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William B
Sat, Mar 28, 2020, 12:47pm (UTC -5)
Re: VOY S3: The Chute

@Elliott, agree about this episode. It's a surprisingly good Kim vehicle and lots of interesting stuff, and I remember being floored by the censor-skirting queerness. I'm glad also for your comments about Janeway. This is one of those eps where I could not tell what I was supposed to be thinking about her and sort of gave up and moved on; too much too fast is a good descriptor. It's a shame because in fact it should parallel the Kim/Paris stuff (which could still work if the episode story were decompressed into a few episodes), on the question of how brutal one should become to survive and protect one's loved ones. The Zio position is particularly interesting because he does seem to be arguing for brutality in order to protect one's soul and independent thought more so than/in addition to one's life, and that's really a very Janeway story.
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William B
Sun, Mar 22, 2020, 6:23pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S5: Trials and Tribble-ations

@Elliott, this is the smallest of points to mention, but the Arena thing can be kicked down the road a bit to earlier in the series. Kassidy is from Cestus III, which is because the writers wanted to reference Arena before, but we can also say that Ben feels a personal connection to that "adventure" because of his, er, currently imprisoned lady love. The "real" reason is more likely that Behr or Moore or someone really likes Arena and so brought it up both when Kassidy first showed up and here, rather than that Yates is particularly on Sisko's mind.
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William B
Fri, Mar 6, 2020, 2:38pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S6: In the Pale Moonlight

@Peter, I agree with what you say. My comment is more directed at Andy's Friend and takes his approach to TNG in which the characters are more archetypal with regard to their opposition to "Federation values" in mind. I actually don't mind whether Nechayev represents Federation values or not, though I do think Descent could have benefited by having Picard's arc be clearer.
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William B
Fri, Mar 6, 2020, 1:16pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S6: In the Pale Moonlight

Without getting into the I, Borg thing at length here, the other question at hand is whether the Borg really are an enemy race -- in which Picard's position is correct -- or if this is a misunderstanding of the Borg, and that they are essentially a viral malevolent force. The latter seems to be Nechayev's POV, in which case Nechayev may be consistent with Federation ethics, just that Picard makes a category error with the Borg. My feeling overall is that Nechayev is out of bounds of standard Federation ethics, but not insane, mad with power, deluded, etc., but believes that standard Federation ethics are inappropriate when dealing with an enemy as powerful and destructive as the Borg, which places her closer to Pressman (or to Sisko in ITPM) than to Jameson or Maddox.
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William B
Fri, Mar 6, 2020, 1:13pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S6: In the Pale Moonlight

@Andy's Friend:

I don't disagree with the general thrust of your argument. I think the key thing that distinguishes TNG's "Evil Admirals" from the DS9 pragmatism is that TNG's evil admirals were generally shown to be wrong, whereas the DS9 ones were generally shown to be "ambiguous" in a way that often tacitly supported their actions.

For a specific example of another case of a TNG admiral who doesn't fall into either camp you listed, Admiral Nechayev argues that Picard should have used Hugh to genocide the Borg, and while she's painted as an antagonistic character whom Picard dislikes, she's also not portrayed as crazy or unhinged and does not get any kind of comeuppance. Now of course this is in very late TNG, when DS9 has already premiered, and she's written by Ron Moore in this episode (and appears in both series) -- so we can put her in a similar category to Pressman, of being a development late in the series. Part 1 of Descent presents a conflict in which Picard may have done the wrong thing, and looking at the way the Borg in that episode behave suggests that Picard's actions with Hugh had unintended bad side effects, which further undermines the rectitude of Picard's initial choice and so calls into question whether Nechayev was right. Picard not only questions whether he did the right thing to do by doing the moral thing, but even agrees to Nechayev's order that he genocide the Borg if he gets another chance ("Yes sir").

