When life takes away your tacos...

My friends Jon and Risha and I were 100% determined to get post-dance party tacos last night. So much that we left our group, hopped in an Uber, and went across town around 2am.

Alas, the heavenly gates of Taqueria Cancun were closed for NYE. 🙅🏻🌮 Instead of just leaving in defeat and feeling foolish for the wasted cab ride, our noses followed a most delicious and familiar smell wafting from a stand across the street: bacon-wrapped hot dogs!

So stoked for our purchase

So stoked for our purchase

As the grilled onion and bacon grease hit my lips, I realized there was a poignant metaphor here (that, or I was still feeling the last vodka drink...): sometimes we REALLY want things in life, and we put so much effort into turning those wants into reality, but then forces outside of our control shut it down. And it feels devastating when that happens.

But just remember: when life takes away your tacos, there will ALWAYS be a delicious bacon-wrapped hot dog just on the opposite street corner. 😋🌭

Cheers to a brighter 2016! ✨

Chuck Berry Poked Me In A Gang Bang: The Postelles Tell All!

“My name is Daniel, and I'm here for the Gang Bang!” It's less than ten minutes into my interview with The Postelles' Daniel Balk (vocals, guitar) and John Speyer (Bass), and somehow we've stumbled onto the topic of the little-known McDonald's secret menu. We're sitting backstage at The Independent, the location of this New York City band's first-ever concert in San Francisco, and the band seems eager to show the Bay Area hipsters what they have to offer.

And what they have to offer are succinct, endorphin-inducing songs that sound like the brainchild of The Strokes and Phil Spector after drinking dozens of Tom Collins and playing vigorous rounds of canasta.

After being in San Francisco for just a few hours, I ask the guys what excites them most about the city, and what they've had a chance to see so far.

Daniel: We've heard it's a great city, so I think everything excites me right now. John: I think it's also like a really rich city, in terms of musical history. D: And rich people. J: That's what's really exciting, we're hoping to meet some rich people! (laughs) What have you guys seen so far? D: We got here an hour ago, so not much. J: We saw this Jordanian kebab place (laughs). D: We saw you! J: We got some great coffee. It was really good coffee! (Note: It was at Bean Bag Coffee House on Divisadero) J: Yeah, at the bean place. It was really good. I got the Sumatra blend. Ooh, fancy. Was it like Fair Trade, and organic? J: I hope so, because I only drink that. 'Cause that's really easy on tour. I guess so. J: No, it's not at all! (laughs) Organic food is the hardest thing to buy on tour. D: McDonald's is easy! Did you know that McDonald's has a secret menu? J: No, like In-N-Out? I dunno, I was reading this article and I saw that they have one called 'The Gang Bang.' D: The 'Gang Bang'?

J: "Hi, welcome to McDonald's, I'm here for the gang bang!" (laughs) D: Are you sure they were talking about McDonald's?! Yeah, apparently it's like a Big Mac with a chicken sandwich stuck in the middle. J: Can you order it animal-style? "Can I get the Gang Bang, animal-style?" I dunno! D: "I'm here for the Gang Bang...animal-style!" It sounds better in my voice. J: Yeah, you are the singer. It's more natural. Your vocal quality is higher. I think you guys should sing that tonight. You should make a song about the Gang Bang. D: When I walk on stage I'll say, “My name is Daniel, and I'm here for the Gang Bang!”

Getting Poked By Chuck Berry

Feel like getting gang banged by The Postelles? You can try your luck on Twitter. Like many up-and-coming bands these days, The Postelles are no strangers to the power of social networking. So how has new media has affected their interaction with fans?

