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.