Monday, June 30, 2008

'Golden Door' Opens Into Midland .....

According to this post at West Texas Missioner, that 'golden door' that Lady Liberty spoke of opens into the West Texas community of Midland.

The "
Statue of Liberty Enlightening the World" was a gift of friendship from the people of France to the people of the United States and is a universal symbol of freedom and democracy.

At the base of the statue is a appears on a plaque with the poem, “The New Colossus,” by poet Emma Lazarus. “The New Colossus,” delivered in the voice of Lady Liberty herself:

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me:
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.

Read Missioner's post to find out how this applies to a community-within-a-community, here in the Tall City.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Good Night and Good Luck, Pt. 2 .....

WHOOPS! - (07/01/08) Hema is still with us, though just for a little while. I have been told she'll be making her move a little later this month.

It's another day ... and another departure for a friend of mine in West Texas television news. It's time to say good night and good luck, goodbye and God bless to Hema Muller.

Hema anchored her final segment of NewsWest 9 Sunrise today, and will begin the month of July in a new job, and a new town, anchoring for KFOX-TV, the Fox network affiliate in El Paso, Texas.

Hema came to West Texas from Austin, where she graduated from UT with a degree in Broadcast Journalism, with honors and designation as a Senior Fellow at the University. Hema was one of the smartest of the 'youngsters' in our - or any - newsroom, and presented the news with the authority that came from knowing what she was talking about.

But it wasn't just reading the news. Our little market can't afford specialized anchors who just read other people's words, and never stray outside the studio. So Hema would put in a full - and early! - morning as anchor of NewsWest 9's top-ranked morning news program (
with another recent departure, Darrell Ward), then go out and develop a story for the evening news.

Hema and I shared a passion for food and cooking ... though you could never tell it from HER figure, while MY figure is ... well, you know. We often shared experiences of dining-in and dining-out, and every Thursday morning, before the story meeting, THE topic of discussion in the newsroom was the previous night's episode of
Top Chef.

So many, many times, when someone finds out I have worked in television, they will comment, 'there always seems to be a lot of turnover ... and they're absolutely right. West Texas/Southeast New Mexico is a small television market, and what we call a 'teaching market.' Young people come here from all over the country, fresh from journalism school or an internship (or an even smaller market). They gain some experience, hone their skills, develop their resumé and their contacts, and then move on to bigger and - it is hoped - better markets.

You're glad for them when they get 'the call' ..... but there is some sadness too. You're sorry to see them go ..... but you wish them nothing but the best.

A good woman and a good friend ..... good night and good luck, Hema.

● ● ● ● ●

On a related note, I haven't met the young woman who will be replacing Hema, but I HAVE met her dad. He tells me that Haley Burks will be coming down from Lubbock, where she is the education reporter for the Fox affiliate in that market. She's from Big Spring originally, and knows West Texas well. She was first bitten by the journalism bug when she was a teenager, and anchored segments of the old "Kidzone" program that Shelley Barker produced over at KTPX/KWES-TV. Welcome, Haley, and Good luck!

We Need a Bigger Blog .....

Lately, West Texas Missioner has been following the progress of a team of Midlanders on Christian mission in Uganda. But apparently, Midland's Christian outreach to Africa is even greater than they knew.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

West Texans in East Africa .....

For a little while, West Texas Missioner shifts its focus from southeast Asia to east Africa as it follows the progress of a team of Midlanders now on Christian mission in Uganda.

Good Night and Good Luck, Pt. 1 .....

The final (?) curtain has gone down on perhaps the most dastardly character in West Texas television. It's time to say good night and good luck, goodbye and God bless to Darrell Ward.

Darrell took his final bow Tuesday as NewsWest 9's morning weather anchor. He's a good man and a good friend, and I am sad to see his departure from the airwaves .....

