miércoles, 29 de septiembre de 2010

Lee un libro

Esta es la columna de la semana pasada en UWeekly. No creo que sea algo que no haya dicho en este foro...

OPINION: Read a book - I swear it won't kill you
By Gabino Iglesias

You know how sometimes you stop in the middle of a sentence, struggling to find a word to express what you want to say? How about those times when you read something for a class and have no idea what a particular word means? Even better: have you noticed that your ability to concentrate on schoolwork is seriously impaired by a nagging little voice that's always telling you to get on Facebook yet again? Well, don't fret; I'm here to offer you a simple, cheap, entertaining and portable solution to all your conundrums: get a book and read it.

Yeah, yeah, I know. Don't worry; I won't get too preachy on you. Here's the thing, plain and simple: reading is good for you. Want to know how? Well, your brain is a muscle and, in order to stay strong, flexible and sexy, it requires as much training as the rest of your body. When you pick up a book, your brain goes to work. Just like your body responds to resistance training or cardio by getting leaner, meaner and more powerful, your intellect improves when you dig into a piece of literature. Likewise, reading has been shown to improve your memory. And couldn't we all use a bit more of that when finals roll around?

Reading also improves your ability to concentrate. Just imagine: getting through homework quicker, not being as bored in class, and not having to pop Adderalls like candy because you have less than a day left to finish that monstrous final paper. Sounds good, right? All it takes is a little time and a tome.

Let's keep rolling. The more you read, the more your vocabulary grows. That translates into less time spent leafing or clicking around to find the unusual synonyms and powerful adjectives to make your papers sound more intelligent. It also translates into a confident, more eloquent you when you have to speak in public or go on that dreaded job interview. Trust me: in the current sad employment panorama, every little advantage counts. I'm not saying that you need to use words like "xylopyrography" on a daily basis or that you need to become a renowned deipnosophist, but being articulate can go a long way.

Now let's get to the stuff that you really care about. First off, reading can help you pick up somebody wherever you go because you'll have something interesting to share. Also, with Austin being the weird and remarkable city it is, there are plenty of independent bookstores where you can get a book for a buck while simultaneously giving corporate America the finger.

Last but not least, opening a book is something you can do for free while sunbathing at the lake, waiting for the bus, killing time between classes or when your Internet is down. What the hell are you waiting for? I've given you enough reasons - now go get a book.


martes, 28 de septiembre de 2010

Strippers en el Mono Rosa

Últimamente no me molesta mucho mi trabajo. Mientras algunos esclavos asalariados se sientan durante ocho horas detrás de un escritorio y/o frente a una computadora, mi guiso me permite hacer cosas como esta: visitar un strip club para hablar con las bailarinas estudiantes. La nota que aquí les dejo me entretuvo bastante. Además, nunca había sacado fotos dentro de un antro como el Pink Monkey…

Paying the Way: the not-so-mythological student stripper
By Gabino Iglesias

Unicorns, dragons, gnomes, and gargoyles? Graduate students who also happen to be strippers? Some would argue that the preceding are all mythological creatures. Want to guess which one isn't? While the statuses of the other three are still pending, the reality of stiletto-wearing pole acrobats on their way to professional degrees is an empirical fact.

In a city as rife with students as Austin, it is inevitable that the stripper population would have be an incredibly diverse constituency. Furthermore, the current cost of tuition, textbooks, car insurance and other economics of student life make Austin the perfect place to find financially challenged gals willing to entertain visitors at the bevy of gentlemen clubs all over the city.

Okay, so there is a graduate student stripper population, but is it easy to locate? Sure. Finding them was easy. Getting them to talk on the record was another story. Nevertheless, my conversations with graduate dancers were rich enough to give me an idea of what drives them to climb onto that poll, putting their reputations and bodies on the line.

Joy (last name withheld) was brave enough to talk on the record, simply because she stopped dancing a while ago. Currently on her way to becoming a lawyer, Joy was originally pushed to the stage by the usual sum of circumstances. "I had a car accident, I had to pay for my classes and the bills were piling up." She actually started as a waitress, but quickly understood that the real money was to be made with her top off. After a quick switch of positions, Joy immediately reaped the benefits of being a dancer: a daily income of around $300 and the freedom to schedule her hours as she pleased. She quickly realized the gig was what we all imagine - fast, easy money.

So why did she quit? "I stopped because I was used to being an A student and, when I was dancing, I started getting my first Cs," she explained. "You do have the freedom to set your hours but you still have to be there and it takes time to get your hair and makeup done." But concentrating on schoolwork was not the only reason she stopped: "I just don't want to be a lawyer, hand someone my card and have them go 'Hey, weren't you a stripper?'" Fair enough.

