Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Squid Eats: Bramble

Bramble is another new restaurant in The Essex Experience (explained here).  Pizza, baked in a brick oven behind the bar, makes up the heart of the menu but Bramble offers many other gourmet treats: oysters, bone marrow, duck, caviar in addition to more predictable entrees like steak and fish.  The just opened this spring and we've already been several times.  It's one of those places where I am eager to try something new every time we're there, a desire they accommodate well with frequent changes to the menu.

My wife and I went just the two of us for our most recent visit.  We started with the aforementioned oysters, basically an obligatory order for us at any restaurant where they're on the menu.  We had the bone marrow, too, earning the compliments of our waitress for our sophisticated order.  Our pizza was the Motto-Guzzi, pictured above.  Take away one of the T's and you have the name of a famous Italian motorcycle make, apparently.  I won't pretend to know such things without a Google consultation - not a gear head.  

Everything we've ever ordered has been good.  We've always gotten dessert in the past though we didn't that evening - too full.  Beer, wine and cocktail menus are all good.  Service is both knowledgeable and exceedingly friendly.  I am confident we'll be back frequently.

Friday, August 26, 2022

Star Trek: Birthright, Part II

Episode: "Birthright, Part II"
Series: Star Trek: The Next Generation
Season 6, Episode 17
Original Air Date: March 1, 1993

via Memory Alpha

Whereas last week's "Part I" included an A Worf story and a B Data tale, "Part II" is all Worf.  "Part I" ended with Worf finding the Romulan prison camp where he'd been told his father was being held only to find that Mogh was indeed long dead.  What's more, the Klingons who have been held in the camp for decades have no interest in leaving.  As the curtain falls on Act 1, Worf is taken prisoner himself.

As we join the story this week, Worf learns that the Klingons in the camp made a decision long ago to remain rather than return to Qo'noS and face the disgrace of having been taken prisoner.  They have built a new life for themselves with the Romulans who had been their jailers, inter-marrying, raising children and living in peace.  Worf's arrival threatens their tranquility when he teaches the second generation Klingons about their heritage.  Complicating matters even further, he falls in love.  

Last week, I said I preferred the Data story and for "Part I," that's still true.  But I'm firmly back on Team Worf with "Part II."  Worf's Klingon adventures comprise one of the best threads running through NextGen and "Birthright" highlights many of the reasons why.  Learning tolerance is always at the heart of Star Trek and no TNG character has to confront his own prejudices the way Worf does.  Our man says and does regrettable things in this adventure and they are 100% credible given the character and the context.  He is the closest to morally ambiguous among the principals and that is a big part of why his stories are always so compelling.

Also in "Birthright"'s favor: it's a good Worf story without Alexander.

Acting Notes

Cristine Rose played the role of Gi'ral, one of the captive Klingons and mother of Ba'el, the love interest.  Rose was born January 31, 1951 in Lynwood, California.  She graduated from Stanford.  Most of her high-profile work has been in television.  She has had recurring roles on Heroes, Picket Fences, Grace Under Fire, Providence, Ellen and Charmed.  On Heroes, she eventually became principal cast as Angela Petrelli.

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

State of the Blog 2022

Blogging Year 14, here we go!

Next week, we take our one and only child to college.  The impact on all three of our lives will be enormous.  My wife and I have spent the past nearly 19 years planning everything around our progeny.  Obviously, she'll still loom large but the parameters of our family life will be permanently altered.  It's a time for new beginnings for all of us.

My wife and I have talked about new hobbies we can take up and old ones we could renew.  Predictably, many of our ideas involve food: exploring Vermont's many restaurants, breweries, vineyards, distilleries, cideries, etc.  In our more adventurous moods, we ponder (guided) mushroom foraging or possibly even fly fishing.  A couple of weekend trips are under discussion and, of course... excursions to Massachusetts are likely to be more frequent.  I expect we'll be watching more movies.  We also may become opera nerds.

The blogging schedule will stay the same...

Tuesdays: Family Adventures
Fridays: Star Trek
Occasional book posts

Food is likely to remain the main driver for the Tuesday posts.  I'm in need of new inspiration for the cocktail hobby.  Perhaps some new books would help.  For Trek, I should be able to make it pretty deep into Next Generation's 7th season and Deep Space Nine's 2nd over the next 12 months.

