87th Precinct Meets The Wire

McNulty and Bunk

Source: HBO

When I began writing Holland Bay,I thought about it as 87th Precinct meets The Wire. I had envisioned the detectives of Holland Bay to be like those of the 87th Precinct in that each subsequent book would feature a different detective. When I first described this to another writer at a Bouchercon, he asked me who my Carella was. I said I looked at them all equally. So he said, “Well, there has to be a first among equals.”

But McBain’s detectives, while not exactly perfect, are not also paragons of dysfunction. Carella is tempted by the fruit of a couple of others, but does not stray. Bert Kling has woman troubles. Meyer Meyer must deal with his baldness and his odd name. My detectives are dysfunctional as hell.

But McBain wrote about cops as the everyman. Even the seedier ones like Andy Parker (whom most of us would like to shove under an express train to Calm’s Point) and Fat Ollie Weeks (the 87th’s own bigoted uncle) are humans with flaws and struggles. But McBain also writes about the job of the 87th as a mission. They are the thin blue line in Isola.

87th Precinct

“87th Precinct Complete” by Source. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:87th_Precinct_Complete.jpg#/media/File:87th_Precinct_Complete.jpg

But my approach resembled something more recent: The Wire. On David Simon’s masterpiece of a TV series, not all the gang bangers are villains and not all the cops are good guys. In fact sometimes they’re neither. If Steve Carella is the man every other man wants to be, Jimmy McNulty is what happens when they fail. As smart and dedicated as Carella, he lacks political skill and responds to the stress of his job by drinking to dangerous excess and cheating on the women in his life, including his mistress in season 1. Stringer Bell is a shrewd, manipulative criminal not above murder to further his own ends, but you can’t help but rooting for him. Bell is going to college and running Baltimore’s drug operation like a business, right down to branding the dope and holding business meetings with corner boys.

The main difference is the approach of the creators. Simon admits The Wire, along with Homicide: Life on the Streets and Oz, are angry shows about the decline of the American dream. Quite often the criminals depicted (many of whose real-life inspirations appeared on the show) are actually the ones living the dream only to be killed or jailed when someone lower down the food chain takes them out. Like McBain’s bulls, the cops of the Baltimore PD are flawed, but their flaws sometimes consume them. The cheat on their spouses, drink excessively, lie to their coworkers, and openly try to sabotage the brass, many of whom are barely qualified to carry a badge, let alone run a police department. McBain’s crew is world-weary but conscientious.

It’s this blend that went into Holland Bay. I hope you soon get the chance to see what I did with it.

You Are Not Victims. Get Over It.

There’s a growing debate in social media these days about geek culture and whether or not it is under siege. It’s risen to new heights of hysteria as one gaming critic received death threats and had to leave her home temporarily for the safety of her family. What’s going on?

Well, for a certain subset of geek culture, the move to the mainstream threatens their very identity. And therein lies the flaw. The culture itself is not under threat. If anything, it’s growing, changing, becoming more interesting and more relevant. ComicCon is covered the way rock concerts and fashion shows were once on MTV. It’s hip to be seen with Chris Pine or Peter Dinklage or Hugh Jackman. It’s cool to dress up as your favorite Game of Thrones character or Batman at a large gathering. Suddenly, the public gets the whole Halloween all year vibe of geek culture. Cosplay is in. Video games are in. Scifi/fantasy/horror are in. Wil Wheaton, who spent years taking flack for playing one of the least liked characters on a Star Trek series is rapidly becoming the next Jon Stewart. Welcome to the new age, my friends.

So why the hate?

When I first got into IT back in the nineties, computers were becoming mainstream, and there was a certain degree of this sort of angst around it by people who hunkered down and did arcane things with the pre-Netscape Internet, with distant Unix boxes, and with cryptic command-line operating systems. Now PC’s and even Linux boxes started to look like Macs. “Oh, noze,” they cried. “Everyone can do this now. We’re not special anymore!”

Since I got into the technology realm in the mid-1990’s, I had no stake in the “old ways.” If someone told me to quit using a mouse and use the DOS prompt on a PC, I looked at them like they were stupid. They certainly were telling me stupid things. But the mouse represented change, and not the cool kind of change like big hard drives and high-speed Internet brought. Those icky muggles now knew how to do magic. Ew!

Eventually, that went away, and to some degree, the novelty for the non-technically inclined went away as well. I used to have a rule that, if you graduated high school after me, you had damn well better know where the Start button was, what it could do, and, oh, you also forfeited the right to complain when I said “Reboot” sometime around the Y2K changeover. The old guard looked at these things as secrets of a mystic art. I looked at it (admittedly being an arrogant ass in the process) as a benchmark one needs to function in the modern era. We got more than three channels on the TV, Corky. Better master that remote or no HBO for you.

So it is with geekdom. One columnist complained that too many hot chicks were wearing costumes at conventions without earning their geek cred. Said columnist got his ass handed to him by John Scalzi, whose initiation into geekery happened roughly at the same time as mine did (even though John is younger.) As creator of the Old Man’s War series, a noted expert on all things scifi, a Heinlein scholar, creative consultant for one of the Stargate series, and probably the most popular SF author today, Scalzi made two declarations that, I’m sorry, but are not open for debate: 1.) Anyone who wants to be a geek is a geek. No exceptions; 2.) there is no king of the geeks (though Wil Wheaton could make a case) nor any rules for initiation. It is not a closed society. It is not a mystic cult.

And therein is the parallel to the technology sector in the 1990’s. Long time geeks don’t like all this change!

Man up, buttercup. When you go mainstream, you have to open the gates. Otherwise, you’re no better than those idiots in pretentious literary circles sniffing their own farts and sneering at anything that doesn’t sound like Hemingway or Faulkner and whining if their work does something horrifying like sell over 10,000 copies. (I’m looking at YOU, Franzen, you self-absorbed pretentious hack!) You are no longer the outsiders. Isn’t that what you’ve been pining for? Acceptance? Respect? A little bon ami for whatever franchise it is that you love?

Well, here’s the second part I alluded to earlier. There’s a culture of victimhood in geekery. Not every geek has thought this way. I did cosplay back in the 1990’s when it was “grownups in silly costumes.” And it was fun. It let me blow off steam. It gave me (Surprise!) social skills. But there were plenty of folks in that then-smaller community that felt slighted by the mainstream. They felt hurt to be ridiculed, and much of it was carry-over from adolescence and childhood, when a love of Star Trek or Star Wars replaced the mandatory love of the NFL. Magic Johnson and Larry Bird were supposed to be your gods, not Captain Kirk and Han Solo.

