Monday, 26 July 2010

The game Mrs.Hudson, is on. NEW BBC Holmes is perfection

The lord thy God Steven Moffat and his pal Mark Gatiss, both avid Sherlockians, have created in this Sherlock set in modern London a perfectly honest and authentic Holmes and Watson. If Benedict Cumberbatch and  Martin Freeman were worried they may be badly compared to other actors who have played the roles recently, there was no need to have worried.  Where Guy Ritchie (his pile of wank reviewed here), who never read Holmes, fails utterly, Steven  Moffat succeeds beyond his wildest dreams. While Jeremy Brett and Edward Hardwicke willl always be the  Holmes and Watson of Queen Victoria,  these two will be the Holmes and Watson of Queen Elizabeth.

A Study in Pink is the retelling of A Study in Scarlet and yet it is so much more. It is the setting of in our minds of the main characters, we will with luck, now follow for many years. I'm sorry to say that if Doctor Who show runner Moffat thinks he can just walk away from this now after three eps, he's got another thing coming. Like Doyle, this will now become a creature of his making, becoming bigger than the author. We must have more. I can tell that three stories will not be enough.  This new Sherlock is so well made it erases both the bad taste in my mouth left over from Robert Downey rubbish and creates a space next to the towering reputations of Basil Rathbone, and Jeremy Brett.

As amazed , nay gobsmacked as I am at the level of quality and detail in the Holmes and Lestrade characters, it's Watson who truly rises to the occasion here. Let's step back a bit .....According to my JackTracy, Watson would have been in his early 30's late 20's when he would have met Holmes. Clearly a young man with medical skills and the military bearing of a recently demobbed soldier. With no fixed address or love life to encumber him , the man would be free to seek the pleasure of less mundane thrills with Sherlock Holmes. Such a man as this is neither bumbling nor old. He is in fact young robust and still used to the structure of command and field danger. Watson is AS smart as Lestrade, Watson is also his own man, who will not be told by somebody else what he can or cannot do.  This Watson is a pleasure to behold. How much better would the Rathbone films had been if he'd been played this way.  To say more would be to give the story away , but suffice to say that you will not be the slightest bit surprised at what he does and when.

Back to Holmes now. Our Holmes , the Holmes we grew up reading, the Holmes so ably played by Brett and written by the Granada people, is a complex person. And yet this complete person shows up on screen from the first time we see him. His eyes , his gestures, his attitude to people around him is spot on. The truly genius bit is to make Sherlock 2010 a forensic specialist. What a great way to insure he is never far from any cases that could arise. I especially appreciate the care taken to insure that every aspect of his character is made clear early in as much as he is not particularly interested in romance and is not gay. It would have been so easy to play him so, but that's not Sherlock Holmes. "I'm married to my work" in case Watson was somehow interested in something more. There is more to come I'm sure , but the true essential Holmes is there from the intellect, to the intense curiosity as well as the need to find a cure from everyday boredom. He knows he's better than anybody else, he sees forests where others see only blades of grass and the odd pebble. Holmes is the towering living embodiment of the Alpha male if brains were the principle requirement.  Not a clubbable man, not one easily tamed by woman kind. 

Mycroft Holmes, his brother, who I spotted right away, bears an uncanny and unsettling resemblance to David Cameron. And this in more than a few ways. His need to watch over his brother, clearly leads him to extreme lengths to insure his brother is alright. Does that mean he's the mysterious Moriarty? I hope not. Mycroft was always his brother's best friend and sounding board when none other would do. They are in fact on fairly decent terms if anything. I am aware that some poetic license is permitted in as much as the need to build suspense in such a story only helps. But let us not forget that Mycroft Holmes IS the British Government and MI5/6 , he would never be part of any criminal enterprise out of boredom or need for profit. He is far too busy with his own work, he is one of the good guys. Besides all of the aforementioned, Mycroft dresses and acts like Mycroft, he's not a squirrely evil professor and he's not afraid to be seen, unlike Moriarty. About that getting out thing, it is nice to see him out and about, as Doyle's Mycroft was somewhat sedentary and unfit, this Mycroft seems to be a bit more mobile and Q like.  Still not sure what the lovely but somewhat dim looking Althea is doing in all this, but I'm sure there's a perfectly good reason for it all. (Insert your own producer's girlfriend jokes here)

Mrs. Hudson plays out well too. She is the perfect land lady and tolerates the sort of behavior Holmes and Watson will throw at her. In fact, I've seen this before. Military men of a certain grade and the University Don like my Uncle, tend to forget sometimes people are not there to serve them at all times. The fact she knows these are men who habitually give and take orders makes them the kind of tenants only a truly understanding woman like her can deal with. I look forward to her kippers and scotch eggs, though I wonder what the new Holmes and Watson are prone to eating now. Most likely gastro pub food and army cooking.


SGT Donovan will get wrong if she continues to insist Holmes is a killer just waiting to happen. He is his own brand of justice, he is a driven man , but he is not a man who would create mayhem to satisfy his own need for excitement. What would it prove to be hunted by himself or the clearly lesser beings at Scotland Yard. No he will always play by the rules, he will not kill to get a thrill. What he could do and has done in cannon, is release a dying man, look the other way when justice needs to be done some other way than the strictly legal sense.  She would do well to remember these things if she is to one day ( and I'm sure it will happen) be saved by this sociopath. 

So fellow Sherlockians, what little gems will you see in this film? Some of them are cracking good.  The Critereon and Stamford show up, The three pipe problem is there, he does some things only true scholars will recognize and marvel at, his addiction to texting is perfect as a replacement for the lost telegram and thrice daily mail round. Even his occasional dabble into mind altering chemicals is mentioned, though due to the fact that unlike the Victorian era, there are regulations on the truly addictive drugs now, Holmes does have a nicotine problem.  His deductive reasoning is as strong as any of the original stories and that my friends is the reason we bother watching this sort of thing. This Sherlock Holmes Is the Holmes of Doyle and Watson, a worthy use of money, talent and locations. My sincerest hope is that somebody at the BBC is already talking series 2.

Nearly forgot, I bet you're wondering what sort of story it is. It's a mystery in the style of  spooks and Midsommer mixed together. A gentle dose of humour and some wonderful use of special effects that aid exposition and demonstrate the methods of deduction as practiced by our hero. The nicest thing is that the story is carried by the actors, not the effects. Filmed in Cardiff, the sets are for all intents and purposes the London of people of a certain class and importance. The interiors are reflective of the people occupying them and you will be comfortable with the decor. There is even a Persian slipper if you look hard enough. Costumes are another thing you'll like. look at the clothes and you'll see the shadows of the older more Victorian order and dress, These are the same people we know and love, just in 2010

Job well done  Moffat and Gatiss .

Sunday, 25 July 2010

What o.s. does it use? Windows Vista. WE'RE ALL GOING TO DIE!

I suspected, but never thought there would be a day a software joke on telly would be so funny. Even years from now, Vista will never recover even the shred of dignity it may have had in the UK after this bit of comedy gold. Nearly burst a gut watching the scene with the bomb disposal unit and the super geek Moss discussing technical support in the middle of a crime scene. The IT crowd continues to please now well into it's 5th series. It may not be for those who view computers with deep distrust and trepidation, but even if you don't know your ram from your rom, you will at some point find the programme funny. But if you are a plastic pocket protecting accessorized person wearing soda bottle bottoms for specs in your heart of hearts, I dare say there isn't an ep from series1 part 1 to the latest , where you won't get sucked into the latest bizarre discussion or dilemma  these tech trolls come up with. Katherine Parkinson ( Jen), who shines in Doc Martin, and here, does the brilliant innocent  who manages to keep a job in IT and a computer riddled with viruses both going. It also doesn't hurt she's not ugly, a pretty ginge, who knew? While I'm far from versed in the dark arts like Roy and Moss, I have a network of friends who would not be unwelcome in that small world and my own skill keeps our laptops from crashing from all but the worst of updates. What I do enjoy is the notion any of this can be funny. A propos of nothing, the lappies are going Windows 7 on Monday, the Acer as XP will no longer be supported and the Sony because it's got the dreaded Vista. God forbid I should be at a bomb site and asked to control a robot with a Vista addled comp!!!

