Wednesday, October 28, 2020

The Way I See It (2020)

Rotten Tomatoes
The Way I See It (2020): Documentary about Pete Souza, White House photographer for President Obama. It's at its best when it lets his photographs do the talking. It's not as good when it expands to include video and photos taken by others. Souza's "Shade" was a surprise hit. B-

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

"Identity Politics" in the 1860 Election

In a review of a biography of Abraham Lincoln in The New Yorker, Adam Gopnik makes a couple of throwaway observations of the 1860 campaign for the Republican nomination for President, observations about parallels to today's world.
The Lincolnians also courted a now often overlooked interest group, the √©migr√© Germans, including many exiled by the failed liberal revolutions of 1848. As [Sidney] Blumenthal notes, Lincoln had bought a German-language newspaper, in order to appeal to those key players of the “identity politics” of the time. (It was the equivalent of surreptitiously funding Facebook pages in 2020.)

Identity politics. Facebook. Both in a paragraph about the election of 1860. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Monday, October 26, 2020

POTD: For a Dreamer of Houses

Today's photo-of-the-day is from the Dallas Museum of Art. It shows "Rubber Pencil Devil," by Alex Da Corte, ("2018, glass, aluminum, vinyl, velvet, neon, Plexiglas, high res digital video, color, sound"). It's part of the exhibition "For a Dreamer of Houses".

Bonus photo after the jump.

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Borat Subsequent Moviefilm (2020)

Rotten Tomatoes
Borat Subsequent Moviefilm (2020): Blunt satire of Trump supporters, debutante balls, plastic surgeons, anti-abortion clinics, and, yes, Rudy Giuliani. But vulgarity is no longer shocking, merely vulgar. But then, Giuliani and Trump themselves are vulgar, so call it a draw. D+

 

 

 

 

 

Saturday, October 24, 2020

My Octopus Teacher (2020)

Rotten Tomatoes
My Octopus Teacher (2020): Nature documentary like you've never seen. Diver in South Africa spends a year visiting, studying, and learning from one particular octopus. He even makes friends, if that's the right word. It's clearly intelligent, curious, and playful. Fascinating. B+

Friday, October 23, 2020

Review: The Index of Self-Destructive Acts

From The Index of Self-Destructive Acts, by Christopher Beha:

Open quoteOn the day that Waxworth arrived in New York to write for the Interviewer, a man named Herman Nash stood on the rim of the fountain in Washington Square and announced that the world was about to end." The Index of Self-Destructive Acts
Amazon
The index of self-destructive acts is a baseball statistic developed by Bill James that counts up all the mistakes a pitcher makes that are entirely in his control: balks, wild pitches, errors, etc. There's not much baseball in this novel by Christopher Beha, but there are a lot of self-destructive acts.

Thursday, October 22, 2020

The Man Who Wouldn't Spy for the US

"The F.B.I. tried to recruit an Iranian scientist as an informant. When he balked, the payback was brutal." Laura Secor tells the story of Sirous Asgari, an Iranian who had once attended graduate school in America, where his wife gave birth to his American citizen daughter, and where his two sons attended American universities. But on a visit in 2017 he was detained by the F.B.I. He was charged with "theft of trade secrets, visa fraud, and eleven counts of wire fraud." He considered the charges to be nonsense and refused a deal offered that appeared to be the real reason behind the charges — to get him to agree to act as an informant, that is to spy for the US back in Iran. He fought the trumped up charges in an American courtroom and won. But after the judge dismissed all charges against him, even before he could leave the courtroom, he was detained by I.C.E. And then the real hell began.

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Lovecraft Country (TV 2020)

Rotten Tomatoes
Lovecraft Country (TV 2020): Monsters, magic, witches, ghosts, shape shifters, time travel, and racism, lots of racism, from 1921 Tulsa race massacre to 1950s Jim Crow. The Korean War filler episode is the best. The CGI is impressive. The plot doesn't make a lick of sense. C+

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Lake Highlands Gets a Signature Bridge

Advocate Lake Highlands has the story: "That bowl of spaghetti that is the Skillman/Audelia/LBJ interchange will become a beautiful — and safe — gateway into Lake Highlands."

Monday, October 19, 2020

David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet (2020)

Rotten Tomatoes
David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet (2020): Part memoir, part nature doc, part prescription for avoiding environmental disaster. Attenborough calls it his witness statement of global decline in a single lifetime. He warns the next 93 years will be worse without change. B-

Friday, October 16, 2020

POTD: Mausoleum of Aga Khan

From 2019 11 19 Aswan
Today's photo-of-the-day is from Aswan, Egypt. It shows the Mausoleum of Aga Khan on the Nile River. According to Wikipedia, "He was the 48th Imam of the Nizari Ismaili religion. He was one of the founders and the first permanent president of the All-India Muslim League. His goal was the advancement of Muslim agendas and protection of Muslim rights in India." He died in 1957.

Thursday, October 15, 2020

The Boys - Season 2 (TV 2020)

Rotten Tomatoes
The Boys - Season 2 (TV 2020): Big pharma, military, a Scientology-like religious cult, and our ragtag team of resisters strive for control of a serum that gives people super powers. Only message is nihilism. If you like gratuitous random exploding heads this might be for you. C+

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

POTD: Nile Fishermen...or Something

From 2019 11 19 Aswan
Today's photo-of-the-day is from the Nile River in Aswan, Egypt. I have no idea what these men are doing. Maybe beating the fish to death? Or is that some kind of net on the end of the pole? Who knows?

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

The Forty-Year-Old Version (2020)

Rotten Tomatoes
The Forty-Year-Old Version (2020): Character study of a struggling playwright/teacher/wannabe rapper in a mid-life crisis. Should she sell out her vision to be more commercial? The dignity and even greatness in an everyday woman. Written, directed, and starring Radha Blank. B+

Monday, October 12, 2020

Extending the Reach of Richardson's Gag Order

The City of Richardson is considering a social media policy. Let's stipulate that this resulted from the City's embarrassing BimboGate in early 2019. Mayor Paul Voelker addressed that, eloquently and sufficiently, in my mind, with this statement of belief: "Richardson’s values are best upheld when we engage in civic discourse that is civil in tone, respectful of others and designed to produce constructive outcomes for the betterment of our community."

Saturday, October 10, 2020

Now Democracy is a Dirty Word, Too

For years, I've tracked how virtues like tolerance and compromise and civility have all come under attack from conservatives. I've said, "What I thought made American democracy great is being surely dismantled, virtuous brick by virtuous brick." Ironically, the latest such motherhood and apple pie virtue that conservatives want no truck with any more is "democracy" itself.

Friday, October 9, 2020

Succession - Season 1 (TV 2018)

Rotten Tomatoes
Succession - Season 1 (TV 2018): Aging patriarch of family-owned media empire faces succession. Schemes, double-crosses, undisguised ill will. Think King Lear, Murdochs, Trumps. Lots of foul language. Lots. Not a likable character in the show. But yet, riveting television. B+

#TardyReview

Thursday, October 8, 2020

Bad Education (2020)

Rotten Tomatoes
Bad Education (2020): Drama based on real life. Embezzlement in a Long Island school district by a popular but smarmy superintendent. Plot unfolds like you'd expect. Great cast does their best with so-so script. Maybe screenwriter should have gone all in on black comedy. B-

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Code of Ethics: Curiouser and Curiouser

It's been a long time since we had to talk about Laura (Maczka) Jordan. Remember, Richardson's former mayor was convicted of bribery. Then she got her conviction thrown out. Now she waits a possible retrial. She is content running out the clock until the prosecution or the public lose interest. Or both. It could easily be ten years after she left office before her case is settled and justice is served. Or not. That's the legal system in America.

How about the legislative system? The City of Richardson has a Code of Ethics that utterly failed at either preventing the behavior that led to the mayor being tried for bribery. Or even in discovering the alleged criminal behavior after the fact. The City had a reason for that, a reason that didn't sit well with me. But the City, too, seems to be playing a long game, perhaps also hoping that the public eventually loses interest.

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

POTD: Aswan Spice Market

From 2019 11 19 Aswan
Today's photo-of-the-day is from a spice market in Aswan, Egypt.

Bonus photos after the jump.

Monday, October 5, 2020

POTD: Aswan Street Market

From 2019 11 19 Aswan
Today's photo-of-the-day is of a street market in Aswan, Egypt.

Bonus photos after the jump.

Friday, October 2, 2020

Review: The Mirror & the Light

From The Mirror & the Light, by Hilary Mantel:

Open quoteOnce the queen’s head is severed, he walks away. A sharp pang of appetite reminds him that it is time for a second breakfast, or perhaps an early dinner." The Mirror & the Light
Amazon
The Mirror & the Light is the third volume of Hilary Mantel's life of Thomas Cromwell, chief minister of Henry VIII. It covers the four years from the execution of Anne Boleyn to his own downfall, with all the court intrigues in between. It's a masterfully written view of England in mid-1500s. B+

Thursday, October 1, 2020

Random Thoughts: I Can't Wait for the Presidential Debates

Tweets from September, 2020:
  • 2020-09-03: I can't wait for the Presidential debates so I'll finally know who to vote for.
  • 2020-09-03: Radioactive (2020): Biopic of Marie Curie. Rosamund Pike plays an unlikable character, a prickly genius. It crams 60 years into one movie, as well as peeks at future benefits and ills of nuclear energy. You'll learn a lot about history, an amazing scientist and kickass woman. B-
  • 2020-09-07: An American Pickle (2020): Immigrant falls into a vat of pickle brine in 1919 and is rescued in 2019. Just accept the premise. Seth Rogan plays the immigrant and his great grandson. Touching story of reconnecting with family and culture. Not what I expected from Seth Rogan. B-
  • 2020-09-07: When I "hide" an ad on Facebook (hoping FB will quit serving ads of this type to me), it asks me why I wanted to hide the ad, offering choices like "already purchased," "irrelevant," and "repetitive." Why doesn't it offer as a choice, "Insults my intelligence"?
  • 2020-09-08: Neighborhood yard sign poll: 3 Colin Allred signs, 2 Genevieve Collins signs. So with 55 days to go, it's 60%-40% Allred.

After the jump, more random thoughts.