Top Drawer opens a second thrift shop in the heart of Austin

Photography provided by Top Drawer and Project Transitions.

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A welcome party was held in honor of Top Drawer’s second thrift shop located in the Crestview neighborhood within the heart of Austin, Texas. This newly released thrift shop operated by Top Drawer opened its doors earlier this spring. However the official party was hosted at 7101B Woodrow Avenue on May 15, 2016, the exact date as the International AIDS Candlelight Memorial. Top Drawer Thrift is the social enterprise arm of Project Transitions. “Since 1988, Project Transitions is a non-profit dedicated to serving people with HIV and AIDS by providing supportive living, housing and hospice in compassionate and caring environments.” Top Drawer’s original location on Burnet Road has been open since 1993, always sustaining a focus to sell items in support of Project Transitions. To this day, all proceeds directly benefit the programs of this nonprofit and volunteers mostly run the shops.

Arts and Entertainment Writer, Nicolette Mallow, interviewed the Manager of Top Drawer thrift shop, Karin Kokinda. The two spoke of donations, the history of the shop and how the employees often get sentimentally attached to the pieces. (An audio recording can be found on YouTube.)

“I can’t begin to tell you how excited Project Transitions is to dive into this new experiment. For over 20 years we’ve had the Top Drawer location at 49th and Burnet and it has been amazingly successful and popular,” said Karin Kokinda, Top Drawer’s manager. “The new store gives us the opportunity to showcase some of the more special and unusual items that are generously donated.”

The welcome party at Top Drawer’s second shop in Crestview featured complimentary wine, fruits, cheeses and crackers. All items were 20% off during the party. Entering the thrift shop, guests will notice it’s like an infusion of a high-end fashion boutique, antique library, art gallery and a retro thrift shop with vinyl records and other goodies of the past. Inside the store there is something to be desired for purchase by anyone and everyone. Top Drawer is beautifully decorated and arranged to where the space is filled top-to-bottom with inventory, and yet it does not feel crowded or scattered. The room is neatly organized and the eyes can never get bored. Boots, dresses, books, tables, lamps, giant mirrors, old cameras, artwork, imported goods and other miscellany are available for purchase.

Arts and Entertainment Writer for Examiner, Nicolette Mallow, attended this special event and purchased a lovely, handmade Italian brown leather notebook as a keepsake and a literary diary. After the purchase, Mallow interviewed the Manager of Top Drawer, Karin Kokinda. The two spoke of donations, the history of the shop and how the employees often get sentimentally attached to the pieces. To hear the interview, please click on the video above.

To contact Top Drawer Crestview about acceptable items or more information, please call 512-454-5161. The store hours of operation are 11 A.M. to 7 P.M. every Monday through Saturday. Donations will continue to only be accepted at the Burnet location. For more information about Project Transitions, please visit www.projecttransitions.org or call 512-454-8646.

“It’s a collaboration between the community and Project Transitions. It starts with our donors who provide our inventory, then our loyal customers that come shop in our store, and finally, our clients who directly benefit from 100% of the proceeds,” said Madge Whistler, Project Transitions Financial Administrator.

 Note: This article was originally published on Examiner.com in June 2016.  

Screenshot from the original publication on Examiner.com.

HBO Films presents “All The Way” red carpet event at LBJ Presidential Library

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HBO Films presents “All The Way” at The Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library on May 11, 2016 in Austin, Texas. Photography used with permission from Jay Godwin.

On May 21, 2016—HBO Films will feature the grand debut of “All The Way” at 7:00 PM CST. Directed by Jay Roach and Written by Robert Schenkkan, “All The Way” is like an immaculate time machine that takes you back to the 1960’s when former President Lyndon B. Johnson (LBJ) came into The Oval Office after the assassination of former President John F. Kennedy. The film begins with a powerful start: reliving the intense aftermath of a deeply tragic situation in Dallas, Texas. The audience sees and hears the bloody mess and the Lincoln limousine. And we feel the intimate conversation between LBJ and his wife, Lady Bird Johnson, while up in the sky on Air Force One. When LBJ gets to office in Washington DC, this is when the story of “All The Way” truly begins. Because the focus of the film is how President Lyndon B. Johnson brought the civil rights moment into legal affect with The Civil Rights Act of 1964.

According to HBO: “All The Way” offers a riveting behind-the scenes look at President Lyndon B. Johnson’s tumultuous first year in office after the assassination of former President John F. Kennedy. Staking his presidency on what would be an historic unprecedented Civil Rights Act, Johnson finds himself caught between the moral imperative of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the expectations of the southern Democratic Party leaders who brought Johnson to power. As King battles to press Johnson while controlling more radical elements of the Civil Rights Movement, Johnson navigates the bill through Congress, winning a landslide victory against Barry Goldwater, but causing the South to defect from the Democratic Party. Following its critically acclaimed, award-winning Broadway run, “All The Way” comes to HBO on May 21, 2016. Actor, Bryan Cranston (four-time Emmy® winner for “Breaking Bad”) reprises his Tony Award-winning role as LBJ for the HBO Films presentation, which also stars Anthony Mackie as MLK (“The Hurt Locker”) and is Directed by Jay Roach (“Trumbo”; Emmy® winner for HBO’s “Game Change” and “Recount”) from a screenplay by Robert Schenkkan (Pulitzer Prize winner for “The Kentucky Cycle”; two-time Emmy® nominee and Writers Guild Award winner for HBO’s “The Pacific”), who has adapted his Tony Award-winning play of the same name.”

Last week on May 11, 2016 in Austin, Texas—HBO Films and The Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library hosted a special event and exclusive screening of the film. The delightful cast and crew of “All The Way” strolled the red carpet for the Press before the screening of the film. After the movie ended, a Q&A session took place. (A video of the Q&A conversation is online.) Local Arts and Entertainment Writer for Examiner, Nicolette Mallow, attended the red carpet event and she interviewed Director Jay Roach and Writer Robert Schenkkan. Both audio recordings of each interview are uploaded onto YouTube.

