Friday, January 31, 2014

#676. The Cephalopod Coffeehouse January 2014

It's that time of the month again.  Yes, in different context that means something completely different.  Here, it means books.  To be clear, we're talking books!

Anyway, now that I've made it pleasantly awkward for everyone...It's time to celebrate the thing that has just made Lord Founder Squid feel terrible about being associated with a blog that can make perfectly innocent talk about books sound so weird.  But he knew what I was like when he recruited me.  Granted, he had only seen my traveling petting zoo act, and you can't go wrong with a traveling petting zoo (unless it has koalas...they bite), but still.  (I had koalas.)

Without further inane adieu, here are the books I finished in the past month:

  • Zealot by Reza Aslan
  • Justice League Beyond: Konstriction by Derek Fridolfs and various
  • Teen Titans Vol. 3: Death of the Family by Scott Lobdell and various
  • Monorama by Tony Laplume
By Tony Laplume???  Hey, what is this, Pat Dilloway's blog???  (I'd provide a link, but he set it to self-destruct because he read so many spy novels last year.)

Technically, I read Zealot at the very end of 2013, but it wasn't included in December's Coffeehouse chat because I hadn't read it by the time I wrote that one.  It's ridiculously good, in terms of illuminating certain things if you're open to their illumination without religious outrage (of a...zealot nature).  If I'd chosen to write about reading the Bible, which I'm very close to finishing, only weeks away, I might have talked about both it and Zealot today.

But I'm doing the full Dilloway.  (This is different from the Full Monty in that neither of us is British and hey! that means "Monty Python" means "Naked Python"...!)  I'm writing about my own book.  I'm not too concerned about seeming a little full of myself, though, because I know talking about my books on my blog(s) doesn't translate to sales.  I do have a whole blog dedicated to talking about my books and writing and such, so this is kind of infringing on my own territory.  But still.

And the neat thing is that Monorama is a lot more relevant to this blog than you might think.  The whole concept of the "Eponymous Monk" strip I've been running is taken from a few of the stories in this collection, which in turn is based on stories I originally wrote in high school.  (When I was creating a comic strip I actually drew.)  There's another piece of relevant prelude material here, by the way, which in fact comes from here.  Just in case you wanted to see some of the pieces in place.  If you at all care about "Eponymous Monk."  Although there are not too many spoilers there.  That I'm aware of.  (Honestly, I'm making all this up as I go along, even the parts I already know myself...)

Okay, so I'm talking about Monorama, one of my own books.  (One???)  It's a collection of stories I put together from material I had lying around, filled with nonsensical science-fictiony ideas.  Some of the stories are incredibly short, so I grouped those together in the opening section of the book.  One of them is a novella (not Nutella), and that's at the back of the book.  All of it covers basically a decade's worth of my creative output.

The copy I recently finished reading was one I'd given my parents.  I ended up picking it up and started reading.  (If I was a better editor, which is really clear if you read it for yourself, I would have read all of it when I prepared it for self-publication back in the summer of 2012.)  And you know what?  I liked what I saw.

This is not a matter of self-aggrandizement.  Some of this material I really hadn't read in years.  Now, I know I tend to read about as differently from other people as I write, but there's a comfortable overlap between my twin exercises, which I'm always happy to see for myself.  I really didn't come across anything that I found embarrassing to have in this book (other than, again, the editing).

Some of the stories, two or three in particular, I knew when I made the collection, I had never actually finished writing, the novella included (which is the longest source material to date for the "Eponymous Monk" strip).  I was surprised to find that they still read well, even the novella that somewhat blatantly ends mid-story, or the strict excerpt from another story that ends the collection.  They make sense in their own kind of logic, which is to say the internal logic of the storytelling.  (And really, any decent story ought to be able to be enjoyed even if you haven't experienced the beginning or ending, which is why I sometimes actually enjoy catching a movie or TV show only in part.  People assuming it's the complete story that gives them satisfaction, but really it's the overall quality of the material.  No matter what they say.)

The whole point of Monorama was to present material that potential paying readers could sample in order to figure out what kind of writer I am.  And again, maybe it's simply that I overlap comfortably my "reader" and "writer" hats (like the winter hat some people wear over their ball caps!), but I'm as convinced as ever that I wasn't mistaken in putting this book out there.  In fact, I'm actually a little more proud now, having read the complete book, completely removed from the creative process, and still enjoyed the material.

