Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Passing (2021)

Rotten Tomatoes
Passing (2021): Adaptation of 1929 novel. Two light-skinned black women, one passing as white, explore who is happier or more free. Neither? Has look of an old B&W movie, but don't be fooled. The undercurrents of tension, jealously, and suppressed emotion are forever modern. B+

Monday, November 29, 2021

The Beatles: Get Back (TV 2021)

Rotten Tomatoes
The Beatles: Get Back (TV 2021): 8 hours watching like a fly on the wall as the Beatles laugh, bicker, compose, and rehearse for 3 weeks, then give a live performance (their last). No narration, no context, just in the moment with genius, getting to see creativity at work. A-

Friday, November 26, 2021

Review: Twilight of Democracy

From Twilight of Democracy, by Anne Applebaum:

Open quote That moment has passed. Nearly two decades later, I would now cross the street to avoid some of the people who were at my New Year’s Eve party. They, in turn, would not only refuse to enter my house, they would be embarrassed to admit they had ever been there. In fact, about half the people who were at that party would no longer speak to the other half. The estrangements are political, not personal. Poland is now one of the most polarized societies in Europe, and we have found ourselves on opposite sides of a profound divide, one that runs through not only what used to be the Polish right but also the old Hungarian right, the Spanish right, the French right, the Italian right, and, with some differences, the British right and the American right, too." Twilight of Democracy

This is Anne Applebaum's personal account of the decline of Western liberal democracy and the rise of authoritarianism.

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Y: The Last Man (TV 2021)

Rotten Tomatoes
Y: The Last Man (TV 2021): An unexplained disease kills all males on Earth, except one, an escape artist with a monkey. That's the first 15 minutes. The rest of season 1 is devoted to loosely connected subplots of women mostly unrelated to the fact that the species is doomed. C-

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

King Richard (2021)

Rotten Tomatoes
King Richard (2021): Will Smith disappears entirely in the father of Venus and Serena. Unfortunately, the character has only one side, the obsessive and controlling side. It's Venus and Serena who are the heroes here. Or the mother. Without that it's just another sports story. B+

Monday, November 22, 2021

Nuclear Family (TV 2021)

Rotten Tomatoes
Nuclear Family (TV 2021): Mom, mom, and two daughters. Everything is fine; everyone is happy. When the sperm donor wants to be accepted as father to one of the girls, things get messy. Three part documentary made by the daughter creates suspense. Well crafted and fair to all. B+

Sunday, November 21, 2021

tick, tick...BOOM! (2021)

Rotten Tomatoes
tick, tick...BOOM! (2021): Lin-Manuel Miranda's meta-musical about Jonathan Larson trying to write a musical (before his hit "Rent"). Are all intense artists self-absorbed jerks to their friends? Andrew Garfield can act, but not sing. Full of cameos by Broadway legends. B-

Saturday, November 20, 2021

Jungle Cruise (2021)

Rotten Tomatoes
Jungle Cruise (2021): True to the Disney theme park ride, down to the corny jokes, with the dated racist elements smoothed over. Emily Blunt seems to be having a ball. Dwayne Johnson's acting isn't half bad. Still, too long and quickly forgettable. C+

Friday, November 19, 2021

Belfast (2021)

Rotten Tomatoes
Belfast (2021): Boyhood tale set in 1969 Belfast at the start of The Troubles. Buddy's world is torn apart by the start of a civil war, but this is a 3-generation family movie, not a war movie. Funny, sad, tense moments. Always genuine. Highly recommended for the whole family. B+

Thursday, November 18, 2021

Improv at RISD Board Meeting

At the November 15, 2021, Richardson ISD school board meeting, roughly thirty people spoke during the public comment section of the meeting. By my rough estimate, the speakers were evenly divided. Call it what you will. Left vs Right. Liberal vs Conservative. Masked vs Unmasked. Vaxed vs Unvaxed. Pro-DEI vs Anti-CRT. I became increasingly annoyed at something that I couldn't quite put my finger on. Then it struck me. It was like watching improv at a comedy club when the actors don't know the first rule of improv.

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Shang-Chi and The Legend of the Ten Rings (2021)

Rotten Tomatoes
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021): Immigrant to America returns to China, where his father's grief for his dead wife is so great that son resolves to kill him. Huh? Movie has a kid-cuddly creature, kung-fu action every five minutes, dragons, and Awkwafina! C+

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

RISD: The Night of the Long Knives

"June 10, 2019, is a big day," Superintendent Jeannie Stone said. "It's a big, big day." It was the day that the Richardson ISD Board of Trustees adopted the RISD Equity, Diversity, Inclusion (EDI) Policy in a unanimous 7-0 vote. "Once approved, trustees and members of the public delivered a standing ovation."

That was 2019. It was the same year that RISD adopted a 5-2 single-member district voting system, putting to rest a lawsuit against the district for violating voting rights of minorities. It was the same year the Texas PTA named Dr. Jeannie Stone "Superintendent of the Year." All of that was just two years ago, but somehow it now seems like so long ago.

