Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Story

When one of my literary gods, Chuck Palahniuk, spoke about Pygmy (2009), his book about a teenage foreign exchange student/secret assassin who works to destroy middle America, he told the story of the inspiration behind the novel.

The author was volunteering in a homeless soup kitchen about 10 years ago, and nobody there knew who he was. He didn't give anything away, and so the workers began making up stories, taking guesses at what was the story behind the man. Palahniuk said some believed he was a sex offender released from prison doing community work, or a murderer, or an arsonist. And he never corrected them or hinted at his innocence-- "I loved their stories better than the truth," he said. And so the character of Pygmy-- an undefined, mysterious, somewhat free character-- was born.

Anyone who knows me (or follows me on Twitter) knows I'm a journalism major with no interest whatsoever in being a journalist. It's the first thing I say when someone asks me what my major is, and a friend once told me it's as if I'm embarrassed people would think I want to be a journalist. It's not that. I just love fiction.

I'm taking a journalism course this semester, and so far we've been working on hard news stories. Yesterday, my professor announced we're starting with features, profiles and soft news. Everyone seemed equally uninterested as if he'd said we were continuing with hard news. Nobody in my class is pursuing a career in print journalism. Most want to be sports broadcast journalists, or want to work for Vogue, or wish to have their own cooking show (to each his own). I'm the only one pursuing fiction. I went into journalism at the suggestion of a beloved teacher who once told me it's a great foundation for creative writers. So far, I'm hating it. But I'm learning.

So yesterday, after noticing our carelessness, my professor oh-so-wisely said, "Everyone has a story." He slowly walked around our work table and then stopped, pointed, and asked one of my classmates, "You. What's your life's theme?"
The girl was embarrassed, put on the spot, and stuttered. "I don't know."
He didn't give us a moment to think, he just pointed and asked. Love, confusion, indecisiveness, hatred, independence, awesomeness (guess whose that was?). And then stories emerged. With soft voices at first, tentative, stories about testing out 11 different majors at four different universities. Stories about divorce, tragic (and shit- I mean tragic) family deaths, success, finding comfort in extraordinary places. Stories spilled out from these people I'm with every Monday and Wednesday for 2-and-a-half hours and always wonder what their stories are. Some people are surprised to hear stories from people they never really think about. I think about everyone I see-- it's annoying at times. I see people in the street or in my class, or in the pages of a book, and I want to know.

There's a boy in my class who wears a Spurs something every day-- Spurs jersey, Spurs hat, Spurs button, Spurs sweatshirt. He's fascinating. What does he like other than the Spurs?

There's a girl in my class with a perfect middle part in her perfectly even brown hair. She's fascinating. Does she have a problem with disorder, is she obsessed with perfection, would she freak if I walked up to her and messed up her perfect hair?

There's a boy in my class who writes notes to the girl who sits beside him every class, and thinks no one is noticing. I am. He's fascinating. Does he have a girlfriend and wishes he could cheat?

There's a girl in my class who's so loud and so, so skinny. She's fascinating. Does she overcompensate for her tiny figure with her booming voice? Is she a middle child, and why does she moisturize with her L'Occitane hand lotion so often? Does she suffer from chronic dryness?

These are the people who surround me every Monday and Wednesday afternoon, and yesterday, I learned their stories. Not all of their stories, and they were probably just tiny snippets of their lives, or maybe broken versions of the truth. But as they spoke, their voices changed. Maybe they had never been asked before. Maybe they had never thought they were worthy of an interview, or a profile, or to be the focus of class conversation.

Yesterday I found out journalism is not necessarily just in reading the newspaper or watching 60 Minutes. It's not about glorifying The New York Times or giving a 15 minute recap of what's going on in the Middle East. It's about stories. It's about asking hard questions, or any kind of question that might bring out a story, whether it be the truth-- or an incredible lie that just sounds far better than the truth. I remember reading Palahniuk wrote all of his books based on real research- hands-on, going to AA or Sex Addicts Anonymous, full-on research. He asked the uncomfortable questions. He pretends to be one of them. That was the beauty of Hunter S. Thompson's work too, wasn't it?

Stories are everywhere, in every one, behind every action and every decision, no matter how insignificant or worthy of worship one might appear to be. So maybe this journalism thing ain't so bad. I just wish we didn't have news quizzes every freakin' Monday.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

MTY Showcase in ATX

The time has come, The Vilah says, to bring more bands from MTY.
Come to STUBBS Wednesday March 31st to watch Sexy Marvin, Rubik and Vinyl Dharma, presented by Austin Vida and Go Hispano. Make sure to stop by our Facebook event to check out the full details!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Honey You Are a Rock

When I was 13, I was going through hell.

