About sokorra

A thirty-something Graphic Designer and writer who likes to blog about books, movies and History.

Women of History: Yekaterina Alekseyevna (Catherine the Great)

Author’s Note:  Catherine’s name in Russian (in English) is spelled in two ways: Yekaterina(which I choose to use here) and Ekaterina.  I try my best to use the name closest to what they were actually called.  Many times I have found foriegn monarchs names anglicised, so I try to find out what they would be called by their own people.

  Also there is many Wikipedia sources in the Further Reading.  While I enjoy Wikipedia, I use it only as a starting off point, and always suggest those who are interested in learning more to do the same.  The same goes for any encyclopedia.  There is so many sources out there, online and in print.  
Portrait of Empress Catherine II(a)

We travel slightly west in our pick this week, traveling to Imperial Russia and focusing on Catherine the Great (Yekaterina Alekseyevna), Empress of Russia and one of the more well-known of the Tsars despite the fact she did not inherit the throne, but took it by force and her son would attempt to take away her legacy.
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The History of Valentine’s Day

Happy Valentines’ Day to everyone!

For me Valentine’s day is just a day to express love/affection.  I end up getting gifts for my family and close friends if I’m seeing them that day. For many however, its a day for romantically involved couples to express their love for one another in a more formal way.  It’s definately a holiday built upon cards and gifts.  Different cultures treat it differently though.  Continue reading

Remakes & Reboots and Film Fatigue

Yesterday I stumbled upon the reality that the movie Overboard is being remade.  Now, I was never a huge fan of the film, it was okay and I’d watch it if it happened to be on.  I have friends who are much bigger fans.  But I always figured it was one of those movies that had been left alone.  Till Yesterday.

It made me wonder at what point does a movie get to ‘remakable’ status?  Is there a time limit?  A quality level?  Perhaps nothing at all (and I’m starting to think this is the reality.)

They made the first Spiderman movie with Toby McGuire in it in 2002.  Since then, they have made 2 sequels, rebooted it, made a sequel to that one and rebooted it again.  All in 16 years.  At least with the latest guy, its because the ownership changed hands therefore contracts were different.

But seriously.  16 years, 6 movies (8 if you include Captian America: Civil War and the upcoming Avengers movie), 3 actors.  That is roughly a new Spiderman movie every 2-3 years and only a few are actually connected to each other.  Toby McQuire came out with one in 2002. 2004, and 2007.  Andrew Garfield got 2012 and 2014.  Tom Holland got 2017 (with 2016 (CA:CW) and 2018 (Avengers: Infinty Wars) as honorable mentions).

Seems a lot.  (Although I wish Tom Holland luck with the role.  He seems like a sweetheart.)

It makes the Star Trek reboot look like they took way too long (almost 50 years).

Of course there is Star Wars, creatively sourced as a continuation rather than a reboot.  They are using the same basic plots so I find the last series to be generally less impressive than the other two (yes, I’m a freak who loves the Prequels.  Not as much as the original trilogy, but I do love them).  I don’t want to watch The Original Trilogy with Anakin 2.0

The Mummy was recently remade, though I did not see this version due to an aversion of all things Tom Cruise.  Plus the Brendan Fraser Trio was a big part of my middle school years.  I don’t want to ruin them with whatever this new one is.  Which doesn’t appear to be anything like the 1932 original, or the Fraser 1999 remake.  So I’m not sure if it’s so much a remake as its “Hey, we got the rights to this film franchise and a budget, want to film?” type deal.

There are times I adore remakes.  It just seems that recently the board has been pretty flooded with remakes and reboots and sequels. And some of them run pretty close together.  I can understand a remake/reboot if enough time as passed (King Kong, Godzilla and Star Trek for example).  Book adaptations happen all time (Look up the many many many versions of Pride and Prejudice.  I did once.  I think there were thirty some at the time).  I just don’t get why I’m getting remakes/reboots of films that have been released since I was in high school.  Sure, its been over a decade but barely and still within memory.

At the very least a decade should be the minimum amount of time unless the movie was awful (ex. The Incredible Hulk movies.  We don’t talk about the Incredible Hulk movies).

I remember reading somewhere that someone had boiled down the general narratives of the world to about 6 storylines.  And that everything basically followed one of them.  But there are a million ways to be creative with a prompt.  Just look at any writing group and ask them their responses to a prompt.  You are bound to get a bunch of variety even with the same building blocks.

