Triple Bill for the Weekend

Whiling away the weekend, I thought maybe I’d share a threesome of recent pleasures for your weekend entertainment: some music, a movie, and a book that have recently tickled my fancy.

Blue Mountain

Bob Weir-Blue MountainThe Grateful Dead’s perennial kid, Bob Weir,  has aged and mellowed into a wizened sage since he first joined the band while still in high school. He’s still out there exploring different musical styles and sharing stages with musicians of all ages and musical styles, mining deeply the old Dead catalog, as well as his own treasure trove of songs.

For his first solo album in many years, though, Bob revisited an early summer experience working on a ranch in Wyoming as a teenager.

Yes, this might seem like a bit of a twist for folks unfamiliar with some of Bob’s background, but he’s been singing what some Deadheads used to derisively call “the cowboy songs” like his own Mexicali Blues as well as traditional tunes (Dark Hollow) and country standards by the likes of Merle Haggard (Mama Tried), the whole time.

Anyway, I found easily half of the songs to be instant earworms and have been immensely enjoying the entire album. Here’s Bob performing one of the new songs, Only a River:

Well, I was born up in the mountains,
Raised up in a desert town.
And I never saw the ocean
Till I was close to your age now.
Oh, Shenandoah, I long to see you.
Hey, hey, hey, you rolling river.
Oh, Shenandoah, I long to see you.
Hey, hey, hey —
Only a river going to make things right.
Only a river going to make things right.
Only a river going to make things right.

Mascots--Netflix Original MovieMascots

Christopher Guest, who brought us such brilliantly hilarious mockumentaries as Waiting for Guffman, Best of Show, and A Mighty Wind, has sprung another great one focusing on the eccentric obsessions of the people deeply involved in the world of sports mascots.

Created as a Netflix original production, this ensemble piece reunites many of Guest’s great regular actors — Parker Posey, Ed Begley, Jr., Bob Balaban, and Jane Lynch among other familiar faces — into a new tapestry of zany characters set in a bizarrely intense microcosmic world.

Will’s War

Will's War by Janice Woods WindleSometimes, you buy a book and it sits on the shelf awhile. That was my experience with this one by Janice Woods Windle — until last week, when I went from reading a chapter at a time at the beginning to can’t-put-it-down from mid-point till the end.

I’d previously read Janice Woods Windle’s first novel, True Women (as well as the TV movie), enjoying her take on an interesting stretch of Texas history in the 19th century. I especially appreciated her centering the book on the tales of three strong women, providing a female perspective on what has been too often been a male-dominated history.

Once again for Wills’ War, Windle has found inspiration in stories from her own deep, deep Texas roots. This tale relates her grandfather’s 1917 trial for treason in Abilene, Texas in 1917, set against a background of the recent entry of the United States into the war with Germany, and a rising tide of anti-German hatred as well as anti-labor-unionism. We forget the hysteria that led to persecution, beatings, and killings of Texans of German descent across the state. Will Bergfeld was just one of 52 men put on trial at the same time for alleged anti-conscription conspiracies related to the Farmers’ and Laborers’ Preventive Association, or FLPA.

Drawing on court documents, personal journals, and family memories, Windle weaves an intricate tapestry, once again using the voices of 3 women to tell a tale of moral bravery and strength under extreme pressure. More than masterful courtroom drama, she captures the inherent goodness of mot of the people even in the near-toxic atmosphere of the times.

Well, those three oughta keep ya busy awhile — at least through tomorrow.

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Field Report from the Doodle Playground

It’s been just over a month since I hosted a Creative Mornings Austin Field Trip called “I CAN”T DRAW!” — a doodle playground. Since I gave you a bit of a preview, a post-playground review seems past due.

Everything went wrong. First, the projector wouldn’t work (no sound, then no picture either). As I started, I jumbled up my outline notecards so skipped over a few things as I fumbled with stacks of cards. Worried about not being able to fill 75 minutes, I rambled quite a bit at the beginning, then noticed we were 30 minutes into it and still just getting started. So I hurried up, tossed out portions I should’ve kept and had more than one “Oh, I forgot to tell you…” moment. Our time started running out, and I hurried to quickly throw in some info a presentation that should have been an exercise.

They loved it anyway.

My old trainer instincts kicked in about the time the projector failed despite the on-site tech guy trying to get it going for 15 minutes into the session. My optimist streak kicked in about then, too, as I remember thinking, “Thank goodness I decided not to prepare more on the projector.”

The structure for the session (such as it was) was to start with an intro admitting I can’t draw, so I doodle, emphasizing my amateur status as one who doodles simply for the love of it. I showed off some lovely prints of SXSW graphic facilitators’ work and several books on doodling and visual language.

Then, I had them freeform doodle to my adaptation of Sunni Brown‘s story of  a kid’s journey from discovering “I make marks!” until they run smack into the Wall of Words, and how that contributes to the “I CAN”T DRAW!” syndrome. After a little personal history of my journey from watching graphic facilitators to reading Dan Roam, Mike Rohde and Sunni Brown to taking doodle notes at the Creative Mornings meetings, among other places.