And I get that. I was not the most athletic child. I sucked at baseball. (A few dozen men who played Little League with me are reading this and going, “No! Really?” One star pitcher reminds me of it on my birthday every year as a joke.) I found solace in Star Trek, in the monster movies on Saturday afternoons, in repeated viewings of Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back on HBO when we first had it. I loved this stuff. I wanted to make up my own.

And then, as a young adult, I fell in with the Trekkies. Often ridiculed, most of them didn’t care. We had a blast together, and it was about more than the television show. I drifted into the Klingon fan groups because, frankly, they threw better parties and were better draws for charity events. Plus, you haven’t lived until you and several of your friends barge into a Denny’s dressed as alien berserkers and growl at the manager, “We demand finger food! Bring us pudding!”

But there’s that obsessive component of which the victim mentality plays into. Fandom began to suck up all my time. The politics of the clubs started intruding on other aspects of my life. I was going broke trying to pay for all the gear it took to be a Klingon, and, alarmingly, I had little time to actually watch the show we all claimed to love. One day, I posted my farewell on a local Fidonet bulletin board, took my costume (which a few fanatics insisted I call a “uniform”), and dumped it in the Salvation Army clothing bin, latex forehead and all.

I have never taken so much flack for a decision in my life. When someone called or emailed me, hurt that I’d turned my back on the group, I said, “I’m in debt. I need to go to school and learn some skills. And I need to have time to myself that’s not devoted to a television show you guys won’t give me time to watch.”

“But that’s not fair!”

No, working sixty hours a week at three jobs for two years so I could catch up on my debts was not fair. Driving cars that were expensive rolling death traps bought for less than I now pay on my mortgage each month wasn’t fair. Having no social life beyond the group wasn’t fair. Even the most fanatical churches acknowledge you have a life beyond the sanctuary (unless it’s a cult.) All this did was bolster my decision to leave. Too many people made it central to their lives, and I, having been vetted and approved to join the sacred congregation, was a traitor.

Some of those people I still called friend afterward. One of them is an online member of my current writer’s group. But the mentality is still there across all franchises and formats, from gaming to movies to comic books and beyond. A small group of hardcore fans feels threatened that they’re suddenly not special anymore. And that victimhood of being outsiders is a huge component of that core belief.

All I have to say, having been in that world and having fond memories of most of it is…

The only threat to geek culture are the hardcore fanatics who can’t stand change. If you want to know what’s threatening your culture?

Go look in the mirror.


A Modest Proposal: Star Trek: The HBO Series

2009 Star Trek cast

Source: Paramount Pictures

As JJ Abrams takes on Star Wars, nothing but Star Wars, it’s clear there’s only one Abrams-driven Star Trek left. Paramount has decided it wants a movie for the fiftieth anniversary of Trek‘s debut. But after that…?

Let’s be honest. As good as JJ Abrams is, he didn’t think of the future of Trek, just how to get fannies into theater seats. But the technology is too omnipotent. A couple of devices used to drive both movies’ plots – transwarp beaming and Khan’s blood – don’t bode well for long-term story-telling.

So let me suggest that, once Pine, Pegg, Quinto, et. al. take their last bow in 2016, that Paramount reboot the series once again, this time for HBO.

HBO Original Series logo

Source: HBO

Or SyFy or Showtime or FX or… You know. Star Trek is ripe for the kind of storytelling that made Breaking Bad, The Wire, Battlestar Galactica, and even Deadwood hits. It’s time to start over, give the thing an arc based on its original run, and take it places. While completely revamping it like BG is a horrible idea (Galactica was always kind of an unfinished idea in its original incarnation anyway), it would be an opportune time to toss out some of the cliches that have grown up around it. A cable series would also allow writers to explore aspects of the crew’s story that are only hinted at or played around with in novels and fanfic. Is there really a sexual undertone to Kirk and Spock’s relationship? Why is McCoy so neurotic? What’s the real story behind Khan? Klingons: Ridges or no ridges? (I know Enterprise answered that, but this would be a reboot.) I’d also love to see an end to all the time travel nonsense.

Fans, of course, would have to come along for the ride. It’s been fifty years. Time to give up pelting the writers over trivial inconsistencies that would simply be ignored in real life. It’s not Doctor Who, where the very nature of The Doctor demands inconsistency. Besides, back when I indulged in cosplay, this sort of nitpicking sucked all the joy out being a fan. One idiot told me I could never write fanfic involving Harry Mudd, the lovable rogue who gave Kirk and company migraines in the original series. When I asked why, he said that Roger Carmel, the actor who played Mudd, was dead. Yeah, I’m pretty sure Ron Moore and Brannon Braga were going to show up on my doorstep with a bunch of red ink. Rick Berman would shake his fist thusly at a pizza delivery driver from Cincinnati no one had ever heard of. That kind of lunacy.

But it’s also time to bring Trek back to its original story. The altered timeline with a Kirk who is something of a cross between Han Solo and Stifler from American Pie works for the Abrams movies. Now, let’s get back to why people even care about him in the first place. You can’t duplicate Shatner (which is why Kirk’s character was selected to be the epicenter of the altered timeline), but you can build on what he did previously. And it’s not that you need to ignore the latest movies. Why should you? They’re fun. (OK, I do still cringe whenever I see Spock bellow “Khaaaaaaaannnnnn!!!!“)

It’s something to think about. Besides, Trek is a story about explorers. Exploration is better suited for TV. Movies are for high action and epic battles.

Which is why Abrams needs to do Star Wars.



Keep Calm And Call The Doctor


Source: BBC

As the world prepares for the debut of the Twelfth Doctor (actually, Thirteenth. John Hurt sort of snuck in there and fought in the Time War), I’ve been getting into Dr. Who, going all the way back to the beginning. This past weekend, I watched a chopped up copy of the very first episode, “An Unearthly Child.” (I could have watched it all, but YouTube keeps yanking the middle part. Damn you, BBC. Damn you for enforcing your copyright!) I also watched the first part of “Tomb of the Cybermen” on BBC America. So I got to see the first two Doctors, William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton. I also watched part of the Dr. Who television movie last week, the webisode “Night of the Doctor,” and the absolutely brilliant “Day of the Doctor,” which manages to feature all thirteen incarnations of The Doctor (and never mind that the first three actors and one’s replacement are all dead.)

