Friday, December 30, 2022

Star Trek: Duet

Episode: "Duet"
Series: Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Season 1, Episode 19
Original Air Date: June 13, 1993

via Memory Alpha

A Cardassian arrives at the station with a disease he could only have contracted at a Bajoran labor camp during the occupation.  Major Kira leads the investigation to find out who he is: Aamin Marritza, a blameless file clerk, or Gul Darhe'el, the camp's commander and a war criminal.

"Duet" marks the point when Deep Space Nine goes from good to great.  For the first time, a Star Trek series sits with the problems of a single planet over time rather than scuttling off at the end of the episode.  The real world parallels for the Bajoran struggle against the Cardassians are many, in this case most clearly evoking the Nazi Holocaust, though just as easily the Japanese and British imperialism of the same era in other parts of the world.  Once again, Kira is placed in the position of having to come to terms with the horrors of the past as she interviews Marritza/Darhe'el.  While the question of identity is resolved by story's end, the deeper resentments clearly are not.  This is new and refreshingly uncomfortable ground for the franchise.  Problems are going to take more than 42 minutes to fix.

"Duet" is a low-budget bottle episode to boot, a reminder to all storytellers of how much can be done within strict limits.

Acting Notes

via Ghostbusters Wiki

Harris Yulin played the role of Marritza/Darhe'el.  Yulin was born November 5, 1937 in Los Angeles.  He made his New York stage debut in 1963, hitting Broadway with Watch on the Rhine in the '80s.  

Film credits include Scarface, Clear and Present Danger, The Hurricane and Training Day.  Beyond Trek, he has appeared in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Rubicon, Ozark and Frasier, for which he received an Emmy nomination.  Also an accomplished stage director, he won the Lucille Lortel Award for The Trip to Bountiful in 2006.

Thursday, December 29, 2022

On the Coffee Table: Takashi Hashiguchi

Title: Yakitate!! Japan, Volumes 2 & 3
Writer and Artist: Takashi Hashiguchi

via Amazon

via Amazon

The adventures of young baker Kazuma Azuma continue as he works to establish himself in the highly competitive world of Tokyo bakeries.  The storylines revolve around Iron Chef-esque showdowns.  

There's some fun character development in the two collections I've just read:

  • Kazuma is impulsive, ready to run off (literally run) to distant provinces for unusual bread ingredients: fresh wasabi, for instance.
  • Tsukino (fellow baker/love interest?) has more than a casual interest in the success of the bakery where they work.  It impacts her inheritance.
  • Kawachi (fellow baker/inferior rival) emerges as a more sympathetic character than early chapters suggested.
  • Kenoshita (fellow baker) does all the work in the shop though he's only ever tangentially connected to the main narrative.  He's good comic relief.

The books remind me of Japan's more unusual bread concepts: bread with bean paste, for instance.  Let's just say I'm not a fan.  Cream-filled bread comes up, too.  I don't remember that.  Too bad - I think I would have preferred that to the beans.

There is an anime series and I am curious.  I'm interested to know how the almost superhero-ish flash of the panels translates to the screen.

I have four more volumes on my shelves.  I'm looking forward to them.

Wednesday, December 28, 2022

On the Coffee Table: The Way We Eat Now

Title: The Way We Eat Now: How the Food Revolution Has Transformed Our Lives, Our Bodies, and Our World
Author: Bee Wilson

via Amazon

Food writer Bee Wilson tackles the eating habits of 21st century society.  Unsurprisingly, there's a lot of alarming news.  To be sure, we live in an age of unprecedented abundance and less of the world lives in on the brink of starvation than at any point in history.  But that's not to say we're eating well.  The reach of over-processed food produced by global corporation is ever growing, spreading American-esque obesity trends wherever it extends.  We don't eat sit down meals any more.  We don't even necessarily set aside time for meals any more.  Fad diets do little to actually make us healthier.  It's all pretty grim, especially for the poor.

And yet, there is hope.  Eating patterns evolve over time and Wilson offers plenty of thoughts on how to encourage the evolution in healthy directions.  Furthermore, as global habits trend away from a healthy acquaintance with our food and its sources, many - my wife, for instance - are making the deliberate choice to cook more of their own food.  The author also includes an epilogue with practical advice for simple, manageable ways one can improve personal habits.  One bit of advice she didn't include so I will: if you care about the way people eat, give thought to how you vote, both with the ballot and with your wallet.

I started the book during Thanksgiving week, a time when Americans celebrate abundance with excess.  It reminded me of how grateful I should be for the life I have.  We eat well and we're lucky to live in Vermont, a state that takes farm to table principles seriously.  I'm certainly lucky to be married to a woman who, in addition to being an exceptional cook, works hard to find and use local ingredients.  Compared to the average person, I don't eat much processed food - thanks more to her habits than my own.  That's not to say I don't have room for improvement because I certainly do.  It all falls apart when she's out of town.  But overall, I'm extremely fortunate.

