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Monthly Archives: June 2012

  • Last Friday, The Hood Internet blew in from Chicago and blew the roof off of their intimate, $6 show at Beauty Ballroom. These mash-up masterminds have been longtime favorites and SXSW veterans and I’m glad I finally got to see them spin in my own backyard. And in case you didn’t know, Chi don’t dance – All they do is juke, all they do is juke.
  • First episode of new HBO series The Newsroom was incredible. I wonder if the show hits close to home since working with media is the basis of my career, but I think the average viewer would still enjoy the clever dialogue, fast pace and subject matter of the show. High marks.
  • Thanks to Alamo Drafthouse and the Austin Film Festival, ATX was one of the lucky cities that hosted Fever Year, a beautiful documentary about Andrew Bird and a year of relentless touring. Andrew Bird has always been one of my favorite artists for his creativity and talent, but after watching Fever Year, I have a new found respect for his tireless work ethic and dedication to making music. I love how he performs with an orchestra of machines, mastering the art of looping pedals and pairing the live recorded loops with buttery violin and iconic whistling.
  • I’m super excited about this upcoming Fleetwood Mac Tribute album. MGMT, Best Coast and The New Pornographers are among the impressive list of contributing artists; a few tracks have been released, but my absolute favorite so far is this Lykke Li cover of Silver Springs, one of the most beautiful and painfully heartfelt songs ever written. I’ve loved this song for years and Lykke Li definitely did justice to the legendary Stevie Nicks – not an easy feat.
  • I braved the 107 degree heat to see Ben Kweller’s free performance at Blues on the Green. I’ve loved his music since high school so seeing him perform Wasted and Ready and Commerce,TX incited all sorts of pleasant nostalgia, but his recently released “Go Fly A Kite” has some pretty great songs on it as well.

Happy Friday, y’all. Have an awesome weekend.

I feel very fortunate to have experienced a major shift in written communications in my lifetime. I was at a ripe age (approx. 12 or 13) when e-mail (specifically AOL in my household) revolutionized The Letter, and I wasn’t much older when the widespread adoption of text messaging ran up our nation’s phone bills and turned our adolescent population into a nation of lazy zombies characterized by poor grammar and spelling.

Furthermore, I’m glad I entered the workforce after this sea change in digital and mobile communications stormed society and became widely accepted as The Norm. I can’t fathom how inefficient, expensive and cumbersome calling, sending hard copy mailings or faxing documents would be in the current business model. Even attaching documents is becoming antiquated as cloud-based computing grows in popularity providing instant and remote access to virtually all material.

But I wasn’t born yesterday. I was born in an analog era where cursive was incorporated into our elementary school curricula and our phones and modems were hardlined into the wall. I grew up with pen-pals to whom I initially began every letter as such:

Dear xxx,
How are you? I’m fine.

I grew up before e-vites and happily licked stamps or hand-delivered envelopes containing critical details to my long-awaited birthday parties. I collected stationary. I loved using Wite-Out. I loved writing letters.

I rarely receive letters anymore. I doubt any of us do. With the exception of the occasional card signifying a holiday or important life event, the contents of my mailbox usually consist of credit card statements, pre-approved credit cards and a smattering a coupons.

But letters possess a certain charm, don’t they? Letters convey a sense of nostalgia and an embedded sense of thoughtfulness. Considering the high-speed digital age that I described, taking the time to compose and post a letter is incredibly meaningful to the recipient. I do believe lengthy e-mails can possess a diluted version of this romantic effect – it worked for Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. It also worked for a few long-distance couples I have the privilege of knowing.

I just wanted to share some heartbreaking letters I’ve come across that brightened my day. Innovative and curious little Lily Robinson, revolutionized the term “Tiger Bread” by simply asking a grocery store manager why the product was named as such. And what a kind response from the friendly manager! I adore this series of letters Flavorwire posted from authors directed to their adoring fans. The appreciative nature of little Jim is apparent in the Maurice Sendak case study. The friendship and love J.K. Rowling communicated to the brave young woman who lost her parents is poignant as it is beautiful.