Last week I was praising some of the efforts I had missed during the world cup. I sadly have some minor criticism for Mongrels. The latest ep featured a visiting French character, what a disappointment  it was to see the hash made of this poor french cousin. He spent the entire episode saying "merde" loudly over and over again. Completely unbelievable, his shtick wore thin within seconds and the story became a massive 15 minute hole around which the deranged pigeon attempted to create new species of evil fox bird. Even the weekly song got interrupted seconds in. Seems to me somebody wasn't able to finish the script in time and just shot it as is. I hope it's not the first sign of fatal weakness in an otherwise excellent run so far. Looking forward to the next installment, fingers crossed this last one was just a temporary aberration.


Celebrity Masterchef, the closest thing I'll get to food porn for now, is back at it. Celebrity cookery telly was never interestinger than this , and finding celebrities was never tougher than this.  If you're watching , you'll already know. If you're not, it's a series of B and C listers last seen telling Digital Spy just how much they love Coronation Street or Doctor Who and how they'd be ever so chuffed to be on.  Me and all.  And just how hard has is it been  to find contestants? Being a massive fan of Masterchef all I can say is the current crop of celebs , most of whom I struggled to remember or care about, mostly acquitted themselves pretty well in the challenges so far. One served raw chicken and uncooked veg, the other lightly grilled liver long enough to brown  but otherwise remain incredibly fresh from the pack. Neil Stuke is the only contestant who seems capable so far of going all the way. His work has been of a standard worthy of regular Masterchef and the WI test proved from the comments, that this edition is a bit weak on cookery. I myself if forced to make something, would have a tough time throwing something together that wouldn't need tweaking. My own recipes I do with my eyes closed or hands tied behind my back would taste better if I did indeed see the ingredients or could handle them, that said, properly put together, they are very tasty. Are they good enough for Masterchef? I know my risotto is highly praised as are my sauces, but my presentation would definitively be lacking. I don't heap my fish on top of some shredded veg, I don't make poncy "jus" to drop on the side artistically. I will never ever be a telly chef. But I can promise you this, you will like my cooking if you like Polish, British and Mediterranean cooking. If I'm ever asked to go on, I would gladly go on and not be too ashamed of the effort.  Is Celebrity Masterchef  classic cookery porn? No It's more like the To Gear eps where the star in car is some radio 6 dj who cycles to work and hates meat eaters. I'll watch as it's the only thing on at the minute, and it's not ready steady twat.

Earlier this week on BBC Radio Newcastle a lady in her role of some sort of social maven came on and talked about the 5 most useless kitchen gadgets. While I cannot and will not presume to live her life and have her preferences, for her to say the pasta making machine is useless, is going to far. We used it weekly, everything from ravioli to regular pasta noodles come out if it and get cooked in under 3 minutes instead of the the usual 12 minutes.  The pasta tastes better and is by a country mile superior to anything we have made with just a rolling pin and a knife. If you cook at home, really cook, you will come to love this device. Don't be put off by these weekend gourmets who are afraid of little bit of effort.

For the record, here are my top ten kitchen utensils.......

1- My extra large Jamie Oliver T fal "yes you can use metal on it" frying pan: We got this as a wedding present. When I say WE I mean me.  I do the bulk of the cooking in the house and so it falls to me to figure out what's for supper most days. This frying pan  has made more risotto and various forms of eggs than you can imagine. A day hasn't gone by when it hasn't been in use. It's done fish, it's toasted garam masala, it's sauted mushrooms, made bubble and squeak and even given birth to marinara sauce.  If I could be accused of having an extra marital affair with anything, it's that frying pan.

2- The mortar and pestle: From dry to wet , that thing gets a work out every other day. Herbs and spices are crushed and blended. Pastes from olives and other things have come out of it, and incredibly, after years of constant use, I have yet to tire of bashing things in it.  Some days I even take an extra minute to get a really good crush or pound out of it. You may ask me where the bodies are? They're in the mortar and pestle. Try it next time your neighbor, boss, person in authority etc... sends you over the edge. Saves you loads of time with a therapists.

3- The Cleaver: I learned to love the cleaver from now deceased ex father in law. He was a Chinese chef who used the cleaver like the all purpose device it is. He cut, he chopped, he cubed, he gathered and dropped things with it. He bashed garlic and gently but expertly cut chives and  onions. Chickens were de-boned, fat was trimmed and lamb separated into all sorts of useful cuts. I learned that to make sure it stayed sharp you needed to do two things, keep it sharpened often and dry it after washing right away. I never did inherit his cleaver, that went to somebody else. But I learned to appreciate one of the best tools ever made for the kitchen.

4- My fry cook spatula: The long thing that you can press with, pick up things and push them aside . Not quite as versatile as the cleaver, it does however reach into pans and small ovens to gather up large amounts of things. I also use it to smash garlic when I don't use the cleaver in preparation.

5- Wooden spoons: All sizes all sorts.... they don't conduct heat!!!!!! Have yet to be burned off one. They don't melt and they don't above all else get used for anything else but cooking.

6- The assorted sized ladles: Handy to serve or to transfer things without tipping over the entire pot, they are metal, easy to wash and won't melt if  I accidentally leave on the stove top.

7- The Pasta maker: This device has allowed us to make decent spaghetti, ravioli , lasagna and other types of noodles quickly and kept us busy working together. Pasta making can be a one person job, but it needn't be, When you do it with somebody you care for it's an opportunity for both of you to appreciate the food you make and have some pride in the end product. Like I said higher up, home made pasta cooks in three minutes not 12 .

8- My set of three massive cooking cauldrons: I got mine off various grans and aunts who've passed on or no longer cook in such quantities. They are useful for soups, cabbage rolls, sauces and blanching things en masse.

9- Our dough cutter: I say our, as my wife uses it in baking and I use it for everything else. It scrapes shmutz off the cutting board, clears grease and liquids quickly and of course cuts dough into the size balls you need.

10- Oh aye, my cutting boards.... have two, one for general work and a meat chopping block. Saves on table tops and shattered nerves. Wood only and clean them with a bit of lemon juice once in a while.

11- My wood cooking tongs: don't conduct heat and if you clean often, don't transfer flavours.

Clearly there's more, but where's the magimix you ask? I can tell you that no problem. It's in the closet collecting dust. Comes out for potato pancakes, that's it....... We also have a food mill and three hand operated meat grinders. Too much effort I hear you say? No, same effort, less noise, better food.

We love to cook and bake and it shows, instead of watching rubbish on telly, take an hour with your better half and cook or bake.  Amazing what you'll discover what you can do.

Next time .... the baking top ten list ......

Sunday, 18 July 2010

The last time I read a newspaper

Well the last time I read a newspaper was this morning when I woke up and fired up the laptop and made the round of my usual stops.  The Guardian, The Chron, The Journal, The Telegraph, The BBC and my assorted blogs. The fact I've not bought a newspaper in several years has not stopped me from enjoying the news or being well informed. If anything,  I seem to get the news faster now. Between 24h news on the BBC and the net, I like to think I'm well served. I know the local paper is the only one I need in my hands sometimes. Where else will I get the gos on who's doing what in town to whom in sports or the radio scene. That said, national papers are fast becoming ethereal beings with a massive presence on the net and a physical manifestation in the real world I come to use less and less.

The physical feel of newspaper pages held up to read is still as enchanting as before, but the truth is that if I do buy a paper, it's for a few specific sections and I feel I've killed a tree to read 20% of the day's edition. My principle news comes from the BBC online. The news and Sport sections serve me well and efficiently. As a writer I spend a lot of time with one or the other laptop, and we are always "online". So I tend to hear about things on the comp first, then the details on telly or radio. The Newspaper, even online ones are for opinion pieces and righteous indignation. I am now and always have been a lefty, so I read The Guardian, I have to admit that even among the writers at the Guardian, a few of them have become pretentious gas bags full of themselves who haven't had an original thought in years. One recently posted a think piece on why she collects stories from 40 plus women about their first times. What is so mysterious, most first time sex is rubbish, end of story. Yet others tend to blow things out of all proportion and clearly haven't had a sense of humour since it was removed by the logic police. Their ongoing battle with Doctor Who a case in point. And yet as a  paper it still speaks to my core beliefs, so I continue to read it. David Mitchell gets his shorts in a not regularly and that amuses me as well. I do not go near the Daily Mail as it would require me to bathe after. The Sun and other such rags are where I used to get my low end "entertainment" news. But since the Sun has yet to apologize for the whole Liverpool thing and they supported Cameron with lies and paranoia, I can't find the will to click on that link anymore. I don't mind the Telegraph, it manages to say important things and Captain slow has a column in it.

One day I may again get a subscription to a massive big paper like the Guardian, but I doubt I'll ever pay Time magazine or Paris Match to deliver to my home. I might when we're more flush, restart the Economist, but weekly review mags that tell me stale news with little content that is original or of great enough interest to take the time to read AFTER you've been through the online stuff,  just doesn't cut it with me. Why should I give my money to a magazine that comes out 4 to 5 days after the big events and that doesn't do local or special interest stories the other places won't touch. It's not like I don't have the money to spend on reading material. We buy books, speciality magazines and local papers all the time. The question is how will the publishers get me to part with my money when I can get a comprehensive minute by minute account of important international, national and local stories from the BBC or some super focused blog that caters to whovians who like football, don't vote tory and support Newcastle United.

My greatest fear but perhaps most unfounded, is that genuine reasoning and debate will disappear from news coverage. On the one hand you have the Daily Scum with it's racists and bigots and the Sun with it's mostly illiterate charvs who can barely spell their own names whilst slagging off x factor and BB flash in the pan celebs. V the tories, lefties and mushy middle types who populate the traditional papers and magazines and leak into the blogosphere to have real debates using big words to respond to other writers and thinkers. Will there be a great divide where you find a growing army of people unable to hold a thought bigger than "cool" or "c ya"  steadily drowning out the chattering classes that have traditionally moved debate along? Let me be clear here, there are loads of people who have, on the whole, fairly reasonable views on things. But the problem arises when you question where those views come from and if it's possible that it was time to move on or look at an issue from a slightly different angle. Too often we bump into solid walls of indifference or absolute orthodoxy  that does not allow for other ideas or scares off "normal" people from participating. You don't have to be an extreme anything to be part of an intellectual process or have that process evolve you. But if you are told you are a heretic for not thinking along the specific 10 or 12 ways as proscribed by some very loud activists, you may feel intimidated, your curiosity tempered or even stored away for when it's safe to think and feel openly. And yet others simply don't care if it doesn't personally impact them at the minute, and cant be bothered or are offended when you rumble their ignorance on an issue.

Discussion or at least curiosity is what leads to seeing the full set of facts, other views and perhaps realizing that limiting ones perspectives leads to ignorant or at the very least uninformed choices and opinions. This is important , because we are asked to make choices daily, some more important than others. If we do not recognize the facts out there and don't look at more than the one interpretation out there, we end up like my mother in law who has taken to spouting the most shocking things as fact despite my ability to show her at least 5 sources proving her wrong. Based on the current debate she is having with me and my wife,  I can conclude that she will one day look at what we sent her and maybe even read it, or she will continue in her blinkered views about an entire culture that easily spans 25% of the world's population. I mention her as a case in point to illustrate the difficulty even intelligent people sometimes have when faced with incontrovertible proof they are wrong.

Over my life time, I have changed my mind about the seal hunt ( now for it) , nuclear energy ( not completely against it), was never put off veal, respected the need for free speech but have since acquired a sense of knowing when free speech becomes the intellectual dictatorship of the loud few over the polite majority. I used to down load tunes, but now have reconciled my own beliefs with the act of taking another person's intellectual property without compensation. Having looked at the other side of the coin, I could not justify my continued rationalization that I wasn't harming anybody. I have engaged in debate and convinced others  and been convinced by others. I fear however that I may be in a minority that grows smaller every day.  I hope I'm wrong.

Saturday, 17 July 2010

We shall fight them on the editorial pages

We shall fight them on the blogosphere and we shall fight them in public opinion. The Con-Dem government nobody voted for is now clearing the way for an attack on the very institution that makes Britain the jewel in the English speaking broadcast crown. They are greasing the track for a mass raid on talent, money and Corporation facilities to be handed over to the private sector. This same private sector that has stopped short of showing us extensive coverage of Katie Price's vagina, the same private sector that has reduced the intellect required to watch most programmes in the last 5 years to charvs who cannot spell and aren't even sure how to boil water.

Clearly the content on offer at BBC1, BBC2, BBC3 and BBC4 , all fulfil the needs of different parts of the watching public. They each in their own way cater to or pander to specific demographics. But the vast majority of the content is at least based on the desire to inform, entertain and expand the mind of viewers.  If the private sector was able to do this , then there would be no need to have the BBC. But clearly the most cursory scan of the television schedule on any day of the week reveals a sad picture of American programmes, copies of American programmes and charv culture in such abundance you could be forgiven if you thought no one had graduated school in ten years.

My own viewing habits are a case in point. The following is a list of programmes I have deemed worthy of my time. Programmes I have in some cases gone out of my way to see they are so good. See how many of them aren't on the BBC.

Doctor Who, Spooks, Torchwood, Victorian Farm, Eggheads, Mongrels, Rev, Graham Norton, Coronation Street, Midsommer Murders, Top Gear, Mock The Week, You've been watching, 8 out of 10 cats, Secret Diaries of a call girl, Luther, Jonathan Creek, Qi, The Bubble, Private life of Chickens, Proms, Big Bang Theory,  Look North, Question time,The Mentalist, Time Team, The entire BBC4 nature and science output for the last year, Raymond Blanc secrets, Master Chef, Jamie Oliver, Gordon Ramsay, Outnumbered, Joanna Lumley cats/Nile, The week long programme about a car crash investigation, The IT crowd, Doc Martin, Coast, The entire BBC history of the sea season, Dunkirk, The World Cup on BBC. I can go on, but the point would be that outside of a handful of programmes  outside the BBC, I can safely say that I would not be sad to see C5 go the way of the dodo or see C4 be absorbed into the BBC.  ITV has become a parody if itself, foregoing quality for cheap programmes aimed at the same demographic Big Brother was made for. BBC Television does for people what any decent national television network should do. Is it perfect?  Big Top and the Pursuasionists are proof even they make the occasional mistake. But at the end of the day, our telly would be that much poorer without the BBC we know.

The iPlayer, is perhaps the best thing since the invention of the wheel, without being accused of hyperbole. Being able to catch up on programmes  conveniently sorted by name, genre and station is the best way to get some shows a greater audience. The iPlayer is a perfect tool to get maximum bang for the money spent on BBC product. Any move to limit the use or support of the iPlayer should be viewed with  deep suspicion.

The BBC website and news division are integral to the way most people gather news and has a reputation of honesty and accuracy most other news organizations would love to have. To target the news and sports division for selling off and dismantling is destroying a journalistic tradition that goes back so far that most people at the Sun, friends of the government and certain other papers would have to work their way up for a decade to merely come close to that level of quality. Does anybody seriously take Sky news as a credible source for news? Since when is cynical thinly veiled right wing propaganda news?  There is little wonder we are seeing the rise of the BNP/EDL hate mongers among the young and impoverished school leavers too stupid to read for themselves or check facts. Sky has been spoon feeding this lot with enough paranoia and fear to fuel a decade or lunacy. The service provided by the BBC website as a whole is greater than any measure of economy that could be brought to bear on a few highly paid executives and talent. We get our news, we get our base information on everyday things, we get a relatively quick update of information so finely tuned that if somebody farts in an interesting way in Durham, it will be posted and findable with little difficulty. I could say I'm not pleased with the facelift of the BBC news section, but I'll give it a week to prove me wrong. At it's core it's still the same BBC I count on every day of the week.

National and local radio is another place the Beeb has a definitive place in the broadcast landscape. We are surrounded by stations trying to sell us the same top 40 pap with the occasional new x factor bint or himbo breaking the monotony of safe inoffensive drivel that appeases secretaries , housewives and 12 year girls. Where else will you hear new cutting edge music, radio drama and comedy, short audio documentaries and intellectual content Magic and Galaxy will never go near. How else will regional acts not lucky enough to get on Virgin radio get a shot at stardom or at least being heard by  a group bigger than 30 people. When was the last time you heard Elgar on the drive time show. As for the new music, some of which I despise btw, it's like what I want to hear now but can't due to the top 40 storm, it was once cutting edge and new. Local and national outlets of the BBC owe it to the artists that struggle to get heard and should give them as much freedom of access as can be granted. For every Alaxardra Burque who warbles her way to fame on the back of Darth Cowell, there are thousands of artists of every kind who are more deserving of exposure, but are lucky to be heard at all. Whole genres of music depend on the continued help of the BBC to be heard and remain vital living art forms. From Celtic to Bhamra If it weren't for the BBC, it wouldn't be played on mainstream radio or telly.


One last and at least as important thing the BBC does. Without the BBC, regional content and culture and the culture of those who chose to settle in Great Britain would not be reflected. Left to it's own devices, ITV and other private channels would have created a white London centric identity that would have eventually washed away any trace of the regional and replaced it with Westminster English. I know I know , the BBC had it's own role in this as well, but wisely was smart enough to recognize when it was wrong. Today the mandate of the BBC should be recognized and affirmed as the torch bearer of British culture and history, it should be the voice of superlative journalism and the place to see Cricket, Rugby and football without having to subscribe to the special Sky sports pack.

What precisely is bothering the BBC haters like Jeremy Hunt? Competition, alleged unfair competition, Is it so wrong to pay talent a proper wage? How much money is wasted on Piers Morgan or Peter Andre. How much is Jeremy Kyle taking home?  Clearly enough to continue putting out the dreck they do. So why shouldn't talented people like Wossy or Norton or David Mitchell be paid a wage that will keep them at the BBC?  You want quality, you need to pay for it. Can there be some economies? Of course, every place can do it, but  taking a machete to The Beeb, is just criminal. During the war my father listened to broadcasts of music, comedy and drama that kept his and the minds of millions of people off the day to day misery that was life under the threat of bombs. Today the Beeb educates, entertains and gives hope to all kinds from University of the air to how to grow your own drugs.

So who exactly is benefiting from this attack on the BBC?  The private sector, the sector that would have you believe there is only one culture, one view, one demographic and one Britain worth broadcasting to and informing.   It's going to be a long summer, and when the  savages are at the gates, we'll need to be ready to keep the damage to a minimum. Is the BBC worth the money spent on it?  A  BIG FAT YES.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

The day nobody watched Top Gear

It's hard to believe, but sometimes Jeremy Clarkson is more astute than he lets on. I'm a massive Top Gear fan, but there was no way I was going to miss the World Cup final and there was certainly no way I was going to watch it on ITV. As it happens, the ratings bore this out. Turns out some ITV staff, shut ins with tellies stuck on ITV1 and a handful of rodents named Trevor were the only people not watching the football on BBC. At one point 52% the country had the BBC version of the final on.While I found the commentary just a tad overly pro Spanish it was still better than anything over on the other channel. If I'm honest I was disappointed Germany didn't make the final, watching Spain and Holland was like two sides of the same coin. One tried cheating their way to a win via decapitation and the other side opted for diving. I won't say it was dull, both sides had chances to score, both sides created some exciting moments, but in the end it wasn't Total Football, or Pretty Football. The Third place match, pointless as it is, was more enjoyable from the neutrals perspective. It  had end to end stuff and the best team won without too much interference from a pro Spanish biased ref or from the kind of self inflicted tech problems Fifa are famous for. If I had to make only few recommendations for next time, it's this :

1- Don't introduce a new ball the first day of the World Cup, we have two years of qualifying.

2- Bring in goal line technology, more effective than two new officials and less expensive. There is not shame in it, every other big sport has gone that way, why not football.

3- If you sell tickets and some big group decides not to come, open the seats up to fans. The Prawn sandwich brigade have done enough damage to the game.

4- Make sure players behave. Fine and punish retrospectively. If somebody got sent off unfairly, rescind the card and punish the idiot who play acted.

5- Lastly, If a sure goal is stopped by handball, award it , we don't need a pen, it was going in.

Enough World Cup already, I missed out on a month of telly and it shows. several decent efforts and few not so good ones are on episode three. It's going to take me at least a week to catch up on all of these and maybe then I can also get around to the one offs like the private life of chickens on BBC2 on Thursday ( last week it was cows). Surely more interesting than it sounds. My eyes and system are still recovering from a single season of football in less than a month. Spent the last few days kipping and watching stuff like Antiques Master 2010... As John Torode says, It doesn't get any harder than this.

As for Jezza, he  need not have worried about missing his viewers. We have, I'm assured by the reaction of the iPlayer, flocked in droves to watch episode two and three this week. Top Gear is if nothing else predictable in a good sort of way. You know they won't do anything remotely resembling a bog standard road test of a car, it will be entertaining and you will be pleasantly surprised by at least one out of the blue interpretation of what passes for an automotive magazine format. After watching the chauffeur test on the high priced muscle cars, my wife and I are split. I prefer the frankly complicated but seriously cool Maseratti and she leans towards the more practical Astin Martin. Seems no one loves the Porsche, if you haven't seen it yet, it's the most embarrassing thing on four wheels to be tested in a while that didn't cost under £10,000. Top Gear has done well to maintain it's standards and you'll enjoy the Alastair Campbell interview. The man holds his own in the lion's den and as a card carrying lefty, I applaud him. Jeremy Clarkson comes of as bit of a buffoon, which of course he is. He knows he's a bit of wind bag and half his utterings are designed to shock and amuse and in no way to be taken seriously. As for the other two, they have mellowed a bit in their own way. Captain slow has embraced speed and the Hamster has let his hair get long along with his nattering that seems to have taken a decidedly darker tone when driving the hapless groom to his wedding. I firmly believe there will be at least one piano dropped, a few campers and Morris Marina damaged along the way. Nor am I entirely convinced we've seen the last of the tipsy Reliant Robins. Top Gear is back and Sunday is palatable again.

And just when you thought the BBC couldn't ever produce a funny sitcom ever again , along come two contenders for long term survival, Rev and Mongrels. Both take the attitude that taboo subjects are fair game and in the case of Rev manage to get past the initial broad strokes of humour and examine faith, values and conflict between organized pretence and genuine lifestyle choices that will make you a better person. Rev also moves the story from the country where Dawn French dealt with a collection of oddballs and cranks, to the city  where the characters reflect a more realistic representation of the people a Vicar, Imam or Rabbi would have to contend with. From the low Colin who is  a mass of contradictions, a few sandwiches short of a picnic, barking, he means well but never quiet makes it. Rev. Smallbone's wife is nothing like you'd expect, but all things considered, incredibly patient. In episode three ( saw that one first), he invites a Muslim prayer group in and fights a lap dance club that is planned for a nearby school. Unlike Dibley, the resolutions are nothing near as convenient and the outcomes are at times cause for reflection. Several characters could have been two dimensional, but are so well written and acted that you cannot help but sympathize just a bit with them. The higher up from the diocese and the night club owner both could have come off as complete oafs with no redeeming value. Colin and the black drug addict also seem to have been well prepared, easily played as stereotype, they come off as real people.  Make time for Rev from now on, you'll be talking about it for years to come.

Mongrels, a puppet show for adults, asks the question, what are the furry beasts who live among us thinking. Without ever losing the basic instincts for survival or applying human feelings to the characters, the writers have crafted a comedy that goes where Disney never dreamt to go. In the premier episode, racism is examined from an animal's perspective. Of course a fox and a chicken could never seriously consider pairing off. It's just not going to happen. Being a fanciful comedy, the consequences are sufficiently strange to take you by surprise, the song  performed by the fox  garage band finds echoes in current EDL/BNP imagery, but never strays far from the main point of the programme, they are animals, not humans with fur or feathers. They don't think like us nor do they reason like us. It's a nice way to poke holes at our own morality or lack of it.  Mongrels does not however, get preachy, the story is filled with enough grit and irony that you will never mistake the programme for Bambi. My favourite character is Marion the Russian cat, he is filled with fatalism, yearning  and appreciation for every crumb thrown his way. The value he places on friendship and the sacrifice he's prepared to make to keep it is exemplary. I would dare say most of us could not begin to come close to Marion if we tried. We are most of us, too tied to a life of higher expectations and lack of appreciation for those simple things that others do not take for granted. The brutality and finality of some situations comes across as funny if only as a reminder that it's unnatural for us to pretend we are not all part of a greater food chain. We use others as we ourselves are used by yet others. The blend of puppetry and humans is done so well that you suspend disbelief and see the incredibly well constructed puppets as what they are, animals in a world where humans are the major predator. I certainly hope the writing team can maintain the quality over the run of series one. This is one that if played well, could have a longer shelf life than one would expect for something as different as this.

