Be Strong

Dear Charlie Strong,

I’m from Texas and went to Texas, so obviously I’m a UT Football fan. The Longhorns are my college football team, although college football overall hardly cracks my top 5 most beloved sports (it’s somewhere just above hockey). I think that is because neither of my alma maters were particularly relevant during my years on campus.

I’m hoping you change that.

Similar to my other favorite football team, the Dallas Cowboys, I think the Longhorns have suffered from this undue nepotistic loyalty. Did we really owe David Ash and Jaxon Shipley roster spots because of their brothers’ glory? They’ll be gone after this season and we can finally move on from this era of “little brother” mediocrity.

I liked that you made the players earn the right to wear the Longhorn emblem and throw up the Hook’em. It’s a privilidge and i think that concept got lost a few years back.

Here’s to an improved season. Looking forward to it.

PS: Let’s give up on this Longhorn Network thing already. It’s a failure. Move on.

Fracking Things Up

What appears to be a wax figure of Christ Craddick, one of the three elected Texas Railroad Commissioners.

Dear Christi Craddick,

Please help me understand something: How did the Texas Railroad Commission come to be the regulatory agency for the State’s oil and gas industry?

The Wikipedia page on the RRC glosses over this important shift in focus, just saying when it took over the responsibilities (oil pipelines in 1917, oil and gas production 1919, natural gas delivery systems 1920). I just don’t see the connection between trains and drilling. Why aren’t railroads governed by TXDOT? Then we can rename the RRC to something that somewhat describes its primary role.

Or maybe the antiquated name is a thin veil of cover to hide from the general public. To deflect some of the angry and desperate letter from people whose homes cracked in half after a completely unrelated to fracking earthquake. The extra two minutes it takes to connect the dots might be just long enough for some people to give up looking.

But I’m not so worried about the earthquakes. It’s the 25 billion gallons of contaminated water each year we are sending back into the ground that scares me. We won’t be able to repair the water table like we can a house. I see it’s value in the short term, Texas is booming like it does so well, but what the impending water crisis of the next 50 years. It’s clean energy at what long term price?

Dancing Planets

Yes, we are tiny in the grand scheme of the universe NEIL!

Dear Neil Degrass Tyson,

Two things off the bat. You are the director of the Hayden Planetarium. I motion that all Haydens receive free admission. There aren’t that many of us…

Secondly, you went to UT Austin for graduate school. Being an alumni myself, I wanted to congratulate you on winning the 1985 collegiate gold medal in the International Latin Ballroom style. A dancing scientist. Hmmmm.

Actually I think dance is a very nice analogy to the planetary movements of the universe which you specialize in. There is a balance and flow to the solar system, galaxy, and beyond as there is in dance. Each movement is precise and usually predictable. Someone leads the dance (gravity) and someone follows (all matter in the universe).

I’m working through the Cosmos on Netflix right now. See how much I’ve already learned!

One bone to pick with you Neil: why’d you have to get rid of Pluto?!

Oh well. This video makes up for it.

 

Jorts

The first image when you Google image search “hipster”

Dear Sara Inés Calderón,

You are a quoted authority on “hipster” culture.

I am of the belief that the word hipster has lost most if not all it’s meaning. It gets thrown around (mostly in a negative sense) all too often for a word than can be interpreted so broadly. I get pegged as one occasionally and it bristles me.  Just because I like  bicycles and indie music (another term that’s lost most of it’s meaning) does that make me hipster? I came across your interpretation on the hipster label and would agree that it is dependent on a number of factors, especially location.

I’m from Dallas but lived in Austin for two years. By Austin standards, I am a low grade hipster at best. I have zero tattoos. I do NOT ride a fixed gear bicycle. I do not have a woolly beard or waxed mustache (though I might if I could grow one). I will go see the occasional bluegrass show and drink some Lonestars. They got me there.

But put me in Dallas context and I’m suddenly way up on the hipster scale. People are baffled when I pull up to the bar on my bicycle in some rolled up jeans. I eat street tacos and like food trucks. I buy most of my clothes from thrift stores, which I do partially because I’m broke but also because I like the hunt. These are all things that aren’t in line with the dominant culture in Dallas.

Whether it’s hipster, hippie, or beatnik there will always be a label for the alternative. And a lot of the time, the alternative becomes the standard. Then it starts to swing back. So by this logic, hipsters will be wearing elephant ear jeans because its ironic and so far from cool that it’s cool.

Sounds exhausting.

PS: Have you ever seen the Tumblr Look At This Fucking Hipster?

Response:

Cut!

Dear Michael McCusker,

Doodle-a-day dude. I have a similar project where I write a letter-a-day and today’s letter is for you. Writing my letter is usually the highlight of my day. Have you found it to be rewarding? What inspired you to start a doodle-a-day?

I particularly like this doodle. It’s reminiscent of Ren and Stimpy.

Capture

So you’re probably wondering how I found your doodle project…

When I sat down to write this letter, I was just going to complain to the editor of Get On Up that it was wayyy too long. I sympathize with the challenge of telling such an epic man’s story in 1 feature film, but we could have cut a solid 25 minutes out that that thang. Still enjoyed the movie.

I’m glad this wasn’t completely a troll letter. Doodle on good sir. I support you.

Eastside King

Dear Paul Qui,

For too long, Ramen has suffered from an image problem. It has been a difficult task to disassociate our ourselves from the 10 cent packs of noodles consumed in dorm rooms. Too many Styrofoam cups of “Ramen” have been consumed in a gas station parking lots by too many people. It came to define cheap filler food. To be honest, I didn’t even know that Ramen was a particular style of Japanese soup; I always assumed it was just a brand of cheap noodles.

Now Ramen is the hottest thing going and in my Austin-centric mind, you get the credit. I have yet to try any Ramen as satisfying as your squid ink (with an egg of course). I may have moved away from Austin last summer, but I have not moved on from East Side King. I’m stuck on it. I’ve even come pretty close to duplicating the brussel sprout salad.

Any rec’s for Ramen in Dallas? I’ve been waiting for Ten Ramen to open for ages…

Thanks

 

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Gloom & Doom

Dear Dr. Jerry Jaax,

I am not a fatalist. I like to believe that we as intelligent human beings have the ability to affect our collective futures. It would be hard(er) to get up in the morning if I thought otherwise.

When an epidemic breaks out like the current Ebola scare, it can make people feel helpless and that their only choice is to leave their future up to fate. Then there are the brave souls who won’t take it lying down and head straight to the the epicenter of the crisis. I’m amazed by the bravery of these doctors who are working at the front lines to contain this outbreak.

I read The Hot Zone back in high school and have had a healthy fear of Ebola since. Bleeding to death from every orifice on your body is a intense image that stuck with me. I don’t live in fear of it though. I just don’t waste any effort worrying. I’m realistic about the issue unlike this foolish congressman who has hijacked the issue and is claiming that  immigrant children might bring the virus across our border. Yesterday’s news was that there is an experimental drug being sent Liberia with good but potentially uncorrelated results so far.

What are your thoughts on this ZMapp drug being administered? Too soon to call it a cure? Too soon to be using it on humans at all?

It’s a Sign

Dear Scott McCloud,

A close friend of mine has this fancy French microwave. It can cook food perfectly evenly and at extremely high temperatures. It is also nearly impossible to set the damn thing because the symbols on the control panel are practically indecipherable except perhaps to hieroglyphic experts and extra-terrestrial creatures. Each time I attempt to use it, I think back to your book ‘Understanding Comics’ and shake my head at the French designers who must have never read it.

I’m a visual learner. There is something intuitive to about seeing an image and it communicating an idea. Within everyone exists a personal threshold where an symbol goes from recognizable to abstract. At it’s most effective,  a symbol is almost universally understood (though I assume there is some cultural barriers at play).

But back to the microwave. This thing is sleek. I mean it really ties the kitchen together. Except function was sacrificed for aesthetics. And now I accidentally burn everything.

Please continue to educate the world on communicating visually. It really changed the way I look at every sign, symbol, and icon. Also, please consider translating the book to French. Wait, it looks like it already has been, they just don’t care. No surprise.

RESPONSE: 

Oddly enough, the subject of visual communication and visual education is a subject of my next book! No joke. :-)

Thank you for the feedback.
Best Wishes,
–Scott

Amoeba Music

Dear Yvonne Prinz,

Yesterday’s letter was to the administrator of a private online torrent community I frequently use to download music (illegally). Today’s letter is for you, the co-founder of the world’s finest remaining record store, Amoeba Music. Yes, a place where people go to buy music.

If I’m buying a physical piece of music, it’s going to be a vinyl record. Records are a wonderfully tangible piece of art aside from the music between the grooves. The music industry seems to have picked up on this and most artists produce vinyl of their releases. I’ve spoken to a record store owner in Dallas who says his store Good Records would have certainly gone under without the resurgence of vinyl. Where do you think Amoeba succeeded as the digital revolution devoured most every other record store?

For someone who consumes as much music as myself, it would be a massively expensive hobby if buying records was the only option. Only albums I deem truly great get purchased at this point.

I could spend every penny to my name each time I walk into Amoeba. I’m proud to say I’ve been to all three Amoeba stores. That’s pretty darn good for a fellow from Texas…

I’m excited for the Spoon show this afternoon at the LA store and I’ll make sure to get a copy of their new record.

Thanks

PS: I have to assume your record collection is out of control.

RESPONSE:

Dear Hayden,

I’m curious about your letter to the Torrent community. I have issues with stealing music. Obviously.
Thanks for supporting Amoeba. Without people like you we would surely go under. 
I’m not going to lie to you, it’s been a struggle and there have been a lot of think-tank-like meetings of the partners to try and find ourselves creative ideas to help keep the stores alive. Some have worked, some have not. 
The biggest and best thing about Amoeba is that it’s run by genuine music people, people who have always been passionate about music, and the passion is evident in the way the stores are run. Free shows and community outreach are an essential part of the Amoeba world. Each store has a unique personality based on where it’s located.
I also think we’re hanging in there just because we’re too damn stubborn to give up. We are comfortable with what we do and though we have a website you can shop on, we are mostly a store to visit in person. 
We are trying to think in the long-term. We hope to be here for a while even if it means sacrifices in our personal lives. We’re old and we’re tough and we love what we do. No magic solutions or retail tricks, just a lot gritting our teeth and carrying on. 
Oh, and yes, it’s nice that vinyl is enjoying a renaissance . Every little bit helps.
Enjoy the Spoon show!
Rock on, Yvonne
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Waffles.FM

Dear Shinikaru,

The Maple Lord. The Syrup King. The Marmalade Marauder.

Ok I made up that last one. Basically I know nothing about you other than you are very influential in the Waffles.FM community. I was invited to Waffles by a close friend in college. Close to 500 snatches later, I still turn to Waffles to download and discover my favorite music.

In the last two years, my music consumption habits have changed. In the pre-Spotify era, I would hear about a band, listen to a few songs on YouTube, and if I decided they made the cut, I would download the album from Waffles and listen on my iPod. Pretty standard procedure.

Nowa days with Spotify (Premium) at my fingertips, I will check out a band on Spotify and mostly stream their music until I move onto the next thing. Much less frequently do I take the time to download the album and upload it to my iPhone, much less my iPod. That all takes a lot of work. Only the albums/artists I think might be enjoyable 1,2,5 years from now make this cut.

So I’m torn about this situation. On one hand, I’m glad the artists are getting paid at least a few cents from my listening to them on Spotify. But the downside is that music and bands become more disposable. I spend less times listening to an album and am onto the next sound (This is coming from someone who still believes in an album listening experience).

Have you seen a decrease in download/upload traffic with the myriad of streaming services now available? How would you describe the “health” of the community?

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