Watching the world watch Texas.

June 10, 2022

In this issue of Branding Texas: All the world’s eyes are on Texas – for a gun massacre in Uvalde, and a Uvalde native rides in on a bi-partisan horse; more on crypto-miners in rural Texas; a good deed on baby feed in Mansfield, Texas is celebrated nationally; privilege and preference behind the national sports success from Highland Park High School in Dallas; and how Crosswind’s Tom Goff and Texan Bill Broyles, the founding editor of Texas Monthly, first got Top Gun going in California back in 1983.

I hope you will take a few minutes to read the headlines and our take on them from around the world as they impact the Texas brand. Next month we will revisit our national poll on the state of the state of Texas brand. Here are last year’s results, where we reported that approximately 60-percent of Americans believe Texas is a good place to start new businesses and raise a family, a belief held even more strongly among Republicans and conservatives. And despite last year’s contentious national headlines on issues facing Texas, the brand was strong and valued. Next month, we’ll examine results to see if it remains so.

Thank you for reading.

Thomas Graham


A world shocked by the horror of a Texas shooting

For a brief moment, the premiere of Top Gun: Maverick pushed the story of Russia’s Ukraine invasion off the front pages and momentarily to secondary status in world media, until Uvalde.

The Texas tragedy was above the fold and stayed there for days in virtually all major daily newspapers the world over, ran as the lead story globally on broadcast news and topped social media around the world for more than a week – and what was said worldwide in that coverage about Texas wasn’t pretty.

By the end of May, the story had morphed and turned to dissecting the baffling inaction of local police who lingered outside doors in Uvalde while the killing went on and on.  That theme also rolled out worldwide … from London to the Financial Times and even to the Hindustan Times in faraway New Delhi, India.

The New York Times predictably railed against Republican gun-love in our state, calling out those who suggest “…that arming teachers is a way to prevent school shootings…”

In the next wave of international media revulsion headed down our way, major media are now suggesting a release of photographs of exactly what happened there when a gun vigilante attacked and mangled to death the children of his own hometown.

Kim Phuc Phan Thi, the heroic Napalm Girl whose brutal, naked photograph shook support for the Vietnam War to its core half a century ago, survived her wounds and is now a grown woman.  Ms. Phan Thi also weighed in on June 6th in an op-ed in the New York Times, “I cannot speak for the families in Uvalde, Texas, but I think that showing the world what the aftermath of a gun rampage truly looks like can deliver the awful reality. We must face this violence head-on, and the first step is to look at it.”

But it was Uvalde native and Oscar-winning actor Matthew McConaughey who wrote and then lectured on gun culture and the Texas brand,  “I am a father, the son of a kindergarten teacher, and an American. I was also born in Uvalde, Texas.”

That’s why I’m writing this.  I believe that responsible, law-abiding Americans have a Second Amendment right, enshrined by our founders, to bear arms. I also believe we have a cultural obligation to take steps toward slowing down the senseless killing of our children. The debate about gun control has delivered nothing but status quo. It’s time we talk about gun responsibility.

He took his powerful message and illustrative details of the shooting to a White House Press Briefing.

The Telegraph of London was impressed enough by the actor’s time behind the lectern, they suggest, “It was such a convincing performance that it was easily possible to imagine him there on a more regular basis.”

He very publicly considered a run for Texas governor last year, before ducking out late in year.  Perhaps he has his eyes on a higher seat?


Are crypto-miners now powering growth in Texas?

Wall Street observers, including Fortune Magazine reporter Shawn Tully, have been intrigued for some time by the incursions of so-called cypto-mining centers all across rural Texas.  These companies operate the vast banks of energy-hungry computers that maintain the global bitcoin market and trades.

According to industry newsletter Coindesk, some companies in New York have threatened to leave and move their company to Texas because of the uncertainty of New York regulation on crypto mining.

Crypto reporter Sabrina Toppa for The Street, a popular global stock-watch wire and social media site, writes: “Part of the appeal of Texas is the abundance of electricity, but the reliability of the state’s electric grid is also a major cause for concern.”

Industry newsletter Electrek, however, noted with enthusiasm last month that newly-minted Texan Elon Musk seized the opportunity and has begun shipping Tesla Megapack batteries to a giant new Bitcoin mining facility in Rockdale, Texas: “Early in 2021, Tesla invested $1.5 billion in Bitcoin. Shortly after, the automaker started accepting the cryptocurrency as payment on new vehicles.”

Blockchain expert Nina Bambysheva, writing in Forbes, reported a month earlier on the supply agreement and noted that bitcoin mine operators were adopting a so-called ‘green’ strategies: “For instance, in Texas, the latest hot spot for crypto mining, miners like HODL Ranch and publicly traded Riot Blockchain buy up excess energy when it’s not needed, then shut down their mining rigs when demand surges, releasing power back onto the grid, to ensure that there’s enough power for extreme events like ice storms and summer heat waves, or connect to grids where the majority of electricity comes from renewable energy sources like wind and solar.”


