Friday, August 31, 2012

"We had a good time!" Aug 22, 1996

Here's the cover to the August 22, 1996 edition of THE WEEKLY AYA.
This is a rarity, in that my activities in my town seldom got on the cover of the public relations newsletter.
The comment under the photo reads, "Aya Junior High and High School students were the participants in the International Relations Camp. All of the participants spent the time in the forest with foreign teachers inter-acting for a fun 2 nights-3 day camp."
I'm ashamed to say I don't remember these teachers full names. Mike is on the left and Mary Anne is on the right. Both were English teachers in Miyazaki City.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Happy Birthday, Jack Kirby!

Yesterday was the anniversary of the birth of the greatest creator in the world of comics, Mr. Jack Kirby. He was born on August 28, 1917.
For all of Stan Lee's ideas, in my opinion if it hadn't been for Mr. Kirby's dynamic art style, the Fantastic Four would not have been half as successful. After that success came Thor, the Hulk, the Avengers, and several non-Kirby characters such as Iron Man and Spider-Man. And of course, then came The Avengers. In issue #4, one of the greatest characters ever returned with "Captain America lives again!"
After more than a decade of Marvel Madness, Jack Kirby moved to DC for several years and created another wild batch of characters: Kamandi, The Demon, and of course, the New Gods. Amongst these characters is Darkseid, probably one of DC's greatest villains ever.
When I was about ten or so, I somehow heard about Jack Kirby's birthday. (It was probably one of Stan's Soapboxes). I took it upon myself to send him a birthday card, cutting out pictures of his characters from FANTASTIC FOUR and AVENGERS. A few months later I got a typed letter from him with his signature. To my life-long dismay, I did not save this letter. :-( However I do have the memory, and I cherish that. That is the closest I ever got to The King, who passed away on February 6, 1994.
'Nuff said!


JL #20 "The Return of the Weather Wizard!" Afterward

So...what did you think?

As I talked about in my FORWARD, this is one of those bittersweet issues for me. Reading it some ten plus years later I have to say I am proud about how it stands up; each character has something to do and it flows pretty well. It does pain me that I have extra holes on each page because I mis-aligned the  the setting of the hole puncher! And some of the art just hurts---literally--to look at now.

First off, as I mentioned in the FORWARD, I regret that I used this costume for Ralph Dibny, the Elongated Man. This was another issue to "star" Ralph in a featured role. He continued to be easy to write and easy to visualize, although I did try to not overdo the stretching neck bit. I'm glad to say that I never used this costume again. In fact, after this I mostly stuck to his traditional "true" JLA-era red costume.

Speaking of Ralph, as soon as I decided to have the story begin at a basketball game, I knew I would have Elongated Man comment on then-current superstars Michael Jordan and Dennis Rodman. Basketball was huge in Japan and especially huge with my English class students, who wanted to study English and go to the US to watch or play basketball. So this exchange between the JLAers was entertaining to my kids. Those who thought Dennis Rodman was TOO much of an extrovert could still see how Ralph Dibny would want to emulate him. :-)

I enjoyed introducing Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen to my universe. I think people who had seen the SUPERMAN movies would know who they were, and it made sense for them to do some of the narrating during the action at the Metropolis basketball arena.
I have to say now that I really liked the idea of the Weather Wizard attacking the All Star Game *before* he thought the JLA would be there. I mean, come on....criminals are all egotistical, right? Who would resist showing up and robbing a venue that an hour or so later the JLA was scheduled to appear in? I thought that was clever...and although it's not re-printed here I also liked the JLAers' response to this, "We like basketball, too, ya know!"
 This is just a quick visual I came up with. I wish I had been better at drawing a telephone, but I think it's clear what GL is doing.
One thing I didn't like about my series is that too many issues were stand-alone. Because I only published once every three months or so there was not much cohesiveness (if that's the word I mean) between issues. So for quite a while I tried to introduce super-villains that I could have return again and again to try to give depth (if that's the word I mean) to my universe.  Of course, obviously my job was not to be a professional comic book publisher, so there wasn't anything I could do about it besides make these types of references to past issues.
Finally I have gotten used to the idea that unless it's an A-1 Emergency, there is supposed to be somebody on monitor duty. Because Hawkwoman had appeared in an earlier issue but hadn't done much, I chose her to use in this type of cameo. It does help to show that she and Wonder Woman are good friends, too.

