Thursday, March 31, 2022

Richardson's Future Hidden Gem for the Visual Arts

UT-Dallas in Richardson (my new name for our university) announced that groundbreaking on the Crow Museum of Asian Art will happen in about a month.

Shifting Odds on RISD's Superintendent Search

Sherry Clemens, Eron Linn, Vanessa Pacheco

Yesterday, I analyzed one key question from the forum of Richardson ISD District 2 school board candidates Sherry Clemens, Vanessa Pacheco, and Eron Linn (incumbent), hosted by the Berkner High School PTA. Today, reading between the lines, I speculate that we might have learned some significant news from another question. At least, it changes the odds that I would place on the job search for a new superintendent.

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

RISD Election Reduced to One Question

Sherry Clemens, Eron Linn, Vanessa Pacheco

The Berkner High School PTA hosted a forum of Richardson ISD District 2 school board candidates Sherry Clemens, Vanessa Pacheco, and Eron Linn (incumbent). There were many good questions, but one audience question in particular distilled the whole election down to its essential question. It was a yes/no question. The three candidates answered, in effect, yes, no, and don't blame me.

Kimi (2022)

Rotten Tomatoes
Kimi (2022): Psychological mystery by Steven Soderbergh with Zoƫ Kravitz as a tech worker who overhears a murder on an audio stream. Movie has a "Rear Window" feel and a pandemic quarantine claustrophobic feel. No plot twists, but a serviceable thriller nonetheless. B-

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

We Are Lady Parts (TV 2021)

Rotten Tomatoes
We Are Lady Parts (TV 2021): Musical comedy. Five young British Muslim women form a punk band. Lead character gets stage fright because what she's doing is so out of character. The whole show is. These are real, believable people, all different, breaking stereotypes. A-

Monday, March 28, 2022

The Gilded Age (TV 2022)

Rotten Tomatoes
The Gilded Age (TV 2022) ): Costume drama set in 1882 NYC, where the nouveau riche try to crash old-money society. If you loved Downton Abbey, you'll like this. Only Julian Fellowes can make a robber baron a sympathetic character. If you want history, balance this with PBS. B-

Sunday, March 27, 2022

POTD: Richardson Homeowner Shows Solidarity with Ukraine

Today's photo-of-the-day is from Richardson, Texas. It shows one homeowner's solidarity with Ukraine. On the other side of the fence from the Ukrainian flag is a threatening pumpkin-headed skeleton. The homeowner says the placement is coincidence, but I really think the skeleton should have a sign labeled "Russia" around its neck.

Saturday, March 26, 2022

POTD: Seat Belts Save Lives

No One Was Injured

Today's photo-of-the-day is from Richardson, Texas. The accident happened on Plano Rd at the entrance to the shopping center on the northeast corner of Plano and Belt Line. There were five passengers in the overturned car. The youngest was a three year old girl in a car seat who found herself hanging upside down. Richardson emergency responders had to help all five passengers exit the vehicle. Nobody in that car or the other car involved were injured. The two cars, on the other hand, were probably total losses. I noticed that the overturned car had a temporary license tag. You know what they say: a new car loses 20% of its value the minute you drive it off the dealer's lot.

POTD: Living Solar Panels

Living Solar Panels, by Ash Gardner

Trees can live for five thousand years.
The oldest ones saw the birth of Cleopatra.
The astronauts, the moon landings.
They are living solar panels.

No-one can speak to the sun.
We can't understand what it is saying.
It speaks in wavelengths we can't interpret.
But trees and corals will translate it for everyone.

Friday, March 25, 2022

The Wheel Award for Excellence in Motion Pictures

The Academy Awards will be given out Sunday, March 27, 2022. I've seen all the nominees for Best Picture. That means my opinion means something. Right?

I've ranked the movies in order of my preference for "Best Picture." The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science uses ranked choice voting (RCV) to ensure that the winner has broad support throughout the Academy members. I wish US political elections used a similar system (or perhaps some form of proportional voting system).

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 (cough, CODA), but for which I would vote, had I a vote.

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

Thursday, March 24, 2022

Dr. Stone in the Superintendent Spotlight

The Texas Tribune hosted a forum, Superintendent Spotlight, that featured three school superintendents from north Texas. They were Michael Hinojosa (Dallas), Kent Scribner (Fort Worth), and Dr. Jeannie Stone, former superintendent of Richardson ISD. The discussion was moderated by The Texas Tribune's Evan Smith. This is the first time that I have seen that Dr. Stone has talked on camera since her departure from the RISD in December, 2021. Read on for Dr. Stone on learning during the pandemic, on mask mandates, on critical race theory, on equity/diversity/inclusion, on book banning, and on why she quit.

