Saturday, June 30, 2007

The Day I Joined Dunder Mifflin

Recently I've been having a lot of dreams related to The Office. And by a lot of dreams, I mean 7 - 10. Most of them revolve around Jim Halpert and the actor who plays him. So far I've met him in an elevator, on an airplane and in Central Park.

Last night was the most ridiculous dream I've had yet. It went like this:

I was planning on quitting my job and going to school at NYU, but before I made the jump, I wanted to test out the program. As part of the program, we were required to consult at a real company. I was chosen to be a consultant at Dunder Mifflin's New York office, which was pretty swanky. The desks were all constructed from dark cherry-colored wood. Everyone sat facing the same direction, much like a classroom (in fact, it looked a lot like my college classrooms in business school).

It seems Dunder Mifflin had consolidated yet again, merging the Scranton branch with the New York branch (which also served as corporate headquarters). I was there with three other NYU students to help the company identify corporate communication problems associated with the merger.

I was very nervous because 1) I wasn't actually an NYU student, 2) I have no experience in corporate consulting, and 3) I'd heard that Jim Halpert was quite a stud and I would likely be distracted by this.

But like a good businesswoman, I tackled the problem at hand. I quickly found out that, with the merger, Dwight Schrute had been fired. Karin, Jim and Pam were invited to join the New York branch, taking their love-triangle with them. This was the first matter I was asked to investigate. But I knew that they weren't going to share their feelings with me, a not-even-student. I'd have to be sneaky.

Some interesting things happened that day, though, that prevented anyone from doing work. Dwight stormed into the offices with Gareth Keenan, his British counterpart. They demanded to see Michael Scott! I overheard a conversation in which Michael blamed "Corporate" for the decision, so Dwight marched on to the President's office and demanded to see him. The President was out to lunch.

During all of this, Jim decided he didn't want to work at Dunder Mifflin anymore. He just got up and left his desk, but took all the pencils with him -- nothing else. I freaked out, realizing that I couldn't consult on this project if the subjects of my research were not there!

My non-classmates from NYU reminded me that I wasn't a student, though, so I could leave, too. So I did. This worked out pretty well because I hadn't told my bosses that I was quitting my job to go to school. Now I wouldn't have to....

Imagine what I'd be dreaming if I watched Sci-Fi TV shows like Heroes or Battlestar Galatica. Scary, right?

Here's a great new video mash-up for The Office...


Friday, June 29, 2007

The Polyphonic Spree Makes Me Smile

I'm going to make a list of bands you should see before you die. Let's start now:

- The Flaming Lips
- Arcade Fire
- My Morning Jacket
- Polyphonic Spree

I saw Polyphonic Spree on Wednesday for the third time and this was the best show yet... maybe because it was inside and I wasn't running around behind the scenes, unlike the previous two times. There was this great energy in the crowd that compensated for the lack of bodies (ED: What is wrong with you, Atlanta?! This is a great band! Where were you??). I couldn't help but smile throughout the whole thing, watching so many people get involved in the music.

The show opened with a Powerpoint projection on a huge strip of red cloth. The lyrics to John Lennon's "Gimme Some Truth" appeared on the cloth with the song playing along. Then Tim DeLaugher, frontman of the Spree, cut the cloth and revealed the stage with 20-something band members ready to play.

The encore went on and on and on -- it even included a cover of Nirvana's "Lithium," from their EP Wait. There was confetti, streamers, black army uniforms, flowing white robes.

The orchestral arrangements are pretty spectacular and the CDs don't capture the awe-factor... especially once you see all of those musicians crammed onto one stage, interacting with one another.

Here's a video from the showcase I worked on at SXSW:

And an awesome one of "Light & Day":

(Facebook readers, you have to go to the "Original Post" to see the embedded video)

Free Eric Volz - Update

I've previously mentioned the case of Doris Jimenez, a young woman who was violently murdered in Nicaragua in 2007, and Eric Volz, the 28-year-old American wrongfully convicted of that murder.

This is an update from the Free Eric Volz team, including a letter that Eric wrote from prison.


June 29, 2007 - day #220 for Eric

Eric wrote this letter about current prison conditions over 2 months ago. The information remains true and the delay in posting it is one more example of the difficulties he experiences getting correspondence out.

Status of the Appeal: at this point there is no official news on a time frame for the Appellate Court's review of Eric's case. We are extremely frustrated with the complete lack of communication from the court. Each day there is no news is another day in which Eric languishes in the conditions he describes below. Recently, prison officials have refused to allow access to Eric's legal defense attorney and to friends bringing him food.

Continue to send Eric your thoughts, meditations and prayers for his stamina, health and safety.

Eric's letters, part 3:

Prison Conditions

This seems to be a topic of great interest to most people. Almost every letter says something like, "I can't imagine what it's like in that prison." I will share what I can, but I also need people to know that it is a very delicate and sensitive situation.

