Posts from 11th January 2005

11
Jan 05

Einstein Year — The Celebration Continues.

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Einstein Year — The Celebration Continues.

Nature has prepared an feature on four young theorists as a tie-in to the Einstein Year hoopla (no subscription required to read the article). Each featured scientist is under 35.

All of these researchers have an eye on getting experimental tests for their ideas within the next ten years or so. This is particularly significant in the case of those involved with string theory, which has been around for twenty-five years but has yet to be confirmed experimentally. The rewards are great (unified theory of everything) but entire careers have gone by without any verification of the theory, or even the proposal of an experiment that could verify it (until now).

In praise of ‘anarchy soup’

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In praise of ‘anarchy soup’ — not something I think I’ve spoken of before, though probably I have. The point is, however, anyone can do it — good friend Stripey came up with both recipe and concept, and really the concept is more than the recipe. It’s arguably a spin on the idea of ‘stone soup,’ ie throwing everything in and seeing what works, but there’s a slight method to the madness that’s crucial.

Basically, you have to be a confident, inspired and willing-to-take-chances cook — note I don’t say you have to be a spectacular cook! Just that more chances you take, the better, a bit like the various tomato sauces I was trying last summer. Stripey’s approach is simple at heart — the base is always tomatoes and tomato broth, homemade or not, but beyond that, whatever vegetables, spices and so forth come to mind, thus the ‘anarchy’ part, for she first tried it, she just decided to grab what was to hand. Prepare different things at different seasons, go lighter or heavier depending on your mood and that of the weather (about which more in a bit), just see what works but don’t simply just dump everything in, actually engage with the soup, taste it, try it out.

This past Saturday there was a small dinner party at Stripey’s place and the recipe this time included chopped peppers, sauteed onions, chicken broth to add heartiness. Outside there was rain and more rain in huge amounts, but inside, along with good warm bread and a fine salad, the soup couldn’t have been better. I mentioned this meal to a friend in LA and a couple of days later she reported:

so when i read this yesterday(im just gonna tell the truth)…it sounded so good that i decided to make my own batch of tomato vegetable soup…mmmmm…it was delish…the pot was gone by the end of the night (and the kids dont usually like veggie soup)…must have been the rain that made it such a perfect meal…

And thus anarchy soup shares the love. Best darn soup concept ever.

What is this I see before me?

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What is this I see before me? — the nature of music and its availability being what it is, I really don’t ask for music as Christmas gifts anymore, though this time around I did ask for one specific thing, Black Sabbath’s Black Box. And ridiculously great it is, but it was perhaps even more enjoyable an experience on Sunday when the rain was pouring down like buckets.

Now keep in mind I’m in Southern California, where the rain normally does not pour down at all much — this is the rainiest weather we’ve had since 1998, and being in what was essentially a nine-day storm was a rare feeling for me and all of us. Personally I loved every minute of it aside from going to work in the rain each morning, but on a Sunday where I had nothing to do, relaxing from a fine dinner party the next before, I idly thought I’d listen to the whole box set on and off throughout the day.

Arguably Black Sabbath is designed for rain, considering that its first album and first song on that album, “Black Sabbath” itself, starts with, in fact, rain, plus thunder and lightning (there was none of that outside, more’s the pity). So hearing the sound shift from a steady rain outside to a steady rain inside was a nice little audio indulgence, but indulgence defines the box as a whole. It’s a very tactile experience, designed perhaps to be even more so in a world of digital music — the box looks darkly beautiful, the choice to make/keep all photographs in the accompanying book black-and-white gives them a weirdly timeless feel, the book itself has a black crushed velvet binding. And, unsurprisingly, the music really sounds great, songs like “Symptom of the Universe” (probably still my actual fave song by the original lineup) just killing.

The idea of spending time on a darkened rainy Sunday listening to the complete works of the original Black Sabbath is sorta weirdly funny, though, in that thirty-five years ago the phrase ‘listening to the Black Sabbath remastered CD box set’ would have meant nothing. Given where we are today, who knows what phrase thirty-five years from now would mean nothing to the iPod generation?

There is a moment in Vera Drake

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There is a moment in Vera Drake (it is in the trailer too so you don’t actually have to go and see the film) when the police turn up and ask to see Vera. Previously the family have been having a party, and the police intrude. Imelda Staunton acts without moving a muscle, the mood changes from jolity/shock to abject realisation. It is a amazing piece of craft which is almost guaranteed to win her an Oscar*.

Apart from that (and her), Mike Leigh’s film is most notable for its loving recreation of a dark, dank 1950’s London, which i recognise from faded photos from my parents. It is, for all its emotive issue, a remarkably balanced piece. Leigh I think has finally worked out that sometime just telling the story is the best way of engaging his audience.

*Unless of course Cate Blanchett wins for her impersonation of Katherine Hepburn, who the duffers in the academy might mistake for the real thing, who they loved giving Oscars to after all.

