Leavin' on a jet plane

Just a note to let you know that I have always looked forward to reading anything written by Christina Rees ("Cheers and tallyho," February 17). I'm sure it comes as no surprise that the Dallas visual-art scene is in short supply of writers who inject passion, insight, objectivity, and gutsy criticism into their art reviews. Cultural relevance in contemporary art is not only essential, it's also a great way to engage readers, hence broadening the arts audience. Miss Rees filled her reviews with references to television, rock and roll, art history, politics, and pop culture, while managing to disregard the gossip of the local art scene. It made for some good reads.

So farewell, Christina. Thanks for engaging me and so many others with your weekly reviews of some of the country's best talent, yeah, right here in our own back yard. Thanks for covering the young 'uns: Brian Fridge, Ted Kincaid, Good/Bad Art Collective, and on and'll be missed.

Marty Walker
Via e-mail

Crummy teachers

I am not a regular reader of the Dallas Observer. However, I read Jim Schutze's article "Why Johnny's in the dumpster" in the February 17 issue, and I want to compliment you on a job well done. It has been obvious to a lot of us for a long, long time that the principal reason DISD is doing such a poor job in educating our young folks is that DISD has inferior teachers. Throwing more money at the problem won't help unless it is coupled with a merit-based hiring system, raises for competent teachers, and a significant reduction of freeloaders at the administrative level.

Lin Barbee
Via e-mail

Learning experience

Jonathan Fox's January 27 article ("No class") regarding Washington Elementary School, an Edison partnership school in Sherman, Texas, provides a welcome opportunity to clarify some misconceptions about Edison Schools.

In his article, Mr. Fox readily cites numerous positive results from Edison's partnership with the Sherman school district. Yet despite the clear achievements made by the school under our management, the author is reluctant to give Edison any of the credit.

In addition to Sherman, Edison has made excellent progress in implementing a comprehensive, rich, and ambitious program in schools all over the country. Edison students nationwide have shown significant academic improvement. Moreover, students, parents, and teachers consistently express high satisfaction with our schools.

Highlights of the Edison school design include a longer school day and year; an organization structure based on smaller school-within-schools and teaching teams; a rich and challenging curriculum; diverse instructional strategies; an assessment system that provides real accountability; strong partnerships with families; ongoing professional development for teachers; extensive use of technology; and the advantages of system and scale. In fact, as Mr. Fox's article indicates, Edison's introduction of these innovations prompted many of the reform efforts in Sherman Unified School District.

Although our contractual relationship with the Sherman school district is coming to a close, we are pleased with the progress and many achievements made by Washington students and staff during the last five years. The contract with the Sherman school district was our first, and we believe this has been an important and valuable learning experience for both parties.

In the next few years, we plan to establish new partnerships with school districts and community-based organizations throughout the country that are looking for an innovative and proven educational model to address the needs of their schoolchildren. The fact is, however, that we cannot attain our goals alone. We look to our partners -- parents, school boards, districts, and unions, as well as other community organizations -- to help fulfill our commitment to provide every Edison student with a world-class education.

Gaynor McCown
Vice President of Corporate Strategies
Edison Schools


I don't find it surprising at all that the folks at Texas A&M are getting flustered by Frito-Lay's decision to stop using genetically modified corn ("Fooling with Mother Nature," February 10). These are the same folks that say it's OK to use chemical pesticides on farms and lawns. Ask Fort Worth about the levels of pesticides in their water supply. (Honey, get me a glass of Diazinon, please!)

Mr. John Mullet is upset that companies like Frito-Lay are saying no to genetically modified food crops for reasons "not based on good scientific data." OK, so where is the data that says these Frankenfoods will have no long-term detrimental effects on public health? The data doesn't exist because they just don't know what can happen in the future.

As for farmers, it is ironic that they want to champion these GM products and the companies that make them. Monsanto, for instance, came out with this brilliant idea called "terminator" seed technology. The crop seeds render themselves sterile after planting, preventing farmers from saving seeds for the following year's crops. Neat, huh? The giant chemical company seems to have abandoned this technological "advance" for the time being, anyway.  

I understand farmers want to use less pesticides, herbicides, and the like. Wonderful idea. I have an old-tech solution that works beautifully and will save them money. It's called organic.

