#firstworldproblem: sausage rolls vs bake-off #gbbo

A truly British #firstworldproblem cropped up today. I had a craving for sausage rolls for a couple of days, and forgot to get them yesterday when I went to the market. It’s dead easy to get, if I’m not picky. The chain bakery has branches everywhere, including at most stations.

The problem is, Bake-off season 8 is on just when I wanted to go get the sausage rolls. They’re showing 2 eps back-to-back; today is eps 3 and 4.

Well, okay, moot point. I’m recording the entire season so I can watch it anytime. So I went to the station, got my sausage rolls, stopped off at the small supermarket to get staples like spaghetti and ketchup, and was back home in time to watch the second ep of the day. I can go back and watch the other ep later.

flowatermeloncake

I was all prepared to dislike this season because of the follow the dough thing but I’ve enjoyed watching it so far. Same format, same tent, same music. Prue is a good Mary substitute, and I can get my Mary fix on her own program anyway. Sandi sounds almost like Mel and Sue, and although not as cheeky, she is warm and funny, as we know she is. Noel started off unsteady but ignoring the comparisons with Mel & Sue, he’s quirky and likeable. He seems genuinely pleased to be there and mingling with all the bakers. And it’s the bakers that are, as always, the stars of the show. This group is the same, with casting as diverse as a mainstream program can get. My favourites so far are Liam with his flavours and Yan with her scientific, and sometimes not so scientific (making caramel by sight without a thermometer?), approach. And how about Flo’s watermelon cake? Wow.

I know the elimination order, which is the one disadvantage of watching such a popular program after the fact. But it doesn’t matter. I’m just grateful I can watch it and let’s forget the irony of season 8 on a BBC channel.

gary the gurnard cake


I have a busy tv watching schedule, almost all cookery programs. Masterchef Australia, My Kitchen Rules, Bake-off UK and Australia, Bake-off Crème de la Crème (the professionals), Big Family Cooking Showdown. And now to add to that, Extreme Cake Makers. I don’t usually like programs that focus on cake decoration (can’t stand either Buddy the Cake Boss or Duff Goldman) but this one from Channel 4: a) is short at only 30mins and b) showcases really awesome cake decorating skills.

It’s not just cake making, it’s real artistic flair. Seeing the sketches made by some of the cake makers is wondrous. They are able to sculpt realistic models of animals, flowers, feathers and someone even made a chandelier cake that was upside down and hanging from just a hook.

gary
© Peboryon

The one that had mum and I watching with our jaws open was an almost 5 foot long cake called Gary the Gurnard by Phil & Christine Jenson of Penzance-based Peboryon. They made the cake under commission from the Great Cornish Food store. Gary is supported by a curved metal frame made by Phil himself and actually looks like he’s swimming in front of an ocean wave. The colours really pop and it seemed like he had a personality.

I’m looking at other samples of their work and they are so amazing. A Wallace & Grommit cake factory that makes cakes, a wedding cake that seems to float in thin air, a desk-sized desk cake and, oh, Mel and Sue! They have half day beginners classes for £60 and a two day advanced class for £650. Something like Gary would probably cost in the region of £1000-2000, but the amount of expertise involved, it’s no wonder they are expensive.

big family cooking showdown

bigfamilyshowdown

I have to watch it again, but it looks…okay and very BBC-like. I’m talking about the Big Family Cooking Showdown that may or may not be a Bake-off replacement. It has a similar format–two presenters, two judges, amateur family cooks, a cosy environment. It even has Nadiya Hussein, Bake-off’s season 6 winner.


The trailer has a Saturday Kitchen meets Ellen vibe, with people looking happily cooking and dancing. Who dances while cooking? Weird. And the shoutouts don’t end there. The competition is between 2 families of 3, and takes place over 3 rounds. The first is to cook a meal for 4 people for a tenner, like Ready, Steady, Cook with inflation. [Aaaand, here’s our second James Martin shoutout.]

The next two rounds take place at the contestants’ own kitchen, with the final round called “Impress Your Neighbours” with shades of Come Dine with Me. Honestly, all these shoutouts and programs are favourites, there’s no denying it. So why not emulate them?

It all makes for a program that is safe and underwhelming. The chemistry between the presenters haven’t developed, although the Indy gives them credit:

that took a while before the public noticed [Bake-off chemistey] and it started clocking up more than 10 million viewers an episode

The second BBC prong of attack will be Britain’s Best Cook with Mary Berry and Claudia Winkleman. It may take two to beat Channel 4’s version of Bake-off. Oh, let’s not mention Mel and Sue taking over the Generation Game. Waste of their talents.

My niece once suggested that when I’m back living in the UK I should enter Bake-off. I said I won’t get very far because I’m not good with bread and pastries. The families on the Big Family Cooking Showdown do look like they know what they are doing. Both families competiting in ep 1 have their family recipes and can draw on dishes from their heritage. I can never imagine cooking with my family. We have very different styles and TBH skill levels. I cooked Christmas dinner last year with sis and she’s the only one I can imagine cooking with. Even with mm, we have different ideas and styles.

