News and Features

The Winspear Gets Some Well-Heeled But Misplaced Praise

The Dallas-based Sole Sisters site — an outgrowth of the Sole Sisters Film Project (“Every Shoe Has a Story, Every Woman Has Both”) — has given a hearty endorsement to the Winspear Opera House. That’s because architect Rem Koolhaas is the designer behind United Nude, a line of shoes heartily favored by the Sisters, especially for its famous launch product, “the Mobius shoe” (named after the Mobius strip because, with the ingenious shoe, a single strip of leather forms the sole, heel, foot-bed and upper).

So the Sisters marked this happy confluence of contemporary design by photographing a Mobius high heel with the Winspear.

OK, so you may have already detected the flaw in this celebration — ‘where the shoe pinches,’ as it were.

Koolhaas didn’t design the  Winspear. Sir Norman Foster did.

Koolhaas had a hand in the Wyly Theatre.

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A Video Game Legend Among Us

In the 1980s, arcades were king and kids saved the universe one quarter at a time. And perhaps no one went further with a quarter than Ben Gold. The Farmers Branch resident on Saturday will be among the first class of inductees to the International Video Game Hall of Fame. KERA’s Stephen Becker spoke with Gold about reaching the pinnacle as a gamer and why he left it all behind:

  • KERA Radio report:
  • Online version:

Walk into an arcade in the early ‘80s, and you likely heard Millipede, Q-Bert and Stargate.

Ben Gold once held the world record for points in each of those games. But he’s not one to brag.

“I’m always hesitant to say the best, Gold says. “Because I was amongst some very good players, I never considered myself – and to this day would never consider myself – the best. There were moments where I was, let’s say, playing really, really among the best on certain games.”

Today, the 43-year-old lives with his wife and two young sons in Farmers Branch. He works for a company that does HR and payroll outsourcing. And the only game he plays is that reliable time killer, Solitaire, on his iPhone.

Still, his place in video game history is secure. This weekend he will be inducted into the International Video Game Hall of Fame. He’ll join that yellow dot with an insatiable appetite, Pac Man, and Ralph Baer, who invented the first video game console.

Gold got his start in the early ‘80s setting high scores at Dallas arcades. He played at Pro Video and Tilt, where the siren song of the latest video games beckoned kids to part with their allowances.

Gold was a brash teenager. For fun, he would find machines around town with modest high scores. And with a single quarter, he would annihilate them, putting the point total way out of reach. Then he made every high scorer’s final move – entering his three-letter trademark to the top of the leaderboard: B-E-N.

“And I had people that when they would come back to my arcade, they said, ‘Oh, so YOU’RE that guy!’ I got a lot of that, and that was kinda mean,” he says. “I admit, I probably shouldn’t have done that. So I ask for forgiveness if I did that to anyone around here.”

Soon, young Ben gained national recognition. He landed on the cover of Life Magazine in 1982. But the highlight of his playing career came in 1983.

“The most important thing was being on That’s Incredible and feeling what it’s like to be famous for a very short period of time.”

Ben competed on the television talent show with three other players in a five-game tournament of Cosmos, Millipede, Donkey Kong Jr., Burgertime and Buck Rogers.

Host John Davidson called the action on Burgertime:

Click the audio player to hear a clip from the show:

Gold, the youngest of the competitors, won the contest, though he insists it’s because the best player made a major mistake. His prize was a gold medal and a kiss on the cheek from show host Cathy Lee Crosby.

But within a few years, he was done with video games completely.

He wanted to become a professional gamer, but getting paid to play wasn’t yet a reality. Plus, Gold says he found something far more interesting to look at than a video screen – girls.

Still, the gaming gene has remained in the family with Gold’s 8-year-old son.

BEN: “David here likes to play a lot more video games than he should …”

DAVID: “That’s why we keep the Wiis over at grandma and grandpa’s.”

Gold says his best game was Millipede. But good luck finding the arcade version. These days, YouTube is the best place to turn to for footage of classic games. At his Farmer’s Branch home, Gold took a look at a clip of someone playing Millipede:

GOLD: “Judging by the length of the film, he’s going to get about 130,000 points. Which is OK”

REPORTER: “But your top score was how much?”

GOLD: “4.2 million. I was good at it.”

Some might even say he was the best.

To see a complete list of International Video Game Hall of Fame inductees, click here. To visit Ben Gold’s YouTube channel, click here.

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Flickr Photo of the Week

Categorized Under: Visual Arts

Congratulations to Jim McDonald of Arlington, the winner of the Flickr Photo of the Week contest!  He follows last week’s winner, Randal Dean.

If you would like to participate in the Flickr Photo of the Week contest, all you need to do is upload your photo to to our Flickr group page. It’s fine to submit a photo you took previous to the current week, but we are hoping that the contest will inspire you to go out and shoot something fantastic this week to share with Art&Seek users. If the picture you take involves a facet of the arts, even better. The contest week will run from Monday to Sunday, and the Art&Seek staff will pick a winner on Monday afternoon. We’ll notify the winner through FlickrMail (so be sure to check those inboxes) and ask you to fill out a short survey to tell us a little more about yourself and the photo you took. We’ll post the winners’ photo on Wednesday.

Now here’s a bit more from Jim:

Jim McDonald

Title of photo: Lincoln Centre Sculpture
Equipment: Camera: Canon Digital Rebel XT  Lens: An old 28-80mm film lens.
Tell us more about your photo: I’m not a “serious” photographer by any stretch of the imagination. I had my camera with me after some training classes I attended at the Lincoln Centre. The campus had some neat looking areas, and the lowering sun caused some really interesting lighting so I decided to hang out after class and take some shots. The sculpture caught my eye. Among several shots I took of the sculpture, I like this one because it almost gives the feeling of being enveloped by it.

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Wednesday Morning Roundup

TEACHING THE TOPS: Most teachers have a few top students that they keep in touch with after the kids have left the classroom. But not every teacher can keep up with his former students by reading the Billboard charts. Bart Marantz can. He’s the head of the jazz studies program at Booker T. Washington and counts Erykah Badu, Norah Jones and Roy Hargrove among those who he’s taught. “That’s the beauty of being an instructor or a mentor,” Marantz tells “Those people remain with you.”

DANCE ANOTHER DAY: Texas Dance Theatre announced its 2010-11 season on Tuesday. Among the selections are a new work by Fort Worth-based choreographer Bruce Wood. Also new for this season – more dancing. The group will bump up the number of performances from five to eight. Wil McKnight, the company’s founder, tells that the extra performances will lead to a stronger group of dancers. “Last season the dancers were working so hard for just one performance,” McKnight said. “And I would see things that could be improved upon.”

A LOOK AHEAD: On Aug. 29, the Kimbell Art Museum will open “Fiery Pool: The Maya and the Mythic Sea.” (Just got the preview invite in the mail yesterday.) The show defines the ancient culture by its relationship to water and will feature more than 90 works – some never seen before in the U.S. “Fiery Pool” opened at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Mass., in the spring, and Artes Magazine took note with this review that includes lots of pictures and video.

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Q&A: Danny Barnes

Danny Barnes will play the last show of KXT’s Barefoot at the Belmont series on Thursday night with The O’s. I spoke with the banjo picker recently about his approach to the instrument and working with Dave Matthews in the studio:

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Gary Cogill is Leaving WFAA-TV

So says the Dallas Morning NewsScreening Room blog — which confirmed it with Channel 8. Cogill shifted into the arts-at-large beat almost exactly a year ago, just in time to cover the opening(s) of the AT&T PAC — after years as WFAA’s movie critic and Good Morning Texas host.  He was one of the rare arts reporter-critics at a commercial TV station. His departure — for “a great opportunity” — makes one wonder what will become of North Texas cultural coverage on TV now, given the economy and, especially, the economics of the media.

Cogill’s last day will be in October. The News’ Chris Vognar will be filling in the details with a more complete story later.

UPDATE: And he just has: Cogill is becoming a film producer with his own start-up company. Which cuts short my quip on the whole affair: “Yes, they all want to direct.”

As for my expressed concern about the future of local arts coverage, station news director Michael Valentine said in a prepared statement:

“WFAA remains completely committed to quality coverage of performing arts and entertainment in north Texas through a variety of coverage including WFAA news broadcasts and special programming; on Good Morning Texas, the station’s local talk and information program; and through community marketing and public service projects.”

In other words, not a word about starting a search for a new candidate, how tough it’d be to replace Cogill, etc. I’m betting that’s the end of a full-time, designated arts critic-reporter at WFAA.

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Our Man in Nigeria: Day 2

Guest blogger Bart Weiss is director of the Video Association of Dallas and VideoFest. He will be blogging from his trip to Nigeria as part of the American Documentary Showcase. You can read his previous post here.

Today, we spent most of the day in a master class for professional filmmakers in Kano. We showed films but mostly talked about how to construct a contemporary documentary. Most of their ideas about documentary films are either scripted educational films or political documentaries – just like it was when I visited Pakistan with this project last year. The filmmakers had not heard of the term cinema verite, and the concept seemed, well, foreign. But they were really interested. We talked in detail about recording sound, lighting, directing and developing a project. They seemed eager, so I look forward to our more hands-on teaching planned for tomorrow. .

Later in the day, we did a screening at Bayero University of Soundtrack for a Revolution, a film that mixes the history of the civil rights movement and the music that spurred it on. The films ends with a shot of Obama, which got a major applause.
The discussion afterward was lively to say the least. I talked about why using music to tell the story was important both because of the importance of the music and, more importantly, to make a history story come alive. Most of the students were political science students and wanted to talk about segregation and if it is still going on. Others asked about racism in the U.S. They were polite and inquisitive, and I think they enjoyed the interchange.
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Tuesday Morning Roundup

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North Texas Artists in Turkey – Ben Fountain's Tale of Seduction

Guest blogger Ben Fountain is the author of Brief Encounters With Che GuevaraOn Sunday, his  tribute to poet Robert Trammell appeared in the Dallas Morning News. Ben succumbed to the carpets in  Turkey; I didn’t. Guess who’s sorry…

I went to Turkey and bought a rug.

Not that I meant to.  The goal was to see the country and try to learn something.  Rugs are for old ladies, I told myself, and people with good (i.e., nonexistent) allergies, and collectors who know their way around such terrifying subjects as thread count and weave and vegetable dye.  A man’s gotta know his limitations, and mine very much included rugs, textiles, fabrics, in short the entire universe of warped and woofed material objects.  This was one Americano who planned to breeze through Turkey rug-less and carefree, a condition that lasted for exactly three days, right up to the point when our group sat down in a rug emporium outside of Izmir, and the salesman’s assistants unfurled that first rug.

Took my breath away, it did.  So much for limitations.  What is it about color, design, texture, and sheen that make the human brain go zoom?  This is your brain on off-white wall-to-wall, zzzzzzz zzzzzz zzzzzz, and this is your brain on Turkish rugs,


Like a bungee jump with a soft thump and bounce at the end.  Over the course of his disquisition on rugs and rug-making this master salesman showed us probably 60 or 70 rugs, one piled on top of another, overlapping, intersecting, a horizontal mosh-pit of color and design.  Imagine the Northern Lights embedded in wool, or blueprints for cosmic computer chips, and you’ll have an idea of the richness and cumulative intelligence of all those carpets piled one on top of another.

We drank tea.  We looked and listened.  From time to time we walked, or rather, wafted, in our sock feet over the ever-deepening pile sumptuous wool.  “You don’t have to buy anything,” the salesman kept saying, and he meant it, and the more he said it the more we wanted to buy.  When the time came for actual commerce, he smiled, bowed slightly, and stepped back as a phalanx of junior salesmen suddenly appeared in our midst.

Lambs to the slaughter, or at least a good shearing.  A handsome young salesman named Ali approached.  Could he be of help?  Possibly, I said, trying to play it cool, and pointed out the rug that had caught, no, swallowed my eye whole, a glossy red number of recent vintage, 3’ x 5’, wool on wool, the sensory equivalent to my underdeveloped American mind of, say, a Corvette, or five debaucherous days in South Beach.  Ali led me into a private room.  The carpet followed.  We sat on the floor, he in a casually practiced way, reclining, like a Julio Iglesias album cover.  This began to feel like a date, albeit a highly educational one as he explained the origins of the rug (Bilecik, in eastern Turkey), the meanings of the symbols, the nomadic traditions embodied in the rug.  But how much? I wondered.  A rug like this, Ali went on, this will be in your family for three or four generations.  You have children?  Yes, I said, wondering how much?  Your children will use this rug, your children’s children, their children, this is not a rug the family ever sells.  But how much?  Some young girl in Bilecik, Ali continued, this young, smart, hardworking girl, she spent six or seven months making this rug.  But how much?  Fascinating and informative as it all was, I began to understand how a virgin must feel in the hands of an expert seducer: it’s fun, it’s exciting, it could be leading to something great, but at a certain point you just want to get it over with.

So, how much?  Not telling.  All’s fair in war and rugs, but I can tell you that I handed over my money with a smile.  And my man Ali, he was smiling too.  The rug is here in Dallas now, and while I can’t say that having it in the house has made me a better person, that red shocks me into sentience every time I see it.  If red was a city, this would be the neighborhood where you’d want to live, the ur-red of crushed rubies, brilliant sunsets, cardinals on the wing.  The reservoir of true red where all the other reds come from.  That young girl in Bilecik, whoever she is, she had a line into the original source.

No regrets.  I went to Turkey and bought a rug.

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The Dallas Museum of Art: A Top Tip for Silver Collectors

OK, so it’s an oldie but a goodie.

OvationTV, the arts and entertainment cable channel, is repeating a program called Collective Intelligence about — what else? — collecting. CI offers shopping and buying and hoarding tips for happy obsessives, and the program that airs tomorrow, Tuesday at 12:30 p.m., is on shiny, shiny silverware.  A fitting topic for North Texans, given Nelson Bunker Hunt’s infamous (and failed) attempt in 1980 to control the market.

Some of CI’s top 10 tips on silver aren’t exactly insider secrets (“#7 – Salt corrodes”). But Tip #2 happens to be: Take a look at the Dallas Museum of Art, which has one of the most important silver collections in the world. Basically, the show advises: You wanna know collectible silver, especially 19th-century American sterling? Check out the DMA’s holdings to learn what’s really valuable. The museum has items that simply aren’t available any longer.

But wait, there’s more. The DMA is also Tip #1. Collect 20th-century silver — which, if you thought about it for five seconds, you’d have figured is  likely to increase in value, even if it’s “machine-made.”  And “the pre-eminent museum in the field,” according to CI, is, once again, the DMA, especially for its Jewel Stern Collection, which was featured in 2005 in the dazzling touring exhibition, Modernism in American Silver. (The DMA is described as “very alert to this sort of stuff.”)

Some of the remarks in the interviews reveal they were made back in 2006 or so (the Modernism in American Silver show is referred to as recent). Which means Ovation acquired this show from somewhere, but I haven’t found an earlier record of it (got a call in to Ovation to find out where and when).

But this seems to be the first time this video’s available online.

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