This week I have been

Reading

The 2011 Tour de France race guide.

Watching

An Idiot Abroad

Listening to

The xx

Discovering

(Or rediscovering) Hamlet - Nicki Greenberg's beautiful new version, thanks to the fabulous Snarkattack, who invited me along to see Nicki talk about the creative process behind the book.

Eating

  • An enormous serve of bangers'n'mash and a nourishing pint of Kilkenny at the Town Hall one dismal Tuesday evening.
  • A "Chachi" - chianina meatball sandwich - another brioche donut and some amazing chocolate tart at Beatrix, which Essjay has reviewed.
  • A lazy Sunday lunch at The Crimean. The Polish hunter's stew (bigos) was just the thing to revive me after a chilly bike ride.
  • Generous piles of fried food with oodles of chillies and sichuan peppercorns at Sichuan House
  • Succulent suckling pig at Liberteene.
  • An array of bright, zesty flavours at Chin Chin, where the only problem was having to choose only some of the items from what looks to be a menu that is all hits, no filler.

Links

Escaping the tyranny of Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day as a thing seems to be gathering momentum. Restaurants offer set menus, TV stations adjust their programming to appeal to all the lovers out there and any rom-com worth it’s salt seems to schedule a February 14th premiere.

If you’re heartily sick of the sight of overpriced stuffed toys with tacky red satin hearts, perhaps you should settle down with a non-rom-com on the day.  Here are some ideas – let me know if you have any other suggestions:

  • Nom-com – Tampopo
  • Vom-com – Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life (just for the Mr Creosote sketch)
  • Bomb-com – based on Jim Schembri’s review, I guess that would have to be A Few Best Men
  • Dom-com – Exit to Eden (haven’t actually seen this one either, but the wiki page suggests there might be some BDSM…)
  • Pom-com – Well, I’m going to go with Withnail and I for this, but there are so many options for non-romantic English comedies
  • Prom-com – Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion
  • Somm-com – Sideways

 

 

Cricket Superstar – Burnt-out

The final 15 check into their luxury mansion but stumble when they have to explain why they should be captain.  The boys meet their mentor for the series, Graham Manou, before they take on their first match of the series.

Well, I didn’t make it to the first match of the series.  The synopsis of the episode sums up what I did see fairly accurately, though.  The mansion had all the trappings of luxury – marble entry, sweeping staircase, manicured lawns, a pool – and most of the final fifteen summed up their suitability for the role of captain with a series of variations on the syllable “um”.  Oh, and they met Graham Manou.

Then there was a lot of smoke, the sound of approaching fire engines, and then the luxury mansion was evacuated for… a challenge that was going to focus on “communication”.  And that’s when I turned off.  Sure, there seemed to be a lack of urgency during the evacuation that hinted that the guys were aware that it was a set-up, but that only makes it more pointless, doesn’t it?

Not interested.  Goodbye, Cricket Superstar, perhaps I’ll see one or more of the fifteen in the baggy green one day. Or, if not, in some Big Bash pyjamas.

At least I watched for long enough to have the life of a pro-cricketer summed up for me in one word.  ”Freebies!”  Thanks, Lee.

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This item has been cross-posted over at Reality Ravings.

 

Food TV – no room for another surfer on the menu

On flicking through the program guide for Lifestyle Food, you could be forgiven for thinking that no food show concept is rejected.  Renegade ice sculptors! Dude food! There’s even a show about getting a food show…  I guess this means that 2010 Masterchef contestent, Hayden Quinn, should be congratulated for his particular genius in identifying a “concept” that got the thumbs down.

The whole concept is I travel around and show people some of the really amazing food and recipes you can get from all over the world.

I still really want to do it and I’m looking at other options so we can make it happen as food and travel are two things I am really passionate about.

Two things, Hayden.  First, that’s not really a concept.  Second, food and travel are things a lot of people are passionate about, but they don’t expect to be paid for it.  As Mr Rufus said, “that’s not a show, that’s a junket”.

