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.


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.