You’d have to be blinder than the Congress Bridge bats to not notice that there are big changes underway in Austin. But for a city with “Keep Austin Weird” as its rally cry, is this change for the better? Or are we instead, making Austin commercial?

Recently, the well-known (and well-loved) food trucks located on South Congress all had to pack-up and leave the spot that they’ve called home for more than 5 years. Despite attempts to keep the trucks as part of the familiar landscape of South Congress, the land was never their own and now a hotel will be erected on the site instead.

But SoCo isn’t the only neighborhood in Austin that’s changing its identity as the city becomes more popular. Some statistics estimate that Austin is growing by 172 people every day. And as Austin grows in population, the city is being developed to accommodate not only the numbers, but the desire to keep up to date and modern.

This will soon be seen as the Rainey Street area starts to go under some noticeable changes. What was once an alternate to the 6th street nightlife in Austin will be have a completely different look and feel than the small, cozy bars we are accustomed to. Its bars are slowly closing their doors to make way for more condos and residential units.

Even the Alamo Drafthouse and the Broken Spoke– business’ arguably as Austin as they come – aren’t immune to the changes. For over a year, heavy construction at the separate homes of the South Lamar Drafthouse and (farther South) Broken Spoke have made what looks now to be little more than giant construction sites and holes in the ground. And while we’ll get to keep those two loved institutions at their original locations, we’ll soon start to see high-end boutiques, (even more) condos, and office spaces crop up around them.

A city as well loved as Austin – by locals and visitors alike – was bound to step into bigger shoes sooner or later. On the one hand, one could argue that it’s good for the city – it’s creating improvements that will generate more unique and celebrated spots like Barley Swine or Uchi. Not to mention the boost popular shopping areas can offer to the local economy. And in some cases I’ll agree that improvements were needed. But will big hotels and condos and higher end boutiques really allow Austin to maintain the charm, quirk and uniqueness that has defined the city over the past however-many decades? Only time will tell, but I for one think we’re becoming a little less weird. And even if it was inevitable, it still makes me a little more sad.

As if space and astronauts weren’t cool enough already, Commander Chris Hadfield has gone and made them infinitely cooler.

Since December 2012, Commander Hadfield has broadened our knowledge of life in space far beyond what we’ve learned from watching Apollo 13 and eating astronaut “ice cream.” The tech savvy Canadian astronaut has spent the last five months not only doing – er – space things at the International Space Station, but on his (gravity) free time has become a bona fide star of social media.

On twitter he’s exchanged tweets with William Shatner, George Takei and other Star Trek actors (among others). He has a popular Tumblr blog filled with amazing photos he’s taken from space (presumably to make us all feel silly about our Tumblr blogs with not-so-amazing cat gifs). On Reddit, he hosted one of the top AMA (ask me anything) threads of all time. But perhaps the place he’s gained the most notoriety is YouTube.

Via the Canadian Space Agency channel, he’s posted dozens of videos to answer pressing questions from those of us grounded on Earth; things like how eyesight is affected in space, how they sleep, and how they brush their teeth. And just a few days ago, he responded to a request to record a version of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity”.

Perhaps the most poignant version of the song to date, it’s garnered over 7 million views online and the seal of approval from Mr. Bowie himself. The lyrics and melody of the song are already moving, but paired with views of the Commander moving solo throughout his ship with Earth as his backdrop, it becomes a significant and stunning tribute.

One of his most quotable quotes he said during his Reddit AMA was, “Every decision you make…turns you into who you are.” I guess that means he simply decided to be awesome.

Images courtesy of NASA and the Canadian Space Agency.

About a lifetime ago (read: January) I cashed in some saved up Karma and won an 11-day trip courtesy of the Travel Channel. I wish I could give more insight as to why my boyfriend and I were chosen, but I have no idea. To date my best guess is that they were intimidated by our height and feared the wrath of an army of giants if we weren’t chosen (I’m 5’10’’, my boyfriend’s 6’6’’).

Obviously – that must be it.

Going into the trip, we knew next to nothing about what we would be doing. What we did know was that we were going to be filmed for an episode of Trip Flip. We knew the host was a crazy, funny, fun-loving guy named Bert Kreischer (fun fact! The movie Van Wilder was based on his life story). And finally we knew we were going to be starting in Miami.

