Travel Theme: Golden

Ailsa’s travel theme this week at Where’s My Backpack? is “golden”. Groovy! I don’t have much time to be chatty today, so let’s get to it, shall we?

First stop: close to home. Beautiful Lewisburg, PA, where the trees put on quite the seasonal display and turn a stunning shade of gold in autumn.

It's kind of spectacular here in the fall.

It’s kind of spectacular here in the fall.

These Italian fig bundles look like little golden dessert ravioli. Stuffed with figs. They’re like a dream come true.

IMG_0062

Bask in their golden aura!

 

And speaking of Italy…here’s a cozy little street in Florence that turns golden once the sun starts to set and the lights come on.

I want to live here. That is all.

I want to live here. That is all.

Relax during the holidays! Be like Buddha, in perfect tranquility in a lotus flower. As seen at the MFA in Boston.

I feel all zen and groovy.

I feel all zen and groovy.

And finally…here is a sunrise that’s about as golden as it gets. Taken at North Carolina’s Outer Banks. It’s one heck of a way to start the day.

Nature is so effortlessly beautiful.

Nature is so effortlessly beautiful.

This was a great challenge for me to do. It’s been an opaque gray here for about a week; I’ve been starved of brightness. (No, wait. There was one notable hour of sunlight; we were all so happy to see it we made sure our friends and neighbors checked out that strange fiery sky orb, but I digress.) I hope you enjoyed the photos! Or, of course, you’d be more than welcome to participate. See you ’round the internets.

XOXO

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Nosh: Roasted Spiced Beet Tatin

I’m not sure why, but I woke up yesterday with a hankering for beets, and a desire to putter around in the kitchen. Sometimes, good things happen when I start to putter. Mmmm, beets. Sweet, earthy, dense, jewel-colored, beautiful. Beets!

A few days ago a friend of mine posted a link to a beet tarte tatin, which is basically beets made like an upside down cake, topped with puff pastry. Savory beets + buttery pastry? I’m in! But here’s the thing: every single recipe for a beet tarte tatin that I found online involved drowning roasted beets in butter and sugar, before baking them inside pastry that is inherently butter-gorged. It’s a delicious idea in principle, but this? Is totally unnecessary. Beets are the candy of the vegetable world. They’re grown FOR their sugar. Adding sugar to them is overkill. And how much butter do you really need to eat at dinner? Save your butter intake for the shortbreads you’re sure to encounter this holiday season.

So what’s a girl to do? We improvise.

Here’s the basic principle of a tarte tatin: arrange edibles in a pleasing design in the bottom of a cake pan, cover with puff pastry, bake, invert, eat. Got it. Now let’s get to it! REMEMBER: This is a dish made for a day you have time to putter; it will probably take about an hour and a half (maybe even closer to two hours) from start to finish, between the prep-work and the cook time. And so, with no further ado…

  • 3 good-sized beets, scrubbed, peeled, and cut into quarters, then roasted according to this recipe (so you’ll also need thyme/rosemary/cinnamon/red pepper flakes, red wine and balsamic vinegars, salt & pepper, see recipe link for specifics)
  • 1 large red onion
  •  1 smallish handful (1/4 cup, maybe?) pine nuts; walnuts (chopped) would also be nice here if you didn’t have pine nuts on hand
  • 1 sheet puff pastry, thawed
  • 1/2 cup grated horseradish cheese or Swiss cheese (optional)
  • olive oil

Take the puff pastry out of the freezer and let it sit on the counter to defrost. Don’t leave it in the fridge to defrost; I’ve found out the hard way that it won’t defrost in there as much as you would like. Just set it on a plate on your counter top and forget about it for the next 50 minutes or so.  I’m assuming you’re using frozen puff pastry, because… No reason. Just because. Look, I make a lot of stuff from scratch. But delicate pastries like this? I’ll buy it pre-packaged, thank you very much.  Preheat the oven to 400°, because the first thing you’ll want to do is peel and roast the beets. Bear in mind that you want them to look pretty post-roast, so when you prep them for roasting, cut them into uniform-looking quarters. 

Now get to roasting, gorgeous beetses!

Now get to roasting, gorgeous beetses!

The fatter ends of the beets are pretty dense, so give these about 40-45 minutes to roast. Toss with herbs, spices, vinegars, salt and pepper, and oil, and put it in the oven. Turn once about halfway through. When they’re done, set them aside, but you’ll be using them fairly soon after they’re out of the oven so don’t worry about letting them cool completely. Drop the oven temperature to 350°.

While the beets are roasting, thinly slice the red onion into nice, big rounds, sprinkle them with some salt, toss them with oil, and get them in a pan over medium-low heat. These are going to caramelize, and that takes…oh, about 40-45 minutes. Once they start to soften and turn gold, then brown, you will need to pay a little attention to them. You don’t want them to get crisp, just soft and sweet, so stir them fairly often. If you notice them starting to stick to the bottom of the pan, you can do one of two things to loosen them. You can 1) add more oil, which I don’t favor, because I feel like it just fattens up the works, or 2) toss in a little veggie broth or water, which I do favor. It also helps steam them into softness, and is that much less oil you need to worry about. Eventually, the onions will turn rich and brown and soft and super-sweet, and you’ll remember that the world is indeed a beautiful place, that you can extract such gorgeous flavor from a sulfuric root vegetable.

Almost too good to be true.

Almost too good to be true.

Once the beets are cooked and the onions are caramelized, take an 8-inch cake pan and grease it with a little bit of olive oil (meaning: pour a little dime-sized spot of olive oil in the cake pan and rub it around the bottom and sides with a bit of paper towel). Start to arrange your beets in a pretty pattern. Pay attention to this detail because it will figure into the presentation later. When you invert the tatin to serve it, you’ll want the beets to be the stars of the show. Try and imagine how they’ll look, upside down and backwards. :)

It's worth it. Trust me.

It’s worth it. Trust me.

Nice, evenly-spaced circles look great and require practically no skill to arrange. That’s what I went for.

Top this with caramelized onions, and then top the onions with a sprinkling of pine nuts.

I love it when a plan starts to come together.

I love it when a plan starts to come together.

The beets and the onions are both seasoned with salt and/or pepper, so I wouldn’t opt to add any more seasoning at this stage. Just let the foods as they’ve been cooked come together. Top the beets and onions with the sheet of puff pastry. You may need to roll the puff pastry out to get it to cover the entirety of the pan, but that’s easy to do. Just lay it on a flat surface and make a few passes over it with a rolling pin. It should readily stretch. Then you just lay it out on top of your cake pan, trim off any crazy excess corners, and tuck the pastry all around the edges of the pan.

See? Easy-peasy.

See? Easy-peasy.

Note the holes. This dough is docked, which means I poked a bunch of holes in it with a fork. Now it won’t bake up to be super-puffy, just kind of puffy, yet still totally delicious. Put it in the oven for 30 minutes, turning once half-way through. When you take it out, it should be toasted and beautiful.

Golden perfection!

Golden, slightly puffy perfection!

Let this sit for 10 minutes to give the tatin a chance to set. Now is the time to decide what to do: do you want to serve it as-is? Or do you intend to top it with cheese and broil it for a few minutes? Because…

If you want to serve it as-is, put the serving dish you plan to present it on, on top of the cake pan. If you want to top it with cheese and put it in the broiler, put a cookie sheet on top of the cake pan. Then: FLIP!

YES!

YES!

I told you that my anal-retentive attention to detail would pay off. 

Wait, let’s get another food-porn look at this, shall we?

Well, hello, beautiful.

Well, hello, beautiful.

I did choose to top this with horseradish cheese, because I think almost everything is better with horseradish cheese. But for real, it is perfectly heavenly right now. You could go cheeseless and be fine. But me?  I cheesed it up and stuck it under the broiler for a few more minutes.

Now I'm sad I don't have any more leftovers.

Now I’m sad I don’t have any more leftovers.

We ate this with a simple tossed salad with arugula, and a roasted pear and pumpkin soup (recipe coming). It was a table full of warm, wintery comfort. It wasn’t a speedy dish to put together, it was absolutely a “Sunday in the kitchen” sort of meal, but it’s surprisingly easy and oh, so, so satisfying. Enjoy! I know I did.

