September 2006 Archives

Larking about

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There are all sorts of websites devoted to humor, and all sorts devoted to Evangelical Christianity, but there are a number that combine the two, poking gentle fun, from an inside perspective, at the unintentionally funny things about Evangelical subculture.

One of my favorite such sites is Lark News, a fake-news website in the mold of The Onion (but without any of the filthy stuff The Onion sometimes runs). To give you a flavor, here are a few headlines:

Other Evangelical humor sites find that truth is stranger than fiction:

The British website Ship of Fools is broadly Christian, not specifically Evangelical. It's also not solely a humor site. (It reminds me of the way the British satirical mag Private Eye mixes satire and serious investigative articles.) Favorite features include Signs and Blunders and The Mystery Worshipper -- reviews of church services of all denominations from all over the world. The latest "blunder" is a phone message left by a vistor to a church on the pastor's answering machine, gently letting the pastor know that one of the female worship leaders was getting into the music a little more than she should. (After listening to the phone message, you can hear it remixed and set to music!)

...several million years ago.

Charles G. Hill reports on a bold, visionary plan to transform Oklahoma into a major tourist destination.

Now we just need some mountains, and we'll be all set.

"Secession" stand

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People who can't find something interesting to do in Tulsa just aren't looking hard enough.

Tulsa is home to a chapter of the Altarnet Film Society, a group that exists to promote films "that have a transcendent theme, story, or experience." The AFS website asks and answers the question:

Could there be films that positively communicate wonderful deep concepts? Is it possible to have stories that encourage the heart and inspire personal greatness without being cheesy or corny? At AFS we have discovered that there are just such films, some only a minute long, others 10:00, still others 30:00 long. Let’s screen them together and then talk about what we have just experienced!

The Tulsa chapter holds a screening the last Saturday of each month, and this Saturday they'll be showing Secession, written by Tulsa-based blogger Earnest Pettie, a graduate of OU's film school. Here's the film's synopsis:

An under-appreciated, under-loved housewife decides to move out... or rather, in... to her own pantry. In a war of wills, her husband and son must come to terms with this housewife's unorthodox decision.

It's based on a short story that Earnest wrote, and it was directed by Kate Christensen. Following the film, Earnest will take questions.

The screening will be Saturday night at 7:30, at the Agora Coffeehouse, just northeast of the fountain in the Fontana Shopping Center, 51st & Memorial.

MORE: On his MySpace blog, Earnest wrote about the travails of location shoots for his latest production, "A Man and His Mustache."

AND YET MORE: Here's a short trailer for A Man and His Mustache.

Fit to stay tied

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I have a confession to make. For the last several years I have had trouble keeping my shoelaces tied.

I learned in kindergarten, same as most folks. (Mrs. Chambers had one of those wooden Playskool lacing toys to practice on.) For the next few decades, I had no problem tying my shoes and my shoes staying tied until I was ready to take them off.

But lately my shoelaces will not cooperate. Here's what I think happened: I started wearing shoes with round, waxed laces, which are more prone than flat laces to coming undone. When they did come undone, I started to second guess thirty years of muscle memory, and I tried different things to get my laces to stay put. I switched between right over left and left over right, did the two-loops method, did the normal method, and it got to the point I couldn't remember which was the way I had originally been taught.

Today I stumbled across a website that solves my problem: Ian Fieggen's Shoelace Site. In this amazingly comprehensive site, Fieggen illustrates 31 different ways to lace a pair of shoes, 16 ways to lace shoes with lugs, and 17 different ways to tie shoelaces. He explains what causes shoelaces to slip. There are tips for teaching your children how to tie their shoes, and pointers to tying and lacing methods more suited for different sports. There are even one-handed methods for tying your shoes. The illustrations are crystal clear, using different colors for left and right lace.

I tried Ian's secure shoelace knot tonight before heading off with the family to the Tulsa State Fair. We walked from our car, parked on the race track near Driller Stadium, to the Children's Building to see our kids' artwork on display. (The boy won a blue ribbon for his Lego car, and the girl entered two drawings and an acrylic painting.) Then it was off to hear Asleep at the Wheel at the Oklahoma Stage. After the show (during most of which the baby boy was happy-bouncing), we went on to Bell's to ride some rides, then walked all the way back across the fairgrounds to the gate. The parking trams were calling it a night just as the fair was closing, so we had to trudge all the way back to the car.

For all that walking, my laces stayed tied.

Ian's Shoelace Site is the sort of site that makes me love the Internet. Someone with a lot of passion on a narrow subject has put together a beautifully organized site full of useful information. It's not the sort of information you'll need every day, but it's awfully handy. And even if you don't need the information, it's so well done you could lose yourself for a while and end up saying to yourself, "I never knew there was so much to know about shoelaces."

I was curious about the sort of person who would create such a website. Ian Fieggen is an Australian, about my age, who works in both graphic design and computers.

Ian has a "long-time partner" named Inge, but they haven't yet tied the knot. If they ever do, I feel sure it will stay tied.

Honoring the memory of a fallen Marine

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Someone is calling Tulsa residents to solicit funds for a memorial for Tulsa Police Officer Jared Shoemaker, who was killed in Iraq while serving there with the U. S. Marine Corps. The Tulsa Police Department wants you to know that neither they nor the TPD's FOP lodge are making those calls:

We have received several calls asking about donations being solicited for a memorial in honor of Officer Jared Shoemaker. The Tulsa Police Department and the FOP does not solicit funds. The family has set up an endowment fund for a scholarship to a summer camp the Jared was involved with. This is the only fund endorsed by the family of Officer Shoemaker.

Here are more details about the camp fund that Shoemaker's family has designated as a memorial to him:

The Jared Shoemaker Memorial Fund
(Endowing local H.S. students to a Young Life summer camp)

It is the desire of Jared’s wife, parents and family to establish an ongoing fund to help send high schoolers to Young Life camp. Young Life is a ministry that pursues teenagers on their turf –“earning the right to be heard”. 100% of the money received will be placed in an endowment. Only the interest gained each year will be used for these scholarships.

If you wish to contribute make your check payable to:
Young Life
(please note in the memo field Jared Shoemaker Fund)
And mail to:
Young Life
Jared Shoemaker Fund
P.O. Box 33176
Tulsa, OK 74153

If you have any questions, please direct them to
Jay Robinson, 918-665-8525 JRobinson@ok22.younglife.org
or Brad Camp 918 693-9740 brad@hicorpinc.com

Wanted: A Promenade

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This is the originally submitted version of a story that was published on September 27, 2006, in the September 28 - October 4, 2006, edition of Urban Tulsa Weekly. The story is not available in the Internet Archive but was previously online at http://archives.urbantulsa.com/article.asp?id=3657. Posted on BatesLine on March 23, 2016.

Wanted: A Promenade
By Michael D. Bates

For years, Tulsans have been saying that they want "river development." That exact phrase occurred dozens of times in the responses collected at the 2002 City of Tulsa Vision Summit. There's a widespread sense that this "river development" thing is something that Tulsa sorely lacks.

A smart aleck would point out that we already have development along Tulsa's stretch of the river. We have two aging oil refineries, a vintage mid-'80s apartment complex at 11th Street, a vintage mid-'90s complex south of 71st, a concrete batch plant, a power station and a sewage treatment plant. And a windowless casino. And a couple of chain restaurants that turn their backs to the river.

That, of course, is not at all what Tulsans mean by river development. They visit waterfronts in other cities and come back with tales of lively places bustling with locals and tourists, enjoying shopping, restaurants, and nightclubs. San Antonio's Riverwalk is frequently mentioned, as is Oklahoma City's Bricktown Canal. OKC had to build a waterway, but we already have one, and yet we can't seem to do anything interesting with it.

Adding to the frustration, we can look across the river and see that a private developer has used private dollars to create a place, Jenks' Riverwalk Crossing, that draws huge crowds on weekend evenings.

Tulsa has a need for a great public space, a thriving place where you would be almost always guaranteed to find a crowd.

Tulsa Stakeholders Inc, the group promoting The Channels - the $788 million notion to dam the Arkansas at 21st Street and build a sixteenth of a square mile worth of islands in it - have made it clear that a great public space is what they are seeking. They say that we need a place where a newcomer to Tulsa can get a great first impression of the city, a place where there's guaranteed to be something fun going on, no matter what the weather. Given six months, anyone would fall in love with Tulsa, but, they say, when competing with other cities for a skilled professional, Tulsa may only have day or two to make a good impression.

