Most Liberal and Most Conservative Cities

Most Liberal and Most Conservative Cities

As someone that travels a lot I was interested to read the above list.  The two cities that surprised me the most on this list, as I have been to both, are Tulsa, for being as conservative as it is, and Washington D.C, for being listed as more liberal than a place like Seattle.  Although Oklahoma is no doubt conservative, Tulsa is the one place I have been to in that state that feels like it bucks that trend.  Also having witnessed the cultures of both D.C. and Seattle, I was surprised, as the above article suggested, that D.C. was listed higher as Seattle.  The above link provides a link, the list, and pictures over at Forbes.  The Economist is actually who devised the list and their research is here.

Reflections On City Living From a Non Nine to Fiver

When your work schedule is no longer Monday through Friday 9 to 5, you find yourself not giving a shit about staying in on a Friday night.  (I’m a musician)  I work tomorrow night, so tonight in the house is fine with me, communicating with my animals.  I also spend my work days/nights in places that other people play, so when I do have time off I find myself not being that drawn to bars or clubs anyway.  If I want to see people drink so much that they are in touch with the spirit world, all I have to do is wait till I play a show.  Whatever I am, I am not a classic extrovert.  I don’t need to be interacting in a crowd to feel energized and happy.  That’s not saying that given the right circumstances I can’t enjoy that, it’s just not what I need to keep going.  However, I do love the art and culture of a city.  When a city is walkable I love walking around at night, seeing what’s going on, even if I’m just observing, as long as it isn’t so crowded that it resembles the movie Blade Runner.

Not only is my playtime not dictated by the usual workweek schedule, but I try, when possible, to avoid rush hour all together.  Now in Austin, driving somewhere at noon on a Tuesday feels like rush hour in many other places, so I can’t avoid traffic all together by any means.  Morning rush hour here is not that bad, but from 3:30 to 7, M-F, stay off the roads if at all possible.  I don’t understand how people that have to drive in that kind of thing aren’t screaming like banshees for some kind of sensible public transportation.  (I did work 9 to 5, or close to it, for many years.)  City dwellers that fetishize their cars are a breed I don’t quite understand.  It’s not freedom.  Having to drive everywhere in a city, especially at normal hours, is like volunteering to be locked in a slow moving box for several hours a day.  Even if the music is great and your seat is comfortable, at some point you are going to pray for The Road Warrior to become a reality.

In this country we have the money and the technology to do whatever we want, if we really wanted to.  Why don’t more people work from home?  Why is our transportation so shitty?  Austin is a pretty forward thinking city compared to some.  We couldn’t even get the populace to approve one train line.  This is when the population of our city, and the world in general, is exploding.  I have a friend that when he used to get baked, and we would talk about traffic, while his eyes were slits, would say about traffic that, “It’s so fucking inefficient!”  If he, in his state of mind, could tell that, what are most people thinking when sober?

Secrets and Puzzles

In Fort Worth, headed to Lubbock today.   Spent the few days between shows canvassing in Austin.  When you walk a city’s streets it takes on forms and shapes that one does not encounter by car.  Garden gnomes,  concrete monkey statues, and abstract art mine the yards and porches.  Some houses are as clean as a hospital and some look like the Star Wars trash compactor.   Cats of all stripes and colors silently watch your every move.  Dogs that you can’t see bark at your presence.  A man that looks like he time traveled from the 50’s is grinding metal with sparks in the shadows.  A young woman tends a Japanese rock graden.  Each block, and sometimes home, is its own universe, governed by a different diety. 

What goes on in all those homes day and night? There are so many secret worlds that we don’t know about.  I was thinking of human beings as puzzle pieces.  In order to understand the truth of creation you would need the experience of every being that has ever lived.  Books and communication can give us some of the pieces we lack, but we will never have them all.  We remain fumbling in the darkness, with imperfect knowledge of the world as it really is.  Even when those rare treasured souls light a candle for us, giving us the ability to see slightly farther than normal, the light remains brief and dim. 

