Sunday, December 4, 2016

Meh

Well the DC crossover was pretty hit-or-miss. I liked Supergirl's episode, but it contained very little crossover. The Flash was so damn angsty and boring, with the aliens mind-controlling the heroes into fighting each other. The Arrow episode was better because the fantasy world the heroes hallucinated actually had touching character moments. The final Legends episode was back to annoying Barry drama which seemed wildly hypocritical given how some characters time-travel on a regular basis. I was so sick of that, and yet also frustrated that everyone turned on a dime and suddenly decided sacrificing one person was worth risking the entire planet. They finally had the climactic battle with aliens, but it was one-dimensional and tainted. They saved one alien in the past, who showed a little gratitude, but we never got to see if any of the other aliens could be reasoned with and talked out of the war. Really dumb and nonsensical plot. This is why I don't read comics. So convoluted, and focused on punching things rather than solving things.

Meanwhile, I went to see The Eagle Huntress today. Very inspiring documentary and yet fun too to see Aisholpan being a happy girl who played with friends and also put on nail polish for the festival. Reminded me a little bit of Queen of Katwe but with less harrowing family drama. For more girl power, I wish Hidden Figures was out already but it probably won't arrive here until January. I had to settle for just a taste in the recent Timeless episode set during the Apollo moon landing.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

November Sweeps already

Apparently there's some kind of four-show crossover on the CW, starting with Supergirl on Monday the 28th. I kinda don't care, 'cause I don't watch any of the other comicbook shows. (I tried Arrow once, but gave up on it.) I guess I'll have to record them and fast forward through any boring parts. Supergirl is fine this season, but I'm impatient that they still haven't gone to Cadmus to look for Papa Danvers, after Alex was so gungho about going there last season. But even with Cadmus people threatening aliens pretty regularly, nobody thinks it's urgent to go find them yet?

Meanwhile I'm happy with Timeless, which really allows Rufus to be an equal lead with the others. He even got to make Lucy stand outside, like he had to wait outside in the pilot episode. They finally began explaining a little about Rittenhouse, and I like the interesting time periods they choose to visit. I'll enjoy the show as long as it lasts, and hope that there will be a satisfying end.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Our Brexit

Still don't know how to process the election. There's been a lot of protests and ugliness, including that Veteran's Day incident in the Chili's in the DFW area. I can't stand it, though I try to have hope in Texas. Not blue yet, but making some slow progress.

I heard that Colombia signed a new peace deal despite their recent vote that defeated the previous peace deal. So somebody managed a fix to their crisis at least. I can understand Americans wishing the electoral college vote with the popular vote, though I'm skeptical that the petition will do anything. Obama and other people are emphasizing the "peaceful transition" thing. I know why he does it, because in the debates Democrats made a big deal about Trump saying he might not concede. It'd be hypocritical of us to not concede in return. But still, it's heartbreaking to do it again, after Gore gave up on the 2000 election.

I had to give up on watching political news lately. I even gave up on Designated Survivor last week because the political wrangling was so over the top and awful in that episode. It's going to be bad enough in real life, without imaginary bickering too.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Fucking Election

Whether it was through hubris, complacency, or inaccurate polls, we lost. I shouldn't have got my hopes up, but there was such talk about a Democratic landslide, winning the Senate and the House, turning Texas blue... and it was all for naught. There will be endless post-mortems I'm sure, but I don't want to argue anything. I'm so numb and disappointed.

I couldn't get to sleep last night, and I also didn't want to turn on the TV again and catch Trump's victory speech. It's over and done. Last night felt just like the night of the 2004 election when my hope slipped away. I thought surely Kerry would win despite the Swiftboating, that people really hated the Iraq War and wanted out. But no, they wanted to "stay the course" with Bush. And with the bittersweet news that Clinton won the popular vote, but still lost the election, I feel twinges of Gore's loss in 2000 also.

I didn't cry. I don't know if it's because I'm dead inside after so many disappointments in Texas elections. I still have my Democratic representatives at least, and there were pockets of good outcomes nationally. I still have to work tomorrow and go on with ordinary life, just like I did after Kerry lost. Somehow we have to survive and hope for the least amount of damage.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Bella, An American Tall Tale

This week, on my vacation, I went to see Bella, a musical comedy about an African American woman in the Wild West of the 1870s. She takes a train from Tupelo, Missisissippi to reunite with her Buffalo soldier sweetheart in the New Mexico, but she encounters colorful characters and has over the top adventures. It's also an antidote to whitewashed history, showing that the West was full of Mexican vaqueros, black Exodusters, Native Americans, and Chinese laborers who built the railroads. (The Chinese character does mention his people building the railroads, but he says that he himself is a rich cattle baron's adopted son; Tommie Haw is a wildly sexy fantasy in Bella's dream one night.) Many actors play multiple roles, singing and dancing.

The musical is partly inspired by the story of Saartjie Baartman, too, the South African woman who was tragically exploited in European freak shows, used as a scientific specimen to support theories about racial inferiority, then dissected and displayed in museums until 1974. Thankfully, her remains were finally sent home to be buried with honor in 2002. Like Baartman, Bella has a big booty, and her grandmother boasts that they are descended from an itty-bitty girl who came from Africa, but never forgot her pride in her roots. (The itty-bitty girl's spirit is depicted as a woman in a body stocking suit probably similar to Baartman's actual costume in her shows.) In the way of tall tales, Bella's booty has magical powers, saving her from a white man's attempt to rape her, as well as a train robbery and a huge fall down the mountainside. Unfortunately, Bella is exploited for her booty too, getting talked into joining a circus for fame and fortune, only to discover that she will be a primitive Princess Ooga-Booga "captured" from darkest Africa and turned into white man's servant. Fortunately, Bella is able to turn the tables to change the degrading act and regain some of her dignity, but the show business life costs her dearly, and she turns to drugs and alcohol (as I think Baartman did in her final days). But Bella finds redemption with help from her family, and the story stays upbeat, celebrating the diversity of forgotten American history.

The songs were really great, with wonderful performers. They even got a standing ovation in the end. Also, they mentioned that the show is going to New York in the spring 2017. I wonder if the whole cast will go? I wish them luck.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Fall TV

Finally, Supergirl is back! The move to the CW seems okay so far, but I'm upset that they suddenly dropped the Kara/James relationship after building to it the whole first season. I guess if the show stops doing love triangles and other romantic nonsense, that will be fine, but it does seem abrupt to end that plot instead of just shoving the relationship into the background. They could have followed the example of Jake/Amy on Brooklyn Nine-Nine last year, keeping them low-key and stable while the plots focus on the core team working together. Oh well. I hope Superman doesn't get annoying, and I can't wait for Lynda Carter to guest star as President.

As for new shows, I'm enjoying The Good Place, Speechless, Pitch, and now Timeless. I'm also watching Designated Survivor mostly waiting for Maggie Q and Malik Yoba to get something important to do. I was frustrated that the President chose that scumbag liar for his Chief of Staff; he could have kept the guy around to be his devil's advocate without elevating him above his true ally. So annoying; but I guess the writers want irony and drama about the Chief of Staff conspiring against the President. Whatever. I enjoy Timeless a lot more, especially last night's episode about Lincoln's assassination. Rufus got to talk with black soldiers after the war, and write their notices to find their families. It was really touching, in the midst of the main plot, and I am curious about the Rittenhouse conspiracy involving the tech mogul played by that British guy from You, Me, and the Apocalypse. I hope the ratings will stay good.

As for movies, I saw Queen of Katwe and Birth of a Nation recently. I liked Katwe more and wish it had been more successful. You don't have to know chess, and there was plenty of family drama to be interesting. I look forward to seeing Loving soon.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Sudden Chill

Well, fall temperatures abruptly arrived yesterday, after I feared we would never be rid of summer highs. I hope it will rain more now, but not get cold enough for sleet or ice yet.

In stores, I was able to find the Lego banana suit minifigure finally, as well as an ice queen to hang out with Maleficient. I also got a couple of mariachi guys, but I don't mind that duplication. Maybe I'll get enough to have a big mariachi band.

