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Monthly Archives: January 2012

When Facebook finally goes publicit’ll be a big moment for Silicon Valley, not only because it may be the biggest tech IPO ever but also because it will validate the social network’s staggering growth to date. When I joined, it was a barebones college-only online community where we could talk about courses, dorm life, and stalk that one hot classmate in East Asian History. Now it’s the Internet site people spend the most time on, with 800 million active users from ages 13 up uploading 250 milion photos a day.
In the U.S., the average user spends eight hours a month on Facebook; the self-admitted addict I am likely clocks that much in a week. To quote myself, Facebook eventually became “a way of life — a heady, nonstop road I’ve traveled along for years, where street signs are replaced with dynamic real-time news feeds, and my fragile ego can be crushed or swelled with pride depending on the number of people who deign to like or, even better, comment on my posts.” Heck, for many Facebook practically is the Internet.
-via JP Mangalindan, FORTUNE

I am blessed and cursed with a line of work that requires me to constantly read news and disseminate it. A necessary (and oftentimes evil) component of this requirement is constant connectivity to social media channels including the animal that is Facebook.

This Fortune article is so honest, poignant and sadly, true. 8 hours of Facebook? That’s a full day’s work. That’s an entire night’s sleep. That’s valuable time I could be spending with actual people or doing things I enjoy. I think it’s remarkable, but so tragic how Facebook has become an integral part of our lives because it has evolved into a platform I honestly don’t like that much.

The ability to converge your blog posts and your photos and your Twitter updates and your GPS location into one enormous, distracting feed is impressive, but is it necessary? It’s exhaustive. I like using Facebook the way it was originally intended to be used – to keep in touch with people. But I’ve started resenting how it has ultimately become a platform for oversharing and ultimately a huge time-suck.

I hate when people reference Facebook in real-time – in real conversations that take place outside of the digital realm. I’ve read plenty of soft news stories about long-lost couples reuniting or people locating stolen items via Facebook, but what about jealous ex-husbands harassing their previous victims from prison? Or idiot moms who shake their babies to death for interrupting their games of Farmville? Does Mark Zuckerberg feel remorse every time we hear about another young teen committing suicide after being relentlessly cyberbullied?

I’ve never met Mark Zuckerberg, but he seems like a douchebag. If he’s anything like the character Jesse Eisenberg beautifully portrayed – and I imagine he is to some extent – he’s probably arrogant, rich and too smart for his own good. But is he friendless? I remember reading TIME’s Person of the Year article profiling Zuckerberg in 2010; and though articulate and polite, he seemed to lack a general understanding of privacy or how relationships and friendships really work.

I doubt I’ll ever delete my account. I’ve invested too much time into the habit, I use it for work and sadly, it’s how several of my peers primarily communicate. But I definitely identify with Mangalindan. I’m tired of Facebook and it annoys the hell out of me. I can only wish that this IPO will somehow improve the user experience, but I have a feeling that this attention-hungry, cash-generating animal will just turn into a monster.

(I do, however, think Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross created an outstanding soundtrack for The Social Network)

And you may ask yourself, Well, how did I get here? …
And you may tell yourself,
This is not my beautiful house.
And you may tell yourself

This is not my beautiful wife.

Once in a Lifetime, by The Talking Heads

I was a little apprehensive about cracking the spine of The Marriage Plot, fearing that Jeffrey Eugenides’ most recent novel would fail to live up to the legacies of the classic Virgin Suicides and the Pulitzer-winning Middlesex. Encouraged by positive book reviews and The Marriage Plot making several “Best of 2011” lists, I dove head-first into Eugenides’ third novel, which turned out to be one of the best books I’ve ever read.

Eugenides chronicles the complicated love story between main character, the beautiful, smart and wistfully romantic Madeleine Hanna, Leonard Bankhead (the boy she’s in love with) and Mitchell Grammaticus (the boy who’s in love with her; Mitchell Grammaticus is also the boy who I’m in love with).

In essence, the only common denominator these three main characters share is an intellect worthy of a Brown education in the early 80’s, which is where and when this novel takes place. I’ll try not to divulge too much about the characters or the plot of this novel in efforts to prevent spoiling the tale for any of you future readers, but I will point out some of the main elements of this book that made me fall in love with it.

