‘Unsolved Murders: True Crime Stories’: a podcast series launched by Parcast

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Photography provided by Parcast Network.

June 27, 2016— “Unsolved Murders: True Crime Stories” released a thrilling, new podcast episode this week titled “Lights, Camera, Murder”. “Unsolved Murders” is a recently launched podcast series Produced by Parcast and co-Founded by Max Cutler and Ron Cutler (son and father). Parcast created this multi-dimensional podcast network as a flagship series with an acute focus on cold case files. The first three episodes of “Unsolved Murders” pertain to “The Axeman”, a serial killer in New Orleans. And the second series of podcasts within most recent episodes revolve around “Hollywood’s First Murder”. Please bear in mind these episodes are not intended for children—the podcast contains a great deal of graphic and bloody details—therefore viewer discretion is strongly advised. Nonetheless, “Unsolved Murders” is an enticing and haunting mixture of a classic radio show, a theatrical script and a murder-mystery-book-on-tape that morphed into the form of a modern day podcast. Narrated by Carter Roy and Wenndy Mackenzie, “Unsolved Murders” combines the beauty of audio and sound design with the articulate eloquence of literature and storytelling. The professional sound effects, dialogue and delivery within each episode of the show are compelling—and the audio is very clear and precise to the ears. Listeners can almost hear the amount of time, heart and energy that Parcast’s talented crew of employees dedicated into this podcast just by the quality of presentation and sound.

Reminiscent of a riveting and spooky time machine, “Unsolved Murders: True Crime Stories” take us back, safely, to mysterious cold cases like The Axeman from the 20th century in New Orleans when his murderous and diabolical rampage in Louisiana began. Actors and a sound crew portray all the voices of the witnesses, the victims, the locals and the police. The footsteps in the dark and the screams in the night. The audience can feel the fright, and yet the lovely melodies from the jazz era that trickle in throughout the podcast add a sense of playfulness and lightness in the midst of a dark, heavy story. Listeners come to know the presence of The Axeman by the bone chilling audio of his weapon hacking into flesh and bone after carving his way in the back door with a blade. Even though the murderer is a mystery, the audience comes to learn about his obsession for jazz music and the fact he was a deranged man who believed he was inhuman. And by the end of “The Axeman” episodes, the narrators swap theories as to who they believed to be the violent serial killer.

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Max Cutler, Co-founder and President of Parcast, consented to a phone interview in June 2016 with Arts & Entertainment Writer for Examiner, Nicolette Mallow to discuss “Unsolved Murders: True Crime Stories”, the launch of Parcast and The Axeman of New Orleans.

Nicolette Mallow: Will you tell me about your love for radio and storytelling? How did this all begin from childhood to adulthood?

Max Cutler: I’ve always loved radio and I was born into it. But I remember when I was 4 to 5 years old that it really became part of me. My dad (Ron Cutler) worked in radio and operated 12 national radio shows when I was growing up called Cutler Productions. His company was also the #1 in comedy. However, my love for storytelling happened as I got older and then I grew an interest in true crime and mysteries. Looking back, my dad had a profound impact on my career. He was also a storyteller that wrote a novel titled “The Secret Scroll” … As an adult I wanted to start my own company and I wanted to pursue the entertainment business. Obviously I love radio for many reasons but what I hope to gain from “Unsolved Murders” is not only to share crime stories and top quality audio productions, but I want to bring people together and help take away the daily stress of life. People are very stressed out sometimes and to help lessen the stress of others in the form of radio and storytelling for 20 minutes, or an hour, is a very good thing. Its important to relax and unwind.

NM: Will Parcast and its podcasts networks focus solely on “Unsolved Murders” or do you and your team intend to cover and produce other topics of interest?

