REVIEW: ‘Star Trek: Into Darkness’

STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS

In Star Trek Into Darkness, opening today, the crew might as well have rechristened the Enterprise the U.S.S. Kitchen Sink; certainly that’s what they filmmakers have thrown into this, the second film in the reboot of a series rebooted so much, it might have been designed in a cowboy footwear store.

One of the fun things about a reboot is that you get to experience old things as new. This incarnation of the series — which follows a “new” timeline of the original crew — makes ample references to iconic items from the original: There are references to Klingons, tribbles, Dr. Carol Marcus, Khan, photon torpedoes, “the needs of the many” and the Enterprise’s famous “five-year mission.”

It also, sometimes, makes the film unintentionally comic, as recycled lines (especially Dr. McCoy’s penchant for homespun aphorism) sound suddenly cliched. There’s also the problem that the ad campaign promises that “nothing can prepare us” for what happens, though of course, it’s easy to prepare: Just watch Star Trek II.

Another downside is that the screenwriters (here and in Star Trek) have seemed more interested in reinventing most of the characters for their own uses, and sacrificing what we have come to love about them. The most awkward fit of these is the relationship between Kirk (Chris Pine, pictured right — who is, sadly, shirtless only once) and Spock (Zachary Quinto, pictured left). The original actors, William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy, invented the ultimate bromance, two men who occasionally argued but were never disrespectful of the other. Here, they snipe like cats in a bag. And the plot changes focus so much, it’s difficult to tell the good guys from the villains.

Still, such quibbles aside, director J.J. Abrams has concocted a rip-roaring sci-fi action picture with great special effects (the 3-D is well used) and a touching, keenly played performance by Quinto. It’s hard when you’re supposed to be the only emotionless character on screen to show the heart of a picture, but Quinto does it. And, considering his all-out brawl with the bad guy (Benedict Cumberbatch) on the streets of San Francisco, it’s to his credit that the audience experiences it as a duel, not as a gay-bashing.

In wide release.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Enduring enigma

Alan Turing’s pioneering work made modern technology possible. But because he was gay, he remains, technically, a criminal

Last week my partner and I gave each other early Christmas gifts: We exchanged iPads. As we got home with our new gadgets, I made an assessment of the number of computers we had in our house, and I was astounded.

Between us we have no fewer than eight computers, not counting the tiny computers we carry with us that we mistakenly call our telephones.

I remarked to my partner, “We are living in the age of Star Trek, minus the replicators, transporters and warp drive.”

And that is pretty much a true statement. The things we can do now with our iPhones would have astounded the top minds at IBM just 15 short years ago.

So many amazing gadgets that make our lives easier, better and richer are to a great extent the result of the pioneering work of a gay man from the United Kingdom named Alan Turing. Turing was a brilliant mathematician whose contributions to the concepts of algorithms and computation made all those computers in our house possible.

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Hardy Haberman Flagging Left

Furthermore, his work in cryptanalysis in the now-famous Bletchley Park Government Code and Cypher School led to the development of a machine known then as the “bombe.” It was an electromechanical code-breaking computer that broke the German Enigma code and helped stop Hitler. Because of his work, Turing was awarded the Order of the British Empire in 1945, an honor roughly equivalent to a Congressional Medal of Honor.

His amazing body of work, most of which is so highly technical that it is hard to describe in such a short space, has led historians to call Alan Turing the “Father of Computer Science.” Without Alan Turing, I would most likely be typing this column on an electric typewriter. Such was his impact on our modern world.

The dark side of his story happened in 1952. That year, he met a man outside a cinema in Manchester and they struck up a relationship. Turing invited the man, Arnold Murry, to his house several times. On one of those visits, Murry opened Turing’s house up to a thief, his accomplice, and they stole several things from his home.

When Turning reported it to the police, he admitted that Murry was more than just a visitor; Murry was his lover.
And that’s where the story gets dark.

Turing and Murry were both charged with “gross indecency” because homosexual acts were illegal in the United Kingdom at that time. Turing was convicted and given an onerous choice: He could go to prison or he could accept probation, the terms of which included chemical castration via hormone injections.

Turing’s security clearance was rescinded and he was prevented from ever working in the field of cryptanalysis again. He was even prevented from ever discussing his work during World War II.

Turing was found dead on a June morning in 1954, with a half-eaten apple beside his bed. The autopsy showed he had ingested cyanide, possibly from the apple, and his death was ruled a suicide.

What makes this tale even sadder is that to this date, Alan Turing has never received an official pardon from the British government.

Today there are statues and plaques and tributes to the “Father of Modern Computing.” He even received a posthumous apology from then-Prime Minister Gordon Brown in 2009.

But his criminal record still stands.

The inhumane treatment Turing endured has been acknowledged, but this great man deserves more.

Today there is a movement to have the government pardon Alan Turing as we enter the new year. One hundred years after his birth, the global scientific community has declared 2012 as “Alan Turing Year, a Centenary Celebration of the Life and Work of Alan Turing.” It seems fitting that during his commemorative year, the British government could offer a posthumous pardon to a man to whom we all owe so much.

So far there are only a few thousand signatures to the petition. It is my hope that every LGBT individual will sign it as an offering to one of our own who gave us so much. Why it has taken this long is truly an enigma.

The petition is online at: Submissions.Epetitions.Direct.gov.uk/petitions/23526.

