Friday, September 30, 2022

Star Trek: Vortex

Episode: "Vortex"
Series: Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Season 1, Episode 12
Original Air Date: April 18, 1993

via Memory Alpha

Quark has an object of great value to sell to a pair of Miradorn twins.  Their transaction is interrupted by Croden, a mysterious stranger.  Odo, who made it into the room disguised as a glass, enters the fray.  In the ensuing melee, Croden shoots and kills one of the Miradorns.  What's more, Quark seems to have been in cahoots with Croden from the beginning.

But that's not the real story (though perhaps it should have been; we'll get to that).  Croden, who now comes under Odo's jurisdiction, claims to know something of Odo's species.  That revelation, and the relationship between Odo and Croden that evolves around it, drives most of the episode.

This is the first important Odo episode and as such, it launches one of DS9's essential arcs.  Odo is different from Worf or Spock in that he doesn't know anything about his own background.  As a result, his journey of self-discovery takes a while to get going.  But each little piece offered teases a broader canvas.  The superior writing and the never-to-be-undervalued generosity of the actor bring an intimacy for the viewer that we never experienced as strongly with either of Trek's previous "alien" principals.  "Vortex" is a good though not great starting point.  The best is yet to come.

Armin Shimerman complained to executive producer Rick Berman that his own character, Quark, was let off too easy in the heist narrative.  The bartender's value to both Odo and Sisko as an informant has already been well established by this point so some lenience is to be expected.  But in "Vortex," he is, an accomplice to murder, if unintentionally.  Shimerman felt it was a bridge too far and I'm inclined to agree.  As far as I remember, Quark's sins are less egregious moving forward.

Acting Notes

via The West Wing Wiki

Cliff DeYoung (Croden) was born February 12, 1945 in Los Angeles.  He graduated from Cal State-Los Angeles.  Before he became a professional actor, he was the lead singer of the band Clear Light, a 1960s LA-based psychedelic group.  The band only released one eponymous album.  It had modest national success.  After Clear Light split, he went to Broadway where he was in Hair, then the original cast of the Tony-winning Sticks and Bones.  In 1974, he hit #17 in the Billboard Hot 100 with the John Denver-penned "My Sweet Lady."

DeYoung's career on screen has been long and varied.  Films include Flight of the Navigator, Glory and Wild.  Television credits include JAG, The West Wing and The Young and the Restless.

DeYoung has been married to his wife Gypsy for 52 years.  

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Squid Eats: Dirty Truth

Some meals loom larger than others in the history of a family: the first dinner out for the couple, the first Thanksgiving together, the last cheeseburger the night before the birth, etc.  Our dinner at Dirty Truth in Northampton, Massachusetts was a pretty big deal, our last together before the college drop-off parting.  Sigh...

Wife's soup:

My burger, medium rare:

Progeny's cheese plate:

At Dirty Truth, I learned of the state's strict beef temperature standards for rare, medium rare, etc., explaining my experience at The People's Pint.

Friday, September 23, 2022

Star Trek: Lessons

Episode: "Lessons"
Series: Star Trek: The Next Generation
Season 6, Episode 19
Original Air Date: April 5, 1993

Captain Picard falls in love with Lt. Cmdr. Nella Daren, a new stellar cartographer aboard the Enterprise.  Predictably, the romantic relationship is complicated by the professional one.  

"Lessons" has a lot going for it, including one of the most memorable camera shots of the entire series (see above).  For starters, Picard's love stories are more convincing than anyone else's and all credit to Patrick Stewart for that.  The story also provides a tender follow up to "The Inner Light," one of TNG's finest episodes.  Daren is a concert pianist and encourages Picard in his efforts with the Ressikan flute, which leads to him sharing his experience on Kataan.

Wendy Hughes is well-cast as Daren.  The intention was to provide a love interest closer in age to Picard than Famke Janssen was in "The Perfect Mate."  While this is a welcome choice, it's worth noting that Hughes was still twelve years younger than Patrick Stewart.  I wish they'd let her use her Australian accent for the role.  It creeps out from time to time, which makes it obvious she's covering it.  I think it would have worked better if she'd been allowed to embrace it completely as part of the character.

Acting Notes

Wendy Hughes was born July 29, 1952 in Melbourne.  Originally, she trained as a ballerina but switched to acting, graduating from the National Institute of Dramatic Art in Sydney.

Hughes is widely recognized as one of Australia's most important actors.  Her films include Petersen, Happy New Year and Paradise Road.  Television work includes Return to Eden, Homicide: Life on the Street and State Coroner.  She won an Australian Film Institute award in 1983 for Careful, He Might Hear You.  

Hughes was married three times and had two children, one with each of her first two husbands.  She passed away in 2014 from cancer.

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Squid Eats: The People's Pint

The People's Pint is a brewpub in Greenfield, Massachusetts.  We'd never been to Greenfield before our recent visit.  It's the hometown of my colleague, Drama Guy, and other than seeing the town name on highway signs, that was my only previous association.  He recommended the restaurant.

