Friday, September 29, 2023

Star Trek: Genesis

Episode: "Genesis"
Series: Star Trek: The Next Generation
Season 7, Episode 19
Original Air Date: March 21, 1994

via Memory Alpha

Due to a snafu in sickbay (it's Barclay's fault, naturally), the Enterprise crew de-evolves.  Nurse Ogawa reverts to a more primitive ape form.  Counselor Troi develops gills.  Worf becomes a ravenous, pre-historic Klingon beast.  Barclay goes arachnid.  Even the pets are not spared.  Data's cat Spot becomes an iguana.

Naturally, Data is unaffected, a key plot point in all "every organic creature is doomed" narratives on NextGen.  He's the Scarecrow in the poppy field.  Picard and Data are off-ship when the disaster strikes so the effect on the captain is also delayed.  

I'm not a huge fan of the horror-trending stories but "Genesis" has humorous moments, too.  The episode was nominated for three Emmys: Sound Editing, Makeup and winning for Sound Mixing.  Other evaluators have been less charitable.  Star Trek 101 gave "Genesis" the Spock's Brain Award as the worst of the series.  I can think of at least two that I like less: "Code of Honor" and "Masks."

Acting Notes

via Wikipedia

Carlos Ferro played the role of Ensign Dern, a conn officer.  He was born in San Francisco.  He worked as a DJ before turning to acting.  

Most of Ferro's credits are in voice acting.  On television, he has voiced characters in Justice League and Spawn.  Video game work includes the Assassin's Creed and Gears of War franchises.  

Wednesday, September 27, 2023

On the Coffee Table: 100 Bullets

Title: 100 Bullets, Vol. 1: First Shot, Last Call
Writer: Brian Azzarello
Artist: Eduardo Risso

via Amazon

You meet a strange man, Agent Graves, who clearly knows a lot more about you than you do about him.  He tells you the exact person who ruined your life.  Then he hands you a briefcase with a gun and 100 untraceable bullets and tells you to do whatever you want with them.

That's the premise of 100 BulletsVolume 1 collects the first five issues of a comic book series that ultimately ran for - you guessed it - 100 issues.  The first story, covered in the first three issues, follows Dizzy, recently released from prison.  To her, Graves reveals the crooked cops who killed her family.  The second features Lee, a down on his luck bartender who lost his family because pranking teenagers planted child porn on his hard drive.  As the second story progresses, we get a broader sense of Graves's own motivations and they're not exactly selfless.

Morality gets complicated for the reader.  To a point, one is inclined to root for Graves's chosen ones and against their targets.  But of course, there's more to both stories than one originally assumes.

The series is certainly strong.  Both writing and art are excellent.  However, I have a gripe.  Dizzy is Latina and her story is set in the inner city.  Azzarello, a White man, attempts to incorporate the street vernacular of both Latinx and Black characters.  It doesn't sit well with me when White people do that.  Indeed, representation matters and so does realism.  It just doesn't feel right.

So what's the answer, you ask?  More people of color creating their own stories within the medium.  Yes, there are people of color in the business - probably not enough of them and certainly not enough of them in positions of power to promote more representative stories.  It's a worthy goal and the results are likely to be a lot less cringey.  

That said, I'm up for more.

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Squid Mixes: Pousse-Café

Pousse-Café is, in fact, an entire category of drinks.  You've likely seen them even if you didn't know what they are called.  Instead of mixing or shaking liquids into a consistent emulsion, one layers them, one on top of the other.  The end result, executed properly, looks like stripes - or more accurately, disks - in the glass.  Obviously, it's a cool party trick worth learning.

I got my recipe from The New Craft of the Cocktail by Dale DeGroff, a relatively new book on my shelf.  DeGroff suggests grenadine, crème de cacao, maraschino liqueur, orange Curaçao, crème de menthe and cognac added to the glass in that order.  Six ingredients felt rather ambitious for a first try at this technique but what the hell.

Attempt #1

For the first try, I went with a martini glass.  To accomplish the layering, you pour over the back of a spoon and/or down the side of the glass.  I figured the slope of a martini glass would be reasonably forgiving.  

