Income up, poverty down: Texas exceeding U.S. in key economic numbers

Dallas News

Originally Posted: September 15, 2016

Texas rode the national wave of rising incomes and decreased poverty last year — a combination economists and demographers found surprising, given turbulence in the state’s energy industry.

“It’s a great report and it’s great for us,” said Pia Orrenius, a senior economist at the Dallas Federal Reserve. “You don’t see any impact from the oil bust.”

Experts said the Lone Star state didn’t merely keep pace with the rest of the country; it exceeded national averages in key economic measures included in new Census Bureau data released Thursday.

For the first time since 2009, the national median household income grew significantly, jumping 3.8 percent from $53,713 in 2014 to $55,775 in 2015. The phenomenon spanned racial categories and age groups.

Economists celebrated that boost as a sign that one of the most stubborn remnants of the recession — stagnant wages — is finally dissipating.

In Texas, though, the number was a full percentage point higher. Here, median household income jumped 4.8 percent, from $53,105 in 2014 to $55,653 last year.

Texas’ percentage of residents living in poverty also dropped faster than the nation’s overall, by 1.3 percentage points, compared with the national rate dropping 0.8 percentage points. READ MORE

Save the date: Archives and Blue Lives, October 3

Event date: Monday, October 3rd
Time: 6:00 – 7:00 p.m.
Location: McCord Auditorium, Dallas Hall

Archives and Blue Lives. Join Jarrett M. Drake, Digital Archivist at the Princeton University Archives for a special guest lecture. In light of this summer’s tragic shootings, many individuals are asking: “What contributions, if any, can the archive make towards restoring and repairing communities most impacted by police violence?”. This talk will offer concrete examples of how communities, librarians, and archivists might use the archives as a space and a process to redress the trauma communities endure from prolonged public violence. Mr. Drake will propose that archives possess an untapped potential to humanize the people directly experiencing the violence, as well as the people propagating it. This event is part of the semester-long series, Data is Made Up of Stories: University-wide Futures from the Digital Humanities, sponsored by the DCII’s Ph.D. Fellows Program and the Dedman College Dean’s Office. For more information visit http://www.smu.edu/Dedman/DCII/Events.

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Laugh and learn with Willard Spiegelman’s ‘Senior Moments: Looking Back, Looking Ahead’

Dallas Morning News

Originally Posted: September 2, 2016

At this point in my life, after more than 40 years as a journalist and writer, I just want to be with people, and that includes authors, who can teach me something or make me laugh.

Willard Spiegelman, Hughes Professor of English at Southern Methodist University, does both.

At first, I thought the author of a book titled Senior Moments: Looking Back, Looking Ahead would be an academic geezer calling up pedantic allusions as he remembers the days of wine and roses and rages against the dying of the light.

Well, it’s true that Spiegelman, who’s interested in Greek and Latin, has written dozens of scholarly papers and recorded lectures on “How to Read and Understand Poetry” for the Great Courses series, can sling around arcane, arty allusions.

After all, he was editor in chief of the august literary quarterly Southwest Review for more than 30 years and has been a regular contributor to the Leisure & Arts pages of the The Wall Street Journal for more than a quarter-century.

But stick with him, for he’s an agreeable, wise and witty companion — edifying, fun and fearless as he proffers lessons in happiness and aging learned during his long, distinguished career.

In the preface to this essay collection and memoir based on his 71 years on the planet, he gets right to it: “Life has not been a dress rehearsal,” he says. “It is what we have, and all that we will have had.”

Since he’s a nonreligious nonbeliever, an orthodox afterlife based on reward and punishment seems implausible. Instead, he believes, we come into the world alone and exit the same way to confront the final, eternal silence.

“The fun, all the pleasure and adventure, lies in between,” he says, then describes what delights him (talking, books and looking at art) and kvetches about what irks him (noise in restaurants, museums and libraries, which is why he never goes anywhere without earphones).

The Philly native, who has an erudite, candid, conversational style, got his talking chops from his loud, noisy Jewish extended family and from his mother, who, he says, “had a mouth on her.”

She had strong opinions and wasn’t timid about sharing them. And neither is the author as he muses on the subject of “Talk,” ending with his move to Texas, where both language and everything else at first seemed foreign to him.