Picture a student with books to be read, classes to attend and papers to write trying to balance the tightrope of it all along with a gig that requires endless preparation - a gig that takes place mostly at night, demanding involvement with the seediest characters Austin has to offer. According to Joy, it wasn't that hard, assuming one can keep it all under control, learn to spot/avoid the perverts, and make sure your hours are enough to make it all worthwhile. "It was fun, it was great," said Joy seeming nonplussed at her time spent straddling strangers. "It has its pros and cons."

Joshua Hawk, Manager at the Pink Monkey Cabaret, knows all about the reasons that drive graduate students to tease their hair and spin around an unsanitary pole. He thinks, like most probably do, the primary reason to become a dancer is the obvious one: "Fast cash."

According to Hawk, girls can "come in, work a few hours a couple of days a week and make more than they would make working for eight hours a day for a whole week at McDonald's." Hawk has worked in the industry for over a decade and says that, during that time, he has worked with "hundreds of students, some undergraduate and some graduate." So would a graduate student do it? "They do what they have to do to get that diploma." And what about the stigma that forces them to keep in hush? "You know, students judge, but they're also in here all the time. In fact, on Tuesdays we have College Nights," said Hawk. "People talk shit before they get in the door and, once they're in here, they open their wallets," the manager frankly concluded.

Nevertheless, as times change so do social norms. It seems that in our post-modern culture opposites can be embraced. Intellectual (and drug-free) strippers might now be the norm. They also might be you child's future teacher. Consequently, next time you pay a visit to a "gentlemen's club," don't hesitate to deposit a few bills on the stage or in a thong, as your dollars could be the tangible stimulus that this country needs-helping a future engineer, lawyer, or doctor achieve her dream.


Musiquita de la buena

Esta semana escribí un artículo sobre una banda local de funk, blues y jazz. Aquí se las dejo.

Felan: Meaningful funk and no subtlety at all
By Gabino_Iglesias - Monday September 27, 2010 - 12:13 pm

Bored with what 6th Street has to offer? Tired of the same old sound? Ready for something better than dime-a-dozen singer/songwriters and throwback bands that sound homogeneously boring? Weary of bland punk bands? Then I have a recipe for you: throw together some funk, sprinkle in some jazz, add a touch of blues, put in some Latin seasoning, insert a ton of talent and a mix it all with a good serving of enthusiasm. The result is called Felan, an 8-piece Austin-based hard-edged funk band that has the power, the chops and the fire to shake this town to its core on every performance…and they’re about to blow up.

Last Wednesday I sat down with Alex Felan and Erik Telford, the commanding duo behind one of Austin’s most explosive bands. Felan and Telford met a few years ago when they played together in another band. As it often happens in music, that became the genesis of what they’re doing now. “We’re a hard-edged funk band but we bring a little bit of everything to the table; Motown, jazz, Latin. We’re not a throwback band or a neo-soul band,” explained Felan, who’s in charge of keys and vocals. With a delicious plethora of influences, Felan sounds like everything you want to hear while simultaneously managing to throw a new, fresh sound your way. “When you have a horn section, you can pretty much do whatever you want,” said Felan.

If starts are any indication of future success, these guys are destined for greatness. Their current fiery sound has its origins in a gig they played a while ago. “We were playing and started wondering what would happen if we played all out, balls-to-the wall,” reminisced Telford. And they did. The outcome was a blast of sound that made them choose not to play any other way ever again. Telford mentioned that the experiment angered a few musicians in the audience and that a small exchange of words was had over Facebook. Nevertheless, a great thing can’t be denied so, according to Telford, “it’s all good.”

Yeah, it’s all good. With a band packed with professional musicians trained in places like Baylor, our own University of Texas at Austin and Berklee, Felan boasts that perfect mixture of guts to experiment with and the instruction to back their trips into the improvisational stratosphere. I asked them both what it’s like to play with such great musicians. “It’s a great way to stay different,” said Telford, “every time we play it’s a different show, even if the songs are the same. We like to change things on the spot so that you always hear something new,” explained the trumpeter and composer.

As for Felan, the experience is one of constant wonder: “It’s like magic; there’s no over thinking, we’re just there, doing it. It’s an uninformed process but these guys have serious skills so there are no deer-caught-in-the-headlights looks when we’re up there,” said the bandleader. And watching them in action turns you into a witness of that musical magic: a tight sound full of explosive nuances that makes you nod your head, move your feet and love life just a little bit more. That’s what happens when tremendous musicians are able to meet on the same wavelength: meaningful music.

