Frances Stroh grew up in the family that owned America’s third biggest brewer, Stroh Brewing Company. As she aged into adulthood, she watched as both the brewery and her family life fell apart. She talks about the struggles the company faced, how her family dealt with it, and when a legacy can become a burden.
Frances Stroh, author of Beer Money: A memoir of privilege and loss
Wonder Woman is breaking box office records in her first solo film, and we look at what makes her so in tune with the times. Professor, author, and editor Travis Langley explains how Wonder Woman’s pursuit of the truth, belief in humanity, and inspirational name make her the perfect heroine for now.
During World War II, Americans idolized Superman for his bravery and patriotism. During the post-9/11 era of terrorism and new surveillance tactics, Batman was popular for protecting Gotham City from impending doom. Now, in times of fake news and the Women’s March, Wonder Woman has risen to the occasion.
A pinnacle of truth, wonder, and girl power, the heroine differs starkly from heroes in the past. Travis Langley, co-editor of Wonder Woman Psychology: Lassoing the Truth says the biggest difference is that Wonder Woman is a more well-adjusted character. Whereas Spiderman lost his parents and avenges the death of his late uncle, and Batman is an orphan who succeeded despite his gloomy prospects, the new Wonder Woman film depicts her as enjoying a healthy childhood in fictional paradise Themyscira, with a nurturing family, loving neighbors, and the promise of a bright future ahead of her. Although she does leave the island, much to the disdain of her mother, her background story is quite ideal when compared to her male superhero counterparts.
Langley notes that her creator, William Moulton Marston, was a psychologist who helped to invent the polygraph machine. He understood human nature and chose to show Diana flourishing, bringing light and truth to Europe during World War I. Langley explains, “Here he is, involved in the development of the lie detector, the science of truth. And he creates this heroine who’s very well known for having a magic lasso… she could use to make people tell the truth.” Wonder Woman’s commitment to honesty does not go unnoticed during our current alternative fact epidemic, and her devotion for factuality resonates with Americans in movies theatres across the country.
Unlike its heroine-centered predecessors Supergirl, which premiered more than three decades ago, failed spectacularly, and Catwoman, which fared the same, Wonder Woman has outsold movies such as Iron Man and Captain America, and set a new record for opening weekend profits from a female-directed film. Langley attributes this to relevance. Wonder Woman’s debut comes just months after the historic Women’s March, the largest march in American history, and during a new wave of feminism. Wonder Woman is also unattached from other heroes, unlike Bullet Girl and Bullet Man, and is not just a femme fatale character, unlike Phantom Lady. As Langley says, “She’s not the first female superhero, there have been others, but the ones before her tended to be derivative… [she is] a full fledged, strong, female superhero defined by herself, not by anybody else.”
Although the English language is complex, irregular, and almost random, its various origins make it the perfect language for the United States: a melting pot of ethnicity, culture, and, yes, language. However, the structure of the language may prove daunting as there are many exceptions to the rules. Experts Vivian Cook, Professor Emeritus of Applied Linguistics at Newcastle University, describes the complexity of the English language and provides an explanation for its bizarre quality. Originating in England with German and Scandinavian dialects in about 500 C.E., the language received French, Latin, and Dutch influence throughout the next few centuries, culminating in an elaborate collection of words. Niall McLeod Waldman, author of Spelling Dearest: The down and dirty, nitty-gritty history of English spelling, tries to describe the mess that our language appears in today. He states, “So [words] come from the way we used to sound it, or from other languages, and we just have never thought it out. Fourteen-hundred years of spelling history, we’ve never had any rules for new words, coming into English or created in English…. And that’s why we have anarchy in our spelling system.” Waldman goes on to explain that the English language is a partial reason for high illiteracy rates among English-speakers, due to the sounds in our words and their inconsistent spelling. A solution to the complication has been identified as pronouncing words as they are spelled, but even this poses problems as there are many different accents in the English language. Proficiency of the English language is considered a necessary key to success in our globalized world, but mastery requires an understanding of all of the different aspects.
As hard as it is to imagine, before an Italian mathematician we know as Fibonacci came to the scene, most people didn’t use numbers. We talk to mathematician and author Keith Devlin about Fibonacci’s mammoth contribution to mathematics and our daily lives.
With summer around the corner, many of us are looking for some fresh books to read on the beach or on the porch. We talk to three authors about the themes and messages written into their latest novels.