Sky Mirror

What interests me is the sense of the darkness that we carry within us, the darkness that’s akin to one of the principal subjects of the sublime – terror.

—-Anish Kapoor

Sky Mirror by Anish Kapoor, Arlington, Texas

Monday the whole family went to the Cotton Bowl – my son Lee graduated from Tulane and a bunch of his friends were in town to see them play USC (Roll Wave).

I wanted to leave The Death Star from the east entrance because I wanted to see the Sky Mirror, a sculpture by Anish Kapoor (the guy that did The Bean in Chicago).

While not as cool as The Bean – it was a pretty impressive hunk of reflections. It was a perfectly gray sky, so the other side, the one that reflects the heavens – wasn’t too impressive. I would love to see the thing at sunrise.

All Day Holiday

All day holiday
All day holiday
Home is so far away
“Where should I land?” My hollow voice is carried away on the wind
—-Shugo Tokumaru – Parachute (English Lyrics)

Clarence Street Art Collective, The Cedars, Dallas, Texas

Oblique Strategy: Discard an axiom

Our two sons drove back to Dallas, from New Orleans and Houston, for Thanksgiving. They always try to come back to run in the Turkey Trot eight-mile race on Thanksgiving morning. We used to always go down there with them, but now I sleep in and they drive themselves.

Turkey Trot 2011

Turkey Trot 2012

Turkey Trot 2013

Lee and some friends had tickets to see the Dallas Cowboys get the crap beat out of them at the death star – so he was gone most of the afternoon.

I ate too much and did, well pretty much nothing. I did get a little bike ride around the hood on the folder as the sun set and that was surprisingly enjoyable. There were a lot of people out and about.

Holidays are odd – they feel like wasted time, but they string together in your memory. At first you think they are the same, but there are changes.

From my old journal “The Daily Epiphany” – Thursday, November 25, 1999 Thanksgiving – The kids were what? seven and eight.

The feeling of satiety, almost inseparable from large possessions, is a surer cause of misery than ungratified desires.
—-Benjamin Disraeli

We have a family tradition of going camping over Thanksgiving. It’s usually the most pleasant time of year here in Texas, cool nights, warm days. Sometimes we get caught in rain but most years are clear and crispy. A four day trip to a nearby State Park, maybe Fairfield or Bob Sandlin. Red fall trees, inky sparkling night sky, the smell of wood smoke, brown curious deer paying a shy visit, bold nighttime raccoons looking for handouts. Out of the rat race, out of the stuffy too much food too much television couch potato place.
This year we couldn’t do it though. Candy Mom’s illness, soccer games, my work, all conspired to keep us in town; no matter how much we needed to get away, get out of the city.

We went to Candy’s sister’s for Thanksgiving dinner. I had an odd hankering for Chinese take-out, eating out of white foam containers, but the traditional turkey ‘n fixins’ was pretty good. Despite my forewarnings to myself I ate too much, and sank into that holiday hyperglycemic funk.

Nick and Lee played a tough, energetic two-kid soccer game out in the small back yard. The dead and desiccated landscape plants, dormant for the winter, brown, cracked and shattered as the ball whizzed back and forth, showering up a small cloud of bits of leaf and stem.

Poor Lee wore himself out, though. He curled up on the couch, blanket in hand, fingers in mouth, and looked awful while everybody else chowed down. Instead of the traditional watching of the Cowboy game I drove Lee home. We stopped for gas and I promised he could pick whatever he wanted out of the station’s cold-drink case. The poor woman working the counter on the holiday beamed at the cute little pouting kid rummaging around. He, not surprisingly, picked out a half-gallon of chocolate milk, the artificially thickened rich brown sugar stuff that kids love. I thought he’d pick a small bottle but the half gallon was only a dime more, so I guess Lee knows best.

At home he sucked down most of the carton and that revived him some, enough that he was up to playing some video games. Lee didn’t want to be alone, though, so I went back to his room with him. I climbed the steel ladder and curled up in the top bunk, it’s about a foot shorter than I am. I spent the bulk of the day there, fading in and out, dreaming strange and terrifying dreams while Lee sat below guiding Banjo Kazooie through his fantasy world.


Going to the Barber

It was right at a year ago that I went to The Death Star in Arlington to see a simulcast of The Dallas Opera’s Production of Turandot.

