AUSTIN – Richard Linklater’s Bernie premieres tonight at the Paramount Theater. The film stars Jack Black as the title character in the true story of how the nicest man in Carthage, Texas, was convicted of murdering the woman he worked for. The movie is based on a Texas Monthly story written by Dallas resident Skip Hollandsworth.
Matthew McConaughey plays the district attorney who tries to put Bernie Tiede behind bars for killing Marjorie Nugent (Shirley MacLaine). Only trouble is everyone in Carthage loves Bernie and they hated Marjorie. In real life, the trial had to be moved to San Augustine County so that a jury could be found that might actually convict Tiede.
Linklater and McConaughey took part in a joint interview session today at the Four Seasons (I’ll play selections of it during an upcoming episode of The Big Screen podcast. You are subscribing to that, right?). And, this being Austin, it didn’t take long for the talk to turn to Dazed and Confused – the film that brought the two together nearly 20 years ago.
Linklater said that McConaughey’s character, Wooderson, wasn’t even originally a major part of the film. Rather, he was intended to be just a guy that Linklater had written into a scene or two.
But it was Wooderson’s most famous line that got the two thinking about the potential of the character.
“If you write a character, no matter how large or small he is, and he says, ‘That’s what I love about high school girls: I get older, but they stay the same age,’ that’s the title of the book,” McConaughey gamely recalled. “When you get something that has a definitive line like that, you go, ‘Well who is THAT guy?’”
“The first thing you ever told me,” Linklater said to McConaughey, “was, ‘I’m not this guy. But I know this guy’.”
And that guy was?
“My brother as I saw him when I was 10 years old,” McConaughey said.
Dallas native Larry Groce, host of NPR’s Mountain Stage, will return to his hometown for the first time in 25 years to perform with The Carpenter Ants at the AllGood Café in Deep Ellum this Friday, March 16. In a Q & A with the Junk Food Junkie himself, we learn why he chose to come play in Dallas after so many years as well as his experience with the hit NPR show, Mountain Stage, and its relationship with the changing music landscape.
What made you decide to do this show?
Well, the Carpenter Ants are a band with whom I have played in the past. I’m not really a member of the group, but I was some years ago before I was married and had children. I have two other full-time jobs, so playing in a band is not easy. I enjoy playing with them, though. When they made their new record, I sang on a little bit of it. And when they got the opportunity to go to SXSW, I saw the possibility of going down and visiting my family–my mother and father who still live outside of Dallas. They wanted to set up some jobs on the way to and from SXSW, and so this job came up on Friday night, which was nice. I haven’t sung in Dallas for many years, and I think it will be a fun thing. The Carpenter Ants are a fun band, and they’re great guys.
AUSTIN – If you’ve watched the Grammy Awards the past few years, you know that they’ve been heavy on collaboration. Last month’s featured the Beach Boys playing with Foster the People, Bonnie Rait and Alicia Keys and Deadmau5 with Foo Fighters. It’s a smart strategy, really – pair up younger and older artists, exposing one to the other’s fan base.
With Re:Generation Music Project, a documentary that is showing at SXSW, the Grammys have kicked up the collaboration another notch. For the film, five DJs – Pretty Lights, Skrillex, the Crystal Method, DJ Premiere and Mark Ronson – were asked to work with musicians outside of the world of electronic dance music. The film follows that new creative process.
Some of the pairings work beautifully from the jump. Ronson immediately bonds with members of the Dap Kings, Trombone Shorty, Erykah Badu, Mos Def and drummer “Zigaboo” Modeliste of the Meters to cook up a New Orleans jazz tune. DJ Premiere - given maybe the toughest task – creates a hip-hop track using classical music samples with the help of the Berklee College of Music. And Skrillex’s just happy to be in the same room approach to working with the surviving members of the Doors carries the day.
Not everyone had it so easy. Ken Jordan and Scott Kirkland of the Crystal Method bump heads on occasion with Martha Reeves in trying to compose a song about her home town of Detroit. And whoever paired Pretty Lights (aka Derek Smith) with Ralph Stanley in Nashville has a wicked sense of humor.
The basic rule of thumb is that conflict creates drama. But the film’s director, Amir Bar-Lev, says that in making his movie he found an exception to the rule.
“The moments when it’s going well, I find it just as entertaining as when it’s awkward,” he said during a post-screening Q&A Tuesday night.
And he’s right. Watching the Ronson/New Orleans track coalesce as layers are added to it is thrilling. And Skrillex’s pure joy in seeing John Densmore bang out his beat on a hand drum will put a smile on your face.
Bar-Lev demured when asked by yours truly which track was his favorite. But luckily, you can decide for yourself. They’re all available at regenerationmusicproject.com.
And you can now watch the film on Hulu.