I can't wait for my vacation days in October, because I'm so worn out from work and need to recuperate at home for a while. I even bought tickets to a play called Bella about Buffalo soldiers and such in the Wild West, so that will be fun. When I have time, I want to try writing again and do some more home improvement, like putting up shelves.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Playing Around

I've refreshed the design of the Blog since my last background image disappeared, and I finally have a working graphics program that can save transparent PNG images for my header. Might tweak it a bit more later.

I'm on a Lego kick lately, buying new minifigures and trying to figure out the dot codes on the bags. I managed to get a Disney Maleficent last month, but now they have new minifigs and I can't find the banana suit guy yet. At least I found an affordable Lego set with Black Widow on an awesome motorcycle, along with Falcon with wings. The only thing I don't like is that Black Widow's hair looks more tan brown than red. I'm debating whether to try painting it red or coloring it with a marker.

50 State strategy

Yay! This week there's a poll out showing that Texas is a "toss-up" state in presidential election, and the Dallas Morning News endorsed Hillary today. Of course there are skeptics that say the poll is an outlier, and we'll need further confirmation. But I'm glad for any shred of hope, like the ruling striking down the voter ID law. There's going to be some "temporary" changes for this election, but I hope the Supreme Court gives a final ruling, or at least has a tie-vote, so the law can be shut down for good.

I'm pleased that Hillary is excited about possibilities in Texas and other states, and that she really seems committed to a 50-state strategy will all her fundraising for down-ballot races. We need help building more Democrats in Texas. Last month I attended a local Democratic fundraiser for women, and it cheered me up about how many blue voters there are. (There were many men too, including Marc Veasey who brought the lawsuit against the voter ID law, which I'm very grateful for.) Working together, someday we'll get this place purple, then blue.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Ben-Hur

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 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

Wilderpeople

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.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Ghostbusters

I never watched the original Ghostbusters movies, though I heard the catchy theme song everywhere. As a kid I watched the cartoon show with Slimer, so I never got attached to the original actors, and was always surprised that Egon wasn't a blonde guy whenever I saw movie clips in the music video. Therefore I was excited about the reboot and was only concerned that the new movie might either be too scary for me or have too many gross-out jokes about sliming people. I'm a total wimp when it comes to horror movies. Thankfully, the movie was just the right mix of spooky-scary with action and comedy. Good for family viewing, and there were several families in my audience. From the opening dialogue with that museum guy talking about P. T. Barnum enslaving elephants I was surprised by how funny and lighthearted the movie was. Paul Feig is still great at comedy. All the ladies did a good job, and the special effects were cool. I didn't like the new theme song, but thankfully it was used sparingly in the film, and more often we heard just the classic sound at the right moments for nostalgia purposes.

Apparently I missed an after-credits scene setting up a sequel. Maybe I'll watch it again for that, and to support the movie from all the viciously over the top criticism. Sure, I get tired of remakes too, but a lot of the hate has been solely directed at the premise of an all-female remake and was so unfair. I'm really horrified at all the racist attacks on Leslie Jones on twitter too. Cyberbullies are such cowardly scum. Especially with all the shitty stuff happening in the real world lately, an entertaining, summer popcorn movie is exactly the escape I need.

I'm certainly not going to watch the Republican Convention this week. I'm glad that Bernie Sanders finally endorsed Hillary, but it was such a minor blip in the face of more bad news around the world. I hope Hillary's VP pick will be good.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Horrendous

It was a tough week with all the violence and racial unrest in America. I was at work the night of the sniper shooting in Dallas, so reading about it when I got home made me depressed and worried that Black Lives Matter would be blamed. I didn't feel better until seeing a Daily Show clip with Trevor Noah insisting that it's possible to be pro Black Lives Matter and pro police at the same time. I also appreciate Hillary Clinton calling for more national standards for police use of force. She also made the same point that criminal justice reform and prejudice are still valid concerns, along with mourning the police officers.

I do wish political rhetoric would be more nuanced. It made me so angry to hear about Lt. Governor Patrick blaming Obama for inciting a civil war. Shut the fuck up! At least Wonkette found some more reasonable responses from rightwing websites, which was encouraging. Maybe somehow we can change their minds on gun control? I'm still kind of anxious and scared what might happen next, but I'm glad that protests are continuing.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Oh Come On

The FBI closed its investigation of Hillary Clinton's emails yesterday, but everybody still wants to discuss them and insinuate corruption. Bernie Sanders still is not endorsing either, and I'm so sick of it.

It's been scary and depressing around the world lately, what with the attacks in Turkey, Bangladesh, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia. Not to mention Brexit making everybody nervous. I wish people would get their priorities straight and not focus on petty politics and conspiracy theories. I don't think I could stand to watch the upcoming Democratic and Republican conventions.

Kate Warne's assistant

Lately I've been reading a fictional book, intended for kids, called The Detective's Assistant. The author Kate Hannigan invents a young orphaned niece of Kate Warne, who comes to live with her aunt in Chicago and gradually participates in Pinkerton cases. I recognize many of the cases from Allan Pinkerton's books such as "The Expressman and the Detective" though the cases are slightly altered to allow the teenaged Nell Warne to participate in disguise. She gets to meet not only Allan Pinkerton, but also George Bangs, Timothy Webster, and Hattie Lawton.

Along with the detective cases, there is a mystery as to why Kate Warne's husband Matthew Warne died back in Chemung County, New York. Kate thinks it was a murder by Matthew's brother (and Nell's father) Cornelius, and that was the reason she left her home in New York. Nell Warne says that the death was a tragic accident, though she's not certain of all the details, being a kid at the time and only overhearing what adults said about the death. But Nell strongly defends her father and decides to investigate by writing letters to her friend Jemma in Canada. Jemma's family are free blacks, but they had to leave New York because slave hunters came to the area and weren't picky about capturing true slaves or not. Jemma and Nell write to each other in ciphers about the Underground Railroad, and discuss how to find Jemma's father, whom they call The Maple Tree.

Anyway, the story culminates in Nell solving the mystery of Matthew's death, making up with her aunt Kate, and helping to secretly smuggle Abraham Lincoln to Washington DC, while avoiding an assassination attempt. It's a fairly readable book, and not too dumbed down for adults to enjoy; I did find it unrealistic sometimes for Nell to be disguised as full grown men when she was supposedly only 13, but I guess I've seen tall teenagers that age. The Author's Note at the end explains the historical vs fictional elements of the book, and Hannigan mentions all the research she did to write the story. She apparently even found a source in Kate Warne's own words! I was disappointed to read that Robert Pinkerton shut down the detective agency's female department in 1876, apparently while Allan Pinkerton was still alive. However, Allan may have been somewhat incapacitated still by his stroke in 1869. What a rotten thing for Robert to do, and I wonder what William Pinkerton's opinion was.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

No Cliffhanger

The final episode of Houdini & Doyle stayed in Canada for a mystery about an entire town of people suddenly dying at the same time. It also featured a local Indian tribe who were betrayed by a prospector named La Pier; years ago he opened a copper mine on their land and forced the Natives out. The local police are prejudiced against them as well, though Stratton, Doyle, and Houdini are more polite and respectful. Walt did believe that "Mother Earth" killed the people, but he wasn't portrayed as primitive and ignorant. He recognized Houdini, apparently had read the Sherlock Holmes stories, and knew of President McKinley's visit to Buffalo. I'm glad that the mystery was solved quickly enough to spend the rest of the episode resolving some major plots. (Doyle even had a vision of Sherlock Holmes speaking to him while he lay wounded.)

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Relieved

I was so relieved to hear about the Supreme Court striking down the Texas abortion laws in a 5-3 decision. It was a welcome bit of good news after all the volatility of Brexit lately, and I'm glad that the ruling will set precedent for other states with similar TRAP laws trying to restrict abortion clinics out of existence. Of course Greg Abbott and other Republicans are gonna keep complaining and trying to pass new laws, but we still have allies to fight back. And whenever we get a new Supreme Court justice, maybe we'll finally have some security.

