Friday, February 26, 2021

POTD: Entrance to Nefertari's Temple

From 2019 11 20 Abu Simbel
Today's photo-of-the-day is from the entrance to the temple of Nefertari, the wife of Ramsesses the Great, in Abu Simbel, south of Aswan, Egypt. The temple is located about 100 meters from the temple to Ramesses the Great.

Bonus photo from inside the temple after the jump.

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Of Bonds and Taxes

The Richardson ISD is asking voters to approve a bond issue for capital projects. The subject is confusing enough without people using confusing language to talk about the bond. And by people I mean both the state legislature and school board candidates themselves.

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

The Lady and the Dale (TV 2021)

Rotten Tomatoes
The Lady and the Dale (TV 2021): Documentary about a con artist who claims to be the next Henry Ford, launching a 3-wheeled car with fatal design flaws. Oh, and she's a transgender woman. How did I never hear this story? Movie never finds the right balance to the many angles. B-

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

POTD: Panorama of Abu Simbel Temples

From 2019 11 20 Abu Simbel
Today's photo-of-the-day is from Abu Simbel south of Aswan, Egypt. It's a panoramic view of the two temples there, one to Pharaoh Ramesses the Great and the other to his consort Nefertari. The "cliffs" they are set into were articially constructed in the 1960s when the temples were moved from their original locations due to rising waters caused by the construction of the Aswan High Dam.

Monday, February 22, 2021

I Care a Lot (2021)

Rotten Tomatoes
I Care a Lot (2021): Rosamund Pike is a scam artist who preys on seniors. She accidentally crosses Peter Dinklage, a Russian drug dealer. The fight between them grows deadly. The plot is full of holes. Many dumb decisions are made by supposedly smart people. Still, watchable. C+

Saturday, February 20, 2021

When it Rains, It Pours

When I tried to get some sympathy from my family for my plight with the Great Freeze of 2021, I received this response from my son living in tropical Jakarta, Indonesia:

"Meanwhile I'm in shelter at a friend's house due to massive flooding in Jakarta. I'm fine but will likely have to spend a day or so here for the water to clear. I wasn't at home when the flood happened. I had to walk through waist deep water to get to my friend's apartment and he graciously put us up until the water goes down. There are multiple cars stranded and barely visible above the water. Can't drive on the roads at all now."

So, yeah, there's that.

Friday, February 19, 2021

The Deep Freeze of 2021

We all thought 2020 was bad, but it looks like 2021 sucks, too. Friday is the first day in a week that the weather forecast has our north Texas temperatures climbing above freezing. Sunday and Monday nights, the low temperature hovered about zero degrees Fahrenheit. Someone said that in Minnesota, they call that "sweater weather," but in Texas, it's a crisis. Our house escaped damage, but all around us it was like every disaster movie all rolled into one. Start with the background of an ongoing pandemic, and layer on top record-low, sub-zero Fahrenheit temps, icy and snowy roads, power outages lasting for hours or even days for some, frozen and burst pipes, only to flood when the heat comes back on, and warnings to boil water because water treatment plants lost power. Almost everyone we know is facing one or more of these, but we personally have been spared. For many, they still can't go home. The cleanup has only just begun.

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Judas and the Black Messiah (2021)

Rotten Tomatoes
Judas and the Black Messiah (2021): Fred Hampton and FBI plant in Chicago Black Panthers. No heroes, only villains and victims. Movie lacks dramatic tension between the two title leads. Police and FBI take deserved hit to their reputation. 50 years on, it's the same old shit. B+

Compare this with "The Trial of the Chicago 7", another recent movie that includes Fred Hampton, but in a small role. American justice system still needs a lot of reform.

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

The Trial of the Chicago 7 (2020)

Rotten Tomatoes
The Trial of the Chicago 7 (2020): Dramatization of the trial of protesters at Democratic National Convention in 1968, a stain on American justice. Compare with the recent impeachment trial, another stain on justice. No standouts, but lots of big names in the ensemble cast. A-

Compare this with "Small Axe: Mangrove", another recent movie about a trial of protesters from the same time period, but in London. If American and British justice systems are the best the world has to offer, we have a lot of work still needed.

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Small Axe: Mangrove (TV 2020)

Rotten Tomatoes
Small Axe: Mangrove (TV 2020): Dramatization of West Indies Londoner who opens a restaurant and faces harrassment by racist police. When the community protests, nine are arrested and put on trial for rioting. Characters are forgettable, but this history from 1970 shouldn't be. B+

Monday, February 15, 2021

Doubling Down on a Dealbreaker Question

The ballots are now set. It's time to start winnowing the fields. On January 7, I wrote:
Don't tell me that Richardson politics should be kept separate from what's happening in Washington, DC. American democracy hangs in the balance. Local democracy can't survive if our national democracy fails. So, first things first. Before I can turn my attention to zoning issues, property or school taxes, bond elections, or any of the usual school and city issues, I need to know what, if anything, all of these local candidates think about the attempted coup in Washington, DC. I want to ask them if they support the President in his attempt to overturn the election.

A person can't support democracy locally and what Trump is doing nationally. And I can't support anyone who can't state that clearly. So, to all the local candidates: do you condemn Trump fanning the flames of insurrection at the US Capitol? No dodgy, cagey, duplicitous answers allowed. Give me a straight answer. Then I might listen to the usual Richardson politics and your appeal for my vote.

Source: The Wheel.
Only one candidate in a contested race for City of Richardson City Council answered. (Thank you, Joe Corcoran. Mayor Paul Voelker also answered me, and Bob Dubey answered a similar question posed by someone else.) No one from a contested race for Richardson ISD Board of Trustees answered. I still consider the wrong answer to the question whether a candidate supports President Trump's attempt to overthrow the election, to be a dealbreaker for me. Silence on the question is also a dealbreaker. I consider it that important for our democracy and our republic.

Sunday, February 14, 2021

POTD: Be My Valentine

Today's photo-of-the-day is from the Dallas Museum of Art. It's a detail from Alex Da Corte's neon ghost house, "Rubber Pencil Devil" ("2018, glass, aluminum, vinyl, velvet, neon, Plexiglas, high res digital video, color, sound"). It's part of the exhibition "For a Dreamer of Houses".

Bonus photo after the jump.

Friday, February 12, 2021

Search Party - Season 1 (TV 2016)

Rotten Tomatoes
Search Party - Season 1 (TV 2016): Obsessed woman enlists friends to solve the disappearance of an old school acquaintance. Her search leads to a stalker and a sinister cult. It's a black comedy, with little comedy or even blackness, but with lots of stupid decisions. C+


Despite my bad review, we will probably watch season 2 (and maybe even seasons 3 and 4).

Thursday, February 11, 2021

POTD: Artificial Cliff at Abu Simbel

From 2019 11 20 Abu Simbel
Today's photo-of-the-day is from the entrance to the Temple of Ramesses II at Abu Simbel south of Aswan, Egypt. It's looking "next door" at the Temple of his consort Nefertari. That temple's entrance, not visible in the photo, is around the cliff to the right in the photo. The photo shows instead the artificial cliff that was built to hold Nefertari's temple, which was moved from its original location due to rising waters caused by the construction of the Aswan High Dam.

Bonus photo after the jump.

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Giri/Haji (TV 2019)

Rotten Tomatoes
Giri/Haji (TV 2019): Brothers (a cop and a gangster), get mixed up in a gang war in Tokyo that spreads to London. There's plenty of stylized violence, but it's the many rich relationships, not just between the brothers, that make this special. Like a Shakespearean tragedy. A+


Tuesday, February 9, 2021

POTD: Inside the Temple of Ramesses the Great

From 2019 11 20 Abu Simbel
Today's photo-of-the-day is from the Temple of Ramesses II at Abu Simbel south of Aswan, Egypt. It's a view of inside the temple, which was carved into the cliff on the shores of the Nile River. When rising waters caused by the construction of the Aswan High Dam threatened the temples, the cliff was excavated to allow relocation of the temples. It wasn't just the massive statues outside the temple that were moved. The entire cave-like inside of the temples were dug out and moved, too. It was a feat almost as impressive as the temples themselvs.

Bonus photos after the jump.

Monday, February 8, 2021

The Little Things (2021)

Rotten Tomatoes
The Little Things (2021): Two cops join forces to solve a serial murder. Rami is warned about working with Denzel, the old cop. Jared Leto is the suspect. Good actors are let down by a pedestrian (and derivative) script. What can't be called suspense builds to little payoff. B-

Friday, February 5, 2021

POTD: Exactly Recreating Ruins

From 2019 11 20 Abu Simbel
Today's photo-of-the-day is from the Temple of Ramesses II at Abu Simbel on the Nile River south of Aswan, Egypt. Before the Aswan High Dam flooded the Nile River valley, archaeologists carefully cut the temple into blocks, moved it 65 metres higher and 200 metres back from the river, and just as carefully reconstructed it. Because the temples were already 3,300 years old, they weren't in pristine condition. Rather than recreate the temples as they were when first built, archaeologists recreated them as they were in the 1960s, when the rescue operation occurred. Thus, the big block that calved off one of the four giant statues of Ramesses on the front of the temple was replaced at the foot of the statue, exactly where it had fallen millennia ago.

Thursday, February 4, 2021

POTD: Temple of Ramesses II at Abu Simbel

At the Foot of the Pharaoh
From 2019 11 20 Abu Simbel
Today's photo-of-the-day is from the Temple of Ramesses II at Abu Simbel on the Nile River south of Aswan, Egypt. If you tour Egypt, you will become very familiar with Ramesses the Great, perhaps the greatest of Egypt's many, many, many pharaohs. More about that later.

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

TIL: "Aggressive tyrannies"

It was an epidemic. A serious respiratory disease was killing thousands. A doctor proposes steps to gain control of the spreading contagion. He calls for wearing face masks, reporting victims to the health department, isolating them from others, and tracking their contacts. Others resisted, calling the proposals "aggressive tyrannies" and "offensively dictatorial." Sound familiar? But this wasn't America in 2020 and it wasn't COVID-19. The year was 1897. The place was New York City. The disease was tuberculosis. What happened is instructive for us today.

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Big Little Lies - Seasons 1-2 (TV 2017-2019)

Rotten Tomatoes
Big Little Lies - Seasons 1-2 (TV 2017-2019): Five women with kids in a wealthy Monterrey private school deal with bullying, spousal abuse, infidelity, bankruptcy, rape. At heart it's a dark soap opera, but it's fun watching these great actresses work with each other. A-


Monday, February 1, 2021

Random Thoughts: Hawley/Gohmert 2024

Tweets from January, 2021:
  • 2021-01-01: Hawley/Gohmert 2024.
  • 2021-01-02: About time. Only 155 years late to do the right thing.
  • 2021-01-03: There's always a tweet. These two from Ted Cruz and Donald Trump from the 2016 GOP primary. They haven't aged well.
  • 2021-01-04: Bridgerton (TV 2020): 1800s costume drama. Pouts and swoons. No racism in this England, but lots of sexism. Too many singles looking for proper matches. All prigs. A vow of revenge made by the Duke to his dying father proves a barrier to happiness. Who cares? Only the prig. C-

After the jump, more random thoughts.

Friday, January 29, 2021

Review: The New Wilderness

From The New Wilderness, by Diane Cook:

Open quote Glen was the one who knew about the study, putting people in the Wilderness State. When things worsened in the City and Agnes’s health cratered, like so many children’s had, Glen was the one who offered his help to the researchers in exchange for three spots—for him, Bea, and Agnes." The New Wilderness

When the City becomes unlivable, people seek permission to live nomadic lives in the wilderness. It's a hard life, but return to the City is unthinkable. A coming-of-age adventure for a girl who struggles with her mother, budding love, and survival.

Thursday, January 28, 2021

Lupin (TV 2021)

Rotten Tomatoes
Lupin (TV 2021): French. Burglar inspired by 100-yr-old novel seeks revenge for injustice done to his father 25 years before. He steals a priceless necklace from the Louvre. Heists. Action. Lovable rogue. At heart is Lupin's relationship with his own son. Story is incomplete. B+

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

POTD: Abu Simbel

From 2019 11 20 Abu Simbel

Today's photo-of-the-day is from Abu Simbel on the shores of Lake Nasser in southern Egypt. The construction of the Aswan High Dam that created Lake Nasser in the 1960s also flooded more than a dozen ancient Egyptian temples. Before the floodwaters could reach the Abu Simbel temples, "the entire site was carefully cut into large blocks (up to 30 tons, averaging 20 tons), dismantled, lifted and reassembled in a new location 65 metres higher and 200 metres back from the river, in one of the greatest challenges of archaeological engineering in history."

