Austin and Houston (conclusion)

Stephen Austin painted by William Howard

It’s a fool who wanders into Texas history unarmed

as I once saw scribbled on a bathroom stall in Terlingua. But wander I did, with my posts on Stephen Austin and Sam Houston. The goal: to recount the compelling tale of two frenemies with differing personalities who each ended up with a dynamic and glorious American city named after themselves. My stories were based on reading James L. Haley’s Passionate Nation: The Epic History of Texas. But soon I was lost in the mesquite thicket of Texas history. I ended up having to read a few more books to resolve questions like did Austin meet Santa Anna personally when he was in Mexico City? (Yes). Now I will attempt to conclude the story of Austin and Houston:

When we last left Stephen Austin, he’d gone down to Mexico City to appeal for relief of some grievances experienced by the mostly American-born settlers of Texas. One goal was to have Texas become its own Mexican state, instead of part of Coahuila. Austin still felt the best bet for Texas was to remain a loyal part of Mexico.

After the messes of 1832, the man left standing in power in Mexico City was a military man. Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna. When Stephen Austin made his pitch, Santa Anna was cool with some of the ideas, but not with Texas becoming his own state: it wasn’t big enough yet. Still, Austin felt like he’d made some progress.

On his way back to Texas in January, 1834, Austin was surprised to be arrested. Though most Mexican officials liked him, he’d apparently pissed off the vice-president, Gómez Faría. Or maybe Santa Anna had turned on him and decided he was too dangerous. Austin was taken to a prison in Mexico City: he could order wine and cheese brought in from outside, but he was horribly bored because he wasn’t allowed any reading materials. He tamed a prison mouse as his friend. Eventually he got a French language history of Spain’s Philip II to read. Perhaps he read it aloud to his mouse.

Finally, on Christmas Eve, 1834, Austin was let out of prison. Imagine our hero, walking the streets of Mexico City, a free man, pondering the future.

Santa Anna ended up as more or less dictator of Mexico and he led a brutal campaign suppressing a rebellion in Zacatecas: maybe two thousand civilians were killed. Austin probably heard about this in New Orleans, where he’d gone on a visit, and where the future of Texas was a hot top. Sailing from New Orleans to Brazoria, Texas, Austin witnessed a Mexican ship exchanging shots with an American ship and a Texas steamboat (the Laura). Put ashore at Velasco, Austin stayed at the house of friend, and took a long walk on the beach that night. At a welcome dinner for him back in Brazoria, Austin proposed a toast:

The constitutional rights and the security of peace of Texas – they ought to be maintained, and jeopardized as they now are, they demand a general consultation of the people.

Doesn’t really seem that rousing: Austin did tend toward caution. But soon he threw in with the War Party in Texas. A Mexican army was coming, reconciliation no longer seemed possible. In the town of Gonzales, the American settlers had a cannon. When a Mexican army colonel came down from San Antonio, the locals put up their “COME AND TAKE IT” flag.

Volunteers came down to Gonzales. Austin arrived on the scene and was elected commander in chief of the “Army of the People.”

All sorts of goons and roughnecks turned up to join the fight. Jim Bowie, already famous for his special knife and for killing a guy during the Sandbar Fight over in Louisiana, and Deaf Smith, and quite a few Tejanos, like Juan Seguin. And finally, Sam Houston.

This small Texan army moved towards San Antonio. Austin’s biggest problem was that everyone was drunk all the time.

In the name of Almighty God send no more ardent spirits to this camp – if any is on the road turn it back

Austin led the volunteers by democracy, which was not an effective method, but may have been the only one anyone would accept. Austin wanted to attack the Mexican troops at San Antonio while they had a good chance. But when he tried to order it, the volunteers basically responded with “nah.” That was the end of Austin as commander. The Texas Consultation that was providing a loose organization instead gave him the job of commissioner to the US. He’d go to give speeches, raise money and support for Texas. This was a much better fit for his talents. The head of the army job went to Sam Houston.

The state of affairs in Texas at this point was a mess. The Texas Consultation at this point still hadn’t declared independence. All sorts of violent and random maniacs were arriving, some of them getting themselves killed in ill-conceived attacks on Mexican outposts. Houston sent a few of these guys, including Bowie and William Travis, to San Antonio with the suggestion that they blow up the Alamo mission building and then retreat. Instead, as Haley puts it:

the nonmilitary yahoos, still enjoying the freedom of the city, preferred to spend their time in the cantinas listening to the legendary Bowie tell his stories.

