Flotsam and Jetsam

Artificial Intelligence Christmas Carol

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There are many articles such as this one and this one about The University of Toronto using something called “Neural Karaoke” to feed a computer images and then have the computer compose a song from that image. One of the results is this AI composed Christmas Carol.

I immediately knew I had to do a rendition of this wonderful song that some find incredibly creepy. So first I made some simple notation which you can download here to hand out if you want to play and sing this new perennial favorite.

Then I recorded a fully orchestrated version of the song, which can be heard here.

Happy holidays and may they be filled with lots and lots and lots of flowers.

Divisiveness

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I’ve been thinking a lot lately about divisiveness and how it has always been a major hot button pet peeve for me. I hate it with a fiery vengeance. This also applies to “snobbishness” which is really slightly different flavor but can also fall under this category. I heard a podcast recently (either Radiolab or Invibilia, both of which I highly recommend) where this woman was talking about being bullied as a child. They delved into this angle on how a lot of bullying isn’t even really about being mean or disliking the subject but about how it’s a bonding tactic for the bullies. I see this a lot throughout humanity. People who feel part of a community or bond together by pointing at those “others,” whoever that might be.

Naturally, I’ve seen this acutely leading up to this year’s presidential election. I’ve seen it my whole life in regards to music, movies and all art. “Oh, you like THAT band? HA! They suck! Your taste sucks!” It seems a very common thing these days for people to regard their opinions as facts. It came up in a friend’s post linking to a comedy video about how lame cargo shorts are and how women will find you unattractive if you wear them. I see it in the fact that 90% of my girlfriend’s social activities are “girl’s nights” or”girl’s weekends. Now it doesn’t at all bother me that she goes to these, it’s more that it so rampant and needs to be a thing. I’ve never in my life wanted to have a “dude’s night.” When I want to get together socially it includes all my friends, so it’s true that this is a thing I just don’t get or understand at all, having no parallel or equivalent urge myself.

I’ve seen it with the crazy, viral popularity of Pokemon GO. As fast as it became omnipresent across all demographics, it spawned sour haters and “I don’t play that stupid kid game crap.” I personally loved to see this phenomenon because it seemed the opposite of divisive to me. Suddenly I saw people of all ages, religions, genders, races, professions, etc., all getting out and having fun and sometimes talking to each other. Families. Friends, Groups of strangers in the same area. It made me happy in this world full of divisiveness. Until it also became a tool for others to be divisive and point and laugh and deride.

Deep down, I think we all just want to be loved and accepted. Some might deny that, even to themselves but I think it’s a basic human trait, and when we don’t feel loved or accepted, it hurts even if it’s something stupid like “I like cargo shorts” or “I play Pokemon GO” or “I love Styx,” all of which are true for me. Then something occurred to me today as I was walking. It wasn’t a new though, so I guess it re-occurred. While it always sucks in a way, you could view things like this as a natural filter in some instances. If that person you like doesn’t like what you wear, play, listen to, etc., then as much as it may feel bad in the moment, maybe it’s better to just let those natural filters work. That is, of course, a vast oversimplification, but a principal to think about any time that situation arises.

I mean it may suck if someone I work with on a project doesn’t like me or feels they don’t click with because of some subjective opinion or preference of mine, and in some situations maybe that doesn’t affect their professional opinion of me, but in others maybe it does. And if it does, then as much as it may suck to lose that gig or whatever, maybe it’s for the best.

I try my best to foster unity among all that I meet. I don’t always succeed. I am a passionate person and sometimes I can’t keep my damn mouth shut and contribute to divisiveness but I at least try to keep a vigilant eye on that and strive to perpetually improve. So I apologize for all the times in my life I’m sure I’ve bonded or laughed at some “other’s” expense. It’s not a good thing to do. I’d rather all of us laugh together and not to the detriment or anyone or anything else. It’s much more fun that way.

