February 2009 Archives

I was sad to learn tonight of the passing of legendary radio broadcaster and Tulsa native Paul Harvey at the age of 90.

Harvey grew up at 1014 E. 5th Pl. -- the house is still there -- went to Longfellow School at 6th and Peoria, and then Central High School, starting his radio career at KVOO when he was still in high school. (They were all within walking distance of each other back in the '30s -- KVOO was in the Philtower.) A few years ago he reported receiving a letter from a more recent resident of that house, who had found a wood-shop project in the attic with his name on it -- bookends, I think it was.

I started listening to Paul Harvey's broadcasts in the mid-1970s, at a time when he wasn't carried by any Tulsa station, at least none that I could find. I listened to him on KGGF 690 out of Coffeyville, Kansas. Eventually -- sometime in the late '70s, I think -- KRMG picked him up.

When I started working in Tulsa after college, I often ate my lunch in the car at a nearby park, listening to his noontime broadcast. If I missed him on KRMG at noon, I could catch him on KGGF at 12:40.

It could be hard to listen to Paul Harvey's broadcasts over the last few years, as time finally took its toll on his vocal cords, but it was still the same interesting variety of news, still the same distinctive speech pattern.

See-Dubya has a fitting remembrance over at Michelle Malkin's blog:

Paul Harvey put news out there that no other outlet touched. His Paul Harvey News and Comment scoured the wires for random stuff-and ideologically inconvenient stuff- you just didn't hear on the Big Three mainstream TV news, and crammed it all in to crisp five minute chunks, complete with terse commentary and the occasional wry thwack of sarcasm-and he still had time for the inevitable personalized pitches for Buicks and the Bose Acoustic Wave Radio. Here's what he had to say about his advertisers:
"I can't look down on the commercial sponsors of these broadcasts," he told CBS in 1988. "Too often they have very, very important messages to put across. Without advertising in this country, my goodness, we'd still be in this country what Russia mostly still is: a nation of bearded cyclists with b.o."

Zing. He was always like that. Paul Harvey invented blogging; he just did his blogging on the radio....

His radio show wasn't particularly ideological-you could tell he leaned right but it was mainly through the choice of stories and headlines he picked out. He also had a syndicated column back in the day that my state paper carried, and he was a rock-ribbed Middle American (Tulsa native, in fact) social and fiscal conservative with a heart of gold, a deep love of country, and no illusions about the stakes of foreign policy. He was a Reaganesque thinker, as well as a Reaganesque communicator.

(See-Dubya notes: "I kind of trace the groundswell of interest in [Fred] Thompson back to his time broadcasting from Paul Harvey's chair, and likewise the deflation of the Thompson bubble to the time he left it." Hearing Fred in that setting certainly sparked my interest,)

THE REST OF THE STORY:

You can hear Paul Harvey in full voice in this clip on Lileks.com from 1968.

This page about Tulsa radio on Tulsa TV Memories notes that he was a student of Miss Isabelle Ronan at Central High School, and includes a Real Media clip of Paul Harvey speaking on the Larry King Show about his education, his career, and his optimism.

Here's Paul Harvey's entry in the Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture.

AND THERE'S THIS:

WGN radio, his Chicago home base, has audio clips from Paul Harvey's broadcasts and speeches and the ABC News radio special on the life and career of Paul Harvey which was heard this morning on KRMG.

KOTV has a story that includes video from his 1994 speech at a Tulsa fundraiser for the Salvation Army.

Route 66 News remembers Paul Harvey's support for a couple of Missouri Route 66 businesses.

Washington Post obituary: "Broadcaster Delivered 'The Rest of the Story'" (It's by Joe Holley. Wonder if he's any relation to the southpaw fiddler.)

Paul Harvey, 90, a Chicago-based radio broadcaster whose authoritative baritone voice and distinctive staccato delivery attracted millions of daily listeners for more than half a century, died Feb. 28 in Phoenix.

A spokesman for ABC Radio Networks told the Associated Press that Mr. Harvey died at his winter home, surrounded by family. No cause of death was immediately available.

Mr. Harvey was the voice of the American heartland, offering to millions his trademark greeting: "Hello Americans! This is Paul Harvey. Stand by! For news!"

For millions, Paul Harvey in the morning or at noon was as much a part of daily routine as morning coffee.

HERE IS A STRANGE:

Aaron Barnhart gives a couple of examples of Paul Harvey's impact -- one coming from Keith Olbermann. Keith Olbermann?

"I was his official fill-in from 2001-03 and I was overwhelmed by the thought that went in to the selection and flow of stories. Even when he was off, his rules were in place: each segment began with hard news, moved on to commentary, ended with celebrity and then something light or silly. Then a commercial. Then repeat. Then another commercial, etc.

"I stole it almost entirely for 'Countdown.'"

Bathtub Boy's interpretation of Harvey's demand that ABC replace him as his heir apparent seems a little off:

And though he liked my work, and consented to let ABC groom me to succeed him, when an executive flew to Chicago to get his consent to the network giving away free a Sunday version of his show, done by me, he immediately told them not only would he not agree, but if they did not find a different back-up and write it into a new contract, he would not go on the air the next day. Probably the most job-secure, most irreplacable man in broadcasting, without whom the franchise would sink to 10% of its value, and yet he was convinced he was about to be shown the door. The mind reels.

I don't think Paul Harvey was afraid of losing his job. I think he was afraid of the franchise he had built over 50 years being handed over to a nutter like Olbermann.

But wash your ears out with this, from Barnhart's closing paragraphs:

Finally, a word about Paul Harvey's non-verbal communication. No one in radio got away with the silences that he did. His pauses weren't just pregnant, they were Nadya Suleman pregnant. They were amazingly long, by radio standards. They challenged the listener's assumption that an interruption to the flow of continuous noise meant something was wrong. Nothing was wrong; Paul Harvey just wanted the listener's attention back, in case it had drifted. The great communicator was speaking to his invisible audience with invisible words. And they listened.

So now, as you finish this, don't just observe a moment of silence for Paul Harvey. Listen to the silence.

AND MORE:

Kimmswick, Mo., home of his Reveille Ranch, remembers Paul Harvey

Some childhood details from the New York Times obit:

He was born Paul Harvey Aurandt in Tulsa, Okla., on Sept. 4, 1918, the son of Harrison Aurandt, a police officer, and Anna Dagmar Christian Aurandt. His father was killed in a gun battle when he was 3, and his mother rented out rooms to make ends meet. He was raised a Baptist, and it influenced his views.

As a boy he was fascinated with radio and built a receiver out of a cigar box. As a teenager, he had a strong resonant voice, and in 1933 a teacher at Tulsa Central High School escorted him to local station KVOO-AM and told the manager: "This boy needs to be on the radio."

He was taken on as an unpaid errand boy, but soon was allowed to deliver commercials, play a guitar and read the news on the air; two years later, he got his first paycheck.

Christopher Orlet remembers the broad appeal of Paul Harvey's "Rest of the Story":

I remember crawling in from college football practice at 5:30 p.m. -- this was the early 1980s -- and collapsing on a locker room bench while over the loudspeaker came The Voice halfway through his evening broadcast, which wasn't news at all, but a feature story where some famous person's identity was revealed in a surprise, twist ending....

Talk about a surreal scene: fifty exhausted college football players from all across the country lying all over a locker room floor in silence waiting for Paul Harvey to reveal the identity of today's subject. "And now you know...the rest of the story...Paul Harvey...Good Day!" Only then would we hit the showers.

Columnist Bob Greene remembers the many times he sat in the studio for a performance of Paul Harvey News and Comment:

He would make these warm-up noises -- voice exercises, silly-sounding tweets and yodels, strange little un-Paul-Harvey-like sounds -- and he showed no self-consciousness about doing it in front of someone else, because would a National Football League linebacker be self-conscious about someone seeing him stretch before a game, would a National Basketball Association forward be worried about someone seeing him leap up and down before tipoff? This was Paul Harvey's arena, and he would get the voice ready, loosening it, easing it up to the starting line.

And then the signal from the booth, and. . .

"Hello, Americans! This is Paul Harvey! Stand by. . . for news!"

And he would look down at those words that had come out of his typewriter minutes before -- some of them underlined to remind him to punch them hard -- and they became something grander than ink on paper, they became the song, the Paul Harvey symphony. He would allow me to sit right with him in the little room -- he never made me watch from behind the glass -- and there were moments, when his phrases, his word choices, were so perfect -- flawlessly written, flawlessly delivered -- that I just wanted to stand up and cheer.

But of course I never did any such thing -- in Paul Harvey's studio, if you felt a tickle in your throat you would begin to panic, because you knew that if you so much as coughed it would go out over the air into cities and towns all across the continent -- so there were never any cheers. The impulse was always there, though -- when he would drop one of those famous Paul Harvey pauses into the middle of a sentence, letting it linger, proving once again the power of pure silence, the tease of anticipation, you just wanted to applaud for his mastery of his life's work.

He probably wouldn't have thought of himself this way, but he was the ultimate singer-songwriter. He wrote the lyrics. And then he went onto his stage and performed them. The cadences that came out of his fingertips at the typewriter were designed to be translated by one voice -- his voice -- and he did it every working day for more than half a century: did it so well that he became a part of the very atmosphere, an element of the American air.

