Sunday, August 7, 2022

Masked Melancholy Crooner - Orville Peck at EFMF 2022

The highlight of this year's Folk Fest was an artist I hadn't heard of when the lineup was announced back in May, which wasn't too surprising. The fact that masked retro cowboy crooner Orville Peck has captivated our entire household in such a short time is maybe a little less expected. 

One of the few out performers in country music, Orville Peck (a pseudonym) has a tremendous baritone voice and a repertoire of rusticated songs that sound at once out of step with modern stylings and yet timeless in their painful honestly about loneliness and loss; a true antithesis to modern pop country. 

Self taught on guitar and keyboards, he released his self-produced debut album Pony in 2019 and an EP (Show Pony) and follow-up album Bronco since then, alas well as a tremendous assortment of well-produced music videos.

Bronco got played through a few times while we camped out ot Whitney Lakes at the end of July, but Glory had already bought her first Folk Fest ticket well before then. I met her near the gate a little after 7 pm and enjoyed watching her take in the spectacle of one of Western Canada's largest music festivals. 

We enjoyed Trinidadian ex-pats Kobo Town on a side stage before settling in on The Hill to watch The War on Drugs, the lantern parade and finally, Orville Peck himself. 

Resplendent in a classic cowboy ensemble featuring a barbed wire motif in addition to his signatuire fringed mask, he captivated the thousands in attendance for over an hour. His deep, powerful voice seemed to strengthen with every song, hitting incredible sustained notes on C'mon Baby, Cry and The Curse of the Blackened Eye. His 4-piece band are a solid bunch of accompanists as well.

Staying until the end of his set shortly after midnight was not the brightest move for either Glory or myself, with her needing to drive an hour out of town immediately afterwards to meet some friends for a visit, and my volunteer shift needing me back on-site at 6:30. But it was a wonderful and joyous performance (despite the innate sadness of many of the songs, like Kalahari Down) and neither of us had any regrets. 

In fact, I am pretty confident that the next time Orville rolls through town, the whole family may be in attendance.

If you don't like country, Orville Peck probably isn't going to change your mind. But if you have any appreciation for tremendous vocals, passionate songwriting and a bold showman who has hollowed out an incredible space in that thin overlap between sincerity and irony, he is certainly worth checking out, and his videos are top-notch.

Daytona Sand - weirdest, funnest, does his own stunts including surfing an 18-wheeler

C'mon Baby, Cry - live on Jimmy Kimmel

The Curse of the Blackened Eye - twangiest, strong contender for weirdest, Norman Reedus guests

Let Me Drown - amazing vocal showcase

Legends Never Die - duet with Shania Twain (!)

No Glory in the West - stripped down melancholia and brilliant scenery

Monday, August 1, 2022

Road Cider Attraction - Journey North Cider Co.

This year's camping trip saw us turn away from the mountains and head east to Whitney Lakes Provincial Park. northwest of Lloydminster. The park itself has secluded campsites and multiple lakes with clean beaches, which was enough of a draw for us. But the area also includes a number of historically significant sites which made for some great day trips. On the way back from one such trip we made another great discovery - Alberta's northernmost cidery and taproom.

Friday was a hot day of 30, too hot even for a dip in the lake, so Audrey, Glory and I took a tour of the area and visited the Frog Lake National Historic Site. My misreading of Google Maps then saw us take an extended sightseeing trip north to Bonnyville, but on our way back to the campsite, I saw the familiar blue roadside attraction sign for Journey North Cider Co..

I became very excited, having only first encountered Alberta's newest cidery about a month beforehand. I had noted Bonnyville on the label but then put it out of my mind, so this felt like a very fortunate opportunity indeed. I love taprooms and the tasting of flights, and talking with the people who produce them, but as the only beer drinker in the household, it is not exactly a family outing. But we all like cider, so I excitedly directed Glory to pull into their spacious parking lot.

The air-conditioned taproom was its own reward in many ways - clean, spacious, and overlooking the farm and orchards backing onto the building, with an upper level reservable for parties and events. 

We took three seats at the bar where Angela, the taproom manager, welcomed us and told us that flights were currently on for $10. I ordered a selection of four (crisp. cranberry, hopped grapefruit and blueberry rosé) while Audrey and Glory split another, swapping out the grapefruit for a cherry instead. There were also a number of local-ish beers on tap and their own version of snakebite (cider and lager) they call "Lakebite".

