Monday, December 31, 2018

A Very English Scandal (TV 2018)

Rotten Tomatoes
A Very English Scandal (TV 2018): BBC historical drama. Part farce, part biopic. Jeremy Thorpe, rakish Liberal Party leader, is brought down by homosexual affair. He's a cad but impossible to dislike. His accuser is a campy loser and equally likable. Very English, indeed. B+

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Bandersnatch (2018)

Rotten Tomatoes
Bandersnatch (2018): Interactive movie about a game designer going mad with belief his decisions are controlled by unseen forces (they are: by us). Clever gimmick but watching feels like following a flow chart for a script idea that needs a director to make choices. C-

Saturday, December 29, 2018

POTD: Tee Pee Curios

From 2018 06 12 New Mexico

Today's photo-of-the-day is from Tucumcari, New Mexico, along historic Route 66, "The Main Street of America" and John Steinbeck's "Mother Road."

Friday, December 28, 2018

The Romanoffs (TV 2018)

Rotten Tomatoes
The Romanoffs (TV 2018): Uneven anthology about various descendants of Russian czars. The best episode, about a movie about Nicholas and his family, is like a Black Mirror episode. The worse, Matt Weiner's response to the #MeToo movement, is creepy. Original throughout. B-

Thursday, December 27, 2018

POTD: Blue Swallow Motel

From 2018 06 12 New Mexico

Today's photo-of-the-day is from Tucumcari, New Mexico, along historic Route 66, "The Main Street of America" and John Steinbeck's "Mother Road."

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

POTD: Motel Safari

From 2018 06 12 New Mexico

Today's photo-of-the-day is from Tucumcari, New Mexico, along historic Route 66, "The Main Street of America" and John Steinbeck's "Mother Road."

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

POTD: Conoco

From 2018 06 12 New Mexico

Today's photo-of-the-day is from Tucumcari, New Mexico, along historic Route 66, "The Main Street of America" and John Steinbeck's "Mother Road."

Monday, December 24, 2018

POTD: Texaco

From 2018 06 12 New Mexico

Today's photo-of-the-day is from Tucumcari, New Mexico, along historic Route 66, "The Main Street of America" and John Steinbeck's "Mother Road."

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Paddington 2 (2018)

Rotten Tomatoes
Paddington 2 (2018): Kids' movie with a rich enough plot to interest adults. Great family fare. 100% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Seamless blend of live action and CGI. Look for Sally Hawkins's scene that channels "Shape of Water." B-

Saturday, December 22, 2018

POTD: Magnolia

From 2018 06 12 New Mexico

Today's photo-of-the-day is from Tucumcari, New Mexico, along historic Route 66, "The Main Street of America" and John Steinbeck's "Mother Road."

Friday, December 21, 2018

Review: The Luminaries

The Luminaries
From The Luminaries, by Eleanor Catton:
Open quote 

The twelve men congregated in the smoking room of the Crown Hotel gave the impression of a party accidentally met. From the variety of their comportment and dress—frock coats, tailcoats, Norfolk jackets with buttons of horn, yellow moleskin, cambric, and twill—they might have been twelve strangers on a railway car, each bound for a separate quarter of a city that possessed fog and tides enough to divide them; indeed, the studied isolation of each man as he pored over his paper, or leaned forward to tap his ashes into the grate, or placed the splay of his hand upon the baize to take his shot at billiards, conspired to form the very type of bodily silence that occurs, late in the evening, on a public railway—deadened here not by the slur and clunk of the coaches, but by the fat clatter of the rain."

Eleanor Catton has written a Victorian novel for the 21st century. Set during the New Zealand gold rush of the 1860s, it features a large cast of prospectors, bankers, politicians, con men, whores, and fortune tellers, all mixed up in a mystery of stolen gold and dead and missing men. It's ambitious and massive, but impossible to sort out.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

POTD: Ride Share on the Water

From 2018 03 31 Jakarta

Today's photo-of-the-day is from Jakarta, Indonesia. After visiting the old port of Sunda Kelapa, our son suggested getting something to drink at the Jetski Cafe, which one online reviewer says has "the best beach view in Jakarta." The only challenge was that it is three and a half miles from Sunda Kelapa. No problem. John talked a local with a small boat in the port into giving us a ride by water. All was fine until we got outside the port's breakwater, when the waves started swamping the small boat, which rode low in the water even in calm waters. No personal flotation devices in this ride share. I kept eyeing the distance to shore and thought I'd be able to swim it if necessary. Eventually, our driver decided it was just too risky to continue and turned back. We got out where we had embarked, thanked him for the effort, then hailed a bajaj (tuk-tuk) for the journey by road. The view of the setting sun from the patio at the Jetski Cafe turned out to be magnificent.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

