Author: Dennis O'Neil

Dennis O’Neil: Wolverine and The Real Life

O'Neil Art 130801I wasn’t wearing a tie last Friday when Mari and I hied ourselves up the road to the monsterplex to watch the movie du jour, The Wolverine. Nothing unusual there; to the best of my recollection, I’ve worn ties exactly twice in the last quarter century. The first such occasion was at my wedding, a bow to the mores of the tribe that spawned me. The second was when I accompanied Jenette Kahn, at the time my boss, to meet some guy from the United Nations at one of those hoity-toity Manhattan restaurants that don’t permit entry to gentlemen un-tied, and while they’re at it, the gents had best be wearing suits too – or at least jackets. These are classy joints. They don’t let just anyone in. To chow down at one of them, you have to be of the elite, or at least prosperous enough to buy a strip of cloth to hang down the front of your shirt.

They’re signifiers of distinction, of class, neckties are, and as such they’re akin to a clergyman’s vestments, a soldier’s uniform, a detective’s badge, the rented tuxedo I once wore to a prom…feel free to add your own examples. I’ll add one more of my own: superhero costumes.

Odd clothing has been a defining feature of superhero stories ever since that warm Cleveland morning when a teenaged artist named Joe Shuster made the first Superman sketch. This was almost certainly done at the behest of Superman’s co-creator, another Cleveland teen, Jerry Siegel. Why the funny suit? Well, Jerry and Joe were big science fiction fans and were probably influenced by the futuristic garments worn by the characters in the illustrations that were prominent in the pulp magazines – at the time, sci fi’s main venue. Circus costumes may have been another influence.

Whatever Jerry and Joe’s reasons for costuming their brainchild, it was a good idea. It was attention-getting, it marked Supes as something special, it was ideally suited to the iconic quality of the medium that eventually gave him a home, comic books. Consider it an unwritten rule: you want a superhero, bring on the costume.

But Wolverine is most surely a superhero and there he was on the big screen, embodied by Hugh Jackman who was wearing, not a costume, but duds you might buy at a sporting goods store. In so doing, he was nudging superherodom a tiny bit closer to what we will jocularly refer to as real life, and not the fantasyland versions of Mother Earth that have been superheroes’ usual domains. This is an aspect of the genre’s evolution and we’ll have to see if it becomes permanent. If it does stay, writing jobs may be get a bit simpler; storytellers won’t have to give their superdoers a pause to change clothes before dealing with the latest humungous crisis. (Lois, could you fall a little slower?…can’t get the cape to hang right…) But some quirky charm may be lost.

Time will tell. It always does.


THURSDAY LATER AFTERNOON: The Surprising Return of Emily S. Whitten!

NOTE: All allusions to “morning” and “afternoon” are EDT USA.


Dennis O’Neil: Being “There”

O'Neil Art 130725Did you see me there?

Where’s there? Oh, come on…The San Diego Comic-Con! Where else? And, as I type this on Monday evening, are you perhaps just getting home. Are you frazzled? Exhausted? And are you happy? Was the adventure all you’d hoped it might be? Do you have, encased in plastic and two slabs of thick cardboard and tucked into your carry-on, that one special issue, the one you’ve sought for years. the one whose absence has left as yawning crater in the middle of your collection – finally, triumphantly yours? Have you met the person of your dreams, wearing, perhaps, an X-Men costume? Or had your picture taken with the celebrity who occupies a god niche in your psyche? (Okay, it cost you what you pay for a week’s groceries, but some treasures are beyond price.)

Hooray. That’s all well and good. But now the important question: Did you see me there?

If you did, I must have had some Dr. Strangey astral projection mojo working, because I haven’t been anywhere near Southern California this year. (Denver is as close as I got.) So – either I astrally projected (while napping?) or you saw some other septuagenarian chrome dome. I didn’t do any disembodied jaunting last week but…I did do something similar.

The late Arthur C. Clarke once said that any sufficiently advanced technology would appear to be magic to primitive people. (Let’s assume that “primitive” is relative.) Well, abra my cadabra, because while sitting upstairs in the dining room I spoke to a group of people in Lima, Peru – gave a talk and then answered questions. Mr. O the bilocated – at once in New York and Peru! Be in awe, you primitives!

