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Monthly Archives: May 2012

The blogger realizes that the novel she is about to discuss is neither new nor noteworthy. Considering Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom was published in 2010, the novel has therefore lost its new and noteworthy qualities over the years, but none of its other commendable ones. In spite of these reasons, the novel touched and inspired the blogger so thoroughly that she felt the need to share her sentiments about it, notwithstanding her lateness in doing so.

This novel has always been on the blogger’s reading list seeing as Freedom received fantastic reviews and topped several bestseller and “must-read” lists in 2010. Intimidated by the sheer enormity of the novel, the blogger unfortunately delayed reading Freedom and opted in favor of shorter, newer and more noteworthy books.

Opportunity presented itself last week when Alison traveled to Boston for her older sister’s graduation from Harvard Graduate School of Education. Knowing that Alison would be spending at least five hours commuting to Massachusetts, sitting through a boring Ivy League commencement ceremony and spending ample time riding various modes of Boston public transportation, the blogger realized this short Memorial Day vacation would ensure abundant reading time to dedicate to Franzen’s heavy work of fiction.

Not long after cracking Freedom’s thick spine, Alison quickly learned why this novel received such critical acclaim from notable media (The New York Times, NPR) and notable influencers (Oprah Winfrey, Barack Obama). The parallels to some of the bloggers’ favorite authors (Jeffrey Euginedes, Chad Harbach) became apparent too; reading Freedom reminded the blogger of reading The Marriage Plot and The Art of Fielding (though both were released well after Franzen’s book was published, they remain two of her recent favorite reads).

The narrative dripped of conflicted characters and their tangled love stories and relationships with one another. Heavy themes of love, lust, loyalty, competition, betrayal, forgiveness and of course, freedom were clearly woven into this artfully written novel. Whether they were manifest as sibling rivalries, political issues or marital infidelities, competitiveness was a strong, crucial theme that often defined the characters’ wants and needs. Additionally, various forms of liberation (physical, environmental, sexual, emotional) provided the characters with catharsis and freedom from whatever pressures (financial, emotional or mental) weighed upon their psyches. The style, like The Art of Fielding, A Visit From The Goon Squad and The Marriage Plot, was also poignantly written from the points-of-views of several characters – Patty Berglund’s autobiographies in third person being particularly long and captivating segments.

The characters in this novel were the blogger’s favorite element. Patty, tragic and unhappy as Anna Karenina, faced constant confusion regarding how she wanted to live, love and parent, but she told her stories with sincerity and wit. Contrastingly, portions of the novel expressing the Richard Katz’ and Joey Berglund’s perspectives were just as heartbreaking and illuminating. The blogger caught herself crying on several occasions because the love stories and strained relationships were so painful, sorrowful and universal that they reminded herself of her own personal failures and mistakes.

The blogger highly recommends this work of fiction; in spite of its 600 pages, Alison finished it within four days. The ending is unexpected and dare she say, happy? According to the novel, “There is, after all, a kind of happiness in unhappiness, if it’s the right unhappiness.”

I first discovered PostSecret in 2005 when The All-American Rejects featured a multitude of the postcards from the project in their Dirty Little Secret music video. If you’ve ever browsed through the blog or flipped through the pages of one of Frank Warren’s published books, you’re likely familiar with how powerful, captivating and honest these works of art can be.

We frequently hear critiques about inserting emotions and feelings into the art we create – whether it’s writing a meaningful song lyric or merely singing a song lyric with meaning and passion. I think that’s the secret sauce to PostSecret’s success and popularity – every little 4 x 6 postcard, no matter how simple, is so painfully genuine and honest.

I’ve always considered Warren’s concept wonderful because the process of sharing information that you don’t want anyone to know is so relieving and cathartic. Reading through these post cards often brings me joy – oftentimes because the feel-good, funny secrets make me laugh, but mostly because the people sharing the darker, sadder secrets might have achieved a sense of release by telling someone what was bothering them.

I’ve never submitted a secret to the site, but I’ve entertained the idea from time to time. I honestly can’t think of a secret good enough to share, but when or if I do, I hope you enjoy reading it, learning something personal about me and being a part of this intangible, but universal sense of caring and goodness. I know I certainly loved reading your secrets over the years and hope you keep sharing them.

Look! Confident, Employed People in Their 20s: Alert the anthropologists.