Monday, November 15, 2021

Spencer (2021)

Rotten Tomatoes
Spencer (2021): Diana's last Christmas with the Windsor family at Sandringham House. More fable than fact. Diana is shown as on the verge of insanity. Despite the big house, big staff, extended family, movie and Kristin Stewart do a great job of portraying Diana's loneliness. B+

Friday, November 12, 2021

Review: Unworthy Republic

From Unworthy Republic, by Claudio Sant:

Open quote "Indians," like Jews, Gypsies, slaves, and "free negroes," wrote the Georgia Journal in 1825, were "a kind of citizens of an inferior order." What was to be done with them? By the 1830s, the expression "the Indian question" was circulating widely in the United States." Unworthy Republic

The answer to the question posed by Georgia whites in 1825, was voluntary self-deportation, forced expulsion, or not necessarily as a last resort, extermination.

Thursday, November 11, 2021

Dr. Stone's Talk: The Power of Love

"RISD’s diversity is a community strength, and as educators we have an obligation to curate an inclusive academic and social culture rooted in equitable practices and opportunities."

So states the Richardson ISD. The policy was developed by the RISD community. Apparently not everyone is on board.

"Get this shit out of our Texas schools now!!!!"

Luxor (2020)

Rotten Tomatoes
Luxor (2020): Surgeon from war zone on R&R in Egypt reconnects with her former lover, an archaeologist. He lives in past. She is traumatized by her work in the present. Very slow, meandering movie. Movie is a treat for tourists who have visited Luxor and its temples and tombs. B-

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Smooth Sailing for RISD Redistricting

The Richardson ISD is performing its first-ever redistricting exercise, having just adopted single member districts in 2019. Monday night, at the meeting of the RISD Board of Trustees, the three maps that the district is considering were shown to the public for feedback.

Tuesday, November 9, 2021

Monday, November 8, 2021

Richardson City Council Goals 2021-2023

The City Council of Richardson held three secret meetings to set their Council Goals for the 2021-2023 term. I say secret because there were no videos. There were no minutes. The only way for you to know what was said, and by whom, was if one of the three members of the public who managed to find their way upstairs to the chamber of secrets told you what happened. Your faithful correspondent was one of them. You can read about that part of the story using the links at the bottom of this post.

Saturday, November 6, 2021

POTD: Van Gogh and the Olive Groves

Today's photo-of-the-day is from the exhibit "Van Gogh and the Olive Groves" at the Dallas Museum of Art. It includes a series of paintings made between June and December, 1889, while Van Gogh was a patient at the asylum of Saint-Rémy. The man was clearly on a roll in the last year of his life. One Van Gogh painting (not in this exhibit) sold at auction in 2017 for $81 million dollars. Going by that, this one small room in the DMA contains perhaps a billion dollars worth of art. The exhibit has a letter from Van Gogh to his brother on display in which Van Gogh said he was working on a series of of paintings of olive groves with a hope of selling them for "ornamentation for bourgeoisie homes." That's some decoration!

Click for a bonus photo.

Friday, November 5, 2021

The French Dispatch (2021)

Rotten Tomatoes
The French Dispatch (2021): Stories from a mid-20th century American journal in Ennui-sur-Blase, France. Quirky look, quirky stories, quirky acting. Packed full of top-tier actors. If you love Wes Anderson, you'll understand. Others will leave theatre scratching their heads. B-

Thursday, November 4, 2021

RISD School Board Goes To School

The trustees of the Richardson ISD school board held a three hour training session Tuesday night on team-building. You might think this was well-timed, given recent events, but it's been on the board calendar all year. Texas State law requires team-building training every year. This week was RISD's turn. The trainer was Kay Douglas from the Texas Association of School Boards (TASB). She was excellent. She is knowledgeable, experienced, and generous with sharing her learned wisdom.

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

Only Murders in the Building (TV 2021)

Rotten Tomatoes
Only Murders in the Building (TV 2021): Three true crime aficionados living in the same building make a podcast to investigate a murder. More silly comedy than serious mystery. Best work by Steve Martin and Martin Short since Three Amigos. Selena Gomez balances the silly. B+

Tuesday, November 2, 2021

Reservation Dogs (TV 2021)

Rotten Tomatoes
Reservation Dogs (TV 2021): Comedy set in a small town in Oklahoma where four indigenous teens with no prospects dream of escaping to California. At times funny, poignant, irreverent, despairing, and quirky, it always feels authentic. Paradoxically, it made me like Oklahoma. B+

Monday, November 1, 2021

Random Thoughts: A Look at Redistricting

Tweets from October, 2021:
  • 2021-10-01: A look at redistricting...102 Ana Marie Ramos is safely D. (Richardson south of Belt Line). 112 Angie Chen Button leans R. (Richardson Dallas Co. north of Belt Line). 33 Justin Holland is safely R. (east Richardson Collin Co).
  • 2021-10-02: An overtime thriller, Berkner over Pearce 34-32. Three, four, five overtimes, any way you count it, a thriller.
  • 2021-10-02: Technically, I guess it was five overtimes. Whew! Tell the kids that's what all the August conditioning is for.
  • 2021-10-02: Headline: "An American tragedy: US COVID death toll tops 700,000." I can't work up any sympathy for anti-vaxers and anti-maskers. I'm all out.
  • 2021-10-02: Recent Covid-19 deaths. There's a vaccine that saves lives. Get it.

After the jump, more random thoughts.

Public Health vs Personal Liberty

There's a gaping divide in politics today, and nowhere is it on show more than in schools across the country. Richardson ISD is no exception, where the school board president abruptly resigned, in part no doubt because of public invective hurled at her and in part perhaps because of a split on the school board on how to deal with a pandemic.