Category Archives: California

Father’s Day In The Park

I can never figure out what to get my dad anymore for Father’s Day.  Sports fans are usually really easy but there are only so many hats one can buy for someone constantly perplexed at the day to day operations of both the Lakers and Jay Leno.  A few years ago I thought I had a slam dunk in gifting someone who has been to a Lakers playoff Game 7 with Phil Jackson’s Kobe Bryant tell all The Last Season only to be later foiled by the fact that it was a book.  The same fatal flaw would later apply to  The War for Late Night

Instead I came up with the baller idea of taking my Dad to a ball game.  I hadn’t been to Dodger Stadium in over 5 years. It’s been a tough time being a fan as of late. A decrease in attendance on account of the worthless owner met with an increase in police presence on account of the dudes who beat a Giants fan into a coma. Not to mention a team that has struggled to compete since an epic World series win when i was 5. But Dodger Stadium remains a Marquis ballpark in the majors and definitely one of the most beautiful in all of sports.  And real fans can’t quit on the Dodgers.

The game was great.  I mean it was boring, 1-0 games can do that, but at least the Dodgers won.  And my dad seemed to really enjoy it.  None of us had been to a game there in years, and we had great seats because my little brother can afford to shell out $100 a pop to sit on the third-base line.  I sat in between them, with my Dad, who’s become more or less a real life Willy Loman in the last few years as the automotive industry continues to turn on its people, and my brother, a successful real estate salesman unaware of the irony of his ability to purchase $100 seats to a bankrupt team owned by a maniac real estate mogul.

One my Dad’s favorite things is to tell the same sports stories and trivia over and over again.  It’s something that I will probably pass down, if I haven’t already to my friends.  Granted, he’s got an impressive list.  Anyone who vividly remembers when the Dodgers moved to LA and can recount an almost encyclopedic knowledge of every major team event since then has certainly earned that right in some regard.  Seriously, no one knows more about the Dodgers than he does.

Ethier way, this was a WAY better idea than going to a Casino in Santa Barbara like we usually do.  Those places are way more depressing than the Dodgers’ record. I still got it.


The Neighborhood and The Department

A lot of academics in my discipline speak of their respective departments as a community. The one we have in Communication Studies at the University of Texas is considered pretty strong.

But I don’t think of our department as a community.

For me it feels more like a neighborhood.

I grew up in a pretty tight-knit neighborhood that had a lot of families that partied pretty hard together. We had two kinds of parties: 4th of July, and whenever we felt like it. The first involved shutting down our street, being loud and obnoxious, and having the cops show up–to the free BBQ we gave them. The second kind usually started with the phrase “well, Ray and Tina are out in their driveway with the stereo up. What can we bring over?” Plan or no plan, both ended up with the adults in the neighborhood going long into the night.

I feel like I have somehow stumbled upon that same thing here in my graduate department.

This past weekend a bunch of my fellow graduate students, and some professors, celebrated a birthday in the form of a house party, complete with DJ and dance floor. The party was deemed “sold out” by the host, as both the smoke machine and guests repeatedly came billowing out onto the back porch, where the designated champagne sabering area was. It wasn’t anyone’s first time being at a house party where the cops made an appearance. But I’d be willing to bet it was that officer’s first time responding to a noise complaint at a party full of people with Masters’ Degrees.

Then the Superbowl, a day where no plans were needed, we all just “knew” to show up at our own designated “driveway.” Combining our “refined” tastes as graduate students (kegs and champagne) the night involved a lot of yelling, obnoxiously critiquing the power dynamics at play in various Superbowl ads, and a Rockband marathon going long into the (school)night. An actual neighbor, upon seeing the keg the birthday boy and I were unloading from my trunk, asked if we had any for her. Of course she was invited, this is how it works.

Most of the original families from the street I grew up on no longer live there. Some do, but for the most part they’ve moved on to different places. Yet from time to time they still meet up and throw the same parties. The Neighborhood is more a dynamic than a place. I feel the same thing about The Department.

For my family back home who want to know what graduate school has largely been like here in Austin, you already know.

For my new friends here, a bit of a glimpse into how we all ended up in this place.

Except here we are ALSO getting our PhDs.

“Home” for the Holidays

Just do it right, make it perfect and real.

I’ve been getting a lot of giftcards as Christmas presents. Not that I mind, beats the awkwardness of telling family members they really have no idea anymore. iTunes has become a recent favorite as I am more prone to buying full albums this way. Channelling my inner ( or outer) Austin hipster/music snob I bought the latest LCD Soundsystem album This is Happening. That’s when I came across this video.

