#exiledfrommarfa: My perspective

Originally published on August 1, 2013


The Marfa Film Festival was a weird experience and not because most of the films left me feeling depressed. One thing to note about living in a small town is that you’re constantly running into the same people. It’s a small area to cover. It’s just gonna happen.

That happened to me with the cast and crew from Exiles that weekend. I ran into them at some screenings and at some of the food places, and they even joined me on a few occasions. That just wouldn’t happen in Austin.

I first interviewed Exiles director Tommy Bertelsen and actors Troian Bellisario and Shane Coffey (you might know those two from this little bitty TV show, Pretty Little Liars) to promote the film. When I saw the film was premiering in Marfa, I immediately used my journalism ninja skills to find contact info and set up an interview with Tommy. I thought it would just be an interview with him, and that would have been OK, but when I got the email saying we would be joined by Spencer Hastings and Holden Strauss, I got nervous.

I was so nervous to do this interview because it was my first Talk at Ten for the radio station, and it was with two people who’ve appeared on a TV show I watch on a weekly basis. We all know how hard it is to tame the fangirl for interviews like this.

But it came out fine. I guess they were in agreement because they joined me in the studio during the festival for a follow-up.

Days after that initial interview happened, things started to get weird. Shane added me on Twitter. When I promoted the interview before it aired, Troian retweeted one of those tweets and they both added me on Instagram. Social media blew up on my end.

And here I thought Joseph Gordon-Levitt replying to one of my tweets many SXSWs ago was the peak of my social media existence thus far. Nope. I have now seen the intensity that is Pretty Little Liars fandom, and gotta say, it’s pretty amusing. I now know when Troian likes or retweets anything I post, because I’ll glance at my phone and have at least 20 notifications in 30 seconds. I’ve learned to put my phone away when this happens and just come back to it later.

But I gotta say, everyone I met from the film… super nice.


Now to the film…

I loved Exiles. I’m not even wearing rose-colored glasses because I’m a shameless Pretty Little Liars fan. I was obsessed with Romeo and Juliet in high school. It was sparked by Leonardo DiCaprio, but I also read the story in my freshman English class, rewrote it to today’s English for a group project and watched two versions of the movie in that same class. If I could somehow drop a R+J reference in conversation, I would. See? Obsessed.

For those that haven’t read the book or don’t remember anything educational from their teenage years (I don’t blame you, Shakespeare’s’ language is pretty tough/boring), basically Romeo and Juliet fall in love at first sight for each other, parents aren’t thrilled about it, shit happens and spoiler alert: they kill themselves. Teenage angst at its finest.

Exiles shows what would have happened if they didn’t die. What would have happened if Friar Laurence’s plan had worked: Romeo leaves town, Juliet plays dead and they eventually meet up after her “funeral?”

Real life would have happened, that’s what.

Since the film is under 25 minutes, it’s really just a quick glance of these two lovers as they discover they might not be best suited for each other after all. There’s not much dialogue, but the actions portrayed by Troian and Shane really speak louder than words, and it’s a bit heartbreaking to watch their facial expressions betray how they really feel. After all, this couple is “the greatest love story the world has ever known.” I mean, if they couldn’t work it out, it doesn’t give that much hope for the rest of us common people.

Ok, scratch that. It was pretty obvious from the get-go that this couple wasn’t meant to be. Think about it. Romeo killed Juliet’s cousin. So the guy has some anger management issues to deal with. Sure, Tybalt was an aggressive jerk who killed Romeo’s best friend and provoked Romeo just because of his last name, but still… He was the love of his life’s cousin. And Juliet was your typical 13-year-old only child that turned to prayer with tears in her eyes in times of need. Obviously, there was gonna be some couples counseling in the future.

My point is that, from personal experience, relationships can be work. Even Ben Affleck said in his most recent Oscar acceptance speech that his marriage to Jennifer Garner is work. It’s the best kind of work and there’s no one he’d rather work with, but it is still work. Apparently, he got some flack for that, but whatever, I’m on Team Ben. I agree with him.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not some bitter single woman who always has bad luck with guys (that comes from my social awkwardness) and I’m just trying to share my rainy cloud onto you. It’s awesome to find someone that gives you the giggles, the butterflies and everything else every sung about in a boy band song. Sometimes it just doesn’t always end happily ever after, and Exiles shows that.

2017 Highlights

I'm gonna be honest.... 2017 sucked for the most part. But there were some highlights and those highlights were pretty freakin' amazing.

I published my first issue of the Marfa Gallery Guide as the new publisher. I got a newish car so I could travel more, which I did. I did a whole lotta freelance, most of it was thrown in my lap. I became a barista (free coffee for me!) and I briefly returned to the Big Bend Sentinel. I saw New Kids on the Block and I met Hanson! It was quite a busy year.

Check out the photos to see for yourself.

Bloglove: Strangers with Style

Originally published on March 30, 2013

I’m digging this blog by Olivia Obineme, who studied with me at the Poynter fellowship. In fact, we interviewed each other during the first session on the first day, so we’ll always have that.