Director Jay Roach discussed the changes and differences between the making of his many comedy films (ie: “Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy”) and transcending into more serious, political topics like “All The Way”. During the interview Roach also shared his insights on the importance of voting and what he hopes that viewers, especially younger generations, will retain the most from this story about The Civil Rights Act and how one man from Texas made history by striving to give all people equal rights and that every vote counts. Writer Robert Schenkkan talks about what he would’ve liked to ask former President LBJ if he were still alive. And he talks about the writing process as to how he developed this story and wrote it so beautifully.

Also in attendance to this red carpet event was Luci Baines Johnson, the daughter of Lyndon B. Johnson and former First Lady Lady Bird Johnson. There is one scene that made a writer (Nicolette Mallow) in attendance of this film cry and it was one of the only moments in the film we really connect with the daughter. (In fact, there were many scenes that made Mallow laugh and cry, and she was glad she wasn’t wearing eyeliner or mascara, but this one scene hit home.) Nonetheless, in the midst of White House chaos and political war, there is a moment that LBJ watches his daughter Luci passing by and he asks her not to rush off. As they’re talking, he takes a good look at his daughter and says three words: “You’re getting tall”. It’s in that moment we see that time is moving fast, too fast, and that his energy and dedication to politics has sort of taken away some personal time with family, particularly Luci. Any daughter that had a father who worked that hard to provide a better life can understand the bittersweet feeling of being proud and also perhaps wishing there had been more time.

“All The Way” focuses mostly on LBJ’s struggles and successes as President and the societal and political injustices that were happening in The United States of America. Many problems we are still struggling with today. The movie doesn’t spend too much time in his family life, even if the audience gets to see very intimate dialogue behind closed doors and his ranch in Texas. During the film, we learn (or are reminded) about how LBJ became so passionate about civil rights, beginning his career as a teacher to minority children. The love in former President Lyndon B. Johnson’s heart is undeniable and the film does a perfect job of capturing this innate trait. LBJ’s fiery passion almost seems to come out of the screen and pour into your heart. Every scene in this film evokes something from within. The audience feels the struggle of it all and we are reminded of the horrors that were going on during the 1960’s to African Americans and other minorities. Ultimately, we witness a humanized version of LBJ: his flaws and imperfections, as well as the deep love in his heart and the powerhouse that he was. The power he had to make changes for the highest good of all. “All The Way” should make all Texans even more proud to be a Texan knowing that LBJ (a man from Texas) brought the Civil Rights Act into legal effect because he knew in his heart it was the right thing to do.

“All The Way” will make its grand debut on HBO this weekend on Sat. May 21, 2016 at 7:00 PM CST. For more information about the cast, crew and synopsis: please visit their official website on HBO at www.hbo.com/movies/all-the-way. 

Note: This article was originally published on Examiner.com in May 2016.  

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“The stars at night, are big and bright. Deep in the heart of Texas.”

The Mexic-Arte Museum hosts Taste of Mexico 2016 in honor of Cinco de Mayo

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Taste of Mexico 2016: A Culinary Arts Festival celebrating Cinco de Mayo. Photography by The Mexic-Arte Museum.

The Mexic-Arte Museum celebrated Cinco de Mayo early this year by hosting a decadent and heartfelt party, Taste of Mexico 2016, at Brazos Hall in Austin, Texas. Cinco de Mayo is an annual celebration on May 5th and Taste of Mexico 2016 was a culinary arts festival in honor of this holiday. Brazos Hall was decorated top to bottom, upstairs and downstairs, filled with brightly colored red and violet spotlights. Dozens  of food and beverage vendors were carefully placed about the space. Tacos & tequila, a mariachi band, a DJ, a photo booth and artwork also adorned the venue. Piñatas in the form of painted dolls, calaveras (skulls) and flowers dangled from the ceiling, too. The party was so full that at one point guests had to wait outside in line to get in as to not overfill maximum occupancy. Brazos Hall is a fairly large turn-of-the-century warehouse venue. Therefore the fact Taste of Mexico 2016 reached maximum occupancy not even one hour into the party on a Wednesday night is a testament that The Mexic-Arte Museum knows how to throw a fun-filled celebration for the community.

Taste of Mexico is a festival of Mexican and Mexican-inspired cuisine and beverages from over 30 of Austin’s most eclectic restaurants, food trucks, and flavorful purveyors featuring fine tequilas, mezcals, wines, beers, and other refreshing beverages. Taste of Mexico also featured the Bazaar del Arte, including Mexican folk arts and crafts, unique gifts, one-of-a-kind jewelry pieces, selections from the Museum Store, and the Pop-up Print Shop hosted by our very own Screen It! students and the Education Department. In collaboration with the Consulate General of Mexico, Mexic-Arte Museum was pleased to present Chef Ángel Vázquez as their Chef of Honor for Taste of Mexico 2016. Vázquez is known for his international palette and sophisticated dishes that represent a Poblana-Mexican kitchen. His critically acclaimed restaurant Intro (Cholula, Puebla) boasts cuisine that takes inspiration from countries such as Morocco, Thailand, Greece, Spain, France, and more. His latest projects include Salome Antojeria Del Mar y Mezcal, Carbon Central de Hamburguesas, and Augurio Comedor Poblano. All ticket sales supported the Mexic-Arte Museum in its mission to offer enriching educational programs and provide the community with outstanding exhibitions.”

