Sunday, May 31, 2009

Chauncey DeVega says: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack of Black Privilege in the Age of Barack Obama



"I was taught to see racism only in individual acts of meanness, not in invisible systems conferring dominance on my group"

For the world to be made more just, we must be willing to be vulnerable to one another. This vulnerability often comes through a moment of profound clarity when a person (across lines of race, gender, class, and sexuality) can reach out to another and without fear of condemnation say, "I was wrong." I have finally arrived at this moment of shared empathy and confession. At these moments we need one of our own to make our privilege and prejudice clear to us--an assumed ally whose eyes are now open to injustice, who in turn will shame us into action.

In watching Thomas Sowell, who without hesitation or fear named nominee for the Supreme Court, Judge Sotomayor, as a racist, I am moved to action and ownership of my deeds and thoughts: this is the transgressive moment when I will confess to the realities of my own privilege as a black man in the age of Obama. Are others ready to walk this path with me? Honestly, I do not know. Nevertheless, I will be the first to take on this burden in the hope that my deeds will motivate others.

I can only hope that we as black Americans, acting in the pursuit of fairness, justice, and equality, can one day make amends for the many unearned privileges that we have garnered since the election of Barack Obama.

Justice is shared work. Community is at the heart of social transformation. Thus, please feel free to make additions to this list.

Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack of Black Privilege in the Age of Obama


1. I know that the success of Barack Obama has been unsettling for many White Americans--especially those whom would normally be the default choice for appointment to the highest levels of the United States government. I understand that this change can be quite upsetting. I promise to be more empathetic to your pain and to be more patient in my efforts to understand the roots of your discontent.

2. I have the luxury of knowing that I only have to be twice as good as my White colleagues and peers to be considered for the same position. My broad range of skills are an unfair advantage in the workplace because they have afforded me opportunities to take on tasks and responsibilities that my White colleagues have often been denied.

3. Positive character traits such as humility and hard work are cultivated in me because I know that I am held to a higher standard lest I be considered "lazy" or "arrogant" by my supervisors and peers.

4. People of color have long dominated the evening news. We are disproportionately represented in the coverage of many types of news stories, especially those that feature reports of violent, criminal behavior. Moreover, with Barack Obama's domination of the evening news, the hyper-visibility of people of color is further encouraged in the mainstream media. To remedy this, I will do my best to support an increase in the amount of attention given to White people in the evening news and by popular culture at large.

5. I can go shopping most of the time knowing that I will be given extra attention. Furthermore, this extra attention to my safety through requests for identification when I would like to use a credit card or debit card are for my own protection. My fellow White shoppers are not afforded this level of concern or assistance.

6. In my professional life, I am blessed to be around people of a different race most of the time. This is very empowering and stimulating. Ultimately, this is an unearned advantage in a world that is increasingly diverse.

7. I am often asked to speak for people of my own race. With Barack Obama's election, I have to do this even more frequently. This privilege is unfair because it contributes to my intellectual, emotional, and social growth in ways that White people are not generally afforded.

8. Linked fate. Barack Obama's success or failure reflects on me personally. Likewise, my success or failure reflects on Barack Obama. This sense of connectedness and lack of relative anonymity is wonderfully empowering for all people of color.

9. I can find the literature, music, and movies that represent my culture neatly cordoned off and near the front of the store for my convenience.

10. I know that my race is always an asset and never a liability. At will, I can play the "race card" and win any debate or dispute.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Lest You Think I Have Become Too Serious: Black Israelites in Times Square Versus a Killer Clown from Outer Space and a Black Zombie--Who Wins?



Question: Who is funnier, the clown or the Black Israelite? Second question: Did you notice the Black Israelite to the prayer leader's left who had totally lost it? Third question: Should we give respect to said Black Israelite as he stayed on script and used the killer clown and zombie as proof of the "White Man's" evil? Fourth question: Who are the bigger clowns and zombies, the Black Israelites or the Halloween party goers?

Friday, May 29, 2009

A Photo Montage--White Men Are Oppressed and the New Haven 20 and Frank Ricci are Their Saviors!



Yes, speak truth to power!

Again, I am moved by the heroism of the New Haven 20 and their stance against this widespread racism against White men under the terror of Jim Crow 2.0. Both my conscience and heart are struck by this case. In fact, as a gesture of unity I am going to buy their t-shirts and hats. And I am also going to remove the picture of the Little Rock Nine that is in my office and replace it with a picture of the New Haven 20:




The power of both these images is profound:



Although there is a shared echo between them, I must admit that the New Haven 20 have a dignity in their actions and struggle that the Little Rock 9 cannot match:



Ultimately, there really is no comparison at all:



We respectable negroes will continue to stand together with the New Haven 20 in their most honorable struggle, as this is THE civil rights issue of our time.

Are you with us? What are you doing to support the struggle against the new Jim Crow that is oppressing our White brothers?

Friday Afternoon Randomness-Spike Lee on Tyler Perry, Cooning, and Race Minstrelsy



You know we respectable negroes love us some Tyler Perry (yeah right--insert vomiting sound here). I don't understand the fixation on Madea or any of Perry's other "artistic" creations, but I will allow the masses their pleasures.

To that point: Spike Lee has apparently stepped up to the plate and is calling Perry out for his nouveau race minstrelsy in an interview set to air this weekend with the Ed Gordon on Our World with Black Enterprise show.

Related random anecdote: did you know that I had a student brought to near tears by my critique of Madea as a race minstrel? Second related random anecdote: did you know that in this same histrionic moment said student conflated Madea and Rosa Parks as inspirational and heroic figures? And no, I did not make that up.

Per tradition, take a close look at some of the comments which accompanied this story on the website, Global Grind. Both follow:

Spike Lee Rips Tyler Perry

Spike Lee had an interview with Ed Gordon on Our World with Black Enterprise scheduled to air this weekend. In the interview he complained about “coonery and buffoonery” and both of Tyler Perry’s shows “Meet the Browns” and “House of Payne,” comparing them to characters from minstrel shows.

“We’ve had this discussion back and forth. When John Singleton [made 'Boyz in the Hood'], people came out to see it. But when he did ‘Rosewood,’ nobody showed up. So a lot of this is on us! You vote with your pocketbook, your wallet. You vote with your time sitting in front of the idiot box, and [Tyler Perry] has a huge audience. We shouldn’t think that Tyler Perry is going to make the same film that I am going to make, or that John Singleton or my cousin Malcolm Lee [would make]. As African-Americans, we’re not one monolithic group, so there is room for all of that. But at the same time, for me, the imaging is troubling and it harkens back to ‘Amos n’ Andy.’”

OPINION: Why Tracy Morgan Isn’t Taking Us Two Steps

“Each artist should be allowed to pursue their artistic endeavors, but I still think there is a lot of stuff out today that is coonery and buffoonery. I know it’s making a lot of money and breaking records, but we can do better. … I am a huge basketball fan, and when I watch the games on TNT, I see these two ads for these two shows (Tyler Perry’s “Meet the Browns” and “House of Payne”), and I am scratching my head. We got a black president, and we going back to Mantan Moreland and Sleep ‘n’ Eat?

