Identity Theft

Me VS Linguine

Dear Brad Bird,

I’m want to know where you saw me. Was it at Disney Land? Maybe at a baseball game, or perhaps I served you a plate of food? The resemblance is too close to be a coincidence. To top it off, I even sound like him.

I am your character Linguini.

You appropriated my likeness without my expressed written consent. My personality rights as a citizen of the United States of America have been violated as (broadly) protected under the 1st Amendment. Even all these years later, people still make the connection. Because it is my image you’re selling. Luckily for you, Ratatouille is one of my favorite Pixar movies and I don’t mind the association. So instead of demanding my cut of the $206,445,654 gross domestic revenue, I just want a response for the blog.

You have 30 days to comply before you hear from my lawyers (Uncle Mike, lets get ready for court).

 

 

Free at last, Free at last

Dear Richard Branson,

Yes, Martin Luther King said it best. Great God Almighty, we are free at last from the oppression of the Wright Amendment. It really is a great day for the city of Dallas and all Dallasites who consider themselves travelers. It’s hard to believe that it took this long to repeal the dumb thing.

There is easily enough demand to fill both airports’ gates with flights across the globe, but American Airlines still won’t let Love Field use all it’s gates. Maybe if they took more pride in the quality of their product they wouldn’t need to use these corporate lobbyist bully tactics to withhold a tiny handful of gates from operation. ‘

Southwest Airlines has been running a massive advertising campaign celebrating their freedom (and new flights). By all measures it will be a boon for them but don’t think they’re not looking over their shoulder at you. I’ve noticed some Virgin America ads recently as well, but it’s not even close to their scale. I think you’ve got them shook a bit.

I’ve yet to fly Virgin America but I look forward to the new opportunity to do so. Furthermore, I look forward to my opportunity to fly to space with Virgin Galactic as well. Maybe I’ll ask for a trip to space for my birthday. (time to sell the house Dad?)

PS: What did you do with your day in Dallas?

Tagged

Not Keeping it Weird

Dear “ The Charlies” (Charles Attal, Charlie Jones and Charlie Walker),

Everyone remembers their first time. It was 2006 and I was only a junior in high school. No, not my first time for that…it was my first music festival experience at Austin City Limits.

While it’s well documented that I’m mostly over the traditional mega-festival experience, I will say that ACL will always have a special place in my heart and I did make it down for the first Friday this year. I had to see my favorite hip-hop group of all time, Outkast, and the performance did not disappoint.

Tonight wraps up the second weekend of the Festival for yet another year. Was this year bittersweet for ya’ll as a buy-out from LiveNation looms of your heads?

The news comes as a bit of a disappointment to me, and here’s why. C3 Presents is (was?) an independent Austin company that rose up to become the third largest concert promoter in the country. That’s something to be really proud of;  something for the city to be proud of. A buy-out from LiveNation takes that away from Austin. That’s not keeping it “weird”. That’s moving up and out (a microcosm for what’s happening to Austin in general).

I’m always skeptical when the second largest company in an industry buys the third largest. How does this keep happening in our economy today? I don’t buy the notion that it makes for a better product or that it enables you to bring the experience to more people. It makes for less competition and a watered down experience. To that point, I do feel that the festival market is already over-saturated so maybe it’s a good time to sell.

Regardless of this news, I’m proud that ACL is one of the nation’s powerhouse festivals right here in Texas.

The Teacher

Dear Mr. Hagood,

In my first class with you some 12 years ago, you explained to us that we would be writing every day that year. That unlike math geniuses, greater writers are not born but made. That came as a relief to me because I had been terrible at math ever since two consecutive years of Ms. Owens as my math teacher. We wrote for 5ish minutes before each class started as well as on our own, one page per school night.

I still remember the first quote you had us write our thoughts about:

“Notice: Beach is closed after 10pm.”

I looked up after college and realized that writing is really my best skill. It’s what set me apart throughout college and stands as the one thing I can confidently point to when someone asks, “What can you do?” My motivation for this letter-a-day project spawned at least in part from the idea that if you write (or do anything) every day, you are destined to improve. If I fancy myself a writer, then I better strive to improve, daily.

