Monday, August 30, 2021

Marvel Unlimited: Squadron Supreme #1-5, Captain America #314

The Squadron Supreme made their first appearance in 1971 in The Avengers #85.  A superhero group from an alternate dimension, they were created as a parody of DC's Justice League.  In 1985, Marvel launched a limited series about the team.  

The stories address interesting questions about the roles and responsibilities of superheroes in the world at large.  While this, in itself, was not new ground for Marvel, Squadron Supreme took the questions further than most.  What would happen if such beings, even benevolent ones, were granted absolute power to shape society as they see fit?  What would be the challenges and pitfalls?  Indeed, what threats could the team's members present to each other along the way?

The lineup, along with their JLA equivalents:

Hyperion = Superman
Nighthawk = Batman
Power Princess = Wonder Woman
Whizzer = Flash
Doctor Spectrum = Green Lantern
Amphibian = Aquaman
Golden Archer = Green Arrow
Lady Lark = Black Canary
Tom Thumb = Atom
Blue Eagle = Hawkman
Arcanna = Zatanna
Nuke = Firestorm

My Recent Reads

Squadron Supreme #1
Originally published September 1985
Writer: Mark Gruenwald
Artist: Bob Hall

via Amazon

Squadron Supreme #2
October 1985

Squadron Supreme #3
November 1985

Squadron Supreme #4
December 1985

via Amazon

Squadron Supreme #5
January 1986

Captain America #314
February 1986
Gruenwald/Paul Neary

Friday, August 27, 2021

Star Trek: Redemption II

Episode: "Redemption II"
Series: Star Trek: The Next Generation
Season 5, Episode 1
Original Air Date: September 23, 1991

via Memory Alpha

The season-bridging story concludes.  The Duras family has the upper hand in their effort to usurp Gowron for the throne.  But the Federation, through some neat trickery by Data, exposes the Durases' Romulan backing, thus undermining the entire scheme.  

Many critics prefer Part II to Part I.  The Data story is an interesting one.  Picard, reluctantly, grants him temporary command of a Federation ship for the mission.  Data's first officer is not exactly thrilled with serving under an android.  The prejudice narrative plays out predictably but effectively.  It's a meaningful B plot, though structurally the episode has more of an A1-A2 form.  Interestingly, Michael Dorn (Worf) felt that the Data story was more deserving of its own episode and I agree.  I still think "Redemption II" is on the short list of best so far but I prefer Part I. 

Right, the Sela/Tasha Yar (Denise Crosby) story.  Interesting.  But I think it's fair to say that it promised more than it delivered - in the end, little more than a gimmick.

Next week's, however, may be the greatest Star Trek episode of them all...

Acting Notes

via Wiki 24

Tony Todd played the part of Kurn, Worf's brother.  Todd was born December 4, 1954 in Washington, DC.  He studied at the University of Connecticut, the Eugene O'Neill National Actors Theatre Institute and the Trinity Repertory Company.  This is his third of four appearances as Kurn, third of six Trek appearances overall.

Big screen credits include Platoon and the Candyman and Final Destination franchises.  Beyond Trek, television appearances include a recurring role on Boston Public plus guest appearances on 24, Law & Order and The X-Files.

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Squid Mixes: Ambrosia

In her book The Geeky Chef Drinks, Cassandra Reeder offers over 60 cocktail recipes inspired by various sci-fi and fantasy franchises.  Her Ambrosia recipe comes from Battlestar Galactica.  Ambrosia, a strong and expensive beverage, is brown in the original series and green in the reboot.  Reeder's recipe intends to create the latter, combining Navy Strength gin, melon liqueur, Triple Sec, lime juice and Angostura bitters.  The result was a melon Jolly Rancher flavor.

As you can see in the picture above, the color didn't quite work out.  For comparison, here's the photo in the book:

I know the problem: it's the bitters.  Angostura is intensely red.  Mind you, she suggested 1-3 dashes and I really like Angostura so I went with 3.  A single dash might not have had such a huge impact on the color.  Even so, if I were to create my own version, I'd swap it out for a more green-complimentary bitters - grapefruit perhaps.

