Friday, February 23, 2007

It Ain't About the West Side

Last call for Cowtown? Not so fast, sez Bud Kennedy in a Thursday column:

In the first place, any city with a daily cattle drive, a hall of fame for cowgirls and a Top 20 college football team named for a lizard is not in imminent danger of falling off the personality meter.

In the second place, the west side has never been what made Fort Worth funky.

If you want personality, go look on the south side. Look on West Magnolia Avenue or Blue Bonnet Circle, or over in Riverside or in one of the great north side restaurants on North Main Street.

Most of Fort Worth still has the same old spirit. Meanwhile, the west side has some very lucrative real estate deals.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Bernie Scheffler Hearts FW

Bernie Scheffler, the owner of Panther City Bicycles, is running for Fort Worth City Council in District 9. Other than having a cool bike shop, what do I like about Bernie? Let me count the ways:

  • Promoting local, independent businesses: He wants to focus on quality, not quantity growth. He favors policies promoting, small scale, local businesses.

  • Historic preservation: He wants to protect Fort Worth's architectural heritage.

  • Bike- and pedestrian-friendly FW:Fort Worth is already a pretty bike-friendly town. Bernie wants city to work with bike- and pedestrian advocacy groups to improve Cowtown's roads for non-auto traffic.

  • Light rail: He wants to get the light-rail proposal back on track.

  • You can check out Bernie's blog to see how the campaign is going.

    Bob Ray Sanders on Calvin Littlejohn

    Bob Ray Sanders reminded us of an interesting, neglected piece of local history in his column yesterday.

    Bob Ray Sanders wrote a fine remembrance of the late local photographer Calvin Littlejohn, who chronicled African-American life in Fort Worth from the 1930s to the 1990s. Littlejohn, who died in 1993, “captured much of the social, religious, educational and family life of African-Americans in Tarrant County. In addition to his studio portrait work, he had a contract with most of the black schools in town to record their activities, and he was always on hand for celebrity concerts, debutante balls, weddings, church dedications and, of course, funerals.” Check out the column and gallery of Littlejohn’s work on the Startlegram’s Web site. For a more extensive look at Littlejohn’s work, visit his online archive at the University of Texas Center for American History.

    Tuesday, February 20, 2007

    More Thoughts on "Last Call"

    Will the development along the 7th Street corridor chip away at those things that many of us love about Fort Worth? That's the question the Startlegram asked on Sunday. Some folks seemed to think the article was a little off the mark, a little bit chicken little.

    I disagree. I think the article asks an important question.

    Fort Worth is a big city that still functions on a human scale. It’s much more egalitarian than Dallas – I go to the grocery store and see Jim Wright, I go to a restaurant and see Ed Bass or Van Cliburn. I spend a lot of time in Dallas, and you just don’t see the movers and the shakers out and about. Why? Because they aren’t going to the same places you are. Everything is much more stratified.

    I like going to places like Fred’s where the yuppies and the freaks and the regular people can all get together and have a burger and cold one. That’s what I worry about Fort Worth losing. I’m not one of those people who thinks new equals bad. I think Fort Worth needs this. But I am a little skeptical because I know what happens when good intentions collide with the profit motive.

    Look at the development that’s happened in Dallas over the past 20 years: is there any “there” there anymore? There are lots of new, shiny places, but a lot of the development has been at the expense of the buildings and neighborhoods that make Dallas authentic. Is there anything left of State-Thomas in the Uptown neighborhood? Is the new Knox-Henderson an improvement over the old one? Will there be anything left of turn of the (last) century Deep Ellum after the neighborhood gets yet another makeover?

    Maybe I’m looking at it the wrong way. I like a little grit. As Tom Waits once said about his beatnik poem “Ninth and Hennepin” about life on the other side of the tracks in America, when you ask someone about Ninth and Hennepin now, they say, “Oh, yeah, my wife bought some sandals there.” Like Tom, I’m not sure this is a good thing.