MC: “Unsolved Murders” is the first show but there will be five to seven new shows within the next year that cover other topics than cold cases, such as education or history. We started with this genre because I love mystery and true crime stories 100%. And there is also a large community that appreciates cold cases. So from a business standpoint it’s also a hot topic that has a market. “Unsolved Murders” is about my passions and entertaining the interests of others… Parcast came to be so that we could take audio and radio to the next level. There are many great, high quality podcasts out there that are up to par. But a large majority of the podcasts these days are lacking in sound quality and production with a lot of holes to be filled. Parcast has the most talented crew working with us and I am so grateful for my team that my father and I assembled. The whole company is very gifted and talented. We spent a lot of time searching and recruiting voice actors, writers, and we have a great digital engineer (Ron Shapiro) that brings the sound of the axe to life. It took about 3 to 4 months to get it right, but we are just very overwhelmed and excited about this start. “Unsolved Murders” already ranked #5 out of 300,000 podcasts. It’s just a really humbling experience and we all look forward to the future.

NM: “Unsolved Murders” begins with the story of “The Axeman” and all the podcast episodes about this cold case are so captivating. I didn’t want to stop listening to the audio. Although I admit I probably will not listen to the podcast right before bedtime. Anyway, the sound quality is amazing and I love the voice actors and the narrators. Y’all did a great job and I look forward to more episodes… How did you come to hear of The Axeman?

MC: Thank you. I am glad you enjoy it and I appreciate the compliments… The Axeman is ranked among the Top 10 serial killers to never be caught. Our podcast focuses on serial killers and cold case crimes that aren’t as well known as criminals like Jack The Ripper or The Zodiac Killer. We didn’t want to focus on the commercial cases the media already had a field day with. A lot of research lead me to the launch of this series about The Axeman. Another reason I chose this story is because it gets me upset when someone gets away with a crime and justice is not served, so this podcast is also a way to never forget the case. It’s just a very interesting and scary story about a clearly deranged criminal.

NM: Yes, he is very deranged. That episode entailing the letter written by The Axeman to himself and when its read aloud in that sinister voice on the podcast. The letter he wrote to the police. It was very creepy and disturbing how he claims that he is a demon, inhuman. And The Axeman even writes the return address as being from ‘hell’ just like the infamous Jack The Ripper… Did people really believe this guy was a demon? And was it ever made clear why he demanded people go to jazz halls and listen to jazz music in order to be spared from his axe?

MC: Actually, yes, many people did believe he was a demon. And many people even thought The Axeman was somehow Jack The Ripper manifesting in another continent at another time. You can’t make this up! We have to remember this is the early 20th century in New Orleans, a very superstitious place. When the newspaper in New Orleans published his letter in 1919, locals and immigrants were terrified and became very scared of this ‘inhuman’ criminal. Which is why most of the city went out that one Tuesday night to listen to jazz music at “12:15 earthly time” just as The Axeman demanded. However, there is a common theory that perhaps the The Axeman was actually a musician and needed to get paid. Regardless, The Axeman had a sense of control over this town and the fact he was never convicted only added to the stigma that he was supernatural. It was a huge topic all around Louisiana and a #1 hit jazz song about The Axeman was written about him.

For more information about “The Axeman” series, Parcast network and the podcast “Unsolved Murders: True Crime Stories” please visit their website, iTunes or SoundCloud. (The podcast is also available on Google play for those with Androids.) Stay tuned and subscribe to receive the latest information of new episodes and upcoming shows.

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

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Letter from the Axeman written to The New Orleans Police Department. March 13, 1919.

Aetheria, Death, Beauty and Masquerades: Three exhibits revealed at ART on 5th

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“Masquerade Series – The Void” created by Chris Guarino. Limited {Photography by Nicolette Mallow}.

June 2016—ART on 5th revealed three exhibitions by artists Brandon Snow, John Breiner and Chris Guarino. Each artist creates a unique style from the heart. However, Brandon Snow’s pieces can be recognized by his bold use of the colors black and red, butterflies, roses, matches and a balloon. The works of John Breiner are a bit more playful and extensive with bright colors, including images like an eagle, a Native American and an owl. The collection by Chris Guarino reflects a fantasy world of magic, darkness, nature and masks. All three exhibitions and all three artists displayed by the gallery are listed below in fuller details.

