Friday, December 29, 2017

Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017)

Rotten Tomatoes
Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017): "If they blow you up one day, you'll blow them up the next. It's just business." The gist of any Star Wars movie, including this one. With jokes, the gap between Star Wars and Spaceballs lessens with each movie. C-

Thursday, December 28, 2017

POTD: Street Musicians in Galveston

From 2017 12 01 Galveston

Today's photo-of-the-day is from the Strand in Galveston, Texas, site of the annual Dickens on the Strand festival. Child labor laws may have been non-existent in Dickens's day, but even in our own day, after listening to these street urchins perform for tips, all I can say is, "Please, sir, I want some more."

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

The Sense of An Ending (2017)

Rotten Tomatoes
The Sense of An Ending (2017): Discovery of old diary forces man to investigate and confront his repressed memories. Wrongs were done, but just what were they? A touch of mystery to this watchable quiet character study. B-

Compare with the book, reviewed here in 2012.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

POTD: Santa Rests

From 2017 12 01 Galveston

God Rest You Merry, Santa Claus. Today's photo-of-the-day is from a curb along the Strand in Galveston, Texas. Although this photo was taken in early December, it seems appropriate for the day after Christmas. After a busy day delivering presents, Santa deserves a vacation somewhere it's warm, right? Maybe even give him a beer.

Monday, December 25, 2017

POTD: Merry Christmas from the Strand

From 2017 12 01 Galveston

Today's photo-of-the-day is from Saengerfest Park on the Strand in Galveston. Good health is the best Christmas present of all.

Bonus photo after the jump.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

POTD: Merry Christmas from Galveston Beach

From 2017 12 01 Galveston

Today's photo-of-the-day is from the beach in Galveston, Texas. I picked up a small seashell for "L" to add to the souvenirs she keeps in her jacket pocket. It joins another tiny shell from Hermosa Beach in Los Angeles and a bead that "L" was given in Mumbai along the jetty by the Gateway of India. An old man approached "L" and held out his hand offering something. She naturally opened her own hand to receive what he offered after which he motioned for a donation. For a few rupees, "L" ended up with a souvenir tucked away forever in the pocket of her jacket. Her jacket spends most of the year put away in her closet at home, but when the weather turns cold and she puts it on, the forgotten surprises she finds in the pockets are pleasant memories of places worlds away.

Another photo after the jump.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Review: How the Mind Works

How the Mind Works
From How the Mind Works, by Steven Pinker:
Open quote 

The complex structure of the mind is the subject of this book. Its key idea can be captured in a sentence: The mind is a system of organs of computation, designed by natural selection to solve the kinds of problems our ancestors faced in their foraging way of life, in particular, understanding and outmaneuvering objects, animals, plants, and other people."

That's the gist of this 20-year-old best-selling work of popular science. It's what attracted me. After the jump, whether it succeeded.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

POTD: Little Boxes in Galveston

From 2017 12 01 Galveston

Today's photo-of-the-day is from Seawall Boulevard in Galveston, Texas. I'd name the condominium complex, but they all look just the same.

Little boxes on the hillside
Little boxes made of ticky-tacky
Little boxes on the hillside
Little boxes all the same
There's a pink one and a green one
And a blue one and a yellow one
And they're all made out of ticky-tacky
And they all look just the same

The song is from 1963. It must have made quite an impression on my 12-year-old mind, for it comes to mind automatically anytime I'm presented with a scene like this.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

The Shape of Water (2017)

Rotten Tomatoes
The Shape of Water (2017): "Beauty and the Beast" meets "Creature from the Black Lagoon." In a heist movie with Russian spies. The premise is preposterous but it works. A love story with something for everyone. A-

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

She's Gotta Have It (TV 2017)

Rotten Tomatoes
She's Gotta Have It (TV): Smart young independent brash black female artist in Brooklyn and her friends, who talk mostly about sex and race. An exotic world (for me) but still shallow, even if Nola is deeper here than in the 1986 movie. Saw 3 of 10 episodes. C-

Monday, December 18, 2017

The Beguiled (2017)

Rotten Tomatoes
The Beguiled (2017): Wounded Union soldier takes shelter in southern girls' school. Repressed social norms dominate, leaving movie disappointingly bloodless for subject matter. But everything and everyone look great. C+

Friday, December 15, 2017

The Vietnam War (TV 2017)

Rotten Tomatoes
The Vietnam War (TV): Ken Burns documentary. All the battles, lies, protests, it's all here. It tore our country apart. The war is now being lost to history, but the wounds never really healed. Even at 17 hours, the memories resurrected here fly by too fast. A+

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Alias Grace (TV 2017)

Rotten Tomatoes
Alias Grace (TV): Real-life mystery. Maid is convicted of murdering her employer in 1843 Canada. Mystery is explored through sessions with her doctor and flashbacks. Murderess or victim? Strong acting that lets us see into her soul but only so far. A-

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

POTD: Greetings from Galveston

From 2017 12 01 Galveston

Today's photo-of-the-day is from Saengerfest Park on the Strand in Galveston, site of the annual December festival, "Dickens on the Strand."

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

The Disaster Artist (2017)

Rotten Tomatoes
The Disaster Artist (2017): A biopic about a real-life wacky auteur and the making of his bad cult movie, "The Room." No matter what they might say, it's more Hollywood insiders mocking him than embracing him. The result is a failed movie for different reasons. C-

Monday, December 11, 2017

Godless (TV 2017)

Rotten Tomatoes
Godless (TV): Old West town where all the men died in a mine accident is now terrorized by an outlaw and his gang. Dark mood and look. Scenes allowed to linger on senses. Rich subplots with religion, race, gender and sex. B+

Friday, December 8, 2017

POTD: Supermoon over a Pleasure Pier

From 2017 12 01 Galveston

Today's photo-of-the-day is of the last supermoon of 2017 over the Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

POTD: Supermoon over Galveston

From 2017 12 01 Galveston

Today's photo-of-the-day is of the last supermoon of 2017 rising over a Victorian-era London bobby on Galveston's Strand, site of the annual "Dickens on the Strand" festival.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

The Role of the Council

The City Council of Richardson agreed on its 2017-2019 Statement of Goals and, not surprisingly (given it's me and all), I have a bone to pick, starting with the very first sentence.
The role of the Council is to be positive and resourceful advocates of the City.
No, the role of the council is to represent the people of Richardson. Being positive is also good. Being resourceful is also good. Being advocates of "the City" is also good, unless that interferes with being advocates for the people of Richardson. First, last, and always, the Richardson City Council needs to represent the people of Richardson.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Wonder (2017)

Rotten Tomatoes
Wonder (2017): Self-conscious boy born with facial deformity starts school, deals with bullying. Well-crafted, sensitive, uplifting family drama. Hits all the right notes to bring tears. Although unrealistically optimistic, still a lesson for all. #ChooseKind A-

Monday, December 4, 2017

OTBR: Abandoned Chateau in Czech Republic

Latitude: N 49° 04.158
Longitude: E 015° 18.312
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 (not actually) last month that are "off the blue roads".

Friday, December 1, 2017

Repeat Tweets: 25 Conservatives to Follow on Twitter

Repeat tweets from November, 2017:

  • Nov 1 2017: Salon recommended 25 conservatives to follow on Twitter. One was @JayCaruso of DMN. I'm from Dallas, so I thought, great.
  • Nov 1 2017: It turns out, on Twitter, @JayCaruso doesn't offer facts and logic. His tweets start and end with assertions and insults.
  • Nov 1 2017: Maybe on editorial team, @JayCaruso's partisan viewpoint is helpful to craft a balanced editorial. On Twitter, not so much. Unfollow.
  • Nov 1 2017: How about some sensible gun regulations to reduce the 30,000 deaths by guns in this country annually that are not terror related?
  • Nov 1 2017: @JayCaruso mocks Jimmy Kimmel for blaming the "gun nuts". Who else is responsible for the lack of sensible gun regulation than the people who keep electing politicians endorsed by the NRA?

After the jump, more repeat tweets.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017)

Rotten Tomatoes
Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017): Bitter mother searches for her daughter's murderer. Black comic elements. Mildly uplifting. No heroes or villains, just broken people. Frances McDormand rules. A-

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Constructing the Building Plans in RISD

The new RISD strategic plan contains six strategies, one of which is "We will ensure that our facilities and infrastructure adapt to support our mission." That's a tautology, but that just gives the action team working this strategy more freedom to come up with plans of their own devices. I've got some advice.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Thinking Strategically About Schools

First and foremost, I am encouraged by the Richardson ISD's outreach efforts to get community input into the district's planning process.
On October 2, district trustees voted to adopt a revised RISD strategic plan, and stakeholders are encouraged to take part in the process by applying to be on one of the six action teams that will develop the specific steps and goals to support the six district strategies:
  • We will ensure that we have diverse and engaging programs and learning opportunities to meet the unique needs of all our students.
  • We will guarantee that all students will perform at or above grade level.
  • We will recruit, retain, and reward quality personnel.
  • We will ensure that ALL families, businesses, and community partners are fully engaged in the mission of our district.
  • We will actively pursue creative funding sources and responsibly manage current resources to support our mission.
  • We will ensure that our facilities and infrastructure adapt to support our mission.
Source: RISD.

Six teams of 35 to 50 community members have been formed. If all goes well, these teams will ensure community support as the RISD makes difficult strategic decisions in the future.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Where All Students Connect, Learn, Grow and Succeed

"Where All Students Connect, Learn, Grow and Succeed." That's the new mission statement for the Richardson ISD. Fifty points if you know what the old mission statement was. It used to be "Where All Students Learn, Grow and Succeed." See the difference?

I'm no marketing genius (my wife always said that if I worked in marketing, our family would starve), but in my opinion, the RISD just weakened a good slogan. Good things come in threes, not fours:

  • Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.
  • Of the people, by the people, for the people.
  • Liberty, Equality, Fraternity.
  • Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe

"Learn, Grow and Succeed." Not "Connect, Learn, Grow and Succeed." Not only is it discordant, it's the literal definition of mission creep, which has acquired a well-deserved reputation for ending in "final, often catastrophic, failure." I've got nothing against students connecting, but RISD ought to be careful not to overburden its priorities, lest nothing is a priority.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold (2017)

Rotten Tomatoes
Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold (2017): Documentary. Old photos, movies, interviews and readings. The precise chronicler found the dark side of life to be "Gold". This movie is...silver. B-

Read my review of Joan Didion's "The Year of Magical Thinking".

Thursday, November 23, 2017

POTD: Turkey Day Down Under

Today's photo-of-the-day comes from the beach of Apollo Bay on the Southern Ocean of Australia. The photo was taken on Thanksgiving weekend of 1976. Thanksgiving dinner was cooked over a campfire in Great Otway National Park.

Bonus photos after the jump.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Mudbound (2017)

Rotten Tomatoes
Mudbound (2017): White farm family in Mississippi in 1940s facing poverty, floods, illness. Black family with same burdens. Plus racism. Script shows same events from different perspectives. Quiet but strong performances. Lessons for today. A-

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Lady Bird (2017)

Rotten Tomatoes
Lady Bird (2017): A girl's struggles with best friend, boy friends, school and most of all, mother. Very believable and real look at coming of age in Sacramento. Saoirse Ronan nails it. B+

Monday, November 20, 2017

Murder on the Orient Express (2017)

Rotten Tomatoes
Murder on the Orient Express (2017): Luxurious, campy whodunnit. No reason for this remake but good fun anyway. All-Star cast all get their chance to chew the scenery. "Why the abundance of evidence?" B-

Friday, November 17, 2017

LBJ (2017)

Rotten Tomatoes
LBJ (2017): More an earnest history lesson than great drama. Covers 1960 election, JFK assassination, and civil rights. A sympathetic portrait of what LBJ's legacy would have been without Vietnam. Woody Harrelson succeeds. B+

Thursday, November 16, 2017

POTD: Branding the Brazos

From 2017 09 18 Waco
Today's photo-of-the-day comes from the shore of the Brazos River in Waco, Texas.

[The artwork] pays tribute to Waco’s 19th-century days as a stop on the Chisholm Trail cattle drives from South Texas to Kansas. It features three cowboys — one white, one Hispanic and one black — driving 25 head of longhorn cattle to the western approach to the Waco Suspension Bridge.

The bridge itself was built to support the major industry in Texas at the time, the cattle business.
The twin double-towers that anchored the span were considered to be a marvel of engineering at the time, containing nearly 3 million bricks, which were produced locally. The bridge collected its first toll on January 1, 1870. Its 475-foot (145 m) span made it the first major suspension bridge in Texas. The bridge was wide enough for stagecoaches to pass each other, or for cattle to cross one side of the bridge, and humans to cross the other side. Being the only bridge to cross the Brazos at the time, the cost of building the bridge, which was estimated to be $141,000 was quickly paid back. Tolls were 5 cents per head of cattle that crossed, along with a charge for pedestrian traffic.
Source: Wikipedia.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Lost City of Z (2016)

Lost City of Z (2016): True life drama of English explorer in the Amazon 1906-25. Percy Fawcett's motivations are a hash, never adequately explored. Would have been better as fiction. C+

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

POTD: The Uncola

From 2017 09 18 Waco

Today's photo-of-the-day comes from the Dr Pepper Museum in Waco, Texas. Dr Pepper acquired 7 Up in 1988 and today, the Dr Pepper Museum affords equal space, or more, to 7 Up.

The "Uncola" ad campaign has been described as "the most psychedelic, LSD-friendly ad campaign of all time." That psychedelic 7 Up found a home in Waco, Texas, is still one of history's least-likely facts.

Bonus photo after the jump.

Monday, November 13, 2017

The Retail Apocalypse and Richardson

I have long been a fan of mixed-use development, even though I have had criticism about how it's been done in Richardson. Except for the single two block stretch of State Street in CityLine that is walkable, Richardson's so-called mixed-use developments have been mostly the same-old 1980s model of apartments and strip shopping centers. Instead, I wanted to stuff ground-floor retail in all those new apartment developments. And upper-story apartments in all those new restaurants. Now, changes in the retail environment might mean I have to rethink my enthusiasm for mixed-use.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Victoria & Abdul (2017)

Victoria & Abdul (2017): Lonely queen befriends Indian servant, scandalizes court. Great fun as Dame Judi Dench puts down stuffy English. B+

Thursday, November 9, 2017

POTD: Waco: Where It All Began

From 2017 09 18 Waco

Waco: where it all began. If by "all" you mean Dr Pepper. Today's photo-of-the-day comes from the Dr Pepper Museum in Waco, Texas, the city where it all began in the late 1800s. Dr Pepper didn't acquire 7 Up until much later, in 1988. I have no idea where it began. You could look it up. Me? I'm going to have a Dr Pepper.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Baby Driver (2017)

Baby Driver (2017): Getaway driver with thing for music and a sweet girlfriend. Chase scenes that get better as movie goes over the top. B+

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Review: A Place of Greater Safety

A Place of Greater Safety
From A Place of Greater Safety, by Hilary Mantel:
Open quote 

Fifteen years from now, on the day the Bastille falls, the price of bread in Paris will be at its highest in sixty years. Twenty years from now (when it is all over), a woman of the capital will say: 'Under Robespierre, blood flowed, but the people had bread. Perhaps in order to have bread, it is necessary to spill a little blood.' "

This quarter-century-old historical novel attracted me for two reasons. First, it's by Hilary Mantel. I greatly enjoyed her two novels about Thomas Cromwell and the court of Henry VIII ("Wolf Hall" and "Bring Up the Bodies"). Second, it's about the French Revolution, a messy event that any history of the modern world has to account for.

Monday, November 6, 2017

OTBR: Great Melbourne Telescope

Latitude: S 35° 17.952
Longitude: E 148° 55.278
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 (not actually) last month that are "off the blue roads".

Friday, November 3, 2017

POTD: Magnolia Market

From 2017 09 18 Waco

Today's photo-of-the-day comes from the Magnolia Market in Waco, Texas. It's owned by Chip and Joanna Gaines, the brains and talent behind the HGTV home renovation series "Fixer Upper." Peopla have a love it or hate it kind of relationship here. Some feel Chip and Joanna are using faux rustic design (think "shiplap" everywhere) to make every renovated house in Waco look like a farmhouse. Others welcome the business that all the attention is bringing Waco and its largely vacant downtown.

Judging by the looks of the two gentlemen on the left in the photo, Magnolia Market is not just for the ladies. We had to see it. We enjoyed the market, the food truck park, and a couple of other tourist attractions in Waco.

Bonus photos after the jump.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

POTD: Magnolia Beauty

From 2017 09 18 Waco

Today's photo-of-the-day comes from the Magnolia Market in Waco, Texas. The beauty comes from Richardson.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Repeat Tweets: Trump's War on Football

Repeat tweets from October, 2017:

  • Oct 1 2017:
    1/ Trump started a war on the NFL. His base called for a boycott. Now, Rush Limbaugh has made an abrupt U-turn.
    2/ Limbaugh says it's really the *Left* that's against the NFL. Why? Because of football's masculinity.
    3/3 Rush's U-turn may be a sign that the boycott isn't working. Let them express themselves. #TakeAKnee #1A
  • Oct 1 2017: RT @BudKennedy: "Dallas ISD's Joyce Foreman on school names (she's OK with just 'Stonewall Elementary')."
    Can someone explain this woman's thinking to me?
  • Oct 1 2017: "Anti-monopoly candidates are testing a new politics in the midterms." @Lillian_Salerno takes on Pete Sessions.

After the jump, more repeat tweets.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

The Eagle Huntress (2016)

Eagle Huntress (2016): Documentary of Kazakh girl learning to hunt with eagles. Girl power. Beautiful scenery. Intimate family scenes. B+

Monday, October 30, 2017

Lessons from Jeffrey Weiss

Jeffrey Weiss, longtime staff writer at The Dallas Morning News, died October 25, 2017 from glioblastoma, a form of brain cancer. He wrote about his journey to the egress, as he put it, with realism and good spirit. But I don't want to speak of his illness. It's his writing that inspired me. I said upon his death that Jeffrey Weiss was the best thing that ever happened to Facebook. What I meant is that where most (reasonable) people steered away from the closed-minded, interminable arguments with (crazy) people, he saw an opportunity to engage everyone, taking their opinions and beliefs seriously and gently probing those beliefs in hopes of achieving some level of mutual understanding. He promoted what he called civil dialog, or "civilogue". He influenced no less than the New York Times to change their practices regarding online comments. I admired his approach, and although I sometimes sought to emulate Weiss, I all too often resorted to snark, sarcasm, and satire. Reading Weiss made me uncomfortable doing so.

After the jump, two maxims from Jeffrey Weiss.

Friday, October 27, 2017

POTD: Illumination Sensation

From 2017 10 05 State Fair

The lights are big and bright when the sun goes down on the State Fair of Texas in Dallas. Today's photo-of-the-day comes from the evening show featuring fireworks, lasers, dancing waters, and live dancers on the 700-foot-long reflecting pool that is the Esplanade of Fair Park.

