Friday, June 30, 2023

Star Trek: The Pegasus

Episode: "The Pegasus"
Series: Star Trek: The Next Generation
Season 7, Episode 12
Original Air Date: January 10, 1994

via Memory Alpha

A Starfleet Intelligence operative comes aboard the Enterprise and he's an old friend of Commander Riker's.  Erik Pressman was Will's first commanding officer.  Their old ship, the USS Pegasus, was thought lost but it would seem the Romulans have found it and Pressman wants to get to it before they do.  The missing ship holds a secret and only Riker and Pressman know about it.

"The Pegasus" is a good Riker story, one of the best so far .  From the beginning, we've known that Captain Picard values Will for his willingness to stand up to his superiors.  "The Pegasus" provides a backstory on how he found that gumption.  Riker tests Picard's trust as never before in this story, ultimately revealing a great deal about their loyalty to each other  - and to the truth.

"The Pegasus" is, in fact, the strongest episode so far in what has been a relatively weak season.  

Acting Notes

via Lostpedia

Terry O'Quinn (Pressman) was born Terrance Quinn, July 15, 1952 in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan.  He was one of eleven children.  He attended Central Michigan University and the University of Iowa.  During his time at CMU, he wrote and directed a musical called Orchestrina.  Jeff Bridges played the lead in the production.

O'Quinn's best-known film role is the titular character in the Stepfather movies.  Other big screen credits include Tombstone, Young Guns and The Rocketeer.  He won an Emmy for the role of John Locke on the mega-hit TV series, Lost.  Other television gigs include The West WingMillenium and Mysteries of the Missing.  

Tuesday, June 27, 2023

Squid Eats: McGillicuddy's on the Green

via Hello Burlington

McGillicuddy's on the Green is an Irish pub in Colchester, Vermont.  I go so often - easily 3-4 times a year - that I'm surprised I've never blogged about it before.  I rarely eat a proper meal there, though they have a full menu.  I also don't know if I've ever gone with either my wife or child.  It's a popular spot for gatherings after work and also a reasonable middle ground with friends.  The service is friendly and the food - I typically order from the appetizer, pub grub menu - dependable, if unspectacular.

My favorite thing about McGillicuddy's (McG's) is the beer list.  It's where I discovered my all-time favorite beer: Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale.  Sadly, they don't carry it any more - haven't for many years.  Mind you, that doesn't stop me from looking for it every time I go.  Even so, McG's always has plenty of interesting choices, from Vermont and beyond.  

The mozzarella sticks have been my app of choice, recently, though I also enjoy their fried pickles and chicken wings.  For the fried pickles, they've switched from slices/chips to spears so it's a bit like eating a pickle french fry.  I like their nachos, too, though a single order is way too much for one person.

Friday, June 23, 2023

Star Trek: The Alternate

Episode: "The Alternate"
Series: Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Season 2, Episode 12
Original Air Date: January 9, 1994

via Memory Alpha

Odo is reunited with Dr. Mora Pol (James Sloyan), the Bajoran scientist who studied and essentially raised Odo after he was discovered.  Pol believes he may have found clues to Odo's origins, initiating a mission into the Gamma Quadrant.  The mission doesn't go well.  A biological sample is found, and an obelisk stolen, but Pol, Dax and the accompanying Dr. Weld are all gassed.  Fortunately, Dr. Bashir is able to save them all but the adventure has only just begun.

Dr. Pol is an obvious attempt at a Dr. Soong equivalent (read here).  In fact, the original intention was for RenĂ© Auberonois to play Pol, just as Brent Spiner had played Soong.  Due to production time constraints, that idea was scrapped and I'm glad for it.  Odo is not Data.  (He's Worf.  See here.) Attempting to force Odo into the Data box is misguided.  "The Alternate" reveals Odo's resentment towards Pol, understandable given the doctor's controlling parental attitude, in the form of a Jekyll & Hyde-esque monster story.  

I love the Odo story.  Over the course of the series, Odo's self-discovery arc is the richest narrative thread of all.  There are things I find uncomfortable about this installment.  Taking both the sample and the obelisk from the planet is highly presumptuous.  Pol is far from likable, stretching the credibility of the episode's sympathetic ending.  Even so, "The Alternate" provides a lot to build on for future, better Odo stories.

Acting Notes

via Final Fantasy Wiki

Matt McKenzie played Dr. Weld.  "The Alternate" is his first of two Trek appearances.  He is best known for his voice work, particularly the role of Auron in the Final Fantasy video game franchise.  In live action film, he appeared in Gods and Monsters and The Rookie.  Television credits include Veronica Mars, 24 and Mad Men.