Cowboys Stadium - The Death Star

Cowboys Stadium – The Death Star

I went mostly for the experience of an odd event (seeing an opera in an enormous Texas Football dome) but it was a transformative event. Now I’m an opera fan.

In the past year I managed to see Carmen at the Winspear and a handful of other simulcasts. Now it was time for another evening at the massive home of the Cowboys (now called AT&T stadium). The Dallas Opera was showing The Barber of Seville.

Candy wasn’t able to go, so I was on my own. I took some time off and left work early – wanting to get to the Mid-Cities before the Friday rush hour traffic choked the transport system. As I worked my way through the freeway system (the stadium is over 35 miles from where I work/live) I thought about how I have worked to get away from a car-oriented lifestyle. I think I drive about a third of the miles that I used to. It’s a bit of a shock when I’m forced to fight my way across the city like that – though so many people do it all day, every day.

I arrived extra early, found some food, and sat in the parking lot (it was a warm, beautiful day) and finished a long Kindle book I’ve been fighting through for a while. That was actually sort of nice.

Because I was one of the first people in I had my choice of seats. I ended up right in the middle, right beside the little patio where they were doing the filming of the introductions and stuff. The showing didn’t seem to get as much attention as last year – and the crowd looked like it might have been a little smaller. Still, it was a few thousands – a lot of people for an opera.

First they showed a Bugs Bunny Cartoon – The Rabbit of Seville, of course.

Then the opera started.

It’s a surprisingly good place to see something like that. Of course, the acoustics are horrible. There isn’t much you can do about the cavernous echo in a vast chamber like that. They did the best – the floor was lined with an array of massive speakers pointed outward. Still, it sounded like a second orchestra was hammering away slightly out of tune and far away. But your ears get used to it and it wasn’t half bad.

The High Definition Screen in Cowboy’s Stadium is famous around the world and to see it live… it is even more impressive than that. The whole setup is disconcerting to look at – the mind simply can’t comprehend an indoor space that large. It’s a shock to see a tiny ant-like person walking across an open area – and your mind realizes exactly what you are looking at. When you tip your head slightly up the screen completely fills your field of view with its ten million plus LED-lit pixels.

It’s not the size of the thing that impresses – it’s the quality. It brightness, sharpness, and overall quality of image is better than the best HDTV you will see anywhere else. They did a great job of filming. You can see details never visible in the opera house except in the most expensive of seats. That’s usually a good thing – except when you get to see how hard the performers work and how much they sweat.

The opera itself was a hoot. It was the first comic opera I had seen and that took a little getting used to. It emphasizes the fact that for many places at many times Opera was an entertainment for everybody. The Barber of Seville is sort of an Adam Sandler movie with great music. A lot of pratfalls, mugging, crude jokes, and corny romance. And a happy ending, of course.

I enjoyed how they put in a sort of conflict in the second act. Evil Bartolo shows Rosina her letter that she wrote to “Lindoro” and convinces her Lindoro is only using her on orders from Count Almaviva. She believes him and is sad. But when Lindoro arrives and she lights into him all he has to do is reveal that he really is Almaviva and all is fine. The conflict is solved so easily and quickly that it is almost a satire – saying that in the world of Figaro no sadness is allowed to exist for more than a quick aria or two.

The music, of course, is a masterpiece. The overture justifies its fame, and Figaro’s opening number, Largo al factotum is a hoot.

The time went by fast, and everybody was happy in the end. Next door to the stadium is the Ranger’s Ballpark and the baseball game ended (the home team won 1-0 on a walkoff in the eleventh inning) at about the same time – so the traffic getting out was tough… but it was still all smiles. I had tried to park in such a way that I could get out easier, but that didn’t work – it was truly a futile precaution.

What I learned this week, January 31, 2014

Bob Mankoff picks his 11 favorite New Yorker cartoons ever

Not from the New Yorker:


(Not Quite Their Sense of Humor)
This was from an ad (a blow-in card to be exact) for the National Lampoon, back in the mid-70’s. I’m not sure why, but at the time I thought it was the funniest thing I had ever seen. I still sorta think it is.