But glad to learn that it is not a departure from West Texas. An experienced television weatherman, Darrell is also experienced in television ad sales, and he will be plying that craft for KPEJ-TV, the Fox affiliate for the Permian Basin. And that's good news for us all, because our community would be lessened by the loss of Darrell, Armenai and the boys.

He wasn't born in Texas, but he got here as fast as he could. Darrell grew up in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, in Tornado Alley in northeast Oklahoma. He can still remember standing on the front porch during severe weather in the spring; while everyone else was heading for shelter, Darrell would be watching the storms, going, "cool!"

He went to school at the University of Oklahoma (where he played clarinet in the college band) and shortly after graduation moved to West Texas. Darrell originally worked in radio in Lamesa for 13 months before moving to Midland/Odessa, which has been his home for over 30+ years now.

Darrell joined NewsWest 9 before it was NewsWest 9, in May of 1986, long before KTPX became KWES. I had been with KMID for about a year by then, and we were competitors for many years. Later, when John Foster took the reins as GM of KTPX, the station underwent some dramatic changes, and I had a chance to work WITH Darrell - which is a wonderful experience.

Weather and family are not Darrell's only interests. Another is theater - he remains, to this day, one of the great villains in Summer Mummer history. His experience in radio and theater, and his quick wit all contributed to one of the best deliveries in the the Basin. In fact, I'm wondering if the new job and the new hours will allow Darrell to return to the stage - that would be great!

Other passions - his faith, Harley Davidson motorcycles, and airplanes of all shapes and sizes. Darrell earned his private pilot's license some time back, and loves to fly in anything and everything with wings. He recently became a Colonel in the CAF, which has long benefited from his interest and his support. I still remember the blast we had once during Airsho, when we met General Robert L. Scott, Jr., USAF (ret.), World War II fighter ace and author of the 1943 book “God Is My Co-Pilot.” Over the years, Darrell was our go-to man for information about aircraft, history and how the two often came together.

... and so much more. New, young arrivals in the newsroom would find in him a remarkable archive of data on the history and geography of the region, the particulars of its weather, and the oil business that dominated its economy.

A good man and a good friend ..... good night and good luck, Darrell.

Friday, June 20, 2008

If They Head It, I WILL Come .....

An exciting brochure arrived in the mail today ..... exciting, that is if you spell football with a u rather than two o's ..... is a soccer franchise coming to West Texas?

According to the brochure, the Midland RockHounds management and ownership are in negotiation to purchase a PDL (Premier Development League) soccer franchise.

According to the league's website, the USL Premier Development League is one of the United Soccer Leagues (USL). The top U23 men’s amateur league in North America is the USL Premier Development League (PDL), the development ground for elite players. The 2008 campaign features a 67-team format within four conferences, consisting of 16 regular season matches, 8 home and 8 away. The schedule is augmented by participation in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, and various exhibitions. Players have the ability to compete in the PDL throughout the summer months in a professionalized setting while maintaining their collegiate eligibility. The league is the proving ground for players that aspire to reach the highest-levels of the game, while providing affordable family entertainment within their city.

The USL, by the way is in its third decade of operation, helping soccer at all levels continues to grow in the U.S., Canada, and Caribbean. The largest organization of elite-level soccer leagues in North America, United Soccer Leagues is dedicated to growing the sport at the grassroots level in every community.

Including Midland-Odessa? "If we head it," the brochure asks, "will you come?"

According to the brochure, the venue for the USL/PDL franchise would be Grande Communications Stadium (already the venue for high school soccer games), which would host eight home games from May through August. Apparently, the West Texas franchise would be part of USL/PDL's Mid-South Division, joining teams from Austin, Euless, El Paso, Richmond and Laredo, Texas; Baton Rouge and Metarie, Louisiana; and Clinton, Missouri. In addition to enjoying the competition, youngsters in the area would have an opportunity to take part in camps and clinics throughout the year.

But what's it going to take? The brochure stresses that "Your Opinion Counts" ... and so does your support. Right now, local interest in season tickets (we're getting box seats for our whole family) and sponsorships - from individuals, families and companies - is being polled. If you haven't gotten a brochure, you can contact the Midland RockHounds front office at (432) 520-2255 for more information.