What I’ve come to realize is that writing is just organized thinking. If you can express an idea in written words, it can be shared, improved on, and hopefully be worth something to someone. And as of today, I can call myself a copywriter (meaning I’m employed, at least partially through my ability to write). Back in 9th grade, I probably wouldn’t have guessed that writing would come to define a major part my professional life.

Every time I sit down to write, it is a challenge. A blank page is, and probably always will be, quite intimidating. So I start spewing broken thoughts onto the page, keeping some, reject most. I build from there until I have a direction and then it slowly comes together. Then someone *cough cough* with a red pen slashes it to pieces, which is frustrating but again part of the challenge. You pick up the (figurative) pieces and work from there. At the end of the process, you look at the finished work and almost forget how you got from that blank page to something worth ($?) reading.

I’ve come to thrive on that challenge and I thank you.

PS: I hope you still start your classes with a prompt/quote and make your students keep a journal. I’ve gone back and read some of my old thoughts and it’s a trip.

PPS: ZERO

RESPONSE:

Hayden,

Thank you so much for the letter; it was totally unexpected!
I’m so glad to hear that you’re a writer, Hayden, even if you’re still on the first rung as a copy writer. I’ve had former students who started out the same way and one of them recently published an article in the on-line New Yorker over the recent book-banning controversy at Highland Park.  Hang in there!  You have all my encouragement and best wishes, Hayden, because, as you know, writing well is difficult, time-consuming, and the most intellectually challenging task you could ask for. You also have all my respect because sticking with something as hard as writing is rare.  
It was such a treat to get your letter.  Write back anytime, and let me know if I can do anything for you.
Gratefully,
Hagood
ps. As I no longer teach 8th and 9th grade, I do not do the journal, but the tradition is being carried on by Mr. Jennings.

Tim HagoodUpper School English Teacher

Upper School Philosophy Teacher

Lakehill Preparatory School

Missed Connections

To the sad and lonely person who stole the final clue to my girlfriend’s birthday scavenger hunt from the patio of Lakewood Theater,

I try to picture as you on that warm Sunday afternoon. You’re wearing the same ratty black T-shirt you slept in and last night’s beer is stale on your breath. You wanted to watch the Cowboys, but you overslept and now you’ve got nothing to do. The few (very few) people you hang out with are busy getting ready for their work week but you don’t have a job or a girl friend so you’re off kill the day at the bar. Alone.

You stare at the sidewalk as you walk but glance up to notice a shiny pink balloon in the shape of a heart swaying gently in the breeze. It looks like it’s waiting for someone, and hey there’s even a note.

Oh how sweet. It’s some girl’s birthday and this is the final piece to her scavenger hunt. I bet her boyfriend planned it for her and this FINAL balloon is the culmination of an awesome day. They must be so happy together.

You imagine that you planned an awesome day for your awesome girlfriend. How excited she is when finds the final note and jumps into your arms smiling. It’s like a scene from a movie and you lose yourself in the fantasy for a brief moment.

Then the headache from your hangover snaps you back to reality: you don’t have a girlfriend, you smell, and you’re alone. You’ve never actually had a girl friend. That one girl you liked so much in high school only used you for a few weeks to get back at her real boyfriend. And it still hurts all these years later.

So tear the balloon from the patio table and let it go. You watch it float away into the sky knowing that it will never reach the special person it was meant for. Ha! Knowing that almost covers up loneliness. As the balloon drifts out of sight, that familiar feeling of loneliness seeps back to it’s usual place, just below your heart in the pit of your stomach and you walk into the bar. Alone.

Maybe you kept the letter. Part of me hopes that you did. Read it when you feel like there’s no love left in this world and let it stand as proof.

Buddy Boy

Dear Bud Selig,

Seeing as how you proudly do not use e-mail, this letter will not won’t be nearly as relevant by the time my carrier pigeon reaches New York City.

Tonight we got to watch a spectacular baseball game.

It really had it all. The hot upstart team from a city hungry for a taste of the postseason facing a team learning to play up to high expectations and hopefully exceed them. True grit was on display. I remember when my fair Texas Rangers were in both those positions over recent years, though it feels far longer ago than that. We the people of DFW missed out on basically all the MLB action this season and tonight was a taste of what makes October baseball great.