The ciders were uniformly amazing and covered a broad spectrum of flavour profiles. Blueberry rosé had the most wine-like characteristics and would not feel out of place alongside a chardonnay on a hot day, while the hopped grapefruit was even more refreshing and a great gateway cider for beer fans, but at 6.3% abv was not exactly session friendly.

The flagship crisp was delightfully dry, as Angela explained that they were trying hard to differentiate themselves from the sweeter ciders already on the marketplace, such as Okanagan and Growers. Cranberry was undoubtedly my favourite though, bringing just a bit of pucker to the party.

While we drank them, Angela related the trying prospects of launching a business during a global pandemic (October of 2020!), and how helpful it was to win the local Chamber of Commerce's Perseverance award the following year. It came with advertising funds at a time when their ad budget was zero, and let them start spreading the word a little more effectively. 

Now the taproom has a number of local regulars who drop in, but also gets holiday wanderers like ourselves. "Putting up that blue highway sign is the best thing we've ever done!" Angela laughed. Their ciders have won a number of awards, and Journey North has also been recognized for their educational efforts. Certainly Angela was able to talk very comprehensively about almost all aspects of the ciders we tried.

On our way out, we made sure to grab some of their ciders from the cooler (including Mythic, a gamer-inspired cider made with butterfly pea flowers and no longer available on tap), and Glory grabbed a pair of sweatpants with their logo as well.

On our way back to Edmonton on Sunday we stopped in for Sunday brunch with Fenya, and enjoyed breakfast poutines, stuffed brioche French toast and huevos rancheros (tragically, they had already sold out of their amazing-looking breakfast charcuterie). It was all delicious, and now I hope we have a chance to return sometime to try the other food offerings - and any creative new ciders they may have come up with in the meantime!

Should you ever have cause to be around Bonnyville, all four of us can highly recommend stopping in at the Journey North taproom.

Sunday, July 24, 2022

Live and Let Dine - "Vernal" Geekquinox 2022

Never in my life have I been so grateful not to have eaten a delicious serving of tenderloin - but let me start at the beginning...

Back in February, Pete (The Rare Hipster) announced that his next Geekquinox dinner would be a "007 course meal" served on March 19. This prompted no small number of puns based on James Bond film titles, often poking fun at the late hour that the mains are sometimes served at, which he took with considerable good humour: The Wine is Not Enough, Dining is Forever, On Her Majesty's Secret Menu, Cold Pizza (styled after the amazing Shirley Bassey's Goldfinger), No Time to Die-t and this post's title, supplied by Earl.

With a month's notice and no schedule conflicts, it seemed like a sure thing. But then one of the guests tested positive for Covid which made a number of us uncomfortable with attending, so Pete wisely postponed.

Five months, two reschedulings and multiple Covid cases amongst multiple guests later, we finally convened last night for yet another amazing meal and a wonderful time with friends.

Audrey and I can generally be expected to lean into the theme in terms of our couture and this outing was no exception. Since I own no tuxedo (and am not particularly dashing even when I wear one), I leaned into the villain look with a black turtleneck, snake tooth necklace, eye patch and fake scarring on my freshly shaved head.

Audrey took the opportunity to portray my chauffeur/bodyguard, with an ominous cap, jacket and tie and makeup brilliantly applied by Glory.

Our preparations didn't make us too late and we arrived just after the last of the other guests, and I was delighted to see Pete rocking his own eyepatch and mandarin collar, with Ellen pulling off a remarkable Miss Moneypenny.

Rather than try to replicate specific dishes from the films, Pete elected to tie each course to the home region of various Bond villains, giving us a taste of several exotic locales.

Even the menu is on-point!

Our hosts got everyone situated with beverages for the first course - astoundingly delicious blue cheese and horseradish biscuits served alongside meticulous rosettes of butter with honey (in honour of the film's female lead, Honey Ryder) and balsamic vinegar.

We enjoyed these on the deck until it began threatening rain so we moved indoors. I had brought a change of clothes just in case, but with the air conditioning on I was able to maintain the turtleneck all night (even though the patch made my eye sweaty). 

Next up was an astonishing beef stroganoff in honour of Rosa Klebb. Now, most of us have probably cobbled something similarly rooted to this dish with ground beef, noodles and mushroom soup, or even round steak simmered in a crock pot, but this was amazing, and my favourite dish of the evening. A rich mushroomy sauce enveloping tender egg noodles, sauteed mushrooms and tiny onions, and then topped with strips of seasoned steak. 

It will be really tough to go back to the Hamburger Helper version after this.