Needless to say, packing was a nightmare – especially for a compulsive over-packer like me. I mean, HOW DO YOU PACK WHEN YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU’RE DOING OR WHERE YOU MIGHT BE GOING?Trip Flip - Behind the Scenes2But two weeks after we won the vacation, we were on a plane en route to Miami. I kept a journal on the trip and it was almost filled cover-to-cover with the things that we got to see and do. I’ll spare you the long version and simply say that it was an amazing, jam-packed 11 days.Trip Flip - sand castles2First in Miami and then on a 7-day Carnival Cruise to Turks and Caicos, Jamaica, and the Bahamas. Throughout the trip we got to play Jai Alai, hang out with Grammy winner Emilio Estefan (you may be more acquainted with his wife – Gloria), go power snorkeling with a barracuda named Ashley, and get pampered like fancy-pants McGoos on the cruise. And eat and drink. Oh my god did we eat and drink.Trip Flip - Snorkeling2

About four months have passed since the trip and we STILL can’t believe it’s happened. (But – I’ve pinched myself MULTIPLE times and unless I’m in some crazy Matrix-like coma in another reality – the trip really did happen.) And finally, we’ll get to see our trip through the eyes of the camera and the magic of TV editing. If you want to tune in, it airs at 7 PM CST on the Travel Channel this Sunday, May 5th. (That’s Cinco de Mayo – so be sure to have your margaritas handy!)

Editor’s note: Our very own Shannon is headed to reality TV! I asked her to share some pre-trip emotions and insight on the blog. Don’t you worry, there will be a post-trip post too. Stay tuned.

A few weeks ago, I very expertly and professionally won an 11-day trip on a show that airs on the Travel Channel. I realize now that I am full of wisdom that I feel is my duty, nay, my honor to share with the general public. So before I become the biggest F-Lister you’ve never heard of and start making prestigious celebrity appearances on all of the bottom ranked cable network shows, allow me to tell you how you too may one day become a huge winner and an almost-but-not-really celebrity.

1)    Don’t read anything about casting notices. Just let a friend or significant other casually mention it mere hours before the show will be there.

2)    Don’t overthink the answers on the questionnaire. In fact, point out a typo or two. (No seriously, I did that.)

3)    Go in with a “no one ever wins these things” attitude. I can’t stress this enough. The less you think you’re right for it (apparently), the more right you ACTUALLY are for it.

(Note: this feeling has to be genuine. If you are faking it, producers know. I don’t know how they know, but I know they MUST know.)

4)    Tell the host of the show how you’re a nut case who fears that sharks will eat them in swimming pools. Because crazy always looks good on camera.

5)    Blindly agree to anything they throw at you. Hypotheticals are VERY easy to agree with. For example:

“SURE, I’d love swimming in a tank of hungry great white sharks!” “I’ve never tried BASE jumping, but it’s not THAT unsafe, right?” “Uh, who WOULDN’T be up for a solo rafting trip to Cuba??”

These are all excellent answers.

6)    Whatever you do, DON’T worry about having to take days off from work. That just ruins #3 and #5. Deal with that when the panic of winning sets in.

7)    Win. This is perhaps the most important step on the list. In fact, ALL of the other steps will become null, void, irrelevant and stupid if you don’t actually win.

So there you have it. If you follow this guide, you too can be jet-setting off to I-STILL-don’t-know-where (and I leave tomorrow). But who said you have to know what adventure you’re getting in to? As long as you have stalked the Internet to make sure the show is real and not an elaborate plan to sell you into slave labor overseas (which I have), YOU’LL BE FINE!

Oh, but always keep your passport up to date, because you never know when 1) it will come in handy and 2) the horrible picture will come back to haunt you.

So, future fancy-pants jet-setters, when I return I’ll regale you with tales of the (hopefully) fancy place(s) I visited and (maybe) interesting stories of me (fingers crossed) not dying. Until then, go forth and win not just A trip, but ALL of them.

I love the holidays. Big fan. It’s probably because my mom is awesome and always made each holiday feel special and – dare I say magical – when I was growing up.












And since I’m lucky enough to be in advertising, I have very fortunately been able to avoid REALLY growing up as much as possible, so my love and sense of wonder and adoration for the holidays (specifically the ones that fall between October, November and December) never really went away.

But as much as I love this time of year and do my best to will the dog days of summer forward to get to the start of what my sister and I lovingly refer to as “Hallowithmas,” (or as RetailMeNot has called OctoNovemCember) I do have a bone to pick:







What’s the huge rush????????

It seems that every year, there is a race to see who can celebrate Christmas first. I mean, Christmas commercials were airing before I even had time to reveal my awesome Halloween costume. The pumpkin I carved wasn’t even dried out and moldy before I started seeing strings of garland up in the stores. I hadn’t even finished eating my Halloween colored M&M’s before I heard my first Christmas Carol.

And, even if we put aside the fact that we’re pushing Santa before people can be adequately frightened by skeletons….what about Thanksgiving?

Sure, it’s not the most glamorous of holidays, but it’s a holiday, nonetheless. And we celebrate it by stuffing ourselves into a food coma with our closest friends and relatives – which means it’s arguably more American than even Independence Day.










(Too far? Too far…I’ll move on.)

