Friday, July 31, 2020

Seberg (2020)

Rotten Tomatoes
Seberg (2020): Bio-pic of 1960s actress spied on by FBI to stop her from funding civil rights groups like Black Panthers. Out-of-control FBI; emotional breakdown of Seberg; too much story for 90 minutes. Pick one story. Show it, don't tell it. Good job by Kristen Stewart. C+

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Talking Union

Talking Union

If you want higher wages, let me tell you what to do;
You got to talk to the workers in the shop with you;
You got to build you a union, got to make it strong,
But if you all stick together, now, ‘twont be long.
You'll get shorter hours, better working conditions,
Vacations with pay, take your kids to the seashore.

Lyrics: Lee Hays, Millard Lampell, and Pete Seeger
Source: Talking Union.
I grew up in a union household. I'm a big supporter of collective bargaining rights, fair pay, good conditions, etc., etc. I believe that the free market, left to itself, will not deliver these things to workers. Billion dollar corporations simply wield too much power to expect any individual to be able to negotiate a fair deal. Unions help level the playing field. So, if I'm such a big union supporter, what's got me concerned with unions?

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

POTD: Ben Ezra Synagogue

From 2019 11 18 Old Cairo

Today's photo-of-the-day is of the Ben Ezra Synagogue in Cairo, Egypt. According to legend, it's located on the site where the baby Moses was found in a basket on the banks of the Nile River. "Egypt's Jewish community is at the end of a dramatic decline, from about 80,000 people in the 1920s to less than a dozen of Egyptian ancestry now residing in Cairo. Accordingly, the Ben Ezra Synagogue functions now as a tourist attraction and museum, rather than as a functioning congregation."

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

"Never Let a Good Crisis Go to Waste."

Remember back in April and May when meatpacking plants were hotspots of coronavirus? Do you wonder why they're no longer in the headlines? Do you think it's because the owners reformed how they are run and reopened them safely? Think again. The plants might still be hotbeds of coronavirus. We don't know because governments have allowed the plants to quit reporting statistics of the spread of coronavirus among their workers.

An old political precept is "Never let a good crisis go to waste." The idea is to take advantage of a crisis to advance a political agenda. The Bush administration used the notion to escalate the 9/11 attacks into a war on Iraq, which was not involved in the 9/11 attacks. The saying itself was popularized by Rahm Emmanuel, who saw the financial crash of 2008 as an opportunity to do the things he once thought were impossible. Today's crisis is the coronavirus pandemic. President Trump has proven himself incompetent at combating the pandemic, but that doesn't mean he isn't using the crisis to advance his own political agenda.

Monday, July 27, 2020

Friday, July 24, 2020

POTD: Cavern Church

From 2019 11 18 Old Cairo

Today's photo-of-the-day is of the cavern under Saints Sergius and Bacchus Church (Abu Serga) in Cairo, Egypt. It's one of the oldest Coptic churches in Egypt, built in the 4th century and burned and rebuilt and restored constantly ever since. Beneath the church is the so-called cavern church, which legend says is where Joseph, Mary, and the baby Jesus stayed after fleeing King Herod in Judea.

Thursday, July 23, 2020

The Notebook (2004)

Rotten Tomatoes
The Notebook (2004): Old-fashioned melodrama, a sad tale of summer romance and missed opportunity. Can love conquer class difference and parental interference? Hits all the right notes. The second tragic tale is of trying to remember youth as Alzheimer's steals your memories. B-


Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Mucho Mucho Amor (2020)

Rotten Tomatoes
Mucho Mucho Amor (2020): Documentary of Walter Mercado, a flamboyant TV astrologer/fortune teller/motivational speaker from Puerto Rico. Think Liberace. Or Tiny Tim. If you're a fan, you might love this; if you've never heard of him, you'll be shaking your head in wonder. C+

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

POTD: Pigeon Towers of Cairo

From 2019 11 18 Old Cairo

Today's photo-of-the-day is from Cairo, Egypt. It shows a pigeon tower. "Perched on rooftops across Cairo, like water tanks on elevated platforms, are rickety wooden cages where Cairenes keep their pigeons." It's a thing. If you're ever in Cairo, look up.

