Friday, March 31, 2023

Star Trek: Phantasms

Episode: "Phantasms"
Series: Star Trek: The Next Generation
Season 7, Episode 6
Original Air Date: October 25, 1993

via Memory Alpha

Data is having nightmares.  In Season 6's "Birthright, Part I," we learned that Data has the capacity to dream.  Now, for the first time, those dreams have gotten scary.  In one, Data is attacked by mysterious workmen.  In another, Counselor Troi becomes a cake, to be eaten by the crew, including Data himself.  Is there any meaning behind it all?  

As noted in the "Birthright" post, I enjoy the Data dreams concept.  "Phantasms" answers the lingering question from the earlier episode: the dreams are a reaction to Data's experiences.  They were not implanted fully formed by Dr. Soong.  

While I wouldn't say "Phantasms" is an especially strong episode, there are some genuinely humorous moments, mostly courtesy of Worf.  His line about the mint frosting, delivered twice, is delightful.  Even better is the scene when he reluctantly agrees to take care of Spot, Data's cat.  

Speaking of Spot, he (not yet discovered to be female) has multiple scenes in the episode.  For the first time, I noticed that Spot is not always portrayed by the same cat.  There are noticeably different markings from one scene to another.  In fact, three different cats were used in "Phantasms": Brandy, Bud and Monster.  A fourth cat, Tyler, was added to the rotation later in Season 7.

Acting Notes

via Charmed Wiki

Gina Ravera played the role of Ensign Tyler who makes little effort to hide her crush on Geordi La Forge.  Ravera was born May 20, 1966 in San Francisco.  In addition to the acting career, she is a classically trained dancer.

Films include Showgirls, Soul Food and Kiss the Girls.  The television resume is stronger.  She had principal roles on Time of Your Life and The Closer as well as recurring roles on Silk Stalkings, ER and Arrow.  

Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Squid Eats: Le Toledo

Montreal is crazy with top-notch bakeries, yet another strong connection with the city's French heritage.  The Plateau, in particular, is home to what feels like dozens.  Thus it was rather bold for Le Toledo to open its doors in 2019.  But if you build it, the people will come.  The place was bustling when we went, filled mostly with young adults, presumably on lunch break.  There were a few families, too (don't these kids go to school?).

We got the Foccacia to share - quite pretty but a little veggie-heavy for my tastes.  A spot of protein would have been nice - more a personal preference than a criticism.  We got something sweet, too, though neither of us quite remembers what.  No faulting the quality of the product.  We'll go again - easy, pleasant and relatively cheap lunch spot in our favorite neighborhood.  It was a little noisy but not oppressively so.  Not exactly a place to sit and relax for a long stretch - at lunchtime, anyway - as demand for seating is high but there are coffeeshops nearby for that.  

I'll order something different next time.  Beyond the pastry options, both savory and sweet, there are plenty of patés, cheeses and such on offer.

Friday, March 24, 2023

Star Trek: Cardassians

Episode: "Cardassians"
Series: Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Season 2, Episode 5
Original Air Date: October 24, 1993

Garak episode!

A Cardassian war orphan arrives on the station with his Bajoran father, arousing the interest of Garak (Andrew Robinson).  When our favorite tailor tries to engage the two in conversation, the boy bites Garak on the hand.  [As our child pointed out, they would have been uncomfortable if a stranger put his hand on their shoulder, too.] Obviously, there's more to this story.  As it turns out, this is not just any orphan but Rugal, the long-lost son of a powerful politician.  Cardassian political rivalries converge at the station while Garak and Dr. Bashir travel to Bajor to investigate.

I am likely to say it every time with different wording: Garak stories are special.  He brings out the best in everyone, both writers and actors.  His mere existence is the perfect enigma to build a story around and Robinson's instinctive feel for the role raises the bar for all involved.  At one point Garak says, "I never tell the truth because I don't believe there is such a thing."  What a line!  What a way to sum up a character in a single sentence!

There's plenty of development to go around in "Cardassians," particularly for Sisko, Bashir and O'Brien.  There are a couple of delicious exchanges between commander and doctor: first when Julian interrupts a communication with Gul Dukat, later when he wakes Benjamin in order to request a runabout.  As for Miles, we see a fascinating conflict between his war-hewn prejudices and his paternal instincts.  An evening meal in the O'Brien's home is layered with meaning: Keiko's naivety in serving Rugal Cardassian cuisine plus Miles's and Rugal's equal revulsion.

Bashir and Garak's friendship has progressed since last we saw them together.  Julian is now more comfortable teasing the clothier regarding his unknown loyalties.  I enjoy the sense that we have missed smaller, more subtle adventures since the last time we saw Garak.  As the audience, we don't need to see all of the minutia in order to feel immersed in this world.

Solid work.  We'll see Garak again in Episode 18.

Acting Notes

Andrew Jordt Robinson was born February 14, 1942 in New York City.  After starting at the University of New Hampshire, he ultimately graduated from the New School for Social Research, then earned a Fulbright scholarship to attend the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art.  His professional career started on the New York stage as both actor and playwright.  The first television work was a guest role on N.Y.P.D. in 1969.  He made his big screen debut as Scorpio in 1971's Dirty Harry.  

Robinson had a regular role on the soap opera Ryan's Hope from 1976-78, a gig which earned him an Emmy nomination.  He has also had a successful career as an academic as former director of the MFA acting program at the University of Southern California.  In addition to his 37 appearances as Garak - a job he almost didn't take but he needed the money - Robinson directed one episode of DS9 and two of Star Trek: Voyager.

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Squid Eats: Kitano Shokudo

We have long been fans of Otto, a darn close to authentic Izakaya in Montreal.  However, until our most recent visit, we had never been to their sister restaurant, formerly Otto Bistro, recently rebranded as Kitano Shokudo.  While Otto specializes in yakitori and other typical (for Japan) bar food, Kitano Shokudo's menu covers a wider range: sashimi, sushi, noodle dishes, etc.  The cuisine also allows for more North American and specifically Quebecois influence.

Case in point, my wife ordered the duck confit with ramen noodles (mazemen).  Duck confit is, happily, a regional specialty.  She was pleased.  

I went more traditionally Japanese with chirashi, sashimi laid over a bed of rice.  It was in smaller pieces than I expect - not less food, mind you, just cut into smaller chunks.  It was all kind of jumbled together, salad style.  None of this was unpleasant.  I cleaned my plate.  Just different.

The atmosphere was less raucous than Otto and the space smaller.  A quieter meal.  It was a younger adult crowd for the most part, plus some families.  One family with little kids, who unfortunately couldn't be seated, was one we'd also seen at breakfast that morning.  Perhaps also travelers?  Our server was clearly gaijin (foreigner), though she comfortably switched between Japanese, English and French.  Eavesdropping on her conversations with others, I was not surprised to learn she'd had personal experience in Japan.  Prices were higher than at Otto's so a bit of a splurge.  A fine meal, nonetheless.

An odd quirk I noticed in the Montreal restaurant business on this trip: quite a lot of proprietors must be stereo equipment enthusiasts as their collections were often on display.  Such was the case at Kitano Shokudo.  

Friday, March 17, 2023

Star Trek: Gambit, Part II

Episode: "Gambit, Part II"
Series: Star Trek: The Next Generation
Season 7, Episode 5
Original Air Date: October 18, 1993

via Memory Alpha

Last week's episode continues.  The attack on the Enterprise by the pirate ship was a ruse.  Riker modified the pirate weapons so they wouldn't harm the Enterprise.  Data, currently in command of the flagship, plays along with the game, feigning damage, allowing the pirates to run off believing they've disabled their pursuers.  Picard, meanwhile, discovers what the pirates are after in pilfering Romulan artifacts: an ancient Vulcan weapon.

Interestingly, most critics rate Part I over Part II but I prefer the latter for the simple reason that the acting's better.  There's a lot more Picard and Patrick Stewart spars wonderfully with guest stars Richard Lynch and Robin Curtis.  The secondary narrative tension between Data and Worf is satisfying.  A spin off series with Data as Captain and Worf as First Officer?  I'd be excited for that show.

I'm not such a fan of the ending - too hokey.  It's rock solid Trek but (and) it's hokey.

"Gambit, Part II" includes the most surprising cameo of the NextGen run: NBA superstar James Worthy as the Klingon smuggler Koral.  Worthy, one of the key figures in the Lakers' dynasty of the 1980s and an eventual Hall of Famer, was still an active professional basketball player in 1993.  He met Robert O'Reilly (Gowron) on an airplane and expressed a desire to appear on the show.  O'Reilly encouraged him to meet with the producers.  It takes a big man to make Worf look short.  At 6'9", Worthy towers over the 6'3" Michael Dorn.

Acting Notes

via Wikipedia

Robin Curtis played the role of Tallera/T'Pal, a Vulcan isolationist disguised as a Romulan member of the pirate crew.  The last time I mentioned her on The Squid, Curtis had taken over the role of Saavik in the Star Trek films when Kirstie Allie left.  Curtis was born June 15, 1956 in New York Mills, New York.