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  • “Life, Death, and Beauty”: The strength of Brandon Snow’s work stems from the simplicity of his imagery. Each piece is conceptualized by photographing an everyday object. These are then translated from film to canvas via a large-format silkscreen printing method which he has developed through years of experimentation. This will be the artist’s first solo exhibition in Austin. “Brandon Snow is an Austin-based self-taught artist. Out of a desire to infuse his work with a new type of energy and excitement, Brandon began merging lo-fi film photography and silkscreen printing. When Snow discovered that he could print his photographs using large format silk screens, he immediately began the tedious process of teaching himself through trial and error. This silk screen method also allows room for unique and unplanned characteristics to develop in each piece during its creation”. Snow’s works are on display until July 7, 2016. www.brandonsnowart.com
  • “Aetheria”: John Breiner’s work revolves around the reuse of found paper, including book covers and old maps. By utilizing a unique print transfer method, Breiner combines photographs and original drawings. He finishes the image with a myriad of techniques, including acrylic, spray paint, and collage. The result is an ephemeral surface which transcends traditional print media. John Breiner is from New York, and this will be his second exhibition at ART on 5th. “John Breiner’s love of the ephemeral surface has kept him painting and illustrating for close to two decades. While the focus of his personal work revolves around the reuse of found items (specifically old paper, books and book jackets), John has also painted large-scale murals, numerous illustrations, and album covers over the years”. Briener’s works are on display until July 7, 2016. www.johnbreiner.com
  • “From The Unknown & The Masquerade Series”: Chris Guarino, the winner of our 2015 Bombay Sapphire Artisan Series Contest, is currently the featured artist at ART on 5th. Guarino’s sculptures and digital photography are no longer on display. For information about prints, please contact ART on 5th. “From the Unknown is a solo exhibition of work by internationally recognized sculptor and digital media artist, Chris Guarino. Chris was also the winner of our 2015 Bombay Sapphire Artisan Series Contest. His work has been exhibited in Chicago, Miami, and Berlin. This show will feature original cast resin sculptures as well as prints of his digital photography work.” “From the Unknown” ended on June 18, 2016. Viewers can still see artwork by Chris Guarino at the gallery, however the full exhibit is no longer up in its original form. www.chrisguarino.com

Additionally, please bear in mind that ART on 5th is encouraging a Call for Entries from artists that have yet to be featured at the gallery. “ART on 5th will once again be hosting the Bombay Sapphire Artisan Series. The Artisan Series is a national search to find the next big name in visual arts, and offers under represented artists a national platform to showcase their work. Artists residing within 150 miles of the city center will be considered for the Austin semi-finalist exhibition to be held at ART on 5th this October”. For more information regarding hours, location or upcoming exhibits at the gallery of ART on 5th: please visit their website at www.arton5th.com or call (512) 481-1111.

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

Sebastian Evans: Composer of Nickelodeon’s “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” series

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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Raphael, Leonardo, Michelangelo and Donatello) and April. Photography used with permission from Nickelodeon.

Composer Sebastian Evans is scoring the music for Nickelodeon Animation Studio’s “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” TV series. Based in California, Sebastian Evans learned music theory as a kid and began to play piano when he was 10 years old. Evans’ mission to pursue music began after watching “Return of the Jedi” when he was seven. After participating in various musical entities until he reached college: a jazz band, concert orchestra, drum line and musical theater. Over the course of time Sebastian Evans also taught himself how to score music as a working professional.

“Sebastian Evans is one of the only black Composers in the industry, and he’s quickly rising in the competitive world of TV and film music. Evans is a creative type who is rapidly gaining accolades within the industry. Invigorating several hit animated television shows with his unique style, Sebastian has received considerable acclaim from fans and critics alike. Most recently, Sebastian’s distinct sound has helped reinvent the “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” franchise starring Seth Green and Sean Astin. From his head-bob inducing main title theme to his seamless blend of Far East and Western musical styles, Sebastian provides a lively score that’s helped reinvent Nickelodeon’s Emmy-winning series for a whole new generation. Sebastian has also created scores for other hugely popular shows including “Cartoon Network’s Ben 10: Omniverse”, starring Yuri Lowenthal and Joe DiMaggio, “Transformers: Animated”, starring David Kaye and Tara Strong as well as “Super Robot Monkey Team Hyperforce Go”, starring Greg Cipes and Mark Hamill for Disney. He has also worked on various projects for “Warner Brothers” and “Adult Swim”. Also, in case you were wondering, his favorite Ninja Turtle is Donatello.”