I also went with a weaker gin since it's what we had on hand.  If I were to up the alcohol content (which my wife assured me is not necessary), I might swap out the Triple Sec for chartreuse.  It would add alcohol and also support the color.

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

State of the Blog 2021

Blogging Year 13, here we go!

It's going to be a big year for my family.  Our daughter begins her senior year of high school tomorrow.  Momentous occasions will abound.  Big decisions shall be made.  A year from now, we'll know the answers to many questions.  Big questions.  Suddenly, everything feels like a huge deal.

Obviously, I think a lot these days about things I want to be sure we do before she heads off to college.  I also project forward to the empty nest experience for my wife and me.  A few years ago, I told my wife that I don't want to be the sort of couple who waits for the kids to leave to get to know each other again.  I don't think we are that couple but I want to enjoy being that couple now.  So, as I think about how to spend my hobby time over the coming year, I think of new - and old - interests we should explore together. 

For instance, maybe it's time to give wine another try.  Mind you, it's still her default alcoholic beverage choice whereas I am a beer man.  Wine, particularly red, makes me sleepy.  That's not always a terrible thing but it's not what I want every night.  I also haven't been overly impressed by the classes we've taken.  Perhaps they at least taught us enough to do more informed exploring on our own.  Surely, there are compromises to be worked out here.  I don't know if I'll blog about wine again but you never know.

For now, I'm going to stick with the same blogging schedule...

Mondays: comic books
Wednesdays: family adventures
Fridays: Star Trek

As stated in yesterday's post, I am going to switch from Star Wars back to Marvel in comic books.  However, my Marvel Unlimited subscription runs out in January and I am not currently planning to renew.  So, I will probably move to a twice weekly, Tuesday/Friday schedule when that happens.

Family adventures posts will likely continue to focus on food, especially cocktails.  I will continue with Bitters of the Month as long as locally-available supply and shelf space allow.

As for Trek, I'm planning to continue as I have, beginning with TNG Season 5 right soon.  Deep Space Nine premiered during the middle of NextGen's sixth season so we should be able to explore that one together before long, too.  It will be my second time through DS9 as we binged it as a family this past year.  Without a doubt, it's my favorite of the NextGen era series.

As always, if you enjoy reading The Squid half as much as I enjoy writing it, we're all doing fine.  Keep in touch.

Squiddies 2021

The Armchair Squid turns twelve years old today.  It's time to hand out some hardware.  The Squiddy goes to...

Biggest Surprise: Chartreuse

Chartreuse is a liqueur which has been produced by French monks for at least four centuries.  There are two varieties: a sweeter yellow and a more intensely alcoholic green.  The flavor is wild, like psychedelia in a glass.  Different hints are emphasized depending on what it's combined with.  Sometimes anise prevails, other times mint, other times cinnamon, other times... I don't even know what.  It ain't cheap but on the bright side, a little goes a long way.  Without question, it was our most rewarding mixological discovery this year.

Biggest Disappointment: Chadwick Boseman's Passing

Actor Chadwick Boseman passed away last August of complications from colon cancer.  Only 43 years old, he'd already compiled an impressive film resume, having portrayed T'Challa/Black Panther, Jackie Robinson, James Brown and Thurgood Marshall among others.  May he rest in peace.

Best Read, First Time Category: Interior Chinatown by Charles Yu

via Amazon

Yu's novel about the life of "Generic Asian Man" Willis Wu is written in screenplay format.  Willis is an actor - or is he a character? - on a cop show called Black and White.  The leads are a Black man and a White woman.  Willis and all of the other Asians are background characters.  Of course, it's all an elaborate metaphor for the ways race plays out in American society, especially for those of East Asian descent.  While the weaving in and out of "reality" can be a little confusing, that's sort of the point.  Even Chinatown itself is simultaneously the reality and the metaphor for the compartmentalization of Asian culture in the United States.