/full Dilloway

Eponymous Monk #11

(click image to embiggen)

Sunday, January 26, 2014

#672. Seven epic visions from J.J. Abrams

I've been a fan of J.J. Abrams for a long time.  Not as long as some people (the 1998-2002 TV series Felicity was his first project to be heavily touted, but it gained most of its buzz from star Keri Russell's signature hair...and lost most of it when she lost it, although its concept-heavy final season was the first of J.J.'s big creative gambles; the largest impact on his career was the show's focus on emotional character development, which became a signature for every other project that followed; I've never seen a single episode of the series, alas, although frequent acting collaborator Greg Grunberg debuted in it, and that much is probably worth seeing), but long enough.  Here are seven projects that have kept me as inspired a fan as he is an imaginative visionary:

  • Alias (2001-2006) The saga of CIA agent Sydney Bristow, her father Jack, and the diabolical Arvin Sloane helped launch the popular careers of not only Abrams and star Jennifer Garner, but Bradley Cooper as well.  Full of twists and turns and all the Rambaldi creations you could ever hope to handle, this was a show that was always evolving but remaining true to its origins at every turn, including the surprise revelation of the first season major villain, who turned out to be Syd's own mother, Irina Derevko.  
  • Lost (2004-2010) The only show that could possibly have eclipsed Alias was its immediate successor, which became a full-blown phenomenon that needs no real introduction.  Fans loved to eat up its intricate mythology almost as much as they loved to dissect and lament its many developments.  Abrams discovered a rich wealth of collaborators for this one, allowing him to move on to other projects in his increasingly high-profile career.  
  • Fringe (2008-2013) The only way to succeed Lost was to return to the intimate scale of Alias, which worked exceedingly well in Fringe, which unlike Alias pulled the focus closer and closer to its original premise with each succeeding season even while expanding it to increasingly astonishing degrees.  Another project where Abrams discovered perfect collaborators, I'm still convinced that appreciation for this one has only just begun.
  • Person of Interest (2011-present) The genius of this show is that it's not even considered a J.J. Abrams show, even though it's exactly a J.J. Abrams show.  The brain-child of Jonathan Nolan (kid brother of Christopher Nolan) and as such featuring hallmarks of the Dark Knight script, this one is both successfully episodic in ways a broad audience can appreciate week to week, but also featuring a wider arc and classic Abrams character types in Reese and Finch, as well as several Abrams alum (Michael Emerson, Sarah Shahi, who had a minor role in the first season of Alias, and Amy Acker, a major supporting role in its last).  
  • Super 8 (2011) His first attempt at an entirely separate movie legacy (Abrams directs a lot of famous franchise films, you may know, including Mission: Impossible III), which a lot of people took as a pastiche on early Steven Spielberg but is a thoroughly enjoyable experience in its own right.
  • Star Trek (2009, 2013) Star Trek and Star Trek Into Darkness achieved the impossible, which was to not only make this particular franchise relevant again, but more popular than ever at the box office, which was probably the whole reason he got the assignment to direct the upcoming seventh Star Wars film.
  • S. (2013) This is a book, written in collaboration with Doug Dorst, which like most of what Abrams does is a love letter to the medium it's presented in as well as an entirely original and inspired piece in itself.  As far as I'm concerned, it solidifies him as one of the great creative minds of our time.  With it he emerges in an entirely new light, as arguably the successor of Orson Welles, what the great director of Citizen Kane might have become had he actually been embraced by Hollywood.  It bodes well for whatever Abrams does not just in the next few years, but decades.  I look back in this retrospective and see not the great things Abrams has done, but what he will do.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

#668. Extrapolating Mr. Banks

The Oscar nominations came and went a couple of days ago.  Saving Mr. Banks was largely absent from them, which in some ways was kind of surprising.  In others, it really wasn't.  It's a harder film to understand than it first seems, so I'm going to try and make it clearer, because it's a movie experience I really enjoyed.

The synopsis is familiar enough: Walt Disney tries to convince Mary Poppins author P.L. Travers that he's not going to butcher her precious character in his film adaptation.  Since we all know the movie was definitely made, that eliminates the suspense.  That's the biggest knock against it.

