Thursday, May 30, 2013

Jasso does the right thing the wrong way.

Dallas City Council member Delia Jasso ... caught in the cross-hairs
I’ve said this before, but it’s worth repeating. The resolution introduced by Dallas City Council member Scott Griggs supporting gay marriage has absolutely nothing to do with marriage or gay rights. It was nothing more than Griggs displaying just how low he would go to win an election. And fellow City Council member Delia Jasso’s initial reaction to Griggs move was nothing more than a display of how spineless a city council candidate she was.

In fact, the only person on the council with the smarts to see through this entire subterfuge is Mayor Mike Rawlings who maintains, quite correctly, debating gay marriage is a complete waste of the council’s time because there is absolutely nothing legislatively the council can do about the issue.

For the 93 percent of the registered voters in Dallas who slept through the most recent elections, here’s what’s going on.

The Dallas City Council went through its every 10-year redistricting battle and when the smoke cleared, lo and behold, two incumbents, Griggs and Jasso, wound up in the same district. In a major bit of pandering, the city fathers tried to convince the world this was a Hispanic district because its population was 66 percent or so Hispanic. What the city fathers hid under the covers was the fact that the voting population of the district was at least 60 per cent white.

In an attempt to make sure as many of those white voters came to the polls as possible and do it with free media, Griggs announced his resolution only a couple of weeks before the election. However, in order to get it on the council’s agenda, he needed the signatures of four other council members. (The city charter allows only the city manager or the mayor to place voting items on the agenda. The only exception is if five of the 15 council members sign a petition to get an item on the agenda.) Of course, Angela Hunt signed on — she’ll sign anything Griggs puts in front of her (and vice versa). Then Griggs challenged Jasso, effectively telling her sign or right in the latter stages of the campaign I will brand you anti-gay. Instead of doing the right thing and echoing the mayor’s view, she collapsed under the pressure and signed on.

But, as expected, she lost the election so, according to a front-page story in today’s Dallas Morning News, she shouted "Screw you, Scott Griggs," and said she no longer wanted her name on the petition.

Hunt, who is term limited and will be leaving the council, proved again she hasn’t a clue as to what’s going on by calling Jasso’s decision "a slap in the face" to the gay and lesbian community, fulfilling her buddy Griggs’s plan to unfairly brand Jasso. Jasso is just as guilty, however, by failing to stand up and say what she should have said right from the outset.

It will be interesting to see if Griggs continues to pursue this swiss-cheese issue. The election is over. He won quite handily with 60 percent of the vote (go figure). He no longer needs to pursue it and it’s no surprise he’s been silent on the issue since the election. But if does pursue it, that will mean only one thing. He believes Rawlings only plans to serve one four year term as mayor and two years from now Griggs will run for the top elected post in city government.

Now that’s a real scary proposition.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

C’mon “D”

So I was in the neighborhood pharmacy this evening to pick up a prescription and right there on the counter is a magazine rack filled with (I’m guessing) the current issue of D magazine. And it’s cover story is "The 100 Best Restaurants in Dallas."

Naturally, curiosity got the best of me so I immediately picked up a copy (there was a another customer head of me in the pharmacy line) to see what eatery was No. 1.

I’m not going to spoil the surprise and tell you what’s at the top of D’s list. What I am going to tell you is the mag’s pick for the No. 1 restaurant in Dallas is not even in Dallas.

Go figure.

Monday, May 27, 2013

This week’s DVD Releases

Dark Skies **½ Keri Russell, Dakota Goyo, J.K. Simmons, Josh Hamilton, Annie Thurman, Myndi Crist. A couple has trouble convincing friends and neighbors that an alien is entering their house each night to terrorize their children. It’s a passably chilling bit of nonsense that builds on the past, the tropes of the genre, and relies on them for the odd jolt and the occasional ironic laugh.

The Numbers Station ½* Malin Akerman, John Cusack. Directed by Kasper Barfoed. A CIA black ops agent and the young woman he’s assigned to protect fight for survival after a team of heavily armed assailants attack the top-secret remote CIA base where she works as a code operator. This dreary spy drama is as flat and airless as the concrete bunker in which it unfolds. Sits awkwardly between shoot ‘em up and psychological thriller without offering the excitement of either.

