Friday, October 29, 2021

Review: Harlem Shuffle

From Harlem Shuffle, by Colson Whitehead:

Open quote His cousin Freddie brought him on the heist one hot night in early June. Ray Carney was having one of his run-around days—uptown, downtown, zipping across the city. Keeping the machine humming. First up was Radio Row, to unload the final three consoles, two RCAs and a Magnavox, and pick up the TV he left." Harlem Shuffle

It's a heist novel. It's a character study of a man halfway between legitimate businessman and small-time crook. It's a study of a society that makes it hard to tell the difference.

Thursday, October 28, 2021

Redistricting Scatters Richardson - Congress Edition

Congressional Map 2020
Congressional Map 2022

Earlier this week we looked at how redistricting was going to affect Richardson's representation in Austin. I described it as Richardson being scattered to the winds. Today, we look at how redistricting is going to affect Richardson's representation in Washington, DC. It's the same old story.

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Dune (2021)

Rotten Tomatoes
Dune (2021): I didn't read the book. Movie does a good job of world-building and myth-making. Beautiful look. I was surprised by how much Star Wars borrowed from Dune. Young men of destiny. Tatooine/Arrakis, Force/Voice, Jedi/Bene Gesserit. Was Star Wars the Dune for kids? B+

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Redistricting Scatters Richardson to the Winds

Texas House maps
Texas House Map 2020
Texas House Map 2022

What do Richardson and Rockwall have in common? They are both represented by Justin Holland in redrawn Texas House District 33. He, along with Angie Chen Button and Ana-Maria Ramos, will represent Richardson in the new redistricting maps passed by the Texas legislature. (Correction: Plano's Scott Sanford will also represent the tiny northwest corner of Richardson, at least until the 2022 election.) Say goodbye to Jeff Leach, whose Texas House District 67 has been redrawn and shifted far to the northeast in Collin County.

Monday, October 25, 2021

The Last Duel (2021)

Rotten Tomatoes
The Last Duel (2021): Wife of a knight is raped by a squire, which leads to a duel to the death. Movie tells story three times, from each character's perspective. Stories are too consistent to be Rashomon, the times too misogynistic to be #MeToo, the movie messy but riveting. B+

Friday, October 22, 2021

Scenes from a Marriage (TV 2021)

Rotten Tomatoes
Scenes from a Marriage (TV 2021): Intimate look at a troubled marriage. Series lays the kindling, ignites, blazes, finally settles into a steady burn. Couple talk at each other endlessly but seldom connect. Intense acting by Chastain and Isaac. Worthy homage to Ingmar Bergman. A-

Thursday, October 21, 2021

"How Terribly Strange to be Seventy"

"Can you imagine us years from today
Sharing a park bench quietly?
How terribly strange to be seventy."

I wasn't yet twenty when Simon and Garfunkel released the album "Bookends" and I first heard those lyrics from "Old Friends" that would haunt me all my life. Fifty years on, I don't find it terribly strange to be seventy. What I find terribly strange is to reflect on the fact that there are no songs about what it feels like to be 120. The milestones in my life are piling up behind me. The road ahead is becoming less congested. The horizon is ever closer. Melancholy fills me. That is what I find to be terribly strange.

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

POTD: Fresh Air Butcher

From 2019 11 21 Kom Ombo and Edfu

Today's photo-of-the-day is from Edfu, Egypt. It shows a fresh air butcher in a street market.

Bonus photos after the jump.

Tuesday, October 19, 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. It's a relatively modern shrine, if you can call 2,000 years old modern. it was built in the Ptolemaic Kingdom between 237 and 57 BC. Greek pharaohs. Greek architecture. Those columns would look at home in ancient Athens (or on a federal building in Washington, DC). It is one of the best preserved shrines in Egypt.

Monday, October 18, 2021

TIL: America is on Track for "Fusion Never"

Source: New Yorker.

Since I was a young boy in the 1950s, I remember hearing the lure of electricity generated by nuclear power. "Too cheap to meter" was the promise. Fission nuclear reactors never delivered on that promise and turned out to have such serious shortcomings — think Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, Fukushima — that fewer fission power plants are being built today than are being retired.

Fusion power promised to solve all those problems. No meltdowns, no leftover radioactive waste, no need to mine or handle uranium or plutonium. Fusion power always seemed to be right around the corner. Today I learned, it's still right around the corner, but we're not even trying to get there anymore. At least not seriously.

Friday, October 15, 2021

Review: Interior Chinatown

From Interior Chinatown, by Charles Yu:

Open quote Ever since you were a boy, you've dreamt of being Kung Fu Guy. You are not Kung Fu Guy. You are currently Background Oriental Male, but you've been practicing. Maybe tomorrow will be the day." Interior Chinatown

Is it a screenplay? Is it a memoir? Is it a comedy? Is it a satire? Is it an indictment of Hollywood and American racism? Yes to all.

Thursday, October 14, 2021

The Long Road to Richardson Restaurant Park

What the Customer Wanted

Spring Valley Corridor

In 2010, the City of Richardson embarked on the long journey of revitalization of the West Spring Valley Corridor. It started with a series of community meetings. The residents were clear on what they wanted to see in southwest Richardson: Urban. Mixed-use. Walkable. Pocket parks. Think Parisian boulevard.