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Reality Ravings’ take on the story is here.  She also has a piece on Curtis Stone’s new show, which perhaps fills the need for surfie-foodie-travelling types.

Food TV – Great British Food Revival

Some of the best Great British produce is under threat and in this campaigning series, ten of the BBC’s best-known chefs and cooks are on a mission to bring our traditional produce back from the brink.

I’m a sucker for any food show with “Great British…” at the beginning of the title, so I am predisposed to like this.   Having Michel Roux Jr as one of the chefs in this episode is an almost unnecessary additional drawcard.  Let’s see how it goes…

Continue reading Food TV – Great British Food Revival

Cricket Superstar – or find me an opener, stat!

The search for Australia’s best young cricketer begins with the hopefuls tested under the watchful eye of Allan Border, as the dream starts to become a reality for fifteen talented sportsmen.

After a montage of high-energy international games, we zoom in to Lee Furlong (“Foxtel personality and cricket lover”, according to the narrator) and Allan Border. “Are you in?” she asks, “Or are you… OUT?” completes Allan Border, who has clearly been put through dramatic-pause bootcamp.  More montage-ing, in which Ricky Ponting observes that he’d have liked Cricket Superstar to have been around when he was young, although I can’t see why.  He managed to get a baggy green and take the national captaincy without the help of a televised talent quest, which promises to include challenges of no cricketing value whatsoever.

This is the first episode and I was diligently taking notes whilst watching only to decide that the entire 61 minutes (including ads) was preamble and that I’d have to watch at least one episode with the top 15 to decide whether or not to persevere.  Some observations:

  • Watching cricketing hopefuls drop catches is not as much fun as Pants on the Ground-type Idol auditions.
  • In terms of entertainment value, the over-confidence of the Victorian “ladies man” was just as difficult to watch as the tongue-tied awkwardness of the poor South Australian contender.
  • There are 18 year-old radio relationship counsellors? I weep for the future.
  • The camera work needs to improve.  I was having some grumpy David Stratton “keep it STEADY!” moments.
  • Tension over who was to be selected was almost non-existent as most of those through had been featured heavily throughout the episode. Makes me wonder why they bothered with the “tryouts” episode at all, really, given how dull it was.
  • Really not sure why they needed to include a keeper and a range of bowlers in the fifteen. We need opening batsmen!

Next week – a fire!

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This item has been cross-posted over at Reality Ravings.

Films to watch on a hot summer day

It’s hot.

Dayum hot.

The kind of heat where you look at the running time of a movie to decide whether it’s worth your money.

The kind of day where Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol seems like a wise investment.

Then you leave the cinema. You spend as long as you can in a bar, but – sooner or later – you have to come home. And you want to watch some chilly movies.

Here are some tips:

  • Fargo
  • The Ice Storm
  • The Mighty Ducks
  • Touching the Void
  • Dolls, by Takeshi Kitano
  • When Harry Met Sally
  • Edward Scissorhands
  • Twin Peaks
  • Sarah Palin’s Alaska (only for the strong of stomach)
  • Snow Falling on Cedars, Cold Mountain and Dr Zhivago (thanks Courtney)
  • The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe (the aptly named MrsInferno)
  • The Shining (MisterrGJones)
  • Mystery, Alaska (KelHunter)
  • The Empire Strikes Back, A Simple Plan and The Mighty Boosh Season One (Kirsty)
  • The Thing, Aliens vs Predator, Life in the Freezer, The Road (Dana) (David also recommended A vs P) ( the Road also rec’d by Paul)
  • Let The Right One In, Reykjavic 101, Forbrydelsen S1 and 2  (Yemayasverse)
  • Polar Express, Shackleton, Waterworld, Ice Age (all of them)  and all of Game of Thrones as well as the delightful Northern Exposure (Essjay)
  • The Big Chill (65 Degrees)
  • In Bruges (Michelle Griffin)
  • Happy Feet, Cliffhanger, March of the Penguins, Misery, anything by Warren Miller and Groundhog Day. Also Ice Road Truckers and Deadliest Catch. (Pete)
  • The Day After Tomorrow, Alive (Ben Knight)
  • 30 Days of Night. I’ve also been informed that there is a SyFy version of Alive. WITH YETIS! (thanks, FranDowdSofa)
  • Ice Station Zebra, King Lear, Snow White and the Seven Dwarves (Rusty)
  • Happy Feet II (The Brewer’s Wife)
  • Cool Runnings (Tummy Rumbles)
  • How I Ended This Summer (David)
  • Die Another Day (FarmersMarketsFan)
  • Ice Cold In Alex (Chris)
  • Youngblood (Phil)
  • Stalingrad (Dave)
Share other movies to cool down by in the comments. And be quick! We’re frying here!

Lost, rewatched

What to do with some JB vouchers and an unplanned staycation? The box set of Lost, that’s what…

I have recovered sufficiently from the disappointment of the finale to go back and spend time on Craphole Island with this bunch of loveable – and in many cases, doomed – misfits (hi Shannon, bye Shannon!) but on this go-around I am noticing things that just didn’t get resolved. Ever. (Or maybe they did, just not to my satisfaction. Or they did, and I forgot to notice.) So, a to-be-continued – and probably revised – post. [Edited to add: also included - things that just generally shit me. Which is likely to be Kate.]

Continue reading Lost, rewatched

Mia’s gonna rain on your parade

Mia Freedman caused a sensation in the wake of Cadel Evans’ historic victory in the Tour de France.  She’s not into cycling (that much is clear) and her comments on The Today Show have been discussed and defended elsewhere.  I don’t watch the show but the online response to her comments sent me to the segment, where she sets up a nice little straw man1 (sports-person-as-hero) and then proceds to demolish it with a “but think about the social workers” response.

Mia Freedman has a number of outlets for her opinion, one of which is a popular blog2.  I wondered, then, given the passion with which she backed the social workers in her Today Show appearance, how much she has used her profile to make a larger case for their appropriate remuneration and recognition.  This is the result of an audit on her blog – a search for the term “social worker”.

The search returned seven hits.

1. Mia’s account of the Cadel Evans debacle.  31/7/2011

2. A story about discrimination where one of the victims was a gay social worker. He was refused permission to adopt a child, but not because he was a social worker.  21/2/2011

3. A story about a US program to sterilise drug addicts.  The term “social worker” appeared in the context of the program trimming down “social worker caseloads”.  20/10/2010

4. When the AOC requested more funding. Mia puts social workers in a group of people who deserve a larger share of government money. 24/11/2009

5. In a story (if you could even call it that – Mia attaches an introductory paragraph to a piece from, of all sources, the Daily Mail) that snarks about Madonna’s appearance.  The “social worker” is invoked by the Daily Mail in this context:

Last week, she left her New York apartment in red lacetrimmed bloomers, a hoodie, ski sunglasses and undone strappy sandals. She resembled someone who, rather than being flanked by bodyguards, should have been accompanied by a concerned social worker at each elbow.

Apparently it’s okay to run a piece that creates a perception that the role of social workers is to escort celebrities whose dress sense is questionable.  And, by extension, also okay to use people’s sartorial choices to make assessments about their mental health.   5/12/2008

6. A story that responds to celebrating the achievements of Olympic athletes with a parade by wondering where where the ticker tape parade for social workers (amongst others) is. 15/9/2008

7. A story about a rugby league player who moved to France.  The brief post is incoherent – I’m not sure whether that’s because of my limited knowledge of rugby or hers – but here’s what I think she’s saying: Sonny Bill Williams should be allowed to earn as much as he wants here, but it would be nice if social workers (amongst others) were also paid mega-bucks. She includes a gratuitous bare-torso shot of the player in question, and the disclaimer

What I know about NRL could be written on the back of a computer chip. In texta. But since a lack of comprehensive knowledge about a subject has never precluded me from forming an opinion, I’m going to weigh in on Sonny Bill Williams’ defection from Australian rugby league to French rugby union.

From 29/7/2008

It seems that the only time Mia gets publicly fired up about the plight of the social workers of Australia is when people are celebrating the accomplishments of sports-people, or discussing sports funding.  I don’t disagree at all that there is an inequality in the way different occupations are recognised, but surely it would be more useful for Mia to organise her considerable supporter base in a concerted campaign than to carp about it every couple of years when others are caught up in one of those rare moments of (perhaps irrational) vicarious triumph.

Or maybe “reporting” on a skinny Shane Warne is more important.

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1. Karl says it was a “sporting triumph” and doesn’t call Evans a hero in his introduction to the segment.

2. I don’t have readership figures for the blog, but am judging it as “popular” based on the number of comments posts receive and by the number of times a post-promoting tweet of hers pops up in my twitter stream (which I thought I had curated carefully to avoid any encounters with the MamaMia tribe).

 

Food TV – rethinking my commitment

Marco’s Kitchen Burnout is long finished,  yet the post on that has been my most recent here for over a month.  It’s not that I haven’t been watching any TV,  it’s just that I’ve been uninspired to write about it.  There are some recordings from weeks ago on the IQ that I saved there so I could write them up,  but… it just isn’t happening.  Here’s why.

Masterchef Australia

Unlike the previous two seasons,  I’m not watching this every night.  When the cast list was announced I was really looking forward to tuning in.  The presence of two (some people have suggested more, but Billy and Mat were the ones I had read) food bloggers and George in the same space promised a volatile mix.  The launch publicity indicated a return to the “basics”,  which I misinterpreted to mean “this lot have a really firm grasp on the basics of cooking so will be presenting a high standard of food”,  rather than “we’ve had to teach them how to separate eggs”.  My level of frustration is such that I only watch now when Reality Raver asks if I’ll recap1.  Otherwise,   I read her site to keep in touch with how things are going in the Masterchef kitchen.  It’s not about food,  it’s about drama and manipulation.  But it’s also about influencing how people talk about food,  and how new Food TV is framed. Which brings me to…

Continue reading Food TV – rethinking my commitment

Food TV – Marco’s Kitchen Burnout

Marco Pierre White puts three celebrities to the test in a busy London restaurant. Their challenge: to run its professional kitchen single handedly.

There are three words that have me automatically adding an unheard-of show to my viewing schedule. Marco. Pierre. White.  There is something compellingly menacing about him, which makes you wonder where the line is between the “real” Marco and the kitchen performance without questioning that there is such a line.  His two seasons of Britain’s Hell’s Kitchen featured regular segments where Marco, in a tone that always suggested barely controlled rage, would share his philosophies and anecdotes. Unfortunately I can’t remember any of them, but perhaps I recorded some when I blogged it here and over on Reality Ravings way back when. Great British Feast was an enjoyable ramble around the countryside with Marco and his “devoted sidekick”, Mr Ishii.

Unfortunately, this show is really a lukewarm remake of the UK Hell’s Kitchen – which was always a celebrity beast – and unfortunately provides neither a showcase for Marco or his guests. The format is slightly different to HK – each “celebrity” (I haven’t recognised any of them so far) is playing for him/herself.  Marco doesn’t provide Masterclasses to his celebs, he just watches them get into the weeds during service, repeats phrases such as “where are your herbs, your herbs, your herbs, your herbs, your herbs, your herbs”, and tries to encourage them to “buy” his time.  At one point per minute, buying Marco’s time will take a chunk of the maximum 100 points available from the diners.

I’ve watched the first two episodes, and I’ll keep watching as it’s on at a good “background” timeslot, but it’s certainly not great food TV, reality TV, or MPW.

Marco’s Kitchen Burnout is on Lifestyle Food, Sundays at 5.30pm.