Wednesday, March 7, 2018


Baking could be considered an apt metaphor for my life.

I don't bake. It requires science, which is something I've always been interested in. Unfortunately, science involves a bunch of rules which must be followed. I don't often follow the rules.

My family threw me in the back of a car and drove me out to an ancient flour mill last weekend. I'm not 100% certain why, but I'm assuming someone needed flour. I didn't really need any flour, since I don't bake. The building was a well-preserved, 140-year old, functioning mill, with creaking wood floors and walls equipped with wooden shelves, stocked to bursting with flours, sauces, mixes, and various other things required for baking, and because I'm an idiot, I spent $40 on a couple of bottles of breakfast syrups, a chocolate sauce, and a brownie mix. I'm not sure why. I guess I just got caught up in the atmosphere.

I blame it all on the gingham. Old-timey wooden baskets, lined with gingham fabric, filled with brownie mixes. Yeah, that was probably it.

That gingham will get ya.

A moment ago I was compelled to attempt to bake this ridiculous brownie mix into something edible, which is a ludicrous idea. 95% of the things I bake turn into pastries of regret.

I picked up the mix, and read the instructions. Seems simple enough, "Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and grease a 13x9 inch pan. Do not use butter".

It only takes three steps for everything to go wrong.

Becoming irate, I stared at the package. How dare these flour mill people tell me what to do? I'll use butter if I want to, test kitchens and their expertise be damned. And maybe I don't want to use a 13x9 pan? Maybe I'll make the damned thing in a bundt pan, just to show these people and their 140-year old flour mill they aren't the boss of me? I'll throw the lot into a bowl, give it a quick stir, butter the crap out of a bundt pan, sling the slop into it, angrily jam it into the oven, and then be completely surprised when the results are less than desirable.

Reconsidering, I put the mix back into the cabinet. Mrs. Deathrage should handle this, I think. I don't really want any brownies right now anyway.

It's not the brownies, really, or the flour mill. And it's not as though I can't follow a recipe.

When I cook, I follow recipes all the time. Sort of. Well, with a few modifications. And a tweak or two. And some substitutions.

Upon reflection, maybe I really can't follow a recipe.

It starts out fine, then I'm all like, "Like hell I'm doing that. I'll do this instead. It'll turn out OK". But with cooking, substitutions can be easily made. It doesn't work that way with baking. I'm not sure why, and I don't want anyone to explain it to me.

So the metaphor is this, I think. Even though I have the recipe, and I know how it might turn out, I'll throw caution to the wind to do it my way, rushing headlong into realms I know to avoid, only to be greeted with culinary disaster. And then drive to the bakery and buy brownies made by a brownie professional anyway. Is that even a metaphor? Who knows?

Anyway, speaking of creaky old buildings filled with disaster, I watched the Netflix thriller Mercy quite some time ago, and never got around to finishing the review. Maybe I should've left it in the cabinet. Here it is anyway.

Four asshole brothers and their crotchety father bicker in a lonely farmhouse over the fate of their seriously ill, bedridden mother in this not-quite-thrilling thriller.

The relationship between the two pairs of morose, mono-syllabic, squabbling brothers is explored for the first half-hour, where they are concerned about getting cut out of an inheritance once their mother kicks the bucket, and it's established fairly quickly that everyone standing upright is an enormous ass.

The other female character that isn't silent and trapped in a bed is slightly introduced and her relationship with one of the interchangeable brothers is momentarily hinted at, and her only reason for being is to be endangered in the woods later and briefly advocating for the comatose mother.

One brother awakens to find the TV on, the phone cord ripped out, the side door open, all their tires flattened, and the half-brothers missing, when a duo of masked villains are shown lurking in the woods. Breathless running and shaky cam commences, and dialogue consisting of 'Go, go, go.' and 'C'mon', occurs.

Just to keep everyone up to speed, let's take a quick roll call of the characters so far. There's been one doctor who makes house calls, one dad, two brothers, one female to be endangered later, two half-brothers, and one groaning, invalid mother. While I'm no fan of math, one would have to assume that the masked villains would be two of these 8 characters.

At 49 minutes, the movie reboots and attempts to fill in the blanks, which are numerous, resulting in algebra. While I appreciate the attempt, and find the ploy interesting, I still have many problems with this.

First, I don't think the filmmakers have ever spent the night in an old farmhouse in the country. It's very dark. It's very quiet. Farmhouses creak loudly, even when masked intruders aren't wrecking the place. I once spent the night in a supposedly haunted Shaker village turned hotel complex, miles and miles from the nearest bakery, where the guests' collective idea of a raucous good time was sitting in a rocker and knitting, and I swear I could hear every person in the arthritic, nearly 150-year old building breathing, even through the ear-shattering roar of my own metropolis-induced tinnitus.

Remarkably, even though parts of the farmhouse in Mercy are broken by boot-wearing villains, furniture is abruptly rearranged, people plummet down stairs, and wrestle in claw-footed bathtubs; no one seems to wake up. I ate a pecan pie in bed while watching horror films on my computer at 9 pm because there was fuck-all to do while staying at the Shaker village, and I was worried my chewing might disturb the rest of the building, but not that concerned to stop eating, leaving pie crumbs in the rather spartan Shaker-style bed, or that anything might stop the knitting. Side-bar: The next morning at the Shaker village, there was a goat-milking seminar that I avoided.

OK, so I guess I really only have one problem with the plot, and it involves home improvements, or the lack thereof.

No, wait. Like nearly all of the episodes of Scooby Doo, I don't think it's quite fair of a mystery to leave out important information, only to introduce it later to bulk up a thinly-drawn story. Sure, discovery is one thing, but to intentionally leave out clues, characters, puzzle pieces, and plot-points is another. How can you have a Velma "It was Farmer Jenkins!" moment if the guy who did it in the whodunit wasn't even in the first half of the story?

At 57 minutes, a mysterious, ancient VHS tape is found, where the mother shown is shilling for a religious organization and getting a nosebleed.

At 72 minutes, the doctor who makes house calls appears and says, 'It might seem like what we're doing is wrong', which is an understatement, and then there's a sunrise. Now I know what you're going to say. You're going to say, "Hey Stabford, implying that the doctor did it sounds quite a bit like a spoiler, and would negate your claim that the guy who did it wasn't introduced in the beginning of the film."

That shows you how much you know, smarty-pants. There's a big twist and reveal, and the person or persons you thought did it in the first place did it, or did they, but then again, what exactly was done? Karmic retribution of abuse, administered unintentionally, the consequences bumbled through and unconsidered? Heck if I know.

Then someone administers a complex level of medical treatment and an experimental dose of medications under extreme duress and with zero training which seems somewhat unlikely.

Mercy takes a novel approach to a well-worn trope, and it's slow going until it abruptly puts the pedal to the metal. Good and evil, heroes and villains, are all seen through a murky glass, which is fine, I suppose, but I for one would like my nihilism served straight up.

Hmm. After watching that trailer, there was a lot more creaking in it than I remembered. Forget I said anything.

No comments:

Post a Comment