Lore **** Saskia Rosendahl, Nele Trebs, André Frid, Mika Seidel, Kai-Peter Malina, Ursina Lardi, Hans-Jochen Wagner. Directed by Cate Shortland. Left to fend for themselves after their SS officer father and mother, a staunch Nazi believer, are interred by the victorious Allies at the end of World War II, five German children undertake a harrowing journey to reach their grandmother in the north that exposes them to the reality and consequences of their parents’ actions. I’m not sure this film holds up to repeated viewings — Shortland’s style is so feverish it could quickly turn precious — but it demands to be seen at least once. The images captured by cinematographer Adam Arkapaw are more dreamy than nightmarish as if his camera — like the children — doesn’t fully understand the dangers.

Generation Um… No stars Keanu Reeves, Bojana Novakovic, Adelaide Clemmons, Daniel Sunjata. In the wake of an all-night party in New York City, John and his beautiful friends Mia and Violet, have a series of frank conversations. The levels of insight provided into the characters are exactly commensurate with any conceivable viewer’s interest in learning more about these nonentities. What does it add up to? Um ... I have no idea and don’t really care. Just because the characters waste their time doesn’t mean you should waste yours watching them circle the drain.

Dorfman in Love ** Sara Rue, Elliott Gould, Haaz Sleiman, Johann Urb, Scott Wilson, Catherine Hicks. Directed by Brad Leong. Twenty-seven-year-old Deb Dorfman is uprooted from the beige comfort of the suburban San Fernando Valley and caught up in the whirlwind of a newly revitalized downtown Los Angeles. Features a winning performance by Rue as its titular heroine but otherwise has little to recommend it. Playing a wallflower who blossoms when she finally meets the right guy, the actress has charm to spare.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Margolin gets it right

I’ll admit it. I was wrong. Boy, was I wrong. Dallas City Council Member Ann Margolin will complete her tenure with style, grace and a demonstration of leadership and courage not seen on this council for some time and certainly not from a council member representing District 13.

Much to the relief of every other person on the council today, Margolin came out in support of Ursuline Academy’s desire to construct a soccer field, with lights, on its campus located at the southwest corner of Walnut Hill Lane and Inwood Road in Northwest Dallas.

City Council Member
Ann Margolin
After she announced her support and received much-deserved plaudits from her colleagues for her decision, the council voted 14-0 (Tennell Atkins was absent today) to approve the project. Which illustrates one of the many problems with how things get done (or, in many cases, not done) by our City Council. If Margolin had opposed the idea, the vote would not have been 13-1 in favor because council members never, ever, vote on zoning issues according to the way they believe. They vote according to the whims of the council member who represents the property under consideration. Thus, if Margolin had opposed the lighted field, which I incorrectly predicted she would, then it would have been defeated. Instead of "Do the Right Thing," the Dallas City Council’s motto is "You Scratch My Back, I’ll Scratch Yours."

Opponents of the field came out with a bunch of bogus studies about safety and glare from the lights, but, as one of Ursuline’s neighbors, who supported the project, said in a video shown to the council today, "I hate to say this, but (the opposition) really has nothing to do with lights."

The neighbor who said that was black.

I first came in contact with the blatant racism inbred in the people who live in this neighborhood a little more than 20 years ago. Then Dallas Mayor Steve Bartlett led a group of Dallas business leaders on a trade mission to Mexico. One of the business leaders accompanying Bartlett was Lee Roy Mitchell, the founder and board chairman of Cinemark Theaters, which, although headquartered at that time in an office building on the northeast corner of Walnut Hill Lane and Greenville Avenue, did not have one single theater in Dallas or the surrounding area. Bartlett asked Mitchell why this was so and Mitchell told the Mayor the company could not find any property within the Dallas city limits that fit its economic viability model. Bartlett promised Mitchell he would find him a suitable location to locate a theater.

Lee Roy Mitchell also felt the
racist wrath of this neighborhood

And the mayor fulfilled that promise. The property he chose was a long-abandoned K-Mart, whose only use was as a shelter for drug addicts, located just north of Forest Lane on Inwood Road. However, when Bartlett and Mitchell jointly announced Cinemark, a Dallas company, was going to finally locate a theater in Dallas, the neighborhood residents — much the same ones fighting Ursuline — came out in huge numbers to oppose the theater chain’s plans.