Hardy Haberman is a longtime local LGBT activist and a board member of the Woodhull Freedom Alliance. His blog is at DungeonDiary.blogspot.com

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 9, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

The power of coming out

ABC News co-anchor Dan Koeffler set an example we all should follow if we want to reach the goal of equality

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Dan Koeffler

There’s probably never before been a safer — or more critical — time in American culture and politics for LGBT people to come out and acknowledge their identities.

This week when Dan Koeffler, an ABC News co-anchor on the World News Now show, acknowledged he was gay, in a reference to Star Trek actor Zach Quinto, Koeffler likely caused a lot of people to realize we might just pop up anywhere — even on TV at 3 a.m.

The television personality’s off-hand quip that he might drop his rule against dating actors in favor of Quinto, who recently came out in a New York Magazine interview, might serve as an good example for members of our community who have thus far opened the closet door only a little bit.

The television journalist’s declaration hopefully will inspire LGBT people who are tired of listening to Republican presidential candidates backed by evangelical stooges, condemn us and threaten to rollback our hard-won human rights gains.

If there was ever a moment for us to stand up against the likes of Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who was introduced recently at a campaign event by First Baptist Church of Dallas’ senior pastor Robert Jeffress, it is now. The thought of Jeffress — who has made a pastoral career out of trampling on the rights of LGBT people — having the ear of the next U.S. president ought to be enough to scare anyone into action.

If Jeffress would dare to publicly condemn the Mormon faith of Perry’s Republican political rival Mitt Romney in a weaselly attack before reporters after the event, what retributions against our community might he attempt to exact in exchange for helping deliver the evangelical vote to Perry in a presidential election?

We’re talking about an obsessed man who goes on TV to rail against anyone who doesn’t follow his religious philosophy, declaring that merely being a good person is not enough. Anyone one who doesn’t want to burn in hell must believe as Jeffress does, according to his sermons.

A friend of Perry’s who has known him for more than a half-century told me recently that the governor is more enlightened and tolerant than the LGBT community perceives him to be. But I don’t buy that — especially after he failed to condemn Jeffress’ outrageous remarks.

The message doesn’t get much better over in the camp of Herman Cain, who has vowed to veto the Employment Non-Discrimination Act if it were to pass Congress if he is elected to the presidency. There are other Republican candidates, such as Rick Santorum and Michelle Bachman, vying for the party’s presidential nomination that are just as scary. But they appear to be trailing so significantly in

David-Webb

David Webb The Rare Reporter

the polls that they aren’t a threat — at least for now.

Veteran LGBT activists have long known and shared their wisdom with us about the need for people to come out and stand united against hypocrisy and bigotry. And much has been accomplished as a result. There is strength in numbers, and to quote one of my favorite gay activists, William Waybourn of Washington D.C., “If everyone who is gay came out at once, the discrimination and bullying would stop immediately.”

That obviously won’t ever happen, but it does present a strong argument for the kind of mass, non-threatening demonstration that is the philosophy of the National Coming Out Day. The event has already passed this year, but there is nothing to say we couldn’t declare 2012 a coming out year in light of the importance of the national election.

Bullying is something everyone needs to remember and condemn, and it’s what Kloeffler said was on his mind when he came out on national television in the early morning television broadcast. He was referring to a gay teenager, 14-year-old Jamey Rodemeyer of Buffalo, N.Y., who had valiantly fought intolerance and violent anti-gay discrimination to the point of posting a YouTube video titled “It Gets Better,” only to finally succumb to suicide when he lost the will to endure more intolerance from his peers.

Although Koeffler was likely confident he would suffer no repercussions at work nor in the rest of his life by his admission, it was still a courageous move, apparently undertaken in an effort to help others in less comfortable situations. Too many people who could make a difference sit by idly and silently when opportunities arise to speak out against intolerance and discrimination. And Koeffler acknowledged he had been one of those for quite some time.

When it comes to anti-gay discrimination and bullying or any other class of prejudice, situations just don’t get any better without concerted resistance on the part of the oppressed. I know this because I have in the past tried to reason with evangelical Christians, including a close associate of Jeffress’, whom I have known most of my life.

Their reaction to my pleas for compassion as regards the plight of young LGBT people who are victims of anti-gay bullying and other issues involving discrimination was something along the lines of, “They deserve what they get.”

A typical response during the conversations was a flabbergasting, “We are so far apart on this,” which was based solely on what I consider to be misguided religious beliefs.

What I learned from trying to reason with the opponents of our quest for equal rights is that it was destined from the start to be a fruitless endeavor, and that our only hope in attracting allies is to appeal to the compassion of open-minded individuals who believe in fairness.

Even if that wasn’t Koeffler’s conscious objective in speaking out on the broadcast, I think his words probably reached a lot of people who are realizing our sheer numbers necessitate them giving more thought to our mission.
Maybe it’s a good time for others to follow Koeffler’s lead and see what kind of difference they might be able to make in spreading tolerance and fairness in their communities.

David Webb is a veteran journalist who has covered LGBT issues for the mainstream and alternative media for three decades. E-mail him at davidwaynewebb@yahoo.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 21, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Mr. Spock is gay… sort of (Zachary Quinto comes out)

I pride myself on pretty good gaydar, so I was slightly surprised today when I heard Zachary Quinto — who played Syler on the cult TV show Heroes (which I didn’t like) and was cast as Mr. Spock in the Star Trek reboot last year — has officially come out as gay.

I know quite a few gay men who will be excited by this news.

Quinto’s next onscreen roll is the lead in Margin Call, a drama about the economic meltdown, due out Friday. Good timing.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones