Ah, a delayed Ask Jana…but a hopefully still informative one.  Thanks for all your questions!

Erin: Greatest kid cereal – Capt. Crunch’s Crunch Berries or Cookie Crisp?

Cookie Crisp all the way because when you’re a kid, the illusion of getting away with eating cookies for breakfast is a real bonus, also the milk tastes delicious. In the Cap’n Crunch line I am a fan of the “bloody mouth” peanut butter variety. You know it hurts, but it tastes good anyway.

Memphis Mafia Donut from Voodoo Donuts
If you’re gonna eat Cap’n Crunch you might as well eat this for breakfast instead.

Aunt Linda: Wouldn’t you really like to partake on all the activities associated with rush center’s st. pat’s celebration? Uncle Dave is wearing his kilt.

Rush Center, Kansas is where I spent many happy times as a kid, but I have never been there for St. Patrick’s Day, and I have never seen my Uncle Dave in a kilt. So this was a winning proposition right here.

Deb: Will you look at art in a Museum or gallery setting differently from now on, as a result of viewing an exhibition with a practicing visual artist? Do you think it makes a difference in art appreciation to experience a living visual artist speak about someone Else’s art?

YES, Deb. To fill you all in, Deborah Burge is an amazing artist in California, and when Susan and Elizabeth played in Huntington Beach at the art center, there was an art exhibition happening and I walked through some of it with Deborah. I was like walking through Giza with an Egyptologist or something, because Deb pointed out things I would just glance at and wander on by. She made notes on perspective and technique and form and shape, and after 15 minutes I felt smarter. If only a smart artist was provided ever time I went to a museum or a gallery.

John: If you could take a vacation to anywhere, where would it be?

I have never been to Europe, which is sad, and I really want to see Paris. I want to see all of it (London, Prague, Rome, Athens, insert major old city here), but for some reason Paris holds a mystique for me. Maybe because lots of artists and writers I love have done great things there.

Chad: Georgia O’Keeffe paintings…once you see it, can you ever unsee it?

I love O’Keeffe, though I gravitate toward her New Mexican landscapes rather than her flowers…but I do enjoy it all. She was a smart woman; I bet whatever you see she never wants you to unsee.

Callie: Why do stamps not have how much they are worth printed on them anymore? I have one stamp in the desk and one letter to mail, but I don’t know how much this stupid stamp is worth.

I have had the very same problem, Callie, which means I just end up using the unmarked stamp as adornment on the letter and stick another stamp on, which is probably how the post office has any prayer of staying open…making us overpay for mailing by anywhere from $0.03 to $0.50 at a time…which is a horrible business model…which is why we won’t get mail on Saturdays anymore. Thanks, USPS.

Thomas: Why is there no B# or E#?

Ah, but isn’t B# just C? Which is really just Cb? Whoa.

Tiffany: ambition vs. contentment. go.

Love this question…something I struggle with daily. I don’t necessarily think the two are opposites, and in fact I think ambition is best practicing with a sense of contentment, and that likewise contentment is best when coupled with ambition. Ambition without some degree of contentment can bleed easily into desperation, which hasn’t ever really worked out for me. Contentment avoids falling into ignorant stagnancy with paired with a little ambition. The balance sounds quite magical. I make it sound easy but as we know…it’s hard.

Justin: What is the most comfortable shoe you have ever worn?

Great question. I have a pair of red Adidas Samba shoes that I love and that have never hurt my pinky toes. They are a winning pair. As a general rule, I don’t like things on top of my feet, which means I have bought so many pairs of flip flops while traveling, thinking I could get through one trip with normal shoes. Latest pair: California. Comfy.

These flip flops rocked my 13k steps a day during SXSW.

Carol: Why hasn’t Stephen Spielberg ever won an Oscar for directing? Are people so embittered by obvious talent that they don’t want to give it a “reward”?

I never even realized he hadn’t! That’s like Hitchcock only getting an Achievement Award at the Oscars, walking up and saying a terse “thank you” and walking off stage. Who knows, but all I can say is thank goodness Spielberg and Hitchcock kept making movies without industry recognition. A good lesson.

Dave: What is the significance of the sea in “Moby Dick?”

Is it a betrayal of the American education system to admit that I haven’t read that one? I have heard it is an allegory, so perhaps the sea represents either heaven, hell, purgatory, or chocolate cake.

Stephanie: What is the significance of, “They can kill me, but they can’t harm me”?

I am curious to know the context of this quote, because the only thing that popped into my head was the Kelly Clarkson song, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” which is not that at all.

Jimmie Bell: Why does my cat think my lap is a bath house?

Cats think everything is bath house, a napping spot, and a scratching post. If we could weaponize cats, they’d have the world conquered in days due to their manifest destiny complex.

Kelly: What are the chances that next year the Oscars will be hosted by your girls, Tina and Amy?

When I rule the world, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler will host the following: The Oscars, The Grammys, The Golden Globes, The Emmys, The Kennedy Center Honors, the Junos (for the Canadians), the G8 Summit, the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the United States Commission on Civil Rights, and the Nobel Peace Prize Award Ceremony.

JoshMac: after you’re president, what’s your first executive order?

Following the theme, my first executive order would be to make Amy and Tina official ambassadors to all nations with names beginning with the letters C – W. They’ll be busy but it will be funny. Kristen Wiig gets the rest.

John: How come disgruntled is word but gruntled isn’t?

For the same reason that I can be “inept” but not “ept” at anything, and being ept at everything is my greatest wish.

Oh yeah, it’s a music festival too! To be honest, I had such a great time attending the conference part of SXSW that the live shows were lower on my list this year. Going to the panels was an 8 – 6 job, and commuting from San Marcos added some extra time this year. It was all awesome, but I tried to be cognizant of my energy levels. A lot of awesome shows at SXSW happen at midnight. I did not go to those. I am utterly satisfied with what I did see, though. Here you go:

Since Chad was in town from Washington, D.C., we of course had to take in a couple of the best singer-songwriters in town (I’m biased but I’m right). Elizabeth Wills played at NeWorlDeli and it was the perfect way to wind down after the first day’s panels.

Elizabeth Wills at NeWorlDeli

Next up on the Must See list was SusanG! with Billy Masters in Frederickburg. We drove through a crazy rainstorm but it was worth it because SG never disappoints and Billy is one of the best guitarists in this town. This state. This planet.

Susan Gibson and Billy Masters

was the new band I really wanted to see, so I headed down to the Vevo TV Control Room (aka The Ghost Room when it’s not SXSW and taken over by a brand name) on Wednesday. There was a line around the block but I realized people with badges could just walk right in…that was one of the many moments I yelled a big “THANK YOU CARI!” because Cari is my badge angel.


I became a fan after stumbling on their kind of 80’s pop songwriter EP a few weeks ago. What I didn’t expect was for the three sisters to walk onstage and rip our faces off with awesomeness and ferocity. The EP is great but it does not even hint at the energy of a live show. All three girls are great instrumentalists, too. I was right up front and got some great photos.


I didn’t catch an Amanda Palmer show but she did play one tune during her panel, which was awesome. It was about a ukulele. She played it on the ukulele.

Amanda Palmer

Charlie Faye
did a great set with Noelle Hampton and Andre Moran backing her up. Charlie has a new album coming out soon and based on the new songs she played…it’s a winner!

Charlie Faye with Andre and Noelle

Natalie Maines
played the ACL Moody Theater to promote her upcoming solo record and she nailed it. Ben Harper produced it and luckily he came along to Austin to play with her. Natalie has that same powerful voice that cuts right through, but the sound is way more rock than anything the Dixie Chicks have done. The highlight was the last song when Lloyd Maines came out and he and Ben engaged in a pedal steel / lapsteel duel that just left me standing there with my mouth hanging open. (I know it’s not a competition but if it maybe was a competition, Lloyd destroyed everything on the stage and lit it on fire with his pedal steel, hands down).

Natalie Maines and Lloyd Maines

I rounded it out with The Belle Sounds, a band featuring Noelle Hampton, Andre Moran, and my pal Emily Shirley. It was their first gig and they nailed it. Their record comes out in April…I’ll post more about that later.

The Belle Sounds
All in all, a great time. I did not run into Price or Justin Timberlake in the street but that’s ok. Maybe next year.

(Note: Pretty sure Prince doesn’t walk the streets anywhere, but for sure not at SXSW because everyone would recognize him because I bet he always wears purple).

While the major draw of SXSW (to me, anyway) is communing with a bunch of people who are motivated and innovative, there is the starstruck factor with some of the speakers sometimes (most of them are themselves motivating and innovative, so it works). Some of the highlights this year:

Tina Roth Eisenberg

Tina Roth Eisenberg delivered my favorite keynote. I will shamefully admit I had no idea who was before she walked up to the stage, but she quickly caught me up and my jaw dropped. She runs a well known design blog called SwissMiss, which is enough for some people. Due to her rule of not ignoring side projects, however, she has grown a national meet up group called CreativeMornings, a studio workspace co-op called StudioMates, a temporary tattoo company called Tattly (classy tattoos drawn by designers!), and a productivity app called TeuxDeux. Yeah, so that’s what she does when she wakes up in the morning. It was an amazingly inspiring talk as she seemed was grounded and optimistic and happy with life. That’s the goal! Watch her talk here.