The magic was, of course, technology, and not cutting edge technology, either. (Though, come to think of it, maybe this story would be better if it were.) What we were using, the attendees of the Lima Book Fair and I, was Skype, which is surely old news to many of you. Too me – not so old. I’d used it once before, to record something for use on YouTube, but I had the advantage of a tech savvy offspring at my elbow on that occasion. This time, Marifran and I were pretty much on our own, though we did have help from Eduardo, an affable cyberwizard from – where else? – Peru. I won’t say that all proceeded glitchlessly. (Does Dr. Strange ever suffer interference from, say, a snotty kid riding a Hogwarts broomstick?) But the glitches were minor and the event, I’ve been assured, was a success.

And just recently, a book I wrote about a dozen years ago became available as an e-book. So I guess I’m being dragged into the twenty first century, That, or I’ve taken up residence where eldritch forces are manifest. Either way, as the great prophet Bobby told us, the times they are a’changin’, and, there being nothing to do about it, let’s enjoy the ride.

Did you see me at the Con? Are you sure?

THURSDAY AFTERNOON: Martin Pasko and the Big Show

FRIDAY MORNING: Martha Thomases and Sexy Kitties




Dennis O’Neil and Punishment

O'Neil Art 130718You’ve watched the newscasts? Read the papers? You’re aware of what’s been happening in the courts and Congress? It is a time, perhaps, to consider wickedness.

Outside, our patch of the Lower Hudson Valley is again suffering brutal heat and if your life has given you certain prompts – if someone much taller than you once convinced you that you were a bad, bad, bad little child and you were going to be punished! – you might step outside, feel the heat and remember what you were taught about hell. Which is where evil sons of bitches like you go to roast for all eternity and that will teach you to disobey Sister Henrietta! In case you’ve forgotten.

We believe in a retributional afterlife because, among other reasons, we have a need for the world to be ordered and rational, and that means that the wicked should have to answer for their misdeeds. Obviously, not all of them do, not while they’re alive, but later…well, Christians might go to the aforementioned hell and Hindus might be reincarnated as an intestinal parasite. Hell, parasite… Something unpleasant, anyway.

We deal in villainy, we fabricators of heroic melodrama.We give our protagonists fierce, cruel, determined and formidable adversaries, mostly because our heroes need them.No need to wait for retribution after death, not in our tales, thank you. Our miscreants get retribution right here, right now. We witness their fall and cheer – okay, mostly cheer silently – because justice has been served, hot and fresh – served by our hero, who has thus demonstrated his bona fides and justified our admiration for him. Without the adversary, our hero wouldn’t have the opportunity to be super.We probably wouldn’t want to buy tickets to watch a pillar of virtue sit around being virtuous.

The craftier of our fiction writing bretheren give the bad guy a reason to be bad so there’s a excuse for him or her to be in the story. One of our greatest popular entertainers, Alfred Hitchcock, seemed to regard the villain’s motive as an afterthought.He called such motives “mcguffins” and gave this explanation of them: “The only thing that matters is that the plans, documents, secrets must seem to be of vital importance to the characters…to the narrator, they’re of no importance whatever.”

Far be it from me to quarrel with the master, but allow me to express a gentle demurrer, in the form of advice to beginning writers: Give some thought to your mcguffin. If it’s out-and-out dumb, it will make your bad guy look dumb and a good guy who beats a dummy might not be all that impressive.

General Zod, Superman’s antagonist in the current movie, has a terrific mcguffin, one that confers nobility. And he does not consider himself to be evil.

Do the denizens of our courts and Congress consider themselves evil? Almost certainly not. Have you ever committed an evil act? Hey, there’s a gnarly question to end on.







Dennis O’Neil: The Obese Lone Ranger

O'Neil Art 130711I’m hungry. Gimme a plate. No, a bigger one. Bigger. Bigger! Big as a house, a stadium. Now, lemme eat. Eggs and cheese and pork chops and ice cream and popsicles and pickles and brownies and doughnuts and cake and candy and pies and french fries and hot dogs and hamburgers and cinnamon rolls and marshmallows jelly beans and and and…whatever else you got. Gimme!


…don’t feel so good…

And there he goes galloping off into financial ignominy. We, of course, refer to The Lone Ranger and our first paragraph was what we English majors call a “metaphor” – a very bloated metaphor – for what we think is mainly wrong with the much maligned entertainment of the same name.

It got greedy. It wanted too much.

