Author: Edwin Roman

A New York based artist shares his thoughts on art, culture, food and politics.

Wonder Woman, The Movie

If you loved Superman, The Movie (1978), then you are going to love Wonder Woman.

Wonder Woman focuses on the horrors of war, the value of friendship and comic book heroism. The film tells Wonder Woman’s story before she was Wonder Woman — when she was Diana, Amazonian princess and warrior in training. One day, after a fierce training session, a handsome pilot named Steve Trevor crashes off the shores of her hidden homeland of Themyscira and tells of a conflict in the outside world.  Diana leaves to fight a “war to end all wars” (then known as The Great War or to us, World War I), discovering her full powers and ultimately her destiny.

Like the film that launched the superhero blockbuster nearly forty years ago, Wonder Woman sets a new standard, most notably with regards to how timely it is. When Wonder Woman is challenged with propaganda about war, her eyes see the truth in the faces of the wounded soldiers and civilian casualties. She’s horrified by the generals who simply stand back with no consideration for the loss of life. Echoes of Syria can be felt in this film where helping people in need should be placed above religion, race or politics—something Wonder Woman conveys several times in the film. The humanity this fictional character demonstrates stands in complete contrast to the draft dodging, xenophobic “reality” show tangerine Mussolini currently in the White House. As Arris Quinones of Variant Comics noted, “…it is just really an inspiring movie. It actually made me want to go out and do good in the world.” Not surprisingly, the snowflakes at Fox “News” and the New York Post belly-ached at how Wonder Woman’s costume no longer looked “patriotic.” It should be noted that the costume still has many of the recognizable symbols, but largely draws inspiration from the mythical armor that the Amazons have been wearing for centuries (which, like democracy, has roots in Greco-Roman culture). Wonder Woman’s lasso of truth is a breath of fresh air in this time of alternative facts and fake news.

Director Patty Jenkins does a remarkable job bringing the world of Wonder Woman to life. Most notable is the depiction of the Amazons: it was truly page to screen! If you look closely, some of the Amazons were wearing elements seen in different versions of Wonder Woman’s costume.

 

Gal Gadot, as I noted last year in my review for Batman v. Superman, is nothing short of wonderful. The supporting characters all stand out with kudos to Chris Pine’s portrayal of Steve Trevor. I am looking forward to seeing the Amazons in action in the forthcoming Justice League film.

Wonder Woman should have been made a long time ago, but this film is one that was worth waiting for. It is truly worth seeing, not only because it was directed by a woman and stars a woman, but because it is the best superhero film DC has produced since the Dark Knight trilogy. Like Superman, The Movie and the Dark Knight films, this one will age really well and become a metric for superhero films.

Wonder Woman, 2017.

Directed by Patty Jenkins.

Starring Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Connie Nielsen, Robin Wright, David Thewlis, Danny Huston, Elena Anaya, Ewan Bremner, Lucy Davis, Eugene Brave Rock, Emily Carey, Lilly Aspell, and Saïd Taghmaoui.

RECOMMENDED VIDEOS

The History of Wonder Woman

 

Wonder Woman’s Strongest Moments

 

The Origin of Ares

 

READING RECOMMENDATIONS

 

DC has a miniseries about the Amazons, years before the birth of Diana (Wonder Woman), titled The Odyssey of the Amazons. It is the story of a group of Amazons who are traveling the ancient world to find others like them, encountering legendary creatures and beings along the way. An excellent companion would be Wonder Woman Rebirth #8. It is a year one interlude where a young Barbara Ann Minerva (before she was Cheetah and before Wonder Woman arrives) is on an exhibition to prove that the Amazons did indeed exist (an excellent story).

 

What I wore to see the film.

What I wore to see the film.

The Soldiers You Never Learned About in School

Seven years ago, the Texas Board of Education approved a social studies curriculum that fosters inflexible and close minded conservative political viewpoints. Five years later, the New York Times published a story of a Texas high school student and his mother calling attention to a line in a textbook that described the Atlantic slave trade as bringing “millions of workers” to plantations in the South. Millions of workers? Not Slaves?

Regarding school textbooks, what happens in Texas unfortunately doesn’t stay in Texas. Because they are so big, the state is very influential as a market and publishers tend to angle books toward whatever they want (including matters of science). Reading about Texas got me to thinking about the things I didn’t learn in school. While I thankfully had quite a few progressive teachers (in the sixth grade, one noted how African Americans and Puerto Ricans were put on the front lines during the Vietnam conflict), I also had those who still conveyed imperialistic, manifest destiny points of view (in the eighth grade one described Native Americans as awed by Europeans because “their hair was the color of gold.”) Noteworthy people of color were generally not part of my education growing up.

Media literacy has been on my mind a lot lately, most notably with regards to how minority groups are portrayed. The negative images are ubiquitous and have mythic power. You don’t need much education to comprehend an image. Visibility fosters understanding and unity. Writing this on the eve of Memorial Day 2017, I got to thinking about soldiers of color. If military service to the country is a metric for outstanding citizenship, and seen as a noteworthy contribution, then why didn’t I learn about soldiers of color growing up? Their contributions were significant. I would like to honor three groups of soldiers of color whose histories may be even further buried by the direction this country is going.

