Making the Hill Country a Habit

I had the joy recently of spending a few days and nights in the scenic Texas hill country, specifically Bandera, Kerrville and Boerne.

I live right on the edge of the rolling hills and emerald views of these sleepy little towns, but never experienced them in their full capacity. In the midst of a plethora of summer camps, souvenir shops and miles of open highway, the gems of the hills stand out.

One little place I found nestled in downtown Kerrville is called Grape Juice. It's a wine bar, tap room, restaurant and art house comparable in aesthetics to my beloved Huisache down here in New Braunfels.

It's a half-restaurant, half-bar with a wonderful, comfortable vibe. There's lots of interesting (albeit overpriced) art hanging on the walls, unique beers on tap, and an extensive wine list. After spending an evening in the self-proclaimed Cowboy Capital of the World, Bandera, the people who greeted us at Grape Juice seemed normal and slightly sophisticated but grounded. The TV near the bar had sports, while the one in the corner was connected to my favorite XM Radio station, The Spectrum. I just felt really good being there, and it's not every day you can walk into a brand new establishment and feel at home.

So if you're planning a trip to the hill country or already close, check out Grape Juice. It's not cheap, but the atmosphere is worth it, at least to me.

I hope to make discovering such hill country gems a habit.


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Dead Snow and my Hatred of Horror

I hate horror movies. Horror movies capitalize on fear. It's a cheap shot. The makers are rude to assume a cookie cutter formula -- creepy string music, young people having forbidden relations, dark and abandoned cabins etc -- will impress and entertain me. Unfortunately I have a low tolerance for their generic scare tactics and despite my stance on idiotic scary movies, they sometimes work. So I consistently choose to avoid them.

I only agreed to watch Dead Snow for three reasons: 1.) It was the middle of the day. 2.) It's practically summer in south central Texas and therefore the cold setting isn't directly applicable to my real life. 3.) My boyfriend asked nicely.

Dead Snow is not only a horror movie, it's a Nazi zombie movie from Norway. This horror movie is original compared to more generic gore flicks that put the horror in horrible.

Now although I don't like horror films, I think I might have enjoyed it just a little bit. It certainly had more gore than any movie I've ever seen, including the ripping of people in half, a close-up of a creature getting its eyes gouged out, and lots of blood. Everywhere. Most of the graphics were actually believable although the plot had gaping cliches. Examples: Young med students are vacationing in an isolated cabin in the snow-capped hills of Norway. They all want to get rich. And course an old man warns these stupid young people of their doom but do they listen? If they had, there wouldn't be a disgusting blood-soaked movie about it.

In addition to the gore, there were a few "That would never happen!" moments, which also comes with the genre. No girl would take of her shirt in -20 temperatures while straddling some dude in an outhouse. And not to take a note from the zombie apocalypse handbook, but rule #1 is that you never, ever split up. Unless you want to die.

It had some good moments, though. It poked fun at some classic zombie cliches, like the "don't get bitten" rule, which apparently doesn't apply to Nazi zombies who want your gold and not your brains. In fact, the Nazi zombies were more like the un-dead crew of the Black Pearl from the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie than typical brain-munchers.

I liked Dead Snow because it was different. It wasn't an Judd Apatow comedy, a Nicholas Sparks romance, or a Tyler Perry "I don't get why people like this crap." Since I don't watch horror films, it was memorable and (as I later found out) was premiered at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival. It's enjoyable sometimes to poke fun at the lack of logic right before you scream and grab the thigh of the person sitting closest to you.

So I say watch Dead Snow if you have a strong stomach, but don't ask me to join. I'll be lucky to make it through tonight without a chainsaw nightmare. But in a genre at capacity with predictable situations, there's still room for one more.


Public Radio: Another Notch in my Belt

Lately I've been completely immersed in my latest venture, an internship with Texas Public Radio. It's a passionate love affair that started back in high school when my political science teacher would describe a story she heard on NPR and it sounded so compelling, I'd have to go find the material myself. That and I'd listen on the way to school and then name drop a story I heard from Diane Rehm.

Although I'm a journalism major, my abilities are not limited to only writing. So I found working in radio (and eventually public radio) rewarding and informative. I've benefited much from the three months or so I've been here. I've even posted my works on this blog.

Ultimately I don't want to restrict myself to the traditional definition of a journalist. I want exceed expectations, learn about all elements of reporting become an asset.

I've heard so many students say, "I've just got to get an internship done so I can put something on my resume" --and that's from my counterparts who even care enough to get an internship. But to me, especially with Texas Public Radio, an internship should provide more than the required "experience." It should be an experience. Why put yourself in a learning environment and then not ask questions?

It's a struggle, but I'm not a fan of the "I can't" attitude. At times working in this business isn't ideal or convenient, but it's something I'm passionate about, so any sacrifices made to succeed are worth it. Nothing is more invigorating than fostering a deeply-rooted passion.

My passion has brought me to public radio. I work alongside Edward R. Murrow Award winners and mentors who display pictures of themselves with a former vice president. I've gained a niche for public radio, developing elements of an engaging story. It's an art and at the same time a calculated discipline.

At a humble 22 years old, I can't say I'll work in public radio forever. My internship ends in May, followed by work over the summer and graduation in December. Public radio has given me a greater understanding of how to tell a story, which embodies a philosophy of good reporting. I can say for certain though that I hope to use the knowledge I've picked up here for future ventures, potentially including advisement from Terry Gildea to stay in public radio.

Among many other things, public radio has helped me develop one side of the multi-talented journalist I'm working to become. Audio is just one way to tell a story, and with these skills under my belt I am able to expand other dimensions of my career self, not for the sake of building a resume, but truly to become a wildly well-informed, versatile multimedia journalist.

The future though frightening is full of opportunities. And I want to keep them coming.