I’m hooked. For a kid who was suckled, weened, and stoned on Star Trek, Dr. Who is the perfect nerdgasm for middle age. Here’s a character who is the same person across fifty years. If the actor leaves, as William Hartnell did in 1966, The Doctor just regenerates into a new incarnation. Change the actor and the personality and carry on. Plus, The Doctor is a time traveler. So you can have the old actors come back to let different incarnations of The Doctor meet each other. “Day of the Doctor” did this and introduced not just one (John Hurt’s tragic War Doctor), but two new incarnations (Peter Capaldi’s fleeting appearance as The Doctor’s future self.)

I did watch Dr. Who as a kid, only seeing a few episodes. So naturally, I thought that Tom Baker was the original Doctor. I also remember seeing a couple of movies on Superhost featuring Peter Cushing as a human scientist named “Dr. Who.” Those are discounted by Whovians, since it essentially is a reworking of the original concept. I remember seeing a later episode with (I think) Peter Davidson as The Doctor and wondering what happened to Tom Baker. Then I learned about regeneration and how The Doctor (who is never really named) changes looks and personality every time he regenerates.

But my real discovery of The Doctor came in 2005, when SyFy started running the revived series featuring Christopher Eccleston. He was a bit of culture shock. Most of The Doctors I’d seen had taken their cues from Patrick Troughton, the Second Doctor (and a favorite of most of the currently living actors, particularly the outgoing Matt Smith.) This Doctor wore a leather jacket, had a short haircut, and a Scottish accent. He wasn’t as whimsical as Troughton or Baker or even McGann. He had the mischief the character had developed over the decades, but there was something dark about him. I also witnessed his regeneration into the Tenth (and my favorite) Doctor, played by David Tennant. His first words (later echoed by Matt Smith in his first moments as The Eleventh Doctor) was “I wanted to be ginger!” (Smith, after a brief moment of terror when he thinks he’s changed genders, says, “Damn. Still not ginger!”)


Maybe he was Franz Liszt. Ever see the two of them together?

So my image of The Doctor is Baker, McGann, Eccleston, Tennant, and Smith. So how was it watching that first episode? William Hartnell was an elderly man with the hair of Franz Liszt. He was mysterious, gruff, and, let’s be honest, a bit of an asshole. Mind you, that’s my only experience with The First Doctor. And he is so unlike the later incarnations, more like Hurt’s War Doctor or Jon Pertwee’s angry, exiled Third Doctor than the whimsically dressed Tom Baker’s Fourth Doctor or any of the newer Doctors. Mind you, the writers and producers had no clue their creation would last fifty years and be played by fourteen actors. They barely knew what “TARDIS” meant. But it was fun, and a bit creepy, watching the beginning of this journey. By the end of episode 1, you still have no idea who this Doctor person is, what his nature is, or what it is he does.

But Patrick Troughton, more than any other actor, is responsible for the Doctor’s look and feel across all the remaining incarnations. If he has an equivalent in American television, it’s Detective Columbo, a sharp mind disguised in the persona of a bumbling idiot. Later actors would use the distracted mannerisms in varying degrees, the dry egotistical humor, and the “Gotcha!” when it becomes clear that The Doctor has outsmarted his enemies.

We have yet to see much more than a glimpse of the Twelfth Doctor, but already many are speculating on the Thirteenth (now that the twelve regeneration limit has been quietly “debunked” (ie – The producers realized this is probably going to go beyond sixty years and thirteen incarnations). My picks? Eddie Izzard would make an excellent older Doctor, with his own personality, sense of humor, and long association with the Monty Python troupe. Harry Potter star Rupert Grint would give the Doctor his fondest wish: to be a ginger. Grint’s Ron Weasly coupled with the dark genius that is The Doctor would create a Doctor in the best tradition of Troughton. With the call for a Doctor who is black or female, producers would do well to look at Idris Elba (The Wire, Luther) when Capaldi decides to call it a Doctor. Elba is English and would bring an intensity to the character that’s been somewhat missing (John Hurt an exception) since Sylvester McCoy’s Seventh Doctor. A female Doctor? I honestly don’t know enough about British television or film to make an educated guess. I’ve suggested (in jest) that Emma Watson might be good as it would be a huge shift in the character (and hilarious if you have Eccleston, Tennant, or Smith’s Doctor run into her), changing not only the gender, but making him (her?) incredibly young. Plus I can see Watson having fun with her Doctor. However, a better choice might be (and was considered) Absolutely Fabulous star Joanna Lumley. Lumley, back when the thirteen-Doctor limit was still in place, starred in a parody of the show The Curse of the Fatal Death, in which Rowan “Blackadder” Atkinson (another one considered for the role) appeared as the Ninth Doctor, but kept meeting with repeated mishaps. Lumley, in the end, appeared as the Thirteenth Doctor, whom his (her?) nemesis, The Master, found rather attractive and rode with her in the TARDIS off into the sunset.

But we still have a few years of Peter Capaldi as the Twelfth Doctor to see. Capaldi is older and looks somewhat like Tom Baker in his Doctor days. Should be fun.


Palladia_HDRemember when MTV and VH1 showed videos? Every time Weird Al came out with a new album, we’d be treated to AlTV, with the MTV jingle played on an accordion. Flip on the TV, you could see Head Bangers Ball, Alternative Nation, or Yo! MTV Raps. And of course, those classic Spring Break runs in the late eighties and nineties. MTV really meant “Music Television.” VH1 was its mellower little brother. The only glamor shows were House of Style, and while MTV treated us to Liquid Television and Aeon Flux for cartoons, Beavis & Butthead still poked fun at videos. It was a music show in disguise.

And then the music disappeared. MTV and VH1 became reality television. After all, if you wanted videos, you had YouTube. Right?

Well, sorta. If you wanted new music or music you didn’t normally listen to, there was no outlet on television. Radio had become pathetic with its corporate behemoth owners and limited playlists. Half the time I watched saw the Grammy lists, I had no clue who anyone was. New music had become American Idol. And American Idol had become embarrassing to admit watching.

Then I stumbled onto Palladia. It was one of the cable company’s Hi-Def offerings. What were they showing? Rock festivals. Hip hop festivals. Later With Jools Holland. Live from Daryl’s House. I saw new music. Live. I saw bands I never heard of. I started making it my weekend ritual to DVR as much Palladia as possible.

