What I learned this week, April 25, 2014

Bike rider on the DART train.

Bike rider on the DART train.

Yield to Wheels: DART reconfigures rail cars to better accommodate bikes, wheelchairs and more

This is a welcome upgrade. It is surprising how many bicycles you see on the DART trains now.

What’s frustrating is the number of able bodied people without bikes, luggage, or grocery carts, that you find sitting in the fold-down seats in the handicap or bicycle spots on the trains in the present format. They sit there, usually engrossed in their phones, blithley ignoring the growing crowd of people in wheelchairs, holding bags, or doing the “DART Dance” with their bicycle (The DART Dance is moving back and forth, standing in the open area of the train, as each stop opens on the left or right). The only way to fix that is to remove the seats.


Right now, the way things are going – I can relate to this person….

This Guy Is Trying to Collect Every Single Copy of the Movie ‘Speed’ on VHS

Yeah, it’s like a radical dedication to uselessness.
Totally. I don’t give a shit whether what I do is practical or not; I just don’t want to perpetuate society’s shitty capitalism forever. If you see everything needs a use or an instrumental value as like part of a capitalistic worldview, then the World Speed Project is anti-that.

We Didn’t Believe In ‘Artisanal’ Toast, Until We Made Our Own

What the world needs now – a three dollar and fifty cent piece of toast.

Dallas is a canvas for change

Travelling Man - sculpture east of Downtown Dallas

Travelling Man – sculpture east of Downtown Dallas

How Highways Hurt Dallas

On a recent business trip to Dallas, I was shocked by how much concrete and how few people I saw. My first impression was that Dallas is a city stuck in an outmoded way of thinking about transportation. It was like my plane was a time machine that had taken me back to 1970, when everyone still thought that the way to fix congested highways was to build more and wider highways. Coming into town, I saw more concrete going down, from the DFW Connector Highway Construction Project north of the airport to the massive LBJ Express Project. I learned that about $15 billion is currently being spent on highways in North Texas, more than in any other region of the country. All the construction seemed bizarre because the area already seemed to have an unhealthy abundance of highways. This is not bragging material for the city; this should be embarrassing. Given what has been learned about highways in cities over the last 40 years, priorities could have been better placed elsewhere.

The 50 Best TV Shows Streaming on Netflix (2014)

You already know what #1 is, of course. Still, there are 49 more to discover – it could ruin your life if you wanted to let it.

Kristen Wiig, Alice Munro And Negative Space In Fiction

Director Liza Johnson on the Challenges of Adapting Alice Munro For “Hateship Loveship”

Hateship Loveship Departs From Alice Munro’s Iconic Story — But Still Does Her Proud

The 23 Best National Park Adventures – #10 Carlsbad Caverns

I have actually done this one. If you visit Carlsbad – be sure and sign up for the Slaughter Canyon Tour. You get to hike a very long half mile through some steep and intimidating scenery. A ranger then unlocks an iron gate and takes you on a tour of an undeveloped cave. There are no lights (a spare flashlight is required), no paths (you use ropes to get over a tough patch), no sound effects… only an enormous ancient beautiful cave.

They have been giving tours of the Slaughter Canyon Cave for decades, but you will feel like you are the first person to walk in there.

Cross-Post: A Reaction to DMN Editorial on 345

I-345 near downtown Dallas

I-345 near downtown Dallas

How to Build Another Uptown

This battle is not just about I-345. It is about a strategy. It is about duplicating as many times as we can the one success urban Dallas has—Uptown. It is about a city devoted more to residents than to commuters. Tearing down the aged hulk of I-345 is a first, small step. But it could be enough to tell the market that Dallas is finally about to assert itself as a real, honest-to-God city.

SORCERER, The Movie That Got Blown Up By STAR WARS

SORCERER is one of my favorites; one of the most tense and exciting films ever made. It is a shame that it never hit the big time – a victim of (as the article says) Star Wars fever, and an unfortunate mistake in titling (trying to tie in to The Exocist). See it if you get a chance.

Of course it is a remake of a classic French film, THE WAGES OF FEAR. It’s the rare example of the remake being as good as the original. I don’t know which version is better, they are very similar and completely different. THE WAGES OF FEAR is available streaming on Hulu plus.

What I learned this week, April 18, 2014

What Are the Least Outdoorsy Cities in America?

Dallas, no surprise, is #1.

Dallas is the sprawling place of ten-gallon hats and gleaming ten-miles per gallon SUVs. It’s the oil industry’s heart and soul (if it has a heart or soul), where only half of the residents are within walking distance of the tiny smattering of parks within its borders. Not that people walk in Dallas—or take advantage of the paltry public transportation system, or even bike on the scant number of bike lanes. The only way to get from point A to point B is generally to drive, and given the oversized amount of space, the route is hardly ever a short one. As for the park lands that do exist, one—the Mountain Creek Lake reservoir—is prohibited by the state health department from letting you from eat the bass or catfish caught there, because of PCB contamination.

