Tuesday, August 2, 2011

A NEW NATIONAL INFRASTRUCTURE BANK?

REGIONAL ECONOMICAL DEVELOPMENT-- THEN AND NOW
(c) by Russ Barnes

I'm a Main Street type of guy.

So I have a story about debt and spending which many will understand. What a boring subject -- debt and spending, yes? Maybe we can liven up the story a bit!

DEBT, SPENDING, AND THE THIRD LEG OF THE STOOL

Today the debt ceiling of the United States was raised -- after much angst. Most of the commentary focused on two factors: expenditures (what cash goes out from the government) and taxes  (what cash comes into the government).

What has been little discussed is a third leg of the stool: regional economic development -- the enlargement of the whole economic pie all around. With a larger pie, expenditures and taxes both decline in importance.


Cluss Lumber Company truck
BUILD, REPAIR, AND CREATE JOBS

I know this from personal experience -- from my family. And I'm telling this story because I would like to dramatize the importance of infrastructure building in the equation which has been mostly avoided in the current discussion --  by politicians and Wall Street speculators alike. And I would like, later in the discussion, to bring in a Texas perspective.

So to the story. Infrastructure. Building things. Repairing things.

The story is set in the 1950’s and 1960’s in Uniontown, Pennsylvania. I was part of an extended family most of whom lived in houses built close to 19 Eggleston Street. My grandfather owned a family business, O.C. Cluss Lumber Company, which sold  construction materials for building houses, roads, bridges, and other structures. His two sons, Charles and John, worked there, and also my father, Barney.

About the three-legged stool: there were months when our family business could not meet payroll. I was in my late teens at the time. I cannot guarantee the complete accuracy of this report -- but here is what I remember.


LOCAL BANKER

At the time the company had about 50 employees. They needed to be paid. The lumber company was reliable as there were good months ahead to pay the debt.. So my dad, my grandfather, and my Uncle Charles would go downtown to the Fayette National Bank on Main Street to meet with the bank president, Jay Leff. This was not Citibank for sure. This was a local bank that was invested in the community.

One month, Mr. Leff declared, "I want to loan you more money than you are asking for simply to meet your payroll.  I would like you to expand your business. If you come up with a good plan, I will put my money into it.  It will do me good as your banker if you do more business; it will help the entire Uniontown community, and that will help both of us. What I ask is that you go in with me on this investment. Take some of your year-end bonuses and match them with what I am offering.  If you are not willing to expand your business, I can't help you to meet your payroll."

NO BAILOUT

This was not a bailout. This was spending for a purpose. What the banker was asking was that a distinction be made between monthly revenue requirements (such as paying employees and maintaining inventory) and making a capital investment. Two different kinds of money, two different kinds of expenditures. He was asking my family to expand the community pie.

Do we not, in fact, need this sort of action in the United States right now?

My dad, Barney (C.J. Barnes), went to work on the case. With the extra capital at his disposal, he spearheaded an effort to build a concrete factory as an extension of the construction company . Building U.S. infrastructure back in the 50's and 60's was politically correct. Both parties -- that of Eisenhower and that of JFK -- cooperated on such projects as the interstate highways and the repair of the old Pennsylvania Turnpike -- all of which benefited all our nation. I was sent by my grandfather to Washington as well as to Harrisburg, the capital of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, to make bids for the company's concrete product to contribute to building the country's infrastructure. It was a perfect alliance between the private and public sectors and created many jobs in our region and elsewhere. Such kinds of efforts were a winner, both locally and nationally.


TEXAS PERSPECTIVE

This Thursday I will publish another personal story to illustrate the importance of spending and capital investment. After that, my plan is to interview several sources in Texas on this subject. I like Texans' views on capital investment.   While they are conservative, they are also interested in local /regional development, which makes for a bigger economic pie.  I am especially interested to hear their viewpoints about the Infrastructure Bank which the President mentioned in his speech this afternoon -- hopefully modeled after such institutions as the local Fayette National Bank in Uniontown so many years ago.

Please check in again on Thursday and beyond for ways in which the past may herald the future which awaits us -- perhaps in Texas, perhaps across the nation.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

TRILLIONS OF DOLLARS AND MANY JOBS MAY YET LEAVE THE U.S.

Money, Labor, Building, and Creativity

What Can We Do About That Now?
The Build Act
Text (c) Russ Barnes

WASHINGTON, DC, June 8, 2011.   The participants were bi-partisan. Republican and Democrat. Labor and business. United to plan a fix for the eleven year slide in American employment and productivity, let alone building a new America. The legislation being introduced into Congress is called the "Build Act."

Today, in almost 100 degree weather, I went to a public affairs conference I liked.  Senators John Kerry (D) Massachusetts, Kay Bailey Hutchison (R) Texas, and Mark Warner (D) Virginia stumped for a concept called the National Infrastructure Bank for a solution to America’s dilemmas.

The conference was brisk, snappy, on target, and on-time. Business, labor, politics together front and center. It was also friendly. It was sponsored by The Atlantic.

NATIONAL INFRASTRUCTURE BANK

"Doubt" is what is the hobgoblin here. Senator Kerry pointed out that "Doubt" -- in the world about America's capacity to re-make itself, "Doubt" -- about our capacity to deliver goods and services, "Doubt" -- which affects everything from jobs here at home to our U.S. foreign relations policy -- is what we urgently need to confront here.

Capital, here and abroad, is waiting for us. Valuable labor waits for us here at home.  Capital, money, jobs are all waiting here for us to act., Kerry pointed out.  If we don't, it will all go elsewhere.

CREATIVITY AND EMPLOYMENT

Senator Hutchison spoke about creativity.  She spoke about research.  She spoke about how a new American middle class must embrace the development of knowledge in order to come into new wealth.  She described a desalinization project for parched El Paso, Texas that saved millions of dollars through a creative solution based on bold research at our universities.  Such creativity, she said, saves money while building infrastructure.

DIFFERENT SORTS OF MONEY

There seems to be a difference between what you save for the future and what you have to spend now to bring in the groceries.  There is a balance between the two.  One is capital spending and the other is operational spending.  Senator Warner made this financial distinction clear.

WHAT'S NEXT?
This is my quick report on The Atlantic conference. In another venue and format, I will be doing interviews on employment, creativity, and wealth formation in Texas that could be a model for the rest of the nation.

