Saturday, September 17, 2016

Dreams and Shimmering Shadows.

    I'm a (nearly) rational person of science and I know dreams are caused by neurons firing quasi-randomly in the cerebral cortex during sleep.  Nevertheless dreams are often haunting and beautiful, though I usually don't remember dreams very well.  But  I had a memorable dream the other night.

   In my dream I was driving a car, probably a rental car like I might get on a trip.  My regular car is 12 years old and kind of beat up, but this was a new car, so perhaps I was on vacation.  I don't know, I didn't think about it, i just sort of accepted that this is where I was supposed to be. 

     My mother, who passed away a few months ago was sitting in the car also.  But instead of being over 90 years old, she was young, maybe like a young beautiful teenager, with a very different appearance. But somehow I knew she was really my Mom, made younger as if by magic.   I drove steadily uphill, a gradual upward slope, like in the Appalachian mountains or someplace.  The scenery was beautiful with lush green vegetation and tall trees.  After a while we arrived at a stopping point and got out of the car.  At this point I carried my mother still higher.  There was a giant marble staircase, and without question I carried her up the stairs.  She was not heavy at all, not a burden at all, as if magically made lighter. She was dressed in shiny, shimmering clothes, perhaps from her native Korea.
   Finally she spoke.  "Elliot, I was very pleased to be your helper for many many years, but I can no longer do that.   But I want you to know it was never me at all.  For all things come from God."  

Sunday, September 4, 2016

The Reason for the War in Syria

      One of the saddest aspects of American politics is that we obviously believe strongly that we must involve ourselves in Syrian wars.  Both the Democrats and Republicans advocate spending hundreds of billions of dollars there.  I cannot even identify which Syrian groups there are considered to be "good guys" that the US supports.  Can you? Do you even know the name of one person there who is so good that he/she  justifies billions of dollars worth or death and destruction to bring him/her to power?  To me it is our greatest national sin and shame that we have become mindlessly addicted to warfare.
     If you can not accept my challenge and name one person in Syria that we are bringing to power, we probably should stop killing men, women and children to accomplish it.  You should probably not be voting for either the Democrat or the Republican for the Presidential election.
     And by the way, the title for my article is a lie.  There is no valid reason for the War in Syria. 

uploaded from

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Has Hillary Clinton Opposed Military Intervention in the Middle East by the US at Any Time?.

     As far as I am aware, since 1992, there is no record that Hillary Clinton opposed a US military intervention in Muslim nations at any time.  In other words, every time that a military intervention went forward in support of one Muslim faction or another, Hillary Clinton supported it, either informally as First Lady, or with votes as a Senator, or creating policy as Secretary of State. Likely there were other proposed interventions that did not go forward; but if they did Clinton was always on the Hawk side, and never a Dove, at least as far as my limited research shows. 
      The military operations in question are listed below. I'm not saying that all of these operations were bad, although most of them were, in my personal opinion at least, and in particular I do not agree with invading Iraq to save the world from nonexistent nuclear weapons, nor invading Libya and Syria in order to improve the neighborhoods for the inhabitants.  I did not approve of bombing Serbians in the former Yugoslavia, despite the violation of human rights in that area.  In all, reliable estimates are that the US has invested over 6 trillion dollars on warfare involving Muslim countries, resulting in hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths and hundreds of thousands more refugees and permanent maimings. 
      Perhaps it should not be perplexing that people in the region don't actually adore Americans the way we think we should be adored, and perhaps our failure to balance the budget more often can be understood in the context of blowing 6 trillion dollars.  But that is actually a side issue.  
      Donald Trump is the candidate that appears to be the most physically scary and angry, and perhaps he comes across as the greatest Hawk against Muslim nations. 
     However, it is the more pleasant and affable former Secretary of State who has the most consistent record of advocating American intervention in Muslim conflicts, all for the noblest of reasons, no doubt.  
      Only third party candidates Governor Gary Johnson (Libertarian) and Dr. Jill Stein (Green) favor curtailing our military operations in the Middle East.  
     Am I wrong?   If so, I respectfully request that my readers might provide a link to a source that shows which of these 19 or so Military Operations were opposed by Hillary Clinton.  
 Partial List of Military Operations in the Middle East and Europe since 1992