This is my fourth Bee Wilson book and I always learn a lot from them.  Highly recommended.

Tuesday, December 27, 2022

Squid Cooks: Prunes in Armagnac

Armagnac was another of my big finds at State Street Wine, Beer & Spirits.  Armagnac, like cognac, is a variety of brandy.  It is made from a grape blend whereas cognac is made predominantly from Ugni blanc grapes.  Armagnac is distilled in column stills rather than the pot stills of its more famous cousin.  

One fun thing to do with armagnac is to soak prunes in it.  David Lebovitz's recipe, from Drinking French, also includes water, sugar, vanilla and orange zest in the soaking mixture.  You put everything in a jar and let it sit for two weeks or even several months, shaking every few days.  While the recipe calls for the scrapings from a vanilla bean, I went with vanilla paste - same stuff and much cheaper.  Finding the right prunes was a bit of a challenge, too.  The recipe calls for unpitted prunes - they probably hold together better in the soaking.

We tried them after two weeks.  They're nice - definitely boozy.  I'll be interested to see how they age, presumably soaking up more of the armagnac over time.  Ultimately, they'll end up in a cocktail, of course.  Stay tuned.

Friday, December 23, 2022

Star Trek: Timescape

Episode: "Timescape"
Series: Star Trek: The Next Generation
Season 6, Episode 25
Original Air Date: June 14, 1993

via Memory Alpha

While returning from a conference in a runabout, Picard, Troi, La Forge and Data encounter time distortions.  When they get back to the Enterprise, the ship is completely frozen in time - mostly, anyway.  They appear to simultaneously be dealing with a Romulan attack and a warp core breach.  

As is well established, I'm not a fan of time travel in Star Trek so I won't dwell on it.  All of the backwards, forwards, slowing down, speeding up timey-wimey business feels like narrative cheating to me.  That's not to say there aren't a few clever elements I enjoy.  The truth behind the Romulan "attack" is satisfying.  There's humor, too: Riker's fear of Data's cat, Data stepping out of the way of a crewman walking in rewind, Picard unfaltering politeness to a time-frozen Worf, etc.

So while I could never count such an episode among my favorites, I can understand how someone without my hangups might like it.

Acting Notes

via Breaking Bad Wiki

Michael Bofshever played an unnamed time travelling aliens disguised a Romulan.  Bofshever was born October 12, 1950 in Brooklyn, New York.  "Timescape" was his second of two Trek appearances.  He had been in DS9's "Progress" just the month before.  He also performed as an engineer in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, though his part was cut from the final film.  Other television work includes guest credits for both Six Feet Under and Breaking Bad.

Tuesday, December 20, 2022

Squid Mixes: Tailspin

A Tailspin is a minor variant on the Bijou Cocktail.  Both combine gin, green Chartreuse, sweet veremouth and orange bitters (though some Tailspin recipes include Campari instead of the bitters).  According to The New York Bartender's Guide, it's just the proportions that differ.  Bijou is 3:2:2 while Tailspin is 4:3:3 (gin:Chartreuse:vermouth).  In effect, that means more Chartreuse and vermouth per volume which, for me, enhances the anise flavor of the drink.  I imagine Campari would bring more bitterness and a more reddish tint.  The recipe calls for lemon twist and cherry for garnish.  I went with orange instead of lemon as it was readily at hand.

The Tailspin is one of many aviation-inspired drinks invented in the 1910s and '20s.  It was a coincidental and perhaps strange choice on an evening when roads were slippery with snow.  

Friday, December 16, 2022

Star Trek: Dramatis Personae

Episode: "Dramatis Personae"
Series: Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Season 1, Episode 18
Original Air Date: May 30, 1993

A Klingon attack cruiser returns from an expedition through the wormhole but explodes before it can dock with the station.  A single officer manages to escape in the transporter, then dies on the pad in Ops, his final word, "Victory!"  Soon after, the DS9 crew splits into factions, turning on one another.  Sisko leads one side, Kira the other.  Thank goodness, Odo is unaffected by whatever has infected the crew and is clever enough to save them all.

"Dramatis Personae" gives the actors some room to flex their thespian muscles.  Avery Brooks, especially, gets to have some fun as he swings between paranoia and a quieter madness.  In addition to guarding against Kira's mutiny, Sisko inexplicably builds a beautiful clock.  Writer Joe Menosky intended to evoke Holy Roman Emperor Rudolph II, evidently a mad tinkerer in his spare time.  There are some especially tasty Odo-Quark and Kira-Dax exchanges, too.  The story dips the series's toes in the Mirror, Mirror concept, one they'll explore more later.

Food Notes

In an early scene, Quark serves Dax a Modela aperetif, the beverage's first appearance in the canon, leaving me impressed by the mixological skill Armin Shimerman had to learn for the show.  [Or did he get some prop assistance for this one?]  The drink rekindles my own layered cocktail ambitions.  Surprisingly, I haven't seen any recipes for this particular concoction online.