Nosh: Zaalouk al Qarnabit (Cauliflower Dip)

I was looking at a friend’s photos of the lovely Thanksgiving event they attended, when I noticed a sign for something called “zaalouk al qarnabit”. Hmmm, I thought. Food I don’t know about? Zaalouk whaaa…? I am so intrigued! What on Earth could that be?

Turns out, as exotic as this sounds, it’s a cauliflower dip. If you must know, it translates as “mashed cauliflower”, which sounds like something far less shrouded in dusky mystery, but it is delicious all the same. Zaalouk al qarnabit is almost, kind of but not really, like a Moroccan-style cauliflower salsa that could be modified for any variety of things. It’s delicious as a dip, scooped up on a nice, crisp crostini, but I could also imagine it on top of some cous cous, or on top of a piece of grilled chicken (or fish, I suppose, but I’m not really a seafood fan). I need to make it again because I keep on imagining it with cinnamon added to the spice mix, but that’s for a future blog. The recipe, as written below, is the one I used.

A word to potential zaalouk al qarnabit eaters: if you do not like garlic, this dish is not for you.

  •  1 large head cauliflower
  • 2 ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
  • 1 heaping teaspoon tomato paste, if necessary
  • 6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup (I generally think of fresh parsley in terms of handsful, so if you would prefer to think of it this way, take one large handful) chopped parsley, divided in half
  • 4 teaspoons paprika — or a combination of 2 tsp sweet/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 2 teaspoons salt, or to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon or more urfa biber
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 of a preserved lemon, cut into small dice
  • Olive oil

Urfa biber is ground Turkish pepper, that is incredibly complex. It’s a little spicy, a little smoky, almost raisin-y/licorice-y/vanilla-y. Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, even here in central PA it’s not terribly hard to get your hands on, but if you don’t have any, toss in a little additional black pepper and maybe some healthy pinches of red pepper flakes/smoked paprika/ground fennel, if you’re feeling creative. It still won’t be quite the same, but you know. Close enough.

As for preserved lemons, what can I say? Buy some. They’ll last forever in your fridge. If you’ve got a few weeks you can make them; they’re apparently not hard to make, but they need time to sit. (FUTURE PROJECT! Stay tuned; I’ll let you know how it goes.) Apparently, if you absolutely don’t have access to preserved lemons you can peel them and saute the rind (pith and all) in some oil with salt and a touch of sugar, which will mellow the lemony bite, but the salty briny bite of preserved lemon is pretty distinct and difficult to approximate. Seriously. Buy some.

Put a nice big pot of water on the stove to boil, big enough to boil an entire head of cauliflower in. You’ll add salt to the water for the cauliflower, but let it come to a boil first. Take your tomatoes in hand. Put little X’s in the bottoms of the tomatoes and, when the unsalted water comes to a boil, dunk the tomatoes in the boiling water for 30 seconds or so to loosen their skins and make them easier to peel.

Just peel along the X.

Just peel along the X. I was making a double-batch of zaalouk al qarnabit, which is why I have a ton of tomatoes in this photo.

Set them aside to cool, so they’re ready to peel, seed, and chop later. Using the same pot of water, add salt, and keep it hot for cauliflower.

One of the nice things about this dish–besides its being delicious and relatively easy to make–is that it uses nearly every part of the cauliflower. Leaves, stem, florets, everything can go in except for any gnarly bits you may trim off, so there’s virtually no waste. I found the cauliflower trimming to be the most taxing part of this zaalouk process, so take care of that first. Cut stems and florets into chunks that are roughly the same size. You want them to be a comparable consistency when you mash them, but don’t make yourself crazy. Keep leaves, stems, and florets in distinct piles.

Really. This was the hardest part.

Really. This was the hardest part.

Put the sturdy stems of the cauliflower into the boiling water first and let them soften for two or three minutes before adding the florets; they’re tougher and need a little more time in the water. Next, add the florets and let them boil until everything is nice and soft to the tooth, another 7 or 8 minutes.

Meanwhile, peel, seed, and chop the tomatoes, and chop as much garlic as you think you can stand.

Vampire-free food, right here.

Vampire-free food, right here.

