Monday, October 27, 2008

L to the G to the Style.

Celebrate Diversity with "Black and White and Read All Over"

"L Style G Style," a gay-centric magazine based in Austin, is turning one this year. They will be celebrating this Saturday, Nov. 1st at Austin's high end shopping destination The Domain. There will be giveaways throughout the evening, with prizes from Ralph Lauren, Neiman Marcus, Shabby Chic and others. Ladies, you will also have a chance to win the entire fifth season of the L Word on dvd!
There will be a live jazz band for your listening pleasure, as well as tasty treats from some of the area restaurants, such as North, The Steeping Room, and Viva Chocolato.
Hurry and RSVP now, to receive two tickets for free wine provided by Grapevine Market. Follow this link.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Oh, the Horror!

With the people dressed up like all of your favorite fictional characters, a haunted house brings to mind horror films and scary novels of yore. They spring out from the darkened corners and scare the beejesus out of you, while Death Metal pipes, surround-sound style, from the speakers. The House of Torment, located in North Austin, was no different. We strolled through the maze of rooms with various ghouls and ghoulettes jumping out at us, uttering sweet nothings into our ear. One guy even told me he wanted to give me a kiss. Aw, how sweet!

The thing that stood out the most was the set design, most memorably the "butcher shop" scene, which looked like something straight out of "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre," complete with dead animal and human carcasses spread-eagled before our very eyes. I was expecting Leatherface to jump out at any moment, reminding me that I saw way too many horror films in my youth. Carcasses seemed to be a recurring theme throughout, with half-rotten torsos, a giant horse, several animal-like husks, unindentified bloody objects hanging from the ceiling, and even a dead lady in a bathtub. "The Shining," anyone? A clown with a giant mallet made several appearances, bringing to mind Pennywise the Clown from Stephen King's seminal novel "It," a book that scared the wits out of me at the ripe old age of thirteen. I think my mom was the one who gave me the book to read. Sick.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Ra Ra Riot- The Rhumb Line

Ra Ra Riot, a five-piece band hailing from Syracuse, New York, first made some waves with their 2006 appearance at the CMJ Festival in New York City. Critics praised their live performance, christening them the next big thing in high profile publications such as Spin and Pitchfork. They were approached by several labels and were on their way to bigger things.
Unfortunately, tragedy struck when drummer and founding member John Pike drowned in Massachusetts following a show in June of 2007. After a long period of grieving, the remaining members decided to move forward with Ra Ra Riot, knowing that Pike would have wanted them to continue. In fact, Pike co-wrote about half of the tunes that appear on "The Rhumb Line."
"The Rhumb Line" is a jangly, infectious blend of tunes, bringing to mind Spoon, Arcade Fire and Vampire Weekend, without being derivative. Opener "Ghost Under Rocks" gets things going with staccato drum lines and mournful string parts, kicking into an upbeat chorus where singer Wes Miles sings, "Here you are, you are breathing like little ghosts under rocks, like notes found in pockets..."
"Winter '05," a complex, sorrowful number showcasing cellist Alexandra Lawn and violinist Rebecca Zeller, brings to mind the passing of friend and bandmate John Pike: "If you were here, winter wouldn't pass quite so slow." The strings really add an element of originality and depth to Ra Ra Riot's music, not only on this song, but on all the others as well.
"Can You Tell" is immediately danceable, with Milo Bonacci's cascading guitar lines pairing beautifully with Miles' catchy vocals.
In "Suspended in Gaffa," the second to the last song, Miles asks "Can I have it all?" Yes, you can. Throughout its entirety, this album emanates a fresh and original sound, with not one disappointing song on the album.

Jeff Mangum makes rare live appearance.

Jeff Mangum, the reclusive singer and mastermind of Neutral Milk Hotel, made a rare live appearance the other day at the NYC stop on the Elephant 6 Holiday Suprise Tour (a large gathering of original Elephant 6 collective musicians playing the music of The Olivia Tremor Control, The Music Tapes, Elf Power and others). Mangum is most famous for NMH's magnum opus "In The Aeroplane Over The Sea," which many critics consider one of the greatest albums ever made. After the tour for that album ended in 1998, Mangum has made only a handful of live appearances, turning down all show requests, including an opening slot for fellow Athens, Georgia scenesters REM.
Many hoped that Mangum would appear at one or more of these shows along the way. The lucky New York City audience wasn't disappointed. Fans chanted "Jeff, Jeff, Jeff" and shouted out requests for anything from "Aeroplane." Mangum only appeared three times during the long set, first stepping out discreetly for a chorus of Elf Power's "The Arrow Flies Close," then during Olivia Tremor Controls "I Have Been Floated." The icing on the cake was during the closing song "The Opera House," also by OTC. Mangum sang throughout the whole song with a look of intensity in his eyes, at one point tackling fellow NMH/OTC member Scott Spillane.
We can only hope that this is not the last we see of Mangum. A new release? A tour? Throw us a bone.

Ten Spins.

Here are ten cd's i'm listening to this week.