Acting Notes

Tom Towles played the roll of Hon-Tihi, the lone, briefly surviving Klingon officer.  Towles was born March 20, 1950 in Chicago.  Before jumping into acting, he served in the U.S. Marine Corps.  His career began on stage with the Organic Theater Company.

Towles broke through as Otis in Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, a gig that earned him an Independent Spirit Award nomination.  Other films included Night of the Living Dead, The Rock and Dr. Doolittle.  Television appearances included Seinfeld, Malcolm in the Middle and Firefly.  "Dramatis Personae" was his first of two Trek appearances.

Towles died in 2015 of complications following a stroke.  

Tuesday, December 13, 2022

Squid Mixes: Fresh Hanky

A Fresh Hanky is my own variation on David Lebovitz's Suzy's Hanky (in turn, Lebovitz's variation on a Hanky Panky), swapping out the sweet vermouth for dry, necessitated by the fact that I had run out of sweet.  Though, to be honest, once one hits a flavor note - bitterness in this case - pursuing that note to the extreme is always an intriguing adventure. 

I initially suggested Dry Hanky as the name but my tasters (wife and English Prof) were unimpressed.  I decided Fresh Hanky is more appealing - evoking clean linens still warm from the dryer.  Tasters approved.  The drink itself was a hit, too.

My Fresh Hanky recipe:

1.5 oz London dry gin
1 oz dry vermouth
.5 oz Suze
.5 oz Grand Marnier
Orange twist

Stir all but orange with ice to chill.  Strain into a serving glass.  Garnish with the orange twist.

Friday, December 9, 2022

Star Trek: Second Chances

Episode: "Second Chances"
Series: Star Trek: The Next Generation
Season 6, Episode 24
Original Air Date: May 24, 1993

via Memory Alpha

Will Riker meets his doppelganger.  Evidently, there was a transporter mishap during the evacuation of Nervala IV eight years before and Will was essentially split into two beings.  One is the character we have known on the Enterprise.  The other was marooned on Nervala IV, no one knowing he was there.  This second Will, who eventually decides to go by Thomas, has an understandably rough readjustment to life in Starfleet.  The presence of Deanna Troi aboard the Enterprise complicates matters for all involved.

"Second Chances" is a strong Riker episode and it plays on the very issue I have perceived with the character: the writers never seem to know quite what to do with Will.  By rekindling the Will-Deanna love affair, the story circles back to the beginning of the series when the two are first reunited.  We weren't given much to go on in the pilot regarding their past together, though there clearly was one.  NextGen doesn't develop the romance as much as it could have and for the most part, that's probably a good thing.  But questions linger.  A lot of those questions are answered in "Second Chances" and that's satisfying to a point.  And also very sad, especially for Deanna.  

In a sense, we get to see who Will is through who he isn't.  Thomas fell in love with Deanna and stayed in love.  Will didn't.  His ambitions took precedent.  But maybe we see in this story the limits of those ambitions.  Perhaps the romantic within Will helps to explain why he has repeatedly chosen staying on the Enterprise over accepting his own command.  The Starfleet flagship offers the greater adventure.  Maybe Deanna factors in his desire to stick around more than we've been led to believe.

Acting Notes

via Wikipedia

The best "Second Chances" story of all may be a behind the scenes one.  Dr. Mae Jemison plays the role of Palmer, a transporter tech.  In 1992, not even a year before the episode aired, Jemison became the first black woman to travel to space.  She was a mission specialist on the Space Shuttle Endeavour.  

Typical of astronauts, Jemison's bio is extraordinary.  She was born October 17, 1956 in Decatur, Alabama and grew up in Chicago.  She graduated from Stanford with two Bachelor's degrees, one in chemical engineering, the other in African and African-American studies.  After earning a Medical Degree from Cornell, she joined the Peace Corps, serving as a doctor in Liberia and Sierra Leone.  After working for a time as a general practitioner, she applied to NASA.  

Jemison was a huge Star Trek fan, Nichelle Nichols's performance as Uhura, in particular, inspiring an interest in space from an early age.  Bringing all full circle, Nichols was invited to the set during the filming of "Second Chances" in order to meet Jemison.  On top of everything else, Jemison is an accomplished dancer and choreographer.  She has also written several children's books, including a memoir and other books about space.

Tuesday, December 6, 2022

Squid Mixes: Suzy's Hanky

Suzy's Hanky is David Lebovitz's variation on a Hanky Panky.  He takes out the Frenet-Branca and adds Suze and Grand Marnier (or Cointreau or triple sec).  Lebovitz published his recipe in Drinking French.

Suze is the star here.  It's a gentian liqueur, providing a bitter flavor with citrus notes.  The intense bitterness is reminiscent of Campari, yet somehow lighter.  Both my wife and English Prof were impressed with the cocktail.

