Should I stay or should I go?

On Thursday, Scotland will make an historic decision. Whether to be wholly independent or remain as part of the UK. Let us be under no illusions- even in event of a No vote, the status quo as we know it has gone. If No is victorious then there will still be a massive push for more powers for Scotland. There have been promises that if we vote No we will get extra powers- but please don’t let that sway you either way. The promise of extra powers is not a binding guarantee. It will have to be discussed, debated and negotiated. And if we do get extra powers they may well be far, far less than expected – they may be more. Even though it’s cynical, we should still prepare for getting zero extra powers at all and this is all bluster. The promise of extra powers is less of a certainty than a General Election Promise, and we’ve seen in the past how they’ve turned out.

There are plenty of reasons to vote No, plenty to vote Yes. I wont repeat all of them here as I’m sure many of you have seen them repeated ad nauseum. There are good reasons ether side, and there are bad reasons, and there are “What the fuck – have you been drinking turps?” level of bad reason. Ultimately, whatever way you vote Thursday there will be some buyers regret from some. Several people who have already sent in postal votes regret their decision, and others will after the main vote Thursday. This referendum has brought out a lot of questionable campaigns- Better Together have released some hum dingers such as the “Patronising BT Lady” (Not official title!) and emotional blackmail in the form of billboards boasting “I love my family, so I’m voting No”. The Yes camp don’t get off free either- with their cries of “Team Scotland” which by its very nature suggests the other side aren’t supporting of a better Scotland, there was the huge ballsup in the first major televised debate where Salmond became a broken record and refused point blank to engage with a very important question – a question later answered with ease: We will keep the pound regardless, and in event of no currency union we have plans B through E.

There have been No supporters vandalising Yes property, there have been Yes voters vandalising No property. There are people that complained back in May that there was not enough engagement in politics and now there is, it is met with cries of “Shut up” and “I can’t wait for this to be over”. I have seen rational people post drive by article dumps on social media that are easily refuted yet they get angry when challenged. Not very rational or a good example of scepticism in regard our own beliefs. I have seen arrogance, rudeness, fallings out, unverified claims flying around, accusations that if you vote No then you don’t get to complain about the Tories, arguments that the main reason person X is voting Yes is to get away from the Tories (Hint: Scotland will still have a Tory party, and if political winds change as they are wont to do we could well find a Tory government ruling Scotland one day even in independence).

There is also cries that Salmond is power mad, that he wants to be King, that… you know what? If your reason for voting No is because you dislike Salmond and/ or the SNP then please see my earlier comment about turp drinking levels of bad reasons.

This.

Referendum.

Is Not.

About.

Alex.

Salmond.

I dont vote SNP. I don’t even particularly like Alex Salmond (That bloke off the telly in case Pauls wife is watching over her cereal). I vote Green. I’m a Green Yes. In 2016 we could boot out the SNP and replace them with Scottish Conservatives if we wish. This referendum is not about whether you like the politician or the politics of their party. Its about whether you think Scotland should have the chance to fend for itself and be an independent country. If being independent results in a Conservative Government in 2016 I of course won’t be happy. Any happier than if we remain in the UK and the General Election of 2015 results in a Tory/ UKIP Axis of Evil.

Then we have other issues- on the question of whether we can afford to go alone, of course the Yes camp say we can and of course the No camp say we can’t. And of course both sides have reams of data, and lots of high profile names supporting them. And the back and forth continues, rebuttal follows rebuttal, big name economist B follows big name economist A and so on. If we stay it will be difficult, if we leave it will.

We have to ask ourselves is it worth the risk? Personally I want to try. We cannot predict the future, the estimates and promises, the fear mongering from both sides, the rebuttals and debates all leave us with more questions than answers. If you want to take a risk on change on a large scale then vote Yes. But if you don’t think it is a risk you are comfortable taking then vote No and we may get change on a smaller scale. There is no sure fire way to predict the future in money, society, or what the change will be in event of Yes or if the promises recently made will come through under No. We can all pull out a figure of authority, a report from this or that financial institution but unless we are psychic we’re never going to know for sure.

Every time oil gets brought up we hear how it will be gone in a few decades – this argument has been around a few decades. Maybe we’ll have it for another century, maybe another 20 years, maybe not. 15% of predicted income is from oil. But then whether a part of the UK or not when it is gone it is gone- if independent then we lose that income. If part of the UK then the UK loses that income. Either way, Better Together or Yes, that income will be gone one day. Staying a part of the UK won’t magically make it abundant. But moving away from the UK won’t suddenly make it run out – but it is not a long term solution and we would need to find a way to replace that 15%. But there is no guarantees of prosperity either way – the economy could go belly up in another ten years whether we are part of the UK or not. And so, in truth the scaremongering and promises around economy aren’t swaying me either way.

Ultimately its probably more of an emotional decision than a rational one – either way.  But then aren’t most political choices? I’m sure many UKIP voters think they are making the rational choice, and they may think me irrational for voting Green.

Whatever we chose on Thursday it is a decision we will have to live with the consequences of. If we take one thing away from this referendum let it be this – the people of Scotland have been active, engaged and involved in politics in a way not really seen before. Actively engaging in the democratic process and grabbing with both hands their future. The vote is close, around 50% of the population will be disappointed on Friday but whatever the result lets work together for a better Scotland – Say “Yes” to making our mark and be “Better Together” as a nation. Whatever the outcome.

