I’ve been watching things.

I’m in the middle of some Epic Fantasy, (NK Jemison, wooooooo!) but I’m not finished, I’m writing & revising but that’s boring to report on, and my baking adventures are getting their own posts.

SO. This episode of Sometimes I Do Other Things is all about the viewings of the last few weeks.

Exodus: Gods & Kings. A movie just as long as the Charlton Heston epic, minus two major subplots and without the golden calf sequence, with Yahweh inexplicably appearing as a small child throughout and also a lot of dramatic scenes of people glancing significantly at each other. OOF. I recommend AGAINST this one.

Atomic Blonde. Brilliantly-directed classic spy thriller, gritty and grounded in its time with a stunning use of period music. Wowza.

Kingsman: The Golden Circle. I have nothing good to say about this beyond, “Yes, I laughed at the funny bits and enjoyed it.” I also appreciated the moviecraft that went into the action sequences and the set design & cinematography were brilliant. Otherwise, from concept through character design to plot it’s a terrible, horrible, no-good,  scrub-out-your-brain-afterwards mess of septic tropes and poisonous cliches. Also the writers got simple bourbon-making facts wrong. SHAME. In short, a typical grand mess of a Hollywood blockbuster sequel.

Dunkirk. In many ways it reminded me of The Thin Red Line.  That is not a compliment. It’s all about insisting that the full scope of human experience can only be appreciated against a backdrop of  The Horrors Of War ™ Both movies looked at the same topic from different side. Instead of humanizing the grim bleakness of victory the way tTRL did, Dunkirk dramatizes the uplifting side of defeat. Or something like that.  Sorry to grump all over a movie that was super popular and beloved of critics. I’m glad I saw it. I just…I dunno.  I don’t need a lens of bloodshed and grit to celebrate humanity’s better angels.

Despicable Me 3.  An emotional palate cleanser after Dunkirk. Animated fun with all the elevated humor of a rowdy class of second-graders. Pretty sure that’s the target market, but like all the best cartoons, there’s plenty of higher-level fun for grownups to enjoy. Plus Agnes, Edith, and Margo are always fabulous.

The Hitman’s Bodyguard. I was hoping to add a movie to my growing “Hitman Comedies” list with Grosse Pointe Blank and Red, but nope.  It isn’t bad. I enjoyed it. I Won’t ever need to see it again, though.  Ryan Reynolds & Samuel L Jackson were both good, & Salma Hayek was excellent, but the plot intensity wobbled between The Whole Nine Yards and In Bruges and never settled anywhere.

Flatliners. Not sure why this got bumped onto Hollywood’s remake list. This is a solid take on a movie that wasn’t brilliant the first time. Far too much stalker camerawork, and even more too-muchness in the long lingering reaction stares and pointless telegraphed jump scare categories, but it stayed true to the original premise and only got a little muddy on plot.  Kieffer Sutherland’s cameo was the highlight for me.

Pirates of the Caribbean: something something something. What is this? #4? #5? Anyway. I’m sure many people adored it. Best I say nothing beyond SERIOUSLY WTF WHY WHY WHY…ahem. Sorry. You may safely infer I was not impressed. What a waste of so many things. Not my time, though. I folded laundry, came and went, played with my new iPad pencil and enjoyed the CGI. The graphics were marvelous.

Cloverfield Paradox. It was a space horror movie. Can’t recommend, can’t understand the hate it gets either. Compared to most of that sub-genre, it was

Altered Carbon. (Netflix original series) Holy fucking hell. Boom. This lets me wrap up on a high note. There’s an admantium Bladerunner skeleton under this show’s slick, modern, glamorous techno-skin, and the writing is full-on phenomenal. Some big gaps in plot, but I’m all about forgiving those when the premise is plausible and the internal consistency is there, and this show nails it.  Extra happy points for going equal-opportunity on the nudity (within the limits allowed by the annoying TV ratings system.)

It gets all my recommendations–with the caveat that it depicts a violent & bloody world where savage things happen…and gets moderately graphic about it.

Upcoming? OLYMPICS. Full television schedule bookmarked: check. Empty DVR: check. Food & beverage & power cord for the laptop: checkcheckcheck.

I record and time-shift the shit out of NBC’s commercial-soaked, propaganda-diluted fluff-piece-infested coverage. Comparing the number of jingoistic interludes & nationalistic melodramas to the number of actual events shown keeps me entertained.  And the internet gives me BBC & CBC clips. Huzzah for balance. And yay, sportsing!



Toaster Scones.

That’s what I call them. They’re essentially drop biscuits with pretensions, but they do have the fat-rich tenderness of scones rather than flaky layers, and they keep well enough to reheat in a toaster for a full week. So, toaster scones.

There’s a story of how they came to be. Of course there is. Skip past it to the recipe if you’re goal-oriented.

Once upon a time I made blueberry muffins for every special occasion–where reasons like “Tuesday” or “I had a rough work shift” counted as definitions for “special.” When I got tired of chewing on muffin papers, I bought half-sized loaf pans and made “muffin loaves” instead. I can still whip up a batch of those in less time than it takes to pre-heat the oven.

During this same long-ago time biscuits were my go-to for ordinary occasions when I wanted a bread with supper but had none in the house. Not just any biscuits, tho. See, biscuits require cutting. Rolling. Counter cleaning. UGH. I am a lazy baker. SO LAZY. So of course I made drop biscuits instead. Stir, plop & drop. Tasty & easy.