Want to see for yourself? You can catch Felan every Wednesday after 10:00 p.m. at Austin’s premier spot for sweaty dancing, cold beer and thrilling sounds: TC’s Lounge. The freedom and atmosphere at TC’s is something the band enjoys. “TC’s Lounge is one of the oldest venues in Austin,” said Felan, “there’s some good juju in here.” Erik had a few more reasons why the gigs at TC’s are the best: “You can bring your own beer and they have pickled pig’s feet at the bar. I don’t think they have pickled pig’s feet at Momo’s… and if they do, they’re not $1.75,” concluded Telford.

Felan is currently working on a demo that they hope will be out by Christmas. As soon as it’s out, they plan on getting it in as many hands as possible: “We want to get our music out there,” said Felan, “we are all about touching people, getting a meaningful reaction out of them with our sound.” In other words, be on the lookout this upcoming Christmas and get your hands on that demo: it’s something you will enjoy and want to share.

Before letting them get onstage to do their funky thing, I asked the two musicians why people should go watch them. “We are available for rent, you can buy us…we have no shame and we will do many things to amuse you,” said Telford. How can you pass on a deal like that? “When you see us come out, you’ll enjoy it,” added Felan, “it’s good music for good people.”

You can check out Felan at felanmusic.com, and also check out Erik Telford’s various other projects at ejtmusic.com. Also, if you want to get to know Alex, Erik and the rest of the gang, make sure you drop by TC’s Lounge, on 1413 Webberville Road in East Austin. A minute into their first song you will know why subtlety is not their strong suit.


martes, 21 de septiembre de 2010


El viernes pasado asistí a una reunión editorial. Básicamente es una hora perdida en la que un grupo de gente convence a sus editores de que sus ideas merecen ser convertidas en historias y, posteriormente, publicarse. En mi caso, los editores con los que tengo que trabajar jamás me fastidian. Ellos sabrán por qué.
En cualquier caso, el punto es que me tocó sentarme detrás de uno de los jóvenes descerebrados que escribe para la sección de deportes. En su computadora tenía como wallpaper una foto de Bukowski...
Aquí está el problema: si eres un tipo que usa polos y escribe sobre football americano, no puedes leer Bukowski. ¿Por qué? Porque lo digo yo. Estas son las reglas:
No puedes leer Bukowski si:
1- Lloraste o lloras aún por las notas que sacas
2- Te gusta Yanni y/o Kenny G
3- Ves comedias románticas
4- Usas polos con chancletas
5- Lees Pablo Conejo, cuentos de vampiros prepubescentes o poesía romántica moderna
6- Te ríes de los "chistes" de Dane Cook
7- No escuchas Tom Waits
8- No sabes quién es Steven Wright
9- No dices coño o carajo más de tres veces al día
10- Nunca te emborrachaste con vino barato
11- Nunca te quedaste en moteles con cucarachas y manchas extrañas en la alfombra
12- Nunca te hand dado un puño en la cara
13- No te has peleado con nadie (va de la mano con la anterior)
14- No has estado dentro de un contenedor de basura
15- Ho has dormido nunca en el piso

Podría seguir, pero ustedes entienden lo que quiero decir: Bukowski es para cierto tipo de gente. Bukowski es para gente que ve la vida desde la ventana de un autobús, gente que pelea por cada minuto, gente que sabe lo que vale un recuerdo, gente que sabe que el dolor no siempre es pasajero...

domingo, 19 de septiembre de 2010


Tatuar es un arte sagrado. Marcar para siempre la piel de un individuo es una responsabilidad enorme que muchos toman a la ligera. Por suerte, quedan artistas como Katja Rodriguez, una canadiense cuyo amor por el tatuaje la ha traído hasta Austin. La tienda en la que trabaja se llama Perfection Tattoo y Chris Treviño, dueño del local, es una de las figuras más grandes de la tinta a nivel mundial.
El jueves pasado pasé casi tres horas charlando con Katja. El resultado fue un perfil que se publicó en Austin Post. Pueden verlo aquí:


viernes, 17 de septiembre de 2010

TC´s Lounge

TC´s Lounge es un sitio de esos que sale en las películas. Hablo de esas películas donde muere mucha gente. Sin embargo, TC´s es la casa del blues y el funk en esta ciudad, un secreto escondido en el East Side (lugar que los estudiantes y los blancos evitan a toda costa) y un museo viviente de músicos y personajes. TC es el dueño, BabyGirl su mano derecha y Sheila su mano izquierda. La foto lo representa de maravilla.
Pasé un miércoles en la noche con TC y BabyGirl. Hablamos de blues, alcohol, prejuicios y comida. Nos reímos un rato y escuchamos la banda de funk que esa noche hacía temblar el piso. La historia de abajo lo cuenta todo...

