Friday, April 28, 2023

Star Trek: Attached

Episode: "Attached"
Series: Star Trek: The Next Generation
Season 7, Episode 8
Original Air Date: November 8, 1993

The Enterprise is in orbit around Kesprytt III to evaluate their request to join the Federation.  It's an unusual case because the planet is not unified.  The Kes are the ones reaching out while the Prytt are hostile to outsiders, on their own world and beyond.  The two sides live in paranoid distrust of one another.  It's an obvious Korea parallel to me.  When the captain and Dr. Crusher beam down, their transporter signal is intercepted by the Prytt who take them as prisoners.  Can our friends escape?

The Kesprytt story is interesting enough but the real reason this episode is important, especially in the long term, is the development of the relationship between Picard and Crusher.  Perhaps not surprisingly, we learn the two have long had strong feelings for each other - romantic feelings.  Jean-Luc had suppressed the emotions because Beverly had been married to his best friend.  But now that all is out in the open, what are they to do?  The question is left unanswered at episode's end but 30 years on, we know quite a lot about where these two are headed.

Overall, I'm glad that The Next Generation didn't hang its hat on any particular romances between crew members.  As one sees from shows like Cheers and Friends, once you start down that path, it's hard not to let every other story revolve around it.  However, as the series was wrapping up - and I have admittedly not been able to learn when during Season 7 that the writers would have learned the end was near - it's worth taking stock of where everyone stands with one another.  A romance between Picard and Crusher is entirely believable and as we've seen in Picard's Season 3, the story has legs.

Acting Notes

Robin Gammell played the role of Mauric, the ambassador for the Kes.  Gammell was born September 22, 1936 in Montreal.  He got his start at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival, the same festival which begat fellow Montrealer William Shatner.  Among other roles, Gammell played Malcolm in Macbeth, the same part he later played on television opposite Sean Connery.

Films include The Pyx, Lipstick and Raid on Entebbe.  Television work includes Wiseguy, Amazing Grace and Judging Amy.  Gammell was in a relationship with actress Gretchen Corbett.  The two had one daughter, actress Winslow Corbett.  

Tuesday, April 25, 2023

Squid Eats: Bluebonnet Diner

Unlike last week's featured establishment, Northampton's Bluebonnet is what I think of as a "real" diner.  The clientele is older - but simultaneously younger including more families with kids.  The vibe is homier, less hippyish than NoHo's Main Street.  Generally, I love the more progressive atmosphere. It is, in fact, a big part of why our child ended up in this part of the world.  However, when it comes to diner food, old school is the way to go.

The front room is an old diner car.  I only recently learned that our whole concept of "diners" comes from the railroad industry.  I just assumed using old train cars was an atmosphere choice.  But no, it's the transplanting of an entire process of food preparation and service.  I realize, I should have put it all together on my own.  Alas, I did not.  The Bluebonnet, named for a train, takes this concept even further.  There's a steam engine on the logo and trains comprise the decorating scheme for the entire restaurant: posters on the wall and a toy train track going around the room where we were seated.  The Bluebonnet is only about a block or so from the real railroad track.

I ordered the waffles with chicken tenders, more a soul food standard than what one would expect in a typical diner.  Still, I love it.  The tenders were fine.  The waffles were a little on the salty side, interestingly.  I'd be interested to know what oil they use to clean their iron.  Even so, it was a satisfying breakfast.  I got to try some of my wife's kielbasa - also good.  While I'm not so sure about Jake's, I'll definitely want to go back to Bluebonnet - lots of appealing lunch options, too.

Friday, April 21, 2023

Star Trek: Rules of Acquisition

Episode: "Rules of Acquisition"
Series: Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Season 2, Episode 7
Original Air Date: November 6, 1993

The Grand Nagus is back.  He's gotten wind of an economic opportunity in the Gamma Quadrant: the tulaberry wine industry.  He sends Quark to negotiate on behalf of the Ferengi.  Meanwhile, a new waiter, Pel, is emerging as a sound business advisor to our favorite bartender.  Pel first impresses Quark by  introducing him to sand peas, which make customers subconsciously reach for their drinks.  Pel, however, is not what he seems.

