Tuesday, January 22, 2008


The Oscar nominations are out this morning and even though I don't get out to the movies quite like I used to, my first thought was ... wow, what an odd, highbrow year. Just when you think that American civilization has completely bottomed out, Cormac McCarthy and Upton Sinclair are in the running for Best Picture.

But the biggest, most pleasant surprise of the morning was from the most unexpected, moving film I have seen in quite some time. Among the nominations for Best Original Song -- "Falling Slowly" from the film "Once," by Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova. You can see the video above.

It's a beautiful song and beautiful film. I can't say enough about it. In a film landscape when everything seems to be an onslaught of robotic violence, serial killers and trite fantasies for the Bratz generation, along comes this quiet little realistic Irish film that is sweet and touching. It's just a simple story of two people sort of falling for each other and making music. And we find -- not surprisingly -- that people's lives are complicated things.

But unlike many music films, the story doesn't take a backseat to the music or vice versa. Hansard and Irglova are two very capable musicians who can also act. The music doesn't feel like a departure from the narrative thread -- it moves it forward.

Do yourself a favor and see this movie. And tell a friend. You'll be glad you did.

UPDATE: The Onion AV Club interview with Glen Hansard.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

What's the Deal with Steve?

I feel normal. Why do you ask?

Actually, that's my cat, Bucky. I need something to get the .38 Special thing lower on the page. And, I kind of like that picture.

But I have been getting that question a lot lately. For those of you who may not know it, I've been spending a lot more time at my other blog, West and Clear. I've actually been quite busy. Drop by and check it out.

But that leads in to my thoughts for today. Over the past several months since the beginning of West and Clear, my blogging has been a little schizophrenic. Do I post something on the Caravan? On West and Clear? On both? And that doesn't get into my other other blog.

In short, I have three blogs, and given the demands of my life, it seems that any one of them can be good at any one moment. I'm trying to change that, but you can only spend so many hours a day behind a keyboard.

And to call West and Clear "my" blog is not the whole truth. I am a proud papa, but West and Clear has four other fathers. Bernie, Kevin, PeteG and PeteW joined our mighty blogging powers because we wished to be the kings of all media in Fort Worth and crush all those who sought steal that mantle from us.

Actually, I kid.

We came together as a bunch of blogging SuperFriends because we love Fort Worth and want to tell its stories. So far, it's working. Together, I believe we are better bloggers collectively than we are individually. We feed off off the group energy. We like each other. We enjoy our work.

And the readers of Fort Worth have responded. Many of you are already West and Clear readers and some of you even take the time to leave your comments. Thank you. We've met you out in the community and you've encouraged us to keep writing. One frequent comment we hear goes like this: "I finally feel like I know what's going on in Fort Worth."

Again, thank you. I'm flattered, but I haven't drank that much of the KoolAid yet. However, I do believe that West and Clear fills a need.

So, you may be wondering, what does that have to do with The Caravan of Dreams?

A lot.

I'm tired of double-posting or trying to figure out what goes where. And, I believe some of my readers are confused, too. So I am adopting a new policy.

Effective immediately, those of you who are looking for my musings on urban gas drilling, local politics, local media, local music, local arts coverage or any other Fort Worth topic, head over to West and Clear. It's all there. However, those of you who are looking for the occasional musings on God, Godzilla, books and any other cosmic questions that are rattling around in my attic, you'll find that nonsense right here.

I know most of my readers are interested in the Fort Worth topics, and I enjoy writing about them. But The Caravan of Dreams is still pretty special to me and I hope y'all will continue reading here, too. I started blogging a few years ago as a way to make sense of my life after my father died. I don't know what I was expecting to find, if I was trying to write my way to some sort of answer of what life is about. If that was what I was looking for, I didn't find it. I'm just as clueless as before.

But I did find that writing stories helps. It's therapeutic. I grew up avidly listening to stories and I always hoped that I would be able to one day tell stories of my own. Honestly, I don't think I'm very good at it, but I enjoy the hell out of it. I enjoy the hell out of my life and living in Fort Worth. And, above all, I am not short of observations. So this blog will continue to be the old shoebox filled with the trading cards, paperclips, wheat pennies and bottlecaps of imagination.

So, read me at West and Clear, but read me here, too. I promise interesting reading at both sites. And two out of three ain't bad.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Panther City Bikes on YouTube

Bernie over at Panther City Bikes just posted this little promo video on the PCB blog. In his post about the video he writes: "Behold the raw power of what Jason likes to call my ".38 Special" 'stache!"

Is this indeed a .38 Special mustache? Watch the video and then judge.