While the slope of the glass definitely helped.  I can see now that while physics worked for me, geometry brought obvious (in hindsight) drawbacks.  Each successive layer is more narrow.

The last photo above was taken after I added the crème de menthe.  So, there should be a green layer on top.  That bit didn't work.  However, one can see from this shot that the green layer is there, just not on top:

Here's the final product from attempt 1.  

As you can see, there are distinct layers, just not six of them.

Attempt #2

For the next attempt, I used a champagne flute:

I'd say it went pretty well until, once again, I got to the crème de menthe:

The physics was falling apart but I couldn't immediately understand why.  Sometimes, setting a problem aside for 24 hours, then coming back to it is just the thing...

Attempt #3

Successful layering is dependent on liquid density.  A liquid with more sugar and less alcohol than another is more dense.  Taking advantage of this physical reality, one can, with care, layer one liquid on top of the other without their automatically combining.  That's why, in DeGroff's recipe, you start with the grenadine: zero alcohol, tons of sugar, high density.  DeGroff's recipe includes specific brands for the Curaçao and crème de menthe which I didn't have.  I charged ahead assuming that one brand's density would be approximately the same as another.

I was 100% wrong.

I took a closer look at the actual bottles I was using and put them in order of alcohol content.  The Curaçao and the crème de menthe were the same, which explained why they were combining rather than separating.  One of them had to go.  I chose to keep the Curaçao as mint was the overwhelming flavor of the first two attempts and I wanted the others to have a fighting chance.  So in order of decreasing density for my third try: grenadine, Curaçao, crème de cacao, maraschino liqueur and Cognac.

I also chose a more flared champagne flute for the job.  In hindsight, I wonder why I didn't use it for the first attempt but I suppose I was more focused on other factors.

I was much happier with the result.  The distinction between the red of the grenadine and the orange of the Curaçao is admittedly difficult to see in the photo but it's there.  For color contrast, the crème de menthe would have been the better choice.  But in the end, I was able to successfully create a layered drink.

I don't know how much I'll play with this concept.  The end result is awfully sweet, generally not what I'm after.  My wife is also a lot less impressed by this particular parlor trick than I am so I won't be getting much encouragement from my most loyal customer.  But I'm glad to know it can be done, even by me.

Monday, September 25, 2023

On the Coffee Table: Will Eisner

Title: A Contract with God
Writer and Artist: Will Eisner

via Amazon

Will Eisner is on a short list of the all-time masters of the comic book medium.  In fact, at least in the English language, he may be the most esteemed of them all.  The American industry's most prestigious annual award as well as its Hall of Fame are both named after him.  Among his many accomplishments, Eisner is credited with popularizing the graphic novel.

In 1978, A Contract with God was published.  While it was not the first sequential art piece to break from the typical superhero model, it demonstrated the broader possibilities for the medium.  In the strictest literary terms, "A Contract with God" is probably better classified as a short story (with an epilogue) than a novel.  But its long form, self-contained, reality-based narrative was a clear break from the episodic sensationalism which had dominated the English language industry for decades.  The black and white images were richly detailed and expository text was no longer confined to the usual boxes and bubbles.  The original release was, in fact, a collection of four short stories.  In addition to the titular tale, "The Street Singer," "The Super," and "Cookalein" were also included.

The material was definitely not for children, better suited to older teenagers and above.  Frimme Hersh, Contract's protagonist, feels betrayed by God.  But he's not Tevye, Fiddler's gentle-hearted hero.  Frimme deals with his frustration by becoming a ruthless, exploitative tenement landlord.  His story is a memorable parable juxtaposing what a believer might want his relationship with God to be with what that relationship actually is.  The other stories involve nudity, sex, alcoholism and violence against women, children and animals.  The message is clear: life isn't pretty, especially not when you're poor.  Those who survive are not necessarily virtuous.

However you might classify it, A Contract with God is a masterpiece.  While I wouldn't put it on par with Maus or V for Vendetta, later works owe an obvious debt to Eisner.  He wrote sequels.  I'll be keeping an eye out for those.