Jay Rayner recently talked about cooking with friends during a large group holiday. He’s right,

you can learn more about a friend by cooking alongside them, than through almost any other common pursuit

He talks about trustworthiness, reliability, lack of drama, attention to detail. For me, it’s simply about being on the same wavelength.

bake-off channel 4


Ugh. Channel 4’s Bake-Off trailer is here. This is not the Bake-Off we know. Channel 4’s Jay Hunt:

It’s got a new tone to it.

bakeoffch4

If we get it here, I know I’ll watch it. But it’ll be accompanied by much hand-wringing that I’m somehow not being loyal to the BBC version. However good they are, Sandi Toksvig and Noel Fielding are not Mel and Sue. Prue Leith is okay. I just don’t feel any warmth or cosiness in this group. Quite the opposite, there’s something creepy and off-putting. Sandi Toksvig is the only one who looks normal and approachable.

I’m looking forward to Mary Berry’s new show to find Britain’s best cook. Not that keen on Mel and Sue and the Generation Game though.

new tv

sonytv49

Our new tv arrived. For some reason the delivery slot was after 6pm, which meant waiting around all day. The crew merely delivered the box, leaving it in the dining room. We had to call to get the Sony technician to come install it. So bureaucratic.

Took him just 15mins to set it all up, including assembly. All the channels plus cable. We have to get used to a new remote control.

But now at least we can watch tv and catch up on masterchef australia and mkr. Added bonus, there are 3 usb slots and I can simply stick the flash drive in one of the slots and hey presto! Masterchef Australia in HD, down to tenplay logo.

tv day

TV catchup day. 2 eps of masterchef australia at lunchtime, followed by australian bake-off. Regular 2 eps of masterchef again at night then TAR. In between, I finished packing and did a load of laundry. I’m sad that I’ll be missing an entire week’s worth of masterchef, especially since we’re now in top 9. Ah well. May be I can find old episodes online somewhere. May be I’m getting older and more out of touch, I don’t know how to find stuff as easily as I used to.

bones 12.12

I was flipping through channels and managed to catch Bones s12e12, the series finale. I hadn’t been diligently watching every single episode; I’d watch what I can when I see it’s on and usually on flights. I do know that it’s the series finale. Episode title “The End in the End.”

The body and villain of the week were dispatched quickly, it’s a continuation from evidently the previous episode(s). It’s hard to cram so much into 45mins, but they did a pretty good job. Everybody was there, including Caroline, my favourite character. All the available squinterns were there, and there were shout-outs to Mr Nigel-Murray and Zack. And Sweets, poor Sweets.

It wasn’t like they were closing down the Jeffersonian permanently. Bones and Booth still walked off into the sunset, the ending in the “and they lived happily ever after” vein. Hodgins got to be King of the Lab. There is the understanding that their lives will go on, it’s just that we the audience won’t be a part of that family anymore. Kinda sad.

Found a 21min retrospective featuring cast and crew. The family vibe was strong.

buffy 20-year anniversary

It’s 20 years since Welcome to the Hellmouth. I didn’t watch Buffy when it was on the air but caught up later and followed on twop before watching it all on dvd. Took me a while to get to s7. It’s one of those tv shows that has a special place in pop culture. Here are some top moments, not a bad list. The ultimate recent list is vox’s ranking of every single episode, from #144 Beer Bad to #1:

spoiler
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Once More with Feeling

Makes me want to rewatch the dvds again.

remote control wand

kymera

Drat, Christmas is over. But my birthday is in 4 months…

Here’s a gadget that will even break through the grumpiest, most curmudgeony anti-gadget luddite. Spotted via bb is the kymera wand, aka the coolest universal remote ever. It enables the user to program 13 gestures for remote control devices. So flick the wand up and down to change volume on the tv, or pull it back to open the dvd player, or swish to change the temperature on the dyson heater, anything that uses infra-red as control.

It’s currently selling for a ridiculous $256 on amazon and out of stock at amazon.co.uk. Possibly due to the boingboing article. There is a similar product, the harry potter remote control wand, for $58.95. Looks like a similar product.

masterchef desserts

Getting quite tired with the bingewatching. Last night the last episode didn’t finish till 2.30am and since it was a Heston episode we stayed up to watch it. Then today sitting in front of the tv from 11am. The grand final was 10pm-midnight, so an ‘early’ night. All finished now. Very pleased we managed to catch it, it was a fantastic season.

mystique pear

The memorable dishes were the ones at the pressure (elimination) test. They get a famous chef to bring one of their fancy creations, or get a Nobu to make them make a plate of sushi. The standouts were Christy Tania’s Mystique and the pear, walnut crumb, nest dessert by Dave Verheul which the contestants had to decipher from just a critic’s review.

choctop

The deceptively simple looking ice cream cone from gelato messina caught our eye. Not because of how complex it was to construct, but because it’s now on our list of places to try in Sydney. Good thing they have several branches around the CBD. I also learned that what we call choc ice they call choc top. Anyway, they have a lot of choices, may be we’ll need to go twice. And again in Melbourne.

masterchef australia marathon

Masterchef Australia marathon is on. The entier season 6 all day from 11am to 1am. Yep, 1am. We hadn’t seen this season, it’s before we got this channel. It’s on all this week until Friday and there’s no break.