A couple of years ago, I told you about historian Currie Ballard's amazing find of films taken in Oklahoma in the 1920s of African-American families, communities, businesses, and events. (This YouTube user has some clips from the films.)

These were in the news again recently, and in looking for more information I came across the website of Global ImageWorks, a service that provides stock footage. They list Ballard's collection in their online catalog:

BLACK AMERICAN TOWNS FROM 1920s

Global ImageWorks is exclusively representing a rare and unique film collection discovered by historian Currie Ballard consisting of six hours of film documenting the daily lives of successful black towns in Oklahoma thriving in the aftermath of the infamous Tulsa Riots of 1921. The footage illustrates a little known piece of history and includes footage showing entire black communities 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, gathering at the National Baptist Convention, and traveling to Europe. It includes black cowboys riding horses amidst oil derricks rising from their ranches, various sporting events including rare footage of the 1928 Los Angeles to New York "Great American Foot Race" in which three of the finishing runners were black Americans. The material found by Ballard came in 29 cans and was shot by the Rev. S. S. Jones, a circuit preacher assigned by National Baptist Convention to document the glories of Oklahoma's black towns of Guthrie, Muskogee, and Langston.

The embedded video on that catalog page is a series of short clips from the collection, which appears to have been beautifully restored.

A site search turns up six "tapes" containing footage from the collection. Here are the titles links to each item page, each of which includes a detailed list of the scenes contained therein:

OKLAHOMA COVERAGE 1924 -1928 - MIDDLE CLASS BLACK LIFESTYLE Tape #: 3382 | Date: 1920s | Location: Clearview, Muskogee, Langston, Bristow, Tulsa, Oklahoma | Length: 60:00 | Master Format: film - 16mm video - digi beta | B/W

Oklahoma coverage of middle class black family life in Clearview, Muksogee , Langston and Bristow showing families on their farms and their oil wells. Unique footage from the Currie Ballard Collection. 1925-1927

AFRICAN AMERICAN MIDDLE CLASS LIFESTYLE IN BLACK RUN TOWNS IN OKLAHOMA 1920S
Tape #: 3383 | Date: 1920s | Location: Muskogee, Harlinville, Depew, Boley, Duncan, Okemah,Taft, Oklahoma | Length: 60:00 | Master Format: film - 16mm video - digi beta | B/W

Scenes of black middle class lifestyle in Oklahoma in completely black run towns of Muskogee, Duncan etc. in 1920s. Church, train scenes, Antioch cadets, black kids in school, grocery and filling stations, farms, and local commerce. From the Currie Ballard Collection.

PEOPLE AND LIFESTYLE IN BLACK RUN TOWN OF MUSKOGEE, OKLAHOMA IN 1925
Tape #: 3384 | Date: 1920s | Location: Muskogee, Oklahoma | Length: 60:00 | Master Format: film - 16mm video - digi beta | B/W

Various residences of people living in Muskogee, Department store, basketball team and high school speling contest, classes, faculty etc. From the Currie Ballard Collection

MIDDLE CLASS LIFE STYLE SHOWING RESIDENCES, FAMILIES AND SCHOOLS.
Tape #: 3385 | Date: 1920s | Location: Okmulgee, Tulsa, Oklahoma | Length: 60:00 | Master Format: film - 16mm video - digi beta | B/W

Middle class life style showing residences, families and schools. From the Currie Ballard Collection

OKLAHOMA - AFRICAN AMERICAN LIFESTYLE
Tape #: 3386 | Date: 1920s | Location: Oklahoma | Length: 60:00 | Master Format: film - 16mm video - digi beta | B/W

Various towns of Oklahoma, residences,schools, baptism, construction, lifestyle, Masons parade, Masonic lodge, Church. From the Currie Ballard Collection.

OKLAHOMA AFRICAN AMERICANS
Tape #: 3387 | Date: 1920s | Location: Germany, Jerusalem, Italy, Oklahoma | Length: 60:00 | Master Format: film - 16mm video - digi beta | B/W

Oklahoma African Americans from the Currie Ballard Collection.

Some of the Tulsa-related scenes:


  • The Oklahoma Eagle Divinity Company, Greenwood Street 1927 Tulsa

  • Tulane Avenue Baptist Church Bus from New Orleans, Louisiana at Gen Convention Tulsa Brady Theater 1927 Tulsa

  • Church members leaving church winter brick church inner city

  • Scenes from Thanksgiving Day 1925 parade and football game: "MTH Muskogee vs. BWH of Tulsa" (Tulsa won, 13 to 9)

  • Mr. Jessie Brown new $75,000 Funeral Home, 540 E. Easton 1928 Tulsa

  • Brown Funeral Service 1928 Tulsa

  • Union Baptist CadetS at State SS & BYPU Convention, Rev. D.C. Cooksey August 4, 1928 Tulsa

  • Train loaded with cars, oil derrick in background

  • Church Baptist Cadets

  • Ground Breaking Union Baptist Church Pastor D.C. Cooksey Officers and Members August 4, 1928 Tulsa

  • Church ground breaking (older Church burned down during Tulsa Race Riot 1921)

  • Tulsa Business League Dr. S.S. Jones (right to left) Tulsa

  • Dr. S.S. Jones eyeglasses Tulsa

  • Mt. Zion Baptist Church after the Riot Photo Stills (right to left) Tulsa

  • Greenwood Street seven years after Tulsa Race Riot 1921

  • C.B. Bottling Works, 258 E. Archie (right to left) Tulsa

  • Soda Pop Bottling Company

  • Jackson's Undertaker Co. (right to left) Tulsa

  • Booker T. Washington High School, noon hour Tulsa

  • Dunbar Grade School (right to left) Tulsa

  • Dunbar Agri Gardens (right to left) Tulsa

There are scenes from many Oklahoma cities and towns, including Okmulgee, Muskogee, Haskell, Coweta, Ardmore, Langston, Bristow, Taft, El Reno, Oklahoma City, Lawton, Depew, Boley, Wewoka, Boynton, Gibson Station, Wetumka, Eufaula, Red Bird, Porter, and Holdenville plus scenes from travels to Paris, London, Chicago, and the Holy Land.

These, along with old street directories, newspaper microfilm, and Sanborn fire insurance maps, could be the makings of a fascinating documentary.

MORE: From an Oklahoman story on the films from September 2006:

The significance, he said, is the "positive light it puts on blacks in this state. Under the heat of Jim Crow laws, it showed that blacks were prosperous."

Many blacks living in the 1920s were former slaves, and the films show a bustling and prosperous way of life, Ballard said.

"It was rare for a white person to have the camera and equipment in those days," he said. "For someone black to have a camera was unreal. That's what makes it so rare. The movies are from an African-American point of view....

Some of the movies were taken just a few years after the Tulsa race riots of 1921, which virtually destroyed the city's Greenwood district. Jones chronicled the 1925 (black) National Baptist Convention in Greenwood and an accompanying parade.

"The movies showed the strength and resilience of the people of Greenwood to pull off a national convention and to rebuild what was burnt to ashes," Ballard said.

That's the footage that also impresses Blackburn. Like Blackburn, he said it shows the people were able to not only recover but to prosper.

"It would have been easier to be intimidated and to run away and go to St. Louis or Chicago," Blackburn said. "This film footage is very important."

What is interesting, Blackburn said, is that the films show no signs of destruction, but vitality of the Tulsa black community.

STILL MORE: Currie Ballard was recently appointed Assistant Secretary of the Oklahoma State Senate.

I couldn't be at Veterans Park myself for yesterday's Tea Party -- too much to do at work -- but plenty of people were and have posted stuff on the web to tell you all about it.

Jenn Sierra has posted photos of the Tulsa Tea Party. You'll find a few more on Chris Medlock's blog (here and here). Joe Kelley has video. Here's KOTV's report.

Here were some of the signs on display:


  • Government is not your mommy!

  • Repeal porkulus!

  • 220 years to build the republic -- one month to destroy it.

  • Give me back my 401K -- you can keep the "change."

  • Crisis? You bet -- too much government.

  • Pay your own mortgage! No freeloaders!

  • Grow the economy -- not the government!

You can find writeups about the Oklahoma City Tea Party at Red Dirt Report and on Wizbang, where OKC-based blogger Michael Laprarie is now a regular contributor. (Congrats!)

Tax protesters in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, who are also protesting a local sales tax increase, wanted to dump tea in the Cedar River, but they were barred by state officials, who consider tea a pollutant because it would discolor the water (via Michelle Malkin):

Tea, although natural and quite tasty, is considered a pollutant that can't go into a body of water without a permit, said Mike Wade, a senior environmental specialist at the DNR's Manchester field office.

"Discoloration is considered a violation," Wade said.

Although not as steeped in history, the Cedar Rapids Tea Party will dump dechlorinated tap water or riverwater from buckets labeled "tea," said Tim Pugh, the group's founder.

"We don't want to hurt the river," said Pugh, 32, of Cedar Rapids.

I thought the whole point of the original tea party was to defy government authority.

Elsewhere in Iowa, David Burge (aka Iowahawk) has a message from the subprime borrower community for "America's Irresponsible Tea Party Whiners":

But through all of it, some of us persevered. We made the hard economic choices.... We spent countless hours applying for the credit cards that would see us through. We made the wise economic decision to stop paying our stupid mortgages -- because we calculated that when the rainy day came, Washington would come to its senses and clear up the tab....