It wanted to be an action blockbuster and a cowboy picture and a kiddie picture and a comedy and a tale of mythic heroism and a satire and, by making the title character a well-meaning doofus with a cruel streak and his Comanche sidekick the real hero, it wanted to acknowledge the shabby treatment Native Americans have often gotten from our popular culture. Go ahead – try to get all that into one movie, even a long one,

Pertinent digression: Back in the sixties, I read work by a journalist named Gene Marine who used the term “engineering mentality,” by which he meant the conviction that if we can build something, we should build it and piffle on the consequences. So we can put up this dam and let’s not bother ourselves with the fact that there may be other, cheaper ways to accomplish whatever this dam is supposed to accomplish without disrupting the environment for miles in every direction. Give a fella a huge budget and by golly he’ll do something with it.

The Lone Ranger had a huge budget.

It might have benefitted from a smaller one. With less money to spend, the film makers might have been forced to decide on exactly which movie they wanted to make and focused plot and action accordingly. Less might have been more.


A final item for all you conspiracy mavens out there: in the embryonic continuity that The Lone Ranger’s creators were devising way back in the 1930s and 40s, probably with no idea that they were doing so, the Lone Ranger had a descendant, Britt Reid, who rode a big car (instead of a big horse) and had an Asian sidekick (instead of Comanche sidekick) and wore a mask and, yes, fought crime. Now: a couple of years ago there was a Green Hornet movie in which the white dude is the klutz and his non-white partner is the real ass-kicker.

One of the Hornet movie’s production team said there wouldn’t be a sequel because of a disappointing ticket sales and the news media are full of the woeful information that The Lone Ranger bombed big time at the box office. Coincidence? You decide.

And one other thing: urp


FRIDAY MORNING: Martha Thomases


Dennis O’Neil: Going Fourth

O'Neil Art 130704The mailbox is empty, Dad’s cleaning the grill, Mom’s making lemonade and the big flag is snapping and flapping in the wind. It’s a holiday, all right. The one that occurs in the middle of the hot weather – which one is that, again? Oh, sure – the Fourth. And what are we celebrating? Barbecued critter and socializing with the neighbors and, after dark, the big fireworks display down by the river? Well, no. Those are the ways we celebrate, not the reason. Then what? Something about the Declaration of Independence? Patriotism? Yeah, that’s it – patriotism!

Only problem with that is, exactly what does “patriotism” mean in a nation that’s as sadly divided as ours is, maybe more divided than at any time since the Civil War? Can a blue stater and a red stater stop bickering long enough to even agree on a definition of patriotism? Can we even agree on what questions to ask? Oh sure, the cable news channels will be full of marching bands and smiling politicians speaking words, but all that’s like the exploding rockets at the fireworks show, nothing more than flash and noise.

Maybe we should seek a reason for the celebration far, far back, before there was a United States of America, or governments, or what we call “civilization.” We’re patriotic for a reason and it’s not because we were taught that patriotism is a virtue.

No, we’ve got to blame it on evolution. Sorry, but we do. It’s really not too complicated: in the distant past, the prehumans who learned to live with others of their kind, to be mutually helpful, to cooperate, tended to stay off some beastie’s menu. The grouches didn’t last as long as the cooperators,who then had time to…you know – procreate. They had offspring who shared their sociability and pretty soon we had villages and tribes and maybe the beginnings of art and religion. But our early ancestors also learned to mistrust what they couldn’t recognize because their collective experience indicated that what they didn’t know might, in fact, hurt them. The result was us, who not only want to live in groups, but have a powerful tendency to identify with those groups. Cheering a local team, joining a lodge or a sodality or a political party or being proud of a certain citizenship – strip away rhetoric and rationalization and ego, get rid of the flash and noise, and you have a naked hominid suffering terror when he finds himself separated from his group.

Call it patriotism, and be proud of it. A cause for celebration? Sure.  But you might want to remember that it’s about cooperation more than mistrust. Red state, meet blue state, and pass the lemonade.


FRIDAY MORNING: Martha Thomases


Dennis O’Neil: Roy and Supes

Dennis O’Neil: Roy and Supes

O'Neil Art 130627Look, up in the sky. It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s….

…the third consecutive week that the Geezer, also known as me, used that hokey lead. Pathetic? You decide.

But as long as we’re here…what’s the Man of Steel doing this time? Looks like he’s holding his ears. That must mean that he’s somewhere near the end of his hit movie, at the climactic battle, before a kind of lengthy denouement. Because that was one noisy climax. But first, a geezerly digression.

