Monday, November 30, 2020

Marvel Immersion Project: Captain Marvel #30-34, Iron Man #55

Jim Starlin was the primary creative force behind The Life and Death of Captain Marvel, serving as both lead writer and lead artist for a time.  In fact, this might be his most famous work.  He was born October 9, 1949 in Detroit, Michigan.  He was the co-creator of Thanos, Drax the Destroyer, Gamora and Shang-Chi.  He has done extensive work for both Marvel and DC and won numerous awards.  He makes a cameo in Avengers: Endgame as a member of Steve Rogers's support group.

Starlin is a Steve Ditko fan and the Doctor Strange influence on this arc is particularly obvious.  

My Recent Reads

Captain Marvel #30
Originally Published January 1, 1974
Writer/Artist: Jim Starlin
  • The Controller is back.  
  • The newly reinvented Captain Marvel wins the rematch.  
  • Disappointed, Thanos destroys the Controller.

Captain Marvel #31
March 1, 1974
Jim Starlin
Moondragon via Marvel Database

  • Captain Marvel, accompanied by Moondragon, goes to Avengers' Mansion to enlist their help in the fight against Thanos.
Mantis via Wikipedia
Swordsman via Marvel Database

  • Among those present are Mantis and Swordsman.
  • Thanos reveals that his dreams of universal conquest are driven by his love for the character Death, who, I realized for the first time in this story, is female. [Thanks to my buddy Mock for the heads-up on that one.]
  • Thanos plucks Mar-Vell, Iron Man, Drax and Moondragon right out of the mansion and brings them directly to Titan, to be held in stasis along with Mentor and Eros.
  • They get our of stasis and battle Thanos.
  • Not only does Thanos win.  He transforms himself into a god.

Captain Marvel #32
May 1, 1974
Jim Starlin
  • The battle against Thanos and his minions continues.
  • We get origin stories for both Drax and Moondragon.

Captain Marvel #33
July 1, 1974
Writers: Starlin and Steve Englehart
Artist: Starlin
  • At long last, the Thanos War comes to an end. 
  • First, Mar-Vell is defeated, though he rallies back to victory after he is reminded of his new Cosmic Awareness.

Captain Marvel #34
September 1, 1974
Starlin and Englehart/Starlin
  • On the orders of The Lunatic Legion, Nitro steals a top-secret, government nerve agent, Compound 13.
  • Mar-Vell defeats Nitro but at great cost.  The gas canister is ruptured and Mar-Vell breathes in some of the fumes, a fact which will have dire, long-term consequences.

Iron Man #55
February 1, 1973
Starlin and Mike Friedrich/Starlin
  • Jumping back, at this point effectively a prequel to the Captain Marvel run I've been reading.
  • Thanos, Drax and the Blood Brothers are all introduced in this issue.

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.

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.

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

On the Coffee Table: Pyongyang

Title: Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea
Writer and Artist: Guy Delisle
via Amazon

Guy Delisle, a Canadian animator and comic book writer, was sent by his French television employer to Pyongyang, North Korea for two months.  Looking back, it's rather amazing to realize that it's been six years since I last read one of Delisle's graphic novel travel narratives, usually focused on oppressive regimes.  His minimalist approach lends itself well to the subject matter.

The Pyongyang he portrays is everything you'd expect it to be: quiet, sterile, lonely, empty, desolate.  I wonder about quiet.  I've spent five years in my life in Asia and in my experience, Asia is never quiet.  Of course, North Korea isn't like the rest of Asia, indeed even like the rest of Korea.  The repression is real.  I can't help wondering how much of the book's atmosphere comes from Delisle's style or if the city truly is as deserted as he makes it seem.  He really did live in an enormous and mostly empty hotel.  Electricity really was used sparingly, leaving the city in darkness at night.  His movements around town really were tightly controlled.  Delisle's art enhances all of that but I expect in the end, it does reflect reality.

I had an epiphany about propaganda while reading the book, always a fun issue to think about during election season.  Throughout his visit, Delisle is repeatedly amazed by the totality with which his North Korean handlers buy into the regime's dogma.  It made me think about the color blue.  According to linguistic historical research, blue was typically the last spectral color to be named in most languages.  Japanese is an interesting modern case.  The Japanese word for blue is ao which is also a word for green while there is another entirely separate word for green: midori.  One theory has it that it took longer for cultures to develop dyes for blue than for other colors and therefore there was no need for the word in commerce, often the driver for written language.  Another theory suggests that due to the ubiquitous blue in the sky, as opposed to the ever-changing earthbound greens, people don't notice blue as quickly.  Seem far-fetched?  It's worth noting that blue is also typically the last color to be identified by young children as they learn spoken language.