Writer and Austin Examiner, Nicolette Mallow, attended Taste of Mexico 2016. Mallow has previously covered celebrations hosted by The Mexic-Arte Museum such as Viva la Vida, a Día de los Muertos event. A local A&E writer and Latina from Tejas, Mallow has experienced many of the museum’s sponsored events. The time and thoughtfulness put into each party is so evident just by regarding the immaculate detail and intricate decorations. The Mexic-Arte Museum always hosts events that flow smoothly for guests. Even the pamphlet for Taste of Mexico 2016 included a guided map to all 30 vendors and their menu. Most of all, the staff and vendors are friendly and hospitable, making the party all the more delightful. Whether you’re a member of the Latino/Hispanic/Mexican community or not—everyone is welcomed with open arms and there is a sense of family, continuity and love at every celebration the museum hosts. Mexico and Texas are known for their hospitality and fiery personalities, so this infusion of a Mexican holiday celebrated in downtown ATX is a strong and vibrant combination. Anyone that attends a celebration hosted by The Mexic-Arte Museum is guaranteed to have a good time. Simply put, The Mexic-Arte Museum organizes genuine and unforgettable parties with memories that last a lifetime. Once you enter the doors, attendees feel a vivacious, playful and radiant energy that is bound to put a smile on anyone’s face. And you will want the party to last throughout the night.

To view photographs from Taste of Mexico 2016 and to view a list of the sponsors that helped facilitate the event, please visit their website at www.mexic-artemuseum.org.

 Note: This article was originally published on Examiner.com in May 2016.  

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Bodybuilder Lisa Traugott stars in military-inspired show ‘American Grit’ on FOX

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Bikini bodybuilder Lisa Traugott. Photography provided by ‘American Grit’ on FOX.

Local Austinite, author and bikini bodybuilder, Lisa Traugott, was cast on FOX’s military-inspired show “American Grit”. The show made its grand debut two weeks ago and the third episode, “Moving Camp”, will air this Thursday on April 28, 2016 at 8 PM CST.

Prior to being cast for “American Grit” on FOX—Lisa Traugott wrote a book titled “She’s Losing it!”—a memoir about how she lost 50 pounds at the age of 38 by entering a bodybuilding competition. Over the course of two to three years, Traugott ascended from coming in dead last to the top three placings at bikini bodybuilding and sports model competitions. Sometimes competing against women half her age. (Traugott’s in her early 40’s.) Just last year Lisa won first place in the bikini contest at Texas State Naturals in 2015. And this weekend she will be competing at The Physique Showdown in Houston, TX on April 30, 2016 hosted by The Naturally Fit Federation.

Last year Lisa Traugott was selected as a cast member for “American Grit” and it was a new experience for most of the crew, a different kind of fitness-inspired TV show with a unique edge. Stated on the show’s official website, “FOX has ordered ‘American Grit’—a 10-episode competition series starring WWE Superstar John Cena. Produced by Leftfield Pictures—sixteen of the country’s toughest men and women are split into four teams as they work together to face a variety of military-grade and survival-themed challenges. Cena and an elite group of mentors from the nation’s most exclusive military units will push these civilians beyond their limits. The mentors, known as “The Cadre,” include Rorke Denver, Noah Galloway, Tawanda “Tee” Hanible and Nick “The Reaper” Irving. These real-life heroes who represent diverse backgrounds and top branches of the U.S. Armed Forces will impart their first-hand knowledge and experience to help the competitors work together as teams to surmount near impossible mental and physical challenges. ‘American Grit’ embodies the military ethos ‘no man left behind’ because only the first team to complete the challenges together is safe from elimination. Each episode will culminate in “The Circus,” a punishing, endurance-based obstacle course designed to break the weakest competitors. With up to a million dollars of prize money at stake, this is the ultimate test of strength, grit, the human spirit and most importantly, teamwork.”

The day that FOX released “American Grit” onto television—Lisa Traugott spoke with Arts & Entertainment writer for Examiner, Nicolette Mallow, at Mozart’s Coffee Roasters waterfront to Lake Austin. The interview below includes anecdotes about Traugott’s journey to TV and the story that lead her to become a bikini bodybuilder.

Nicolette Mallow: Will you tell me about your background in bodybuilding and how you came to be on the show “American Grit”? What was the screening process to become a cast member was like? I’m curious to know how you discovered this show and what it required to make the cut.

Lisa Traugott: Going back to the start, last year in 2015 was a really tough time for me. My mother had advanced stage lung cancer and it was the same time my book was being released. Good and bad events happening at once; I was so stressed that I started gaining some of the weight back that I’d worked hard to lose. To keep myself grounded, I started with a new coach and entered The Arnold Classic, the second largest bodybuilding competition in the world. You have to be selected just to get in. At the time I was 41 and I was competing against women literally half my age. Plus, back then I had never won a competition, and not only had I never won, but I would always come in dead last. So even though I did not have an award-winning body, because I could write a really good cover letter. I was accepted… It was just such a weird time because my mother was in the hospital with pneumonia. And then the same day that her fever broke: I got a text saying that I was accepted into The Arnold. Right then I started jumping around the hospital room in excitement about the future competition. I recall my mother said to me in happiness, “That’s great! But what’s The Arnold?” It was so funny when she said that… But yeah, all the while she’s going through chemo and I am practicing my poses and lifting weights with my trainer, Robin Johnson Jr.. At the time I went to him and said, “The only thing I don’t want is that I just don’t want to come in dead last. I’ve set the bar really low for you as a trainer.” And Robin said to me, “No. That’s the bar that you’ve set for yourself. I have higher standards for you.”

NM: Wow. How did you feel when he said that?

LT: At that moment I realized that I was just afraid. Without meeting a single person, I had already decided that they were all better than me. So I had to kind of throw that mentality out the window. I ended up coming in 20th out of 38 contestants. Which was huge improvement compared to the rest. Plus, as I said before, this was an international competition against women half my age.

NM: Congratulations! That is huge improvement in regards to placement.

