Tuesday, September 30, 2008

COM: Sam Skeist at Schreiner U

Just a reminder to some of you, and an announcement to the rest of you, about something way cool, that maybe a once/last in a lifetime opportunity to see someone i consider a true genius perform here in kerrville. his name is sam skeist, and i first saw him perform at a coffeehouse at schreiner about five years ago while he was briefly a student there. he was stunning then, he is little short of amazing now. we made the rounds of austin and san antonio slams, and since then i've helped him publish a couple of books and a cd. he's been living in china four of the past five years, teaching english, and returned with a slew of incredible work -- we've spent the last two and a half weeks until late every night editing it (in between a bunch of trips to austin and san antonio for readings and slams) and he will publish it this week . . . he's a few days from going to india for a short stint and then returning for another open-ended stay in china. in the meantime he will be performing a set at schreiner's monthly coffeehouse series at the cailloux student center on campus, beginning somewhere around 7p.m. wednesday october 1st -- it's open and free to the public and so worth it to see even fifteen minutes of his work. he will open for carolyn wonderland, a brilliant austin songwriter/guitarist (who will remind you of joplin) -- so it will be a fantastic night all around. i'd beg you to come, support sam, and get a dose of something like you've not seen before . . .

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Monday, September 15, 2008

OBT: Shannon Leigh

"My drifting ship, I still believe in anchors.
My heart, I still believe in God."

-- Shannon Leigh

this one will take me a minute . . .

the brilliant poet sam skeist, friend of mine, is due in town today, and in searching around for places for us to go in the next couple of weeks, first on my list was the austin poery slam, a venue/group/event i have a long-ago history with, and which was also the first place sam and i went to see performance together. so i'm scrolling through their site, checking out future dates and i stumble across a "memorial tribute" slam for shannon leigh. i have spent the last little while catching up on what was an excruciating moment of realization for me, that another brilliant young poet was gone. the details you'll be able to read for yourself below, but i thought i'd just post a little personal experience. i first saw her read at cafe mundi and at the slam in quick succession in the weeks prior to and post-9/11. it was an active time for me doing readings, and 9/11 was a spark for us both to reclaim our hearts. i was preparing an anthology at the time of student writers, mostly from my locker room writers & thinkers workshop at tivy high school in kerrville, but also from notre dame school, as well as submissions from young poets across the country. shannon had blown me plumb away with her take on the tragedy and i asked if i could publish her piece in the anthology and she agreed. i knew it was a piece that needed to live on, and that she was a poet who was going to rock the slam scene. the anthology helped our writer's group site win a national award from WebDelSol in the top ten student writers' programs in the US, and i've never harbored any illusions that her poem played a major part in that. we were then invited to perform as a group at the texas state capitol for the texas book festival and she read and knocked everyone's socks off. we had another connection. i didn't know when i met her and heard her read that she was only 14. age is generally not my concern. but for her bio in the anthology i asked. blown away. her bio also said she was a student at st. andrews, and it so happens a good friend pf mine was her principal and we had occasion to talk of her -- she was as good a student as amazing poet. so, i'm sitting here right now contemplating loss in its many, many forms, and trying to respond to this without much luck . . . i just know it's a major loss.


Update: Austin poet Shannon Leigh Lewis has died

Update: A spokesman for the Shands Hospital at the University of Florida in Gainesville, Fla. confirms that Shannon Leigh Lewis, the Austin spoken-word poet, died at 9:40 p.m. Monday. The coma she had entered after a June 14 cave diving accident near Ginnie Springs, Fla. turned irreversible earlier that day, which led to conflicting reports about her death. Information about the official time of death was not released by the hospital until Wednesday and an Alachua County, Fla. medical examiner’s report is pending.

Best known under her stage name, Shannon Leigh, she joined Austin’s hyperactive poetry scene at age 14.

“Certainly none of us knew she was 14,” said Slammaster Mike Henry about her first gig at Ego’s on South Congress Avenue, attended with her mother, Sheila Siobhan, an organizer of the Texas Youth Word Collective. “She was fantastic. Her writing and performance fit together as well as anyone else’s on stage.”

