Thursday, March 16, 2006

The faux Irish pub revolution & the Texas Wine Industry

"Whether you are in Kazkhstan or the Canary Islands, you can now hear the lilt of an Irish brogue over the sound of the Pogues as you wait for your Guinness to settle. "

Happy St. Patrick's Day! This is an article written by Austin Kelley in Slate Magazine. It explains the development in the early 1990's of the "Irish Pub Concept" by the Irish Pub Company. The evolution of modern Irish acceptance of St. Patrick's Day, American-style revelry is also detailed.

I've conducted my own fairly extensive research into this phenomenon. My studies began at The Dubliner on Greenville Avenue. But the Dub is the real Nellie. It's featured in today's Dallas Morning News. Having celebrated many a St. Patrick's Day at the Dubliner, I can attest to its authenticity as a proper Irish drinking establishment. (Well - I've never been to Ireland in person - but I had Astral Weeks & The Unforgettable Fire on my headphones constantly as a kid.) So visits to an Irish pub were embraced with open arms. And on the many St. Patrick's Day celebrations that I've witnessed at the Dub, it's always fun to see the Irish waitstaff observe up close what we Americans do with their religious holiday. They positively revel in it.

I've seen faux Irish implemented everywhere - Dallas, Austin, Las Vegas, Miami, Chicago. Our very own Trinity Hall was built, assembled, dismantled in Ireland & shipped over to Mockingbird Station in order that we here in Dallas also enjoy our very own variety of "craic". From the article: "IPCo will assemble your chosen pub in Ireland. Then they'll bring the whole thing to your space and set it up. All you have to do is some basic prep, and voilĂ !"

Other favorite local establishments overflowing with Irish "craic":

The Old Monk

The Londoner

The Idle Rich

And Guinness has even taken the step of reaching into your homes with the Surger!

The other mentionable article is from CNN/Southern Living & it's about the burgeoning Wine Industry in the Texas Hill Country. My wife & I were down in Fredericksburg in February & conducted our very own sampling of the local varietals. It was splendid. And it's nice to see it highlighted in the national press. Too bad we didn't take the Texas Wine Trail back home.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Monty Python at KERA Studios 1975

Python in Dallas, 1975

This is brilliant! KERA engineers unearthed this marvelous PLEDGE DRIVE footage from 1975. It begins with the promo "11 Nights of Great Public TV" - which is borderline Pythonesque in its irony. (11 Nights followed by 354 hum-drum evenings of nature broadcasts & Nova.)

Who would've thought that a Public TV Pledge Drive would be so enjoyable to watch? All you have to do is wait 31 years before you have a look! The telephones are ringing in the background & volunteers pick up the yellow standard-issues while the interview is conducted with the Python gang.

No John Cleese here, but the rest of the players are having a smashing time in Texas. They remark about how large & deserted DFW airport is. (It's still huge, but no longer empty!) They discuss the soon-to-be-released Monty Python & The Holy Grail (and the Dallas studio audience giggles at first hearing the title.) Then they play the Lumberjack scene from Flying Circus & the camera lands on Michael Palin for a reaction shot.

Loved seeing Graham Chapman smoking his pipe. He doesn't chime in until near the end of the footage but his limited moments are masterful.

I'm so proud of my hometown & KERA for having been WAY ahead of the rest of the country in embracing the now legendary troupe of Brit humorists. It's funny to hear how much more distinctive our Texas accents were back then before Dallas was invaded by both coasts.

And we learn just WHO Monty Python is!


KERA's Online Argument Clinic

I wandered by the D Magazine Frontburner blog & found this link to footage at The Sound of Young America blog.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Alamo Drafthouse & the Casa Linda Theater

Sorry to see this deal fall through. Alamo Drafthouse in Dallas would be fantastic. "Why another movie theater" you ask? The Drafthouse is a draw not just because of Granada Studio Movie Grill-style eats & drinks. But also because they are movie buffs & hold special events - festivals, speakers, actors, movie premieres.

Walked by the Casa Linda Theater. It's a mess. They could really use a well-matched tenant. The Alamo Drafthouse was one last year when they signed the letter of intent. In 2005, Entertainment Weekly called it "the best theater in America".

The Dallas Business Journal reported last August that, "Retrofitting the theater will cost about $1.2 million. The Austin-based company will "maintain the look and feel of the landmark," says John Martin, president of Alamo Drafthouse Cinemas. "We are not bringing in a megaplex. We want to keep it cool and open to the community."

They also pointed out that, "Alamo Drafthouse also is actively scouting sites in west Frisco, where it would like to build an eight-screen prototype, said Vaughn Miller, president of Dallas-based Henry S. Miller Commercial's retail division."

Copia from the Trial Watch blog talks about how the investment group was a different management team than the Austin Drafthouse. She spoke with Karen Davis: "I cannot say how the franchise will develop their programming style there in Dallas. I do not know if they are willing to take the risks in Dallas that we do here in central Austin with our liberal demographic. I can tell you one thing. The more they hear input like yours, the more likely they will be to take such a risk. We love getting programming suggestions. Tell your friends who feel the same way to write the franchise folks."

A couple of thoughts as to why the potential investors backed off - first in regards to parking - not enough spots & not enough area to really make more available without a multilevel parking garage. It's noteworthy to see just how crowded & cramped the lot is. Secondly - the theater tower & Casa Linda location are significant historical & aesthetic draws here. But perhaps the megaplex theater being finished at Northpark is too much competition for Alamo Drafthouse to handle with a charming location like Casa Linda.