Graffiti on UT Campus

Found both of these on the same box on Guadalupe.  Even though they are most likely different artists, but they seem to go well together.  The added green scraps and pink tag on SMUT make it work well with "Kits Smokes Blunts." Nice coincidence.


Slug Bug?

Volkswagen has a new commercial for its boring minivan with a made-up word for a name:

So Volkswagen launched a campaign called Punch Dub to encourage people to hit each other upon sight of every Volkswagen, including boring minivans.

Is this really catching on? I'm out of touch with the minivan driving suburban crowd, so I don't know. Either way, it doesn't make any sense to me.

The commercial should have said "The only minivan with the soul of a Volkswagen Beetle."

But then that wouldn't make any sense either.

Because minivans don't have souls.


Last Night in the House on 7th St.

(This post was actually written on the night of March 31, 2010)

There are boxes stacked up around my bedroom. They reach varying heights, reminding me of the broken ruins of ancient Greek columns that I have only seen in textbook photographs and old postcards at antique stores. The few items that remain unpacked are the computer that rests beneath my fingers, a picture frame that holds a photo of my grandfather pressed against the dried flowers that once adorned his casket, and a photograph of the backyard in which I spent my childhood.

In a fit of nostalgic bliss, I imagine that I am a child again, being playfully chased by my dog, a miniature spitz with a chronic ear infection, as I run through an invisible battle field of monsters, aliens, and school bullies that can only be defeated from a blast from my Nintendo Zapper with a cut-off cord. With me are my two best friends, who would often show up at my home missing a shoe or a shirt. We let out our shrill pre-pubescent battle-cries as we bravely rush to defeat our enemies and save the entire world: my backyard. I imagine myself wrapped in the arms of my grandfather, who would tell me, tiny hero that I was, that I could do anything if I put my mind to it. I was safe and contained in those timeless days of childhood where the future seemed impossible and the world would never end.

It is getting late and I need to go to sleep. The movers will be here early tomorrow. I grab my camera and take a photograph of the front of my (soon to be former) home. An object that has no meaning unless it is woven to a story. The story of this house, as I remember it, is one that is characterized by slow progress and numerous failures. Perhaps shedding this home will cause me to shed the qualities of myself that have held me back thus far. I need to move forward. I need a change in scenery.

I need a new haircut.


Dr S Battles the Sex Crazed Reefer Zombies: The Movie: The Interview

If you were at the right place at the right time during the SXSW film festival, you might have caught the screening of Dr S Battles the Sex Crazed Reefer Zombies: The Movie. The plot follows a young cheerleader who gets caught in the midst of a zombie apocalypse. Fearing that she has no where to run, she follows the enigmatic Dr S as he tries to find a cure for the zombie infection that he caused. It is a story of science gone awry, redemption, and sacrifice. Most importantly, it is the story of a hero who drives a hot rod and blasts zombies while dropping lines like: "Warning, marijuana will induce hallucination, violent behavior, and my twelve gauge shotgun up your ass!" We cheered and laughed as Dr S massacred the zombies. The movie is filled with subtle references to famous horror movies and itself can be considered homage to classic b-movie horror. I caught up with Brian Ortiz and James Hartz, the film's director and writer respectively, after the screening and asked them a few questions:

TalkHard: First off, how did you come up with this idea?

James: Bryan came up with the title and characters for the “Grindhouse” trailer contest.

Brian: My producer asked if I wanted to participate in the contest. I was reluctant at first, but one day this image of a doctor killing teenagers popped into my head. Then that turned into a scientist with a shotgun killing kids in the woods. Over time the idea developed into the film we have today. I let my brain sink into the movie knowledge I have obtained over my life and I combined all of the things I love about horror into one man: Doctor S.

TH: What projects did you all work on before Doctor S?

J: I helped out of a few of Bryan’s short films while he was in college, which sounds like we were making porn and I’m fine with that.

B: We were working on shorts for various contests at the time. We filmed Four Minutes Till the End, which took us all the way to the Cannes Film Festival and Big Scary German, Fantasy Inc., and a few others.

TH: The film pays homage to a combination of 50’s instructional videos, vintage horror, and the Evil Dead series. Were there any specific influences that you had in mind when you were developing it?


J: Definitely. Evil Dead and Shaun of the Dead were huge influences. Both, in turn, owe a lot to George Romero’s zombie films. The Resident Evil movies had some small influence. Old Propaganda films (i.e. Reefer Madness) were highly influential. Also, MST3K played a big part.

