Friday, May 31, 2019

POTD: Church of the Nativity in Krokhino

From 2018 08 17 Kirillo-Belozersky Monastery

Today's photo-of-the-day is from the former village of Krokhino, Russia, along the Baltic-Volga waterway. When the canals were built connecting the Baltic Sea to the Volga River and on to the Caspian Sea, Krokhino was flooded. The ghostly Church of the Nativity still stands in shallow water along the waterway.

After the jump, a photo of the photographer.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

POTD: Kizhi Island

From 2018 08 16 Kizhi

Today's photo-of-the-day is from Kizhi Island, in Lake Onega in northern Russia, the second largest lake in Europe, after Lake Ladoga, also in northern Russia. Churches on the island date back at least to the 15th Century. Today the entire island forms a national open-air museum and UNESCO world heritage site.

The 22-dome Church of the Transfiguration has two legends. One is that it was built on the site chosen by none other than Peter the Great, on a visit in the early 1700s (although modern historians agree that any visit by Peter at all is unlikely, to say nothing about him locating the site of the church). The other legend is that it is built entirely of wood (although we distinctly witnessed carpenters hammering away as part of restoration work).

Bonus photos after the jump.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

POTD: Windows of Mandrogy

From 2018 08 15 Mandrogy
Today's photo-of-the-day is from Mandrogy, Russia. The photos are of various windows in the village.
Verkhnie Mandrogi, or "Upper Falls," was once a small village on the banks of the Svir between Lake Ladoga and Lake Onega. The town was ruined during World War II and disappeared from maps for many years. But in 1996 an enterprising Russian, Sergei Gutzeit, got the idea of reconstructing it as a sort of open air museum about traditional Russian villages for the benefit of travelers taking river cruises between St. Petersburg and Kizhi. It has a small hotel and several houses built of brightly painted pine logs, windmills, vodka and bread museums, craftspeople (potters, weavers, jewelers, etc.), a moose farm, a stable, an archery range, trout and carp fishing, and a small zoo featuring bears, raccoon dogs and other animals.
Bonus photos after the jump.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

City Council Runoff Voters Guide

Runoff election day for Richardson City Council is Saturday, June 8, 2019. Early voting runs from Tuesday, May 28, until Tuesday, June 4. One place is on the ballot: Place 3. All registered voters in Richardson are eligible to vote. The candidates are Janet DePuy and Dan Barrios. I explained the issues that mattered most to me in the Voters Guide published before the May 4 election. I won't repeat that here. Instead, let's jump right to the recommendation.

Monday, May 27, 2019

POTD: Mandrogy, Russia

From 2018 08 15 Mandrogy

Today's photo-of-the-day is from Mandrogy, Russia.
Verkhnie Mandrogi, or "Upper Falls," was once a small village on the banks of the Svir between Lake Ladoga and Lake Onega. The town was ruined during World War II and disappeared from maps for many years. But in 1996 an enterprising Russian, Sergei Gutzeit, got the idea of reconstructing it as a sort of open air museum about traditional Russian villages for the benefit of travelers taking river cruises between St. Petersburg and Kizhi. It has a small hotel and several houses built of brightly painted pine logs, windmills, vodka and bread museums, craftspeople (potters, weavers, jewelers, etc.), a moose farm, a stable, an archery range, trout and carp fishing, and a small zoo featuring bears, raccoon dogs and other animals.
Ignore the vodka museum and the moose farm and focus solely on the landscape. I was struck by how much the river cruise on the Svir River reminded me of northern Wisconsin. In hindsight, I guess I shouldn't have been surprised — both are at about the same latitude and the northern forests at that latitude stretch pretty much around the world. The cottage in the woods on the lake is as much a staple in Russia as it is in Wisconsin.

OK, I admit that house in the photo above is not typical of Wisconsin. But check out the bonus photos after the jump. If the cottage and the lake don't say Wisconsin, I don't know what does.

Friday, May 24, 2019

Review: Normal People

Normal People
Amazon
From Normal People, by Sally Rooney:
Open quote 

In school he and Marianne affect not to know each other. People know that Marianne lives in the white mansion with the driveway and that Connell’s mother is a cleaner, but no one knows of the special relationship between these facts."

And so begins the story of Marianne and Connell, two young people in school in west Ireland growing up, growing apart, and growing together again, over and over.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

The Hustle (2019)

Rotten Tomatoes
The Hustle (2019): Rebel Wilson and Anne Hathaway play simple cons on rich dupes on the French Riviera. Because the cons are so simple, the only mystery is what is going to be the big twist, which by the time it comes, you might have lost interest. Wasted talent but watchable. C+




Wednesday, May 22, 2019

POTD: St Petersburg Canals

From 2018 08 14 St Petersburg Canals

Today's photo-of-the-day is from the canals of St Petersburg, Russia. Historical. Beautiful. Magical.

Bonus photos are after the jump.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Bodyguard (TV 2018)

Rotten Tomatoes
Bodyguard (TV 2018): British war veteran with PTSD picked as bodyguard for ambitious Home Secretary. A thriller with terrorism, assassination, and blackmail. Plenty of whodunnit head-scratching. Maybe best, it packs an emotional punch as our hero deals with his own demons too. A-




Monday, May 20, 2019

POTD: Peterhof Grand Cascade

From 2018 08 14 Peterhof

Today's photo-of-the-day is from the bottom of the Grand Cascade outside Peterhof, the palace built by Peter the Great of Russia.

Bonus photos are after the jump.

Friday, May 17, 2019

Hello I Must Be Going

The Richardson City Council saw two council members step down, Marta Gómez Frey and Mabel Simpson, after serving only two terms. In contrast, Steve Mitchell and Mark Solomon are beginning their eighth term and sixth term, respectively. At the end of this coming term, both of them will also step down, being the first council members affected by Richardson's term limits. At Monday's City Council meeting, Frey and Simpson gave valedictories, full of gratitude to family and friends, citizens, colleagues, city management and staff.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Love, Death & Robots (2019)

Rotten Tomatoes
Love, Death & Robots (2019): Sci-fi anthology series. Animation and blended animation/live action. Stories are hit or miss, too many with gratuitous nudity or battles or violent monsters. None really thought-provoking. But entertaining escapism for 10-15 minutes at a time. B-




Wednesday, May 15, 2019

The Wandering Earth (2019)

Rotten Tomatoes
The Wandering Earth (2019): Chinese sci-fi blockbuster. Sun is dying. Salvation lies in rocketing Earth to another solar system. Things go haywire using Jupiter as slingshot. Preposterous. Absurd. Silly. Non-stop crises. Stock characters. But better than Snowpiercer, barely. D+




Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Concern Over Growth Sparks A Revolution In Richardson

Elections in Richardson have long followed the pattern of most suburban cities: low interest, low turnout, and long tenure for incumbents.
...
This [year], however, the status quo in Richardson was radically reshuffled. After an unusually spirited campaign, voters dumped three incumbents.
Source: D Magazine.
Just kidding. That D Magazine story is not from this year. Or 2015. It's from 1987. But it's worth reading. It's like seeing Richardson in a funhouse mirror, an alternate universe where the Palisades scandal resulted in the defeat of Mayor Maczka and key council members in their re-election bids in 2015. But in our reality, in case you forgot, Mayor Maczka and four council members ran unopposed in 2015. The issue in 1987 was a familiar one. Only the electoral outcome was different.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Wine Country (2019)

Rotten Tomatoes
Wine Country (2019): Six women travel to Napa for a 50th birthday. What happens is less party than mid-life crisis and group therapy. Could have been better if they had picked a lane, either lol comedy or Albee's Virginia Woolf. Instead we get Thoreau's quiet desperation. C+




Saturday, May 11, 2019

Long Shot (2019)

Rotten Tomatoes
Long Shot (2019): Rom-com with Seth Rogen as speechwriter for Sec. of State Charlize Theron. Surprisingly, the movie works despite its preposterous premise and a gratuitously gross key plot point. Charlize Theron on molly looks like it was as fun for her as for the audience. B+




Friday, May 10, 2019

Review: Bluebird, Bluebird

Bluebird, Bluebird
Amazon
From Bluebird, Bluebird, by Attica Locke:
Open quote 

She wondered if the sheriff had arrived yet, if the mess that had washed up in her backyard this morning was still there, that girl lying out there all alone. She had a vague worry about what all this might do to her business, but mostly she tried to comprehend what in God’s name was happening to the town in which she’d spent all her sixty-nine years. Two bodies inside a week. What in the devil was going on?"


Bluebird, Bluebird is a detective story, set in the fictional small town of Lark, somewhere in east Texas. It has things to say about the state of race relations in east Texas, and about the complex relationships in small towns everywhere. It's this year's selection for Richardson Reads One Book.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

What to do at Richardson Square

A developer is looking to build along Plano Rd and Belt Line Rd on land previously used for parking lots for the old Sears in Richardson Square. Obviously, Sears has no need for the parking. Demand for parking at Sears was never great to begin with, so development of some kind is not a bad idea. But here's why this developer's idea is a bad idea.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Knock Down the House (2019)

Rotten Tomatoes
Knock Down the House (2019): Documentary about 4 women who challenged Dem incumbents in 2018. One is AOC but all four are worth watching. An inside look at retail politics. AOC won for many reasons but every Democrat should watch her dissect her opponent's out-of-touch mailer. B+




Tuesday, May 7, 2019

The Ice House Goeth


Many residents of Richardson may not even be aware of the Ice House. I've lived in Richardson since 1984 and this little white building on the south side of Main Street just east of Greenville Ave. has only been like something in my peripheral vision all of that time. It's been standing vacant for as long as I can remember. But I was at least aware of it. I even knew it as "the ice house." As years went by, the most remarkable thing to me was that the ice house was still standing — vacant, ignored, overlooked by time and development, but still standing. If rumors are true, that's all about to change. So, I did a little research. Just a little, but enough to cement its place in my heart.

Monday, May 6, 2019

You (TV 2019)

Rotten Tomatoes
You (TV 2019): Boy meets girl. Boy is charming, if a bit creepy. Girl tends to fall for the wrong guys, and the wrong girlfriends. Things get worse from there, much worse. It's all just plausible enough to suspend your disbelief and go along for the wild ride. B+




Sunday, May 5, 2019

Seven Takeaways from City Council Election

Richardson City Council election winners:
  • Place 1: Bob Dubey
  • Place 2: Mark Solomon (unopposed)
  • Place 3: Run-off: Janet DuPuy, Dan Barrios
  • Place 4: Kyle Kepner
  • Place 5: Ken Hutchenrider
  • Place 6: Steve Mitchell (unopposed)
  • Mayor: Paul Voelker (unopposed)

My congratulations to the winners and my sincere admiration to all who put themselves out there for voters to judge. I believe strongly in Theodore Roosevelt's words, "It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena."

Now, on to this critic's takeaways. It's said that political pundits can always spin a story to explain any election results, no matter how close, in a way that makes it sound like the result was inevitable. So, which story do you want me to spin for you this year?

Friday, May 3, 2019

POTD: Peterhof Portrait Hall

From 2018 08 14 Peterhof

Today's photo-of-the-day is from Peterhof, the St. Petersburg palace built by Peter the Great of Russia. It shows the Portrait Hall. Seeing 368 portraits chock-a-block on the wall is amazing enough, but look closely and you'll convince yourself that all 368 are of the same young woman. Maybe yes, maybe no. Judge for yourself.

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Avengers: Endgame (2019)

Rotten Tomatoes
Avengers: Endgame (2019): It is a satisfying finale to the sage. Tons of characters, tons of action, a simple quest movie but with many complex interleaved timelines. Best parts were when it didn't take its absurdities seriously. Next best were the few scenes without CGI. B-




Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Idle Thoughts: We're All Going to Die

Tweets from April, 2019:
  • Apr 2 2019: Sen. John Cornyn on health care: "In the end we're all going to die, I hate to tell you. Don't dwell on it though!"
  • Apr 3 2019: The Highwaymen (2019): Two retired Texas Rangers track down Bonnie and Clyde. This pair is less charismatic than the outlaws, but Costner/Harrelson can carry a movie. They are always a little too late on the scene, making for a slow movie. Seeing Texas in the 1930s is a treat. B-
  • Apr 3 2019: Jim Schutze describes Dallas mayoral candidates pandering to whites at the Citizens Matter forum. Schutze calls it the Loons Matter forum. About Jason Villalba, he says, "That man just straight-up loves him some Confederate stone."

After the jump, more idle thoughts.