Stay tuned. Your opinions appreciated.
-- Russ Barnes

Friday, May 13, 2011

QUILTING AND THE COMING CREATIVE ECONOMY


HANDS ON AN EMERGENT WEALTH FRAMEWORK
Part 3 in a series on quilting
© Russ Barnes, 2011 All rights reserved. Text & photos. Reproduction permissions: russ@bonmeasure.org


WASHINGTON. May 14, 2011,  My Austin quilt maven, Karen Alexander, guides me around the floor of the vast Houston Convention Center during our one day, November 6, 2010, at the International Quilt Festival. 


Karen is my walking encyclopedia of quilting culture: from techniques, fabrics, fashions, periods, regions, guilds, tools, sociology, machines, quilting luminaries, intersecting influences, shows, utility, and artistic presentation.  The convention floor we stroll is divided roughly into two parts.  On one side -- the finished art, the quilts.  On the other -- the paraphernalia required to manufacture a quilting cornucopia of artistic and utilitarian work.


IDLE HANDS -- "WORK OF THE DEVIL?"
Karen Shops for Needed Quilt Paraphrenalia


We pass a collection of quilts featuring “reverse applique” --a type of divergent, creative, decorative technique.  Children are the subjects of many of the displayed quilts.  This prompts a curious observation from Karen.  She reports that, in earlier days of quilting, care of children was not considered work(!). There was the old “puritanical” maxim that “Idle hands make for the work of the devil.”


As if raising children requires no more than “idle hands.”  To make the story short, women began quilting to keep their hands occupied and the devil away.  Quilting, unlike child-rearing, was work.  It was, in those days, utilitarian.  It kept you warm at night, provided a protective cover for a side-board, and other creative uses for old rags industriously employed for manufacture.


Karen pointed out over-and-over how hands serve as representational themes in many quilts of different quilting periods and styles, and how hands represent work.  That handiwork also often took women out of the isolation of family and child-care and into social units called guilds.


In those earlier days, Karen pointed out, quilts were not “valued” for their resourcefulness and creativity.  After all, quilts were made out of rags.  They were used for utilitarian purposes.  The work in making them was considered a “hobby,” a harmless diversion for “idle hands.”  Value has a slippery meaning.  “Value” is, almost always, synonymous in the collective mind with “money,” cash.  This fallacious equation has ruled establishments at least since the industrial revolution.  A vein of coal is inert if left un-mined and unimproved -- as are the rags and scraps of old dilapidated fabric.  It takes work to make coal productive for social purposes.

CREATIVITY A "HARMLESS PASTIME?"
Quilt Detail - Patriotic Theme


So “productivity” is one factor that separated men from women in the yesteryear of quilting, the mines, and the farming fields.  Men did productive work that made “money.”  Women performed a pastime that was “idle,” or at best, “harmless.”  A privileged hierarchy of productivity existed.  This social system had to do with the relative worth and value of using one’s hands -- depending on whose hands did the work and the resulting product. 


As we tromped the quilt festival floor, some of the newer quilting traditions graphically portrayed newer, emerging traditions representing a kind of blueprint for a coming era of work and compensation.  One of these works had the title, ”From Trash to Treasure,” by Gyleen X. Fitzgerald, clearly alluding to “value-addition” by means of labor.

A STORY OF A 100-YEAR-OLD IOWA QUILT


A quilt story.  It says something about the past, about value, and about worth. The narrative is from Nori Muster of Los Angeles:


“A quilt made nearly a century ago was passed along through generations of my family.  It came into my care several years ago. This historic quilt weighs over thirty pounds.  It was my great grandma Marie Christiansen -- born in Crawford County, Iowa -- who quilted it.

“She was so frugal she stitched the enormous quilt out of scraps from her husband’s worn-out suits.  When this hefty quilt came into my possession, its felt fabric had faded over nearly a century’s time to a dull-color.

“My great grandparents lived in a Denison, Iowa house during the days when the quilt was being handcrafted.  I visited the Iowa house in 2002 and was invited inside by the current owners to observe and imagine the past. I know that five children lived, at intervals, in the old house. I found out that, in those days, the house had a large cook stove fueled by corncobs and the like.  All the plumbing for the house was located outdoors.

“Through the generations there has been a kind of tacit family duty to preserve and archive that quilt.  It has a ”numinous” quality to it despite its age and appearance.  A kind of inexplicable energy surrounds it, aura-like, maybe because every stitch, every layer of it had been touched by a human hand.  The quilt went to my aunt at first, then on to my mom, and then to me.  I kept it for five years and in 2005 donated it to the Golden, Colorado Quilt Museum -- who welcomed its presence among the museum’s other valuable quilts.”



There is much to be said, and felt, about Nori’s brief story: utility, generational transmission, family care, resourcefulness, workmanship, artistry, social collaboration, human magic.


These are all worthwhile topics.  For now, I wish only to consider the story as it illustrates the labor and the creative resourcefulness of the maker of the quilt, Mrs. Christiansen.  Walking the floor of the Houston Quit Festival, one is astonished by the labor, value, ingenuity, and skill required to accomplish the kaleidoscope of stunning works displayed on the walls. 


Many workers in our society are paid handsomely in cash for similar labor.  It is doubtful whether Mrs. Christiansen, one-hundred years ago, received any cash for her efforts.  She may have received rewards, but no cash to use at her own free discretion.  And not receiving discretionary cash for value itself can be debilitating and subjugating.


Karen and others assure me that times have changed and many quilters receive compensation in several ways: outright sales, festival awards, pattern sales, and exhibition fees.


In addition to all of what quilting involves and represents, it is creative.  Creative work of many kinds has, more-or-less, from at least a hundred years ago up until today been stigmatized as “no real industry,” but rather as a frill practiced by women, children, and certain marginal men.

FALTERING INDUSTRIES -- NEW HANDS
David Harris Speaks to Austin Performer Creativity


Until today. . . . Maybe.  Our faltering economy is either an extraordinary abyss in the ordinary economic cycle.  Or it is a sign that there is a change in the world’s economic and labor fundamentals.  Old industry after industry appears falling like dominos: publishing, manufacturing, bricks-and-mortar retailing to name only three examples.  Commentators such as Adriono Pianesi claim that we have to “unlearn” our old economic ways to reclaim a wealthy economy.


