Wednesday, 31 August 2005

Shouldn't It Be On DVD?

Jessa Crispin reviews a self-help book on how to read books. She hates it. And the next book she reads. Luckily for us she gets to write about it:
But I follow his instructions and write the titles [of books that I might be interested in reading in the future] in a notebook. Now I have to categorize them. He suggests helpful categories like "books about your next career," "books on places you plan to visit." My categories include "books that I should just admit to myself I'm not going to read," "books bought solely for the pretty cover" and "books I can't remember why I wanted to read."

She worries that a book might change her life:
I'm almost afraid that it will, and I'll be changed into the type of person who wears t-shirts that say things like "Cats . . . Books . . . Life is good!"

But this particular one definitely hasn't:
For all of Leveen's talk of how reading is supposed to be an enjoyable, enriching experience, he really did suck all of the joy out of the process. I felt like I was back in school, made to explain the turtle chapter of The Grapes of Wrath in 500 words.

Not Just Desserts...

... you can buy the whole menu from a catalogue. The Guardian shockingly reports that gastro-pubs are just ordinary pubs with better suppliers:
These outfits will do all the chef's work, delivering to the kitchen door every shortcut from pre-balled tri-colour melon, hand-tied bundles of frozen haricots verts, olive oil mash, ready poached egg and ready-to-use Hollandaise sauce to fully prepared dishes such as paella, Malaysian beef rendang, lamb with dumplings in cider sauce, asparagus and lemon risotto, braised lamb with flageolets, three cheese pasta and broccoli bake, and whole William pears with stalks on baked in red wine.

Actually, though, the list of warning signs at the bottom of the article reads almost like a list of things to avoid in any restaurant, especially:
Mini-anythings (crostini, canap├ęs, cheesecake, brioche, kebabs, blinis). Fiddly and time-consuming to prepare. Why should chef bother unless you are paying at least £35 a head?

Tuesday, 30 August 2005

Play It All Night Long

I've mentioned Archive.org before. They have a whole slew of Warren Zevon concerts to download.

Well they have a whole slew of other people's live concerts, too. Not too many that I've ever heard of to be honest. Hayseed Dixie put in an appearance, though. As do one of my favourite discoveries of last year The Drive By Truckers. It was quite a joyous moment to see that they'd actually covered some Zevon. Well, Play It All Night Long in particular with a bit bit of Ain't That Pretty At All, it's quite the stormer.

Monday, 29 August 2005

Curry: Glorious Bastard

The Guardian review a new book on the history of Curry (a "biograpy" as the modish term goes). They present one or two nifty bits:
In 17th-century Goa, for instance, it was the visiting Portuguese who taught the local Indians how to make the exquisite egg and milk-based sweets that have since become part of the fabric of eating on the western seaboard. By way of reciprocity, the natives taught the Portuguese how to be clean: not previously known for their personal daintiness, the settling Europeans started lathering up and changing their pants with a regularity that amazed newcomers as they reached for yet one more helping of bebinka, a delicious mix of coconut milk, eggs and hunks of palm sugar.

Friday, 26 August 2005

Funky Bass

Not Coming To A Theater Near You — a title which is simultaneously startlingly accurate and stiflingly condescending — has a tribute to Saul Bass.

Bass has designed credit sequences for Hitchcock, Scorcese and Wilder. Credit sequences that, especially in the case of North-by-Northwest simply and elegantyl set-up the rest of the movie. He's also done any number of movies, his own Phase IV, for example,and Walk On The Wild Side, where the best thing about them was the titles.

Not Coming's tribute is beautifully done and, as they say, well worth checking out.

Thursday, 25 August 2005

Typing Rude Words Into ... Online Apps

Number two in an occassional series...

Bookslut link to a site called Word Count, which, er, counts the words in the materials it has and then ranks them by frequency.

Obviously I spent a few minutes typing rude words into it. Fuck is ranked 5598th, and it and its neighbouring words go like this "Shallow Charming Fuck Workshops", which struck me as a decent idea, but then I figured Shallow Charming Fucks don't need training to be like that. Ah well...

It also occured to me that you could use it for band names too. Pick a word and then see what turns up:

Chocolate Panic
Lucille Funk
Execution Lounge
Economic Love Means
Knife Dates

Hmm. Maybe not. Though I quite like Chocolate Panic to be honest.

