Still Here…

Dealing with a lot of crazy issues these days. Such as… my husband was in the hospital, and I had to prevent a threat to my housing situation. Long story, very very exhausting. I should be blogging still… and yet, I spaced on it for almost a week.

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By Jotpe (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Yeah, it’s been that kind of week.

On the upside, I uploaded a bunch of pictures I took of a local shrine, and some other surprises.

Stay tuned. I Taint Dead Yet.

 

The Phyrric twitter Barrage

JW with script

From my last post… (Age of Ultron Review, for those just arriving)

Speaking of gauntlets, I guess I have to talk about the Pyrrhic twitter barrage.

Joss is so not one of my political compatriots. Yet these women… can’t even wrong properly. Seriously. Why attack and devour one of their own? They call that a win? If they think they scored points in the culture war, well, let’s just say they were engaging in some deliberate friendly fire, just because.

Hell of a way to lose, mon cheri. God Speed, and enjoy those ashes in your mouth. If this keeps up, those of us in the “leave me alone” contingent won’t have to fire a shot.

So I said above, “You can’t even wrong properly” as if a retrograde reprobate such as myself knows what I’m talking about. Well, you see, just because I’m not flinging poo from across the isle does not mean I have always been what I am today. I have a fair degree of experience with the whole feminist culture warrior shtick, and I took my leave based on experience. I was also not born in an echo chamber. My family spanned the culture war from both ends, so I had a good look at the best and worst of both worlds.

In order to fisk these criticisms, I don’t even have to dip into the well of my knee jerk libertarianism– or probe the depths of my Catholic sympathies. Logic and reason don’t even have to enter into it. All I have to do is channel my mother, who was also a second wave radical feminist. Compared to these people, she had nuance. She had read a bit more history. But it is still the putrid foundation from which their culture springs.

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She would have given him points for quoting Abigail Adams at a critical juncture, when we learn that a certain character with leadership qualities gets many of them from his SO. We have seen Black Widow be nothing but a strong, dispassionate warrior for two or three films, and now we see what is behind those eyes, what she struggled against to overcome. When she shows some sign of regret… how can you truly struggle without it? We are informed that she is insufficiently strong, because she did not celebrate a decision that was forced on her. Excuse me? So now we aren’t pro-choice, but no choice?

Well, at least you are being honest for a change. And I guess the fact that she has rescued several heroes and has the massive Hulk wrapped around her little finger means nothing.

Now for a place where they really fell down on the job. The Red Witch. Oh, sure, she’s the bad ass who brings the strongest heroes down low, and is the only reason why her unassailable speed-demon brother bothers to get up every day. She even catches Ultron unawares and manages to get her and her sib away alive, which is a real accomplishment when dealing with that cruel and vindictive robot.

But she had a massive breakdown in the middle of a critical battle– and has to get a pep talk from a strong male character to move on. And guess what? He’s the closest to the straight white male the whole movie has. Burn. Aaaaannnnd, they miss it completely.

Where are the haters when you really need them? Do they have the true courage of their convictions, or do they fling poo because that is all they know how to do? They can’t even do it particularly well by their own standard.

You need a flipping Catholic libertarian to school you on how it’s done. You had one job…

The War on Fandom– By Fandom

The War on Fandom– By Fandom

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By The Conmunity – Pop Culture Geek from Los Angeles, CA, USA (Comikaze Expo 2011 – Cyberman from Doctor Who) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

This.

Background here. And this. And this. And this.

Sigh. What happened to that happy amoeba of “we all share our weirdness together”?

I matriculated in the fan culture that built fan run conventions. Yes, I’m talking about cons like Worldcon. Working from the inside, the original culture of fandom was inclusive, welcoming– a veritable melting pot of shared love of our various obsessions. There are many obsessions, but these are mine! See, this is how I enjoy them and we can be our geeky awkward selves in a shared space! For a time, those values overtook barriers of politics, false identity and economic differences and put all that BS aside to have a special place. Then, somewhere along the line, fandom got… popular.

We weren’t really sure what to do about it.

Since then, some values from the outside our ranks have gotten their way in.

