Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Who Are We as the World Falls Down?

I know I'm a few weeks late with this reflection, but bear with me. I've been ruminating on this, so there's a reason it's been a bit late in coming.

Is anyone else fascinated by the idea that while S.H.I.E.L.D. falls to pieces, the rest of the world clicks along relatively normally? In the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. episode "Nothing Personal," which takes place immediately after the events of the Captain America: Winter Soldier movie, the world isn't burning. People aren't running mad. Washington, D.C. looks pretty normal as Maria Hill walks the streets.

from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., "Nothing Personal"

Cars seem to be following traffic laws, people are milling around and having what seems to be a pretty typical weeknight. It's astonishing to me that this could be the case. The hole left by a lack of S.H.I.E.L.D. is not leaving a wake of anarchy in the public at large, and that's a little mind-blowing as we witness the sky falling inside the organization as a whole.

While some people would write this off as an inconsistency, I don't think this is bad storytelling at all; quite the opposite, in fact. This indicates that while S.H.I.E.L.D. is the sun and moon to these people...while they believe that it's saving the may not actually be as vital on a day-to-day basis as the agents think it is. This is a subtle hint from the storytellers that chaos can be blooming for a group of people while the rest of the world clicks on without noticing. These people have to have seen the news reports of the battle only miles away from them, but they don't seem affected at all.

Mind you, Hydra is probably keeping order on the surface pretty well, too, partially because they've planned for this for six decades and partially because it's just generally good PR to put on a good face.

But this seems to me to be a really interesting parallel to the suffering of people in places like Syria or Turkey, or even in your own culture, for that matter. On a personal level, I remember when my mother-in-law died and everything in my world seemed upended. It was so disorienting to go to the grocery store and watch people do their business like nothing had happened...because nothing had happened to them. But worlds can burn for entire groups of people, and even the people who are aware of that chaos from the outside are largely unaffected by it and move on with barely a blink. Maybe there's a murmur of sympathy or a head that shakes in disbelief, maybe we even contribute money or other donations to the cause, but the world moves forward, insistent on grinding ahead mostly in business as usual mode while a column of smoke dissipates into the atmosphere in the near distance.

What does this say about human nature, for better or for worse? At best, it means we recover quickly and move on from tragedy and that we have a very strong instinct to rebuild even as things continue to fall apart, which is a part of how we've managed to survive as a species. At worst, it means that we can be massively tone deaf to the suffering our fellow human beings as cultures burn right under our noses, because on a subconscious level, we're afraid to dive in and be voluntarily exposed to that monstrosity. We don't believe it can happen, so we don't really see it. Sometimes the instinctual propensity toward survival is a horrific thing.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Falling in Love with Batgirl

I've posted briefly before about Batgirl (or, more specifically, about her roommate), but I really only got into the comics in the past couple months as I've snatched up the last few TPBs from the New 52 (a reboot DC did of most of its lineup, mostly to attract new readers). Yes, I'm behind. I'm also just now getting into Arrow, which my husband has had us consuming gluttonously on Netflix and Amazon Prime (Green Arrow was one of his absolute favorites growing up). We watched the entire first season in about two weeks, and have been steadily pouring money into the TV to consume season 2. Yes, yes, we watched six episodes in one day at one point. I won't say how many we watched in a weekend. And now we have to WAIT until FALL for more!? AUGH.

But, back to MY new favorite: Batgirl. Way cooler than Greenie. Just don't tell Hubby.

I've almost abandoned Wonder Woman right now in favor of catching up on Batgirl. I find the story compelling and  And Gail Simone is, in a word, brilliant. Batgirl is a real person, with believable thoughts and problems and dreams. The plot is compelling (almost compulsive), and her secondary characters have life and personalities beyond just the ability to highlight Barbara. Gail Simone turns Barbara's experience from a refrigerator girl into a real moment that has a definite, sometimes crippling impact on the way she approaches life and the battles she faces both in her "normal" life and in her life as a superhero, even after her body heals.