My point: people don't give much thought to something that is always there.  They don't see blue because they are desensitized to it.  It is the color of nothing.  It is not-color.  If you have lived your entire life in a country where a singular political message is all you've ever heard, you believe it not because you have thoroughly examined it but because it is, in essence, your nothing.  Kim Jong-un's supremacy is unquestioned because it is all that has ever been.  Seem far-fetched?  It is the same line of thinking that leads many of my white students in Vermont to say that they don't have a culture.  They don't see white culture as separate from everything else because it is all they have ever seen.  It is their normal because it is their nothing.

It's why so many people think they don't have an accent.

Pyongyang is a sobering read.  I don't really feel I know much more about North Korea than I already did, though I wonder if it's even possible to know much more.

Monday, November 9, 2020

Marvel Immersion Project: Daredevil #184-189

I will be moving on from Daredevil soon.  On to Captain Marvel next.  Before I go, a few thoughts...

Daredevil is a wonderful series.  Before this visit, I'd only read the very first issues and some of the crossovers.  It's much earthier than most Marvel comics. There are still plenty of costumed villains on hand but at the heart of it all is the gritty street crime world of Hell's Kitchen.  As with Spider-Man, much of the appeal for me is in the alias stories.  Fittingly, Matt Murdock is a darker character than Peter Parker, though just as clumsy in handling his love life.  Matt is lost in his own world much of the time.  When Black Widow initially left, for instance, he barely seemed to notice - more reflective of character flaws than narrative flaws.

I don't know how much I'd want to explore the series beyond this stretch.  So much depends on the writer in comics.  Spidey is always strong, well beyond Stan Lee's tenure.  I don't know if the same is true for DD beyond Frank Miller.

There's a new artist to introduce, beginning with #185...

Klaus Janson was born January 25, 1952 in Coburg, Germany.  His family emigrated to the United States when he was five.  He grew up in Bridgeport, Connecticut.

Janson made his Marvel debut in September 1973 with Jungle Action #6.  He has worked on most of the major titles for both Marvel and DC, though usually as an inker rather than a penciler (the lead artist's job).  When Daredevil went monthly, as opposed to bi-monthly, handling both writing and artwork became too much for Frank Miller so he turned the penciling over to Janson, who was already doing the inking and coloring for the series.  In the years since, Janson was won numerous awards for his inking work.  He also teaches his craft to new artists at Marvel as well as the School of Visual Arts and the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art, both based in New York City.

My Recent Reads

Daredevil #184
Originally Published July 1, 1982
Writer and Artist: Frank Miller
  • Separately, Daredevil and Punisher hunt down Hogman for selling drugs to kids.
  • Of course, it's a comic book so the two costumed vigilantes end up fighting each other.
  • This time, DD wins.

Daredevil #185
August 1, 1982
Writer: Miller
Artist: Klaus Janson
  • Heather Glenn has been growing suspicious of the current caretakers of Glenn Industries - the business she inherited from her father - and with good reason.  At the end of the previous issue, she found out the company was manufacturing explosives.  Now she's determined to find out why and for whom.
  • Foggy Nelson agrees to investigate the case for her.  Foggy also narrates this issue.
  • Through a mix up, and with some from-the-shadows help from Daredevil, he accidentally convinces both Turk and Kingpin that he himself is a deadly assassin.

Daredevil #186
September 1, 1982
  • Turk steals the Stilt-Man costume off of Wilbur Day in an effort to impress Kingpin.  Kingpin is not impressed.
  • DD's hypersenses - particularly his hearing - start to go wild.

Daredevil #187
October 1, 1982
  • Black Widow is back, though she's poisoned in a fight with The Hand.
  • Kirigi, The Hand's most feared assassin, is also back - from the dead.
  • Still struggling with his senses, DD seeks out Stick for help.

Daredevil #188
November 10, 1982
  • Black Widow learns The Hand's poison has given her a cancerous tumor.
  • Stick puts DD in an isolation chamber in order to help him regain control of his senses.
  • We meet The Chaste, Stick's own ninja-like squad.

Daredevil #189
December 1, 1982
  • Black Widow dies, then is almost immediately resurrected by Stone of The Chaste.
  • Daredevil, Stick, Black Widow and The Chaste all battle against The Hand.
  • Stick and two Chaste members, Shaft and Claw, all die in the battle.
  • Stone, the only Chaste member left, tells DD and BW that The Hand plans to resurrect Elektra.
  • BW and Foggy Nelson conspire to break up Matt Murdock and Heather Glenn for their own good.  It's not the healthiest relationship so it might well be for the best.