    Does 7th Street need a facelift? Yes. Is it going to happen? Yes. Will it be done thoughtfully and without sacrificing the things that make the city authentic? That remains to be seen. I’m glad people are talking about it. But will it matter?

    Photo by Tim Cummins

    For another take on this: See Kevin's blog FortWorthology.

    Support Our Troops

    Sgt. Bryan Anderson is sort of the rock star of disabled Iraq war vets. One of the war's five triple amputees, he displays a sense of humor, determination and gratitude for being alive that we all could learn from. And in a weird way, he's been luckier than most. "Amputees are the first to receive celebrity visitors, job offers and extravagant trips, but Bryan is in a league of his own," the Washington Post writes. "Johnny Depp's people want to hook up in London or Paris. The actor Gary Sinise, who played an angry Vietnam amputee in "Forrest Gump," sends his regards. And Esquire magazine is setting up a photo shoot."

    But how do most disabled Iraq war veterans fare according to the same WaPo article? Not so great. We talk a good game about supporting our troops, but we don't do so well with the followthrough.

    Monday, February 19, 2007

    A Wonderful Life with a Mysterious Hole of Loneliness in the Middle

    Sometimes you'll stumble across something you've forgotten about and a lot of things kind of fall in to place. I was surfing the Times and ran into this article on siblings of autistic children and it reminded me of so may things that I have not wanted to think about:

    It wasn’t until the 1980s that many people actually began to analyze sibling relationships, and relationships between disabled and typically developing siblings in particular. With the drive toward deinstitutionalization, more kids with disabilities stayed home, and researchers started investigating what influence that really had on brothers and sisters. At first, they sought to test for the expected negative impacts, interviewing parents and their typically developing children to measure those children’s levels of depression and behavior problems. For the most part, those studies failed to uncover the sorts of difficulties that had been hypothesized. Researchers concluded that although growing up with a developmentally disabled sibling may be challenging, it doesn’t cause any sort of pathology.

    Subsequent research suggested that when one child has a disability, siblings may in fact benefit. After all, they receive what amounts to an intensive training in tolerance and empathy. In various studies, parents in such families have characterized their typically developing kids as more caring and mature than average, while college-age siblings have described growing up with someone with a disability in favorable terms. Children with a disabled sister or brother have reported more positive interactions and less conflict with their sibling than kids whose siblings aren’t disabled, though “less conflict” cuts both ways, since sibling fights aren’t necessarily bad. In conversation, researchers will refer to “supersiblings” — children who are especially sensitive and responsible as a result of growing up with someone with a disability. But such children haven’t been studied extensively, and it now seems too simplistic to categorize the experience of having a sibling with a disability as strictly positive or negative. The supersibling notion may have provided a useful corrective to earlier views, says Tamar Heller, head of the department on disability and human development at the University of Illinois-Chicago, but researchers have moved on to address more practical questions: Are support groups useful? How can families best plan for the future? “We’re just starting to have some research that’s really looking at what are the variables that make things better for families,” Heller says.

    I think that having an autistic brother has made me more empathetic person. I think that's why I tend to vote Democratic -- I know some people need more help than others and I think the government needs to help keep people from falling between the cracks. I also think I tended toward being a supersibling. I wanted to do well, succeed and not be a problem for my parents. Basically, I wanted to be invisible.

    I always knew that someday I would need to take care of my brother. Maybe this is because my parents kept telling me, "When we're gone, you'll need to take care of your brother." But of course, one of the variables in all this is the fact that my mother is batshit crazy and spent a lot of time reminding me how I was reliable and I couldn't be counted on at all. A lot of this was the result of me trying to have a real life -- college, work, friends and now a family of my own.

    I really felt for the little girl in the article, Terah. I've been in that place. A lot of times, the needs of your disabled siblings don't leave a lot of room for your needs. At least in my case, I tried to compensate for all this by making my own life. And I think I succeeded. I am blessed with a wife who is far more understanding of me than I deserve, a daughter who is the most delightful child I have ever known, and more wonderful friends than a person can reasonably expect to have in one lifetime.

