A Daily Conversation
About Dallas


The Bush Center’s First Ladies Exhibit Proves a Jacket Is Not Just a Jacket

| 22 hours ago

In March, I had the pleasure of meeting former first lady Laura Bush at the George W. Bush Presidential Center, where she gave me a tour of the exhibit First Ladies: Style of Influence, running through October 1.

She showed me the Bill Blass gown she wore to a state dinner. She showed me a reproduction of the dress Dolley Madison had made from the White House’s velvet drapes, which Madison saved before the British set fire to the capital. She showed me camo-trimmed aprons that military wives gave Michelle Obama. And she showed me the modest pantsuit she wore to visit with women in Afghanistan in 2008. The outfit included a scarf tied around the neck, so she could pull it up and cover her hair if she felt it was necessary.

Walking around the exhibit, I found that for first ladies—who, by joining their husbands in the White House, accepted the roles of hostess, diplomat, activist, and advocate—a dress is never just a dress, a gift is never just a gift, and something as small as a scarf can make all the difference when it comes to diplomacy and respect. With the eyes of the world on first ladies, what they wear is never meaningless.

It’s an exhibit the current first lady could learn a thing or two from.

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A High-End Prostitution Ring Using Tollywood Actresses Operated in Frisco

| 23 hours ago

According to recently unsealed federal charges, a Chicago couple, Kishan Modugumudi and Chandra Kala Purnima Modugumudi, had allegedly been running a high-end prostitution ring using actresses from Tollywood, the Teluga-language film scene in southern India. The women were marketed for sex at Indian conferences and cultural events throughout the United States, including Dallas.

According to the charges, at least one victim presented letters from the Teluga Association of North America and the Telegana Peoples Association of Dallas inviting her to be a guest at local events as part of her U.S. visa application. Law enforcement later confirmed that the letters were fraudulent.

According to the criminal complaint, at least two of the Tollywood actresses were offered for a “prostitution date” with a man in Frisco in October 2017. He negotiated a rate of $2,000 plus a $100 “tip” for two hours with one of the women via text message with Kishan Modugumudi, who arranged for the woman’s flight and a hotel room in Frisco.

In response to the #MeToo movement, other Tollywood actresses have spoken out about the widespread practice of advertising Indian actresses for sex at cultural events, including Sri Reddy, a Tamil actress fighting sexual harassment in Tollywood. In an interview with News18, Reddy said that she, too, was approached by the couple.

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Sports & Leisure

A Few Thoughts On the Mavs Draft

| 23 hours ago

If you didn’t hear, yet, the Dallas Mavericks made my draft-night dreams come true by selecting—

(clears throat)

(clears throat again)

(chisels podium out of the shinbone of a wooly mammoth bone I found in the basement of Old Parkland)

(clears throat yet again; I guess I have allergies or drank too much dairy or something)

(grabs speech from my assistant)

(leans into microphone)




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Ben Fountain Disinvited to Participate in DMA’s Arts & Letter Live

| 1 day ago

Ben Fountain is the author of Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk. Look for a piece of micro fiction from him in your July issue of D Magazine (along with stories from eight other local authors). Ben has a new book out in September titled Beautiful Country Burn Again. It starts with material that he wrote about in a series of essays for The Guardian, but about 70 percent of it is new stuff on the 2016 election. Here’s how HarperCollins describes the book (published by its Ecco imprint):

Beautiful Country Burns Again narrates a shocking year in American politics, moving from the early days of the Iowa Caucus to the crystalizing moments of the Democratic and Republican national conventions, and culminating in the aftershocks of the weeks following election night. Along the way, Fountain probes deeply into history, illuminating the forces and watershed moments of the past that mirror and precipitated the present, from the hollowed-out notion of the American Dream, to Richard Nixon’s southern strategy, to our weaponized new conception of American exceptionalism, to the cult of celebrity that gave rise to Donald Trump.

In connection with the book, Ben was all set this fall to give a talk at the Dallas Museum of Art’s Arts & Letters Live series. He was making arrangements with Carolyn Bess, A&LL’s director, and discussing another author that he might be paired with. Things were chugging along — until those things hit a wall.

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Local News

How Dallas Paved a Future of Growth, Inequality, and Crisis

| 1 day ago

This is the first of a two-part series in conjunction with D Magazine’s new urbanism special issue, which begins publishing online Monday. This story looks at how thinking around urban planning has created the city of Dallas we know today. The new urbanism issue explores how Dallas can design itself for residents instead of commuters. 

Modern Dallas was born in May 1908, when, after three days of torrential rain, the Trinity River overflowed its banks and washed out bridges, railroad trestles, neighborhoods, and sections of downtown. Dallas’ leadership was confronted with a problem familiar to all fast-growing cities: how to protect the city’s rapid growth against the powerful and fickle forces of nature. Their response to that question would shape Dallas-Fort Worth for the next 110 years.

First, in 1911, Dallas’ leadership commissioned celebrated urban planner George Kessler to organize Dallas’ chaotic urban layout. Since the arrival of the railroad in the 1870s, the booming frontier trading depot had evolved into a messy tangle of partially cobblestoned streets, muddy alleys, circuitous streetcars lines, interlacing railroad tracks, and two overlapping and incongruous street grid systems.