Meanwhile, last night's Houdini & Doyle featured a "poltergeist" and Thomas Edison in Canada. Apparently Edison had invented a "necrophone" as a sort of gramophone for communicating with spirits. The police suspected that a woman had killed her abusive husband, but I was surprised that no one made the argument that the woman couldn't have lifted her husband off the ground and impaled him on the wall. I mean, there was a Sherlock Holmes story about a similar death, and how much strength it would have taken to harpoon a man. You'd think that Doyle would at least bring that up to support his poltergeist theory. Anyway, Houdini avoided grieving over his mother's death, and railed against Edison as a liar and fraud. I hated that Houdini kissed Constable Stratton in the least romantic moment I could think of; I can't stand the show pursuing this storyline. But at least they threw a big wrench in it, when Adelaide discovered that her husband Benjamin was actually alive after all. The show cast Jacob Blair in the role, doing a British accent I guess; he played William Pinkerton in The Pinkertons, and he looks so different clean-shaven. I'm glad he got cast, though I'm sad that his show ended on a cliffhanger never to be resolved I guess. Next week is the season finale for Houdini & Doyle, so I don't know what will happen. I'm not sure if Fox, or even the UK television makers, are going to renew the show or not.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Free State of Jones

I loved this movie about Newton Knight, a Mississippi farmer who rebelled against the Confederacy during the Civil War and Reconstruction. I'd never heard of him before, and found the drama moving and powerful. Yes, the film does play into the white savior trope, with Matthew McConaughey as the star instead of the black characters. But I felt that the black characters like Moses and Rachel were featured pretty prominently, and they weren't passively following Knight's lead. Besides, I'll get to see a black lead in the Nat Turner movie Birth of a Nation in October; for now, Free State of Jones tides me over. Wikipedia says that Newton Knight, as well as most people in his county, were Unionists against secession even before the war. The movie didn't make that history clear, instead portraying it as a slow conversion during the course of the war.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Finding Dory

So I watched the latest Pixar movie last week. Finding Dory was an okay sequel, but I didn't love it as much as other films like Up or Wall-e. I didn't even cry at the sad parts; I was just looking around the audience to see if kids were upset and parents were comforting them. I guess it's because I didn't really like Dory that much in the original Finding Nemo. I always hated a bunch of Disney sidekick characters that other people seemed to love. And I really hated that young Dory was drawn as basically two huge eyes to be super-adorable; I found it cynical and dumb to not give her a more normal fish shape. Plus, the octopus lost one of his tentacles, but don't these things usually grow back? Hank could have had a stump in the process of regrowth, and then Dory wouldn't keep calling him a "septopus". Then the plot got super dumb at the aquarium, going full circle back to quarantine. But if Hank had been in quarantine for a while, then why didn't he say to Dory in the first place, "Hey I just recently saw a tank full of blue tang in quarantine. Why don't you go in there and look for your parents?" The car chase scene was so over the top too, and I ended up really annoyed by the movie. Only afterwards, when I read reviews talking about how Finding Dory showed a lot of special needs characters with disabilities, and how these characters weren't helpless, did I start to appreciate the positive messages of the movie. I still don't love it, though, and decided to watch the Jungle Book again to cheer me up.

Meanwhile, the latest Houdini & Doyle concerned Bram Stoker, and his fans pretending to be vampires. Bram's weird behavior turned out to be symptoms of tertiary syphilis according to Doyle, though some stuff was kept mysterious, like the fall into the fire at the cemetery. Then the show threw all history out the window by having Houdini's mother die (when in real life she didn't die for years). I guess I shouldn't expect better, given the liberties taken with Doyle's home life and Houdini's wife being nonexistent in the show. Now Houdini will have to take his mother to America to bury her, and he also offered to take Constable Stratton to investigate her dead husband mystery. I assume Doyle will come along too, and the promos for next week showed them seeing Thomas Edison for some other mystery. I hope whatever this show is leading to will be worth it.

We Shall Overcome

I'm very impressed by Democrats trying to take action on gun control lately. First there was the Senate filibuster last week which forced a vote, even though the bills were defeated. And yesterday the House Democrats, led by John Lewis, started a sit-in to try to force a vote on gun control as well. I wasn't able to watch the livestream, being at work and not having the social media account necessary, but I was very impressed to read about it.

Apparently a Texas Representative named Beto O'Rourke did the livefeed; he represents El Paso, not my area, but it's nice to be proud of a Texas Congressman for once. (Of course, Gohmert yelled about "radical Islam" instead, so there's plenty to be ashamed of.) Apparently Ryan adjourned the House one day early for their recess. (So they normally get more than a week off for July 4th? When the rest of us only get one day holiday? What lazy asses.) Ryan is apparently trying to play it like he's all noble, because the Republicans finally voted on the Zika virus bill (which Obama had been asking for a long time). But the first bill Ryan tried to use to break the sit-in was a shitty bill to allow financial advisors NOT to give clients info in their best interest. And it was defeated. So no, Ryan had no noble motive to break the sit-in. I'm still not sure what the Democrats will decide to do now, but I hope they won't be silent. Yes, the gun control bills will probably be defeated, just like in the Senate, but it's important to have a vote. So much of the Republican obstruction is about not even holding hearings, and not even having votes, like to fill the Supreme Court vacancy. They need to do their jobs and not hold things hostage. No more empty "thoughts and prayers" gestures.

I've seen some ACLU arguments that the "terror watch list" is unfair, and we shouldn't hang gun control on it. But I thought the bills in question allowed a person to appeal to a court so they could protest being on the terror watch list. That would finally bring some judicial review to the problem, so isn't that an improvement? Well, we'll see what happens. Now we got to worry how the Brexit vote goes today.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Stretching the Truth

Well, my attempt to make a different peach cake recipe was not as successful. I got my measuring cups mixed up and didn't put in enough flour, and the batter didn't rise. Will have to pay more attention next time.

Glad that the last primary is done. Now there's only the convention. I read that Trump was trying to come to DFW Thursday, but got rejected by both Irving and Grand Prairie due to his last minute request. Hope he stays away. We already got nutjob politicians claiming that the Orlando victims were "Latinos" not "gays" as if the terms were mutually exclusive.

This week's Houdini & Doyle episode started out toying with demonic possession, but was really about patients in a mental asylum, and Doyle's father issues. The show pretends that Doyle's childhood home was in London, not up in Edinburgh where he actually grew up, so that Doyle can visit the abandoned house and recall memories about his mad alcoholic father. The show pretends that Charles Doyle disapproved of Sherlock Holmes and resented his son for being more talented and famous than him. But Charles Doyle was an artist who actually drew the first illustrations for Study in Scarlet. Arthur was the one who hated Holmes and wanted to turn to "more important" works of historical fiction; he didn't suffer from writer's block without Holmes, and wrote many other books besides the Boer War propaganda. Also, Charles Doyle was kept in various institutions up in Scotland, not Bedlam in London as depicted here. And I thought Doyle became a doctor to please Bryan Waller, the man who became close friends with Doyle's mother; Doyle felt ambivalent about Waller as a surrogate father. It's really strange the contortions these writers are doing with Doyle's family life. Why all the focus on Doyle's father and not on his mother, whom he was deeply devoted to? Trying not to make him seem the same as mama's boy Houdini?

I tried to enjoy the parts about Doyle talking to a patient claiming to be Sherlock Holmes, though, and it is a legitimate fear for Doyle to be afraid of ending up insane like his father. There was an important point about the two doctors featured at Bedlam, with Doyle railing against the barbarousness of lobotomies and electroshock therapies, thereby making him assume the other doctor was good, humane, and reasonable. Medical progress is ever full of quack therapies and people with good intentions.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Orlando tragedy

Yet another mass shooting, the deadliest one yet, along with the scare at the LA Pride parade. Worse is that it's bringing out homophobia, Islamophobia, and more saber rattling about ISIS. It's a shame that so soon after the death of Muhammad Ali, that people are calling all Muslims terrorists. We're probably going to get the same resistance to gun control, but I'm glad that Hillary is at least arguing for action beyond thoughts and prayers. I hope this election will get us a Congress that will actually pass the laws. This is why we need Clinton more than Sanders, because she actually gives a damn about a 50-state strategy and even talks up Texas turning blue.

I hope so, but my dad is for Trump and a couple of co-workers say they hate Obamacare. But there's a chance still, especially with Latino votes against Trump, so we better make the most of the opportunity this year.

Anyway, I watched the Tony Awards last night so I could see a performance from Hamilton. Only one song, but interesting. I can barely keep up with the speed of the rap, even with my closed captioning on, but it does seem like a good show. I'll wait for the movie, since of course it's impossible to get tickets, even if I did have time to visit New York.

The Tony Awards in general did a good job paying respect to Orlando, with some great speeches by Frank Langella for example, and I was impressed with the cast diversity of many shows. They are miles ahead of the Oscars or Emmys. There are some great Broadway shows in Dallas theatres this season, so I might actually buy some tickets later if I can work it out with my schedule.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Stronger Together

I find it fitting that on Supergirl, Kara explained that the S on her costume was a family crest meaning "stronger together" and it became a theme about family and teamwork on the show. So Hillary using that slogan in her speech is a nice coincidence, emphasizing the theme of cooperation and unity. She also referenced the pledge of allegiance, with America being "indivisible, with liberty and justice for all." I don't care about the "under God" part, but that's not her fault.

All Tuesday I was restless waiting for the election results and even went out to a restaurant to get my mind off it. When I did get home, I got annoyed that the time for Hillary's speech kept changing. I tried watching the livestream, but the feed choked up and quit after she got to the podium. I had to follow along on liveblogs, and only got the feed working in the last few minutes after she mentioned her mother. It was only the next morning that I got a chance to watch the whole speech.

I did love her historical reference to the Seneca Falls Convention, and the passing of the 19th amendment. I also thought about Victoria Woodhull running for president in 1872 (though historians dispute about whether she counts, since she was too young to be President), and I've thought of all the progress that's been made by other suffragists and feminist leaders over the years. It's not shallow to acknowledge the history/herstory of the moment, even though it's not the sole reason people voted for Hillary Clinton. This is a significant milestone, and I will be even more glad to celebrate her election in November.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Near the End

I'm still not sure where this "Penelope Graves" backstory on Houdini & Doyle is leading, but it seems to be building to something big. The latest episode about a supposed "alien abduction" had a nice reversal in formula, with Doyle attributing the story to alcoholic ravings, while Houdini chose to keep an open mind. He loves an underdog, and he reacted to the blatant prejudice in the town about the interracial couple. There was nice commentary about Houdini's Jewish heritage, as well as Doyle's own father's alcoholism and madness, so good points raised. When the old woman Martha kept talking about Jewish people and the history of them being run out of town fifty years ago, I guessed pretty quickly the true solution to the mystery, but I still enjoyed seeing it play out. Plus this time the mystery was satisfying with no unexplained deaths. I hope the next episode will be good too.

Anyway, the AP stole Hillary's thunder by announcing her as the presumptive nominee last night. I'm a bit annoyed, but hope that people will still turn out to vote for all the downballot races. I look forward to Hillary giving a great speech tonight, and will celebrate with everybody else. I hope Bernie doesn't spoil things, and will finally shut up. But even if he doesn't concede until the convention, I'm not gonna listen to his superdelegate nonsense anymore. It's so stupid and totally hypocritical. I'm very ready for this whole thing to be over, so we can move on to the general election.

I made the peach upside-down cake, and it turned out great. I never baked from scratch before, but the cake rose perfectly and browned nicely in the pan. Will have to try more recipes to use up my peaches.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Memorial Day Weekend

It looks like I was right about the staircar in Captain America: Civil War. Good job, Russos!

Today I made a peach crisp to use up the peaches I picked from my tree. I think it turned out okay. Maybe too sweet, and not a brown enough crust. Instead of white sugar I was using this special "evaporated cane juice sugar" my sister got me. It's off-white and doesn't clump much. Maybe I'll try again soon since I've still got plenty of peaches left. Or maybe I'll do an upside down cake instead.

The latest Houdini & Doyle episode hinted mysteriously about Constable Stratton's secret life again. Not sure what's going on with her, but it was nice to see her out of her uniform. Unfortunately the show seems to be in the pattern of leaving one unexplained death to keep up the mystery of the supernatural. I dislike stuff not being wrapped up properly. I hope they break the pattern next time. It was nice to see Doyle interacting with Kingsley, and Houdini performing for the kids.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Captain America: Civil War

I waited until the crowds thinned to see this movie, and until I read enough spoilers to decide whether it was worth it. I saw it mainly for the introduction of the Black Panther, but was in general annoyed that the movie was overstuffed with other characters like Spiderman and Antman, but I guess they had to do something with Thor and the Hulk gone.

SPOILERS BELOW, but probably everybody's seen this movie long before me.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Chaotic mess

I read that one of the Chibok girls kidnapped by Boko Haram was found. Some of the details are unclear, and I'm not sure what will happen now, and if the other girls can be rescued.

Meanwhile, politics has grown rather nasty. I lost respect for Bernie a long time ago with the database breach, but I'm glad that some mainstream reporters are finally taking him to task for not discouraging the viciousness of his Nevada delegates. Bernie supporters try to play it all down with claims that "oh chairs were never thrown. One guy picked up a chair, but put it down." Um, maybe, but the hysteria should never have gotten to the point where any chair was lifted off the ground with intent to threaten people. In what world is that an acceptable way to peacefully protest? Plus, nothing justifies releasing people's email addresses and phone numbers afterward so they can be bombarded with harassment and death threats. I hope police arrest and punish the perpetrators. Free speech does not come without reasonable limitations.

I also hate that our Texas politicians have been grandstanding about transgenders in bathrooms, attacking Obama and claiming our schools will be fine without federal funding. It's so stupid and embarrassing. Plus, I still don't know how to process the Supreme Court punting the birth control cases back to the lower courts. What if the lower courts arrive at different compromises? Then what are we gonna do? We can't go on with such legal confusion; we need another SC justice to break the tie!

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Blasphemy and Cyanide

The latest Houdini & Doyle featured a faith healer who held popular tent meetings, and a man who was seemingly struck down dead for not being a believer. I like that the show has often cast black actors in supporting roles, not just as background characters, but substantial speaking parts. Too often, period shows don't cast with diversity in mind, seemingly ignoring historical examples of black speakers like Frederick Douglass who were popular in England.

As for the mystery, Houdini predictably railed against superstition, then suffered a horrible illness. It was hard to watch as his illness progressively got worse and looked disgusting, but we saw his mother doting on him, confirming their close bond. Meanwhile, Doyle's wife revived and I foolishly thought this meant that the writers were going to keep her conscious for the rest of the series, but no, this was a temporary fix. Back to the stupid "tragic" coma you go! I seriously think the show is not going to bring up Jean Leckie at all, because the writers don't want to make Doyle look unsympathetic for stepping out on his family. So they'd rather keep Touie on ice and pretend that Jean Leckie does not exist. I'm a little surprised that TV writers wouldn't find Doyle's real life drama to be juicy and useful in appealing to viewers, but apparently not. Maybe they don't think anyone would believe his protestations that his relationship with Jean Leckie was platonic for 10 years.

