“TOM JONES” (1963) Review

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“TOM JONES” (1963) Review

Recently, I searched my memories for any movies produced outside of the United States that not only won the Academy Award for Best Picture, but I would also consider a personal favorite of mine. Only one came to mind – the 1963 movie, “TOM JONES”

“TOM JONES” turned out to be the second non-Hollywood film that won the coveted Oscar prize. Directed by Tony Richardson, the movie is an adaptation of Henry Fielding’s 1749 novel, “The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling”, about the coming-of-age and misadventures of an illegitimate young man, raised by a landowner in mid-18th century England. I might as well start from the beginning. Sometime during the 1720s, one Squire Allworthy returned home to his Somerset estate and found an abandoned infant in his bedroom. Demanding to learn the identity of the infant’s parents, the Squire learned from his housekeeper and other servants that the child’s parents were a local schoolmaster named Partridge and a servant girl named Jenny Jones. Squire Allworthy banished both from the immediate neighborhood and became the baby’s new guardian.

Named Tom Jones, the infant grew up to become a charming, handsome and slightly roguish young. He also became friendly with most of the locals, especially his guardian’s neighbor, Squire Western. Tom’s good looks and charm not only captured the eyes of Squire Western’s only child, Sophie, but also Molly Seagrim, the promiscuous daughter of a local poacher named Black George Seagrim. But malignant forces in the form of Squire Allworthy’s venomous nephew, Mr. Blifil, the tutors for both young men – Mr. Thwackum and Mr. Square, and Tom’s own personal vices; eventually lead Squire Allworthy to order the young hero’s departure from the Allworthy estate. Tom sets out for London, where more acquaintances and adventures await.

I first saw the Best Picture Oscar winner, “TOM JONES”, on television, when I was in my early teens. And I immediately fell in love. Mind you, my love for the movie has not blinded me from its flaws that are featured in the last ten minutes. It felt so rushed. And it seemed as if director Tony Richardson had retold Henry Fielding’s tale with a great deal of detail and atmosphere, before he lost his impatience and rushed the last few minutes of the movie’s narrative. Richardson and screenwriter John Osbourne never allowed the audiences to witness Lawyer Dowling’s revelation to Squire Allworthy of the details in the letter written by the Squire’s late sister, Mrs. Bridget Allworthy Blifil. Instead, they allowed the Mrs. Waters character to break the fourth wall and inform the audiences of the letter’s contents. I found this very frustrating, especially since the audience was denied the Squire’s immediate reaction. I also found the appearance of Lieutenant Norton, the Army officer whom Tom prevented from harming Mrs. Waters on the journey to London. By some bad coincidence, Norton managed to rejoin the Army and ended up leading the detail that escorted Tom to a public execution. For me, this is coincidence of the cheap kind. But as I had stated earlier, my complaints are few.

Overall, “TOM JONES” strikes me as a beautiful and lively film to watch. I have the feeling that it ushered in a new style for period movies on both sides of the Atlantic. One, the movie lacked the gloss that marred the realism of most costume dramas before 1963. Richardson approached the story’s earthiness, sexuality and violence with a great deal of realism without any overindulgence. Prime examples of the director’s approach could be found in famous scenes like Tom and Mrs. Waters’ lusty supper at the Upton Inn, Tom and Mr. Partridge’s colorful entry into mid-18th century London, and the fox hunt sequence that still delivers quite a cinematic punch after fifty years. Richardson also utilized a filming style used in comedies from the silent era with great effect in scenes that included Squire Allworthy’s discovery of the infant Tom and the romantic chaos that ensued following Mr. Fitzgerald’s erroneous interruption of Tom and Mrs. Waters’ nocturnal activities at Upton.

I have to express my admiration for John McCorry’s costumes. I believe they perfectly reflected the fashions for all classes in Britain of the 1740s, without any pesky 20th century influences. Both Ralph W. Brinton’s production designs and Josie MacAvin’s set decorations conveyed Richardson’s earthy and realistic view of mid-18th century Britain. Brinton and MacAvin earned Oscar nominations, along with Ted Marshall for his art direction. “TOM JONES” was filmed mainly in the rural areas of Somerset and Dorset. And Walter Lassally’s photography captured the beauty of the English countryside with a natural elegance and zest that I found very appealing. It seemed a pity that he was not recognized with an Oscar nomination. I feel he deserved it . . . especially for his work on the fox hunt and London arrival sequences. On the other hand, John Addison won the Best Score Oscar for his work on the film. I cannot deny that I found his music for the film truly outstanding. It beautifully captured the spirit and atmosphere of the movie’s setting. Despite my pure satisfaction of Addison’s score, a part of me still wishes that Elmer Bernstein had won that Oscar for the “HOW THE WEST WAS WON” score.

I read somewhere that Albert Finney found the character of Tom Jones something of a bore. If he did find the character boring, it is a credit to his acting skills and perseverance that his boredom never appeared in his performance. In fact, I believe he gave a sparkling, charismatic and star-making portrayal of one of the most charming and roguish characters in English literature . . . and earned a Best Picture Oscar nomination for his work. I have no idea how Susannah York felt about the character of Sophie Western. For me, it does not matter. She was a delight, as far as I am concerned. More importantly, she infused a great deal of fire into her performance, reminding viewers that despite the well-mannered and elegant appearance, she is her father’s daughter. Speaking of Squire Western, Hugh Griffith seemed to be having a ball, portraying the lively and somewhat coarse landowner, Squire Western. It was not surprising to learn that he had earned a Best Supporting Actor nomination for his performance. Three other cast members earned Oscar nominations – Edith Evans, who gave an energetic performance as Squire Western’s caustic and snobbish sister; Diane Cilento, whose portrayal of Molly Seagrim seemed to be an interesting mixture of sexiness and desperation; and Joyce Readman, who radiated a more mature sexiness in her portrayal of Mrs. Waters, Tom’s famous companion at the Upton Inn.

I do wish the Academy had considered Joan Greenwood for a nomination. I was very impressed by her subtle, yet malevolent portrayal of the lustful, yet insidious Lady Bellaston. The movie also featured some solid performances from the likes of George Devine, who gave a solid and heart-warming performance as Squire Allworthy; David Tomlinson as the sexually aggresive Lord Fellamar; Jack MacGowran as Tom’s faithful companion, Partridge; and George A. Cooper as Sophie’s hot-headed cousin-in-law, Mr. Fitzpatrick. Four other performances struck me as noteworthy. One came from Rachel Kempson, who not only gave a brief, yet solid performance as Bridget Allworthy Blifil, but also happened to be Richardson’s mother-in-law. The second one belonged to well-known character actor David Warner. “TOM JONES”not only featured his film debut, but also featured the first of many villainous roles he would portray over the years. Also in the movie was Julian Glover, who also made an impressive film debut in “TOM JONES” as a villain, namely Lieutenant Northerton. And Richardson’s sister-in-law, Lynn Redgrave, made her film debut in a brief scene as a maid at Upton Inn.

I read somewhere that Tony Richardson was never satisfied with his work on “TOM JONES”. According to cinematographer Walter Lassally, an unsatisfied Richardson tinkered a bit too much with the movie’s editing during the post-production period. Perhaps that is why the movie is not particularly perfect. But neither Richardson’s unsatisfied tinkering or Albert Finney’s boredom with the main character could mar what became one of my favorite Oscar winning movies of all time . . . or cause Richardson to lose his Best Director Oscar. After half a century, “TOM JONES” has lost none of its magic.

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“LAST VEGAS” (2013) Review

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“LAST VEGAS” (2013) Review

When I first saw the trailer for “LAST VEGAS”, my first impression was that it was some kind of senior version of “THE HANGOVER” or one of those comedy road trip movies featuring four friends. It did not strike me as an original movie, but it looked entertaining and I decided to go see it anyway. 