Spit It Out

James Wolcott reads Pornstar biographies so that you don't have to. He finds a similar structure in each:
  • A DEPRIVED CHILDHOOD
  • INITIATION INTO THE PORN BIZ.
  • ADOPTION OF A NEW IDENTITY
  • WAR STORIES FROM THE SET.
  • HOLLYWOOD-MOVIE-STAR CAMEO APPEARANCES.
  • THE CAUTIONARY TALE UNHEEDED
  • TENDER MERCIES AND RECONCILIATION

Also it seems that much like Shatner-bashing in Star Trek biographies Ron Jeremy-bashing is de riguer in porn memoires:
Female performers harbor their own existential dread: the revolting prospect of working with (worse, under) Ron Jeremy. A roly-poly, well-endowed veteran of the porn scene and the subject of the recent documentary Porn Star: The Legend of Ron Jeremy, he is fondly nicknamed "the Hedgehog." But there are those who fail to see the sexual charm of a human-size hedgehog, endowed or not. He's never quite mastered even the Neanderthal rudiments of grooming and etiquette, compelling some actresses to apply motivational psychology to get themselves through the ordeal. Making her first porn loop, Ginger Lynn realizes that Jeremy will be her inaugural partner. "I looked at him, and I almost left. Then I thought, 'You know what? If I can do it with this guy, I can do it with anybody.'" On Christy Canyon's first shoot, she's agog at the sight of "the hairiest set of butt-cheeks I had ever seen." Hairy-butt-cheeks turns around, and it's Jeremy, guarding the buffet table against poachers. No one had the specter of His Hairiness lodged deeper in her haunted head than Traci Lords, who psychs herself for a lesbian grudge match with Ginger Lynn (whom she loathes as only one porn diva can loathe another) by telling herself, Hey, it still beats having to service a "fleshy hairball" like Ron Jeremy. Later, suffering a combination jet-lag and porn-withdrawal hallucinatory spiral, Lords is pitchforked in her dreams by detachable body parts. "I saw dicks everywhere—dicks and fat faces and beady, Ron Jeremy eyes. It made me crazy."

Wednesday, 24 August 2005

Not Drunk, Just Confused

Polly Toynbee in the Guardian takes a long hard look at drinking habits in the UK, from her front room window by all accounts, and decides that the answer is raising tax on alcohol:
Only one weapon really works in reducing the dangerous quantities people drink - and that's price. The proposed £5m public health warning campaign will have small effect compared with a sharp tax rise. Alcohol consumption has risen with wealth: it dips in times of recession and it falls when steeply taxed.

An idea that would allow the poor as well as the rich to drink as much as they'd like. The thinking, I suppose, is that a fall in consumption happens equally across the board and so binge-drinking would fall too. Or, well, people will forgo the odd pint during the week and binge just as much as before at the weekend, thus making UK drinking culture even more binge related and the hope of a more relaxed attitude just that little bit less realistic.

Really, though, Ms Toynbee must have had a few cocktails before writing her article because the rest of the reasoning in it is equally sloppy:
The hope was that staggered closing times would stop drinkers staggering out of pubs at the same time, but it seems pubs will still close together, if later: maybe some will take last buses before last orders.

The assumption here is that everyone will start drinking at 7 or 8 like before and then continue on until 2 in the morning because, well, now there's nothing to stop them. Or people might start drinking later and stop when they've had enough rather than when they're thrown out instead of getting as much in in the 3 or 4 hours that they have, realising that wasn't enough and all trying to cram in to the nearest nightclub. Maybe I just have rose-tinted beer goggles.

Essentially, by relaxing the drinking hours in the UK you are giving people a little more choice. The problem is that, unfortunately, at first that choice probably will be abused, people will start at 7 and drink on through to 2 at the rate they were used to before and problems caused by alcohol will be exacerbated. It is a change and change takes some getting used to. Eventually though — optimistically I'd say a couple of months — people will find their own rhythm within the extra hours they have and the hoped for effect of people not all leaving pubs at the same time will happen and people will drink at a pace that more suits them rather than the law.

Monday, 22 August 2005

Hard, Working Men

According to a report reported in the Times Workoholics are top shags. It seems to be a sort of Millie Jackson "Ugly Men" thing. They're thinking about the times they didn't have time for it in the past and the times they won't have time for in the future:
"It may be driven by guilt," said Imelda Bush, a researcher working with Schwartz. "Men who spend too much time at work and feel bad about it may make more of an effort and try harder to satisfy their partner sexually, making up for lost time in the home."

Jamie Olivier recommends a cup of tea, though:
[T]he celebrity chef, has admitted that his long working day has caused problems in his marriage. However, he does not hold with the American theory that workaholics can compensate through sexual performance.

"I always say the divorce rate would go down dramatically if people sat down together more often and had some good food and a nice cup of tea," he said.

You know, if people were given the choice of sex with Jamie or a cup of tea, I think most of them would choose tea too.

Serenity News

The Firefly class ship Serenity in Lego.

The film is a 15 in the UK.

Knocking my world askew, The Torygraph likes Serenity (NB. the linked to page has gratuitous breasts from some other film and so is probably Not Safe For Work...):
A complex ensemble piece without major stars, it has characters to care about, a keenly political intelligence, and some of the most cracking banter since Howard Hawks was in his prime. It deserves to be a huge hit when it's released next month.

