Tuesday, March 19, 2019

POTD: Swan Lake at the Mikhailovsky Theatre

From 2018 08 13 St Petersburg

Today's photo-of-the-day is of the ballet Swan Lake at the Mikhailovsky Theatre in St. Petersburg, one of Russia's oldest opera and ballet houses, founded in 1833. A beautiful performance in a magnificent venue.

A bonus photo after the jump.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Captain Marvel (2019)

Rotten Tomatoes
Captain Marvel (2019): Satisfying origin story. Plot twist halfway added interest and created real world parallels to this fictional universe. Too many fist fights for aliens with super powers and advanced technology. Go to defy Internet trolls who hate there's a female lead. B-




Friday, March 15, 2019

POTD: More Onion Domes

From 2018 08 13 St Petersburg

Today's photo-of-the-day is of the onion domes of the Smolny Cathedral on the Neva River in St Petersburg, Russia. According to Wikipedia, "This Russian Orthodox convent was built to house Elizabeth, the daughter of Peter the Great. After she was disallowed succession to the throne, she opted to become a nun. However, her Imperial predecessor, Ivan VI, was overthrown during a coup d'état (carried out by the royal guards in 1741). Elizabeth decided against entering monastic life and accepted the offer of the Russian throne."

Yeah, that's the story. As if Elizabeth had nothing to do with the coup and would have been happy retiring forever to a convent. Russian women could be just as ruthless and cunning as any Russian man in history.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

POTD: Architecture as Art

From 2018 08 13 St Petersburg

Today's photo-of-the-day is of some unknown ship and building along the Neva River in St Petersburg, Russia. No story this time. The patterns just caught my eye. Not everything has to have great historic or cultural significance, even in the capital city of the tsars.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

POTD: The "Other" Hermitage

From 2018 08 13 Catherine Palace

Today's photo-of-the-day is of the Hermitage at the Catherine Palace outside St Petersburg, Russia. It's a totally different Hermitage than the famous art museum of the Winter Palace. I know, I know, St. Petersburg is so stuffed with treasures that they cannot even find unambiguous names for everthing. In this case, hermitage means a retreat or sanctuary. It's a totally separate building from the palace, smaller of course, but still large and luxurious in any modern sense. It was used by the tsars for summer parties.


Tuesday, March 12, 2019

POTD: Ceramic Stove

From 2018 08 13 Catherine Palace

Today's photo-of-the-day is of a ceramic stove inside the Catherine Palace outside St Petersburg, Russia. I don't know how these worked, as there was no obvious chimney. Also of interest are the cheek-by-jowl paintings covering the walls.

Monday, March 11, 2019

POTD: The Hall of Lights

From 2018 08 13 Catherine Palace

Today's photo-of-the-day is of the ballroom, the Hall of Lights, in the Catherine Palace outside St Petersburg, Russia. What can be said? Lavish to the point of excess.

A bonus photo after the jump.

Friday, March 8, 2019

POTD: Golden Onion Domes

From 2018 08 13 Catherine Palace

Today's photo-of-the-day is from the church that is part of the Catherine Palace outside St Petersburg, Russia. One thing that surprised this tourist is not only how many churches there are in Russia, but how many survived 75 years of Communism. Many have been restored as national treasures. Some have been re-sanctified as churches. Others have been restored as museums.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

POTD: Ekaterina I

From 2018 08 13 Catherine Palace

Today's photo-of-the-day is from the Catherine Palace outside St Petersburg, Russia. It was the summer home of the tsars. It was named after Peter the Great's wife and successor, Empress Catherine I (not the later Catherine the Great, who began the Hermitage art collection in the Winter Palace that we've seen in previous POTDs). There are so many palaces and tsars and tsarinas that tourists can be forgiven for not keeping them all straight.