If this is the norm for future non improv or sketch comedies from the BBC, then I look forward to at least a few more gems before the inevitable stinker comes along again. One of my readers thanked me for taking a bullet for the team by watching the appallingly bad Identity on ITV. But for every steaming pile of excrement like Identity or Big Top, you get some genuine surprises like Rev and Mongrels. I have yet to see The Silence, but will have a go tomorrow after Corrie and we send the guests home from my wife's birthday party. Doctor Who top boss Moffat and his mate Mark Gattis also of Who fame are presenting a new Sherlock Holmes to an anxious world. Given the pedigree of both gentlemen, I fully expect it to respect the man who is Holmes and be a ripping yarn as well.  July 25th is the broadcast date for the first of three programmes. As an avid Sherlockian and long time admirer of Steven Moffat, I'm anticipating a masterpiece, anything less will be a disappointment. I will of course write a full review.  Another great one starting this week is the four part Victorian Pharmacy....the usual suspects explore early victorian meds, can't miss telly. 

Next blog will be the long awaited music tip ship complete with links and clips. See you soon and happy watching.

Friday, 9 July 2010

BBC2 Dive: A love story in two parts

I was alerted to this quiet gem in The Guardian earlier this evening. Dominic Savage explains how he got into the minds of teenagers to make this film. All very well intentioned and got me very curious as to what exactly he managed to extract from notoriously hard to  plumb beasts.

From the opening sequence through to the end of part one, the film draws a compelling picture of what it's like to live a divorce and have a dreams of your own. This girl who is already devoting more time to her sport than most people her age to anything at all , is further pushed into the regimen by a need to escape her home life. The intrusion of a personal life on the young athlete is further distraction that ultimately  pushes her even more into diving, and away from other people when she finds out her boyfriend isn't even sure he likes her.  Part one is filmed very clearly from Lindsey's point of view, hence the title, and conveys the solitary nature of this girl who has one ambition , and that is to make something of herself and leave behind the family she clearly thinks don't care much about her. Only her little brother seems to be in any way sympathetic, and that is not to say the adults are one dimensional cut outs to her fully fleshed out character.   Having been on both ends of the argument, first as a teen  then as an adult in a divorce, I can see how the story treats the words that are said with respect and shows volumes of emotion  through action and silence, far better than if the cast had spent the entire film shouting at each other like some OTT lorry drivers.

Teens are as a rule quiet things who speak sparingly while giving as little as possible away. Even when in groups they put on a face that still conceals who they really are.  Robert, the boyfriend, is barely old enough to know what he wants to do or when he needs to decide. He sharply contrasts the driven future Olympic hopeful who has  clocked over 10,000 hours of training , and she tells him so. He has to at least pretend he cares or risk loosing her for good. The usual complications arise and Lindsey is forced to choose London 2012 or giving up her dream.

It being a dour Northern drama with a cast we've all seen in similarly dark outings, I wasn't disappointed in the least bit. Life is not always the sunny side of the street and this film, so far has been authentic to the difficulty of keeping focussed when all around you is falling apart.   Well acted well cast, I particularly liked the little brother, he didn't get to say much, but when he did , it was worth the wait. . We'll be tuning in for the next part.  Not your overly preachy life lesson film that tries to teach you something. All it wants to do is understand these two young people. So far so good. BBC2 Dive

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Paul the Octopus to join MOTD and other shocking news

Wellllllllllll who knew I could be bested by a mollusc?  I mean what do years of watching football , instinct and knowledge  mean  when you just let an escaped English octopus pick teams at random from his home in Germany and he gets it right every time????!!!!!!  Just sack them all , In fact, why even play the matches, Paul will tell us who the cup belongs to. Imagine the impact on Ladbrookes and other betting shops when  odds mean nothing  because this watery genius will just tell us. It was funny when Garry Linaker finally acknowledged the blither's existence and suggested he's be joining the MOTD panel. One mate cheekily said Garth Crooks looked worried.  I suspect one day very soon, Paul will get it wrong and we can all go back to being smug humans who think we need a few years of schooling in the arts of football before we can predict an outcome. In this situation I pity the guy who put £50 on Germany to win the cup 100/1 odds despite Octo Paul's clear warning that Germany would loose to Spain. Being wrong is one thing, but being wrong to a cephalopod who is mostly concerned with eating  must sting  just a bit. I take some blame for it as I bigged up Germany on the facts and current form, who knew they would bottle it like that? I honestly never saw it coming. But then again, Spain play a very dull defensive game that had Germany locked down for most of the match. If you can't get near the goal mouth you can't score.  I have bravely decided against all odds and logic to back Holland in the final regardless of what Paul says. Let the players decide who wins this one. And PS Paul, you are a legitimate phenomenon having now received two death threats in the mail, no word if an assassination squid has been sent . ( ta much Keith Topping for that)

EDIT:  Paul as of the latest news, has predicted that Spain will win the World Cup and Germany will win the consolation match. The significant thing is that he is now telling us these things via a Spokesman. Seems Paul is too good to talk to us directly. Furthermore, he is now getting love letters from Spanish girls. Having seen some shocking anime, I'd have thought it was Japanese girls, but what do I know.  Paul has gone Hollywood, next thing you know Katie Price will be rumoured to be seeing him as he's got more press than she does. Let me enjoy the moment ...a mollusc is getting more ink than Katie Price !!!!!


And I wasn't kidding about shock news, it just gets better all the time . I saw this from the BBC today ....
Goal-line technology in football has moved a step closer after Fifa General Secretary Jerome Valcke revealed the 2010 World Cup is set to be the last tournament under the existing refereeing system. In an interview with the BBC, Valcke admitted the moment when television replays showed Frank Lampard had scored a goal in England's second round defeat by Germany was a "bad day" for organisers.

But following the fallout from that and other controversial refereeing mistakes in South Africa, Valcke hinted that major changes would be made before the next World Cup in Brazil in 2014.

Valcke said: "We are talking about a single goal not seen by the referee which is why we are talking about new technology. But, again let's see if this system will help or whether giving the referee an additional four eyes will give him the comfort and make duty easier to perform, then why not? "I would say that it is the final World Cup with the current refereeing system."

Although Valcke's comments will be interpreted as a change of policy by Fifa following the International Football Association Board's (Ifab) decision to reject goal-line technology and other aids for referees in March, the Fifa general secretary said the speed at which the modern game was played meant the whole approach to refereeing had to be reformed. "The teams and the players are so strong and so fast. The game is different and the referees are older than all the players," said Valcke. "The game is so fast, the ball is flying so quickly, we have to help them and we have to do something and that's why I say it is the last World Cup under the current system."

Fifa president Sepp Blatter has repeatedly rejected calls for the introduction of goal-line technology or TV replays, insisting an element of human error has always been a part of the game.
Opponents have also pointed to concerns over universality - that all levels of the game should be subjected to the same rules and methods of refereeing.

But following the Lampard "goal" and Carlos Tevez's offside strike for Argentina against Mexico, also in the second round, Blatter performed a U-turn, saying that it would be a "nonsense" not to reopen the file on technology. Ifab - the game's rule making body which consists of representatives of the English, Scottish, Northern Irish and Welsh FAs as well as four representatives from Fifa - is due to hold a meeting on 21 July where the issue is expected to be discussed. But Valcke added that it was unlikely to hold serious discussions until a further meeting scheduled for October. In March, Ifab heard presentations from two companies pitching to introduce systems which they say provide definitive proof when the ball has crossed the line for a goal. But both Cairos Goal-line technology, which uses a microchip inside a football and magnetic fields around the goal line, and Hawk-Eye, which uses six television cameras positioned around the goal, were rejected. The Cairos system was tested by Fifa in the World Club Championships in Japan in 2007, but despite their claims that the test was a success, Ifab again rejected the proposal in March 2008.


