05 November 2013

Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy: The Sexual Subtext of Batman: The Animated Series.

Gratuitous Comic Book Post. Fair warning.

 Image from Newageamazon.buzznet.com


Recently I have been watching Batman: The Animated Series with my son (who is obsessed with crime fighting super sleuths) and I noticed an obvious thing. This obvious thing I missed completely as a teenage boy when I first watched the show.

That thing I missed Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy were sometimes lovers. Some people may disagree, but I think I can go a little further, and suggest, with some confidence the dynamics of this relationship. Ivy was probably actually in love with Harley, but for Harley, the relationship was casual, or very nearly so. Ivy was an warm and inviting ego boost in between bouts of separations from her one true love (or obsession), The Joker. It may take me some time to build your agreement with this, but I think I can.  As I watch it now its all pretty obvious, more obvious than Bert and Ernie, but any adult watching would probably have picked up on the clues.

But let me build my case.

In the episode Harley and Ivy Harley Quinn, a one time psychiatrist whose obsession with understanding the Joker led to the most dangerous Stockholm Syndrome in comic book history, now the Joker's chief and most able enforcer gets thrown out. Booted, broken up with. A door opens and Harley is thrown ass over tea kettle on to the street, landing unceremoniously on her back side. However Joker might describe his feelings for Harley to himself, or, if asked, to others we may never know, but to the outsider looking in, abusive is the only word that adequately describes the relationship between he and Harley Quinn. The break-up is not different and characterized by verbal, and physical abuse, and intimidation. The break-up, of course, had nothing to do with her poor performance in the gang, but was rather the product of the Joker, feeling shown up by her in front his other henchmen. To her credit, when Harley leaves, she doesn't come back, though clearly love sick for Joker. Dialogue between Joker and his gang establishes this has been the typical pattern. Instead of repeating this pattern, she makes a vow, that she would show him, and be a better heister on her own than with he and his gang.

Enter Poison Ivy, idealistic eco-terrorist, but one with with bills to pay. Funding her kind of activism is not in any way cheap. Ivy and Quinn meet while robbing the same Museum, Ivy for rare plant toxins, and Quinn to nab a rare diamond. Quinn deftly defeats security systems and is about to secure the diamond, with a demonstration of skill that even Selina Kyle would admire the alarms are set off. Posion Ivy runs by, and nearly into the arms of the police before being pulled back to temporary safety by Harley. After brief introductions, Quinn manages to lead them out of the museum -demonstrating considerable ingenuity- with their swag, having given the GPD the slip. As they drive away we hear Ivy say, "This could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship."

She isn't wrong.

During a scene in which Ivy inoculates Quinn from the toxins that seem to permeate her hideout, Quinn wonders aloud why shots bother her so much after living with Mr J. 
"Why do you put up with that clown?'
Harley offers up the excuses, we might identify as typical of battered spouses. Ivy is having none of it. After pointing out Quinn's similarity to a doormat, Ivy, somewhat seductively gives Quinn a rose, and says, "From now on, we play with the boys on our terms." Their first act as a dynamic duo, is to rob a mens only club haunted by wealthy men.

They are an extremely successful pair. The papers run story after story of them lamenting the success of this daring pair. Months pass, and the first clues to a deeper than work relationship appear. Their kitchen fridge is plastered with their headlines for sure, but also with just pictures of the two of them. When we see them after their crime montage of success, they are both wearing only shirts, and Ivy has prepped dinner. She has presented her favorite beverage, not wine, but in wine glasses. This is clearly not breakfast, why are only in t-shirts? Why would Ivy make them both of them dinner in that ensemble? Why does Ivy look so hurt when the colors of the dinner remind Quinn of the ill tempered Mr J? And why is Harley wearing Poison Ivy's shirt? There is also only one bed in their apartment. As this episode approaches its climax, the pair manages to defeat the Batman, and the Joker (fed up with their press and success, he has traced them to their hideout and tries to steal their loot, and kill Ivy in the bargain). As this nefarious duo speed away from the two men in their lives (Batman and Joker are fighting it out at their safehouse) Ivy makes the declaration, "No man can take us prisoner!" Almost immediately afterward one of their tires is shot out. They are caught, by Renee Montoya, who in the comic book was the only firmly established lesbian in DC. In Batman: the Animated Series Montoya is a beat cop with little backstory. I've come to think that was a little fan service to underscore what writers were trying to imply about Harley and Ivy. At the end of their first episode together the two are in a garden working at Arkham (Gotham's porous home for the criminally insane), Harley says of Joker, "I think we can still work it out." Ivy hurls soil into Harley's face. This behavior is certainly not at odds with a lover who wants to be more to the person they love.

