Monday, February 28, 2022

Girls5Eva (TV 2021)

Rotten Tomatoes
Girls5Eva (TV 2021): 4 members of a '90s girls group reunite to give fame another try. A TV sit-com where the 4 characters never jell. There's no reason to believe they were ever friends. The wit is forced, like jokes picked up from the rejects on the floor of a writers' room. C-

Friday, February 25, 2022

The Eyes of Tammy Faye (2021)

Rotten Tomatoes
The Eyes of Tammy Faye (2021): Skewers Jim Bakker, Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell as frauds who care more about money and power than Jesus. Jessica Chastain's Tammy Faye is treated more sympathetically, more willing dupe who does care about people. She deserves Best Actress nom. B-

Thursday, February 24, 2022

"Affordable" Housing Coming to Plano

There are different definitions of "affordable housing." One apartment project in Plano is described in The Dallas Morning News: "The development would include 128 units set aside for households at or below 60% of the area’s median income. The remaining units would have no income restrictions. The median income for the city is approximately $95,000 a year."

More important than the exact definition (for me) is that at least Plano has some developments with a target for affordability. Any project that comes before Richardson's CPC or City Council seeking a zoning change should be required to meet a target as well.

TIL: The Return of Great Power Rivalries

Source: Diplomacy.

The 20th Century dawned as a true multipolar world. The world in 1914 was dominated by Great Britain, Germany, France, Austria-Hungary, Russia, the Ottoman Empire. But when the sun set at the end of the 20th Century, we lived in a unipolar world, a Pax Americana.

Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright has an opinion piece in the New York Times in which she updates us on what's happened in the first twenty years of the 21st Century.

Wednesday, February 23, 2022

Marry Me (2022)

Rotten Tomatoes
Marry Me (2022): Rom-com with regular guy Owen Wilson and worldwide celebrity Jennifer Lopez. Implausible opposites-attract premise but the leads sell it, making suspension of disbelief possible. Predictable, sure, but easy to watch. J.Lo gets several singing opportunities. B-

Tuesday, February 22, 2022

Nightmare Alley (2021)

Rotten Tomatoes
Nightmare Alley (2021): Surprisingly, not a horror movie. A carnival grifter running a con as a mentalist sets his sights on richer marks until the stakes get deadly. The story arc is too pat, but the look and feel are superb. 1940s film noir just like the great movies of old. B+

Monday, February 21, 2022

First Impressions of RISD School Board Candidates

The Richardson ISD has called an election for school board trustees for May 7, 2022. Three of the seven seats on the board will be decided. The deadline for candidate filings has closed. We now know who will be on the ballot. Nine candidates have filed for the three seats. It's too early to make recommendations, but it's not too early to have first impressions. As they say, you never get a second chance to make a first impression. Here are mine.

Sunday, February 20, 2022

Explore the Core with the Mayor(s)

Richardson Mayor Paul Voelker led a walk today, accompanied by two former mayors (Gary Slagel and Steve Mitchell), the mayor pro tem (Janet DePuy), and about two dozen members of the public. We "explored the Core" as the mayor put it. We walked from the Lockwood District, across Belt Line Rd to the Heights Shopping Center, across Central Expressway to historic downtown Main Street and on to Greenville Ave., then south Polk Street, then back to the Lockwood Distilling Co. for drinks. We stopped frequently for the mayor to explain the history and ongoing and planned redevelopment.

For years, I've criticized parts of the City's redevelopment efforts, but I have to admit that the mayor makes the best spokesman for the City's efforts in this area. While I'm not ready to concede on all points, I'm also not saying categorically I was right and the City was wrong. If the City had waited until everyone was pleased, possibly nothing might have ever gotten done. As President Theodore Roosevelt said about the construction of the Panama Canal, "I took the Canal Zone and let Congress debate, and while the debate goes on the Canal does too." Richardson downtown redevelopment does, too.

Friday, February 18, 2022

Review: The Midnight Library

From The Midnight Library, by Matt Haig

Open quote ‘Between life and death there is a library,’ she said. ‘And within that library, the shelves go on for ever. Every book provides a chance to try another life you could have lived. To see how things would be if you had made other choices . . . Would you have done anything different, if you had the chance to undo your regrets?’ " Midnight Library

That excerpt tells pretty much the whole story. Woman attempts suicide. Between life and death, she's given the chance to see all the lives she might have lived. Does she find the ideal life for her? Does she rekindle her will to live? She does learn an important life lesson. It's a straightforward story, not very deep.

Thursday, February 17, 2022

Binge Watching the RISD School Board

After the sturm und drang of school politics in 2021, I was looking for things to settle down in 2022. So I thought it was time to check in on a Richardson ISD school board meeting. Here are my random observations of the first three hours of the February 15th meeting. Yeah, it was a long meeting. Watching it felt a little like binge-watching a not-particularly-compelling season of a TV show on Netflix.