As for me, I'm already convinced. Jason, you nailed it. I offer you Exhibit A, the guy on the left:

BTW, you can actually vote on whether on not Bernie should grow his stash back. Visit the PCB blog to cast your vote. But hurry up, because only two days remain.

Los Noviembres at Embargo Tonight

Looking for something to do on a Wednesday night? Head over to Embargo and check out Los Noviembres, the electrojazzblues cocktail mixed by Paul Boll and Angie Cassada. Think bossa novas and jazz standards. Astrud Gilberto. That kind of cool. Show starts at 10.

Goodbye, Wendy. Hello, Joel.

Wendy Davis said goodbye to the City Council last night. Joel Burns took his seat as the new District 9 representative. Was there drama?

Oh, you bet. This is District 9 after all. Read the whole story at West and Clear.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Kimberly Gordon at Scat Jazz Lounge

This just in from mi amigo maximo Ricki Derek -- Chicago jazz singer Kimberly Gordon will perform two shows next week at Ricki's Scat Jazz Lounge.

Gordon has been a part of the national jazz scene for 10 years, playing top venues and receiving high acclaim from critics and musicians. During her four-year stint in New York City, Gordon sang at The Village Vanguard, Bradley's and Sweet Basil and appeared regularly at Smalls and Cleopatra's Needle.

She shared the stage with jazz greats including Roy Hargrove, Harry "Sweets" Edison, Wynton Marsalis and The Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, Betty Carter, Marcus Roberts, Captain Jack McDuff, Von Freeman, and others.

Gordon plays at 9 p.m., on Friday, Jan. 11, and Saturday, Jan. 12. Tickets are only available the night of the show at the door for $8. Table reservations for four or more are only accepted for reservations before 10 p.m. and only held for 15 minutes. 21 and up only.

Open Letter to Gary Wortel

Welcome to Fort Worth and congratulations on your new position as publisher of Fort Worth's only daily newspaper. I know you are really busy right now, so I'm going to cut straight to the chase. I'm kind of an anomaly among those in online Fort Worth -- I actually subscribe to the newspaper. That's right. Sometime in the small hours of the morning, a real person inserts a real newspaper in a real plastic baggy and leaves it somewhere in the vicinity of my front porch.

That makes me kind of a Luddite because most of my friends don't subscribe to or even read the paper. Maybe they look at it online. And I know that is one of the problems you are trying to solve. So I'm here to offer some advice.

You see, I believe in newspapers in general and your newspaper in particular. I believe that a free press and education are two of the essential ingredients of American democracy and for most of our history, the newspaper has both informed and educated. I worked there for almost 10 years, and I believe the Star-Telegram is an essential part of this community. It's like Ol South Pancake House, except without a smoking section. Yeah, the Startlegram is that important.

I know you are buried under opinions about how to move the Star-Telegram forward in 2008. So I figured I would throw a few on the pile. Here goes:

  • It's about the local: The people I talk to want to read local news but they don't feel like they are getting it from the Star-Telegram. If you tell this to your editors, they will tell you that what I just said is a bunch of bullshit ... there's plenty of local news. But that's how a lot of people feel. So who's right? I think the people are. If so, where is the disconnect?

  • Call out the liars: OK, I do have an idea about the disconnect. I wish I could take credit for this one, but credit goes to the Online Journalism Review. Lemme read a little. I highlighted a few of my favorite parts: "How do you distinguish yourself among all this information competition? Don't rely on the value of and goodwill toward your publications "brand." If that was gonna bail you out, it would have already. No, news publishers need to provide information that is more timely, more accurate, and above all, more useful and rewarding to their readers in order to claim a larger share of what might be in 2008 a shrinking ad revenue pie. Readers today are drowning in lies ... The news sites that prosper in 2008 and beyond will be the ones that do not leave their readers hanging with 'he said, she said' coverage, but that report aggressively to reveal to readers who's lying and who is telling the truth. The online medium is changing journalism. But not just to make it a 24/7, global, clickable and interactive. By unleashing fresh competition on the field, it is pressuring established newsrooms to wake up from their lazy practice of stenography-as-journalism, and start calling out the liars again." There's a pretty good roadmap right there. In a sort-of-related topic, a step in the right direction would be disclosing the terms of the gas drilling lease that the Star-Telegram signed a gas drilling lease agreement with Chesapeake Energy. If the S-T has a business arrangement worth a lot of money with one of the most controversial companies doing business in Fort Worth, the public has a right to know of a potential conflict of interest. It's the right thing to do.

