Brutally Honest Wednesdays

Brutally honest is a term often heard but seldom meant. The truth can hurt but a handful of musicians in central Texas are willing to put it all on the line for the sake of their craft: music.

Brutally Honest Wednesdays started in the fall of 2009 as a laboratory for local musicians to share opinions, song ideas and criticism. Since then, it has grown into a community of aspiring and established musicians who treat one another as partners on the road to quality songwriting and composition. Brutally Honest Wednesdays is led by Luke Leverett and K Phillips, who met while attending Texas Lutheran University in Seguin. Their ultimate goal is to create an environment where singer/songwriters can get honest feedback from their peers.

"I heard about Brutally Honest Wednesdays through a friend in Gruene and I came out here," Neil Cooper said. "It was just a place I felt I could throw out songs at people, mess up a little bit and get good criticism and bad criticism. We play in front of fans and family and we don't get constructive criticism."

It is the constructive, honest criticism that musicians at Brutally Honest Wednesdays crave.

"Everyone is so talented here. I think working with these guys challenges me to write in a different way," Lance Olivier said. "Listening to Luke play makes me want to learn to play the guitar better."

In the same way Brutally Honest Wednesdays has challenged Olivier to be a better guitar player, Stephanie Briggs says Brutally Honest Wednesdays has moved her to be a better songwriter.

"It's encouraged me to write more. Here there's always a challenge to write more," Briggs said. "I like new music and I like writing new music often, and this is a place where that's encouraged."

Leverett calls Brutally Honest Wednesdays a laboratory for new music. Phillips calls it church for musicians. But both encourage musicians in the area to come out and see for themselves.

Brutally Honest Wednesdays: The Video

Below: K Phillips narrates the story of Brutally Honest Wednesdays.


The Past Three Months

Since July of this year, I've been interning in the newsroom at AM 1420 KGNB radio in New Braunfels, Texas. KGNB is half of New Braunfels Communications, which also includes FM 92.1 KNBT. I'd like to share a few things I've learned.

Some people will tell you that much of what is learned at a university will be either overlooked or directly contradicted once you get out into "the real world." This is only partially true. Granted I have not yet learned everything I need to know to earn my degree in journalism, but I have certainly applied some of me college knowledge (like that rhyme?) to my internship.

For one, the fact that I have an internship is proof that Texas State School of Journalism and Mass Communication has drilled at least one thing into my head. I can't tell you how many times I've heard from advisors, professors, guest speakers and graduate students that internships are incredibly important. And yet I still find my peers graduating without experience in their field and scrambling to find a job, only to wait tables for a year. So my internship is a testament to the wisdom of my university authorities.

Since I've been working in the newsroom, I've managed to apply my reporting skills, mostly learned in high school and still being refined. But I've found that reporting for a radio station is very different than working in print. Since my days of UIL journalism competitions, I've come to find that beginning a question with, "Can you tell me about..." will entice your source to speak in complete sentences. There are no ellipses in radio, no way to start a quotation for someone and let them fill in the blanks. My writing has to be conversational and concise but still interesting. And people have to be able to listen to my voice for spans of time without the urge to turn the dial. That's been a challenge, considering I tend to talk like a 15-year-old girl from the valley.

I credit a few lessons solely to my internship. Until I was asked to report city council meetings, school board meetings, Outer Loop Task Force meetings and the like, I understood very little about local governments. I'm easily entertained, even when my task is making a trip to the district attorney's office to pick up a package in the rain. Sometimes local government is boring, but I've learned that our niche market wants to know about where their tax dollars are going, new parking restrictions downtown, and even who is being charged with violating the Resign to Run Rule. (It's Comal County Commissioner Greg Parker.)

I can say though that many lecturers have spoken of the importance of being hyperlocal. This market becomes more competitive every day, and if your audience doesn't feel connected to their news source, they might go elsewhere. Charlotte-Anne Lucas of NowCast San Antonio did a great job of touching on this during Mass Comm Week at Texas State. Incorporating elements of social media has also become increasingly important. Your audience wants news and demand to receive it in ways that are most convenient to them. So be it if that means publishing a print format, updating online with multimedia content, sending messages via SMS, Twitter, E-mail and Facebook. As our audience evolves, so must the industry. And that is the best lesson I've learned so far.


