Friday, August 31, 2007

Rick Noriega in Dallas Yesterday

Rick Noriega isn't officially running for the U.S. Senate, but you'd never know it by watching him yesterday.

He was here in the Fort yesterday afternoon for a lunch at Joe T's where he spoke to a group of 50 over enchiladas, picking up campaign contributions and the endorsements of Tarrant County State Representatives Lon Burnam, Paula Hightower Pierson and Marc Veasey before making his way through the rain to Far North Dallas for event at the home of Lenna Webb and Bob Franklin.

Noriega's had a good week for endorsements. Governor Dolph Briscoe, Lt. Gov. Bill Hobby and State Senator Rodney Ellis gave him their support, as did the Texas State Association of Firefighters. An endorsment from Daily Kos appears to be forthcoming next week.

Why the endorsements? Why are all of these people lining up behind him now?

Because in the reddest of red states, in the heart of maybe the most Republican state in the country, Rick Noriega looks like he can do the unthinkable: run as a Democrat for a statewide office and win. And after listening to him last night, I'm more convinced than ever.

Part of his appeal is his military bearing. The Texas National Guard lieutenant colonel and Afghanistan vet isn't vulnerable to accusation of being "soft" on security. He can talk about running a convoy and setting up checkpoints because he's been there. As he puts it, he knows the difference between an M203 and an M&M.

"I just got back from two weeks of training at Fort Benning, and when you look at these 18- and 19-year-old kids who will do anything their country asks them to do, you realize they deserve better. They need leadership that is willing to be held accountable."

After six years of the dodge and deflect strategy from Republicans, it's kind of refreshing to hear that. But Noriega also knows that the Republicans aren't going to take this lying down.

"Are we as Texans ready to take a step forward? Our state is off track and if we are going to set things right, we must be ready for the campaign of misinformation that John Cornyn and the Republicans are ready to unleash. They'll use this to divide us so they can maintain power. We have to reject that, but it will be a tough fight."

I can't help but wonder how long will it take before Dallas' own Merrie Spaeth finds a way to swift boat Noriega and tell us he wasn't even in Afghanistan?

But Noriega was there. And he's also served with the Guard along the border, and was tapped by Houston Mayor Bill White to manage the care for 30,000 Katrina evacuees at the George R. Brown Convention Center. That, combined with his background as a legislator allows him to speak knowledgeably on defense, security and immigration issues. If that's what you want, he can do the wonk thing.

But he also has the one-liners down, too. When someone asked the inevitable Larry Craig question, he knocked it over the fence -- "Republicans give gays and lesbians a bad name."

Of course, that wasn't the only bit of Republican hypocrisy that he skewered. He got plenty of shots in at the junior senator from the State of Texas. "John Cornyn voted twice to build a wall along the border. When he's speaking in East Texas, he tells them he voted for it. When he speaks in the Valley, he says he voted against. But he's changed his position on lots of issues since this little chihuahua started nipping at his heels."

And that is part of what makes Rick Noriega such a formidable candidate -- he's an experienced legislator with a significant military background who also happens to be Hispanic. And because he's so strong with issues that Republicans have traditionally owned, he can talk about education, healthcare and social issues without appearing to be "soft" on anything. As he puts it, "Compassion isn't a weakness." Amen, brother.

So who is Rick Noriega? He's the guy Republicans have worried about for years. And he's the guy Democrats have been waiting for. He's a winner.

Help Rick Noriega Today
Today, grassroots activists across Texas are launching a petition to put Rick on the March 2008 Democratic Primary Ballot. The election code gives candidates the option of obtaining signatures or paying $5,000 to qualify a candidate for the ballot. Many candidates opt to just pay the fee because it's the "easy" way to go.

Not Rick. He's building a grassroots campaign, and here's our chance to show the strength of the Noriega grassroots. Texas requires a candidate to obtain 5,000 signatures. Rick wants 25,000 signatures. You can help him get there by signing a petition. Download one here or drop me a line and I'll sign you up.

Also, take time to tell someone about Rick. And, if you are able, send him a few dollars. A small investment in time and money today could mean a Democratic senator from Texas in 2008.

Going Postal

Kevin had this cool photo of the new Arlington Heights Post Office the other day -- and I'm digging the architecture and the way they are incorporating the tornado-damaged billboard posts. But Pete knocked off a great one-liner about this: "I particularly like the 2 dimensional postal truck. I guess it would be good for carrying Flat Stanley, and the occasional post card." Good one, Pete.

Metrognome Collective Art Shows

For Fort Worth Gallery Night, the not-for-profit artists co-op Metrognome Collective is thrilled to present three shows in three different venues around Fort Worth.

  • The Metrognome Peep's Show: This new show of art by Fort Worth artists: Mark Penland, Adam Werner, James Lassen, Jill Foley, Delaney Allen, Jesse Barnett, Christopher Blay, Nick Prendergast, Paul Leicht, and more. The Peeps Show will be located in our temporary gallery space on the ground floor of the Lancaster Lofts building located at 1324 East Lancaster Ave. Fort Worth, Texas 76102. The show is being sponsored by Flora Brewer of the Lancaster Lofts to spread the word about the future home of The Studios at Lancaster Lofts. The Studios will be newly constructed prestige artist's studios and a gallery, aimed at developing a new arts district just east of downtown Fort Worth. Intended to be the working home for ten carefully chosen fine and commercial artists, The Studios are a badly needed resource for the Fort Worth arts community. Metrognome's Peep's Show is Sept. 8, and the gallery will be open from 12pm to 12am. Admision is free.

  • The Chat Room Pub Show: The prints of Andrew Kendall are on display. Andrew is a talented printmaker from north Texas, and his distinctive, gritty work, inspired by collecting trash, strikes an delicate balance between the worlds of pop and urban style street art. The art perfectly suits the eclectic crowd at the Fairmount neighborhood's Chat Room, and complements their fine selection of spirits. On display through Oct. 1 at the Chat Room Pub, 1263 W. Magnolia Ave.

  • Arts Goggle: Metrognome artists will be displaying work at the amazing Spiral Diner, Fort Worth's only vegan restaurant. The Fort Worth Arts Goggle is on Friday, September 7, from 5-10pm at various locations. The Spiral Diner and Bakery is at 1314 W Magnolia Ave.

  • For more information, contact James Watkins.

    Thursday, August 30, 2007

    The Last Straw?

    Saturday promises to be an interesting day in downtown Fort Worth. While Republican Party faithful are casting ballots inside the convention center Saturday, the group Texans for Peace will be conducting a poll of their own in General Worth Square to show that Americans want the troops brought home from Iraq.

    "We're not protesting the Republicans," said Charlie Jackson, founder of the nonprofit Texans for Peace, which is spearheading the event. "We're simply saying the people have spoken on this issue [the war], and with one voice, they've said that we need to bring our troops home.

    The event looks to be interesting, featuring speakers including Ann Wright, resigned from the State Department to protest the war, and Cindy Sheehan, maybe the most visable face of the anti-war movement.

    And they may outnumber delegates for the first-ever GOP Texas straw poll. Party officials have not released how many delegates have registered for the poll, while anti-war supporters say they may number in the thousands.

    Rick Noriega in Fort Worth and Dallas

    Rick Noriega, who I'm sincerely hoping will run for the U.S. Senate, will be in the area today.

    This morning, he'll be in Fort Worth as Tarrant County State Representatives Lon Burnam, Paula Hightower Pierson and Marc Veasey host a fundraising lunch event to support his U.S. Senate Exploratory effort. The lunch will be held at Joe T Garcia's on 2201 North Commerce. It starts at 11:30 a.m.

    "I am honored to have the support of my friends and colleagues from Tarrant County," Noriega said. "Representatives Burnam, Pierson and Veasey and I have stood side by side in the trenches fighting for common-sense solutions to help Texas families. They are outstanding public servants and advocates for their communities. I am grateful for their invitation to come to Fort Worth, and I look forward to discussing my campaign for change in the U.S. Senate."

    He'll be in Dallas tonight for an event at the home of Lenna Webb and Bob Franklin at 17201 Hidden Glen Drive in the 75248. The event is scheduled from 6-8. If you would like to attend, contact Rick Cofer at (512) 771-6266 or Campaign contributions will be accepted and appreciated. Please come out and meet the next Senator from the State of Texas.

    If you are wondering "Who is this Rick Noriega?" watch the video above.

