A Few More Words About the Jim Schutze Face Plant

Yesterday, in case you missed it, Jim Schutze fell on his face. He cooked up this wonderful theory about a recent Dallas Morning News editorial that said Museum Tower’s “owners have to own this problem [the reflected light and heat onto the Nasher] and get serious about reasonable fixes.” Schutze broke it down like this: the Crow family is behind Museum Tower. The Nasher family is behind the Nasher. The Nashers and the Crows don’t like each other. The Decherd family is behind the News. The Decherds and the Nashers are buddies. So that’s why the paper came out in support of the museum.

Except, of course, as anyone who has been paying attention knows, the Crows don’t have anything to do with Museum Tower. To Schutze’s credit, he updated his post with an apology and a correction, saying, “The premise of this column is a stupid mistake on my part.” The mistake, it seems to me, is an interesting peek into how Schutze’s mind works.

In any case, Schutze made another error in the post that needs correcting. He wrote: “The Nasher claims that all of the reflected light from Museum Tower is killing their plants and somehow baking their sculptures. More likely it is baking their visitors so badly that some of them have stopped visiting.” In fact, attendance is up. The problem with Museum Tower started in September 2011. From October 2011 to June 2012, attendance is up 20 percent over the same period a year prior. That can partially be explained by the museum’s nighttime programming, such as the Til Midnight series. But there you have it.

The biggest mistake Schutze made, though, was comparing Museum Tower with Renzo Piano’s Shard, in London. These buildings and the controversies they’ve caused are not analogous. Some people in London think The Shard is ugly and looks out of place. London’s discussion is about aesthetics. Ours is about functionality. No one here is saying that Museum Tower is ugly; they are saying it is destructive.

15 comments on “A Few More Words About the Jim Schutze Face Plant

  1. An artistic FrontBurnervian points us to a relevant passage from this article:

    Alexis de Tocqueville once described what he saw as a chief part of the peculiar genius of American society–something he called “self-interest properly understood.” The last two words were the key. Everyone possesses self-interest in a narrow sense: I want what’s good for me right now! Self-interest “properly understood” is different. It means appreciating that paying attention to everyone else’s self-interest–in other words, the common welfare–is in fact a precondition for one’s own ultimate well-being. Tocqueville was not suggesting that there was anything noble or idealistic about this outlook–in fact, he was suggesting the opposite. It was a mark of American pragmatism. Those canny Americans understood a basic fact: looking out for the other guy isn’t just good for the soul–it’s good for business.

  2. No, the biggest mistake Schutze made was in writing that post. It is hard to tell if he wants to be Dallas’s satirist-in-chief (razing Fair Park as 21st Century urban renewal) or Dallas’s curmudgeon-in-chief (headlining his postings as a grizzled old man shouting “Get Off My Lawn”). Or whether he has just lost it and is now out of control totallly. Regardless, his slide into irrelevancy is becoming the bigger sideshow in local journalism, bigger than the “stories” that he “covers.” And that is just sad.

  3. Schutze is not the first Dallas columnist who turned into a parody of himself. The journalistic landscape around here is littered with the tombstones of dead columnists, or columnist who were dead but didn’t know it.
    It’s a danger built into columny. If you’re a good writer to start with, you develop a “voice” and that draws a following. You accentuate the voice, exaggerate the mannerisms a bit and your following grows. Become identified with a few issues or causes and you acquire a rep. You’re being talked about (negatively, positively – it doesn’t matter). By now the Devil is whispering in your ear. Pretty soon your “voice” devolves into a series of mannerisms. You skip old-fashioned reporting, because when you’re riding one of your hobby-horses, those columns practically write themselves. Little by little perceptive readers lose interest and start to drop out.
    Having a blog can prolong this life-cycle, but it’s like a respirator. The patient is no longer breathing on his own.
    I admire Schutze as a writer; he can be one of the best. But he doesn’t really write that often these days. Mostly he’s coasting. If you were his editor and cared about the quality of what he’s giving the readers, you’d want to cut him back to one or two columns a month, one blog a week. Get him out there circulating. (Significantly, when he takes his canoe out somewhere, his writing really comes to life).
    Several of his readers have complained lately, “Jim, you’re better than this.” They’re right. He is, or could be. It’s very sad. I’d hate to see that tombstone with his name on it.