The Borinqueneers

The 65th Infantry Regiment, also known as the Borinqueneers, was created in 1899 by Congress as a segregated unit composed of Puerto Ricans. The regiment served in the two World Wars as well as the Korean Conflict. The unit was named after the word given to Puerto Rico by its native Tainos that means, “land of the brave lord.” When the Borinqueneers were sent to the front lines in Korea, the men of the 65th performed exceptionally, earning praise from General MacArthur.

The 65th Infantry Regiment were awarded with a United States Congressional Gold Medal in June 2014, 60 years later, after a passionate two-years of activism by a nationwide alliance of volunteers, organizations and lawmakers in Congress. Puerto Ricans inhabit an exacting place in U.S. history because of the island’s commonwealth status: they don’t have the right to vote in U.S. elections, but serve in the military and can be drafted (Puerto Ricans can vote if they live in the United States).

The Windtalkers

Despite gaining the rights to citizenship and voting in 1924 from the federal government, Native Americans in some states could not vote until 1962, in spite of the esteemed contributions made by the Navajo during World War II.

Following the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, Japan dominated in the Pacific. Many Japanese soldiers were fluent in English and regularly decoded military messages. The U.S. needed an unbreakable code. In February of 1942, Philip Johnston, an engineer and veteran of World War I, had an idea: What if the military forces were to use the Navajo language as a secret code? Johnston was familiar with the language because he was the son of missionaries who spent a good portion of his life interacting with the Navajo people, and was one of a few non-Navajos who could speak the complicated language.

The Navajo code talker (Windtalkers) program was classified and remained a national secret until 1968. An estimated 375 to 420 Navajos served as Windtalkers. Returning home with no fanfare and sworn to secrecy, the Navajo Windtalkers are finally being acknowledged in mainstream American history. The “Honoring the Code Talkers Act,” introduced by Senator Jeff Bingaman from New Mexico in April 2000, and signed into law December 21, 2000, called for the recognition of the Navajo code talkers. During a ceremony at the U.S. Capitol on July 26, 2001, the first 29 soldiers received the Congressional Gold Medal.

The Tuskegee Airmen

The Tuskegee airmen were the first African American servicemen to operate as military aviators in the U.S. armed forces, flying with distinction during World War II. Even though they were subject to racism in the U.S. and abroad, the 996 pilots and more than 15,000 ground personnel who served with the all-Black units would be credited with some 15,500 combat maneuvers and earn over 150 Distinguished Flying Crosses for their achievements. The publicized successes of the Tuskegee Airmen helped pave the way for the eventual integration of the U.S. armed forces under President Harry Truman in 1948.

After the war, the G.I. Bill was designed to help veterans adjust to civilian life by providing them with benefits that included low-cost mortgages and low-interest loans. African Americans did not benefit from the G.I. Bill anywhere near as much as White Americans. Historian Ira Katznelson notes that “the law was deliberately designed to accommodate Jim Crow.” Of the first 67,000 mortgages insured by the G.I. Bill, fewer than 100 were granted to people of color.

One of the great honors of my life was meeting Dr. Roscoe Brown, former Tuskegee Airman and former president of Bronx Community College, where I have worked for the last fourteen years. He was the squadron commander of the 100th Fighter Squadron of the 332nd Fighter Group and flew 68 missions and would eventually be awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. Dr. Brown often noted that the Airmen’s activism after the war was as important as their wartime service—having risked their lives abroad, the Airmen were determined to make the U.S. a more equitable place. Unfortunately, not only are we still working on that, we seem to be taking large strides backward.

“Nobody sees a flower - really - it is so small it takes time - we haven't time - and to see takes time, like to have a friend takes time.” ― Georgia O'Keeffe

The Earth Laughs in Flowers: A Photo Essay from a Visit to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden

Flowers. Seeing them is uplifting. Even when you see them here and there in densely packed urban areas, they still manage to uplift. Now imagine seeing flowers in an urban oasis in great variety and color. This blog entry is devoted to a recent visit to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden with my Mother. It is one of her favorite places in New York City and I always try to bring her here when she visits from Puerto Rico. I wanted to complement my photographs with some favorite quotes on flowers. Enjoy the virtual oasis. And remember what Ralph Waldo Emerson once noted, “The earth laughs in flowers.”

