Monday, January 23, 2017

Crying in the wilderness

I made this giffy slide-show thingie to illustrate a piece of music which I can't include here, 'cuz it ain't on the internet anywhere. It's from an old Paul Winter album called Canyon, and it consists of a cello playing doomy, moody arpeggios while a man sings like he is hanging off the edge of the world.

It's a wilderness wail, a come-to-the-end-of-everything howl of sorrow and grief that is quite extraordinary, because it has no words. Not many could do that. In fact, I don't think I've heard ANYONE do it besides this guy, whoever he is.

This gif didn't turn out great. It purposely runs quite slowly to try to match the music. I cropped the 46 frames totally wrong, should've gone for widescreen and instead chose something closer to a square. I found some great images, but the gif program spat them back out at me with white margins, which they never had going in.

The photos are a collection of private and public ones, all on the theme of - what - angst? Aloneness? Mortality, and the great unfathomable? Maybe all of those things. 

I look at other people, and it's not that I think they're necessarily richer or smarter, but don't they just have it "better" than me in some indefinable way? Such as being a famous writer. There's one. No one knocked her guts out as much as I did, for so little reward. It just wasn't in the cards for me.

Other things worked out, but how mortal are we? We all hang by a spiderweb. We had a death in the family on Friday, not really close family but very much a part of the circle for years. He had been off the scene for several years when his wife became estranged from my daughter-in-law. But family is family, is it not? - the only glue I've had in my life. Oh, yes, I know these are universal things, we all die, but isn't it terrifying just the same? We don't know when or how, or who. I would like to go first, but I see how selfish that is, and how unlikely.

So if you watch these images, sort of badly-cropped because I wasn't thinking, try to imagine a man crying in the wilderness, his voice rising and falling, lamenting in grief, while a cello moans and keens in the background.

It's how I'm feeling right now.

POST-BLOG. OK, it's the next day and I see these images totally differently. I think it's one of the best gif slideshows I've made. Who knows how I will feel about it tomorrow. 

Attack of the fluffy little puppies!

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Don't worry - be happy

The animated Hilda

Hilda is "all wet" in these three panels, which I could not resist animating. If I could, I'd make her get up and jump out of the frame and run around. I'd even make her talk. 

If she were real, she'd be someone I'd like to know.

Much is made of her "plus-size" proportions, but I don't think of her that way. She simply is. Her body is her body, and she derives great enjoyment from it. She's often depicted playing with animals, or lazing around in nature, feeling entirely at home wherever she is. 

She is the antithesis of neurotic, anxious, angry, gloomy, self-conscious, over-intellectual. . . in fact, she probably wouldn't know what "antithesis" means. Nor would she care - she would have gone out for ice cream.

She is, of course, a cartoon character, so we can't assign too many traits to her. But enjoy life? You bet she does. I like that about her. Though she's not shown with friends or lovers, she's often reading letters (with immense pleasure) or talking on the phone. And with Hilda, you just sort of "know". She would not spend her Saturday nights alone.

Bentley's World

It's nice to be a cat.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Death is a party, life is a bitch

I've always had a thing for Anthony Perkins, and I come back around to it every few years. This is the song I usually come back to. There was something curiously affecting about his voice. He wasn't a natural singer and did not have a big or resonant set of pipes. But he had something else. Along with his innate musicality, he had sincerity. His singing was like speaking in some ways - not speak-singing like those actors who can't sing, but communicating so much intensity with the song that it is like a conversation. 

Yes, he got typecast as Norman Bates, and the only sad thing about that was the dreadful set of sequels. Other than that, he got along well and performed, sometimes brilliantly, in just about every acting genre. People noticed he looked rather strange in the latter part of his life, that his face was somehow less mobile on one side. What people didn't know was that he had Bell's palsy, and in getting treatment for it he found out he had AIDS.

People don't die from AIDS any more, so we've lost touch with the horror of it. They can live a long time, though the disease must be a constant presence on some level. It does not "go away". Being bipolar does not "go away" either, it is a constant presence, and it is not pleasant to have to take six drugs to control it. Just thought I'd throw that in.

