‘Nebraska’ Writer Bob Nelson A Fan Of Midwesterners, Despite What Some Critics Might Say

Screenwriter Bob Nelson, who was born in Yankton.

As promised, I present to you the interview I did with “Nebraska” screenwriter Bob Nelson for the Press & Dakotan:

Despite what you might have heard, Bob Nelson really does like Midwesterners.
The Yankton-born screenwriter of the new motion picture “Nebraska” was moved to Washington by his parents within weeks of his birth. However, he returned to Hartington, Neb., and Wausa, Neb., during his youth to visit family and grew fond of the Great Plains.
So why is there any question of Nelson’s affection for the people of this region?
Amid the critical praise for “Nebraska” and speculation that Nelson could be nominated for an Academy Award for the screenplay, a line of criticism has emerged accusing Nelson and director Alexander Payne, who still maintains a home in Omaha, Neb., of making fun of their Midwest characters.
In the film, a father (Woody, played by Dern) and his estranged son (David, played by Forte) travel together from Montana to Nebraska after Woody becomes convinced he has won a $1 million sweepstakes prize.
Take, for example, this summation of “Nebraska” by Keith Uhlich in Time Out New York: “For the most part, I found Alexander Payne’s American heartland drama, ‘Nebraska,’ a rank exercise in hicksploitation sentimentalism.”
Richard Corliss of Time wrote: “You have to wonder, though, whether either Montanans or Nebraskans would warm to Payne’s group portrait, which veers between social satire and deadpan contempt.”
Nelson took issue with such criticism in a recent email interview with the Press & Dakotan.
“I think those reviewers are much more condescending toward Midwesterners than anything they mistakenly believe Alexander is doing in ‘Nebraska’ (and has been criticized for in previous films),” he stated. “It’s as if they feel they have to be the protectors of these poor, simple rural folk being made fun of by Hollywood. If anything, I think Payne is mocking the people who think he’s mocking people. There’s one message I’ve always taken from Payne and Coen brothers movies: There are good and bad and silly and serious people everywhere you go. Whether Alexander is shooting in Nebraska, California or Hawaii, there are going to be smart and stupid characters, evil and good characters — and amazingly, some of them will possess all of those qualities in seemingly contradictory ways, just like real people.”
Based on the criteria of the aforementioned critics, Nelson said the inhabitants of Manhattan should be livid at Woody Allen for the movies he’s made that poke fun at them.
“I don’t really know what to say to people who don’t get that Alexander loves these people and doesn’t put himself above them in any way,” he stated. “He knows that they have a sense of humor about their lifestyle in a way that people from the coasts might be lacking of their own and, in fact, ‘Nebraska’ has played great to most of the people of the state so far. My own relatives there had wry and wicked senses of humor.”
One scene that has been mentioned by critics as an example of the disdain Nelson and Payne have for Midwesterners involves a group of men silently watching a game on television.
“There’s a long shot of the extended family gawking like lobotomy patients at a sports game,” wrote A.A. Dowd of The A.V. Club. Corliss entertainingly described it as a group of men “wordlessly watching a baseball game as if auditioning for a reality show based on Grant Wood’s ‘American Gothic.’”
In fact, the scene was inspired by a real-life experience Nelson had while visiting his family in Nebraska.
“What I see is several men who worked hard all their lives and gave up their bodies to put food on our tables,” he said. “The fact that they’re not jabbering every minute while watching TV is just a different way of being, not a character flaw. And it is somewhat humorous to watch — just as watching a bunch of elites from the coasts watching TV and yammering away trying to be clever every minute would be somewhat humorous to portray.”

Nelson said some reviews have also claimed that the story makes Midwesterners look greedy and envious.
“That says a lot about those reviewers’ perception, as there is only one townsfolk who wants a cut (of Woody’s supposed sweepstakes winnings),” he stated. “Most of the others are kind, intelligent and very happy for Woody. And out of all the kin at the family gathering, only four of them ask for a handout.
“It’s amazing to me how people perceive things so differently,” Nelson continued. “Personally, I don’t know how someone can watch the entire film and not realize the tremendous love and respect that Alexander, and I, have for these characters, even the ones with faults — which is to say, all of us.”
“Nebraska” did get a positive review from one of the most important critics in Nelson’s life — his mother.
“My mom loved it,” he said. “I had warned her about some language, so the first thing she said as she turned to me in the Chinese Theatre (where the film premiered in Los Angeles) was, ‘I didn’t think there was that much swearing.’ But she liked the old-fashioned story, loved the acting and has been a big Alexander Payne fan since spending a few days on set with him.”
For those who have seen the movie, she plays the character of “Woman #1 Going to the Salad Bar” in the karaoke scene.
“I think she nailed it,” Nelson added.
Payne’s finished film closely reflects the look and feel Nelson had in his head while writing “Nebraska.”
“I listened to a lot of Emmylou Harris during the writing process, particularly her spare but very emotional albums ‘Wrecking Ball’ and ‘Red Dirt Girl,’ in which she has a lot of songs about regret and the human condition — the need to communicate, to feel needed and loved,” Nelson said. “I think Alexander captured those notions and themes I was aiming for very well.”
Nelson said the overall response to “Nebraska” has exceeded his expectations.
“The reviews are even better than I’d hoped, and so many people have told me what an impact it had on them — from laughter to tears,” he stated. “I cherish that.
“Another wonderful part of this whole journey was sharing it with my mom  — from taking her to the set for a week to taking her to Los Angeles for the Chinese Theatre premiere. She even walked the red carpet with me.”
Nelson hopes the success of “Nebraska” will help him get financing for other projects. For example, he wants to direct a screenplay he wrote called “The Tribe,” which has “Community” and “Talk Soup” star Joel McHale attached to it.
“Just this week, I put out another original script for me to direct called ‘The Confirmation,’ which could be done on a smaller budget than ‘The Tribe,’” Nelson said. “So I’ve got two scripts out there, and will spend the winter writing another.”

