Thursday, May 31, 2007

Horse Slaughter Update

I don’t know how I missed this, but evidently horse slaughter plants in Fort Worth and Kaufman will stay closed. Now that Illinois has outlawed its horse slaughter plant, it appears that this is the end of slaughtering horses in the United States for human consumption abroad.

A History of Guns: Part Two

This is the second in a personal history of guns in my life. Click here for Part One. Click here for Part Three.

The 1970s
I was born into a God-lovin’, gun totin’, Republican votin’ nuclear family (As my friend Kerry once said, "How the hell did you end up the way you are?" It's a long story.) But I guess it shouldn't surprise that I was fascinated with guns. But while guns were in my house, they weren’t visible. Dad kept his guns locked up and the only time I saw them was when he carried them from the guestroom closet where he kept them to the trunk of his car for a hunting trip. His message was always clear: guns and kids are a bad mix, so leave guns alone boy.

Looking back, I guess it seems odd (to me) that I didn’t grow up with guns. When Dad went hunting, he went with his friends or just by himself. I remember one day him tromping off in the snow into the woods behind our house to hunt quail. I sometimes wondered why I never went hunting with Dad. I used to think it was because I wasn’t old enough. Now I know he just wanted to get away from a couple of kids and a pain-in-the-ass wife. I never really thought anything about it until many years later when I watched my neighbor, a big-time bird-hunter, take his six-year-old son dove hunting with him. I was a little surprised, but that's part of the indoctrination into the gun culture that I obviously missed and maybe explains why I am the way I am. In 15 years, that kid will be one of those guys who drives around in a Tahoe with a Ducks Unlimited sticker and baseball cap. Except maybe not that kid. My wife and I thought the kid would probably grow up to be gay and the parents were just over-compensating. So maybe it's a Subaru Outback and a rainbow sticker. But that's beside the point. It kind of makes me sad looking back. I could care less about the guns and the hunting. But I miss not getting to spend time with my Dad.

Most pro-gun people are quick to bring up the personal defense angle in their defense of firearms. But using a gun to protect house and family from crime wasn’t in my Dad’s experience either. I remember one night when we were worried about a prowler around the house, I asked Dad if he need to get his gun. He looked at me as if I had asked him if he needed a hot-air balloon. He didn't need no damn gun.

Anyway, for me, guns weren’t any more real than the plastic Thompson gun I used to carry playing war games or the westerns and war movies that were the staple of my television viewing. Things didn't stay that way.

Late Night Biking

Drop by Tammy Gomez's blog for her post on last night's screening of the B.I.K.E. documentary. I wish I could have been there, but I can't be everywhere. Maybe next time?!

So I Met The Stash Dauber

As my man The Stash Dauber has already chronicled (BTW, don't you EVER sleep man!) I had the honor and good fortune to tip a few with the man live and in person at the Wreck last night. We had quite a bit to talk about, but most of it revolved around the topic: what is the nature of "a scene."

I really kind of hate the word "scene" anyway because it sounds kind of pretentious. And I guess in a way it is supposed to be pretentious and exclusionary. But the word I like better is Stash's word: community. And when you talk about community, it becomes easier to talk not just about the people -- the scenesters if you will -- you can talk about the place and the places. And that's my favorite topic -- what gives Fort Worth its sense of place.

When all of the Apple Stores and all the high-end condos are finished, will Fort Worth lose something? As Stash pointed out last night, the artistic, creative types are harder to stamp out than cockroaches. They find a way to survive. And in Fort Worth, unlike Deep Ellum, the "scene" isn't ghettoized. It's all over town.

But I think it is still a question worth asking. As we build all these new buildings and swim in sea of money from the Barnett Shale, are we losing some of that old Cowtown character?

Also, Stash and I talked about my new pet project: a zine mining all of the old 80s punk rock tales from the D and the FW -- the Axis, the Hop, the Twilite Room. I've already told Stash that he's drafted. Mike, Russ, Sean and Joel -- you guys are next. And anyone else who wants to hop on board -- drop me a line on the gmail at the (dot) caravan[dot] of [dot) dreams.

By the way, Stash, thanks for the books!

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

A History of Guns: Part One

Lately, I’ve been thinking about guns. Americans love to fight about guns. The stereotype is conservatives love ‘em and liberals hate ‘em. Guns are right there with abortion and gay marriage and Iraq when you talk about hot button issues (check out these comments at Grits for Breakfast if you've forgotten how geeked up people can get on this subject.)

My own feelings about guns have been quite complicated. I've been a gun owner and very pro-gun. I've swung to the other side and been very pro-gun control. Now, I'd say I'm somewhere in the middle. Above all, I'm a civil libertarian, and, as my good friend Mike and that big, fat lawyer brain of his likes to point out, you can't pretend the Second Amendment isn't in the Constitution. Fair enough. So I wanted to track how I got here by doing a personal history of guns in my life. This started out as one post but it got longer. And longer. And longer. So I broke it up into parts that will gun on consecutive days until I'm done (which as of right now, I'm not.) So let's get started.

Before the Beginning
My own relationship with guns actually goes back to before I was born. I had a great-grandfather Hughs who was kind of a bad dude who gunned down several men. He killed three men who tried to rob a barn dance where he was playing fiddle. He later gunned down a U.S. marshal in what may or may not have been self-defense. The government’s side was Hughs was running a still on his property (which he was), and the marshal was murdered when he tried to arrest Hughs. Hughs' side of things was the marshal started firing into the house while his two baby girls (my grandmother and great aunt) played on the floor. We’ll never know the answer because Hughs was gunned down in a robbery attempt before the case could go to trial.

I know. Kind of a bloodbath. Such was life in turn-of-the-century Oklahoma. The culprit in Hughs' murder later killed himself in jail, haunted by the ghost of my mean sumbitch of a grandpa. More family lore: Many years later, there was a drunken murder involving some cousins -- I never got the full story on that one. But that’s my pedigree. A bunch of drunk-ass, mean-ass, murderous Scotch-Irish bastards. That's my mother's side.

Not all of the stories were that sorid. My father was an outdoorsman and grew up poor in the country, so hunting wasn’t just something to do, it was a way to put food on the table. Later, Dad was in the Army, and then made a little money so hunting became a social activity and not about sustenance. But, the fact is he was comfortable with guns. He wasn't one of these you-can-have-my-guns-when you-pry-them-from-my-cold-dead-fingers types, but he was an NRA member.

So that gets us from the dawn of time until the late 1960s. Tomorrow, we talk about my formative years.

Click here for Part Two.

Interview with Kenney Mencher

I’ve been a fan of Kenney Mencher since I first saw his work on the Hang Art Gallery Web site. While some of the work at Hang is the type you would expect to see at a gallery catering to the San Francisco loft-dweller demographic – placid landscapes and color fields – Kenney’s work was different. A sexy-looking gal cavorting in the bedroom with Scooby Doo, scenes from hard-boiled detective stories and lots of small moments and stolen glances. He’s a storyteller with a strain of darkness and a wicked sense of humor. What’s not to love?

If you drop in at his Web site every few weeks as I have over the past few years, you'll see the work of an artist who is contemporary and classical at the same time. His work is very much of the 21st Century but his themes and technique are timeless.

If you live in the Dallas / Fort Worth area or can get here between June 7 and July 1, Kenney’s work will be showing at the Dahlia Woods Fine Arts at 600 Cantegral Street in Dallas. He also has a solo show scheduled at the gallery for September. Kenney was kind enough to swap e-mails with me ahead of his Dallas shows. Please take a few minutes to learn more about him. I think you’ll be glad you did.

The Caravan of Dreams: Some your work involves nudity and sexual themes such as voyeurism and power. I suppose it shouldn't surprise that your work has been controversial. However, I live in Texas so I sort of expect that thing. How does your work get called too "wry and perverted" in San Francisco?

Kenney Mencher: One reason might be political. Some other artists who started showing at Hang showed some work that was similar to mine. These artists dealt with difficult themes, especially dealing with female and male sexual dynamics, however, since these artists were female painters I think the staff at Hang felt that these female’s artists’ work were feminist statements. I’m a man so I think that there was the perception that my work, even though it called attention to negative stereotypes, still was not really “feminist” in content. (Ed note: Click to see a larger version of "Apocrypha" from above. For other Not Safe For Work Images, click here, here and here.