Though we’ll never see this drawing and note from Maurice Sendak to a young fan, it must have been especially good:

“Once a little boy sent me a charming card with a little drawing on it. I loved it. I answer all my children’s letters — sometimes very hastily — but this one I lingered over. I sent him a card and I drew a picture of a Wild Thing on it. I wrote, ‘Dear Jim: I loved your card.’ Then I got a letter back from his mother and she said, ‘Jim loved your card so much he ate it.’ That to me was one of the highest compliments I’ve ever received. He didn’t care that it was an original Maurice Sendak drawing or anything. He saw it, he loved it, he ate it.”

 From J.K. Rowling to 16-year-old Sacia Flowers, who had lost both her parents and wrote to Rowling about how much she identified with Harry:

19th September 2006

Dear Sacia (beautiful name, I’ve never heard it before),

Thank you for your incredible letter; incredible, because you do indeed sound phenomenally like Harry Potter, in your physical resemblance and in your life experience. I cannot tell you how moved I was by what you wrote, nor how sorry I am to hear about your parents. What a terrible loss.

I know what it is like to be picked on, as it happened to me, too, throughout my adolescence. I can only wish that you have the same experience that I did, and become happier and more secure the older you get. Being a teenager can be completely horrible, and many of the most successful people I know felt the same way. I think the problem is that adolescence, though often misrepresented as a time of rebellion and unconventionality, actually requires everybody to conform if they aspire to popularity – or at least to ‘rebel’ while wearing the ‘right’ clothes! You’re now standing on the threshold of a very different phase in your life, one where you are much more likely to find kindred spirits, and much less likely to be subject to the pressures of your teenage years.

It is an honour to me to know that somebody like you loves Harry as much as you do. Thank you very much for writing to me, I will treasure your letter (which entitles you to boast about this response as much as you like!)

With lots of love

JKRowling

(Jo to you!)

I personally love writing letters – the process is cathartic and healthy, but sadly, we don’t carve enough time out of our days to communicate to our loved ones in such an archaic way. I think I’ll make a personal goal to write more, or even to send more personal emails to my long-lost friends and family. From the examples I provided today, I think it’s apparent that letters are both personal and powerful.

When Robyn penned her hit “Dancing On My Own,” she clearly neglected the droves of fans who dance in energetic unison and adoration from start to finish of her concerts. Last night, I was surrounded by swarms of chipper, glittery girls and fabulously fun gay men at Robyn’s long-awaited performance at ACL Live.

I think you can derive more meaning from the lyrics when you watch Robyn dance and perform. The adorable pop star is so free-spirited and uninhibited when she sings – she happily skips and twirls across the stage – freeing the suppressed inner-child buried deep in all of us. Let’s admit, the way we sing in the shower and dance in the privacy of our own rooms are rare occasions when we can be unbridled and unrestrained adults devoid of worldly pressures and responsibilities.

At first glance, non Robyn fans think she’s kind of weird – her ridiculous outfits, her chili bowl haircut, her unusually clunky platform sneakers – her “Call Your Girlfriend” video (below) is an excellent case study demonstrating this. But isn’t that what we all think of Lady Gaga? She’s a role model for the misfits. A talented pop star who silently preaches individuality and fun through her music. I had a great time dancing with my peers and singing along to personal favorites “Call Your Girlfriend” and “Hang With Me.” Happy Friday, y’all!

I just finished reading this novel last night.

A few years ago my uncle, who has been a high school English teacher for over 20 years, told me Lolita was the most beautiful book he’s ever read. Always intimidated by its controversial subject matter and distracted by easier, more current works of fiction – I always tabled Lolita.

My uncle was right; it was exquisite and shocking in many different ways. I’ve always been fascinated by the taboo nature of pedophilia, perhaps why I’ve followed the Sandusky case so scrupulously – How could people be so disgusting and deplorable? But what I learned from Lolita is that the main character is more frustrated than malicious. More self-deprecating than evil. How strange that a monster was the protagonist of this beautifully narrated story. As much as the world hates people like him, oftentimes, no one finds them more despicable than they  find themselves.