I wish I could take credit for it, but it took the collective effort of hundreds of thousands of us in the subprime community, working with the financial industry and public sector officials. Unfortunately, there is another group out there who is working to kill important financial bailout reforms just as they are sparking a renaissance in the American housing market. I'm speaking, of course, of the so-called "Tea Party" tax protesters.

I'm sure you've heard of them or read their emails: "Wah, I paid my mortgage." "Wah, I didn't use my house for an ATM." "Wah, Dave I need that hundred back I lent you at Christmas." Now, I'm as sympathetic to a good sob story as anybody, but these whiners have nobody to blame but themselves for their predicament. Anyone who kept track of the Gallup presidential polls last year should have known what was coming, so don't blame me if you decided to waste your money paying your stupid mortgage. But, in the six-dimensional bizarro world of these noisy tax gripes, they expect me to give up my bailout to pay for their irresponsible lack of foresight! Helloooo?! Beam me up, Scotty!

Girly man!

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Some silliness for a Friday:

It's Tollywood's (not Bollywood's) answer to "Thriller." What sounds like "Girly Man" is really the song's title: "Goli Mar" from the Telugu movie Donga. Click the song title to read the real lyrics (in Telugu) vs. Buffalax's "translation." The singer/actor is Chiranjeevi, who has received several best actor awards and last year launched a political party.

Finally, here's a Wired story about Mike Sutton of Dayton, Ohio, aka Buffalax, the YouTube user responsible for this and several other laugh-until-you're-sore mis-subtitled videos.

Please don't buy the bald seal.

Yesterday at lunch -- I spoke about blogging at the spring workshop for the Ad Program at the University of Tulsa -- I mentioned that some companies give prizes to bloggers to give to their readers as a way to help the blogger build traffic and to help the company reach new customers. Someone asked me if I'd done much of that, and I noted that it was the mommy bloggers who seemed to get prizes to give away. (E.g., the Pioneer Woman giving away a $500 Apple Store gift certificate in a contest (now closed). Then again, I'm not likely to draw over 16,000 comments on a single blog entry.)

Now I see that two mommies who blog, Natasha Ball and Holly Wall, have teamed up on a giveaway post, which also contains a great overview of arts events this weekend in Tulsa -- theater, sculpture, photography, Shakespeare -- if you can't find something fun and interesting to do in Tulsa, you're just not trying. The contest involves answering an opinion question about the arts in Tulsa. The prize is tickets to "Educating Rita" at the PAC for tonight (Thursday).

Natasha is running a second contest -- this one's for a $20 gift certificate to the downtown fresh-Mex restaurant Eloté's first night of being open for dinner, also tonight. This one involves answering an opinion question about downtown dining.

There aren't very many entries yet, so your chances are good. Give it a whirl!

Steven Roemerman noticed an unusual accent at the Mexican fast food drive-thru:

We decided to eat Taco Bueno for lunch today because it's well...more Bueno. I pulled into the drive through and noticed something interesting. Based on his accent, I determined that the gentleman who was taking my order was Indian. No not Oklahoma Indian...India Indian.

I became suspicious; when I pulled forward to pay, I asked if the gal who took my money if the person that took my order was actually in the building. She said no, that he was in a call center somewhere. "I'm not sure where," she said. I thought to myself, "Yeah, I know where it is." I bet you $10 bucks Taco Bueno's drive through call center is in India. "Thank you, come again."

Steven's e-mailed query to TB HQ about the call center location received a lengthy and polite reply but no direct answer:

Our intention is not to deprive the hard working citizens of the Tulsa community employment, but to find a solution to a lack of applicants willing to work in the quick service environment. The call center is a test to see if it can be a solution by having someone full-time, 100% dedicated, to just taking drive-thru orders. It is a response to guests' needs, but if it fails to help, we will discontinue. We have been listening to feedback for years from our guests about being shorthanded, having long waits, and inaccurate orders.

The note makes reference to other tests Taco Bueno is conducting. It's interesting click through and read the whole thing. In the comments, David Schuttler wonders if Sonic is next. I was at a Sonic the other morning, and the manager was having to take orders and deliver them because someone didn't show up to work that day. Sonic could have done a lot more business if they had someone somewhere concentrating only on order-taking.

Some questions:

What does it say about the economy that businesses are still having trouble finding workers? Are things not that bad or are people still too complacent?

What does it say about American workers if call center agents from a different culture who speak English as a second (or third) language and have probably never seen a Muchaco can do a better job of getting a food order right?

Finally, on the jump page, here's a classic from the Dr. Demento vault -- Stevens & Grdnic's "Fast Food" (1982):

Last night, on TulsaNow's public forum, DSJeffries posted this summary of last night's PLANiTULSA workshop for the TU area:

It seems everyone in this area is on the same page:

-Bringing in new businesses and housing while preserving our great existing brick buildings
-Establishing a link to downtown via 6th Street
-Establishing a rail stop at 11th & Lewis
-Restoring the street grid
-Repairing the damage TU has done by closing itself off and fencing itself in
-Revitalizing the Route 66, Admiral, Whittier Square and Harvard corridors to their former glory
-Adding bike and pedestrian paths
-Improving sidewalk continuity
-Making the whole area more walkable
-Giving the neighborhood a unique identity ("to be NOT like 71st Street" was heard several times)

Great workshop! Can't wait for the transportation workshop tomorrow.

"Tomorrow" is now today (Tuesday, Feb. 24). That transportation workshop will start in just a few minutes -- 6 p.m. at the Central Center in Centennial Park.

I'm pleased to see preservation and restoration as key themes. In the new Urban Tulsa Weekly out tomorrow, you'll see my report on last week's Forest Orchard area workshop, which borders the TU workshop map to the west.

Some linkage related to my most recent Urban Tulsa Weekly column about the innovative, grassroots-driven approach to solving the Pearl District's stormwater problem:

The Pearl District Association website: Well organized website with plenty of information about the neighborhood's plans for the future.

Guy Engineering's page for the Elm Creek Master Drainage Plan, which includes sketches of the proposed 6th St. canal and the west and east ponds. The master plan report itself (linked at the top of that page) goes into great detail about the history of the Elm Creek basin and the evolution of the stormwater management plan over the last 20 years.

Here's the Wikipedia entry for woonerf.

A Brand Avenue blog entry on the history of woonerven, which includes a summary of a study of shared streets by the UK-based Transport Research Laboratory:

Last year, TRL published the results of a four-year study on the new traffic safety approach. In simulator trials, researchers replaced road signs and white lane dividers with a variety of urban design elements: red bricks were used to make the road narrower, and trees, shrubs and street furniture were placed directly in the right of way. According to Parkes, traffic speeds fell by up to 8 miles per hour, and the speeds of faster drivers by up to 12 mph. The reasons are both counterintuitive and compelling, he said. "What we've been trying to do is make the roadway seem more risky by taking out the stripe of paint ... and by making the distinction between space reserved for cars and space for pedestrians less explicit," said Parkes. "Then the driver makes his own choice to slow down, rather than just being instructed to slow down in what looks like a safe environment." Psychological traffic calming has the added advantage of being more aesthetically pleasing than a slew of road signs and traffic lights, Parkes noted.

A New York Observer story about the city's "woonerf deficit" and how shared streets can improve a neighborhood's quality of life and economy.

A New York Times story about woonerfs and other alternative approaches to streets, such as play streets, bicycle boulevards, and swale streets:

One such street is the woonerf. Pioneered in the Netherlands -- the word roughly translates as "living street" -- the woonerf erases the boundary between sidewalk and street to give pedestrians the same clout as cars. Elements like traffic lights, stop signs, lane markings and crossing signals are removed, while the level of the street is raised to the same height as the sidewalk.

A woonerf, which is surfaced with paving blocks to signal a pedestrian-priority zone, is, in effect, an outdoor living room, with furniture to encourage the social use of the street. Surprisingly, it results in drastically slower traffic, since the woonerf is a people-first zone and cars enter it more warily. "The idea is that people shall look each other in the eye and maneuver in respect of each other," Mr. Gehl said.

Nick Roberts from Oklahoma City explains why he likes the 6th St. canal concept better than Oklahoma City's Upper Bricktown Canal:

Here [in the 6th St. concept drawing] the water just compliments the pedestrian path and makes it interesting, provides nice views. Instead the Bricktown Canal has the freeway mentality: the path on the side is kind of like a feeder road while the canal is the main draw. It should be the other way around..in fact I wouldn't be opposed to not doing the water taxis anymore, especially if they should ever stop being profitable. But I am still totally in support of expanding the canal through the downtown area. That probably explains why a lot of the canal-front property has never been finished, despite all the potential.

A related link: A Tulsa TV Memories page about the Brewsters, a couple who owned a beloved toy store in the Pearl District neighborhood.

... and the world is silhouetted 'gainst the sky....

Bet you can't listen to that without harmonizing.

("Blue Shadows on the Trail," by Roy Rogers and the Sons of the Pioneers.)

little_cowboy_lullaby-bob_wills-sheet_music.jpgMy kids listen to CDs at night, usually one CD on infinite repeat, and over and over again for several weeks. Over the Christmas holidays they listened to piano instrumental versions of carols. I introduced them to the soundtrack of A Charlie Brown Christmas by the Vince Guaraldi Trio. We tried Mark Knopfler's soundtrack for Local Hero, but there were a couple of loud songs that interrupted the flow of quieter pieces.