As always, if any of you enjoys reading The Armchair Squid half as much as I enjoy writing it, we're all doing just fine.

Squiddies 2022

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

Biggest Surprise: Baltimore Orioles

In February, in my post about The MVP Machine by Ben Lindbergh and Travis Sawchik, I wondered who on my beloved baseball team, the Baltimore Orioles, would be this year's big surprise.  It turned out to be the whole darn squad.  Projected to lose 100 games this season, they're in the thick of the playoff race in late August.  Previously undistinguished players like outfielder Austin Hays and shortstop Jorge Mateo are making significant contributions.  Rookie Adley Rutschman has quickly established himself as the best catcher in the Major Leagues.  Most amazing of all, the Orioles took a bunch of cast-off relief pitchers and somehow combined them into one of the strongest bullpens in baseball.  And the team is fun to watch.  They believe in themselves and their enthusiasm is highly infectious.

It's possible the team's surge came too late for them to make the playoffs this year.  But with even more prospects yet to emerge from the still highest-ranked farm system, it feels like perennial contention is not far off.  It's been a long time since Baltimore has been this excited about baseball.

Go, Birds!

Biggest Disappointment: Nichelle Nichols's Passing

Actress Nichelle Nichols, Uhura of Star Trek's original series, passed away from heart failure on July 30th.  She was the first Black woman to have a regular role on an American television show as anything other than a servant.  Her on-screen kiss with William Shatner was a revolution all its own.  But if you know Star Trek, you know that Uhura was so much more.  She was the emotional heart of the Enterprise bridge crew - in many ways, the most human character of all.

And Nichelle Nichols was more than just Uhura.  A triple threat, she was an accomplished dancer and singer who toured with both Duke Ellington and Lionel Hampton.  Beyond the performing arts, she worked with NASA to recruit both minority and female personnel.  

89 years is a long life.  Even so, Star Trek's light noticeably dimmed with Nichols's passing.  Her legacy is secure.

Best Read, First Time Category: I Came As a Shadow by John Thompson

This wasn't an easy choice.  I had three five-star reads over the past twelve months.  I'll discuss the other two with the next award.  The autobiography of longtime Georgetown basketball coach John Thompson gave me a peak behind the curtain of my childhood, offering insights into a team I love and also the community where I grew up.  It's hard to compete with that.  Given the choice, I'd rather read more books like I Came As a Shadow than either of the other two.  The big guy wins again.

Best Comics Find: Daredevil: Born Again

My other two top reads were both comics: Sonny Liew's The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye and the Born Again story arc from Marvel's Daredevil series.  Liew's faux-biographical history of Singapore is extraordinary but Born Again goes on a short list of the best English-language comics I've ever read.   The arc, originally published in issues 227-233 in 1986, was written by Frank Miller and drawn by David Mazzuchelli.

The Kingpin learns of Daredevil's secret identity and sets about ruining Matt Murdock's life.  Murdock/Daredevil exacts his revenge.  Simple premise.  The magic is in the telling.  The world-building is exemplary.  We hear, feel and smell Hell's Kitchen as well as we see it.  We share in Murdock's all-too-real life pain.  We delight in his relief when all comes right.

It's hard to top a simple story beautifully told.

That's two years in a row for both Miller and Daredevil in this spot.

Athlete of the Year: Buck O'Neil (1911-2006)

In 2006, mere months before his death, Buck O'Neil was passed over for induction to the Baseball Hall of Fame.  This year, he finally made it.

On the merits of his career as player and manager in the Negro Leagues, O'Neil was an understandably marginal candidate for the honor.  But his broader contributions as a goodwill ambassador for the sport were exceptional.  Anyone who has watched Ken Burns's Baseball series knows that Buck O'Neil was a master storyteller in a sport that values the skill.  Written records of the Negro Leagues are relatively scarce so the oral history provided by O'Neil and others are essential.  If you wish to know more about this extraordinary man, I can't recommend Joe Posnanski's The Soul of Baseball: A Road Trip Through Buck O'Neil's America highly enough.  No joke, you'll feel better about humanity after you've read it.