D: It makes it more personal. Because immediately after a show you're already getting a few responses like, “Great show!” J: Or, “Terrible show!” D: Yeah, “Terrible show!” And then we say, you know, “Fuck you!” back (laughs). No, it definitely makes it more intimate. J: I think the coolest thing is we went on Facebook and asked where should we go. And people actually told us. D: We literally went on and said, “Where do you want us to play?” J: And half of them were St. Louis for some reason. D: Probably because of the Kings Of Leon. J: Oh yeah. So we were like, “Ok, we're going!” And we went! D: It was funny because there were like 70 responses and we were like, “I dunno. Should we go to St. Louis?” And the next response was from Chuck Berry. And he was like, “Yeah you guys should come to St. Louis!” (Jon laughs) And then he poked me! Wait, Chuck Berry poked you on Facebook? J: That should be your headline! This is breaking news! D: And then I poked him back. (laughs) J: He's totally lying. I actually have a friend who works at Twitter who's coming tonight, so there you go, social networking! D: Nice change of subject! Jon's actually a pathological liar. J: You're a pathological liar. Twitter's actually gonna be here! I'm gonna tweet my friend from Twitter, here, from the stage. So how was Chuck Berry? D: It was awesome! Supposedly he “dug” us. He dug you? J: According to the keyboardist. We're telling everybody that! Are you gonna put that all over Twitter? J: Chuck Berry says, “I dig you!”

D: I actually tattooed it to my chest. That is a good tattoo to have. J: You don't wanna know where it is. D: I said chest! J: Yeah, but that's not true. (laughs)

Their Milkshake Brings All The Boys To The Yard

True or not, it's hard to imagine Chuck Berry not digging The Postelles. Because what other band would play my ridiculous photo game?

What is the photo game? Let's start with a brief background story:

I found a used roll of film in a camera at a charity shop in London. A small donation later, and the mysterious roll was mine!

Last week, I finally made the trip to CVS to get it developed.

The following photographs were the only pictures on the entire roll of film. Let me just reiterate that I have no idea who these people are, where these pictures were taken, or even when they were taken.

So I've asked Daniel and John to look through the photos and decide what music these people might be listening to in each one.

Photo #1

D: I would say “YMCA” by The Village People. J: Yep!

Photo #2

J: The second Girl Talk album! D: I would say “YMCA” again!

Photo #3

D: Ooh, “My Milkshake Brings All The Boys To The Yard”! J: Yep! Yep, definitely.

Photo #4

D: Uhh...”Thong Song”! J: “Thong Song”! (laughs)

Photo #5

(Both are momentarily consumed with laughter on this one.) D: I would say “Smells Like Teen Spirit”! J: That was sweet! D: That was a fun game, can we keep playing that game?

The Postelles: Coming To An Underwater Venue Near You! (Maybe)

The photo game may be over, but it's never too late for the money game.

Ok, so if you had all the money in the world... J: Which we do. D: Yeah, because we're robbing a bank tomorrow, like we said before. What would be your dream gig? I'm talking location, line-up, everything. J: We would probably play underwater. Like, accessible only by submarine. And, uh, you know that John Lennon is still alive? He would probably headline the festival. John Lennon would headline the festival? D: Huge, breaking news! J: Dude, he's been living in Argentina all this time! D: Juan Lennon? J: Yeah, and Elvis is still around. He's old. D: And where does he live? J: In Argentina! Yeah dude, and Tupac! So John Lennon, Elvis, and Tupac would headline the festival under the sea, accessible only by submarine. And Roy Orbison would probably open for us. D: You did not answer that question, at all! You know what? You're a pathological liar! J: You're an avoider! D: We're breaking up! So much breaking news in one interview! D: This will be the first night we're not sleeping together in one bed. J: That's true. Aww, separation anxiety? D: We both have girlfriends, and when we get back to New York we have to tell them that we won't be sharing a bed with them. J: For two nights! And then we'll do a four-person bed. D: And so the girls will have to stand on the side of the room and just watch while we hold hands and cuddle. I guess that kind of answers my next question... D: Do we have girlfriends? Yes, we have girlfriends. No, how do you unwind on tour? J: Cuddle! D: Well, I like to preserve water in the shower. Let's put it that way... J: Billy (Cadden, drummer) and I do crossword puzzles. Or I try to do Ab Ripper X. [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ERR5Sdm7mA8&w=480&h=390] P90X? J: Yes! Well, this is more hypothetical. Billy's like, “You know what? I'm gonna drink a lot tonight and then go home and do Ab Ripper!” D: But we have gone to the gym. J: Yup, we have been going to the gym. What, the YMCA? J: No, we've actually gone to the gym! It's hard on the road to stay in shape, but we try to do it. Brian, our tour manager, is actually our life coach. D: Our life manager! He's like the Tony Robbins of the tour? J: Yeah, and he's also an amazing driver.