After my post last week about my missed opportunity to drive the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile while I was in college, I heard from a young woman, Alison Kwong, a 2009 graduate of the University of Texas at Austin, and a former Hotdogger—the professional title of people behind the wheel of the Wienermobile. She’s about to turn 25 in June and has a successful career in public relations. Her email about her experience was articulately passionate, and she conveyed better than any long-winded graduation speech why you should trust yourself when opportunity rolls up in whatever shape it does:

Read more here 

Lot’s of wonderful things to celebrate this week –

1. Started the week off by celebrating Mother’s Day with my family. I’m not a big fan of my hometown, Arlington, but there are a few gems that reside in suburbia – my friends, my family, The Dallas Cowboys and the Texas Rangers. My favorite spot is this huge record store, Forever Young. I always drop unthinkable amounts of cash at that place, but I love shopping for vinyl and their selection is top notch so it’s worth the investment.

2. My new place of employment! I started a new job this week; this being the first big career change I’ve ever had. Though I love my new co-workers, my new job and my new company, I’m going to miss some elements of my former job. Namely, the coolest supervisor I’ve ever had. Not only was she great to work with – she and I had a lot in common. She introduced me to hundreds of great new bands and burned me an excellent mix as a parting gift.

3. My beautiful friend, Madison (in the black floral dress) is getting married and as a dutiful bridesmaid, I attended her lovely engagement party this week. It’s my first time being in a wedding party and etiquette and protocol are foreign to us both, but seeing her and her fiance happy together is very rewarding. As is meeting her lovely family and friends and drinking copious amounts of delicious red wine.

4. Best friend and roommate, Adam, turned 27 this week! Since I had a few days off between jobs, I decided to redecorate our living room to surprise him. He was obviously stoked.

5. This is a self-serving plug, but a wonderful article was written about me and my good friend, Rachel, about our careers. We’re described as articulate, passionate, confident and successful. Not a shabby way to start off my new career or to end my old one.

It’s Friday and the weekend has officially started. We’re throwing a party for the roommate’s birthday this weekend so we stocked up on my favorite summer beers.

I grew up around baseball my entire life. Some of my fondest childhood memories involve whacking Wiffle Balls in the front yard with my uncle and older cousin, who played for TCU at the time. I also grew up in the suburban confines of Arlington, TX – home of the Texas Rangers. I remember visiting the newly-erected stadium on a school field trip in 3rd grade and envying the lucky crop of students who were allowed to visit the dugout and the walk across the virgin, apple green field.

But I never loved baseball and I can attribute that to a variety of (what I consider) understandable reasons. I certainly understand the rules of baseball thanks to the mandatory grade school kickball games and the explicit lyrics of “Take Me Out To The Ballgame,” but I always found baseball painfully slow. Most popular sports are measured in timed fractions – two halves, three periods, four quarters. Untimed sports like volleyball and tennis have point ceilings – attainable goals that would eventually be achieved. But baseball has nine innings, nine. Action and big plays are few and far between compared to other faster-paced sports and baseball games theoretically could last forever if the opposing teams scored equal amounts of runs per inning. It doesn’t help that there are over 150 games per season making America’s pastime a long, boring and time-consuming one.

I wasn’t raised in a sports family and I’m a female so that fatherly or brotherly devotion was absent in the household. But over the years, I’ve grown to love a lot of sports – especially football. I’ve concluded that every sport is great. Every sport can be interesting and every sport can be fun to watch if you commit to learning more about it; so this year I decided to cultivate my limited knowledge of Major League Baseball and invest myself further in the sport.

I suppose this was catalyzed by the Rangers making it to the World Series two consecutive years in a row. Despite the devastating losses, the connection to my home town sparked a glimmer of interest and I started recognizing certain players and following the team more. However, I truly think the “bandwagon Ranger fan” reasoning is secondary to my true motives – baseball is a wonderful strategy game and I want to learn and know everything about it. Unlike football and basketball, arguably the two most popular pro sports in America, the athleticism in baseball is understated and seemingly secondary to the mental component of the game. A lot of baseball players are old, slow and chubby – but the mental effort that goes into drafting players, inserting them into the batting lineup in order to maximize runs is strategic and puzzling as a game of chess.