The time to educate ourselves about race is now.  I can't recommend Interior Chinatown highly enough.

via Amazon

The penultimate volume of the Harry Potter series is an intensely emotional experience.  Our young hero confronts both loss and love with greater intensity and immediacy than ever before.  The stage is set for the amazing ending.  Good as it is, the final book suffers a little from pacing issues.  So, Year 6 gets my nod in this category.

Best Comics Find: Frank Miller's Daredevil

Daredevil is a fascinating character, one of Marvel's best.  Industry titan Frank Miller started drawing for the series in May 1979.  Eventually, he would take over writing duties as well.  It was his breakthrough gig.  Miller brought darker sensibilities to the medium, both literally and figuratively.  His style was a fine match for an emotionally remote protagonist and his gritty Hell's Kitchen world.

Athlete of the Year: Willie Mays

This summer, I read Willie Mays: The Life, the Legend by James S. Hirsch.  If I'd previously had any doubts about Mays's superiority over all other baseball players in history, Hirsch's book erased them.  Mays turned 90 years old in May.  He's a living national treasure.

Best Family Adventure: Zooming Christmas

This year, COVID circumstances forced (sensible) people to be creative during the holidays.  Thanks to the ingenuity of family and friends, we enjoyed several of what I hope will become new annual traditions.  English Prof hosted a reading of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens for over 30 people from her home in Massachusetts.  My sister and niece organized Jolabokaflod (explained here) for Christmas Eve including 15 people over six households, three US states (plus DC) and two countries.  My wife inspired an Æbleskiver Breakfast for three of those same households Christmas morning.  We connected with her family later Christmas day - five people, three states in that case.  Even under normal circumstances, coordinating any of those gatherings would have been challenging.  Zoom, for all of the headaches it brings, made it all possible.

Monday, August 23, 2021

Star Wars Comics: Mara Jade #6, Crimson Empire II #4-6

It's time for me to move on from Star Wars comics and back to the Marvel line.  Mind you, I always enjoy my explorations of the galaxy far, far away but, frankly, talking about Marvel is more engaging for my readers.  And that is the whole point of this blogging thing, right?  Anyway, a few parting thoughts...

1999 is a natural jumping off point anyway.  The Phantom Menace was released in May of that year, significantly expanding the narrative possibilities for the comic books for the first time in 16 years.  To that point, I am considerably impressed with how much the comic creators had been able to expand upon three (admittedly extraordinary) films and a smattering of novels.  

Big picture, I think the biggest contribution the Dark Horse comics of the '90s made to the overall franchise was the development of its ancient history.  Tom Veitch and Cam Kennedy introduced the holocrons, essentially the Jedi and Sith bibles, in their Dark Empire series.  Then Veitch (and others) went on to explore the material that might be contained within the holocrons in the Tales of the Jedi series, a mythology within the mythology.  While these were not my favorite series from the era, they were certainly the ones with the strongest legacy, perhaps most significantly in the Knights of the Old Republic video game line.  

Dark Horse is also to be commended for the many strong female characters developed during this era - less so for the obligatory tight-fitting costumes of same.
Here are my actual favorite series from the pre-Phantom Dark Horse era, along with the most interesting, morally-ambiguous character featured in each:

X-Wing Rogue Squadron - Baron Fel

Crimson Empire I and II - Kir Kanos

Mara Jade - By the Emperor's Hand - naturally, Mara Jade

My Recent Reads

Mara Jade - By the Emperor's Hand #6
Originally published February 3, 1999
Writers: Timothy Zahn and Michael A. Stackpole
Artist: Carlos Ezquerra
In-story Timeline: 4 ABY

Crimson Empire II: Council of Blood #4
February 10, 1999
Mike Richardson and Randy Stradley/Paul Gulacy
11 ABY

Crimson Empire II: Council of Blood #5
March 10, 1999
Richardson and Stradley/Gulacy

Crimson Empire II: Council of Blood #6
April 14, 1999
Richardson and Stradley/Gulacy

Friday, August 20, 2021

Star Trek: Redemption, Part I

Episode: "Redemption, Part I"
Series: Star Trek: The Next Generation
Season 4, Episode 26
Original Air Date: June 17, 1991

The Klingons are on the brink of war and as ever, the Enterprise crew is caught up in the middle of the fracas.  Gowron, the current chancellor, calls upon Picard for assistance.  Meanwhile, the plot thickens for Worf.  With Picard's urging, he takes the situation as an opportunity to see his family's honor restored.

