A ’70s-themed Mellow Mushroom has sprouted in downtown Arlington

When people see the lava lamps, the tie-dyed shirts and the name “Mellow Mushroom” on the top of the building, they may confuse this pizza parlor for a psychedelic store.

“I like the fact that some people question the atmosphere and the name right off the bat when they see it,” owner Montie Slawson said. “They don’t realize that it’s some of the best pizzas you can ever eat.”

Montie Slawson and his wife, Kim Slawson, own the 1970s inspired Mellow Mushroom in Arlington, which opened Sept. 5 on the corner of Front and Center streets.

They also own the Fort Worth location, which was the first Mellow Mushroom in Texas.

The Slawsons, who grew up in Grand Prairie, remembered cruising up and down Cooper and Mitchell streets in the 1980s when they thought about building a location in Arlington.

“We just figured this was going to be the best spot,” Montie Slawson said.

Every Mellow Mushroom has the same ingredients in the pizza, hoagies, and appetizers — but each restaurant, including the new location in downtown Arlington, offers a different ambiance.

“Every Mellow Mushroom you go to in the country is going to have its own unique atmosphere, but it’s still going to keep with the Mellow Mushroom’s peace, love and happiness decor,” service manager Tiffany Alderson said.

Montie Slawson said the Fort Worth location has a “hippie-chic meets hacienda” look with a lot of wood and a homier feel.

They wanted to keep the same ’70s theme in the Arlington location, but with a more updated look.

“I wanted a more futuristic, space-shippy type look, and that’s what we went with,” Montie Slawson said.

The dining room is consumed with color as rainbow squares pave a path on the floor of the entryway, lava lamps and mushroom art adorn the walls and servers walk around in brightly tie-dyed shirts.

The theme carries on to the name of the pizzas, including Kosmic Karma, Funky Q Chicken, and Philosopher’s Pie.

A hippie-styled theme may set the mood for the Arlington location, but Alderson said it’s the food that makes Mellow Mushroom one-of-a-kind.

Mellow Mushroom is one of the few pizza restaurants to offer vegan-friendly ingredients and gluten-free dough.

“Our dough separates us from any other pizza place in the world,” Alderson said as she listed off unrefined flour, molasses, wheat germ, and fresh Georgia spring water as the ingredients.

Tatiyana Kellough, undeclared sophomore and server, said she likes the dietary options the restaurant offers.

“I think it’s awesome. I’m a vegan and this is like the closest vegan place to campus,” Kellough said.

Ronnie Venable, international business sophomore and server, said she likes that the corporate office seems very “laissez-faire” about how individual stores are run.

“It’s pretty laid back, and the owners are really involved,” Venable said, adding that the owners would help with a task as small as moving a trash can. “They really care about how things run.”

Courtesy of The Shorthorn

September 8, 2011

Full article here


Community rallies for children of victims in roller rink shooting

A radio station, a movie theater, and a roller rink. These things would normally not be grouped together, but their employees worked to help a family in need when a tragedy tugged at the heart strings of a community.

Radio personality Adam Bomb, host of the Adam Bomb Show on KLIF-FM, heard about the July shooting at Forum Roller World in Grand Prairie that left a daughter and son without their parents.

Tran Do, husband of UTA employee Trini Do, opened fire during his son’s 11th birthday party at the roller rink, killing himself and five other family members.

The children are now staying with family in Texas. Bomb knew he had to help.

“I heard about the children and what happened about a couple of weeks ago, and then I went directly to the program director, John Foxx, and the promotions director, Vanessa Thill,” Bomb said. “

We wanted to do something somewhere.”

So, the radio station worked with Studio Movie Grill in Arlington to raise money for the children. The theater presented early-morning movies on Aug. 13 and donated all the proceeds to the fundraiser.

Bomb said that approximately 500 people showed up and more than $1000 was raised for the family — but it didn’t end there.

Walt Hedrick, the owner of Forum Roller World, heard what Bomb and the theater were doing for the children and wanted to do his part support the cause.

“I just feel like being left without two parents, they are going to have a hard life, and we’re just trying to create something that they can use for a college education,” Hedrick said.

A week after the charity event at Studio Movie Grill, KLIF-FM partnered with the roller rink to raise more money for the children. He said the family was amazed to have any fundraiser held for them.

“They were shocked that anybody took any notice to them,” Bomb said. “The first thing they said was, ‘Wow, we didn’t know anybody cared or paid attention.’ People paid attention.”

Marketing junior Ryan Stielher works for KLIF-FM and was at Forum Roller World for the fundraiser. He said the shooting in July shocked him, but he was happy to be helping the family.

“I’m honored to be a part of the event,” Stiehler said. “I love the fact that the radio station is in support of the cause.”

Though the radio station hasn’t planned any more events as of publication, donations can still be made to the family.

Tarrant County Commissioner Andy Nguyen stepped in soon after the tragedy to encourage the community to help the children.

“Commissioner Nguyen recognized a need for these children, so he began making some calls and working with attorneys to set up a trust fund for the children,” assistant precinct administrator Kelly Rodriguez said. “They deserve a chance at a good life.”

Donors can contribute to the fund, called the Paul and Anna Do Trust, by visiting anyChase Bank location and asking to make a donation. Rodriguez said the exact amount donated to the trust fund is unknown because donors contribute at any given time, but she knows that one donation was an estimated $30,000.

Engineering junior Si Nguyen was a friend of Michelle Ta, UTA employee and Trini Do’s sister, who was also killed in the shooting. He said the charity events were a great idea.

“I was really happy when I found out that they were holding it for the children,” Si Ngyuen said of the event at Studio Movie Grill.

Si Nguyen said that the family and himself are still in the process of healing, but things are getting better.

“At first, it was pretty sad, but now I know that she’s in a better place so she won’t have to worry about anything,” Nguyen said. “It was pretty devastating at first, but now everything seems to be OK.”

Courtesy of The Shorthorn

August 30 2011

Full article here

Ghengis Khan exhibit conquers Irving Arts Center

In a small stage setting surrounded by 13th century artifacts and curious spectators, a Mongolian dance troupe performs traditional dances to ethnic music in brightly colored costumes. As they elegantly spin and jump, the dancers demonstrate what they understand to be the significance of the historical collection.

The dance troupe, composed of students originally from Mongolia, is

performing until Sept. 1 at Genghis Khan: The Exhibition in the Irving Arts Center. The exhibit includes Mongolian artifacts, small-scale weapon demonstrations, performances and video screens.

The legacy of Genghis Khan is not only evident in Mongolia. His empire’s influence is seen around the world, some historians say.

“The importance of the Mongols is that they ushered in global history,” exhibit cultural consultant Morris Rossabi said. “The greatest contacts occurred during the reign of Khubilai Khan, [Genghis Khan’s] grandson.”

Rossabi said during Khubilai Khan’s reign, the Mongols made their first contact with Europe and China, which “would have tremendous ramifications on science, philosophy and the arts” around the world.

The artifacts range from eccentric musical instruments to colorful robes, including an original diplomatic passport on display — an item that was pioneered at the time of the Mongolian Empire.

Visitors learn that Khan also introduced items still in use today such as pants, paper money, eyeglasses and forks.

The entire exhibit is kept chilly to appease the needs of the mummy known as “The Princess Giant.” She is believed to be an unusually tall noblewoman whose remains were found in a Mongolian cave. Her robes, casket and belongings suggest she was a prominent woman.

Following “The Princess Giant” is a look into the life of a warrior. Volunteers demonstrate the uses of a bow and catapult in front of full scale models of a trebuchet and triple-bow siege crossbow.

Toward the end of the exhibit, the dancers take turns performing in front of an audience of all ages. The dancers imitate animals, warriors and other aspects of their native culture.

“Dance is a big part of the Mongolian culture,” Arslanbaatar said. “In nomadic life, there’s also some spare time, so you bring out your instrument and start playing or start dancing.”

Enkhzaya Myamochir, 16, added that remembering Mongolian culture extends to the home life.

“We celebrate holidays and any type of ritual we have. We’d always keep them lively,” Myamochir said. “We try not to forget our culture as much as we can.”

Courtesy of The Shorthorn

August 23, 2011

Full article here

The story of Bob– beyond his film

The Richland Chronicle

Nov. 9, 2010


His name is Robert Crawford, but to anyone who has had either the pleasure or misfortune of knowing him, he is just Bob.

At 58, he spends most of his days wandering around downtown Dallas, usually in Deep Ellum where he revels in the music scene. He is often seen carrying his keyboard, wearing a lanyard with a set of keys attached, and asking unsuspecting drivers for rides.

He has no car, no income, and an apartment that’s paid for by an anonymous donor.

On the surface, Bob seems to be just another dirty, old homeless person panhandling on the streets.

However, this strange man was interesting enough to producer and co-director Lisa Johnson that she decided to follow his story and record his life on film in the documentary titled His Name is Bob.

“It was a moment,” Johnson said. “I looked at him and the word documentary came up because there’s a story there.”

During filming, the layers of the onion began to peel back and it was soon apparent that there was more to Bob’s story than just a man walking the streets of Dallas.

To begin, Bob found himself in the city when he was about 40. His sister left him at a street corner on Swiss Avenue and never returned. That was the second time Bob had been abandoned.

When he was 8, his mother took him to the Laconia State School for the Feeble-Minded in New Hampshire, the state Bob is originally from. She never came back to see him.

He sometimes talks about the verbal and physical abuse he suffered from his mother and the workers at the institution.

It’s possible that this abuse, along with a blow to the head he suffered at a young age affected his mental capacity, giving him an IQ of 63.

Despite his harsh life, Bob seems to have overcome the hardships and moved on.

“He is so content after living such a horrible life,” Heather Lee, producer of the film, said. “He still likes other human beings and he’s not afraid of them.”

He coped with his anxiety at first by drinking. Though he admittedly became an alcoholic, he’s been sober since April 4, 1970.

“I haven’t touched a drop in 40 years,” Bob said.

Before he came to Dallas, Bob was involved in the African Methodist Episcopal Church where he would play the organ. He learned how to play several hymns while he was there, but he doesn’t know how to read music and plays by ear.

Bob can also recite scripture from the Bible by heart including his favorite verse, John 3:16.

The documentarians agree that others’ reactions to Bob as a person says a lot about their spirituality.

“Bob is sort of a litmus test of your spiritual condition,” Johnson said. “What does your reaction to his dirtiness say about you? What does your reaction to his forthrightness say about you? So, he’s always informing me of what my condition is.”

Since Bob doesn’t own a vehicle, his main forms of transportation include walking and hitching rides from others. Somehow, he finds a way to get everywhere he wants to go including to music events and his volunteer job at the Pocket Sandwich Theater.

“He kind of floats around like an angel,” Ms. Lee said. “That’s the poetic way of saying it.”

Whatever the circumstances of an encounter with Bob are, he is bound to create some sort of reaction from people, both negative and positive. He can spark annoyance, interest, intrigue and disgust.

“My least and most favorite thing about Bob is if you spend more than 30 minutes with him, you’re guaranteed to feel almost every human emotion that’s been created, and some are unidentifiable,” Sebastian Lee, co-director and producer, said.

Bob manages to capture the hearts of people by just being who he is. The filmmakers who told his story still keep in touch with Bob and spend time with him.

“He’s our friend, he really is our friend,” Johnson said.

His Name is Bob is currently being shown at film festivals around Texas and other states.

It was recently a film winner at the Fall Indie Fest in Grand Prairie. Bob wants his story to be shared with others and, if nothing else, he hopes that people will listen to his message: “go with God and he will go with you.”

He is a 58-year-old man who was abused and abandoned by his family. He is a social person who is not afraid of people. He is a musician, a Christian, and a friend.

His name is Bob.

Courtesy of The Richland Chronicle


Lawsuit against DCCCD over free speech violations and gender discrimination ends

The Richland Chronicle

May 11, 2011

Image Matilda Saenz

A federal lawsuit involving Mountain View College President Dr. Felix A. Zamora and former Vice President if Instruction Dr. Matilda Saenz has come to a close after a nearly year-long court battle.

The Dallas County Community College District Board of Trustees approved a settlement agreement in the case of Dr. Matilda Saenz v. DCCCD in the April 5 board meeting.

The board went into executive session to discuss the agreement with the district’s attorney, Robert Young. When they reconvened in open meeting, the board voted to approve the settlement. The details of the agreement have not been published for public record.

Saenz could not discuss the terms of the agreement due to “rules of confidentiality” and she would not comment on the specifics of the case.

However, she did say that she is looking for “re-employment in higher education administration.”

Saenz was hired to MVC in 2004 and she filed the suit against the district on April 13, 2010, less than three weeks after Zamora suspended her.

The suit was filed in response to Zamora, who allegedly made “efforts to damage and/or harm Plaintiff’s leadership and competence and to continually retaliate, harass, and/or otherwise cause harm to Plaintiff in every way he possibly could,” according to the Plaintiff’s Original Complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas.  Zamora has been MVC’s president since 2004 and he is currently chairing the search for Richland College’s president.

According to the complaint, she sued the district “for federal and state constitutional and/or statutory violations, for breach of contract, and under the Federal Declaratory Judgment Act.”Of the claims filed, Saenz accuses Zamora of violating her freedom of speech and due process, and of discriminating her because of her sex.