  • Madeleine Hanna – I want to avoid calling Madeleine a hopeless romantic in the traditional sense; she is not the type that eats Bon-Bons and cries inconsolably during Chocolat and When Harry Met Sally. However, we find out very early in this book that Madeleine is indeed very romantic and constantly stuck in impossibly tragic situations. But rather than drowning herself in corny Nicholas Sparks films, Madeleine immerses herself in Jane Austen, Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina and other novels with classically beautiful marriage plots.As an accelerated English major, Madeleine not only reads and analyzes the complicated romances in classic literature, but she often evaluates her own relationships with her boyfriends, platonic friends and family members throughout the entire book. She’s one of those characters you hate for making irrational, emotional decisions despite her irrefutable intelligence, beauty and charm. And you love her for her irrefutable intelligence, beauty and charm. She’s the archetypal tragic hero, the one who allows love to dictate her life whether or not doing this is healthy, wise or what will ultimately make her happy.
  • Leonard Bankhead – Early in the story, we discover that this tall, brooding man is the object of Madeleine’s affections. He’s impossible for Madeleine (and the reader) to figure out, which adds to our fascination and insatiable intrigue with him. Leonard and Madeleine originate from completely different backgrounds and social classes (very Pride & Prejudice) and have one of those tumultuous relationships that’s dysfunctional, but passionate. Beyond repair, but worth fighting for. Contrary to what you may deduce from this review, Leonard is not the bad guy. In fact, he’s quite likeable. Leonard’s just a handful and Euginedes describes the blessing and burden of being his girlfriend beautifully from Madeleine’s point of view.
  • Mitchell Grammaticus – I’m in love with Mitchell Grammaticus. What’s not to love about a character named Mitchell Grammaticus? That beautiful, multisyllabic Greek name reserved only for insightful, charming and kind Religious Studies majors. In the book, his path to self-discovery leads him to visit foreign countries and experiment with different religions, but his journey always leads back to Madeleine Hanna. His love and adoration of her is so pure and unadulterated, it’s impossible not to identify with his frustrations and longing for her. For me, the saddest part of this entire book was accepting the undeniable realization that Mitchell Grammaticus was fictional.

My favorite part of this book was how Euginedes weaved so many of my favorite stories into his own. I love Jane Austen and Anna Karenina. I love the 80’s (even though I was only alive for the tail end of that decade) I love the Talking Heads and I love my favorite book, which is an integral part of Mitchell’s character (Franny & Zooey by J.D. Salinger). I also love marriage plots. I have a weakness for confused characters with equally convoluted feelings for eachother. It’s the stuff The Smiths and Morrissey write about.

Perhaps I’m a hopeless romantic too. Single partly because I want to be, but also because of the inner-conflicts that Madeleine and girls all over the world have faced for centuries. Do you love the one who got away? Or do you love the one you’ve always had? Or is it better not to love at all?

I don’t think this book is for everyone, but I do think that it’s fantastic. I also will be forever indebted to Jeffrey Euginedes for introducing me to Mitchell Grammaticus, the smart, handsome boy I will aspire to find one day.

The Talking Heads – Once in a Lifetime (Virgin Magnet Material Remix)

Remix Artist Collective - Beauty Ballroom, Austin, TX

Apologies in advance for the misleading title; this post is not about Tyga and what SPIN magazine considers the best song on the radio right now (which I admit, is probably the best song on the radio right now).

Anyway, this is about a different RAC – the Remix Artist Collective, who I had the pleasure of seeing at a brand-spanking-new venue in east Austin this past weekend. As an extension of the already popular Beauty Bar, the bigger, but equally glittery Beauty Ballroom is an intimate space to watch music, drink and dance.

And boy, was there dancing! (and drinking, naturally)

Andre and Andrew, RAC DJs

I’ve always liked the RAC DJs. Remixing existing songs that are already pretty good on their own is a tricky art. The RAC DJs somehow transform remixed songs into tracks that are different enough to sound interesting while maintaining the integrity of original songs. Tis a delicate balance.