At the time, I was a partner in what I still regard as the world’s greatest crisis consulting firm and Cinemark hired us to advise it on how to proceed and how to properly present its side of the story to a public, which, outside the immediate radius of the proposed location, overwhelmingly supported the project.

One day the opposition staged a huge media event outside the proposed site and, of course, I was there to advise Cinemark. At one point, I engaged a small group those protesters, who didn’t have a clue who I was or what I was doing there, and asked them why they were so opposed to the theater. One of the women in the group said, as though she was letting me in on their conspiracy, "Because it attracts those kind of people."

"Those kind of people?" I asked in honest astonishment. "Those kind of people? You mean like people who enjoy going to movies? Hey, I’m a card carrying member of those kind of people."

"No, no, no," another one said in a tone meaning I needed to lower my voice. "You know (and she nodded her head at two back individuals standing about 25 yards away), those kind of people."

It was then I realized it wasn’t the theater they opposed, it was the thought of blacks driving through their neighborhoods, especially at night.

That’s why the words of the black gentleman on the video ("I hate to say this, but [the opposition] really has nothing to do with lights.") was so right on the money and so appropriate coming from him. Lights mean games played at night and these racists residents — 21 years later — still fear blacks driving through their neighborhoods at night. Forget the bogus studies about safety and glare — this is what it all boiled down to.

And that’s why I squealed in delight when the first person to congratulate Margolin after she came out in favor of Ursuline’s request was D-Wayne Carriedaway who announced that he was anxious to attend Ursuline’s home games at their new soccer field.

But, for once, racism was defeated at City Hall today and I applaud Margolin for leading the charge. She displayed far more courage than her predecessor did when the same issue came before the council 12 years earlier.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Reason #4,387,236 why I love Goldens

I saw this story a couple of days ago on Sports Center. If you haven't seen it, you owe it to yourself to watch.

Monday, May 20, 2013

This week’s DVD releases

The Last Stand **½ Arnold Schwarzenegger, Forest Whitaker, Johnny Knoxville, Eduardo Noriega,. Directed by Ji-woon Kim. Schwarzenegger plays a border town sheriff who's taken up his post after tragic events brought an end to his tenure with the LAPD. But his quiet life is interrupted when a drug boss escapes FBI custody and flees straight toward his town. The idea of Schwarzenegger as a small town sheriff is ludicrous, but then that's the whole point of his new movie: It's dumb fun, emphasis on the dumb. Kim doesn't sweat interweaving his story threads in any tightly controlled way. Just when the need-for-speed stuff really starts to gain traction, he'll shift for a surprisingly lengthy stretch to comic relief with the deputies and local wacko Knoxville.

Side Effects ****½ Rooney Mara, Jude Law, Channing Tatum, Catherine Zeta-Jones. Directed by Steven Soderbergh. A woman turns to prescription medication as a way of handling her anxiety concerning her husband's upcoming release from prison. This clever bag of tricks is made with so much cinematic skill it makes implausibility irrelevant. What happens on screen is unapologetically far-fetched, but it unfolds with enough panache to make turning away out of the question. While the plot may be predictable (and more than a little preposterous) in retrospect, Soderbergh handles it brilliantly, serving notice once again that he is a crackerjack genre technician. Ultimately, think of the movie as a puzzle box in which all the pieces fit together wonderfully well. Once you step back and take a look at how it’s all put together, you have to marvel at how cleverly constructed the whole thing is.

Parker **½ Jason Statham, Jennifer Lopez, Michael Chiklis, Bobby Cannavale, Nick Nolte, Clifton Collins Jr. Directed by Taylor Hackford. Parker is a thief who lives by a personal code of ethics: Don't steal from people who can't afford it and don't hurt people who don't deserve it. But when his crew double crosses him and leaves him for dead, Parker teams up with an unlikely partner to take everyone down and even the score. The tight-lipped, give-no-quarter Statham is impeccable as the pitiless yet honorable Parker (though fans of the books will no doubt quibble, especially over the British accent). On the other hand, Lopez, that pleasant sex pot, hasn't a hope of producing the tragic desperation of her down-on-her-luck character. This is not a great movie, but it’s great fun. It is part of a welcome trend, or counter-trend, in action filmmaking, an effort to strip away the apocalyptic bloat and digital fakery that have overtaken the genre and return to its pulpy, nasty, mechanical roots. The action scenes are crisply directed, brutal, and invigorating.