In case you can’t tell, that robot is me. Holiday Traditions are weird and hard to come by in my family. Usually they involve a lot of me driving around LA to visit the few good friends who still live there.

In the past few years I’ve grown accustomed to having a Christmas experience that is almost completely different from the previous years, save for the driving. I’ve come to realize that perhaps my best Christmas tradition is the interesting and random places I find myself.

Because it’s everything, though everything was never the deal.

One constant the last few years is my friend Max’s Christmas night party in West Hollywood. He has been throwing it the last few years precisely for this kind of thing. Feeling displaced and visiting old friends from junior college at a party designed for the diaspora of friend families that is major cities is a nice tradition to have. And I hope to continue it.

This is the trick, forget a terrible year.

I remember having this conversation two years ago at a similar Christmas gathering in Morristown Tennessee. After much young people party partaking (use your imagination) I remarked that I always seemed to find myself in these situations. At the time I was sincere in saying that I kind of liked how it worked out that way, that Christmas need not be this “traditional” thing. As my Twitter feed indicated over the last few days, the “traditional” thing is bullshit anyway. People who not only have, but thoroughly enjoy, annoyance free family time at Christmas I generally avoid. Or have something even more wrong with them. Either way.

Forget your past, this is your last chance now
And we can break the rules like nothing will last

For me Christmas time is usually an occasion for self-reflection not only of the year, but of life choices I’ve made. Usually those life choices are placed in stark contrast with the families I have come “home” to visit. So while I may not be able to talk to them about anything that I “do” at all with any sense of them getting it, I am reminded of exactly why I like doing what I do and how I have probably made a lot more right choices than not since leaving home.

Because night has such a local ring, and love and rock are bigger things
And you know it

As I returned home to Austin, and to prepare for an epic New Year’s Eve party at my house a new family member had given me the unexpected gift of LCD Soundsystem and this song. And while corks were sabered off of numerous champagne bottles that night with some of the greatest people I’ve ever met, I thought of a band that I was introduced to, here, at Austin City Limits.

And remembered that
A few make sure that you get home, and you stay home.

Happy New Year everyone. I think 2011 is going to be good to a lot of us.

Breaking News: California Legislature Dumb as Rocks

The legislature should be eaten by bears.

I love being from my home state. I love being from the “real” part of the state (Southern California) even more.

People hate on L.A. alot and I usually shut them down pretty quickly with this gem:

“You like movies? You’re welcome.”

Nevertheless, us Californians sure do know how to provide hysterical fodder for the rest of the country. Remember when we did THIS? Or THIS?

Well today we’ve got another ridiculous thing to fight up at the Statehouse. Apparently the legislature is debating whether or not to remove serpentine as the official state rock, because it contains naturally occurring traces of asbestos. Cancer-conscious advocates claim it sends the wrong message. Yes, because clearly Californians have a huge problem with naturally occurring carcinogens.

The New York Times, whose writers I’m sure had a field day, summed up the crux of the controversy

“Declaring that serpentine “has known health effects,” the bill would leave California — one of roughly half the states in the nation with an official rock or mineral — without an official rock. (According to the bill, California was the first state, in 1965, to name an official rock.) Asbestos occurs naturally in many minerals, and indeed some serpentine rocks do serve as a host for chrysotile, a form of asbestos. But geologists say chrysotile is less harmful than some other forms of asbestos, and would be a danger — like scores of other rocks — only if a person were to breathe its dust repeatedly.

Ok, I’m gonna go out on a limb here and file this away under “Not An Issue.”

But legislators aren’t. Here is what actual California Senator Gloria Romero actually had to say in the bill’s defense

“California is health conscious,” she said. “This is not about being anti-rock. But why do we need a rock?”

Just to be clear. The California Legislature. Is fighting. Over rocks.

Look at the dangerous rock in some dude's hand.

It is literally a metaphor for what is wrong with the state.

Since I’m going to one day be a Dr., and thus certified expert on matters of rhetoric and argumentation, allow me to break down this complicated argument for y’all.

Issue 1: Should the California State rock be Serpentine?

Issue 2: Should we even have a State rock?

Issue 3: Is this why California is broke?

$10 bucks if you can guess which two are the most important. I then ask that you donate that money to the California State Treasury.

Now if you’ll excuse me I’m gonna go smash my face against a rock. But not serpentine. Wouldn’t want to up my cancer risk.