Other reasons may be that I pushed the themes a bit too far and was too edgy for Hang as a venue. Hang was interested in representing emerging artists they were not a “cutting edge” gallery. Hang was not really interested in cultivating the counter culture or avante garde art scene or its collectors. Hang’s business model was to cater to educated upscale thirty something professionals who were interested in decorating an apartment. Decorative artwork sells much better than artwork that is designed to provoke thought or challenge the viewer. You would be amazed at how conservative this segment of the population in California and San Francisco is in general.

At the other end of the raunchy spectrum, there are some edgier galleries [ed warning: the links are NSFW] (The Shooting Gallery, Varnish, and 111 Minna to mention a few) who do show edgy provocative “outsider” and “visionary” work that is purposefully meant to provoke and titillate. My work is not considered edgy, cool, or really dirty enough in content to get me into one of those galleries. I also think that my style of rendering is too conservative for these venues. I’m a little stuck between two worlds.

TCoD: Do you intend your work to be provocative?
KM: Yes. I want it to be thought provoking but not necessarily titillating in an overtly erotic way.

TCoD: Do you ever get tired of answering questions about the Scooby Doo painting?
KM: I never actually answer those questions directly. I’m more interested in finding out what people think is going on in that painting. What do you think is going on in that painting?

TCoD: Another word I see in a lot of your reviews is ambiguous? Do you intend your themes to be ambiguous? Or do you have a theme or message you want to convey?
KM: The only thing I’m clearly trying to get my audience to do is laugh or be amused. Second on my agenda is to be deliberately ambiguous in that I don’t have a definite or clear story as to who the characters are or what they are doing in the painting.

TCoD: What are the themes that interest you as an artist?
KM: If I was to give myself a shopping list of themes or motifs each painting should address they are: interpersonal communication, sexual dynamics and roles, and story telling.

TCoD: Does your work get compared to John Currin?
KM: My friends do but the people who have reviewed my work in the newspapers don’t even seem to know who he is. I think he’s good but very different from me. He doesn’t seem to tell as much of a story as I do. He is doing some similar things in terms of the themes and motifs that I discussed before but he also varies a lot more in terms of formal things in his paintings. He purposefully awkwardly drafts the human figure. He also changes the way he applies paint from show to show. I actually think I have more in common with Eric Fischl.

TCoD: In your earlier work, your brushwork was much more impressionistic, but now it is much cleaner, smoother and more refined? Was this just part of your evolution as a painter? Or was this more of a deliberate shift on your part?
KM: I’ve actually refined my style quite a lot especially in the larger more ambitious paintings in which the narrative is more specific. I still do some smaller paintings in that quick oil sketch or 1940’s pulp illustration style.

TCoD: Much of your earlier work drew heavily on film noir themes for characters and composition. Your current series of Sequential Narratives (such as "Little Did He Know" at the right) seems to draw on more contemporary film and TV shows. How do you believe film and TV has influenced you as a painter? Does David Lynch fit in there anywhere? Is your film noir period over?
KM: I think that film and TV are my primary influences. Even more than traditional art historical sources. The way television and film tell the story, how they frame the images and compositions, and even the lighting are really important to me and I think about them all the time.

David Lynch. Hmmm. . . I’ve seen all of Lynch’s films and I like David Lynch in theory, but, he tries way too hard to be weird. I think he tries to shock whereas I actually like to be more predictable in my scenarios. I think I would still be making the paintings I do even had I not ever seen one of Lynch’s films.

TCoD: What's with the waterglass paintings? (See "Pollyana" at left)
KM: There’s a feature about that particular series in “The Artist” magazine this month. You can tell a lot about a person just by asking them, “Is the glass is half empty or is it half full?” I like painting portraits and still life and this was a perfect excuse do just that but with a thesis or theme in which to explore. I guess they are the visual equivalent to a haiku. They are limited in form but within the formula, a half glass of water and a character, you can say and explore a lot of ideas.

TCoD: To me, one of your most interesting paintings is Los Angeles. It reminds me very much of the painting "Second Story Sunlight" by Edward Hopper. But the figures also have this Thomas Hart Benton feel to them. Is this a meditation on aging and fleeting youth? Is this a metaphor about Los Angeles? Is there a homoerotic subtext? What's going on here?
KM: Yes, you are completely correct! (That’s what I say to anyone who interprets one of my paintings.)

TCoD: Your more recent paintings seem to involve quality of light more and more. Your earlier work seemed to deal more with cinematic lighting, but now you seem to be dealing more with natural light (such as "In Martini Veritas" at right). Am I just making this up or is there something to it?
KM: Yes, it has to do more with my abilities as a photographer and a painter. I’m getting better reference material. I’ve also learned a lot more about observing and painting light and color in the last year.

TCoD: Your wife, friends and students dress up and play characters in your paintings. Do people volunteer for this or do you choose your subjects?
KM: It’s a combination or a negotiation. I do keep a sketchbook of written out scenarios. I go to thrift stores and get the clothing I need and then I throw a party or visit a party at a sympathetic friend's house. It helps if everyone is drunk. I also ask my students to pose sometimes. You would be surprised how many people are hams.

TCoD: How long does a typical painting take? How much revision is involved and is that a process you enjoy?
KM: Size counts but let’s say one of the glass of water paintings as a midsize one 36”x48” would take about 40 to 60 actual hours to make. This is spread out over several weeks and I usually have two to three paintings going on at the same time.

It starts with writing out the scenario. The photo shoot is usually around two hours (setting up props lights and actually shooting.)

Next is three to five hours of Photoshop on the computer composing, moving things, analyzing light and color and modifying different versions of the batch of reference photos.

Laying out the drawing takes around two to three hours.

The acrylic underpainting takes about eight hours. Often I redraw and reblock in areas of the painting while in this phase. My wife actually tells me when things are off or look bad.

The last layer of oil paint usually takes two to three eight-hour days. This phase runs about twenty-four hours. During this phase I go back the next day and fix the problems that I had not noticed the day before.

TCoD: You explain on your Web site how you use photography to assist you with your composition. Because you make such extensive use of photography, is it a challenge to keep your work painterly and not photorealistic?
KM: It’s not a challenge at all for me. I paint as if I was painting from life and the forms are not abstract for me. When I paint a hand I think of the muscles and skeleton under it so I still lay the forms down by blocking them in a wet into wet 19th century style. I actually think I have more in common with Sargent, N.C. Wyeth and pulp illustrators than I do with photorealists like Bechtle or Estes.

TCoD: Now that you mention it, I can definitely see the influences of Sargent, N.C. Wyeth and pulp illustrators. But I also can see classical influences (see "The Calling of Marc" at right) in some of your work that I just can't place. Can you help a brother out here?
KM: Oh yeah. . . Don’t get me started. I think that one of the greatest painters that ever lived was Velasquez and tracing back from there Caravaggio. I sometimes flatter myself into thinking that I’m a modern caravaggisti (Italian for follower of Caravaggio). I love both those artists for their use of everyday items and things and for their very theatrical shifts of light and shadow. I’m an art historian so I look at old masters’ works all the time. I’m constantly stealing from art historical sources such as Artemisia Gentileschi, Michael Sweerts, Vermeer, and Rembrandt.

Still, in the words of Chauncey Gardner, “I like to watch.” Even more to the point I love to look at all art. One of my all time favorite artists is David Tomb. Recently artists like Lucien Freud (NSFW), Bo Bartlett, and Odd Nerdrum are some of my favorite views but I also love graphic novelists and artists like Frank Miller and Alex Ross. I also really dig some vernacular photo web sites such as

TCoD: I saw you used to teach at Texas A&M in Laredo? That seems like, um, an odd fit. How did that go?
KM: Not so well. They liked me because I was a far out import. The political, economic, and moral climate of Laredo seemed toxic. I found the town and the people of Laredo to be very much in line with the film “A Touch of Evil.” I actually took a $10,000 pay cut to move back to the San Francisco area. I would have stayed if my job were in any other Texas city. I really like Dallas, Austin, and San Antonio. My wife and I would flee Laredo once or twice a month and spend weekends and holidays in these cities.

TCoD: I see your going to be showing in Dallas again at the Dahlia Woods Gallery. You've shown in the past at Craighead Green. How did it go the first time and why are you coming back?
KM: Ineffable stuff happens sometimes and you just lose a gallery for random reasons. Craighead Green broke up with me I think because they just stopped selling my work. I’m not sure how or why I had a great run of sales with them initially but then they stopped being able to sell the work after the first two years. Dahlia actually bought some of my work while on a trip to San Francisco. A year or so after Craighead Green stopped returning my calls Dahlia opened a gallery. I contacted her and now we are working together. It’s funny, she and I went to the High School of Art and Design in New York although at different times. At least she likes my work enough to literally put her money where her mouth is. Go figure!

TCoD: I love your Web site, and one of the most interesting things about it is the blog where you show step-by-step the process of creating a painting. I know that lots of bands and musicians are using the Web and blogs to break down the walls between them and their audiences, but I haven't seen as much of that between an artist and his audience. Does your Web presence help you communicate with your audience/customers or is it something more for the benefit of your students or is it a little of both? I'm wondering why I don't see more artists doing this kind of thing. Is it I just don't get out much?
KM: My Web site is one of the best outreach tools I have. I love to correspond with people about art and yes, the website does tend to break down barriers and add to communication.

I primarily began it as a tool for my students to use and have access to all of the lessons and images that I use in both my art history and studio courses. It has developed organically as a public relations tool, mainly because I wanted to share what I know about painting.

I’m also interested in what my audience has to say about the work. The blog takes an enormous amount of work and I am actually backlogged on it right now. I have a ton of digital images that I haven’t edited or posted yet as step by step examples of how I work.

TCoD: Thanks, Kenney! Drop us a line when you're in town.

Thoughts on "Decline of News"

There’s a thought-provoking column by Neil Henry in the San Francisco Chronicle called “The decline of news” that calls out Google and Yahoo for generating handsome profits at the expense of the newspaper business:

It is no longer acceptable for Google corporate executives to say that they don't practice journalism, they only work to provide links to "content providers." Journalism is not just a matter of jobs, and dollars and cents lost. It is a public trust vital to a free society. It stands to reason that Google and corporations like it, who indirectly benefit so enormously from the expensive labor of journalists, should begin to take on greater civic responsibility for journalism's plight. Is it possible for Google to somehow engage and support the traditional news industry and important local newspapers more fully, for example, to become a vital part of possible solutions to this crisis instead of a part of the problem?

While I agree with the assertion that the news business is suffering right now and a healthy media is a key ingredient in a healthy democracy, Henry is glossing over a few key points:

  • The news business is still enormously profitable. The news is not a non-profit industry – in fact, it is still quite lucrative with margins near 20 percent (or better) expected by shareholders. Compare that with, say, the grocery industry, where profit margins are in the 2-3 percent range. Part of the problem is with news orgs themselves -- they are large, publicly-traded companies that must beat The Street quarter after quarter. They would probably fare better if they went smaller and private. But you can't say that at the shareholders' meeting.

  • There’s not so much news in the news: When journalism is done right, it is time and labor-intensive and valuable part of living in a community. News orgs have the deep pockets to pay someone to spend weeks or months digging, researching and interviewing before ever publishing a word. The public benefits from this work. Henry’s right: newspapers have it all over most blogs (but certainly not all) in terms of hard news. But hard-hitting exposes don’t exactly fill the paper or generate readers these days. As newspapers scramble to stop circulation declines, more and more of what fills a paper is soft news that is barely discernable from marketing or advertorial. This is better than the blogosphere how? The key demographic seems to be 25- to 45-year-old women who seem to be reading the newspaper for lifestyle pieces rather than hard news content anyway. There’s a reason it only takes me a couple of minutes to get through the paper each day – there’s just not much in there I want to read. I spend a lot more time checking out the work of those links to your right.

  • This is Google’s problem? No, it is the newspaper industry’s problem. Google isn't in business to help you make money. Don’t want Google or Yahoo linking to your site? Have your lawyers craft cease and desist orders. The music and the film industry have fought vigorously to protect their intellectual property and you are free to do the same. But you know that would be a stupid, stupid thing to do. It’s a new world. Learn how to live in it.

  • I’m very sorry these people are losing their jobs. Some of them are my friends. But if you want to get mad at someone, get mad at the suits running your newspapers into the ground – yeah, I’m talking to you Tony Ridder. It’s their lack of vision that got you into this mess.

    BTW, thanks to Romenesko for the tip!

    UPDATE: More on this topic in Romenesko''s letters.

    Three Old Favorites, Continued

    As I mentioned previously, The Stash Dauber has weighed in with his Three Old Favorites. Now Stash’s Philly friend Andrew from Headlock Harmony answers the bell with his list.

    Breakfast with Burnham

    I got an e-mail from my new e-friend, Lon Burnham -- or at least the person who answers Lon’s e-mails. Mark your calendars now for Breakfast with Burnham – at 8:30 a.m. this coming Saturday, June 2, at Tunero Mexican Restaurant, 1549 N. Main Street, in the 76106. If you have questions, call 817.924.1887. The discussion will be on the highlights (or lowlights) of the 80th Legislative Session. Lon is one of the consistent liberal voices in Austin who still believes in accountable government and civil liberties matter. I’m looking forward to thanking him in person for killing HB 13.

    UPDATE: Ooops! I just thought HB 13 died. You know, Scott. I love your blog but I just scares the shit out of me every damn day.

    Monday, May 28, 2007

    Trinity River Vision Reconsidered

    A Friday leftover: Jack Z. Smith reconsiders his prior disapproval and comes out in favor of the Trinity River Vision. "Cities that are constantly reinventing themselves, thinking boldly and willing to take risks, are more likely to thrive. The chances of success often are magnified if the public and private sectors are providing ideas, money, talent and elbow grease. ... That's a big reason why, despite the criticisms of Uptown, that I keep coming back to an overriding conclusion: There's a whole lot to like about this project, and it's worth the risk."

    I'm not sure that it really matters. This project WILL happen, because, unlike the slowly unfolding trainwreck that is Dallas' Trinity River plan, I don't hear anyone talking about this. Am I wrong here?

    Friday, May 25, 2007

    Three Old Favorites

    My new blog friend Walnuts (who I imagine looking like the Sopranos guy) tasked me with the following endeavor: The Little-Known Favorites. Rules: List and describe three of your favorite books that other people might not be familiar with. Then tag five people. I've been tagged. So here I go.

    Schoolboy Johnson by John R. Tunis. I read this 1958 book when I was a kid back in the 1970s, which probably had something to do with the beginnings of my love of all-things Mid-Century. Schoolboy is a pitcher for the Dodgers who overcomes his travails and masters the change-up under the wise and steady influence of the old veteran Speedy. And as the bookjacket says, "But it took even more than the change-up Speedy taught him, to turn the Schoolboy into a winning pitcher, and a man." Uh, OK. I know how that sounds, but I swear to God it doesn't end up like The History Boys. Anyway, flash forward from fourth grade to college. One of my great professors at Texas, Bill Stott said in passing that the works of John R. Tunis would make a great master's thesis for someone. I decided to be that person, then promptly forgot about it. Sorry, Bill. But, years later, I found this copy of the book at the flea market in Canton, helping me formulate my estate saling thesis that sometimes you find things and sometimes things find you.

    Cowtown Moderne by Judith Singer Cohen. This book is a love letter to Fort Worth if there ever was one. My city is blessed with a rich architectural heritage (which you can find out more about here) and some of my favorite buildings are from the 1920s and 1930s -- the Art Deco or Moderne period. Open these pages, and you can find out the detailed history of some of Fort Worth's Art Deco gems like the Kress Building and the Sinclair Building. I first learned about this book during my UT days thanks to Jeff Meikle in the American Studies Department. I loved it and made it my mission to procure my own copy, which wasn't easy because it seems only about five were printed. I found my copy at the old Barber's Books in downtown Fort Worth. Barber's was an old Art Deco-style bookstore that was bought out by Larry McMurtry in the mid- to late-nineties. Larry moved all of the books to his book-o-plex in Archer City, but he didn't get this one. It cost me $75 in 1991, which was about 40 percent of my weekly paycheck, so you know I wanted this book REALLY bad. And I've never regretted buying it. It's a priceless resource.

    Slightly Out of Focus by Robert Capa. This is an amazing book by one of the great photographers of the 20th Century. Capa, a Hungarian Jew who fled the rise of Fascism in Europe. Capa tells us about his World War II with a light tone, always displaying humor and humility. It's quite a stunning achievement for someone who was not a native English speaker. Did he have help? A ghost writer? I don't want to know. The narrative flows so easily that I imagine it being told in Capa's heavily accented English. For me, there is another, more personal reason for loving this book. My old family friend, Marcus O. Stevenson, pops up from time to time in the story -- in North Africa, in Sicily, in Normandy. Stevenson lived most of his postwar life in Dallas selling construction equipment. But during the war, he was aide-de-camp to Teddy Roosevelt Jr. and was by his side when the General won the Medal of Honor on Utah Beach on June 6, 1944. Later had the distinction of being Ernest Hemingway's chaperon during the liberation of Paris. On page 166, you find Hemingway, Capa and Stevenson tear-assing around Normandy in captured Mercedes-Benz with full ration of scotch and enough weapons to arm a full platoon. They soon found themselves caught in the middle of a German ambush that very nearly moved Papa's expiration date forward by 17 years. You want adventure? You want name-dropping? This book is full of great stories like that.

    But Slightly Out of Focus is more than a gripping narrative, it's a collection of photos that capture the moments, big and small, of a war. You are there when the Americans storm Omaha Beach, but you also see a little boy sitting on top of a tank during the celebration accompanying the liberation of Paris. The full range of human emotions are there but mostly you find images of life at its most raw. Joy, happiness and exultation. Hate, fear and malice. It's all there.

    Thanks for letting me play, Walnuts. Now to tag other people.

    UPDATE: The Stash Dauber picks up the gantlet! Good on ya!

    Kurth Sprague, 1934-2007

    I was with immense sadness that I learned today of the passing of one of the great teachers in my life, Kurth Sprague. If I ever learned anything of writing in my life -- and those who read this blog may find that claim to be debatable -- then Kurth and Bill Stott and F.J. Schaack were certainly, in part, responsible.

    Kurth Sprague taught me to write simply and clearly and with a confident voice. He taught me that writing was real work, and like real work, an important part is showing up every day and doing it. He taught me that whatever it took to make it happen -- having exactly eight sharp pencils or a well-oiled typewriter or a bottle of bourbon or a pot of coffee or a pack of Luckies or a Chopin record -- whatever got you in the zone to write, do it and get about the business of writing.

    He was the first person who led me to believe that I could actually make a living being a writer. He encouraged me to listen to myself, take some chances and -- sometimes -- ignore what other people said because what did they know anyway. He helped me greatly on the journey to becoming myself.

    He was a true gentleman, a product of the the Eastern establishment who would have been right at home in the Oak Room with the Algonquin Roundtable. I remember the first day he strode into class, a tall imposing figure in a seersucker suit with a straw boater. He looked like a mix of John Wayne and Tom Wolfe, which he, in fact, was. He could recite Swinburne and Shakespeare by heart, but was also proud to say that he was a member of the last horse cavalry unit in the U.S. Army. I will always treasure the memories of sitting in his basement office, smoking cigarettes and absorbing his wisdom. He would start sentences using phrases like, "Ah, yes, I remember back in the bourbon days ...."

    Since I found out about Kurth's passing, I've been pouring over over my old notes and writings from his class. One thing I had forgetten -- I used to write everything in longhand. I've found tons of old yellow legal pads. Boy, those days are way over. I've also been trying to find my old journals to use the words I wrote down back then. But those words are buried somewhere in my office here, and I suppose it doesn't really matter, because, like another old prof, Bill Goetzmann taught me, it's not about what happened, it's about what I think happened. And so here it is.

    After all these years, I still can't believe how sad this makes me. The worst part for me is that Kurth was living right here in Fort Worth when he died. I wish I could have talked to him one last time to say thanks. But this will have to do.

    Kurth, thanks for everything. You will be missed. To read his colleagues' rememberances, check out Bill Stott's blog.

    Thursday, May 24, 2007

    This Is George's Show ...

    For those of you who remember Dallas / Fort Worth in the 1980s, to say mainstream radio was a musical wasteland is to be kind. To put it bluntly, it sucked. We didn't have no iPods and Interwebs, we had nothin' but Night Ranger on the Q102.

    But we did have George Gimarc and the Rock and Roll Alternative on the late, great KZEW. And that, along with KNON (Saturday nights with Shaggy and Where's Your ID on Saturday afternoons) was our oasis of cool in a desert of musical suckitude. I heard a lot of bands for the first time on George's show: XTC, Bauhaus, Siouxsie, The Smiths and the list could go on. It was a crucial part of my musical education. Let me say "Thanks, George!"

    Anyway, the amazing Cindy at the Fine Line has a reposting of her George Gimarc audio interview. Get over there and check that out.

    Apple Store to Cowtown?

    Kevin at Fort Worthology reports an Apple Store is coming to Museum Place. While this thrills my Apple-loving heart, I hope it doesn't land on top of the soon-to-be-defunct Wreck Room, because that would spoil it for me. Big time.

    Super Bowl in the 817, Holla!

    OK, my boycott of Arlington is obviously not working.

    So how much is a Super Bowl worth anyway? Depends on whom you ask. Some say $400 million and others say it's about a tenth of that.

    But is it worth it for Arlington? Tom Kelly, Director of the Baylor Center for Business and Economic Research, contends that the town with a stadium like this suffers a winner's curse and "ends up paying for a facility that may be justified for the entire region but not for the particular jurisdiction." That seems true in this case. I'm betting that most of the partying will be going on in Uptown Dallas and not downtown Arlington. But we'll save a booth for Jerry Jones at the TGIFriday's on Collins and Ballpark -- just in case.

    Of course, this delusion should be clear to Arlington, but it's not. Arlington is an established sports stadium whore that is willing to spread her legs for any sports owner with an itch to build a stadium. Case in point: The Ballpark in Arlington or what ever it's called this week. Reason magazine looked at this back in 2005 in the run-up to the special election in Arlington to finance JerryWorld. What they found was "the stadium clearly benefited the Rangers' owners more than anyone else: [George W.] Bush turned his initial $600,000 investment into $15 million when the team was sold in 1999. But it has produced little of the promised economic benefit to Arlington, and there has never been a real 'public use' factor aside from baseball fans' paying their money to see games."

    So was it worth it Arlington? I'm completely biased and have an ax to grind, so I'm going to say no. Your town is still a dump. Former Mayor Richard Greene -- Mr. Really-Tight-Underwear himself -- used to say "we're nobody's damn suburb." But if Arlington is a big city, no one seems to have gotten the memo. It has plenty of big city problems (crime, education and infrastructure are all issues) without any of the big city amenities (fine hotels and dining, a downtown, any kind of civic life not revolving around a mall or an amusement park.) Hell, it doesn't even have mass transit -- but they are fixing that just for the Super Bowl. Woo. Hoo.

    But putting aside issues like the dubious economic benefits, misuse of eminent domain and letting Jerry suckle at the government teat, maybe we shouldn't be asking Arlington if it was worth it. Maybe we should be asking Dallas. Of course, the D(a)MN is playing nice with Pollyanna editorials, but bitterness does seep through. And if you turn on sports radio and listen to Galloway or Hansen, that bitterness turns into a full-on anti-Laura Miller diatribe. Think there aren't some people who wish Big D has forked over some government moolah to bring the Cowboys back to town? There's lots of 'em.