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

No Time to Die (2021)

Rotten Tomatoes
No Time to Die (2021): I won't talk plot to avoid spoilers, but also because there are too many bad guys and intertwined back stories to follow. So, let's just say the car chases, gun fights, and acrobatic stunts don't disappoint. And Bond himself is less a cad. That's a plus. B-

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

What is a Drive-Thru Menu Board Worth?

Source: Casino Royale.
The poker game at the Horseshoe Saloon was getting interesting. On one side of the table were arrayed seven regulars. Across from them, with all eyes on him, was "Hot Chicken" Kirk. Although not a regular player, "Hot Chicken" played frequently enough that he knew each player's tics and tells. Would this be the game he used that knowledge for his own advantage?

Jersey Boys (2014)

Rotten Tomatoes
Jersey Boys (2014): Biopic of the Four Seasons. Why great artists always have messed up personal lives is an enduring mystery. The teenage lawbreaking, broken family, debt to the Mob, all crowd out the music. Less movie musical than concert footage and not enough of that. C+


Monday, October 11, 2021

Kajillionaire (2020)

Rotten Tomatoes
Kajillionaire (2020): Three small grifters (husband, wife, daughter) with bizarre schemes (and lifestyle) join up with another young woman (who is grifting who?). Gradually the daughter becomes alienated from parents. More sad than funny. Quirky, but not quirky enough. B-

Friday, October 8, 2021

Free Guy (2021)

Rotten Tomatoes
Free Guy (2021): I'm no gamer, but I can see how this would appeal to teen boys who are. A nonplayable character in a video game with hidden AI gains consciousness. The race is on to wrest control from the bad owner before a reboot erases him. Mostly fun, sweet and self-aware. B-

Thursday, October 7, 2021

Tactics: Good, Bad, and Delegated

"Good tactics can save even the worst strategy.
Bad tactics will destroy even the best strategy."
— George S. Patton

The Richardson City Council met for three nights to set their goals, strategies, and tactics for the current two-year term. They didn't finish. Their goals were refined enough for the facilitator to polish them and publish them. Their strategies were in rougher shape. The facilitator will be challenged to merge and prune and wordsmith them to capture the intent of the Council.

Wednesday, October 6, 2021

Transparent, Open, and Accountable Government

Founding Father James Madison once wrote that democracy without information was "but prologue to a farce or a tragedy," and he regarded the diffusion of knowledge as "the only guardian of true liberty." Texas law has long agreed the inherent right of Texans to govern themselves depends on their ability to observe how public officials are conducting the people’s business. That is why the Texas Open Meetings Act was enacted, to ensure that Texas government is transparent, open, and accountable to all Texans.

I'm not about to accuse the City of Richardson of violating the letter of the law. It's the City's attitude towards the spirit of the law that gives me heartburn.

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Squid Game (TV 2021)

Rotten Tomatoes
Squid Game (TV 2021): Korea. Desperate people deep in debt agree to play children's games. Winner will get rich. Losers get killed. Bear with the preposterous and brutal premise. The characters will grow on you. A thought-provoking fable about modern capitalism. Trust me. A-

Monday, October 4, 2021

Random Thoughts: History Has a Way of Creating Coincidences

Tweets from September, 2021:
  • 2021-09-02: History has a way of creating coincidences that no fiction writer would dare. On August 31, America abandoned Afghanistan women to the Taliban. The very next day, the US Supreme Court abandoned American women to the Texas Taliban.
  • 2021-09-02: President Trump taught us that he could do anything without consequence because no one would stop him. SCOTUS learned it can do anything because no one will stop them. Congress won't, even though Dems have power to. So, blame GOP for all this, but Dems share a bit for letting them.
  • 2021-09-03: 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-
  • 2021-09-03: Texas GOP used to operate on the theory that too many people were suing for anything and everything. "Texans for Lawsuit Reform" bought themselves a legislature to end that. Now GOP has decided that radically expanding who can sue is actually a good thing.

After the jump, more random thoughts.

Saturday, October 2, 2021

Economic Development Negotiations Adjacent to Spring Creek Nature Area

Richardson City Council has this executive session item on their agenda for Monday night:

Deliberation Regarding Economic Development Negotiations
• Commercial Development – E. Lookout Dr./N. Glenville Dr. Area

This vacant land is adjacent to the Spring Creek Nature Area, so my wishful thinking is that the City is considering expanding that parkland. But "Economic Development Negotiations" more likely means a developer is looking for a public handout. Review and reform of financial incentive handouts is one of my wish list items for the Council's goals for 2021-2023.

Also on Monday night's agenda is another secret meeting to discuss goals for 2021-2023. Ironic that.

Friday, October 1, 2021

The Voelker Doctrine in a Nutshell

This week, the Richardson City Council rejected a proposal for a private student housing project north of UT-Dallas. I summarized the move as a message to students: "DROP DEAD." But that was unfair (really, not really). Mayor Paul Voelker expressed the thinking behind the rejection as more of a nod to a greater good. "My vision for the highest and best use, international companies that want to be right next door to a tier one research university." In his telling, it's not that he's against students or student housing, it's that he's for something he considers to be greater. I called that the Voelker Doctrine. Now I've found a six-word slogan that captures the doctrine in a nutshell. Read on.