Friday, December 31, 2021

Star Trek: The Outcast

Episode: "The Outcast"
Series: Star Trek: The Next Generation
Season 5, Episode 17
Original Air Date: March 16, 1992

Riker falls in love with Soren, a member of an androgynous race called the J'naii.  Actually, Soren makes the first move, sharing with Wil that not only is she (pronoun deliberately chosen) attracted to him, too, but she identifies as female.  This admission comes at great personal risk.  Both the gender identification and the attraction to a gendered being are strict taboos in her world.  Any J'naii found to identify as either gender is subjected to intense psychological therapy to "cure" them of the condition.

LGBTQIA+ activists (as they are known nearly 30 years later) coordinated letter writing campaigns to the creators of Star Trek - and every other TV show and movie studio of the era - encouraging them to include gay and lesbian relationships in their stories.  "The Outcast" was produced in an effort to be more inclusive.  Fortunately now, the conversation has become more sophisticated and we all know that sexuality and gender are two separate, if related, matters.  Right?  Okay, good.

But in 1992, acknowledging differences along either spectrum was a big deal.  Philadelphia, a landmark film in the visibility of homosexuality on screen, wouldn't be released until December of the following year.  Much of the episode's rhetoric, particularly Soren's impassioned speech at her trial, matches that of the real-world political movement in the early '90s.  The pressure was strong to "get it right" and many believed Trek didn't go far enough.  Indeed, Jonathan Frakes himself felt that the better and more daring choice would have been to make Soren male.

Personally, I think once you control for the era, they did okay.

On a completely separate point... our daughter made an interesting comment while watching: "I think the Klingons are really Hufflepuffs."  Naturally, I argued that individual Klingons would likely be sorted into different houses.  But the obvious broader question couldn't be ignored: how would each of the TNG characters be sorted into Hogwarts houses?  Wouldn't you know, the Internet is already on the case.  From Sara Sanderson at Screen Rant:

Picard - Ravenclaw
Troi - Hufflepuff
Riker - Slytherin
LaForge - Ravenclaw
Dr. Crusher - Hufflepuff
Wesley - Ravenclaw
Data - Hufflepuff
Worf - Gryffindor
Guinan - Hufflepuff
Yar - Gryffindor

Thoughts?  For those with limited Potterverse experience, I offer the following oversimplification of the defining personal characteristic for the members of each house: Ravenclaw = smart, Hufflepuff = loyal, Slytherin = ambitious and Gryffindor = brave.  I'm okay with most of Sanderson's choices.  However, I would switch Riker and Worf.  Over the long run, I think Riker is better defined by his lack of personal ambition.  Furthermore, while Worf is certainly brave, his obsession with honor is the least altruistic of TNG's principal motivations.  So in as much as someone must be in Slytherin, I think Worf is the best choice.

Acting Notes

Melinda Culea (Soren) was born May 5, 1955 in Western Springs, Illinois.  The modeling work came before acting.  She is best known for her 24-episode run on The A-Team as Amy Amanda Allen.  Other television gigs included Glitter, Knots Landing and Brotherly Love.  Films include Wagons East! and Dying on the Edge.  She is married to director Peter Markle.

Culea is a published author.  Her book Wondago is an illustrated mystery novel.

Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Squid Mixes: Picardini

When we visited our dear friend The English Prof over Thanksgiving, she had a bottle of Bergamot which she wanted to try combining with gin.  Together, we devised the following martini variation:

2 oz gin (I used Hendrick's)
1/2 oz Bergamot (Italicus)
1/4 oz green Chartreuse
Lemon twist garnish

We all enjoyed the result.  Bergamot, or Rosolio di Bergamotto in Italian, is a liqueur made with the same citrus fruit used in Earl Grey tea.  On its own, it smells like a fancy Sprite.  Because of the association with Earl Grey, we named the Picardini after Captain Jean-Luc.  This one is definitely not served hot.

via Memory Alpha

Monday, December 27, 2021

Marvel Unlimited: Age of Apocalypse Reign

For anyone keeping track at home, I'm taking a slight detour from the Comic Book Herald's recommended reading order for Age of Apocalypse.  For now, I'm skipping the prologue stories in the Dawn trade and heading straight for the heart of the story in Reign.  I only have about a month left in my Marvel Unlimited subscription and, at least for the moment, I'm not planning to renew.  So, I want to focus on the main story, then go back to the prologues if I have the time.

My Recent Reads

X-Calibre #1
Cover Date: March 1995
Writer: Warren Ellis
Artist: Ken Lashley

via eBay

The Amazing X-Men #1
March 1995
Fabian Nicieza/Andy Kubert

The Astonishing X-Men #2
April 1995
Scott Lobdell/Joe Madureira

The Amazing X-Men #2
April 1995

Gambit and the X-Ternals #2
April 1995
Nicieza/Tony Daniel

Friday, December 24, 2021

Star Trek: Ethics

Episode: "Ethics"
Series: Star Trek: The Next Generation
Season 5, Episode 16
Original Air Date: March 2, 1992

Worf is injured in a freak accident, left paralyzed from the waist down.  A visiting doctor, Toby Russell, may be able to save him but her procedure is untested.  Understandably, Dr. Crusher is reluctant to let her use Worf as a guinea pig.  But the consequences of not trying are not to be taken lightly: Worf is determined to kill himself by ritual suicide.