Such “unlearning” may require more of what is already on-going: a reassessment of the value of creativity for a new, post-patriarchal, wealth-building economy.  It may not be far-fetched to equate both the integration of feminine labor and all creative labor as not only valuable in emerging economies, but also much worth paying for and cultivating -- as are many quilts valued today.


Old learnings die hard.  Back in Austin from the Quilt Festival, I talk with David Harris, a production manager within Austin’s thriving entertainment industry.  Harris drew for me a picture of talented, creative people (both women and men) on the streets of Austin -- he went so far to call some of them “geniuses.  They are given a pittance and a pitcher of beer,” for their labors, Harris says.  Just as in quilting, many creative arenas must be re-assessed for their value and worth if our economy is once again to gain wealth.

LINKS AND INFORMATION
* Other Travel with a Twist posts on quilting.  “Threads on a Bed;”  “Quilting Takes More than Stitches.” 
* Coming up, the 2011 International Quilt Festival is in Houston November 3-6, 2011 at the George R. Brown Convention Center.  More information at: http://www.quilts.com/newHome/shows/viewer.php?page=FallFestival.
* Like to see more photos of Karen Alexander’s sewing and quilting work or learn more about her, visit: Karen's Blog.
* Genealogy of one quilt? Information provided by Nori Muster. “The quilter is my mother's mother's mother.  Marie Lochmiller, born Nov. 19, 1882; died July 7, 1966 in Denison, Iowa.  Grandma Christiansen (as we call her) lived in Denison, Iowa when she made the quilt, probably in the 1930s.  Married Marcus Bonnichsen Christiansen August 14, 1901 in Dow City, Iowa.Five children: Marie Louise Oct. 14, 1901; Dorthea, March 18, 1903; Ella Anna (my grandmother) May 25, 1905; Martha Maria Augusta, March 7, 1907; Neva Pauline Oct. 4, 1912, and Jr. Marcus Bonnichsen, April 16, 1918."
* Adriono Pianesi, (about ”unlearning”) ParticipAction Consulting Inc
* Gyleen X. Fitzgerald, at Colorful Stitches. Interview with Gyleen coming up in a future quilt post.
* If you have a relevant link you would like to be posted here, contact: russ@bonmeasure.org.





Saturday, April 16, 2011

Destination -- International Quilt Festival: Houston

© by Russ Barnes.  All rights reserved.  Photos copyright Russ Barnes unless otherwise noted.  Re-publication permission contact russ@bonmeasure.org.

THREADS ON A BED:
FIRST POST IN A SERIES ON QUILTING

Quilting, you might gather, is a humble practice.  Warming family threads on a bed.  Grandma era arts crafting.  Is that what quilting is about in today’s world?

Hands-on Quilting
On a mission to answer such questions, I traveled with longtime friend, Karen Alexander, from Austin to Houston, 150 miles by chartered bus.  It’s Saturday, November 6, 2010.  Boarding time for the idling bus from the Austin parking lot is six o’clock in the morning.  It will prove to be a big day in the big city.

ON THE BUS TO THE HOUSTON SHOW

Our destination in Houston is the George R. Brown Convention Center.  Over 60,000 people come to crowd and browse this three-day event, the International Quilt Festival, the largest quilting congregation world-wide.  Has a computer or electronics convention ever drawn that many attendees?  What’s going on here?  What’s this about?

Forty-five minutes out of Austin, we travel route 71 through East Texas prairie and make our first stop at Weikel’s Bakery in Bastrop near La Grange, Texas.  Good, sweet Kolache.  You may want to try one.  Coffee?  The john is handy for mid-morning travel  -- although a bit of a line for the women’s room.  Back on bus, seats filled.  The conversation buzzes about quilting project progress and gossip around the sociable, local quilting guilds.

George R Brown Convention Center in Houston
We arrive at the Convention Center.  A sprawling palace of commerce, drama, energy, and talent.  Festival attendants tag your wrist for coming and going.  You walk through the main door.  The immensity of the place, and its bustle, staggers you in your tracks.  Color, movement, things to buy, things to see, people to meet.

Eleven football fields of space to travel through, and somehow to digest and experience.  On one level, it is like a reality TV show, American Idol on steroids, with all the excitement of judging the winners and the losers.  On another level, the quilting show is about creativity and the resilience of the human spirit with a fascinating window on feminine priorities and interests: past, present, and future.

MY QUILT GUIDE

Karen is my leader through this maze of fabrics, variegated threads, applications, appliqu├ęs, and “best of show” contenders. Karen is now a sewing machine collector and retailer. She is a sewing and quilting teacher and, of course, an enthusiastic quilter.  One of the book titles I saw at her East Austin house was, Help:! I Married a Quilter.  Requisite guidance, I assume, for her husband, Joe.

The lanes and the nooks of the Quilt Festival "walkabout" are strewn with titles -- exhibitions with names like “Piece in the Hoop,” “Electric Quilt,” “Gadget Girls,” “Log Cabin,” “Courthouse.”

ABOUT FAMILY -- AND "BEST OF SHOW"

As we enter the main hall, Karen calls attention to the place where one of her quilts was displayed, “entered,” in a past Quilt Festival, 2009.  Karen pointed just to the left of our entry in the main hall.  “Made my rep right on the spot with our Austin Quilt Guild as they all got off the bus,” she reports with a bit of pride and a touch of self-irony. The title of her quilt,  “Fifty Years of Love for Nancy and Harold,” was made for her parents for their fiftieth wedding anniversary.  Family is not always the subject for a quilt.  But significant human connections I found while walking around the Houston show floor drive the energy around many quilt creations.  I will get to that subject more down the page a bit.

Creation, "Mystique," by Sharon Schambers
What struck me first upon walking into the hall, is the sheer industry of quilting.  The time and attention to detail it takes.  Its specificity. Stitch-by-stitch.  Minute-by-minute.  In the 2010 show, Sharon Schambers from Payson, Arizona was “First in Show.”  Her creation, “Mystique,” shown here in my amateur photo appears super-human in dimension, conception, execution, and effort.  Sharon showed us the 3-D layers of her work: the blocks of fabric for the front, the padding, the backing, the stitching.

Sharon, standing in front of her winning piece, reported she logged 1500 working hours in four years dedicated to the making of the quilt.  She won $10,000 for her effort.