LT: Thank you. It was huge improvement. Five weeks later I did another bikini bodybuilding competition, a local show called the Texas Shredder. My mom said to me one day before the show that she had a dream, and in the dream I came in 3rd place at the competition. And it turned out that I did. I won 3rd place. It was nice because my mom got to see me win the award and hold the sword. Three weeks later she ended up passing away… It was just so intense because she died on May 4th and I gave her eulogy on Mother’s Day (May 10th). And then a week later I ran a Spartan Race with my kids. I used fitness to work through my grief and I kept competing and bodybuilding.

NM: That’s admirable you did something so healthy and empowering to get well and heal when it can be so easy for us to slip off into the deep and the dark during tough times. What happened next?

LT: Well thank you… During these competitions, I was blogging about all this and I started getting more readers. It started as something I did for fun. But then at the next show I placed third—and the show after that I placed second. Finally I had one month left. One month between the show I’d placed second and my last show to compete for the year 2015— I went hardcore and did 730 squats a day. How I was exercising and how hard I was training was a reflection of my focus and that I wanted to win.

NM: That is hardcore. So how did the final competition span out?

LT: It was down to me and one other girl, and I thought she had it. But when they declared my number it was so funny because the announcer said onto the mic, “Well, she might write ‘She’s Losing It!’ but she’s winning it tonight”.

NM: That was very clever of him. It’s also really impressive and inspiring how you won first place after coming in dead last with only a few years of experience.

LT: I was so happy! Soon after I placed first at Texas State Naturals, that’s when somebody from FOX called me.

NM: I see. So FOX sought you out for the show ‘American Grit’ and you didn’t initially apply? Obviously a lot of people were watching that competition.

LT: Yes. They told me they had been reading my blog and thought I was interesting and wanted me to audition for the show. When they told me it entailed military style endeavors I thought, “I’m not really qualified for this” and I wrote them saying I was not sure I was right for the role. But they encouraged me to apply and after speaking to a Producer. I sent in a video of my workout routine and my fitness story. Soon after I was flown out to LA and I realized that while I was there: 6,500 other people had auditioned. It blew my mind! In the end, I was one of sixteen cast members chosen for “American Grit”. From start-to-finish, it was an overwhelming, amazing experience that I will treasure for life.

NM: Which team were you cast for within the show? I read it was divided into four teams with four mentors (all Veterans), and it seems John Cena is sort of the head honcho of the reality show and directs all four teams? By the way, John Cena is a beast and I mean that as a compliment. I’ll bet it was fun to meet him and all the military personnel. I grew up with men in the military and the energy has become quite familiar to me over the decades.

LT: Yes, John Cena is such a wonderful person and I really enjoyed speaking with him. And yes, he is a beast! The teams were divided into four: two men and two women on each team. All teams lead by a military hero. My team leader was Noah Galloway, a retired Sergeant for the United States Army. Noah dropped out of college after 9/11 to join the military. During his second deployment, Sergeant Galloway was hit bit a roadside bomb and part of his left arm and most of his left leg were blown off and removed. Yet he still runs and stays fit and was even on the reality show “Dancing With The Stars”. Noah’s story is so inspiring and he really helped my crew and I throughout the process. He really focused on using fitness to deal with any personal problems. Noah was such a good, strong leader and he reminded us to stay humble. So that was sort of the mantra: stay humble… Noah also kept telling us to not focus on anybody or anything else, to keep our mind clear. He really knew that a lot of the struggle is mental, not physical. Noah helped us be the best we could be. He also told us not to pretend, to just be ourselves, and don’t change ourselves to be what we think someone else might want just cause we’re on TV. That helped me relax more given that I’d never been on a reality show before and didn’t know what to expect.

NM: Yes, being around such strong men and women, especially Veterans, would assist in keeping everyone mentally focused and determined… On a different note, let’s talk about the trailer of the show. When I saw it, I noticed that one moment when a woman collapses. Are you allowed to talk about that yet? Is she all right? What happened? I assume doctors were on the scene?

LT: Yes, she is O.K. and we were actually texting earlier. And yes, medical crew and an ambulance were always on site. Doctors were readily available. In the footage she’s taken to the hospital on the spot. What happened is they were jumping in-and-out of buckets of ice, dousing themselves in icewater during winter in the NW.

NM: Sounds almost as if the ice put her body in a state of shock. I can imagine that might happen due to intense and rapid changes in body temperature. I’m glad to hear all is well… Will you please tell me a bit about “She’s Losing It!” and what inspired you to make the blog and write the book?

LT: Aside from using fitness to heal my own life, part of the reason why I wanted to do this show and write a book and a blog. I kind of want to be like the “Rocky” for moms. I turn on the TV and it feels like nobody is fighting for middle-aged women or mothers. So I just wanted to let women know that I’m fighting for them. And that it’s O.K. to be scared and its O.K. to cry. It’s O.K. to feel like you’re not good enough. But to never give up and just take charge of your body and your life. Keep doing it, keep moving in the right direction and keep working. “She’s Losing It!” is like “Pumping Iron” only if Tina Fey played Arnold Schwarzenegger. Ultimately it’s like a “Rocky” story for moms who find the inherent humor in combining strength training with potty training.

NM: That’s very sweet and I know women have thanked you and will continue to thank you for sharing your empowering story. Any plans for the future? Will you write more books and continue to compete?

LT: Oh yes I have so much going on. I’ve got back-to-back competitions. I’m also going to be doing stand-up comedy. I have a thing where every year for my birthday: I scare myself. For my 38th birthday I entered a bodybuilding competition. For my 39th I jumped out of a plane. For my 40th I did pole dancing. And for my 41st I did a reality TV show. This year at 42 years, I am going to do stand up comedy for my birthday. In the end, it’s all so much fun. Also, after I wrote the book I suddenly had women writing me. The women expressed that they loved the memoir, but they were seeking more insights about diet, training rips, my routine and if I had a package for distribution or for sale. Recently I put all that together and it’s now on my website. I just finished filming it and basically it’s different from other programs because I go through the meal plans, exercise routines, a fitness library of exercies and then I have motivational videos. Talking about some of the things I was dealing with like self-sabotage, feeling vulnerable. Staying on track and what happens when you get off track, also I talk about how to deal with time management and having kids while getting fit. I write about how to deal with ‘mommy guilt’ and so I kind of cover all these different topics.