We got chips and tomatillo salsa as an appetizer, then I had The People's Burger as my entree:

I discovered the difference between Greenfield medium rare and Vermont medium rare.  It would seem, from my limited sample size of a single restaurant that Greenfield shies away from pink.  Otherwise, it was a fine burger.  

Here's our progeny's Smokehouse Chicken Wrap:

The beer was decent if not exceptional.  Service was friendly.  Atmosphere was lively and definitely loud.  Not the best spot for intimate conversation.

Friday, September 16, 2022

Star Trek: Starship Mine

Episode: "Starship Mine"
Series: Star Trek: The Next Generation
Season 6, Episode 18
Original Air Date: March 29, 1993

The Enterprise is evacuated for a barium sweep.  The tech crew is not who they appear to be.  They are terrorists intent on stealing the ship's trilithium.  Picard ends up trapped on the ship with the terrorists and sets out to foil their plans.

Screenwriter Morgan Gendel originally pitched "Starship Mine" as Die Hard aboard the Enterprise.  It's a decent, though mostly unmemorable adventure caper.  The episode's most amusing moments emerge from a secondary narrative surrounding a cocktail party attended by the crew for the duration of the sweep.  Data learns the art of small talk from an insufferable master: Commander Hutchinson.  It was, in fact, Picard's desperate effort to get away from "Hutch" and his boring conversation that led to all the trouble in the first place.

Fun fact for the devoted: Tim Russ made his Star Trek debut in "Starship Mine" as Devor, one of the terrorists.  Russ, originally considered for the role of Geordi La Forge before LeVar Burton got the job, would eventually be cast as Tuvok, one of the principals on Star Trek: Voyager.

Acting Notes

via West Wing Wiki

David Spielberg (Hutch) was born in Weslaco, Texas, March 6, 1939.  He is not related to director Steven Spielberg.  After two years in the Navy, David attended the University of Texas in Austin.  Eventually, he dropped out to pursue acting in New York.  

Spielberg's films included Newman's Law, Christine and Alice.  Television gigs included Magnum, P.I., From Here to Eternity and The Practice.

Spielberg passed away in 2016 from cancer.  

Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Squid Eats: Deep City

Commish and Wild Turkey are college friends of mine.  I've written about them here many times before - most often in the context of fantasy football - but it's been a while.  In fact, it's been a while since we've seen both of them and their two children all together.  COVID played a role in that, of course.  They are particularly important college friends as they introduced me to my wife.  Their last appearance in The Squid was in this post.  

As they were all passing through Burlington one August Saturday, we met them for brunch at Deep City, not far from Lake Champlain.  We'd never been before so it was a new adventure for all of us.  For me, biscuits and gravy are an obligatory order if they're on the menu.  Wild Turkey let me try her Brioche Crispy French Toast, too.  All were lovely, though the french toast would have been too sweet for a full order for me.  Service was friendly and efficient.  I'm always impressed when a waitress can smoothly handle a large party with multiple kids of varying ages. 

Mostly it was a wonderful chance to catch up.  Obviously, we all dread the idea of growing up to become our parents but it's delightful when you see it happening to the children of your friends.  Both of their kids are clearly heirs to their parents' charming sense of humor.  As our child was just a few days away from leaving for college, their oldest was just in the early stages of the search.  I love the college search so I had tremendous fun hearing about their preferences.

A lovely brunch all around.  Hopefully, we'll see them again before too long.

Friday, September 9, 2022

Star Trek: The Nagus

Episode: "The Nagus"
Series: Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Season 1, Episode 11
Original Air Date: March 21, 1993

via Memory Alpha

Grand Nagus Zek (Wallace Shawn), the high priest/CEO of the Ferengi, comes to Deep Space 9 for a surprise visit.  He shockingly chooses Quark as his successor, then up and dies.  Our favorite bartender takes quickly to the honor until he discovers someone's out to kill him.  Meanwhile, Jake teaches Nog to read.

The Ferengi, little more than an annoying joke in NextGen, come into their own in DS9.  "The Nagus" represents a significant expansion of their world as well as the first episode for which Quark takes the lead.  The title of Nagus, taken from an Indian word negus, is established for the first time as is the Ferengi's sacred text, The Rules of Acquisition.  Many prefer the B-narrative Jake/Nog tale and it is rather sweet, helping to develop both previously neglected characters.  

One reason some don't like the Ferengi A-story, or the Ferengi in general, merits further discussion.  Some, with good reason, see the Ferengi and their culture as drawing from Jewish stereotypes: the love of money, the exaggerated facial features, 285 rules of acquisition mirroring 613 commandments, etc.  It's also worth noting that the Ferengi are nearly always portrayed by Jewish actors.  For that matter, Ira Steven Behr, screenwriter for the episode, is also Jewish.  Predictably, no one involved with the show has ever owned up to a direct connection and Armin Shimmerman (Quark) has eloquently denied it.  It's entirely plausible that the similarities are a highly regrettable coincidence.  But as with many cases in such matters, maybe someone somewhere along the line should have caught it.  Regardless of intention, it landed poorly with a lot of people and one wishes that could have been avoided.

