Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Made You Look (2021)

Rotten Tomatoes
Made You Look (2021): Documentary about art dealer who sold fakes for millions of dollars. Despite all the red flags, she says she believed the works were genuine. Collectors trusted her. Scary how gullible everyone was. Even after the con collapsed, few people seem upset. B-

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Time (2020)

Rotten Tomatoes
Time (2020): Oscar nominated documentary. Videos taken over 20 years by wife of a man sentenced to 60 years for robbery. He did it. She did too (she got 5 years). Their kids suffered because of it. America's mass incarceration is unjust, but this movie is not the best example. C+

Monday, March 29, 2021

Change Needed in Richardson's Social Media Policy

I applaud Kyle Kepner for using Facebook to discuss with the community this issue which is reasonably likely to be considered by the city council in the near future. But I'm curious how such discussion isn't a violation of the City's social media policy: "officials are prohibited from making any statements on social media regarding any individual, entity or issue which is reasonably likely to be considered by the body on which the official serves."

My recommendation is that the City revoke this gag order from its social media policy. Social Media Policy: (Exhibit A, pgs. 85-87)

Promising Young Woman (2020)

Rotten Tomatoes
Promising Young Woman (2020): Woman whose best friend was raped seeks revenge. Kind of a #MeToo vigilante justice mission targeting men who take advantage of drunk women. A thriller and a psychological study of an extreme response to grief. Great acting by Carey Mulligan. B+

Saturday, March 27, 2021

Backlash to Inclusion in RISD Is Strong

A mother in Richardson ISD posted this flyer on Facebook, saying that it was put up at a junior high school in RISD, then added, "My 11 year old asked why aren’t whites and Asians welcome." In 24 hours, the post has attracted 455 comments. Backlash to inclusion in RISD is strong.

Friday, March 26, 2021

Behind Her Eyes (TV 2021)

Rotten Tomatoes
Behind Her Eyes (TV 2021): Is it a drama about a love triangle (or two)? Or a sci-fi story about dream worlds and astral projection? Or a whodunnit mystery? Well OK then. It's hard to know who to root for. Slow to develop, it finishes in a whoosh. Well-crafted in all respects. B+

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Small Axe: Alex Wheatle (TV 2021)

Rotten Tomatoes
Small Axe: Alex Wheatle (TV 2021): Back story of English-Jamaican author Alex Wheatle, abandoned as a baby, grew up in government homes, jailed for participation in 1981 Brixton riot, where he discovered books from a Rastafarian cellmate. Equal parts frustrating and inspiring. B-

See my review of the previous movie in this limited series: "Small Axe: Red, White and Blue".

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Nomadland (2020)

Rotten Tomatoes
Nomadland (2020): Frances McDormand plays a restless woman traveling the American West, living in her van, taking seasonal jobs, meeting others like her. Character driven. More documentary than drama. Poetry, not prose. You can't know America without knowing this movie. B+

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Zack Snyder's Justice League (2021)

Rotten Tomatoes
Zack Snyder's Justice League (2021): The 4 hr director's cut. A quest to keep 3 "Mother Boxes" (not "Infinity Stones") from uniting and destroying the universe. Lots more characters than dialog. Lots of hand-to-hand combat. Can't superheroes plan any more complicated strategy? C+

Monday, March 22, 2021

Sound of Metal (2020)

Rotten Tomatoes
Sound of Metal (2020): Rock drummer must deal with sudden deafness. It's not a punk-metal movie. Riz Ahmed's acting brilliantly captures the five stages of grief. Movie's sound brilliantly captures the experience from drummer's perspective. Some nice supporting roles, too. B+

Saturday, March 20, 2021

TIL: The Conservation of Religion

The political theorist Samuel Goldman talked about what he called "the law of the conservation of religion." In The Atlantic, Shadi Hamid defines the law as, "In any given society, there is a relatively constant and finite supply of religious conviction. What varies is how and where it is expressed."

Here's where it gets interesting. Shahid makes the case that religious conviction in America is being replaced by political conviction.