It’s hard to see new music live when you live in a town like Cincinnati that supports only wedding bands. There’s iTunes, but you have to hunt for new bands and hope you stumble onto something. Pandora helps, but again, you’re somewhat limited by the format.

I’m enjoying Palladia as long as the format remains the same. Hopefully, MTV Networks won’t decide to squeeze it dry by changing it to yet another reality show channel, the way MTV and VH1 have become, or like Disney has done to History and A&E. If they do, the last video Palladia should play is Bruce Springsteen’s “57 Channels and Nothing On.” Until then, I eagerly await new shows live from Daryl’s house.

Star Trek: Oh, Captain, My Captain

With the new Star Trek set to debut in North America this weekend, I decided to take a look at all the Trek captains… Well, the main ones, not the one-offs we’ve seen over the years. I’m not going to rank them. If you thought ranking the shows or the movies would get me a lot of static (It did), ranking the captains would likely have a horde of angry cosplay Trekkies on my front lawn with torches and pitchforks. I can’t have that. We just redid the landscaping.

In addition to the captains for each series, I’m including a couple that deserve mention, one of whom is… Well, he deserves to be on the list since his was an honorary Trek movie.

pike primeChristopher Pike (Jeffrey Hunter/Bruce Greenwood)

Even though I’m counting William Shatner’s and Chris Pine’s Kirks separately, I’m combining the pilot Captain Pike with the one from the current movie series because we really did not get to see enough of him to form an opinion.

Hunter and Greenwood’s Pikes do mesh rather nicely. Both are rather no-nonsense captains impatient with fumbling subordinates, but at the same time, admiring to ability to “look before you leap.” It’s likely Greenwood watched the original Star Trek pilot, “The Cage” (later subsumed into a two-part episode, “The Menagerie”) for queues. So what makes them so seamless?

pike tooBoth Captains Pike are the prototype for the later Captains Kirk. In “The Cage,” Pike leaves his first officer, whom we only know as Number One, on the bridge while he goes down to the surface of Talos IV to check out the wrecked SS Columbia. And of course, like Kirk after him, he bags the blonde babe as he gets into trouble. In 2009’s Star Trek, while not the lothario Kirk is, Pike goes to face down an angry Nero while leaving an insubordinate Kirk to second a bewildered Spock in command of the Enterprise.

But in both Pikes, we see the beginnings of another captain, Jean-Luc Picard. Hunter’s Pike is quick to turn off the rage once he understands his captors predicament and offer a helping hand. This is not an option for the doomed aliens, but they reward Pike after he is rendered invalid by offering him an illusory life with Vina to make his final days more comfortable. In the two new Treks, Pike is the father Jim Kirk was deprived of when the Kelvin was destroyed. It’s Pike who recognizes what Kirk is capable of, and probably no surprise that he and “Spock Prime” unwittingly conspire to put the alternate Kirk and Spock together in a way that will bend the new timeline back toward the original.

It’s too bad we never got to see what the original cast could have done with a series. I especially would have liked to see how Majel Barrett’s “Number One” dealt with serving under a captain she had feelings for. But had Jeffrey Hunter said yes to returning for the second pilot and the series, we never would have had…

kirkJames T. Kirk – Original timeline (William Shatner)

Christopher Pike might have been the template for every captain that followed him. (I see a lot of Pike in Kathryn Janeway, actually. Maybe Kate Mulgrew should have played “Christina Pike.”) Kirk, however, set the standard by how every succeeding captain would be created – both in similarities and differences.

Kirk is what every man wants to be: decisive, strong, smooth with the ladies, charismatic. But he’s also headstrong, rash, and a bit arrogant. What makes Shatner’s Kirk so compelling is that he knows this and occasionally (especially in the movies) beats himself up over it. What makes Kirk a great leader is that he relies on his inner circle to open up his blind spots. He leans heavily on the logical Spock and his grouchy moral compass, McCoy, with Scotty sometimes cutting through the bullshit to zero in on a problem and to bear the brunt of his demands. But even Sulu and Uhura, two underlings who aren’t quite as high in the Enterprise‘s pecking order, have his attention. Only someone like Uhura could snap back at Kirk in front of the crew when he gets a bit overbearing. Anyone else would likely have been reassigned to toilet cleaning duty in the enlistees’ quarters for that.

What defines Kirk, though, in both the original continuity and the new movies, is his inability to believe in the no-win scenario. He hates the concept so much that, after two attempts, he simply cheats the Academy’s Kobayashi Maru test, shrugs, and says, “Of course, I did. The test is bullshit.” In this continuity, that excuse gets him a commendation for original thinking, since that, not winning, was the actual aim of the test. (Thought I seriously doubt anyone could try that gambit again.)

spockSpock – Original timeline (Leonard Nimoy)

Sure, Spock commanded the Enterprise for only one movie, but that served an important purpose. The Enterprise is a training vessel. And after all these years seconding and second-guessing Kirk, he probably knows more about commanding a starship than Kirk does. Kirk can do it better than most people, but he can’t really teach it. Spock, a lifelong student of human nature from the outside, can.

In the show’s original run, Spock’s turns in the command chair often infuriated the crew despite the fact that, like Kirk, they would follow him to the gates of hell. They would grumble and protest that the coldly logical Vulcan just didn’t get it, but they would also assume that he seldom did anything without some compelling reason, especially since the younger Spock had an infuriating habit of not sharing everything he was thinking. The older Spock, on the other hand, knows people, knows his crewmates, knows Kirk, and most importantly, knows himself better. When Spock is again put in command of the Enterprise in Star Trek VI, logic still guides his every move, but he has learned enough tricks watching Kirk, McCoy, and Scotty, and learned to trust Uhura and Chekov’s judgment enough, that he manages to out-Kirk Kirk in the process of rescuing the Enterprise‘s true captain and taking down those who framed him.

Spock really is captain material. It just takes him into late middle age to figure out how to be himself.

picardJean Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart)

One of the tricks to reinventing Star Trek is to make it different to what came before. When Gene Roddenberry resurrected the series with a new crew and ship, he had to create a captain who was as un-Kirklike as possible without disrespecting the original. So Roddenberry simply flipped the Kirk and Spock roles, making First Officer Wil Riker the cocky, charming officer to a cool, logical captain. So Roddenberry created Jean Luc Picard, a reserved, calculating man with “the soul of a poet.” Whereas Kirk is clearly an earthy Iowa farmboy prone to jumping feet first into a situation, Picard is thoughtful, level-headed, and patient. Of course, we meet Picard when he is about sixty years old (Stewart was in his forties when he took the role), so he’s had time to evolve from a Kirk-like swashbuckler to an elder statesman.