Friday, November 6, 2020

Star Trek: The Hunted

Episode: "The Hunted"
Series: Star Trek: The Next Generation
Season 3, Episode 11
Original Air Date: January 8, 1990

The leaders of Angosia III are petitioning for Federation membership and our heroes pay them a visit to check things out.  As is often the case in such stories, not all is as it seems.  A military prisoner, Danar, escapes from a penal colony but is then captured by the Enterprise.  Through him, the crew learn of the culture's shabby treatment of military veterans.

The episode is a commentary on the treatment of Vietnam War veterans in the United States, certainly a worthy topic.  30 years later, I would applaud any political candidate running on a veterans' affairs platform.  It's not like we've improved on the matter in our wars since.  The point is well made here, though as is often the case in TNG's "message" efforts, the story is occasionally heavy-handed, even hokey.  On the other hand, Danar's awesome: a Bourne-esque, trained killing machine, but one with a good heart.  The "chase" scene through the Enterprise at the end is the best part of the episode.

"The Hunted" is also the first of several Trek appearances for James Cromwell, the future (eventual?) Zefram Cochrane.

Acting Notes

Jeff McCarthy (Danar) was born October 16, 1954 in Los Angeles.  His career began on stage, first at the Pacific Conservatory of the Performing Arts in Santa Maria, California, then as a master's graduate and company player at the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco.  His Broadway credentials are extensive and impressive, including Smile, Slideshow, Urinetown, Beauty and the Beast, The Pirate Queen and Chicago.

Screen roles have been numerous, though not as eye-catching.  This is the first of two Trek appearances.  He also has made guest appearances on The Good Wife, Cheers, LA Law, Matlock and many others.  He is the voice actor for Michigan J. Frog.  There are a few big screen credits, too, including RoboCop 2, Eve of Destruction and Cliffhanger.

Thursday, November 5, 2020

On the Coffee Table: Satchel Paige

Title: Satchel Paige: Striking Out Jim Crow
Writers and Artists: James Sturm and Rich Tommaso

via Amazon

Sturm and Tommaso tell the story of the great baseball pitcher Satchel Paige from the point of view of Emmet, a fictional. black, Depression Era sharecropper in Alabama.  In his own brief baseball career, the narrator faced Paige for one at-bat, then later took his son to see him in a local barnstorming game.  In truth, more of the material is devoted to Emmet and his family's struggles in the Jim Crow South than to Paige.  The authors don't pull many punches in portraying the brutality of the white landowners.  

The material on Paige, when he does turn up, is interesting.  We see his flamboyance, his charm and his overpowering athletic skill.  Anyone wanting to learn about Paige would be better off reading Satchel: The Life and Times of an American Legend by Larry Tye (my review here), though there were a few new tidbits for me.  Paige had a preferred catcher throughout his career, Bill Perkins, whom Paige would insist teams hire as part of a package deal.  If there's anything about Perkins in Tye's book, I don't remember it.  Also, the authors identify Paige as the highest paid athlete in the world in his barnstorming prime.

There are four pages of explanatory notes at the end of the book, expanding the historical context of many of the panels.  I've seen this in other historically-based graphic novels and I'm not sure how I feel about it.  I get the limitations of the medium but the notebook dump approach only draws attention to the creators' inability to work more of the material into the main body of the work.

Overall, the book is interesting.  It's certainly not the most thorough exploration of the history available but it's a meaningful addition to the library, perhaps enough to draw readers to the subject matter.

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Bitters of the Month: Aztec Chocolate

Chocolate's history began in Mesoamerica, predating the Aztec Empire by at least 2,000 years.  In today's food parlance, "Aztec Chocolate" has come to mean dark chocolate with a strong peppery flavor.  It is marketed via ice cream, candy bars, hot chocolate mixes, etc.  As such, it really isn't surprising that Fee Brothers sells an Aztec Chocolate bitters.

As I have found with all of the bitters I've explored in this series, the aroma hits you first and hits you hard.  But how best to taste it on its own?  Normally, I start with a gin and bitters but gin and chocolate didn't sound like a winning combo so I went with vodka instead.  

The flavor is strong, too - indeed reminiscent of an Aztec hot chocolate.  Many of the recipes I found online combine the bitters with tequila or mezcal, completing the Mexican theme.  That might be worth trying, as might a hot cocoa concoction.

