Commentary

Wed
06
Jan

Desire for quiet may have cultural roots

By Ken Esten Cooke

It turns out that the desire for quiet may have roots in culture.

A recent BBC report stated that German philosopher Theodore Lessing created the country’s first Antilärmverein — anti-noise society — to debate how noise affected the modern world. This was in 1907 as the industrial age ramped up. (Tip o’ the hat to former mayor Jeryl Hoover for sending along this link.)

Around that same time, a Berlin pharmacist developed the first modern earplug, dubbing it the ohropax, a combination of the German word for “ear” and Latin word for “peace.”

After two world wars, the desire for quiet didn’t diminish in Germany. Some anti-noise laws there have been on the books more than four decades. Today, there are soundproofed parks and highways.

Wed
06
Jan

Simply coincidence, or perhaps it's not?

Most people might agree that irony can play a significant part in their lives. They might share a birthday with a relative or a famous person, or might have gone to the same school once attended by a celebrity or sports hero.

Irony can occur as a very benign “oh well, isn’t that interesting?” feature in our world, all the way up to the shades of a conspiracy.

An example of an everyday routine ironic tidbit would be the fact that the pediatrician who delivered me into this world was Dr. Daniel (my first name). But what makes this an even more unusual situation is that the good doctor’s first name was David (the same as my brother’s first name).

Interesting, maybe; spooky, not really.

Probably one of the biggest spooky types of irony happened way back in 1963. Just mentioning the year should get most people of my generation a clue to where I’m going with this.

Wed
06
Jan

The brilliance of arrogance

Quentin Tarantino just isn’t for everyone.

His most ardent fans — ones who’ve seen “Reservoir Dogs” and “Pulp Fiction” countless times and can quote “True Romance” by heart even though Tarantino just wrote the script — would argue that the director is a cinematic icon and leading provocateur for this generation of filmmakers.

Others would argue that Tarantino’s movies overtly glamorize violence to the point of poor taste and are unworthy of the critical acclaim they almost universally receive.

His newest film, “The Hateful Eight,” is sure to exacerbate those arguments as Hollywood’s most in-your-face director wrings tension within close quarters better than any filmmaker this decade, locking a terrific ensemble cast inside a small haberdashery snowed in during post-Civil War Wyoming and letting the chaos ensue.

Wed
30
Dec

Help those living on the poverty line

By Ken Esten Cooke

There is a line between being “in poverty” and when a family can feel comfortable about what it can provide financially for itself. Our federal government defines that as $24,250 per year for a family of four.

And while not destitute, people making this amount of money feel their meager budgets tighten when an illness strikes and costs rise, as have those with health insurance.

And in Fredericksburg, it is getting increasingly difficult to even modestly raise a family on that amount, unless you are fortunate enough to have a paid-for family home, or a substantial safety net on which to fall back.

Trips to the grocery store routinely run $100 to $200 or more these days for average families. It is important to keep families, even those who are slightly above the “official” poverty threshold, in mind when making year-end donations and deciding on which charities to support in the future.

Wed
30
Dec

Looking forward to a forward-looking year

 

First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt’s famous quip still holds true today: “Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; and small minds discuss other people.”

A trait I admire from people I look up to is the ability to look forward. It doesn’t mean ignoring history or how we got to Point A, but there is some vision required in getting from Point A to Point B, whether in business, public policy or elsewhere.

From the town and state leaders, to politicos, to business and organizational heads, I like people who ask how things can be better in the future, then work toward that end.

In planning for 2016, I am trying to keep that in mind for our business, of which this community is so supportive.

We had a terrific year in 2015, being voted the top large weekly newspaper in Texas. I am super proud of our team. Each week, they help us publish a solid product for this community and beyond.

Wed
30
Dec

Give 'Joy' a chance

You’re sitting at home on a Tuesday evening relaxing in front of the television and the trailer for “Joy” — one of seven new releases to come out over the Christmas holidays — came on.

You probably had little to no idea what the hell you just saw.

It’s a film with Jennifer Lawrence and she’s shooting a shotgun and for some reason there’s Robert DeNiro and Bradley Cooper and why in the world should anyone spend their hard earned dollars watching that movie.

Ignore the trailers. The marketing execs trying to cut together clips of “Joy” haven’t gotten a movie they were trying to promote this wrong since Sony Pictures failed Cameron Crowe’s “Aloha,” ironically enough starring Cooper.

Wed
23
Dec

Community banks need consideration

By Ken Esten Cooke

As 2016 approaches, let’s hope Congress can put aside partisan bickering and address a threat to small communities — the endangerment of community banks.

Since the financial crisis in 2008, rules were made to protect consumers. Community banks, those that invest in their local communities — were saddled with many of the same regulations meant to curb bad behavior by the too-big-to-fail banks, those that took part in risky business with our deposits and then had to be bailed out by taxpayers.

Yet, lobbying by big banks has stymied efforts to bring more sense to regulatory efforts.

Ironically, the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act has helped the megabanks gain market share at the expense of the nation’s 6,000 community banks, according to the Independent Bankers Association of Texas (IBAT).

Wed
23
Dec

Daughter is full of selfless surprises

By Yvonne Hartmann 

There are lots of ways to describe our daughter, Kelsey. She is compassionate, caring, smart, sweet, opinionated, quiet, hard-headed, focused and shocking.

Shocking?

Yes, over the years she has enjoyed finding ways to surprise her father and me with her latest plans and ideas.

There was the time she was a sophomore at Texas Tech and she called home from Lubbock with the news, “I’m engaged.”

What?

Russell and I just looked at each other. Of course, we had met Levi, but at that time he was a man of few words.

Luckily, they waited until she graduated from nursing school to get married.

Then there was the time after they were married and they came home for a visit. We were sitting at Enchanted Inn munching on chips and she said, “I’m pregnant!”

Wed
23
Dec

No spoilers necessary

Heading into the seventh installment in the famed science fiction franchise, it seemed almost certain that “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” — which opened Thursday evening — would either bomb or blow viewers away. There didn’t really seem to be an in-between.

Fans were right to be cautiously optimistic about the first true sequel in the series after being let down when a much-hyped “Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace” debuted to less than glowing reviews from both critics and die-hards alike in 1999. Two subsequent prequels — “Attack of the Clones” and “Revenge of the Sith” — fared better, but neither felt up to par with the original trilogy.

Thu
17
Dec

Remembering a Texas horror film icon

By Richard Zowie —

In the Lone Star State, we often say things are bigger.

Horror movies? Here, they tend to be scarier.

I was around 15 when I decided to rent a Texas horror film to see if it was as scary as I’d heard. I’d grown weary of Jason Voorhees of “Friday the 13th,” Freddy Krueger of “Nightmare on Elm Street” and even Michael Myers of “Halloween.” Freddy was too much of a wisecracker to be taken seriously as a scary villain, while Jason and Michael’s constant returns from the dead, despite being shot, drowned, burned and bludgeoned also made them caricatures rather than ominous horror icons.

Curious, I watched “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” (TCM) to see if it was as scary as my friends had said.

It was scarier.

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