Friday, September 23, 2011

Sex, Superheroines, and the New DC Universe...

So, another writer linked this on facebook the other day.

Empowerments. Yes.
That's what we'll call them.
The article kind of goes on a while with the author airing a laundry list of complaints (some valid, a couple irrelevant) about the portrayal of sexy women in comics. I find myself in agreement about the poor artwork in the Batman/Catwoman coupling, but, the line I found most interesting had far more to do with Starfire:

"This is not about these women wanting things; it's about men wanting to see them do things, and that takes something that really should be empowering -- the idea that women can own their sexuality -- and transforms it into yet another male fantasy."

I think she's got a pretty valid point (leaving aside that hunting for sexually empowered female characters in the forest of male-dominated comics might not be the best idea). What she doesn't do is give us an idea of what kind of writing would portray these characters as the empowered paragons she'd like them to be. 

Food For Thought

Be honest.
Did you first notice the sword?
Or the cleavage?
It got me to wondering if I was doing my female characters justice, especially the sexually aggressive ones. I've got a couple in my DEMON books, after all. Heck, there's one on the cover. I had female test readers, after all, but I still wonder if I did it correctly.

With the new Starfire, I think there's a significant difference between sexual aggressiveness and sexual empowerment that the comic writers aren't really conveying. The blogger may be reading more into the aggressiveness than is really there. After all, the new RED HOOD is still on Issue 1. We really don't know much about the new Starfire. We only know what the old Starfire thought of love and sex (that love should be free and sex sometimes free). The new Starfire gets asked " there anything I need to know about making love to a Tamarranean?" Her response: "Just that love has nothing to do with it." 

There are a LOT of ways the writers could take that, because there are a LOT of women who might say exactly the same thing. Maybe she's into conquests. Or maybe she gets her self-esteem from physical relationships. Or maybe her alien culture really is that different. (To truly contrast that last one, they could even use a male of her species on Earth trying the same direct approach. Could even be some entertaining dialog between them about how she finds Earth a very loving place, and the male Does Not.) Will the writers show that much skill? ... Yeah, I doubt it, too.

Still, it really got me to thinking. How should I write my empowered women? What gives them a spark of realism?

"Love is a four letter word."
Truly superior rolemodels.
I know that writing all my female characters as admirable paragons of womanhood isn't always desirable. That seems to be what the blogger is wanting from her superheroines. She mentions that "...part of what got me into comics back in the day was being a 12-year-old girl who looked at strong, beautiful characters like Rogue and Jean Grey and Storm and wanted to be like them in large part because they were so sexy and confident and had exciting romances..."

My criticism here is that she might be getting a bit of rose-tint in her vision from viewing these characters from memories of age 12. Not all characters are strong. Good characters shouldn't always be a positive role model. People can be weak, dumb, and foolish. Proper characterization should reflect that. A 12 year old may not have the emotional maturity to comprehend how some of those 'exciting romances' weren't really all that empowering for the females involved.

Mind Over Emotion?

All this said, my quest here is to keep my primarily male desires out of my ladies' minds. What's the key? It's true that 'Ya wanna?' is a predominately male attitude towards sex. That's part of why a woman asking this of a man so directly is quite the turn on for us. It follows that a male-targeted story would feature that kind of woman. To truly do the character justice, do we need to know WHY she's this way? Does the existence of motivation alone differentiate between sexually empowered women and the voluptuous male parodies of womanhood in my mind?

At what point does the sexually aggressive superheroine become a valid character?

THAT, dear friends, is the puzzler, because I love this kind of cake. I want to have it and... well, you know the rest.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

TNG Rundown: Season Three

TNG Rundown: Season Three

Last time we talked about the rough ride that was Season Two. Some actors were unhappy, Gene Roddenberry was suffering from his cancer, and Rick Berman was assuming more of the Executive Producer mantle. Toss into that rumors that Patrick Stewart was making this his last season, and you've got the makings of a difficult year.

However, this was when the writing and characters finally started coming together. More room was made for meta-plots that would span entire seasons, and more focus was given to internal character development and conflict, things which had formerly been verboten. Also, the writers used the rumors of Patrick Stewart's potential departure to great effect in the events leading up to the season finale.

Several changes became immediately apparent. First, Gates McFadden returned to the show (reportedly by direct request of Patrick Stewart) replacing Diana Muldaur as the Enterprise's Chief Medical Officer. A welcome change by most fans, I myself was a tiny bit disappointed. I wanted them to do more with Doctor Pulaski. They had finally started steering her away from her Bones-like dialog and more into Pulaski territory, with her uncompromising ethics and technophobic (or at least techno-wary) tendencies. But, alas, by all accounts Diana Muldaur was unhappy with the working environment, and her character was disliked by fans. So, we get our red-headed eye candy back. Don't mistake that as denigrating to Doctor Crusher's character in any way. There's plenty of depth to her and being super hot don't hurt none neither.

Smugness like this doesn't happen on accident.
Also, the show got a bit of a cosmetic overhaul with new special effects, better models, and new uniforms. The uniforms I felt were particularly sharp, looking much more 'official' than the skin-tight jumpsuits of the first season. The actors also appreciated the new threads as the jumpsuits were too hot under the lights, too cold anywhere else, and too form fitting to allow for any meals consisting of more than salad and bread crust (Riker, Data, we're looking at you!).

So, how did the episodes fare? Let's find out!

As always, shows are rated as Enjoy It, Skip It, or Bear It. A further reminder: Bear It shows are ones I would skip were they not important to understanding future good episodes (or so horrific that they must be endured to fully appreciate the dedication/insanity of Trekkies everywhere.)

49 – Evolution
Ugh. Wesley. What a terrible way to open a season, wherein young Wesley Crusher creates an entire civilization in the Nanites. And yet, I shouldn't be too harsh. The episode won't make you claw your eyes out like some of the dreck from Season Two. Also we can give a nice +1 to the Wesley Loathing Tally (we're up to, what, twenty-thousand points already?) Still, this episode isn't completely horrid, and guest stars Ken Jenkins who would later become Scrubs' own Doctor Bob Kelso. Oddly his personality is pretty similar in that he has two thumbs and doesn't give a crap about microscopic robot civilizations.
Bear It.