Friday, September 22, 2023

Star Trek: Profit and Loss

Episode: "Profit and Loss"
Series: Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Season 2, Episode 18
Original Air Date: March 20, 1994

Garak episode!

A mysterious, damaged Cardassian ship is brought into the station via tractor beam.  The pilot, Natima Lang, is a professor traveling with her two students, Rekelen and Hogue.  Lang claims their ship was damaged by a meteor shower.  The plot thickens when the visitors arrive at Quark's where we learn Lang is the proprietor's long-lost girlfriend.  He's over the moon to see her.  She's not so thrilled.

Garak, enjoying his regular lunch with Dr. Bashir, recognizes the travelers as well though it's not immediately apparent why.  Meanwhile, Chief O'Brien determines that the damage to their ship was caused by Cardassian phaser fire.  Clearly, there's a bigger story here.  Lang reveals that Rekelen and Hogue are no mere students.  They are well-known leaders of the Cardassian dissident movement.  Garak goes so far as to call them terrorists.

The Quark/Natima love story is sweet but for me, the real treat (surprise, surprise), is the Garak sub plot.  We learn a bit about our favorite tailor in "Profit and Loss."  Questions about his past are answered - partially.  The answers invite further questions.  His loyalty is to Cardassia - but clearly that means something different to him than it would to those in power on his home world.  There's a particularly delicious encounter between Garak and Commander Sisko, the former seemingly playing the role of negotiator between the Cardassians and the Federation regarding the fates of the dissidents.  I watched that scene over again immediately after finishing the episode.  So good.

An interesting production note: during filming of the episode, there was a 6.7-magnitude earthquake in southern California.  Several actors, including Armin Shimerman (Quark) and Mary Crosby (Natima) rushed home to check on their families without bothering to remove their makeup, inspiring memorable reactions from other drivers on the road.

Acting Notes

Mary Crosby was born September 14, 1959 in Los Angeles.  Her parents were actress Kathryn Grant and Hollywood titan Bing Crosby.  Mary Crosby is the aunt of Denise Crosby, who played Tasha Yar on Star Trek: The Next Generation.  Mary Crosby graduated from high school at 15, then attended the University of Texas, though she didn't graduate.  

Mary Crosby is best known for her portrayal of Kristin Shepard in the TV series Dallas.  In fact, assuming we're past the statute of limitations for spoilers for this one, her character is the one who shot J.R. in that series's most famous story line.  Other television appearances include guest appearances on The Love Boat, Murder, She Wrote and CHiPs.  Film credits include Midnight Lace (1981), The Ice Pirates and Tapeheads.  

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

On the Coffee Table: Seth

Title: George Sprott: (1894-1975)
Writer and Artist: Seth

via Amazon

George Sprott was a fictional local television personality from the fictional Ontario city of Dominion.  Seth (the pen name of Gregory Gallant) presents his biography in graphic novel form.  In Sprott's show, he shares films and stories of his adventures exploring Arctic Canada.  Much of his life story is told from the perspective of others after his death.  Not all of it is flattering.

I enjoyed the book but I'm also grateful to get it off my shelves.  It's enormous, over 16 inches tall and over 12 inches wide!  Finding space for it has been challenging ever since I first bought it several years ago.  The story was first serialized in The New York Times Magazine, explaining the unusual size.  Most of the panels are too small to have survived scaling down.  In his review, Glen Weldon offers "8 Practical Uses" for the book after you have finished reading it.

Nostalgia for old local television and the Canadian romanticization of the Arctic are both lovingly rendered.  The loneliness of a "star" past his prime is the main theme, interesting timing for me in that we also recently watched Sunset Blvd.  Panel usage is clever, almost like a storyboard much of the time.

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

Squid Mixes: Corpse Reviver No. 1

A Corpse Reviver No. 1 combines cognac, calvados and sweet vermouth.  I got my recipe from The Joy of Mixology by Gary Regan.  Regan adapted his from The Savoy Cocktail Book by Harry Craddock.  It's a pleasant drink, though my wife described it as a little cough syrupy.  The apple in the calvados popped out nicely as I was stirring in the glass but was less prominent in the final flavor.  