1. Ra Ra Riot- The Rhumb Line
2. Keane- Perfect Symmetry
3. TV on the Radio- Dear Science
4. Mercury Rev- Snowflake Midnight
5. Jennifer O'Connor- Here With Me
6. Brightblack Morning Light- Motion to Rejoin
7. Lucinda Williams- Little Honey
8. The Walkmen- You & Me
9. Beck- Modern Guilt
10. Conor Oberst- Conor Oberst

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Reno 911

Reno, Nevada. Las Vegas' step-sister.
Last night, after a wonderful dinner at Oceana, a seafood restaurant within The Peppermill casino, I decided to spend $5 on slot machines, being not much of a gambler. After basically putting dollar bills into the machines with no winnings, I decided to throw in the towel. I had one dollar left and said 'what the hell' as I ventured over to one of the many video poker machines. I hit the Bet All button and gave it a spin. Deuces Wild. I got three deuces and two Aces. I watched my dollar turn into $25. I decided to cash out while I was ahead. Hmmm, gambling is not so bad when you win.
Winter decided to happen while I was here. On Friday, we awoke to see a ton of snow falling from our tenth story window. What a pretty site. I went from sunny and hot in Austin to snow in Reno. Of course, it all melted here in town, but the surrounding mountains have a beautiful dusting of white.
Today we are going for a hike above Lake Tahoe. It's sunny, but still a little nippy. Better bundle up!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Lake Tahoe

Late Wednesday my partner and I arrived in Reno, embarking on a much-needed vacation.  We are here visiting her father and her stepmother, who have a condo overlooking downtown Reno.  When we told people we were visiting Reno, we got a lot of  'Why Reno?'  Reno is actually undergoing a renovation from sleazy, seedy second rate Vegas town to a vacation destination.  It is surrounded by mountains, in close proximity to Lake Tahoe, Yosemite, Sierra Nevada mountains, the Truckee River, etc.  

Yesterday we took a drive around Lake Tahoe, a beautiful lake nestled within the Sierra Nevada mountains, located along the border between California and Nevada.  The lake is a beautiful aquamarine color in its shallow areas, with the deeper areas taking on a more deep sapphire blue color.  It is the second deepest lake in the United States, with a maximum depth of 1645 feet, second only to Oregon's Crater Lake. 

Our first stop was Sand Harbor State Park on the Nevada side of the lake, a pristine area with large Jefferey pines dotting the sandy landscape.  We climbed and hiked throughout the parks many trails, breathing in the pure mountain air.  We shared a picnic on a secluded sandy beach surrounded by large, smooth, round boulders.  Our vantage point offered amazing views of the Sierra Nevada mountains across the lake on the California side. 

Our next stop was the Taylor Creek Visitor Center on the California side of the lake, which offers a stream profile chamber where visitor's can see the creek and its various wildlife through a panel of aquarium like windows.  We also found out that October is the spawning season for the Kokanee Salmon, a fish introduced to Lake Tahoe in 1944.  In October the salmon make their way upstream in Taylor Creek to lay their eggs in Taylor Creek, the place of their birth.  The fish turn a beautiful bright red during this process, coloring the clear stream with their vibrant colors.  Bears roam the creek in search of dinner.  Luckily, we didn't encounter any bears, although we did see a few photos on a local photographer's camera of some bears that had been there earlier.  

Next, we stopped at Emerald Bay State Park, by far the most breathtaking stop on our drive, offering spectacular panoramic views of the lake.  It offers a view of Fannette Island, the only island that is found on the lake.  

We drove through the mountainous California side through treacherous mountain passes, ending the night with a sunset dinner at Gar Woods, located on the lake.  I sipped a California cabernet with a wonderful dinner of scallops, very content with my first day of vacation. 

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Hot off the presses!

Today I had the pleasure of visiting Michael Barnes, author of the exquisite blog "Out & About" and contributer to the Austin American Statesman, at the news room. Michael also happens to be my instructor for a class that I am taking -- and the reason for this blog -- Entertainment Journalism.
In the spirit of cranking out a quick, but professional blog, like I saw Michael do today. I will try to do the same myself.
The Statesman building is located on the corner of Riverside and Congress Avenue, nestled in a little hollow right by Lady Bird Lake. It is a large building, that recently underwent some remodeling, in order to make room for the giant multi-million dollar vertical printing presses that were recently installed.
The first place we visited was the newsroom, a bright room with several people, some that I recognized from their pictures in the Statesman, milling around cluttered desks. I even saw John Kelso lurking around. After I was told the logistics of the various writing departments --music over there, editorials here, food writers here, etc. -- I was led over to Michael's desk, which was very clean and organized, by the way. We proceeded to go through the heap of emails that he recieves on a daily basis. I thought my email account was out of control! He went through the emails, deleting what was spammish and writing short replies to the emails worthy of his reply.
Next, we took a tour of the building, which included the aforementioned printing press room, and culminated with Michael buying me a cup of much-needed joe. Thanks!
We went through all the class photos that were taken a couple of weeks ago to see which pictures of the class Michael would use, if and when he felt our writings were worthy of a mention on his page. I know a lot of the students, including myself, were worried about how scary the photos might look, but I thought they all looked very good, especially for a impromptu photo session.
Next, Michael quickly posted two blogs for "Out & About," one about a ballet social event with a Frank Sinatra theme, and the other about the Palm Door preview party. It was interesting to watch him post his blogs because it gave me some insight and tips on how to maintain my blog. It was also nice to see the workings of a news room from the inside, a first for me.
Thanks Michael.