Who Is The Best Director Bruce Dern Has Ever Worked With? We’ll Find The Answer In ‘Nebraska’

Film Streams' Feature V - Payne, Forte & Dern - Photo by Chris Machian

Photo by Chris Machian
Public radio host Kurt Andersen interviews the director of the new film “Nebraska,” Alexander Payne, and stars Will Forte and Bruce Dern on Sunday, Nov. 24, in Omaha, Neb. Later, another of the film’s actors, June Squibb, surprised the audience by joining the conversation. The event celebrated Film Streams’ Ruth Sokolof Theater, Omaha’s non-profit cinema. In excess of 1,600 people attended, and more than $300,000 were raised to support Film Streams programs.

Nebraska, Nebraska, Nebraska …

I’ve been writing about Nebraska a lot recently, and it’s got nothing to do with the state’s football team.

Rather, it’s because of the revelatory new film by Omahan Alexander Payne called “Nebraska.”

My brother was kind enough to buy me a ticket to an Omaha event this past weekend featuring Payne, Bruce Dern, Will Forte and June Squibb. It was an insightful, funny evening that I won’t soon forget.

I decided to write up the event in a story for the Press & Dakotan.

I’ll have more “Nebraska” content on the blog in the coming days. I did an interview with screenwriter Bob Nelson earlier this week.