Chuck Lorre and Neil Gaiman at SXSWi

Chuck Lorre and Neil Gaiman had a chat about Lorre’s career as a producer and brain behind shows like Grace Under Fire, Cybill, Dharma & Greg, Two and a Half Men, and The Big Bang Theory. He’s pretty prolific, and even Ashton Kutcher was in the crowd to verify that Lorre works all the time. This is a horrible photo but they were indeed both wearing black on a black background. So Cash of them.

Tim Ferriss and Me

Tim Ferriss
(of the 4 Hour Work Week) gave a great talk about mastering any skill in 6 months. His new book “The 4 Hour Chef” is about cooking, but also about meta-learning and ultimately, lifestyle design. He gave us the steps to start learning anything, and since I have all his books, I had to have him sign the latest. Rock star moment. Really nice guy.

Jane Pratt

Jane Pratt, publishing mogul of such things as Sassy and Jane Magazines and now xojane.com gave a predictably edgy talk with advice like “Torch Your Bridges” and “Never outgrow your blind ambition.” (Oh, and “Don’t be drunk all day”…practical, yes). She is a take-no-prisoners style of successful and it was great to hear her story of climbing the ladder in the publishing world. She seems to have transitioned easily (it looks effortless from out here but I’m sure she’d disagree) from print to online media because her content has remained up to her standards the whole time. A good lesson about the content being key and not the medium.

Glee and Mee

Lastly, as a total random surprise, I got to let my inner Gleek shine. It’s not something I talk about a lot, but since I have already confessed my love of pop music, it really isn’t that much of a surprise that I love a weekly comedy/drama centered around high school kids (who are really all way out of high school in real life but whatever) who sing awesome covers of pop songs to avoid having to speak their true feelings? No, it should not surprise you.

The Roku Lounge (where they invite you to come in and “lounge” to escape the craziness of nerd panels and then also try to sell you a Roku TV box) tweeted that Kevin McHale (Artie) and Melissa Benoist (Marley) would be answering questions in the lounge on Sunday. I kind of suspected they would be “live via satellite” like Mariah Carey does whenever she has to be anywhere, but no…there they were, in all their Glee Glory. They chatted and answered questions (so when they’re not filming they go do the Glee live show and tour the country…awesome) and then signed things for all of us. It was enough to make me want to bust out into a Rihanna/Ke$ha mashup.

Well. Here I sit pressed deep into the cushions of my couch because I haven’t seen it for a week. It was an amazing seven days full of a lot of discoveries, ideas, cool people, Austin culture, and walking. I’ll be recapping different things in different posts, but here’s a general overview of the conference side of things.

Here’s what I packed for the week…I did pretty well.


Left to right…an iPad, various charging cables, the Interactive Pocket Guide so I could figure out what to do next, notebooks of varying sizes, 2 pens (which I used up), business cards, my trusty badge (aka Key to the Kingdom), and all of it shoved into my Timbuk2 backpack which worked like a champ. Boom.


This shuttle became very handy because the venues for SXSW Interactive were spread far and wide downtown. Some talks were at the Long Center a bit removed from the main downtown area, but most were at a cluster of hotels near the Convention Center. There was a half hour between panels and some were more popular than others…meaning massive lines if you didn’t get there early. Basically, this reminded me of the semester in college when I had a class at the top of campus followed by a class 15 minutes later in the engineering area on campus which was tucked far away and even running usually made me late. Except I HAD to go to that class, and here if you can’t get into a panel, you pick another one. Ideally in the same building.


I only missed out on one panel (something about Storytelling with NPR’s Michele Norris whom I love), but a lot of folks were having to Plan B it a lot. This is the issue when 24,000 geeks descend for a conference.

Technology at SXSWi

Thankfully my friend Chad was attending as well so he showed me the ropes of getting to the right panels in the right places. We didn’t match schedules a ton but it was good to have someone to compare notes with (and gripe about lines and rejoice about awesome food truck tacos).

SXSWi Panel

Most people took notes on their laptops. The power bill at the convention center must be insane this month. Everywhere you looked people were shoving plugs into walls for tiny bits of juice to get them through the next panel. Many companies had “charging lounges” set up to kindly let you plug things in, until you realized it was a giant ploy to market things as you while you brought your phone back to life.

Notes from SXSWi

I took notes the old fashioned way, because I always have and I think it makes me remember things better. I plan to compile all these notes into a document of things I learned…forthcoming this weekend (I hope).

More in the next post about speakers and celebrity encounters, because that’s what I was really there for. Just kidding. But really, celebrities. Oh, and some music.

Here we go! A million thank yous to Cari for this badge. I will try to live up to its Platinum status. Current favorite perk: when you can get into all 3 conferences, they give you a tote bag for each one. Tote bag nerd? Yes I am.