Tuesday, June 20, 2023

Squid Games: Azul

The concept of Azul is simple.  You draft tiles from the center of the table and place them on your own board.  You gain points from certain tile patterns, after each turn and at the end of the game.  Simple, yet I haven't fully sorted out the strategy yet.

Racquet Man introduced it to our game group a few years ago, then it was a good choice for our Board Game Arena online sessions during COVID.  In total, I would guess that I have played it maybe a handful of time.  I'm fairly certain RM has won every time we've played so he, at least, has sorted out a few things the rest of us haven't.  I may need to pay closer attention to his board if we play again.

Racquet Man's winning board

The game art is beautiful, based on the Moorish tiles at the Alhambra palace in southern Spain, as seen by the Portuguese King Manuel I, who reigned 1495-1521.  The games name derives from azuleijos, the Spanish word for the tiles.  Azul has won numerous industry awards.  The Board Game Geek rating is 7.8/10 with a 1.76/5 for complexity.  

Friday, June 16, 2023

Star Trek: Rivals

Episode: "Rivals"
Series: Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Season 2, Episode 11
Original Air Date: January 2, 1994

There's a new conman on the station - the handsome and charming Martus Mazur - and he's opened a bar to compete with Quark.  Obviously, our favorite Ferengi bartender is none too happy about it.  Meanwhile, a racquetball rivalry is born between Julian and Miles - a rivalry heavily slanted in the doctor's favor.  

The episode is a disappointing one.  Mazur is played by Chris Sarandon, an important actor in two of my family's favorite movies: The Princess Bride (as Prince Humperdink) and The Nightmare Before Christmas (Jack Skellington).  And the basic premise is good: the conman we know out-maneuvered by another (only to be conned in turn, himself).  Unfortunately, it all falls flat.  Mazur isn't quite charming enough to be believable.  And when all goes haywire on the station, the technobabble explanation is contrived even by Trek standards.  

The secondary plot is better.  The Miles-Julian friendship is a highly fruitful story line over the course of the series.

Acting Notes

Chris Sarandon was born July 24, 1942 in Beckley, West Virginia.  He has a bachelor's degree from West Virginia University and a master's from Catholic University.  His career began on stage.  Broadway credits include The Rothschilds, The Two Gentlemen of Verona and Nick & Nora.  

In addition to the two classics mentioned above, films include Child's Play, Fright Night and Dog Day Afternoon, for which he earned an Oscar nomination.  Television credits include ER, Charmed and Judging Amy.  

Sarandon has been married three times, including twice to actresses more accomplished than he is.  His first wife was Susan Sarandon, Oscar winner.  His third and current wife is Joanna Gleason, Tony winner.  In between, he was married to fashion model Lisa Ann Cooper.  Chris Sarandon has three children, all from his second marriage.  

Tuesday, June 13, 2023

Squid Games: Mysterium

This past weekend, I got together with Blue Liner, Racquet Man and Young Buck for a game session.  We started with Mysterium which RM had gotten as a birthday present.  I own the game myself but have only played it a couple times.  I've had to relearn the rules every time I've played.

Mysterium is sort of a combination of Clue and Dixit.  A murder has been committed and the victim's ghost (one game player, YB in our case) tries to communicate the details - murderer, location and weapon - to psychics (the rest of the game players).  The ghost has trippy, dreamy image cards which they submit to each psychic in hopes of making connections with the more concrete image cards on the table.  Through a series of stages, the ghost leads the group to the ultimate solution - hopefully.  It's a cooperative game.  Either everyone wins or everyone loses.  We lost.

Mysterium is a fun game once you sort out the rules.  The rules are the issue.  It's all too complicated to be intuitive, thus the need to relearn for me each time.  I suppose if one played more often, one would remember better.  Maybe we should play again next time we're together.

Board Game Geek rates Mysterium 7.2/10 with a complexity rating of 1.91/5.  I might quibble with the second rating, though I suppose my objection is not complexity, exactly.  It's all quite understandable in the end.  Perhaps better written directions would clear up my issues.

Friday, June 9, 2023

Star Trek: Parallels

Episode: "Parallels"
Series: Star Trek: The Next Generation
Season 7, Episode 11
Original Air Date: November 29, 1993

Worf returns to the Enterprise from a bat'leth tournament.  Reality seems to be shifting.  It starts small.  The chocolate cake at his birthday party is suddenly a yellow cake.  Picard is at the party whereas just moments before, Worf had been told the captain was on the bridge.  Gradually, the changes get bigger.  People are on opposite sides of the room from where he thought they'd been.  The past shifts.  His place in the tournament, and the trophy won, keeps changing.  He has forgotten things others seem to remember.  Worf seems to be the only one who notices it's happening.

"Parallels" is a popular episode with the devoted.  I don't care for it - not a fan of Trek's usual treatment of either time travel or parallel universes.  Furthermore, at this stage of the series, such stories serve as a further reminder that the writers were running out of ideas.  All of that said, there is one meaningful wrinkle for the long term...

"Parallels" raises the possibility of a more intimate relationship between Worf and Deanna Troi.  In his alternate reality, Worf is, in fact, married to Troi.  And they have children (not seen on screen)!  The devoted did not like this.  They'd always been rooting for the Riker-Troi pairing.  To be fair, we were all encouraged in that thinking from the beginning.  Six seasons later, the story line hadn't gone anywhere.  So, why not mix things up?  I like the Worf-Troi line.  I prefer Worf to Will.  Why wouldn't Deanna?  

30 years on, we know the love lives of all three characters will play out differently.  But I am glad the writers invested a bit of Season 7 in testing the waters with the Worf-Troi possibility.

Acting Notes

Mark Bramhall played the role of Gul Nador, a Cardassian starship commander.  This was the first of two Trek appearances for Bramhall.  He was also a Vulcan elder in J.J. Abrams's 2009 Star Trek film.  Bramhall was born in Los Angeles County, August 22, 1942.  

Other films include Vice, Annabelle: Creation and Vanilla Sky.  Other television appearances include Colony, Weeds and Nip/Tuck.  

Tuesday, June 6, 2023

Eating Out: Namaste Indian Nepali Restaurant

The Montpelier street corner which once housed Rivendell, a second-hand book store (mentioned here), is now home to Namaste Indian Nepali Restaurant.  The cheerfully, naturally lit space initially feels more like a diner but the Himalayan travel posters and the Indian pop music videos on the flat-screen tell a different story.  We ordered keema samosa, chicken tikka masala, mango goat curry and nan - all to share.

Overall, the food was nice.  We definitely could have been more daring with the heat.  We ordered the chicken medium and the goat mild - probably could have comfortably gone one level up for each.  I would have preferred less salt in the nan and fewer bones in the goat but otherwise, the meal was satisfactory.

Our waiter was friendly and attentive, perhaps even a bit maternal, checking in to see how much of each dish we'd finished.  We'll definitely be back.

Friday, June 2, 2023

Star Trek: Sanctuary

Episode: "Sanctuary"
Series: Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Season 2, Episode 10
Original Air Date: November 28, 1993

via Memory Alpha

Refugees come through the wormhole.  The universal translator takes a while to sort out their language but eventually, we learn they are known as the Skrreeans.  They are on the run from danger (The Dominion - first time mentioned by name) in the Gamma Quadrant.  They hope to settle on Bajor.  Their leader, Haneek, trusts Kira most so the major becomes the go-between.  The relationship becomes strained once the Bajorans hand down their decision as to whether or not to allow the settlement.

The topical relevance is obvious and "Sanctuary" boasts several interesting narrative elements.  The process of sorting out the language gap is interesting, and importantly different from the issues in "Darmok."  The Skreeans are a matriarchal society and not an offensive one as in "Angel One."  The attitudes on both the station and Bajor regarding the refugees are true to life.  The personal betrayal element definitely works.  Yet somehow, the messaging feels heavy-handed to me.  

Maybe I'm supposed to feel uncomfortable.  The writers and especially the makeup team did a great job of making the Skrreeans... unappealing.  They have bumpy, flaky skin, leading Quark to complain that they're leaving little bits of themselves all over his bar.  That is, admittedly, pretty gross.  It's a tangible representation of the sort of heebie-jeebies people in our time often feel towards "other people."

Casting Notes

William Schallert played the role of Varani, a professional Bajoran musician whom Kira invites to the station.  In the original series, Schallert played Nilz Baris in the masterful episode, "The Trouble with Tribbles."  Schallert passed away in 2016.

Andrew Koenig was Tumak, one of Haneek's sons.  The actor is the son of Walter Koenig, TOS's Chekov.  Andrew Koenig committed suicide in 2010.

Kitty Swink was Rozahn, the Bajoran official who breaks the bad news to the Skrreeans.  Swink was and still is married to Armin Shimerman (Quark).

Acting Notes

via Memory Alpha

Deborah May (Haneek) was born in Remington, Indiana.  She was Miss Indiana in 1970.  

She had a recurring role in St. Elsewhere and also made appearances in The Golden Girls, Seinfeld and ER.  Films include The Kid, Nurse Betty and The Woman in Red.  In 1981, she directed a documentary about black women in apartheid South Africa: You Have Struck a Rock.  "Sanctuary" was her first of two Trek appearances in two different series.