Thursday, September 30, 2021

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier (TV 2021)

Rotten Tomatoes
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier (TV 2021): How Captain America's shield gets passed a Black man. That matters in this telling. And how the Winter Soldier gets his groove back. Two Captain Americas and a Nazi and Wakandans and Flag Smashers. Way too crowded for me. C+

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

The Voelker Doctrine

I've been preoccupied with a zoning case for student housing just north of UT-Dallas for almost a year. The case is finally dead (I think). For the second time, the City Council denied the rezoning application. Each time I struggled to find a coherent reason why. As I said in December, 2020, "You might think if there's anywhere an apartment building just might get approved, it's on a property like that: on a freeway, near public transit and a large (and growing) university, and nowhere near a single family neighborhood. But the City Council said 'no.' " This year, I called a similar application for rezoning a "no-brainer." The City Council again said "no." What was I missing?

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

What Killed Student Housing for UT-Dallas?

The Richardson City Council on Monday unanimously approved a request to rezone 13.3 acres next to the university from technical office to a planned development.
The housing will be open to the public but mostly serve faculty and graduate students.

Just kidding. Check the date on that story in The Dallas Morning News. It's from 2014. Richardson resident Marcia Grau uncovered it. The article reports on the Richardson City Council's approval of the Northside apartment development. Oh, about that "The housing will be open to the public but mostly serve faculty and graduate students." Northside has to follow the same Fair Housing Act regulations that would apply to this year's private student housing project. What the Council had no problem with in 2014 took up much of the Council's handwringing this year.

The outcome this week, seven years later, was decidedly different.

Monday, September 27, 2021

4th (and best) Dispatch from the Chamber of Secrets

The Richardson City Council has been meeting in secret to set the council's vision, mission, goals, strategies, and tactics for its two-year term. In my three previous dispatches, I barely scratched the surface of the substance of those talks (so blame me for being verbose). This time, I'll finally talk substance. (Maybe just a little anyway. The talks are ongoing.)

Saturday, September 25, 2021

Student Housing Nears the End Game

We've been following the long and winding road that one property owner has been walking in his attempt to get City of Richardson approval to build student housing just north of UT-Dallas. It's also just north of the soon-to-be-built DART Silver Line station. If there's any no-brainer zoning case I've seen in Richardson, it would be this one. I've heard the City brag about its commitment to DART and transit-oriented development, and its support of UT-Dallas. You'd think this project to provide private student housing near both DART and UT-Dallas would be a no-brainer for the City Plan Commission and the City Council as well. But so far, it's been less a no-brainer and more like no-way. Now, the quest is reaching its end game. The City Council will consider the request again September 27. 2021.

Friday, September 24, 2021

3rd Dispatch from the Chamber of Secrets

The Richardson City Council has been meeting in secret to set the council's vision, mission, goals, strategies, and tactics for its two-year term. In my two first dispatches, I covered the background of these meetings. This time, I'll finally get into the process the City Council is using to set its goals.

Thursday, September 23, 2021

Selling Richardson a Biergarten

Richardson is getting two more drive-through restaurants, this time not on the east side, where a Salad And Go was recently approved, but on the west side. If the City Council approves, they'll go in Richardson Restaurant Park, the catalyst project for the redevelopment of the West Spring Valley Corridor, a planned development sold to the residents with slides of fancy mixed-use buildings and sidewalk cafes. But the developer says that restaurants with drive throughs saw increased business during the COVID-19 pandemic and he predicts that isn't ever going away. I guess cities built in walkable form are now just going to shrivel and die. At least the City Plan Commission bought the sales pitch. We'll see what the City Council says when the project goes there.

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

2nd Dispatch from the Chamber of Secrets

The Richardson City Council has been meeting in secret to set the council's vision, mission, goals, strategies, and tactics for its two-year term. There's no video. There are no minutes. There were three members of the public at the second meeting. As far as I can tell, my dispatches are all that's available about what went on in the second secret meeting.

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Dispatch from the Chamber of Secrets

On August 30, the Richardson City Council met in secret session to begin setting the council's vision, mission, goals, strategies, and tactics for its two-year term. I say secret because the announcement of the meeting, the site of the meeting, and the recording of the meeting (namely, none) all left something to be desired in the way of transparency. I reported all that in "Secret Richardson City Council Meeting". Since then, I have another complaint about the process to add. Here are the minutes of that meeting, in their entirety:

Council discussed the goals process and goals for the 2021-2023 Council term

On September 20, the council did it again. They continued their secret meeting in the same manner as before. Lucky for you, this time, I was there.