When I was young – and we’re talking really young, like six or seven – I much enjoyed the “cowboy pictures” I saw at the neighborhood theater on Friday nights. The dime Mom gave me bought a cartoon, maybe a Three Stooges feature and two cowboy pictures with real good guys: Hopalong Cassidy, Sunset Carson, Tim Holt, Red Ryder, and once in a while even – o joyous epiphany in the popcorn-scented darkness! – Roy Rogers, the King of the Cowboys! Somewhere in those innocent years, I imagined what I would think would be a really neat cowboy picture. It would have a long time, minutes and minutes, of non-stop gunshooting. Just bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang. Because, see, the parts of the pictures that had gunshooting were the most exciting parts.

You have to admit that there’s a certain logic here, and I wonder if some vastly mutated iteration of this logic isn’t operating up there on the screen with Superman. And not only Superman – with other cinematic superheroes, too. The fights are big and noisy and go on and on and on…and before the final biff is powed, I’m out in the auditorium getting just a bit antsy. Not bored, just, maybe, wishing that the screen combatants would end it, like my preadolescent self wished that the mushy parts of the pictures would end, the parts that usually involved a girl. (And, in those day, I didn’t have long to wait.)

I understand that spectacular physicality is the lingua franca of superheroes, as essential to their genre as Roy’s horse Trigger was to his. But can’t less be more? Let the tension and suspense get bigger and bigger, let it build and build and then give the folks in the seats a final burst of action that solves the hero’s problems and vanquishes the villain and allows for a quiet and satisfying ending. Don’t serve me a protracted bunch of noisy clashes with essentially faceless pawns before the finale. Define the geometry and conditions of the combat and let us see it clearly and don’t put in anything that doesn’t somehow bear directly on the spine of the story. Such would be my advice.

And such is my quibble, for quibble it is. Almost half way through my eightieth decade, I can enjoy the fantasy melodrama I see as much as the grade-school me enjoyed the cowboy pictures. Okay, except for the ones with Roy Rogers – nothing can be as good as them.


FRIDAY MORNING: Martha Thomases

Dennis O’Neil: Super-Success

O'Neil Art 130620Look, up in the sky! It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s…

Superman, crossing his eyes, thumbing his nose and sticking out his tongue. He’s directing his scorn toward all the nay-sayers who predicted a cool reception for The Man of Steel. The picture officially opened Friday morning and by Friday afternoon one web news site was describing it as “disappointing.” Disappointing, maybe, to Marvel Comics execs, but most of the rest of us thought it was pretty darn okay. The reviews were mixed, but the theater exit polls gave it an A minus and it ended up reaping enough profit to be the biggest June movie opening ever.

I think it deserves its success. The director, Zack Snyder, and the writer, David Goyer, did exactly what they had to do, and what previous film makers failed to do – reinvent an elderly icon for a contemporary audience. Way back in 1959, editor Julius Schwartz, did that for the comics and now Snyder, Goyer, and their posse, along with a few other creative teams, have done it for the multiplex.

I won’t go into particulars here… Okay, one particular: the villain. He was played by Michael Shannon, our best filmic heavy, both in movies and on television, and he didn’t think of himself as an evil doer. On the contrary: he considered himself to be a savior whose actions were done “for the greater good.” Something familiar about that? In what I’ll hesitantly refer to as real life, those who perpetrate war and genocide and wholesale slaughter always do it for a cause, often religious nor nationalistic, they believe to be vital and benevolent. They’re the heroes and their opposition is villainy and the poor simpletons who are crushed along the way are necessary sacrifices or, as the current terminology has it, collateral damage. Fanatics, these “heroes,” who believe that they could not possibly be wrong. Michael Shannon’s General Zod can stand as their avatar.

Time was when characters in superhero stories were occasionally referred to as “supervillains” and I don’t recall them denying the eponym. In fact, some of them belonged to a kind of miscreants club, pretty much limited to folk who dressed in odd costumes, that called itself “The Secret Society of Super Villains.” The comic book of that title was published by DC in the mid-seventies and collected in a hardcover anthology. The stories were written by Gerry Conway, one of the medium’s major talents, and were fine for their era, when comics were in their adolescence, unsure of what, exactly, they should be and still in thrall to the notion that they weren’t…respectable. Or serious. Or art or… something. Many of the baddies seem to exist only to give the goodies somebody to beat. Now, in both comics and their lumbering descendants, the flicks, writers are willing and able to acknowledge and dramatize the world’s real evil, which can be tragic.

