Thursday, August 17, 2017

Oh, Hello on Broadway (2017)

IMDB
Oh, Hello on Broadway (2017): Comic duo plays two old NY friends. Mix of skits and standup. Relentlessly paced, eventually tiresome. C-












Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The Incredible Jessica James (2017)

IMDB
The Incredible Jessica James (2017): Aspiring playwright after a breakup. Works with kids. She's complicated. Light, fun, believable. B-











Tuesday, August 15, 2017

War Machine (2017)

IMDB
War Machine (2017): Afghanistan war. Mash of history, satire, tragedy. Brad Pitt is miscast. Mannerisms more Forrest Gump than general. B-











Monday, August 14, 2017

Richardson's Budget - Black or Red?

It's August and that means it's time for Richardson budget roulette. Will the proposed city budget be balanced? You'd think that would be a simple question. Isn't the city required by law to have a balanced budget? Well, yes, but it all depends on the meaning of "balanced".

Last year when I looked at this question, I concluded that the city's 2016-2017 budget was indeed balanced and didn't require use of that sneaky asterisk ("plus reserved fund balance and other financing sources").

After the jump, reviewing that conclusion and looking ahead at 2017-2018.

Friday, August 11, 2017

The Big Sick (2017)

IMDB
The Big Sick (2017): Mixed-culture romcom. Tension between him, her and their families. Laughs, tears, and straight drama. Great acting. B+











Thursday, August 10, 2017

POTD: Idle Oil Rigs

From 2017 01 29 Caribbean Cruise

Today's photo-of-the-day is from the Galveston Channel in Texas, where oil drilling rigs stand idle due to the prolonged slump in oil and gas prices.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Every Number Tells a Story

It's almost back-to-school time. So let's look at the Richardson ISD by the numbers. Specifically, the numbers from SchoolDigger.com: "K-12 school performance data at your fingertips." RISD's overall numbers can tell any story you want.


"Steady as she goes": RISD consistently ranks in the top half of all school districts in Texas.

"Sound the alarm": RISD dropped from the 86th percentile in 2010 to the 56th percentile in 2015.

"Back on Course": RISD climbed from 56th percentile in 2015 to 72nd percentile in 2017.

So have at it. What's your story?

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

POTD: Ready to Cast Off

From 2017 01 29 Caribbean Cruise

Today's photo-of-the-day is of the cruise ship terminal in Galveston, Texas.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Dunkirk (2017)

IMDB
Dunkirk (2017): Lots of action. Nameless, interchangeable characters. Little dialog or historical context. But powerful climactic scene. B+











Friday, August 4, 2017

OTBR: A Deer Farm in Australia

Latitude: S 37° 20.592
Longitude: E 144° 22.386

A child on a road trip with his family asks, "Where are we?" and the father answers, "Let's check the map. We're off the blue roads [the Interstate Highways marked in blue on the road atlas]. We're off the red roads [the US and state highways]. We're off the black roads [the county highways]. I think we're off the map altogether." It was always my dream to be off the map altogether.

After the jump, a few of the random places (and I mean random literally) that last month I visited vicariously (not actually) that are "off the blue roads".

Thursday, August 3, 2017

POTD: A Streetcar Named Riverfront

From 2016 12 15 Louisiana

Today's photo-of-the-day is from the riverfront in the French Quarter of New Orleans. Riverfront is not as poetic as Desire, but the Streetcar named Desire was converted to a bus line in 1948. Sigh.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

The Girl on the Train (2016)

IMDB
The Girl on the Train (2016): Psychological mystery borrows heavily from Rear Window and Gaslight. Well-crafted if maybe too predictable. B-











Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Repeat Tweets: Watch the Uninsured Rate Drop

Repeat tweets from July, 2017:

  • Jul 4 2017: RT @sparksjls: "Watch the uninsured rate drop across the country as the ACA went into effect." @sparksjls
  • Watch Texas stand out as a laggard in this animation.
  • Jul 6 2017: RT @bonojl: "Poll: Most voters blame state for school money woes." mystatesman.com
  • I'll believe it when I see it at the polls in 2018.
  • Jul 6 2017: RT @EricCeleste: "Well, now. This is super interesting." @EricCeleste
  • Good for DMN. Better late than never. A win for Jim Schutze.
  • Jul 6 2017: RT @BraddJaffy: "In a span of 13 minutes, on foreign soil, Trump trashed the American free press, the U.S. intel community, and Obama."
    Trump's own apology tour??? But who is he apologizing to? Russia?
  • Jul 6 2017: RT @GregAbbott_TX: "Join me in a statewide call to stand with law enforcement on July 7. Let's band together to #BackTheBlue."
    You didn't stand with Texas police chiefs who opposed SB4.

After the jump, more repeat tweets.

Monday, July 31, 2017

POTD: How Can Something So Sweet...

From 2016 12 15 Louisiana

How can something so sweet come from some place so gritty? Today's photo-of-the-day is from Domino Sugar's Chalmette Refinery on the Mississippi River below New Orleans.
The Chalmette refinery typically produces about 2 billion pounds annually, or about 7 million a day. That generally accounts for about 19 percent of the country's cane sugar.
Bonus photo after the jump.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Chasing Coral (2017)

IMDB
Chasing Coral (2017): Documentary of massive die-off of coral worldwide due to global warming. Not 2100. Today. When will world wake up? A-











Thursday, July 27, 2017

A Conversation About Health Care

In response to the GOP effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), I was sucked into a Facebook conversation (I know, I know better). Spoiler alert: I was against repeal. For the possible amusement of my future self, I reproduce the conversation here (well at least my part, which is only slightly edited). The "points" in favor of repeal are greatly condensed (hey, it's my blog; if you want your say, that's what the comments are for). The "counterpoints" are my own wordy answers. The whole thing was kicked off by a third person's comment that taking health insurance away from millions of people is not the Christian thing to do.



Point: As a method to "help" people, Obamacare further entrenches health care within the swamp that is "political ideology."

Counterpoint: As a method to "help" people, I propose making health care affordable and accessible to all, whether that involves charity (which is individuals acting for the good of others) or government (which is us, acting collectively for the general good). In contrast, supporting removing health care from millions is elevating political ideology above the teachings of Jesus.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

POTD: Any Port in a Storm

From 2016 12 15 Louisiana

Today's photo-of-the-day is from the Mississippi River below New Orleans.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Okja (2017)

IMDB
Okja (2017): Korean girl & her giant pig. Evil meat industry. Bumbling animal rights activists. Heavy-handed. Who was intended audience? C-











Monday, July 24, 2017

POTD: Beignet, Anyone?

From 2016 12 15 Louisiana

Today's photo-of-the-day is from the French Quarter in New Orleans.

Bonus photo after the jump.

Friday, July 21, 2017

POTD: The Neon Lights of Bourbon Street

From 2016 12 15 Louisiana

Today's photo-of-the-day is from the French Quarter in New Orleans.
Neon Lights
Shimmering neon lights
And at the fall of night
This city's made of light.

I dream of you
With me tonight
We're all alone
Under neon lights.

Bonus photos are after the jump.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Get Out (2017)

IMDB
Get Out (2017): Psychological thriller. Guess Who's Coming to Dinner in The Twilight Zone. Big reveal is silly. Best PR for TSA ever. B+











Wednesday, July 19, 2017

A Clarification, Apology and Grace

A morality play in five acts...
  • Preface: Lynn Davenport challenged an incumbent for a seat on the Richardson ISD school board. She lost.
  • Curtain rises...

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

POTD: Reverend Zombie's House of Voodoo

From 2016 12 15 Louisiana

Today's photo-of-the-day is from the French Quarter in New Orleans. No, that isn't the Reverend Zombie in the doorway. And, no, there's no truth to the story that this is the facility where Ellen's bone marrow transplant was performed. #FakeNews

Monday, July 17, 2017

Engraftment

From 2017 06 30 UT Southwestern

Pop quiz: Which of the following describes the photo above?
  1. Dallas 4th of July fireworks as seen from Ellen's hospital room
  2. X-ray of Ellen's intestinal system after chemotherapy
  3. Joy in my heart when Ellen's bone marrow transplant engrafted
  4. All of the above

The correct answer is "All of the above" but the Fourth of July is long gone and the nausea is mostly gone, so "engraftment" is the answer that prompts this celebratory post. Engraftment is when, after a bone marrow transplant, new blood-forming cells start to grow and make healthy blood cells that show up in your blood. It is an important milestone in your transplant recovery. Ellen has reached that milestone. After chemotherapy and full body radiation, Ellen's white blood cell count had dropped to zero, as intended. Within three days of engraftment of transplanted stem cells, her white blood cell count rebounded to "normal" range, a level Ellen hasn't seen in two years. She was discharged from the hospital to continue her recovery at home. I'd say that's reason enough for fireworks. Celebrate.

More photos after the jump.

Friday, July 14, 2017

POTD: Let the Good Times Roll

From 2016 12 15 Louisiana

Today's photo-of-the-day is from a wedding celebration in the French Quarter of New Orleans.

A bonus photo is after the jump.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

The BFG (2016)

IMDB
The BFG (2016): Orphan girl helps BFG end bullying in Giant Country. Sweet, even with CGI fart jokes. Good for kids and sick adults. C+











Wednesday, July 12, 2017

POTD: Rollin' on the River

From 2016 12 15 Louisiana

Today's photo-of-the-day is from the stern of the Steamboat Natchez on the Mississippi River in New Orleans.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

The Salesman (2016)

IMDB
The Salesman (2016): Iran. Collapsing apartment; collapsing relationship. Actor's wife is attacked. Tale of revenge with powerful ending. B-











Monday, July 10, 2017

Crocodile Tears

From his perch in a downtown Dallas skyscraper, D Magazine's Peter Simek gazes northward and professes to see all that's wrong in Collin County. Too many people. Congested roads. Crowded schools. Cheap apartments. All caused by a focus on economic growth based on a car-centric infrastructure. Simek could have shifted his gaze downward, but didn't. It's not like Dallas's own lack of growth has been the magic formula for fixing potholes.

Now I don't live in either the City of Dallas or Collin County. From my own vantage point in Richardson, I see shells being lobbed over my head. And like shells in real wars, some are on target and others widely miss their mark. All do more damage than offer constructive criticism. Just because I'm feeling cranky today, let's look at the shells that landed wide of their mark.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Review: The Sympathizer: A Novel

The Sympathizer
Amazon
From The Sympathizer: A Novel, by Viet Thanh Nguyen:
Open quote 

The month in question was April, the cruelest month. It was the month in which a war that had run on for a very long time would lose its limbs, as is the way of wars. It was a month that meant everything to all the people in our small part of the world and nothing to most people in the rest of the world. It was a month that was both an end of a war and the beginning of . . . well, 'peace' is not the right word, is it, my dear Commandant?"

"The Sympathizer" is a novel of the aftermath of the Vietnam War from the point of view of an undercover Vietnamese agent who describes himself as "a spy, a sleeper, a spook, a man of two faces." His ability to see any issue from both sides makes him an invaluable narrator for Americans to make sense of that horrible war.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

POTD: Great Moral Conflict

From 2016 10 10 Washington DC

Today's photo-of-the-day is from the Martin Luther King Memorial in Washington, DC.

"The hottest place in Hell is reserved for those who remain neutral in times of great moral conflict."
— Martin Luther King

Evergreen words. One of our generation's great moral conflicts is the battle over universal health care.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

OTBR: Illinois Farm Land

Latitude: N 42° 06.870
Longitude: W 088° 31.524

A child on a road trip with his family asks, "Where are we?" and the father answers, "Let's check the map. We're off the blue roads [the Interstate Highways marked in blue on the road atlas]. We're off the red roads [the US and state highways]. We're off the black roads [the county highways]. I think we're off the map altogether." It was always my dream to be off the map altogether.

After the jump, a few of the random places (and I mean random literally) that I visited vicariously (not actually) last month that are "off the blue roads".

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

POTD: Happy Fourth

From 2016 10 10 Washington DC

Today's photo-of-the-day is from the base of the Washington Monument in Washington, DC. George Washington. Now he was a President.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Repeat Tweets: CEO of GE: Climate Change is Real

Repeat tweets from June, 2017:

  • Jun 1 2017: RT @JeffImmelt: "Disappointed with today’s decision on the Paris Agreement. Climate change is real. Industry must now lead and not depend on government." CEO of GE is just discovering what the rest of us have known for months. This government can't be depended on to do the right thing, ever.
  • Jun 1 2017: Right move by Elon Musk, but a little late to shower him with any praise. Only when his electric car business was threatened did he act.
  • Jun 1 2017: RT @rachelheldevans: "It's just so damn short-sighted, so isolationist and small, so gleefully ignorant, so pointless. #ParisAgreement" But it does piss off liberals, so there's that in its favor, according to scorecard used by Trump and the right.
  • Jun 1 2017: "A crucial crack in an Antarctic ice sheet grew 11 miles in only 6 days." Make Antarctica Great Again.
  • Jun 1 2017: Five Came Back (TV): Doc of 5 Hollywood directors who enlist in WWII to make movies for the war effort. Fascinating behind-the-scenes look.

After the jump, more repeat tweets.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Day Zero


The Prelude is over. In the next movement, shit gets real.

The day you receive your new cells is often called "Day Zero". It's your new birthday. The cells are put into your body through an intravenous line. The procedure is like a blood transfusion. The donated cells 'know' where they belong in the body. They move through your bloodstream to settle in your bone marrow. This is where the cells will begin to grow and produce new red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Schutze vs Lieber; Toler vs Schutze

In May, Lynn Davenport lost her bid for a place on the Richardson ISD school board. Afterwards, Dave Lieber of The Dallas Morning News wrote about the election campaign. Lieber listed a harassing tweet, rumors about Davenport's conservative politics, and a hack of her website that redirected traffic to a porn site. Lieber wrote, "Her problems stemmed, she believes, from her opponent's veteran political consultant, C.P. Henry of Dallas." That accusation in Lieber's column caught the attention of Jim Schutze of The Dallas Observer.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Anne with an E (TV)

IMDB
Anne with an E (TV: 2017): Simple story of a charming, imaginative girl turned into something much darker. Whimsy is lost. So is Anne. C+











Tuesday, June 27, 2017

POTD: The Test of Our Progress

From 2016 10 10 Washington DC

Today's photo-of-the-day is from the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial in Washington, DC.

"The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little."
— Franklin Delano Roosevelt

Evergreen words. Will this generation fail the test?

Monday, June 26, 2017

E Pluribus Unum. Or Not.

E Pluribus Unum. A sentiment as dead as the Latin it's written in.

I'm collecting words that I used to think were universally considered to be virtues, like motherhood and apple pie. You know, words like tolerance, and compromise, and civility. And even kindness. Spoiler alert: many conservatives no longer consider those to be virtues. Now there's another word to add to the growing list: unity.

Friday, June 23, 2017

POTD: Honoring Those Who Served in WWII

From 2016 10 10 Washington DC
Today's photo-of-the-day is from the National World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C.

There were 16,112,566 members of the United States Armed Forces who served during World War II. Today, these veterans' ranks are rapidly diminishing with age. In 2016, the Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that 372 World War II veterans were dying every day (Wikipedia).