I've read a couple of Perkins bios. One was kind of raggy, sensational, as if that was the only part of his life that mattered. It recounted every escapade and foible, but second-hand, through the accounts of people who had known him. The other one was a little too reserved, respectful, but devoid of detail. I think he was both of those people, and neither - an enigma. When he died, closely attended by his wife Berry and their two sons, his friends decided to have a be-in in the sickroom, bringing sleeping bags and food and singing to him while he passed in and out of consciousness. At one point he sat up suddenly and said, "What is this, a death watch?" - provoking much hilarity.

To die like that - I've only ever heard of one other person who died like that, with a party going on around him. Alan Ginsberg. It says something about a person, if people show up for your death, sit at your bedside, listen to stories they've heard a dozen times, hug the wife and take the kids out for hamburgers so she can have a break. 

People constantly talk about giving, but it's also blessed to receive, to stop fighting the gift. I know something about this, and I am going to know a lot more about it. If people can't "take" (and they often won't or can't, thinking it's somehow selfish or "bad"), they block the goodwill. It can no longer flow. They keep their loved ones from helping them, refuse them. In essence, they hang up the phone on love.

I don't know what got me started on all this. "Summertime Love". The title makes you think of Beach Blanket Bingo or something like that. But it's not like that at all. The song is from a strange, mystical stage musical called Greenwillow. It only ran for a couple of months.

"That actor who turned out to be gay". I don't much care about that any more, and he doesn't, where he is now. Such things really don't matter. The LGBTQ movement exists to prove it doesn't matter - doesn't nail you to a cross or suck the joy out of your life, because it can't.

How you die reflects how you have lived. Absolutely. I pray someone will be there, I do. Just one will be OK with me.

(A postscript. This needs to be said because it is part of the story. Less than ten years after AIDS claimed Tony, Berry Berenson was killed. She was on one of those planes that hit the World Trade Centre. I don't want to think about what those final minutes were like. But she, too, was not alone. I hope there was some shred of comfort in that.)

Women's March on Washington

Don't tell

Friday, January 20, 2017

We can build a dream with love

Come on, people, come on, children
Come on down to the glory river.
Gonna wash you up, and wash you down, 
Gonna lay the devil down, 
gonna lay that devil down.

Come on, people! Come on, children!
There's a king at the glory river
And the precious king, 
he loved the people to sing,
Babes in the blinkin' sun sang
"We Shall Overcome".

I got fury in my soul, 
fury's gonna take me to the glory goal
In my mind I can't study war no more.
Save the people, 
save the children, 
save the country
save the country

Come on, people, come on, children 
Come on down to the glory river 
Gonna wash you up and wash you down 
Gonna lay the devil down, 
gonna lay that devil down

Come on, people! Sons and mothers 
Keep the dream of the two young brothers 
Take that dream and ride that dove
We can build a dream with love, I know, 
We can build a dream with love
We can build a dream with love, I know
We can build a dream with love, 
We can build a dream with love, I know,
We can build a dream with love.

I got fury in my soul, 
fury's gonna take me to the glory goal 
In my mind I can't study war no more.
Save the people
Save the children
Save the country
Save the country
Save the country


Let's wait for spring

On a day in which the world seems to have gone to crap, let us focus on more lifeward things.

Pack of Howling Coyotes

I didn't take this video, but I use it here as a sort of example. We hear coyotes all the time around these parts, but late at night when it's hard to capture them. The trilling and "laughing" (hyena-ish) sounds are very weird. The first time I heard them, my hair stood on end. It was a real "WTF??" moment. Combined with the very loud, resonant owl hooting (barred owls) we hear at night, it makes for a weird soundscape.

This is like suburbia with fifty-foot cedar trees in it, and bush only a stone's throw away. There are cougar and bobcat sightings, but mainly because we have raped their territory without a single thought about what they will do and where they will live. Should they just vaporize, or what? Why should they want something so silly as a "home", a place to live, to exist? WE have homes, of course, but that is an entirely different matter because we are entitled to them. These coyotes look prosperous, but ours are scruffy, usually thin, shy during the day, and only bold in packs. I would not fear an attack from them, but pets are another matter. Small mammals are fair game for them.