This issue is one of the best to show how well the JLA works as a team. Unlike several recent issues where one character or two characters "save the day," in this story Wonder Woman saves Hawkman who saves Green Lantern who saves Martian Manhunter. Original JLA writer Gardner Fox was great at this type of story, and in that sense I feel this story is dedicated to him.  

 As I've written about before, Superman was the most difficult character for me to write. Really, he should be able to do everything on his own! So I have a playful dig at this by having Elongated Man assume that Superman saved everybody's life. Of course it was Green Lantern, who I enjoyed writing much, much more!

And lastly, here's my "funny ending." It had been established in DC Comics that The Flash is always late in his private life. So I thought it would be amusing for The Fastest Man Alive to make a cameo appearance at the end of the adventure. Similarly to Superman, if The Flash was written well there wasn't much he couldn't do. If you go back through my stories you'll often find that I handicap him, Superman, or Batman (Batman because he was TOO popular) in order to let the other characters shine. I tried not to be too obvious about it most of the time. Anyway, I thought this was a nice way to end the story and I really love the way the breeze from The Flash's arrival knocks Green Arrow's cap off his head.  

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

JL #20 Extra: Regarding JLA Absenteeism

Regarding "Absenteeism in the Justice League"
Four JLAers did not appear in this issue's adventure. We are using the word "absent" but really when there is no Emergency Signal sent out there are always gonig to be "absent" members . When the Initial Level Emergency Signal (Yellow Alert) is sent out, only those members who have time will respond. At that time, those members who are always very busy (Aquaman, Batman, Black Canary, Green Arrow, Green Lantern, Superman) are often absent. When the Highest Level Emergency Signal (Red Alert) is sent out, those members who are absent from that incident will have to fill out an "Absentee Report" detailing officially why they could not attend.
As of this issue, these are the members and the issues they have missed.  
AQUAMAN Including this issue, he has missed three times. In issues #9 and #20 the Emergency Signal was not sent, so he stayed on ocean patrol. In #17 during that crisis it made more sense for him to stay on patrol rather than attend the meeting.
BATMAN Including this issue, he has missed two times. Batman has another job as Bruce Wayne, the President of Wayne Enterprises. He is often very busy with this personal work. He was absent in issues #4 and #20, both issues where the Emergency Signal was not sent.
BLACK CANARY is currently the Justice League member with the most absences. In issues #9 and #20 when the Emergency Signal was not sent out, she stayed on patrol in her hometown of Star City. In issue #19 she was actually busy fighting against The Riddler so could not answer the summons. All together she has missed four issues.

THE FLASH is a police scientist so is very busy. However, because his power is super-speed, he usually can do his job quickly and then have some free time. This issue's adventure is a good example. On page 19 he is called by Green Lantern but he was too busy doing police work to respond. Then when he was finished with his job he was able to appear at the end of the story. So far this issue, #20, is the first time he has missed.
GREEN ARROW missed the same issues as Black Canary, #9 and #19. He also missed #11 on his own. That issue was the adventure that started as a series of charity shows, so he was busy fighting yakuza gangs in Star City at that time.
GREEN LANTERN is a police officer for the entire galaxy, so he is often on patrol in space. This is why he missed the adventures in #2, #15, and #17.
HAWKWOMAN's job is to be a representative of her planet and to be a super-heroine (JLA member). She has no other private life, so she responds to almost all summons. Her one absence was in #11 during the charity show. At that time she was in space visiting her home planet.
MANHUNTER has no private life outside of the Justice League, so he hardly ever misses an adventure. He sometimes does Private Detective work, but even when busy with that he gives JLA cases more priority. Also, he often volunteers for Monitor Duty (such as in issues #11, #15, and #17). Currently he only missed issue #4 when the Emergency Signal was not sent out.
SUPERMAN is the busiest Justice League member. He patrols Earth and space and also works as a reporter at The Daily Planet in Metropolis. In issue #9 he was busy fighting his arch-enemy Lex Luthor. In #18 he was off on another planet.
WONDER WOMAN is similar to Manhunter, Hawkwoman and Hawkman, and Elongated Man in that besides being a super-hero she has no other private life. Therefore she almost never misses a case. In issue #2 she was busy fighting her arch-enemy The Cheetah. She also missed the adventure in #4 when there was no Emergency Signal sent out.
ELONGATED MAN and HAWKMAN have only just joined in issue #13 and since then neither have missed an adventure!