Strange! Not a 'weird head' alien!
50 – The Ensigns of Command
Readers of Season Two will know of my fanboy worship of Melinda Snodgrass's writing, and this episode is no exception. This is a lovely expansion of Data's character, wherein he must understand human stubbornness to save the lives of fifteen-thousand colonists. Picard also gets some diplomatic chops, and +10 Badass Points for thumbing his nose at some ridiculously uncompromising aliens. Add to it a super hot technophile with a thing for Data, and you've got a winning episode.
Enjoy It.

51 – The Survivors
This one started out very interesting when the Enterprise responds to a colony distress call to find the entire world obliterated except for a few acres of green surrounding the house of two survivors. Unfortunately the show's writers' tendency to invoke ominpotent godlike beings should have been confined to Q alone, and there's no Q here. You can see what they were trying to do here, and their hearts were in the right place, but, sadly, this one is rather forgettable.
Skip It.

52 – Who Watches the Watchers
A gem of an episode, falling withing the top fifteen, and explores one of my favorite themes of encounters between civilizations of widely varying stages of advancement. Some serious discussions on the importance of the Prime Directive (used appropriately this time), and Picard earning more Badass Points. I don't want to say too much more. This was a fun one.
Enjoy It.

53 – The Bonding
This is the first offering by Ronald D. Moore, who is arguably my favorite TNG writer of all time. That said, I'm really glad the producers saw something in this episode, because I sure didn't. The episode deals with the death of a Starfleet archaeologist on a mission under Worf's command. She leaves behind a son who is now completely orphaned. Worf wants to bring the boy into his own family, partly out of guilt for the loss, partly out of his Klingon sense of responsibility. It sets up what could have been a really superior recurring theme wherein Worf is now raising a human child, but entirely vanishes and is never mentioned again. The death of the archaeologist is mentioned to Worf once or twice in TNG and once in Deep Space Nine, so it pays to give this one a viewing. Otherwise, it becomes a very Meh offering from a very talented writer.
Bear It.

54 – Booby Trap
Geordi has trouble with women. Shocking, I know. And the episode's central theme and title make a double entendre that is entirely unintended. Geordi meets his dream girl on the holodeck while trying to save the Enterprise from a lethal radiation trap, a leftover remnant of an ancient war. Picard also earns even MORE Badass Points. One wonders if there wasn't just the tiniest bit of sucking up going on here.
Enjoy It.

55 – The Enemy
What's this? Geordi being badass? Okay, what the hell is wrong with this picture? But no! He really is! Geordi and a Romulan Centurion find themselves in dire straits, trapped on a planet with the Enterprise unable to assist and facing off against a Romulan Warbird in orbit. This one has echoes of Enemy Mine, and I wouldn't be at all surprised to hear that the writers took inspiration from that scifi staple film. Babylon Five fans will recognize the voice of G'kar in the Romulan Commander played by Andreas Katsulas, squaring off against Picard. Some minor quibbles with the final solution, but, ultimately, this one's a win.
Enjoy It.

Ladies, I'm talking to YOU! /wiiiink!
56 – The Price
Troi gets laid! And she likes 'em oily and girly. Also we get to see some Ferengi behaving like Ferengi, manipulative, misogynistic, and devious. Quite entertaining all around, even if the episode is somewhat forgettable. This also sets up a very very distant Star Trek Voyager episode, which is arguably one of the best of that particular spinoff. I know that's like saying this particular cowpat is the best in the field, but, really, watching Captain Janeway discover two Ferengi tens of thousands of light years away from where they should be is really priceless (assuming you decide to debase yourself enough to watch Voyager).
Enjoy It. If you want. It matters not.

57 – The Vengeance Factor
Riker almost gets laid! 'Almost?' I hear you ask. 'Is the Bearded One losing his touch?' No, not really. It's just that the red alert sirens are the ultimate cock block. This is a solid story of betrayal, want vs need, and (you guessed it) vengeance. Also more Picard Diplomacy Points.
Enjoy It.

58 – The Defector
Now, THIS is much more like it. Ronald D. Moore doing some of his best work. Also starring James Sloyan as the Romulan defector. You'll recognize Mister Sloyan from his many roles throughout all the Trek franchises. He's an excellent actor, and really makes you feel for his character in this one. I don't want to say too much more, but Andreas Katsulas also returns as Commander Tomalok in what is really an excellent episode. Top ten material here.
Enjoy It.

59 – The Hunted
Worf finally earns some badass points in this one. Seems like, for a Klingon, he sure does get knocked out easily. At least this time he's fighting a genetically engineered super soldier, and the guy has to cheat to take Worf down. Also, an entertaining application of the Prime Directive. It's not a landmark episode, but there's nothing wrong with it either.
Enjoy It.

60 – The High Ground
This is the only Melinda Snodgrass episode I'm not a big fan of. Largely because the MESSAGE will give you a bloody nose. Newsflash, folks: Violence is Wrong! No, really! Also the heavy-handed parallels with Ireland's troubles with Great Britain were completely undisguised. Not that I mind parallels too much, but the antagonist's last name is Flynn. No, really: Flynn. Argh! However, don't let my fist-shaking and cane-waving deter you. This is not a terrible episode by any means. I did like that Riker's 'let's all sit down and talk' Federation Dogma routine blew up in his face. Also the Flynn character's mockery of Federation ethos is spot-on. Doctor Crusher's line of 'I live in an ideal society' seems like clear snark, borne of the writers' frustrations with finding good stories in a perfect Utopia. There's some decent stuff in this episode and yet even MORE Picard Badass Points for a right-cross and tackle that looks like it belongs in a hockey game rather than on the bridge. And speaking of hockey, put on a goalie's mask for that incoming MESSAGE.
Enjoy It. (with caveats)

You're bleeding on my carpet, Q.
61 – Deja Q
Q is back, and nakeder than ever! Nope, not kidding. Q is banished from the Q Continuum and stripped of his powers. He's stuck on the Enterprise as a full-on human. Believe me when I say this is comedy gold. One-liners and deep introspection abound in this episode, including a very humanizing look at Q's character. We even get a stabbing. Always thought Guinan was more sinister than she appeared. This also begins what develops into a very very long Picard/Q character arc spanning the rest of the series. This is in my personal top ten. I can't recommend it enough.
Enjoy It. A lot.

62 – A Matter of Perspective
Riker's womanizing ways get the better of him. Kind of. This is an unimportant episode in the grand scheme, but we finally see the holodeck used in an imaginative way to recreate testimony in Riker's murder hearing. Particularly fun are the various renditions of Riker's meeting and affair with the femme fatale. For an evening of Trek, this one won't disappoint.
Enjoy It.