Directed by Jon Turteltaub and written by Dan Fogelman, “LAST VEGAS” is a story about a quartet of long time friends in their late sixties who gather in Las Vegas to attend a wedding. While giving an eulogy at the funeral of a friend, Billy spontaneously proposes marriage to his 32 year-old girlfriend. Several weeks later, he announces his engagement to at least two of his friends – Archie and Sam. Archie, who feels like a prisoner of his son’s following a mild stroke, sneaks away. Sam, who has become slightly embittered over his Florida retirement, is encouraged by his wife to go on the trip and even consider one night of adultery to get his mojo back. Both Archie and Sam meet in their old Brooklyn neighborhood to convince the last member of the old quartet – Paddy – to join them on the trip to Vegas. There is a difficult. Paddy is angry over Billy’s failure to attend his wife’s funeral, but Archie manages to convince him to accompany them.

When the four friends meet in Vegas, they try to check into an old hotel on Fremont Street. Unfortunately, the hotel has been transformed into an unsuccessful nightclub, where they meet a sexy, aging singer named Diana. Both Paddy and Billy, who is awaiting his young fiancée, become attracted to her. Thanks to Archie’s successful spell at a hotel casino on the Strip, the four friends are comped by the hotel to stay in one of their suites. While Archie and Sam set out to enjoy themselves, Billy and Paddy deal with their conflict over the latter’s late wife and Diana.

I might as well be frank. “LAST VEGAS” is not exactly a comedy classic. Nor does it have an original script. A lot of the movie is spent with the four seniors musing over aging and trying to pretend that they can still party hard. Not only would I never consider “LAST VEGAS” as one of the best films for any of the four leads, I would never consider it one of their best works during the later stages of their career. But I knew that coming in. One look at the movie’s trailer pretty much told me what kind of movie this would be.

But you know what? Despite the lack of originality and hardcore partying (PG-rated), “LAST VEGAS” turned out to be a very entertaining film. Hell, it was a lot of fun to watch. Thanks to Fogelman’s script, the movie was filled with some sharp wit and funny moments. Among the latter was Archie’s “difficult” escape from his New Jersey home, the four friends acting as judges at a swimsuit contest around the hotel’s swimming pool, Billy and Diana’s ride on what I believe was the Stratosphere. I could be wrong about the latter. Fogelman’s script was slightly elevated by a few scenes of pathos involving Billy and Paddy’s conflict over the latter’s wife, thanks to the actors involved.

Speaking of the actors, it is quite apparent that this movie owed a lot to the five leads. Mind you, Fogelman wrote an entertaining, yet unoriginal script. And Jon Turteltaub infused a great deal of energy into his direction. A great deal. The movie also benefited from solid performances from supporting players like Romany Malco, Jerry Ferrara, Weronika Rosati, Joanna Gleason and Michael Ealy. But one might as well face it. Without the four male leads and the sole female lead, I doubt that I would have ever found this movie amusing, let alone funny. Both Turteltaub and Fogelman owed a great deal to Michael Douglas, Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman, Kevin Kline and Mary Steenburgen. Not only did the four men proved to have strong chemistry with each other, Steenburgen added a good deal of her own chemistry with the team. She especially managed to click with Douglas and De Niro.

As I had earlier stated, “LAST VEGAS” is not a comedy classic. Nor did I find it particularly original. I would never list it as one of the best movies of 2013. But I cannot deny that I found it both witty and funny, thanks to Dan Fogelman’s script. Jon Turteltaub’s direction injected a great deal of energy into the story. And the movie overall really benefited from a strong cast lead by Michael Douglas, Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman, Kevin Kline and Mary Steenburgen. “LAST VEGAS” may not have been great, but I found it very entertaining.

“The Rain Chronicles” [PG] – Book VII

 

“The Rain Chronicles” [PG] – Book VII

Rain Robinson of ”Future’s End” ends up on Voyager, following her adventures with Tom Paris and Tuvok in late 20th century Earth. Here is Book VII. 

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RAIN ROBINSON – JULY 31, 2373:

Ten days. Ten days have passed since my fight with Tom. And we haven’t uttered one word to each other. Hell, at least three-quarters of the crew aren’t speaking to me. They all believe that I had condoned Vorik’s actions during his pon farr. And none of this might have happened if I had kept my big mouth shut. Jesus!

Aunt Sarah was right. I should learn to control my tongue. And my temper. But it’s hard to do that whenever I encounter stupidity or hypocrisy. I guess I’m just too blunt. Too frank. No wonder I’ve always had trouble maintaining a relationship. And I think I’ve just ruined another one.