Saturday’s set list included: Houdini by Foster the People, Static on the Wire by Holy Ghost! and Blue Jeans by the ever polarizing Lana Del Rey. Crazy bitch. As the clock approached 2 and the lights turned on, the boys ended with the only too appropriate single Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes and my friends and I happily hopped in a cab and went Home.

Check out their medley of the best songs from last year – it’s rad.

RAC 2011 Zeitgest Mix for 2011:

Starfucker - The Mohawk, January 14, 2012

My first concert of the year at The Mohawk, arguably my favorite venue in Austin. Mesmerizing, dancy show in chilly January weather reminded me of Nick and Norah’s quest to track down Where’s Fluffy?

Starfucker – Girls Just Wanna Have Fun 

My friend Andrea and I watched in joy while dancing the night away. And when the band played their classic Cyndi Lauper cover, the adorable gay couple next to us were the only two having more fun than we were. I guess boys just wanna have fun too.

$12 tickets + $2 tall boys + intimate venue = euphoria

I have an unbending, non-negotiable policy when it comes to films based off of books. Years ago, I vowed to never watch a film unless I read the book it was based off of first (exceptions include books that are utter wastes of time – i.e. abominations written by Jodi Picoult or Nicholas Sparks; those movies are passable, but I will never spend time or money on such novels when there’s a sea of better literature waiting for me to explore). I hate having my imagination diluted by familiar actors and actresses, even if they do the characters justice. That’s why I stick steadfastly to my self-imposed “read before watch” rule.

Friday Night Lights, however, is an extraordinary exception. I actually experienced the entire Friday Night Lights animal in reverse and can proudly admit that the television series, the film and the soundtrack enhanced the book. None of those elements detracted from my utter love and adoration with the original work the entire franchise was founded upon.

I discovered Explosions in the Sky first and I can’t compare them to any other band. I absolutely love listening to their beautiful, rich, wordless compositions. Their scoring of both the film and the television series are magnificent. Perhaps, their humble Midland, Texas origins gave them greater perspective on the phenomenon that is Texas high school football. Their music is so powerful and exhilarating and seeing Explosions in the Sky live (preferably in a theater or venue lauded for impressive acoustics) is one of the top-most items on my bucket list.

A few years later, I moved in with my current roommate who introduced me to what I consider the most exceptional television show I’ve ever watched. I’ve laughed and wept through five emotional and wonderful seasons before the series ended a year or two ago. The depth of the characters, the cinematography, the dialogue, the relationships, the heartbreak – they all compose such outstanding fiction. To this day, I can’t think of a couple that rivals that of Eric and Tami Taylor. I suppose that’s why I’m  single; Coach Taylor and his wife create a standard that is nearly impossible to achieve in real life, though I truly hope it exists.

After finishing the entire series, I watched the film, which was also wonderful. Billy Bob Thornton did an excellent job of portraying the ever-stressed, but always classy hometown high school football coach carrying the hopes and dreams of an entire community on his shoulders. Sometimes I wonder if his poignant acting in Friday Night Lights ultimately lead to his landing the role as Morris Buttermaker in Bad News Bears.

Today, more than 20 years after it was penned, I finished the original novel by H.G. Bissinger, which my sister thoughtfully gifted me for Christmas. What an outstanding book; considered by Sports Illustrated as the #1 book ever written about football.

I had no idea that Bissinger was a journalist from the Philadelphia Inquirer; he beautifully intertwined sharp reporting and engaging storytelling throughout the entire book. As I was reading Friday Night Lights, I was both surprised and pleased to discover that it wasn’t a sports book. The subject matter was undeniably centered around football. Football players. Football coaches. Football fans and football games played under extraordinarily luminous Friday night lights. But elements of politics, racism, economics, a failed academic system and smalltown Texas culture were also embedded in the story, which separated Friday Night LIghts from other books or news articles about the game of football. After all, Permian football in Odessa during the late 80’s was more than a sport; it was a lifestyle, essentially a religion.