Some Choice Comments:

hold up hold up, i like spike n all he got sum good movies n his archive, but anybody who say he aint hatin know damn well he is. he jus mad cuz Tyler Perry currently got him dethroned as one of the great directors not includin john singleton and who eva else gud dat i left out. neway, regarding meet the browns and house of pain, if u dont like that u must not like nun on tv cuz errbody kno they single handedly keep ppl watchin tbs. so if u dont watch em DONT! if u dont like em DONT! dont nobody care bout yo opinion cuz at da end of da day he still gettin payed haha so big upz to em and hopefully spike cum out wit sum gud enuff worth hatin on lol

-TyRant

Spike, Next!

To touch people's hearts, you have to know how to relate to them first. Tyler Perry is the master at this. I was once a person that wouldn't spend a dime on his movies, but now I get the brotha.

I get you too, but your messages are way too deep and subliminal for our people. People need clear, cut, messages!

-WTFsmh

Spike is so right. In my opinion most of the people laughing at the coonery that goes on in these shows perpetuate those coon stereotypes themselves. Wake up, it's the 21st century. I don't know how any self-respecting black person can watch House of Payne and laugh at it. Then again, I see lots of people like this in the South, who aren't aware of the stereotypes, shuckin and jivin right along w/ this foolishness. Tsk, tsk.

-aedwards

Come on Spike. Sounds like hate to me. I wonder have those people criticizing Tyler Perry ever watched any of his work. I wouldn't call it coonery and buffoonery. Some of Tyler P's stuff is very inspiring. He covers real life subjects like substance abuse, infidelity, abuse and on top of that Madea is funny as hell. I am both a Spike Lee and a Tyler Perry fan. I think it is just a dude from the east hating on a dude from the south.

-Sleepy


Spike we thought you had a life. It took us years to understand and figure out your movies. 2 each his own:) does that mean anything to you. What you call coonery and buffoonery many of us are enjoying as comedy. I also appreciate the fact that he uses actors/actresses that other movies makers wouldnt touch like overweight, african americans or hispanics. also spike I am an NBA fan as well wasn't you a die hard for life new york fan. LA is a long way from new york. we see you courtside. you dont jump ship from your team just because they haven't won anything in years!!

-robal

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Score One More for the Team: Charles Bolden Picked as New Director of NASA



Maybe, we can finally acknowledge the Old Negro Space Program...

In the scramble to cover the New Jim Crow against White men (what I am calling the Civil Rights Movement 2.0), many of you may have missed Obama's nomination of General Charles Bolden as the new director of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

Isn't it funny that the establishment would explain away its lack of diversity with the much tired phrase "that there is a shortage of qualified minorities," when it seems that President Obama has been able to find stellar black and brown folk for his administration almost at will?

The story follows here:

Charles Bolden, Obama's NASA Chief Pick

HOUSTON — The nation's turbulent space program will be run by one of its own, a calming well-liked former space shuttle commander.

President Barack Obama on Saturday chose retired astronaut Gen. Charles Bolden to lead NASA. He also named former NASA associate administrator Lori Garver as the agency's No. 2. If confirmed, Bolden, who has flown in space four times and was an assistant deputy administrator at one point, would be the agency's first black administrator.

Bolden would also be only the second astronaut to run NASA in its 50-year history. Adm. Richard Truly was the first. In 2002, then-President George W. Bush unsuccessfully tried to appoint Bolden as the space agency's deputy administrator. The Pentagon said it needed to keep Bolden, who was a Marine general at the time and a pilot who flew more than 100 sorties in Vietnam.

"Charlie knows NASA and the people know Charlie; there's a level of comfort," especially given the uncertainty the space agency faces, said retired astronaut Steve Hawley, who flew twice in space with Bolden.

Bolden likely will bring "more balance" to NASA, increasing spending on aeronautics and environment missions, working more with other nations in space, and emphasizing education, which the president often talks about when it comes to space, said former Johnson Space Center Director George Abbey, a longtime friend.

"He's a real leader," Abbey said Saturday. "NASA has been looking for a leader like this that they could have confidence in."--continue reading here...

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Enter the New Haven 20--The Newest Freedom Fighters in the Struggle to Overthrow Jim Crow 2.0




The Little Rock Nine have been surpassed. Enter: The New Haven Twenty.

Once more, I am moved by the bravery and heroism displayed by these freedom fighters. Against impossible odds, violence, and a long history of discrimination, these great men are showing that regular folk can indeed stand against power and make real the promise of the American creed. Clearly, the New Haven Twenty have eclipsed the Little Rock Nine as they work to create a nation under their feet and carry forth the light of freedom.

It seems that the well of democracy springs eternal as in this newest freedom struggle, Fox News is Radio Dixie, and Sean Hannity is Robert Williams:



Together, they will shatter the walls of the second Jim Crow and end what Hannity so sharply describes as institutional discrimination against these good White men.

While the choice is not yet one between the ballot or the bullet, together we shall overcome. Why? Because the New Haven Twenty are armed with truth and justice...weapons that no racist regime has ever been able to resist. I implore you to join me as I echo Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a man who I know would have marched lockstep with the New Haven Twenty:

Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream as the New Haven Twenty march into glory and history!

Hallelujah! Are you with me?

Charles Krauthammer I Feel Your Pain: White Men Once More Victims as Obama Picks Judge Sotomayor for the Supreme Court



White men are victimized once more. Again, they are excluded from another opportunity to access the corridors of power in the Obama administration. As I empathized with Pat Buchanan on the rise of a second Jim Crow in American, one now oriented against white men of the "greatest generation," I must now extend the same olive branch to noted conservative columnist and pundit Charles Krauthammer. Again, I cannot imagine how White men are feeling in this moment as President Obama has selected a Hispanic woman, Sonia Sotomayor, as his nominee to the Supreme Court. It must really hurt to go from being the presumed choice for all things, to now being one choice among many.

I imagine it must be similar to how a "gentlemen C" student feels when he is faced with an upstart professor who demands excellence. Life is indeed unfair as the rules of the game can be changed so arbitrarily and to one's detriment. Or perhaps this experience is even more akin to that of the child who is used to always being picked first for a pick-up game of dodge ball, to now being reduced to jumping up and down and yelling "pick me! pick me!" because there is a new captain in town.

Krauthammer is to be applauded for his keen acknowledgment of how identity politics are the bread and butter, the raison d'etre for the Left and the Democratic Party. Never has the Right and the Republican Party used race as a wedge issue. Nor, have they ever attempted to mobilize their base against the real and imagined "threat" posed by people of color to an unnamed and unmarked Whiteness, one that is imagined to be, and is constructed as, interchangeable with the idea of being "American."

In the same way that the Right found a crusading hero in Allan Bakke, the plaintive in the landmark anti-affirmative action case Allan Bakke versus the Regents of the University of California, Krauthammer, Limbaugh, O'Reilly, and Buchanan have found a just crusader in Frank Ricci. With him, they can now craft a mythology around a set of justice claims that will fuel the second Civil Rights Movement--a White Male Freedom Struggle that will ring through all times as it fights to dramatically restructure American society.