Beautiful Creatures *** Alice Englert, Jeremy Irons, Viola Davis, Emmy Rossum, Emma Thompson. Directed by Richard LaGravenese. A supernatural drama that focuses on the romance between teenager Ethan and Lena, the enigmatic new girl in his Southern town. This film could have gone horribly wrong, but the characters and chemistry are strong, and as such Beautiful Creatures should be lauded for elegantly delivering a tale that at least feels fresh and vibrant. There’s something so delicious when Brits such as Thompson and Irons sink their fangs — sorry — into Deep South dialect. Thompson devours scenery, supporting players and dialogue with every "Bless your heart, shooo-gah" in the script, and Irons curls his non-existent mustache with every syrupy zinger.

Stand Up Guys **½ Al Pacino, Christopher Walken, Alan Arkin, Julianna Marguiles. Directed by Fisher Stevens. A pair of aging con men try to get the old gang back together for one last hurrah before one of the guys takes his last assignment — to kill his comrade. While the action is brisk, the film never feels in a hurry. Walken and Pacino amble through their paces. Arkin ups the adrenaline any time he's around, and he is not around quite enough. Most of the modest pleasures are in the ways the men expertly play off one another and invest their shallow characters with more depth than any filmmaker could reasonably expect.

Struck By Lightning **½ Chris Colfer, Allison Janey, Dermot Mulroney, Christina Hendricks, Rebel Wilson, Polly Bergen. Directed by Brian Dannelly. High school senior Carson Phillips was destined for bigger things than his close-minded small town could ever offer. He was on a path to greatness, but destiny had a different plan when he was suddenly killed by a bolt of lightning in his school parking lot. This may appeal to fans of Colfer’s work on Glee, but as a film it’s utterly lacking in scope, depth or meaning beyond an immediate chuckle or two. Except for Janney's monstrous mother and an Alzheimer's-afflicted grandmother (Bergen), the film gives its characters no dimension.

Neighboring Sounds ****½ Directed by Kleber Mendoca Filho. A history of violence and oppression threatens to engulf the residents of an affluent seaside community. With his sound designer, Pablo Lamar, Filho has created the aural landscape of a horror movie. And, for much of its running time, a thriller without a plot. Filho’s mastery of pacing, theme and stylistic eccentricity throughout is so assured as to be breathtaking.

Gregory Crewdson: Brief Encounters ****½ Directed by Ben Shapiro. This offbeat portrait of portrait artist Crewdson captures his oddly elaborate creative process while sharing details of his fascinating past. It is a rare thing to witness the creative process. But in this excellent documentary, Shapiro gives us fly-on-the-wall access over a 10-year period to an acclaimed artist as he envisions, designs and executes his surreal commentary on small-town American life in the form of an epic photo installation, Beneath the Roses. Crewdson and others (including Russell Banks and Laurie Simmons) speak eloquently about his project, but it's the on-set agonies — to achieve the fleeting expression here, dark kiss of light there, and the peculiar relief they bring our maestro — that fascinate.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Arlington has its own Park Cities. Who knew?

Here is the second-to-the-last paragraph of a rather convoluted story that appeared in the Metro section of Monday’s Dallas Morning News concerning liquor sales in Arlington and how it may affect the Texas Rangers’ ballpark:

"But (Arlington City Council member Sheri) Capehart said the city already has to deal with liquor stores. The cities of Dalworthington Gardens and Pantego — both completely surrounded by Arlington — already allow liquor stores."

I have lived in Dallas 45 years now and I had never heard of Dalworthington Gardens and Pantego until I read that story.

So I went to trusty Google maps and, whaddaya know, Dalworthington Gardens is a rather substantial chuck of real estate east of West Arlington that stretches from just north of I20 all the way to Pioneer Parkway on the north. Pantego is a noticeably less substantial chuck of real estate that goes from the northern border of Dalworthington Gardens up to West Park Row.

