29 April 2010

Voting for Britain

As I dare say everyone is aware, it's election time in the UK. Thankfully the entire process takes a month, from when Gordy rang Lizzie and popped up for a cuppa (Lizzie was away and had to come back, spoiling her break somewhat).
I'd like to say at that point, all hell broke loose. But in British fashion, it didn't. It's been quite civil and understated, with the big excitement being the leaders debates live on TV. TV coverage, at least on the news, has been the blanket approach. Initially focussing on Labour and the Tories, but with Nick Clegg's good showing in the first leaders debate, it appeared to newspapers that the LibDem's were created roughly two weeks before the election, but are now a contender.
From my perspective, all Nick said was "I'm not them, look I'm different", queue hordes of screaming nickettes. He's been quite vague on policy, or how he's paying for policy he has announced. But as he keeps pointing out, he's not Gordy or Dave.

Actually it's quite interesting sitting here in a FPP system, and watching them grapple with the fact that winning the vote, doesn't lead to winning the most seats in parliament. Normally this isn't a huge issue, but with the resurgence of the LibDem's, the likelihood of a hung parliament has increased. And most polls are picking one. For my money, I'm not so sure. I'm basing this on very little outside of office conversations and web reading, but suspect the LibDem's are not going to get as many votes as the polls indicate. Conservatism tends to come back in on voting day, if following NZ elections is a guide for UK ones. I'd be interested in seeing some proportional representation here.

The highlight has been the comedy shows. HIGNFY, Friday Night comedy (radio 4), etc have been having a field day with the campaign. I see Rory Bremner has a few shows on from Sunday, and Channel 4 will have Jimmy Carr (meh), David Mitchell, and Charlie Brooker hosting an alternative election night special. That sounds good to me.

Living in a BNP stronghold, I've had a number of pamphlets through the door. All credit to them for at least getting the message out, but possibly their money would be better spent on hiring a decent graphic designer. They continue to link Nick Griffin with Winston Churchill, well both were fat. The family on the flyer were, in the words of an officemate, 'mouth breathers', and two of the family were cross eyed. All in all, a decent reflection of the core constituency of the BNP.

Most of the majors have at least dumped crap through the door, so people are out (or subcontracting to mail deliveries) campaigning. Obviously I'm never home during the day so have no idea what door knocking has been done.

Gordon's gaffe was the headline yesterday. Although given the preponderance of people in this country who feel foreigners (usually Europeans) are taking all their jobs and using up resources, and don't stop to consider the number of brits doing the same overseas (for example, we had 5-10 of them in my department in my last role), I suspect I'd have said the same, if not stronger, as Gordon. It seemed to be the first open and honest thing I've heard all election, I liked it.

As in most elections, it's quite hard to actually find out the policies, although it's a bit more substance over style than some elections. There's been a focus from most of the parties to exclude negative campaigning, which in general has worked. Although I found the Tories posters saying 'I made XXX many people unemployed, let me do it again' and a picture of Gordon quite offensive.
There has also been a concerted effort to divide the nation over Europe. The Tories appear keen to fence the UK off, Labour has a 'I hope they play nice with us', and the LibDem's want to run into the EU fully. I'll leave you to work out where the BNP stand. All in all, reminds me of Peter Gabriel's Games Without Frontiers. Personally, I'm in favour of immigration, although with the current financial problems in Europe (Greece and Spain in particular) I do wonder if a stronger financial policy, as suggested by the Germans (by far the strongest economy in Europe) would be required.

The more I think about it, the more I don't think I'd be a very good politician. I used to keep quiet about stuff, but decided a few years ago it wasn't doing me any favours healthwise. Dealing with the half-wits that come out to political rallies would drive me fucking nuts.
Speaking of which, I still don't understand why news organisations feel the need to ask the person in the street for their snap opinion on something. I'd much rather have some indepth analysis rather than some coffin dodger claiming oohhh he shouldn't have said that, or oohhh he seems a nice young man.

So yeah, I'm over it, but it's also refreshing to have only 1 month of campaigning.

After that, here's some PG to cheer everyone up.


