Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Beauty and the Beast at BHS

Beauty and the Beast at BHS: Superb voices (leads and chorus), production numbers ("Be My Guest"), comedic acting, backed by a great pit!

Bonus photos after the jump.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Mary Poppins at LHHS

Mary Poppins at LHHS: The stage play, not the childhood movie. With RISD, not Hollywood, talent. Great singing and dancing. And flying!

Friday, January 27, 2017

POTD: Grand Prix Cycliste de Québec

From 2016 09 09 Quebec City
Today's photo-of-the-day is from the Grand Prix Cycliste de Québec, a one-day professional bicycle road race held in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.

Bonus photos after the jump.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Rethinking a Falling STAAR

I get a little thrill whenever something I read leads me to change a long-held belief, or even just forces me to question it. Spoiler alert: thrill coming.

I've long believed in the need for standardized testing in our schools. As I put it in "Falling STAAR":
We should constantly examine both our teaching methods and our methods of assessing the effectiveness of our teaching. We can try cutting back on standardized testing (the direction we seem to be going). But we still need some form of standardized testing to see if that results in anything good. So, let's ease up, watch the results closely, and take care that we don't over correct.
Source: The Wheel.
I haven't changed my mind about any of that. It's what's done with the results of those standardized tests that I am now forced to rethink. After the jump, what leads me to that.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Hidden Figures (2016)

Hidden Figures (2016): Racism, sexism at NASA in '60s. Uplifting, patriotic. Hits all the bases. Laugh, cry, cheer. A little too pretty. A-

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Peter Pan at PHS

Peter Pan at PHS: Singing, dancing, music, special effects (flying!), huge cast (Lost Boys, Pirates, Indians) make this show a spectacular.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Hello, Dolly! at RHS

Hello, Dolly! at RHS: Classic musical made fresh by the energy of these young singers and dancers. The next best thing to going to Broadway.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Review: The Last Days of New Paris

The Last Days of New Paris
From The Last Days of New Paris, by China Miéville:
Open quote 

The other Messerschmitt veers toward the Seine. The roofs shake again, this time from below. Something comes up from inside Paris. A pale tree-wide tendril, shaggy with bright foliage. It rises. Clutches of buds or fruit the size of human heads quiver. It blooms vastly above the skyline. The German pilot flies straight at the vivid flowers, as if smitten, plant-drunk. He plunges for the vegetation. It spreads trembling leaves. The great vine whips up one last house-height and takes the plane in its coils. It yanks it down below the roofs, into the streets, out of sight. There is no explosion. The snagged aircraft is just gone, into the deeps of the city."

That description of a WWII aerial battle is beautifully written. But in China Miéville's "The Last Days of New Paris," the language isn't figurative. It's literal.

After the jump, my review.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Hell or High Water (2016)

Hell or High Water (2016): Western. Crime story. Buddy movie (x2). And Jeff Bridges as a curmudgeonly Texas Ranger. What's not to like? B+

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

POTD: Rue Saint-Pierre

From 2016 09 09 Quebec City
Today's photo-of-the-day is from the Rue Saint-Pierre in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada. A walkable street in a walkable city.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Moonlight (2016)

Moonlight (2016): Growing up gay in broken home in Miami. World apart for me. Strong story. Great acting. Left me mad. What can be done? A-

Monday, January 16, 2017

Grading Our Schools

The Texas Education Agency (TEA) released "What If" A-F grades for schools across Texas. The ratings are based on student achievement/progress, closing performance gaps, post-secondary readiness, and community and student engagement. The RISD received a "B" in each of the four domains.

The ratings are new, not yet finalized, and only "what if" at this time, but they've caused quite a stir around the state. Richardson ISD Superintendent Dr. Jeannie Stone released the following statement:
Assigning a letter grade, based substantially on the outcome of a standardized test taken on one day of the year, simply can't capture the year-long efforts of students, teachers, principals and everyone who supports teaching and learning. Entire school and communities will be painted with the brush of a single letter grade, even though individual students perform across a wide range of achievement levels on a number of different indicators. The A-F concept has been attempted - and has failed - elsewhere. We owe our students, teachers and communities better than this system.
Source: RISD.
I have two problems with this statement.

Friday, January 13, 2017

La La Land (2016)

La La Land (2016): Hollywood can still make feel-good musicals, an art form worth saving. Not Astaire/Rogers, but good. Emma Stone++. A-

Thursday, January 12, 2017

POTD: Birdman?

From 2016 09 09 Quebec City

Today's photo-of-the-day is from the Rue du Sault-au-Matelot in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada. It's a photo of...well, I don't know what. I didn't see a sign. Google didn't help me.

Closeup photo after the jump.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

13th (2016)

13th (2016): Criminalization of race is the new Jim Crow. The new slavery. The same old evil, erupting in new form each generation. Wow. A+

This documentary did something great movies (or books) do — force me to reconsider a long-held belief. Since my teens, I've believed in that quote by Martin Luther King, Jr., "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice." After watching "13th" I have to consider the possibility that the arc bends back on itself in an endless cycle of fighting the same old evil. Racism is a disease. Just when we think it's vanquished (13th Amendment, Civil Rights Act, Voting Rights Act), the evil metastasizes and erupts in new form (criminalization of race, mass incarceration). Now, in the early 21st Century, the arc of the moral universe has bent back to its starting point once again.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Upcoming Local Elections

The federal and state elections are history and the governments in Washington and Austin are beginning to take shape. That means it must be time to turn our attention to local elections, scheduled to take place May 6, 2017. The deadline to file to run is over a month away, February 17, 2017 at 5:00 p.m., so it's still way early, but here is a look at the early field.

Monday, January 9, 2017

"He is Never in Error"

Could this description of a certain authoritarian leader be any more spot on?
As a child, a young man, praised for the sweetness of his nature and his golden looks, [he] grew up believing that all the world was his friend and everybody wanted him to be happy. So any pain, any delay, frustration or stroke of ill-luck seems to him an anomaly, an outrage. Any activity he finds weary or displeasant, he will try honestly to turn into an amusement, and if he cannot find some thread of pleasure he will avoid it; this to him seems reasonable and natural.

He has [advisors] employed to fry their brains on his behalf, and if he is out of temper it is probably their fault; they shouldn't block him or provoke him. He doesn't want people who say 'No, but...' He wants people who say 'Yes, and...' He doesn’t like men who are pessimistic and sceptical, who turn down their mouths and cost out his brilliant projects with a scribble in the margin of their papers. So do the sums in your head where no one can see them.

Do not expect consistency from him. [He] prides himself on understanding his [advisors], their secret opinions and desires, but he is resolved that none of his [advisors] shall understand him. He is suspicious of any plan that doesn't originate within himself, or seem to. You can argue with him, but you must be careful how and when. You are better to give way on every possible point until the vital point, and to pose yourself as one in need of guidance and instruction, rather than to maintain a fixed opinion from the start and let him think you believe you know better than he does. Be sinuous in argument and allow him escapes: don't corner him, don't back him against the wall.

Remember that his mood depends on other people, so consider who has been with him since you were with him last. Remember he wants more than to be advised of his power, he wants to be told he is right. He is never in error. It is only that other people commit errors on his behalf or deceive him with false information. [He] wants to be told that he is behaving well.
If you thought this description is from an observer's biography of President-elect Donald J. Trump, you'd be wrong.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Manchester by the Sea (2016)

Manchester by the Sea (2016): Handyman knocked down by life. Long flat narrative arc of quiet desperation. Authentic slice of reality. B-

Friday, January 6, 2017

POTD: The Haunted Wood

From 2016 09 07 Charlottetown

Today's photo-of-the-day is from Green Gables, the homestead that inspired Lucy Maud Montgomery to write "Anne of Green Gables." Or more specifically, it's a photo of the path through the woods behind the house. These are the woods that Anne Shirley imagined were haunted. On a sunny day in September, the woods are more suited for a pleasant stroll. So we did just that.

"I can't go through the Haunted Wood, Marilla," cried Anne desperately.

Marilla stared.

"The Haunted Wood! Are you crazy? What under the canopy is the Haunted Wood?"

"The spruce wood over the brook," said Anne in a whisper.

"Fiddlesticks! There is no such thing as a haunted wood anywhere. Who has been telling you such stuff?"

"Nobody," confessed Anne. "Diana and I just imagined the wood was haunted. All the places around here are so--so--commonplace. We just got this up for our own amusement. We began it in April. A haunted wood is so very romantic, Marilla. We chose the spruce grove because it's so gloomy. Oh, we have imagined the most harrowing things. There's a white lady walks along the brook just about this time of the night and wrings her hands and utters wailing cries. She appears when there is to be a death in the family. And the ghost of a little murdered child haunts the corner up by Idlewild; it creeps up behind you and lays its cold fingers on your hand--so. Oh, Marilla, it gives me a shudder to think of it. And there's a headless man stalks up and down the path and skeletons glower at you between the boughs. Oh, Marilla, I wouldn't go through the Haunted Wood after dark now for anything. I'd be sure that white things would reach out from behind the trees and grab me."

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)

Rogue One (2016): A rollicking fun adventure...just like all the others. Fighting an authoritarian regime has new relevance in 2017. Sad! C-

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

OTBR: Along the Similkameen River

Latitude: N 49° 15.402
Longitude: W 120° 00.810

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".

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Who Votes for Sam Johnson?

He's not my Congressman. Even if I lived in Sam Johnson's Collin County district, I wouldn't vote for him. But it's not just because I don't agree with his politics of tax-breaks-for-the-rich and safety-net-cuts-for-the-middle-class. It's because he isn't honest enough to tell us what he's really doing. He's lying by omission, if you will.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Repeat Tweets: The Stuff They Call Country Today

Repeat tweets from December, 2016:

  • Dec 2 2016: "The stuff they call country today is more like bad rock groups with a fiddle." -- Tom Petty
  • Dec 3 2016: RT @cristinadaglas: "BADGERS BADGERS BADGERS."
    Well that sucked.
  • Dec 3 2016: RT @andrewflowers: "Let me be clear: I think Ohio St. should make the College Football Playoff over Penn St."
    Either the CFP is screwed up or the Big Ten is.

After the jump, more repeat tweets.