Anyway, I did like that Constable Stratton had the initiative to exhume the body and get Doyle to do the autopsy. At least she somehow didn't get fired for it. I hope the show tells us more about her soon, like the comment about her parents. At least she's getting some character development, but I still want them to shut down the unnecessary romance with Houdini. It was funny when Houdini kept slapping Doyle awake and Doyle later returned the favor.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

The Family Fang

Yesterday I saw Jason Bateman's new movie, after it finally came to my area. It's apparently based on a book, which I haven't read, and the brother character was originally named Buster, but it's changed to Baxter in the movie, I guess to avoid connection to Arrested Development. The Fang family is sort of like the Bluths, but not exactly. Whereas Bluths are all about money, corruption, racism, etc, the Fangs are obsessed with performance art. They act out elaborate scenarios and love shocking people. Each "piece" is filmed, making for crazy home movies, though not as commercially motivated as the Bluth Boyfights videos. For the eccentric Fangs, it's supposed to be Art, showing Life to Society.

Nicole Kidman is great as Annie Fang, the older sister who becomes an actress. On set, she has a fight with a sleazebag director trying to get her to film a topless scene, making all these Hollywood arguments about how it would be empowering and brave and other sexist crap that made me roll my eyes. I was a little disappointed in Annie's eventual response, but the movie framed it as being part of her spiral out of control in tabloid gossip, so I guess they acknowledge it was a bad choice for her to give in. Meanwhile her brother Baxter is a novelist having writer's block, and I'm glad that Bateman is not playing a jerk this time. Baxter goes to write a freelance article about some farm dudes with potato guns; through hijinks and bad choices of his own, he ends up in the hospital, and thus has to reunite with his parents and sister at home while he recovers.

Upfronts Begin

Well, TV networks cancelled a bunch of shows recently. I'll miss The Muppets, but given its low ratings, it was doomed long ago. I also started to not care about Grandfathered, so I'm not sad that it's over, especially with Jimmy's stupid behavior in the finale. I'm relieved that Supergirl got renewed, even if it's changing networks. Now I have to worry about the CW's ratings again, after not watching since Nikita ended.

I was very pleased that Castle got cancelled, but disappointed that Sleepy Hollow got renewed. Yes, Nicole Beharie asked to be written out, but then why didn't they do it at midseason and make it permanent, instead of bringing her back for the rest of the season? Abbie's death at the end was worse because they implied her entire purpose was to help Ichabod's journey, rather than to live her own equal, independent life as a Witness. Well, anyway, I'm not watching the 4th season. I already gave the show a second chance in season 3, and it turned into a dull, meandering mess.

Anyway, so the new fall shows will start being announced this week. None of the plots sound that great, though I like some of the actors. There's a confusing number of time travel shows for some reason, but I spotted Malcom Barrett along with that guy from You, Me, and the Apocalypse on one. I hope the Nancy Drew show finds a place somewhere, and I'm still kind of anxious about The Carmichael Show. I'll look forward to seeing the full schedules soon.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Upcoming Upfronts

The May upfronts are soon, and the TV networks will announce what shows will survive to next season (that haven't already been renewed). I'm really hoping that both Castle and Sleepy Hollow get cancelled, because it's such a disgrace for them to write off their female leads like that. I think it's crazy to try to continue either show with all that fan backlash and already low ratings. But then again, in 1987 Valerie Harper got fired and killed off from her eponymous show, so what do I know about the crazy Hollywood business?

Anyway, I didn't like the 2nd episode of Houdini & Doyle as much, due to Houdini being such a jerk with his Truth Trade game. The attempts to make a romance between him and Constable Stratton were so clumsy and unnecessary too. Couldn't that have just remained a figment of her Scotland Yard boss's sexist imagination? Some viewers pointed out that in real life Houdini should be married now, but I think the show is taking liberties in many historical details. In real life Doyle's wife Touie was not "unresponsive for the last six months" in 1901. She was sick, definitely, and sometimes had to live away from home to improve her health, but I don't think she was comatose or paralyzed yet. Even near the end in 1906, she was apparently conscious and lucid enough that she spoke to her daughter Mary about Doyle probably going to get remarried in the future; Touie seemed to know about Jean Leckie. I'm still not sure whether the show is ever going to broach the subject of Jean Leckie.

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 & 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 that 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, 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.

The Jungle Book

I saw the new Disney movie this weekend and thought it was great. I still can't really believe that all the visual effects and characters besides Mowgli were CGI; the environment looked very real and convincing. The only thing that was hyper-unbelievable was the giant King Louie. He claimed that he was a "gigantopithecus" (an extinct ape species) but really he just looked like a massive modern orangutan. It was interesting that Christopher Walken played him as a gangster-type, somewhat of an improvement on Walken's bad portrayal of Captain Hook on the Peter Pan Live musical. The rest of the cast was great, and I loved Ben Kingsley as Bagheera, though I couldn't always hear his dialogue over the music and people talking in the theater. (I only got a vague impression of why the panther told Mowgli that elephants created the world, therefore other animals must bow to them.) The writers did a good job trying to make a coherent dramatic story about Shere Khan hunting Mowgli down. I've read the Kipling book long ago, and found it was loosely connected short stories alternating with "songs" which were merely poems or chants spoken by the characters. I liked that Baloo commented that the Law of the Jungle was not a song, but propaganda. There were nice moments of levity and fun in the movie, and the end credits had some cute stuff.

At home, I watched part 2 of the Jackie Robinson special that I recorded last week. After his first couple of seasons in the major league, he began to speak up for himself more and not just passively take abuse and discrimination. The Dodgers hired other black players on the team, but they disagreed on how much they ought to actively protest their unequal treatment. One of the commentators observed that it's a common tactic to try to pit minorities against each other. In fact, this also happened when Jackie was asked to testify against Communists, particularly the singer Paul Robeson. Jackie thought he was doing a good thing, confirming that blacks were loyal Americans, but of course nobody should be asked to speak for his entire race, like they're a monolith with one opinion. (Not to mention the whole witch-hunt against Communists was un-American in itself.) When Jackie's wife tried to get them a house in the suburbs, the realtors were biased against them until they got some celebrity help to settle in Connecticut. There were other family problems too. Eventually Jackie's health declined from diabetes, so he retired from baseball and started working at the Chock Full of Nuts coffee business.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Ken Burns's Jackie Robinson

I watched the first part of PBS's Jackie Robinson special, and will try to watch part 2 this weekend. I remember watching the movie 42 a few years ago, so some of the material is familiar to me, but it's still interesting to see the real life history as opposed to the biopic's dramatization, where they didn't have time to do more than a general introduction to Jackie's life. I don't personally know a lot about baseball, though I know the names of many famous ballplayers due to cultural exposure from movies like Field of Dreams. It's interesting to learn that major league baseball was under political pressure from many groups after World War II, including black newspapers and Communists, to integrate. So Branch Rickey was actually trying to announce his recruitment of Jackie Robinson quickly, so he could have credit for integrating baseball himself, rather than reluctantly bowing to outside forces.

Ken Burns includes other interesting stories, such as Jackie's older brother going to the 1936 Olympics with Jesse Owens, yet not being able to get good work when he came home. There's a lot of mentions of other black athlete pioneers such as boxer Joe Louis who helped Jackie get into officer candidate school while in the army. Speaking of Jackie's military service in WWII, he got into trouble for refusing to sit at the back of a bus in Texas, yet he managed to get acquitted at his trial and be honorably discharged. What's nice is that Branch Rickey must have researched Jackie's life and known of his past incidents of fighting discrimination, but that didn't make Branch reject Jackie for a safer athlete who wouldn't stir controversy. Still, Jackie had to endure a lot of abuse during his first two seasons, forced to hold his tongue and not retaliate so that public opinion would be changed. I'm sure there will be more civil rights action in part 2 when we get to his post-baseball life.

Meanwhile, I read a couple of online stories that made me smile yesterday. First, Inky the Octopus escaped from a New Zealand aquarium, squeezing down a drain to reach the ocean. Sure, the aquarium people were good, helping Inky to recover from a traumatic injury, but after he got well, Inky must have yearned for freedom, and I'm glad that the aquarium people were happy for his escape. Octopuses are intelligent and remarkable animals, as I've learned from some PBS nature shows. The other story was about an investigation in Loch Ness of an underwater trench that was recently discovered. Then a drone found a movie prop of the Nessie monster, and best of all, it was from Billy Wilder's The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes! In the movie, Mycroft uses the fake monster head to disguise some secret submarine testing that's occurring in the lake. I still love that movie very much, and it's funny to think that their long lost prop turned up at last.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

One Less Witness

Sleepy Hollow's finale confirmed my decision to drop the show. (I hope it gets cancelled, but there's wild talk about a renewal.) I can't believe they really killed off one of the two main leads. There was a report saying that Nicole Beharie had wanted to be written out of the show; I wish they had gone ahead and done it at midseason, instead of faking us out like this. It was nice to see Corbin, but I disliked Abby speaking like her mission was complete, that her only purpose was to help Ichabod, not have an independent life of her own. Really makes the Witnesses unequal, and the idea of her "eternal soul" going to another person makes it worse. Really terrible mythology, and I don't see how the show could survive recasting her. I wish Nicole well in whatever new career moves she makes.

Now that the late spring/summer reality shows are starting, I have less interest in TV. Probably will spend more time on Netflix or at movies. I'm looking forward to the Jungle Book soon. Lately I've tried again to read a fictional Pinkerton ebook I bought, but I find its steampunk elements annoying. Why can't we have just regular historical fiction, instead of this technobabble nonsense? I want to hear about the characters, not grand conspiracy theories.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Courts more like circuses

In other news, the FBI somehow unlocked the phone with help from a third party, so they dropped their case against Apple. But surprise, surprise, they now offered to help unlock a phone in another criminal case. And there's tons more phones that other law enforcement people will want to break into also, and the FBI isn't gonna share the method so Apple can fix it. This was never about the one phone; it was about the precedent they wanted to set.

North Carolina is getting sued for their new law, and the Attorney General refuses to defend it, so good on him. I hope he wins the election against the governor. But Kim Davis's lawyer already volunteered to defend the case instead. *Eyeroll*

I'm not sure what to think about the Supreme Court's decision about the religious exemptions from providing birth control. I read one article saying it's a good thing, that they're asking for briefs about what accommodation would satisfy the Nuns. Stop making the government offer alternatives only for the religious employers to say "No, I refuse. That's still a burden on me." Instead, the justices want the Nuns to say "This is the accommodation that will satisfy me." So if they refuse to offer an accommodation, it will expose how they'll never be satisfied at all. So then the Supremes will have to rule in favor of the government, because they made every effort to compromise, while the other side refuses.

But I read a more depressing article saying this ruling meant the Court would have a tie vote, making the law different in different states. It's so confusing. I wish the Court would just rule that it's unreasonable for the employer's religion to trump the personal beliefs of the employees about their own healthcare. There's so many other cases to get to later; we need a new justice now! Stupid obstructionist Senators! Even if you vote Garland down, at least have the damn hearings!

Some suspense

So sad to hear about Douglas Wilmer dying this week. I have his old BBC Sherlock Holmes series on DVD and enjoyed it a lot. Apparently he didn't like the running of the show, though, so he quit and they had to recast with Peter Cushing in season 2.

The finale of You, Me and the Apocalypse was a bit of a downer, especially knowing that the show will have no season 2. The protagonists kept killing people, and Rhonda tried to justify it as "that guy was gonna die anyway because of the apocalypse." Her sick husband looked at her with such disappointment, though other characters said they would have done what she did. I'm not sure how I feel about Gaines assassinating the President because he would have been an unfit leader, yet he doesn't feel bad about imprisoning those Saviour scientists before, or shooting their way out of the military base when rescuing Rhonda and Leanne. There's a lot of moral ambiguity in the plot, which I guess is realistic. I do still wonder about Jamie's fate and what would happen next in the bunker. (Are we sure Celine's baby is okay, after she drank all that alcohol before the pregnancy test?) Even though things aren't really resolved, I don't regret investing in the show because it had a lot of drama, mystery, and action unlike stupid Last Man on Earth.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Tough week

As expected, Hillary lost the caucuses last night, but she still holds a big delegate lead, so we'll have to hang on for more primaries. Meanwhile, new discriminatory laws were passed in Georgia and North Carolina, but many companies did threaten to boycott. I hope the laws will be challenged in court soon, but it's depressing we still have to fight so many assaults on civil rights. It's bad enough Texas's anti-abortion law is before the Supreme Court now with the possibility of the ruling being a tie. And we're still waiting on the appeal of the voter ID law in May.

Anyway, is this the first Easter that the TV networks don't show The Ten Commandments movie? I haven't paid attention, and the film's probably more appropriate for Passover. So for holiday programming Fox showed the Passion musical last week instead. I didn't watch it, not being Christian or interested. I've heard that passion plays were performed historically in medieval Europe, but I thought that was mostly because many people were illiterate and needed the Bible's events acted out to them. I don't get why you'd want to act it out now, in the interactive sense, rather than just watching The Passion of the Christ movie instead. Whatever.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Tivo fixed

I finally solved my networking issue with my Tivo. I called customer support again and they sent me a list of TCP and UDP ports that I needed to open on my router. Even though I did figure out how to do that from my computer, it made no difference to the Tivo. I thought maybe I needed to redo the Guided Setup (rather than just a plain reboot) but then I got stuck in Guided Setup with no way to exit because it still couldn't connect to my router. I gave up for a little while to watch the Apocalypse show live on my other TV, and was really worried that I'd have to call customer support for a third time. However, while I was trying to reset the Tivo wireless adapter again, I noticed that I didn't put the switch on Client, so I did that. Then I did the manual setup of the adapter using my laptop. It didn't work when I connected to the router, so I connected instead directly to the internet modem and finally success. All I had to do was connect to the Tivo's ethernet port, then it let me finish the Guided Setup at last. What a relief! Next time I guess I'll skip the Guided Setup and just be more careful about resetting the damn wireless adapter.

The Tivo finished updating its program information and now it can get back to recording my season passes again. I don't know why the router is acting up like this, when it's the same one I've had before I lost the connection.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Fuck AIPAC

My sympathies to everyone hurt or killed in recent attacks in Belgium and Turkey. I just wish it wouldn't bring out ugly xenophobic rhetoric from our politicians. Hillary was pivoting toward the general and condemning anti-Muslim hate, but I'm still so annoyed with her for her speech to AIPAC. I'm mad that AIPAC is such a powerful lobby that all sorts of politicians feel obliged to attend and kowtow to Israel. Bernie Sanders skipped it only because of his campaign schedule, and apparently he gave a foreign policy interview in which he criticized BDS as anti-Semitic. So he's no better than Hillary Clinton. I would have thought that a Jewish Senator would realize that being anti-Israel is not the same as being anti-Jewish, because Israel does not speak for all the Jews of the world. Oh, sure, Bernie will say nice things about being fair to Palestinians in the peace process, but I already looked into his record on the topic, and he'll never vote for anything that punishes Israel at all. I've been disappointed in both him and Hillary for a long time on this issue.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Little Prince saved

Well, I heard that Netflix rescued The Little Prince movie, but they haven't given a release date yet. I'll look forward to that, and trying to get the new And Then There Were None on DVD in April. In the meantime, I continue to have network problems with my Tivo. I was on the phone with technical support for 40 minutes today before being disconnected. I'll try again when I'm not so frustrated. Couldn't find time before because I have been trying to install curtain rods and shorten some curtains for my windows.

Anyway, Obama nominated Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court, and it disappointed me that he didn't go for a liberal, or someone younger. People say he did it as a clever chess move, nominating the very person that the Republican leaders had previously approved of. But isn't that rather cavalier and risky, with no guarantee that your plan will work? Republicans seem to be slightly waffling in their opposition, but they're still talking about waiting until at least after the election to even hold hearings. Others speculate that Obama will withdraw the nomination later to let Hillary decide. If that's true, it seems like a dickish game to be playing just to score political points. There are important cases to be decided NOW; I can't even get clear info about what kind of justice Garland would be. There was an article posted with a totally BS chart claiming that Garland was far left, but the graph was based on Bill Clinton's record, not Garland's. What a crock! Real nice "analysis" and so-called journalism. This is why we need some confirmation hearings, so we can suss out Garland's full record and define what "moderate" means.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Happi Pi Day

I haven't used pi in math for years now, but maybe I'll buy a pie today to celebrate. Tomorrow's going to be the Ides of March, and I wish Hillary success in Tuesday's elections. I also hope that Kos stands by finally banning all the hateful rhetoric on his site. I don't see how Daily Kos can continue with the divisive tone its had for months now. It's getting as sickening as the infighting among Republicans, and I can't stand to watch the endless debates or townhalls.