B: We took a lot from all of these sources. We examined them closely to understand what made them so successful. Once we thought we understood those mechanics, we were able to apply our own sense of style. As James said, both Sam Raimi and Edgar Wright were largely a part of the analysis, combining what we wanted to do with the lessons they taught us. We also took names and characters from our favorite movies and used them as city names and references sprinkled throughout the story.
J: Outside of the film, comic books were a big influence, especially when it comes to that wonderful over-the-top action and attitude for the film.

B: But the icon, the legend that is Bruce Campbell is what we borrowed for the base line of Doctor S.

TH: How did you come up with the character of Dr. S?

B: I wanted nothing more than to create a character that was larger than life and someone that I could become a fan of, but I couldn’t do it by myself.

J: Bryan created the character initially. When we wrote the script and developed the character of Doctor S, we knew we wanted to have this redemption story arc, so Dr. S becomes this anti-hero type who is struggling to better himself, deal with his horrible past, and face the consequences of his actions.

B: We wanted to see someone who was selfish and self-sacrificing at the same time.

J: This is why I think the flashback scenes are important. The audience needs to see that Doctor S was a selfish, power-crazed asshole before all of the atomic reefer stuff. That way he is not off the hook and the audience has a reason to go along on his journey with him, even though they may not like him.

B: Plus, we wanted to get crazy and have someone who could say anything and do anything.

TH: Were there any scenes or ideas that you loved, but you couldn’t get in?

J: There was a scene that took place in a gas station that evolved into the soldier scene in the hospital. Originally, there was a zombie fight there. Also, we had a few great ideas for a chase scene in Mary Jane’s neighborhood. Hopefully, I can put these into the comic adaptation.

B: Still, almost everything we wrote got put into the movie. Of course, we would have loved to take some of the scenes and push them further, faster, harder, stronger (yes, like the Daft Punk song).

TH: Being a native of San Antonio, I recognized a lot of the filming locations that you chose for the film. Did you develop the script with those locations in mind?

B: Yes. I knew a lot of our budget limitations, so I used all the resources I had to complete the film. Most of it was shot on campus at the University of the Incarnate Word and they were really gracious in letting us shoot there. We shot in the wooded area in the back of the school and really worked that area. We used their parking garage to cover the underground lab shots. The city of San Antonio was good to us when we did have to shoot out in the city. I knew when we were writing the script that location was important, but I tried not to let it hinder our ideas. Some locations we had in mind, some were serendipitous, like the hospital scene, which was a last minute change that worked out for the best.

TH: What was the biggest challenge that you had during production?

B: Keeping up the energy and keeping the cast and crew in high spirits is always a challenge. As the director you are the driving force of the production. On top of that, when your people are working for free and the love of the project, you really have to keep your cool and drive the project home. Of course, along the way we ran into production problems…lack of money… constant changes and adaptations to onset problems, the typical movie stuff.

J: I remember that there were quite a few special effects/make-up issues that slowed things down. Securing locations was another huge challenge.

B: Everybody was really professional and made the job as easy as possible for me and put up with a lot of changes and reshoots. The pressure of actually finishing the project is always hard. Sometimes you want to give up because it’s so hard. Yet you can’t because it needs to happen and too much time and love was given to the project.

TH: Was there anything that you expected to be challenging that wound up being pretty easy?

J: Not really.

B: No. The movie was a welcomed challenge from beginning to end.

J: I don’t think there is anything about making movies that is easy. Fun, yes, but not easy. When we lost the first car we were going to use, I thought that replacing it was going to be a big problem. In the script, the car was a hot rod and we had secured a Mustang, but the owner backed out at the last minute. Fortunately, our friend, Mike, was able to supply his Model A and it became one of my favorite bits in the movie.

TH: The zombies in the movie have a distinctive look and sound, with their sunken in eyes and their ghoulish voices. I was wondering why you made that design choice?

B: We had a lot of discussions with the special effects team about the look of the zombie. They aren’t zombies in a traditional sense of being dead, but are infected and transformed.

J: I remember that we toyed with the ideas of having their eyes turn red, having their eyes drip blood, or their eyes just be empty sockets with smoke billowing out of them.

B: Their look is an extreme take of stereotypical attributes of drug use.

J: It plays off the idea that reefer gives you this drowsy-eye tired look.

B: Plus, I like the idea of a dual voice when it comes to evil characters. Using both a high and low pitch give the creatures a sense of being insane and disturbed.

TH: Earlier cuts of Dr. S were in color. Why did you decide to change it to black and white? Did you make any other changes when you made that shift?

B: I decided to make the change because black and white is something I always wanted to do. Even though it looks beautiful in color, the black and white gives the film a vintage look. Plus, I liked the stark contrast in black and white, kind of like Frank Miller’s Sin City. Harsh shadows and deep blacks dominated the film and just added that heavy tone I needed.

