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South by Southwest

Austin, Film, Music, Pop Culture

The Characters of SXSW

Austin-based company Software Advice sent me an AWESOME sketch breakdown they did of the different archetypes one would see at SXSW. They’re pretty spot-on. Here is a little snippet below, but you can check out the rest of their hilarious drawings here, or follow them on Twitter here, or ‘like’ their Facebook fan page here.

(Interactive) Aspiring Entrepreneur

“We’re Twitter meets Zynga with an API that transforms the social graph.”

He’s an alpha male in a beta body, rockin’ the hoodie and flip flops – just like Zuck. SXSW Interactive attracts a swarm of these php-smokin’, eager beavers. You’ll find him at “Business Model 101: How To Actually Make Money?,” but he wishes he was at the Android Developer Meetup. You’ll often find the PR Chick and the Venture Capitalist in hot pursuit – a stunning reversal of the social order that was in place during college, last year. At least one of these aspiring entrepreneurs will join the digital elite within a year. And OMG, you totally ordered a Bulleit on the Rocks next to him at the Mashable party.

(Film) Film Buff
“Source Code is amateur compared to Kick Ass!”

More ubiquitous than Austin’s bats, film buffs leave their Blueray caves and take flight during SXSW. You’ll find them queuing 300 deep at a Morgan Spurlock mockumentary, black coffee in one hand and Filmmaker Magazine in the other. They sport “FILM CRITIC” trucker hats over their greasy locks and stretch graphic tees over their bulging guts. You’ll spot the Film Buff at “New Tools for Filmmakers: Virtually Augmented 3.0 Reality.” Engage him, and he’ll battle you in obscure movie trivia. What Star Wars movie had the most lightsaber battles? He plans to debut his own film at next year’s SXSW, unless TBS airs a LOST marathon next week.

(Music) Hipster
“This bar is sooo over.”

It’s surprising that hipsters even attend SXSW, considering how mainstream it’s become. And yet, they can be found everywhere, donning their skinny jeans, deep-V’s, black-rimmed glasses, and handlebar moustaches. He will claim to care less, but he will run you over on his vintage fixie to get to that unofficial SXSW concert. Who’s playing? You’ve never heard of them, but the Hipster’s got ‘em on vinyl. To track the Hipster, follow the trail of empty PBRs and American Spirit butts. When SXSW ends, he’ll return to the obscure East Austin dive bar from whence they came.

Austin Purist
“Whatever, bro.”

Sporting baggy khakis, Rainbow sandals, and a “RELAX” t-shirt, the Austin purist blames YOU for ruining Austin. He’s been here the longest (but he’s originally from Houston). He remembers when Whole Foods was Safeway. He resents Film and Interactive. SXSW isn’t new to him, and you’re a loser for being interested. He’s better than you, but you wouldn’t know it at first glance. East of 35, he lives in a dilapidated ranch house, which he refused to sell to condo developers. The Purist will back his talk with action – or, rather, inaction. Rather than attend events, he’ll stick to his routine: propping his feet in front of the TV and covering up the smoke detector.

Austin, Film, Music

The Best Part of SXSW Is…

My friend from college, Joe Nicolosi, is a super talented filmmaker. Everyone in Austin knows it, but now it looks like the world does too! Joe is the filmmaker behind the SXSW “film bumpers” you see before a screening. Truth be told, Joe’s various bumpers are better than many of the movies this year. This guy has real talent and you should check out the video below. Within two days, his short video, Mario, went from 300 Youtube hits to over 300,000 and climbing! I have a feeling you’ll be seeing more of this guy soon…

Austin, Film, Music, Pop Culture

SXSW Adventures Continued: These Are the Daves I Know

So, the other night we hung out with Dave Foley again. He got us into the green room at the IFC SXSW venue and we hung out with Michael Ian Black, Aziz Ansari, and Thomas Lennon. I was too nervous to say anything to them. The evening then took us all over Austin where at any given time you could see me walking with my arm around Dave Foley, me slapping Dave Foley when he would say something insanely dirty, Dave Foley peeing on the side of a building, and Dave Foley lying down on the ground. Dave was stopped every five minutes with people literally freaking out when they recognized him. Dave got a wee bit tipsy and there is a good chance he may hate us now. It was quite the evening. Here are some snapshots.

Austin, Film, Music, Pop Culture

Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey Into Making Me Cry Like a Child

If you want to transform an entire crowd of grown adults into a pile of giddy and gibbering children, show them the award-winning documentary Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey.