I think that Descent Part 2 is meant to have Picard's values supported when he tells Data that Data's Lore-influenced position that one must kill several individuals in order to produce a good outcome is wrong (how can one do right by doing wrong?), though it's a bit lost in the shuffle of the scattershot script. By linking Nechayev's pragmatism to Lore and the emotion-mad addict version of Data, I think the two-part story Descent is meant to still validate Picard's POV and the general TNG ethos. That means that I think that Descent overall, in terms of intent anyway, falls within TNG bounds. Of course it can happen that good actions can have unintended negative effects, and Picard's appropriate self-examination as a result of seeing what the Borg have become leads him to the conclusion that he still did the right thing, but must now attempt to rectify the unintended consequences from his correct act, at least by encouraging Hugh to take on a more active leadership role and by removing the cult leader Lore who has taken the place of the old Collective for these Borg. I think it's (arguably) more a failure of the scripting rather than intent of part 2 that Picard does not more explicitly reject Nechayev's philosophy (i.e. by telling her that he will refuse to commit genocide, under any circumstances, and that Starfleet can remove him from his position if they wish but he will not violate his ethics, in contrast to part 1 where he says "yes sir"); however, I do think it's in line with late TNG/contemporary DS9 (e.g. Pressman) that Nechayev herself is never convinced by a Picard argument of the wrongness of her ways. It feels like a bit of a dangling thread -- for Picard to agree tacitly that he made the wrong choice in not destroying an enemy is a big enough moment that an ending in which Picard re-affirms his position *more explicitly* rather than in dialogue midway through the episode in an unrelated scene would probably be desirable. (Or, if the story actually went to prove that Picard should become more pragmatic -- which I don't believe that Part 2 is arguing -- it should commit to this point more strongly.)

Arguably this *is* a period of greater serialization in which the story is not entirely resolved at the end of the two-parter, and Picard can spend several episodes mulling over Nechayev's requests and only by acting against *Pressman* can he effectively resolve the conflict created by her orders. I'm not sure how much this really came off.
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William B
Mon, Mar 2, 2020, 5:19pm (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: The Impossible Box

And indeed, congratulations to Jammer!
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William B
Mon, Mar 2, 2020, 3:10pm (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: The Impossible Box

"It reminds me of something Elliot or William said on these boards: Trek started off as Twilight Zone, but morphed into Lord of the Rings."

It wasn't me, though I like it. Though of course Lord of the Rings is not "realistic fiction," either. Part of what I like about TNG is that it's where you can see the transition happening in real time, and All Good Things seems to me to be partly about the fracture between the eye-popping highly abstract mythic narrative and the realpolitik political one, where the crew in the future have to put their "grown-up" realistic jobs on hold to go have a weird adventure to save humanity, but also to use what they've learned in those grown-up jobs to get things done (they need the politicians, professors etc.). A lot of the best TNG episodes have one foot in both models -- The Defector is a fantastic political drama that also functions as a one-off, e.g., and The Measure of the Man uses elements of the series' history to date to tell its powerful one-off story. TOS and DS9 also do have elements of both models, though TOS is far more TZ and DS9 far more on the serialized end.

For what it's worth, I value The Twilight Zone and I also value The Wire (to use a more obviously "realistic" example). The problem I have with the "realistic" model is less the model itself and more the idea that realism is the only mode art should have.
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William B
Fri, Feb 28, 2020, 10:00am (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: The Impossible Box

@Peter, I haven't watched PICARD yet but I think you're right on the money about joy being at the core of Trek.

One thing that comes to mind: I think this is part of what All Good Things is also about. One thing that is interesting is that the future world Picard sees is not so bad in many ways. People are doing okay, relatively; the political situation seems to have gotten bad, old wounds remain unhealed, Troi is dead, but it's not a grimdark future. But it's still one in which the joy of exploration seems to have gone out of their world. There's a sense that in "maturing" away from the Enterprise they've lost a little of that spark in favour of pragmatically going about their lives, and what's interesting is that at least *there* it doesn't really depict this loss of spark as being a matter of having dismissed their principles, or the whole Federation going off course into slavery or whatever, or even the characters sinking into a depression. But you can see them become interested with the idea of going on another mission together to explore some weird anomaly they've never seen before, and the way the whole room lights up in the Ten-Foward scene where Picard finally articulates the paradox in a way Data understands and then can explain to the rest of them. The joy of working through a problem together and of discovering something that was beyond what they had ever thought of before is what allows for the possibility of Picard expanding his minds to solve the problem, which is basically what Q articulates is *the* reason humanity has a future. I mention this in part because AGT sort of gives a model of what PICARD could have been, and does seem to have taken some cues from (starting with Picard in the vineyard, e.g.).
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William B
Thu, Feb 20, 2020, 3:54pm (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: Stardust City Rag

@Trent,

"Kurtzman's resume is literally an unending line of absolute crap. He's like Ed Wood, Uwe Boll and Michael Bays all rolled up into one."