    So where does that leave me at 37 years old?

    I have a wonderful life with a mysterious hole of loneliness in the middle that I somehow can never quite fill up. My brother, thankfully, has an alright life of his own. He works at the same job he's had for years, he has his own apartment, he goes to church, he's able to make his own way in the world. He has a hard time making friends and dating is tough. He'd like to be married and have children, but I can't see that really happening. He's doing better than anyone ever thought he would. But we don't talk that much, maybe a phone call every now and then. Conversation with him isn't easy--subtlety and nuance are beyond him so we don't bare our souls too much. It's sports, weather and vacation plans. My father's gone and I don't speak to my mother at all so there's not much left. Unfortunately, I don't really feel like I have much family at all. My wife and my daughter are the only family I have.

    How will my brother get along in the world? OK, I guess. My parents planned well to take care of him financially, so he should be OK. If he needs me, I'm here to help. But otherwise our lives are apart.

    Sometimes I wonder what my life would be like I my brother were quote-normal-unquote. But I also wonder what my life would be like if my dad wasn't dead or my mom wasn't so hateful. It's sort of a fool's errand. Anyone can play what-if and imagine their life would somehow be better. But you can't do that. Your life is what you make of it. I've made my own life. That's all there is and that will have to be enough.

    S-T Odds and Ends

    Catching up on a pretty readable weekend in the Startlegram.

  • First is an article that’s bound to cause a little hand-wringing on the Dallasization of Fort Worth. Specifically, this refers to the development along the 7th Street corridor west of downtown that some would like to see become Fort Worth’s answer to Dallas’ Uptown neighborhood. The Black Dog is gone and The Wreck Room is not far behind. Whither Fred’s? "Fred's has to change with the demographics," owner Terry Chandler says. "Our rent is more expensive than it used to be ... So I'm stepping it up a little bit -- the same thing but higher quality." Does this worry anyone else? As Brian Forella, owner of the Wreck Room puts it, one thing Fort Worth may lose is the great egalitarian nature of the nightlife where, regardless of social station, people get together to tip a few, see aband and grab a bite. “Lawyers, doctors and guys that work on cars, and they all get along. Kind of like Fred's. That's the weird dynamic of Fort Worth that I think it's going to start to lose -- that melting-pot kind of place where everybody can hang out." I want to write more on this later.

  • Do you know Geekcore? Nerds rapping about their mad coding skillz? Well, me neither. Cary Darling opened my eyes to Geeksta life with his article on MC Router, T-Byte and others love of high tech and hard beats. Includes a shout out to MC Chris (aka MC Pee Pants from Aqua Teen Hunger Force

  • Finally, an op-ed piece from oncologist Jerry Barker on the HPV vaccine debate that clouds the issue with facts.

  • Wednesday, February 14, 2007

    The Battlefield Between The Head and The Heart

    When Tim Carson took over at University Christian Church, I have to say I was disappointed – greatly disappointed. Replacing the beloved Scott Colglazier in the pulpit wouldn’t be easy for anyone. Scott’s sermons were lyrical and poetic and his words touched my heart by helping me know the unknowable and embrace the mystery of God. Tim sermons left me cold more often than not.

    I really miss Scott on Wednesdays when he used to send his mid-week e-mails. They were concise and poetic. Tim’s are a little more rambling. However, today Tim had some interesting thoughts on Valentine’s Day, beginning with the nutty astronaut Lisa Nowak and segueing into the spiritual journey and where God lives in everyone, somewhere between reason and emotion.

    Here’s the money section:

    In Carson McCullers's first novel, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter (1940), she took her readers to the depths of where the unbridled heart might lead, a place that’s not all roses. The deep seat of longing includes depravity as well as beauty. The inner places are often just as lonely as comforting. And her characters bear out a difficult truth: people left to emotion alone are capable of the best and the worst at the same time.

    In fact, the Christian tradition has said a lot about this through the centuries. But the answers are not framed in the same kinds of ways that are popularized today: “The struggle of life takes place on a battlefield somewhere between head and heart.” No, the wisdom of the tradition goes way past this.

