29 January 2011

Movie: Black Swan

I like Aronofsky, I remember when Martin and I wandered along to Pi - stunningly inventive and original. Since then, I've enjoyed his movies, even if I was beginning to think the themes were becoming well mined. Even his flawed movie (the Fountain) was excellent and affecting. So I've been looking forward to Black Swan for sometime.
I came out disappointed. sure the acting is superb, Vincent Cassel (Mesrine) was an inspired casting move -  even Portman seemed good, unfortunately for her, her two main expressions, confusion or terror, brought to mind that prequel that should never have happened.
Although well acted, and a great soundtrack by Clint Mansell, it was territory well mined by other Aronofsky movies, and it was difficult to emphathesise with anyone - aside from Mila Kunis (and that has a lot to do with remembering her from the70s show...mmm...).
I came out feeling much the same as I did after Inception.
I'd like to think it was snubbed at the oscars, but have a feeling it will do reasonably well.

Rating: 7/10 could, and has, done better.

27 January 2011

More movies: morris dancing and art fraud

Following the crap movie day, I moved onto a couple of better quality flicks.

first up was Morris : A life with bells on. Go watch this, imagine Spinal Tap, but dealing with Morris dancing rather than rock music. It's that good. Absolutely smurfly hilarious.

We followed this with the Banksy documentary (?) Exit through the Gift Shop. Fascinating indepth look at mental instability, art, graffiti art, film making, and eventually crass derisive consumerism. As Smackers has said, it's a very good doco, interesting, engaging and some of the art work is brilliant. It's also an indictment on the stupidity of those who follow in the art world.

23 January 2011

Cooking with Bruce: Feta, Dill and Spinach Pide (or Calzone)

We had this earlier in the week, and it was a bit of a winner. Quite time consuming, but I was in the mood to cook from scratch, including the dough.

I don't know the difference between calzone and pide, so given this pide looks/tastes the same as calzone's I've had, I'm going to say, with no backing what-so-ever, they are the same thing.

Pide dough
4t active dry yeast
1/2t sugar
1/2c warm water
1/2c flour

3 1/2c flour
1t salt
3T olive oil
1c + 1T lukewarm water

Dissolve yeast and sugar in warm water for 10minutes, until frothy. Add flour, cover with wrap and rise for 30 mins.
Put flour in large bowl, work in the risen stuff, olive oil, salt and 1c water. Work to make a sticky dough, then turn out onto a floured board and knead it until not it's sticky.
Put it all in buttered bowl, cover with wrap, rise 1 hour.
Form into 8 pieces, roll up tight and leave to rest 30 mins.

Feta, Dill, Spinach filling
250gm feta, crumbled
3 eggs, lightly beaten
200gm chopped, cooked, spinach (I think)
1/3c chopped dill
shake of nutmeg

Mix all of these together (yes, tricky).

Rollout the pide balls, add some of the filling, then fold over and seal.
Cook in a hot oven for 6-10 minutes, until brown basically.

Very nice cold too.

The filling can be changed...many plans are afoot :)

Cooking with Bruce: Chicken and bok choy

I did promise a couple of cooking with Bruce episodes this weekend, so here's the first. This pretty much follows a Cuisine recipe, although I've trimmed some of the timings and style.

2 chicken breasts, chopped reasonably small (1-2cm squares)

150ml light soy sauce
150ml dark soy sauce
200ml rice wine
3 spring onions chopped quite fine
5cm piece of ginger peeled and grated fine
2 cloves garlic, chopped fine
bit of grated mandarin peel
2 star anise
1 cinnamon stick (or 1tsp ground)
150gm rock sugar/brown sugar

Bok Choy
2 bok choy
2T oyster sauce
1T peanut oil

Put all Stock ingredients in large frypan with some water (I didn't use much, as I wanted a thick sticky sauce), bring to the boil and simmer for 15mins.
Dump the chicken pieces in and top up with water to cover the chicken. Simmer for 20-30mins, I used a reasonable hot simmer (if that makes sense) to keep it thick and cooked properly.

While that's cooking, cook some rice and as it's finishing (I use the 1c rice, 2c + water, bring to boil, turn off heat and leave covered for 10 mins method), add the chopped bok choy. Heat the oyster sauce, peanut oil so they mix, then add some coriander and chilli in there and dribble over the rice/bok choy mix on a plate.
Serve chicken over the rice and dribble any remaining juice over it (after removing the cinnamon stick and star anise).

As you'll see, its a quicker recipe than Cuisine, and probably lacks a bit of their subtlety. However it can be cooked in 40-45mins, works well with fish.


I'm under appreciated

Conversation this afternoon:
Songs of Praise playing before the news
S: there's a priest playing sax

me: that'll be thelonious monk.

and nothing.