Zamora and Dr. Wright Lassiter, chancellor of DCCCD, both did not respond to phone calls and messages left at their offices.

Saenz and all five instructional deans of MVC sent Zamora an electronic memorandum “regarding fiduciary concerns and the potential impact on student learning” which would result from a proposed 2.5 percent budget cut for the budgets of each academic division” in addition to a reduction of $150,000 directed by the Vice President of Business Services for Mountain View, Sharon Davis, according to the Factual Background in the complaint.

Lassiter was copied on the memorandum, which was sent on May 26, 2009. Upon receiving the memorandum, Zamora called and left a message asking Saenz to call him back. Saenz was out of town at the time attending the closing ceremonies for the National Institute of Staff and Organizational Development conference in Austin.

When Saenz got in touch with Zamora, he reportedly called her and the other deans “hysterical” and said that her actions “bordered in insubordination.” As Zamora heard Saenz’s rationale for the memorandum, he yelled, “I don’t care.”

Later, in a meeting between the Vice President of Instruction Staff at Mountain View on June 3, 2009, the court documents say Zamora “acted unprofessionally and conducted himself in behavior unbecoming of a college president.” Soon after the meeting, Zamora gave Saenz a negative evaluation and placed her on a Performance Improvement Plan. Before this, Saenz had received exemplary evaluations for four full years.

In July, following the first graduation ceremony for the Instructional Administrative Institute, which Saenz chaired, her husband, Ruben, was told that his contract would not be renewed. On July 30, 2009, he received written notice of this news. The complaint suggests that the non-renewal of his contract came without warning suspiciously soon after the memorandum was sent to Zamora.

The complaint continues to say that Zamora retaliated against Saenz by denying her professional development opportunities which she was involved in the past (such as the annual Texas Association of Chicanos in Higher Education 2010 Conference), not preparing her for meetings by not providing agendas, and forcing her to send administrator-in-charge email notifications whenever she was out of the office sick or for a meeting.

Saenz filed a grievance against Zamora on Nov. 30, 2009 along with a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission “based upon perceived gender discrimination and other retaliatory actions taken by Zamora.” According to the Second Amended Complaint, on “November 16, 2009, Defendant’s Human Resources Department and Legal Counsel informed Plaintiff that she could not pursue this grievance…”.

Finally on March 26, 2010, Zamora informed Saenz that she was immediately suspended and that she was to remove all of her belongings and clear out of the school that day.

The district motioned for partial dismissal of three of Saenz’s claims and sent an answer to the Plaintiff’s First Amended Complaint.

DCCCD admitted that Zamora received the memorandum entitled “Budget Implications for Instruction at Mountain View College.” The district also admits that upon contacting Saenz, Zamora said that “Plaintiff’s actions ‘bordered on insubordination'” and he may have responded, “I don’t care” after hearing her rationale for the email. Zamora also indicated that the memorandum was “not appreciated.”

In response to the allegations of the termination Ruben Saenz’s contract, the district pointed out that “Plaintiff’s husband was an ‘at will’ District employee who was hired as a Program Grant Coordinator and classified as professional support staff.”

The district continues to say that Saenz did not attend professional development opportunities due to her “failure to observe appropriate procedures for attending such events” or because she chose not to attend the conferences.

DCCCD also admits that Saenz was reassigned to another position within the district on March 26, 2010.

Shortly before Saenz was informed that her contract would not be renewed, the faculty at Mountain View voted “no confidence” in Zamora on March 11, 2010.

In the document entitled “Summary of Grievances”, compiled by MVC’s faculty association, the claims include that “President Zamora has demonstrated a lack of respect and support… has serious and disruptive disagreement with the Vice President of Instruction…has taken retaliatory actions against faculty, staff, and administrators… [and his] management of the college budget lacks adequate planning and transparency and has adversely affected instruction.”

Mountain View College spokeswoman Marci Garrott told the Dallas Morning News in a March 16, 2009 article that some of the concerns date back to when Zamora was appointed president, while others have developed through time.

DCCCD spokeswoman Ann Hatch told the DMN that while there is no formal policy to address a “no confidence” vote, “the district’s chancellor, Dr. Wright Lassiter Jr., is confident that both President Felix Zamora and the faculty at Mountain View can address issues that concern those faculty members and implement steps to resolve them.”

Hatch was contacted by the Chronicle for comment on the issue, but she was unaware at the time if steps to resolve the concerns of the faculty had been taken.

Currently, Saenz is staying in south Texas with her husband and visiting her children when she can. She is working on several books about the educational challenges she’s encountered in her career.

Courtesy of the Richland Chronicle