When the cauliflower is soft, reserve about a half a cup of the salted water, then drain off the water. Let the cauliflower sit in the sink to drain as much as possible. Get some olive oil going in a roomy pan and add the tomatoes and garlic. Since these tomatoes are off-season and not terribly…tomato-y…I added a healthy teaspoon of tomato paste to the pan, so this food had a really solid flavor base to build on. Once the tomatoes start to break down and convert into a sauce, add the pepper and/or urfa biber, paprika(s), and cumin. Don’t add any salt yet; see if you want or need it at the end. The cauliflower is salted, and preserved lemons are really salty, so you might not need any more. Wait and see.

Cook the tomatoes and spices all together, until they’re heady and fragrant and brown and the pan looks almost dry.

Rich, brown, delicious flavors happening here.

Rich, brown, delicious flavors happening here.

While this is cooking, chop half the parsley, the preserved lemon (I picked out the seeds and used all the rest of it) and the cauliflower leaves. Chop the preserved lemons very small! They’re quite powerful. You don’t want to blast someone with a large chunk of lemon. Toss in some of that reserved cauliflower water in the bottom of the pan, just enough to make it easy to pull up the browned and luscious bits from the bottom, and give the parsley, etc., something to hang out in.

Yep. Just like that.

Yep. Just like that.

Give them a few minutes to cook together, then add the drained cauliflower and mash. And mash. And mash. Keep the heat on low, as you’re trying to cook out any remaining water. Who wants a watery dip that oozes all over everyone? Not this girl. You could probably throw everything into a food processor, but 1) the cauliflower is super-soft, so if this takes you any longer than five minutes to mash, something isn’t right, 2) you’d lose the benefit of cooking out the excess water and 3) it’s supposed to be a little textured, rather than smooth and pasty. When the cauliflower is fully integrated with the tomato/spice mixture, and it’s the consistency you want, and it’s not watery, you’re ready. Now give it a taste, and add salt if you think it’s necessary.

You can make this a day ahead of time, if necessary. Overnight in the fridge won’t hurt it at all. In fact, the flavors get to mingle that way. I liked it even more once it sat for a night.

Chop the remainder of the fresh parsley, and garnish. Sprinkle some additional paprika on top if you’re so inspired. You can also garnish with slivers of olives, or some more preserved lemon peel. Serve with crostini, or pita, or crackers. And feast.

Snack time!

Snack time!

Delicious. Vegan. Healthy. Gorgeous. Interesting. And you can pretty much rest assured that if you bring zaalouk al qarnabit to a party, you won’t have anyone else’s version of this dish to compete with. Dazzle your friends! And–more importantly–dazzle yourself. Enjoy!

Travel Theme: Slow

Ailsa has echoed the words I’ve heard over and over this past week: Can you believe it’s already December? Oh my stars, how the time has flown!

And you know, it’s true. I kind of can’t believe it myself. I mean…I have cookies to make! Presents to buy! A holiday visiting schedule to plan! And a birthday to have! What the hell? Is it really December?

Consequently, Ailsa’s travel theme this week is: slow. Ooh, nice. So get on over to Where’s My Backpack?, put your feet up, and relax.

Milton State Park is just up the road from my house. While it’s got its fair share of natural beauty, there are those odd bits of random debris that either get dumped or make their way up from the river, and are strangely beautiful in their own, slowly deteriorating way.

Time is having its way with this old tank.

Time is having its way with this old tank.

It’s been two years since Hurricane Sandy tore its way through the Jersey shore, and parts of the town of Seaside Heights have been slow to rebuild. Not that it’s the town’s fault, mind you. It’s just that there was an insane amount (technically referred to as a “staggering shit-ton”) of repair work that needed to be done, all along the NJ/NY/DE coasts.

Some day...

Not cool, Sandy. Not. Cool.

Closer to home, and with happier implications, on a lazy summer day I took a bike ride along our fine rail trail. The air was thick and heavy, and you had to push through it to go forward. Insects let out a slow buzz around my head and the bold, bright sun pushed every living thing back into the comfort of shade. Even the cows couldn’t be bothered.

Central PA was burdened by summer this day.

Cow stays under the tree branch, because being out in the sun = a whole lot of nope.

While visiting my boyfriend’s family, we took a side trip to The Meadowlands Museum for a slice of Rutherford history. It was very well done, with thoughtful exhibits that highlighted topics of industrial, ecological and cultural importance to the area. In the basement, though, they had tables filled with items that didn’t quite belong anywhere yet, and were in the process of being catalogued. Like this device, which is perhaps the slowest way I can imagine to crank out fresh-squeezed citrus juices (though I’d bet it would extract every single drop).