Haley notes about Bowie:

weakened by long and superhuman alcohol consumption, he fell into a lethal delirium of pneumonia and probably diphtheria and was not a factor thereafter

(I really recommend Haley’s chapter on the Alamo, “Brilliant. Pointless. Pyhrric.”)

Travis did his best to get a defense organized, but Santa Anna and some six thousand troops and twenty cannons quickly got the place surrounded and killed everybody. Another branch of Houston’s army, four hundred or so guys under James Fannin, were surrounded at Goliad. Again the Mexicans killed everybody.

Houston, sensibly enough, decided to retreat. This retreat, the Runaway Scrape, was not easy or happy or well-organized. Houston struggled to keep things organized, he’d be fighting with guys who wouldn’t move until they’d had breakfast, stuff like that. The Texas Convention nearly took away Houston’s command. But Houston did manage to hold about a thousand guys together, retreating, retreating, retreating. Until suddenly they turned around and attacked.

Some of the Texian army had captured a Mexican soldier who revealed that Santa Anna’s force was not as large as they’d thought. Houston gave everybody a “remember the Alamo!” speech and they went for it, and won.

Whether Santa Anna was surprised at San Jacinto because he was busy at the time with Emily West/Emily Morgan, “the Yellow Rose of Texas,” born a free woman of color in Connecticut, recently kidnapped by Mexican soldiers, is beyond the scope of this post. Houston apparently did tell someone years later that Santa Anna was with a woman at the time of the attack. One way or another, Houston’s army caught the Mexicans literally napping. Most importantly, they captured Santa Anna personally.

Around the one hundredth anniversary, on the site of the battlefield, Texas built an insanely tall, almost Stalinist style monument.

While crazy, the scale and grandeur is kind of appropriate to how decisive the San Jacinto battle was. Imagine if Robert E. Lee had been captured at Gettysburg (or, more like, if Lee and Jefferson Davis were one guy, who then got captured at Gettysburg). If history followed the pattern of the previous year, it seems much more likely the Texian army would eventually be captured by the Mexicans, everybody massacred once again. Maybe the US would’ve gotten involved, but it’s possible Santa Anna would’ve pacified Texas and retaken it forever.

Instead, in a short engagement the war for Texas independence was won, though the participants didn’t realize it yet. It’s kind of surprising that the Texans didn’t execute Santa Anna, as many wanted to. Instead Houston used Santa Anna to order his army away. Eventually the Mexican dictator was sent back to Mexico by way of Washington.

Austin heard the news of San Jacinto in New Orleans. He quickly bought a bunch of food, which he knew the Texans would need, having abandoned their farms and ranches in the Runaway Scrape. Austin hurried home to expected glory.

I have been nominated by many persons whose opinions I am bound to respect, as a candidate for the office of President of Texas

Austin said in a statement, concluding that he would serve if he won. An election was held. When the votes came in Sam Houston got 5,119, and Austin got 586.

This really hurt Austin’s feelings. He hadn’t even come in second. Apparently Austin believed Houston had once promised him he’d never run for president of Texas, so he felt betrayed, in addition to being disappointed that his countrymen hadn’t recognized all he’d done for them.

A successful military chieftain is hailed with admiration and applause, but the bloodless pioneer of the wilderness, like the corn and cotton he causes to spring where it never grew before, attracts no notice…

Austin wrote in a self-pitying letter to his cousin.

Houston appointed Stephen Austin as secretary of state of the Texas Republic. Living in a back room in Columbia, Texas, the new capital, Austin caught a cold in December, 1836. It turned into pneumonia. on December 27th, he woke up, and declared “The independence of Texas is recognized! Don’t you see it in the papers? Doctor Archer told me so!” Then he fell back asleep, and thirty minutes later he died. He was forty-three.

When Sam Houston heard the news, he issued a proclamation:

The Father of Texas is no more! The first pioneer of the wilderness has departed.

They were both pretty dramatic guys.

Houston would live on for a long time. Once Texas became a state, he served as a US senator. He was serving as governor of Texas in 1861 when the state voted to join the Confederacy. Houston thought this was a bad idea, and refused to swear an oath to the Confederacy, so the legislature declared him no longer governor. He warned the Texas about the north:

They are not a fiery, impulsive people as you are, for they live in colder climates. But when they begin to move in a given direction, they move with the steady momentum and perseverance of a mighty avalanche; and what I fear is, they will overwhelm the South.

Houston moved to this odd looking house, and died in 1863.