They say sinister things, like:

  • Some fans are more fannish than others. They don’t belong among us.
  • You aren’t safe here. We’ll make separate, safe spaces under our broad tent, so you will not be harmed/tainted by these other nobs.
  • You aren’t really inclusive if you don’t specifically check all the check-boxes we say you need to check.

 

All of this boils down to one toxic message:

People who are different from each other cannot hope to get along. Strangers will attack you. Separate into your comfort zones and be safe.

Let me give some people who claim to be our leading lights some insight.

THESE ARE NOT THE VALUES THAT DIY FANDOM STARTED WITH. If they were, mass fandom would not exist.

Why?

First: you live or die by how many people you could entice into the community.  These awesome cons cannot survive without attendees– and fresh blood.  And while families do come to cons, there aren’t enough to support us– or replace us.

Well, if we really believed the new school, why would be bother creating big diverse organizations to begin with? Who would bother to attend conventions in hotels surrounded by people? We’d invite those safe people to our homes, and tell the rest of the universe to go hang. We would be content with local clubs. Under circumstances like these, who would bother inventing WORLD CON?

Why do I go to conventions? I go to MEET OTHER FANS. I could care less what the vast majority of these media conglomerates want to sell me. If I want to buy something? I will go and find that thing on the internet. I don’t need to stand in line for hours for a brief glimpse of some movie star I’m in love with. I can write fan fic in the privacy of my own basement.

Honestly, it is the characters I care about, full stop. The actor wears the visage for a brief shining moment (he or she calls it work) and shares himself with that character so we may all love him. This is awesome, but not my area of interest.

The second thing I want, is meet the minds who came up with these characters, and script their lives. I’d like to buy them a drink (doesn’t even have to be alcoholic) and have a social chat with them. That is why I chose to join fannish society– and that is why I still love the idea of Worldcon.

Maybe DIY fandom can’t scale the way Media West and Dragon Con can. You know what? Unequal numbers don’t bother me. Local smaller groups just makes it easier to find time to spend with the folks who socialize in consuite. I’ve talked to some incredibly famous writers– including Terry Pratchett even a hand full of movie stars. I have truly been blessed to be part of Fandom. And my old stomping ground convention wasn’t even that big, or that rich. We just had a good culture that ran a reliable con, so we got some big names for treating everybody well.

But if the big tent is divided into ever smaller warring factions– all these cool things won’t even be possible.

What bothers me is that these apparent leading lights of DIY fandom have forgotten their roots, their purpose– and that is a threat to ALL fandom. Because, once we forget our roots, we forget who we are, period.

This divide and conquer strategy is lethal. Because sooner or later, folks will realize they don’t have the money to be a part of this global social club where they only meet the people they are comfortable with. Why can’t they just meet those safe approved people somewhere cheaper? Aren’t there a hundred different ways to have a private safe gathering that exclude people we don’t like? Suddenly, you don’t need a con anymore.

Because, surprise, the con is SUPPOSED TO BE THE SAFE PLACE FOR ALL OF US. Not just the special ones, but everybody.

Take a risk and meet someone new.

Review: Codename Winterborn

Codename-Winterborn-Cover

 

My name is Kevin Anderson. I am many things. Soldier. Spy. Widower. Pain in the Ass. Exile. Inconvenient. I am hurt. I am weary. I’m bone tired, on the edge of exhaustion, perhaps even on the edge of sanity. But I am still alive.

Come and get me.

Chesterton: “This world can become beautiful again, if we behold it as a battlefield.”

I could write a long rambling essay unpacking that line, but read what Finn has to say instead. There is a lot more firepower involved, as a gift from our vivid protagonist.

He’s a spy who goes on a murderous campaign of revenge.  But he’s just getting started.   Later on, the best revenge is to not only survive the wrath of your enemies, but to thrive in circumstances they cannot tolerate or imagine. He has nothing left to lose, so he builds it up from scratch.

This  action packed thriller  leaves you breathless, both in it’s taught action, scope and character.  Unlike the far future settings, there is very little fantasy here, and much of the technology is easy to see from here. I suppose the US being nuked multiply, that makes this the optimistic version.