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What good is slacktivism? A lot, it seems.

Slacktivism annoys me. A lot. The no-make up selfies annoyed me inordinately. The current trend of dumping cold water on oneself is another. But the thing that probably annoys me most is that they are having an impact and raising money for causes that would not ordinarily see such a boost when they shouldn’t be as successful as they are. Its that slacktivism is working and it simply shouldn’t. There is no rational reason why dumping cold water over yourself should result in $20 million raised for ALS- Lou Gerhigs Disease. Some will argue that it is about raising awareness as much as money, but is it? Without conducting a full survey its not possible to tell. The cynic in me believes that many people taking part are probably no more aware of ALS than they were before the challenge, and if they aren’t donating then how much impact are they having? Well clearly a lot, even if a lot of people taking part don’t know much about ALS, it has resulted in a 12 fold increase in donations.

 

The no make up selfies raised millions for cancer research too. Should I not be happy that millions is being raised for a good cause? Well of course I am. Should it matter if people are doing it more for the challenge and many may not be donating? Does the good outweigh the bad? I don’t know, I think yes, it does. But the problem is, in a few days this craze will vanish like the no make up selfie has. And though the charities have received a boost this year, they’ll be right back to the begging and self run fund raising they where doing before we all decided to dump icey water on ourselves. A one off, even large, influx of cash is next to worthless if in year 2 not a penny is raised. Research takes longer than a few months.

 

And that is my issue with this type of slacktivism- a phrase coined in the 1990s and originally a complimentary phrase. There is no longevity in it. We do our god deed and move on, happy that we have – if not ourselves personally, than by encouraging others- raised money for a cause. Pat on the back. Well done all.

 

I wonder how many women after the no make up selfie craze are checking their breasts, how many men checking their testicles? If there is no long term benefit, is the short term gain doing as much good as we think it is? Those are the important questions, and I don’t have the answers. Cancer research is doing rather well, regardless of what some people might want to shout about (we can cure cancer with weed! etc) many types of cancer are treatable, some so treatable they are more a mild annoyance than a life shattering game changer. Breast cancer is awful- but has an 80% survival rate. Money for research one year is great- but what about next year? What about checking yourself?

 

I will admit I don’t know the full details of ALS, I am for some reason under the impression it is a neurological condition much like Alzheimers and…. WHOOSH- TO GOOGLE- returning from a fast Google, I wasn’t too close, though not a million miles away. Its degenerative. It’s a motor neuron disease (that would have been my next guess). So what has tipping water on oneself to do with that? What has un-madeup women to do with cancer? Does no solid link mater? One thing that struck me early on with the no make up selfie was how pointless it was. There were no donations, no links to cancer research pages, no information about cancer or anything. Juts a picture of a woman with no make up. Sometimes people might add a hashtag or small simple line about “cancer awareness”. Well, we are all aware of cancer, so what did those early selfies do? They spurred others on is what they did. Our annoyance at slacktivism kickstarted a real campaign. It was only after many people shouted out about the pointlessness that people started adding links to cancer research and donating with each posted selfie. The no make up selfies worked not because of themselves but in spite of them. They worked because they initially did nothing. And it seems similar with the cold water videos. That they started somewhat obscurely as a challenge in June 2014 and only recently had the ALS addition – a great addition.

 

To me this speaks more of activism than slacktivism. People saw the slacktivist postings and were angered, as a result they changed the game. I saw more people posting links, info and images in relation to cancer as a backlash to the selfies initial form than anything in the initial postings. And that’s another point to consider- that slacktivism works at times not because of its noble goal but because of the backlash to slacktivism. A sort of Active-Slacktivism.

 

I don’t want people to stop posting videos as long as there is genuine awareness being raised or that they are donating. Some have suggested a donation of $100 if you don’t cover yourself in icey water or $10 if you do. Like the no-make up selfies that seem to have developed out of the internets reaction of “What the fuck are you doing?”

 

So does slacktivism work? On its own, not really when you look at the recent campaigns. Its taken the addition of donations/ links to research and information to get them to work. But regardless, without the initial slacktivism there would have been no developed activ-slacktiv-ism.

 

These campaigns seem to grow like any meme, they are self(ish) replicating and spread across the globe, then a mutation takes place (the addition of donations/info) and they take on a new form which goes beyond the pejorative slacktivism word. But instead of doing the water challenge and paying – maybe- a tenner, why not set up a monthly payment of a quid or two? Something you wont notice but will quickly surpass any small one off donation? If slacktivism is really going to be successful it needs to have a shelf life beyond a few weeks. It needs to have a long term goal and those doing the water challenge should get themselves up to speed on ALS. There is nothing worse than claiming to raise awareness of something you are not yourself aware of. At best it is insulting, at worst it could be damaging to serious awareness raising endeavours.

 

Of course, not all the people doing it will be unaware. But I am genuinely curious- how many doing the water challenge even know what the acronym ALS stands for? Keep raising funds. Keep raising awareness. But lets not allow that work to slip away when something new comes along. Serious medical conditions are not a fun game, they affect millions around the world and if we truly want to help we should go above and beyond sitting in a paddling pool whilst a mate tips a bucket of cold water over you. That’s not job done- that’s job begun.