Consider The Man of Steel a parable for our times. An entertaining one.

FRIDAY: Martha Thomases

SATURDAY: Marc Alan Fishman


Dennis O’Neil: Superman and Me

O'Neil Art 130613Look, up in the sky…It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s…

…a whole lot of really, really numerous photons striking a large, white rectangle.

Or: it’s remembered images and sounds careening around the inside of my skull because, pay attention now, Superman and I go back a long way.

He’s one of the first fictional people I can recall meeting, though whether our first encounter was in one of the comic books Dad bought me after Sunday Mass or as voices emanating from Mom’s kitchen radio…the details of Supes’ and my initial acquaintance I do not remember, and who cares?

I next saw Supes on a movie screen, perhaps smaller and shabbier than the one mentioned in the second paragraph above, but serving pretty much the same purpose and.. Was I outraged? Disillusioned? Shattered? Or mad?

The problem was the flying. The grade-school me was anticipating watching the Man of Steel leave the ground and zip around he sky because… well, that would be an exciting thing to see. Then – the big disappointment. First the Easter Bunny, then Santa Claus, and now…What kind of bushwa was this? Superman goes behind a rock or something and then he flies up, up. and away. Only it wasn’t him flying. No, even to a kid it was obviously some kind of drawing, like the animated cartoons that often appeared before the cowboy pictures Iliked. Movie magic? Or a dirty stinky cheat?

But I wasn’t done with Superman, nor he with me. I won a story-writing contest that was fostered by the Superman-Tim club. Club membership, which cost Mom a dime, consisted of a card, a Superman pin and a monthly magazine that featured contests and jokes and puzzles and stuff. I don’t know how many contestants won prizes – maybe everyone who entered. And the prize wasn’t great: some kind of cheesy board game with cardboard cutouts that got moved. But hey – I’d gotten rewarded for writing a story! Wonder where that might lead!

Next came the Superman television show shown in St. Louis on Sunday morning well after Dad and I returned from church. Not bad. Okay way to kill a little time before the Sunday pot roast.

Then a long hiatus. Bye for now, Superman. Was it to be bye forever?

No. Years later, by then a freelance comic book scripter living in Manhattan, an editor named Julius Schwartz asked me if I’d like to have a go at Superman. I had some misgivings. Superman was… too establishment for me. Too goody-two-shoes. And too powerful. Melodrama turns on conflict. So how do you create conflict for a dude who could tuck all the gods of Olympus into an armpit, his suit apparently lacking pockets, and still have room there for the gods of Egypt and a few sticks of deodorant? Could I do that every month? I had some doubts. But I was a professional with mouths to feed and so I took the gig. Julie agreed to let me dial down the superpowers thing and let me make another change or two and off I went. For a year. I walked away from Superman and I’m not sure why. Just because I wasn’t enjoying it much? A lot of freelancers might consider that a pretty lame reason for dumping a paying gig and I’m not sure I’d disagree with them. But dump it I did and once again, sayonara Superman.

But never say never. I’m going to the movies, probably this weekend.

FRIDAY: Martha Thomases

SATURDAY: Marc Alan Fishman


Dennis O’Neil: Zen Denver

O'Neil Art 130606Yesterday, just outside Denver, I went through an area I must have gone through long ago. My friend and I were a couple of footloose ramblers with no money in an interstice of time between being in thrall to one authoritarian institution, a Catholic university, and another, the United States Navy. (You wanna salute? Go ahead – salute!) We were hitchhiking back from San Francisco because…well, hey, it was good enough for Jack Kerouac and besides, if you’re not going to do stupid and dangerous things when you’re young, when you gonna do them?

(Parenthetical digression: Hitchhiking was stupid and dangerous back in 1961 and it’s way, way more stupid and dangerous now, and if our luck had veered a bit we could have suffered dreadfully. So don’t do it.)

Where was I? Oh yeah, in Colorado getting busted by a state cop.

But, as it happened, the cop was from Missouri as were we, and so, instead of depositing us in the slammer, he flagged down a Greyhound bus and asked the driver to haul us east. The rest of the adventure went well.