It could easily be called post apocalyptic in it’s outlines. I argue that it is NOT a post apocalyptic tale. Much post apocalyptic literature tries to peek dimly beyond the end of history. Sorry, in my book, when history is over, it’s over. The fat lady has sung. The parrot is dead. That is clearly not the case here.  This story argues that the real story of redemption happens only after you’ve hit bottom.

If you love a good spy thriller but don’t want to be bothered with metaphysics– I still beg you to try it anyway. It is not a New Wave diatribe wallowing in subjective nonsense, but a considered look at what happens when a man hits bottom, and claws his way out– not quite to the top, but to a level place where a flag can be planted. So less Stand on Zanzibar and more Batman Returns. His sense of post apocalyptic agrees more with Stephenson (see Diamond Age or Snow Crash) than with any Nebula Award winner of faded memory.

There is some sexual…stuff, nothing graphic, though frankly more than I expected. Again, this is about human things, and about coping and loss. The full meaning of those scenes are not apparent until the very end of the book.

Once again, I keep screaming “Here’s the book. Where is the movie?” Though the prose is less textured and than A Pius Man, there is sharp eye and a dry wit that remains characteristic. It is almost a crime I quote anyone else, because there are so many lines that stick with you. Here’s a sample:

“I’m not cleaning out the house. I’m cleaning out the senate.”

“As I said, I like your style. And, if I keep following you, I’ll get to kill something sooner or later. I wont’ be bored. Maybe dead and mutilated, but not bored.”

“‘Hell you were probably covered the first time you walked into the city.’ ‘Probably by snipers,’ Anderson muttered.”

“It’s very simple, really. Your public image is that you’re a killing machine. Mine is that I’m completely out of my mind.”

“Had San Francisco gotten stranger since he quit drinking, or had he been too drunk to notice?”

There are lots of wonderful touches. The setting is a living thing, particularly in the second half, where we get a glimpse into the underbelly– where the apocalypse hides it’s dirty laundry. Yet even a Hobbesian nightmare still has people you want to buy a drink for, and at least one place you’d like to have that drink. Well, just so long as you don’t dwell on those stains on the floor, or stare too long at the body count.

For the right mood, however, to each his own. Peter Kreeft once said, “Some ideas don’t need philosophers but exorcists.” Declan Finn argues the same is true for politicians. Except this exorcist uses firearms– with extreme prejudice.

Laws of the Jungle

I’m going to write about why  things have taken off and gone beyond pear shaped in such a short time. AT least it seems short from where I sit.

By Hockey_stick.svg: Ohkamiderivative work: Hans Erren (Hockey_stick.svg) [CC-BY-SA-2.5-2.0-1.0, CC-BY-SA-3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons File Mod by Margot St Aubin: reformat to PNG.

By Hockey_stick.svg: Ohkamiderivative work: Hans Erren (Hockey_stick.svg) [CC-BY-SA-2.5-2.0-1.0, CC-BY-SA-3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons
File Mod by Margot St Aubin: reformat to PNG.

 It accelerated like a bell curve. We are now in the hockey stick of crazy- and it really doesn’t matter where in the political spectrum you happen to be. If you think THIS is normal… Well, you haven’t lived very long.

There is only so far up to go before… well, we don’t know, do we. Or at least we tell ourselves we don’t. A thing that people do not seem to realize is that we are swiftly reverting to the law of the jungle.

All too late, it will be clear that our destination is not the ultimate freedom. It is the ultimate slavery– a slavery to defense, a slavery to the belly, a slavery to a million small things that the average person in a 3rd world country has to worry about that Westerners haven’t given a whit about since the Great Depression.

It’s the sort of thing that takes generations to break out of– if it can be done at all. Yes, we did it once, but how much of that was the very special and odd circumstance of the foundation of our country? How long will it take us to have another Brittain, another colony, another  group of well educated but oppressed men who come together to make good for pretty much everybody?  Considering how many of those other experiments in this nation building  See ref: France, Spain, much of Sub Saharan Africa, pretty much all of South America. Maybe it would save time to say the whole freaking world since human civilization began?

Sure, it can seem like technology will save us from ourselves, but I don’t see things like freedom and prosperity and very delicate new technology surviving the death of trust.