I was born in 1987. The book catalogs the Odessa Permian Panther football team from 1988-1999. Sometimes, I balk at the ignorance, racism, conservative thinking and utter disregard for anything outside of football that was eloquently described in this book. It’s hard to fathom that I grew up in this decade. But as a native Texan, i also admired the devotion, loyalty and community that was Odessa in 1988. The characters, their families and the entire Odessa community exhibited such a tragic purity – almost childlike, in their support for the Permian Panthers. I couldn’t help but love and secretly wish I could attend a sports game with that level of emotional investment.

I did visualize characters from both the television show and the film as I read, sometimes wearing royal blue Dillon Panther jerseys, other times Permian Panther black. I think the creators of the movie and TV show did an exceptional job of casting the characters whose only common denominator orbited around an undying love of football.

After I finished the book, I listened to The Earth Is A Cold Dead Place, my favorite Explosions album, a few times on repeat. For a non-fiction book, Friday Night Lights had a heartwrenching effect on me. I badly wanted to be apart of the Odessa community, the Panther family and experience football in its purist, most electric form. Simultaneously, I pitied this tragic way of life – developing a lifestyle around a mere game played by 16 and 17-year-old boys. The blatant disregard for academic aptitude and racial tolerance not only appalled me, but disappointed me as a Texan.

Bissinger received a lot of negative criticisms, threats even, after publishing the book. I’m sure the way Odessa was portrayed infuriated many of the city’s residents. But he’s a Pulitzer-winning journalist and I considered his writing fair and even empathic. He loves the players he spent time with. He admired the wholesomeness of the Odessa community. And he loved the brightness of those Friday night lights. Upon finishing the last page of Friday Night Lights, I felt an odd emptiness, an indescribable loss spiked with a twinge of sadness. I felt like those Permian high school seniors must have felt upon ending their football careers in that monumental game against the Dallas Carter Cowboys in 1988. I just couldn’t believe it was over.

I challenged myself to read more books in 2012, which is probably the only one of my New Year’s Resolutions I’m facing with positivity and enthusiasm. I love reading and already read more than the average individual, but far less than I’d like. I often go through addictive phases where I hungrily devour four or five books in a matter of two or three weeks, relishing in the satisfaction of conquering pages and gaining stores of intellectual capital. However, life inevitably gets in the way and unread books spend months pitifully gathering dust due to my laziness and negligence.

A few weeks ago, I proactively decided to take a dual approach to combat these slumps in my reading habits:

  1. Tracking my activity – I created a simple spreadsheet on Google docs listing all of the books I’ve been meaning to read, re-read and/or buy. I included authors, a notes column (bearing comments such as “2011 New York Times Bestseller’s list,” “recommended by good-looking co-worker” or “about a prick wearing a turtleneck” which corresponds to Isaacson’s lengthy Steve Jobs biopic). Also, the table touts a deadline column noting helpful timeframes (i.e. “must finish Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close before the film release on January 20″ or “book X becomes available on paperback on month Y”)
  2. Employing accountability– For nearly two years, two of my best friends and I have entertained the idea of starting a book club. The three of us are wildly different and we live in different cities, but we all share a mutual love of reading. So not only would a book club keep us intellectually stimulated, but it would invisibly bind our friendship – like the Fellowship of the Ring or the Unbreakable Vow or even a pair of traveling denim slacks (which is ridiculous because we all have different body types, those books are painfully childish and one of our members is male).Anyway, our novel idea (ha!) quickly died because we never implemented any type of system or a schedule; our Western Front camaraderie, our Order of the Phoenix, quite frankly, lacked order. To further complicate things, both of my friends are already incredibly intelligent and well-read; choosing a book that none of us have already read and allof us want to read posed a miserable feat in itself.Fortunately, Larry Page and his drove of Google developers created cloud-based documents enabling me to easily share my spreadsheet with my friends. Both of them have been feverishly adding and updating with their own selections and feedback, so I think our work in progress is, in effect, progressively working. The document is easy enough to access and manage, so hopefully our system sustains itself. So far it has; it’s January 17 and I’m already a third through my fourth book of the year (and yes, I finished Safran Foer’s book well in advance of the film’s debut on Friday)

The only remaining challenge is creating a moniker for our illustrious book club. It ideally will reference some literary organization and be murderously clever. Like the Live Poets Society, Middlesexcapades or Fight Club (but then we could never talk about it without deliberately breaking the primary precepts of the club…)

Moral of the story (there I go again!) is that I plan to share my literary conquests with you readers in addition to my musical exploits. As I’ve been reading, miniature reviews, almost resembling literary essays, have been formulating in my mind. I hope this challenges you to pick up a book or two, or at the very least take a proactive stab towards achieving your own goals.

The End.

I was fortunate enough to witness (and survive) some wild ragers last year; merely thinking about them exhausts me. There’s no way I could choose just one winner for the shitshow category; the experiences were too similar and to be honest, many of those experiences are a tad foggy since my judgment was impaired by a combination of dehydration, intoxication and sensory overstimulation.

Hats on hats on hats - Identity Fest, Houston, TX

A few recurring themes are indicative of these shitshows – neon colors, glow-in-the-dark accessories, swimming pool paraphernalia and rabid crowds.

Avicii at Nocturnal Fest - Apache Pass, TX, April 2011

NOCTURNAL FEST – APACHE PASS, TX
Nocturnal Fest gave me my first taste of raver culture, which was terrifying as it was colorful. Organized by appropriately named production company, Insomniac Events, Nocturnal was in a deserted No Man’s Land in Texas about an hour north of Austin. And civilization. Nocturnal was truly set in an enchanted forrest in the most literal sense – the trees were lit up with neon lights and young, scantily clad girls donning tutus and fairy wings were ecstatically frolicking about in furry boots.

Bass-heavy acts like Feed Me and Bassnectar were offset by chill jam band, STS9 and poppier, dancier artists like Avicii and Savoy. I didn’t crawl into bed until after sunrise and I’m pretty sure I slept a solid 18 hours after that night.

Robyn – Call Your Girlfriend (Feed Me Remix)

Major Lazer at Outside Lands - San Francisco, CA, August 2011

MAJOR LAZER AT OUTSIDE LANDS – SAN FRANCISCO, CA
Seeing Major Lazer at Outside Lands was akin to the debauched spring break in Cancun I never had – shirtless bros bearing bikini-clad chicks on their shoulders accompanied by the masterful mixes of Diplo and Switch. Lest we forget, Hype Man, Skerrit Bwoy always Keeps It Goin’ Louder by scaling the rafters and whipping his shirt around like a Terrible Towel. If you can’t tell by the photo, the crowd tends to mimic his behavior.

Major Lazer & The Party Squad – Original Don

Steve Aoki at Identity Fest - Houston, TX, August 2011

IDENTITY FEST – HOUSTON, TX
I didn’t know Aoki had so many antics up his sleeve – but he is a total entertainer. I believe he popped three bottles of champagne into the sweat-drenched crowd before jumping in himself and dancing with us.

Skrillex - ACL Aftershow, La Zona Rosa, Sept. 2011

Skrillex, ACL Aftershow - La Zona Rosa, Sept. 2011

SKRILLEX – AUSTIN CITY LIMITS AFTERSHOW, LA ZONA ROSA
I’m not sure why Skrillex shows incite the abuse of inflatable swimming pool flotation devices, but this dubstep shitshow felt like a belching earthquake of epic proportions. Sonny Moore is so resilient and electric when he performs and he’s almost always puffing on a cigarette. This guy is wild – in 2011, he played festivals around the globe and even scored a Grammy nomination. He is a cinema, I could watch him forever. Can’t wait to see what he’s up to next.

Skrillex (ft. Sirah) – Bangarang

Diplo - Fun Fun Fun Fest, Austin, TX, Nov. 2011

DIPLO – FUN FUN FUN FEST, AUSTIN, TX
Diplo’s solo set at Fun Fun Fun Fest was in the running for best show of the year – period. He didn’t quite earn that honor, but he has earned the title of Alison’s Favorite DJ. You can tell he’s a seasoned professional – he’s not just an entertainer and a party starter, but also a very talented producer who mixes, composes and uses BlackBerry Torch. Diplo is totally in the zone when he performs – he just exudes this skill and intensity, which blew my comprehension to smithereens. He ended the last night of Fun Fun Fun Fest with a bang and blasted “Song 2” by Blur. I subsequently stumbled home with my legs feeling like lead, my ears ringing and my heart on the brink of bursting.