Thursday, December 06, 2007

Trinity River Toll Road Post-Election Thoughts

A few words on the vote last Nov. 6th, when Dallas voters narrowly okayed the toll road in the park. A lot of my friends have called or emailed to say how sorry they were that the anti-toll road side lost, but I'm not worried, nor was I really that upset (I'm used to voters lacking the intelligence to look at an issue beyond what their politicians tell them). Just because the vote turned out that way, doesn't mean the toll road will be built. In fact, I don't think it will ever be built. The Army Corps of Engineers is not going to approve a highway in a flood plain just because voters okayed it. Nor will the NTTA (North Texas Tollway Authority) suddenly be able to come up with the engineering and environmental requirements necessary for approval What voters okayed, was that the city could proceed to try and build it. The vote didn't eliminate all the hurdles that have to be jumped to get the first highway ever to be built in a floodway in this country approved.

In any case, TrinityVote hasn't just thrown up their hands and walked away. About 30 of us showed up at the first City Council meeting after the vote--in your Yes! t-shirt--to make sure the rest of the council didn't try to beat up on Angela. And we'll continue to monitor the progress of the toll road. Check out the Trinity Vote blog to see how the false promises, deceipt and lies the Mayor, the Dallas Morning News, the NTTA and other city officials made during the campaign have slowly started to unravel. For one, the Morning News sat on information damaging to the Vote No side for a month prior to the election and only printed it after the election was over. James Ragland just wrote about a "private party" Leppert held for the all the councilmembers (except Angela Hunt!) as a thank you, and held at Ross Perot, Jr.'s condo at the W. Journalists were not allowed.

Once again, we have a greedy, self-interested Mayor and City Council, with the sole exception of Angela Hunt, of course. But our grassroots movement came close to defeating them. It was an historic vote. Despite the fact that the Vote No outspent us 20 to 1, and had on their side both U.S. Senators, a U.S. Congressman, State Representatives, 13 of 14 City Council members, the Mayor, two Dallas ex-mayors, every Chamber of Commerce and business organization in the city--they could only win by 6%. It was an extraordinary experience working on this issue, and, as I said, it ain't over yet.

Photo Shoot

I've been shooting music posters for 2 days. Some are so large, you can't show the scale with a digital image. I was trying to shoot a delayed image and stand by this one, so you could see how large it is. But, the delay was set for 2 seconds, and I couldn't get into position in time. So, why am I posting this? I haven't had time to blog lately, and I just kind of liked it.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Mayor Leppert Would Force Feed Dallas Voters If He Could

Has anyone noticed how many visuals the toll road proponents keep rolling out? First, the one back in 1998 depicting a tranquil park scene with sailboats on a lake. Then recently the animated version which Brad Watson on Channel 8 showed was a fantasy by interviewing the Army Corps of Engineers, who in turn stated that nothing has been fixed. In other words, any pictures are pure imagination.

Now the latest version. Anyone attending the debate between Angela Hunt and Tom Leppert at Rosemont Primary was treated to a large rendering of the toll road and park sponsored by the North Texas Tollway Authority, the company that will build and own this toll road. It shows a section of road next to an expansive park with dozens of strollers and cyclists along park paths. On the toll road itself, I counted SIX CARS on their rendering! SIX CARS, folks, and these cars were probably just trying to find the exit into the park so they could enjoy the tranquil watercolor trees and pathways.

Furthermore, Mayor Leppert keeps touting that former Dallas mayors Ron Kirk and Laura Miller, Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, former council member John Wiley Price and all the current council members, save the lone intelligent one (Angela Hunt), have joined together to support the toll road in the Trinity Park. Someone told me that when a bunch of politicians get together and tell you how to vote, hold on to your pocketbook.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Summer's Gone???

Wow. The summer's over and not one blog entry since June. Just way too busy.
Saw Wilco Friday night at the Palladium in Dallas. Better than ever. I think Sky Blue Sky is the best album yet. The sound was great, the band in top form. And great songwriting aside, their musicianship is awesome to hear. These guys are some extraordinary musicians.
The set list was almost like a Wilco's greatest hits:
The Palladium Ballroom
Dallas, TX

Set 1:
Shake It Off
A Shot In The Arm
Side With The Seeds
You Are My Face
I Am Trying To Break Your Heart
Pot Kettle Black
Handshake Drugs
Impossible Germany
It’s Just that Simple
Jesus, Etc.
Too Far Apart
I’m The Man Who Loves You
Poor Places
Spiders (Kidsmoke)

Set 2:
Red-Eyed And Blue
I Got You (At the End of the Century)
Hesitating Beauty
Hate It Here
I’m Always In Love
Outtasite (Outta Mind)

Heavy Metal Drummer
On And On And On

Was able to get a recording of this, too. Impossible Germany is my new fave.

Friday, June 29, 2007

How about a toll road here?

Coincidentally, today is the deadline to turn in the signed petitions ordering a referendum on the Trinity toll road. I got almost 1100 signatures myself, and kept a tally of those who knew about the issue and specifically did not want to sign. The tally ended up being 10% of the Dallas voters who were told about the issue said they would not sign. When we turn in the 50,000+ signatures, it will represent more people than voted for our current mayor Tom Leppert. How about them apples?

Check out the Trinity River today!

Thursday, June 28, 2007


Everyone needs to see Michael Moore's new documentary on the health care industry (do those words even go together?), especially this opening weekend, if possible, when the movie industry values the statistics. It's going to be another painful exposition of how little this country cares for people, and how much it cares for profit. Check out the preview:

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Richie Havens "License to Kill"

Just discovered this really beautiful version of Bob Dylan's LICENSE TO KILL by Richie Havens.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Precious Moments

My friend Kathryn and her daughter Erin (above) went to Kansas City recently. Erin's been accepted--with scholarship--to the Kansas City Art Institute! She totally deserves this because she's worked very hard for it, and is a very talented artist. On the way, they stopped at the Precious Moments Chapel in Carthage, MO. Awesome photos! Click on them to see a larger version with better detail.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Britt opens for Sonic Youth!

Between gathering petition signatures for Trinity Vote, and Anna being back from college--not to mention trying to make a living--there's been no time for blogging.
HOWEVER....just got off the phone with Britt (right, in the photo above), and it turns out that Thurston Moore has asked him to open for Sonic Youth on July 19th at the historic Berkeley Community Theatre, where the likes of Hendrix, The Grateful Dead, The Clash and Led Zeppelin have played. Now is that cool or what?
Thurston is a customer of Britt's label notnotfun records. He's apparently very much into experimental music, and when he has the opportunity to ask someone to open, he likes unknown highly experimental bands like Britt's ROBEDOOR. Britt will be doing a collaborative set with his wife Amanda's band POCAHAUNTED.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Dallas Trinity Parkway: Once More, It's All Business

In 1998, the citizens of Dallas voted for Propostion 11, which was to set aside $246 million to turn the Trinity River into a recreational area. Above is the illustration used in the official city brochure. Keep that image firmly in mind. There was no mention in the wording on the ballot of "toll" or "road", nothing about high-speed roadways with no exits into the park, and taking up 1/3 of the park space. But, typical, to Dallas and its usual suspect business interests, the park project got hijacked along the way, unbeknown to the voters, and now includes such a toll road, which has been engineered and re-engineered for the last 8 years, the cost estimate having risen to more than $1 billion. Add to that the the North Texas Tollway Authority, who will own the road (AND will be gifted the land by the City of Dallas), has asked to be exempted from the post-Katrina flood plain engineering requirements. Let me also mention, that Dallas would be the ONLY city in the United States with a highway in a levee.

In response to this, City Councilperson Angela Hunt started the Trinity Vote, a group of volunteers I am working with who are gathering the 50,000 petition signatures necessary to bring the referendum back to the voters, to let THEM decide whether they want a toll road or not. It's the only way that all the truth can come to light. With these signatures, neither the Mayor nor the City Council will have any authority to stop the referendum going back to the voters.

I gathered signatures yesterday at one of the early voting poll locations. You should know that the opposition has hired "blockers"--many of whom were brought in from outside the Dallas area and/or state--to dissuade people from signing our petitions. These are professionals who have been stationed at every polling location. They are getting paid $200/day (I found this out from "my" blocker). Doesn't that tell you something right there? On the one hand, you have volunteer Dallas citizens who are concerned about having their promised green space; on the other hand, you have "hired guns", because the fat cats are too busy making money and doing more deals to care about fair and open discussion.

On top of that, a second rate journalist for the Dallas Morning News, aptly named Steve Blow, wrote a lame "editorial" for the opposition in yesterday's paper. It did influence some people, who believe what they read in the Dallas Morning News (aka BELO Corporation which not only owns the city's only mainstream newspaper, but the ABC-TV affiliate station as well). Cozy, huh?

So, yesterday afternoon, when things slowed down, I suggested to "my" blocker that we call Steve. I was transferred to him right away. I identified myself, and that a representative from the opposition was also there with me, and we both wanted to ask some questions. After he got past the first five minutes of stammering, I questioned his statement that everyone knew the toll road was in the mix from day one. He responded that the issue was in the newspaper. I asked if he had read the actual wording of the Proposition. "No," was his reply. Can you believe it? He finally agreed that if you didn't read the Morning News, and had just gone to the polling place that day, you WOULD NOT have known a toll road was in the mix. How's that for an informed journalist?

In any case, I wrote a letter to the Editors of the News this morning, and was just informed that it will be printed in tomorrow's paper (Saturday, May 5th). It had to be brief to be published, so it's better than nothing, but check it out.

And, those of you who are registered Dallas voters, please email me and let's arrange to sign my petition!! We have 60 days from last Monday.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Maria's Parents

Maria has been a dear friend for more than 12 years, and has helped me keep my home clean all these years. She is originally from El Salvador, and is now working on her U.S. citizenship. Her parents, who live in El Salvador, are here currently visiting her. She brought them along for me to meet. It was so nice to meet them. Her father is a very sweet man, and helped her out while she worked.

Maria's parents live in a very small rural village in El Salvador. They have cows, chickens and a garden. This is how they live, with no jobs. Cold water, no air conditioning. I told Maria it actually sounds refreshing. They were fascinated by the eclectic things in my house. They told Maria they were seeing things they'd never seen before, and were amazed to see so many things from so many other countries.

I wanted to take their photo. Maria's father especially loved the handmade shrine (from India) underneath the Chinese checkerboards. That's where he wanted the photo taken. And this is the pose he chose as well. Awesome, no?

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Japanese Character Mask Collection

Now that my photography skills have improved somewhat over the last few years, I decided it was time to re-vamp my ModernToys™ Museum collection. I re-shot all the toys, and added three more pages. The 4th and 5th pages are devoted to Japanese children's masks. Check them out if you feel like it HERE. Click on any of the thumbnails to see the full toy or mask. The link at the top is to the mask page.

I'll be adding another page of masks tomorrow!

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Kurt Vonnegut: So It Goes*

There were a few books that I encountered in my late teens and early 20s that fleshed out my world by an exponential number. The most memorable of those books were J.D. Salinger's 9 Stories and Franny and Zooey, Ram Dass's Be Here Now, Herman Hesse's Steppenwolf and Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five. Well, all of Vonnegut's books, really. Once I read Slaughterhouse Five, there was no stopping at that point. I then read Cat's Cradle, God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater, and you know the rest of the stories.

There are always people from your own generation, and from previous ones, that light the way, for those of us who want to believe that there is more to the universe and to existence than our mainstream culture revealed to some of us during our childhood. My father owns a clothing store, and my memories of him going to work everyday, coming home in the evening still absorbed in this quotidian world, instilled in me the distinct impression that life as an adult was intrinsically uninteresting. Although very young, I just assumed that being an adult was boring, and that was reality.

Fortunately, when I was 12, The Beatles invaded, and I do mean, invaded. And that started the spark for me. It implanted, without me even knowing, the first seed that the universe was immense, and so were the possibilities. The next epiphany came when I was around 22. I was reading a Rolling Stone article about Paul McCartney. This was post-Beatles. The article was about Paul's new solo album. I know this will sound incredibly trite to you, but it was a huge epiphany for me suddenly--Paul didn't just slip into the business world after the Beatles. He continued creating music and carried this passion into the--and now for that phrase--"adult world". I was already primed to be a hippie at that point, but this gave me the necessary nudge. The direction of my life was for me to create. And it's been an adventure ever since.

So, it is with a really deep sense of sadness to learn of Kurt Vonnegut's passing. He was one of the people in my life, whom I had never met, but somehow known intimately. The normal metaphor would be to say that Vonnegut was a light of the world. And he was. But I like to think of him more as a medium of the universe. Like Lennon, like Dylan, like LSD, like Ram Dass, like Rimbaud. Some people seem to be more attuned to the universe. Vonnegut was one. He was brilliant and funny, and knew how to describe the human condition in a way that resonated with my sense of who I was. He taught me more about me.

He will be missed, but he won't be the last. So it goes.

*The title of this blog entry refers to the phrase Vonnegut uses in Slaughterhouse Five whenever a death occurs.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

President & CEO George W. Bush: Nixon Nostalgia

I just watched the documentary The U.S. vs. John Lennon, which was moving, to say the least. Throughout my 37 years or so of political awareness, I NEVER thought I would be nostalgic for Richard Nixon. Nixon may have had his criminal side, but nothing as insidious and manipulative as CEO Bush. The Nixon White House perceived a real threat in John Lennon. In Lennon's FBI files is a letter from then Senator Strom Thurmond to the White House recommending deportation as a "strategic measure", and you know the rest of the story. (If not, you can read the actual FBI files here.)

What the Bush White House has done is far more insidious. They have established the Executive Office as sacrosanct, immune from the fundamental principles of Checks and Balances. Because of the privilege of having a Republican rubber-stamp Congress, they have been able to sustain the illusion. Bush and his co-CEO Cheney have run the office like a corporation--expecting the nation to run on their directives, unquestioned and unchallenged. They have curbed our Bill of Rights, and called it the "Patriot" Act. Wherever Bush appears, protesters are cordoned off a safe distance from his (and the news cameras') presence. In the wake of the current U.S. Attorney scandal, they have agreed to unrecorded questioning of certain White House officials, and they not be under oath. Dissent, one of our fundamental rights--and the reason, I might add, that we are no longer English--is repressed, discouraged and equated with disloyalty and lack of patriotism.

In short, CEO Bush has hijacked the office of President. He promised when he first became President that he would restore dignity to the office (an obvious dig at President Clinton). He has, in fact, degraded it. His anti-intellectual, Crusade-centric, shoot-from-the-hip attitude has hurt our image around the world in such a way that it may take 50 years to restore it. One wishes now that his transgressions could have been as simple as getting a blow job from an intern!

Yes, I would prefer Nixon. Next to Bush, he was a lightweight. And this brings one bit of sadness to the fore---I miss John Lennon. What has allowed the current state of affairs is indifference. I would go so far as to say that the Holocaust did not happen primarily because of Jew-hating Nazis; it happened because of the indifference of the German people, the American people as well as the rest of the world. Indifference is more powerful than hatred. Lennon cared deeply about war, and put himself on the line to help end it. You may not know that he did not perform for money one time after the Beatles broke up. He only performed for political causes, and for free.


Sunday, April 08, 2007


Check out this website with some great anti-war posters.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Steven Guarnaccia

By the way, the friend I referred to in the last entry is a New York-based illustrator, whose work is quite extraordinary. He's been extensively published everywhere from the New York Times to the Italian design magazine Abitare. He's published a number of books, including an updated version of Goldilocks and the Three Bears (see it on Amazon); a skeleton pop-up book (also on Amazon); a beautiful book on the theme of "Black + White"; and projects too numerous to mention here. Steven currently teaches Illustration at Parsons.

Check out some samples of his work here.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Cool Rock Poster Art

I sell music memorabilia, mostly from the 60's through the 80's, but recently my good friend Steven turned me on to a contemporary artist who has broken the mold of the Kozik-influenced poster style. Her name is Tara McPherson. She's not an unknown artist, by any means, but I haven't seen her music poster work until now. She has reconnected 60's psychedelic artwork with the 21st Century. Her posters are primarily about the graphics, and she diminishes the venue information. The venue is almost secondary. Stanley Mouse, Victor Moscoso, Rick Griffin and other iconic 60's artists did the same thing, only by incorporating the text into almost unreadable visuals (you almost had to be stoned to read them). Even though the poster was meant to advertise a concert, it became about the artwork itself. I think Tara has done the same thing updated. The venue information is secondary to the piece, which gives the poster as a whole more visual strength.

I've included a couple of samples of her artwork here. Go to her site for more HERE!

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Movie Review of the Month: Fists in the Pocket (Italy, 1965)

I started watching this film twice and gave up 10 minutes into it. For some reason, the beginning is a bit confusing, and the initial scene with the family is bizarre. Then I tried watching it again the other night, and was totally taken in by it. In fact, I watched it a second time this evening. Fists in the Pocket (I pugni in tasca) was the debut film for Marco Bellocchio in 1965 with an incredibly penetrating and complex performance by first timer Lou Castel. The story centers on Alessandro (Lou Castel) and his attempt to do away with his dysfunctional family, in order for his older, and normal (read, bourgeois) brother to be able to marry. When Bellocchio took a copy of the film without sound to the Venice Film Festival for consideration, he was told to abandon it altogether, to not finish it.

I think you have to understand the context of the film to understand how revolutionary and shocking it was at the time. Italian society was stiflingly bourgeois and Catholic in the early 60's. Cinema was still identified with the past masters, such as Antonioni and De Sica. Bellocchio turned these values on their head with his outrageous plot full of black humor, and presaged (along with fellow film student Bertolucci) the student riots in Europe in 1968. I believe it was Lou Castel, years later, who characterized the film as the "rumble before the earthquake".

If you're a serious film person, and haven't seen it, you must.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Tony Snow Job

I consider myself a little left of moderate, and Tony Snow, obviously, much further on the conservative side. However, I never minded watching him when he moderated the Fox Sunday News show. Yes, he was narrow minded, but there as a semblance of intelligence. But now that he's become the White House spokesperson, well, he's followed the first requirement for the job: check your intellect in at the door. I'm sure I'm not the only one who has lost mounds of respect for this guy. Why anyone would think it was a step UP to go from Fox News to the White House ventriloquist dummy, is perplexing. But, then, to hear him spout the lamest excuses for the administration's arrogance and bullying of Congress, the courts and, lately, U.S. Attorneys.

His latest retort to the Democrats issuing subpoenas for top White House advisers is to accuse them of playing "politics", something we all know the Republicans consider anathema. The Bush administration has typically acted with sheer arrogance and from the viewpoint that the Executive Branch is sacrosanct. It feels no need to consult Congress, by casting their decisions as in the interests of American safety. Bush has gotten away with this attitude of moral superiority, largely because of a Republican-dominated Congress, and some clueless Democrats who were just as asleep at the wheel.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Anna Turns 21!

My darling Pisces daughter turned 21 on March 12th. Her mom and I took her to Craft, the restaurant at the W, for a superlative meal, and then to the Ghost Bar afterwards for drinks. She had the time of her life, needless to say. The staff at Craft treated her very well, wishing her happy birthday as we entered the restaurant, and at the end bringing out a special box of chocolate truffles made just for her. The food is really as good as I've tasted in Dallas, and that's saying a lot. It was a nice place to celebrate the occasion of a 21st birthday. hip, sophisiticated design, modern and urbane. She felt really special. Afterwards, we took the elevator to the Ghost Bar, for ungodly expensive drinks, but, hey, it'll be her only 21st Birthday, ever. Great view of downtown Dallas (but not so great view of half a dozen parking lots below). You can check out a few photos on my site HERE.

She left for NYC for 4 days today, her first trip like this on her own. She was so excited this morning, as I took her to the airport. I asked if she wanted me to come in while she checked in. She said no, matter of factly. This was a first. I know most 20-year-old women long since don't want their father to accompany them to do something like that, but our relationship has been different. She's always wanted me to do those kinds of things. I knew the time would come, however, and it has, and though it's bittersweet in one way, it's really wonderful to see her grow into her own person She's really a beautiful person through and through. I've always tried to stay conscious that our father-daughter relationship was not about me, but about her. I'm ready for her to be her own person because she's ready.

I had the feeling that the next phase of our lives together had begun. Last night was a celebration of milestones, and human passages. I recently watched a documentary about the great songwriter, ex-Small Faces founder Ronnie Lane, who died of complications from MS at 51. Several times through the documentary he says, "Life is a short movie."

I'll leave it at that.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Al Gore for President

I want to go on record with this prediction before it becomes really obvious: Al Gore is going to announce his candidacy in about a year, after Hillary and Obama have self-destructed. He is a prime candidate for the Democratic Party:
1) He has lots of Senatorial experience.
2) He has no embarrassing vote for the war in Iraq
to explain away.
3) He can raise the money easily, just on the internet.
4) He can capitalize on his longstanding warning about
global warming, now that the Republicans have quit denying
its legitimacy.
5) He won a freakin' Oscar!
6) We'll finally have a President with an intellect again, and one who can
articulate complex thoughts. Not a President who says, for example, that he tried diplomacy in Iraq "to the max."

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Sister Rosetta Tharpe

If you don't listen to the weekly Bob Dylan Theme Time Radio, you're missing out on one of life's great musical pleasures. Okay, so I don't subscribe to XM Radio, but was fortunate to find the shows online. Listening to a show today, Dylan played a number from Sister Rosetta Tharpe, and he strongly suggested that the listener go to YouTube and see her in action. I did, and here it is for you, too!

We ain't gonna study war no more.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Is PBS Getting Weirder?

Has anyone noticed that PBS seems to be searching for the 21st century version of The Lawrence Welk Show? They seem to be debuting a whole host of insipid musical shows lately. I just caught a glimpse of a show called "Heavenly Voices". The point seems to be to sing in a voice not too dissimilar from the theme song to "Black Adder" (but, seriously), or to try to sound like the Vienna Boys Choir using one pair of vocal chords. The singers seem to favor this intense and hushed, breathy voice. The female singers wear dresses that take their cue from the stage curtains, singing "Dust in the Wind" with slow motion shots of Colorado aspens in fall foliage fading in and out (must be the "breathtaking visual effects" described in the promotional literature).

Then there's the VERY bizarre show "Celtic Woman", comprised of several ethereal-looking "Celtic" women (I'm assuming here), and a violinist named Máiréad, who sways around the stage playing the instrument like Nancy Wilson on guitar.

I won't even go into all the musical nostalgia shows reuniting old 1950's and 1960's groups (or what's left of them). We have Petula Clark, for example, and Peter and Gordon, all straining their voice to sound like they were teenagers again. And seeing all the old, overweight people in the audience, hands in the air, swaying back and forth, singing along, is enough to make one want to outlaw nostalgia. It gives Gerry & the Pacemakers a whole new meaning.

So, all this to say, please donate to PBS so they won't be so desperate!

Monday, March 05, 2007

Richard Thompson at the Lakewood Theater

Just saw Richard Thompson for the second time in the last 2 years. If Clapton is God, then there must be a "Supremer Being" who created God, and that would be Richard Thompson. One of the original founders of Fairport Convention, Thompson has for the past 40 years made his own way ("still paying the mortgage", as he put it last night) in a world where most songs long for the "Top 100" to validate their existence. Thompson's genius is that he has merged the medieval English/Scottish troubadour with the English Music Hall entertainer. Ray Davies and Paul McCartney also come out of that English Music Hall tradition. And it's precisely that Thompson IS so English that he has stayed so fresh.

But, in Thompson's case, add to that, the most accomplished guitar player playing today, and you see where he enters the pantheon of modern music. When he plays, he is usually keeping a bass line running, simultaneously playing lead with three of his fingers, and interspersing chords among that symphony of sounds: in effect, he makes one guitar sound like three guitars. And, might I add, flawlessly. Eliza Gilkyson, who has been opening for him on this tour, said it best: "He doesn't wank". Anyone who plays acoustic guitar knows how difficult it is to avoid hitting an occasional wrong string, or muting a string accidentally. Thompson is playing at lightning speed, with almost all 10 fingers moving this way and that, and doesn't make a single error.

Add to that, he is one of the best living songwriting talents, with moods ranging from dark ("From Galway to Graceland") to satirical ("Dear Janet Jackson": suggesting she use her breasts for their original purpose).

If you have more than tin for a musical ear, you have to put Richard Thompson among the artists you want to hear before you die.

P.S. Thanks to the Richard Thompson website for including this tribute on their website, which you must check out here.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Favorite Photos from Other Blogs #1

Was checking some other blogs today and found this great photo of a men's bathroom in New Zealand.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Poor Decisions...Life is Precious and Cheap

The criminal trial process (see previous blog entry) wore me out, emotionally and psychically, and I decided on an early bedtime last night. I went to bed thinking about how comfortable my home is and how much I love it. I had my cat sleeping on the bed, a good book, these creature comforts that you normally take for granted. I then called my daughter at Texas Tech, and she told me she had made an 81 on a tough Geology test. I told her about how the trial had involved a group of 18-20 year old guys making very poor decisions, and how much I appreciated the fact that she has always used good judgment with regards to the people she had hung around during her teenage years and presently. I think I appreciated everything in a new way. And then this made me think of Kris McLarty, the defendant, now 21 years old, going to bed last night in a jail cell, realizing he was going to be in prison for the rest of his life. I couldn't stop thinking about him, and trying to imagine how he grew up. What decisions did he make that led him down this path? Who was there for him, to teach him about the value of life? He obviously didn't have a father, and his mother barely cared for him. It came out in testimony that when he was 16, living in Dallas with his mother, that he moved to New Orleans to finish his high school education, which he did. Was there some desire to get on the straight path? I wish prison was more rehabilitating, because I know it's not. Is anyone there going to care about him? Kris had apparently made a lot of poor decisions in his life, and this murder was the one that he didn't get away with. And neither did Juan Castillo, who lost his life.

Juan's young widow came up to the witness stand after the Guilty verdict had been delivered, for what is called the "impact statement". This was her chance to speak directly to the defendant, and let him know how the murder had affected the victim's family. She spoke very eloquently. Several of the jurors started to cry, and I had to fight back the tears myself, because it pushed all the buttons about parenting and children at all levels and about how simultaneously cheap and precious life can be. I was so grateful my two children, both in their 20's, had made the right choices about friends. Juan's widow mentioned that their daughter would grow up with a big void in her life because her father would not be there. This thought struck me two ways: sad that this girl wouldn't know her father, and sad that this daughter would one day learn that her father was killed in a drug deal, that amounted to $400. I feel sure it will be explained to her that is was all out of her father's love for her and wanting to support her and her mother. But would she see that it was poor judgment on her father's part? That he foolishly risked his family's welfare in this way? That pain will resonate for her in more than one way.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Yin and Yang at Criminal Court.

I just spent the week on a jury listening to a capital murder case. It's a life-changing event, and very sad. This case involved a drug deal which resulted in the death of a 20-year old Juan Castillo, whose wife was 2 months pregnant at the time. He was working full time at a tire center, to support his family, but he was also selling marijuana on the side to earn extra cash. He was shot trying to sell a pound to a 18-year old black guy named Kris McLarty who had decided he wasn't going to pay for it--and he had a gun. This all happened the day before Katrina hit, and one of the guys involved had just fled New Orleans to Dallas. Kris, the defendant, had no family show up in court, except for his mother on one day, who only showed up under intense coercion on the defense attorney's part. She seemed like she was done with her son, and didn't care about him. She wasn't there today when we delivered the sentence of guilty, which carried an automatic life sentence. The deceased's family, about 10 or 12 family members, were there during the entire trial. This affair was a sad tale of a bunch of 18-20 year olds all using bad judgment. Really, really sad.

The other side of this experience was meeting the other 11 people on my jury, whom I wouldn't have met under other circumstances, like Edna, a sweet diminutive black woman in her late 60's, not many teeth, but with a really infectious spirit. She also wore a very cute, turban-like cap. One day red, the next day the same cap in cream color. Edna had been a cook all her life (as was her mother), is now retired, but still loves to cook at home for her son and her father. She is a single parent with a now 36-year old musician son living at home with her. She also loves to look at beautiful paintings, and she writes poetry. When I asked her what kinds of food she cooked, she opened her purse and pulled out a Polaroid snapshot of several plates of food on her dinner table, including a plate of homemade biscuits. I thought it was so sweet that she carried around a photo of food she had cooked at home.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Japanese English 1

I've collected Japanese-versions of English since I started going to Tokyo in the early 1980's. I found this today on ebay for a "HeartWarm" toy chick and egg. The description reads:

Thank you for bidding a Chibun-no-ichi hiyoko chicken and egg. If you touch its head, it will talk to you. If you leave it along, it will sad.

Saturday, February 17, 2007


Two of my longtime, dearest friends, Bailey and Laurie, came for a brief visit on their way back to NYC from a vacation in Merida, Mexico. We had less than 24 hours together, and yet it felt like we had all the time in the world. We went straight from DFW airport to the Nasher Sculpture Center. Laurie is an urban landscape designer in NY, and she was most interested in seeing Peter Walker's landscaping of the Nasher. She had just heard a talk of Peter's and he seems almost transcendent in that field. Very highly regarded. Laurie has done a lot of major gardens in and around the NYC area.
Bailey had a hankering for ribs and beer, so that was our next stop. Lots of great conversation, hearing about their trip and what has been going on in our lives. I used to go to New York several times a year for 15 or more years, so we used to see a lot of each other, but I have no reason to go as much these days, so we keep up mostly by phone and email.
I got to know B & L back in the early 80's when I started collecting Japanese toys. They ran what I regard as the premiere store in the world of new and vintage artifacts chronicling our cultural mythology, and was called, naturally, MYTHOLOGY. The store was a work of art in itself, with the most fabulous window displays you could imagine (some with performing artists in them!). The store was frequented by everyone from Andy Warhol to Waylon Jennings. It inspired and, as they say, informed, my store Right Brain/Left Brain. Bailey went on to "frame fame" when Kirk Varnedoe hired him at the Museum of Modern Art to come up with a frame vocabulary for the Post Impressionist works. Bailey designed and had frames built for a dozen or more works, which included Van Gogh's "Starry Night" and Cezanne's "Bather". He also put together a wonderful book, published by Abrams, about the vital relationship a frame has to the artwork it surrounds. Check out Defining Edges.
I seem to be in a phase of my life currently when friendships, new and old, are being re-evaluated. And I realize how intensely I value the ones that have proven to weather time and distance.

Thursday, February 15, 2007


Several friends of mine are going through the painful part of relationships right now--poor communication, bad break-ups, sad endings. The kinds of things that make us not want a relationship. I've been there, too, of course. I found this photo today that I took of my children, Britt and Anna, several years ago. Sometimes when I've just talked with one of them, or am just thinking about some memory of them as children, I can hardly contain the emotions.

Monday, February 05, 2007

You Say It's Your Birthday....

...Happy Birthday to you. We celebrated Dad's 80th this weekend. My cousin Amal made all the Lebanese food, and it was a feast. I had to photograph the baba ghanoush, with the "80" in pomegranate seeds.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Roswell Incident 1947

Some friends and I went to Roswell, New Mexico, in 1997 for the 50th Anniversary of the "Roswell Incident". The whole town got on the bandwagon. The local hair salon covered its walls in aluminum foil and featured alien hair-do's, the bridal shop had an alien mannequin in the window with a bridal gown, and so on. People dressed up like aliens and paraded around. At night, a band played out on the former site where the UFO was purportedly discovered. It was a great event.
To see a few more photos, check out my flickr site.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007


This is my stepson Britt at Prince Hamburger's in Dallas (above left). I've been involved in his life since he was 3, and it's been one of life's great experiences. He must have been around 6 or 7 at the time of this photo. He's now 27 (above right), living in L.A., writing freelance, and running his own record label with his wife Amanda. You can check it out at

Monday, January 15, 2007

Fito y Fitipaldis

Despite the internet and digital downloads, we're sometimes so insulated musically here in this country, it seems, or at least, limited to music in English. When I lived in Berlin in the late 70's, it was an eye opener to hear great German bands and singers that I never would have heard back in the U.S.
Last year, a roadie in Spain sent me a bunch of unused tickets he picked up working shows in Spain, in trade for some other memorabilia. Most of the bands I hadn't heard of, but it's been an adventure checking them out. One, in particular, really rocks. It's a Spanish band called Fito & Fitipaldis. Check out one of their new songs Por la boca vive el pez. I think you'll like it.


As I listen to old speeches and film footage from Martin Luther King's life, how can one help from comparing it to modern day America? The so-called conservatives and so-called "born again" Christians (I love the bumpersticker that says "Born O.K. the first time") tout this country as a fundamentally Christian country. And there's an element of superiority when comparing us to other nations around the world. And, yet, as King reminds us, this country was built on the backs of enslaving other races---Native American, African American, and Chinese American, to name the primary ones. Remember that, in the 1950's, mixed marriages were seen primarily as immoral. This country, officially founded in 1776, is, to this day, antithetical to its founding principles 231 years down the road.
And now, that Americans have somewhat agreed that African Americans should be more or less equal, we've found a new group to discriminate against--gays. Okay, so it's now no longer seen as immoral for blacks to marry whites, but it IS immoral for gays to marry. To quote Susan B. Anthony:
"I distrust those people who know so well what God wants them to do because I notice it always coincides with their own desires."
It's astounding what humans will do to each other, especially in, but not limited to, the name of some god. We're on this planet together, and you'd think we'd figure a way to co-exist, but bloodshed and religious superiority seem to be the order of the day.

This idea of this day needs to be seen in a larger context of just blacks and whites; it needs to be a platform for us to be introspective about the way humans treat other humans.

I know these thoughts all sound like platitudes. But large truths tend to get buried that way.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Bridge School Benefit 1999

I went to Neil Young's annual Bridge School Benefit on Halloween night 1999 at the Shoreline Auditorium outside San Francisco. I met my friend photographer David Warrington there. He knew Neil's manager and was able to get a photo pass. He that night, which I particularly liked. On Neil's left are his wife Pegi and Eddie Vedder. On his far right is Emmylou Harris in a shocking pink wig (remember, it was Halloween!).
Neil and Pegi started the school many years ago to help their son and other kids who were born with severe speech and physical impairments. Starting in 1986, Neil started annual benefit concerts to raise money for the project. He has had the most stellar of guests, all of whom perform for free. Some include The Grateful Dead, Bob Dylan, David Bowie, Bruce Springsteen, Elvis Costello, Brian Wilson, Tom Waits, Green Day, Emmylou Harris, The Who, Pearl Jam, Dave Matthews and many more. And let me tell you, there was so much smoke in the audience, there was no need to bring your own stash.
You can read more about the Bridge School here.

Sam Emmett

I came across this portrait I shot of my grandfather Sam during in the 1970's. Sam was a great storyteller, and a teller of tall tales. His stories fascinated us as kids, and we still refer to imaginary characters he created, like Mr. Perkins and Mr. Abernathy. The fact that both sets of grandparents were Lebanese made we children's life very rich, because it was steeped in a culture separate from the West Texas culture all around us. I think it must have given me a sense that there was a greater world outside my hometown of Lubbock.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

New Year's 1955

Found this photo tonight, and there's a funny story behind it. One day in December 1954 I went over to my friend Greg's house to play. There was a photographer from the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal taking Greg's photo with the same hat (and cane, which is lying unceremoniously on the chair behind me) for the New Year's Day 1955 front page. Then the photographer shot me as a possibility.
My brother Matt was there, and HE happened to have a black eye at the time. The photographer set him up for a photo as well....and, of course, MATT ended up on the front page of the paper on January 1, 1955! I always wondered if it didn't annoy Greg's mom that her son got cheated out of his 15 minutes. I'll have to dig up the photo of Matt with his black eye and post it here later.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Happy 80th, Dad!

My Dad turns 80 today, and is still going strong, healthy and working 7 days a week at his specialty store, Malouf's, in Lubbock, one of the premiere individually owned clothing stores in the country. A few years ago, the Daily News Record rated Malouf's in the top 10 in the country.
I've always loved this photo of Dad, because I've always known him as a parent and this reminds me that he was once a little kid.
Like Hugh Hefner says, "80 is the new 40". I sure hope I got Pop's longevity genes!