Trust is hard. It is hard to revive after it is broken. Because– not trusting is a survival skill. To trust is to build civilization. If you are in survival mode, civilization is optional.  If you have ever wondered about the difference between the Dominican Republic and Haiti– Trust has it in a nutshell. It is possible to have commerce and stable economic growth because people can trust each other and even occasionally their government to keep their avarice down to a college roar.

                                               ⇑Vince De Groot, Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons. Yup, he is De Groot.  😆 ⇑

For some, the advent of technology forgoes civilization entirely. I suspect this is why things are falling apart so quickly. We don’t have any reason– no gut reason– to hold on to our peace, to hold on to our trust, our traditions, or anything else that holds people together.

We don’t think about how dangerous things could go if we wave sayonara to whatever civilization we still cling to.  They think that it is “fear of the unknown”.

Oh, if only it were that.  That is a daily event in our current culture with technology changing by the month, inflation still accelerating, scandals breaking daily… sure. The Great Unknown™ is really just tomorrow on steroids. No biggie. As a matter of fact, this big fear has blown past trivial into the de rigueur. Yes, even for those people.

Let’s make something clear. The Conservative fear is not the fear of the unknown. It is fear of the known. It is a fear of the dreaded. That is, the fear of tyranny.

Civilization is painfully built over generations. It does not spontaneously generate around people of good will. Yes, most people are of good will– until there is a good reason not to be. If you throw the trust and rule of law out the window– that’s a good reason to kill the bastards and let God sort it out.

One gets the sense that people have gotten bored with civilization, that lawlessness would be more fun. Folks are just dying to be able to use violence on their foes and get away with it.  Funny, I bet that was the real cause of The Great War ( AKA WWI), too.

There was a lot of rhetoric around the turn of the Century that war would kept civilized gentlemen from being soft and entitled.  So war was seen as a solution to spoiled noblemen and the poison that comes from the backwash of luxury.  Like it or not, those poisons are not illusory. Laziness and entitlement are just a few of them. Doing stupid things for temporary gain, at the expense of the future is another. Just another monster in a pandora’s box horrors brought to you by the skewed perspective that comes from living well.  When you don’t see the darker consequences of life, you have no idea how dire the consequences of failure.

Kick it all down and let it burn, huh? Yeah. That’ll work.  Be Careful what you wish for. You might get it, and it might be more than you can handle.

After all, they call it the “Law of the Jungle” not “The Chaos of the Jungle” or “The Freedom of the Jungle.” You trade one obnoxious set of laws for another hopelessly unfair set of laws that are more hardened than a court of law, or the goodwill of your neighbor.

Hint: The noble savage is a lie. It is not a myth, such a savage never was. It is a malignant untruth, because it is twisted and turned upside down so it sounds pleasant, comforting and plausible. As if people just come out that way without effort.

The truth is, primitive peoples have admirably strong morals and honor. They have a rigid code that is based on observable consequences of your actions. They make the most hardened conservative look like a fool-hearty libertine.   Usually, if you break these laws, it is death– one way, or the other. Let’s just say that exile only sounds like the softest option. Unless you are singularly wealthy (a feature of civilization, remember) it translates to “a miserable death– probably of starvation, or murder– away from the people who love you.”

Let’s look past that end game. Let’s see the whole picture. Where do you go after throwing off the shackles of Civilization? First, lots of people suffer, which they do by trying to live as they once did in a world with luxury, trust and safety.

Generally that translates into a great deal of freedom for a few (read: fun-loving pillaging, bloodlust, rape,  etc), and misery for the overwhelming majority of the rest (disease, suffering, misery, refugee status, frequent re-acquaintance with death, etc). That setup being unsustainable, there’ s a collapse.

1024px-Panthera_tigris_sumatrae_(Tiger_(Sumatra))_skinThen things go back to a crude and brutish anarchy if you are lucky, but basically it translates to rule by the toughest thug, then tribalism, then… a lifetimes long struggle on hands and knees back to Civilization. This cycle goes back and forth, from loving order and civilization, to getting bored with it, and desiring “true freedom”. Then the children’s children kick over all that their parents and grandparents worked so hard to build, and the cycle starts anew, baptized in blood.

Not the kind of roller coaster ride I am looking forward to, I have to say.  But this cycle only goes back to civilization if people want it. Is suffering we can hardly imagine any better than following some rules?

