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Based on years of observation and personal experience, I’ve realized that even the most motivated and well-intentioned people who start recreational lifestyle blogs about really anything (i.e. music, travel, home decor, marathon training, gluten free recipes) – they almost certainly end up de-prioritizing and neglecting their respective sites. Fresh ideas, dreams of grandeur and hopes of one day becoming America’s Next Top Influencer can be quickly squashed by the mere fact that blogging takes a long time and entails a lot of work.

I am the first to mock full-time bloggers – especially the Fashionistas and the Mommys – the ones who house online banner ads and receive random, but awesome endorsements from Estee Lauder or Dole Bananas – Why do they get all-expense paid trips to Manhattan to try on the latest pair of New Balances or get to give away gift cards good for 250 letterpress wedding invitations? Psh, I could do that.
 
Well, turns out I can’t. Technically, I could. But I don’t, so I can’t really judge. It takes me a long time to write posts, edit them, re-read and sometimes, re-write them. On top of that, uploading, organizing, captioning and embedding photos and multimedia is a time suck too. Deep down in the recesses of my subconscious I know that I will never meet my modest internal goal of posting once a week as I already struggle to find time to call my family or run errands with my full-time job. And when I do have free time to spare to enjoy a concert, finish a book or travel to a far-off land – the last thing I want to do is open my uncomfortably warm laptop and attempt to write something clever or coherent about said experience.
 
But I just concluded 10 whirlwind days of SXSW, and anyone vaguely connected to me would know that South By is my favorite week of the year. Every free, waking moment that I’m not earning a living is spent actively exploring my beloved city; watching my favorite artists; discovering new ones while shamelessly eating free tacos, drinking free Budweisers and unwisely collecting free tshirts that I have to carry around for the rest of the day. Though a true blogger with a press credential would probably be updating their sites on a daily basis; Tweeting and Instagramming in real time; and providing intelligent analysis about whatever shows they got to see – I’m secretly glad that I could just blissfully live in the moment without any obligation or responsibility to report. However, since it was such a fun, jam-packed week – I did want to write a follow-up post detailing my most notable adventures and share some photos I captured with my new iPhone 5s. Teehee
 
 
Most Energy: TIE between Travi$ Scott and Sleigh Bells
Travi$ Scott fucking killed it. In the span of 30 minutes, Travi$ Scott stripped off his shirt, crowd surfed and sprayed liters of water (dare I say, 100 bottles?) all over an amped up, over-excitable crowd at Fader Fort. One of the wildest shows I’ve ever witnessed – I anticipate a big future for this dude. You can watch a vid of him performing  “Upper Echelon” here on the Fader site.

Travi$ Scott at Fader Fort

Travi$ Scott at Fader Fort

I’ve seen Sleigh Bells several times; and I’ve always known they were heavy on the distortion, loud on the volume and epileptic with their lights, and though they’re not necessarily new or undiscovered, I couldn’t not include them on this list. Sleigh Bells always delivers a loud, rambunctious rock and roll show. Their double-bassing drummer is immaculate; Alexis Krauss’ stage presence is undeniable; her sex appeal is unquestionable and in the tiny confines of the Red Bull Sound Select 4 Days in Austin SXSW series – headbanging ensued.

Sleigh Bells at Red Bull Sound Select

Alexis Krauss of Sleigh Bells


Best New Discovery: Strange Talk
So I got to see these Australian fellows twice throughout the week in two uncrowded intimate settings and thoroughly enjoyed what I heard – I’d recommend them to anyone who likes Friendly Fires or The Rapture. Will definitely check out their new album when it releases at the end of the month.
Best Multi-tasker: Robert DeLong
So this kid isn’t necessarily a new discovery either; in fact, he was all over SXSW last year, but I will forever be impressed with the mere process of how he creates and performs music. One guy mastering like.. 27 technologies including a Wii, XBOX controller and an Atari – it’s just fun to watch.
 
Best Production: Chromeo
That leg keyboard gets me every time. First time I saw them, and definitely not the last.

Chromeo at the Fader Fort

Chromeo

 
Best Celebrity Sighting: Chromeo’s brother
I’ve had a stupid fan girl crush on A-Trak for as long as I can remember. He was just chillin’ and watching the Chromeo set at a Dell-sponsored event riddled with middle-aged Dell employees and business school grads. Given his approachability and cool demeanor, you’d never guess that he’s quite possibly the most famous DJ and producer in the world. I bet those Dell bros had no idea the “Barbra Streisand” guy was calmly standing right next to them.
 

Me and Trizzy

“Hey is that the Barbra Streisand guy?”

