Big D Blog: Dallas Observer Columnist Talks Politics at SMU

September 28, 2009 by · Comments Off 

Posted by Jaimie Siegle

Politics columnist for Dallas Observer and contributor and non-fiction author Jim Schutze will speak to SMU faculty, staff and journalism students (consider it a V.I.P. invite) to discuss “Inside Dallas: A Muckraker’s Paradise” on Oct. 13 at the Meadows Museum.

Schutze, a contributor to CBS News, talk will address all things politics in the Metroplex, like the Trinity River toll road controversy and internal issues involving Dallas’ international port. One of the most current points of discussion will be the federal trial that’s been going since June, when five city political figures were accused of conspiring to accept bribes and extort money in exchange for votes. Read The Dallas Morning News coverage of the trial here.

The event is sponsored by SMU’s Retired Faculty Association as a part of the provost’s lecture seris. A wine and cheese reception between 3 and 4 p.m. at the museum will precede the speech, which will occur in the auditorium. Schutze has won awards for his investigative journalism pieces as well as received wide acclaim for his true murder non-fiction narratives.

Arts Beat: Etruscan Art Mind Blowing

April 27, 2009 by · Comments Off 

If there was one thing I learned about art on Thursday night was the different types of Etruscan art. Nancy de Grummond came to speak to a group of SMU students, faculty and other artists at the Meadows Museum. The crowd was filled with mostly artist who could relate and understand the illusion of prophecy.

Grummond explained that this is a very difficult concept to grasp about Etruscans, and she was right. She explained that these objects were produced well before glass and the bronze discs have a convex side that slightly distorts the reflection.

The hour-long lecture had my mind squandering for answers. I tried to keep up with the material and? discoveries of the Etruscan culture, but talking about a person who knows little to nothing about art and Etruscan, my mind was long gone in another planet.

She regained my attention when she began to show pictures of artistic work and how one could decorate with an incised line drawing depicting a scene from mythology. By the looks on everyone else faces, Grummond discovered an accurate reflection of the Etruscan culture and unleashed the domains of this artistic work.

–Posted by Brittany Gilliam

Arts Beat: Prophetic Twist On Art

April 27, 2009 by · Comments Off 

Prophetic art can be described through pictures of animals, decapitation, and all other types of Etruscan Art? that can be? seen in the Meadows Museum.? Nancy De Grummond? spoke to art enthusiasts? Thursday, April 23, about how art can be portrayed prophetically. The Meadows Museum lecture was not the most popular amongst SMU students,? however approximately 45 people attended the lecture.

De Grummond spoke to her audience about her focus on the exclusive collection which includes convex canvases and shiny surfaces, including mirrors. Her lecture focused on the ability to distort the reflection of art. Not only has De Grummond wrote “A Guide to Etruscan Mirrors,” but she recently published two related books, (The Religion of the Etruscans and Etruscan Mythology, Sacred History, and Legend.)

I found the lecture to be interesting because prophecy is a difficult idea to illustrate. I was taken aback? by the images she showed by numerous artists who have cullminated a vast array of convex artistry.

Although this research by De Grummond is not for everyone, the basic understanding of various art forms in important to observe throughout life. And because I am studying in Italy during the upcoming summer, I was happy to know that De Grummond has taken her worldview of Hellenistic and Roman Archeology abroad.

–Posted by Christina Murphy

Arts Beat: Joy Tipping Talks Book Reviews with SMU Journalism Students

April 27, 2009 by · Comments Off 

“I’m here to tell you not to be depressed.”
These were the first words that Joy Tipping, a copy editor and staff writer at the Dallas Morning News, said to SMU’s arts beat class.
The students laughed, glad that they weren’t about to hear yet another speech about the dismal future of journalism.
Instead, Tipping talked about tips for book reviewing.
She said that you need to have a specialty to review books because there are so many of them. She focuses on thrillers and contemporary fiction.
She compared book reviews to reviews on other arts, like theater and dance. Book reviews are solitary because you can’t gage the audience’s reaction. It all depends on you. You write about whether you thought the book was good or bad, and why.
The “why” part takes years of experience, but in the mean time, there are a slew of sites to check out professional book reviews, like Book Slut, Publishers Weekly, Media Bistro, and Book Reporter.
Tipping had a few key pieces of advice when it comes to reviewing books: read the whole book, flag the parts you like, and don’t read other reviews before writing your own.
Tipping said she tends to err on the side of positivity. She was modest, entertaining, and had a happy perspective on our future.
She said, “As long as you can write, edit, and care about language, there will be jobs.”

