Friday, August 31, 2007

Today's TOP Story .....

Forget Senator Craig and Princess Di ..... MY pick for top story of the day is my sighting a woodpecker in the Tall City! I have always associated them with other parts of West Texas, such as Brewster and Jeff Davis counties ..... this is my first sighting of one in Midland. I'm not as quick on the shutter release as Eric at Fire Ant Gazette, but the Golden Fronted Woodpecker in this photo (taken by J R Compton of J R's Images & Ideas) looks just like the one I saw in my neighbor's yard.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Getting Technical .....

..... and interesting, and informative ..... Justin at Just In Time asks, "What Is Design?" ..... And Les at West Texas TV goes over some "Odds & Ends" now coming to a television set near you.

Your Attributes Attributes .....

A link from Frank at Books, Inq. led me to this post by Michael at No Silence Here, and a discussion of the proper form for attributes on your blog ..... you've just seen my form for attributes - what are YOURS?

Week #9 of Top Chef: Not Tre!!!!! .....

The ninth episode of Top Chef was a real downer for me, as one of my favorite contestants, someone I've enjoyed watching from the start of the third season, was eliminated. The series airs Wednesday nights at nine o'clock (central) on Bravo TV.

Tre is a native of Duncanville, Texas, who currently resides in Cedar Hill. Self-taught, he is Chef de Cuisine at Abacus Restaurant in Dallas. In the first weeks of the season, out of fifteen contestants, Tre had won three - more than a third - of the weekly elimination challenges. And through most of it, he had done it with style and grace, with good manners that were sadly lacking in some of the other contestants. I liked his character a lot, and I enjoyed watching him work ..... you bet, I was rooting for him! ..... the show just isn't as interesting for me, now ..... though there's still Howie - not as charming as Tre, but a strong competitor. Tre's departure also increases the chances for Hung - again, not as charming as Tre, but a strong competitor.

Another interesting point about Top Chef is the media confluence that has come up in the course of this season ..... something that came to my mind in the discussion that followed this post by Eric at Fire Ant Gazette ..... more on Top Chef's confluence, later.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Virtual Hugs And Actual Prayers .....

For Cowtown Pattie at Texas Trifles, as she navigates uncharted waters.

Now Available On Local Bookshelves .....

"Living the Creative Life: Ideas and Inspiration from Working Artists" by Midland writer, Ricë Freeman-Zachery. She's also a blogger, by the way at Notes From the Voodoo Cafe.

What Have We Here? .....

Earlier today, Eric at Fire Ant Gazette posted this about "the premier of what will apparently be an ongoing feature: Jimmy Patterson appearing live via webcam on the local CBS affiliate's early morning news show, pitching features appearing on the newspaper's website and in the current edition of the treeware version."

"I confess," he went on to say, "that I don't get it."

I am not involved in this collaborative effort ..... nor have I seen the broadcast to which he refers. So any comments I might make are purely speculative, and based upon Eric's observations ..... which I have come to respect over the years ..... Eric's observations, that is, NOT my speculations!

I think the effort's value - to both news producers and news consumers - may develop over time. That value may not be realized, at least not at first ..... the process might need some tweaking, the focus might need some adjustment ..... or 'the perfect story' for this feature may not yet have come up.

But I think the value of a collaborative, genuinely-reciprocal effort between print/on-air/online media is already established. I was part of such an effort once, and though that relationship did not end amicably, it did establish a new medium for news and information, and unprecedented opportunities in this market for both news producers and news consumers.

I share Eric's interest in the "back story" and "financial or promotional considerations." As we approach October, 2007, I have thought of posting something on news stories, technology and money, and their impact on creating/reinforcing the leadership of a particular medium - or a particular outlet in that medium - in the market.

One thing I can say that is not speculative, is that Jimmy will probably take Eric's feedback - and that of others - into serious consideration ..... and we may not, as yet, have seen the final product.

Friday, August 17, 2007

The Last Sunflowers of Summer .....

Our trips to Lubbock take us through the town of O'Donnell, hometown of Dan Blocker, and fields - cultivated fields - of sunflowers. This time of year, fields such as these - found across parts of the Panhandle - are especially beautiful, as you can see from this post by Spookyrach at Skewed View.

What Older Language Am I? .....

All this time, you thought it was my 'dang Yankee from back-east' accent ..... actually it's Elder Futhark .....

Language of the Norse, Elder Futhark! Thirty symbols, all told. And no hardier, more warrior-like tongue has ever graced the longships of the Vikings or left the Celts and Saxons in such quivering fear. There's only one drawback, that being you died 800 years ago.

Link: The Which Ancient Language Are You Test written by imipak on OkCupid. Thanks to Frank at Books, Inq. for the heads-up .....

Thursday, August 16, 2007

This Is Disquieting .....

Neal Ungerleider writes, "Were staffers at Fox News and the New York Times engaged in Wikipedia vandalism on the job? It sure looks like it." Here's the rest, courtesy of .....

Pesky Prices .....

This morning, the Today Show aired this report on Tropical Storm Erin, its arrival on the Texas Gulf Coast, and its impact on gasoline prices there, increasing 13¢ yesterday to $2.59.9/gallon ..... meanwhile, local gas prices in Odessa-Midland dropped 6¢ yesterday to $2.79.9/gallon, which is still 20¢ more per-gallon than they're paying in Corpus Christi. Gas prices were on my mind a couple weeks back, when we drove to Frisco (a suburban community north of Dallas) ..... by anywhere from 12¢ to 20¢, we were paying more per-gallon in Midland than any other city on that route .....Big Spring, Sweetwater, Abilene, Weatherford, Fort Worth, Dallas, Plano, Frisco.

Long Live the King .....

It was thirty years ago today that Elvis Presley died. A selection of stories, videos and slide shows about 'The King' and his life and career can be found here. The official website for Elvis - maintained by Elvis Presley Enterprises, Inc. - can be found here.

On NewsWest 9 Sunrise this morning, following an 'Elvis package,' Hema Mullur asked Darrell Ward where the phrase, 'Elvis has left the building,' came from ..... you bet, Darrell knew!

Our music, our movies, our language ..... our culture ..... all have been touched in one way or another by Elvis. My favorite bit of 'Presleyana' is
Bubba Ho Tep ..... the “true” story of what really did become of Elvis ..... and President John Kennedy, too! The film also features a killer soundtrack, with haunting chords played on a bluesy guitar, both soulful and hopeful at once ..... sometimes despairing, and sometimes positively heroic.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Additions to the Blogroll .....

Taking a moment to add two more Tall City bloggers to my 'Blogs of Note' section .....

Becky at "
The Knitting Barista" loves a man in kilts, and loves to knit. I've met Becky, and she's even better in the actual world. Good coffee, great conversation.

Another actual acquaintance is Ricë at "
Notes From the Voodoo Cafe" about "art, writing, and the creative life - a shot of Voodoo & a twist of Zen." She's also a published writer whose next book, "Living the Creative Life: Ideas and Inspirations from Working Artists" will be hitting the shelves later this month ..... in fact, she has a book-signing coming up at Barnes & Noble in October.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

The Movie That Almost Never Was .....

Sometimes, when I visit the video store, I look for something in particular ..... and sometimes, I'm just browsing, going through the new releases, row after row, to see what's arrived ..... on Thursday, I was doing the latter, and that's how I stumbled across "Neverwas" .....

And I DO mean 'stumbled,' because I had never heard word-one about this movie. True, it had never played in the Tall City, but that can be said for some major film releases, and for a majority of those small, independent flicks ..... but, even in perusing my usual sources for movie news, I had never heard of "Neverwas" .....

But the film looked like it might be a good rent ..... the description on the back of the box ('young man searching father's past finds there may have been some fact to the old man's fantastic tales') reminded me a little bit of "
Big Fish," which I had enjoyed ..... and the cast - which included Ian McKellen, William Hurt, Nick Nolte, Jessica Lange and Michael Moriarty - was, well, 'stellar' .....

My Favorite Landman and I watched it tonight, and liked it ..... A LOT. It's not a great movie, but it's a good one, and well worth the cost of a rental. It's hard to say whether it met with critical acclaim, or critical disdain ..... because there's very little critical comment out there, period .....
Rotten Tomatoes assembled a whole five reviews for their Neverwas page .....

It goes on ..... there are no American box office numbers to report, because the film never made it to the big screen - the closest it ever got was the Toronto Film Festival, in 2005. It was then released at some theaters, than on DVD and television, in Europe and Latin America, before coming to the U.S. on DVD ..... weird.

The same is true in the virtual world .....
IMDb has some data on their page for this movie, but not a lot ..... a casual search of the web finds almost nothing about the movie - no official site, no fansites, almost nothing ..... weird.

More than one critic suggested the inability of filmmakers and distributors to 'categorize' the film may have been behind its initial disappearance ..... "Sadly, one of the realities of movie making – or actually, of movie marketing, which tends to rule movie making – is that a movie needs to fit in a cubby-hole in order to convince the powers-that-be that it’s got a hope of achieving box office success," Brian Webster wrote in his review for Apollo Guide. "How Neverwas got made in the absence of a cubby-hole to slot it into is something of a mystery to me, although I must say that there are worse crimes than failing to conform to Hollywood’s rules. Of course, inability to get the movie released cancels out any warm and fuzzies over making a movie that’s a little bit different. And this is different. Part mental health drama, part fantasy, part coming to terms with childhood pain, Neverwas is a movie that never quite finds its way. There are moments when it begins to hit all the right emotional buttons, but then it wanders off in a different direction, and there are times when it verges on entering a world of fantasy, but those are always cut short. So this movie doesn’t just fall outside of categories; it also never quite hits its stride."

But, nonetheless, it's here now, and it's on the shelves in the Tall City ..... and I recommend it to you all.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Fill the Boot, and Watch the Road .....

Take care on roadways in the Tall City today-through-Saturday. Our fire department is out in force, as part of their Fill the Boot fundraiser for the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

I saw the firefighters at Wadley and Midkiff, and at Andrews Highway and Midland Drive. They may be at other intersections, too ..... so, PLEASE, keep your eyes and your attention on the road.

For more information about MDA in West Texas you can contact
their local office.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

On the Street Where I Live, #1 .....

Today was the first day of a little venture I've begun with the City of Midland, and I plan on keeping you posted on how that venture develops in the weeks - months? - that lie ahead.

This first report begins with a discussion during the National Night Out party we hosted in our front yard, last night. Ours is a north-to-south street, that sees some traffic going way-too-fast for a residential street, especially one that's posted 20 mph.

It's also a street that's been seeing more kids over the last few years. Such was the case when these homes were brand new ..... but those kids have long since grown and moved on. Their parents have passed away, or moved to a retirement community - though there are still some living here. But the point is, our street is once again filling with kids running around, playing ball, riding bikes and scooters, and getting in the way of traffic.

This street is also popular with walkers and joggers, and we see plenty of them, around-the-clock, some with dogs in tow, more and more of them pushing strollers. During the school year, high school athletes use our street for road work most afternoons.

Cross-traffic is stopped at every intersection, but through traffic has no stops for four blocks, and there's temptation to speed, maybe to get ahead of that pesky traffic signal, and the rest of the traffic on Garfield. And let me stress something ..... we're NOT talking about a lot of kids in over-large, over-noisy pickups, barreling down the road - though there are SOME. Actually, quite a few of our speeders are older, driving late-model, expensive sedans and SUV's.

It's not a problem on the rest of our street, where you have 4-way stops every two blocks. Ours is the only part of this street that doesn't have a 4-way stop after two blocks ..... and you can see the difference.

So, this morning I went to City Hall, and visited with Gary Saunders, Transportation Manager for the City of Midland. We had a nice visit, a friendly, two-way discussion of residents' concerns, and what the City can do to address those concerns. The first step, he told me, will be a survey of the traffic, to see if a change to a 4-way stop is warranted. He has set that process in motion, and promised to contact me when they get the results.

He warned me that the survey may not indicate a need for the change ..... but that's not the end of the process. We could then petition the City for the change. He offered to go over that process with me, if-and-when it's needed. But first, we'll see the results of the survey.

We'll see how it goes from here.

Cheese Delivers .....

Spookyrach's Cheese Chronicles make Skewed View a 'must visit.'

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

I Grok ..... I Really Grok .....

Which Author's Fiction are You?

Robert Heinlein wrote you - you stranger in a strange land, you.
Take this quiz!


Caveat Emptor Television .....

My Favorite Landman would probably be the first to tell you that I'm not the best person to watch a documentary with ..... one of the drawbacks to going to an IMAX theater - sitting down to watch some explorer's hi-def, surround-sound account of his/her exploits - is me kibitzing that whatever their incredible physical feat might be, someone did it an hour-or-so ahead of them, while lugging a camera, sound equipment, lights, etc. ..... and we hear not a word of it in the film's overwrought and over-written dialogue.

Which brings me to
this post by George at Sleepless in Midland ..... I know, I've been spending a lot of time there lately ..... it's HIS fault, with the stuff he posts, and all .....

This report by Robert Booth in the Times of London, notes that, "to live up to his public image of a rugged, ex-SAS adventurer, it must have seemed essential for Bear Grylls to appear at ease sleeping rough and catching his own food in his television survival series" ...... "But it has emerged that Grylls, 33, was enjoying a far more conventional form of comfort, retreating some nights from filming in mountains and on desert islands to nearby lodges and hotels."

The report also includes allegations by a consultant to that series, that some scenes - assembling a life raft from scratch, for example, or catching and riding a wild horse - were choreographed, with the raft assembled in advance, and the 'wild' horse trucked in for the shoot.

Grylls' escapades are featured in
Man vs. Wild, a weekly series on the Discovery Channel. I am told it is quite the popular series, and I have enjoyed other variations on this theme - especially Les Stroud's Survivorman, which also airs on Discovery - but NOT this one.

So, why do I prefer Survivorman? One reason is the 'man' ..... while Grylls and his copywriters try to portray him as the next great action hero, Stroud comes across as more of an ordinary guy caught in an extraordinary situation. I was already hooked on Stroud's show when I saw my first promo's for Grylls. Their very tone - all the posturing and preening - put me off from the get-go.

Another reason I prefer Survivorman - and this is the media professional in me talking - is the production work ..... it was obvious from the start that no matter how desperate Grylls' situation might appear on our television screens, he was still being accompanied by a production crew. Stroud, on the other hand, is by himself. For me, an interesting feature of the show, is how he sets up his cameras in advance to record a single incident from two different perspectives.

He has a pair of cameras, a set of mounts, and batteries - but they are used only to record. He also has a special radio-phone for contacting a rescue crew in the event of a dire emergency. But when it comes to surviving, he relies only on the few items he has been allowed to bring along, and what he can scrounge up - a wrecked bicycle that has stranded him in the desert southwest, a snowmobile that has run out of gas and stranded him north of the Arctic Circle, or the litter that crops-up just about everywhere in the world nowadays.

Stroud doesn't rely on years of commando training and survivalist strategies. He's actually a composer and a filmmaker with a passion for the outdoors. He draws upon what I once considered 'everyday' lessons that many of us learned in scouting ..... starting a fire, setting up a solar still, building a lean-to. Granted, he has built up an extraordinary body of knowledge, and he has an almost 'McGyveresque' ingenuity ..... but he still comes across as one of us.

And he's real.

Survivorman's second season kicks-off August 10 on Discovery Channel, and I plan on watching!

Monday, August 06, 2007

Signs of the Times .....

Courtesy of George at Sleepless in Midland, comes this link to Atom Smasher, allowing you personalize your very own construction sign.

Here's mine .....

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Virtual Notes of Actual Passings .....

From Eric at Fire Ant Gazette comes this memorial tribute to Judy Fulton, once a fixture of the West Texas theater and television scene .....

From Jimmy at
Sticky Doorknobs, a sportswriter-par-excellence in a previous lifetime, comes this note of the passing of a mark for excellence in the sportsworld .....

And from Frank at
Books, Inq. comes this note on the passing of Tommy Makem, world-renowned Irish singer, songwriter, musician and storyteller .....

Another Pappa in Cowtown .....

One of the advantages of visiting the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex, is the opportunity to stop at one of the Pappas Restaurants for a meal. We have enjoyed both Pappasito's Cantina and Pappadeaux on previous visits.

Last week, on the north side of the interstate highway, in the 'museum district' west of downtown Fort Worth, crews were raising a sign over a new
Pappa's Burgers ..... the first, I think, outside of the Houston area. With the other two restaurants located next-door, and Trinity Park (and the Fort Worth Botanic Garden) just across the river - via a boulder bridge right below the restaurants - this looks to become another favorite stop of mine in Cowtown.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Careful What You Wish For .....

"OK, it's official. We've had plenty of rain. It can stop now. Please," wrote Eric, in this post at Fire Ant Gazette.

But that very night, as I was taking elder son to an indoor rec soccer game - navigating the stream bed that was once Garfield Street - we saw that the automatic sprinkler system at First Baptist was running full blast ..... short of washing your car, I can't think of a better way to bring rain than going out and giving your lawn a good soaking with the hose.

It will be interesting to see how this summer's utility bills compare to last summer's ..... pouring less water on the lawn, and using the air conditioner a lot less.

Another way to encourage a good thunderstorm is to host a huge outdoor rock concert ..... which is just what happens August 10-11, when
Rock the Desert 2007 kicks-off ..... good, dry luck to them, I mean it!

I've spent plenty of years in parts of the country that are this wet - or wetter! - as a matter of course. But the last thirty-plus years have been spent in the desert country of New Mexico and West Texas, and I've grown to like it ..... wouldn't mind seeing some of that dry weather again.

Saturday's off to a good start ..... I'm keeping my fingers crossed ..... and NOT washing my car!

Friday, August 03, 2007

Be Gentle ..... It's Our First Time .....

..... the first time that Jimmy of Sticky Doorknobs has gotten a meme started, and the first time that I've been tagged with one ..... here goes .....

6 places I've been in Texas (where I wish I could be again right now)

• Guadalupe Peak
• The river/bayous of the Lower Trinity
• San Antonio River Walk
• Chisos Basin, BBNP
• McDonald Observatory
• Fredericksburg

6 places I've never been in Texas (where I wish I could be right now)

• State Railroad, Palestine/Rusk
• Galveston/Padre Island
• Ballpark at Arlington
• Terlingua Chili Cookoff
• Palo Duro Canyon
• Wyler Aerial Tramway, El Paso

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Overwhelmed by Generosity .....

Congratulations to Jimmy Patterson of Sticky Doorknobs for his participation in Blogathon 2007, raising funds for Midland Fair Heavens while sitting atop a 30-foot lift in the H-E-B parking lot for 24 hours, blogging the entire time ..... and reaching 125% of his goal in the process!

Underwhelmed by Underdog .....

Last month, I posted this after seeing a trailer for Disney's Underdog film ..... a trailer that left me underwhelmed, to say the least.

Now, there's need to fear ..... Spookyrach is here ..... and she has bone or two to pick with the filmmakers, with this post at Skewed View.

Why 'PR' People Go Crazy .....

A couple weeks back, I posted this about David Beckham - a star of England's legendary Manchester United and Spain's Real Madrid, and a longtime mainstay of England's national team - who has now taken the field in America, as part of Major League Soccer's L.A. Galaxy, and about his impact on soccer in America.

At the time, I suggested one indicator of that impact could be found in ticket sales. One of the games we got as part of a mini-season-pack from
FC Dallas was a 'Super Liga' match with the Galaxy ..... which was already going to be a good game, but would now have the added attraction of Beckham. Prior to the game, a member of FC Dallas' front office told me that only 2,000 (out of 20,000) tickets remained for that game at Pizza Hut Park, in Frisco, Texas, and they were planning on adding bleachers to the stage at one end of the complex, for added seating ..... a packed house is almost unheard-of for a regular season game.

Well, they sold out, including the bleachers. And even a severe thunderstorm late that afternoon didn't dampen every one's enthusiasm ....... nor did the non-appearance of David Beckham.

That's right ..... after weeks of promotional hype - billboards, on-air ads, newspaper ads, e-mails and phone calls - The Becks didn't even fly to Dallas, as he continues to nurse an injury that has plagued him for much of the year.

Some folks were very disappointed ..... "Bench It Like Beckham" said a home-made sign at Tuesday night's match.

But, this is interesting ..... everyone had known for a couple of days that he wasn't coming .... and still, the stadium was almost full, on a Tuesday night, in between thunderstorms. And those that did come, saw an awesome game ..... a 6-5, down-to-the-final-whistle thriller between two teams that are both contenders to make a serious run for the 2007 MLS Cup ..... like I said before, it was already going to be a good game ..... it turned out to be even better ..... though I wish FC Dallas could have won.

And I wish Beckham could have at least made the trip to Dallas. Even if he couldn't have taken the field (and considering how rough the play got - with 9 yellow cards handed out - that was probably a good thing), it would have meant a lot to some folks to just see him down there on the sidelines.

For it's part, FC Dallas' general manager announced, "fans that purchased tickets through the FC Dallas front office or through Ticketmaster to the July 31 game will receive a special ticket offer for the next game between FC Dallas and the Los Angeles Galaxy at Pizza Hut Park before tickets are on sale to the general public."

It will help ..... but it's a good example of the kind of things that drive people in the PR business right off the deep end.