Friday, December 29, 2023

What Is The Next Generation?

via Memory Alpha

Star Trek
belongs on television.  Movies are all well and good but Trek is at its best as a television series.  Even skeptics were excited for The Next Generation when it first hit TV screens in fall 1987.  Fans were hungry for new stories and if that required getting used to new characters, so be it.  The series took a season-plus to gain its footing but once it did, it surpassed the celebrated originals in the hearts of many, including mine.  

While NextGen itself was dragging to the finish line by the end of seven seasons, the franchise overall was stronger than ever.  One spin-off, Deep Space Nine, was off to a fantastic start and was already testing the boundaries of the Trek concept in refreshing ways.  Another, Voyager, was due to launch in January.  After a brief vacation break, the TNG cast and crew got right to work on their first film, Generations, to be released in November of 1994.  It would bring in $118 million worldwide at the box office.

Mission accomplished.

Over the long run, The Next Generation benefited significantly from the unusual circumstances of its birth.  Put off by the fact that none of the major networks would give them a deal they felt their valuable property deserved, Paramount decided on a new approach for getting the new Star Trek series on the air: first-run syndication.  They cut deals one local independent station at a time for the broadcast rights.  The benefit to the local stations was enormous and it put the studio completely in the driver's seat regarding the future of the show.  Whereas the creators would have had to appease a major network constantly, what local operation in its right mind would cancel Star Trek?

As a result, the new show benefited from two significant resources the original didn't have: patience and time.  Would NextGen have survived after its weak first season if it had aired on NBC instead?  Maybe ratings would have saved it but the pressure would have been on and growing tension over creative control might have harmed the product (and there was enough of that anyway).  The first-run syndication arrangement provided the space to grow slowly.  By the fourth season, a point by which the original series had already been cancelled, TNG was humming along beautifully.

The Next Generation quickly outpaced the original series in two areas: character development and world-building aboard the Enterprise.  While one could argue (as I did here) that those considerations were not the driving purpose of the originals, NextGen established templates for all Star Trek series to follow.  The new series emphasized relationships and a sense of home.  Each principal (eventually) has a developed personal life and not all of their interactions revolve around the captain.  In the 2020s, even with the return of many Kirk-era characters, the emotional pulse of Star Trek resonates more strongly with Jean-Luc's Enterprise than with James T's.  

via Memory Alpha

Politically, the basic message of Star Trek was the same: tolerance.  What was new was exploration of how the individual finds their place in a pluralistic society.  How is it to live in two cultures at once? (Worf)  How does one balance obligations to family with one's personal ambitions? (Deanna and Beverly, though from different perspectives)  What are the rights of an artificially intelligent life form? (Data)  What role does one's specific disability play in shaping the self-identity of a disabled person? (Geordi)

The racial attitudes still needed some work.  By the mid-'90s, White America wanted to believe it was living in a post-racial society.  Civil rights were a done deal, right?  We don't see color (race) anymore, right?  Obviously, the world is more complicated than that and even Star Trek had a lot to learn.  In 1994, the rhetoric still implied strongly that humanness was the ideal and the closer someone like Worf or Data could come to meeting that standard the better.  It's way too easy to extend that line of thinking to whiteness but the writing staff, at least, wasn't making the connection.  Over time, the franchise has gradually improved and 29 years later, the work continues - as it should.


It's time to hand out the hardware...

Favorite Episode: "Darmok"

After this, my third time watching through The Next Generation, I have a new favorite.

Our heroes encounter the Tamarians, a culture whose language the universal translator has not been able to decipher.  Dathon, the Tamarian captain, and Picard must work to understand each other in order to fend off a common threat.  "Darmok" is the entire Star Trek concept boiled down to a single 42-minute episode.  It's also a perfect bottle episode which I think places it above the competitors for this top spot.  You get all the set up you need in the opening teaser.  

Least Favorite Episode: "Code of Honor"

Tasha Yar is kidnapped by a visiting delegation of Ligonians.  Obviously, our heroes must rescue her.  The basic plot is not the problem.  Episode director Russ Mayberry chose to cast all of the Ligonians as Black actors costumed in a "1940s tribal Africa" theme.  Mayberry was fired but the episode still aired, a truly appalling decision.  Star Trek has been preaching racial tolerance since 1966.  With "Code of Honor," the franchise fell well short of its own standards.