Frank Ricci is their Rosa Parks. Instead of a kindly, exhausted, old lady who simply wanted to ride the bus and sit where she so chose, the Right has a dyslexic firefighter who studied for twelve hours a day, employed tutors to read him the textbook, and despite all of these obstacles, still scored at the top of the exam class. His reward? to be denied his rightful and earned promotion by a group of litigious, petty, underachieving, mediocre black firefighters and their white liberal enablers who claimed that the test was "unfair." This is identity politics at its worst, a politics that is squarely outside of the American tradition.

When Krauthammer stages his freedom rides, and the movement to which he belongs has its great march on Washington, I will empathize with them. For me, the veil is lifted as I now clearly see the moral righteousness and virtue of their freedom struggle. Justice will come for these aggrieved White men, and I hope it comes very soon.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day Reflections Part 2: Honoring Our Little Known Heroes



There are many American servicemen and women whose stories have been lost to history. Memorial Day is a time to bring light to these unsung heroes. For example:

The many women who served with great distinction during World War II as military aviators and support staff where they performed such dangerous tasks as towing targets for anti-aircraft gunnery practice:



The all Japanese American 442nd Army regiment. They were real hard bodies, eventually becoming the most decorated unit in U.S. military history:



The 369th Infantry Regiment, also known as the "Harlem Hellfighters." These brothers were fighting the Germans in World War I months prior to the introduction of the main United States Expeditionary force:



Heroism, service, and valor are not limited to human beings. Many of our four-legged friends have also served America with honor, distinction and sacrifice. Finally, our canine companions are receiving a much belated acknowledgment of their service and loyalty:



The Alaskan Territorial Guard which protected the United States from a Japanese assault by way of the Aleutians:



A personal hero, one man, a legend, and not widely known--Carlos Hathcock--3 days, a one thousand plus meter crawl, and a little under a mile sniper shot:

Memorial Day Reflections Part 1: Map the Fallen



Most Americans do not take the time to reflect on the true meaning of Memorial Day. Although the tradition had many different starts (some would claim its origins in the Confederacy during the Civil War; others would say it was the Union that began this "holiday") the day is intended as one of remembrance during which we honor our fallen soldiers, as well as the service of our veterans. Although I may not always agree with the foreign policy decisions that have put our young men and women in harm's way, I always honor their sacrifice and service. Why? Because service to one's country is respectable negro behavior.

In between eating hot dogs, drinking cheap beer, and inaugurating the official start of summer please take the time to reflect on the sacrifices and service of the American fighting man and woman. To that end, there is a moving project called "Map the Fallen" that uses Google Earth to list and track the some 6,000 Coalition soldiers who have died in the Iraq and Afghanistan campaigns by showing their individual biographies, places of birth, and locations of death.



In keeping with the spirit of Memorial Day, I offer an experiment and suggestion: select five of these stories and read these accounts aloud. If you have children, please include them as they too need to understand the human costs of war. The stories profiled on Map the Fallen are those of our sons, daughters, brothers, fathers, mothers, uncles, aunts, and friends...and they deserve proper recognition.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Suspects in Terror Bombing Plot: Drug Arrests and Prison Conversions

“Right now, to me he’s, like, the dumbest person I ever came in contact with in my life,” Ms. Walker said [of her brother, an alleged conspirator to bomb a synagogue].

She added that as far as she knew, he was not a Muslim, but said “they do a little time in jail and they don’t eat pork no more.


Thursday, May 21, 2009

28 things I've learned by watching TV Court shows




I’m a sucker for TV court shows.

I’ve long been fascinated by the racial and gender dynamics of these shows, but that’s a topic for another day. In the many hours I’ve wasted logged watching TV court shows, I’ve learned a lot about court show conventions and human behavior. I’ve compiled the things I’ve learned in a convenient list.

About TV court shows:

1. The judge and the bailiff must be from different racial groups.

2a. There will never be a white WASP male hetero TV judge. (there is a white guy now, Judge David Young, but he is flaming; there have been Jewish male Judges; and there have been white Southern male redneck-ishjudges, but they are really like ethnics).

2b. The judge must dispense homespun wisdom with a touch of ethnic sass.

3. Because it makes for interesting TV, the judge will let the litigants tell each other’s personal business (drugs, sex, appearance) that has nothing to do with the case.

4. The litigant who interrupts or disrespects the judge will lose.

Practical financial advice:

5. Never let anyone put any bill in your name.

6. Never cash a check for anyone.

7. Never buy an old car as is.

Practical legal advice:

8. Always call the police after an accident or an incident.

9. Always get it in writing.

10. Read the fine print.

11. Never confess to or threaten anyone over the phone.

Practical relationship advice:

12. Never move in with someone you’ve only known for a little while.

13. Never lend money to family or friends—either give it to them or don’t.

14. Never trust a man who ignores his kids from a previous relationship.

15. Never take nude pictures/videos with a partner unless you are OK with other people seeing them.

16. Never trust a stripper (see 27.).

Phrases that indicate someone is lying:

17. “Okay, This is what happened…”/ “What had happened was…”

18. “Let me start from the beginning…”

19. “That’s what I’m trying to tell you! If you’d just let me talk…”

20. *Repeating the question before answering* (e.g., “Why did I walk over to his car? I walked over to his car because…”)

Phrases that really mean “I’m not going to pay you”:

21. “I’ll pay you back when I get my tax refund.”

22. “I’ll pay you when I receive this lawsuit settlement I’m waiting for.”

23. “I’ll pay you when I get back on my feet and start working again.”

24. “I was gonna pay, but then you started harrassing me.”

25. “I was gonna pay, but the bill was too high; you are trying to gouge me.”

Life lessons:

26. You get what you pay for.

27. Money can’t buy love.

28. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Chauncey DeVega's World of Ghetto Nerds: Terminator Salvation Reviewed--Let's Play Script Doctor



There is much to like about Terminator Salvation. Unlike some notable critics who absolutely loathed the newest installment in the almost 30 year saga that is the Terminator franchise, I actually liked it. Now, it is not perfect. And there are some serious issues with logic and continuity. But, I smiled, had a good time, and felt as though I got my money's worth (which is much more than I can say for the foul excuse of a movie that dares to call itself Wolverine).

What works in Terminator Salvation--giant robots; the action scenes; the visceral fun of seeing another Terminator film; ILM's cgi; and Sam Worthington's "prototype" T-101/T-800 unit. Worthington has got a great future ahead of him, and James Cameron's long anticipated movie "Avatar," is lucky to have him as the lead.

What doesn't work? Quite a bit. The analogy I would use to describe this film is that Terminator Salvation is like a piece of filet mignon in the hands of an underskilled chef. Said cook has a wonderful piece of meat to work with but overcooks it, uses olive oil instead of peanut oil to sear it, and then kills the steak in the broiler instead of baking it. To make matters worse, our overly ambitious (yet relatively unskilled) chef uses cheap cooking wine as the base for the sauce. The result is an acceptable dish that does not reach its full potential. Your dinner guests know this fact, but they humor the effort because the base ingredients are of such generally high quality.