Now be tense. Okay, tenser, tenser... No! Too tense! Argh!
63 – Yesterday's Enterprise
Okay, what the hell is Rick Berman's fascination with time travel? Seriously, if you want to work on Doctor Who, move to England. Fortunately, this time, they got it right. Star Trek's big problem with time travel episodes is the inconsistency. People remembering what happened, or not. The present actually changing, or not. Pick one, ya know? Stick by your rules, ya know? Anyway, as I say, they got it right with this one. Denise Crosby returns as Tasha Yar. I hear you asking 'How?' Well, watch it, and find out. More Picard Badassitude, plus he gets into a real argument with Guinan, shouting and all. Plenty to enjoy here, and sets up a recurring character for the future.
Enjoy It.

64 – The Offspring
Data reproduces! Note: he doesn't get laid. He actually builds a new android, his daughter 'Lal'. There is a lot to like in this episode, and we get yet more discussion on the status of android rights in the Federation. Echoes of 'Measure of a Man' in this one, and that's always a great way to get on my good side. The only black mark is the forced antagonism of the Starfleet admiral who wants to take Lal away from Data. Picard is more than accommodating, and the admiral's reasons for denying requests that Lal and Data remain together are thin at best. This could have been fixed in the writing, but, as I say, this is the only black mark here, and you only see it if it's pointed out. As I just did. Hmm. Apologies. Well, the admiral is supposed to come off as an unreasoning douchebag anyway, and in that they got is spot-on. If you don't tear up a bit at the end, you're a friggin robot.
Enjoy It.

65 – Sins of the Father
Ronald D. Moore contributes heavily to this one, and we begin the Worf/Klingon meta-plot. Worf's father is accused of treason which, according to Klingon law, condemns Worf of the same crime. Worf, being the ultimate Klingon, answers the charges, much to the High Council's surprise and lamentation. The intrigue is thick, the plot weighty, and both Picard and Worf earn major Badass Points. A fine episode all around, and a must-see for the many future episodes dealing with the Empire.
Enjoy It.

66 – Alleigance
Ah, finally, a rather boring episode. I was starting to think this wasn't the same TNG I'd suffered through in Season One and Two. Picard is kidnapped and replaced with a doppleganger by aliens exploring the concept of authority. The thing is, the episode isn't bad, but the aliens just don't make a lot of sense. Their species can't bear captivity, but they're happy to do it to others? Just because? And can't empathize with how their subjects might view the captivity? Bah. There are some fun one-liners, and we get to hear Picard's doppleganger singing Heart of Oak, which is priceless, but you can skip this one if you want.
Skip It.

She's not smiling just because of the weather.
67 – Captain's Holiday
Picard gets laid! And about time, too. A lovely episode from Ira Steven Behr, whom many folks will recognize as one of the great minds behind Deep Space Nine (and largely credited with making DS9 a solid show against Rick Berman's better judgment). This one is actually a mystery in the noir tradition, but without the noir feel. There's the femme fatale, the mysterious McGuffin and the inscrutable antagonists. All that's missing is Peter Lorre to play the Ferengi. Grand entertainment, all around.
Enjoy it.

68 – Tin Man
Well, sometimes an episode is just sort of there. The trouble is with the central character, a savant-like Betazoid telepath named Tam Elbrun is tapped by the Federation to make contact with an alien vessel at the edge of Romulan space before the sun it's orbiting goes supernova. Harry Groener plays the telepath (many of you will recognize him as the demonic Mayor in the Buffy shows), and he does a terrific acting job, but the show is entirely about him. There are some swipes at Data 'understanding his place in the universe' but meh. Data's always trying to do that. And the character of Tam Elbrun is here and gone in a single episode. So long, and thanks for all the fish. If you watch this, you won't hate it, but, again: meh. I just have a hard time finding anything to care about here.
Skip It.

69 – Hollow Pursuits
Troi gets laid! Doctor Crusher gets laid! And all by the same guy! Well, their holographic images do, that is. This episode introduces the recurring Lieutenant Barclay played by Dwight Shultz (who the older folks will recognize as Murdock on the A-Team, and don't you just feel ancient now). Barclay is a fantastic character, full of flaws, easily relating to many of Star Trek's audience (shy, intelligent, caring, and, ultimately, lonely), and he uses the holodeck for what every last human alive on Earth would use it for: Escape and sex! In the game world, he's out of his shell: dashing, charismatic, romantic, brilliant. Outside the game, he's trapped within his own fears and insecurities. An excellent episode, highlighting one of the biggest flaws in Riker's character as well (that of the overbearing workaholic). Also, again, Lieutenant Barclay is a recurring character, so you don't want to skip this.
Enjoy It.

70 – The Most Toys
Ah, finally! Some real growth for Data. And, you know, I really don't want to say too much more about this one. There are plenty of ups and downs here, and lots of room for spoilers unless I phrase things just right. Even then, most of you (especially the writers) will remember anything I might have said and grok the Reveals way too early in the show. Just trust me. Watch this one. It's in the top twenty, quite easily.
Enjoy It.

71 – Sarek
A great episode with a reprisal of Spock's father Sarek by the awesome Mark Lenard. Suffering extreme old age, Ambassador Sarek embarks on one final mission for the Federation before his retirement. But, unfortunately, he's been suffering the Vulcan equivalent of Alzheimer's, losing control of his mind and emotions. And, being Vulcan, his telepathy is pushing these violent emotions onto others. There's a particularly great scene between Picard and Riker where you kind of want to see who's going to win the fistfight that's been brewing since Farpoint. More Picard Badass Points are earned here, and Patrick Stewart earns personal Badass Points for the superior performance. Well done.
Enjoy It.

72 – Meange a Troi
The space cougar is back as Lwaxana Troi returns to the show for another highly entertaining performance. And gets laid! Rawwr! But with a Ferengi. Hurl! Anyway, unfortunately this is another Wesley Saves the Day episode, but at least it's toned down and his exposure is limited. With Roddenberry having less and less control, the writers were able to take the spotlight off his vicarious stand-in. Although Picard does promote Wesley to full ensign at the end of the episode. Seeing him in his over-large uniform is hilarious enough to offset the Wesley Hate we all feel. You know, I'd have paid real money for an episode dealing with just Wesley and his 'fellow ensigns'. You know, the ones that have BEEN to the academy, worked their asses off, and were lucky enough to get an Enterprise posting? The ones who aren't the captain's pets? Federation values aside, it has got to be soul crushing to see this teenager sitting in the chair you've been working towards your entire life. Anyway, soapboxing aside, Picard's Shakespeare is not to be missed, and you just know that Patrick Stewart (veteran of many classic performances on British stages) just adored this episode.
Enjoy It.

