Saturday, October 24, 2020

My Octopus Teacher (2020)

Rotten Tomatoes
My Octopus Teacher (2020): Nature documentary like you've never seen. Diver in South Africa spends a year visiting, studying, and learning from one particular octopus. He even makes friends, if that's the right word. It's clearly intelligent, curious, and playful. Fascinating. B+

Friday, October 23, 2020

Review: The Index of Self-Destructive Acts

From The Index of Self-Destructive Acts, by Christopher Beha:

Open quoteOn the day that Waxworth arrived in New York to write for the Interviewer, a man named Herman Nash stood on the rim of the fountain in Washington Square and announced that the world was about to end." The Index of Self-Destructive Acts
Amazon
The index of self-destructive acts is a baseball statistic developed by Bill James that counts up all the mistakes a pitcher makes that are entirely in his control: balks, wild pitches, errors, etc. There's not much baseball in this novel by Christopher Beha, but there are a lot of self-destructive acts.

Thursday, October 22, 2020

The Man Who Wouldn't Spy for the US

"The F.B.I. tried to recruit an Iranian scientist as an informant. When he balked, the payback was brutal." Laura Secor tells the story of Sirous Asgari, an Iranian who had once attended graduate school in America, where his wife gave birth to his American citizen daughter, and where his two sons attended American universities. But on a visit in 2017 he was detained by the F.B.I. He was charged with "theft of trade secrets, visa fraud, and eleven counts of wire fraud." He considered the charges to be nonsense and refused a deal offered that appeared to be the real reason behind the charges — to get him to agree to act as an informant, that is to spy for the US back in Iran. He fought the trumped up charges in an American courtroom and won. But after the judge dismissed all charges against him, even before he could leave the courtroom, he was detained by I.C.E. And then the real hell began.

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Lovecraft Country (TV 2020)

Rotten Tomatoes
Lovecraft Country (TV 2020): Monsters, magic, witches, ghosts, shape shifters, time travel, and racism, lots of racism, from 1921 Tulsa race massacre to 1950s Jim Crow. The Korean War filler episode is the best. The CGI is impressive. The plot doesn't make a lick of sense. C+

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Lake Highlands Gets a Signature Bridge

Advocate Lake Highlands has the story: "That bowl of spaghetti that is the Skillman/Audelia/LBJ interchange will become a beautiful — and safe — gateway into Lake Highlands."

Monday, October 19, 2020

David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet (2020)

Rotten Tomatoes
David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet (2020): Part memoir, part nature doc, part prescription for avoiding environmental disaster. Attenborough calls it his witness statement of global decline in a single lifetime. He warns the next 93 years will be worse without change. B-

Friday, October 16, 2020

POTD: Mausoleum of Aga Khan

From 2019 11 19 Aswan
Today's photo-of-the-day is from Aswan, Egypt. It shows the Mausoleum of Aga Khan on the Nile River. According to Wikipedia, "He was the 48th Imam of the Nizari Ismaili religion. He was one of the founders and the first permanent president of the All-India Muslim League. His goal was the advancement of Muslim agendas and protection of Muslim rights in India." He died in 1957.

Thursday, October 15, 2020

The Boys - Season 2 (TV 2020)

Rotten Tomatoes
The Boys - Season 2 (TV 2020): Big pharma, military, a Scientology-like religious cult, and our ragtag team of resisters strive for control of a serum that gives people super powers. Only message is nihilism. If you like gratuitous random exploding heads this might be for you. C+

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

POTD: Nile Fishermen...or Something

From 2019 11 19 Aswan
Today's photo-of-the-day is from the Nile River in Aswan, Egypt. I have no idea what these men are doing. Maybe beating the fish to death? Or is that some kind of net on the end of the pole? Who knows?

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

The Forty-Year-Old Version (2020)

Rotten Tomatoes
The Forty-Year-Old Version (2020): Character study of a struggling playwright/teacher/wannabe rapper in a mid-life crisis. Should she sell out her vision to be more commercial? The dignity and even greatness in an everyday woman. Written, directed, and starring Radha Blank. B+

Monday, October 12, 2020

Extending the Reach of Richardson's Gag Order

The City of Richardson is considering a social media policy. Let's stipulate that this resulted from the City's embarrassing BimboGate in early 2019. Mayor Paul Voelker addressed that, eloquently and sufficiently, in my mind, with this statement of belief: "Richardson’s values are best upheld when we engage in civic discourse that is civil in tone, respectful of others and designed to produce constructive outcomes for the betterment of our community."