My mother once told me that although Humans make a big deal about valuing the truth, many of them can’t really handle it. Deep down, they don’t want to face reality, so they escape through a lot of pleasure, easy solutions, illusions and sometimes, intolerance. She also added that when someone exposes the truth, it’s usually the messenger who is usually blamed. What she tried to tell me is that I should learn to be a little more diplomatic when dealing with the feelings and opinions of others.

Somehow, word of my fight with Tom got around. And now, I’m being blamed for “taking Vorik’s side”. What makes this even worse is that the real perputrator of the whole mess is pon farr. Biology. How in the hell can you punish a physiological condition? You can’t. Instead, you punish the poor bastard who had been inflicted by it. Namely Vorik. And you also blame the dumb idiot, whose words robbed you of a scapegoat. The same idiot who could not keep her damn mouth shut. Or control her temper.

Aside from Tuvok and Vorik (whom I haven’t seen in days), the only crewmen who seemed willing to speak to me were Jenny, Megan, Neelix, and Commander Chakotay. B’Elanna seemed too embarrassed to even be near me. I should talk to her, but I can’t. It’s no longer about what she had done to me on Sakaris IV. Right now, I’m going through a lot of anger and frustration, because my big mouth has not only put me at odds with most of the crew. I’ve also driven Tom away for good when I defended Vorik . . . and brought up his past. Stupid idiot! And because I brought up his past, B’Elanna will have him in the end.

LIEUTENANT B’ELANNA TORRES – STARDATE 50593.64:

Vorik finally returned to Alpha shift duty, today. It didn’t turn out as bad as I thought it would. We had a nice, long talk before his shift began.

I know. Vorik and I had agreed he would spend one month during Beta shift and only three weeks had passed since Sakaris IV. However, he happens to be one of my best engineers and I needed him, Carey, Nicoletti and Ashmore for a special project – to strengthen the stabilization of the warp filed coils and make them less susceptible to exposure from a verteron pulse. So, I put aside any feelings I had toward Vorik and asked Chakotay to return him to Alpha shift.

The talk. To be honest, I think it was a hell of a lot worse for Vorik. I never saw a man look so embarrassed or humiliated. Now that I think about it, I guess I understand his reaction. Like me, Vulcans hate losing control. Both Vorik and I endured a lot of humiliation because of what happened. But at least I don’t have to endure pon farr every seven years for the rest of my life, thank Kahless. After what happened, I do intend to keep an eye on Vorik, seven years from now. If I can remember.

I had repaired my working relationship with Vorik. My friendship with Tom has also survived Sakaris IV. However, I haven’t spoken a word to Rain, since our encounter in the Mess Hall. I’ve also learned that she hasn’t spoken to Tom, either. Now, that’s odd. I wonder how that came about?

RAIN ROBINSON – AUGUST 13, 2373:

I’ve finally realized how dangerous space exploration can be. While searching for the missing Commander Chakotay and Ensign Kaplan, Voyager came across a starship in the form of a cube. Megan and Jenny called it a Borg cube and it seemed to terrify them and practically everyone else.

“Who in the hell are the Borg?” I demanded.

Jenny replied, “They’re a race of humanoids that are part-organic, part-machine. They’re like . . .”

“Cyborgs!” I added, remembering my television. “Like the ‘SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN’ and ‘THE BIONIC WOMAN!’!” Ah, the glory days of television re-runs. How I miss them.

The twins stared at me with baffled eyes. “What are you talking about?” Megan asked.

I told them about the two television shows I used to watch. “Maybe I’ll find it in the computer database and show it to you, one day. What do these Borgs look like?”

Jenny led me to a computer console, located against one of the walls in the Mess Hall. I swear, this ship is practically a flying Microsoft center. She punched in a few codes and . . .

“Here they are,” she said, pointing to the image on the screen. “The Borg. They’re native to the Delta Quadrant, but they have the technology to travel to other quadrants. Including the Alpha Quadrant, back home. They’ve already tried to conquer Earth once.” So, that’s the Borg. I told Jenny that they look like mechanical zombies. “Not a bad description,” she added.

