Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Glimmer of Hope

Meanwhile, after a lull, we have more shootings again lately. *sigh* I don't have the energy and stamina for this stuff, with no hope for a change in laws.

I am, however, relieved to hear that Rockwall voted against a bathroom ordinance. It's good news for once. When I heard that Target affirmed its policy for letting people use their preferred bathrooms and fitting rooms, I shopped there recently to support them. I even used the fitting room and nothing happened!

Daily Kos in general is still kind of sucky, and I'm disappointed that Bernie won Indiana last night. Hopefully he loses other upcoming contests, so this endless primary can end.

Fantastic

Fox's new Houdini and Doyle surpassed all my expectations. Fun banter and good mystery without gore. I loved that the first mystery took place at a Magdalene laundry, (although I thought they were only in Ireland, not in London as well, but whatever) a nice topic to tackle the hypocrisies of the late Victorian age. The pilot takes place in 1901, when a nun is seemingly murdered by a ghost at the laundry. After reading the newspaper account, both Houdini and Doyle go to Scotland Yard to ask for permission to investigate the case. The man in charge (played by Tim McInnerny) decides to pawn off the famous men to a woman constable, ordering her to just play nursemaid and keep them out of trouble. Thus Constable Stratton has motivation to prove herself and make it a serious investigation. Interestingly, Doyle is perfectly willing to shake her hand and accept her help, being a gentleman, even if he's not totally feminist, while Houdini is the one who can't believe she's a cop and says sexist things.

What I loved the most was Doyle, even though the actor looks nothing like the real man. I had feared that the show would make Houdini the smart, insightful, logical person, while humiliating Conan Doyle and portraying him as gullible, deluded and obstinate about his Spiritualism. But it's not that way at all; everything is even-handed and fair. Doyle is not shown as senile, and he insists that he's motivated by science, that all the technological marvels of the Industrial Age include the possibility of finding new evidence for the existence of ghosts. Doyle visits a psychic medium and seems taken in by her, but later, when she makes a mistake, he realizes he's been duped and goes away in disappointment. At one point Houdini stages a fake ghostly visitation to scare Doyle and the constable, but Doyle is skeptical enough to test the stage blood and realize it's not real, just a prank. Doyle wants to believe in the supernatural, but he'll investigate to prove it and eliminate rational explanations; in this show we can see that Doyle is like his creation Sherlock Holmes, even if Holmes didn't believe in Spiritualism. It explores how a scientific man like Isaac Newton still believed in alchemy; a scientific mind is not immune to the attraction of irrational interests and beliefs. Scientists are only human, with prejudices of their own. Doyle even gets to use his medical knowledge to spot the killer, due to a rare genetic trait she has. In later episodes, we'll have to see if they explore Doyle's bedridden wife Touie more, and his romance with Jean Leckie.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Hoping for the best

I went to early vote in a local election today. It was just some school district trustees, though later in May will be a Democratic primary runoff. I don't know why they didn't try to combine the elections. Yesterday, I heard that the Supreme Court ruled that Texas's voter ID law could stay in place for now, but that they would revisit the issue if the appeals court didn't rule on the case by July. I really hope this law can get struck down in time for the November election. (And I wish the whole Voting Rights Act could get restored too.)

Anyway, I decided to finally upgrade my very old Windows 7 computer to Windows 10. The free upgrade ends in a couple of months, so I wanted to get it done now that I had time. I'm hoping it will make my computer work faster, because it's been really slow lately. The upgrade took a long time to download, plus 30 minutes or so "preparing to install" before it gave me the option to install now or schedule it for a later time. These things always take longer than the progress bar implies. When I finally did the install, it took over two hours to complete and setup. I had to upgrade my antivirus program first, and I'm still trying to figure out if I need to update any other software. I don't think I need the Cortana assistant, but I'm not sure if I need to sign up for the Microsoft website account they keep pushing at me. At least this operating system lets me keep my normal desktop.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Fooled

I wish I'd seen this review for the Huntsman sequel before I watched it myself. It's so slow and weird, and the fairy/animal CGI was as creepy as ever. Plus I kept thinking they were hinting that the black huntsman was in love with Sara too, but it didn't develop properly; some side plot got cut out perhaps. I guess this movie deserved to bomb at the box office, but I'm disappointed because I wanted to like this movie, to be pleasantly surprised like I was by Zootopia.