The Mule (2018)

Rotten Tomatoes
The Mule (2018): Old man in need of money decides to run drugs for the cartel. Only suspense is who will ultimately get him: the cartel, the DEA, or his ex-wife. Narrative arc flat-lines, but interest builds towards movie's climax. Hey, watch anyway. It's Clint Eastwood. B-

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Roma (2018)

Rotten Tomatoes
Roma (2018): Mexico in 1970s. Society is coming apart as are the lives of an affluent family and their live-in nanny/maid. An art film: black&white, subtitles, slice-of-life feel, lush panoramic images that linger, mesmerizing ambient sounds. A slow build to a powerful whole. B+

Monday, December 17, 2018

POTD: Pinisi in Sunda Kelapa

From 2018 03 31 Jakarta

Today's photo-of-the-day is of a motorized pinisi at Sunda Kelapa, the old port in Jakarta, Indonesia. The "port only accommodates pinisi, a traditional two masted wooden sailing ship serving inter-island freight service in the archipelago. Although it is now only a minor port, Jakarta has its origins in Sunda Kelapa and it played a significant role in the city's development."

P.S. Fifty points if you spotted "L" in the lower left.

Friday, December 14, 2018

Dumplin' (2018)

Rotten Tomatoes
Dumplin' (2018): Plus-sized daughter tries to please former beauty queen mom. Plays out pretty much as expected but, spoiler, I was surprised that a small Texas town could have five drag queen Dolly Partons. Cardboard characters, script, acting, but some great new Dolly songs. C+

Thursday, December 13, 2018

POTD: Bike Share in Jakarta

From 2018 03 31 Jakarta

Today's photo-of-the-day is from Fatahillah Square in Jakarta, Indonesia. The building in the background is the original Stadhuis (city hall) of Batavia, built in 1710 by the Dutch. Today it's a museum. But it was the bike-share program that caught my eye. The bright pink and blue bicycles can be rented by the hour for touring this historic district.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Mowgli (2018)

Rotten Tomatoes
Mowgli (2018): Live/CGI adaptation of "The Jungle Book." Darker and more violent than Disney; no cute animals, no songs. Beautiful imagery. 1st half is predictable boy-raised-by-wolves story. 2nd half is a serious coming-of-age story. Adults, don't be ashamed to watch alone. C+

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

POTD: Jakarta Skyline

From 2018 03 31 Jakarta

Today's photo-of-the-day is of the skyline of Jakarta, Indonesia, from the Gran Meliá Hotel. Jakarta is a monstrously big, modern city. It has equally big growing pains. Jakarta could learn a lot from American cities. On the other hand, American cities could learn a lot from Jakarta. All cities have the same basic needs and face the same pressures. No one has it all figured out.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Observe. Ask. Do. Repeat.

After the Richardson ISD tax ratification election (TRE), I listed five recommendations for areas RISD to focus on now that the divisive election was behind us. One of the suggestions was to focus on improving community outreach. I recommended making permanent those strategic planning teams that were put together for the "Strategic Plan 2017." I also recommended holding more town hall meetings and reforming the "open mic" portions of board meetings to get more back-and-forth dialog going. What else?

Today, I'm recommending considering the advice of Charles Marohn of "Strong Towns" in an article titled "Most Public Engagement is Worthless". I think that's hyperbolic, but Marohn is still on to something.

Friday, December 7, 2018

POTD: Breakfast at the Gran Meliá Hotel

From 2018 03 31 Jakarta

Today's photo-of-the-day is from the Gran Meliá Hotel in Jakarta, Indonesia. The drink in my hand is a dragon fruit smoothie. Delicious. In front of me is a cuppa Java. Appropriate for a breakfast in Java, right?

Thursday, December 6, 2018

The Kominsky Method (TV 2018)

Rotten Tomatoes
The Kominsky Method (TV 2018): Michael Douglas and Alan Arkin in a buddy comedy about aging. Think "Grace and Frankie" but with prostate jokes. Later episodes get better as they deal with grief. Really not as grim as that sounds. I'd watch a season 2. B-

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

POTD: Staredown

From 2018 03 27 Sydney

Today's photo-of-the-day is from the Featherdale Wildlife Park in Sydney, Australia. Although this sulphur-crested cockatoo was in captivity, it is possible to see flocks of cockatoos in the wild in Australia. With this, we bid farewell to the land Down Under.