So I don’t think its a hard task to find something out there that is creative, even if its something old.  At least something not made in the last decade.  At the rate we are going, The day I turn 40, Harry Potter will be releasing its remake of A Deathly Hallows.

That being said…I’m probably going to be watching the new Overboard.  If only because the fact they genderswapped it sounds intriguing.

I believe I wrote about this before, but it was just a recent rant in my mind that needed to come out.  What are your thoughts on the matter?

Women of History: Yamamoto Yae

For this week’s Women of History feature, I’ve decided to go out of my knowledge base. I’m more well versed in Euro-American history and wanted to expand my horizons. So after asking around it was suggested I look into Yamamoto Yae, a Japanese woman who served as a nurse during Russo-Japanese war and was decorated for her service to Japan. She continuously advocated for what she thought was needed, and did not let the cultural ties keep her from doing so. Continue reading

Movie Review: Ladies in Lavender

Title:  Ladies in Lavender
Rating: PG-13
Genre:  Drama/Romance
Director: Charles Dance
Cast:  Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, and Daniel Bruhl

This film was based on a short story written by William J. Locke that caught the eye of Charles Dance, who directed the film.  At the start of the film two sisters walking on the beach near their home find a half-drowned polish boy and take him in to care for him.  There is a bit of an issue at first when they determine he is Polish as he doesn’t speak English – however he does speak German and Janet (Maggie Smith) does as well, though poorly.

Andrea (Daniel Bruhl) slowly recovers, learning English from the sisters.  Ursula (Judi Dench) falls in love with him, finding herself jealous of the friendship he develops with a visiting woman named Olga Daniloff (Natascha McElhone from Designated Survivor).

The movie in general is not bad.  I wouldn’t say it was a movie that I would insist on watching, but if it happened to come on, I’d probably stop to watch it.  I found that while I found the one-sided romance between Ursula and Andrea a bit odd, it did not get to the point where you feel uncomfortable about it.

My grade is going to be a strong B.  The story was interesting, the cast was a good collection of actors, but the music was not quite balanced with the film itself.

Other notable cast members include Miriam Margolyes(Harry Potter), Clive Russell(Game of Thrones), and Toby Jones (Captain America: The First Avenger).

Cathay Williams

Today’s choice for “Women of History,” is another american woman named Cathay Williams. Ms. Williams was an African-american woman who joined the US Army during the Civil war under the alias of William Cathey. She was the first African-American woman documented to join the military.

Cathay Williams was born in Independence, Missouri in September 1844. Her father was a freed man, but her mother was still a slave, therefore Cathay herself was born into slavery. She worked as a house slave until 1861 when she was 17 years old. However, it was into another form of slavery that she transitioned to. The Union Army, in a time before the emancipation proclamation had decided that slaves that had worked to help the Confederate cause were ‘contraband’, and still considered property. They took the slaves from the plantations and pressed them into service as cooks and other support services. Cathay was added to the 8th Indiana Volunteer Regiment to serve as a cook and seamstress. She would spend the next couple of years traveling the country and seeing various battles across the south.

In 1866, Cathay decided to enter the army full-out, but as a man. At the time women were not allowed to enlist in the military (although some did in the manner that Cathay choose). It wouldn’t be until 1949 that women would officially be allowed to enlist in the US Army. Joining the military as a soldier would allow her to remain independent and earn an income.

She enlisted in the regular Army under the name of William Cathey on November 15, and was assigned to the 38th US Infantry regiment after she passed a medical exam. Sources differ whether this was required a the time or not, but evidently it did not matter. They believed her to be a healthy male. Her only confidants were a cousin and a friend who were in her regiment. The 38th was an all Black unit that had been formed that year and the various units were occasionally known as ‘Buffalo soldiers’.

They were called that because they were often assigned to posts in the Western United States protecting the white settlers from the Native Americans and various criminals taking advantage of them. African-Americans were not allowed to enlist in the regular army until legislation passed in 1866 allowed them. So ‘William Cathey’ was one of the first to formally enlist. The segregation of the military would last until 1948, when Henry S. Truman disbanded the practice and diversified the military.

She managed to continue with the regiment for almost two years without being discovered. She caught smallpox at one point, and the lingering health effects of this illness caused her to be hospitalised several times, all of which were documented in her records. Somehow despite the hospitalizations, she was not discovered till 1868 to be a woman. Once she was discovered, her commanding officer discharged her on October 14, 1868, filing it as a disability discharge. On the discharge papers, Cathay was still referred to as William and the Captain who discharged her claimed that “the origin of his infirmaries is unknown to me.” The Doctor added that her ‘condition dates prior to enlistment.’ They effectively ended her military career without admitting that the Military had managed to not catch on to her biological sex. While her later illness might have been limiting her ability to handle the job, one has to wonder if the discharge ‘condition’ was less being chronically ill and more about being born female.

Despite her discharge, Cathay was not finished with military life. She went to work as a cook once again at Fort Union for a short time. She then moved to Colorado and became a seamstress and might have opened a boarding house (though I found only one source that claimed this). She married, but it ended badly when her husband stole from her and she had him arrested. She continued to struggle with her health through the years.

In 1891, Cathay applied to get a disability pension after being released from the hospital after a year and a half stay.. The application listed her age as 41, which would give her a birth year of 1850, 6 years younger than she claimed to be on her enlistment form. Cathay suffered from diabetes and neuralgia. Due to her diabetes she had suffered amputations and was forced to walk with a cain. She dealt with deafness, which she blamed on contracting smallpox during her time in the military.

In September, a local doctor was sent to examine her by the Pension Bureau. More discrepancies occurred on his form. She was 2 inches shorter (possible due to aging), and 49, which makes her 2 years older than her enlistment birthdate of 1844. It is unclear if the doctor was competent and simply did not examine her fully trying to save time or was incompetent or not current as his report had medical inaccuracies. He looked for signs of Neuralgia in the joints and muscles. Neuralgia is an illness that affects the nervous system and this was known in 1801, long before Cathay claimed to have the problem. It would not have appeared physically in her joints or muscles.

Also despite reporting her amputations (she no longer had toes) he did not think to consider the reasons for the amputations, or that not having them would be a disability. Interestingly, though, the Pension Bureau did not reject the claim because of illegal enlistment (as they could have since women were still not allowed in the military) and instead recognized that Cathay William was William Cathey. They rejected it claiming she was not in fact disabled. This would be the last documented mention of Cathay.

Not much is known about when she died, but it is believed to be shortly after the visit of the military doctor. She was not included in the next census, so her death occurred sometime between 1892 and 1900. It is often listed as 1892 or 1893 as it is assumed that due to her condition and her financial problems due to being ill for so long she most likely died around that time.

She was buried with a wooden tomb marker, which has since deteriorated and has left her final resting spot a mystery in the present day.

Due to varying levels of record keeping, much of Cathay’s life is left to fill in by guessing, using the tidbits that are well documented to help fill out the missing pieces. As time goes by, more research is done in her life and more information is found. She has become the representative of the many women who joined the military and don’t have as documented a service or were found out sooner. It is estimated hundreds of women were in the military disguised as men during the Civil War, as with as the Revolutionary War before that.

She also has the legacy of a woman whose tenacity and determination took her to places that society forbade her due to her gender. She never hid from her past, either.

Wikipedia: Cathay Williams

Amazing Women in History: Cathay Williams

BufflaoSoldier.Net: Cathay Williams: Female Buffalo Soldier (with Documents)

US Army Profiles: Cathay Williams

Legends of America: Cathay Williams

Wounded Warrior Project: The Only Known Female Buffalo Soldier

Wikipedia: Neuralgia

History.Com: Who Were The Buffalo Soldiers?

 

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Master List

Women of History: Those Lost to the Sky

I have decided to do a special edition of the Women of history today. This week is a big week in US Space exploration history, although a tragic one as well. On January 27, 1967, The Apollo 1 disaster happened. It killed three astronauts after the pure oxygen in the cockpit caught on fire due to an equipment malfunction and the cockpit could not be opened in time. Their names were Virgil “Gus” Grissom, Ed White and Roger B. Chaffee.

Nearly 20 years later another disaster would happen. On January 28, 1986 The space shuttle Challenger took off and exploded in mid-air killing all on board. It was later determined that a ring sealing the fuel takes had frozen and cracked during the cold night and caused the explosion.

Their names were Francis R. Scobee, Michael J. Smith, Ellison S. Onizuka, Judith A Resnik, Ronald E McNair, Gregory B Jarvis, and S. Christa McAuliffe.

17 years later, on February 1, 2003, NASA would be touched with tragedy again. During reentry, the Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrated killing all on board and scattering debris across Texas. It was determined that a piece of foam protecting the space shuttle from the heat of reentry had become loose and had fallen off during launch. That exposed the inner ship to high temperatures and eventually destroyed the ship.

Those on board were Rick D. Husband, William C. McCool, David M. Brown, Kalpana Chawla, Michael P. Anderson, Laurel B. Clark, and Ilan Ramon.

Since this essay series is about the women of history, I am going to do a brief bio on the women involved in these tragedies. All members of these crews deserve to be remembered for their sacrifice and one day I may write an essay on the events themselves, allowing me to discuss the men involved in more detail. For now, I will focus on the women astronauts.

Out of the 19 people killed in these tragedies only four were women. They all came from different backgrounds, histories and skill sets. They had one thing in common though; a desire to explore and discover.

Judith A. Resnik

Judith Resnik was born on April 5, 1949 in Akron, Ohio, the daughter of two immigrants. She would attend Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania were she would earn a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering. She would later earn her Ph.D. at the University of Maryland. During her early career she worked for several companies, including Xerox and the National Institute of Health. She also worked on various projects with NASA before her recruitment.

In 1978, Nichelle Nichols recruited her to NASA. She became one of the first women chosen as an astronaut, along with five others including Sally Ride who would be the first one in space. She was named a member of “Group 8”, a collection of 35 astronauts. They were divided into two groups, pilots and mission specialists. Resnik would be a mission specialist, and would specialize in robotics.

Her first mission would on the maidan Voyage of the Space Shuttle Discovery in August of 1984. The mission team spent a week in space, with the task of deploying 3 satellites, studying crystal growth, and experimenting with an IMAX camera. At the time she was the second woman in space, and also the first American Jewish woman to go into space.

She was assigned to be a mission specialist on Challenger ST-51-L. Due to evidence found in the cockpit, it is quite likely that she was one of the last passengers to be alive after the explosion.

After her death she was honored by her alma maters when both choose to name buildings after her. She also has two awards named after her: The IEEE Judith A. Resnik Award (IEEE) and the Resnik Challenger Award (Society of Women Engineers).

https://www.ieee.org/about/awards/tfas/resnik.html

http://societyofwomenengineers.swe.org/page/5430-2017-awards-and-recipients/individual-awards/3132-resnik-challenger-medal

Her brother Charles Resnik and other family members of the Challenger astronauts came together to form the Challenger Center in 1986 to promote Stem education and interest for children.

https://www.challenger.org

S. Christa McAuliffe

Christa McAuliffe tends to be the most famous of her crewmates by virtue of her reason for being on the mission. McAuliffe was a New Hampshire school teacher who signed up for a program to put a teacher in space. She was a mission specialist, and was going to run various experiments and promote science education.

McAuliffe was born Sharon Christa Corrigan on September 2, 1948 in Boston Massachusetts. Early on she was known by her middle name, Christa. She crew up with the space program and felt inspired by it. She attended Farmington State College in 1970 (and married her longtime boyfriend Steven McAuliffe), getting a bachelors in education and history. She would later attended Bowie State University in 1978, earning her masters in education supervision and administration. She held several jobs as a social studies teacher, traveling as her husband’s career and their family needed them to. In 1983, she accepted her final position as a high school history teacher. She even designed a history course on “The American Woman.”

In 1985, she was selected from several thousand applicants for NASA’s Teacher in space project. She spent a year in training along with her backup, Barbara Morgan, and was scheduled to go into space on Challenger STS-51-L. During that mission she was to conduct several experiments and hold two short lessons from space.

After her death, she was honored by the naming of the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center (Concord, Massachusetts), The Christa Corrigan McAuliffe Center for Education and Teaching excellence (Farmington State UNiversity) and several other schools and education centers. Several teaching scholarships as well have been made in her name.

https://www.starhop.com

http://christa.org

Barbara Morgan would later fly as the first Teacher in space.

It was announced that the lessons and experiments she planned on teaching will be taught on the space Station by Joe Acaba and Ricky Arnold during their tours of duty on the station. They will be aired on the Challenger Center website in the spring.

Kalpana Chawla

Kalpana Chawla was born on March 17, 1962 in Karnal (Haryana), Punjab, India. She attended the Punjab Engineering College and got a bachelors in Aeronautical engineering. After receiving her degree, she migrated to the United States in 1982 to attend The University of Texas where she earned a masters in Aerospace engineering. She married Jean-Pierre Harrison in 1983. She would earn her Ph.D. in Aero-enginering in 1988 from the University of Colorado.