Flipping The Script

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I recently listened to this episode of the Invisibilia podcast about “flipping the script.” I don’t want to give everything away because you should really listen to it but the basic concept is that most of the time, humans exhibit “complimentary behavior.” Meaning if you’re hostile to me, my instinct is to be hostile to you. If you are nice to me, my instinct is to be nice to you. It talks about some very interesting examples of “flipping the script” or breaking that instinctual complimentary behavior. Such as when a gunman interrupted a dinner party to rob everyone and was invited to sit down and have a glass of wine. Or the story of a town in Denmark where many teens were going over to radical terrorist groups and the story of one in particular that shows how more terrorists are probably created by being harassed, oppressed and unfairly labeled as such by bigots than by any religious beliefs or active recruiting by the terrorist groups themselves and more so how a few police officers made a huge difference by “flipping the script” and reaching out with kindness to Islamic teens who had come back from Syria.

None of this information about meeting hostility with love and kindness was news to me, but it did clarify and remind me how much I need to keep this powerful tool in the forefront of my mind. It’s a hard thing to do and something that doesn’t come naturally to most of the human race and is, I believe, a root cause of so many problems and conflicts. I fail at this constantly. Someone says something rude, mean, attacking or whatever, and your chemicals surge and you start plotting how to verbally eviscerate them, shame them, and belittle them into submission. Which of course, pretty much never works and only serves to solidify them in their hostile and opposing position. There is endless evidence in the world, in history and in my own experience and that of others that this “flipping the script” concept works and is powerful (of course, nothing is 100% or black and white) and yet we still don’t embrace it. We give in to our most primitive animal instincts to lash out.

Since this podcast, I’ve been on high alert, really paying attention to these interactions and have caught myself getting caught up in these situations many times. Luckily for me and my highly privileged life, all pretty minor and petty examples (mostly, but not entirely). And I’ve seen that when I can “flip the script,” it changes everything. When I can manage to be kind, calm, generous, forgiving and extend a hand trying to understand, things immediately take a turn. There was actually a fairly volatile social media “discussion” (I use the quotes because on social media, it’s rarely a discussion as much as two sides yelling, attacking, unfollowing and blocking each other), where after a lot of dicey and tense discussion, I did actually manage to reach one person. One person who actually eventually saw what I was saying and admitted that they needed to really consider the other side because they might have been wrong all this time in their hateful beliefs.

I’ve seen it in trivial interactions between Pokemon GO players and haters. “This game is dumb and you people who play it are dumb!” Most people’s first instinct is to lash back with barbs and insults, but in the instances where someone has instead tried to be cool and explain why they like it and think it’s cool and the benefits of it, etcetera, some people have at least stopped being ass-hats about it while others have actually decided they wanted to download and try it.

I recently had a band gig with a very surly jerk of a sound engineer. It threw my whole night off. I could just let go and have fun at the gig and my playing suffered for it. I was just so in my head about what a judgmental, know-it-all jerk this guy was. He had a huge bias against digital gear (which is all I use and am a huge fan of, and I’m no inexperienced newbie). There was a hum which he insisted had to be my gear, despite several facts that easily proved this could not be the case but there was no talking to him because he knows everything and his sound system is worthy of world class touring acts and he knows all there is to know about everything. At the end of the night, I was still irked but I stopped and took and breath and approached the guy and said “Hey man, I’m sorry if I seemed like a dick. I’m not trying to be a dick and I do appreciate your feedback, knowledge and opinions,” and started a dialogue with him. Immediately, the entire tone shifted and while it wasn’t a 180 degree shift where we walked away best buddies or anything, it was a huge difference and diffusion and suddenly he seemed at least open to discussion as opposed to a brick wall with no flexibility or room for discussion.

Again, “flipping the script” is not easy. In fact, it’s very difficult, at least for me. But I’m hoping it’s like a muscle that can be trained and strengthened, because I have no doubts in its effectiveness even if I suck at it. At least I’m aware of it and always trying to have that awareness and vigilant eye on my interactions. I hope you will too. If more people would, I think it could change the world. And that’s not hyperbole.

Let’s Replace Every “Bosom” in Edgar Allan Poe’s Works With “Sweet-Ass Titties”

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I first became a fan of Edgar Allan Poe in my 8th grade advanced honors English class with Mrs. Riley, who is my favorite and most influential of all the teachers I ever had. I even remember writing “A Typical Poe Story” which was a parody of Poe using all the tropes and patterns I had noticed in his work. One of these was how often the word “bosom” seemed to appear.

Recently I had wondered if “bosom” was really as prevalent in his work as I thought it was in 8th grade and my friend, Kevin Gates, had joked “You can thank late 19th century editorial practice for that. In manuscript, Poe actually uses the term ‘sweet-ass titties.'”

When I joked back that I should do a find and replace, Kevin replied, “You’ll see how brilliant Poe actually was, before his work was sanitized.”

So I did. I’m not sure if this is comprehensive but it should be close.

So without further adieu and with apologies to Mrs. Riley, I present to you, many, if not all, of the occurrences of “bosom” in the works of Edgar Allan Poe, replaced with “sweet-ass titties.”

On the sweet-ass titties of the palpitating air!

It vibrated within three inches of my sweet-ass titties!

That she loved me I should not have doubted; and I might have been easily aware that, in some sweet-ass titties such as hers, love would have reigned no ordinary passion.

It is impossible to describe, or to imagine, the deep, the blissful sense of relief which the absence of the detested creature occasioned in my sweet-ass titties.

About midway in the short vista which my dreamy vision took in, one small circular island, profusely verdured, reposed upon the sweet-ass titties of the stream.

The arms, the sweet-ass titties, and even the ends of the radiant hair melted imperceptibly into the vague yet deep shadow which formed the back-ground of the whole.

She was attired in deep mourning, and excited in my sweet-ass titties a feeling of mingled respect, interest, and admiration.

The disease which had thus entombed the lady in the maturity of youth, had left, as usual in all maladies of a strictly cataleptical character, the mockery of a faint blush upon the sweet-ass titties and the face, and that suspiciously lingering smile upon the lip which is so terrible in death.

Many a night, just at midnight, when all the world slept, it has welled up from my own sweet-ass titties, deepening, with its dreadful echo, the terrors that distracted me.

Satisfied with having produced in my sweet-ass titties the intended effect, he seemed to chuckle in secret over the sting he had inflicted, and was characteristically disregardful of the public applause which the success of his witty endeavors might have so easily elicited.

This condition was nearly unaltered for a quarter of an hour. At the expiration of this period, however, a natural although a very deep sigh escaped the sweet-ass titties of the dying man, and the stertorous breathing ceased — that is to say, its stertorousness was no longer apparent; the intervals were undiminished.

“How wild a history,” I said to myself, “is written within those sweet-ass titties!”

In the present instance, Eugenie, who for a few moments past had seemed to be searching for something in her sweet-ass titties, at length let fall upon the grass a miniature, which I immediately picked up and presented to her.

No murmur arose from its bed, and so gently it wandered along, that the pearly pebbles upon which we loved to gaze, far down within its sweet-ass titties, stirred not at all, but lay in a motionless content, each in its own old station, shining on gloriously forever.

The golden and silver fish haunted the river, out of the sweet-ass titties of which issued, little by little, a murmur that swelled, at length, into a lulling melody more divine than that of the harp of Aeolus-sweeter than all save the voice of Eleonora.

She had seen that the finger of Death was upon her sweet-ass titties — that, like the ephemeron, she had been made perfect in loveliness only to die; but the terrors of the grave to her lay solely in a consideration which she revealed to me, one evening at twilight, by the banks of the River of Silence.

He boasted to me, with a low chuckling laugh, that most men, in respect to himself, wore windows in their sweet-ass titties, and was wont to follow up such assertions by direct and very startling proofs of his intimate knowledge of my own.

Dupin said the last words in a very low tone, and very quietly. Just as quietly, too, he walked toward the door, locked it, and put the key in his pocket. He then drew a pistol from his sweet-ass titties and placed it, without the least flurry, upon the table.

Many a night, just at midnight, when all the world slept, it has welled up from my own sweet-ass titties, deepening, with its dreadful echo, the terrors that distracted me. I say I knew it well.

This I sat engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressing
To the fowl whose fiery eyes now burned into my sweet-ass titties’ core;

Hey! Butch Walker!

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Here’s some words you probably already know, from a guy you don’t at all know, but sometimes they’re good to hear any way. Fuck the naysayers. You are true to you, and no matter what course of action you take, there will be some group that doesn’t like it. If you grow and change, then there’s the people who don’t like that and want you to go back to the old stuff they like. However, if you keep doing the same thing, then there’s the people who will say you are stagnant and just repeating and rehashing yourself and why don’t you do something new and original.