Other television work includes Knight Rider, General Hospital and Babylon 5.  Films include Hexed, Ghost Story and Shootdown.  Curtis had a long stage career, including her own one-woman show: Not My Bra, You Don't! - The Sexual Odyssey of a Forty-Nine Year Old Woman

Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Squid Eats: Le Petit Sao

Vieux-Montreal (Old Montreal) is one of the more touristy parts of the city, containing the Notre-Dame Basilica, upscale hotels, souvenir shops, etc.  As such, it's not our first choice neighborhood as a place to stay but there are still good reasons to visit when we're in town.  Our excuse this time was the Scandinave Spa where we spent a decadent late morning soaking in warm water and such.  Afterwards, we were hungry for lunch.  Google Maps led us to a lovely spot...

Le Petit Sao is a Vietnamese restaurant, a long and narrow set up ideal for a quick lunch and take out - I would guess less accommodating for a sit down dinner in the evening.  Most weekdays, I imagine they do well with the work lunch crowd.  The name translates from a combination of French and Vietnamese to the little star.  We both got banh mi sandwiches.  My wife got the pork, I the chicken.  Both were excellent.  The price was quite reasonable, especially considering the quality of the food.  Service was friendly.  

Le Petit Sao was a nice find.  I don't think I'd head across town for it but it's a good place to remember for future lunches if we're already down there.

Friday, March 10, 2023

Star Trek: Invasive Procedures

Episode: "Invasive Procedures"
Series: Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Season 2, Episode 4
Original Air Date: October 17, 1993

Verad, a disgruntled Trill, hijacks the station, demanding that Jadzia's symbiont be removed from her and implanted in him.  Verad is resentful of the fact that he himself was passed over for the joining and has decided to take matters into his own hands.  

"Invasive Procedures" is an important Trill story which further explores the separate beings which are the symbiont and the host.  It's not an especially good Jadzia story as she is not conscious for most of it, though it does help to establish her self-sacrificing nature.  It's a more interesting Dax story, especially regarding Dax's friendship with Benjamin Sisko.  We see where the lines of loyalty are drawn for Ben - to Curzon (his pal back in the day), to Dax and, most importantly in the long run, to Jadzia.

The episode is also notable for a guest appearance by Tim Russ, the future Tuvok in Voyager.

Acting Notes

John Glover (Verad) was born August 7, 1944 in Kingston, New York.  He grew up in Salisbury, Maryland and graduated from Towson University.  Films include Annie Hall, White Nights and Gremlins 2: The New Batch.  Glover had a principal role on Smallville and also had appearances in Miami Vice and Murder, She Wrote among others.  He is currently the voice of the Riddler in the DC Animated Universe.  

Glover has won his greatest accolades on stage.  After his DS9 gig, he won a Tony in 1995 for the lead in Love! Valour! Compassion!  Glover is gay and has been married to sculptor Adam Kurtzman since 2016.  They've been together since 1993.

Wednesday, March 8, 2023

On the Coffee Table: Yakitate!! Japan, Volume 4

Title: Yakitate!! Japan, Volume 4
Writer and Artist: Takashi Hashiguchi

via Amazon

Young bakers Kazuma and Kawachi work their way through the Pantasia chain's Rookie Tournament, repeatedly pulling victory out of the jaws of defeat.  Each round's challenge is a specialty (oddity?) of Japanese bread: melon bread, fried noodle bread, animal bread.  Kazuma wins with creative vision, Kawachi with grit.

There isn't much in the way of sexual reference in Yakitate!! but what there is tends towards the dirty old man vibe: objectifying talk regarding a woman's breasts, a competition judge so excited he nearly exposes himself and such.  The manga series is classified as shōnen, comic books targeting teenage boys.  So while somewhat offensive, the sexualized material is not entirely surprising.

Even so, Yakitate!! Japan continues to amuse.  The superhero action comic take on cooking competitions is a lot of fun.

Tuesday, March 7, 2023

Squid Eats: Ma Poule Mouillée

We recently visited Montreal for the first time since before COVID.  The city is only two hours away from our house and in the before times, we'd do our best to go once or twice a year.  At this point, I'm comfortable calling Montreal my favorite North American city - friendly, easy to get around and varied in its offerings.  We generally stay in the Plateau which is less touristy than other parts of the city.  When traveling, I prefer to be in a place where you can see people going about their daily lives - walking their kids to school and such.  The Plateau is perfect.

As I have written before, Montreal is a dazzling food city.  Name a cuisine and there are numerous top quality choices.  One of our favorites: Portuguese.  I'm not sure I've ever had Portuguese food anywhere other than Montreal.  Our target on our most recent trip was Ma Poule Mouillée which translates to my wet chicken or, colloquially, my sissy.  