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Another light has gone out

My Dad has Died.

 

In the last 10 months, some of the most important people in my life have died. Last year my Granddad died after a short battle with cancer. Then on New Years Eve my godfather passed away. Both were older men, both had a health condition that was deteriorating, and as heart breaking as their loss was, we at least had some time to prepare. Even if we didn’t know exactly when it would happen, we at least knew that we should prepare ourselves for the worst. Whenever we lose someone we love, it is a dagger to the heart. Something that feels as though part of us has been ripped out and can never be filled, only held in its empty state until we too disappear from this world. We can take only the slightest relief that their pain is over, even if ours is in top gear. But it’s the sudden deaths that can really throw us, catch us off guard and hit us in ways we can’t imagine before we hear the news.

 

When my Nan died at 61, no one expected it. She went to bed one night and didn’t wake up in the morning. Her loss hit me so hard I could only deal with it through my work, through writing. And though I miss both my Granddad and Godfather, I have been able to come to terms with their loss with a little more ease than with my Nan. Because it was sudden, unexpected and a complete curve ball no one saw coming.

 

Tonight, or yesterday depending on when or even if I publish this, I have been thrown another curve ball.

 

My Dad has died.

 

My life story, like everyones, is far from simple. I have had two Dads in my life- the biological one and the one who was there since before I can remember. My biological Dad- for reasons that I’m not going in to here- left when I was a baby and I didn’t hear from him again till I was 16. Not meeting him till my 20s. We didn’t have a standard Father/ Son relationship. It was more like friends and we haven’t spoke for coming on two years. We don’t get on and I think we’re both fine with that. He is still alive.

 

When I was less than 2, my mother met a new man and they quickly realised they were those mythical “soul mates” we hear so much about. Before long he adopted me and I was, as far as anyone was concerned his son. And he my father, my Dad. We may not have always seen eye to eye- but then what father and sons do? I remember one time when I was being bullied at school, he marched in and faced the teacher head on ensuring they put a stop to it. He made my mum happy and has been a solid rock whilst she deals with her own health issues.

 

He wasn’t a man in complete health, but not health problems that would lead any of us to believe he would pass so suddenly and so young- a man in his 60s and relatively healthy but for a minor complaint that required medicating. I am not going to go in to details of his passing, but that he died suddenly and unexpectedly this evening is enough to say.

 

I cannot fathom how my mother is taking this. In the last year she has lost her father, an old family friend and now my Dad. The one man who was a constant in her life and who supported her without fail or hesitation.

 

A couple of years ago they renewed their marriage vows. And it was clearly one of the happiest days of their life. They have recently- thanks to my brother- had two grandsons with a granddaughter on the way. A child that will be born into this world never knowing her granddaddy or him her. I still myself do not know how to react to this. I am going to give my mum a few days to deal with her own feelings and thoughts and head down to be with her – I have been advised not to rush off.

 

My Dad has died. And I feel numb and shocked. He may not have been my biological parent, but he was my dad in each and every way it counted. Blood doesn’t make family, blood makes relatives. Losing someone we love is hard, but there is a monstrous extra burden that comes when it is so unexpected and sudden.

 

Please bear with me whilst I get my head around this.

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The Fringe is upon us.

The Fringe is upon us once more. For some, it has already started, for others it might be a couple of weeks away still, for me I am into my final pre-Fringe hours. As of writing I am 49 hours away from my first show. That’s not long, not when we take into account sleep, eating, meetings, get ins and other chores I have- such as sticking 2500 address labels to my fliers because I put the wrong date on them. 49 hours is two seasons of Star Trek TNG. Its several play throughs of Resident Evil 4. Its 49 rehearsals. Blimey, that does sound longer than it is.

 

The Fringe is an odd time, in fact the Fringe itself is an odd thing. As far as ticket sales go, it shifts more tickets than anything else save for the Olympics and the World Cup. And that obviously doesn’t include “tickets” for free shows. I would imagine, taking free shows and those not in the Big Book into account that the number of seats taken up by audiences could push the Fringe beyond or at least a rival the Olympics or World Cup.

 

I am staging – either as Director or performer- 58 performances this year. 39 of them are solo one man shows. I am performing in August, in Edinburgh, but am I performing at the “Fringe”?

 

In 1947 the newly formed Edinburgh International Festival was gate crashed by 8 uninvited acts and the Fringe was born. It is now seen as the “main” festival in August, despite there being many on the periphery. Are these separate festivals or are they part of the Fringe? Depends who you ask. This year I am not in the formal Fringe brochure, I have no “Fringe” logos on my marketing. I don’t consider myself to be at the “Fringe”. I am at the PBH Free Fringe. But others may disagree and say they are at “Fringe”. But, if I were on the International Festival lineup I wouldn’t say I was at the “Fringe”.   The Fringe just happens to be taking place at the same time. Of course, you can be on any of the free fringes and be in the main Fringe book. It’s a bizarre and maybe not certain grey area. Does the idea of a formalised organisation you have to sign up to even go against the original ethos of the Fringe in 1947? Does paying a minimum of £300 to go in the book for a full run seem against that ethos? I don’t know, and in all honesty I don’t know if I am concerned enough to delve further. But as some food for thought, am I really at the “Fringe” if I am not signed up to their brochure? I HAVE paid my £10 to be part of the Fringe society (A condition of doing the Free Fringe) so does that mean I’m “Fringe”? Does it even matter? The word “Fringe” seems to be short hand for EVERYTHING taking place during August. Maybe all that is required to be at the “Fringe” is to say and believe you are.  To be performing in Edinburgh in August.

