Friday, August 29, 2014

Marley (2012)

Marley (2012): Life of reggae superstar and promoter of peace. Behind the scenes look at so much more than a musician. Died too young. B-

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Review: Benjamin Franklin: An American Life

Benjamin Franklin: An American Life
From Benjamin Franklin: An American Life, by Walter Isaacson
Open quote 

'Mankind divides into two classes,' the Nation magazine declared in 1868: the 'natural-born lovers' and the 'natural-born haters' of Benjamin Franklin."

After the jump, my review.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Enough Said (2013)

Enough Said (2013): Divorced middle-agers try dating scene again and suck at it. Like the relationship, movie lacks energy. Enough said. C+

Friday, August 22, 2014

Jiro Dreams of Sushi (2011)

Jiro Dreams of Sushi (2011): Master sushi chef. Tradition, dedication, honor, pride. See it if you like sushi. Even if you don't. B-

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

August: Osage County (2013)

August: Osage County (2013): Dysfunctional family is an understatement. Like a Godzilla movie, but a family gets shattered, not a city. B-

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Grandmaster (2013)

The Grandmaster (2013): Kung-fu biopic. Chinese history, romance and stylized martial arts. Lush cinematography. Disjointed story. B-

Monday, August 18, 2014

TxDOT to Collin County: STFU

According to Brandon Formby of The Dallas Morning News, "The Texas Department of Transportation and the Regional Transportation Council have answered complaints from Collin County officials about plans to turn Central Expressway's carpool lanes into managed toll lanes." TxDOT's response? STFU. (Not their exact words.)

After the jump, a few thoughts on what this says about the state of government in Texas in general and north Texas in particular.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Richardson Community Band Portraits

From 2014 08 03 Richardson Community Band
The outdoor summer season finale for the Richardson Community Band is Sunday, August 17, 2014, at 7:00 pm at the Richardson Civic Center.

More photos after the jump.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Fairbanks, Alaska's Golden Heart

From 2014 07 10 Fairbanks
Fairbanks is farther north than Hudson Bay in Canada. It's farther north than the northern tip of Scotland. It's north of Reykjavik, Oslo, Stockholm, or Helsinki. There's no larger city farther north anywhere in the world. Fairbanks residents know this. That's why when you drive north out of Fairbanks up Alaska Highway 2, the tour guide informs you on the outskirts of town that you just passed the northernmost traffic signal in the United States. That's why Big Daddy's restaurant bills itself as the "Northernmost Southern BBQ" in the world (passably authentic, by the way).

More about Fairbanks after the jump.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Pina (2011)

Pina (2011): Recreated dances in tribute to choreographer. Visually stunning. For modern dance fans, a must-see. So naturally I give it a C-

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

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 2013-2014 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 2014-2015.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Induction into the Denali 30% Club

From 2014 07 09 Denali

During our second week in Alaska, we joined a secret, elite club. The 30% club. It's intense. They do crazy Athabaskan rituals - stuff you only find in those Dan Brown books. We all have tattoos now. Wild.

Well most of that first paragraph was a lie. Yes, we have now been [inducted] into the 30% Club. However, it's not as exciting and wild as I made it out to be but it's still pretty awesome. The 30% refers to those people who have visited Alaska and have seen Mt. McKinley.
Denali National Park is home to North America's tallest peak, Mt. McKinley (aka Denali). The mountain is usually completely hidden by a shroud of clouds, so much so that tour guides can only point in the direction of the mountain and assure tourists that there really is a mountain there. Count us as members of the exclusive club of visitors who have actually seen Denali itself, the "30% Club."

More about Denali National Park after the jump.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Exploring Alaska on the McKinley Explorer

From 2014 07 08 McKinley Explorer

One way to travel the 230 miles from Anchorage to Denali National Park is on the McKinley Explorer dome railcars. Large curved glass domes give you a panoramic view of the unfolding scenery, mostly forests and lakes and mountains in the distance, but also a glimpse at ex-half-term Gov. Sarah Palin's privacy fence in Wassila. If you are lucky, you'll be able to see Mt. McKinley (aka Denali), if it's not wrapped in clouds (which it was for us).

More about our trip on the McKinley Explorer after the jump.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Politics Has Been Making Us Stupid For Centuries

It can be depressing to think how politics makes us stupid. Whether it's evolution, climate science, or macroeconomics, politics drives many to hold fast to unscientific positions.

Has it always been this way? It's natural to think the answer is no. That people weren't always this stupid. That today's problems are worse. Then, you accidentally come across a passage in a history book that unintentionally reveals that human nature has a long history of ignoring science when it conflicts with ideology.

After the jump, what the life of Benjamin Franklin tells us about today's politics.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Anchorage, Hanging Basket Capital of the World

From 2014 07 07 Anchorage

Anchorage doesn't call itself the "Hanging Basket Capital of the World," at least not officially. But some say that garden writers call it that. Who am I to argue? If you come to Alaska expecting only snow-capped mountains and glaciers, you might be surprised to see all the flowers in Anchorage. Pleasantly surprised. It's the best thing going for this, the largest city in Alaska. Reason enough to feature the claim on a web page about the city.

More photos after the jump.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

OTBR: A Drainage Ditch in Las Vegas

Latitude: N 36° 13.638
Longitude: W 115° 19.560

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 last month that are "off the blue roads".

Monday, August 4, 2014

Lesser of Two Evils, Drive-Thru Edition

My mom wanted to buy a pack of cigarettes but I didn't want her to. It was either:
1.) I let her drive drunk to get them herself.
2.) I get her the pack of cigarettes.
I chose to get her a pack of cigarettes because it was the lesser of two evils.
Cigarettes or drunk driving? Gas station or drive-through Starbucks? Are there no better options?

The Richardson City Council will consider a request for a permit to build a drive-through Starbucks (no inside seating) at the corner of Belt Line and Central Expressway, replacing a gas station that's there now.

After the jump, how to choose between two evils.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Repeat Tweets: Being 27 and Not a Real Person Yet

Repeat tweets from July, 2014:

  • Jul 6 2014: Frances Ha (2012): Young dancer in NY struggles with career, rent, friends. Compelling look at being 27 and "not a real person yet." B+
  • Jul 8 2014: The Time That Remains (2009): Palestinian family's life from 1948-present. Visually lush. Story is absurd, surreal, numbing all at once. C+
  • Jul 10 2014: Nebraska (2013): Aging, confused father travels with hapless son to Nebraska to claim $1 million prize. Poignant. Small town black humor. A-

After the jump, more repeat tweets.