Women dominate online writing about parenting. So-called mommy blogs get millions of hits per month. But dads are trying to carve out their space online. How the dads can boost their popularity – and how the moms can bring in more bucks – was a hot topic at South by Southwest Interactive:
- KERA Radio story:
- Online version:
A group of about 70 bloggers has gathered in a hotel in Austin for a panel discussion called “Not Your Mommy’s Blog: The Evolution of Dad Blogs.” They’re trying to figure out how dads can be a bigger part of the parenting conversation online.
But a few hours later, another group of bloggers met a few blocks away for a panel called “Monetizing Mommy” – strategies mom bloggers could use to lure more lucrative sponsorship deals to their websites.
The difference in the panels says it all: Moms rake it in while dads pick up the scraps.
Danielle Wiley owns a management agency for bloggers that helps them get sponsorship deals and television appearances. Wiley represents about 50 bloggers. Only one is a man.
“I think there’s still this assumption that moms are the ones doing all the purchasing,” she says. “That’s what the studies are saying.”
But some of the discrepancy also comes from how men and women use the Internet.
Jason Avant manages a site called dadcentric.com, which he started in 2005.
“We know that women in general spend a lot more time online in terms of content. Women do spend a lot of time looking for stuff to read online,” he says. “I think dads and men in general use the Internet as more of a tool to find out stuff – where is this, how does this work – things like that.”
Avant manages a team of 11 writers. He says his site makes money, and in a good month, he can receive up to 50,000 page views.
Compare that to the top mom blog in Wiley’s stable. Tipjunkie.com gets 6 million hits per month.
Catherine Connors writes herbadmother.com. Her blog gets several hundred thousand hits per month, and last year Connors made well into six figures from sponsorship deals with companies like GM and Intel.
“You get a mom blogger taking a GM car on a cross-country road trip, that changes the narrative around GM,” she says. “It’s not just about what kind of motor it has or how fast it goes or even how fuel-efficient it is. It’s about can this stand up to your kids.”
Connors says for dads to succeed, they need to speak more specifically to other men.
“I think the more dads embrace themselves as a community … and bring more men into that conversation, and expand what they write about and talk about so that it’s more facing into other areas of men’s lives, I think they can really develop quite a big community and talk about parenting in a different way.”
Jason Avant, the dad blogger, is trying just that. One of his writers is a soldier stationed in Afghanistan. He’s writing about the experience of being away from his kids for a year.
At one point, the dad panel shifted to a discussion of other areas that attract men and how they could be tapped to lure readers. Men’s love for competition and sports was quickly mentioned, and that led to an idea from AJ Jacobs. He writes about fatherhood for Esquire magazine.
“What about a fantasy child care league?” Jacobs asked. “I don’t know how it would work. Put together the perfect team of kids or the perfect team of fathers. Maybe that will be my next project?”
The decision of where to draft your own kid should provide plenty to write about.
AUSTIN – When the music portion of SXSW begins on Wednesday, the focus will be on original music. But a lot of the focus of the first half of the conference has been on artists taking existing material and putting their own spin on it.
Alan wrote the other day about a discussion with Kirby Ferguson, known for his Everything is a Remix videos. (If you haven’t watched them, you’re missing out.) And tonight, I’m going to try to hit a screening of Re:Generation Music Project, a documentary that follows Skrillex, Mark Ronson and other DJs as they work with artists not normally associated with dance music to create new sounds.
But last night at a party for the Interactive folks, I saw the remix come together as performance art. Mike Relm provided the entertainment for the night. He’s a videomaker and DJ who mixes videos and music live, creating a combination dance party and video art event.
So how does that work? Honestly, I have no idea. Relm sets up the usual DJ equipment on stage next to a projection screen. He man’s the decks and knobs like any other DJ, and the music he churns out syncs up with everything from movie scenes to YouTube viral videos. Watch the video I’ve embedded above for two seconds and you’ll understand.
The live display of geek wizardry was much appreciated by the 6th St. club filled with techsters. Relm’s mashup of Jay Z’s “99 Problems” with Super Mario Bros. 2, in which Mario’s blips and bloops synched up with the song’s melody, predictably brought the house down.
If you can get to one of his live performances, you certainly should. But since it doesn’t look like he’s heading to North Texas anytime soon, enjoy his YouTube channel. His remix of The Hunger Games trailer has me more excited to see the movie that reading the book.
Lots of folks have a story to tell. For generations, the only way to really find an audience was to get it published, have your work performed on the stage or (if you were really lucky) make it to radio, film or television.