    Wednesday, August 29, 2007

    Internet Timewaster Alert

    I did this Real Age thing yesterday and it looks like I'm about halfway to my expiration date. A couple of interesting things: driving is one of my biggest risk factors. No word on whether bug eating is a plus or minus. FWIW.

    Tuesday, August 28, 2007

    Republican Mouthpieces, Eh?

    An interesting article appeared last week in the FWWeekly basically accusing the Texas A&M Press of becoming a Republican Party mouthpiece. I myself being a knee-jerk liberal and true Orangeblood, the story made me go, "Yeah ... and so ...?"

    However, one piece of evidence that Cynthia Shear used to support her thesis was this: "This fall, A&M Press will bring out a biography of Clayton Williams, paid for by Clayton Williams, an A&M alum who lost a gubernatorial race to Ann Richards in part because he said Texas weather is like rape: If it’s inevitable, relax and enjoy it."

    Now say anything you want about Williams. It matters not to me. But I think Shear was a little off base by submitting the Williams bio as evidence of a vast Right Wing Aggie Conspiracy. This book, of course, has two Fort Worth connections: it's written by Mike Cochran with an editing assist from wordsmith Mike Blackman. Cochran is best known as the author of Texas vs. Davis, the story of the Cullen Davis murder trial, and as one of the pallbearers at the funeral of Arlington Heights alum (and alleged presidential assassin) Lee Harvey Oswald. Blackman is the former executive editor of the Star-Telegram and currently a journalism professor at Sam Houston State. These guys ... Republican mouthpieces? Seems pretty damn unlikely to me.

    So I asked them both: was the Williams book a vanity project?

    "When Claytie sat down with me and asked me to do this project, I told him I wasn't going to do a fluff book," Cochran said. "Claytie told me, 'I don't want no damn fluff book.'"

    Blackman echoed that. "Cochran -- he's nobody's mouthpiece, and certainly not for Clayton Williams. Not once in our many hours of interviews did Williams ever say 'no comment.' Sometimes he and Cochran butted heads big time. Sometimes I became the referee, separating these two pugnacious rascals."

    Cochran remembered one time when he and Williams got into it.

    "I told him that Bush -- now this is fact -- Bush would never have run for governor in '94 if Williams had beat Ann Richards. And if that doesn't happen, Bush doesn't have a springboard to run for president. And we're not in Iraq right now. So we're not just talking about Williams changing the history of Texas. He changed the history of the world."

    To put it mildly, Williams didn't agree with Cochran's reasoning. And that's sort of how it went. Sometimes they got along. Sometimes not. But they always managed to make up over tequila shots. So bottom line: was this a vanity project?

    "Not at all," Cochran said. "Claytie wanted a book with humor in it. And I think that's what he got. If anything, Claytie's lovely wife, Modesta, thought he was too candid."

    And that's pretty much what I thought I'd find -- two guys with decades of journalism experience between them just trying to tell a damn good story. "If Williams had wanted a book painting him in glowing colors, some heroic portrait, then he screwed up bad, because Cochran's book reveals flaws and shortcomings galore," Blackman said. "Besides, I ask you: What's the percentage in whoring at our age? We're not that fetching."

    Republican Homosexual Epidemic Speads

    Bob Allen, Glenn Murphy ... move over. Is there room in that bathroom stall for one more? Idaho Senator Larry Craig is the latest Republican to catch a case of gayness. Although he says "I am not gay," a guilty plea on a misdemeanor disorderly conduct charge after an undercover police officer alleges Craig solicited him for sex at the Minneapolis airport, and not to mention another allegation by a 40-year-old professional man with close ties to Republican officials told the Idaho Statesman he had oral sex with Craig at Washington's Union Station, would seem to indicate otherwise.

    Lunar Eclipse This Morning

    A lunar eclipse this morning
    running muddy red to smoke gray
    tracked across a black sky
    and an earth so dark
    that you couldn't see a thing
    by looking at it
    only by looking near it.

    Riding my bike in the morning
    is the only time I really feel
    in the moment
    during the whole day.
    I focus on my breathing
    and my pedaling
    how do my legs feel?
    what's in front of me?
    That's the way life
    should be
    all the time.

    (Totally cool lunar eclipse photo from TurboSpaz on Flickr.)

    Sunday, August 26, 2007

    Remembering 1977

    I don't usually recommend anyone read a Jim Reeves column, but his column today got me thinking about Frank Lucchesi, the former Rangers manager whose claim to fame was being coldcocked by Lenny Randle.

    Back in 1977, I was a huge Rangers fan. In fact, I liked the Rangers about as much as I liked Star Wars. Dad would take my brother and me out to the old Arlington Stadium when he would get the company seats from John Deere. We would sit about 15 rows behind the Rangers dugout. One evening before the game, I saw Frank Lucchesi standing by the fence near the dugout. I took my little notepad and ballpoint pen down to get an autograph. One of Arlington's finest tried to turn me away because it was too close to gametime. "No autographs after 7:05," he said. "It's OK," Frank said, and signed my notepad. "Frank Lucchesi, 7:05." I thought that was pretty cool. Thanks for the autograph, Frank. I appreciate it.

    The Johnson Treatment

    The Startlegram had an interesting story on the new-found interest in Lyndon B. Johnson. Writes John Moritz: "The death of Lady Bird Johnson last month and the outpouring of tributes to the former first lady's quiet influence during her husband's tumultuous presidency have rekindled a resurgence of interest in the Texas couple's years in Washington. Attendance at the LBJ Library and Museum at the University of Texas at Austin reached about 36,000 from July 15 to Aug. 1. That's twice what would typically be expected from such a stretch during the summer."

    I've always been an LBJ fan, which surprises some people. Most folks -- mainly boomers -- still think about Vietnam and "Hey, hey, LBJ, who many kids did you kill today?" And certainly Vietnam, or "that dirty old bitch of a war" as he would call it, will always color many people's opinions about the man. The great American writer Ralph Ellison told him as much. But Ellison, who was grateful to Johnson for the great strides he achieved in civil rights, said: "When all the returns are in, perhaps President Johnson will have to settle for being recognized as the greatest American president for the poor and for the Negroes, but that, as I see it, is a very great honor indeed." Agreed.

    I still think that what made the man great was he believed in a vision of American greatness. Look at his record: aid to education, attack on disease, Medicare, urban renewal, beautification, conservation, development of depressed regions, a wide-scale fight against poverty, control and prevention of crime and delinquency, removal of obstacles to the right to vote. Maybe the Great Society was an overreach, but the fact is that the lives of millions were improved under his leadership. In my opinion, he's still the greatest president from Texas. He truly believed that no person should be left behind.

    New Tenant on the TCU Drag?

    Looks like the former Texadelphia space on the TCU drag is about to have a new tenant: the Fort Worthian blog reports that Buffalo Brothers Pizza & Wing Co. appears to be the new tenant. Too bad. I'd prefer something locally owned, but I'll withhold judgment for now at least.

    Saturday, August 25, 2007

    Mahler's Ninth at Bass Hall

    An hour into the Fort Worth Symphony's performance of Mahler's Ninth on Saturday night at Bass Hall, conductor Miguel Harth-Bedoya took an extended pause. His orchestra had reached the end of the third movement and Harth-Bedoya had coaxed every ounce of emotion from the first three movements. Now they were prepared to assault the summit -- the emotional climax of the adagio. He took a handkerchef from his pocket and mopped the sweat from his brow. He looked to his left at his violinists and smiled slightly. They smiled back.

    "Are you ready?" he asked. They were ready.

    The final movement is marked "very slowly and held back" and the FWSO walked the tightrope effectively. The fourth movement is filled with both sadness of death and the beauty of transcendence. Balancing this paradox is a technical challenge and the FWSO seemed to welcome the challenge. And at the end, they knew they had succeeded. They were obviously proud of their achievement. Deservedly so.

    Mahler was never really appreciated in his time and listening to the Ninth, it's easy to hear why. It doesn't sound like 1910. It doesn't sound like the turn of the century. When did Mahler finally come into their own? With Leonard Bernstein's advocacy in the 1960s, after Auschwitz, after Dresden, after Hiroshima. As Lewis Thomas wrote, "I cannot listen to the last movement of the Mahler Ninth without the door-smashing intrusion of a huge new thought: death everywhere, the dying of everything, the end of humanity."

    Maybe the FWSO's Mahler cycle is well timed -- the perfect soundtrack for America's Post-9/11, Iraq-era age of anxiety.

