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New EarBurner: Ken Bethea of the Old 97’s Wants to Find the Women Whose Lives He Helped Save, And Other Stories

| 2 weeks ago

Ken Bethea, the guitarist for the Old 97’s, is a helluva storyteller. And he has two for us to choose from. One has to do with poop. It’s so good that even David Sedaris maybe, probably, stole it. Or at least borrowed elements from it. The other one involves an awkward fight that lasted a half hour and ended with Bethea and some buddies saving the lives of seven young women on Good Lattimer in the late 1980s.

He would like to find those young women, so he told EarBurner that story. And then he told us the poop one, for good measure. Because he’s spent more than two decades pleasing crowds.

The Old 97’s were signed to Elektra in 1996 after a showcase at South by Southwest, a show in which all they really wanted to do was to blow Ryan Adams’ Whiskeytown off the stage. They were already on Bloodshot Records—and happy—but they were, in Bethea’s words, a “Naomi’s, Bar of Soap, Barley House band.” That show launched them into the stratosphere. This month, they’re celebrating 25 years together. Bethea believes all they have to do to last another 25 is keep Rhett Miller alive.

He bellied up to  Table No. 1 at the Old Monk to tell a bunch of stories, including the closers mentioned at the start of this post. I’ll step aside and let Ken tell it. He’s the one who should. Show notes after the jump.

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New EarBurner: Kourtny Garrett From Downtown Dallas Inc.

| 3 months ago

Have we mentioned yet that we’re holding a symposium next week? No? Well, we’re holding a symposium on urbanism next week at the DMA. Check it out. Yours truly will moderate the first panel of the morning. The smart people talking: Patrick Kennedy, Chris Leinberger, Tillie Galán Borchers, and Kourtny Garrett, who is the CEO of Downtown Dallas Inc. and this week’s EarBurner guest. We talked with her about how little she knows about sports, when downtown might get an elementary school, and, of course, scooters. Enjoy!

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New Earburner: Barrett Brown Talks His Totally Legal Pursuance Project

| 3 months ago

The last time Barrett Brown found himself at Table No. 1 at the Old Monk holding a microphone to his face, he was something like a month out of prison. This was January of last year, so he was writing weekly reports about the Dallas City Council for us, still unable to (legally) use a computer, still living at a halfway house in Hutchins. 

He’d work for us another half a year or so, until the feds re-arrested him that May on a specious claim that he violated some sort of Bureau of Prisons policy requiring halfway housers to get federal approval prior to doing any interviews with the press. Wick Allison, D’s owner and founder, got the lawyers involved, who threatened to take the matter before a judge and—poof!—Barrett was free. He gave us a few more columns and then left our employ.

So here we are today, just over a year past all that, and Barrett has a book deal (My Glorious Defeats is out in February) and is hoping to change how we all research and collaborate. The Pursuance Project is an open-source platform—or apparatus, as Barrett calls it—that will allow anyone in the world to help research and brainstorm a problem or a data set or probably other things that I’m not currently thinking of. It basically provides structure to the sort of Anonymous research and activism projects that were popular online five or so years ago. The sort of stuff that Barrett made his name on before he was sent to prison for essentially posting a link. (It is worth noting that Barrett, self-proclaimed man with “no gall,” says that Pursuance is “a totally legal thing that everybody should join and consider contributing to.” And, indeed, you can donate here. It’s just over halfway to its goal.) 

Anyway. Barrett can explain all this stuff much better than I can. So I’ll let him take over from here. Interview by Zac Crain and Tim “I Call Jail ‘The Joint'” Rogers. Show notes after the jump.

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New EarBurner: Preservation Boss Katherine Seale

| 4 months ago

In many ways, Dallas has Katherine Seale to thank for its relatively newfound interest in preservation. The former head of Preservation Dallas and the current chair of the Landmark Commission has spent years helping the city understand the importance that old buildings bring to a sense of place. That, when it makes sense, preservation is actually a public good. And when the public buys in, developers seem more likely to listen.

There’s the Meadows Building, near Central and Lovers, a mid-century modern treasure that will soon house the Dallas outpost of architecture firm Gensler. It wasn’t long ago that the Chicago company that bought the Meadows was contemplating tearing down part of it. Seale has helped preserve old homes and hotels and office towers and theaters. She’s helped the city approve a 45-day waiting period for developers who plan to tear down a building within downtown and parts of North Oak Cliff.

She came on EarBurner to share some of these stories. As chair of the Landmark Commission, 90 percent of its monthly cases are about buildings that are already designated—folks in North Oak Cliff wanting to build a carport, things like that. The other 10 percent is where it gets extra interesting; where should the city employ protective zoning changes? Can the commission move fast enough to save the Lakewood Theater after residents spotted some of its chairs in a Dumpster? (It can and did.) What about that old blue house in the Cedars that’s owned by Spectrum? Can it be moved? (It can.)