Then I checked out my good friends at Wikipedia. From there I learned Dalworthington Gardens was named as an amalgamation of its neighbors DALlas, Fort WORTH and ArlINGTON. Clever, eh? It was established in 1934 as "a subsistence homestead project during the Great Depression under the authority of the National Industrial Recovery Act … The purpose of the homestead program was to help families attain a better standard of living through a combination of part-time industrial employment and subsistence agriculture. Dalworthington Gardens was one of five such projects located in Texas and the only one still in existence today." The city’s total area is 1.8 miles and has a population of 2,186.

Pantego is 1 square miles with a population of 2,394, making it almost twice as dense as its southern neighbor. Originally incorporated in 1949, the town dissolved in February 1952 and re-incorporated on May 22, 1952. Whether it re-incoporated just so it could sell liquor to those thirsty folks in Arlington, I can’t say.

So there you have it — Dalworthington Gardens and Pantego — which has liquor stores that Arlington doesn’t and here endeth the lesson.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Where have all the editors gone?

Headline seen in Monday’s Dallas Morning News:

"Man accused of strangling mother to death"

Honestly! There it is for all to see on Page 4B of Monday’s Metro section. What’s going on at that newspaper? Have all the editors and proofreaders been forced to take early retirement? Somewhere, former managing editor Terry Walsh is having a fit.

Monday, May 13, 2013

This week's DVD releases

Cloud Atlas **½ Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugo Weaving, Hugh Grant. Directed by Andy Wachowski. Six seemingly disparate stories take viewers from a South Pacific Island in the 19th century to 1970s America to a dystopian future, exploring the complicated links that humans share through the generations. This would-be epic is beautifully photographed, elegantly crafted and adventurously cast. Unfortunately, though, it plays like a gargantuan trailer for a movie still to be made. It’s ambitious in nature, epic in scope and, ultimately, a big, overstuffed mess.

Texas Chainsaw 3D **½ Directed by John Luessenhop. The Leatherface saga continues where the 1974 horror classic left off. When a young woman travels to Texas to collect her inheritance, she discovers that the brutal chainsaw-yielding madman is part of the bequest. The original Texas Chainsaw Massacre left audiences feeling hollowed out, dispirited and dissolute. Texas Chainsaw 3D is simply a bummer for being a big nothing. Its climax is a bit more interesting and unpredictable than the usual horror-movie third act. But it feels like it's bred more out of desperation than anything organic; you can sense the gears turning in the screenwriters' heads as they try to figure out a way to breathe some fresh life into this franchise.

A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III ** Charlie Sheen, Jason Schwartsman, Bill Murray, Kathryn Winnick. Directed by Roman Coppola. Successful graphic designer Charles Swan seems to have it all — until his girlfriend suddenly walks out and leaves him an absolute wreck. Turning to his friends for guidance, a soul-searching Charles sets out to discover where he went wrong. All this eye candy is ultimately only about as engaging as watching kids at play, which is what Sheen and Schwartzman seem to be doing. I can’t argue that this isn’t an accurate glimpse inside some man’s mind — perhaps Austin Powers? With neither the moral bite of satire nor a voluptuary surrender that really basks in shallowness, this is a vague, unsatisfying work.

Back to 1942 ** Directed by Xiaogang Fenh. At the height of World War II, millions of rural Chinese refugees embark on a desperate journey to escape a widespread provincial famine. Fraught with danger, their trek soon begins to erode the invisible lines separating cultures and classes. In painting a large-scale tableaux of the Henan disaster, Xiaogang has inevitably been forced to sacrifice the specificity and focus on individual characterizations that are generally so important for allowing the viewer a point of entry into such an important piece of history. The problem is it catalogs agony without making you feel it.

If I Were You ½* Marcia Gay Harden, Leonor Watling, Aidan Quinn. Directed by Joan Car-Wiggin. In a bungled plot to pay back her husband's infidelity, a jilted wife finds herself forced to star as King Lear in a spectacularly terrible production, with her husband's younger lover playing the role of the king's fool. A comedy that is so scatterbrained and long-winded that much of it feels invented on the spot. (It’s also a half-hour too long.) This is Nancy Meyers territory, but leaden with passé observations about lovelorn women...and hardly ebullient as either oddball-pair comedy or housewife-revenge fantasy.