Around 1835, two real estate speculators, the Allen brothers, laid out an idea for a city not far from San Jacinto. They named it after the first president of the Republic of Texas. In 1837, Houston was incorporated. Houston was briefly the capital of Texas, but a few years later, a site for a new capital was selected. First called “Waterloo,” it was soon renamed in honor of Stephen Austin.

In his essay “A Handful Of Roses,” collected in In A Narrow Grave: Essays on Texas, Larry McMurty depicts Houston (this is 1966) as a city of beer bars and shootings, “lively, open and violent,” and Austin as a city whose most characteristic activity is “the attempt to acquire power through knowledge.” He says Austin is the one town in Texas where there’s “a real tolerance of the intellectual.” In some ways the two cities do seem to bear some of the color of their namesakes, but maybe that’s just coincidence, or the human desire to see connections everywhere.

Next time I’m in Brazoria County I’d like to see this statue of Austin:

Thus concludes the story of two guys.

(My sources for this, beyond Haley’s Passionate Nation, include T. H. Fehrenbach’s Lone Star: A History of Texas and The Texans, and Stephen F. Austin: Empresario of Texas by Gregg Cantrell)

Austin and Houston, Part Two

(working out the history on these two, here is part one)

Sam Houston moved from Virginia to Tennessee with his widowed mother when he was thirteen, in 1806. Imagine what Virginia was like, let alone Tennessee, in 1806. At sixteen, Sam ran away and lived with the Cherokee Indians. He learned to speak their language, hunted with them in the woods. At age twenty he fought with the US Army in the War of 1812. Fighting Creek Indians under Andrew Jackson, he was wounded three times, and got his commander’s attention.

As part of Jackson’s political machine slash semi-dictatorship of Tennessee, Houston served two terms in Congress, then became governor. However, when his wife, Eliza Allen, left him after two months, Sam resigned as governor, went to live with the Cherokee again, took a Cherokee wife, got malaria, and become such an alcoholic mess that the Cherokee nicknamed him something like “Big Drunk” (or maybe it was like “Drunk Clown,” would love to hear from any Cherokee speakers/translators.)

On a mission to Washington for the Cherokee, Sam Houston beat up an Ohio congressman and was put on trial and convicted. (Francis Scott Key was his lawyer). The whole incident turned out to be good for Houston’s reputation, at least around Andrew Jackson’s crew, a rowdy bunch. Jackson welcomed Houston back into his circle.

Andrew Jackson hated the British. As a boy, Jackson had been captured by the British. The British had killed two of his brothers, and contributed to the death of his mother. Jackson was worried his enemy Britain might get their hands on Texas from the newly independent, and quite unstable, Mexico. The US had tried and failed to buy Texas from Mexico, and were left unsatisified.

Jackson decided to send Sam Houston down to Texas. “Stir up a rebellion, create opportunities for the US take this territory,” might’ve been the instruction. I don’t know, I wasn’t there.

Down in Mexico City, the capitol of newly free Mexico, there had been instability. Coups, counter-coups. During the uncertainty, the American settlers of Texas had pulled together two conventions, with the idea of trying to separate from the state of Coahuilla. To get Texas as its own (Mexican) state. The Texans felt underrepresented in the state legislature, plus the capital in Saltillo was too far away.

The conventions agreed to petition for statehood. The man appointed to take the results down to Mexico City was Stephen Austin.

Sam Houston, meanwhile, had arrived in Texas.

Part three to come.

(source on that photo, most of my info here coming from James L. Haley’s Passionate Nation: The Epic History of Texas).

Austin and Houston

Stephen Austin’s father Moses, who knew something about lead mining, got a contract to roof the Virginia legislature building with lead. But he lost money on the deal and ended up almost broke.

The Austin family wandered into what was then Spanish territory in what’s now Missouri. Spanish and French claims in this area went back and forth during Napoleonic tumult in Europe. While the Austins were in [now] Missouri, Napoleon ended up with it. Napoleon needed money to fund various losses, including slaves taking over what’s now Haiti, so he sold these lands to Thomas Jefferson in the Louisiana Purchase, and the Austins became US citizens again.

(TJ and Napoleon making a real estate deal. James Madison and marquis de Barbé-Marbois doing the agenting. Is that not one of the best dealmaking stories of all time?)

Young Stephen Austin was sent to boarding school in Connecticut and then college in Kentucky.

During his lonely years in boarding school, which he loathed, every letter from his father, which he tore open in a search for encouragement and affection, badgered him about how to become a great man.*

Meanwhile Moses Austin went broke again. His education complete, Stephen Austin left the family and became a judge in Arkansas.