BUSINESS -- CRAFTS

Do the math on that one at an hourly rate.  What chief executive could make a claim to have put that much effort into her corporate work?  Why this dedicated industry for this result?  What’s going on here?  What appeals about quilting?  What need wants to become fulfilled?

If the quilt show in Houston is the city’s biggest convention nearly every year -- big business -- why isn’t such a show on the radar as a significant event that it really is?  I mean where is the Wall Street Journal?  Where are the class arts-and-style sections of newspapers and magazines?

Thread -- a theme -- and Buy it at the Show
Those are some of the questions I asked myself as I began to cruise the Houston floor walkabout.  Karen began helping me with some perceptions on those questions.  So did a remarkable quilter I met at the show, Gyleen X. Fitzgerald -- with whom I conducted an audio interview. 

Stay in touch.  I formulate answers to these questions -- and raise others -- every Friday for a spell.  Let me know your thoughts, questions, reports, and experiences.  That would be appreciated by me and my “Travel with a Twist” world-wide audience.

LINKS AND INFORMATION
* Coming up, the 2011 International Quilt Festival is in Houston November 3-6 at the George R. Brown Convention Center.  More information at: http://www.quilts.com/newHome/shows/viewer.php?page=FallFestival.

* Like to see a slide show of Sharon Schamber’s work?  Go to: http://aboutquilts.wordpress.com/2010/11/23/slide-presentation-of-best-of-show-winner-sharon-shambers-mystique-international-quilt-festival-houston-november-2010/

* Like to see more photos of Karen Alexander’s sewing and quilting work or learn more about her, visit: http://www.karenquiltslife.blogspot.com/

* Good video at the International Quilting Show walkabout.  The video title is “Stitchings: The Film.”  You can get information about the film at: http://www.stitchedfilm.com/

* If you have a relevant link you would like to be posted here, contact: russ@bonmeasure.org.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Audio Interview with Peggy Engels, Playwright of Red HOT PATRIOT Now Playing in Austin

During South-by-Southwest Event.  "Completion Complex" Featured for Creativity

© Russ Barnes, 2011

Margaret Engels is a playwright, a journalist, and a twin. Listen to all about that stuff, the creative voice, freedom of speech, and more at MP3 audio interview at:  http://bonmeasure.org/engels.mp3 The play is performed through the South by Southwest festival in Austin through March 13.

Not only was I impressed with her stage play written alongside her sister, Allison, which is an interesting story in itself.  But I was also impressed with the Zach Theatre production of it in Austin, and the actress who played the one woman show, Barbara Chisolm.   Standing ovation.  I especially liked it when Peggy said that “creativity requires a completion complex.”  It’s not just ideas.  It’s also about getting them implemented.  Meeting a deadline.  Our country, the United States, needs that kind of action and that kind of thought.

Check out the interview.  If you have a difficulty opening it, let me know and I will try to fix it for you.  The interview is sponsored by the American Creativiy Association of Austin.  For information about this global organization on creativity, open to you, send me a line at: russ@bonmeasure.org and I will get you in touch with the right folks to sign up.  We need your creativity for a better society and better individual fulfillment.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Molly Ivins at Austin Theater.

Okay,
I am going to do something a little different here.  I'm going to send along some comments about the play, a review of "Red Hot Patriot," by ACA Austin board member, Roberta.  This piece loses my usual thread, but I think Roberta's comments are worth it.  I also agree with Phyllis that we should not be political.  Our purpose is to create creativity wherever it can be manifest.  And that's it.  Democrat and Republican be damned both.  And may both blessed be.  But Molly spoke her mind.  And for that we honor her.
ACA Crew at Casa de Lux. Photo by Heather Hart



So in an unusual blog post, here is what Roberta, now my (russ') colleague, says:

Hey Creativity champions for the revitalized ACA-Austin,
       Talked with Russ this AM, who encouraged me to polish up the following "creative flow" that just had to spout out, this early AM from our "launch" of our first creative ACA-A adventure at the ZACH Theatre yesterday afternoon............    Wanted you both, Connie and Bud, to "be with us," so here are some "creative minutes" of that meeting..........  Open to corrections and feedback, all.
      After threading our way through the traffic for South By South West, Mardi Gras Weekend and the first days the fruit trees burst into bloom, we got to Casa de Luz. Lots springing forth around Austin this weekend.......
    ZACH had to hold the curtain for over 15 minutes, for all those determined enough to get themselves to the sold out house...... Thanks to the contributions of Bud and Connie, who filled our group of 10. We were able to give two tickets away "back to the house" for which they were very grateful......... 
   My write-up below is my "report to all" about our creative adventure to "open the door" of ACA-A reactivated in the glow of the HOT PATRIOT.   Where shall I send this.............
    By the way, Phyllis realized that her daughter Kathy could capture a photo of us with Barbara Chisholm after the performance. The former ACA-A  treasurer, Melissa is in the photo, too.
      I wish to nominate Barbara Chisholm as our first ACA-A Honorary Member........... She loved the interview with Russ on Friday and spent a good deal of time with us after the show...... Russ thinks he will have both the interview and photos by his friend, Heather, up on e-screens today.......  Stay tuned.
     We are launched.................
Roberta 
      
==========
                     Molly Ivins Did Say That! Thank goodness!
RED HOT PATRIOT: The Kick-Ass Wit of Mollie Ivins: ZACH Theatre, Austin, TX

Molly Ivins speaks again! Molly has been theatrically reincarnated on the stage ofthe Zachary Scott Theater. This daughter of Texas returns to us thanks to awardwinning playwrites, Allison and Margaret Engel, who have given local Austinactress, Barbara Chisholm, a powerful and historically accurate script to deliver toAustin audiences. The Engels’ play is convincingly staged, right down to the antiqueteletype machine that beats out the rhythms of a press room that comes alive on theZACH stage.

Kudos to the depth of artistic skill that creates this brilliant theatricalmagic. Nothing is more powerful than a true story, especially when the backdrop ishistory-viewed-large, with actual photos from “newspaper morgues.” For 90minutes, the audience is fast paced from birth to death, and back again, through asignificant period of history for this politically problematic bio-region, knowaffectionately as Tex-ass.” Chisholm, a dynamic red-head of impressive stature, likeMolly Ivins, built the creative energy of this well-staged historical vignette to thecrescendo of a standing ovation at the end. Molly is back, at least on stage, at leastfor this week.