Whatever the translation, there was nothing wimpy about the food.  There's a half-chicken with piri-piri sauce buried under these fries:

We split the order along with a salad.  Even between two of us, it was way too much food - greasy, heavy and delightful.  Many napkins required.  We also got a half dozen natas, heavenly Portuguese custard pastries.  Our eyes were bigger than our stomachs.  We had to save most of the natas for later.

Ma Poule Mouillée is a counter service restaurant - great food for a reasonable price.  The place is popular, drawing a varied clientele.  A family of four sat behind us, the little kids very excited by the pastry options for dessert.  An older couple came in for their take out order.  The line to order never waned while we were there.

I would definitely go again, remembering to order less food next time.

Monday, March 6, 2023

On the Coffee Table: The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes

Title: The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes
Author: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

via Wikipedia

The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes collects twelve short stories about the world's most famous detective.  It is the final Holmes book by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, published in 1927, three years before the author's death.  Critics often rate this final volume as the weakest of the short story collections, though I feel a few of the tales are worthy of note.  "The Adventure of the Blanched Soldier" and "The Adventure of the Lion's Mane" are unusual for the fact they are told from Holmes's perspective whereas the vast majority of stories are told from Watson's.  I appreciate "The Adventure of the Three Garridebs" for the rare glimpse of Holmes's deep, genuine affection for Watson.  Some of the stories veer toward other genres.  In "The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire," for instance, a former rugby star hires Holmes to figure out what is going on with his wife, whom he caught sucking their baby's blood at the neck.  

And so, I have reached the end of my Holmes exploration, unlikely to seek out the few uncollected stories.  I thoroughly enjoyed my romp.  I was never able to get past seeing Sherlock as Benedict Cumberbatch in 21st century garb, though Watson has a more Victorian image in my mind's eye, complete with mustache and bowler hat.  I generally preferred the short stories to the novels.  While Holmes nearly always arrives at the truth, my favorite stories are the ones in which he fails, best of all when he is out-maneuvered by a woman.

As such, my favorite story of all is one of the earliest:  "A Scandal in Bohemia," featuring Irene Adler.  Adler is one of several characters who feature more prominently in adaptations than in the original Doyle texts.  Nemesis Moriarty and brother Mycroft fall into the same category.  "Bohemia" is, in fact, Adler's only appearance in the originals.  

I am curious now about the numerous adaptations and will keep my eye out for them, especially the various earlier British television series.  

Friday, March 3, 2023

Star Trek: Gambit, Part I

Episode: "Gambit, Part I"
Series: Star Trek: The Next Generation
Season 7, Episode 4
Original Air Date: October 11, 1993

via Memory Alpha

The Enterprise crew believes the captain is dead, killed in a bar on Dessica II.  In the course of investigating the incident, Riker is abducted by the same band of pirates who, it turns out, are also holding Picard, still alive and masquerading as a collaborator in order to survive.  The pirates are pillaging Romulan artifacts for reasons not yet known.  We're left with quite a cliffhanger as the pirate ship fires upon an apparently defenseless Enterprise.

Season 7 perks up a little after a sluggish start.  Picard and Riker's subtle, coordinated scheming is fun.  We also get to see Data in command for a decent stretch.  His approach to leadership is cold and efficient, though not entirely unappealing.  He is both confident and creative - clearly learned a lot at the chess board.

Even with a bump back up, TNG is obviously running out of steam.  Especially with Deep Space Nine coming into its own, the relatively weak acting skills of the NextGen cast are becoming apparent.  What is supposed to be an emotional exchange between Riker and Troi feels forced and clumsy.  Thank goodness for Patrick Stewart.

Acting Notes

via Battlestar Wiki

Richard Lynch played the role of Baran, the pirate captain.  Lynch was born February 12, 1940 in Brooklyn, New York.  He served in the US Marine Corps for four years before embarking on his acting career.

In 1967, while under the influence of drugs, Lynch set himself on fire.  This not so brilliant choice left him with scars over 70 percent of his body.  As a result of the scars on his face, he was most often cast in villain roles.  Films included The Sword and the Sorcerer, for which he won a Saturn award, Scarecrow and Halloween (2007).  Television gigs included Battlestar Galactica (the original series), T.J. Hooker and The A-Team.  In 1977, Lynch was nominated for a Tony for his role in The Basic Training of Pablo Hummel, appearing alongside Al Pacino.

Lynch died of a heart attack in 2012.