Moses got the idea to head down to Texas, in what was then Spanish Mexico. He’d once been a Spanish citizen after all. Moses went to visit his son Stephen, who, though he was struggling himself, lent his dad fifty dollars, a horse, and a slave named Richmond.

A few years later, Stephen was in New Orleans. He wasn’t prospering. His dad wrote to him from Texas, and Stephen decided to join him. By the time he got to the town of San Antonio, Stephen learned Mexico had declared independence and was now a new nation. He was no longer in Spanish territory but in the Mexican state of Coahuilla-Tejas.

Stephen Austin conceived of a real estate scheme. He would become a developer. He would get land granted from Mexico and give it to Americans who would move to Tejas. Stephen taught himself Spanish out of a book and went to Mexico City to work out a contract. He got an amazing deal: he was offered 783,757 acres to distribute to 300 families. The head of each family would get 4,428 acres for ranching and 177 acres from farming.

The native Karankawa people had no say in any of this. Austin claimed these people were cannibals and should be killed on sight. He hired ten seasoned fighters and made them into a company that would ride the range. This unit is sometimes considered the first version of the Texas Rangers.

At first Austin could sort of control who came to his colony. But it got out of hand. The area between the Sabine River and the Neches, “the Neutral Ground,” had never been under the control of any government, falling between Spanish, American, and French claims. This area had become a lawless wilderness zone, a notorious hideout for murderers, convicts, outlaws, desperados of all types. Some of that element came into Austin’s zone. So too did the desperate or the ambitious from Tennessee, Louisiana, elsewhere. The word on Texas was out. “Going to Texas” became kind of a mania in the United States.

The government of Mexico tried to get a grip. They passed the Law of April 6, 1830, which banned any new American immigration into Mexican territory, including Texas (and what’s now California). The law also banned the importing of slaves into Mexico. Austin, who had good relationships in Mexico City, managed to get an exemption on this one.

It was around this time that Sam Houston showed up.

Part two to follow.

* source for that quote and much of this info James L. Haley’s Passionate Nation: The Epic History Of Texas


Inspired by the shirt the crew wears at Bludso’s BBQ decided to compare. How big is California compared to Texas?

And just for a laugh:

True Size Of... is the tool used for that.

Dublin Dr. Pepper

The town is the former home of the world’s oldest Dr Pepper bottling plant (see Dublin Dr Pepper). The plant was for many years the only U.S. source for Dr Pepper made with real cane sugar (from Texas-based Imperial Sugar), instead of less expensive high fructose corn syrup. Contractual requirements limited the plant’s distribution range to a 40-mile (64 km) radius of Dublin, an area encompassing Stephenville, Tolar, Comanche and Hico.

Was looking up some of the towns where various pro bull riding stars are from: Jesse Petri hails from Dublin, TX. My goodness I’d like to try that Dublin Dr. Pepper.

from the Dallas Morning News, March 31, 2017:

Ask for a Dr Pepper, and the response was routine and coy: “We don’t have a knock-off Dr Pepper, but you ought to try our Dublin Original. It’s really good, and I know you’ll love it.”

Kloster said it was a conscious marketing decision to offer customers who loved Dr Pepper a nostalgic product that looked and tasted similar. Even the bottle was packaged with stripes from a retro Dr Pepper color scheme and a “DDP” on the label.

“It got out of hand. We got out there and we pushed the envelope,” Kloster said. “The Dublin Original black cherry was pushing the envelope and was in violation of the agreement.”

boldface mine.

Dr. Pepper Snapple Group has since been consumed by Keurig Dr Pepper. I don’t expect any sense could be talked into the people who think shooting hot water through plastic is a good method of making coffee, but if I can find the time perhaps I’ll reach out to the JAB Group.

What if it turned out life expectancy in Stephenville, Tolar, Comanche and Hico had been 135 years + back in the sugar age?

South Louisiana Light Sweet

Today was a good day for learning the names of types of crude oil.  Source.

Maine and Texas

This one came up on Succession, a fave show. (Had to look it up because I wondered if they were doing a double joke where the guy was attributing Emerson to Thoreau)

Usually I’ll approach with tentative openness the pastoralist, simpler times, “trad” adjacent arguments of weirdbeards but Thoreau here WAY off.  Maine and Texas had TONS to communicate!  Who isn’t happy Maine and Texas can check in?  (Saying this as a Maine fan whose wife is from Texas, fond of both states and happy for their commerce and exchange).  Plus, if Princess Adelaide has the whooping cough, I WANT to hear that, that’s interesting goss!

The “broad flapping American ear” there — a snooty New England/aristocrat attitude we haven’t heard the last of.  These guys are the original elites.  There’s really two classes in America: Americans, and The People Who Think They’re Better Than Americans.  Though they’re a tiny minority the second group wields outside power and influence over the first group.  I’m a proud member of the first group though I admit I have second group tendencies due to my youthful indoctrination in the headquarters of these Concord Extremist Radicals, in fact at their head madrassa.

When you hear America assessed by Better Thans / eggheads, wait for the feint toward fatshaming.  It’s always in there somewhere.  American Better Thans adopted this from Europeans, whom they slavishly ape.  It’s a twisted attitude, designed to take blame away from the Better Thans and their friends in the ownership.

As if it’s Americans fault that they’ve been raised associating corn-based treats with love and goodness!  Or that corn-fatted meat is the easiest accessed protein on offer!  You think that’s more the Americans fault, or the fault of the Better Thans, who manipulate our food system with their only goal creating shareholder value?

Is it the fault of the American that a cold soda is the best cheap pleasure in the hot and dusty interior where they don’t all have Walden Pond as a personal spa?

Thoreau.  Guy makes me sick.

In researching this article I learn about Maine-ly Sandwiches, of Houston.



Adobe Walls

Best as I can tell both the first and second Battles of Adobe Walls happened somewhere around here, near what’s now Stinnett, Texas, founded 1926 by A. P. Ace Borger

That’s from

which I’m finding fantastic.  I’m not THAT into The Searchers the movie (I mean I think it’s cool) but this book is amazing as Texas history.  I’d put it on a shelf with God Save Texas by Lawrence Wright.  They can split the Helytimes J. Frank Dobie Texas History Prize for 2018.

Wikipedia yields:

photographer unknown.

A Kiowa ledger drawing possibly depicting the Buffalo Wallow Battle in 1874, one of several clashes between Southern Plains Indians and the U.S. Army during the Red River War.

Billy Dixon was there:

Billy Dixon during his days as an Indian scout. Only known picture of him while he still wore his hair long as he did during his Indian fights.

By August a troop of cavalry made it to Adobe Walls, under Lt. Frank D. Baldwin, with Masterson and Dixon as scouts, where a dozen men were still holed up.[1]:247 “Some mischievous fellow had stuck an Indian’s skull on each post of the corral gate.”[1]:248 The killing had not ended, however; one civilian was lanced by Indians while looking for wild plums along the Canadian River.

This wasn’t that long ago.

Maybe some day I’ll get to that part of Texas.  Long Texas drives have formed an important part of my life.  Wouldn’t have it any other way.

God Save Texas by Lawrence Wright

a spontaneous Helytimes Book Prize For Excellence is awarded to God Save Texas by Lawrence Wright.  Absolutely fantastic.  The Alamo, Marfa, Willie Nelson, Ann Richards, how the legislature works, the Kennedy assassination, Spindletop, everything you’d want to read about in a book about Texas is succinctly, thoughtfully, humorously explored.

Two clips:

What?! and:

A special bonus:  this book has a firsthand account of the 1999 Matthew McConaughey “bongos incident.”

Advances in Cormac studies

Morrow quotes McCarthy as saying that “even people who write well can’t write novels… They assume another sort of voice and a weird, affected kind of style.  They think, ‘O now I’m writing a novel,’ and something happens.  They write really good essays… but goddamn, the minute they start writing a novel they go crazy

In early 2008 Texas State University announced they’d acquired Cormac McCarthy’s papers.  The next year they made them available to scholars.  Now two books based on rummaging around in these notes have appeared.

This one, by Michael Lynn Crews, explores the literary influences McCarthy drew on, which authors and books he had quotes from buried in his papers.

The quote about novelists going crazy is from a letter exchange McCarthy was having re: Ron Hanson’s novel Desperadoes, which McCarthy admired.

This one, by Daniel Robert King, takes more of a semi-biographical approach, tracing out what we can learn about McCarthy from his correspondence with agents and editors.  A sample:

Bought these books because it gives confidence to observe that somebody whose writing sounds like it emerged pronounced from the cliffs like some kind of Texas Quran had to work and revise and toss stuff and chisel to get there.