I mean, I'd heard other bad reviews for the film, but I didn't pay attention because the trailers looked so good, featuring Ravenna and her conflict with her sister Freya so prominently. Little did I know they these characters would be off screen for a large part of the film, and that the trailer actually spoiled a plot point that was supposed to be a surprise late in the movie. Instead most of the action is focused on the Huntsman, his wife Sara, and the quest to find the magical mirror. We don't even have all the dwarves.

Years ago, when I saw the Snow White and the Huntsman movie, I saw it mainly for Charlize Theron as Ravenna. I couldn't give a crap about Snow White. I was disappointed that we didn't get much backstory on Ravenna, let alone the magic mirror's powers. When Ravenna died in that movie, I assumed that she would not return for the sequel. When she did, and the trailers promised lots of backstory (and her coming back to life), I thought, "Finally! Somebody gets it. I watched for Ravenna, not freaking Snow White." I assumed wrongly that the writers were finally going to give me what I wanted all along, and were cutting out dull boring Snow White in the process. Though they did write out Snow White, but they didn't give Ravenna more screen time to replace her. Again, she mostly is there to be villainous, sexy, and vague, with no attempt to really explain her character motivations or magic or anything. And if you're going to promise a war between Ravenna and her sister, then you better deliver an epic battle. Hmm, I guess this is how comics fans felt cheated of their epic Batman vs. Superman fight.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Hooray for Harriet

I was excited by the news that Harriet Tubman would replace Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill, but less pleased later when the Treasury clarified that Jackson would go to the back of the bill. Just couldn't let a woman stand alone, huh? They also said that women suffragists would go on the back of the $10 bill, and some civil rights heroes on the back of the $5. So overall the changes are positive. Harriet Tubman certainly deserves the recognition, for all her work on the Underground Railroad and as a Union spy during the Civil War. That reminds me of that cable show about the Underground Railroad that I want to see, along with the Roots remake. I wonder if those shows will make it to DVD or maybe Netflix later. I'll have to wait and see.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Peas in a Pod

Speaking of politics, there was a big to-do about Bernie Sanders going to a conference at the Vatican and meeting the Pope. It wasn't really an endorsement, and I can shrug it off because Pope Francis does have much in common with Bernie. The pope does advocate strongly against climate change, the evils of unfettered capitalism, and economic equality, while still failing to evolve on birth control and same-sex marriage. Though people say Francis is more compassionate and welcoming to LGBT people, it seems to me that he's simply for the same old tolerance of "love the sinner, hate the sin." Bernie is Jewish, and not really religious, but he also is passionate about climate change and economic equality, to the point where he doesn't think other issues are as important. I mean, sure, he'll vote pro-choice, learn to say "black lives matter", and argue that Palestinians deserve justice, but these are merely secondary issues to him. (And he still has a bad record on gun control.) So fine, philosophically Bernie and the Pope go together, but I don't think it matters.

If I had any confidence that Bernie actually had a plan to punish Israel or bring about a two-state solution, I would definitely be tempted to support him over Hillary on this issue. But as revealed by his disastrous newspaper interview, I'm afraid Bernie is all talk and no plans to follow-through. And he's railed against the whole Democratic party as corrupt instead of working to try to elect more Democrats to Congress, so I don't see any of his pie-in-the-sky promises coming true. I don't like Hillary's stance on Israel, but there's always hope she can be pushed left with more time, like this primary has pushed her left. She's apologized for that crime bill and pledged to fix it; I don't mind people evolving, like they did over gay rights and marriage equality. When I was an uninformed kid I liked Republicans until I learned more; people can change for the better. At least Hillary's got detailed policies in a wide range of issues, and she's got plans and actions to elect more Democrats and get her agenda done. I just hope this primary ends soon, because it's taken too damn long and I'm sick of it.