Tuesday, July 25, 2017

The Clone Wars: An Old Friend

Andrew Leon and I are watching Star Wars: The Clone Wars.  Every Tuesday, we will be featuring an episode from the series which began in 2008.

Episode: "An Old Friend"
Series: Star Wars: The Clone Wars
The Lost Missions (Season Six), Episode 5
Original Air Date: February 22, 2014
via Wookieepedia
Padmé is called to Scipio to fund a mercy mission.  Once there, she runs into her old flame Rush Clovis who enlists her help to uncover the corruption of the Banking Clan.  This is the first of a three-part arc.

It's been quite a while since we last had a Padmé-centered episode.  Of course, a Clovis story is really about Padmé's relationship with Anakin, who comes to town when his secret wife is arrested for espionage.  Overall, I think it's just as well that The Clone Wars doesn't devote so much time to the romantic side of the Anakin story but it is humanizing to see him reduced to petty, jealous husband.
via Wookieepedia
This episode is the second of four for Rush Clovis.  His existence helps to flesh out the character of Padmé, just as Duchess Satine does for Obi-Wan.  He is voiced by Robin Atkin Downes.

Next week: "The Rise of Clovis."

Friday, July 21, 2017

Squid Mixes: Old Pal Cocktail

The Old Pal Cocktail, according to The New York Bartender's Guide recipe I used, combines rye whiskey, Campari and sweet vermouth.  Apparently other versions use dry vermouth instead.  I have no idea who the "old pal" is but the drink first appeared ABC of Mixing Cocktails, a 1922 book written by Harry MacElhone.

To me, the flavor resembles that of a cranberry.  The Campari brings the bitter (and the color), the vermouth the sweet and the whiskey the warmth.  My wife enjoyed it so we may try this one again.  Maybe I'll try with dry vermouth next time.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The Clone Wars: Orders

Andrew Leon and I are watching Star Wars: The Clone Wars.  Every Tuesday, we will be featuring an episode from the series which began in 2008.

Episode: "Orders"
Series: Star Wars: The Clone Wars
The Lost Missions (Season Six), Episode 4
Original Air Date: February 15, 2014
via Wookieepedia
"Orders" is the final installment of a four-part arc.  Fives is brought back to Coruscant along with the body of Tup, a clone trooper who murdered a Jedi.  Last week, Fives and his droid buddy AZI-3 discovered the inhibitor chip implanted in all clones in their embryonic stage.  Fives believes (correctly) that the chips are there for nefarious purpose and is eager to share what he's found with the powers above.  Unfortunately, Palpatine knows Fives is right and is just as eager to deflect suspicion back to the trooper himself.  Fives is on the run once again.

I'll talk more about the clone troopers when we wrap up the series but they merit some discussion now.  As I have said before, the clones themselves are the best story thread going in The Clone Wars and that thread concludes with this arc.  Without knowing the rest of the story, if I told you one side fought a war with a genetically engineered slave army, you would assume said force belonged to the bad guys.  But no, the clones side with the Republic.  While we are taught to see the relationship between Jedi and clones as benevolent and near-parental, it doesn't change the fact that we're talking about a Brave New World approach to warfare.  Look a little deeper and the more interesting stories in this thread reveal a more complicated relationship, and for reasons that have nothing to do with Order 66.  The inhibitor chips and their link to the eventual attack on the Jedi are a deeper, darker manipulation, of course, but the basic ethical dilemma of the clones is inherent from the beginning.

This is one of the best arcs of the series, right on the heels of the strong one that finished Season Five.  Like the Ahsoka on the Run arc, this Inhibitor Chip arc is strong on its own but is helped considerably by the stories that come before it.  Fives is the star and his background in particular enhances the tale.
via Wookieepedia
Mas Amedda is a Chagrian politician from the planet Champala.  At the time of this story, he is Vice Chair of the Galactic Senate under Palpatine.  He was first introduced in The Phantom Menace when he was played by Jerome Blake.  He was played David Bowers in Attack of the Clones and by both actors in Revenge of the Sith.  In The Clone Wars, he is voiced by Stephen Stanton.