Corpse Revivers are eye openers, essentially hangover cures.  Hangover symptoms result from alcohol withdrawal so in reality, any alcoholic beverage would suffice.  I've never been clear on what makes certain drinks especially good for the job.  Perhaps because it's on the sweeter side, thus more breakfasty?  For the record, we drank ours at 4 pm, no hangovers involved.

Yes, there is a #2 in both Regan's and Craddock's books.  In fact, I featured David Lebovitz's interpretation here.  Online, I have found recipes for Corpse Revivers #3-13.

Monday, September 18, 2023

On the Coffee Table: Roz Chast

Title: Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant?
Writer and Artist: Roz Chast

via Amazon

Roz Chast's graphic memoir Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant? addresses two of the most important topics we almost never talk about: aging and death.  The author shares the stories of dealing with her aging parents, helping them through the various transitions from independence to assisted living and through to the very end.  Chast is an only child so it's all on her.  

The book isn't pretty or sweet.  There's real pain and frustration at every stage.  The relationships are complicated in all directions - child-to-parent, parent-to-child, spouse-to-spouse - and the life changes don't make them easier.  

Chast's book hit me hard, harder than Fun Home did (see here).  These are the life changes staring me in the face.  My own parents are now in their 80s and starting, for the first time, to discuss next steps in concrete terms.  Fortunately, I have a few advantages Chast didn't.  I have a sibling, so I have an ally.  Thanks to Atul Gawande's encouragement, such matters have been an open conversation between my parents and me for a long time.  I think it's fair to say I have easier relationships with my parents than Chast had with hers but it's also fair to say our relationships aren't perfect either.  Finding the proper balance as my own needs decrease while theirs increase has been tricky.  Communication takes work.  And patience, vulnerability, persistence, forgiveness, grace... and did I mention patience?  I am neither a perfect son nor a perfect brother.  But I swear, I work at both.  

And naturally, facing my parents' increasing needs also forces me to confront the reality that one day, my wife and I will need to do the same for ourselves.  We have an only child so it will be all on them.  What can we do to make the transitions easier for all of us when the time comes?  I don't want to live forever, nor do I care to live past the point where I can reasonably take care of myself.  But mine are not the only wants and needs to consider.

Chast generously shares her struggles with all of this.  It's not an easy read.  She does little to hide the dirty details.  But it's deeply important for all of us to think about such things more than we do.  I'm grateful for her candor.  

Friday, September 15, 2023

Star Trek: Eye of the Beholder

Episode: "Eye of the Beholder"
Series: Star Trek: The Next Generation
Season 7, Episode 18
Original Air Date: February 28, 1994

via Memory Alpha

Lieutenant Daniel Kwan commits suicide by hurling himself into the plasma stream.  While Counselor Troi is investigating, she experiences a telepathic flashback of memories not her own to the time of the Enterprise's construction.  She suspects someone was murdered.  What's more, the murderer may still be aboard the ship.

The mystery story is interesting enough but to me, "Eye of the Beholder" feels like a missed opportunity.  The creators balked at what could have been a meaningful exploration of mental health.  In the beginning, no one, not even those close to Lieutenant Kwan, understand how he could have taken his own life.  Of course, there has to be a reason.  The past murder visions become the reason.

But why couldn't it have been a story about depression?  Was that really so taboo in 1994?  Or was that yet another disease for which Earth had found a miracle cure by the 24th century?  Picard says he'd never had to inform a family about a suicide before.  That seems unrealistic.

Historically, active military personnel have a lower suicide rate than the general population.  That would still have been the case in 1994, though the rate wouldn't have been zero.  More recently, the gap has closed and not the way you would want it to.  The rate for the military has gone up.  Retired military are another matter.  Veterans are significantly more likely to commit suicide than non-veteran adults.  PTSD is the most likely culprit.  Maybe Earth will have the answer to that, too, in a few centuries.  But I'm getting away from my main point.

Far too often, suicide is used as a literary device while ignoring the most difficult questions.  It's the narrative copout for problems the author doesn't otherwise know how to solve.  Romeo and Juliet is the most obvious example but it happens all the time.  In this case, suicide launches the mystery and is then mostly forgotten in favor of the story they really wanted to tell.

