Wednesday, June 29, 2022

On the Coffee Table: Y: The Last Man

Title: Y: The Last Man, Vol. 1: Unmanned
Writer: Brian K. Vaughan
Penciller: Pia Guerra
Inker: José Marzán, Jr.

via Amazon

In a flash, every male mammal on the planet dies, except for one - well, two really.  Yorick Brown and his pet monkey Ampersand have both been spared, though no one is sure why.  Can Yorick survive long enough to help perpetuate the species?  Will the extremist Amazons - of which his sister Hero is one - kill him first?  Will he ever be reunited with his girlfriend, Beth, currently stranded in Australia?  Will his mother, one of the few surviving members of the US Congress, succeed in helping to re-establish law and order?

Unmanned is the first trade for the Y: The Last Man series, collecting issues #1-5.  First published in 2002, the series has since inspired a television show of the same name, released in 2021.  Unfortunately, it was canceled after one season.  Poor timing, I'm guessing.  Perhaps the world had an understandably limited appetite for post-apocalyptic narratives last year.  No, I haven't watched it.

The storytelling is effective and the premise intriguing.  Yorick is a tolerable idiot - clever enough to stay alive, foolish enough to keep things interesting and goofy enough to provide occasional comic relief in a necessarily heavy narrative.  The story raises ethical questions as well as concerns about the limitations of lines of succession within government.  My one gripe: the treatment of time is unnecessarily awkward.

As we leave matters at the end of Unmanned, Yorick, his bodyguard Agent 355 and geneticist Dr. Mann are trying to decided on their next best step.  I'm definitely up for finding out which they choose.

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Squid Mixes: Doctor Cottom

My wife got the idea off of Twitter, courtesy of Professor Tressi McMillan Cottom: combine jam with bourbon.  Obviously, we have to try it.  Cottom's recommendation:

2 oz bourbon
1 heaping tsp jam/preserves

Stir to combine, then shake and serve.  I grabbed rye from the cabinet instead of bourbon - accident or subconscious preference? - and we used strawberry jam because it was open.  It's very nice.

Only one problem: she didn't name the drink!  So, professor, I name it after you, Doctor Cottom.

Bitters of the Month

We tried this month's bitters, Bittermens Boston Bittahs, in Manhattans in place of Angostura.  I couldn't really taste the bitters against the other ingredients but my wife said she could.  She is a supertaster and I am not so she's likely to pick up hints that I'm not.

Otherwise, we both thought it was fine, though certainly not superior to Angostura.

Monday, June 27, 2022

On the Coffee Table: Tilar J. Mazzeo

Title: The Widow Clicquot: The Story of a Champagne Empire and the Woman Who Ruled It
Author: Tilar J. Mazzeo

via Amazon

The Widow Clicquot is the biography of Barbe-Nicole Ponsardin Clicquot, builder of a Champagne empire through the most tumultuous stretch of French history.  Her life stretched from the Revolution to the Second French Empire.  Women entrepreneurs have rarely been encouraged in European history, rarely less so than in the 19th century.  Yet, Clicquot's company survives to the present day as one of the most dependable brands in the industry.  Certainly, she had some good luck along the way - Russian troops who didn't loot her cellars at the end of the Napoleonic Wars, for instance.  But she also survived plenty of bad.  Her courage, ingenuity and obsessive work ethic carried her and her company through.  

Mazzeo certainly leaves a solid impression of an impressive woman.  Unfortunately, it's not the world's most well-written biography.  Mazzeo needed a better editor.  There's loads of unnecessary repetition - at one point, I counted three consecutive sentences that said exactly the same thing.  I also found a triple negative - or was it, in fact, quadruple?  My wife's take: Mazzeo didn't actually have enough material to make for a decent story.  The author generated loads of suppositional filler where surviving personal correspondence was lacking - a clumsy and ineffective effort to make the subject more relatable.

I enjoyed the subject matter.  Both the wine production and the French cultural history were fascinating.  I'd love to read better-written books about similar subjects.