Monday, August 27, 2012

JL #20 "The Return of the Weather Wizard!" Next Issue Blurb!

Next Issue Blurb
Next time, we go to the home world of Black Canary (shown on left), the other-dimensional world "Earth 2." The Justice League will meet up with many members of their mentor group, The Justice Society! Next: CRISIS ON EARTH TWO!
Don't miss it!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Political Litmus Test

It seems to me that there is one political litmus test for all candidates. If you are a Democrat, you must be for abortion rights; if you are a Republican, you must be against them. Is this right? Are there politicians in either party who say they are for or against their national platforms? I have read that Governor Romney used to be less rigid in his stance on abortion, but I don't know if that means he used to agree with abortion rights or just that he didn't campaign against them.

Abortion seems to be one of the issues that has helped tear our country apart. That's ironic, really, because when the US Supreme Court made their Roe Vs Wade decision in 1973, Justice Harry Blackmun thought that he had helped settle the matter once and for all. (This is just another example of judicial ignorance, but we're not here to talk about that today.) In a pretty obvious case, "Jane Roe" sued to have the legal chance to have an abortion in her home state of Texas. She found it unfair that if she was living in a different state where abortions were less rigidly controlled she might be able to get an abortion. Now let's stop and think about this for a minute. When the USA was formed by thirteen individual states, this type of "unfairness" was common. Each state had autonomy over its own citizens. In the past 100 or so years, however, there has been less and less autonomy and more and more standardization. Nowadays it seems that "all men are created equal" has become "all men are treated equally."

I'm not against this, it just seems different than when the Union was formed is all.

That was the basis of Roe vs. Wade, which found that all US women, no matter where they lived, had fundamental control over their own bodies. The decision balanced that right against the conflicting state interest in the plight of the aborted fetus. Almost immediately, foes of the decision hit this point hard: it is NOT the woman's body she is in control of: it's somebody else's. In this view, killing that other person makes abortion murder. And the two sides have been miles apart ever since.

One quick point before we go on: I refuse to use the established rhetorical terms involved in this debate. One side is not "Pro-Life" and the other "Pro-Choice." I reject both those terms for being factious and duplicitious. We can discuss this in the comments if anyone wants to, but that is why I am not using these terms. I prefer "Against Abortion" and "For Abortion Rights."

As a man I have no stake in this discussion other than philosophically. That being said, I was taught not to enforce any of my personal beliefs on others. If my wife or sisters or daughter ever wanted to get an abortion, who am I to tell them they can't have one? As long as it is the law of the land, I do not feel it is my place to try to outlaw it.

However, I *am* all for shortening the acceptable time period for legal abortions. The issue of fetal "viability" (ability to live outside of the mother's womb) is a perfect cutting off period. I am not a doctor, but I am a father who has had to deal with pregnancies. I would suggest that any abortion in the first trimester would not be morally objectionable.

Sure, there are those out there who say that life begins at conception. Well, couples who suffer through miscarriages don't lose a child in the physical sense. A miscarriage in the first trimester is not the same as a still-birth. It just isn't. Besides, if God knows you from your time in the womb, He also knows that your parents were going to abort you. He isn't clueless, you know. So that argument doesn't wash, either.

We have all seen pictures of pre-natal babies with a face, fingers, and toes. Obviously, later abortions should be outlawed or strictly controlled. "Partial birth" abortions are especially difficult to justify. If babies can survive on their own they should not be killed. If they cannot survive on their own and their mothers don't want them, they should be allowed to be killed. This is not a step to be taken lightly, but it is not the same as murder, either. Aborting 3-4 month old fetuses should not be equated with murdering a real person. Rhetoric saying that so many abortions were done for "convenience" makes the choices harder, not easier. I will never have to face this dilemma, but I hope that each woman who does chooses whichever path is best for her.

Speaking of what is best for women, what would happen if both sides of this argument came together and created some sort of "adoption not abortion" program? It could work something like this: a woman who wants an abortion goes to her doctor and s/he recommends she contacts ANA (Adoption Not Abortion). ANA would pay the costs of the prenatal care for the unborn child for the next few months, and when it is born, it would be handed off to them to dispose of for her. And in this case "dispose of" means getting adopted, not being thrown away. My explanation of this sounds  a bit like a puppy mill, haha, but you get the idea. If people really are "pro-life" and "pro-choice," this seems like a perfect plan. Sure, the woman has to live with her pregnancy for several additional months, but as soon as the fetus is judged viable, pregnancy can be induced. Would that be a more difficult surgical procedure than an abortion? I don't know, but it would definitely be more of a "pro-life choice" than either we have now.