Friday, 19 August 2005

Quotes That Make You Want To Change Careers

I'd read this elsewhere and thought it hilarious but couldn't find it again (I'd only remember it when I wasn't at a computer is my excuse), but thanks to Robot Wisdom I've found it again:
Dumb teen: Hey, look at this! It says 'Train for jobs in beeyotch.'
Smarter teen: Fool! That word is biotech. Why you gotta be ignorant all your life?

For some odd reason this really makes me want to work in the biotech industry.

Because I've Been Away and Need The Hits

Jude Law's Cock. SFW, BTW, but links to the NSFW version.

Those Fat, Lying Bastards!

This week seems to be one for news that is news to no-one. The Washington Post this week reported that people don't go to restaurants to eat healthy food.
Like many restaurant chains in the past two years, Ruby Tuesday has discovered that while customers say they want more nutritious choices, they rarely order them. As a result, fast food and casual dining chains — which together account for three out of four U.S. restaurant visits — are slowly going back to what they do best: indulging Americans' taste for high-calorie, high-fat fare.

Of course this is about Americans, but I'm pretty sure it's a universal thing. Healthy you can do at home, but if you're going to pay a lot of money for your dining experience then why hold back on the calories.

One side point: what the bejibbers is "healthful"? I mean I get what it means, but what's wrong with "healthy". I suppose you can get, or someone has gotten, in to all sorts of trouble by saying something's "healthy", whereas "healthful" sort of implies that, used correctly, the product can be part of a healthy lifestyle. It's weaselly at best.

Thursday, 18 August 2005

Thick and Thin

Surprising no-one Posh Spice admitted this week that she has never read a book. Slighty more surprisingly, this was national news. The nation shrugged and moved on. The Guardian, however, decided to get someone in to defend her honour, which is more than she ever did (thanks Groucho).
Since when did a regular quota of suitably serious reading matter become obligatory? And who decides what's worthy anyway? If Victoria Beckham swallowed a regular dose of sugary chick lit or violent slasher chillers, for example (well, they're books too), would it somehow make her reading habits more acceptable than the fact that she happens to "love fashion magazines"?

The article continues much in this vein and concludes:
Reading must be about the only pastime that is pretty much universally seen as "good" and virtuous - so to say openly that you don't like books puts you beyond the pale. For someone to say they don't care for reading labels them as some kind of thickie pariah, fair game for any insult. To decide any such thing on the basis of one single trait seems both sweeping and snobbish.

See what they've done there? They've taken Mrs Beckham, who we probably know more about than is good for us, and the slight scorn she's received for revealing something we'd have guessed at anyway and treated her as if she was some random chav who we'd heretofore never heard of.

But that's it. We are not labelling Posh as "some kind of thickie pariah" because she doesn't read books. We are labelling Posh as a thickie because, well, she certainly seems to be one.

Wednesday, 17 August 2005

Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Lettuce

Accidental Hedonist has a post today concerned with tips and trivia about lettuce and I'm linking to it on the hope that you'll all think I'm starting to eat healthily and plus for this little nugget (mmmmm... nuggets) of information:
Do not store lettuce next to bananas, apples, pears or tomatoes. The ethylene that these fruits give off will brown your lettuce prematurely.

That was my public service announcement for the week. Do not worry knob gags will be resumed as quickly as possible.

Tuesday, 16 August 2005

Cook Books

Everytime I was in a bookshop while I was on holiday I kept mumbling about a Guardian list of good cook books that didn't include Jamie or Nigella. And further mumbling about how the shop should have cut out and laminated the list for, well, my benefit would follow. Here's the article anyway and here's the list:
1 Roast Chicken and Other Stories by Simon Hopkinson with Lindsey Bareham

2 Delia's Complete Cookery Course by Delia Smith

3 Real Fast Food by Nigel Slater

4 The River Cottage Meat Book by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

5 A New Book of Middle Eastern Food by Claudia Roden

6 Leith's Techniques Bible by Susan Spaull and Lucinda Bruce-Gardyne

7 Elizabeth David Classics by Elizabeth David

8 Rick Stein's Seafood School Cookbook by Rick Stein

9 Chez Panisse Cafe Cookbook by Alice Waters

10 The Cook's Companion by Stephanie Alexander

A Taste of Bad Wine

Seemingly in retaliation for some french bloke saying that British food wasn't up to much, and, of course, to plug his new series, Rick Stein has appeared in the Telegraph to disrespect French wine.
"I have to say that there is a lot of vin very ordinaire out there. The best French wines are still the best in the world - they have this real sense of belonging to the soil in which they were produced. But for every one really good French wine, there are 10 bad ones."