    Close, But Not Quite

    Well, I thought this was the Fort Worth Sanger Brothers building, circa 1920s, but I can see upon closer inspection that it ain't. Still, it's kind of cool photo from an advertisement in the back of 1923 University of Texas Cactus yearbook. This one's for Kevin. Good luck with the move!

    The Devil Is In The Details

    As Tom Waits once sang, "The large print giveth and the small print taketh away." Those of us in Fort Worth who have previously signed gas drilling leases are finding out how true those words are.

    As this morning's Star-Telegram reports, Fort Worth residents are finding that signing over their mineral rights may actually cost them money.

    Sayeth the Startlegram: "Before they can cash their royalty checks, they have to get legal releases called subordination agreements from their mortgage companies. And the mortgage companies are asking for fees that amount to several years' worth of royalty payments. Gas-company officials said the problem may affect every homeowner who has signed a gas lease after reaching a mortgage agreement. That could include thousands of people in Fort Worth."

    Get this from one Chesapeake executive: "We do realize now that there needs to be a better job of telling people upfront," she said. "We're changing our language in the leases and telling people that they have a responsibility to make sure they get the subordination."

    Thanks, guys. That's the first I've heard of this. Is it premature to utter the words "class-action lawsuit"? I'm having a little bit of trouble accepting the fact that I may actually lose money because I signed a drilling lease. Meanwhile, my good friends at Chesapeake and Four Sevens are rolling in the money and laughing all the way to the bank.

    Oh, well. Caveat Emptor. If you haven't signed a drilling lease, I urge you to be VERY CAREFUL. You may not be getting what you think.

    Thursday, August 23, 2007

    A Beat-Down For The Ages

    Whoda thunk it? This year’s Texas Rangers – at one time on course to be one of the suckingest teams in the Rangers sucky history – pulled a fast one and found its way into the record books yesterday. And in a good way. Really.

    The Rangers set a modern-era record for most runs scored by one team in a game with a 30-3 cudgeling of the Baltimore Orioles. They easily trumped the previous club record, also set against the Orioles, of 26 runs in a 1996 contest. No team had scored 30 runs since 1897, when the Chicago Colts scored 36 against the Louisville Colonels on June 29, 1897.

    In spite of this, the Rangers still suck.

    Best and Worst of College Football

  • The Best: 59-year-old Mike Flynt is giving new meaning to being a college senior. He's a grandfather and a card-carrying member of AARP. He’s also got one year of athletic eligibility left. That’s why he just returned to Sul Ross State in Alpine and made the Division III football team’s roster, 37 years after he left and six years before he goes on Medicare. He's eight years older than his coach and has two kids older than any of his teammates. He could be in action as soon as Sept. 1.

  • The Worst: Taking the Red River Rivalry way too far, an Oklahoma City man has been charged with aggravated assault and battery, accused of causing extensive damage to another man's scrotum just because he wore a University of Texas shirt into a local bar. Allen Michael Beckett could be looking at five years in prison for his alleged attack on Brian Thomas. To read the whole sordid tale, check out NewsOK.
  • Wednesday, August 22, 2007

    Cultural District Off The Hook!

    The FWWeekly just posted this notice that there phone lines are down for the next three days because of phone line cuts. I also just got off the phone with my insurance guy off of Bailey and he said that whole area is down because someone doing construction by the Post Office cut something. Hmm ... now what could be going on over there? Curse of The Wreck Room maybe?

    Interview with Harry Parker

    Was I happy to find this: an interview on Pegasus News about Fort Worth theater poobah Harry Parker. Harry has been an integral name to the Fort Worth theater scene for a few years now. Not only is he directing The Last Mass at St. Casimir's: Over the Tavern III for Circle Theatre, he's also the Department Chair and Professor for TCU's Department of Theater. Harry's a friend and I saw fortunate enough to catch the previous installment of this trilogy, and Harry does a great job. If you are in the mood for some theater, do yourself a favor and check it out. If nothing else, take a few minutes to listen to this interview.

    Attempted Abduction Near TCU

    Here's a scary story: Students at TCU are being warned about the attempted abduction of a woman that was reported last Saturday a couple blocks north of campus, officials said.

    According to the alert, a woman who was not a student arrived about 2 a.m. Saturday at her apartment just off of University Drive, two blocks north of campus. The woman was getting out of her vehicle when she was confronted by three men; one of them said something about a phone and then the trio attacked her. The woman fought back and the assailants fled. Judging from the description, in sounds like the Park Hill Apartments. Yipes!

    I Love This Time of Year

    And it ain't because I like fryin' eggs on the sidewalk. It's because I have a fever, and the only prescription is college football. I was going to put together this whole long ode to my love of the sport, but words fail me. It's something you just kind of have to feel ... like winning ... in The Shoe ... at Night. Remember that one Mike?

    Tuesday, August 21, 2007

    Bernie Makes It Official

    Bernie Scheffler officially declares for the District 9 Council seat, and he does so with some strong words for gas drilling companies:

    [Fort Worth] is a city at a crossroads, and I believe action must be taken now to preserve that character. Some of the newer corporate citizens in town - namely, the gas drilling companies - are making billions off of Fort Worth. Unfortunately, they do so with little regard for our people or neighborhoods. It’s time someone took a stand against the threat urban gas drilling poses to our homes and our parks.

    Along 8th Avenue, drillers plan a well just 300 feet from the nearest home. The city-mandated safe distance is 600 feet, but the drillers continue planning, hoping to get a variance from the city. As a city council member, I will vote against any such variance.

    Along the Trinity Trails just across the river from the Colonial Country Club, drillers plan to clear-cut 2.5 acres that is home to some of Fort Worth’s oldest and most beautiful trees. This move could prove environmentally disastrous, and would irreparably damage one of Fort Worth’s finest recreational resources. As a city council member, I will fight tirelessly to keep urban drilling from negatively impacting our quality of life.

    To protect our city, we need energetic and forward-looking leadership. We need a candidate who is beholden to the people of Fort Worth, not to special interests.

    Sounds good to me, Bernie. Let's get it started.

    Around Fort Worth

  • Smoking Ban Vote: After 18 months of debate, the Fort Worth City Council is scheduled to vote today on whether to extend the ban on public smoking. The council first discussed the changes in February 2006 and appointed a committee of business owners and public-health groups to come up with a recommendation. The committee suggested a widespread ban, including all restaurants and bars. City Council members balked at that, and City Manager Charles Boswell recommended allowing smoking in bars to avoid driving business out of Fort Worth. UPDATE: Council votes 7-2 to ban smoking in restaurants beginning in January, but the ordinance approved Tuesday still allows smoking in bars and bingo halls.

  • Vote Bernie Moment: Bernie posted this comment from a recent J.R. Labbe column in the Startlegram: "The last tear from Davis' emotional speech in front of the council hadn't dried upon her cheek before bicycle shop owner Bernie Scheffler, who ran against her just three months ago, had "elect me" signs in his yard." In the words of Fat Tony, it's funny because it's true."

  • Don't Sign: Pete had this post today: "If you live in any of the 10 neighborhoods in or around Ryan Place, PLEASE do yourself a favor and don’t sign anything you get from a drilling company until you check with your neighborhood association! I know that Ryan Place has an excellent team of concerned citizens working very hard to ensure that we get the best deal financially and the one that least impacts our quality of life." I know there was a Ryan Place neighborhood meeting regarding the leases last night. If someone has an update, please let me know.

  • Streetcar! Kevin at FortWorthology makes a (convincing) pitch for a downtown streetcar system.

  • On The Lighter Side: I'm glad to see I'm not the only one challenged by the siren song of the taqueria -- but I do not know this Taqueria San Luis. I must investigate -- after September 15.
  • Monday, August 20, 2007

    Barnett Shale Buyer's Remorse?

    Signs like the ones pictured above are a common sight around the Berkeley, Mistletoe Heights, Ryan Place and Fairmount neighborhoods of South Fort Worth where lots of residents are up in arms about proposed urban drilling for Barnett Shale gas deposits. For a good overview of their concern, I'll refer you to this FWWeekly story from March.

    Now, before I go off on a ramble, I'll go ahead and disclose that my wife and I signed a drilling lease with the Four Sevens Company this past winter. We were a little skeptical at first, but after speaking to person with first-hand knowledge of the Barnett Shale drilling, we decided to sign. His advice: "They're going to drill anyway whether you sign or not, you might as well get the money." And so it went. A modern-day Jed Clampett, I went ahead and signed.

