Christopher Locke (modern fossils, TSA confiscation sculptures, adult coloring book) sez, "I want to hand-draw a few hundred portraits on Post-It Notes, then compile them into a book, so I'm asking people to buy the portraits in order to fund the project: $25 gets you hand-drawn likeness of yourself, arriving in the mail and suitable for framing. The process will help me in teaching middle-schoolers about dedication to long-term projects."
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Jon Lebkowsky sez, "My amazing friend, neurocomputing specialist, musician & composer David Demaris has created the most geek-tastic opera ever, For Fear the Glass May Shatter. It's been produced as part of Austin's Fusebox Festival, and is running through this weekend at the Vortex Theatre here."
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Dirt Road To Psychedelia is a documentary about the underground culture and music scene in Austin, Texas during the 1960s. Above is the trailer.
"With a folk-singing Janis Joplin, the 13th Floor Elevators, peyote, LSD and the first psychedelic music venue in Texas, Austin was a fertile ground for the emerging counterculture of the 1960s," says director Scott Conn.
If you're lucky enough to be in Waxahachie, Texas this Sunday (3/23), check it out live at the wunderkammer that is the Webb Gallery as part of their "Big Hair & Sparkly Pants" Texas-themed group art show. You can also buy the DVD on Amazon.
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The ACLU and SXSW will host a video chat with Edward Snowden on Monday, during the day's civil-liberties-focused program track. I'll be speaking immediately before Snowden, with Barton Gellman, and we will be staying for the Snowden event. Snowden will be interviewed by ACLU technologist Christopher Soghoian, and the event is moderated by the ACLU's Ben Wizner. I hope to see you there -- it's why I'm flying to Austin.
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Jonl sez, "Streets near the University of Texas at Austin today are safer, thanks to quick and effective action by the local police, who caught and arrested a jogger, observed wearing a pony tail, black shorts, and a headset in the area. She was apparently menacing traffic by crossing the street in a manner construed as 'jaywalking,' however her apparent arrest was due to her failure to provide identification: i.e., she was guilty not just of jaywalking, but of anonymous jaywalking."
I'll be returning to SXSW Interactive this March for the first time in more than five years, to interview Pulitzer-winning journalist Barton Gellman, who is one of the journalists who's been entrusted with some of the Snowden NSA leaks. We're doing a presentation called "Snowden 2.0: A Field Report From the NSA Archives," which follows an address by Glenn Greenwald. We're speaking on March 10 -- I hope to see you!
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Lizzy writes from Austin's magnificent toy emporium Toy Joy:
Here at Toy Joy, April Fools Day smells like Unicorns! Specifically, Unicorn Farts! Not only is April 1 celebrated globally as a holiday of mischief, it also happens to be the best day for harvesting the rarest of poots: Unicorn Farts! Currently offered both in store at Toy Joy and at ToyJoy.com for the low price of $2.95, this enchanted product is sure to bring a smile to your prince or princess.
* 100% Organic Concentrated Unicorn Farts
* Unique Addition to Most Fart Collections!
* Important Ingredient for Magic Spells.
* Handy Household Fragrance.
* Delicious on Salads!
We anticipate a high demand for these rarest of odors, and recommend stocking up on this magical product. Unicorn Farts won't be around forever!
Please feel free to contact the wizarding team at Toy Joy for additional information on this product, or the harvesting process. Send all emails to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Happy Mutant (and EFF-Austin co-founder) Jon Lebkowsky has a great piece in the new Austin Chronicle about Aaron Swartz, privacy, copyright, and the future of computers:
It's an odd predicament, seeing your customer as the enemy. Attempts by the music industry to protect its control of distribution have risked alienation of a customer base that has a multiplicity of channels for free and low-cost alternatives via cyberspace, including a bazillion "Internet radio" channels; online services like Pandora, Last.FM, and Spotify; savvy artists distributing their own tunes online; and, of course, various file-sharing sites like the Pirate Bay. Even with the "pirate" sources out of the way, record labels would be hurting, because they no longer control distribution. The same is true for all media. Distribution channels are more ad hoc, product is abundant, it's cheap or free, and competition for whatever dollars are still flowing is fierce.