NM: Thank you for taking the time, today, to share your story. I look forward to learning from you.

For more information regarding bikini bodybuilder Lisa Traugott please visit her website at www.sheslosingit.com.

To watch previous episodes of “American Grit” on FOX, and to preview the cast or crew, please refer to www.fox.com/american-grit.

Note: This article was originally published on Examiner.com in April 2016.  

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Psyche Jewelry by designer Nina Berenato launches retail boutique on Barton Springs in ATX

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Nina Berenato. Photography by Reese Vonderschmidt.

On April 9, 2016 an exclusive, media-only launch party was held to celebrate the opening of Psyche Jewelry’s first boutique. Designer Nina Berenato consented to an interview with writer, Nicolette Mallow for Examiner.com.Founder and Designer of Psyche Jewelry, Nina Berenato, has launched her first ever retail boutique in Austin, Texas and an exclusive, media-only opening party was held on April 9, 2016 during the late afternoon. Beginning a jewelry career in Brooklyn—Berenato has now made a debut in Texas and the party celebrated her arrival and showcase of Psyche design collections. To much delight, attendees of the party were offered the chance to have a piece of metal personally engraved by the artist. Nina Berenato hammered alphabetic letters, initials and quotes into the metal for all guests and it was a pleasure to observe her hands work. The party also featured a braid bar sponsored by PRIV, readings by Psychic Betsy, live music, dessert and wine. Tealights glowing in the background when dusk arrived.

To listen to a recording of their interview, please visit Mallow’s YouTube page or click here.

Psyche Jewelry’s mobile boutique is located at The Picnic near Zilker Park. “The Picnic is Austin’s premier food trailer park located on Barton Springs Road in the heart of Austin.” And Berenato’s mobile, to-go shop will be located here for the foreseeable future. Periodically, Austinite’s can also expect to find her at other local artisans fairs. Her jewelry designs possess a lot of metallic. A lot of gold and silver shines and tantalizes the eyes. Geometric shapes, keys, arrows and circles are evident, too. Despite the strong metallic presence, Nina Berenato intertwines colorful stones into the designs as well. Her designs are dainty and intricate, yet strong and bold. A mixture of Greek and modern day. Berenato has a refreshing skill of combining masculine and feminine to her collective.

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The jewelry collections for Psyche include the following lines: Sophosyne, Hidden Universe, Anti-Symmetry, Time Traveler, Shaman’s Trance, and Warrior. A little more about the name itself, “Psyche is the muse of Designer, Nina Berenato. The myths of the Greek goddess inspire Nina’s designs and reflect the journey toward personal growth. Nina’s work is a reminder of the defining emotions, thoughts and experiences that make each of us unique. The collections evolve with each passing season. Bridges of experience allow the past to inform the present, creating something for this moment. Something wild and beautiful. Something for our journey.”

During the media party for Psyche Jewelry, Designer Nina Berenato took the time to chat with Austin Examiner, Nicolette Mallow. An audio recording of the interview is included above. Take a moment to listen to Berenato speak of her childhood, learning the Greek myths during bedtime stories and how this love of the story lead her to become a jewelry designer. Take a moment to listen to the start of a journey for a jewelry designer, metalsmith and goldsmith. Within the interview, Berenato talks about her passion for design, the launch of her own branding and the learning process of designing her artistic craft. The interview also entails discussion about Berenato’s affinity for time travel, romance, authenticity and cultural influences.

To view Nina Berenato’s collections or purchase jewelry and other design pieces, please refer to Psyche Jewelry’s website at www.psyche-jewelry.com.

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Note: This article was originally published on Examiner.com in April 2016.  Since it was published, Psyche was changed to reflect the designer, Nina Berenato and the website is now https://www.ninaberenato.com/.

Crystal Mangano composed the score of documentary film “Asperger’s Are Us”

Photography provided by CW3PR.

Crystal Grooms Mangano is a composer that has created music for film and television, and her most recent project was for the documentary film “Asperger’s Are Us”. The film made its grande debut at SXSW 2016 in Austin, Texas. During this time: Netflix bought the global streaming rights to the documentary, “Asperger’s Are Us”.

To talk more about her musical background and composing the soundtrack for “Asperger’s Are Us”— Composer Crystal Grooms Mangano chatted on the phone with Austin Examiner, Nicolette Mallow. The phone interview took place shortly after the end of the The SXSW Music, Film and Interactive Conferences and Festivals 30th anniversary held in March 2016.

SXSW 2016 ran a synopsis of the film containing the following: “For the members of the comedy troupe “Asperger’s Are Us,” it’s easier to associate with a faceless audience than with their own families. No matter who the crowd, best friends Noah, New Michael, Jack and Ethan have one simple mantra: ‘We would much rather the audience appreciate us as comedians than people who have overcome adversity’. In this coming-of-age heartfelt documentary, this band of brothers finds themselves at a crossroad. With real life pulling them apart, they decide to plan one ambitious farewell show before they all go their separate ways. People with Asperger’s don’t deal well with uncertainty, and this is the most uncertain time in their lives.”

Nicolette Mallow: I read your biography about your compositions for film and television, but will you tell me the overview about how your journey as a musical composer unfolded?