OMAHA, Neb. — Veteran actor Bruce Dern has worked with some of the cinema’s most revered directors — Alfred Hitchcock, Elia Kazan and Francis Ford Coppola among them — but he believes the best director he has acted under is Omaha’s Alexander Payne.
“I would say, on the basis of my entire career, Alexander Payne is probably the best director I’ve ever worked with,” Dern told an audience at Omaha’s Holland Performing Arts Center Sunday. “The difference is, he has a wonderfully warm approachability. He’s your partner. He’s right where you are. He’s watching the scenes happen for the first time. He knows the script is good. He knows his crew is good. He hires us because he knows we’re (the people to play) the parts. You do it until he believes it, and I will trust his belief more than any other director I’ve ever worked with.”
With the recent release of Payne’s new film, “Nebraska,” Dern joined the director, as well as stars Will Forte and June Squibb, for “Feature V.” The annual event is a fundraiser for Omaha’s Film Streams, a nonprofit cinema that focuses on independent and foreign films. This year, it raised more than $300,000 for the organization.
The 90-minute event was attended by an audience of more than 1,600 people that took every opportunity to express its affection for Payne, “Nebraska” and its stars.
“Nebraska” premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in May, where Dern earned the best actor award. It received a limited release in select U.S. cities, including Omaha, earlier this month and has received mostly positive reviews — including speculation that it could be nominated for several Academy Awards.
The film was written by Bob Nelson, who was born in Yankton shortly before being moved to Washington with his parents. “Nebraska” is the first movie Payne has directed that he hasn’t also had a hand in writing.
In the film, a father (Woody, played by Dern) and his estranged son (David, played by Forte) travel together from Montana to Nebraska after Woody becomes convinced he has won a $1 million sweepstakes prize. The black-and-white film explores family ties, jealousy and rural America with a unique mixture of drama and comedy that has come to define Payne’s films.
Kurt Andersen, a Nebraska native who is an author and hosts “Studio 360” on public radio, moderated “Feature V.”
“The thing that is often said, in a joking way, about movies or plays is that, ‘You’ll laugh, you’ll cry,’” Andersen told Payne. “I don’t know anyone making films today of whom that is truer than you. I literally cried, and I literally laughed while watching ‘Nebraska.’ Can you imagine doing one or the other?”
Payne said he believes that he essentially makes comedies. “Nebraska” is his sixth film and comes on the heels of the 2011 film, “The Descendants,” which starred George Clooney.
“Even in ‘The Descendants,’ which had a lot of dreariness and ‘boo hoo’ in it … I tried to do it with a light touch,” Payne stated. “It has all that drama in it, but the question I got asked the most was, ‘How did you get George Clooney to run so funny?’”
While scouting locations for “Nebraska,” Payne said he was looking for small towns that had a plainness to them. He ended up shooting in Plainview, Neb., and other communities in the Norfolk, Neb., area.
“In northeastern Nebraska, (the towns) are just a little more austere. The screenplay suggested a certain deadpan austerity,” Payne stated, while also addressing the decision to shoot in the fall and winter months. “I felt this story could be most painful and most beautiful, quite frankly, with leafless trees. In the movie, you’ll see the skeletons of trees. We made a big point of really showing trees; overcast skies; beautiful, fluffy clouds; and stubbly corn fields.”
Payne said that he was convinced from the beginning that “Nebraska” needed to be a black-and-white film. However, the decision meant he had to settle for a smaller budget to make it. The film was produced for $13.5 million, but he could have gotten approximately $16.5 million had it been made in color.
“I didn’t know just how cheap it was going to have to be,” Payne said. “At that budget range, a million dollars really makes a big difference.”
Because of studio commitments, he said a color version was made with an early 1970s look to it.
While Payne said it is beautiful, “it’s not appropriate for this film. I saw it once, quickly, in fast forward.”
The director released his first feature film, “Citizen Ruth,” in 1996. After his fourth film, “Sideways,” it took seven years before Payne made “The Descendants.”
He said he would make a film a year if he could.
“What slows me down is screenplays. It’s all about the screenplay,” Payne stated. “I’m not like Woody Allen or other guys who, with great discipline, sit down every day and crank them out and have a plethora of ideas. I’m just slower than that. I’m pretty fast once I get directing and editing. I’ve written for myself out of desperation.”
While television is experiencing a golden age of innovation and storytelling, Payne said good screenplays are harder to find.
“Movies are far more like cartoons,” he stated.
Now in his 50s, Payne said he hopes he can maintain the energy and good health needed to direct a film.
“I feel like I’m just getting started, just sharpening my pencil,” he stated. “These first six films are fine, but I’d like to think they’re minor works compared to the stuff coming up.”
After being welcomed out on stage, Forte, a “Saturday Night Live” veteran, was asked if he learned anything about Nebraska while shooting the film in the state.
“I learned that you don’t have late-night food options,” he joked to a round of applause.
“I had not spent a lot of time in the heartland,” Forte added on a more serious note. “It was amazing. They were so welcoming. I felt right at home.”
Acting in a dramatic role, he said he appreciated both the good and bad aspects of his character, David.
“It’s closer to real life than anything I’ve ever done,” Forte stated.
Growing up in Chicago, Dern said his family didn’t allow him to travel west for reasons he still doesn’t understand — even though his grandfather grew up in Hooper, Neb., and Fremont, Neb., before the family moved to Utah.
Dern said he appreciates the values of the Great Plains.
“The principles of this part of the country start right close to the Iowa-Illinois border,” he stated. “There is a sense of fairness. There is a sense of pride. There is a sense of honesty that you don’t find among the corridors of Lake Michigan or back east, whether it’s Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts or along the coast.”
Although many have suggested that Squibb steals scenes as Woody’s brash and sometimes foul-mouthed wife, Dern joked that an actor has to get up pretty early in the morning to steal a scene from him. Rather, he suggested that Squibb did what was required of her for the role.
Despite being hard on Woody, Squibb said she never doubted that her character loved her husband.
“I knew this woman — why she was doing what she was doing,” Squibb said. “When I saw the film, I thought ‘My God, that’s my mother.’ She had two sisters that were crazy, too. It’s sort of in my genes.”


If you’re in need of a laugh, check out this clip from the film. Don’t worry, it doesn’t contain any real spoilers.

‘Doctor Who,’ I Love You: A Look Back At 50 Years Of Fighting The Good Fight


© BBC 2013
The First Doctor (William Hartnell), the Second Doctor (Patrick Troughton), the Third Doctor (Jon Pertwee), the Fourth Doctor (Tom Baker), the Fifth Doctor (Peter Davison), the Sixth Doctor (Colin Baker), the Seventh Doctor (Sylvester McCoy), the Eighth Doctor (Paul McGann), the Ninth Doctor (Christopher Eccleston), the Tenth Doctor (David Tennant) and the Eleventh Doctor (Matt Smith).

Who taught me to love “Doctor Who?”

No one.

It was a rare case of love at first sight.

I came across the long-running British science fiction show in my youth while exploring PBS in the after-school hours. It was there among episodes of “Square One” and “Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego?”

Compared to those education programs, it was otherworldly.

Of course, it WAS otherworldly.

The Doctor, a Time Lord who could travel through time and space in a TARDIS that was stuck in the form of a British police box, visited foreign planets, even other universes, and inevitably was faced with an evil menace he felt compelled to subdue.