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

The White Tiger (2021)

Rotten Tomatoes
The White Tiger (2021): A lower-caste Indian grows up wanting to rise above his servant caste. He talks his way into being a driver for a rich man. But a betrayal convinces him that being a loyal servant won't protect him. Hero or anti-hero? A good insight into modern India. B+

Monday, January 25, 2021

Owens Farm Redevelopment

Spring Creek Farm

It's been seven years since Owens Farm closed. That was plenty of time for the city and neighbors to solve the problem of what would replace it. Why we always wait until a property sells before paying attention to it is frustrating. I blogged about it in 2013. I don't think that post ages all that well (meaning I didn't set my hair on fire sounding the alarm). I guessed that developers would try to build an office building or an apartment building. I didn't guess it would be warehouses. Don't we have a whole warehouse district just to the southwest that we're trying to figure out how to redevelop? Why doesn't the left hand know what the right hand is doing?

Friday, January 22, 2021

Motherless Brooklyn (2019)

Rotten Tomatoes
Motherless Brooklyn (2019): 1950s Brooklyn film noir. Detective gets whacked. His partner digs into why and turns up corruption at highest level of city govt. A study in power, urban development, and race relations. Fictionalization of Robert Moses, the master builder of NYC. B-


Thursday, January 21, 2021

POTD: Aswan High Dam

From 2019 11 19 Aswan

Today's photo-of-the-day is from Aswan, Egypt. It shows Lake Nasser, one of the world's largest man-made lakes. It was created by the Aswan High Dam, the world's largest embankment dam built across the Nile River at Aswan Egypt. I remember when it was built in the 1960s. In my mind's eye, I saw another Hoover Dam. But it's less impressive. Instead of being built across a deep canyon, the Aswan dam is built across a broad valley. Nevertheless, it was a major engineering feat, even if it's not as photogenic as Hoover Dam.

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

One Night in Miami (2020)

Rotten Tomatoes
One Night in Miami (2020): Malcolm X, Cassius Clay, Jim Brown, and Sam Cooke meet in Miami after Clay wins world title. Four friends, all "young, black, righteous, unapologetic, famous," but all very different. Adapted stage play gives each actor time to shine, and all do. A-

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

POTD: Essence of Life Perfume Palace

From 2019 11 19 Aswan

Today's photo-of-the-day is from Aswan, Egypt. When you take an organized tour, you sometimes have to go to stops whose only purpose is to sell the tourists something. In this case, perfume. You see and learn interesting things. This man is blowing glass into perfume bottles (whether or not it's merely a show is immaterial, right?).

Bonus photos after the jump.

Monday, January 18, 2021

Chernobyl (TV 2019)

Rotten Tomatoes
Chernobyl (TV 2019): Dramatization of 1986 nuclear accident. Part history, part science, part a view of dystopia. Good series on so many levels. A corner of the world whose people, failed by their leaders, have suffered so much over the centuries, but still display heroism. A-


Friday, January 15, 2021

Video Scoreboards - Here We Go Again

Richardson ISD trustees approved replacing the scoreboards at the district's two stadiums. Their justification included this detail: "The upgraded scoreboards will offer enhanced video capabilities...The new, digital scoreboards will allow RISD to generate increased revenue from advertisers." We've been down this road before, in 2011 when the current scoreboards were installed (without video displays). Then, I called video scoreboards for high school athletics a "dumb idea." I am still against them today.

Thursday, January 14, 2021

The King of Staten Island (2020)

Rotten Tomatoes
The King of Staten Island (2020): Pete Davidson plays a messed-up tattoo artist living with his mother. When he was 7, his fireman father was killed in a fire. Movie is about him pulling his life together despite himself. Davidson really sells it. About 30 minutes too long. B-

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Richardson Police, It's Time to Step Up

Local democracy can't survive if our national democracy fails. A week ago, I called on local politicians to step up and take a stand and condemn the President of the United States for inciting an insurrection at the US Capitol.

Today, I extend that call to the Richardson Fraternal Order of Police. The President of the United States incited an insurrection that resulted in the deaths of five people, including one Capitol Police officer who was beaten to death by a Trump mob. That's the same president whom the Richardson police "proudly endorsed" in November. That endorsement must be retracted. The president cannot "Back the Blue" while calling on the mob to storm the Capitol and overwhelm its police protection. The president cannot be for "Law and Order" while inciting insurrection. And the Richardson police cannot have our trust and respect unless they renounce their endorsement of President Trump. Richardson Police, it's time to "Back the Blue" yourself and admit your mistake in endorsing Donald Trump for President.