Monday, July 20, 2020

Comet NEOWISE...and Saturn

We went out Saturday night to see Comet NEOWISE. According to, the comet "is delighting skywatchers around the Northern Hemisphere." I'm here to say, "delighting" is an overstatement. At least if you are in a city. Even on a clear night, in a location with no nearby lights, there's enough ambient light pollution to make it hard to do much star-gazing of any kind. Because the comet was low on the horizon, that ambient light pollution is even more of a problem. From Richardson, Plano is kind of bright. And Comet NEOWISE was hanging low over Plano.

Friday, July 17, 2020

Once Upon a Time in the West (1968)

Rotten Tomatoes

Once Upon a Time in the West (1968): Classic Western. Lots of desolate scenery, haunting music, stoic staring. Plot stripped down to essentials. Product of its times. Macho showdown between Hollywood tough guys, with an Italian femme fatale. Sexist with a touch of racism. B+


Thursday, July 16, 2020

Closed Mic in Richardson

Richardson City Council meetings used to feature a "Visitors" section of the agenda. Members of the public were allowed to address the City Council on any topic. Each visitor was given five minutes at an "open mic." The City Council seems to have used COVID-19 as an excuse to do away with the "open mic" portion of meetings.

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

POTD: Hanging Church

From 2019 11 18 Old Cairo

Today's photo-of-the-day is from Cairo, Egypt. It's a photo of what's best known as the "Hanging Church" in that it was built above a gatehouse of the much older Babylon Fortress. As near as I can figure out, the Babylon Fortress was built about 100 CE and the Hanging Church about 500 years later. I'm guessing Nile River floods filled in the area in that time and the church was originally built at its era's ground level. Sometime in the last 1,400 years, the fortress was excavated and stairs had to be built to reach the now "hanging" church. If so, it isn't the only such architectural oddity we saw in Egypt.

Bonus photos after the jump.

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

The Old Guard (2020)

Rotten Tomatoes
The Old Guard (2020): Ancient gang of immortals, led by world-weary Charlize Theron, are hunted by evil Big Pharma CEO intent on learning their secret to immortality. Actually a better movie than that synopsis might suggest. How much of a burden would immortality be anyway? B-

Best quote: Are they good guys? Bad guys? "Depends on the century," says Joe.

Monday, July 13, 2020

Defund the Police?

Joe Gamaldi, Houston Police Officers Union President and National FOP VP, posted on Facebook some data from a Pew Research Center survey. Gamaldi's post was shared by the Richardson Police Officers' Association FOP Lodge 105. That's where I saw it.

First, a summary of the Pew data. 42% of Americans favor keeping spending on policing about the same. 31% favor increasing spending by a little or a lot. 25% favor decreasing spending by a little or a lot.

Friday, July 10, 2020

Review: Trust Exercise

From Trust Exercise, by Susan Choi:

Open quoteAll fall and spring of the previous year they lived with exclusive reference to each other, and were viewed as an unspoken duo by everyone else. Little remarked, universally felt, this taut, even dangerous energy running between them." Trust Exercise

Trust Exercise: A coming-of-age tale of a volatile relationship, made more electric by a charismatic drama teacher. Then a shift in time and narrator throws everything into question. A brilliantly constructed story of the weaknesses of memory. B+

Thursday, July 9, 2020

The Pandemic Next Time

It's time to worry about the next pandemic. What? Too soon? I don't think so. Ebola, HIV, SARS, H5N1 "bird flu," MERS, COVID-19. It's not like we don't know another pandemic is coming. The fact that we escaped the worst with each of these recent diseases, doesn't mean we always will. We've been lucky, even with COVID-19, which, even though the US has suffered 133,000 deaths and counting, turns out not to be the extinction-level pandemic it might have been. The "big one" is still coming. It's not a matter of if, only when. It's time to consider the pandemic next time.