From 2018 03 27 Sydney

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

The Favourite (2018)

Rotten Tomatoes
The Favourite (2018): Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz vie for favor of Queen Anne in era when ambitious women had to be tougher than men. Here, cruder, too. Acting by all is tightly balanced between villain and victim. Too serious for farce. Too over-the-top for straight drama. B-

Monday, December 3, 2018

Trolling: Thanksgiving is my Favorite Holiday

Trolling from November, 2018:
  • Nov 2 2018: Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. Porous as it is, it's the last bulwark against Christmas advancing even farther forward in the calendar.
  • Nov 2 2018: RT @BisforBerkshire: "On eve of vote to expand Arizona school voucher program, audit finds fraud aplenty *Parents spent $700K in school voucher money on beauty supplies, apparel; attempted cash withdrawals*"
  • This experience in Arizona is what Huffines, Rinaldi, Stickland, and RISD's own Chris McNutt are working for in Texas: state vouchers for private schools.
  • Nov 3 2018: Spoiler alert: Richardson is not getting Amazon HQ2. Neither is any other north Texas city.
  • Nov 3 2018: RT @moak_barry: "Honestly people - in what world at what time in history other than red GOP Texas in the 21st century does an Attorney General under indictment not resign? And now he’s running for re-election with the full backing of the GOP and evangelicals."
    It's indicted Texas Atty Gen. Ken Paxton who he is talking about here. I'm afraid I don't know what other world this would happen on. It's not like Putin stuffing the ballot box. Texans are voting for Paxton willingly.
  • Nov 3 2018: How in the world can decent Republicans vote for Ken Paxton? Try explaining your vote to your kids.

After the jump, more trolling.

Friday, November 30, 2018

Review: Killers of the Flower Moon

Killers of the Flower Moon
From Killers of the Flower Moon, by David Grann:
Open quote 

Pawhuska, the Osage capital, with a population of more than six thousand—seemed like fevered visions. The streets clamored with cowboys, fortune seekers, bootleggers, soothsayers, medicine men, outlaws, U.S. marshals, New York financiers, and oil magnates."

There's a story in Oklahoma that has been mostly forgotten, that is if it was ever widely known at all. Actually, this book combines several such stories: a story of the white man's injustice to native Americans, a story of oil and its impact on America, a biography of an early lawman and the founding of the FBI, but most of all a murder mystery that we may never get to the bottom of.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Outlaw King (2018)

Rotten Tomatoes
Outlaw King (2018): I didn't expect to like it, but I did. History is compressed. The hero is remade as a sensitive leader. Muddy and bloody battle scenes, but the climactic battle is won by strategy. Movie has the feel of a Tolkien battle with orcs and dwarves. Is that good? B-

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

POTD: Leura

From 2018 03 27 Sydney

Today's photo-of-the-day is from Leura, New South Wales. Nestled in the scenic Blue Mountains, Leura has a large number of cafes, restaurants, boutique and antique shops in a walkable village center. According to Wikipedia, "In 2016, Leura was included in a list of top 50 'most irresistible, exotic, historic and postcard-worthy small towns in Australia.'" We enjoyed a lunch of lasagne, which was served on a bed of french fries ("chips" I should say). Never had that before. Expect never to again.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018)

Rotten Tomatoes
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018): Collection of six stories of Old West staples like the gunslinger, gold prospector, and wagon train, each given the signature Coen Bros. twist of dark humor. Great characters, epic scenery, winning music. A fresh take on an old genre. B+

Monday, November 26, 2018

Guns in RISD and the City of Richardson

Time magazine recently had a cover story titled "Guns in America" that features 245 people across America who share with Time readers their views on guns. Two of those people live in Richardson, Texas. Both are opposed to gun reform.

Chris McNutt is in the far right (of the photo, I mean, not on the political spectrum, although that wouldn't be wrong). He's standing by the TXGR (Texas Gun Rights) sign that features, oh I don't know, I'll call it a machine gun until an expert correctly identifies it in the comments.

Mabel Simpson is just below the "M" in the center. She's also holding a machine gun (again, a placeholder until some defender of liberty enlightens me in the comments).

Chris McNutt and Mabel Simpson are related but I don't know that plays into this story.