Lewis later won the Austin-wide Under 21 poetry slams in 2003 and 2004. Last year, during a sold-out National Poetry Slam show at the Paramount Theatre, Lewis took third place. She was featured on the HBO series, “Russell Simmons Presents Def Poetry,” and represented Austin in the Under 21 Slam Team at the national Brave New Voices Youth Festival. She also had finished writing two novels and produced a hip-hop album titled “Sanctuary.”

“Her writing and performance style were an exact mirror of her as a person,” Henry said. “Absolutely fierce, fearless. Her work was incredibly lyrical, hip-hop infused and intensely personal. It was a shining example of what performance poetry can be.”

Lewis said one of her inspirations was the 1998 movie “Slam” about a rapper living in a gang-infested housing project. Her politically informed poetry was performed with unusual intensity. “It hits people much harder because it’s coming from me,” she told the American-Statesman in 2005, calling herself a “sheltered white girl.”

Lewis, 20, was born in Leeds, U.K. and attended St. Andrew’s High School in Austin before moving to Atlanta last year to attend Georgia State University.

Both her Austin-based parents are globe-spanning performers: Sheila Siobhan is an operatic soprano who co-founded the Austrian American Mozart Academy in Salzburg, Austria. She now teaches at Texas A&M-Kingsville. Her father, tenor William Lewis, also performs operatic roles worldwide, including at top opera houses, such as La Scala in Milan, Italy. He teaches at the University of Texas.

According to multiple reports, Lewis, an experienced diver, was swimming with two other divers, returning alone to the entrance of the cave because of an equilibrium problem. A diving instructor from another group discovered her unconscious. She was brought her to the surface with the help of another diver.

“Recreation diving and cave diving are apples and oranges,” said Dan Misiaszek, retired dive recovery commander with San Marcos Area Recovery Team. “Cave diving requires specialized training and equipment. Even with the proper training and equipment, things can still go wrong.”

Lewis had lingered in a coma for days. Monday morning, in Gainesville, Fla. doctors said Lewis showed no brain activity. Wednesday morning, she was taken off the respirator.

After the medical news Monday, dozens of poets had posted memories and tributes on her MySpace page and other poetry sites.

“She was phenomenal person inside and out,” said slam teammate Gator, who works with the performance group Public Offenders. “When we performed together, she blew the crowd away. She had this spirit on her. It had to do with her style of poetry and at the same time as a person.”

Austin Poetry Slam, the city’s primary spoken-word group, had planned several fundraisers over the course of the next month to help defray Lewis’s medical expenses. Henry says those events will continue as planned, with the money going to the family. For updates on those events — check austinslam.com.

A memorial service will be held 6 p.m. July 9 at St. Michael’s Episcopal Church. Please leave your memories of Lewis in the commentary box and in the guest book.

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OBT: David Foster Wallace

Authors grieve over Wallace’s apparent suicide
"He was the best of our generation," says one fellow author and friend

NEW YORK - The literary world is in grief for David Foster Wallace, an author of seemingly unstoppable curiosity, imagination and ambition who apparently killed himself last week. Readers are seeking out his work, including his 1,000-page novel "Infinite Jest" and the essay collection "Consider the Lobster."

Wallace, who wrote with an explosive, ironic, but deeply serious passion about subjects ranging from tennis and politics to mathematics and cruise ships, was found dead by his wife in his home Friday night, according to the Claremont, Calif., police department. The 46-year-old author apparently hanged himself.

"He was the best of our generation, and his death is a loss beyond describing," Richard Powers, winner of the National Book Award in 2006 for the novel "The Echo Maker," told The Associated Press on Sunday.

"I am so sad — stunned — it reminds us all of how fragile we are, and how close at hand the darkness is," said fellow author A.M. Homes, whose books include the novel "The End of Alice" and "The Mistress's Daughter," a memoir. "He was a wonderful writer, a generous friend, and a singular talent."

A native of Ithaca, N.Y., Wallace was often compared to Thomas Pynchon and Don DeLillo as an avatar of the Information Age, a visionary and eclectic as hip to ancient Greece and British poetry as he was to computers and television and popular culture. He also wrote often about addiction, depression and suicide, a post-1960s Dystopia in which "irony, irreverence, and rebellion come to be not liberating but enfeebling."