Wednesday, February 16, 2022

Death on the Nile (2022)

Rotten Tomatoes
Death on the Nile (2022): Kenneth Branagh's homage to Agatha Christie. An old time whodunnit with no emotional stakes. Look elsewhere for an anti-colonialist message film. This is just a romp in 1937 Egypt with a bunch of rich foreigners played by a cast of rich celebrities. B+

Tuesday, February 15, 2022

The Book of Boba Fett (TV 2021)

Rotten Tomatoes
The Book of Boba Fett (TV 2021): Was a bounty hunter, now a crime boss on Tatooine, or maybe a frontier sheriff. We're never sure. Then we switch to the Mandalorian and Baby Yoda. Battle tactics are laughable. Plot is there to justify screen time for old Star Wars characters. C+

Monday, February 14, 2022

Drive My Car (2021)

Rotten Tomatoes
Drive My Car (2021): Japanese. Wife of stage actor/director dies suddenly. Husband deals with unanswered questions with help of a Chekhov play, fellow actors, and a young woman assigned to be his driver. The action is in their heads. Layers of symbolism. Sad. Wise. Powerful. A-

Friday, February 11, 2022

Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021)

Rotten Tomatoes
Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021): Too many monsters/villains. Too many battles where no one wins, no one dies. Best part is the banter, at times sounding like a parody. Electro: "There's gotta be a Black Spider-Man out there somewhere." Needs more banter. Needs Miles Morales? B-

Thursday, February 10, 2022

POTD: Wall Carvings in the Tomb of Rameses III

From 2019 11 22 Valley of the Kings

Today's photo-of-the-day is from the Valley of the Kings in Egypt. It was taken inside the tomb of Rameses III. The tomb is richly decorated with wall carvings and paintings. "During his long tenure [1186 to 1155 BCE] in the midst of the surrounding political chaos of the Late Bronze Age collapse, Egypt was beset by foreign invaders and experienced the beginnings of increasing economic difficulties and internal strife which would eventually lead to the collapse of the Twentieth Dynasty."

Bonus photo after the jump.

Wednesday, February 9, 2022

POTD: The Main Draw in the Valley of the Kings

From 2019 11 22 Valley of the Kings

Today's photo-of-the-day is from the Valley of the Kings in Egypt. It was taken at the tomb of Pharaoh Tutankhamun ("King Tut"). This tomb is the only one of the several dozen tombs in the valley that was discovered intact by modern archaeologists, in 1922. All the others had been looted long ago. Of course, the modern archaeologists emptied Tut's tomb as well (we no longer say looted), all but for one item, Tut's mummy. I had to admit that the boy king looked pretty good for being 3,351 years old.

Bonus photo of the king himself after the jump.

Tuesday, February 8, 2022

Fargo - S01 (TV 2014)

Rotten Tomatoes
Fargo - S01 (TV 2014): Winter in Bemidji, Minnesota, where a mousy insurance salesman accidentally hires a hit man. Dead bodies pile up as things go from bad to worse. Engrossing black comedy with a large cast of quirky characters. I can't think of a thing to improve it. A+


Monday, February 7, 2022

Sweet Jesus, $47 Million? Partial Payment Request

The weekly Richardson City Council agendas are a rich source for conspiracy theories. An especially rich vein are the descriptions of the topics to be discussed in the secret Executive Sessions. Monday's agenda has this tantalizing nugget: "Consultation with City Attorney regarding JP — KBS Holdings, LLC Payment Request".

Friday, February 4, 2022

Parallels to Richardson in "The Accommodation"

"The Accommodation," Jim Schutze's classic 1986 history of race relations in Dallas, was reviewed here yesterday. Richardson is only mentioned a few times in the book, peripherally. Still, several paragraphs from the book reminded me of Richardson.

Thursday, February 3, 2022

Review: The Accommodation: The Politics of Race in an American City

From The Accommodation, by Jim Schutze

Open quote In 1950, for the second time in a decade, the City of Dallas was in serious danger of racial warfare. The dynamitings of Black middle-class homes had started again. None of the measures adopted after a wave of bombings ten years earlier had had lasting effect. The tendency of the city for organized and violent white aggression against Blacks seemed ineluctable. It was the chain that tied the city to a bloody past." The Accommodation

This is Jim Schutze's classic 1986 history of race relations in Dallas. Peter Simek in "D Magazine" called it "the most dangerous book in Dallas." It was long out of print, rumored because of pressure by Dallas's white oligarchy. Now it's been re-released. From slavery to Jim Crow to the 1980s, it lays out how Dallas was run, leaving a legacy we still see today. It's eye-opening, a great read, a must read.

Wednesday, February 2, 2022

Munich: The Edge of War (2022)

Rotten Tomatoes
Munich: The Edge of War (2022): Dramatization of Munich Conference on eve of WWII. Fictional characters and events turn it into a thriller and add suspense. Neville Chamberlain gets an overdue sympathetic treatment. Hitler is still a monster. Good acting throughout. B+

Tuesday, February 1, 2022

Random Thoughts: Just a Ploy for More Money

Tweets from January, 2022:
  • 2022-01-01: "Dallas recorded a 13% drop in homicides in 2021." Wait, what? Didn't the National Fraternal Order of Police just scream about "SKYROCKETING MURDER RATES." You don't think it was just a ploy for more money, do you?
  • 2022-01-02: Guys, ask yourselves, "Have I told my wife even once this year, I love you?"
  • 2022-01-03: RT: "Donald Trump releases a statement endorsing Hungarian strongman Viktor Orb├ín for re-election, saying he 'truly loves his Country.'". A good pairing to my blog post about Anne Applebaum's article in The Atlantic: "The Bad Guys are Winning."
  • 2022-01-04: Don't Look Up (2021): Two astronomers detect a comet headed towards Earth and can't convince anyone to care. Of course, half of America consider it Fake News. A satire that doesn't quite land because today's reality is satire. If it hits, we'll deserve it. Loaded with stars. B-
  • 2022-01-05: The Matrix Resurrections (2021): Tired franchise resurrected with nothing new to add. Lots of dialog about how dead characters are alive again. Token "bullet time" fights. Overstuffed with world-building. No chemistry between Neo and Trinity. Keanu Reeves's hair is still good. C+

After the jump, more random thoughts.