Crank that orange like it ain't no thing.

Crank that orange like it ain’t no thing.

And finally…

Check out the slow, steady flow of the beautiful Susquehanna River. I get to feast my eyes on this every day.

Home.

Home.

So remember, folks, to take a few minutes and breathe every now and again. Maybe we can’t slow down time, but we can manage our reaction to it. And check out the other folks participating in Ailsa’s travel challenge! Maybe you’ll find something in there that will inspire your own entry… :)

The Walking Dead, S 5, Ep. 8: Coda

SPOILERS.

I MEAN IT.

If you haven’t watched this episode of The Walking Dead yet and don’t want to know what happens, then avert your eyes, because I will be all up and down this episode.

CONSIDER YOURSELF ALERTED.

That is all.

First, let me just say…I didn’t see that coming. I mean, at one point early in the episode I thought I got a hint of what was going to happen, but still. I didn’t see it coming.

The it, to which I am referring, is the death of old what’s her face. I mean Beth. Beth! Oh my God, they killed Beth! You bastards!

Before I go into the story of Beth…can someone please do something (anything) about Father Gabriel? I mean, he’s…a human, so I suppose that’s something in his favor. But ohhh myyyy gawwwwwd I am so over his zombie squeamishness. I know he locked himself in a church and “La la la I can’t hear you screaming”-ed himself through the first 18 months or so of the new world order, but…dude. Get it together.  I kind of lost all patience for him in the previous episode when he couldn’t kill a zombie because she was wearing a crucifix. Father, she is undead, and would eat you for lunch, crucifix or no. It’s time to adjust.

And can someone explain to me…OK, so, Michonne is a killing machine, no? She sliced her way through a good handful of zombies invading Father Gabriel’s church, and barely worked up a sweat.

Michonne, Master of Badass

Michonne, Master of Badass

Then she, Carl (with baby Judith, of course), and Father Gabriel retreated to the rectory to scoot out the hole in the floor. When they were trying to close the rectory door and put something solid between them and the relentless undead, zombie fingers prevented them from fully shutting the door. Michonne is the woman who cut the jaws and arms off two zombies and wore them as postapocalyptic personal protective gear. Why didn’t she think to slice off those grabby, undead fingers so she could properly shut and lock the door?

Seriously. Just. Cut. The fingers.

Seriously. Just. Cut. The fingers.

Then Abe Ford conveniently showed up in his fire engine, collected everyone, and drove off to Atlanta to rendezvous with the rest of Rick Nation. Hail, hail! The gang will soon be gathered again.

 All right, so, back to Beth. I know, I was extremely hard on her in previous posts, largely because the writers gave her nothing to do besides sing and take care of baby Judith (other than that brief, “I think I want to kill myself” story arc in season 2), but you know, she’s been doing her thing since the prison went down and they all separated. She’d become tough, and honest, and remarkably clear-sighted about their lives and the state of the world around them. During her time in Grady Memorial Hospital with the Dawnians, Beth had become increasingly vocal about the injustices she saw enacted upon the other hospital residents. She’d also managed to put an end to two of commanding officer Dawn‘s incredibly corrupt and abusive officers, so her capacity for ridding the world of dangerous jerks was pretty high. That’s too bad, because there sure seem to be a lot of dangerous jerks out there.

So long, dangerous jerk!

Take that, dangerous jerk!

Through somewhat drawn out negotiations, the Dawnians and Rick Nation agree to a hostage exchange; Beth and Carol for the two officers (still living) that Rick and the rescue team had captured. Herein lie my problems with the misunderstandings regarding Dawn’s nature. She? Is clearly a dictator. She may be making it up as she goes along, and she may have herself convinced she’s doing something “for the greater good”, but she is absolutely the embodiment of a totalitarian dictator. She has people beaten for mistakes. She sees people as bargaining tools. She lets her officers rape the wards, ostensibly to “keep them happy”. The wards are forbidden to leave her stronghold, and must work to pay off a debt to the Dawnians which said wards did not necessarily have any autonomy in incurring (i.e., Beth was brought in unconscious after [probably] being hit by one of the officer’s cars, and was told she was indebted to them for saving her life, which they jeopardized in the first place). She doesn’t want love, just respect. Dawn created a shrine to fallen officers (at least one of which she killed, and another one of which she knew was raping the wards) to propagandize her hierarchical structure. And Dawn manipulated people into doing her dirty work for her, like getting Beth to kill the officer she was fighting with. Because turning one person against an enemy creates a common, dirty, secret bond.