This Texas larger-than-life review of our local heroine transports the audience backto a transformative period in Texas history, around the historically significant typewriterof Molly Ivins. She “lived large” among us, observing and reporting for her state-mates,as editor of the Texas Observer. The humor and the irony of Texans loving and hatingthe “limelight of being published” were captured with her humorous voice, deliveredwith spunk and sass. Only the more private Smith College Molly, the elegant and classygentle-woman from the Prep School in Houston, was missing for some of her localfriends who attended. Still, her great heart was felt, as the audience could not resistreacting to the force of personality coming from stage central. Some of us felt tearful asglimpses of past Tex-ass characters flowed in front of our eyes.

Molly lived and worked near the capitol center of the great political shift fromthe ole Tejas Democratic government of the people changed by the bon fires of theRepublican barbecue stampede that brought the Shrub to office. “I named him that,” shesaid. Molly knowingly spoke the truth, as only a Texan-born writer could do. Hopefully,Molly’s year on the New York Times’ best seller list will bring this exquisitely capturedAmerican heroine to wider audiences, to those across America who admired this Texas-tall woman who knew the difference between a tall tale and the truth, who wished to be remembered as a leader of “freedom fighters for free speech.”

Multi-dimensional Molly recognized and reported both the difference, and the political significance between a caring Texas statesman and a horse trader who come to town “to do his business at the “leg”-islature. It was the final “call to action” by Chisholm’s Molly, “to speak the truth to the dishonest power-mongers” that brought us all to our feet. The beginning of Molly’s mythology lives this week at the Zachary Scott Theatre, where she “emerges as the fierce Venus” archetype that she embodied among us. This play is not to be missed and needs to be held over another week, and seen in theatrers across the America which Molly loved, traveled and worked

(c) Roberta Shoemaker-Beal, Wimberley, Texas; Creatas@aol.com

More on The Red Hot Patriot: Molly Ivins @

http://www.zachtheatre.org/sites/default/files/pdf/Molly-Ivins-play-at-ZACH-Theatre.pdf
http://www.npr.org/2011/02/17/133847166/Molly-Ivins-A-Red-Hot-Patriot

Kick-Ass Theater, Creativity and Molly Ivins

This is an unusual post for me.  It's not my usual post.  But it is extraordinary.  So I publish it.  Most of it comes from Roberta, a board member of the American Creativity Association of Austin Texas.  I publish her words.  Its a review of a stage play in Austin about a creative Journalist, Molly Ivans, a creative, a fierce, and a funny journalist.  We at ACA-Austin had a ball experiencing this play in Austin yesterday.  Now Molly was a Democrat.  She gave Republicans a hard time.  Phyllis, one of our board members, cautions us against playing up the "liberal" side because creativity comes up wherever it comes up. That's true. I'll just leave you with Roberta's words and review.  You can make up your mind.  We would like you to become part of us, whoever you happen to be: an entrepreneur, a quilter, a bricklayer, a writer, a jewelry maker, a psychotherapist, whatever.  You can reach me at russ@bonmeasure.org.  Here's Roberta.  Don't miss her perceptions: (Oh, a few pictures courtesy of Heather Hart.  More to come later.  Get yourself on the mailing list to see everything.)  Hey, y'all, comment.  We need your words.
-- Russ

From Roberta:

Hey Creativity champions for the revitalized ACA-Austin,
       Talked with Russ this AM, who encouraged me to polish up the following "creative flow" that just had to spout out,  this early AM from our the "launch of our first creative ACA-A adventure at the ZACH Theatre yesterday afternoon............    Wanted you both, Connie and Bud, to "be with us," so here are some "creative minutes" of that meeting..........  Open to corrections and feedback, all.
      After threading our way through the traffic for South By South West, Mardi Gras Weekend and the first days the fruit trees burst into bloom, we got to Casa. Lots springing forth around Austin this weekend.......
    ZACH had to hold the curtain for over 15 minutes, for all those determination enough got them to the sold out house...... Thanks to the contributions of Bud and Connie, who filled our group of 10. We were able to give two tickets "back to the house" for which they were very grateful......... 
   My write-up below is my "report to all" about our creative adventure to "open the door" of ACA-A reactivated in the glow of the HOT PATRIOT.   Where shall I send this.............
    By the way, Phyllis realized that her daughter Kathy could capture a photo of us with Barbara Chisholm after the performance. The former ACA-A  treasurer, Melissa is in the photo, too.
      I wish to nominate Barbara Chisholm as our first ACA-A Honorary Member........... She loved the interview with Russ on Friday and spent a good deal of time with us after the show...... Russ thinks he will have both the interview and photos by his friend heather, up on e-screens today.......  Stay tuned.
     We are launched.................
Roberta 
      
@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@
                            Molly Ivins Did Say That! Thank goodness!
  RED HOT PATRIOT: The Kick-Ass Wit of Mollie Ivins: ZACH Theatre, Austin, TX

        Molly Ivins speaks again! Molly has been theatrically reincarnated on the stage of the Zachary Scott Theater. The award wining play rights, Iowa twins Allison and Margaret Engel, have given local Austin actress, Barbara Chisholm, a powerful and historically accurate script to deliver to Austin audiences. The Engel’s write from the perspective of Molly Ivin’s national significance, as highly creative journalism teachers, themselves. The Engels’ play is convincingly staged, right down to the antique teletype machine that beats out the rhythms of the press room that came alive on the ZACH stage.  Kudos to the depth of artistic skill that creates this brilliant theatrical magic. Nothing is more powerful than a true story, especially when the backdrop is history-viewed-large, with actual photos from “newspaper morgues.”  For 90 minutes, the audience is fast paced from birth to death, and back again, through a significant period of history for this politically problematic bio-region, know affectionately as Tex-ass.”  Chisholm, a dynamic red-head of impressive stature, like Molly Ivins, built the creative energy of this well-staged historical vignette to the crescendo of a standing ovation at the end.  Molly is back, at least on stage, at least for this week.