Ed Wood (sometimes) made intensely personal movies he wanted to make, like Glen or Glenda. To call the finished work confused would be an understatement, and it's not exactly easy for anyone to tell exactly what it was he was trying to say, but he definitely seemed to be trying to say something. Tim Burton could make a celebratory picture about him and link him to Orson Welles as a man of titanic vision and passion for moviemaking -- he just happens to be completely bonkers and inattentive to the most basic elements of craft or taste. I don't see anyone making that kind of biopic about Kurtzman. Uwe Boll is also a bizarre character IRL and Michael Bay was reportedly a prodigy filmmaker as a student, who quickly channeled everything into soulless moneymaking. They are all kind of more interesting figures than Kurtzman IMO, who strikes me as a middle management type more so than either mad creative, outsider failure or even talent-turned-abject-sellout, though maybe there's an artist in there somewhere. (I haven't watched PICARD yet, so I'm not talking about this show right now!)
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William B
Fri, Jan 31, 2020, 5:41pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S5: In Purgatory's Shadow

"The distress signal set up by Taim is overly contrived - would anyone really send out a cry for help which only one person in the entire universe could decipher?"

Normally I'd agree, but I think a lot of effort was made in The Die is Cast to suggest reasons why Garak would plausibly be the only living person in the universe Tain could trust: he killed most of his past associates, was fooled by his allies, and Cardassia does not look favourably on failure on his scale. Only Garak is loyal/sentimental enough to be trusted to put Tain's interests first, and hardy enough to hold onto secrets enough to be reachable by an otherwise untraceable code. Of course even then Garak's weak spot for Bashir is exploited by the Bashir changeling.

The case could be made that Martok or whoever should have tried harder to convince him to widen the audience, though.
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William B
Fri, Jan 31, 2020, 9:02am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S7: Strange Bedfellows

The weird thing is, I think in terms of sheer screen time, Ezri has maybe the most material of anyone this season. Sisko's role is downplayed earlier in the season (partly, I think, because Brooks was starting to want to work on other projects). There's particularly the Prodigal Daughter/The Emperor's New Cloak/Field of Fire triptych which is extremely Ezri-heavy (two -centric episodes and one where Mirror Ezri gets a lot of focus), and the Ezri/Worf material takes up so much time and space during this period. But someone like Damar who gets comparatively little screentime is given more interesting things to do, even before the final arc (his moments in Treachery, Faith and the Great River are good, for example, and I like what Peter was saying about the Dr. Wykoff stuff in Shadows and Symbols). I'm not sure exactly where I fall on the Winn/Dukat stuff in the final analysis but it's certainly gripping in this episode and the last. I'm not anti-Ezri as concept and I think that at times they were *trying* to do something with her that they didn't fully do with Jadzia, which is to genuinely have Ezri move past her previous host(s) (whereas Jadzia maybe remained stuck in Curzon mode in some ways), but I think the execution is generally weak.

Ezri vs. Damar is really a pretty good comparison actually in that both are characters who really come to take over the show at crucial parts in season seven, after not being major characters before. Damar of course has been around since season four, but he was always a background character before, one who sort of fell upward into prominence. There are some hints in season six of what might be interesting about the guy (e.g. Jack et al.'s analysis in Statistical Probabilities), but still it's mostly this year that brings him to real prominence, and IMO the season does a fantastic job fleshing him out. Ezri is also someone who there's a built-in reason for us to be interested in (being Dax), but I don't really feel that the season earns the level of focus she gets or makes great use of it. Vic Fontaine is another character who gets a surprising amount of material in late s6/early s7 for being a new character, and I'd place him somewhere in between (I like It's Only a Paper Moon a lot, but am not sure about his prominence in other episodes).

It's actually a pattern I see in a lot of shows in their final season, where new or previously background characters eat up a lot of attention, with mixed results. The stories they do come up with for some of the main characters in the first two-thirds of the season feel weirdly warmed-over -- Bashir in Chrysalis goes through a similar process to in Melora, for instance, though this time with the genetic engineering more forefronted; O'Brien running off to investigate Bilby's wife's murder feels like a weird side quest for him to have gone on, and one the episode itself is only marginally interested in. Sisko, as I mentioned, is relatively backgrounded after the opening trilogy and Take Me Out to the Holosuite and before the final arc, except for AR558. Note that I'm not saying there's *no* new material for these characters, and some, like Odo, keep having interesting and transformative stories. In addition to fatigue with the main cast, I think what maybe happens is that the writing staff has some general or even specific idea of where them main cast will end up at the end of the season, which means that it's hard for them to do anything with the characters that might disturb that ending. So I think there's kind of combination of writerly fatigue with the main cast and also the need to maintain a holding pattern so as not to disturb the endgame. (In TNG, something similar happens in that nothing can be too heavily jostled because of Generations coming up, but they didn't really move to the supporting cast and instead made the Family Theatre stuff.)
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William B
Wed, Jan 22, 2020, 12:17pm (UTC -5)
Re: VOY S3: Basics, Part II

