Monday, February 29, 2016

Catching Up on the Cotton Belt

It's been a while since I've written about the Cotton Belt rail line, that dream of east-west mass transit through Richardson, connecting everything from Wylie to D/FW Airport. That's because the Cotton Belt line remains more dream than reality.

Friday, February 26, 2016

The Martian (2015)

The Martian (2015): Too far-fetched for serious drama, but mostly fun in a sciency, good way. Spoiler alert: of course he's saved. B-

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Room (2015)

Room (2015): Woman and son locked in backyard shed for years. Horrific premise, delicately treated. Faithful to novel, if more detached. B+

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

POTD: Chichen Itza

Today's photo-of-the-day is from Chichen Itza on Mexico's Yucatan peninsula. Whereas Dzibanche is still far enough off the beaten path for the few tourists who make it there to still be allowed to climb all over the ruins, in Chichen Itza that's no longer the case. It's been ten years since tourists have been allowed to climb to the top of the pyramid for an awesome view. Still, the view from the ground is awesome enough and worth the trip.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Bridge of Spies (2015)

Bridge of Spies (2015): Cold War prisoner exchange. Well-done, paint-by-numbers movie. Tom Hanks in what used to be a Gregory Peck role. B-

Monday, February 22, 2016

Vote YES on the RISD Bond

It seems like it took forever, but the Richardson ISD school board finally approved a bond package to go to the voters in the May 7 election. Public engagement began way back in November with a series of meetings in a so-called listening tour.

I was originally skeptical. There were gaps, there were frills, there were areas not thought out yet. But the RISD administrators were up front with the public. They said they deliberately asked for public feedback early in the process to give the public maximum opportunity to shape the final package. And it looks like that's just what happened. The "listening tour" was, in fact, really truly, a listening tour. The RISD listened and adapted the bond package accordingly. Kudos to the RISD.

Friday, February 19, 2016

The End of the Tour (2015)

The End of the Tour (2015): Five days with David Foster Wallace, brilliant, self-conscious, troubled author. All talk. Shallow. Flat. C+

Thursday, February 18, 2016

The Propaganda Game (2015)

The Propaganda Game (2015): Look inside North Korea and its brainwashed people. Can't help wondering if I'm not a little brainwashed too. B-

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

POTD: Above the Treetops

From 2015 11 13 Caribbean Cruise
Today's photo-of-the-day is from deep in the forests and swampland on Mexico's Yucatan peninsula. It's of the archaeological ruins of Dzibanche, an abandoned major Mayan city. It's still relatively off the beaten path, so I'm torn between feeling glad to have seen it before the path gets beaten and feeling sad for beating my own path there.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Inside Out (2015)

Inside Out (2015): Children's quest movie, all inside young girl's psyche with cartoon emotions in the lead. For kids, B+. For adults, C+

Monday, February 15, 2016

POTD: Grand Cayman's Green Iguanas

From 2015 11 13 Caribbean Cruise
Today's photo-of-the-day is from George Town, Grand Cayman, where the green iguana is a tourist favorite, but according to the National Geographic, to the locals "this invasive species has long outstayed its welcome." Introduced in the 1980s and once protected, its spread now a threat to the native blue iguanas.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Beasts of No Nation (2015)

Beasts of No Nation (2015): African child soldier. Violent, brutal, dehumanizing, heartbreaking. Powerful film-making. Why no Oscar nom? A+

Thursday, February 11, 2016

POTD: Belly Flop

From 2015 11 13 Caribbean Cruise
Today's photo-of-the-day is from the cruise ship Liberty of the Seas. It's self-explanatory. Well, maybe one thing needs explanation. That's not me in the photo or anyone else I know.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

Mad Max: Fury Road (2015): One long desert car chase with crashes, explosions and grunts. Mind-numbing. Cartoonish. Sexist. "Mediocre." D+

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

POTD: Come Back to Jamaica

From 2015 11 13 Caribbean Cruise
Today's photo-of-the-day is from the cruise ship Liberty of the Seas sailing from the port of Falmouth, Jamaica. Cheers and a fond farewell.

Come Back to Jamaica
Come back to Jamaica.
What's old is what's new.
We want you to join us.
We made it for you.
So make it Jamaica.
Make it your own.
Make it Jamaica.
Your new island home.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Review: Thomas Becket

Thomas Becket
From Thomas Becket: Warrior, Priest, Rebel, by John Guy
Open quote 

The truly remarkable sequence of events that would allow a middle-class Londoner to rise to a position where he would become the equal of barons and knights, converse regularly with kings and popes, and one day come to defy a king was yet to begin."

That middle-class Londoner was Thomas Becket. This biography lays out that sequence of events from nine centuries ago. As John Guy promises, they truly were remarkable.

After the jump, my review.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Tangerine (2015)

Tangerine (2015): Christmas Eve on LA streets with trans prostitutes. Gritty, explicit and alien to this old straight guy. Great acting. A-

Thursday, February 4, 2016

OTBR: Gun Club in Nevada

Latitude: N 35° 57.324
Longitude: W 114° 54.396

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".

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

POTD: Jamaican Tam

From 2015 11 13 Caribbean Cruise
Today's photo-of-the-day is from Montego Bay, Jamaica. Previously, I gave a vacation rule of thumb: your comfort level wearing local fashion is inversely proportional to your distance from your vacation destination. That goes double for hair styles. I never could pull it off, but dreadlocks or not, this unknown gentleman looks kick-ass in a Jamaican tam.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Repeat Tweets: Can You Say "Pander"?

Repeat tweets from January, 2016:

  • Jan 1 2016: RT @CarlyFiorina: "Love my alma mater, but rooting for a Hawkeyes win today. #RoseBowl" Can you say "pander?"
  • Jan 2 2016: RT @GroverNorquist: "To understand what Obama wants in our future...Watch the Star Wars movies and imagine that only the storm troopers have guns." Did he just equate the US military and American police to Star Wars storm troopers? Despicable.
  • Jan 2 2016: RT @justinc: "Idea: never go for two." Neither team went for two without being required to. Oregon should have gone for two to win but didn't and lost.

After the jump, more repeat tweets.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Decoherence and Disharmony

In October, I mused on an essay by Brookings scholar Philip A. Wallach on the subject of "decoherence", the notion that American governance is coming apart at the seams. Some evidence on the left is in President Obama's use of executive orders to get anything done in the face of an obstructionist Congress. And on the right it's in the curious admiration many Republicans express for Russian President Putin for his defiance of international law to further Russian interests.

Today's musing is on a related article that connects today's mood in America with a recurring phenomenon in American politics identified by Samuel Huntington in a 1981 book, "American Politics: Promise of Disharmony." Again, Lee Drutman of Vox Media reviews it.