Tulsa has tried to create this kind of public space before -- Oakley Plaza (aka the Civic Center Plaza), the Main Mall and Bartlett Square (RIP), the Williams Center Forum, the Williams Center Green. In each case, there were the requisite conceptual sketches showing throngs of people happily milling about. The problem is that those sketches don't come with a money-back guarantee when the people don't throng as expected.
Humans are finicky about the places they choose to frequent, and if the right qualities aren't present in a place, it won't attract people. There's an organization called the Project for Public Spaces which studies what factors make for a successful public space and how to turn an underperforming place into something exciting. Their website (pps.org) shows dozens of examples of great public places - like Bryant Park in New York and the squares of Savannah, Georgia - and explains what makes them tick.
Tulsans have the sense that, like many other cities, we could create a great public place along the banks of the river, but that it won't happen without allowing a certain amount of commercial development.

If you're not a cyclist or a runner, River Parks can be a boring place. For several miles, the view of the river is obscured by trees - great for wildlife habitat, not so great for people.

We want to be near natural beauty, but we want to have civilization close at hand. If you're at the park and get hungry or thirsty, you'd better hope that you're close to the little café in the park at Denver and Riverside and hope that it's open. Otherwise, you'll have to cross a busy parkway and walk at least half a mile to find any sort of restaurant or convenience store.

There are occasional festivals and concerts on the west bank, an occasional music act plays the café on the east bank, but for the most part River Parks is BYOE - Bring Your Own Entertainment.

I lived on the east side of Riverside Drive for five years, and during that time my wife and I often went for evening walks, but we almost never crossed Riverside to use the park.

We were far more likely to walk a half-mile east and stroll along Peoria, enjoying the variety of homes and businesses that Brookside had to offer. If we wanted to get a bite to eat, we had many choices along Peoria. We could even walk to the grocery store or the hardware store and back. We might even run into someone we knew who was out enjoying the same kind of walk.

If, on the other hand, we dodged the cars to get across Riverside to the park, there were no points of interest within practical walking distance. We'd just pick some arbitrary park bench as a place to turn around and walk home.

And there are plenty of benches in River Parks, but without a place that acts as a magnet for park visitors, the individual bench is a lonely place, and one feels odd and exposed sitting there for any length of time. It is not a place where one feels comfortable lingering.

What kind of public place along the river would invite us to linger, would be attractive enough to pull us away from the TV and out of our houses?

We want a place where we know we can find other people, a place where we can have lunch or dinner, where we can buy a cup of coffee or something stronger, or a place where we can bring our own picnic and not spend a dime. We want a place where we can read, write, and people-watch, a place where we might bump into someone we know, a place where we can be alone in a crowd or where we could make a new acquaintance.

The kind of place we have in mind is linear, a place that connects two or more hubs of activity, a place that provides different levels of activity along its length, but with no dead spots anywhere along the path. It invites you to walk the full length of the path, or to sample a few blocks, or just to sit in one place and watch the passing parade.

Back in the '70s, architect Christopher Alexander and his colleagues at the University of California identified this sort of place as a recurring pattern found in healthy urban places. They cataloged the successful patterns they observed in the book A Pattern Language: Towns, Buildings, Construction. This pattern they called a promenade, "a place where you can go to see people, and to be seen."

In an ideal city, you should be able to find a promenade within walking distance of every home. You find elements of a promenade in Cherry Street, Brookside, Brady Village, the Blue Dome District, and at 18th & Boston. Even The Promenade (the shopping mall) is something of a promenade, although the effect is blunted by the fact that it's limited to certain hours and is isolated from its surrounding neighborhoods. (Also, national chain mall stores aren't the public draw that they once were.)

The Channels backers assert that their plan is the only way to give Tulsa the kind of great public space we need. They say we can't create it downtown or along the river bank. We need the dam and the islands and the microclimate and the $788 million to make it all happen.

I believe that we can create that kind of place along the banks of the river, and that it can be done in accordance with the existing plan for the Arkansas River. It can be done in a way that doesn't require us to gamble hundreds of millions on one roll of the dice. We can test ideas and make adjustments as we go along, and still have enough money to enhance and repair public places in other parts of the city. Next week I'll give you the details.

RNC press release today:

The Republican National Committee today announced that its Site Selection Committee has voted to recommend Minneapolis-St. Paul to host the 2008 Republican National Convention, pending the successful negotiation of the Site City Agreement. The full RNC will vote on the recommendation at its Winter Meeting in January, 2007. The convention will be held September 1-4, 2008.

I'm disappointed that it's not New York, site of the last convention and one of the three candidates passed over (along with Cleveland and Tampa/St. Pete). I enjoyed the 2004 convention, not only because I got acquainted with a great group of NY-based conservative activist bloggers, but because it's a great city for conventions. Everywhere I needed to be was packed into about a square mile, and the rest of the city was a short subway ride away. I didn't have to think once about parking a car. When the convention sessions were over at midnight, we could still find a good place to eat, and twice we ended up at O'Lunney's, an Irish pub just off of Times Square that keeps its kitchen open until 3 a.m. (Warning: That's an annoyingly Flash-ified web site.) I have the feeling that, in the Twin Cities, many of the delegates will be bused to hotels in the suburbs, and the late night dining choices will consist of Denny's and the all-night drive-thru at McDonald's.

Still, some of the New York blogger activists will make their way out to MSP, and there will be plenty of interesting locals to meet. Minneapolis has its own powerful contingent of right-leaning bloggers, many of whom were at the 2004 RNC. There's Power Line, Captain's Quarters, and the rest of the Northern Alliance. And then there's James Lileks. The legendary Minnesota State Fair will be happening the same week, and the weather should be perfect.

The RNC's choice of Minneapolis cuts the Democrats' 2008 choices down to two, New York or Denver, as Minneapolis bid on both conventions, but can't support both in back-to-back weeks.

Here are some interesting photo pools and sets I found recently on flickr, all featuring cool old buildings and signage, much of it of the vanishing variety:

First, Tom Baddley's Lost Tulsa, which we've commended to you before. He has a new set devoted to the soon-to-disappear Metro Diner.

Las Vegas History: Old photos and postcards, then-and-now pictures of casinos, motels, and other places which have or will likely soon succumb to the bulldozer.

The Vanished photo pool: That's where I found the photo of the Las Vegas Union Pacific Depot which is shown below.

The Googie, Anyone photo pool, devoted to flamboyant mid-20th-century architecture and signage.

Under renovation

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Things are going to look funny for a while. I upgraded to MT 3.33 (a security-critical update), and there has been a significant change in the template layout structure from my previous version (3.14). Expect it to be a few days before all the content is back in its usual places.

An installation note: When I uploaded the files to my server, I forgot to move the new static files to the old static file directory location, outside of the cgi-bin directory. I also needed to change the StaticWebPath variable from a relative path to a full URL. Without doing that, the new automated upgrade process doesn't work (it appears to stall after telling you the process has begun), nor does the new Style Catcher. Since I have customized the names of my comments, trackbacks, and search scripts, I needed to change those file names to match those in my config file.

In the absence of actual video, Sean Gleeson has used actual audio and still photos to put together a Ken Burns-style recreation of his Okie Blogger Round-Up presentation on the history of blogging:



(I recounted the beginnings of my personal blogging history about a year and a half ago.)

voiceoftulsa_websitelink.jpg

MeeCiteeWurkor has announced a number of improvements he has added to The Voice of Tulsa, an Internet discussion forum about our fair city which he established back in March.

I'm pleased to see a page where you can view the most recent 35 posts. And along with a feed for the whole site, he's offering an individual RSS feed for each thread, each category, and each forum, making it easy to keep track of what interests you.

Mostly he's offering a place where it's possible to hold a vigorous but respectful discussion on issues that matter. It is possible to disagree strongly with someone, even on something as contentious as politics, without being abusive or hostile. MeeCiteeWurkor is determined to uphold a high standard of conduct and keep the place friendly:

You should feel comfortable in this forum. The site admin and moderators will ensure that you feel comfortable at all times during your visit. If you ever feel uncomfortable at all, please email me immediately, and the issue will be addressed promptly and corrective action taken, if needed.

Never feel like you cannot express your opinion on matters. ESPECIALLY if it differs from another opinion. Your different take on issues will be allowed, and abuse from others because of your opinion will NOT be tolerated.

While I'll continue to post comments here, The Voice of Tulsa forum is better suited to an ongoing group discussion. I encourage you to click through, sign up, and join in.

At the tipping point

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The backers of The Channels plan have referred to a 2004 study done by the firm Booz Allen Hamilton called Dallas at the Tipping Point: A Road Map for Renewal (800 KB PDF file). The study was commissioned by the Dallas Morning News to answer the questions:

  1. What are the key challenges facing the City of Dallas?
  2. How well is City Hall positioned to cope with these challenges?
  3. What does the City of Dallas need to do to position itself for long-term success?

I've had a copy for some time, but finally had the chance to start reading it today.

The Channels backers point to the report's discussion of the cycle of decline which leads to a hollow urban core: Quality of life declines, businesses and individuals migrate to surrounding areas, the tax base declines, infrastructure requirements are underfunded, resources for city services decline, and the tax burden increases, leading to a decline in the quality of life, which feeds another round of the cycle. The Channels backers call this the Death Spiral and they say that Tulsa, like Dallas, is in this vicious cycle. They believe we need their project -- spending $600 million in public funds to build islands in the Arkansas River -- to break us out of that cycle.