Beware of Mr. Baker *** Directed by Jay Bulger. Legendary and indestructible rock drummer Ginger Baker is the focus of this documentary, which recaps his turbulent history and many influences. Interviews include a slew of stars who've played with Baker, including Eric Clapton and Carlos Santana. Bulger's seemingly erratic documentary formally channels Baker's almost defiant refusal to lead a life that adheres to a linear narrative. This is warts and all, with the emphasis on the warts.

Leonie Emily Mortimer, Christina Hendricks, Jan Milligan, Kazuko Yoshiyuki, Kelly Vitz, Mieko Harada, Nichole Hiltz, Shido Nakamura, Takashi Kashiwabara. Directed by Hisako Matsui. This biopic celebrates the life of Leonie Gilmour, an accomplished editor and educator and the mother of sculptor Isamu Noguchi. After her affair with a renowned Japanese poet leads to pregnancy, Leonie flees New York to raise her son alone. Gilmour was almost certainly unusual and unusually self-reliant. Too bad that the film that bears her name ultimately reduces her to the mother of her child.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

City gets to maintain Flow Control, but at a heavy price

The City of Dallas has won lost its battle to enact a Flow Control ordinance.

For those who have not been following this environmental issue, the City of Dallas wanted to turn the McCommas Bluff Landfill into a recycling center, a environmentally friendly place where all trash is converted into energy. In order to make such a development economically feasible, the center would need a lot more trash than it is receiving now. So the city passed an ordinance requiring that all trash collected in the city of Dallas be taken to McCommas Bluff for depositing.

The City wanted to use Flow Control to turn this ...
Now a bunch of private haulers, who needed more time to develop the technology needed to build and operate such a recycling center, so they could either (1) bid on the right to build the McCommas Bluff Center or (2) build one at their own landfills (which would be financially "iffy") took the city to court to challenge the ordinance.

... into this
And, lucky for them, the case landed in the court of a George W.-appointed judge who always sides with business interests in cases against the government even though the Supreme Court had ruled years earlier that flow control ordinances like the one the City passed were perfectly legal. So this business biased judge issued an injunction to stop the implementation of flow control.

The city appealed the ruling which put one of those private haulers, Waste Management, in a terrible predicament. Waste Management was the company that was stalling for time so it could figure out a way to bid on the McCommas recycling center. The problem for the private hauler was that another city ordinance prohibits any company that has a lawsuit pending against the City to bid on another City project. Waste Management had two options: Settle the suit or file another suit against the city challenging the "no-bid-allowed" ordinance.

The decision was made to settle.

At first glance, it may have looked like the city came out looking good. The Flow Control Ordinance, as it is written, is allowed to stand. It is legal. It’s when you get to the fine print that you see the City came out of this covered in garbage. Yes, the Flow Control Ordinance can stand but it can’t be enforced against any private haulers who signed a franchise with the city before the ordinance was passed during the life of that franchise agreement.

It wasn’t that long ago that the city charged private haulers a fee based on the number of dumpsters it placed throughout burg. Each dumpster was required to have a city sticker on it and those stickers had to be purchased from the City. Problem was the City didn’t have enough dumpster cops to go around inspecting every dumpster in the city to see if it had sticker on it and many of the private haulers knew this so they had dumpsters — lots and lots of dumpsters — out there without stickers.

So the City came up with a new plan in 2009: franchising the haulers. Under this proposal, in order to collect garbage within Dallas City Limits the haulers had to open their books to the City which would charge them a percentage of their income as a "franchise fee." The haulers went along with this and signed 20-year franchise agreements.

Get the picture now? That means the city can’t force these haulers to obey the perfectly legal Flow Control Ordinance until the year 2029. That doesn’t seem like too much of a "win" for the City as far as I can see. I’m at a loss to explain why the City agreed to this when it seemed, based on Supreme Court precedents, it had the winning hand.