  • Make the paper smaller: I know, I know. I've read the stories in the paper. People love the redesign. But the people I talk with think that there is too much clutter to find what is really important. Be respectful of readers' time. You aren't just competing against other news sources, you are competing against the Mavericks game, YouTube, IM, 30 Rock, dinner, sleep ... just about everything. You are the filter. Make it more efficient for readers to go through you than gathering news on their own.

  • Give me a Web site worth clicking on: The paper was redesigned last April. We are still waiting for the new Web site. Why? If anything, the Web site is even more important because that's where the future of newspapers is headed. If you'd like some very specific ideas about how to fix it, please read my post from last summer. I know the Wall Street Journal recently enthused about McClatchy phasing in Yahoo services in 2008, citing that early tests in Fort Worth produced a 4 percent traffic increase the first month. Imagine what those numbers could be with a clickable, searchable, truly interactive Web site?

  • Moderate the comments: The comments I find on your Web site make me shudder. For some reason, it draws out the bottom feeders who dispense the most vile tripe but don't add any value to the great conversation of Fort Worth. OK, that's pretty esoteric. Lemme break it down another way. It prevents your Web site from building affinity with its readers. I think that's how they say it in newspaperspeak. Look at it this way: its the online equivalent of a bunch of teenagers hanging out in front of the store. It drives people away.

  • A little link love, please: I blog a lot about what is written in the Star-Telegram and I follow Fair Use guidelines -- paraphrase a little, provide proper attribution and insert a hyperlink (BTW, permalinks, please.) And I do this with any other blog or news site I refer to. It's proper netiquette and really not that different from what your reporters do every day. However, that hasn't proved to be a two-way street. When your reporters find out about things from my blog or aother local blogs, there's no mention of where this insight came from. It is passed off as original reporting. I know the ethics of blogging have still not fully gelled, but I think this is wrong. If I reporter finds out about a story from a local blog, a little attribution would be nice. There are lots of bloggers in Fort Worth who work hard to record the world as they see it around them. Give them a little recognition.

  • That's enough to start with. Good luck with the new job, Gary. I'm rooting for you.

    Wednesday, January 02, 2008

    Trinity Trees Come Down

    I was expecting something a little more dramatic as I walked down the Trinity Trail near the Rogers Avenue bridge. Bulldozers. Chainsaws. Contractors from Blackwater.

    A friend sent me an e-mail this afternoon that the Trinity Trees were coming down. I guess I expected it to be a work in progress. But it was a done deal.

    What I found was an open area where Chesapeake Energy's pad site will be, along with blue sky and silence. No one was there. The only noise came from the Union Pacific yards next door.

    After months of meetings, petitions, letter writing and lawsuits, the Trinity Trees controversy was over. I guess spokesperson Julie Wilson is still polishing the press release that says, "Hey, we just cut down a bunch of trees."

    I had hoped against hope that some Capra-esque miracle would transpire. Maybe like Claude Rains at the end of Mr. Smith Goes To Washington, Chesapeake Vice President Tom Price would go sprinting down the Trinity Trail, racked with guilt while tearing off his Men's Warehouse suit and screaming, "I was wrong! Global warming does exist! These trees must be SAVED!"

    But that hope died even before the ink was dry on Melissa Kohout's lawsuit.

    The realistic view was best articulated by Jim Marshall. A few months back, Jim told me that in spite of everything, there were positives to come out of this:

  • Chesapeake altered its plans.

  • Chesapeake secured permission from Union Pacific to locate part of its drilling equipment on Union Pacific property. The alternative plan proposed by the Trinity Trees group was to relocate the entire drilling site to UP property.

  • Current plans call for the pad site to be reduced from 2.5 to 1.4 acres, saving an additional 1.1 acres of the 8.33 acre tree grove.

  • The perimeter tree planting surrounding the pad site is being enhanced following a revised landscape plan with 268 new trees ranging from 5 to 14 feet in height.

  • Chesapeake has committed to donate $500,000 to the City tree farm.

  • Saving over an acre of old growth trees ain't nothing. Getting Chesapeake to part with $500,000 for trees ain't nothing, either.

    And I was thinking about that while I walked the Trinity Trees site this afternoon. It's a perfect example of what Lyndon Johnson called "half-loaf" politics -- a half a loaf of bread is better than no loaf at all. It's compromise. Everybody wins.

    Well, there certainly were some winners.

    Someday soon, a drilling rig will reach to the sky alongside the old oaks on the banks of the Trinity. And someday not long after that, the money will flow into the coffers of Chesapeake Energy, Union Pacific and Colonial Country Club.

