Dope opera: A New York music prof takes aim at Dallas' new arts center. Misses.

Geographically clueless: This week, we give a Buzz salute to Cornell University associate music professor David Yearsley. (A Buzz salute looks like what is commonly called the double bird, only it's done with a smile and heartfelt respect.)

Why do we respect Yearsley? Because last week he posted an essay on the Web site CounterPunch that grossly insulted Dallas' new performing arts center, the city and its residents as a bunch of Stetson-wearing, bouffant-coiffed Philistines—all without having recently visited the city. Ignorant-ass polemics that rely on Dallas stereotypes and insults to make a point. Hmm. That sounds vaguely familiar here at the Dallas Observer.

In his essay, Yearsley described the new downtown performing arts center as "floating in a gray sea of concrete" and suggested readers should "weep over the brutal exercise of power and wealth that is high culture when wielded by the big hands of Texas oil men and Enron ex-cons."

He also references "big-haired ladies and their Stetson-topped men" snoozing through an opera, and "nearby bail bondsmen and prostitutes."

Of course, Enron was a Houston scandal, and most of the Stetsons you see around Dallas these days are worn by Mexican immigrants from Sinaloa driving pickups. As for big hair, let's finally put that one to rest. Unless women on the East Coast are going about with crew cuts, women's hair here is pretty much the same size as it is elsewhere. (We get fashion magazines in Texas these days. They come by stagecoach. The really big hair is found on conservative GOP men.)

And bail bondsmen and prostitutes wandering near the arts center? Hey, we'd kill for that kind of active street life downtown. Hookers, hot dog vendors, newsstands, guys selling knockoff purses and jewelry. We want it all.

We would hate to think, though, that the finely dressed, rather mature powdered women we saw at our only visit to a Dallas opera performance were reduced to peddling poon. On the other hand, the stock market being what it is these days...

In a follow-up piece Yearsley kindly wrote for the Observer's Unfair Park blog, he withdrew some of his more damning words about Big D, but he stood by his chief point: The performing arts center shouldn't be a cement island in a sea of freeways that shuttle art lovers to and from the suburbs, but should be part of a living neighborhood.

We agree. Now how do we get there from here? Dallas is operating on the assumption that if we build it, they will come. Got any better ideas, professor?

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Patrick Williams is editor-in-chief of the Dallas Observer.
Contact: Patrick Williams

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