So add the trills and barks to the hoots, cackles and general jungle hysteria of the owls as they swoop and dive, and you have a sort of urban cacophany. I will admit, the first time I really noticed the owls, I didn't know what they were. I thought they were kids whooping at each other. So I missed seeing one that was likely right in my back yard. Something primitive about that face, like a ceremonial mask.

Bentley! GET DOWN!

      The new star of my blog shows off his aerial feats.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

"Where'd you get the gun, John?"

Rain fell on Skagit Valley. 

It fell in sweeps and it fell in drones. It fell in unending cascades of cheap Zen jewelry. It fell on the dikes. It fell on the firs. It fell on the downcast necks of the mallards. 

And it rained a fever. And it rained a silence. And it rained a sacrifice. And it rained a miracle. And it rained sorceries and saturnine eyes of the totem. 

This quote is the kind-of-a-thing that makes writers wanna give up forever. It's the feverish vision of a strange sort of man, half Byron, half Donald Duck (and half Betty Boop, probably, though we don't know where that half is stashed).

I was trying to find the whole quote, because I know it goes on and on. So I found my punky-smelling, beige-paged copy of Tom Robbins' classic Another Roadside Attraction, and began to dig. 
After getting lost in the story a few times, I gave up, but I did find this:

The afternoon sky looked like a brain. Moist Gray. Convoluted. A mad-scientist breeze probed at the brain, causing it to bob and quiver as if it were immersed in a tank of strange liquids. The Skagit Valley was the residue at the bottom of the tank. Toward dusk, the wind flagged, the big brain stiffened (mad doctor's experiment a failure), and ragged ribbons of Chinese mist unfurled in the valley. The blaring cries of. . . 

OH FOR GOD'S SAKE. Mercy. Mercy.

And it rained an omen. And it rained a poison. And it rained a pigment. And it rained a seizure.

This reminds me of nothing more than Bob Dylan's A Hard Rain's a-gonna Fall: I'll tell it and think it and speak it and breathe it/And reflect from the mountain so all souls can see it. And I'll stand on the ocean until I start sinking/But I'll know my song well before I start singing. 

Why? Why all this? If you follow this strange, incoherent blog-about-nothing, you'll know about the cedar boughs outside my office window. They are vanes, omens, semaphores. They hang in three-dimensional layers, a sweet intimate bough that sweeps on my left side, a less-visible perpendicular wodge of green that doesn't want to talk to me, and behind all that, a backdrop of bush that just goes on and on.

We live in suburbia, but at night comes the trilling and squealing of shabby-looking pack animals, the kind that search around for garbage in the night. At first I thought I was going crazy with the sound. My husband, half-deef, couldn't even hear it. It was only much later that I found out what they were.

Anyway, this isn't about that.

Rain sweeps and drones in Vancouver, a close enough cousin to Skagit Valley to pass one of those primordial DNA tests (if only by a whisker). Yes. We have this too:

Moisture gleamed on the beak of the Raven. Ancient shamans, rained from their homes in dead tree trunks, clacked their clamshell teeth in the drowned doorways of forests. Rain hissed on the Freeway. It hissed at the prows of fishing boats. It ate the old warpaths, spilled the huckleberries, ran in the ditches. Soaking. Spreading. Penetrating.


Pitiless, endless, suicidal, the rain takes up residence for some eight months of the year. No, twelve. Let's quit lying about this so we can go on living. As in northern Alberta, where I lived for many years, it can rain just like it can snow, any old time. In the middle of a grand day. It can split the merry blue sky like a railroad spike.

I like a storm. I love a storm when I am not in it. We don't get good hail around here (hail merry!), but in Alberta, once in a while a big satchelful of temporary diamonds would be dumped on the ground, and the air would hiss with ozone. The roof would thunder and dents would appear on the hoods of cars. Then a gleaming bounty lay on the ground, sublimating in sinuous vapors. Soon it'd just be that rice-paddy mush that's left over from a violent hunderstorm.

Here it's more temperate. Just a continuous pissing down on your dreams, a Monty Python foot crushing all ambition and hope.

I just realized something. Shakespeare bombed. He said something like, "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?", then goes on blathering about "the darling buds of May". Doesn't the idjit know when summer starts? There's a meteorologist on CTV news who knows better than that. And he's not the most celebrated writer who ever lived.

