1. “Goodbye to texas university . . . Hello to the University of Louisiana State?”
The trash-talking for Texas A&M’s first-ever Southeastern Conference game got off to an early start in May, when University of Florida head coach Will Muschamp took a shot at Aggieland. “You ever been to College Station?” he asked Gators boosters looking forward to the September 8 game at Kyle Field. “It will be the only time you go.” College Station mayor Nancy Berry fired back on YouTube with an inspired photo collage of Muschamp dressed as a yell leader.
Since Muschamp is a former Longhorns defensive coordinator, the dustup was less the start of a new rivalry than the last gasp of an old one. But if A&M is really going to say “goodbye to texas university”—there’s even talk of reviving the Aggie War Hymn’s long-dormant first verse, which contains no mention of the University of Texas—can it find a rival to replace the nemesis it abandoned when it ditched the Big 12 for the SEC?
Arkansas and LSU are the likeliest nominees for the role, offering both proximity (bordering states) and history (A&M has played each at least fifty times). What can’t be conjured up on cue, however, is hate—the sort of sibling rivalry that animated the Aggies-Longhorns competition for decades. Instead, for the next few years, A&M will probably settle for the novelty of being in the SEC, as well as the huge challenge. Unlike the Big 12, where Texas and Oklahoma were easily the biggest teams, the SEC is all big teams. As A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin has been repeatedly reminded, the Aggies are about to play the four teams that, combined, have won the past six BCS championships. That alone should bring lots of intensity—even if the schedule would look better to most Texans if it featured the five teams that, combined, have won the past seven BCS championships. —Jason Cohen
2. So a guy walks out of a closet…
Last September, Jim Parsons won his second consecutive Emmy for playing the lovably condescending (and oft-costumed) theoretical physicist Sheldon Cooper on CBS’s The Big Bang Theory, and eight months later the show ended up the highest-rated comedy of the season. So presumably there should have been more fallout from the Houston-born actor’s recent acknowledgment, in a New York Times profile, that he’s gay. Aren’t such revelations supposed to send stuffy network executives into fits of pique over losing the “family values” audience? Judging by the muted reaction from the public and the industry, apparently not. Part of the non-reaction, no doubt, has to do with our ever-evolving attitudes toward homosexuality. But there’s also something about Parsons, a gentleness of spirit and eccentricity of manner, that keeps us rooting for him. On September 23 the actor will once again compete for an Emmy, and four days later The Big Bang Theory will kick off its sixth season. Usually series start to flag this deep into their run, yet last season, Parsons’s rapid-fire, scientific-lingo-heavy monologues flowed with more oddball grace than ever. Just because he has stepped out of the closet doesn’t mean the ratings for his show are going to sink like, as Sheldon might put it, a naturally occurring solid aggregate of minerals. —Christopher Kelly
3. More songs about giants and apes
As mutual admirers, Dallas’s Annie Clark (a.k.a. St. Vincent) and former Talking Head David Byrne—both ambitious recording artists, with the emphasis on “artists”—seem like a natural pairing. And for the most part, Love This Giant (4AD), a joint effort that drops September 11, plays out like a genuine collaboration: Byrne’s oblique, straining melodies twist around Clark’s ethereal Glinda the Good Witch vocal flourishes and abrasive guitar work, and each enhances the other. Their styles achieve complete fusion on tracks like “Who,” “Ice Age,” “I Am an Ape,” and “Lazarus” (oddly, the only time they share lead vocals). Though a few of the songs revert to little more than a swap meet of their solo careers, the backing tracks—essentially drum programming and percolating work from brass session men—keep the sound on edge, elevating this project well beyond the level of a cool curiosity. —Jeff McCord
4. Karl Rove’s onetime protégé
George W. Bush no longer requires his services, and Rove has nothing to do with (or nice to say about) his other onetime protégé, Rick Perry. But according to Dallas native Craig Unger’s new book, Boss Rove: Inside Karl Rove’s Secret Kingdom of Power (Scribner), the political wheeler-dealer has hardly cut his ties to the Lone Star State. These days, much of Rove’s power resides in his American Crossroads super-PAC, and as the group’s fund-raising numbers demonstrate, he still has a lot of friends here.
5. Bastrop, a year later
Soon after the Bastrop County Complex Fire destroyed 1,649 homes last September, Bastrop High School senior Savannah Zampanti told us about her harrowing experiences during the conflagration. Her story appeared in our December issue, and to note the first anniversary of the fire, we checked in with her again. —Michael Hall
Savannah Zampanti: It was so hard to explain to people from out of town what happened. They had no idea what we went through—the forest died, and people lost their homes, their pets, and all their belongings. The majority of homes in my neighborhood were rebuilt by missionary groups, mostly youth groups. Then they’d come to the pool where I was a lifeguard, filthy dirty, with Band-Aids from hammering their fingers. They worked hard. Some people who lost their homes are still struggling, suffering from depression. Some got over [the fire]; others said, “I have to leave.” I’m going to Austin Community College this fall, then I plan to transfer to Baylor and get a degree in international studies and linguistics. I want to become a foreign service officer. I’ve always wanted to travel and help people and find better ways to solve problems. I’ve been in Bastrop my entire life.
6. The one-question interview: Brené Brown
On September 13, Brown, a fifth-generation Texan (“I think my great-grandparents opened the first beer garden in San Antonio”) and research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work, will publish her third book, Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead (Gotham Books). Her 2010 TED talk on vulnerability has been watched more than five million times on YouTube.
Q: Is there a tension between the classic Texas virtue of stoicism and a willingness to be vulnerable?
A: Yes. I think the reason why my TED talk has gone viral is because I don’t come to the subject of vulnerability with an open embrace. It goes against the way I was raised—our family motto was “Lock and load.” Vulnerability isn’t something I come by easily, it’s something that I have to wrestle with; when I feel vulnerable my first reaction is to punch somebody in the face. But growing up being a Texan is also the source of my resilience. I’m very resolute in my work and very passionate. And bullheaded!