Impressively, Nabokov incited empathy with the reader. Who knew that I could have the capacity to feel sorry for a fictional pedophile and criminal? His lyrical prose was musical, humorous and dare I say, romantic?

For the record, I am not pro-sexual abuse in ANY capacity. I think Jerry Sandusky deserves a life of pain and suffering in prison. I’ve just learned that these psychological crimes are not necessarily fueled by hate, but rather by a disturbing, unbridled sense of love.

Ladies and gentlemen, summer is finally in full swing and I’m vigilantly taking advantage of the sunny weather, blockbuster films and beers by the pool – all excellent signifiers of quite possibly, my favorite season.

The past month or so has been a whirlwind, so this week, it seemed appropriate to categorize some recent activities and life updates into little digestible buckets.

  • Books – I’ve made an executive decision to exclusively read Classic literature this month rather than the easy, lazy prototypical beach reads. I reasoned that if I spent my summer delving into Fifty Shades of Gray, the rabbit hole of poorly written, yet fun and salacious material would never end and I would never achieve my long-term goal of reading (or re-reading) novels that I should have read (or paid more attention to) in high school. I started with The Great Gatsby since I love F. Scott Fitzgerald and was inspired by the lavish trailer for the upcoming film. I adore the jazz age – the luxury, the fashion, the chain-smoking – I can’t wait to see DiCaprio smolder and exhibit Gatsby’s immaculate swagger and interact with the adorable and appropriately cast Carey Mulligan to breathe life into one of my favorite works of fiction.
  • Movies – I can’t wait for summer blockbusters – Spiderman Reloaded, The Dark Knight, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter – I can’t wait for the action and the soundtracks and loaded theaters. But I finally watched the long-awaited Moonrise Kingdom starring a slew of my favorite actors (Norton, Murray, Schwartzman). Wes Anderson never fails to amaze me with his understated humor, beautiful cinematography and clever scripts. The prepubescent main characters (Sam and Suzy) were also delightfully cute, funny and talented. Do yourself a favor and watch.
  • Music – I attended my first “Blues on the Green” of the year. For you non-Austinites, Blues on the Green is a free weekly summer concert series that takes place in Zilker Park, which is conveniently walking distance from my house. This week, Rhett Miller from the Old 97’s performed to a vast audience of adults, kids and dogs.

    The Twilight Zone photos were captured at the Feed Me concert at ND 501 Studios, a sweaty, intimate venue where the dubstep and electronic dance music subculture came alive. For a tiny venue, ND certainly didn’t skip on production.

I will conclude with the best text I received all week. One of my best buddies who lives in New Orleans is clearly having a successful Friday – I hope you all do too!

Whether you like it or not, summer has arrived. I personally have a love/hate relationship with the season and I assume every saneTexan generally feels the same way. The sunshine and fun activities typically associated with summer are obvious pluses (swimming pools, lake houses, BBQs, other generic forms of debauched merriment), but the Texas Heat is intense, insufferable and ultimately unavoidable – the simplest of every day habits become unwelcome, uncomfortable and generally sweaty ordeals (getting in your car, taking a walk or merely standing anywhere outside an air-conditioned space).

In addition to warm weather and bare legs, the summer season also ceremoniously ushers in festival season. I love music festivals and they too double as love/hate scenarios in the sense that they are expensive, crowded and exhausting events. But in my humble experience, the bliss of watching outstanding bands play live music for the course of an entire weekend generously outweighs the physical discomforts (sunburns, sore feet) and strains on the wallet (outlandish ticketing fees, $8 beers).

This past weekend, I added yet another item to my growing list of music festivals I’ve attended. Free Press Summer Fest takes place every June in the sweltering city of Houston, TX. The event is still in its infancy stages and this year’s festival was only the fourth year of its existence, but over the years, the lineups have gotten progressively better and attendance has significantly grown.

Major Lazer at Free Press Summer Fest- Houston, TX

Major Lazer at Free Press Summer Fest- Houston, TX

Willie Nelson at Free Press Summer Fest- Houston, TX

This year’s lineup was outstanding – major artists on the 2012 bill included Snoop Dogg, Diplo, Major Lazer, The Avett Brothers, Willie Nelson and The Flaming Lips. Other lesser-known, but no less talented acts like Two Door Cinema Club, Phantogram, Best Coast and Fitz and the Tantrums also performed over the weekend. The ticket prices were remarkably affordable so understandably, attendance spiked.

After a few days of reflection – as the dust settles and my vicious sunburn starts to subside, I still can’t determine how I feel about the event or if I would ever return in future years. In terms of music, the bands I saw were terrific – as expected, Major Lazer incited pandemonium and challenged the crowd to strip off their shirts and whip them around in a frenzy of dancing and sweat. The Flaming Lips didn’t skimp on production or performance with their haunting rendition of Dark Side of the Moon. Houston’s own Bun B (the Trill OG) made several appearances alongside Z-Ro, Major Lazer and Danny Brown over the weekend.

However, there were several logistical downsides to the festival that I attribute to the enormous growth in attendance. Simple FAQ items such as street closures and where to park were not readily available information for concert-goers. A power outage on Saturday morning caused an understandable catastrophe and unfortunately, several bands that were scheduled during those timeslots didn’t get to play. The line for entrance into the festival stretched over a mile and it took on average 2 hours just to get into the grounds – I was among the thousands of disenchanted people who missed 2-3 bands they planned on seeing because of the poor planning. Waiting lines for Porta Potties and beer stands were also brutally long. In summation, an overabundance of people and a shortage of trash cans, bathrooms and informational literature (schedules, maps) coupled with unforgiving 100 degree Houston heat kind of made Summer Fest a miserable place to be.

The Flaming Lips at Free Press Summer Fest – Houston, TX

I still had a great time though – my friends and I spent most of our time sitting on the hills and viewing the stages from afar and it was definitely worth the low cost of a General Admission ticket. Large crowds of people are intimidating, but they’re also obvious signs of success. I think seeing thousands of people enjoying a concert together is one of life’s most beautiful moments. It’s a shame that the organizers were so overwhelmed by the numbers to contain or handle the masses, but I think there’s a lot of potential for the festival. I feel like Houston gets a bad rap for having a shitty music scene (outside of the rap game) and decided to be ambitious with this year’s Summer Fest by inviting heavy-hitting headliners while keeping ticket prices relatively low. I just think Free Press overextended itself, which caused the inconvenient hiccups that I mentioned.

My hope for Summer Fest is that Free Press learns from this year’s blunders and continues growing and improving. All of its problem areas are fixable growth opportunities that will smooth out over time. I don’t think it could be the next ACL, Coachella or Lollapalooza; Eleanor Tinsley Park was already seemingly at capacity and this was only Year 4. But hosting an annual 2nd or 3rd tier festival in Houston, a mere 3 hour drive from Austin, is something I would look forward to in the future. I’d love kicking off summer season and festival season with a manageable 2-day festival jam-packed with great bands. Fingers crossed that it’s better next year!

Entrance to Boston Common & Public Garden

Last week, I escaped the already insufferable Texas heat and spent a few days in Boston to celebrate my sister’s graduation from Harvard and Memorial Day weekend. The first and only time I visited that splendid city was 7 years ago, so I was highly anticipating my return as an older, wiser and more seasoned traveler.

We spent our days sightseeing and walking around the impressive town and Cambridge campus. I haven’t dabbled in black & white photography in a while, but the architecture and monuments in Boston are so classic and steeped in history that I decided to strip a few of my photos of pigment for this week’s batch of Friday photos. Ironically, I think the black & white enhances the depth and detail of these photos and adds even more life to the images.

Over the next few days, I plan on uploading more photos documenting my vacation which doubled as a much-needed break from work and some much-needed bonding time with my family. It feels good to be home, but following my sophomore trip to New England, I’ve concluded that Boston has earned a well-deserved spot on my list of favorite U.S. cities.

Church of the Covenant on Newbury Street

Quincy Market

Fenway Park, Home of the Boston Red Sox

Original Cheers bar where the sitcom was filmed

Harvard Square, Cambridge