The three-year-old really wanted to listen to a Bob Wills CD, but it was too bouncy in places and tended to make it hard for the kids to get to sleep and stay asleep. So I put together a mix CD of slow, restful western tunes:


  1. Goodnight, Little Sweetheart, Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys
  2. Little Cowboy Lullaby, Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys
  3. Texas Sandman, Johnnie Lee Wills & His Boys
  4. Just Friends, Hot Club of Cowtown
  5. Dedicated to You, Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys
  6. Medley: La Golondrina, Lady of Spain, Cielito Lindo, Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys
  7. No Wonder, Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys
  8. Along the Navajo Trail, Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys
  9. Prairie Lullaby, Sons of the Pioneers
  10. Wagon Wheels, Sons of the Pioneers
  11. Lonely Yukon Stars, Riders in the Sky
  12. My Oklahoma, Riders in the Sky
  13. Tumbling Tumbleweeds, Riders in the Sky
  14. Don't Fence Me In, Riders in the Sky
  15. Streets of Laredo, Riders in the Sky
  16. Red River Valley, Riders in the Sky
  17. Sleepwalk, Santo and Johnny
  18. Moonlight Serenade, Santo and Johnny
  19. Song of the Islands, Santo and Johnny
  20. Tear Drop, Santo and Johnny
  21. Harbor Lights, Santo and Johnny
  22. Tenderly, Santo and Johnny
  23. Everlasting Hills of Oklahoma, Sons of the Pioneers
  24. Goin' Home, Leon McAuliffe and His Cimarron Boys (adapted from the Largo movement of Antonin Dvořák's Symphony No. 9, "From the New World")

I notice that of the Texas Playboys tunes, I tended to choose the sentimental numbers that Bob Wills sang himself. The opening number of the disc is the number that was (and still is) used to close Texas Playboys dances. It opens with some sultry chords by Leon McAuliffe. I made my little girl chuckle last night: After I kissed her goodnight, I said, "Take it away, Leon," then hit the play button.

Two of the songs are songs my mother sang to me at bedtime: "Don't Fence Me In," and "Cielito Lindo" -- we knew it as the Ay-ay-ay-ay song.

One song I didn't have, but wished I did, was "Blue Shadows on the Trail" by Sons of the Pioneers. It's on a Disney Lullabyes videotape, from the movie Pecos Bill. Others I might have included but didn't: "Yearning (Just for You)," "Happy Trails," "In the Arms of My Love."

To explain the inclusion of a couple of New York musicians in a western collection, I'll repeat an anecdote from an earlier entry:

This little detail from the Wikipedia bio of the Farina brothers, Santo and Johnny, made me smile:
When they were very young, their dad was drafted into the Army and stationed in Oklahoma. There (on the radio) he heard this beautiful music. It was the sound of the steel guitar and he wrote home to his wife and said "I'd like the boys to learn to play this instrument."

I like to think Mr. Farina was listening to this guy over KVOO -- from "Steel Guitar Rag" to "Sleepwalk" in one generation.

Specifically, I like to think that Mr. Farina heard Leon McAuliffe playing those opening chords on "Goodnight, Little Sweetheart."

UPDATE 2013/05/24: Added the above graphic, the cover of the sheet music for "Little Cowboy Lullaby" by Bob Wills and Cindy Walker, from the lyrics and sheet music page at BobWills.com. Thanks to the kindness of retired blogpal See-Dubya, I was able to add "Blue Shadows" to a second edition of the CD, to which I added Tommy Duncan's "High Country."

There's a lot more to running for office than you might imagine. Tulsa's city elections are coming up this fall, followed by school board elections early next year, and then races for state legislature and county commission the year after that. If you think you might ever want to run for local office or want to be an effective helper to a candidate, consider signing up for American Majority's candidate training seminar to be held in Tulsa on Saturday, Feb. 28.

The event will be held at the Tulsa Radisson Hotel, on 41st west of Garnett. To RSVP, call Pam Pettyjohn at 405-605-6338 or e-mail ok@americanmajority.org.

American Majority would like to cordially invite you to the DO NOT MISS Municipal Candidate Training Seminar of 2009!

American Majority Candidate Training Seminars are day-long events with both 1-on-1 media training and lectures covering topics such as:

"How to Communicate Effectively"
"Your Campaign Plan to Win: Planning for the Time, People and Money to Win"
"Dollars and Sense: Fundraising for What You Need, Not What You Can Get"
"New Media Engagement: The New Ways to Talk to Voters and Engage Supporters"
"Grassroots Action: How Ordinary People can get Extraordinary Results When They Work Together"
"Local Government: Its Structure and How it all Works"
"Making a Difference in Your Local Community"

The cost for this all-inclusive training is $40 per candidate and $20 for each additional staff or family member.

Breakfast and lunch is included.


More about the sponsoring organization
:

American Majority Incorporated is a non-profit, non-partisan political training institute whose mission is to train and equip a national network of leadership committed to individual freedom through limited government and the free market. Advocating true federalism, American Majority believes that national change begins at the state and local level. Toward that end, American Majority will build a national network of leaders and grassroots advocates who aspire to increase freedom for individuals, families, the marketplace, and our nation.

Tulsa's police union won their contract arbitration with the City of Tulsa today, as an arbitration panel selected the Fraternal Order of Police's proposal over that of city management, resolving a lengthy contract impasse for the current fiscal year, which began last July, according to a press release today from Philip Evans, president of the Tulsa FOP Lodge #93:

On Thursday February 19, 2009 an Arbitration Panel jointly chosen by the City of Tulsa and Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 93, notified us they had resolved the labor contract for the parties for this fiscal year. The Panel selected the contract offer of the FOP after three days of hearings and submission of financial and other evidence. By law the Panel had to select either the FOP package offer on all issues or City management's.

The hearing was governed by Oklahoma law that requires the arbitration procedure to resolve labor impasses instead of a strike by officers. The impasse was over several terms of the labor contract that runs from July 1, 2008 through June 30, 2009. The Panel's decision is retroactive to July 1, 2008.

The primary issues in the impasse involved wages, health insurance, drug testing and take home cars. On wages the City offered 2% effective July 1, 2008 where the FOP offer was 3% but effective on January 1, 2009. The FOP offer actually cost less over the fiscal year. Tulsa officers' compensation still remains far behind the average of other comparable cities, including Oklahoma City.

On health insurance, the FOP offer was to receive the same insurance contributions that all other City employees get. City proposed to reduce the insurance contributions for police to the level other City employees received four years ago. The Panel found that the City already agreed in the contract to pay the police at the same level as other employees and that there was "no financial or policy basis to pay a lower amount for its Police Officers."

Another issue was drug testing. The FOP proposal requires all officers to undergo random testing and the Panel adopted that proposal when it selected the FOP offer.

Take home cars were also addressed by the Panel. That benefit was extended by agreement in July, 2005 to officers who live within 25 miles of 41st and Yale. Since that time it has been continued in labor contracts by Mayor Taylor and the City Council. The Panel cited the research regarding the increased police presence on the streets when officers commute and the fact the benefit helps attract qualified police applicants. The FOP had offered to pay for the benefit but that offer was rejected by City management who wanted more. When gas prices fell below 2005 levels, the FOP withdrew the offer. The Panel found the City failed to prove there were cost factors or public policy reasons for taking away the benefit. The decision means the benefit will remain the same for the rest of the fiscal year.

Based on testimony by Mike Kier, the City Finance Director, the Panel found that both the General Fund and the Police budget could absorb any additional costs of the FOP offer out of fuel savings alone.

Steven Roemerman is not only a blogger, he's also a member of the City of Tulsa Sales Tax Overview Committee, which is charged with keeping tabs on how the city spends the "Third Penny" sales tax for capital improvement projects. In that role, he's had opportunity to hear representatives from the Finance Department and the Public Works Department speak about the federal indictments for fraud and bribery involving two now-former Public Works employees and several contractors that do business with the city.

Steven has collected his notes and reflections on the Tulsa Public Works indictments here.

One section raised several questions in my mind:

I sat in a meeting with Paul Zachary from Public Works and he said, "We do not award contracts over here, we advertise them from here." The awarding of contracts happens downtown at City Hall through the City Clerk's office with representatives from Finance, Legal, and the contract administrators.

In one allegation, there was money taken to influence the awarding of a contract, but the individual who took the money could not have influenced who won the contract. As previously stated, Public Works does not award construction contracts, they only advertise them.

The second allegation regarding bribes for contracts has to do with the professional services selection committee. In that committee, one of the decisions they make regards who will perform the inspection each project once it is complete. It is preferred that the firm that designs a project also performs the inspection. Money was given to influence the PSSC to award the designer of a particular project the inspection job. I asked what would have happened if no money had been exchanged? Would that firm still have gotten the inspection, would anything different have happened? The answer was no because in the preferred process, the designer does the inspection.

If this particular set of indictments did not make any sense to you that is probably because it does not make any sense. It was really pretty dumb for money to exchange hands because the person who took the money really did not have the power to make anything happen.