    So is it worth it? Well, to quote Tom Kelly again, that depends on Arlington's "ability to attract new income into the area and to maintain the circular flow of that income within the city limits." If you think Arlington can do this, then, yeah, you probabIy think it is worth it. You know what I think already. All this is just putting lipstick on a pig.

    Wednesday, May 23, 2007

    PSA: David Garza in Cowtown Tomorrow

    Just a heads up, David Garza will be at Bend Studios Fort Worth tomorrow. The address is 1901 Montgomery. Start time is 9:30 p.m. Admission is $20. For those of you, in Big D, he'll be at the Bend over there on Friday.

    Black Tie Dynasty Go Old Skool

    Fort Worth's Black Tie Dynasty will be taking a trip back to the 80s as they play with former Smiths bassist Andy Rourke at a Morrissey Pre-Party at the Mohawk in Austin tomorrow night. Then on June 2, they play with former Bauhaus frontman Daniel Ash at the Cavern in Dallas.

    Stash Dauber Theater

    A couple of cool video are posted over on Stash Dauber's blog:

  • Cat Head Theatre: Don't ask. Just go watch it.

  • Ramones videos: In honor of the late Joey Ramone's birthday.

  • Einstein and Embracing The Mystery

    Rev. Tim Carson at University Christian Church devotes his Wednesday e-mail to a discussion about Albert Einstein and God based on Walter Isaacson’s new biography, Einstein: His Life and Universe. "I dare say that it would be impossible for a truly informed religious person to be ignorant of Einstein’s views on faith and the universe, whether or not one subscribes to them in their entirely or in part," says Rev. Tim. Einstein was not a proponent of classical theism. He did not have a notion of a super-being, intervention into the natural order of things, or a personal God, but he also had little tolerance with the excesses of blatant atheism.

    This Einstein quote jumped out at me:

    “The most beautiful emotion we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of all true art and science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead, a snuffed-out candle. To sense that behind anything that can be experienced there is something that our minds cannot grasp, whose beauty and sublimity reaches us only indirectly: this is religiousness. In this sense, and in this sense only, I am a devoutly religious man.”

    This rings true to me and my view of the Universe. There is something out there that my mind can't grasp and I don't think our minds can ever grasp, but it is amazing and beautiful. That is the Mystery.

    Tuesday, May 22, 2007

    You'll Never Walk Alone

    Blame Dominick, my soon-to-be-expatriated drinking buddy -- I am now a fan of Tom Hicks' only good team: Liverpool FC.

    And tomorrow is the big day: the UEFA Champions League Final Match against AC Milan, which you can watch live at the American Airlines Center on the 48 1/2- by 52-foot HDTV starting at 1:45 p.m. (pre-game fun starts at 11 a.m.)

    Dominick is one of Dallas' official Liverpool supporters group which includes about 40 diehards, according to Simon Roberts, a wine broker and involved member. He's from Liverpool, having relocated to Dallas about 10 years ago. He said the local chapter was once mostly ex-pats such as himself. Now, the greater majority of local members are actually Americans.

    Now, the challenge is this: how to disappear from work for the entire afternoon.

    Roadtrip To Austin for Tom Waits "Peepshow"

    If you can't see Tom Waits himself, seeing how other people interpret his work is just as entertaining. Coming soon to Austin: Inside a Broken Clock: A Tom Waits Peepshow is a small-scale spectacular featuring dance, puppetry, and risqué vaudeville weirdness, set to the music of Tom Waits and played live by Austin's No Salvation Army Band.

    If your daily diet of Waits, Weill and Brecht is deficient, this show should leave you fortified. As the Web site sez: "This is not a literal peepshow, but instead a peek through the keyhole at the sin and salvation, the sweet nothings and sour grapes that make up the Tom Waits universe as we see it. In the Broken Clock Cabaret you'll see one dancing bear, two fallen showgirls, three disgruntled gravediggers, and dozens of other oddities. From the big top to the back alley, we proudly present the arcane visions for numerous songs--concentrating on the strange world created by Waits and his wife Kathleen Brennan, from 1983 through the present."

    Performances will be at The Parish, 214 E. 6th Street, Thursday, June 14 and Friday, June 15. Be aware that every previous performance of the Peepshow (12 in all) have sold out in advance so buy early.

    For those Rain Dogs not in the Lone Star State, the show goes on the road to California later that month, with performances in Winters, San Francisco, Santa Cruz and Santa Rosa. Visit the peepshow for more details.

    I can't wait to go, and I'll be buying my tickets tonight!

    Young at Heart

    Gary Cartwright catches a glimpse of that rarest-of-species -- the Texas liberal -- in the wild with his profile of Waco Herald-Tribune editorial page editor John Young in the latest Texas Monthly. He annoints Young with the weightiest of mantles: "perfect nominee to replace the sadly departed Molly Ivins as the bee in the Texas establishment’s bonnet."

    My favorite paragraph:

    If Young has a signature issue, it is standardized testing in schools, which is universally despised by parents, teachers, and students but is a favorite of politicians. “Test scores don’t measure excellence,” Young told me. “They measure competence. I didn’t send my kids to school to learn competence.” Massive amounts of teaching-to-the-test have failed the public schools, Young observed not long ago, and now Governor Rick Perry wants to impose the same burden on college students. “If education’s quest is to roll out drones who, when drilled under threat of retention, will do certain state-assigned tasks, maybe ‘accountability’ is a success,” he wrote. “But we all thought higher education was, well, higher.”

    Good News / Bad News

    Scott at Grits for Breakfast reports that Fort Worth's own Lon Burnham successfully used his point of order (discussed here) to negotiate the expansion of phone surveillance out of Senate Bill 11 - the House and Senate authors both agreed to a deal to cut out the entire wiretapping section. (See coverage from the Texas Observer and the Startlegram.) But Burnam did not get Chairman Corte to remove the provisions making emergency plans and "security audits" secret. Thanks, Scott, for keeping tabs on this and thanks to Lon for derailing this infringement on the civil liberties of Texans!

    Thank You, Eyeball!

    Thanks to the Eyeball Kid for the link! To help any RainDogs who might have wandered by, here are some recent Tom Waits-related posts:

  • Live From The Living Room: A link to some TW concerts from the 1970s. Free download.

  • God and Tom Waits: Ramblings on TW and the great cosmic hereafter.

  • Lego Tom Waits: Because Legos plus TW = Kick Ass!

  • Tom Waits Quote for the Day: Just because I liked it.

  • Enjoy!

    Monday, May 21, 2007

    Curb Your Enthusiasm

    Today's Sopranos moment doesn't offer any hot pictures like last week, but it does shed a little light on the mother-of-all fuckstompings that Tony laid out on Coco last night. How did Coco survive that? Well, to the rescue!

    Turns out it's called "curbing" and it previous found a place on the screen in American History X. According to Slate, curbing, or curb-stomping, is also known as the "Brighton Beach Special" and the "Russian Mouthwash," and it is generally meant to wound, not to kill. It all depends where the foot comes down: If it strikes the back of the neck, the victim dies; if the foot strikes the head, the jaw is separated from the skull, but death does not necessarily follow. That's how Coco could have made it.

    UPDATE: Miss Fort Worth continues to rock! I found this new Sarah Shahi interview that isn't that enlightening, but it is an excuse to run another photo. Heh. Click thru. It's worth it.

    Tina Fey=Awesomeness

    Well, I missed Tina Fey's birthday last Friday. And I loves me some Tina Fey. And how could you not? I always thought she was funny, but when she told Kenny the NBC Page on 30 Rock that she would "cut him open like a tauntaun," well, I knew it was love. And I was one happy hombre to learn about this kick-ass new Tina Fey fan site thanks to the good people at Dreams of Horses.

    A funny interview outtake from the Tina Fey fan site:

    Q: Let's take you back to your "Weekend Update" days from "SNL"... The big political story today was about fundraising for the 2008 presidential race. Where's the comedy in that?

    Tina Fey: The comedy for the Democrats is that they're blowing it again. They're showing off too much. They need to be putting a boring white guy out there to kind of get a hold of things. Once the boring white guy is out there, then you bust out the junior senator from Illinois who smokes and does cocaine.