Saturday, October 10, 2020

Now Democracy is a Dirty Word, Too

For years, I've tracked how virtues like tolerance and compromise and civility have all come under attack from conservatives. I've said, "What I thought made American democracy great is being surely dismantled, virtuous brick by virtuous brick." Ironically, the latest such motherhood and apple pie virtue that conservatives want no truck with any more is "democracy" itself.

Friday, October 9, 2020

Succession - Season 1 (TV 2018)

Rotten Tomatoes
Succession - Season 1 (TV 2018): Aging patriarch of family-owned media empire faces succession. Schemes, double-crosses, undisguised ill will. Think King Lear, Murdochs, Trumps. Lots of foul language. Lots. Not a likable character in the show. But yet, riveting television. B+

#TardyReview

Thursday, October 8, 2020

Bad Education (2020)

Rotten Tomatoes
Bad Education (2020): Drama based on real life. Embezzlement in a Long Island school district by a popular but smarmy superintendent. Plot unfolds like you'd expect. Great cast does their best with so-so script. Maybe screenwriter should have gone all in on black comedy. B-

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Code of Ethics: Curiouser and Curiouser

It's been a long time since we had to talk about Laura (Maczka) Jordan. Remember, Richardson's former mayor was convicted of bribery. Then she got her conviction thrown out. Now she waits a possible retrial. She is content running out the clock until the prosecution or the public lose interest. Or both. It could easily be ten years after she left office before her case is settled and justice is served. Or not. That's the legal system in America.

How about the legislative system? The City of Richardson has a Code of Ethics that utterly failed at either preventing the behavior that led to the mayor being tried for bribery. Or even in discovering the alleged criminal behavior after the fact. The City had a reason for that, a reason that didn't sit well with me. But the City, too, seems to be playing a long game, perhaps also hoping that the public eventually loses interest.

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

POTD: Aswan Spice Market

From 2019 11 19 Aswan
Today's photo-of-the-day is from a spice market in Aswan, Egypt.

Bonus photos after the jump.

Monday, October 5, 2020

POTD: Aswan Street Market

From 2019 11 19 Aswan
Today's photo-of-the-day is of a street market in Aswan, Egypt.

Bonus photos after the jump.

Friday, October 2, 2020

Review: The Mirror & the Light

From The Mirror & the Light, by Hilary Mantel:

Open quoteOnce the queen’s head is severed, he walks away. A sharp pang of appetite reminds him that it is time for a second breakfast, or perhaps an early dinner." The Mirror & the Light
Amazon
The Mirror & the Light is the third volume of Hilary Mantel's life of Thomas Cromwell, chief minister of Henry VIII. It covers the four years from the execution of Anne Boleyn to his own downfall, with all the court intrigues in between. It's a masterfully written view of England in mid-1500s. B+

Thursday, October 1, 2020

Random Thoughts: I Can't Wait for the Presidential Debates

Tweets from September, 2020:
  • 2020-09-03: I can't wait for the Presidential debates so I'll finally know who to vote for.
  • 2020-09-03: Radioactive (2020): Biopic of Marie Curie. Rosamund Pike plays an unlikable character, a prickly genius. It crams 60 years into one movie, as well as peeks at future benefits and ills of nuclear energy. You'll learn a lot about history, an amazing scientist and kickass woman. B-
  • 2020-09-07: An American Pickle (2020): Immigrant falls into a vat of pickle brine in 1919 and is rescued in 2019. Just accept the premise. Seth Rogan plays the immigrant and his great grandson. Touching story of reconnecting with family and culture. Not what I expected from Seth Rogan. B-
  • 2020-09-07: When I "hide" an ad on Facebook (hoping FB will quit serving ads of this type to me), it asks me why I wanted to hide the ad, offering choices like "already purchased," "irrelevant," and "repetitive." Why doesn't it offer as a choice, "Insults my intelligence"?
  • 2020-09-08: Neighborhood yard sign poll: 3 Colin Allred signs, 2 Genevieve Collins signs. So with 55 days to go, it's 60%-40% Allred.