First, it surprises me that Public Works would have no involvement in the award decision. At the very least, wouldn't Public Works be involved in evaluating proposals for technical compliance? The City Clerk's office can tell who the low bidder is, but they wouldn't know whether the proposed low-bid solution will accomplish the task and whether the company has the competence to carry it out.

Second, even if a Public Works employee didn't have sole authority to award a contract or hire an inspector, it would be valuable for a contractor to "own" a trusted insider who would have influence over the selection. You wouldn't necessarily need to bribe the entire committee, just one person with a seat at the table where decisions are made and with the credibility to persuade the rest. If Public Works were involved in some way with evaluating proposals for compliance -- and I take it from Steven's report that this is not the case -- then it might be valuable to "own" a PW employee in a position to disqualify competing bids or to ensure that your bid wasn't disqualified.

Another possibility is that the bribes were offered based on a misunderstanding of the process by the bribers. Perhaps the contractors made assumptions on the City of Tulsa process based on the process in other cities. Or perhaps the recipient of the bribes depicted the process in a way that made himself seem more important and influential than he really was.

MORE: I wrote two columns related to the Public Works scandal: The February 4 column, about the value of an independent audit of Public Works, as advocated by former City Councilor Jim Mautino, and the February 11 column, about the role of and constraints on the City Auditor's office in acting as a fiscal watchdog.

Amish steampunk

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Via Instapundit, I found this article by Kevin Kelly about the Amish and technology. It jibes with a similar story I read some years ago in Technology Review. The Amish aren't anti-technology; rather, they're careful about the impact of technology on the integrity of their community and their independence from outsiders:

In any debate about the merits of embracing new technology, the Amish stand out as offering an honorable alternative of refusal. Yet Amish lives are anything but anti-technological. In fact on my several visits with them, I have found them to be ingenious hackers and tinkers, the ultimate makers and do-it-yourselfers and surprisingly pro technology....

The Amish, particular the Old Order Amish -- the stereotypical Amish depicted on calendars - really are slow to adopt new things. In contemporary society our default is set to say "yes" to new things, and in Old Order Amish societies the default is set to "no." When new things come around, the Amish automatically start by refusing them.

The story points out the differences in practice among different Amish communities, but common motivations to protect the cohesion of the community against technologies like the car and the telephone which exert a centrifugal force and to protect the distinctives of the community against technologies like grid electricity which bind them too closely to the rest of the world.

Within the confines of those aims, the Amish can be quite creative. Kelly tells us about "Amish electricity" at one farm -- a massive diesel generator powers a pneumatic system which drives power woodworking tools and can also be used for specially adapted kitchen equipment.

In fact there is an entire cottage industry in retrofitting tools and appliances to Amish electricity. The retrofitters buy a heavy-duty blender, say, and yank out the electrical motor. They then substitute an air-powered motor of appropriate size, add pneumatic connectors, and bingo, your Amish mom now has a blender in her electrical-less kitchen. You can get a pneumatic sewing machine, and a pneumatic washer/dryer (with propane heat). In a display of pure steam-punk nerdiness, Amish hackers try to outdo each other in building pneumatic versions of electrified contraptions. Their mechanical skill is quite impressive, particularly since none went beyond the 8th grade. They love to show off this air-punk geekiness. And every tinkerer I met claimed that pneumatics were superior to electrical devices because air was more powerful and durable, outlasting motors which burned out after a few years hard labor. I don't know if this is true, or just justification, but it was a constant refrain.

At another farm, Kelly encountered a $400,000 computer-controlled CNC machine, used to make precision parts for pneumatic machinery and kerosene stoves. It was operated by a 14-year-old girl in a bonnet.

The story describes the typical pattern for testing and evaluating new technologies and addresses the dilemmas posed by off-the-grid electricity (solar) and telecommunications (mobile phones).

It's interesting too to read that the Amish (at least some of them) embrace technologies like disposable diapers and genetically-modified corn that city-dwelling crunchy conservatives reject.

Will the Amish way of life survive? In technological terms, they have a better shot than we "English" of surviving a situation like "The Long Emergency" -- the massive, painful societal readjustment that Jim Kunstler predicts as the age of cheap energy ends. Or even a short emergency: As I noted in the aftermath of the December 2007 ice storm, we've forgotten how to build homes and arrange our lives so that we can be well-fed and comfortable without the grid in any weather.

It seems to me that the true heart of Amish culture is not technological aversion or pneumatic ingenuity but mutual subjection to a common rule of conduct, grounded in the principles of their faith.

That's extremely countercultural. The broader American culture seems to have lost the impulse to live up to the expectations of the group. Voluntary societies like churches and clubs often have to choose between enforcing standards and retaining membership. (That's a topic that deserves further consideration.)

As long as Amish communities are successful at screening out socially corrosive technologies, they should be able to maintain the cohesion required for their way of life. The decentralized aspect of Amish culture may help preserve it in general even if a particular community is disrupted.

One last anecdote: Last fall, we went with our homeschooling group to a hearty dinner at an Amish home near Chouteau. The dining room was lit with what appeared to be propane -- brightly glowing net wicks of the sort I remember from Coleman lanterns. As we were leaving, my wife told me that one of the Amish men was trying to figure out how to set up a photocopier he just bought.

When I'm writing a column that has a historical angle, I'll look through the Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps or the 1957 Polk Directory for Tulsa. Writing about the Pearl District, I was browsing the street listings for 5th Pl.

In 1957, Paul Harvey's mom, Mrs. Anna D. Aurandt, still lived in the house where Paul grew up, at 1014 E. 5th Pl., right next door to "Lee, W Thos Rev." and family, including regular BatesLine commenter S. Lee. (Click here to see a photo of Paul and his mom, taken by Rev. Lee.)

Just a couple of blocks away on the same street, I spotted this name, familiar to those of us who remember the Golden Age of Tulsa television:

1223 Lile Henry D GI7-1048

Henry Lile was a freelance photographer for KOTV and a private pilot, in addition to his day (actually late night/early morning) job delivering Rainbo Bread.

But a juxtaposition further east, near the TU campus, gave me a chuckle.

Sorority Row, then as now, was on 5th Pl. between Florence and Gary: Chi Omega, Delta Delta Delta, Phi Mu, Kappa Delta, Kappa Kappa Gamma, and Delta Gamma. Just across the street from sorority row, right across from the Phi Mu house, at 3123 E. 5th Pl., was a single-story house, owned and occupied by...

D. Leon Cowherd.

Cracks and tracks

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I was driving around the Pearl District -- the topic of my upcoming column -- this evening just about sunset. Looking south on Quincy Ave. from 6th St., I noticed a tell-tale pair of parallel cracks in the asphalt, each crack about the same distance from the middle of the street. The distance between the two cracks was about the same as the width of a standard gauge train track. I had noticed this phenomenon before, on Archer St. downtown, where the Sand Springs Railway once ran down the center of the street.

Quincy Ave. was the route of a branch of the Tulsa Street Railway, which ceased operation in 1936. The line left downtown on 3rd and branched north and south on Madison. The north branch ran along 1st to Lewis to 7th to the TU campus.

The south branch turned east on Fostoria (now known as 5th Pl.) running past the house where Paul Harvey grew up, then headed south on Quincy, terminating just north of 15th St.

As I passed 8th St. heading southbound on Quincy, the parallel cracks swerved to the right. A bit further on, I noticed another pair of parallel cracks, about a foot away from the pair I had been following. The two pairs of cracks, swerved back toward the middle just north of 10th St. It looked very much like a spot where a single track split in two to allow streetcars heading in opposite directions to pass each other.

My jaw dropped when I spotted this.

I don't know for sure that there are still rails beneath the asphalt, but if there were rails, I would expect them to have some effect on the integrity of the asphalt as they expand and cool at a different rate than the other material in the roadbed.

Keep your eyes open. You may just see a remnant of a Tulsa that no longer exists.

The three PLANiTULSA small area workshops, postponed because of the ice storm, have been rescheduled for this coming week. Two more will be held the following week, along with a special workshop on transport. Here are the specifics:

  • Tues., Feb. 17, Southwest Tulsa, Webster High School, 1919 W. 40th St.
  • Tues., Feb. 17, Northland, Hawthorne Elementary, 1105 E. 33rd St. N.
  • Wed., Feb. 18, Forest Orchard/Hillcrest, (includes parts of Cherry Street, Swan Lake, the Pearl District, Tracy Park, Yorktown, Gillette, and Terrace Drive neighborhoods), First Evangelical Lutheran Church, 1244 S. Utica.
  • Mon., Feb. 23., University of Tulsa area (Lewis to Louisville, from I-244 to 15th St.), Kendall-Whittier Elementary, 2601 E. 5th Pl.
  • Mon., Feb. 23, Southcrest area (76th to 91st St., and from west of Mingo Road to Garnett Road), Union Public Schools Education Service Center, 8506 E. 61st St.
  • Tues., Feb. 24, citywide transport workshop, Centennial Center at Central Park (aka the Boathouse), 1028 E. 6th St.

All workshops run from 6pm to 9pm. Registration opens at 5:30. You're encouraged to register online at planitulsa.org or by calling the PLANiTULSA office at 576-5674.

I hope everyone will make a point of attending at least one of these workshops, even if you don't live in or near these areas.