In light of that, it was interesting to read what Booz Allen recommended to Dallas. There were no mentions of islands, arenas, or other big-ticket amenities. In fact, they called on Dallas officials to focus on delivering basic government services efficiently. They called for adjustments to the city's governmental structure so that authority, responsibility, and accountability align and the buck actually stops somewhere.

Like Tulsa, Dallas has a high violent crime rate, even with more than 2 police officers per thousand population. Fixing the problem isn't rocket science:

A programmatic approach is needed to reduce crime, improve education, and encourage economic growth.... Successful approaches to each of these are already well understood. From New York's crime reduction success to Cleveland's success in economic development, there is little mystery as to basic building blocks for improving quality of life. What is missing in Dallas is a comprehensive focus and a cross-department program for delivering the change.

Improving the quality of life index was the first of three strategic imperatives. The other two: Attract middle-class families to the city and address the city's under-funded liabilities (e.g. deferred infrastructure maintenance and city employee pensions).

Note: They don't say to attract more of the Creative Class types, as much as they can add to a city, but to be effective at competing with the suburbs for middle-class families, who provide a stable base for retaining employers and retailers in the city, with their accompanying tax base. (Joel Kotkin is one urban analyst who has bucked the Creative Class tide and insisted on the importance of middle-class families to a city's well-being.)

(Related thought: By going to Tulsa County to seek public funding for their project, The Channels backers have guaranteed that the funding package will include proportionate amenities for the county's other municipalities, neutralizing any competitive advantage the core of the City of Tulsa would have gained by implementing their plan.)

The Dallas Morning News has a special online section devoted to their report on Dallas, including a 2005 update on the situation, also prepared by Booz Allen Hamilton.

The other river plan

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For your reference and mine, here is a link to the website for the Arkansas River Corridor Master Plan, developed in 2004 and 2005 by the Indian Nations Council of Governments (INCOG). Not only have they posted the plan itself, but you can separately download presentation graphics, attendance lists for the public meetings, and the public comments. It was a lengthy process, involving a great deal of public input.

If you want to begin with a good overview of the plan, start here, at the page honoring the plan for having won a landscape architecture award from the Texas Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects. It's a good summary of the goals and values, expressed by the public, which were used to frame the design.

With all the hype about The Channels, it's important to remember that that isn't the only river plan out there, and the INCOG plan has had a good deal more deliberation and public input.

By the way, during the Okie Blogger Round-Up, Don Danz pulled up the video of The Channels presentation to show to some Oklahoma City bloggers who thought we were pulling their leg about this $788 million plan to build islands in the Arkansas. One of them, a normally mild-mannered Christian gentleman, loudly exclaimed "Holy $#!+!!!" not in delighted surprise, but in shocked incredulity that Tulsa officials were actually taking the Channels plan seriously.

Okie Blogger Round-Up round-up

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The 2006 Okie Blogger Round-up was a fun event and a good start to what everyone hopes will be an annual tradition. Much credit belongs to Mike Hermes of Okiedoke, who started the planning on this over a year ago. It was well organized, and there was never a dull moment. Thanks, too, to Kevin Latham of BlogOklahoma.us and ITLnet, particularly for providing a WiFi router for all us bloggers to use during the event and for allowing someone (me, in fact) to take it home as a door prize.

Sean Gleeson led the opening Blogging 101 session, and Dan Lovejoy led the advanced blogging panel discussion, joined by Sean, Kevin, and Kurt Hochenauer of Okie Funk. The sessions were well-done, and I learned plenty of new blog tricks.

I came in late -- I had been helping my 10-year-old son get his Lego entry for the Tulsa State Fair ready to take over to the fairgrounds -- but registration was handled very smoothly by Redneck Diva,, her sister Taterbug, and Babs of Conversation Station.

Through Okiedoke's weekly Okie round-up feature, the Okie blog awards, and the Blog Oklahoma webring, which now includes 343 blogs, Mike and Kevin have done more than anyone else to introduce Oklahoma's bloggers to each other and create a sense of community.

It was great once again to see most of the folks who joined us for the much smaller Okie blogger bash a year and a half earlier. While I didn't expect anyone to come all the way from New York this time, I missed seeing John Owen Butler and Dwayne the Canoe Guy, aka Mike Horshead.

(Dwayne has a fairly new blog called Matching Dragoons, devoted to 1970s DC comics bounty hunter Jonah Hex. What I love about this blog are his regular features of comic book mail order ads from the '70s -- e.g., combat games with exploding pieces -- and the Weekly Wonderous Moment in Comics -- often featuring gorillas. Look for "Pitchman-a-go-go" and "Weekly Moment" in the sidebar at Matching Dragoons.)

Mike was wise to give us a three-hour break between the afternoon roundtables and the evening activities. There was plenty of time to grab a leisurely dinner and do a little sightseeing or shopping before the awards ceremony commenced.

I had dinner at Bricktown Brewery with three other veterans of the earlier blogger bash -- Charles G. Hill, Don Danz, and Dan Lovejoy -- and for the first time got to meet Dan's lovely wife and co-blogger Angi and their adorable and well-behaved three-year-old son Elijah. Charles kindly picked up the tab for me and Don, in consideration for traveling a relatively long distance to be there.

Before heading back, I took a brisk stroll around Bricktown, enjoying the perfect temperature and the cloudless skies. Don headed off to the Apple Store. (Tulsa doesn't have one yet.)

At the awards ceremony, I sat with Brian of Audience of One and his beloved Terri, Steph Waller, Lynette Erwin, and AKA Monty. I wasn't familiar with Steph or Lynette, but I had read read AKA Monty's blog on occasion and Brian's blog fairly regularly.

The highlight of the awards ceremony was seeing Charles win for Best Overall Blog and giving him a standing ovation. Given his decade of excellence in Internet publishing, the Okie Blog Awards trophy ought to be named in his honor. (Mark your calendars for next year's Chazzies.)

After that, some danced, some blogged, many drank, some did all three. (I blogged.)

I had been suffering from a strange shyness most of the day. I felt comfortable around the folks I knew, but awkward making small talk with people I was meeting for the first time. That's normally not a problem for me, and I meet new people all the time with the civic and political stuff I do. But Saturday, when I met someone new, I wanted to say, "Ah, would you excuse me for a moment while I read a few pages of your blog so I can hold an intelligent conversation with you?" I was embarrassed at the thought of asking a blogger a question to which, were I a faithful reader, I would know the answer. Eventually I got past that and had some good conversations.

The evening closed with a screening of the documentary Mozartballs, which featured Steph and Lynette, along with three other people who feel a special connection to Mozart. The Mozartballs of the title are the Echte Salzburg Mozartkugeln -- chocolate, marzipan, and praline candies which come individually wrapped in gold foil with a picture of Wolfie himself. The film has been shown on TV in Europe and at Cannes, and an expanded version will be released in the US this fall on DVD. I wouldn't be surprised if it pops up on the Bravo channel.

I stayed around to see the film mainly because, as the two big kids are both very interested in classical music and have studied Mozart's life and music in school, I wondered if it might be appropriate for my children to see. (It's not.)

I made it home about 1 a.m., tired, but glad to have made the trip and looking forward to the next one, hopefully with a bigger Tulsa presence.

Other bloggers review the round-up:

And here again are links to the official list of 2006 Okie Blog Award winners, the Flickr photo pool for the event, and videos of the event on YouTube. And Bill Bauer has photos and audio, too.

Blogger Roundup photos

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Charles G. Hill and Dr. Jan and Betsy of the Ugly Girls Club

No time to write much now (time to finish my column), but I'll point you to the Flickr photo pool for the 2006 Okie Blogger Roundup. Above, Charles G. Hill, winner of the 2006 Best Overall Blog award, is congratulated by his adoring fans, Dr. Jan and Betsy of the Ugly Girls Club.

Bloggers can dance?

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2006's best overall Okie blogger Charles G. Hill is at this moment on the dance floor with not one, not two, but three lovely ladies. (Pictures to follow later, assuming I don't find the cash-filled plain envelope in the previously arranged location.)

UPDATE: Because of the underpowered flash on my digital camera, Charles gets a reprieve. (And thanks for dinner, too, Charles.)

UPDATE (2): Don Danz's flash worked just fine.

UPDATE (3): There's video!

2006 Okie blog award winners

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Quickly dashed off on the Treo -- will add links later:

Corporate: Oklahoma Wine News
Inspirational: Counseling Notes
Commentary: Two-Headed Blog
Culture: Blog Oklahoma
Writing: Audience of One
Unusual: 3:40 am
Layout: Taste the World
Audio: Daily Bitch
Humor: Ramblings of a Redneck Diva
Family: Rocks in My Dryer
Political: Okie Funk
Overall: Dustbury

Congrats to all the winners, particularly to Charles G. Hill of Dustbury, who also received a much deserved standing ovation.

