Tuesday, November 30, 2021

On the Coffee Table: Sweet Tooth

Title: Sweet Tooth, Volume 1: Out of the Deep Woods
Writer and Artist: Jeff Lemire

via Amazon

Now a TV show, Sweet Tooth began as a comic book series.  Out of the Deep Woods collects issues #1-5.

Gus is a young boy living with his father deep in the Nebraska woods.  They live isolated from the world outside.  Oh, and Gus has antlers and other deer-like features, though we don't know why yet.

One day, Gus's father dies and he is rescued from would be kidnappers by Jepperd, a drifter.  The two bond as Jepperd takes Gus along on his wanderings.  Unfortunately, this initial story ends in betrayal.

Sweet Tooth is weird and dark but good.  I am definitely up for more.

Monday, November 29, 2021

Marvel Unlimited: Marvels #4, X-Men #38-39, Uncanny X-Men #319-320

Marvels #4 offers a retelling of what is arguably Marvel's single most important story: the death of Gwen Stacy.  Phil Seldon befriends Gwen in an effort to learn the truth about her father's death.  Phil witnesses the tragic event himself and is thus as shocked and heartbroken as the rest of us.  It's a powerful moment in a powerful series.  I am glad to have experienced it.  I'm not prepared to say Marvels is the best series I've read in this exploration as the full impact is so dependent on familiarity with the source material.  But there's no denying the quality.

Next up is the Age of Apocalypse, an X-Men event crossing over numerous titles.  There seems to be a lot of disagreement over the reading order and even which issues are included in the story.  Marvel has, in fact, changed the order in different editions of its collected trades.  For now, until I am convinced otherwise, I will trust in Comic Book Herald's reading list.  He has guided me well thus far.

My Recent Reads

Marvels #4
Originally released March 22, 1994
Writer: Kurt Busiek
Artist: Alex Ross

via Marvel Unlimited

X-Men Vol. 2 #38
November 1994
Fabian Nicieza/Andy Kubert

via Marvel Database

Uncanny X-Men #319
December 1994
Scott Lobdell/Steve Epting

X-Men Vol. 2 #39
December 1994
Nicieza/Terry Dodson

via Marvel Database

Uncanny X-Men #320
January 1995
Lobdell and Mark Waid/Roger Cruz
via Amazon

Friday, November 26, 2021

Star Trek: The Masterpiece Society

Episode: "The Masterpiece Society"
Series: Star Trek: The Next Generation
Season 5, Episode 13
Original Air Date: February 3, 1992

The Enterprise rescues Moab IV, a genetically engineered society, from destruction but the resulting cultural contamination brings its own complications.  For the inhabitants, our heroes represent the first outside contact in multiple generations.  Deanna Troi falls in love Aaron Conor, the community's leader and he invites her to stay.  Meanwhile, Geordi LaForge demonstrates to his scientific counterpart that his blindness does not prevent him from making meaningful, world-saving contributions.

Much of the writing and production staff didn't care for "The Masterpiece Society" in the end, just another loss of innocence narrative for Star Trek.  But it works for me.  I found each dilemma, as well as its resolution, believable.  And it's a nice story for both Troi and LaForge who don't always get the strongest material.  Yes, it's another doomed affair for Deanna but I buy this one.  Her reluctance to leave feels real.  And it's always fun when Geordi gets to be brilliant, and this time not just for his facility with gears and gizmos.  He gets to make a broader point.

So, not the best Season 5 episode so far but it feels like we're heading back in the right direction after a few mediocre efforts.

Acting Notes

Dey Young played the role of Hannah Bates, the lead scientist on Moab IV.  Young was born Anna Dey Young in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, July 28, 1955.  Her sister, Leigh Taylor-Young, is also an actress.  Their brother Lance is a writer and producer in film.  Dey Young's films include Rock 'n' Roll High School, The Running Man, Pretty Woman and Spaceballs.  This was her first of three Trek appearances in three different roles in three different series.

In addition to acting, Young is a professional sculptor.  Check out her work here.

Thursday, November 25, 2021

On the Coffee Table: Steve Almond

Title: Candyfreak: A Journey Through the Chocolate Underbelly of America
Author: Steve Almond

via Amazon

In his bio on the back cover, Steve Almond states that he's "eaten at least one piece of candy every single day of his entire life."  In other words, he takes this stuff seriously.

