Photography

Why El Paso Mexican food hits different

There’s a six-way race in Houston for the Democratic bid to represent part of the city in the Texas Senate. We’ll look at how it’s shaping up.

A case involving a Navy SEAL is testing a Pentagon policy designed to keep extremists out of the military.

Change is coming to a corridor in the Texas Hill Country known for its wineries. Why it could just be the beginning of more development.

Megan Thee Stallion’s new single, “Hiss,” is her first solo track to debut at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100. It’s also being received as a “diss” track.

And: El Paso, with its proximity to New Mexico, does Mexican food a bit different. We’ll hear about some of the people contributing to its unique flavors.

Shay Nobles and Jules Alcindor

On this episode of Black Austin Matters, Lisa and Rich speak with local photographer Jules Alcindor and graphic designer Shay Nobles to discuss their daily experiences working at a local shipping store, living in Austin, and their individual interests outside of work.

Dungeons & Dragons becomes lifeline for some Texas death row prisoners

When it comes the electric grid, every megawatt counts during peak demand. Industrial batteries have long been seen as a potential game-changer for energy storage. We’ll have details about how they’re coming online in the Lone Star State.

A new vaccine for COVID-19 will be in pharmacies soon. An epidemiologist lays out what you and your family needs to know.

Plus, Dungeons & Dragons on death row, the latest headlines, and a school finance revolt in North Texas.

Texas Standard: February 17, 2020

More Americans potentials exposed to the Coronavirus coming to Texas. Amid concerns the disease could affect the Texas economy, we’ll have the latest. Also, some may think the opioid crisis is receding, Bexar county is stepping up efforts to help treat those with addictions. We’ll hear why. And The Trump administration calls for additional millions for quantum computing…what does it all add up to? A Texas expert does the math. Plus the story behind Cird City Texas… all four of them. Those stories and more today on the Texas Standard:

Texas Standard: July 18, 2019

Fear and uncertainty south of the border as asylum seekers waiting in Ciudad Juarez wonder what a U.S. rule change means for them, we’ll have the latest. Also, the Lone Star State now at the center of an effort to end the spread of HIV. We’ll hear why Texas, and what could change under a new federally directed plan. Plus, how video games could be a game changer for some wounded veterans. And the week that was in Texas politics with Emily Ramshaw of the Texas Tribune and a whole lot more today on the Texas Standard:

Remembering ‘Beneficent Genius’ Bill Wittliff

When I hear the great musical theme of Lonesome Dove, I am immediately grateful to Bill Wittliff because I know we wouldn’t have the deeply treasured miniseries if not for him. We would have Larry McMurtry’s novel for sure, but we would not have Wittliff’s equally brilliant adaptation of that masterwork if not for his undeterred resolve to get it done.

Bill Wittliff died on Sunday. I was, like millions of his fans around the world, and especially those in Texas, sad to see his rare intellectual light and his beneficent genius leave us. He was a man who often worked his magic behind the scenes and so many people were touched by his artistic brilliance without knowing it. He wrote the screenplays for much loved movies like Lonesome Dove, Legends of the Fall, The Perfect Storm, Raggedy Man, and for highly Texcentric films like Barborosa and Red-Headed Stranger. Some say Wittliff launched the Austin film industry.

Though Renaissance man is often overgenerous in its use, it fit Wittliff to perfection. He was a novelist, and a screenwriter, a photographer, a publisher and movie producer, a collector, an archivist, a historian and a lifelong professor who generously shared his knowledge of all things all the time. In more than a few instances over the past few years I’d fire off an email to him to ask for his insights on some obscure subject and he’d invariably surprise me with an authoritative answer within five minutes, sometimes less.

Four years ago I interviewed Bill for his new novel The Devil’s Backbone. Naturally we talked a good deal about Lonesome Dove and I want to share some of that interview because it gives us insights into the making of that masterpiece and into the mind and methods of Wittliff as well.
I first asked Bill about how long it took to produce Lonesome Dove and if he knew it would be the huge hit it turned out to be?

“For me Lonesome Dove was a solid two years,” Wittliff said. “It was a year writing the script, and then it was another year from locations and casting and all of that, to actually shooting it and then editing and the scoring – all of it – and distribution. Here’s what I did know. I knew, because I saw the dailies every morning – and I knew, you know, that what was going through the cameras was incredible stuff, incredible performances. What I didn’t know was that the audience would take to it the way they did. That I didn’t know. I knew it was going to be great and I knew it was going to be well really phenomenal. It was just incredible to watch – to sit there every day and watch Duvall and Tommy Lee and all of them deliver those lines. You simply could not be there and not know. But what I didn’t know is that the audience would take to it the way the did.”

