Friday, June 9, 2023

Star Trek: Parallels

Episode: "Parallels"
Series: Star Trek: The Next Generation
Season 7, Episode 11
Original Air Date: November 29, 1993

Worf returns to the Enterprise from a bat'leth tournament.  Reality seems to be shifting.  It starts small.  The chocolate cake at his birthday party is suddenly a yellow cake.  Picard is at the party whereas just moments before, Worf had been told the captain was on the bridge.  Gradually, the changes get bigger.  People are on opposite sides of the room from where he thought they'd been.  The past shifts.  His place in the tournament, and the trophy won, keeps changing.  He has forgotten things others seem to remember.  Worf seems to be the only one who notices it's happening.

"Parallels" is a popular episode with the devoted.  I don't care for it - not a fan of Trek's usual treatment of either time travel or parallel universes.  Furthermore, at this stage of the series, such stories serve as a further reminder that the writers were running out of ideas.  All of that said, there is one meaningful wrinkle for the long term...

"Parallels" raises the possibility of a more intimate relationship between Worf and Deanna Troi.  In his alternate reality, Worf is, in fact, married to Troi.  And they have children (not seen on screen)!  The devoted did not like this.  They'd always been rooting for the Riker-Troi pairing.  To be fair, we were all encouraged in that thinking from the beginning.  Six seasons later, the story line hadn't gone anywhere.  So, why not mix things up?  I like the Worf-Troi line.  I prefer Worf to Will.  Why wouldn't Deanna?  

30 years on, we know the love lives of all three characters will play out differently.  But I am glad the writers invested a bit of Season 7 in testing the waters with the Worf-Troi possibility.

Acting Notes

Mark Bramhall played the role of Gul Nador, a Cardassian starship commander.  This was the first of two Trek appearances for Bramhall.  He was also a Vulcan elder in J.J. Abrams's 2009 Star Trek film.  Bramhall was born in Los Angeles County, August 22, 1942.  

Other films include Vice, Annabelle: Creation and Vanilla Sky.  Other television appearances include Colony, Weeds and Nip/Tuck.  

Tuesday, June 6, 2023

Eating Out: Namaste Indian Nepali Restaurant

The Montpelier street corner which once housed Rivendell, a second-hand book store (mentioned here), is now home to Namaste Indian Nepali Restaurant.  The cheerfully, naturally lit space initially feels more like a diner but the Himalayan travel posters and the Indian pop music videos on the flat-screen tell a different story.  We ordered keema samosa, chicken tikka masala, mango goat curry and nan - all to share.

Overall, the food was nice.  We definitely could have been more daring with the heat.  We ordered the chicken medium and the goat mild - probably could have comfortably gone one level up for each.  I would have preferred less salt in the nan and fewer bones in the goat but otherwise, the meal was satisfactory.

Our waiter was friendly and attentive, perhaps even a bit maternal, checking in to see how much of each dish we'd finished.  We'll definitely be back.

Friday, June 2, 2023

Star Trek: Sanctuary

Episode: "Sanctuary"
Series: Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Season 2, Episode 10
Original Air Date: November 28, 1993

via Memory Alpha

Refugees come through the wormhole.  The universal translator takes a while to sort out their language but eventually, we learn they are known as the Skrreeans.  They are on the run from danger (The Dominion - first time mentioned by name) in the Gamma Quadrant.  They hope to settle on Bajor.  Their leader, Haneek, trusts Kira most so the major becomes the go-between.  The relationship becomes strained once the Bajorans hand down their decision as to whether or not to allow the settlement.

The topical relevance is obvious and "Sanctuary" boasts several interesting narrative elements.  The process of sorting out the language gap is interesting, and importantly different from the issues in "Darmok."  The Skreeans are a matriarchal society and not an offensive one as in "Angel One."  The attitudes on both the station and Bajor regarding the refugees are true to life.  The personal betrayal element definitely works.  Yet somehow, the messaging feels heavy-handed to me.  

Maybe I'm supposed to feel uncomfortable.  The writers and especially the makeup team did a great job of making the Skrreeans... unappealing.  They have bumpy, flaky skin, leading Quark to complain that they're leaving little bits of themselves all over his bar.  That is, admittedly, pretty gross.  It's a tangible representation of the sort of heebie-jeebies people in our time often feel towards "other people."

Casting Notes

William Schallert played the role of Varani, a professional Bajoran musician whom Kira invites to the station.  In the original series, Schallert played Nilz Baris in the masterful episode, "The Trouble with Tribbles."  Schallert passed away in 2016.

Andrew Koenig was Tumak, one of Haneek's sons.  The actor is the son of Walter Koenig, TOS's Chekov.  Andrew Koenig committed suicide in 2010.

Kitty Swink was Rozahn, the Bajoran official who breaks the bad news to the Skrreeans.  Swink was and still is married to Armin Shimerman (Quark).

Acting Notes

via Memory Alpha

Deborah May (Haneek) was born in Remington, Indiana.  She was Miss Indiana in 1970.  

She had a recurring role in St. Elsewhere and also made appearances in The Golden Girls, Seinfeld and ER.  Films include The Kid, Nurse Betty and The Woman in Red.  In 1981, she directed a documentary about black women in apartheid South Africa: You Have Struck a Rock.  "Sanctuary" was her first of two Trek appearances in two different series.  

Wednesday, May 31, 2023

On the Coffee Table: Dorothy L. Sayers

Title: Whose Body?
Author: Dorothy L. Sayers

Having made my way through the vast majority of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories, it's time to move on to another classic sleuth of the genre: Lord Peter Whimsey.  My wife is the primary mystery enthusiast at our house and Dorothy L. Sayers's work is her favorite.  She first introduced me to the Whimsey books in a family book swap several years ago.  I have now gone back to the beginning.  Whose Body? is the first book, published in 1923.  

Lord Peter Whimsey sits at a midway point between Holmes and Bertie Wooster of the Jeeves stories.  With this first offering, he's definitely more towards the goofy Bertie end of that spectrum than I remember him being later on.  Fortunately, Peter has a talent for solving mysteries, a hobby he indulges in to alleviate boredom more than any sense of justice.  Like Bertie, he's basically a decent guy.

An unidentified corpse is discovered in the bathtub of a London home.  The same evening, a prominent financier, Sir Reuben Levy, went missing?  Are they one and the same?  While that's the initial assumption, Parker (Whimsey's Scotland Yard detective buddy) quickly susses out they can't be.  Levy was a pious Jew.  The naked man in the tub clearly wasn't.  This coy reference to circumcision was too risqué for Sayers's 1923 publishers and they made her change her original language so as to be less obvious.

Whimsey and Parker are initially working the two cases separately but eventually find the connection together.  They get an assist from Bunter, Whimsey's Jeeves-equivalent butler.  Another memorable character introduced in this first book is Peter's mother, the Duchess of Denver.  Clever, charming and meddlesome, I find her reminiscent of Mrs. Higgins from the George Bernard Shaw play Pygmalion, first staged in 1913 (not adapted for the musical My Fair Lady until 1956).

A bit of cultural learning for me: a coroner's inquest.  I know, of course, that a coroner's job is to determine cause of death.  I did not previously realize that a coroner can call for a jury hearing on the matter.  Such an inquest is held in the book.  Is this a peculiarly British practice?  In fact, no.  They can be held in the United States, too, though not in every state.  There's an inquest in the movie Vertigo which I've seen several times.  I guess I always assumed it was a criminal trial.

There are many more Whimsey books on our shelves so I intend to explore this world again soon.

Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Squid Mixes: Punt e Mes Negroni

As discussed last week, I recently picked up a bottle of Punt e Mes to try in Manhattans.  After that experiment, my wife expressed a desire to try the 1.5 vermouth in a Negroni as well.  I used Gary Regan's recipe in The Joy of Mixology as the basis for comparison.  His proportions are different from what I've done in the past with a ratio 1:1:1 between gin, Campari and vermouth.  In this post, I used a 4:2:1 ratio.  Importantly, especially for this experiment, it means more vermouth.

I should have done a side by side comparison with the Punt e Mes and sweet vermouth - easy enough to do as with Regan's recipe, you mix in the serving glass.  It's a darker red that what I've seen in Negronis in the past, though that may have as much to do with the proportions as the specific ingredients.  Same goes for flavor.  My wife felt the Punt e Mes balanced the Campari better than a sweet vermouth does.  

Again, should have done it side by side.  Maybe next time.

As Punt e Mes isn't quite a sweet vermouth, I feel the ingredient qualifier is necessary in identifying the drink.  However, the difference isn't enough to give it an entirely new, unique name.  For the record, the recipe:

Punt e Mes Negroni

1.5 oz gin
1.5 oz Punt e Mes
1.5 oz Campari
orange twist for garnish

Mix in the serving glass with ice and serve.

Friday, May 26, 2023

Star Trek: Inheritance

Episode: "Inheritance"
Series: Star Trek: The Next Generation
Season 7, Episode 10
Original Air Date: November 22, 1993

via Memory Alpha

Data meets his mother!  The Enterprise visits Atrea IV where the planet core is cooling, threatening the long-term habitability of the planet.  One of the geologists who comes aboard the ship is Dr. Juliana Tainer, former wife of Dr. Noonian Soong, Data's creator.  Dr. Tainer claims to have assisted in Data's construction.  After some investigation, Data accepts this truth.  But something is still amiss.  Dr. Tainer, while earnest in her desire to reconnect with Data, is not quite what she appears.

"Inheritance" is an important Data story.  We learn a lot about his history, elements of which bear relevance in his narrative 30 years on.  It is equal parts sweet and sad.

Acting Notes

via Memory Alpha

William Lithgow played the role of Dr. Pran Tainer, Atrean geologist and husband to Dr. Juliana Tainer.  Lithgow was born August 7, 1939 in Los Angeles.  Before Trek, he had appearances on TV movies The Fantastic Seven and Drop-Out Father.  Big screen credits include Dead in the Water, A Beautiful Life and The Inner Circle.  He also taught at Stella Adler.

As far as I can tell, he is not related to actor John Lithgow.

Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Squid Mixes: Poco Manhattan

As noted in this post, we recently had dinner at Restaurant Poco and sat at the bar, allowing for an intimate view of the cocktail mixing procedures.  For my Manhattan, the bartender used Punt e Mes rather than sweet vermouth.  The result was an intriguing raisin flavor which we were eager to replicate at home.

Punt e Mes is an Italian vermouth currently produced by Fratelli Branca, a split between sweet and dry vermouth.  It's not an even split so the result is not quite a Perfect ManhattanPunt e mes is Piedmontese for one-and-a-half.  The intention is a two-to-one split between sweet and dry vermouth.  

My creation was more bitter than what I remember from the restaurant and less raisiny.  I used a different rye - Ezra Brooks instead of Rittenhouse - which could account for the difference.  And, of course, I don't know what proportions he used.  Nonetheless, we both enjoyed the drink.  My wife is now eager to try the Punt e Mes in a Negroni.  Stay tuned.

My recipe for a Poco Manhattan (serves two):

3 oz. rye
1 oz. Punt e Mes
3 dashes Angostura bitters
Maraschino cherry garnish (the bartender used a lemon twist instead)

Stir with ice.  Strain and serve.