    In the same way that the spiritual journey cannot be content with self-knowledge alone, but rather by transcending the self, so the train station of our hearts can never be seen as our final destination. In fact, the Abbas and Ammas of the Christian tradition have insisted that the answer to God lies beneath both rationality and emotion. These are upper layers of consciousness and the ultimate destination is understood to lie beneath or above these.

    This is why, for instance, John of the Cross and Teresa of Avilla both insist that emotion is only an ante-chamber through which one passes to a deeper spiritual apprehension. One is not to stay there or trust it too much precisely because it is ephemeral. They also know that thinking something about God is not the same as being in communion with God. The answer is neither head nor heart, but beneath both. This is why our prayer or worship or spiritual lives cannot be limited or directed by the temporary stirrings of the heart. What matters most is that which lies beneath both our thinking and feeling. My decision to pray or worship or go on a spiritual retreat or to act lovingly should never be limited by my temporary inclination to either want to do it or to avoid it.

    Finding the place where God lives in my own life is a difficult and painful thing. I’m a very feeling person with the empathy and compassion I feel for people almost a crushing thing. For me the inner places are as much lonely as they are comforting. Some days I can feel that connection to God, but other days, most days, it’s all too much.

    The rational part of my mind wonders if God’s even there are all. Look around the world today and it’s easy to feel a little existential. What’s the point of existence except right now, and we’re doing a pretty good job of screwing that one up, too.

    Achieving that transcendent state is harder and harder for me. I think about God a lot, but we don’t talk so much anymore. “The answer is neither head nor heart, but beneath both. This is why our prayer or worship or spiritual lives cannot be limited or directed by the temporary stirrings of the heart.”

    Let me think on that one.

    A Perch Besmirched

    Will the real sniper’s perch from the Texas School Book Depository please stand up? It seems the current sniper's perch being sold on eBay may not be the real one. Something to think about before parting with $3 million.

    Tuesday, February 13, 2007

    Am I An AlternaDad?

    Am I an an alternadad? Preliminary testing indicates maybe not. However, I’m still anxious.

    Consider the evidence. I have worked to cultivate my daughter’s taste in:

  • Godzilla movies

  • Speed Racer cartoons

  • Lost in Space reruns

  • The Ramones and other “suitable” types of music. She loves “Bonzo Goes To Bitburg.”

  • I have bought my daughter a Waterloo Records t-shirt. We watched Bottle Rocket together so she can begin to have an appreciation of Wes Anderson movies. And, of course, I have “nurtured” her love of Texas Longhorns football has been described as “brainwashing.” While I think it doesn’t reach Manchurian Candidate levels, she knows beyond a doubt, that Vince Young is the greatest football player ever and OU does, indeed, suck.

    So, what does this say about me?

    The anger surrounding alternadad and hipster parenting derives from the idea that these new parents don't want to "grow up" and act like parents.

    Um, guilty. But I've always thought that growing up is overrated anyway.

    Instead, they give their kids fauxhawks and inculcate them with a precious taste in music and "film." I agree that this can be irritating, but find me the set of parents who haven't, consciously or not, indoctrinated their kids into a little family cult. And who's more annoying: the 3-year-old who knows Mandarin or the one who loves Devo?

    I've always though an appreciation of 80s music is a greater priority than a second language. Guess that let's me off the hook. I think I’ll go pick up a Wilco t-shirt for my daughter to celebrate.

    Theater Fire at The Grenada

    Above is a cool video shot by justinlloyd2 at the Theater Fire’s gig last week at the Grenada. The Theater Fire plays this Saturday at the Chat Room Pub down on Magnolia. See you there.

    Telling Stories

    Jessica Peters is a 27-year-old single mom from Hurst who makes her living as a data entry clerk for an oil and gas company. But in her spare time she’s making a documentary about the late great Dallas singer-songwriter Elliott Smith (above) -- and she’s close to finishing. The project is titled Strange Butterflies and there’s a cool story about her efforts on the Big D Little d blog.