And it’s not that Picard is incapable of looking before he leaps. He’s just had about twenty years more than Kirk to add nuance to that. There are those who say that one would want Picard in command most of the time, but Kirk in an emergency. That sounds about right.

suluHikaru Sulu – Original timeline (George Takei)

Oh, my. They finally gave Sulu a ship, and a big ship they gave him, the Excelsior. We only got to see Sulu in one movie, Star Trek VI, but George Takei made the most of it. He is very much the protege of James T. Kirk: Disciplined, but more than willing to break rules when the stakes are high.

They later revisited the events of ST VI in an episode of Voyager, using the same set and cast members to depict Kirk’s last hurrah from the point-of-view of the Excelsior‘s crew. Between the two, we could see Sulu as an older, wiser officer who stood on his own. It would have been nice to see Takei in a television movie or two showcasing the character.

siskoBenjamin Sisko (Avery Brooks)

Benjamin Sisko is an angry man. His wife was killed by the Borg at Wolf 359. He is unceremoniously yanked from his quiet post close to Earth to deal with the equally angry Bajorans and the ever-scheming Cardassians. To add insult to injury, a group of aliens inside a wormhole decide that he is the Emissary of the Prophets, their linear reality mouthpiece to the Bajorans. So, in addition to being a reluctant station commander, an informal diplomat, and an unwilling religious figure, Sisko also has to be a single dad.

During the first couple of seasons of Deep Space Nine, producers worked hard to not only make Sisko not Picard, the strained themselves silly not making him Hawk, Brooks’ previous role on Spenser for Hire. Pretty stupid idea. DS9 finally found its legs when they let Brooks be himself playing Sisko (including shaving his head and speaking in lower tones) and admitting that Deep Space 9 was a dystopian version of Trek set in a rehash of World War II. Which is good. Sisko is very much a wartime captain. He’s not boldly going.  He’s boldly trying to keep civilization from collapsing. Instead of Horatio Hornblower (Kirk) or Lord Nelson (Picard), he’s more like a crankier version of Eisenhower, having to balance competing egos, agendas, and even enemies to keep the whole works from coming apart.

janewayKathryn Janeway (Kate Mulgrew)

The best thing to happen to Voyager was Genevieve Bujold stomping off the set of the show’s pilot. I saw a clip of her first turn as “Jean” Janeway. I know Bujold can act. I’ve seen her do it. She didn’t do it here. It took executive producer about five seconds to pick up the phone and tell Kate Mulgrew’s agent “Oops. Should have hired your client.”

Mulgrew gave Janeway (now named “Kathryn”) what every starship captain needs most: gravitas. That might have been lacking in Kirk in the 2009 movie, but that was by design. The kid hadn’t even graduated Starfleet Academy yet before taking command of the Enterprise. (“I hope you know what you’re doing, Captain.” “Yeah. Me, too.”) But Pike, Shatner’s Kirk, Picard, Sulu, and Sisko all had it.

And I seriously doubt any of those men would envy Janeway’s job. She is 90 years from home. Half her crew is composed of renegades she was sent to arrest. She’s menaced on all sides by space-faring tribes at war with each other, the Borg, and even another Starfleet vessel that met the same fate not long before Voyager ended up on that side of the galaxy.

Janeway maintains a Kirk-like presence on the bridge, perfectly willing to make the snap decision in a crisis. It helps that her first officer (and originally, the leader of the fugitives she went after) is an otherwise exemplary military officer more concerned with the good of the crew than his own agenda. But Janeway also shows the cracks. Kirk, Picard, et. al. could always duck into a shore leave bar, Ten Forward, or Quark’s to forget about the burden of command. Janeway’s got nowhere to go but the holodeck.

As I said before, she has the most in common with Christopher Pike, only we got seven seasons of Janeway, not to mention a cameo in Nemesis, a bright spot in an otherwise horrible film.

peter-quincy-taggartPeter Quincy Taggart (Jason Nesmith as played by Tim Allen)

OK, Galaxy Quest is not Star Trek. And yet it is, a sort of playful This Is Spinal Tap for the scifi set.

Tim Allen’s portrayal of washed-up actor Jason Nesmith does poke gentle fun at Shatner (who good naturedly gives back as good as he got.) But I’m pretty sure both Shatner and Allen could point to a hundred other actors they’ve known who ended up like Nesmith without alien intervention or a transformation to a more comedic persona to save their careers.

But Galaxy Quest respects the very franchise it parodies. And watching the cast fall into their old roles while trying to “do it for real” hints that this might have been a really good entry into the Star Trek franchise. Plus how can you go wrong with Ripley from Alien as a hot, busty blonde who is nonetheless smarter than her captain?

I suspect Taggart in a series would be every bit as cocky and over-the-top as Kirk. It’s too bad we’ll never get to see it. Could be fun.

archerJonathan Archer (Scott Bakula)

Jonathan Archer is the most like us. Maybe that’s because he’s the first captain who lives in a world that looks so much like ours. The Klingon at the beginning of the pilot even crashes on a farm that’s clearly in California’s Imperial Valley (doubling for Oklahoma). This is the beginning of Star Trek, and Archer has to not only set an example for future Starfleet captains, he has to make up the rules as he goes along. It doesn’t help that the rather self-important Vulcans have put one of their own on his bridge to keep an eye on these primitive humans. (Earth people can be such children.)

Whereas the other captains have larger-than-life personas, largely out of necessity, Archer is an everyman. He’s amazed to be going out into space and doing it at a blazing speed of Warp 4. And he does this with a ship that has balky technology, has to endure condescension from Vulcans, and deal with the paranoia of the Andorians. Kirk, Picard, Sisko, and Janeway all have a century or two of history where Earth is the dominant world in the Federation. Archer has grown up in a world that can barely spell “aliens,” let alone deal with  them. His default position is to offer the hand of friendship. After all, it’s a cold, dark universe out there. You need all the friends you can get.

