Sunday, March 28, 2010

American Cultural Observation 196 : Dallas Museum of Art

Okay, to get in touch with my senitive side after the drag racing episode, I took the opportunity to visit the Dallas Museum of Art.

The Museum's history began with the establishment in 1903 of the Dallas Art Association, which initially exhibited paintings in the Dallas Public Library. In 1909, the association's collection received a permanent home in the Free Public Art Gallery of Dallas, located in Fair Park. The museum, renamed the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts, relocated to a new art deco facility within Fair Park from 1936 to 1984. In 1963 the museum merged with the Dallas Museum of Contemporary Art. In 1979 Dallas voters pledged $24.8 million toward the construction of a new museum building in the Art District downtown. The current facility, designed by Edward Larrabee Barnes, opened in 1984 and the museum took on its current name. The museum was expanded in 1984, 1989 and 1993, to its current size of 350,000-square-feet (110,000 square feet of exhibition space) located on 8.9 acres.

Perry Nichols/Fight In The Corral/Dallas Museum of Art

I particularly enjoyed two collections, one dealing with Africa and another named Cowboys: Life on the range between art and life.

Finally, I felt hope rise up in me like a phoenix out of the ashes of despair... I still liked the finer things in life after all my redneck adventures!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

American Cultural Observation 181 : Drag Racing!

Whohoooo! I manned up and went to the Drag Races at the Dallas Speedway! No, it is not a race between female impersonators but rather a competition in which vehicles compete to be the first to cross a set finish line, usually from a standing start, and in a straight line. Before I go further, I have to confess. After manning up, I quickly manned out again. Gosh, I was warned that it would be loud, smoky and sunny. Just as I parked my butt down I realized that I left my camera in the car that was parked what felt like 52 miles away. Wheels were flying... There was a tangible smell of gazoline, burned rubber, cigarette smoke and male musk in the air. Needless to say I did not last long. I came, I saw, and I quickly got the heck out of there! Wall to wall testosterone! It was a taping for a show called 'Pinks All Out' on Speed TV which meant all the thousands of rabid fans were there.

Most drag races are just 1/4 mile long (1,320 ft (400 m)). Races last between 3.9 and 17 seconds, with finishing speeds ranging from 80 to over 330 mph (530 km/h), depending upon the type of vehicle being used. The faster vehicles then need a parachute to slow down, an innovation credited (indirectly) to cartoonist Tom Medley.

Incase you want to know more… Before each drag race (also known as a pass), each driver is allowed to perform a burnout (which heats the tires and lays rubber down at the beginning of the track, improving traction). Each driver then lines up (or stages) at the starting line. Informal drag races can be started by any means, including flag-waving and arm-dropping. These methods are more likely to be seen in an un-professional setting, being most popular with illegal street racing.

Source: Wikipedia

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Snow, snow, snow...

Okay, Spring started today! Happy Spring everyone north of the equator... Happy Autumn below! So, here is my problem... Why did we woke up to snow this morning? In Texas? Wow, 4th time this Winter season.

Okay, not a blizzard, but here in East Texas it is enough to bring life to an instant stop.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

American Cultural Observation 172 : Mud Bogging!

My American education continued today as I spent a glorious Saturday afternoon at the local I-20 Mud Bog. Oh my... elbow deep in Rednecks! It was like a local exhibition of redneck lore and it was awesome! At one stage I got to stand next to a family (mom, teen son, teen daughter and the teen daughters 30 something year old boyfriend) They must have had 67 teeth combined! Oh, and the wisdom that kept flowing from Mama's mouth. Taught me a few things about the human anatomy to say the least...

So I scooted a few trucks over only to witness a (now, I am sure he is a nice person...) middle aged, shirtless, beer gutted, tattoo'd man boogie his heart out to Dolly Parton's 'Jolene'.

No, really, think carefully about this one... and let me remind you of the lyrics

Jolene, Jolene, Jolene, Jolene
I'm begging of you please don't take my man
Jolene, Jolene, Jolene, Jolene
Please don't take him just because you can

You could have your choice of men
But I could never love again
Hes the only one for me, Jolene

So, HE was singing it to himself... Now there is a back story I would love to know...

PRICELESS, my friend, priceless.

So, back to mud bogging, also known as mud racing, mud running, mud drags, or simply muddin'; is a form of off-road motorsport popular here in the United States in which the goal is to drive a vehicle through a pit of mud of a set length. Winners are determined by the distance traveled through the pit or, if several vehicles are able to travel the entire length, the time taken to traverse the pit. Typically, vehicles competing in mud bogs are four-wheel drives. The ones that don't make it and get stuck, is unceremoniously pulled out by tractor.

There are many types of mud bogs. From Hill and Hole, Flat or Progressive Track, and Open Bog. They come in many shapes and sizes from 150 feet (46 m) to over 300 feet (91 m). Hill and Hole is just as it sounds, usually is 60 feet (18 m) wide 200 feet (61 m) long and is a series of hills and holes, and make challenging to each truck. These tracks have little organization.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Some more Texas roadside trivia...

Yesterday we went to Pittsburg, Texas to do some video shooting for an upcoming edition of 'Connections'. (View the latest edition HERE) We shot at the Prayer Tower and Witness Garden. A gift to the city from businessman Bo Pilgrim (of Pilgrims Pride chicken fame), the tower features four Paccard bells from France and a chapel that never closes. The 75-foot tower's chapel offers a quiet refuge for visitors. In the park is a gurgling fountain and a life-size bronze that shows Jesus washing the disciple Peter's feet. Very serene and beautiful.

Okay, now about something else Pittsburg is famed for... Lonnie "Bo" Pilgrim, along with his brother Aubrey, founded Pilgrim's Pride in 1946 with a humble feed store in Pittsburg. Bo expanded his successful poultry company to eventually distribute food products around the world. Bo capitalized on his last name with the signature hat, a successful marketing gimmick which he famously wore to all events and functions.

Pittsburg is still Bo's town as far as we could tell; a good portion of the citizenry are gainfully employed at the many Pilgrim's Pride operations in the area, including Pilgrim's bank.

And who wouldn't be proud to work in the facility behind the giant fiberglass likeness of the Founder's head? The head is painted with rich detail, but Bo's expression is humorless, the stoic farmer. It was sculpted to match the dimensions of the hat, which once graced the roof of the company's restaurant in Pittsburg, called "The Hat." When "The Hat" closed, the giant prop ended up here in 2002, part of the 37-ft. tall tribute.

Under the head in the pavilion is another sculpture. This bronze depicts a younger, more lifelike Bo Pilgrim, seated on a bench reading his Bible. On one end of the bench are strewn "Good News For Modern Man" pamphlets in many languages, which the devoutly Christian poultry magnate has distributed since 1982. Bo holds his Bible -- personally annotated, modeled after his actual Bible -- and reads from the Book of Luke (the five loaves and the two fishes story).

On the other end of the bench is Bo's chicken, Henrietta. Henrietta was "a regular feature in early company advertising," according to a plaque. Bo may not be exactly reading Scripture to his chicken, but the connection is clear: they are partners in feeding the people. Henrietta shows no fear, and could well be clucking loudly: "Multiply ME!"

It's the Holy Spirit reimagined, not as a dove, but a chicken.

If not quite on the in-your-brand-face scale of a Colonel Sanders or Frank Perdue, Bo Pilgrim has achieved regional notoriety best appreciated by exploring Pilgrim's Pride TV commercials, available online at "Bo's World". In one spot, nutty Bo, wearing his black buckle hat, jumps from a plane on a mission with a squadron of chickens, executing skydiving formations as they plummet to earth. "Delivered fresh from the farm."

The volunteer at the Pittsburg museum's Ezekiel Airship exhibit told us Bo is still alive, spry, and living in a mansion on the edge of town, called "Cluckingham Palace" by the locals. Bo is occasionally spotted on the streets -- though mostly without the hat.

Source -

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Watching the International Space Station zip past!

At 7 pm CST tonight the International Space Station zipped past overhead! What an amazing thing to see with the naked eye!

The International Space Station (ISS) is an internationally developed research facility that is being assembled in low Earth orbit. On-orbit construction of the station began in 1998 and is scheduled for completion by 2011. The station is expected to remain in operation until at least 2015, and likely 2020. With a greater mass than that of any previous space station, the ISS can be seen from the Earth with the naked eye, and, as of 2010, is the largest artificial satellite orbiting the Earth.

The ISS serves as a research laboratory that has a microgravity environment in which crews conduct experiments in biology, human biology, physics, astronomy and meteorology. The station has a unique environment for the testing of the spacecraft systems that will be required for missions to the Moon and Mars.

The ISS is operated by Expedition crews, and has been continuously staffed since 2 November 2000, meaning the ISS programme has maintained an uninterrupted human presence in space for the past 9 years and 124 days, which is approaching the current record, set aboard Mir, of 9 years and 257 days. As of 1 December 2009, the crew of Expedition 22 is aboard.