Friday, December 2, 2022

Star Trek: The Forsaken

Episode: "The Forsaken"
Series: Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Season 1, Episode 17
Original Air Date: May 23, 1993

via Memory Alpha

A delegation of Starfleet ambassadors pays a visit to the station, including our old friend Lwaxanna Troi.  The daughter of the fifth House, holder of the Sacred Chalice of Rixx, heir to the Holy Rings of Betazed takes a shine to Constable Odo.  Unfortunately, there's also a less welcome interloper in the form of an alien computer program which infects DS9 operations.

The Troi/Odo story is the primary narrative.  "The Forsaken" represents a turning point for both characters.  As I have written several times, I'm not a fan of Lwaxanna.  She grates.  But in this story and in her next (and final) TNG appearance, we see a genuinely vulnerable side that makes her considerably more likable.  The 

"You are not at all what I expected." 
"No one's ever paid me a greater compliment." 

exchange between Odo and Lwaxanna is simply lovely, allowing an insight into her zaniness we've not been previously afforded.  For Odo's part, the vulnerability begins with the physical.  We watch him literally melt as he approaches his solid state limit.  He reveals more once he recognizes Lwaxanna is someone he can trust.

Acting Notes

via Wikipedia

Constance Towers played the role of Taxco, a high-maintenance Arbazan ambassador.  Towers was born May 20, 1931 in Whitefish, Montana.  She also spent parts of her childhood in Kalispell, Montana,  Moscow, Idaho and Seattle where she worked for a few years as a child radio actor.  Eventually, her family settled in New York City when her father took a job as a pharmaceutical executive.  She studied music at Julliard, then acting at American Academy of Dramatic Arts.

Towers was discovered by a film agent while she was at Julliard and soon signed a contract with Columbia Pictures.  Fittingly given her name, Towers is on the tall side at 5'9", a fact that held her back from finding lead roles initially.  Eventually, she was cast in a few: The Horse Soldiers, Sergeant Rutledge and The Naked Kiss.  In 1965, she resumed a stage career with her Broadway debut in Anya.  She also led Broadway productions of The Sound of Music and The King and I.  Daytime television has been especially kind with long runs on both Capitol and General Hospital.  She made her most recent appearance on the latter this year.  Towers has two Emmy nominations: one for General Hospital as "America's Favorite Villain" and one for Best Actress in 1974's Once in Her Life.

Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Squid Mixes: Mon Nouvel Ami

Mon Nouvel Ami is David Lebovitz's variation on the Old Pal Cocktail, substituting Dolin red for Campari.  Lebovitz published his recipe in his Drinking French book.  The result was a less bitter drink.  My wife described the Dolin as more botanical in flavor.

Largely because of the Lebovitz recipe, I've had my eye out for Dolin for a while.  Technically, it's a vermouth, though more flavorful - and more expensive - than the usual offerings.  It's not available in Vermont liquor stores so I always keep an eye out for it when we're out of state.  Wouldn't you know, I'd find a gem of a liquor store in Northampton, Massachusetts: State Street Wine, Beer & Spirits.  I was able to cross off a decent portion of my wish list so stay tuned.

Friday, November 25, 2022

Star Trek: Rightful Heir

Episode: "Rightful Heir"
Series: Star Trek: The Next Generation
Season 6, Episode 23
Original Air Date: May 17, 1993

via Memory Alpha

Worf visits the monastery on Boreth in order to reconnect with his Klingon spiritual roots.  He experiences a vision of Kahless the Unforgettable.  Except it's no mere vision.  Miraculously, it would seem Kahless has returned in the flesh after fifteen centuries.  The resurrected hero has a plan for rebuilding the Klingon empire.

In the beginning, the story is a bit hokey.  It gains strength as our heroes and their Klingon guests seek to verify Kahless's authenticity.  Gowron - always a welcome visitor, at least for the audience - and entourage are on board to see if Kahless is the real deal, hoping he isn't, of course.  In the end, questions arise over the value of a spiritual leader serving alongside an established secular leadership structure.  It's an issue with relevance in 2022.  I highly recommend John Oliver's recent rant about the relevance of the British monarchy for a contemporary perspective.  

Food Notes

via Memory Alpha

Klingon warnog, a traditional Klingon beer, is featured for the first time in this episode.  Tin Man Brewery produced an officially licensed Klingon Warnog, beginning in 2014.  Unfortunately, the product was not successful enough to keep the company afloat as they have since gone out of business.

Acting Notes

Kevin Conway (Kahless, top photo) was born May 29, 1942 in New York City.  He studied the craft at HB Studio.  He found success on stage as both actor and director.  He received a Drama Desk Award in 1974 as an actor for When You Comin' Back, Red Ryder? and was nominated as a director for the same in 1980 for Mecca.

Films included Slaughterhouse-Five, Funny Farm and Gettysburg.  He also directed the independent film The Sun and the Moon.  Television work included recurring roles on Oz and The Good Wife.  