    “Peters' goal is to tell Smith's story through the people he impacted in the cities he lived; to that end, she put out a call for musicians from Smith's various home cities--Portland, NYC, Dallas and LA--to record Elliott Smith covers that would fit each city's footage,” writes Sam Machkovech on Big D Little d. Fort Worth’s own The Theater Fire has put together a cut for the project, “Say Yes” from Smith’s Either/Or. You can visit the Strange Butterflies MySpace page and find out more or make a contribution if you are so inclined.

    Slick Rick: Show Him The Money

    "If Rick Perry is for something, and there's a lot of money involved, it's a cinch that one (or more) of Perry's pals is involved up to his neck," writes Paul Burka on his Texas Monthly blog. True dat. As he goes on to quote from the Houston Chronicle:

    Former U.S. Sen. Phil Gramm, a friend of Perry's, is handling discussions for the proposed lottery sale, a spokesman for Gramm's company acknowledged.

    Gramm is vice chairman of UBS Investment Bank, which has been advising the governor on the proposed privatization of the state lottery. Gramm was a federally registered lobbyist for UBS last year.

    Ray Sullivan, a lobbyist registered with the investment firm in Texas, worked as a spokesman for Perry several years ago. Sullivan is now in business with Michael Toomey, Perry's former chief of staff.

    Toomey said he does not represent clients with lottery-related interests, and he added that Sullivan does not work on lottery-related issues for UBS.

    And it just gets better. Seems that Perry's own son is working for UBS too, the DMN reports. "You have to give Perry credit," Burka writes. "Nothing embarrasses him."

    I Need To Get One of These

    A cool Toadies poster from one of the upcoming reunion shows.

    Could Godzilla Really Exist?

    A surprising amount of serious scientific thought has gone into the biology of my favorite movie monster, Godzilla. “Godzilla is meant to be something like 100 m tall and between 20,000 and 60,000 tons in weight (his size fluctuates in the various films). Of course lots of people who like doing sums and talking about cubes and so on have used the mathematics of scaling to show why - duh - Godzilla couldn't really walk, stand, or even exist,” writes Darren Naish on the Tetrapod Zoology blog. But it gets better from here:

    How does Godzilla generate radioactivity? Apparently its stomach has mutated into a new organ: the plasma gland. Radioactive particles rise from here to be expelled via the mouth during combat, and excess radioactivity is also passed into the dorsal scutes at the same time 'not unlike the overflow guard in your ordinary bathtub', apparently (according to here: this is where the adjacent image comes from). Thanks to its plasma gland, Godzilla continually generates new radioactivity as a source of power, discharging the excess via the scutes and a duct leading to the mouth. This also means that Godzilla doesn't need to eat, and that must be a good thing when you weigh over 24,000 tons. There are other speculations on Godzilla's biology, including on cell structure, and on the mysterious substance known as Regenerator G-1 and allowing him unparalleled regenerative abilities.

    Plasma gland. That’s what I’m talking about!

    But, a more disturbing piece from this blog is Giant Vampire Bats: Bane of the Pleistocene Megafauna.” Yipes! El Chupacabra!

    Romo Rocks Out

    Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo sings Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'" with Mr. Belding from Saved by the Bell and the Heavy Metal comedy act Metal Skool. Yes, really. Thanks, Unfair Park.

    Monday, February 12, 2007

    Old 97s Notes

    First, Murry’s a dad. Second, Calvin, my friend Russ’ dog, almost bit off the man parts of one Philip Peeples (left), Old 97s drummer. Seems Philip showed up early for a party at Russ’ and when little Calvin decided on an extra friendly greeting. Bad dog!

    What's The Worst That Could Happen?

    A great read from Slate on Kevin Durant’s NBA future and how many ways there are for NBA teams get it wrong with players whose talent transcends one position.

    Two Design Greats Check Out

    A couple of interesting obits today:

    Edmund C. Arnold (pictured above), a journalist who in the 1950s revolutionized the layout of the American newspaper, died on Feb. 2. Sez the NYT:

    When Mr. Arnold took his first fresh look at newspapers, many had long rejected the vigorous graphic displays common in the turn-of-the-century papers. He believed that the prevalent designs, which often featured monotonous narrow vertical columns of type and large horizontal headlines, had been foisted on papers largely because trained typographers and designers were not usually involved in the layout decisions, which were made by editors working directly with printers and compositors. He pushed publishers to give designers and typographers more influence, to move design out of the typesetting room and onto the drawing board. He also developed ideas like horizontal (and modular) layouts and encouraged the use of varied graphic elements to draw the reader’s eyes.

    Thanks, mon frer. I have a career thanks to you.

    Also, the great Hans Wegner (pictured below), the great Mid-Century furniture designer, went to the big workshop in the sky on Jan. 26.

    East Dallas Showdown

    Kind of a funny little pissing match between the Observer’s Jim Schutze and the DMN’s Rod Dreher over gentrification in the old East Dallas.

    Personally, I think Schutze is the best thing in Dallas journalism – an attack dog that goes after the sacred cows in Dallas government and isn’t afraid to say the emperor has no clothes. Dreher, on the other hand, is a self-described “crunchy conservative” – I mean, what the fuck is that anyway? That's a term that makes about as much sense as “compassionate conservative” or “extraordinary rendition.” Dreher loves pillorying Schutze as some knee-jerk liberal hippie wacko who stands again anything new because it’s not “cool.” Sez Dreher:

    Sneer at yuppie gentrifiers if you like, but come on, was it better when these beautiful old Craftsman bungalows were falling down, and anybody who could afford to leave was lighting out for the suburbs because of the crime and disorder?

    But is that really what Schutze is saying? Is he really pissed off because he hates the thought of people renovating crack houses and turning them into a proper place to live?
    What kills everything, bleaches away the soul of the city and sends the children away behind pied pipers, is sterility. And Dallas has a huge sterility problem. Scrubby-scrubby-scrubby!

    Dreher quotes from a column I wrote a long time ago as saying the city needs a solid middle class. I still believe that. His point seems to be that I have contradicted myself. I say consistency is the mind of small hobgoblins.

    About this much I have never strayed: What we do not need is the kind of cleanliness, neatness, safety and security that reproduce the vibe of the gated communities to the north of us.

    Dreher’s pretty proud of himself for being a gentrifying yuppie (and I really, REALLY, don't mean anything pejorative by that) who is bringing a neighborhood back from the dead, to which I say good on ya. Dallas and Fort Worth need more of this. Gentrifying yuppies aren’t necessarily a bad thing. We need more people not giving up on urban America. Except when they buy two 1,500 sf houses, tear them down and build a 10,000 sf Tuscan villa monstrosity. Or worse, buying a whole block for a gated enclave that is more Plano than East Dallas. That’s sort of an anti-neighborhood thing to do – a big middle-finger to all the neighbors. That is what they are fighting against in Little Forest Hills and other neighborhoods around Dallas and Fort Worth.

    I love Mid-Century Architecture. I love the Ranch House. Drive down Preston Road between Forest and Royal in Dallas you see 2000sf beautiful ranches being bulldozed to put up 10,000sf faux chateaus. I look at those and I feel like the crying Indian in the Keep America beautiful commercial. But I know no one will cry for people who sell their houses for $400,000 to tear down. However, it is a symptom of a problem: Dallas has no problem razing its architectural heritage (like, um, here) in the name of what's new and now, and quite frankly, antiseptic. Scrubby scrub.

    But why jump all over Schutze's ass for pointing out that some of us don't want to live in Disneyland? Why wage another "culture war" battle over this? Fact: Dallas has a sterility problem. Deal with it.

    Thursday, February 08, 2007

    Gov. Goodhair and HPV

    Did Slick Rick Perry create a constitutional crisis with his executive order on HPV? Texas Monthly's Paul Burka thinks so."If a governor can legally do what Perry is attempting--establish a program that spends money--the balance of power between the executive and legislative branches will be forever altered."

    And you thought he just wanted to give a nice little kickback to Merck (sixth item).

    More on the W Library

    The Observer's Jim Schutze really nailed a forgotten (by me at least) aspect of the W Library flap -- Presidential Order 13233:

    The first, most difficult piece of this is Presidential Order 13233, which effectively reverses the presumption underlying the 1978 Presidential Records Act of a basic public right of access. In asserting a contrary right of permanent privilege, George W. Bush pointedly expanded the reach of this new privilege to include the entire Bush dynasty—his father's papers not only as president, for example, but as vice president.

    It's an outrageous reach. Scholars and archivists around the country are beginning to suggest that SMU makes a whore of itself if it accepts the presidential center without first insisting that 13233 be vacated.

    Imagine future scholars trying to write the history of Iraq War and not even being able to have unfettered access to the President's papers? For a look at the right way to do it, look at the LBJ Library in Austin. Would Robert Caro have been able to produce his work without the type of access he was allowed to Johnson's archive? Now try to imagine a scholar who may have a less than deferential approach to W's legacy trying to access the archive of this current adminsitration? Keep moving, buster. Nothing to see here.

    Still, I'm an optimist. This administration prefers to work in the shadows. They believe they can avoid unwanted scrutiny forever. History judges these men cruelly, and undoubtedly will again.

    Gone But Not Forgotten

    Jeff Liles wrote a moving and accurate obituary for Bill's Records. The bottom line: in the old days before the Interweb and the mainstreaming of alternative music, you had to work your ass off to find something different. Bill's made that easier for lots of us. Thanks, Bill.

    Also, there was this cool story about Stanley Marcus:

    These days, tears come to Bill Wisener’s eyes rather easily. He hopes that people like Jerry Haynes and Trini Lopez – regular customers, no kidding — will find him in the new location. He misses folks like former Longhorn Ballroom and Yellow Belly Drag Strip owner O.L. Nelms, former airline exec Clyde Skeen, legendary architect Albert Frey and his dear friend Stanley Marcus.

    Before Marcus passed away, he called Bill one afternoon and asked him to come to his home the next morning. Stanley Marcus then gave him his entire lifetime collection of old 78 rpm records. Bill gets emotional when he thinks of the gesture.

    Friday, February 02, 2007

    W Goes To College. Or Not

    Slate has an interesting overview on the George W. Bush Presidential Library flap at SMU. One thing that I think is lost in the article is the real issue: the think tank. This is where most of the opposition comes from -- why should a denomination that takes strong stands on social justice issues like, well, just take a look here -- why should this denomination have its flagship university affiliated with a think tank that will support positions in direct opposition to the tenets of the church?

    Tom Waits, Live from Orphans Tour has a whole boatload of live Tom Waits songs from last year's Orphans Tour here and here. One of my favorite Waits song from the tour was "Falling Down". Enjoy!

    More on Molly

    Mi amigo Mike Blackman (left) had a very nice rememberance of Molly Ivins in the Startlegram this morning. Mike's a talented writer, an even better editor and an even better human being. I remember when he hired Molly back in 1992, she said something to the effect of how could I say no to Mike when he came riding in to Austin on his Harley with his long hair and black leather jacket. How indeed, Molly.

    Ken Bunting recalls that in Mike's piece this morning: "She was one of a kind, with a Texas-sized presence about her that was totally devoid of pretense. I'll never forget our trip to Austin to convince her she wanted to come to work for the Star-Telegram. We practiced our sales spiel over and over, trying our best to perfect it. But she told me many times she was sold the moment you walked into the Oasis restaurant wearing a leather jacket and no tie. She knew right away you were the kind of newspaper editor she wanted to work for." Mike was, and still is, a cool breeze.

