Monthly Archives: August 2012

HERE’S THE DEAL ON THAT HISTORY CHANNEL THING

I finally got the chance to talk to the History Channel today about the show I mentioned on Twitter. Seems very exciting!

Let me give you the rundown of the show first: The show is one we’ve all seen before, called “How The States Got Their Shapes”. The premise of the show is basically Brian Unger driving around in places, looking at stuff, and talking to locals, interspersed with experts talking about the area.

What they told me they were looking for was a little bit different. The premise of this particular segment is QUIZ ROUND. They are looking for dynamic, self-proclaimed nerds who have a grasp on local history. They did mention they weren’t necessarily looking for experts, just dynamic people. The format will be one-on-one quiz rounds, 15 questions a piece. She said that it’s not a formal game show and that nobody will end up looking dumb, if that’s a worry. The whole segment will take about 3 hours to film. It is also in Baton Rouge, so make sure you have transportation and they did mention they would take care of some travel costs.

I’ve got several people in mind, but I want to reach out to people that have come to Nerd Nite regularly. If you’ve been a presenter or regular attendee, you all know my email. I trust your suggestions. Please send them to me, even if that suggestion is you, and I’m going to send them 4 or 5 names to contact.

 

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TRUE BELIEVER

My friend Brent loved music. That was our common bond. I’m being a little selfish with my words, because I know that was probably his common bond with a lot of people. But, that’s how we got to know each other on nights at bars or at shows around Austin in the early part of this century.  We talked about a lot of bands and a lot of jukeboxes in Austin. He told me which ones I had to find. I will say, we weren’t very close on a personal level. I knew he had a wife and a lot of really cool friends. I only met her a couple of times and I didn’t know any of the others. But we had some great talks about music. The past, present, future, love and importance of it.

When I moved there in 2003, I had never been to Austin before. I’m not sure I’d even driven through it. I was young and very excited to be somewhere new and on my own – in a city saturated in music, steeped in history, and ready to give me my first taste of SxSW. Brent was one of the first people I met in Austin and he was as excited about that as I was, even though he’d been there for god knows how long by that point (with quite a remarkable history, I’m discovering). Upstairs at Opal Divine’s, we sat at the small bar, ordering drinks, talking about music. I made a joke about dolphin mating, and walked around with my hands on my head like a fin, making ear-piercing dolphin squawks. He laughed, and from that, could tell I was definitely a silly kid. There was probably 20 years of daylight between us. But, that never mattered. He knew I was excited about music and sponge-like in my thirst for information. He never patronized me or did that thing where older, cooler people tell you “You weren’t even born when that band was around!” because like all true music lovers, he knew that it transcends time, birthdates, everything.

We exchanged phone numbers but our meetings were charmingly random and sporadic. For me, the only times I called were when I was getting itchy to talk about new music over a few drinks or I was creeping around for a free SxSW badge. He never gave me one. Instead, he told me to come volunteer, for which I’m thankful. Because of that, I built a relationship with the city, the festival and the music. Like a lot of friendships, after a few years, the time between our meetings was longer and longer. SxSW was becoming bigger and bigger. His personal life was filling out with a family and I was entrenched in my own goings-on. When we did see each other, often when bands were nearby, the visits were short, but lovely and sweet.

My friend Brent died suddenly, unexpectedly yesterday morning and I found out a few hours later. To say the least, I was devastated. Not because we were now so close, but because it’s shocking that he was so young — too young — and because of that, I always assumed I’d see him again. I took for granted that I’d see him again. And now I won’t.

He’ll never even know his influence on me. Because, like a careless human, I never got around to telling him.

Now, the greatest tribute I can personally pay him is to tell you all that he is part of the reason I am so passionate about music today. It’s always been a part of my life, and I have always loved it. But, Brent was my blueprint because of his love and enthusiasm for it. His thirst for it. His constant craving. I want to never, ever lose my passion for or become cynical about what music is, was or can be.

