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A Daily Conversation About Dallas

Real Estate

Game of Homes: Upgrade Edition

| 2 weeks ago

The pandemic has made us look at our homes differently. In addition to providing a place for us to cook our meals and lay our heads at night, they need to function as offices, gyms, schools, and movie theaters. If they’ve got a pool and a landscaped backyard to make up for the lack of a vacation, all the better. We wondered how hard it would be to improve our standard of living in today’s real estate market, so took a look at a few different options: downsizing, so we could go ahead and buy that Airstream; upsizing, so we could put a little distance between us and the kids; or buying a lake house, since commuting is no longer a problem. We were surprised to discover just how many options there are, and just how quickly they are flying off the shelf. We invite you to dream a little and play along.

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News

SMU Faculty Members Question the University’s Opening Plan

| 3 weeks ago

More than 100 SMU faculty members have vocalized their concerns about the university’s decision to resume in-person classes while cases of COVID-19 rise on campus. The school ramped into “high operation level” on Tuesday, the third of four levels that indicate the severity of transmission among students. 

Upon reaching this level, SMU claimed it would “operate low-density environments” while keeping instruction “primarily remote.” The guidelines say it will limit in-person classes “to practicum activities that are difficult to conduct remotely.” It says it will only allow fewer than 10 individuals to gather and requires “special permission” to do so.

However, the university has chosen to maintain classrooms, academic buildings, libraries, residence halls, dining halls, and other public areas at a “moderate” level, which means in-person classes and activities can continue. This has confused many faculty members, as it appears the assessments are not uniformly administered throughout the university. 

Those who have spoken out worry the administration is putting its faculty, staff, and students at risk in order to keep the college experience as normal—and profitable—as possible during a pandemic. They are worried that SMU has not set a threshold of when it would move operations entirely online in the case of significant spread. As of Friday, there were 232 active cases on campus, up from 68 on August 24 when classes resumed.

Tensions rose in July, when more than 800 faculty and staff signed a petition to be given the choice to work remotely for the fall semester without needing to provide a medical justification. The university only allowed faculty and staff to teach remotely if they fell into a high-risk category according to CDC guidelines, regardless of pandemic-related caregiving needs. That means having children and elderly dependents at home wasn’t enough to qualify. 

The letter criticized the lack of faculty and staff input in the school’s operations plans in contrast to the students, who were surveyed and given the option to return remotely for the semester. The petitioning group asserted that “faculty and staff should have the same freedom” as students to return to SMU at their own comfort level. 

“The university just sort of shot that down as soon as they got it,” says Dan Moss, an associate professor of English. “There was a slow realization that they were going to reopen no matter what, and I think that sort of stunned me, personally.”

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Food & Drink

John Tesar’s Life-Saving Gamble

| 3 weeks ago

A car pulls into the circular drive in front of Knife at The Highland Dallas hotel, off Central Expressway and Mockingbird. It’s early April. Restaurants have been closed for more than two weeks. Masked, gloved, and carrying a Cryovacked parcel, John Tesar walks up to the driver’s side door, shows the slab of flesh he has been cradling—extraordinary marbling apparent through the vacuum-sealed plastic—and drops it in the open trunk before the car pulls out and purrs away. A last glance in the rearview mirror might reveal this chef standing alone in a fight for survival, every Cryovacked package holding the chaos of an uncertain universe at bay. 

When the pandemic hit, Tesar found himself steward of a chamber full of meat. He had established himself as a wizard of dry-aging, practicing the dark arts of time and chemistry that he has taken years to master. He had three multimillion-dollar restaurants in the works—one in a sprawling Ritz-Carlton resort in Orlando, one a surf-and-turf concept in the bluff-topping Laguna Cliffs Marriott Resort & Spa in California, and one in a new Austin hotel.

Each restaurant opening was pushed back. Tesar was sitting on meat for all of them, in addition to meat for Knife Plano, which he owns, and the original Knife in The Highland, where he controls the product through a licensing agreement. Six figure’s worth of meat was either his or under his purview, and keeping it all rotating was an essential part of his curatorship.  

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Arts & Entertainment

Riley Gale’s Dallas: Remembering the Late Diplomat of Texas Hardcore

| 4 weeks ago

Riley Gale, the lead singer of the Dallas thrash and hardcore band Power Trip, died last month at the age of 34. It was a shock to the region and the state, but also to music scenes well beyond Texas.

Look no further than the reaction from the national and international music press and associated fandoms. It is rare that a band from North Texas gets more extensive coverage from Brooklyn Vegan than from local publications. Power Trip toured with bands that had the sort of household recognition that takes decades to build. Gale recently collaborated with Ice T’s Body Count, who left a tribute to the late musician on Twitter. True to Gale’s Dallas-centric ways, a poster of the former Red Blood Club on Commerce Street is featured prominently in the background of the video.

The success of Power Trip may seem like a foregone conclusion, but their winding roots spread out of the ramshackle do-it-yourself venues and defunct message boards of the Dallas hardcore community. By the time of his death, the band had spread to places seemingly impossible. In the early 2000s, Gale was just a scrappy kid attending shows at places such as the now-closed Across the Street Bar by SMU.