The mostly primitive special effects in the original run of the series, which were and still are derided by many adult viewers, served to make the show all the more authentic and powerful in my young eyes.

Speaking of eyes, like many American viewers, my first encounter with the program featured the wild-eyed, scarf-cloaked fourth Doctor played by Tom Baker.

Between the three PBS channels we received, I could catch “Doctor Who” every day of the week. That made it easy for me to catch up on the years of adventures the Doctor and his companions had managed to accumulate since 1963.

The Doctor was a hero to me. He prized intelligence over violence. However, that did not stop him from taking a stand against evil. He was fearless, and his curiosity always got the better of him.

These were qualities I admired.

Plus, he always had a strange assortment of items in his coat pockets, a trait I had also acquired.

I suppose “Doctor Who” fueled my interest in aliens, the supernatural and other strange topics at a young age — an interest that was also helped along by “The X-Files” in later years.

My intense interest in “Doctor Who” was a bit of a mystery to my parents, who tolerated the show but declined to become engaged with it. My grandparents and an uncle were more understanding. I could talk to them about this wily Time Lord. In fact, my grandpa would sit down and watch the show with me on occasion, and I would dutifully explain to him what was occurring.

Once I became acquainted with all seven Doctors featured in the original 25-year run of the series, I decided that the seventh Doctor, played by Sylvester McCoy, was my favorite. I liked the darkness that lurked within his incarnation. He was the jester, but he seemingly pulled all of the strings.

When it was announced that the show would be revived in 2005, I was elated.

I had never stopped watching “Doctor Who,” listening to the audio adventures produced by Big Finish or reading the novels.

The Doctor was still very much alive to me, and to hear he would be returning to the screen was a dream I had nurtured since learning of the show’s 1989 cancellation.

I knew “Doctor Who” was an amazing creation, especially with its ingenious concept of the regenerating Time Lord that allowed various actors to be cast in the role, but even I have been surprised by the mainstream popularity the show has attained in America.

The cult of “Doctor Who” was increasingly forgotten as PBS channels gradually dropped the show from their schedules. When I mentioned my love of the program, most people had faint memories of Tom Baker fighting off a creature whose intimidation factor was handicapped by dodgy special effects. That was about it.

Now, “Doctor Who” is a genuinely mainstream phenomenon, and the show has even acquired a large female fan base thanks in no small part to the casting of some young and charismatic actors in the role of the Doctor.

It’s a bit hard to believe how far the franchise has come since my childhood.

As we get ready to officially celebrate the 50th anniversary of “Doctor Who,” I cannot fully express the joy I feel to have “Doctor Who” in my life and my gratitude to the hundreds of people who have brought it into existence all these years in various formats. To think I’ll be sharing that joy with people in at least 75 countries when the anniversary special is simulcast today places a warmth in my heart so reassuring I’m tempted to believe I have two hearts. (Note to non-“Doctor Who” fans: The Doctor has two hearts.) 🙂

The Doctor is still my hero.

I hold out hope that one day I’ll earn my TARDIS and fight evil and injustice alongside him …

Could President John F. Kennedy Travel In Time? A Look At The Evidence

KennedyIt is curious to observe just how much the speech President John F. Kennedy was prepared to deliver in Dallas on this day in 1963 echoes our modern times. Some of the words of what is known as “The Unspoken Speech” could just as easily have been written by a president today.

In the undelivered speech, Kennedy states:

There will always be dissident voices heard in the land, expressing opposition without alternatives, finding fault but never favor, perceiving gloom on every side and seeking influence without responsibility. Those voices are inevitable.

But today other voices are heard in the land — voices preaching doctrines wholly unrelated to reality, wholly unsuited to the sixties, doctrines which apparently assume that words will suffice without weapons, that vituperation is as good as victory and that peace is a sign of weakness. At a time when the national debt is steadily being reduced in terms of its burden on our economy, they see that debt as the greatest single threat to our security. At a time when we are steadily reducing the number of Federal employees serving every thousand citizens, they fear those supposed hordes of civil servants far more than the actual hordes of opposing armies.

We cannot expect that everyone, to use the phrase of a decade ago, will “talk sense to the American people.” But we can hope that fewer people will listen to nonsense. And the notion that this Nation is headed for defeat through deficit, or that strength is but a matter of slogans, is nothing but just plain nonsense.

Does any of this seem to resonate with the present in your mind?

John F. Kennedy, time traveller? You decide.

You can read the full speech here.

For a more serious look at Kennedy and his legacy, take a look at my story in the Press & Dakotan today.

What NOT To Get Your Sweetheart For Christmas

Were you not given the gift of giving good gifts?

Hey, we all have our shortcomings.

When Christmas rolls around, do people leave you out of the Secret Santa circle?

There’s always next year, man. Just you wait and see.

When you say, “I come bearing gifts,” does your significant other run out of the room faster than a millipede on steroids?

Well, if it’s that bad, you should probably just throw in the wrapping paper. I honestly don’t know if I can help you.