Even before his official induction, Buck O'Neil had a larger presence in the Hall than most.  After he died, the museum gave him a Lifetime Achievement Award.  Today, a life-sized statue of O'Neil greets visitors as they enter the museum's exhibit halls.

Best Family Adventure: High School Graduation

Our child graduated from high school in June.  For the second time in my life, I felt my place in the universe shift.  The first time was the day she was born.  Looking into her eyes for the first time, I realized I was no longer the central character of my own story.  Her high school graduation (even more than my own) felt like an arrival point - a brief one, to be sure, but certainly the most significant moment of transition since the birth itself.  We'll always be her parents, of course, but the job has qualitatively changed forever.

We've got another big transition coming right soon.  It's been wonderful to savor this particular life moment between the two this summer.

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Squid Eats: Sarom's

Winooski may be Vermont's most fascinating town.  It is the smallest in area of our state's incorporated municipalities and its most densely populated.  More importantly, it has by far the largest recent immigrant population.  In our whitest of white states, Winooski can make the strongest claim of any town to actual... diversity!

It's wonderful!  I mean, there's grumbling.  White people too often grumble over black and brown people.  But for the more thoughtful among us, it's fantastic.  We have friends in Winooski with a daughter about to start kindergarten this year and I envy the languages she's going to hear in her everyday life at school.  It presents challenges for the education system, to be sure.  But the community has embraced the challenges and as a result, she and her classmates will experience a childhood unlike anyone else in the state.  I think it's exciting.

Another benefit of our area's increasing diversity is a greater variety of restaurants.  There are now enough Nepali restaurants, for instance, to merit their own category in Seven Days's annual Seven Daysies awards.  Vietnamese food is actually rather well established, the Burlington area's Vietnamese population being well into its second and third generations at this point.  As such, Sarom's Cafe, a banh mi restaurant which opened about a year ago, is most welcome.  

Banh mi is a style of sandwich from Vietnam's French colonial heritage, now a staple food in that country.  When we first moved to Vermont 20 years ago, we lived a lot closer to Winooski than we do now.  At the time, there was an Asian grocery store in town that made the best banh mi we've ever had using paté.  They were great to grab for picnics and such.  Sadly, the store is long gone but the legacy lives on.  Sarom's banh mi isn't quite as decadently beautiful as what we remember but it's still nice to have a dependable place in the area.  

I ordered the chicken, my wife the beef so we could try both.  I preferred the chicken, the beef being a little too heavily seasoned for my tastes.  Both were nice, though.  The spring rolls were good, as was the very hot coffee.  Service was friendly and the space pleasant.

They have French pastries, too, though we didn't try them this time...

We'll be back.

Friday, August 19, 2022

Star Trek: Birthright, Part I

Episode: "Birthright, Part I"
Series: Star Trek: The Next Generation
Season 6, Episode 16
Original Air Date: February 22, 1993

Worf learns that his father may still be alive and goes to investigate.  Meanwhile, Data is knocked out of commission in an engineering accident and experiences what can only be described as a dream.  DS9's Dr. Bashir has a meaningful cameo in the episode.

Normally, given a Worf story or a Data story to choose from, I'd pick Worf every time.  But in "Birthright, Part I," the Data-has-a-dream scenario is irresistible.  (To be fair, the Worf tale is just getting started in this first of two parts.)  For starters, the encounter with Bashir is unusual.  Julian, refreshingly, is more fascinated by the things that Dr. Soong did to make Data seem human than he is in our favorite android's more extraordinary abilities.  Then the dream comes as a complete surprise.  No one, Data included, knew he was capable of that.  He does his usual research: poring over psychological and spiritual texts, then sounding out his friends.  Picard encourages him to explore where the images lead him through creative pursuits.  So Data paints.  He paints a lot.  Thank goodness it's not poetry this time.  A second induction of the dreamlike state brings Data into contact with Soong.

The question left unanswered: was the entire experience implanted by Soong in Data's programming or was Data programmed with the capacity to contrive such images from his own experiences?  The first would be disappointing.  The second would be deeply cool.