That changed as the Internet became ubiquitous, and audiences began to develop for unique online content. Yet stories still stayed fairly linear, often being told through online serials, YouTube videos or audio narratives from public radio producers. Telling a story interactively often meant a co-collaboration between one or more writers, designers and a programmer or three who could translate the concept into an online application that was easy for people to use and explore. The technical hurdles inherent in the process made more complex projects difficult to build, and even then, viewing them often required special software or plugins such as Adobe Flash, which won’t work on iPhones and many other tablets and mobile devices.A new non-profit endeavor is aiming to change that. Zeega is a new project that “enables anyone to create participatory projects that combine original content with photos, videos, text, audio, data feeds and maps via APIs [short for 'application programming interfaces,' systems that provide organizations a way to open up their data for others to use] from across the web.” Zeega, funded by grants from the Knight News Challenge and Harvard Library Lab, was started by journalist Kara Oehler along with Jesse Shapins and James Burns, all of whom worked on the ambitious Mapping Main Street project that chronicled life on Main Streets in towns across the United States.
Oehler, explaining Zeega’s origins in a SXSW Interactive session on Sunday, said the Main Street project led the team to ponder how collaborative, interactive projects could be made possible on smaller budgets, with less grueling schedules. The site will be built around the “open web” concept, using HTML5 to allow easier manipulation of multimedia content in a way that will work across all browsers and smart devices, and all within their online editing tool. In other words, creators won’t necessarily need to buy expensive software or require special browser add-ons for their work to be viewable – they can use Zeega’s platform to build the project from start to finish.
Zeega is still in “early alpha,” meaning under construction, but Oehler showed the SXSW audience a sample project created on the Zeega platform, and said new developments are forthcoming. In addition to their primary funders, the founders are also building a community of supporting organizations, including the Public Radio Exchange (PRX) and Association of Independents in Radio (AIR), to help the project grow.
AUSTIN – Couldn’t make it down for SXSW this year? That doesn’t mean you can’t be a part of the show.
Tonight at 7, Jay Z will perform at the new ACL Live theater, which will be streamed on YouTube. It’s part of a promotion that American Express is doing.
On Saturday morning, AmEx distributed the tickets to SXSW badge holders. Of course, you had to have an AmEx card (check) but then you were also required to somehow link up your credit card account to your Twitter account. I’m sure that it’s all on the up and up, but I just had visions of tweeting out my account info and figured that probably wasn’t worth it.
If you want to take part in tonight’s show, tweet your request with #JAYZSyncShow and #SongTitle when you tweet. If your song is the most requested, he’ll perform it during the show. And for the pranksters out there – the details I’m reading don’t say specifically that it has to be one of his songs. So if you want to get a Twitter campaign going requesting “Tip Toe Through the Tulips,” well, who am I to stop you?
We all think about user interface more often than we realize. From our cell phone, to our DVR, to Facebook, or the parking garage kiosk we fight with leaving work each day, UI is everywhere – and has truly become a functional art form. And as we continue to add more devices and electronic gadgets into our circle of daily interactions the quality of that experience continues to grow ever more important.
User interface/experience is a topic that comes up again and again at tech conferences like SXSW Interactive. Last year, UK designers Cennydd Bowles and James Box gave an excellent presentation on how interaction design is like music. This year saw another outstanding presentation on the subject, this time from Dave Hogue, who heads up Experience Design at San Francisco interactive agency Fluid – but who came to the position from a successful (and still ongoing) academic career, with a doctorate and stint as professor of psychology at Xavier University in New Orleans.
Hogue built his talk around a specific premise: Complexity is easy, but simple is hard. As Bowles/Box mentioned last year, government forms are a great example – they get designed, augmented and stuffed to the gills with questions and explanations coming from multiple departments without anyone taking the time to make them easier to navigate. And it happens everywhere – whether it’s a website, a form or a brochure, too many stakeholders weigh in until the product is irreversibly cluttered.
Among the panelists were a couple of comedians and Carol Hartsell, the comedy editor of the Huffington Post (cool job, huh?).
They talked about why comedy these days is largely the terrain of the left (short answer – there’s just more material emanating from the Republicans because of the never-ending nominating process) and how comedy affects the political process (it’s kind of the sugar that gets people interested and helps the medicine go down).
The star of the show was Rory Albanese – and with good reason. He’s the executive producer of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart – the alpha and omega of political comedy. As anyone who watches The Daily Show knows, one of its calling cards is playing its near-nightly game of political gotcha.
“I think one of the things we’re very good at is pointing out absurdity and juxtaposing different moments in people’s political careers and saying, ‘Well, we have a video clip of you saying this from four years ago and here you are today saying it this way’,” Albanese told me as we talked for a few minutes after the panel.
And that begs the question that I imagine lots of frequent watchers of The Daily Show probably wonder – How are they able to dig up all of those ancient clips?
Albanese says there are a couple of ways. First, if you work for the show, there’s an unwritten rule that you’re a news junkie – if you’re sitting on the couch at home, you’d best be watching those Sunday morning news talk shows and taking notes. And yes, there are people on staff whose job it is to take in all that CSPAN footage when they know something of note is being debated.
But the real secret weapon the show uses is software that enables producers to search the closed captioning of these shows for keywords and phrases. When they find what they are looking for, they can cut straight to the important part and skip all of the blabber.
And now you know how the sausage is made.