27 April 2010

Slackness costs in the end

The levels of excitement at home just build up. I was aiming to watch some stuff on the AppleTV only to discover the battery in the remote had died.I have three apple remotes, and have worked my way through them figuring I'd replace the batteries eventually.
As you'd expect that plan never worked.

So it's reached the point where I had to do something, and 99p later from Amazon, I'll be able to have two working remotes.

I'm telling you all this so you too can participate in the dizzying heights of excitement.


26 April 2010

Gigs and wotnot

I was down in London over the weekend for a few whisky's, some art, and a gig.

The Enid were playing at the superb Union Chapel in Islington. It is, as you've probably guessed, a church, lovely old wooden one, cool lighting, lots of stained glass - and therefore ideal for atmospheric gigs. Marillion fans will know it from Christmas at the Chapel (apparently unavailable on DVD now, just audio download).
So figuring the Enid hardly ever tour, were promoting a new album, and it was at a venue I wanted to go to - seemed a no brainer really.

It's hard to describe the Enid, the best I've come up with is err ummm kinda symphonic pop? ish? I haven't heard lots of it, I picked up the 'big' album sometime ago 'Something wicked this way comes...' and enjoyed that. Hearing a good review of last years Arise and Shine I grabbed that, and it made it into the Top10 for the year. It's generally pretty happy music, and more symph than prog, altho there's guitars and drums.
I hadn't heard the new album, and figured I'd buy it at the gig - and they opened with it in its entirety. I got the feeling the band hadn't quite gelled with the album as a live beast, and it seemed a little loose in places. I thoroughly enjoyed it and there were some lovely moments in it, but the vocals were mixed too low which didn't help much. Having now listened to the album, Journey's End, it is superb. Fresh, exciting, quite 'Enidi' in places, and with the interesting rock twist that present on Arise and Shine. Really enjoying it.
Following an intermission, the band rocked through some older pieces, which it was obvious they were far more comfortable with. Some nice piano playing by RJGodfrey (the main man of the Enid), he seemed a little nervous, but his chats to the audience (about 50% full, only downstairs) was very engaging. The Enid, and RJG in particular, seem to have been screwed royally over some CD releases (there's more on the website). And in response have made available their entire back catalogue to download for a donation.
Personally I'd recommend buying the new album, it seems to be a very good representation of what/who/why the Enid are.
Thoroughly enjoyed the concert, it was very very different - the venue was superb, the band are unique, and I'd go back to see them again.


22 April 2010

Think I'll pass

Email from a well known UK food magazine advertising 'Eat the best of British on St Georges Day'. Accompanying photo of over-cooked chips, battered (and slightly collapsed) fish, and mushy peas.

I will give the magazine their due, there's no false advertising.

Fun times at work today - may blog about that over a well earned beer soon.


19 April 2010

Cooking with Bruce : Chocolate Macaroon evolution

I sometimes get asked why my cooking appears to have very little in common with the recipe I'm following. This is generally as 'You're reading it wrong'.

Here's an example of how I change things.

Hugh Fernley Whittingstall has nice recipes, even if he comes across as an annoying twat on TV - that's nothing against him, he's railing against the stupidity of the UK supermarkets and their 'quality'. And I don't like TV chefs (as I'm not one of them).  Here's his recipe for Chocolate Macaroons, and here's what mine turned into. You'll note his has far more instructions than mine.

Preheat oven to 150C.
Beat 3 egg whites until foamy then add 55g caster sugar and beat until stiff and glossy. Stir in 3T cocoa, some shredded coconut, 60g (ish) caster sugar, 100g (ish) flour, a smidgeon of baking powder.

Grease a baking tray and put tablespoons of mixture on there, bake for 15 minutes.
(this made 8 btw).

Granache: chop 100gm of chocolate into small parts, warm 100ml double cream and mix together. Spread on one macaroon, place another on top. Just like a sammie!


17 April 2010

Bite me! Pisht post

One superb NZ red. Two crap movies. Hmm I bought these second hand, and there's a bonus disc, Dracula 3000, from the reviews on IMDB this is *even worse* than the two I'm watching tonight. Bloody marvellous.
Live-ish blogging by the way, with wine. So likely to deteriorate.