Part of that story does have long-term significance.  In Troi's alternate, hallucinated reality, she and Worf become romantically and sexually involved.  As noted in previous posts, I am 100% in favor of this pairing.  Stay tuned.

Just in case you ever need it, for the suicide hotline in the US, dial 988.

Acting Notes

via Dubbing Wikia

Mark Rolston played Lt. Pierce, the murderer.  Rolston was born in Baltimore, December 7, 1956.

When someone is described as a "character actor" we generally think of comedy specialists, someone with considerable talent and also looks that fall short of leading man/lady expectations.  And they're funny.  Rolston isn't funny - well, he might be hilarious in real life but it's not his calling card professionally.  Instead, he mastered a chilling, icy stare that makes casting directors' dreams come true.  

100 years from now, Rolston will still be best remembered as the deeply evil Bogs Diamond in The Shawshank Redemption, also released in 1994.  Other films include Aliens, Rush Hour and The Departed.  He's also had creepy guest star roles in Babylon 5, The X-Files and Supernatural.  He's had a successful voice acting career as well, particularly in the DC Universe where he has voiced Firefly, Deathstroke and Lex Luthor.

Tuesday, September 12, 2023

Squid Flicks: Nimona

Title: Nimona
Directors: Nick Bruno and Troy Quane
Original Release: 2023
My Overall Rating: 4 stars out of 5

via Wikipedia

Ballister Boldheart is about to be knighted, an unusual honor for a commoner.  The ceremony does not exactly go as planned when he appears to assassinate the Queen.  But he's been framed.  Ballister is thrown in prison but a new, mysterious friend named Nimona breaks him out.  Nimona is eager to become Ballister's sidekick in his quest for revenge and redemption.  She is also quite a lot more than she appears.  She's a shapeshifter, one who figures prominently in cultural lore.

Nimona is based on the graphic novel of the same name by ND Stevenson.  Initially, it was supposed to be a Blue Sky Studios production, set for release in 2020.  But when Disney bought 21st Century Fox, Blue Sky's parent company, the new bosses balked at Nimona because of LGBTQ+ content.  Ballister, you see, is gay.  He has a boyfriend, Ambrosius, and the relationship is completely normalized.  Well, okay, Ambrosius is also one of the Elite Knights and cuts off Ballister's arm after the Queen is killed, ultimately emerging as a sympathetic antagonist - all of that gets a bit complicated.  But no one - not even the story's playground bully character - makes a big deal of the fact that they're both men.  Obviously, that ain't Disney!  The project was repeatedly delayed and ultimately shelved.

Shame on Disney!

Annanpura Pictures came to the rescue.  They bought up the rights.  Netflix signed on as the distributer.  Green light, go.

The movie's a lot of fun.  The animation is impressive - hints of The Secret of Kells in the early going and evidently Easter Egg homages to Blue Sky films (now defunct) throughout.  The world building is thorough, complete with its own internal mythology.  Nimona, the character, is particularly wonderful.  I don't know if there are plans for a sequel but I am in favor.

Monday, September 11, 2023

On the Coffee Table: Alison Bechdel

Title: Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic
Writer and Artist: Alison Bechdel

Many have banned and/or attempted to ban this book.  So, obviously, everyone should read it.

Fun Home is the graphic memoir masterpiece of Alison Bechdel, the queen of queer comics.  Before the book, she was well-established within the industry for the long-running strip Dykes to Watch Out ForFun Home brought her into the mainstream, hitting best-seller lists, earning loads of accolades and eventually being made into a Tony-winning Broadway musical.  

Bechdel tells her story of growing up in a small town in central Pennsylvania.  She clearly had complicated relationships with both parents, though the book is mostly about her father, a high school English teacher, an interior decorating savant and a closeted homosexual.  Alison didn't know the last bit until she came out to her parents herself during college.  Unfortunately, he had a preference for teenage boys, a fact which brought legal troubles.  Not long after these revelations, he committed suicide - quite a lot to absorb for Alison and her younger brothers.  