J: I remember when Brian first showed it to me in black and white; it was one of those Satori moments. It helped the look, tone and feel of the film to a near infinite degree.

B: And adding the dirt and grain was the final touch to the whole film.

J: Since the black and white gave the movie a more serial and propaganda film quality, it was easier to add the Cinis Labs short in the beginning and all the movie commercials.

TH: Why did you decide to break the film into 3 acts?

B: After the first cut was done I noticed it felt choppy and in pieces. I realized that visually and story-wise, it felt like three parts. So with my theatre background it only felt natural to cut up the piece into three acts.

TH: Are there any important messages that you want your audience to leave the film with?

J: Not particularly. I mean, I don’t think that anyone goes to see something called “Dr. S Battles the Sex-Crazed Reefer Zombies: The Movie” and expects a message. Although, there are some ideas and themes if you read into it: the dangers of placing trust in the government or science to solve all of your problems for you, the high cost of acting out of selfish pride or anger, fear as a tool of control, and, of course, kicking some ass with a hot cheerleader by your side is always awesome. Always.

TH: Brian, do you have anything to add?

B: I want to give credit to Evan Boston and Peter Egly, who helped write the movie. This film was made for YOU the audience, for the fans of Evil Dead who want to laugh and scream at the screen and clap in excitement. This is made with a thank you to every director and storywriter before me, and finally this film is made with love and laughter for your enjoyment.

TH: Finally, what are your future projects? (Spoiler)

J: We are coming out with a series of audio dramas that tell the story of what Dr S was doing for the 1000 years. They’re called “Dr S Battles Through Time: The Audio Adventures.” Those should be coming out soon on our website. Dr S will be teaming up with some of history’s greatest figures! From our brains to your ears! Also, I’m searching for an artist to work on a comic book adaptation. Oh yeah, coming this fall, because you demanded it, “Dr. S Battles the Sex-Crazed Reefer Zombies: THE MUSICAL!” A live stage show! That’s right true believer!

TH: Any chance of a sequel?

J: You bet your sweet ass there is a sequel planned!

B: It’s my dream to have a trilogy one day.

J: So start preparing yourself for all the new flavors of sock-rocking whoop ass that we’re piling on to the epic sundae that is Dr. S!

B: And for future projects from Film Classics, go to:


If Everybody's Beautiful...

I want to be beautiful. I'm saying this with a complete lack of irony. Really. I want to be beautiful. Don't you? Tonight was the 7th annual Pretend You Are Rich Art Auction. Presumably, it ended about three hours ago. It was held at The Pump Art Complex, a collection of studio spaces and a community of artists. The auction was an exercise in fantasy, a night when the artistic community of Austin could come together and become something that many, if not most of them are not: wealthy.

But this article is not about the auction. That will come later. This article isn't really about anything. I have no map that marks a path for these words. I'm not even sure of my intent in writing this. Except that...

I'm not beautiful. Are you? I have, throughout the course of my short and short-sighted life, lived on the edges of the realm of the ugly. In show business, we call them character-actors. You can be either Juliet or Juliet's maid. My dear readers, you are in the electronic presence of Juliet's maid. In my younger days, being ugly was horrible. Given the unspeakable cruelty of children, it's not hard to imagine why. I've never understood why people believe that children are innocent, kind, perceptive, or sacred. I don't buy it. Human nastiness is most likely born of ingorance, and there is no human creature more ignorant than a child. As I grew older my ugliness became empowering. My very existence was a "Fuck you!" to all of those heartless bastards who took for granted that they were beautiful. My ugliness was freedom. I chose to be ugly. I made ugly decisions. Ugly was beautiful.

So I was an ugly child. Not surprisingly, I am an ugly adult. I have been, at least subconsciously, aware of my ugliness all of my life. But it had not become so evident to me as earlier tonight, during the auction, when I engaged in the communal fantasy of wealth, stardom, and beauty.

Fantasy should be easy for me. After all, I got my bachelors in fantasy with a fool-hardy major in theatre arts. And yet, tonight, as I stood up on that stage, with my tuxedo, my clip-on bow tie, my costume spats, as I looked around the room at our guests and patrons, called to them to spend real/pretend money, the stark reality that was hidden beneath our phony fur coats, our fake pearls, became evident.

And so now, here am I, kept awake at one in the morning, wondering, how can I become beautiful? Decorations, tattoos, piercings, cuff-links, designers shoes, hair-gel, mascara, are all distractions that hide the truth of the naked body. Similarly, knowledge, hobbies, habits, ironic references, interests, abilities, and our ability to boast of them to others; all are distractions which we emit to draw attention away from the fact that we are vulnerable. At the heart of our vulnerability lays... is it ugliness?