National Dog Day Aug 26 2012

Today, August 26, is National Dog Day. You know how they say "every dog has its day"? Well, this is the one for all of them.

I came across this in one of my educational (?) calendars a few months ago that listed various "holidays" and events. I put it on my calendar and then forgot about it until today.

It looks like it was created in 2004 by a woman named Colleen Paige who wanted to set aside a day to THANK all the dogs in our lives who do so much for us. If you go here: 50 Ways to Celebrate Dog Day you can also follow the links to read her message and various other facts and factoids about National Dog Day.

I love dogs. However, I have a very unbalanced experience with them. When I was a kid of about 8 I got bitten by our St. Bernard. She snapped at my face, nearly taking my eye out. Then a few years later one of my family's friends' Chihuahua bit me on the lip. When I was in middle school we got a Beagle-Mutt from the Humane Society and named her Sam. I loved that dog. When I was an adult my in-laws had a Pomeranian. I never did anything mean to this dog, but every day when I came home from work she would yap at me like I was a serial killer or something. I hated that dog. At about the same time we were given my sister-in-law's Siberian Husky to keep. I didn't know anything about keeping dogs in Japan, and he got sick with something and died suddenly. It was not pleasant. A few years later one of my co-workers offered me one of his Golden Retriever puppies, and I tried dog ownership again. Jack is still alive and well and living with my in-laws as of this writing. That's him at the top of this column.

Currently I live in an apartment complex that does not allow dogs. One day if/when we move, I would like to have another dog. Until that time, I'm content with my memories.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Happy Birthday, Walt Kelly!

August 25, 1913 is the birthday of one of the greatest cartoonists the world has ever known. I'm talking about Mr. Walt Kelly, the creator of POGO.

I don't know what to do to help spread the word how great Walt Kelly was. He worked on his award-winning comic strip from 1948 until his death in 1973. At that time he was a household name in the US, and probably in certain international circles as well. Unfortunately, now that he has fallen off of the cultural radar. He never contracted to have his characters appear in various TV specials or merchandise like Charles Schulz' SNOOPY. (He oversaw one TV special in 1969 that he hated and never did another.) He never had his characters appear on a Broadway show like LIL' ABNER or (Little Orphan) ANNIE. His characters were never in a full-length Hollywood movie like DICK TRACY.

What all this means is that for two generations now there has been no love given to these great characters.

Do you remember CALVIN & HOBBES? How about THE FAR SIDE? Those are also two wonderfully creative comic strips that are going to f-f-fade away because they have ended.

POGO The Complete Collection is out now. The second volume is coming out in another month or so. I urge everyone reading this to go to the public library and request a copy. Then read it and tell me if you don't agree that it is some of the more beautiful and funny stuff you've ever seen. And this isn't even Walt Kelly hitting his stride yet!

Happy Birthday, Walt Kelly!
You are not forgotten!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Happy Birthday, Sir Sean Connery!

Tomorrow August 25 is Sir Sean Connery's 82nd birthday!

We all know him as Bond James Bond but he is a versatile actor, producer, and voice artist. He won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role in THE UNTOUCHABLES. If you haven't seen that movie, you owe it to yourself. It is somewhat violent (it's a Brian DePalma movie, d'uh!) but it is incredibly entertaining. You will almost certainly enjoy it.

One of my favorite Sean Connery films is DRAGONHEART, where he "portrays" the dragon, Drago. The computer graphics help tell the story, obviously, but it's Sir Connery's wonderful voice that helps bring the character to life.

This year is the 50th anniversary of the James Bond movies. The first, DR. NO, was released in the United Kingdom in 1962. (It was released in the US in 1963). I'll be writing some more about James Bond in the next few months, but today let's not dwell too much on that government agent guy. Instead, let's celebrate one of the greatest actors of all time.


"Today I Don't Smoke"

Note: "Russell's Ken-Bun-Ki" is a series of articles I wrote for my Japanese City Hall newsletter back in 1996. They were articles about life in America or life in Japan as experienced by an American. This one is from August 22, 1996.