After the jump, more random thoughts.

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Perry Mason (TV 2020)

Rotten Tomatoes
Perry Mason (TV 2020): Gritty back stories for Perry and Della Street, Paul Drake, and Hamilton Burger. Perry is a hothead loser who plays fast and loose with the law. Matthew Rhys doesn't quite have the toughness needed. The resolution of the murder case is kind of messy. B-

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

POTD: Sunset Sail on the Nile

From 2019 11 19 Aswan
Today's photo-of-the-day is from Aswan, Egypt. It's from a sunset sail in a felucca on the Nile River.

Bonus photo after the jump.

Monday, September 28, 2020

Enola Holmes (2020)

Rotten Tomatoes
Enola Holmes (2020): Sherlock's young sister's mother is missing. Enola runs away to find her. Sherlock and Mycroft search for Enola. Mystery and adventure ensue. Suitable for the whole family. Enola is smart, independent, and good with jujutsu. Young girls will love her. C+

Friday, September 25, 2020

The Social Dilemma (2020)

Rotten Tomatoes
The Social Dilemma (2020): Documentary. Former execs from Facebook, Google, Twitter warn us of the threat from the addictive design of social apps, which has led to a spike in depression and suicide attempts by young people. But they struggle in saying what can be done. C+

Thursday, September 24, 2020

POTD: Old Cataract Hotel

From 2019 11 19 Aswan
Today's photo-of-the-day is from Aswan, Egypt. It shows the Old Cataract Hotel, built in 1899 on the bank of the Nile. "Its guests have included Tsar Nicholas II, Winston Churchill, Howard Carter, Margaret Thatcher, Jimmy Carter, François Mitterrand, Princess Diana, Queen Noor and Agatha Christie, who set portions of her novel Death on the Nile at the hotel. The 1978 film of the novel was shot at the hotel."

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Loading More Responsibility on the Police

The death of George Floyd led to a nationwide "Black Lives Matter" movement that reached all the way to Richardson. The mayor marched with and addressed Richardson residents at a "Black Lives Matter" rally at City Hall. The City Council unanimously approved a statement condemning racism. The City Council called Chief Jim Spivey to brief the council on department policies. It all sounded so woke.

But. You knew there'd be a but.

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Harriet (2019)

Rotten Tomatoes
Harriet (2019): Long overdue biopic of Harriet Tubman, a fierce, uncompromising, determined American hero. Reason #101 for defeating Trump: so Harriet Tubman can take her deserved place on the $20 bill. Cynthia Erivo owns the role. More action scenes than speeches. A-

Monday, September 21, 2020

POTD: Felucca on the Nile

From 2019 11 19 Aswan
Today's photo-of-the-day is from Aswan, Egypt. It shows a felucca, "a traditional wooden sailing boat." "They are usually able to board ten passengers and the crew consists of two or three people." "Despite the availability of motorboats and ferries, feluccas are still in active use as a means of transport in Nile-adjacent cities like Aswan or Luxor. They are especially popular among tourists who can enjoy a quieter and calmer mood than motorboats have to offer."

Bonus photo after the jump.

Saturday, September 19, 2020

POTD: Tombs of the Nobles

From 2019 11 19 Aswan
Today's photo-of-the-day is from Aswan, Egypt. It shows the Nile River and high above its bank, the Tombs of the Nobles, dating back to circa 2575 BC to 2150 BC. These were not pharaohs of Egypt, but a rank below — the nobility. Given the heated politics of today, I find it comforting to think of that vast span of time that separates us from the politics of ancient Egypt. How many governments rose and fell in the millennia since? No matter what happens to the American Republic in the near future (and make no mistake; democracy teeters on the brink), this too shall pass.

