Wednesday, March 02, 2016

Gaming the System: Use The Time Allotted

This may be petty but: I recently joined an organization that is so tightly organized that its main motivational extra is choice of seat, and that determined by scores earned during training.

 To my surprise, most fellow student/co-workers always finished their tests early and went into the hall to relax.

I don't know whether they lacked confidence in their ability to check their work or just lacked gamesmanship, but I always reviewed until the end of the allotted time and usually picked up points.

 Now I have the window seat - yay me!

It is petty, yes, but I *earned* that window. If this story can teach one youngster to game the system by checking their work, I'm happy to be called petty!

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Enterprise - Looking Back

"Enterprise" - the fifth series in the "Star Trek" franchise - had looked bad when it first came on and I watched a random episode, but since I got Netflix I decided to give it a fair try.
The opening scene (...after the dreadful, dreadful introductory song...) was not promising. A boy uses a racial insult against Earth's benefactors the Vulcans; his dad reproves him; the boy grows up to be a starship captain who hates Vulcans.  Why would Earth give command of their most advanced exploration ship to a man who not only hates the one species who is willing to help us, but lacks the discipline to hold it in? Sure, Vulcans are arrogant jerks mysteriously refusing to give us all the technology we want, but is it really a good idea to pick as your leader in a voyage of exploration and diplomacy someone who proves the Vulcans are right about Earth's emotional immaturity? It just doesn't make sense to have your point man someone who might piss off  a dangerous alien species.
Another disturbing point is that the leadership of Earth's space forces don't know about the Klingons but a junior language instructor is teaching Klingon to her class. Why does she know more about the Klingons than the forces charged with protecting our planet?
The casting is a big step back from Deep Space Nine (...to be sure, a high standard in the Trekverse..) There is the classic pair of eye candy women; Frigid Woman is the busty vulcan, and Needing Rescue is the cute nonwhite female. I'm sure they have names, but does it matter? To her credit, Frigid Woman does make a moral choice following orders to continue the mission, giving the episode is one moment of interest, and prompting the captain to promise not to be a racist jerk. That's character growth, I guess, but nothing compared to Major Kira or the Dax symbiont.
I am using a half-hour of television a night as a relaxation exercise, but I'm not sure this series is going to do it. Maybe I should switch to Babylon-5.
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I have seriously understated the suckitude of that first Enterprise episode. There's a scene in which Sexy Bigchested Vulcan Woman and Good-Ol'Boy are ordered to go rub down with lotion - for medical reasons - they were exposed to something penetrates their uniforms but not, apparently, their underwear. So each rubs down their fronts, then has the other rub their backs, but not quite so much as to give it a PG rating. It's pure fan service and makes no sense at all - if the substance penetrated uniforms, why not put lotion on the boobies and bottoms? I'm totally ok with fan service but it is disrespectful to the viewer to have it so crudely interrupt the story..
The  captain is awful. He does the stupid stuff that Kirk did, but without the acting, such as it is. Captain Archer talks a lot about being angry at Vulcans he's just reading lines. Nor does the actor playing the Vulcan both to do more than read lines. Perhaps Leonard Nimoy set too high a standard, but his emotionless (mostly) Vulcan convene a lot with expression whereas Black's T'Pol is mostly blankfaced.
Just before the captain goes off on an away mission (like Kirk, he doesn't believe in encumbering his ship with Marines) he is given a new "Phase Pistol". While it's nice to see the technology develop, its pretty stupid to go onto a mission with a handgun that you have never seen before, much less ever fired (For all Archer knew, it was a Noisy Cricket.) This is just sloppy writing. The Captain could have been issued a new gun earlier in the program or ... even better ... have been just shown knowing his weapon.
One of ST:TNG's most annoying features was its use of the god Q to frame the series. In contrast, ST:DS9 introduced its framing story (The Dominion) a bit at a time, each bit mostly contributing to the episode at hand, and leading to the grandest story are in all of Star Trek.  Enterprise repeats TNL's mistake with a "Temporal Cold War" frame that does not contribute to the instant story at all. In fact, it diminishes the story - the Trip to the Kingon Homeworld should be a plenty big enough story, given that Earth is a small and insignificant power venturing at last into a dangerous galaxy. The TCW frame basically says that the galaxy is not that dangerous a place after all; it's time travel that will be the problem and - therefore - the danger in the galaxy is not that big a deal.
I'm rethinking the wisdom of viewing the series after all.
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Episode 2 starts badly. The captain makes a first contact speech that he's obviously not rehearsed; a chief engineer has to prompt him. Later the engineer starts whining because he wants to go on the away mission - in a very undisciplined way.
This is just sad.

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