73 – Transfigurations
Ah, here it is, the steaming turd wiping a greasy brown smear all over what should have been a sterling season. Too graphic for you? I make no apologies. I feel that strongly about this flaming bag of dreng left on my doorstep. Simply awful. Don't believe me? Get a load of this: Jesus is an alien and is rescued by the Enterprise and nursed back to health. They never say 'Jesus' but, for fuck's sake, the guy can heal with a touch, has an otherworldly aura of serenity, wants to bring his people into the a future of hope and peace, and develops the kind of superpowers that should be reserved for Q. Hurrrrlllll!!! Run. Flee. Screaming. This is Trek at its worst.
Skip It. Oh, God, SKIP IT!!

Well now, that CAN'T be good...
74 – The Best of Both Worlds: Part One
And here it is, the season finale. Remember that this was rumored to be Patrick Stewart's last season. We had just spent the entire year building up Picard's Badass Score, and it was at precisely one million points. The arguments on message boards and the fledgling internet flew fast and furious as to who was a better captain, Kirk or Picard, and this season had given the Picard-o-philes plenty of reinforcements. Remember Guinan's prophecy way back from the Season Two episode Q Who? That the Borg would be coming? Well, here they are, and they want Picard, Earth, and the Federation, in that order.

This episode introduces Commander Shelby (rawwr!) who is a fantastic offset for Riker. She's everything that he used to be, brilliant, impulsive, and irrepressible. Riker has been offered yet another command, and she's here to make the best impression on Picard she can. This throws her and Riker into direct contention with the office of First Officer as the prize. And then, Picard gets kidnapped and transformed into a Borg.

All things considered, this is the best of all the TNG finales (though the series finale gives it a run for its money). We didn't know if Patrick Stewart would be returning, Riker is in a position to become captain of the Enterprise, and we've got a clear successor to the first officer's role, one with a character who conflicts with Riker. These factors all made for a VERY tense off-season, let me tell you. This is a must-see episode, and aren't you modern viewers just so very lucky you don't have to wait a full nine months before finding out what happens?
Enjoy It. A lot!

So, what's the final count for Season Three?

Skip It: 4
Bear It: 2
Enjoy It: 19

Wow! Season Three is where it all started coming together. Characters finding their place in the show, the metaplots branching out into new territory, and some actual tension among the crew and spotlights on the black marks of the Federation's monolithic utopia. This was damn fine television, and the entire cast and crew are to be commended for their efforts.

Borg. Why did it have to be Borg?
The secret battles that brought this fantastic season to us were not without their casualties however. We lost a few of the better writers to this season, and, potentially, the most important character. Now, I'm doing an awful job of creating tension here, since we all know how many season Trek ran, and who was on the cast for the entire run, but, for those unsure, I'll just leave it unsaid until next time.

All told, this season gave me some of my favorite episodes, and some of my fondest Trek memories. Grand and glorious, to be hailed at every opportunity. Well done.

Now, the big trick: Can they repeat this success in Season Four?

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

TNG Rundown: Season Two

My last post navigated the debris-strewn battlefield that is Season One. I was surprised to find the body-count totaling more good episodes than bad. Yet, factoring the ones that must be endured, Season One still tipped into the 'Awful' category. The show's survival, as I've said, was due in no small part to die-hard fans, likely pressuring loved ones and Nielsen families with both bribes and promises to shower. I know I did. Shower that is. Well, not often.

Anyway, it worked! Paramount renewed, and, so, on to Season Two!

Now, it should be noted that this was a tumultuous season for several reasons. First off, Roddenberry's cancer was starting to get the better of him, which is horrible. Rick Berman was shouldering more and more of Roddenberry's burden, which might be argued as equally horrible. While cancer is never a good thing, we did get an easing of the iron-fist that Roddenberry had on the writing and direction. Factor in Patrick Stewart being somewhat unhappy with the show's direction, and we have the makings for a rocky ride.

The results? Let's see!

As always, shows are rated as Enjoy It, Skip It, or Bear It. A further reminder: Bear It shows are ones I would skip were they not important to the meta-plot. Watch them with a bucket and a towel handy.

As Doctor Miranda Jones
27 – The Child
We trade in the delectable Gates McFadden for the lovely and talented Diana Muldaur. She's a great actress, and I wish they'd done more with her. Her character was, essentially, a re-hash of Doctor McCoy, all the way down to distrusting technology and hating the transporters. An entertaining throwback, but less-is-more with that approach. She should have been a featured guest on a few episodes rather than a full-time cast member. On top of it all, she starts out by getting in Data's grill.
As Doctor Pulaski
As Data was so loved by the fans, the same fans took an instant dislike to her, alas. Oh, as for plot, Troi gets the 24th century version of immaculate conception or some other nonsense. The whole thing could have been solved with a shuttlecraft, but, hey, I'm just a human with a brain. Oh, and Whoopi Goldberg and her impending-workplace-disasters-disguised-as-hats joins the crew as the bartender. (She's actually a pretty decent character, though she does little more than say Howdy! in this one. She might talk to Wesley or something, but you know, whatever.)
Bear it. (And apologies in advance.)

28 – Where Silence Has Lease
The Picard Maneuver never gets old. … No, wait, that's wrong. It gets old the second time he pushes the button. Which is this one. Seriously, if you're going to threaten everyone's death and the destruction of the ship, leave it for the season finale. And, preferably, let us actually SEE the explosion. Otherwise it's very humdrum.
Skip It.

29 – Elementary, Dear Data
What's this? An actual attempt to explain Data's intelligence using actual logic?? Doctor Pulaski hits it on the head that Data is a slave to his programming. Unfortunately, the episode's kickoff conflict is inherently flawed, as a properly programmed computer is the perfect deductive reasoning machine. On top of it, the holodeck computer creates what is, in essence, a new human life, complete with wants, needs, and emotions. If the Enterprise computer can do that for a holodeck character, why can't Data have emotions again? (/handwave “These aren't the plot holes you're looking for). Anyway, these aren't the plot holes I'm looking for. I'll move along. Not a bad episode, and makes a good stab at a Holmes-style mystery.
Enjoy It. (Barely)

How YOU doin'?
30 – The Outrageous Okona
Picard earns some diplomatic chops, and we want to punch Wesley in the face. Wait, that's almost every episode. Ummm, let's see... Oh! Teri Hatcher is in this one (for all of two minutes), at the tender young age of twenty-four, before time and the knife take their toll. Yowza! Other than that, the episode is rather forgettable, but you won't kill yourself watching it. Well, probably. I make no promises.
Enjoy It.

31 – Loud as a Whisper
An interesting premise with a deaf telepath who uses a 'chorus' of three telepathic interpreters to speak for him. They end up vaporized, and he's left without a way to communicate. Oh, wait, except that Data can learn anything in about five minutes. Ultimately, I think this one started out with a solid concept that ended up undermining itself. They settle for a 'believe in yourself' ending, which is, well... okay. I guess. More could have been done here.
Skip It (though you can Bear It if you're a completionist.)

32 – The Schizoid Man
Bwahahahahahahaahaaa! Ooooahahahahahahaaheheheheheeee!!! Hhaahahahahaahahahaa!!!! Data gets possessed. Literally. Oddly, the premise holds up if we think of Data as solely a programming construct and apply the same definition to the human soul. How very Roddenberry. Yet, short of an intentionally and spectacularly bad eulogy from the possessed Data, there's nothing to see here. That is unless my raucous laughter has you curious. But is Eric laying a trap for you? That doesn't sound like him, does it? Noooo... surely not! (Shut it, Ackbar!)
Skip It.

33 – Unnatural Selection
Once more, an entertaining premise utterly undermined by the goddam transporter. While the problem of a mutant virus that causes unnatural aging is fixed by the transporter, they fail to explain why the damn thing can't fix every last little health problem. The episode sets a precedent for transporter abuse that is quietly, and rightfully, swept under the carpet.
Bear It.

34 – A Matter of Honor
Klingons! And fun ones, too. We learn a fair bit about how the Klingons live and work aboard their ships when Commander Riker serves as first officer aboard one of their vessels. Pretty believable all around, and pretty fun. I liked it. I'll say little more so as not to spoil it.
Enjoy It.

Picard objects. (No, as a verb, not as in 'Picard artifacts.')
35 – The Measure of a Man
Ah! A masterpiece. Easily one of the top five Trek episodes in the entire franchise. A beautiful episode by the wonderfully talented Melinda M. Snodgrass. I'm an unabashed fanboy, and, if you watch this episode, you will be too. I refuse to add spoilers, so, essentially, Data's existence is at stake, and a hearing is called to determine if he is a person or property. Perfectly executed, and brilliantly written. And, yet, if Roddenberry had had his way, this one would never have been written. But that's Melinda's story, and not mine.
Enjoy It. Truly. Best episode of the season!

36 – The Dauphin
Ugh. Wesley. Our little man grows up and gets his first kiss. It's cute to watch and remember our own first crushes. You probably won't lose sleep over this one, whether you watch it or no. Oh, and Anya is badass, though Worf starts to get the reputation as kind of a wuss.
Bear It.

37 – Contagion
I enjoyed the mystery in this one, as lost civilizations from the dawn of time are one of my twitches, but the resolution is incredibly annoying. As if 'reboot it' isn't the very first goddam thing you do when you suspect you're having computer trouble. I know the Enterprise computer doesn't run on Windows (or does it??), but, seriously, switching the problem component off and back on is the FIRST thing any engineer should try.
Bear It.

38 – The Royale
A fun episode! One wonders if the writer (Keith Mills) didn't use one of his own early novels as the setting for this one. Given that the episode is entertaining and clever, the fictional novel comprising the setting must have been one of his earliest attempts. His writing prowess definitely increased by the time he authored this episode.
Enjoy It.

39 – Time Squared
Vomit time. 'Travel far enough and you meet yourself' is taken literally for Picard. Oh and the ship is in danger. And there might have been an explosion or two. Or something. Dull. Forgettable.
Skip It.

40 – The Icarus Factor
Bwahahaha!! Oh man, you've GOT to see this one just for the hokey 'ultimate evolution of the martial arts' scene. Anyway, Riker gets offered his own command, and we get to meet his father, who is every bit the arrogant ass that Riker is. The 'fathers and sons' message is apt, and acceptable, but, really, the chuckle-factor of the 'fight' is the best reason to watch this.
Bear It.

41 – Pen Pals
Another fine episode by Melinda Snodgrass and Hannah Louise Shearer. A solid look at the application of the Prime Directive, although Picard's decision seems rather arbitrary. Honestly, I would love to have seen a followup episode wherein Picard gets called into question over this one. I did raise a brow over the 'meeting' in the captain's quarters to discuss the situation. Wasn't LaForge an ensign? And Worf a lieutenant junior-grade? Why were they even in the room? The writer in me knows it was for the counterpoints, but the military enthusiast rolls his eyes. Still, that's easily ignored given the entertainment factor. Well done, all around. Even the Wesley segment. No, really!
Enjoy It.

Knock knock. Q's there?
42 – Q Who
FINALLY! An enemy the Federation can't talk their way out of fighting. Everyone likely knows what species I'm talking about, but I won't spoil it. As you can tell from the title, Q guest stars, and steals the show. And the ship. And the only weak point is Guinan squaring off against Q. Psht. As if.
Enjoy It. Truly.

43 – Samaritan Snare
A solid episode, generally. It sets up what I consider to be the finest TNG episode of all time in Season Six. Also: Pakleds! These guys are great. They're exactly what happens when you give someone brawn over brains. The one flaw in the episode is Picard's reason for taking his trip is rather arbitrary, and poorly supported in his character. I won't say more, but, leaving that one tiny bit aside, this one is Good Clean Trek.
Enjoy It.

Brain... off...
44 – Up the Long Ladder
Another Snodgrass episode, and a controversial one. Some loved it, some hated it. Very few have a middling opinion. For my part, the cloning science and inherent troubles was spot-on and well-researched. The 'old Irish townsfolk' analogs were entertaining and believable. The humor was perfection, especially after such a long, dark soul-sucking wasteland of heavy themes and plodding topics that has been Seasons One and Two. Other highlights: Riker gets laid, Charlie Murphy shows up in triplicate (not actually played by Charlie Murphy, but hilarious) and Worf impresses an Irishman with booze. That last bit is worth double the price of admission, and I would pay real money to try one of those beverages.
Enjoy It.