I am not a smoker, but when I am out drinking I occasionally light up. I'm not sure why but when I'm out with friends talking a cigarette can taste really good. However, basically I am not a smoker, so no matter how delicious the taste may be, when I am with children I never smoke. This is because tobacco smoke can harm an effect on childrens' still growing lungs. The Japan Underage Smoking Law was passed in 1900 due to health concerns. Also, in rooms with central air I don't smoke. Even if I like the taste of a cigarette, a smoky room with no ventilation makes me feel sick.

When I was a child my father would always smoke, so I was used to the smell. As I got older and went away to college, when I came home during the summers I would suddenly notice the smell of the house. That is when I really started trying to get my father to quit smoking. Eventually my father got sick and did decide to quit. This was only a few years ago.

I have two requests for people who do smoke:
1. If there are people around, before lighting up please ask them, "Do you mind if I smoke?"
2. Please don't smoke and walk at the same time. There are people who hate cigarette smoke, so please try to smoke with good manners.

Obviously, this was 1. written MANY years ago, and 2. written for Japanese people.

Japan Tobacco, the monopoly corporation that sells all of Japan's cigarettes is (or, atleast, was) majority owned by the Japanese government. So for years while the rest of the world's health organizations AND the actual World Health Organization came out and declared how bad cigarettes are for your health, the Japanese government shrugged their collective shoulders and said, "Really? Let's keep looking into it." Japan still has cigarette vending machines, and only recently (as in, the last 15 years or so) had ANY system to try to keep underage people from using them. I am not making this up.

The title of this article was a play on a then-current advertising campaign called, "Today I Smoke." I was so angry at this that I wrote this article. I had to tone down my rhetoric, of course, but still.... ! And yes, there was still advertising for cigarettes in Japan. I want to say there were TV commercials, too, but I'm not absolutely sure about that. I do remember the magazine and newspaper ads, though.

At every school event I ever went to the mothers would complain about the smokers. It was sad.

JL #20 Friends and Foe Profiles

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Happy Birthday to Aparo and Austin!

This week we are celebrating the births of two of my all-time favorite comic-book artists, Mr. Jim Aparo and Mr. Terry Austin!

If you are not a comic-book fan you have probably never heard of either of them. :-( HOWEVER, you have probably seen their work. Jim Aparo is most famous for drawing Death In The Family,  the murder of the 2nd Robin, Jason Todd, in 1988. Terry Austin was the inker for the John Byrne X-MEN run in the mid-80s; if you saw any of the X-MEN movies then you know of his effect on the series, as the movies stuck very closely to this Chris Claremont-Byrne-Austin series.

Jim Aparo was born on August 24, 1932. I first came across Jim Aparo as the artist of a very creepy Spectre series in ADVENTURE COMICS. I was buying the book because the back-up featured Aquaman; a few months later Aquaman took the lead spot and got the lead spot artist, Jim Aparo. It was years before I realized that Jim Aparo had drawn AQUAMAN comics back in the 1960s!

Besides Aquaman Jim Aparo was also the main artist on the Batman team-up book, THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD. I bought most of those issues, too. When that book folded it was replaced by BATMAN AND THE OUTSIDERS, which was another Batman team-up book; this time Batman and a set roster of characters such as Metamorpho, Black Lightning, and Katana. I read this book for several years, too.

Unfortunately, Jim Aparo died on July 19, 2005. He was almost 73 years old.

Terry Austin came into this world almost 20 years to the day after Jim Aparo did. His birthday is August 23, 1952. Happily, he is still with us, inking and pencilling various projects.

I first came across the work of Terry Austin in the Giant Justice League Special in 1976. He drew what to me is still the *best* version of the Justice League of America I have ever seen. The only quibble I have (and it is *minor* is that a few months later Hawkgirl joined the group. It would have been PERFECT if she had been included here. Oh, well...!)

At that time he was causing a sensation as the inker of a new penciller named Marshall Rogers. Along with Steve Englehart, the three of them re-created BATMAN for a generation. They stayed on DETECTIVE COMICS for nearly a year, and in that time made what many people (including me) consider one of the all-time great Batman storylines.

I have no idea how he got the assignment, but also at about this time I was lucky enough to have him re-draw MY letter column idea for THE TEEN TITANS comic-book. For years each book had its own letter column logo and name. TEEN TITANS, however, only had a name but no illustration. So DC ran a contest to come up with a new illustration idea. Believe it or not, my idea of having the Titans on stamps won!  Although it only lasted two issues (!) it was still my moment in comics history. (You can read the whole exciting story here on the Hey Kids! Comics blog run by my pal Rob Kelly.)