There's a Picard line that intrigues me.  He describes Data as a "culture of one."  Is a culture species-specific?  Wouldn't the culture of the colonists on Omicron Theta have been his "culture," even if he couldn't experience it the same way an organic humanoid would?

Acting Notes

Richard Herd played the role of L'Kor, a Klingon elder Worf encounters at a Romulan prison camp at the end of the episode.  Herd was born September 26, 1932 in Boston.  He joined the army during the Korean War but was honorably discharged when he injured his knee in basic training.  Afterwards he, along with spy novel author Robert Ludlum, made army training videos for the Army Signal Corps.

While the bulk of Herd's work was in television, he had a few notable film credits: All the President's Men, The China Syndrome and Planes, Trains and Automobiles among others.  On TV, he was probably best known for his role in the V franchise.  He was also a regular for a time (36 total episodes) on TJ Hooker, starring William Shatner.  He made appearances on both Seinfeld, M*A*S*H and Quantum Leap among others.  In Star Trek: Voyager, he played Admiral Owen Paris, father of Tom, in four episodes.

Herd was married three times, the last time for 40 years until his death.  He had two children.  Herd passed away in 2020 from colon cancer.

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

On the Coffee Table: Sonny Liew

Title: The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye
Writer and Artist: Sonny Liew

via Amazon

The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye is an extraordinary project.  Liew tells the history of Singapore from the perspective of a fictional comic book creator, Charlie Chan Hock Chye.  Charlie claims Japanese master Osamu Tezuka as his early inspiration, though the project itself, with autobiography and modern national history running parallel, is patterned more on the work of Shigeru Mizuki.  Over the course of his (fictitious) career, Chan incorporated the artisic and narrative styles of numerous comic enterprises: Walt Kelly's Pogo, Disney comics, Spider-Man, Mad Magazine, Frank Miller's Batman, etc.  Chan's (again, Liew-invented) comics are presented alongside historical annotations, sometimes also in cartoon form, further blurring the distinction between fact and fiction.

The scope of the book is breathtaking.  Liew shares a history most outside of Singapore (or even within, under a certain age?) don't know and his seemingly encyclopedic mastery of the comics medium is impressive.  The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye has been a best-seller and won numerous awards all over the world, including three Eisners.  It was the first graphic novel to win the Singapore Literature Prize.

Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Squid Eats: Sal's Pizzeria of Cooperstown

Via Yelp

When your life revolves around the academic calendar, as mine nearly always has, August feels like a long psychological Sunday.  You still technically have the time off but there's a little voice nagging at you, reminding you that you have to go back to work soon.  I tend to get restless.  Ours has been a quiet summer, by design - only modest travels due to our child's work schedule.  As such, I felt the need for a quick personal adventure on my own terms.  I'd never been to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Museum before.  It's a 4.5-hour drive from our house, a little far for a day trip but manageable.  The rest of my family barely cares about baseball at all so it was the perfect choice for getting out on my own.

The drive to Cooperstown is beautiful, to be sure, and the town itself quite charming.  Parking, however, is a nightmare - the Hall was built in an era when most were expected to visit via train so no on-site lot.  Fortunately, I left myself plenty of time for lunch before my 12:30 timed entrance.  Neither food nor drink is allowed in the museum itself so fueling up beforehand was essential.  Sal's, across the street, suited my purposes just fine.  New York-style pizza with Boston Red Sox decor.  Given my hunger, I could forgive them for the latter.  My slice of ham/pineapple and bottled water were rather extortionately priced at $9 but then again, it was cheaper than my Scottish Bistro dinner on the drive home.  Service was friendly and I didn't have to wait long.

via Wikipedia

The Hall itself was... fine.  It's smaller than I was expecting.  Going in, I was particularly keen to see the exhibits about the Negro Leagues and women in baseball.  There's one about Latin American players, too, that I didn't know about ahead of time.  All were... fine, yet inadequate.  At this point, I'm fairly well-read on the subject of baseball so I can't say I learned much I didn't already know.  I'm glad to have gone but don't know if I'd ever bother again.

