State of Texas: Sept. 16, 2013
Texas in Hollywood
Tinseltown’s favorite Texan, Tommy Lee Jones, turned 67 on Sunday. Even though he’s probably all, like, “no birthday for old man,” you can still celebrate by reading Skip Hollandsworth’s 2006 profile.
Photos of the Day
“Mermaid Theater” was a big thing at the San Marcos springs during the sixties. And just before the weekend, Collectors’ Weekly published a fun little history on the popular underwater performing arts center, the Aquarena, and its actors. Includes a fun slideshow for every half-amphibian in the family.
Texas Textbook Fight (Revised 35th edition) — Speaking of sea-to-land evolution, our great state is once again making headlines as the Texas Board of Education prepares for its public meeting tomorrow concerning science textbooks. For years, the science curriculums have been tweaked by creationist SBOE board members insisting on a debate about evolutionary theory. No small thing as Texas (along with California and Florida) was top of the food chain in deciding what many American kids study in school. There’s, of course, heavy breathing from national outlets (Slate). What’s more, a 2011 law now allows state school districts to pick and choose which books they want, rather than being forced to accept the TxBoE’s exact recommendations. Then there’s the big picture. The Midland Reporter-Telegram published a great piece last week explaining how Texas is losing its grip on the textbook market in general, thanks, in part, to the federally endorsed Common Core standards. Although its known among fringe elements as a socialist brainwashing ploy, CORE allows nationwide school districts to be less dependent on what Texas wants. The Reporter piece also includes some evidence for creationists that the End Times are near, specifically, the deputy director of a liberal advocacy group praising the new “decentralized and deregulated market” for bring about textbook reform. Here’s to including Isaiah 11:6 in the textbook chapter about mammalian predators and prey.
This Weekend Never Happened — Three losses in two days. Oof. The Longhorns received an embarrassing rump-whooping and the only thing up for debate is whether it hurt more or less because of the previous week’s paddling by BYU. ESPN didn’t mince words in its headline, which along with the first two paragraphs includes depressing words like: “tailspin … nightmare … dismantled … flopped” and “Ole Miss.” Last week a joke about Nick Saban coming to Texas got the better of some. Wishful thinking. Now, though, the bloodlust is real and expect football “targeting” to become temporarily A-ok. Then, on Sunday, the Dallas Cowboys suffered a similar fate. Though it wasn’t the same kind of thumping as the Longhorns received, it certainly didn’t help this Football Nation’s unstable mental state. Things were so bad all around that everyone looked for whatever silver lining they could. In this case, the lining’s color was actually Aggie Maroon. Although they lost against Alabama, A&M received mad props thanks, of course, to Jonny “F***ing Football” Manziel. Say nothing of the state’s obsession with Manziel, USA Today’s coverage was effusive in its praise, saying the Heisman Trophy winner “authored moments of offensive brilliance” and despite all the controversy this year, “demonstrated poise from the game’s start.” So, apparently, it is about how you play the game. Though, an occasional win would be nice.
After Wrestling with Playboy, TxDoT Gets an Itch — In the long-running battle over the Marfa art project, TxDoT is aiming to shutter the eight-year-old Prada store installation after the department successfully declared the nearby Playboy logo installation illegal. There are, however, some differences between the two projects, as Texas Monthly’s own Francesca Mari reports. For one, the “forty-foot neon Playboy bunny sign” (and 72 Dodge Charger?) was commissioned by Playboy itself. The Prada installation, however, is a sculpture commissioned by an art nonprofit and a local Marfa gallery. Moreover, the Prada installation, which is being defended by locals, also sits on private property. Not to get all stiff-pinkied, but so long as one avoids using a nasally post-modern tone, the story does raise a lot of interesting questions like “What IS art?” Most interesting is who gets to define it—the independent artists? The state bureaucracy? The logo’s company? This whole mess would be just another mind-numbingly silly artist’s statement if there weren’t real-world repercussions. And it sure beats discussing the merits of fur-covered teacups.
A Snapshot of the Surveillence State — An interesting story via the Associated Press yesterday reports that on September 1, a new state law went into place limiting the use of drone-captured images by private citizens while simultaneously giving Texas law enforcement agencies broad permissions in surveillance. The new law “makes using drones to capture images of people or property without permission “punishable by a fine up to $500” but gives law enforcement “broad freedoms to use drones during investigations and allowing them to bypass a required search warrant if they have suspicions of illegal activity.” Welcome to the Brave New Drone World, where even the Federal Aviation Administration isn’t all that sure on how to proceed. Regarding the loophole, though, Texas is soaring higher than other states (only Idaho has a similar, police-friendly law). What’s a little baffling is that the law was introduced by state Representative Lance Gooden (R), whose party is supposed to be all about “small government.” Gooden and allies defend the loophole saying its meant to protect private citizens from invasion of privacy. The only problem is, the law wasn’t inspired by a rash of robotic, mid-air peeping Toms. Rather, it seems to have come about because a citizen used drones to capture damning evidence of company malfeasance, namely, a meatpacking plant’s illegal dumping of swine remains. To be fair, corporations are people, too. And authorities (like the NSA) have only the best intentions. So as long as you’ve got nothing to hide, you shouldn’t worry about police peering into your second-story window.