Soon after this Terry Austin moved over to Marvel and began work on THE X-MEN. He helped stoke the phenomenon that is Wolverine, and has never had to worry about work, haha!

I have never met either of these gentlemen. Jim Aparo passed away before I could get meet him. Terry Austin hasn't been at any convention that I have. If I ever do meet Mr. Austin I know which two comics I want him to sign....!


Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Magnificent Seven: STAR TREK

I don't remember a time when I didn't know about STAR TREK. It made its debut on prime-time television a few years after I was born. By the time I was old enough to watch TV, it was there, in syndication, on KDNL-TV 30 in St. Louis. I bought and tried to make the Enterprise and Mr. Spock model kits. I had better luck with Mr. Spock (phasering a three-headed snake monster) than I did with the Enterprise. I could never get the rods to stay glued to the main body! So I guess I was a Junior Trekkie before I became a Trekker.
There isn't anything about The Original Series (as it is now called) that hasn't been said before. Suffice it to say that it was a True Original. To honor Gene Roddenberry on the anniversary of his birth, I want to present my list of list of Seven Favorite Star Trek Episodes. These are the ones I can watch over and over again. In chronological order:

This is the one that everyone mentions, and with good reason. The story is good, the actors are wonderful, and the drama is (dare I say it?) real. An accidentally drugged McCoy escapes from the Enterprise to the planet below. There he somehow escapes back into time and somehow messes things up for "the future." Kirk and Spock have to go back after him and try to correct whatever it is he did that made all of Starfleet cease to exist. This sort of time travel story was used often in STAR TREK, but never before and never as well as it was used here.
Joan Collins is excellent as Edith Keeler, the pacifist who is at the center of the diverging timelines. William Shatner, in one of Kirk's earliest "romances," plays it straight. DeForest Kelley as the accidental catalyst is effectively crazy early in the show, then is like a man comign off a terrible binge in the last act. His last cry, "Do you know what you've done?!" and Leonard Nimoy's stoic response, "He knows, doctor....he knows" sums up the pain and responsibility of being Captain better than many of the later episodes. By the way, it was years before I realized that Kirk's final, "Let's get the hell out of here" was so poignant because of its rare (for its time) usage of cursing.

The other episode on almost everyone's list of favorites. Wherease CITY deals somewhat with the Kirk-Spock-McCoy dynamic,  the other choices on my list feature the rest of the crew (cast). (And CITY *does* feature Sulu, Uhura, and Scotty in supporting roles, remember; the first third of the story occurs on the Enterprise.) Although AMOK TIME is centered on the Kirk-Spock-McCoy trio (the last act is almost wholly them on the planet of Vulcan), it also features Majel Barrett as Nurse Chapel at her best love-sick ("My name is Christine!"). It also features the first Sulu-Chekov comedy routine ("I think I am getting space sick!"). Unfortunately, Scotty is the only regular cast member not to appear.
Spock begins to act strange, but will not admit to anyone what is wrong. It eventually comes out that it is time for him to return to Vulcan to "mate." So the Enterprise changes course and heads to Spock's home-planet, the only time the series visited there.
Anyone who has seen this episode knows that arguments between Spock and McCoy in later episodes were based on true friendship, as vividly shown here.  Plus of course the reunion scene that ends the episode is a must-see for anyone who thinks Spock is all logic and *no* feeling.

This is a choice that I don't see on too many other "favorite" lists, but hear me out. There were several episodes where the transporter conks out and created "false" drama. Likewise, there are several episodes where Kirk is in danger and the crew back on the Enterprise has to rescue him. In my opinion, this episode is the best of both of these conditions. Too often STAR TREK stories were built around the trio of Kirk, Spock and McCoy. In this episode, Kirk is trapped on the Constellation and it's fun to watch the rest of the crew struggle to save their Captain.

The "doomsday machine" is going through the universe eating everything in its path, including the crippled Constellation and the Enterprise. Much of the drama revolves around the great William Windom as Commodore Decker. This episode would not have worked nearly as well as it does with a different actor. Windom portrays achingly painful hearbreak and pathos as he explains that his crew is dead. It's very sad to hear that this Emmy Award-winning actor just passed on. He will be missed. 

Another episode on most people's lists of favorites, this is probably my all-time favorite episode. Really, what's not to like? The Enterprise experiences a cosmic storm that tosses Kirk, McCoy, Scotty, and Uhura into a parallel universe. They then try to escape back to "their" universe before it's too late. The entire cast is challenged to play different versions of their usual characters. The four leads in particular must play their characters playing their "mirror" versions. The "mirror Spock" is more ruthless and coldly logical than "our" Spock had ever been shown to be. Hats off to Leonard Nimoy, but the entire cast does an excellent job. I'm only sorry we didn't get to see a "mirror Nurse Chapel." Endlessly re-watchable.

As far as I can tell, this is one of the few episodes to actually feature the entire cast in an engaging, exciting story with something for all of them to do. Chekov was not added until the second season, when George Takei (Sulu) was off filming THE GREEN BERETS with John Wayne. The third season consisted mostly of Kirk-Spock-McCoy stories. So THE DEADLY YEARS is an especially rare gem.

A landing party arrives to investigate a space station whose members are growing old at an alarming rate. Afterwards all of the landing party except Chekov (a vibrant Walter Koenig) begins to age, too. There is absolutely wonderful old-age make-up on the principals. There is gripping drama as Commodore Stocker calls a competency hearing, stealing command of the Enterprise out from under Kirk and company, over-riding better experienced Sulu and Uhura. And the court scenes, where the young and virile staff officers have no choice but to vote Kirk senile, are painfully dramatic. Then of course there is the rousing ending to a fantastically entertaining yarn.

6. I, MUDD
This is another "comedy" episode that, unlike TRIBBLES, does not tend to make it on to too many favorites lists. The first third of this episode is done straight, asn the android "Norman" takes possession of the Enterprise and hijacks it to Mudd's planet. After the crew is marooned planet-side and the principals have to somehow escape from their velvet cage, the episode takes a turn into the ridiculous. However, that is actually the point: humans behave irrationally. Plus, every time I watch this episode and Lt. Uhura (a fantastic Nichelle Nichols) "betrays" the crew to the androids, she's so good that you *almost* believe her!
Special credit to Roger C. Carmel, who portrays Harry Mudd. He starts off vile, then becomes inept, then acts the rogue again. It's a fun performance. Also regards to Richard Natro as the lead android Norman. Amazingly, he never cracks a smile no matter how oddly the humans act.
An interesting note: Sulu starts off in the beginning of this episode, then is mysteriously absent from the last half. My guess is that George Takei got called back to THE GREEN BERETS mid-episode. I only wish we could have seen the Sulu-Chekov team take on the androids.

This is another episode on most people's lists of favorites. It is a very entertaining episode. The Enterprise goes on a mission of mercy, docking at a space station to help protect a shipment of wheat destined for a Starfleet outpost. It's a wonderful example of how the Enterprise sometimes handled  goodwill or humanitarian missions. Although humor was sometimes done much too broadly in some later episodes and movies, this episode has almost a perfect balance between drama and humor. Also, it helps that almost everyone is present and has something fun to do....except George Takei and Majel Barrett, who unfortunately do not appear. It's also fun to re-visit this episode on STAR TREK: DEEP SPACE NINE when the cast of that series inserts themselves into this episode.

There are plenty of other great STAR TREK episodes (along with a few stinkers, but we won't talk about any of those!). THE NAKED NOW is a great way to introduce the characters, and Lt. Sulu never had a better spotlight episode. However, Kirk's "I'm married to the ship" and Spock's "I'm not human" scenes were done better in other episodes. THIS SIDE OF PARADISE re-visits these themes again, actually, and, arguably, does it better. After a well-staged battle between Kirk and Spock, it is with real poignancy that Spock must say good-bye to his humanity. Leonard Nimoy really knocked it out of the park in this episode. Another problem with both of these episodes and with SHORE LEAVE is that the supporting players of Scotty, Uhura, Chapel, and Chekov do not appear. SHORE LEAVE especially suffers from coming too early in the series' run: most of the characters featured here are never featured again, which lessens the drama and the fun. It especially bothers me that Yeoman Barrows was not Lt. Uhura. Too bad the cast had not been more firmly established for these episodes; if they had come in the second season they would have been absolutely wonderful. Other classic episodes are entertaining, but are not my favorites. SPACE SEED is too much Ricardo Montalban as Khan and not enough everybody else. BALANCE OF TERROR is the best "battle" episode of STAR TREK; in fact, I've read that it was written as if it were a drama between two submarines. Unfortunately, it's too much Kirk vs the Romulan Commander (an excellent Mark Lenard) and not enough about the rest of the crew. Mark Lenard shines again as Sarek in JOURNEY TO BABEL, but I think the drama in this episode seems just a *tad* forced. Speaking of Romulan Commanders, the next one we see is played by Joanna Linville in THE ENTERPRISE INCIDENT. This is the episode where Kirk goes rogue, then alters himself into a Romulan in order to steal their cloaking device. It is an exciting drama (we don't know for sure what is going on until midway through!) and a tour de force for the entire cast. Especially memorable is Majel Barrett as the under-used Nurse Chapel.
Are you opinions different? Let's discuss!

Happy Birthday, Hawai'i!

Today is the anniversary of Hawai'i being admitted to our United States of America. With its admittance we had a round number of states at FIFTY and haven't changed in 53 years. Note: it has become common to spell the name of our fiftieth state with an apostrophe, but it's hard to type it that way. So I spelled it that way in the lead and in the headline. Forgive me for not doing it for the rest of the article.

Date of Admittance:
August 21, 1959

 Parentage: The word "hawai'i" is a Polynesian word meaning "home." The territory was stolen acquired from the royal family of Kamehameha for its sugar and pineapple crops. When we finally gave the people of Hawaii a chance to vote on whether they wanted to be a state or a territory, they overwhelmingly chose to join the Union. Consequently, Hawaii is the only State that has had an actual monarch, and has a statue of a monarch in front of their state capital building.

Place in the Family
Number 50
Six months after Alaska (Jan 1959).
Funny how the coldest state joined in January
and the most tropical state joined in August.

"The life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness"
it's definitely the first....well, *second* thing
I think when I think of Hawaii

The Aloha State
Because "aloha" can be used as "hello" and
as "good-bye," does this make Hawaii a state that
is always coming AND going?

On the License Plate
"The Aloha State" and a rainbow
Whenever I see a Hawaii license plate I 
have to stop and think, "Wait, how...?" 

State Flag
The canton features the Union Jack, the only US flag
that features another sovereign nation on their flag.
This represents the era when the UK held claim to the islands.
The eight stripes represent the eight main islands in the Hawaiian chain. 

First City You Probably Think of
When You Think "Hawaii"

Actual State Capital: Honolulu

State Size (Area) is 43rd of 50.
Population is closer to 42nd of 50.
(per 2000 Census figures)

Personal Russell Fact:
I have never been to Hawaii. 

Anybody From Hawaii
Ever Grow Up To Be President?
(unless you believe he was actually born in Kenya) 
our 44th President Barack Obama was born in Honolulu. 

Musical Hawaiians
Don Ho
"Tiny Bubbles"

Yvonne Elliman
"If I Can't Have You"

Big Iz
"Somewhere Over the Rainbow"

Jack Johnson
"Upside Down"

Bruno Mars

Celebrities From Hawaii
Bette Midler
singer, actress

Harold Sakata
actor, "Goldfinger"


James Shigeta
actor, "Flower Drum Song," "Die Hard"

Nicolle Kidman
Academy-Award winning actress

Clyde Kusatsu
well-recognized character actor

Erin Gray
actress, "Buck Rogers," "Silver Spoons"

Kelly Preston
actress, former model 

Tim Olyphant
actor, "Justified"


Sporty Hawaiians
Japanese sumo "ozeki"
(#2 ranked level wrestler)

Japanese sumo "yokozuna"
(#1 ranked level wrestler)

Byron Chamberlain
2-time Super Bowl champion

Fictional Hawaiians
Charlie Chan
based on true-life Honolulu detective
Chang Apana (with Warner Oland circa 1935)

Hawaii Five-O
James MacArthur and Jack Lord
"Book 'em, Danno!"

The new guys

Magnum PI
Tom Selleck and friends

filmed entirely in Hawaii

Most Famous Hawaiians
if we can't pick The President of the United States,
how about we pick Lilo & Stitch, who
are known and loved throughout the world

A Song For You...
"Hawaiian Roller Coaster Ride"
Written & Sung by Mark Keai'i Ho'omalu
from the Disney cartoon Lilo & Stitch.
It's the first mainstream song I ever heard
sung in native Hawaiian about surfing