Intertwined with all of this are Alison's own adventures of sexual discovery.  Even more than the dirt on her father, this is the part that likely gets the conservatives bent out of shape.  There's sex, nudity, masturbation, etc.  It normalizes both female sexual awareness and the gay experience.  I've got what I expect is upsetting news for the MAGA crowd: both of those things are normal.  And healthy.  And far less damaging than the shaming and violence you would rather subject people to.  Indeed, Alison's path was deeply complicated by her own basic insecurities and the social politics of rural Pennsylvania (Pittsburgh and Philadelphia with Alabama in between).  

The story is not all sadness.  The author shares plenty of childhood joy, even in her relationship with her father.  The ultimate lesson: pain is complicated.  It is but one river of many that flows through a life.

Fun Home has been equated by some with Maus and Persepolis as masterpieces of the genre.  I'm not quite ready to put it on that level, though it is truly outstanding.  The intimacy grabs ahold of you from the first panel onwards.  I'm definitely up for more of her work.

Friday, September 8, 2023

Star Trek: Playing God

Episode: "Playing God"
Series: Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Season 2, Episode 17
Original Air Date: February 27, 1994

via Memory Alpha

Jadzia Dax hosts her first Trill initiate, Arjin, a young man aspiring to become host to a symbiont.  She takes him on a mission through the wormhole.  After an accident forces them to return to the station, a strange mass is discovered attached to the runabout.  In time, the mass is found to be a proto-universe.  Meanwhile, there's a Cardassian vole infestation on Deep Space Nine.

"Playing God" is a good Dax story.  We learn a great deal about the initiate process generally as well as Jadzia's relationship with Curzon Dax.  She first met Curzon as an initiate herself and the encounter didn't go well.  Now joined, we see that while Jadzia honors the previous hosts of her own symbiont, she also works to maintain her own character apart from them, particularly her immediate predecessor.  We see a more sensuous side to Jadzia in this episode, too.  Arjin arrives at Jadzia's quarters the first morning and is greeted by her masseur - and sexual partner?  The narrative neither confirms nor denies but I would say it's strongly implied.  And why not?  Curzon has already been established as a playboy.  Why shouldn't Jadzia have her own fun?  Arjin is clearly intimidated by both the burly masseur and the confident Jadzia.  Ha!

The B and C narratives are fine, though mostly forgettable.  Deciding what to do about the tiny universe while its growth threatens our own presents interesting dilemmas.

Acting Notes

via Critters Wiki

Geoffrey Blake (Arjin) was born August 20, 1982 in Baltimore, Maryland, though he grew up in California.  He graduated from the University of Southern California.  His film resume is impressive, including several Tom Hanks-led features: Forrest Gump, Apollo 13, and Cast Away.  Blake and Terry Farrell (Dax) also appeared together in the short-lived TV series Paper Dolls.  Blake's character was Farrell's character's boyfriend.  

Wednesday, September 6, 2023

On the Coffee Table: Ibram X. Kendi

Title: How to Be an Antiracist
Author: Ibram X. Kendi

via Amazon

This book has been banned in some school districts which, of course, means everyone should read it.

How to Be an Antiracist is as much memoir as treatise.  Ibram X. Kendi leads us through a personal history or his own racial attitudes.  Kendi grew up in New York City, then spent most of high school in Virginia.  He was raised by veterans of the civil rights movements.  He was educated first at Florida A&M, an historically black university, then Temple University where he earned an MA and a PhD in African American Studies.  We get an intimate view of his own philosophical evolution, some of it surprising.  His vulnerability in admitting his own shortcomings along the way lends more credence to his ultimate conclusions.  

Kendi's definition of an antiracist has spread wide since the book's publication: "One who is expressing the idea that racial groups are equals and none needs developing, and is supporting policy that reduces racial inequity."  The goal is not to change attitudes but to change the policies, systems and structures that prevent equality - redlining, for instance - and boost the ones that encourage it - affirmative action, for one.  He acknowledges that the racial attitudes of white people have changed over recent decades.  But he points out, rather importantly, that attitudes tend to change after the policy changes, not the other way around.  