TC's Lounge
A bluesy home away from home

By Gabino Iglesias

What could make an old, lopsided neighborhood bar with no air conditioning way better than any flashy and fashionable downtown Austin joint? Well, the people, the music, the chow and the freedom, to name a few. Enter TC's Lounge, the real home of the blues.

TC's Lounge is located deep in Austin's East Side, on 1413 Webberville Road to be precise. Its ramshackle exterior and architectonic nonchalance are nothing compared to the amazing quality of the people, music and food you can find on the inside.

"We've been here for about thirty years thanks to the grace of God and the good people that come on by," said the bespectacled man whose initials adorn the hand-painted sign that hangs outside. This is TC, head honcho, music connoisseur, and the bar's owner. (In case you were wondering, TC is quick to point out that those letters are "what it says" on his birth certificate.)

In a city that prides itself on being the Live Music Capital of the World, TC's Lounge can safely be called the last real, gritty blues joint in town, a true gem in a city full of flash. Just looking at the walls and stepping on the cracked floor gives you a sense of the history of the place and the character on the folks who frequent it.
"We like the blues. We like to find good bands and get good people to come and see them," explained TC. "Blues is a way of living. It tells real stories about real people. It's real music."
But blues is not the only music that gets stage time. Soul and funk are readily available multiple nights a week, and the jukebox is one of the best in the city. My visit took place on a Wednesday and the eight-piece hard-edged soul/funk band Felan was staying true to their motto and "shaking the city to its core." With blaring horns, banging percussion and funky-as-hell rhythms played with commanding passion by the impeccably tight group of musicians, Felan provides the perfect soundtrack to a night of beer, sweat, laughter and rollicking good times.

"We're keeping alive the soul/funk tradition of the Wednesday nights," said Alex Felan, on keyboard and vocals. "We just do our thing and let the music speak for itself." (Be sure to check out FelanMusic.com for more on this funk powerhouse.)

TC's Lounge is a living music museum, a showcase for some of the best blues and funk musicians in Austin and a place to feel at home in. Where else can you can bring your own liquor and get some free home-cooked meals while you're at it?

"We make chili beans, enchiladas, whatever," said BabyGirl, TC's right hand. "We just want everyone to feel welcome." According to BabyGirl, many people come to Austin and never leave. TC's is a place where you can make yourself a home away from home.

"In the last seven years or so, I have seen diversity come together," said the man in charge. "We want to let everyone know they're welcome here. We're all family." With BabyGirl's sweet demeanor, TC's fun-loving ways and Sheila serving as his left hand and doling out contagious smiles, it's easy to feel welcome.

"We treat people right. Everybody feels good and we all feel free," concludes TC. Translation: feel free to call or just show up. You have a blues band? Drop by and maybe you get a gig: according to TC, they're "always looking for new blues bands."

Whether you're happy and want to dance the night away among friends, feeling tragic and battling the blues, or just in the mood to enjoy some great music, head on down to TC's Lounge and let Sheila, BabyGirl and TC treat you right. After all, they're family.


Odisea en la biblioteca

Estoy escribiendo para una publicación en Austin llamada UKeekly Austin. Es una revista diseñada para ciudades universitarias que cuenta con una hermana en Columbus, Ohio. Básicamente, me apunté a la jugada para hacer un poco de gonzo.
Para mi columna de opinión relaté la pérdida de tiempo que puede llegar a ser una visita a la biblioteca más grande de UT.

OPINION: An Odyssey in the Perry-Castaneda Library
UT Library Legendary for loss of tome and time

By Gabino Iglesias

You push your way through the heavy revolving doors and enter the huge lobby. The ridiculous amount of human traffic makes you wish there was a way to get in when it's closed to everyone else. Maybe you should try showing up at 1:30 a.m. You walk up to a computer, type in the titles you're looking for, make a laundry list of numbers and letters, and set out to find your volumes. Everything seems to be on different floors. The loud rumbling of not-quite-hushed voices and fingers tap-tap-tapping over greasy keyboards invades your head as you wait for the elevator. The booming voices cause a brief hallucination: you think you're in a downtown bar.

