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Hero Uplifts Superhero
George Pérez
June 20, 2017

Wonder Woman is a superhero who, for her first forty-five years, rarely lived up to her potential. In 1986, the talents of George Pérez and others uplifted Wonder Woman to her proper status as a top superhero.

George Pérez was born in the South Bronx on June 9, 1954 to recently immigrated Puerto Rican parents. He learned English from superhero comic books and at five years old, started drawing with the bathroom hamper lid as a drawing board. After graduating from Cardinal Hayes high school in 1972, Pérez got a job as a bank teller across the street from DC Comics (then at 666 Fifth Avenue, so maybe it was Chase Bank across 52nd Avenue), while trying to get hired as a comic book artist. He was offered some work as an assistant to Rick Buckler at Marvel Comics, while working days at the bank. When he accidently threw away $500 at the bank, Pérez became a freelance artist, picking up any work he could.

He became skilled at drawing the things other artists didn't want to draw: buildings, skylines, crowds, superhero teams (with no hope for creator royalties & more faces to draw for the same amount of money). He looked for ways to differentiate characters and how they interacted. His timing was perfect because Marvel was expanding and had more comic books than people to fill the jobs. Pérez was getting a reputation for drawing any project, from Man-Wolf in 1974 to an Enter the Dragon knock-off. His growth as an artist, willingness to tackle tougher assignments, and love for superhero groups led him to Avengers, then Fantastic Four, then Avengers plus Justice League (DC) and Teen Titans (DC). His work as artist and co-plotter with writer Marv Wolfman on Teen Titans caused him to drop Avengers and later Justice League. Teen Titans were half a reboot team of Justice League sidekicks (Robin, Kid-Flash, Wondergirl) and half new characters (Cyborg, Raven, Starfire), plus Changeling (Beast Boy from Doom Patrol). The Teen Titans were not expected to do well when it launched in 1980, but they became the most profitable title for DC Comics, and helped spark a revolution in creator licensing.

Having effectively rebooted an obscure superhero team into top selling comic books, DC executives wanted the same treatment for the entire company. George Pérez and Marv Wolfman were tapped for a project to clean up DC Comics comic book continuity, 1985's multiverse shattering Crisis on Infinite Earths. Pérez viewed it as the opportunity of a lifetime to draw all the characters in DC Comics history, no matter how obscure and shape the future of DC Comics. The reboot led to John Byrne coming from Marvel to take over on two Superman titles. And Batman was rebooted in part by Frank Miller and David Mazzuchelli. But what about the reboot of Wonder Woman?

Wonder Woman - Pre-Crisis
If DC Comics were to stop publishing Wonder Woman, creative control would revert back to her creator William Moulton Marston (under the name Charles Moulton). DC was legally obligated to publish Wonder Woman comics or lose the rights to the character.
Wonder Woman 1986 ad
The new Wonder Woman
DC comic book writer Greg Potter and editor Janice Rand spent several months trying to decide what aspects of Wonder Woman history to keep, and Potter decided to establish her in his home town of Boston. Potter conceived the Amazons being reincarnations of women murdered through pre-history. Months before the launch of the new Wonder Woman, George Pérez came on as co-plotter and penciller, commiting for the first six issues. So the first two issues (comic companies learned the value of renumbering -- first issues sell extra collectible copies) of Wonder Woman had Greg Potter scripting (& co-plotting), George Pérez pencilling (& co-plotting), Bruce Patterson inking, John Costanza lettering, Tatjana Wood coloring, and Karen Berger editing. After those first two issues, Greg Potter left to focus on being the creative director for a Connecticut-based advertising agency, according to Karen Berger in the letter column to issue 5. According to George Pérez in a 2001 interview with Andy Mangels, “When it became obvious by issue two that the series was definitely leaning toward my creative vision, Greg decided to leave the book.” Seasoned superhero writer Len Wein joined the team as scripter. Pérez was now plotter of Wonder Woman in addition to pencilling the next six issues, before reducing his artwork to layouts, with Bruce Patterson doing finishes. Pérez wanted to write and he submitted ten pages to editor Karen Berger. Berger gave them back to Pérez to rewrite. He praises her editing for helping him to become a better writer. From issue 17 through issue 62 in 1992, George Pérez was the writer of Wonder Woman.

All of that is my longwinded way of saying comic books are generally a collaborative process, even if the collaborators are never in the same room together. In a moment, I will describe the Wonder Woman of George Pérez, but when I do so I am in no way slighting the tone set by Greg Potter or Karen Berger's editing or any of the artists that finished the pencils or layouts Pérez put on Bristol board.

The Differences of George Pérez's Wonder Woman
Here are some of the changes found in the post-Crisis reboot of Wonder Woman
   • The mythology of the goddesses and gods in Wonder Woman had their basis in Greek mythology. (Previously it was a hodge-podge of Roman and Greek mythology.)
   • Themyscira became the home of the Amazons, named after their fallen Amazon capitol. (Previously it was called Paradise Island.)
   • Amazons wore leather and metal clothes suitable for fighting, when fighting. (Previously dresses or togas.)
   • Many but not all Amazons are lesbians. (Previously hints at homosexuality appear throughout the 76 year history.)
   • Menalippe, Antiope, and General Philippus were introduced as key Amazons.
   • Bondage no longer causes Wonder Woman to lose her powers. 
   • Wonder Woman fights with a sword, shield, and battleaxe.

What's funny is that Pérez went from drawing vast casts of characters in Avengers, Justice League, Teen Titans, Crisis, the History of DC Comics, many covers to the Who's Who in DC Comics to... Wonder Woman, an individual superhero without a large cast of supporting characters. So he developed a supporting pantheon of Greek goddesses (and gods), a supporting army of Amazons, and many Bostonians. He created a crowd around Wonder Woman, both in supporting characters and fans.

And much of the tone and Amazon backstory of the Wonder Woman movie came from the Wonder Woman of George Pérez.

Wonder Woman volume 2, issue 1

Music Association: Kimberly Locke - 8th World Wonder

Movie Re-Review
Wonder Woman (2017) movie
June 13, 2017

I held the door for my better half and two college-aged women to the Wonder Woman movie. One of the women asked if it was assigned seats, and I said no. If this was her first movie theater experience, wow, good choice.

When I previously reviewed Wonder Woman, I was uncharacteristically influenced by my better half. I saw it as a 4 star movie. She saw it more like a 3 star movie. This time around we both saw it as a 5 star movie. And we sat through the credits long enough to see the thank you's to Lynda Carter, the actress who shined above the Wonder Woman TV series, and George Pérez, the artist and storyteller who elevated Wonder Woman comics to a (Mount) Olympic level.

The whole Wonder Woman movie is greater than the sum of its parts; the execution is superior to the story. We bow humbly to director Patty Jenkins and star Gal Gadot.

The movie is a masterpiece. It's the sort of movie to see if you are going to a movie for the first time. Five stars (ignore previous review).5 stars (ignore previous review)

Now, some rules for the next movie. Whatever Warner Brothers is paying Patty Jenkins and Gal Gadot isn't enough. Do not damage what has been built by this film. Do not weaken Diana. Do not destroy Themyscira. Make the next movie another labor of love.

Music Association: Genesis - Turn It On Again
Maybe the next post will be about how George Pérez revolutionized Wonder Woman. Or maybe it will be about 45 turning 71 tomorrow.

Movie Review (Non-Specific Spoiler Alert)
Wonder Woman (2017) movie
June 2, 2017

The new Wonder Woman movie did not disappoint me, which is sensational.

This Wonder Woman is heroic and has limitless strength of both power and character. She is the superhero she should be. When a movie centers around a 75-year-old character, getting the character right is key.

I'm not sure she's ever actually called Wonder Woman, not that she needs to be. No one in Star Wars actually called it a star wars either.

The visuals are strong and nearly period specific. The script does not suffer from cornball humor. The sword hidden in the back of a form-fitting dress isn't cornball.

The music could use some work. Later fight scenes swipe more than musical cues of Neo's fight music from The Matrix.

The first problem with Wonder Woman is how long it took her to get to the big screen. C'mon. A little late, aren't we? (Waiting For Gadot.) The second problem is her inspiration at the turning point of the story. It seems all good, until you reflect upon it for a moment, thinking of her backstory and then it just doesn't fit (a bit too Trevor-based).

Wonder Woman is a good movie. I have to recommend it (not have to contractually, none of my reviews are paid reviews). But my four out of five stars review flickers somewhat into a three star review due to excessive scrutinizing (really wondering).4 stars, or if scrutinized, 3 stars

Music Association: Eric Clapton - Wonderful Tonight
[June 5th - edit: The opening weekend box-office results has Wonder Woman earning $103 million domestically (U.S. and Canada) and $122.5 million from 55 international markets, for a global total start of $225.6 million on an investment of $149 million. She's doing great!]
[June 20th: Wonder Woman has currently over $573 million in gross receipts.]

Tenth Anniversary logo in shiny gold with an almost freshly baked smell
June 1, 2017

This is the tenth anniversary of the Twin Cities Calendar and the Hopes and Dreams website. Woo-who!

We hope you've been entertained and informed and maybe your days have been brighter due to this corner of the Internet.

The cat that throws its voice just threw up. It sounded like it was right next to me, but it was several rooms away. Anniversaries like this are a moment of  - hurrah - and then it's time to clean up.

Music Association: Badfinger - Day After Day

Movie Potential
Wonder Woman (2017) movie
May 31, 2017

Wonder Woman 2017 movie lasso
Comic book superheroes are the modern American mythology. Crossing lines between American mythology and ancient Greek mythology, no superhero has more potential than Wonder Woman, whose movie starts Friday.

At her best, she is an Amazon warrior fighting for peace and changing the world. She is a woman of wonder, a marvel of inspiration, and a hero to heroes.

Whether formed from clay and blessed by Greek gods, or born of Zeus and Hippolyta, she is as strong as Superman with differing powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men and women.

Her stories are as varied as the writers who have told them.

May her movie inspire new generations.

Music Association: Bee Gees - More Than A Woman

Wonder Woman sunset - click for larger

Hopes and Dreams

Food Fraud
Arsenic Rice

May 28, 2017

The stories below didn't mention the sources of the bad olive oil (Tainted Olive Oil) or the bad honey (That's Not Honey, Honey). The worst “olive oil” (and some of the best) came from Italy. The worst “honey” was coming from Chinese suppliers.

This third edition of Food Fraud is about rice from the south-central United States.

Rice production map of the United States in 2016

Rice grown in the United States contains an average of 1.4 to 5 times more arsenic than rice from Europe, India and Bangladesh, according to a 2004 international rice survey of world grains reported in the journal of Environmental Science and Technology.

What is Arsenic?
Arsenic compounds are white or colorless powders with no smell or taste. You usually cannot tell if arsenic is present in your food, water, or air.

Arsenic is classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer as a group 1 carcinogen -- one of the most potent cancer inducers. Arsenic has two chemical forms, inorganic (combined with oxygen, chlorine, or sulphur) and organic (combined with carbon, less toxic), and is naturally part of the minerals in the earth’s crust. Regular exposure to small amounts of arsenic can increase the risk of bladder, lung, and skin cancer, as well as heart disease and type 2 diabetes. The United States has used more arsenic than any other country, 1.6 million tons since 1910. Arsenic was used primarily as a pesticide, mostly after 1960, until it was banned in 1993. Arsenic was used in cotton farming as a pesticide to control boll weevils and as a defoliant to remove leaves before harvest. Today arsenic is used mostly as a wood preservative.

Rice crops failed to grow in former cotton fields due to an arsenic-induced disease known as straighthead (Oryza sativa L.). Straighthead-resistant rice varieties were bred (and field re-flooding techniques developed) enabling rice to withstand the legacy arsenic and appear healthy (Nature). Most rice consumed in the U.S. is domestically grown, half of it is exported, and more than half of U.S. rice is produced in Arkansas.

While there are no arsenic-food safety standards in the U.S., the federal limit of arsenic in water is 10 ppb (parts per billion). In New Jersey, the arsenic limit is 5 ppb in water.

Consumer Reports studied arsenic in rice in 2012 and 2014 and found the highest levels of arsenic in rice from Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas (Food Safety News). Here is a sample of the Consumer Reports chart:

General Mills Rice Chex gluten free
Goya enriched medium grain
Kellogg's Rice Krispies
Target - Market Pantry enriched long grain white
Uncle Ben's enriched long grain
Walmart - Great Value brown
Walmart - Great Value parboiled
Whole Foods - 365 Everyday long grain brown
240-344 ppb
232-264 ppb
196-297 ppb
168-196 ppb
184-254 ppb (AR. LA, TX)
220-246 ppb
212-344 ppb (U.S.)
138-239 ppb (U.S.)
210-282 ppb

I read about the Consumer Reports survey back then, got disgusted, and read the bag of rice in my kitchen: Roberts A-1 Rice from Riceland Foods, Stuttgart, Arkansas. Roberts A-1 Rice was never listed in the Consumer Reports survey, but coming from Arkansas was enough to make me switch brands to one that specifically says, “California Grown.”
Music Association: Coldplay - Scientist
Movie Association: Arsenic and Old Lace

Hopes and Dreams

Food Fraud
Tainted Olive
May 26, 2017

If you mouth the words Olive Juice to someone, it looks like you are saying I Love You but you aren't.