Kirk tooJames T. Kirk – Altered timeline (Chris Pine)

This Kirk is a completely different Kirk from the original. After all, Shatner’s Kirk got to know his father, who lived to see him take command of the Enterprise. This Kirk was denied that only sixty seconds into the start of his life. And boy, is he pissed off about that. He grows up a rebellious, hell-raising youth, “the only genius-level offender in the Midwest.” Hey, it’s good to have goals. But Christopher Pike sees a lot of the late George Kirk in him. “Your father was captain of a starship for twelve minutes. He saved 800 lives, including your mother’s. And yours. I dare you to do better.”

Well, let’s see. A life of bar brawls in some backwater Iowa town? Or maybe doing something with your life. It takes Kirk only a few hours to make up his mind. Only he needs a little tempering. “Four years? I’ll do it in three.” Maybe so, but that bravado nearly gets him court-martialed, does get him kicked off the Enterprise, and damn near gets him killed. He’s not the Kirk we used to know, and maybe he never will be. But he knows what he’s supposed to become, even if he has to get his ass kicked a few times on the way there. At least this Kirk can roll with the punches, and like the original Kirk, loathes the concept of a no-win scenario. Spoilers and clips from Star Trek Into Darkness suggest he’s almost there.

All photos from Paramount, except for Tim Allen as Peter Quincy Taggert (Source: Dreamworks)

To Boldly Go… A Look Back At Star Trek

When I was five years old, there were two shows that scared the hell out of me. And I would pitch a tantrum whenever my mom would change the channel. One was Dark Shadows. Years later, I would watch this campy, badly shot soap and wonder what the hell was so scary. The other was Star Trek. What scared me was the episode with the mugato, which was sort of a cross between a gorilla and a unicorn. Captain Kirk shot it. It was the first time I’d ever seen someone or something vaporized in a science fictiony sort of way. They followed this up with the “cheesebread” episode, with those flying things that stung people on the back and drove them insane. Both eps were pretty intense for a five-year-old to watch.

But I was hooked.

And I stayed hooked right up until season 2 of Enterprise. By that point, I was in my late thirties and burned out on the franchise. Hey, you watch about 700 episodes of anything and see if your interest still holds. I watched it all, at least until halfway through the final series. I’ve seen all 11 movies, 8 in theaters, the first two on cable since my parents didn’t take me to see them, and one on DVD because I was in the midst of Trek burnout.

And yet it’s had a profound impact on my life. It’s why I wanted to become a writer. I watched Captains Kirk and Picard and wanted to write my own adventures. By the time I took the plunge, I was writing crime fiction. But I also saw the good and the bad in storytelling. I even read some of the novels, many of which I’m embarrassed to say that I liked. (A few were fun, but there were quite a few that would probably have never been published as part of other series.) I even indulged in cosplay for a couple of years, though that hobby got expensive and time consuming. I found other attractions, like making steady income and not getting sick every time I put on the full Klingon gear. (If JJ Abrams said, “How’d you like to be an extra and play a Klingon in the next movie,” I’d say “No, thanks. How about I have a beer with Simon Pegg or be Zoe Saldana’s cabin boy for a day?”)

But I couldn’t stay away for long. Eventually, I relented and rented Nemesis on DVD. (Thankfully, I only rented it.) I took a day off to see Chris Pine’s debut as Captain Kirk in 2009. (No cosplay folk, but I really didn’t appreciate the idiot pseudo-film students yammering through the noon showing at the Newport AMC theater.) So how do the series rank?

I’ll skip the current movie series because, for starters, only one has been released at this point, and two, I’m looking at the TV shows.


voyagerThis show had the most potential of all the Treks, even the original series, and yet it had the most miscues. So what did it have going for it? Kate Mulgrew portrayed Kathryn Janeway, Trek’s first regular female captain. It had a spectacular premise for any science fiction series, ship flung instantly across the galaxy or the universe and facing nearly a century-long trip home. The cast was interesting. Tim Russ, a fan of the series since the Shatner days, played a Vulcan who lacked Spock’s empathy. Robert Beltran as a former rebel forced to become first officer to weld together two crews originally in battle against each other. Best of all was Robert Picardo as a holographic doctor whose lack of personality evolved into sarcastic, lonely, and surprisingly thoughtful being. So why am I listing this last?

To begin with, Voyager should have been looking pretty decrepit midway through Season 1. Also, after one of the best Trek pilots ever filmed, I was left wondering which Kathryn Janeway would show up from week to week. And really, Voyager should have left the 2003 Battlestar Galactica looking like a sitcom. Instead, I got the impression I was watching a somewhat better written version of Buck Rogers. Mind you, I don’t think anyone, especially after the dark, heavy Deep Space Nine, would want to see week after week of the Starship Meridian (from an episode of where the crew meets a starship that met the same fate as Voyager two years earlier.) But think of your average HBO series, like Rome or Deadwood. You can do dark with healthy doses of humor and humanity woven in.


enterpriseThis is the series I bailed on, and probably unfairly. As I said before, I stopped watching after seeing nearly 700 episodes and 9 movies of Star Trek. There was a lot to like about this show. Scott Bakula, like Kate Mulgrew before him, played a more down-to-Earth (no pun intended) starship captain than the swaggering James T. Kirk, the charismatic Jean-Luc Picard, and the intensely brooding Benjamin Sisko. The engineer was the sarcastic, almost McCoy-like Trip Tucker, who uttered one of the funniest lines in Trek history. “A poop question?” Then there was the alien and philosophical Dr. Phlox, usually unflappable and often the voice of reason.

This Enterprise wasn’t like Kirk’s ships or Picard’s. It was new, untested, bleeding edge technology. In what was the first use of the transporter in a combat situation, an officer was beamed aboard with debris embedded in his skin. So what put me off?

It was the bunny suit. T’Pol was an interesting Vulcan character, not as friendly or comforting as Spock, but not as aloof and cold as Tuvok. And they put this highly intelligent, extremely competent representative of the Vulcan Science Fleet in a bunny suit. I was in my early twenties when they did that to Counselor Troi and already put off by Voyager when it happened to Seven of Nine. By the time producer Brannon Braga decided that actress Joleen Blalock needed to demonstrate how she got on the cover of Maxim, I was already sick of Braga’s last minute resolutions and the annoyingly bland background music that had been with Trek since the Next Generation days. The bunny suit, while lovely to look at, really annoyed the hell out of me. And let’s be honest. Trek was ready to let it’s field lay fallow. By then, executive producer Rick Berman was wasting everyone’s time with, “OK, so we need to come up with a new premise. How about the crew of an interstellar ice cream truck cruising the Klingon Empire?” It’s seven people in a spaceship, stupid. Take two years off, change the cast, and find some fresh writing talent.


ds9castThe politics of the Federation suck. The farther you get from Earth, the more messy the universe gets. Not all the good guys wear Starfleet uniforms, and not all the bad guys are with the enemy. Deep Space Nine has more in common with the original Star Trek than the later Treks, yet it builds on The Next Generation, even reintroducing Worf in later seasons.