    For the Republicans... I thought the story about Rudy Giuliani's son was interesting. [That Giuliani's son, Andrew, would not be campaigning for his father this summer.] Since he's been a little kid, he's been trying to mess things up for his dad. I really like John McCain. He's an awesome dude and was a lot of fun when he hosted "SNL." I'd love to see a McCain-Giuliani "rage" ticket.

    What's So Bad About An E-mail Interview?

    Is the interview as we know it dead?

    That’s what The Washington Post’s Howard Kurtz is asking.

    It is a transaction that clearly favors the person asking the questions. A print reporter writes down someone's answers, then picks and chooses how much, if any, to use, how to frame the quotes and where to put any contrary information. Television correspondents slice and dice taped interviews in similar fashion. But in the digital age, some executives and commentators are saying they will respond only by e-mail, which allows them to post the entire exchange if they feel they have been misrepresented, truncated or otherwise disrespected. And some go further, saying, You want to know what I think? Read my blog.

    Kurtz’s point is the balance of power between reporter and subject has shifted. Kurtz quotes Jason Calcanis, chief executive of Weblogs Inc., on his blog saying that "journalists have been burning subjects for so long with paraphrased quotes, half quotes, and misquotes that I think a lot of folks (especially ones who don't need the press) are taking an email only interview policy."

    Now, when a story breaks claiming that Curt Schilling’s bloody sock from the 2004 ALCS was actually red paint, Schilling responds on his personal blog.

    So, what? Is it a bad thing that individuals have more channels to express a point of view? No. Certainly e-mail exchanges allow for more thoughtful answers and are much more time efficient. But, as Kurtz points out, there is nuance lost in a digital interview, and it is much easier to self-edit -- which is why interview subjects love it. If our president could conduct all of his interviews by e-mail, he could look positively Churchill-esque. Instead, anyone who has watched a televised news conference with him realizes that when he strays too far from his talking points, he is completely out of his depth. That’s what you can lose with an e-mail interview -- what you get may be less insightful and more like a press release. If we expect journalists to be government watchdogs, that’s not a good thing. But reporters are going to need to find a way to deal with it -- and make it work for them.

    And this actually is a nice segue into my other point, Newsweek’s Robert Samuelson had an interesting take on “The News Business.” He points out what journalists hate to think about: news is a business, but the people who gather the news see it as a craft, a calling, a profession. What pisses off journalists the most is “lost autonomy and power. We're angry that, like everyone else, we're subject to business and financial pressures. Editorial independence has subtly eroded. Decisions about what topics to cover (health, technology) are increasingly tailored to appeal to advertisers. Splintering media markets have weakened the economic base for newsgathering.”

    So Big Media aren’t the only game in town anymore, does that mean they are dinosaurs headed to extinction. As Samuelson points out, the skills that are rewarded are shifting from diligent, curious and clear, to tech-savvy, quick and edgy. But Big Media orgs are in the best position to provide both depth AND immediacy. Case in point: Unfair Park. The Observer does a great job of using this vehicle to be timely and snarky, but they use it as an entry point for great in-depth reporting. Sure, the Startlegram and the D(a)MN have loads of local blogs, but none do the job as well as this one. THAT is the challenge that Big Media faces -- things are changing, deal with it.

    Sunday, May 20, 2007

    enDangered with a Capital D

    Hot on the heels of Historic Fort Worth's list of most endangered places, Preservation Dallas has released its list of Big D's most endangered places. How does Dallas do with its architectural heritage? Does the picture above give you a clue?

    Please take a look at my other blog, DFW Mid-Century Modern for a look at some of the local Mid-Century gems that are at risk.

    Don't Give Barney Fife Another Bullet

    Scott at Grits for Breakfast says it so much better than I can:

    I don't get it. How did we get past the post-9/11 session in 2003 without expanding wiretap authority (at the time David Dewhurst declined to pursue it saying he wanted to respect civil liberties), but NOW in 2007 it's urgent Texas do so?

    I don't know if it is too late, but contact your House member immediately and let them know WE DON'T NEED THIS BILL PASSED! Fort Worth's own Rep. Lon Burnam called a point of order on the bill because the bill addresses more than one topic. SB 11 was pulled down and postponed until Monday morning, which may mean the POO is sustainable (I'd hope so, it's entirely valid - the bill's a hodge podge). Please contact your House member and let them know how you feel about SB 11 today.

    Fort Worth Soldier Killed in Iraq

    Pfc. Joshua Romero, 19, served in B Company, 1st Battalion, 12th Cavalry. The Army informed his wife and father about his death on Friday, the family said. He would have turned 20 next month. "Josh was brave to go out there," said his 6-year-old brother, Anthony Romero. Joshua Romero enlisted in 2005 shortly after graduating from Crowley High School. He told his father the military would help open doors for his future. His father, Joe Romero said Joshua left behind a wife, Michelle, and a 1-year-old son, Joshua David. Survivors include his stepmother, Shellie Romero, and his biological mother, Kimberlee Cummings. Joshua Romero attended Worth Heights Elementary, Rosemont Middle School and Trimble Tech High School before graduating from Crowley.

    Joshua was the 17th Fort Worth serviceperson killed in Iraq.

    I Really Can't Believe This

    I enjoy the hogstomping baroque exuberance of American life -- not so much the Jerry Springer version as the Weegee and Diane Arbus sort of strangeness that pervades our culture. But when I read things like this, it just leaves me shaking my head.

    You may or may not know that there is a group of protesters from the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kan., that stage anti-homosexuality demonstrations at the funerals of soldiers killed in Iraq.The group's message is that U.S. soldiers are dying in Iraq because of America's tolerance of homosexuality. Then there are the Patriot Guard Riders, a nationwide group of motorcyclists who stage counter-protests to show support and rev their engines to drown out Westboro protesters.

    Are you kidding me?!

    I am appalled that these tragic and solemn occasions are turned into such a freakshow. One bit of dignity in all this: Fort Worth’s own State Rep. Charlie Geren-R checks the church's Web site daily to see whether it is planning a protest in Texas. He said he plans to go to every Texas funeral that the group protests."They don't have any right doing what they're doing," Geren told the Startlegram. "That time is a special time that these families deserve to have without these hateful, hateful practices." I'm not a big Republican supporter, but thanks for trying, Charlie.

    Friday, May 18, 2007

    Dallas Theft City

    As the Stash Dauber has already established, it's getting kind of tough for local musicians to hang on to their gear, and it's not because their amp is down at the pawn shop so they can pay the landlord. Bands are getting their stuff boosted on an all-too-regular-basis. Now Unfair Park states that Big D is getting a rep for this kind of thing. The result: a lot of musicians feel about Dallas the way I feel about Arlington.

    Dallas Is Gay

    I don't make this stuff up, I just link to it. Time magazine calls Dallas, "the lavender heart of Texas." And did you also know: "If city councilman Ed Oakley defeats former Turner Construction CEO Tom Leppert, Dallas will become the first big U.S. city to elect a gay mayor. Dallas would join Berlin and Paris as major cities led by gays."

    Thursday, May 17, 2007

    Cowtown Moderne

    I love this picture! It's the Kress Building and the Sinclair Building downtown, two of Cowtown's finest examples of art deco architecture. This Fort Worth Art Deco Moment is brought to you by Kevin at FortWorthology. Swing by his site for a bigger version of this pic and check out his site redesign. If you have even a passing interest in Fort Worth architecture, you'll find you can learn a few things there.

    Wednesday, May 16, 2007

    Doug and Jill Bryan Back at Poor David's

    Seems like they were just there, but they're back, baby! Doug and Jill Bryan return to Poor David's on Friday. Cover is $7. Doors open at 8. Music starts at 8:30. And, by popular request, you can now visit them in the InterWeb at Doug Bryan Music.

    Live from The Living Room

    Do you wanna download audio of some guy playing guitar in somebody’s Illinois living room? Naw, me neither. But, what if the guy was Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy? Now you’re on to something. Check out The Owl & the Bear for more cool live downloads, including some of my faves Alejandro Escovedo, Tom Waits, Elliott Smith, The Shins, Lucinda Williams, Peter Bjorn & John and Cat Power. Goodness!