    Call me a hypocrite if you will, but I'm struggling a little bit with this decision. I know what's done is done, but things I'm hearing are not making me feel that great about my decision to sign. It's not that I'm against drilling. That stuff is down there and it's coming out by God. If Fort Worth can make some money off of it that it can use to make this a more liveable, vibrant city, I'm all for it.

    But if it means that Chesapeake, Four Sevens and other Barnett Shale drillers make billions, while the neighborhoods, homeowners and Average Joe just get the shaft, that I'm not OK with. I am not suggesting that anything untoward is going on, but when I found out that Four Sevens Partner Dick Lowe was one of the boosters at the center of the TCU football scandal back in the 1980s, it made me a little queasy to think we're depending on this guy to do the right thing by Fort Worth neighborhoods.

    I'm not OK with shortcuts that will jeopardize the environment and the safety of our neighborhoods. I'm not OK with destroying the Trinity Trees. And I'm not OK with variances to the 600-foot minimum required by Fort Worth ordinance.

    And that's just what I know, which ain't much. But I'm going on a little quest of sorts to find out more from people involved in what's going with urban drilling. I want to know more about the environmental impact, safety issues and long-term ramifications for Fort Worth. Where is the city's money going to go? I don't know the answers to these questions and maybe I'm a little late in asking. Maybe the horse is out of the barn. But I don't think we can just slide by on good intentions, or, at least I can't. I want to know what can be done so that this Barnett Shale drilling is done with safety and environmental sensitivity, and that the Fort gets the money it has coming and spends it wisely.

    FW Should Show MC Router The Love

    Although Cary Darling introduced me to MC Router and the geekcore scene in the Fort a few months back, the FWWeekly jumped on the bandwagon and gave them a little love last week.

    And of course, tha paradox is while MC Router can play packed clubs in the Pacific Northwest, she and her fellow geekstas don't get the same adulation right here at home. And that's too bad, because FW needs to support this kinda cool.

    “I fucking love Fort Worth, I fucking love Texas,” she told the FWWeekly. “I want people to know me here. I’m gonna burn a whole tray of CDs and start going to where my target audience is — game shops, comic book stores, computer stores. I’m gonna draw signs and stick them at random places all over town — on telephone poles, at intersections — that say ‘Nerd? Geek? Video Gamer? Interested? Here’s my web site.’”

    How can you not love someone with that kind of attitude?! We need to support that kind of kickassitude. If you're interested, she plays Club Dada in Dallas tomorrow night. I'm still kicking myself for missing her show with MC Chris at the Aardvark earlier in the month. Totally whiffed it on that one. Next time she's back in the Fort, I'm there.

    Bluebonnet Circle Condos Moving Forward

    When I wrote a few weeks ago that the proposed condos south of Bluebonnet Circle were moving forward, for some reason the concept of "immediately" didn't jump into my mind. Well, as you can see above, demo has begun, along with the pesky problem of asbestos removal. Here's to hoping they're doing it right, and, if they're not, that the prevailing winds blow to the east.

    Sunday, August 19, 2007

    Odds and Ends from The Sunday Paper

    A pretty readable Sunday in the S-T. Some of the highlights:

  • The Man At The Door: Chris Vaughn had an enlightening story on Mark Kelsey of Pantego, a man you never want to see at your door if you have a loved one in the service. He's the man who comes to tell you that your loved one is dead, a task he has performed 55 times since he went back on active duty in 2006. How does he do it? Why does he do it? "Even though I am bringing them horrible news, I'm there to help them," he told Chris. "I get a sense of accomplishment from that. I'm also honored to be there. The soldier would want a caring professional to bring their family the news. So while I'm helping the family, I feel that I'm also honoring the soldier." It's unfortunate that America needs Kelsey to do this job, but I'm glad as an American that we have someone who is able to handle this task with such compassion and professionalism.

  • Salim Nourallah: Cary Darling's profile of Salim (pictured at right) was quite revealing and well-timed. "Shades of Jeff Buckley, Wilco, Ray Davies and Crowded House color the melancholic splendor of Nourallah's work, which has been honored with numerous Dallas Observer music awards -- best producer at last week's 2007 ceremony and best album, song and producer at last year's." I'm already a big fan of Salim's blog -- now I need to pick up his latest album, Snowing in My Heart. (iTunes link)

  • Mahler Overview: Matthew Erickson provided a good overview of Gustav Mahler's life and work leading up to the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra's Mahler Festival, starting this Thursday. Me and the girls are going to check out the Ninth on Saturday, so this help me get geeked up.

  • The Foreclosure Crisis: Mitch Schnurman does what he does best -- taking a big national story and making it relevant for the local reader. "Foreclosures aren't the cause of the trouble; they're a symptom of scores of bad home loans and years of overbuilding. In this area, rising foreclosures were sending a signal to the market three or four years ago, but they were ignored -- with few consequences. ... Texas foreclosures should have been the canary in the coal mine: Put too many people in homes they can't afford, and loans go bad and streets fill up with empty houses. ... In the latest postings, the average loan originated in 2003, according to George Roddy of the Foreclosure Listing Service in Addison. And an even greater number of risky loans were made in '04, '05 and '06. 'Do the math, and that means we have two to three more years of this left,' Roddy says." Yipes.
  • Saturday, August 18, 2007

    Keepon Dancing To Spoon

    No arms. No legs. And still a better dancer than me.

    Friday at The Wreck

    Joined Ken and Kat at The Wreck last night to see Liquid Bounce and PPT.

    As they say, PPT is kind of a big deal. They went big time last year when their song “Rowdy, Loud, and Proud” won a popular vote contest to become the Dallas Mavericks’ fight song. More recently, like this week recent, PPT won best hip-hop act at the Dallas Observer Music Awards. I don't see a lot of live hip hop, but I do like to see good live music, so the chance to drink a beer with Ken and see what the PPT was about was enough to get me off the couch at 10 on a Friday night.

    And the PPT didn't disappoint. When you see band that's got "it", you just kind of know it. Some bands have that extra gear and PPT is one of those bands. Pikahso, Picnic and Fort Worth's own Tahiti rocked my ass. I put my hands in the air and I would have put my cell phone up, too, except people would just wonder why that guy was holding a walkie-talkie. And when PPT covered the old Romantics' song "Talking In Your Sleep," I was intrigued by the fact that everyone over age 30 seemed to know the words. They finished up with this guy I see at Starbucks join them on stage. Oh, yeah, that's Corey Watson from Black Tie Dynasty, another big winner at the DOMAs this week. A great night. My rating: A big hell ye-aahh. For Ken's take, check it out here. And that's Kat's picture above. See all of Friday's photos (and more) on her blog.

    Other random observations: I liked the Liquid Bounce as well. Lead singer/sax/keyboard guy Kevin has some serious chops. ... Ken pretty much knows everybody. Ever thought about running for mayor?

    Friday, August 17, 2007

    The Starbucks Oracle Speaketh

    I just heard about the Starbucks Oracle yesterday. Basically, you enter a drink, the oracle spits out a profile. Here's the response to my regular summer order, the iced tall Americano.

    The Caravan of Dreams: O Starbucks Oracle, what do you maketh of my chosen drink -- the iced tall Americano? O share your caffeinated wisdom.

    Starbucks Oracle: Your personality type is asshat!

    TCoD: O Starbucks Oracle, why doth thou smite me?

    Starbucks Oracle: You carry around philosophy books you haven't read and wear trendy wire-rimmed glasses even though you have perfect vision. (I did make it most of the way through those Spinosa and Kierkegaard books ... and I do wear sunglasses. Do go on.) You've probably added an accent to your name or changed the pronunciation to seem sophisticated. (I have been debating a change to Steavae. True.) You hang out in coffee shops because you don't have a job because you got your degree in French Poetry. (I am employed but I do have a French poetry book.) People who drink ice tall americano are notorious for spouting off angry, liberal opinions about issues they don't understand. (Well, got me there.)

    TCoD: O Starbucks Oracle, anything else?

    Starbucks Oracle: You also drink any drink with a foreign name. (TAZO CHAI!) You can also be found at the other, locally owned coffee shop you claim to like better. (FYI, I am writing this at Four Star Coffee Bar.) The Starbucks Oracle Hath Spoken!

    TCoD: One love.

    Starbucks Oracle: Peace.

