Friday, August 12, 2022

Star Trek: The Passenger

Episode: "The Passenger"
Series: Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Season 1, Episode 9
Original Air Date: February 20, 1993

Kira and Bashir rescue Ty Kajada, a Kobliad security officer, from her burning transport.  They were not able to rescue her prisoner, Rao Vantika, who dies despite the doctor's best efforts.  Except it's not that simple.  Kajada repeatedly insists that Vantika isn't actually dead, that he is somehow still a threat to carry out the hijacking of a shipment headed to Deep Space 9.  How is that possible?  Well, apparently he's learned to inject his consciousness into the brains of others, including that of one of our heroes.

"The Passenger" is a popular choice for Worst of Series lists.  The possession of Bashir is a bit clumsy - Alexander Siddig owns his shortcomings in this particular episode.  But once again, I have to say that even the weakest DS9 efforts aren't so bad.  They're pretty good compared with the worst TNG offerings or the nearly unwatchable worst TOS submissions.  Even here, there is meaningful development for the long term.  One of the strongest narrative drivers through the DS9 run is the complicated dynamic between Sisko, Odo and Quark and that trio get a good workout in "The Passenger."  We get an important reminder that Quark isn't just there for comic relief.  He's a genuine scoundrel in his own right.  There's some fun Bashir-as-arrogant-prick material early in the story, too.

Acting Notes

Julie Caitlin Brown (née Andrich) played the role of Ty Kajada.  Brown was born January 27, 1961 in San Francisco.  Most of her work was on stage - including a Broadway production of Grand Hotel - until she moved to Los Angeles in 1992.

Most of Brown's screen work has been television guest spots, most prominently on Babylon 5 on which she made seven appearances.  Other credits include Becker, JAG and Beverly Hills, 90210.  "The Passenger" was her first of three Trek appearances.  Her biggest film job was the lead in All About Evil.  

Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Squid Mixes: Cider Battles IV, Bring on the Pears

An exploration of ciders inevitably leads beyond apples to the world of pears.  As a table fruit, I've never been a huge fan of pears - too mealy.  But as an ingredient in things - tarts for example - pears are lovely.  Texture certainly isn't a problem in liquid form so there's no reason a pear cider couldn't hold its own in my arena...

Rosé vs. Pearsecco

Two Woodchuck Cider products go head to head.  Pearsecco is actually one of two pear ciders in Woodchuck's line.  The other is simply called "Pear."

It was a clear choice for both of us.  Pearsecco is drier, yet also, more fruity.  There's more added sugar in the Rosé so the Pearsecco actually tastes more like a pear than the Rosé does like an apple.  So...

Winner and New Champion, Sipping Cider Category: Woodchuck Pearsecco

If we try the Pearsecco in the D-Day Swizzle, I think I get to call the drink something new.  The David Lebovitz recipe clearly specifies apple cider, not pear.

Friday, August 5, 2022

Star Trek: Tapestry

Nichelle Nichols

via IMDb

An American television giant has passed on.  Her casting and her advocacy are the heart of Star Trek.  The following is my favorite Nichelle Nichols story from my own trek with this franchise:

"The Changeling" is a good Uhura episode.   Nomad overhears her singing and seeks her out for questioning.  When she gives unsatisfying answers, Nomad wipes her memory, deeming her flawed.  Dr. McCoy and Nurse Barrett set out to reeducate her.  In her training, her native Swahili comes to her before the English.  Apparently, Nichelle Nichols had to fight for that to be included in the story.  Director Marc Daniels wanted her to stick with English, arguing that Nichols herself didn't speak Swahili so why bother?  Nichols countered, saying "Nichelle Nichols doesn't speak Swahili, but Uhura does!"  Nichols won and a linguist was brought in to teach her the lines.

Episode: "Tapestry"
Series: Star Trek: The Next Generation
Season 6, Episode 15
Original Air Date: February 15, 1993

When Picard "dies" on an away mission, Q offers him the impossible gift: the chance to see how his life would have played out if he could change one crucial decision.  What if he hadn't gotten into a bar brawl when he was 21 and received an artificial heart transplant as a result?  As might be expected, one what-if leads to others.  What if he slept with his friend Marta?  What if he resists the advances of Penny, a woman at the bar?  What if he didn't rig the dom-jot table to help his other pal Corey win?  

Wouldn't you know, Picard didn't much like the more cautious life he ended up living.

I second guess life decisions all the time.  It's a bit of a curse.  As such, I find stories like this reassuring.  Regret is worthless.  One decision is linked to so many others.  "Way leads on to way," as Robert Frost wrote.  Mistakes are important because you learn from them.  Life really does work out for the best.  

"We are the choices we have made." - Francesca Johnson (Meryl Streep's character in The Bridges of Madison County)

Anyway, it's a fun episode, another in the "what might have been" line for Picard which seem to be increasing in frequency as the series nears its end.  There's something clever done with the color of his science officer uniform late in the story: it's blue but really a rather pretty teal depending on the light, as if he doesn't truly belong anywhere.  It's the DS9 science officer color but it doesn't have any meaning on the Enterprise.  I don't know if it's intentional but it's effective.  

Acting Notes

Ned Vaughn (Corey) was born November 20, 1964 in Huntsville, Alabama.  He studied at Birmingham-Southern College.  His professional acting career began with television commercials.  Films have included The Rescue, The Hunt for Red October and Apollo 13.  Television work has included China Beach, Murder One and 24.  

While reasonably successful as an actor, Vaughn has been more active as a political figure.  He was a longtime vice-president of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and a driving force behind that body's controversial merger with the American Federation of Teacher and Radio Artists (AFTRA).  He was a rare Republican union activist.  In 2013, he left the organization to run for Congress in California, though he eventually dropped out of the race.  