1. 1992–95 – Somalia: Operation Restore Hope.
2.  1993–95 – Bosnia: Operation Deny Flight.
3.  1995 – Bosnia: Operation Deliberate Force.
4.  1996 – Kuwait: Operation Desert Strike,  Air Strikes.
6.  1996 – Bosnia: Operation Joint Guard under the Dayton agreement.
7.  1998 – Iraq: Operation Desert Fox, bombing campaign.
8.  1998 – Afghanistan and Sudan: Operation Infinite Reach. cruise missile attack versus terrorist training camps in Afghanistan and a chemical factory in Sudan.
9.  2001–2014 –Operation Enduring Freedom. Invasion of Afghanistan, "combat action in Afghanistan against Al Qaeda terrorists and their Taliban supporters."
10.00  2003–2011 –Operation Iraqi Freedom, March 20, 2003, "to disarm Iraq in pursuit of peace, stability, and security both in the Gulf region and in the United States."
11.  2004–present: U.S  drone strikes in Northwest Pakistan
12.  2010–present –  U.S  drone strikes on al-Qaeda and al-Shabaab positions in Yemen.
13.  2010–11 – Operation New Dawn, replacing  "Operation Iraqi Freedom" .
15.  2011 –Operation Odyssey Dawn, United States and coalition bombings of Libyan forces.
15.  2011 – Operation Neptune Spear, killing of Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan.
16.  2011 – Drone strikes on al-Shabab militants in Somalia
17.  2014–present – American intervention in Iraq: Hundreds of U.S. troops deployed to protect American assets in Iraq and to advise Iraqi and Kurdish fighters.  Airstrikes against Islamic State-aligned forces throughout northern Iraq.
18.  2014–present – American aircraft bomb Islamic State positions in Syria. Airstrikes on al-Qaeda, al-Nusra Front and Khorasan positions.
19.  2014–present – Intervention against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant: attacks on ISIL and al-Nusra Front positions in Iraq and Syria.



Friday, August 5, 2016

Suicide Squad is Awesome--One of DC's Best

I loved DC comics as a kid, and was thrilled when they made a movie out of Superman. Making a long story short, Christopher Reeve was a good Superman and a great Clark Kent, but the plots always sucked.  Ditto for Batman.  I've been waiting for years for DC to make a good movie.  Suicide Squad is the most original to date.

     Suicide Squad is about bad guys who are coerced into forming a team to fight an evil metahuman (please, not mutant, okay?) with astonishing evil powers.  I won't tell you who the nemesis is, because that might be a bit of a plot spoiler.  Let's just say that everyone in the movie is bad (even Batman who makes a cameo appearance), but some are really bad, and others are really really bad.  

    Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) is sensational.  Very very demented, yet sexy, funny, scary and romantic all in the same package.  She kind of reminds of girls I went to school with at Berea High, who were very beautiful, smart and talented, but they just wanted to be naughty.   Well, Harley wants to be beyond naughty, and utterly capable of killing in order to amuse herself. Also great is Deadshot (Will Smith) an evil assassin who hates Batman.  I also hate the movie Batman, so it is easy for me to sympathize.  Deadshot is witty and clever, and gravitates to (almost) being a leader of the criminal team.  There are another half dozen members on the team with special talents combined with appalling criminal records.
Margot Robbie is an evil genius with incredible combat skills, sexappeal and comic timing.  I understand most guys who have a date with her wind up dead or in the Hospital, but if I'm offered a dinner invitation I will accept.  

Will Smith and Margot Robbie are the most memorable characters, and the Suicide Squad is the best movie team DC Comics has ever produced.  

The plot is a bit disjointed and I didn't follow all of the twists and turns.  For example at one point everyone ends up at a secret Government headquarters, and I had no idea how they got there or why.   I'll have to see the movie again to figure it out.  

Despite such flaws, the movie is great because it breaks old stale DC formulas that, frankly, have begun to stink.  It's fresh exciting, different and suspenseful because we don't know what is going to happen next.   

This is not a good movie to take your young boyscout or girlscout to see, but High School kids and above will love it. If you like superhero movies, and you want to see something different, this is one of the best movies.  