I was thrashing around late last night in a fit of mountain cedar allergy related insomnia and turned the television on for distraction. I caught the end credits for some movie and was reminded that there is an actress named Imogen Poots.

Imogen Poots! What a great name. It seems to be her real, given name, too. I wish she wasn’t real, beacuse I’d love to use that as a character name.

Now I can’t.

Paleo-Powered Breakfast: Eggs Baked in Avocado

Paste Magazine has been going state to state, listing up and coming bands. They finally get to Texas.

12 Texas Bands You Should Listen To Now

Now! Dammit!

Dallas bands Fox and the Bird, and Mystery Skulls (though they are now in LA) are listed, plus Metroplex Music Quaker City Night Hawks (Fort Worth), and Bonnie Whitmore (Denton).

This Is the Williamsburg of Your City: A Map of Hip America

Cleaning your DSLR Sensor: Tips and Advice

7 Things You Must Carry in Your Car This Winter
Every car should have an emergency kit that includes supplies such as jumper cables and first-aid supplies. But there are some essential winter items you need to carry once the temperature drops. Plus: Why you should buy those winter tires.

The Barber of Seville Simulcast at the Cowboys Stadium

Another opera at the Death Star. B there or B []

The opposite of Paranoia isn’t Sanity, it’s Ignorance.

Turandot at the Death Star

Most of you know about Cowboys Stadium. A lot of folks call it Jerryworld, after Jerry Jones, of course – but I refer to it as the Death Star. It is a structure of almost unimaginable size. When you are driving around the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, the thing will, often unexpectedly, be spotted looming on the horizon like a giant scoop of steely ice cream. You will look, and then realize how far away it is. I’ve seen the thing from just west of Mesquite – a good forty miles away.

Cowboys Stadium - The Death Star

Cowboys Stadium – The Death Star

Its purpose, of course, is to be the home of the Dallas Cowboys, America’s (nowadays mediocre) Team. But it is also used for other purposes, from concerts to monster truck rallies. I’ve seen a basketball game there.

Other than its gargantuan size, the stadium’s most famous attribute is its video screen. A four-sided apparatus (two large screens on the sides, and two small ones on the ends) that hangs down from the roof over the field, it simply has to be seen to be believed. The first thing that strikes you is the size – 72 feet tall and 160 feet wide. But what is jaw-droppingly amazing is the quality and brightness of the picture it displays. It is better than real… it is real life re-imagined on a grand scale.

So when I read that they were going to put that screen to a unique use – they were going to simulcast a production of the Dallas Opera’s production of Turandot from the Winspear Opera House onto those giant screen, I had to be there.

Turandot simulcast at Cowboys Stadium.

Turandot simulcast at Cowboys Stadium.

I have to admit, the main reason I wanted to go was simply the uniqueness of the event. Grand, full-scale, opera being piped live into the gargantuan shrine of huge sweaty sportsmen… this was something I had to see – the collision of two very different worlds. I picked up tickets for Candy and I, and marked the calendar to drive out there.

We had our doubts. I had seen some light opera over the years, but never a whole production of grand opera. What would it be like on a giant video screen? Candy especially didn’t think it would be all that – and almost didn’t go. She asked, “It isn’t long is it?”

“Yes, it’s very long.”

“They aren’t singing in another language are they?”

“Yes, it’s in Italian, but there will be subtitles.”

In the end, we made the drive. There were twenty-nine thousand people there. I don’t think there have been very many live opera performances with (counting the folks at the Winspear) thirty five or so thousand spectators. Before the festivities started, the crowd was pretty restless and innervated.

I wanted to get there on time because before the opera itself started they showed a cartoon on the big screen. It’s what most folks think of when they think of opera – What’s Up Opera, with Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd. You know… “Kill the Wabbit! Kill the Wabbit!”

Elmer Fudd on the Giant Screen

Elmer Fudd on the Giant Screen

And then, after another mini-opera modeled after Julia Child baking a chocolate cake and a bunch of interviews, the performance started.

It was greatness. It was fucking amazing. It was fantastic. It was a thing of exquisite beauty.

When you see little bits of a Grand Opera – the overdone costumes and makeup, the melodramatic stories, the talking-in-music – it seem sort of silly, weird, and overly precious. But when you put it together like this, done well, it is an overpowering emotional experience.

