Archive for November 2nd, 2008

Austin.. skyline??

Ok. I really have to differ with Jeff and Caitlin on this one.
Call me a snob, but for someone who came from a city that looks like this ↓

photo by Topic Agency/Getty Images

South Korea: Seoul Skyline, photo by Topic Agency/Getty Images

Frost Bank, Austin

Frost Bank, Austin

Austin’s skyline seems pretty non-existent to me.

Come on. You can practically count the buildings that can actually be counted as part of the “skyline” (like.. 7?) and the Frost Bank is the ONE building that has any aesthetic value.

I think that’s actually one of the first things I noticed about Austin.
It just felt like something was missing. Everything seemed so empty, and I couldn’t figure out why.
Then I realized it was because the entire sky was empty.

In Seoul, you have to crank your neck and look up in order to be able to see the sky because there are so many skyscrapers and high buildings. Here in Austin, you can see the sky in front of you – you barely have to look up.
Do you guys know how weird that is??
To be able to see the sky in front of you?
To me, that was one of the weirdest things to get used to here.

I mean, I guess maybe that could be a plus, since you have a wider, more open view. And it actually accounts for one of my favorite things about austin now – the great view of the sky. I’ve never seen skies the way I have been able to in Austin. But it also means that there’s just not much there.

I’m not trying to hate on Austin, and I’m not saying that every city needs to be crammed with huge buildings in order to be beautiful. Texas is a humongous state – about 7 times the size of Korea, but with only 1/3 of the population of Korea – so you really don’t need to build high since you have the space to build wide. And that is part of Austin’s beauty. But skyline-wise… it’s just not the most exciting place.



The Austin Skyline

Okay, so, it’s ever-changing, and a lot of people are concerned about that, but let’s take a minute to appreciate the beautiful Austin skyline.  There’s a reason that fans, during UT football games, cheer so feverishly for the “What Starts Here, Changes the World” commercial (#8, “Get Your Horns Up”), and it’s not just for Walter Cronkite.  We live in a beautiful city with a beautiful skyline.

The beautiful Austin skyline at night, by photographer Erik Pronske.

The beautiful Austin skyline at night, by photographer Erik Pronske.

Oh sure, I guess every city could claim to have a beautiful skyline at night (except, of course, Youngstown, Ohio), but there’s something special about being in Austin now.  I don’t mean to offend the anti-development folks.  Typically these are the people who have been here a long time and don’t like seeing Austin change.  But to me, it feels like an important time to be in Austin.  The city’s changing in exciting ways.

Not only is the architecture itself beautiful (I’m looking at you, Frost Bank Tower), but the way its positioned was also thoughtfully executed.  I had a friend come to visit me this weekend, and as we approached the tower one evening and peered south to the Capitol, I thought to myself for the thousandth time, “What a beautiful city.”

The University of Texas tower overlooking the Austin night sky.  Photo courtesy of Benjamin Gustaffson.

The University of Texas tower overlooking the Austin night sky. Photo courtesy of Benjamin Gustaffson.

I’ll apolgize now for the “stop and smell the roses”-type post, but that’s an expression for a reason.  So next time when you’re on the cusp of being black-out drunk on 6th Street, thank the Austin city planners for giving you compass points in the night sky to direct you home.



Austin graffiti and street art are defining of the city. Graffiti artists create the images we see through out town using multiple medias including:  murals, posters and spray painted stencils on walls and sidewalks. Some of these are legal and some aren’t. I always find them interesting and think they add character when they are creative or well thought out.

A particularly famous exhibit of graffiti art in Austin can be found on the drag. In 1993, Daniel Johnston painted the mural, which features an image of a frog with the words “Hi how are you” arched above it. Johnston called the frog Jeremiah the Innocent.

The frog mural by Daniel Johnston (credit Birzer on

The frog mural by Daniel Johnston (credit Birzer on

In 2004, this mural that over the last 10 years had become iconic of Austin received a lot of press. That year the “Save the Frog” campaign occurred, when the building, which featuring the frog on the corner of Guadalupe and 23rd street, was being turned into a Baja Fresh (now the sushi restaurant, Crave). The new owners had planned to tear down the wall with the mural on it.  Builders received much confrontation and protest from hundred of Austinites, eventually resulting in the preservation of the wall and frog. This event received national notoriety and in January of 2004 the article “Johnston Frog Mural Saved” was published in Rolling Stone featuring the incident and the artist.

There is also a lot of “Hi how are you” frog merchandise produced, from T-shirts to figurines. If you’re interested you can check them out at,  as well as listen to Johnston’s music, read his bio and a lot more at his official web page:

Daniel Johnston is also a musician who has collaborated with many musicians including Yo La Tengo and Okkervile River. He has also had a documentary made about him called “The Devil and Daniel Johnston.”

Carrot graffitti can be seen in various locations in central Austin. (credit pusgums @

Graffiti of carrots can be seen at random places central Austin. (credit pusgums @

 Stencil and spray paint graffitti in Austin. (credit overprocessed @

Stencil and spray paint graffiti in Austin. (credit overprocessed @

Today, there are many images throughout the city that you may see traveling around the city on any given day.


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