First up, Grave of the Vampire. Surely an Oscar contender from 1974? Bad dude who'd been electrocuted, decides waking up (oohhh yuck, he needs moisturiser!) is the plan. Finds young lovers wearing knitted jerseys and enacts fashion fixes of the fanged kind. Oh dear newly betrothed is newly departed. Good news! the Detective immediately decides it's a vampire - phew, that saved plot development! Meaning we can find out, she's pregnant (the ex-newly betrothed who isn't dead), but but but "what's growing inside you is being nourished by your blood, but it isn't alive". Woes!!! Oh dear the detective is getting all necky with vamp. Cute! Baby born, but he's all grey. Apparently this will be 'alright'. Phew! When was Rosemary's Baby? Cos there's a scene here where they are totally ripping it off! Baby likes blood, mothers bloody milk, oh yeah good plan cut yourself feed satan-spawn. That'll work well, actually I take that back. Boy grows up and is hunting his father, unexpected twist. FFS now 30 minutes of plot development, although what plot and what development ? There's a seance, I don't know why either. Sarah is apparently going to possess Ann. As there's been no boobies upto this point, I'm not holding out hope for fun possession.
Well that started off brilliantly and died (huh huh) in the second half. Solid 3/10.

Flesh Eating Mothers (1988). More wine, more dead people. Oh dear there's a theme song, which is nowhere as good as Nudist Colony. Cheating housewives, disaffected youth, drunk people, divorced couples, more wooden acting than an Orlando Bloom movie. Big big 80s hair. So far it's like a compression of every bad 80s drama. Oohhh all the cheating mothers are getting very very hungry. Oh dear, juniors just been eaten my momsie dearest. Well that's an amusing cot death!!! (a line I never thought I'd say). Now feeding another up on milk so he'll taste like veal. Respect. "my mother ate my father" "she's never done that before". Ahh the scientist has extracted the virus from the vaginal cavity. Good ol' scientists. My wine finsihed. Damn you booze-gnomes.
That's not bloody fair, their microscope shows cartoon pictures. Mine never did that, I'd still be science if mine had done cool things like that. The kids are banding together to fight back, none of that yoof apathy we hear all about. But they've got issues with the adults. A scene looked like a zombie-mother was giving a BJ, but it turned out to be an arm bone (r). Look I warned you I was drinking and blogging. And there's no boobies in this one either. Feel cheated, said 18 on the packet - guess that referred to the scripting, acting, camera work, plot - all the boring bits of movies. poor poor pull-apart-pootycat. This review appears to have degenerated into sentence based bullet points, oh well, still better written than the movie. The kids have fought back, with a crap theme song, And now the kids believe in the scientist - that's where I went wrong... not enough venereal analysis of flesh eating mothers. It's all so clear now. The finale kinda looks like a scene either out of Thriller or err that New York realism movie which is a classic and highly influential and whose title escapes me (lots of gangs of bikers fighting each other).
That one gets a 5/10. Dragged a bit near the end.

Not a bad investment for a 4 quid. And I've still got Dracula 3000 (shudder).

Moma I was groped!

This one for Neil who feels modern art should be touched.

(in his defence, he was talking about Henry Moore).

Grope a MoMA.

Huzzah performance art!

16 April 2010

Of quick flix

Or rather, quick movie reviews of stuff I've watched recently. No more than four sentences per movie, and no I don't promise.

Max Payne
I wanted a big dumb action flick. This is certainly a dumb action flick. I kept thinking I was watching a mixture of Sin City and the Bourne movies (not helped by Mark Wahlberg looking a bit like Matt Damon), but without the quality of either. Fun escapism and very silly. Oh and it's based on a video game.

Somers Town
My antidote to Max Payne. Shane Meadows' (who did This is England) lovely portrait of societal clashes in London, a friendship between two boys, and a chick who works in the cafe. At times painful, at times sweet, but certainly mesmerising. Very direct storytelling, involving the viewer in the developing friendship of the boys. Unlike some social realism movies, this one is short, at 70 mins. Very recommended.

Nudist Colony of the Dead
Firstly, not much nudity in it. I put the opening credits up recently, and the entire movie is that good. Very funny, very catchy song, and superb plot. Religious right-wingers close nudist camp. So the nudists all commit suicide, becoming, yup you guessed it, zombies. So when group of troubled children turn up for a religious camp, and big-number sing-a-longs, all hell breaks loose. Ok it sounds like my usual crap b-grade stuff, but honestly this is well paced and funny without the more normal b-grade pitfalls. Sure it looks cheap and trashy, but the songs more than make up for any acting shortcomings.