Conway died of a heart attack in 2020.

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Squid Eats: Moshi Moshi

Moshi Moshi is how one answers the telephone in Japan.  It's also the name of a sushi restaurant in Northampton, Massachusetts.  We recently went for lunch.

Moshi Moshi occupies a tiny space on a street corner by the railroad bridge, barely room on the ground floor for a short bar and a single table - there's upstairs seating, too, fortunately.  Service was friendly and quite attentive - hard not to be in such a small space.  

Most importantly, the food is good.  

That's a California roll, avocado roll, tuna roll, salmon roll and unagi (eel).

Apparently, Moshi Moshi was a favorite of children's literature titan Eric Carle, a longtime Northampton resident:

Friday, November 18, 2022

Star Trek: If Wishes Were Horses

Episode: "If Wishes Were Horses"
Series: Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Season 1, Episode 16
Original Air Date: May 16, 1993

via Memory Alpha

Everyone's dreams, both good and bad, come true.  An alien species invades the station by taking the form of beings of our heroes' imaginations: Rumpelstiltskin for Molly O'Brien (or is it for Miles?); Buck Bokai, a fictitious 21st century baseball legend for Jake Sisko; a nauseatingly affectionate version of Dax for Julian; etc.  Harmless fun?  Not so much.  Imagined disasters like a spatial rift are also becoming all too real.

Fantasies becoming reality: this is well-traveled ground for Trek in such episodes as TOS's "Shore Leave" (arguably the precursor to Holodeck episodes) and TNG's "Imaginary Friend."  "If Wishes Were Horses" is not the strongest installment but I always appreciate when the tables are turned on our adventurers, in this case the observers becoming the observed.  A relevant behind the scenes note: according to Terry Farrell (Dax), this was the episode in which the ensemble cast hit their stride in working together.

Acting Notes

via Young Justice Wiki

Keone Young (Buck Bokai) was born September 6, 1947 in Honolulu, Hawaii.  He has had a long, extensive career in television both as a live actor and, especially, as a voice actor.  His biggest on-screen gigs were on Kay O'Brien, Deadwood and The Young and the Restless.  On the mic, he has had principal roles on Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi and American Dragon: Jake Long as well as numerous recurring roles on high profile series such as Teen Titans, Batman Beyond and Star Wars Rebels.  "If Wishes Were Horses" is his first of two Trek appearances.  He plays Hiroshi's father in Enterprise.  

Tuesday, November 15, 2022

Squid Eats: Herrell's

via Herrell's

Herrell's is a Northampton, Massachusetts (NoHo) food landmark.  Tell anyone you've visited the town and they're sure to ask if you've been to Herrell's.  We went for the first time in August, then returned a couple weekends ago.

Confession time.  I'm an ice cream snob.  My offspring says so and I'm inclined to agree.  Ice cream is my favorite food in the world and I am convinced that I live in the greatest part of the world for eating it.  Sure, you know all about Ben & Jerry's, the local independent gone global, now comfortably in Unilever's portfolio.  But great Vermont ice cream extends far beyond B&J.  First, there's creemies, soft-serve ice cream to the rest of you.  It's both ubiquitous and delicious around here in the summer time.  There's plenty of great hard ice cream, too: Lake Champlain Chocolate, Wilcox, Island Homemade, Kingdom Creamery, Sisters of Anarchy.  It's all yummy.  

So, if I'm going to stand in a long, winding, confusing line for a cone, as we did at Herrell's in August, it had better be pretty darn good.  I honestly can't remember what flavor I got in the summer - the shop has 40 at any given time with 400+ in rotation.  It was fine.  Not great.  Fine.  Not worth standing in line.

As a result, I've been less inclined to go in subsequent visits to NoHo.  It's possible I even rolled my eyes when our progeny suggested it, prompting the ice cream snob accusation.  Nonetheless, we agreed to go during our most recent visit if the line wasn't too long.

I got rum raisin this time.  It was pretty darn good.  Rum raisin was my go-to Baskin-Robbins order back in the day.  I don't get it too often any more.  To be fair, one doesn't see it so much.  Herrell's was nice - truly rummy and creamier than what I remember from B-R in my childhood.  Is it as good as Vermont's best?  Probably not.  But definitely worth a stop if the line's not too long.

This ice cream snob will be back.

Monday, November 14, 2022

On the Coffee Table: The Sandman

Title: The Sandman, Volume 1: Preludes & Nocturnes
Writer: Neil Gaiman
Artists: Sam Keith, Mike Dringenberg, Malcolm Jones III, Dave McKean

via Amazon

Title: The Sandman, Volume 2: The Doll's House
Writer: Neil Gaiman
Artists: Mike Dringenberg, Malcolm Jones III, Chris Bachalo, Michael Zulli. Steve Parkhouse, Dave McKean

via Amazon

The Sandman is widely considered one of the masterpieces of the comic book genre.  Neil Gaiman teamed up with a small staff of master artists to tell the tale of Morpheus, King of the Dreamworld.  Morpheus had been held captive for several decades.  Now that he's free, he must clean up the mess created by those who have sought to fill the void in his absence.  The story shifts not exactly seamlessly between demon-world, dream-world and real world.  

