Friday, November 27, 2020

Star Trek: A Matter of Perspective

Episode: "A Matter of Perspective"
Series: Star Trek: The Next Generation
Season 3, Episode 14
Original Air Date: February 12, 1990

Riker is accused of murdering Nel Apgar, a prominent Tanugan scientist.  Picard must decide if he will allow his First Officer to be extradited.  To that end, he directs Data and la Forge to recreate the circumstances of the crime on the holodeck in accordance with witness testimony.

"A Matter of Perspective" is a Rashomon-inspired story, not to mention a Rashomon-inspired title.  One of filmmaker Akira Kurosawa's numerous masterworks, Rashomon - based in turn on two short stories by Ryunosuke Akutagawa - tells the story of an alleged rape from multiple perspectives.  So too is Riker's story complicated by his interactions with Apgar's wife, Manua.  She alleges an attempted rape.  He claims she was the one who made unsolicited advances.  A third witness believes it was mutual consent.

Let's be honest about all of this for a moment.  It's icky.  The film is icky, too.  All adaptations of Rashomon are.  Real-life rape cases are exactly like this: one's word against the other and the assailant gets away with it for lack of conclusive evidence.  As much as we want our man Riker to be the good guy, it's clear Manua sees things in a different way.  Even Deanna acknowledges Manua believes she's telling the truth.

Take another step back and the episode has a lot going for it.  The interstellar legal considerations are inherently interesting.  This particular use of the holodeck is novel and the explorations of its potential impact on the physical world signify a narrative groundbreaking.

Still, it's icky.  I have a hard time getting past icky.

Acting Notes

Craig Richard Nelson played the role of Krag, the Tanugan investigator.  Nelson was born September 17, 1947 in Salt Lake City, Utah.  He went to the University of Utah as an undergrad, then NYU's Tisch School of the Arts for graduate school.  His first gig after getting his MFA was a Tony award winning, musical production of Two Gentlemen of Verona on Broadway.

Big screen credits include The Paper Chase, Quintet and My Bodyguard.  This was the first of two Star Trek appearances.  Other television credits include Square Pegs, The Golden Girls and Home Improvement.

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Squid Mixes: Les Chroniques du Champs-Élysées

Now that we've sorted out our Manhattan preferences, it's time to move on to other cocktails.  We begin with The Champs-Élysées, a relatively recent discovery.  Ingredients: Cognac, Chartreuse, lemon juice, simple sugar syrup and lemon peel garnish.

To be honest, there's really only one ingredient worth battling over: the Chartreuse, green vs. yellow.  There's only one Cognac on Vermont shelves within my acceptable price range, i.e. under $30 for a 750 ml bottle: Salignac.  My wife is inclined to push the limit up a little but particularly in light of how expensive Chartreuse is, I feel one should be more frugal with the other ingredients.  If we start drinking Cognac straight, I might feel differently.  With lemons, I'm not likely to go beyond what we already have on hand.  With syrup, I could futz around more with making my own but I've found most of what I make gets tossed for lack of use.  The store-bought stuff tastes fine and is also more shelf stable.  So, the Chartreuse battle is really the only one we need...

Chartreuse Battle: Green vs. Yellow

As discussed in my previous post on the cocktail, there are substantive differences between green and yellow Chartreuse, beyond the color.  The green has a higher alcohol content at 110 proof.  The yellow is sweeter and weighs in at 80 proof.  Side by side in the drink, both are perfectly lovely.  The added sugar content of the yellow is definitely noticeable.  We both gave the green a slight edge because less sugar allows for a more complex flavor, truly the whole fun of Chartreuse to begin with.

Winner and Champion: Green Chartreuse

Here's our all-star lineup for The Champs-Élysées:

Solignac Cognac
Green Chartreuse
Stirrings Simple Syrup

Next up, sidecars!

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.