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Sook Cha Lee Kennel Hall, 1925 to 2016

    Sook Cha Lee was born in 1925 in Seoul Korea, which at that time was ruled by the Japanese empire.    Back then, medical doctors were not accessible to ordinary people, so there was only a midwife and a fortune teller.  It's not funny, but Sue would joke about the humble story of her birth, and her family would laugh at this story.  Sue's mother was in labor three days, no doubt fearing for her very life,  and the fortune teller offered the following sage advice:  "If you wait one more day, the child will be truly great!"   When telling that story my mother would laugh.  "What kind of advice is that?  Are you kidding?  Even if it's true you can't ask a woman to stay in labor for another 24 hours!" 
            In any case, somehow Sue's mother persevered and Sue arrived to her very relieved parents.  Early on the parents realized that little Sue was linguistically talented.  At two years old she was able to go to the neighbors' house and relay messages from her mother.   
        Korean folk have a custom that at one year, the baby is presented with different items--for example, coins, a bowl of rice, and an ink brush-pen-- to determine their future.  If the baby chooses coins, then she will prosper financially.  If she chooses, rice she will be a glutton and get fat, so hopefully the baby doesn't choose that.  Baby Sue selected the brush pen, signifying she would become a scholar. Even though it is a silly superstition, she says she sort of believed it as a kid.  
      Sue's mother used to say, "If a word even touches my daughter's ear, she never forgets it!"   The family decided to send her to school a year early, because of her incessant questions and desire to learn things.  So she wound up going to school a year early in order to help feed her insatiable desire to learn. 
     In 1933, in the middle of the Great Depression, the family decided to move to Japan when Sue was 8 years old.  This was right at the time that Crown Prince Akihito was born. Sue remembered that all the streetcars were decorated with beautiful flowers as the entire city of Osaka, and indeed the entire country, celebrated.  It seemed like a grand time. The next year,the family moved to Tokyo.  Sue's education was in the Japanese language, which is very different from Korean.
       By this time little Sue had started reading all kinds of books about far off lands including Europe and America.  One book explained the custom of Christmas, which excited her very much.  So she told her father about it, and explained that she was going to hang up her sock by her bed on Christmas Eve.  That evening, her father would have to pretend to be Santa Claus and give her a present.  The next morning, Sue was delighted to find a little mandarin orange in her sock!   
     Sue's cousin George Myeong came to live with their family at about that time. Sue always considered George to be like a younger brother.  But by about 1940, family fortunes had taken a turn for the worse and Sue's father ultimately abandoned them. Sue's mother ran a boarding house in Tokyo.  But Sue was able to get a job in a print shop to help make ends meet, and she completed her high school studies at night school.  She finished number two in the province of Honshu based on the graduation examination. She was one of the few Koreans to be accepted by Ochanomizu College in Tokyo. This was an amazing achievement in its own right, and even resulted in a small stipend of a few dollars a month, which she gave to her mother.  It was a happy time.  But in December of that year, radio newscasts informed the people that the Japanese Empire had been attacked by demons from the United States and Great Britain.  Newscasters warned that although victory was certain due to the Godly leadership of Emperor Hirohito, it would be a time of great hardship. Indeed, food became scarce.  A few months later, Sue was orphaned as her mother died of Typhus.  She never really got over that blow.  She would recount, "My mother was always there for me, supporting me in everything and encouraging me.  When she left suddenly, my whole world fell apart."  She and George were left without a home, and without parents.  However, finishing school was very important, and for that reason the two elected to stay in Japan so that Sue could graduate in elementary education, which at that time was a two year program, and George could finish high school.  Sue and George had to live under a bridge for a time along with many others who endured great suffering during the war, but nevertheless, she did not quit, and she persevered to graduate in 1943 with a teacher's certificate, and George graduated from High School that same year.    
     One of the quirks of Asian society is that children are implicitly blamed when bad things happen, perhaps based on the notion that God punished children for wrongs committed in a previous existence.  Perhaps for that reason, Sue did not like to talk about being homeless.  Then too, a great number of people suffered terribly in World War 2, not just Sue and her cousin.  She said that she never worried about not having a proper place to live, as long as they could receive a daily food ration and attend school. 
      Sue appreciated the rigorous training from the Japanese system.  In addition to academics, the entire student body had to run 4 kilometers each morning in their school uniform and then on to class.  There were no special gym clothes, no showers, just they just ran in street clothes and then on to class. In addition to academics, each semester they had a field trip to work for a week, planting or harvesting crops in the fields, or working in a factory.  In this way, they learned something about the way that real people must live their lives.     
     In order to escape the bombing in Tokyo, Sue and George returned to Korea in 1944.  Sue taught elementary school for two years in a small town in the Korean countryside, and George went to live with relatives and eventually attended college.  
     The Japanese Emperor was thought to be a God, who would appear in public only once a year outside his palace. Everyone attending his speech had to get on their hands and knees and bow and not even look at the Emperor lest they should die.  Sue said, "I knew it wasn't true."
      In August 1945, Emperor Hirohito unbelievably spoke on the radio to announce the surrender of Japan.  He was obliged to finally admit that he was a human being rather than a God. 
The Japanese occupiers were immediately expelled from Korea, amid great rejoicing.  Sue was happy that Korea could be free of Japanese government oppression, but also saddened at the inhumanity with which the Japanese people were forcibly evacuated.  She remembers them being packed like cattle on trains and unceremoniously  shipped out.  
     After the war, Ewha Womans College was officially recognized as a National University for women in Seoul and Sue was selected as one of the students, and granted advanced standing in view of her having graduated from teacher's college in Japan.  She graduated number one in her class in 1947, and thus earned degrees from both Japan and Korea.  Upon graduating she became a student teaching assistant and worked directly for Dr. Helen Kim, the Ewha President. 