I didn't get a picture of it, but Pete also served me a delicious libation in the form of a hot honey jalapeno margarita. I am generally a fan of pretty much any margarita, but the blend of sweet and spice in this one, offset with the salted rim, made for an incredible tipple I cannot wait to try again.

Next up were garlic shrimp in the Spanish style - possibly the garliciest seafood I have ever been lucky enough to try. Large, firm and tender shrimp, dripping with garlic oil, and enhanced by frying the shrimp shells in it. Small portions of bread meant none of the delicious sauce was wasted.

The shrimp were followed by another seafood course, and a confession from our host. In homage to the underwater villainy of Karl Stromberg in The Spy Who Loved Me, we enjoyed pan-seared scallops in a lemon caper sauce. I love capers but was surprised at how much Audrey enjoyed this dish since they are not usually to her liking - such is Pete's culinary skill!

The confession was significant, even if the reaction to it was not. Pete admitted he had over-extended himself, and we would need to forego the tenderloin dinner as it has not gotten started in time. As much as those in attendance had been looking forward to a classic "rosbif" dinner, there was unanimous agreement that there was already more than enough food in play. Even now, the idea of having that beef, potatoes, carrots, Yorkshire puddings and gravy before me, as my digestive system wrestled with the voluminous quantities of rich, delicious food makes me blanch a little. Another time, I hope!

Even without the immensity of the foregone main course, digging into the final two offerings required a resolute disposition (and gratitude for the space of time the dinner is served over!).

The penultimate serving was a Mexican black bean soup with chorizo and blacke3ned chicken - immaculate! Perfectly spiced and garnished with a few splashes of lime juice, with hearty sausage and tender, flavourful chicken in almost every spoonful. Ironic how one of my least favourite films of the series inspired one of my favourite dishes of the night.

It was not quite 1 a.m. when we got to dessert - a delicious crème brûlée. With the lateness of the hour and the length of the day for the cook, it is perhaps no wonder that the only other mishap of the evening was a bit of over-carbonization of the most centrally located custards. The remainder, despite a hint of smokiness, were amazing, and the perfect capstone for the evening.

By 2:00 almost everyone had said their goodbyes and Audrey and I toddled off to bed, with tipsy heads, full stomachs and hearts overflowing from connecting with friends after what felt like an interminable period of isolation.

Pete and Ellen's upcoming nuptials mean that this will be the last Geekquinox until spring 2023, but we are already looking forward to it, and I am certain the other guests are too!

But this would-be villain is still glad that the tenderloin never made it to the table...

Sunday, July 17, 2022

Nothing Sacred - Thor: Love and Thunder, Reviewed

Director Taika Waititi did a spectacular job in his previous Thor movie, Ragnarok -  a comedic but still heartfelt take on the character that I enjoyed tremendously and which refreshed an MCU staple in danger of becoming staid and dull following the underwhelming Thor: The Dark World. I was honestly surprised when they announced he was returning to write and direct Thor: Love and Thunder though, given how difficult it is to be groundbreaking two times in a row. You can't step in the same piece of river twice, as they say.

I won't lie, I was a bit concerned when the movie spent a significant part of the first act undoing much of what had gone before: the chunky Thor who sailed off with The Guardians of the Galaxy at the end of Endgame? Gone, replaced by the burliest Odinson in all of his appearances (Chris Hemsworth apparently spent most of his Covid lockdown exercising and eating 8 meals a day). The quaint town of New Asgard in Norway, home to Asgardian refugees following their homeworld's destruction in Ragnarok? Now a Disneyland-like tourist hub with flying boat tours, t-shirt stands and hammy dramatizations of past events (yes, once again featuring Matt Damon, Sam Neill and Luke Hemsworth).

Go ahead, look for fat...

And while it is obvious that Waititi doesn't take the tropes of superhero cinema very seriously, he uses them to great effect to shape a story with honest emotional impact, even if a lot of the run time is devoted to characters in capes getting into ridiculously destructive fights while dropping pithy catchphrases most of the time. 

Case in point - the movie opens with a tragic tale of unreturned devotion between a man of faith and his fickle deity, and we finally get a villainous origin story equal in scope and pathos to those of the heroes. Christian Bale's Gorr the God-Butcher is on a mission to destroy all gods (a term which, in terms of the MCU at least, seems even more vague and undefined than in our own reality, and perhaps this is for the best), which inevitably puts him into conflict with Thors.