Friday, March 19, 2021

Review: Caste

From Caste, by Isabel Wilkerson:

Open quote I'd been writing about a stigmatized people, six million of them, who were seeking freedom from the caste system in the South, only to discover that the hierarchy followed them wherever they went, much in the way that the shadow of caste, I would soon discover, follows Indians in their own global diaspora." Caste

Americans think they know what caste is. It's the social stratification of society in India. Isabel Wilkerson compares and contrasts with its American cousin (slavery, Jim Crow, racism) and German Nazism. This work offers a new way of seeing an old evil.

Thursday, March 18, 2021

Small Axe: Red, White and Blue (TV 2021)

Rotten Tomatoes
Small Axe: Red, White and Blue (TV 2021): British-Jamaican joins London police in attempt to fight police racism from the inside. John Boyega tries, but does he only alienate family and community? It's infuriating to see racism in authority and feel powerless to stop it. B-

See my review of the previous movie in this limited series: "Small Axe: Lovers Rock".

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Minari (2020)

Rotten Tomatoes
Minari (2020): Korean family moves from California to a farm in Arkansas, seeking a better life. Movie avoids the predictable plot devices in favor of letting us watch the struggles of a typical American family. Quiet, touching, life-reaffirming without being over-sentimental. B+

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Miss Scarlet & the Duke (TV 2021)

Rotten Tomatoes
Miss Scarlet & the Duke (TV 2021): Victorian era woman takes over father's detective agency when he dies suddenly. She faces sexism and professional jealousy from the Duke. Of course the woman is smarter than any man. Mysteries satisfy. Good job at refreshing an old genre. B-

Monday, March 15, 2021

The Dig (2021)

Rotten Tomatoes
The Dig (2021): A love story of sorts based on real life. In 1939 Suffolk, a widow hires an excavator to dig up mounds on her farm, finding Anglo-Saxon treasure. That leads to more people and two love triangles, plot details that detract from this understated and lovely movie. B-

Friday, March 12, 2021

Chief Spivey Should Go

It seemed like a routine traffic stop, so Neco Bonham asked the officer why he wanted him out of the pickup truck.

Instead of an answer, the 18-year-old received an electric jolt from a Taser, punches to the head and handcuffs during the December 2018 incident, court records show.

It took the Richardson police officer about 15 seconds to escalate the encounter into a violent use of force, said Bonham’s lawyer.

Small Axe: Lovers Rock (TV 2020)

Rotten Tomatoes
Small Axe: Lovers Rock (TV 2020): One night at a house party in London in 1980, where Jamaicans slow dance to a reggae blues beat. Short, at 68 minutes. Not much plot beyond girl meets boy, but a whole lot of mood. It's enchanting as camera weaves among dancers and singers. B-

See my review of the first movie in this limited series: "Small Axe: Mangrove".

Thursday, March 11, 2021

The Long View

It's been said that the 20th Century was the American Century. World War I saw the collapse of all the great European empires. Even England and France, which were victorious in war, emerged as much weaker nations. America was on the rise. It was challenged by Japan and Germany (again), but those countries were utterly devastated by World War II, leaving America and Russia competing in a Cold War for leadership in a bipoplar world. The collapse of the Soviet Empire at the end of the century left America unchallenged as the only tentpole left in a unipolar world. Americans could be forgiven for thinking that the 21st Century would be the second American Century. But then, as it often does, shit happened.

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Tom & Jerry (2021)

Rotten Tomatoes
Tom & Jerry (2021): Movie suffers when Tom & Jerry aren't on the screen. Live action story about a hotel wedding doomed less by the cat and mouse hijinks than by the couple's incompatbility, which kids won't get and adults will find boring. Watch a classic cartoon instead. D+

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Taking Out of Context RISD Candidates For District 1

Community Impact Richardson asked the candidates running for Richardson ISD's District 1 board seat several questions. I want to highlight a few words of their answers that most caught my attention. Excerpts, by their nature, take words out of context. No attempt is being made to twist the meaning of the full answers. Read the full answers at Community Impact Richardson and judge for yourself.

