Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Smoking out those "liberal vegans"

"Something smells good," College Republicans Vice President Keoni Medici said, as his club set up across the street from West Virginia University's Mountainlair Student Union last Thursday.

The College Republicans' first Animal Rights Barbecue had begun.

For the rest of the story in The Nation, click here.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Good Day, Mr. Kubrick...

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Skip "Lost" tonight and...

Come to "Art & the Critic" at the McKinney Avenue Contemporary, 3120 McKinney Ave., near downtown Dallas.

I'm on a panel with other arts critics and we'll be discussing what we do, why we do it and why we always give plays with nudity good reviews. Well, almost always. Depends on who's nekkid.

It's free. Doors open at 7:30 and the gabbing begins at 8 p.m.

Monday, October 23, 2006

The 37-minute date

If I am slow to blog these days, blame it on continued ennui. I am considering your suggestions about how to break through the boredom--I am trying, really--and will pick a winner shortly. Meanwhile, I watch marathons of Dexter and Heroes and try to amuse myself with other writers' fixations on serial killers.

Also, I promise to post the Angelina "It's Not Easy Being Beautiful" Jolie anecdote soon. I've had requests. It's a doozy, one that I shared with every class I ever taught and it never fails to amuse. Send a good thought to Brad Pitt. He probably needs it.

There are media items everywhere today about how the "Freshman 15" has dropped to only 8. Big whoop. When I went to college and stopped eating my mom's cream gravy, white rice and pork chops, I lost about 30 pounds. For the first time in my life, I had unlimited access to salad and fresh fruit. And I walked everywhere (no car allowed undergrads until sophomore year, as I recall, and I never had one anyway).

On the Trinity University campus, where I matriculated back in the pre-computer, pre-VCR, pre-iPod, prehistoric era, we were on foot a lot. We had to climb so many stairs up and down the limestone bluffs from the lower dorms to the main buildings for classes, we all had killer legs by the second month of school. It was like enforced Stairmaster five or 10 times a day. You could bounce a quarter off my butt by Christmas break.

But that was then. This is now. Now you could lose a pocketful of change in the rolls of cellulite I'm smuggling between my thighs and glutes. It's a horror show down there. Middle age is a bitch, kiddies. I last saw my navel during the Reagan administration.

Such indignities are everyday annoyances. I swim to keep things as high up as possible, but no amount of laps will lift up my lap.

Then something like the 37-minute date really gets my snark motor revved up anew.

Here's what happened. Had plans with a nice man the other evening. I thought we were attending an early evening event, then going out for dinner. So I pick him up, we drive to the event, for which I have press passes and a free parking thing--a total savings of about $34. We get good seats at said event, watch it for 30 minutes and then he's ready to leave. I say OK, somewhat reluctantly, and as we're walking out, I suggest strolling around the lovely grounds of the place where the event is. It's a nice night, just before sunset. Talk and stroll. Very relaxing.

"I'm not much for strolling," he says curtly.

OK, now what? I ask. He shrugs. To the car? He shrugs.

We get in the car. I'm starting to feel the steam rising to my temples. The evening is not going as planned. It's all zooming off the rails. Where now? I ask. Dinner somewhere?

"I had a late lunch," he says. "Not hungry."

OK, fella, this is too much. All I wanted was some time, a little tenderness and maybe some tacos. Now I can hardly see the road because my rising blood pressure is threatening to pop my eyeballs right out of my skull. I don't say another word. I just drive him home. He falls asleep in the passenger seat. Asleep!

Seven minutes later I drop him off. "We'll talk soon," he says as he bolts from the car.

If I were him, I wouldn't count on that.

Have no idea what went awry. Was he sick? Jet-lagged? Having a mild stroke? I was happy and excited to see the guy. The event was fun and fascinating--the little bit of it we saw. But somewhere during our 37-minute "date," I felt a heavy metal gate slam down between us. He was done. It was over.

On the way home from the non-date I have to stop at Central Market and buy myself some dinner because...like, I still can't believe that kuh-razy shit went down and left me without anything to do at 6:15 on a Friday night. I get some chicken soup and a bag of BBQ-flavored gluten-free organic rice chips that are so freakin' good they're almost a worthy substitute for the male companionship I crave.

Just once, I'd like a normal one.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Sounds funny to me!

UNT prof resigns after video tempest

05:04 PM CDT on Monday, October 16, 2006

By MATTHEW ZABEL / The Dallas Morning News

Dr. Paul Jones, a University of North Texas chemistry professor who showed a sexually suggestive video in his organic chemistry class, resigned Saturday, choosing to return to retirement.

Jones, who already has apologized for the incident early this month, said the complaint about the video “set off a firestorm of nasty stuff on campus and at home.”

“I was getting threatening phone calls, nasty notes, and it was all really upsetting my wife,” Jones said. “I hope the university is better off, and I believe my family will be better off.”

Jones retired from UNT in May and returned part-time this fall to teach an organic chemistry laboratory.

He has been on administrative leave since Oct. 10, when university officials began investigating complaints about a video he showed his class.