I can't speak but for myself.


ugly is beautiful because it is real. Ugly is the only beauty. You can pile as much money and charisma as you like on ugly and call it beautiful. But you are lying, and you won't realize the truth and tragic beauty in ugly until there are no distractions except for you and the mirror.

Don't shatter it.



My Introduction to The Landmark Forum

Okay, I’ll go
For the past month or so, a friend of mine had been trying to convince me to attend an introductory meeting for something called The Forum. When I asked him to describe The Forum, his answer was hard to grasp. Apparently, even though he was already fairly happy with his life (and making good money), The Forum helped him realize his unreached potential. He told me that taking it made him a better artist, businessman, and person; that he owed his current successes in his company to The Forum, as well as his being able to establish a civil relationship with his former wife. Upon hearing me tell him that I wasn’t interested in a self help program, he insisted that the Forum is not, absolutely not, a self help program at all. All he wanted me to do was attend an introductory meeting in which I would meet a representative, and if I decided to attend, then I could sign up for the price of $425. I declined to attend. But he continued in his pursuit until ultimately, over a pleasant dinner and a couple of drinks, I graciously, yet grudgingly agreed to attend the next introduction.

I took some time over the next few days to read up on The Forum via the net. What I found was quite interesting: a multimillion dollar company, accusations of cult-like activity, banned from operating in France, complaints of brainwashing, and a close connection to the now debunked est programs from the seventies.

Here are some links to articles and information about The Forum that are much better than mine:

Inside the Landmark Forum, Karin Badt
The Landmark Forum: 42 Hours, $500, 65 Breakdowns

Investigation: is the Landmark Forum a cult?
The Landmark Website

What is left unsaid?
So I would guess that if you are the skeptical type, then the top two links will appeal to you, and if you are the Chicken Soup for the Soul type, then you fancy the bottom two links. Either way, all of them conspicuously omit some aspects of The Forum. The skeptics either neglect to mention progress made by other Forum takers, or, if it is mentioned, it is done in a way that implies their gullibility. The writer for the Guardian who came out in support of The Forum fails to mention the large chunk of the seminar that is dedicated to indoctrinating its students with the desire to sell it to their friends and family. So who is right? Generally, I will usually side with the skeptics, and this is no exception.

Volunteering? Really?
Those who had a good experience with The Forum, such as my friend and his family, would never admit that they are actually selling it to their friends, but instead say that they are trying to share something life changing, something important and inconceivable until it is experienced. Sound familiar? It should if you have ever been courted by a religion or a cult. You would think that The Forum is Jesus from the way that its participants speak of it. It seems like The Forum uses the same selling tactic as some religions, which is to convince their customers that their product, enlightenment, is completely unobtainable except through them. Quite evangelical.

Participants in The Forum are so dedicated that they volunteer their time to help it gain new customers. I can’t understand why they would do this. They are basically working for free to make money for other people. Landmark Education, the company that owns The Forum, is a for-profit company. Like all other companies, they only care about their bottom line. That is not to say that those who volunteer are trying on purpose to make money for this company. They must believe that they are spreading good news and helping other people. Maybe they are. But, as a consequence of their good intentions, an international multimillion dollar company is making tons of cash.

Think of the children!
A remarkable and somewhat deplorable development in Landmark Education’s seminars is their offering of classes to teenagers and children. Given how The Forum’s participants are indoctrinated with the evangelical tendency to convert their friends and family, it makes good business sense to offer classes to their kids, as kids can not decide for themselves whether they should take it or not. Their parents will most certainly enroll them. Strangely, Landmark’s website notes that for parents to register their children for the 8 – 12 year old sessions, the child must chose attend on their own. This is preposterous, of course, as no child would even be aware of, let alone want to attend The Forum unless brought in to it by their parents. I have never met anybody whose children have attended the program, so I will not make any assumptions about whether they receive the same “hard sell” that their parents did. I won’t pretend that I’m even remotely concerned for the kids themselves. I’m not one of those “won’t somebody think of the children!” assholes that you see clogging up the news. I merely want state the opinion that offering a self-help program of this nature to children is absurd, and the only people who will not think it absurd are those who have already attended The Forum. Luckily, Forum initiates who can’t wait to get their family and friends involved can enroll their own children for $400 - $500 dollars, each.