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

POTD: Painted Brick

From 2019 11 19 Aswan
Today's photo-of-the-day is from a Nubian village on the Nile River near Aswan, Egypt. The age-old question — should a homeowner paint his brick? This homeowner gets a big thumbs-up from me.

Monday, January 11, 2021

Sylvie's Love (2020)

Rotten Tomatoes
Sylvie's Love (2020): Jazz is still king, women still stay at home, but times are changing. This is a modern love story in a new setting: Harlem in 1957. Makes an old story fresh. Young woman finds her ambition to be a TV producer in conflict with love. Tessa Thompson shines. B+

Saturday, January 9, 2021

Rally at the (Texas) Capitol

If you expected Wednesday's insurrection at the US Capitol to cause extremist Republicans to pause, you were wrong. Texan Republicans are advertising a rally at the Texas Capitol just three days later. There are two things about this poster that drew my attention. First is the slogan at the bottom that ties Texas Republicans directly to QAnon. And, second, one of the featured speakers is a former candidate for Richardson ISD school board.

Friday, January 8, 2021

Review: Deacon King Kong

From Deacon King Kong, by James McBride:

quote The morning after the shooting, the daily gathering of retired city workers, flophouse bums, bored housewives, and ex-convicts who congregated in the middle of the projects at the park bench near the flagpole to sip free coffee and salute Old Glory as it was raised to the sky had all kinds of theories about why old Sportcoat did it." Deacon King Kong

That "Old Sportcoat," aka Deacon King Kong, did it is clear from the first paragraphs. But why he did it takes a whole book, not just for the reader, but for Sportcoat himself. Great characters and story from a diverse neighborhood in Brooklyn.

Thursday, January 7, 2021

Local Politicians, It's Time to Step Up

This week started with several local politicians announcing their candidacies for Richardson City Council or Richardson ISD Board of Trustees. It all felt so traditional, so inspiring, so...American. And then Wednesday happened. Suddenly, the America I love and remember seemed so long ago.

As the US Congress gathered to officially count the electoral votes and name Joseph R. Biden the winner of the presidential election, defeated President Trump incited his followers to reject the electoral defeat and instead to march to the US Capitol, where they stormed the building, and occupied the House and Senate chambers and many elected officials' offices throughout the Capitol. Afterwards, Trump empathized with the insurrectionists' hurt feeling over the "stolen" election and expressed his love for them. His behavior was shameful. Their insurrection was shameful. Anyone who doesn't give a full-throated condemnation of what our President has incited is also shameful.

That brings me back to our local politics.

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

POTD: Egyptian Street Gang

From 2019 11 19 Aswan
Today's photo-of-the-day is from a Nubian village on the Nile River near Aswan, Egypt. Kids are kids all over the world.

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

POTD: Boats at Rest

From 2019 11 19 Aswan
Today's photo-of-the-day is from a Nubian village on the Nile River near Aswan, Egypt. Just a quiet, peaceful scene, an appropriate image for someone hoping for a quiet, peaceful 2021.

Monday, January 4, 2021

Bridgerton (TV 2020)

Rotten Tomatoes
Bridgerton (TV 2020): 1800s costume drama. Pouts and swoons. No racism in this England, but lots of sexism. Too many singles looking for proper matches. All prigs. A vow of revenge made by the Duke to his dying father proves a barrier to happiness. Who cares? Only the prig. C-

Friday, January 1, 2021

Random Thoughts: A Collision of Two Dump Trucks

Tweets from December, 2020:
  • 2020-12-01: When H-P and Compaq merged years ago, someone described it as a collision of two dump trucks. The wreck is being towed back to Houston.
  • 2020-12-02: Watching PBS series "The Rise of the Nazis" with this shit happening in Washington is like watching annotations to current events in the US. Enlightening and frightening.
  • 2020-12-02: Profile in courage. Not.
  • 2020-12-03: Germany wasn't special. America isn't somehow immune. "If [Hitler's] life and career teaches us anything, it is how quickly democracy can be prised from its hinges when political institutions fail."

After the jump, more random thoughts.