Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (2017)

Pirates of the Caribbean (2017): Jack Sparrow's an old drunk. Movie franchise is just old. Too many characters. Too many ships. Too much. D+

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

POTD: Politics Gone

From 2016 10 09 Alexandria

Today's photo-of-the-day is from the streets of Alexandria, Virginia.
From before the election.
When America was Great.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Review: Hillbilly Elegy

Hillbilly Elegy
From Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis , by J.D. Vance:
Open quote 

I didn’t write this book because I've accomplished something extraordinary. I wrote this book because I've achieved something quite ordinary, which doesn't happen to most kids who grow up like me. You see, I grew up poor, in the Rust Belt, in an Ohio steel town that has been hemorrhaging jobs and hope for as long as I can remember. The statistics tell you that kids like me face a grim future—that if they're lucky, they'll manage to avoid welfare; and if they're unlucky, they’ll die of a heroin overdose, as happened to dozens in my small hometown just last year."

I had high expectations from this highly-praised 2016 bestseller. It would explain the mentality of poor and lower working class whites, of Fox News viewers, of Trump voters. Or so I thought.

Friday, May 26, 2017

What We Do in the Shadows (2014)

What We Do in the Shadows (2014): Mock doc. Cult classic. 4 vampires share a flat and house chores in NZ. Clever concept lacking a plot. C+

Thursday, May 25, 2017

POTD: Cavalier Antiques

From 2016 10 09 Alexandria

...or Palace Cleaners. You decide. Today's photo-of-the-day is from the streets of Alexandria, Virginia.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (2017)

King Arthur (2017): Giant elephants, squids and Kung Fu George in medieval England. Knights with no armor. Over-acted, over-stuffed. D+

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Show Us Your Privates

To the command "Show us your papers" we can now add "Show us your privates." After previously approving a draconian anti-sanctuary cities bill, the Texas House now has approved a so-called "bathroom" bill with only the fig leaf of an amendment to claim it's not discriminatory. It is. Despite what the legislators might try to have you believe, all you need to know is that the bill keeps transgender students out of bathrooms that match their gender identity.
"If they are biologically considered to be a female, they must use that [facility]," [Chris] Paddie said in laying out this amendment. "Otherwise, there will be accommodations made for them to use a single-occupancy facility."
Source: Texas Tribune.
Local representatives Angie Chen Button, Linda Koop, and Jason Villalba all voted in favor of this discriminatory bill. Sine die can't come soon enough. Neither can Election Day 2018, when I can register my own vote — against legislators who discriminate. We are living in hard times.

Monday, May 22, 2017

The Lobster (2015)

The Lobster (2015): Hotel where singles get turned into animals. Black comedy with deadpan, robotic style. Watch Black Mirror instead. D+

Friday, May 19, 2017

Snatched (2017)

Snatched (2017): Mother/daughter buddy comedy. Amy Schumer gets the good lines, not Goldie Hahn. Better than my low expectations for it. C+

Thursday, May 18, 2017


From 2016 10 09 Alexandria
Today's photo-of-the-day is from the streets of Alexandria, Virginia, where a public display of affection brightens the day.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Colossal (2016)

Colossal (2016): Days of Wine and Roses with big monsters. More a study of alcoholism and codependency than a sci-fi movie. Different. B-

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Review: To Build a Castle

To Build a Castle
From To Build a Castle: My Life as a Dissenter, by Vladimir Bukovsky:
Open quote 

Only greenhorns, when they come in for their first stretch, look forward to their release and count the days. Life outside appears to them as some bright, sunny, unattainable shore. But I was in for the fourth time, I knew that there is nothing more disillusioning in life than to be released from jail. I also knew that I had never managed to last longer than a single damned year outside — and never would. Because the reasons that had landed me in jail in the first place would land me there again and again. These reasons were immutable, just as Soviet life itself was immutable, just as you yourself could never change."

This 1979 book is a memoir of one man's run-ins with the KGB, prisons, work camps, and the mental hospitals used to suppress dissent in the Soviet Union in the 1960s and 1970s. Given the state of affairs today, I thought it would be a good time to research this earlier time, suddenly relevant again, closer to home.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Surge in Democratic Votes in CoR?

According to "Indivisible Richardson", there was a "223% Increase in Democratic turnout in May 6 election." I think that refers to Collin County races, not the City of Richardson, but if true and if it carried over to Richardson, that might explain Cory Montfort's surprisingly (to me) good showing in her city council race, losing by only 284 votes out of 5,488 total. She didn't explicitly run as a Democrat in this non-partisan race, but if asked she didn't try to hide her party leanings either.

