Archive for the ‘Distractions’ Category

Eurovision 2016 preview

Saturday, May 7th, 2016 | Distractions, Video

eurovision-2016

It’s only one week away! Here is a quick round-up of the entries I will be watching out for.

United Kingdom

We have definitely put up a lot worse in our time. I think it would have worked better if it had kicked up into a dance routine with some fancy light show, but we’ll see. We scored 5 points last year, so basically anything would be good.

Sweden

I think this is a poor effort from Sweden. The bookies put them fairly high up, but I feel it lacks the magic of their recent winners.

Russia

Russia are strong favourites to win, at 2/1. It is a pretty good song. Still, I live in hope that the bad guys won’t win. Eurovision was designed as a contest to bring war-torn Europe together. It would be sorely ironic if it were in Russia next year, while Ukraine remains occupied by Russian forces.

Did you know, last year they used anti-booing technology for the first time ever to try and hide the anti-Russian boos. Imagine how loud they would have been without it!

France

France are the only other country with a chance of winning if Paddy Power is to believed. Almost as hot as Russia, leaving everyone else far in the distance. It’s a really upbeat song. It’s probably got my vote.

Finland

Last year, Finland entered a band of punk rockers with learning difficulties. They didn’t make it through the semi-finals. Now, I’m not saying that makes the whole of Europe simple-minded bigots. Clearly Finland have learned their lesson trying to be inclusive though, and dropped it in favour of a pretty typical Eurovision song. I like it, but the bookies don’t. It’s no Hard Rock Hallelujah, but it is a catchy tune.

What is legal tender?

Saturday, March 5th, 2016 | Distractions

legal-tender

Legal tender is money, right? But what is illegal tender? If we have a term like ‘legal tender’, what does that mean, and what does it mean for things that are not legal tender? I was thinking about this on my walk home today. Luckily Wikipedia came to the rescue with a good write-up on the subject.

Legal tender is anything that can be used to settle a debt. If I owe Fred £10, I can give him a £10 note and the debt is paid. He cannot say “no, I only accept coins”, because a £10 is legal tender and therefore has to be accepted as payment of debt. The UK has some quite complex rules on it. For example a ten pence piece is legal tender, but only up to a certain value of £10. Someone is not obligated to accept a payment of £1,000 in 10p pieces. Guidelines are available from the Royal Mint.

Things get a little more complicated around the union. Notes issued by the bank of England are legal tender in England and Wales. Scottish bank notes however, are not. In fact technically Scottish bank notes are not even legal tender in Scotland, though they are typically accepted to be by general agreement.

Another issue that comes into play is whether you have a debt, or whether you are treating. If you have not yet established a debt, the trader is under no legal obligation to accept your money. So a shop or a bus could refuse to accept a £20 note from you (many shops due refuse £50 notes) because no debt has yet come into play. However, if there was a debt established and then payment has requested, so as an invoice or a restaurant meal, they would then be obliged to accept your legal tender.

It is sometimes claimed that stamps are legal tender. This is not the case, and was confirmed by the Royal Mint.

The Inbetweeners

Friday, March 4th, 2016 | Distractions

inbetweeners

Occasionally, I do actually watch some TV. I was recommended The Inbetweeners by a few people and as the entire series was available on Channel 4’s on demand service All4, we decided to give it a watch. Best of all, with only six episodes to a series, and three series in total, it was small commitment we could get through easily.

It’s pretty funny. It’s not massively high-brow, relying on predictable stereotypes for humour. It is also Peep Show cringey at times. Entertaining nonetheless though. The film was also quite good. There was actual character development and everything.

Dawson’s Creek DVDs

Tuesday, March 1st, 2016 | Distractions

dawsons-creek-dvds

Over the past five years my DVD collection has been reducing in size as they were replaced by digital media. However, I kept hold of a few just in case the world suddenly jumped back a decade. Now though, with increased pressure to find spaces for my books, I have come to the conclusion that they all have to go. Even my complete set of Dawson’s Creek DVDs, including the special series finale DVD. Farewell Mr Leery, see you on the iTunes Store.

Scandimania

Saturday, February 27th, 2016 | Distractions

scandimania

Scandimania is a 3-part TV series in which Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall visits Sweden, Denmark and Norway to investigate their cuisine.

There is no Finland, but that makes sense given how much duplication there would be with the Swedish episode. While it is in theory about food, it more reflects Hugh’s views on conservation and sustainability. Some of it goes rather darker: discrimination in Sweden, crime drama in Denmark and Anders Breivik in Norway.

Each episode bases itself around a concept of modesty and simplicity. ‘Lagom’ means ‘just enough’ in Sweden. ‘Hygge’ means ‘coziness’ in Denmark. The Law of Jante teaches people to be humble in Norway. Perhaps this is another reason not to include Finland, who have ‘sisu’ which is all about having the stoic determination and guts to beat the Russians – probably not quite the character the show’s producers had in mind.

All of this means that there isn’t actually that much discussion of food. Therefore, while it was interesting, I think the Hairy Bikers did a better job of exploring Nordic cuisine.

The Hairy Bikers’ Northern Exposure

Wednesday, February 24th, 2016 | Distractions

Hairy-Bikers-Northern-Exposure

The Hairy Bikers in Finland? We had to watch that, of course. We also watched the Swedish episodes for good measure.