Winner of the Sundance 2011 Special Jury Prize, this absolutely fantastic documentary follows the story of Kevin Clash- the man behind Elmo- and his humble beginnings from inner city kid to the voice of one of America’s most beloved characters.

Think you’ll be bored with this documentary? Well, you are thinking WRONG, my friend. I mean, we did all get a little Elmo’d out during the great Tickle Me Elmo Craze of 1996, however, this film makes you forget about Moms elbowing other Moms in the boobs while fighting for stuff animals. In fact, this film is so captivating that I missed the Pee-Wee Herman on Broadway screening at SXSW that I had been anxiously awaiting.

Kevin Clash grew up in the projects of Baltimore during the 1960’s. Being the awesomely nerdy kid that he was, Kevin idolized Jim Henson. He spent much of his childhood making and performing with puppets- something that wasn’t necessarily hip in inner-city Baltimore. However, Kevin didn’t giving a flying patootie what other people thought and neither did his folks, who helped encourage and support their son’s creativity and talent.

Kevin started to make a name for himself in high school where he performed one-man puppet shows for charities and hospitals. This caught the attention of a local producer who put the young man on the Baltimore cable access show, Caboose. At this point Kevin had dozens and dozens of hand made puppets lining the walls of his parent’s house. Recognizing that her son could do something with his skills, Kevin’s mother called Jim Henson’s puppet creator and Santa Clause-lookalike, Kermit Love, and spoke of her son’s knack for puppetry. Love was taken by the young man and gave him a standing invitation to visit the next time he was in New York City. The problem was, Kevin’s family didn’t have money to send him to NYC. Luckily enough, a high school field trip brought the young man to the city and Kevin broke away to meet his hero.

Kevin’s enthusiasm left an impression on Kermit who helped him land a gig on the Sesame Street/Muppets float in the 1979 Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade. It was there that Kevin first met his idol- Jim Henson. Henson liked Kevin’s pizazz and never forget him. After stints on Captain Kangaroo and The Great Space Coaster, Kevin was invited to perform on Sesame Street where he became a full-time puppeteer in 1984. Kevin also went on to be offered gigs on The Dark Crystal (a role he had to turn down due to his full-time work on two television shows) and Labyrinth (remember Chilly Down?).

Though Kevin was well-respected in the puppet world, his big break would occur the day that fellow Sesame Street colleague Richard Hunt threw a moppy red puppet onto his lap. Hunt had been performing Elmo for the past couple of years and didn’t particularly like the character. He brought a rough, New York garbage man-approach to the puppet and it just wasn’t working. Kevin played around with his voice and decided that a cute, child-like innocence would work better. And it did. The writers of Sesame Street became excited about Elmo and the character took off.

At this point in the documentary we shift from the historical chronology of Kevin and Elmo, to Kevin’s own personal struggle with work and family. After the success of Elmo, Kevin found himself traveling all over the world and unable to spend time with his beloved daughter. Elmo brought so much joy to kids everywhere, yet the man behind the voice had no time for his own daughter. Now that Kevin has been in the business for 30 years, he’s calling his own shots and has arguably earned his spot in puppet history next to the idols of his youth.

I sat next to an elderly woman during the screening who was dabbing away tears as much as I was. At many points throughout the movie she and others applauded the man we were watching on the screen. Being Elmo has that effect on people. You want to stand up and cheer for the kid who had a dream and achieved it and for the man who brings joy to millions of people world-wide. I left the screening feeling inspired. Recalling the memories and joy that Sesame Street and The Muppets brought and continue to bring me mixed with my own recollection of how my mother encouraged and supported my quirks and skills as a child made this screening more than just an enjoyable experience. It reminded me that there are so many talented and good people in this world and I’m so happy that man who has been forced to hide behind a mound of red fur and googly eyes has finally had his true voice heard.

Kevin Clash was at the screening and he brought Elmo…and I had to leave in order to make it to the Pee-Wee Herman screening that I never made. I’m so disappointed that I didn’t get to see Elmo in action, but I have wonderful memories of this documentary lingering in my thoughts. Director Constance A. Marks and her talented crew did an excellent job of telling Kevin’s story. I highly recommend this film. The next screening will be at the Dallas International Film Festival March 31st-April 2nd.