A dozen or so years later, Power Trip was set to return the crown of metal dominance to Dallas in a way the city had not experienced since the Pantera era of the 1990s. The group released a demo in 2008 before recording what is considered their masterpiece—the tightly wound Nightmare Logic—in 2017. The album’s muted chug is almost restrained in a way that allows Gale’s vocals to take the spotlight, and they do. In a recent tribute on 96.7 The Ticket, it was almost comical how long it took for the thrash portion of the music to subside before Gale enters the frame; over a full minute goes by. This is not music made for the radio—it is a call to action. Power Trip was a live band.

They also possessed a conscience not always shared by their metal and hardcore brethren. Politics in extreme music can be a very mixed bag and just as diverse as any other industry. Gale made it clear which side of the fence on which the band stood. He was constantly engaging in Twitter spats expressing his left-leaning and inclusionary beliefs. The group had a song named after a John Lewis quote, “If Not Us then Who?

Lewis was not exactly a common figure in metal.

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Dallas History

The Rise and Fall of the Million Dollar Saloon

| 1 month ago

Allegedly, the Million Dollar Saloon was the world’s first “gentleman’s club.” That may be a bit of a boast, but it certainly was the first and most famous topless bar to serve mixed drinks in Dallas. Though it had a good run, as with all wild rides, it couldn’t last. For a decade the peach-​colored monolith on Greenville Avenue, across from The Shops at Park Lane, has slumped into oblivion. Finally fed up with complaints from neighbors about vagrancy, the city of Dallas in June filed a lawsuit against Furrh Inc., the owner of record, and Nick Mehmeti, the company’s president and director, seeking to force them to secure or dispose of what has become a hazardous site of exposed wires, human waste, and filth. Here’s how it came to that.

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Leadership

Mark Cuban Is All Grown Up

| 2 months ago

We saw the Mark Cuban we’ve known for 20 years, the kabuki performer in relaxed-fit jeans who barely needs to speak to be heard, all exaggerated gestures and overly dramatic expressions. This was March 11. He was in his usual courtside seat at the Dallas Mavericks’ home game against the Denver Nuggets, initially planned to be the first of a doubleheader on ESPN until, suddenly, it became the last NBA action for more than four months. That night, the league suspended its season in response to the pandemic, after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for the novel coronavirus, causing the Jazz’s game in Oklahoma City to be called off while the referee was preparing for tipoff.

The Mavericks proprietor and Shark Tank star learned of this when everyone else did, via a press release tweeted out by the league midway through the third quarter, and his shock mirrored our own. He dropped his jaw like a python swallowing an alligator as he stared at his phone. Then he sprang back in his chair as though he were trying to draw an offensive foul on the device. “That will put me down in meme history,” he says over Zoom two months later, sitting in his dark-wood-paneled home office, a framed Shark Tank Season 10 poster leaning against the wall behind him. “Too much chocolate in your hot chocolate? Show Mark Cuban.

At that moment, after a few weeks of uncertainty, the COVID-19 roller coaster had finally clicked to the top of its tracks, and we’d see in the next hours and days just how fast it could get. Looking back at Cuban’s reaction, it’s almost as if he were seeing a glimpse of the future. Every other sports league shutting down. Every other everything shutting down. People hoarding hand sanitizer and toilet paper and yeast. Millions unemployed, then millions more. Angry mobs storming statehouses to demand haircuts. Then, after all of that—in the middle of all of that—nationwide protests over racial injustice.

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Covid-19

Life Behind a Mask in UT Southwestern’s COVID Unit

| 2 months ago

Six weeks isn’t much time to prepare for a pandemic. Dr. Julie Trivedi saw it coming in January, or at least that’s when she noticed a rise in reports of strange respiratory illnesses in China. Trivedi is the medical director of infection prevention at UT Southwestern Medical Center, which operates the William P. Clements Jr. University Hospital. She started emailing a few administrators about what she’d found. By February, she was sending daily updates to more than 70 people within the institution. 

There were cases of COVID-19 in Germany and Italy and Japan. It was spreading rapidly across Europe and Asia. Considering North Texas’ travel patterns, our region’s medical providers were already behind, through no fault of their own. It was a matter of when, not if. And of how severe, based on what elected officials were willing to do to limit social interactions. Dr. Daniel Podolsky, the medical center’s president, began informing business leaders and public health officials of what his research experts were seeing in the models. He was introducing what Dr. Trish Perl, Trivedi’s boss, refers to as “non-pharmacologic interventions.” Things like travel restrictions, possible business closures, physical distancing from others. The measures that are now as familiar as breakfast.

Inside the walls of the medical center, the staff was doing a different calculus. They would be providing care to a highly contagious population of patients who could not be exposed to others being treated for more common ailments. Intake and visitation policies changed quickly. A surge plan was developed, including the possibility of shifting some services out of the hospital where COVID-19 patients would be treated. Protective equipment was cataloged, more stringent processes defined. The emergency department was split so that confirmed and potential COVID-19 patients were isolated. Everyone who walked into the hospital had to wear a mask and get his temperature taken.

Perl assembled an in-house COVID-19 modeling team, and UT Southwestern became the regional leader in forecasting the future caseload. It climbed ever upward, another ascent for every loosened public policy. At press time, one day after the Fourth of July holiday, the medical center’s models anticipated a 50 percent increase in hospitalizations by July 16. That would mean more than 1,700 COVID-19 patients in Dallas and Tarrant county hospitals, pushing them to the limits of their capabilities.  

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