Then I said, “And the Captain thinks the Commander and Marie Kaplan have been captured by them?”

Megan shook her head. “I don’t think so. I heard from Harry Kim that the drones found inside the cube are dead. I think many of them were killed by some electromagnetic storm.”

Drones? I guess that must be a pretty simile for a zombie. “So, where are they? Commander Chakotay and Kaplan?”

No one could answer my question. At least not until hours later, when the crew found the missing pair on a planet inhabited by survivors of the cube. Well, they found Chakotay, alive and well. Poor Kaplan had been killed by some scavengers who raided the village inhabited by former Borg drones. Among them was a blond woman who had been captured by the Borg, during the latter’s attack upon Earth, several years ago. Everyone seemed to be talking about her and the Commander.

“Is it true?” I asked Neelix, after encountering him near one of those turbolifts on Deck 2. “About the Commander and this Fraizer woman?”

Neelix shrugged. “I have no idea. I haven’t seen Commander Chakotay since he left the ship with Ensign . . .”

At that moment, the doors slid open. Three figures walked out of the turbolift – the Captain, Commander Chakotay and a beautiful, blond-haired woman with blue eyes. Both she and the Commander seemed a bit engrossed with each other. As for the Captain – despite her usual command look, she seemed grim to me. Oh, oh! Something tells me there was a little trouble in Paradise.

Then Janeway noticed Neelix and me. Something like a cross between a smile and a grimace appeared on her face. “Miss Fraizer,” she said in her usual gravel voice, “I’d like to introduce you to our two civilian crewmen. This is our Talaxian guide, Neelix and Miss Rain Robinson. Neelix, Miss Robinson, this is Miss Riley Fraizer.”

We shook hands with the new guest. Miss Fraizer seemed particularly curious as to how a civilian like myself, ended on Voyager. I told her the truth. That I was a visitor from Earth’s past, who had stowed away aboard ship. Both the Captain and Commander Chakotay seemed particularly embarrassed by the whole story.

Finally, we all parted. Neelix and I entered the turbolift, leaving the others behind. “I wonder what that was about,” I said, as the lift took us to Deck Two. “The Captain seemed embarrassed when I told that woman about how I came aboard.”

Neelix replied that he had no idea. “But I did notice something else,” he added. “The Commander and Miss Fraizer. They seemed very focused upon each other. I have the feeling there is some kind of romance between them.”

Good old Neelix. I never really understood why so many of the crew looked down upon him. I’m not saying that they treated him badly. But they have this tendency to be rather condescending. Including, I’m sad to say, Tuvok. They don’t seem to realize that under that comical façade is a pretty sharp fellow.

LIEUTENANT B’ELANNA TORRES – STARDATE 50617.7:

Damn Borg! Next to the Cardassians, they were the most treacherous beings in the Universe. I take that back. They arethe most treacherous. What they did to Chakotay was abominable. And it caused me a lot of pain, as well.

It all started with those former Borg drones we found with Chakotay. Marie Kaplan had been killed, while defending him and the drones from some scavengers. Poor Marie. She was a good engineer. Chakotay had been wounded, and later healed by the ex-drones’ neural transponder. What on earth made Chakotay allow them to use such a device on him, is beyond me. Granted, he was badly wounded. But he had also been conscious enough to know what they were going to do.

Once he was healed, Chakotay became involved with one of the former drones – namely a beautiful blond woman named Riley Fraizer. It seemed she was a former Starfleet officer who had been assimilated by the Borg during the Battle at Wolf 359, some six-and-a-half years ago. To make a long story short, after Miss Fraizer and Chakotay became . . . “friendly”, she and her companions asked Voyager to help build some kind of axonal amplifier. They wanted to create their separate collective. For the defense of their little colony. What baffled me was that Chakotay wanted to help.

After delivering Miss Fraizer and the other former drones some supplies to her friends, Chakotay and I headed back to the ship. During our little journey, my best friend suddenly went “Borg” on me, thanks to that neural processor in his brain, and shot me with a phaser. According to Harry, who told me the rest, he flew to the Borg cube to help Miss Fraizer and her friends reactivate that axonal amplifier, and create their new collective. They also destroyed the cube.