As I looked outside the car window yesterday, nothing seemed familiar except those magnificent mountains in the distance. But why would it? A half century-plus had passed and Colorado, along with everything else, had changed and my memory probably wasn’t reliable when I was 22 and is absolutely not reliable now. (Reality may or may not not be malleable, but the truth? That’s generally open to interpretation.)

We were coming from the Denver Comic Con and a pleasant weekend. We were expecting the show to pull in…I don’t know… a couple-three thousand fans? But there was the energy of over 50,000 attendees percolating through the Colorado Convention Center. Plus a lot of comics guys and a whole lot of dealers. And a full complement of celebrities. This was only the second year the con was held. In its infancy and already a monster.

There was a lot to like, but what most pleased us, both at the con and the Hyatt across the street, where we stayed, was the pervasive atmosphere of courtesy. Everyone was extremely polite and extremely nice. Many of the fans who came for autographs thanked me warmly for, let’s face it, not doing much more than signing my name, a trick most third graders have mastered. They also thanked us for coming to Denver – not necessary, because Denver itself had already taken care of that.

In the airport, I was astonished and delighted to see, in large, bas relief lettering, this quotation from Zen master Thich Naht Hanh: I have arrived. I am home. My destination is in each step. Appropriate, but not what you’d expect in a thriving center of commercial journeying.

Then we went over, and past, the geography I’d traveled long ago and when we arrived at our house everything was in good order. Life can be okay. Just remember that the step you’re taking is your destination.

RECOMMENDED READING: Google something like Thich Naht Hanh quotes. Read a few, or a few dozen. Then you might want to try one of his many books.

FRIDAY: Martha Thomases

SATURDAY: Marc Alan Fishman


Dennis O’Neil: Villains

O'Neil Art 130530Social commentary is pretty old news in science fiction, so I guess we shouldn’t be surprised that it figures prominently in what will probably turn out to be the summer’s sci-fi biggie, Star Trek Into Darkness.

Of course, if we wanted to be picky, or display our erudition, or be just a bit passive aggressive, we could point out that superheroes are science fiction, and there’s already one of those, a mighty successful one, on our local screens and another, cape furled, is waiting in the wings. But we’re not picky, show-offy or, heaven forfend, passive aggressive, so we’ll just elide past everything in the previous sentence and soldier on to the Trek flick.

I’m not a trekker, not by a stretch, but I have seen all the theatrical movies and a (pretty paltry) sampling of the video iterations. And one element has always bothered me – not a big bother, certainly not a pleasure slayer, just a nag somewhere in the far regions of whatever it is that passes for my social conscience.To wit: the implicit militarism in the Star Trek mythos.

I saw my first television Star Trek in the mid-sixties, when I was hanging with peaceniks and was recently freed from two absolutely humiliating years aboard a warship – pity me, but also pity the poor bastards whose hopeless task it was to cram me into regulations – and I was pretty sensitive to military stuff. And here came Star Trek, which, being science fiction, I was predisposed to like, but they were all wearing uniforms, the crew of the Enterprise, and they often carried sidearms and the ship itself was equipped with a futuristic version of heavy artillery and they had ranks and those ranks had a familiar sound to them: lieutenant, commander, captain, admiral…yeah, I’d met guys who carried those designations. They generally hadn’t been my pals.

Maybe back when Star Trek was but a blip on the zeitgeist, whoever was running the show did have the military in mind. But the current movie makes a point of letting us know that Star Fleet is not a military command. The ranks? Civilian vessels are run by captains and are manned by guys in uniforms.Rank does not necessarily equal warrior: duh.

(Squeaky little spoiler alert.)

What most pleases me is that the villains are not, in the final reckoning, demonized – that is they’re not portrayed as aliens.No, the chief evil-doer is your ol’ buddy the authority figure. And this is where the movie accepts the burden of social commentary: I am not the first to observe that the plot of the story is a reflection of the past decade of our history. And allow me the amusement of imagining that one character’s name on the first draft of the script might have been Cheney.

Because I’m writing these words on Memorial Day, and I have no wish to disrespect either the holiday or those it commemorates, let’s be clear: we should support our troops by giving them the equipment they need and by properly tending to their wounds and by granting them the benefits they’ve earned,and mostly by not sending them to be slaughtered in useless wars.

Now go see Star Trek Into Darkness.

FRIDAY: Martha Thomases

SATURDAY: Marc Alan Fishman