     This Texas larger-than-life review of our local heroine transports the audience back to a transformative period in Texas history, around the historically significant typewriter of Molly Ivins.  She “lived large” among us, observing and reporting for her state-mates, as editor of the Texas Observer. The humor and the irony of Texans loving and hating the “limelight of being published” were captured with her humorous voice, delivered with spunk and sass.  Only the more private Smith College Molly, the elegant and classy gentle-woman from the Prep School in Houston, was missing for some of her local friends who attended. Still, her great heart was felt, as the audience could not resist reacting to the force of personality coming from stage central. Some of us felt tearful along the way, with glimpses Tex-ass characters flowing our history in front of our eyes.  

         Molly lived and worked near the capitol center of the great political shift from the ole Tejas Democratic government of the people changed by the bon fires of the Republican barbecue stampede that brought the Shrub to office. “I named him that,” she said. Molly knowingly spoke the truth, as only a Texan-born writer could do. Hopefully, Molly’s year on the New York Times’ best seller list will bring this exquisitely captured American heroine to wider audiences, to those across America who admired this Texas-tall woman who knew the difference between a tall tale and the truth, who wished to be remembered as a leader of  “freedom fighters” and free speech.  Multi-dimensional Molly recognized and reported both the difference, and the political significance between a caring Texas statesman and a horse trader who come to town “to do his business on the ledge.” It was the final call to action by Chisholm’s Molly, “to speak the truth to the dishonest power-mongers” that brought us all to our feet. The beginning of Molly’s mythology lives this week at the Zachary Scott Theatre, where she “emerges as the fierce Venus” archetype that she embodied among us.  This play is not to be missed and needs to be held over another week, and seen in theatres across the America which Molly loved, traveled and worked.  

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

A Remembrance of Molly Ivins

A CREATIVE TEXAN

[NOTE: Guest writer Bud Wurtz had the luck to spend an evening with Molly Ivins.  Here's his story.  It provides unique background to ACA Austin's event celebrating the new reach of the the Austin creativity association on Sunday, March 6 at Zach Theatre's "Red Hot Patriot: the Kick-Ass Wit of Molly Ivins."  For more information on ACA Austin go to: http://community.icontact.com/p/americancreativityassociation/newsletters/austin/posts/american-creativity-association-austin-launch. Thanks, Bud.]


By (c) William (“Bud”) Wurtz
Board Member, American Creativity Association - Austin

I had the privilege of spending an evening with Molly Ivins back in June 2005. Molly had come to College Station, Texas speak to the Brazos Valley chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.

I was the chapter president at the time, and Molly’s appearance was a life-saver for the group. A few like-minded civil libertarians had banded together as Board members to revitalize the chapter, situated in the shadow of the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library on  the Texas A&M University campus.

Of course, it was the first President Bush who had famously stigmatized Michael Dukakis in the 1988 presidential campaign for being “a card-carrying ACLU member”; this, along with the notorious Willie Horton ad, is (probably) what helped Bush beat Dukakis.

The damage to the ACLU has lingered past that particular campaign, to some extent marginalizing the organization. It is though this group, devoted to defending the Bill of Rights and extending its protections to all Americans, became in the public’s mind somehow responsible for the putative breakdown in law-and-order. Mr. Bush’s was a popular view in the very conservative precincts of south central Texas and no doubt helps explain why the chapter had become moribund in the first place.  Molly, a proud member of and staunch advocate for the ACLU, was particularly scornful of her fellow Texans “tuff on crime” attitudes.

Our ACLU chapter was hoping that a “big-name” speaker of some sort would bring much needed attention and revenues to our struggling cause. Since we had no money to pay for travel or an honorarium, we needed someone who had some name recognition, was somehow at least vaguely associated with civil liberties, lived within driving distance, and would be willing to come to College Station and speak for free. These exacting requirements made for a very short list of possibilities, but Molly’s name was on it. And to our great surprise and delight, she readily agreed to do a presentation based on readings from her many books and articles.

I was to learn during the presentation why Molly accepted our offer. Though she won numerous prestigious awards for journalism over her lifetime, Molly claimed in her mischievous manner that thetwo greatest honors accorded her were 1) having the pig mascot of the Minneapolis police department named after her and 2) being banned from speaking on the campus of Texas A&M University. What could please a committed civil libertarian more than the opportunity to exercise her First Amendment rights within a couple of blocks of where she had been forbidden to speak?

(I should probably explain here that I was in College Station attending A&M at the time, and that I am an loyal Aggie grad – PhD 2008 – who is proud of my school’s outstanding record of academic excellence and its many grand traditions and spirit. That said, it must also be noted that no one is likely to confuse the political leanings, culture and lifestyle of the A&M campus and its environs, situated in the twin cities of Bryan-College Station, Texas with, say, the University of California – Berkeley and the Bay Area.)

With Molly booked, I and the other Board members confidently began our planning for the event.  Dreaming big, we projected the event would attract as many as 75 people, this despite the fact that  College Station would be in its typical summer lull at the end of the academic year. (Even a couple of Board members couldn’t attend because they had already booked foreign travel during the summer.)  So I trudged down to the College Station Hilton and put my credit card down to reserve a sliver of the mammoth ballroom.

We then began our sophisticated advertising campaign promoting Molly’s appearance with free promos on the progressive community radio station and with photocopied flyers posted on the bulletin boards of area retail stores and restaurants, along with plain old word-of-mouth. And the ticket requests started to roll in … and then more … and then more … until we had received a total of just under 400 orders. I had to go back to the hotel to book more space; eventually we booked the entire ballroom.

We were flabbergasted. So was the State ACLU staff who drove Molly – one of their most prized assets, whom they determinedly protected --over from Austin for the event. I had told the executive director in advance that Molly’s appearance was becoming the big social event of the summer in College Station.  But he remained skeptical until he escorted Molly into the ballroom and saw the hordes of people waiting to hear her. At that point his jaw dropped, followed by a grin as large as Texas.

I first actually met Molly after introducing her and welcoming her to the lectern. She was slender, her hair curly and short that particular evening, dressed simply in recognition of having to endure the 180-mile round trip between Austin and College Station in a crowded van on a typically hot-and-humid Texas
summer day.

She captivated the audience from the very start, reading her pieces in that distinctive Texas accent, seasoned with her sly, low key wit. The end of each reading was greeted with loud guffaws and enthusiastic applause.

My favorite reading performed by Molly that evening was this one, found in her book, Who Let the Dogs In?: Incredible Political Animals I Have Known (New York: Random House, 2004, pp. 246-7).