Day 1: London Town AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 LOUSY TUNES

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Day 1: London Town
AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 LOUSY TUNES

Without further ado, I hotfooted it (note, I did not hotstep – I save that for terrorising Ini Kamoze) back to my London pad. As I burst through the door I caught my valet Crispian De Savary doing the washing up with his tongue again.

“Drop that Crispian, we have work to do.”
“Work?” He said, unaware of the concept, much as he was unaware of the concept hate in I Hate Films during its short lived tenure under his editorship.
“Yes, we are to travel around the world via the medium of crap songs in less than eighty days.”
“What, like in that Steve Coogan and Jackie Chan movie that despite wonderfully low expectations, still managed to disappoint.”
“I have told you Crispian, I Hate Films was a cheap rip-off and a flop and it will never get resurrected. Now get my stuff and meet me in the hallway in one hour. I shall be saying goodbye to the booze.”
“Shall I pack a hip flask?”
“Two, plus a couple of thigh flasks, and elbow measure and a neck brace full of Tanquary please. Oh and my I-Pissed.”
The I-Pissed was my most recent acquisition, a wonderful device made by the Apple corporation which would help dispense any known cocktail whilst on the move. Based I believe on some horrid white music player known as the I-Pod, but a much more civilised refinement.
An hour later we reconvened in the hallway to start our epic adventure. My manservant, myself resplendent in my finest silks and a wheelbarrow full of gin. How could I leave any of my babies behind.
“To the station,” I said. And we went. Via the station bar and a celebratory champagne cocktail.

Bucks Fizz: London Town
A Bucks Fizz is a lousy cocktail, being considerably less strong than champagne itself. The health giving aspects of orange juice (not the band I hasten to add) had always put me off. But a more apposite name for the band could not be found. Not only were the member perma-tanned an unhealthy shade of orange, but the tunes were a empty and unsatisfying as a champagne bubble.

London Town, a minor hit by ver Fizz, had a video shot in an erstatz “London Town” tube station. Pray where would you be getting the Underground too if there was a station called London Town? (Crispian tells me that Basil Rathbone Sherlock Holmes movies often had “London” train stations too. Apropos of nothing. I shall dock him pay.)

What was remarkable about Bucks Fizz was how long they lasted for a band based on the least risque stripping ever. That there has been a feud about who owns the name staggers me. Having two rival bands calling themselves Bucks Fizz is a bit like a serial killer changing his name to Charles Bronson to try and seem harder. Ie, fucking stupid and exceedingly unpleasant.

REASONS WHY PEOPLE HATE BENJY’S

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REASONS WHY PEOPLE HATE BENJY’S

Would you buy a sandwich from this dog?

“I think that is quite enough salt to soak up the red wine.”…

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“I think that is quite enough salt to soak up the red wine.”
“Well you’ve only got yourself to blame, pisshead.”
“It doesn’t work if you never empty the hoover bag.”

All phrases we may soon be hearing around the house if the Intelligent Carpet becomes a commercial reality. The extensions to this basic concept are most exciting though. Imagine a carpet whose individual tufts could move you around as if you were crowd surfing. A carpet that could massage your feet. A carpet that could clean itself.

But this may lead to a carpet which wants a bit of space and a room of its own. It would eventually packs its carpet bag and leave home to go to University. At University said carpet would be a bit of hellraiser, constantly having nights out on (and with) the (carpet) tiles. Managing to graduate with a foundation degree, your old carpet would get a job in industry, starting at the ground floor of course. Though the world of work is difficult for intelligent carpets, as there seems to be a glass ceiling (which naturally gets all the good jobs). Life is not easy for intelligent carpets after all…

That Subway Smell.

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That Subway Smell. The legend has it that the smell of freshly brewed coffee or baking bread can add thousands to your property price, and make the place more attractive to potential buyers. An extension to this surely is The Subway Smell, assaulting our noses up and down the UK. As the Subway franchises clutter up our high streets (franchise of the year 2004 fact fans), so does THAT smell. You know the smell. Doughy, but with hints of herbs; O-Reg-Ano probably.

Problem is the dough smells only half baked, and is clearly being pumped mercilessly out of the shop by wind turbines resembling jet engines. The idea is to suck me in to get one of their stupidly falling apart meatball sandwiches*. However the gusting of overly seasoned, sickly sweet hot air blows me away from the place, leaving me to rate Subway just slightly higher than Benjy’s as a lunchtime option.

All this is of course theoretical as
a) I don’t eat lunch
b) I run a sandwich shop and a bar where I could get a free lunch if I did.

*Balls do not go in a sandwich. They roll out. Indeed as much as the American sandwich is a thing of beauty and a joy forever in principle, you must be able to PUT A SANDWICH IN YOUR MOUTH to eat it. Unless you are Scooby Doo.