Fantastic. Downside is I have to plan cooking and doing other stuff around this. The entire day is gone. I use the time before 11am to prep for lunch and commercial breaks during the afternoon to prep for dinner. It’s good practice. And why we have ovens. Pumpkin soup, chicken curry from the freezer, sausages, beef stew are on the menu for the next few days.

tv sunday

Spent the whole day watching tv. Amazing Race Canada is on, 5 episodes every Sunday. First time I’ve seen TARCAN, we’re up to season 2. The format is the same. In s1 they stayed in Canada and it was a great advertisement for the country, so beautiful. A couple of overseas locations in s2, but still a lot of Canada. The teams are the usual mix, they are competitive like Americans and some are also as arrogant and nasty. Mostly polite though.

Harry Potter 7 and 8 were also on at dinnertime. Seen them many times but can never resist. And this is the best scene.

masterchef australia final sportsmanship

Masterchef Australia final tonight. Caught up with the semi-final beforehand so 4.5hrs of non-stop Masterchef Australia, wonderful.

Since the final has aired, it’s not a spoiler anymore. This is probably the best moment of all, and shows the type of people and show.

Their very last cook of the entire season. One minute to go. One contestant had a problem and needed help. The other contestant stopped what she was doing and went to help her fellow finalist.

If that isn’t the very definition of sportsmanship.

masterchef australia

The weather will turn bad next week, so we went to the market and got plenty of veg. We have meat in the freezer and lots of fruit so we’re sorted for at least a week.

The new tv channels are activated, so I was going through them, looking at what’s available. Wow, Masterchef Australia. One of the best Masterchefs in the world, with as much emphasis on learning as competition. Weekend catch up of 5 episodes. It’s now at ep 25, with around 10-12 contestants, so around a third of the way through. Between this and MKR, our evenings will be busy in a good way.

errands, tv channels

Did a bunch of errands with Mum. Bank, teachers union to look at fridges, renewed her cable subscription. The plan she had before isn’t available anymore and of course they now charge more. Then again, we can pick from 3 bundles and we now have more channels than before. After I’m able to cancel my subscription, the cost isn’t significantly higher. We now get all the National Geographic and Discovery channels as well as both BBC Lifestyle and BBC Earth (which I miss having). Food Network, E!, History channel. We now have almost all the entertainment channels that have series programs, not just one. Plus one that has oldies, I see they are showing X-files season 4 as well as, gasp, Golden Girls, Taxi, A-team, MacGyver.

And speaking of X-files. I need to watch them all again.

around the world in 80 dishes

Around The World in 80 Dishes – Teaser from Dave Wallace on Vimeo.

One of our favourite recent programs is Around the World in 80 Dishes with Manu Feildel from MKR. Based loosely on Around the World in 80 Days, Manu makes his way around the world in 30 days armed with AUD20,000. Along the way, he can work and trade for food, lodging and travel but can’t accept money or free travel.

He started in London and already he’s endeared himself to me by going to Foxlow for chicken and waffles. Foxlow is a sibling restaurant of my beloved Hawskmoor.

Some of his trades are a bit farfetched. Can’t believe he got luxurious hotel in exchange for cooking at At.mosphere inside the Burj Khalifa in Dubai. Selling vegetarian burgers on a train from Mumbai to Kolkata couldn’t have been difficult: a white dude with a camera crew? He sold out in 15 mins.

This is a more relaxed and playful side of Manu we’re seeing, and it is always enjoyable to see a chef host a food & travel program who clearly loves what he is doing.

We love watching MKR and food programs as a family. Every time I see this new show, or the latest season of MKR, I can’t help but think how Papa would like it. He would have loved this new program. Sniff.

p.s. not a lot of online information, turns out that it isn’t due to start in Australia till after the Olympics. Wow, we get a headstart for a change.

egg turns into rick grimes

TIL The same Andrew Lincoln who plays Rick Grimes on the Walking is the same Andrew Lincoln who was Egg on This Life. Egg the football-mad slacker!

This Life was very important to me. It followed the life of 5 twentysomething lawyers who was just starting their careers in the City. It was the tail-end of the yuppie era, when things were still good in the world–1997 would see the beginning of the financial crisis, with Asian markets collapsing in 1997 and the LTCM bailout in 1998, both of which were, in hindsight, precursors of what was to come in the next 10 years.

Anyway, I was around the same age as the This Life protagonists and many of us then identified with one or more of the characters. It was gripping drama. More memorable that it only lasted 2 seasons.

Egg wasn’t the most memorable character; he was almost a side character really. I’m in awe of Andrew Lincoln though, to make the transition to US tv in such a convincing manner. When I started watching the Walking Dead I had no idea he’s British, let alone tweaked that he was Egg. Here’s Egg practicing his shooting skills, that will come into use later as Rick.

the hunt bbc

 
Need some escape from real life. Luckily the hunt is on. No, it’s not some walking dead program from the zombies’ pov. It’s a on bbc and a nature program focused on predators hunting their prey. Exec producer Alastair Fothergill:

the kill itself isn’t interesting, because once animals have killed, the story’s over. What is interesting is the build up, the strategies adopted by both the predators and prey

It’s not just lions and polar bears, the big predators. There was a sequence of the sparrowhawk hunting small birds and another on army ants, the most successful predator in the forests. Brilliant as only the bbc, and David Attenborough’s narration, can be.