In keeping with the metaphor, how would I improve the "dish" that is Terminator Salvation?

13 Fixes for Terminator Salvation

1. The writers and producers of this film try too hard. They have a perfect recipe for greatness and either do not "get" the franchise beyond its most superficial elements, or they do not care to understand what worked with the first two films. Sure, the Terminator films are about robots, explosions, and car chases. The Terminator franchise is also about big questions: fate, destiny, artificial intelligence, and the inevitability of the future as opposed to the primacy of free will. The first is spoken to wonderfully, the latter is relatively ignored. Solution: more homework, talking to more fans, making sure that the sequel has a great script with human drama as the foundation and base for all of the action movie elements, and reading more classic science fiction.

2. As a ghetto nerd I have spent many an evening arguing with friends about how we would survive the rise of the machines. (I love this dilemma, would AI destroy us? Or would AI protect humankind from the barbarism inherent in our souls?) Terminator Salvation fails to understand the reality of this monstrous future. Humankind has suffered a nuclear apocalypse, a genocidal war, and is now fighting a merciless foe. One would think that events would seem dour and grave. Not in Terminator Salvation. Sure, things are bad, but never do you have a sense that humanity's very existence as a species is imperiled.

3. On the post-nuclear apocalypse. The sky should be dark. Electromagnetic pulse damage should have fried most electronics, i.e. no modern cars. The surviving humans should be sick, exhausted, and psychically damaged almost beyond repair. This is the power of John Connor's character. He is a messiah who teaches humankind how to fight back against the machines. In Terminator Salvation he is peripheral. Moreover, in the world created by this first installment, Connor is utterly expendable. As a corrective, the writers and producers should watch the following clip from the Matrix animated film anthology and ask themselves, "how would a leader motivate and inspire these desperate souls?"



4. Pretty people. The characters in this film have perfect teeth, relatively nice clothes, neatly kept hair, and not a person seems deathly ill (radiation poisoning and cancer anyone?). Most glaringly, Connor's pregnant wife has apparently been shopping at Anne Taylor or Neiman Marcus. This is just plain laziness on the part of the producers. Corrective: yellow teeth, sickly people, dirt, disease, and despair. Second corrective: more religious iconography and conversations about God. The writers cannot ignore the very human reality that people in desperate situations either find their faith or utterly lose it. The film plays with John Connor as a Messianic figure, but does not follow through. The sequels must address this aspect of his personal mythology much more forcefully.

5. Please keep actor/emcee Common away from all movies produced in this country. He is so foul an actor that the Screen Actor's Guild should expressly forbid him from ever appearing in a film again. And please remove all magical negro characters that are inspired by Mad Max: the Road Warrior from the sequels to Terminator Salvation. Third suggestion: Moon Bloodgod who plays Sam Worthington's love interest is a goddess--in my pantheon of Hollywood crushes she may actually be higher than Rosario Dawson...and that ain't no easy feat to accomplish. Because of that fact my lovely Miss Bloodgod (what a name!) is out of place, and her presence is distracting. For the next few movies in a trilogy that should be more Threads and The Day After than Dawson's Creek, the actors need to get uglier, fatter, and much less attractive.

6. Simplicity. This plot is too complicated. We have a human infiltrator in Sam Worthington's character who is actually in many ways more sophisticated than the T-101 unit sent back, i.e. Arnold's model of terminator, in the first 3 films. But, Terminator Salvation's newest model of terminator is the predecessor to Arnold's version. Unnecessary. Worthington is a great character but wasted because the very fact of his presence and reveal (which was given away by the trailers for the film) is anti-climactic.

7. Brute force, bluntness, and drama. The best part of this film, and a moment that hinted at what it could have been, is the introduction of Kyle Reese's character. What would relatively untrained citizen soldiers do against robotic warriors armed with miniguns (that is a modern version of the Gatling gun for those of you out of the loop)? Would we adapt, achieve, and overcome? Or would we just die? The movie needs more of these moments. Again, the human resistance's ability to fight Skynet is never in doubt because our "primitive" firearms are able to damage and destroy the terminators. The creators of Terminator Salvation need to increase the body count of the human protagonists.

In addition, the creators of Terminator Salvation seem to have forgotten that the relative invulnerability of the terminators is the foundation for the drama (remember the first Terminator film's point that Kyle Reese is unsure of his ability to defeat the T-101 with "these weapons"). This important detail is totally undermined within the opening moments of the film.
As a fix, Terminator Salvation needs more blunt, desperate moments where dozens if not hundreds of human beings are willing to die in order to kill 1 terminator. We do this again, and again, and again because we have no choice. This is the drama and sadness that the new trilogy must capture in order to be successful.

8. Background and frame. Terminator Salvation is a relatively empty world. It needs to add constant activity in the background of its scenes. One of the key dramatic elements in the war against the machines is that they never tire, surrender, or stop in their pursuit of genocide. In Terminator Salvation the viewer never has a sense that humankind is fighting this type of enemy. For the sequels, hunter killer robots must be in the sky at all times, the resistance must be under siege, and victory must always be in doubt.

9. Military consultants. Terminator Salvation would greatly benefit from the addition of a few lines of dialogue that hint at the dynamics of the war fighting situation which humanity has found itself in. The ability of the resistance to use aircraft to fight Skynet seems unbelievable as presented. How would they survive Skynet's aerial assault? Wouldn't Skynet's local radar and satellites detect any planes in the air? A simple fix would be a throwaway comment on the fact that the resistance is using obsolescent aircraft and helicopters such as Huey's and A-10's because they are immune from Skynet's computer viruses and overrides--nix the Osprey's in the next film. A second fix would necessarily be an allusion to the resistance's ability to obtain fuel, spare parts, and mechanics to keep these vehicles in the air. A third fix would involve a clear communication to the audience that the resistance rarely uses these precious assets, and when they do, their small fleet of aircraft must stay under some arbitrary altitude (say 300 feet) in order to have any chance of survival.

10. Second suggestion on tactics and strategy in Terminator Salvation--the idea of the human resistance using submarines as a base of operations is well considered and inspired. The idea that satellite phones (and probably GPS) would still function is fanciful. This is sloppy writing where the script is building up to a big event and takes the easy road (the resistance would likely travel at night and use human "runners" on bicycles or silenced motorcycles to coordinate locally). Final thought on this point: scarcity is a way of life for insurgents, a condition made more desperate for humanity following a nuclear attack. Again, we should see the resistance desperately taking weapons and ammunition from the terminators as their armaments are among the few guaranteed to give the human soldiers any fair chance in battle.

11. The anti-climax. Because we have seen the first three films, there is never any real fear that John Connor will die, because if he did, a paradox would be introduced into the fim. John Connor should know and acknowledge this fact. If Bale's Connor did this, he would have every excuse to be brash bordering on careless. Connor would know that his survival is assured until (at least) the moment when he sends Kyle Reese to the past, and Bale's character would be more heroic in deed as a result (if played correctly, this could introduce a great deal of angst into Conner's character because he would feel like a fraud as his survival is never in doubt).