But that’s not going to stop me from trying.

I’ve got some solid tips here on what NOT to get your sweetheart that I hope will enable you to select something she’ll love.

1. If you are getting a gift because you want it, don’t get it.

You asked her what she wants for Christmas. She told you it would be nice to get tickets to see “Les Misérables.” You go online to the ticket vendor and notice that your favorite musician, Jimmy Buffet, is going to be in town around the same time.

“Wow. This could be a win-win,” you think. “She loves ‘Why Don’t We Get Drunk?’ and maybe she’ll want to do what the lyrics suggest next if I just get these tickets instead.”

Stop right there. I admit I see your logic, but …

She was kind enough to tell you what she wanted. That is often top secret information that you don’t get. Don’t screw this up.

Get her what she asked for, shed your tears during the musical and maybe she’ll want to go to Margaritaville afterward.

Just remember: Chances are that if you want the gift you are buying, she doesn’t.

2. Don’t imagine the person you are buying the gift for is someone she is not.

One of my biggest Christmas failures occurred in the early years of Internet shopping.

I found an online retailer that had all kinds of cool stuff for low, low prices. I couldn’t resist.

I got a big, awesome coffee machine, because who wouldn’t want a big, awesome coffee machine?

I got a beautiful, comfortable bed sheet set for the same reason.

I even purchased some really precious candle holders that I thought could add a lot of character to any room.

There was just one problem with all these great, discounted gifts: She didn’t want any of them.

She didn’t drink that much coffee. She had perfectly fine bed sheets (that were actually the size of her bed). And she couldn’t have candles where she was living.

It wasn’t that I wanted these things. It was that I let what appeared to be deals take precedence over the person who was receiving the gifts.

I was driven to imagine her as being someone I should have known she was not.

That kind of exercise in gift purchasing will always result in failure.

3. Don’t give a joke gift unless you are prepared for the possible consequences.

It’s one thing to buy a joke gift for a friend. It’s another to buy one for your significant other.

Let’s explore this in story form:

Once upon a time there was a king who loved his wife very much.

One cold morning in the midst of November, the young prince and princess were talking with the queen.

“Queen Mother,” they said, “Father told us not to tell you this, but he got you a diamond ring for Christmas.”

The queen was delighted. Sunbeams emerged from the sky and illuminated her face. It had already been such a long, cold season, and the thought of a new diamond ring from her husband filled her with warmth.

Finally, Christmas arrived. The queen had not revealed the knowledge she held but anxiously awaited her gift.

Once in her lap, she opened it with fervor. But what greeted her gaze in that small box was not a diamond ring.

In fact, it wasn’t even close.

What was in that box was a dime on a ring.

Yes, the king had instructed his finest craftsman to create a “dime-on ring.”

He rolled with laughter, as did the prince and princess.

That night, a mysterious dragon laid siege upon the castle and the king, prince and princess were never seen again.

However, it is said that the queen was seen in the following days with a large diamond ring on her finger.

Need I say more?

4. Don’t buy gifts that put undue pressure on her.

This may sound confusing at first, but I’ll quickly clear things up for you.

“Honey, I thought I’d get you this size 0 swimming suit because you’ve been so successful at losing weight that I know you’ll be there in no time.”

Let’s ignore the fact that you’re already treading on thin ice because you’ve become dangerously close to saying she should lose weight but have put some nuance into it that could allow you to reach the shore safely.

Now, let’s reverse the scenario: “Honey, I bought you a Speedo because (see above).”

You don’t want that, and she might not want a size 0 swimming suit. Ever. But now there is pressure to one day wear that size 0 swimming suit. That’s not cool.

Here is a better idea: Get her some perks to reward the good work she is already doing.

“Honey, I noticed that the gym you work out at has these great massage packages. I hope you enjoy some sessions after your workouts.”

You, sir, have just become a hero.

5. When you actually find a good gift, don’t try to make it the gift that keeps on giving.

It is so tempting.

You think back to last year and how hard it was to find a gift. But, lo and behold, she loved that Doctor Who collector’s coffee mug. And, wow, there are nine more mugs in the set! You’ve got your next nine gifts planned!

Like I said, it’s tempting.

But you can’t do it.

Not only is the element of surprise going to be gone after the second mug, but she might just assume you are no longer trying. Heck, maybe you don’t even care about the relationship anymore. Maybe it’s stagnant, just like your stupid Doctor Who coffee mug gifts!

No matter how terrible you are at buying gifts, the most important thing is to keep on trying.

If you weren’t born with the gift of giving good gifts, it’s something only practice can change. But as you climb that learning curve, be kind to others and get gifts that are returnable. At the end of the day, they’ll at least thank you for that.

(This piece was written for the Nov./Dec. edition of Her Voice and can be viewed here.)

An Unexpected Homecoming: Memorial For Local Soldier Travels From Pennsylvania To Yankton

Every once in a while, a story comes along that punches you in the gut.

I had that experience earlier this fall when putting together a story for a special section the Press & Dakotan did on veterans.

Thanks to the help of the local VFW Post, I learned that a memorial stone for a Vietnam veteran had been transported from its original home in Pennsylvania to the soldier’s final resting place in Yankton.

That soldier was Dave Hevle.

The story struck me, in part, because Hevle was such a young man when he was killed by a mine in Vietnam. What really impressed me, however, were the efforts of quite a few people in Pennsylvania and elsewhere to get the memorial to Yankton. It had been more or less forgotten at a Girl Scout Camp and was a mystery to the people who decided to take an interest in it.

It’s only because of their efforts that the stone is now where everybody agrees it should be.

I thought today would be an appropriate time to highlight Dave Hevle’s service and the story of a memorial Girl Scouts in Pennsylvania made for him.

During my research for the story, I dug up the Press & Dakotan’s coverage of Hevle’s funeral in April 1967:


Below is the story I wrote for the special section. If you’d like to see how it looked in the paper with photos of Hevle and the stone, click here.






It’s Official: I Love Austin (Weird And Wonderful Highlights Edition)

I feel we’ve established that I really love Austin.

“Seems like you’re U-hauling right into that relationship,” I can hear you saying.

It’s actually funny that you say that, because that was one of the phrases I overheard in Austin!

(Please feign your surprise here.)

Yeah, I was waiting for Grimes to begin her set at the Austin City Limits Music Festival when I overheard a gentleman talking about the man with whom he had recently fallen in love. “I’m U-hauling right into that relationship,” he said.

I’d never heard it put that way before, and I thought it was clever. Where I’m from, we still say, “I’m horse and buggying it right into that relationship.”


So I swear I’m just going to write this one last love letter to Austin and then I’ll move on …

While there, I walked into a Barnes & Noble and went for the magazine rack.

One of the first publications I spotted was this one:

DepecheModeMagazineAustinAs you recall, I was in Austin to see Depeche Mode.

I took this as a sign that the rock gods were smiling upon me and letting me know I was in the right place.

It seems they “Never Let Me Down.”


Sometimes a man needs a crown.

I was wandering around the cool South Congress area, or SoCo, when I spotted the Goorin Bros. Hat Shop.

Suddenly, I felt like my baseball cap wasn’t making the stylistic statement I needed to make.

After an hour of searching (that’s more time than I’ve spent in the last year shopping for clothes, as you can probably tell), I emerged with this little number. I feel like it gets me, and I love it with all my heart.

HatAustinObviously, the feather puts the exclamation point on this fashion statement. The staff at Goorin Bros. were friendly beyond words (Would you like a free cocktail?), and they obviously knew I was a bird of a different feather when selecting this rich red and yellow feather combo for me.

Yes, if you ask nicely, you can touch them. But ask nicely, please.


For years, I have been reading Ain’t It Cool News.

Harry Knowles and company definitely played a role in cultivating my love for film and making sure that my tastes ran the gamut from 1970s exploitation films to high-minded abstractions with subtitles.

Through that site is where I learned about The Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, an almost mythological paradise for film fans — but it’s very real. They demand respect from audience members (absolutely no talking or phone usage) and provide a full menu during the film (why, yes, I’ll have a Maker’s Mark milk shake and wings. Thank you.)

The Alamo has been expanding its chain across the U.S. and actually has a venue as close to Yankton as Kansas City.

While in Austin, I went to the Alamo Ritz along Sixth Street for their Weird Wednesday showing.

It was a 70s exploitation flick called “Fight for Your Life” that played up racial tensions in a way that is so offensive that there is no way it could be made today (at least I don’t think it could). However, it was definitely the kind of weird and memorable experience a person looks for on a vacation. Thank you, Alamo!

Even the trailer for the film is NSFW:


the black heart austinWe visited many establishments during our time in Austin, doing our best to get a local flavor (so to speak).

We found our way to the Rainey Street Historic District more than once because we enjoyed it quite a bit. It’s as if one of the historic neighborhoods near downtown Yankton happened to be nestled in a booming redevelopment area and, instead of residences, those historic homes were converted into bars and restaurants.

I know there are some Austin residents who aren’t pleased with the gentrification that has occurred, but I can say as a visitor to the city without that historical perspective it was a fascinating destination and one I recommend.

My favorite venue was The Blackheart. I love the name and feel of the place.

I also really enjoyed their drink called “The Gentleman Caller.” It was delicious.

I should probably mention that it’s where I tried my first glass of mezcal, which I would compare to a smokey tequila. I had to check that experience off my list.

Bands also perform there, and we accidentally caught a good one that played a midnight set — though I never did get its name.


The final day of the music festival was canceled because of rain.

However, Franz Ferdinand managed to schedule a free show at a venue called Infest.

We had some logistics problems and didn’t get there in time to get inside.

However, they had a side door open that allowed latecomers like us to hear the show as if we were inside.

We kept our distance from the entrance, bobbing our heads with the music.