On top of all that, Denise Crosby is back, revealed in the final scene in the form of a mysterious Romulan woman.  But we don't know who she is yet.  All will be revealed in the next episode - pretty good season-ending cliffhanger.

As previously stated, I love the Worf story.  I'll take it over the Data story any time.  Apparently, Gene Roddenberry didn't see Worf as a primary character and argued against having him play lead in such an important episode.  I'm glad other voices won out on that one.


Thoughts on Season 4

General Impressions

We're cooking now.  With four seasons, NextGen now exceeds the original series's three.  For many fans, TNG became the flagship series of the the franchise.  Wesley is jettisoned - a strong move.

Favorite Episode: "The Family"

The unofficial Part 3 of the Best of Both Worlds arc, "The Family" begins the story of Picard's recovery from Borg abduction.  In the long run, I feel it's the most interesting aspect of what is arguably TNG's most important (if not necessarily best) story.  For the first time, we see the captain as a vulnerable human being.  Plus the secondary narrative about Worf's parents is sweet.

Least Favorite Episode: "Night Terrors"

The premise isn't bad.  The crew is all suffering from sleep depravation except for Data (of course) and Deanna Troi.  The latter can only have nightmares.  But the pace is glacial and the end result just plain dull, the unforgivable sin of science fiction.  

Favorite Recurring Character: Guinan

This title is hers until someone knocks her out.  Barkley made a good run at her but she's still the queen.  Every story gets better when she turns up.

Favorite Blast from the Past: Lawrence Dobkin

Dobkin played the role of Klingon Ambassador Kell in "The Mind's Eye."  While Dobkin never appeared on screen in the original series, he did direct the first season episode "Charlie X."

Favorite Guest Actor, One-Shot: David Ogden Stiers

In as clear a sign as any that NextGen was trending in the right direction, the quality of guest stars improved considerably in Season 4, including legends of stage (Theodore Bikel), screen (Jean Simmons) and both (Bebe Neuwirth).  Trek was cool again and association with the new series was no longer a risk.  Stiers was the biggest treat of all.  The former M*A*S*H regular brought impressive range to a demanding role in "Half a Life."  


Season 5 is NextGen's zenith.  

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Squid Mixes: Aviation

An aviation combines gin, lemon juice, maraschino liqueur and creme de violette.  I got my recipe from David Lebovitz's Drinking French.  We were introduced to the drink by our dear, departed friend The Playwright five years ago (see post).  

I'd say the flavor is kind of like grape-flavor Pez.  That's not necessarily a bad thing, though odd as there are no grape ingredients - could be a psychological trick with the purple color.  And intensely purple it is!  Interestingly, The Playwright's were darker:

My wife thinks his were also more bitter.  I'm guessing he used the creme de violette in greater proportion.  I know he used the same bottle because he gave it to us after that weekend - the maraschino liqueur, too.  Generous guy.

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

On the Coffee Table: Simon Sinek

Title: The Infinite Game
Author: Simon Sinek

via Amazon

According to Simon Sinek, an organization (or indeed, a person) is rooted in one of two mindsets: the finite or the infinite.  A finite game is one with set objectives within a given timeframe: a basketball game, for instance.  You win or you lose.  Everyone knows the rules.  The infinite game is open-ended.  The objectives are less tangible.  A youth basketball program seeking to bring a sense of purpose and belonging to its players and a sense of pride to the community is playing the infinite game.  As the title of his book suggests, Sinek is advocating for the infinite mindset.