Anyway, her blog, Strangers with Style, features people she randomly meets in Baltimore with great style and it’s not like just-off-the-runway, too-expensive-for-common-people style either. Most of the posts feature great looks that inspire a t-shirt-and-jeans kinda gal like me with a tight budget.

Olivia said she had the idea of having a public collection of strangers for a long time. She loves people-watching, which makes sense as she is a journalist. When she was a student at Towson University, she kept a WordPress blog called Local Fab for a class with Dr. Thom Lieb. On that blog, she featured style profiles of strangers as well as things she found interesting from other sources and fashion tips.

But as it goes, life happened after that class ended and she put the blog aside. However, she decided to get back into blogging.

“And I think I may have hit something really cool,” said Obineme.

What I love about this blog is the simplicity. Olivia doesn’t write lengthy paragraphs about each stranger’s style. Instead, we get short and informative descriptions.

“Because they are strangers, I like to keep the copy brief for the photos — to keep that mystery to them being people I really don’t know,” said Obineme. “The photos really show their personality, I think.”

I agree. I mentioned to Olivia that my favorite thing about the blog are the photos. What I’ve noticed on the man-on-the-street fashion blogs I’ve seen is that it’s pretty obvious the photographer just told the person to stand there so they can snap the photo and then moves on. On Strangers with Style, the strangers look natural and comfortable. I have yet to see one awkward photo on her blog yet. Olivia said she doesn't separate the interview from the shoot.

“What some people don’t realize is that when you do a blog like mine, where you are stopping people with whatever they are doing, they are the ones doing you a favor,” said Obineme. “Yes, people love to talk about themselves, especially when they are asked to, but it doesn’t mean they want to take a whole day to do it.”

She said she likes to make sure she’s doing it at their convenience. She doesn’t just talk about fashion with the stranger. She also asks how they are doing, what they’re up to and questions like that to make them comfortable.

“I put it like this: I talk to strangers because I genuinely want to get to know them,” said Obineme.

Again, that’s when journalism becomes helpful. We are taught in the classroom that we have to get out there and approach people we don’t know to get a story. Even though she does have to warm up before she approaches a stranger, she said she has learned that it’s either you do it or you don’t.

“If I don’t talk to people, I’d have nothing for any story I’ve ever written or shot or recorded,” said Obineme.

She’s only been rejected once for the blog.

“So far, I should say,” said Obineme.

But once she approaches the strangers, she doesn’t take long to explain why.

“The title of my blog explains itself,” said Obineme. “And when I tell them ‘Strangers with Style,’ they immediately light up, as if to think, ‘Oh wait, she wants to know about me.’ And that usually is what does it.”

Well it’s working. Since our little chat, Olivia seems to be featuring a new stranger daily. She recently discovered that two strangers she’s featured on two different days on her blog were actually mother and son. What a small, but fashionable, world.

Weekly highlights

With all the negativity going around these days (read the news for an update), I've decided to focus on the highlights from my week. No, I'm not bypassing the news. I will eventually write about it, but right now I'll share things I've bought, things I've read, things that made me smile, etc., because I need a little bit of sunshine.

  1. I love these paintings I purchased from Kayla Arroy, who I met on Instagram. The layered colors remind me of West Texas.
  2. I can't wait to receive this amazing bag from Oddballl Vintage based in Austin. I'm such a bag lady and it's hand painted and leather. Win.
  3. I spent the past five days at Marfa Poetry Festival listening to fellow writers and watching musicians such as Joyero, Josh Jones, Rob Mazurek and Christopher Owens. I think it's a great debut year and I can see this festival grow each year.
  4. I'm participating in Popsugar Reading Challenge this year. I was a little burned out from my journalism job, so I needed to remind myself why I love to read again. I'm off to a very late start, but I'm determine to check everything off before the clock strikes 12 on NYE.
  5. A former classmate Barak Tamayo is selling merch he's designed online. I sat across from him in our fifth grade class and he was always drawing something, so he going into the designing world is no surprise to me. I bought a cell phone case with "100% Texican" (because I am), and a sweatshirt with "The Walking Decaffeinated" (I can't wait to wear this while I work at the coffeeshop).

My adoration for the boy band

Originally published on January 11, 2014

So don’t judge me, but I saw the One Direction documentary and actually enjoyed it. It’s no secret I like boy bands, so why should this one be any different? Plus, I also enjoy a good story, being the journalist and all, and the fact that these five boys were put together in a group after they didn’t advance to the judges’ houses as solo acts during the seventh series of the X-Factor UK, making their tears of rejection into tears of redemption, got me hooked even more. We got to see their growth as they ended up winning third place and learn that these young dudes are just like us with dreams and insecurities, but with accents.

My appreciation for the boy band dates back to my elementary school years. I mean this goes back to the days of New Kids on the Block. Granted I didn’t learn what “the right stuff” was until much later in life, but that’s OK. I wouldn’t want my seven-year-old niece to know what One Direction really means when they want to “live while their young.” But I loved New Kids. I watched those cheesy cartoons on Saturday mornings. I read and owned the comic books. I had not one, but two t-shirts of theirs, a watch, buttons, keychains, posters on my bedroom walls and a Jordan McKnight doll.