The Ranking of Captains

via Memory Alpha

The original series had a top tier of three characters: Kirk, Spock and McCoy.  The Next Generation has a top tier of one: Picard.  Yes, Jonathan Frakes (Riker) gets second billing in the credits after Patrick Stewart and before the "Also Starring" principals.  That's the sort of thing agents haggle over.  In practice, there's no doubt who the lead is in TNG.  As noted above, not every relationship revolves around the captain but it's Picard's ship and Patrick Stewart's show.  As such, comparing Picard to the other regulars is a silly exercise.  One can only compare him meaningfully with Kirk.

1. Jean-Luc Picard
2. James T. Kirk

Start with the actors.  Patrick Stewart is several grades above William Shatner as a thespian.  Stewart brought unprecedented class to Star Trek and as I've written before, his professionalism set a standard for the rest of the young and relatively inexperienced cast.  Without question, the entire series would have evolved differently with a lesser actor in the role.  Stewart's vocal and physical presence commands the screen yet he also understands how to support the scenes of others.  His emotional range in episodes like "Family" or "The Inner Light" far exceeds anything Shatner ever achieved as Kirk.  "Chain of Command, Part II"?  Not even worth discussing.

In his recently published memoir, Making It So, Stewart writes about his own journey as an actor in the role.  From what I've heard, it's not what you'd expect.  I'm eager to read it.

As discussed above, Picard's Enterprise is a warmer, friendlier place than Kirk's.  A great deal of material in the early going is devoted to exhibiting Picard as an appreciative leader and a good boss.  His ship is a rewarding place to work.

Favorite Principal Character: Worf

via Wikipedia

After Picard, the two characters who get the most development are Data and Worf.  They are also, not coincidentally, the two principals with the strongest sense of "otherness" among the rest of the crew, Data because he is an android, Worf because he is Klingon.  The two men approach their otherness with opposite attitudes.  Data is Pinocchio, wishing to be more human.  Worf has spent most of his life among humans and instead yearns to connect with his Klingon heritage.  

Both character threads are rich, each providing some of the most memorable episodes of the run.  Each arc has its strengths.  For Data, it is the fascinating questions regarding the possibilities for an artificially intelligent life form.  For Worf it is the deep exploration of a non-human culture.  Each has its weaknesses.  For Data it is his limited capacity for personal growth paired with Brent Spiner's over-acting whenever he's "let out of the box."  For Worf it is, in a word, Alexander.

Just as there are Led Zeppelin people and Rush people in the world (see here), I perceive both a Data camp and a Worf camp among NextGen fans.  How one feels about each of these character journeys goes a long way in determining how one sees the series as a whole.  I'm in the Worf camp.

No character grows more from first episode to last than Worf (though Deanna Troi is an interesting study in this regard - if only she'd been given more material).  With each new season, his narrative stature improves.  Through him, we learn more about Klingons than any other non-human culture on TNG.  Just as importantly, Worf is the most nuanced of any of the second-tier principals.  Bless him, he has quite a temper and his emotions frequently put him in tricky spots.  He is far more likely to challenge authority and/or ignore orders than his colleagues are and also more likely to be challenged in his assumptions.  Quite frankly, he pisses people off in ways you don't otherwise see aboard Picard's Enterprise.  He is more obviously flawed - a demonstrably terrible father.  All of these delightful imperfections add up to a highly relatable, if not always likable, character.  

Favorite Recurring Character: Guinan

via Memory Alpha

It's really no contest.  The producers hit a home run when they brought Whoopi Goldberg into the fold.  The actress had a busy movie career at the time and was thus unable to commit to a full-time role.  But she made the most out of her 29 appearances, each story improving the instant she comes on screen.

Guinan's value is manifold.  Between her "You're not supposed to be here" line in "Yesterday's Enterprise" and her exchange with Hugh in "I, Borg," she delivers in two of the most chilling moments of the series.  More importantly in the long term, she demonstrated the possibilities for a character outside the command structure.  Both Quark (Deep Space Nine) and Neelix (Voyager) are her obvious descendants.

Favorite Adversary: Professor Moriarty

via Memory Alpha

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle introduced Sherlock Holmes's nemesis Moriarty in "The Final Problem," published in 1893.  Moriarty entered Star Trek canon in Season 2's "Elementary, Dear Data," which I believe was TNG's first truly great episode.  Data and Geordi play on the holodeck as Holmes and Watson respectively.  Seeing how well his android buddy knows the source material, Geordi challenges the computer to find an adversary more worthy of Data's abilities.  The computer produces Moriarty and the game is on.

The long-term hook: Moriarty has self-awareness.  He knows he's a holodeck program and vows to extend the reach of his mischief into the rest of the ship.  His return episode in Season 6, "Ship in a Bottle," is my choice for best holodeck story of them all.  

I will go further than simply naming the professor as my top NextGen villain.  Star Trek's is my favorite interpretation of the Moriarty character, including Doyle's original.  A tip of the hat to actor Daniel Davis.

Favorite Guest Star, One Shot: Hallie Todd

via Memory Alpha

Todd played Lal, Data's daughter in Season 3's "The Offspring."  Lal is one of the most demanding roles in the series.  Her journey from birth to death is a whirlwind and Todd is all in every step of the way, from lifting Riker off his feet to kiss him to her final, heart-rending exchange with Data.

Favorite Blast from the Past: Scotty

via Memory Alpha

Scotty's return to the Enterprise in Season 6's "Relics" is bittersweet.  In the beginning, he is an annoyance to Geordi (and the audience) as he tries to assert himself in engineering.  Feeling the universe has past him by, he heads to Ten Forward for a bottle of Aldebaran whiskey, then to a holodeck to reconnect with the past.  That's where the magic happens...

The door opens to the bridge of a ship we know well: the Enterprise, Kirk's Enterprise.  I get goosebumps every time.  And a nostalgic tear for the first 1960s ping.

One could reasonably argue that Spock gets a better overall story - not to mention a Third Man-worthy entrance - in Season 5's two-parter, Unification.  But nothing in that episode pulls at the heart strings quite like seeing the original set again.

Top 10 Episodes

In order of original air date...

"Yesterday's Enterprise" (Season 3, Episode 15) - Our Enterprise (D) is thrown into an alternate history where the Federation is at war with the Klingons.  If that weren't complicated enough, Tasha Yar is back.  In this universe, she never died.  I'm usually not a big fan of time travel or alternate dimensions in Star Trek but this story hits all the right buttons.

"The Offspring" (3.16) - Data creates a daughter, Lal.  Even more fascinating than Data's experience of fatherhood is Lal's experience of being alive at all for a brief, tumultuous adventure.  Before "Darmok" changed my mind this time around, I had long considered "The Offspring" my favorite episode and it's still a not-too-distant second.  

"Sins of the Father" (3.17) - Obviously, I had to include a Worf episode and this is probably the most important one.  First, he discovers a brother he didn't know about.  Then he goes to the Klingon home world to help restore his family honor.  The episode is the third in the best three-episode run of the series.

"Family" (4.2) - Speaking of great three-episode runs, "Family" is the unofficial Part 3 of The Best of Both Worlds.  Picard visits the family vineyard in France.  We get a glimpse of the life our captain could have lived if he'd stayed on Earth, as well as insights into why he made another choice.  Most importantly, the story represents an emotional breakthrough for the character.  He exhibits a vulnerability we've never seen in an Enterprise captain before.

"Darmok" (5.2) - Simply the best.  See above.

"I, Borg" (5.23) - The Borg arc takes a crucial turn when our heroes rescue an abandoned drone.  If one of the collective can be restored to individuality, is there hope for the future in confronting the Borg?  Guest star Jonathan Del Arco is perfect as Hugh, the drone.  On top of everything else this story is, it's Geordi La Forge's best episode.

"The Inner Light" (5.25) - Picard is transported into another life.  He becomes Kamin on the planet Kataan where he lives for forty years, has a family and friends and learns to play the flute.  The episode is simply beautiful.  Paired with "Family" especially, we learn quite a lot about the man behind the uniform.

"Chain of Command, Part II" (6.11) - Picard is captured and tortured by the Cardassians.  No NextGen episode gives Patrick Stewart as much room to flex his acting muscles as this one does.  I don't know of any actor on stage or screen who plays Man Pushed to the Edge of Madness better than Stewart.