45 – Manhunt
Space Cougar on the prowl! A funny episode, though it's over-the-top humor rather than subtle. Picard dons his sweet hat again for another holodeck jaunt, but, otherwise, not much goes on in this one. It's okay to have a 'downtime' episode, but this sort of crawls along. Watch it if you want. I'll say Bear It, but I'll leave you off the hook if you don't.
Bear It (but only if you want to).

Worf likes his ladies hot & angry.
46 – The Emissary
Worf gets laid! And, for a Klingon babe, not bad! Suzie Plaksin plays Ambassador K'Ehleyr (pronounced 'Kaylar' and really should have been spelled that way), and I'm betting she was cast primarily for her impressive height. She can look Worf in the eye. The fact that she's a great actress is a double bonus. She makes several appearances in a couple of Trek franchises, but this is her most memorable role. The plot is solid, the resolution is clever, and this is good Trek. Quite recommended.
Enjoy It.

47 – Peak Performance
Believe it or not, I liked this one. Yes, yes, I'm a heretic, but I could totally see an android having a loss of confidence. Also, Picard delivers what was a bit of a life lesson for me. “It is possible to make no mistakes and still lose. That is not a failing. That is life.” Considering I was sixteen watching this, that was an important one to absorb. Plus, we actually get to see some ship-to-ship combat. I know that the focus of Trek isn't the blasty-pow-pow, but it's still fun to see once in a while. The biggest flaw was the resolution. Worf could trick Enterprise sensors thanks to his knowledge of their command codes. So, how did he fool the Ferengi? Eh, a minor quibble.
Enjoy It. (Or not, but you have to at least Bear It.)

48 – Shade of Gray
Okay, whose goddam idea was this? A clip show? In Star Trek? If Jonathan Frakes was leaving the show, then fine. Riker's death would have been the only way to redeem this one, and guess what? He didn't die. I can't make my displeasure at this farce more plain.
Skip It. (Or Bear It, if you want to share my rage.)

You know, we didn't have one 'rogue admiral' all season? What the hell, Season Two? Slacking already? Let's tally it up:

Skip It: 5
Bear It: 6
Enjoy It: 11

Of twenty-two episodes, half are enjoyable. Better ratio than last season (which was 26 episodes), and featuring, once more, Measure of a Man, easily one of the finest Trek episodes of all time.

Bad parking job. Seriously.
For me, Season Two showed me what the show was capable of in terms of plot, characters, and scope. Problem was, it had been a rough two years. By all accounts, the producers and execs were not the easiest people in the world to work with, and rumors began to rise about Patrick Stewart making Season Three his last. Small wonder, as there were scant few acting challenges in this season, and the writing was helter-skelter.

It's not like I'm building suspense here, since everyone knows just how many seasons TNG ran, but, at the time, the whole thing was greatly in question. A show like Star Trek can survive the loss of a relatively minor character (with apologies to Doctor Crusher). Yet, it would be very hard-pressed to survive the loss of Captain Picard.

The writers knew this, and played a trick on us in Season Three.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

TNG Rundown: Season One

My buddy Sean Craven had perhaps the definitive review of Star Trek: The Next Generation, Episode One. He nails it on the head. I would describe it as awesomely horrible. TNG was one of the first attempts at a 'reboot' by Hollywood. With seven seasons and two spinoff series (some might say three, but Enterprise doesn't count), it can't be denied that TNG was a groundbreaker.

BUT! (And that's a big, bloated BUT!) Not all TNG episodes were created equal. I won't get into causes and effects. The influence of Rick Berman upon the various shows has been debated ad nauseum. This is an analysis of results, and it should be noted that Gene Roddenberry was in full command during Season One.

Now, these are my opinions, but they are qualified opinion, both as a writer and a fan.

I'm working from memory and wikipedia's very handy list of TNG episodes. If you've forgotten what an episode is about, check the link. Each one has a very brief synopsis.

I'll run through them ALL in the coming days, and give you an Enjoy It, Bear It, or Skip It rating.

1&2 – Encounter at Farpoint
The Pilot. Well, you know, win some lose some. It got us the series, so I guess it won some. People had to watch it, so I guess we lose some. Q, as always, steals the show.
Bear It.

3 – The Naked Now
They wanted to answer the BURNING QUESTION: Can Data get laid? Answer: Yes. And by a hottie, no less. Rawwr! Otherwise, this episode's only function is to give Wesley some screen time (Ugh. Wesley.) and to show us who wants to pounce on whom.
Bear It.

4 – Code of Honor
It's not the worst Trek episode ever. Some excellent throwbacks for the fight music. You can tell that Roddenberry's hand is still on the tiller. In a good way with this episode.
Enjoy It.

5 – The Last Outpost
And in a bad way with this one. Sure, we get to see the Ferengi for the first time, and there's the great line about our females being forced to wear clothing (such inequality we still force on our women, even in the 24th century!), but, do we still need Sun Tzu hammered over our heads?
Skip It.

6 – Where No One Has Gone Before
Wesley. Ugh. Roddenberry's middle name was Wesley. Did you know that? Writers often put themselves into their works, but very rarely as a Mozart-like super-genius. When I write myself that way, I end up as Wyle E. Coyote. Which reminds me, I'd like chicken for dinner.
Skip It.

7 – Lonely Among Us
My eyes. Oh man, my eyes. Someone tell me why Picard would still be in command after this? Please? Some entertaining Data-as-Holmes quotes, but... I'm afraid I don't hate anyone enough to recommend this one as even a 'Bear It' episode.
Skip It.

8 – Justice
My eyes! And by that, I mean YOWZA! Lots of eye candy in this one. And not too bad a story, either. Not great, but not bad. You can actually watch this one on mute and still get most of it.
Enjoy It.

9 – The Battle
Gives us The Picard Maneuver. Unfortunately, we stole the term and applied to another all-too-often-used maneuver of his. See episodes 15 and 28 for more info.
Skip It.

10 – Hide and Q
Ah, Q. He's starting to really get his personality now. The premise is a little silly, but if you've got a Jedi handy to say 'This is not the narrative you're looking for,' then you can actually enjoy this one. If for nothing else, Q has some great one-liners.
Enjoy It.