Almond took a self-designed tour of independent candy companies across the United States, among them Lake Champlain Chocolate in Vermont and Idaho Spud in Boise.  As in so many consumer product industries, the candy company is dominated by a small number of giant corporations we all know well: Hershey, Nestle and Mars.  But a few regionally-distributed gems have miraculously survived, even 20 years after Almond wrote his book.  Predictably, Almond's book reflects a nostalgia for a simpler time.

Delightfully, Almond also reveals an industry not entirely unrecognizable to a Wonka fan.  The corporate espionage in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was true to life.  Since a candy bar can't be patented, the production processes are closely guarded secrets.   All of these companies maintain their own ancient equipment as replacing it would run the risk of drastic changes to the products their small but loyal consumer bases have grown to love.

I enjoyed the book thoroughly.  The one drawback for me was Almond's tendency to dwell on his own personal narrative within this adventure.  Frankly, I found it difficult to care - didn't find him particularly likable.  But the candy material is fun.

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Squid Mixes: Ingrid

November is Film Noir Month.  Therefore, I have named my latest invention Ingrid, after Ms. Bergman, of course.

via Amazon

In an effort to find a good use for my Bitters of the Month, Bittermens 'Elemakule Tiki (ET), I combined ideas from a couple suggested recipes from the company website.  Using my Manhattan proportions, 3:1 with 3 dashes, I combined bourbon, elderflower liqueur and the ET bitters.  The result was quite fruity.  Our still underage daughter took a sniff and sensed raisins, orange, rose and honey (future sommelier?).

My wife and I both liked the drink though she felt it needed a stronger bass note.  So, for round 2, I tried rye instead.  Winner!  So...


3 oz rye whiskey
1 oz elderflower liqueur
3 dashes 'Elemakule Tiki bitters
Maraschino cherry garnish

Monday, November 22, 2021

Marvel Unlimited: Marvels #1-3

Marvels is a wonderful series.  The history of the Marvel Universe is told from the perspective of Phil Sheldon, a professional news photographer.  We revisit loads of big events: the Richards' wedding, the introduction of the Sentinels and best of all, for me at least, the Galactus/Silver Surfer story.  The source material is vast.  Some of it I know, some I don't, though the series certainly leaves me curious enough to backtrack.  

The broader themes are the most important where the Phil Sheldon story is concerned.  What happens when the everyman gets caught up in the anti-mutant mania, then finds a mutant child living hidden in his own home?  How does he react to the ebb and flow of public trust in the superheroes?

Without question, the highlight of the series is the artwork.  Alex Ross's painted images are stunning, especially for the Galactus story.  

My Recent Reads

Marvels #1
Originally released November 9, 1993
Writer: Kurt Busiek
Artist: Alex Ross

Marvels #2
December 14, 1993

Marvels #3
January 25, 1994

Friday, November 19, 2021

Star Trek: Violations

Episode: "Violations"
Series: Star Trek: The Next Generation
Season 5, Episode 12
Original Air Date: January 27, 1992

Three telepathic Ullian historians are aboard the Enterprise.  Meanwhile, several members of the crew, beginning with Deanna Troi, are having intense hallucinations, then falling into comas.  Coincidence?  Of course not.

Another awkward attempt at a rape story.  In Deanna's vision, she is assaulted by who appears at first to be Wil Riker, though the image shifts to be that of Jev, one of the Ullians.  There's a bit of a mystery structure to the narrative, though that is undercut by the lack of any real surprises or twists that stick.

The whole thing's uncomfortable.  I mean, a rape story should be, of course, but if anything, it doesn't go far enough if the intent is to explore the issue.  Even Picard's little speech at the end about the potential for evil in each of us rings hollow.

Seeing Picard with hair is fun.

Acting Notes

Ben Lemon (Jev) was born in Tarrytown, New York.  Other television appearances include House M.D., Desperate Housewives and The Practice.  In film, he kind of specialized in early '90s sequels: Die Hard 2, Hot Shots! Part Deux! and Weekend at Bernie's II.

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Squid Mixes: Jewel Cocktail

A Jewel Cocktail combines gin, green Chartreuse, sweet vermouth and orange bitters.  The same can be said of a Bijou Cocktail, though, at least according to The New York Bartender's Guide, the proportions are different: 4:3:2 + 3 dashes for the former, 3:2:2+1 for the latter.  The Jewel also calls for a cherry garnish.  I felt this particular mixture emphasizes the anise flavor in the Chartreuse.