"Lower Decks" (7.15) - This episode almost deserves a spot on the list for the concept alone.  The story follows not our usual principals but a group of junior officers plus their bartender buddy, Ben, providing a glimpse behind the scenes of a world we've come to know pretty well seven seasons in.  It worked well enough to inspire an animated spin-off series 26 years later.  When they added the Sito Jaxa story, an already excellent episode became one of Star Trek's very best.

"All Good Things..." (7.25 & 26) - The series finale pushes all the right buttons.  Every great story ending feels like the beginning of a new, exciting chapter in the lives of the characters.  As Jean-Luc sits down with his senior officers at the poker table for the first time, we all know the moment marks a shift in his relationship with his subordinates.  The stage is set not only for the movies but for Picard's Season 3 which would air in 2023.

Essential Viewing Guide

The following list is admittedly subjective.  It's a tour through the NextGen storylines that are most important to me.  There's no Lwaxanna Troi nor Vash nor Alexander.  Time travel and space-time anomalies are kept to a minimum.  It is not an exhaustive list of all good episodes.  I've left out a few that are exceptional and, indeed, included a few that aren't but which are important for insights into arcs that are meaningful to me.  It's the quick tour I, your faithful Squid, would take you on if you asked because simply watching my Top 10 wouldn't be quite enough - whereas it would be sufficient for the original series.

In original broadcast order...

"11001001" (1.16)
"Elementary, Dear Data" (2.3)
"Q Who" (2.16)
"Yesterday's Enterprise" (3.15)
"The Offspring" (3.16)
"Sins of the Father" (3.17)
"Family" (4.2)
"Darmok" (5.2)
"I, Borg" (5.23)
"The Inner Light" (5.25)
"Relics" (6.4)
"Chain of Command, Part II" (6.11)
"Ship in a Bottle" (6.12)
"Lower Decks" (7.15)
"All Good Things..." (7.25 & 26)

My Best Unused (So Far) Spinoff Idea: Star Trek: Klingon

As 2023 comes to an end with Star Trek still thriving, the franchise's greatest shortcoming is still the inadequate exploration of non-human cultures.  Thanks to Worf's character arc, The Next Generation examined Klingons more than any other species.  The next logical step would be a series actually based in Qo'noS, the Klingon home world.  If you must have a human protagonist (and for the record, that would defeat the purpose for me), they could be a diplomat or a spy.  The expat perspective is inherently interesting.  Or if it has to be on a spaceship, why not a Klingon vessel?  "The Inner Light" even reveals the power of stories in a civilian context.

Maybe Worf himself is the best in: a Klingon in whom the faithful are already invested.  Worf has more Star Trek screen appearances than any other character and yet there are still plenty of gaps in his life story left to explore.  

The Ranking of Series

The Next Generation would never have happened without the original series.  I readily acknowledge that.  I also acknowledge that in many ways, it's an apples to oranges comparison.  The narrative objectives of the two shows were different and thus judging one by the standards of the other is not entirely fair.

The fact is, by the third season, the originals were clearly running out of steam.  Some of the episodes - "Spock's Brain," "The Way to Eden" - were practically unwatchable.  Sure, TNG had its ups and downs, too, but they still made it to Season 7 before the well was obviously starting to run dry.  And they still managed to finish strong.

1. The Next Generation


This is a long post.  If you made it this far, congratulations and thank you.  It will be all Deep Space Nine for a while now and to be honest, I rather like it that way.  

Tuesday, December 26, 2023

Squid Mixes: Kiss the Boys Good-Bye

A Kiss the Boys Good-Bye combines brandy, sloe gin, lemon juice and egg whites.  I got my recipe from The New York Bartender's Guide.  I can't find any etymological origin though I expect the name has something to do with the high lemon juice content: 1.5 oz per drink.  It is definitely enough to make your lips pucker.  My wife reports that all of the egg white drinks we've tried so far go down easy.  It helps that she's a big lemon fan.