Best Event Lineup: SPIN at Stubb’s 
Disclaimer: This list was only based on the events that I attended. I did not have an official SXSW wristband or a Music badge. If I had greater access to more exclusive events, I’d guarantee that I’d have a very different answer.
 
This was my first time attending the SPIN SXSW party, and it might be a contender for my favorite event of the week based on an informal cost benefit analysis. Short line with non-existent wait time, uncrowded venue with two stages featuring a well-curated lineup of some really talented and diverse artists – none of whom I’ve ever seen before, but have always liked and respected. Temples, Warpaint, ScHoolboy Q, Cloud Nothings, Future – all of them were great – Q being my favorite of the bunch. Only downside was that free Tito’s wasn’t available until 3 pm, meaning I had to sip on free Crispin cider tallboys for a few hours. Felt like drinking a gallon of overly sweet and carbonated Mott’s apple juice.

Temples

ScHoolboy Q

FUTURE

 
Best Kept Secret: The COMPLEX
Complex is one of my favorite magazines – providing quality entertainment coverage about everything from technology to sneakers, not to mention hip hop. This showcase was small, obscure and surprisingly under-attended the two times I stopped by. The COMPLEX touted free drinks and good rap and DJ sets curated by good blogs like Green Label and Pigeons and Planes – it just had a chill vibe populated by lots of trendy people wearing camouflage print, fitted hats and some really fucking dope sneakers. I didn’t get to see any of these guys, but Childish Gambino, Pusha T and even Skrillex graced The COMPLEX stage. Definitely making a point to come back next year. Mental note: need to cop a pair of Nike Rosche Runs.
THE SNDCLSH - DJ Lupe Fiasco and DJ Sky Gellatly spinning at The Complex at SXSW

THE SNDCLSH – DJ Lupe Fiasco and DJ Sky Gellatly spinning at The Complex at SXSW

 
FOMO Award: Watch the Throne
Dammit.
 
 
Most Disappointing: Julian Casablancas and The Voidz
Stereogum put it best in their headline “Watch Julian Casablancas’ Unfortunate Show at SXSW Fader Fort.” After the aforementioned riot that Travi$ Scott incited on the final day of Fader Fort that eager fans literally waited 3+ hours in line for, this personal hero of mine was a total let down. I’ve seen him perform with The Strokes twice and the stage presence, showmanship and volume I so badly wanted to experience again simply wasn’t there. The lights were turned low, he was hunched into as awkward a fetal position that someone of his height can muster and he muttered his way through songs no one was familiar with save his Daft Punk collaboration “Instant Crush.” I’m assuming he was hungover. As usual.
 
Meh, you win some you lose some.

Best of the Week: Jimmy Kimmel

This could technically contend for Most Disappointing since this was the one and only SXSW experience I badly wanted to attend, but did not get to. However, I knew my odds of receiving access to one of Kimmel’s five coveted Austin tapings was slim to none – so no tears were shed. Fortunately, all of the content still lives on his Youtube channel and as you can see from this video – he totally embraced his time here and I hope he returns in 2015.

Worst of the Week: Car Accident on Red River

The tragic events on Wednesday night shocked and saddened every single person in this city. I read that in the 28 years of SXSW, the accident on Red River was the first ever fatality. With events of this size and thousands of people milling around, accidents are bound to happen. However, in this particular instance I firmly believe that the culprit is the single person responsible for this horrific event. Not only does my heart go out to the victims and their families (and in case you haven’t heard the third victim passed away in the hospital this morning), but that beloved part of town will always be tainted with sadness and bitter memories. The Mohawk is my favorite music venue in Austin and I’ve had countless euphoric musical experiences there. I hope everyone remembers to be safe, careful and responsible and to remember how lucky we are.
 
If you have anything to spare, please consider donating to the SXSW Cares Fund where all proceeds will go toward a community-based recovery fund for the victims. I will say the light at the end of the tunnel is how evil acts such as this never triumph over good. The entire Austin community has united to donate blood and financial aid for the victims. In mere days, Vans raised over $20,000 in proceeds toward the cause. A sweet 18-year-old girl who plans to attend UT this fall was serenaded by her favorite band in the hospital. These acts of kindness remind me that the world isn’t always the evil place we make it out to be. And I wanted to give a sincere thank you to all of the friends and family members who called, emailed or texted me at godawful hours of the night to check on my safety. I love you all and I am so thankful you’re in my life.