Michael Lewis’ Moneyball exposed me to a completely different perspective of baseball – a scientific one. The economics and statistics whittled this complicated game down to a science – How many runs can I score with the amount of money I’m allotted to buy players? How can I take advantage of undervalued athletes that other baseball clubs have overlooked? The Oakland A’s under Billy Beane were such a fascinating case study – a real life application of how statistics and numbers completely revolutionized the game of baseball. (Also, I rented the film, which I consider a pretty accurate representation of the book. Jonah Hill particularly impressed me by playing the serious role of Peter Brand articulately and convincingly)

But what impacted me most was finishing The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach; Harbach’s description of the game wasn’t scientific or technical like Moneyball (though I did thoroughly enjoy learning how GMs can construct winning baseball teams based on a list of statistics.) Harbach’s storytelling transformed baseball not only into a science, but also into an art form. The Art of Fielding is arguably my favorite work of fiction I’ve read in the past year. The prose was just so beautiful and lyrical and the characters were so flawed and human – I identified with so many of the characters, their relationships and their problems. I loved them. I wanted to befriend them. I wanted to be them. I particularly ached for Henry Skrimshander, the protagonist shortstop, whose love and commitment to the game of baseball is so impossibly pure. His mastery of fielding is compared to a brilliant painting; his graceful throws are described as poetic and musical. I also loved the charming and witty Owen Dunne and the emotionally damaged, but remarkably bright Pella Affenlight.

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Though Moneyball was historical and The Art of Fielding was fictional, these two books ignited in me a new found sense of respect and understanding for the game. It helps that Josh Hamilton is breaking home run records and the Rangers’ new starting pitcher, Yu Darvish, is striking out hitter after hitter. I have a feeling our team will be good this year and hopefully will return to the World Series for a third time this season. And hopefully, the third time will be the charm. But for now, I’m content with sitting back with a box of Cracker Jack and simply enjoying the game.

Happy Friday, compadres! If you’re a traditional nine-to-five minion of the workforce like myself; there’s only a few short hours before the weekend kicks into full gear. It’s a big weekend, amigos – Cinco de Mayo and the Kentucky Derby being the major pulls – both wildly different celebrations that involve excessively decorated hats and strong alcoholic concoctions. Pick your poison – margaritas or mint juleps? Both sound equally inviting to me – is it 5:00 yet? I know it is somewhere…

I went with a Cinco de Mayo theme for this week’s top five, seemed like an obvious choice. My office started the festivities early by having a sombrero decorating contest during lunch and a happy hour at one of my favorite Mexican restaurants in Austin, Polvo’s. Hats were required, mustaches were optional.

I consider myself a pretty big fan of electronic music, but I don’t think I’ll ever understand rave culture. I’ve been to a handful of EDM shows and festivals over the past few years, but Nocturnal Wonderland is by far the most overwhelming example of rave subculture I’ve ever experienced.


This past weekend, I attended my second Nocturnal Fest, which occurs annually in a very isolated area of central Texas. Though this festival is about an hour and a half from Austin and other metropolitan communities, promoters Insomniac Events still manage to book impressive artists every year. For instance, some of the major names on this year’s lineup included Tiesto, Steve Aoki, Calvin Harris and Royksopp – these guys frequent Ultra Music Festival stages and have song samples on Kiss FM – odd that they’d agree to come to a shitty town miles away from civilization.

The community of rave enthusiasts in attendance is overwhelming because there’s always an abundance of ironically dressed people. People wear sunglasses hours after the sun sets. Girls bare their midriff and their cleavage, but pair their skimpy undergarments with massive furry boots. Everyone’s wearing neon and accessorized in an assortment of beads, glow bracelets and glitter and the origins for these wardrobe trends is still beyond foreign to me. My friends and I took a conservative route by dressing in bright, ridiculous, but ultimately normal clothes –

I still had a great time spectating. The level of talent present at the festival is enough reason to make the commute and regret it the next day after hours of walking, dancing and drinking. I also crossed Tiesto off the bucket list of DJs to see; his sample of Joy Formidable (video below) was the highlight of my evening (that didn’t end until 6 am).

It’s possible that I’ll never truly understand the subculture because I’ve never “rolled” on whatever mind-bending drugs these crazy kids take nowadays. The kinds that cause grown men to suck on pacifiers. But I will say – I will never get tired of seeing bros wearing these ridiculous RAGE trucker hats.