Monday, November 15, 2021

Marvel Unlimited: Marvel Comics Presents #79-84, Marvels #0

I have reached the end of Weapon X.  For me, it's good but not great.  The Wolverine origin story is appreciated and the ending is gruesome yet satisfying.  Actually, that describe the artwork pretty well, too: gruesome yet satisfying.  However, I don't think it would be a meaningful story if one did not already know the Logan/Wolverine character.

Next up is Marvels, a retelling of key moments in the Marvel universe history from an everyman perspective.  I love a painted comic book as well as the pulp-novel style such works tend to employ.  I have reflected on Alex Ross's work before here.

My Recent Reads

Marvel Comics Presents #79
Originally released April 30, 1991
Story: "Weapon X: Chapter Seven"
Writer and Artist: Barry Windsor-Smith

via Amazon

Marvel Comics Presents #80
May 14, 1991
"Weapon X: Chapter Eight"

Marvel Comics Presents #81
May 28, 1991
"Weapon X: Chapter Nine"

Marvel Comics Presents #82
June 11, 1991
"Weapon X: Chapter Ten"

via Amazon

Marvel Comics Presents #83
June 25, 1991
"Weapon X: Chapter Eleven"

via Amazon

Marvel Comics Presents #84
July 9, 1991
"Weapon X: Chapter Twelve"
"Weapon X: Interlude & Escape"

Marvels #0
June 14, 1994
Steve Darnall and Alex Ross/Ross

Friday, November 12, 2021

Star Trek: Hero Worship

Episode: "Hero Worship"
Series: Star Trek: The Next Generation
Season 5, Episode 11
Original Air Date: January 6, 1992

via Memory Alpha

The Enterprise has lost contact with the research vessel Vico.  When they find it, all aboard are dead apart from a boy named Timothy (Joshua Harris).  As the lad processes the trauma, he takes to Data, his savior, and even decides he is an android himself.  While our heroes try to help their new friend, they also must work to avoid Vico's fate themselves.

As Trek stories involving children go, this one isn't terrible - not exactly a high bar to clear.  Harris does well as Data's mimic.  A few moments are unnecessarily saccharine: Data carrying Timothy to bed, for instance.  On the other hand, it's a decent Data story.  In light of Timothy's interest in him, Data must confront what he values in himself as an android vs. what he envies in humans.

Acting Notes

via Memory Alpha

Harris was born November 27, 1978.  He was a busy child actor from 1984 to 1992, his most prominent role that of Christopher Ewing on Dallas.  He also guest starred on Falcon Crest, Twin Peaks and The Commish.  TV movies included A Death in California, Go Toward the Light and Locked Up: A Mother's Rage.  

Harris was a reasonably successful baseball player, manning second base at the University of San Diego and professionally, briefly, for the Lansing Lugnuts, a Chicago Cubs affiliate.  In 2006, he started his own production company, 4th Wall Entertainment.

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Squid Mixes: Tennessee

A Tennessee combines rye, maraschino liqueur and lemon juice.  I got my recipe from The New York Bartender's Guide.  My wife described it as "surprisingly refreshing."  Rye, and whiskey in general, can come off as heavy but here it matches nicely with lighter, brighter ingredients.

Our Tennessee-born kitty seems to approve.

Monday, November 8, 2021

Marvel Unlimited: Marvel Comics Presents #73-78

Weapon X is essentially an origin story: Canadian government scientists are turning Logan into Wolverine, a mindless killing machine, or at least trying to.  He already had his super-healing ability and his taste for violence when they picked him up.  In the lab, they've added the adamantium to his bones and the retractable claws.  Now the question is whether or not they can control him.  It's a Frankenstein story at its heart, though with a far less articulate monster.  

Logan/Wolverine, you see, doesn't actually talk much through this transformation ordeal.  Mostly, we see him lying inert, wires attached, his creator/controllers talking about him.  There are occasional, extremely violent outbursts but for the most part, his role is a passive one.

So far.  

As the readers, we know that after all of this, Wolverine won't be easily controlled by anyone.  It's just a matter of seeing how the early history plays out.

I'm not sure how I feel to this point.  Wolverine is still my favorite Marvel character, though I doubt this story would have been one to hook me.  It's not over yet.  I will reserve ultimate judgment.

My Recent Reads

Marvel Comics Presents #73
Originally released February 5, 1991
Story: "Weapon X: Chapter One"
Writer and Artist: Barry Windsor-Smith

via Amazon

Marvel Comics Presents #74
February 19, 1991
"Weapon X: Chapter Two"

Marvel Comics Presents #75
March 5, 1991
"Weapon X: Chapter Three"

via Amazon

Marvel Comics Presents #76
March 19, 1991
"Weapon X: Chapter Four"

Marvel Comics Presents #77
April 2, 1991
"Weapon X: Chapter Five"

Marvel Comics Presents #78
April 16, 1991
"Weapon X: Chapter Six"

Friday, November 5, 2021

Star Trek: New Ground

Episode: "New Ground"
Series: Star Trek: The Next Generation
Season 5, Episode 10
Original Air Date: December 30, 1991

Alexander Rozhenko, Worf's son, comes to live aboard the Enterprise.  Worf's parents have run out of steam trying to raise him on Earth.  Predictably, our favorite security officer does not take easily to the demands of fatherhood.  Meanwhile, a warp-propulsion experiment goes awry and an entire planet is at risk, our heroes along with it.

Sure, Wesley Crusher is annoying but the fan consensus is strong: Alexander is worse.  Kid does nothing but whine and sulk.  It's too bad because the Worf part of the story is genuinely interesting.  Such is the way with pretty much all Alexander episodes: dad compelling, son annoying.

The best part of this installment is the return of Georgia Brown as Worf's mother, Helena.

Acting Notes

Georgia Brown was born Lilian Claire Klot in London, October 21, 1933.  She began her career as a nightclub singer and named herself after her two favorite songs: "Sweet Georgia Brown" and "Georgia on My Mind."  When a recording career failed to pan out, she found her way into musical theatre.  Her breakthrough was the role of Nancy in Oliver!, a part she originated in both London and New York.  For the latter, she received a Tony nomination.  

Over the next three decades, she found ample screen and stage work on both sides of the Atlantic.  Highlights included two highly acclaimed BBC mini-series, The Roads to Freedom and Shoulder to Shoulder.  On Cheers, she played Madame Lazora, Carla's spiritual advisor, a role for which she got an Emmy nomination.  

Sadly, Brown passed away just a few months after the airing of "New Ground."

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

Bitters of the Month: 'Elemakule Tiki

Bittermens bitters are produced by the Sazerac Company, headquartered in Metairie, Louisiana.  Their 'Elemakule Tiki bitters, while clearly invoking Polynesia with its name, aims for a broader category of "island" drinks, claiming influence from the Caribbean as well.  The two primary flavorings are cinnamon (an Asian native) and allspice (West Indies).  The scent that hit me first was cola which, of course, also features cinnamon prominently.  I got anise in the taste as well.

This one will require some experimenting (aw, shucks!).  The cola idea sends me in one direction, the anise another, the geographical allusions another still.  The Bittermens site offers recipe suggestions, though they all include ingredients I don't have - often other Sazerac products, naturally.  

Stay tuned.

Monday, November 1, 2021

Marvel Unlimited: Infinity Gauntlet #5-6; Marvel Comics Presents #72

I finished Infinity Gauntlet - can't say I was impressed.  There's just way too much: too many characters; all action all the time; no subtlety, ever.  As far as I can tell, it was a chance to bring as many heroes together into one story and drum up the one villain capable of giving them a decent fight.  The artwork, I will grant, is impressive.

And yes, I feel basically the same way about the movie.

Back to Wolverine, though actually Logan features in Infinity Gauntlet because everyone does.  Back to his personal story.  The Weapon X arc, a feature within in the Marvel Comics Presents series, tells the tale of Wolverine's history with Canada's clandestine government program for turning humans - and mutants - into weapons.  It feels good to come back to an earthier story focused on one character I enjoy a great deal.

My Recent Reads

Infinity Gauntlet #5
Originally released September 17, 1991
Writer: Jim Starlin
Artist: Ron Lim

via Amazon

Infinity Gauntlet #6
October 15, 1991

Marvel Comics Presents #72
January 24, 1991
Story: "Weapon X: Prologue"
Barry Windsor-Smith