 

Book Review: “It was only on Stun!”

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I spent 15 years in fandom, up close and personal.  I’d say I worked on cons, but the truth is I was mostly a tourist who pitched in with the running of a con or two. Most people I knew worked far harder than me to make it a reality.  I met some awesome people, including Neil Gaiman, Terry Pratchett, Br. Guy, ESR, and Lois McMaster Bujold. This does not count all the wonderful fen who made those cons a reality.

This book was a fine bit of nostalgia for me.  This book was like being immersed in the chaotic world of a new con attendee for the first time. You may not understand half the references, but you don’t care because the ones you do reference are good enough to follow through the maze into the heart of the thing.  My first reaction about half way through the first act was, “Declan never told me he worked Con-Com!” Either that, or he was regaled with well annotated stories over the course of years.

I admit, the con scene thing has been done before.  But most people either give you an incoherent wall of sound for a background, or sketch through it so quickly it barely has time to be a bad stereotype.  This plot surges through a roiling complex venue, and no faction of fandom is left unscathed.   Rest assured, filkers get off easy– this time.  But anybody who is a fan of the vampire subculture must bring a healthy sense of humor to the party.  IF not, you should just toss the book aside right now.  Fandom is acted upon, and fandom reacts. It is not a static backdrop to be marveled at but a living entity.  And it shows.

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In order to have all this going on at once, it is a fairly complex plot with many things and layers going on at once. It helps that he has many vivid characters that stand out–yes,  even from each other.  you’d be perfectly willing to follow most of them down a rabbit hole– with appropriate body armor, of course.

There is a lot of action– and violence.  Granted, you are seeing it all through the eyes of one of those sheepdogs who is not quite sane.  He is a fascinating study of a “good guy sociopath”. This would be off putting for some. You get the sense he enjoys his job a bit too much. For fans of his other work, seeing the “Sean and Inna, the early years” is entertaining in itself.

Though totally packed with goings on, it also is densely packed with a collage of geekery. There is something for any fandom, pretty much– with an emphasis on media fandom.  LOTR is heavily represented.  You could say Tolkien has a whole character to himself.

There is one guy on Amazon who asks where the action is. Clearly he didn’t read the book. Because it doesn’t take long to find it, and it is pretty much constant throughout and accelerates as it gallops to a finish.

Seriously, this guy has to break into TV. I want to see his work on screen.

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The Broken Artist

By tiegeltuf from Bexbach, Saarland (daneben) [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Classically, artists are a mess. Starving outcasts who could not do anything practical, fell in love for the wrong reasons, or just plain bombed at making a life for themselves.  There is a temptation to romanticise this existence, since artists have to live with themselves and subsist on the fuel of their dreams anyway.

The reaction of the practical workaday man is to snort and tell him to get a real job.  But there is a problem.  We NEED art. It’s not just a want, it is one of the things that make civilization meaningful, let alone worthwhile.  The conservatives have belatedly discovered this as the culture slipped between their fingers. As a result, we have stumbled into a self-indulgent orgy of ugliness and loathing.

The values we hold dear say nothing if there is no way to enjoy them.

The problem is more complex than a lack of artists. What you want more of, you must incentivize. The Left learned this a long time ago and has a nice gravy train set up for their artists.   What Conservatives need to do is create opportunities for artists, attract them to their banners.  What I see is not a lack of talent, but a lack of opportunity.

 

By United Artists [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Transitioning to a Capitalist paradigm seems to be the worst decision for aesthetics humanity has ever made. We need to come up with a fine way to make the arts a viable occupation, so the artist may still be broken but also self sustaining.  Relying on governments has led to a wretched crash in quality and art being art.  Art inspires one to the Good. Broken people, from their perilous position, have a perspective that grabs the common man, and has throughout time.   But as long as we ignore the arts, the timeless aesthetics and the values it upholds, the more we will always be on the outside looking in. The more our culture will rot from the inside, not from a lack of understanding, but from a lack of love for what it stands for.

Leopold Pilichowski [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The ultimate message of the artist is to sacrifice and suffer for the greater good. That is, full stop, why such dysfunctional people still squeeze blood  from their palms to make good art.  But we need a framework. We need right reason and judgement. But most of all, we need the love and the fire that burns brightly to light our way through the darkness.