These clues repeat throughout the series. Whenever they are alone, and not in crime mode, they are always depicted together in t-shirts, at least one shot in the scene shows a messed up bed, and messed up hair. Ivy always asking probing Harley to be free of the Joker for good.

This show was early to mid-ninties, Ellen hadn't yet come out, we hadn't even gotten the beautiful Bound, or Chasing Amy. I think you could still find usage by good guys of the word fag, or faggot in popular entertainment. That word now, if it appears at all in popular fiction, is as sure a marker of a villain as a Nazi attire. Positive depictions of homosexual couples were not common in mainstream adult shows at this time and yet here in the often subversive universe of Batman, we have a bit more than hints about Harley and Ivy. It may be reaching to say that they were a positive depiction of a non-hetero couple, but I don't think I am reaching when I say that there is clearly something romantic going on between the two. And Ivy was certainly good for Harley. Together they made an incredible team.

Did the show, ostensibly for kids but consumed by fans from 8 to 80, break any new ground? Did it increase empathy and sympathy for the GLBTQ community? If so, I would guess only a little. But it is nice to see that they introduced their attraction in a positive way, even if their relationship is uneven in its affections. They are honest with one another, and betrayal is something they leave to the men of Gotham's underworld.

ADDENDUM: 
While googling for a picture to go with this post, I noticed I am not the first person to think these kind of thoughts about Harley and Ivy (something I had already guessed). It is a popular theme in fan fic about the characters. Google it. Some of it is decent, some of it is just racy.

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23 October 2013

Girl Scouts, their yummy cookies, and Satan's Loyal Communists (who just happen to be single women).

Fundamentalist Christians are masters of making themselves look ridiculous in the face of innocuous popular culture. Its hard to guess what will trigger their foam flecked rantings the most dramatically. In recent years though, two items in particular seem to be in competition for the top spot. At the moment the top spot for ire earner probably goes to equality for GLBTQ folks. At present nothing will set a fundamentalist off a'ranting about moral decay and invitation to divine judgement quicker than suggesting that equality ought to be extended to the GLBTQ community with the God granted and defined borders of these Blessed United States. As John Hagee, insane pastor to many a conservative politician, has said.  Homosexuality is an abomination unto God. Haggee will be only too happy to tell you that it is in the bible. He will neglect to tell you that the abomination passages are not far from passages that teach that bats are birds, and that rabbits are ruminants. Neither of which is true.

All that said, when the Girl Scouts of America are selling their delicious, though apparently Satan filled, cookies, fundamentalists spend a lot of time bashing them too. The main reasons are probably too obvious to need mentioning but I will mention them anyway.

Well, first let me point out a very important fact. Fundamentalist Christians don't actually know much about the GSA. Though they do like to imagine a lot of lesbianism, for reasons about which I dare not speculate. This is similar to when they worry, sometimes in great detail, about what will happen if they let gay scouts or gay scout masters into the BSA.

Lets hear from directly from the GSA about what they are about:

Girl Scouting builds girls of courage, confidence, and character, who make the world a better place.

That isn't a bad mission statement. You will note nothing about communism, or about becoming lesbians. I mean it doesn't even mention Marx, or the movie Bound. I admit that doesn't constitute slam dunk evidence that the GSA isn't promoting either communism or homosexuality, but you have to read really hard, and imaginatively, and without evidence between the lines to derive that conclusion. The most you can say, is that the GSA doesn't care if you are a communist, or a homosexual lesbian. No doubt that will be vastly too progressive for some in the religious right. 

Empowering Girls? Incredible, but that seems to be what they are doing. Here is the proof.

In Girl Scouts, girls discover the fun, friendship, and power of girls together. Through a myriad of enriching experiences, such as extraordinary field trips, sports skill-building clinics, community service projects, cultural exchanges, and environmental stewardships, girls grow courageous and strong. Girl Scouting helps girls develop their full individual potential; relate to others with increasing understanding, skill, and respect; develop values to guide their actions and provide the foundation for sound decision-making; and contribute to the improvement of society through their abilities, leadership skills, and cooperation with others.

Its difficult not to jump to the conclusion LIBERAL AGENDA when you see words like myriad, enriching, and environmental so I can certainly see the Religious Right's point here. Actually I can't. But I can see why they might fear educated, broadly educated, gregarious, and enlightened women. They don't understand such women, and as The Roman once told Bruce Wayne, "You always fear what you don't understand." 

When you look at their program its hard not to be impressed with its scope and ambition. The laudable aim of the GSA is to provide a robust journey of enlightenment, engagement with a broader world, and the development of the social skills to be an active participant in that world. However, its focus on building self-esteem, environmental and global awareness among the young and impressionable XX crowd is not universally embraced. 

Kevin Swanson, pastor and host of the awful show Generations will inveigh against the GSA (inaccurately of course) at the merest provocation. According to Swanson, the GSA is "antithetical to the biblical vision of womanhood." The GSA is an arm of feminism, that encourages a problematic female individualism. 

Jan Crouse of the completely objective Berverely Lahaye Institute (part of odious Concerned Women for America) suspects that Christian friction with GSA stems largely from its affiliation with Planned Parenthood, and the fact that the GSA speaks frankly to its members about sex. Jan's big beef with the GSA is that it promotes safe sex. Which Jan then suggests leads to sexual exploration,  as if teenagers of any era have needed any help with this desire. And without any evidence she suggests that this attitude leads to "...the sexualization of our culture."

Kathryn Jean Lopez had this to say: "The Girl Scouts' leaders hope to make their youthful charges the shock troops of an ongoing feminist revolution."  

The Family Research Council, a Fundamentalist Christian organization whose primary mode of research is reading the bible, and cherry picking through the scientific literature, has been attacking the GSA for years. It contributes, they charge, to sexual immorality, and feminism. This is apparently a forbidding combination. 

I could go on pulling quotes out for your entertainment but that would be pointless. The truth is the GSA is a very moderate organization that is doing very good work, and has been teaching young women valuable things, about themselves, and about their -active, non-submissive- place in a larger world for a long time. If you think they are some radical organization dedicated to the mission of destroying traditional American values then you live in a ridiculous comic book world. 

Buy their damn cookies. Or, failing that, stop telling lies to get other people to not buy girl scout cookies  I think it is fairly obvious that Jesus would like a Girl Scout Cookie. 

31 August 2013

A brunch Review: Wonder Woman: Issues 0-23

Wonder Woman
Writer:  Brian Azzerrello
Pencils: Cliff Chiang
Color: Wilson Matthew (among others)
Created by: Moulton Marston (waaaay back in the day)

Amazons through a Vertigo filter


[There are a few spoilers ahead, but seriously not so much that you won't enjoy the book]