    But what about the rest of us here in Fort Worth. You know, the people who are concerned about keeping our neighborhoods safe, maintaining our natural environment and other little things like that. What about us? Did we get a half a loaf out of this? Because doesn't seem like it.

    Then I remembered something that someone said to me recently. "Why is it that whenever there is some sneaky shit going on with gas drilling, Chesapeake's name is on it?"

    Um, I dunno? Maybe because of the Trinity Trees, injection wells, the proposed Eighth Avenue drilling site, signing a drilling lease with the Star-Telegram.

    And that's when it clicked for me.

    Like a rebellious teenager, Chesapeake pushes the limits to see what it can get away with. Maybe Fort Worth will say no to a few things, they figure, but who knows what that town will say yes to.

    But no matter how many billboards Chesapeake buys, the people of Fort Worth have started to notice this pattern of behavior. They are judging Chesapeake on their deeds, not their dollars. And those deeds may have already cost the company some dollars.

    I believe the Trinity Trees issue hurt Chesapeake in lease negotiations in Mistletoe Heights and Ryan Place. I also believe that the Trinity Trees helped get the gas drilling ordinance back on the table. Who knows, maybe we'll end up with an ordinance that does more to protect our interests, not the gas drillers.

    If that's the half of the loaf we got, Fort Worth, that ain't nothing.

    Tuesday, January 01, 2008

    Joel Burns Sworn In

    As I mentioned earlier today, Joel Burns took the oath of office as City Council representative for District 9 yesterday. Burns took the oath of office at a small ceremony attended by family and friends. Justice John Hill administered the oath.

    Burns told the Star-Telegram yesterday that he learned from Fort Worth city attorneys that because the runoff election results were canvassed last Thursday, making them official, he could be sworn in any time.

    “I’m honored and truly blessed to serve District 9 and am ready to get to work for our great city and the neighborhoods I represent,” said Burns. “I can’t think of a better way to start the New Year.”

    Who Derailed Wendy Davis?

    Is Wendy Davis going to get to run against Kim Brimer for the State Senate District 10 seat?

    Obviously, Davis wants to -- she announced that back in August. Everything seemed like smooth sailing until Monday afternoon when three Fort Worth firefighters waltzed into Tarrant County Democratic Party headquarters with a letter for local party poobah Art Brender. According to the Star-Telegram, the letter calls on the party to disqualify Davis from running because she is still a Fort Worth City Council member. Seems there is a little conflict between state and local law.

    State law forbids sitting council members from running for the Legislature, but local law requires her to keep her seat until a successor is sworn in. Joel Burns, who won the special election runoff Dec. 18 to replace Davis, is scheduled to be sworn in Jan. 8.

    Brender has asked the secretary of state for a formal opinion on the issue, but there is a sense of urgency to the matter -- the deadline to file for the election is 5 p.m. tomorrow. Very interesting timing. Brender and Davis don't have a lot of time to figure this out.

    So, I'm curious.

    According to the Startlegram, the letter was sent by Cullen Cox, Rickey Turner and Javier Cerda, three firefighters who support the Democratic Party, according to Rob Gibson, second vice president of the Fort Worth Professional Firefighters Association. If these guys truly support the Democratic Party, why would they derail a candidate who looked to have an excellent opportunity to unseat a very vulnerable and disliked Republican?

    As one local Democrat told me this morning, the dots seem pretty easy to connect. The political consultant for the Fort Worth Firefighters is Republican political consultant Bryan Eppstein. The political consultant for Kim Brimer is -- you guessed it -- Republican political consultant Bryan Eppstein.

    And just when you thought that firefighters spent all their off time studying arcane aspects of state and local law.

    Still Davis potentially has time to recover. And as Machiavelli once said, never do your opponent a small wound. Why did the letter arrive in Brender's hands on Monday? Why not tomorrow? Or Thursday?

    But if Davis is done, who steps in? I think Davis would have been a tough opponent for Brimer. She was popular enough -- and liberal enough -- to play well in South and West Fort Worth. And she was conservative enough to appeal to voters in the suburban part of District 10 like Colleyville, Mansfield and the suburbs south of Fort Worth. So, Art, who is waiting in the wings?

    UPDATE, 6 p.m.: Is everything falling into place for Wendy Davis? The S-T reports that Joel Burns was sworn in at a ceremony in his Ryan Place home this afternoon, apparently clearing the way for Davis' State Senate bid. This afternoon, Art Brender told a New Year's Day gathering at Fort Worth Democratic Party headquarters that he is unsure whether this means if Davis will need to withdraw her earlier filing for the Senate seat and submit a new filing tomorrow.