His essay “Dallas” could have just as easily been titled “Stranger in a Strange Land” as Spiegelman recalls his arrival at Love Field on “a broiling, torpid, sweat-inducing day (there is no other kind in North Texas from June through September) in August 1971.”

Although, he says, it occurred to him to rush back to the tarmac to try to reboard the plane for its return trip to Boston, he gamely stuck it out and acclimated to life in Texas, if never as a Texan.

And while his ruminations on the city make author Larry McMurtry, who has had a longtime public aversion to Dallas, look like a booster, they’re honest, lyrical and funny.

As a Yankee, he missed lilacs, horse chestnut trees, poplars and ginkgoes but appreciates our wisteria and catalpa. And while, he says, Texas food won’t qualify for anyone’s low-fat, low-carb, low-sodium diet, he adores chicken-fried steak.

Spiegelman bemoans the absence here of wild nature, pedestrian life and four distinct seasons. He can’t get over the way everything warrants a standing ovation with “whoops, barks and hollers,” sport is a religion, and finding a native in Dallas is as difficult as finding a good bagel.

In his essay “Japan,” he explains why he never felt “so unmoored, unconnected yet exhilarated, and so fully myself” as in the Land of the Rising Sun. And why, upon returning home to Dallas, he decided after four decades to move to New York.

And it’s in “Manhattan” that the poet in Spiegelman soars. He has seen as much of the city’s five boroughs as he can, averaging 6 pedestrian miles a day, and his 11-hour, 20-mile walking gastronomic-and-spirits tour of Manhattan from tip to toe with friends is a joy.

The essay on “Books,” listing two of his favorite contemporary authors as Shirley Hazzard and James Salter as well as old favorites like Austen, Cather, Dickens, George Eliot, Forster and Woolf, is a blissful must for all bibliophiles.

True, Spiegelman can be a bit of a snob and sometimes a little too cute referring to Marilyn Monroe as “a great twentieth-century intellectual,” but this engaging book is a gift for adults of all ages, especially AARP’s.

Senior Moments ends with thoughtful meditations on “Art,” “Nostalgia” and “Quiet.” It does what a great teacher can do: motivate. He makes us want to walk around our city, read, savor the blessings of silence, slow-look at art and practice “the essential human art of conversation.” READ MORE

Plan your life

Willard Spiegelman has several Dallas events scheduled for Senior Moments:

Thursday, he’ll appear at 7:30 p.m. at the Wild Detectives, 314 W. Eighth St., along with Greg Brownderville, the new editor ofSouthwest Review.

Sept. 22, he’ll speak at 6:30 p.m. at the Nasher Sculpture Center, 2001 Flora St. Register at nashersculpturecenter.org by Sept. 15.

Oct. 26, he’ll appear at the Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture, 2719 Routh St. 6:30 p.m. reception; 7 p.m. presentation.

Senior Moments

Looking Back, Looking Ahead

Willard Spiegelman

(Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $24)

Available Tuesday

Questions of health and trustworthiness, removing moderators from debates, and the ‘deplorables’

SMU News

Originally Posted: September 13, 2016

Below is an excerpt from an SMU press release. READ MORE

Jeffrey A. Engel

TRUMP’S QUESTIONING OF CLINTON’S HEALTH HAS SHADES OF 1988

JEFFREY ENGEL
jaengel@mail.smu.edu

On the history of candidate health as an issue in presidential politics…

  • “It’s really interesting to me as a historian that it doesn’t take much, as we’ve seen from Trump’s campaign, to make an insinuation into a story. We saw that in particular in 1988 when the George H.W. Bush campaign basically floated the idea that Michael Dukakis was mentally unstable, with no evidence – Reagan even said ‘I’m not going to pick on an invalid.’ And all the issues occurred with John McCain in the 2000 primary against George W. Bush, when a whisper campaign asked, ‘Do you really want a man who’s been tortured five years in charge of nukes?’ Health is the perfect embodiment of an issue that can be raised without any evidence and, as long as it’s in people’s minds, you have to defend against it, and there’s no defense against an issue that’s not real.”

On the impact that questions about a candidate’s health can have on an election…

  • “I think it had a tremendous impact in 1988. The (George H.W.) Bush campaign did a remarkable job painting Dukakis as weak, out of touch politically with the mainstream and, over time, as out of touch with reality. Those were things Dukakis was unable to contend with. What’s important to note from 1988 is that was also a race that got way down into the mud, like this one, and it produced remarkably low voter turnout. One lesson you can draw is that you can drive voters away from the polls, but that doesn’t mean you’re driving up enthusiasm for your own presidency.”

