Sunday, August 21, 2016


I went to see the Ben-Hur remake, because I remember the chariot race being exciting in the Charlton Heston one. Though I'm agnostic, not Christian, the religious part of the story didn't bother me too much, and I liked that Morgan Freeman was in this. He narrates the beginning and the ending of the movie, and in the middle part plays a wealthy sheikh who trains Judah Ben-Hur to race chariots. Jesus of Nazereth does feature in the movie, but it's in the background of the main events. Rather than preaching, this a story about love triumphing over hate, and forgiveness verses vengeance.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Olympics and the Little Prince

I've never liked sports, and this year I didn't even watch the Olympics opening ceremony. I don't care about any of the competitions and or the boring commentary about it. However, I did catch a PBS special about the 1936 Olympics in Germany. It hardly mentioned Jesse Owens or the athletic events. Instead it was all about Hitler using the Olympics as a propaganda tool to showcase Germany in a good light, and how Avery Brundage and other IOC officials resisted efforts to move the games or boycott them. Apparently Germans were the ones who first came up with the idea of the Olympic torch relay from Athens and created traditions of grandeur and spectacle that modern Olympics have followed ever since. They also mentioned that Germans rounded up the Sinti and Roma people right before the Olympics to "clean up" undesirables. I didn't know that they were part of the Holocaust along with other minorities like Jews, who were considered inferior races. How sad.

Anyway, since there weren't any new movies out that I liked, I watched the Little Prince movie (and binged several episodes of the Masked Magician shows) on Netflix. I've never read the original Little Prince book, but I heard lots of praise and good reviews of the movie, so I decided to watch. It was kind of sad and poetical, but also imaginative, fun and hopeful. Very complex and layered. The frame story was CGI and the book itself was stopmotion animation.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Ugly Politics

I'm kind of astounded that the DNC email hack turned into such a thing that not only did Debbie Wasserman-Schultz resign, but other DNC officials have been fired. They're doing it for party unity with the Sanders supporters I guess, but I found the witchhunt of DWS offensive and stupid. She was a scapegoat for all the unhinged conspiracy theories about a rigged election. When I heard reports about booing and Sanders delegates walking out of the convention, it seemed so childish. I noticed that they disrespected real progressive heroes like Nancy Pelosi and John Lewis; even Sarah Silverman had to point out they were being ridiculous. I don't understand their deadend behavior, but I'm at least glad that Bernie stopped that Nina Turner from speaking and spoiling things. I hope Bernie continues to repudiate these idiots for the rest of the campaign. If he had just discouraged or scolded them sooner, we'd not be having chants of "Lock her up!" following the Republican example.

Meanwhile, I've given up on Colbert's Late Show, after watching him most of the year. Stephen can do witty political satire with Cartoon Donald Trump and the Hungry for Power Games, but I hated that he kept inviting Bernie Sanders on his show. Even when he interviewed Elizabeth Warren recently, Colbert had to bring up Bernie Bros and suggest that they would defect to Trump. Then he had a "taking off the gloves" segment calling Hillary a liar about the emails! What the hell is he doing, pushing rightwing propaganda? Next thing you know, he'll be calling her a corrupt shill of the oligarchs like the loons do.

Apparently he and Jon Stewart don't like Hillary Clinton at all and keep pushing this idea that both candidates are equally bad, and we should move to Canada rather than vote. I can't take that level of cynicism and false equivalency. So I don't care about Colbert doing his "Stephen Colbert's identical cousin" routine lately. He's not gonna win me back. I'm tired of this crap.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Houdini and Doyle cancelled

Well, it's not surprising given the ratings for the show, but I'm glad that Fox at least let all the episodes air, much like they did with other shows like Minority Report and Second Chance. By the way, since when has there been a summer TV press tour? I thought there was only the winter press tour and the May upfronts where they announce renewals and cancellations. I guess with more year round programming it makes sense to do a summertime promotion of their new shows.

Anyway, I read that Mitch Hurwitz said in an interview that he's working on Season 5 of Arrested Development and hopes to film in 2017. I'll believe it when Netflix announces a deal. We're still in limbo for now.

Also, despite the cliffhanger ending, I found out that The Pinkertons TV show is out on DVD now but only in the UK, not here. However, I do have a new region-free DVD player able to play PAL discs, so I could certainly order those DVDs to help me not miss Kate Warne as much. I might try to read another Allan Pinkerton book, this time about the Civil War spy stuff they did.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Victorian Adventures

I found another ebook about Kate Warne, this one oriented to young children. How Kate Warne Saved President Lincoln is beautifully illustrated, and is actually cheaper as a physical hardcover. After summarizing a few of Kate's early detective cases, the book recounts the Baltimore Plot to assassinate Lincoln before his inauguration. I knew most of the story already, but it had some details I did not know, such as Allan Pinkerton making Kate the head of his agency's Washington office. I'm glad such a book exists, because we need to teach our kids about pioneering women heroes like Kate Warne.

I also recently read a historical mystery called Lady of Ashes by Christine Trent. It's about a woman undertaker and her terrible husband who is secretly plotting with his brother to smuggle stuff to America during the Civil War. Some of the characters are American diplomats and spies; they often refer to Washington D.C. as "Washington City." The book goes into real international crises like the Trent Affair, and the Confederacy's efforts to get diplomatic recognition from Britain. The author not only name-drops famous Victorians, but she includes Queen Victoria herself and Prince Albert as characters who meet the titular undertaker. Normally I don't like this kind of namedropping of celebrities, but the book is so full of valuable historical details that I tolerated the liberties she took with history. (My unfinished novel about Sherlock Holmes includes young Mycroft being fascinated by the American Civil War, so knowing what he might events he might be discussing with his family is helpful to me.)

Anyway, after the smuggling plot, the story continues through the rest of the Civil War, past the assassination of Lincoln. There's a huge train accident, and a second mystery emerges about a real serial killer who fictionally interacts with the main characters. They solve the crime and decide to move to America to get away from all the notoriety. So not a typical detective novel at all, but more like a series of adventures for the heroine. The book is the first in a series, so I think I will continue on with it.

Thursday, July 21, 2016


I loved Hunt for the Wilderpeople, a comedy adventure about a young boy and an old curmudgeon on the run in New Zealand bush country. I went to see it partly for the plot and partly because it starred Sam Neill. It's wonderful and laugh out loud funny.

The movie begins with a social worker and policeman delivering a young boy to his new foster parents on a remote farm. The social worker describes Ricky Baker as a "bad egg", listing all his petty juvenile delinquency, but the farmer Bella is still very welcoming to the boy. She invites Ricky to call her Auntie, but her husband Hector grumbles at being called Uncle. Played by Sam Neill, Hector is introduced marvelously while carrying a dead pig on his back. He's a loner and barely tolerates the boy's presence. Bella brings Ricky a hot water bottle for his bed every night, and Ricky hugs it like it's the first sign of love he's ever received. Bella also teaches him to shoot a gun and kills a wild boar in front of him, causing the boy to faint. The movie is hilarious and full of pop culture references. Ricky is very fond of Tupac and what he imagines gangsta life to be.