I am curious about the product, apparently drier than it was during The Widow's own tenure.  One of our local wine shops does carry it.  Standard bottle?  $66.99.  Double magnum: $399.99.  So, I doubt we'll be trying it anytime soon.  But maybe someday when we're in the mood to splurge...

Friday, June 24, 2022

Star Trek: Ship in a Bottle

Episode: "Ship in a Bottle"
Series: Star Trek: The Next Generation
Season 6, Episode 12
Original Air Date: January 25, 1993

Moriarty is back!  Sherlock Holmes's great nemesis and, for my money, TNG's best villain, Moriarty (Daniel Davis) first appeared in Season 2's "Elementary, Dear Data."  He was a holodeck character who somehow achieved self-awareness.  His program had been saved by the computer and now that he's been relaunched, he's ready to make mischief.

Without a doubt, this is my favorite TNG holodeck episode.  Some choose it as the worst which blows my mind.  Beyond my affection for the guest star, the simulation within a simulation scenario is delicious.  I think it would have been even better, though, if in that final scene a third simulation were revealed with Barclay's last line.  What if the whole thing were Barclay's holo-novel masterpiece?  I realize that changes the story and makes it more of a Barclay tale in the end.  Even so, I would have enjoyed the extra wrinkle.

Trek took four seasons to return to the Holmes-scape due to rights issues with the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle estate.  It was assumed they'd never be able to use the character again.  But apparently, it was all a misunderstanding.  The estate lawyers had been irritated with Paramount over the 1985 film Young Sherlock Holmes.  All was worked out in time for Season 6 - with adequate rights fees, naturally.

Acting Notes

Stephanie Beacham played the role of Regina Barthalomew, Moriarty's lady love.  Beacham was born February 28, 1947 in Barnet, Hertfordshire, England.  She studied as a mime in Paris before attending the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London.  Her original plan was to become a dance teacher for deaf children.  She is partially deaf herself.  But a modeling career lead to television acting gigs.

The earliest work came in British television with series Tenko and Connie.  She made her biggest splash in the US as Sable Colby in The Colbys and Dynasty.  Films include Dracula A.D. 1972, Schizo and Troop Beverly Hills.

Beacham was married to John McEnery, 1973-89.  They had two daughters.  She has beaten skin cancer twice.

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Squid Cooks: Sausage Pasta

Summer vacation has officially begun and as such, I'm likely to do more cooking over the next several weeks.  It's a momentous summer at our house, the last before our daughter heads to college in September.  This is also the first summer she'll have a job.  Our world is changing quickly.

Sausage pasta is one of our quick, throw-together meals: sausage, pasta, jarred sauce and, when I make it, onions.  I don't know if I'll move far past my usual, comfortable rotation this summer.  We'll see.

Monday, June 20, 2022

On the Coffee Table: The Return of Sherlock Holmes

Title: The Return of Sherlock Holmes
Author: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

The Return of Sherlock Holmes is a 1905 collection of short stories originally published in Strand Magazine between 1903 and 1904.  Of course, there was the small matter that Doyle had killed off his outrageously popular hero in "The Final Problem," in 1893.  While the author was able to circumvent the issue with The Hound of the Baskervilles by setting the story earlier in the fictional timeline, Doyle's new stories required a resurrection in the initial offering of the new collection, "The Adventure of the Empty House."  At the end of this book, in "The Adventure of the Second Stain," Doyle tried to give himself another out by claiming Holmes had retired.  

But there are still three more books after this one.

My favorites in The Return of Sherlock Holmes include the aforementioned "Second Stain," "The Adventure of the Missing Three Quarter" about a missing rugby player and "The Adventure of the Dancing Men" which involves codebreaking, always fun.  We get a strong sense of Morality According to Holmes in this volume.  Not infrequently, he lets the "guilty" party get away when he believes their cause just.

Friday, June 17, 2022

Star Trek: Babel

Episode: "Babel"
Series: Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Season 1, Episode 5
Original Air Date: January 24, 1993

A virus spreads through the station, reducing its victims to incoherent communication, able to use words but not in any linguistically meaningful way.  As a viewer, one is always on the look out for the next character to be infected.  Sometimes Trek's standard techno-babble confuses matters.  