The video, “Stripped,” showed a woman undressing. After she had stripped, the woman took off her wig and unzipped a body suit to reveal that “she” really was a fully clothed man.

Jones said he was simply trying to provide some comic relief to a difficult subject, and several students in the class said most students were laughing at it.

But Deborah Leliaert, a spokeswoman for the university, said last week that some students had complained that the video was inappropriate.

University officials are investigating the complaints, she said.

Smut-stangs alert

Playboy is looking for Hilltop fillies willing to bare their fetlocks for the pleasure of horny boys who "just read the articles." Here's the scoop, as detailed by my colleague Robert "Fingers of Fury" Wilonsky on the Unfair Park blog at the Dallas Observer. Pub date for the nekkid Ashley issue is May 2007. Still not too late for implants, if you do it this week!

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Fall break!

Yay! The semester's already half over. Can you believe it?

So now everybody skips town for a few days. Professor Lunch-Guy took off for, I don't know, Rangoon or somewhere. He's been gone so much this fall, I've just about forgotten what he looks like.

I'm in Port Aransas, the Texas coast resort town that time forgot. Looks like rain, but at this point I'd walk on the beach in a thunderstorm. I need me some beach.

The Holiday Inn down here is about two years old. I've stayed here several times a year since it opened and now can say with certainty how long it takes for a nice little chain hotel to go downhill: two years. Nothing's right here anymore. No luggage carts. No extra pillows. No ethernet cables. And worse: no cinnamon rolls! All the ads and the brochures boast of this hotel's free breakfast and scrumptious cinnamon rolls. I bustled down at 8 a.m. to grab a plateful and found an empty countertop. Will there be more coming out? I asked the lady whisking cornflake crumbs onto the floor. "We're out. They're on order. Might come in on Thursday," she said. My suggestion: Why don't you send someone to the grocery store THREE BLOCKS AWAY to buy some more? This sent her into a tiny tizzy.

But still no rolls. Only the imported roll will do for this joint, I guess.


My mom visited my last class before the break because she's never watched me teach before. Afterward she told me she filled out one of the evaluation forms that I'd sent around. She gave me top scores.

I'll bet wherever Lunch-Guy is, they have better breakfast food.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Brushes with fame

Buck O'Neil died today. You'd have to be a student of the old Negro Leagues of baseball to know that name and I had never heard of it myself until 1994, when PBS was readying the Baseball documentary series by Ken Burns. I was among TV critics in Los Angeles who shared some time with Burns and O'Neil.

What I know about baseball wouldn't fit in a bag of peanuts, but I knew I was in the presence of greatness with Mr. O'Neil. He looked and acted like a star. You could still sense the athletic power he must once have had. I remember being moved to tears by his stories of playing ball in the early 20th century.

That's the great thing about being a journalist. Stay with it long enough and you meet your heroes. You also meet people who become your heroes.

Among interviews with famous names that I have most enjoyed over the years (in no particular order): Sir John Gielgud, Sir Elton John, John Frankenheimer, John Ritter, Larry Gelbart, Neil Simon, James Ellroy, Gregory Peck, Shelley Winters, Rose Marie, Dick Van Dyke, Mary Tyler Moore (several times), Carol Burnett, Roseanne Barr Arnold Barr, the writing staffs of Seinfeld, Frasier and The Simpsons, the stars of those three shows (several times and on the sets of the first two), YoYo Ma, Richie Havens, Goldie Hawn, Brian Wilson, Candice Bergen, Joe Wambaugh, Prince Edward, Ed Asner, Norman Lear, Sidney Poitier, Fred Rogers (who hugged me...twice), Lauren Bacall, Elizabeth Taylor, Debbie Reynolds, the Nicholas Brothers, Pat Hitchcock (Alfred's daughter), the widows of Rod Serling and Gene Roddenberry, William Shatner, Michael Landon (aka "Jesus of Malibu"), three of four Monkees, Julie Andrews, Angela Lansbury, Ted Turner, Jane Fonda (when she was Mrs. Turner), President Gerald Ford, John Dean, Daniel Schorr and Julia Child.

There are hundreds of others. Basically, everyone on TV in the 1990s, which includes almost everyone on TV in the 1970s and 1980s who was looking to make a comeback.

Worst interview subjects: Robert Duvall, Valerie Bertinelli, Angelina Jolie, Faye Dunaway and Tommy Lee Jones. Given the opportunity to either sit next to any of those on a plane (even in first class) or undergo extensive root canal procedures, I'd opt for the dentistry.

Worst breath: Larry King. Who also hit on me. I have it on tape. Which is in a vault. And which I have instructed to be played at my funeral. Just for grins.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Keillor: Dallas Methodists say ixnay to human rights

Garrison Keillor, the "Prairie Home Companion" big-head, was at the United Methodist church on campus here the other night for a speaking engagement. He writes about it today in the Chicago Tribune.

Seems he was chilled to the bone by the response he got to his comments about how the Bushies have eradicated rights to habeas corpus. In their zeal to imprison "enemy combatants," the administration has radically altered human and civil and legal rights that have been in place in civilized societies for centuries.