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

On the Coffee Table: The Honourable Schoolboy

Title: The Honourable Schoolboy
Author: John le Carré
The Honourable Schoolboy is the sixth George Smiley book and the second in the Karla Trilogy.  After taking down Bill Haydon in Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (my review here), George is welcomed back to the Circus, greeted by a massive clean-up job.  Looking to get back in the game, the Circus sends Jerry Westerby, a sports writer and occasional operative, to Hong Kong to look into a money-laundering operation based in Laos, possibly linked to Karla, George's KGB nemesis.

Unlike the other two books in the trilogy, Schoolboy has never been adapted to film, largely because of the prohibitive travel budget required.  The story is a romp through 1970s Southeast Asia, with stops in Bangkok, Vientiane, Saigon and Phnom Penh just to name a few.  It's a fascinating/terrifying time period in the region's history and a most enjoyable exploration for an Asia-phile like myself.  

As always, character development is le Carré's genius.  This time, Westerby is the new central specimen, though he was introduced in the previous book.  Things get really interesting, narrative-wise, when George's and Jerry's objectives come into opposition.  It's hard to know whom to root for when one's sympathies lie on both sides.

Le Carré's books are rarely tidy, particularly the endings.  I think spoilers are okay for a book published in 1977.  Westerby's death makes his whole story seem desperate and pointless, perhaps marginally more glamorous than Leamas's in The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, though not by much.  Furthermore, even though the main objective is achieved, it's not entirely clear in the end whether George himself was successful in managing the operation.  While this ambiguity can be frustrating from the reader's perspective, it makes the point of the author's broader purpose: Ian Fleming was full of it.  In reality, the spy game sucks.

Up next: Smiley's People.

Monday, November 2, 2020

Marvel Immersion Project: Daredevil #178-183

My Recent Reads

Daredevil #178
Originally Published January 1, 1982
Writer and Artist: Frank Miller
  • Elektra is hired by Kingpin as his new assassin.
Hogarth in top left frame via Marvel Database

  • My first encounter with Jeryn Hogarth.  In this story, he is simultaneously the financial backer of the Heroes for Hire, on board for a crossover story, and the defense lawyer for corrupt politician Randolph Cherryh.  In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Jeryn "Jeri" Hogarth is a female character.

Daredevil #179
February 1, 1982
Frank Miller
  • When Ben Urich and Daredevil fail to heed warnings to back off of the Cherryh/Kingpin link story, Elektra attacks them both.  The issue ends with Elektra appearing to have killed Ben.
Vanessa Fisk via Wikipedia

  • A much bedraggled woman appears outside of Kingpin's home.  She looks an awful lot like Kingpin's presumed dead wife Vanessa, but she's sent away.

Daredevil #180
March 1, 1982
Frank Miller
  • Ben Urich survived.
  • Daredevil rescues Vanessa from the King of the Sewers.
  • Cherryh wins the mayoral election, The Daily Bugle having retracted its story about his ties with Kingpin.
  • However, when DD returns Vanessa to Kingpin, he demands that Kingpin make Cherryh step down. 
  • Humiliated, Kingpin accepts the terms but then assigns Elektra to kill Foggy Nelson in retaliation.

Daredevil #181
April 1, 1982
Frank Miller
  • Bullseye escapes from prison and is intent on revenge against Daredevil.
  • More significantly, he sorts out DD's secret identity (though he later doubts his accurate discovery).
  • Bullseye goes after Elektra, seeing her as an underhanded way of getting to DD.
  • Bullseye kills Elektra.
  • Also featured, though only as a peripheral character for the moment: Punisher.

Daredevil #182
May 1, 1982
Frank Miller
  • Unwilling to believe that Elektra is truly dead, Daredevil digs up her body.
  • She's really dead.
  • Punisher escapes from prison.

Daredevil #183
June 1, 1982
Frank Miller
  • An anti-drug story, one initially blocked and then heavily edited due to the CCA code.
  • Mary Elizabeth O'Koren, a 12-year-old girl having a bad PCP trip, jumps out of her school window and dies.
  • Coincidentally, Matt Murdock/Daredevil is on hand for the incident.  He tries but fails to rescue her.
  • Independent of one another, DD, Punisher and William, the girl's brother, all go after Hogman, the dealer who sold her the drugs.
  • Daredevil and Punisher battle.  Punisher wins but doesn't want to kill DD, shooting him with a tranquilizer instead.
  • Matt Murdock proposes to Heather Glenn!