Breaking News (again!)

Ok, so you guys have probably heard that Coachella has sold out. D: No, breaking news! Yes, breaking news again! How would you go about sneaking into Coachella? D: It'd be nice to actually play Coachella. J: We'd dress up as a band, probably. Just walk right in. D: People always say I look like Joseph Gordon-Levitt, so I'd probably just walk in and say I'm Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

J: Billy looks like everybody. Billy's one of those people that people always say he looks like someone, every attractive person. So what's been your proudest band moment so far? D: Wow, good question. I would say playing in Iceland was really cool. J: Yeah, Iceland was cool! And finally, what's next for The Postelles? D: We have a show in like, twenty or forty minutes. That's literally what's next for us! Well, we're gonna be touring a lot. Our debut album comes out in April.

Thanks, guys! To hear the full, unedited (but shitty audio quality) interview, click here.

The Postelles are Daniel Balk (Vocals, Guitar), Billy Cadden (Drums), David Dargahi (Lead Guitar), and John Speyer (Bass). Be sure to check out their website here to stay up-to-date on the latest news, and to listen to some sweet tunes!

 

The Postelles unedited audio interview

Wordpress has a fancy new feature where you can use your cell phone to directly post audio content to your blog. I interviewed The Postelles last night at their debut San Francisco show. The following is the full, unedited (albeit questionable audio quality) interview: [audio http://amandavanwest.files.wordpress.com/2011/01/audio-post-2011-01-28-04-32-12.mp3|titles=Audio Post]

Trailer: California’s Cannabis Culture

Yes, I know it's a bit backwards to post the trailer after posting the full-length documentary... [vimeo 13407033]

California’s Cannabis Culture

It's been a couple of months in the making, but my final MA dissertation/final project documentary, "California's Cannabis Culture" is officially done! And it can be viewed here:

[vimeo 13381803]

It's a journey into California's marijuana scene, which could take a pivotal turn in November, when Californians vote on whether or not to legalize marijuana.

Please watch, comment, share, and enjoy!

Sun Rise Restaurant, San Francisco

Deep within San Francisco's Mission District, an area known for its Latin American population, lies a small establishment called Sun Rise Restaurant.

While most of the restaurants in the Mission are Mexican, Sun Rise is a combination of Mexican, El Salvadorian, and American foods.

My friend Aiza and I decided to make the trek down there for brunch, as we read positive reviews on Yelp.

Having done a lot of walking that morning, and not having breakfast, our stomachs were primed for a large meal.

Two bus rides and a short walk later, we finally arrived at the restaurant. Inside Sun Rise, the atmosphere is cozy. There are few tables, and the decor consists of cheery yellow walls covered with socially-conscious artwork from local artists.

Aiza and I both ordered chilaquiles, which are a Mexican breakfast specialty. Essentially, the dish consists of day-old corn tortillas or tortilla chips, simmered in a spicy salsa, mixed with scrambled eggs, and topped with queso fresco (a crumbly, white Mexican cheese similar to feta) and sour cream. These chilaquiles also had chorizo, a soft yet spicy Mexican sausage.

There was even the option to get the chilaquiles with soyrizo, a great alternative for vegetarians such as Aiza.

Alongside the chilaquiles, we split an order of platanos fritos--or, fried plantains.

The platanos weren't greasy at all. They were fried to perfection, and had just the right amount of natural sweetness.

To round everything off, I had a hot beverage called atole de elote. It's a hot, thick, sweetened cornmeal drink mixed with milk.

All of our dishes were delicious. That, combined with upbeat Latin American music in the background and friendly service, made this a perfect meal to round off the decade.

