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, but 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.