Looking back though, I don’t really know why. Danny was my favorite.

My high school days were defined by boy bands. And nu-metal, but that’s a teen-angsty story for another day. The spark was reignited with the Backstreet Boys and then moved to *NSync, Hanson and a little bit of 98 Degrees. Does Hanson really count though? They did play their own instruments. Not only did I learn the lyrics to the songs, I also learned some of the dance routines. I mean, how else to commemorate your love and appreciation than with the hard work the guys put into their performances? It shows that we care.

Obviously, boy bands aren’t really taken seriously. I don’t blame you. It’d be hard for anyone to take a group of guys singing about love wearing camouflage pants and army vests without shirts. I know boy bands are part of a big ploy by some middle-aged bigwig (Lou Perlman, in some cases) looking to trick teenaged girls into spending their money on false hope. Lest not forget the reality show that’s sole purpose was to put together a boy band. O-Town, anyone?

MTV put together 2Ge+her (pun intended) as their tongue-in-cheek response to the boy band phenomena, even though these were the bands that dominated TRL and their award shows. However, their lyrics were still relatable. Getting back your stuff is the hardest part of breaking up. But I still think the idea of boy bands is genius because let’s face it, it works. And dammit, it works on me.

Five attractive guys (for the most part, there’s always the unfortunate, unattractive one) professing their love for me through the TV screen in matching outfits, usually in an open shirt drenched by random rain, saying (usually with a choreographed dance routine) they’ll never break my heart, ‘cause they’d rather die than live without me would make any girl swoon. Seriously, what girl doesn’t want that!?!

You see, boy band world seems a lot like living in a romantic comedy. “It’s OK that you cheated on me with your ex that one drunken night. I don’t care who you are, what you did; as long as you love me, it’s all good.”

Although there are times when they do put their foot down. They’re still men after all. And they will be unsure, just like us, and want to know are we just friends or is it how it ends. Quit playing games with their heart, girlfriend.

It’s because of boy bands, I have naïve notions about romance. That and John Hughes films.

I should say though that most of my best friends are dudes, and I know based on our conversations, the majority of guys don’t think this way. If any. And that makes me sad. But yet, here I am, a woman in her early 30s, still hoping I’ll get my John Hughes ending with the object of my affection declaring his love for me in a musical number with four of his conveniently coordinated friends.

Now what I noticed with this round of boy bands, (i.e. One Direction) is that the guys seem a little more in touch with the real world and less in touch with a Nicholas Sparks film. The lyrics relate to today but still aim straight for the girls’ hearts.

Like I said earlier, the One Direction dudes seem like normal dudes. I think crying over what you thought was the end of your time on X-Factor, thus crushing your dreams as a singer, on camera no less, shows you have feelings. They’re sensitive.

But they’re also young adults coming to grips with their new fame from what I’ve also seen in interviews and behind-the-scene videos all over YouTube. They can be silly. They can be crass. The guys admitted they’re not dancers, so we won’t be seeing dance numbers from them. Zayn bought his mom a house when he could afford it, just like he always said he would. That’s sweet. He’s not even of drinking age until tomorrow, but he’s also engaged, so hey, they’re not all perfect. Taylor Swift already wrote a song about one of them. She knew Harry was trouble when he walked in, but yet she still dated him. Did she not watch X-Factor? He’s a flirt and a charmer. You got what you asked for, Swifty, but at least you got a Moonman for your troubles.

So boys will be boys. If we’ve learned anything through Joe Jonas’ tell-allfor Vulture or through the lives of Miley Cyrus, Britney Spears, Justin Bieber, Amanda Bynes and anyone else that tried to present themselves as angelic during their youth, it’s just gonna blow up in their face eventually. I can’t imagine what it’s like to go through that stage of your life with the rest of the world watching your every move, let alone, trying to suppress said growth, because someone made the unfair decision that being a role model has to be just as important as selling albums. So let them be real, well as real as possible.

One Direction seems to be doing it right, at least at face value, and that’s cool.

Although, I’m sure the rest of the world would love for the boy band to go away completely. But as long as there are preteens and teenaged girls swooning over these five adorable guys that are telling them what makes them beautiful, overlooking their blemishes and awkwardness that comes with adolescence, there will always be boy bands.

This I promise you.

Big Bend Sentinel: Texas Tech University theater students nail Marfa and her quirks

I designed the advertisements for this performance, so I wanted to see the idea come to life. I loved it so much that I gushed to my editor about it the next morning. A few hours later, he approached me and told me to write down everything I told him. So I did.

  Texas Tech University students performed works they created from their experiences in Marfa.

Texas Tech University students performed works they created from their experiences in Marfa.

Texas Tech University theater students nail Marfa and her quirks
Originally published on August 11, 2016

MARFA – I walked into the Marfa Intensives performance on Thursday night at the Crowley Theater knowing only that the playwright Jaston Williams would perform pieces from his one-man show called “A Wolverine Walks into a Bar” and that a handful of Texas Tech University students would perform works they created based on their experiences in Marfa.

I left completely impressed.

Click here to read the rest at BigBendNow.com.


The Judd Foundation hosted its first star party on May 28 at The Block in Marfa.