 

Then there are the official dates of the Fringe- August 1st-August 25th. So is anything before those dates or after not Fringe? Are the shows starting tonight not Fringe shows until their second one tomorrow? Are they Fringe shows until the 25th, then after that any shows staged are just shows and not Fringe? Am I thinking too deeply about this?

 

The Fringe, and by that I mean all of the festivals and events going on in August under one umbrella, is a monster. Not in an evil way, but due to its sheer brute force and power. It is something you cannot avoid if you are here during August. I know people who leave the city for the three weeks of the Fringe, people who move into cheaper accommodation and rent their property out at the very least for one months rent per week. It is said the only certainties in life are death and taxes. If you live in Edinburgh that mantra should change to “The only certainties in life are death, taxes and the Fringe”.

 

As a performer it is hard work, for at times little or no return. I specifically avoid doing shows at paid venues- the cost of hire even for a week can stretch into the thousands, a fee alone that is nearly impossible to earn back. Then theres the issue of average audience sizes. With an average audience of 3 persons its not unlikely that one or more shows may not go ahead. I know several people who ended up with days off last year because of no audience.

 

With PBHs Free Fringe (And I assume, but cannot know for sure, the other Free festivals) the average audience is 14 and there is no venue hire costs- meaning you get to keep more of the bucket donation at the end than you likely would from ticket sales. You may find yourself a little more limited in terms of what tech and space you have with the free festivals, but even if they aren’t the Albert Hall they are usually appropriate for use

 

The Fringe is done for love, for experience and for flexing our creative muscles (And not, except for in a few minor special cases, for “Being discovered”). For many, the money doesn’t matter at all. I know acts that have come up and been surprised at making a massive loss, though making a loss shouldn’t be automatically expected, it shouldn’t be a surprise either. I have also known acts come up, expecting to make nothing and leave with a generous profit.

 

There’s also the flyer dilemma. I have heard it said that for every 100 flyers you give out, 90 will not even be looked at. Of the 10 that are looked at maybe one person will CONSIDER going to the show. It almost makes one wonder if flyering is even worthwhile?   Of course it is. 5000 flyers, using our calculations above mean you may well get 50 people out of that 5000 considering coming, maybe half will actually go. 25 people may not sound much of a return for 5000 flyers, hours of design work and cost of printing, but with £10 tickets it is not wise to sniff at £250. In my experience most of the people that come to my shows come through seeing it in the Wee Blue Book produced by the PBH Free Fringe. One year I ran out of flyers quite early and still continued to get almost full houses every night thanks entirely to that blue book (It helped of course that I had a quirky show at a good time). If you are on the Free Fringe make sure you get that book out there- it’s a condition of participation anyway, but even if it wasn’t its so advisable I’d actually consider it more important to get that out than just your flyers. Maybe use your flyers to book mark your listing in it and hand out the book as your main marketing tool. That’s just my opinion of course, but its an opinion based on five consecutive Fringes. If you had no flyers, no posters and no advert in the Big Book, being in the PBH Wee Blue Book alone will likely bring crowds in. That’s not to say scrimp on your flyers- don’t. Just remember they aren’t the be all and end all of promoting your show. Other free festivals have similar types of brochures, I would imagine getting them out is equally as important as me getting the Wee Blue Book out being on the PBH lineup.

 

None of this is intended to put you off bringing a show to Edinburgh, but we also need to avoid the trap of thinking it is all sunshine and roses. You as a performer are a business and you need to remember that and look at the negatives as well as the positives- which overwhelmingly outshine those negatives. I am of the opinion that every performer, practitioner and artist should at least do a run at the Fringe once. Preferably a full run. It is the greatest learning curve you will ever have. You will learn fast what works and doesn’t for marketing, you will learn to work to a tight budget, to improvise when a cast member is sick but you still have to go on, you will develop the skills of doing super fast get ins and get out. You will meet people and make “Fringe Friends” you see each August and relax with as if you’d been hanging out the past 11 months. It is a truly amazing experience for a performer. If you’re doing a full run, pace yourself. Don’t go out and get blotto every night, as tempting as that may be. Do not put all your energies into the start and leave yourself running on fumes the last week or even two. Walk up and down the Royal Mile during week three- you’ll spot easily those who have been here since the start and not paced themselves and those who have paced themselves or just arrived.

 

Remember too that this is a living city, it is peoples home. People work in the city and want to spend leisure time in their city. Don’t be jaded if you offer someone a flyer and they walk straight by. As much as we love it, the Fringe isn’t for everyone. People with no interest in sport complain about the Olympics and Commonwealth games causing problems and obstructions, maybe you’re one of those people. Not everyone is a fan of the arts and some people just want to get home after a long day in a sweaty office. And be nice to the bar staff. Oh god be nice to the bar staff. They will be overworked and mostly working to the minimum wage. With late licenses in place they might not be finishing work till 6am having started mid afternoon. They do not want to have to deal with drunken drama people reciting the opening monologue from Faustus as they try to clear away a multitude of glasses and close the bar down in the hopes of getting maybe 5 hours sleep. Tip them when you can, tell them to “Take one for themselves” if you can. Be nice to the people slogging their guts out so you can get cheap or free venues and have a three week party.

If you’re with one of the free festivals you will likely be performing in a pub- don’t inundate them with questions and act in a demanding manner. And don’t look down on them- I’ve seen people doing that and it’s shitty.

 

But, above all. Regardless of any negatives that may be in place, regardless of the inevitable tech screw ups and tiny audiences, try to enjoy yourself. The Edinburgh fringe is what YOU make it, not anyone else. Make it a good one.

 

This post inspired by this by Kirsty Halliday.

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The Trouble with Enterprise

I hope to write a companion piece to this on the positive aspects of Star Trek Enterprise.   Sadly, I doubt it will have anywhere near the same wordcount.

There is a lot of bad in Enterprise. Tonnes of it- most of Season 1 and 2 in fact. Season 3 was interesting with its Xindi arc but it was Season 4 that truly felt like a prequel show – addressing why the Klingons appeared they way they do in The Original Series, fixing mistakes made with Vulcans earlier on and showing how they became the true Vulcans we see in earlier series. But one thing that was bad for many reasons was the Temporal Cold War.

I love time travel shows- Voyagers Year of Hell, Future’s End and Relativity. TNGs Times Arrow (an underrated story if you ask me) and Cause and Effect. DS9s The Visitor, Past Tense, The Sound of her Voice and of course Trials and Tribble-ations. TOSs City on the Edge of Forever and the movies The Voyage Home and First Contact. All of these are stand out shows and time travel is my favourite science fiction story type. So I should have been overjoyed with Enterprise’s Temporal Cold War. But I wasn’t. One main reason for this is it just doesn’t seem very urgent, not nearly as urgent as the Xindi arc of Season 3. The TCW is just there. Its something we vaguely know about but aren’t given any real information as to what it is or why its happening. We know that there are several factions in the 29th century and 31st and maybe elsewhere. We never know how many factions there are or why they are at war until we meet one faction – the Na’Khul – who believe they have the right to alter time as they please. But this is the most detailed explanation of why a conflict exists we ever get. We never find out who the Shadow Man from the 29th Century is, and we are never quite sure who Daniels is working for. Indeed, one potential thread which comes up and is pretty quickly dropped is the suggestion by the Na’Khul that Daniels is actually the antagonist and they are the good guys. This is pretty quickly dismissed but for me I think it would have made a much better twist – the human who we think is helping us is the baddie and the good guys are the ugly Nazi aliens. That’s a twist I’d have liked.

The other problem with the TCW is the appearance of the Na’Khul in the first place. So much time was spent building up the Suliban and the Shadow Man that it’s a shame we couldn’t have had a show down between Archer and Shadow Man, possibly it being revealed that Shadow Man is a corrupt, alternate time-line Archer. Now that again would have been good television.

Another failing of the TCW story is that it simply doesn’t make sense considering what we know of the Star Trek universe.  The reason we only ever see the Shadow man as a shadowy character is because in the 29th Century they have only developed time travel to allow an image to be projected into the past, not the whole form. This simply does not gel with what we know about the Star Trek universe and time travel. We know, for example, that by the 29th century Starfleet will be utilising time-ships in much the same way they once used star-ships. They can quite easily send people and vessels back in time. Maybe one could argue that Starfleet alone have access to this technology, but I find it hard to believe that considering one of the key purposes of these time-ships is to help protect against changes to the time line suggesting that time travel and time incursions are common enough to have dedicated Star-ships. Another problem is that in both the 23rd and 24th centuries not only do we see time travel occurring but that it occurs intentionally and not simply as a result of an accident (Past Tense, City on the Edge of Forever for example of accidental time travel). As early as Kirk’s era we see crews intentionally travelling back in time, indeed it seems so easy that Kirk is even sent back on one occasion to do general observation of the 1960s. Then we have the Borg who are able to travel through time in the 24th century using trans-warp conduits as easily as a star-ship can travel at warp 9. And what about Janeway in Endgame who straight up steals time travel technology from the Klingons. Or Chakotay and Kim when they alter the past in Timeless. Or how about in TNGs A Matter of Time where Rasmussen steals a time ship originating in the 26th century.

Nothing about the TCW holds water and what could have been a major plot arc with interesting stories became a dud. There are no good time travel episodes of Enterprise that spring to mind, and this was a show where for the first three seasons they had a Temporal Cold War on their doorstep.

Then we have trouble with characters- most of the characters on the show are quite well drawn and devlope well. Both Archer and T’Pol have clear and justifiable development as characters. Reed is pretty samey throughout, but it fits with who we are told he is in the early episodes. This is a man who had the same three meals a day for months on end just to prepare himself for endurance tests. Trip is probably the best Chief Engineer on any Trek show, yes better than Scotty and Geordies love child. Phlox is one of the most interesting Doctors we’ve seen, despite being an alien he feels quite humane. In fact, throughout Star Trek, the doctors are amongst the best written and crafted characters. I genuinely find it difficult to rank them knowing only that Pulaski is in bottom place. Hoshi also has some great character moments and though she, like Reed, doesn’t change, we do at least learn more about her and she feels like a real character. So why is this in the “Bad” section? Two words. Travis. Mayweather.