I Sell the Dead
I think Andrew recommended this one. More zombie action, but this time set in 19th century - and with the tagline 'never trust a corpse'. It tells the story of a condemned grave robber, how he got into the business, and how he found the extra money in the walking dead. Starring Dominic Monaghan (one of hobbits who wasn't showing midgit love up a mountain) and Ron Perlman, it's a fun romp through 19th century graves, zombies, double-crossing gangs, and taverns. There's always a tavern (probably where they found the hobbit). I see some of the IMDB reviews were quite negative, but I enjoyed this. Reminded me a bit of the books by Tim Powers - same sort of blending of sci fi, history, and weirdness.

H6: Diary of a Serial Killer
What is it with the Spanish and their horrors? Reasonably predictable but still enjoyable horror about a serial killer. No really. It's twisted and has levels of sado-sexual torture in there, but then again, what serial killer doesn't. Nicely character driven and well paced.

This weekend I have two winners lined up Grave of the Vampire and, more importantly, Flesh Eating Mothers.


13 April 2010

Poll time

I just found that blogger has a poll add-on. So rather than make a reasoned thoughtful decision based on facts and stuff, I'll throw it open to all and sundry.

Basically there's a few things I'm thinking about getting. There's options aplenty.

* PS3 for gameplay and blu-ray
* Blu-ray player (either mid range, or go for a Cambridge Audio, cos I like them - any other suggestions?)
* Bike (pushbike, not motorbike)
* Nintendo Wii
* iPad (unlikely btw)
* 2x 2TB harddrives for my NAS, currently there's a single 1TB drive in a 2 bay NAS
* Something else...

Now, I'm not a huge gameplayer, but I do watch a lot of movies. Admittedly many of them will never be released on blu-ray. Heh heh.
My workplace has a ride to work thing going on which would mean I could get a bike and something else (altho' probably not a PS3).

Go forth, guide my life. The poll is open to the 25 April. A randomly chosen date, mainly cos I'll have just come back from the Enid gig and will know how broke I am. And yes, just to make my life complicated, you can select multiple options...


11 April 2010

Cooking with Bruce : Vietnamese Salmon (kinda) salad

Well parts of it are vietnamese, parts of it are err what was sitting in the kitchen.

2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 small sharlot, chopped
2 stems lemongrass, chopped
1 small chopped chilli
1t tumeric powder
1/2t salt
1T fish sauce
2t sesame oil

Mix all (I guess you could mortar and pestle them, but I don't have one), and coat the salmon. Leave for an hour or so.

Cook some shitake mushrooms in some peanut oil. Soak some noodles in hot water. Mix mushrooms, mung beans, 1/2c coriander leaves, 1/2c vietnamese mint leaves, 2T fish sauce, 1T rice vinegar, 1t sugar, then mix in noodles.

Grill (or fry) salmon. Place over salad. Add garnish with more coriander leaves, 2t crushed peanuts, some fried shallots.


9 April 2010

Traffic discussions in HE, Jesus and possibly other stuff

My super-secret identity has been blown, a recent conversation:

S: hmmm who ate 1 an 1/2 of the last two chocolate balls
B: jesus
S: nope that'd be you
B: i'm jesus? well i never
B: i'd always suspected, but never dared hope

Others in the UK may have heard aspects to that story, but unlikely the resolution of me as the son of god. I'm not sure which god, but figure one of them will want to claim the orphan jesus.

I do like philosophers defences, and this one of why we should all speed and how to avoid fines in the US is great.

Probably more I could put up, and over the weekend will, but having had a couple over lunch, I'm aiming for a quiet afternoon.
I'm listening to 'Enslaved' which negates the quiet tho'.