One day I decided to make muffins and discovered I had no eggs in the house. Tragedy! All my muffin recipes required eggs. The disappointment was crushing, but I decided to make biscuits as a consolation treat. Any port in the storm, any bread in a pinch.

I know, muffins are NOT just biscuits made with eggs, just as scones are not merely biscuits made with cream. Still. They’re all baked goods that spring from the same roots of flour, baking powder, salt & fat, therefore they all live in the same compartment of my brain.

Anyway. In this episode I had no eggs and aimed for drop biscuits….and somewhere along the way the inspiration light bulb went off. I COULD HAVE MY BISCUITS AND BLUEBERRIES TOO! In practice it didn’t quite work. They were entirely edible but Not Quite Right. It took learning scone recipes and tweaking proportions here and there to come up with a reproducible, predictable result. Here it is:

375 degree oven or 400 if I’m in a hurry.
parchment paper on baking sheets

1. Mix together
2+ c. flour
3 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4+ c. sugar if I’m adding fruit

2. Work in 1/2 c fat (butter, cream cheese, plain yogurt or some combo of same, whatever I have in the fridge) I usually go with 4 tbsp butter and a scoop of plain yogurt) I work it in with my fingers, some people use forks or pastry cutters.

3. stir in at least 1 c. of fruit or shredded cheese

4. Add 1/2-3/4 c milk & mix until it forms into a dough.

Sometimes it’s more like thick batter. The more fat I use in step 2 (or if I’m making Cheesy Toaster Scones) the more solid the result at this point. If the dough is workable by hand, I form it into a long log 1/2″ high and cut into triangles like scones. If it’s gloppy (fruit ones are usually gloppy) I plop it on the baking sheet like drop biscuits.

5. Bake 20-25 min at 375, 15-18 min at 400 —
until just browning on top. Cheese ones cook faster than fruit ones, sometimes as much as 5 min faster.

Blueberries, pitted tart cherries, dried fruits, leftover applesauce, shredded cheddar cheese, feta cheese & assorted herbs, shredded smoked mozzarella & chopped basil…I’ve made a lot of different versions of these. They were all delicious. There’s variability on the rise, so sometimes I have to cut them in half to toast up later, sometimes not. Either way, they are extra-delicious when toasted to a crisp brown finish.

That’s it in a nutshell. The next adventure will be seeing how much almond flour I can sub in without screwing up either flavor or rise. Spouseman wants to cut back on carbs and I’m all for upping fiber & protein content where I can.


Telling stories again

I saw some articles on two topics recently that made me stop and say, “Hm.”

Topic 1, how the United States military is drawing from an ever-smaller pool of soldier families and geographic regions, so there’s a growing disconnect in the public view of what the military is and does and what it ACTUALLY is and does–because fewer people in general come into contact with serving military members. (And the articles discussed that can feed prejudice and dehumanization and a wide array of other dangerous issues…)

2, how the concept of evil and what evil groups have done in the past has become so abstract, so disconnected from the daily experience and the personal narratives of whole  social groups. This feeds the human tendency to create false equivalencies between groups exhibiting similar behaviors (Nazis vs anti-Fascists, for example.) Supporting false equivalencies is also Not Good.

Basically, both topics boil down to the problem of “people losing a sense of the importance of things.” Awkward phrasing, but there it is. It’s an awkward situation when things past and the distant become deniable because they don’t feel real.

I don’t know how to be that detached from the world.

I suckled history at my mother’s breast. Well, I would’ve done, if she’d breastfed me, but women didn’t much in the era when I was born. She was a history teacher, though, and an english teacher, and my father was an avid consumer of history and narratives himself, and loved to share every new discovery, yes even with his babies. History was never a school subject for any of us Morris kids. It was all around us, everywhere we went, and it connected everyone we knew.

Visiting ANY destination meant collecting fascinating tales of the local heroes, villains, any gruesome disasters, and other trivia.  Meeting people resulted in stories about their backgrounds and how they came to be where we were. Learning to sing Waltzing Matilda so we could serenade the new neighbors from Down Under came with stories of Australia’s culture and founding, so we knew why there were swagmen as well as what a billabong was…just to name one of many, many such memories.  And dinner conversation could turn to any old topic that struck Dad’s fancy, from apocryphal tales of obscure British monarchs to Russian folk stories that offered insight into political decisions we were seeing on the nightly news. (Because yes, we watched TV over dinner. As a family.)

I thought all families were like this until I started visiting friends’ homes for meals in fifth & sixth grade. Not so much, it turns out. Nope. Kids were seen & not heard most places, or else we were sent to eat and socialize without supervision.

Teaching moments, that’s what some people call the sharing of knowledge and life experiences as they relate to past and present. I call it conversation. Seriously, I don’t know any other way to relate to people.

I think all of us need to look closer at wherever we happen to be, ask when and what, where and who, and then share those tales for their own sake. Histories. HERstories. OURstories. This casual tale telling keeps fresh the easily-dropped point that people are people.  Relating then to now through narratives brings together past and present, distant and near, them and us, so we understand better how all these things are connected.

And most importantly, it reinforces the reality that what we do now is how history happens. Or so it seems to me at the moment.

Okay, I’m done. Until next time.