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.