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?