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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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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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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Stuck In The Dark Ages

DSCF0140When they show the master stonemason of the Cathedral of here or there, they show someone chiselling away in their workshop (^example). The only modern equipment, TV and sound recording gear excepted, are protective glasses and breathing masks. Oh, and a vanadium steel chisel, and a plastic hammer, heating, ear plugs, good lighting conditions, windows and roofs, a kettle for tea and a full belly.

This is not the authentic “just like they did it 500 years ago” experience, and why should it?

But, if authenticity of the manufacture process isn’t required, I can’t help wondering why they do not 3D laser-scan a sample stone, provide the exact measurements of the replacement stone, press Load and Go on a CNC-controlled router and be done with it.

Even Julia could do it!

The resulting stone may look at little too smooth, too exact, too machine-made, but at 27 feet above ground, seriously, who cares? A smoother surface will only make it last longer.


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The Masterchef Challenge Challenge

DSCF3904One of the dreadful American TV Food Channel cookery competitions (I forget which one, but I haven’t seen any that wasn’t dreadful) delights itself in challenging the contestants with seemingly impossible tasks. Contestants are asked to use a combination of Leberwurst, Chocolate and Shark Steaks in a fine two-course meal, if I may give one hypothetical example. Thankfully, the trusted and beloved Masterchef (UK) program doesn’t do this, but they have challenges, such as the invention challenge, too. This got me thinking about other cooking tasks which provide a genuine challenge without entering the realm of sensationalism and …. ah, I can’t even find the words for my disgust of these US programs.

Anyways. Suggested challenges include these:

  • Design an economy-class in-flight meal, complete with strict budget limitations and tin-foil serving tray.
  • Create a dish called Spaghetti Don Alfonso (or any other name both unbiased and raising certain unconscious expectations). Contestants have to produce something that suits the name, a dish that could have been plausibly served in a restaurant under that name.
  • Serve Lamb Madagascar (or any other region which isn’t widely known for its cuisine). Contestants have to be truly inventive about the recipe.
  • Prepare a meal together with a group of children. Teach them, inspire them, and delight the pallet.
  • The copycat challange: Present the contestants with a dish. They can sample it, touch it, smell it, look at it, but they aren’t given the recipe or any information about it. They are then asked to reproduce this dish.

How would you challenge your contestants?

P.S. The Masterchef 2012 series starts tomorrow, January 16th, 2012, 21:00 on BBC1

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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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Stepping Off Terra Firma

whirlpool (in the riover Rhine, not the Thames) How many times did we walk by the river, enjoying the water and the nature, while staying on dry land? I know. Many, many, many times. It’s simply astonishing.

Prompted by Alice Roberts‘ TV programme on Wild Swimming, we have finally made it off good old terra firma this past weekend. Together with good friends, we set out to the river just upstream of Tilehurst (west of Reading), where we hired two 16′ canoes and paddled in peace for the day.

Oh, and yes, we did take a dip, and it was beautiful. The water was much nicer than expected, and not half as cold as feared. We had armed ourselves with short wetsuits for some extra warmth, which we were grateful for, and enjoyed a lovely little swim. Sadly no photographic evidence, ‘coz we all were in the water. You’ll have to take my word for it.

You haven’t seen or read the last of this yet.
Wild Waters of Britain, here we come!


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The Deep

Sardines A new BBC sci-fi drama series. Hmmm. I have not seen some similar series that might have been half-decent and worth watching for a bit of innocent entertainment. Typically, I miss the first few episodes and then fail to jump onto the running train later in the series. The one that I did watch and enjoy was discontinued after a short while. Maybe I was the only one enjoying Defying Gravity.

So, when The Deep was announced, I thought I should watch the first episode. After all, it is a British production, and thus stands a chance of being less silly and stereotypical and boring, with more plausible characters and all that, compared to pure American productions.

Ah well. The Beep missed a good chance here, but missed by a couple of miles. Frustrating:

A mostly inexperienced grew of mainly psychologically unstable young people with unknown qualifications (presumably, scientists), embark on a deep diving mission (The phenomenal depth of 2000ft is noted at 25:40 into the first episode. So much for sci-fi deep diving). The whole mission starts just 6 months after the catastrophic failure of the previous mission – that alone being implausible enough.

A long string of implausible events and details follow, acted out by equally unconvincing characters. At the end of the first series, the crew faces “that big thing” which now hovers above them. It could be alien. It could be a giant Russian foreign nuclear space deep sea station. It could be the new submarine Taliban division. It could be anything, but it is already certain not to be convincing or original.

Good lord BBC. Give me a few days, a room to think, and two creative free-thinking co-thinkers. We’d think up a better story-line for you.


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End of an Era

BT tower So, it’s the end of an era, he says. Realistically speaking, its the end of a not quite 11 year employment.

If you live in the U.K., you can’t have missed the huge fanfare with which TV and radio presenter Jonathan Ross said Good Bye with his last Friday night chat show on BBC television, and his last Saturday morning BBC Radio 2 show.

Many  came to wish him well and express their sadness to see him leaving.

I wish him well, too. Of course I do, but am I sad to see him leaving? Not really.

I acknowledge that he has gotten better over the years, but he is not half as original and not half as funny as he appears to think of himself, and when not quite sure what to say or do, his humour gets dirty and under the belt. How funny.

It would be very sad news indeed, if nobody can be found who fits his broadcasting slots just as well, and hopefully even better.

So, all the best to you, Jonathan. All the best to the –hopefully young- talent who steps into his shoes.

P.S. It’s Hildegard Knef, not Hildegard Knecht.


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Well Done

cherryTomatoes Well done, Dhruv Baker, Masterchef 2010. Well-deserved and, in my opinion, a clear win against the two other finalists.

There’s a lot to dislike in this series. Unnecessary American-esque drama (“cooking doesn’t get tougher than this”) and drum-beating music, silly candidates’ statements (“It means everything to me”) and equally silly labels invented by the judges. The palate of an angel, give me a break.

But, on a whole, hugely enjoyable and hugely stimulating to watch hugely appealing food been cooked and presented.

Must go now. I have work to do in the kitchen.


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