Okie Blogger Roundup is underway

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I came in late, but I'm here at the first ever Okie Blogger Roundup at the Bricktown Central Plaza Hotel. Sean Gleeson is the lecturer for the session on basic blogging. Dan Lovejoy is running the presentation laptop, and looking around the room I see nearly all the folks I met at the January 2005 Okie blogger bash: Jan the Happy Homemaker, Charles G. Hill, Don Danz, and Wild Bill. There are about 25 folks here now; I expect to see more for the advanced seminar and the awards ceremony and social hour later.

This is the originally submitted version of a story that was published on September 20, 2006, as my column in the September 21-27, 2006, edition of Urban Tulsa Weekly. The story as published can be found on the Internet Archive. Posted on BatesLine on March 23, 2016.

River reality
By Michael D. Bates

"We're trying to beat nature on this river, and we're going to lose."

For three years, Steve Smith ran airboat tours up and down the Arkansas River, from the 21st Street bridge to the Keystone Dam - the part of the river that would be most affected if The Channels plan for damming the river gets the green light. I recently spoke with him to get his perspective on the proposal.

To most Tulsans, the river is an abstraction, a half-mile wide strip of water and/or sand dividing West Tulsa from the rest of the city - the details don't matter. Most of us seem to think it would be a better river if it were a simple, homogenous body of water, more like a canal. To many Tulsans a sandbar on the river is as attractive and welcome as a zit on your nose on prom night.

During his three years on the river, Smith came to know every nook and cranny, every island, sandbar, and creek mouth. He discovered the variety of wildlife that makes a home in and near the river. Even when the flow is down to a trickle, the river is a lively place. Few Tulsans ever get close enough to see it.

The river bed provides habitat for the endangered least tern and many other types of waterfowl, along with small mammals, and the fish that make this stretch of the river an attractive wintering area for the bald eagle.

Smith says that the backers of The Channels ought to get in a canoe and see what will be covered up by their plan for a 12-mile-long lake, a lake where the natural banks would be replaced by a kind of seawall. Smith is unaware of any groups or individuals that use the river and know it - the rowing club, for example - that were consulted by Tulsa Stakeholders, Inc., before their big unveiling.

As it flows through Tulsa, the Arkansas is an old river. While young rivers are still cutting rock in the mountains, old rivers have finished their work of shaping the land, but they still have a contribution to make. The salt and silt that make the river murky are there to replenish the farmland along its banks by flooding it from time to time. That's how Bixby came to be such a fertile place for growing vegetables and sod. But our tendency is to hem the river in, to keep it from doing that work, so that the river is no longer a distributor of nutrients, but a receptacle for pollutants.

Smith says that there are ways to improve the river as a recreational resource while working with, not against, the river's natural tendencies. We need to work with the Corps of Engineers to reorient their upstream flow policies so that we see a more constant flow through Tulsa. Recreational use below the dam isn't currently a consideration in the Corps' management of Keystone Reservoir, but that can be changed. Similar accommodations have been made on similar stretches of Corps-regulated rivers elsewhere.

The river's flow can be directed and improved to create recreational opportunities. Wing dams, which extend only part of the way into the river, can be used to direct the flow of the river to scour out a central channel, which is also less prone to sediment build-up because of the faster current. Sand would build up behind the wing dams, which creating areas that could be used like many of our stormwater detention areas - recreation space during normal conditions, but open to carry flood waters when needed.

This kind of dam, used to create a very narrow waterway near the PSO plant at 31st Street on the west bank of the river, is responsible for the existence of the Tulsa Wave, considered to be the best kayaking spot between the Rockies and the Appalachians. A wider gap between wing dams in other parts of the river would provide a tamer current for the rest of us to enjoy.

But supposing The Channels dam is built and a lake created. Smith says there are public safety issues that our public officials don't seem to have considered. In cities along the ocean or the Intercoastal Waterway, they understand that you have to have equipment and trained personnel to deal with crimes, fires, and rescue situations on water. Tulsa's leaders have yet to count the cost.

If a high-rise apartment building on one of the islands catches fire, we'll need specially equipped fire rescue boats to put it out. If there's a problem at the Keystone Dam - think of the 1986 flood, where the dam was nearly overtopped - how quickly can the islands be evacuated?

Once we've got boaters on the river, we'll need law enforcement there, too. The Oklahoma Highway Patrol would have jurisdiction; is the OHP prepared to commit the resources of its Lake Patrol troop to this new lake?

The recent rescue of two teenagers from a sandbar near the Jenks Riverwalk demonstrates how unprepared we are to deal with the interaction between people and the river. As much as Jenks has touted its riverfront, the city doesn't have a boat that can handle rescues on the river. Jenks had to call the Tulsa Fire Department, and the TFD first sent a boat that wouldn't work in that depth of water. An hour later a second boat was able to complete the rescue.

Steve Smith has plenty of ideas for how to make the most of this river while respecting the Arkansas for what it is. Over the years he has taken local leaders on boat rides to try to help them see the possibilities that he sees. But it's hard for one ordinary person to get a hearing.

When he first started his airboat tours, Smith would hear one comment over and over again: "This is a brilliant idea, but who are you, and why are they letting you do this?"

That comment may capture one of Tulsa's besetting weaknesses. The ideas of ordinary Tulsans - homeowners, small business owners, students, young adults - ideas that have been sorted, sifted, filtered, and organized in the form of plans for improving our neighborhoods, our downtown, and our river - these ideas are in danger of being set aside because someone with a lot of money, a famous name, and a PR firm has come along with his own plan.

We're told that these islands will give Tulsa the kind of excitement that will "leapfrog" us past competing cities. But Tulsa will never be a hospitable place for risk-takers and entrepreneurs, and thus won't draw the talented, creative people that will make Tulsa a place of energy and excitement, as long as who you are matters more than what you have to offer.

Please, Tulsans, do not click on this link. You might come away with the impression that there are already cool and fun things to do in Tulsa for trendy young adults. And then you might not believe that we are desperately in need of spending another $600 million in tax money to make Tulsa cool enough to attract young adults.

Avital Binshtock and Jen Haft have obviously led a sheltered existence living in Los Angeles and driving around the western U. S., because they were too easily impressed by Tulsa's Blue Dome District:

We didn't know a thing about Tulsa, except that it existed. What we found was a town clearly on the rise; industrial-chic brick buildings encased galleries, shops and restaurants worthy of any major arts-concerned metropolis. But the vibe here, hipness and good taste notwithstanding, is unmistakably small-town. Tulsans could easily qualify as our nation's friendliest people.

Come back in six years when we have islands -- islands, do you hear me?!? -- in the middle of the Arkansas River. Then you'll have something a young hipster could write home about. A busy pub with a long list of imported beers and live music, a chic new home furnishings shop, and a Cuban art exhibit at a gallery housed in an old bordello -- every podunk town has that sort of thing.

</sarcasm>

Ron Turner's last dig

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It was just days before he would be replaced on the Tulsa Airport Improvements Trust (TAIT) and Tulsa Airport Authority (TAA), having been rejected behind the scenes by the City Council for reappointment to another term. Nevertheless, at the board's meeting last Thursday, September 14, lame-duck Ron Turner jumped right in to nominate Meredith Siegfried for another year as TAA chairman, breaking the precedent of rotating the chairmanship. Not only did he make the nomination, but he cast the deciding vote. Although he wasn't legally obliged to abstain, it would have been decent and honorable to allow his replacement, Dewey Bartlett, Jr., to participate in the selection of a new chairman.

Siegfried, as chairman, seconded her own nomination.

Siegfried and Turner are both Nordam board members and have tended to vote in lockstep on TAA and TAIT. Perhaps, by keeping her in the chairmanship, Turner figures he can keep a hand in running the city's airports.

Not only is it a breach of precedent, it's a bit presumptuous to appoint Siegfried to a year as chairman when her TAA/TAIT term expires midway through her term as chairman. There's no guarantee that the Mayor will reappoint her or that the Council will confirm her.

The nominations were approved by a 3-2 vote, with Don Himelfarb from the Mayor's office casting a vote in favor. Himelfarb was attending his first TAA/TAIT meeting and acknowledged, in response to Siegfried's question that the Mayor had not given him any direction regarding the selection of a new chairman. Nevertheless, he voted. It's not clear whether he was there as a formal proxy for the Mayor, and therefore entitled to vote on her behalf, or just present as her eyes and ears.

(Where was Mayor Kathy Taylor? There's a rumor that she was out of the country -- in Paris with her husband. If she was running the city long-distance, it might also explain why she was caught flat-footed by the controversy over police pay.)