Music is a relationship, and like all relationships, some will work out and some won’t. There are people who will grow apart, and there are people who will grow and stay together. All you can do is be true to you and there will always be people who will fall away, and new people who will discover you and not like your old stuff and people like me who can enjoy the whole journey, old and new.

If I have one “criticism,” if you want to call it that, it’s that you don’t give old Butch enough respect. I totally understand self-deprecation as a defense mechanism (and one I use quite a lot myself), but when I hear you talk of your old music as if you are embarrassed by it or don’t think it’s as good, it makes me sad and somehow devalues something that I hold in very high regard. If you will, indulge me a little background.

One day, I heard a song on the radio that really caught my ear. I called the radio station (where I used to work, in fact) and found out it was “Sugarbuzz” by some band called Marvelous 3. I bought the single and wore it out. I started seeking out more music by this band. I sampled a few tracks via illegal download (I admit it, I wanted to try before I bought). Found “Vampires in Love,” and many others then immediately went out and bought the other two Marvelous 3 albums. This music spoke to my soul. It fucking rocked, it moved me, it existed on so many levels. It could go from fun, silly, witty rocking to soul wrenching, heart ripping depth. I felt it represented me as person. Complex. Deep, passionate, silly, fun…complex, like most people. “She took a lightsaber to my heart,” “You were cool as hell like email but still timeless like a letter.” That last quote seemed especially apropos for this music. Contemporary but classic. I was hooked. I could quote genius Butch Walker lyrics for days.

You became one of the only contemporary artists making music that I followed and bought every album as soon as it came out. You became a part of my DNA as a musician and song writer in the same way The Beatles were and to this day remain probably my biggest influence alongside them. So to hear you dismiss a lot of that past, I feel is such a disservice not only to those like me who carry it as part of who we are, but more importantly, to yourself as an artist. That shit is not just good, it’s great. As is your new stuff. It doesn’t have to be either/or (despite some trolls who may want to make you feel that way). I know you have especially bad feeling about “My Way,” but I still find it a fun, rocking great song. It may not be as “deep” or “meaningful” as some of your other songs but that doesn’t devalue it as an awesome song in its own right.

I’m pretty sure I’m a fan for life as I doubt any direction you would go would ever be somewhere I wouldn’t want to explore as well. You are kind of my musical “spirit animal” as I feel my own songs and live performance come from a similar place. When I see you live (the best live shows I’ve seen), I can see myself in that performance. I know you’re human and sometimes your position can be a tough one with people ready to criticize no matter what you do, but just know that there’s plenty of us out there who have been on the whole journey and love it all. So don’t be such a bully to old Butch, because he’s still fucking awesome as well. You do what you do for yourself, and those who can appreciate it can enjoy the journey as well and know that you’re not some performing monkey to cater to their own personal wants and whims. You will lose fans and gain new ones. And through it all there will be those who will be there for the entire show, start to finish, singing at the top of our lungs as part of collective music. You’ve changed me as a person and an artist. Continue to stay true to your own personal journey. Don’t stop believing.

(See what I did there?)

(Sorry.)

(Not sorry.)

The Black Hole

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Very minor spoilers for “The Black Hole,” a 36 year old movie ahead.

I made Elly watch “The Black Hole” last night. I’m always curious to get a new viewers take without all the nostalgia like I have for it. She liked it! I think it’s a fairly enjoyable ride. It has a dark, moody, suspenseful sci-fi layer to it (that’s my favorite layer) but also a lot of really bad layers too. Some parts obviously for the kids (it was a Disney movie) and yet the dark layer is strangely at odds with that. Very interesting how it all fits together. There’s certainly some really bad acting, writing and directing, some slapstick, cheesy elements but overall I still enjoy it and see why it held such a special place in my life (aside from just that period in my life and associating it with my cousin). It still feels very grand in a way. The Cygnus is still an impressive, imposing ship. When it first turns all its lights on still feels eye opening. The iconic meteor tearing down the ships vast corridor. A lot of the effects still hold up (mainly the practical one, any CG or lasers look appropriately dated). I love the look, the sets, and especially all the robots. Maximilian, V.I.N.CENT, the sentries, the creepy robed workers.