I will start by saying that the conditions here are really shitty!! The authorities lack sufficient resources and subsequently face a wide variety of problems and we, the prisoners, pay the price.

We have had no water pressure from the artesian wells for about 10 days. Water is brought in by buckets filled in the yard from hose faucets. There are less than 10 slow faucets to provide water for over 2,500 inmates. Do the math and shake your head in disbelief as I am. The water shortage has been caused by the well pump burning up due to power outages (an issue in and of itself). The authorities have informed us that the pump should be repaired in the next couple of days, but in the meantime it isn't pretty.

No one gets good sleep here. The noise is traumatic. Its like being in an industrial factory with metal doors slamming, 5 or more different kinds of music at full blast at the same time, and crazy inmates screaming at 4:30am just to be jerks and wake people up. At times it drives you nuts. I have been driven to the point where I have to sit down in my cell, cover my ears, and focus on my breathing just to keep it together.

There is also the heat which makes you constantly sweaty and sticky. I fall asleep and wake up in pools of sweat. Most prisoners have insomnia and can't sleep without pills. I have resisted the temptation.

The food is not enough. The prison provides a cup of beans, a cup of rice, coffee, sometimes green bananas or a small bread bun. The food comes at lunch and sometimes again in the afternoon. It is not uncommon to find cockroaches and fingernails in the rice. My eating schedule has been very abnormal and extremely stressful on my body. When the courts delayed my appeal I got really sick. I spent two weeks in bed. Yesterday the doctor diagnosed me with gastritis and intestinal parasites for which I'm taking meds. My whole abdominal area aches - it's freaky being ill like this in prison.

I experience tension with many prisoners here. The Nicaraguan press has created an image of me as a privileged gringo from the elite who thought he was above the law and could get out by paying bribes, which of course is not true. Many make reference to Doris' mother's absurd allegation that I offered her $1 million to drop the charges - which again is not true.

In addition, the majority of the prison population has a very negative image of the US and associates me accordingly. My cell is referred to as the US Embassy and prisoners joke by coming to the door asking for a Visa. I can't help but laugh. The other day I was being escorted down the hall and a kid shouted from his gallery door, "Hey Bush!" It wasn't a directly negative comment to me, but it speaks to the underlying story of our unfortunate reputation in the international consciousness. I walked on thinking, "If only he knew that he's got me all wrong. I am more than a gringo. If only he knew that my grandparents were Mexican and their first language was Spanish. If only he knew that I'm proud of my Latino heritage and I love his country. If only he knew so many other things . . . maybe he would have said, 'What's up, bro!' instead."

Encounters like this happen frequently and I'm aware that most of the people who surround me here don't understand me; or likely will they ever. There will always be tension. I have learned the only way to stay out of trouble is become completely independent.

My cell has become my castle. In it I study, read, write, stretch and rest. I have decided that I don't have time for anything else. A rumor going around is that I read each of my books six times before I move on to the next - where do these guys come up with this stuff?

Another related question I'm asked is about the danger in my present situation. I will say that all prisons are dangerous. I would be lying if I said that the relevance of my case has not generated enemies; it has. The warden is concerned for my safety and has made certain exceptions with the security regiment that reflect that. I will say that I am as safe as I can be in the given situation - but there is no guarantee.

I have come to terms with my reality and feel it is reasonable for everyone to prepare for the worst. I know that is heavy, trust me I can't believe I'm actually writing it, but it is an accurate reflection of my situation. I share this because people want to know what I'm going through and I want to be honest. I don't want to be an alarmist, nor do I want people to dwell in
fear for me. I believe I will be okay no matter what because I know myself and I know who my God is, and because of that no one can touch me. No matter what, I walk away victorious.

With love,

Eric V.


If anything, this case has reminded me that the world is a very broken, messy place, and that life is not fair. But God willing, it can be just. Pray for justice in this case and help take action by contacting your senators and congressional representatives. Too many Americans (myself included!) neglect the right and responsibility to speak out and practice the democratic principles we are lucky to have.

And I'll step off my soapbox now...

For more information on the case, visit

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Bonnaroo Recap

Returned from Bonnaroo late Sunday night. While there I discovered allergies I didn't know I had. I also brought back some souveniers! A few t-shirts, lots of empty water bottles, pictures, stories and half a pound of dust now lining my bathtub.

Read about my journey on the Paste Magazine blog:
A Girl's Eye View of Bonnaroo
A Girl and Her Guitar Hero Favorites at Bonnaroo
A Girl's Camera View of Bonnaroo

Interviews will be coming soon on the podcast. Here's a shot from our interview with The Annuals, who have a set of mouse tattoos inked on different body parts...