“On a blazing hot summer day last year, the director of the Central Texas chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union was frantically phoning members to announce that the First Amendment was in peril from the Austin City Plan Commission. The First Amendment tends to be under steady fire in the Great State, but the Austin City Plan Commission is rarely found on the side of jackbooted fascism. What happened was, the Reverend Mark Weaver, a  fundamentalist divine with a strong local following, hell-bent on driving all the dirty bookstores out of town – he had come up with a zoning scheme by which this was to be accomplished.

The Plan Commission held a hearing that night attended by more than three hundred members of Weaver’s group, Citizens Against Pornography, and by six members of the Civil Liberties Union. The Libertarians flocked together. Nothing like sitting in the midst of sea of Citizens Against Pornography to make you notice that your friends all look like perverts.

“The Reverend Weaver rose to address the Commission. An eloquent preacher, he took right off into the tale of a woman who lives directly behind the pornography theater on South Congress Avenue. The very day before, she had watched a man come out of that theater after the five-o’clock show, go into the alley behind the theater, right behind her house, and … masturbate.

Three hundred Citizens Against and the members of the Plan Commission all sucked in their breath in horror. Made a very odd sound. “YES,” continued the Reverend Weaver, “that man MASTURBATED right in the alley, right BEHIND that lady’s house. And she has two little who might have SEEN it – if it weren’t for the wooden fence around her yard.” And with that the Reverend Weaver jerked the stopper and cussed sin up a storm. It looked bad for the First Amendment.

“When it came their turn, the Libertarians huddled together and decided to send up their oldest living member. He shuffled to the mike, gray hair thin on top, a face marked with age spots and old skin cancers, one eye long since. He spoke with a courtly Southern accent. “Members of the Plan Commission, Reverend Weaver, Citizens Against, ladies and gentlemen. My name is John Henry Faulk. I am seventy-four years old. I was born and raised in South Austin, not a quarter ofa mile from where the pornography theater stands today. I think y’all know that there was a lot of masturbation in South Austin before there was ever a pornography theater there.” Even the Citizens Against laughed, and the First was saved for another day.

“Thirty years ago John Henry Faulk destroyed the blacklisting system that had terrified the
entertainment industry during the McCarthy era. His was one of the spectacular show trials of
that sorry time; he won the largest libel award that had been granted in the United States ($3.5 million) and was honored up to his eyebrows by freedom lovers everywhere. Then he went back to Texas – broke, his career still ruined – never saw any of the money, and learned you can’t eat honor. This is the story of John Henry Faulk’s life since Louis Nizer won out over Roy Cohn in their courtroom battle about whether the man called the Will Rogers of his generation was actually a communist.”

It is a classic Molly story, told in her inimitable style. She captures the distinctive dialect of Texans, along with the pomposity of the Great State, driven by a writing style that is understated yet somehow florid at the same time. There is playfulness, along with a hint of naughtiness, but also a more serious purpose. For, of course, once you get past all of the hilarity of people at their silliest, the story is about the tragedy of a good and decent man, a man who despite past defeats continues to stand up for what he believes in well into old age. Molly suckers us in, lowering our defenses with the humor, and then wallops us with a very powerful and pointed punch.

After the reading ended, many of the audience came up to greet Molly, some to get her to autograph their copy of one of Molly’s books. People milled around the ballroom chatting loudly and excitedly for quite some time, a reliable indicator of a successful event. But, finally, as people started to leave and the crowd dwindled, Molly, the ACLU staffers and I adjourned to the hotel bar.

I can’t recall who or when, but sometime that evening someone had whispered to me that there were growing concerns about Molly’s health, fears that her breast cancer, which had twice been battled into remission, might be recurring. (In fact, that diagnosis was confirmed later in the year; she died on January 31, 2007.) Yet Molly was the same bright, funny, sassy person hoisting a few with a small group of friends and supporters as she was on stage. About the only noticeable change was that her disparaging opinions of certain political figures were not quite as understated as in print or at the lectern.

Like her good friend and hero, John Henry Faulk, Molly Ivins fought to the end for what she believed in, for civil liberties and human freedom. Molly fought the good fight, with humor not hatred. She recognized that all people are prone to folly, and the most appropriate remedy is to lampoon it, all the while reveling in and celebrating the great human comedy.

Since graduating and leaving Texas, my energies have been poured more and more into promoting creativity development. I remain a committed ACLU member, though not as active as before, guilty of frequently being late with my membership dues as many impatient renewal notices remind me. But I recognize that the link between civil liberties and creativity is inextricable: you can only be creative to the extent that you are free. The fight is the same. Molly Ivins taught me that you can have one hell of a good time fighting that fight.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Molly Ivins, World Creativity, and Austin

 By (c) Russ Barnes

AUSTIN, Texas.   It seems anyone who loves to travel also loves other creative solutions -- whether it be a simple puzzle, a recipe, or an international perplexity.  There is a common thread to all.

I’ll make this personal.  I love to travel.  Travel forces me to bring together things in my brain I would never have associated otherwise.  Bringing disparate things together in a disciplined way is both pleasant and -- guess what? -- it helps not only with survival, but prosperity.  Interested?

Iconoclast and creative, Molly Ivins
About creativity (of which travel can be a subset if rightly pursued). In the past I served on the board of directors for the American Creativity Association.  I since went on to other committed responsibilities having to do with advocating creative discipline and fulfillment.  During that time, I stayed in touch with my old ACA colleagues, Bud Wurtz and Marilyn Schoeman, both past presidents of ACA.  When the two of them approached me recently about expanding the reach of the Austin, Texas chapter of ACA to a national and global dimension, I was hooked.

Why?  Because I love the peculiar (what Austinites call “wierd”) creativity of Austin.  Somehow that wierd sort of creativity seems to fit the modern world: from Bangor to Tallahassee, from Philly to ‘Frisco, from Minneapolis to Sante Fe, from Kansas City to San Diego.  Ever further, from London to Shanghai, from Moscow to Cairo, from Nairobi to Capetown, from Sydney to Buenos Aires.

You get the idea.  Austin’s unusual, funky, democratic creative spirit, pluck, and industry has something singular in store for all these places, and, of course, more.  That may be one of the reasons The Atlantic Monthly magazine published a ranking of the thirty most dynamic cities in the world.  Austin was one of them and the only one so ranked in the United States.