Then there’s the ending. I won’t write any particular spoilers or anything here, but read no further if you don’t want to read at least general comments about what I think of it.

(more…)

Revisiting Barton Creek Square Mall

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This is really more of an epilogue for Requiem For A Mall. An addendum of sorts. After that little walk down memory lane I decided to revisit Barton Creek Square Mall yesterday. This was the place that took over for Highland Mall as our destination of choice in my later years visiting my late Aunt Trish and my cousin, Casey. the memories contained there are equally as impactful, and in some ways, maybe even more so because they are a little fresher, more recent and represent a later period in my visits that seems a little more clear in its recollection.

Many memories may in fact be blurred by time. When I was texting my cousin during my Highland Mall visit, I could have sworn I remembered right where there was an Aladdin’s Castle arcade, but my cousin thought that was at Barton Creek and on the opposite side. But then he couldn’t remember if maybe he was mixing it up with Goldmine or Barker’s Circus, which he also thought were in Barton on the opposite side. I had totally forgotten those two arcade names and only had memories of an arcade on one side of the entrance. It was all so long ago, who’s to say I’m not jumbling all kinds of details and mixing up malls.

Barton Creek Square definitely transported me once again back in time. I was a older this time but still the place was indelibly linked to Trish and Casey. I once again was amazed at how this place that was once one of my favorite destination now held almost nothing for me. The Apple store is fun. There was still a Spencer’s Gifts but it’s vastly different from the one in my memory. Past me was definitely envious of the huge and awesome Lego store that now exists, and for a moment, present me shouted “I want all those huge, awesome Star Wars Legos! A Death Star! Slave I! Star Destroyer!” I very quickly then realized that I had no use for them. I’ve tried over the years to stop collecting “stuff.” Things I just want that then really have no use and do nothing but collect dust. I knew that these huge Lego creations that I once would have wanted more than anything just had no place in my life any more.

Even the smell was familiar. Just a very clean mall smell that helped transport me right back there. Then I found the movie theater. When I had been at Highland I had a detailed memory of a movie theater but not the 2 screen theater that was apparently in a separate building across the parking lot from the actual mall at Highland. As soon as I saw it, I knew that this was the theater I had been remembering. This was a very important moment for me. Movies have always been a big part of my life and movies with my cousin were a formative part of my youth. For some reason, I specifically remember Disney’s The Black Hole (I still love that theme song), TRON and the original Clash of the Titans. Standing in front of this theater, I could so vividly remember Trish buying tickets and Casey and I eager to get inside and go to some fantastical place. I think we used to love sitting in the front row, though I have no idea why now, or if that’s something else I’m mismembering (my own word that I use often). I wondered if we used to go to a lot of earlier showtimes because I seemed to have this familar feeling of coming out of the movie into the daylight and getting in the car so Trish could drive us home and Casey and I could proceed to play whatever new video game she’d bought us or that we were already playing on this visit.

I specifically have a lot of memories of this Barton Creek Square during the holidays. Shopping around Christmas. All the decorations and the music and just crowds of people. an energy of excitement and being alive. Surprisingly, the Food Court didn’t feel all that familiar, unlike my Highland visit. I smiled at the “signs of the times” such as the charging stations now set up next to chairs and such to rest and charge your device on the multi-ended dongle (which sounds like a lost Dr. Seuss book). There was plenty of familiarity and yet plenty that also rips you back from your time journey to remind you that you are indeed in the present, but I’ll never walk those places without Trish and Casey right there with me.

Today I decided to try going for my run in the mall. Air conditioning and the top floor is carpeted so that’s probably good for the joints. It took about 3.5 laps to run 2.5 miles plus a 5 minute warmup and cool down walk. You know, in case you were wondering. Maybe if I run fast enough, I can go back in time to catch a glimpse of Trish buying two eager boys tickets to a film. Probably not though. I run really slowly.

Requiem For a Mall

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Highland Mall

Highland Mall on closing day.