Travis is played by Anthony Montgomery, and his acting ability has been called in to question by others. However, its clear from episodes like Observer Effect that actually Montgomery isn’t a bad actor. Its Travis who sucks and the writers learn this early on. Outside as smattering of episodes in the first two seasons, Travis becomes little more than a walk-on extra throughout seasons 3 and 4. Indeed, it seems the most attention his character gets is in Observer Effect where actually, it isn’t Travis but an alien inhabiting Travis’ body. Throughout season 3 especially, Travis hardly gets screen time let alone lines. And the lines he does have could have been said by anyone. He is a non entity on Enterprise and the writers should have killed him off, possibly during the Xindi arc instead of killing off two dozen nameless red shirts. Outside of Tasha Yar and Trip, no other main character in Star Trek has died and remained dead (I’m not counting Admiral Forest as he is supporting cast) and Trip isn’t killed until the end of the finale episode anyway. This is the problem with ensemble shows, someone is always going to suffer and end up rather pointless. In TOS it was Chekov, in TNG it was Deanna, in DS9 it was Jake (who was principal cast as he was in the credits), in Voyager it was Harry Kim – and arguably Chakotay. In Enterprise it was sadly Travis, and in all honesty if one character was going to become insignificant he was the one it would be. All the others had pivotal roles, even Hoshi in a universe that hadn’t perfected the Universal Translator. There are even episodes where a nameless day player with zero lines is sat piloting the helm and we don’t really miss Travis. He was expendable and kind of useless and should have been killed off.

Then we have a large smattering of episodes that straight up make no sense and are amongst the worst of Trek. Its unsurprising that a lot of what we see on Enterprise has been done before, and better. But with a franchise spanning almost 800 episodes it isn’t unrealistic to expect ideas to vaporise. Many Enterprise episodes are amalgamations of previous stories told elsewhere. There are some stand out episodes in the early seasons- Shuttlepod One is a truly wonderful piece of drama, Dear Doctor is highly controversial but raises questions about the Prime directive and why it is needed. But much of the early seasons is forgettable. There were also attempts early on to get viewers hooked by using familiar characters and aliens. The Ferengi appear very early, despite not being met by the Federation until the TNG era. One argument to justify this is that they are never named as Ferengi, however it is clear the Ferengi are out there and have made contact with several planets fairly close to Earth- are we to believe that they managed to take part in piracy and trade with civilisations and vessels within a few light years of Earth but manage to avoid further contact with either the Vulcans, Humans, Tellerites or Andorians in that time? Its just too much of a leap.

Then we have issues with just how many humans are out there in the galaxy. Human colonies appear to be everywhere, freighters are zooming around at warp 2 and we even have a colony in the Delphic Expanse (Admittedly they were brought their by aliens, but it raises the question of just how far out into space humans have been). The show is also internally inconsistent. We are told that Klingons do not have escape pods, yet in almost every episode featuring Klingons we are told and even shown that they DO have escape pods. Archers father Henry also seems to have died at several different stages during Archers youth. At first we are told 12 but are later told his father was around when he entered Flight School. Do they send children to flight school in the 22nd century? Seems a bit of a stretch. And what about the transporter? We are told in Broken bow that the transporter has just been deemed fit to transport people, yet we meet the inventor of the transporter in season 4 and are told that they have been transporting humans for decades- even experimenting with sub space transport 15 years earlier. However, season 4 is the best season. It manages to really feel like a prequel show and tell some interesting stories. This is likely in no small part thanks to the new Executive Producer Manny Coto. It is a shame Coto wasn’t given the chance to continue as on the strength of his season 4 work it’s easy to believe season 5-7 would have elevated the show to Deep Space Nine levels of quality.

And no reflection on the show is complete without looking at These are the Voyages. The finale not just of Enterprise but of television Trek to date. Apparently this show was written as a valentine to the fans, but its been accepted more as a fuck you to the fans. The entire episode is set 6 years after the previous one and is in fact a Next Generation holodeck episode. It is absolutely not an episode of Enterprise. The Enterprise characters play second fiddle to Riker and Troi. Riker is having some problems and decides to look at the final mission of the Enterprise to get some perspective because. Well, just, because. The trouble is, this all happens within a fairly easy to forget episode of TNG- The Pegasus. The Pegasus isn’t a bad story, but it hardly presents a problem that needs solving through an extended Holodeck show. Also, no offence intended toward Jonathan Frakes but he very clearly isn’t the same Will Riker of the TNG episode not unless the stress of The Pegasus has caused him to fluctuate between young/ slim and old/ fat. If they really wanted to have Riker and Troi visiting the past via Holodeck why the hell not set it aboard the Enterprise E around the time of Nemesis? The only reason to set it during The Pegasus is to provide some nostalgia for when Trek was good. But this manages to sully both the memory of TNG and the end of Enterprise. If the producers really wanted to have it as a Valentine to the fans they could, nay should have either had this episode appear earlier in the season- which could actually have turned this show in to a classic. Or they should have not called it Enterprise and have it instead as a television special aired after the conclusion of Enterprise.  Another criticism of this episode is the killing off of Trip. This was absolutely not needed, didn’t make for dramatic scenes but instead angered the fans to such an extent that one of the first post Enterprise novels sought to retcon this death by saying it was all a fabrication by Section 31. The only way this episode could really have worked is to a) not kill Trip, b) not have it set so far after and c) have it placed earlier in the season. Those three tiny things would have elevated this episode to cult status.

When I first saw These are the Voyages I hadn’t seen much Enterprise and wasn’t a fan, so I liked it as a fan of TNG. Now as I make my way through Enterprise I am dreading reaching this episode but will do for completionist sake. I have only a few episodes to go and may well add an addendum here is those episodes are terrible, but form what I’ve heard, with the exception of These are the Voyages, I’m in for some great television, not just Star Trek.

It’s a shame that Enterprise was cancelled just when it was getting good. But with the horrendousness of the earlier shows, the complete re-write of Vulcan personalities (something that is later addressed but still doesn’t quite explain why they are all basically dicks), the not caring attitude toward continuity it is not surprising it was cancelled. Even the Xindi arc which went a long way to improving the show was not without flaws. It simply went on too long. One problem with such serialisation is that if you miss a few episodes you wont know whats going on and would feel it pointless to continue viewing. Enterprise had great potential- so did Voyager- but Berman and Braga as producers effectively destroyed the chances of televised Star Trek for years to come. It may seem unfair to put it all on their shoulders, there were a lot of writers who turned in sub par scripts, but as producers they were the guides and its clear to see form when Coto came on board that a good producer can make a wonderful show. Simply put Berman and Braga were not good producers and thanks to them both Voyager and Enterprised missed the mark by so much I can’t imagine a television network commissioning a new Trek series for another decade. We need to let the bad taste of the failings of Voyager and Enterprise fade and allow a new generation of producers to bring Star Trek back on course and boldly take the show where it has not gone before.

Oh, and that theme tune? Jesus Christ.

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Things that go “bump” in the Night

I’m sure we all remember that scene in Ghostbusters where Ray is dreaming about a ghost hovering above him in bed, psychically unbuttoning and unzipping his trousers before we see Ray’s eyes roll back in ecstasy. Or how about the scene in High Spirits where the ever enchanting Daryl Hannah, having been killed by her vicious 18th century bully of a husband uses her ghost like powers to “Scalp” Steve Guttenberg- a technique which involves the dearly departed Daryl moving her hands through Guttenberg’s body to engage in a bit of supernatural sexual shenanigans. And as far as I’m concerned Casper and Christina Ricci were way too young to be exchanging glances like that. But I’m sure we all thought that was a work of fiction right? RIGHT?

 

Welcome to the world of “Spectrophilia”.

 

Spectrophilia is the sexual attraction to, arousal by, and some claim intercourse with ghosts. That’s right, just when you thought necrophilia had gone far enough, some people in the world decided that the dead body just wasn’t dead enough and moved on to the spirit form. There are forums for this, there are groups, there are blogs, there are people who enjoy it. There is no ghost porn however, as your committed and dedicated author I of course searched to verify it’s existence and failed.

 

When the sexual arousal caused by ghosts is restricted to fantasies and naughty thoughts then it is simply a regular, if slightly bizarre, fetish. But there are people who claim to actually have had a sexual encounter with a ghost or spirit, and sometimes it is not voluntary. There are recorded accounts of women who believe they have actually been raped by a ghost. In 1994 Jill Cook from Blackpool called in several psychics and a priest after claiming that a ghost got into bed with her, removed the towel she had around her head and engaged in an act which Jill described as a “vile sensation”. In the 1980s Mandy Russell was raped at least three times by a poltergeist which had to be exorcised. A woman in 2007 called Esther Jordan wrote on the Ghost Mysteries forum that she had recently suffered a sexual attack by a ghost and asked “Has anyone else gone through this terrible trauma?” She goes on further to say that she believes it to be the ghost of her grandfather who abused her as a child. She had announced the event to her family on his death bed and for several weeks after she felt strange sensations which concluded in the rape. Now any body believing they have been raped is an awful thing and I’m not about to start making crude or offensive innuendos but we must ask, if ghosts do not exist, what was actually going on in these situations?

 

False memories are well documented and have resulted in false charges being levied against innocent men- one father even sued the NHS after his daughter underwent “Recovered Memory Therapy” which resulted in him being accused of abuse..

 

Some people even claim to have had sex with ghosts without knowing it. Tirafalo Mokopi, a security guard from Botswana claimed to have made love to a woman that later turned out to be a ghost, he said:

 

“We were just chatting after having sex and when I lit a match, she was nowhere to be found.”

 

Apparently the woman could not have left through either the door or window. Another woman claimed that she had sex with someone she thought to be her boyfriend, but when she asked him about it he denied it, leading her to believe it could have been the ghost of a former tenant who had died of a drugs overdose. But getting back to those who knowingly have intercourse with the dearly departed. There are several stories flying around the interwebz featuring women (oddly its mainly women) who claim to have sex with ghosts. What are the explanations for this? Again, we have to accept the possibility they are hallucinating or dreaming. Sexsomnia is a recorded phenomenon where people engage in sexual activity whilst asleep, there is a physical climax and a general feeling of having had sex. If the dream involves the person having sex with a ghost, and there are clear physical signs of sexual activity taking place, it is reasonable to think that these people may combine the two together and bingo, we have a case of someone willingly having sex with a ghost. The experience could also be down to getting so wrapped up in the fantasy that you begin to believe it is real. One boyfriend even discovered his girlfriend had been involved with a ghost sexually:

 

“I found some torn underwear in her purse the other day and asked why it was torned (sic) and why she kept it. she told me the other day when she was home alone some spirit attacked her and had sex with her and tore it.”

 

The whole phenomenon of Spectrophilia is bizarre in the extreme and can also be expanded to include those aroused by having sex with a mirror image. Humans have long believed in ghosts and I have heard countless tales of encounters with the here-after, but this is the first occurrence I have come across (pun intended) that really confuses me, to such an extent I can think of little to say on the subject but felt it was certainly something worth bringing to your attention.

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Warning Signs: Red Alert

Its strange when you can feel yourself getting ill.  Frequently people will post up on social networking sites that they can feel a cold starting, they take precautions of drinking Lemsip and getting cosy.  When they know they’re sinking in health they can just, well, feel it.  Even before they are in the full grips of an illness.

The same is true, for me at least, of depression.

Since the start of the year I’ve been pretty well.  Not as well as those without a mental health condition, but well enough that my depression has been pushed back.  I’ve made it into Uni with more regularity than previous semesters, got on with work I need to do and taken on a couple of extra activities- though nothing taxing.  I’ve been sensible.  There have been opportunities for me to do more, to get involved in other projects but I’ve turned them down knowing full well if I take them on I will ultimately end up having to pull out of them.  So I made the wise decision to limit my activities.  And that’s helped.

But the thing is, even taking precautions, making decisions not to do too much, doesn’t mean an episode won’t occur.  I’m pretty sure this is a life long condition, that’s not pessimism, its realism.  And accepting that means that when episodes flare up I am not taken by- too much- surprise.  Of course people may argue that if you expect to get ill you are more likely to, but its not so much I expect to get ill but realise that it’s a real possibility and take actions to lessen its impact.

So, I’ve been pretty good.  Feeling better, in no small part likely due to my abstaining from alcohol- bar one evening when I had a few bevies as it was my birthday.  So nearly four months and alcohol has only passed my lips once.  Its fairly safe to say that the alcohol related episodes of my depression are a thing of the past.  But not the illness itself.  And in my clearer mind I can see the early signs of an episode.

For the past few months, being well, has meant I’ve had a calmer disposition and I’ve been more selfless and accommodating.  My patience is no longer wearing thin and on several occasions I’ve even felt “happy”.  But now, I can see it starting to take hold again.  I’ve lived with this illness long enough to know the warning signs.  Like when you see the warning signs of a cold, I can see the warning signs of a depressive episode.

Its been creeping up, slowly, but it has been there.  I first started to notice problems within the past few weeks- my ability to travel much farther than Uni has all but disappeared.  I had to go a little further recently to buy pet food and it took me three days to psych myself up to do it.  I knew then there was a problem.  In fact, even making it into Uni now is a hit or miss situation.  The thought of going further- all the way of the 9 miles into town – is almost impossible to imagine.

For me, the warning signs tend to consist of the following:

A feeling of unease at having to travel too far from the safety of my room.
An inability to focus on tasks, like essays.
Anxiety- just generally feeling anxious and jittery.
A creeping low mood- the idea that people are pissed off at me for no real reason.

And all of those have come in to play.  Also, a slight bit of paranoia is there, but not too strong.  But none the less, the signs are all there.  I AM about to have an episode.  In fact, I’m in all likelihood in one.

I’m looking forward to the early hours of the morning- the country is asleep and I can carry on uninterrupted and for a few hours the worries become manageable.  But how do I handle this?  That’s the stumper.  I’m heading into an episode, like it or not, but how best to deal with it, to try and drag myself out of it?  One way is to try and meet up with friends, I don’t think I can manage a full jaunt into town but the local area could be good. Baby steps.  Another is to immerse myself in a TV show.  Currently I’m watching Star Trek Enterprise and I think a few weeks of just lying back and watching it will help.

The trouble is, when you’re in this state there isn’t much you can really do.  Like when you have a cold, you can take Lemsip and pills to feel a bit better but you’re still ill, and you still struggle to do everything you need to.  And it’s the same with depression.  I’m not really going to feel a great deal better, but like when you relax in bed with your lemony drink feeling crap, I’ll be doing the same.  I can at least manage my condition.  This week I’m going to go out if I feel up to it, try and arrange to meet friends and generally take it easy.  Try not to stress about things outside of my control or invent reasons why my friends hate me.

This is something I wanted to try and get out there- that like with any illness, depression can be recognised before its fully in control.  And like with any illness I’m going to need a few days (or weeks) of nothing too strenuous or complicated.  In that regard it is no different to any physical illness.  The difference between your cold and my depression is that mine is invisible. And if there is one message people should take away from this, it is that illness is illness.  It doesn’t matter if its mental or physical.  You deal with it in much the same way.

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