You can read more about the PLANiTULSA small area workshops in my Jan. 21st UTW column. This week's column is about PLANiTULSA as well, about Fregonese Associates' economic analysis tools, and how they'll help put the comprehensive plan we develop into action:

I have a tendency toward skepticism myself - perhaps you've noticed? -- but I recently got a glimpse of the technology being used for PLANiTULSA by the City of Tulsa's Planning Department and Fregonese Associates, the lead consultants for this project. The evident practicality of their methods gives me hope that the resulting plan will shape Tulsa's future.

While Tulsans are shaping the big picture at citywide and small-area workshops, the PLANiTULSA team is looking at the lot-by-lot economics of different types of buildings and types of developments....

What I appreciate about Fregonese's approach is that they aren't just starting with the big picture maps we made at the workshops and hoping that they'll work out into something practical. They're looking at the small picture, too, practical matters of land acquisition costs, construction costs, and market values. They've given us room to dream, but they're also keeping us grounded in the realities of realty.

Da-65-08-09-sm.jpg

The image above, the August 9, 1965, Pogo is from the Cartoon Art Originals website, which has this strip and original Walt Kelly art for many other Pogo daily strips, Sunday strips, and paperbacks.

Via Instapundit, I found this headline on the CNN website: "Man appears free of HIV after stem cell transplant."

I was curious. I figured it was some form of adult stem cell therapy, but I imagine that many people reading the headline and nothing else would have assumed it involved embryonic stem cell therapy, since that's the kind that gets all the attention, even though adult stem cell therapy has gotten all the therapeutic results to date.

So I read further:

A 42-year-old HIV patient with leukemia appears to have no detectable HIV in his blood and no symptoms after a stem cell transplant from a donor carrying a gene mutation that confers natural resistance to the virus that causes AIDS, according to a report published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine.

"The patient is fine," said Dr. Gero Hutter of Charite Universitatsmedizin Berlin in Germany. "Today, two years after his transplantation, he is still without any signs of HIV disease and without antiretroviral medication."

Pretty exciting! The story mentions that the stem cell transplant was for the purpose of treating the leukemia, but they chose a donor with a "gene mutation that confers resistance to HIV."

Donor? I read further:

While promising, the treatment is unlikely to help the vast majority of people infected with HIV, said Dr. Jay Levy, a professor at the University of California San Francisco, who wrote an editorial accompanying the study. A stem cell transplant is too extreme and too dangerous to be used as a routine treatment, he said.

"About a third of the people die [during such transplants], so it's just too much of a risk," Levy said. To perform a stem cell transplant, doctors intentionally destroy a patient's immune system, leaving the patient vulnerable to infection, and then reintroduce a donor's stem cells (which are from either bone marrow or blood) in an effort to establish a new, healthy immune system.

So they "destroy a patient's immune system," and then introduce cells "from either bone marrow or blood" from a "compatible donor."

Doesn't that sound like what they used to call a bone marrow transplant?

Some medical expert correct me if I'm wrong, but bone marrow cells are stem cells, so the story isn't inaccurate. But it would have been more informative to the public and to the debate over embryonic stem cell research for the story to use the familiar term of bone marrow transplant, to state clearly that the cells came from an adult bone marrow donor, and to state that no human embryos were destroyed as part of the treatment.

I notice that googling "bone marrow HIV" turns up stories about the same patient from last November. I have to wonder if the scientists changed their terminology to "stem cell" for the New England Journal of Medicine story in hopes of attracting more funding.

The National Health Service website in Britain has an article about the treatment which refers to it as a bone marrow transplant. The NHS article goes into much more detail on the science behind the story and mentions that the patient underwent two transplants from the same donor.

Chicken run

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In this Wall Street Journal video story, we learn of the problems of chicken farmers in Arkansas, who borrowed money to build high-tech chicken houses to raise birds for Pilgrim's Pride. Now the company has terminated its contract with "at least 300 farms in Arkansas, Florida and North Carolina," and the farmers have no source of revenue to repay the construction mortgages on their chicken houses.

Look on the bright side: Tulsa's water might clear up some.

Seriously though, you'd think a poultry company would be thriving in tough times, as people scale back on consumption of more expensive meat.

(Click here for a text version of the WSJ story.)

Noel Murray at A.V. Club has reviewed the new Collectors Choice box set of the Tiffany Transcriptions, a selection of recordings made by Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys in the mid '40s. It's a great review, with good descriptions of the music and the history behind it, enhanced by a selection of songs: "Texas Playboys Opening Theme," "Fat Boy Rag," "St. Louis Blues (Part 2)," "Frankie Jean," "Ida Red."

Murray captures the distinction between the Texas Playboys' commercial releases on Columbia and MGM on 78 RPM, and these transcriptions, pressed on larger discs for distribution to radio stations:

I've always liked the Wills' 78s I've heard; they're bright, catchy and good-spirited. But the music on The Tiffany Transcriptions has an edge to it, born of the circumstances under which the shows were recorded. As the surviving bandmembers recall, the Tiffany sets were scheduled for the end of the tour, when everyone was anxious to finish up their business and get home to their families. After months on the road, they all knew the songs backward and forward, so they banged out each song in one take, and with added urgency....

On their 78s, Wills and company sound energetic but confined: a group of professional music-makers. On The Tiffany Transcriptions, they sound like human beings: scruffy, sweaty, disheveled and irritable. It's a side of everyday existence that mainstream show business largely tried to screen out in the '40s, but listening to The Tiffany Transcriptions is a way of conjuring up the past the way it actually was. It's like digging beneath a stack of Hollywood fan magazines and finding a cache of family photos.

Murray cautions against O.D.ing on ahhh-hahhhhs:

The best way to tackle The Tiffany Transcriptions is to spend time with each disc individually, admiring the eclectic mix of originals with covers, and of instrumentals with songs that take advantage of smooth-dude lead vocalist Tommy Duncan. Even better: narrow your Playboys appreciation down to one song at a time, until you can hear each individual fiddle and horn and guitar, and imagine what it must've been like to be in a dance hall with so many musicians playing in unison on stage. The beauty of Bob Wills' music was in its vastness, both in terms of sound and subject. Well before the bastard American music form known as rock 'n' roll had a name or a following, The Texas Playboys were stealing liberally from pop, jazz, R&B and country music, taking primarily the parts that made people move.

A comment from an A.V. Club reader is worth requoting:

If hipsters start listening to western swing instead of Weezer, the world will be a much better place.

MORE: Here's the number one Google result for "Tiffany Transcriptions". <grin>

STILL MORE: Here's a video from just before the Tiffany period -- Ida Red -- Bob Wills and Joe Holley on fiddle, Noel Boggs on steel, Cameron Hill and Jimmy Wyble on standard guitar, Millard Kelso on accordion, and Tommy Duncan on vocals. The trumpeter sounds like Alex Brashear, but I thought he had a mustache. Didn't recognize the bass player.

ONE MORE: This sweet YouTube video combines "Stay All Night (Stay a Little Longer)" (from For the Last Time) with photos of house dances from the 1930s (in Pie Town, New Mexico, according to a commenter), when they'd roll up the rug, push back the chairs, and stay all night dancing to music played by the fiddler and the rhythm guitarist in the corner.

Walmart autonomy

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There's a much-linked recent story in the New York Post by Charles Platt, who "went undercover" to work on as a Walmart sales associate. Something that impressed him impressed and surprised me too:

Having pledged ourselves, we encountered the aspect of Wal-Mart employment that impressed me most: The Telxon, pronounced "Telzon," a hand-held bar-code scanner with a wireless connection to the store's computer. When pointed at any product, the Telxon would reveal astonishing amounts of information: the quantity that should be on the shelf, the availability from the nearest warehouse, the retail price, and (most amazing of all) the markup.

All of us were given access to this information, because - in theory, at least - anyone in the store could order a couple extra pallets of anything, and could discount it heavily as a Volume Producing Item (known as a VPI), competing with other departments to rack up the most profitable sales each month. Floor clerks even had portable equipment to print their own price stickers. This was how Wal-Mart detected demand and responded to it: by distributing decision-making power to grass-roots level. It was as simple yet as radical as that.

We received an inspirational talk on this subject, from an employee who reacted after the store test-marketed tents that could protect cars for people who didn't have enough garage space. They sold out quickly, and several customers came in asking for more. Clearly this was a singular, exceptional case of word-of-mouth, so he ordered literally a truckload of tent-garages, "Which I shouldn't have done really without asking someone," he said with a shrug, "because I hadn't been working at the store for long." But the item was a huge success. His VPI was the biggest in store history - and that kind of thing doesn't go unnoticed in Arkansas.

He was invited to corporate HQ as a guest at a management conference. "It was totally different from what I expected," he told us. "I thought it would be these fatcats talking about money, but no one even mentioned money. All they cared about was finding new ways to satisfy customers. I met everyone including the chairman of the company."

Another surprise, in the answer given by his pet-department supervisor as to why he had been with Walmart for 15 years:

His answer lay in the structure of the store. "It's deceptive, because Wal-Mart isn't divided into separate stores like a mall," he said. "But really, that's how it works. Each section is separate. This is - my pet store! No one comes here and tells me how to run it. I could go for weeks without a supervisor asking any questions." Here was the unseen, unreported side of the corporate behemoth. Big as it was, it was smart enough to give employees a feeling of autonomy.