Bonus photo after the jump.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

POTD: The Throne Room

From 2018 08 12 Winter Palace & Hermitage

Today's photo-of-the-day is from the Winter Palace in St Petersburg, Russia. The Winter Palace houses the Hermitage Museum, which is one of the world's great art museums, but it's impossible to overlook that this building was also home of the tsars. As you wander from one art gallery to the next, you keep running into rooms like this. Go for the history, go for the architecture, go for the art, but do try to go.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

POTD: Just a Malachite Vase

From 2018 08 12 Winter Palace & Hermitage

Today's photo-of-the-day is from the Hermitage in St Petersburg, Russia. It shows a malachite vase, but it's not the Giant Malachite Vase, nor is it in the Malachite Room. I guess it's just a run-of-the-mill malachite vase. Such is the excess of treasures on display in the Winter Palace.

Monday, March 4, 2019

Russian Doll (TV 2019)

Rotten Tomatoes
Russian Doll (TV 2019): Brash New Yorker is caught in looping, connected timelines as she keeps dying and rebooting at her birthday party. Quirky, original, absolutely captivating, with a satisfying ending as well. Can't wait for Season 2, but where can Natasha Lyonne take it? A+

Friday, March 1, 2019

Idle Thoughts: Why I Hate Analogies

Tweets from February, 2019:
  • Feb 1 2019: Why I hate using analogies.
    "Analogies, in particular, can illuminate, but they can also obscure and confuse. They need to be handled carefully, like rhetorical high explosives."
  • Feb 1 2019: Mamma Mia! at PHS: The music of ABBA onstage in RISD. Pop hits before these kids were born, maybe before their parents were born, brought back to life with great fun. Live orchestra, great voices, big cast. Be sure to stay for the curtain call and dance in the aisles.
  • Feb 1 2019: In this drama, the role of "American woman" is played by Donald Trump.
    American woman: I think you're cheating on me.
    Russian boyfriend: If you'd just agree to an open relationship, it wouldn't be cheating.
    American woman: Deal.

After the jump, more idle thoughts.

Thursday, February 28, 2019

POTD: Raphael Loggias in the Hermitage

From 2018 08 12 Winter Palace & Hermitage

Today's photo-of-the-day is from the Hermitage in St Petersburg, Russia. This photo is not the throne room or a ballroom, but of a humble hallway. It's the gallery known as the "Raphael Loggias, designed by Giacomo Quarenghi and painted by Cristopher Unterberger and his workshop in the 1780s as a replication of the loggia in the Apostolic Palace in Rome frescoed by Raphael." (Wikipedia).

Bonus photo after the jump.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Review: There There

There There
Amazon
From There There, by Tommy Orange:
Open quote 

But what we are is what our ancestors did. How they survived. We are the memories we don’t remember, which live in us, which we feel, which make us sing and dance and pray the way we do, feelings from memories that flare and bloom unexpectedly in our lives like blood through a blanket from a wound made by a bullet fired by a man shooting us in the back for our hair, for our heads, for a bounty, or just to get rid of us."

There There is a short novel of many characters, each with a story of what it means to be a Native American in an urban setting, in this case Oakland, California.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Leave No Trace (2018)

Rotten Tomatoes
Leave No Trace (2018): A combat veteran and his teenage daughter live off the grid in the Oregon forest. A character study of his inability to return to civilian life and the strains that places on her. An understated, touching look at one case of the "unhoused." B-

Monday, February 25, 2019

POTD: Leonardo's "Madonna Litta"

From 2018 08 12 Winter Palace & Hermitage

Today's photo-of-the-day is from one of the world's great museums, the Hermitage in St Petersburg, Russia, founded by Catherine the Great. On most days, like this one, the Hermitage hosts huge crowds of tourists, all come to see art treasures like Leonardo da Vinci's "Madonna Litta". In this case, I found the tourists more photogenic than the artwork.