From these books it is clear:

  • McCarthy is a meticulous and patient rewriter
  • it took decades for his work to gain any significant recognition
  • he was helped with seeming love and care by editor Albert Erskine.
  • he was patient, open, yet confident in editorial correspondence

These books are not necessary for the casual personal library, but if you enjoy gnawing on literary scraps, recommend them both.  From King:

However, in this same letter, he acknowledges that “the truth is that the historical material is really – to me – little more than a framework upon which to hang a dramatic inquiry into the nature of destiny and history and the uses of reason and knowledge and the nature of evil and all these sorts of things which have plagued folks since there were folks.”

In A Narrow Grave

In anticipation of a trip to Texas, I got this one off the shelf.  Neither McMurtry’s best (that would be Walter Benjamin at the Dairy Queen, in which he gives a recipe for lime Dr. Pepper) or his worst (that would be Paradise, where he proves his point that Tahiti is boring), in this fan’s opinion.

McMurtry’s essay on the sexual attitudes of the post-frontier Texas of his youth is pretty interesting:

He also says it wasn’t a big deal in his youth for a young man to have sex with a cow or pig.


Good picture

Found this picture on Thomas Ricks’ blog.  USA!  USA!

170831-N-KL846-150 VIDOR, Texas (Aug. 31, 2017) Naval Aircrewman (Helicopter) 2nd Class Jansen Schamp, a native of Denver, Colorado and assigned to the Dragon Whales of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 28, rescues two dogs at Pine Forrest Elementary School, a shelter that required evacuation after flood waters from Hurricane Harvey reached its grounds. The mission resulted in the rescue of seven adults, seven children and four dogs.  (U.S. Navy Video by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Christopher Lindahl/Released)

Reminded of a claim that Goebbels was forever frustrated the Nazis couldn’t make propaganda as good as what the USA churned out.

Worth signing up or whatever you need to do to read Ricks’ blog.

Here’s a good post about the situation in Afghanistan.

Here’s a good one about “15 assumptions about the behavior of North Korea’s Kim family regime

And his reliefs and suspensions specials never fail to have one or two that would probably make a compelling movie.   At a secret Air Force base in Tunisia, a beloved commander lets his guys drink as much as they want and forms a dangerous relationship with a teenage subordinate.

Robert Caro’s two hour audiobook

Strong endorse to an audio only, 1 hour 42 minute semi-memoir by Robert Caro, boiling down the central ideas of The Power Broker and the LBJ series.  If you’ve read every single extant interview with Robert Caro, as I have, some of its repetitive but I loved it and loved listening to Caro’s weird New York accent.


Two details: he tells how James Rowe, an aide to FDR, told him that FDR was such a genius about politics that when he discussed it almost no one could even understand him.  But Lyndon Johnson understood everything.

James Rowe, from the LOC 

Caro tells that when LBJ ran for Congress the first time, he promised to bring electricity.  Women had to haul water from the well with a rope.  A full bucket of water was heavy.  Women would become bent, a Hill Country term for stooped over.  LBJ campaigned saying, if you vote for me, you won’t be bent.  You won’t look at forty the way your mother looked at forty.

from the Austin American Statesman collection at the LBJ Library.  The woman’s name is Mrs. Mattie Malone.  

Literary Life

Some real talk from Larry McMurtry

One of these days I’m going to rank all of McMurtry’s non-fiction books.  They’re all chatty and great.  This is the single best one.

Either Film Flam or Hollywood tells what it’s like to be friends with Diane Keaton and her mom.

McMurtry has really meant a lot to me.  Here are some other posts about him:

his book Roads

about the time I heard him talk about Brokeback

Oh What A Slaughter and Sacagawea’s Nickname

Sarah Palin and glamour

The Field Of Blackbirds

McConaughey Story

Study of McConaughey is always rewarding.  The best part of the above video is the first few seconds :12-:36


It’s unfortunate that used copies of I Amaze Myself!, McConaughey’s mother’s autobiography, are unreasonably priced.  I’m interested in more stories like this.


Not great optics


as they say.  Not into this vibe AT ALL.


Did not know this is like a DC semi-slur/term for dummy? via NY Mag via cuz.

By the time Costa got fired for using it, ’Bama had been around for quite some time, and its meaning and use had changed. Most likely, the word was first used to put down recent arrivals to D.C.’s black neighborhoods from southern states—especially Alabama, says cultural anthropologist and long time Smithsonian staffer John Franklin. “It’s had currency over several generations,” Franklin says. It was a way of calling someone a black hick: “There was some disdain for people who didn’t live in the city and weren’t sophisticated.” The word had particular weight during the Great Migration, when many African Americans left the rural South for northern cities. Then, the point was to differentiate the newer arrivals from the longtime Washingtonians—who worried that the countrified Southerners flooding the District would reflect badly on the whole community. It was, essentially, the way D.C.’s black residents called one of their own a redneck. (Around the same time, German Jews who had already been in the U.S. for a few decades coined their own slang term to put down their less sophisticated Russian and Polish cousins—and thus, “kike” was born, only becoming a generalized ethnic slur afterwards.)