A bonus photo is after the jump.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Café Society (2016)

IMDB
Café Society (2016): Nostalgic '30s Hollywood & NY clubs & parties. Golden cinematography. Typical Woody Allen dialog. Watchable trifle. B-











Wednesday, June 21, 2017

POTD: Neenah Everywhere

From 2016 10 10 Washington DC

Today's photo-of-the-day is from Washington, DC. Don't just look up at the monuments, look down at your feet, too. No matter where you are, the chances are good that, stamped in iron, the name of Neenah, Wisconsin, will be there, even at the base of the Washington Monument. The Neenah Foundry has been manufacturing cast iron manhole covers, gratings, and similar items since 1872 for use all over the country and world.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

The Beginning of the End for DART

With the runoffs to Dallas City Council races over, three incumbents were defeated. There are, perhaps, many reasons to cheer the overturning of the old guard in Dallas. But the future of DART for Richardson is not one of them.

As reported in December, 2016, the Dallas city council voted unanimously on a resolution that did not include the Cotton Belt line as one of its transit priorities. Then, it named Patrick Kennedy to the DART board. Kennedy is opposed to converting the Cotton Belt line to passenger service from Richardson to the DFW Airport. I concluded with, "Richardson is going to have a fight on its hands to get that Cotton Belt line developed." Developments since then have only gotten worse. It's not just the Cotton Belt line at risk, but the whole DART system.

Monday, June 19, 2017

POTD: Let's Go Fly a Kite

From 2016 10 09 Alexandria
A belated Happy Father's Day to all fathers. Today's photo-of-the-day is from the Washington Monument in Washington, DC., where a father is flying an eagle-shaped kite with his two girls.

A bonus photo is after the jump.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Heathers: The Musical at PHS


Heathers: The Musical at PHS: Cliques, bullies, damaged kids. Black comedy with a body count. Meaty subject for high school. Powerful.

Another photo after the jump.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016)

IMDB
Fantastic Beasts (2016): Magical suitcase mixup in 1920s NYC. Hogwarts meets Jumanji, Ghostbusters, Alien & MIB. See any of them instead. C-











Wednesday, June 14, 2017

POTD: Congress In Her Hand

From 2016 10 10 Washington DC

Today's photo-of-the-day is from Washington, DC, where for a brief moment, Ellen held Congress in her hand. All in all, a better arrangement that maybe should have been made permanent.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Passengers (2016)

IMDB
Passengers (2016): Think Robinson Crusoe in space. Or The Martian with fewer challenges to solve. Or a love story with a jerk of a guy. C-











Monday, June 12, 2017

The Future of Education

As always, society is engaged in a great battle for the future. Education is ground zero. The New York Times reports on how the heads of tech giants like Netflix, Facebook, and Salesforce are using philanthropy to try to improve education.
In the space of just a few years, technology giants have begun remaking the very nature of schooling on a vast scale, using some of the same techniques that have made their companies linchpins of the American economy. Through their philanthropy, they are influencing the subjects that schools teach, the classroom tools that teachers choose and fundamental approaches to learning.

Friday, June 9, 2017

POTD: No Glory

From 2016 10 09 Alexandria

Today's photo-of-the-day is from the streets of Alexandria, Virginia.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Joshua: Teenager vs. Superpower (2017)

IMDB
Joshua: Teenager vs. Superpower (2017): In Egypt, Russia, even America, democracy retreats. Here, it's Hong Kong. Hope lies in youth. B+











Wednesday, June 7, 2017

OTBR: Blueberries and Stones in the Czech Republic

Latitude: N 49° 07.494
Longitude: E 015° 15.450

A child on a road trip with his family asks, "Where are we?" and the father answers, "Let's check the map. We're off the blue roads [the Interstate Highways marked in blue on the road atlas]. We're off the red roads [the US and state highways]. We're off the black roads [the county highways]. I think we're off the map altogether." It was always my dream to be off the map altogether.

After the jump, a few of the random places (and I mean random literally) that I visited vicariously (not actually) last month that are "off the blue roads".

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Wonder Woman (2017)

IMDB
Wonder Woman (2017): Best. Superhero. Ever. Movie is smart, funny, romantic, even believable for a comic book movie. Please, no sequels. B+











Monday, June 5, 2017

Richardson Needs Inclusionary Zoning

The Dallas Observer's Jim Schutze scolds the Dallas City Council for trying to drive poor people to the suburbs by restricting low-income housing options in the city. He supports instead what is called inclusionary zoning.
In New York, Mayor Bill de Blasio has made inclusionary zoning the centerpiece of an ambitious affordable-housing program. It’s basically a win-win bargaining tool for cities dealing with developers who want to build more units on one piece of land than the law allows.

We’re talking about zoning law, which is well within the purview of city councils to amend. In other words, the council can change the law at the stroke of a vote and give developers some or all of what they want. Under inclusionary zoning, before the council gives away the company store, it is required to ask for a little something in return for the people in the way of affordable-housing units.
I doubt this will be popular, but if Dallas wants to drive poor people out of their city, cities like Richardson ought to accommodate them.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Bob Townsend, 1933-2017


Mayor Voelker honors Bob Townsend

The City of Richardson announced that former Mayor and longtime city council member Bob Townsend passed away.
Townsend was first elected to the City Council in 2001 and served until deciding not to run for re-election earlier this year. His term ended last month. During his time on the Council, Townsend also served as Mayor from 2011-2013, Mayor Pro Tem from 2007-2011 and again from 2013-2015.
To mark the sad occasion, we republish Bob Townsend's responses to questions posed by The Wheel last year in our first (and so far, only) online Town Hall Meeting.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Alien: Covenant (2017)

IMDB
Alien: Covenant (2017): Inept crew, androids and aliens like monkeys in Oz. Exploding bodies. Dripping goo. Joe Bob says check it out. C+











Thursday, June 1, 2017

Repeat Tweets: Iconic Art Space is At Risk

Repeat tweets from May, 2017:

  • May 2 2017: Have you ever been to the UT-Dallas Art Barn? This may be your last chance. The iconic art space is at risk.
  • May 2 2017: The Circle (2017): Telegraphed morality tale about loss of privacy to online big data. Nothing novel here. Watch Black Mirror instead. C-
  • May 3 2017: "James Comey Says He's 'Mildly Nauseous' at Suggestions He Swayed Election." Word nerd alert: Yes he is and he makes me feel nauseated.
  • May 4 2017: Beauty and the Beast (2017): Visual feast but uninspired remake of Disney 1991 animated movie. Most believable beast and love story yet. C+

After the jump, more repeat tweets.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (2017)

IMDB
Pirates of the Caribbean (2017): Jack Sparrow's an old drunk. Movie franchise is just old. Too many characters. Too many ships. Too much. D+











Tuesday, May 30, 2017

POTD: Politics Gone

From 2016 10 09 Alexandria

Today's photo-of-the-day is from the streets of Alexandria, Virginia.
From before the election.
When America was Great.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Review: Hillbilly Elegy

Hillbilly Elegy
Amazon
From Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis , by J.D. Vance:
Open quote 

I didn’t write this book because I've accomplished something extraordinary. I wrote this book because I've achieved something quite ordinary, which doesn't happen to most kids who grow up like me. You see, I grew up poor, in the Rust Belt, in an Ohio steel town that has been hemorrhaging jobs and hope for as long as I can remember. The statistics tell you that kids like me face a grim future—that if they're lucky, they'll manage to avoid welfare; and if they're unlucky, they’ll die of a heroin overdose, as happened to dozens in my small hometown just last year."

I had high expectations from this highly-praised 2016 bestseller. It would explain the mentality of poor and lower working class whites, of Fox News viewers, of Trump voters. Or so I thought.