    More Republican Hypocrisy

    In June, Tim Droogsma, a former press secretary to a US senator and a Minnesota governor, told the Star Tribune after reading its sex relationships column: "I don't think I'm too prudish -- which, I realize, is what prudes always say -- but do we really want this sentence: 'She hopped on my lap, facing forward. I pulled up her skirt in the back, slid her panties out of the way, and unzipped'?" (Editor's note: Actually, I'd love to read that sentence in my Startlegram and I think that would help solve some circulation problems ... and sell more papers. Ba-dum-bump! Thanks. I'm here til Thursday. Try the veal.)

    Well, you see where this is going, don't you?

    Droogsma was arrested this week in a midafternoon prostitution sting in St. Paul.

    Thursday, August 16, 2007

    Interview: Randy Bacon

    Randy Bacon's art doesn't lend itself to appropriate viewing on this Web site. It has nothing to do with the content -- his West Texas landscapes capture character of the place and the quality of the light with stunning nuance. No, the work doesn't lend itself to this Web site because of the format -- his canvases are very horizontal. And I mean very horizontal.

    Fortunately, Randy's a creative problem solver. Check out his Web site -- it's one of my favorites.

    Randy's a Fort Worth artist, but a lot of his work highlights parts west: Marfa, Anson, Albany, Blanco. I love Randy's art, and he was gracious enough to answer a few questions about his work.

    The Caravan of Dreams: You recently completed your MFA at TCU. Were you painting before? Why did you decide that the MFA process was a journey you needed to make?
    Randy Bacon: I was a decent painter through college and the first five years after undergraduate degree, but when I moved to Fort Worth in 1985 and became partner in an ad agency I co-founded with Jim Stuart, there weren't enough hours in the day to paint any more. So I didn't paint for 20 years, the business was so demanding. I always meant to get back to painting, but didn't think it would take so long. When we closed the agency five years ago, the first thing I did was start painting again...I accepted the TCU scholarship two years ago because I wanted to get better, but mostly because I wanted to study with Jim Woodson, a great painter who's work I've always admired. It was a great experience in every way.

    TCoD: How did your thesis exhibit go?
    RB: Great. Humbling. Lots of people came. I was happy with how the paintings looked in the gallery, the installation and lighting were good. And then when the show moved to Grace Museum in Abilene, I was happy with how the show looked there too -- different atmosphere, lighting and feel, but equally good. (See Randy's painting, Patricia, below. It's on display at the Grace.)

    TCoD: You may be just out of school, but unlike so new grads, you have already had an entire career in advertising. How did you decide to leave your old career behind and were you able to apply any of the lessons you learned through advertising in your art?
    RB: That was a giant leap of faith I've never regretted. And after running an ad agency all those years, I wasn't afraid of hard work -- plus I'd learned how to 'trust my gut.'

    TCoD: Many of your paintings are very, very horizontal. How did you arrive at the conclusion that a long, horizontal canvas was the best format for your work?
    RB: Movies. I look at things like a letterbox movie screen. The windshield makes a great editing tool. And West Texas is so well-suited for panoramas, especially when your eyes become like a movie camera making a left-to-right pan to take in the vastness. (Randy's painting, Ballinger, is below.)

    TCoD: How do you choose the places you paint? Are these real places, places from your memory or both?
    RB: These are all real places, but places I know very well, so the paintings often are a hybrid of reality filtered through memory. I like to choose situations that make me curious, like what just happened here or is about to happen? -- especially when there is some subtly, mysterious narrative element.

    TCoD: Explain your process of putting together a painting? How long does the process take and how much revision is involved?
    RB: I wish I could explain that, but I can't. Some paintings happen effortlessly, quickly, and others are a lengthy struggle -- and I'm often surprised at which are which. It's unpredictable. In order to really paint all day long, I usually have four or five paintings going at one time so when I get stumped or a surface is too wet ... I can switch to another painting in order to keep working.

    TCoD: Quality of light is a big part of your painting. What aspect of the light in West Texas interests you most? What is the hardest part to capture?
    RB:The colors of earth and sky in West Texas can be dramatic, especially early in the morning or late in the day. Hardest part to capture? I suppose to communicate a sense of movement in a still format.

    TCoD: Who are the artists who influence you most and why?
    RB: So many. I couldn't have had a better teacher than Jim Woodson, in addition to being incredibly talented, he's one of the finest people I've ever known. Other artists; I love Hopper, Inness, Wayne Thiebaud, Rackstraw Downes... because of the great ways they solved the same kinds of painting issues I deal with. But I love all kinds of stuff and admire many artists, whether they are applicable to me or not. Anslem Kiefer, Matisse...I'm all over the place on what I like to look at. And I love some of the Texas regionalists like Alexander Hogue, Jerry Bywaters, Otis Dozier, William Lester and Everett Spruce.

    TCoD: You are an artist from Fort Worth, but I haven't seen any examples of Fort Worth reflected in your art. Am I not looking in the right place? Are there any local places you'd like to paint?
    RB: Oh, I've done many Fort Worth paintings, but not in the last couple of years, so you haven't seen any on the web site or in the museum shows.

    TCoD: So what does it mean to be one of the "Texas Five" at David Dike Fine Art? David Dike handles works from a lot of great Texas regionalists from the past, so how does it feel to have your art hanging in a gallery that includes great Texas artists such as Jerry Bywaters and Tom Lea?
    RB: It feels good of course! The five are the only living artists David represents.

    TCoD: Good point. Describe your process of putting together a painting. How long does a typical painting take? How much revision is involved and how do you know when it's done?
    RB: I love to work on site, but rarely can because of the time involved. It might take a month to finish a painting and since most of my sites are out of town, I usually take reference photos to refer to and do some site sketching for composition. Sometimes I can start a painting on site and then finish in the studio, working from the references. (See Texas Theater Marfa above)

    TCoD: Thanks for your time, Randy. Good luck!

    Wednesday, August 15, 2007

    More Cowtown Election News

    Burnt Orange Report sez Tarrant County Democratic Party Chairman Art Brender is not a declared candidate for Senate District 10. "In fact, based on his speech last night, he sounds like a County Chair that will remain on the job till the end of his term in 2008," Todd Hill writes. "Also, the first declared Democrat candidate for the open HD 97 seat vacated by Anna Mowery is 2006 candidate Dan Barrett. Dan declared, to approving applause, 'a Democrat is going to win District 97!'" Let's hope so.

    Separated At Birth?

    From the awesomeness that is PinkDome: former Fort Worth state rep Anna Mowery and The Simpsons' Cat Lady.

    Save the Trinity Trees

    I ride my bike through here every day. This beautiful, eight-acre wooded parcel of land along the Trinity Trail near Rogers Road, which most people thought was a park, is now owned by Chesapeake Energy. Plans are being finalized by Chesapeake to destroy 2.5 acres of the trees to be used as a gas drilling site.

    The trees are located in Fort Worth along the Trinity River Hike and Bike Trail just upstream from the Rogers Road bridge and north across the Trinity River from Colonial Country Club. Click here to view a slide show posted on Wednesday, August 8, summarizing the Trinity Trees issue.

    What can you do to help?

  • Spread the word.

  • Attend the Trinity Trees Picnic: Labor Day, September 3, 11:00 am – 2:00 pm, along the Trinity Trail by the grove of trees.

  • Attend the City sponsored Public Forum: Thursday, September 6, 6:00-8:00 pm, Capstone Church, 1700 Rogers Road.

  • Go to to learn more, register for updates, post comments on our various blogs, download printable fliers and petitions, and/or donate.
  • Fort Worth Budget Tops $1 Billion

    City spending will top $1 billion next year, for the first time, the Startlegram reported today. Residents will see more police and fire protection but no decrease in the tax rate, according to a proposed budget unveiled Tuesday.

    The City Council won't have to make the sort of cuts for the 2008 fiscal year that City Manager Charles Boswell had predicted in previous budget discussions. But the budget will still be strained as the city begins paying for a long-term fix in the municipal pension fund. Water bills will rise as the water and sewer rates go up, as does the storm water fee.

    However, budget looks to be on a collision course with some members of the city council who are looking for a tax reduction. Fort Worth has the highest tax rate of any large city in Texas, at 86 cents per $100 assessed valuation. One big area of concern for me personally is the $410 million shortfall in municipal pensions over the next 30 years. The budget allots $9 million to pay for the city's cost of fixing this problem. Is that really enough?

    Foreclosure Capital of Texas

    Fort Worth-Arlington had the highest rate of home foreclosures in the state and among the highest in the nation during the first half of 2007. Foreclosures hit one of every 57 households in Fort Worth-Arlington, ranking it 13th among the nation's top 100 metro areas, according to RealtyTrac, a California-based foreclosure-tracking service. Unbelievable!