My plot correction: begin the movie with Reese and Connor meeting each other within either the first 30 or so minutes of the film and plot the movie around that encounter, or have them meet in the last 20 minutes as they work together to resolve the climax of the film.

12. Skynet is foolish, inefficient, and illogical. If Skynet knows about Reese's importance (presumably from the terminator in the third film) then why not simply eliminate Kyle once he is discovered? Also, what is most ominous about fighting artificial intelligence? Its ruthless efficiency. This is an area where Terminator Salvation could be much improved.

Also, the deus ex machina moments with Worthington in Skynet--and the resistance's assault on the installation is another example of lazy, piss poor, writing.

Continuing forward, humanity finds strength through its creativity and hope. Here, our capacity for irrational behavior is an asset in battle because we are capable of unpredictable behavior. This is alluded to by Connor but never developed--it hangs in the narrative as a note, but is never seen in the film. It must be made the heart and soul of the sequels.

13. Final thought: a heart transplant as field triage in the middle of a desert ain't gonna happen. Second final thought: I would have much preferred the rumored ending where Worthington's character becomes John Connor. This would have given all the films an existential weight as a terminator pretending to be a human is actually the leader of the resistance. Alas, Terminator Salvation has no such courage.

Terminator Salvation is a fun film that I will watch again. But, like Transformers, it is a perfect fit for the DVD format because you can fast forward through all of the unnecessary scenes and watch the action pieces. Is this a complement or an insult? I am unsure. But it is a fitting observation with which to describe this most recent installment in the storied Terminator franchise. See the movie, have fun, and lower your expectations...and maybe the sequels will live up to what this newest installment could have been.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Doctors Discover Dallas Twins Have Two Different Dads--Lord, in the Age of Barack Obama, Why Must this Woman be Black? Are You Mocking Us?



God above, I offer a prayer.

Does this woman know any shame?

Why does she not run and hide under a rock?

What sensible human being would appear on television and own this foul, whorish, disgusting behavior?

Who would tell children the particulars of their most befouled conception?

Lord, fate of an infinite sense of humor.

He, who made all things.

Thou, who gave us Maury Povich, why have YOU made this real.

Crom, I know you laugh at the stupidity of mortals, but did this happen in one night or two nights, in the A.M. or the P.M., several days apart, or all in one session?

These are the great mysteries which you must illuminate. And why must this woman be black?


Doctors Discover Dallas Twins Have Two Different Dads


Monday, May 18, 2009

Twin boys, 11-month-old Justin and Jordan, have different fathers.

A Texas mother of twins got the shock of her life when doctors revealed that her 11-month-old boys do not have the same father.

Mia Washington decided to get some expert advice when she and her partner noticed that twins Justin and Jordan had different facial features.

Paternity tests then revealed what had happened — two eggs had been fertilized by two different sperm and there was a 99.99% chance the twins had different dads.

Doctors at the DNA lab in Dallas, Texas had never seen such a result.

Washington later admitted she had had an affair and got pregnant by two different men at the same time.

"Out of all people in America and of all people in the world, it had to happen to me, she told myfoxdfw.com. “I'm very shocked."

"It is very crazy. Most people don't believe it can happen, but it can,” Genny Thibodeaux, Clear Diagnostics President, told the news station.

When twins have two fathers, doctors call it heteropaternal superfecundation, according to myfoxdfw.com. It's so rare — there are only a handful of documented cases in the world.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Hot Randomness: Condoleeza Rice's Dance of Love with George W. Bush



Will Ferrel's homage to George Bush was a comic gem. If you do not have HBO, watch it on DVD or track it down online, as specials such as this are worth the monthly subscription fee.

Somehow, Condi seems so sexy and smoldering in this clip--oh so crudely sexual and lascivious precisely to the degree that the policies she advocated for were utterly monstrous.

And since we are being honest with one another, am I the only one who suspects that there may have been a weird love triangle going on between Bush Jr., Cheney, and Auntie Condi?

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Sunday Afternoon Fun--A Fernwood 2 Night Flashback



Fernwood 2 Night was a staple of my late night television viewing in the 1980s and early 1990s. Created by Norman Lear (the genius behind Sanford and Son; Good Times; All in the Family; the Jeffersons; and many other gems) it was a "fake" talk show that mocked all of the conventions and pretenses of a television genre that itself is predicated on false empathy and sympathy-- very Tarantinoesque and postmodern.

Some other great clips.

A lesson on gynecology:



Can you distinguish a fake infomercial from a "real" one:



I am all for corporal punishment in our schools, and here is an expert on the topic:



Smiles and cheers!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Chauncey DeVega's World of Ghetto Nerds: Deadliest Warrior--Green Berets versus Spetsnaz



A quick debriefing:

Here is the result of Tuesday night's match up. The show has had some high points as I pointed out earlier, but again, the outcome is a bit problematic. Now, I am not a gung-ho American type who thinks that all things U.S.A. are by definition better than anything offered from abroad. My problem here is the vagueness of the match-up.

For example, Spetsnaz are a broad designation within the Russian/Soviet military (and they are fierce warriors, some of their exploits in Afghanistan were legendary). As a qualifier, all Spetsnaz are "elite." But, some are more "elite" than others. And as was demonstrated during the Chechen seige at the Beslan Middle School, as well as the infamous "poison gas raid" in Moscow, some of their tactics are clumsy and imprecise--so much so that they border on the unprofessional. Thus I must ask, which types of "Spetsnaz" are fighting the Green Berets? The generic special forces or the ultra-elite anti-terrorism units?

Second thought: mission and orientation. The Green Berets are extremely well-trained and versatile. Yes, they are quite capable of what is called "direct action," i.e. killing the bad guys and bringing the pain. But, since their formal inception in the 1960s by President Kennedy, they are more oriented towards training insurgents and foreign militaries. Sure, they can eat things that would make a billy goat puke or break the enemy's will through sheer attrition, but would you want to waste these mature, superbly trained, multilingual warriors on such an adventure?



The Spetsnaz featured in this episode of Deadliest Warrior seem more oriented towards killing people and breaking things. Sure, the Green Berets will give the Spetsnaz operators all they can handle (and maybe more), but my gut tells me that another U.S. unit would be a better pairing. I think that Delta Force or SEAL Team 6 would have been an overmatch. But, the Rangers or U.S. Marine Recon would have seemed a better fit. Your thoughts? What do you think the outcome should have been?

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Social Science in Action: Rush Limbaugh is so Old School or Obama Wants Welfare, Unemployment Checks, and Food Stamps for the Blacks!



What's next, an interview on Limbaugh, O'Reilly, or Glenn Beck with a "welfare queen?"

More seriously, Rush Limbaugh needs to up his game because these "coded" appeals are so 1984. I also find it ironic that we continue to use said phrase (or its more sophisticated pairing of "dog whistle" politics) when referring to what is in fact a very obvious and clumsy ploy intended to stoke the fires of the most base racial animus.

If Limbaugh wants to go really old school, he should just cut to the chase and make an advertisement with President Obama's face superimposed over Nosferatu's with the following caption: "Barack Obama, socialist husband of America hater Michelle Obama, and follower of the most evil Reverend Wright, is coming to get you real Americans!"