    Anyway, Mike made me laugh this morning when he described the challenge of editing Molly:

    I finally got Molly on the phone, hemmed and hawed and cajoled and groveled and finally, after all the agonizing and sputtering, knowing how proud she was of her word choices and their impact, said something like: "Molly, I just want to be sure we want to say 'dildo' in the lead. I'm a little worried ..."

    Mike also remembered how he introduced Molly to one of Tarrant County's most eminent Republicans, Richard Greene.
    After picking her up at the airport, I swung by the auto dealership where then-Arlington Mayor Richard Greene worked. Mr. Republican himself -- think really tight underwear. As conservative as the political assembly line ever produced. But a straight shooter and good guy.

    What the heck, I thought -- what poetry for Molly's first introduction to be to one of the Star-Telegram's most prominent detractors.

    "I wouldn't say I was stunned," Greene recalled last night. "Let's just say I was surprised in the extreme."

    The meeting lasted about 20 minutes. After each got over a mite of unease, they carried on like, if not long-long friends, cordial acquaintances. Both were gracious and good-humored and genuinely appreciated the incongruence of their encounter.

    I remember thinking: Molly and Star-Telegram readers might just do all right together.

    "Even conservative Republicans have to admit that with her use of words, her use of the language and her commentary and criticism, she gave Texas an identity," Greene said. "She helped the whole country understand Texans.

    "I will always carry the memory of that meeting with me."

    Nice words from Richard, who is a man as gracious as his comments. Nice work, Mike. Molly would have been proud.

    Thursday, February 01, 2007

    Gopher vs. Longhorns?

    New Minnesota football coach Tim Brewster wants to schedule my Longhorns. I say bring it. I'm always read for a trip to the Twin Cities.

    Kevin Durant = Beast

    BON hit the nail on the head about Longhorn hoops phnom Kevin Durant "The NBA rule has essentially forced an NBA pro to play college basketball for a year, and we, as fans, couldn't be happier. Durant does it with such ease and with such passion, it's impossible not to fall in love with him." Wish he could stay another year, but that ain't happenin'.

    Not a News Flash

    Won't suprise anyone, but Deep Ellum is dead. But when it comes back -- as it inevitably will -- what will it look like? Go to State-Thomas and Mockingbird Station and you'll get your answer. I was sort of partial to the seedy, underground 1980s Deep Ellum that housed the Theater Gallery. The 1990s Disneyfied Deep Ellum kind of sucked. But I have no doubt that the new 2000s-2010 Deep Ellum will be even worse. Nothing authentic, rather just like anyplace else.

    Bill's Update

    Bill's Records will open ... when Bill damn well feels like it according to Unfair Park. “It’ll be open when I’m there,” Bill tells Unfair Park. “And I’ll be there at the end of the week.”

    Molly Ivins, R.I.P.

    First, Ann Richards, now Molly Ivins, gone. One of the great old Texas liberals from when Texas liberal didn't sound like an oxymoron. Funny line from the NYT obit: she once said that Dallas was "the kind of town that would root for Goliath against David." So true.

    My one Molly story: When we both worked at the Star-Telegram, I once rode in an elevator up to the newsroom with her. She didn't come to Fort Worth much, she usually worked out of her house in Austin, but she was in for some meeting. I remember being surprised to see her and how rumpled she look. She was a large woman wearing a blue dress with pantyhose that had a tear in them. You wouldn't think that this was a big-time national columnist, but if you have ever worked in a newsroom, you know there are lots of people who look like they assemble their wardrobe at Goodwill. But, no matter how disheveled she may have looked, she had a warm, friendly smile. We chatted for a half a minute on the elevator then went our separate ways. Thanks to my good friend, Mike Blackman, for hiring her. Cheers to another friend, Carolyn Bauman, for the beautiful photo above.

    You can't ever get to know anyone by reading 20 column inches a couple of times a week, but you can get glimpse of their soul. Molly was a Texas original in the tradition of William Cowper Brann, smart as a whip and funny as hell, not afraid to try and hold the powerbrokers accountable (yes, that you we're talking about W) with her mix of reason and wit.