Friday, April 30, 2021

Genius: Einstein (TV 2017)

Rotten Tomatoes
Genius: Einstein (TV 2017): Drama of life of Einstein, emphasizing his family, including his two wives and many affairs (for a genius, he was dumb in love). His science gets shorted. So too his political run-ins with both Nazis and the FBI. Too much material for one series. B-


Thursday, April 29, 2021

TIL: "A Nation of Immigrants"

"A Nation of Immigrants." What country am I talking about? The United States, right? It's what I learned growing up in the 1950s. That, and the myth of the melting pot. I learned about how the English and the Irish and the Germans (like my grandfather in 1892) and the Italians all came to the United States in different waves of immigration, where they all learned English and intermarried and melted into one glorious people and nation. E Pluribus Unum and all that. But there was always a nagging problem for young me. The story didn't include the Chinese or the Negroes. Young me puzzled over such things, but I didn't find the answers in the patriotic school books. Now, decades later, I have to admit defeat on the melting pot myth. I have come to question the "nation of immigrants" myth altogether.

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

POTD: Saigon, Ahead of the World

From 2015 03 21 Saigon
Today's photo-of-the-day is from the streets of Saigon. There are motorbikes. Lots of motorbikes. Lots. Lots. Lots. Almost everyone on a motorbike wears a helmet. They also wear masks. But not for COVID-19, or at least not originally for that. Because this photo is a rerun of a POTD from 2015. Facemasks were everywhere even before the world had ever heard of COVID-19. When we visited in 2015, our assumption was that the motorcyclists were trying to keep from breathing exhaust fumes in the polluted air of the city. Maybe the habit of wearing facemasks had a beneficial side effect. Vietnam kept coronavirus deaths to just 35, and grew its economy in 2020.

Monday, April 26, 2021

Another Round (2020)

Rotten Tomatoes
Another Round (2020): Denmark. Four drinking buddies decide to test a theory that human performance is maximized with a constant blood alcohol content of 0.05%. The movie isn't about the test, or even alcohol, but the mid-life crisis that leads to it all. It's complicated. B+

Friday, April 23, 2021

United States vs. Billie Holiday (2020)

Rotten Tomatoes
United States vs. Billie Holiday (2020): A black singer is persecuted by the law. America has too many similar stories. She's also a victim of drug use, greedy friends, and her own personality. Andra Day deserves her Oscar nom as the mixed-up, messed up, electrifying Billie. B+

Thursday, April 22, 2021

The Wheel Award for Excellence in Motion Pictures

The Academy Awards will be given out Sunday, April 25, 2021. I've seen all the nominees for Best Picture. That means my opinion means something. Right?

2020 was a strange year for movies. More movies were released by streaming services this year compared to past years. Some so-called major releases were postponed until 2021. All that resulted in, in my opinion, a decent selection of Oscar candidates, but inferior to the selections of previous years. If I expanded the field of nominees, I would include two or three movies that I considered snubs.

My ranking of the Oscar nominees is based on the grades I gave the movies immediately after seeing them. In case of ties, I ordered them by my considered judgment today. Note this is not my prediction of which movie will win, but which I would vote for, had I a vote.

The envelope please. The winner of "The Wheel Award for Excellence in Motion Pictures" goes to...

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Richardson Police Officer Reveals Ticket Quotas

The open mike at Richardson City Council meetings is usually uneventful, but Monday night's Visitors Section was different. A 13-year veteran of the Richardson Police charged supervisors in the department of illegally using quotas to evaluate and discipline officers. "Illegally" was her word, not mine.

POTD: Camel Pants

From 2019 11 20 Abu Simbel

Today's photo-of-the-day is from the Temple of Philae in Aswan, Egypt. It shows a well-dressed tourist wearing "camel pants" (Egypt's version of "elephant pants"), the perfect choice for a hot dry climate like Egypt's.

Monday, April 19, 2021

Soul (2020)

Rotten Tomatoes
Soul (2020): Music teacher dies as he gets a big career break. After experience with the Great Beyond and Great Before, he gets a 2nd chance at life. A novel look at cosmic life and death. Good music (not enough of it). Somehow the whole has no spark. Will young kids get it? C+

Friday, April 16, 2021

The Wheel's 2021 Voters Guide


The City of Richardson's City Council elections are here. The Richardson ISD school board elections are here. The RISD is asking voters for approval on an important bond package as well, the first since 2016. I've watched some forums. I've read the questionnaires. Now it's time to decide how to vote. That's what I'm here for. Early voting begins Monday, April 19. Election Day is May 1. Here is all you need to know.

Thursday, April 15, 2021

POTD: Temple of Philae

From 2019 11 20 Abu Simbel
Today's photo-of-the-day is from the Temple of Philae. It's built on an island in the Nile River at Aswan. It was relocated (like the temples of Abu Simbel) to save it from Nile River floods.

Bonus photos after the jump.

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Oscar Snubs

The 2021 Oscar nominations, as always, snub some worthy movies. Before these movies unloved by Oscar are forgotten forever, here are some, in no particular order, that The Wheel recommends catching wherever they are streaming. These movies received an "A-" grade by The Wheel.

The snubs are after the jump.

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Richardson's Uncomfortable Truth

Last week we saw how Richardson City Council member Kyle Kepner endorsed two other candidates for no other reason than they are Republicans, in possible violation of the City of Richardson's Code of Ethics, which calls for a policy of maintaining a nonpartisan city council. Kepner also endorsed four candidates for Plano ISD school board because they were endorsed by the Collin County Republican Party. That leads us to an uncomfortable truth about our city that voters must confront. The truth was spelled out by none other than Kyle Kepner himself, in an answer to a candidate questionaire from The Dallas Morning News when he first ran for Richardson City Council in 2019.