As you can see in the photo, I achieved a much more satisfying head of foam this time.  I employed the reverse dry shake: you shake all the ingredients with the ice, take the ice out, then shake what's left again.  Not only does it produce more foam than the dry shake did (see two weeks ago) but since you've already taken the ice out, it's much easier to pour any residual foam out of the shaker at the end.  Clearly, the reverse dry shake is a technique worth remembering.

Friday, December 22, 2023

Star Trek: All Good Things...

Episode: "All Good Things..."
Series: Star Trek: The Next Generation
Season 7, Episodes 25 & 26
Original Air Date: May 23, 1994

via Memory Alpha

Picard is flashing back and forth between different points of his own life: the current NextGen Season 7 time, 25 years into the future and seven years into the past when he first took command of the Enterprise.  In all three points, he eventually confronts the same problem: a spatial anomaly in the Devron System.  Eventually, we learn that Q, of course, is behind all of this time jumping.  What's more, Q tells the captain the anomaly is all Picard's fault and that if he doesn't fix the problem, humanity's very existence hangs in the balance.

So at last, we come to the end of the series.  "All Good Things..." is a feature-length episode, essentially a two-parter aired for the first time on one May 23rd evening.  Without question, it heaps on ample portions of Trek elements that usually send my eyes rolling: time travel, techno-babble and Q.  Yet it works.  Each principal, even Tasha Yar, gets their one-on-one moment with the captain.  Picard's triumph over his nemesis is satisfying.  The final scene with Picard sitting down at the weekly poker game for the first time is a sweet good-bye kiss, delivered with the gentle elegance only Patrick Stewart can bring.  

"All Good Things..." is considered by most critics as the best series finale of the franchise.  Indeed, it tends to do well on "best of" lists for all of television.  I worried it might lose something with the developments in Picard's Season 3.  After all, we know more now about how the canonic future plays out for these characters.  I feel I can confidently report, the impact of that final poker game scene hasn't diminished in the slightest.

Thoughts on Season Seven

General Impressions

To put it kindly, Season Seven is uneven.  More bluntly, it's frequently painful.  Beginning with the third episode ("Interface"), the writing staff could see the creative well was running dry.  Fortunately, there was still enough in reserve for a few gems, including a magical send-off.  

Favorite Episode: "All Good Things..."

This is not an easy choice.  As good as the finale is, I dearly love "Lower Decks" and still contend that it's built on one of the most refreshing premises of the entire run.  I'm glad for the animated series it inspired 26 years later.

"All Good Things..." hits all the right notes.  The producers intended it as a love letter to the fans and they could hardly have made it sweeter.

Least Favorite Episode: "Masks"

Unfortunately, there's no shortage of strong candidates for this dubious honor.  The idea for "Masks" is cool: the Enterprise encounters the floating archive of an extinct civilization.  The archive invades the ship's computer and, along with it, Data's programming.  It's an excellent set up for building on Picard's passion for archaeology.

The script for "Masks" was submitted by Joe Menosky while he was living in France so he wasn't around for the editing process.  The other writers did the best they could with it.  The result was terrible.  Even Brent Spiner's overacting through multiple personality changes couldn't save it.

Favorite Recurring Character: Sito Jaxa

via Memory Alpha

If any NextGen recurring character deserves a return episode, it's Sito Jaxa.  She was first introduced in Season 5's "The First Duty."  She returned as one of the fun gang of junior officers in "Lower Decks."  Her story turns serious when Picard assigns her to a dangerous mission.  She doesn't survive.

Or could she have?  We never see a body.  The original plan was for her death to be permanent but I wasn't the only faithful viewer who was impressed.  There was an unrealized plan for a DS9 episode in which she turned up as a survivor of a Cardassian military prison.  On Memory Alpha, she is listed as "Reported KIA" so... maybe someday.  

Favorite Blast from the Past: Robin Curtis

Robin Curtis took over the role of Saavik in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock when Kirstie Alley gave up the part for fear of being typecast.  In Season 7, Curtis came back to the fold in order to play the duplicitous Tallera/T'Pal in the two-parter, Gambit.  It's a fun character - more dynamic than Saavik, in fact.  Curtis has made no further Trek appearances since.

Favorite Guest Actor, One Shot: Bruce Beatty

via Memory Alpha

Sito Jaxa was not the only "Lower Decks" character who left me wanting more.  Bruce Beatty played Ben, a bartender who, as a civilian, was able to float comfortably between social groups.  Guinan made no appearances in Season 7 so a new face in Ten Forward was most welcome.  Alas, Ben never returned.  

In fine Trek tradition, Beatty is an accomplished Shakespearean.  As a student, he attended a Shakespeare workshop led by none other than Patrick Stewart at the Paramount soundstage.  


In 1994, the torch was passed to Deep Space Nine as the standard bearer for the franchise.  By the end of Season 2, DS9 had hit its stride and was only going to get better.  Another spin-off was set to launch in January 1995.  In my opinion, Voyager's path was a rockier one, which will definitely make it fun to write about!

I'll have a long wrap up post for The Next Generation next week.

Tuesday, December 19, 2023

Squid Mixes: Boston Sour

A Boston Sour combines whiskey (I used rye), lemon juice, bar sugar and egg white with a lemon slice and maraschino cherry for garnish.  I got my recipe from The New York Bartender's Guide.  The result was indeed quite sour.  As my wife walked into the kitchen, she said "It smells like one of my drinks."  She really likes lemon, you see.

My wife enjoyed the drink but was underwhelmed by the foam.  She pointed out, correctly, that restaurant cocktails tend to have thicker foam.  I skipped the dry shake this time (see here) as the particular recipe didn't call for it.  That may have made a difference.  I also may try a reverse dry shake sometime (see here).  Apparently that makes it even foamier.  Could one do both?  And/or, one can use a protein shaker ball.  I also wonder if the shape of the glass matters.  Our current coupe has a very wide mouth.  Perhaps a thinner glass would result in a thicker foam layer.  Of course, I also wonder if a professional bartender is simply using more egg, thus achieving thicker foam.

More experiments to come.

Friday, December 15, 2023

Star Trek: The Collaborator

Episode: "The Collaborator"
Series: Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Season 2, Episode 24
Original Air Date: May 22, 1994

via Memory Alpha

The time has come for the election of a new Bajoran Kai.  Kira's lover, Vedek Bareil, is the expected choice.  But Vedek Winn is up to her usual machinations.  When Kubus Oak, a known Bajoran collaborator, arrives at the station, hoping to return to his home world from exile, Winn plants an idea in Kira's mind that Bareil, too, was involved in a regrettable decision during the Cardassian occupation.  Kira confronts Bareil to learn the truth.  As one might expect, the truth is complicated.

Any story involving Bajoran politics is important for setting Deep Space Nine apart from The Next Generation.  Star Trek traditionally holds such matters at a comfortable distance and then some.  The Enterprise never sticks around long enough to be bothered.  We're reminded, too, of the important spiritual elements at play in DS9, both for Kira as a believer and for Commander Sisko as the Emissary, a label he's got whether he wants it or not. 

"The Collaborator" includes an important seed for future stories.  When Kira confesses her love for Bareil to Odo, the constable's reaction is... surprising.  There's more than a hint of disappointment.  In hindsight, we know that Odo is himself in love with Kira.  This reaction was not written into the script, nor was it directed.  Rene Auberjonois made the choice himself.  Television is not generally considered to be an actor's medium.  Production is too tightly controlled.  Yet here, the actor made a deliberate move to drive his own character's development.  I love it!

Acting Notes

via Amazon

Bert Remsen (Kubus) was born in Glen Cove, New York, February 25, 1925.  He served in the U.S. Navy during World War II.  He was on the USS Laffey during the Battle of Okinawa.  His ship was hit by 22 kamikaze planes in 80 minutes.

Remsen had a long, fruitful association with director Robert Altman, appearing in several of his films including Brewster McCloud, California Split and Nashville.  Television work included a regular role in Gibbsville and recurring roles in It's a Living and Dallas.  Remsen had a second career as a casting director, particularly in television for such shows as The F.B.I. and The Rookies.

He passed away in 1999.

Tuesday, December 12, 2023

Squid Mixes: Clover Club Cocktail

A Clover Club Cocktail combines gin, dry vermouth, lemon juice, raspberry syrup and egg white.  I got my recipe from The Joy of Mixology by Gary Regan.  Regan also suggests skewered raspberries for garnish but my wife didn't see ones she liked at the store.  The drink hails from Philadelphia, named for a social society which frequented the Belleview-Stafford.

With this drink, I cross a threshold as a mixologist: eggs.  You know all those cocktails you see with a thick head of foam?  That's from egg whites.  I've avoided such recipes for a while, mostly because of the hassle of first separating the white and then needing something to do with the yolk.  Fortunately, one can buy already separated whites by the carton.  

According to Regan, you begin with a dry shake, another first for me.  Basically, you shake the ingredients together first before adding ice.  This helps work up the foam.  Then you add ice and shake as normal.  

We enjoyed the result.  "Goes down easy," my wife said.  It's quite sweet, no doubt thanks to the raspberry syrup, which also provides the rich red color.  The egg whites will keep refrigerated for a few weeks, leaving ample opportunity for more experiments.  Stay tuned.

Monday, December 11, 2023

On the Coffee Table: Mohsin Hamid

Title: Exit West
Author: Mohsin Hamid

via Target

Nadia and Saeed are young professionals in an unnamed, predominantly Muslim country (Hamid is Pakistani though he never identifies the nation as such).  The two meet and fall in love just as civil war breaks out.  Eventually, they are forced to leave through magic doors to lands far distant: first the Greek island of Mykonos, then London, finally northern California.  Through them, we see the broad view of the refugee experience.

There's no shortage of harsh tales about refugee camps.  I highly recommend the work of Joe Sacco, for instance.  Exit West isn't like that.  The story follows the two lovers as they do their best to live a normal life through it all.  There is poverty and plenty of violence.  While the protagonists occasionally walk into difficult situations, the author always pulls the punch before they come to any real harm.  It can feel like a cop out but in a way, it's refreshing.  The refugee life is not painted as disastrous.  It is a difficult path millions tread every day.  But it's not a death sentence.

That said, the instantly teleporting doors themselves - really the only element of magical realism in the book - do feel like a shorthand so Hamid doesn't have to write about the migration experience itself.  The same basic narrative could have been told without them.

Through it all is the story of young love.  The two fall in love and eventually fall out of it.  That story, too, could have been told without the trappings of the refugee experience.  I suppose the reverse is also true - their story could have been told about a family, a pair of friends, a single person, etc.  But in this case, the love story contributes to the sense of normalcy.  While their migration complicates things, they are still also just two people figuring out how/if to fit into one another's lives.  

I've tabbed the post as "children's literature" as our child was assigned to read it their senior year of high school.  Both sex and drugs are part of the couple's experience though nothing is graphic or explicit.  So, it's a good read for an older, thoughtful teenager on up.

Friday, December 8, 2023

Star Trek: Preemptive Strike

Episode: "Preemptive Strike"
Series: Star Trek: The Next Generation
Season 7, Episode 24
Original Air Date: May 16, 1994

via Memory Alpha

Lieutenant Ro is back, just in time to be sent on an intelligence mission to infiltrate the Maquis.  The mission tests her loyalties.  She wants to prove herself to Starfleet and certainly wishes to avoid disappointing Picard.  But her resentment of the Cardassians runs deep, thus so does her sympathy for the Maquis cause.  She forms attachments, quickly leading to experiencing painful loss.  In the end, she must make a difficult choice.

This was the best episode in a while (an admittedly low bar).  It makes sense to tie off the loose ends for one of the more popular secondary characters, though Michelle Forbes (Ro) was not exactly on the producers' list of favorites at this point.  Forbes had rejected an offer of a principal role on DS9.  The end of this episode was intended to allow for her story to continue on the soon-to-be-launched Voyager.  She turned that down, too.  Right move on her part?  Hard to say.  She's had a reasonably successful TV career on other series since, though nothing with Star Trek's staying power.  Then again, the broader Trek responsibilities - conventions and such - were not so appealing to her.  Ro would not return again until "Imposter," episode 5 in Picard's 3rd season, 29 years later.

Acting Notes

via Tardis Wiki

John Franklyn-Robbins played Macias, leader of the Maquis cell Ro infiltrates.  Franklyn-Robbins was born in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, England, December 14, 1924.  He trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London.  