The other major difficulty lies in the presentation of Travers herself.  Regardless of matters of strict accuracy, it can't be argued that she fought tooth and nail against the adaptation.  It does, however, make the main character in Saving Mr. Banks either incredibly unsympathetic or the victim of a con game that makes Walt Disney of all people the villain.

I'm thinking that's the main reason the reception for the movie has been smaller than it could be, both with audiences and critics.  (Despite what they may want you to believe, critics often have a hard time actually being critical, whereas their reviews often reflect whatever their personal criteria for good filmmaking happens to be, usually of the pseudo-highbrow variety.)

So I'm going to explain what seems to me to be obvious, but perhaps isn't as much so as I would like to think.

Basically, Walt is correct when he finally realizes what Travers tried to get him to understand, the eponymous revelation.  Mary Poppins doesn't show up to rescue the children, but rather the father.  Travers is so busy being acerbic, even to poor Paul Giamatti, that you may not realize she sometimes has points to make.  It's not all no-no-no just for the sake of being contrary.  And there's a reason why she envisions Mr. Banks as having no mustache.

Because Mr. Banks is her father, Travers Goff.

He's also Bert, which is why she doesn't want so much as a hint of romance between Mary and Bert.  That much, the dual character inspired by the same person, is something Travers may have borrowed from the stage versions of Peter Pan, which cast the same actor in the roles of Mr. Darling and Captain Hook.  In fact, if you never really thought of Mary Poppins that way, her story is not so different from Peter Pan's at all.  Most people today only know her from the Disney movie, ironically enough.

They can know her just as well from Saving Mr. Banks now, too.  The whole movie ends up being exactly what Travers always wanted, even if she never realized it.

Travers created Mary Poppins as a way to deal with that flashback element that so pervades the movie, her relationship with a father who in some ways mirrors the banking woes of Mr. Banks (Goff was a banker, too).  Her father lived in a fantasy world to escape from the pressure of a job that had too much mind-numbing reality to it.  He also drank.  He presented his imagination to his daughter, the young Travers, but was less able to hide his attempt to escape a job he loathed from everyone else.  It eventually destroyed him.

To a young Travers, her father would have been a magical person like Bert, the guy who introduces whimsy into the everyday world as a matter of course (and yes, who ends up dancing with animated penguins).  To a grown-up Travers, her father would end up being the supreme example of what happens to someone when the real world crashes in.  She sees her father broken, but she never stops romanticizing him.  Mr. Banks ends up being the version of him that she gets to redeem, while Bert is the one who never needs such a thing, who in fact helps Mary Poppins accomplish what her inspiration couldn't: saving, well, Mr. Banks.

The real Mary Poppins was an aunt who came to help out the Goff family in Travers Goff's final days.  She swept in just like the later fictional Mary Poppins, and seemed to be exactly what the doctor would have never thought to order, something so contrary that she seemed capable of achieving the impossible.  In her own way, a lot like Travers Goff.  Except in the real world, Mary Poppins doesn't exist.  There was no magical cure.  Travers Goff dies.

The grieving Travers grows up still believing in her father.  She writes a book, using the imagination her father instilled in her as a girl, but reflecting far more of the real world than her father was ever capable of confronting.  Her version is reflected through her father's warped mirror, though.  Mr. Banks is more like her father than the Disney version, but still needs redemption from an oppressive job.  Mary Poppins shows up.  The point Travers becomes okay with the adaption is when the redemptive ending with the kite repair is introduced.  Very tellingly.

Also tellingly but never explicitly explained is why Walt Disney is so interested in this story.  But the telling feature is in the mustache.  Travers Goff didn't have a mustache.  Travers is very clear in her desire to keep Mr. Banks with a clean upper lip.  But as we know, the movie Mr. Banks ends up with a mustache.  Guess who else has a mustache?  Walt Disney.

No, it's not because of a promise he made to his daughters.  It's all about Elias Disney, and a mildly oppressive youth Walt experienced.  He got over it, but it forever altered the course of his destiny.  When given the chance, he reclaimed his childhood forever.  He made it mandatory for all youths to experience what he'd never known, actually.  That's the whole Disney formula.  You may think of it as the ultimate kid-gloves entertainment, something so lightweight that you can never take it seriously.

But then again, Saving Mr. Banks is the ultimate version of taking Disney seriously.