Monday, April 12, 2021

Readin', Ritin', and Republican

Richardson City Council member Kyle Kepner injected party politics into the nonpartisan city council race. That was bad enough, but then he compounded his error. I don't know which is more annoying to me, people making endorsements based on political party affiliation, or city council members endorsing in school board races (or vice versa). Today we examine Kyle Kepner's twofer.

Friday, April 9, 2021

City Council Member Again. Gullible? Reckless?

Yesterday, I charged Richardson City Council member Kyle Kepner with violating the city's Code of Ethics by failing to maintain the city council as a nonpartisan body, when he endorsed two other council candidates for the sole reason that they are Republicans. He has since apologized...with a lot of extraneous word salad to go along with the meat and potatoes. To loosely paraphrase the original statement and the apology:
The sky is blue.
It was not my intention to give the impression that I believe the sky is any particular color. Besides, I'm the real victim here. They ganged up on me in 2019.

Eventually he gets to the meat of his apology. I accept him at his word when he says, "I made a mistake, and I am sorry...Please accept my apologies. I promise to learn from this and do better."

So let's take him at his word and accept the apology. Besides, there's another social media comment Kyle Kepner made on another subject altogether that needs attention. The subject is the mass shooting in Boulder, Colorado. Kepner's response raises the question, "Is Kyle Kepner too gullible or too reckless to serve on City Council?"

Thursday, April 8, 2021

Upping the Charges against a City Council Member

Yesterday, I charged a Richardson City Council member with violating the norms and customs of remaining nonpartisan in city council elections. Current council member Kyle Kepner endorsed two other council candidates for the sole reason that they are Republicans. Today, I up the charge.

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Partisan NonPartisan Elections, 2021 Edition

The Richardson City Council elections are officially nonpartisan, meaning no political party affiliation appears on the ballots. Traditionally, political parties steered clear of endorsements and campaigning. Those traditions are breaking down. Here's what I said about it in 2019.
The Richardson City Council elections in 2019 laid a muddy trail along the same lines, only with Democratic state representative Ana-Maria Ramos and Democratic Party affiliated groups working (and failing) to elect an unofficial slate of candidates for Richardson City Council. I won't be surprised if that trend continues in 2021 and my own appeals to keep local elections nonpartisan look even more like a cry in the wilderness than they did then.
Source: The Wheel.

Billions - Season 1 (TV 2016)

Rotten Tomatoes
Billions - Season 1 (TV 2016): US attorney goes after hedge fund billionaire. Flips old adage on its head: it's not business, it's strictly personal. Manipulating both is a woman, a smart woman (and sexy for the gratuitous kinky sex scenes). Shallow plot slowly deepens, a bit. B-

Four more seasons queued up to watch.


Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Godzilla vs Kong (2021)

Rotten Tomatoes
Godzilla vs Kong (2021): Hollow Earth. Gravity inversion. Super energy. We came for the brawl, not this yada, yada. And why, when you have two heavyweight titans, would you introduce a third titan to the fight? Too long. Little dramatic buildup to a nothing climax. Who won? C-

Monday, April 5, 2021

POTD: Resting Place of Kings

From 2019 11 24 Egyptian Museum
Thuya's outer coffin, 18th Dynasty, ca 1375 BCE

Today's photo-of-the-day is from the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. Or perhaps I should call it the old Egyptian Museum. According to a story in Saturday's Washington Post, "It was a parade unlike any other this city has seen. A procession of 22 ancient Egyptian royal mummies streamed Saturday from downtown a new museum three miles away that represents Egypt’s future as much as its past."

Today's photo-of-the-day was taken in the old museum. It shows one of many, many ancient royal coffins on display in the crowded, old museum, along many other artifacts. There is a separate room with the royal mummies themselves (photographs not allowed). The mummified kings are jammed side by side and head to toe. The new museum will have room to more respectfully present these ancient kings, but I'll regret their departure from the 19th century museum. It had the look and feel that an old, haunted museum has in my imagination. We drove by the new museum, under construction at the time, and I fear visiting it will be more like a Disney experience. Long live the old.

Small Axe: Education (TV 2020)

Rotten Tomatoes
Small Axe: Education (TV 2020): West Indian boy in London in 1980s, getting substandard education, is reassigned to a "special" school where education is even worse. Racism at work. Vicious cycle until members of the community begin a Saturday school. Frustrating but hopeful. B-

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

Friday, April 2, 2021

The Father (2020)

Rotten Tomatoes
The Father (2020): Woman deals with her aging father. Characters come and go, scenes repeat, each time slightly differently, until you aren't sure if you are seeing reality or the world through the father's dementia. Deserved Oscar noms for Olivia Coleman and Anthony Hopkins. B+

Thursday, April 1, 2021

Random Thoughts: 43,909. A Stake in the Ground.

Tweets from March, 2021:
  • 2021-03-02: 516,346. In Texas, 43,909. Might as well put a stake in the ground to mark where we were when Abbott declared the pandemic was over in Texas.
  • 2021-03-02: With this action, Texas GOP forfeits any claim to be pro-life.
  • 2021-03-03: GOP cancel culture strikes a blow against mean tweets, unironically.
  • 2021-03-03: North Texas GOP didn't want her for Texas House. Now north Texas GOP doesn't want her for US House. Katrina Pierson is failing at a higher level now.

After the jump, more random thoughts.