Texas Country Hash

Vol. 1, No. 11

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Today, we’re going to talk a bit about the present and future for my adopted home state of Texas.

Also this week:

  • OpenAI’s other co-founder will save us all

  • DOJ releases Adobe Karma Suite

  • Costco hot dogs with an Oxford grad

Texas Flexes

Every new Austinite brings a bit of the culture he left behind. No matter how interesting the newcomers are, their attitudes, their preferences, their prejudices become novel flavors in the cultural stew. Austin will never taste the same.

A Lone Star Status Report

This month, I celebrated 15 years in Texas.

Despite the heat, the failing power grid, the rising home prices, and any number of other perceived shortcomings, an estimated 600,000 people have joined the party in Austin since my arrival, each looking to make their mark on the country’s fastest growing city.

I have seen them all come: the Cosplay Cowboys from LA and Brooklyn, the Bay Area’s vest-wearing Silicon Hillbillies, the Taxtotallers from Wall Street. They all washed up on the shores of Lady Bird Lake, huddled masses yearning to be free of state income tax.

With each wave, the high water mark edged higher as air rights were exercised and cranes erected, ushering in this transformation:

It’s not just Austin. National headlines about Texas are too often dominated by the state’s rancid social politics, from the all-out war on women’s health to requiring schools to display In God We Trust in the classroom. But on the ground, as much as state legislators seem intent on derailing progress to pander to an aging religious minority, working Texans keep moving the state forward.

After proudly declaring itself “open for business” since the days of the great debater Rick Perry, years of investment across Texas has coalesced post-pandemic, and business is booming.

Tesla and SpaceX are the headliners, but Samsung, Apple, and Oracle have become some of the state’s largest employers. The AI explosion is a huge windfall for Austin locals Dell and AMD, and Samsung is investing over $45 billion into its local chip-making facilities.

BlackRock and Citadel are putting up millions to help start the Texas Stock Exchange. There are even two competing high-speed rail projects in development, as private and public interests alike finally realize the economic potential of improving travel between Texas’s four metropolises.

It’s not just tech and finance, Texas brands have more heat that the Amarillo pavement in August.

Our pit stop of choice just opened the world’s largest convenience store (75,000 square feet) and has become a national icon (with the all-important Lenny Kravitz mesh seal of approval).

Buc-ee rizzing up visitors with his new Ozempic bod

The official (non-alcoholic) beverage of Texas is now the #2 soda in the country. Joanna and Chip Gaines’ Magnolia has become a $750 million empire while managing the near-impossible feat of giving Waco cultural cachet. Whataburger sold out…and is still beloved enough to inspire a sick pair of customer AJ3s:

How many fast food joints inspire AJ3 customs?

Throughout the aughts and early ‘10s, Austin was still best known for Dell PCs and Livestrong bracelets. Today, homegrown brands like YETI are finally giving the city more contemporary cultural exports.

Even Dallas is getting kind of cool?

Once a cultural dead zone for anyone over 10 and under 50, DFW is suddenly attracting more au courant attractions, from corporate-backed ventures like the newly-announced Netflix House and McDonald’s spin-off CosMcs to the decidedly more edgy immersive art experience Meow Wolf (which is also coming to Houston).

Sport, especially college football, has always been religion in Texas but lately there are a lot more reasons to go to worship. The Longhorns are back and reunited with rivals Texas A&M in the SEC. Up in Dallas, the long-dormant SMU just raised a record $165 million from donors after joining the ACC.

In addition to “new Ivy” UT, Austin finally has a pro sports team (we’re also making a push for an MLB team in partnership with San Antonio) and continues to accrue the benefits of having been early to the F1 resurgence.

Last year Red Bull Racing airlifted a car over Austin to sponsor Oracle’s HQ

Further afield, the last two World Series were won by Texas teams (the first non-asterisk titles for the state), the Mavericks just made an improbable NBA Finals run, the Spurs promise to be one of the most exciting teams of the decade with Alien of the Year Carlos Wembanyama, and the Texans have the best young quarterback in the NFL in CJ Stroud.

The Cowboys? Well, bless their hearts, they keep trying too. At least AT&T Stadium is hosting some 2026 World Cup matches so their home can finally bear witness to winning on a big stage.

Texas culture is also flourishing, at home and on the national stage. It’s hard to ask for a much better ambassador than Cowboy Carter.

It also doesn’t hurt when Dolly turns up at halftime in a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader uniform, arguably the team’s biggest win since the 1990s.

The entertainment world has also expanded its Austin presence. There are two large studio lots going up outside of Austin. The McConaissance helped elevate the city’s naked bongo playing mascot into its Minister of Culture, an Oscar winner, best-selling author, and tequila impresario. Academy Award nominee Jesse Plemons is doing ads for Shiner, Emma Stone relocated here. The arrival of Joe Rogan, Tim Ferris, and Peter Attia (amongst others) has made Austin into podcast bro mecca. And now, the second most-bankable actor of the moment, Glen Powell, has been very vocal about his own move back to his hometown of Austin.

A delegation from Austin’s Ministry of Culture welcoming Glen Powell to town

Fifteen years, more than half a million people, and a bunch of skyscrapers later, there’s still plenty of room to make your mark.

The party in Austin is just getting started.

Today’s Sunday Bunch is brought to you by Notion.

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Innovation & Friends

🤖 OpenAI co-founder Ilya Sutskever launched his new company. The startup will focus on research to help create more intelligent AI systems, with an emphasis on safety.

🖼️ The Justice Department busted down Adobe’s door for deceptive design practices, using onerous, undisclosed terms and dark patterns to make it almost impossible for customers to leave.

“Subscribers who have attempted to cancel via customer service have encountered several obstacles that impede or delay their attempts to cancel,” the suit reads. “Many subscribers attempting to cancel via phone or chat have been subjected to a time-consuming and burdensome process.”

US Department of Justice

I recently escaped from a Creative Suite subscription, I think it’s easier to get out of Scientology or a Bally gym membership.

👻 Snapchat’s opioid problem. Disappearing messages and real-time location sharing; a dealer couldn’t design a much better SaaS solution.

💨 Pneumatic tubes are making a comeback. Except at Texas ATMs, where they never left.

Culturegazing

🤩 Mainstream is the new niche. Crazy stat: Based on the population at the time, 15.9% of the U.S. bought Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’.

🌭 Understanding Costco love. I love the idea of an Economist reporter sampling the $1.50 hot dogs and Kirkland jeans.

👑 Gen Z or Gen Alpha: who’s the most annoying? Today’s kids can’t even get to high school before we pit them against the older generation.

🥤 Mr Beast will come in a can. This or Prime is going to be our Brawndo, I’m just not sure which one yet.

Mr Beast Enterprises is reportedly on track for $700 million in revenue this year

🌡️ Heat makes us stupid. Unrelated to the previous item, maybe? Also a caveat for why my Texas predictions might not pan out. 

The Sporting Life

🥇 Why are the Olympics so expensive? It’s not just the Louis V-ensconced Paris games, the average cost of hosting has passed the $10 billion mark.

🧮 The Excel superstars throw down in Vegas. Deep into the heart of the Microsoft Excel World Championship. Fear & Loathing with macros.

⚾️ RIP, Willie Mays. The greatest centerfielder of all-time.

Highbrow to lowbrow here to close it out, starting with these gorgeous art nouveau posters.

(Don’t worry, it goes downhill fast.)

Louis John Rhead, “Century Magazine, The Century Christmas Number” (1894)

And finally, just in time for wedding season…

As always, thank you for reading. Have a great rest of your weekend, I’ll see you next Sunday.

Cheers,
BUNCH

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