PROPAGANDA!

PROPAGANDA!

To those of us who haven’t lived (or studied) the mechanics of a dictatorial regime, Dawn’s actions may seem inconceivable. I’ve read commentary that has said she was barely in any kind of control, citing things like her looking the other way regarding the sexual abuse of the wards. Their commentary evolves from the assumption that she can’t stop them. What the commenters don’t assume is that she won’t, or simply doesn’t care. It doesn’t take into the account that permissiveness among the chosen elite and brutal strongarm tactics are the trademark of many, many dictators. Stalin killed his perceived enemies and surrounded himself with yes men, who he let…kidnap and rape and beat and enslave, and it was because the yes men knew he would kill them if they tried to overthrow him and failed, that he remained in power. And life wasn’t so bad for people in the inner circle, so why rock the boat. Hey…does this sound familiar?

At the end of the hostage exchange, Carol and Beth are both back with Rick Nation and the two officers Rick Nation had captured were back safely to their own. Dawn–afraid to appear weak in front of her officers–changes the rules and says she wants Noah back or the deal is off. The conversation goes like this:

Dawn: He’s one of mine. You have no claim on him.

Rick: The boy wants to go home. So you have no claim on him.

Dawn: Well then we don’t have a deal.

But what if they think I'm wimpy?

But what if they think I’m wimpy?

The social commentary behind them bargaining about the claiming and servitude of a black man is an entire blog in and of itself. I’ll just spin this out into the webisphere for now. However, if you’re in the middle of philosophizing over media images of social issues, please don’t fail to recognize this, readers.

Foreshadowing alert: this claiming of people hearkens back to the episode “Claimed”, where the group Daryl fell in with post-Beth-capture could call dibs on rabbit halves and beds and such. Initially, it seemed kind of weirdly playground-ish (but with more serious implications). It ended poorly for the original claimers, and there’s no reason to think things will go differently for Dawn. It would have been way more satisfying–and perhaps more appropriate–if one of Dawn’s own officers shot her when she changed the rules of the game, especially because they understand that the ire of Rick Nation was focused on Dawn, not them. When Dawn’s officers didn’t take this opportunity to wrest power from her, Beth knew that Dawn’s demands for power would only grow. She knew Noah would be horribly mistreated, and she knew Dawn had to be stopped somehow. That’s what she “got”, at the end. I can only hope she was trying to stab Dawn in the neck with her mini-scissors, and had the worst aim in the history of being stabby.

Rut-ro.

Rut-ro.

I’m pretty sure Beth knew that a shoulder wound wouldn’t be fatal.

Unless she was still trying–albeit in an incredibly roundabout way–to kill herself.

Alas, poor Beth, we hardly knew ye.

So Beth stabbed Dawn, and Dawn shot Beth, and Daryl shot Dawn (who looked like she had the ridiculous, ludicrous nerve to try and plead for her life), and a bloodbath was averted when Dawn’s officers called to hold fire. “It was always just about her,” the officer says. Rightly so. And I’m pretty sure Khrushchev danced on Stalin’s grave, too.

Ummm...funny story. So I didn't mean to shoot your friend in the head...

Ummm…funny story. So I didn’t mean to shoot your friend in the head…

Interestingly enough, none of the residents of the hospital left with Rick Nation, when Rick offered to take them in. The devil you know, it seems, is better than the devil you don’t.

And then all of Rick Nation got in Abe’s big red truck and drove away.

We did get one last teaser. Morgan showed up again, and he found his way into Father Gabriel’s abandoned church. He gently, mercifully–almost lovingly, really–did away with a zombie trapped under a piece of debris, hissing and biting at him. And then he found a map Abe had left for Rick, and realized he was on the trail of good buddy Rick Grimes and the Rick Nation.

Shhhhhh...

Shhhhhh…

GIVE US MORE MORGAN! WE WANT MORGAN!