22 January 2011

What I've learnt today

* A third of Zimbabwe's 5.5million voters are dead.
* Others are 120 years old

Movie day!!!

Opening with the classic Roger Corman, Big Bad Mama.

Roger Corman movies are usually described with words such as 'bad', 'shocking' etc. This one is set in depression era dustbowl America. So far (10mins) there has been a shotgun wedding - hijacked, a car chase, a gun fight, and cleavage. Corman FTW ! Mama, and Barney, hook their daughters up for weddings, take the gifts of money, then run at the alter. Tragedy has struck, and not just to the script, but praise god, mama has a plan! Bootleg liquor, whiskey n wine. And breasts. And a gun.
It's quite well shot, and the plot (so far) is making sense. There may have money for this movie, which makes for odd viewing for a Corman.
Wow, mama is *really* resourceful. And everyman is a sleazy bastard, Corman as feminist icon, now there's a concept that needs exploring more.
More car chases, Bonnie n Clyde, but cool, money changing hands faster than a bankers bonus, sleazy sax solos, and it doesn't outstay it's welcome. A good 8/10 for this one.

Oh yeah and it has William Shatner. Shatner is, emoting, ohyeah.

"Get ya hand off ma' tit Barney"
"Ya hired girls, take a few bucks outta the kitty, get yaself something you can strip outta quicker"
"I never felt the titties of a millionaire before"

And now, Andy Milligan 'Seeds of Sin', a man who makes Corman look like an auteur. It takes a special kind of person to watch Milligan, there is no plot, storylines are entirely arbitrary, lighting/directing/acting are, ideally, done by the same person. Voices speak off camera, then pan across to see their lips move (after the voices have stopped).
The movie includes sex scenes. These have nothing to do with the story. Indeed, the actors in the sex scenes don't appear in the story. That alone should give you an idea how structured Milligan movies are.
I'm 15mins in, and it's going to be tough lasting the full 78mins. Help!

Ohhh it would be superb if the Bad Seeds were named after this movie.

Everyone is dying. Not those who are shagging, obviously, but everyone else. Their acting improves at that point. This appears to be orchestrated by the wheelchair bound mother, and a man with an eyepatch. The mother looks like the mother in BrainDead, wouldn't it be superb if Jackson had been inspired by Milligan? Maybe The Mad Monk was a direct inspiration for the filming of LotR? Yes, I think we'll take that one as fact. Tell your friends, update Wikipedia, someone tell Jackson. Let's launch a global awareness programme.

I'm not even going to try to rate this.

From Something Weird video:
The good news: we've found an early, formerly lost, sex-filled horror film by ANDY MILLIGAN. The bad news: we've found an early, formerly lost, sex-filled horror film by Andy Milligan.

21 January 2011

the american right

A couple of Cooking with Bruce episodes coming this weekend, but while watching the Daily Show I was struck by the hypocrisy of the US right.
The twat from Alaska, Palin, is currently complaining at the media for it's coverage and critique of her following the recent massacre. Largely this seems to be an effort to keep her name in the news.
But what really struck me was how, eight weeks ago, the right, including Palin, were calling for the arrest and murder of Assange.


13 January 2011

Whisky : Bruichladdich 16yo Cuvee A

Bruichladdich released a batch known as 'The Sixteens' (link goes to a PDF) which, as you'd expect, are 16 year old whiskies. Each of the releases was finished in a French Oak cask from one of the big wine producers. The one I'm tasting was matured in Bourbon casks, then finished in Chateau Lafite Rothschild, or in 'laddich terminology it had "additional cask evolution".

Bruichladdich Cuvee 'A' Paulliac 16yo 46%
musty wine, red wine, turps, sawdust   (colour was a weird reddish gold)

raspberries, warm, wine, 

short, little prickly

It's good, but I'm not sure it's whisky, if that makes sense. There's very little typical 'laddich in it, but it's certainly complex and it would be fascinating to see what was happening at cask strength. the fruit overtones are huge, nullifying any whisky smoke you'd expect. It's got an interesting mouth feel/taste, but ultimately dies away too quickly. 
It does go down very easily, so aside from the price, around 50 quid, it's a good quaffing whisky that won't offend anyone.

But it's not what I want from a whisky.

10 January 2011

Stupid reporters and equally stupid Equality and Diversity

Two major complaints about idiots today.

First up, really stupid media beat-ups concerning pregnancy resulting from 'failures' of an inserted contraceptive device.

All of the news outlets that I flicked through carried this story, with equally ridiculously stupid comments. I haven't read the Daily Mail's one, but dare say the Pope is behind this failure. Anyway here's the Guardian's one.

Let's look at the data:
584 failures, leading to pregnancy last year
99% safe, according to the manufacturer
82000 fitted last year
1,000,000 sold in the UK.