I’m not saying that Dallas is Portland… but the paragraph above is largely a result of a stereotype rather than recent research. True, Dallas is massive – and the summers are toxic.

However, there are a few things that should be pointed out.

paltry public transportation systemDART has a lot of work to do, but it is the largest (85 miles) operator of light rail in the country – I can assure you that with a bike (for that last mile) and a transit pass you can get anywhere in the vast Metroplex with ease.

scant number of bike lanes – Again, a lot of work to do, but here’s the Googlemaps Bike map of my neighborhood (bike lanes/paths in green). The other residential streets are all rideable too.

Duck Creek bike paths/lanes

Duck Creek bike paths/lanes

All across the city trails, dedicated lanes, sharrows, bridge conversions are going up.

Tiny smattering of parks within its borders. I don’t know about that… White Rock Lake is as good as it gets. Then there are the more modern versions – Klyde Warren Park is amazing. It’s true Dallas parks are horrifically hot in the summer, but what the hell can you do about that.

The Dallas Park and Recreation Department maintains more than 21,000 park acres including 17 lakes with 4,400 surface acres of water at 17 park sites, 17,196 acres of greenbelt / park land, and 61.60 miles of jogging and bike trails at 24 locations.

(and that’s only Dallas proper – there are the suburbs too, plus Fort Worth is way ahead of its bigger brother).

The Great Trinity Forest is the biggest urban hardwood forest (virgin forest, btw) in the country. Despite a few missteps, it is being brought into an amazing asset for the area.

What my point is – the “outdoorsy” or bike-friendly aspects of an area are highly subjective. If you do the work, you can get outside. The need to drive all the time is in your head, not in your feet.

I think the current controversy over the tear-down (good idea) and Trinity River Tollroad (terrible idea) will be a bellweather event for the future of the city – and have tremendous ramifications beyond the fate of a few acres of concrete. It’s the chance for a paradigm shift for the city.

Some More Local Response to the article.

Bicycle Lanes on the Jefferson Viaduct from Oak Cliff into downtown, Dallas.

Bicycle Lanes on the Jefferson Viaduct from Oak Cliff into downtown, Dallas.

My Technium on Winfrey Point, White Rock Lake. Dallas, Texas. Look carefully and you can see a guy on a unicycle. (click to enlarge)

My Technium on Winfrey Point, White Rock Lake. Dallas, Texas. Look carefully and you can see a guy on a unicycle.
(click to enlarge)

The crowd at Ciclovia Dallas on the Houston Street Viaduct with the Dallas downtown skyline

The crowd at Ciclovia Dallas on the Houston Street Viaduct with the Dallas downtown skyline

And for an alternative view:

Texas is on Fire! And other Great Texas Happenings

FXX is going to show 24 seasons of The Simpsons in a legendary 12 day marathon.

FXX to Stage Epic, 12-Day Simpsons Marathon

In the same vein, here’s a guide for watching shows from begining to end.

The Paste Guide to Binge-Watching

In the past, I particularly enjoyed bing-watching The Tudors and Battlestar Galactica. I’m sort of stalled now, but am trying to work through Mad Men and Breaking Bad. I tend to wait until a series ends before even starting to watch – ever since I was burned with Carnivale. I was hooked on the series – but apparantly I was the only one… it was canceled before it finished. Pissed me off.

I meant to put this in last week, but never did.

10 Foolproof Tips for Overcoming Procrastination

How the makers of Corona sell so much bad beer

There is a reason so many people stick limes in the necks of the things – it’s to disguise the simultaneous foulness and tastelessness of the swill.

Big Boy 4018 (click to enlarge)

Big Boy 4018 (click to enlarge)

Huge Big Boy steam locomotive coming back to life

Unfortunately, this isn’t the Big Boy engine that I watched them move out to Frisco last year – one just like it. It is an amazing piece of machinery and history.

Big Boy 4018

Big Boy 4018

The massive drive wheels on Big Boy 4018 (click to enlarge)

The massive drive wheels on Big Boy 4018 (click to enlarge)

Big Boy 4018

Big Boy 4018

A Pollinator Bock on the right, Dallas Blonde on the left.

A Pollinator Bock on the right, Dallas Blonde on the left.