Graduation: One Year Later

Exactly one year ago, I was nervously standing on stage in front of hundreds of my peers, receiving my diploma. I distinctly remember the feeling of achievement, excitement, and anxiousness that I had on this day.

After working hard for four and a half years, I had reached the end. I was now a college graduate.

The whole day was a blur of emotions. Thank God for the invention of waterproof mascara.

Growing up, graduating college is one of those things that seems so far off. So adult. The beginning of a new chapter of your life.

The first month or so after graduating felt like an extended winter break, with the added bonus of not having any assignments to do. It felt good to be able to relax and not have to worry about school.

GRADUATING IN AN ECONOMIC CRISIS

Unfortunately, the time I graduated was during one of the worst parts of this economic recession. Many of my peers were having a hard time finding jobs anywhere, especially in the media field.

Slowly, it began to sink in that I could be in a very tough position if I didn’t find a job quickly. There were student loans to start paying back, among other living expenses.

By the end of February, almost three months after graduating, I had finally landed an internship at a company called Ustream. It was unpaid, but it was better than sitting around at home, so I took it.

Luckily, I was offered a full-time job as Marketing Coordinator, just after a little over a month of interning. Sure, the pay wasn’t the best, and the hours were even worse, but it felt good to be working in a career related to my degree.

A NEW DIRECTION

Despite being happy about having a job, I felt that if I continued on down this path of marketing, I would move further away from my career goals.

I wanted to be the person producing media, not the one marketing it.

Over the summer, I made a big decision to go to graduate school in London. It wasn’t an easy choice, especially considering my economic situation.

But it was the right choice.

I haven’t looked back since making that decision, as I know that by doing this course, it’s putting me closer to where I want to be. NEW GRADUATES

This year, I watched some of my best friends walk the same stage that I did.

I’ve watched them work extremely hard over the years, and I was proud to be able to watch them be honored for their achievements.

It seems that landing a job is getting harder than ever, but I have high hopes for them.

I think that, as long as you work hard and have clear goals set out, you can achieve them. Maybe it will be a difficult journey along the way, but sometimes you learn the most from going through hardships.

So, to my lovely friends who graduated this year, congratulations! Keep doing what you’re doing, and welcome to the post-grad world.

As Monica once said in Friends, “The real world sucks…you’re gonna love it!”

Cosplay: Anime Comes To Life

For many people, Halloween is the one day a year to have an excuse to dress up in crazy costumes. For others, creating and wearing costumes is a significant part of their lives. Two years ago, three friends and I made a documentary exploring the topic of cosplaying. This was for a Documentary Production course at USF.

The term 'cosplaying' is a combination of 'costume' and 'play', and refers to people who create costumes and dress up as their favorite animated characters.

This hobby is especially popular in Japan, but it has recently become a subculture in its own right in the United States.

Before making this documentary, I didn't have a good understanding on why people would want to do this as a hobby. Why would you want to constantly portray fictional characters, rather than just being yourself?

After interviewing a sampling of American cosplayers, I found out that it's a way to hone their creative skills. Not only that, but it's a way to gather with like-minded people and form communities of friends from all over the world.

Creative Cosplayers

With this documentary, I really wanted to get to the heart of why people devoted so much time, energy, and money to this hobby.

Cosplayers often get a bad reputation as being 'geeky' or 'weird.' I'll admit that I had that impression before I actually met the people who do it.

I think that Kathryn Harper, one of our interviewees, summed it up best: "It's setting myself free to be who I want to be."

People have so many different sides to their personalities, and there are a countless number of characters you can dress up as to reflect certain aspects.

Most cosplayers also make their own costumes, so it's a hobby that allows your crafty side to thrive.

I can't say that I'll be cosplaying anytime soon, but I can say that doing this documentary gave me a great amount of insight and respect for this subculture. Plus, they probably have the best Halloween costumes...

Anime Comes To Life on Current TV

If you're curious about cosplaying, check out our documentary, "Anime Comes to Life." It first appeared on Current TV in November 2008 (our first paid documentary!).

Check it out here or below: