Friday, September 21, 2018

POTD: Field of Light Uluru

From 2018 03 21 Alice Springs

Today's photo-of-the-day is from Uluru (aka Ayer's Rock) at dawn. Uluru is forever. The "Field of Light" in the foreground is fleeting. It's a temporary exhibit by artist Bruce Munro. Its website says, "Overwhelming in size, covering more than seven football fields, it invites immersion in its fantasy garden of 50,000 spindles of light, the stems breathing and swaying through a sympathetic desert spectrum of ochre, deep violet, blue and gentle white." Its run has been extended until December 31, 2020.

Bonus photos after the jump.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

POTD: Obligatory Uluru Photo

From 2018 03 21 Alice Springs

Today's photo-of-the-day is from Uluru (aka Ayer's Rock), the rock that every tourist to Australia has on their bucket list. Check.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

POTD: Mount Conner

From 2018 03 21 Alice Springs

Today's photo-of-the-day is from the Outback, on the highway south of Alice Springs, Northern Territory, Australia, on the way to Uluru (aka Ayer's Rock). No, that's not Uluru in the background. It's Mount Conner, or as tour guides sometimes have to tell tourists, Mount "No, not Uluru". The soil here shows why pictures of Uluru often show it as bright red.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

POTD: Lot for Sale

From 2018 03 21 Alice Springs

Today's photo-of-the-day is from the Outback, on the highway south of Alice Springs, Northern Territory, Australia, where an optimistic real estate developer looks to have marked out lots for sale. This really should have been a 360 degree photo, as the landscape is the same in all directions. If you dream of a house without having to put up with neighbors, this could be the lot for you to build on.

Monday, September 17, 2018

POTD: A Town Like Alice

From 2018 03 21 Alice Springs

Today's photo-of-the-day is from Alice Springs, Northern Territory, Australia. The distance from my home to Alice Springs is 9,300 miles. It's a little farther to Jakarta, Indonesia, and farther still to Perth, Australia, but that's about it. South Africa, India, China, even Antarctica are not as far away. Besides actually being so far away, Alice Springs also seems so far away because it's so isolated even from other Australian cities. If you want to get away from it all, it would be hard to find a better place than Alice Springs.

Friday, September 14, 2018

POTD: The Great Ocean Road

From 2018 03 15 Melbourne

If you visit Australia, you have to see the four greats: the Great Barrier Reef (sadly, a victim of global warming), the Great Dividing Range (more like hills, but you can ski there in winter), the Great Australian Desert (aka the Outback), and the Great Ocean Road (one of the world's most scenic ocean highways on the south coast of Australia).

Bonus photos after the jump.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

POTD: Cowes, Australia

From 2018 03 15 Melbourne

Today's photo-of-the-day is from Cowes, Victoria, located on Phillip Island in southern Australia. It's a seaside town, similar to seaside towns the world over, popular as a summer getaway for residents of Melbourne, two hours away by car. The tree, which is my favorite thing in the photo, is a Golden Cypress, aka Monterey Cypress, a native of California, but introduced to Australia in the 1800s. At least I think that's what it is. I'm no botanist.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

POTD: Obligatory Koala Photo

From 2018 03 15 Melbourne

Today's photo-of-the-day is from the Maru Koala and Animal Park, located on the Bass Highway in southern Victoria, Australia. No trip to Australia is complete without seeing a koala, preferably in the wild, but in an animal park if necessary. We were fortunate to see both, but close-up only in nature parks.

Bonus photo after the jump.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

POTD: Melbourne

From 2018 03 15 Melbourne

Today's photo-of-the-day is from Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. It was taken from the Shrine of Remembrance, a war memorial built to honor Australians and New Zealanders who fought in World War I.

Bonus photos after the jump.

Monday, September 10, 2018

POTD: St Patrick's Cathedral

From 2018 03 15 Melbourne

Today's photo-of-the-day is from Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. Specifically, the Roman Catholic St Patrick's Cathedral. "St Patrick's has the distinction of being both the tallest and, overall, the largest church building in Australia."

Bonus photo after the jump.

Friday, September 7, 2018

POTD: Fitzroy Gardens

From 2018 03 15 Melbourne

Today's photo-of-the-day is from Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. Specifically, the Conservatory in Fitzroy Gardens. The park is full of surprises, like Captain James Cook's boyhood home (relocated from England), the model Tudor Village, the Fairies Tree, and, of course, the Conservatory. This photo illustrates how we can take thousands of photos on one of our trips.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

RISD TRE Information Meeting #1

The Richardson ISD held the first of many information meetings about the upcoming Tax Ratification Election. The meeting was held at the Richardson YMCA. I was there live-tweeting the show. What follows are my tweets, with only the most cursory proofreading. If I heard wrong or garbled what I heard, that's on me. Don't blame the RISD without checking your own sources first. Here, you get what you pay for.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

The Most Unknown (2018)

Rotten Tomatoes
The Most Unknown (2018): Documentary of scientists in diverse fields talking to each other about their work. Good to inspire kids about the cool places science is done (caves, oceans, mountains, etc.) but doesn't explain the science (dark matter, time, consciousness, etc.) C-

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

POTD: Melbourne's St Kilda Beach

From 2018 03 15 Melbourne

Today's photo-of-the-day is from Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. Specifically, the St Kilda beach. One doesn't usually think of Melbourne as being an ocean town. It's located at the head of enormous Port Phillip Bay, with its business center located a few miles up the Yarra River even from that bay. But take a short tram ride from the center of the city to St Kilda and, there it is — a beach, an historic pier, a classic amusement park, an historic yacht club, and an esplanade that hosts a popular weekend market.

Bonus photo after the jump.

Monday, September 3, 2018

Repeat Tweets: Car chases, Fist fights, Shootouts

Repeat tweets from August, 2018:

  • Aug 2 2018: Mission: Impossible - Fallout (2018): Much better stunts than script. The mission is to recover stolen plutonium. The "plan" constantly goes wrong and needs improvisation: car chases, fist fights, shootouts and everybody changing sides. Tom Cruise shows his age. C-
  • Aug 3 2018: Warlight: A coming-of-age novel set in London after WWII, where a boy is left by his parents "in the care of two men who may have been criminals". Why leads to a life-long quest of self-discovery. Along the way, some great adventures. B+
  • Aug 3 2018: What's new? A foreign country inflicted upon our election system systematic violations of democratic norms, and not only did we *not* consider it an act of war, our government can't stop praising the hostile foreign country responsible. Where's the outrage?

After the jump, more repeat tweets.

Friday, August 31, 2018

Review: This is How You Lose Her

This is How You Lose Her
Amazon
From This is How You Lose Her, by Junot Díaz:
Open quote 

Your girl catches you cheating. (Well, actually she’s your fiancée, but hey, in a bit it so won’t matter.) She could have caught you with one sucia, she could have caught you with two, but as you’re a totally batshit cuero who didn’t ever empty his e­mail trash can, she caught you with fifty! Sure, over a six­-year period, but still. Fifty fucking girls? Goddamn. Maybe if you’d been engaged to a super open-minded blanquita you could have survived it—but you’re not engaged to a super open­minded blanquita. Your girl is a bad­ass salcedeña who doesn’t believe in open anything; in fact the one thing she warned you about, that she swore she would never forgive, was cheating. I’ll put a machete in you, she promised. And of course you swore you wouldn’t do it. You swore you wouldn’t. You swore you wouldn’t. And you did."

Thursday, August 30, 2018

BlacKkKlansman (2018)

Rotten Tomatoes
BlacKkKlansman (2018): Undercover cops infiltrate Klan in 1970s. A broad satiric look at America's dark history, but Spike Lee slips in a word or scene now and then to show he's more interested in today than the 1970s. And he connects with a gut punch by the end. B+









Wednesday, August 29, 2018

POTD: Hosier Lane

From 2018 03 15 Melbourne

Today's photo-of-the-day is from Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. Specifically, Hosier Lane, one of the lanes and arcades of central Melbourne that make it such a fun city to walk. "The graffiti-covered walls and art-installations have become a popular backdrop for fashion and wedding photography."

Bonus photo after the jump.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

POTD: Melbourne's Lanes and Arcades

From 2018 03 15 Melbourne
Centre Place

Today's photo-of-the-day is from Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. Specifically, one of the many lanes and arcades that make the central business district so walkable.

Bonus photo after the jump.

Monday, August 27, 2018

POTD: Queen Victoria Market

From 2018 03 15 Melbourne

Today's photo-of-the-day is from Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. Specifically, the Queen Victoria Market, the largest open air market in the southern hemisphere. It has been operating since the 1860s.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

POTD: The Americans in Moscow


Spoiler alert: if you haven't seen the series finale of the television series "The Americans" you might want to stop reading here. Spoiler follows.

Today's photo-of-the-day is from Moscow, Russia, and was taken on Sparrow Hills, "a hill on the right bank of the Moskva River and one of the highest points in Moscow." But that's not what makes this photo special. Sparrow Hills is the place where the final scene of "The Americans" was set. Phillip and Elizabeth Jennings had returned to the USSR in 1987 after two decades working as undercover spies in the USA. Upon arriving in Moscow, Sparrow Hills is where they asked their driver to stop so they could get out of the car and gaze over the city they had left long ago. Ellen stands where viewers last saw Phillip and Elizabeth stand in 1987.

A screen shot from the series' final scene follows the jump.

Friday, August 24, 2018

POTD: Puffing Billy

From 2018 03 15 Melbourne

Today's photo-of-the-day is from Belgrave Station of the Puffing Billy Railway, a narrow gauge heritage railway running through the hills and forests of the Dandenong Ranges outside Melbourne, Australia.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Wonder Wheel (2017)

Rotten Tomatoes
Wonder Wheel (2017): Coney Island in 1950s. Love triangle. Looks and reads like a stage play, down to saturated stage lights. Usually Woody Allen plays a lovable neurotic. Here it's a woman and she's not lovable, just pathetic. Best line: "Oh, God, spare me the bad drama." C-









Wednesday, August 22, 2018

POTD: Sherbrooke Forest

From 2018 03 15 Melbourne

Today's photo-of-the-day is from Sherbrooke Forest, a nature preserve in the Dandenong Ranges outside Melbourne, Australia, and home to the Eucalyptus Regnans, also known as mountain ash, the tallest flowering plant in the world, and one of the tallest trees, second only to the Sequoia, or California redwood. It's one of the reasons the Dandenongs are one of my favorite spots in Australia.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Ekaterina (TV)

IMDB
Ekaterina (TV): 2014 Russian TV series on rise of Catherine the Great. Straightforward melodrama. Easy introduction to Ivan VI, Elizabeth, and Catherine and Peter III, St Petersburg's palaces and 18th century palace intrigues. Perfect preparation for a Russian vacation. C+









Monday, August 20, 2018

POTD: William Ricketts Sanctuary

From 2018 03 15 Melbourne

Today's photo-of-the-day is from the William Ricketts Sanctuary in the Victorian Dandenong Ranges in Australia. There, on a peaceful hillside nestled among towering mountain ash, from 1934 until his death in 1993, sculptor William Ricketts fashioned 92 ceramic sculptures of native fauna and flora, Aborigines and himself. Ricketts was an eccentric and a narcissist. He was an environmentalist with a New-Age spiritual attitude towards nature. He often shows himself as an Aborigine in his sculptures and in one case shows his own torso growing out of a kangaroo's hindquarters. In the 1930s, his was one of the few voices celebrating Aboriginal culture in Australia. He was ahead of his time, but today, his treatment of Aboriginal culture as primitive and childlike is considered as much condescending as ennobling. In any case, his heart was in the right place and his sanctuary remains a treasured retreat from the hustle and bustle of nearby Melbourne.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Review: Embassytown

Embassytown
Amazon
From Embassytown, by China Miéville:
Open quote 

Hosts, the indigenes, in whose city we had been graciously allowed to build Embassytown, were cool, incomprehensible presences. Powers like subaltern gods, which sometimes watched us as if we were interesting, curious dust; which provided our biorigging; and to which the Ambassadors alone spoke."

Embassytown is classic science fiction with something to say about Earth by imagining what language, consciousness, communication and colonization might be like at the edge of the universe.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

POTD: Sculling on the Yarra

From 2018 03 15 Melbourne

Today's photo-of-the-day is from the Yarra River in the central business district of Melbourne, Australia, where they have been sculling for at least 100 years.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

POTD: The Yarra River

From 2018 03 15 Melbourne
The "old" North Bank CBD

Today's photo-of-the-day is from Melbourne, Australia. It shows the Yarra River at night. When I lived in Melbourne over forty years ago, the Yarra River was an industrial blight, flowing between rail lines on one bank and factories and warehouses on the other. Today, the Yarra River is the center of Melbourne entertainment and dining. The warehouses are all gone, replaced by a convention center, a casino, condos, offices, and restaurants all along the river through the central business district. By far, this change is the most noticeable difference from the Melbourne I remember from my time living there in the 1970s.

Bonus photo after the jump.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Tig Notaro: Happy to Be Here (2018)

Rotten Tomatoes
Tig Notaro: Happy to Be Here (2018): Netflix standup routine, again based on stories from her life, but this time small, everyday pleasures: her kitten, her wife, her adopted twins, her life. It's time for a smile. Tig brings it. B+









Monday, August 13, 2018

POTD: The Colonial Tramcar Restaurant

From 2018 03 15 Melbourne

Today's photo-of-the-day is from Melbourne, Australia. Melbourne has the world's largest tram network, including some classic old cars converted into rolling restaurants. There's no better way to see Melbourne than while dining in a moving streetcar with vintage decor.

Bonus photos after the jump.

Friday, August 10, 2018

POTD: Deer Park High School

From 2018 03 15 Melbourne

Today's photo-of-the-day is from Deer Park High School in Melbourne, Australia. In yesterday's photo of the day, I mentioned that I might have ridden one of Dallas's McKinney Avenue trolleys when it was still rolling the streets of Melbourne long ago. Today's photo explains what I was doing in Melbourne way back then: teaching high school maths in Deer Park High School. This year, on my first return trip in over forty years, I revisited the school. As expected, no one I knew then is still at the school. The last teacher I served with retired only a couple of years ago. Still, good memories.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

POTD: Tram Down Under

From 2018 03 15 Melbourne

Today's photo-of-the-day is from Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. Appropriately for the land Down Under, it's a photo of a classic tram car emerging from the ground as if it's coming from the land up top. Maybe it's an homage to Amarillo's Cadillac Ranch from a city that values mass transit over gas guzzlers.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

POTD: Whales!

From 2018 01 31 Cabo San Lucas

Today's photo-of-the-day is from Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. In winter each year Humpback Whales and Gray Whales migrate south to the warm waters off Baja California where they cavort for tourists like us.

Bonus photos after the jump.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Eighth Grade (2018)

Rotten Tomatoes
Eighth Grade (2018): I'm not a 13 yr old girl. Not even 13, but if memory serves, this movie is spot on with early teen life today. Story arc is flat. Don't expect blossoming or downfall. All the best scenes are in the trailer. Acting is excellent, especially Elsie Fisher. C+

Monday, August 6, 2018

Set It Up (2018)

Rotten Tomatoes
Set It Up (2018): Two executive assistants with overbearing bosses play matchmaker for them and end up falling for each other. Because of course they do. Plays like a 90 minute pilot for a rejected TV sit-com. Stereotypical. Formulaic. Cast is OK, script is not. C-









Friday, August 3, 2018

Review: Warlight: A Novel

Warlight
Amazon
From Warlight: A Novel, by Michael Ondaatje:
Open quote 

In 1945 our parents went away and left us in the care of two men who may have been criminals."

Great novels have great opening lines. They draw the reader in from the very first sentence. Warlight by Michael Ondaatje is no exception.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Mission: Impossible - Fallout (2018)

Rotten Tomatoes
Mission: Impossible - Fallout (2018): Much better stunts than script. The mission is to recover stolen plutonium. The "plan" constantly goes wrong and needs improvisation: car chases, fist fights, shootouts and everybody changing sides. Tom Cruise shows his age. C-









Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Repeat Tweets: Collins Won't Back Court Pick...

Repeat tweets from July, 2018:

  • Jul 1 2018: Headline: "Collins Won’t Back Court Pick Who Overturns Roe v. Wade."
    This would only preclude a nominee who is on the public record calling for overturning Roe. So, we'll get a nominee who refuses to say definitively but is all but certain to overturn. And Collins will vote to confirm.
  • Jul 1 2018: Goliath: Season 2 (TV): Plot is a mess. Villain is absurd. Why some people are killed and not others makes no sense. But the characters, especially Billy and Patty, are strong and unforgettable. Patty's speech to her FBI agent date is series' highlight. I'd watch a Season 3. B-
  • Jul 2 2018: "Unfortunately civility was forcibly rebranded as "political correctness" and then taken out to the pasture and shot." -- Paul Michael Hodgson
  • Jul 2 2018: Headline: "Plano's $3 billion Legacy West is getting its own CVS store."
    When you can't decide if it's Steve Brown in "The Dallas Morning News" or "The Onion", bet on Steve Brown.
  • Jul 2 2018: Besides @marklamster's nit about the Maverick's logo ("when was the last time you saw a horse in downtown Dallas?") there's the nit that a Maverick isn't a horse in the first place.

After the jump, more repeat tweets.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

POTD: Cabo's Playa del Amor

From 2018 01 31 Cabo San Lucas

Today's photo-of-the-day is from Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. It shows Playa del Amor, a beach accessible from both sides of the Land's End peninsula at the very tippy tip of Baja California via a narrow gap in the rocks.

Bonus photos after the jump.

Monday, July 30, 2018

The Americans (TV)

Rotten Tomatoes
The Americans (TV): The series that asks if US audiences can empathize with Russian spies. Answer: yes. Spoilers from finale: Philip and Elizabeth can't run from emotional consequences. Everyone ends up in a bad place. No one's happy, except maybe McDonalds. A-









Saturday, July 28, 2018

Hannah Gadsby: Nanette (2018)

Rotten Tomatoes
Hannah Gadsby: Nanette (2018): Netflix standup special in which this Australian explains how comedy works (tension and release) and why that doesn't work for her anymore (her life story is one of unreleased tension). Raw, powerful, and yes, very funny. Straight dudes beware! A-









Friday, July 27, 2018

An Extremely Detailed Map of the 2016 Election

The New York Times has published an extremely detailed map of the 2016 presidential election that will keep mapping nerds and political junkies happily clicking away for hours. So go ahead. Click away. When you come back, I'll offer my own quick observations, some confirming my priors, some surprising me.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (2018)

Rotten Tomatoes
Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (2018): Round two of fun and romance in the Greek Isles. Over the top from the first song and dance number, with over the top costumes to match. Full of energy and joy and unabashed respect for all the old ABBA hits, it never lets up. A-

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Three Identical Strangers (2018)

Rotten Tomatoes
Three Identical Strangers (2018): Documentary of triplets separated at birth. When they discover each other at age 19, they compare looks, likes, personalities, etc. But when they try to understand why they were separated at birth, that's when the real story begins. A-

Monday, July 23, 2018

The Delphi Method Bogeyman, Again

The City of Richardson or the Richardson ISD periodically seek public input on an issue. Often it's by means of a public hearing on a proposal already on the table. You know the routine, an open mic where individuals give their opinions, pro and con. But sometimes, usually early in the process, other types of meetings are arranged, where organized group discussions take place, maybe some kind of voting happens, and a sense of the community is determined, or not. Sometimes the community is split and these meetings reveal there is no consensus. That's good to know as well. In any case, different formats for public input are useful at different times. Or at least you'd think. Not everyone agrees.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Sister Act at RCT

Repertory Company Theatre
Sister Act (RCT): If you liked the Whoopi Goldberg movie, you won't be disappointed. And if you haven't seen the movie, what are you waiting for? Infectious fun from the lead to the chorus(es) -- nuns and crooks. Support local theatre in Richardson.









Friday, July 20, 2018

Review: Alexander Hamilton

Alexander Hamilton
Amazon
From Alexander Hamilton, by Ron Chernow:
Open quote 

He was the messenger from a future that we now inhabit. We have left behind the rosy agrarian rhetoric and slaveholding reality of Jeffersonian democracy and reside in the bustling world of trade, industry, stock markets, and banks that Hamilton envisioned."

You want to see the Broadway hit hip-hop musical. First, read the bestselling 2004 biography that inspired it. Alexander Hamilton was the most fascinating of our nation's Founding Fathers, having risen from humble beginnings in the West Indies to somehow be at the center of every significant event from the Revolutionary War to the Constitutional Convention to laying the shaky young nation's economic foundation as first Treasury Secretary. And, he also fought duels.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

POTD: Of Vacation Homes and Yachts

From 2018 01 31 Cabo San Lucas

Today's photo-of-the-day is from Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, where the vacation homes hang precariously on the hillside and the yachts rock gently in the harbor. It all has kind of an artificial feel to it, a manufactured paradise. Or maybe the ennui is just that I know this is the last port of call on a long, great cruise.

Bonus photo after the jump.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Breathe (2017)

Rotten Tomatoes
Breathe (2017): True story. A beautiful young couple has everything going. Then polio strikes. Then they piece their lives back together. An earnest love story, earnestly told, by the numbers. Nothing fresh here. Still I feel bad for not loving this movie. C+