Crystal Grooms Mangano: I began playing piano in the 1st grade. Then I added on the flute, the electric bass and I participated in as many music groups as I could while I was in school. Back then I started composing piano pieces. And I loved playing piano reductions of film scores, which I know frustrated my piano teacher. Like the time I brought a piano piece from “Seven Years in Tibet”. In college, I studied music and film together at Montana State University because I wasn’t sure what I wanted to pursue. Their dual degree program allowed me the freedom to learn both spectrum’s… I sort of created my own path by absorbing, learning and combining as much as I could from studying film and music. Practicing both at the same time. I met so many people in both departments. It gave me a great background into all aspects of filmmaking, editing, directing and music. Sort of like learning the ground base for what goes into making a film… When I got to LA, it was a big change and a bit of an adjustment. I was born in Casper, Wyoming and then moved to Montana. But I have grown to love Los Angeles. During the last four to five years is when I really started composing for film and television.

NM: Do you have a process when composing music for film and TV? Or does it alter depending on the project?

CGM: Yes, it depends on the project and the Director. A composer can come on at any point in the project. A composer can begin as early as the script, or as late as when the film is being edited at the end. I recently worked on a horror film and I read the script in advance and then submitted a demo to the Director while he was editing. And then once they were finished, I came back and created the complete score… During the making of “Asperger’s Are Us”—I came in close to the end when they were almost finished editing. I didn’t have much time to think about the music. Before writing anything down, I watched the film multiple times. Just because I really wanted to know as much about the story as I could, first. One of the first tracks I sent was “First Rehearsal” when the guys are looking for a place to rehearse. The scene shows their personalities and struggles; exterior influences. They so much want to focus on themselves and are having so much fun with it all. And I wanted to portray the spirit of their comedy troupe. They do it because they love it and their friendship becomes formed around this comedy troupe. But they don’t have a space so they keep getting kicked out of places and it’s not going smoothly. The score at times is a little off-kilter and a little unconventional as far as instrumentation. I wanted to show they’re having fun and that’s the point of what they’re doing.

NM: I listened to your tracks several times. The music is so playful, fun and it makes me want to go on a walk outside or take an adventure somewhere. There is something about the music that reminds me of youth and the playful mood of being young and free… Music is so powerful. When you’re creating music for a project, does it affect your mood? I would imagine the horror music was vastly different than this documentary.

CGM: Music is powerful and it does affect my mood. I really have to get into the same mindset as the music I am trying to write: anxious, happy, subdued. Whatever mood it may be, yes, it can be difficult because I really have to get into the film. “Asperger’s Are Us” was really light and cheerful as opposed to the darkness and eeriness of a horror film.

NM: I read that you run marathons… Does running help calm your mind and help you write?

CGM: Running clears my head. Running gives me space for my thoughts. First part of the run, I am thinking and stressing about projects. But once I get into the run, that space clears and I am able to enter a creative place. I come up with a lot of ideas and bring them into the studio after a run. The more you sit and work, the more you get where you don’t know if you’re having fresh ideas or not.

NM: Do you have any advice for up-and-coming artists entering the entertainment industry?

CGM: My advice would be that if you’re going to pursue something to remember why you want to do it. Always remember, never forget. For me, when I am getting upset or I am frustrated by the process of it all—whenever I feel burnt out or discouraged: I remember why I love this. I remember that it makes me happy and brings me joy. Keep that remembrance and the love of it all the focus if and when you get caught up in the politics of the industry. Don’t lose sight of why you want to be there. Always put that love and that positive energy into your work.

To read more about Crystal Grooms Mangano and her biography, please refer to her website at www.crystalmangano.com. Stay tuned for the film “Asperger’s Are Us” to appear on Netflix.

 Note: This article was originally published on Examiner.com in March 2016. 

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SXSW interview with Director of ‘A Song For You: The Austin City Limits Story’

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BECK. Imagery provided by Go-Valley Films.

Directed by Keith Maitland, “A Song For You: The Austin City Limits Story” held its world premiere at The Paramount Theatre in Austin, Texas during SXSW on Mar. 17, 2016. The SXSW Music, Film and Interactive Conferences and Festivals is celebrating its 30th year. And this year Keith Maitland and his teammates debuted two films for the first time at SXSW 2016. “A Song For You: The Austin City Limits Story” is a vibrant, intimate and engaging documentary covering 40 years and four decades of live music filmed for the beloved television show Austin City Limits (ACL). It’s a playful and raw story—an immaculate collection of great artists and their bands that took the stage at Austin City Limits. Director Keith Maitland shares the unique story of how ACL began with ‘janky’ sound equipment and soon morphed into the longest running music show in television history.

Artists that appear within the documentary include the following: Willie Nelson, Townes Van Zandt, Steve Ray Vaughan, Beck, Johnny Cash, Bonnie Raitt, Ray Charles, Emmylou Harris, Buddy Guy, Jeff Bridges, Matthew McConaughey, Lyle Lovett, Sheryl Crow, Dolly Parton, Radiohead, B.B. King, Lighting Hopkins, The Avett Brothers, Talking Heads, Garth Brooks, Thao Nguyen and more. “Long-time producer of Austin City Limits, Terry Lickona, also transcends the TV show and gives audiences a front-row seat and backstage pass to the greatest performances of the longest running music show in television history.”

One prime reason “A Song For You” is described as the ‘ultimate backstage pass’ to Austin City Limits is because it entails endless video clippings from numerous performances filmed live at ACL alongside annotations of those who were there first-hand to experience the performances. The audience is granted the inside track regarding many ACL shows, off-stage and-onstage. Watching the artists and the production team work their magic. Feeling as if we were there, too. Hearing about the highs-and-lows of the non-stop adventure—’the flood of memories’—it’s an adrenaline rush to the heart and soul. Listening to the music, hearing the interviews and seeing it all unfold and come to life at once makes the documentary unforgettable.