Next week: "An Old Friend."

Friday, July 14, 2017

Squid Mixes: Campari Soda

Campari is a deceptive little liqueur.  The bright red fools one into thinking the flavor would be sweet like grenadine.  Instead, it is intensely bitter.  One of the primary ingredients is chinotto, a citrus fruit native to the Mediterranean region.  As with Campari, it looks like a sweet orange but the truth is otherwise.  The liqueur also includes cascarilla, a Caribbean herb employed as a tonic and used in Vermouth.

The bright red color is produced artificially.  Until 2006, carmine, a dye made from crushed insects, was used.  Now, the dye is synthetic.

My wife is a Campari fan.  She especially likes Negronis.  The Campari soda made for a fine summer drink and was awfully pretty.  It looked especially nice in our cobalt blue glasses but alas, that was more difficult to capture photographically.  My recipe comes from The New York Bartender's Guide.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

The Clone Wars: Fugitive

Andrew Leon and I are watching Star Wars: The Clone Wars.  Every Tuesday, we will be featuring an episode from the series which began in 2008.

Episode: "Fugitive"
Series: Star Wars: The Clone Wars
The Lost Missions (Season Six), Episode 3
Original Air Date: February 15, 2014
via Wookieepedia
Fives and his medical droid conspirator AZI-3 continue to dig for the truth in this, the third of a strong four-part arc.  Last week, the two removed a tumor from the brain of Tup, a clone trooper who had gone berzerk and killed a Jedi during a battle.  Tup subsequently died.  Fives was arrested.  This week, he escapes custody and springs AZI, too.  Snooping around the Kamino labs, they find that Tup, Fives and in fact all clones are implanted with an inhibitor chip, purpose unknown - at least to them.  Along the way there are enlightening and uncomfortable arguments between Nala Se and Shaak Ti over whether the clones "belong" to the Kaminoans or the Republic.
via Wookieepedia
AZI-3 is short for AZI-345211896246498721347.  The full designation comes up in a discussion between the medical droid and Fives (aka ARC-5555) about whether the numbers are demeaning to the clones or the droids.  This arc marks AZI-3's only appearance in the series.  He has quite a number of talents that come in handy in this episode.  In addition to being an expert surgeon, he doubles as a jet ski.  He is voiced by Ben Diskin.

Next week: "Orders."

Friday, July 7, 2017

Squid Mixes: Highball


All else being equal, a highball is my wife's drink of choice.   A highball is actually a broad category of drinks: an alcoholic spirit combined with a larger portion of a non-alcoholic mixer.  At our house, a "highball" is rye whiskey, preferrably Old Overholt, with ginger ale or ginger beer.  Ginger is big with my wife in general and the whiskey is a wonderful complement.

Highball also describes the tall glass in which the drink is served.  The name of the drink and the glass may derive from train dining cars.  A steam engine running at full throttle was said to be "highballing" in reference to the ball rising in the pressure guage.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Family Book Swap: Caddie Woodlawn

Title: Caddie Woodlawn
Author: Carol Ryrie Brink
via Amazon
For our summer book swap, our daughter gave me Caddie Woodlawn, a fictionalized memoir of a girl growing up in Pioneer Era Wisconsin.  Yes indeed, the premise is remarkably similar to that of Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder, yet this book has a strong legacy in its own right.  Caddie Woodlawn was awarded the Newberry Medal in 1936 and was one of the inaugural winners (along with Little House) of the Lewis Carroll Shelf Award in 1958.  Just like the Ingalls house near Pepin, Wisconsin, the Woodlawn home near Menomonie is preserved as an historic site.