The FDA wants to regulate spent grains, and the beer industry is not having it

The Beer Institute points out that “taxes are the single most expensive ingredient in beer, costing more than labor and raw materials combined.” They cite an economic analysis that found “if all the taxes levied on the production, distribution, and retailing of beer are added up, they amount to more than 40% of the retail price” …

The federal government, however, is looking to potentially jack those government-imposed costs up ever further — all for our own good, of course. Last October, the Food and Drug Administration proposed a potential new rule via the Food Safety Modernization Act that would regulate brewers’ spent grains the same way as pet food, requiring that the grains be dried and packaged to ward off contamination before they come into contact with other humans. Seeing as how this would completely mess up the mutually beneficial arrangement between many brewers and ranchers wherein ranchers come and pick up brewers’ spent grains and then productively and inexpensively recycle them as a feed source for their livestock, this rule poses something of a problem.

But the beer industry is arguing that they have no idea what exactly these foodborne illnesses are supposed to be, since the grains are already declared fit for human consumption before they start the brewing process and because they have been working with ranchers for decades without problems. A bunch of brewers are currently protesting the proposed rule, arguing that the equipment and processes they would need to install would make the whole thing too expensive, and that they’ll just end up trashing their spent grains into landfills — while ranchers are worried that they’ll lose a valuable source of feed…


It’s Time to Stop Talking Past Each Other on I-345 Teardown

The teardown of I-345 represents the most immediate and large-scale opportunity to reverse a pattern of growth that has led to the dilution of Dallas’ urban form. The very fact that detractors characterize urban life as a kind of designer lifestyle, a playground for the young and well-to-do, is either a reflection of an ignorance of what it is like to actually live in a city or a caged animosity for forms of living that look anything unlike the homogenized stratification of life in super-sprawl suburbia whose highest civic value is individualistic autonomy (“What if it were your daughter?” Jones threatens). But what is at stake is more than a real estate gambit. The teardown is an opportunity to begin to reverse 60 years of failed planning and begin to move towards building a future city in North Texas that achieves the economic efficiencies and social edification that are absolutely necessary to sustain the region’s viability.

Bike Texas Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge Ride

When the plans for Santiago Calatrava’s Margaret Hunt Hill bridge were finalized a lot of folks were disappointed that it did not include pedestrian or bicycle lanes. We were promised that a crossing would be provided on the proximate Continental Bridge, which was being converted to a park. There is no other good way to cross the Trinity in that part of town without an internal-combustion engine. The final designs still don’t have the promised through-lanes – but it will open in June, we’ll see how it works out.

At any rate, there is a powerful urge to cross the bridge without a car. It is an impressive, imposing, work of art – and you don’t get a good look from a speeding vehicle. There was a big celebration on opening day, where people were allowed to walk across, but I was out of town and missed it.

Finally, last Saturday, after two years, they had another event planned – the All Out Trinity Festival and I would be able to ride my bike across the bridge. I wanted to get down there right when the ramps opened, but Notting Hill was on TV – so I had to watch the end again.

I packed up my commuter bike and rode down to the Arapaho DART station. As usual, the train was pulling out just as I arrived on the platform, so I had to wait for the next one.

I was later than planned, but the timing worked out as I met a couple of friends riding through Downtown Dallas on the way to the bridge. We fought our way up the steep entry ramps onto the bridge itself.

It was a real thrill to ride on the bridge. Everybody was on the Westbound lanes – across the divider the Eastbound traffic still roared by. The pavement would vibrate like a monstrous guitar string whenever a big truck would rattle past.

There were a lot of events planned and I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, but a group from Bike Texas gathered together for a ride through West Dallas – that sounded like a plan.

Bike Texas Group on the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge, Dallas, Texas (click for larger version on Flickr)

Bike Texas Group on the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge, Dallas, Texas
(click for larger version on Flickr)

Bike Texas group on the bridge, with the Dallas skyline in the background. (click for full size version on Flickr)

Bike Texas group on the bridge, with the Dallas skyline in the background.
(click for full size version on Flickr)

Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge, Dallas, Texas (click for larger version on Flickr)

Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge, Dallas, Texas
(click for larger version on Flickr)

We headed West on Singleton. After a couple miles we passed Fish Trap Lake on the right – where I had ridden a couple months ago to visit the rainbow-colored pier, Dear Sunset, by Ugo Rondinone. The chromatic jetty was part of the Nasher XChange installation – now that the project has ended I wonder how long the pier will remain. It was good to see it still in place. People were out on the pier, so maybe they have even cleaned the bird shit off the wood.

dear sunset Ugo Rondinone West Dallas, Texas (click to enlarge)

dear sunset
Ugo Rondinone
West Dallas, Texas
(click to enlarge)

We rode down another mile and turned up to Tipton Park, where there is a new trail and pedestrian bridge.