Director Keith Maitland did an immaculate job of intertwining 40 years of history into 96 minutes. “A Song For You” opens with Dale Watson solely because he was the featured artist on the final episode filmed for Season 39 by Austin City Limits. Once Maitland sets the scene in present day, the Director takes us all the way back to the beginning when Willie Nelson played for ACL in 1974 and tells the story in a retrospective way. Obviously, music is the core of Austin City Limits: their universal love of music and their never-ending desire to showcase musical masters and the up-and-coming talent. The title of the film is also befitting because without the audience, Austin City Limits wouldn’t have thrived. The show needs the audience as much as we need the show. You won’t want this film to end it’s that exciting, but when it does. As the credits come to a close, there is a video of Ray Charles singing “Deep In The Heart of Texas”. Which is where it all began, deep in the hearts of Texans. Or at least those living in Texans even if born elsewhere… Many of the artists in the film are still living, others have died and passed on. But the story of Austin City Limits will live on forever.

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Imagery provided by Go-Valley Films.

Fortunately, this week the Director Keith Maitland met with Austin Examiner, Nicolette Mallow, at The Driskill Hotel to talk about “A Song For You: The Austin City Limits Story” and how this delightful documentary came to fruition. Maitland also touched briefly on his other film, “Tower” that screened at the SXSW 2016 festival, too. [“Tower” is about the sniper in August of 1966 who rode the elevator to the top and held people hostage from The University of Texas Tower for 96 minutes, and at the end of his tyranny he’d taken 16 lives and wounded over three dozen.]

Nicolette Mallow: What compelled you to make a film about Austin City Limits? Do you simply love the show and what it stands for? Or do you have a strong affiliation with the city of Austin, too? I noticed both of your films pertained to Austin, Texas.

Keith Maitland: I attended The University of Texas at Austin from 1994 to 1998. Then I lived in NYC for ten years. About ten years ago, I moved back to Austin. And yes, live music is something I’ve always loved … In the 1990’s, I saw a few ACL tapings. I even sneaked backstage a few times. Once I snuck onto Willie Nelson’s tour bus in 1998. I had a knack for sneaking backstage. And that’s really what I wanted this documentary to capture: the energy and excitement of a wide-eyed fan… How this project came about is that I used to work at KLRU. And then a few years ago, a PBS Executive in DC called me about Austin City Limits and their 40th anniversary.

NM: How were you able to pick and choose a specific list of videos from an endless supply of ACL performances?

KM: That was no easy task and there was simply no way to honor all of the artistic talent that has premiered on the show. Austin City Limits has showcased around 800 performers and their bands. That’s a rough estimate and not an exact number, but my point is that it was impossible to include everyone in 96 minutes. I asked the production crew for a list of their favorites, and that was hard for them as well. So rather than pick out favorites, together, we oriented the set list around pivotal moments of the show.

NM: I noticed the documentary focused a great deal on Beck, Willie Nelson, and Stevie Ray Vaughan. All very big artists that are loved by Austin and around the globe… Personally I loved the footage in your film of Beck’s performance at ACL. And I actually went to middle school and high school with Willie’s nephew, Trevor. Any reason you chose those three to focus on?

KM: Beck is one of my absolute favorite artists and his presence in the film portrays the musical energy of present day. It was so cool to book an interview with him and quite rare for us to get the chance. Beck is very exclusive about interviews. I think it had been about ten years since Beck had consented to an on-camera documentary interview. So that was a huge honor and I know the only reason we were able to book it is because of Beck’s love for Austin City Limits… In regards to the other two artists. There are two statues of musicians in downtown Austin: Willie Nelson and Stevie Ray Vaughan. Their names were paramount to the story because they have each cast a shadow over the legacy of this town… Plus, Willie Nelson is the first artist to perform for the show and he’s from Austin. Also, the producers of ACL absolutely adore those two. And I can tell they had a very personal friendship with Stevie Ray Vaughan and that the absence of his presence still stings the ACL family.

NM: Did you enjoy interviewing the production crew, and specifically (the producer) Terry Lickona, from the ACL crew?

KM: Yes. I did. One of my favorite parts of the film is at the end when we are asking all the employees at ACL about what lead them to their job and what their role in the company is… Terry Lickona is just a great person in addition to being a fantastic producer. He is also a live music devourer. And he is always looking to the future and ‘what’s next’ which keeps the show fresh and exciting. He is a people’s people and is constantly out there absorbing the latest news pertaining to music. Terry’s loyalty to the show— and the loyalty of the entire ACL crew—it’s astounding. They’re an amazing team. And come on, it’s a pretty sweet gig to work.

NM: My last question is about your other film “Tower”. The other day I saw “A Song For You” at the Violet Crown and I adore it. But I’ve yet to see this one. My question is, many people have made movies or written stories about the 1966 sniper that murdered people from the UT Tower on the UT campus. What defines your story from all the rest and makes it so unique?

KM: Yes a lot of people have covered this story. What makes my take on it unique is that I don’t focus on the sniper. I focus on the witnesses, the heroes and the survivors of the story. The sniper is obviously mentioned and he’s part of the story. But he’s almost like the shark in the movie “Jaws” and how we don’t really see him until the end. We just hear the music and know what’s coming. “Tower” is a story of humanity at its best and worst. We get to see the people who put their lives at risk to save another. We also get to hear accounts from those who were frozen in fear, unable to help, and the shame they felt for being paralyzed with fear. But it’s very touching to hear the stories. A lot of people risked their lives to come to the rescue of those bloodied, bleeding and wounded… There is a little bit of us all in these characters and I wanted people to be able to relate to the story. Not the sniper.

For more information regarding “A Song For You: The Austin City Limits Story” please visit the official website at www.asongforyoufilm.com. To learn more about Austin City Limits (ACL) and to search upcoming performances: please check out their web page at www.acl-live.com.

Note: This article was originally published on Examiner.com in March 2016. 

