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Making Dallas Even Better

How We Can Still Save the Half-Built Trinity River Project

That photo above is a Google maps shot of a house that sits on the corner of Marlborough Ave. and Davis St. in Oak Cliff. It has more or less looked like that for the better part of five years. The house is the ultimate DIY project. As Rachel Stone reported in the Oak Cliff Advocate earlier this year, Ricardo Torres bought the house in 2008 and set about building his dream home. Torres is a crafty guy. He started from scratch with a plan for a two story home. Then he realized that if he added a third story, he could have a downtown view. You know what would also be cool? A game room. So he tacked on one of those, and the house grew like a drawing in a Dr. Seuss book.

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Radiolab Will Change Your Mind About the Dallas Safari Club Rhino Hunter

Or maybe not. But still.

Listened to this via my podcatcher last weekend but forgot to mention it until now. If you’re not already a regular Radiolab listener, you really should be. But even if you don’t care about fantastically produced storytelling that entertains as it educates about the mysterious ways in which our minds, our bodies, and our surrounding world work, maybe you’ll care that earlier this month the show followed Corey Knowlton, the fellow who bid $350,000 in a Dallas Safari Club auction to shoot a black rhino in Namibia.

I’m not saying I’m now a fan of hunting endangered animals, but hearing from Namibian government officials about how selling permits like these (which are apparently issued only for aged animals that have been killing other rhinos) fund conservation efforts in their country — well, the story is more complicated than the headline.

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Ask John Neely Bryan: Nutria, the Furry Menace in Our Dallas Waterways

Question: The other night, we were standing on the Continental Bridge, taking in the glorious river, when we saw something swimming upstream. We were at first concerned it was a dog, but it was moving with such ease, and going underwater and coming back out, that we decided it must be something else. Our final guess is a nutria. What the hell is a nutria? Are there many in Dallas? Will we have more now, and if we were to jump in to try to rescue it, would it kill us? (Sure, all these questions could be answered on Google, but I’d prefer to hear Mr. Bryan’s take.) — David H.

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Scot Miller Provides Today’s Moment of Quiet

We’ve talked about Scot before. The photographer and co-owner of Sun to Moon hosted an opening reception over the weekend for his latest show, titled “Nature in Our Backyard.” I swung by on Saturday and enjoyed seeing some of the prints that we reproduced in our July issue. They look okay online. They look better in the magazine. But the best way to enjoy them is hanging on a wall, in a gallery. If you’re in the Design District in the coming weeks, you might want to stop in. Meantime, Scot has produced another video. Take a deep breath and press play:

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Leading Off (5/29/15): Floods Submerge Dallas-Fort Worth

Dallas Under Water. Over night a huge, slow-moving storm dumped heavy rain across DFW, officially making this the wettest May on record in these parts. The previous high mark was 13.66 inches, and we’re likely still not done for the month. Don’t try to drive through flooded roads.

Much more, and other news, after the jump…

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Leading Off (5/22/15)

Denton to Be Fracked Over. The day after Gov. Greg Abbott signed a bill severely limiting local regulations of oil and natural gas drilling, Vantage Energy notified the city that it would resume its well operations. Denton made national headlines after banning hydraulic fracturing with a vote last November, but the new law undoes that.

It’s West Nile Virus Season. Batches of mosquitoes in Mesquite and Frisco have tested positive for local newscasts’ favorite bogeyman disease. I’m hoping Zac has already put in a call to his inside source on the insects’ summer plans. Developing.

Attempt to Kill Bullet Train Project Fails. A Texas Senate committee voted against a proposal to prohibit the use of state funds to support the effort to build a high-speed rail line between Houston and Dallas-Fort Worth.

Texas Legislature Legislates. Lawmakers in Austin have reached a deal to cut property and business taxes, instituted new regulations on the chemicals that caused the West explosion, and protected religious leaders and institutions from a problem that hasn’t been shown to actually exist.

Jordan Spieth Still Good at Golf. The Dallas PGA Tour pro, who won the Masters tournament earlier this year, sits tied with three others at the top of the leaderboard after the first round of the Colonial tournament in Fort Worth.

Wet Weekend Coming. North Texas has already received more rain so far this year than we got in all of 2014. And more and more is on the way.

Should We Really Be Trying to Build a Park in the Trinity?