Back in July 2007, I recounted how the auto department manager for the Chickasha Walmart kept his shop open late for our family, when our van lost a tire tread on the H. E. Bailey Turnpike, heading home from Texas. We had first called the AAA emergency number, which pointed us to a local repair shop, which didn't have the right tire in stock, and the tire store wouldn't be open until the following morning. The Walmart manager's initiative allowed us to get home that night. Otherwise we'd have had to stay the night in Chickasha or limp slowly home on the compact spare.

On May 20, 2008, the famed Rock Cafe on US 66 in Stroud was gutted by fire, but the stone walls remained standing. Owner Dawn Welch was determined to rebuild. After some false starts, reconstruction is on track for completion in late spring, according to Dawn's latest update, posted on January 20. The interior framing is complete and the roof trusses are now in place. If she meets that late spring target, the cafe would open just about a year after the fire.

It gives me hope for the old Temple Israel building at 14th and Cheyenne, which was gutted by fire in late January. The brick walls are still up, and I'm hopeful that Kevin Stephens, who owns the historic building and adjacent lots, will press ahead with his planned restoration and repurposing of the building. It's an important part of our city's history. After Temple Israel moved away in the '30s, to 16th & Rockford (now home to a playground for Christ the King Parish), the building was home to the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

Its companion, the original home of Congregation B'nai Emunah, just three blocks away near 11th and Cheyenne, was torn down some years ago for parking for the Teamsters hall next door.

Okie Blog Awards: Best Political Blog, 2008

My deepest gratitude to my fellow Oklahoma bloggers, who have named BatesLine the Best Political Blog for 2008. It's especially meaningful to be recognized by fellow bloggers who know what it is to write content for public consumption day-in and day-out. And it's particularly encouraging during what has been a very stressful time.

Congratulations to the other winners, particularly to Tulsa-area blogs: Confessions of a Pioneer Woman for Best Overall Blog and Best Looking Blog, Rocks in My Dryer for Best Writing Blog, Tasha Does Tulsa for Best Culture Blog, and Decisionally Challenged for Best Humor Blog. (Yogi's Den came second for Best Culture Blog.)

Go check out the rest of the winners, and check out the rest of the nominees as well. As Mike Hermes, who founded this competition in 2005 and has been running it ever since, noted, "We are all winners to be a part of a thriving Oklahoma blogging community."

There are three bloggers that deserve a great deal of the credit for that thriving Oklahoma blogging community. Mike Hermes of Okiedoke is one of them, for his Okie blog roundup feature and the annual awards. Kevin Latham is another, for creating the BlogOklahoma webring. And then there's the doyen of Oklahoma bloggers, Charles G. Hill of dustbury.com, who has, for as long as I remember, made special note of his fellow Oklahomans in his blogroll and called attention to them by linking worthy posts. Their work has made this blogging community possible. Whatever our other affiliations, these three have helped us recognize what we have in common.

T-O-R-T-U-R-E

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The National Archives has a special exhibit on their website called "Eyewitness". It brings together eyewitness accounts in the form of text, paintings, photos, audio, and videos to illustrate significant moments and periods in history.

It's all in a single Flash application, so I can't link to individual items (you'll need to click the Contents tab) but here are a few of the topics, some renowned, some obscure:

  • George Washington on the threat of biological warfare during the Revolution
  • Thomas Jefferson, writing from Paris, on the storming of the Bastille
  • Lt. Col. Dwight D. Eisenhower on a 1919 transcontinental convoy: This experience, and his encounter with Germany's autobahns during WW II, inspired his push for an interstate highway system.
  • Herb Morrison's radio broadcast of the Hindenburg disaster

The site includes a film I've heard about for years, but had never before seen. Cmdr. Jeremiah Denton, Jr., later an admiral and U. S. Senator from Alabama, was a Navy pilot who had been shot down and held prisoner in Vietnam. He was required to be interviewed by a Japanese reporter. As he spoke, he sent a coded message with his eyes. He blinked out the Morse code for the word "torture" over and over again, providing U. S. intelligence with the first confirmation that POWs were being tortured by their North Vietnamese captors.

Robert Stephens of Alphabet City has transcribed some of Denton's description of the event, of the torture he endured, and of God's sustaining grace during that torture, as he recounted it for the film Return with Honor:

DENTON: One night was very memorable to me, it may have been two two thirty in the morning quiet and uh, the guard was a pretty decent guy I thought, a kid named Smiley about eighteen years old. He did his duty, but I don't think he liked it too much. And obviously the Camp Commander had told him to come in there and break me. was telling the guy going more, more, more and I said lord, I -- I've thought of every prayer that I know by heart, I've thought of everything that just sort of uh, uh, expresses my will and -- and beg you to help me and I -- I -- I've run out of things. I'm totally without resources for even prayer. It was the first time I'd ever said okay God, you've got it, I'm just gone. . And at that instant, I -- I breathed that total surrender I was relieved of all pain. And I had felt as if a blanket had been placed over me. A warmth and comfort I had absolutely not only no fear but the greatest feeling of comfort and total confidence that nothing could happen to me bad the rest of my life in this condition I was in. And that's when Smiley looked at me as he was pulling and I looked at him and my face must have said well Smiley what are you doing? You're not hurting me. I -- you can't break me. And at that point his face just broke and he -- tears started coming down his face. He let go of the line. Went out and started screaming at the Officer.

DENTON: Having tortured me for my confession they were going to hope they could carry over to an interview in which I would say the words they wanted me to say. But I decided I'd -- for -- for what it was worth, just say the opposite of what they briefed me on. And uh, saw the lights of the TV cameras. . And -- and I saw the lights, I decided I'd blink my eyes in -- in Morse Code and -- and -- and spell out the word torture over and over again. In case they fitted words into my mouth, that were apologetic on my part. In other words, faked it. I would at least let them know I'd been tortured by the T-O-R-T-U-R-E.

Blair Humphreys has downloaded the latest version of Google Earth, 5.0, and reports a feature that will delight urban historian types: The ability to go back in time to earlier images.

The coolest new feature of the program is that it allows you to search historical aerials. With Oklahoma City, there are approx. 10 different aerial sets dating back to 1991, though only a few are from before 2002. Still, it is great to have access to a tool that records urban transformation.

He demonstrates with images of Bricktown from 1995 to 2003 to 2007. It's striking to see that, for all the new development -- the ballpark, the canal, the new development south of Reno -- very little was demolished over that 12 year period. Bricktown began with a great stock of older buildings, and those buildings have been reused, not replaced.

MORE: Although OKC did plenty of demolition as part of the I. M. Pei plan, their pre-World War II Civic Center -- City Hall and the Music Hall and the connecting mall -- replaced an old Rock Island rail yard. Doug Loudenback has a fascinating historical sketch of the planning and development of the Oklahoma City Civic Center.

Oklahoma has inadequate protections against SLAPPs -- strategic lawsuits against public participation. So argues Laura Long in the Summer 2007 issue of the Oklahoma Law Review. (Click here for a direct link to the PDF of her article.)

If you're not familiar with the term, here's the description from Wikipedia:

A Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation ("SLAPP") is a lawsuit that is intended to intimidate and silence critics by burdening them with the cost of a legal defense until they abandon their criticism or opposition. Winning the lawsuit is not necessarily the intent of the person filing the SLAPP. The plaintiff's goals are accomplished if the defendant succumbs to fear, intimidation, mounting legal costs or simple exhaustion and abandons the criticism. A SLAPP may also intimidate others from participating in the debate.

While the term originated with reference to suits against people petitioning the government -- e.g., suing homeowners who file a suit to stop a zoning change -- the concept has been extended to comprehend both the Petition and Speech clauses of the First Amendment.

Oklahoma does have a statute, 12 O.S. 1443.1. Long writes:

Oklahoma's anti-SLAPP statute, section 1443.1 of title 12, provides immunity from libel suits upon certain conditions, but does not address other common SLAPP suit causes of action. The statute states that, with the exception of falsely imputing a crime to a public officer, statements made in or about a legislative, judicial, or other proceeding authorized by law shall not be punishable as libel. Further, the statute protects criticism of the official acts of public officers. For a plaintiff to recover in a libel or defamation suit, the public official must show actual knowledge of probable falsity prior to the publication. Short of a deliberate factual lie, a plaintiff may not sue a defendant for defamation even if there were serious doubts as to truth.

Long writes that one of the drawbacks of the existing statute is that it only applies to defamation and doesn't address the many other causes of action used in SLAPP suits, such as business interference, abuse of process, and conspiracy torts.

While the Oklahoma courts have taken an expansive view of protected speech, Long notes, the problem is that the remedies provided are "reactive." They may be helpful once a case goes to trial, but by then the damage has already been done to a SLAPP victim:

Like the statute's narrow scope, the lack of an effective court review process renders Oklahoma's statute inadequate to combat SLAPP suits and their ill effects. Without procedural mechanisms to prevent or cure SLAPP suits in their infancy, the statute fails the third prong of Canan and Pring's test. Due to the costs and anxiety associated with lawsuits, lengthy SLAPP suits discourage targets from continuing their petitioning activities and intimidate future petitioners for fear of similar retaliation. Moreover, prolonged suits often cause support for the original issues to wane, rendering the petitioning activities futile. Implementing procedures that allow for quick dispositions of SLAPP suits while discouraging future suits can mitigate many of these ill effects. Unfortunately, Oklahoma's statute does not provide a method for early review and dismissal, and is therefore inadequate to protect petitioning activity.