Sinek's primary focus is the corporate world.  A company, or a CEO, focused on increasing value for shareholders is playing the finite game.  On the other hand, one with a mission to improve the lives of customers and make the world a better place is playing the infinite game.  He gives numerous real world examples.  Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts and Navy SEALs: infinite game.  Blockbuster Video: finite game.  

Worth noting, I find Four Seasons and Navy SEALs are always the poster children in these sorts of books, no matter the thesis.

It's inspiring and compelling stuff.  The trouble for me is I can't help thinking about work so I tried to think of it in terms of baseball instead.  New York Yankees: finite.  St. Louis Cardinals: infinite.  I'm delighted to elaborate for anyone who cares.  But I have to admit, Sinek inspired some healthy work thinking in the end.  I'm 20+ years into my teaching career.  These days, I play multiple roles within my professional community.  I'm not just the music teacher any more.  In fact, I've been more than that for a long time.  What's it all for?  What is my infinite vision for the work I do over the course of a day?  How does each of these roles serve the big picture?  I haven't arrived at exact answers yet but I find that line of thinking more inspiring than planning for the next concert, next curriculum unit or just trying to get through the blessed day/week/term/year.  I have to do all that stuff anyway.  But it's all more meaningful with a sense of broader purpose.

Entertaining though they might be, I feel there are inherent problems with this type of book.  Sinek has delineated too neatly.  Everything good is due to the infinite mindset, everything bad to the finite.  The world is more complicated than that.  My more cynical view: a book like Infinite Game serves as a pamphlet for a writer like Sinek.  Book royalties are great but the really money is on the corporate speaker tour.  

I am, however, convinced that Sinek means what he says.  He's given me a lot to think about as I start the new school year.

Monday, August 16, 2021

Star Wars Comics: Crimson Empire II #1-3, Jedi Academy #2-4, Mara Jade #5

This week, I wrapped up the Jedi Academy: Leviathan series.  While I was hoping for a Hogwarts for Jedi, it's closer to an X-Men equivalent.  The Jedi in training, at least the ones in the story, are all adults.  Luke sends them on a mission as part of their training then worries about them while they're away - clear Charles Xavier stuff.

It's a decent series - light and rather obvious on the dialogue, heavy on the action sequences.  As such, it's certainly a quick read.  It was enough to reignite my interest in Jedi lore.

My Recent Reads

Crimson Empire II: Council of Blood #1
Originally published November 11, 1998
Writer: Mike Richardson and Randy Stradley
Artist: Paul Gulacy
In-story timeline: 11 ABY

via Wookieepedia

Crimson Empire II: Council of Blood #2
December 9, 1998
Richardson and Stradley/Gulacy

Crimson Empire II: Council of Blood #3
January 13, 1999
Richardson and Stradley/Gulacy

via Wookieepedia

Jedi Academy: Leviathan #2
November 18, 1998
Kevin J. Anderson/Dario Carrasco, Jr.
12 ABY

via Wookieepedia

Jedi Academy: Leviathan #3
December 16, 1998

via Wookieepedia

Jedi Academy: Leviathan #4
January 27, 1999

via Wookieepedia

Mara Jade: By the Emperor's Hand #5
December 16, 1998
Timothy Zahn and Michael A. Stackpole/Carlos Ezquerra

via Wookieepedia

Friday, August 13, 2021

Star Trek: In Theory

Episode: "In Theory"
Series: Star Trek: The Next Generation
Season 4, Episode 25
Original Air Date: June 3, 1991

Data has a girlfriend.  Lt. Jenna D'Sora (Michele Scarabelli) has taken a shine to our favorite android.  While Data has had sex before, this is his first attempt at a deeper relationship.  While it can be more than a little uncomfortable to watch the two of them stumble through the inevitable awkwardness, we learn a lot about Data in this adventure.  We also learn a lot about his shipmates' varying attitudes towards romance as he seeks out their advice.  Unfortunately for Jenna, Data's eagerness to please her can't make up for the impossibility of a genuinely reciprocal relationship.