–Posted by Nikki Pasrija

Arts Beat: Fred Wiseman, An American Legend

April 19, 2009 by · Comments Off 

Fred Wiseman is a quick witted, brilliant man who just loves what he does, and the passion shows in his work. The legendary American documentary filmmaker came to SMU last week as part of the human rights campaign.

The winner of two Emmys, a Peabody and many other awards came into filmmaking after attending Williams College and later Yale Law School. While he was in Paris working at an American law office he bought a camera and began filming. Once he got back to the states he knew he wanted to direct and his award-winning career began.

In the April 14 lecture in Hughes-Trigg, he showed six clips from his past human rights documentaries. The first clip was a Law and Order piece done in 1968. He filmed a Kansas City police arresting a prostitute. The audience watched on in horror as a rather big white man stood choking the prostitute.

The second clip was called “Welfare.” He takes viewers inside a government welfare center and shows the reality of the situation as a picture of everyday life: the crazies, the druggies, the honest, the thieves.

The third clip was of a sardine factory –interesting because there was no audio, yet you didn’t need it. This clip had around 300 shots for an eight-minute piece, which is a lot of different frames. He takes the viewer on the journey of how fish become sardines. You didn’t need narration because it was so visual you could almost smell the fish.

The fourth, a brief clip of a dean of discipline at an American school in the 1960s, showed how times have changed in student discipline. A boy headed to the doctor later in the day is forced to participate in his athletic class and then suspended after a dispute with the dean.

The fifth clip, an audience favorite, was of two great American ballet dancers performing “Romeo and Juliet.” This footage was masterfully shot. Every edit was for a reason. He would cut to a far-away shot and then back to a closeup so the viewer doesn’t miss the ballerina’s toe point or the passion between the two characters. He had earlier said, “You can have a lot of great video and edit it all wrong, or you can have no video and edit it all right.”

His final clip was of two men in the priesthood. One was a stubborn old man who didn’t think twice about the community nor did he want to. The other, who was inquisitive, kept asking the other man why he believed the way he did. While I didn’t quite understand this footage, I still wanted to know more about the men. Wiseman zoomed into the faces to make the viewer see every wrinkle. Visually it was a great piece.

Most questions after the presentation were from local filmmakers who wanted advice; others just wanted to praise him. However, his response to one question stood out: What drives you to pursue the questions that you answer in the films? “I am just a curious person, all things interest me,” he said. “I believe what I do is natural history in a sense, if the films last a long time. I would love to look back and see films of America in the 19th Century or films about what a hospital looked like in the Civil War. All my documentary films are going to do is be a huge source of confusion for future historians.”

To purchase his documentaries or read a full bio of Wiseman visit

Posted by Mary Summers

Arts Beat: DMN’s Taitte Tells It Like It Is…Bleak

March 26, 2009 by · Comments Off 

As if the number of big-city national newspapers making the move to all-online formats weren’t enough to make journalism students think twice about their field of study, Dallas Morning News theatre critic Lawson Taitte offered another harsh dose of reality to Carolyn Barta’s Arts Beat class Monday afternoon.

“How many of you all still want to be journalists?” he asked after detailing how Web reporting (an oxymoron, if you ask me) is slowly killing off the print format. “Well, good luck.”

Since joining the DMN staff in 1992, Taitte estimated that the number of full-time arts writers and critics has dwindled from over 15 to “between five and seven” today.

It doesn’t take much more than common sense to notice that such a reduction in staff equates to a lower number of opinions and viewpoints surrounding the local arts scene. This is nothing short of a crime, especially as Dallas tries to make a name for its own arts district.

It seems the majority of those opining on the arts – and, increasingly, news, sports and business as well – are content to limit themselves to the “blogosphere,” where good journalism goes to die.

