Rose Cahalan

Rose Cahalan is managing editor at the Observer and also edits the magazine’s arts and culture coverage.

By Rose Cahalan:

Ernie Stevens (left) and Joe Smarro.

How the San Antonio Police Are Rethinking Mental Health

A new documentary on policing in San Antonio makes a simple suggestion: Instead of arresting mentally ill people, listen to them.

It’s the middle of the night, and a skinny young man is slumped on a curb outside a San Antonio strip club. Officer Joe Smarro—dressed casually in jeans, sneakers, and a black polo shirt—approaches him. “What’s going on, man?” he … Read More

Samuel Woolley.

The Internet Broke Democracy. To Fix It, Design for Human Rights.

Author Samuel Woolley argues that a slew of new technologies will further degrade political life unless we rein them in.

In 2013, when Samuel Woolley began studying online misinformation as a graduate student at the University of Washington, hardly anyone was worried about the subject. Protests like the Arab Spring and Occupy Wall Street had demonstrated how activists could use … Read More

A collage of the wacky characters featured in this post.

It’s Been Weird, Y’all: Our 10 Favorite Strange Texas Stories of 2019

A monkey on the loose, a sharpshooting great-grandmother, activist witches, and more quirky news stories that caught our eye this year.

The Observer is best known for longform investigations on serious subjects. Our reporters and editors spend months immersed in heavy topics like rural suicide and racial violence. That work takes an emotional toll, which is why we can always use … Read More

“Even today, I say that my instrument is my breath. I cannot breathe without it.”

Rahim AlHaj, Iraqi Oud Virtuoso, on How Music Crosses Cultures

AlHaj, who performs in Austin on Friday, is a former political prisoner whose music fuses Eastern and Western influences.

Rahim AlHaj’s music can seem bleak at first. His 2017 album, Letters From Iraq, is a mournful meditation on the violence wrought by the U.S. military invasion of his home country. So it comes as something of a surprise that … Read More


‘Ghosts of Sugar Land’ Tracks a Texan’s Path to ISIS

In this contemplative, vulnerable new documentary, a group of friends try to understand why their former classmate embraced radical Islam.

One day in the summer of 2015, Bassam Tariq logged on to Facebook to see a long missive posted by a former friend, Warren Christopher Clark. “I am now currently living in the Islamic state,” Clark wrote. “I’m sure people … Read More

Reynolds performs The Desert at Mimms Ranch in Marfa in 2014. The site-specific work was the first part of a triptych that also included the bilingual cross-border opera, Pancho Villa From a Safe Distance.

Mr. Reynolds’ Opus

How Graham Reynolds became Texas’ top composer.

How Graham Reynolds became Texas’ top composer. by Rose Cahalan October 14, 2019 Walk into composer Graham Reynolds’ East Austin studio, and the first thing you’ll notice, perhaps surprisingly, is the books. There are two whole walls of them: floor-to-ceiling … Read More

A man takes a picture of a large snake.
News, News, Strangest State, The Issue

Strangest State: No, You Can’t Bring Your Missile Launcher on the Plane

Plus: Weirdness abounds at Wichita Falls Walmarts.

HOOD COUNTY // A man was surprisingly calm upon realizing that a rattlesnake was crawling out of his pickup’s air vent. Instead of crashing in a panic, as this reporter surely would have, Bob Crowell silently filmed a video of … Read More