Fuel is needed for that fire. And it is that much more important now that nobody has money to burn.

Darkness = Depth?

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Does Darkness equal Depth?

Confession: I grew up in this subculture. The closest I came to being in any social group was a child of Goth.  From where I stood, the real difference between goth and emo is that Goths have a 19th century fetish and dress better, and the emos only started wearing black after Kurt Cobain died. Before that, we called them grunge, and they tended to be happy-ish. After that, they co-opted Morrissey (good riddance) and rode off to find more bitter horizons. Even the death of the sun in a million shades of red, flesh and gold is too cheerful for them.

So where did Goth really come from?  What was it all about? Well, there is a reason why there’s a 19th century fetish in there, it was a movement back then, too.

Left over from the 18th Century, there has been this idea floating around since some German or other said that reality is not really real, and that our senses are useless. After a while, some philosophers decided that there had to be SOME way to perceive what truly was, so they said, “HA! The EMOTIONS have to give us something! THEY are the true insight into reality!” <sarc> Not too long after that, somebody decided that psychic powers were plausible. </sarc>

This  idea captured the popular imagination. The resulting movement was called Romanticism.  It helps to know that Romanticism was the birth mother of Modernism. The two share a lot of roots.  Basically, Romanticism goes like this. We cannot use reason against monsters. The world sucks, so we may as well enjoy the decline. “Eat drink and be merry, for tomorrow we shall die,” is the bottom line. It’s basically an overly educated remake of that tired old hedonism.  We are all monsters, so we may as well enjoy it.

 

This is where the idea of “Darkness=Depth” really comes from. You can blame Freud, too. He said that all the monsters of the subconscious were really taboos created to protect the ego from whatever threatened it. So using monsters as a psychopomp into the subconscious.

The theory goes, that they show us what really matters. They argue that fear = power.  Emotions are ultimately more useful and deep than our reason.  As an added bonus, nobody needs to really learn anything except what you wind up finding during that extended navel gazing session. From personal experience, I’ll give you all the spoilers you need.  It’s a combination of wishful thinking and what you want to see. Problem solved, right?  Um. No, not really.

Some creative people also borrowed from gnosticism, which explains everything you need to know about social groups in high school. Combine that with the accumulated wisdom of Versailles (substitute Hot Topic for having your own garment manufacturing empire to keep up with the Le Jonses) and the exegesis pretty much writes itself.

After that it was a lot of drivel and nonsense that led to all sorts of exciting ideologies that a little bit of reason would have kaiboshed before their adherents decided to kill off millions of people.  The sleep of reason produces monsters, indeed.

'From_the_Earth_to_the_Moon'_by_Henri_de_Montaut_01a

 

 

 

More Reviews! Still More! And, an Update.

WritersPath

Margot does Book Reviews!

UPDATE:  This week is my Book Review! Look for it tomorrow!

And… we just had  a few more added to the list recently. Why? I can’t say no to books!  Just Can’t!  Note that in all books but the last one, you can click on the picture to get an Amazon link.

 

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Next up, is the esteemed Declan Finn, back to us with “It Was Only On Stun.” Which… yes, I am reading as we speak. (Well, okay, I’m taking a break to write a blog post, but you get the idea.)  I’m having fun with it. It’s the perfect response to too much politics. Those who abhor Science Fiction Conventions  and/or gonzo action scenes need not apply.

 

 

Greater-Treasure's-Large

 

Next up is Karina Fabian’s “Greater Treasures”. Our last announcement had some lovely dragon art to go with it!  This is  a hard look at making bad decisions for good reasons. Friendship between Catholic nun and a dragon should be highly entertaining, and likely has some real meat.  (No, not the nun, or at least I hope not!)

 

 

 

NEW!  Now for the new announcements on my reading calendar– a romance novel (gasp!) and a cosy mystery.

 

Farmhand

So that sweet Romance would be “Farmhand.

Written by Lilania Begley about the wounds that tear you apart and the pain that holds you together. Also, hard work and sweat can be mighty therapeutic!  This is just a preview, so stay tuned.