Like most people, I hadn’t been to Highland Mall in ages. In fact I was surprised to read that it was still operating at all. It always looked closed, but then yesterday I read that it was actually closing for good after 44 years. I knew I had to pay a final visit to what had been Austin’s first indoor shopping mall and a surprisingly poignant catalyst of memories. Judging from comments from friends and all the people there yesterday taking pictures and looking nostalgic, I was far from alone in this feeling.

Highland Mall

Highland Mall

For many, there seemed to be a lot of memories of working there at various points or going there as long time Austin residents. For me, its place in my heart was very specific: It was a place I used to love to go with my late aunt, Trish and my cousin, Casey. I’ve written a lot about them before but let me summarize for the uninitiated: they are two of the single most important people in my past and in the very DNA of who I am today. From when I was a kid on into adulthood, there were very few things I looked forward to as much as my time with them. They would come to College Station for holidays, I would spend school vacations here in Austin, which I found to be a magical wonderland because of it. Trish was like a second mother and Casey was like a little brother. My time with them remains a formative and defining time in my life. Last year, Trish went on to wherever our energy goes when our bodies are done here and Casey has long since pretty much ceased being a part of my life (even before he was married with two kids, which I’m sure is more than a full time job) but I still think about them both many times daily. In addition to Peter Pan Golf, Westgate Lanes bowling, going to movies and staying up all night playing video games, going to the mall was one of our favorite things to do and it started at Highland Mall.

Highland Mall

I think there used to be an arcade here once, long ago.

For whatever reason, we loved going to the mall (something that would definitely change in my adult years), and before Barton Creek came along, Highland Mall was practically Disneyworld for us. Spencer’s Gifts, video game and movie stores, arcades, the food court, toy stores, candy stores, ice cream vendors, movie theaters and many boring things we didn’t care about like clothing stores (until later when I thought parachute pants were the coolest thing ever), it was just this microcosm, this entire world and ecosystem all self-contained like some underground science fiction colony.

As soon as I walked in those doors yesterday, it all came back with startling familiarity like I had been transported in time. Even the music echoing through the mostly empty space through tinny, dated speakers seemed trapped in time, and strangely loud without a bustling mass of bodies soaking up the sound. All music I would have heard back then. I noticed a strange preponderance of ELO during my hours there. And yes, I spent hours there. I walked both levels of the entire mall three, four, maybe five times.
Highland03 I touched the work railings knowing very well they may have been the exact same railings we had all touched so many years ago. Used every single staircase and escalator, retracing the steps of so much past. When we would go there, Trish would often go off to do her thing and leave me and Casey to do ours. I remember we would methodically walk the whole mall to make sure we didn’t miss anything. I remembered and retraced some of the exact routes. I took in this ghost mall that once been so filled with such a din of life almost as if it were a living organism. Now there were only a handful of shops, and 3 vendors still sold food in the food court until the last hours of this last day. Many people snapped photos. I had a brief conversation with a stranger who was there for the same reason as I was, saying good be to an old friend from many years ago. You could just see the look i people’s eyes that they were just there, remembering one last time.

Highland Mall

Highland Mall

I think I tried to leave at least twice and then turned around and went back in for another pass. I actually texted with Casey a little bit, which made me smile to have him there a little bit and read other’s comments on my Facebook page about their memories of the mall. I remembered specific tables where I had sat with Trish and Casey enjoying fast food. I considered getting one last meal there but then decided against partaking of whatever happened to be left at this eleventh hour. At one point I saw an abandoned establishment that piqued my curiosity. I can’t remember the name on it but it was non-descriptive. There were signs to “Pits 9-20” and a note about not crossing the orange line without proper safety equipment but that spectators were welcome and encouraged to ask questions. It seemed like it had been some kind of action/sport type venue, but the real mystery that baffled me was this sign:
sign I still have no idea what this means. It’s like some kind of crazy, paranoid, conspiracy theorist rambling. “That’s how they’re gonna get us, man! The robots can diguise themselves as skateboards, man! They’re all around us and we’re just letting it happen, man!”

I’m not sure exactly why we stopped going there and started going to Barton Creek. I don’t know if it was closer to where Trish and Casey lived, or just perceived as a better, newer mall or what, but it seems that was the trend for most of Austin. Highland Mall fell into decline and for whatever reason, time passed it by. I was glad I’d read about it closing so I got the chance to spend this final day there, with Trish and Casey in my mind and heart. I was glad I got to say my goodbyes. As I laid in bed last night trying to sleep, I thought of the mall, empty and dark, finally “asleep” for good. The building or land may will back as part of Austin Community College, but Highland Mall is no more. No more than the memories so many of us will always carry and the little bits of who we are today that were shaped, formed and altered, even if almost imperceptibly, by our time there and the people who shared it.

Highland Mall

Epilogue: Revisiting Barton Creek Square Mall

Middle Earth: Austin

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Elly and I just mapped out Austin as Middle Earth just based on names. Dwarves live on Oltorf. Common Elves on Woodland. High Elves on Riverside. Hobbits on Pleasant Valley. Orcs on Slaughter. Sauron’s fortress in Mordor is in The Domain. The Ents are at Arbor Walk. And there’s a major defensive fortress at Rundberg where the renowned Riders of Rundberg reside. Beware the Balrog in the Mines of Manchaca. Gondor would be The Capitol.

The Startling Realization That I Don’t Have Many “Friends”

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How do you define “friend”? It can mean a lot of different things in different contexts. A conversation with Elly yesterday made me realize that I don’t think I have many friends at all. I have a lot of acquaintances, people I love and care about and who love and care about me. This isn’t any kind of sad sob story or call for validation or anything. It was just an observation that kind of caught me by surprise. I don’t really have many “friends.”

Again, my life is beyond bountiful and filled with amazing people but aside from Elly, there is no one that I talk to or hang out with regularly or frequently. There are very few people that I feel I could easily and comfortably have any kind of deep, open, vulnerable conversation with. I racked my brain thinking of the people in my life that really fit what seemed to be “friend” beyond “acquaintance.” I came up with 5 people and I don’t see or talk to any of them often. They generally have their spouses, families or what not and spend most of their time and energy within the walls of that individual castle.

This is all a strange thing to talk about because I don’t want to discount or lessen the meaning of all the wonderful people in my life or make anyone feel left out or like they mean less to me. That’s not the case. In fact there is an overarching theme in my life of always feeling like I like and value people certain more than is returned and that’s definitely the source of a lot of whatever pain and insecurities I may have. I had an epiphany about a family member who has always meant so much to me and is a part of my DNA and my best memories and it always seemed mutual when we spent time together but I always had to be the one making it happen and over the years I just saw them less and less until I’ve pretty much just accepted that they are not in my life any more and never will be. Almost like a mini death or a living death.

Now another angle of this is that I have never been the best friend in some ways either. I can isolate myself and retreat into my cave and not keep in touch very well. My certain kind of shyness and desire to be unobtrusive and not bother people may come off as aloof, or stand offish. My approach is often too passive which is not always fair to put the onus on everyone else to take the initiative. I find the closest and longest lasting friends are the one who have a similar mindset and are very low maintenance. We can go months without speaking and then pick right back up as if no time has passed. I have no tolerance for guilt trips, or high maintenance people. So I’m sure I have a part in this scenario of “not having friends.” I do not deny any responsibility.

I’m not really looking for answers or anything, it was just something I felt like observing and chronicling. It really took me by surprise because I do feel like my life is full and full of absolutely stunning people but when we really started talking about the details, I was hard pressed to really find anyone who fit the profile we were discussing. I think this is why I enjoy social media so much. It has allowed me to grow and foster many relationships that probably would have faded away without it. The whole social media subject is an entirely different subject though. I am completely pro and for it and don’t believe the whole “it’s bad because people use it as a substitute for real interaction.” I think it’s a handy tool and addition, not a substitution and allows us to actually have discussions and interactions we wouldn’t normally be able to have due to time restraints and life responsibilities. It’s like we are always in touch. A virtual party where we can interact whenever we want or have time.

I don’t really want to get into a social media debate though. I don’t really know how to end this post so here’s a picture I made of Hakeem Olajuwan piloting an X-wing and getting his torpedoes right into the Death Star exhaust port. Nothing but vent!

Luke Olajuwan

Luke Olajuwan

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