Wallace was far better known to his peers than to the general public, but news of his death led to a quick jump in sales for his books. As of Sunday night, "Infinite Jest" was in the top 20 on Amazon.com and "Consider the Lobster" was in the top 75. Several of his books were out of stock.

His longtime editor, Michael Pietsch, said Sunday that his last contact with Wallace had been a "wonderful exchange of letters" around a month ago. He declined to say what they had written about or offer any comment on the author's private life.

Pietsch, publisher of Little, Brown and Company, told The Associated Press that from the start he found Wallace's talent "jaw dropping" and shining with "unexpected hilariousness."

"From the first paragraph you read of him, you realize he's biting off more than anybody, taking on gigantic subjects in unexpected ways and delivering undreamed of pleasures and insights, at the largest levels and the most microscopic levels."

Asked what Wallace had been working on at the time of his death, Pietsch offered no specifics, but said: "He was always writing something. He was always doing something ambitious."

David Foster Wallace, 1962-2008

John Seery, Associated Press, Posted September 13, 2008 | 11:55 PM (EST)

David Foster Wallace has passed away. He hanged himself. The world has lost a spectacular writer. Already it seems as if some special portal of human intelligence has been closed off.

He was a colleague and friend. I have no mind to try to pay adequate tribute to him here. Those should soar and will come later. Nor can I speak to the circumstances of his death. What I want to note instead, just briefly, are a few personal recollections. I'd like the world to know, from my modest vantage, that he was a nice guy in person, and also as brilliant in conversation as one might expect from his dazzling prose. Frankly I had a hard time keeping up with him--I thought he was always two or three chess moves ahead of me. But as the keen observer of the human condition that he was, he seemed to take into account his interlocutor's shortcomings and made gentle accommodations for them, without being patronizing. So we talked.

For several years we had become workout partners of sorts at a local gym. I didn't dare divulge that fact to anyone in the vicinity. He called himself agoraphobic. I didn't want a bunch of people descending upon the gym. It was thus I had the privilege of getting to know him in a quiet space, while stretching and doing sit-ups, and talking and talking between sets. We hit it off, perhaps because he and I shared a few commonalities in our past and present lives: We both hailed from the Midwest, Illinois and Iowa; we both had studied philosophy at Amherst College; we both ended up teaching at Pomona College. I harbor no illusions that the similarities don't end right there. He was absolutely brilliant, a true talent, an original, a devilish and maybe tormented but also kind-hearted genius.

One time I told him that a student had come into my office that day and informed me that some of my work on irony had become standard research material for the high school and college debating circuit and that the local debaters were especially excited that David Foster Wallace had joined the Pomona College faculty because his work constituted the anti-irony position--and now the local team, getting an edge on the competition, could claim direct access to the authors of both the irony folder and the anti-irony folder. To which Dave quipped, "You mean like matter and anti-matter?" At that moment, I kid you not, I swear on whatever book you'd have me swear on, that Alanis Morissette's "Ironic" came on as the background music in the gym. We just glanced at each other and didn't acknowledge it. I had the definite sense, though, that I had just experienced right then and there a creepy-funny David Foster Wallacesque moment, something weird you'd read about in one of his essays--yet there he was in person, in the flesh, while it happened.

Another time he and I drove together to the gym owner's house for a special lunch. The place was packed with body builders with massive biceps, and we were the only two skinny-ass egghead types present. He turned to me and said, "I'm really glad you're here with me because I'm afraid these guys might force me to do their algebra homework." That joke was self-deprecating, not mean-spirited, just an acknowledgment of the plain fact that we were clearly overmatched.

He and I had an ongoing resolution to each other, going back several years now, to go watch tarantulas scurry across the Claremont fire trails in the late fall week when they make their mad dashes out into the open. When I first mentioned that phenomenon to him, he gave me an impromptu lecture on the different characteristics of various arachnids, especially the dangers experienced by the frenzied male tarantula on the make. He really wanted to go. Somehow we never made it. When such a strange opportunity presents itself, when a David Foster Wallace wants to go tarantula watching with you, you probably shouldn't let that one slip away.

He hadn't been coming into the gym for some time. I had a lot queued up to tell him. I wrote him a note inquiring into his whereabouts. He wrote back and said my note cheered him. My head swirls right now. He expanded our senses of infinity and oblivion and more, much more. My sincere condolences go out to his wife and family.