When you reach your floor (probably the first of at least three) you struggle to find the stack with the numbers and letters you're looking for. Once that daunting task has been achieved, you proceed to search for a larger combination of letters and numbers. From where you're standing, what surrounds you looks like an endless, dangerous, and abandoned maze of books, surrounded by inane chitchat. Finally, you walk into a silent, eerie pathway between two long, towering bookshelves and begin scrutinizing numbers. You bend, twist and kneel in search of your precious tome.
All your efforts are utterly ineffective: the book is not there. How can that be? The computer said it was available! You check again...and then again.

You walk over to another bookshelf and repeat the process. Again, you come up empty-handed. You're beginning to feel a tad frustrated. After checking the computer again, you decide to repeat the whole process. How can you be so dumb? The books have to be here - the computer said so! Twice! Empty spaces reside where your tomes should be. Numbers jump between one book you don't need and another you're not looking for.
You have a call number on your list that's different from the rest. You ask around and learn that it's part of the archaic Dewey Decimal system. Hope pops up like a colorful flower in the endless desert of your frustration. Maybe the path less traveled will lead to success. Ten minutes later, you're heartbroken and feeling like you need a shower. An unpleasant itch starts to tickle your nostrils, making you think of all the bacteria, dust and mold that you have probably swallowed in the preceding hour.

Then: Eureka! Maybe the treasures for which you hunt are on those shelves behind the wall opposite the elevator. You make your way over to them, passing a few skeletons and weird, hooded individuals that seem to be hiding in small cubicles along the way. Guess what? Your books are not there, either.

With tired feet, depression creeping up on you like a hoodlum overflowing with bad intentions, and a sense of having been defeated at the hands of an invisible foe, you make it down to the lobby again. If I'm lucky, you think, I can probably get some of them from the reserve.

After waiting in line for a while, you get to talk to someone who seems eager to help. You explain your conundrum amidst a thousand voices. Five minutes later, he or she comes back to you with a small percentage of what you thought you could find. Alas, you can only take these books out for a day. You look at your watch. There is no way you'll be able to read that stack of books and then what you have to read for your morning class and return them all on time. Maybe next time you shouldn't leave things for the night before. Maybe the computer shouldn't lie about the availability of books. Maybe everything should be available online.

You return home, defeated by the system. No one told you of these hidden hardships of college life. Maybe you'll never have to go through this again. Maybe next time will be a lot easier.

Sounds familiar? It does to Isabella Ferraro, a Broadcast and RTF major.
"I steer clear of the PCL. Why? All previous experiences proved themselves counterproductive," she said. "Everyone's there, so it's a lot of socializing, stop-and-chats and 'Hey, can I come study at your table?' I prefer quiet."

Quiet: a fading treasure. Books: a hidden treasure - at least at the Perry-Castañeda Library.


domingo, 12 de septiembre de 2010

Sexto Buscapié

12 Septiembre 2010


Se derrumba el país. La cultura es un animal exótico en peligro de extinción. Caen dos gotas y pasamos siete horas sin luz. Los niños ya no saben hablar ni español ni inglés. Los adultos sólo leen mensajes de texto y son incapaces de escribir mucho más. Por suerte todo va a estar bien: ¡cada analfabestia funcional tiene su iPhone!

Ya sabemos que la tecnología se ha convertido en una muleta. El problema es que, en lugar de paliar algún defecto, el desarrollo tecnológico ha ayudado a crear más cojeras. Por un lado tenemos el “texteo” sempiterno interrumpiendo el desarrollo de una arcaica conversación cara a cara y por otro la presencia constante de las redes sociales deshilvanando el tejido social y evaporando las últimas migajas de lo que una vez fueron destrezas sociales.

¿No es suficiente? También podemos echarle la culpa al telefonito del nene que baja las notas por estar metido en Facebook durante clase, la señora distraída que destroza su vehículo mientras textea, la nena de quince años que le manda fotitos atrevidas a su noviecito, el universitario que carece de habilidades gramaticales pero se pasa en YouTube comentando y la familia cuyos miembros pasan más tiempo con el aparato de marras que con los que comparten su techo.

¿Seguimos? Culpemos al aparatito de los padres en precaria situación financiera que gastan un dineral en tecnología que nos les sirve de nada y que no necesitan, los risibles hiperconectados carentes trabajo o posición social que amerite lujo tecnológico, la falta de etiqueta cuando los jóvenes tienen que escribir un correo electrónico a un supervisor y el asalto al oído de los centros comerciales repletos de individuos gritando sus conversaciones privadas.

La tecnología es muy útil, siempre y cuando no se convierta en una prótesis detestable. La vida está mucho más allá de la pantalla de un teléfono (independientemente de su resolución). Claro está, a lo mejor esta columna es obsoleta porque ya existe un “app” que enseña a priorizar.

•El autor es estudiante doctoral.