I went over some doodle basics: the face matrix, 3 ways to draw people, and basic elements of visual language. Then I had them pair up for an exercise; and after some more rambling talk from me, I had each pair join another at a table to doodle their concepts for a serious of abstract terms, all prior Creative Mornings monthly themes, such as Empathy, Revolution,  Shock, or Sex.

About then, we started running out of time except for a few questions (e.g., Why do I choose a pen over pencil? Portability: two pens, my little notebook, and my iPhone can all fit in my pants’ pockets), so we wrapped it all up.

Afterwards, I went home and basked in the afterglow of a good group session. I found myself pacing around the house, unable to sit still, still abuzz with energy from the whole experience, and ideas spinning off the whole experience. I hit my old trainer/facilitator pace and it felt good, it felt comfortable, it felt effective. I had set out to tell ’em a few specific things about my doodles, but mostly wanted to get them to have fun doodling and connect with each other over some simple practice exercises.

And it worked!



In the weeks since the doodle playground, the Creative Mornings Austin team has asked me if I could give a repeat performance in January for another CMATX Field Trip. Of course I agreed — that ought to give me some more time to get better organized. One attendee also asked me about the possibility of holding some sort of similar session as a fun lead-in a company’s holiday dinner & party. Why, sure!

Already, my thoughts race to possible follow-up sessions, maybe about using doodles for visual thinking and visual communication to improve shared understanding, much along the lines of Dan Roam’s new book Draw to Win. I already have a tentative title picked out for that one: “Do I have to Draw You a Picture?”

In wrapping up last month’s session, I left my playground partners with a garbled rendition of Graham Shaw’s observation after his TEDxHull talk. He pointed out that they all denied they could draw at the beginning of the session — and then drawn several cartoon faces as part of the workshop. He then asked them to consider what other self-limiting beliefs they were allowing to block them from doing more?

Now there’s a question to ponder on the old back porch…





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San Angelo Housing circa 1918

G.M.C. "Cade" Massey

G.M.C. “Cade” Massey

G.M.C. Massey, my grandfather and our guest blogger again today, writes of the housing situation encountered when he moved his family to the West Texas town where he would live until his death years later: San Angelo.

When we moved to San Angelo 40 years ago there was only three realtors in this town, Mistler, Hornish and Burk, and there were 600 vacant houses, and the realtors were not anxious to show them. If you found a house that you would like to have for a home , or to rent, you just simply moved into it and waited for someone to come around and see about it.

I remember that I moved into a house 2017 North Chadbourne, and in a few days a Mr. Snow came around and wanted me to pay $10.00 per month, and offered to sell the place to me for 1,000.00, and give me all the time that I wanted, and let me name the terms. But we had just moved here, and did not want to tie ourselves in any way for we did not know how our job here was going to work out. Now here after 40 years, the lots that was with the home there are very much in demand, and would bring a great deal more than 5 times what I could have bought the place for.

But at that time 18 months later when they were enumerating the census, they had to wait till the Mexican cotton pickers come back from the fall’s work, so that they could be counted so that the city could report 10,000 population as a city. Now after 40 years it boasts of near 70,000 population And a great expansion of its confines, or Territory or city limits.

We moved after one month to 603 Upton St. at $15.00 per month, and there is where we were living when my wife passed away Nov. the 22nd.

Of that same year, and my wife’s dying request was that I should Leave the children back in East Texas with her sister, and mother till I could arrange to keep them at home as they should be, and together as is right for a brood of five from two to 15 years.

And that is what I did: but the children kept writing to me and wanting to be brought back to me: Saying that mother was gone and that I was all that they had and they wanted to be with me, and I could not stand that, and I arranged for a house keeper and went back there and got them, and moved into a house on South Bishop St. and tried to make a home for them as best that weas possible under the circumstances, and it was poor as you must understand that when your housekeeper is not your wife, She is not interested in your affairs, If you are not interested in her as a wife, and this time I was not.

So as speedily as possible, And as surely as I wanted it to be that the marriage would be a success: I arranged, that I could let the housekeeper go; and I was married to a young School Teacher “Miss Villa Ault” and we got married on Easter Sunday, April the 20th, 1919 and this has been reported already in this report.

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Back Porch on the Road

You haven’t heard much from the back porch this past week since we’ve been traveling.

Sunday morning windshield shot heading northward through Texas Panhandle last Sunday

Windshield shot heading northward through Texas Panhandle last Sunday

We are on our way back from Colorado now, so the back porch posts will return soon.
Meanwhile, enjoy our view from the road…

Thursday afternoon windshield shot heading eastward across southern Colorado

Windshield shot heading eastward across southern Colorado yesterday afternoon

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Welcome Back, ACL Fest 2016

The theme from Star Wars came rolling up the hill today from Zilker Park, announcing the opening day of the first weekend of the Austin City Limits Music Festival for its 15th year! Let the fun begin!

Austin’s Minor Mishap Marching Band at ACL Fest 2014

For most of those 15 years, I, too, joined the human swarm criss-crossing Austin’s “Great Lawn,” as that part of the park is known locally. I no longer attend the fest for 3 related reasons. Firstly, I’m not the kid I was before I turned 60, so my stamina flags pretty drastically somewhere in the 3-day run of 10-hour days.