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Earlier this week in June 2016, a phone interview was booked between Sebastian Evans and Writer for Examiner, Nicolette Mallow.

Nicolette Mallow: When was the moment you realized the power of music and that you wanted to make music? How did you know that you were meant to be a composer?

Sebastian Evans: The day I saw “Return of the Jedi” for the first time when I was 7. That was when I really remember feeling something from the music and I wanted to replicate it myself. Specifically it was the moment when Admiral Ackbar says “It’s a trap!”… Right then and there I wanted to learn music. I wanted to know how to make the audience feel a certain way just by hearing the sounds. That scene in “Star Wars” stuck with me and I started taking music lessons soon after. By the time I was 10, I could play the piano and as time went by. I learned all kinds of musical styles. Eventually I moved out to L.A. with my band, but that didn’t work out. So then I got a job after sending demos to various studios. Warner Bros. hired me for “Cartoon Monsoon” which was an animated pilot program online. Later I made some connections standing in the “Star Wars” line at Mann’s Chinese Theater to see “The Phantom Menace”. Then I pitched to Disney. Along the way I met Ciro Nieli (Executive Producer of “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” for Nickelodeon) and we began working together on various projects.

NM: Do you have a music ritual or a method of operation for when you create and compose? Or do the projects flow naturally and you write from the heart as it comes along?

SE: I used to write a lot more from the heart when it was personal, like for the band or my own art portfolio. But when it’s a project for a team: my style is based around the desire to reflect the Director’s vision. I want to support the film or the story. I try to stay flexible because you don’t always know exactly what the team wants. My focus for work projects are dictated by the team and how I can bring my own musical style to meet their vision.

NM: I am unfamiliar with writing music and putting audio or soundtracks onto film. What is it like writing for “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles”?

SE: Ninja Turtles has a lot of underground hip hop influences and a lot of loops. The music is often subtle and grey as to not overpower the story, dialogue or the characters. But the Director is also seeking to get something across that emotes something in a scene that would not be as prevalent without the music accompanying it. Music foreshadows events that are about to happen, or perhaps it uplifts the mood or makes the tone more serious. It all depends on the situation at hand. We have a couple of meetings every episode and we discuss what the scene needs. This helps me create a score that will benefit the character building of the story within each episode.

NM: Did you always intend to write for animation, comics or cartoons? Or did this path sort of unfold naturally?

SE: Yes, it all sort of unfolded naturally. My end goal in the future is to work on movies, but I really love working on animation for television. It’s been a learning experience and very rewarding because I never imagined that I would be where I am now. My roots in music are very scattered and I grew up listening to classical, like Mozart and the greats. Yet I also love metal and alternative. I will play Mos Def, Timbaland and Wu Tang during the same duration as I listen to Bjork or classical. So, yeah, I would like to explore as many characters as possible through TV and film in the future. But I am grateful for where I am right now and enjoy working on animation.

NM: Out of all four ninja turtles (Leonardo, Raphael, Donatello and Michelangelo), why is Donatello your favorite?

SE: Donatello seems like the outcast. He’s the brains and the nerd of the group. Donatello is also a romantic yet he’s very shy. And I just like him because he’s cool with being different and I felt a kinship to his character.

NM: Interesting. I relate most to Raphael because he’s the most fiery, hot tempered and yet also the most sensitive. Do you have any favorite hobbies outside of composing music?

SE: I watch a lot of comedy shows and I build LEGO® bricks a lot.

NM: That is awesome. I love LEGO® models. Thank you so much for your time. I enjoyed interviewing you and look forward to watching the TV series with my godson, Micah. He loves “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles”.

SE: You’re welcome. I’m glad to hear kids like the show. Thank you for interviewing me today.

To hear a playlist of Sebastian Evans tracks for “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” please visit SoundCloud. Also if you would like to watch an engaging video on YouTube posted by Nickelodeon about Season 4 of “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” and the creators, characters and story line: please refer to the video “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles | Kicking Shell & Taking Names”.

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

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

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Photography provided by Top Drawer and Project Transitions.

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.

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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.  

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.

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“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.  

“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.

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

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.”

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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.  

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.

Psyche Jewelry To Go Mobile Boutique:

1720 Barton Springs Rd.
Austin, TX 78704

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

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

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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.