I remember, in the middle of the third act, looking sideways at the massive crowd packed into the steeply sloping seats staring out at that video screen, mouths gaping, completely taken in, enraptured. I don’t see how anyone with anything approaching an open mind could not be amazed and enthralled at what they saw.

Oh, and Candy loved it too. She had brought her iPad so she could read if she was bored. It never came out of its case. She said it was beautiful and amazing. She was especially impressed with Antonello Palombi, the tenor playing Prince Calàf. Here’s an interesting story from his Wikipedia Page:

On 10 December 2006 he was thrust into the media spotlight in Franco Zeffirelli’s new production of Aida at La Scala, which opened the theatre’s 2006/2007 season. During the second night of the run, Palombi took over the role of Radames when Roberto Alagna walked off the stage after booing from the loggione (opera fans who sit in the less-expensive seats at the very back of the Scala). Palombi entered on stage wearing jeans and a black shirt to finish the act, and returned in costume after the interval to sing the remainder of the opera.

Nobody was booing from Cowboys Stadium. It’s pretty odd to see folks giving a standing ovation to performers that aren’t even there.

How was it on the screen? Not bad. Some of the closeups were a little strange – seeing things like beads of sweat or imperfections in makeup blown up to the size of a schoolbus was disconcerting. They did as good a job with the sound as they could – the vast open space echoes terribly, of course, but they had extra speakers and subwoofers lining the field and it wasn’t as bad as you would think.

So – now I’m pumped. I really want to see one of these live now. Remember, those folks are singing live… really live – they are not miked. The purpose of the simulcast was to introduce folks to something they might not otherwise see and get them interested… and it worked, in spades.

Oh man, in October they are doing Carmen at the Winspear…. I wonder if I can save enough money for tickets.

What I learned this week, March 22, 2013

Burgers and Beer

Smashburger and Deep Ellum Brewing Co Pairing Menu

Turandot at the Death Star

Creates Device that Harvests Energy From Air

The 8 Most Incredible Stop-Motion Animation Music Videos From The Past Decade

A Dictionary of Similes


Crunchiness brings wealth. Wealth leads to sogginess. Sogginess brings poverty. Poverty creates crunchiness. From this immutable cycle we know that to hang on to wealth, you must keep things crunchy.


Video: Making a 10,000-Year Clock

Peanuts and Cracker Jack

Nick crossing home plate at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. They let the kids run the bases after an afternoon game – we had to wait for hours for his turn. This would have been right after the Ballpark opened, probably 1995. It’s hard to believe he’s a junior in college now.

A few weeks ago I won a pair of Ranger tickets in a raffle. They weren’t particularly expensive seats – only ten dollars each – but something won is always something good. Still, the games were on a Friday night – that’s a long drive after work, and the horrible Texas heat is upon us… so I considered giving the tickets away.

But it turned out that Nick was flying into town the afternoon before the game, so I was glad to hang on to them. There is nothing better than going to a baseball game with your son.

Baseball is a time machine. Baseball exists outside of the rest of reality and to enter a baseball stadium is to connect with every other time you have been to a baseball game.

When we walked in I thought of the first major league games I had attended – in Kansas City while I was in college. I thought of the old Ranger Ballpark – the crappy old one that was a little bit to the north of Rangers Ballpark. Since I was with Nick, I remembered taking him as a toddler to the old ballpark – he immediately began to throw ketchup coated french fries over the railing onto the crowd below. We had to leave before the second inning.

I remembered the times we would take the kids to games. We would buy really inexpensive bench seats out in the outfield, right next to the opposing team’s bullpen. Nick and Lee would talk to the pitchers through the wire mesh. Some would give them pitching hints. Some gave them souvenir balls.

Nick talked about driving back from school in North Carolina to see a World’s Series game at the Ballpark. As a twenty-odd year Ranger fan I never thought I’d see a World’s Series played here (now I want to see them win one).

All the ballgames I had been to or played in swirled in my mind, decades and decades worth. The ballpark is fancier than it used to be, the scoreboards are colorful, stunning, electronic (I remember seeing a single-A game in Charleston, West Virginia where the “Dot Race” was three kids racing behind the outfield fence with brightly-colored wooden cutout horses atop long poles), and now the food choices are much more varied and tasty (and expensive) – but the game is the same. The bat, the ball, the three bases exactly the same distance apart.