Austin, Film, Music, Pop Culture

I Like SXSW Because it Brings Me Closer to My Idols

I can’t get over at how much around this time Austin looks like LA. As I was sitting in a cafe downtown waiting to hook up with my publicist friend at the party for his client, Edgar Wright, and watched all the people in fancy clothing waiting in lines, I thought, “I’m absolutely 100% in Los Angeles again.” However, only in appearance. New Yorkers and Angelenos trickle in by the boat loads during SXSW, but the spirit of the city doesn’t necessarily leave. In fact, the outsiders adapt to us. It’s still good ol’ Austin at the core. Austin brings the best out in celebrities, or it only brings the best celebrities. I’m not sure which. Either way, this point was proven to me when I hung out with one of my childhood idols this weekend.

Friday night my gentleman friend and I went to the opening party for SXSW. The party was hosted in a gargantuan space in the middle of rowdy 6th Street. We were chatting with various folks when I recognized the man standing next to me as Dave Foley. As many of you know, I’m stupid about the Kids in the Hall. If you don’t know, I will tell you that when I was a high school student I wanted to go to film school in Toronto because of the Kids in the Hall. A fact that I told Dave Foley after my 3rd tequila shot.

I was sort of starstruck spotting Dave and I would have been too shy to say anything, but gentleman friend is not, so he walked right up to Dave and was like, “Hey!” and Dave said, “Hey!” back and that started an entire evening of drinking and hanging out with Dave Foley… and me resorting back to a nerdy 15 year-old girl and calling my mother at 2:30AM going, “You will never guess who I’m doing tequila shots with!”

Dave is in town for his new stand-up venture. If you checked out his super interesting podcast on Mark Maron’s “WTF?” Dave talks about how he’s doing stand-up to pay for his astronomical child supports bills in Canada. I couldn’t help but think of this when I saw him standing at the bar ordering drink after drink.

Dave was totally cool. He looked you in the eye when you spoke. He listened to what you were saying. He leaned in closer to get a better listen. He was interesting and funny and looked like he was having a great time, though he was there by himself.

And for some reason I felt totally obliged to tell Dave about the four times I saw the Kids in the Hall live, and about how I totally fell in love with their latest project Death Comes to Town and how I saw Kevin McDonald’s one-man show Hammy and the Kids recently and he didn’t seem to mind the fact that I was totally geeking out on him at all. In fact, he told me that they’re planning on doing another series like Death Comes to Talk and how everyone in the Kids is a fan of Kevin’s show. I love the Kids a lot, and I can talk about them for years, so it was nice talking to someone who knew what I was talking about because he was there. I told him who I used to work for in LA and he pointed out that they were in a movie together and we talked about Los Angeles and then gentleman friend invited Dave tubing on Monday (today) and Dave was totally for it and we all just laughed and drank and gentleman friend got going on about physics and we were all like, “whoa….” (see below) and then the end of the evening came and we said bye to Dave Foley.  I really didn’t take much weight into Dave actually coming tubing today, but an acquaintance said he ran into Dave yesterday who asked when we were all going tubing. So, in other words, my friends are going tubing with Dave Foley today and I’m sitting at my work computer writing this.

P.S. Saw some great movies this weekend that I can’t wait to talk about with you!

Austin, Film, Pop Culture

What to Check Out at SXSW Film

So, I lied. I only have a film badge.
However, that makes me really happy because now I don’t feel all this pressure to attend the music-related events. That’s the part that is really stressful, right? RIGHT?!?!

I was lucky enough to be a SXSW film screener this year. I screened the documentary features, but unfortunately none of the films I screened made it to the line-up. :( I screened a lot of wonderful films but I’m sure the films chosen are great too!

I’m putting together my film schedule and the films this year look pretty awesome. Take a look!
P.S. I’m kind of partial to documentaries…

The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye 8:30PM Alamo Ritz- This documentary follows the story of performance artist Genesis P-Orridge and his wife Lady Jaye as they try to create one “Pandrogynous” being. Yeah, I had no idea what that meant either, but it looks like the couple is trying to become “one” with each other.

Becoming Santa Alamo Lamar 12:00PM- This doc is about a dude who becomes Santa Claus and all the cray-cray that goes into becoming the old man. After hearing an NPR segment on Santa Claus unions, this movie sounds really intriguing.

Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey 1:45PM Vimeo Theatre- F yeah! A doc about an awesome dude who idolized Jim Henson, so he was like, “Hey! I want to work with you and your puppets!” and he got a job on Sesame Street as Elmo.

Pee-Wee Herman Show on Broadway 4:00PM State Theater- This is the closest I will get to ever seeing the stage revival of the Pee-Wee Herman Show. The secret word of the day is, “LAUREN IS GOING TO LOSE HER SHIT AT THIS SCREENING!”

Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop 1:45PM Paramount- This doc follows Conan O’Brien on his 32- city tour after NBC dumped his ass in 2009. Conan’s poop is gold so I’m sure this film is fantastic.

Paul 10:00PM Paramount- Check out this line-up: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Jason Bateman, Kristen Wiig, Bill Hader, Blythe Danner, John Carroll Lynch, Sigourney Weaver, and Seth Rogen. I have no idea what this movie is even about. I’m just going off of the line-up. Anything with Bateman is a win-win-win-win!

Fubar: Balls to the Wall 9:30 Alamo Lamar- My buddy over at I Luv Video said that the first Fubar is kind of awesome, so I’m sure this sequel is…pretty awesome too (I’m short on words today, ok?). These guys seem like a modern-day Bob and Doug McKenzie and we need a little more drunken Canadians in our lives, don’t we?

Hobo with a Shotgun 11:59PM Alamo Ritz- Well, with a title like this, can you really go wrong? This narrative feature stars Rutger Hauer as a hobo with a shotgun trying to survive in an “urban hell”. The trailer is great, the poster is great, and Roy Batty is great.

The Beaver 7:00PM Paramount- Mel Gibson. Beaver puppet. One man’s attempt at keeping his sanity and attempting redemption through said puppet. Directed by Jodie Foster. Mel Gibson’s first film since he went ape shit. Can’t wait!

Famous People Who Might Be At SXSW That I Want to Be Weird Around:
Jason Bateman, Jeffrey Tambor, Paul Reubens, Ewan McGregor, Billy Bob Thornton.

If you see any of the people above, let me know at

Austin, Film, Music, Pop Culture

I Will Use SXSW As My Opportunity to Make Pee-Wee Herman Fall in Love with Me

It’s no secret that I’m kind of in love with Pee-Wee Herman. Kind of meaning that I might name my firstborn King of Cartoons. Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure is and will forever remain my number one favorite movie and there may or may not be times that I dress in a tiny gray suit and dance to ‘Tequila’ around my house. Alone. With a bottle of tequila.

With that being said it’s greatly tickling my nether regions to know that Paul Reubens will be at this year’s SXSW debuting his new film, The Pee-Wee Herman Show on Broadway (Sat. March 12th 4:00PM at the State Theatre). Unless you’ve been living under Floory, you will know that the character Pee-Wee Herman recently made a comeback with the Pee-Wee Herman Show which first debuted in LA in 2009 and then made it’s way to Broadway. The sold-out shows and talk show appearances cemented the fact that America still loves Pee-Wee and we’re anxious to have him back. Some more so than others. Some waaaaay more.

Below is an article I wrote for Alternative Apparel called, “Everything I Always Needed to Know, I Learned from Pee-Wee Herman“. It’s a mantra I try to live by daily and I hope you will too…

The secret word of the day is “Comeback”. Now, you all know what to do whenever anybody says the secret word right? RIGHT?

If you haven’t heard, Paul Reubens has resurrected our lovable little Pee-Wee Herman from the dead. That’s right. Everyone’s favorite man-child is back on-stage with “The Pee-Wee Herman Show” and better than ever. An updated version of the acclaimed 1980 Roxy Theatre stage show of the same name, the four week only event at Los Angeles’ Club Nokia Theatre has won over critics, fans, and newbies alike. The success of the show has helped fuel rumors of a new Pee-Wee movie or two in our future.

Watching Reubens on Conan the other night made me realize that our Pee-Wee, my Pee-Wee is back (though I’d like to think that he never went away, but rather changed his name to El Pee-Wee and worked as a bartender in a Costa Rican coastal resort for a little bit ).

Pee-Wee represented a generation, yet is timeless. He made me, my mother, and my grandmother laugh. Though awkward and often simple, his humor was relatable. He was a relic of the 50’s living in the 80’s. Now we can say he was a relic of the 80’s, living in the 10’s. Pee-Wee taught people it was okay to be different, all while Paul Reubens was creating a unique character that has never been replaced.

In honor of the man who encouraged me to wrap tape around my face and steal my mother’s platform shoes and dance awkwardly for strangers, I present “Everything I Always Needed to Know, I Learned From Pee-Wee Herman”:

1.) Be Green– Not only should your main mode of transportation be a (freakin’ amazing fire engine red!) bicycle, but you can practice self-sustainability by growing cocktail weiner trees.