It's possible I just wanted a more contemplative atmosphere than was possible the day I visited.  We went to the Rock and Roll Hall in Cleveland a few years back and that was a lot more satisfying.  I may simply have a more emotional attachment to music than I do to sports.  Furthermore, most of the other patrons in Cooperstown were middle school-aged boys in town for a tournament.  So, it felt a little like work - not what I needed.  If I do ever go again, maybe it would be better to go outside of high season.  

There was one plaque I particularly wanted to see.  After hunting down all of the enshrined Orioles (there are six), I found Buck O'Neil.  O'Neil, who passed away in 2006, was finally inducted this year.  He spent his entire playing career in the Negro Leagues but made it to The Show as the first Black coach in the Major Leagues.  Perhaps more important to his long-term legacy, he was an eloquent ambassador for the sport, using his master storytelling skills to share the history of the Negro Leagues with future generations.  Anyone who has watched Ken Burns's Baseball documentary series would recognize his warm, rich, baritone delivery.  If you want to know more about my affection for this elegant gentleman, please read this post.

Monday, August 15, 2022

On the Coffee Table: John Thompson

Title: I Came As a Shadow: An Autobiography
Author: John Thompson (with Jesse Washington)

via Amazon

John Thompson, Jr. (1941-2020) was the head men's basketball coach at Georgetown University, 1972-99.  He was the first Black coach to win a national championship.  Those are the basics of one of the most extraordinary stories in American sports.

The Georgetown Hoyas have been my team since their glory days in the 1980s.  I have written about my love for the program many times, most comprehensively in one of my earliest posts.  When I say that John Thompson shaped my concept of what college basketball is supposed to be, I'm not exaggerating.  I learned much of what I know about the sport from watching his games.  So, I was always going to read his autobiography and I was always going to love it.

Thompson was more than just a coach.  He became a symbol in the Black community, especially in Washington, DC, a city that was still 70% Black in the '80s.  (Sadly, because of gentrification, Blacks no longer make up the majority of the population in our nation's capital.) John Thompson was an enormous Black man - 6'10", nearly 270 pounds - and unapologetic for expressing himself emotionally.  Thompson didn't yell at the refs any more passionately than his shorter white contemporaries did but he was fully aware that the world, even the basketball world, sees you differently when you're a large Black man.  What's more, he used his public position to advocate effectively for Black coaches and players, within his own program and beyond.  

I learned a lot from I Came As a Shadow.  I loved all of the basketball material, of course, but even more meaningful were Thompson's insights about growing up as a Black man in the Washington area.  Part of what set Thompson apart as an icon in the city - one different from the also enormously popular Barack Obama, for instance - was the fact that he was born and raised in DC.  Obviously, his life was different - in ways both better and worse - than I might have expected as a white kid in the suburbs a generation later.  He also had some not so flattering insights to share about Chevy Chase, an affluent town on the Maryland/DC border that I know quite well indeed.  I grew up believing my community was a lot more progressive than it actually was and I've really only come to terms with the darker reality in the past few years.  Unfortunately, Thompson's experiences confirmed my suspicions.

Still, most of the book is basketball.  The behind the curtain perspective on Thompson's teams - both the great and the not so great - is wonderful.  Coach Thompson shared a lot about how the Hoyas, as the first high profile college team with a Black coach and all Black players, became the team everyone loved to hate.  He grew to resent the word intimidating consistently used to describe him and his team, rather than giving them credit for being intelligent and well-prepared.  I would never have seen it that way at the time but now, one has to concede that he was right to be bothered.  The Hoyas certainly were a physically aggressive team but so was everybody else in the Big East conference.  Georgetown wouldn't have won as many games as they did if they couldn't dish it out as good as they got.  But they were unfairly characterized as goons and race definitely played a role in that.

Through it all, his program, at its best, was amazing.  I would happily watch those teams play in that league for the rest of my life.  Thompson writes warmly and extensively about each of his future Hall of Famers: Patrick Ewing, Dikembe Mutombo, Alonzo Mourning and Allen Iverson.  He also expresses tremendous pride for some of the players who excelled in life pursuits other than basketball.  Not all of the stories had happy endings but overall, it's impossible not to be impressed by all of the good his program came to represent.  

One note, because my high school Russian history teacher (Long live, the Tsar!) would scold me if I didn't point this out: Thompson, head coach of the Olympic team in 1988, repeatedly referred to the Soviet Union's team as "the Russians" when in fact the biggest stars of that team were Lithuanian, not Russian at all.

Again, I was an easy sell for this book.  It's impossible for me to be objective given my love for the subject.  That said, Thompson and his ghost writer Jesse Washington did a great job.  I Came As a Shadow is a tremendously enjoyable read.  Any autobiography can come off as narcissistic but while he certainly wasn't reluctant to toot his own horn, Thompson was vulnerable enough to share his shortcomings.  He's also honest about his more self-interested motivations.  My admiration for John Thompson, already considerable, has only increased.

Friday, August 12, 2022

Star Trek: The Passenger

Episode: "The Passenger"
Series: Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Season 1, Episode 9
Original Air Date: February 20, 1993

Kira and Bashir rescue Ty Kajada, a Kobliad security officer, from her burning transport.  They were not able to rescue her prisoner, Rao Vantika, who dies despite the doctor's best efforts.  Except it's not that simple.  Kajada repeatedly insists that Vantika isn't actually dead, that he is somehow still a threat to carry out the hijacking of a shipment headed to Deep Space 9.  How is that possible?  Well, apparently he's learned to inject his consciousness into the brains of others, including that of one of our heroes.

"The Passenger" is a popular choice for Worst of Series lists.  The possession of Bashir is a bit clumsy - Alexander Siddig owns his shortcomings in this particular episode.  But once again, I have to say that even the weakest DS9 efforts aren't so bad.  They're pretty good compared with the worst TNG offerings or the nearly unwatchable worst TOS submissions.  Even here, there is meaningful development for the long term.  One of the strongest narrative drivers through the DS9 run is the complicated dynamic between Sisko, Odo and Quark and that trio get a good workout in "The Passenger."  We get an important reminder that Quark isn't just there for comic relief.  He's a genuine scoundrel in his own right.  There's some fun Bashir-as-arrogant-prick material early in the story, too.

Acting Notes

Julie Caitlin Brown (née Andrich) played the role of Ty Kajada.  Brown was born January 27, 1961 in San Francisco.  Most of her work was on stage - including a Broadway production of Grand Hotel - until she moved to Los Angeles in 1992.

Most of Brown's screen work has been television guest spots, most prominently on Babylon 5 on which she made seven appearances.  Other credits include Becker, JAG and Beverly Hills, 90210.  "The Passenger" was her first of three Trek appearances.  Her biggest film job was the lead in All About Evil.  

Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Squid Mixes: Cider Battles IV, Bring on the Pears

An exploration of ciders inevitably leads beyond apples to the world of pears.  As a table fruit, I've never been a huge fan of pears - too mealy.  But as an ingredient in things - tarts for example - pears are lovely.  Texture certainly isn't a problem in liquid form so there's no reason a pear cider couldn't hold its own in my arena...

Rosé vs. Pearsecco

Two Woodchuck Cider products go head to head.  Pearsecco is actually one of two pear ciders in Woodchuck's line.  The other is simply called "Pear."

It was a clear choice for both of us.  Pearsecco is drier, yet also, more fruity.  There's more added sugar in the Rosé so the Pearsecco actually tastes more like a pear than the Rosé does like an apple.  So...

Winner and New Champion, Sipping Cider Category: Woodchuck Pearsecco

If we try the Pearsecco in the D-Day Swizzle, I think I get to call the drink something new.  The David Lebovitz recipe clearly specifies apple cider, not pear.

Friday, August 5, 2022

Star Trek: Tapestry

Nichelle Nichols

via IMDb

An American television giant has passed on.  Her casting and her advocacy are the heart of Star Trek.  The following is my favorite Nichelle Nichols story from my own trek with this franchise:

"The Changeling" is a good Uhura episode.   Nomad overhears her singing and seeks her out for questioning.  When she gives unsatisfying answers, Nomad wipes her memory, deeming her flawed.  Dr. McCoy and Nurse Barrett set out to reeducate her.  In her training, her native Swahili comes to her before the English.  Apparently, Nichelle Nichols had to fight for that to be included in the story.  Director Marc Daniels wanted her to stick with English, arguing that Nichols herself didn't speak Swahili so why bother?  Nichols countered, saying "Nichelle Nichols doesn't speak Swahili, but Uhura does!"  Nichols won and a linguist was brought in to teach her the lines.

Episode: "Tapestry"
Series: Star Trek: The Next Generation
Season 6, Episode 15
Original Air Date: February 15, 1993

When Picard "dies" on an away mission, Q offers him the impossible gift: the chance to see how his life would have played out if he could change one crucial decision.  What if he hadn't gotten into a bar brawl when he was 21 and received an artificial heart transplant as a result?  As might be expected, one what-if leads to others.  What if he slept with his friend Marta?  What if he resists the advances of Penny, a woman at the bar?  What if he didn't rig the dom-jot table to help his other pal Corey win?  

Wouldn't you know, Picard didn't much like the more cautious life he ended up living.

I second guess life decisions all the time.  It's a bit of a curse.  As such, I find stories like this reassuring.  Regret is worthless.  One decision is linked to so many others.  "Way leads on to way," as Robert Frost wrote.  Mistakes are important because you learn from them.  Life really does work out for the best.  

"We are the choices we have made." - Francesca Johnson (Meryl Streep's character in The Bridges of Madison County)

Anyway, it's a fun episode, another in the "what might have been" line for Picard which seem to be increasing in frequency as the series nears its end.  There's something clever done with the color of his science officer uniform late in the story: it's blue but really a rather pretty teal depending on the light, as if he doesn't truly belong anywhere.  It's the DS9 science officer color but it doesn't have any meaning on the Enterprise.  I don't know if it's intentional but it's effective.  

Acting Notes

Ned Vaughn (Corey) was born November 20, 1964 in Huntsville, Alabama.  He studied at Birmingham-Southern College.  His professional acting career began with television commercials.  Films have included The Rescue, The Hunt for Red October and Apollo 13.  Television work has included China Beach, Murder One and 24.  

While reasonably successful as an actor, Vaughn has been more active as a political figure.  He was a longtime vice-president of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and a driving force behind that body's controversial merger with the American Federation of Teacher and Radio Artists (AFTRA).  He was a rare Republican union activist.  In 2013, he left the organization to run for Congress in California, though he eventually dropped out of the race.  

Vaughn has been married to his wife Adelaide since 1997.  They have five children.

Thursday, August 4, 2022

On the Coffee Table: His Last Bow

Title: His Last Bow
Author: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Despite his best efforts to kill or retire Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was repeatedly convinced to write more about the great detective.  In this collection of short stories (the eighth book of nine), Doyle wrote his wish to be rid of Holmes directly into the title of the last entry.  While "His Last Bow" would ultimately be the final adventure within the fictional timeline, it didn't end up being the character's last bow at all in the real world.  

All of the tales collected in this volume are solid.  I'd pick "The Adventure of the Bruce-Partington Plans" as my favorite as it includes the return of Mycroft, Sherlock's brother.  The final story itself is fun, one of the rare Holmes narratives written from third-person perspective.  A fun literary treat: in "The Adventure of the Cardboard Box," Holmes makes a direct reference to "one of Poe's sketches."

One more book to go.

Tuesday, August 2, 2022

Bitters of the Month: Chesapeake Bay

Okay, so I found space for one more.

A product of Bitter End Bitters, a Santa Fe, New Mexico-based enterprise, Chesapeake Bay Bitters is intended to be reminiscent of the Old Bay seasoning that plays a critical role in the glorious crab feasts of my native Maryland.  Having experimented with other "spicy" bitters, my usual gin and bitters test didn't seem the best plan.  On the company website, martini is listed as a recommendation for use.  So, I added it to my usual recipe...

I was still generous with the bitters because I wanted to taste it.  I erred on the high end of the 3-5 drop recommendation.  The result was pleasant, offering a noticeable though inoffensive peppery burn.  I'd do it again and might even add a little more.

The Bitter End line intrigues, offering several unconventional, international options.  I swear, I mean to slow down with this particular aspect of the cocktail hobby.  But if I make some room on the shelf - and justify mail order to myself - I might try others.  Thai or Moroccan Bitters would be my next choice.