It’s an interesting chat. Show notes after the jump.

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New Earburner: The Texas Theatre’s Barak Epstein and Jason Reimer

| 4 months ago

Barak Epstein and Jason Reimer aren’t quite the theater saviors that their success with the Texas Theatre leads many to believe. Theirs is a tough business, renovating a movie house from generations ago, then figuring out a business model that keeps people coming in. As Barak notes, running an indie film on a Tuesday afternoon will only keep your doors open so long.

So the two have been asked to look at every old theater in town—the Lakewood, the Forest, even the shell of the West End Cinema 10—but the jewel of Jefferson Boulevard remains their only terrestrial venture. It takes a lot to make such a place work, to make sure the HVAC system doesn’t come crashing out of the ceiling during a screening. You need support from the developer, the owner, the municipality. The operator almost has the easiest part.

Anyone who’s visited Oak Cliff’s Texas Theatre in the past seven or so years can see their strategy: Movies, yes, but also concerts and Q&As and meet and greets and DJ nights. Themed, often. All in the interest of giving their customers an entire night out. And once a year, they want to give you a whole weekend. Epstein and Reimer this week announced the lineup for their annual Oak Cliff Film Festival, which will take over the neighborhood from June 14 through June 17.

It will open with Bad Reputation, a documentary about Joan Jett that Epstein saw at Sundance and had to have for his festival. It closes with Never Goin’ Back, the debut feature from Dallas filmmaker Augustine Frizzell, which has seen successful runs at both Sundance and SXSW. In the middle, there’s a whole lot of other cool things, including The Passion of Joan of Arc with a live score, an outdoor screening of Hal Ashby’s classic Being There at Better Block, and an in-person appearance from famed documentarian and filmmaker Penelope Spheeris (The Decline of Western Civilization, Wayne’s World) who will be premiering a long-lost 1987 punk western called DUDES.

Head here to learn more about the lineup, and here to buy tickets. In the meantime, Epstein and Reimer came to the Monk to chat about their path in restoring the famed Texas Theatre as well as the forthcoming film festival. Show notes, as always, after the jump.

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New Earburner: Gavin Mulloy of The Box Garden at Legacy Hall

| 5 months ago

Readers of our FrontRow blog probably know the name Gavin Mulloy—he was the creative director for Trees and the Bomb Factory for a number of years, overseeing marketing and helping with booking shows as the venues grew into two of North Texas’ most well-known independent concert halls. Not long after owners Clint and Whitney Barlow opened their third in the old Deep Ellum Live space—that’s Canton Hall—Mulloy announced that he had put in his two weeks and was huffing it up to Plano.

He’s now landed at the Box Garden, Legacy Hall’s three-tiered outdoor venue, where he’s doing something similar in a very different place. Here’s what he told writer Alaena Hostetter, who wrote about what’s going on in the hinterlands of Collin County:

“I think this perception of what’s cool in the suburbs versus what’s cool in East Dallas or downtown is a bit of a misnomer because I don’t think areas of towns can be cool, or rooms can be cool,” Mulloy explains. “Rooms are just boxes. It’s what the people in that box do, and the ideas they can generate.”

To get an idea about those ideas: His last hurrah at the Granada Theater, prior to joining the Trees team, was to put a boxing ring on the stage and have local rappers A.Dd+ duke it out. He’s already organized a Mario Kart party on the big screen at the Box Garden. I imagine he has many other ideas of how to make Plano a bit stranger.

(For full disclosure: Zac and I are friends with Gavin, who recently wore a damn ball cap to my wedding.)

Show notes after the jump.

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New EarBurner: Matt Tranchin Survived Southwest 1380. Now What?

| 5 months ago

Less than a half hour after takeoff, Matt Tranchin resigned himself to die. There was an explosion on the left side of the 737. Then there was the plunge, a drop that seemed to never stop. The oxygen masks fell in front of the passengers as flight attendants hurried to the 14th row. One of them began to cry and scream for help; a passenger’s torso had been sucked out of the plane.

Matt didn’t know all this at the time. He figured there was some sort of hole in the plane, and started thinking about how to get away from it. But the cabin was full, and then came the reaction from the flight attendant. He realized how serious this was, and that he was powerlessly stuck in his seat. He pulled out his phone and began texting his final goodbyes to his wife, his unborn child, and his parents. He was certain the plane would crash.

