Thursday, 22 June 2006


A fly got into the microwave with my cup of soup. Time for a rant...

I really hate cooking. Any food should not, I think, take longer to prepare than it takes to eat. A wise man once said, “Cooking is a science, not an Art.” (In other words, if the cook gets a recipe correct once, s/he ought to be able to get it right every time.) Forget about pretentious presentations of dinners or suppers. Just put something that looks and smells (not the offensive stink of curry, please) reasonably edible on a plate. Eat only when you’re hungry and the appearance of food becomes irrelevant. Pasta is the exception, in that it appears to be a foodstuff but isn’t. (It’s just wallpaper glue.) How did the media fall into the evil-death-trap of worshipping cooks? Why is daytime TV plagued with typically obnoxious ‘characters’ telling us how to serve ‘dishes’?

Everybody’s heard of Fanny Craddock. Delia Smith made her fortune with bestseller cookbooks. Neither was glamorous or had soulless telly shows. Now, though, we have the supposedly divine Nigella Lawson. TV chefs are the worst, however… There’s the gormlessly camp Ainsley Harriott, the drunken trendy Keith Floyd (deservedly lampooned by impressionist Rory Bremner), old crusty Rick Stein, and the loathsome Gordon (“women can’t cook”) Ramsey, who seems to believe he’s like Steven Seagal’s Casey Ryback in the kitchen. The latest gimmicky brigade of kitchen boys (Jamie Oliver, Gary Rhodes, etc) seem intent on proving that celebrity chefs don’t actually need anything resembling a genuine personality for TV success. Writer and novelist Steve Aylett is known for, among other things, delivering the mighty wallop of satire to famous chefs.

Why waste hours chopping, dicing, boiling and roasting? Ping! That’s my five-minute wait for a chicken snack...

Thursday, 15 June 2006

Region freedom?

Just grappling with tech jargon and mind-boggling complexity of DVD drive firmware on my (new-ish) PC. Found an online review of the player/burner saying it's hackable, and can be made DVD region-free, but - argh! - why do we still have to put up with idiotic and quite arbitrary region codes, anyway?

Now a techie points me in the right direction for downloading utilities needed to change first the drive itself, and the DVD software, then also fool WinXP so the system won't complain. Yet another learning curve looms ahead...

Another techie suggests a driver-level application, called 'Any DVD' (download from that looks worth trying out! This enables playing of any region DVD, but without having to change drive settings, risk damage to burner's warranty, or mess about with XP.

Sunday, 11 June 2006

Empire adjuster

The Man Who Saved Britain by Simon Winder (Picador) is principally concerned with the world’s most famous secret agent, James Bond. It follows the author’s own ‘journeys’ through the glamorous and exciting world of 007, in Ian Fleming’s novels and the early films starring Sean Connery (knighted in 2000, and recently a recipient of the American Film Institute’s lifetime achievement award).

Winder freely admits this book is hardly a proper or fulsome social history about how a mere fictional hero salvaged the national pride of postwar Britain, but it does offer some insight into how the suave adventurer attained iconic status with the production and release of Terence Young’s Dr No (1962). Though often perceived as terribly decadent and frightfully dated nowadays, the potent Bond formula (the ultimate cinematic guilty pleasure?) remains one of the most successful movie franchises, despite all critical propaganda to the contrary. The films have generated a legacy of effortless sex and gritty or comical violence unequalled by any of the US secret agent movie series.

Even as casting producers scurry around, hoping to find a full-time replacement (Daniel Craig will star in Martin Campbell’s remake of Casino Royale) for departing actor Pierce Brosnan (who quit after the disappointing Die Another Day), this book is a canny reminder of 007’s enduring sub-cultural appeal.

Sunday, 4 June 2006

Summertime blues

Yesterday was rough. It felt like the first heat-ray blast of summer, when I opened the front door to collect parcel post, and then I spent the next six hours in sneezing fits with a severe bout of the dreaded hayfever. Hard to concentrate when I can’t even think straight. Just updating a couple of web pages on two sites took most of the afternoon. By teatime, I was knackered. Slept off the worst. Back on regular meds for the duration...

Handling domestic money matters on the Internet seems likely to be a growth industry of the next decade. I recently signed up for online banking (mainly to pay utility bills and keep a weekly check on my current account’s balance), but I continue to save time on shopping for essentials by ordering groceries from two home-delivery supermarkets (my checkout record is four and a half minutes for a full virtual trolley), and search engines have found numerous bargains for me, over the last few years, without any High Street store hassles. Of course, there’s a downside to all this. Despite my best efforts to curb spending on ‘demon discs’ I’m still buying far too many DVD boxsets and collectibles per month, tempted by budget prices and loyalty e-coupons.