SXSW memorial on Red River

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So this brilliant little infographic has been circulating on the Interwebs and Austin social networks over the past few days in humorous response to the influx of people flocking to the city and boosting our ever growing population count and property values – UT graduates who squat; Silicon Valley techies who seek sunshine and cheaper rent; actors or models who can’t make it in LA; and your general free-spirited folks from colder, less exciting parts of the country who either caught the Austin bug on their first visit or through word-of-mouth, and then impulsively decided to pack up their cars and head South.

I try not to be a hater. It does unnerve me every time Austin makes another Top 10 List for Best Places for Young People or Top Tech Cities in the U.S. because I know the long-term consequences of our ever-increasing population – higher rent prices, insufferable traffic, skyscraper construction – but I too am an implant who sought employment and permanent residency in Austin because the evidence is undeniable – Austin is a great place for young people and creatives and music lovers and foodies and hipsters and vegans and runners and hikers and bikers and geeks and gays and pet owners; it’s warm, welcoming and non-representative of the rest of the state of Texas. We can’t blame people for wanting to relocate and plant roots in Austin any more than we can blame engineers and developers who want to move to San Francisco; bearded hipsters who want to move to Portland or cocaine-snorting finance folks who want to move to New York. (that last generalization may or may not have been influenced by recently watching The Wolf of Wall Street)

However, I think there are a few other things that this illustrator left off that would even further deter a prospective resident from moving here so I thought I’d list a few extra contributions:

  • Heinous allergies: This time of year is absolutely miserable for a huge chunk of Austin residents and the dry weather in the winter months makes it worse and worse each year. The cedar pollen count levels are astronomically high and every morning I suffer from a terrible mix of symptoms that are impossible to abate. In fact, the clouds of pollen coming off the trees were so enormous that some residents thought there was a forest fire.
  • Mopacalypse – the traffic on I-35 is included in the infographic, but I think the traffic on MoPac is worth mentioning. MoPac is the only other major freeway in the city, and traffic will get exponentially worse as construction workers plan to expand the freeway and transform it into a toll road. I believe a recent article stated that an Austinite with a 30-minute commute will spend an average of 83 hours a year in traffic, a soul-crushing, life-sucking data point and a truth that I’m realizing very slowly and painfully.
  • Homeless people – Sure, there are homeless people everywhere; in a lot of sexy cities too – NY, Chicago, San Francisco – but many hobos migrate here during the winter months because of the warm weather. They are getting harder and harder to avoid.
  • Franklin Barbecue – People wait in line 3 hours for barbecue, and don’t get me wrong it tastes fantastic and is probably the best barbecue in Austin. But three hours? THREE?  Waiting that long for anything is so excessive and unnecessary and unappealing and I would never recommend that anyone go there unless they had a week day off and got there right when the restaurant opens. I’ve only ever tasted Franklin once in my life at a private rehearsal dinner that rented out the space, and I don’t ever plan on going back. (Which is a shame because it’s delicious)
  • You’re still in Texas – Austin is the diamond in the rough and unrepresentative of the rest of the state. It is liberal and vibrant and there are always protests campaigning for Pro-Choice legislation and gay marriage and all sorts of politics that I support. BUT we are still in Texas. There are still TONS of rednecks, racists, Bible-thumpers, drunk Dodge Ram drivers and idiots in office (ahem Rick Perry and ahem Ted Cruz) that live in Texas. There is a smaller percentage of these folks in Austin per capita, but Texas is a proud state that tried to secede from the Union at one point – so there it isn’t completely fair to compare Austin to places that legalize gay marriage or marijuana or abortions. Plus other than lakes and hill country, Texas is flat, dry and ugly in a lot of places, and it takes about 13 hours to drive across from point to point. If I ever left Austin, I’d probably have to leave Texas. Though I’ve lived here my entire life and love being from Texas – the more populous cities like Dallas, Ft. Worth, Houston and San Antonio have their own charm and personality, but are ultimately utterly uninhabitable.

I hope that dissuades any of you outsiders from entering our city limits. And I really do need to reiterate – it does get really fucking hot here.

Chefs Paul Qui and Moto Utsunomiya at new East Side King at Hole in the Wall via Thrillist

Hands down, the best food I’ve discovered this year is Paul Qui’s series of East Side King food trucks. Rightfully earning the title of Top Chef Texas and demonstrating excellence in Asian cuisine, Qui has been rapidly expanding his culinary portfolio. In the short time since he won the competition, Qui has certainly left quite an imprint on the city of Austin. Qui’s food trucks are among the top recommendations I give Austin newbies who want to try something local or check out the flourishing food cart scene in our weird city.
If you follow me on any of my social networks, you have likely been inundated with mouthwatering photos of East Side King’s Asian-inspired street food. The dishes are flavorful, unique and it’s not uncommon for my friends and I to drop $50 or more and ravenously feast (Of note, the menu items are totally affordable – we just collectively order a large variety of dishes and share). There’s something for everyone; there are items appropriate for either a full meal or a light snack at the bar depending on your varying degrees of hunger. There are plenty of vegetarian options as well.
Here are a few photos of my favorite East Side King delicacies:

Chicken karaage and Liberty Rice at the Liberty location

Pho Buns and Fried Rice Balls from the Shangri-La location

Before & After (from Left to Right): Shrimp Ebi Ebi Tacos, Pho Buns, Fried Rice Balls, Spicy Edameme and Chicken Skin Buns at Shangri-La location

Another Before & After shot from the Shangri-La location

Paul Qui finally opened a brick-and-mortar East Side King location on the UT Campus and my friends and I finally tried it out last night. Featuring a full service bar, similar menu items from his food trucks and the addition of a few Ramen noodle dishes, the new East Side King restaurant lived up to my expectations! The ambiance of the restaurant is hip, fun and inviting – perfect for late night cravings for UT students and grown adults who want to enjoy a pitcher of beer and good food. The restaurant is connected to the Hole In the Wall dive bar off the main campus drag, and as a faithful alumni who’s extremely familiar with the UT campus – I can honestly say that I’ve never been to that establishment. But with East Side King out back and its pinball machines, cool artwork, pitchers of Sapporo beer and savory Ramen noodles – I have a feeling I might stop in for a drink one of these days.

East Side King at Hole in the Wall

 

Personal favorite dishes at all East Side King locations. Try them out – you will thank me later.
Food truck at Shangri-La
  • Spicy Edamame
  • Ebi Ebi Tacos
  • Pho Buns
Food truck at The Liberty
  • Poor Qui’s Buns
  • Tongue Buns
  • Tori Meshi
Restaurant at Hole in the Wall
  • Tori Meshi
  • SapporoBeerBacon MisoRamen
  • Squid Ink Curry Ramen

Me and Paul Qui at The Grackle

One day, I was fortunate enough to run into Top Chef Texas himself. In spite of all of his talent and success, he’s probably the friendliest, humblest and most unassuming entrepreneur/reality show TV star/famous chef you’ll ever meet.

2012 was a big year for PR and advertising. With the Presidential Election and the 2012 Olympics, I can’t imagine the exorbitant sums of money spent on this year’s marketing campaigns. I decided to round up some of my favorite commercials from this year. I chose these based on a mix of criteria – the innovation and creativity involved, overall look and feel, and most importantly, what emotions were invoked.
A lot of these will probably look familiar to you. I don’t watch a lot of regular programming, and when I do it’s normally a DVR’d show that I fast-forward through. However, I do tend to absorb a lot of ads when I watch sports games or news segments that occur in real-time. So here goes:
My favorite commercials of 2012:
Funniest: Guinness – Round Up Your Mates for St. Patrick’s Day
I discovered this gem on FastCompany’s list of the 15 Best of Ads of 2012, and I loved it! I don’t think this was a US-based ad, but it’s so clever, cute and light-hearted.
Best Sports: Tie between Adidas Is All In and Nike FuelBand Presents: Counts
Nike and Adidas are arguably the two most popular sports brands out there and I’ve always been impressed by both of their products and their marketing strategies. Both of the commercials below evoke a palpable “cool” factor and what I love about both of these campaigns is how they incorporate a multitude of people and activities that don’t necessarily involve sports, but demonstrate athleticism and high energy. Adidas compiled a super rad music video timed to Justice’s hard-hitting “Civilization” featuring everyone from David Beckham to Katy Perry. Nike simply captured memorable iconic moments like OK Go’s “Here It Goes Again” music video and scenes from our favorite films.
Favorite Olympics: Proctor & Gamble: The Best Job and AT&T’s The New Possible
Ads during the Olympics are such a treat; it’s like watching the best ads of the Superbowl, but on a worldwide scale that lasts a few weeks. I love both of these ads for different reasons – the innovation behind AT&T’s “The New Possible” campaign was super impressive. Incorporating real, record-breaking Olympic results seamlessly into the ads was such a smart way to showcase AT&T and celebrate big Olympic wins in the U.S. Check out how they did it on FastCompany. On the flip side, the P&G “The Best Job” ad is one of the most touching commercials of the year. I love how it includes different sports and different cultures, but portrays how universal a mother’s love and dedication is. Though no products were prominently shown in the commercial, it still beautifully represented P&G and its family of brands.