Eventually, ’Bama lost most of the geographic connotations it once had, and melted into just another piece of regional slang. Even white kids like Costa learned what it meant, picking it up by osmosis from the culture around them. Costa says his own definition of ’Bama is that it refers to a person who is “stupid.” He spent most of his life in the Baltimore-Washington area, and says he and his friends grew up using “the B-word” all the time.


Miracle Man by Bob Carpenter

in honor of cousin’s birthday, she put me on to this one.

Good one from cuz

Screen Shot 2015-07-21 at 11.57.34 PM



“Lesser” McConaughey, or, On The Subject Of Great Acting

1995. I got my first big paycheck as an actor. I think it was 150 grand. The film was Boys on the Side and we’re shooting in Tucson, AZ and I have this sweet little adobe guest house on the edge of the Saguaro National Park. The house came with a maid. My first maid. It was awesome. So, I’ve got a friend over one Friday night and we’re having a good time and I’m telling her about how happy I am with my set up . The house. The maid. Especially, the maid. I’m telling her, “she cleans the place after I go to work, washes my clothes, the dishes, puts fresh water by my bed, leaves me cooked meals sometimes, and SHE EVEN PRESSES MY JEANS!” My friend, she smiles at me, happy for my genuine excitement over this “luxury service” I’m getting, and she says, “Well…that’s great…if you like your jeans pressed.”

I kind of looked at her, kind of stuttered without saying anything, you know, that dumb ass look you can get, and it hit me…

I hate that line going down my jeans! And it was then, for the first time, that I noticed…I’ve never thought about NOT liking that starched line down the front of my jeans!! Because I’d never had a maid to iron my jeans before!! And since she did, now, for the first time in my life, I just liked it because Icould get it, I never thought about if I really wanted it there. Well, I did NOT want it there. That line… and that night I learned something.

Just because you CAN?… Nah… It’s not a good enough reason to do something. Even when it means having more, be discerning, choose it, because you WANT it, DO IT because you WANT to.

I’ve never had my jeans pressed since.

I have been a McConaughey enthusiast for awhile.  Proof: I saw Sahara and The Lincoln Lawyer* in the theater.

Here is a thing I admired then and continue to admire about McConaughey:

He treated ridiculous movies with utmost seriousness.

I don’t believe he treated Sahara with any less respect than True Detective, even though Sahara is crazy.

He brought pride and his fullest effort to those movies, the same as he would to any other movie.  Failure To Launch, for example.

This is the mark of a true professional who practices his craft with great honor and seriousness

(but: could it also be the mark of someone who doesn’t know when something is ridiculous?)


The director, Richard Linklater, kept inviting me back to set each night, putting me in more scenes which led to more lines all of which I happily said YES to. I was having a blast. People said I was good at it, they were writing me a check for $325 a day. I mean hell yeah, give me more scenes, I love this!! And by the end of the shoot those 3 lines had turned into over 3 weeks work and “it was Wooderson’s ’70 Chevelle we went to get Aerosmith tickets in.” Bad ass.

Well, a few years ago I was watching the film again and I noticed two scenes that I really shouldn’t have been in. In one of the scenes, I exited screen left to head somewhere, then re-entered the screen to “double check” if any of the other characters wanted to go with me. Now, in rewatching the film, (and you’ll agree if you know Wooderson), he was not a guy who would ever say, “later,” and then COME BACK to “see if you were sure you didn’t wanna come with him..” No, when Wooderson leaves, Wooderson’s gone, he doesn’t stutter step, flinch, rewind, ask twice, or solicit, right? He just “likes those high school girls cus he gets older and they stay the same age.”

My point is, I should NOT have been in THAT scene, I should have exited screen left and never come back.

Matthew McConaughey is a truly great actor.

From a description of an interview with Cary Fukunaga:

Fukunaga took one of these opportunities to share a story about directing Matthew McConaughey, a health-nut and non-smoker, in an early scene where he takes long, audible drags of a cigarette. Fukunaga describes saying, “‘don’t make it look like a middle school girl smoking for the first time.’ And McConaughey went in the opposite direction, just Cheech and Chong-ing it.”


Bo Jackson ran over the goal line, through the end zone and up the tunnel — the greatest snipers and marksmen in the world don’t aim at the target, they aim on the other side of it.

We do our best when our destinations are beyond the “measurement,” when our reach continually exceeds our grasp, when we have immortal finish lines.

When we do this, the race is never over. The journey has no port. The adventure never ends because we are always on our way. Do this, and let them tap us on the shoulder and say, “hey, you scored.” Let them tell you “You won.” Let them come tell you, “you can go home now.” Let them say “I love you too.” Let them say “thank you.”

These quotes are from his amazing commencement speech at University of Houston:

The late and great University of Texas football coach Daryl Royal was a friend of mine and a good friend to many. A lot of people looked up to him. One was a musician named “Larry.” Now at this time in his life Larry was in the prime of his country music career, had #1 hits and his life was rollin’. He had picked up a habit snortin’ “the white stuff” somewhere along the line and at one particular party after a “bathroom break,” Larry went confidently up to his mentor Daryl and he started telling Coach a story. Coach listened as he always had and when Larry finished his story and was about to walk away, Coach Royal put a gentle hand on his shoulder and very discreetly said, “Larry, you got something on your nose there bud.” Larry immediately hurried to the bathroom mirror where he saw some white powder he hadn’t cleaned off his nose. He was ashamed. He was embarrassed. As much because he felt so disrespectful to Coach Royal, and as much because he’d obviously gotten too comfortable with the drug to even hide as well as he should.

Well, the next day Larry went to coach’s house, rang the doorbell, Coach answered and he said, “Coach, I need to talk to you.” Daryl said, “sure, c’mon in.”

Larry confessed. He purged his sins to Coach. He told him how embarrassed he was, and how he’s “lost his way” in the midst of all the fame and fortune and towards the end of an hour, Larry, in tears, asked Coach, “What do you think I should do?” Now, Coach, being a man of few words, just looked at him and calmly confessed himself. He said, “Larry, I have never had any trouble turning the page in the book of my life.” Larry got sober that day and he has been for the last 40 years.

Now: I loved reading this speech.  Many important reminders about life:

Mom and dad teach us things as children. Teachers, mentors, the government and laws all give us guidelines to navigate life, rules to abide by in the name of accountability.

I’m not talking about those obligations. I’m talking about the ones we make with ourselves, with our God, with our own consciousness. I’m talking about the YOU versus YOU obligations. We have to have them. Again, these are not societal laws and expectations that we acknowledge and endow for anyone other than ourselves. These are FAITH based OBLIGATIONS that we make on our own.

Not the lowered insurance rate for a good driving record, you will not be fined or put in jail if you do not gratify the obligations I speak of — no one else governs these but you.

They’re secrets with yourself, private council, personal protocols, and while nobody throws you a party when you abide by them, no one will arrest you when you break them either. Except yourself. Or, some cops who got a “disturbing the peace” call at 2:30 in the morning because you were playing bongos in your birthday suit.

Entertainment Tonight called this speech “bonkers.”

That’s not fair.

Maybe a fourteenth lesson that McConaughey only hints at in his speech is: to achieve greatness you must dance along the edge of bonkers.  To do anything worthwhile you must risk appearing ridiculous. On your journey, at many points, you will appear ridiculous.  The fear of appearing ridiculous stops all too many from achieving their potential.

You know these No Fear t-shirts? I don’t get em. Hell, I try to scare myself at least once a day. I get butterflies every morning before I go to work. I was nervous before I got here to speak tonight. I think fear is a good thing. Why? Because it increases our NEED to overcome that fear.

Say your obstacle is fear of rejection. You want to ask her out but you fear she may say “no.” You want to ask for that promotion but you’re scared your boss will think you’re overstepping your bounds.

Well, instead of denying these fears, declare them, say them out loud, admit them, give them the credit they deserve. Don’t get all macho and act like they’re no big deal, and don’t get paralyzed by denying they exist and therefore abandoning your need to overcome them. I mean, I’d subscribe to the belief that we’re all destined to have to do the thing we fear the most anyway.

So, you give your obstacles credit and you will one. Find the courage to overcome them or see clearly that they are not really worth prevailing over.

Here is what McConaughey looked like giving his speech.


Here is a great actor whose greatest role is himself.

* The Lincoln Lawyer spoke to a real fantasy I can’t be alone in having in Los Angeles: someone driving you everywhere in comfortable quiet.   Since then Uber has come close to making that a reality.