ACA Austin wants, I think, to be the global conduit for practical and personally fulfilling creativity.

You gotta start somewhere.  Hey, what about Austin?

And ACA Austin begins this weekend here with a kick-off “social” centered around Zach Theatre.  Just to demonstrate our style, our panache.  Old Austin creative advocates and practitioners will be there.  And so will new devotees from other parts.  A band of creative brothers and sisters will assemble at 1:00 p.m., March 6 for a “social” at Cafe de Luz and then to witness across the street the stage production (at 2:30 p.m.) of “Red Hot Patriot: The Kick-Ass Wit of Molly Ivins.”  Molly is an Austin icon, (or should I say, “iconoclast”) and, as heroine in the popular stage play, she will set the tone and the stage for many surprising materials and events upcoming from ACA  Austin.

ACA Austin is scheduled to interview the actress who performs the one-woman stage play, the artistic director of the theater, and the two (twin) playwrights of the play.  Let us know if you are interested in witnessing these vibrant interviews drilling down on the essence of creativity and its special relationship to Austin and the world. Inform us if you would like to know how to get affiliated with future ACA Austin events and materials.

We would like to have you around.  We advocate many benefits generated by creativity.  But one of the effective qualities we like about creative discipline and personal creative fulfillment is “heart.”   We like each other, and we like to reach others through “heart.”  We know that “heart,” love of our own materials, our game, our passion, our creativity, our art is universal and that is what the world needs encouragement from us now.

Look for the next ACA Austin’s events.  They may pleasantly surprise you and challenge you.  Drop us a line at ACA Austin (russ@bonmeasure.org).  We’ll set you up with the communications we have at hand for your preferences and desires.

One thing Molly said, and I listened, “If you’re in a hole, stop digging.”  Creativity helps you to stop diggin’.  P. S.  If you are going to the play another time, or just can’t get to it right now, come to the “social” at Casa de Luz.  Just mosey right in.  You will be welcomed by creatives.
=====================================
Some links you might want to consider looking at are:
ACA Austin newsletter -- http://community.icontact.com/p/americancreativityassociation/newsletters/austin/posts/american-creativity-association-austin-launch
Connie Harryman, President, audio address -- http://bonmeasure.org/ConnieHarryman.mov
Press Release for journalists and newsletter editors -- http://bonmeasure.org/PRCreativeAustin.pdf
For a review of “Red Hot Patriot” -- http://www.austinchronicle.com/arts/2011-02-04/red-hot-patriot-the-kick-ass-wit-of-molly-ivins.
For more information on Zach Theatre -- http://www.zachtheatre.org
Questions? -- russ@bonmeasure.org

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

HICKORY PASS RANCH #14



THE REST IS ANOTHER STORY
LAST DAYS
By (c) Russ Barnes. All rights reserved: text.
NOTE:  Today is my birthday, 2010, and I conclude the journals of my stay at Hickory Pass Ranch near Marble Falls, Texas.  The story follows and concludes:
By MID AUGUST,  I was nearing the end of my stay at Hickory Pass Ranch.  Back to my urban life –- not born again, but with an incremental difference. 
Sirius, the Big Dog star
On one of my last nights at the ranch, Jacquelyn and the three girls were staying in the Big House.  I heard them fire up three of their four-wheelers.  And one of the girls, the eleven-year-old, Ava, steered by the guesthouse to invite me out with them to see the annual August meteor shower.  Shooting stars over Texas skies.
I got on the back of the four-wheeler Ava was driving, and we followed everyone else down the ranch road.  Murphy ran back and forth between the vehicles, biting at the tires.  
Jacquelyn had brought along blankets and pillows and all five of us lay out beneath the Texas sky and watched the celestial extravaganza.  We identified constellations: Scorpius, Sagittarius, Aquilla, the Big Dipper pointing toward the North Star, Polaris. And of course there was Sirius, that star known in English as the Big Dog.  Well, we had him right there among us, Murphy, sniffing around and wondering what this camp-out was all about.
One of the girls said to me, "I think Murphy likes you better than he likes us."  I replied, " I don’t think so.  He seems really happy when you all come to the ranch." Her mother commented -- with wise diplomacy, "That’s true."
Sensing my downhearted feelings about leaving Murphy behind, Joe said to me, "Dogs are good people."
Next morning, Karen made a visit on my next to the last day at the ranch.  She sat on a couch in the guesthouse. Murph was stretched out beside me, tail wagging slowly while keeping one sleepy eye on me to make sure I didn’t make a move.  Karen had arrived for a last visit.  As she sat on the couch in the guesthouse, I patted Murphy on his flank and impulsively spoke to him, "My bud."  Karen tilted her head to the right.   And sighed.  And smiled a half understanding smile.

It is my last day.  All packed.  I’m back now in Austin at Karen and Joe’s.
I go to the Seminary of the Southwest two days in a row for two separate counsels which I need.  I hear the same message,  “Follow the spirit.”  Doesn’t sound like it, but it is practical advice.  Still have anxiety.  But I feel secure.
I wait to catch my plane back to Washington.  As I pack my things into Karen’s red Miata, Ken, my new friend, from across the way shouts across the street, “Goodbye, Russ.“  Joe is at work.  Karen drives me to the airport.  I take my two bags out of her car’s back storage space.  Karen hugs me.  Then I turn my back and walk away.  The rest is another story.
--THE END--
=====================================
CREDITS
My gratitude to the Mouton family: Jacquelyn and David; Lia , Ava, and Maddie -- for their hospitality, generosity, humor, fun, parties, rocks, whimsicality, and for man’s best friend -- for a while -- Murphy, who was a challenge -- but I loved him.
My gratitude also to Karen Alexander and Joe Heidelmeier:  
Karen for her loyalty, her subtle penetrating and realistic intelligence, her drop-dead accurate advice, her true aesthetic values and sense, her beauty as a person, and her cool femininity.
And Joe for his stories, his masculine guidance, his friendship, his fun, the maturity of his understanding, his power as an outdoorsman, his humor, and for his astonishingly equipped old truck, Silver, of which I also became fond.


My many thanks also to Anne Tongren who has expertly edited these posts and without whose help I could have never come to the perceptions I have arrived at in this series of posts.