Taitte explained he honed his skill writing reviews for what was then the “Overnight Page.”

“I got used to writing very fast,” he said. “That’s basically why the Morning News hired me.” What he failed to mentioned is that he could write not only fast, but well.

While the Internet provides a never-ending forum for discussion and thoughts, too many people have become shaded by the false reality of the anything-goes format of blogs.

“Blogging may be a flash in the pan,” Taitte said, illustrating just how little even the true professionals know about this still-evolving medium.

–posted by Nate Regan

Arts Beat: Etruscan Jewelry Demonstrated

February 23, 2009 by · Comments Off 

Ellen Buie Niewyk demonstrated how the Etruscans made jewelry out of a small silver ingot at the Meadows Museum at SMU. The Thursday night lecture, “Taking the mystery out of ancient metal techniques,” was presented in synergy with the current exhibit From the Temple and the Tomb: Etruscan Treasures from Tuscany sheets

From an anthropological perspective, it was something interesting to witness. Niewyk showed her audience how to form silver ingots into flat sheets with different techniques. She also explained the intricate techniques of granulation, which is a process used by metalsmiths to decorate a base of metal by attaching small metal spheres to the surface.

The demonstration was interesting, and I have never seen someone make jewelry before, but what intrigued me the most was the way she presented everything.

“We are going high-tech to showing low-tech techniques,” Niewyk said.

They were streaming live videos of the demonstration, providing pictures, and showing a PowerPoint presentation.

Everyone, including the people in the back row, was able to see every move Niewyk made with the thin wires. She showed the audience how to make the Etruscan braid out of wire, which turns out to be just an illusion.

Her high-tech ways provided new ways of presenting art. It was worth seeing, even if I didn’t know anything about the Etruscan civilization.

Posted by Laura Vasquez

Arts Beat: Agreeing to Disagree

February 12, 2009 by · 2 Comments 

Robert Wilonsky, from the Dallas Observer, spoke to our Arts Beat class Wednesday and discussed his experience as a movie critic and blogger.

He shared with us some of his latest movie reviews from the Village Voice and stressed how important it is to do your homework before reviewing a movie. Whether that be reading the book beforehand or just doing simple research about the history of the characters and storyline, being prepared is a key component to a good movie review.

“You’ve got to know your stuff,” Wilonsky said. “I can’t express to you how important fact checking is. Arrogance always leads to mistakes.”

Showing us his review of “Valkyrie,” Wilonsky seemed delighted by the positive feedback from readers who typed their comments below.

One comment started with “I agree 100% with this review” and ended with “well done, sir.”

“That’s when you know you’ve done your job well,” Wilonsky said, insinuating that positive feedback is the solitary indicator defining a “good” review from a “bad.”

Wilonsky is also the main contributing writer of Unfair Park, a blog on the Dallas Observer website.

His name was frequently dropped in the SMU Journalism department last month when four students were sent to Washington DC for the inauguration with the Corporate Communications and Public Affairs department.

Wilonsky wrote a less-than-approving “Unfair Post” about the SMU journalism students inadequately covering the inauguration.

As one of those students attending the inauguration, I can tell you from my experience; DC was below freezing, overly-crowded and on the edge at times. People who had tickets couldn’t get in, and people who didn’t have tickets were jumping the fence. Complete pandemonium.?

At some point, we knew we had to make a decision; stay and report on crowds, or leave and watch the inauguration from a TV and experience history with every other American across the country. Some of us stayed and some of us left. We “Inauguration Blogged” about our experiences, good and bad, on our news website.

Wilonsky only highlighted and criticized the work of those who left, stating “WWHD?” Which I learned means, “What Would Hunter Do?” Hunter, as in Hunter S. Thompson, known for his creation of Gonzo Journalism and love for drugs, alcohol and lack of sanity.

Wilonsky said that the SMU Journalism students should have covered the inauguration like Hunter S. Thompson would have, throwing themselves into? angry crowds? to get? the full experience.

Thompson? thrived on? drugs as a reporter. His subjective writing focused more on style than accuracy. Entertaining? Yes. But factual? Has anyone read “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas?