A bonus photo after the jump.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

POTD: Doorway to Riches

From 2018 08 12 Winter Palace & Hermitage

Through these doors lie some of the world's great artworks. Come in and browse. Today's photo-of-the-day is from one of the world's great museums and historic palaces: the Hermitage, founded by Catherine the Great, housed in the Winter Palace, home of Russian tsars for 200 years, from Peter the Great to Nicholas and Alexandra.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Hale County This Morning, This Evening (2018)

Rotten Tomatoes
Hale County This Morning, This Evening (2018): Oscar nominated documentary about life in rural Alabama. Cinéma vérité, a style I loved when I first came across it in 1975 (Frederick Wiseman's Welfare), but am now more likely to find simply mundane and tedious. C-

Friday, February 22, 2019

The Wheel Award for Excellence in Motion Pictures

The Academy Awards will be given out February 24, 2019. This will be the third year in a row that I've seen all the nominees for Best Picture before the Oscar is awarded. That means my opinion means something. Right?

2018 had a diverse set of movies, as did 2017. I'm not in complete agreement with the Academy's choices, but overall, I'm not complaining with the nominees they've given me to vote on (even though they haven't actually, you know, given me a vote on anything).

Thursday, February 21, 2019

The Wheel Award for Excellence in Animated Short

IMDB
There are five movies nominated for an Oscar for Animated Short. My own pick for the Oscar, if I had a vote, would be for

  • One Small Step (USA and China): Young girl dreams of being an astronaut. With perseverance, the support of her father, and the shoes he makes for her (One Small Step, get it?), her dream...well, you'll just have to watch yourself. A-




Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Not Just On Track, It's Double Track


Maybe lost in the higher profile news of the last couple of weeks (the Scott Dunn "bimbo" tweet and the Laura (Maczka) Jordan bribery trial) was news that will likely have a longer term impact on Richardson. And it's good news! I'm talking about the decision to double-track the Cotton Belt line.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

The Wheel Award for Excellence in Live Action Short

IMDB
There are five movies nominated for an Oscar for Live Action Short. My own pick for the Oscar, if I had a vote, would be for:

  • Fauve (Canada): Two boys play in the woods, on a train track, in a surface mine, until they get in trouble. Fun and games turns serious. Good acting. A complete short story in 17 minutes. A-





Monday, February 18, 2019

"Einen veritablen Shitstorm"

"Einen veritablen Shitstorm." That's how Kronen Zeitung, a German-language Austrian newspaper, described the reaction to Richardson, Texas, City Council member Scott Dunn's ill-advised tweet. If somehow you've been on another planet for the last two weeks and don't know what I'm talking about, read the Recap. If you just want my opinion on the whole sorry mess (oops, I may have given myself away there), jump to "My Not-So-Hot Take".

Sunday, February 17, 2019

POTD: Winter Palace and Hermitage Museum

From 2018 08 13 St Petersburg

Today's photo-of-the-day is from St Petersburg, Russia. It's a photo of one of the world's great museums and historic palaces: the Hermitage, founded by Catherine the Great, housed in the Winter Palace, home of Russian tsars for 200 years, from Peter the Great to Nicholas and Alexandra.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

POTD: "The Worst Hard Time"

From 2018 06 17 Pueblo
Ike Osteen's life spans the flu epidemic of 1918, the worst depression in American history, and a world war that ripped apart the globe. Nothing compares to the black dusters of the 1930s, he says, a time when the simplest thing in life -- taking a breath -- was a threat.
Source: Adam Johnson.
Today's photo-of-the-day is from the Texas Panhandle. It may not look like much, but it's one of the earth's great landscapes, flat and stretching in all directions to the horizon. It's in the heart of the Dust Bowl, the site of perhaps the nation's worst ecological disaster in our history (at least until our own impending global warming disaster). Drive through it sometime. Stop the car. Get out. Take it in.

Bonus photo after the jump.

Friday, February 15, 2019

Oscar Snubs

Each year, when the Academy hands out its Oscar nominations, it snubs some deserving films. Some of my favorites from 2018 weren't nominated. Let's call these snubs, even if very few (none) of the critics liked these movies as much as I did. In hindsight, I'd only add one, "If Beale Street Could Talk," to the list of eight movies the Academy did nominate. So, I'm not complaining. But before we get all caught up in the Oscar ceremony, let's take a moment to remember these overlooked gems from 2018.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

POTD: "In Every Grain of Sand"

From 2018 06 14 Great Sand Dunes NP
In every outthrust headland, in every curving beach, in every grain of sand there is the story of the earth.
Source: Rachel Carson.
Today's photo-of-the-day is not on a beach. It's not within 900 miles of any ocean. It's from the Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado. And there's a great story of the earth there. Go and read it sometime. And play in the sand when you do.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Homecoming (TV 2018)

Rotten Tomatoes
Homecoming (TV 2018): Julia Roberts as a social worker helping soldiers adapt to civilian life. Or not. The mysterious program messes with her as much as the soldiers. The narrative arc is flat, the resolution unsatisfying. No meaty roles here, except her overbearing boss. C+

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

POTD: Herd on the Street

From 2018 06 12 New Mexico

Today's photo-of-the-day was taken on the street in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Kind of creepy if you ask me, but there's no accounting for taste. I ask: is it any creepier to buy one of these than it is for me to take a photo of all of them?

Monday, February 11, 2019

Review: The Gulf

The Gulf
Amazon
From The Gulf: The Making of An American Sea, by Jack E. Davis:
Open quote 

For a people to be permanently settled without the requirement of food crops was rare in North America and across the globe—a luxury, in a way. There was no imperative, either, for the Calusa to migrate from hunting ground to hunting ground stalking food, because it came to them. Big fish, little fish, shrimp, sea turtles, crabs, lobsters, manatees, and even sharks, whales, and West Indian seals—it was all easy gathering with spear, net, or quick hand."

500 years of the story of the Gulf of Mexico: natural history, politics, economics, you name it, it's all here. What it was when the Europeans found it in the 15th century (see the quote above) to what it is today (we'll get to that). And a lot of things that have been done to it along the way.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

The Other Side of the Wind (2018)

Rotten Tomatoes
The Other Side of the Wind (2018): Orson Welles's last, unfinished film, about the making of a documentary about the making of an aging director's last, unfinished film. An art film, a satire on Hollywood movie-making, but mostly a self-indulgent, bloated mess. D+

And, if this isn't meta enough for you, there's the documentary about Welles making this movie. It's "They'll Love Me When I'm Dead."

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Annihilation (2018)

Rotten Tomatoes
Annihilation (2018): Mysterious DNA mutations happen inside a nature preserve. The danger is growing. Five carefully chosen actresses (er, scientists) are sent in to investigate. Shimmering woo, attacks by CGI monsters, and meetings with Rorschach-like aliens ensue. Bad. C-

Friday, February 8, 2019

POTD: Kitchen Makeover

From 2018 06 12 New Mexico

Today's photo-of-the-day was taken at Meow Wolf in Santa Fe, which is an immersive art experience that is,..., well,..., you just have to visit it yourself.

Bonus photo after the jump.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

RISD and SMD and CVAP

It's another blog post full of acronyms and numbers. Bear with me, please.

The Richardson ISD school board formally adopted single-member districts (SMD) for upcoming elections. Five trustees will be chosen by voters in geographic districts and two will be chosen at-large by all voters. The districts were carefully drawn to ensure two of them would have minority populations that make up a majority of the voters in those districts. The data show how tenuous that turned out to be.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

They Shall Not Grow Old (2019)

Rotten Tomatoes
They Shall Not Grow Old (2019): Documentary footage from WWI, brilliantly restored and colorized by Peter Jackson, with added sound and voices. No historians or generals, only soldiers on the front lines. No one not there can know what it was like but this is next best thing. A-

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

POTD: Santa Fe Spider


From 2018 06 12 New Mexico

The spiders in Santa Fe are yuuuge. Today's photo-of-the-day was taken at Meow Wolf in Santa Fe, which is an immersive art experience that is,..., well,..., you just have to visit it yourself.

Monday, February 4, 2019

Random Thoughts: Picked Off One By One

Random thoughts from January, 2019:
  • Jan 2 2018: Bird Box (2019): The rule in "A Quiet Place" was "don't talk." Here, it's "don't look." Not quite a zombie movie, but a close cousin. Movie cuts between the present and five years before, which robs the earlier scenes of all suspense. Large wasted cast, picked off one by one. C+
  • Jan 2 2018: Texas Governor Abbott hates taxes more than he likes kids.
  • Jan 3 2018: RT @RepColinAllred: "On my first day in Congress, I'm proud to lead the charge against this partisan lawsuit attacking Americans’ health care. We will not stand idly by while special interest forces and their allies in Washington look to rip away health care from millions of hard-working Americans."
    God it feels good to have a Texas representative in Washington finally standing for individuals.

After the jump, more random thoughts.

Sunday, February 3, 2019

High School Musical at BHS


High School Musical at BHS: High school musical about trying out for a high school musical. Kinda meta. With great singing, dancing, a live orchestra, talented tech and an inspiring message of "We're all in this together!", it all makes for a fun night of musical theater in RISD.

More photos after the jump.

Saturday, February 2, 2019

Legally Blonde at RHS


Legally Blonde at RHS: A rom-com, a murder mystery, and a coming-of-age tale with a #MeToo subplot. Add in talented singing, dancing, laughs, a large cast, a live orchestra and a talented theater tech team and you have a fun night of musical theater in RISD.

More photos after the jump.

Friday, February 1, 2019

Mamma Mia! at PHS


Mamma Mia! at PHS: The music of ABBA onstage in RISD. Pop hits before these kids were born, maybe before their parents were born, brought back to life with great fun. Live orchestra, great voices, big cast. Be sure to stay for the curtain call and dance in the aisles.

Bonus photo after the jump.

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Idle Thoughts on "The Map"

The whole universe depends on everything fitting together just right. If one piece busts, even the smallest piece...the entire universe will get busted.
The Richardson ISD is adopting single-member election districts. The proposed map is drawing many comments, pro and con. The more I think about all the different careabouts this map has to balance, the more interesting it is. Here are a few of my own idle thoughts. OK, maybe not so few.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

RISD Single-Member Districts: The Public Speaks

Finally, after a long year of school board trustees discussing the lawsuit in executive session, after a long year of lawyers sparring over procedural issues in court, the public finally got a chance to weigh in on the Richardson ISD's legal settlement agreeing to introduce single-member districts in elections.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Let's Quit Fixing Potholes

The City of Richardson has council elections coming up in May. Community Impact Newspaper has published Q&As with five candidates. Snippets of the responses are below. I've chosen to focus on what is the classical focus of local government, what I'll call fixing potholes. Here is what Bob Dubey (Place 1), Mark Solomon (Place 2), Janet DePuy (Place 3), Franklin Byrd (Place 3), Dan Barrios (Place 3), and Ken Hutchenrider (Place 5) have to say. And afterwards, why I say let's quit fixing potholes.

Monday, January 28, 2019

On the Basis of Sex (2019)

Rotten Tomatoes
On the Basis of Sex (2019): If this were fiction, you'd knock it for having an obvious arc. But it's not. It's a dramatization of why every girl, every woman, and yes every man owes RBG a debt of gratitude. She's not just a character on SNL. She's a real American superhero. A-

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Cinderella at LHHS


Cinderella at LHHS: Great singing, dancing, live orchestra, sets, costumes, sound and lighting by RISD students, music and lyrics by Rodgers and Hammerstein, what's not to like? A delightful evening of musical theater. Support local live theater. Support RISD.

