Monday, September 19, 2016

Monday Morning Things

* Tiny Pony Wrap-Up: I kinda liked this episode. It was interesting how Applejack's *distrust* of Flim and Flam led her not to want to attack that as the main friendship problem (even though Fluttershy thought it was) and her skepticism led her to investigate further, and she then found the underlying issues.

I also liked how Fluttershy's ability to communicate with animals allowed her to get information, both from the magic-act-on-a-trapeze bunny and from the pink guinea pigs.

(The episode was set in "Las Pegasus," the Equestrian analog of Las Vegas. But, to keep it kid-friendly, instead of drinkin' and gamblin' and other-things-only-legal-in-Nevada, the place is kind of like a giant Chuck E. Cheese, but with no screaming children and no creepy animatronic figure. (And no bad pizza - that's my main memory of my ONE trip to a Chuck E. Cheese, the pizza was terrible. I was about 13 so there were few other attractions for me. We went because my brother wanted to go SO BAD and I think it was his birthday....we made a long trek to the nearest one which was far away from where we lived. I guess he wasn't that impressed because he never asked to go back).

So Flim and Flam are now like carny barkers in Las Pegasus, promoting the Equestrian version of Cirque du Soleil and the Equestrian version of Siegfried and Roy. (I will note in passing that no "BEST FRIENDS!" jokes passed between Seigfried Pony and Roy Pony, and that seems to be considerable restraint on the part of the writers there. Though I don't think the actual Seigfried and Roy were actually "best friends.")

Anyway, the actual underlying source of the friendship problem was "Gladmane" - a Fat Elvis pony, though he also seemed to borrow heavily from Gravity Fall's "Gideon Gleeful" (the child who was a fake-psychic and who, at first, everyone LOVED despite him being a creepy manipulator). And also, as the episode continued, I found myself thinking of every "crooked Southern politician" character that Charles Durning played in his long career.

And actually, the friendship problem here is kind of a sad and creepy one, though one I bet a lot of kids encountered (I did): one "friend" manipulates the others by telling them lies, telling them the others don't like them. And so, that "friend" keeps everyone else at loggerheads and gets all the attention for himself or herself. And while the resolution is kind of unsatisfying (Gladmane is deposed - his golden statue pulled down - and he is run off, and Flim and Flam take over the casino resort, and it's implied they'll be no more honest than they were before), at least the various performers saw through Gladmane's manipulation.

And I will say, VERY early in the episode, I looked at Gladmane and said to myself, "He's gonna be the bad guy." I've been conditioned to look at people who are, well, "glad handers" as people who can't be trusted - the old "if they shake your hand, count your fingers afterward" type. Sad but true, I tend to be a bit suspicious of anyone who seems TOO charismatic and acts like they are a friend to everyone.

* It's super humid right now. The elbow I broke some 25 years ago is aching, and I've been having some breathing discomfort. (We're supposed to get a heat index in the low 100s today, which is not good either. I'm ready for summer to be done but I guess it isn't just yet).

* I'm kind of unhappy and unsettled about my town. There's kind of a low level drug problem (well, several, I guess) here: most recent news is there was a shooting over $160 worth of cannabis. The thing that makes me uncomfortable was it happened on the road that leads to one of my field sites (apparently the guys drove up and did the deal from their cars?). And yeah, it was late at night and I"m only out in the day, but still. And there was the case - I think I talked about it? About the guy who shoplifted a couple cans of whatever the Freon equivalent is now, tried to return them to the Wal-Mart for money (this is apparently a common scam) and who tried to stab the customer-service worker when the worker wasn't going to fall for it.

My local wal-mart doesn't do the "order online, pickup curbside" (we are too small, I guess, and I suspect they don't employ quite enough people) or else I'd shift to that when I had to shop there. I know, I know: I shouldn't be scared but I'm getting to the point of "the less I engage with most of humanity, the better" - Saturday's trip out wasn't that fun. A couple stores I went into where I didn't *need* anything, I saw the lines at the cash register and just walked back out. I don't know if it was because it was a payday for some people (people who get paid twice a month - my check only comes once) or if there was some event going on but the stores were slammed and people were *not* on their best behavior. (I first typed that as "pest behavior," which yeah, some people were on).