We now know what happened on Southwest 1380. A fan blade in one of the engines broke off due to metal fatigue. It tore through the engine and sent shrapnel into the wing before shattering one of the cabin windows. The plane, which was ascending at 32,500 feet when the explosion occurred, plunged 8,000 feet in two minutes. Over the next five minutes, it sank another 13,000 feet. It would land in Philadelphia 10 minutes later, guided by the supreme calm of pilot Tammie Jo Shults. We’ll surely learn more in the days and weeks to come—last night, the AP reported that Southwest had asked for more time to inspect its engine fan blades.

Matt is part of the D Magazine family. He is the head of a super PAC known as the Coalition of a New Dallas, which was started by D owner Wick Allison and operates out of the office. (The magazine and the PAC are separate operations.) Matt was headed to New York to learn best practices from organizers with the national March for Our Lives folks; he wanted to bring back some pointers for the young activists he’s been helping here.

After the landing, Matt called D editor Tim Rogers. He was almost ecstatic. He’d just cheated death. He told Tim about watching World War Z and remembering how Brad Pitt blew a hole in the fuselage of the plane to kill a bunch of zombies and survived by avoiding the blast site. He took some photos of the plane and made a quip about Final Destination. He gave a whole bunch of interviews, recounting the incident. He wound up on the front page of yesterday’s New York Times, alongside friend Marty Martinez, another D compatriot who sometimes helps us with social media. He took some criticism from the mob of internet bums who sniff out things to criticize and troll; Matt was in shock. Shame on anyone who would judge him in that state.

The Matt you hear in the interview below is a man who is reckoning with what he experienced. The jubilance of cheating death is gone. Now comes figuring out how to live with the fact that he did. There were 149 people aboard that plane, including Jennifer Riordan, the 43-year-old passenger who was fatally wounded. The news reports got their tick-tock of what happened; listen to Matt for the weight of what happens now.

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New EarBurner Podcast: Craig Hopkins, Stevie Ray Vaughan Historian

| 6 months ago

Little Stevie Ray Vaughan couldn’t stay out of the clubs. He started around the time he was 12, legend has it, sneaking off from his home in Oak Cliff at night, usually clutching a guitar owned by his brother, Jimmie. This got old fast for Jimmie, who was a few years older and had already found some success. To get him to quit stealing his guitars, the older brother gifted Stevie a ’51 Fender Norcaster that he’d taken into shop class and sanded down to remove the gleam. He’d carved his nickname into it: Jimbo.

And yesterday afternoon, Jimbo was in the Old Monk with representatives from Dallas Heritage Auctions and Craig Hopkins, a Stevie Ray biographer and the literal leader of his fan club. When it goes to auction on April 15, it will be just the second time that a guitar regularly played onstage by Stevie Ray Vaughan will be available for purchase. The last one sold in 2004 for more than $600,000, as part of an Eric Clapton benefit.

Hopkins was this week’s guest on EarBurner. Come for the tales of how Dallas has still yet to embrace its (arguably) most famous musician, stay for the rare recording of Stevie Ray playing Jimbo around the ripe young age of 15. Show notes after the jump.

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New Podcast: What Reforms Will the Next DA Make?

| 7 months ago

Last night, former Judge John Creuzot narrowly edged out another former judge, Elizabeth Frizell, for the Democratic nomination for Dallas County’s district attorney. And we’re talking by a thread: 516 total votes and about half a percentage point separated the two, according to the county’s most recent results. However, Frizell has yet to concede. With about 111,000 total votes, turnout was more than double than each of the last three Democratic DA primaries—although Craig Watkins ran unopposed in 2010 and 2014. In 2006, when Watkins had two opponents, the race garnered about 31,000 votes.

The race has attracted national attention, as we’ve told you, from both the American for Civil Liberties Union and noted activist Shaun King, who helped raise $100,000 for Frizell just before the primary. District attorney races are typically sleepy local affairs, promoted by longtime party officials and looked at with interest by community leaders and local media—but not much else. More than 80 percent of all district attorneys run unopposed. But the win in Philadelphia of criminal justice reformer Larry Krasner has opened the eyes of many to the potential of the local district attorney to changing how criminal justice is doled out.

In Dallas County, the ACLU pounded pavement for weeks, knocking on doors and handing out fliers and urging residents to consider voting in the primary. (It did not endorse either candidate.) In San Antonio, liberal billionaire and GOP boogeyman George Soros backed a PAC that sent $1 million to defense attorney Joe Gonzales in his race for Bexar County’s DA. Gonzales won.

Last week, here at D Magazine, we held a happy hour with four people who are incredibly knowledgeable of how criminal justice works in Dallas County. Terri Burke, the director of the ACLU of Texas, gave insight on the cash bail system here, which the ACLU is currently suing the county over.