I was out of town last week so I missed much of the rainfall that has now transformed the Trinity River flood plain into a broad, fast-flowing, messy river. It’s a lovely sight: passing over the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge on the way into the office and seeing water running from bank to bank underneath the series of bridges that for too much of the year look like exaggerated spans traversing a tiny creek.

There’s something beautiful but also terrifying about the swollen Trinity. Its snarling, brown waters smother trees up to their spindly tops. The floodwaters push out against the long ridges that funnel water past the city. A hundred or so years ago, that water would be lapping up against downtown buildings and sweeping away the foundations of homes.

These occasional floods are good for the city. We certainly need the rain. But perhaps as important is the reminder they offer that Dallas exists within a particular natural environment, and that nature isn’t always friendly.

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Leading Off (5/8/15)

Apocalypse Now? Thursday night and early Friday morning brought North Texas tornadoes and flooding, tens of thousands without power, a train derailment that sent two locomotives into a creek, a gas well fire possibly caused by a lightning strike, and the biggest earthquake these parts have ever seen.

FBI Sent Warning About Gunman. Just hours before Sunday’s attack outside an anti-Muslim cartoon contest, the feds alerted Garland cops that Elton Simpson might show up, though the local police spokesman says officers on the scene “had no idea, no information” that Simpson and his accomplice were on their way.

Saturday Is Election Day. Polls are open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Precinct locations found here. Vote if you haven’t already. Peter already did a fine job of guilting you into it.

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Oil and Gas Wells to Blame For More North Texas Earthquakes

Today a new study was released in the journal Nature Communications that determined the causes of the unusual seismic activity (earthquakes) around Azle (northwest of Fort Worth) in November-December 2013, which Brantley Hargrove wrote about in the May 2014 issue of D Magazine.

Researchers from SMU, the University of Texas at Austin, and the U.S Geological Survey determined that activities related to oil and gas operations in the area, as the Morning News notes, are responsible for “shifting faults below Dallas-Fort Worth that have not budged in hundreds of millions of years”:

The scientists zeroed in on an unusual mechanism behind the quakes: workers pushing liquid into the ground on one side of a fault and sucking gas and groundwater from the other side of the fault.

“The combination of these activities seems to have triggered the earthquakes, and that was a real surprise to us,” said Matthew Hornbach, a geophysicist at SMU and a lead author of the paper.

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Explore #OutdoorDallas, Win a Prize

Have you been outside this afternoon? Yeah, me neither. I’ve been stuck at D Magazine World Headquarters while an absolutely perfect day of Dallas weather taunts me from beyond the windows. I’d much rather be out on a trail somewhere, enjoying the great outdoors, just as the April issue of our print product implores.

We all should be playing hooky, come to think of it. And now we’ve got a way in which al fresco play could pay off. Just share a picture on social media — Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, etc. — using the hashtag #OutdoorDallas. We’ll pick the best that we see between now and the end of next Wednesday, April 21.

The winner will receive a $200 gift certificate to Saint Ann Restaurant and Bar. So go. Get out of here. Your boss will understand.

The New Republic on What Makes Dallas World Aquarium Unique

Daryl Richardson is a high-end caterer turned zookeeper who opened Dallas World Aquarium in downtown’s West End in 1992. The New Republic‘s newly published deep dive on him and his menagerie shows how he eschews the normal model for zoos are run (not a nonprofit, unafraid to acquire any desirable animal from the wild), which has resulted in an international attraction for zoo aficionados.

But he also comes off as a hell of a hard man to work for, and some of his questionable practices have angered biologists and conservations. The article centers on the aftermath of Richardson’s failed 2013 attempt to get some rare sloths from Panama, an action that caused an international uproar:

Some zoo officials I spoke with were embarrassed by Richardson’s misadventure, but it does not seem to have caused much damage to his professional standing. In an image-sensitive industry, a rogue who collects and breeds exotic speciesanimals that can then be traded with more cautious zoos, at scant risk to their own budgets and reputationsplays a useful role. Last year, the AZA said it was looking into the pygmy-sloth controversy, but it never released any findings. It also renewed the Dallas World Aquarium’s accreditation last March, finding that Richardson’s zoo upheld the “practices and philosophies that are commonly accepted as the norm by the profession.”

“My story is really not that different than any other zoos that have their failures and their successes,” Richardson told me. “It’s just I happen to be the independent owner of this facility and I’ve been here for the duration, from day one to day now.”

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