It was debated again in 2009 but again turned down. Both Hawk-Eye and Cairos insist cost is not an issue as they offered to pay for the installation of the system in return for a share of sponsorship rights. The introduction of two extra referees positioned on the goal-line, a move initiated by Uefa president Michel Platini, was trialled last season in the Europa League and is set to be used in the Champions League this coming season. But again, Ifab turned down the chance to introduce it in time for the World Cup in South Africa. 

 
So there you have it, the turtle known as FIFA has finally started the less than glacial pace required to reform the game and join the rest of the 21st century. We need not harm the game by doing this, Rugby , Tennis and Hockey have all done this with no harm to the game or the professionalism of the officials involved. The number of blatant officiating errors and easily re-viewable bad red cards is too high. Cheating or playing the rules is outside the spirit of the game and should be stopped when ever possible. At least two players deserved to be named and shamed and barred from play for at least a month's worth of matches. They caused two quality players from competing. Even if FIFA were to rescind the cards in the next 24 hours it's already too late for the matches that were affected by these bad calls. Suarez boasted he saved his team by blocking a sure goal, clearly an instant where even a penalty is not needed, just award the goal, it was going in full stop, and Suarez cheated knowing he was taking a chance on missing the pen. It makes Maradonas hand of God look like an accident. Teams have been relegated or missed out on tournaments on avoidable human error. Goals that were goals were not goals because one man out of millions in some cases, did not see the ball go in or cross the line.  It's 2010, time we got with the program. I suspect the real reform will take place in time for Euro 2012, with a test drive in the 2010-11 Champions League season. We can only hope this crack in the fundamentalist wall of football ayatollahs is only going to get bigger and we can clean  up our game in short order. Somehow I don't think the later will happen as quickly, but if it sees Sepp Blatter leave, it will be a step in the right direction.

And the shocks keep coming.... News from the cobbles .... straight from MSN news. Before you read what follows, I'm not a big fan of spoilers, I will as a rule avoid them like the plague but this is hardly a spoiler, it's more of a warning to viewers and a shot across the bow to cast members who think they may be irreplaceable.

Much-loved characters are to be killed off in a massive disaster which causes carnage in Coronation Street, show bosses have revealed.  The viaduct, which has long been a Weatherfield landmark, is to collapse, sending a tram careering off the bridge and on to the cobbles. The gripping storyline marks the show's 50th anniversary in December and will leave some favourites from the show injured. Producer Phil Collinson said: "We'll be losing some well-known, well-loved characters." Show bosses said it will be the biggest stunt in the soap's half-century history. Collinson told ITV1's This Morning: "If you're listening in Weatherfield it's not good news. One fateful night at the beginning of December the viaduct's going to collapse, down by the corner shop and the Kabin, and a tram is going to crash into Coronation Street. "People are going to be injured, people are going to be killed. It's a big, big story for us and one fateful night will play out across a whole week. Picking up the pieces of that into next year is going to be huge."Show bosses will issue alternative scripts and keep security extra tight to keep the outcome a secret.Even cast and crew are in the dark about which Weatherfield residents will be killed in the disaster, which soap chiefs promise will be the biggest stunt the programme has ever staged. Collinson has drafted in special effects experts from The Mill, who have worked on Doctor Who and Gladiator, and producers have worked with GMPTE, which runs Metrolink trams in Manchester. The producer added: "We'll be using all the wonders of modern television production to bring you a disaster that will rock the lives of everyone in Weatherfield."

OOOO arrrrr This has to come as incredibly bad news to some cast members who have been hanging on by their fake nails for ages now. No amount of can tan or boob jobs will stop this new broom sweeping the street clean. Some people have asked for a spectacular way off the programme, Jack Duckworth comes to mind, and yet other newer cast members like Maria and Michelle may be given the chop as well. Long established couple and annoying wife saddled Ashley Peacock may  finally move to a new neighbourhood to pick up the pieces while  the Websters could finally be sent packing after years of infuriating us with snobbery and a daughter that could have been so much more , but has turned into a yet another Crowther tart. Then of course we have the Windass clan, hands up anybody who will miss the ginger menaces. Ex Doctor Who show runner  Phil Collison has with this one announcement  made it clear he wishes to bring some order to the mess that was Corrie in the dying months of Kim Crowther. In the last few weeks we've begun to see the return of the Corrie we loved for so long , but had been stripped away to base drama and conflict  by the previous regime. Humour , the corner stone of Corrie as well as the mundane family based dilemmas are back.  David and Graham are not quite bessie mates again, but David hasn't tried to shoot him with a sniper rifle or plotted to drop him in a pit of vipers either, if anything, the situation has been diffused in the normal amount of time for regular humans such as ourselves. Will he kill everybody off? Not likely. Will he sack dead wood and rescue characters from a slide into  irrelevance they had suffered from? Jason Grimshaw and his mam Eileen, have both behaved badly off screen and that can't be good for those characters. I don't envy the the cast right now, months of uncertainty, reading scripts wondering if that's it. Even if  they hand you a new love interest, it doesn't mean you won't be killed by a Dalek at Christmas. Phil Collison is the breathe of fresh air that Corrie needed for the longest time. ITV hasn't got too many things right of late, but this was an inspired decision. I have gone from dreading to watch to wondering what's going to happen next. Well done Phil and well done ITV.

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Help an hour of my life's been stolen: ITV's Drama season kicks off

ITV are class if nothing else. The network that brought us Sherlock Holmes , Midsommer Murders and the great voyeuristic drama Diary of a call girl, kicked off it's drama season tonight. All during the bits of the World Cup  Adrian Chiles bored us with , we got to see the princess and the PURRvurse veg in her bedding, we also got to see the dramatic best bits of IDENTITY, the new ITV cop drama meant to get us all excited about identity theft. Well just to make sure we didn't forget it was on, we got several trails on Corrie and in a presumably unrelated story line, Sean and Michelle create a fake facebook account using Liz MacDonald's identity to see if Violet has posted any pics of her baby son .....Sean's kid,  keep up people ......I'm sure it will all end in tears.

Now in real life an identity thief gets your credit card and books a flight to Warsaw , buys a flat screen telly and tries to empty your bank account. Once he's done or you've reported your cards compromised, the party ends. To build a programme on such a thin premise requires a lot of suspension of disbelief and some cracking good writing.

So did that happen?

 Identity finally starts with an OTT  dramatic  situation  in which the police try to keep a man from committing suicide over a man named Smith .....  He' hasn't done nuffink  Guv  honest  it was all Smith.....He hates me, he wants me ruined..... Ok so we get it , whackjob out for revenge of some kind.  It gets better, seems our victim was in Afghanistan and saved some  soldiers life, he's well hard, that's why he tried to kill himself with a sniper rifle yeah.... And the aptly cast Keeley Hawes plays a DCI based almost entirely on Alex Drake formerly of 1983 (Identity theft). She has worked hard to create an Identity division  and by gum  it had better work warns her boss.... she even has a broken detective she's brought in from the cold who spent 10 years under cover working with the Bulgarian mafia or something. Whatever you do,  warns the gaffer, don't try and fix him , he's past his sell by date, yeah we get it , don't get close, don't sleep with him , don't be surprised when he screws up.

The look, pacing and acting of this drama are a near perfect copy of the style of Spooks ( MI5 for you Americans), oh my  Identity theft again! They even have the gadget guy and the woman who goes through bank statements and web sites, thrilling I know.  The only problem is, however you light, act, and film this, the script is some of the worst writing to hit our screens since some first year drama student wrote a Harry Potter fanfic . Over the top speeches, wholly unbelievable dialogue delivered in bad pantomime style reminiscent of mob films about London in the 80's, written by people who live in the country and eat nothing but veg. It gets worse, the so called plot , if you believe it, is that the bad guy has done this before, he steals a person's identity to torture them as they spend the rest of their natural lives in prison or commit suicide. His latest victim spends the ep looking like a deer in head lights  gibbering about how this person knows everything and he's a waste of space and deserves to be dead. Well yes , I don't disagree, but I though you're supposed to sympathize with the victim?  Half way through the hour I lost any interest I may have had in any of the characters or the denouement of the story.  I think they arrested the son of the geezer the veteran rescued in Afghanistan. Seeing as most identity thieves are anonymous, almost never caught and not psychotic vengeance mad mental patients, I don't see how this expensive, well cast , badly written badly acted  ITV detritus will survive the next few weeks. Bottom line is that I didn't give a toss about any of the characters at the beginning and cared even less when I tuned out.  With luck it will be quietly moved to a later time slot and sold off to a market where this sort of thing looks good compared to repeats of Columbo. On the Vogon Poetry scale of bad . 10 being where you gnaw your own leg off after 10 seconds, this was at least a 7 bordering on 8.5. Had I not tried to last as long as possible ( 30 minutes adverts included in my case) I would have turned it off after the opening 5 minutes.

The good news is that you now know to plan around this. You could have watched the Well good show, but we already know that's a 10 on the Vogon scale, you could have watched a repeat of Cities of the world  or just taken a walk. Being a divorced Dad I could have watched the BBC thing A Century of Fatherhood, but I think I'll pass as I was having a mostly good day till now. Tomorrow the football returns and the hope of nations hang on the whims and talent of referees and footballers.  Sadly it's ITV's turn to make a hash of the coverage yet again, so I'll   just be tuning in for the kick off and forced to  migrate to five live for commentary. Come on you Oranje, we all want a Holland Germany final.

Before I forget, Digital spy reports that

Johnny Depp has been linked to a movie version of Doctor Who.According to website Tor, an article appeared on PubArticles which allegedly quoted former showrunner Russell T. Davies.Davies reportedly said that he was in the process of developing a Doctor Who movie and promised that the Daleks would be involved. However, the article was later removed.Tor has now claimed that sources in the film industry have confirmed that Depp will star in a Doctor Who. It is unclear how genuine the reports are as Davies has previously said that he has no plans to make a Doctor Who movie. film, which would be released in 2012.
 
This from the same site that couldn't get the weather right if they stuck their heads out the window. Digital Spy make The Sun look like the Times of London some days. All I can say is, better be as accurate as all the other equally imaginative Who rumours floated in the past.

Sunday, 4 July 2010

First Eurovision and now the World cup: Deutschland on a roll

Yesterday started with a gargantuan battle of the two finest teams in the competition bar none. Germany  Argentina to me was the final. Both teams had proceeded very nicely towards this meeting. Lets review quickly...Argentina won convincing games 1-0, 4-1, 2-0, 3-1 and Germany won all but one 4-0, 0-1( Serbia),1-0, 4-2 . A not unreasonable expectation would be that these two juggernauts of football would produce a defensive dual worthy of any tense exercise complete with low scoreline and caution by the bucket load. The Battle Jutland all over again.

Well before I get to the match itself, I'd like to deal with my own feelings here. As an England supporter I have had a lot of baggage to carry in regards these two teams, I have hated them for years, sometimes for football sometimes for other  reasons. but unlike most of you I found Buddha and love everybody now.....Ok maybe I'm not one with the world enirely but , I like the Germans and have for some time now, they are our friends and trade partners and culturally similar. They are leaders in green politics and eco reform, they gave us Kratfwerk, they even play great football... My big surprise is Argentina, not four years ago I still hated them with a passion, the Falklands, the hand of God .... harbouring Nazis... did I mention the Hand of God??? any road....this year even Maradona has become this cute little bundle of insanity and football wisdom all rolled into one. Between the man love and the adulation I admit it's all a bit creepy, but I like him and  his results. I cannot hold an entire football system responsible for a single coke addled mad man and some still seriously flawed methods of applying the rules of the game by refs.

So I prepared to watch this match with great interest  cheering for the Germans as they have three Polish players, are good and want it more than many a side that came to this World Cup. Deserving a fair shot and   barring some intervention from an official both Germany and Argentina would be allowed to play a mostly uninterrupted match of some of the best football we'll see in this tournament. Boy were we not disappointed, especially me who had been bigging up Germany from day one, 3 minutes in Muller punishes Argentina for sloppy defending and scores. For the remainder of the match Argentina would struggle to make a dent or get any serious shot on goal. In fairness there was a patch where they did , but Germany's back 8 shut them down. Poor Lionel Messi, he was so well marked he never got a decent shot in. Speaking of Messi, one of the most unfortunate turns of phrase came out of the commentary, can't recall who said it, but they were looking forward to a shot of Messi magic, I'm sure I'm not alone in imagining a more than pornographic scene. To quote a friend, " If I said that my girlfriend, she'd slap me."   Where was I ? The Germans.... forget two banks of four, was more like 4 waves of discipline, an octopus the BBC called it, whichever analogy you prefer, they moved as a single unit, time and again catching Argentina in the off side trap, good thing too as it saved them from a not goal by big spoilt baby blue Tevez. This piece of work has got on my wick since he was at Man U, I didn't like him then and I liked him even less when he moved across town. This vain, soulless mercenary who thinks only of himself was kept off the score sheet by the kind of teamwork he himself cannot begin to to comprehend.
 
About 15 minutes in Argentina began taking the game to the Germans, but as I said , they were expertly fended off. What was concerning me was that if they let the the Argies stay in their end too long, somebody might score  and that almost happened a few times. German Keeper Manuel Neuer stopped shot after shot. It did look like depending how you viewed things, that Germany were toying with Argentina or they had taken the pedal off the gas. But with 30 minutes left to play, Germany put the match to bed delivering what amounted to a spanking to the only team in this tournament to have a similarly strong run in. Klose 67,Friedrich74, Klose again in the 89th minute. I was giddy, Germany deserved the win, as frankly Argentina reverted to form and began the niggling little dramas and tackles they are famous for when things are not going their way. Not as overt as Portugal with the class theatrical diving , they nonetheless tried. On this alone I thought they deserved to loose. The best team won on the day and congratulations to Germany from one of the bumps in the road. Even 4-2 would not have flattered us, Germany outclassed every opponent save one and the English performance wasn't all down to German skill, most of it was self inflicted. Germany did the job they needed to do and moved on.

So who will stop these boys and their Blitzkrieg football? Spain if you believe the seriously puffed up Spanish supporters, no one else takes them seriously. Not withstanding 15 minutes of decent football to get them this far, Spain have been as lacklustre as England, France Greece and Italy. In fact today possibly the 2nd dullest match I have ever been forced to watch, By the end of the first half  of Spain v Paraguay we were hoping they would just go straight to pens when the game started up again. Clearly no one was going to score. It was shortly after the restart that a discussion arose about theology. I asked if God existed , was he watching a replay of Germany Argentina or Sheridan Smith taking a shower, cos clearly he hadn't bothered throwing a spark into this dull affair. In answer  one of my mates said  it was proof God didn't exist and another said God had died watching officially the dullest ever match Switzerland Ukraine. I was however to prevail. Clearly God exists, from a mad scramble first Paraguay was awarded a penalty , but failed, undeterred, God arranged a second pen in as many minutes on the other side,  Goal ! match over we thought, but no the comedy continued, retake and Spain also failed to score. Clearly God had tried and failed, and in  what was probably one of the wittiest remarks of the day, one of the lads said "Yeah, Satan is in the stands, blowing a vuvuzela, and laughing his arse off." . Well not for long, Villa finally broke the stalemate at 82 minutes. This however left 8 minutes plus added time for Satan to arrange an equaliser, and he almost did it too. None of us wanted to watch 30 seconds more of this torture let alone 30 minutes. And judging by the earlier display, the pens would have lasted longer than that tennis match the other day. But in the end the Villa goal was enough to stop the pain. It's not too late to fly in Ireland you know? This is the 2nd time in the tournament  that I've wanted both teams to go Home.

Should Germany be worried by these clowns? I don't think so. But to be on the safe side, they had better demolish them in the first 15 minutes next Wednesday and send them home for the well deserved inquest in to the gash the Spanish call football. Come September I'll be watching a lot more Bundesliga,

Next blog will be back to the telly and for the first time, the long awaited unsigned and lesser known bands reviews. Enjoy the rest from the footy, hug your significant other go for a walk , get some air, Tuesday is coming fast.