Reality Show Really Ain't So Bad .....

This week, I tuned-in the premier episode of Black Gold with a mixture of curiosity, anticipation and dread. Having watched it, I must admit this latest reality TV foray into West Texas really ain't so bad.

"From the creator of Ice Road Truckers and Deadliest Catch comes a one-of-a-kind series about Texas oil men who gamble everything for a chance to strike it rich," we are told. "Wildcatters risk their life savings and roughnecks risk their lives. Black Gold takes you inside the action as the race for oil heats up."

"In West Texas, three crews of roughnecks hit the ground running in the race to find oil, but all three face disaster on day one. The Viking rig has all the advantages that come with being state-of-the-art, but the crew can barely get the system started. And on the tried-and-true Longhorn rig, the smallest roughneck, Peanut, is crushed by a piece of equipment. Will one crew leader not survive the end of the first week?"

No mention of the third rig in the promotional write-ups ..... although once I saw them on the show, I thought, "Oh, THAT's their disaster."

And I DID get involved in the show, discussed it with My Favorite Landman, watched it to the end and found myself looking forward to the next episode ... which is more than I could say for 2007's
Making News: Texas Style, the really bad reality show set in a West Texas television newsroom.

For me, production has a lot to do with the appeal of Black Gold. Just watching the end product, you can tell that a lot more thought, time, effort, people, equipment and money were spent on the shooting, editing and production of this show. Sure, occasionally one camera crew strays into another camera crew's shot - but the total coverage is so much better. AND, there's so much more of it. I saw and heard more product in this first one-hour episode of Black Gold than I did in the first 2 1/2 one-hour episodes of Making News: Texas Style.

And, frankly, with apologies to the men and women in MN:TS - some of whom I have known and worked with for 20+ years - I think the story in BG is more interesting.

I do have a problem with the narration of Black Gold being over-the-top in its writing and its delivery. But I guess that's the nature-of-the-beast nowadays ... television audiences - especially reality TV audiences - simply aren't interested in a more straightforward presentation.

Another problem with the narration involves the description of some of the people you meet in the first episode, and their company. The copy sounded as though it was written by the company's PR office ... it sure was at odds with my perception of said entities, developed over years of observation.

A comment from MFL thought that the whole process seemed a little over-simplified ... 'whichever crew gets down there first, will get the oil and make millions of dollars.' Sill, she enjoyed the first episode, and will probably watch the next.

And I hope YOU will, too.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

I See Blue People .....

.... while accompanying My Favorite Landman for the annual meeting of the American Association of Petroleum Landmen, being held this year in Chicago. It's a great place for entertainment. The hardest part about it all is picking where to go, what to see, what to hear ... so little time, so much to do.

With both Elder Son and Younger Son along for the fun, we wanted to take in a show, and we wanted it to be something we could all enjoy. It wasn't easy ... we had our choice of Late Night Catechism at the Royal George Theater or Jersey Boys at Lasalle Bank Theatre. Wicked at the Oriental Theater was a top choice, but so was The Blue Man Group at the Briar Street Theater ... and that's the one we picked.

Good choice ... Blue Man Group is a long-running show and some say one is one of hardest to describe - part percussion, part street theater, part rock'n'roll, part satire, and a lot more. They descibe themselves as an organization dedicated to creating excitement-generating experiences for their audience and themselves - and that they certainly did, rocking a full house of people young and old with plenty of music and laughter, a colorful and driving multi-media feast for all the senses. By show's end, the audience is on its feet in a joyous and delerious celebration that brings the performance to a wonderful close.

A total blast! I hope you get a chance to see/hear/experience it yourself someday.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

I See Fed People .....

