Wednesday, June 29, 2022

On the Coffee Table: Y: The Last Man

Title: Y: The Last Man, Vol. 1: Unmanned
Writer: Brian K. Vaughan
Penciller: Pia Guerra
Inker: José Marzán, Jr.

via Amazon

In a flash, every male mammal on the planet dies, except for one - well, two really.  Yorick Brown and his pet monkey Ampersand have both been spared, though no one is sure why.  Can Yorick survive long enough to help perpetuate the species?  Will the extremist Amazons - of which his sister Hero is one - kill him first?  Will he ever be reunited with his girlfriend, Beth, currently stranded in Australia?  Will his mother, one of the few surviving members of the US Congress, succeed in helping to re-establish law and order?

Unmanned is the first trade for the Y: The Last Man series, collecting issues #1-5.  First published in 2002, the series has since inspired a television show of the same name, released in 2021.  Unfortunately, it was canceled after one season.  Poor timing, I'm guessing.  Perhaps the world had an understandably limited appetite for post-apocalyptic narratives last year.  No, I haven't watched it.

The storytelling is effective and the premise intriguing.  Yorick is a tolerable idiot - clever enough to stay alive, foolish enough to keep things interesting and goofy enough to provide occasional comic relief in a necessarily heavy narrative.  The story raises ethical questions as well as concerns about the limitations of lines of succession within government.  My one gripe: the treatment of time is unnecessarily awkward.

As we leave matters at the end of Unmanned, Yorick, his bodyguard Agent 355 and geneticist Dr. Mann are trying to decided on their next best step.  I'm definitely up for finding out which they choose.

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Squid Mixes: Doctor Cottom

My wife got the idea off of Twitter, courtesy of Professor Tressi McMillan Cottom: combine jam with bourbon.  Obviously, we have to try it.  Cottom's recommendation:

2 oz bourbon
1 heaping tsp jam/preserves

Stir to combine, then shake and serve.  I grabbed rye from the cabinet instead of bourbon - accident or subconscious preference? - and we used strawberry jam because it was open.  It's very nice.

Only one problem: she didn't name the drink!  So, professor, I name it after you, Doctor Cottom.

Bitters of the Month

We tried this month's bitters, Bittermens Boston Bittahs, in Manhattans in place of Angostura.  I couldn't really taste the bitters against the other ingredients but my wife said she could.  She is a supertaster and I am not so she's likely to pick up hints that I'm not.

Otherwise, we both thought it was fine, though certainly not superior to Angostura.

Monday, June 27, 2022

On the Coffee Table: Tilar J. Mazzeo

Title: The Widow Clicquot: The Story of a Champagne Empire and the Woman Who Ruled It
Author: Tilar J. Mazzeo

via Amazon

The Widow Clicquot is the biography of Barbe-Nicole Ponsardin Clicquot, builder of a Champagne empire through the most tumultuous stretch of French history.  Her life stretched from the Revolution to the Second French Empire.  Women entrepreneurs have rarely been encouraged in European history, rarely less so than in the 19th century.  Yet, Clicquot's company survives to the present day as one of the most dependable brands in the industry.  Certainly, she had some good luck along the way - Russian troops who didn't loot her cellars at the end of the Napoleonic Wars, for instance.  But she also survived plenty of bad.  Her courage, ingenuity and obsessive work ethic carried her and her company through.  

Mazzeo certainly leaves a solid impression of an impressive woman.  Unfortunately, it's not the world's most well-written biography.  Mazzeo needed a better editor.  There's loads of unnecessary repetition - at one point, I counted three consecutive sentences that said exactly the same thing.  I also found a triple negative - or was it, in fact, quadruple?  My wife's take: Mazzeo didn't actually have enough material to make for a decent story.  The author generated loads of suppositional filler where surviving personal correspondence was lacking - a clumsy and ineffective effort to make the subject more relatable.

I enjoyed the subject matter.  Both the wine production and the French cultural history were fascinating.  I'd love to read better-written books about similar subjects.

I am curious about the product, apparently drier than it was during The Widow's own tenure.  One of our local wine shops does carry it.  Standard bottle?  $66.99.  Double magnum: $399.99.  So, I doubt we'll be trying it anytime soon.  But maybe someday when we're in the mood to splurge...

Friday, June 24, 2022

Star Trek: Ship in a Bottle

Episode: "Ship in a Bottle"
Series: Star Trek: The Next Generation
Season 6, Episode 12
Original Air Date: January 25, 1993

Moriarty is back!  Sherlock Holmes's great nemesis and, for my money, TNG's best villain, Moriarty (Daniel Davis) first appeared in Season 2's "Elementary, Dear Data."  He was a holodeck character who somehow achieved self-awareness.  His program had been saved by the computer and now that he's been relaunched, he's ready to make mischief.