Wonder Woman has been an iconic fixture at DC comics for decades. She has been, in various iterations, a warrior princess, an ambassador, a simple superhero of Amazonian origin. She is probably the second most powerful person in the DC universe, which is to say, there is Superman, and then there is the Amazon (arguments could probably be made for Martian Manhunter, Darkseid, or Doomsday being number two). She is part of what everyone calls -fans, writers and editors alike- the DC Trinity. That is to say, she is part of the crew of DC superheroes around which the rest often coalesce. Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman are DC's big three. Sadly with the exception of Batman, two of these three are probably also the hardest DC characters to write. Of the two, Superman and Wonder Woman, its probably the WW whose book has most often been on life support. Judging by the fact that she has no character defining stories I have to suspect she is the more difficult character to write (by character defining stories I mean stories that all the fans look to and say this story defined the direction of the character for years, stories all the fans know). That isn't to say there haven't been good runs on Wonder Woman. There certainly have been. But Wonder Woman, the noble, just and deserving Princess Diana, hasn't had her Days of Future Present, or her Year One. She hasn't had it that is, until now.

For those of you who don't know Princess Diana's origin, here it is in a nutshell. Her mother, the queen of the Amazons, Hippolyta had a beautiful baby girl. This girl, Diana, did not have a father. Hippolyta said she fashioned her daughter out of the clays of Themyscira and her love and need for a child brought the girl to life. Praise Hera, patron of Amazons rah rah.

Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang et al, as part of the DC's reboot, looked at this origin and realized that it smelled a bit fishy. And being mischievous, they decided to turn all of it on it ear. Hippolyta had, for very good and sound reasons, told a very massive lie. Hippolyta had fallen for one of Olympus' more well known scoundrels, become with child and she and her inner circle had attempted a cover-up. We can see why she might opt for a cover up given that the scoundrel was, of course, Zeus. Hera has never taken this kind of thing well, nor has she ever really taken it up with Zeus, but rather taken it out on the mothers and many children of Zeus. Amazons know this better than most, Hera being their patron.

Secrets, as any adventure story will explain to you, are hard to keep, and it is only a matter of time before this one, a doozy to be sure, comes out. We meet Diana just before her outing as a demigod. She is eighteen maybe, and while she loves Themyscira and her rich Amazonian culture she also doesn't feel like she fits in. This is because she doesn't. She is stronger, faster, and better than any other Amazon who has ever been. She is kind, but resents that most of her peers call her "Clay." The revelation of her true origin comes out early in the series and Diana, feeling her life one of lies, decides that the unknown world (the Amazons live in isolation from the World of Men) is preferable to the lie.  It is at this point her adventures and troubles truly begin. Once the secret of who her father is comes out, it is well and truly out, and every scheming Olympus is in on the cruel joke.

The series has been incredibly inventive, especially in its character design. These characters seem fresh and accessible in a way  Wonder Woman's Greek Pantheon just hasn't been prior to Azzerello and Chiang's run. Wonder Woman's greek gods seem like us and not like us in odd, and sometimes unsettling ways. There are no togas here. Ares is an old man, bored out of his mind and possessed of nothing but contempt for his fellow immortals. He walks bare foot and his eyes are deep pools of black that reveal nothing except maybe his weariness. His sleeves and the cuffs of his pants are soaked always with blood and we get the sense that he would like to burn Olympus down.  Strife, takes great pleasure in her cousin Diana's company, and in spoiling her optimism and sowing, casually and with out apparent effort, discord where ever she goes. When we first meet this godly cast, they are sitting around a pool, Apollo wearing board shorts. There are other things I could say about this cast of deities but there should be some surprises. If you know your Greek mythology, you will already know that they don't all like working together however they look.

There are stark contrasts here to be sure. Diana has lived like an Amazon for most of her life (like the ones that gave Theseus and Nestor so much trouble). Her self imposed exile has forced her to confront a world that has moved on from the times in which the Amazons went into their timeless hiding. Azzerello and his team manage this pretty subtly and don't go for the easy gags. There is a wide cast (the rest of Zeus' brood) and a big adventure whose thread runs through nearly all of these twenty three issues.