Real olive oil is also easily faked, despite the words: 100% Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

Oils labeled as Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO) were found to be mostly soybean oil in an April 2007 olive oil bust. Australia tested all of its olive oil brands in 2012 and none were certified as pure olive oil. And in 2008, Italian police seized 85 oil farms which were mixing chlorophyll to sunflower and canola oils and labeling it as EVOO.

Olive oils for 186 brands were tested using chemical and sensory tests through the Olive Center at the University of California - Davis in a year-long study reported in 2011 and 2010.  About 70% of the olive oils failed to meet the proper ratio of diacylglycerols. International Olive Council (IOC) sensory tests were failed by 73% of the olive oil brands.  

The UC-Davis tests concluded that olive oils had been hydrolyzed, oxidized, fermented, and adulterated with cheaper oils.

Olive oil brands passing the tests were:
Corto Olive
Bariani Olive Oil
Kirkland Organic
Olea Estates
McEvoy Ranch Organic
Cobram Estate
California Olive Ranch

Brands failing the tests were: Pompeian, Bertolli, Colavita, Star, Sasso, Antica Badia, Primadonna, Carapelli, Mazola, Felippo Berio, Safeway, Whole Foods, Carapelli, Coricelli, & Mezzetta.

The internet and TV suggest testing olive oil is as easy as sticking the bottle in a refrigerator to see if it congeals. The UC-Davis Olive Center finds the refrigerator method for testing olive oil to be less than foolproof. Non-olive oils will not coagulate in the cold but some olive oil varieties will not coagulate either. And the refrigerator test will not determine rancidity or if the olive oil tastes good.

Olives and olive oil are “excellent sources of oleic acid, an omega-9 monounsaturated fatty acid” and “have many unique phenolic and aromatic compounds, including oleuroprein and flavonoids.”*

Music Associations: Soft Cell - Tainted Love & Madonna - Like A Virgin
* Michael Murray, The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods, p 435.

Hopes and Dreams

Food Fraud
That's Not Honey, Honey!

May 18, 2017

I can eat anything. Spicy food. Old shoe... anything. I'm part goat. Over time I have become more selective about food.

Honey is a super-food. It has antioxidants – phenolic compounds.* It can heal wounds.* It is energy-enhancing.* And some of the honey at the store is not honey.

Honey is being adulterated with cheaper (and very not-super) ingredients like high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), corn syrup, sugar, molasses, illegal antibiotics, and other substances. The FDA has issued several alerts. The latest FDA alert was issued September 20, 2016:  “The presence of cane or corn sweetener in the adulteration of honey can be selectively detected by using the internal standard stable carbon radioisotope ratio method. Reference for the appropriate analytical technique is published in the Official Methods of Analysis of AOAC International, AOAC Official Method 991.41, C-4 Plant Sugars in Honey.

There you go, that's how you'll know if you have adulterated honey.

Here is a 2012 infographic describing ways anyone can test their own honey:

Is it from Bees or from a Factory?
Is It from Bees or Is It from a Factory?  (Click the image for a larger size. Here is the original Russian version.)
How to Distinguish Natural Honey

Pure honey
 honey aroma (exception: honey with rose tea)
 causes mild burning sensation in the throat
 does not separate into layers
 has natural impurities (pollen, bee bread, microparticles of wax, propolis)
 has a soft texture (thin, filament-like trickle)
 quite thick, trickles in a thin stream
 no foam

Fake honey
 sour smell or no smell
 separates into layers
 no impurities
 has rough texture (forms clumps)
 runny (drips, immediately spreads along the surface)
 has foam

Home laboratory
In order to boost profits, some producers dilute honey with sugar syrup and molasses. To increase thickness they add flour, chalk, sand, and even sawdust.