Engel is director of the SMU Center for Presidential History. He can discuss:

  • comparisons to past presidential races
  • foreign policy
  • presidential rhetoric

 

———————————————————————————–

Matthew Wilson

HEALTH A VALID CONCERN, BUT TRUSTWORTHINESS A GREATHER ISSUE FOR CLINTON

MATTHEW WILSON:
jmwilson@smu.edu

On the impact questions of a candidate’s health can have on an election…

  • “The presidency is a high-stress, demanding job. For that reason, voters put fair scrutiny on whether the candidates are up to the physical and mental stamina requirements. Questions of the health of a candidate also put more focus on the running mate, and whether that person is seen as a capable and palatable person to assume the office if necessary. Both Clinton and Trump are fortunate that they picked solid people for their running mates.”
  • “One thing to keep in mind: Hillary and Trump are two of the oldest candidates to ever seek the presidency. For that reason, there will be more focus on their health.”

On what’s the bigger issue, Clinton’s health, or her breach of trust in being honest about it…

  • “This episode serves to reinforce the notion that Clinton’s natural instincts are not to be open and transparent. Her natural instinct is to conceal, obfuscate, deceive and to only come clean when her hand is forced. If, in fact, it’s true that she has pneumonia, it’s just mind boggling she didn’t come forward and say that. Particularly with this question about her health. Not revealing she has pneumonia until she has to because she collapsed at an event reinforces the idea she’s not forthcoming.”

Wilson is an SMU associate professor of Political Science. He can discuss:

  • religion and politics
  • political psychology
  • voting behavior of religious voters
  • public opinion and politics

 

John Ubelaker, Biology, native plants on the Rio Grande

TAOS news

Originally Posted: September 9, 2016

Below is an excerpt from Taos News.

Hike to Williams Lake

Nineteen people joined Dr. John Ubelaker, professor of biology at the Southern Methodist University, on a great hike to Williams Lake Aug. 20. Interesting ferns, trees and flowering plants were discussed all along the way. Ubelaker has a wealth of knowledge on plants, their uses both today and historically – and he shares freely. We learned a great deal about the “Canadian Zone,” which is one of six zones in the state and that extends all the way up to Canada. It is comprised predominantly of three types of trees — spruce, fir and aspen. Above this zone is the arctic-alpine zone, which was beyond our reach on this trip.

To someone newly transplanted from Florida, where Spanish moss abounds — the dripping gray-green hanging from the trees is not a simple air plant like Spanish moss, but a hanging lichen. Ubelaker explained that a lichen is a relationship between an algae and a fungus. The long, grayish green strings are fungus on the outside, with algae cells inside. Fungi are not photosynthetic, therefore they often feed on things like algae. But through photosynthesis, the algae cells make sugars — which they allow to leak out so that the fungus can feed — while the fungus provides a necessary aquatic environment in which the algae cells can live and grow.

It is a unique relationship which enables algae, one of the first forms of life on earth, to live up in a tree. Fungus is the ultimate decomposer in our environment, but now it doesn’t have to feed on the algae. Instead, they exist in a symbiotic relationship — not harming the tree or each other. The fungus will occasionally release spores, which have one algae cell inside, and it will find a new tree. Not only is this fascinating, but since some 50 bird species use lichen as nest material, and elk and other deer eat it, both hanging and rock lichen are an important part of the circle of life in New Mexico.

This fascinating bit of information was given us in the parking lot, before even getting onto the trail. You will not want to miss future field trips with Ubelaker. READ MORE

Follow Geothermal Lab researchers as they collect heat flow and seismic chirp data in Alaska

SMU Geothermal Lab

Originally Posted: September 8, 2016

mattrobcaseybenalaska-300x200SMU Geothermal Lab researchers Dr. Matt Hornbach, Madie Jones, and Casey Brokaw along with OSU researchers Dr. Rob Harris and Dr. Ben Phrampus are collecting heat flow and seismic chirp data in Alaska. READ MORE

Making sense of Donald Trump’s visit to Mexico

Fox 4

Originally Posted: September 6, 2016

Jeffrey Engel, associate professor and director of SMU’s Center for Presidential History, talks about Donald Trump’s recent trip to Mexico for a visit with President Enrique Peña Nieto and its effect on Trump’s efforts to become the next president of the U.S. Watch

Watch: SMU geophysics professor discusses earthquake

FOX 4

Originally Posted: September 4, 2016

A 5.6 magnitude earthquake hit Oklahoma Saturday morning, prompting officials to shut down dozens of waste water disposal wells within a 500-square-mile area of the quake’s epicenter.