Alas, I won’t go
So, armed with all of this information, I attended my introduction prepared to receive the “hard sell” that I had read so much about. What I actually got was a warm and friendly reception by my friend and a Landmark volunteer. We chatted and had coffee before going into the benefits of the Forum. The ordeal lasted a few hours, throughout which the Landmark volunteer spoke with me using a combination of her personal experiences and an obvious script. We made a list of parts of my life that were working and parts that were not. Every life could be better, so when I talked to her about how I wanted to improve my life, I made it clear that I was already comfortable with how I was handling my issues. My personality type is one that is quick to deal with hurtles and patient in doing so. I get along  with all of my family and friends. I have a healthy romantic relationship. I am well aware of my foibles and have clear approachable goals for my future. To put it bluntly, I lead an enjoyable, low stress, and happy life. Even parts of my life that could be better are still pretty good. Keeping that in mind, I simply could not see any immediate benefit to attending The Forum. I imagine that these kinds of introductions might appeal to those who are confused or perhaps just to those who feel like they are missing something that they can’t quite finger. These people, who may be in a vulnerable point in their lives, must be Landmark’s bread and butter. When my volunteer realized that I was satisfied with what I had, she shifted the focus of The Forum from the realm of what we know to the realm of possibility. I might think that I am happy and that I have everything I need, but I don’t know what else is out there that I don’t even know I want. The Forum will help me discover this…new possibility. I wasn’t buying it. I like having things in front of me. If I am going to pay hundreds of dollars for something, I want a clear physical benefit. The idea of paying for possibility seemed absurd to me. Possibility is free. It’s effing free.


Ultimately, I turned down their invitation to purchase my attendance at a seminar. They graciously accepted my answer and thanked me for attending.

Certainly not me
So, does Landmark Education deserve all of its controversy? I still don’t know, and doubt I ever will. I never attended one it its seminars nor do I see myself doing it in the future. The Forum, however life changing it may actually be, is clearly a self-help program that uses questionable selling tactics. The product? Enlightenment and freedom. The cost? $425. There are many out there who would pay millions for what The Forum is offering. But certainly not me. I’m not saying that I’m enlightened or that I’ve reached my full potential. But I’ll venture that I can get there even with a Forum-free life.


The Long Winter

Marcos is leaning against the railing in front of the store doing his daily leg stretches. His leg is lifted on to the railing in a manner that resembles a practicing ballerina. The damp morning air is slowly being replaced with the fresh warmth of a new season. Across the highway, the once barren trees are shyly beginning to reveal their greenery. Bushes and shrubs are swaying in the warm breeze, the dark violet hue of their blossoms mark the end of a long winter. It was, for us Texans, one of the coldest in recent memory. Gas bills soared and sales numbers plummeted. As for the sales staff, Soul said it best just now,

"Shit, everybody's gone."

Last winter was harsh indeed.

Marcos is now standing to my left, his backpack resting on my desk. He quit this morning. His ride should be here in two minutes, he says. The sales managers pass by and shake his hand, joking in a manner that hides their sadness to see him go. Jeffrey tells him that even that greener grass on the other side might be hiding some manure. I can tell that they want him to stay. So do I.

“So what do you think man?” He asks me. I look up at him as I type this.

“I’m sorry to see you go Marcos, you’re good friend.”

"You're gonna be a good attorney," he replies. Marcos has been here for a long time. His desk has been just to the left of mine for maybe a year or longer. His ride pulls up in front of the store. Marcos, whose presence commands an odd combination of intimidation and humor. Marcos, who looks like he could be a old-time Chicago gangster, who has two grown children living outside of Texas, who is turning 54 years old next week, is walking through the big glass doors at the front of the store. Goodbye Marcos.

I delete his voicemails and change the name on his extension to GT, who is my new neighbor to the left. GT is back after a long absence from work due to his developing arthritis in his feet. I remember visiting him in the hospital when it happened. His feet swelled up to the size of bowling balls, but the doctors didn't quite know why. Today, he is better, though sometimes he walks with a cane. GT is 29 years old. Sometimes I wonder if the doctors would have found a solution to his problem if he had insurance. Or money, which is something that all of our sales guys are lacking right now. GT's limp, along with his rather beak-ish nose, makes me think of a bird with a broken wing.

My switchboard lights up with callers. A customer accidently leaves the big glass doors wide open as he walks out with GT for a test drive. The weather is beautiful so I leave them. Warm air and the sounds of a busy highway flow inside. The long winter is over and hopefully Marcos was our last casualty.


South Lamar & Treadwell



5th and Congress

Wheat Paste Mural
Artists: James Huizar, Randy Muniz, Bartley Kibbe, Tony Diaz, Failure

Spray painted mural
Artist: Federicko