Good write up Elliott. Looking back on what I wrote, I see I couldn't think of what they *should* have done on the planet, and your suggestion of going to the "basics" of psychology makes some sense. Obviously what they did planetside is bad either way. It occurs to me that it may have worked better to fold in aspects of Resolutions into Basics 2 - - instead of focusing on a Survival Story for ten minutes and then a Can We Ever Get Along With These Savages? story for a few more, have the setup in part 1 be that they clearly do have enough basic tools to survive on the planet, and so the issue is what happens when they no longer have a ship to run (and thus time to think).

One of the things Part I suggested was that Culluh wanted to punish Janeway for not giving him replicators. The episode was also maybe attempting to show the Voyager crew having to live like the Kazon and the Kazon living like the Voyager crew. Culluh thinks it's all a matter of tech, but Culluh is too stupid to use the tech he's given and squanders any such advantages, whereas Janeway and Chakotay can make peace with other random tribes rather than playing the endless musical chairs of internal war that the Kazon do. It's not just technological superiority that makes the Voyager crew, well, better. I guess that could work, but peace with the Ewoks isn't really all that impressive here and the Kazon are so hopeless that it's not exactly a compliment to come out on top of them.
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William B
Tue, Jan 21, 2020, 12:38pm (UTC -5)
Re: VOY S7: Prophecy

Discovery and Picard have zero negative season seven reviews, either.
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William B
Mon, Jan 20, 2020, 2:23pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S5: Children of Time

Not that no one else has mentioned this, but for me the key insight about Old Odo is that he was willing to wipe out two hundred years of history he himself knew, of people he in principle saw born and died. It's not the same as Miles arguing they go back to their lives on the station (even had he held fast) because it's a confirmation that Odo will choose Kira over two centuries' worth of other connections he's made (or has not made), that *this* is how much his feelings for her eclipse his feelings for everyone else. To be fair to Odo, something similar could be said about Jake in The Visitor, though at least there it's less clear that there are any lives that definitely won't happen (Jake probably believes that Nog, his wife, etc. will still exist in the world where Ben doesn't die). This also raises the question of where Odo's loyalties lie should his feelings for Kira waver.
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William B
Mon, Jan 13, 2020, 3:14pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S4: Broken Link

I don't think gathering information and helping Odo are mutually exclusive though. Gathering information has been rigorously reinforced in Garak over decades and I don't think he can just turn it off that easily. And he still can't help but despise himself for not living up to Tain even if he also doesn't entirely believe in him. Maybe helping Odo is cover for gathering information, which is cover for helping Odo (which is cover for...).
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William B
Mon, Jan 13, 2020, 7:54am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S4: The Muse

And I'm enjoying your contributions to the site very much too!
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William B
Mon, Jan 13, 2020, 7:53am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S4: The Muse

@Fenn, thanks. I'm doing okay-ish. I was having a bad couple of days upthread.
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William B
Mon, Jan 13, 2020, 7:22am (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S5: The Inner Light

Speaking for myself, of course Stewart is fantastic and the episode wouldn't work without him (or someone of his calibre, whoever that would be!) but mostly what attracts me about this episode is that it corrals the notion of a civilization's existence -- including an unavoidable planetary demise -- to a single well-lived life, and gives us a snapshot of that, via Picard, in an hour. It's about living in the shadow of death -- of the individual, of the planet! -- and finding meaning despite (or even in) that. It's breathtakingly ambitious, the mad folly of putting the weight and meaning of a whole planet and species onto a flute, but it's presented in an elegant, straightforward and (arguably) unpretentious way. Probably the episode relies on cliches to get to its final outcome but it doesn't really detract from the episode for me, at least because any cliches in this episode are still to me representations of recognizably real kinds of people and problems.

The other thing is that in addition to showing Jean-Luc opening up from his closed off world, it also shows him giving up some measure of control -- first he stops trying to get back to the Enterprise, then he stops trying to save his planet. It's not really a message that one should never try to do anything (!) but rather it pops because we know both how hard these things are for Jean-Luc and that he has had and will have plenty of opportunities to save humanity. There are some things beyond our control, however. Now of course here is where it's worth noting the invasive, violating element to what the probe does to Picard, and I do understand why people object. To me the episode is about what Jean-Luc gets from the experience (and the experience itself) rather than the morality of what the Ressikans did, so I think it's still meaningful to see Jean-Luc giving up some of his control in order to appreciate what he life he has.
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William B
Thu, Dec 12, 2019, 2:01pm (UTC -5)
Re: VOY S7: Nightingale

I don't think the idea is that Lien was fired instead of Wang because Wang is better looking (both are good looking people), but because Wang got more positive press that year (related to his good looks). It seems as if the producers weren't particularly happy with either of them and then pivoted from firing Wang to firing Lien so they could capitalize on the publicity for Wang. That it seems Lien had some big personal problems is probably another factor.

