Wonder Woman Symposium recap

This year marks the 75th anniversary of the creation of Wonder Woman, and to celebrate the Cleveland Public Library hosted a symposium last weekend featuring speakers on a variety of topics.  Guests included current comic book authors and artists, academics, and a few people with an even more personal connection to golden age DC comics.

Although I’m not a big Wonder Woman fan or anything, I was interested in this symposium because I’ve been reading The Secret History of Wonder Woman by Jill Lepore for our next GeekyNerdy Book Club (stay tuned for that next week).

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At the Cleveland Public Library

I live about 45 min from Cleveland, but I heard about the event because it was co-sponsored by Kent State University (to which I live much nearer).  The symposium ran over three days, but I was only able to make it up on Saturday afternoon.  I dragged my husband along, too, and we both enjoyed it.  Here are the sessions we attended.

Laura Siegel

Daughter of Superman co-creator Jerry Siegel

Clevelanders are very proud of our Superman connection; Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster were attending high school in the Cleveland area when they met and later teamed up to create the most iconic superhero of our times.

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Laura Siegel speaks in front of a picture of her father, Jerry Siegel

What I did not know was that Laura’s mother (known alternately as Jolan, Helen, and Joanne) was actually originally the model for Lois Lane, both physically and in spirit.

Laura Siegel was a very engaging speaker, taking about how her mom met Jerry and Joe when she advertised for a modeling job and they were looking for a model for their independent “girl reporter.”  (Interestingly, Jerry, Joe, and Joanne were all the children of immigrants.)  Joanne went on to have a variety of jobs all over the country, embodying the go-getter spirit of Lois Lane; she wasn’t one to let being a woman stop her from doing anything.

Peter Coogan

Director of the Institute for Comic Studies

Now the discussion turned a little more academic; Peter Coogan is one of the pioneers of the field of study of comic books, and his talk sparked a lot of discussion between my husband and me.  His talk was centered around the idea that Wonder Woman is a “superheroine” and not a “female superhero.”  This may seem like a distinction without a difference, but he gave support for the idea that Wonder Woman’s original storylines have a completely different narrative than a typical superhero like Batman or Superman.

The superhero narrative is American mythology, and can be traced back to Daniel Boone.  Typically, the hero goes away to develop his powers, returns and then steps up to fight an external evil (when it can’t be repelled by normal societal means), and then having expelled the evil, steps back into solitude.

Wonder Woman, as her creator William Moulton Marston intended, is instead based on early feminist propaganda narratives.  There is no “going away;” she already has her powers.  Her weapons, bracelets and lasso, are defensive and restraining, not really offensive.  Instead of repelling the antagonists, she seeks to help them solve their problems and blend back into society.  And instead of retreating to a Batcave or Fortress of Solitude, the story ends with her taking part in society with her friends.

This talk was really fascinating to me, and I may do a whole post about it later if anyone else finds it interesting.

Christie Marston

Granddaughter of William Moulton Marston, creator of Wonder Woman

Christie Marston, wearing an awesome Wonder Woman robe, took questions from the audience.  I was particularly interested to hear her, since I’ve just finished reading The Secret History of Wonder Woman, which talks a lot about her family.  She was dismissive of the book, calling it “fiction,” especially the parts about the Moulton family.

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Christie Marston answers questions

She spoke about how her grandmother, Elizabeth Holloway, was the real-life Wonder Woman.  They both had the same attitude: do what needs to get done, and be kind.  She spoke enthusiastically about Peter Coogan’s descriptions of Wonder Woman’s “superheroine” themes from his talk, and said she hoped the upcoming WW movie would show those themes.

We weren’t able to stay for the round table discussion, but we enjoyed what we did get to see, and the rest of the audience seemed to as well.  There were plenty of people wearing comic shirts, and even some dressed as Wonder Woman (I think there was a cosplay event during lunch?)

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Symposium swag

I’ve really come around to Wonder Woman since my first introduction to her in the Justice League cartoons, and I think this event was a great way to celebrate her and her important role in comics and American culture.  You’ll definitely be hearing more about her here soon!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Quest

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From Skellig Michael.

Of all the things and places I saw in Ireland, Skellig Michael was my most important quest.

You can read more about it this post I wrote last year, but basically I overcame some massive anxiety about a long, rough boat ride to get out to this remote island, which is a very important place to me because of its religious history, the biodiversity of its birds, and (last but not least) because it was the filming site for the end scene of Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

There were a lot of stairs to climb!  I failed in my quest to make it to the top, but I was just happy that I made it there.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Quest

Banned Books Week 2016

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It’s Banned Books Week!  This event, which takes place this year from September 25-October 1, celebrates our freedom to read and brings attention to the harms of censorship.

Last year, the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom recorded 275 challenges to literature around the country (down from 311 in 2014).  Here’s the list of the top ten most challenged books last year.

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Of the top ten list, I have only read the Bible (not the whole thing; I’m Catholic ~_^).  I love the note that someone challenged it because it was “illegal.”  I must assume that this was in a public school.  I would still support the critical study of the Bible as literature in a public school setting, along with other religious texts, in a pertinent class.

This week, I am reading the graphic novel V for Vendetta.  To my knowledge this book has not been banned (thought China did not allow the release of the 2006 movie adaptation), but it is still very appropriate because of its condemnation of government censorship.  While we here in the US are lucky to have our freedoms protected by the First Amendment, we must still be careful  before allowing other citizens to decide what it okay for us and our children to read.  That decision is best left in the hands of the reader, or their guardians.

Knowledge, like air, is vital to life.  Like air, no one should be denied it.

There’s no flesh or blood within this cloak to kill.  There’s only an idea.  Ideas are bulletproof.

–V (Alan Moore, V for Vendetta)

Have you read any of these books?  Which is your favorite?  Are you reading any banned books this week?

Even Scientists Get Bored Sometimes: Pipette Tip Art

Most lab scientists know that we can be divided into two groups, shown in this meme:

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Now, normally, I’m the person on the right.  I tried to take my own images of the above, and it was actively difficult to use the tips randomly instead of in straight rows.

But then there are the days when I’m running two large rounds of PCR or something, which involves so much pipetting my shoulder starts to hurt and I go through several boxes of tips.  Doing nothing but pipetting for hours will slowly drive you insane, so I have to do something to keep myself entertained.

I start making designs with the pipette tips.

Sometimes they’re basic, like diagonal lines.  As I keep using tips, the patterns change.  Wide diagonals get thinner.

The designs get more intricate.

And sometimes I just make pretty pictures.

wp_20160810_10_35_35_proI’ve tried doing words occasionally, but they never turn out right.  I’ll stick with geometric patterns instead of leaving messages for my coworkers.

Some of my coworkers actively do the same, or try to keep my patterns going if they borrow tips.  I think the rest of them either don’t notice, or think I’m crazy.  Considering they already put up with my K-pop music in the lab, I think we can safely say it’s the latter.