The Outfit (2022)

Rotten Tomatoes
The Outfit (2022): Tense, psychological thriller out of the 1950s. A tailor is caught up in a gang war. Like a stage play, all action takes place in one shop in one night. The story goes from slow burn to boil over several times. Mark Rylance shines. Others are stereotypes. A-

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Richardson Police vs City of Richardson

We've been following this story for almost a year. It was in April of 2021 that Richardson Police Officer Kayla Walker spoke at a City Council meeting to allege an illegal ticket quota system imposed on RPD officers. The City denied the allegation. Now Officer Walker and David Conklin have filed a lawsuit against the City. The Dallas Morning News and others have the basics of the story. The lawsuit itself can be found on the Dallas County Courts portal. It contains the details.

Tuesday, March 22, 2022

CODA (2021)

Rotten Tomatoes
CODA (2021): Child of deaf adults is torn between keeping her family fishing business afloat and going to music school. Taut script that leads step by step to a predictable ending. Heartwarming, like a Hallmark movie, but not original. Featuring deaf actors is a nice touch. B-

Monday, March 21, 2022

Meaningless Council Boundaries Shift Again

"A public hearing on Richardson City Council boundaries will take place Tuesday, March 22, at 7 p.m. in the council chambers." So says a story in The Dallas Morning News. That story leaves out the fact that the boundaries have about zero impact on politics in our city. Richardson doesn't have a single-member district electoral system, "the most common and best-known electoral system currently in use in America". Instead, in Richardson all council members are elected at-large. Whichever area of Richardson turns out the most voters can elect all council members for the whole city. Whichever racial or ethnic or religious group turns out the most voters can elect all council members for the whole city. Not a hint of that in the news story. The DMN story reads more like a press release from the City of Richardson. Which it probably was. So much for getting good local news coverage out of the area's only daily newspaper.

By the way, the two options being presented to the public were drawn up by the City Plan Commission. Oh, it wasn't called the City Plan Commission. It was called the Council District Boundary Commission. Was it just a coincidence that the latter was made up of exactly the members of the former? Hardly. No other option was even considered. The City Council had an opportunity to live up to their adopted goal to "Promote avenues for public engagement and input," including "Evaluate opportunities to promote service of boards and commissions and to broaden the diversity of applicants." They could have recruited members of the public who haven't been picked for all the other boards and commissions. This could have been a good avenue for broadening public engagement and input. Like the headline says, the district boundaries are meaningless. What's the risk in picking some newbies for the commission? It's not like the commission can adopt anything. Adoption is still left to the City Council. But nyah. Those goals were always more PR exercise than promises to live up to. So go ahead. Study the two options like it means anything. Flip a coin. Pick either one.

The Adam Project (2022)

Rotten Tomatoes
The Adam Project (2022): Pilot from 2050 travels back to 2018, teams up with himself as a kid to destroy the time machine and prevent the bad history to come. Steals from other sci-fi. It's really all about reconciliation with dad. Family-friendly fare. Smart aleck kid stars. B-

Saturday, March 19, 2022

POTD: The Swing

The Swing, by Robert Louis Stevenson

How do you like to go up in a swing,
   Up in the air so blue?
Oh, I do think it the pleasantest thing
   Ever a child can do!

Up in the air and over the wall,
   Till I can see so wide,
River and trees and cattle and all
   Over the countryside—

Till I look down on the garden green,
   Down on the roof so brown—
Up in the air I go flying again,
   Up in the air and down!

Source: The Swing.

Friday, March 18, 2022

Review: Under a White Sky: The Nature of the Future

From Under a White Sky: The Nature of the Future by Elizabeth Kolbert

Open quote That man should have dominion “over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth,” is a prophecy that has hardened into fact. Choose just about any metric you want and it tells the same story. People have, by now, directly transformed more than half the ice-free land on earth—some twenty-seven million square miles—and indirectly half of what remains." Under a White Sky

Kolbert opens her book with the prophecy of man's dominion over all the earth. Until very recently, that fact was considered an unalloyed good thing, a sign of God's favor, a sign of human progress. Only recently have we recognized the downsides to our dominion. Kolbert closes her book with this summary, "This has been a book about people trying to solve problems created by people trying to solve problems." Those problems were originally introduced by us exercising our dominion.

Thursday, March 17, 2022

Playing "Follow the Money" with History

Boston Tea Party or Amusement Park Ride

The culture wars being waged in state legislatures around the country are making teaching an impossible profession.