I see a little too much of me in this one:

6 April 2010

A productive weekend

I've been procrastinating for months, 12 of them. I have had two papers all but ready for submission which, due to my antipathy to science, have lain dormant. I've spoken about 'finishing the papers' but really wasn't in the right headspace, and anyway didn't have any interest.
I think it's fair to say, I still don't have any interest, but I've finished them both over Easter. I did have to bribe myself; if I finished them, I could have a bottle of 14yo Edradour (as both my Edradour's passed on many months ago). As is common with my writing/editing style, the house is clean, all my papers reorganised, and many other things found to occupy my time.
One is now submitted, and the other is awaiting GenBank submission numbers, at which point it can be submitted too.

I'm thinking I might explore writing for myself, see where that takes me. Having said that, there is at least one more paper from the PhD that I could work on. A just-so story of evolution within the Reptilia. The way I approach it, it is more creative writing than hard science, a story rather than a law.

Van Gogh exhibition
The psychochicken mentioned he'd be in London over Easter, and perhaps we could have a beer. Normally I'd have said no, I'll be renewing my faith - however the bugger got me during a mindnumbingly tedious 2.5hr meeting. And I'd already decided I'd be writing/editing, and so was already looking for procrastination. Damn him. So we met up and toddled along to the Van Gogh (QI link on how to say Van Gogh) exhibition at the Royal Academy. Interesting. It's a combo of his letters (vg was a prolific letter writer apparently), his sketches and paintings. What struck me was his dedication and intelligence, the sketches were to improve his skills, often following criticism of his paintings. The sketches also demonstrated far more detail than ever made it to his paintings, which even in his still life studies appeared to be looking for the essence of the object, not the specifics.
I doubt I'm alone, but I preferred the latter era paintings. But honestly, the sketches did more for me. There was a lot of work on trees and orchards, whcih I liked. Atmospheric and dark, which I felt got lost when put on canvas.
Oddly, it appears PC, Fran and I all wander around exhibitions at roughly the same pace.

A few beers followed.

British Canal Museum
I had been intending to wander back to the Tate Britain for the Henry Moore exhibition, but decided I couldn't be bothered going that far - what with tube travel in the weekends being a whole new level of 'fun'. A quick google for museums and Kings Cross station found a few within quick walking distance, and I settled for the Canal Museum. This was far more interesting than I thought it would be. It's set in an old ice storage building, so there's a bit on that - and the ice trade interactions with canal boats.
There were only three of us there, so nice and quiet, which is something to treasure in London museums. What I found really interesting was the reliance during the second world war on the canal system, and how the Germans never bombed it - apparently railways were their major target. Even the bombing of St Pancras station managed to miss the canal alongside (with that sort of targetting, the Americans might want to chat to the Germans...).
Surprisingly recommended. It's quirky, it's obviously done by enthusiasts, and it's quiet.

Mmm might even review some CDs, or more Bgrade movies.


4 April 2010

Best theme song ever

I'm about to watch this movie, a classic Bgrade, but the theme song is absolutely superb.

They will kill you with a grin
while their nuts are danglin'

You'll be shaking in your boots
by corpses in their birthday suits
The horror mounts; the terror grows
These monsters have no use for clothes

Possibly review to follow tomorrow.

2 April 2010

Cooking with Bruce: Fish ceviche

This was dinner on Good Friday, I'm sure there's something biblical hidden there. The recipe is originally from Cuisine, and I haven't changed it much.

Washed down by a Marston's Pedigree, which worked well with the chilli/salt.

1 fillet of fish, chopped into small bits.
Put into a glass container, sprinkle with sea salt, and pour in juice from 3 limes, add two finely chopped green chilli's (remove seeds). Mix thoroughly and leave for at least an hour.

When fish is clear-ish, add and mix the following in:

1 small red onion, finely diced
2 Lebanese cucumbers, unpeeled and finely diced
chopped coriander
3 tomatoes, seeded and diced
white wine vinegar
freshly ground black pepper

Grill some tortillas to make them crunchy and puffy, then break up and dump fish/vege mix (spoon and try and drain it).

Very yummy.

Arran Whisky tastings

I'd decided to pick up one of the Arran whiskies, and figured some of their minitures would allow me to try a few others, cheaply. So here's the tasting notes.

Robert Burns : blend, 40%
Nose: soap, rubber, water, rubber gloves
Palate: honey, soap, not much flavour, watery, not very distinctive, but pleasant enough
Finish: short, hint of spice

Nothing very interesting, but a cut above many blends, 5/10. Went down quickly which is a good sign.