Now, poor Chakotay is feeling guilty for his actions, even if it wasn’t his fault. And I’m still recovering, despite leaving Sick Bay, some five hours ago. Damn Borg! It’s obvious that they cannot be trusted. Even when disconnected from the Collective.

Kahless! This headache is killing me! I need an anglesiac, badly. I returned to Sick Bay to ask for a shot and found the Doctor with another patient. Rain Robinson. What was she doing here?

“There you go, Miss Robinson. Your cut is completely healed.” The Doctor tossed an instrument on a nearby tray. “Working near an opened computer console can be very dangerous.”

Rain sighed. “Yeah Doc. Sure. I’ll be more careful.”

“Good. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to see to Lieutenant Torres.” The Doctor faced me. “Ah, Lieutenant. I see that you have started walking around again. Is that wise? You were supposed to be resting.”

I let out a groan. “I have a headache. And I need something for it. Badly.”

The Doctor picked up a hypospray and filled it. “Here you go, Lieutenant.” He pressed the damn thing against my neck. “This should help. And I also suggest that you get some rest. And not leave your quarters for the rest of the day.”

“I don’t need any rest,” I grumbled. “I’m perfectly capa . . .” Then it hit me. A wave of dizziness that left me grasping for the nearest structure. Namely, a computer console.

A smug look appeared on the Doctor’s face. Since when did holograms start looking smug? “May I assume you’re experiencing some dizziness, Lieutenant?”

I snapped back, “You as . . .” The room began to tilt once more. I sighed in defeat. “Maybe I am feeling a little dizzy.”

“What a surprise.” Really, someone needs to reconfigure his personality subroutines! The Doctor turned to Rain. “Miss Robinson, will you please escort Lieutenant Torres to her quarters?”

I immediately protested, claiming that I did not need an escort. Unfortunately, another wave of dizziness struck me. The Doctor ignored my protests and insisted that Rain escort me. I had no choice but to surrender.

Neither Rain or I exchanged a word with each other – at first. I could tell that she felt uncomfortable in my presence. Just as I did in hers. Sakrari IV still came between us, despite my apology from a month ago. Well, I didn’t really blame her. If I had been attacked by an erratic half-Klingon . . .

“How are you feeling?”

It took me a few second to realize that Rain had spoken. To me. I blinked and responded with a “Huh?” Oh great! Such brilliant dialogue!

“I said,” Rain continued, “how are you feeling? After being shot by Commander Chakotay?”

Did she really have to put it like that? Utilizing every ounce of my patience, I told her that I felt fine, aside from the dizziness. That Chakotay had only stunned me with a phaser. Okay, maybe I had lied a little. Chakotay may have only stunned me, but dammit, it hurt!

Rain, of course, wasn’t fooled. Not with me experiencing constant dizzy spells. I continued to have them all the way to the turbolift. Hell, I didn’t have this much trouble coming here. By the time we reached my quarters, I decided that I needed to put Sakari IV behind us, for good. Again, I tried to apologize for assaulting her, but Rain stopped me.

“Look, you’ve already apologized. There’s no need for you to do it, again. Besides, it wasn’t your fault. Anymore than it was Commander Chakotay’s fault for shooting you.”

I hesitated, feeling embarrassed over her burst of generosity. Strange that Rain never brought up my Klingon temper. I had felt sure that it had scared her. “If you think I’m scared you, I’m not,” she added. I think the woman must be emphatic. “Although I admit that I was a little leery of you, for a while. But I guess you felt the same about Vorik.”

An awkward pause fell between us. So, Rain had been a little leery of me. I’m not surprised. She was right about me feeling the same about Vorik. And now, I’m beginning to wonder if I’ll harbor similar feelings about Chakotay. Will he suddenly become Borg again and attack us, now that we’re edging toward Borg space?

We arrived at my quarters. Before I could punch out my entry code, I did something stupid. I told her that she had no reason to worry about me. I also added that I would never attack her in such a manner again. “I admit that I have something of a temper. It’s the Klingon in me. But you won’t have anything to worry about, from now on.”