Tour Poetry Day 5: Imperfect Cities

In La Rochelle, France
I once walked the crooked streets
In awe of its civilized beauty
Before long I noticed
There were no advertisements
Except the painted store signs
Crafted with careful elegance
By local artisans
Today, as I drove through the mountains
Of western Colorado
Where every bend in the road
Left you awestruck with wonder
It felt good to be free
Of the oppressive billboards
And the garish lighted signs
That fill so many of our cities
If only we had more self respect
We would tear down these aesthetic horrors
This blight upon our culture
And then maybe, even our imperfect cities
Built by the fallen hands of man
Might also stand a chance
Of wonder

Steamboat,  Colorado 8/3/14

Green Space and Blue Space

It’s pretty common knowledge that having green space, places to exercise, to get away from the hustle and bustle of life, places to reflect and relax, increases happiness and health in cities.  Today for the first time I read about blue space, that having lakes, ponds, or rivers in a city can also increase health and happiness.  This seems like common sense and appears totally logical.  However, I had never read this before or heard the term blue space.  I want to see if I can find any statistics and further information on this.  I’m interested in city planning and how the space around us can change our state of mind.  I know one of the reasons that I picked the city of Austin to move to was that it had a lot of green space in and surrounding it.  There are, as long as we are not in a drought, plenty of great streams and swimming holes.  Anyway, If you know anything about this I’d love to learn about it.  Please shoot me an email or leave a comment.  In the meantime I will be digging up what I can.

Roads Still Yet to be Traveled

I’ve really become interested in electronic music lately.  Some bands that I’ve been listening to lately have been Kraftwerk, Daft Punk, OMD, and Book of Love.  I also love the Knife, though their music fits less moods than the others, as they are more abrasive and confrontational.  I also love the music on Johnny Jewel’s label, especially the band The Chromatics.  I’ve always loved synth pop.  I grew up on bands like New Order.

I’m interested in the idea of people getting emotion out of technology.  Also some of the best pop songs are in this genre.  Bernard Sumner from New Order can write endless melodies that never leave your head.

Although I grew up with bands like New Order, Electronic, and Depeche Mode, some of my current interest has been driven by the films of Nicolas Winding Refn.  He uses this music to great effect in films like Drive, Bronson, and Only God Forgives.  He understands that although this music is very synthetic on one hand, it is also capable of great emotion.

If country and folk music, which I also love, evoke pastoral settings, electronic music reminds me of the city at nighttime.  That’s not to say that electronic music can’t also be pastoral.  Brian Eno’s 70’s album Another Green World is an album that brings nature to mind more often than not.  Kraftwerk’s Autobahn album also has moments like this.  Although I love songs that have a message and am a fan of great lyrics, sometimes music is wonderful when it just creates space for dreams.

Haruki Murakami’s book After Dark creates a surreal dream like version of the city at night.  When I read things like this I often picture certain pieces by Kraftwerk and the Chromatics as being the perfect soundtrack to these worlds.

I grew up as a fan of the pop song.  More recently I’ve begun to be as interested in music that is non verbal.  Music that is non verbal has to create emotion and thought through pure sound.  This can be music that is instrumental or music that has the vocals obscured through production techniques.  Non verbal to me can even be bands that sing in foreign languages, where I can’t understand what they are saying, and the voice becomes just another emotional texture.  Often in electronic music, especially as you see with bands like Daft Punk and Kraftwerk, only a few simple phrases will be repeated throughout a song.  Even though you understand what they are saying it is open to interpretation when combined with the music.  The words become almost just another sound that feeds into the music and vice versa.

Although I write in the pop song format, and it’s still my favorite format, there is something to be said about music that is non verbal.  The human imagination is a powerful thing.  In the place of words we will often find that our dreams take over and place meaning into things that may or may not be intended by the artist.

I’ve mentioned before how David Lynch liked using grainy digital video for the movie Inland Empire, because he wanted the human imagination to fill in the space that the imperfect images left.  I think a lot of electronic music, the kind that is non verbal or almost non verbal, does this same thing.  It allows for interpretation and dreaming on the part of the listener.

Well there are many forms of instrumental music, many of which I love, the sounds created by electronic instruments create a different headspace.  Again it is often, but not always, more urban and futuristic.  Some bands like OMD, who write pop songs and instrumental pieces, create a retro futurism.  It’s like the sonic version of a film noir that takes place in the past and the future at the same time.  One of my favorite albums right now is their album Dazzle Ships.  It is an album full of mystery, ideas, and dreams.

Too often I think people let cultural or tribal things get in the way of exploring new worlds.  People are more open now to new musical experiences than ever before.  Sometimes though, there still exists a certain tribal instinct that gets in the way of people enjoying different forms, based solely on what they might find “cool” or acceptable in their group.   The human imagination can go anywhere and should be given as much room to roam as possible.  Don’t listen to anything but your own gut.  There are many roads still yet to be traveled.