The earthquake tied the record for the strongest ever recorded in Oklahoma. The earthquake epicenter was about 9 miles northwest of Pawnee. One surveillance video from a public school in North Central Oklahoma shows the moment the tremors started.

The Oklahoma Corporation Commission ordered that 35 wells be shut down due to evidence that links earthquakes to the underground disposal of wastewater from oil and gas production. WATCH

For a Long Life, Retire to Manhattan- Commentary from Willard Spiegelman

Dallas Morning News

Originally Posted: September 3, 2016

Willard Spiegelman commentary, writes about retiring to Manhattan

In his famous essay about New York, E. B. White distinguished among three cities and three types of New Yorkers. The first two — the city belonging to people born here, and that of commuters who work here by day and leave by night — were, he said, less compelling than the third, “the city of final destination” for those who come here in hope and nervousness.

Much has changed since 1948, when White’s essay, “Here Is New York,” appeared. More has remained the same. The sidewalks have retained their beauty and ugliness. The city still draws its influx of eager young people fresh from the farm, the small town and the university, in search of excitement, employment or love.

But it is not only young people who see Manhattan, as Nick Carraway did, as the symbol “in its first wild promise of all the mystery and the beauty in the world.” It can also be the final destination (“final” in two ways) for people at the other end of the age spectrum. Since moving here part time in 2012 at age 67, I count myself among the senior eccentrics.

Most Americans with the urge to retire elsewhere go where children and grandchildren live. They flee from the North to the South or West in search of warmth, less expensive housing, lower taxes. They get rid of their snow shovels. They’ll never sand their driveways again.

Some of us do the opposite. Some of us suffer from reverse seasonal-affective disorder. We hate heat and welcome winter. If one can afford it (a big if), and tolerate serious downsizing, what could be more hospitable to an ambulatory senior citizen than Gotham?

Four years ago I bought a modest studio apartment, a combination hotel room and storage closet. When I move here full time, next year, if luck is on my side, I may even get a real one-bedroom.

For the past 45 years I have lived in Dallas: in other words, Automobile America, Real America. When I leave, I’ll give up my car. Here’s an unmanly, un-American confession: I’m looking forward to it. Driving closes the mind to everything except driving. Walking opens it. New York, especially Manhattan, leads all American cities in its population of carless drivers. I’ll use my feet, or take the subway, happily.

Retiring to Manhattan is an act of bravery. It also prepares you for the end. The anonymity of metropolitan life gets you ready for the anonymity of the grave. I find this comforting rather than macabre. READ MORE

Senior Moments

Date: Thursday, September 8, 2016
Location: The Wild Detectives
314 W. Eighth Street Dallas, TX 75208
214-942-0108
Time: 7:30pm to 9:30pm

ALSO

Date: Thursday, September 22, 2016
Location:  Nasher Sculpture Center
2001 Flora Street, Dallas, TX 75201
214-242-5100
Time:  6:30pm

Willard Spiegelman has been the Hughes Professor of English at Southern Methodist University, and from 1984 – 2016 served as the editor of Southwest Review. Never known to be a man at a loss for words or opinions, his latest thoughts have been collected into his second book of essays, Senior Moments.

“If you are a living, breathing member of the human race, then Willard Spiegelman’s exemplary Senior Moments is for you. Aging is our universal condition: the only question is whether we approach our seniority kicking and screaming, or proceed with some degree of style and, let us hope, capacity for happiness. Spiegelman’s wise, witty, spirited essays show how we might work our way over to the style-and-happiness route, and are as good a guide for living well — at any age — that I know.” — Ben Fountain

At The Wild Detectives, Willard will read from his new book and be joined in conversation by Greg Brownderville, professor of poetry at SMU and the man stepping into Willard’s position as editor of Southwest Review.

Please join us for an evening celebrating Dallas writing, Dallas history, and with luck some Dallas gossip.