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VNTANA and DJI create a hologram drone lounge at SXSW 2016

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DJI Phantom 4 drone and VNTANA hologram technology at SXSW 2016 in Austin, Texas. Photography provided by VNTANA and DJI.

In partnership with DJI, the world leader in aerial imaging—VNTANA, an interactive technology hologram company out of Los Angeles created the first ever interactive hologram drone experience at SXSW from Mar. 12-14, 2016. The SXSW Music, Film and Interactive Conferences and Festivals is celebrating its 30th year in Austin, Texas. And this year SXSW featured its first ever interactive hologram drone pilots between DJI and VNTANA.

“From fully-controllable life-size avatars to simultaneous global performances from the world’s top artists, VNTANA’s technology creates the most engaging and realistic holographic experiences in the world. With our technology people can truly be multiple places at once and bring products and characters to life in new interactive ways. VNTANA’s team of designers, engineers, business strategists, system integrators, and creative technologists is dedicated to bringing you the next generation of holographic technology.”

The interactive lounge was set up along Rainey Street close to SouthBites™. During this time SXSW attendees could see themselves projected as a hologram in real-time standing next to a hologram of the new DJI Phantom 4 Drone hovering next to them. The Phantom 4 is the first consumer quadcopter camera (or “drone”) to use highly advanced computer vision and sensing technology to make professional aerial imaging easier for everyone. Using gestures, attendees were able to control the hologram drone and even see the interiors of the drone. At the end of the experience, attendees received a hologram GIF via e-mail. To see video footage of attendees experiencing their lounge at SXSW, please visit Vimeo and watch “DJI Phantom 4 Interactive Hologram Drone Experience – Powered by VNTANA”.

A representative from VNTANA met with Austin Examiner, Nicolette Mallow, during the SXSW festival to briefly discuss how to operate the hologram and fly the drone. Mallow also got to experience the hologram first hand.

Nicolette Mallow: How exactly do guests pilot and fly the drone through the hologram?

VNTANA: The guests see themselves on the display as a life-size hologram standing next to the DJI drone. They are able to pilot the drone through gesture control. In this case, guests use vertical hand and arm gestures to fly the drone up and down along with lateral body movement to fly the drone left and right. If you clasp your hands together and then quickly split them apart, the drone also splits apart to show the separate mechanisms and motors inside.

For more information regarding VNTANA or DJI, please visit their websites at www.vntana.com and www.dji.com.

DJI Phantom 4 Interactive Hologram Drone Experience – Powered by VNTANA

VNTANA – Video: https://vimeo.com/158758465

Note: This article was originally published on Examiner.com in March 2016. 

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Ethan Hawke and crew from ‘In A Valley of Violence’ attend Arts & Cinema Centre

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Ethan Hawke attending Arts & Cinema Centre premier party for “In A Valley of Violence”. Photo by Dawson Smith.

To celebrate the world premiere of the film “In A Valley of Violence” starring Ethan Hawke and John Travolta—Hollywood event company A-List Communications hosted its popular Arts & Cinema Centre with venue partner Basecamp and Summit in Austin, Texas on Saturday, Mar. 12, 2016.

The Arts & Cinema Centre cocktail party took place during the opening weekend of SXSW 2016 on the rooftop of the Summit venue located at 120 West 5th St. Overlooking the downtown skyline, the rooftop has a vibrant view of the Warehouse District and particularly Mr. Robot’s glowing and stellar 100 ft. Coney-island Ferris Wheel. Sponsored by Maestro Dobel® Tequila and Miller-Coors Brewing. Maestro Dobel® Tequila offered specialty cocktails including its signature “Black Diamond Margarita” and Miller-Coors provided its Blue Moon Brewing selections to A-list talent, media and filmmakers in attendance.

Film cast and crew in attendance of the cocktail party included Ti West (Director), Jason Blum (Producer) and stars Ethan Hawke and Toby Huss. Earlier that day at 6:30 P.M. CST—“In A Valley of Violence” had its world premiere for the 2016 SXSW Film Festival. The SXSW Music, Film and Interactive Conferences and Festivals is celebrating its 30th year. “In A Valley of Violence” is a narrative feature and headliner film that has three official screenings on the SXSW schedule.

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The official synopsis of the film released by Focus Features states the following: “A mysterious drifter named Paul (Ethan Hawke) and his dog Abbie (Jumpy) make their way towards Mexico through the barren desert of the old west. In an attempt to shorten their journey they cut through the center of a large valley—landing themselves in the forgotten town of Denton—a place now dubbed by locals as a valley of violence. The once popular mining town is nearly abandoned, and controlled by a brash group of misfits and nitwits—chief among them, the seemingly untouchable, Gilly (James Ransone) who is the troublemaking son of the town’s unforgiving Marshal (John Travolta). As tensions rise between Paul and Gilly, Denton’s remaining residents bear witness to an inevitable act of violence that starts a disastrous chain reaction, infecting the petty lives of all involved and quickly drags the whole town into the bloody crosshairs of revenge. Mary-Anne (Taissa Farmiga) and Ellen (Karen Gillan), two bickering sisters who run the town’s only hotel, try to find the good in both men, while desperately searching for their own salvation. Only the world-weary Marshal struggles to stop the violent hysteria, but after a gruesome discovery about Paul’s past… there is no stopping the escalation. From writer/director Ti West (“The House of the Devil”, “The Innkeepers” and “The Sacrament”) and Blumhouse Productions (“Insidious”, “The Visit”, “Whiplash” and “The Gift”)—”In A Valley of Violence” brings absurdist humor, unique dialogue and West’s shocking scenes of violence to the Western genre. The film also boasts a stellar supporting cast that includes Toby Huss, Burn Gorman, and genre darling Larry Fessenden.”

Note: This article was originally published on Examiner.com in March 2016. 

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