Friday, September 18, 2020

Broadchurch (TV 2013-2017)

Rotten Tomatoes
Broadchurch (TV 2013-2017). A dead boy is found on the beach of an English seaside town. Suspects are everywhere: neighbors and family. Detectives investigate. Focus is not just on solving the whodunnit, but on how everyone in town is affected. Character counts in Broadchurch. A-

#VeryTardyReview

Thursday, September 17, 2020

POTD: Mövenpick Resort Aswan

From 2019 11 19 Aswan
Today's photo-of-the-day is from the Mövenpick Resort Aswan on an island in the Nile River in Aswan, Egypt. The Mövenpick was our base for exploring Aswan and the Upper Nile. The Nile flows south to north, so the south is Upper Egypt and the north is Lower Egypt, a geographical detail that is endlessly confusing for some reason. In the background across the Nile behind the island that the hotel sits on, are the Tombs of the Nobles, dating back to circa 2575 BC to 2150 BC.

Bonus photos after the jump.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Polka King (2017)

Rotten Tomatoes
Polka King (2017): Biopic of rise and fall of Jan Lewan, a Polish Cold War defector who becomes a polka star and bilks his fans of millions of dollars. A PSA for gullible people. A Jack Black vehicle. He owns every scene, but his Polish accent just isn't up to the task. B-

#VeryTardyReview

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

The Man Who Would Be Polka King (2009)

Rotten Tomatoes
The Man Who Would Be Polka King (2009): Documentary of the rise and fall of Jan Lewan, a Polish Cold War defector who becomes a polka star and bilks his fans of millions of dollars. A short (69 minutes), low-budget film. Pay attention to his wife, a minor grifter herself. B-

#VeryTardyReview

Monday, September 14, 2020

Innovative Solutions for Texas Health Care

"Innovative Solutions for Texas Health Care." That's the headline on the campaign mailer for Genevieve Collins, GOP candidate for Congressional District 32. It's a fairly big card, certainly big enough to detail what the GOP's "innovative solutions" might be. This is what she offers:
  • Health Care That's More Affordable
  • Greater Access to Quality Care
  • Allow You to Keep Your Doctor

Friday, September 11, 2020

Class Action Park (2020)

Rotten Tomatoes
Class Action Park (2020): Documentary of a wild 1980s amusement park in New Jersey. Owner cared more for thrills than safety and let kids run the place. The result was something like "Ayn Rand meets Lord of the Flies." Adults reminiscing have fond memories of acting stupid. C-

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

I'm Thinking of Ending Things (2020)

Rotten Tomatoes
I'm Thinking of Ending Things (2020): A surreal trip by a new couple into the country (and a blizzard) for her to meet his parents. Slow descent into her delusions, or are they his? The kind of movie that your college friends would tell you to watch high. Not for everyone. A-

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

We Proudly Endorse the Racist

According to an article in Slate, and consistent with my own observations, "In response [to protests], elected officials, police chiefs, and certain other writers say that most police officers are decent people doing a tough job to the best of their ability. They say that while acts of brutality should be condemned and punished, existing mechanisms are an adequate means of doing so. They say that the American system of policing is basically just and effective, not intrinsically discriminatory, and that the country’s police departments are not run by officers who hold personally racist views and are predisposed to violence."

One candidate for President shares these views. He "is critical of officers who perpetrate unjustified shootings and beatings, and supportive of peaceful protests against overpolicing. But he says that 'most cops are good, decent people.' He believes that the existing levels of police funding should be maintained. He does not believe that 'qualified immunity' laws should be changed to allow for easier prosecution of police brutality."

Public opinion polls show majorities of Americans agree. The candidate with those views is Joe Biden. You might think that many police officers would also support this candidate. After all, his positions are in line with their own public statements. Endorsements, however, suggest you'd be wrong.

Monday, September 7, 2020

An American Pickle (2020)

Rotten Tomatoes
An American Pickle (2020): Immigrant falls into a vat of pickle brine in 1919 and is rescued in 2019. Just accept the premise. Seth Rogan plays the immigrant and his great grandson. Touching story of reconnecting with family and culture. Not what I expected from Seth Rogan. B-

Friday, September 4, 2020

POTD: Mosque of Ibn Tulun

From 2019 11 18 Old Cairo
Today's photo-of-the-day is from the Mosque of Ibn Tulun, the oldest and largest mosque in Cairo, Egypt.

Bonus photos after the jump.