Robert Burns : single malt, 40%
Nose: very pale, rubber, grass,
Palate: honey, quick thick, limited taste
Finish: short

There is an absence of taste here, the honey is overwhelming, but only as there is nothing else to taste. A disappointing dram, 4/10. I'd prefer the blend.

The Arran Malt: Single malt, 46%, 10yo.
Nose: rubber, spice, manuka honey,
Palate: more flavour, honey, pepper, hint of salt, aniseed (grows)
Finish: med-long, salt, aniseed.

This shows more complexity and develops on the palate.Initially quite disappointing, the flavours grow and continue for some time. I was going to give this a 5, but I think a 6 or 6.5/10 is more deserved. For the entry level whisky, it's intriguing and has a wonderful aniseed finish.

The Arran Malt : single malt, Sherry single cask.
Cask#536, bottle 315/325, d 12.8.96, b. 5.2.10, 57.7%

Nose: big, rubber, fresh cut grass, honey and maybe chocolate
Palate: velvety, honey, huge explosive flavour, caramel, aniseed, more honey with addition of water.
Finish: long, hint of salt, pepper

This bottle redeemed the others. It is a very good whisky, complex, powerful, hints of it's island origin, but also an interesting mix of more traditional highland flavours. It does benefit from a little water to open up the complexity. The water brought out a significantly increased sweetness, again manuka honey - so that strong tangy flavour. Went well with the Internal Exile and Credo videos.
I think it's too young. I think another 5-10 years in cask could make this one of the top flight whiskies. As it is, I'll give it a 7-7.5/10, and will enjoy drinking it on cold winter (or in this country, summer) nights, but suspect it's going to turn into something similar to the Glengoyne 20yo. There's distinct hints that the caramel/honey is going to develop reducing the tang of the salt/pepper.

So yeah not a bad distillery, but it does matter which one you get.


Movies !!!

I'm going through more B-grade movies, hell I'm even rewatching some.

Brighton Wok : The Legend of Ganja Boxing
There is no way this movie could fail. Really. The title works in the same way as 'Snakes on a plane', there is a legend, there is ganja, and there is boxing and kung fu. Oh and it's set in Brighton. Unlike the recent review, where it was a crap movie trying to be great, this sets out to be crap, and succeeds, brilliantly. The story is loose, the acting beyond rough, the fighting hilarious. It's superb! Brighton is taken over by a bunch of bad ass ninja's, killing hippies, ruining the city. It's horrible!! The only one who can save them is the fabled Ganja Master. But who is he?! Where is he! Oh look, he's the main focus of the movie. There's a mad man in a tree. He knows the score. Boy turns out to be son of legendary kung fu hero. And the fabled sect of ganja boxing. Only through inhaling can true perfection be attained. Then, and only then, can the Chosen One defeat the powers of ninja-badness. Cue much inhalation. And ganja boxing.

I loved this movie. It's everything you want in a cult movie, and rocks along nicely. Go forth and purchase (yes kids, purchase) from here.
Join the Facebook group here.

Here's the trailer:

Brighton Wok - The Legend of Ganja Boxing TRAILER (2008) from brightonwok on Vimeo.

Blood Freaks 1972

Martin and I saw this at the Film Fest (I think, or it might have been one of our viewings). Innocent god fearing Herschel falls in with the drug crowd, with morality comments dropped through. Some of the kids are far out man. More dope, but some of them are doing harder stuff! Oh noes!
Oh bad brunette has made Herschel smoke dope. Oh it's ok, she's going to help him relax.
And now the turkeys appear. Herschel is going to work on a turkey farm. That's sweet, but there's a laboratory. And those evil scientists are doing genetic engineering on turkey meat, but it's not dangerous, so Herschel will be fine. Trust the scientists. They've got labcoats and will offer you free drugs!
Music is excellent, good mix of psychedelia and blues. Not good enough to try and track down a soundtrack (as I doubt there is one), but certainly fun.
Herschel's had some lunch, and is now fitting. What will become of him. Quick doctor, drugs, stat.
Oh poor Herschel, can anyone save him...sit through this and find out!!!