I hope no one is surprised to know that I am fully on board with this line of thinking.  Conversations about race are rarely easy.  Here in Vermont - still 92% white - the challenge is often convincing people that we have any responsibility at all.  8% non-white is small but it's a lot more than zero.  I work in education.  Our students of color are few and, complicating the statistics, quite a lot of them have been academically successful.  But that doesn't mean we're doing everything we can and should to ensure they're thriving fully as members of our school community.  What is their experience walking down the hallways?  Do they have the same access to extra-curriculars as their schoolmates or are some teams and clubs more inclusive than others, even unintentionally?

And folks, we hold enormous responsibility for teaching our white students about race.  I agree with Kendi that attitudes aren't everything but they do matter.  If I were to ask most of my white students to define their own culture, many - if not most - would say they don't have one.  They see their own experience as the default - "normal."  They have no concept of their own foreignness to others, indeed to most of the world.  I don't know how we fix that but I know we must find a way.

I have responsibilities as a blogger, too.  Star Trek, in particular, is worthy of scrutiny.  From the beginning, the franchise has been about changing our approach to "the other."  Trek deserves a lot of credit for diverse representation but the racial rhetoric is still often problematic.  I'll do my best to call them on it when I see it.

I'm definitely up for reading more of Kendi's work.  I hope you will, too.  More importantly, I hope you'll take up the antiracist cause yourself.

Tuesday, September 5, 2023

Squid Eats: Ahli Baba's Kebab Shop

This was our child's birthday weekend so we let them make all the choices.  Ahli Baba's has been around for years yet neither my wife nor I had ever been.  We love Mediterranean food, though, so we were easily convinced.  

It's a simple set up: small space (only two, long slab, high top tables), counter service.  The art on the walls features Blue Meanies, Pink Floyd concert posters, a photo of Jerry Garcia, etc.  I had steak kebabs and an Arnold Palmer.  Both wife and child had gyros and lemonade.  Mine was delicious, though drippy.  I got quite a lot of the sauce on my shorts - an acceptable sacrifice for good food.  Greasy food, psychedelic decor, BYOB, take out-friendly, late hours (open until 11 most nights, until 3 am Thursday-Saturday)...  It's pretty clear who the target demographic is.  

We'll be back.  The food was not overwhelming but definitely decent for the price.  I like the hours as it's right by the Flynn Theater - a good stop for a quick bite after a concert if we need it.

Friday, September 1, 2023

Star Trek: Masks

Episode: "Masks"
Series: Star Trek: The Next Generation
Season 7, Episode 17
Original Air Date: February 21, 1994

The Enterprise encounters a floating archive from a civilization likely long extinct.  The archive gradually takes over the ship, flooding computer screens with ideographs, sprouting palm trees, erecting monoliths and converting corridors into stonewalled temple passages.  It's invaded Data's programming, too, generating multiple characters who communicate, poorly, with the rest of the crew.  

My goodness, is this one terrible!  Even the cast hated it while they were filming.  In Brent Spiner's recollection, they were all laughing at each other, particularly him as, without much preparation time, he stumbled through the various personalities.  It's a shame because the idea itself is cool, drawing meaningfully from Picard's passion for archaeology.  The visuals work fine.  But when every other line from Data is either "I don't know" or "I cannot be certain," you know they're scraping the bottom of the dialogue barrel.

"Masks" was written by Joe Menosky, who wrote a lot of good episodes, including the amazing "Darmok."  Menosky was living in France at the time, but still sending in scripts.  In 1994, email was still a new concept so coordinating over something like editing was tedious and/or not worth the trouble with a production deadline looming.  So, the other writers did the best they could with it.  The result was a god awful mess.

Acting Notes

Rickey D'Shon Collins played the role of Eric Burton, a student in the Enterprise school.  "Masks" was his second of three appearances, all in Season 7.  He had a better story in "Liaisons" when he got to join Iyaaran Ambassador Loquel in his exploration of desserts.  Collins was born in San Diego, January 17, 1983.

Most of Collins's work has been in voice acting.  He had principal roles on Recess and Danny Phantom plus films such as Once Upon a Forest, The Golden Blaze and Happy Feet.  Other live action appearances include Blossom, Grace Under Fire and The Practice.