Benjamin Sisko is a survivor of the epic Wolf 359 battle from Next Generation and takes what he hopes is a quiet posting at a joint Federation-Bajoran station at the edge of Federation space. Right off the bat, he finds himself thrust into the role of The Emissary, the mortal contact for the godlike wormhole aliens that the Bajorans worship as “The Prophets.” His first officer is Major Kira Nerys of Bajor. At first, she resents the presence of Starfleet, then grows to respect Sisko as a colleague, trying to suppress her religious tendencies to see him as The Emissary.

Deep Space Nine amped up the political intrigue and took Star Trek in a darker direction, climaxing in a nearly apocalyptic war with the shape-shifting Dominion. But the show had a rocky start: murky plots in the first two seasons, undefined direction, and unflattering comparisons to the similarly premised Babylon 5. And then producer Ira Steven Behr decided to go the opposite direction. Technology is not necessarily mankind’s friends. Friends and enemies are not so clearly defined. Behr then plunged the Federation into World War II in space, which contrasted it nicely to B5‘s Lovecraftian civil war. Still, the dark vibe was not for everyone. A few people said, “I feel like opening a vein watching that show.” Perhaps they missed the more personal and optimistic…


nexgenGene Roddenberry had to be convinced to do this show. He wasn’t happy with the direction the movies were taking, but he was happy with the paychecks. Paramount smelled a cash cow and tried to get Roddenberry to sign off a cheesy series set at Starfleet Academy. Sensing his “child” was in trouble, he made a counter-proposal: A new Enterprise set a century later with a different crew and different set of values, a Trek for the 1980’s.

Instead of the horny, swaggering James T. Kirk, we got the staid, formal Jean-Luc Picard with first officer Will Riker filling the Kirk role. There was an android, Mr. Data, who mirrors Spock’s quest for self-identity, but in a more childlike manner. A blind navigator? A kid at the helm? What’s that Klingon doing on the bridge?

The Next Generation spent its first two seasons trying hard not to be the original series. The conflict between characters was taken down a few notches. And yet, through its long run, it had some of the most classic Trek moments. Who can forget the almost cinematic Best of Both Worlds, the two-part season cliffhanger/premier that is a science fiction classic in its own right. As time went by, TNG began to embrace its predecessor with cameos by Leonard Nimoy as Spock and James Doohan as Scotty, revived and bewildered after suspended 80 years in a transporter beam to survive a ship crash. Some of the original series’ birds have come home to roost. The predicted alliance with the Klingons is now a fact when the show begins, and some episodes of the original series and its movies have ramifications throughout the show’s run.


startrekOh, myyyyy. Shatner redefines a genre for television as the swaggering, cocky James T. Kirk, balanced by the logical, alien Spock, played by Leonard Nimoy. The two have become elder statesmen for science fiction and for television. The cantankerous McCoy serves as the conscience of the crew. Scotty is the voice of the audience. And wait. There’s a woman – a black woman – serving as senior officer? And she’s one of the ship’s resident techies? In 1966? And an Asian and a Russian driving the ship? What is this?

It’s Wagon Train to the stars. It’s everything hinted at in Forbidden Planet. It’s everything Lost in Space wanted to be and couldn’t. It’s one of those things George Lucas watched as a film student and poured into the witch’s brew that evenutally became Star Wars. And it was part action, part morality play, and part Saturday morning serial.

Like TNG, which followed it, Star Trek was a more personal show. For all their larger-than-life personalities, the crew of the original Starship Enterprise was very real. They were family, a line that has since been uttered by Chris Pine in the trailer for the upcoming Star Trek Into Darkness. The cast has had its conflicts, like any good rock band or theater troupe, a vibe the TNG cast picked up on very well. Yet for all their sniping, witness how George Takei and William Shatner playfully dig at each other in social media. (Takei was the source for me of a hilarious photo of Shatner having a rematch with the Gorn commander, this time on Xbox.) Shatner and Nimoy are lifelong friends, predating the show, and while there has been tension between Shatner and the rest of the cast, that has resulted in a chemistry matched only by TNG‘s cast. It is why both these shows top this list. Each was creating something original and personal that has proven difficult to duplicate. Perhaps JJ Abrams found the best way to carry on the story: Don’t try to duplicate it. Do something different.

That’s when Star Trek works best.

All photos Paramount Pictures

Live From Daryl’s House

Live From Daryl's House logo

Good Cop Bad Cop Productions

Some time in 2007, Daryl Hall of Hall & Oates fame decided that, instead of the endless touring longtime rock and country musicians seem to do late in their careers, why not bring the music home and put it up on the web or, better, television where more people can see it with only the guests having to travel? Hall has a reconstructed 18-century colonial house in Upstate New York, near where he, partner John Oates, and most of their supporting musicians are based. The only travel would be done by the guests, who would show up, jam, and “have some food, drink some wine.” The result was an hour-long webcast-turned-TV-show Live from Daryl’s House.

Once upon a time, I knew everything there was to know about music and was constantly up on the latest bands. If I didn’t know them, so much the better. I’d get to know them soon enough. That lasted through the nineties, which, to me, was the last great decade for original music with grunge, post-grunge, Brit pop, post-punk, matured heavy metal, and Lillith Fair. It was like the early 1970’s all over again.

Then came American Idol. That pretty much shut down music for me. Is Marillion doing another album? Is there a Rolling Stones album I don’t have yet? Why hasn’t Kurt Cobain’s corpse been reanimated? Chop chop. I want more Nirvana! The Foos aren’t making albums fast enough!