I do hope I have made it entirely clear, dear reader, that there is plenty of action and adventure waiting for you in the first twenty three issues of Wonder Woman. Cliff Chiang has dynamic and delightfully quirky pencils that breath a strange life in to his drawings and these characters.  But that is only part of why this book works and has worked for nearly two years. Wonder Woman defies the gritty, darkness that has come to define most comic book stories for the last twenty five years. Wonder Woman's issues don't always end on an up-beat note (serials gotta have a cliff hanger sometimes), but she does manage to be optimistic in spite of her troubles.  This optimism has emerged very organically and has never seemed strained. That is to say, I think Azzerello understands Wonder Woman and this tendency of hers has just come out in the writing.

My advice, stop by your local comic book store and pick up Wonder Woman by Brian Azzerello and Cliff Chiang in the trades. Ask the nerd at the desk for help if you are going into a store for the first time. They will know what to do.

Formally leaving the Catholic Church Part 2: What?

This was a short project.
I sent an email to the local Bishop. He informed me that there really was no way to route out of the Church of Cathol. He further claimed that if one didn't belong to a local parish though that they were not calculated into any estimates of Catholic numbers. I do find this last bit hard to believe as it is well known that Catholic church attendance is declining and strong sense of Catholic identity is lower than it has been in years, and yet the Catholic claim of a billion hasn't changed in some time. I'm also doubtful because in the response to me it is claimed that since I've only been to mass once or twice as an adult it is, "...highly unlikely that you are on a Catholic roll anywhere." I'm dubious of this for a simple reason, I know that my parents haven't been to mass for at least a decade, and I saw their names on a the St. Mary's directory just this year. Now that may have something to do with my parents but I somehow doubt it.

But here is the response, in full, from Msgr. Andrew Dubois.

Dear Mr. Driffill,

Although I do not know you or your reasons for your request, it is with great regret that I received your email.  That said, I do respond to offer a few items for your consideration:
·         First, an invitation to talk with someone in the Church so as to have the opportunity to discuss questions and concerns you have led you to this decision, if that would be helpful to you.  Depending upon where you live, I could help you make a connection with a representative of the Church should you desire to discuss that matter.
·          Second, it is my understanding that there is no official process for you to "renounce your Catholicism", except in that you yourself choose not to be registered in a parish.  Reports that summarize the number of Catholics are compiled in various ways, but most often from parish census records.  If you are not registered in a parish, then you are not be "counted".  In fact, you indicate that you have only been to Mass once or twice as an adult; therefore, it is highly unlikely that you are on a Catholic roll anywhere.
·         Third, because of our belief that the sacrament of Baptism permanently changes a person at the core of their being, uniting them to Christ in a unique way, a baptism cannot be undone.  Once a person is validly baptized, regardless of their denomination or ecclesial affiliation, that person remains a Christian.  Again, whether that person, like yourself, chooses to identify themselves with (or not), and participate in (or not), a particular church (i.e., Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant, etc.) is entirely up to them.

Please let me know if I can be of further assistance.
God's abundant blessings upon you.
Msgr. Andrew Dubois
Moderator of the Curia

I don't know how likely I am to pursue this further, because this organization is horrendously tedious. But if I do, I will post the experience on the blog. 




01 August 2013

Formally Leaving the Catholic Church

Cutting all ties to the Roman Catholic Church.

I'm embarking on a quest. Scientologists would call it routing out, and I suppose that term is useful here in the Catholic context too. I am formally renouncing the Catholic Church. You may be thinking to yourself, Max, you haven't been in Roman Catholic Church in at least twenty years, you are an atheist, and so, as a right cross follows a jab, you are not a Roman Catholic now.

Too right, constant reader, too right. However, and crucially, the Roman Catholic Church still counts me as one of their flock, and not just privately. I form one unit of Catholicism, according to them, in the numbers apologists like to throw around when they are being talking heads attempting to influence public opinion. The main way in which such numbers are used as an apologetics tool is to justify the plea for respecting the opinions, and doctrines of their institution. It is alleged by the Church that nearly a billion people are Catholic. I'm not sure how valid those numbers are (though I suspect they are inflated) but I certainly don't want to be used to artificially given them a bump of even one.