Bonus photos after the jump.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

POTD: Horses at the Fair

From 2017 10 05 State Fair

Today's photo-of-the-day comes from the State Fair of Texas. What's more Texan than a horse? Here's a whole carousel of horses.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

POTD: Yeehaw! SFOT

From 2017 10 05 State Fair

It's October and that means the State Fair of Texas. Today's photo-of-the-day shows this Texan institution at its best. What's more Texan than a Mexican cowboy with a lasso on the back of a horse?

Bonus photo after the jump.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

POTD: NBA Basketball Returns

The 2017-2018 NBA season began last week. Not a day too soon. Today's photo-of-the-day honors the return of basketball by showing the sad, neglected state of the game over the summer.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Hold Your Nose and Vote YES for DCS

This November's election might seem to be a snooze, with only a few things on the ballot, none of them named Donald J. Trump. But there are some heavy hitters trying to ensure one of the ballot items is voted down. That's Proposition A, which will determine whether Dallas County Schools (DCS) is abolished. DCS is the organization that provides school buses for Dallas ISD and seven suburban school districts in Dallas County, including the Richardson ISD.

In one of the oddities of this election, a "no" vote, which in most elections means a vote for the status quo, is actually a vote for change. The "yes" vote means keep the status quo. The change, namely abolishing the agency that provided schools with bus transportation, needs a "no" vote on the status quo to happen. Confused? Maybe the confusion is deliberate. Read on.

Friday, October 20, 2017

A Broken System in Garland

With a 6-3 vote, the Garland City Council approved a motion to demolish a National Guard armory to build a dog and skate park. Mayor Douglas Athas was on the losing side of that vote and afterward announced his intention to resign. If you believe the mayor, it was all about a failure of process, a breakdown in how things are supposed to happen in government.
"We have checks and balances in our system. Professionals on staff make recommendations, we have peer review and then it comes to council for final decisions," he said. "When you skip that, when a council comes up with its own ideas and suddenly starts doing it without professionals, without peer reviews, then you have a system that's broken and extremely dangerous."

Thursday, October 19, 2017

POTD: Sunset Over the Gulf

From 2017 01 29 Caribbean Cruise

Today's photo-of-the-day comes from the Royal Caribbean's Liberty of the Seas cruise ship in the Gulf of Mexico. It also brings an end to the photos-of-the-day from our cruise of the Western Caribbean out of Galveston. Big sigh.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Professor Marston and the Wonder Women (2017)

Professor Marston and the Wonder Women (2017): Surprisingly modern threesome in 1920s. At times creepy but mostly normal. Deftly handled. B+

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

POTD: Jamaica Highlands

From 2017 01 29 Caribbean Cruise

Today's photo-of-the-day is from the Jamaica highlands south of the port of Falmouth. Jamaica is big and so much more than beaches. Our destination was the Good Hope plantation and great house, once a sugar plantation owned by John Tharp, the island's largest slaveowner. Now it's a place where tourists can enjoy afternoon tea without being discomfited by any of that unpleasant history. </sarcasm>

Bonus photos after the jump.

Monday, October 16, 2017

The Meyerowitz Stories (2017)

The Meyerowitz Stories (2017): Three adults deal with ailing father and each other. All star cast. Great characters. Real but still fun. B-

Friday, October 13, 2017

POTD: Falmouth Port Taxi Service Rate Sheet

From 2017 01 29 Caribbean Cruise

Today's photo-of-the-day is from Royal Caribbean cruise ship port in Falmouth, Jamaica. There's nothing special about the rate sheet, other than the fact that I had a hard time finding this information before visiting Jamaica myself. In the end, we booked a bus ride to Montego Bay onboard our ship. But if this post helps someone else get around the island from Falmouth without booking through the cruise line, then everything cook and curry. Let me know.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Blade Runner 2049 (2017)

Blade Runner 2049 (2017): Long and oppressive. Gratuitous nudity. A touch of woo woo. Rain, snow and smog in LA create great atmosphere. C+