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My Wick Allison MBA

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Wick Allison (1948–2020)

Yesterday, Dallas — and a specific group of brilliant writers, sellers, artists, accountants, hustlers, misfits and dreamers — lost a dear friend, mentor and father figure. D Magazine founder and publisher Wick Allison left us last night, taken by his umpteenth battle with cancer.

I haven’t worked with Wick daily since 1999; been in business with him since 2009; or seen him more than a couple times a year since 2012. But even absent this reason to think back on him, if you asked me who the three people who had most influenced my career and adult life, the answer would be Wick.

We alumni of D, almost regardless of era, share an inefable connection. (I say almost, because like the only other person I can think of so connected to his creation over so many years, Lorne Michaels, Wick had a relatively brief intermezzo in the early nineties.)

Having worked for Wick is an experience unto itself and connects us, for some ill, but mostly good. I could meet a stranger who worked for Wick for six months forty years ago, and we could have a daylong conversation without a lull. While the details might differ, the stories would rhyme. Within minutes we’d be finishing each other’s sentences, because the connection, the man, is indelible and familiar.

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Weekly spins: Folk Family Revival, EODM, Hollis Brown, Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Dylan LeBlanc, Rickie Lee Jones

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If three makes a trend, I’ve got this weekly post nailed now. There’s an embarrassment of riches this week, so I’ll jump straight in:

I’ve got a big soft spot for this Texas band, whose heartfelt debut hit right as I was going through a rough patch at the top of the decade and served as the soundtrack of that year for me.

Longtime Folk Family Revival fans might be a smidge surprised by a harder-rocking concept album this time out. The concept piece is a double-edged sword, making it more difficult, but more rewarding to get into the new work. If you like Shooter Jennings concept stuff, or have been hungering for an Americana riff on The Wall, this is for you.


As I said last week, a good cover teaches you something new about the song and about the band playing it. On that basis, Eagles of Death Metal’s new one is a smashing success. I don’t generally dig EODM, but this eclectic compilation hit my sweet spot in the same way that Me First and the Gimme Gimmes does, without falling into the trap of everything sounding exactly the same (see Weezer’s recent outing). Bonus points for two(!) Kenny Rogers covers.


The first of two big lost-and-live releases, this is the most successful, a 1973 vintage Neil Young show that shows off both pristine acoustic takes and his rock, sans grunge style.


As much as I love me some Bob Dylan, and as excited as I am for the upcoming Scorsese documentary on this same topic, I just can’t do another live Dylan compilation, much less fifteen discs of it. There’s a point where completism creates a blur. I tried to get into the single-disc sampler, but nothing spoke to me.


Speaking of Bob, Hollis Brown, named for the Dylan classic, drops a new one that, like Folk Family Revival (above) stretches the band beyond its so-far typical Americana roots. This is a band that I love every time I hear them, but tend to forget later. Ozone Park feels like one I’ll remember.


Dylan LeBlanc is new to me, via a mention on the Bitter Southerner Facebook group. I’m liking his new outing which feels both retro-seventies and modern, while highlighting his Muscle Shoals heritage, via his father. The songwriting puts me in mind of mid-career Ryan Adams.


This is another fairly serviceable covers collection from Rickie Lee Jones that I might not have mentioned were it not for the death of her most famous duet partner this week. That said, her rendition of Bad Company’s “Bad Company” is worth a spin.


I didn’t predict how hard the loss of Dr. John would hit me this week. I loved his stuff before I knew what New Orleans music was about — and he’s been part of more wondrous supergroup moments than I can count. I love him best live, and this disc is the most indicative of the several floating around.


I figured it wouldn’t take long to have a “yeah, right” moment on my random spin of the week, with a too-serendipitous shuffle selection, and here we are. This Alabama 3 song is one of my all-time favorites (like literally top ten all-time) for me — and it happens that band cofounder Reverend Dee Wayne Love died a few weeks ago, just before I started these recaps.

Haven’t heard of Texas’ colonias? Neither had I before a mission trip showed me a Third-World American enclave

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Flying back from South Texas yesterday, I found myself vacillating between anger and contentment. Contentment came from service work that my 28:1 men’s group brothers and I had done alongside a men’s group from Park Cities Baptist Church. Anger rose from the poverty, inequality, and squalor we saw in our own state.

Odds are, you’ve never heard of the colonias before. I hadn’t until we lined up this trip. In an informal social media survey last night, once I filtered out friends who grew up on the border, it looked like less than a third of Texans I know are aware of them. Keep Reading

Developers: Come build the printing press of tomorrow today at The Dallas Morning News.

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If you know a full-stack or front-end developer who cares about local news, please share this with them:

I mentioned a couple months ago that I’ve gotten the opportunity to lead a product team here at The Dallas Morning News in a complete rebuild of our digital properties leveraging The Washington Post’s Arc platform.

I softplayed it at the time, as there were still a few pieces in flux. So I may have buried the lede:

This is the exact thing that I’ve wanted to do my whole career. Keep Reading

The tellers of truth are not the “enemies of the people”

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Last week, I joined with thousands of people around the country engaging with Q Commons on the topic “The Power of We.” For those less familiar, I’d soundbite Q as “TedTalks through a Christian worldview.”