More photos after the jump.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Donald J. Ozymandias

Just a reminder that while we're bringing our country to its knees over a border wall with Mexico, the atmosphere and oceans continue to warm, threatening pretty much everything in the country we're supposedly trying to protect.

Consider this headline ripped from this week's news: "Pentagon Fears Confirmed: Climate Change Leads to War, Refugees." I tell you, it's not the wall, it's climate change that we ought to be focused on. If you want to stop refugees, start by stopping climate change.

From Immigration Impact

Friday, January 25, 2019

How Richardson Can Combat Climate Change

Just a reminder that while we're bringing our country to its knees over a border wall with Mexico, the atmosphere and oceans continue to warm, threatening pretty much everything. But instead of wringing our hands over Washington's abdication of responsibility to do something about this existential threat, we can and ought to look closer to home for at least partial or incremental solutions. The Washington Post recently published an op-ed with ideas, the first of which is aimed right at the City of Richardson.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

No Drive-Through for Eiland

The Richardson City Council rejected an application from Eiland Coffee Roasters for a location off US 75 in Richardson.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

The Wife (2018)

Rotten Tomatoes
The Wife (2018): Glenn Close as the quiet, reserved wife behind a man awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature...until the awards ceremony brings her true self to the fore. An important lesson in gender roles. Great performances by both Close and Jonathan Pryce. B+

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Lessons for the City from RISD

The Richardson ISD has settled a voting rights lawsuit by agreeing to change its at-large election system into a hybrid system of five single-member districts and two at-large. What can the City of Richardson learn from RISD's experience?

Monday, January 21, 2019

Crazy Rich Asians (2018)

Rotten Tomatoes
Crazy Rich Asians (2018): Traditional rom-com. Super rich boy falls for super smart girl. Obstacle? His family disapproves. Only thing novel about it is the large Asian cast. Change mahjong to bridge and it could be set in the Hamptons. Biggest plus? The jokes aren't racist. C+

Friday, January 18, 2019

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Struggle: The Life and Lost Art of Szukalski (2018)

Rotten Tomatoes
Struggle: The Life and Lost Art of Szukalski (2018): Documentary of forgotten Polish sculptor. At first it seems like a profile of quirky, eccentric old man living in SoCal. Later, when his career in Poland between the wars is covered, it gets much deeper and darker. C+

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

POTD: Cross of Burgundy

From 2018 06 12 New Mexico

Today's photo-of-the-day is of the flags flying at the Palace of the Governors in Santa Fe Plaza, the oldest continuously occupied public building in the United States of America.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

They'll Love Me When I'm Dead (2018)

Rotten Tomatoes
They'll Love Me When I'm Dead (2018): Documentary of last, unfinished film by Orson Welles, which was going to be a movie within a movie, or maybe a documentary of making it. Sad how an egocentric genius lost his creative spark and focus. Movie fails to get inside his head. C+

Monday, January 14, 2019

Friday, January 11, 2019

POTD: New Mexico Highway Hazards

From 2018 06 12 New Mexico

Today's photo-of-the-day is from rural New Mexico, specifically on Highway 14 ("The Turquoise Trail") between Albuquerque and Santa Fe. The sign warns of the two biggest road hazards in New Mexico: loose cattle and UFOs.


Thursday, January 10, 2019

If Beale Street Could Talk (2018)

Rotten Tomatoes
If Beale Street Could Talk (2018): James Baldwin's tale of young love victimized by the justice system. Beautiful looking film that is at times touching, infuriating, and inspiring. Great acting from whole cast. Set in 1970s, it could be a story of today. An important film. A-

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

POTD: Gas Oil Groceries Campground

From 2018 06 12 New Mexico

Today's photo-of-the-day is from just west of Tucumcari, New Mexico, along historic Route 66, "The Main Street of America" and John Steinbeck's "Mother Road."