But then the City of Dallas, especially when it comes to the City Attorney’s Office, has never been much of a fine-tuned fighting machine.

Of course, any new private hauling firm that wants to do business with the City of Dallas will have to obey Flow Control and take its collection to McCommas. But I don’t see any new haulers knocking on the City’s doors these days.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Looks like no home games at home for Ursuline

Ursuline Academy, an all-girls private school in North Dallas, has one of the most successful soccer programs in the state. Yet it can’t play "home" games at home. That’s because the school has no lighted soccer field and because it gets dark earlier during soccer season, a lighted field is a necessity.

Trouble is, the neighbors are dead set against allowing Ursuline to play home games at home. The last time a lighted soccer field was proposed for Ursuline, back in October 2003, former city council member Mitchell Rasansky, who represented the district where Ursuline is located, led the charge to defeat it.

Now Ursuline has come back with a scaled-down plan and Rasansky is still against it. Of course, he is no longer on the council, but his choice to succeed him, Ann Margolin, is. And Margolin has won a decisive battle to get the subject on the City Council’s May 22 agenda.

This timing is important because it will be one of Margolin’s last agenda meetings. She chose not to run for re-election and right at this moment it appears her choice to succeed her, Leland Burk, is not going to prevail in this month’s election.

Instead, it appears the winner of the District 13 race is going to be Ursuline graduate Jennifer Staubach Gates. She has not only received financial support from University of Dallas Executive Vice President Robert Galecke, a major supporter of the lighted soccer fields, but he has hosted a fundraiser for Gates. I’m betting Gates would be in favor of Ursuline’s request, but since the new council will not be sworn in until July, she won’t have the opportunity to vote on the issue.

That’s because Margolin is going to make sure Gates won’t get to vote on it. If Margolin was inclined to favor allowing Ursuline to play its home games at home, she would have no problem in letting the new council vote on it. I can only see one reason Margolin wants the vote to come before the election — so she can kill it.

Of course, she could surprise me. Here’s the argument that says Margolin, who hasn’t announced one way or the other on the issue (although her appointee to the Plan and Zoning Commission voted against it), might vote for it. The majority of Ursuline’s neighbors oppose the plan, not because of the reason they state for the record (a lighted field would disrupt the harmony of the neighborhood) but because soccer games played right on Ursuline’s campus could attract minorities to watch those games and those racists simply don’t want non-millionaire minorities in their neighborhood, even if it’s just for two hours a few times a year.

But because Margolin doesn’t have to worry about currying the favor of these dolts in order to win re-election, she just might display the courage and the leadership to stand tall and do the right thing.

I don’t think that’s going to happen, however. But we’ll find out May 22.

This week's DVD releases

Jack Reacher ** Apart from a car chase, the only real fun in Jack Reacher comes from Werner Herzog, playing a bad guy with Teutonic relish, and Robert Duvall, called in near the end for some marvelously gratuitous scenery chewing as a gruff former Marine. They enliven the movie’s atmosphere of weary brutality for a few moments, but they also call attention to the dullness of their dramatic surroundings. It should also be noted that Tom Cruise is absolutely wrong for the title role. As a fan of the Lee Child novels I would have rather seen Daniel Cudmore (I know you don’t know who he is, but check him out) cast in the hopes of turning this into a franchise.

Mama **½ First-time writer-director Andy Muschietti, an Argentine discovered by Guillermo del Toro, relies too much, especially in the early going, on horror clichés (sudden loud noises and jagged blasts of music), but he does make the tension hum.

Safe Haven * Even when compared against other films that have been adapted from Nicholas Sparks novels, Safe Haven is terrible. This sloppy sentimental journey is long on beauty shots, short on depth and seriously intent on tugging your heartstrings. Indeed, it demands you reach for those tissues. Sob.

Upstream Color ****½ It’s all a neat trick. Or exercise. Or brain-teaser. Whatever you want to call it, Upstream Color is like nothing you’ve ever seen before. But once you have seen it, once isn’t going to be enough. A romance, a thriller, and a science-fiction drama, it tantalizes you with an open-ended narrative about overcoming personal loss. It’s lush, rhythmic, and deeply sensual, a film of exceptional beauty.

Starlet **** The story retains an inscrutable tone that sometimes makes its emotional qualities feel remote, but it still delivers a powerful message about the challenge of self-diagnosis by rooting it in universal experience. It’s a character study about faith in connectedness, with an unforced love for cross-generational companionship that’s special indeed.

Barrymore **½ Two things to keep in mind when considering Barrymore, starring Christopher Plummer as the great John B: It was brilliant as a one-man stage show; it was never a good candidate for film. It’s is a delicious opportunity to watch the superb Plummer perform the role that won him a second Tony Award. But it’s also a lesson in the pitfalls of personality-based minimalism. While Plummer acts his heart out, the script becomes one punch line after another.

Mighty Fine **½ Chugs along heartily until it abruptly stops on the edge of cliff, leaving you feeling shortchanged. It is a couple of crucial scenes away from feeling complete. Chazz Palminteri’s the best thing in the movie. He now has the look of a slightly beefier Steve Buscemi. But where Buscemi is all nerves on edge and something bad waiting to happen, Palminteri has a winning ease.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Boz Scaggs: America's Van Morrison

Thanks to the great Mike Lindley for reminding me about one of the greatest rock 'n' roll albums of all times -- Boz Scaggs' self-titled first album he recorded at the legendary Muscle Shoals studio in 1969. He was accompanied by those incredible studio musicians -- Barry Beckett on keyboards, Roger Hawkins on drums, guitarists Jimmy Johnson and Peter Carr and, of course, Spooner Oldham on organ. To that lineup, Scaggs added the legendary Duane Allman on slide guitar.

When friends used to gather at my place in the late '60s and early '70s, I would put this album on the turntable, unannounced. I would just let it play. Every single person who heard it came to me to ask me about it and every single one of them purchased it the next day.

The cut featured here is the last song on the album, a powerful way to bring to a close one helluva great LP. Check it out:

Floyd falls for Griggs’ gimmick

For those of you not following this little slice of local intrigue, let me set the stage for you. Seemingly out of nowhere, Dallas City Councilman Scott Griggs announces he is going to introduce a resolution putting the council on record as supporting marriage equality. Not only that, but he says he has the votes to pass it.

The gullible Jacquielynn Floyd
Mike Rawlings, the mayor of our fair city, a well-intentioned, somewhat intelligent (two attributes not usually associated with our mayors of late) chap, says, while he’s all for marriage equality, the resolution is a complete waste of time, has nothing to do with city business and should not even be debated. Rawlings knows a ploy when he smells one.

Dallas Morning News columnist Jacquielynn Floyd, on the other hand, is not that clever. Perhaps she only sees things at face value.

In a column that began on the front page of the paper’s Metro section Friday, Floyd wrote that the mayor "is missing an opportunity to lend his moral weight to an issue that affects an awful lot of people in this community," as if Griggs’s resolution really had anything whatsoever to do with marriage equality.

No, what the mayor is missing an opportunity to do is to play Griggs’ dupe, something which Floyd had no problem succumbing to, proving it by devoting the rest of her column about how there’s this cultural shift taking place in America on the issue of marriage equality.

Wake up, Floyd! Griggs’ resolution is not about marriage equality, it’s about winning re-election in a neck-and-neck race against fellow council member Delia Jasso. Do you think it’s just a coincidence Griggs wants this resolution to come before the council in its last meeting before this month’s election? Griggs is mining for votes any way he can and this is nothing more than a blatant attempt to secure the gay vote in the district. And, if you look closely at the neighborhoods in the redrawn district, you’re going to find some with significant gay populations.

I’ll give Floyd 1,000-to-1 odds, Griggs wouldn’t even bother with this ploy after the election.

Rawlings knows exactly what’s going on here, but he’s too diplomatic to accuse Griggs of pandering, which he is guilty of. Instead the mayor says this is not an issue for the city council to debate, just like condemning Syria for possibly using chemical weapons is not an issue for the Dallas City Council to debate.

However, if Griggs happened to discover a large number of voting age Syrians in his district, no telling what he’d do.

And Floyd would probably go "Yeah, let’s get behind that. There’s a huge cultural shift taking place in today’s society concerning Syria’s possible use of chemical weapons."

Give me a break.