Its strange that, given my more than thirty year absence, from the Church that they would continue to use me in the tabulation of their numbers. For years I thought that since I had stopped going, they would stop counting me as a member of their congregations. In the grand history of immorality that is the Roman Catholic Church this is most likely at tiny deception. No matter,  knowing this is how they do things I feel I must see myself removed from their rolls. If you have let your Catholic faith go, no longer attend, and plan never to attend again, I would urge you to consider this course of action. Its such an immoral organization why let your name even be minutely associated with it?

Anyway, for how ever long this process takes I will keep Brunch readers updated. I've sent my first email inquiry today, and hope to hear back from someone with a funny collar, or crazy hat soon.

10 July 2013

A Brunch Book Review: Joyland by Stephen King


A Brunch Book Review:
Joyland
By Stephen King
Hard Case Crime

Joyland is not Stephen King’s first novel with Hard Case Crime (which I am sure is an imprint of some larger publishing house, but which I cannot be bothered to look up) but it should probably be his last. The problem isn’t that it’s a bad novel. It isn’t, in fact, its great, but more about that in a minute. The problem is that it does not fit with the mission of Hard Case Crime. Oh there is a grisly murder at the heart of the book, and there is mystery, and there are thrills. But there isn’t anything hard-boiled, or noir-ish about any of it. Nothing at all that justifies the nice pulpy art work on the cover. Joyland is really vintage King, at his insightful, sympathetic slightly melancholy best.  This is the only problem I have with the book really. Hard Case Crime isn’t about subtle work like King’s. When I see Hard Case Crime on a book cover, I know, or should know, a little bit about what it is I am in for. What I am in for should be an exploration of a slightly pulpy literary tradition, the hard-boiled crime story. I don’t expect Doc Savage, or The Shadow necessarily, but I at least want to see hard and desperate, but also clever and ruthless, and I will take witty too people trying to make it through a bad situation or two. A little more Dashiell Hammett, and Raymond Chandler if you please. Hard Case Crime offers a genre, and generally well done, and when I buy an HCC, that is the ride I want. Stephen King, in this respect anyway, has let me down twice now in this way. His other outing, The Colorado Kid, was also good, but again doesn’t fit well with the line.

All those complaints are largely unimportant if you are not a fan of Hard Case Crime and its mission. Joyland is first and foremost a book, and a very good book at that. It tells the story of Devin Jones and his occasionally magical occasionally scary year of 1973.  Devin, now an old man in 2013 tells us the tale himself. He is a pleasant enough narrarator. That summer he was between years at college, and working class kid that he was needed to work for the summer. The job search led him to a small South Carolina amusement park, Joyland. Not a big place, not even Six Flaggs or King’s Island, and certainly nothing so large as a Disney. Joyland isn’t even big enough to be called a theme park. Its rides are a disorganized mash. One step of from a traveling carnival really. Indeed the whole place has carny roots, is run by carnies, is in fact owned by a long time, and now ancient, carny.

Joyland, of course, has secrets. The place may be haunted. There was a grizzly murder, you see, four years earlier. A young woman met a sticky end in the park’s resident horror themed ride. I won’t be spoiling anything if I tell you that Devin and several of his friends end up in one fashion or another getting wrapped up in this murder mystery/possible haunting. But I would probably be spoiling things to say much more. And so, I won’t.

What I can talk about is the craft of the book. Stephen King has been writing a long time, and he is in no real hurry. There are exquisitely touching vignettes in Joyland that a less established writer, and may be a lesser writer might have excised for fear of losing tension and sacrificing pace. Not King. He understands his story and its needs. And that is a good thing. Because while this is not the fastest paced murder mystery/ghost story I’ve ever read, it may be the most the most insightful and touching.  The book is also, everywhere, textured with the life and language of the carny, of lives spent selling, sometimes at cost, and sometimes with a considerable mark-up, fun.