In addition to Oklahoma's anti-SLAPP statute, other statutory mechanisms for combating frivolous suits likewise fail to establish adequate protection for targets. A motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim generally proves ineffective as a remedy because filers can easily frame petitioning grievances in the form of legitimate tort claims. Further, targets must still spend considerable time and money for pre-trial practice and discovery, and even if the court grants the motion, dismissals do little to deter future SLAPP suits. Similarly, motions for sanctions and shifting of attorney fees often increase total litigation and do little to discourage suing in the first place. Motions such as these may be difficult for targets to invoke and occur too late in the litigation process to prevent the chill on petitioning. Reactionary solutions may effectively vindicate defendants in ordinary lawsuits, but their impact is minimal when the purpose of the suit is to intimidate targets through enormous court costs and time commitments.

Long recommends California's comprehensive anti-SLAPP statute as a guide:

To cure a SLAPP suit with as little impact on petitioning activity as possible, an effective statute should include a special motion to dismiss, an articulable burden of proof for the filer that may include a requirement for more specificity in the pleading, suspended discovery, and an award of costs to the successfully moving party. To prevent future SLAPP suits, the statute should include a specific authorization for serious penalties and accompanying SLAPP-back suits. Together, these elements provide a quick and cost-effective escape route for targets of SLAPP suits and may even discourage filers from attacking the target's First Amendment Right to Petition in the future....

Courts should treat special motions to dismiss as final summary judgment motions with a time period appropriate for expedited motions. As with typical motions for summary judgment, if a trial court denies the motion or fails to rule in a speedy fashion, then a moving party should have a right to an expedited appeal. Further, all discovery should be stayed pending a decision on the motion and appeals. A method for early review and a stay of discovery greatly reduces the time commitment and the financial resources needed to combat the SLAPP suits, thereby lessening the chill effect on petitioning activity....

Regardless of whether a statute contains a probability standard for the motion to dismiss or a standard developed from the Mountain Environment or Omni decisions, every state with an anti-SLAPP statute except Delaware, Tennessee, Oklahoma, and Washington, includes some form of early review. If enacted properly, special motions to dismiss are quick, cheap methods to cut off harassing discovery and ensure quick closure.

I understand that there is a move afoot to pass a comprehensive, effective SLAPP law for Oklahoma. This is something that should have overwhelming bipartisan support.

More SLAPP shots:

I posted this cartoon excerpt, from Walt Kelly's Pogo Peek-A-Book, about a year ago. It's a favorite moment in a favorite tale, "The Man from Suffern on the Steppes or 1984 and All That: A Russian Tale of Madisonav," a simultaneous spoof of Soviet bureaucracy and American advertising. I've been thinking about it a lot lately and with a fair amount of empathy for the ad-man commuter here portrayed by Mr. Howland Owl.

pogogummint-420x638.gif

No, not me.

For over 20 years, Michael M. Bates wrote a weekly column for The Reporter, a weekly paper based in the southwest suburbs of Chicago. As for his political philosophy, this other Michael Bates outflanks me: "As a lad, Mike distributed Goldwater campaign literature and since then has steadily moved further to the Right."

Bates quit in protest over the headline placed over his January 22 column. He gave the column, a counterpoint to the inauguration-induced Obamamania, the title, "Include Me Out." At the end of the piece, he excluded himself from the company of those wishing the new president success:

The "We Are One" theme comes at a remarkable time. After eight years of liberals bashing President Bush and other Republicans, it's expected that magically all Americans will suddenly, joyously unify as one big happy family under Obama.

That ain't gonna happen. Some Republicans are wishing Obama success. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal is one, saying that "We need to get behind our new president and our new Congress," and "support them."

Support them in driving this country into the ground? If Obama delivers on his campaign promises, it'll be an unmitigated disaster. Good luck for him means bad luck for the United States .

Other conservatives may wish the new president success. That's their prerogative. As movie producer Samuel Goldwyn said, include me out.

The Reporter put this headline and subhed over Bates's column:

Success for Obama would be disaster
Bitter conservative can't wish U.S. well

Michael M. didn't mind being called a bitter conservative. It was the last half of that subhed that stuck in his craw:

No, the objectionable portion was [the editor's] claiming I can't wish my own country well. It implies I'm unpatriotic. That isn't accurate. Well, he went on, if Obama doesn't succeed, then America will fail. How can you not wish Obama well if you love your country?

I replied that Obama is most emphatically not the United States, even though his admirers habitually think so. His "success" in imposing his radical agenda means America loses. National victory requires a vigorous rejection of most of Obama's schemes.

Michael M. Bates will continue to post columns on his website, michaelmbates.com, and on his blog at Townhall. From one opinionated Michael Bates to another, all the best.

Last September, the Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce won approval under that city's downtown design guidelines for a new headquarters building at 4th and Gaylord, where Gaylord jogs left to connect to Broadway. Approval was controversial, because of the suburban site plan -- the building sits back from the street, and a good deal of the site is devoted to surface parking. An opportunity was missed to reverse an urban design mistake from the '60s and restore a street grid that would make pedestrian movement through the area easier than it is today: Six-lane Gaylord acts as a barrier between the downtown core and the Flatiron District.

The project is not yet under construction, and one quiet critic of the plan, Blair Humphreys, is now speaking up in hopes of urging a rethink of the plan. Back before the project came before the Downtown Design Review Board, Humphreys wrote a critique of the plan, but decided to keep it under wraps:

At the time, the proposal was still weeks away from initial urban design review and I hoped to contribute to the dialogue, or more accurately, initiate a dialogue about the proposal and the constraints placed on the project by the flawed planning of the I.M. Pei Plan. But then, after receiving advice that it would damage my future job prospects in OKC, I chose to stay silent.

Humphreys is studying urban planning at MIT. I started to write that it's stunning to think that someone with his name and education could hurt his job prospects by uttering some constructive criticism, but it really isn't. Although OKC has been more forward-thinking in its urban policy than Tulsa, its social structure is not that different from Tulsa's. Telling the emperor that his clothes are somewhat transparent, even if it's said in the most polite way, is never appreciated by the emperor.

His decision to remain silent gnawed at him:

It is a tough deal because I love Oklahoma City. I have always dreamed of helping to shape the future of the city and want to make it great - that is why I left development to pursue a career in planning. As a student of history I appreciate and respect the vital role the Chamber has played - and continues to play - in Oklahoma City's rise from train depot, to State Capitol, to Big League City. However, I have never felt right about the way I stayed quiet on this issue. From now on, I will not back down from contributing my thoughts on contentious issues, but I will try to do so in the most respectful manner possible.

In a later entry, he posts his critique of the Chamber's proposal.

One of my frustrations over the last decade or so of active involvement in local issues is how many Tulsans, active in community affairs, will tell me their concerns or objections to some public plan privately but don't dare speak out publicly. To speak up might alienate a potential compliant, might cost their non-profit a major donation, might get them ostracized from their social circle. (I wrote about this frustration at length last June.)

I can understand their reluctance. Criticizing the plans of the powerful doesn't earn you praise, position, or riches.

But being willing to speak has its rewards as well as its costs. You give others who share your opinion the reassurance that they aren't alone, which may give them the courage to speak up, too. If you're a well-trained urbanist like Blair Humphreys, your words can give laypeople a vocabulary for expressing their gut feelings about neighborhoods and buildings and places. Eventually, you may have the satisfaction of seeing your ideas become the conventional wisdom.

You can't shape the public debate unless you're willing to debate publicly.

Venerable Tulsa technology guru Don Singleton has relaunched Tulsa High Tech, this time as a strictly online presence. (If you really want the dead-tree version -- to give to a less-tech-savvy relative, for example -- you can download a PDF and print it.)

The scope of Tulsa High Tech is wide-ranging, but there's a definite bent toward helping computer users at all levels connect with the resources they need to learn new skills. Don writes in this issue's intro:

The purpose of Tulsa High Tech is to provide a clearing house for what is happening in the area of High Technology in the Tulsa Area, including education, seminars and workshops, blogging, exhibits, manufacturing, and anything else we can think of. In addition to providing access to class schedules, listings of various groups, and product reviews we intend to cover the human interest side of IT. We will feature profiles of instructors, community service projects, etc. If you are involved in any way with High Technology in the greater Tulsa Area, and would like to have your organization included, email me.

As computers have become ubiquitous, general computer user groups have lost their prominence. While experts may turn to specialized online forums, there's still a need to help beginners get started with a technology, even if the beginner is an expert in some other realm of software and hardware. Don hopes to create a central clearinghouse for Tulsans interested in technology, where even tech gurus can learn something new.

In the Feb. 2009 issue of Tulsa High Tech, you'll find tips on using the Google Maps API and Dreamweaver CS Pro, internet safety resources for kids and parents, a beginners' corner item on attaching photos to e-mail messages, an alert about bank "phishing" scams. You'll also learn about Tulsa Technology Center's campuses in Second Life. (Really.) There's also a nice little piece about this blog.

Go check it out.

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This page is an archive of entries from February 2009 listed from newest to oldest.

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