The end, until February 8.

Since I’ve been thinking Russian history during this blog, here’s an Epic Rap Battle: Rasputin vs. Stalin, to play you out.

Just Say No: Selfies With Bears

Apparently, there is a new and incredibly stupid trend making its way around the interwebs these days.

You know, I am a fan of both animals and nature photos. I post a daily squee on my Facebook page so we can start the day off by looking at something cute and fluffy. And I will be among the first to admit that bears–all kinds, all sizes/shapes/ages–can be pretty frickin’ adorable.

Bears. Cute, even when wet. Image from matyuphoto.com

Bears. Cute, even when wet.
Image from matyuphoto.com

I mean…look at those wet baby bear ears. D’awwww! D’oh! Who wants a skritch?

My point is, I like cute animals. Right? Right.

Unfortunately, Lake Tahoe officials have had to issue warnings lately because people have been taking too many selfies with bears.

That’s right. Selfies. With bears.

Apparently, in the Taylor Creek area of South Lake Tahoe, bears have been out in relative abundance, primarily to get in a good feeding at the ol’ fishing stream before hibernating. Nature photographers get great photos of bears when they’re eating, sure. From a distance. With a mega-powered zoom lens.

What they don’t do is stand in front of a bear with their iPhones at the ready.

Bear: Pardon me, miss. Can I talk to you about our lord and savior GRAHTHTMTHMAGRRRAMACHUKCHUK *nom* Image from buzzfeed.com

Bear: Pardon me, miss. Can I talk to you about our lord and savior GRAWRRAWRGRRR *nom*
Image from buzzfeed.com

I don’t normally try and blame the victim but seriously, this girl would have had it coming.

I thought I would lose my mind with fury when I read this. Initially, I was mad because it’s just so stupid. Bears are unpredictable, kind of territorial, and (if they’re on their way to fish), hungry. And you, dearest friends and readers, sport a relatively fragile body made almost entirely out of meat. And the thing is, if a bear mauls someone who’s doing something incredibly stupid and provocative around a bear, then people will still go after the bear. And kill it in revenge, while the bear’s all like, “What did I do?”

#Truth Image from allthatspam.blogspot.com

#Truth
Image from allthatspam.blogspot.com

And then I was extra-furious, because…people…the world is not one big Disney amusement park. Not everything is sanitized for your protection, all situations are not rendered safe, and bears aren’t all friendly creatures with whom you can eat honey and trade belly rubs. This isn’t reality TV, this is reality. If you saw that weird, twitchy guy at the mall, you wouldn’t pose for a selfie in front of him, would you? No, you’d give that guy some space in case he’d snap. So…why on Earth would you pose in front of a thing with less capacity for reason, who’s got, essentially, scimitars on the ends of their paws?

Ready to open up a world o' hurt.

Bear claws: more than just a pastry. Image from delong.typepad.com

Please, people. In the interests of bears, and sanity, stop living as though your world view has been taken from a Disney movie. It’s not fair to the bear. And it’s potentially really…really…detrimental to your well being.

I realize that now, bears are going down for the winter, so this information most likely won’t be relevant until the spring (though, of course, bears can be woken up fairly easily during hibernation, so…no rattling cans of bear chow on winter hikes, people). But for the love of all that is sensible, leave the 600 pound killing machines to themselves.

Here’s what to do if you find yourself on the wrong end of a bear attack.

And for the members of the gay community who love their big ol’ bears…go to it, friends. This has nothing to do with you.

Here’s a little ditty by The Magnetic Fields to play you out.

The Walking Dead, S 5 Ep. 7: Crossed

SPOILERS, yada yada, but probably not really, but you know, I feel compelled to say this. Spoiler alert.

There you have it.

The Walking Dead, Season 5, Episode 7. I’m using other people’s images instead of my fancy “pause and take a picture of the TV” method. Because I feel like it today. And I found one truly fantastic series of images regarding this episode which I need to share. But I’m getting ahead of myself, so…on to the bloggery.

First: I am preparing for Carol‘s death. I’m not happy about it. I don’t like the thought even a little. But she has, kind of, become The Terminator and I suppose her story line is running a little dry. She’s in hospital right now with the Beth captor people (do they have a name? The Dawnians? I mean, “The Grady Memorial Hospital Totalitarians” is such a mouthful….) and Rick Nation is trying to bust her out. I think they’ll get her so far out of there, there will be no coming back.

Waah.

If I were asked to summarize this episode in one sentence, I would say this was the episode wherein people do inexplicable things.

Rick Nation goes to Atlanta on a rescue mission to retrieve Beth and #TeamCarol, which is fine and totally makes sense. But. One would think, in the immediate days after Terminus, this group (who BARELY escaped with their lives) would be inclined to shoot first and ask questions never. I mean, the guy who lived there and is providing inside information is inclined to think an assault will work better. But instead… Fine, Tyreese. I get that he’s all “no, we can be all Zen and groovy, we don’t have to shed blood, we can just create a hostage crisis and make trades.”

Which, you know. OK, FIIIIIIIIINE, Tyreese. But then the Dawnians showed that they were determined to fight. What’s a backwoods country boy like Daryl Dixon to do when his opponent starts shooting/swinging/trying to stuff your head into a melty, napalmed zombie’s mouth?

Meet Daryl Dixon, the new advocate for non-violent resolution.  Image from tv.com

Meet Daryl Dixon, the new advocate for non-violent resolution.
Image from tv.com

Well, of course Daryl–DARYL, the man who had to be held back from running out into the street to stomp the faces off the men who hit Carol with their car, yes, that guy–started reasoning with Rick to not kill the man who just tried to kill him.

WHAT.

I can understand wanting to be a monk in the zombie apocalypse. I can understand there must be an amazing sort of emotional exhaustion that comes with constantly poking holes in living and/or formerly living things. I just don’t think the characters have expressed a solid understanding that now is not the time for emotional latitude. Or lenience.

A genius–GENIUS, I TELL YOU–apparently saw the same WTFery I did with this decision-making process and…well, I don’t know if he created this, but he posted it. Behold, a summary of this The Walking Dead plot point:

*dying* Image from tv.com

*dying*
Image from tv.com

So they took hostages. And trusted the one seemingly reasonable person they encountered and…wait a second. Wasn’t it Rick who said, in a previous episode (and I quote):

I need you to hear what I’m about to say. You. Are not safe. No matter how many people are around, or how clear the area looks, no matter what anyone says, no matter what you think. You are not safe. It only takes one second, one second, and it’s over. Never let your guard down. Never.

Unless, of course, it’s this cop guy from the enemy camp, the place you know is holding your friends, who maintains a position of abusive power. No, go ahead, hang on his every word, because he’s certainly going to give you the straight dope.

Hey, Diogenes, I'm the honest man of your dreams. Trust me. Image from dailymail.co.uk

Hey, Diogenes, I’m the honest man of your dreams. Trust me.
Image from dailymail.co.uk

Duh.

I can almost forgive Sasha for letting her guard down around the cop (conveniently, named Bob) because she’s an emotional wreck right now, but then again…THIS IS THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE. You don’t have the luxury to succumb to emotional feelies. Get over yourself.

And…Father Gabriel…WHAT. In the hell. He can’t handle being around the merciless undead, he doesn’t know the first thing about fighting back against them. He throws up when he’s face to face with a walker, or squinches his eyes and waits for a zombie to tear into him. He kind of sounds like this in the presence of anything even the least bit unsavory.

And yet, he thought it would be a good idea to…dig himself out of the church through the floorboards and dash out into the Georgia wilderness? WHAT.

It kind of served him right to find the remains of Bob‘s half-eaten leg, still on the grate over the fire. Take THAT, Mr. Poorly-Formed Escape Plan!

Though in all seriousness, I think the good…bad…inexplicable Father is screwed since stepping on that nail.

Ooh, that's gotta smart.  Image from dailymail.co.uk

Padre, that stigmata’s really gonna leave a mark.
Image from dailymail.co.uk

As for Abe Ford & Co., they were the only ones whose actions made even the slightest sense. Abe is kind of losing his mind since Eugene told him he wasn’t the Savior of the World. Abe is a mess, and Eugene is a drooling mess, and the rest of the group are defensive messes, but you know, at least they’re understandable.

Next week: mid-season finale! I will prepare myself to bid Carol adieu, no matter how much it hurts.

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