Thursday, September 3, 2020

Radioactive (2020)

Rotten Tomatoes
Radioactive (2020): Biopic of Marie Curie. Rosamund Pike plays an unlikable character, a prickly genius. It crams 60 years into one movie, as well as peeks at future benefits and ills of nuclear energy. You'll learn a lot about history, an amazing scientist and kickass woman. B-

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

POTD: Portrait of an Artist Sketching

From 2019 11 18 Old Cairo

Today's photo-of-the-day is from the Mosque of Ibn Tulun, the oldest and largest mosque in Cairo, Egypt.

After the jump, what the unidentified artist is sketching.

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Random Thoughts: How to Wear a Face Mask

Tweets from August, 2020:
  • 2020-08-01: During all that bus time, maybe the Marlins could work on how to wear a face mask.
  • 2020-08-03: @JohnCornyn in other words: "Who are you gonna believe, me or your own lying eyes?"
  • 2020-08-04: Crip Camp (2020): Documentary about a 1970s camp in the Catskills for disabled youth run by hippies. Fun, games, brotherhood and independence. What they learned at Camp Jened prepared them to fight the government for rights for the disabled, culminating in the ADA. Inspiring. B+"
  • 2020-08-04: @jonathanvswan: "Oh, you're doing death as a proportion of cases. I'm talking about death as a proportion of population. That's where the U.S. is really bad. Much worse than South Korea, Germany, etc.?
    @realdonaldtrump: "You can't do that."
    Swan: "Why can't I do that?"

After the jump, more random thoughts.

Monday, August 31, 2020

Remembering the Pandemic

Now that COVID-19 is over (at least according to the Republican National Convention, where it was only mentioned in the past tense), it's time for a pandemic post-mortem. I rely on Ed Yong's article in The Atlantic, "How the Pandemic Defeated America." It's full of ideas to help us next time.

In case you didn't catch it, that headline and first sentence were dripping in sarcasm.

Friday, August 28, 2020

Shtisel - Season 1 (TV 2013)

Rotten Tomatoes
Shtisel - Season 1 (TV 2013): Israeli. Drama about 4 generations of an Orthodox family in Jerusalem. Some humor, more friction, lots of duty and tradition. Brief glimpses into what family and religion mean to each of them. For me, it opens a window on a fascinating culture. B-

#VeryTardyReview

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Martin and his Moral Arc

"The mythology of racial progress exerts a powerful hold on our minds." Mythology. That's the thesis of Jennifer A. Richeson in an article in The Atlantic titled "Americans Are Determined to Believe in Black Progress." Maybe I was primed to accept her pessimism. In any case, I kept finding myself nodding and quietly saying, uh huh.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

POTD: Courtyard of the Mosque of Ibn Tulun


From 2019 11 18 Old Cairo

Today's photo-of-the-day is from the vast courtyard of the Mosque of Ibn Tulun, the oldest and largest mosque in Cairo, Egypt.

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Jayhawkers (2015)

Rotten Tomatoes
Jayhawkers (2015): Biopic of Wilt Chamberlain at U of Kansas. Basketball, racism, and surprisingly, jazz. Director makes the most of a small budget and wooden acting. B&W, dark and harshly lit basketball scenes with a jazz score occasionally raise this sports pic to art. B-

#VeryTardyReview

Monday, August 24, 2020

POTD: City of a Thousand Minarets

From 2019 11 18 Old Cairo

Today's photo-of-the-day is from the Mosque of Ibn Tulun, the oldest mosque in Cairo, Egypt.

Nowhere in the Muslim world can you find such a profusion of domes and minarets as in Cairo. Rising from the haze of crowded, crumbling streets in the old, chaotic, yet picturesque medieval parts of the city, they dominate the city's skyline. Minarets, indeed, are Cairo's joy and ornament and the source of Cairenes' favorite nickname: "Madeenet el alf Midhana," "the city of a thousand minarets."
...
Among Cairo's "thousand" minarets, Ibn Tulun's mud-brick, ninth-century mosque is said to be one of the simplest, yet one of the most beautiful. Devoid of any surface decoration, it is modeled on the minaret of the great mosque of Samarra, Mesopotamia (Iraq) where Ibn Tulun was born, and features an outer spiral staircase instead of the usual inner one. The idea apparently came from the spiral staircase of a Babylonian ziggurat thought to be the Tower of Babel.
Source: John Feeney.