Yes, Thors! Natalie Portman's Dr. Jane Foster returns for the first time since 2013 (!) but enters the story undergoing chemotherapy for stage IV cancer of an undisclosed variety. As a last-ditch effort to strengthen herself, she is somehow (and the rationale is eventually revealed and is clever) able to reform the shattered pieces of Thor's former hammer, Mjolnir, and gain powers similar to his. Jane adopts the same name - not Lady Thor, not Ms. Thor, just the Mighty Thor, precisely as it was done on Jason Aaron's immense comics run. And Odin's ravens, does Portman look marvellous in the role.

When Gorr abducts the children of Asgard in order to bait out Thor, the stage is set for a mystical road trip that will take both thunder gods as well as Korg (Taika Waititi) and King Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) through Omnipotence City, the dwelling place of many powerful beings on a broad spectrum of divinity, including Russel Crowe as a vain and impatient Zeus that feels spot-on to both mythology and the comics.

Bale is wonderful as Gorr, possessing a tremendous amount of charisma and even humour for a character so relentlessly ruthless and even cruel, and the character's real superpower seems to grow directly out of the actor's legendary intensity.

Like all recent Marvel movies, things build to a massive, effects-driven battle in the third act, but like the most clever of these Phase 4 offerings, the story does not reach its climax there. Rather, the battle sets up a far more satisfying and emotionally resonant resolution than I was expecting.

In the end, though, can I recommend Love and Thunder to everyone? Of course not. Many people have simply had enough Marvel for the time being, and I get that. And Waititi's tendency to bounce from broad, slapstick silliness to gut-wrenching poignancy, sometimes within the same scene, can leave a lot of people feeling off balance. There is also a lot of 80s-era metal and metal-adjacent rock used to excellent effect in the film, but which will not be to everyone's taste I'm certain.

But it is clear that he and his co-writer Jennifer Kaytin Robinson have a lot of affection for these characters and their relationships, as encumbered as they might be with decades of comic book continuity and mythological influences. Love and Thunder is an entertaining time if your sentiment is, like Waititi's, more aligned with people and their experiences than the established structures of superhero cinema.

Sunday, July 10, 2022

Nailing It At a Family Reunion

Bryce and Sara have been wanting Audrey's folks to meet their grandson Robin for a while now, but Covid made that impossible as it did so many things. Robin turns three this month (astonishingly), and with school out Audrey arranged to meet them down in High River as a local guide and so they could stay at her sister Vera's place. 

Well, the next thing you know, other members of Audrey's family are wanting to drop by to meet the new kin and hey, with so many of us there why don't we have an early 90th birthday celebration for Opa? Once it turned into a de facto family reunion, it kind of took on a life of its own and gathered steam from that point on.

We brought the tent trailer down Friday night and parked next to Hank and Betty's fifth wheel on Vera's enormous driveway. After a pancake breakfast in the mess hall we cobbled together in her equally massive garage the next morning, we hauled a propane grill, cooler and a bunch of chairs and food to George Lane Memorial Park.

I should say that this afternoon was not without its share of apprehension, for a couple of reasons. First of all, I will be the first to admit to the atrophication of my own social skills over the past two-and-a-half years. As mentioned in last week's post, this pandemic has been tough on all of us, and we are all out of practice when it comes to interacting with other groups of humans.

Secondly, there is always a risk when the city mice and country mice get together, and with the news these days full of potentially and earnestly divisive topics on both sides of the border on a daily basis, well, it behooves one to proceed with caution, if not trepidation. Then add the possibility that some of these, let's call them more parochial viewpoints, have actually intensified during Covid..

Entering such an environment with my oldest daughter (who was nicknamed "Human Rights Person" by one of her profs), her non-white boyfriend, my queer nephew and the rest of us "Every Child Matters" t-shirt-wearers from 'Redmonton' could potentially be like looking for a gas leak in a dark basement with a lit match, but hey, Lord hates a coward, right?

And sure enough, when another relative showed up wearing a cap that read "Trudeau -Canda's Biggest Virus," I had to laugh and refused to take the bait. I know for a natural fact this person has at least a dozen other caps they could have worn for the occasion and besides, I'm still mad at his target too - what the hell happened to electoral reform, Justin?

Anyhow, it all went pretty well in the end; the weather was hot but the site was shady and a nice breeze kept things cool. We all remembered how to connect again, somehow, and enjoyed smokies and beer and catching up and even a few games of ladderball together. There were over thirty of us there at one point, and we got to reconnect with a lot of people, some of whom we just love to pieces.

Audrey finally got to introduce Bryce, Sara and Robin to the last members of her family who hadn't met them yet. We got to hug my oldest niece just days before she is scheduled to give birth and give Betty and Hank their first grandchild. We sang happy birthday to a patriarch a month ahead of him reaching 90% of a century (wow!). And best of all, Oma and Opa got to see multiple generations of their family tree interacting for the first time since 2019.

My favourite tableaux of all came the next day, however, after we'd breakfasted and packed up the trailer and just before the last of us sat down for a pre-departure game of Codenames (because Vera was hosting everyone and hardly ever gets to play games with large groups).

At some point my nephew Mark produced a set of high-end nail polishes which, thanks to two daughters and Instagram ads, I actually recognized (Holo Taco (for "holographic topcoat") in case you were wondering).

He got Glory to paint his nails with these amazing shades, and afterwards one of his uncles took an interest. Now, this particular brother is generally an easy-going and laid-back individual but does work full-time in agriculture (like most of Audrey's family) and while by no means a redneck, would probably not object to being described along the lines of straight-laced, and I wondered about just how open-minded he might be about fellows wearing nail polish.

It turns out I needn't have worried; when asked if he wanted his nail's done, Audrey's brother snorted, but instead of saying "no way!" or "what kind of guy do you take me for?", he simply replied, "There's no point - I would chip them pretty colours off before lunch time my first day back at work!"

Ah, the Dutch - ever so practical. ; )

Sunday, July 3, 2022

Ministry of Truth

Today in church we heard a tremendous sermon from a departing member of our congregation. He is a serving Canadian Army chaplain who is being posted out to CFB Esquimault on Vancouver Island.

Rev. Tyler has been deployed overseas twice in his career, once to Ukraine and once to Germany. While in Germany one of his responsibilities was something called "third location decompression" and it factored strongly in his reflection.

Third location decompression provides a structured time designed to help transition service members from their time on deployment in a high-tension, often dangerous environment before returning home to their "normal" lives. It is a proven means of combatting things like PTSD, and members who have anxieties or concerns or straight-up problems with the adjustment can be given the resources they need.

Decompressing in Germany is an interesting experience, as Rev. Tyler related it: you have paved roads and safe shops and all manner of things like you do back in Canada, but every interaction is slightly more difficult. Take going to a shop to buy a food item, for instance; if you don't speak German (like the majority of those decompressing), you aren't going to be able to recognize the signage, labels or ingredients. You aren't going to recognize too many familiar brands. And even the currency is different! Even a simple, everyday event like buying something to eat at the grocer's suddenly carries unexpected variables and an element of risk, at least at a social level.

"Sound familiar?" he asked, and it suddenly twigged on me that he could be describing life under COVID.

"You have all been deployed," he stated. For two years, he continued, you have had to do ordinary things in extraordinary ways, and with risks none of us could have anticipated before the pandemic began. And now we are slowly returning to normal - but there is no decompression, so supervision, no overarching structure. 

Some people are ready to return to normal, feeling it is long overdue, while others are still cautious, because who knows what the next variant might bring?

His words brought a sharp realization to me: that I am not the same person I was when the pandemic began.

That I am a damaged person. 

My mother, my remaining parent, passed in December, just as COVID was breaking free of China. Two months later I had my career upended as I was redeployed at work back to the same position I had when I began there a decade earlier. And a month after that, everyone was sent to work from home, and I have been doing it ever since. (And hope to keep doing it, frankly, having made my peace with the redeployment - a post for another day, perhaps!) Have I given those changes any serious consideration? HAve I recognized the impacts they have had on my patience, my anger, my expectations about life?

Rev. Tyler wrapped up by explaining how it is okay to not be okay, that everyone will make this awkward, staggering transition to post-pandemic life at their own pace, and it is important to recognize this in both ourselves, and in others. That we need to give ourselves time to adapt.

His simple, human reassurance - his validation of a struggle shared - moved me profoundly, and gave me pause to reflect; truth and wisdom that transcended the scriptural relevance and became something universal I felt compelled to share.

This is the reason I worship - not be told that everything is going to be all right, or that everything is proceeding according to plan, or that it all gets sorted out in the afterlife - the affirmation that other humans have experienced or are experiencing similar things, and that guidance can be ours. The sense that we can support each other and make things collectively better. And where else would I hear something like this?

Tonight we were very happy to have our first visit from our former minister James and his husband Glen - two delightful people we haven't seen face to face since pre-pandemic, and who now live in St. John's.

