Archive for the ‘Nice links’ Category

Give us this day our Daily Show

Sunday, November 2nd, 2008

Huzzah! The Daily Show is now free to view on Channel 4’s website. Click on this here link to get there, and tell them I sent you.

Actually, it’s been on 4OD for a while, but it cost £1 a show last time I checked. However, now we are all free to catch up on any episodes missed, and just in time for the election. Winner.

If you’ve never seen it before, shame on you, shame. Every episode manages to make me laugh out loud more than once, which is quite exceptional if you consider how quickly they must have to put it together. And how miserable a git I am.

To give you some background, The Daily Show (or The Daily Show with Jon Stewart as it is officially called) has been running for years in the States, 4 days a week, and is shown here in Blightly on More4 the day after it’s aired in America. It’s technically a “fake” news show, although it has been said that people who watch it tend to be more aware of what is going on in the world than those who watch real American news stations. Most of the content is about politics, although at the moment that’s not very surprising. It’s also not exactly impartial, clearly favouring Obama over McCain, but who can blame them really.

Recent political guests include Obama himself last week (see the show from 30 October from my link above), Bill Clinton, and also Tony Blair about a month ago. But don’t let the politics put you off: recent film stars to appear, just from the past month or so, include Robert De Niro, Clint Eastwood, and Steven Martin.

Ultimately it is just highly entertaining, and if you are reading this then you clearly have 22 minutes to waste online. Go! Watch! Now!

Tea for one, and one for tea

Monday, August 11th, 2008

I haven’t got round to writing anything in a while, but I’m back now. I’ve not really been away anywhere, it’s just that life got in the way briefly. Sorry faithful reader (and there is one of you). I won’t let it happen again. To make up for this I’m going to try and post something every night this week. I’m also going to try and use my exercise bike every night this week. Bets are on which will last longer…

Anyhoo, today I’ll tell you about one of my new favourite places, where I’ve been spending my time instead of sitting in front of my computer writing this nonsense.

Ladies and Gentle Ben, I give you Tchai Ovna, a pair of tea shops in Glasgow, although I’ve only been to the one in the West End. They serve over 80 types of tea from around the world (without even making the “Around the World in 80 Teas” joke) and have a fantastically detailed menu that describes not just the flavour, but the history and sometimes the effect, contained within the brew. For example,

It’s a really relaxed atmosphere - the first time I was there they had live citar music. Awesome. The West End branch has a lovely wooden porch out front where people smoke shisha pipes (whatever they are). Look at the website for more…

And they know what they’re doing as well. It’s not just a case of stick in some boiling water - different teas need different receptacles, temperatures, and infusing times.

I bought some as a gift for a friend and the waitress gave me some verbal instruction on how each should be prepared; for example the white tea should be made using water at 70 degrees centigrade. To get the water at this temperature, Tchai Ovna’s method is to boil it, then pour it between 2 Perspex jugs 4 times. That’s science kids.

Now I’m fussy about my tea. Very fussy. And it’s my life-blood. There is no other foodstuff that I would find as difficult to give up; this includes chocolate, meat, alcohol, and cheese (in that order, from easiest to give up to hardest). It’s not just the caffeine (although it is largely to do with it…), there’s a comfort factor about tea that I don’t get from anything else.

However, I’d rather drink instant coffee than suffer a cup of tea bag Typhoo, or overly-stewed Tetley. I use loose leaf tea, both at home and at work; in the former I use a pot and no strainer - I grew up with the leaves at the bottom of my cup. At work I have a wee, screw-top tub thing, with grills round the side that you can use to make single cups (or in my case pint mugs) of leaf tea - I guess you would call it a re-useable teabag if you wanted to address by name. I even have 3 types of leaf in my desk, Assam, Earl Gray, and Lapsang Souchong, which I mix according to my mood.

I’ve got to say at this point that while I’m really fussy about how I have my tea, I’m not snobbish or judgmental about how other people like their cuppa.

That said, I’m rather put off by being offered a “cuppa”, or a “brew”, which is about as snobbish as you get.

As I said earlier, for me, tea is about comfort and familiarity. It’s associated with childhood, home, safety, The Mother’s kitchen table. And therefore I usually try to make my cups of tea similar to what I drank as a kid. It’s a comfort factor. However, after I started sharing flats with folk who grew up in er… not in an Enid Blyton novel, I soon realised that some people preferred a tea bag dunked in hot water a few times to carefully measured, loose leaf tea, slowly infused, lovingly prepared, and poured after the milk.

I could write about this for evermore, but bloomin’ George Orwell beat me too it. Git.

Visit this site to see what he said. I’ll take his point one at a time, but you may want to skip to the end:

  1. Different teas for different purposes says I. See the Tchai Ovna website for more. But I guess the available teas were a bit different in 1946. Apparently there’d been a minor skirmish over the past few years.
  2. It depends what he means by small quantities. I do drink it by the pint, but it’s always a fresh pint…
  3. Almost certainly true, but I never usually bother. I blame my Mum, who never did this either.
  4. Indeed. This is one reason why I like having a pot - I can keep adding to the pot in front of my, so the tea in the cup gets stronger and stronger.
  5. Yup.
  6. Aye min. Apart from the bit about putting flames beneath the kettle (if it’s electric)
  7. Hmm… I don’t generally stir, but once again, The Mother never did this so I don’t.
  8. Does he mean a mug over a wee cup? Not sure, but my pint mugs are normal mug shaped, just bigger.
  9. “Pour the cream off the milk”? What? Get in the now Orwell!  Actually, that said, I would always use semi-skimmed as whole milk does what yer man there says and makes the tea taste funny.
  10. This is tricky. With a pot I go milk first as, given what i said above, you can always add more tea to taste. However, I genuinely notice a difference when the milk is poured onto the tea. I once heard that the Royal Family take the piss (extract one’s urine) from us commoners who add the milk first. But hey - I didn’t vote for them either…
  11. Absolutely Georgie-boy, couldn’t agree more. Once again, I’d rather go without tea than drink it with sugar (for the record, I usually put sugar in coffee…)

Aaaaaanyway, the point I am eventually going to get to is that it is indeed an individual preference. Much like most things in life in fact. It’s about what you grew up with, what is familiar, and what seems natural to you. It’s about what you want to get out of it; be that a caffeine fix, a hot drink, the tranquility of the ritual of making tea, or the feeling that you’re better than everyone else because you do things in a fancy way (I’m guilty of all the above of course, but I’ll only admit to the first 3).

Ultimately, my views on tea are the same as my views on religion - I’m probably not right, but I’m certainly more right than you are.

The week of The Bob

Monday, July 28th, 2008

Right, just time for a quick update:
Film of the week/month: Not a difficult choice - The Dark Knight.

There’s really very little I can say that hasn’t already been said by some fanboy on the Internet somewhere, so I’ll keep it simple. It is really good. My only perhaps slightly controversial comment would be that while Heath Ledger is outstanding as the Joker, it seemed more like an ensemble piece to me. Christian Bale manages to be a convincing Batman and Bruce Wayne, which is something that none of his predecessors ever managed for me. Michael Caine could have been a terrible choice as Alfred, but I just think he’s marvellous in this (as he was in Batman Begins). Maggie Gyllenhaal manages to be Not Katie Holmes, which is a good start, and is neither pathetic nor the plunky comic-book girlfriend that sometimes appears in these films. Morgan Freeman is just Morgan Freeman, and that is always spot on; Gary Oldman always pretends that he’s not Gary Oldman (I never seem to recognize him…) and that’s even better.

But it was Aaron Eckhart who for me who was outstanding, or perhaps I should say surprisingly outstanding. His character of Harvey Dent could have been nauseatingly All-American and entirely one-dimensional (Justice is good, let’s all be nice to each other, look at my shiny white teeth) as an obvious counterpoint to The Bat’s good-guy-with-issues routine. Having a quick peek at IMDB shows me that Mr Eckhart hasn’t had a glittering career up to this point, but I’m willing to bet that he might have a few more parts heading his way soon after that performance.

Hopefully I’ll see it at the IMAX sometime soon - apparently it’s so good people were actually gasping at certain points (and how often do you actually hear a crowd gasp?)

Place of the week: Edinburgh Botanic Gardens. I lived in Edinburgh for 9 years and never made it to the Botanics, but spent an enjoyable afternoon there yesterday. The great weather helped of course.

DVD release of the week: Spaced has finally been released in the States on DVD. If you know any Americans who you think would enjoy such comedy gold, why not send them a copy. Or at least a link to an appropriate online shop. Apparently, commentary includes contributions from such people as Kevin Smith and Quentin Tarantino. Weird world.

Personal victory of the week: Getting quoted on Radio 4. I shit you not. Check out Sunday’s Broadcast House about 20 minutes in. The bit with John Culshaw; when they read out the entry from Bob, Glasgow - that was me!

Okay, there are probably lots of Bobs in Glasgow, so I can’t actually prove this is me. But if you go to the BBC News website’s Magazine and then go to the Monitor pages (here’s a link in fact) you’ll see that actually the comment was left by The Bob, Glasgow. Huzzah!

Calling all Joss Whedon fans…

Wednesday, July 16th, 2008

You must all watch this now (click on the banner):

Mr Whedon, I salute you! I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s instalment already…