The planner made numerous recommendations, but his most significant was to direct Dallas to move the Trinity River away from downtown. It took more than two decades to accomplish, but when the river was finally moved, it transformed the former floodplain into cheap land primed for development. Private landowners donated some of the land to the federal government for the construction of Interstate 35, and what was once a river became Dallas’ new industrial center.

The flood of 1908 taught Dallas an important lesson: a planner’s vision could instigate public investment, which in turn could open raw land to economic benefit. For the next hundred years, cities and towns throughout the region repeated the experiment, building out an ever-expanding network of superhighways, extending the machinery of urban infrastructure into the vast emptiness of Texas farmland.

Acres of cotton fields and cattle ranches became an unbroken, unbounded stretch of concrete. Planners, as well as legions of architects, engineers, governmental bureaucrats, real estate developers, politicians, and civic boosters, worked together to build a new kind of urban environment, an urban super region that grew to become the fourth largest metropolitan area in the country with a GDP that is greater than that of Sweden.

But there is another side to the region’s success.

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Sports & Leisure

Leading Off (6/22/18)

| 1 day ago

More Good News Out of Dallas ISD. At Thursday night’s school board meeting, after Justin Henry was sworn in as the newest trustee, Superintendent Michael Hinojosa announced that next year the district expects to have only three schools on the state’s dreaded “improvement required” list, a marked turnaround from the situation in 2013-14, when 43 schools were on that list.

Dallas Survived the High Five Shutdown of 2018. Five levels of highways were not enough to prevent “chaos” after a tanker truck overturned on the interchange Thursday. Maybe there’s a lesson here. Maybe there’s not. Did you see the guy who waded out of the gridlock to get some Whataburger and then walked back to his car? What did he eat, huh?

Luka Doncic Is a Dallas Maverick. The Mavs traded with Atlanta to get the 6’7 Slovenian in Thursday night’s NBA Draft, which, in my analysis, sounds pretty swell. Let’s watch some highlights.

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Fourth of July

Where To See Fourth of July Fireworks in Dallas

| 2 days ago

The Fourth of July (not 4th of July, even if you do insist on stylizing it that way) falls this year on a Wednesday, a perfectly patriotic way to bisect your week. In North Texas, there are any number of events celebrating the holiday. Corn dog eating contests, performances by the Dallas Winds, Old-Fashioned Fourth of July tributes, the Fort Worth Symphony performing at the Fort Worth Botanic Garden right before a fireworks show. Really just a whole lot of things to do.

But the real stars of the Fourth of July are the fireworks. To that end, we’ve rounded up 20 fireworks shows in Dallas-Fort Worth that are worth your time this July 3 and 4. And one on June 30, in case you really can’t wait. In no particular order, except for the first five events, which are our favorites, let’s get to it:

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This Is How You Make Dallas Bike Friendly

| 2 days ago

The thousands of dockless rental bikes that rolled onto the streets of Dallas this last year have proven just how far the city has to go to become truly bike friendly. And not just in terms of infrastructure, although 19 miles of buffered bike lanes in the entire city don’t come close to cutting it.

Recall the near-panic and rage that last year greeted the “bike mess,” as critics collected so many images of sidewalk jumbles and installation art, of bikes burned on the Katy Trail or sunk in White Rock Lake. Many of these problems have largely abated on their own, but even as the city draws closer to adopting regulations for the rental fleets, bike share critics have seized on another supposed element of the “mess.”

It was touched on during a City Council discussion of the regulations earlier this month, when a council member posed a question on the “hacking,” or theft, of rental bikes. It was a tactful way to bring up a complaint that’s been made much less politely in recent months on neighborhood groups on social media, where I’ve seen more than one reference to “bum bikes.” The complaint is that people are breaking the locking mechanism and GPS on these rental bikes, thereby claiming them as their own. The implication—and sometimes it’s not subtly implied—is that poor or homeless people are stealing share bikes and using them to criminal or nefarious ends. Another council member at that meeting pointed out, correctly, that plenty more crimes are committed using cars, or feet, as a means of transportation. Nobody came out and asked what exactly is so nefarious about riding a bike, anyway.

But let’s assume that the complaint in this case is not about “mess,” because there’s nothing inherently messy about riding a bike. Let’s also, maybe too generously, assume it’s not about someone’s distaste for seeing a person who can’t afford a car—or in some cases a credit card and smartphone—riding a hacked share bike around town. The complaint could be about protecting the private property of a company whose business model revolves around leaving its products up for grabs in highly trafficked public places, although that doesn’t seem to get to the point of all this.

Pull back all the complaints about cleanliness, and the heart of the bike mess is really about responsible bike ownership, about providing decent transportation options to everyone, and about changing the culture of a city whose residents are too often hostile to the idea of sharing the road with anything on two wheels. A city that prioritizes the convenience of car owners over equitable transportation. A city that will grudgingly welcome bike share companies, but has few bike programs of its own. Where trails may get funded, but inner-city bike lanes and bike transportation infrastructure are an afterthought. There’s your mess.