For those who are unaware, Barbara Gordon was paralyzed by Joker in Alan Moore's graphic novel, The Killing Joke (if you haven't picked this story up and read it, do it NOW. Come back when you've had the heartbreaking experience so we can start a support group together or something). She regains her ability to walk in the New 52. Unlike some of the reboots, Simone actually adds credulity to Barbara's renewed ability by explaining (at least to some degree) her regained ability. Instead of just hitting the "reset" button, she explains how Barbara came to regain her ability to walk and uses the insecurities from her miraculous cure to grapple with some serious issues as Barbara resumes her crimefighting duties under the cowl.

I'm two TPBs in. Her brother is terrifying. Also, what do you think about my acquisition from Planet Comicon? My own itty bitty Batgirl! I almost considered giving her her own Tumblr or Instagram account and posting "The Adventures of Itty Bitty Batgirl."

You're laughing again. I know. I'm hopeless. But hey, Gates McFadden has an "Adventures of Tiny Crusher!" It could work, right?


Well, at least the crickets agree with me.

Next up: Batwoman (I already started...I NEED BOOK 2!). And probably Guardians of the Galaxy. I want to be up on the current universe before the movie.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

My (In)Famous Bacon Brownie Ice Cream Recipe

I've been asked for my recipe for bacon brownie ice cream a million times, and since the request has come from so many places, I decided to make it available on my blog to make it easier to share. I know this isn't a food blog, so you'll forgive me if the geekery leans toward bacon and gastronomy rather than Star Trek and Batwoman for this particular post...those subjects will be back for the next post, I promise!  

I feel like a broken record saying this, because so many chefs have said it so many times before, but the real secret to making this amazing is getting the right ingredients. Fresh, preferably local and organic milk and cream are best (especially if the cream comes in a bottle with some thick creamy goodness hanging around the mouth). The same is true with the bacon--fresh, preferably local and sliced by a butcher. I do cheat when I make the brownies, but use the best "cheat" you can find--I go with Gheridelli brownie mix if I'm making the gluten-laden kind and Bob's Red Mill for amazing GF brownies if you have guests with celiac-type issues. 

So, here it is, in all its recipe for Bacon-Brownie Ice Cream. Enjoy. In moderation. And maybe have a salad for dinner. 

What ya need: 

For the brownies: 

  • High-quality brownie mix and required ingredients (but don't put ALL the oil in! Read on!)
    • Also note: If the brownie mix makes only an 8x8 or 9x9 pan of brownies, you'll need two. This assumes you've prepared a 13x9" pan's worth of brownies.
  • 8 strips of uncooked bacon 
  • Reserved bacon drippings
  • About 1/2 cup chocolate chips, if the brownie mix doesn't include chocolate chunks

For the ice cream: 

  • 4 1/2 cups milk (We used skim. Gotta save the calories somewhere!)
  • 2 3/4 cups sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 vanilla beans
  • 4 1/2 cups whipping cream

How ya do it: 

  1. Okay, start by making the bacon. Line a cookie sheet with high sides with tinfoil. Set a cookie cooling rack in the pan, and lay the bacon on the drying rack. DO NOT PREHEAT THE OVEN.
  2. Put the bacon in the oven, THEN turn it on to 425 degrees F. 
  3. Let the bacon cook for about 15-25 minutes (depending on how thick it is) until it's nicely browned. 
  4. Pull the bacon out of the oven and let it cool. Reserve the bacon oil. 
  5. Okay, now time to get to work on the brownies. Measuring out the oil or melted butter, START with the reserved bacon fat from the brownies, then add whatever oil is necessary to make up the remainder of the oil requirements. 
  6. When you have the brownies mixed, crumble and then fold in the cooled bacon. 
  7. Prepare the brownies as package directions dictate. 
  8. While the brownies are cooking, you can start making the ice cream. Heat the milk until bubbles form around the edge of the pan. 
  9. Remove from heat and add the sugar and salt. Stir until they're dissolved. 
  10. Then, slice open the vanilla bean and scrape out the gooky insides and add that to the milk mixture. 
  11. Stir in the whipping cream. 
  12. Cover and refrigerate 30 minutes. 
  13. Remove brownies from the oven and let them cool completely (it wouldn't hurt to refrigerate them for a few minutes, too). Rip the brownies to big crumbled shreds.  
  14. Once the mixture is cooled, add to an ice cream machine and chill per the machine's instructions. 
  15. When the ice cream is ready to come out of the machine for its final chill in the freezer, stir in the crumbled brownies. I did this in three phases to keep the ice cream from melting too much. 
  16. You'll probably want to let it firm up the rest of the way in the freezer for a few hours before eating. But I know you already licked the spoon you used to fold the brownies into the ice cream, and that is TOTALLY ACCEPTABLE. You did all the hard work, after all. 