  4. In case anyone hasn’t suggested it up to now, the Nasher should really just put mirrors facing Museum Tower and fry them in their own sauce.

  5. This is not a controversy that anyone wants, nor should anyone benefit from ‘juicing it up’. Museum Tower must be successful to benefit the Fire/Police retirees and their families and to enliven the area with taxpaying residents. We need Dallas city leadership to take seriously the response to Museum Tower reflectivity interfering with the long-term plans for the Dallas Arts District and protecting the investments that have already been made to support this plan. This requires a 360 degree evaluation around the tower and from early morning to sunset during all seasons. Reflective ‘energy efficient’ windows similar to those that clad the tower have been identified in other cities as raising ambient temperatures, melting home siding and car parts and emitting a blinding glare. This should not have happened in Dallas and building codes must be changed to make sure this does not re-occur.

  6. @Wes – This mirror-facing-mirror thingy would also prove useful should General Zod need to returned to the Phantom Zone. I approve wholeheartedly.

  7. @Bob: Wrong. His column about Fair Park actually made a lot of sense, and whether you agree or disagree with him–and I disagree most of the time–Schutze continues to be a must-read every day.

  8. The departure of Robert (the voice of reason) Wilonsky seems to have removed the last vestige of positive peer pressure at Unfair Park.

  9. Schutze likes to be outrageous. If he had said “Develop some of the extra land in and around Fair Park into mid-priced apartments or community gardens” then nobody would read his column. Instead he says “RAZE THE WHOLE DARN THING” so people will pay attention.

  10. worker,
    Yeah,but after you’ve got people paying attention, what do you say to them?

  11. As a general rule, if Schutze is for it, right thinking people are against it, and vice versa. The only topic on which he has any credibility IMHO is the alleged criminality of John Wiley Price, but even that position comes with a ridiculous conspiracy theory involving the Perots. Schutze is a big stinking, steamy pile of human refuse. However, in this particular and rare instance, I think he’s actually at least partially correct. And even if he’s not, Timmy, you need to tap the brakes on the hyperbole when addressing the Museum Tower situation. I am looking at the Nasher vegetation from my downtown office and it looks darn right healthy, especially compared to the shriveling landscaping maintained by the city. I don’t see any damage. Nor do I see or feel a death ray coming off the Tower into the garden. I do see an unbelievable amount of glare coming off of Fountain Place, which frequently requires me to lower my window screens. Yet no one is demanding that Mr. Pei’s structure be razed. I just think everyone needs to calm down a bit. Unless you want Museum Tower to fail, resulting in the pension fund suffering a huge loss, with collateral damage to the police and firefighters’ retirement plans.

  12. @John – I’d be less concerned about the garden, myself, and more concerned about the galleries and artworks. Schutze seems to pooh pooh the idea of sculptures being harmed by sunlight, but lets remember what kind of things we are talking about. The Nasher collection doesn’t just consist of sculpture – you might remember that there was a Picasso painting that had to be taken off the wall because of the sunlight streaming through once MT started its glare. Rodin’s “Age of Bronze” is a plaster, and therefore susceptible to sunlight. ETC ETC. In addition to potential physical damage to art, consider the difficulty, if not impossibility, of insuring these incredible valuable pieces, when you have to acknowledge that the place they’ll be displayed is placing them in harms way. Not to mention the same problem with convincing other institutions and collectors to loan their artworks to traveling exhibitions.

    This isn’t just about the grass in the garden and how green it looks from your window.