Sue and Bessie Rutemiller, Japanese American from Hawaii, 1950.

     Years later, Sue's granddaughter Natasha once asked her what was the proper age to date.  Sue's answer was, "In Korea, the girls went to school on one side of the mountain, and the boys went to school on the other side of the mountain, and we never saw each other till after graduation as arranged by the parents!"  Sue's son Elliot advised Natasha, "There are certain questions you should never ask a Korean grandma."  
     In any case, by 1948, the Methodist Church was interested to sponsor Korean women to study in America, and Sue was selected for this opportunity.  She would attend Baldwin Wallace College in Berea Ohio. Somehow, arrangements were made for several Korean women to a ride on a US Navy ship to San Francisco, and then by train to Ohio.  On a way they encountered a tropical storm, and everyone became very sick.   Sue said "at first we were afraid we might die.  Later, we became afraid we might not die."  But eventually things calmed down.  The Navy sailors were all very, very respectful to the young women, but communication was very difficult.  Sue recounts that the cook asked them if they wanted eggs "sunny side up." They couldn't understand this at all.  How can eggs be like the sun in the sky, they wondered?  That made no sense.  Well, better get used to it.  Lots of things in America made no sense to Koreans.  Sue liked to quote Rudyard Kipling:  "East is east and west is west, and the twain shall never meet!"
    Baldwin Wallace was a great culture shock.  Although Sue had learned to read and write in English, there had been no opportunity to speak with native speakers during the war.  So basically she arrived not being able to communicate. Learning spoken English proved to be much more difficult than speaking Japanese.  Moreover, she was also obliged to learn Old English to read the classic Beowulf, as well as French. Though she never achieved great proficiency in French, she would continue to practice with her friends in French Club in Berea, and would spend summers in France with her second husband Vernon Hall. 
    Sue had never intended to stay in America, but the Korean War made going home impossible.  Accordingly, she studied at Western Reserve College in Cleveland, and obtained a Master's Degree in English.  Sue met Byron Kennel at a dance sponsored by the Cleveland Council of International Affairs.  One time Byron decided Sue needed to learn about American culture, and took her to a thing called Hillbilly Jamboree at the old Circle Theater in downtown Cleveland. The warmup act was a young kid who wiggled and shook a lot and poor Sue had no idea what all the commotion and yelling was about.  She was kind of mad at Byron for taking her to this uncivilized affair. It turns out this kid was named Elvis Presley, and that concert is marked by some historians as launching the rock n roll era, and is part of the reason the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame is in Cleveland.
     Another time Arthur Bisguier, the United States Chess Champion, known as the Dean of American Chess, came to Cleveland and played simultaneous exhibition against all comers. Almost all of them were men, although Byron brought his smart Korean girlfriend along.  Perhaps Grandmaster Bisguier did not take her seriously at first, but after she took his queen he started to pay more attention.  In any case, the Champ prevailed against every one of the challengers--except for Sue.   