    Dallas Observer Music Awards

    Let's hand out a couple of pats on the back from last night's Dallas Observer Music Awards. Winners of note:

  • Best Music Blog: Gorilla vs. Bear

  • Best Producer: Salim Nourallah (not Fort Worth but I love his blog)

  • Best rap/hip-hop: PPT (at The Wreck this Friday)

  • Best Male Singer: Corey Watson of Black Tie Dynasty.

  • Best Album: Movements by Black Tie Dynasty

  • Best Act in Town: Black Tie Dynasty.

  • For more info, check out Big D little d (WTF Wilonsky?)

    So You Think You're Special?

    Are you having a pretty good day so far? Good. Well, hang on, because Dr. Nick Bostrum of Oxford University is about to rock your world. “My gut feeling, and it’s nothing more than that,” he told The New York Times, “is that there’s a 20 percent chance we’re living in a computer simulation.”

    I don't really know what to say to that. However, my wife did. "If this is a computer simulation," she said. "I want to speak to the IT guy."

    Tuesday, August 14, 2007

    Holy Cow! Phil Rizzuto Checks Out

    Scooter has left the building at age 89. Who saw that coming? I'm not a big Yankees fans, but for Scooter and Yogi, I make an exception. Godspeed, Phil. You'll be missed.

    Blowing and Going

    There has been a rash (probably a poor choice of words) of blowjob-related stories in the news. And who am I to ignore them? Salacious details to follow:

  • Republican Hypocrite, Part 1: Old news now, but still, get this. Fla. State Rep. Bob Allen, one of 21 Florida legislators to sign Gov. Jeb Bush's friend-of-the-court brief supporting the state's ban on gays adopting children, was arrested recently for soliciting sex from an undercover officer in a public restroom. But he had a defense: he was afraid of the scary black man. Um-kay.

  • Republican Hypocrite, Part 2: What are the odds of this? Another Republican looking for a little man love. The problem this time wasn't a pesky undercover police officer, rather some poor Young Republican who really didn't want to wake up to national chairman Glenn Murphy, Jr., unexpectedly fellating him. Wonkette has the dirty details.

  • H-Town Five-Oh: Thinking about trading oral sex in exchange for avoiding arrest for traffic warrants? A Houston Assistant Police Chief sez no prob! Thanks, Grits for Breakfast for the tip, er ... I mean the heads up, er, I mean ... uh ... nevermind.
  • Manga Charlie Brown

    Because I know that Bukowski Charlie Brown wasn't enough, I submit for your approval Manga Charlie Brown. Domo arigato, Mr. Boing-Boing.

    Republicans for Rick Noriega

    Republicans for Rick Noriega? It's not that far-fatched reports the Half Empty blog.

    Houston business leader Massey Villarreal announced that he is forming a “Republicans for Rick Noriega” committee to support Rick Noriega’s campaign for US Senate from Texas. This is a guy who was the national Hispanic vice-chairman of the Bush/Cheney for President Campaign and deputy vice-chairman of the Republican National Convention in 2000. He is supporting Mitt Romney for president, and voted for Kay Bailey Hutchison for Senate.

    “I have told Senator [John] Cornyn I am disappointed because what his words are, and what his actions on the Senate floor are, are two different things,” Villarreal said.

    “It’s disappointing he voted for those [immigration bill] amendments. Those amendments were mean-spirited in nature. I believe he is appealing to the base and I’m sorry, the base will have to come out strong to re-elect him because the Latino community won’t be there for him.”

    Arlington, You Are STILL Dead to Me ...

    ... With your gay veteran-hating churches and your spontaneously combusting playgrounds. Yeah, that's right. I'm not over it.

    Monday, August 13, 2007

    Fort Worth News Items

  • Check out the Stash Dauber for the schedule of event before the Wreck Room rides off into history. Someone needs to get a camera crew together. There's a documentary in this a la Last Night at the Alamo

  • Ken also reminds us that Fred's is now open on Sunday and closed on Monday and Tuesday. So adjust your schedule accordingly.

  • A couple of things from the Panther City Boys: 1) A Labor Day Bike Ride is on the board so air up your tires. 2) There is a community meeting scheduled for Sept. 6 to discuss the impact of Barnett Shale drilling on the Trinity Trail. City staff and Chesapeake Energy reps will be there. And so should you.

  • Kevin reminds us that Lili's is still delicious.

  • The Fort Worthian points out that Texadelphia by TCU is no more. And Cafe Express is also no more.

  • Tammy Gomez got blurbed in the D(a)MN.

  • The Startlegram lists the contenders for Anna Mowery's old state house seat.

  • Sunday, August 12, 2007

    They Saved Hitler's Records

    Nearly 100 records that may have been owned by Adolf Hitler have surfaced in Moscow recently. The records, now worn and scratched, were stored in the attic of a former Soviet intelligence agent, who left a note saying he took them from the Reich Chancellery after the fall of Berlin in 1945. The records include the works of Tchaikovsky, Borodin and Rachmaninov, and prominent Russian and Jewish musicians, notably Bronislaw Huberman, a Polish Jewish violinist.

    Tough Reading on Iraq

    I have lots of problems with the mission in Iraq, but nothing but respect for the men and women who sacrifice so much to serve the country they love. For those wondering about the psychological toll it takes, this latest article in The Nation paints a troubling picture. If you wonder why Iraqis would hate us, this article makes it pretty clear: " From these collected snapshots a common theme emerged. Fighting in densely populated urban areas has led to the indiscriminate use of force and the deaths at the hands of occupation troops of thousands of innocents." And the soldiers who have been at sharp edge of U.S. foreign policy have to deal with the things they see and sometimes do.

    One example, one soldier explains the raids that American forces conduct trying to find insurgents:

    "You run in. And if there's lights, you turn them on--if the lights are working. If not, you've got flashlights.... You leave one rifle team outside while one rifle team goes inside. Each rifle team leader has a headset on with an earpiece and a microphone where he can communicate with the other rifle team leader that's outside.

    "You go up the stairs. You grab the man of the house. You rip him out of bed in front of his wife. You put him up against the wall. You have junior-level troops, PFCs [privates first class], specialists will run into the other rooms and grab the family, and you'll group them all together. Then you go into a room and you tear the room to shreds and you make sure there's no weapons or anything that they can use to attack us.

    "You get the interpreter and you get the man of the home, and you have him at gunpoint, and you'll ask the interpreter to ask him: 'Do you have any weapons? Do you have any anti-US propaganda, anything at all--anything--anything in here that would lead us to believe that you are somehow involved in insurgent activity or anti-coalition forces activity?'

    "Normally they'll say no, because that's normally the truth," Sergeant Bruhns said. "So what you'll do is you'll take his sofa cushions and you'll dump them. If he has a couch, you'll turn the couch upside down. You'll go into the fridge, if he has a fridge, and you'll throw everything on the floor, and you'll take his drawers and you'll dump them.... You'll open up his closet and you'll throw all the clothes on the floor and basically leave his house looking like a hurricane just hit it.

    "And if you find something, then you'll detain him. If not, you'll say, 'Sorry to disturb you. Have a nice evening.' So you've just humiliated this man in front of his entire family and terrorized his entire family and you've destroyed his home. And then you go right next door and you do the same thing in a hundred homes."

    If I remember my American history the right way, unreasonable search and seizure was a big factor in the American Revolution. It seems we've forgotten that in the past couple of centuries, or at least the past few years.

    Politics, Unusual

    You know, I had just about written off the Lone Star State as a lost cause. Any state that would give Slick Rick Perry such a long term at the helm would not seem to be taking full advantage of everything that representative democracy has to offer. However, we have a few glimmers of hope lately:

  • Senate District 10: There's blood in the water, at least according to The Lone Star Project. The ethically-challenged Kim Brimer, who pioneered the sleazy practice of using special interest campaign contributions to make mortgage payments disguised as "rent" on a second home kept in the name of a spouse. Brimer used the scheme to funnel over $200,000 to his wife to pay for a second home in Austin. Enter Wendy Davis. Sure, she's well liked in downtown Fort Worth, but how will a Democrat play in the red collar suburbs of Colleyville, Grapevine, and Euless? Reports that she donated to George W. Bush in 1999 as well as Kay Granger may make her a little more acceptable. But will that make her less likeable to Democrats? Will Tarrant County Democratic Party Chairman Art Brender decide to run? Who knows? But PinkDome has isolated one huge factor in her favor: she's much hotter than Brimer.