Dallas comes off looking...well, about like you'd expect in Keillor's view. This church is the one that proudly claims George and Laura as members (though no one I know has ever seen him, her or their invisible twin spawn step foot in the place). But dang, it is scary how quickly people dismiss their rights in the name of "national security."

By the way, Papa Cheney's in town today. Thus, no Southwest Airlines jets buzzing our rooftops every minute or so. Wonder why he's here? My guess: fundraising and electrode-charging. Most of his parts are still under warranty.

For more about how easily YOU could be declared an enemy of the state, check this out.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Ashleys face a backlash

Study finds 'beauty penalty' can be harsh

01:31 PM CDT on Monday, October 2, 2006

By JENNIFER CHAMBERLAIN / The Dallas Morning News

People are more likely to trust a pretty face, but when that trust is betrayed, the backlash can be ugly, according to a study published recently by Rice University.

Numerous studies have shown that attractive people generally make more money, get higher reviews from their supervisors and are viewed as being more intelligent and trustworthy. What surprised researchers in this study was that subjects deemed attractive also were penalized more harshly for failing to live up to expectations.

The Kennedy-Nixon debate in 1960 is frequently cited as an example of how one candidate's looks and charm helped sway public opinion in his favor. “There’s a lot of work in experimental economics and in other aspects of economics like labor economics where they find that attractive people have a beauty premium,” said Catherine Eckel, a professor of economics at the University of Texas at Dallas who co-authored the study with Rice professor Rick Wilson.

“It’s kind of a pervasive thing, but the twist that we have in our paper that you don’t see in the others is this ‘beauty penalty,’” she said. “What we see in our data is that people have very high expectations of attractive people, and when they’re disappointed, they react.”

In the study called “Judging a Book by Its Cover: Beauty and Expectations in the Trust Game,” 206 university students were asked to participate in a series of “trust games.”

Each student was given 10 “lab dollars.” Then they were told they could send any amount of the money to other students, making their choices based on photographs. The study moderators then tripled the amount sent to the recipients, who were allowed to decide how much to refund to the sender, also based only on photographs.

A separate group of students evaluated the pictures for a number of traits, including attractiveness.

The researchers found that, on average, the students deemed attractive received more money and also tended to reciprocate more generously.

However, initial recipients also expected more cash from the attractive students, and when they received less, punished them more harshly by skimping on the returned money.

“Human beings make decisions based on stereotypes, it’s like a shorthand way of making judgments, and when we do that, we make mistakes,” Ms. Eckel said.

And those mistakes can have broad social and economic consequences.

“For example, suppose that when you have an opportunity to have an interaction with somebody, you’re more likely to pick someone who is of one type rather than another. Then as you begin to aggregate that to the whole economy, what you might see is that people of that other type don’t get as many opportunities to interact as people of the first type,” Ms. Eckel explained.

This, in turn, can reduce economic opportunities and become a mechanism for discrimination, she said.

John Challenger, chief executive of Chicago outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, said there’s no doubt perceptions of attractiveness are among many factors in workplace relationships. “That then impacts promotions and terminations and scapegoating and other kinds of behaviors that take place every day,” he said.

The good news is that workers who recognize those factors and raise what Mr. Challenger refers to as EQ, or emotional intelligence, can give them an advantage in resolving issues that might arise based on snap judgments.

“In big, complex organizations, interpersonal skill and knowledge is a great benefit to those who possess it. So if you know that people are reacting to you in an inauthentic way because of your appearance, you can seek solutions to those issues. … Sometimes that may mean avoiding those people, sometimes it may mean coming to terms with them. It takes more effort to break down those barriers or try different solutions,” he said.

Mr. Challenger said he’s seen a trend of companies working to address interpersonal relationships and build common ground among employees, through executive coaching and other programs.

“So I think companies are recognizing that EQ is not just innate but also can be a learned behavior,” he said.

Ms. Eckel said her research has also shown that the only way to change stereotypes is to be aware of them. And, as it turns out, our mothers may have been right when they told us that “pretty is as pretty does.”

“The takeaway message here is that people have the wrong idea about attractiveness,” she said. “Attractive people, well, they’re not less trustworthy than other people, but they’re not more trustworthy either. So if we’re aware of our biases we can do a little better job of making decisions.”

Taking the "art" out of "smart"

The New York Times writes about the Frisco, Tex., teacher who was bounced after taking her fifth-graders through the Dallas Museum of Art. The issue seems to be muddying up. Was she denied her teaching post because one kid told a parent he/she had seen a nude statue at the DMA? Or did she get the ax for wearing flip-flops in class?

From the NYT piece: "In the May 18 memorandum to Ms. McGee, Ms. Lawson faulted her for not displaying enough student art and for 'wearing flip-flops' to work; Ms. McGee said she was wearing Via Spiga brand sandals. In citing the students’ exposure to nude art, Ms. Lawson also said 'time was not used wisely for learning during the trip,' adding that parents and teachers had complained and that Ms. McGee should have toured the route by herself first. But Ms. McGee said she did exactly that.

That "time not used wisely" part is really baffling. Wha the fuh?

If you can formulate any theories from that mumbojumbo, let me know.

Here's the story.