I love this episode.  It tends not to make other people's best of lists so I suppose it makes up for all of the ones other people like but I don't.  Generally speaking, I think Star Trek is at its best when wrestling with an ethical dilemma and this one has several at once.  I mean, it's right there in the episode title!  There's the conflict between Crusher and Russell: Beverly is in the right but we as the audience want Russell to get her way because we want Worf to live.  There's Riker's dilemma: Worf has asked him to assist in the suicide.  While he understands the honor being offered by his friend, Wil refuses to do it.  What's more, by tradition, the role should go to the eldest son.  Worf decides to try the questionable procedure rather than force his son to help in the ritual.  (Yes, it's an Alexander episode.  But it's the best Alexander episode.) 

To me, this is what great storytelling is all about: pull the audience in multiple directions, loads of ambiguity.  Give them what they want but not at an easy price.  Well done.

And in my opinion, it's the best Beverly Crusher episode to boot.

Acting Notes

Caroline Kava (Dr. Russell) was born September 25, 1949 in Chicago.  Film credits include Heaven's Gate, Year of the Dragon and Little Nikita.  In addition to her acting career, Kava is an accomplished playwright.  Her play The Early Girl was performed Off-Broadway in 1986.  

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Squid Mixes: Fourth Regiment Cocktail

A Fourth Regiment Cocktail combines rye, sweet vermouth, Angostura bitters, Peychaud's bitters and celery bitters with a lemon twist.  I garnished with a cherry instead.  I got my recipe from Small Screen.  The drink dates back to at least 1889.

The flavor is weird.  There's a Worcestershire sauce-like taste which I imagine comes from the celery bitters.  I wouldn't say I liked this one but it was a worthy experiment.

Monday, December 20, 2021

Marvel Unlimited: Age of Apocalypse

The historical parallel for the Age of Apocalypse story is clear: the persecution and mass murder of Jews by the Nazis in the 1930s and '40s.  The usual X-Men script is flipped: the humans are the oppressed, the mutants the oppressors.  The stories that adhere most closely to the allegory - X-Man #1, for instance - are the most effective to me.

Still, I have great sympathy for the comic book readers of 1995 in how maddening it must have been to sort out what's going on in all of these different narrative threads released essentially simultaneously.  Even with the benefit of on-demand web resources and a quarter-century's hindsight, I am thoroughly overwhelmed.  I'm guessing you'd have had to hit the comic stores pretty early to get all those #1 issues at once.  I remember the mad rush to get the New 52 issues back in Fall 2011 and I at least had the fallback plan of reading the stories online.  The world wasn't like that in 1995.

My Recent Reads

The Astonishing X-Men #1
Cover Date: March 1995
Writer: Scott Lobdell
Artist: Joe Madureira

Gambit and the X-Ternals #1
March 1995
Fabian Nicieza/Tony Daniel

via eBay

Weapon X #1
March 1995
Larry Hama/Adam Kubert

Factor X #1
March 1995
John Francis Moore/Steve Epting

X-Man #1
March 1995
Jeph Loeb/Steve Skroce

Friday, December 17, 2021

Star Trek: Power Play

Episode: "Power Play"
Series: Star Trek: The Next Generation
Season 5, Episode 15
Original Air Date: February 24, 1992

When the Enterprise responds to a distress signal (will they ever learn?), the minds of three members of the away team are taken over by mysterious alien entities.  So compromised, Troi, Data and O'Brien take the occupants of Ten Forward, including Miles's wife and child, hostage, demanding that the ship be moved to a polar orbit.

I'm not so sure about this one.  The idea is fine.  However, it follows too closely on the heels of last week's thematically similar "Conundrum" - smacks of formula.  I also find Data's bad guy snarl a bit over the top.  Brent Spiner wanted to project a character dissimilar to Lore which is fine but it was too much for me.  I prefer to see a villain who believes he's the hero of his own story rather than "Look at me, I'm mean!"  Troi's persona was better.  O'Brien worked the best of the three, especially in his obvious emotional conflict over Keiko.  Geopolitics matter.  Maybe it takes an Irish actor of that era to fully appreciate the subtleties of a situation like that.

Acting Notes

Ryan Reid played the role of Transporter Technician for "Power Play."  He also made a guest appearance on Quantum Leap and had a six-episode run as Jeff Dolan on As the World Turns.

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Squid Mixes: 5 O'Clock Toast

Many times on this blog, I have mentioned our dear departed friend, The Playwright.  The 5 O'Clock Toast was his invention.  It combines rye, a peaty Scotch, sweet vermouth and orange bitters with a slightly charred orange peel for garnish.  We didn't have an orange so we used a cherry instead.

The peatiness of the Scotch brings a smokiness to the affair and no doubt the orange peel would add to same.  The drink reflects The Playwright's personality beautifully.  The double meaning of toast suits his unique sense of humor as does the off-beat garnish.

Monday, December 13, 2021

Marvel Unlimited: Legion Quest Ends - Age of Apocalypse Begins

While Legion's intent was to kill Erik Lehnsherr (see last week), it is actually Charles Xavier who dies, setting up the alternate timeline story known as Age of Apocalypse.  Magneto is now the leader of the X-Men and the world, ruled by Apocalypse, has become a hell-scape in which humans are hunted by mutants.

When I first started this a couple weeks ago, my friend Andrew Leon predicted that I wouldn't care for the Age of Apocalypse arc.  So far, I must concede he's been right.  It's my frequent complaint with the teams (X-Men and Avengers): too many characters, too much going on.  Sure, I could draw up a diagram or something but my frustration pushes me to the point where I don't really care enough to do anything like that.  

And yet I read on.  This journey may yet bear fruit.

My Recent Reads

X-Men Vol. 2 #41
Originally released February 1995
Writer: Fabian Nicieza
Artists: Andy Kubert and Ron Garney

Cable #20
February 1995
Jeph Loeb/Ian Churchill

X-Men Alpha #1
February 1995
Scott Lobdell and Mark Waid/Roger Cruz and Steve Epting

Generation Next #1
March 1995
Lobdell/Chris Bachalo

via Amazon

Friday, December 10, 2021

Star Trek: Conundrum

Episode: "Conundrum"
Series: Star Trek: The Next Generation
Season 5, Episode 14
Original Air Date: February 17, 1992

via Memory Alpha

The entire crew is hit simultaneously with total amnesia: no idea who they are or what they're doing together on a space ship.  They certainly don't remember enough to be suspicious of the interloper in their midst, Kieran MacDuff - no one even catches the Macbeth reference!  The computer says the Federation is at war with the Lysians and the Enterprise has orders to attack their central command.  

This one's fun and I don't always go for the high-concept episodes.  It's interesting watching our heroes piece together their true reality.  Plus, Riker and Ro get it on, completely unaware of their usual antagonism.  The idea holds well almost all the way through.  The final scene, Riker, Ro and Troi in Ten Forward, doesn't quite work.  As it's portrayed, it appears Wil is thoroughly confused over what the two women know that he doesn't.  If the memory treatment works as indicated, Wil should remember everything - and feel appropriately sheepish.

Food Notes

"Conundrum" introduces the mixological highlight of the franchise: the Samarian Sunset.  Presentation is everything for this one: watch here.  I have seen several real world recipes - some making an effort at the visual magic, some skipping it.  I have yet to try any of them.  Sadly, there are no in-story clues as to the ingredients.

Acting Notes

via Memory Alpha

Erich Anderson (MacDuff) was born in 1957.  His big screen gigs include Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter, Bat*21 and Unfaithful.  Other television guest appearances include thirtysomething, Felicity and Melrose Place.  Anderson is married to Saxton Trainor.

Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Squid Mixes: Brooklyn

A Brooklyn combines rye, dry vermouth, maraschino liqueur and Angostura bitters with a cherry garnish.  I got my recipe from  Actually, most recipes, including this one, call for Amer Picon, an orange peel liqueur nearly impossible to find in the United States.  In fact, it's probably because of this rare ingredient that the Brooklyn is not as popular as the Manhattan or the Bronx.  Angostura is the typically recommended substitute.  The drink dates back to at least 1908, its first appearance in print.  

I made this drink when we watched the final episode of Brooklyn 99.  One definitely gets the cherry in the nose.  I think the color is a little pinkish though I wonder if that's merely psychological.

Monday, December 6, 2021

Marvel Unlimited: X-Men #40, Uncanny X-Men #321

Last week was quite a week in the real world for me.  Ran out of time for the Star Trek post.  I suppose it was bound to happen eventually.  Not much time for reading, either.  So it goes.  Onward...

Legion Quest is the prelude story to Age of Apocalypse.  Legion, Professor Charles Xavier's estranged and psychotic son, has gone back in time to kill Erik Lehnsherr before he becomes the arch-villain Magneto. 

My Recent Reads

X-Men Vol. 2 #40
Originally released January 1995
Writer: Fabian Nicieza
Artist: Andy Kubert

Uncanny X-Men #321
February 1996
Scott Lobdell and Mark Waid/Ron Garney

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Bitters of the Month: Celery

The celery seed flavor in Fee Brothers Celery Bitters is quite strong.  It's saltier than other bitters we've tried, too.  While I already had a drink in mind when I bought it (stay tuned), my immediate thought upon tasting it was that it's definitely going in my Bloody Mary and Tequila Maria recipes.