The game itself tonight couldn’t have been any better, but I still believe that an entire baseball season (162 games! Way too many!) should not be decided by a one game play-off. My friend had a clever idea: best of three with a double header on the first day and if necessary, the deciding game a day later. Home field advantage would be given on the doubleheader game. It would be an entire day of baseball (and ad revenue).

Maybe I should be sending this idea to the Commissioner in wait, Rob Manfred, since you’re retiring after this season. Or maybe you can implement this like a lame duck president might and let the new guy untangle the mess.

Enjoy your final postseason as commissioner, Commissioner.

Just Do It

CEO Week

Dear Phil Knight,

What is a brand? I’ve heard dozens of definitions, all of which are true at some level.

A brand is a symbol.

A brand is a feeling.

A brand is concept.

A brand is a promise (-Stan Richards) .

At it’s best, a brand integrates itself into a person’s identity and contributes to their sense of self.  The term “lifestyle brand” is thrown around a lot but rarely does a brand live up to this big label. In my opinion, Nike is the quintessential lifestyle brand. How did that happen?

Weiden + Kennedy had a lot to do with it no doubt, but I think you were the first entrepreneur to really embrace the power of indorsement. Michael Jordan wears these shoes and he’s the best basketball player in the world, surely they’re good enough for your Sunday morning pick-up game. Nike wasn’t known as a golf brand until Tiger woods used Nike equipment as best golfer in the world.

This interactive list of the world’s most recognizable brands has Nike at #24. I think that is wayy off. I would place it somewhere just behind Coca-Cola. Athletics transcend all economic and geographic boundaries. Apple may have the most money, but Nike has touched every level of society in every corner of the globe.

Sweatshops aside, it’s an incredible brand.

PS: I found it interesting that you were the single largest contributor to the Oregon Ballot Measures 66 and 67 which increased taxes on large corporations and individuals making or than $250,000. Not to make sweeping generalizations about billionaire CEO’s, but wouldn’t that be the last thing you want? Maybe you’re actually self aware enough to realize that there the we’ve let the wealthiest corporations and people grab far too much of our nation’s capital.

Shop House

Dear Steve Ells,

I crave burritos a lot. On a separate but equal level (actually though) I crave Chipotle a lot. Chipotle is it’s own unique craving for me, different than the traditional and usually very greasy hole-in-the-wall type burrito.

Needless to say, I eat a lot of burritos.

This past week I tried Shop House, your Southeast Asian concept. Personally, I love the bold flavors and spices in Thai / Vietnamese / Indian cuisine but wonder if the rest of America is ready for them. It has been proven that the demand for spicier foods is growing, especially among Millennials. My kale and corn toppings had a nice kick to them and I added the spicy red curry for good measure, bringing it to a solid 7/10 on my spice chart.

I enjoyed Shop House and hope it makes an expansion to Texas soon. Will it be the next Chipotle? I have my doubts. I think the flavors are still too unfamiliar to most Americans. There are too many who still believe that Taco Bell is Mexican food and Panda Express is Chinese. But a concept like Shop House could be a nice stepping stone into a whole new arena of flavor for people.

Until my next burrito,

Hayden

RESPONSE:

Hayden,

Thanks for being such a huge fan of Chipotle, and now ShopHouse! I hope you don’t mind that I respond on Steve’s behalf. He is currently out of the office and he wanted to be sure you heard from us before his schedule would allow. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but we don’t have any current plans for a ShopHouse in Texas. We are working on slowly expanding, making sure people are ready for the deliciousness before we arrive. I’ll definitely take note of your suggestion, though, to keep in mind for the future.

It is interesting that you would mention that people may not be very familiar with the flavors at ShopHouse. That is very similar to some of the comments we heard back when Chipotle was starting out. Although people were familiar with Mexican food, in the early days of Chipotle, people didn’t really associate Chipotle with the usual Mexican flavors. We’re proud to have recreated this with ShopHouse to push people just a little further on what their concept of Southeast Asian food tastes like.

Although it sounds like you won’t be able to stop into a ShopHouse in the near future, we’d love to see you for that burrito sooner rather than later. If you send me your mailing address I’d like to send you a meal-for-two card (to be used in a single visit) so you and a friend can come into Chipotle for a meal, on us. We appreciate your support and look forward to seeing you soon.