Once she earned her PHD she went to work for NASA to do research on fluid dynamics with landings. She would later work as a Vice President for Overset Methods continuing her research. She earned licenses to fly several different kinds of aircraft and even certified to be a flight instructor.

In 1993, Chawla became a naturalized Citizen of the United States and formerly applied to join the NASA team. She joined in 1995, and assigned her first flight in 1996. During her time as an Astronaut, Chawla would take two missions into space, both on the space shuttle Columbia.

Her first mission was STS-87, in 1997 where she was responsible for deploying a satellite. The deployment malfunctioned due to computer errors and procedures. There was a five month investigation into the incident that discovered the problems and decided it was not Chawla at fault.

During the down time between her missions, Chawla was assigned to work in the Astronaut office on work on the space station. She was focused on robotics, in particular robotic situational awareness

in 2000, plans for the STS-107 mission began to take shape and Chawla was selected for the seven member crew. Like with the CHallenger, there were several delays due to scheduling and technical problems. It was in January 2003 that the mission finally was launched.

Unlike with Challenger, the Launch was completed successfully, as thought at the time. However, the launch had dislodged a piece of foam causing the heat shield to have a critical weakness. However, the mission itself before the reentry went without issue. In total, Chawla logged 30.5 days in space.

Afterwards, Chawla was honored with several honors, both in the United states and her birth country of India. The Indian satellite program was renamed in her honor, and the first satellite was called Kalpana-1. Several awards and scholarships were named in her honor, and she even got immortalized in fiction, as a shuttle was named after her in Peter David’s Star Trek novel Star Trek: The Next Generation: Before Dishonor.

She and the rest of her crew members have had hills on Mars named after them, as well as asteroids. Her birthplace has named a Medical hospital in her honor, and several schools and housing complexes have named dorms and halls after her.

Laurel Clark

Laurel Blaire Salton was born on March 10, 1961 in Ames, Iowa. She grew up in Racine, Wisconsin however. She would attend college at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In 1983 she graduated with a bachelor of Science in Zoology in 1983, and would later earn her doctorate in Medicine in 1987.

After completing her doctorate, she served in the United States Navy. She trained with the Experimental Diving Unit, at first focusing on pediatrics before starting training in diving related medicine and diving officer training. This heard her the designation of Radiation Health Officer and Undersea Medical Officer. She was assigned to a submarine Squadron located in Scotland.

After a few years of experience, and a promotion to Naval Submarine Medical Officer, she started training as a Naval Flight Surgeon. This training would come in handy in her later career.

She was selected by NASA to join the astronaut program in 1996 and spent two years in training as a mission specialist. Prior to STS-107, she was assigned to the Astronaut Office Habitability branch. Her total time in space was almost 16 days. Her focus during the Columbia mission was on biosciences research including gardening in space.

She was honored with the Clark Auditorium at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda Maryland. It displays various personal items as well as her uniforms and other space-related materials.

Her husband, Dr. Jonathan Clark, was also a flight surgeon and worked on the investigative team following the Columbia disaster afterwards.

George W. Bush awarded both crews posthumously with the Congressional Space Medal. He awarded it to the crew of Columbia on February 3, 2004 and to the crew of The Challenger on July 23, 2004.

Further Reading

Apollo 1:

Wikipedia:  Apollo 1

Challenger:

Wikipedia: Challenger STS-51-L

 

Judith Resnik:

Wikipedia: Judith Resnik

NASA: Judith Resnik

 

Christa McAuliffe:

Wikipedia: Christa McAuliffe

USA Today: Christa McAuliffe’s Science Lessons to be taught aboard Space Station

Challenger Center: Astronauts and Challenger Center to Complete Christa McAuliffe’s Lessons

 

Columbia:

Wikipedia: Columbia STS-107

 

Kalpana Chawla:

Wikipedia: Kalpana Chawla

NASA: Kalpana Chawla

NASA: Columbia Crew Memorial: Kalpana Chawla

Smithsonian Air & Space Museum Wall of Honor: Kalpana Chawla

 

Laurel Clark:

Wikipedia: Laurel Clark

NASA: Laurel Clark

NASA: Columbia Memorial: Laurel Clark

Arlington Cemetery Memorial Page: Laurel Clark