Walt wanted to make Mary Poppins so badly because like P.L. Travers herself he ended up identifying with the story.  He saw himself as Mr. Banks.  Hence the mustache.  Hence his equally intractable stance on it, as with all the demands Travers attempted to impose.

You see, the Disney legacy wasn't just a way for Walt to make money, but for him to make sure what happened to him never happened, as much as possible, to another child again.  The same as what Travers was trying to do with Mary Poppins to begin with.  She was still trying to process her feeling about her childhood.  And she had a harder time than Walt did.

That's the whole story of Saving Mr. Banks.  That's why there are so many flashbacks to her childhood, and her father, as we head toward the inevitable.  Because this is not a story about making Mary Poppins.  It's about saving P.L. Travers.

I don't know whether it ever really happened in real life.  I don't know if Travers ever allowed the making of the film adaptation of her beloved character to change her life for the better.  But it's a way for audiences to benefit the way she hoped they would from Mary Poppins to begin with, why she wanted to make sure the character was taken seriously in the adaptation.  Because there was a point to all the nonsense.  It wasn't about the nonsense at all, no matter what anyone might think.

Walt got that.  That's why he wanted to make the movie in the first place.  And the movie about the making of the movie might have finally given Travers what she wanted, even if she herself isn't here anymore to appreciate it.

She fought Walt tooth and nail because he was the embodiment of the cruel machine that ate up and spat out her father.  She never saw Walt as the entertainment demigod he was even at that time.  She saw him as a silly man making a silly living.  The same her father would have said about people taking money so deathly seriously.

To her, turning Mary Poppins into a movie was the same as taking the magic away from it, no matter how much the filmmakers tried to spruce it up.  It was the real world once again intruding violently on her, the very thing her father struggled all those years to keep from her.  Unsuccessfully.  His failure turned into her triumph, and she didn't want to let go.  Actually, she didn't want to let go of the disappointment she experienced when she saw past her father's elaborate charades.

She clung to the fantasy, and in the process became grimly impervious to anyone else's magic.  Such as Walt Disney's.

No, this is not a commercial for the sainthood of Walt Disney, anymore than it is a vilification of P.L. Travers.  It's a deeply nuanced portrait of pain redeemed.

And it's probably the best movie of 2013, no matter if that's acknowledged by the Oscars.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

#664. Seven key characters of Fringe

Fringe is the 2008-2013 TV series that stuck around for five seasons mostly because Fox finally listened to a devoted cult audience who realized how awesome it was even though virtually no one watched it.  One of the many high concepts developed by J.J. Abrams, Fringe might initially strike you as an updated version of The X-Files with its strange-science-of-the-week format, but it's the resonating relationship between Walter and Peter Bishop that ultimately dominates and pushes Fringe to its own entirely unique and spectacular legacy.

Here are seven key characters (but by no means all of the regulars) from the series:

  • Olivia Dunham - The lead character played by Anna Torv initially very similar to Sydney Bristow from Alias (as Kate would have been on Lost if Jack had been killed off in the pilot as initially planned!), Olivia emerges as the contemplative and soulful heart of the series, whose ties to the dark matters that haunt its past and present are continually explored across two realities.  
  • Walter Bishop - The troubled genius rescued from an insane asylum in the pilot, portrayed brilliantly by John Noble, Walter's life defines the whole course of the series in ways that take time to understand, though it's his early life's work that gets himself and everyone else in trouble, and his reconciliation with these horrors that gives the series its emotional depth.  But yes, he's also the nutcase bursting with hilarious non sequiturs.  It would just be a shame to only think of him in that way.
  • Peter Bishop - The constant bridge between Olivia and Walter in ways that become more and more important as the series develops, Walter's son as portrayed by Joshua Jackson is the guy you hate to have around but absolutely need, and he becomes quite essential.  
  • William Bell - Walter's early-career partner in science appears occasionally, and you will relish each visit because he's played by Leonard Nimoy.  The climax of the fourth season closes the book on half the series as William thinks he's finally perfected Walter's fondest desires.
  • Nina Sharp - You never quite know if Nina, COO of Massive Dynamic (Apple if Steve Jobs had been a quasi-evil genius), is in fact an ally of Olivia's, and Blair Brown plays this ambiguity to perfection.  Plus Nina has a robotic arm.  She hides it most of the time, but it's still one of the coolest elements of the series.
  • Sam Weiss - Sam appears as an independent consultant to Olivia in the second season, and he's yet another voice of the strange who offers reassurance when it seems impossible.  His importance is elevated in the third season even though he ultimately makes very few appearances, but his impact remains significant.  Played by Kevin Corrigan, who somehow still hasn't been earmarked by anyone for a lead role in something (at the very least, plug him into a franchise like CSI or something!).
  • September - One of the most distinctive characters in the series is the bald Observer who turns out to have quite a bit of sympathy for our protagonists, even though the rest of his kind most certainly do not (the whole fifth and final season is all about that).  Michael Cerveris played this role so well, it hardly mattered his appearances were always kept to a minimum.
  • David Robert Jones - Not to be confused with David Bowie's given name (apparently), the wicked genius played by Jared Harris is the evil counterpart to all the good guys in the series.  