If that’s the case, then here’s one way to work toward cleaning up the mess: Let’s start giving away bikes.

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Local News

Leading Off (6/21/18)

| 2 days ago

Former Mayor Pro Tem John Loza Dies Unexpectedly. Loza, a lawyer and former councilman, was found unresponsive by his husband David Hill on Tuesday night. The medical examiner had not determined a cause of death yesterday afternoon, but he was diabetic and had previously suffered from esophageal varices, enlarged veins that block normal blood flow in the tube connecting the stomach to the throat. Hill said it looked as though Loza had thrown up a large amount of blood. I did not personally know Loza, but he did email me years ago, after my failed bid for mayor of Dallas, encouraging me to try again for political office someday. Maybe I will.

NBA DRAFT DAY. Here are some potential scenarios for your Mavs, but honestly if you want the up-to-date news, my advice is to start DMing Eric Celeste on Twitter. Here is a live look at Eric in his war room. My take? I’ve been busy. But my hopes, in order: they pull off a trade up and land Luka Doncic (long-ish shot); they stay put and end up with Mo Bamba (Eric and I mildly disagree on this); they trick Grayson Allen into thinking they’re going to pick him and then they don’t and he melts down pretty hard on live TV; I get a draft tweet that goes viral but it has a weird typo in it and a confused Jay Bilas has to read it over the air as is. That’s it. I have no other hopes regarding the draft or anything else really. Just kidding. I have lots of hope. Don’t let my mean mug fool you.

Every Kid Who Attends Mayor’s Back to School Fair Eligible For Free School Supplies. It’s a change from previous years, when it was only open to kids who met federal poverty guidelines.

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Local News

A Refugee Crisis Reaches Dallas

| 3 days ago

As director of the Human Rights Initiative of North Texas, Bill Holston has been flooded in recent days with calls and emails from people trying to find out how they can help those families separated at the border under the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” enforcement policy on illegal immigration.

The first thing I say to everybody is, ‘We’ve been representing asylum-seekers from Central America for 18 years. Children from Central America for the last 12 years. And we’ve been seeking volunteers to help us do that the whole time,'” Holston says.

As a practical matter, there hasn’t been much impact from the border crisis here in Dallas, even as images of children pulled away from their parents continue to dominate local and national news coverage. Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins and the heads of other North Texas organizations have made it known they’re open to housing migrant children, but the only shelter in the area presently welcoming an undisclosed number of those children is in Fort Worth, where that city’s Catholic Charities branch has opened a 26-bed facility. Parents arrested at the border are being sent to federal detention centers elsewhere, while most of the children are being housed at short-term shelters in El Paso and in South Texas. Holston is pointing well-meaning volunteers toward the appropriate agencies on the border, including RAICES, a nonprofit providing legal support to immigrants and refugees in Texas.

Although President Trump today signed an executive order that will end family separations at the border without stopping the zero tolerance criminal enforcement, it only serves to replace family separation with indefinite family detention. Holston calls this a violation of the Flores Settlement, litigation that addressed the detention of families under previous administrations. “This ends one human rights fiasco with another,” Holston says. Family detention centers, of the sort that predate the Trump administration, won’t address the root of the issue.

Holston worries that uproar over the thousands of families separated at the border, as justified as that uproar may be and as much as he shares in the outrage, is missing the bigger point. For one thing, this is “just the latest and grossest” way the federal government is hurting refugees, Holston says. (Today, coincidentally, is World Refugee Day.) There was Trump’s travel ban, which included war-torn Syria. This year, there were steep cuts made to the United States’ refugee resettlement program. And that’s important, because most of the people now being detained at the border are not migrants looking for American jobs, but refugees and asylum-seekers looking for a peaceful place to live.

“I think that’s the problem with the current framing of this issue. The problem is that we have a refugee crisis on our border, with tens of thousands of people fleeing violence in Central America,” Holston says. “The problem is that we’ve treated them as migrants, rather than refugees. Until we face this as a humanitarian issue, we’re going to continue to have this problem.”

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Natural Disasters

When a Roomba Meets Cat Poo, Just Run

| 3 days ago
As George Orwell once said, cats sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough women stand ready to do violence on their behalf. Or something like that.

I have two friends. Let’s call them Maeve and Dolores. They are married, live near Bachman Lake in an adorable house inside the recent gas leak evacuation area, and have two cats and a Roomba that they bought on Amazon a few months ago. (To clarify: they bought the Roomba on Amazon. Fat Baby and Bad Baby, the cats, were acquired through other, non-Bezos-related means.)

Last night, while folding laundry in the bedroom, they set the Roomba to start vacuuming the guest room. I imagine them watching Westworld as they paired socks and debated the meaning of aspect ratios, Manifest Destiny, and free will, enjoying a quiet moment of domestic bliss. Until Maeve smelled what she would later describe as a “nightmare cat poop.” Only she didn’t say poop. And it was more of a descriptive exclamation that started with “What the” and ended with something unprintable.

At almost the exact same moment, Dolores leapt to grab the remote as Maeve yelled, “Grab the remote and TURN IT OFF!”

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