On stage, he was an accomplished Shakespearean, parts ranging from Ariel in The Tempest to Macduff in Macbeth.  He had many appearances on British television, including such classics shows as The Avengers, I, Claudius and Doctor Who.  Films included Overlord, Mrs. Dalloway and The Golden Compass.  

John Franklyn-Robbins passed away in 2009.  

Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Squid Mixes: The Bedford

The Bedford combines rye, Dubonnet Rouge, Cointreau and orange bitters with an orange twist.  I got my recipe from The Joy of Mixology by Gary Regan who adapted it from the original created by Del Pedro at Grange Hall in New York.

We both found the flavor to be a bit thin.  My wife feels the absinthe in last week's Phoebe Snow offset the Dubonnet's grapiness nicely and there was nothing to play that role here.  Of course, you know what they say: absinthe makes the heart grow fonder.

But seriously, folks...

I wondered if it was the rye: Tin Cup, a new brand for us.  But when I tried it on its own, it was quite flavorful.  Maybe a bit more from the citrus players would help.  Regan calls for only a teaspoon of the Cointreau and 2 dashes of the orange bitters.  I'd say double the Cointreau at least.

Oh well.  You can't win 'em all.

Friday, December 1, 2023

Star Trek: Crossover

Episode: "Crossover"
Series: Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Season 2, Episode 23
Original Air Date: May 15, 1994

Garak episode!

And it's also a mirror universe episode, the first of five for Deep Space Nine.  The masterful original series episode "Mirror, Mirror" introduced an alternate reality in which treacherous ambition is the basis of Enterprise culture and its broader society.  The Kira and Bashir of the "normal" universe stumble into this opposite dimension as a result of an accident in the wormhole.  Kira encounters her double, the iron-fisted ruler of the mirror Deep Space Nine.  Fortunately, Mirror Kira likes Normal Kira, preferring to keep her around.  Bashir is less lucky.  He's thrown into the ore processing mines to work as a slave with Mirror Odo as ruthless overseer.

For me, the story itself is not as interesting as what happens to each of our friends once self-interest is the primary character driver.  The mirror universe has lived its own history since Kirk's visit.  Mirror Spock preached peaceful reforms which gained traction for a while but ultimately weakened the Empire.  The Klingon-Cardassian Alliance is now in ascendance with the Bajorans as key players.  As such, most of the Starfleet characters on the normal side don't have mirror equivalents - yet.  There are no mirrors for Dax, Bashir or Jake in "Crossover."  As for the others...

In terms of power status, Kira has benefited the most from mirror universe circumstances.  As "Intendant," she is top dog on the station.  Others fear and envy her, submitting to her wishes.  She also has a target on her back.  Garak and Odo are her thugs.  Neither is shy about using his position and talents to exact cruelty to maintain order.  Garak is the one most eager to betray Kira for his own political gain.  All three fit our expectations from previous experience in this dimension.  The other mirrors are more interesting.

In a world where greed is king, Quark, the normal side's heartless opportunist, has found empathy. Mirror Quark helps others, including our normal universe friends, escape from the station at great personal risk.  Morally, Mirror Miles isn't so different, though his job certainly is.  Now, he's just a grunt, essentially a slave himself.  His technical gifts make him valuable and keep him out of harm's way - until Julian comes along and rocks the boat, that is.  Mirror Quark and Mirror Miles demonstrate that it's not the people who've "gone bad" in this alternate reality.  The rules have changed.  Individual responses to those changes determine who they are.

Most intriguing of all is Mirror Sisko.  Station commander on one side has become space pirate on the other.  The Intendant gives Mirror Sisko free rein because, as he puts it, he amuses her.  The strong implication is that he is her lover, essentially a kept man.  There are also hints, as the story develops, that Mirror Sisko is not entirely happy with the arrangement even if it does help to keep him alive.

Clearly, there's plenty to build on here.  We'll return to the mirror universe in Season 3.

Acting Notes

John Cothran, Jr. played the role of Telak, a Klingon and another of Mirror Kira's thugs.  Cothran was born October 31, 1947 in St. Louis, Missouri.  "Crossover" is his second of three Star Trek television appearances.  He has also appeared in two interactive games.  Films include Opportunity Knocks, Boyz n the Hood and The Perfect Game.  Beyond Trek, television guest spots include Seinfeld, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and ER.