Friday, January 03, 2014

#661. Faith and Star Trek V: The Final Frontier

Whatever people are currently saying about Star Trek Into Darkness, it's not really in contention for the title of worst movie in the franchise.  There's one perennial contender almost no one will ever question, and that's 1989's Star Trek V: The Final Frontier.

The thing is, I'm a fan of that one.  I will never argue that it's the best or even a leading contender for that title, but there are too many fascinating elements in Final Frontier for me to even consider dismissing it.  For one, it's a great movie for old school Kirk/Bones/Spock, and for another, it's another strong Spock appearance in a movie series filled with them.

And there's the matter of its subject matter.  In a lot of ways, Final Frontier is a rephrasing of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, in less abstract terms.  In the first movie, an old Earth probe returns home in a quest to meet its creator.  In the fifth, a Vulcan is on a quest to meet God.  Let's just get this out of the way: one of the controversies of Final Frontier is its depiction of a laughing Vulcan, who contradicts just about everything fans expect from Vulcans.  That same argument was one of the reasons fans had such a hard time with Star Trek: Enterprise.  But Final Frontier itself also calls to mind the two most famous Vulcans in the whole franchise, and the nature of their contentious relationship: Spock and his father Sarek.  It doesn't make sense to argue that Vulcans have to be stoic adherents to logic who never have anything to do with emotion when such a famous father and son relationship is presented from the beginning to be so complicated.  The 2009 Star Trek update might have even closed the book on that when it presented Sarek coming to terms with why he married the human Amanda.  And by the way, I like that Spock/Sarek dynamic far better, and it would open the door to a Sarek who has the traditional relationship with a different son, Sybok.

Gene Roddenberry himself wanted Sybok expunged from canon.  This was well before fans themselves started arguing for inclusion/exclusion from canon, even though for years The Animated Series has been on that very bubble (it should be included, by the way).  I can think of nothing more foolhardy or pointless than trying to deny that Sybok exists in franchise lore, because he represents the necessary human element of a very alien species.  He's the one Vulcan we've met who didn't reject his people's traditions but still looked beyond them.  He went in search of something bigger than logic, the very beginnings of logic, by means of a very logical route.  He listened to a vision, and the central tenet of any vision is to see it fulfilled.  He saw God.  He went to see if he could find him.  Simple as that.  That's the whole story of Final Frontier.

Part of the reason the movie has such a hard time finding anyone who will admit to liking it is its production values.  The rock creature from Galaxy Quest is actually the realization of something that was supposed to appear in Final Frontier, something that was possible ten years after the fact, but still out of the realm of feasible possibility in the budding age of CGI cinema.  Director and star William Shatner also bit into the trend at the end of the '80s that saw many films try to ape the epic feel of the original Star Wars trilogy, something that proved almost universally to be a very bad idea, because at that time, no one was capable of reproducing the George Lucas magic, not even Lucas himself (Howard the Duck, for instance).  Previous Star Trek films had taken cracks at it, but the gears of the Hollywood development process had really only caught up with projects specifically aimed at rather than films greenlit to compete with the Star Wars phenomenon ten years after A New Hope debuted in theaters.  Superman and The Motion Picture, for instance, became a reality because studios realized they could do those films because they wanted to compete.  Final Frontier and Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, meanwhile, happened because studios wanted Star Wars, but had no idea how to do it themselves.

Final Frontier is a very Star Trek approach to Star Wars, to be sure.  There's the obligatory cantina-aping scene in Paradise City (worse than the effort in Search for Spock, with an alien I'd love to replace with a Ferengi in some future special edition), for instance.  But the fact that the Big Idea of the Force is replaced with the Big Idea of God, it's exactly what Star Trek always tried to do, tackle real world issues as directly as possible in a fictional setting.

The subject of divine beings came up regularly in the original series.  Most of the time, it was an occasion for Kirk to smugly assert his own cleverness and moral superiority.  The fact that Final Frontier still reached that point ("What does God need with a starship?") but only after real soul searching (he's the only one who resists Sybok's purging of emotional baggage) calls to mind, actually, another Star Trek film, The Wrath of Khan.

No, really.

It's at the end of Khan, a movie that posits around the same central issue as its predecessor, The Motion Picture, the question of an aging Kirk.  (The first movie does not receive near enough credit for all the ways it continued to affect both the film series and the TV efforts that followed it.  People say that one was boring and leave it at that.  The whole franchise would not exist without it, and I'm not just speaking of how it revived Star Trek in the literal sense.)  At the end of Khan, after Spock has died, Kirk is reflecting once again on his feelings about growing older.  "It's a far, far better better thing I do than I have ever done before, a far better resting place that I go to than I have ever known," Kirk quotes, from A Tale of Two Cities, the book Spock gave him at the start of the movie.  And I admit, I've never read Two Cities, so I never knew the significance of that line, only that it always felt like the most poetic and best moment of the movie.  "I feel young," Kirk concludes, when reflecting on how the recent events have affected him.  Two Cities is the less famous of the two books referenced in Khan, the other being Moby Dick (which First Contact later echoes to much better effect).  Possibly there is far more significance in its inclusion than I can properly address here without having read it, but apparently Charles Dickens knowingly reflected Christian theology in it, the way Lewis and Tolkien would in fantasy contexts a century later.

The point is, Final Frontier is almost a movie-length extrapolation of that epiphany, Kirk's exploration of issues concerning faith and the importance of being true to one's self.  That is the whole point of the Sybok character, who exists in rank contradiction to everything we ever knew about Spock and his father, at first.  But he's also an affirmation, and a vital link in a chain never fully explored.  The life and career of Spock exists in as many missing pieces as illuminated moments.  The way his successor Tuvok in Star Trek: Voyager surprised everyone in the episode "Flashback" by having a Starfleet service record that stretches all the way back to Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (even his close friend Janeway) is kind of like the revelation of Spock's brother in Final Frontier.  There's everything to validate the relationship, including the way it's presented in the movie.  Spock is as conflicted about his brother as Sarek was of his son.  Or sons.  Vulcans are no doubt masters of passive aggression.

Yet I don't want to bog you down with too much reflection.  Final Frontier boils down to an effort on the franchise's part to finally confront the matter of faith in a forthright fashion.  Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, four years later, borrowed this legacy to considerable effect.  Sybok's quest is not invalidated by its results.  In fact, the moment the false god appears as Sybok himself is a more compelling exploration of the matter than the rest of the film, forcing the audience to question all over again what to believe.

And we are certainly at a crossroads of belief as a global civilization.  In 1989 that wasn't as much of an issue.  In 2014, it absolutely is.  We're deep in the heart of converting Christmas back to its pagan roots.  We have a new Catholic pope who is calling for dramatic reforms, but the majority of people still think of faith in the 21st century as an alternative to atheism.  It used to be the other way around, certainly in the years following WWII, when the whole world was struggling to make sense of so much devastation.  This is the inevitable result of increasing globalization.  More people are more aware of other cultures than ever before.  The more we struggle to reconcile new ideas the harder it is to process the old ones.  And in the effort to consider all these ideas at the same time, some of them will undergo a change of emphasis in popular thought.

Final Frontier was ahead of the curve.  It was ahead of its time.  It was as much a reflection of the end of the Cold War as its successor, Undiscovered Country, on the opposite side of the cultural spectrum.  It's still a film of questionable overall value, but it's far too resonant to outright dismiss.  It's one of the most important statements Star Trek has yet made.

Worst Star Trek movie?  It's a debate I'd rather not tackle, really.  They all have their merits, even The Final Frontier.


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