Friday, May 12, 2017

20th Century Women (2016)

20th Century Women (2016): Single mom enlists help in raising teen boy in 1979 LA. Great acting. Great evocation of the period. Feminism. B-

Thursday, May 11, 2017

POTD: Repurposing the Old

From 2016 10 09 Alexandria

Today's photo-of-the-day is from Alexandria, Virginia. Just a block or so from where George Washington enjoyed a pint or two at Gadsby's Tavern is the King Street Blues, purveyor of comfort food with a Southern accent. Old buildings don't have to be torn down to be saved.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017): Star Wars with more wisecracks and explosions. Same "I am your dad." More Cat Stevens, please. C+

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Richardson City Council Election Analysis

On Saturday, May 6, Mabel Simpson (Place 4) and Marta Gómez Frey (Place 5) were elected to the Richardson City Council and Paul Voelker was elected as Mayor. Congratulations to the winners and thanks to all candidates who volunteered to serve our community.

As opposed to the RISD school board election held the same day, the story here is much simpler to tell. Or so I thought going into election day. Looking back, things were going on under the surface that I was too blind to see.

Monday, May 8, 2017

RISD Election Analysis

On Saturday, May 6, Karen Clardy, Justin Bono, and Kristin Kuhne were elected to the Richardson ISD board of trustees (Bono and Kuhne to three-year terms, Clardy to the two years remaining on the term vacated by Kris Oliver). Congratulations to the winners and thanks to all candidates who volunteered to serve our community.

In the most contested race (Place 7: Kuhne vs Davenport) there were 11,209 votes cast, compared to 10,460 in the other contested race (Place 6: Clardy, Eager, Armstrong, Prado). Contrast both of those totals with the 9,507 votes in 2016 for a bond election. This year's interest was higher than normal, but note that 18,667 voters turned out for the 2011 RISD bond election, so this year's interest was not all that high. Countywide, turnout was only 7.81%. Attribute it to complacency, apathy, hopelessness, or whatever, turnout is low and unhealthy for democracy.

Let's look at the individual races.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

The White Helmets (2016)

The White Helmets (2016): Documentary short about most admirable men in world - volunteer first responders in Syrian war. Renews hope. A-

Friday, May 5, 2017

OTBR: A Temple in Pearland

Latitude: N 29° 31.362
Longitude: W 095° 17.712

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".

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Beauty and the Beast (2017)

Beauty and the Beast (2017): Visual feast but uninspired remake of Disney 1991 animated movie. Most believable beast and love story yet. C+

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

A Good Place for a Coffee Shop

For a long time, I've advocated for more urban, higher density, mixed-use development in places like CityLine and Palisades and Brick Row and Eastside and on and on. And generally, I have been disappointed with the result. At best, we ended up with mostly multi-use (not mixed-use) developments (apartments over here, a strip shopping center over there, and an corporate office campus off in the corner). At worst, we ended up with a 1980s style apartment building without even the claim of mixed-use.

Take, for example, GreenVue apartments on Greenville Avenue between Arapaho and Collins. Within walking distance of a DART station, it was a good location for catalyst mixed-use project. Instead we got a 1980s-style apartment building that was built to be "retail ready." No mixed-use. No retail. No offices. Just four stories of apartments that someday, maybe, can be retrofitted to have some retail. If the market demand ever appears. Sigh.

So is it time to change my mind?

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

The Circle (2017)

The Circle (2017): Telegraphed morality tale about loss of privacy to online big data. Nothing novel here. Watch Black Mirror instead. C-

Monday, May 1, 2017

Repeat Tweets: Why Europe Needs the EU

Repeat tweets from April, 2017:

  • Apr 2 2017: RT @Bencjacobs: "Theresa May would go to war to protect Gibraltar, Michael Howard says." Makes you understand why Europe needs the EU.
  • Apr 2 2017: Today is International Fact-checking Day. There are 111,214 fact-checking teams in 11,047 countries.
  • Apr 4 2017: RT @DonMcLeroy: "It's Time for Conservatives to Celebrate This President." Which President? Putin?
  • Apr 5 2017: "Caltech claims first conference win in 29 years." Hooray for student-athletes. Go Beavers.

After the jump, more repeat tweets.