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

POTD: Babylon Fortress in Cairo

From 2019 11 18 Old Cairo

Today's photo-of-the-day is from Cairo, Egypt. We've moved on from ancient Cairo and those pyramids from 4,500 years ago and into modern times, if you consider 2,000 years ago to be modern. That's the gobsmacking thing about visiting Egypt. Its history stretches back so far that it's hard to reckon with.

The original Babylon Fortress was built in the 6th Century BCE. This photo, though, is of a slightly later version of the fortress, attributed to the time of Roman Emperor Trajan (ruled 98-117 CE). He rebuilt the fortress at its present location because the Nile River itself had shifted course. Even in its present location, it's still about 300 meters from today's course of the Nile. Its foundation is about 15 meters below street level. Wait long enough and everything changes.

Bonus photo after the jump.

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Getting the Facts Right but the Guidance Wrong

The CDC originally did not recommend face masks because they knew viruses are small enough to get through all but medical grade masks. They didn't want a run on face masks, especially medical grade masks, which were in desperate need in hospitals. They didn't want people to think they were invulnerable wearing non-medical-grade face masks. By April 4, CDC realized they had the facts right but the guidance wrong. So they changed the guidance. Stay home, but if you really have to go out, wear a face mask. It's not perfect, but it's better than nothing. If everyone who has to go out wears a face mask while doing so, we can cut transmission of coronavirus and save lives. That's still pretty much the guidance today, three months later.

Monday, July 6, 2020

The Witch: Part 1. Subversion (2018)

Rotten Tomatoes
The Witch: Subversion (2018): Korean. Confusing title, great movie. Has feel of "Kill Bill" or "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon." Girl has magic inside, and maybe evil. What drives her? Survival, revenge, or love of family? Whatever, she's a girl to be reckoned with. B+

This was made in 2018, but not released in the US until 2020.

Saturday, July 4, 2020

Term Limits for Heroes

Statue of George Washington in Smithsonian Museum

Statues of Confederate heroes* are coming down all over America. So are statues of Christopher Columbus and conquistadors. Not even the slaveholders George Washington and Thomas Jefferson have escaped notice. There are passionate voices on both sides. I have a simple solution that takes the passion out of the equation, now and forever after.

Friday, July 3, 2020

Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga (2020)

Rotten Tomatoes
Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga (2020): Musical comedy about Iceland's entry in European contest. More musical and better comedy please. Like a too long SNL sketch. Will Ferrell is miscast. Too old. The accents grate. The movie laughs at Iceland, not with it. C+

Thursday, July 2, 2020

POTD: Continuing Education in Egypt

From 2019 11 17 Ancient Cairo

Today's photo-of-the-day is from the Oriental Carpet School near the step pyramid of Saqqara outside modern Cairo.

Bonus photos after the jump.

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Europe Erects Wall to Keep Out Americans

According to The New York Times, "E.U. Formalizes Reopening, Barring Travelers From U.S. The bloc will allow visitors from 15 countries, but the United States, Brazil and Russia were among the notable absences from the safe list."

It's fitting in more ways than the obvious one.

Random Thoughts: I Never Had a Black Teacher

Tweets from June, 2020:
  • 2020-06-01: Wow. I'm embarrassed to say I don't remember *ever* having a black teacher. And being blithely unaware of that fact until just now. :-(
  • 2020-06-01: Irony. Many of the 2A crowd who insist on arming themselves to defend liberty from government oppression are now calling on that same government to impose martial law to put down protests against the government.
  • 2020-06-01: I admit, when Trump was elected, I feared he would start a war, but I never would have guessed the war would be against American citizens in our own country.
  • 2020-06-01: Trump is still pissed he didn't get his military parade in Washington, DC.

After the jump, more random thoughts.