Tuesday, November 24, 2020

On the Coffee Table: The Gifts of Imperfection

Title: The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You're Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are
Author: Brené Brown
via Amazon

I last discussed Ms. Brown's work in regards to this bookThe Gifts of Imperfection goes back about eight years in her oeuvre.  Here she shares her ten guideposts on the power of Wholehearted living: "engaging in our lives from a place of worthiness."

For me, this is a read a little, think a lot, read a little, think a lot sort of book.  So, 126 pages took me longer than it probably should have.  I thought of doing a full, self-examination run down for all ten guideposts but that seems tedious.  Instead, I'll focus on strengths and areas for growth...


#1 Cultivating Authenticity:  In truth, I've never been good at pretending to be anything I'm not so I suppose this comes naturally by default.  I never took to acting, for instance, despite some early success, and I think this is why.  It just doesn't feel right.  Of course, as a teacher, I've come to see theater through a different lens.  You're not pretending to be someone else.  You're helping to tell a story.  But that's for another time...

I especially like middle age in this regard.  I am who I am.  All need to prove I am anything else is comfortably in the past.

#7 Cultivating Play and Rest: I'm doing it right now.  There is no practical purpose for my blog.  It's just fun.  I began with visions of catapulting it into something more serious but that went by the wayside years ago and that's all to the good.  What's more, I use it to keep myself going with the other fun things in my life.  Easy win.

#10 Cultivating Laughter, Song, and Dance [her Oxford comma, not mine - let's be real clear on that!]:  See top of blog.  That said, I should dance more especially.  I wish I knew how.  I wish I'd learned when I was a kid.  No one tells you when you're an insecure boy of the considerable benefits of being a 24-year-old man who knows how to dance!  All kidding aside, the arts bring us closer to our essential humanity than anything else we do.  I claim it as a strength but that doesn't mean I shouldn't strive to do more.

Areas for Growth

#2 Cultivating Self-Compassion: I do struggle with feeling unworthy, both personally and professionally.  I've gotten better over the years but I can't deny that it's true.  I compare myself unfavorably to others when it is unhelpful to do so.

#6 Cultivating Creativity: You would think, in light of #10 above and what I do for a living, that creativity would come naturally.  But I am always plagued by self-doubt in creative endeavors and it is my perfectionism that gets in the way.  I'll never write anything as good as Salinger's baseball glove paragraph in Catcher in the Rye or McCartney's bridge to verse transition in "Here, There and Everywhere" so why bother?  I would never say that to a student or - Sweet Jesus! - my daughter but I say it to myself all the time.

#9 Cultivating Meaningful Work: Don't get me wrong.  I have a deeply meaningful job.  Teaching music is awesome, even in the age of COVID.  However, I have struggled for years to feel comfortable in the job.  It doesn't always feel like me.  I wonder at times if I'd have been happier picking a different career.  I will give myself credit: my efforts to find myself and my purpose within the work have been tremendously gratifying.  Still, it's a tough gig.  Of course, I also wonder if teaching's truly easy for anyone.  And maybe it shouldn't be.

Lots to think about.  I would like to read more along similar lines but maybe someone beyond Brown.  I like her a lot but I'm ready for a new voice.

Monday, November 23, 2020

Marvel Immersion Project: Captain Marvel #26-29

The Captain Marvel arc stretching from #25-34 is commonly referred to as The Life and Death of Captain Marvel.  It is one of the most important stories in setting the stage for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, particularly Infinity War/Endgame.
Mike Friedrich, the primary writer at the beginning of the arc, was born March 27, 1949.  He got into comics through the letters to the editor pages.  His own persistent writing eventually led to an ongoing correspondence with editor Julius Schwartz at DC Comics.  Schwartz first bought one of Friedrich's scripts, a Robin story, in 1967.  He has written extensively for both DC and Marvel, most notably as lead writer for Justice League of America and Iron Man.  He also published one of the first independent comics: Star*Reach.

My Recent Reads

Captain Marvel #26
Originally Published: May 1, 1973
Writers: Mike Friedrich and Jim Starlin
Artist: Starlin
  • As it turns out, Thanos was the one directing Super-Skrull and Skragg in the previous issue.
  • Thanos has recruited The Controller to enslave Earth on his behalf.
  • Captain Marvel and Thing (he of the Fantastic Four) are tricked into fighting each other.
  • Death makes his first appearance in the Marvel Universe.

Captain Marvel #27
July 1, 1973
  • Captain Marvel goes to Titan to do battle with Thanos and his minions. 
  • Featured:
Mentor and Eros via Marvel Database

    • Eros (Thanos's brother) and Mentor (Thanos's father).  They're on Mar-Vell/Rick's side.
    • Drax the Destroyer, defender of the Cosmic Cube which Thanos seeks.
  • The Avengers join in the fun.