Vaughn has been married to his wife Adelaide since 1997.  They have five children.

Thursday, August 4, 2022

On the Coffee Table: His Last Bow

Title: His Last Bow
Author: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Despite his best efforts to kill or retire Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was repeatedly convinced to write more about the great detective.  In this collection of short stories (the eighth book of nine), Doyle wrote his wish to be rid of Holmes directly into the title of the last entry.  While "His Last Bow" would ultimately be the final adventure within the fictional timeline, it didn't end up being the character's last bow at all in the real world.  

All of the tales collected in this volume are solid.  I'd pick "The Adventure of the Bruce-Partington Plans" as my favorite as it includes the return of Mycroft, Sherlock's brother.  The final story itself is fun, one of the rare Holmes narratives written from third-person perspective.  A fun literary treat: in "The Adventure of the Cardboard Box," Holmes makes a direct reference to "one of Poe's sketches."

One more book to go.

Tuesday, August 2, 2022

Bitters of the Month: Chesapeake Bay

Okay, so I found space for one more.

A product of Bitter End Bitters, a Santa Fe, New Mexico-based enterprise, Chesapeake Bay Bitters is intended to be reminiscent of the Old Bay seasoning that plays a critical role in the glorious crab feasts of my native Maryland.  Having experimented with other "spicy" bitters, my usual gin and bitters test didn't seem the best plan.  On the company website, martini is listed as a recommendation for use.  So, I added it to my usual recipe...

I was still generous with the bitters because I wanted to taste it.  I erred on the high end of the 3-5 drop recommendation.  The result was pleasant, offering a noticeable though inoffensive peppery burn.  I'd do it again and might even add a little more.

The Bitter End line intrigues, offering several unconventional, international options.  I swear, I mean to slow down with this particular aspect of the cocktail hobby.  But if I make some room on the shelf - and justify mail order to myself - I might try others.  Thai or Moroccan Bitters would be my next choice.

Friday, July 29, 2022

Star Trek: Dax

Episode: "Dax"
Series: Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Season 1, Episode 8
Original Air Date: February 13, 1993

via Memory Alpha

Jadzia Dax is put on trial for crimes Curzon Dax is accused of committing 30 years before.  This is the first important Dax episode, exploring the long-term responsibilities of a symbiotic life form: is the host responsible for the previous actions of the symbiont?  While this could be dismissed as in-universe morality, the story raises questions about our own penal system.  Do we punish merely as a vehicle for vengeance or a need to place blame?  Is reform even a consideration?

With "Dax," you can feel DS9 beginning to find its way.  Star Trek, more than most pop culture enterprises, is defined by its moral landscape, staked out by principles for how we confront the other.  DS9 invites new questions for when "the other" becomes "our own."  Picard still maintains an emotional detachment in considering the marginalization of Data, Worf or Troi.  And there's still an uncomfortable presumption within NextGen that however much tolerance we have learned, humanness is still the ideal.

Deep Space Nine challenges all of that.  It begins with Sisko, a far more openly emotional leader than Picard.  His inclination to protect Dax is motivated more by personal loyalty - indeed, love - than professional responsibility.  And whatever inconvenience it has brought her in the moment, Dax's pride in being a Trill is never called into question.  In fact, it's celebrated.

The tenderness between Dax and Erina Tandro, a former lover of Curzon's, is genuinely touching, and provides a preview of a more important episode still to come.

Acting Notes

via Lostpedia

Fionnula Flanagan played the role of Erina Tandro, widow of Curzon's supposed murder victim.  Flanagan was born December 10, 1941 in Dublin.  She trained at the Abbey Theatre.

Flanagan is one of Ireland's most celebrated actors, having won the Irish Film & Television Academy's Lifetime Achievement Award and the Maureen O'Hara Award.  She is best known for her roles in James Joyce's Women and The Others, for which she won a Saturn Award.  She won an Emmy for her performance in 1976's Rich Man, Poor Man.  She has one other Emmy nomination and two Tony nominations.

"Dax" is Flanagan's first of three Trek appearances on three different series as three different characters.

Thursday, July 28, 2022

On the Coffee Table: Copper

Title: Copper
Writer and Artist: Kazu Kibuishi

via Goodreads

Copper is a web comic by Kazu Kibuishi, the creator of the Amulet series and other projects.  Each story is a Sunday newspaper-style comic strip.  Homages to the classics are clearly evident.  Copper's relationship with his dog Fred is highly reminiscent of that between Calvin and Hobbes, though Copper's older and mellower than Calvin and Fred's more pessimistic than Hobbes.  The jagged black strip against yellow of Charlie Brown's traditional garb is a frequent visual motif.  Fred is sort of the anti-Snoopy.  

Some of the strips are set in the "real world" but many inhabit trippy dreamscapes: a first-person shooter game (where Copper gets too caught up in admiring the scenery), a world of mushrooms, surreal abstraction.  In a couple of stories, they go surfing.  My two favorite strips are "Waterfall" and "Good Life," both CalvinHobbesesque tramps through the woods.  Kizuishi shares a love of funky flying contraptions with Hayao Miyazaki and I sense some artistic influence as well.

I would describe the driving philosophy as happy fatalism which I learned of years ago from John Irving's Hotel New Hampshire.  According to Irving: "The way the world worked was not cause for some sort of blanket cynicism or sophomoric despair... the way the world worked – which was badly – was just a strong incentive to live purposefully, and to be determined about living well."

Kibuishi closes with an artistic process section, material I always enjoy.  

Overall, Copper is a fun, quick, rewarding read.