As I have written before, though not for several years, Gaiman's work is hit-or-miss for me.  I can't deny his command of language or narrative skill.  The Graveyard Book is one of my favorites.  But Gaiman often tends too far in the horror direction for my tastes.  I first tried Preludes & Nocturnes several years ago and was deeply turned off.  Maggots in people's eyes?  A diner full of people being manipulated into killing each other?  No thanks.

The new Netflix series sparked my wife's interest.  She'd never read the comics before but is now eagerly seeking them out.  She suggested I read the second book, The Doll's House, as a book swap.  I needed to re-read the first volume to get oriented.

After being freed, Morpheus sets out to gather his dream-manipulating objects: a gas mask, a bag of sand and an amulet.  All have fallen into the possession of unsuitable owners.  I can't say I liked the story any better with the second reading.  Still hauntingly beautiful at times?  Yes.  Still frequently gross and off-putting?  Most certainly.

The Doll's House is better.  The broad arc follows a mortal, Rose Walker, a young woman whose family has been torn apart.  As she works to gather them all back together, she learns of the role she plays, unwittingly, within the dream world.  Once again, some of the stories are lovely.  The prologue is set in the African desert, a man relating a rite of passage tale to his grandson after the latter's ritual circumcision.  In Part Four, Morpheus makes a friend in 14th century England.  After granting him immortality, Morpheus visits his pal every hundred years to see how he's doing.

But there are also truly sickening moments over the course of the story.  Maybe this is the trade off I have to accept with the Sandman series if I'm to continue with it.  And I think I will.  Eventually.  Gaiman is a genius.  If I can endure his horror stories, I will be rewarded with occasional elegance.  Even Rose's story, while frequently disgusting, is beautiful in the end.

The artwork is undeniably brilliant.  With several different artists come a variety of styles.  Sometimes, panel sequence gets confusing, which annoys me.  But overall, the visual presentation is top-notch.  Even the gross stuff.

I don't know if I'm interested in the TV series or not.  I suppose I am curious to see how it all translates to screen.  If I do watch, I may occasionally need to remove to another room from time to time.

Friday, November 11, 2022

Star Trek: Suspicions

Episode: "Suspicions"
Series: Star Trek: The Next Generation
Season 6, Episode 22
Original Air Date: May 10, 1993

Dr. Crusher becomes the sleuth in a murder mystery.  She invites a group of scientists aboard the Enterprise so one of them, a Ferengi, Dr. Reyga, can demonstrate metaphasic shielding to the others.  One of them, a Takaran, Jo'Bril, dies in a test flight, then Reyga himself.  turns up dead.  Crusher gets in hot water herself when she violates both the Captain's orders and medical ethics by performing an autopsy on Reyga.

As a mystery story, "Suspicions" is pretty good, with a satisfying twist at the end.  But I have a hard time getting past the ethics violation by Beverly.  Detectives in stories bend the rules all the time to get what they want.  I get that.  It's one of the tropes.  The title character does it all the time on House, MD.  In this case, I object to it on Star Trek terms.  It is such an obvious violation of the Prime Directive - it went against Ferengi burial rituals - and as usual, our hero gets away with it.  Why?  Because in the end, through Crusher's efforts, Reyga was vindicated?  Maybe.  That bit's not ever explained.

For all its trumpeting for the cause of tolerance, there is a shameful arrogance to Trek sometimes.  The (Western) human perspective is still valued over others.  In this case, the disrespect for another culture was forgiven and forgotten because Crusher was "right."  This moral perspective plays out over and over again within the franchise.  In the real world, it's a prevalent, though infrequently acknowledged, perspective of white American liberalism.  We love your simple primitive ways until they get in our way in the search for a singular truth. 

Acting Notes

Tricia O'Neil played the role of Kurak, a Klingon scientist.  O'Neil was born March 11, 1945 in Shreveport, Louisiana, though she spent much of her childhood in El Paso, Texas.  She graduated from Baylor in 1968.

She started in modeling, then found work in commercials.  She made her Broadway debut in 1970 in Two by Two, a part that won her a Theatre World Award.  Films include The Gumball Rally, Brave New World and Titanic.  TV gigs include Barney Miller, Murder, She Wrote and The A-Team.  "Suspicions" is her second of three Star Trek appearances.

Tuesday, November 8, 2022

Squid Eats: Bueno Y Sano

Bueno Y Sano (translates as good and healthy) is a small, regional Mexican food chain.  There are seven locations in Massachusetts plus one is in Vermont.  We recently visited the one in Northampton, Mass.  The atmosphere is a cut above fast food, though not quite a sit-down, table service restaurant.