2.) Be Thrifty– You can save money by creating your own popsicles with juice and ice cube trays. Or by wearing the same suit every day for the rest of your life.

3.) Don’t Take Rides From Strangers– Accepting rides from frizzy haired truck drivers will only leave you abandoned on route 40 with underwear stains.

4.) Decorate! – Don’t listen to your friends when they suggest falsetto speaking flowers is passé. Or that styling your house to look like Liberace accidentally ate Howdy Doody and regurgitated him back up on the walls is over-the-top.

5.) Matters Of The Heart- Always chose the feisty Italian acrobat over the egg-salad sandwich carrying school teacher. Always.

6.) Clowns Are Evil– Especially mechanical sidewalk clowns.

7.) Abide By The Law– Cutting the “Do Not Remove” tag on mattresses only leads to life on the lam.

8.) Be Prepared– You’ll never know when that trick gum or boomerang tie will come in handy.

9.) Know Your Friends– Anyone who wears a monogrammed romper or whose last name is a cold cut is not to be trusted.

10.) Be You– So what you’re a man-child and get more excitement from inanimate objects that interacting with human beings? Don’t go changing.

I declare 2011 the year of Pee-Wee Herman.

Glad you’ve made a comeback (AAAHHHHHHH!)

Austin, Film, Music, Pop Culture

Dear God Please Give Me the Strength to Get Through SXSW

SXSW is starting in eleven days and I’m absolutely shitting my pants terrified in complete denial.

My brain simply does not want to admit the reality that this behemoth is descending upon us like Godzilla with a bad case of diarrhea over Tokyo.

The South by Southwest Interactive/Music/Film festival is so big, they can’t even narrow it down to one category. It has to be three. And not just three rinky dink categories, but three of the largest in the world! SXSW has become a festival like no other. Everyone and their Mom visits Austin and the city functions in a mass state of chaos for ten days until every collectively blacks out.

How big is SXSW you ask? Well, according to the official SXSW website, last year alone there were almost 2,000 musical acts, 300 feature and short films, and 500 interactive events. These are just the official events. What makes SXSW unique is that, unlike many other festivals, there are equally if not more unofficial events surrounding the festival. Patios turn into sound stages, homes turn into screening rooms, and the streets become littered with folks you didn’t think existed outside of the show Portlandia. Last year there were close to 37,000 SXSW participants and again, that is not including all the folks that come into town just for the free stuff. ConsideringAustin is becoming the hot place to visit/live/play, I have no doubt that the number of visitors will be even larger this year and our town will turn into ONE GIANT BALL OF TOMFOOLERY.

SXSW has been a cherished institution in our city since it first began in 1987. The festival initially started as a musical conference, but added the blossoming film and interactive portions in 1994. Now SXSW is one of the city’s leading moneymakers having “directly and indirectly inject approximately $99 million dollars into the Austin economy” in 2009. SXSW has become a sort of unofficial holiday in Austin. Thousands of people take off from work, or can’t get to work, or arrive late to work, or show up drunk to work for ten days straight.

This will be the third SXSW I’ve experienced. Well, the other two I experienced more in the way that someone experiences standing outside the gates of a party they’re not invited to. Or more like voluntarily standing outside the gate shooting venom-licked words at anyone who walks past. Or maybe more like a rabid dog trapped in a cage of their own making, nipping at fingertips and drooling all over themselves. Like many events in Austin, the community’s participation and enthusiasm is so overwhelming that it’s easy to go from “Hey! I’m having so much fun!” to “Dear God! Did a garbage truck of drunk people just drop from the sky!?” Austin gets excited about chickens taking dumps on bingo boards, so we’ll celebrate anything and that ardor is infectious to outsiders.

During past SXSW events, I would get myself all geared up for the four million screenings, parties, and concerts during the festival and then end up standing in the middle of my living like a deer caught in headlights for hours. My brain swimming with where to start and what to do. I would then typically become exhausted from my indecisiveness and fall asleep into a disgusted slumber where I wake at 2AM to the sounds of exuberant party-goers walking past my window and me cursing myself for having temporary social anxiety.

This year I vow to make a change from my behavior in the past. This year I will have a badge that gives me access to the entire festival and I look forward to finally experiencing SXSW as one who lives in Austin should. I will be talking a lot about the festival on the blog- what bands are playing, what movies are playing, street fashion, etc.- so, I hope you’ll share this adventure with me. Lord knows I’m going to need all the support I can get.

Are you participating SXSW this year? What are you most excited about?