Scott Morris
Via e-mail

Sick dude

I'd like to comment on your Robert Smith interview ("What ails him?" February 17). I think it reflects well his relationship to his audience -- little participation or involvement. My three favorite songwriters are Robert Smith, Ian Astbury, and Jay Aston, all '80s peers with a similar underlining of darkness to them in different contexts. Jay Aston's is "I understand your pain," Ian Astbury's is "You understand my pain," and Robert Smith's is "You don't understand my pain." To me there's always been a sense of detachment and inaccessibility about Robert Smith in terms of his connection to his fans, and perhaps the collective worship of his many followers alienates him from them. My own inability to purchase tickets for his show is symbolic to me of all this.

Via e-mail

Ode to the outsiders

Your Jim Schutze is sooooo right about Monorail Max ("The girl can't help it," February 10). Not only was Max Goldblatt cheated; Dallas was cheated in that election. Central Expressway would have a wonderful monorail service to downtown if the City Hall machine hadn't run over Max. We probably would have a good downtown civil defense shelter in the abandoned Santa Fe tunnel, instead of goofballs from City Hall filling it with cement. And the city would have a good, healthy, and fair percentage of ticket sales from any sports center. And the DART (Democrats Always Raise Taxes) bunch wouldn't have tried ripping out the Katy Railroad tracks from Highland Park to downtown, lest someone realize the ready-to-use tracks would have been great for a train-like trolley to carry commuters from the Park Cities to downtown.

With Laura Miller hope springs eternal. I can't see a gang of hoodlums with shotguns taking over a school board meeting with Miller as mayor, or anyone shouting "racist, racist" every time a white member has a contrary opinion about something.

Henry Gist
Via e-mail

Rockabilly lives

I really enjoyed, and read with great interest, your article featuring the old Dallas "barn-dance" program "The Big D Jamboree" ("Good rockin' last night," January 6). It certainly brought back a ton of memories. I am originally from Fayetteville, Arkansas, but have recently moved to Texas to attend school and possibly try to put together another rockabilly band.

I played in a western swing/honky-tonk band for years back home as well as abroad, and we often played in this area. I know that we used to hit the Sportatorium every time we were in town. Although I can't honestly say that we ever performed at the Big D Jamboree (we used to play 365 days a year, sometimes two matinees and two evening shows in one day, so memory sometimes is not as clear as it should), but we certainly saw a lot of great shows there! I remember seeing the late Doug Sahm when he was just a rascal, The Rondels (a band that featured a very young Delbert McClinton and Ronnie Kelly), Bob Luman, Howard Crockett (writer of the Johnny Horton hit "Honky Tonk Man"), Leon Russell, and in later years, The Thirteenth Floor Elevators, plus all the greats you mentioned.

We rarely made it to Dallas in those days other than to catch those shows, because most of our gigs were in Fort Worth. We mostly played at the NCO Club at Carswell Air Base, Casino Beach, the Cowtown Coliseum, the Masonic Mosque, Will Rogers Coliseum, and later on The Cellar Club and Harlow's. It wasn't until later that we played Dallas at places like The Pirate's Nook, The Studio Club, and Market Hall, and even then, they were few. We met all sorts of odd and wonderful people back then. Jack Ruby; Candy Barr; Dewey Groom (owner of the Longhorn Ballroom, home of Bob Wills and the Sex Pistols...only in Texas!); Gordon McClendon, who used to do fake "live" concerts over the air; local producer Phil York; Ron Chapman (who used to host a television music show not unlike American Bandstand, yet the name escapes me), who is now a Dallas disc jockey; a teenage Johnny Nitzinger; all the cats over at KFJZ radio (which was the hip station at the time); and oh so many others.  

I really enjoyed the pictures and the interviews as well. You mentioned in your article that "Dallas seems to think that history comes with an expiration date...paving over its yesterdays," and I have noticed that it's unfortunately true all too often. Its residents scarcely seem to notice or remember all the famous Big Band leaders that performed at all the downtown hotels way back when, or that the area known as Deep Ellum was a hotbed of musical activity (twice!). Thanks to your article, a lot more people will now know. Thank you for stirring up some wonderful memories.

Pursey Posey

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