There’s a rock, and a hard place, and then there’s a classroom. Consider the dilemma of teachers in New Mexico. In January, the month before the state’s Public Education Department finalized a new social-studies curriculum that includes a unit on inequality and justice in which students are asked to “explore inequity throughout the history of the United States and its connection to conflict that arises today,” Republican lawmakers proposed a ban on teaching “the idea that social problems are created by racist or patriarchal societal structures and systems.” The law, if passed, would make the state’s own curriculum a crime.

This all reminds me of when I used to "help" my sons with their history lessons in elementary school.

Wednesday, March 16, 2022

Lucy and Desi (2022)

Rotten Tomatoes
Lucy and Desi (2022): Amy Poehler's documentary about DesiLu, the original power couple in Hollywood. Talented, ambitious workaholics. Doesn't shed much new light on the well-publicized famous couple. This homage pairs nicely with last year's drama "Being the Ricardos." B-

Tuesday, March 15, 2022

TIL: Education is an Art, not a Science

Today I learned education is an art, not a science. Before I get to how I learned that, let's go back to last week, when I couldn't understand why Richardson ISD needed to hire a consultant to develop an RISD Graduate Profile. Here's a profile that I offer to RISD, for free. A graduate is a person who is curious. Period. That's it. If you aren't curious, you haven't been educated. If you are curious, you're set for lifelong learning. QED.

Monday, March 14, 2022

Lead Me Home (2021)

Rotten Tomatoes
Lead Me Home (2021): Oscar-nominated documentary short. Portrait of homelessness on West Coast. Lets the people and encampments do the talking. It's a big problem now and it's just getting bigger as it's swept under the rug. B+







My ranking of the five nominees:

  • Lead Me Home: B+
  • Three Songs for Benazir: Life in a refugee camp in Afghanistan. Focus is on Shaista and his wife Benazir, two normal kids in a world that's messed up. B+
  • Audible: Follows a high school football team of deaf players. Doesn't heroize or exploit. The kids have the dreams and tragedies of everyone. B-
  • The Queen of Basketball: Portrait of “Lucie” Harris, the first women's basketball superstar. Great subject, mostly her talking. B-
  • When We Were Bullies: Not available. Grade TBD.
    (Update: May 20, 2022: Film maker relives an instance of him bullying another kid in his childhood and interviews old classmates about what they remember. Tactless bullying the kid all over again, in adulthood. C-)

Sunday, March 13, 2022

Turning Red (2022)

Rotten Tomatoes
Turning Red (2022): Pixar. Adolescent girl's anxieties strain her relationship with mother. Outbreaks turn her into a giant red panda. She works through it. It's all part of growing up. 13-year-old girls should like it. Mothers, maybe not. Boys? Dunno. Lost on younger kids. B-

Friday, March 11, 2022

Robin Robin (2021)

Rotten Tomatoes
Robin Robin (2021): 32 minute Oscar-nominated animated short. Orphaned robin is raised by a family of mice who sneak into houses for crumbs. Nothing special here, but executed well. Sweet, funny, uplifting, family-friendly. B+







My ranking of the five nominees:

  • Robin Robin (UK): B+
  • Boxballet (Russia): Beat-up boxer falls in love with a beautiful ballerina. Opposites attract. B+
  • The Windshield Wiper (US, Spain): Asks "What is Love?" and answers in vignettes that show a lack of connection. B-
  • Affairs of the Art (Canada): Pickled animals. Stuffed pets. Macabre art. One strange and creepy family. B-
  • Bestia (Chile): Ceramic doll with a bullet hole in her head recreates atrocities of the Pinochet regime. Jarring. B-

Thursday, March 10, 2022

How Does RISD Measure Success?

Source: RISD.
Graduation. Then What?

The RISD Board of Trustees passed a motion, 5-0 (with District 1 trustee Megan Timme absent and the District 5 seat vacant), to partner with "Engage 2 Learn" in the development of an "RISD Graduate Profile." My first reaction was, "What? Don't we already know that?"

Wednesday, March 9, 2022

Sign of a Thaw in RISD Board Room?

Every month, the Richardson ISD Board of Trustees holds a regular meeting, as well as a worksession, and sometimes a special called meeting. The public can attend. Agendas are published. Video is available. It's all very transparent. Except for those pesky agenda items labeled "Enter Closed Meeting." The Texas Open Meetings Act allows secret meetings on a narrow range of subjects. The board agenda only needs to state what the subject of a secret meeting is. No detail is required, no minutes, no video. That leads to a cottage industry of speculation of what's going on behind closed doors. This month's RISD board meeting was different in one significant way. It's time to speculate about what it means.

Tuesday, March 8, 2022

TIL: Who Deserves Rights is Evolving

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
Source: Declaration of Independence.

All men? Self-evident? 246 years ago, those unalienable rights didn't extend to women and even less so to Blacks. Try to predict what will be considered "self-evident" rights 246 years from now. It's hard. The only thing I'm sure of is that the notions of "common sense" will appear much different to our descendants than they do to us today.

Monday, March 7, 2022

Ala Kachuu (2021)

Ala Kachuu (2021): Oscar-nominated live-action short. Kyrgyz girl who dreams of higher education is kidnapped and forced to marry. A cultural practice there openly accepted as proper, we see as barbaric. Depressing. Well-acted. Beautiful cinematography. Best of 5 nominees. A-






My ranking of the five nominees:

  • Ala Kachuu - Take and Run (Switzerland/Kyrgyzstan): A-
  • The Dress (Poland): Portrait of a lonely hotel maid with dwarfism. A-
  • On My Mind (Denmark): Portrait of a man who uses karaoke to deal with loss. B+
  • Please Hold (US): Man is unjustly incarcerated in an automated, robotic prison. B+
  • The Long Goodbye (UK): Wedding in immigrant household is interrupted by a raid. B+

Friday, March 4, 2022

The Courier (2021)

Rotten Tomatoes
The Courier (2021): Cold War spy movie. Benedict Cumberbatch is a businessman recruited to smuggle secrets out of USSR. Game gets riskier as his friendship with a Russian spy grows. Not a James Bond action movie. Instead it's based on real life, meaning the stakes are real. B+

Thursday, March 3, 2022

The King's Man (2021)

Rotten Tomatoes
The King's Man (2021): A prequel no one needed. WWI fan fiction. British aristocratic spy puts himself in the center of every important event of WWI. Really bad history. Over the top, but not in a knowing, wink-wink way. Probably baffling to many. A waste of time. C-

Wednesday, March 2, 2022

TIL: Why Sea Level Rise is not the Same Everywhere

Years ago, I saw a photo of a buoy in a harbor somewhere, with a caption saying the sea level was the same as it was 100 years ago. "Proof" was provided in a photo of the same buoy from 100 years ago. The sea level was indeed the same in the two photos. The photos were offered as proof that global warming and sea level rise were all a great hoax. What gives, I thought?

That was years ago, but that "proof" always bothered me more than it ever seemed to bother climatologists. This month, Wired magazine published an article that answers the question that's bothered me all these years. What gives? Read on.

Tuesday, March 1, 2022

Thank a Poll Worker Today

The life of a democratic republic hangs in the balance. No, I'm not speaking of Ukraine. I'm speaking about American democracy. Our democracy rests on a foundation of free and fair elections. Those are becoming more difficult to run. Even before the 2020 election, a majority of Americans didn't trust elections. The 2020 election only made things worse. The loser refused to concede. 147 members of Congress voted to overturn the election results. A mob of insurrectionists invaded the US Capitol to force the matter. Election "workers became the target of vote-rigging conspiracy theories that put them in physical danger and threatened their livelihoods." Nineteen states enacted new voting regulations in 2021, increasing the red tape not just for voters but for election workers as well in an effort to eliminate suspected voter fraud. Some want laws that would enact jail time and/or big fines for election workers who make innocent mistakes.

Is it any wonder that getting people to work at polling places on election day is getting harder and harder? Like a vicious circle, accusations of fraud lead to fewer people willing to accept the risk, which in turn leads to understaffing at polling places, which leads to more mistakes, which ends with accusations of fraud multiplying.

Random Thoughts: Tom Brady's Retirement

Tweets from February, 2022:
  • 2022-02-01: Local New York City TV station news announces Tom Brady's retirement. How a news story can be true but still slanted at the same time.
  • 2022-02-01: One of my several daily emails from Donald Trump: "I have something important to tell you but you CANNOT share this with anyone." DON'T tell TFG, but I'm going to share. I can buy a lottery ticket for a lunch at Mar-a-Lago. Do any of these lotteries ever award anything to anyone?
  • 2022-02-01: Gov. Abbott in nice weather and Gov. Abbott staring at a winter storm. Different stories then and now.
  • 2022-02-02: 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+
  • 2022-02-02: Fact check: Quote tweeted by GOP congressman came from neo-Nazi convicted for child porn, not Voltaire. Uh oh. Pro-tip: If a quote from a famous historical figure sounds like it's perfect to make your point, it's probably fake.

After the jump, more random thoughts.