I had never seen The Hairy Bikers before I watched it. I have mixed feelings. At first I was put off by the somewhat low-brow comments and humour they seem to display. But I have since warmed to them, and both Elina and I agreed that they did a good job of representing Finland.

The Revenant

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2016 | Distractions

The-Revenant

The Revenant is a film based on the Michael Punke’s novel of the same title. That in itself is based on the true story of someone called Hugh Glass in 1823, though exactly how much historical truth there actually is in it I am not sure. It stars Leonardo DiCaprio.

I was not aware of this when I watched the film. I did so off a recommendation, so I didn’t really know what it was about. I had seen the trailer during the screening of Star Wars: The Force Awakens but it is hardly enlightening.

The problem is that this leaves you without really knowing what is going on. There isn’t much in the way of a plot to follow. Some people get killed, some guy is injured, he doesn’t die, he somehow makes it home to take revenge on someone else. It’s not very clear.

Nor is the dialogue. The actors attempt to use authentic accents which makes it almost intelligible to Elina.

Some of it seems simply unbelievable. I can accept that you can survive being attacked by a grizzly bear. Elina questions whether you would have all your limbs in tact though. The survival after this is where it breaks down for me though. If he was too ill to stop his son being murdered, how did he then recover enough to find food? How did his leg heal so quickly? How do you spend so much time in a river running through snow-covered mountains, with no change of clothes, and not die of hypothermia?

All of that said, I did actually quite enjoy the movie.

Super Bowl 50

Sunday, February 21st, 2016 | Distractions

super-bowl-50

I was so close! In my pre-play-offs event invite to the Super Bowl party I predicted Patriots v Panthers. Denver beat New England in the AFC championship game to knock my predict off by one.

It was interesting to go into a Super Bowl with no real feelings either way. I think was leaning towards Carolina. They have really worked for it this season. However, it was nice to see Peyton Manning go out on a high (assuming he is going, my guess is that he is). In the end, Denver’s defence deserved it.

The half time show was okay. Chris Martin was really enjoying himself. I am not sure the rest of Coldplay were, possibly because they were probably miming on their instruments. Usually the light show is a big part of the half time show, but with it being in California this year, it was in the daylight. This took out a big part of it for me.

The Brilliant Batsby: A Murder Mystery Dinner Party

Tuesday, January 26th, 2016 | Distractions

nye-2015-web

For New Year’s Eve we threw a murder mystery dinner party. I’ve previously written about the event and the food I served. Today, I want to talk about the murder mystery, and make it available for anyone who is interested.

The script was based around The Brilliant Batsby, a parody on the F. Scott Fitzgerald novel The Great Gatsby. Set in the Roaring Twenties, the plot involves a dozen characters at one of Batsby’s famous parties. A time traveller, Baron von Brown, turns up with proof that Batbsy will be murdered in the future. But which of the guests did it?

Ready for commercial sale it certainly is not. A good boxed murder mystery allows you to work with any number of characters (or without any) and have a different murderer every time. In my script most of the characters are required and the murder is predetermined. All of this is in the dialogue and difficult to change.

Indeed this almost caused me to come unstuck. Originally The Baron was going to turn up with a motion picture device showing a video of Batsby’s murder. However, my original Batsby was ill and so I had to switch the characters around and switch the video to a letter. This resulted in some clumsy dialogue that doesn’t make a lot of sense. However, it is a parody, so best just to go with it.

The characters are:

  • The Brilliant Batsby, party host
  • Bellina Morgan, wealthy heiress and noted beauty
  • Inspector Watt, a police detective
  • Baron von Brown, a time traveller from the future
  • Mona Moonshine, infamous bootlegger
  • Murderous Joe, a convicted criminal
  • Chef Gusteau, a chef hired to cater the party
  • Professor Laura Craft, archeologist and raider of tombs
  • Timothy Timson, Professor Craft’s assistant
  • Dr Victor Zoidberg, an Austrian psychologist
  • Any number of additional characters

There are a series of 11 dialogues. Each one can be read between courses. However, if by some chance you do not have 11 courses, you could batch them. This makes sense as they are not very long, and sometimes left a conversation gap after they had finished.

If you are interested in having a look, I’ve shared the files: download them here.

River Cottage: Gone Fishing

Monday, January 25th, 2016 | Distractions

river-cottage-gone-fishing

River Cottage: Gone Fishing is a series of three 45-minute long episodes of Hugh sailing round trying to eat unusual fish. It follows the usual River Cottage format. There is some footage of Hugh doing something, and then cooking the bi-product of whatever he has been doing. There are no formal recipes as such, it is just him and his friends catching and cooking various fish.

In episode one they tour the Channel Islands on a boat, spending some time on Guernsey. In episode two he visits the Scottish Highlands to see some of the remote islands and fish farms in the Hebrides. Finally, in episode three, he visits local fishing around Devon and Dorset.

I am not really sure if I learnt anything. That is pretty useful with River Cottage: you come alway having been entertained and maybe an action point to see what your local fishmonger has. However, you don’t come away with “I’m going to buy a garfish and make a special kind of soup” because where would you buy a garfish? As a piece of entertainment though, it does its job well.