Other things I did not write about because they were fan-girl moments:

- Meeting Wayne Coyne (thanks Jay!) who is much taller than I thought
- Saying hello to John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin under the impression that he was John from Widespread Panic (whoops! at least I stayed calm!)
- Watching an 11-year-old girl named Sarah introduce her boyfriend, John Michael, to her daddy at a Fazoli's off I-24... so precious!


Thursday, June 14, 2007

Let's have a Tea Partay....

Flaxy and I put "MoCo" on the map; I even put it on t-shirts. And we made this hand symbol...

For those of you who are unfamiliar with MoCo, parts of it are pretty dang preppy. Lots of private prep schools, fancy cars, lawyers, country clubs, high school golf teams.... You get the picture.

So I had a good laugh when I saw the viral Smirnoff Raw Tea video making fun of those things I know so well. It's an old campaign but I only recently found it on YouTube, thanks to Carlyn. I then found the official Prepsta Guide. It reminds prepstas that it's important that people know where you come from. Then it suggests that there's no better way to up your street cred than to throw some simple signs around... like a gang symbol for Bethesda? Ha.

Play on prepsta. Try not to vomit on your leather loafters.

(If you're reading on Facebook, go here for video).

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Great Lake Swimmers, Eleni Mandell and misheard lyrics

It's another concert-filled week, which I will finish off with a trip to Bonnaroo. Hooray!

Tony of Toronto-based band Great Lake Swimmers stopped by the offices last night to record for the podcast. It was good he came, because I have a hard time believing Canada is a real place. Everything I ever mail there gets lost, never to be seen again. Blame Canada? Why, yes... I do.

Jared, Brit, Ashley and I got to sit-in for the recording since we were the only ones left at closing time. If that was always a reward, I'd work late more often.

Tony played solo acoustic versions of "Your Rocky Spine," "There Is a Light," and "Backstage With the Modern Dancers." His singing voice was loud and clear, but it still sounded like he was whispering, which makes the songs even more delicate. Pretty amazing. Great Lake Swimmers deserve the praise they've received.

Went to the full show later that night at The Earl. Eleni Mandell opened to a large crowd. Reminded me of when I saw Camera Obscura and had a "Wow, why didn't someone make me listen to this dreamy album sooner?!" moment. She and her band put on a great show. I'm now listening to the album to make up for lost time. Here some of it here.

Great Lake Swimmers closed. They played a song I had never heard before called "Moving Pictures Silent Films," off their self-titled 2005 release. At first I thought the lyrics to the chorus were: "Where have you been, and what have you done? I've been under the ground, eating critters from this old book I found under the ground" which would have been weird in a Six Feet Under kinda-way. Luckily for everyone else I am just an idiot with bad hearing. The real lyrics are:

Where have you been
And what have you done?
I've been under the ground
Reading prayers
From this old book I found
Under the ground.

Oops. Not as bad as the six years that I thought the lyrics to "Mrs. Robinson" were "And here's to you, Mrs. Robinson / She's a slut / And more than you would know...." 'Whoa whoa whoa' is right.

But back to Great Lake Swimmers. So they were playing "Moving Pictures Silent Films" and there was a couple standing in front of me. The woman had her hand on her man's back in a comforting, reassuring way. It felt like a scene in a movie, even though I didn't know the title of the song involved films. Perhaps I'll make it a scene in my movie, which Matt Ward has forced me to start working on again. Thanks, Matt -- I need people like you to help me see my projects through.

Tonight's concert: The National (!!!!!!!!)
Stay tuned...

Friday, June 08, 2007

Justice and the News, or Lack Thereof

Let's just state the obvious: House arrest for Paris Hilton is like a glorified vacation.

When I was sick as a kid, I'd have to stay in the house for days at a time. I loved it. I could watch Price Is Right, soaps and Lifetime movies. I could have homecooked food instead of cafeteria food. So minus the sick part, it was pretty fantastic.

How is putting Paris back at home punishment? She's got a 4 bedroom pad in LA and a fitted ankle bracelet to track her... she'll probably Bedazzle the dang thing.

I hate to feed the machine by talking about this, but it makes me angry that I even know about the case. Let's review some of the real news that should be getting attention...
- G8 Summit
- Immigration bill
- War in Iraq
- Putin's stance on missles
- Twisters in the Midwest

And then there is the case of Eric Volz, the 28-year-old American magazine publisher who is imprisoned in Nicaragua for a murder he did not commit. Read through the evidence (or lack there of) in the case and keep Eric in your thoughts and prayers. His case makes Hilton's case look even more ridiculous.

I don't know why I'm surprised by all this. Our major news outlets abdicated their responsibility to report on real news long ago. For example, my father was interviewed by CNN a few months ago and all they used was a three-second soundbyte that was so out of context that it spun the whole story the way they wanted.

All I want for Christmas is for my cable package to include BBC International...