The group says it violates due process by keeping the accused behind bars if they’re too poor to afford their bail. Ron Stretcher, the former director of criminal justice administration at Dallas County, discussed determining the difference between those who need mental health treatment and those who need to be punished. Toby Shook, a prosecutor-turned defense attorney, gave insight about how district attorneys shape what gets tried and what doesn’t. The whole chat was moderated by Pam Metzger, the director of SMU’s Deason Family Criminal Justice Reform Center, who brought invaluable perspective from her years as an attorney in New Orleans and now as a research director of reforming the system.

We wrote about the event last week and I’m posting the Podcast today after the jump.

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New EarBurner: Chris Hamilton, the Man Going for Chair of Dallas County’s Dem Party

| 7 months ago

Chris Hamilton sure talks like a politician. The first question he’s asked for this podcast, about Dallas hosting the NRA’s upcoming convention, he flips it into an anti-Trump treatise. Which is the first of many boxes that Hamilton, the hopeful future chair of the Dallas County Democratic Party, must check in these public appearances.

He also must set himself apart from the woman whose job he wants. Carol Donovan is the head of a quite divided local Democratic party, one that newcomers complain is so entrenched with the city’s longtime leaders that it is overlooking new talent that could appeal to more people. The Dems are also being sued by the county’s Republican party. The lawsuit alleges that Donovan didn’t sign the paperwork for 128 of the party’s candidates. The GOP wants them off the ballot, citing a state statute mandating that the party chair sign the damn paperwork.

In walks Hamilton to this fire. He argues that the local Republican party has identified a weakness in leadership and is exploiting it. He says the response to the allegations in the suit was “inept at best” and expressed his frustration that local officials didn’t hear about the issue until they read about it in the Dallas Morning News. “Leadership is looking at the big picture,” he tells Tim and Eric at Table No. 1 at the Old Monk, urging for better development of Democratic candidates and improving voter turnout.

Hamilton is a lawyer who, he says, only takes on cases that come with a cause that he feels passionate for. It’s “David and Goliath” stuff for him, as he put it—one person up against an insurance company, a property owner against a fracking company. Donovan has painted the race in a similar light: “I am the only candidate in the race who has ever been involved with the Dallas County Democratic Party,” she told the News back in July. “This is not the time to switch to a leader who needs on-the-job training.”

So can he do it? He makes his case this week on EarBurner. Show notes and audio player after the jump.

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New EarBurner: Eric Celeste Talks DISD’s Lew Blackburn Controversy

| 7 months ago

Early this month, we published a piece to FrontBurner entitled “Lew Blackburn’s Sex Problem.” The story went through what felt like a month’s worth of drafts and rewrites until city columnist Eric Celeste got the piece just right. And then the Dallas Morning News’ Corbett Smith went and reported on some of the details of a settlement between the Dallas Independent School District and a fired staffer named Tonya Sadler Grayson. Eric had information that the News didn’t—namely, that trustee Lew Blackburn had sex with Grayson and then later sat on a tribunal that upheld her firing.

So we put the story online immediately—as editor of the website, it is always a joy to publish print content weeks before the issue hits newsstands—and you can find it in its physical form today. We’d also like to see the conversation continue, so we brought Eric onto EarBurner to jaw about the situation. As you can imagine, Eric goes deeper into DISD for us, talking about the power dynamics of those on the board and their relationship with their top subordinate, Superintendent Michael Hinojosa.

(Another teaser, if that doesn’t do it for you: Tim also discusses his failed attempt to meet porn star and alleged presidential mistress Stormy Daniels, who may live in Forney.) Show notes after the jump.

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New EarBurner: Dan Koller, Former People Newspapers Editor, Onetime Late Show Guest Star

| 7 months ago

Dan Koller is the former editor of People Newspapers, a string of once-weekly suburban broadsheets owned by D Magazine owner Wick AllisonTheir offices, as a matter of fact, are upstairs from where I type this. Dan has also been the recipient of a rather vile voicemail from failed City Council candidate and anti-gay graffiti tagger Richard Sheridan. And before all that, in 1994, he parlayed an internship at The Late Show With David Letterman into a brief bit role, the straight-faced audience member that drove Dave to violence.

Now, for something completely different, Dan wants to win a seat on the Coppell school board. So he popped into the Old Monk with two of his old colleagues, Tim Rogers and Zac Crain, to catch up and explain what makes a former newspaper editor want a seat on a suburban school board. (Spoiler: Coppell ISD has seen a lot of new homes go up in its boundaries. It has not seen a lot of new schools. Dan wants to be part of the solution about determining where these kids will go in the future.)

Show notes after the jump.

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