  • Fort Worth City Council Race: Of course, the real reason that the Caravan is excited about Davis taking an early exit from the City Council is the open door for Bernie Scheffler to run again. The Startlegram finally got around to calling Bernie for a Saturday story. Bernie told the S-T: "It came a little earlier than I expected it to," he said. "I think I'm still going to be one of the smaller candidates, campaign-funding-wise. But there will be one familiar name on the ballot, which will give me an advantage, unlike the last time, when I was a political newcomer." Looks like one opponent will be Joel Burns, a member of the city Zoning Commission and chairman of the Fort Worth Historic and Cultural Landmarks Commission, announced his candidacy via e-mail Friday. I'd like to encourage all my regular readers to take a minute to visit Bernie's campaign site at I Heart FW and read a little about the man and if you could, send a few dollar his way. He's not a big-money establishment candidate, his money comes from small donations from regular people sending in a few dollars at a time. Help if you can.

  • Rick Noriega: There was a great post on Job's Anger about another ethically-challenged Republican, John Cornyn, who not only voted against ethics reform, he opposed increasing the funds available for the State Children's Health Insurance Program. Great guy, Cornyn. Why help children when you can help the fat wallets in the insurance industry get fatter. Enter Lt. Col. Rick Noriega. This is the guy I want representing the great state of Texas for me in the U.S. Senate. And as long as I am trying to pry money out of your wallet, send Rick Noriega some, too. He's got an uphill battle against Cornyn in the money department. He needs your help. And we need him.

  • Kinky in '10? Well The Kinkster hasn't ruled out another tilt at the wildmill in 2010, as a Democrat no less. He's already got my vote. Just tell me where to show up. I can't quit you.
  • Saturday, August 11, 2007

    Early Morning Ride on the Trinity

    One of the best things I've gotten out of blogging is the opportunity to meet some great people around Fort Worth that I probably wouldn't have met otherwise.

    There's Ken, who I aspire to be like when I grow up. There's Bernie, who I aspire to be like when I lose sixty pounds and keep up with him on a bike. And there's Pete, who is the Mac ninja I can probably never be.

    Pete and I hadn't met until this morning when he joined me for my morning death slog along the Trinity. I am, of course, gassed. Pete, the former Marine, was barely winded. So we talked, ate bugs and dodged joggers before ending up at Starshmucks for coffee and more convo. He's got one of those sweet iPhones and I gotta say I've got a serious case of phone envy. Pete's a great guy and I encourage those of you who haven't checked out his blog to go over to Cowtown Chronicles and poke around.

    Let's do it over beers next time, Pete.

    Friday, August 10, 2007

    Bernie Scheffler, The Time Is Now

    City Councilwoman Wendy Davis resigned Thursday night, announcing that she plans to challenge veteran state lawmaker Kim Brimer for his state Senate seat in 2008. Davis will run as a Democrat. Brimer is a Republican.

    Davis defeated my main man Bernie Scheffler for the District 9 seat this past May. Well, Bernie, now you have another chance. You need to run again. You will win this time. Bernie, the time is now. Fort Worth needs you.

    One thing that hurt Bernie in the last election was the cloak of invisibility that the Star-Telegram threw over him. Fort Worth's daily did an egregiously poor job of covering all of the challengers in the city council races, which gave the incumbents even more help that they didn't need to hang on to their seats. Well, don't expect things to change that much this time, either. Last night, Bernie wrote:

    "Reporters don't even try to get all the facts these days! The Star-Telegram reports this evening that two people are thinking about running for Wendy Davis' vacated council seat. But did they even bother to call the guy who ran three months ago? Of course not; my phone never rang.

    "Mr. Spangler, Batheja, and Lee: shame on each of you. I realize that blog posts like this one probably won't make me any more likely to get coverage in your paper, but still... you owe it to the people of Fort Worth to at least try and get the whole story. Give me a call next time, OK?"

    I agree. Bernie, you have my full support in this election, too. I also intend to support Wendy in her campaign against Brimer. I like the way this is going.

    Architecture: A Dissent

    I like architecture. I write about architecture sometimes. It interests me.

    Annie Choi doesn't like architecture. In fact, she wrote an entire article about it. Not that I agree with all of it, but it's funny. My favorite part:

    "Architects love to discuss how much sleep they have gotten. One will say how he was at the studio until five in the morning, only to return again two hours later. Then another will say, oh that is nothing. I haven’t slept in a week. And then another will say, guess what, I have never slept ever. My dear architects, the measure of how hard you’ve worked and how much you’ve accomplished is not related to the number of hours you have not slept. Have you heard of Rem Koolhaas? [Yes, I have, Annie. He's designing the new Opera House in Dallas. - Steve] He is a famous architect. I know this because you tell me he is a famous architect. I hear that Rem Koolhaas is always sleeping. He is, I presume, sleeping right now. And I hear he gets shit done. And I also hear that in a stunning move, he is making a building that looks not like a glass cock, but like a concrete vagina [Wow, it does. It'll be GREAT in Dallas]. When you sleep more, you get vagina. You can all take a lesson from Rem Koolhaas."

    Or maybe not.

    Thursday, August 09, 2007

    Random Thoughts From The Trinity Trail

    Things I was thinking about while riding the Trinity Trail at 6 a.m.:

  • How many pounds of bugs do I eat a day?

  • Biking into the wind is hard.

  • How many chemicals are in the fish that the river birds are eating?

  • Old ladies who smoke cigarettes make me laugh.

  • Am I slow because I am fat and out of shape? Or am I slow because I'm riding a mountain bike on the trail? Or both? I need to ask Bernie about that.

  • Why do people on the trail not want to stay on the right?

  • I am going to feel a lot better when this is over.

  • Why do people still have W stickers on their cars? Isn't it a little embarrassing at this point?

  • Biking with a tailwind makes you feel like Mr. Schwinn-fucking-Armstrong.
  • Wednesday, August 08, 2007

    Mowery Heads Out To Pasture

    After 19 years representing my part of Fort Worth in the Texas House, right-wing fossil Anna Mowery announced her resignation Tuesday. I say good riddance. As the S-T put it, "Mowery became known in recent years in part for her unflinching support of House Speaker Tom Craddick."

    More than 10 other candidates have signaled in recent months that they are considering a run for Mowery's seat, including, among Republicans, Fort Worth school board member Chris Hatch, former Fort Worth Councilman Clyde Picht and Fort Worth lawyer Robert Higgins, who unsuccessfully challenged Mowery in the 2006 primary. Democrat Dan Barrett, a Fort Worth lawyer who opposed Mowery in the general election in 2006, has said he is considering pursuing the seat again.

    Mowery's resignation will likely mean that a special election for her seat will be added to the Nov. 6 ballot, but it could be called earlier if Slick Rick Perry so decrees.

    Scat Jazz Lounge Update

    Ricki Derek sez construction is about to begin – that’s the good news. The bad news is it looks like he’s hedging a little on a 2007 opening. He sez they are trying to open before the holidays, which is pushed back from October, which is pushed back from … well, you know the drill. Get here quick, Rick. We’re waiting!

    Dennis Kucinich for President

    I'm not sure that this country is ready for a president named Dennis, but teh interweb quiz told me to vote for him, so here I am. Here's how I scored on the quiz: Kucinich 45, Gravel 38, Obama 26, Edwards 25, Richardson 23, Clinton 23, Biden 18, Dodd 17, Paul 3, McCain -9, Cox -16, Thompson -20, Huckabee -25, Giuliani -26, Brownback -41, Romney -41, Hunter -41, Tancredo -42.

    As Paul pointed out to me when he sent me this quiz, some issues (campaign finance reform, earmarks in legislation, and investment in alternative energy, for example) aren't mentioned as issues of interest. An excellent point. But I am still wondering who the hell Gravel is? Am I that much of a wackjob that I identify with candidates no one has ever heard of?

    Tuesday, August 07, 2007

    This Is How I Know I Have A Problem

    This animation sequence from Hot Fuzz makes me laugh.

    Everman High Grad Killed in Iraq

    Sgt. Dustin S. Wakeman, a 2000 graduate of Everman High School, was killed Saturday in Hawr Rajab, Iraq. The 25-year-old medic was riding in a vehicle that was struck by an improvised explosive device, according to the Defense Department. Two other soldiers were also killed.