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Saturday, September 13, 2008

COM: Ike at Landfall

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Thursday, September 11, 2008

ATH: U.S. has nine points

USA 3 - Trinidad & Tobago 0

The United States National Team now have nine points from three games in the semifinal stage of CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying, beating Trinidad & Tobago 3-0 on Wednesday night in Bridgeview, IL.

Michael Bradley opened the scoring in the 9th minute from a Landon Donovan freekick. Clint Dempsey made it 2-0 in the 18th, and Brian Ching finished off the scoring in the 57th.

"We did well to get on top of them early on and I think that set the tone for the whole game," Bradley said. "The early goal helped and didn’t sit back after that, we kept going. I think we were a bit unlucky not to have a 3-0 at halftime, but we kept pushing and got that third goal. It was a good night for us."

Unlike their two recent away Qualifiers, the US were able to push possession and the run of play from the beginning. That gave them multiple opportunities and the confidence to create quality scoring chances.

“We were excellent tonight, Donovan said. "The first half was one of the most dominating performances I’ve ever been a part of. We were good all over the field. We put pressure on them. They had a little spell at the beginning of the second half and we came out a little flat, but after that, getting the third goal kind of kills the game.”

Next on the schedule for the United States is Cuba on October 11th at RFK Stadium.

"You win games in different ways and we’ve tried to establish within our group a mentality that on certain days, it needs to be a 1-0 victory and we’ll make it a 1-0 victory," US coach Bob Bradley said. "The best teams around the world, they win a lot of 1-0 games. Having said that, when you are playing with a 1-0 lead, the ability to open up the defense, to take certain advantages and press them forward, those are areas where we have to continue to improve. Tonight it was nice to win with the 3-0 score.”

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Tuesday, September 09, 2008

COM: Living History Day at Schreiner

Clifton Fifer and I, as Hands Across Texas, will be performing here -- Buffalo Soldier history, native american music and stories . . .



· The Center for Innovative Learning, Schreiner University

· Texas Heritage Music Foundation

· Past is Prologue

--Invite you to put these dates on your calendar for fall 2008--

These events are educational in nature and provide teachers and students with enrichment opportunities

Texas Heritage Living History Day

Friday, Sept. 26, 9 am – 3 pm @ Robbins-Lewis Pavilion, Schreiner University campus


  • Over 70 performers including cowboy music, Texas songwriters and storytellers, Texas Camel Corps, chuck wagons and teepees, Gospel, Americana and Tejano music and much more!
  • TAG (transportation assistance grants) Program available to all schools in Kerr, Kimble, Kendall, Gillespie, Edwards, Bandera and Real County. Let us help with you transportation expenses to Living History Day. Hurry! Funds are limited—first come/first serve. For more information, email us at kat@maverickbbs.com

Also Friday, Sept. 26, 4 – 6 pm @ The Cailloux Student Activities Center Theater, S.U. campus

Come learn the stories of the Lone Star State with a special panel of Texas Folklore Society as they discuss Songs of Texas. Teachers and students invited!


For more information on Living History Day events, visit us at www.texasheritagemusic.org

Or email us at kat@maverickbbs.com

Past is Prologue

Friday, Oct. 17, 7 – 9 pm in the Hanszen Fine Arts Center, Schreiner University

Past is Prologue: Native American Story Telling

Saturday, Oct. 18, 9 am – 4 pm in the Hanszen Fine Arts Center, Schreiner University

Past is Prologue workshop: Using Native American Stories and Tools for Learning

For more information, visit www.learningpeople.org

CEU’s available for teachers

Texas Music Coffeehouse Series

First Wednesday of each month in the Lion’s Den, Cailloux Student Activities Center, S.U.

Ø Sept. 3: Hispanic Heritage Month with Rosie Flores

Ø Oct. 1: Texas Music Month with Carolyn Wonderland

Ø Nov. 5: Native American Heritage Month with Walt Wilkins

Coffeehouse Open Mic begins at 7 pm Feature performer begins at 7:30 pm

FREE ADMISSION!! For more information, visit http://www.schreiner.edu/coffeehouse/events.html


2100 Memorial Blvd, Kerrville, TX

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ATH: U.S. Team scouting report

Scouting Report: Trinidad & Tobago
By Clemente Lisi

With the US beating Cuba on Saturday, the players have only four days before making their home World Cup Qualifying debut against Trinidad & Tobago in Bridgeview, IL (Wednesday, 8pm – ESPN2). If Cuba is a regional minnow, T&T certainly isn’t.

The Soca Warriors are coming off a hard-fought 1-1 tie at home against Guatemala and are a much more familiar opponent for the United States. That said, injuries and absences over the past year have Trinidad & Tobago fielding a different XI than expected.

Moving from 102nd to 92nd spot in the latest FIFA rankings, T&T has remained competitive despite the injuries. Coach Francisco “Pacho” Maturana, who took over from former manager Leo Beenhakker, has had to make do without the services of striker Kenwyne Jones, left back Avery John and playmaker Aurtis Whitley.

The team has also had to deal with the inconsistent services of Dwight Yorke, who suffered a fractured cheekbone over the summer after vowing to come out of international retirement. Yorke’s return on Saturday made the squad even stronger, but the 36-year-old Sunderland ace will miss Wednesday’s game at Toyota Park in Bridgeview, Ill. after his country’s soccer federation said the veteran midfielder suffered a thigh injury against Guatemala.

But Yorke, who assisted on midfielder Keon Daniel’s goal that had given T&T a temporary lead late in the game, said he had to fly back to England on Tuesday on orders from his club in preparation for Saturday’s Premier League match against Wigan.

“I am feeling caught between a rock and a hard place with my club and my country,” Yorke told the Trinidad Express on Sunday. “I want to play against the US but I don’t know if I will be allowed to.”

The club is obligated by FIFA to make players available for World Cup qualifiers, but it appears unlikely that T&T will file a complaint because there is little time for recourse.
Maturana has coached nine club and five national teams – including four separate stints with his native Colombia – before arriving at T&T in February. Under his guidance, the Soca Warriors have played very well. He has favored an attack-minded 4-4-2 lineup that sometimes morphs into a defensive 4-5-1 after his team takes a lead. In fact, Maturana has called up 12 different strikers since taking over seven months ago, and he isn’t afraid to unleash them on opponents.

A pitfall for the US is to underestimate T&T’s attack. Even without Yorke and Jones, the 13-time Caribbean Cup champions have the firepower up front.

Striker Cornell Glen, who spent four seasons in Major League Soccer, has scored 16 goals in 44 national team appearances since 2002. He possesses a powerful shot and is dangerous in the penalty box.

Aiding the attack is Daniel, who has scored five goals (three in his last two games) since making his National Team debut last year. A free kick specialist, Daniel isn’t afraid to push up and stretch opposing defenses, as he did during his two-goal performance against Cuba last month. He is a player the US needs to mark – if not double-team – on Wednesday night.

The US also needs to avoid falling behind to the Soca Warriors. Other opponents have been unable to come back because of T&T’s ability to maintain possession and flood their half of the field with players. Guatemala was able to tie the game on Saturday, but only in stoppage time.

Against Guatemala, T&T were devoid of creativity and imagination for much of the game. The US needs to take advantage of those instances to get one past the Trinidad & Tobago defense, which has had some solid performances from Dennis Lawrence and Clyde Leon. Without John, however, T&T lacks the experience in the back that can stop the likes of Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan.

T&T is beatable. A United States win would all but put the US in the final round of qualifying – and one more step closer to South Africa.

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Wednesday, September 03, 2008

ENV: Everglades Kites

Endangered birds find new refuge By STACEY SINGER, Palm Beach Post Staff Writer, Tuesday, September 02, 2008
An afternoon drizzle coats the slate-brown bird in a miserable-looking shroud of dampness.

She shakes it off. The Everglades snail kite sits atop a wax myrtle bush, head bowed in keen-eyed concentration, waiting for an apple snail to surface within the geometric confines of a Loxahatchee wildlife refuge impoundment.

Fewer than 700 of the critically endangered Everglades snail kites exist, ecologists estimate, down from about 3,400 birds in 2000.

More worrisome, they're having a devastatingly bad breeding season, with no nests at all in many parts of the Everglades that have been reliable nurseries in the past.

And yet somehow, in this man-made wetland lying steps away from a farm, a half-mile from State Road 7, surrounded by hiking paths and binocular-wielding bird-watchers, this damp snail kite devotedly feeds a chick in a nearby nest.

Before Tropical Storm Fay, this 35-acre impoundment west of Boynton Beach had nine kite nests with two or three eggs in each, and a 10th nest that had three chicks, say Gayle Martin and Cindy Fury, biologists at the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge.

It appears that Fay, and a hungry owl, may have taken a toll on several of the nests, Martin says. A post-storm survey found eight failed eggs from five nests. And at least two of the kite chicks recently became owl snacks. But on the bright side, two other kite chicks have been banded and a third may have fledged. Six other eggs still have a chance. The biologists are hopeful other kite chicks will survive.

Not long ago, kites routinely nested around the northwestern part of the Loxahatchee refuge, next to an area slated to become a new Palm Beach County Solid Waste Authority landfill, Fury says.

There was also a time when they commonly nested around Lake Okeechobee and north toward the Kissimmee River. Not lately, though.

So why did the snail kites choose Loxahatchee this year?

"It probably has to do with the good food supply and the right supply of vegetation," Fury says.

Research ecologist Wiley Kitchens, whose group at the University of Florida tracks Everglades snail kites, has a more blunt assessment of the birds' choice of nesting ground: "Desperation."

Snail kites are raptors, sharp-eyed, hawk-like birds recognizable by a wide white strip across the back of their tails.

They feed on apple snails. The golf ball-sized, brownish striped snails live in the grassy shallows along wetlands, ponds and canals.

Habitat degradation, an influx of exotic snails, droughts in 2000-01 and 2007 and perhaps water management practices have taken a heavy toll on both the native snail and the kite.

Ecologists predict the Everglades snail kite is on track to become extinct in about 30 years.

The agencies involved in Everglades restoration are relying on snail kite proliferation as a measure of their restoration success. But Everglades restoration has gone slower than planned.

Meanwhile, the kite is faring badly, even in areas where restoration appears to be furthest along, such as the Kissimmee River basin.

Complicating matters, its needs can conflict with another endangered Everglades species, the Cape Sable seaside sparrow, forcing water managers to proceed with great caution.

"Kites are in trouble. Time is not in their favor," Kitchens says.

"The thing that does give me some optimism is that people are starting to listen. People are getting the message that the kite's in trouble."

Meanwhile, for a few more weeks, the remaining kites can be viewed with binoculars in the C-8 impoundment on the eastern edge of the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge.

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OBT: Dr. John Jackman

From Texas A&M, via Mike Quinn:

Department Remembers Dr. John Jackman

Dr. John Jackman, Texas AgriLife Extension Service specialist, died suddenly at his home on Aug. 28.

Born in Mt. Clemmons, Mich., on March 30, 1948, Jackman spent most of his childhood in Michigan, where he developed his love and fascination with insects, according to colleagues.

He obtained his bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees in entomology from Michigan State University. Jackman joined AgriLife Extension in 1976 and had a joint appointment with both AgriLife Extension and AgriLife Research.

“John was known and loved by everyone who crossed his path. His smile was contagious, and his laugh infectious,” said Dr. Kevin Heinz, entomology department head.

Jackman spread his knowledge of insects to the world through his two published field guides, his extensive Web site and as an entomology professor, he said.

“He developed a one-of-a-kind course that taught budding entomologists the delicate art of fly tying, his beloved hobby,” Heinz noted.

Jackman received many awards during his career capped by receiving the inaugural Friends of IPM Lifetime Achievement Award, by the Southern Region Integrated Pest Management Center, “for years of significant contributions to integrated pest management work in the southern region.”

He was a pioneer in using computers to predict insect outbreak problems and providing educational materials electronically to further expand his own educational projects as well as those of his colleagues to a worldwide presence.

Jackman was also active in the Brazos Valley Master Gardener program, the Brazos Valley Fly Fisherman's Club and as faculty adviser to the Eagle Scout Club.

He is survived by his wife Linda and sons Paul and Kevin, son and daughter-in-law Ben and Heather, granddaughter Madeline, mother Nina, and many other family members and friends.

In lieu of flowers, the family respectfully requests donations to be made in Jackman's name to the Texas A&M Foundation, the Boy Scouts of America or another charity of choice.

Dr. John A. Jackman passed away August 28, 2008 at his home in College Station, Texas. John was born in Mt. Clemmons, Michigan on March 30, 1948 to Nina and Richard Jackman. He spent most of his childhood in Michigan; it was here he developed his love and fascination with insects. John attended Michigan State University where he graduated with a Ph.D. in Entomology. I t was at Michigan State where he met and married his life-long love Linda J. Hamilton. Following graduation he and Linda moved to College Station where John went to work at the Department of Entomology at Texas A&M University.

John was known and loved by everyone who crossed his path. His smile was contagious, and his laugh infectious. After moving to College Station his three boys, Paul Hamilton, Kevin Richard and Benjamin John were born. Alongside his sons, John was actively involved with the Boy Scouts. He eventually became Scout Master to Boy Scout Troop 802, and was proud to watch his three sons obtain Eagle Scout rank. Through the A&M Entomology Department he would grow and develop not only his career, but also help to spread his knowledge of insects to the world through his two published field guides, his extensive Web Site on entomology and as a professor. He developed a one-of-a-kind course in the entomology department that taught budding entomologists the delicate art of fly tying, his beloved hobby. John was also active in the Brazos Valley Master Gardener program, the Brazos Valley Fly Fisherman's Club and the served as the faculty adviser to the Eagle Scout Club.

John was a loving son, a protective brother, an amazing husband, a much admired and loved father, and an incredibly doting grandfather. He was looked up to by so many, and adored by all. He is survived by his wife Linda, his sons Paul, Kevin and Ben and his wife Heather, his grand-daughter Madeline, his mother Nina, and many other friends, brothers, sisters, nephews and nieces. He will be so missed and forever remembered by his family.

John's life will be celebrated with a visitation at the Memorial Funeral Chapel, Saturday August 30, 2008 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. in the stateroom. His memorial service will also be held at the Chapel at 1 p.m. on Sunday August 31, 2008.

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Tuesday, September 02, 2008

by Craig Berlin, Founding Board Member (Retired), Texas Motion Picture Alliance, http://www.txmpa.org

Acting is something close to my heart. Talent does not guarantee
success and even though I did a lot of acting in high school and
college, I opted to go behind the camera as a career because it felt
safer (hah!) So, the plight of the production industry in Texas
touches me both from a business and personal standpoint on more than
one front.

Recently I was asked to address the Alliance, a network of Austin
casting directors, agents and acting coaches in order to keep them
up-to-date on the state of the industry but most importantly to help
them reach out to their clients, the myriad of actors we have in
locally. I’d like to pass along the information I shared with them
statewide and specifically address what I understand to be some of
the specific concerns actors have about TxMPA.

You may have heard that the Texas production business is hurting,
making it harder for actors and crew to find work and generally
impacting the state’s econcomy in a negative way. The alarm bells
being sounded regarding production business in Texas are from real
numbers, not just protectionist fear. Texas used to be considered
the “Third Coast” but that has changed. Producers who want to come
here no longer can because the money people won’t allow it. To be
frank, who can blame them? After all, as an industry of “artists” we
spend much of our time trying to convince the traditional business
community that film, music and the arts are “business” too, so we
can hardly expect the business decision-makers of production to
behave substantially differently in regard to “the bottom line” than
other bean counters would.

The truth is, production incentives work and a lack of them hurts.
In 2002, pre-incentive Louisiana had about $20 million/year in
production business. Since the advent of incentives, their business
had grown to over $640 million by 2005. Similar figures exist for
New Mexico. Michigan is currently building the second largest
production studio in the state as a direct result of new business
brought in by incentives, according to the mayor of Lansing. The
list of migration and infrastructure growing elsewhere goes on.

By contrast, Texas is DEAD LAST on the list of states with
incentives. As a result, our business has correspondingly shrunk. We
are now into the billions of dollars in lost revenue. Prison Break
left Dallas and even Robert Rodriguez is likely producing his next
feature in Michigan. We were barely able to hang on to Friday Night
Lights and that had a lot to do with help from the local support and
there are MANY more examples.