Free baby formula – Texans helping Texans

National media have been fiercely covering the baby formula shortage, following closely emergency shipments from Switzerland to Delaware by the US Air Force Airlift Command.  But USA Today, The Washington Post, and CBS, have also all featured Benji Arslanovski, a restaurant owner in Mansfield, Texas, who answered the panic by acquiring and distributing free baby formula to his own Texas community.

Arslanovski has had a close relationship with distributor US Foods for years as a supplier to his restaurants.  After casually noticing US Foods also had baby formula in stock, he decided to purchase six cases. He was certainly not in the baby food business, but in a day the six cases were gone.  So far, Arslanovski had locally brokered and distributed 56 cases (224) cans of baby formula – all for free.

It was a small response to a big problem, but it won approving national media attention for the big hearts of Texans. “The community has been great to me during COVID,” Arslanovski told reporters Merdie Nzanga and Ledyard King in USA Today, “So this is my way of returning the favor of how they took care of me.”



This Texas high school produces champions

Wall Street Journal reporter Andrew Beaton offered up in mid-May an insightful story into Highland Park High School in Dallas, home to two remarkable national sports champions.  Graduate Matthew Stafford won his first Super Bowl in February.  Recent graduate Scottie Scheffler won his first golf major at Augusta National in April.

And, reports the Journal: “The school also boasts Los Angeles Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw, along with former pitcher and current Texas Rangers general manager Chris Young. Both have won the World Series.”

What’s behind the success?  According to Beaton: “A couple things help boost Highland Park’s academic and athletic success. It’s a wealthy area with no shortage of resources. People at the school also point to the strong relationships between teachers and coaches to help the students thrive without giving them preferential treatment.”



A bit of Texas touch first set the Top Gun franchise spinning

Hard to miss the worldwide headlines announcing that the year’s top-earning film so far is Top Gun: Maverick. The blockbuster is a sequel to the film Top Gun that premiered more than 30 years ago in 1986.  A magazine article that inspired the original film was published in 1983 in California Magazine – and the advanced flight school the article featured is also in California, then operating out of Miramar Naval Air Station north of San Diego.

But it was Texas Monthly’s founding editor, Bill Broyles (born in Houston, raised in Baytown, graduate of Rice University), and by then editor of California Magazine, who made the initial story assignment to Israeli aerospace reporter Ehud Yonay.

And our own Tom Goff, strategic corporate counselor at Crosswind, who had a bit more hair on his head back then and was a journeyman editor newly moved to Hollywood, was asked by Broyles to come in to edit the piece.

Says Goff: “I remember the first draft was very late coming in and I was warned that Ehud, believed in dumping his still-rough notes on the desk of his editor at the last minute and pleading for mercy.  He finally showed up in a frantic state and I spent hours sorting and reassembling what he had delivered into the final article which got in just under the magazine’s deadline.  With the published title Top Guns (plural), it immediately won the notice of Don Simpson, bad boy Hollywood partner to Jerry Bruckheimer, who had both produced the low budget 1982 film An Officer and a Gentleman.  That was a successful romance about a Naval flight cadet but there wasn’t any flight in the 1982 movie – they didn’t have the money for aerials.”

Adds Goff: “Simpson felt that Ehud’s article was perfect for a follow-on to the earlier film.  I had also just opened a literary agency with a partner, Rosanne Keynan.  Ehud asked me to call Don Simpson back and, after far too little wrangling, Ehud demanded we close the deal.”

“I can get a new car with the money they are offering,” Goff remembers Yonay saying.

Ehud died in 2012, but apparently his formidable widow Shoshi and his son Yuval agree that author’s effort was worth more.  This week they sued Paramount Pictures, claiming that the studio owes them, as Ehud’s direct heirs, much more money because the producers of the new film, which opened this year in late May, had lost rights to the original copyright which had expired in 2020.

One more Texas connection, of course, for the film Top Gun: Maverick, is Austin’s own Glen Powell, who portrays hotshot airman Lt. Jake “Hangman” Seres and [spoiler alert] flies to the rescue of the film’s superstar Maverick.  We’ll surely hear more from Powell, his next film, Devotion out in October is an incredible true story, as Entertainment Weekly details, of a “white aviator and this Black aviator during the Korean War,” says Powell. “[They] ended up becoming the most famous aviators in naval history, pulling all these missions behind enemy lines, saving tons of marines on the ground in these terrible circumstances. One of them gets shot down and the other one crash-lands his plane to save him, and they have to fight out together.”


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