A Lesson in Film Etiquette

While this may be news to some, it’s a common understanding that talking during a film is not permitted. In the slot after the previews and before the movie, each theater in its own way will politely ask the audience to stay quiet. The Alamo Drafthouse goes so far to threaten one’s life if this common courtesy isn’t met.

Tonight I saw Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Though it was my second time seeing this film, I was appalled when the (not-so) gentleman behind me not only bantered throughout the entire movie but also randomly shouted obvious subtleties during. For instance, in the scene in which Ron’s potion-induced infatuation is introduced, he yelled, “He’s high!”

To further my frustration, I know this person. And he works at this particular movie theater. Maybe it’s presumptuous of me to believe an employee of Texas Cinema and film enthusiast would show more respect for not only the film but also his viewing counterparts. I paid $7.50 he probably paid nothing. Maybe this is further proof that when you get things for free you don’t appreciate them.

I contemplated writing or calling his manager with a sincere complaint. But I settled with leaving a brief and hateful message on his Facebook wall.

Unless you’re like this fellow, I don’t suppose you need a reminder that talking during movies is indeed rude.

Be considerate.


Making Nachos With Communion Wafers

Friday night I jumped on the chance to listen to, meet and get a book signed by David Sedaris. He's currently on tour for his latest book, When You Are Engulfed in Flames.

This New York Times Best-Selling Author decided to make an unlikely stop in San Marcos, Texas. Since this was my first book reading and signing, I was not sure what exactly would happen. In hindsight, I doubt any other author could live up to the enormously high expectations he has set.

Sedaris read new material for about an hour. His hilarious renditions of encounters with bizarre people renders him, at least in my book, the Mark Twain of my generation. He is a true personality with a phenomenal voice for radio. I aspire to share multitudes of interesting essays with the poise and charisma he does. Until then, I'll cling to my autographed book and the German card Sedaris gave me.

Literary genius.


I Can Say This Because "When You're Here, You're Family"

Today marked my two years of employment with Olive Garden Italian Restaurant. I know what you're thinking. "O-M-G, I love their bread sticks!" Yeah, I know.

In the past two years, I've interacted with thousands of tables, exchanged stories and spilled a few drinks. I've been yelled at, preached to and ripped off. I've learned a lot about practicing patience and human nature.

But still some people are unaware of the fundamental elements of restaurant operation. I've compiled a list of pointers to keep in mind when visiting any restaurant, and especially if I'm your server.

  1. It is standard to tip 15-20% of your bill unless something goes horribly wrong. Even satisfactory service should receive this amount. If your server goes above and beyond or there are more than six people in your party, leave more. Keep in mind that (at least in Texas), servers make $2.13 an hour and tip-out our bar and bus staff.

  2. You are probably not the only person in the restaurant. Yes, you might be in a hurry or think you're more important than anything else, but there are in fact other priorities. Don't ever wait forty minutes for a refill, but be patient and always use your manners.

  3. Servers are people, too. People have bad days. Indeed it is our job to maintain a cheerful disposition, but briefly forgetting the side of ranch is not just cause to leave a giant zero on the tip line of your credit card receipt.

  4. Try to keep a mental inventory of items you need or will need shortly. This will not only save you time, but also prevent the server from making six trips to the kitchen for items that could have been brought out all at once.

  5. If something is wrong, please politely speak up and help the server make it right. After all, you are paying for this dining experience and everyone involved wants you to be happy.

These guidelines are simple and revolve around common sense. Waiting tables builds character. Every job has it's perks (discounted food) and downfalls (bad tippers), but working in a restaurant is a unique experience. I certainly don't aspire to work at Olive Garden for another two years, but my time spent there so far has been rewarding.

Happy Dining.


The First Night

Welcome. I'm glad you're here.

My first priority with this blog is to leave a cyber footprint. Secondly, I'm a vibrantly opinionated young person, and I plan to use this site as a forum for expression and discussion of my thoughts. I also have a personal journal, a microblog, a Facebook and a few blogs posted to my Myspace page. However, I have high hopes for my new little blog. It's fresh.

Let's begin.