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Q: "We Are the Storm"

QAnon "is a far-right conspiracy theory alleging a secret plot by a supposed "deep state" against President Donald Trump and his supporters. No part of the theory has been shown to be based in fact...Q has accused many liberal Hollywood actors, Democratic politicians, and high-ranking officials of being members of an international child sex trafficking ring. Q also claimed that Trump feigned collusion with Russians to enlist Robert Mueller to join him in exposing the ring and preventing a coup d'état by Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and George Soros."

There's more, much more. It used to be that conspiracy theories floated on the fringe of American politics. Today, they are embedded in the highest ranks of state and federal government. "Highest ranks" is not hyperbole.

Friday, August 21, 2020

Is Criticism of Derek Chauvin Off Limits?


The political cartoon depicts Derek Chauvin. Chauvin was charged with second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter. The Richardson police do not have that man in their ranks. No honorable police officer anywhere should take offense at a cartoon condemning the actions of that man. You know where I'm going with this. Richardson Police Officers' Association FOP Lodge 105 takes offense.

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Last Tango in Halifax - Season 1 (TV 2012)

Rotten Tomatoes
Last Tango in Halifax - Season 1 (TV 2012): Drama about three generations of an extended dysfunctional family in northern England. Not really a comedy, but there are scenes that are hilarious. At heart, it's about looking for love, sometimes against your better judgment. B+

#VeryTardyReview

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Babylon Berlin - Season 3 (TV 2020)

Rotten Tomatoes
Babylon Berlin - Season 3 (TV 2020): German. Economic crash, police brutality, public protests, political corruption, a looming fascist takeover, and mobsters. Babylon Berlin is set in Berlin in 1929, but it speaks to America in 2020. Intricate subplots. Rich characters. B+

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

POTD: Stairway to Heaven

From 2019 11 18 Old Cairo
Today's photo-of-the-day is of the entrance to the Mosque of Ibn Tulun, the oldest and largest mosque in Cairo, Egypt.

Monday, August 17, 2020

Project Power (2020)

Rotten Tomatoes
Project Power (2020): Bad guys do field tests on a new drug that gives people superpowers for 5 minutes at a time. Good guys have to find the source. Violence ensues. Gets a passing grade only because of Dominique Fishback. Oh, and its two Clint Eastwood jokes. C+

Sunday, August 16, 2020

To Donald: Sealed with a Kiss


Hypocrisy? Audacity? Chutzpah? I don't quite know the right word for the accusation I wanted to make when I opened my mail yesterday. Inside was a fundraising pitch from Donald J. Trump. Delivered by mail. I know that he has it in for the US Postal Service. Trump is frightened of losing re-election and sees his biggest threat as being, well, people voting. So he figures that the more he can suppress the vote, the better his chances. Hence, sabotage the USPS, since it's predicted that many, many people want to vote safely by mail in 2020 because of COVID-19. So he undermines Americans' confidence in the US Mail.

Saturday, August 15, 2020

Long Shadow from Appleton

I was born in Appleton, Wisconsin. During my early childhood, I was blissfully unaware of politics. But Appleton was home base for some of the nastiest politics of the 20th Century. I gradually learned about the evil my hometown birthed and nurtured. In high school, I learned that the cemetery just down the street from my school was the eternal resting place of Senator Joseph McCarthy.

Friday, August 14, 2020

POTD: Egyptian Lamp Pendants

From 2019 11 18 Old Cairo

Today's photo-of-the-day is from a sidewalk display of traditional Egyptian lamp pendants in old Cairo, Egypt.

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is

Do "Black Lives Matter" in Richardson? As the old saying goes, put your money where your mouth is. George Floyd was killed by the Minneapolis police on May 25, touching off a national movement with the slogan, "Black Lives Matter." There were protest marches nationwide, including two in Richardson (at Berkner Park and at City Hall). The Richardson City Council invited Richardson Police Chief Jim Spivey to brief them on the department's policies, training practices, community engagement, and transparency initiatives. The briefing took almost two and a half hours. I was pleased to learn that RPD's use-of-force policies are already broadly in line with the recommendations of the #8CantWait campaign to reform police departments.