Security started clearing the doorway suddenly and we were a bit confused. Before we knew it, the band emerged, and we were shaking hands and swapping sweat (did I mention it was really hot in Austin?) with lead singer Alex Kapranos. The rock gods came through again!


What vacation would be complete without going to the 80s dance night at the local goth club?

No vacation!

The nice thing about a place like Elysium is that everyone is allowed to do their own thing, so everyone has a good time.

It was a great way to end a successful vacation.

Except, that wasn’t quite the end.

We each grabbed a slice of pizza on the way back to the car. I finished mine in the parking lot and went to throw away the trash.

That’s when I looked over and noticed that 20 feet away was a beautiful woman who had decided to bare the top half of her body while talking to some people on the street.

I’m not sure what prompted it. I overheard something about “art.”

I did not cast any judgment upon her. I just smiled and expressed my gratitude once again to the rock gods for letting me know I was in the right place. That was the resonating final image of the downtown I was forced (forced, I tell you) to take home …

Yes, I love you, Austin.

And I can’t help but feel like you love me, just a little bit …

Immature Thoughts: An Interview With Yankton’s Viral Vine Celebrity


Travis Potts (captured in character above) of Yankton has amassed a following of 178,693 Vine users. That places him in the top 320 most popular Vine accounts out of the service’s approximately 40 million registered users.

They may be immature, but they are often darn funny, too.

That’s what I’ve thought of the Vine videos made by Travis Potts, who posts under the name Travis ImImmature Potts.

Vine, for those of you who don’t know, is a video-sharing app that allows users to make 6-second videos that loop continuously until the viewer stops them.

While much younger than me, Potts comes from my hometown of Crofton, Neb. I first became familiar with his Vine videos and success through his uncle, who I count among my best friends.

Funnily enough, I see A LOT of this particular uncle in Potts, and I am waiting for them to team up. Ha.

Potts has amassed more than 178,000 Vine followers — placing him within the 320 most popular Vine accounts out of the service’s approximately 40 million registered users — and some of his videos have been viewed hundreds of thousands of times.

If you don’t like male nudity, crossdressing, questionable judgment and, well, some immaturity, you should probably steer clear of Potts’ videos.

But when I watch his work, I see someone using a social media venue to express his fun creative vision and reach out to an audience that may appreciate his sensibilities more than the somewhat reserved culture of the rural Great Plains.

While I admittedly shake my head at some of the material (because I’m OLD, guys), I more often find myself laughing. Potts and his friends seem to be having fun. It is infectious, and if you want to join in the party, they seem like the kind of people who would be cool with that.

Potts agreed to do an interview with An Inland Voyage so we could get to know more about him and his Vine success.

1) Tell us about where you grew up, what you do and who you are.

I actually grew up in Crofton, Neb., and lived there the majority of my life. I attended middle school and high school there. After high school, I wanted to further my schooling and went to Northeast Community College for wind energy. I had pursued the wind energy field for about a year and realized it really wasn’t what I wanted to do with my life, so I quit there and ended up getting a job at Hatch Furniture (in Yankton), where I currently work. I manage the Delivery, Service, and Warehouse department there.

2) How did you begin using Vine? What was the first video you made?

I began using Vine a couple months ago when I saw a few of my friends using the app. They weren’t making videos at all. They had just made an account to watch other people’s videos. I downloaded the app when I was at my sisters house and had made my first few videos there involving my niece and nephews. Needless to say, they weren’t very good videos. Ha. When I first downloaded the app, I saw it  was all about stop-motion videoing, which the 6-second app is intended for, so that’s what I aimed to do.
3) Based on your output, I assume you really enjoyed the experience. How long did it take for you to realize you were pretty good at it and other people were taking notice?

The more videos I ended up posting on Vine, the more responses I was getting from surrounding friends, or people within the local community. It didn’t take too long for me to realize that people were taking notice of my vines, but it did take me a while to actually realize I had a comic niche when it came to making them.

4) You have more than 178,000 followers. Have you been surprised by the success and have you felt any pressure to keep producing videos and gain more followers?

I have been very, very surprised by the success of my vines! I have always used social networks as some sort of comic relief, and never take any of them too seriously. I always use my Facebook/Twitter as a place to make people laugh as well, but not on the level that I do with Vine. I really am stuck between the line as of right now of either pursuing getting a larger follower account and seeing if this Vine thing could pay off for me, or just laying low, and continuing making goofy videos for my own humorous pleasure. Yes, from time to time I feel pressure to keep producing videos, but as soon as I do I just take a step back to realize that it is just an app, and I do it purely to make my friends and I laugh. I don’t do it for a job, so why feel pressured?

5) Has your Vine success changed your day-to-day life at all?

My Vine success really hasn’t impacted my life much. I don’t get free meals, or anything like that, but most of the time when I go out in public now I get asked to take a picture with someone, or someone will come up and tell me how much they enjoy watching my vines. It’s almost like being famous in a small town. Ha.