Strictly speaking, the "character bible" versions of Kim and Kes were some of the characters who would have the most obvious arcs over the course of the series, as the youngest, the naifs who would be expected to change the most over the seven-year journey. It's sort of a shame that one's story was truncated by her leaving the show and the other was kept in a semi-artificial stasis. I say sort of because it's hard to know how much the show could have really done for the characters given the possible limitations of the actors (either in terms of range or in terms of personal problems getting in the way, or maybe both). In fact the best episode (arguably) for each character is one which jumped ahead in time (Before and After, Timeless) to a "fully developed" version of the character, even though in principle we could have seen some of this development in real time. (I know that we did, a bit -- Elliott I'm sure will talk about what Kes development actually did happen in season 3, especially.)
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William B
Thu, Dec 12, 2019, 12:47pm (UTC -5)
Re: VOY S7: Nightingale

I also dimly recall an interview where Wang said that they wouldn't let him direct an episode when he asked, in contrast to every other cast member (Trek was generally pretty generous with allowing cast members to direct). For whatever reason, they did seem to maybe have it in for him. Most of us here seem to think his performances weren't really great, so it might be that the producers didn't think he had the artistic chops or something, but I don't know if that fully explains it.

"Alas, they underserve him again. They didn’t HAVE to make him an indecisive, micro-managing, arrogant and unsympathetic middle manager. Those characteristics do not naturally emerge from earlier shows where he’s been shown to have more judgment and maturity. He could just as believably - and more rewardingly - have been allowed to demonstrate more ability here. The writers pranked him."

Yeah. I think part of the problem is that the writers wanted to make "a command episode" for Kim which is *only* about his command abilities, and so that necessarily means they have to have some kind of arc about his command abilities, and so the arc they settled on is "he is bad at it but learns," and then they went about it in a hamhanded way. They might have done better if they'd made Kim commanding part of an episode about something else (as they did in season five sometimes).
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William B
Tue, Dec 10, 2019, 5:22pm (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S6: Time's Arrow, Part II

Finale spoilers

Ah so THAT'S why Geordi became a writer and apparently successfully wooed Leah.
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William B
Mon, Dec 9, 2019, 11:59am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S7: What You Leave Behind

Jeez, I meant The Little Mermaid, not Beauty and the Beast (thanks Chrome). Les Poissons is great.
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William B
Sun, Dec 8, 2019, 6:46pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S7: What You Leave Behind

I just saw the news about René as well. A wonderful performer, whose work in Altman movies, Beauty and the Beast, Frasier, etc. I enjoyed. His A-game, terrific work as Odo, having the most expansive, complex and demanding arc of the series (possibly of the franchise?), playing a character who was a shapeshifter, grump, cynic, romantic, pillar of integrity, near-fascist, traitor, collaborator, freedom fighter, prodigal son, hermit, friend, lover, and self-sacrificial redeemer of his fallen god people, and keeping these disparate elements balanced within a believable whole, could never have worked without this man's dedication, talent, and soul. RIP.
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William B
Fri, Dec 6, 2019, 2:35pm (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S3: The Survivors

And in particular, Uxbridge was not planning on using *any* "force," even the threat of force. I think his pacifism was so strong that even depowering them directly would seem to violate his extreme, inflexible code -- only deception and illusion were allowed. Threatening them would be right out. The problem is that Uxbridge didn't really anticipate he would fail, and so didn't consider any intermediate options (threatening the Husnock, un-weaponizing them, destroying the particular attacking ship) between extreme pacifism with some deception and overt genocide. If he had known that Rishon would die and how he'd react, of course he would have taken more steps, but he didn't.
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William B
Tue, Dec 3, 2019, 4:32pm (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S1: Angel One

I hope I'm not being a busybody, but I think Booming meant those "more debate, silly!" "will this madness never end" with emoticons comments in a tongue in cheek, "It's fun to talk about this" kind of way, OTDP, which is to say I think it's not meant to be aggressive or insulting. Not that you have to agree with Booming's arguments or conclusions, of course.
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