Makes about 6 quarts. And you'll need it all when word gets out what you've made.

Extra pro tip: To make this SUPER wonderful, melt two parts of your favorite chocolate (or butterscotch, or peanut butter...) chips in the microwave (GENTLY...15 seconds at a time, then stir!). Add one part coconut oil. FAST AND EASY magic shell! 

You might want to have salads for the next COUPLE days...

Monday, May 12, 2014


Another Wendig Flash Fiction Challenge. This is a quick draft I whipped up inspired by two of the sentences from the challenge. Enjoy. Or be haunted. Either way, I will consider it a success.

She had lived for seventeen days inside the stanza, reeling around the intermingling eroticism of line breaks, reveling in the ache of each point of punctuation. Coming up for air was optional. Instead, she breathed the rhythm of internal rhyme, melodies dancing inside an evocatively executed turn of phrase.

But a poetic pattern can retain inertia, too. When the voices from above awoke her from her subterranean reverie, she climbed out of the cool darkness of the Underworld and into the garish glitter of daylight. This world was boorish, alien, hostile. The body snatchers could take you from your own imaginings, impose theirs, like some sort of bland, jingoish brainwashing mimicking Matheson’s worst nightmares.

She tried to breathe and was met with only a carcinogenic smog, carefully landscaped and pruned hedges, the trees and bushes boxing her in. Even nature wasn’t natural; it was some honed and harnessed mimeograph of itself, a poor print copied when the toner was low.

Everything was prison. Every liberty outside of the lines was a lie. The only world that truly was had been ripped away, like a baby cut early from the home of the womb.

All that was left now was to fit in, to pretend the spirits tumbling in the gyre just beyond her reach were only a fantasy.

Get a job.

Find a “real” hobby.

Attract a boyfriend.

Buy a canary.

And pretend, for every day thereafter, that she wasn’t drowning in polluted sludge, that every breath wasn’t a breath closer to death and further from reality.

But then, the hope of subversion arose, a glimpse of color through the gray, prisms dancing just on the edges of perception like a promise for eternity. She could run crosswise in small ways…finding an avant-garde obsession that could help her imagine that she was descending back into the nether-regions, the wild revels where the moon shimmered across open water and birds flew so high she lost them among the stars.

Sneak behind authority’s back, flinging nine to five away with yesterday’s news, imagining the manager standing helpless, wringing his hands as she floated above the confines of Twitter and one-hundred-twenty characters…or fifteen inescapable archetypes.

Then the assurance that nothing was new insists its way into her subconscious like mildew, chewing away the worlds threatening to claw their way back up from the banks of the Styx. The penitentiary of history itself sits on her chest like an incubus. Why waste time when it only apes what Adam built in the first place?

This is how the criminal disappears after the inventor erodes. When the Dreamer ascends and is trapped in the waking world, the only opportunity to break free is to break the rules. And then breaking the rules seems like too high a price. That despised despotism, the demands of the doldrums, suddenly become precious. Stockholm, Munchausen…the tyranny of embracing the mundane.

What happened to the music of the spheres? All that is left is a pop refrain in 4/4 time, five notes, two lines, one octave, advertising lipstick and Lincolns. And this is acceptable. This is as it should be. Who has the drive to dig deeper? Who has the time for whims of inspiration?

Then she becomes, by inches, in bland bylines, a slave. The goddess, the mother of universes, forgets.

And all that lies ahead is dust.