This translates in my head to “REAL Romance, before the 20th Century ruined them, and the 21st ruined them harder”.  The moment you lose track of your characters, it ceases to be Romance, IMNSHO.

 

If I want to read what people do when they are horny, it’s not hard to find.  So I welcome going back to a genre that kept me sane in college– when I was chased more than chaste.  [Ed. Yes, there are plenty of jokes to be had about that. Hrm. Maybe that’s a seed for another blog post, if people were interested in my moralizing.]

Who is Lilania Begley? Rumor has it, this is the pen name for Cedar Sanderson, also wrote Pixie Noir and it’s several sequels. I have it on good authority she’s doing another Pixie Noir sequel.

91yz4TUtfDL._SL1500_The second book is David Freer’s “Joy Cometh With the Mourning“, wherein a shiny new  Anglican minister is sent to a rural parish handle all herself.  She arrives in the middle of a rain storm only to discover that her predecessor was murdered!  She must both solve the mystery and heal deeper wounds in this congregation. All the while, finding her own peace  in the sometimes difficult country mindset.  Will she find a place here, or will she always be on the outside, looking in?

I’m a big fan of Cosies, but good ones are hard to find. I find myself going back to the classics.  Even from the first chapter, I know I’ll be coming back to this one.

 

 

Ramon Casas i Carbó [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Ramon Casas i Carbó [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

 

 

Surprise food post: Coffee Gelatin Dessert

416px-1920_Jell-O_CookbookI thought I was done with food here forever. But no, I had to post another food post.

See, I get angry sometimes. This time it was because I could not have dinner with my husband, even if it’s Friday night.  Still on a liquid diet, because well, gastroenteritis just isn’t fun.  Dang, this whole thing has even taught me how to spell the word.

Sometimes, when I get angry– I cook.  (But never bake. No. You wouldn’t like it when I bake angry.)

So to bring back cosmic rightness, I decided to do something very very wrong with gelatin.  I made… coffee gelatin. And I think it works pretty well.  There is definite alcoholic potential here, although I’m not up to partaking yet. I hope to experiment when I have the chance.  So, I offer you, the one, the only NA ‘jello shot’ option in the universe. If you can find that agar stuff, you can probably make this veggie friendly. But I’ll take the hit of protein, thank you very much.  (Also, it’s possible agar would not work with solidifying the coconut milk. But I have to ask Dave about that.)

mea culpa

mea culpa

COFFEE/EXPRESSO GELATIN  

(I won’t tell you how to eat it, but it could be anything from breakfast to dessert!)

I used an 8x8x3 inch pan. The recipe makes four cups of liquid total. That will cover about four ice cube trays.  But I’m here to warn you– if you go the ice cube tray route, you will want to have ample room in the freezer, ample time, and a steady hand. Because this is a bi-layer treat!

Ingredients:

4 packets of kosher gelatin, divided. (You can also use ONE 1oz packet, divided in half, or 4 tablespoons of gelatin divided into 2 tbs batches)

1.5-2 heaping tablespoons of “Dandy Blend”  or instant espresso *  (We will discuss coffee options. Trust me.)

2 heaping tablespoons of powdered coconut milk (I assume powdered milk would work here. Admittedly, powdered milk is less tasty)

Eight to ten (or more– I used stevia and eight was plenty) packets of your favorite sweetener, from stevia, to sugar, to the sky is the limit!

5-8 drops of Lori Pecan or Black Walnut flavoring (optional)

2 teaspoons of vanilla extract (you can use more)

Kahlua (optional)

Bailies (optional)

512px-Jello_Shot_Buffet

Have two pyrex measuring cups with at a least two cup capacity. Divide up your gelatin evenly between them. Do the same for the sweetener packets.   Add powdered coconut milk to one, and powdered coffee to the other. Though I used one extra sweetener for the coconut side, as flavors, even sugar, tend to get lost there. Add 1/2 cup of water to each of them, stir and let them bloom.  Be generous with time here. 10 minutes is about my average.

Set your water to boil. Measure out 1.5 cups of it and dump it into the coffee side. Let it stir and start to cool.

