V.20 No.39 | 9/29/2011


Fantastic Fest Day 0

The annual Fantastic Fest film festival gets underway in Austin this week. It’s the largest genre-based film festival in the United States and was founded in 2005 by Tim League of Alamo Drafthouse and Harry Knowles of Ain’t It Cool News. We sent special correspondent Brennan Foster on a quest to hunt down the weirdest films, the coolest parties and the biggest star sightings he could find. Here’s his first, pre-fest report. Be sure and check back throughout the week for more updates.

Thirty minutes across the Texas border, I get pulled over for speeding in a 70 MPH zone.

“Do you know how fast you were going?”

My father, a former police officer, taught me of an imaginary elastic barrier, a ne plus ultra for exceeding the speed limit.


“Nooo. No. You weren’t going that fast.”

That surprises me. “Seventy-six?”

The officer pauses, gives a slight smile. “Nope. Didn’t quite make it there.”

I begin to feel very inadequate for a scofflaw.

He changes the subject. “Where are you heading?”


He sees all the items stuffed into my cabin: bicycle, clothing rack, suitcase, freezer bag.

“Moving there?”

“No, I’m going to the Fantastic Fest. It’s a film festival held at the Alamo Drafthouse. They screen horror, fantasy, sci fi—all types of extreme movies from around the world. I’m there for about a week-and-a-half.”

“Sounds like fun. You a filmmaker?”

“Well, I’ll be blogging about it for a weekly paper in Albuquerque.”

“So: Journalist.”

“Um. Yes.”

But apparently, I’m not much of a speed-demon.

“Hold on while I get you your warning.”

Somehow, the way he’s strung the conversation together, it feels like he’s admonishing me for not going far enough over the limit. And I understand.

This is Texas, where in order to make any mark, you have to go BIG. And I’m headed to the largest genre film festival in the U.S., showcasing films that push all buttons, all extremes, all limits.

In years past, I’ve been privy to early screenings of truly fantastic films: Let the Right One In Ex-Drummer, Monsters, Trollhunter, 13 Assassins. (You can view films featured from past years on iTunes.)

Today, things kick off with a Human Centipede 2: Full Sequence-themed opening night party, where revelers will attempt to break the world record for the longest human centipede conga line.

And, um, good luck to them.

The week also promises bare-knuckle boxing, authentic Japanese karaoke and Kevin Sorbo in 3-D! I’m thrilled to have this opportunity to share my first thoughts of the featured films and relate some of the unique experiences proffered at this unique festival.

“Just a warning”? This week, I’ll do my best to push it waaaay past the limit.

V.20 No.21 |


Road Trip Calorie Counter

Austin to Albuquerque edition

9:10 am Leave Austin, TX

9:30 am: McDonalds drive thru:
Sausage McMuffin, Hash Brown 600 calories
+ Eggs and one pancake from my kids uneaten Big Breakfast 327 calories

10:45 am: 2 servings Wheat Thins 290 calories

noon: 1 Nutty Buddie 310 calories

1:30 pm: Fort Sheridan, TX, eat lunch at K-Bob's Steakhouse
(sign on door warns air conditioning not working properly)
K-Bob Steakhouse's Famous K-Bob Burger with steak fries 1100 calories (approx)
K-Bob Steakhouse's Salad Wagon 200 calories (approx)

3:45 pm: 1/2 box Rosemary and Olive Oil Triscuits 600 calories

6:00 pm 1 single serve packet of Pringles 160 calories
1/2 bag Reese's Pieces 105 calories

8:45 pm 1/2 Oh Henry! bar 115 calories
1 Chick-O-Stick 240 calories

10:05 pm arrive in Albuquerque, NM

V.19 No.7 | 2/18/2010
(AP Photo/Jack Plunkett)

Could You At Least Buy Me Dinner First?

I think it was when the Wal-Mart manager said, “I just can’t help you, because I have no idea how that works”, and then walked away from me, that I really started to get ticked off. Bad customer service has been the theme for several of my blogs. I am pretty good at turning the other cheek, picking my battles and so on when it comes to a horrifying experience with a corporate giant. Westley Trellis, well, not so much. Trellis took a baseball bat and smashed to bits twenty-nine flat screen televisions, causing over $22,000 in damages in a Wal-mart electronics department. One commentator opined that perhaps Trellis was “simply slashing prices?”

Another time I wanted to lash out at corporate America, government agencies, was the Summer I was, well, nabbed for not being “entirely” forthcoming on some tax information. I had “forgotten” to report something, and well, I got in trouble with the IRS. They sent letters, of course I didn’t respond to them, and eventually received a default judgment and was ordered to pay some money back to the IRS. Well, I didn’t, and so they garnished wages from me that fall. I basically worked at this job I had for free in order to pay back my debt. I wanted to get angry, and I wanted to tell them off, ask them if they would consider dinner first before just jamming their you know what in my you know where, but I didn’t.

Joe Stack had a different approach to his IRS experience. He took his Piper Cherokee airplane and flew it right into the Echelon Building in Austin, TX. An online article tears Stack apart, calling him a man “with a serious grudge”, and “left a lot of innocent people in his wake”. Well I don’t know if I would put IRS and innocent in the same sentence, and while I am saddened for the injured parties, I share some empathy for Stack’s ordeal. Eventually people succumb to the rage in their heads when they are not listened to, or treated badly, and they end up doing things like Trellis, and Stack did. Wal-mart and the IRS may consider taking some responsibility themselves instead of writing off Stack, a software engineer and musician, who was handled badly, ignored, and stuck in a Web of poorly handled consumer relationships by corporations and government agencies. Stack has a 6-page, 3000 word manifesto online that you can draw your own conclusions from.

How do we communicate to these corporate bears, and government gorillas in a way that gets our point across without crashing planes, and busting up televisions? Is it possible? There are many ways to handle bad service, and avoid the caveat emptor mind-set; I don’t know if one is better than another. I have managed to avoid suicidal tendencies from bad service, and batting practice in the Wal-mart electronics department, but there are times when I cheer silently for the ones that make such grand gestures. I don’t think they actually believe their cries of injustice will be heard, but their actions will not be forgotten.

When are we going to demand that they put customer relationships at the front of the line again, and keep the “bottom line” from towing the whole ship down to the bottom of the ocean? Now we just have to find the middle line between bats, and planes; and the ability to make changes, and communicate just a little bit better with each other, perhaps even listen a little more. I have hope, even if while I write this, phone pressed desperately to my ear, my expected hold time is 32 minutes. Don’t worry I don’t even like baseball and flying makes me nauseous.