It is a connection between people and between times and between space. It is baseball. I had not been to a game in a couple years… I almost forgot.

One thing I always say is that baseball is the only sporting event that you can enjoy when your team loses. For most of the night, that looked like what was what was going to happen. I was resigned to the loss and simply soaking up the atmosphere and enjoying hanging out. Oakland was up two to nothing until the eighth inning and the Rangers loaded the bases. There were two outs though, so not much hope.

But, wonder of wonders, a run walked in, and then Craig Gentry hit a bases-loaded, three run triple to give the good guys the win. A bases-loaded triple! Arguably the most exciting play in the game. The sell-out crowd went nuts. The radio announcers on the way home said the Baseball Gods were smiling on the Rangers tonight.

Then, after the game, they had a fireworks show. It was very nice – I’m not sure, but I think this was the first time I’ve seen those really cool smiley-face star shells – impressive.

Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright; the band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light, and somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout.

And sometimes – not often, but sometimes, there is joy in Mudville.

The view from the cheap seats. This is actually a really good place to sit. It’s high up, but you get a view of the game you don’t see on television – the placement of the fielders, the way a double play moves. I had no complaints.

One of the things I like best about Rangers Ballpark is the ample terrace around the upper level. Even on a hot summer evening there is a nice breeze at this altitude and it’s a great place to walk out and hang for a few minutes while the other team is batting.

If you look over the edge of the terrace on the first-base side you have an imposing view across the parking lots of the Death Star – where the Dallas Cowboys play. A photograph does not convey the horrible gigantic-ness of this monstrosity.

Off the third-base side are the roller coasters of Six Flags Over Texas.

The sun sets over the parking lots from the terrace of the Ballpark.

I couldn’t believe it… during a slow part of the game the crowd actually started doing the wave. About three decades too late in my opinion. Even the big main scoreboard didn’t approve.

Shit Dallas People Say

If you don’t live here this won’t make sense. Now, if you’ve been reading my blog you might recognize a few things, but otherwise, nah.

But if you are from Dallas, this is hilarious.

I loved it, even though it didn’t have my favorite Dallas saying. That’s, “Well, you start out driving on Beltline.”  Everything (including my house) is right off Beltline Road. I can be on a freeway fifty miles from my house and see a Beltline Exit sign. One weekend I’m going to drive the entire Beltline Road (it is a loop, surprise) – it might take two days.

Others that I hear(or say) that aren’t on the video:

  • “I get nosebleeds if I go north of George Bush.”
  • “I remember when the West End was cool.”
  • “Nobody rides DART to the fair, it’s too crowded.”
  • “Ugh, the water tastes awful, the lakes must have turned over.”
  • “Should we take LBJ or George Bush.”
  • “Should we go Woodall Rogers or the Mixmaster?”
  • “Central’s all red, better take Greenville.”
  • “There a wreck on 75, better take Coit.”
  • “Stay away from 30, the Zipper is busted.”
  • “I had to bail her out of Lou Sterrett”
  • I don’t remember if it’s in Rockwall or Rowlett.”
  • “Pho Pasteur has the best Pho.”
  • “Bistro B has the best Pho.”
  • “Pho Bac has the best Pho.”
  • “Pho Bang has the best Pho.”
  • “Pho Q  has the best Pho.”
  • “Pho King has the best Pho.”
  • “He lives in this old house, it’s been there almost twenty years.”
  • “They live in a Condo in Uptown.”
  • “Who lives in all these houses?”
  • “Let me borrow your DART pass.”
  • “Let me borrow your Toll Tag.”
  • “You can’t get to Deep Ellum from here.”
  • “Are we waiting for the Red or the Blue?”
  • “Whatever you do, don’t jaywalk in downtown”
  • “A coyote got their cat.”
  • “Back when Frisco was way out in the country.”
  • “Back when Southwest had free drinks.”
  • “I can’t believe you walked there.”
  • “Is the AC all the way up?”
  • “They need to hurry the hell up, they’re driving the speed limit.”
  • “That Mexican food place looks awful, their food must be great.”

At any rate, here it is:

What Dallas sayings do you have that you treasure/are completely sick of? What sayings do you hear every day where you are at?