaxed and self-paced, considering that it is a self-guided tour of the exhibits and art-centered events. The East Austin Studio Tour is free and open to the public. This year the tour kicked off on November 8 and lasts until November 18th, so I strongly encourage everybody to at least stop by a couple of the exhibits to see some of the mind-blowing creations that are being produced by your own neighbors and fellow city residents.


Why is country dancing so difficult?

Every Monday, as I’m on my way to class, I check the marquee outside of the Broken Spoke to see who is playing each night of that week. I just so happened to notice that the always charming Dale Watson would be coming to the venue on Friday night. I immediately began gathering the troops.

Dale Watson, Whit, Bray, and sis

My first trip to the Broken Spoke; Dale Watson saw us taking a photo next to the stage and when he finished his song, he insisted he be in the photo with us! Very cool

Before the musical guest comes on, there is always a one hour dance lesson for all the beginners, out-of-towners, and just plain shameful Texans that can’t two-step (yours truly fits would fit in the latter category). The same lady does it every night, perhaps because she explains the steps in such an understandably effortless manner. Dale Watson was playing the first night I went to the Spoke, and his song “Quick, Quick, Slow, Slow” is also an excellent guide for those unfamiliar with the oddly formulaic style of country music.

However, last night, we didn’t go early enough for the dance lessons, and Watson didn’t play his helpful song. I was on my own to mock the expert steps and grace of the older, more experienced couples rotating counter-clockwise around the dance floor.

After I finally convinced anybody to dance with me (even though I am incredibly inexperienced, I figured that I didn’t know anybody other than my handful of friends there, so who really cared if I looked like a total goofball?), my first dance partner, Taylor, who is just as determined as I am to become a much-envied two-stepper, and I spent the entire song readjusting our hands and arms and knees and feet and focused too much on taking two shuffles forward and two slow shuffles back. He is a very technical person (and I know how much he hates not being good at something or doing it formulaically incorrect), so he kept insisting that we watch some YouTube tutorials before we even attempt to dance beneath the public eye. I just insisted we simply glide to the music, because after all, it is only dancing. I gave up on Taylor after only a couple of laps around the dancefloor and convinced my younger sister, Jess, to dance with me. Too many people watching, too little experience, and too much anxiety, sis was out after half a song.

I really, genuinely want to be a good country dancer! When you watch those that actually know what they are doing and obviously do it on a regular basis, it is so beautiful. Nobody looks worried or angry or sad or stressed when they are two-stepping. They look content and relaxed and graceful. Each couple looks like there is a very particularly special connection created during that song and that dance, even if they are strangers that simply want to dance with somebody.

I need a private dance tutor.

Another Fleeting Food Trailer Park

On my way to class last week, I noticed the food trailer park across from my apartment complex on South Lamar seemed…unusually and particularly airy. I realized that the left 3 trailers of the once total 6 trailers were gone. I thought maybe they were just getting some mechanical work done (because…I know nothing of airstream care…), until I saw the sign: “KICKED OUT FOR CONDOS! LAST DAY 10/31” it said in bold crooked letters. My heart sank.

I will be the first to admit that a bowl of buttery noodles would suffice for all three of my daily meals; my culinary appeal is similar to that of a five-year-old. It isn’t that I can’t appreciate “exquisite cousine,” I’m just satisfied with the bare minimum. That being said, I absolutely appreciate the environment of where I am consuming a meal. The concept of trailer park eateries—of ordering food at the window of a vintage airstream—is, at its essence (and excuse my cliché), so very Austin. Million dollar condominiums are, well…not.

South Lamar has become a breeding ground for the newest housing and shopping developments popping up around the city. Recently, a development plan finally passed to completely redo the South Lamar Plaza. To clarify, this is the shopping center that houses Alamo Drafthouse and Highball. Though these two will only temporarily close during the construction and will reopen, all other shops in the shopping center will be closing in the next couple of months. In addition to the South Lamar trailer park eatery closing for development, the popular trailer park on South Congress will also be closing soon enough to make way for the hotel that is currently in the works.

I’m confident than the majority of the airsteams located in the South Lamar eatery have found new locations, just…not within walking distance for me. Trai Mai Thai, Honky Tonk Hot Dog, Collies Real Serious Burgers, and a handful of other food vendors composed this particular eatery and always had a constant but small flow of customers. They were each so distinctly different, offering a solid variety of food and drinks. Though I’m sure the owners and regular customers are disappointed to be out of the location so quickly (they had only opened a couple of months ago), it will be interesting to see what will be next to pop up in that same spot.

Although I know I am constantly complaining about my beloved city changing, I think all of us who currently live here should be a bit concerned. If we start taking away the bits and pieces that make this city what it is, then we are left to live in a place with no particularities and could be any other city. I will resist my urge to organize a development protest…but I do want to remind all of us lucky enough to live in one of the coolest cities in the world to appreciate and support the little places here and there that make it so cool. Like the various trailer park eateries that are still left standing.