Rev. James introduced our household to a lot of perspectives we now take for granted, and not just LGBTQ+ ones, but also living in right relations with indigenous peoples and not just knuckling under to the patriarchy. In fact, Fenya told him tonight that, "My life trajectory would have been very different if I hadn't met you," and I think he was legitimately touched. Fenya has made justice, equality and inclusion a major part of her life, which is part of the reason one of her sociology professors nicknamed her "Human Rights Person," and referred to her by that name in class on multiple occasions.

I know religion and spirituality are not everyone's bag, and given how they have been weaponized in the past (and probably the future, if the items we see on CNN are any indicator, but let me tell you, having a dedicated time to reflect while getting insights from excellent humans on Sunday mornings has benefited me greatly.

But at the end of the day, perhaps the key has less to do with interpreting ancient wisdom and more to do with recognizing excellent humans in your life.

Sunday, June 26, 2022

Strange (New Worlds) Tidings

I finally had an opportunity to watch the first three episodes of the new Star Trek series Strange New Worlds, on the weekend.

Set on the familiar U.S.S. Enterprise but under earlier Captain Christopher Pike (Anson Mount), the series is a real return to form for the franchise, eschewing long-form, arc-driven stories in favour of more episodic morality tales very much in keeping with the original series (TOS).

The original Trek used the guise of sci-fi entertainment to raise many controversial issues of the day, including racial segregation, gender equality, and superpower involvement in Viet Nam. TOS established a legacy of progressive leadership, perhaps best exemplified in Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. encouraging Nichelle Nichols to remain on the show as communications officer Uhura. While by no means a major character, King felt the critical imagery of a black woman officer, already unheard of in either television or the real armed forces gf the day, being treated as a peer by white males, needed to be kept in the limelight.

SNW seems to be following suit even in its first episode, even if naysayers will invariably accuse them of 'going woke' (check your receipts, idiots; Trek always has been 'woke'). Never a franchise to shy away from speechifying, Capt. Pike (possibly the handsomest captain to date? you be the judge!) delivers an address to government and rebel heads on a first-contact world. He compares their development to the history of his own planet, Earth:

My world is called Earth. And though it's far from here, uh, my people and yours are, uh, very much alike. This is my world today. But we were not always peaceful. 

This is Earth in our 21st century. Before everything went wrong. It's a lot like your world today. Recently I was treated to a glimpse of my future. It was not all I'd hoped. After all, what good is there in knowing your future? A friend of mine asked me that recently and... didn't understand what he meant. ( short chuckle ) Until now. I've seen my future. Let me show you yours. 

Our conflict also started with a fight for freedoms. We called it the Second Civil War, then the Eugenics War, and finally just World War III. This was our last day. The day the Earth we knew ceased to exist.

Global suicide. 

What we gave you is the means to exterminate yourselves. And from the looks of you, you're gonna do it. You'll use competing ideas of liberty to bomb each other to rubble, just like we did, and then your last day will look just like this.

When Pike says "Let me show you [your future]," the video display turns from the idyllic utopia of the 24th century into images of current-day civil unrest. including a protest sign reading "AUDIT THE VOTE" and the ominous scene of a gallows erected outside the U.S. Capitol.

Seeing those images while constant revelations about the poor state of American democracy play out from the Jan. 6 committee, and mere days after Roe Vs Wade was repealed and even more divisiveness appeared south of the border really gave me pause for thought. 

And not that things are so much better where I live - the leading candidates for Premier of Alberta are both couching a lot of separatist ideology in terms like "sovereignty" and "autonomy", and Federal Conservative leadership candidates jostle over embracing or rejecting the "Freedom Convoys" of trucks while arguing over Bitcoin as a buttress against inflation. "Competing ideas of liberty" indeed!

Make no mistake - the battle for hearts and minds, information and disinformation and misuse of political powers both by those in power and those who wish to supersede the rule of law makes this a very, very dangerous time for society in general and democracy in particular.

In the future history of Star Trek, the crucible of the Last World War spawned a peaceful planetary government and eventually the United Federation of Planets.

I hope we can get to a brighter future, all of us, without the need for another Dark Ages, but who can say where we are on the cycle of history? 

In the meantime, I wish this new incarnation of Star Trek all the best, and I hope people of all ideologies not only watch it but do so with an open mind. Because changing our collective minds begins with exposure to new ideas, and the best science-fiction does that with one hand while entertaining us with the other.

Live long and prosper, everyone.