How North Texas became the production hub for Christian entertainment:
And as North Texas grew, the region—with its affordable acreage to site large-scale production facilities and its mostly conservative and religious-minded population—proved attractive to faith-based entrepreneurs. It helped, too, that in the 1980s, a film- and television-production tradition was established here, with secular fare like JFK, RoboCop, and Walker, Texas Ranger.
The early ’90s also saw a flurry of production activity in Dallas. In 1988, the family-friendly, Allen-based Lyrick Studios (originally known as Lyons Group) was born and began turning out the TV series Barney and Wishbone, and distributing the Christian-themed cartoon VeggieTales. Five years later, Trinity Broadcasting Network, which later became the first major network to air T.D. Jakes’ sermons, bought a 50,000-square-foot studio in Irving. Then competing Christian-based Daystar Television Network was founded in Dallas by Joni and Marcus Lamb.
Put all of these elements together—a filmmaking infrastructure; oil, gas, and real estate wealth; religiosity; the eternal, irresistible allure of the silver screen—and you can see how Dallas wound up at the center of the modern faith-based entertainment market.
PUBLISHED: Dec. 1, 2013
LENGTH: 14 minutes (3730 words)
Udacity founder Sebastian Thrun takes stock of what’s working, and what’s not, with regard to online university courses:
As Thrun was being praised by Friedman, and pretty much everyone else, for having attracted a stunning number of students–1.6 million to date–he was obsessing over a data point that was rarely mentioned in the breathless accounts about the power of new forms of free online education: the shockingly low number of students who actually finish the classes, which is fewer than 10%. Not all of those people received a passing grade, either, meaning that for every 100 pupils who enrolled in a free course, something like five actually learned the topic. If this was an education revolution, it was a disturbingly uneven one.
“We were on the front pages of newspapers and magazines, and at the same time, I was realizing, we don’t educate people as others wished, or as I wished. We have a lousy product,” Thrun tells me. “It was a painful moment.” Turns out he doesn’t even like the term MOOC.
PUBLISHED: Nov. 16, 2013
LENGTH: 20 minutes (5041 words)
A profile of psychiatrist David Burns, who wrote Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy
, "one of the most successful psychotherapy books ever written" that has helped transform the field of psychiatry:
"Equally surprising: Burns tells the therapists he wants them to fail. Time and again. They can afford to do this because—unlike when he was a psychiatric resident in the 1970s and not one of his patients improved appreciably over an entire year—he now has 50 techniques they can try to cause 'dramatic change' in patients. 'Right away. Not in five or six years.' Burns wants them to fail at technique after technique until they find the ones that work for each patient.
"To some of the therapists, it sounds too good to be true. Burns reassures them that the techniques he's about to teach, once dismissed by the mainstream, are becoming the mainstream.
"I know what he says is true. I've read his books and used his methods and have experienced the relief of having my own acute depression evaporate in an instant."
PUBLISHED: Sept. 2, 2013
LENGTH: 21 minutes (5256 words)
A community in Texas grapples with the deaths of two high school students:
"The Friday night before that Sunday at Possum Kingdom Lake, Coppell played an away game at Hebron High School in Carrollton. Jacob went up to Solomon and said, 'What’s wrong with you? You haven’t gotten any sacks all season!' The two had worked out a signature move: Solomon, after a sack, would bring his palms together and bow to the crowd. The very next play, Solomon got a sack and took his bow. 'Jacob went crazy,' Solomon says. 'He chest-bumped me and said, ‘That was the sickest celebration!’ He was screaming and laughing and so pumped up.'
"Cam McDaniel, Gavin’s older brother, a running back at Notre Dame, was the first to reach Solomon on the phone that Sunday afternoon to give him the terrible news. 'What should I do?' asked Solomon, shaken. Cam said, 'Solly, pray. And just keep the faith.' The 6-foot-3, 260-pound athlete hung up the phone and fell to the floor.
"As word spread, CHS students flocked to the one place they felt closest to Jacob—Buddy Echols Field, where hundreds held a prayer vigil Sunday night."
PUBLISHED: Aug. 23, 2013
LENGTH: 15 minutes (3926 words)
This week's picks include stories from Salon, Esquire, VQR, Fast Company and D Magazine.
The writer visits West, Texas, the town where he grew up, and talks to residents who experienced the fertilizer plant explosion that destroyed its surrounding area on April 17, 2013:
"Less than a minute later, he saw a bright flash and heard a deep boom. 'I thought I was imagining this, but others saw it, too: for a split second, I could see wavy, ripple-y air,' he says. 'It was the shockwave. I could see it hover. I could see it come right above the treeline.' Then he was blown onto his back on the driveway. Out front, Becky was thrown into the grass. And inside, Abby was buried under collapsed drywall. A ceiling fan fell on her, too.
"Jeff doesn’t know how long he was on the ground. When he was able finally to go back to the house days later, he saw what could have been. On the driveway, maybe a foot from where he had been standing, there was chalky residue from where a piece of concrete had landed, before smashing against the back of his house. In his mother Carolyn’s backyard there was a 16-foot length of auger pipe, a foot in diameter, thrust into the back wall, near the roofline. Judging from its path—where it clipped a tree, smashed through a fence, and landed hard enough to gouge a foot-deep gash in Carolyn’s lawn before cartwheeling into her house—it, too, had been headed straight for him."
PUBLISHED: June 25, 2013
LENGTH: 34 minutes (8531 words)
Building the next big telescope to extend "astronomical research beyond its practitioners' imaginations":
"Astronomy is the ultimate observational science. Humans have probably always looked skyward, noting the passage and patterns of the sun, moon, and stars. The eye is the essential instrument, and the subject of study is readily available—overhead. Astronomers cannot manipulate a star in a laboratory, or examine a black hole under a ventilating hood. They observe from afar.
"The modern science of course embraces deep theoretical astrophysics, aimed at understanding, for example, how gas and dust became stars and galaxies distributed across space; Avi Loeb directs the CfA’s Institute for Theory and Computation. Closely allied are computer simulations to emulate how those processes might unfold under enormous pressures at extreme temperatures, with unfamiliar conditions of matter and energy and scale. But the theorizing and models remain tethered to data. 'Observations are crucial for stimulating the right ideas,' as Loeb puts it. The GMT will help confirm or refute theoretical work about the first galaxies, he says. 'If we’re surprised, it’s even for the better.'"
PUBLISHED: April 19, 2013
LENGTH: 15 minutes (3954 words)
A woman, deaf since birth, describes how she learned to lipread:
"Some people are all but impossible for me to lipread. People with thin lips; people who mumble; people who speak from the back of their throats; people with dead-fish, unexpressive faces; people who talk too fast; people who laugh a lot; tired people who slur their words; children with high, babyish voices; men with moustaches or beards; people with any sort of accent.
"Accents are a visible tang on people's lips. Witnessing someone with an accent is like taking a sip of clear water only to find it tainted with something else. I startle and leap to attention. As I explore the strange taste, my brain puzzles itself trying to pinpoint exactly what it is and how I should respond. I dive into the unfamiliar contortions of the lips, trying to push my way to some intelligible meaning. Accented words pull against the gravity of my experience; like slime-glossed fish, they wriggle and leap out of my hands. Staring down at my fingers' muddy residue, my only choice is to shrug and cast out my line again."
PUBLISHED: March 5, 2013
LENGTH: 14 minutes (3688 words)
A writer recalls his family's move to Dallas, and what he learned from his father about work and life:
"Because my dad had preached the importance of critical acumen in all areas, I couldn’t help but apply that principle to him. I studied his sales techniques and concluded that, although he seemed to have mastered complex economic matters, he had major limitations. I was not surprised that in the course of his 25-year career he did only moderately well. At a time when many of his colleagues became wealthy, wealth eluded him. He earned little more than a middle-class income and at times barely that. When he and my mother fought, which was often, she would ask the question that I believe haunted him until the end of his life. 'If you’re so smart, Milton,' she’d say, 'why aren’t you making more money?'
"The answer had to do with his style and the imperfect nature of his reinvention. My father was amiable. He was also charismatic. He bristled with energy and had his own distinct charm. He was gregarious and curious about people. He expressed interest in their stories and was sympathetic with their problems. He also believed in his own vision of the world. These are the qualities of a great salesman, and yet, by large measure, he missed that mark. The reason was obvious: in selling others, he was also attempting to sell himself. Because his self-doubts cut so deep, that process was exhausting. As a result, he overexplained and oversold."
PUBLISHED: Feb. 24, 2013
LENGTH: 16 minutes (4205 words)