Tuesday, January 31, 2006
The Tuesday Twat(s)No. 50. TV Chefs
OK, so just how many fucking cookery programmes do we need on TV? Seriously, the damn things make Reality TV shows and Home "Improvement" shows seem like a rare and precious treat.
A quick look at my waistline will provide ample evidence that I have nothing against food in general, particularly as a consumer, and I realise that we all have to learn to cook somewhere - but christ on a crutch, just how many hours of programming a week do we need dedicated to the subject? And just when did these chefs become celebrities in their own right? And equally important, just why are they all such pricks? Be honest, who here would really like to spend an hour in the company of Jamie Oliver, Anthony Worral-Thompson, Delia Smith or Gary Rhodes? And don't get me started on Ainsley Fucking Harriot. Twenty minutes locked in a room with him and a whisk and I promise you only one of us would ever be able to sit down again and the whisk would be lost forever.
Now maybe it's the scientist in me, but why do we need all of the crap that surrounds these programmes? All I want to do is be given a recipe, a few insider tips (like sticking drained potatoes back in the hot pan when mashing them to make them more fluffy) and left to get on with it. However, so desperate are the programme makers to make something original and interesting that they go to extraordinary lengths to make what is basically a Home Ed lesson interesting. Newsflash! it ain't going to be! The current new kids on the block are apparently the "Hairy Bikers", with their own eponymous show. They are cooks who are - wait for it, you'll never guess this I swear! - Hairy Bikers!
The most recent example (and the one which caused me to put back the planned Twat post for this week until a later date) occured on Saturday morning. I was waiting for my parents to arrive (more about that in a later post on the joys of Ikea) and channel hopping. I stumbled across what appeared to be a documentary on ancient Egyption mummies. That might be interesting I thought (more interesting than Pokemon or whatever bollocks was showing on the other side anyways). After a few moments, I got up and turned my back to boil the kettle. I look back... Keith Fucking Floyd showing us how to make Egyptian Baclava. Bloody Hell Fire! (Piece of piss by the way, from what I could tell). Is no where safe from sodding cookery programmes?
The most interesting thing though, is that despite presumably high ratings - otherwise, why make so many variants - it seems unlikely that professionals in the catering industry watch them. I know quite a few chefs, ranging from a mate who does pub lunches down my local, to an uncle who knows his way around some of the most famous kitchens in London's West End. Not one of them have ever watched any of these TV shows. Indeed, my uncle once described Delia Smith as "shite".
And so I duly award TV Chefs the 50th Tuesday Twat Award. But they'll have to share it as there isn't enough cheap plastic in the world to make one for each of them.
Labels: The Tuesday Twat(s)
Tuesday, January 24, 2006
The Tuesday Twat(s)No. 49. The intentionally ignorant.
There are people in this world who make themselves dumb deliberately. Seriously.
Now first of all, a confession. I am a news hound. I have to watch or read the news at least daily, and a trawl of my search history will reveal that my homepage is BBC News (and that I usually read at least something from the site everytime I open my browser) and that the last thing I do before shutting the computer down is check the website again. Since getting digital TV, it is also quite likely that BBC News 24 or SKY News (more rarely - I have standards) is playing in the background when I am doing other things. When I visit friends for the weekend, I have been known to sneakily switch the TV over to the news just to grab the headlines when everyone else has vacated the living room to use the bathroom or get breakfast (we still tend to do the student sleeping 5 on the living room floor thing). I have an RSS news feeder ticking away discretely on my desktop when I am working.
So for that reason, I am perhaps a little less tolerant of those who wish to wrap themselves in cotton wool, stick their fingers in their ears and sing La La La loudly, whenever anything regarding current affairs is mentioned.
The most blatant example is, I'm sorry to say, related to me. A few years ago, you may have heard something about a little known doctor by the name of Harold Shipman. Yeah, you remember, the GP (family physician) from Hyde in Greater Manchester who is known to have killed 150 or so of his elderly patients and is suspected of killing anything up to 500. That guy.
Well it was the week of his trial. Pretty much every newspaper in the country had his photograph on the front cover and most devoted several pages to reporting every salacious detail they could get their hands on. The first 10 minutes of every news bulletin was dedicated to him. Just sitting on the bus, you could hear people discussing it. That weekend, after the guilty verdict, I was attending a family wedding. Waiting for a lift to the reception, I found myself with my 23 year old cousin. To say that we have nothing in common would be an understatement. We only saw each other rarely as kids, and generally tolerated each other. There is no animosity - it's just that only thing we have in common is a pretty small percentage of our DNA. I'm casting about for a conversational gambit and coming up dry. I then remember a rather off colour joke told about Dr Shipman at another wedding the week before (not to go into detail, it was simply told by the father of the bride, involved his mother-in-law and the necessary forms to change GP... make your own punchline). She looked at me blankly.
"Who's Harold Shipman?"
"Umm. The doctor that we wouldn't send Nana to to get her bunions removed?"
She looked even more mystified.
"its in the papers and on the news. He has just been found guilty of murdering hundreds of his elderly patients"
"Ohh. I never read the news it's boring". Followed by a giggle.
I'm told that I looked as if she'd just informed me that David Icke was right and that the Queen really is a 12 foot high alien lizard in disguise.
So what brought this to mind?
One of my new colleagues at the sport centre. We shall call her Anna. She follows the same philosphy as my cousin (but at 35 years old really ought to have outgrown it). When she has to pull a late shift with me, she has 2 sources of reading matter to keep her occupied. An amateur romantic fiction website (I kid you not) and Mills and Boon novels. Yes she is single. Yes she still lives with Mum and Dad.
Normally, when I come in to work, as the only non-driver using public transport, I am promptly mugged for my copy of the free Metro newspaper. Not Anna. When I offered her the newspaper one evening, she turned her nose up and said that "I don't read the news". Amazingly, when I left the paper on the side, she picked it up and didn't even look at the lurid headlines, before binning it. I watched her eyes. Nothing. Try that sometime - I defy anyone who can read to pick up a newspaper and not at least glance at the frontpage as they move it. I swear it is an inbuilt reflex.
Later that evening, the TV (tuned to BBC1 for Neighbours - sigh...) moved on to the 6 oclock news. Before the headlines had started to roll, it was promptly switched over to some american soap opera
"I don't like the news". She's duty manager, I can't exactly argue over the TV channel.
Naturally, I tend to forget this and so when we sit gossiping in the evening (she's a very nice woman - don't get me wrong, and pleasant enough to work with) I might start a conversation with "did you see on the news last night..." to which the reply is "I don't watch the news".
When I chat with other people about what is happening in the world, she either walks away or I keep on having to explain basic common knowledge to her. Like who the leader of the Conservative Party is (she didn't know who the former leader was either) and forget about discussing Charles Kennedy's resignation for a drink problem (leader of the liberal democrats, the UK's third largest political party). I try not to be patronising, but it's really hard.
But anyway. I award a Twat award to these people, because they are lazy. Never in all of human history has it been so easy to know what is going on in the world. To not at least glance at a (free!) newspaper or catch the headlines before turning over is shocking. Celebrity Big Brother does not constitute "Current Affairs". And we let these people vote. Thank god they don't!
Labels: The Tuesday Twat(s)
Monday, January 23, 2006
If visitors could just keep the noise down...... Sanescientist is feeling a little delicate.
Last night's party was a success. At one point, I managed to squeeze 12 guests into my little living room cum kitchen. I had actually only received one reply to the email I sent out last week, so I did find myself wondering if it would be two of us watching DVDs. In the end, all bar one individual turned up and I was glad that most of my friends are quite small! I even had a surprise guest! An former exchange student from Turkey has just accepted a postdoc in my old lab. Since my university email has finally been cut off, I didn't know about her arrival - a very pleasant surprise indeed!
My homemade pizza was as popular as ever - as one friend put it, I'm a one trick pony when it comes to cooking - but its a pretty good trick. However, slightly embarrassingly my first guests arrived and commented on the lovely smell
"its the pizza bases, I'm just baking them off to kill the yeast. They've got garlic in them".
"No, its a more tangy and fruity smell. It smells delicious".
"err that's the citrus burst shake n vac I used when I vaccumed that flat earlier".
All in all, much wine was drunk and lots of food eaten. My music collection was thoroughly dissected and the piss duly taken. I still had 8 guests present after midnight, which is pretty successful. The last guest wobbled off home at 6am, having decided that since he'd missed the last bus home, he may as well continue dinking wine until the first bus home.
I awoke mid-afternoon on top of the bed, trousers half down (I couldn't undo the laces on my shoes so gave up getting undressed half-way through), with a pounding head and blackened tongue and lips mute testimony to the volume of red wine drunk.
I think I'll clean up tomorrow...
Wednesday, January 18, 2006
The Tuesday Twat(s)No. 48. Dr Hwang Woo-suk.
This week's Twat post will be a humourless rant. I make no apologies, as I can find scant humour in what this man has done.
Twat is probably the mildest name I can think of to describe him.
What the fuck was he playing at?
The damage that this man has done to one of the most promising fields of medical research is potentially devastating.
At present he is faced with possible criminal charges for fraud in his native South Korea. Good. The South Koreans are understandably embarrassed about what he has done, and there is the small matter of his being awarded national medals and $5m per year funding on the back of his "discoveries". However that is only the tip of what he has done.
It is fortunate that his lies were discovered so early, for as time goes on the consequences of his actions would magnify.
When he made his announcement about the cloning of human embryonic stem cells, researchers around the world sat up and raced to download his (since discredited) seminal paper from Science. In Newcastle another group were no doubt deeply disappointed that he beat them to the prize by a mere 24 hours.
When anyone describes a new technique to perform an experiment, one of the first thing that happens is that their peers rush to try and learn the technique themselves. How many valuable human eggs and working hours have been wasted by researchers trying to replicate his fraudulent work?
Furthermore, when a scientist applies for funding for a project, one of the most important components of a grant proposal is a citation of the relevant literature, to demonstrate its feasibility. How much money has been awarded, in part because Dr Hwang had apparently validated the researcher's plan? Hopefully, the relatively short time between the papers' publication and doubts being raised about their veracity, (about 20 months) have kept that to a minimum. Nevertheless, I am certain that around the globe, there were scientists, at all levels who experienced a sickening feeling in the pit of their stomach when they heard the news.