Even people in countries that don’t have a holiday between Halloween and Christmas think that Christmas is being pushed too soon. In Canada, the retailer Drug Mart pulled Christmas music from it’s almost 1200 stores after getting complaints from a large number of customers that it was “too soon.”

I’d just like to give each holiday it’s due. And Thanksgiving – which gives most of us AT LEAST two days off from work each year – deserves a little more holiday respect.

There’s at least one retailer with me, though. Nordstrom has signs posted in their stores explaining why they haven’t rushed ahead to the December holiday:










Images courtesy of LA,, 


It seems that selling our bodies for cold, hard, cash is trying to make its way back into fashion. But not in the way that you might think.Nope, our bodies, as it turns out, are highly coveted for their potential as ad space. And Nick Symmonds, an American track athlete headed to the Olympics, is leading the charge.

Symmonds has found a loophole in the stringent rules placed on athletes by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) and auctioned off his shoulder as ad space to the highest bidder. The rules state that he can’t have it displayed during his races, but a temporary tattoo of the winning bidder’s twitter handle (congratulations, @HansonDodge) will be displayed on his shoulder for the world to see any other time during the Olympic Games.

This may be the most recent instance of use of a body as ad space, but certainly not the first. Or, I’d be willing to bet, the last. is notorious for paying people large sums of money to tattoo their website on the most unusual parts of their bodies. (Shockingly, large enough sums for the parts of the body they ask these people to get tattooed). The first woman to win the honor was paid $10,000 to have the site displayed on her forehead.What probably should have been a one time publicity stunt has continued to be an ongoing campaign for To date, they’ve purchased tens of thousands of dollars worth of ad space on various people’s body parts, including the back of the head, pregnant bellies, arms, and, naturally, cleavage.

But this isn’t simply an American trend. A New Zealand woman auctioned off a 9×9 cm space on her, um, derriere, to be tattooed with whatever the highest bidder would like to put there. Why? She needs the cash.

A German man also wanted to raise some cash, but to build a museum dedicated to St. Bernard dogs. Sweet, right? But, to fund it, he’s selling off his face – in pieces or as a whole – as tattoo space.But, don’t feel left out in the cold. If you need some money to pay off student loans, or make a car payment, or – really, I suppose it could be for any reason – a quick Google search found, which has a section specifically for On-Body Advertising:

“Are you a student, bartender, belly-dancer or anyone else who comes in contact with mass amounts of people every day? Chances are you can sell part of your body as advertising space!!!”

Who knows? This could be the next big thing in advertising ideas! Or, for the recipient of the tattoo…the next big mistake??

(Images courtesy of, TheBioFile, and

My friend called me this week and asked if I’d seen the newest Father’s Day ad from JCPenney. Before I could answer he said, “it was perfect.”(COPY: “First Pals: What makes Dad so cool? He’s the swim coach, tent maker, best friend, bike fixer and hug giver — all rolled into one. Or two.”)

The copy, he went on to explain, “tugged at his heartstrings” and all at once made him (a gay man) feel simultaneously unique and accepted.

So, naturally, it’s surrounded by controversy.

This isn’t JCPenney’s first foray into the controversy arena. Earlier this year, One Million Mom’s was up in arms when JCPenney hired gay celebrity Ellen DeGeneres to be their spokeswoman. They boycotted the store and encouraged others’ to do the same.

(On a side note, I wonder if all of those One Million Mom’s also boycott Cover Girl, American Express, Pepsi, Healthy Choice and Old Spice – all of which have gay spokespeople. But I digress.)

But JCPenney didn’t even blink. In response to the boycott, they’ve kept running ads featuring gay and lesbian couples, taking a firm stance on one side of the culture war. So naturally, now they are being accused of using that stance as a media ploy. To, essentially, use same-sex couples to further their marketing needs.

But JCPenney isn’t the only retailer that features ads depicting gay couples. What about these ones from Gap, Wells Fargo and Ray Ban.

Images courtesy of The, Human Rights Campaign,, and TowlerRoad

In my opinion, the reason it’s both controversial and occurring more often, isn’t because of the shock factor. It’s that it normalizes gay couples. It makes them look – gasp – just like everyone else. So all JCPenney and all other retailers who are choosing to run similar ads are really doing is marketing to their customers in a way that falls in line with their company values.

So, they’re advertising.

And if it makes people have a conversation, all the better.

I made lots of new friends yesterday. A couple of them were actually people.

In what I can only assume was an initiative to make faces hurt with happiness, GSD&M hosted the best day in the history of days: bring your dog to work day. For someone like me who doesn’t have a dog but really^∞ wants one, it was an opportunity to live vicariously through other people’s pets.

I was so happy when I went home, I forgot that I can’t draw and attempted to express my over-elated happiness through paper and sharpie.


If that picture doesn’t make you immediately want to do a happy dance on top of your desk….I totally get it. An artist I am not. (I’m actually pretty sure I may retroactively fail Art Direction 101 because of this.)

But what I think the giant cartoon face lacks in realism, likeness-to-a-human, or gender defining characteristics, it makes up for in size and depiction of joy.

I hope we have more days like this in the future. (If only because my drawing skills have no where to go but up.)

Check out all of the pictures from Dog Day here:

If you’re reading this, it’s safe to assume that you don’t live under a rock (or, the rock that you live under has a great internet connection). Either way, you’re probably aware of the buzz heard ‘round the world about the Tupac hologram performance at Coachella.

But while Hologram Tupac may win the award for the best performance by a set of abs on a computer generated artist, he isn’t the first hologram to ever grace a musical stage. Or even tug at our hearts and imaginations.

First, we must pay homage to the artist that really paved the way and pushed hologram boundaries to make a real-yet-fake music performance even fathomable: Jem and the Holograms. Granted, it’s not the exact same technology they used at Coachella. That would involve a computer named Synergy and a really sweet pair of earrings. Also, Jem was only 2D. But the idea had to start somewhere.

Still, Hologram Tupac isn’t even the first performance by a hologram at a real life music event. Nope. That honor goes to Japanese pop star Hatsune Miku. If this is the first you’re hearing of Hatsune Miku, you may look at her performance and think that she looks like an anime character. Astutely observed! That is because she’s not real. And this isn’t a Milli Vanilli type conspiracy either – Hatsune Miku’s voice? Completely synthesized.

Even fashion shows are getting in on the action. Last year designer Stefan Eckert presented a whole fashion show using only holograms. The result seemed more like a trippy music video than a fashion show, but had a distinct lack of tripping models. So, we can chalk that up to a trade off.

And finally – for this blog post at least – we must give due credit to Star Trek. Yes, Star Trek. Because, let’s face it, the fake futuristic technology seen on Star Trek is slowly but surely becoming our modern day technology. (Anyone own an iPad? Cool…Star Trek totally did it first). Holograms used for entertainment is no exception. Any day now (*ahem* people who invent things), we could be having hologram experiences of our very own. I even have a name for it: iHologram. Nailed it.

Image courtesy of Subspace Communique

But, none of this is to meant to mitigate the accomplishment of Hologram Tupac. Because ultimately we do have to hand it to him; he may be dead, but darn it if Tupac doesn’t keep finding ways to keep on living.

Credit cards are not made of magic. I mention this not only because I recently discovered this alarming fact, but also because if you are like me – or rather, your credit card is like my credit card – your credit card is probably screaming at you to give it a break.

Figuratively speaking. Again, credit cards: not magic.

By the time you make it to SXSW, you’ll probably have spent money on plane tickets, concert tickets, movie tickets, and other things that don’t involve tickets at all. And while those things are all absolutely worth it, SXSW and Austin have plenty of things to offer that are free (FREE!) that are worth it as well.

FREE Concert at Auditorium Shores

(Photo courtesy of Christopher Nelson)

Even the folks that put on SXSW want you to have a good, free time. On March 15, 16 and 17, the biggest stage of SXSW will play host to The Shins, Counting Crows and The Cult among others. Whether the shows rock your face off or not, being free makes it all sorts of better.


SXSW happens to coincide with the beginning of bat season (I don’t think it’s actually called bat season, but it works). The Congress Avenue Bridge is right next to downtown Austin and also happens to house the world’s largest urban bat colony. At dusk, the bats take flight to do bat-like things. It’s a pretty amazing sight to see and the bats don’t charge you anything.

FREE Celebrity Watching

Of COURSE there are celebrities at SXSW! Between the bands performing, the actors promoting their films and just cool celebrities who come to SXSW because they are cooler than we even realized, Austin is crawling with people for you to tweet about seeing. Make sure your iPhone is charged and also remember to act like it’s NBD when you see them.

FREE Embarrassment Karaoke

The SXSW interactive showcase kicks off March 9th at The Stage on Sixth with an evening of Live Band Karaoke. It does require an RSVP because, well, there are only so many renditions of I Will Survive everyone can hear, even for free. RSVP through EventBrite.

FREE Yoga (little, itty-bitty catch)

Ruta Maya Coffee offers free yoga – with a purchase of $3 or more. But come on! When was the last time yoga only cost you three dollars? That’s right, never. And you’ll get zen and balance and flexibility for (mostly) free. Plus, you’ll be grateful for the coffee.

There are plenty of other free and mostly-free things to do while in Austin. When it’s not listening to music, keep your ear to the ground and check back to SXSurvival  for more stuff. Because our blog, among other things, doesn’t cost you a dime.