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  austin - jon lebkowsky

freewheelin' in austin

"But now Charles Whitman; there was a man. Twenty-three years this summer. This town has always had its share of crazies; I wouldn't want to live anywhere else." -- Old Anarchist in the film "Slacker"

Over the course of two decades living in Austin I've run side by side with just about every cultural wave that has hit this town, from the coevolution of psychedelia in Austin and San Francisco in the 60s, through the eras of cocamania and disco frenzy, stone reggae, cosmic cowboyz, punk explosion, yuppie excess, and finally the emergence of technocultural geekocracy. Along the way, the Austin community savored and absorbed all these diverse styles yet retained its own particularity, its own synthesis of psychedelic southwest, rockabilly gothic, and a dedication to freedom espoused by the rock plain-spoken literati of the land, the Philosopher's Rock trio of J. Frank Dobie, Roy Bedicek, and Walter Prescott Webb, and later John Henry Faulk, who contributed to a freethinking freewheeling political ethos contrary to the conservatism of the rest of the state.

cowboy You cannot understand Austin through stock, stereotypical images of cowboy rednecks from hell. The ethos of Austin derives more from the free-spirited fringes and the cumulative energies of a thousand points of party lights. Austin scales the best of Texas, from a distillation of frontier spirit with attitude, to a global perspective that seeks to push every limit, and straddle many a fence.

stevie ray vaughn From the top of the Texas Tower at the heart of the University of Texas, where Charles Whitman spent a quiet afternoon in the late '60s picking off bystanders from his sniper's perch, to the statue of Stevie Ray Vaughan, who embodied Austin's "yer own thing" style in his life and his power-chord blues? From the revitalized 6th Street downtown, where nightscene crowds wander from bar to club to lounge living the promise of Austin's vibrant music scene, over to Guadalupe Street, the Drag, where perky students bop from store to store while slackers hang in the shadows and panhandlers rap the spare-change variations. And from there, out to the chain of lakes formed by the Colorado River, where amphibious Texans go to chill out?

Austin's also a hotbed of internetworking, comparable only to the Bay Area and Boston in this regard, and the freewheeling sense of an electronic frontier resonates easily with Austin's open culture and gonzo sensibility. Today's cyberrights movement was jolted to life after the U.S. Secret Service raided steve jackson Steve Jackson Games; Jackson sued the government, and won. Steve and others formed an organization called EFF-Austin, originally intended as an alpha chapter of the national EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation), but ultimately incorporated as an independent entity which became an early focal point for Austin's cyber community, sponsoring and supporting diverse informational and cultural events, raising local consciousness about cyberspace way before the Internet became a household word.

I didn't really intend this to be a travelog, exactly; just trying to convey a sense of this place I live and love. Anyway, until such time as you can come on down and see for yourself what's going on here, I guess this online jammin' will be the next best thing.


jzitt said:

One thing I liked about living in (of all places) Brooklyn, was that I could walk to anything I needed to get to. For that matter, I've lived over the years in two places in Austin where I didn't need a car except for getting to work: Riverside Drive a few blocks from I-35 (back when Half-Price Books was still there) and at the Northcross Apartments, across from the Northcross Mall and the Village Theatre. The Northcross location was quite nice -- I was off a walkway far enough, but not too far, from the parking lot. I ate at Furr's at the mall a lot -- It was actually closer to my apartment than the college dining hall was when I was a student, and the food was of comparable quality, so I sort of considered it the commune eatery. :-)

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After five years EFF-Austin is still jammin', and there are other organizations contributing to the scene, such as:

  • MAIN, the Metropolitan Austin Interactive Network, which supports universal access and provides a system and support for nonprofits to stage web pages.

  • The Robot Group, a cyberarts collective dedicated to the integration of art and technology.

  • The ACTLab, or Advanced Communications Technology Laboratory, a cutting-edge interactive media lab at the University of Texas at Austin.

  • Origin Systems, creators of interactive worlds on CD ROM.
    Also in Austin:

    On a Rock and Roll Fire Truck
    Jon Lebkowsky visits once famous rocker Shawn Phillips, who now divides his time down in Austin between digital sequencers and fire trucks.

    vr in 3space - realspace, mindspace, cyberspace
    Follow Austin hardware innovator Brian Park's quest for the ultimate VR simulator in this Jam report from Jon Lebkowsky.

    going native in cyberspace
    Austin cyberarts pioneer, Bob Anderson's passion for pixels and networked collaboration are explored in this encounter with Jon Lebkowsky.

    Complete Archive


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