One reason for this surprise, Bill told me, is that in 1988 there was only one thing deader than Westerns and that was the miniseries. And, he said, “we were making both.”

I was curious about his method of adapting the novel for television. I asked him how, out of this tumultuous novel of nearly 1,000 pages, he could choose what to include and what to exclude.

“Here’s what I did,” Wittliff said. “At that time I was driving a pickup. Suzanne, my partner, had someone read it on tape. We have a place on South Padre Island. It’s six hours to drive down there. So I would strike out in my pickup, which is to say you were in a closed in space. And start playing that and listening to it. You could see it. In listening to it you would say oh I don’t need that or oh that’s too close to this. Because I was driving I could kind of see a version of the movie unfold as I drove along. In six hours, as it turned out, of listening to Larry’s novel was just about one episode. So I’d drive to South Padre and when I got there I then I would start adapting that six hours, boiled down to two hours. Anyway, that’s how I did it.”

Finally, since McMurtry had written a number of screenplays himself, I asked Bill why Larry hadn’t written it himself.

“When they asked me to do it, I called Larry and I said, ‘Don’t you want to do this,’ and he said, ‘no, I’m cooked,'” Wittliff said. “Larry’s always been smart about movies and his books. I don’t know what Larry had his thumb on when he wrote it, but boy it rang all the bells. And Larry got up from the typewriter and walked off from it at least three times maybe four times. He said ‘well, no, that’s enough,’ but then he always came back. And Lonesome Dove, both Larry’s book and now the miniseries, have absolutely become a part of the American fabric. It’s just astonishing. I’ve got calls from Ireland, Europe and England, caught up in the Lonesome Dove thing as much as Americans and Texans are. It’s just been astonishing.”

You notice there how he shuns credit for his success. He was a selfless man. That is why he created the Wittliff Collections with his wife Sally at Texas State University. There you can find the papers of great Southwestern writers like McCarthy, Dobie, Graves, Cisneros and some of McMurtry’s, which will be his greatest legacy, because it provides a place and resources for young writers, and artists, and filmmakers to come and dream about works they might animate and worlds they might create.

Steve Davis the curator there, said, “Bill embodied the best of Texas — he was incredibly creative and was very generous to others — as seen in this wonderful collection that he founded, which will continue to inspire others for generations to come.”

Finally, it is only fitting that we hear from McMurtry himself. Larry sent this touching note to me just yesterday.

He wrote: “I met Bill years ago when he and his wife asked permission to publish IN A NARROW GRAVE, my first volume of essays under their singular and distinctive Encino Press. It is the most impressive of my more than fifty published volumes. He was an absolute genius photographer, as you can see from his Wittliff Collection photos. Bill skillfully adapted LONESOME DOVE into a beloved miniseries, and I know he will be deeply missed by Texans everywhere.”

Bill lived a beautiful, fun and inspirational life. I believe firmly that in thinking about his life he would agree with Gus McCrae, who said, “It’s been quite a party, ain’t it?”

Picturing Texas

Over the past decade I’ve seen more breathtakingly beautiful photographs of Texas than I saw in all the decades before, combined. This is thanks to social media where many photographers share their exquisite work online daily. I’ve made it a point to befriend these great visual artists so I can enjoy Texas in all its resplendent glory from mountain to sea, from high plains to the tropics. I will share with you the names of some of my favorites so that you can see Texas through their gifted eyes. Now this is just MY list, work I’ve come to know somewhat at random. Many of your favorites I will no doubt miss, but perhaps you can add mine to your list of favorites, and you can add yours to mine at the end of this commentary.

In no particular order, here we go.

Wyman Meinzer is the official State Photographer of Texas. He was given this honorary title by the 1997 Texas Legislature at the request of Governor George W. Bush. They wanted to recognize his extraordinary body of work that captures the varied landscapes of Texas and the people who work the land. I love his titles: Between Heaven and Texas, Windmill Tales, and Horses to Ride, Cattle to Cut – among the more than 20 books he has published.