As the Third Coast, Texas offered talented and plentiful crew and
actors as well as varied locations, good facilities and of course,
Texas charm. While the charm and locations may remain, the rest of
our infrastructure is eroding due to lack of business. Some studios
are not being built because we lack incentives; others are not
getting badly needed upgrades. Our crew and actors are working
out-of-state more than they are working locally and that makes it
difficult to keep your roots here. As of now, the local crew labor
union IATSE reports they have more crew working out of state than in
Texas. While talent agents typically do not report specific numbers,
a SAG survey included alarming information as well. One talent agent
reported nearly 100 performers, or 75% of the agency roster, had
found work in Louisiana or New Mexico in the past year. Another
agent cited 36 film and television projects in Louisiana employing
75 of the agency's Texas performers and five projects in New Mexico
employing 9 Texas performers in the past year. A third agent
reported total gross earnings from out of state in 2007 comprised
27% of the agency’s film/tv gross and increased to 28% in 2008,
whereas five years ago there were not measurable out of state
earnings. With the possible exception of commercial business in
Dallas, we simply cannot be satisfied with the status quo and expect
to have any kind of industry left in this state.

It is widely believed by those in the trenches that we have about 9
months to get our act together (no pun intended) and make something
happen or our a signficiant portion of our industry will be dealt
such a severe blow that it will literally wither and any opportunity
for regrowth will be years down the road. It is imperative that
actors join the cause individually and both JOIN the TxMPA and
participate in the grass roots effort by writing their legislators –
ESPECIALLY the naysayers such as Senate Finance Chairman Steve Ogden
in Williamson County.

While Bob Hudgins, Texas Film Commisioner, is an amazing advocate
for our industry, he is not in a position legally to take an
official stand and furthermore, his office is underfunded and
understaffed to do all the marketing we need to bring more business
to the state. Once we have successfully achieved better incentives,
the TxMPA needs to have a long-term mission of helping to solicit
business for our state and help improve our infrastructure, as well
as making sure that the “total package” we offer stays attractive
and competitive with other states.

It is often difficult for even the most talented actors to get jobs
when business is plentiful. Just imagine how it will be when
business is virutally nonexistent. Personally, I hope to do some
acting again in the future and my daughter is interested as well.
Beyond that, my job depends on a healthy production community.
Production business is not only good for the entire state but is
also significant part of what makes Texas “cool,” much as is live
music is for Austin. More importantly, we and our friends and
colleagues may have a mass exodus if we aren’t able to turn things

As a local vendor, it has been difficult enough to compete with
internet companies to supply a local clientele made largely of
transplants from California and elsewhere who do not share the “Buy
Local” mentality of old in regard to their current home. With the
local business migrating elsewhere, it is likely that what remains
of local producers and potential location shoots may very well be
left with few options when the number of local suppliers left to
serve them shrinks even further. Just last week I learned that the
mobile HD editing facility Confidence Bay is moving to L.A. so they
can sustain their business until the industry climate is better
here, at least they have the ability to come back, if and when we
fix things. They are not alone.

A fair number of actors seem to have a particularly difficult time
believing in the issues or supporting TxMPA. There has been
concerned expressed by some regarding where the TxMPA money ends up.
As the first treasurer for TXMPA I can vouch for the fact that at
least 90% of the money raised goes to lobbying expenses. It case it
hasn’t been made clear, with over 5000 bills in front of a
legislature which only meets every other year, NOTHING gets passed
in Texas without a lobbyist. Most of the remainder of the money goes
to fundraising and promotional expenses. There are no paid board
members, employees or other gravy trains and most expenses such as
travel are absorbed by individual board members. As Chairman of the
Membership and Fundraising Committee our first year, if I went to
other cities to promote the organization I paid my own way.

Any way you slice it, our first priority must be to pass better
incentives to put Texas back on the list of viable choices and that
is the TxMPA’s prime directive. We can’t do it without the financial
and grass-roots support of the entire community, including actors.
Please let me know if you need help with specifics about how to get
involved beyond joining the organization; otherwise please visit
http://www.txmpa.org and sign up. It’s an investment in your future
and we need you.

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Monday, September 01, 2008

COM: Three Looks at Gustav

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