Lilly Rosenbaum, Sue and Byron Kennel, Linda Lee was the flower girl, daughter of Rev. Julius and Yolanda Lee.

      In 1956 Byron and Sue were married and children Elliot and Nancy came along, and Sue basically withdrew from academia for several years.  But in a few years, Cuyahoga Community College made it possible for Sue to return to academia. Could someone from Korea teach English in America?  Well, Sue did.  She was particularly skilled at explaining the mysteries of grammar and diagramming sentences. Virtually all students hate grammar and diagramming sentences.  But Sue would tell the students, "If I can do it, you can do it!" That logic apparently was persuasive.  Many students took it to heart, and really believed that they could learn it if Sue had learned it. And they did.   
 Tri-C friends  Veronon Hall at lower left.  

 Sue and her cousin; Nancy Lee and Stuart Anderson, 1980s. 

        Sue's simple advice was "Find out what you like to do, and do it for the rest of your life!"   By the same token, Cuyahoga Community College is known informally as Tri-C. Sue like to call it "Try and See."  Try college and see if there is something there you like.  When you stop to think about it, it is a mind blowing concept.   In Korea, going to college was about as difficult as making the Olympic team.  In America, the benefits of college were being extended to almost everyone with the capability and desire to learn.  Everyone can learn to see other points of view, and make friends with other people from other backgrounds. Everyone can think and even make decisions about who the leaders would be in America, rather than being ruled by an Emperor like in Japan.    
     In the mid 1970's, Sue really hit her stride, as she proposed that Cuyahoga Community College would be one of the first institutions of higher learning to teach a new subject, "English as a Second Language."   Prior to that time, foreign students were usually sent to remedial English classes.  But in reality learning a language as an adult is not the same as learning a first language as a child, and even very gifted scholars may struggle to catch up with a foreign language.  Sue also understood the homesickness and the culture shock that accompanies learning to live in a foreign country.   
      Foreign students presented special challenges because of their diverse backgrounds.  Early on, some of the students from paternalistic countries were uncomfortable being tutored by females and demanded male tutors instead.  Well, you can imagine that Sue was not very sympathetic with this blatant male chauvinism, culturally dependent or not.  "This is America.  Everyone gets a chance here," she responded simply, and that was it.   Perhaps that summed up her political philosophy.  One might suppose that this is overly simplistic, but Sue really believed it.  "This is America. Everyone gets a chance here."  With ESL, the students realized that they could earn that chance.     
     Needless to say this program became extremely successful.  It was then and is now the largest college credit ESL program in Ohio. For many students, Sue was not just a teacher, but the "American mom" to students from many diverse cultures. 
        Eventually she took a sabbatical and finally was able to return to her beloved Ewha University in Seoul, where she lectured Korean students for a semester in a variety of capacities.  She had been gone for more than 30 years, but they remembered who she was and welcomed her back.  At that time there were a series of political crises in Korea, and Sue acted as a  translator for CBS and BBC.
        Sue remarried  in 1983 to Vernon Hall, who was also an English professor, and he also wound up lecturing at Cuyahoga Community  College for a number of years.  Sue had met Vernon in Korea, and they were drawn together by their common love of English literature--and the Benny Hill show.  In reality Sue found it very difficult to understand English and American humor.  She summarized herself in this Yogi Berra-esque way, "Oh, I have no sense of humor. I'm just naturally funny."
       At about this time, Sue realized that there was an emerging need to study Japanese language at the college level.  This was especially true because Cuyahoga County is a major industrial manufacturing center, and many companies were interacting with their counterparts in Japan. Sue proposed that Tri-C offer a course in Japanese language.
      Japanese language instruction at Tri-C was immediately successful and Sue's courses were always filled, soon resulting in the hiring of other teachers to handle the demand.  
      Sue was never interested in making great sums of money, though avoiding poverty was very important.  What Sue liked most of all was to have great friends.  
    She had an amazing number of friends, staying in touch with her friends from Ewha, Her friends included Sung Hee Kang, who became a famous playwright, Sora Kim, a classical musician, Professor Young Kyoung Yoon, who taught music at Ewha and was also the niece of the Korean President.  Sue was not the only one that endured hardship to attend college.  One friend, Sookney Lee had to sneak across the border from North Korea and walked all the way to Ewha, and arrived at the college with her shoes soaked in blood.  Sookney eventually became the Dean at Ewha. 
      Sometimes her Ewha friends would come to visit and they would eat Korean food and reminisce about the old days and how poor they had been, and would laugh and laugh.  "I don't know why we laugh so much," Sue would say.  "It's certainly not funny to be poor. But now we remember how poor we were and we laugh our heads off!"
       Sue enjoyed many friendships at BW and Western Reserve with Margie Dwyer, Constance Weinstein and Nancy McArthur and many others.  She continued to participate in a book discussion group over 60 years, with Mr and Andy and Marilyn Sparks, Mel and Ruth Schochet and many others,  as well as Tri-C with Jo and Helmut Dehn, Ethel Laughlin, Dick Matthews, Jim Leonard, Cathy Honesty Pulliam, Shirley Campbell, Dana Synder, Oscar Crawford and many, many others.             
     She was also great friends with neighbors like Sue and Frank Nakamura, Jim and Nadja Johnson, Carl and Marge Norgren, Dick and Mary Ashbrook, Susan Depould and her son Jamie and his wife Anna, and many many others.  

     Sue eventually returned to the United Methodist Church of Berea, where she had first worshiped as a student in the 1940s.   Sue jokingly called herself a rice Christian. "I'm just here for the food," she would say.  Well, the Methodist Church is not a bad place for that.  She liked serving meals to students from Baldwin Wallace University, here at the church, and working with friends like Roy and Fran Seitz and many many others.  In particular she was very impressed with the influence that Roy, who years ago had been Elliot's baseball coach, had had in getting young men to try college and apply themselves.  Let's face it, youngsters, and especially the fellows tend to be mainly interested in sports, girls and parties, and it is only via a miracle of God that they become interested in college and Church and serving others. In that way, God uses baseball coaches as much as or more than academics.   
    Especially in the early days, she knew almost all of the Koreans and Japanese that lived in Greater Cleveland.   Lee Cerny was one of the first to settle to Berea, followed by Hilson Cho and many others.  
      Sue continued to teach at Tri-C into her 80s as Professor Emeritus, and finally moved to a retirement community in Beavercreek Ohio.  Her last years were mainly happy ones spent near her son Elliot and daughter in law Daphne, and their two children, Natasha and Brandon.  She was able to travel to Washington every year, as recently as Christmas 2015 to visit her daughter Nancy and son in law Stuart Anderson. She made many friends at the retirement community as well, including Helen Schweller who came to visit her every day at the hospital after Sue suffered a stroke. 
    Sue would not want people to remember her with sadness. Sue loved to be surrounded by interesting people, sharing conversation and good times.  

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Star Trek Beyond: Best of the Rebooted Series

    I went into Star Trek Beyond with very low expectations.  My beef has been that the franchise has put aside the vision of the future, trading it in for zero risk plots.   The Crew of the Enterprise represents the Cops, while the Klingons and Romulans represent the Robbers, led by a really evil leader.  Then the Cops and Robbers shoot at each other, and the Cops win.   Whoopee.  That has been the Star Trek plot for years.

    This movie is different.  The Enterprise encounters beings they have never met before, hearkening back to the original show when we didn't know the Klingons and Romulans so well, and weren't sure what they could do.   But the entire premise of Star Trek is to explore the unknown, so I was getting bored with the previous movies in which the same bad guys were seen over and over and over again.  In Star Trek Beyond, there are some new characters, and you can't be sure if they are good, evil or somewhere in between. That's the way it should be when you encounter a new world!
If you're going to seek out strange new worlds, then it's about time the Enterprise finds some.  Hurray!  So who are they, and what do they want? Are they peaceful?  Or not?

    In fact, this one is so unique, that I will definitely have to see it again.   There were some things I did not understand at first.  For example, I never did figure out what kind of threat is posed by the civilization the Enterprise encounters?  Do they need a secret weapon, or what?  Why weren't they already able to overrun the Federation decades ago?  But in any case, let's just say that the bad guys are much more interesting than previous villains, though still too one-dimensional at times.  If Kirk is not 100% the good guy at times, then the bad guys should not be bad 100% of the time either.  

Definitely some new people for the Enterprise to meet!

Plenty of special effects to please the kiddies.  

But more importantly, the chemistry has started to work between Kirk, McCoy and Spock.  Up to this time, Jeffrey Quinto's Spock has been cranky and middle aged, but in this movie I started to see some of the subtleties of Nimoy's character.  Spock's crush on Uhura, featured in one of the previews, still makes me groan, but at least now Spock is starting to depend on his relationship with McCoy and Kirk in order to develop something really great by working together. Similarly, McCoy is a crabby right wing throwback, but he started to win us over a little bit this time.  

Spock has started to realize that he needs McCoy and Kirk in order to be fulfilled.

No, Star Trek Beyond is not perfect.  They need to concentrate on making the bad guys believable, and creating better story lines, but this is definitely the best of the rebooted Star Trek so far.  

Sunday, July 17, 2016

She's Not Your Father's Wonder Woman

 Is there a "glass ceiling" above which female superheroes can not pass?   I think there is, and it's about time to smash through this ridiculous stereotype. 
    What I mean is there is a rule that females are not allowed to exceed the accomplishments of males.  This dates back to, for instance, the Bionic Woman, had almost exactly the same strength and ability as the 6 Million Dollar Man (2 bionic legs an one bionic arm, though Jamie Sommers had a bionic ear instead of a bionic eye like Colonel Steve Austin.
    In the comics and tv shows, Wonder Woman was never allowed to exceed the capabilities of Superman.   The same hold true for her most recent incarnation, brought to life (sort of) by the gorgeous Gal Gadot, who at least looks the pat.  
     With her sword, which she swings like a tennis racket, complete with a Serena-Williams'-style yell, she is almost as tough as middled aged, cranky Superman.  But far from being a woman's liberation icon, she merely extended stereotypes.   We're supposed to think, "Wow, she can play with the big boys" because she can whack Kryptonian monsters with her sword.  But she doesn't actually slice anyone to pieces with her sword, and really uses it like Superman uses his fists.    

Like the dull Oldsmobile campaigns that led to the demise of that fine automobile, the best you can say about Wonder Woman as we most recently met her in Batman vs Superman was that she was not nearly as boring as Superman. 

    Now, they've at least given her a more colorful costume.  That's a start.  

From Entertainment Weekly comes this preview of Wonder Woman with a new colorful (sort of) costume.  

    But think it would be way cooler to make Wonder Woman vastly more powerful than Superman, rather than "almost even" with Superman.  Let her punch like three times as hard as Superman, and make it obvious that Superman can not
    The business about the sword is stupid.  If you don't want her to slice up bad guys a la Wolverine, then she shouldn't be using the sword as a punching device. She doesn't have a sword in the comics anyway.  So either make her a vicious human meatcleaver, or else let her be the demigoddess power puncher.  She can be like Ivan Drago in the Rocky movies, the toughest power puncher in the DC universe.   
    Part of the allure of Wonder Woman is that she threatens male insecurity, and in particular Captain Steve Trevor. Hence, even Superheroes like Superman and Batman should literally be knocked on their butts by a Demigoddess.  
   Plus I think the magic lasso (which compels prisoners to confess the truth) could be a hoot.  Maybe she can catch a bad guy and ask him embarrassing questions, and the bad guy make have to make embarrassing revelations about why he acts so bad.  Or, maybe even get Clark Kent in the lasso and find out that he likes Wonder Woman more than Lois Lane.
    But no, up to this point, the whole thing has been about protecting the egos of Batman and Superman, while acknowledging that Wonder Woman is a useful ally, as long as she doesn't attempt to go beyond the "glass ceiling."
     We shall see what happens in the next movie.  I'm not optimistic, given the dismal record of DC movies.  But I think the last movie shook them up as they basically ruined a sure-fire way to print money.  Maybe they will be motivated to try a few new things this time.  We shall see, by Aphrodite.