"Babel" provides relationship development for both Odo-Quark and Ben-Jake.  Otherwise, it's just another high-concept episode.  A Trek language wrinkle the creators should play with a lot more than they have: what happens when the universal translator fails?

Acting Notes

Terry Farrell (Dax) was born November 19, 1963 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.  She submitted a photo to a modeling agency at age 16 and soon after scored an exclusive contract with Mademoiselle.  She began studying acting 18 months later.

Pre DS9, her acting resume was modest, including an appearance in the film Back to School and guest roles on The Cosby Show and Quantum Leap.  Sadly, Farrell was the only DS9 principal who did not make it through the entire seven-season run.  There's a story there.  We'll get to it in time.

Farrell and Nana Visitor (Kira) both have asteroids named after them.  Farrell is married to Adam Nimoy, son of Leonard.  It's her second marriage, his third.  She has a son, Max, from her first marriage.

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Squid Mixes: Aldebaran Whiskey

The wonderful Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Relics" introduces Aldebaran Whiskey in this scene, then expands upon the concept in this one.  There isn't much to go on in terms of a recipe.  We know it's green and we know it's strong.  That's it.  When my wife told me she had a zested lemon and orange I could use for a cocktail, I decided I'd give it a try...

It's Trek so obviously there are already recipes online.  All the ones I found involve Gatorade which I'm absolutely not going to use.  There's enough green in my liquor cabinet to experiment.  Here's the recipe I concocted:

2 oz. Midori
1 oz. green Chartreuse
1 oz. lemon juice
.25 oz. orange juice
1 smidgen Irish whiskey

Yes, I actually have a measuring spoon labeled "smidgen."  I got it and a few others like it, mostly as a gag, from my dear, departed grandmother-in-law.  I wanted a little actual whiskey in the drink but not enough to impact the color.  I chose Irish whiskey because the Bushmills was the most lightly-colored whiskey in current inventory.  The association of Ireland with green was a bonus.

Midori was definitely the right vehicle for the color.  I felt I could be a little more daring than usual with the 110 proof Chartreuse because the Midori is only 40 proof.  The resulting flavor was Jolly Rancher-ish, not something I imagine Scotty would enjoy.  The melon flavor of the Midori impressively overwhelmed both the Chartreuse and the citrus fruits, all usually dependable heavyweights.  

I doubt I will ever try this again as my wife was only grudgingly keen from the start.  However, if I do, less sweet would be better.  It could do with a more alcoholic flavor bite, too.  I'm thinking tequila instead of the Chartreuse, perhaps even 2:1 in favor of the tequila.  I'll keep the lemon juice.  It brought exactly the right tint when I added it.

Friday, June 10, 2022

Star Trek: A Man Alone

Episode: "A Man Alone"
Series: Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Season 1, Episode 4
Original Air Date: January 17, 1993

An old nemesis of Odo's is murdered in one of the holosuites.  Odo is the prime suspect.

The narrative structure for "A Man Alone" was inspired by Hill Street Blues, the classic police show from the 1980s.  Multiple plot lines run simultaneously and intertwine.  As such, there's a lot of character development for several players.  Keiko O'Brien, eager for a sense of purpose, starts a school on Deep Space 9.  New friends Jake Sisko and Nog (Quark's nephew) are among her first students.  Julian and Quark both long for Dax.  We learn more about Dax's friendship with Ben Sisko, and about Trills in general.  We learn of Kira's sense of loyalty towards Odo.  And so on.

The Odo storyline gets a bit heavy-handed when a lynch mob comes for him.  I get the need to establish the constable as a not entirely welcome outsider but I think something more subtle would have been more effective.  There was too much "look at me, I'm mean" acting from the mob.

That said, even the weaker DS9 episodes aren't so bad.

Acting Notes

via Wikipedia

Siddig El Tahir El Fadil El Siddig Abdurrahman Mohammed Ahmed Abdel Karim El Mahdi (Bashir) was born November 21, 1965 in Omdurman, Sudan to a Sudanese father and an English mother.  The family moved to London when he was two years old.  He did his training at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts.  

Working professionally as Siddig el Fadil, he had a brief stage career before landing his first television role in a BBC miniseries, The Big Battalions.  Soon after, his portrayal of Prince Feisal in A Dangerous Man: Lawrence After Arabia brought him to the attention of the Star Trek people.  He was seriously considered for the role of Sisko but the producers felt he was too young.  

For the record, Avery Brooks was definitely the better choice.

In 1995, the actor changed his professional name to Alexander Siddig, the same one he uses to this day.

Tuesday, June 7, 2022

Bitters of the Month: Boston

Bittermens Boston Bittahs aims for citrus and chamomile flavors.  I'm not sure what's so "Boston" about it.  The chamomile, maybe?  Chamomile -> Tea -> Boston Tea Party?

The aroma is nice but with gin, I wouldn't say the taste held up especially well.  Maybe vodka would be better.  I could try it in a Kangaroo (aka Vodka Martini) rather than the orange bitters I used last time.

Friday, June 3, 2022

Star Trek: Past Prologue

Episode: "Past Prologue"
Series: Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Season 1, Episode 3
Original Air Date: January 9, 1993

Tahna Los, an old friend (but not a lover, refreshingly) of Major Kira's, arrives on Deep Space 9 with the Cardassians in hot pursuit.  He requests political asylum and it's not an easy call for Commander Sisko.  Tahna is a member of Kohn-Ma, a ruthless Bajoran terrorist organization.  But as O'Brien warns Sisko, and we know ourselves from the most recent TNG episode, giving a prisoner over to the Cardassians is no small matter.

"Past Prologue" is primarily a Kira development story as well as providing meaningful background on the Cardassian-Bajoran conflict.  We have cameos by the Duras sisters.  Best of all, the episode introduces Garak! 

Garak, officially a clothier with a shop on the promenade, is the last Cardassian on the station.  His loyalties are unclear.  Is he a spy?  He certainly possesses the skills and instincts of the craft.  Can he be trusted?  He is awfully charming.  Too charming?  

Unfortunately, we won't see him again until Season 2.  One of DS9's greatest strengths is the depth of the bench.  The list of secondary characters who get meaningful development surpassing most of the TNG principals is long.  Garak is the gem.  Seriously, if not for Odo, he'd have a solid case for best character in the series.  I'll spare the suspense.  None of the initial questions are ever satisfactorily answered.  All the better.  His value is obvious from the first instant he appears on screen, eyeing Bashir lustfully.

We get a memorable exchange between Sisko and Kira on the bridge.  Watch here.  At our house, we have a phrase for these moments: "You've been Siskoed!"

Acting Notes

Rene Auberjonois (Odo) was born June 1, 1940 in New York City and spent parts of his childhood living in both Paris and London.  He graduated from Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie Mellon) with a BFA in 1962.

Auberjonois was arguably the most accomplished actor ever to take on a principal Star Trek role.  Before DS9, he'd already been nominated for four Tony awards, winning one for 1970's Coco, starring opposite Katharine Hepburn.  He was the original Duke in Big River, a role and a show (based on Mark Twain's Huck Finn) with a significant Star Trek legacy.  Brent Spiner (TNG's Data) also performed the Duke on Broadway as did Ken Jenkins, a TNG Season 3 guest star.  Jenkins's son Daniel was the original Huck.  Bob Gunton, a TNG Season 4 guest star, was the original King.  Auberjonois also already had an Emmy nomination for the principal role of Clayton Endicott III on Benson.  On the big screen, he was Father Mulcahy in the film version of M*A*S*H.  The highlight of his considerable voice acting career was Chef Louis in Disney's The Little Mermaid.  

Yup, all of that was before DS9.

Auberjonois was married to his wife Judith for 56 years until his death in 2019.  They had two children.  When he was diagnosed with lung cancer and declined the most drastic treatment, Auberjonois elected medically-aided death instead, a right protected by California law.