    He enlisted three years ago and was assigned to the 1st Squadron, 40th Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division at Fort Richardson, Alaska. He was deployed to Iraq in October, his father, David, told the Star-Telegram.

    Wakeman spoke of pursuing a career in medical services. "He liked helping people," his father told the S-T. "He found that fulfilling."

    Thursday, August 02, 2007

    A Long Time Ago

    My Dad would have been 74 today. That's him with me and my brother in ... well, probably 1974. That's me on the right. Happy Birthday, Pop.

    Speaking of The Circle

    That's a mighty cute shirt there, isn't it? TCU's ready to go for this game. On Monday at Joe T's, the Fort Worth Longhorns gave Mack Brown one of these shirts to take back to the team and let 'em know what we see here in the Fort. Don't get me wrong. I like the Frogs just fine. But I'd like the wear 'em out on Sept. 8. For interested Horns in the Fort, Texas Exes is hosting a happy hour at the Mellow Mushroom on the Circle at 6 tonight.

    Nonetheless, TCU Coach Gary Patterson has more to worry about that a football game. His 19-year-old son, Josh, will be headed to Iraq with the 4th Infantry Division by the end of the year. My thoughts are with them in the hopes of a safe and speedy return.

    Bluebonnet Circle Condo Development

    I'm not sure how I feel about this. An $8 million condominium development on South University Drive will move forward despite protests by residents who say the 59-unit project will overwhelm already tight parking in the area just south of Bluebonnet Circle in Fort Worth, the Startlegram sez.

    Councilwoman Wendy Davis said she has mixed feelings about the project because the city is developing an "urban village" plan for the Bluebonnet Circle area that would call for lower-density residential development and a mix of retail and commercial businesses. "My preference would have been it be replaced by a town-home development," she said.

    The three-story buildings will include 43 three-bedroom units and 16 four-bedroom units ranging from $240,000 to $275,000. The condos, expected to be completed by fall 2008, would replace 60 apartments built in 1955 that had inadequate parking. "Some of our investors will be parents of TCU students," said Mac Jones, a partner in the Austin development firm. "But we'll also have young professionals who want to live a similar lifestyle of downtown for much less."

    Kevin? Bernie? Whadya think? Have y'all heard anything about the city's plan for the Circle?

    Dallas Bicyclists Attacked

    Two Dallas cyclists were attacked on the Katy Trail on Monday night by a man wielding a box cutter. The worst part? The assailant appears to be another biker. Disgusting.

    Wednesday, August 01, 2007

    Would Someone Please Save This Web Site?

    It's kind of chicken-or-egg question: what's more important to a newspaper -- its print product or its Web site?

    My opinion comes down firmly on the side of Web site. Based on my focus group -- me and everyone I know -- lots of people read the paper online, but only a handful actually subscribe. So my opinion is pretty worthless and not grounded in any data. But what someone who matters? Like this guy: Washington Post Chairman and CEO Don Graham. Graham told Fortune magazine: “If Internet advertising revenues don’t continue to grow fast, I think the future of the newspaper business will be very challenging. The Web site simply has to come through.”

    Fort Worth's daily seems to have made the opposite choice. It's put most of its effort over the past year into redesigning the print product while leaving its woeful Web site alone. But is that really a good idea? I know that print is still what pays the bills, but online is the key to the future. And needs help.

    According to recent research by Nielsen//NetRatings for the Newspaper Association of America, newspapers' online audience is growing at more than than twice the rate of the overall internet audience. Online newspaper readers are also in a higher-end demographic. Four in 10 (41 percent) newspaper's online readers work in professional or managerial jobs, compared with one in three (32.7 percent) of the overall internet population. About 12 percent of those who have visited a newspaper Web site have annual household incomes in excess of $150,000. In contrast, less than one in 10 (9.3 percent) of the overall internet audience earns that much.

    Unfortunately, even though the apparent sophistication and earning power of online newspaper readers seems clear, the Startlegram doesn't seem to be working on anything different to capture these readers. Although a Web site redesign is in the works right now, it is expected to complement the print product redesign -- not good news for some readers.

    To be fair, the Startlegram and the other former Knight Ridder papers were saddled with a losing online strategy for years -- the Real Cities network. Rather than let each newspaper develop a strategy for its local market, each paper was required to conform to the same ugly, unworkable format. As one former Knight Ridder executive once told me, the company "fucked up everyone online initiative it ever attempted." Mission accomplished.

    But what should the future hold for the S-T web site? Let's use another former Knight Ridder paper, the Philadelphia Inquirer, as a case study.

    Local owners acquired the Philadelphia papers and from McClatchy last year. CEO Brian Tierney told the AP that the online ventures still account for 5 percent of the revenue—about $25 million in annualized revenue—and about 20 percent of the profit. Based on the web ops of some other major papers make, Tierney said, with 30 million monthly page views, should have revenue of $45 million. That's a lot of money they're leaving on the table. Why should we think that Fort Worth is much different? Right now the key is how to capture that revenue. And nobody knows the answer to that question.

    So what should Star-Telegram online do different? Here's a few suggestions:

  • Hire experience: How do you increase revenue from online? Obviously, no one in the newspaper world has figured that out. Why not bring in people from the online world to help out? That what the San Francisco Chronicle is doing and they are feeling the heat from the newsroom. That's too bad. Newspapers need to be more afraid of not trying anything new. And besides, they might learn something. Of course, this guy at BusinessWeek suggests the Chronicle take it a step farther and go online exclusively.

  • Give me local, give me context: Not all of a newspaper's online solutions come from outside the building. Simon Willison really nailed it with his blog post on doing local right. "Newspapers and local websites are a perfect match. Newspapers have the reporters, the relationships and the resources to provide better coverage of their local areas than anyone else could even dream of." Newspapers seem to be forgetting their greatest asset: people. The blogosphere loves to thump their chests about how Old Media is dead. The problem is most bloggers can't afford to do their thing full time. Newspapers pay people to do nothing but write, report and dig. Make the most of this resource. The old ideas of being the first to break a story is over. Leave that to the guy with the cell phone camera. Focus more on knowledge and analysis. Make your product a must-read. Case in point: Mitch Schnurman. Radio Shack CEO Julian Day lives in fear of Mitch. That's the way it should be. Give us more guys like Mitch and fewer lists.

  • Give me a redesign: Give me a Web site I want to look at. A navigation that makes sense. A search function that works. Integrate your online and offline content seamlessly. You know all this already.

  • Comments are an opportunity: Use the comment function to engage your readers. Weed out the flames, trolls, bigots and haters. No anonymous comments. Make them a place where dialogue exists.

  • Get your data on: The databases that accompanied the Guide To Tarrant County Schools were excellent. They made it easy for readers to get a snapshot of what was going on at their local schools. It's the ultimate in "what's in it for me?" Make it easy for readers to access relevant data about the place where they live.

  • Enhance the music coverage: I don't have a complaint about the guys who write about music at the Startlegram, in part because I know most of them and believe they know their stuff. What I do have a complaint with is the format. Take a page from some of the local bloggers like Fine Line, Big D little d, Gorilla vs. Bear, et al. Incorporate streaming audio, MP3 downloads and video into your reports. Produce a monthly mix tape. Local bands want the coverage, you want the readers (and listeners and viewers). Everyone wins. Put together a local band and music database, browseable by band, musician, genre. Be the area's go-to resource for local music.

  • It's 5 o'clock somewhere: Where is happy hour? Ask MappyHour. That is your mission. Just make it happen.

  • Events, Restaurants, Movies: You know, everyone loves slagging the Morning News, but has databases you can actually use. You know, you oughta look into that. Need another example? Check out Simon Willison calls it "the local entertainment site that every city in the world needs, but very few actually have." There's some good ideas there. Steal a few.

  • Time is an issue: S-T editor Jim Witt posted this item on his blog a few days ago. They are focus grouping the redesign (of course) and were talking to a group of "occasional" readers. Here's what Jim wrote: "The good news we learned is that the readers we heard from last night like the new format, and they find it helpful in making their newspaper experience more satisfactory. The one thing we can't give them, though, is the TIME to read the paper more often. That's the number one problem they said they have -- no time to devote to reading the paper." Time really is the key to everything. If you can offer essential information in a way that is time-efficient to use, you will have readers. Remember, you no longer compete against just other news outlets -- you compete against everything.

  • This is just scratching the surface, I know. If any of you guys see something I missed and something I just plain whiffed it on, let me know. Otherwise, get after Startlegram. You've got a lot to fix, guys.