.... while accompanying My Favorite Landman for the annual meeting of the American Association of Petroleum Landmen, being held this year in Chicago. It's a great place for food and drink, and we've been trying to hit some of the high spots. I suspect, though, that one can spend a lot of time here, and still just barely scratch the surface.

One of those high points is
Giordano's, a great stop for Chicago-style deep-dish pizza. Established in 1974, it has grown to a large chain that is found everywhere in Chicagoland. Of course, deep-dish pizza has been around much longer than that, and there are plenty of wonderful places around town to sample this different and delightful style of one of America's favorite foods ..... it's always a good bet to speak with the locals, and find a great mom-and-pop in the neighborhood.

Another high point was Billy Goat Tavern, which invited us to "butt in anytime" ... so we did. We had 'cheezeborger, cheezeborger,' with 'no fries, chips' on the side and 'no Coke, Pepsi' to drink' (fans of SNL will understand). Established in the 1930s. this place has a lot of history, and not just in food ... ask any Chicago Cubs fan about 'the Billy Goat Curse.'

Another good stop for lunch also provided an interesting example of diversifying while still marketing your core product. Just a short walk from our hotrel was the Weber Grill Restaurant with a diverse menu devoted to foods prepared over - of course - Weber grills. The first restaurant was opened in 1989 "to build on the grilling popularity and successes of Weber grills." The restaurant is an outgrowth of the Weber-Stephen Products Company, which is headquatered in nearby Palatine, Illinois. More than half-a-century ago, a determined backyard griller - George Stephen, Sr. - set out to build a better grill. At the Weber Brothers Metal Works where he was employed, he fashioned what would become original Weber kettle grill. (These are the folks, by the way, who supplied a dozen of their top-of-the-line grills for an episode of this season's Top Chef, which took place in Chicago)

A lot of what we have been eating has been accompanied by locally-produced beers and sodas, especially those from
Goose Island.

I could go on and on ... but I won't ... gotta go ... late for dinner!

Friday, June 13, 2008

I See Land People .....

..... everywhere I look, I see them. No big mystery, really ..... it's time for the annual meeting of the American Association of Petroleum Landmen, being held this year in Chicago.

As My Favorite Landman's dutiful and supportive spouse, I am bound to do whatever I can to be there when she needs me ..... even if I have to go to the ends of the earth ... well, then ends of the Midwest, at least.

Seriously, though, Chicago is a GREAT place. This isn't my first visit to the "I Will" city, but it's my favorite visit so far. Lots to see, lots to do, lots to learn and LOTS to eat and drink (always my favorite part of any opportunity to travel).

And, really, it's not such a bad time for AAPL to head up-north and back-east. With oil and gas prices the way they are, it has become more and more reasonable to return to and re-open America's first fields ... and no, they were not in Texas. Those prices have also provided an incentive to explore new opportunities - new locations and new means - as well. There's a lot of talk about those new opportunities going on in Chicago this week.

More, later ...

Monday, June 09, 2008

DVDiversity, Pt. 2 .....

A pair of rentals from the local video store really brought home for us the diversity of popular cinema ..... oh, and provided some entertainment in the process.

As noted in this post, the first was Juno, a new release on local rental shelves. Directed by Jason Reitman, it stars Ellen Page as the title character, a sharp-tongued and spirited teenager confronting an unplanned pregnancy. The second was Rambo, the latest installment in the popular series of action films starring the now-61-year-old Sylvester Stallone, who also directed and co-wrote the movie.

In just about every way, the second film was as far removed from the first as ... well as far away as warlords in southeast Asia can be from high-schoolers in Dancing Elk, Minnesota.

Vietnam War veteran John Rambo spends his retirement in northern Thailand where he's running a boating service. On the nearby Thai-Burma border, the Burmese-Karen conflict rages into its 60th year. A pastor enlists his help when Christian missionaries - who are ministering to members of Burma's Karen ethnic group - are kidnapped by Burmese soldiers in the process of wiping out the Karen village.

One thing to bear in mind is that this film is .... well, it's a Rambo movie. When asked what his take on the film was, First Blood writer and Rambo creator David Morrell said, "Overall, I'm pleased ... this is the first time that the tone of First Blood the novel has been used in any of the movies ... it's not a 4-star movie - the villains are superficial, and the climax is overextended. But this is a solid three stars."

The film is rated R for strong graphic bloody violence, suggestion of sexual assaults, grisly images and language. My Favorite Landman declined to watch it, but Elder Son did watch it with me. According to
this entry in Wikipedia, this latest Rambo movie holds the record with the most kills out of the entire Rambo series, with 262 kills and an average of 3.2 per minute; also the number is more than that of the previous three movies combined. After a while, ES commented that the violence seemed to go 'over-the-top' to the point of getting a little ridiculous. Early this year, when Stallone conducted the obligatory press conferences that accompany the release of new films, and more than once say that the level of violence in his latest movie was justified, and that it served to underline the ongoing problems in Burma.

And this raises an interesting point about the film - one made by Missioner in this post at West Texas Missioner - that what is depicted in the film is inspired by true events in that troubled part of the world, and needs absolutely no artistic license, no embellishment on the part of a Hollywood scriptwriter. Apparently, in the early stages of the script's development, Stallone consulted with Soldiers of Fortune magazine and asked one crucial question: where is the one place on earth where the worst atrocities are taking place and getting the least amount of attention? The answer was "Burma."

That may be changing ..... there was the coverage late last year of the government's brutal suppression of protests led by Buddhist monks in Burma. Then there was the government's response (lack of response?) to conditions following the arrival of Cyclone Nagris last month - in which more than 100,000 have died, so far. And now this movie, which has been hailed by those who know first-hand what is going on in Burma. The film has already proved to be a rallying point for many to decry the ruling junta. Today, Karen civilians are appealing to the world for assistance, warning that if the Burma Army is not stopped, they will soon cease to exist.

Try to imagine, Missioner asks us, what kind of person devotes a part of his or her life to relieving oppressed peoples on the far side of the planet ..... did Sylvester Stallone come to mind? He should.

As for the movie itself, I recommend it to anyone who is a devoted fan of the action film genre ..... but I honestly don't know if I can recommend it to anyone else.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

A Good Sport, a Great Journalist and So Much More .....

..... would be just one of many good ways to begin a tribute for Jim McKay, the groundbreaking sportscaster who died today of natural causes. He was 86.

HERE is a complete write-up on McKay's passing from

If you're the right age, if you can remember an era where the media wasn't saturated with sports programming, you have a genuine appreciation for just how groundbreaking. This was the man, first and foremost, who was "spanning the globe to bring you the constant variety of sports," and he took millions of us along with him, to witness "the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.”

It was an era when the American Broadcasting Company dominated television sports coverage with innovative programming and technology. Behind the camera, Roone Arledge was the man with the plan - and the bucks - to take that coverage to ever-greater heights. But it was McKay, the man in front of the camera, with whom we became so familiar, so comfortable - on "Wide World of Sports," "The American Sportsman," the Olympics and so much more.

And that included those times when sports became news ... real news, like that day in Munich, Germany, in 1972, when McKay told us, “They’re all gone” and that the terrorist attack that had struck the Olympics had been played-out to a terrible and tragic end.

With this gentleman's passing, Alan Abrahamson writes in
this tribute, a piece of cultural history is gone forever.

"He was a talented and eloquent newsman," said President George Bush in a statement released earlier today, "and a storyteller whose special gift was his ability to make the viewers at home genuinely care about more than just who won or lost."

McKay was a gentleman, it was noted. He conducted himself with modesty and the respect he showed others was genuine ... "They call that class," one observer suggested.

It's a type of class that's harder to find nowadays, for all the thousands of hours of sports programming on television, on any given week. There seems to be so much more emphasis on the sportscaster's attitude - flippant and full of sass, in-your-face, joking and jiving, outspoken and controversial, so much more respect for self than for the viewing public - than there is in the scores to be reported, and the stories to be told.

For all it's huge popularity with today's viewing public, it's really not for me ... it's really not the style I enjoyed so much when I was a youngster - one of so many that was invited along every week for that 'globe-spanning' ride.

Thanks for the invite, Jim ..... goodbye and God bless.

DVDiversity, Pt. 1 .....

A pair of rentals from the local video store really brought home for us the diversity of popular cinema ..... oh, and provided some entertainment in the process.

The first was
Juno, a new release on local rental shelves. Directed by Jason Reitman, it stars Ellen Page as the title character, a sharp-tongued and spirited teenager confronting an unplanned pregnancy.

My Favorite Landman and I liked this movie ... A LOT. And, apparently, we're not alone. According to its
Wikipedia entry, the film won the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay and earned three other Oscar nominations including Best Picture; overwhelmingly positive reviews earned it a place on many critics' Top Ten lists; the film earned back its initial budget of $6.5-million in only twenty days, during the first nineteen of which, the film was in only limited release (did it even show in Midland - I can't remember) and has gone on to earn more than 30 times that amount; while the film confronted issues regarding abortion - a sensitive subject in American culture - it won plaudits from both the pro-life and pro-choice community.

Page does a wonderful job, and the film is loaded with strong performances in supporting roles including Michael Cera as Juno's friend and the baby's father, Allison Janney and J.K. Simmons as Juno's parents, Jennifer Garner and Jason Bateman as a couple who may - or may not - have a role to play in the baby's future, and Rainn Wilson as one of the more entertaining store clerks to grace the big screen.

The film also benefits from a sense of realism ..... the setting and the characters are more accessible to us - we care for them more than we might the more outrageous products of a a screenwriter's fancy. The film is perfectly complemented by the soundtrack which includes several songs including the wonderful "All I Want Is You" by Barry Louis Polisar (
here's a video of that, courtesy of FoxSearchlight at YouTube).

My Favorite Landman and I heartily recommend the film to you ..... but not to your kids (at least, depending upon their age). Juno is rated PG-13 for mature thematic material, sexual content and language. Your young teen may be alright with it, or may not ..... you know best.

Pt. 2 later .....

Thursday, June 05, 2008

The Search for Conservatives' Soul .....

... made for good reading and plenty of debate fifty-five years ago, and still does today. According to this post by Joseph S. Salemi at University Bookman, "the publication of Whittaker Chambers' Witness in 1952, and its phenomenal popularity, decisively shaped the conservative movement in America at a time when the movement could well have taken a different turn. After Witness, American conservatism gained what may be called a religious dimension."

Regardless of your philosophical leaning, or lack thereof, it's well worth your taking the time to read Salemi's entire post. We're not talking about neo-con religiosity here, but something far more fundamental, far more profound. And the debate back then was not so much liberal-vs-conservative ..... rather, it was Chambers, Buckley and others who found themselves at odds with none other than Ayn Rand and the Objectivists ..... a debate that got added spark from Cambers' critique of Rand's magnum opus, Atlas Shrugged, in the pages of Buckley's National Review in 1957.

In the end, Salemi suggests, it wasn't much of a fight.

"In spite of all her efforts, Chambers (who had done more concretely to destroy leftist influence in America than a thousand objectivist study groups) had effectively linked anti-Communism and anti-liberalism to a strong religious impulse," Salemi concludes. "Chambers’ review of her book only confirmed what Rand had long feared: The conservatives were declining the chance to become secularized, profit-motivated capitalists. Chambers had convinced them that such a stance was insufficient ..... 'that God, the soul, faith, are not simple matters, and that no easy or ingenuous view of them is possible.'” [emphasis added]

If I were you, I'd book some time for this book. If it's not on your shelf already, it should be ..... for whatever reason. By the way, a tip of the hat to the well-read Frank at Books, Inq.: the Epilogue for connecting me with Salemi's post.