Friday, 2 July 2010

Honey cake and the Well Good Show

 And so it's here, my first proper mostly food oriented post. Was a while in coming as frankly it's been a busy couple of weeks and the closest to cooking I have come was the massive 6 litre pot of spaghetti sauce. I think however before I get on with it and give you some of the things taken for granted at ours, I want like to take you on a personal voyage of culinary discovery that now has me making, dishes I used to only order in restaurants or waited for an Aunt, Babcia or family friend to make. such as a of cabbage rolls or a honey cake. Barring these lovely ladies, we needed to shlep all the way to a Polish bakery or Jewish quarter to get a fix of our favourite food. During my first marriage, my wife did the bulk of the cooking, not because I wasn't any good, I had a few recipes and hadn't poisoned anybody, no she just thought she was the only person who knew how to do anything just so, perfect. You know the type, I preferred to just step back and let her have at it. Nothing  was I was going to do was ever going to be as good as hers. And to be fair,, she was a dab hand at cooking,  even picked up other cultures cookery well and quickly. The problem arose when I wanted to try something different or I wanted to keep the spices I used more often up front. It was symptomatic of the relationship that even our spices didn't get along. 

It was about this time that Jamie Oliver came into the picture and revolutionized my cooking. Notwithstanding what certain people may think of Jamie, he did something for men that hadn't been done before, he simplified the cooking process and explained it in such a way any man would get it the first time. He also espoused fresh herbs, veg meat and poultry, all things that had till then been the secret purview of only the select few. Suddenly, markets were carrying the ingredient of the week, countries that had not known what crème fresh was, had to have it and hitherto taboo puddings were a dawdle. In the beginning ... God made the mountains and the seas,  no seriously, in the beginning Jamie Oliver was the can opener on the lid of cookery secrets, we learned techniques ranging from whisking to a simple fish in a pan . Over time, much that was needed to be known was shown one tip at a time, the mortar and pestle became a common tool and no longer a  decoration, the revolution was on. To his credit, he soon dropped the Naked Chef tag and just became Jamie, a wise decision as I'm not sure he could have continued the cooler than cool trendy chef routine. Spurred on by personal cooking success, I sought to rediscover my own cookery culture and found that while it may not have been apparent at first, I had in fact picked up lorry loads of information from my Babcia as a boy. It first manifested itself in sense memory. Taste, smell, texture, that let me know something was just so. like my grandmothers and Aunts had made it. With experimentation, I even began to rediscover precisely how to get those flavours myself.  Now the problem with perception  is that skill often is achieved faster than it is recognized by others, so I had to wait till I was on my own again to get  the recognition I deserved, which of course only made me try harder. Today I have only a few Everests left to climb. What is an Everest you ask? It's a recipe you so fear , that so intimidates you, you are afraid to try it.  I'm doing my own sauces, puddings roasts, pies ( sweet and savoury), curies , I can even do a New York Deli Cheesecake so good , some people thought we stopped by some place to buy it and kept saying it must have cost a fortune....well no it didn't , except for the £7 of shmeer that went into it. That's a lot of cheese mate,  but so much fun to make, this was one of my Everests by the way. My wife is the baker in the family and usually handles cakes, but she was flat on her back and dying of whatever. We ( yes me) had promised a cheesecake, and I was not going to disappoint. Ended up with a deli sized mountain of cheese cake that was reduced to a single slice in the space of an hour. Not bad for a pudding with the atomic weight of  a black hole. I think the list of what I'm afraid to try is reduced to sushi, smoking my own beef and wine making. We have become those people. But it's ok, most people before the advent of the pre-packaged, easy to heat up  microwaved meal were those people.We had to know how to cook or we were stuck eating expensive food or inexpensive rubbish like turkey twizlers. I'd like to take a minute here to say, health secretary, Andrew Lansley can go back under the rock from whence he came. Healthy meals are saving lives and the budget of the NHS, Tories will not get a majority next time on the junk food vote, they'll be to busy burning Cameron in effigy for cutting the budget with a machete.  .

I need you to know that while you must never think that what I do doesn't require skill and care, you need to know it's not hard to do. None of it, just pay attention to what you're doing, and you too will be cooking like a chef. Now there is a small drawback, once you've learned to cook like this, your once a year romantic meal will now be taken for granted and to the next level, the grand gesture will need the rarest and most expensive ingredients. Which of course is ok if you don't mind cooking and being called a genius. The other drawback is that unless you can't cook it yourself, you'll never again be able to enjoy a meal , even a good one in a restaurant.You know how much it costs, how easy it is to make and the price tag will make you choke. This may be the reason I still haven't learned how to make sushi, it may destroy my last excuse to get out of the house and let somebody else cook for a change.  

 So maybe now a recipe or two, both are dead easy, both will make you a legend with you friends. First the Honey cake, a traditional Polish recipe served at Easter and Rosh hashana depending on what day you keep holy. This version is the best and most accurate english text I can give you, my wife adds extra raisins and  walnuts inside and sliced almonds on top it to make it perfect.



Piernik or Polish Honey Cake

Ingredients

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup honey
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup raisins (optional)
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

Directions

  1. In a large bowl, mix the sugar, cinnamon, cloves, allspice, and eggs. Stir in the milk and oil, and mix in the baking soda. Place honey in a small pot, and bring to a boil. Stir honey into the bowl. Mix flour into the bowl. Fold in the raisins and walnuts. Stir by hand with a sturdy spoon for 10 minutes. Allow the dough to sit 1 hour.
  2. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Lightly grease four 8x4 inch loaf pans.
  3. Fill each loaf pan with about 2 inches of the batter. Bake 1 hour 15 minutes in the preheated oven, until a toothpick inserted in the centre of a loaf comes out clean. Bread will be brown in colour and will crack on top.


Another treat is the home made skor bar, or as it was before it was disguised as a candy bar,  the perfect way to make guests happy before or after a meal ..

Chocolate covered matza



Ingredients
  • 4-6 unsalted matzohs
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter or unsalted Passover margarine
  • 1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup coarsely chopped chocolate 60% cocoa or higher

Preparation

-Preheat the oven to 375°F. 
-Line a large (or two smaller) cookie sheet completely with foil. Cover the bottom of the sheet with baking parchment — on top of the foil. This is very important since the mixture becomes sticky during baking.
-Line the bottom of the cookie sheet evenly with the matzohs, cutting extra pieces, as required, to fit any spaces.
-In a 3-quart, heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the butter or margarine and the brown sugar. 
-Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture comes to a boil (about 2 to 4 minutes). Boil for 3 minutes, stirring constantly. 
-Remove from the heat and pour over the matzoh, covering completely.
Place the baking sheet in the oven and immediately reduce the heat to 350°. 
-Bake for 15 minutes, checking every few minutes to make sure the mixture is not burning (if it seems to be browning too quickly, remove the pan from the oven, lower the heat to 325°, and replace the pan).
-Remove from the oven and sprinkle immediately with the chopped chocolate or chips. 
-Let stand for 5 minutes, then spread the melted chocolate over the matzoh. 
-While still warm, break into squares or odd shapes. 
-Chill, still in the pan, in the freezer until set.
This makes a good gift.
Variation:
You can also use coarsely chopped white chocolate (or a combination of white and dark), and chopped or slivered toasted almonds (sprinkled on top as the chocolate sets). You can also omit the chocolate for a caramel-alone buttercrunch.


I didn't forget your need to know if maybe you been missing something, so I decided to be brave, I was going to finally take a chance on the BBC's "Lee Nelson's Well good show". I resisted for 4 weeks you know, but curiosity got the better of me. I'm not sure what it's about, but I do know that it made James Corden look sincere. That said, I didn't last more than five minute. By the time Lee got to his sad opening monologue, I knew several things.He isn't a charv, just poser, he isn't funny, he's not well good. not even close and this turkey will fold after one series, or at least it should. My intestines haven't wanted to rear up and kill me if I didn't press mute right away since a certain pile of dreck about ad execs in London. It was Vogon poetry bad, we've got a  game, my wife and I, each of us gets a small bell, if we want to stop watching a new programme, we ring he bell. This shambolic lie of a show lasted less time than Big Top. I bemoan the fate of modern comedy at the BBC. I suspect even charvs can be funny, but this was just painful. Whoever green lit this needs a vacation to recharge the batteries while a competent person scours through the rejects to see if there is any gold in the pile of turds. I cannot believe the writers of fresh new comedy are as bereft of ideas as this appears to indicate.  Seems we'll have to depend as usual, on Parliament English football  for fresh comedy.

Time for some sleep, football today !!!!!