Bike Texas ride at the Pedestrian Bridge in Tipton Park, West Dallas, Texas (click for full sized version on Flickr)

Bike Texas ride at the Pedestrian Bridge in Tipton Park, West Dallas, Texas
(click for full sized version on Flickr)

Pedestrian bridge, Tipton Park, Dallas, Texas (click for full sized version on Flickr)

Pedestrian bridge, Tipton Park, Dallas, Texas
(click for full sized version on Flickr)

Pedestrian bridge, Tipton Park, Dallas, Texas (click for full-sized version on Flickr)

Pedestrian bridge, Tipton Park, Dallas, Texas
(click for full-sized version on Flickr)

Riding back to the bridge, I was struck by the reaction of the people in the neighborhood. They acted like they had never seen a bicycle before – excited and astounded; some laughed, some clapped, some merely stared.

We arrived back in time for beers at Four Corners Brewery. The only thing better than a fresh local brew is one earned. I had an Oatmeal Stout and their IPA – both excellent. While we were standing around chatting, a thick column of smoke appeared to the south. Fire trucks were dispatched and the black soon turned to gray, then disappeared. Today, I found out that the fire was in a new construction across the street from the Belmont Hotel. Luckily, nobody was hurt.

The entertainment continued as we watched the police arrest a belligerent drunken woman that was stumbling down the street. She fought mightily, but in vain as they strapped her in the back of a cruiser and hauled her to the clink.

It was getting late, the sun had set, and until the Continental Bridge opens, Trinity Groves is a tough place from which to reach a DART station. I decided to ride down into the Trinity River bottoms and go a few miles south to the Corinth station, next to the Santa Fe Trestle Trail. This is the same route I took to visit the Dear Sunset Pier.

I certainly don’t recommend riding alone in the river bottoms at night – but it worked out for me. My lights were adequate to find my way in the pitch wilderness, while the multicolored jeweled towers of Downtown Dallas reached skyward off to the east. The day’s route was a fifteen mile bike ride (plus the four miles from my home to the DART station) with a lot of time spent hanging out and around with a lot of cool people – a good day.

It had been warm, on the edge of hot, a good eighty degrees – but as I rode home from the station I felt the wind switch around to the north and the temperature begin to drop. In twelve hours the temperature would be around twenty degrees and the ground covered in a healthy layer of tiny balls of ice. Springtime in Texas.

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

I have been on a quest for nice writing spots around the Dallas Fort Worth Metroplex.

Saturday afternoon, I pounded out some paragraphs at White Rock Coffee on Northwest Highway, one of my favorite locations, but began to suffer from caffeine overdose and hunger, so I headed West.

My destination was the newish Whole Foods at Northwest and Highway 75. This neighborhood is an old stomping ground for me, but it has changed completely in the last few decades. Five years ago, we headed down early one morning to watch them implode a giant glass office building from the parking lot of the NorthPark shopping center across the highway. I have seen some implosions in my day, but the sight of the mirrored glass rippling from the shockwaves in the dawn’s early light before tumbling down in a cloud of dust and glass shards was something to behold.


The implosion of North Park Three

And now, like a concrete Phoenix, a massive tony development has risen from the rubble. There are a series of condominium towers surrounding a vast expanse of parking garage. There is retail scattered across the pavement on a couple levels – with the huge Whole Foods grocery store at the center.

I knew they would have wifi and something to eat, so I headed there to get a salad and tea (eleven dollars) and sit out front, enjoy the colors of the crepuscular sky over the sea of parked cars.

But on the way there, I drove behind another one of my favorite old stomping grounds, the big Northwest Highway Half-Price books. I don’t go there as much since I started reading so much on my Kindle – but it is still a great monument to bibliophilia. As I passed behind, I saw a huge section of the parking lot coned off with a large semicircular inflatable something rising up. One side of the thing was pure white and very reflective. It didn’t take much thinking to figure out what it was.

I had read that they were showing free movies in the parking lot this summer, and today must be one of the days. I checked in at Whole Foods and surfed over to the Half-Price website and found that, sure enough, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe would be showing at eight forty-five.

The timing was perfect. I finished my food, finished my writing, and moseyed across Greenville just as the movie was beginning.

I had seen it before and wasn’t a huge fan, but the price was right. Like everyone that has had kids in soccer, I carry a variety of folding chairs in my trunk, so I was prepared. There was a crowd there, not a huge crowd, but more than a few. Looking around I was the only person that actually went to the film alone.


Oh, the kids were so cute....

It was hot, but not too hot. The city put out a lot of noise, but the organisers had a powerful sound system, so we could hear the movie. Every now and then a headlight would illuminate the screen, but it went away soon enough.

I was able to get into the movie. Always up for some Tilda Swinton.

The Ice Queen

Tilda Swinton wasn't as cool as she was in Orlando, but she was the best thing in the movie.

I had a good time. Unfortunately, this is the last movie of the year on the schedule, but I bet they will do it again next summer. I think I’ll be there.