Without a doubt, this is my favorite TNG holodeck episode.  Some choose it as the worst which blows my mind.  Beyond my affection for the guest star, the simulation within a simulation scenario is delicious.  I think it would have been even better, though, if in that final scene a third simulation were revealed with Barclay's last line.  What if the whole thing were Barclay's holo-novel masterpiece?  I realize that changes the story and makes it more of a Barclay tale in the end.  Even so, I would have enjoyed the extra wrinkle.

Trek took four seasons to return to the Holmes-scape due to rights issues with the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle estate.  It was assumed they'd never be able to use the character again.  But apparently, it was all a misunderstanding.  The estate lawyers had been irritated with Paramount over the 1985 film Young Sherlock Holmes.  All was worked out in time for Season 6 - with adequate rights fees, naturally.

Acting Notes

Stephanie Beacham played the role of Regina Barthalomew, Moriarty's lady love.  Beacham was born February 28, 1947 in Barnet, Hertfordshire, England.  She studied as a mime in Paris before attending the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London.  Her original plan was to become a dance teacher for deaf children.  She is partially deaf herself.  But a modeling career lead to television acting gigs.

The earliest work came in British television with series Tenko and Connie.  She made her biggest splash in the US as Sable Colby in The Colbys and Dynasty.  Films include Dracula A.D. 1972, Schizo and Troop Beverly Hills.

Beacham was married to John McEnery, 1973-89.  They had two daughters.  She has beaten skin cancer twice.

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Squid Cooks: Sausage Pasta

Summer vacation has officially begun and as such, I'm likely to do more cooking over the next several weeks.  It's a momentous summer at our house, the last before our daughter heads to college in September.  This is also the first summer she'll have a job.  Our world is changing quickly.

Sausage pasta is one of our quick, throw-together meals: sausage, pasta, jarred sauce and, when I make it, onions.  I don't know if I'll move far past my usual, comfortable rotation this summer.  We'll see.

Monday, June 20, 2022

On the Coffee Table: The Return of Sherlock Holmes

Title: The Return of Sherlock Holmes
Author: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

The Return of Sherlock Holmes is a 1905 collection of short stories originally published in Strand Magazine between 1903 and 1904.  Of course, there was the small matter that Doyle had killed off his outrageously popular hero in "The Final Problem," in 1893.  While the author was able to circumvent the issue with The Hound of the Baskervilles by setting the story earlier in the fictional timeline, Doyle's new stories required a resurrection in the initial offering of the new collection, "The Adventure of the Empty House."  At the end of this book, in "The Adventure of the Second Stain," Doyle tried to give himself another out by claiming Holmes had retired.  

But there are still three more books after this one.

My favorites in The Return of Sherlock Holmes include the aforementioned "Second Stain," "The Adventure of the Missing Three Quarter" about a missing rugby player and "The Adventure of the Dancing Men" which involves codebreaking, always fun.  We get a strong sense of Morality According to Holmes in this volume.  Not infrequently, he lets the "guilty" party get away when he believes their cause just.

Friday, June 17, 2022

Star Trek: Babel

Episode: "Babel"
Series: Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Season 1, Episode 5
Original Air Date: January 24, 1993

A virus spreads through the station, reducing its victims to incoherent communication, able to use words but not in any linguistically meaningful way.  As a viewer, one is always on the look out for the next character to be infected.  Sometimes Trek's standard techno-babble confuses matters.  

"Babel" provides relationship development for both Odo-Quark and Ben-Jake.  Otherwise, it's just another high-concept episode.  A Trek language wrinkle the creators should play with a lot more than they have: what happens when the universal translator fails?

Acting Notes

Terry Farrell (Dax) was born November 19, 1963 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.  She submitted a photo to a modeling agency at age 16 and soon after scored an exclusive contract with Mademoiselle.  She began studying acting 18 months later.

Pre DS9, her acting resume was modest, including an appearance in the film Back to School and guest roles on The Cosby Show and Quantum Leap.  Sadly, Farrell was the only DS9 principal who did not make it through the entire seven-season run.  There's a story there.  We'll get to it in time.

Farrell and Nana Visitor (Kira) both have asteroids named after them.  Farrell is married to Adam Nimoy, son of Leonard.  It's her second marriage, his third.  She has a son, Max, from her first marriage.