 Hold a lighted match to the honey. If it is natural honey it will melt and not begin to hiss straight away.
 Mix honey in water. Natural honey will not dissolve. If you add 2-3 drops of iodine to the solution it will not turn blue.
 Put some honey on a piece of paper. If a damp patch spreads around it then it is diluted.
 Dip a piece of stale bread into the honey. After 8-10 minutes it should still be firm and not soften.
 Mix some water into the honey and add2-3 drops of vinegar essence. If the solution becomes foamy, it is adulterated honey.
 Heat a stainless steel piece of wire and insert it into the honey. A good product will stick to the metal and not flow back into the jar.”

honey display at the 2006 Minnesota State FairMost store honey is not what is produced by bees, reported Food Safety News in 2011. “The FDA says any product that’s been ultra-filtered and no longer contains pollen isn’t honey. However, the FDA isn’t checking honey sold here to see if it contains pollen. Ultra filtering is a high-tech procedure where honey is heated, sometimes watered down and then forced at high pressure through extremely small filters to remove pollen, which is the only foolproof sign identifying the source of the honey. It is a spin-off of a technique refined by the Chinese, who have illegally dumped tons of their honey – some containing illegal antibiotics – on the U.S. market for years.

Music Association: The Beatles - A Taste of Honey
Twin Cities Calendar:  Get more bee information at the Native Plant Sale on Saturday, June 3, 2017 or at the Pollinator Party on Thursday, July 27, 2017 or at the Minnesota State Fair (August 24 - September 4, 2017).
* Michael Murray, The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods, p 648-655.

Hopes and Dreams

Traveling Disease
high fever, cough, runny nose, then rash
May 9, 2017

Minnesota has the measles.

There have been 48 cases of rubeola in Minnesota this year. To put that in perspective, from 1997-2016 the state had 56 cases.

The outbreak can be attributed to unvaccinated travel (out of the country or into the country).

Music Association:  Swing Out Sister - Breakout

Hopes and Dreams

Free Comic Book Day
May 6, 2017
classic comic book covers
Today is Free Comic Book Day. People can go to a participating comic book retailer today, and they will be handed a bag with promotional comic books. Free. No purchase necessary. Some of the books are a set of a few pages of several of their regular comic books put together. Some of the books are full comic books. Often comic book retailers will include special sales on this day. All of this is to promote reading and comic books.

As I've been talking recently about climate change, here are some links to free (online, electronic) climate change-related comic books:
Carbon Supermarket by Kate Evans
Chakra - Climate Action by Ashwin Pande & Thiago Vale with Sharad Devarajan
Mayah's Lot by Charlie La Greca & Rebecca Bratspies
Simon Says - Save the Climate by Denis Thomopoulos
Wild For Life by Diego Otero & Lisa Rolls

Music Associations: Remy Zero - Save Me & Stereophonics - Superman
Twin Cities Calendar - May 6, 2017

Hopes and Dreams

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
April 25, 2017

Minneapolis-born Robert Pirsig, author of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, died yesterday. He was 88.

Zen was rejected by 121 publishing houses before it was published in 1974. Here are some of my favorite quotes from the book:


The division of the world into parts and the building of this structure, is something everybody does. All the time we are aware of millions of things around us... these changing shapes, these burning hills, the sound of the engine, the feel of the throttle, each rock and weed and fence post and piece of debris beside the road... aware of these things but not really conscious of them unless there is something unusual or unless they reflect something we are predisposed to see. We could not possibly be conscious of these things and remember all of them because our mind would be so full of useless details we would be unable to think. From all this awareness we must select, and what we select and call consciousness is never the same as the awareness because the process of selection mutates it. We take a handful of sand from the endless landscape of awareness around us and call that handful of sand the world.”
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig
“I'm no more comfortable than they are in this heat but there's no point in dwelling on it. All day while I've been thinking and talking about Phaedrus they must have been thinking about how bad all this is. That's what's really wearing them down. The thought.”
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig
“You are never dedicated to something you have complete confidence in. No one is fanatically shouting that the sun is going to rise tomorrow. They know it's going to rise tomorrow. When people are fanatically dedicated to political or religious faiths or any other kinds of dogmas or goals, it's always because these dogmas or goals are in doubt.”
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig
“The place to improve the world is first in one's own heart and head and hands, and then work outward from there.”
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig
“You want to know how to paint a perfect painting? It's easy. Make yourself perfect and then just paint naturally. That's the way all the experts do it. The making of a painting or the fixing of a motorcycle isn't separate from the rest of your existence.”
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig
[When asked if motorcycle maintenance is difficult:] “Not if you have the right attitudes. It's having the right attitudes that's hard.unquote

Music Association: The Beatles - The Long and Winding Road

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