What's my point? Jesus! it's wet, and grey, and discouraging out there. I won't tell you what I've been going through with my work lately. It's the best of times, and the worst of times. Something spectacular might happen, but at the same time, it might be the end of everything.

Or, as usual, I will just be left hanging and face the same indifference, the averted face and cold shoulder, that my mother presented to me when I was born.

The opposite of love isn't hate. It's indifference.

The universe doesn't care. It's indifferent. But why do people have to be? 

And what about my mother? My mother.

If the rain comes they run and hide their heads. 
They might as well be dead. 
If the rain comes, if the rain comes. 

When the sun shines they slip into the shade 
(When the sun shines down.) 
And sip their lemonade. 
(When the sun shines down.) 
When the sun shines, when the sun shines. 

Rain, I don't mind. 
Shine, the weather's fine.

I can show you that when it starts to rain, 
(When the Rain comes down.) 
Everything's the same. 
(When the Rain comes down.) 
I can show you, I can show you. 

Rain, I don't mind. 
Shine, the weather's fine.

Can you hear me, that when it rains and shines, 
(When it Rains and shines.) 
It's just a state of mind? 
(When it Rains and shines)
Can you hear me, can you hear me? 

sdaeh rieht edih dna nur yeht semoc niar eht fI. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

This makes me want to go on living!

Bentley the space alien

No - no - it can't be so

Why they cancelled the KKK

The Klan

by Alan Arkin and David Arkin, 1951

The countryside was cold and still
There was a cross upon the hill
This cold cross wore a burning hood
To hide its rotten heart of wood

Father I hear the iron sound
Of hoofbeats on the frozen ground

Down from the hills the riders came
Jesus, it was a crying shame
To see the blood upon their whips
And hear the snarling of their lips

Mother I feel a stabbing pain
Blood flows down like a summer rain

Now each one wore a mask of white
To hide his cruel face from sight
and each one sucks a little breath
Out of the empty lungs of death

Sister lift my bloody head
It's so lonesome to be dead

He who travels with the Klan
He is a monster, not a man
Underneath that white disguise
I have looked into his eyes

Brother, will you stand with me
it's not easy to be free

I'd say I don't know why this song came into my head again, after something like 50 years, except that I DO know.

While I was watching the Scientology series on A & E (and I will confess to a total fascination with cults in every form), an ad came on - a weird, perhaps overdramatic but nonetheless chilling preview.  At first I thought it was for a dramatic series. Then came the title: Generation KKK. It depicted people in white robes with the ghastly pointed headpieces, holes cut for eyes, and the voiceovers were something like: no, the Klan is not dead, it's just moving into the next generation. Children were depicted hand-in-hand, standing around a big fire.

I felt queasy. If this was "real", why was A & E giving these people any air time? It seemed too horrible to be believed.

Then that was it. I didn't see anything more about it, and kind of hoped I'd imagined it.

But I hadn't.

Just yesterday, I saw a whole slew of news items about the series. A & E had been getting a lot of flak on social media for it, so they solved it by changing the title from Generation KKK to Escaping the KKK, to make it match up with Amish and Mennonite and all those other horrific organizations that lynch black people.

Uhhhhmmmm, yeah. 

Not so, as it turned out. The series has been abruptly cancelled. There are several stories about this. One is that the producers (demonized by A & E executives, who seemed to want to distance themselves from the whole thing) had been paying KKK leaders to do the show. Another, more suspicious, yet more believable rumour was that the KKK leaders were being paid to say and do whatever the producers wanted. Which was, according to those leaders, bullshit that did not reflect anything that actually went on.

Eye -yi-yi-yie.

If so, then A & E has sunk to new levels of depravity. Not only are they funding the KKK with their bribery, they're telling them exactly how to BE KKK members. Of course the actual Klan will try to play down their atrocities, while A & E will do the opposite, ramp it up to the maximum, because it "makes good television".

In any case, the show is canned, and the fallout is - we'll see. The problem with all this is that a lot of people will say, "Good for them! At last, someone in reality TV is showing a little moral fibre." But was the whole thing staged from the very start, to whip up curiosity for the NEXT "reality" show?

Had they begin filming on this already? Had they finished it?  I think it was all set to go to air. Let's hope someone will leak it onto YouTube so it can be poked with sharp sticks and ridiculed into the ground.

Meantime. . . the song. My brother Walt used to sing this during the folk boom, when everyone played guitars and sang, but then it sort of sank out of sight. It was hard to find the lyrics, and I found only ONE recorded version of it by Richie Havens. He turns it into a Richie Havens song, but it is the same one, believe me.

The Richie Havens lyrics were way different, by the way. So I had to dig some more to get to the bedrock.

The song was written by Alan and David Arkin (yes, THAT Alan Arkin, the actor). I don't know how many songs he wrote, if it was a sideline or what, and right now I feel like I've been run over, so I don't want to look it up. It was all wrong on message boards: people kept saying things like, oh, it was Malvina Reynolds, or Pete Seeger. It wasn't.

I don't know what inspired Alan Arkin and his father to write this, but if A & E can get everyone in a lather by faking a show about them, then the KKK supposedly have some sort of relevance beyond Birth of a Nation.  Of course there are supposed ties to Donald Trump. I would imagine they'd go for him more than for Hillary Clinton, but they'd elect a basset hound sooner than Hillary Clinton.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

This is NOT what it's all about!

OK, so I just wrote about Canadian chocolate bars, and one of my favourites is Cadbury Crunchy. This has a very nice, thick layer of milk chocolate enrobing a crispy sponge toffee centre. Oh my! As a kid, I used to be able to buy the stuff in great cellophane-wrapped chunks in a candy store called May's in Chatham. I remember the atmosphere in there, sugary, fudgy, heavenly.

But over the years, sponge toffee became increasingly hard to find. Now the ONLY place that has it is the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, and it's about $9.00 a bag. And it isn't even that good, too spongey, not crisp enough.

I had a dim memory of making this as a child (boiling up hot syrup. . . oh yeah, a great recipe for a kid!), but I don't know how it turned out. I swear I have this memory of running out into the back yard at night and sticking the pot into a snow drift so it would harden quickly, but now I think this must be wrong.

So I got this idea. Surely there would be a good recipe for sponge toffee (hokey pokey, cinder toffee, sea foam, yellow man, and about seven other names, unusual for a candy with three or four ingredients). There were DOZENS of them, but the one that interested me most was this effusive rendering by Nigella Lawson. She could make coffee grounds sound rhapsodic, I think, and her description of what she calls hokey pokey builds it up as some sort of heavenly concoction that practically makes itself.

Light. Crisp. Golden. So airy it almost disappears in your mouth. She even makes it for formal dinner parties, which to ME seems about as logical as bringing marshmallow Krispie squares. 

But in my case, hokey pokey/sponge toffee turned out to be a heavenly concoction that ended up in the garbage. THREE times.

It seemed easy, like all the recipes said, or at least simple. I was to find out, once again, that those two things are not the same at all.  All the recipes were similar - almost identical, in fact - white sugar, water, corn syrup, a little vanilla, then - at the end - "bicarb", as Nigella says in the video. Sounds like dumping bismuth in it, but what it is, is plain-ordinary baking soda. 

So I did that. It required an alarming amount, a whole tablespoonful, but I did it, I followed the recipe exactly.

I must've undercooked the syrup or something, because the first time it just didn't look like anything. It didn't foam way up as it was supposed to. It just lay there inert, and it never hardened. It was like a vast melted piece of toffee, a sugary glacier slowly making its way across the counter. Into the garbage it went.

Try #2 seemed more hopeful, it really did. I cooked it a little longer, just a little, mind. It turned the colour of all the sponge toffee syrup in all the recipes (in fact, quite a bit lighter than what is pictured above), and foamed way up when I added the bicarb, exactly the way it was supposed to. But there was this disturbing smell. Quite awful, really. Then I tasted it, and it was HORRIBLE. Scorched and inedible. Cinder toffee, indeed! It tasted like it had been scraped out of the fireplace, or something worse.

Once more, into the garbage.