Sincerely,
Cara

Customer Service Manager
Chipotle Mexican Grill

The Grim Eater

Dear Leslie Brenner,

After seeing the movie “Chef” last night and having recently returned to the restaurant industry I feel like it’s time to write your letter-a-day.

I’m a blogger but not a food blogger. I enjoy a nice meal but I’m not a foodie. I’m a work in a restaurant but hopefully not forever and I’m a Dallas native who’s proud of our dedicated food scene.

When it comes down to it, there are essentially three things to do in Dallas.

We shop like every store at NorthPark is going out of business. We watch and discuss sports like they actually affect our personal lives. And most importantly we eat out at restaurants as if every meal were our last. In so many ways, Dallas has elevated dining beyond a casual habit to something of a sport like hunting exotic game. For those who can afford it’s s an entire lifestyle unto itself.

We don’t have any Michelin Star restaurants like New York City and it’s not a dining destination like New Orleans. Our food scene can be myopic and self congratulatory to a dangerously high degree at times. But despite it all, our passion for dining is undeniable and is to be celebrated. Criticism can be both honest and constructive.

Unlike many, I’m not here to bash your reviewing style or stance on certain restaurants. I’ll even pretty much side with you on this whole John Tesar Twitter fiasco. He must have seen “Chef” also and realized there was an opportunity to get more press for himself. I’ve never been to The Knife myself (I’m but a lowly waiter) but I thought your review was more complementary than not.

Try to be a friend to the industry. When you crush someone’s favorite restaurants, it feels personal because it’s the personal touches that makes a restaurant special for most people. Food and wait staff all add up to an experience that, when done right, makes you feel like part of the family. A great Dallas restaurateur once printed on their menu that, “The love is free”.

Love and be loved Mrs. Brenner.

PS: Of course laziness is inexcusable but if possible, be sympathetic to the waiter who doesn’t know as much about food as you. They don’t get to eat out for a living.

RESPONSE:

Dear Mr. Bernstein,

Thank you for your thoughtful letter. I am honored that you choose me as today’s recipient. 
I understand where you’re coming from, but I cannot be a “friend to the industry” — that is absolutely not a critic’s role (nor any serious journalist’s) role. My work is in service to our readers. I am aware that it may not feel very nice to have a critic say that a dish a reader loves had some technical flaws, and I wish that part were otherwise. But honesty is a key part of a critic’s role, and I’m paid to express my honest opinion. When I express my views of a restaurant, its food, service and ambience, I’m trying to help the reader experience the restaurant vicariously, and helping them understand the restaurant in the context of our dining scene. After that, it’s up to the reader to decide whether he or she wants to spend his or her hard-earned money there.  
I do feel sympathy for waiters whose food knowledge is lacking, but it really is up to the management to educate the servers about the menu they’re being asked to sell and serve. That’s why I’m always writing that better training would be in order in so many situations. On the other hand, if training isn’t forthcoming, waiters can always learn what’s need by asking the chef, or reading. Getting information about food and cooking is easier than ever. And waiters don’t have to master a whole world of food knowledge, just what’s on the menu at their restaurant. Meanwhile, “I don’t know off the top of my head, but I’m happy to go in the kitchen and find out” is always a great answer.
Thank you again for taking the time to write. I truly appreciate your sharing your thoughts — and reading The Dallas Morning News.
All best,
Leslie

 

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HeadHunt

MattsonMattsonMattson

Dear Mattson Plummer,

I was heading to a show in Deep Ellum when I noticed a gallery full of people and decided to see whats up. It was the opening night of your show at Kettle Art after which I started following you on Instagram. I told myself I was going to go back and buy one of your surprisingly expressive watercolor skull illustrations with my next paycheck until I realized that you give them away.

Now it’s not that I’m too cheap to buy one; it’s the thrill of the hunt, or “#headhunt” as you call it.  I want to earn it. I want to say it’s mine because I was on top of my Instagram game, tracked it down, and beat everyone else to it.

And what an engaging way to promote your art. I think it’s awesome and I can’t wait for my next opportunity to find one of your pieces. *cough* in Hamilton Park *cough*

PS: Might you be a fan of surf jazz duo The Mattson 2? Here’s a favorite of mine from them:

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