Monthly Archives: October 2013

Gbbo Final!

Ooh, exciting! It’s the Great British Bake Off final tonight and I can’t call it. Any of the three could win. Last year I thought it had to be Brendan as he’d been so consistently good but it went to creative young scamp John. so the judges clearly like a wild card. My favourite is Frances, I like her creativity and she’s very sweet but her creations seem to quite often enrage the judges. Maybe they taste a lot worse than they look? Much as I would like her to win, I feel it will be between Kimberley, unflappable baking trooper that she is, and wispy flappy Ruby, the judges’ favourite who has inspired rather a lot of vitriol. I can sort of understand that, the thing that makes me suspicious of her is that she’s very skinny. Nothing wring with that per se, but it does seem a little incongruous in a baker. Ok, I’m gonna call it and no doubt be wrong. It has to be Ruby. She’s been star baker 3 times, she’s pretty and young – the ideal poster girl for the next generation of bakers. Next year the show moves to BBC One so expect some m=format shake ups. Nooo!

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Groom jailed over bomb hoax

Spare a thought for this hapless groom-to-be. So terrified was he of his Bridezilla fiancee’s reaction to the news that there would be no wedding day as he had forgotten to fill in the correct paperwork that he decided the only reasonable course of action was to phone the church with a bomb threat to prevent her from finding out. He has been jailed for 12 months. His fiancee has stuck by him.

The Daily Mail hates you

Well, if you are a woman that is. The Daily Mail has been upping its nefarious activities recently: besmirching the name of a late war hero and gatecrashing a memorial for a distinguished doctor. It obviously felt that its unabashed war on common decency was progressing too slowly. This is terrible, but what concerns me on a personal level is the continuous low level rumble of misogyny that permeates its reporting and of course the sidebar. Now, I have to confess: my name is Jessica, and I am a Daily Mail addict. I kind of wish i was an alcoholic, there’s less stigma. I don’t like it, and yet I log on just to get my daily fix of outrage. I love to hate it, it just makes it so darn easy. There’s its wildly over-representative reporting of women being convicted of false rape allegations (it reports those more than it reports rape convictions) which could give someone reading with a non-critical eye the skewed impression that there is some sort of epidemic of these, when the real figures show that for something like every one false rape allegation conviction, there are 1000 rape convictions and many more incidents will go unreported. It is not only irresponsible and flawed reporting, it is downright dangerous.

But it’s not just the serious stuff eroding women’s self esteem and self perception, not to mention pandering to a certain type of man who needs the most flimsy of reasons to hate women, it’s the every day stories in the gossip column. The headlines always have the chastising tone of a scolding spinster aunt (“VERY low cut”, “VERY short”, on and on, every headline is a judgement). It is also obsessed with women whose fame is not alight at the moment but who are inexplicably featured daily, perhaps because they display near-impossible levels of beauty and un-flustered mothering (see Jessica Alba). There’s the endless bikini shots of women who make their living from having nice bodies. I can’t count how many times I’ve seen a bikini story and the top rated comment underneath is from a woman saying “oh my god *puts down biscuit*”. No, that’s what they want you to think! The eschewing of one ginger nut does not a supermodel make, pick the sodding biscuit back up for god’s sake. There’s also the endless trawl for finding new things to make women insecure about (there was once an article about sagging earlobes- I kid you not). I guarantee there will be articles about how your toes age you, or how the webbing between your fingers might need perking up, or how short nails make you look like a raggedy char woman at some point in the future. They’ve conducted a comprehensive onslaught against the big, noticeable bits of our bodies, time to get down to the minutiae.

The Wail is also curiously obsessed with French women and their tips on “effortless beauty”. The way the Wail portrays it, you would think that France is a seething cauldron of mystic Gallic nymphs poised to spirit unsuspecting British husbands across the Channel for debauched cheese eating and guffawing. Yes, the French make not brushing your hair look cool but what is the point in idolising them so? No British woman is ever going to suddenly wake up one morning and find herself smoking packs of Gauloise and slinking about with studied insouciance. What’s so superior about their attitude to beauty anyway? Oh, I think I get it, they’re slightly more skinny and smaller chested than their British counterparts. It always comes back to weight with the Wail.

I’m the millionth person to say this, but it really is a morally reprehensible paper and it should have a lot more responsibility in its reporting and attitude to women. I will stop reading its website, I promise.

GBBO

I can’t believe we’ve got to the semi-finals of Great British Bake Off (Tuesdays, BBC Two, 8pm) without me writing about how much I love it. It’s a big warm cuddle of a TV show. The Times’s new TV reviewer committed TV heresy recently by saying he didn’t like it. He’s missing the point I think. Gbbo isn’t there to be liked, it exists to make everyone feel for a one hour slice that everything is great in Britain, really.  In its world there are no austerity cuts, no recession, no unemployment, just lovely people making lovely cakes presided over by lovely Mel and Sue, with twinkly bear Paul Hollywood and stylish septuagenarian Mary Berry judging.  All very cheery, with just a little sprinkling of Carry On style innuendo which might as well be accompanied by a bit of sliding trumpet. They should so do that! Nothing says British cheek like a bit of trumpet, it would go well with the format.

Tuesday’s showstopper challenge was to create a novelty vegetable cake. As always, the contestants didn’t disappoint: there was a guitar covered in melted marshmallows; a vegetable patch with a chocolate, praline roofed shed (nice idea, looked a bit of a mess in the finish); a “hidden” carrot cake; a toadstool; and a hunk of cheese with little fondant mice scurrying through. Normally I have a very low tolerance to twee, but when it’s stuff I can eat, I’m ok with it. The judge’s had their mean hats on and were flinging about harsh criticism which seemed outlandish in the face of such iced splendour. The hunk of cheese was declared simple, the hidden carrot cake’s taste was chastised and Mary had the evil eye for the pots that surrounded it as they weren’t edible. Sue put in a brave defence of said cake in the judging room but was dispatched with Paul’s imperious “it’s a matter between me and Mary”. Ooh, host+ getting above her station and thinking she can judge. It’s not just about eating cake Sue, get with it. Oh wait, it is.

After Christine’s departure, four remain. My favourite is mad professor Frances for her offbeat, inventive creations. Kimberley’s stuff looks good, but she’s too smug to root for. Ruby’s false insecurity is wearing. She knows she’s good, she wouldn’t have applied for the show otherwise.

I’m pleased that the last four are all women, baking being a traditionally female terrain. I love how women’s creativity and skill used to go into dough if we were denied pen and paper. The world of haute cuisine is unmistakably male with its frantic, aggressive pace and competitiveness. But baking requires patience, love and attention to detail. Last year the three finalists were male and while I can’t deny their skill – nothing has yet to touch John’s gingerbread Colosseum, which had its own architectural blueprints and, let’s face it, was a fucking dough based masterpiece – it’s good to see the ladies back on top.

A small mention must also go the world’s most optimistic groom and understanding bride in this week’s episode of Don’t Tell the Bride (Tuesday, 9pm, BBC Three). The groom planned a beach wedding in Ireland, with guests having to go down 100 slippery steps to get there. Naturally, it pissed it down and all the bedraggled guests had to carry the chairs back up the steps again and hold the wedding in a marquee in a field. He spent 12 grand on that! Oh, and the best bit? Neither the beach nor the field were licensed for weddings so they weren’t actually married and would have to do it again properly at a registry office. I think that has to be the worst one ever, aside from the guy who let his bride get her hair and make up done only to take her to the swimming pool where she worked, put her in scuba gear and dunk her in the pool to wed. These brides are seriously forgiving.

Live long and prosper

The weekend’s lifestyle magazines were full of advice on how to live a long and productive life (“Live better, live longer”, Fabulous magazine; “Rise and shine: the daily routines history’s most creative minds”, Guardian Weekend magazine) Why, thank you, how timely. As you may have noted from the sudden up-surge in posts on here, I have been working hard on being productive.

Unfortunately for me, being as I am a night owl and ferociously sensitive to caffeine, a lot of the advice centred on being up early and drinking coffee. I need only to eat a coffee flavoured Revel to be up all night (I don’t though, don’t like coffee flavoured things but I do like the flavour of coffee. Contradictory? Moi?). I’ve never met anyone besides my Mum who is so sensitive to caffeine, which is sad as it apparently has many health benefits, from longer life to guarding against depression and, it would seem, facilitating genius. According to Oliver Burkeman’s article in Weekend, Balzac drank fifty cups of coffee a day. Fifty! How did he get anything done? Most of his day must have been taken up with the making and drinking of coffee ( and weeing) and he must have been one jittery mutha. Poor guy died of heart failure at 51. Tragic but perhaps not altogether unexpected.

Other advice for longevity in the Fabulous article included singing, dancing and generally making a spectacle of yourself (check, check and check, see previous post), creativity (hmm, a hopeful check), being nosy, shopping (well, ok, if you insist), being positive (nah) and getting jiggy (would if I could, Fabulous, don’t rub it in).

Burkeman’s article was a little more substantial and interesting, being as he is a reliably thought-provoking voice. His collated advice for creative productivity, inspired by new book “Daily Rituals: How Great Minds Make Time, Find Inspiration, and Get to Work: How Artists Work” by Mason Curreywas: get up early; don’t give up the day job (gah, now you tell me); take lots of walks; stick to a schedule; practise strategic substance abuse (don’t get too excited, he was mainly referring to coffee); and learn to work anywhere. The main thrust of his article seemed to be that without extreme hard work innate talents cannot elevate itself to that elusive state of “genius”.

Spare a thought for someone bearing the moniker “newthought”, a commenter on the article, who had had genius thrust upon him (according to him) and was not happy about it.