“I must have flowers, always, and always.” ― Claude Monet

“I must have flowers, always, and always.” ― Claude Monet

“Where flowers bloom so does hope.” ― Lady Bird Johnson

“Where flowers bloom so does hope.” ― Lady Bird Johnson

“Collaboration has no hierarchy. The Sun collaborates with soil to bring flowers on the earth.” ― Amit Ray

“Collaboration has no hierarchy. The Sun collaborates with soil to bring flowers on the earth.” ― Amit Ray

“He who does not know how to appreciate flowers will not be able to see the beauty of life” ― Debasish Mridha

“He who does not know how to appreciate flowers will not be able to see the beauty of life” ― Debasish Mridha

“Dreams are the flowers of imagination which bloom on the fertile grounds of the mind.” ― Debasish Mridha

“Dreams are the flowers of imagination which bloom on the fertile grounds of the mind.” ― Debasish Mridha

“If you are a kind and a peaceful person, you will see yourself when you look at an elegant flower!” ― Mehmet Murat ildan

“If you are a kind and a peaceful person, you will see yourself when you look at an elegant flower!” ― Mehmet Murat ildan

botanical bridge

“Man is hypocrite! He says that he loves flowers but he kills them for his own simple interests and for his own joy! Man is hypocrite!” ― Mehmet Murat ildan

“Man is hypocrite! He says that he loves flowers but he kills them for his own simple interests and for his own joy! Man is hypocrite!” ― Mehmet Murat ildan

“Amongst the flowers you always feel yourself you are endlessly far away from all the dangers!” ― Mehmet Murat ildan

“Amongst the flowers you always feel yourself you are endlessly far away from all the dangers!” ― Mehmet Murat ildan

“Come, see real flowers of this painful world” ― Bashō Matsuo

“Come, see real flowers of this painful world” ― Bashō Matsuo

“Nature suffers the most but never complains. Flowers never forget to bloom and beautify the world.” ― Debasish Mridha

“Nature suffers the most but never complains. Flowers never forget to bloom and beautify the world.” ― Debasish Mridha

“Flowers are the beautiful hairs of the Mother Spring! Don’t pluck them!” ― Mehmet Murat ildan

“Flowers are the beautiful hairs of the Mother Spring! Don’t pluck them!” ― Mehmet Murat ildan

“Nobody sees a flower - really - it is so small it takes time - we haven't time - and to see takes time, like to have a friend takes time.” ― Georgia O'Keeffe

“Nobody sees a flower – really – it is so small it takes time – we haven’t time – and to see takes time, like to have a friend takes time.” ― Georgia O’Keeffe

“A flower blossoms for its own joy.” ― Oscar Wilde

“A flower blossoms for its own joy.” ― Oscar Wilde

“Amongst the flowers you always feel yourself you are endlessly far away from all the dangers!” ― Mehmet Murat ildan

“Amongst the flowers you always feel yourself you are endlessly far away from all the dangers!” ― Mehmet Murat ildan

“Little flowers get more attention than the big mountains simply because they emit love around themselves!” ― Mehmet Murat ildan

“Little flowers get more attention than the big mountains simply because they emit love around themselves!” ― Mehmet Murat ildan

“No flower is happy in a vase, because vase is nothing but an ornate coffin for the flower.” ― Mehmet Murat ildan

“No flower is happy in a vase, because vase is nothing but an ornate coffin for the flower.” ― Mehmet Murat ildan

“When you love nature, it always loves you back with the fragrance of flowers.” ― Debasish Mridha

“When you love nature, it always loves you back with the fragrance of flowers.” ― Debasish Mridha

“Dreams are the flowers of imagination which bloom on the fertile grounds of the mind.” ― Debasish Mridha

“Dreams are the flowers of imagination which bloom on the fertile grounds of the mind.” ― Debasish Mridha

 

 

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Milk, Bread and Snowstorms

Engaging in social media also means engaging with the weather, most notably, inclement weather. Perhaps the most notable are those videos, memes and news stories that detail coming snowstorms and the supermarket freak-outs where everyone is trying to buy milk and bread. Where did this come from? Why do people in modern industrialized urban areas act almost panicked for what is essentially a cyclical occurrence? Snow is ubiquitous in New York City!

1daily newsI grew up in Manhattan near three supermarkets. However, my parents were those people that made sure we were stocked up for ‘the big storm.’ I once asked my father about it and he noted the massive snowstorm of 1969. I was a year and half old at the time and we lived in Jackson Heights and the city neglected the entire borough of Queens. According to The New York Times, 42 people died in that storm, half of them in Queens.

“For days, the streets were impassable, and residents were all but barricaded inside their homes.”

For first-time parents with a young child this made a lasting impression.

After I moved away from home, my parents continued to ask if I was prepared for ‘the storm.’ For me, preparing meant not having to go out and having a great movie to watch. In fact, I have a tradition in my home during a snowstorm that requires me to watch the ultimate snowbound film,  The Shining.

I didn’t quite understand my parents until I experienced Hurricane Sandy. I had a hole in my roof and was without electricity for nine days. Because I was disconnected, I didn’t see the shocking images of Rockaway, Lower Manhattan and New Jersey until much later. Most shocking were the petty politics perpetuated by conservative politicians.

Since Sandy, I  walk around with a portable charger for my devices and I also keep batteries and flashlights ready to go. Since that experience I have become very familiar with New York’s Emergency Management website. I recommend you do the same. Even if you don’t reside in New York City, many of the recommendations are applicable. I think Benjamin Franklin said it best, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”