Caddie's story is as much about her tomboy adventures with her brothers as it is about the frontier experience.  She prefers exploring the woods more than the more "ladylike" pursuits embraced by her mother and older sister in the house.  The traditional gender roles defined in the book are more than a little uncomfortable in light of 21st century sensibilities, though less so than the stories about Native Americans.  Those issues aside, the stories are charming enough.  Caddie's growing up moments center around the development of empathy: empathy for her Native American neighbors, for her tattle-tale younger sister, for her more refined Boston cousin, etc.  Overall, I'd say the book is better than Little House, which I've begun several times but never finished, though far inferior to Anne of Green Gables.

Our daughter has long expressed an interest in the Upper Midwest, particularly Wisconsin and Minnesota.  Her affection for this book helps me to understand why.  Brink's love for the northern woodlands is obvious.  We're hoping to make a cross-country journey sometime in the next few years and that part of the country seems a likely target for exploration.

For my part of the swap, I gave her A Spell for Chameleon by Piers Anthony.  I first read the book when I was about her age, 13.  I'll be interested to see what she thinks of it.  She's a far more sophisticated reader, especially of fantasy, than I was.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

The Clone Wars: Conspiracy

Andrew Leon and I are watching Star Wars: The Clone Wars.  Every Tuesday, we will be featuring an episode from the series which began in 2008.

Episode: "Conspiracy"
Series: Star Wars: The Clone Wars
The Lost Missions (Season Six), Episode 2
Original Air Date: February 15, 2014
via Wookieepedia
"Conspiracy" is the second in a four-part arc in which the Jedi are trying to unravel the mystery of why a clone murdered a Jedi while the Sith and their conspirators already know.   Tup, the offending clone, has been taken back to Kamino for examination.  Fives, who accompanied him back, is also being held in quarantine just in case whatever caused Tup to wig out is affecting him as well.  Initial tests reveal nothing unusual.  Shaak Ti wants to send Tup to the Jedi for psychological tests while Nala Se wishes to terminate Tup and dissect his brain.  Unbeknownst to Shaak Ti, Nala Se already knows what will be found and wants to get to it before the Jedi.  Fives, fearing for his pal, enlists the help of his own medical droid, AZI-3, to get to the truth before Tup is killed.
via Wookieepedia
We need to talk about Fives.  With a few exceptions like Cody and Rex, we don't get to know many of the clone troopers individually.  Fives, however, is rather quietly one of The Clone Wars's most interesting characters and has been attached to several of the series's best arcs.  We first met him as part of Domino Squad in the excellent first season episode "Rookies."  He also joined the Citadel prison rescue in Season Three and the attack on Umbara in Season Four.  He is especially devoted and compassionate towards his clone brothers, a distinction which in this story gets him into heaps of trouble but also comes damn near to uncovering the truth.
via Wookieepedia
Lama Su is the prime minister of Kamino and the overseer of the creation of the clone army.  He was first introduced in Attack of the Clones.  He was originally intended to be a female character but has always been voiced as male.  In the movie, he was performed by Anthony Phelan; in The Clone Wars, by Bob Bergen.
via Wikipedia
Robert Bergen was born March 8, 1964 in St. Louis.  He has one of the more impressive voice actor resumes I've seen.  He is currently the voice of both Porky Pig and Tweety Bird for Warner Brothers.  He has had prominent roles in several Miyazaki films: Lupin in The Castle of Cagliostro, No-Face in Spirited Away and Father in Ponyo.  He is the official voice double for Mark Hamill, a fellow Ponyo voice cast member.  Bergen voices Luke Skywalker in several Star Wars video games.

Next week: "Fugitive."

Saturday, July 1, 2017

The Cephalopod Coffeehouse: July 2017 Blog List

Greetings to all!  I hope you'll join us for the next installment of the Cephalopod Coffeehouse, an online gathering of bloggers who love books.  The next meeting is set for Friday, July 28th.  If you're interested, please sign on to the link list at the end of this post.

The idea is simple: on the last Friday of each month, post about the best book you've finished over the past month while visiting other bloggers doing the same.  In this way, we'll all have the opportunity to share our thoughts with other enthusiastic readers.  Please join us: