Room 101

DSC_0334I haven’t been watching Room 101 for a while, even though I prefer Frank Skinner to Paul Merton (never saw the original with Nick Hancock).

The show welcomes guests who nominate something to be put into Room 101, meaning, the fictitious removal from this world. George Osborne was nominated to enter room 101, or anyone wearing Hawaii shirts, Austria, football, bow ties, public spitting, the year 1975 – anything goes, or at least can be nominated. Whether the nomination succeeds is depends on the strength of the argument presented for the case.

Intriguing. What are your top three nominees?

Hitler? The Nazis? Work? Graham Norton? Inconsiderate people? Aggressive drivers?

Oops. I’m over five already.

 

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Slow News Attack

Thames BarrierThe BBC informs us that officials considered flooding parts of Kent and Essex in order to prevent the flooding of Central London, as has now emerged through documents released by the National Archives. (click for article)

I can only hope this piece of slow news remains in the dark corner of obscurity, but chances are that some bored and sensation-eager journalist will blow it up to a major news item, so here’s my preventive counter-argument:

The only news-worthy news item in that context would have been a report stating that several options were not being looked at and considered. To consider an option is fundamentally different from taking an option after all.

Looks like every paper has the story already.

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Yes, You Please Me

DSC_0690Back in February, on its 50th anniversary, the BBC recorded the Beatles’ Please, Please, Me in 12 hours with various artists and, of course, in the old Abbey Road Studios. The one hour TV summary comes up in repeats every once in a while, so if you have a chance to watch it, I recommend it. (article, iplayer)

Not every track is to my liking, but some are immensely well done.

Mick Hucknall of Simply Red performs Anna brilliantly, I Am Kloot gives us beautiful Chains, Ian Broudie does a fine job with Do You Want To Know A Secret. Others are doing well too, but these stand out for me. Plus, of course, the finale: Beverly Knight gives it all for Twist And Shout, very nearly blowing the roof off.

So, why do I mention this? Well, it’s because finally took the time to watch the TV recording again, and then finally took the time to explore the Manchester-based trio I Am Kloot. I am always surprised when I discover contemporary musicians which I like, but those boys certainly are to be liked. A. Lot. Check it out!

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Dumb Schmucks ‘R’ Us

DSC_0567When did we all grow so stupid that a typical BBC documentary feels the need to explain everything. I don’t want to give up and go home, Hilary Lister (a quadriplegic who sailed solo around England) says, and the commentator’s voice from the off adds She resents the idea of giving up and going home. (I am paraphrasing, quoting from memory.)

It’s like the people who take a photograph of something funny and can’t resist the urge to circle and highlight the amusing detail.

It’s like the world assumes that everyone’s I.Q. is below the freezing point. Don’t assume I am Mr. Superbrains, but don’t assume I am a total dumb schmuck either.

Ubi Est Habemus Papam

DSCF0361The BBC News page has standard categories: Business, Politics, Health, Education – none suitable to report on the papal election, its progress and outcome. There are also categories for Technology, Science and Environment, Sport, equally unsuitable. Will they report under Entertainment and Arts or Magazine, I wonder?

Maybe it’ll be under Also in the News.

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Homo Bratwurstensis

DSC_0053I never thought I needed an Irishman to explain what is now blindingly obvious to me. But I can answer the last question he left open, so I think of this as helping each other out:

Dara O’Briain’s Science Club reminded us on the fact that Homo Sapiens did not descent from Homo Neanderthalensis. They form two different branches of the evolutionary tree, and both descent from Homo Heidelbergensis. Well, there you have it. Homo Heidelbergensis lived practically in our home region of the Pfalz (especially considering the fact that Heidelberg University, after which Homo Heidelbergensis is named, is closely linked with Neustadt). It is very obvious to me, now, that modern man descents from the Pfalz. Africa was just a little trip down south.

No wonder everybody likes a Bratwurst.

Dara also explained that there was some interbreeding between Homo Sapiens and Homo Neanderthalensis for a while, but he wasn’t sure which one of the two species was the more sexually aggressive or submissive one. Dara you fool! It was the males on either side of the evolutionary fork shagging the females, you can put a bet on that. Evolution hasn’t come that far enough in half a million years for such basic behaviour to change.

 

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Domination, in a Good Way

DSC_0867I hate it when the TV schedule dominates my life, and am eternally grateful for the invention of the hard disk recorder. I make an exception for this one: This one will keep both my hard disk recorder and our spare time for TV viewing busy for a while, and I shall be happy to let it dominate my life:

Masterchef: the Professionals is starting tonight, 20:30 on BBC Two.

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Exploring China

DSC_1039Are you watching the BBC’s Exploring China series? I am a late starter and begun watching with episode 3 of 4. Thanks to iPlayer, I could catch up with the first two, and I thoroughly recommend that you watch it while it is still on iPlayer (or when it comes around the next time).

Ken Hom and Ching-He Huang may not provide Pulitzer price qualifying commentary, but the food is convincing, most is appetizing, and the whole thing is a feast for the eye. They cover Beijing and surroundings (episode 1), the famous Sichuan provide (2), the jungle of Yunnan in the south west and Kashgar not far from the border to Afghanistan and Tajikistan (3), Guangzhou, Taiwan and Hong Kong (4).

In the true style of cooking programmes about real Chinese cooking, they tend to start with a live chicken or a visit to the livestock market to select the best lamb, and then all the way to the mouth. Maybe it’s nothing for the screamish, especially since they also delight in showing-off some of the more peculiar food items such as centipedes or deep-fried rabbit heads. They surely show some dishes that I do not want to try, but general atmosphere, technique and most foods shown are a pleasure to watch.