It's not a bad episode but certainly not a great one.  It was Patrick Stewart's first turn in the director's chair and given the basic simplicity of the story and the opportunity to work with Brent Spiner in a new context, the experience was gratifying for him.  There's a mostly forgettable subplot about a nebula encounter.  It feels tacked on and, interestingly, the writers themselves thought so, too.  They knew they needed one to meet TNG's expected A-B plot format but didn't feel it actually added anything.

Acting Notes

Michele Scarabelli was born April 11,  1955 in Montreal.  She is best known for the role of Susan Francisco in the Alien Nation franchise.  Other television work has included Airwolf, Dallas and Superman & Lois.  Big screen credits include The Hotel New Hampshire and Perfect Timing.  Her most prominent voice-over work has been with The Journeyman Project video games.

Thursday, August 12, 2021

On the Coffee Table: Cornelius Minor

Title: We Got This.: Equity, Access and the Quest to Be Who Our Students Need Us to Be
Author: Cornelius Minor

Cornelius Minor, a middle school literacy teacher by trade, advocates a radical idea: the solutions to the problems of education can be found through listening to students and what they need.  While student voice is hardly a new concept, Minor's book is unusual, in my experience, in that it offers thoughtful processes for problem-solving.  I've been a teacher for over 20 years now and I've heard loads of complaining from my colleagues and lots of pie in the sky philosophy from professional development.  What I haven't seen often is concrete thinking on how to get from where we are to where we want to go.  Minor offers the structures he has used himself:
  • How do I transform my own philosophical vision into classroom action?
  • How do I articulate the need for change with colleagues, administration, parents, the school board, etc?
  • More generally, how can I approach problems - any problems - in a methodical way?  
That last one may not seem like a big deal but it is.  It's not the way people function most of the time.

In particular, Minor tackles the matter of equity and the institutional racism, sexism, ableism and classism that stand in the way.  He puts it as succinctly as anyone I've heard or read:

When we think of race-, gender-, ability- or class-based oppression, we often think of individual acts of personal bias.  Our minds fill with images of a villainous past -- "back when things were bad."  We consider Klansmen and burning crosses or we remember the men who spat at suffragists and the police officers who arrested them for attempting to vote.  We use words like racist or sexist to describe those people as if the words were merely personality types or character flaws.

They are not just character traits.  Racism, sexism, ableism and classism are systems.  They are the rules, policies, procedures, practices that govern a place and lead to consistently unequal outcomes for specific subsets of people.

Minor presents another radical idea: it's okay to reinvent your curriculum in order to meet the needs of your students.  In fact, it's more than just okay.  It's our responsibility.  As much as we talk the talk of personalizing education, we are often fighting against our own systems in order to do so.  Teachers are typically, by nature, rule followers.  We worry we'll get in trouble if we bend the rules.  Minor not only poo-poos that resistance, he offers guidance on how to make it move past it.

I have had to reinvent my practice numerous times.  There was a part of me that always feels like it's a form of surrender, of giving up - even though the changes have always brought significant rewards.  Minor reminds me that such reinvention is not a sign of weakness.  It is, in fact, the very heart of teaching.

Liberating stuff.

I do have one quibble: the print on some of his sample forms is way too small and that's not just my middle age talking.  Fortunately, he has resources online to download as well.

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Squid Mixes: D-Day Swizzle

A D-Day Swizzle combines elderflower liqueur, apple cider vinegar, green Chartreuse, absinthe (or pastis) and hard apple cider with an apple (or pear) garnish.  I got my recipe from David Lebovitz's Drinking French.  The result is a refreshing beverage.  

While the elderflower is dominant, there's quite a lot going on flavor-wise with such a diverse ingredient list.  Once again, the absinthe is present mostly in the nose, though there's a pleasant minty tingle on the lips from the anise as well.