They say he has “traveled to every corner of this great state… in search of the first and last rays of sunlight in its magnificent sweep across the Texas landscape.” Find him at www.wymanmeinzer.com

Jeff Lynch left his heart in West Texas. His photographs of the soft cotton clouds floating above the Davis Mountains on a summer’s day, or his pics of the shadows of those clouds roaming across the vast vistas of West Texas, will make you fall in love with that region just as he has.

See his work at Jeff Lynch Photography on Facebook and Instagram.

Carol M. Highsmith is what I call a photographic philanthropist. She has donated her entire body of U.S. photographs (including hundreds of Texas photos) to an online collection viewable anytime for free at the Library of Congress website. You can search her Texas Lyda Hill collection with simple words like “longhorns,” “cowboys,” or “Big Tex.” Her photographs are downloadable and royalty free. She is a visual documentarian. Her Texas work celebrates landscapes, cityscapes, small-town life, and the diverse cultures of the Lone Star State. Here is her web Library of Congress address:   https://www.loc.gov/collections/carol-m-highsmith/about-this-collection/

My favorite coastal photographer is John Martell. He says, “Texas is a photographer’s paradise.” Every day, it seems, from his base of operations in Rockport, he posts an awe-inspiring photo of a sunrise or sunset over Aransas bay. He says, “Texas is a rich treasure trove for nature lovers. As a photographer I want to capture the essence of these jewels. That always seems to be about the light, which translates into sunrises and sunsets.”

Find him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/JohnMartellPhotography/

Tim McKenna is to me the consummate photographer of Big Bend. In fact, he was commissioned to provide all the photos for the 2018 Big Bend National Park calendar. He can make a cactus flower in the desert look as delicate as a Tyler rose. He puts you in the moment of being bathed in the pink hues of an Emory Peak sunrise or enjoying the soft grey light of the desert after a rain – so real, you’d swear you can smell the musky tones of the damp creosote bushes around you. His work assures you that the desert is a place of infinite life. When he was a young man he hunted with a rifle. Now, he hunts with a camera. You can find him here: https://www.facebook.com/tim.mckenna.31

Larry White loves trains and old cars and trucks and hill country wildflowers. His photographs of a freight train rumbling through ancient East Texas forests or old trucks sitting in forgotten fields will stir your heart in new ways. His photograph of white horses grazing silently at sunrise in a field of bluebonnets is one of his best. No one is better at photographing wildflowers than Larry White. I think he was born with a camera in his hand.

You can find his work at https://www.facebook.com/larrywhitephotography/

Also, www.larrywhitephoto.com

If the stately nature of the King of Beasts, or the grace and beauty of tigers peaks your interest, then David Pine’s work will inspire you. His aim is to depict the essence of an animal in a still shot. “Still photography,” he says, “is the art of capturing a fleeting moment that can express the gamut of emotions not otherwise seen. You want to capture the soul of a creature through its eyes.” Many of his photos come from zoos and rescue zoos in Texas.

https://www.facebook.com/DavidPinePhotography

George McLemore is an incredibly artistic photographer of life in Texas (Texana), but most importantly to me – he has been the visual chronicler of my social circles for several decades now. For most of his life, he has preserved on film and online, the social gatherings and special events for all who have been in his orbit, and he has done it mostly for free. Thirty  years ago we found his covert clicking unnecessary. But now, for many of us, we realize that we would have no record of that time if it weren’t for him. And we are grateful for the treasures he shares with us often from his labyrinth of negatives and digital files. To all the McLemores of the world, I raise my Shiner Bock to them – those visionary souls who recognized the Kodak moments of our lives that we seemed blind to. www.mclemorephotography.com

Texas Standard: December 23, 2015

In the debate over campus carry should dorms be gun free? The attorney general fires a warning shot so to speak. Also we’ve been asking what are the top stories of 2015 and the nominations are pouring in on twitter at Texas Standard. Today, we check in with Amarillo to get a sense of what folks are saying there. Also fantasy sports…is it illegal gambling? New York and Nevada say yes, what says Texas? Also think you’re bored this holiday season? Think again: it might just be your creative side coming out. And the top Politifacts–or not—of 2015. All that and more today on the Standard:

Jarrad Henderson (Ep. 12, 2015)

In Black America presents a conversation with Jarrad Henderson, award-winning photographer, filmmaker, and videographer and producer/director of “Beyond This Place: The Visual History of African American Fraternities and Sororities.”