By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
"We like to surprise people," he says. "That's a good thing. There are all sorts of interesting points of view out there, and this documentary has an interesting point of view. People who are seeing it are enjoying it, and that's all you can ask out of any movie." --Robert Wilonsky
In May 2002, award-winning director Paul Stekler found the perfect lead for his next movie, a captivating star who would be the centerpiece of a film about the changing landscape of politics in Texas. Stekler, who's also a film professor at the University of Texas at Austin, had seen former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk give a riveting speech in the spring of that year, in which he announced he was running for the U.S. Senate; the filmmaker was starstruck. There was only one problem: Kirk had no interest in being involved. Which is how Stekler's film Last Man Standing: Politics--Texas Style, which airs July 20 on PBS, went from being about Kirk's senatorial campaign against Republican John Cornyn to one about a smaller race in Lyndon Johnson's old stomping grounds, which pitted Rick Green, a 31-year-old Republican incumbent with sketchy ethics, against an Ivy League-educated 24-year-old Democratic newcomer named Patrick Rose in a race for state representative.
"It's not often you see someone running for office who is that charismatic," says Stekler, whose exceptional filmography includes George Wallace: Settin' the Woods on Fire. "I'm not being partisan, but I've seen Cornyn and Rick Sanchez and Rick Perry speak, and if anybody thinks they're inspirational, that's...well, interesting. But Ron Kirk can really rise, and I thought this guy could have a shot." Of course, Cornyn trounced Kirk in November 2002, just as Perry easily vanquished Sanchez.
Maybe Kirk would have won had he, and his handlers, been more accessible to the media: Stekler says he had to change the thrust of Last Man Standingwhen Kirk's campaign refused to grant the respected documentarian decent access to the former mayor. As a result, the Kirk-Cornyn battle fades into the background of Stekler's riveting film; Green and Rose, two handsome young guys who couldn't be more different, are capable stars. "I don't know what happened to Kirk's campaign, but it wasn't effective," Stekler says. "One thing was they had an unusual relationship with the press, keeping the press at arm's length, and I never understood this. All campaigns are dysfunctional, but I just don't get it. It was a bad job of selling a sellable candidate." --R.W.
A Dog’s Life
Find yourself pretending to pay attention to the boss but daydreaming of your dog? You need a dogcam. And maybe a mate.
A handful of upscale doggie day-care establishments in Dallas now offer dogcam services. You park your pooch. They monitor his or her every wag on video cameras you can watch on your computer at work.
City Veterinary Center was one of the first doggie day cares in Dallas to offer webcams. City Vet has boarding facilities in Uptown and Oak Lawn. Barbara Dozier, a manager for City Vet, says many of the center's day-care customers are totally hooked on the dogcam.
"They get in trouble at work for watching the webcam, but they can't stop," she says. "They call us and say, 'I can't see my dog on the webcam. Are you sure she's all right?' And we have to go hold the dog up in front of the camera."
City Vet also provides leather sofas (possibly not real leather) for the dogs to loll upon, which can make for some very glamorous scenes. Anyone can look at the City Vet dogcam at www.cityvet.com.
"I have the webcam minimized on my desk," says regular customer Lila Manassa. She's a financial analyst whose work sometimes involves pressure. She loves clicking on the webcam during the day to make sure her Jack Russell terrier, Cassie, is having fun at doggie day care. "She's a pretty popular dog," Manassa says. "If she were in the equivalent [human] school, she would be Miss Congeniality."
Dozier says the webcams serve a purpose beyond mere pet obsession. "They are also a way for people to check up on us." The doggie equivalent, in other words, of nanniecams.
City Vet is not the only boarding facility to offer dogma service. Another is Pappy's Pet Lodge on McCallum Boulevard, and others may follow suit soon.
The ultimate test of the pet/owner relationship, of course, would be mastercams--webcams poised over the desks of pet owners with images displayed on screens back at the doggie day-care center. Then we could see how much time the dogs spend sitting in front of the TV admiring their masters. --Jim Schutze