The menu is mostly burritos, tacos and quesadillas.  I went with the Local Beef Chili Burrito, the "local beef" sourced from Roaming Farm in Deerfield, Mass.  It was serviceable, though short of spectacular.


After (well, midway through):

I added a pico de gallo-esque chunky salsa.  If we go again - and given the location, price and speed of service, I expect we will - I might try the "medium" salsa for a bit more heat.  Unfortunately, there's nothing hotter on offer.  The East/West Burrito, an Indian-Mexican fusion concept, and the Korean BBQ Tacos will also be worth trying sometime.

Overall, it's not bad, though I'll take Vermont's Mad Taco any time.

Friday, November 4, 2022

Star Trek: Progress

Episode: "Progress"
Series: Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Season 1, Episode 15
Original Air Date: May 9, 1993

via Memory Alpha

Kira is put in a tricky spot.  One of the Bajoran moons is being converted into a massive power plant and one farmer, Mullibok, refuses to evacuate.  Kira goes down to convince him.  Unfortunately, she develops deep sympathy for him, complicating matters for both of them.

The Kira thread, maybe the best arc in DS9's early going, finally kicks into gear.  We already know that the former freedom fighter is having a difficult time adjusting to her new role, not to mention the new state of affairs on her own world.  The enemy she devoted her life to fighting, the Cardassians, are gone and her administrative duties on Deep Space 9 keep her pretty far away from any potential action anyway.  In "Battle Lines," we were able to see the spiritual side of her adjustment.  "Progress" tells of a more emotional struggle, and a test of her loyalties.  

The episode draws obvious comparisons with TNG's "The Ensigns of Command," being a similar story about evacuating a planet.  "Progress" is considerably superior, largely because it is a more personal story for both Kira than it could ever be for Data (built-in character limitation, I know, but most of the principals in DS9 are more interesting than Data - there, I said it).  For Data, the story was a chance to learn about human nature.  For Kira, it's a challenge to come to terms with herself.  That's a more compelling narrative anytime.

Acting Notes

via Wikipedia

Brian Keith (Mullibok) was born November 14, 1921 in Bayonne, New Jersey.  His parents were both actors: Robert Keith, who had a successful film career, and stage actress Helena Shipman.  After high school, Brian Keith joined the Marines, serving for three years during World War II.  He received an Air Medal.

Keith had a long, successful screen career.  Films included The Parent Trap, Johnny Shiloh and The Wind and the Lion.  Television was especially kind.  Keith had the lead in four different series: Family Affair, Hardcastle and McCormick, The Brian Keith Show and Heartland.  

Keith was married three times and had seven children, three of them adopted.  In 1997, at age 75, he committed suicide after years of struggling with lung disease, financial troubles and depression.  His youngest daughter Daisy, also an actress, had also committed suicide just two months before.

Tuesday, November 1, 2022

Squid Flicks: Y Tu Mama Tambien

Title: Y Tu Mama Tambien
Director: Alfonso Cuarón
Original Release: 2001
My Overall Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Two teenage Mexican boys take an older (by ten years or so) Spanish woman, Luisa, on a road trip to the beach.  By initial appearances, it is a coming of age story for the guys (Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna) as they brag about their sexual exploits to each other and to her (Maribel Verdú) as part of their clumsy effort to seduce her.  Luisa, however, is working through her own struggles, including a failed marriage.

Now that our progeny is off to college, my wife and I have a new system for picking movies: brackets.  Here's how it works.  One of us (taking turns, of course) picks eight films and sets them in a tournament-style bracket.  The other chooses a winner from each pairing, creating a second round.  The first person picks winners from those match-ups to create a final.  The second chooses the winner and that's the one we watch.  Here's our Y Tu Mama bracket (set by my wife) as an example:

This way, we both get a say in which movie we watch on a given evening - reasonably fair and good, wholesome fun.  We must credit The Playwright and English Prof with the idea.

Y Tu Mama is a beautifully shot film.  Writing and acting are both strong.  We get glimpses of the political and economic realities of Mexico in the early 21st century, though for the most part, the travelers are shielded from it.  The narrative cleverness is revealed in hindsight.  The final twist suggests that Luisa was the true protagonist all along rather than the boys.  

Generally, the movie gets rave reviews for being "sexy" but whether or not it actually merits the description is debatable.  There's plenty of nudity, both male and female, and loads of sexual content but none of it is exactly sensuous.  It doesn't help that the boys are complete idiots.  So, maybe sexy but not erotic?

Friday, October 28, 2022

Star Trek: Frame of Mind

Episode: "Frame of Mind"
Series: Star Trek: The Next Generation
Season 6, Episode 21
Original Air Date: May 3, 1993

Realities are blurred for Riker.  His consciousness keeps shifting between the Enterprise and "Ward 47" in a mental hospital on an alien world.  Further confusing matters is his role in a stage play in which he plays a mental patient.

Is the entire series a delusion?  Interestingly, the episode doesn't answer that question right away.  "Frame of Mind" tends to rank high on best-of lists.  I admire its production quality.  There's also a wonderful scene in which Riker classifies projections of Troi, Worf and Picard as representations of his own psychological aspects, just the sort of exercise this blogger enjoys (see here).  Overall, I prefer the similar "First Contact."  The fourth season episode feels more connected to the broader series concept.  "Frame of Mind," while clever, feels less Trek to me.  

It's a decent Riker story.  While I haven't written as much about it recently, I still wonder about the Riker character in general.  What is his broader narrative purpose on NextGen?  Couldn't this episode just as easily have been a Picard story?  Don't misunderstand: I like Riker and I like Jonathan Frakes.  And he serves as an important template for the series moving forward, especially for Chakotay on Voyager.  My question is whether or not he's entirely necessary.  Of all the seven principals, despite his second billing, I still see him as the most expendable, six seasons in.  I am sure that was not the intention.

Acting Notes

David Selburg plays the role of Syrus, Riker's psychiatrist in Ward 47.  Selburg was born in St. Paul, Minnesota, December 17, 1948.  "Frame of Mind" was his second of four Trek appearances as four characters in three different series.  Other television gigs include Hill Street Blues, The Wonder Years and ER.  Big screen work includes The Man with One Red Shoe, Species and The Bourne Identity.

Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Squid Mixes: Cider Battles VI, Unified Press

Unified Press (UP) is Citizen Cider's flagship product, by far the one most likely to be found in Vermont bars.  It's marketed as "semi-dry" which places is it on the sweet end of the company's standard offerings.  Welcome to the arena, UP...

Citizen Cider Unified Press vs. Citizen Cider The Dirty Mayor (DM)

First, the Swizzle comparison.  As pleasant as The Dirty Mayor's ginger kick is, it complicates matters in a mixed drink.  Ginger is always a flavor heavyweight so it's not so great if you want to taste other ingredients.  As such, the Unified Press works better here.  It's also more apple-y, something my wife in particular has been seeking in these tastings and, until now, not finding.  

Winner, Swizzle Category: Citizen Cider Unified Press

In the Sipping battle, we had, for the first time, a difference of opinion.  Given her love for ginger, I fully expected my wife to prefer the DM but, in fact, she liked the UP for its stronger apple flavor.  I guess it all depends what you're looking for in a given situation.

I still prefer the DM.  The ginger provides more body and dimension, thus a more satisfying overall experience.  Plus, the UP has a similar funky aftertaste to the one I described in Pearsecco.  Both the ginger in the DM and the other ingredients in the D-Day Swizzle seem to take care of the problem.

Winner and New Champion, Sipping Category, Her Preference: Citizen Cider Unified Press

Winner and Still Champion, Sipping Category, His Preference: Citizen Cider The Dirty Mayor

Friday, October 21, 2022

Star Trek: The Storyteller

Episode: "The Storyteller"
Series: Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Season 1, Episode 14
Original Air Date: May 2, 1993

via Memory Alpha

Dr. Bashir is summoned for a medical emergency in a Bajoran village.  Commander Sisko sends Chief O'Brien with him.  It quickly becomes obvious that O'Brien doesn't like Bashir much but the latter does his best to make pals anyway.  It's a good thing Miles was along for the ride, though.  The village's spiritual leader, the Sirah, is dying and picks O'Brien as his successor.  As might be expected, that doesn't work out too well.

I've been waiting for an eye-roller and I believe this one is it.  The role of the Sirah is to fend off an energy cloud from attacking the city by telling stories which inspire the villagers to resist.  It's pretty hokey - original series-level hokey.  

And yet, once again, even a DS9 clunker has merit.  The episode marks the beginning of one of the more endearing series threads: the close friendship between Julian and Miles.  "A bromance is born," our progeny said in our recent rewatch.  And the B-plot is surprisingly sweet.  Tetrarch Varis Sul, the 15-year-old leader of another village, represents the interest of her people in tense negotiations with a neighboring community.  The young woman draws the interest of Jake and especially Nog.  The story provides a nice glimpse of the elder Sisko's leadership.  From the beginning, he takes Varis seriously, even as she frustrates his efforts to make peace.  For her part, Varis warms to Ben as she comes to see him through Jake's eyes.

The O'Brien as Sirah story is based on Rudyard Kipling's "The Man Who Would Be King."

Acting Notes

via Memory Alpha

Lawrence Monoson played the role of Hovath, the more worthy successor as Sirah.  Monoson was born August 11, 1964 in Yonkers, New York.  Films include Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter, Mask and the HBO movie And the Band Played On, for which he received a CableACE Award nomination.  He had recurring roles on several television series, including Prince Street, ER and Resurrection Blvd.  "The Storyteller" is his first of two Star Trek appearances on two different series.