The second greatest tribute I can pay him is to let you all know that if you’ve ever been to Austin or SxSW, if you’ve fallen in love with a band that got its break there, been to a day party there, have seen a movie from the film festival, heard about tech from Interactive, read about it, or even just know who I am, then you’ve also been influenced by Brent Grulke.  Every single one of you reading this has.

The loss of Brent is a disastrous blow for all that knew him and all that didn’t. That is to say, for everyone. Austin and SxSW will never be the same. Music will never be the same. I’ll never be the same. Not just because he died. Also, because he lived.

Thank you, Brent, for remaining a true believer and showing me how to be one. Thank you so much for allowing me to be a small part of your extraordinary life. You will always be a huge part of mine.

 

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A RAMBLING POST ABOUT AUTONOMY

I talk a lot about autonomy, and the pros and cons of curating a life to achieve it. My family was never dictated by any particular dogma, religious or community-based. The tools we were given by my Mom were sensibility and practicality at all costs. In fact, we were all sort of allowed to choose our own lives, which I’ve noticed doesn’t happen a lot. We never had curfews and Mom never limited our experiences. We were allowed to go to any church or not go at all, if we wanted to. We weren’t forced into choosing a particular school or sports program. We were taught about responsibility and consequence. When I was 16, my Mom gave me and my younger sister and brother some money, filled up my gas tank, and let us schlep up to Oklahoma by ourselves to visit family and friends for spring break. It’s a simple example, but I didn’t recognize this was abnormal until I returned home and other friend’s parents were horrified, asking “WHAT? YOU WENT ALONE?” Yeah, we did. I didn’t think that was a big deal.

It’s not that I think being dictated by a structured way of life is bad. Most of my friends growing up were pretty sheltered or religious and have normal, successful adult lives. But, I know for sure my adult life is diametrically different than theirs. Not better, not worse, but different. If anything, I live a life of more freedom than anyone I know. When I say freedom, I don’t mean just that go-anywhere, do-anything type of freedom, but an independence I gained because I was allowed to participate in the creation of my own system of morality and deciding what things are valuable to me, instead of being told just “this is wrong, that is right”.

This is not to say that everything I’ve done has been acceptable because I have more of a laissez-faire attitude toward people and life. I’ve committed some personal atrocities toward individuals I’ve cared about and have harmed myself in the process of figuring out love and how to live a life worthy of mention. Or worthy of sharing. Those are the cons I mentioned before. These are the frightening, horrific, keep you awake at night, scared of the dark parts where traditional doctrines or articles of faith could’ve come in useful. The unintended result is that I’ve never been very ambitious about or confident in my ability to love people. And by that, I do mean romantic love above all other forms.

But while that exists and keeps me feeling broken, I have never had a single doubt about my ability to revel in adventure and new experiences, scary as they may be. What really got me thinking about this post is a close friend who expressed her own fear about leaving a place she’s lived her whole life to attempt to forge another one in a new city. I feel confident enough in my sense of adventure to encourage not only the move, but the fear as well. The advice I give (and I’m using the term advice liberally) is: Embrace the fear. It is the only way to become fearless. Be afraid of it. But, take the shot. Rip off the band-aid. Jump behind the wheel. Conquer it. Free yourself from it. You are stronger than you think you are. Platitude, platitude, platitude. I may at some point figure out a way to transition my attitude about adventure to my attitude about love.

I guess the truth is that autonomy and autodidactism is not for everybody. Like I pointed out earlier, I recognize my life is different than a lot of other lives. I’m very aware that speaking of myself like this is kind of obnoxious and self-congratulatory. I also see the irony in creating an autonomous life and then talking about sharing it. It’s a tricky road with directions other than left or right. Infinite possibilities, including sideways and backwards. Liberty is a long, hard, scary, uphill journey only to find your destination is a kind of lonely place. Decide what’s valuable to you and curate your environment to the point of exhaustion. That, to me, is a life well lived. That, to me, is happiness.

Oddly enough, the place to start is likely a place you’ve never spent much time in before.

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