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Why do Some White Women Prefer Black Men? Pat Buchanan Under Siege Part 2

Pat Buchanan may in fact be justified in his recent feelings of paranoia, angst, and disempowerment because if the following video is any indication, the new Jim Crow against White men may in fact be a global phenomenon.

****
I have not done one of my video annotations in a long time. But, this show on interracial dating demands my careful attention. Enter: Why white women prefer black men. Question: how many stereotypes about interracial dating between black men and white women can you identify in the following video clip?

A handy viewing guide to: Mmmm! Yummy Chocolate Black Men...say White Women!



:13--I cry foul! What an unfair setup...

:27--Am I crazy, or does her desire for the black flesh make you think of Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs. You know that she is hungry for that skin...it is so lovely, tasty, and irresistible. This one is unapologetic in her need to gobble up some sexy mocha chocolate love. Is this a new Hershey's flavor? Mandingo mocha? Or maybe given that she is a Brit, perhaps she wants to turn her negro lover into a human pork rind, one floured, battered and fried?

:33--Black skin on white skin. So sexy, kind of like a sexual version of Backgammon or Go.

:57--Oh yeah, we make you feel safe and lovely! Bow before the black god...as opposed to the dog in the man (bonus points if you get the reference).

1:21--Is that Maxi Priest's long lost brother in the frame?

1:28--Hold on now! I thought Black men didn't take their women out, didn't treat them well, and used black women like mules? These Brits are setting the bar too high for us brothers here in the U.S.

2:00--Has she seen the movie Baby Boy?

3:07--Poor white man. He is under siege!

3:27--Uh oh, more high standards. On the lovemaking, I prefer the soft bigotry of low expectations.

4:10--Five minutes? Short? Damn, I can make love 10 times in five minutes. Am I doing something wrong?

4:21--Backgammon and lovemaking. Now that is an evening. But, which one is the foreplay?

4:33--Is that Erykah Badu?

4:51--Melanin wins again! Melanin's power to metabolize the sun's rays in order to create gyrations and movements in its owners translates directly into an ability to work the middle and hit the G-spot. Each time, every time. Remember, work those hips and use the C.A.T. technique to bring your queen to ecstasy.

4:57--The way black men move in general.... is this the "swagger" that the folks on CNN were talking about in respect to President Obama?

5:02--I thought Plastic Man was white? I guess not.

5:13--Thought number 1: Shabba! Thought number 2: Was this woman in the movie Heading South? Thought number 3: Did you know that I once saw Shabba leap across a concert stage in three mighty bounds? The brother was magical.

5:23--Poor white man. He may be one of Pat Buchanan's allies. Suggestion: if you are white and confronted by these stereotypes of black sexual prowess simply repeat the following phrase--"You ain't had it right till you had it white!"

6:24--Sexual geometry: Q.E.D. Rhythm, length, size, the whole job EQUALS satisfaction.

6:44--No comment.

7:22--Look at her hair, old girl knows she got some colored folk in the family and she best stop trying to pass (badly).

7:41--I tell all of my white friends about the power of cocoa butter. Question: is Shea butter sexier? Random disclosure: before I take a woman on a trip to space mountain I finish off my pre-lovemaking routine with a nice swathing of CVS brand cocoa butter lotion on all of my energy centers. Trust me, my natural pheromones and CVS brand cocoa butter lotion are a combination that queens across the globe find irresistible.

8:45--Wouldn't be interested in some of us "colored" people? This one doesn't pass the b.s. test as Lord knows she was bringing those brothers into her tent late at night (for purposes of ethnographic research of course) while she was working for some NGO in Africa.

8:51--You know the brother wants to "convert" her to the "dark side."

9:36--Race mixing is the only path to a post-racial future. Dr. King, Bob Marley, Terrence Howard, and Wesley Snipes all prophesied this immutable truth, why then has it fallen on deaf ears?

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Pat Buchanan I Feel Your Pain: We are Made Brothers in the Struggle as White Men Are Now Experiencing their Own Version of Jim Crow



I am an advocate for the power of empathy, the idea that if we can learn to imagine ourselves in the place of others (and the Other) that we can make forward progress as a society. This is a two way street. I try to challenge Whiteness by exposing privilege. Reflexively, I have been working to increase my empathy for the likes of Pat Buchanan--to imagine what it must be like to be one of the "greatest" generation in the midst of their twilight. More specifically, I have been asking myself what it must be like to be a conservative White man of that generation, now witness to a political realignment (of sorts) and a Black president.

When coupled with increased immigration and the "browning of America," Buchanan's world has been turned topsy turvy. Up is now down, down is now up. For Pat Buchanan, Limbaugh, O'Reilly, and others of that stripe, the now is a moment where their racial heliocentrism has been turned inside out. While the church condemned Copernicus for shattering the belief that the Earth was the center of the solar system, Buchanan's only permitted sanction is a bully pulpit from which to scream and rant in frustration against the tide of history.

To Buchanan, it must seem as though no one is listening. He is like a man swimming in syrup--desperate, angry, exhausted, and plagued by a type of racial, existential vertigo. In keeping with my call for empathy across the color line (and the generational divide), I would like Pat, and those like him whose privilege is now under siege, to know that I am listening.



What must it be like to be unloved, under constant criticism, (dis)empowered, denied your full humanity and citizenship? To always be deemed inadequate and a second class citizen? To have your competence questioned both regardless of, and despite, your training and qualifications? I will never know what you are feeling in this moment, the depth of your pain and insecurity. I concede that. Pat Buchanan and his kin have been victimized. And I will never know what that must feel like. But, I am here to listen, to understand, and to empathize. Pat Buchanan, I feel your pain.

Monday, May 11, 2009

The "I Voted for Obama" Effect

New Hampshire Public Radio's "Word of Mouth" recently reported on the research of a doctoral student in the department of Psychology at Stanford University:

"See if this scenario sounds familiar. You’re sitting around with a bunch of friends – generally white people – and someone says something that sounds racist, or at least racially insensitive. There’s an awkward pause and then the offending party comes back with a variation on “I have a lot of black friends who would make that joke.” It kind of makes you cringe. Now that America has elected its first black president, research suggests that scenarios like this may be happening more frequently."


Here's an abstract of the actual article, "Endorsing Obama licenses favoring Whites" by Daniel A. Effron, Jessica S. Cameron and Benoît Monin:

Three studies tested whether the opportunity to endorse Barack Obama made individuals subsequently more likely to favor Whites over Blacks.
  • In Study 1, participants were more willing to describe a job as better suited for Whites than for Blacks after expressing support for Obama.

  • Study 2 replicated this effect and ruled out alternative explanations: participants favored Whites for the job after endorsing Obama, but not after endorsing a White Democrat, nor after seeing Obama’s photo without having an opportunity to endorse him.

  • Study 3 demonstrated that racial attitudes moderated this effect: endorsing Obama increased the amount of money allocated to an organization serving Whites at the expense of an organization serving Blacks only for participants high in a measure of racial prejudice.