I saw John Oliver's discussion of the Apple encryption battle with the FBI. Good stuff, and I hadn't even thought about foreign governments wanting to get their hands on such a backdoor too. It's really dangerous. Sure, Apple's not a perfect company, but it's right on this issue.

Meanwhile, The Carmichael Show debuted in its Sunday timeslot. I liked those two episodes a lot more than the cheating episode. I'm not sure how many episodes are in season 2, but I hope they get good ratings. As for drama, I've given up on The Family because I couldn't even make it halfway through the third episode without getting bored and annoyed. I wanted to see The Little Prince movie next weekend, only to learn that Paramount suddenly cancelled the release. Now I don't know when it's coming out, and there's no good movies until April. So disappointing.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Politicking

Meanwhile the presidential race goes on, and I hate how Trump has made the discourse sink so low. At least the political ads in Texas have stopped for a while, though I can't stand that Ted Cruz won the state.

I'm tired of the Democratic primary race, with all the viciousness. Kos claims that Daily Kos will start banning people on March 15th, but even his reasonable posts on the subject get attacked by people claiming censorship. They think they own the site, and that he's trying to stop the dissent, rather than just enforce some long-overdue moderation on his site. Even the recent death of the great Tricia Wyse only stopped the pie fights for a day. The only civil political website I can find lately is Wonkette, where the Editrix does like Bernie better, but she is also firm that Hillary is good too, not evil at all. (She apparently had a big fight with her own mother about it.) I'm glad she focuses on party unity and has better moderators than Daily Kos. Plus that baby is very cute and helps take some of the sting out of the bitter campaign. I hope this will all be over soon, though you can't completely predict elections.

Zootopia

I saw Zootopia and liked it much more than I thought I would. From the trailers, the premise looked pretty boring to me: just the usual cutesy CGI-animated stuff full of slapstick and shallow pop culture. However, the movie was actually good, with nuanced characters, social themes, and an interesting plot. I liked Jason Bateman playing the sly fox Nick Wild, who apparently has been a con-artist since he was 12 years old. Nick reminds me of the devilish characters Bateman played as a child, on Silver Spoons and It's Your Move. At least Bateman's not playing a totally slimy jerk this time. Nick charms and hustles people for a living, but he has vulnerabilities beneath his cool exterior, and he's learned to live this way because of anti-fox prejudice. I liked the complexity of the world, and how Judy had real character growth and an arc that had nothing to do with romance. We need more movies like this, and I'm glad it was successful at the box office.

On TV lately, I'm sad that The Muppets ended, and its low ratings make it doubtful that the show will be renewed. Just as doubtful are Sleepy Hollow and Second Chance, but I hope that the current plots will get decent endings before cancellation. I like that the Apocalypse show is finally revealing stuff about Grandma's survival bunker, as well as the connected family ties, though it's still a little confusing. At least the nun got some development with her history of being homeless, but I still don't like her being setup for romance with the priest. I tried watching The Family, but I'm not sure I'll stay with it, since they dropped the whole plot about the DNA test. I'm looking forward to when The Carmichael Show returns; I need a comedy in the midst of all the March Madness basketball.

On Monday, something went wrong with my Tivo, so it didn't record Lucifer, and I had to watch it online instead. I wish the angel plot would be more prominent than the procedural cases; I still don't care much about the Palmetto case. My Tivo's wireless connection typically goes down when there's a thunderstorm or blackout in my area. I thought I got the wireless network fixed, but the Tivo is still showing a connection error, so I'll have to call customer support tomorrow when I have time, I guess.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Happy Leap Day

Well the Oscars were last night. I didn't watch because I was working and have lost interest in award shows over the years. But I watched Chris Rock's opening monologue about #OscarsSoWhite, and I'm glad he tackled the issue of Hollywood being "sorority racist", in that white liberals will be nice to you, but still exclude you when it comes to hiring and casting decisions. It's the old boys' club atmosphere. However, I do think he unnecessarily focused only on blacks, not on other minority groups who don't have opportunities, and he was kind of dismissive, saying that blacks never protested this much before because of bigger problems like raping and lynching. I think that's simplistic, because we still have an issue with police brutality now (as shown by the great Black-ish episode last week) but Hollywood still has a diversity issue. I also know that Disney's release of Song of the South in 1946 was widely criticized by the NAACP and others for its racially offensive cliches. So yes, even in the midst of more pressing dangers, it's perfectly legitimate to also criticize pop culture for lesser evils; when wrong-headed enough, some films can become a sort of dangerous propaganda.

There was a recent New York Times article containing interviews from many actors and directors in Hollywood showing how discrimination, sexism, and homophobia still plays a role, keeping many minorities out of power. That's how pervasive "soft racism" is in the system, where people think they're our white liberal allies, but they continue to be unconsciously biased and close-minded. Sure it's entertainment, but it does matter to society, because movies and TV shows carry powerful messages. Why, the Oscars demonstrated it just last night, with all the talk of diversity, and Lady Gaga's performance of a song from a documentary on campus sexual assault. Movies do matter, so don't belittle the issue. And don't groan and be smug idiots like the damn Coen brothers. Sometimes it seems like Hollywood wants to have it both ways, that films are great artistic achievements that touch the soul, yet when criticized, films are just silly fluff and detractors are taking things way too seriously.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Good but imperfect Race

I saw the Jesse Owens film on the weekend and felt somewhat conflicted about it. It was very moving, and I liked the family drama and sports story. The depression-era setting, along with segregation on buses and such, seemed detailed and realistic. I also liked the conflict when Jesse was pressured by the NAACP to not go to the Olympics. He struggled with his feelings for a while, argued with his coach, and even discussed it with a rival athlete who got injured and would never get to go. We got to see a lot of different opinions on the topic, though Jesse's final decision doesn't seem to stem from any particular moment of epiphany.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Damn elections

It appears that Trump truly can't be stopped from winning the nomination, and it's so horrifying. (Some people say he'll be easy to beat in the general election, but I'm still disgusted with him and not amused.) Meanwhile, now that Super Tuesday is coming closer, I'm seeing a lot more TV ads for Republicans and even heard a radio ad as well. It's so annoying. I'm going to early vote tomorrow, when I have the day off from work, though I'm still conflicted about who I'll vote for in the Democratic primary.

Obama released a plan to close Guantanamo, which shows he's still trying, but fucking Congress is still vowing to obstruct him. Somebody had the nerve to compare it to the Trail of Tears. They are such cowards and liars! Guantanamo was not used because the prisoners were especially heinous (many were accused on faulty evidence); it was because the prison's location meant the administration could do nasty stuff like torture without being held accountable to laws. So moving the prisoners does not mean we have supercriminals ready to escape and terrorize the country. It means we as a country can stop terrorizing them and finally treat them within our fucking regular justice system!

Surprisingly, this point was made this week in a great episode of Supergirl called "Truth, Justice, and the American Way" the old motto for Superman. James Olsen brought up Guantanamo and criticized Kara for supporting the DEO's imprisonment of Max Lord. He's a villain, but he has rights, like any other citizen; besides, they could not keep his kidnapping a secret for long. It was so great to see emotional, moral conflict, and to have James advocate for them not to be hypocrites. If only we could get real politicians to live up to American ideals of truth and justice too. Not while they're voting to block a new Supreme Court nominee, apparently.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

TV lately

I was somewhat disappointed in the latest Apocalypse episode, because Rhonda was still on the run, and Jamie and Dave spent too long breaking Mary out of the mental ward. I wanted to see more about Jamie's wife and the giraffe girl, but apparently they've gone home, while the priest and the nun work some other false Messiah case which was pointless. I really hate the fact that the priest gets so much protagonist stuff to do while the nun just reacts to him. She doesn't get to have an emotional journey or story other than "wow, I was wrong, and you're so awesome after all." I'm afraid that, with those henchman getting the priest's blood, we're just going to keep following his story and not hear much from the nun. Ariel really went full villain, at least, so maybe some plots will start moving forward.