Secondly, again related to my age, I suppose: the acts they’ve booked for the last several years miss the mark for me more and more. I’m an unabashed aficionado of roots-rock-classic-rock-Americana music in smaller venues.

Thirdly — and admittedly, this could be the “real” reason I began to choose to stay home instead: these days, they stream a bunch of the performance over the internet, so I can sit at home and watch on a big-screen TV, giving me a better view of the stage acts than if I were down there in the midst of it all. Yes, I miss the thrill of being there in the crowd, and no, they don’t stream all the acts. But I don’t miss the porta-potty lines (or the porta-potties themselves, especially towards the end of each day) and you miss acts even if you attend in person because there’s usually at least 3 stages with musicians playing at any one time. Even in person, you have to pick and choose — and then deal with the crowds.

ACL Mudfest-shoe sole left in mud

ACL Mudfest?

You have to deal with the weather as well — and that has been problematic some years. I sat in the sun in 108° heat one year to watch Bukka Allen. And I was there for the “mudfest” a few years back. Mind you, this year, the weather is just about perfect —sunshine and temperatures in the 70s.

Of course, there’s no telling what weather the second weekend will bring.

Yes, they added a second weekend a few years ago, overlapping the big acts and rotating some lesser-known names into each weekend (mostly Austin-based bands) so there is some variation if you attend both weekends. I suppose, you could also use the 2nd weekend  to catch all those simultaneously performing acts. Or just catch a reprise of a favorite band or two, old or new.

Whether I attend ACL Fest or not, I’m personally delighted to have it just down the hill. Yes, it’s a neighborhood nightmare in terms of traffic, parking, walkers obliviously wandering down the middle of the street despite moving cars. And I know the sound bothers some (especially true the year Skrillex had a closing slot one evening— those EDM bass vibrations could shake a satellite in orbit), but I’m not complaining.

Instead, I’m left anticipating watching the streaming acts on Red Bull TV. And remembering highlights of previous years’ fests, like this lovely performance from Imelda May a couple of years ago. Sing along once you know the words!

Omigod, it’s good to be alive!
Omigod, it’s good be alive!
Know one thing for sure
Is that I’ll die — but today:
It’s good to be alive!

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Family & Friends

Slide3Here are the lyrics to another song I wrote a long while ago. After another long while, maybe I’ll get brave enough to sing it for you…

You know it’s always been family & friends
Who can tell you how the story ends.
Following the river’s bends
Through the twisting and turning,
All the churning and learning,
It’s family & friends who are there.
It’s family & friends who care.

‘Cause sometimes you just can’t go on.
You get to feeling like you just can’t go on.
You know that you just can’t go on —
And still you go on.

You see, there’s something deep down inside of you.
I know that that strength is still there.
Lately, it’s trying to hide from you…
I was calling to tell you
How much I care for you.
If ever you need me, I’m there.
Whenever you need me, I’m there.

Early gray morning phone call waking me up
And they’re telling me a friend of mine’s dead…
“What’s that you said? I didn’t quite hear it…”
I just don’t believe it.
No, I just won’t believe it.
I refuse to believe that he’s dead.
Not another good friend of mine dead.

But the words only carry the tune.
Seems like everyone’s dying too soon.
And god, how I’ll miss you, my friend,
Till we meet again.

We’ll meet some place far, far away from here.
I know that we’re all headed there.
After all of this life
With all of its strife,
We can gather together
Forever and ever
With our family and friends who care.
All our family and friends will be there.

You see, it’s always been family & friends.


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92 Things About Austin

Don't forget ACL Festival!

Don’t forget ACL Festival!

For your weekend consideration — a few Austin-related lists:

10 Things you Must Know BEFORE Moving to Austin — several aspects of our life here you might want to know about beforehand, like the heat, the traffic, allergies…

10 Things Everyone Should Do in Austin — from bat-watching to wildflowers to swimming holes, we’ve got a lot of great stuff to do here. I must admit: there’s still a couple of items on this list I have not done despite decades in this town!

Top 25 Best Things to Do in Austin — And folks will tell you 10 “must-do” things simply isn’t enough! There’s way more other great things to do, like brewery tours, museums and the Alamo Drafhouse movie theater.

10 Best Places to Get Tacos in Austin — well, we don’t quite have a taco truck on every corner yet, but we’re trying! And yes, a lot of them are really great!

12 Amazing Mom & Pop Cafes in Austin — places to still chow down on some good, old-fashioned, down-home cooking — whether that means Cajun, Turkish, Vietnamese, Korean, Caribbean…

15 Central Texas Beers — you know you’re going to get thirsty in all this heat, so, here’s a Texas dozen (3 extras for your enjoyment) of our local brews .

10 Surprising Things You’ll Miss After Moving Away From Austin — folks who leave Austin often find themselves a bit spoiled on a few things, from food trailers to music to, yes, the weather (except maybe summer).

Austin, Texas: it’s all this and more — including my hometown!


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