Like I mentioned in the Blooming Flower post, I'm headed home with a suitcase full of dirty laundry and toys for my five year old. Another awesome score from this trip is the Hello Kitty Reversible 8" Plush: Hamburger, a plush Hello Kitty toy that inverts and forms a Hello Kitty hamburger. It's a thing, then it's another thing! (And there's a turkey version, too).
If you're headed to SXSW, you should really get all your friends in a taxi and ride out to Toy Joy and then eat some of the spectacular barbecue at Ruby's BBQ, kitty-corner from the shop. It's pretty much the perfect outing, and at least as cool (if not cooler) than anything you'll actually see presented on the conference floor.
Austin loses an icon of High Weirdness: Albert Leslie Cochran, homeless, thong-wearing, would-be mayor
Photo: Leslie Cochran at rest at an Austin intersection in 1998 (Vernon Bryant, The Austin American-Statesman via NYT)
New York Times reporter and native Texas son John Schwartz writes about the death of Albert Leslie Cochran, 60: "A bearded, cross-dressing, often homeless Austinite who was also an occasional candidate for mayor."
Wearing a cheerleader’s uniform, a tutu or a simple thong, accessorized with a feather boa or tiara, Mr. Cochran was an eye-catching figure in a city where eccentricity is nothing special. A popular bumper sticker, “Keep Austin Weird,” is the rallying cry of a place that resists the civic homogenization that can turn every town into pretty much every other town. “When people see the bumper sticker, they think of Leslie,” said Debbie Russell, a local activist and friend.
Scott Henson, "a former journalist turned opposition researcher/political consultant, public policy researcher and blogger," recounts how he was repeatedly stopped and eventually cuffed and detained while walking his granddaughter home through a park in Austin, TX. Henson is white and his granddaughter is black, and the police said that they were responding to a "kidnapping" call. But their response terrified the little girl and humiliated her grandfather. And it's not the first time it's happened to them.
As soon as we crossed the street, just two blocks from my house as the crow flies, the police car that just passed us hit its lights and wheeled around, with five others appearing almost immediately, all with lights flashing. The officers got out with tasers drawn demanding I raise my hands and step away from the child. I complied, and they roughly cuffed me, jerking my arms up behind me needlessly. Meanwhile, Ty edged up the hill away from the officers, crying. One of them called out in a comforting tone that they weren't there to hurt her, but another officer blew up any good will that might have garnered by brusquely snatching her up and scuttling her off to the back seat of one of the police cars. (By this time more cars had joined them; they maxxed out at 9 or 10 police vehicles.)
I gave them the phone numbers they needed to confirm who Ty was and that she was supposed to be with me (and not in the back of their police car), but for quite a while nobody seemed too interested in verifying my "story." One officer wanted to lecture me endlessly about how they were just doing their job, as if the innocent person handcuffed on the side of the road cares about such excuses. I asked why he hadn't made any calls yet, and he interrupted his lecture to say "we've only been here two minutes, give us time" (actually it'd been longer than that). "Maybe so," I replied, sitting on the concrete in handcuffs, "but there are nine of y'all milling about doing nothing by my count so between you you've had 18 minutes for somebody to get on the damn phone by now so y'all can figure out you screwed up." Admittedly, this did not go over well. I could tell I was too pissed off to say anything constructive and silently vowed to keep mum from then on.
To me, the point of this story is how "see something, say something," fails. The police and some person or persons in the park believed that Henson and his granddaughter didn't "look right" and "just to be safe" called in the report and responded in force. But "doesn't look right" is culturally determined and informed by our conscious and subconscious biases. For people unaccustomed to mixed-race families, "doesn't look right" means calling the police down on the innocent children and grandparents in your neighborhood. At its core, "see something, say something" isn't about a war on crime, it's a war on surprises, whose core premise is to mistrust and fear things you can't understand.