Rain gave me a curious look and said something that took me off-guard. “What does your being Klingon have to do with your temper?”

I blinked. Surely, her old buddies, the Delaney sisters, have told her about me? About Klingons in general? “I’m half-Klingons,” I said, as if speaking to a child. “Klingons have bad tempers.”

“So do Humans. And I’ve heard that Bajorans are also temperamental. What’s the big deal?”

Kahless! Was this woman obtuse? Or blind? Doesn’t she understand what I’m trying to say? Or do I have to bring up Sakari IV again? I explained, “Humans may have bad tempers, but they are nothing in compare to the Klingon temper.” We entered my cabin. Rain led me to the sofa.

“Hey, I’ve read about the Klingons in the ship’s computer,” she replied. “The only difference I see is that Klingons are stronger and more openly aggressive. I think your opinion of Humans might be a little too high. Just like everyone else aboard this ship.”

Was she trying to tell me that Humans are not that different from Klingons? I nearly laughed aloud. Poor woman, wait until she sees her first full-bloodied Klingon. If she ever gets the chance. Or perhaps Humans from her time were a little more violent . . .

“I know what you’re thinking,” she added, cutting into my thoughts. “That perhaps Humans from the 20th century are more violent. Maybe they are. Then again, after getting to know this crew, I’ve discovered one thing. Humans – back in my time and the ones, today – seemed to think they’re rational and civilized and above violent behavior. But when something goes wrong or someone stands in their way,” a smirk appeared on her face, “look out! They can become real savages. Like your friend, Harry. I’ve noticed that he tends become anxious or volatile whenever something unexpected happens. If you don’t believe me, watch him. Or some of the others. You’ll see it happen right before your eyes.”

What had made her so anti-Human? Rain seemed to regard them the same way I regarded Klingons. She must have went through a hell of a time, before meeting Tom and Tuvok. Perhaps some time spent in the 24th century would teach her to appreciate how much her species have evolved. She’ll see how wrong she was about Humans . . . and Klingons.

Only I kept my thoughts to myself and instead, smiled and asked her to replicate some drinks for us both. Rain replicated a cup of raktijino for me, and declined a drink for herself. She claimed that she had to return to duty. Which she did.

In the end, I guess we finally put Sakari IV behind us. And I must admit that it was a relief to know someone who did not seem put off by my Klingon half. But she will. Eventually. Both her and Tom. It’s only a matter of time.

END OF BOOK VII

Gumbo

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GUMBO

Gumbo is a dish that is not only popular throughout Deep South states like Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and South Carolina; but is available to many Americans at restaurants that featured Gulf State cuisine throughout the country. For me, my first real introduction to gumbo was at a food stand inside Los Angeles’ Farmers Market called “The Gumbo Pot”. It is probably one of my favorite dishes ever . . . if prepared properly. 

It is believed that gumbo was first introduced in southern Louisiana sometime during the 18th century. No one knows exactly where in Louisiana or when it first appeared in the Americas. It is basically a stew that consisted of stock, meat or shellfish, a thickener, and seasoning vegetables that usually included celery, bell peppers and onions (known as the “holy trinity”). Gumbo is often categorized by the type of thickener used. Cooks usually used the African vegetable okra, the Choctaw spice filé powder (dried and ground sassafras leaves), or roux. The name of the dish either came from the Bantu word for okra – “ki ngombo” or the Choctaw word for filé – “kombo”.

Gumbo combines the ingredients and culinary practices of several cultures like West African, French, Spanish, German, and Choctaw. Gumbo may have been based on traditional West African or native dishes, or may be a derivation of the French dish bouillabaisse. Some believed that gumbo is a reinterpretation of traditional West African cooking. West Africans used the vegetable okra as a base for many dishes, including soups, often pairing okra with meat and shrimp, with salt and pepper as seasonings. In Louisiana, the dish was modified to include ingredients introduced by other cultural groups. Surviving records indicate that by 1764, African slaves in New Orleans mixed cooked okra with rice to make a meal. Some believe that gumbo may have been derived from traditional French soups, particularly the fish stew bouillabaisse. When the Acadians moved to Louisiana in the mid-18th century, they were unable to find many of their traditional ingredients for the soups they usually made for the winter months, so they substituted fish, turnips and cabbage with shellfish and ingredients from other cultures. Culinary experts like Celestine Eustis insisted that gumbo was an early dish for native tribes. It was first described in 1802 and was later listed in various cookbooks in the second half of the 19th century. Gumbo gained more widespread popularity in the 1970s, after the United States Senate cafeteria added it to the menu in honor of Louisiana Senator Allen Ellender. It is now the official state dish of Louisiana.