How is Thompson a great example for journalism students covering such a historic presidential inauguration? “Maybe SMU should supply drugs for you next time,” Wilonsky replied.

At the end of his lecture, Wilonsky stated, “All we have is our credibility.” And I think encouraging SMU students to be more like Hunter S. Thompson, mocking the use of drugs at a presidential inauguration is one way to quickly lose the only thing Wilonsky has.

–Posted by Kaci Koviak

John Zogby Lecture

October 3, 2008 by · Comments Off 

Posted by Rachel Orr

John Zogby, President and CEO of Zogby International, an independent and nonpartisan polling firm, spoke at the SMU ExxonMobil? Lecture Series last Wednesday night. ? While there to discuss his new book The Way We’ll Be, Zogby also took some time to give his thoughts, but not predictions as he made perfectly clear, about the upcoming presidential election since it is his experience with presidential elections that put his name on the map.

At first, Zogby started off a bit slow but he soon found his rhythm with the audience and things quickly took off. ? Zogby admitted that when he started writing and doing research for his current book The Way We’ll Be, he believed that people had given up on the American dream. ? However, after doing some research, he learned that it was just the opposite.

Zogby has said that consumerism in America has changed and with that obviously the American consumer. Despite the economy coming to a screeching halt, Americans refuse to give up on the American dream Zogby said. ? Americans are not willing to forfeit the house and the car but are willing to cut out other areas of spending and it is this kind of lifestyle that is breeding what Zogby calls the “Wal-Mart shopper.” ? Zogby said people today are only buying what they need, “don’t sell me the sizzle, sell me the steak”, is how Zogby described consumers today. ? Although I have a feeling that consumers today view steak, sizzle or no sizzle, as a luxury food item.

Yet, Zogby was quick to point out that despite the era of the “Wal-Mart shopper” the new generation of 18 to 29 year-olds, what Zogby calls the “first globals”, a generation I am proud to be a part of, are changing the face of the American dream. ? Zogby noted that more and more people in my generation are traveling the world no matter their economic position, and more and more people in my generation are taking jobs across the globe. ? Thomas Friedman was right, the world really is flat.

When it came time to discuss the election, Zogby said he will not make a prediction for this election which I found a bit surprising because election predictions are Zogby’s livelihood. ? However, I do understand that in an election as polarized as this, it is hard to have any kind of prediction. ?

The lecture was a quick 60 minutes and I walked away with more questions than I thought possible. ? Zogby is no doubt an idealist, but at times I think he forgot to look back down at reality. ? While I admit I am a bit more cynical than your average twenty-something I still know how to dream, but Zogby’s Utopian tunnel vision for America was something I just could not, with the current economic and social issues in America, believe.

I am not a Wal-Mart shopper, but I am a Target shopper. ? Right now I can’t even think of buying steak, and paying extra for the sizzle currently sits in the realm of the unimaginable. ? And if I can’t put steak on my table, how could I ever take advantage of my “first global” status and jet off to Europe? ? No, I have not given up on the American dream, but before I can buy that steak or that plane ticket to Paris, I need to first have a stable home life. ? ?

The American dream is an idea, one that I know I will pursue for the rest of my life. ? But getting through today is all I can think about now. ? It’s like driving a car, I spend more time looking at what is ten feet in front of me, not one hundred feet. ? While The Way We’ll Be? is a book I highly recommend reading, I wish Zogby had written a book about what’s ten feet in front of us. ? ? ?

Arts Beat: Zogby discusses American dream

October 2, 2008 by · Comments Off 

Posted by Claire Jurkiewicz

John Zogby was the featured speaker for the ExxonMobil Lecture Series on Ethics in Advertising tonight. As the president and chief executive officer of Zogby International, he knows his stuff! He concentrated on the evolution of the American dream.

I loved learning about how American ideals have changed over time, and it was great to hear his viewpoints on the upcoming presidential election.? Zogby praised Generation X–which he claimed consists? of 18- to 29-year-olds–for being “global citizens.”? ? He was? very conversational and engaging, especially? with the student audience.? Coining November’s presidential battle an “or else” election, Zogby said either candidate will bring tremendous change.

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