Captain Marvel #28
September 1, 1973
  • The Controller invades the Avengers Mansion and defeats them all, rather easily.
  • Thanos battles Drax for the Cube.  Thanos wins.
  • The Controller defeats Captain Marvel who reverts back to Rick Jones who then appears to have lost the ability to switch back and forth.
  • Apparently Mar-Vell is still around, though.  The issue ends with a one-page prologue for the next.  The space entity Eon tells Mar-Vell that in order to defeat Thanos, Mar-Vell must die.
  • Featured:
    • Blood Brothers
    • Kronos
  • Page 14 of #28 is extraordinary, depicting a "sync-warp" in the very trippy, Ditko-esque battle between Drax and Thanos.  I want a poster:
Captain Marvel #29
November 1, 1973
Writer and Artist: Starlin
  • This is a major transitional issue for the character.  Not coincidentally, it's also the first on which Jim Starlin takes over as both lead artist and lead writer.
  • Eon has summoned Mar-Vell while the latter's alter ego Rick Jones is trapped under the rubble of Avengers Mansion.
  • Eon leads Mar-Vell through a series of visions to convince him of the evils of war.  To face the threat of Thanos, Eon encourages Mar-Vell to take on the role of protector rather than warrior.
  • Mar-Vell accepts, getting a new costume and a new hairstyle as part of the bargain.

Friday, November 20, 2020

Star Trek: Déjà Q

Episode: "Déjà Q"
Series: Star Trek: The Next Generation
Season 3, Episode 13
Original Air Date: February 5, 1990

Bre'el IV's moon is falling from its orbit and is threatening to crash into the planet, certain to kill millions.  The Enterprise is on hand to do whatever it can to prevent the disaster.  But that's not the central story.  Q turns up.  He's been stripped of his powers by the continuum and has chosen to live his new, mortal life as a human.  He picks the Enterprise as his landing spot as he considers Picard to be his only true friend.  Aww....

"Déjà Q" tends to do well on best episodes lists.  Obviously, other people feel differently about Q than I do.  As previously discussed, I find him annoying.  The fan boys (who generally have a more favorable attitude towards the character than I) praise the episode for its comedy.  I guess it's not the sort of humor I appreciate, at least not that I'm eager for from Star Trek.  Though I will admit, it's genuinely funny when he orders ten chocolate sundaes as comfort food.

To be clear, my issue is with the character, not the actor.  Major props to John de Lancie for doing his own nude work in his entrance scene.  Apparently, they tried it with a G-string and it didn't sell.  So, de Lancie went full monty.  He cannot be faulted for lack of commitment to craft!

Acting Notes

Richard Cansino plays the part of Dr. Garin, one of the scientists on Bre'el IV.  Cansino was born August 10, 1953 in Los Angeles.  He is mostly known as a voice actor, particularly for English adaptations of Japanese anime, including Rurouni Kenshin, Naruto and Trigun.  Professionally, he has also used the name Richard Hayworth because he is the nephew of screen goddess Rita Hayworth (née Cansino).  I mean, who wouldn't?

On screen roles have been few.  Beyond Trek, he made guest appearances on Hannah Montana and Scrubs.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Squid Mixes: Old Aztec Cocktail

An Old Aztec Cocktail combines rye, sugar, water, orange peel, orange bitters and chocolate bitters.  It is essentially an old fashioned recipe and prepared in the glass as such.  I got my recipe from Abby at No Fail Recipe.  I forgot to take a photo of mine so the one above is from the site.  Apparently Abby uses more ice than my two cubes and she garnishes with a cherry which I did not - nice idea, though.

I tried this drink mostly as a test of the Aztec Chocolate bitters.  Frankly, there isn't much in the way of chocolate flavor, though the aroma certainly bloomed nicely as soon as it hit the glass.  My wife felt the drink does have a sort of chocolate chewiness - not sure what she means but she's the supertaster so I'll trust her.  Otherwise, it's a perfectly nice drink.

Monday, November 16, 2020

Marvel Immersion Project: Daredevil #190-191, Giant-Size X-Men #1, X-Men Annual #3, Captain Marvel #25

Once I finished my Daredevil run (see below), I looked back over the Comic Book Herald list I've been following only to find that I missed a couple of X-Men issues along the way.  So, I'll be taking a step back before giving over completely to Captain Marvel next week.

My Recent Reads

Daredevil #190
Originally Published January 1, 1983
Writer: Frank Miller
Artist: Klaus Janson
  • Daredevil, Black Widow and Stone race to prevent The Hand from resurrecting Elektra.
  • They succeed but Stone finishes the job anyway.
  • Elektra is back.