Friday, November 23, 2018

Green Book (2018)

Rotten Tomatoes
Green Book (2018): Unlikely friendship blossoms between Italian-American driver and black pianist on tour of Jim Crow South, an inhumane era treated with kid gloves. Watch it for its characters, its history, or as a feel-good Christmas movie. Combination makes it Oscar bait. A-

Thursday, November 22, 2018

POTD: Blue Mountains

From 2018 03 27 Sydney

Today's photo-of-the-day is from the Blue Mountains of New South Wales, Australia, west of Sydney. Beautiful country. The Blue Mountains are part of Australia's Great Dividing Range, which separates the well-watered, populated coast of Australia from its dry, unpopulated Outback. In pioneer days, the range posed a barrier to settlement of the interior, like how the Appalachian Mountains did in America. But whereas American pioneers were drawn to the bountiful continent on the other side, Australian pioneers found the dry Outback desert, keeping settlement of the interior of the continent minimal to this day.

Bonus photos after the jump.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

POTD: Fortune of War

From 2018 03 27 Sydney

Today's photo-of-the-day is from Sydney, Australia. It's evidence that "rock, paper, scissors" is universal, as are dad jokes.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

A Private War (2018)

Rotten Tomatoes
A Private War (2018): Like a "moth to a bloody flame," Marie Colvin is a journalist addicted to war. The war scenes are violent, bloody and heartbreaking. But the scenes of Colvin's PTSD and alcoholism are just as raw here. I left feeling helpless and depressed. A-

Monday, November 19, 2018

POTD: Sydney Skyline

From 2018 03 27 Sydney
Today's photo-of-the-day is from Sydney Harbour in Sydney, Australia. It's one of the world's great harbors. The view is spectacular.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Review: A Gentleman in Moscow

A Gentleman in Moscow
From A Gentleman in Moscow, by Amor Towles:
Open quote 

For years now, with a bit of a smile, the Count had remarked that this or that was behind him—like his days of poetry or travel or romance. But in so doing, he had never really believed it. In his heart of hearts, he had imagined that, even if unattended to these aspects of his life were lingering somewhere on the periphery, waiting to be recalled. But looking at the bottle in his hand, the Count was struck by the realization that, in fact, it was all behind him. Because the Bolsheviks, who were so intent upon recasting the future from a mold of their own making, would not rest until every last vestige of his Russia had been uprooted, shattered, or erased."

I was lucky enough to visit Moscow this summer. I was also lucky that another American I met there recommended reading A Gentleman in Moscow. I had never heard of it, but upon walking past the grand old Metropol Hotel, where the novel is set, I made a mental note to add the novel to my reading list. I am glad I did.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Free Solo (2018)

Rotten Tomatoes
Free Solo (2018): Documentary of first free climb of El Capitan. Fascinating look at psyche of a thrill seeker driven to take insane risks. Nice guy, but by watching am I encouraging behavior that could kill him? Should I feel guilty? Still there's that stunning photography. A-

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

POTD: Opera Abstract

From 2018 03 27 Sydney
Today's photo-of-the-day is from Sydney, Australia. Give yourself 50 points if you knew it is a closeup of the Opera House's roof.

Bonus photos after the jump.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

POTD: Beach Bums at Bondi Beach

From 2018 03 27 Sydney

Today's photo-of-the-day is from Sydney, Australia's Bondi Beach. Sydney has it all — great climate, great harbor, great sights (Sydney Opera House and the Harbour Bridge dominate views), a walkable central business district, and if that's not enough, even a great beach.

Bonus photos after the jump.

Monday, November 12, 2018

POTD: Bike Share in Sydney

From 2018 03 27 Sydney

Today's photo-of-the-day is from the Argyle Cut in Sydney, Australia. In March when we visited there was a booming bike share business in Sydney. Six months later, I can't say. Ofo, the owner of the yellow bike in this photo, has abandoned Sydney "to focus on priority markets internationally." Supposedly, bike share is still available from other companies. But the shakeout from the Wild West days of many companies flooding the streets with bikes appears to have already happened.

Friday, November 9, 2018

RISD TRE: Lessons and Roadmap

In a tax ratification election (TRE), voters in Richardson ISD approved a tax rate increase by a ~7% margin. What should be the takeaways for the RISD board of trustees and district administration?

First and foremost, the district now should have enough revenue to run the schools for the next five years (with or without a solution to the root cause of the problem with school finance at the state level). So, execute. Give teachers that raise. Hire more special ed teachers. Expand Career and Technology programs. Increase security. Do all the things the district said were needed. That's the obvious takeaway. But we now ought to be able to turn our attention to other matters that might have been overlooked while we were focused on solving our local funding problems. I have a few suggestions, some easy, some hard.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

RISD TRE: The Facebook Election

In a tax ratification election (TRE), voters in Richardson ISD approved a tax rate increase by a ~7% margin. In a normal non-partisan May election that would be considered close, but in a November general election where the turnout is eight times as high and tribal politics rule, 7% is a comfortable margin. The outcome was never in doubt once the polls closed and the early vote totals were released.

The TRE passed in all areas of RISD. The precincts that voted "No" were scattered. There was no geographical base of support that controlled the election. Nor was there a base of opposition. The precinct with the highest support had 66% "Yes". The precinct with the lowest support had 34% "Yes." The rest of the precincts were spread evenly between. About half of the precincts voted for the TRE in higher percentages than the overall margin, about half in lower percentages.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

POTD: Clash at Dawes Point

From 2018 03 27 Sydney

Today's photo-of-the-day is from Dawes Point in Sydney, Australia. The first photo is looking straight up at the lacy leaves of the gum trees on the point. The second photo is looking horizontally at the lacy girders under the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Together they clash and mesh in an oddly mesmerizing way. At least for me.

From 2018 03 27 Sydney

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Bohemian Rhapsody (2018)

Rotten Tomatoes
Bohemian Rhapsody (2018): If you like the music of Queen, you'll love this movie. If you like historical accuracy and innovative moviemaking, well, you'll love the music of Queen. Still, it's just a movie. It's a cautionary tale of temperamental genius. But mostly fun. B-

P.S. It's election day in the US. Somehow it's comforting to lose oneself in rock anthems of 40 years ago — especially "We Will Rock You" and "We are the Champions."

Monday, November 5, 2018

POTD: Climbing Up Down Under

From 2018 03 27 Sydney

Today's photo-of-the-day is of the Sydney Harbour Bridge in Australia. Look closely and you can see a dozen or more tourists climbing the bridge. Not us, but we climbed it ourselves later. It's not a strenuous climb, but it takes a long time. You are connected to each other and to the bridge by a safety cable, so there's no danger of falling. On a clear day, you can see forever as they say. Sydney Harbour is one of the world's greatest natural harbors and Harbour Bridge offers the best view of it.

Bonus photos after the jump.

Friday, November 2, 2018

POTD: Opera House or Wind Chime?

From 2018 03 27 Sydney

Today's photo-of-the-day is of the Opera House in Sydney, Australia. Or is it a wind chime?

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Trolling: Dictators

Trolling from October, 2018:

  • Oct 3 2018: RT @iyad_elbaghdadi: "Dictators only truly 'reform' under severe existential pressure. You can't appease them, give them space, give them money, give them world class PR, and *also* expect them to reform. That doesn't happen. That only makes them more dictatorial."
    I read this and honestly thought it was a comment on @realDonaldTrump, not Saudi Arabia.
  • Oct 3 2018: "Expect a 'Presidential Alert' test message at 1:18pm Wednesday."
    If Obama were still president, I'd expect a flurry of crazy theories from the Right. Has anyone on the Left warned that Trump is, e.g., secretly installing listening apps on your phone?
  • Oct 3 2018: Not quite synonyms. When you mean to say "duplication" but instead say "Questions will be screened for duplicity."
  • Oct 4 2018: Trump has brought the country together.
    In Dec 2017, Trump said, The FBI's "reputation is in Tatters - worst in History!"
    In Oct 2018, with the FBI's sham Kavanaugh investigation, Dems agree.
    Win-win for Trump. He has to be pleased. (Putin, too.)

After the jump, more trolling.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

POTD: Table for Three

From 2018 03 27 Sydney

Today's photo-of-the-day is from The Rocks district in Sydney, Australia. It's one of the oldest neighborhoods in Sydney. In the 1970s, it seemed doomed for demolition, to be redeveloped with high rise offices and condos. But a neighborhood group organized and saved it. Renovations have since turned it into a popular, walkable commercial and tourist district.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

mid90s (2018)

Rotten Tomatoes
mid90s (2018): Hard-to-love teens slowly show they aren't as tough as they first appear in this slice-of-life look at a dysfunctional environment. The plot never really goes anywhere, but it may still be an important movie for teens and parents to both watch. C+

Monday, October 29, 2018

Cleaning Paint Brushes

The Dallas Museum of Art is currently showing an exhibition, Günther Förg: A Fragile Beauty. It's co-organized with the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, which says, "A Fragile Beauty explores the work of a rebellious artist whose oeuvre embodies a critical, witty, yet rigorous and penetrating critique of the canon of modern art."