Monday, March 8, 2021

Coming 2 America (2021)

Rotten Tomatoes
Coming 2 America (2021): African prince faces succession arguments with his American son, his daughter, and a rival dictator. Cast is full of big name stars. There are few crude or sophomoric jokes. Watchable; not as bad as feared. The big musical numbers are very good. C+

Saturday, March 6, 2021

Taking Out of Context CoR Candidates For Place 4

Community Impact Richardson asked the candidates running for Richardson's Place 4 City Council seat several questions. I want to highlight a few words of their answers that most caught my attention. Excerpts, by their nature, take words out of context. No attempt is being made to twist the meaning of the full answers. Read the full answers at Community Impact Richardson and judge for yourself.

Friday, March 5, 2021

Taking Out of Context CoR Candidates for Place 6

Community Impact Richardson asked several questions of the candidates running for Richardson's Place 6 City Council seat. I want to highlight a few words of their answers that most caught my attention. Excerpts, by their nature, take words out of context. No attempt is being made to twist the meaning of the full answers. Read the full answers at Community Impact Richardson and judge for yourself.

Thursday, March 4, 2021

POTD: Ferry to the Temple of Philae

From 2019 11 20 Abu Simbel
Today's photo-of-the-day is from the Temple of Philae. The Aswan High Dam was not the first dam built on the upper Nile, and Abu Simbel was not the first temple flooded. The Aswan Low Dam was built by the British in 1902, a little distance down river from where the future High Dam was constructed. The Low Dam itself began flooding temples, but intermittently during the year. Finally, in the 1960s, a UNESCO project to relocate the Temple of Philae to higher ground was undertaken. It was moved about 500 meters to the higher island of Agilkia. Today, as ever, the temple is reachable only by boat. It's just on a different island.

Another photo after the jump.

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

It's a Sin (TV 2021)

Rotten Tomatoes
It's a Sin (TV 2021): London flatmates in 1980s face the onset of AIDS. Equal parts joy (of coming out among supportive friends) and sadness (AIDS was a death sentence in 1980s). No preaching, no politicking, just drama, with focus always on the friends. Great ensemble cast. A+

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Taking Out of Context RISD Candidates for Place 7

According to the Advocate Lake Highlands:
Lake Highlands Blue hosted a forum Thursday night for candidates seeking to become the District 7 at-large trustee for Richardson ISD. Six of the seven candidates attended the virtual event: Amanda Clair, Nicole Foster, Nick LaGrassa, Chris Poteet, Blake Sawyer and Eric Stengel. Gavin Haynes did not participate.

As far as I know, video of the forum is not available to the general public. But the Advocate Lake Highlands helpfully published a transcript of the candidates' answers to three questions (edited for clarity and brevity). I want to highlight a few of the sound bites that most caught my attention. Sound bites, by their nature, take words out of context. Read the full answers at the Advocate Lake Highlands to see the context of these sound bites. Also, keep in mind that for many of these candidates, this is their first run for elective office. They probably have little experience with extemporaneous speaking. These are the answers that I suggest they work on. No doubt they will get more polished by election day.

Monday, March 1, 2021

Random Thoughts: Myanmar loses, no matter who wins.

Tweets from February, 2021:
  • 2021-02-01: On one side, there's a coup by people claiming election fraud. Sound familiar? On the other, there's Myanmar's detained leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, who defended Burmese military against allegations of genocide against the Rohingya people. Myanmar loses, no matter who wins.
  • 2021-02-01: Headline: "10 GOP senators want deal." Assuming they are sincere, this still implies 40 GOP senators don't want any deal. What does that say about our democracy's legislative process? Without deal-making, there is no unity, which is what the GOP professes to want.
  • 2021-02-02: 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-
  • 2021-02-05: QOP: not all of them are anti-democracy, but on balance, it's now the party of QAnon.
  • 2021-02-05: No longer needing to woo the GOP's base is freeing. "Mitt Romney Has a Child Allowance Plan (and It's Better Than Biden's)"

After the jump, more random thoughts.