News of the World (2020)

Rotten Tomatoes
News of the World (2020): Tom Hanks as ex-Civil War soldier in Texas tasked with returning a kidnapped orphan to her family. This is not a John Wayne Western. The "Injuns" aren't the bad guys. That's reserved for white characters. Texans are mostly unappealing, except Hanks. B-

P.S. The movie was filmed around Santa Fe, New Mexico, with its stereotypical movie Western scenery. It obviously wasn't filmed around Dallas, where it's supposedly set. And Erath County comes across as bigoted and dangerous. Whether the movie got that one right, I can't say. I avoid Erath County.

Monday, September 20, 2021

Cry Macho (2021)

Rotten Tomatoes
Cry Macho (2021): 91-yr-old Clint Eastwood casts himself as romantic lead against an actress half his age. He's a cowboy who breaks wild horses and is on the run from bad guys and the law in Mexico. There's a boy he's rescuing. And there's a rooster. For Eastwood fans only. C+

Friday, September 17, 2021

The New Pope (TV 2020)

Rotten Tomatoes
The New Pope (TV 2020): Sequel to The Young Pope. New pope is elected while old pope still lives. Political intrigues ensue. Even more surreal and provocative, even obscene and blasphemous at times. More arty than straight story-telling. Unique television. Not for everyone. B-

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Yet Another Drive-Thru in East Richardson

For those who want more eating options on the corner of Belt Line and Plano Rd, good news. The Richardson City Council approved the construction of a "Salad And Go." For those who don't care about sit-down dining, even greater news. The Council approved a form for the restaurant that allows for only drive-through service, with *two* menu boards and no parking. On the other hand...there's always another hand, isn't there?

POTD: Red Rover, Red Rover, Send Horus Over

From 2019 11 21 Kom Ombo and Edfu

Today's photo-of-the-day is from the Temple of Horus in Edfu, Egypt. It illustrates a popular game among ancient Egyptians. Or something. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Modern Love - S02 (TV 2021)

Rotten Tomatoes
Modern Love - S02 (TV 2021): Anthology series. Dramatizations of personal essays from NY Times about love stories. How people fall in and out of love. Story arcs are sometimes flat. Stories are watchable, even if afterwards, they are quickly forgotten. C+

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

POTD: History is Unwritten by the Victors

From 2019 11 21 Kom Ombo and Edfu

Today's photo-of-the-day is from the Temple of Horus in Edfu, Egypt. It shows a detail of one of the countless carvings on the walls of the temple. Tourists usually take photos of the best preserved (or restored) artifacts, giving people who have never been to Egypt a false idea of the reality of ancient ruins. Besides the natural erosion of time, there's also much evidence of deliberate vandalism. A new dynasty wants to eliminate monuments to the old dynasty. A new religion wants to eliminate icons representing the old religion. And Egypt has seen many dynasties and many religions over the millennia. There's been plenty of time for people to deface the treasures bequeathed to them by those who came before. When this particular wall carving was defaced is lost to history, but it is not rare.

Monday, September 13, 2021

Counterpart - S01 (TV 2017)

Rotten Tomatoes
Counterpart-S01 (TV 2017): Spy thriller set in the present but with a Cold War feel. 30 years ago, the universe split into two with a gateway in Berlin. People in the parallel worlds must grapple with their doppelgangers. Actors get to play two versions of the same character. B-


Friday, September 10, 2021

TIL: Reparations

For years, there's been talk of reparations for slavery. The reactions fall into one of three categories:

  • It's about time!
  • Noble idea, but expensive. And impractical. Impossible.
  • Hell no. I never owned slaves.

I don't intend to litigate the issue here. Readers have probably heard the arguments and sided with one or another long ago. What I want to do here is mention something I learned. It's a perspective gained from Britain, which is doing some soul-searching of its own on the subject.

Thursday, September 9, 2021

POTD: Temple of Horus

From 2019 11 21 Kom Ombo and Edfu

Today's photo-of-the-day is from the Temple of Horus in Edfu, Egypt.

The city of Edfu was known as Apollonopolis Magna in the Roman period, after the chief god Horus, who was identified as Apollo by some kind of magical decoder ring used by ancient Greeks. In any case, the temple was built in the Ptolemaic Kingdom in about 100 BCE. It is one of the best preserved shrines in Egypt.

Don't get temple fatigue already. We still have Luxor and the Valley of the Kings to see.

P.S. Apollonopolis Magna would make a great name for a professional wrestler.

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Rejecting TOD Adjacent to a Transit Station

When we last looked at that land north of UT-Dallas, I was ready to blame UT-Dallas for killing a proposal for more student housing. Last night, at the Richardson City Plan Commission meeting, UT-Dallas managed to keep their fingerprints off the body. So we have to take a closer look at other suspects. Hanlon's razor says, "Never ascribe to malice that which is adequately explained by incompetence."

Amazing Grace (2018)

Rotten Tomatoes
Amazing Grace (2018): Documentary movie of Aretha Franklin's Gospel music concert from 1972. She was only 30 years old and at the top of her form. Watch it after 2021's Respect to better understand the context of the concert. Or just watch the Queen of Soul at her best. B-


Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Respect (2021)

Rotten Tomatoes
Respect (2021): Biopic of Aretha Franklin. Broken family, strict father, abusive husband, personal demons that lead to overwork and alcohol. Aretha persists and becomes the Queen of Soul. Pedestrian start, but when it takes off, it soars. Jennifer Hudson does Aretha proud. B+

Monday, September 6, 2021

Cinderella (2021)

Rotten Tomatoes
Cinderella (2021): Modern spin on the classic fairytale with digs at society's sexism and even the role of the monarchy itself. Story-telling takes a back seat to the almost non-stop musical numbers, everything from Queen to Madonna to Salt-N-Pepa. Not original, but still fun. B-

Friday, September 3, 2021

Starstruck (TV 2021)

Rotten Tomatoes
Starstruck (TV 2021): Romcom. Jessie, a struggling working woman in London, meets Tom, a movie star. Opposites attract. Instant chemistry. But she can't let herself be happy. Jessie is high maintenance. How you react to the series depends on your reaction to Rose Matafeo. B-

Thursday, September 2, 2021

POTD: Edfu Taxi of Sorts

From 2019 11 21 Kom Ombo and Edfu

Today's photo-of-the-day is from the the streets of Edfu, Egypt. It shows a popular way to get around, at least for tourists. I think the locals probably favor the tuktuks, the popular three-wheeled motorised mini-cabs. Notice the ribs of this poor horse. I didn't notice until after I got back home and had my film developed. (I exaggerate, but remember those days?) In any case, I didn't notice until we were back to the cruise ship from touring the ancient temple and noticed a crowd of locals gathered around one of these carriages. Apparently, its horse had collapsed and died. I'm not saying there isn't a role for horse-drawn carriages in the tourist industry in Egypt. I am saying that the government needs to tighten regulations so these horses are better fed.

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Random Thoughts: When Myth and History Merge

Tweets from August, 2021:
  • 2021-08-02: The Green Knight (2021): Adaptation of middle English Arthurian epic about Sir Gawain's quest. True to spirit of poem if not the details. A fantasy whose sets, lighting, pacing, and feel make the legends seem real and not just a CGI recreation. When myth and history merge. B+
  • 2021-08-04: Katla (TV 2021): Iceland. Volcanic eruption leads to strange things on a glacier. Dead people and clones come to life. What's going on? A sci-fi mystery and a study of loss and grief. It's bleak, gritty, and slow. In the end, it all comes together in a satisfactory resolution. B-
  • 2021-08-04: Review: Paved A Way: Freedman's Cemetery, Deep Ellum, Little Mexico, Tenth Street, Fair Park. The history of Dallas through highway development, urban renewal, and their destructive effects on communities of color. An essential read to know why the city is the way it is. B+
  • 2021-08-05: Palm Springs (2021): A bit of a nihilist (Andy Samberg) is trapped in a time loop. Then another guest at the wedding (Cristin Milioti) gets trapped. To surprise of both, romance blooms. Not original but it's fresh and fun. A worthy successor to Groundhog Day and Russian Doll. B+
  • 2021-08-05: Governor Andrew Cuomo's big political mistake was not being a Republican. If he were, he'd be a hero partying at Mar-a-Lago right now.

After the jump, more random thoughts.