As one of the Dallas Speakers, I tackled the topic of media in our divisive age. The video is below, but I’ve also included my script, as there were a couple pieces I had to trim on the fly to make the time limit work. Keep Reading

How a Flemish film rejuvenated my obsession with Americana music

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Original post on Medium.

When Crystal and I fired up The Broken Circle Breakdown on the AppleTV last night, I was initially hacked off to discover it was subtitled. We had bought into it based upon the trailer, which outlined the film via its English-language music and visuals, and not realizing it was an Oscar contender in the foreign film category.

Not that I’m anti-subtitles. Crystal works for a US distributor of Asian and Indie film, which means that we watch more subtitled fare than the average household. (This also suggests I might have been more up to date on the Oscar nods as well.) Keep Reading

How I manage information overload — revisited

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One of the most popular posts on this blog was my December, 2009 missive on how I manage all the bits and bytes streaming past me all day. Today, I’m doing an e-Seminar for the International Women’s Media Foundation on lessons I learned in the Pegasus News startup, and my mentorees requested I add the info overload bit as an appendix. Enough has changed in a year-and-a-quarter that I thought I’d update it a bit, with a new post after the jump:
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Just be amazing

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On Saturday, I joined a half-dozen media friends, old and new, to speak to students at the KIPP: Truth Academy’s career day. Although it wasn’t part of our planned schtick, one thing that stood out for me was the fact that all of us had one thing in common — multiple jobs. Some divided between two conventional employers; others, had a day-job and their own business; others, a bunch of freelance clients.
As that’s increasingly the norm in our post-post-industrial age, and because I’m getting ready to do some networking at SXSW, I thought I’d go ahead and introduce my consulting entity, Just Be Amazing (JBA). I’d been holding off because of potential dayjob discussions in the background, but I think anyone who knows me understands by now that I’m going to be sharper across the board if I have the mental diversions of multiple irons in the fire.  JBA may just be a dba for my freelance work, or it might someday become its own company, but it’s a concept that I’m striving to display in all I do.
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I love living in the future: The new mobile age

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The future is now

Way, way, way back in 2005 when I first started Pegasus News, I used to talk about how the Internet had changed human communication more than any innovation since Gutenberg’s printing press. The fact that everyone could be a publisher seemed as liberating as the move from hand-inscribed books to mass-printed tomes and papers.
Now, I realize that what we saw in 2005 was just the first act, the prototype — and it is the mobile advances of the last couple years that may be the most significant change to the way we live day in and out.
Smartphones like the iPhone and the latest Android phones, as well as tablet devices like the iPad have changed the game, both in terms of consumption and creation, perhaps more meaningfully than computers ever did or will.
Assuming you’re over 25, think back to the first computer you used: It was probably for work or for school, and a specific set of functions dictated how you used the machine. It was a tool, nothing more than a much more efficient typewriter or adding machine. Many have brought these devices into their home and personal lives, but the percentage is far lower than you might think. There is a very digital divide — I can see it in the difference in response when I send targeted emails in major metros as opposed to smaller, more blue collar markets. The latter are filled with Hotmail, Yahoo and AOL addresses and are more often read at night, as they lack access to Internet computing at work.
But mobile is ubiquitous. Almost everyone has a cell phone of some sort, and by the end of this year, you will hardly be able to buy a phone that doesn’t provide email and browser access.
Think that mobile information doesn’t have impact? Consider these stats about how mobile is affecting our local lives:

  • Mobile search is growing more than 50% per year, with 1.5 billion searches to be made this year.
  • 80% of buyers research major purchases to be made within 20 miles of their home online.
  • Right this minute, half of the connections to the Internet are mobile devices.
  • The top means of accessing local information online is the mobile browser.


But it’s not just about consuming information: Twitter, Posterous, Foursquare, Facebook and other self-publishing mechanisms have all grown exponentially because of mobile connection. Shooting video and then editing and posting on a computer can be a big hassle, and a barrier to participation. New devices like the iPhone 4 make these all simple and instantaneous. (The video at right was shot, edited and posted on Lake Ray Hubbard  in less than ten minutes.) Any smart site like Dallas South News has a special mobile edition.
Tablet devices like the iPad are just as disruptive — they both create a light computing experience for those not so technologically inclined and allow techies like me to be  nearly fully-armed in more places with less effort. Since I got my iPad, I have read 10x more than I did before. And I know that my Mom won’t get confused or inadvertently download viruses using the device.
There is no part of our lives that mobile communication doesn’t impact. I recently saw a friend tweeting that when his pastor asked the congregation to show their bibles, there were more devices than paper-bound books. Advertising, increasingly has to consider not only demographics, but current location.
The question then is how are we going to utilize these new technologies? Are they just another weapon of mass distraction, another way to find out what LeBron James or Lindsay Lohan are up to today? Or will we use them to better transform our communities? An HD video of one’s children or pets is a luxury the likes of which no society has ever enjoyed. A similar video of a town council or school board meeting is nearly as easy to create and distribute and has far more impact.
I suspect that you have some idea how mobile communication and connectivity has impacted your life, whether it is a video chat with your family while traveling; connecting with an old friend on Facebook; playing a Farmville-type game to kill time at stoplights; or finding that special restaurant on the road. We are in the initial moments of the mobile age, where those a block, a mile and a timezone away can all be touched in an instant. I only hope that our use of that gift is as profound as what has been done with Gutenberg’s tool.

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