(Todays photo shows Vietnamese street food. It’s not Chinese, but looked just as mysterious and made us both curious and hesitant. We did not sample it.)

 

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Competence

DSC_0292I admit to a love and hate relationship with Jeremy Paxman, presenter of the BBC’s Newsnight program. I love his integrity and the fact that his Newsnight program is the only BBC TV news program worth its salt. Jeremy is of course also famous for his unique interview style, in which he insists on an answer to a question, trying not to let the person on the interview get away with evasive replies. His bulldog style often leads to an annoying shouting match with a cornered interviewee, and any news obtained thus is not at all different from obtaining a confession by water boarding. A terrible style, and his smug grin almost always deserves a punch in the face.

But, did you see the Chloe Smith interview? [click to watch]

She sounds like she won every debating club competition, uttering lots of words without ever saying anything. I would have been infuriated, where Jeremy only shock his head and smiled, obviously not taking her serious. She keeps repeating the same government slogan again and again like a broken record, refusing to answer when the latest fuel duty decision was taken. I am not sure if she answered any question at all. I don’t want this! I want a government with politicians, not spin-doctors and self-promoting weasels. A government that feels responsible and stands by decisions taken or withdrawn, rather than trying several proposals and withdrawing them when they transpire to be unpopular, while sending a junior parrot to Jeremy Paxman. I long for politicians who attend an interview in order to answer questions and explain or defend decisions taken, rather than broadcasting advertising slogans. People with intelligence and experience, spine and the balls to communicate good messages as well as bad ones, hopefully even the quality to confront a bully like Paxman.

I loved Jeremy’s last question though: Do you ever think you’re incompetent?

Chloe certainly wasn’t competent enough to even answer that question. A simple No would have been enough, but maybe she wanted to stick to the truth while on live television. You never know. Maybe she just chose not to reveal the area of her competence in this interview.

You might want to watch the Aung San Suu Kyi interview by Kirsty Wark to recover from the Chloe Smith shock [click to watch]. What a difference. 8 minutes well spent.

 

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A Very Classic Weekend

DSC_0271I watched the first episode of Simon Schama’s two-part Shakespeare last Friday, and found it very well made, explaining Shakespeare’s role in his own time, and his relevance to ours, 450 years afterwards. Interspersed with mock  historic recordings and powerful modern renditions of noteworthy snippets from the bard’s plays, Simon’s tale spans a bridge from Elizabethan times all the way to the 2011 riots in England. Brilliantly done.

I enjoyed this so much that I watched the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Hamlet with David Tennant, Patrick Steward (and others) again, something I meant to do for a while. Simon’s TV programme brought me just into the right mood for that, and I enjoyed it on Saturday night.

Finally, the BBC closed the weekend on Sunday night with Julius Caesar, a televised version of another Royal Shakespeare Company production, set in present-day Africa. A brilliant production which tells the tale of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar as well as that of many present day African states and their state of civil war.

I rounded it up as a truly classic weekend with a classic meal on Saturday evening. Grass widower that I am, this can only mean one thing: a nice, organic and well hung Sirloin steak, gently fried to medium-rare in rosemary-infused olive oil, served with Sauce Béarnaise and chip potatoes (though without green beans on this occasion). I even made myself a little Crème Brule for pudding, how’s that for a classic meal?

Not sure if the good wife would have liked the Shakespearean marathon, but the meal would have certainly met with her approval.

 

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Bad Weather, Good Weather

DSC_1335I’d really like to know what happened to our weather, or to be precise, what happened to the BBC’s weather forecast. Until not so long ago, the BBCs forecast would be inaccurate and unreliable, and even the current or imminent reports were often wrong. Some time over the last year or so, something changed. I find the forecast is much more accurate, even to the point of the hourly predictions of rain at 13:00, then sunny again from 15:00 onwards. There’s some understandable inaccuracy in those times, but by and large, they are spot on.

Maybe the weather learned to align with the BBC’s forecast, but I suspect something else changed. Somebody mentioned some while ago that the BBC’s contract with the Met Office was running out, and that the BBC might be shopping around for a different provider. According to the BBC’s weather web site, they still get their weather from the Met Office though.

If anyone knows what might have changed to improve the forecast, I’d be grateful for such information.

 

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Who’s Done It?

2011-04-17 095Much hailed, much praised, much awaited: the new and modernized adaptation of Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson on BBC Television.

The adaptation sticks closely to the original, in the sense that Watson is clueless and Holmes arrogant and disagreeable, pulling solutions out of the hat, reluctantly providing retrospective explanations. Sex and jokes are added to the plot for increased viewing pleasure. However, the authors didn’t think we were capable of following a coherent plot, or that we were planning to work out who’s done it, so they didn’t bother providing us with a coherent plot, or any form of a story line such that we could play couch detectives.

No He’s done it! I recognize the pattern of his shoes for us, just an occasionally amusing mambo jambo of scattered plot fragments, interspersed with nudity, arrogance and conspiracy theory, in a video cut fit to make a sensitive viewer seasick. We should have been warned by the BBC’s tag line, describing the remake as fast-paced.

This being a modern tale, the Internet, email and text messages feature prominently. The film makers have found a nice way to visualize these through a screen overlay text display. Praise for that, and praise for the jokes. Not the worst in TV entertainment, but certainly far from the best, and disappointing as a mystery tale.

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