There are many types of variations on gumbo. Among them are:

*Gumbo Ya-Ya
*Seafood Gumbo
*Chicken and Sausage Gumbo

Considering there are so many different types of gumbo dishes out there, I tried to find a recipe of the most basic kind prepared in Louisiana. Below is a recipe found on the Smithsonian Institute magazine website, from an article written by Southern Louisiana native, Lolis Eric Elie. The recipe came from his mother:

Creole Gumbo

Ingredients

• 5 quarts water
• 1 dozen fresh crabs, raw, boiled or steamed
• 2 pounds medium to large shrimp, peeled and deveined (reserve the shells and heads to make seafood stock)
• 2 pounds smoked sausage, cut into 1 inch rounds (1 pound each of two different sausages is optimal)
• 3/4 pound Creole hot sausage (if available), cut into 1 inch rounds
• 2 pounds okra cut into rounds
• 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
• 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
• 2 large onions, coarsely chopped
• 6 large cloves garlic, chopped
• 1 bunch flat-leaf parsley, chopped
• 5 stalks celery, chopped
• 1 bunch green onions, tops and bottoms, chopped
• 1 large green bell pepper, chopped
• 1 pound crab meat, picked and cleaned of shells and cartilage
• 2 tablespoons Creole seasoning, such as Tony Chachere’s Original Creole Seasoning
• 4 bay leaves
• 4 tablespoons filé powder
• Salt and pepper to taste
• 6 cups steamed white rice

Preparation

Clean the crabs, removing the lungs, heart and glands and other parts so that only the pieces of shell containing meat (including the legs, swimmers and claws) remain. Refrigerate the meaty parts of the crabs. Put the portions of the crabs that have been removed into a 6- or 8-quart stockpot. Add the shrimp heads and shells and 5 quarts water to the pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes. Remove from the heat.

Cook the sausages in a skillet in batches over medium heat, turning occasionally, until the pieces are slightly brown and much of the fat has been rendered. Remove the sausage and set aside on a paper towel-lined plate to drain. Discard the excess fat remaining in the skillet before cooking the next batch of sausage.

Once all the sausage has been cooked, wipe the excess oil from the skillet, being careful not to scrub away those bits of sausage that have stuck to the bottom of the skillet. Add the 2 tablespoons vegetable oil. Heat the oil over medium heat and then add the okra. Lower the heat to medium and cook the okra until it is slightly brown and dried, stirring frequently, about 45 minutes.

While the okra cooks, place the 1/2 cup vegetable oil in a 12-quart stockpot. Heat the oil over medium heat. Once the oil is hot, a tablespoon at a time slowly add the 1/2 cup flour to prepare the roux, stirring constantly. Once all the flour has been added, continue heating and stirring the roux until it becomes a medium brown color, somewhere between the color of caramel and milk chocolate, about 10-15 minutes. Add the onions to the roux, stirring constantly. Once the onions are wilted, add the garlic, parsley, celery, green onions and bell pepper. Strain the seafood stock into the large stockpot. Add the browned sausage and bay leaves and bring everything to a boil over medium-high heat. Then reduce the heat to medium and continue to cook.

Once the okra is cooked, add it to the gumbo pot. Continue cooking the gumbo for 60 minutes. Add the reserved crabs and shrimp and cook for 15 minutes longer. Remove the gumbo from the heat and stir in the Creole seasoning and filé powder. Let the gumbo rest for 15 to 20 minutes. As it cools, oil should form on the top. Skim the oil with a ladle or large spoon and discard. Stir in the picked crab meat. Taste the gumbo and adjust seasoning with more salt and pepper as needed. Serve the gumbo ladled over steamed rice.

chebert