11 – Haven
We introduce Lwaxana Troi, the ultimate Space Cougar! As I had a massive crush on Nurse Chapel as a teen, I enjoyed this one quite a bit (as a somewhat older teen). However, the actual story plods along, with no direction at all. Some actual conflict, please? Anyone? Please?? At least Mister Homn gives us someone to root for. (And, if you've seen this one, you know just how much I'm grasping here.)
Bear It.

12 – The Big Goodbye
Picard talks morality with a fucking windows app. Are we playing God here? 'You only exist for as long as I keep this holodeck turned on!' Muaahahah!! I would totally do that to a bunch of holographic villagers. Yet, Federation values being what they are, one apparently must console your team members in Mass Effect 2 that, yes, the universe vanishes when you shut it down, but you'll be back to resurrect them tomorrow after work. Other than Picard's sweet hat, some entertaining Data one-liners, and Doctor Crusher's great legs (of which there's never nearly enough action) there's very little to recommend here.
Skip It.

13 – Datalore
Mixed feelings on this one. Lore is a solid villain that they could have done so much more with in later episodes. They set him up reasonably well in this one, and he threatens Wesley, so there's much to recommend, but the story has enough handwavium to render you sterile.
Bear It.

14 – Angel One
Riker gets laid. But the story moves along nicely. The heavy-handed moral message might give you a concussion, but at least you'll lose all the brain cells that disliked it. Also, eye-candy for the guys.
Enjoy It.

15 – 11001001
A fun episode, all things considered. And Picard has a good reason for setting the self-destruct. Unfortunately, he talks about it often enough (and does it often enough) that blowing up the ship became the quintessential 'Picard Maneuver'. One big positive was the character of Minuet. She behaved exactly as a hologram should; totally aware of her false existence as a program. Nicely written, and shows the program/user relationship in its proper light.
Enjoy It.

16 – Too Short a Season
And so we set our feet on the long, horrifying road of broken and corrupt Starfleet admirals. And in an awful way. If we were supposed to see Admiral Jameson as a man of grit and mettle, then he should have been in at least one episode prior. As is, we could really care less.
Skip It.

17 – When the Bough Breaks
Ugh. Wesley. Still, as far as Wesley episodes go, this one won't make your eyes bleed. And the heavy-handed message won't send you to the hospital. Not knowing how your tech works is one thing. Being willfully ignorant of it is another.
Enjoy It.

18 – Home Soil
Data earns some badass points. Still, this one could have been only half an hour long. Possibly fifteen minutes.
Enjoy It. (But keep the fast-forward button handy)

19 – Coming of Age
Ugh. Wesley. At least he's portrayed at the proper age and maturity level in this one. A very fun conversation with Worf about the nature of fear. Also, sets up a later episode. Not a great later episode, but worth a look.
Enjoy It. (Barely)

20 – Heart of Glory
Kingons! We could do without the Geordi Visor Monologues, but we get some insight into Klingons. Worth a look.
Enjoy It.

21 – The Arsenal of Freedom
Another episode where they got the computers right. Established Geordi as more than just a red-shirt. Finally. Plus some fun Catpain/Doctor interaction.
Enjoy It.

22 – Symbiosis
The best episode of this season. The morality only gives you a bloody nose, and only in one scene, and it's delivered by Wesley, so its easily ignored. A very entertaining employment of the Prime Directive.
Enjoy It. More than most in this season.

23 – Skin of Evil
Dear, Denise, 
I know the first season was rocky. Horrid, in fact. But, it was a paycheck. What else was so important? Didn't want to get 'type-cast'? Would a life sentence as the super-sexy Tasha Yar really have been so awful? Alas. It's the talking tar pit for you, my dear. Now, I suppose I have to rely solely on Marini and Gates for my eye-candy. With regrets and love,
Bear It.

24 – We'll Always Have Paris
One of the first attempts to give Picard some backstory and personality. It didn't take well. Data gets more badass points, but not enough to recommend this one.
Skip It.

25 – Conspiracy
Roddenberry's attempt at a meta-plot conclusion. Unfortunately, he didn't seed the earlier episodes nearly well enough. Admiral Jameson (and his untimely death) could have been a big piece here. Alas, 'Starfleet officers never have conflicts with each other'. Even when they do. Bullshit. You have to see this one, but only barely.
Bear It.

26 – The Neutral Zone
In a way, this is a very good episode. The execution stumbles a bit, but it does hold the people of the 20th and 24th centuries up side-by-side. I enjoyed Picard's attempt at superiority being handed back to him by the 20th century businessman. Also: Romulans, and the first appearnce of Marc Alaimo in Trekdom.
Enjoy It.

So there we have it. The Good, The Bad, and The Worf. Thinking back on the crap-tasitc television we had back in 1987, I'm still surprised that TNG survived season one. Looking at the rundown we've got:

Skip It: 8
Bear It: 6
Enjoy It: 11

Which I did not expect. Seems I skip more episodes that that, when I watch the series again, but the numbers don't lie.

We have the fans to thank for keeping TNG alive during its shaky infancy as it groped with both hands to find its feet. If not for the fans, the show would never have survived a heavy-handed producer and hamstrung writers (and a few sub-par writers, in all truth). It's always hard to tell exactly how much crap gets slathered on an episode in the writers' room and how much gets shoveled by the director and producer. Sometimes they polish it up. Other times, it's still sweating and attracting flies.

Season One gives us a bit of both. If you're a Trek fan, you've probably seen most of these. If you're not, you've got a map to the minefield. I'm warning you now: do NOT be tempted by the Skip It episodes. If you watch one and end up in the emergency room, you have only yourself to blame. If you've seen some of the Skip It episodes either on accident or while very intoxicated or during your brief (yet explainable) stay at Guantanamo, I'm sure you can relate.

Up next, Season Two. There are some true gems in that one, on both ends of the spectrum.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Real Science and Creationism

So, this week, a 17 year old Louisiana high school student sent a letter of petition to the Louisiana State Legislature against passing the Louisiana Science Education Act. TLDR version: creationism can be taught alongside evolution in public schools. The student created a petition that has been making its rounds, and, as of my writing this, has just over 13,000 signatures.

This question was posited on one of my various forums in defense of teaching creationism as a theory right alongside evolution:

Why is creationism considered invalid by real scientists?

I like this question. No presuppositions. Just a simple 'Why all the fuss?'

'Real science' can be termed as hypotheses that have not yet been disproved through the scientific method.