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

On the Coffee Table: Arthur Conan Doyle

Title: A Study in Scarlet
Author: Arthur Conan Doyle

Obviously, concurrent explorations of mysteries, thrillers, 19th century literature and comic book source material were eventually going to lead me to Sherlock Holmes, the literary detective prototype himself.  A Study in Scarlet was Arthur Conan Doyle's first Holmes story, first appearing in Beeton's Christmas Annual in 1887.  My own introduction to the character came indirectly through Sesame Street

In this initial tale, the narrator Dr. John Watson meets the enigmatic Sherlock Holmes for the first time.  The amateur yet expert sleuth is called in to help his police friends on a murder case.  As we all know perfectly well 134 years later, Holmes unparalleled gifts for observation and deductive reasoning bring him to decisive conclusions quickly.

Though not before the author takes us on a long and unexpected segue to the American West.  For five chapters, we get a back story for the murderous motive set in Utah.  The tale is not a bad one, though it has been omitted or at least greatly truncated in all screen adaptations ever since.  Doyle's unfair and unflattering depiction of the Mormons hasn't helped much in the side narrative's long-term survival.

Speaking of adaptations, anyone familiar with Stephen Moffatt's Sherlock series would recognize similarities in the first episode, "A Study in Pink," most obviously Holmes instantaneously sussing out that Watson was a military doctor in Afghanistan (there was a war there back then, too).  In truth, despite the tropes well-established before them, I couldn't help envisioning Holmes and Watson as Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman respectively in the modern update:

I expect I'll be spending a lot of time with these two gentlemen over the next several months.  

Monday, August 9, 2021

Star Wars Comics: Crimson Empire #5-6, X-Wing Rogue Squadron #30-35, Mara Jade #1-4, Jedi Academy #1

With this stretch, I've wrapped up two strong series and begun, at least so far, two strong new ones.  I'm a little sad for the end of the X-Wing series, definitely my favorite so far.  By the end, they were trying to do too much: too many characters, too many threads, three - or was it four? - simultaneous romantic tales.  It was at its best when it settled on a narrow focus for a while.  In fact, in my experience, that's pretty much always the case in comic books.

I don't need to be too wistful about Crimson Empire because I'll be starting the second series soon.

Mara Jade might very well be the single best character introduced between the original and prequel movie trilogies.  Timothy Zahn deserves the credit, having invented her for his Thrawn book trilogy.  The truth is, quite a lot of badass female Star Wars characters were introduced in the '90s - heroes, villains and, best of all, in between.  Unfortunately, Padme was a step backwards in that regard but perhaps these others were important precursors for Rey further down the line.

The greatest contribution by the Dark Horse comic books to the broader franchise was the fleshing out of an ancient history for the Jedi/Sith struggle.  While I tired of that thread after a bit, Jedi Academy has renewed my curiosity.  It's actually the latest in the timeline of any series I've explored so far but it's well grounded in the earlier legends.

My Recent Reads

Crimson Empire #5
Originally published April 15, 1998
Writers: Mike Richardson and Randy Stradley
Artist: Paul Gulacy
In-Story Timeline: 11 ABY

Crimson Empire #6
May 20, 1998
Richardson and Stradley/Gulacy

X-Wing Rogue Squadron #30: Masquerade, Part 3
May 6, 1998
Michael A. Stackpole/Drew Johnson

X-Wing Rogue Squadron #31: Masquerade, Part 4
July 1, 1998

X-Wing Rogue Squadron #32: Mandatory Retirement, Part 1
August 5, 1998
Stackpole/Steve Crespo

X-Wing Rogue Squadron #33: Mandatory Retirement, Part 2
September 16, 1998
Stackpole/Crespo and John Nadeau

X-Wing Rogue Squadron #34: Mandatory Retirement, Part 3
October 28, 1998
Stackpole/Crespo and Nadeau

X-Wing Rogue Squadron #35: Mandatory Retirement, Part 4
November 25, 1998
Stackpole/Crespo and Nadeau

