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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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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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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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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False Advertising, Government-Style

DSCF2189Advertising tobacco products is banned from British television, and rightfully so. Also banned are adverts with explicit sexual or racial content, for example. A commercial recommending a yoghurt-like product is banned in the UK for exaggerating its health benefits, and so is one advertising make-up, which was aired after heavy airbrushing and photoshopping.

There are plans to outlaw advertising cosmetic surgery such as breast enlargements.

There are even rules in the UK; restrictions on advertising which ‘might result in harm to children physically, mentally or morally’ and on adverts employing methods that ‘take advantage of the natural credulity and sense of loyalty of children.’ [ITC]

Unfortunately, there are no rules against advertising murder under the pretence of adventure.

The British Army, Airforce and Navy, in concert with the Territorial Army, are all happy to run TV commercials on British television, telling viewers how much fun is to be had in the armed forces. Their advertising is aimed at grown-up people, which is bad enough, but most definitely also aims at younger recruits: boys and girls barely able to enjoy sex without breaking the law, boys and girls not yet entitled to vote, to drive a car, or to work through the night in a 24-hour fast food outlet.

These boys and girls are welcome to join the military though, and learn to become a murderer, or be butchered themselves. When they return from ‘deployment’ in a coffin, the country mourns both in silence and in an outcry of shock about the devastating tragedy that this 17 year old soldier bit the dust, roadside in Afghanistan or elsewhere.

17 or 43, male or female, black or white or ginger. It’s murder all the same, and advertising it is a disgrace.


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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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Dr Watson, Everywhere

Another pair: beer and bun. Dr Watson not needed here. Watching Celebrity Masterchef 2010, a friend new to Masterchef asked about Gregg Wallace what is he doing there?

Hmm. Interesting question. He co-presents, in the wake and in the shadow of John Torode, so what’s Gregg’s role? He’s Dr Watson, that’s what he is.

I believe it really was Sir Arthur Conan-Doyle who invested the classic duo: the genius lead figure, and the friend or assistant who asks all the questions on our behalf, and sometimes translates for us poor simpletons, when the detective head presenter goes into cryptic mode.

Amazing that most mystery novels or TV productions follow the same scheme. I hadn’t yet realized that the scheme goes far beyond the mystery novel. Think Breakfast TV, presented by a couple (where the woman adopts the role of the stupid blonde for unclear reasons), Masterchef, Nature Watch, Jamie Oliver‘s Kitchen programme, …

Fascinating. A toast to Sir Arthur!

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