David Schuttler has posted the meeting video at Google -- you can find via this entry on his site. The vote on officers for 2006-7 occurs within the first eight minutes.

The Tulsa Police Department has had a blog for a few months now, but they've recently added a new blogger.

Casey Mankin is one of twenty recruits in the current TPD Academy. Mankin, 32, is a C-130 pilot in the Oklahoma National Guard. He's married, and they're expecting their first baby in January. He began blogging his experiences starting with his orientation back in June.

Mankin's blog entries are collected in the "Academy Life" category of the TPD blog.

Other recent TPD blog entries of note:

A Bryant Park for Tulsa?

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I enthused about New York City's Bryant Park during my trip to the Republican National Convention. It sits between 42nd Street and 40th Street, east of 6th Avenue, occupying the west half of the superblock that also is home to the New York Public Library. It's about eight acres in size.

It's a nice mix of green space and human activity. Here is a list of amenities you'll find in Bryant Park:

  • An upscale grill (open year-round) and a seasonal outdoor cafe on the east end of the park
  • Four food kiosks on the west end of the park: coffee and breakfast items, ice cream (plus hot chocolate and cider in the winter), sandwiches, and soups and salads
  • A flower kiosk
  • A carousel
  • A reading room -- connected with the library system, an assortment of books, magazines, and newspapers for reading there, not for checking out
  • An area where you can rent chess and backgammon sets and find an opponent
  • A court for bocce-like game called pétanque
  • Free wireless internet throughout the park
  • Chairs you can move around the lawn and terraces as you please
  • Clean, safe, frequently monitored restrooms

The park was considered a lost cause in the late '70s, but an effort began to reclaim and restore the park. A non-profit organization is responsible for maintaining the park and maintaining order. Revenue from the restaurants and kiosks helps to fund the personnel to keep the park in good shape, but volunteers play a role as well.

This kind of collection of amenities might be a good fit for the eastern shore of the river between the 11th and 21st Street bridges, extending the existing node of activity around the River's Edge Cafe at Riverside and Denver. The INCOG river plan puts more intensive commercial uses on the west bank, but there is supposed to be a promenade along this stretch of the east bank. A sprinkling of commercial kiosks here would not overwhelm the park or the adjacent neighborhood.

And the adjacent neighborhood is what makes this section of River Parks the best choice for this kind of place. There is a high concentration of people within a 10- to 15-minute walk, thanks to the presence of several high-rise apartment buildings, many other condo and apartment complexes, and many single-family homes. The area is on the upswing.

Unlike Bryant Park, this area isn't in the heart of a busy commercial district, and 20,000 visitors a day is probably too much to hope for, so the mix of amenities should be somewhat different. Like Bryant Park, this park should have free WiFi, some food kiosks, well-maintained restrooms, movable chairs, a reading room, and tables for playing games. There ought to be a couple of places to rent bicycles and rollerblades, and some place where you can buy sunscreen and bug spray in case you forgot yours at home. A carousel would be a summer-evening attraction, perhaps along with one or two other small, relatively quiet kiddie rides. One of the kiosks ought to be a coffee house -- preferably one that's independent and locally-owned.

I think it could be a very successful public space. What do you think?

There's a map that shows the City of Tulsa divided into drainage basins, named after creeks that carry stormwater runoff to the rivers. It's interesting because it also illustrates where the city's ridges and high points are, such as the major divide between the part of the city that drains directly into the Arkansas River (via Crow, Joe, Haikey, Fred Creeks, among others) and the part that drains into the Verdigris (via Mingo, Bird, and Spunky Creeks, among others).

I've seen these maps at the State Fair and at neighborhood meetings, but I've never been able to find it online. Can anyone point me to a digital copy?

Money for that police raise

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Mayor Kathy Taylor is busy trying to wash her hands of any tough decision-making on giving Tulsa police officers the raise that the arbitrator says they deserve. In the Tulsa Whirled today she's quoted as saying:

"So far, I'm pretty disappointed that the police haven't come to help me develop a solution to this problem," the mayor said. "We need to work as a team to figure it out."

She said the "easiest thing would be to accept the raise and not figure out how to pay for it long term, but that is not the fiscally responsible thing to do."

Taylor said she has asked Police Chief Dave Been and the FOP leadership to provide information by Sept. 1 on how to pay for their raise, but hasn't gotten a detailed analysis. She said she plans to call on them again.

"This shouldn't just be up to the mayor to figure out when the FOP and the chief are running the Police Department," she said.

It's hard not to hear a peevish, passive-aggressive tone in that comment.

It's the Mayor's job, as head of the City's executive branch, to allocate the City's financial resources to fit our priorities and meet our obligations. She has a finance department to help her with that task. She's already punted once on serious budget work this year, opting for a utility rate increase instead of limiting the growth of the city budget to the rate of inflation.

A couple of people have suggested a source of funds worth considering: The money currently used to pay the Tulsa Metro Chamber for convention and tourism promotion and economic development. Not all of the money, mind you, just the additional percentage of the hotel/motel tax that the Chamber has been granted every year since the late '80s.

It is reasonable to argue that nothing is more important to Tulsa's ability to attract conventions, tourists, and new businesses, and to retain existing businesses and attract the labor pool they need to grow and thrive, than to get violent crime in Tulsa under control. And to do that we need to retain our best police officers and attract high-quality additions to the force.

I'm pleased to see that four of the City Councilors are backing the raise. It seems to me that the Council could on its own initiative pass a budget amendment to make the funds available for the raise, then appropriate the funds. If the Mayor approves the budget amendment and appropriation, the raise would go in without the need for an election. The election would only go forward if the Mayor vetoed the raise.

Rescuing a Gypsy

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I get weary of hearing people who are smart enough to know better to talk about buildings and neighborhoods as too far gone to be worth any effort or investment. Someone was lobbying me about $788 million plan to build islands in the Arkansas River, and I countered by saying we could do more to rebuild a lively urban center in Tulsa by implementing the 6th Street (Pearl District) plan. About $35 million is needed to deal with stormwater problems in the Elm Creek basin, so that rehabilitation and quality infill development can occur in this strategic area between downtown, TU, and Hillcrest Hospital. Part of the plan is a canal along 7th Street connecting a stormwater reservoir southeast of 7th & Rockford with the new lake at Centennial Park.

But this person who was waxing enthusiastic about The Channels could only say, "That's a terrible neighborhood." He could imagine building three islands in the middle of the river out of nothing, but he couldn't look at an existing neighborhood and imagine the possibilities.

As an exercise in expanding your imagination, take a look at the before and after pictures of the Gypsy Coffee House, at 303 N. Cincinnati in downtown Tulsa.

Six short years ago the offices of the Gypsy Oil Company had been boarded up for a quarter of a century. The building sat with no water, heat, cooling, or power, and the roof had leaked for 20 years or more.

Today, the Gypsy Coffee House is open 'til late every night, has good coffee, good food, free WiFi, and a nice atmosphere. The second floor has been redone as a salon.

Someone had the imagination to look at that decrepit old building and to see what it could be, rather than what it was. Tulsa needs more people with that kind of imagination, the imagination to take the good things we already have and make them better.

TRACKBACK: Charles G. Hill comments:

We do need the big guys with the vast visions; but we need folks like Mr Garcia, devoted to the smaller things, just as much.

(One of these days I'll have real trackback working again.)

They told you so

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Those meddlesome City Councilors told us that these members of the Tulsa Metropolitan Utility Authority (TMUA), Messrs. Cameron and Reynolds, were arrogant and uncooperative. They declined to support their reappointment to this authority which controls Tulsa's water system, and whose policy decisions affect the future growth of Tulsa and its suburbs.

In July 2004, as these two men were up for reappointment, the Council had questions about the policy of the TMUA for prioritizing the extension of water lines to unserved parts of the city ahead of extending new lines to the suburbs. Rather than respect the Council's concerns and delay any significant decisions until the issue could be addressed, the TMUA voted the next day to extend a new water line to Bixby. That action was an expression of the TMUA's high-handed contempt for our elected representatives on the City Council.

The Council responded with the only tool they have for keeping authorities, boards, and commissions in line with the will of the public. Five councilors -- Henderson, Mautino, Medlock, Roop, and Turner -- voted against both of them. Their action drew howls of outrage from the Mayor's office, the suburban development industry, and the Tulsa Whirled. Two of the five were targeted for recall. Medlock was specifically told that if he approved the reappointment of Cameron and Reynolds and new water lines to Owasso, the recall effort would be dropped.

After months of lobbying and pressure, Sam Roop flipped his vote, going back on a signed commitment not to support the reappointment of Cameron and Reynolds under any circumstances. Shortly thereafter, Roop was appointed to a high-level position in Mayor Bill LaFortune's administration. Cameron and Reynolds were back in for another three-year term.