Mara Jade - By the Emperor's Hand #1
August 5, 1998
Timothy Zahn and Stackpole/Carlos Ezquerra

Mara Jade - By the Emperor's Hand #2
September 2, 1998
Zahn and Stackpole/Ezquerra

Mara Jade - By the Emperor's Hand #3
October 7, 1998
Zahn and Stackpole/Ezquerra

Mara Jade - By the Emperor's Hand #4
November 4, 1998

Jedi Academy - Leviathan #1
October 28, 1998
Kevin J. Anderson/Dario Carrasco, Jr.
12 ABY

Friday, August 6, 2021

Star Trek: The Mind's Eye

Episode: "The Mind's Eye"
Series: Star Trek: The Next Generation
Season 4, Episode 24
Original Air Date: May 27, 1991

via Wikipedia

La Forge is kidnapped by Romulans who condition him to assassinate a Klingon Governor.  "The Mind's Eye" is Star Trek's take on The Manchurian Candidate, specifically the 1962 film based on the Richard Condon novel of the same name.  Geordi is the protagonist Raymond character played by Laurence Harvey in the film.  Data is Marco, the Frank Sinatra character, while Klingon Ambassador Kell (Larry Dobkin) is the Eleanor counterpart, played by Angela Lansbury in the movie.

The adaptation works well and it's a satisfying Geordi story.  Actually, with the Klingon involvement, there's some good Worf material, too, and there's also an early glimpse of the season-bridging story arc.  David Livingston, in his Trek directorial debut, was a huge fan of The Manchurian Candidate and had even hoped to get an original cast member to make a cameo.  Unfortunately, that didn't work out but anyone who knows the film would recognize the parallels immediately:

Acting Notes

via Mayberry Wiki

Lawrence Dobkin was born September 16, 1919 in New York City.  His career spanned seven decades, long enough to include the Golden Age of Radio and a late '90s video game (Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six: Rogue Spear).  He started in radio to help pay his tuition at Yale School of Drama then served in a radio propaganda unit while in the US Army in World War II.  

In network radio, he found good roles in the detective shows: Ellery Queen in The Adventures of Ellery Queen and Archie Goodwin in The New Adventures of Nero Wolfe.  He got into TV in 1946 and over the years had numerous credits as both actor and director.  In fact, most importantly for Trek, he directed the original series episode "Charlie X."  As an actor, he made guest appearances on many shows over different eras, including I Love Lucy, The Streets of San Francisco and Night Court.  Big screen work includes The Day the Earth Stood Still, North by Northwest and Patton.

Dobkin died of heart failure in 2002.

Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Bitters of the Month: Maple Aromatic

This month, we're testing Runamok's Maple Aromatic bitters.  Runamok is based in Fairfax, Vermont, not far from us at all.  On its own (with gin), it's sweeter than other aromatic bitters.  The maple comes through in the nose.

Obviously, with any aromatic bitters, we're going to try it in a Manhattan...

Bitters Battle: Hella Aromatic vs. Runamok Maple Aromatic

The Runamok is lighter in flavor, allowing more of the whiskey to come through.  We both preferred it.

Winner and New Champion: Runamok Maple Aromatic

For those keeping score at home, this is the second Runamok bitters to make it into our house cocktail recipes.  See here.  Tally another win for local Vermont products!

There are developments on the cherry front, too.  My wife recently informed me that her preferences has reverted back to Luxardo.  She feels it ages better than the Aramena.  It's interesting in that Aramena recommends refrigerating after opening whereas Luxardo specifically cautions against it.  Here's what happens with the Aramena: the sugar separates and settles to a sludge at the bottom.  I don't mean to denigrate - the sludge is quite yummy.  Luxardo, on the other hand, maintains a uniform consistency.  I'd be interested to know if the Aramena wouldn't separate if you didn't refrigerate - perhaps an experiment for some day.  But for now...

Cherry Battle, Winner and Champion Once Again: Luxardo