The third time was going to be the charm. (This was all in one evening, by the way. I hate to lose.) And it did indeed seem perfect, with the syrup boiling up perfectly. It didn't foam up as much, but none of the recipes showed that anyway. It looked like the melted marshmallow you use for Rice Krispie squares. But I was afraid to stir it much and deflate it. I poured it out, it went sort of flat, but every other recipe showed it going flat.

Then - 

Finally it cooled and set. It was rock-hard, but that was the way it was supposed to be. I broke it up into pieces, and it had that honeycomb centre. I was truly anticipating a good result. But I got that sinking feeling once again. 

It tasted just awful, bitter and metallic, like a mouthful of baking soda. No one would want to eat this stuff! It's true that I do not own a candy thermometer, but that's for amateurs. Since the age of ten I have been making fudge from scratch, not that horrible condensed milk non-version, but the boiled-syrup kind that you beat with a spoon until it sets. I've had virtually no failures, so it's not as if I can't make candy. 

Every video I've seen - and it looks like there are a hundred of them - uses the same steps I used, same ingredients and method. Was the "bicarb" bad, somehow? CAN it go bad? Sugar can't go bad, can it? I'd had the syrup for a while. I don't know. 

Nigella, come to my house and make this heavenly stuff and wrap it up in cellophane and tie it with a ribbon. And DON'T charge $9.00 for it. My hankering for a candy from my past is still unsatisfied. And I'm tired of throwing out all those ingredients.

POST-TRAUMA. I feel bad. Just - chintzy bad. Not end-of-the-word bad, just - shabby. I feel as if I am a failure at something I thought I was good at, and I do NOT need one of those few, scant things taken away from me, thank you very much. I have scoured the internet, and I don't think anyone anywhere has had the same problems with this, a task I should be able to ace since I've made candy for I-don't-want-to-say-how-many years. Certainly no one has failed at it three times. 

And I still don't really know what the problem is. My impression is that there is about a five-second window for the syrup to be ready, and if you go over or under, you're screwed.

Either that, or other people enjoy a candy that has a bitter, metallic taste. A taste of cinders.

Please, someone tell me this is NOT "what it's all about".

POST-POST: I kept looking until I found something that made me feel better. It is my personal method for warding off depression.

There weren't that many, but I found a few tweets on the Nigella Twitter page, plus something that might be a partial explanation.

how do you judge when hokey pokey right. Too chewy too burnt prob

I tried making this quite a few times years ago from your recipe but never succeeded

thank you for tweeting this! I have had nothing but disaster trying to make it. Will buy new bicarb... :)

what's the best way to tackle it if the weather is damp?!

aha! The only recipe of yours that I have not managed to make work yet.

i have hokey pokey video on my pc and i watched this video more than 3oo hundred times does not taste good as it looks

I’ve missed something important here

The kitchen goddess speaks: "Generally if Hokey Pokey not working, it's because bicarbonate too old or weather is too damp!"

Hmmm. My "bicarbonate" (baking soda) is upwards of ten years old, but why should it matter? Why should that affect how cooked/uncooked the syrup is, or why it turns brown and tastes scorched? It has nothing to do with it. And the weather? Fair and cold. I really don't understand.

Post-script. Looking at Nigella without the sound on (as in the four-second gif, above) is a revelation. She constantly tosses and shakes her head (with its chestnut mane), her facial expressions are intense, even extreme, and she eyeballs and flirts incessantly with the camera, generally behaving in a way that wouldn't go over well at a dinner party, at all. I am sure she is not that effusive when she actually goes out - such exaggerated head motions and rolling-eyes glances are simply too much. She also does this I'm-an-attractive-woman-and-I-know-it thing that I find a little offputting. On the other side, my husband is in love with her.

POST-POST! This is one of those things that goes on forever. I did make a fourth attempt, which I was SURE was the charm. I bought new ingredients, new baking soda, even new SUGAR. I slavishly followed Nigella's stylish, effortless method. It went really well, actually! It looked good, boiled up nicely. Foamed up fairly violently when I added the reduced amount of "bicarb", but I whacked it out on the silicone platter and waited. Eating around the edges, it actually tasted good, crunchy, sweet. . . though there was that little aftertaste, bitter and metallic, that I tried to ignore. . .  

Then as it cooled and I broke it apart, my heart sank. It had that industrial smell to it, the scorched-earth quality that told me it had been ruined. And it had.

The above video - well, I don't want to laugh at it, but it makes me feel somewhat better, and I am VERY glad she posted it. I don't suppose anyone will take this as a warning about how dangerous this could be for children to try to make. The way it surges over the sides of the springform pan like a living thing, spurting jets of steam, an actual molten substance that could give you third-degree burns in less than a second - why does no one else warn you about this? It wouldn't even be like boiling water, as the liquid sugar lava would glue itself to your skin as it hardened.

I've made a couple of gifs of her result. And this is WITH a candy thermometer, set to the correct number of degrees:

In the second one, she's warning everyone to keep away from this thing, which does look like a science experiment gone wrong. I think the oozing and spurts of steam went on for several hours.

Nigella. Has this ever happened to you?

Post-POST-post: Now that I'm looking around on the topic, I am finding more and more admissions that this stuff is fiendishly hard to make. I suspect that at least one of my four attempts turned out the way it was supposed to: it just tasted like shit. Cinder toffee, indeed! They got the scorched, gritty part right. The husband of the poor woman who created the terrifying volcano in the above gifs said, "Get this out of the house. It smells like burnt carbon." 

I found this quote on a site called Life is a Party. She tried this recipe over and over again, but kept getting that horrible taste of scorched sugar. Finally she came out with a non-burnt batch, but it was flat and nearly devoid of bubbles. The result looked more like peanut brittle than sponge toffee, but her friends (no doubt not wanting to hurt her feelings) effused over it anyway: 

"After attempt number four I was starting to doubt myself. In fact I was thinking that after one full bottle of corn syrup and a bag of sugar that I should really be writing to you to save your time, and effort and invest the money for my four batches into a few Crunchie chocolate bars from the store -and if necessary rough them up a little, break them into pieces, tuck them into a cello bag with some ribbon and try to pass them off as your own to your friends and family."

ave tried to make this recipe twice. The first time it did not harden. Instead, it solidified into more of a "taffy" consistency. However, at least it tasted okay the first time. I was so determined to get it right that I bought a candy thermometer to ensure I reached the correct temperature. Then when I added the baking soda, the entire mixture nearly exploded into an unruly foam that almost burnt my hand!!! Luckily I was wearing The 'Ove' Glove (c) and I had my parchment paper right next to the stove ready-to-go. I didn't even get a chance to mix most of the baking soda in before it exploded. It smelled and tasted like a burnt marshmallow. Even worse, the baking soda had an aftertaste that made my mouth tingle for the next 20 min. It was disgusting and tasted like PURE CARBON! Believe me, I am very forgiving with new recipes but this was really, really bad. Btw, if anyone has children that like to help out in the kitchen, DO NOT COOK THIS RECIPE WITH THEM. IT COULD BE DANGEROUS!!! But don't worry, Food Network, I still love to watch Nigella Express.
But my favorite comment of all came from Nigella's page on the Food Network:

"I have tried to make this recipe twice. The first time it did not harden. Instead, it solidified into more of a "taffy" consistency. However, at least it tasted okay the first time. I was so determined to get it right that I bought a candy thermometer to ensure I reached the correct temperature. Then when I added the baking soda, the entire mixture nearly exploded into an unruly foam that almost burnt my hand!!! Luckily I was wearing The 'Ove' Glove (c) and I had my parchment paper right next to the stove ready-to-go. I didn't even get a chance to mix most of the baking soda in before it exploded. It smelled and tasted like a burnt marshmallow. Even worse, the baking soda had an aftertaste that made my mouth tingle for the next 20 min. It was disgusting and tasted like PURE CARBON! Believe me, I am very forgiving with new recipes but this was really, really bad. Btw, if anyone has children that like to help out in the kitchen, DO NOT COOK THIS RECIPE WITH THEM. IT COULD BE DANGEROUS!!! But don't worry, Food Network, I still love to watch Nigella Express."

Final Curtain:

Oh how I wish you could just go down to your corner store and buy a chunk of this, perfectly-made in big industrial batches, wrapped in cellophane and tied with a ribbon. I think it cost ten cents.