Saturday's Whirled had a story about Mayor Kathy Taylor's concerns about the TMUA. Decisions about the board's lobbyists and attorneys were made without consulting the board. She was left out of the loop on the change in lobbyists. One TMUA member, Richard Sevenoaks, has been excluded from membership on any of the TMUA's three committees. (The board has only seven members.)

If I'm not mistaken, Cameron and Reynolds should be up for reappointment next year. The Mayor should replace these two with board members who will look after the City of Tulsa's best interests first, who will be deferential to policies set by the city's elected officials, and who will not regard the TMUA as their personal fiefdom.

And sometime soon, the Tulsa Whirled, among others, should apologize to Henderson, Mautino, Medlock, and Turner for all the nasty things the paper wrote about them for opposing the reappointment of these two board members.

UPDATE: Tultellitarian has given Cameron and Reynolds the GOBble award.

Joel Blain emails to tell me about an amazing archival find. Oklahoma historian Currie Ballard has found 33 cans of motion picture film documenting life in the African-American community in Oklahoma in the 1920s. The American Heritage Places website has a page with information about the discovery and a few short clips:

The film shows them thriving in the years after the infamous Tulsa Riot of 1921, in which white mobs destroyed that city's historic black Greenwood district, which was known as the Black Wall Street of America. Through the flickering eloquence of silent film we see a people resilient beyond anyone's imagining, visiting one another's country homes, parading through downtown Muskogee in some two dozen Packards, crowding an enormous church in Tulsa not long after the riots, during a gathering of the National Baptist Convention.

Indeed, this extraordinary archive exists because someone at the powerful National Baptist Convention assigned the Rev. S. S. Jones, a circuit preacher, to document the glories of Oklahoma's black towns, Guthrie, Muskogee, and Langston. Reverend Jones surely has a way with a camera as he comes in close on the animated faces of his neighbors, sweeps wide to track black cowboys racing across a swath of ranch land, or vertically pans up the skyscraper-high oil derricks owned by the Ragsdale family, whose wells produced as much as a thousand barrels a day. We know the names of these families and others because typed labels accompany each of the eight-minute cans, and onscreen titles introduce the various segments.

But this treasure trove of film is at risk, and Currie Ballard needs help in preserving it:

Ballard admits that he mortgaged his life away when the opportunity arose to acquire this treasure. Now he's hoping to find an appropriate institution to take it over and transfer the highly unstable film to disk, a costly operation. He wants the world to view this material, to make people aware that only 60 years after emancipation, and in the shadow of one of the nation's most violent and destructive race riots, these people persevered and built anew. Perhaps someone out there, watching this, right now, will take the lead.

For more information contact Wyatt Houston Day, a bookseller and archivist who has been working with Currie Ballard. He's at whdbook@erols.com.

If you can help, or know someone who can, get in touch.

UPDATE 2017/07/03: The film archive rescued by Ballard is now part of the Yale University Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library. The Solomon Sir Jones Films, 1924-1928, are available for viewing online.

"Urban Husbandry" or island wizardry?

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This week's column in Urban Tulsa Weekly is about The Channels proposal to dam the Arkansas River and build three islands in the middle of it, at a cost to the taxpayers of $600 million. I suggest that the $100 million in private funds could be used more effectively using Roberta Brandes Gratz's "Urban Husbandry" strategy -- identifying positive signs of urban life and building on those, rather than trying to create something out of nothing with one big Project Plan.

And over on The Voice of Tulsa forum, I've posted another topic related to river development: When you say you want river development, what exactly are you after? You're invited to click the link and speak your mind.

Tulsa City Council Weekly Bulletins

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Every week, Tulsa's City Councilors receive a bulletin with a list of upcoming city and county board and commission meetings, with hotlinks to the agendas for each, plus links to other news and articles worthy of our councilors' attention. The current weekly bulletin and an archive of back issues are available on the City Council website.

Of note in the latest issue: A 1950s photo of 71st and Memorial, back when it was a county road intersection, and a summary of the latest population trends. Metro area population grew 7% from 2004 to 2005, but the City of Tulsa lost 2.4%, dropping down to 370,447.

BatesLine has saluted the paintings of William Bouguereau on several occasions in the past, so I was excited to read in the latest Urban Tulsa Weekly that Tulsa's Philbrook Museum is hosting an exhibition of Bouguereau's work and that of his students, beginning on Sunday and running through the end of the year.

Holly Wall's story about the exhibition puts Bouguereau's life and career in the context of the artistic trends of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Popular in his lifetime, his work was obscured within a few years after his death by the rise of impressionism. At long last it's respectable again to enjoy realism in painting.

Grab your partner and truck on down

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I've seen a clip of this on the web, but here's the whole thing. A Snader Transcription of Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys from 1951, performing "Ida Red": Joe Andrews on vocals, Joe Frank Ferguson on bass, Cotton Whittington on standard guitar (a lefty), Joe Holley on fiddle (another lefty!), Skeeter Elkin on piano, Bobby Koefer on steel guitar, Ocie Stockard on banjo, and Bob Wills opening and ending the song on fiddle.

(Via Squeezytunes.)

Here's another one, from the 1940 movie, "Take Me Back to Oklahoma." That's Tex Ritter driving the stagecoach, Bob Wills to his right. Behind Tex is Eldon Shamblin on guitar, and behind Bob is steel guitar star Leon McAuliffe, who sings lead on the verse.

OK, one more -- from the same movie, "Lone Star Rag." Leon plays his lap steel guitar on this one:

You can download the whole movie -- it's in the public domain -- at the Internet Archive.

Allen retch

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James Webb, the Democrat challenging U. S. Senator George Allen of Virginia, wrote an article in the November 1979 issue of The Washingtonian magazine, called "Women Can't Fight." A graduate of the U. S. Naval Academy, he served four years in combat in Vietnam. The article argues against women at the military academies, on the grounds that the academies exist to train combat leaders, and women do not belong in combat:

Lest I be understood too quickly, I should say that I believe most of what has happened over the past decade in the name of sexual equality has been good. It is good to see women doctors and lawyers and executives. I can visualize a woman President. If I were British, I would have supported Margaret Thatcher. But no benefit to anyone can come from women serving in combat.

The function of combat is not merely to perpetrate violence, but to perpetrate violence on command, instantaneously, reflexively. The function of the service academies is to prepare men for leadership positions where they may someday exercise that command. All of the other accomplishments that Naval Academy or West Point or Air Force Academy graduates may claim in government or business or diplomacy are incidental to that clearly defined combat mission.

An entry on George Allen's newly-minted blog cites this article as part of Webb's "legacy of misogyny."

Did I miss something? Since when is it the conservative position to support women in combat? Since when do conservatives consider it misogynistic to recognize that in certain spheres of life there ought to be differences in the roles played by men and women?

I do want Allen to be re-elected, because I want the Republicans to retain control of the U. S. Senate and of its committees. And I'm not endorsing everything Webb said in the article and certainly not endorsing the other comments quote by Allen, or Webb's position on Iraq, but it's wrong for a Republican candidate to trash a conservative position on an issue for the sake of political advantage.

This seems to be another example where alleged conservatives are trying to run to the left of liberal candidates who happen to be conservative (or have been conservative in the past) on a certain issue, probably because they see the conservative position as out of step with the media. In Britain, the new Conservative Party leader, David Cameron, is running to the left of Tony Blair's position on the global war on terror.

Allen is said to be a leading candidate for president in '08. If this is any indication of the stuff he's made of, I'm not impressed.

RNC boosts RINO to victory

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So you have a Republican U. S. Senator who is facing a challenge from another Republican. The senator is out of step with the Republican party platform in every respect -- on social issues, fiscal issues, national defense, and foreign policy.

But, you say, the senator is a loyal Republican. If he backs the President, a Republican, and supports the Republican leadership in the Senate, surely that loyalty, that reliable vote, can compensate for ideological differences. It might, but this guy isn't loyal. He didn't vote for the President's re-election, and he's actively working to block the President's nominee to be UN ambassador.

But instead of treating this Republican in Name Only as an outcast, instead of backing a primary challenger who will be in step with the platform and cooperative with his fellow Republicans in government, the Republican National Committee mobilized its forces to prop up the RINO. The RNC paid for party interns to fly in and campaign for the RINO incumbent. The RNC mobilized the 72-hour task force -- the strategy designed to boost turnout and defeat Democrats in the general election -- but this time it was used to prop up the RINO incumbent.

The RNC succeeded in propping up RINO incumbent Sen. Lincoln Chafee and defeating conservative Cranston, R.I., mayor Steve Laffey by about 4,000 votes.

This is nothing new, just one more reason I urge you not to give money to the RNC, the NRSC, or the NRCC. If you want to help real conservative Republicans to win office, you should contribute directly to the campaigns of those real conservative Republicans.

Part of the problem, as I noted back during the 2004 Republican National Convention, is that the Republican National Committee -- the board of directors for the national party organization -- is structured to overrepresent small states with small, ineffective state Republican organizations. The big and growing Sunbelt states where Republicans have gained dominance are underrepresented. Every state (and each of several U. S. territories) has three votes on the RNC -- the state chairman, the national committeeman, and the national committeewoman.

Even so, there are still more red states than blue states, and if the national committee members from the conservative states banded together, they could stop the inappropriate actions that the RNC staff took in a primary in support of a RINO.

But for that to happen, grassroots conservative Republicans in those red states have to be sure their RNC members are conservative. And that those RNC members are willing to rock the boat, to come together in a coalition and to stop the RNC staff from putting its resources into a primary in support of a RINO.

The fact that there was no outcry from the RNC members, that no heads have rolled at the RNC, ought to tell every grassroots activist that he needs to pay closer attention to his state's national committee members. Are they not paying attention? Are they not conservative? Is it time to replace them?

RELATED: Scott Sala urged New York Republicans to take advantage of the rare opportunity to vote today in a primary. Party rules in New York encourage nominees to be chosen behind closed doors and anointed at conventions. Contested primaries are rare, but this year there was one in the race to challenge Hillary Clinton for re-election to the U. S. Senate.

Karate and war

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You need to read Dan Paden's latest entry, Karate Ni Sente Nashi. The phrase means, "There is no first attack in karate," but it's a phrase that is easily misunderstood. Dan uses an anecdote about two karate brown belts to illustrate what it means to recognize and respond to the first attack, whether in self-defense or national defense.

It's been on my mind all day, but I'm only just now getting the chance to sit down and collect my thoughts about the events of September 11, 2001.


Hot Air has clips of CNN's coverage from the morning of 9/11. There's something about seeing a repeat of the live news coverage -- it strips away the 20/20 hindsight and lets us remember the confusion and shock of the moment.

The third clip on that page deserves your attention, especially if you've been hearing the wild claim that no plane hit the Pentagon. It features a phone interview with a pilot who had a view of the Pentagon crash from his high-rise Arlington apartment building. Later in the same clip, CNN reporter Jamie McIntyre describes the debris on the scene. These are contemporaneous eyewitness accounts of the crash and its aftermath.


I watched the beginning of ABC's "The Path to 9/11" last night, up through the explosion of Ramzi Yousef's lab in Manila. Very powerful, very well organized and presented -- it reminded me of Ron Howard's Apollo 13 in that regard. I don't normally get riled up watching TV -- it's a "cool" medium, after all -- but the opening sequence showing the terrorists checking in for their flights and going through security made my blood boil.

I can't be the only Oklahoman who was struck by several things in the section about the 1993 World Trade Center bombing: the rented Ryder truck, the type of explosive used, and the central clue, the discovery of a bit of the frame showing the vehicle identification number of the otherwise vaporized truck. The Oklahoma City bombers also filled a rented Ryder truck with a fertiliser and fuel oil bomb, and it was a piece of the axle that allowed law enforcement to track the truck back to a rental location in Junction City, Kansas.


Two years ago I wrote about one of the victims of the 9/11 attack, Jayesh Shah. Jay was a native of India, but he and his younger brother Niloy went to Memorial High School and then on to the University of Tulsa. I met the Shah brothers through Hal O'Halloran's "Sports Night" talk show on KXXO 1300, sometime around 1979 or 1980. They were fierce competitors in Hal's weekly trivia contests. I remember Jay as the quieter of the two, but he had a mischievous streak. In the late '80s, post-college, the two brothers made a number of trips with others in our circle of friends to play blackjack in Las Vegas. Both brothers wound up in Houston with their families, working for Amoco. I'd see them on holiday visits to Tulsa.

When I heard that the World Trade Center towers had been hit and then that they had collapsed, I had no idea that I knew anyone who might have been in there. It was only later that day that I learned that six months earlier, Jay had left Houston to take an executive position with a division of Cantor Fitzgerald. His office was in the north tower, on the 103rd floor. Niloy had tried to call Jay as usual that morning, but hadn't been able to reach him. Niloy and family left Houston for to New York as quickly as they could and began days of searching for Jay, hoping that somehow he had made it out. I remember scanning survivor's lists online and the moment of false hope when someone with the same name turned up on one of them -- but it wasn't him. (Here is a note that was sent out sometime around September 20, 2001, about the status of the search for Jayesh and plans for a prayer service.)

As part of a worldwide effort to remember the victims of the attack as individuals, not just a number, nearly 3,000 bloggers are each remembering one of them. Judge William of Right Indignation has posted this rememberance of Jayesh Shah.

Bing Thom iddle-eye-po?*

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Anyone else think it's curious that Bing Thom, the architect/urban design consultant consulted by Tulsa Stakeholders, Inc., in the development of "The Channels" plan, hasn't been heard from in connection with last week's unveiling or since?

For something like this, it's typical to parade the designer around town and make him available for interviews and a press conference. For example, Cesar Pelli came to Tulsa to promote his design for the new downtown arena. Why do you suppose that sort of thing hasn't happened for this project?

Has this become an Alan Smithee project?

* Sorry for the title, but I've been listening to The Goon Show rather a lot lately, and the architect's name fits nicely into a novelty song and catch phrase of theirs.

Just received, over the transom, a copy of the weekly report of Rodney Ray, City Manager for Owasso, to the Mayor and City Council of the City of Owasso, dated September 1, 2006. Here is an excerpt:

TULSA CHANNELS PROJECT:

The long rumored Tulsa River Project, championed by the Warren Foundation, has been announced by a story in the Tulsa World. Mayor Cataudella and I recently met with the projects proponents for a discussion of the project (meetings were held with all Tulsa County Mayors and City Mangers). The project is ambitious and uses about $500 to $600 million dollars in public funding as a basis for construction of the necessary infrastructure (an additional $500 to $700 million dollars of private investment in office building, residential space, and retail is planned in addition to the initial investment). The proposed initial funding for the project consists of a private-public sector partnership of which $100 million dollars would come from private donors and approximately $500 million dollars from a proposed 4/10th of a penny sales tax that Tulsa County voters would be asked to approve.

As this proposal is more fully discussed, there are several issues that will become the focus of those discussions. Those issues are predicted to be: 1) Corps of Engineers participation and permitting (it appears that the Corps input to date is minimal, but a briefing with Corps officials is scheduled for next week), 2) Coordination of the three separate River Planning Projects currently underway (the study funded by a ten million dollar gift from George Kaiser, the Vision 2025 River Masterplan done by INCOG, and the Warren Foundation Planning Project), 3) River flow issues on the Arkansas River as they will affect navigations, 4) A substantial amount of the project funded through sales tax; and, 5) the economic impact of Tulsa and regional communities.

There will be numerous meetings, thousands of dollars paid to consultants, and tons of paperwork generated over the next few months; but, the final decision will be left to the voters. The projects proponents want the County Commission to call for a special election in December to decide the public funding question. However, others are counseling the County Commission against calling such an election before critical decisions can be made regarding fundamental development issues. It should be noted, that if the County Commission decides to call for a December sales tax election, that action would have to be taken in an October Commission meeting (only giving the Commission the month of September to have basic questions and concerns addressed).

As the discussion relating to this proposal develops, I will keep you informed.

Yet Another Small Town Moment

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In acknowledging his own nomination for an Okie Blog Award, Ron of Route 66 News called attention to a worthy but overlooked Oklahoma-based blog:

Regrettably, I didnt find out about the nominating process until late, and forgot to do anything about it. If I had, I would have nominated my favorite Oklahoma-based blog, Yet Another Small Town Moment, which isnt one of the nominees.

The premise by OKDads blog is this: Moving from Los Angeles to a small, rural town in Oklahoma has proven to be an interesting experience for my family and me. His observations about the Sooner State are wry, affectionate and even touching.

This is how good of a blog it is: The first time I encountered it, I went to the archives and read every entry. I havent done that with a blog before or since.

It is as good as all that. It's fascinating to see your home state through the eyes of someone who is experiencing it for the first time, the good and the bad alike, but mostly the good. Semi-regular features of the blog include comments on items in the small town's paper and the "Stay-at-Home-Dad Knowledge Base".

Worth a regular spot on your tour de blogosphere.

Blogger party NYC

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I'll be here in Tulsa, a couple thousand miles away, but Karol said to spread the word, so just in case someone reading this is likely to be in or near Manhattan this weekend:

***BLOGGER PARTY NYC***

It's on, baby. Are you a blogger? Do you read blogs? Everyone is invited.

I'm not sending out an evite like I've done in the past because inevitably I forget to include people on it and feelings get hurt. So, fellow bloggers, please post a note about the party on your site and invite anyone that wants to attend. If at all possible, leave a comment here letting me know you'll be attending so I can give the bar a semi-accurate count. I will keep bumping this post until the day of the party.

This is not just for political bloggers but since I'm the one organizing it it's likely that political bloggers, particularly the right-leaning kind, will be heavily represented. If you feel you won't be able to maintain composure if outnumbered by non-liberals, this event is probably not for you.