For a thoughtful read on the matter, I recommend Alice Rose Dodds's article here.  

Acting Notes

via Amphibia Wiki

Wallace Shawn was born November 12, 1943 in New York City.  His parents were both literary professionals, Mom a journalist and Dad the longtime editor of The New Yorker.  He went to boarding school at Vermont's Putney School, then Harvard and Oxford.

Wallace Shawn (apparently, people call him Wally) has industry cred coming out of his ears.  We'll start with the writing.  He's an award-winning playwright and a co-writer for the screenplay of My Dinner with Andre.  The latter alone grants him indy film giant status for life.  I am biased as Shawn has memorable roles in two of my all-time favorite movies: Vizzini in The Princess Bride and Mr. Hall in Clueless (based, of course, on Jane Austen's Emma).  Plus, he's been in six Woody Allen features.  He is, without question, one of the great character actors of his generation.  And that voice!  On top of everything else, he's Rex in the Toy Story movies so he's got Pixar cred, too.

Tuesday, September 6, 2022

Squid Eats: Miso Hungry

Vermont is a great place to go for a scenic drive.  It's something we did quite a lot when we first moved here 20 years ago, less so as other responsibilities took over our lives.  Recently, we found a nice excuse for a car tour.  Miso Hungry is a local Japanese comfort food chain with locations at several ski resorts and also a food truck.

As we are not downhill skiers, we don't spend a lot of time at the resorts.  Even so, they can be fun places to hang out, even during the off-season.  They're quieter during the summer, of course, but not dead.  Many of the food establishments stay open, including Miso Hungry.

We started at Miso Ramen at Jay Peak, the most popular Vermont resort for Canadians as it's right on the border.  Miso Ramen serves the public out of a reclaimed ski gondola.  I got Roasted Sesame Shoyu Ramen, very tasty.  We all got bubble tea, too.

We saw a fox on our way out of the resort:

Next stop, Miso Toh Kome at Spruce Peak in Stowe.  Because of the mountains and otherwise hilly terrain, straight lines from one place to the next don't really exist in Vermont.  Every route is one of several indirect choices along windy, meandering roads.  One can take the known path but sometimes it's fun to leave it up to Google.  I would have expected the default to be through Smuggler's Notch, a narrow and breathtaking path through the mountains, closed in the winter months.  But instead, the app took us around it on roads I didn't know before.  Good family fun.

Stowe, by reputation, favors the European crowd.  It's probably the ritziest of the ski towns.  Miso Toh Kome specializes in onigiri, Japanese rice balls (discussed here).  Here, service is provided out of the little huts one often sees on a Japanese train platform, fitting for me as I think of onigiri as train food.  I got the Cha-Shu Pork Belly Onigiri - lovely.  A little gooey with the sauce but lovely.

The other two locations are also both called Miso Tok Kome, one at Bolton Valley and one at Sugarbush.  Maybe we'll hit those on a future driving adventure.

We did take Smuggler's Notch on the way home.

Friday, September 2, 2022

Star Trek: Move Along Home

Episode: "Move Along Home"
Series: Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Season 1, Episode 10
Original Air Date: March 13, 1993

Commander Sisko and his senior officers prepare to greet the Wadi, visitors from the Gamma Quadrant.  However, the Wadi have no interest in niceties.  Instead, they head directly to Quark's to play games.  Naturally, the proprietor is delighted to introduce them to the thrills of the dabo table but the Wadi brought their own game to play.  Surprise, it kidnaps crew members to play as the pieces!

This much-panned episode is a popular choice for worst of the series.  To be honest, I don't hate it.  I am admittedly a sucker for the Through the Looking Glass concept.  I also think it's a fun Quark story.  What happens when someone turns the tables on him?  I believe his pain when forced - he thinks - to choose one of his friends to suffer a dire fate.  "Oh, that's right... you were here for the groveling."  Come on, that's a great line!

Oh well.  I need something to make up for all of the Q and Data stories other people like more than I do.

Acting Notes

Cirroc Lofton (Jake Sisko) was born August 7, 1978 in Los Angeles.  Before Star Trek, he got his start at age nine on Econ and Me, a children's educational show about economics.  After DS9, he was a regular on Showtime's The Hoop Life series and had a recurring role on that same network's Soul Food series.  

Lofton co-hosts a DS9 re-watch podcast called The 7th Rule.  His original co-host was Aron Eisenberg (Nog on DS9) until Eisenberg's death in 2019.  Now, Lofton co-hosts with actor Ryan T. Husk who also has several Trek credits on his resume.  

Lofton is the nephew of Kenny Lofton, one of the most exciting baseball players I've ever seen.  Kenny Lofton, I have learned, is one of only two athletes to have participated in both baseball's World Series (with Cleveland) and basketball's NCAA Final Four (with Arizona).  The other?  Fellow East Chicago Washington High School alum Tim Stoddard.  Stoddard is up on Lofton, though, because both of his teams (NC State and the Baltimore Orioles) won championships.

Thanks for joining me in my trip down the Wikipedia rabbit hole (another Alice reference...).