I haven’t been able to catch all of the series so far. Knowing BBC Earth, it’ll repeat. If only iPlayer works outside the UK. Seriously, I’d pay a subscription, like I do to my cable company, to get iplayer.

 

 

el gamma penumbra tribute to mother nature

My dad didn’t used to like watching tv, he even didn’t like us watching tv when we were younger. Recently, he seemed to have a change of heart. Or it’s because we are watching more travel and food programs and he’s interested in those.

elgamma

He was the one who reminded us that it was the final of AGT last week, and we all sat down to watch the finalists. Very deserving win for shadow dance group El Gamma Penumbra from the Philippines, with their touching tribute to mother nature. Performance until around 2:30, then it’s judges’ comments which can be skipped (unless you’re a fan of Mel C).

trashy exercise, trashy discovery shows

An upset stomach together with niggly aches and pains provided the perfect excuse to skip running today. I wasn’t entirely delinquent, I did 45mins on the stationary bike. Someone, somewhere posted that we should substitute elliptical or stationary bike for running by doing around the same amount of time with similar intensity. So, 6km was approx 45mins.

I tend to watch mindless discovery shows while on the bike, because it’s so old that the sound of the belt covers a lot of the sound from the tv. The shows tend to involve small groups of people fighting against each other in auctions to buy stuff cheaply, they then fix them and hopefully sell for a profit. The stuff range from old cars in Texas, houses in Arizona or abandoned storage units in California.

One theme that runs through these programs are how nasty most of the buyers are. There’s a lot of trash talk and boasting. Probably exaggerated for the cameras but by and large I find people on US reality tv to be rude egomaniacs. Of course everyone wants to win or get a profit, but they can’t seem to do that with even a modicum of manners.

Ambulance in Motion
flickr / benjamin ellis

If I can catch it, I watch 24hrs in A&E, which is as different to those trashy, trash-talking US reality shows as night is to day. It’s described as a medical documentary and is filmed in an A&E department round the clock for 28 days straight.

First of, it’s filmed at King’s. I’ve long ago gotten over the fantasy that I could have studied medicine there rather than chemistry. Some of my undergraduate friends lived at KC Hall over at Camberwell, so I know the area well. Even with gentrification, this is still a working class, gritty area. Not the posh Britain of Downton Abbey or Sloany Britain of Ab Fab or Privileged Britain of Sherlock.

One theme that shines through is the dedication of the staff, even though they are working in a busy, underfunded inner city hospital. I love the end when the patients are interviewed, most of them obviously having recovered. It’s been described as exploitative, then again which documentary, especially one that takes a fly-on-the-wall approach, isn’t? The patients and their friends & family are shown sympathetically. This snippet about a 5 year old with burns [youtube, can’t embed] brought in by her dad is typical of the realness and the professionalism of both the production and the staff at KCH.

the most comprehensive #Bones infographic

bonesinfographic

I used to love Bones. I still do, but I don’t watch it often enough. To celebrate the 200th episode, dedicated fans made an amazing infographic that shows the 10 seasons by the numbers. For instance there have been 83 punctures, 67 gunshots, 57 bludgeonings, 28 poisonings, 26 suffocation and 92 unknown causes. Brennan tried to tell a joke 30 times, B&B kissed 36 times and “King of the Lab” was mentioned 27 times.

This is only a small part of the infographic. Full size here or at official site

tar25

I’m so glad TAR is back. And the fan shout-outs celebrating 25 seasons. Phil in season 1, ex-racers at the starting line, re-visiting tasks. And at least a few racers who know the race, rather than generic YDC / models recruited by production.

I have pre-race love for the food scientists, the cyclists and the high school sweethearts. Looks like the dentists and surfers are strong racers who may go far. Let’s see how far they go.

Wow, 25 seasons. So many great memories. The slide in quality the middle seasons. The end of twop. Thank heavens for previously. I’ve decided to rewatch s1 on youtube. Sigh, so sad to see Nancy of Momily. RIP.
 

sherlock and lamb

Went over to mm’s after her piano lesson to hang out. Pretty much doing nothing, I read travel and food magazines while she practiced then we watched sherlock holmes. Up to season 3 now. We could both have downloaded or streamed it but preferred to watch the dvds together, it’s more fun.

She requested lamb rack so I marinated it overnight in olive oil and rosemary. She has a small oven and initially I forgot to switch to upper and lower mode, but in the end it was all good. Succulent and nicely seasoned.

We were both tired, and we must have been tired because neither of us felt like or mentioned alcohol all evening.

twop is closing, no more snark

twop

Terrible news. televisionwithoutpity is closing. No more recaps, forums will close on 31 May. And, something fishy is going on, because the entire site will be going offline. It’s not enough that there won’t be any new recaps, we can’t even go back to read old ones. There’s closing, and then there’s completely closing. It’s very distressing.

Many TWOPers have been there since MightyBigTV days, I joined a little later but when it was still an independent site. Like many, it was Buffy recaps and forums, which had one of the most active participation. Buffy ended with the explosive growth of reality tv, and those provided even more snark opportunity. Every week after an episode of TAR or Survivor (when I was able to get Survivor), I’d read the recap and go to the forum to see what everybody thought of the ep. I just spent one evening last week going through all the posts for Gold Rush.

I guess it’s a stretch to ask a big corporation like NBC to get TWOP. It has been a surprise that it’s lasted this long. People don’t watch tv like they used to, in the days of instant gratification, on-demand and social media, reading a long recap about an episode on tv seems almost quaint.

Thankfully, God got out of the bathtub this time. Sars, Wing Chun and Glark are now at previously.tv, together with a slew of TWOP writers and hopefully they will ensure the spirit of MBTV and TWOP continues.

cooking with others

Been watching reruns of my kitchen rules australia, sort of masterchef in teams. At first I was a bit meh, but I’m not addicted. The competitors are all home cooks and what I like is that they never stray from that — no trying to be nouvelle cuisine, no trying to make them into Hestons. May be it’s because they are Aussies too, that their food is fresh, honest and multi-cultural. No fighting or nastiness like US cookery program competitors. There is competitiveness, and some manufactured bitchiness, but in general these people are a joy to watch.

Sometimes when they are set a task I think about what I would do if I were in the competition. Half an hour to make a herb sing — I’d pick mint, do mint crusted lamb, minty potatoes or pea & mint purée and mint pesto. Will be very pushed for time, but worth the risk.

Competition is also in teams of two, they have married couples, family members, friends. Then it occurred to me that I’ve never cooked extensively with other people. A lifetime ago when mm and I were living together, she made most of our meals of simple student-y food. We would sometimes cook together, mainly baking and making jams.

We hadn’t lived together since 1995. I’ve lived on my own for so long, and cooked for just one person for so long that I don’t think I know how to cook with another person on a day-to-day or competition basis.

At my parents’ my dad does the cooking. Whenever I take over the cooking I prefer doing it all myself and people aren’t allowed in the kitchen. The nearest was at Christmas when Sis came to help. But then it was a special holiday meal, I had an organised plan and set tasks for her, she was definitely sous chef, and a good one at that.

I can just imagine if mm and I cooked together now. Either we will get along fine, or we will fight and fight and fight. May be I’ll ask her if we should try it one day, ha.

Morph!!

Ah, Morph. Sidekick to Tony Hart. So many hours of my childhood watching them. Mr Hart passed away in 2009, but the creators of Morph, Aardman Animations, are planning to bring Morph back. They have a kickstarter project for 12 new 1-minute online episodes. The £100 pledge is interesting — 60 minute Morph masterclass at google hangouts — I think my sis and niece will be tempted.

tv catchup

One thing about not living in the US or UK is missing the new season programs. Some we get on local cable…eventually. They tend to get scattered on various channels, which means subscribing to each one. This can get pricey. The one must for me is TAR, which thankfully I get to watch 12hrs after it airs.

Mum found a way to catch new programs. Not going into details but so far I’m at ep 2 of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., which makes me very happy. I’m not big on comics, I watch the films whenever I can. Great to see Joss back, it warms my heart to see the “Grr-Argh” logo at the end.

Next up, Downton Abbey, Blacklist, Orange is the New Black and the required viewing of Breaking Bad.

original iron chef

There was a mini Iron Chef marathon this afternoon. Four episodes from the original Fuji TV series in Japan, dubbed in English. These were the eps I videotaped when I was in NYC, during the early the Food Network days in 1999/2000. The tapes are probably still around somewhere although none of us have VCRs anymore.

A little dated, especially the presentation. And with the proliferation of food and drink programs in the last 10-15 years, we are all so much better informed and come with higher expectations. Still, we were riveted to the TV for 4 hours. OMG, everyone was so young!! I saw Morimoto on a Bourdain program recently and he’s grown in girth and stature. We saw the battle of Girls’ Festival, pacific saury, pumpkin and another ingredient I can’t remember. Morimoto once, Sakai twice and Kobe once. Would have loved to see Chen too. What nostalgia.

table manners

I was watching a travel program where an American couple got to visit some of those “1,000 places before you die” bucket list places. This program was in France and they played the roulette in Monte Carlo, painted in Provence and in Paris they got to eat at Taillevent. Wow.

What made me cringe a little were the way they ate: the young woman grabbed her wine glass with her hand all over the bulb instead of the stem, and they both ate by scooping the food up in their forks held in their right hand. Left hand under the table, no sign of a knife. Very politely, of course, but still didn’t look right to me. It’s probably me, because I hold the knife and fork in their original hands during the entire course. It seems that either style is correct, although I think that if I were to have the opportunity to eat at Taillevent I’d go for the European style. Who am I to say, I don’t have the world’s best table manners.

TAR oy vey

tarphil

Probably the only good thing about being here is that I get to watch TAR again. Half a day behind the US isn’t bad either, so I’m always up-to-date. And boy, did we have a great episode this week. Idiots who got eliminated went to some poor guy’s house thinking it was where they had to do the detour; then they bald-snarked for an unknown reason; and then when it was quite clear that at the roadblock they were one of the last teams, they decided not to use their express pass. Someone asked on twop which was more stupid: being eliminated with 2 immunity idols in Survivor or with an EP on TAR.

Lots of great camera work and editing as usual, this is the Emmy episode if the producers are smart. And Phil’s “Oy vey” at the end? Priceless.

an idiot abroad

Since I’m stuck at home, I’ve been glued to the tv and have become addicted to an idiot abroad. I’m not sure if the humour will be understood by non-Brits, but it’s effing brilliant. The conceit is that Karl Pilkington gets sent to all sorts of places by Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, Karl being the ultimate reluctant traveller. It’s very much a series of cruel jokes played on Karl by Ricky and Steve. I don’t know whether to sympathetise with Karl or laugh at him. I didn’t have sky when I was in London so I missed out on seeing them first time round. So tempted to get the dvd.

paralympics lexi

lexi

Ran 12k around Hyde Park, and spent the rest of the day watching the Paralympics. The standout moments today — medals in the velodrome for GB, wheelchair basketball (my new love), T11 athletes running with their guides, Aled Davies of Wales receiving his discus gold medal from the Duchess of Cambridge. And that class 7 table tennis final between GB’s Will Bayley and Germany’s Joachen Wollmert. Will Bayley had endeared the entire nation yesterday with his unabashed joy at winning his semi-final, running and jumping up to his coach. He was understandably distraught at losing the final. The great moment for me was Joachen Wollmert, almost twice Will’s age (47 vs 24), who coaxed the weeping Briton up from the floor and acknowledged him to the crowd. Terrific sportsmanship.

As the Games progress, I’m learning more about the classification system. For instance I can now tell the difference between T13 and F46 in athletics as well as the various S-classes in swimming. The guides from the various newspapers helped, and certainly the graphical lexi interface on Channel 4 has been useful. I’m slowly warming up to C4’s coverage, still not happy about the ad breaks and the presenters talking over each other, to give them credit they are trying very hard. And hey, Clare and Ade in the evening works for me.

paralympics super saturday

Watched quite a bit of Paralympics today. I only get one of the channels, and all Channel 4 seemed to be showing was swimming, cycling and athletics. Tiny bit of football and wheelchair basketball. A very emotional day, all the big stars performed — Oscar Pistorius set a world record in his first round 200m race, Ellie Simmond’s world record freestyle, Team GB cyclists and equastrian athletes.

Two images stayed with me today, on 2 extremes. I could only find the video for one though. The first, Omar Hassan from Djibouti finished his T46 1,500m race at over 11mins, 7mins behind the rest of the field, to a standing ovation. He is one of the single participant who got a wild card.

The second was Richard Whitehead’s gold medal in the T42 200m, how he simply powered through once he got going and round the bend. Visually, it was stunning, running through 2 other athletes. Tearjerking stuff.

first olympic weekend

Did some running in the morning in the showery weather, then settled for a day of Olympics on tv. So lucky that I have the BBC. Waking up on Saturday to comments that coverage of the opening ceremony in other countries weren’t as good was a bit shocking. NBC cutting the Abide with me segment was insulting and insensitive. I watched the whole ceremony live with no interruptions and sensible commentary.

On the BBC website, we’re supposed to be able to watch 24 channels of streaming coverage, although all it did was crash my flash plugin. I only have freeview so I have a limited of extra channels on my red button — during the day I have 3 channels in total, at night 4. Still, I’ve managed to catch 22 out of the 37 sports, which I think is wonderful. Some of them haven’t started, I’m hoping that I can at least watch a segment of every sport. The 22 so far:

  • archery
  • badminton
  • basketball
  • beach volleyball
  • boxing
  • canoe slalom
  • cycling – road
  • diving
  • equestrian
  • fencing
  • football
  • gymnastics
  • handball
  • hockey
  • judo
  • rowing
  • sailing
  • shooting
  • swimming
  • tennis
  • volleyball
  • water polo

Some of those were brief segments, most of the morning was watching Team GB lose in various sports. Again, it was cycling that got my attention, keen to not let yesterday’s men’s road race disappointment dwell. And wow, the women’s race was edge of seat stuff. Tactical attack, torrential rainfall and a sprint finish. In Beijing, the first British medal was by a female road cyclist and this time it’s no different, Lizzie Armitstead winning silver. So proud, so happy.

The evening turned better. Becky Adlington winning bronze, the men’s football team 3-1 against the UAE, news of preliminary successes for Ben Ainslie in sailing, the rowing team, boxing and eventing.

The biggest heartache is the news that Paula Radcliffe is out of the marathon through injury. She’s such a giant and role model that I’m truly distraught. I know she didn’t stand a chance, but she’s Paula, you know. Sigh.

The public row over empty seats continue, and I feel that the public should, and will, keep giving this issue the high attention it needs. Sounds like it’s not corporate sponsors but the Olympic “family” that are hogging all those seats, and without fail, they are the best seats. Someone need to be held accountable for this. Complete shambles.

and so it begins

London 2012 kicked off…in Cardiff. Football starts before the opening ceremony, and since the games are played at grounds all over the country, the Millenium Stadium has the honour of hosting the first event. And it’s Team GB vs New Zealand women’s football. I hardly watch football, and I think it’s the first time I sat through an entire women’s game. It was a thrilling game, with many missed chances and lots of pressure. Team GB had the upper hand, and the goal that secured the 1-0 win was brilliant. Hoping this is a sign of more wins and medals for the team. I have nothing planned for the weekend, I’ll be glued to the TV with my cups of tea.

line of duty

When Line of Duty started 5 weeks ago, I watched the first episode. A bit confused. A bit bored. A bit addicted. There were intriguing terms, like “laddering” where easy suspects were convinced to own up to more crimes than they’d committed to bump case resolution figures up. Or picking and choosing cases to tackle the ones that promise a higher solve rate. This wasn’t a traditional good cop vs bad guys drama; in modern policing the lines between good and bad were very blurred. I wasn’t sure if I would watch it again.

Episode 2, and I watched it. And kept watching. There are twists, and at the end the message is that there are degrees of goodness and badness. That the police organisation is just like any large corporate enterprise. Bottom line, metrics count. In corporations it’s P&L, in policing it’s number of cases solved. Put lots of people together and there is politics. Add on power and there is corruption. What motivates people is different. Makes you think. The article by writer Jed Mercurio is pretty interesting too.

sunshine on a plate

masterchefuk

Watched riveted as Masterchef champion was announced after weeks of gruelling competition. Remember this name: Shelina Permalloo. She was born in Southampton and lives in Tooting. Her family is from Mauritius and her food was described by Gregg Wallace as

sunshine on a plate

and

a restaurant waiting to happen

She was consistent, joyful, and calm. She never made bad mistakes and she was always on time in tasks. And her food. Wow. In the beginning, like all amateurs, it was great tasting but did not have professional presentation. By the end, oh wow again. This was her octopus salad starter from the final — beautiful and apparently full of flavours. If she opened a restaurant I’d be there in a flash.

very hungry frenchman

Over the weekend i caught up with The Very Hungry Frenchman, the new bbc2 program where Raymond Blanc travels back to France and explores the cuisines of various regions. The series started with him going home to his parents’ house. How lovely to see his mother’s garden and kitchen, it’s no surprise that he learned a lot from her.

Thus inspired, I looked at packages at Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, his 2 Michelin-starred hotel restaurant in Oxford. Pretty expensive is an understatement. There are midweek and weekend packages as well as one the combines a day at his cookery school. For example, the Decouverte Experience includes:

  • room varying between luxurious to super deluxe suite
  • welcome drinks, flowers, chocolate
  • 9 course dinner, which has dishes like confit de foie de canard, wild brill with caviar, roasted venison and vacherin with truffle & honey
  • french breakfast

will costs at least £800. Gulp. Talked it over with mm, and even though it would have been a fantastic visit, we decided it’s too expensive.

biggest loser uk

It’s Tuesday so it must be Biggest Loser. At last I find another of my favourite reality shows here. The contestants are not quite as large as the US group, most of them hovering under 20st (280lbs). (Love that weights are still in stone.) The biggest contestant was at 32st though, over 450lbs. The format is the same, but with a nicer presenter and 3 very tough-looking trainers. Looking forward…

great expectations

There is a flurry of activities planned to commemorate the 200th birthday of Charles Dickens next year. In advance of that, or for other reasons, the BBC brought us a new adaptation of Great Expectations this week. Not sure why it’s on the week between Christmas and New Year, but whatever.

The most recognisable name on the cast was Gillian Anderson. I didn’t quite like her portrayal in episode 1; too young, difficult to shake Scully off my mind. One of the newspapers, Guardian, Indy or Telegraph, I can’t remember, likened her Miss Havisham to an adult Luna Lovegood and I thought it was fitting. She grew on me though, and by the end, I thought she brought enough lunacy to the role.

Young Pip played by Oscar Kennedy was my favourite. Amongst the adults the actors playing Magwitch, Joe and a special shoutout for David Suchet as Jaggers. Extremely disappointed at adult Pip and Estella. Neither had presence nor acting ability. Douglas Booth playing Pip was apparently a Burberry model and was too pretty and too wooden. Vanessa Kirby playing Estella looked too modern.

It’s been a while since I read the book or watched any adaptations so it was good to refresh. It was strictly an adaptation, there seemed to be bits missing from the book version. There is a film version coming out next year, it’ll be interesting to compare.

p.s. People forget that GA, though American, went to school in the UK. She does both British and American accents, speech patterns and vocabulary like a complete native. Amazing.

#crash24

crash24

Been following the bbc’s live coverage of #crash24 today, in which a team of bbc journalists have joined London ambulance paramedics to get an insight into a typical day on the city’s roads. The field journalists shadow a paramedic, and there is also coverage from the control room. An average day has around 100 casualties, the latest on the map shows 60 incidents.

It is a fascination that is a tad inappropriate, because it is intrusive, to be reading about someone getting hurt. But the way it’s been covered has been superb, as expected from the bbc. Very moving to read about the professionalism of the paramedics, how they manage to negotiate London’s roads at high speeds (up to 100mph) in order to reach an incident within minutes. They patrol the streets rather than sitting around at the station. Many casualties are treated straight at roadside, so not all cases need to be taken to hospital. There’s been lots of fender benders, all sorts of pedestrian vs car incidents and way, way too many bike accidents that reaffirms my resolve not to cycle in London. Just last half hour the report has shifted to a serious pile-up on the M4.

Debabani Majumdar, one of the journalists shadowing the paramedics wrote,

It was an exciting as well as a humbling experience. The sound of the sirens and the rush of adrenalin as we sped through the capital is indescribable. It was humbling because we were racing against time to reach somebody who has been in an accident and the paramedic doesn’t know the exact condition of the patient until he reaches him or her. In addition to their medical training, they need presence of mind to calm agitated victims, at times explaining why their case is not treated as a priority, and try to forge a road through the solid wall of traffic during the rush hour.

All I can do is tip my hat at the paramedics and thank them from the bottom of my heart at the great job they do day in day out. People take them for granted, but the service they provide to the public is priceless. I hope I never have to use them ever, but I know that if I do, then I’ll be in good hands.

cagney lacey 30 years in london

cagneylacey30yrs

Both Sharon Gless and Tyne Daly are in London and will be for a while. Ms Gless in A Round-Heeled Woman, which moved from the Riverside studios to the Aldwych this week (and with the 3 times price hike upon the move to the West End). Ms Daly will star as Maria Callas in Master Class at the Vaudeville come January. I’m really, really not a theatre person, so I’m not sure I will go to either. I went to Love Never Dies with mm when she was here, and I want to see if I can book Matilda for when she is here next summer.

Anyway, back to the inimitable ladies. They were also at the BFI earlier this week to celebrate 30 years of Cagney and Lacey. Ack, I missed that, would have been interesting to attend.

strictly come dancing

I spent most of today catching up on Strictly Come Dancing. The ballroom, set decoration and program sequence are almost identical to Dancing with the Stars, even the theme song is the same. Different people in British accents of course. The hosts are Sir Bruce Forsyth and Tess Daly who are both better than their US counterparts. There are 4 judges: Len, Bruno plus a lady called Alesha and a guy called Craig. Alesha does the typical “rah rah, you’re great!” role and Craig criticizes technique and doesn’t smile. He gave people scores of 1 and 2 in week 1. Celebrities are the usual actors, singers, breakfast show hosts, boxers, footballers, “legendary” celebrities, politicians etc.

I’m up to week 2. Jason Donovan and Holly Valance (heh, Neighbours!) are the front runners and very impressive. But to my surprise I found myself rooting for short, chubby, cute, campy Russell Grant.

sky

skyhd

Signed up for sky bundle package — tv, internet and phone. Phone was mandatory for the broadband service I wanted, so there was no choice. I may not even plug the phone in. The choice was between sky, virgin, BT or getting the services separately. Virgin tv isn’t in the area yet so it was natural to get sky.

This is the one service that is comparable to chicago in terms of price. The whole package will cost me £62.50 a month, compared with around $100 for RCN without phone.

bones season 1-5

bones1-5

When mm was visiting me in October, we spent a lot of time at home watching bones season 4 which I netflixed. Before I left I thought about buying the whole series and discovered that it was cheaper in the UK. We then saw that it was on sale for £80 at HMV, and even better when I checked on amazon last week that it was a special sale item for £32. That’s just over $50 for 5 seasons. Ordered it immediately and received it today. We watched 2 episodes already tonight.

road wars, drink driving

In the absence of decent tv and most importantly, all my favourite reality tv programs, I’m left with watching police chase programs. One of the good ones is road wars, which follows officers on drug raids and car chases.

The topic of police chases reminds me of the NYT article over the Christmas period. A matter-of-fact description of a bad decision. That the only consequence that time was of fines and time spent when it could have been worse. That some of the comments implied that the offender had no choice is alarming. Too many stories of drink driving, and now driving while texting, why do people still do it?

TAR final

tarfinal

I was thinking about it yesterday, that it was amazing race final and I was missing it. I can’t watch it off cbs.com cos it’s not available outside the US. Tonight I tried to proxy but didn’t like all the ads and stuff I saw at proxy sites. So I did what I had planned to do anyway, downloaded it off itunes. $1.99 per ep isn’t bad, especially since the team I had been rooting for since the beginning won. The docs will likely enter the TAR hall of fame on par with Kris & Jon, John Vito & Jill and the Bald Snarks as the nicest pairings in the show’s history; and certainly the nicest winners. And now it’s safe for me to visit twop, as I was very careful not to spoil myself on the winners.

Looking forward to future seasons. It doesn’t look like I can get it on TV here, so it’s either buy it ep by ep, or wait till the end and buy the whole season. I doubt I can wait till the end of the season. May be it’s time to investigate apple tv or google tv.

Mr Benn

So on fb there’s this meme to change your avatar to a favourite childhood cartoon. I changed mine to Mr Benn. Mr Benn wore a suit and bowler hat, and he visited a costume shop where the shopkeeper gives him different costumes to try. He then goes into the changing room and off to an adventure dressed as that costume. It was a simple, escapist cartoon that I used to watch when I was very very little. Oh, the memories.