“W see on this page the usual assumption (by non-geniuses) that becoming a genius is something they would find positive Speaking as someone who has been fated to be a genius (and it’s nothing to do with hard work and everything to do with innate talent which inspires the hard work anyway), in reality it almost always brings nothing but problems, the endless distraction and demands of one’s ideas, and the narrowminded negativity that everything at all original encounters from the rest of the would-be human race. You only have to look at some of the biographies even of “SUCCESSFUL” (recognised) geniuses (let alone the many that were just laughed to death) to see some of the evidence of this. {sic}”

Poor “newthought” – fated to a life of reluctant genius and yet unable to spell “we”. There but for the grace of God and all that.

Party hardy makes sense tardy

This post first appeared on Facebook and someone kindly said it made them chuckle (ah, chuckling the non-committal cousin of laughter- still, I’ll take it) so I thought I would re-post it here with up-to-date additions. Some antics I have got up to since being unemployed, under the influence of a few sherberts:

– Repeatedly stuck straws into the dense beard of a man I’d only just met. Try it, surprisingly fun. This was not apropos of nothing by the way, but the logic is too wobbly to explain in detail.

– Kicked the sweet out of a pinata. This, I believe, is not the traditional Mexican way.

– Text and left a voicemail for a mate late on a Friday night. He rings back, thinking it’s something important, only to be told that Norbit is the funniest film ever made and he must watch it.

– Hijacked someone’s photo on FB of them proudly holding a baby shark they’d caught with my inane ramblings about my mistrust of all sea creatures except turtles. I stand by that -sharks: wankers. Octopuses: creepy wankers. Jellyfish: translucent wankers. Dolphins: sycophantic, bottle-nosed wankers. But perhaps that was not the appropriate forum.

– Fallen off, over and through numerous things.

– Insisted my mate get on my shoulders during Alt-J at Latitude only to find that I had massively, massively over-estimated my own strength. I’m tall but  weak.

– Did face paint for a couple of randoms at that same festival. One poor man asked for the Kraftwerk Autobahn logo. What he got instead was fancy eyebrows a la 70s Elton John. Painted an aztec skull on a friend of a friend only to become freaked out by my own artwork later and unable to look at her.

– Indulged in a lot of…. “interpretive dancing”, on tables, work surfaces and the like.

– Split a nice dress with my bum when I laughed too hard.

– Tried to cure hiccups by drinking backwards from a Magners bottle. It didn’t really work.

– Partied with a ridiculously hot, hilarious Brazilian gay guy who liked to shake his booty and hump everything. The mattress topper he slept on was duly de-flowered. I got my own back though by drawing on his face in lipstick.

– Stole a hat. Literally stole the hat off a man’s head. It was my birthday, in my defense. We’d been chatting and I asked to try on his hat as I have a thing about them, declared it suited me better and brazenly asked if I could keep it, expecting to be told to piss off, but to my surprise he said ok. I was so pleased with my pilfered booty that night, only the next day did it occur to me that it is, quite obviously, a man’s flat cap, too big for me and I will never wear it. It languishes, unloved, in my flat and I feel bad every time I see it.

– Rolled a joint on the belly of an Axl Rose-a-like who had shot himself across the laps of myself and a friend at a house party and lay there writhing and topless, refusing to move. Generally being half funny, half nuisance as all the best partiers are.

– Played a game of “headbutt the medicine ball” in my living room. Chucked it at my friends head only for him to nut it straight into my TV which wobbled terrifyingly. Perhaps foreseeably, that game was quickly shelved.

I could go on. I wish I could say that I was ashamed of these frankly ludicrous goings on but I am a deeply silly individual and still think they’re funny.

Eminem’s back!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ab9176Srb5Y

Yay, happy Monday, Eminem’s back with a new Rick Rubin produced, Beastie boys style single! He may be 40, but he still knows his way around a tune. Like the video too.

Peaky Blinders

This show (Thursdays, 9pm, BBC2) started out with a very promising premise: a place and time in history previously un-trawled in drama, ie post First World War Birmingham, based on a real gang and events, with a cool soundtrack and stylised camerawork. However, for some reason, it just doesn’t seem to be quite working. I think it’s the kaleidoscope of bad accents on display. Is anyone in it actually from Birmingham? The problem with wavering accents is that it doesn’t allow you to suspend your disbelief. Helen McCrory is a fine actress but even she’s struggling, the actress playing Ada slipped into posh southern RP as soon as there was a scene requiring some emotion and even the Irish barmaid is not really Irish! I really want to like this show more than I actually do. Nonetheless, I will continue watching it religiously for the presence of luminous man-beauty Cillian Murphy. I don’t even really follow the plot, I just sit there thinking, “he’s so beautiful it makes my heart hurt.” Naturally, his accent is flawless. He’s a terrific actor, very under-rated I think, but that’s just because I want more chances to gape at his face with its cheekbones chiseled from another world and cool, light blue eyes, brighter than Stephen Hawking.