6) Your videos are generally humorous pieces. Is that a reflection of your personality, or is there something else that pushes them in that direction?

My videos do reflect my personality. I have always been an outgoing, humorous person. I am not one to care too much about others’ opinions of  myself.

7) Have the “Jackass” productions had an influence on what you do? What woud you say are your influences?

I cant say that the “Jackass” productions have influenced me much as far as making my vines goes. I guess my biggest influence when it came to making vines was YouTube. I have been an avid YouTube user for years now, and I’ve always wanted to make a YouTube channel, but never had any motivation to do so, and had lacked the knowledge to do so. So when I figured out about Vine, I knew this was similar to YouTube and would give me the chance to try out video making.

8) You and your friends seem pretty comfortable with nudity on screen. Are you just pre-empting any damage future sex tapes could do to your career, or is it a demonstration of the lengths you will go for art? 🙂

Haha. Im not really sure what is up with all of the nudity in my vines, but my followers get a kick out of it. It’s kind of weird how comfortable we are around each other naked. Haha. It’s easiest just to say that I have an odd group of friends.

9) You’ve done a lot of stunts in public places like retail stores. One video even had your friend supposedly being arrested after you got naked and pulled a fire alarm at a well-known chain. Is everything you do for real, or are there some theatrics involved?

I won’t give away my secrets, but yes, there are theatrics involved! We have never gotten in trouble for a vine we did. Also, whenever we have a Vine scene in a retail store we ALWAYS make sure to go back and clean up our mess! We never damage anything either, but if we were too, we would gladly pay for it!

10) Have you felt pressure to do crazier stunts as you become more popular?

I’ve never really felt pressure to do crazier stunts as I became popular. However, I always am thinking of ways to do crazier stunts because that’s just who I am. Without Vine, I’ve always found myself doing some pretty odd things. Ha.

11) Several of your videos have addressed the followers who have questioned your sexuality. How do you feel about that issue, and do the commenters take that issue to a negative and derogatory place?

Actually, growing up I was always made fun of for being a “faggot,” “queer,” “gaywad,” etc., by relatives, classmates, strangers, etc. Believe it or not, I have actually been called those names by teachers, old bosses, and co-workers, also. It’s just something I’ve learned to deal with. It’s water under the bridge. So upon making my Vine account, I knew that was going to get brought up quite often as my follower count rose. So I just took that opportunity to make humorous vines about it. Yes, the commenters do take that issue to a negative and derogatory place a lot, but I don’t pay much attention to negative comments on there.  That’s always a downside of using social networks. There is always hate and bullying. You just have to know how to handle it properly.

12) You’ve involved your mom, girlfriend and friends in videos. Are they happy to participate or does it take some convincing? How have they reacted overall to your Vine success?

My mom shares the same humor as me but isn’t really too proud to be in my vines, as they aren’t really family-suitable material. My friends have no problem being in them and always get a kick out of being in them. It’s always their little “claim to fame.” My girlfriend, on the other hand, doesn’t like being in them at all. It always just depends on the day, I guess. Ha.

13) Which videos are you most proud of?

I cant say I am really proud of any of the vidoes I have made. Haha. Listen to this: I am really proud of one of my vines that went viral. It has almost 300,000 re-vines, 300,000 likes and 100,000 comments. What’s the video of? Oh, its a video of a kid pooping out of a moving vehicle … Haha, yeah its hard to say I’m proud of something like that! But I can say that I am proud of the responses I’ve received from my Vine account! I’ve had a growing fan base, and my vines are posted on all sorts of websites, one of the most recent ones being worldstarhiphop.com.

(EDITOR’S NOTE: Click on the link at the end of this story if you really want to see the aforementioned video. I certainly understand why it went viral, but you should know it is exactly what Potts says it is. Its description is “The Most Messed Up Thing You Will See On Vine.”)

14) Is the 6-second video format a creatively satisfying outlet? Do you have plans to branch out into other formats?

I don’t really feel as if the 6-second video format is a creatively satisfying outlet. It’s pretty challenging, actually. As of right now, I do have a few small plans to branch out into other formats, just nothing too serious yet.

15) Has Vine success led to any unexpected opportunities and/or do you have hopes that it will?

As of right now, Vine hasn’t led me to any unexpected opportunities, but I do have hope that it will! A lot of people on the app do have sponsors and are getting paid to make vines, but my vines are a little too explicit to be able to go down that route. That’s something I’m OK with.

16) What future goals do you have in mind?

I don’t really have future goals as far as Vine goes, except reaching a certain follower count.

17) Other thoughts?

Overall, I just like to use my Vine account to make people laugh. Yes, I tend to cross the line a bit, but that’s who I am. The app has an age rating on it of 18+, so I don’t feel too terribly bad about it.


If you don’t have a Vine account, you can check out Potts’ videos (which are sometimes very NSFW) here: http://seenive.com/u/940366284149948416