These three studies suggest that expressing support for Obama grants people moral credentials, thus reducing their concern with appearing prejudiced.

Journal of Experimental Social PsychologyVolume 45, Issue 3, May 2009, Pages 590-593.


Remember, Zora said it first ...

Impossible and Absurd: Alan Keyes Meets Dr. Martin Luther King Jr



Another day and another laugh as Alan Keyes is arrested at Notre Dame University for trespassing during an anti-abortion "protest" that featured baby strollers, fake blood, and no small amount of political theater. Who would have thunk it? Alan Keyes indeed fashions himself as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. redux. We do indeed live in strange times...

Courtesy of Salon.com:

Alan Keyes' letter from Notre Dame jail

Over the last few years, Alan Keyes' life has become intertwined with Barack Obama's. In 2004, after the original Republican nominee dropped out of the race, Keyes ran against Obama, who was then seeking a Senate seat in Illinois. In 2008, Keyes ran against Obama again -- after he failed to secure either a presidential nomination from either the Republican Party or the Constitution Party, he founded his own party for the general election.

Even after Obama's victory, Keyes didn't give up. He's the plaintiff in one of the Birther lawsuits, and is challenging the results of the election, saying Obama hasn't proven that he was born in the U.S. and is eligible to be president. (He was, and he has.)

On Friday, a different battle against the president led to Keyes' arrest.

Keyes was arrested during a protest on Notre Dame's campus against the university's decision to invite Obama to speak at its commencement, and to award him an honorary degree. According to ChicagoBreakingNews.com, he and 25 others, "some of them pushing baby carriages with dolls covered in fake blood," entered campus Friday morning. They were met by university police, who handed them notices informing them that the school bans all protests not organized by members of the university community and given advance approval, and that they would be arrested if they remained. (The university is probably acutely sensitive to protests these days, as Catholics nationwide are organizing against Obama's appearance over his position on abortion.)

But the politician and former talk show host had come to Notre Dame specifically to be arrested, something he announced in a letter he'd written and released beforehand. So he and 21 of his fellow protesters were detained on misdemeanor trespassing charges. As of Friday afternoon, they were being held in jail in lieu of $250 bond, and will be appearing in court on Monday if they don't post the bond.

If that letter Keyes sent (which can be downloaded in PDF form here) is any indication, he's probably not going to post bond. In it, he announces, "I will go to South Bend. I will step foot on the Notre Dame campus to lift up the standard that protects the life of the innocent children of this and every generation. I will do it all day and every day from now until the Master comes if need be, though it mean I shall be housed every day in the prison house of lies and injustice that Obama, Jenkins and their minions now mean to construct for those who will never be still and silent in the face of their mockery of God and justice, their celebration of evil."

The letter reads as if Keyes meant it to be received as the successor to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr's "Letter from Birmingham Jail." Ultimately, though, he turns it into something far more reminiscent of Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ," full of pain and blood. An excerpt:

With the arrest of [Operation Rescue founder] Randall Terry, Father Jenkins and the University administration at Notre Dame take their advocacy of evil to a new level of spiritual atrocity.

In a little less than two weeks they will welcome to the university campus a man who represents the most abominable and extreme commitment ever known in US politics to destroying the God given right to life of innocent human offspring...

Every time abortionists rip a child limb from limb within the womb; every time they crush the fragile head; every time they scorch the life from its body with a death dealing solution; every time they scrape its nascent cells of life from the walls of a womb -- Jesus is savagely beaten again; his skull pressed down with thorns; his limbs pulled savagely in their sockets; his hands and feet pierced through with nails; his breath drawn with fiery pain; his life finally extinguished; every time.

And every time there stands vociferous in the crowd, the ambitious man of blood, Barack Obama. He is justifying the torture, forcing bystanders to aid in the atrocity, assuring that the nails are paid for and the henchmen of evil well fed and rewarded for their role in the daily crucifixion. Even the garments of the innocent children (their little organs or stem cells), like the vesture of Christ, he prepares for division among those who perpetrate the slaughter...

[T]hrough the years Randall Terry, and those who share his lion's heart for justice, have stood with the Mother of our Lord at the foot of the Cross. They have been sprayed with the blood and water that gushed from his wounded side. They have received from the pierced and bleeding hand of our Dying Lord, the Blessed Gift by which he made his Mother the mother of all the faithful ones who endure with Him to the end, receiving His crown of pain, which is also the crown of life.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Chauncey DeVega's World of Ghetto Nerds: Sunday Evening Fun--District 9 Will Own You This Summer, But First Watch the Original Short Film



District 9 is the thinking person's science fiction alternative of summer 2009. I had heard rumors about this project, but until seeing the trailer before Abrams' new Star Trek, knew little about it. Aliens, a not so thin Apartheid allegory, and black and brown folks as the bigoted xenophobes is a great dramatic mix. But before you see District 9, be sure to watch the original short film that spawned the feature and check out the viral marketing campaign:


Chauncey DeVega's World of Ghetto Nerds: Sunday Afternoon Fun--Now Witness G.I. Joe Resolute



G.I. Joe Resolute is a prequel of sorts to the new feature film. When I saw the original footage that was screened at ComiCon San Diego I really "popped." After watching the final episode of the miniseries which has recently finished airing on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim, I am sold. This series is a license to print money and I do hope that the powers that be are listening. Yo Joe! And yes...Snake Eyes is (literally) cutting necks.

Here are the first few episodes of the series:

Part 1



Part 2



Part 3



Part 4



It is a good time to be a ghetto nerd, is it not?

Friday, May 8, 2009

Chauncey DeVega's World of Ghetto Nerds: J.J. Abrams' New Star Trek Ain't Your Daddy's Star Trek...And That Just May Be Okay



The verdict: J.J. Abrams' Star Trek is Star Trek while simultaneously not being Star Trek.

Yes, this is an intentionally obtuse statement--one that captures my very confused and almost schizophrenic feelings about this film.

Yes, it has our favorite heroes in Kirk, Spock, and McCoy. Yes, our good old USS Enterprise is in the new Trek and she has never looked better. Yes, all the right "notes" are hit, but oddly the sum total of the song they are playing sounds like Roddenberry's classic, without ever having its gravitas.

Perhaps, this is the key dilemma, one upon which a generational divide surrounding Abrams' Trek will revolve: Roddenberry's Star Trek was about something. It had moral vision, complexity and weight. Born of the Cold War and Roddenberry's belief that a science fiction television series could both entertain while also grappling with compelling and challenging social issues. In short, Roddenberry's Star Trek in keeping with what the best of speculative fiction has to offer, provided a stage upon which to act out the core dilemmas of our shared human condition.

J.J. Abrams reboot of the Star Trek universe has no such lofty ideals. It is unapologetic in this regard. Abrams' Trek is Dawson Creek in space, made for an Ipod generation that no longer has a sense of wonder or an attention span longer than 3 minutes. For those children of the original Trek, here I mean those who came of age during the 1960s, Star Trek was the future: a multicultural, peaceful, space faring Federation, led by an American golden boy who practiced soft-diplomacy while always getting the girl--human and alien alike.



The technology and hopeful future of Star Trek was part of its appeal, and quite understandably for a generation that has come to take the fantastic as commonplace, the future is the now. For those children of the 1980s and 1990s--a generation that grew up with the Internet--all wonder about technology seems to have been replaced by basic, uninspired familiarity.

And you know what? Maybe this is okay. Why? Because the movie is still fun and exciting when taken on its own terms. Despite the unmitigated disaster that was Cloverfield (a movie that I eviscerated here) Abrams has crafted a beautiful homage to Roddenberry's Star Trek. As we in fandom are fond of saying, Abrams "didn't rape our childhood." In keeping with theme of Star Trek as an homage to its storied roots, Abrams' vision is not, "a wax museum come to life." Oh no, this film has a heart, a big beating one, and there is lots to enjoy in the interplay of its protagonists.

Christopher Pine is Kirk. I know that many fans will nitpick certain aspects of the character, but to my eyes, Pine has that Kirk swagger...an intangible free-spiritedness and confidence that makes him a living legend. While I found the Kobayashi Maru scenario a bit trite (this is a much storied event in the mythos surrounding Kirk), the other moments, especially Kirk's time in Iowa as a child and his casually throwing the keys to his prized motorcycle to its new owner, are quintessential James Tiberius Kirk. This Kirk is centered differently than the Kirk of Roddenberry's Trek, but again, somehow it fits the world that Abrams' James T. Kirk has been inserted into:



The other foundations of the triad are similarly well-suited to their roles. Zack Quinto's Spock is Spock: in this iteration emphasizing the human over the alien--



Again, this isn't necessarily bad, it is just different. Karl Urban is McCoy. Be forewarned, at first Urban appears to be giving an over the top performance, but it quickly grows on you as pitch perfect.

Our stalwart auxiliaries are all serviceable. Zoe Saldana as Uhura is beautiful, yet she doesn't have the smoldering sensuality of Nichelle Nichols (but then again, who could?). Scotty played by Simon Pegg is passable: he isn't given much to do, but will certainly grow in the role. By contrast, Chekov (played by Anton Yelchin) and Sulu (portrayed by Harold and Kumar's John Cho) are in some ways more substantial than their originals. Of course, Walter Koenig and George Takei will always be those characters and are a given as the yardsticks and standard for the roles. But perhaps in Abrams' Trek, they will be more central to the adventures of the new USS Enterprise.

As Nero, Eric Bana is more than an adequate villain (and at this point Bana seems destined to be a character actor who appears in many films, but never receives much acclaim).

But in fairness, one must acknowledge that Bana's Nero is truly hamstrung in his role as a place holder until Abrams' Star Trek finds its Khan:



Abrams has a clear reverence for Star Trek. There are a few necessary shortcuts, yet nevertheless, the film manages to reconcile canon. To that point, Abrams' embrace of Leonard Nimoy as Spock Prime is a master stroke that succeeds in earning the trust of fans. Abrams clearly understands that fandom is critical to the success of this newest Trek. He should succeed with the core audience, because instead of insulting them, Abrams gives the true believers a wealth of Easter eggs. For example (and if you want to stay "spoiler free" skip this section):

1. Kirk as a hell raising kid in Iowa--priceless!
2. The mentions of such locales as Delta Vega; the Klingon Prison Planet, Rura Penthe; the moon of Titan famous for "Titan's Turn"; and a nice reference to William Riker's tactic of holding a ship steady over a magnetic field in order to create a natural cloak.
3. Admiral Archer and his beagle; an Orion "slave girl" at the academy; and Sulu's skill at fencing.
4. The relationship between Spock and Uhura is a nice acknowledgment of the slash fiction that has been written about the series...and what do we now do with the "relationship" between Spock and Kirk?
5. Kirk grabbing a bottle of Saurian brandy in his bar fight with the Starfleet cadets.
6. Red shirts must die. Repeat after me, red shirts must die.
7. Pike in a wheelchair is not as tragic as Pike in a rolling box equipped with a blinking light. Pike receiving a Wrath of Khan like interrogation. Pike as captain of the Enterprise.
8. Scotty has a tribble on his desk. Scotty also has a Jem'hadar/Ugnaught assistant.
9. The USS Hood (a storied ship in all of Star Trek) gets a mention, as does the USS Farragut (which was Kirk's first posting).
10. Why must Tyler Perry appear in this movie? Why lord why?
11. This is indeed the Abramsverse. Yes my people, Star Trek 2009 does indeed feature both a Slusho reference and the monster from Cloverfield.

Roddenberry's Star Trek is about friendship and chemistry. It is not necessarily the well-acted scripts, amazing special effects, or potent and pathos filled episodes that keep fans returning to Roddenberry's Star Trek or its many spin offs. In this regard, Star Trek is wildly uneven where for every City on the Edge of Forever we have many more episodes like Spock's Brain. Even given how indescribably horrible the latter is, we still watch Star Trek because of the chemistry of Spock, McCoy, and Kirk.

As one of my dear mentors put it, he only needs to watch Star Trek II: the Wrath of Khan until the point when Spock tells Kirk that he has been and always will be his friend. This is one of the primary reasons that Star Trek endures: the friendships of the characters, and the many ways that audiences see Star Trek as a familiar and rich accompaniment to their lives.



Ultimately, J.J. Abrams Star Trek is great fun. But, it is escapist entertainment that carries neither moral weight nor vision. For me, this is one of those generation defining moments where one realizes they are truly an adult because the world seems to have come full circle. Ironically, born of the tumultuous 1960s the original Star Trek "mattered" because "it was about something." Its contemporary, Battlestar Galactica, was in contrast, about nothing. It was a wagon train in space, a thrill ride for the masses:



In the Obama era, we are witness to a moment when Star Trek is about nothing, a summer popcorn movie at its finest, while the reimagined Battlestar Galactica is/was about the heavy weight of a world at war, in crisis, and an American empire in decline.

Who knows? Maybe in the world in which we live, a little escapism is a good thing, an antidote to our anxieties and fears. And in that context, I may just be able to accept this newest Star Trek after all.

Some Questions:

1. Where are the auxiliaries and reserves in the Federation starfleet? Are things so bad that they have to put 20 year olds in charge of their vessels?

2. Spock and Uhura: aliens have long been a proxy for the racial Other in science fiction. Now we have a mulatto (in Spock) getting it on with a black woman. Predictable choice? Or unexpected?

3. Will this cast mesh and create the type of chemistry which the original cast enjoyed? Or, will it be impossible given that the new crew doesn't have a television series as a platform from which to launch?

4. Who is next? Can this franchise find its Khan? Should Abrams even dare to revisit the Wrath of Khan storyline in the sequel?

5. Where is McCoy's mint julep?

6. Abrams clearly has an eye for swashbuckling adventure. What would he do in a Knights of the Old Republic centered Star Wars universe? Would Abrams be a perfect fit for it, or would he be a perfect disaster?

7. What do you ghetto nerds give Abrams' Trek? Good or bad? A thumbs up or a thumbs down?

8. Lest I forget, where was our classic Star Trek theme?