    Whilst blogging Jeff Tweedy, here's an interview with him on The Onion AV Club.

    UPDATE: I have actually downloaded the Tom Waits & the Nighthawks concert from December 14, 1976. In a word --unbelieveable! If you are a fan, you must check this out like now.

    Roommate for RadioShack?

    Evidently there is an upside to laying off a bunch of people. Mitch Schnurman reports that RadioShack maybe looking for a roommate to share its palatial new digs on the banks of the Trinity. Thanks to the $96 million in public subsidies that Cowtown gave RS to build its mighty PleasureDome, "RadioShack has a distinct advantage over other developers who couldn't get tax breaks."

    Of course, that wasn't even the best part of the column for me. Check this: "Since Julian Day arrived as chief executive last July, RadioShack has been brutally cutting costs big and small. Last week, office plants were carted to a garage and sold to employees for $5 each, presumably to save the expense of caring for the greenery. Now that's depressing, given that the company made $42 million in the first quarter." Wow, I wish I had known. I need some landscaping.

    Newspaper Navel Gazing and Self-Serving Blogspeak

    A couple of interesting items from Romenesko. Note to newspapers: evolve or die:

  • Representing "evolve": Departing Philadelphia Inquirer managing editor Anne Gordon sez newspapers are suffering the pain of their failure to innovate. She believes that there has been a shift in the role of newspapers. "I see print journalists playing an active role less in the breaking of news and more in the analytical side-explaining it." She is also a big believer in breaking down the barriers between reporter and reader, with more "give and take between provider and consumer." Also, she sees a future with handful of high-price superstar journalists and whole legion of low-priced spares. A reporter's deep knowledge of one subject will drive that value.

  • Representing "die": Retired Cleveland Plain Dealer editor Doug Clifton believes newspapers need to make money from online content distribution. He says he hears at least once a day someone saying: "I don't need the newspaper; I get my news from the Internet." He reminds readers that the Internet doesn't produce the content, it merely distributes it. "Newspapers will survive if readers pay them for their web content or if advertisers flock to newspaper websites in sufficient numbers to offset the revenue lost to the ink-on-paper enterprise. One or both of those options is likely to happen. If they don't, newspapers - and the journalism they produce - could die."
  • Tuesday, May 15, 2007

    What The Hell Is A Constable For Anyway?

    I've always wondered about this and now Grits for Breakfast answers this burning question for me. The answer: Not freaking much. And to add some fuel on the fire, one commenter sez contends "they file more lawsuits AGAINST their counties than any other set of elected officials." Hmmmm.

    UPDATE: And speaking of worthless constables, the FWWeekly's Jeff Prince introduces us to Tarrant County Constable Clint Burgess, who looks like a real firecracker.

    UPDATE, PART DEUX: This is going to be my catch-all constable post. This guy is sort of the poster boy for sleaz-easy constables.

    Historic Fort Worth Adds To The List

    Yesterday, we took our shots at the Startlegram for its lame election coverage and it had me thinking about Cowtown’s only daily. Most people have a love / hate relationship with their local paper: they love it when it coves something important to them and they hate it when it ignore something important to them or covers it badly. Today, it made amends (sort of) by highlighting on the business cover Historic Fort Worth adding a dozen properties to its list of Fort Worth’s Most Endangered Places.

    It has been two years since the organization last released the list. The group is announcing its new list today in the hopes that steps can be taken to preserve the properties. The properties were nominated by the public and chosen by a committee at Historic Fort Worth, said Jerre Tracy, the group’s executive director. “You can never re-create them,” Tracy said. “Once they’re gone, they’re gone. It affects all of us.”

    A couple of the places closest to my heart:

  • 3000 University Drive (pictured above), better known as the drag by TCU.

  • The TXU power plant on North Main Street.

  • Cowtown’s remainging single-screen movie theaters: the Ridglea, New Isis, Berry and Azle theaters.

  • Chase Court, a planned residential subdivision comprising one block bisected from east to west by an esplanade drive with landscaped islands. It was laid out in 1906 and remains the earliest documented planned subdivision in the city. One of my wife’s co-workers lives here, and to say it is cool is an understatement.

  • Thanks to the S-T for giving serious play to this story. Saving these places makes our city a better place to live.

    Metrognome Collective Comes Back

    The Omniscient Cindy at FineLine hips us to the fact that Metrognome Collective, the Fort Worth community artist’s cooperative on Lancaster, has finally received official federal tax-exempt status, meaning that they can now accept tax deductible donations from individuals, businesses and the government. The primary goal is to have a new and legal studio/performance/gallery space within a year. You can help us make that happen in the following ways: 1. Volunteer. 2. Spread the word. 3. Get Involved. They are working on setting up a fund-raiser in the next couple of months, and if you are interested in participating, contact

    Monday, May 14, 2007

    Piling On

    Kevin started it and Bernie kept it going and I am sad to say, I agree with 'em -- the Startlegram election coverage was pretty piss poor. Not just on Sunday, but leading up to the election as well. As another Friend of Bernie said: “The Star-Telegram used to be a really bad newspaper… I’m not sure you could even call it a newspaper anymore.” Ouch!

    Bosque Brown @ The Cavern

    Video of last Friday's show from Big D little d.

    Miss Fort Worth - REALLY?!

    Well, damn if I wasn't happy to find a local angle on this story, and from The Kingpin of Cowtown, no less! If you watched The Sopranos last night, you might have noticed Sarah Shahi, the stripper who was last seen tripping her ass off with Tony Soprano at the Grand Canyon. Turns out Sarah is a Euless native (poor girl) and a former Miss Fort Worth (1997). Sarah, thank you for representing the 817 so well.

    Notes from the Sunday Paper

  • Mitch Schnurman spanked RadioShack CEO Julian Day for lowering his company's profile as a corporate citizen in Fort Worth. In the past, RadioShack has been one of the key players in the world of Fort Worth philanthropy. But that river of revenue for many local arts and community organizations has completely dried up. Sez Schnurman: "Day's seclusion is fueling speculation -- and local fears -- that he's a short-timer who's dressing up RadioShack for a sale. He could net a huge payday, return to his Montana lake house and take comfort in the fact that shareholders benefited immensely from his brief stay, even if Fort Worth is worse off for it. That may seem defensible, given that public companies are supposed to maximize their return to investors. But the best enterprises -- those built for the long haul -- serve many stakeholders, including employees and their hometown."

    UPDATE: One former RadioShacker echoes Schnurman's comments: "Julian Day is single-handedly destroying the fabric of a company just so he can get the stock price up -- and he's done it in less than a year. RadioShack is a mere shell of what it was. Apparently, Julian now only talks to a handful of people in the company. No one can see him, they basically go through his top executives. It's a shame -- he won't stay longer than 18 to 24 months, then he will take off, pocketing over $20 million. When he leaves, the company will no longer have any type of foundation to stand on. Hard to believe the Board of Directors is letting this happen."

  • Steve Jacob shed a lot of light on the on the dire state of healthcare in our state. As many of you may or may not know, we have socialized medicine in America -- it’s called the Emergency Department. Instead of paying for people to have health coverage on the front end, we pay for it -- or don’t as the case may be -- on the back end through our nations EDs. How’s that working out for us here in Texas? Not so good, sez Jacob:
    “THA estimates the annual ER uncompensated tab to be about $200 million in Texas. Who pays for that? The standard practice in healthcare has been to shift the costs to those who are able to pay through higher hospital charges and health insurance premiums. In 2003, the Texas Legislature started an ingenuous effort to help our trauma centers by creating a new sin tax called the Driver Responsibility Program (DRP). Drivers cited for various violations are required to pay surcharges on their fines, including those for such things as failure to maintain insurance or driving with an invalid license. ... Unfortunately, the state is having trouble collecting the DRP funds. According to a Department of Public Safety report, less than a third of the $478.4 million generated by the program has been collected. The Senate recently passed legislation authorizing the use of collection agencies and creation of an installment-payment program to boost penalty recovery. More significantly, the Legislature has not released $82 million in DRP funds for the past two fiscal years, consistent with the state government's misguided tradition of diverting or withholding designated funds.”