Now I'm not a professional statistician but if we look at 584 / 82000 * 100 = 0.7%

The worst possible number to use (82000) is massive underestimate as it only counts newly inserted devices, not any of those already working their sperm-busting magic, has a failure rate LESS than that suggested by the manufacturer.

To rephrase, in case dumb-ass reporters are reading: there are less pregnancies than you'd expect.
And from an equality and diversity monitoring form I saw today:

Apparently I do have a religion.

FFS. How f'ing stupid do you have to be to list Atheism as a religion?!

Rant, B

3 January 2011

Monday Links!!

This is supposed to be the slow news time, when we get bombarded with what some twat I've never heard of was supposedly reading. Since most of these twats are, apparently, from X-factor where dX=level of care=0, it's pretty easy to skim over the paper.

But the following two articles caught my eye.

A Greek dialect which is very similar to ancient greek, including the infinitive !! which those silly greeks lost years ago.
And with thanks to my roving 'net reporters, toys for the bgrade movie fans....

2 January 2011

Album pt II 2010

There's been excitement, grumbles, upheld complaints, and that's with the less interesting half of the list....

On to the top5, to be honest 6-10 were pretty arbitrarily decided. Firstly a quick diversion into others I liked:
Most Fun album 2010 : Sabaton 'Coat of Arms' what can I say, great live, great fun. War-metal!

Best reissues: Nick Cave ptII; Frankie goes to Hollywood; Modern Jazz Quartet

5 Dimmu Borgir 'Abrahadabra'. More symphonic than metal, Dimmu Borgir went the whole hog for this album. Admittedly they had a bit to prove having kicked out two band members, but this album is a monster. There's a very large orchestra, choirs, the works. And live, it was brilliant. A band where each album is better than the last.

4 Pure Reason Revolution 'Hammer and Anvil'. This is the controversial choice, the band polarises people. Their first album is a perfect piece of cheesy prog, the second is a dire piece of crap, and this one sort-of continues the more Depeche Mode feel they've been moving to. But with a bit of prog. It does seem to polarise people, but it really clicked with me.

3 The National 'High Violet'. A band who can't do anything wrong. Just buy it. And their back catalogue. Throughly enjoyed the gig in December too.

2 Karnataka 'The Gathering Light' I first caught them premiering tracks from this at a festival in 2009. And we were blown away. If anything the album improved on the live tracks. So of course the band splits, and ruins any chance of it selling in the quantities it deserved. Oh and no merchandise either. Bloody hell. However I have it good authority there's more new stuff in the offing this year, and the tracks they've released on the website (demo's) sound good.

1 John Grant 'Queen of Denmark' I have raved to everyone about this album. I don't care how annoying I've been. It is that good. I caught him in a small pub in Leicester doing an absolute blinder of a set. Since then I see he's been selling out much larger venues. Rave reviews from everyone. Direct lyrics, lovely arrangements, and backing by most of Midlake on the CD.

There ya go.


Albums 2010

Another good music year, one where The Pineapple Thief grew a pair and rocked out, yet missed the cut for my top10. Post-rock came through in a big way (Oceansize, Amplifier), prog became more mainstream (whats up with the mainstream press reporting on prog?!). And I like pricing of CDs in the UK, particulary through Amazon...even if the debit card doesn't.

PS: following an upheld complaint, The Mountain Goats have been kicked off for Peter Gabriel.

Albums that didn't make the cut, but probably should have
The Pineapple Thief 'Someone here is missing'; Anathema 'We're here because we're here'; The Enid 'Journey's End'

10 Peter Gabriel 'Scratch my back'. A covers album? well yeah. But it's worth it alone for the Radiohead and Elbow covers. It's superb.
9 The Phoenix Foundation 'Buffalo'. The best album by the lads, and with the UK signing/tour and release party, maybe their year to break Europe. the Independent already has them as a band to watch.
8 Oceansize 'Self-preserved while the bodies float up'. Their best album, and a brilliant example of post-rock. I was tempted to put the new Amplifier (Octopus) in, but that should make next years list. It's heavy, the songs breath and have space, and the centrepiece, Oscar Acceptance Speech, is superb. And maybe my track of the year.
7 Jon Lord 'To Notice Such Things'. Yes, ex-Deep Purple Jon Lord. He's carved out an excellent career as a classical composer, and this album is dedicated to, and inspired by the late John Mortimer (of Rumpole fame). The music is lyrical, sweet, emotional, and very tuneful.
6 Spock's Beard 'X'. Ya wouldn't guess it's their 10th album? It's good, prog-rock. Everything just works on the album, even the slightly forced tribute to all those who paid to get a namecheck. Recent albums have felt a little long, but this time (and we're talking 1.3 hours) it flows and holds the interest. Great stuff.

Top 5 in the next post.