Best Competitive Edge: Samsung – The Next Big Thing is Already Here

Samsung took a huge risk by choosing to capitalize on the hype and buzz surrounding the new iPhone 5. Rather than sitting back and letting the new Apple launch dominate headlines, Samsung proactively inserted itself into the conversation and made a bold, splashy statement. It’s not a secret that Apple users are uncharacteristically loyal, and Samsung not only made some question the supposed “greatness” of the new phone, but also made Apple fans look ridiculous for waiting in line for something competitors already make. I am a reasonably satisfied iPhone user, but I haven’t been blown away by any of the company’s recent launches. Samsung won’t ever convert the diehard Apple fans, but they are successfully targeting people like me who like their iPhones, but don’t think they’re light years greater than other alternatives.

Best Message: Expedia Find Yours

Expedia also chose to make a bold statement, but in a different, much more meaningful way. Documenting the story of a dad’s emotional and deeply personal journey to find his understanding regarding his daughter’s same-sex marriage, the message was poignant, sweet and incredibly moving. I’m glad companies like Expedia and Oreo are openly endorsing same-sex marriage and I consider this commercial a huge win in the fight for same-sex marriage and equal rights. Not too long after that ad ran, Expedia created a “Find Your Strength” commercial sharing the heartbreaking story of a young cancer patient who found strength in her best friend who she met at St. Jude’s. This one’s a tearjerker, but an uplifting, inspirational one. In response, Expedia is matching donations to St. Jude’s on its website.

This past weekend, I took a short, semi-impulsive trip to two of my favorite cities with some of my favorite people. Until recent years, I never considered the Midwest a particularly ideal or charming vacation destination. Thankfully, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by multiple Midwestern cities I’ve visited and have found myself returning to these chilly locales over and over again. Here’s a quick recap of my wonderful weekend characterized by scarves, flowing beer and life-long friends.

CHICAGO

I’ve only been to Chicago a few times and unfortunately, I haven’t had the chance to explore the city as thoroughly as I’d like to. During this particular jaunt, my best friend and I took a charming tour along the Chicago River that details the history behind the city’s remarkable buildings. The skyline is a sight to behold, especially viewed from afar. We lucked out with the forecast too – clear blue skies and chilly, but by no means intolerable weather. I suppose I brought the warmth up with me from Texas. You’re welcome, jerks.

Though I’m not a Chicago native and far from an expert on the city, I thought I’d share some of my favorite music inspired by Chi-town, some created by Chicago-based artists.

Lupe Fiasco: Go Go Gadget Flow – One of my favorite speed raps about the best city in the Midwest (best city in the whole wide wide world)

Ryan Adams: Dear Chicago – Such beautiful lyrics. Makes me miss the city and makes me want to go back.

Gorillaz: Shy-Town

Sufjan Stevens: The Seer’s Tower

MADISON

I keep a special place in my heart for Madison, Wisconsin. Upon my first visit to the state in 2009, I never imagined that Madison would eventually make its way into my top 10 list of U.S. cities. I might be biased because that place represents a very significant part of my life that resulted in wonderful memories and amazing friendships, but even from an objective lens, I’d still argue that Madison is pretty great. In fact, it’s a lot like Austin in some aspects – thriving campus town in a Capital city that’s a great place for young people to live. Just a lot colder.

This time around, I attended my first Big 10 game and it was quite a culture shock from what I’m used to in Texas. The school’s traditions are so much fun and you could safely assume that their tailgating scene is characterized by beers, cheese and bratwurst – all delicious things. The night life in Madison is awesome too – I’ve had many a late night along State St. and a fair amount of war stories in that city. I’m not sure if I could live in the Midwest – I don’t think the cold is an element I could ever get used to, but I’m definitely still a fan. Maybe I’ll convert one of these days.

Until then, have a great Thanksgiving. I’m so thankful that I have such a fun, loyal group of friends. What are you thankful for?

How appropriate that the impending Halloween season and the return of The Walking Dead have, resurrected, if you will, my WordPress. The past three months have extracted almost every ounce of energy out of me. So in true unoriginal, lazy fashion, I thought I’d provide a quick photo reel from my Instagram feed for you to feast your eyes upon. Enjoy!

ACL 2012 wrap-up post coming soon, I promise.

I went on a cruise.

One of my best friends got married.

I went to Madison, Wisconsin.

And Chicago, Illinois.

I went to four Texas football games.

And four tailgates…

I went to ACL.

It rained.

I ate a lot of barbecue.*

And drank a lot of alcohol.

The end.

*Barbecue in order from top to bottom from Franklin BBQ, Stiles Switch BBQ & Brew, The Salt Lick and Uncle Billy’s

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