  • Sunday, May 13, 2007

    Thanks, Bernie!

    Well, the votes are in and our man Bernie Scheffler ended up with the smaller number, but Bernie is already focused on the future.

    Thanks for your hard work and the positive campaign, Bernie. I'm ready for 2009 right now.

    Friday, May 11, 2007

    It's Almost Over

    The Texas Legislature is wrapping up it's session this week, which means there's all kinds of nonsense going on. If you are interested in reading more about that kind of thing, please refer to one of my new favorite blogs, Grits for Breakfast where Scott Henson has a great roundup on the status of criminal justice related bills.

    Coming Soon To A Newspaper Near You?

    You wouldn't think that you could cover local news in say, Pasadena, Calif., from India, but evidently you can ... or at least thinks so. Unfortunately, I think we will see more moves like this very soon. Do you think someone in Bangalore can cover news in Fort Worth better than someone here can? I don't think so, and I hope no one else in Fort Worth does either.

    Thursday, May 10, 2007

    Is Cowtown Crazy for Giuliani or What?

    As dicussed previously, Fort Worth is crazy for Rudy Giuliani. But is Rudy Giuliani just plain crazy? Vanity Fair’s Michael Wolff seems to think so. “It’s a Catch-22 kind of nuttiness. What with all his personal issues -- the children; the women; the former wives; [Bernard] Kerik and the Mob; his history of interminable, bitter, asinine hissy fits; the look in his eye; and, now, Judi!, his current, prospective, not-ready-for-prime-time First Lady -- he'd have to be nuts to think he could successfully run for president. But nutty people don't run for president -- certainly they don't get far if they do.”

    Or do they?

    UPDATE: Rudy Giuliani hates ferrets and the people who love them and here is the audio to prove it. I haven't laughed this hard in a long time.

    Modern Architecture in the MetroMess

    There's nothing I enjoy more than a good Internet pissing match. Well, actually, there's A LOT of things I enjoy more, but an Internet pissing match will do to pass the time.

    This particular one is between Anthony Mariani at the FWWeekly and the good folks the Fort Worth Architecture online forum, which is -- IMHO -- one of the great online discussions about civic life in the Fort. The people at the Fort Worth Architecture forum are passionate about this city, opinionated, educated and knowledgeable. It's a good read that I highly recommend.

    Anyway, this all started with Mariani's piece on modern architecture in Dallas and Fort Worth. The gist of the article was this: although Fort Worth is proud of its examples of Modernist and contemporary public architecture -- the Amon Carter Museum (Philip Johnson), the Kimbell Art Museum (Louis Kahn), and the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth (Tadao Ando) -- Dallas is poised to jump into the lead with its Dallas Center for the Performing Arts and the Trinity River project. Mariani ended the article by saying "as Dallas boldly looks forward, Fort Worth should think twice about looking back. In other words, fellow Cowtowners, get your digs in at Big D while you can."

    This article certainly raised the hackles of the architecture geeks at the FW Architecture forum -- and I mean architecture geek in a positive way. I thought the comments made some interesting points, but devolved into cheap shots and Dallas vs. Fort Worth rhetoric (which is a WHOLE post unto itself). My take on it was the architecture geeks were mostly right, and Mariani was flat-ass wrong, at least in regarding public architecture in the two cities.

    While Dallas certainly is taking great strides in its public architecture with what's going on in the arts district, I'm not sure that Rem Koolhaas' design is going to redefine the way anyone in the Metromess looks at public architecture. As a proud member of the Cowtown tribe and self-proclaimed architecture geek, I ain't gonna wet my pants over this one. I'll put our museums up against anything in Big D and feel good about it.

    And throwing out the Trinity River Vision as an example? Spend anytime at Unfair Park or Frontburner, and you'll see that people in Dallas have mixed feelings at best about that little boondoggle. Is it a parks project? Is it a highway project? Who knows? And how will all that money that Dallas voters approved be spent? And the Calatrava Bridge? If it is ever built, it will get you to Ray's Sporting Goods faster, but what else?

    That being said, if you want to talk about things that Dallas is doing right, how do you not mention the Nasher? It's a sublime architectural experience.

    OK, enough of the piling on Anthony Mariani because I thought he did bring up an interesting point: progressive residential construction in Fort Worth is, for all intents and purposes, non-existent. To quote the article:

    The third wave is one of the most progressive residential developments in the country. Urban Reserve, located on the east bank of Upper White Rock Creek, introduces Modernist and architected single-family speculative tract housing into North Texas’ hodgepodge of cottages and colonials, Tuscans and Tudors. Think flat roofs and fake façades rather than houses of seven gables and protective (or confining?) white columns.

    At the vanguard of a burgeoning nationwide movement, developer Diane Cheatham’s 13-acre project is further evidence that, from the vantage point of today, Modernism isn’t as foreboding as it seemed during the height of its popularity in the early 1970s. Urban Reserve and similar housing developments apply to cul de sacs the philosophy of Target superstores: offer exceptional contemporary design at reasonable prices. Nearly all of the 50 proposed dwellings have already been sold.

    Coupled with the performing arts center, Urban Reserve will put Big D on the map, as an international destination and a place for design connoisseurs — rich and not so rich — to call home and be congratulated on their urbanity.

    So, Dallas has the Urban Reserve and Kessler Woods Court and many other fine custom-built examples of modernist architecture sprinkled through town. And, Fort Worth has -- what? -- Village Homes? Nothing, really, except that house down in Burleson that was in Dwell Magazine

    That's not to say there's anything much to write home about regarding affordable modernist residential architecture in the Metromess. And I know lots of people think that modernist architecture has to be expensive. Not true. KRDB architecture in Austin is doing really nice, yet affordable, modernist architecture in A-town. Austin even has its own modernist subdivision. Why not in Fort Worth? Is there no market for it here? Is it just that people prefer Tuscan fantasy crap? Now that's a story I want to read!

    However, Anthony Mariani couldn't leave it alone. Anthony, you should have just walked away. Yeah, you took some cheap shots. But you have to hold your head up and just walk on by. Trading cheap shots may feel gratifying, but it ain't very professional. Just snap your panties back into place and move on.

    However, Mariani made a good point:
    To many respondents, comparing Fort Worth to Dallas — or one city to another — is a fool’s errand. Suggesting that there’s some sort of rivalry between Cowtown and Big D is an even bigger affront to reason. But twin cities such as Minneapolis-St.Paul, Winston-Salem, and Fort Worth-Dallas aren’t “normal” metropolises. Especially in regard to a potential visitor or resident’s perception of the city, twin cities must be evaluated differently, meaning that one twin cannot be assessed as a place in which to live or sightsee without considering the other. The identity and vitality of each depends on the cross-pollination of ideas and, more significantly, location-specific cultural resources. We have the Cultural District and are either loved or envied by Dallasites for it. Dallas will have an enormous, spellbinding performing arts complex and will be either loved or envied by us for it. (The normal folks, not caring about city limits and hotel-motel tax income, will be glad just to have more cool stuff in the region.) Each twin feeds off the challenge of meeting or surpassing the other’s cultural resources, for the sake of fueling the health of the entire region.

    You make a good point, except for this: "Suggesting that there’s some sort of rivalry between Cowtown and Big D is an even bigger affront to reason." While technically correct, you're point is spiritually flawed. Most old-time Fort Worth residents make a hobby out of hating Dallas while most most people in Dallas regard Fort Worth like they do San Angelo or Abilene -- it's out west somewhere. You need two sides hating each other to make a rivalry. That said, there is a rivalry and the reason it is not an affront to reason is this -- it's fun. Yeah, it's stupid and it may not make sense but it defines the DNA of many here in Fort Worth. We're from Fort Worth, we damn sure ain't Dallas. Cross-pollination be damned!

    Now give me an ice-cold Rahr Stormcloud and a chop beef sandwich from Angelo's and I'll be on my way.