It's a huge article, but the TLDR version can be found in the second sentence of the article: "To be termed scientific, a method of inquiry must be based on gathering observable, empirical and measurable evidence subject to specific principles of reasoning."

The principles of reasoning vary between fields, but can be generalized to 'repeatable results from objective experimentation and observation.' For gravity, that would dropping a ball and seeing it move towards the largest proximate mass (Earth). If the ball sometimes flew at me, or my car, or that tree, then gravity's inherent hypothesis would be flawed, and would require either revision or expulsion.

We get considerably more debate in situations like evolution vs creationism because evolution takes place over hundreds of thousands of years. It is not observable in the course of one human life, let alone the thousand generations you need to see even small changes. Fortunately, we have three classifications for scientific hypotheses in their various stages of probable truth: hypothesis, theory, and law.

A hypothesis is usually a single idea. The Earth has gravity. The sun produces heat. Species change to suit their environment.

A theory is a set of similar ideas dealing with the same common scientific principle that have stood the test of multiple repeatable experiments that have all produced reliable results. Objects that have mass produce a gravitational effect. The flow of heat is a method of energy transfer from the sun to Earth. Life evolves into more complex species over time.

A law generalizes a body of observations. Generally, laws have stood the test of millions of experiments that have yet to produce a conflicting result. The Law of Gravity. The Law of Thermodynamics. Note that there is no Law of Evolution. It is not yet proven nor disproven to the general satisfaction of our civilization to be termed a law.

Creationism, unfortunately, generally falls at the first hurdle. The tenets of biblical creationism can be disproved through existing scientific theories or laws rather easily. For instance, the Earth is not 6000 years old. Teaching that to children in school would be very misleading.

Our modern technological world operates through an understanding of scientific principles and scientifically discovered phenomena. Children must learn how to apply the scientific method to the world around them, and understand the how's and why's of our modern way of life, because THAT is how we built this wonderful civilization we all enjoy. If we make a case that God is the source of all creation without finding ways to properly test that hypothesis, and, if we teach that hypothesis as fact in schools, we must invite other religions to do the same. This is America, after all. Freedom of religion is a founding tenet in our system of government, and the government shall not respect one form of religion over another. That last part is law.

So, is it that God created the universe in six days or did Allah do it by saying 'Be'? Did Ishvara (a Hindu deity) whisper all these words in my ear as I wrote? Does Ra pull the sun across the sky in his chariot? Does Zeus power my computer? If you dismissed any of these hypotheses as foolish, then you understand the root of the complaint against teaching creationism as scientific fact. Creationism's tenets do not hold up to the scientific method any better than any of the examples here.

A much better stance for creationists to take is to teach that God is the motivator behind all knowledge and processes in the universe. He wants us to understand His creation, and He has given us a wonderful, glorious means to do so in the scientific method. But, out of respect for all the other religions our country hosts, that and all other deific teachings should remain in their various houses of worship, and not in public schools.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Mistaking Activity for Progress (in Writing)

An article linked by Justin Achilli gave me pause today. Here's the link:

The rundown for those that didn't read it (you know who you are) is that by focusing on results rather than metrics, you can achieve more than simply filling up time with useless activity. Really, go give it a read. It's not long at all.

So, this got me thinking about writing. Getting that initial draft into the computer is one of the larger hurdles, and it's very easy to mistake marginally useful activity for progress.

Do you find yourself:

1- Revising previous scenes before the work is finished?
2- Worldbuilding far beyond the needs of the next couple of scenes?
3- Hunting down facts and figures that can be researched some other time?

Any of those sound familiar? Yeah, I do it too. In each case, this is all work that can be done later, or should have been done before the work even began. If I find myself doing these things, I have to remember that I'm not advancing my final goal. It may seem like I'm working, but:

1- Revisions are meaningless until the draft is complete.
2- Worldbuilding beyond the day's writing goals is largely irrelevant.
3- Specific facts and figures that are not vital to a story's integrity are unimportant until the story is in revision.

Your focus should remain on the outcome: a finished first draft. It doesn't have to be perfect by any means. It just has to be done so that you can get to polishing. I can hear the question now: "But what if I finish and find that it's terrible?" Well, you just might. But you never would have known it was terrible until you finished. You could be making horrible mistakes every step of the way, but, until you have that draft onscreen, you'll never know. Also, as every professional writer will tell you, writing daily is the only way to improve. Thus, again, it is very important to focus on the outcome of your efforts rather than the activity surrounding it.

A few tricks to avoiding each trap:

1- Looking over previous pages is sometimes useful for flow, but make no corrections (beyond egregious grammar errors, of course). Let it all stand as-is. Even if you'd rather a character said something in a different way, avoid the temptation to change it. After all, you'll know your characters better by the end of the story. You might end up changing it yet again.

2- The contents of the Emperor's sock drawer are probably irrelevant. It's good that you can extrapolate those from your setting, but it doesn't need to be codified until someone intends to open that sock drawer. If you have the settings built two to three scenes in advance, further construction is unnecessary, and highly subject to change. Finish your daily goal, then build the next couple of scenes. Stories tend to evolve. Keeping some fluidity is a plus. Extraneous worldbuilding that detracts from writing time is just paving roads that may never be followed. Save it for after your daily goal is complete.

3- The trickiest one of them all. Some facts are vital to your story. If you're writing a fantasy piece and you need a character to fall off his horse thanks to a sabotaged saddle, then you need to know how the saddle failed. That's positive research. However, if you're landing on Ganymede, and a character states the surface gravity, you probably don't need that exact number at the time of composition. Think of it like this: If the fact is vital to plot, you should look it up. If the fact is simply a number or a process or a bit of dialog to make the character sound plausible, you can leave it out for the moment. Finish your daily goal, then go research. Just mark it with a &&& and do a find for those at the end of the scene (or at the end of the book).

The thing to take away from this is to focus on the outcome. You want a finished draft. It's very easy to convince ourselves that time spent not writing is just as valuable as time spent hammering keys. Only you can really determine if what you're doing is activity or progress. Does the next sentence revolve around what you're researching? Will a character's reaction depend entirely on a certain fact? Does the distance from the City of Night to the Dawning Bulwark really matter to the outcome of the scene?

Each time you set aside the keyboard, ask yourself why you're doing it. If you're honest with yourself, you'll soon learn to distinguish between activity and progress. This is essential to consistent writing.

Monday, January 10, 2011