I’m all down for a scare and a dramatic climax but King tends to offer the reader a little bit more than this. His books have often been described as Norman Rockwell but with monsters, celebrations of an almost mythic America. I used to think this was fair. Now I think this both unfair and untrue. King is the more honest artist even though is his work is the more fantastical. The reason for this is because he writes the people, and the lives people live a bit more honestly than Rockwell, with his brushes ever did.

King invests Devin, an old man looking back with a refreshing honesty. There is no bluster, and some considerable doubt about the very things he is trying to tell us, the readers.

“When we talk about the past, we’re always writing fiction.”



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25 May 2013

A Brunch Review: Star Trek: Into Darkness

Star Trek: Into Darkness

Directed by JJ Abrams

Starring 
Chris Pine...Kirk
Zoe Zaldana...Uhura
Zachary Quinto...Spock
Karl Urban...Bones
Simon Pegg.... Scotty
John Cho...Sulu
Benedict Cumberbacht...Khan

Only the second installment in JJ Abrams' Star Trek reboot and this cast and crew already feel a bit like home. The actors seem relaxed in their roles, the pressure of filling shoes now completely off. Abrams has brought together a group with a lot of chemistry, that can convey a great deal of character at a break-neck (almost Marvel-esque) story telling pace. 

Beyond that, I am not sure what more I can say about the film. Abrams' Trek films are not overly deep. As fast paced as they are, that would be difficult. They are beautiful to look at (I like the lens flare).  They are fun.  They are filled with utterly likable, even  interesting characters (even the villains are people you want more of) engaged in daring do. There are fast ships, running from danger, running into danger,  fascinating (looking) alien worlds. Things blow up. Oh and did I mention that those ships are gorgeous? The story, thin though it is, sufficiently supports the attendant action and implied espionage. There will be some people who demand more than a popcorn movie of their Trek films.  Not me. I don't mind a popcorn film. 

I suppose I could say that Abrams brings an ensemble approach to Trek that I feel has been particularly lacking in other big screen Trek outings. A TV series has time to flesh out its cast, to explore different characters, strange new worlds you could say, that movies often don't have.  Abrams tries to give his cast a lot more to do. Uhura is no longer just relegated to repeating the stuff we just read in the sub-titles to the Captain and Spock.  Scotty and Sulu save the day more than once. That isn't to say that the holy trinity of Kirk, Spock and Bones is diminished. It isn't.  Abrams and his writers just have more for the other characters to do. 

If I have complaints, and I suppose I do, they are these.
1. Khan probably isn't sufficiently explored.  Benedict Cumberbacht, the actor, is easily a match for the suave Ricardo Montalban (though perhaps not in the pecs department-see below).  He is more athletic  to be sure. But his Khan definitely feels a bit more hollow. Sure he has the better fight scenes and the bigger budget but its hard to really feel his anger and resentment. Montalban just oozed rage. Controlled to be sure, hemmed in by a fiery intellect, but, clearly, the man had issues. It seems like Abrams and his screenwriters might have found some of Khan's history fertile narrative ground and given a great actor more to do than spout heavy sounding one-liners. Alas, no. Khan is a cerebral guy, he shouldn't just chew through the scenery. Minus one point.
2. [Spoilers] There is a silly, stupid argument between Uhura, Spock and Kirk the subject of which is the relationship woes of Spock and Uhura. Uhura is annoyed because of Spock's seeming willingness to sacrifice himself for rules and ideals with an almost mathematical coldness, as if the people he will leave behind aren't even a variable in his emotional calculus. She may have a good point. Its not that this scene didn't have a place in the movie, its just that these characters are all too bright, and professional to have that argument at the absolute worst possible moment in the history of ever. Seriously.  Minus one point.

If you like Star Trek go see this movie. 8/10 (or, if you prefer, a fairly enthusiastic thumbs up).

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10 April 2013

Dragonflies in the New York Times science section.

Natalie Angier has a piece on dragonfly biology in the New York Times science section. Dragonflies, Nature's Deadly Drone, but Prettier, is worth a read. Well, what are you standing around here for? Click on the linky thing.