(no subject)

Sep. 26th, 2017 07:51 am
bitterlawngnome: (Default)
[personal profile] bitterlawngnome

Nagymező utca 19, Budapest; 6797
© Bill Pusztai 2017

This sort of apartment block built around a central courtyard is very common in the older parts of Pest. You'll look in the front door of an apartment block apparently crumbling and neglected, blank and undistinguished from its neighbours, and see hints of a lush and well-kept inner courtyard garden, prettily painted walls and shutters, and every sign of a place well-loved and cared for. It's a metaphor for how the culture works actually. Public faces are allowed to be barren and brutal, partly because you don't want to look wealthy and therefore become a target, and partly because public life was so ruthlessly brutalized under the Russians. You see it in many ways overt and subtle, and it makes the city intriguing and many-layered.

In a commercial building, sometimes every apartment on the first, second and even third floor will be occupied by a different small business, sometimes exceedingly specialised. Luggage zipper repair, a maker of shopping bags and backpacks embroidered with cartoon figures, a shisha bar with two small tables and an espresso machine, the office of bicycle tour guide, a record store that's clearly been there for 50+ years, a seller of nuts and seeds for making pastry (who grinds them for you on the spot), a tailor who specialises in clothes echoing late Habsburg styles, a tattoo shop with one chair and no obvious sterile facilities.

more, and some notes )

Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof (Main Train Station); 2751
© Bill Pusztai 2017

Now we are back in Frankfurt, and the unpacking starts for me.

jkusters: (Default)
[personal profile] jkusters
Anyone who knows me for even a brief time learns fairly quickly that I'm an old school Trekkie. I've been a fan of the show since early childhood, can name any TOS episode within a couple seconds of the beginning of the episode, and used to have all the star dates memorized. I quite enjoyed all of the subsequent offerings, some more than others. I even enjoy the JJ Abrams movies, though I consider them more "Star Trek Anime" than mainline Trek. So, it was with great anticipation that I sat down to watch the newest offering, Star Trek: Discovery.

It did not win me over in the pilot, two-part episode, sadly. It was definitely Star Trek, and there was a lot I liked, but overall I felt disappointed. I will try to capture both the positive and negative thoughts about the show shortly. But I do intend to keep watching, remembering the pain that was the first episode of nearly every Trek show to date. Can you imagine judging all of The Next Generation simply from "Encounter at Far Point"?

So, on to the review... Oh, be warned, SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS!!!

There Be Klingons!

I'm okay with the visual redesign of the Klingons. Every generation puts their own spin on the venerable enemy, and this new version isn't any better or worse than previous ones. (And let me go on record to say I disliked Enterprise's attempt to reconcile the visual differences between the different generations of Klingons. I was perfectly fine with Gene's explanation that the Klingons from The Motion Picture, which were modernized into the Klingons of TNG and DS9 shows, were what the Klingons from TOS were always supposed to look like.)

I do kind of like the thought of a rogue member of a disgraced house being the one to try and unite the Great Houses with his crew of outcasts. The guy with nothing to lose is, thematically, the best person to kick off such a conflagration. And if he feels that the Klingons have lost their edge and stopped being a warrior race, what better way to hone the species than a major war with a neighboring power? My big gripe is that they seemed as fervent as a group of radical, fundamentalist religious members. But I recognize that's more my problem with fundamentalists of any stripe than a story problem.

But I found myself drifting way during the ponderous scenes involving the Klingons. The decision to make all of those scenes with Klingon language dialog, paced slowly to make sure that the viewers could read the caption, just did not work for me. It made the scenes slow, and I kept tuning out, then having to re-focus my attention on reading the text if I wanted to know what was happening. Marc Okrand, the inventor of the language, claims that it should be spoken rapid-fire, as if giving commands on the bridge of a Klingon ship in the heat of battle. This was anything but rapid-fire. I wish they had found some way, as they did in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, to have them speaking in Klingon but us hearing it as English. It would have made those scenes more bearable.

And speaking of things slow and ponderous, it seemed to me that the costumes the Klingons were wearing, the highly filagreed armor, was perhaps too bulky. They all moved slowly, as if highly encumbered. For a warrior race that should value being able to move quickly and freely, that armor seemed all wrong. It didn't help that it was easily penetrated by their own weapons and the weapons that our heroes brought. If we are to see more Klingons, I hope the ditch the highly encumbering and apparently useless armor for something more practical.