I also saw some guys driving through the parking lot of the shopping center - making circuits, I guess, so people would see them. They were in a big pickup truck, with a Confederate flag strapped to it (so the flag waved as they drove) but they were also playing loud rap music with misogynistic/crude-word lyrics.

Their truck had Wisconsin license plates. I hope they went back home. And I hope they were just behaving that badly because "We're here and we'll never come back" and they don't torment the people in their town with that kind of noise. Also, as I commented on Twitter: "I hate Wisconsin rednecks" (And yeah, I probably violated some corollary to Godwin's Law with that comparison, but that was the first thing that sprang to mind)

There was also a little car in the parking lot painted green and gold and COVERED with Packers memorabilia (which made me wonder: could the 'Boys be playing Green Bay on Sunday? I looked it up, no). The car's owner was in the bookstore and he was similarly decorated (so I guessed who it was).

I dunno. That was pretty harmless (and really, the Wisconsin rednecks were annoying but ultimately harmless) but I do notice those things and I wonder if more and more lots of us are starting to feel insignificant and there's a "LOOK AT ME" strain coming out in our culture - people doing ridiculous things to get noticed. (I feel the temptation in myself; it's hard feeling invisible a lot of the time). But it does lead to more loudness and potentially more conflict (e.g., if someone had tried to speak to those guys about their flag, it could have turned unpleasant) and I don't know....

* I did get to the natural-foods store. It's a little nicer than most of the big-box stores because I think at least some of the employees there are part-owners, and it seems to me that in a small, indie business where the owner is on-site, there's more of an effort to provide customer service and to make people happy and want to come back. I was able to obtain several food items I like and use (a brand of VERY SOFT and good chocolate macaroons, frozen sweet potato tater-tots, some of the little sausages I like) but that I can't get locally (Boo to you, wal-mart).

I wish they'd open up a branch here. I don't see that happening, though. But if they did, I'd always shop there.

* I roasted a chicken Sunday night. This is one of the simplest but one of the best things I can make. I think I've talked about the method before but I read about it in maybe one of Ina Garten's books? And ever since I tried it, I never looked back, it is how I always roast chickens now.

First, you need a good chicken. The one I got was Kroger's house organic brand but locally one GOOD thing the wal-mart carries is Harvestland chickens, which is Perdue's "organic" brand and is pretty good.

Then you need the right vessel: it has to have a tight fitting lid and hold heat well. I use my four-quart enameled cast-iron Dutch oven, which is ideal for this.

Then, prep is simple: preheat the oven to 350. Take a lemon and cut it in half, and take a medium-sized onion and quarter it. Have some butter handy and some poultry seasoning, or better, mix a bit of the seasoning with some softened butter. Remove the chicken from its wrapper (and the "guts" from the chicken. And Kroger's organic brand, they don't bag up the guts like some companies - it was not a pleasant surprise to reach in and squeeze a liver). If there's a lot of fat around the openings of the chicken, pull it off and dispose of it. (I guess some people are now using things like chicken and duck fat for cooking. Full circle, I guess: years ago goose fat was a thing, though I think that was more as a way of avoiding using dairy butter in "meat meals" for families that kept kosher). Clean the chicken if that's your thing (I know some sources say it just spreads the salmonella around). Put a tiny bit of olive oil in the bottom of the pan and put the chicken in. Stick the lemon and the onion into the cavity (I don't do stuffing, but these things help to flavor the chicken and keep it tender). Reach under the skin of the breast (Yes, I leave the skin on. I sometimes even eat bits of the cooked skin when the chicken comes out. Life is short and it's nice to enjoy things sometimes) and put in a little bit of the butter or butter-and-seasoning mix. If you didn't mix the poultry seasoning into the butter, sprinkle it on the chicken.

Put the lid on, put it in the oven. Cook it for 2 to 2 1/2 hours depending on how big the chicken is. You can test with a meat thermometer but usually that time is plenty.

The chicken stays a lot more moist because of the butter and the onion and lemon. And because it's closed up inside the pot. Also, buying a good-quality chicken makes a difference, I think.

If you want the skin really brown and crispy for presentation purposes you can take the lid off fifteen minutes before the end of cooking but I never do. The skin does crisp up a *little* even with the lid on.

And of course, it's best fresh and hot, but the leftovers are pretty darn good too. Roasting a chicken on Sunday night means I have simple food for the rest of the week. I always say I'm going to make enchiladas or something but I usually wind up just eating all of it as cold chicken.

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