Austin City Limits 2011

“We should make sure we go to at least one music festival a year for the rest of our lives”, I said to my fiance as TV on The Radio took the stage in front of me during Austin City Limits 2011. The sky in Texas is one of Texas’ best qualities. It seems to canopy the entire sphere of Earth sometimes, looking elastic and bright enough to make you squint. At sunset, pastel colors are strewn from the edges of the horizon, all collapsing in the straight-ahead center sky like cotton candy melting. One of the best parts about Austin City Limits is the opportunity to get lost in that sky all day long and all night long, and the gazing is weekend long. In fact, Zilker Park‘s sky is top notch for the city of Austin. Green trees are roped around the ring of the green park, which is green no matter the drought. From most directions, you’ll see just that: green. But from one direction, you’ll see the ever-expanding Austin skyline, dressed up in colorful shades at night, coming to life with those myriad shades just as the sky is doing the same. It’s an ethereal world there in Zilker Park during Austin City Limits and I’m happy to say I was there for it all this year.
%Gallery-135004%What makes the Austin City Limits experience so very ethereal moved beyond the velvety sky. I mean, it is that. But it is that combined with other elements, other equally powerful elements, which make ACL such a cool experience.

So, you have the sky. But you also have the music.

ACL draws in bona fide headlining acts each year. And for every well-known headlining act that appears as part of an ACL bill, there are several just as good, if not better, lesser-known acts that pour life onto the smaller stages. ACL 2011’s mainstream mascots were: Stevie Wonder, Kanye West, Arcade Fire, Coldplay, and My Morning Jacket. The artists on the roster thereafter were “smaller”, but, particularly in the world of music, smaller is oftentimes for the better. Outside of the huge acts, the ACL stages this year saw the likes of: Manu Chao La Ventura, Fleet Foxes, Alison Krauss & Union Station, Nas & Damien “Jr Gong” Marley, Cee Lo, Bright Eyes, Social Distortion, Empire of The Sun, Cut Copy, Ray LaMontagne, Santigold, Pretty Lights, TV on The Radio, Skrillex, Iron & Wine, Death From Above 1979, Broken Social Scene, Chromeo, Cold War Kids, Elbow, Gillian Welch, Delta Spirit, The Walkmen, Gomez, The Antlers, and, would you believe me if I said SO MANY MORE. Indeed, the large pool of artists each year at ACL and just another one of the main attractions to the festival. Not only are there always big names on the list, but there are also always so many names that any festival-goer will likely have a difficult time choosing which artists to see and which artists to forfeit seeing. Pair that luminous sky with the from-stage vibrations of your favorite music–it looks perfect, it sounds perfect.

Another undeniable draw to ACL was, and probably always will be, the people. Just like every other music festival I have been to, people tend to let their guards down when attending a music festival. And more than let their guards down, many people unleash their inner hippie, their inner lover. Utopia, most of us would agree, probably couldn’t work out practically on a long term scale. But it can sure work out for a weekend. It’s a wonderful reminder of the goodness in humanity to be hanging around outside for several consecutive days with well-wishers occupying themselves with hula-hooping, face-painting, hair-braiding, and groove-dancing.

Austin City Limits 2011 stood out in other ways still. The food was and is all locally sourced and, despite the long lines during regular ‘feeding’ times, still worth the wait. And, as I found out, if you hang around toward the end of the festival, food vendors will start giving you grub for dirt cheap or free. The art vendors have a decent sprawl in the park next to the food stands and there seems to always be good art for the viewing or purchasing around in this area. ACL also excels in the areas of free water, a multitude of portable toilets, numerous bike racks, nearly immediate trash pick-up and recycling, as well as various public transportation options.

All in all, it was a good year back at the fest–my second consecutive year attending. And my oh my, I sure do hope I achieve that one-festival-a-year goal for the rest of my years.

Arabic T-Shirt incident comes to a close with a $240,000 check

It has been 3 years since we reported about Raed Jarrar. This US citizen passed through security at JFK in 2006, got a secondary security search, and was then apprehended at the gate by an airport cop and a JetBlue employee.

See, Raed committed the “horrible” crime of wearing a T-Shirt with some Arabic words. The words on his shirt did not translate to “terrorist,” nor did they warn people that he was going to hijack their flight. The T-Shirt merely said “we will not be silenced,” in Arabic and English.

JetBlue eventually allowed Raed to board his flight, but not until he agreed to cover up his T-Shirt — and to sit in the back of the plane.

Passengers had reportedly complained to the gate staff that the T-Shirt made them feel uncomfortable, and they compared it to someone walking into a bank with a T-Shirt saying “I am a robber.”

Raed finally got some justice, when the TSA and JetBlue awarded him $240,000 in damages. Raed was assisted in his case by the ACLU.

In a day and age where people get paranoid for all the wrong reasons, I’m hoping this incident reminds everyone that not everyone who looks like a Muslim is a terrorist, and not everything in Arabic is warning of impending doom.

You can read more about the case, including a video clip with more details of the incident on the ACLU web site.

Travel Overseas and the Government is Watching You

My doctor’s office has a file on me. So does the dentist, my employers, my credit card company, my bank, my health club and I’m sure a bunch more. I just found out that the file the U.S. government has on me might be bigger than I thought. Any American who has traveled outside the U.S. since 2002, whether they flew, drove, or took a cruise, has had their trips monitored.

The Automated Targeting System, part of Homeland Security, has been doing its monitoring thing since the 1990s, but in recent years the information that is gathered has grown. Because of technology and automation, info can be culled from places like commercial reservation systems.

The idea, of course, is to separate those who are simply traveling for whatever non-threatening reason from those who are doing illegal activity or who are possible threats. If you are pulled aside for more screening, your file could get bigger with more information. One guy, whose case is written about in this recent article, found out that his file listed Drugs and Your Rights, a book he was traveling with.

Here is the typical information in that can be found in people’s files. Currently, information is kept for 15 years.

  • names
  • addresses
  • credit card information
  • phone and email contacts
  • itineraries
  • hotel and car reservations

As you can imagine, there is a debate about this tracking system. Perhaps, though, it might come in handy. For example, let’s say you are trying to figure out the exact dates of that trip to Borneo that you took years ago. You’re finally putting together a trip scrapbook and the details you remember are fuzzy. If you contacted the folks watching over the Automated Targeting System, I wonder if they would let you know the dates of your trip and the name of that neat hotel you stayed in as well? By, the way, I’m kidding. I’m not sure what I think of this system. Governments like Singapore’s have kept track of their citizens for years.