Oh, and somehow only T'Kuvma has a cloaking device. Where did he get it from? No idea. I don't think he developed it on his own, and I doubt that he made personal inquiries to the Romulans to obtain the technology. As with many things in the show, it seemed a technology far too advanced for the era depicted.

The USS Shenzhou

Overall, I liked the ship. Sadly, we probably won't see it again.

I liked the "lateral vector transporters" and that it was considered antiquated. Though I do wonder how they went from the transporters they showed in Enterprise (the more familiar vertical format) to the lateral kind and then back by the time of TOS.

I liked that the bridge was on the bottom of the saucer section, though I did wonder if there was a particular reason for it other than it seemed cool at the time.

I did not like that the technology seemed considerably far ahead of what we would see in TOS, which is supposed to happen ten years after the events shown in Discovery (I think ten years is too short, if Kirk is reading about the Klingon-Federation war as a past subject in Star Fleet Academy a decade or more before he took command of the Enterprise). Emergency force fields protecting the bridge? Free-standing forcefields around the cells of the brig? In the TOS era, force fields were reserved for doorways and similar easily constrained areas. That Shenzhou can have arbitrarily shaped force fields, and ones that can open holes in the field, seems far too advanced for the era.

I also found many of the inhabitants of the bridge to be anomalous. We had a guy with some kind of wrap-around metal and plastic prosthetic, we had what appeared to be a robot with several small displays for a face, we had some person with wires extending from wrist to fingertips, and some kind of alien with asymmetric patterns on its skin. What was that wraparound prosthetic? Was he like Lobot from The Empire Strikes Back? Was the robot looking thing an alien with an encounter suit? Or was it actually a robot? If a robot, was it sentient, like Data? (That would violate canon, since Data was supposed to be the first artificial life form serving on a Federation ship.) What was the purpose of those wires on that persons fingers? We also seemed to have a lot of nameless crewmen and -women. I guess that's expected since the ship doesn't make it past the pilot, but still it felt strange.

Also, holographic communications? I don't recall the Federation ships having such technology in TOS days.

But as I said, overall, I like the look of the ship. I'm slightly disappointed that we probably won't be seeing it again.

Captain Philippa Georgiou

I liked her as a captain. A temperament equally balanced between boldness and caution, willing to listen to her officers, but willing to make hard calls. I also quite enjoyed what seemed to be a wry sense of humor. And she seemed very dedicated to her crew. Her death seemed to be such a waste. We never really got to know her well, which is a pity. Maybe some day we can see the earlier adventures of Georgiou and her ship.

One thing I did not like about her, though, was her decision to use the Klingon dead as a means to deliver a photon torpedo warhead onto the nameless Klingon ship. That did not seem to be the principled actions of a Star Fleet captain, especially one trying to avoid an all-out war.

Commander Michael Burnham

I wanted to like Commander, the focus of the series. But she failed to win me over. Her actions continually seemed at odds with her history and stated intentions.

We didn't get enough information about her background and what led her to be Sarek's ward. Something about a Human/Vulcan science outpost, attacked by Klingons (whom we haven't seen in a hundred years, but who we know attacked the outpost), with Michael winding up being an orphan. And then, somehow, illogically, Sarek takes Michael into his household to mentor and mold? Why? Wouldn't have been better for Michael to send her to family elsewhere in the Federation? Why impose Vulcan training on an ill-prepared human child? She obviously failed to live up to Sarek's expectations of her.

And why did he bring her aboard the Shenzhou and then leave her in the care of Captain Georgiou? As far as I can tell, Michael did not attend Star Fleet Academy, and did not seem to come aboard the ship as a member of Star Fleet. And yet she rose to the rank of Commander and the position of First Officer? In seven years? I'm a bit incredulous.

And while I did enjoy the depiction of her friendship and interactions with Captain Georgiou, it turns out that when a crisis arose, the Captain learns the hard way that she never really knew her protege. That was jarring.