Take the coconut milk container after it has set a bit, and bring out a whisk, and beat the crap out of it.  The problem is that the coconut powder is more hydroscopic than the gelatin. So you have to beat it to make sure everybody gets a fair hearing with the liquid.  Keep beating until all the darker yellowish stuff integrates and it gets fluffy, thick, and homogeneous. YOu aren’t’ going to add hot water to this right away, because the coffee side has to be somewhat set before you pour it on. But this coconut powder/gelatin mix is going to need all the time it can get to hydrate properly.

After the coffee side has cooled a bit, but isn’t gelling yet, you take your flavorings, whether Kahlua, or Lori’s and add them in now. Stir. Then pour in your pan(s).

Take this time to start up the hot boiling water for your other side. IT also has to cool by the time you pour it in the pan and that can take a while.

Anyway, take your pan, and let it set on the counter until it’s not hot anymore. It can be a bit warm to the touch, but not steaming.

Put the coffee side into the freezer and go find something to do for half an hour.  Let chill until set, but not frozen. Freezing too hard does some odd things to the texture of your gelatin, and you may not like it.  It makes tapioca perls look appetising, and resembles eating rubberized broken glass. It would make a kick ass thing for Halloween, and maybe I’ll cover some of that later.

At any rate, after you are off the exerciser, go back and check your jello. Might not quite be set yet, but look thickish. If it sloshes, put it back.  You want to come back now, because now’s the time to pull the coconut stuff, add the vanilla, give it a whirl, and put it in the fridge. Yeah, I know, I tease.

Go away for another 15 minutes.  Now, you can take your gelatin, and put it in the fridge instead of the freezer, because you want it as firm as possible when you pour on the cream. Check the temp of everything. Nope, you need 15 more minutes.

Okay! IT should be cool enough by now!  Except… now you take out the cream side, and you grab your whisk, and you beat the crap out of it again.  This way you can get a frothy top on your capp.  You might use an electric whisk. That might make a truly interesting frothy top.  But I only used a hand whisk, and I liked the crema I got on top. Not stiff peaks like a meringue, but just a bit of froth on the top, like a cafe Americano.

Now you take out your gelled coffee, and pour your cream on top.  Do it gently. There is a technique, because your coffee gell is still pretty fragile. Wouldn’t want something to happen to it, do you?

Okay, you drizzle the stuff down the side of the pan, letting that stiff edge take the bulk of the action. I find a corner works best.  Then it flows out from that point, fanning out over the whole wobbly coffee surface. Now you see why it would be a pain to do this with an ice cube tray. For each and every little section, you’d have to pour it from that side like that in a slow and gentle fashion. I can’t imagine doing this drunk.

At any rate, You scrape out every bit from that pitcher, then immediately put your beautiful creation in the fridge.  It is almost done.  But before you leave the kitchen, put all your used stuff into hot water.  Seriously, this stuff binds when it dries, and it’s much tougher to clean out later.

Extra, extra optional:  you can peek in in an hour and sprinkle a few chocolate covered espresso beans over the top of it.  Just a thought.

Let it set for 4 hours to overnight (overnight being best) and wake up to a beautiful cube of morning coffee! It even stands up to greet you!

The down side, is that it’s not aromatic until you eat it.


* Coffee options, as promised.  You want two cups of intensely flavored liquid total. That makes it hard to do a fresh brew and have this work out. One way to do it would be to have one half cup of a strong coffee (say, espresso) in the freezer until it’s cool, while the rest sits where it can stay near boiling until ready to use. I’d recommend something more on the floral/aromatic side, like Gevalia. That works better with the jello taste aesthetic. Intelligentsia also has good coffee in this mold, too, or so I’m told.   The capuchins (I’m not making this up) make the best instant espressos on the market, but I have to go find what that brand is– last I looked there were several.  You can tell, they are the monks who look like emperor penguins.

Further note: “Dandy Blend” if you haven’t seen it before, is a non-coffee coffee flavored powdered beverage. It has toasted dandelion and other stuff in it, and it’s naturally gluten free. It also tastes half way decent.  But, it’s still not coffee. I’ll grant that Teechio is probably tastier in certain respects. But I’m still not certain I’d be able to get strong enough to flavor the gelatin effectively.  If you think you can, give it a shot and let me know!