Daredevil #191
February 1, 1983
Writer and Artist: Miller
  • For this, his final Daredevil issue in this run, Frank Miller served as both writer and artist.
  • This is one of the stranger, darker and more interesting issues of Miller's tenure.  It begins with DD at the bedside of Bullseye, his still paralyzed nemesis.  DD is playing Russian Roulette, pulling the trigger for both of them.
  • Now flashing back, when he visits the home of a potential client, Hank Jurgens, Matt Murdock also meets Hank's son Chuckie.  Chuckie not only idolizes Daredevil but believes he himself is Daredevil.
  • Naturally, the story gets complicated.  Hank is being blackmailed and when he confronts his tormentor, Hank pulls out a gun.  DD intervenes and hits Hank.  Unfortunately, Chuckie witnesses the entire incident.
  • Now traumatized, Chuckie shoots a bully on the playground with Hank's gun.  The bully survives but Chuckie's still a mess and DD is left to confront his own role in the horrible story.
  • In the end, DD walks away from Bullseye's bed, revealing the roulette gun was empty the whole time.

Giant-Size X-Men #1
June 1, 1975
Writer: Len Wein
Artist: Dave Cockrum
  • This book immediately precedes the run I started in this post.  
  • Most importantly, this story introduces Storm, Colossus, Nightcrawler and Thunderbird and temporarily expands the X-Men roster to 13.
  • Also spotted, though not named, is Colossus's younger sister, Illyana.  One day, she will become Magik.
  • The augmented team battles Krakoa, a sort of composite, colony, mutant, island organism.

X-Men Annual #3
January 3, 1979
Chris Claremont/George Perez & Terry Austin
  • Arkon comes to Earth to kidnap Storm in order to bring her back to rescue his imperiled world, Polemachus.
  • Naturally, the X-Men must go retrieve her.
  • They are convinced of Polemachus's desperate situation and are enlisted to save the day.

Captain Marvel #25
March 1, 1973
Mike Friedrich/Jim Starlin
  • And now we jump back in time: before Claremont's X-Men, before Howard the Duck, before Miller's Daredevil.  Heck, in March 1973, Gwen Stacy was still alive.
  • At the time, Captain Marvel was still a dude: Mar-Vell.
  • When I last left the Avengers in #97, Mar-Vell and Rick Jones were two separate people.  Now, they're alter-egos.  It's confusing, as are the shape-shifting Skrulls who seem to pervade Captain Marvel stories.
  • Rick Jones is framed for the murder of Benjamin Savannah, a professor and also a friend to Mar-Vell/Rick.
Yon-Rogg via Marvel Database

  • The set-up job is conducted by Super-Skrull and Skragg who, over the course of the story, impersonate many different characters, including Yon-Rogg.
  • Mar-Vell/Rick battle the Skrulls, who escape in the end.

Friday, November 13, 2020

Star Trek: The High Ground

Episode: "The High Ground"
Series: Star Trek: The Next Generation
Season 3, Episode 12
Original Air Date: January 29, 1990

While the away team visits Rutia IV, Dr. Crusher is abducted by a terrorist group.  Obviously, the Enterprise crew must rescue her.  Along the way, we get an interesting though occasionally clumsy exploration of terrorism as a means of waging war against a militarily superior enemy.

The story is based on The Troubles in Northern Ireland, though the writer, Melinda Snodgrass, did not originally intend it that way.  Her plan was an American Revolution parallel (with Picard as Cornwallis) but the production bosses insisted on the change.  Apparently, this sort of switcheroo happened often and perhaps that explains TNG's overall clumsiness with message episodes.  Since the ultimate allegory was not part of the original story, those aspects feel tacked on because essentially, they were.

Due to the relatively sympathetic attitude towards the terrorists, "The High Ground" was not aired unedited in the UK until 2007.  The full episode has never aired on RTÉ, the Irish national television network.

Acting Notes

Canadian actress Kerrie Keane plays the role of Alexana Devos, the head of Rutian security.  She was born September 7, 1948.  She majored in history at McMaster University.

Her most prominent big screen appearance was in Obsessed, for which she was nominated for a Genie Award (Canada's Oscars).  Beyond Trek, she has made guest appearances on Matlock, Beverly Hills 90210 and Murder, She Wrote.

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Squid Mixes: The Last Word

The Last Word combines gin, green Chartreuse, maraschino liqueur and lime juice with a lime twist garnish.  I got my recipe from Drinking French by David Lebovitz.

The flavor is every bit as exciting as The Champs-Élysées.  We're definitely onto something with this Chartreuse stuff.  Happily, the maraschino liqueur holds up well.  I was also pleased that the green color of the Chartreuse comes through.

My wife suggested adding a cherry next time.