Actually, Burnham herself was jarring. For someone apparently raised in the Vulcan way, she seemed impetuous, thoughtless, rash, and prone to emotional outbursts. She took every opportunity to be insubordinate. Starting with her promise to only conduct a "fly by" scan of the anomalous object (the beacon), which she violated by choosing to land on it, to her eventual mutiny, she failed to follow orders and respect the chain of command. This is highly illogical, and decidedly anti-Vulcan. She was smart and resourceful, but rash, and untrue to her stated background. She even admits it:

"You wanna know how I turned on you? I believed saving you and the crew was more important than Starfleet's principles. Was it logical? Emotional? I don't know."
Finally, wasn't she the one who advocated for capturing the Klingon leader rather than killing him? Wasn't she the one afraid of making him a martyr? And then, when faced with him after he killed her captain, she just kills him? That made absolutely no sense whatsoever.

I suppose this is the foundation for the rest of the series, a redemption story of a person who took rash actions that resulted in a war, and how she atones for it. You need a flawed character for that story to work well. But why burden her with this whole "grew up on Vulcan" backstory if at every step along the way she goes against her teaching?

I hope she grows on me.

Final Thoughts

So, those are my thoughts on the show. There's promise, and perhaps it's just a "slow out of the gate" kind of thing, but overall I disliked it. The pacing was slow throughout most of the show, the technology seemed out of whack for the era in which it is placed, and the main character is not really very likable.

I will continue watching for at least a few more episodes. It's pretty clear that the pilot was mostly prologue for the real story, so I want to get a taste of that before making final decision. But at this point, it's not compelling.

Food Pr0n: Lemon-Artichoke Chicken

Sep. 23rd, 2017 08:15 pm
jss: (food)
[personal profile] jss
I did a variant of the lemon-artichoke chicken for dinner tonight. I made a couple of what in retrospect were poor choices.
  1. Salt and pepper boneless skinless chicken breasts.
  2. In a large skillet, melt 2 tbsp butter with 2 tbsp olive oil.
  3. Add the chicken, seasoned side down, into the oil. Cook about 4 minutes. While they're cooking salt and pepper the unseasoned side.
  4. After the 4 minutes, carefully flip them and cook another 4 minutes.
  5. Remove the chicken to a baking dish.
  6. To the skillet, add the zest and juice of a lemon and about 0.5 cup vodja.
  7. Scrape up the fond from the bottom of the skillet.
  8. Add 16 oz sour cream. Stir until the sauce is smooth.
  9. In the baking dish, top the chicken with about 1.5 lbs of artichoke hearts (drained if they were in liquid).
  10. Top the chicken-n-chokes with the sauce.
  11. Sprinkle on 2 cups of parmesan cheese.
  12. Sprinkle on 2 cups of panko breadcrumbs.
  13. Bake 35 minutes at 350˚F.
I served it with roasted garlic mashed potatoes and a simple starter salad (Romaine, red onion, grape tomato, cheddar and mozzarella cheeses, bacon bits, blue cheese dressing, and fresh cracked black pepper).

The poor choices: First, I should've used either smaller breasts or boneless skinless thighs. I would up having to cook them longer in the pan (4 not 3 minutes per side) and an extra 5 in the oven to make sure they'd cooked through. Second, I used a new microplane (as part of a box grater) instead of the old one (which was a single large strip of 3 or 4 different width graters). The new box grater's microplane side kept about 2/3 of the zest on it and it wouldn't come out cleanly. I wound up losing about half the total zest.

Even with those mistakes it came out okay. And I have leftovers for tomorrow!

(no subject)

Sep. 19th, 2017 04:14 pm
bitterlawngnome: (Default)
[personal profile] bitterlawngnome

Budapest / Bullet Holes; 6774
© Bill Pusztai 2017

(no subject)

Sep. 19th, 2017 11:41 am
bitterlawngnome: (Default)
[personal profile] bitterlawngnome

from the train window between Munich and Saltzberg; 6553
© Bill Pusztai 2017

from the train window between Munich and Saltzberg; 6629
© Bill Pusztai 2017

from the train window between Munich and Saltzberg; 6722
© Bill Pusztai 2017

(no subject)

Sep. 17th, 2017 06:45 am
bitterlawngnome: (Default)
[personal profile] bitterlawngnome

the Aspark Owl; 1396
© Bill Pusztai 2017

Well, I'm in Europe. Frankfurt right now. It's all a bit overwhelming, largely due to the jetlag which is really kicking my ass. We have completed shooting the auto show and spent some time yesterday sightseeing.

Frankfurt, pollarded sycamores by the river; 6350
© Bill Pusztai 2017

More later.

September 2017

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