This just all served to make the 2000’s a bigger suckfest than I already thought they were. And then my friend Brian Thornton turned me onto Live From Daryl’s House. Even some of those singers and bands I didn’t like for being too poppy sounded great just jamming in the great room of Daryl’s restored colonial home. The show is Hall with various session musicians from his solo work and Hall & Oates. John Oates does not appear, but he is frequently mentioned. Anyone can show up, from obscure prog rockers Minus the Bear to sexy alternative rocker Grace Potter to seasoned veterans like Joe Walsh and Todd Rundgren (who brought the show to his home in Hawaii. You haven’t lived until you watch a bunch of guys on acoustic guitars play “Bang the Drum” while a hula dancer struts her stuff.) Hall even had his idol, Smokey Robinson, appear. By the way, an elderly Smokey still sounds better without autotune and no studio trickery than the Black Eyed Peas on a good day.

There is a cooking segment as Hall will have a local chef come in to demonstrate what’s for dinner that day. Sometimes, as in the case of the Goo Goo Dolls’ John Rzeznik, the guest musician(s) will do the cooking. Late in the show, the musicians all sit around a big table with that day’s dish to swap war stories from the studio and the road.

Usually, the show has about four to six songs, split between Hall’s backlist and the guest’s. Often younger musicians will want to sing some of Hall’s classic hits. For instance, the female lead singer for Fitz and the Tantrums would not be denied her chance to sing “Sara Smile,” while Minus the Bear picked an obscure song from Hall’s Sacred Songs that originally featured King Crimson’s Robert Fripp at his most bizarre. But it’s also a chance for Hall to sing on new material. Grace Potter, for instance, was excited to hear Hall’s harmonies on her hit “Paris (Ooh La La).”

One thing that comes up time and time again during the dinner discussion near the end of the show is the way the music sounds when they play. Many of the musicians note that they love the sound of the room at Hall’s home and marvel at how, aside from wiring it up for electricity, it is closer to the original house than many restored homes. The other noteworthy subject is how imperfect the music sounds. A note goes somewhere unplanned. The rhythms are frequently improvised. There’s just enough rehearsal to learn the songs they play. This is a philosophy that made Keith Richards a personal hero to me, and it’s one Hall is very big on: Play the room, and don’t over-polish the music.

As such, I’ve discovered a lot of new musicians and developed respect for some I didn’t care for previously. I became a fan of Grace Potter and of Nick Waterhouse (“Say I Wanna Know”) as a result. And I fell in love with Philadelphia singer Nikki Jean after hearing her singing Hall & Oates “One on One.”

This is how music is supposed to be written, played, and recorded: On real instruments, with the room as much a part of the sound as the players, and with all its imperfections and unexpected turns left intact.

What’s Wrong With America: The Media

OK, we’re nine days into 2013. Time to roll up our sleeves and put the nation back on the rack for some long overdue maintenance. For starters, we need to take a look at the media and how we get our news.

It’s no secret that America’s political dialog is more polarized today than at any time since the Red Scare of the 1950’s. Much of it has to do with the 24-hour news cycle. In the olden days, when are cars were powered by Hi-Test and hydramatic transmissions, and we all gathered at Ye Olde Drug Store for a grape Nehi, news came from one of three networks, four if you counted radio’s Mutual network. ABC, NBC, and CBS ran a half hour of national news every night. So Frank Reynolds and Walter Cronkite and John Chancellor had only thirty minutes, eight of which went to commercials, to get it right. And they had to wait until your local affiliate ran the local news. If you wanted something more in-depth, you had 20/20, 60 Minutes, and a host of Sunday morning talk shows that generally made sure all sides got a fair hearing.

Underpinning all this was something called the Fairness Doctrine. The airwaves don’t belong to the networks. They belong to the public, and the networks pay license fees to use them. It’s your electromagnetic spectrum. If someone needs exclusive use to a narrow band of it, why shouldn’t they have to pay? Anyway, it said if you were going to take a political stance on the air, you had to give equal hearing to the other side. It wasn’t perfect. Witness George Takei’s run for office when his opponent declared that every rerun of Star Trek featuring the man who would become the Coolest Gay Person in America one day was free advertising and wanted an hour of free air time for every episode aired. I know it’s bullshit, and you know it’s bullshit. George definitely called bullshit, and his opponent did not care if it was bullshit. Legal parsing – which could be a blog post in and of itself – always leads to abuse of even the best-crafted laws.

The Fairness Doctrine went away in the 1980’s, and I’m not so sure that was a wise idea. For it gave rise to that bane of AM talk radio, the political talk show. In the beginning was Rush Limbaugh. And I will admit, I thought he was pretty funny in the beginning. After all, the New Deal coalition, which passed its sell-by date shortly after Watergate, needed deflating. Rush was just the guy. If you looked at him as a humorist in those days, he actually served a purpose.

Then Rush started taking himself seriously as a pundit. And clones started popping up. G. Gordon Liddy, a man so crazy he scared Nixon’s inner staff, and he was one of them, had a show. Soon you had a spate of burned-out ex-disk jockeys like Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck declaring themselves the moral guardians of American political thought. The liberals, not to be outdone, attempted to balance this with Air America, featuring mostly comedians who had stopped being funny long before the network went live, a wine critic (Tom Likas), and a washed-up ex-sportscaster (Keith Olbermann). You know what?

Substitute left-wing rhetoric for right-wing rhetoric, and it still sounds exactly the same. These people don’t take a stand. They stir up fear. They point to boogey men who do not exist. Or when a real one pops up, they still point to boogey men who do not exist.

Worse, we, the people, keep giving these pinheads power. We don’t listen to opposing viewpoints, take them seriously, and rethink our positions. No, we want someone to echo our beliefs and tell us we got it all figured out and demonize others who haven’t come to the same conclusion. Then we call it “sticking to our principles.” Bullshit. These jackals sell us on that idea when really all they’re selling is fear. Wait for the next crisis to come. I’m writing this on December 29, as the Fiscal Cliff (There’s a myth if there ever was one) approaches. I’m pretty sure in the intervening ten days, something blew up, went bankrupt, or got shot up, and your favorite pundit is fairly frothing at the mouth blaming illegal immigrants or the one percent or whatever new boogey man one of them invents.

It doesn’t help that the 24-hour news channels all stake a position. Look, if your job is news, you’re not entitled to a position. Your job is to report the facts, even when they contradict your worldview. If you got that backwards, you failed.

The basic problem with media in America is that they sell us on this idea that we serve our beliefs. In reality, our beliefs should serve us.

But that requires a little thought. Which would make the commercials they run a lot less effective, wouldn’t it?