Last night's Second Chance surprised me by not being as creepy and gross about a serial murder/mutilation case as I feared; too many CSI-type procedural shows seem to glorify the violence and titillation of the exotic. The visible gore was kept to a minimum, and even Jimmy held back from assaulting a guy while interrogating him. The writers handled the escort Jilly as a strong survivor rather than a victim, and she got to talk to Mary about other stuff unrelated to her case. Jilly got kidnapped twice, was treated respectfully by Jimmy, and was allowed to have emotional conflict about whether to kill her captor in revenge. She got a lot of character development for a one-episode character. The show also surprised me by revealing that Mary's assistant is not as loyal and ditzy as expected, and we don't know if the old man is the reason for her betrayal of her boss. Does she know the truth about Jimmy, and is hoping to save her elderly friend too? I hope the show keeps airing out its full plot before it's cancelled.

The Muppets has been improving lately, with more skits and fun moments, though I think their first episode back wasn't a good choice. The ratings haven't improved really. The other sitcoms I watch are uneven lately, and I may drop Grandfathered.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Political Upheaval

I was rather stunned by Antonin Scalia dying over the weekend. The Republicans were quick to say that Obama shouldn't nominate a replacement, and I don't know what's going to happen while the Supreme Court only has 8 justices. There are a number of court cases still pending that affect Texas, such as the abortion law, affirmative action, and immigration, and I read contradictory statements about what will happen to those rulings in the case of a tie. It's really worrying, and I just want to know everything will be all right. It's especially annoying that we keep having to use voter IDs, when I hoped they would be gone in time for the 2016 elections.

Though I certainly hated Scalia's votes on the Supreme Court, I recently watched a PBS special on Italian Americans, and there was an episode giving a non-partisan viewpoint on Scalia. Apparently many Italian Americans were happy with his historic appointment as an Italian American on the court; they felt it gave their group a better role model than the Italian mafia stereotype in so many movies and TV shows. I guess I'm sad for them to lose that, but maybe we'll get a more liberal justice this time.

As for politics in general, early voting starts this week for the Democratic primary, and I'm still deciding what I'll do. There are local offices I should vote for, and I'm researching the candidates on the League of Women Voters website. As for the Presidential race, I really do not want to vote for Hillary due to her anti-BDS stance on Israel, but then again, I am still really pissed off with Bernie's conspiracy crap. Maybe I'll cast a vote for Martin O'Malley even though he's out, or one of several other people on the ballot for some reason. I guess these no-names are only on the Democratic primary ballot, not the official general election ballot. I'm just so sick of this campaign, especially the endless debates now that the DNC sanctioned more. Hope you're happy for getting what you want, Bernie lovers. It's so fucking boring and stirs up shitty animosity like on Daily Kos.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Hail, Caesar

It was an okay movie, amusing in parts, but more slow and dramatic than I expected. The movie trailers made Hail, Caesar seem like a broad parody full of jokes, but it was quiet, gentle spoofing. Before I went, I did hear bad word of mouth, but I foolishly trusted the critical reviews that were so positive. It's not terrible; it's just a low-key, understated kind of comedy where you smile and chuckle softly rather than laugh out loud. Sort of like Wes Anderson's style, where you need to have the same quirky tastes as the director(s) to love it. (I've only watched a couple of Coen brothers' films before, Fargo and The Big Lebowski, so I'm not really familiar with their works.) So it wasn't as fun as I hoped, even with the self-important narration.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Happy New Year

It's Lunar New Year, celebrated by many Asians around the world, not just the Chinese. There was a pretty good Fresh Off the Boat episode about the holiday last week, though it's a continuity error that no other Chinese people live near them. (Jessica enrolled the kids in a special Chinese school, after all, when she wanted them to do extra homework last season.) I'm lucky to have this day off from work, so I'll probably go see Hail, Caesar later today. I also hope to see the Jesse Owens movie The Race when it comes out soon. The trailer looked good.

As for TV, the second episode of You, Me, and the Apocalypse was pretty good. When the US President learned of the top secret survival bunker, I thought the show was being feminist when they said that 15 women would be chosen, but no men, because they could just use a sperm bank to repopulate the world. However, then the guys suggested that the President could join the women and be their "leader" making it into a creepy harem situation. Why couldn't one of the women be their own leader? Ugh. So sexism might survive the apocalypse. However, I did find the UK plot with Jamie and Dave interesting. I also liked that Rhonda realized that White Horse was lying and rotten; she needs to go save her son, and I hope there will be more from the nun soon.

In its fourth episode, Second Chance improved somewhat by letting Otto show some emotions and interest in the case, with Mary giving Jimmy some family advice. There were some flashbacks and fun interaction with Duval's family, to help round out some characters. Now Jimmy's going to be an official FBI consultant? I still don't know where the show is going. Sleepy Hollow came back, and they thankfully toned down Betsy Ross to dress appropriately and be business-like instead of flirty. I hope Abbie comes back soon, though.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Wow

I saw Kung Fu Panda 3 today, and loved it. It's been so long that I don't remember what happened in the second movie besides the tease about Po meeting his biological father. Maybe I'll do a rewatch if I can. The new movie was really excellent, with beautiful artwork. I was glad that they included Master Oogway, the old tortoise, in the Spirit World to bring things full circle.

The previews before the movie included lots of animated films, such as Zootopia. I'm not sure I like the premise, but I guess I'll see it since Jason Bateman is one of the voices. He's also supposed to appear in the TV special about director James Burrows. I suppose he'll reminisce about his 1980s sitcoms, and I think he directed one of the Hogan Family episodes while a teenager. I hope Bateman's segment won't be too brief, given how many other stars are supposed to show.

Speaking of television, the third episode of Second Chance shocked me by letting Duval in on his father's secret so soon. I would have thought they'd keep up the half-brother pretense for longer and save the truth for many episodes later. I'm not quite sure what the show will do now, but I guess they're going to be bold in burning through some plots. At least Mary did seem to be more active and to object to Jimmy misusing his strength. Her secretary is so amusing with all her concern for her boss. Otto didn't even orchestrate a fantastic escape this time, which is an improvement too. I'll hope for the best in the remaining episodes.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Apocalypse

Finally the UK show You, Me, and the Apocalypse premiered and I enjoyed it. It was vastly better than Last Man on Earth, which had become so insular and repetitive, never caring about how to actually survive or rebuild civilization. It was just an empty, boring world for a bunch of people to have stupid relationship fights, so I stopped watching early in season 2.

In contrast, the Apocalypse show had way more action and actually felt fresh and interesting. The characters were from around the world, and we saw glimpses of the global reaction to the comet. (I didn't like the U.S. President being a nondescript white guy, and there being no response/confirmation from other world leaders.) Sure, some characters had personal problems like the banker being adopted and discovering his missing wife, but it never felt trivial or petty compared to the impending doom; it felt like great motivation to do something while he still had time in the world. There's urgency for everyone, even for those women prisoners who didn't want to die incarcerated.

I don't mind that the show is more like a dramedy than a sitcom; in fact I found the show most clunky when it tried to be funny with Rob Lowe's character. He was so intent on shocking the nun with his outrageousness, and he was sexist and insulting during the job interview. I wouldn't mind seeing less of him and exploring the nun's journey more. I like the drama and mystery about White Horse, the hacktivist twin, and Rhonda the librarian who went to prison for her son. We might learn more about her sick husband and her bad ex-husband too. I'm curious about how the show will go, and trying not to spoil myself by reading about how it aired in the UK already.