Music saves you. And when I was 13, only "Green Eyes" could soothe me, calm me, relax me, and give me a moment to think and breathe and rethink the screams that were building up inside me. "Green Eyes" was not the first Coldplay song I heard. It wasn't the first Coldplay song I fell in love with, or the reason I began to buy their records. But "Green Eyes" had the power of making me feel at home.

It's been said that there are more people in the world who hate Coldplay than those who love them. I, for one, do not understand who these people are. I've met these people, and some are friends. I've heard people say Coldplay's music is depressing, or pretentious, or stupid. I, for one, do not understand why these people believe this.

I've been waiting for years for Coldplay to come to my city. And I've been planning that concert with my best friend, whom I made a pact with that we would not go to our first Coldplay concert without each other. Which is why, after many opportunities of seeing them live in other cities, we waited until we could both go to Coldplay's first concert in Monterrey. That was last night, March 11 2010, when the band played at Estadio Universitario to close their Viva la Vida tour.

After a 10-hour bus ride from Austin and a 10-hour wait outside and in the stadium, my back out, my legs and feet sore, my eyes red and puffy from the lack of sleep, my mouth dry, the lights went out and I heard screams.

Coldplay's songs are not about sex. Coldplay's songs do not have the word "bitch" in every other verse. Coldplay's songs are not about getting wasted, or the curve of a fine ass.

Coldplay's songs speak of hope and urgency, confusion and dreams, they speak of loss and about finding a way back. They speak of belonging, friendship, possibility and politics and wishful thinking. They speak of freedom. They speak of fairness.

Chris Martin's voice is not the finest. It's far from perfect. Weird, even.
Chris Martin's voice is pure and honest, the sound of heartbreak. The sound of peace.

When you see the four boys live, they look like just that- boys. Boys running around the stage, smiling tiny secret smiles when listening to the thousands of voices that know their music by heart.

Last night I cried. At first I cried of frustration, pain, tiredness, and because my best friend was nowhere to be seen. In midst of the madness, we lost each other. And then I cried for the music. And no, I was not the only one. And no, it was not only girls that cried last night. Coldplay's music does not only speak to girls, it does not only speak to gay men (like many straight Coldplay-hating men would think). It speaks to the hopeless, or the worried, the excited and eager, the joyful, the madly in love, the indecisive.

I tightly grasped a friend's hand last night while "Fix You" was playing. The lights bright and Martin at the piano, there was a silent wish that could be heard through everybody's singing.

The beauty of their music lies in the impact it has in its listeners. After seeing them live, all I wanted to do was write. Write while the memory of "Shiver" was still fresh in my mind and the image of Will Champion's smile was still infectious. And like I wanted to get home and write, I bet a lot of people left wanting to play the guitar, or paint, or take a photography course, or dance and laugh, or play football with more drive and confidence than they had before, or with a greater reassurance that one day they will accomplish what they've been wanting to accomplish.

"Green Eyes" wasn't played last night, and neither was "See You Soon", another one of my favorites. But it was an amazing night, a memorable night. And when I found my best friend outside the stadium after the concert, it did feel like the plan didn't go 100% like we wanted it to. But there'll be more nights like this, without the 10-hour bus ride and the sore feet.

And for those who say they hate Coldplay, I hope for their own sake that they give their music another listen.

All music has the potential of saving someone.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

For those who didn't watch it...

Para aquellos que no vieron el tributo a John Hughes en los Oscars 2010, aquí está. Es uno de mis escritores y directores favoritos, murió en el verano del 2009. También pueden leer mi propio tributo a él aquí.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010


I recently caught La Guerrilla live at Sixth street music venue Mi Casa. I'd never heard of them before that night, and then just a few days later I had their EP in my hands.The band's mix of raggae/ska and latin rock has been growing to be one of Austin's favorite live shows...Read my full review here at Austin Vida!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Austin Vida showcase!

April 1st will be Austin Vida's next showcase! You gotta get out to La Ruta Maya to check out bands La Guerrilla, Maneja Beto, Este Vato and El Tule, starting at 9 pm. To get the full info, check out Austin Vida's Facebook page or the announcement at Austin Vida webpage!

Here are some videos for you to check out, just to get a little taste...

Monday, March 1, 2010


Los Fabulosos Cadillacs have been around for a while, over 20 years-- and that's earned them a little sumthin': a tribute album to be released tomorrow, March 2nd, from Nacional Records that brings together versions of LFC classics by latin american artists like Los Amigos Invisibles, Massacre and Andrés Calamaro. Read my full review here on Austin Vida!