The deets:

WHERE: Mica Bar, 252 E 51st St, between Second and Third Avenues.

WHEN: Saturday, September 9th, 8:30pm.

See y'all there.

Leave a comment at Alarming News if you plan to attend.

Back during the 2004 Republican National Convention at a similar event, I met Karol and a number of the bloggers who are likely to be at this shindig, and a higher concentration of bright, witty, interesting people you are not likely to find, at least not until the Okie Blogger Round-Up on September 23 in Oklahoma City.

(Note to Karol and Jessica: Oklahoma City has 24-hour Wal-Marts and eeevil energy companies, just like Dallas. And we have casinos in Oklahoma, too, but Dawn already knows about those.)

The Channels

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Over at The Voice of Tulsa forum, I've just posted a topic to gather reaction to the unveiling of The Channels, the $700 million plan to dam the Arkansas River. Head over there, read my brief take on the topic, and weigh in with your comments.

UPDATE: Chris Medlock was at the unveiling and reports that there's no point in trying to change "The Channels." The project is already in "educate" and "persuade" mode. He says that there were twice as many negative questions from the assembled multitude as positive.

In earlier entries, Chris correctly read the portents and omens of County Commissioner Randi "Ado Annie" Miller wading in the Arkansas River for a Tulsa Whirled photo and had some reliable inside info on the proposal ahead of the Whirled's "scoop".

David Schuttler asks "Are you willing to give up this view?" and he offers some video from the Mayoral campaign, reminding us of what Kathy Taylor and Randi Miller said about taxes and the river when they were seeking our votes.

Paul Romine asks if this is welfare for the wealthy:

Here's an idea, spend your own money! quit soaking the population for you little whims, you got your arena, and we are going to pay for it in more ways than one, the river is not for you to hijack, like you hijacked "the people's vision".

And finally, here's the official website for The Channels. Not much substance yet, but there is this from today's press release:

Estimated to require $600 million in some form of public financing, the group committed to raise $100 million as a gift from the private sector to the Tulsa region. Through the sale of energy created by the projects hydrodam and other renewable energies, an additional $88 million dollars can be financed, for a total of $788 million.

$600 million is about 20 years of a 0.4% county sales tax -- I'm assuming that they will go after the sales tax that was approved for Boeing's 7E7 plant, but which never went into effect.

Rather than have you wait for me to moderate your comments, you'll find an environment more conducive to give and take at The Voice of Tulsa -- post your comments there. Registration is free and easy.

AND MORE: Chris Medlock counts the skyscrapers in the Channels marketing video and wonders about the market viability of all that new space.

Fifth anniversary as Americans

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Sometime ago, via comments on another blog, I came across Nihilo, a blog by a couple, former Tulsans who now live in Alabama, who have 11 children from five different countries. Five years ago this month they adopted three older Russian siblings, a girl and two boys.

In honor of the fifth anniversary, the mom has published her recollections of the adoption process and the trip to Russia, and each of the three children (Jennifer, Sergei, and Zhenya) have written their own thoughts, how they came to be in an orphanage, what life in the orphanage was like, and the adoption process from their perspective. These are touching stories, reminders of the blessings of family and America.

Part of the story is about the experience of Americans traveling to Russia soon after the 9/11 terrorist attack:

Everywhere we went, the Russian people were compassionate towards us. In the open air market, vendors gave us discounts we did not ask for, simply because we were Americans and they felt badly for what had just happened in our country....

While we were riding on the [Moscow] subway with our translator, a Russian woman began talking to her and asking questions about us. When she reached her stop she gave a package she had been carrying to our translator and hurried on to her destination. Tatia would not talk about what the package held until we subsequently reached our own stop. At that point she told us that the woman had been so touched by the story of our adoption that she had given us a loaf of bread that she had been given for her own birthday. Anyone who knows even a little about the Russian culture knows how much they love their breads! And this one was an exceptional example of their fancy, sweet breads. It was made all the more sweet as we thanked God for this generous woman and prayed that He would bless her in return for the gift she shared with us.

All she wants for Christmas

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In honor of my six year old, who lost one front tooth on Sunday and the other today, the Spike Jones classic:

Okie Blog Awards voting is underway

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Mike Hermes of Okiedoke has posted the nominations for the 2006 Okie Blog Awards. Voting is open until September 20.

My thanks to whomever nominated me for best overall blog and best political blog.

This is going to be a tough choice. Many of the nominated bloggers are friends (and one is a cousin). The easiest thing would be to vote for the blogs I nominated, but I will take the opportunity to have a look at each nominated blog. Whether you're an active Okie blogger (and therefore eligible to vote) or not, I encourage you to explore the list of nominees, too.

Last out in Little Rock

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End of an era: Today was the final minor league ballgame at Ray Winder Field in Little Rock. The Arkansas Travelers beat the Springfield Cardinals 7-3. Next year the Arkansas Travelers will play at a new ballpark in North Little Rock. The Democrat-Gazette had two front-page stories (online, but subscriber-only) -- an interview with a fan who had been at the park's opening day in 1932, and a story about possible futures for the stadium. Options include leaving the playing field, but converting part of the stands to office space, and demolishing the whole thing to make way for expansion of the neighboring zoo.

Here are links to memories of the park and reports on the final game:

Harry King of the Morning News remembers the Travelers of the '50s and '60s.

KATV talks to some of the 8,000 fans at the final game.

Video of fans at the final game, and a chat with the organist (a real organist sitting at a real organ -- a rarity these days).

I only attended one game there, back in 1991. I drove down from Tulsa and met my friend Rick Koontz, who flew American Airlines non-rev from DFW. In '88 Rick and I had done a "rust belt tour" of five midwestern major league parks -- Wrigley, Comiskey, Tiger Stadium, Cleveland Municipal, and Riverfront.

Before the game we visited the State Capitol. There he was across the room, big as life, chatting up and getting photographed with a female tourist -- potential presidential candidate Gov. Slick Willie his own self. To this day, I regret not having gone over to ask, "Confidentially, Governor, where can a fella go for a good time in this town?" I feel sure he would have been a fount of useful information in that regard.

Details are fuzzy after 15 years, but I am pretty sure that what we saw was a legendary Saturday night double-header against the Shreveport Captains. For years, the Travs never played at home on Sunday, but would always play two the night before instead. I seem to recall that this had to do with the financial implications of not being allowed to sell beer on a hot summer Sunday afternoon.

As we arrived, we noticed "shaggers" waiting in the parking lot for foul balls during batting practice, just like at Driller Stadium in Tulsa. (Note to British readers: Retrieving a ball that has gone astray is a possible meaning of the verb "shag" in the USA.)

At the time, Shreveport was a Giants affiliate and the Travs were a Cardinals team, and in the minors when two National League affiliates played each other, they did so without a designated hitter.

The seats were very close to the field. I remember that the diamond was a couple of inches higher than foul territory, which must have been tricky to handle.

I would rank the experience at Ray Winder Field up there with an evening at Durham Athletic Park, the old home of the Bulls. Nothing fancy about it -- just baseball, an evening breeze, the sound of the organ, a Coke, a pretzel, and a scorecard.

MORE: A couple of columns about Ray Winder Field from Paul Greenberg (another one of my favorite things about Little Rock) -- Opening Day 2005 and Opening Day 2002.

To someone who will not read this

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but who had, I hope, a happy day none the less.

Once you were two, dear birthday friend,
In spite of purple weather.
But now you are three and near the end
As we grewsome together.

How fourthful thou, forsooth for you,
For soon you will be more.
But 'fore one can be three be two;
Before be five be four.

-- Walt Kelly

And, no, it isn't supposed to make sense. It's just ol' Walt playing with words.

(From a collection of Walt Kelly's poetry at Language Hat.)

Show and kvell: Music scholarship

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Last week we learned that our 10-year-old son has been awarded a scholarship for the Barthelmes Conservatory Music School. The school, based in 1st Presbyterian Church's Bernsen Center, takes students with an aptitude for music and provides them with lessons in music theory private instruction in an instrument, twice a week after school. Everyone accepted into the Music School program is granted a full scholarship. He plans to learn violin.

He's excited and so are we, but it's going to be a busy school year, as he'll continue two other nights a week with Tulsa Boy Singers rehearsals.

(By the way, Tulsa Boy Singers is still looking for more singers, and there's an added incentive to joining now -- a week-long performance tour of Britain planned for June 2007. If you'd like your son to audition, contact Jackie Boyd at 698-4029 or 585-BOYS. E-mail me at blog AT batesline DOT com if you have any questions from a parent's perspective about the program.)

Here's a Tulsa World story from last August about the Barthelmes Conservatory, the Music School, and director Aida Aydinyan.

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from September 2006 listed from newest to oldest.

August 2006 is the previous archive.

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