But (there's always a but, and if the council members themselves can't voice it, they aren't doing their jobs), I had some concerns as well. In two-and-a-half hours with Chief Spivey, no one uttered the words "Black Lives Matter." Maybe they all felt that was all taken care of two weeks earlier, when the City Council approved a statement condemning racism. Still, no one identified any specific areas for improvement in Richardson. No one called for change. No one put any money behind the sentiment.

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

The Umbrella Academy - Season 2 (TV 2020)

Rotten Tomatoes
The Umbrella Academy - Season 2 (TV 2020): It's 1963. The siblings face another apocalypse. Time travel, civil rights, religious cult, JFK conspiracy, office politics in the commission maintaining the universe's timeline, and more family issues. Fast-paced. Never predictable. B+

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Richardson's Budget - Black or Red?

It's August and that means it's time for Richardson budget roulette. Will the proposed city budget be balanced? You'd think that would be a simple question. Isn't the city required by law to have a balanced budget? Well, yes, but it all depends on the meaning of "balanced".

When I looked at this question three years ago, I concluded that the city's 2017-2018 budget was indeed balanced and didn't require use of that sneaky asterisk ("plus reserved fund balance and other financing sources"). After watching this over a number of years, I found that the amount the budget is in the red or black each year is always small. Whether it happens in any given year seems to be a matter of chance.

Monday, August 10, 2020

Women Weren't Given the Vote. They Took It.

For a country that prides itself on its democracy, the United States has forced a lot of its citizens to fight for the privilege of voting. August 18th marks the centenary of the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which declares that the right to vote “shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.” That milestone is sometimes described as having “given” women the right to vote. It wasn’t a gift; it was a hard-won victory on the part of suffragists who’d been agitating for it for more than seventy years, on the basis of their common humanity with men.
Thank you, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony. Thank you, Carrie Chapman Catt and Alice Paul. Alice Paul especially was a real badass. She organized a march for women's suffrage down Pennsylvania Avenue the day before President Woodrow Wilson's inauguration. Anti-suffrage rioters disrupted the march while police stood idly by, giving no protection to the peaceful marchers. Then Alice Paul organized pickets in front of the White House designed to prod the president into supporting women's suffrage. The civil disobedience campaign lasted months. Paul herself was arrested several times and finally sentenced to jail for seven months. She went on a hunger strike and was force fed raw eggs through a feeding tube. The publicity of the horrible treatment of her in jail kept the cause in the public eye. After passage of the 19th Amendment, Paul said, "It was shocking that a government of men could look with such extreme contempt on a movement that was asking nothing except such a simple little thing as the right to vote."

Friday, August 7, 2020

POTD: Boys from St. George's College

From 2019 11 18 Old Cairo

Today's photo-of-the-day is from Cairo, Egypt, and shows a group of boys from St. George's College, located in Cairo's Nasr City district and one of the oldest private English-language schools in Cairo. The boys are on a field trip, visiting the same sites we were, and by the looks of it, having as much fun as we were. Kids are kids all over the world.

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Upzoning Galatyn Park Station

Galatyn or Khrushchyobka?

The Richardson City Plan Commission unanimously recommended approval of an upzoning request for 140 additional living units over and above what the current zoning permits for a new development next to the Galatyn Park DART station.

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Losing Faith in the Meritocracy

Americans like to pretend we live in a meritocracy, even when the Black Lives Matter movement smacks us in the face with evidence that we don't. The education system is similar. We pretend that if you apply yourself and work hard, you will succeed in school and life. In reality, it's hard to deny that what school you attended mattered as much as how hard you worked.

The STAAR was a reaction to that. STAAR, for those who might not know, is the school system's standardized test used by the State of Texas. It claimed to identify failing schools, which could then be targeted to change the educational outcomes for many students. George W Bush ran for and won the Presidency in part on his championing education reform that led to STAAR. The result was the No Child Left Behind Act of 2002. Remember that? It was broadly popular once. Now? Not so much. What changed?

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Crip Camp (2020)

Rotten Tomatoes
Crip Camp (2020): Documentary about a 1970s camp in the Catskills for disabled youth run by hippies. Fun, games, brotherhood and independence. What they learned at Camp Jened prepared them to fight the government for rights for the disabled, culminating in the ADA. Inspiring. B+