We learn a lot about the Ferengi attitude toward females in "Rules of Acquisition" and it ain't all pretty.  Pel, you see, turns out to be female - the first female Ferengi on Star Trek, in fact.  Ferengi women aren't even allowed to wear clothing, let alone engage in business, so Pel's masquerade is a rather big deal.  We also learn a lot about attitudes towards same-sex relationships on DS9.  When the prospect of the male Pel's attraction to Quark comes up, Dax isn't the least bit fazed.  She's a lot more shocked by Pel's secret gender, knowing Ferengi attitudes all too well.  Dax's indifference will be meaningful for the character in a story yet to come.  

Acting Notes

Helene Udy (Pel) was born November 1, 1962 in Albuquerque, New Mexico.  Most of her early work came in Canada, including films such as My Bloody Valentine, The Dead Zone and Pin....  She had a principal role on Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman as Myra Bing.  She wrote and directed 1997's Naked Under the Sun.  

Tuesday, April 18, 2023

Squid Eats: Jake's

We'd been hearing a lot about Jake's in Northampton, Massachusetts (NoHo).  It's a popular spot for lunch and brunch.  We weren't even able to get a table the first couple times we tried.  Fortunately, Thursday morning isn't too crowded.

Jake's serves what I would describe as fancy diner food: all of the expected egg dishes and smoked meats, a daily hash special, etc.  It's "fancy" because it caters more to the hip, youngish NoHo crowd with prices to match.  The cappuccino - not usually on offer at a "real" diner - is properly foamy.  My eyes were drawn to the buttermilk pancakes...

I should know better.  When I see buttermilk pancakes on a menu, my mind drifts to the soft, fluffy, spongy ones my father used to make.  Restaurant pancakes nearly always disappoint me.  I know this.  Long ago, I discovered French toast is the safer order.  Nonetheless, every once in a while, I get hoodwinked and go for the pancakes anyway.  Jake's weren't great - too crispy on the outside and doughy on the inside.  If we go again, I'll order the French toast.  My wife wasn't too thrilled by her eggs either.

Our child, on the other hand, ordered much better.  They got the Guac & Lox and wasn't able to finish.  Father's privilege is still valid for the college years!  To clarify, father's privilege, at our house, means I get whatever food is left once they're full.  The G&L was lovely, even though the kid had pulled out all the pickled red onions.  (Who raised this child?)

Overall, I'd say Jake's didn't live up to the hype.  Service was friendly but the food wasn't all that.  Maybe a better order on my part would have helped.  In my experience with diner food, though, there's no substitute for the real thing.

Fortunately, there are other options in Northampton.

Friday, April 14, 2023

Star Trek: Dark Page

Episode: "Dark Page"
Series: Star Trek: The Next Generation
Season 7, Episode 7
Original Air Date: November 1, 1993

Lwaxana Troi is visiting the Enterprise, this time as a teacher for the Cairn, a race who has until recently only communicated telepathically.  They wish to learn to speak with an eye towards eventually joining the Federation and who better to help than everyone's favorite telepathic busy body?  Lwaxana is her usual overbearing self but something is clearly wrong.  She keeps breaking down in tears and eventually slips into a coma.  It turns out, she has a dark secret she's kept buried for years.

Lwaxana Troi is an excellent lesson in how much more appealing a character becomes with increased vulnerability.  Generally, I find her intolerable but in this and DS9's "The Forsaken," she becomes more relatable.  Especially in "Dark Page," NextGen gets real.  The loss of a child is serious pain, science fiction or not.  Who wouldn't feel more sympathy for her, knowing what she has endured?  This is her last TNG appearance.

The episode is also fondly remembered for featuring an eleven-year-old Kirsten Dunst in a guest-starring role.  Her big career breakthrough in Interview with the Vampire was still a year away.

Acting Notes

Norman Large played the role of Maques, the leader of the Cairn delegation, one of several Star Trek appearances as various characters in three different series.  Large was born September 18, 1951 in Barrington, Rhode Island.  He is a trained opera singer with an M.A. from the Manhattan School of Music.  

Films include Mamma Mia!, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again and Titan A.E.  Television credits include appearances on Quantum Leap, Veronica Mars and NYPD Blue.

Tuesday, April 11, 2023

Squid Mixes: Little Italy

When I first moved to New York City in the late '90s, I lived in Little Italy.  New York, particularly those first few months, was a strange, in-between experience for me.  I'd just gotten back from two years in Japan and probably should have waited a little longer before jumping into a new adventure.  I hadn't yet met my wife which, of course, changed everything.  As such, my associations with the neighborhood are filtered through memories of uncertainty and reverse culture shock.  On a basic level, I enjoyed the area, particularly the Feast of San Gennaro in September.

I got the drink recipe from The Joy of Mixology by Gary Regan.  It combines rye, sweet vermouth and Cynar.  Actually, it's just one ingredient shy of the Bensonhurst, another cocktail from the same book.  Regan credits bartender Audrey Saunders with creating the Little Italy.  Regan's adaptation involves specifics on the ingredients including Rittenhouse Bottled-in-Bond for the rye and Martini & Rossi for the vermouth.  I didn't have the Rittenhouse but I did have a small bottle of M&R, usually not my favorite but it was fine here.

Like the Bensonhurst, the Little Italy is on the bitter side for a Manhattan-type drink.  Our favorite bit: the recipe calls for 3 Luxardo cherries to garnish.  

Friday, April 7, 2023

Star Trek: Melora

Episode: "Melora"
Series: Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Season 2, Episode 6
Original Air Date: October 31, 1993

Ensign Melora Pazlar visits the station on a cartography mission.  Melora is an Elaysian, a species incompatible with the artificial gravity on Starfleet vessels.  As such, she is confined to a wheelchair.  Even before her arrival, the crew, especially Dr. Bashir, are preoccupied with her accommodations.  Melora in the flesh is not so keen to have others take care of her, bristling at every perceived slight.  The ever-persistent doctor sees through her tough defenses, winning her friendship and, ultimately, a bit more.

"Melora" was written by Evan Carlos Summers, a quadriplegic himself.  He wanted to write a story about disability and accessablity but his original idea was drastically changed in the editing process.  His intention was a smooth acceptance of Melora by the crew and felt the more resentful character she became played on stereotypes.  Interestingly, a character from a low-gravity world was the original idea for the Dax character, ultimately abandoned because it was seen as too complicating.

The episode is not a favorite among critics though once again, I don't mind it so much.  Zach Gritton of The A.V. Club tagged Melora as "irritating" - fair but to me, that makes Bashir's challenge in winning her over all the more believable.  Her exchange with the Klingon chef on her first date with Julian is wonderful.  

Acting Notes

Daphne Ashbrook played the part of Melora Pazlar.  Ashbrook was born January 30, 1963 in Long Beach, California.  Her brother is Dana Ashbrook, Bobby Briggs on Twin Peaks.  Daphne's career started on stage at age six.

Ashbrook has solid geek cred as she also played Grace Holloway in Doctor Who: The Movie.  Television work includes a principal role on Hollywood Heights and a recurring one on The OC.  In 2012, she published a memoir: Dead Woman Laughing: An Actor's 'Take' from Both Sides of the Camera.

Tuesday, April 4, 2023

Squid Eats: Luna

Korean food is a favorite of mine.  As such, Luna was a welcome discovery during our most recent Montreal visit, a small, friendly, elegant spot on the Plateau.  We shared the Menu Demi-Lune - Menu Half Moon in English.  It includes three appetizers (pictured above): Kimchi Mandoo frit, Dalk Gangjeong and Galbi Mandoo vapeur.  For main dishes, my wife got Bibimbap (rice with vegetables) and I the Japchae (fried vermicelli with vegetables).  All were lovely.  We'll definitely be back.