And what of the wider implications? Stem cell research, particularly in conservative religious countries like the US, has been opposed tooth and nail by religious extremists. It has taken years of painstaking persuasion to get countries to legislate in favour of such research - now, every time those arguing against stem cells research on moral ground try to use science to back up their claims, they can just point to Hwang and triumphantly claim "See! It is all fake anyway". The work of the Newcastle group, who now hold the title of the first group to clone human stem cells, will be ignored and even vilified - guilt by association.
And what of the image of the scientist? Hwang has let down scientists of ALL persuasions. My own work has nothing remotely to do with stem cells - yet I feel personally betrayed by him. In some quarters, scientists and the science we practise is under attack in a manner unseen since the time of Galileo. The last thing we need is cunts like this shooting us in the foot.
Finally, and most importantly, what of the crushing disapointment felt by those who could be helped by stem cells? Christopher Reeve and countless others made it their life's purpose to champion this sort of work. When Reeve died last year, he thought that Hwang had brought them closer than ever before to helping people like him walk again. I can only imagine how devastated he would have been had he known what Hwang had done.
Labels: The Tuesday Twat(s)
Monday, January 16, 2006
Another year older, another year wiser...... yeah right. I am now only able to describe myself as "twenty something" for another 12 months.
I started out with sensible intentions. Knowing that my house parties generally finish at 4am with the whole world looking blurry, I decided to delay my party for a week because mum and dad were coming up on sunday to take me to lunch. The last thing I want at 12 oclock after one of my parties is to get up and go to lunch. Not only that, the flat usually looks like it's been the scene of a major natural disaster, and smells of whatever drinks my guests and I have spilt on the carpet.
I decided to spend saturday cleaning my flat in preparation for m&ds visit on sunday, then perhaps ring a mate to go to the cinema and a quiet pint.
What actually happened is that I did sod all during saturday, before getting a phone call inviting me to someone else's party (the uni finally turned my email off so I didn't receive the invite earlier in the week). I had just enough time to buy some cleaning materials, before heading off to the party, drinking a bottle of red wine and several glasses of port (!?) then wobbling home at 3am.
Port + red wine = imsomnia, so at 830am I gave up on sleep and cleaned the bathroom and kitchen and made the flat almost presentable.
Its a good job I postponed that party, eh, I'm sure you'll agree.
Next year I WILL clean the flat before mum and dad arrive and I won't go out and get drunk the night before mum and dad visit. After all I will be turning 30 and all growed up and shit. My only consolation was that little sis had partied to 6am the night before and looked even worse than I did.
Saturday, January 14, 2006
I'm trying to play sudoku goddamnit!This week I finally jumped on the sudoku bandwagon to try and pass the time at work quicker. I quickly discovered that nothing is more likely to make me fuck it up than an interuption when I am mid-calculation.
Tonight though, some fuckwit nearly got a pen shoved where the sun don't shine.
He arrived half an hour early for his badminton match. I was mid-game.
"Can I have a coffee, please?"
That is now my job also (I'll rant about that at a later date).
I made him his coffee and exchanged a few pleasantries.
I sat back down and managed to pick up where I left off.
A few minutes later.
"Can I have a Mars bar, please?"
I fetched him a Mars bar, took his money and sat back down.
It took me longer this time, but I soon found my place again.
"Can I have a muffin, please?"
I smiled tightly, before recommending the white chocolate covered double choc chip one.
This time, I had to redo several columns as I had forgotten which numbers on my scribble pad corresponded to which line. Pretty soon though I had filled three squares completely and several random rows and columns.
"That coffee is pretty good - can I have another cup?"
I poured him another cup.
Back to the game. Nearly there...
The number 3, twice in the fifth column...
"Michael, I'm taking a 5 minute break - could you serve that gentleman, I think he wants a bag of crisps..."
Thursday, January 12, 2006
Exceptionally good documentaryFor those of you with access to the TV channel BBC4 who want to know what life as a scientist is really like - I highly recommend Under laboratory Conditions
It is a 2 parter and the next programme is next wednesday at 2100h. This first programme started by examining the stereotype of the scientist among the general public (yes we are still regarded as mad with withered hands, crazy hair and a predeliction for blowing shit up). It then went on to examine what a scientist actually does.
It pulled no punches, showing bleary eyed PhD students and Postdocs sleeping on chairs during 3 day experiments, and people nodding off during conferences and seminars. The presenter is himself a neurobiologist, and as such was spoken to frankly and honestly by the many people he interviewed. I found myself nodding from start to finish and feeling a bit homesick, truth be told.
The interviewees were top notch, from a guy presenting his PhD to his peers before submitting his thesis, to junior researchers, group leaders, and superstars such as Nobel Laureate Tim Hunt. This possibly did more to dispell the image of the mad scientist than anything else as they had to bleep his expletives as he tried to find a parking space at his old school for an open day!
For me, there was a vicarious pleasure is seeing people who I know on screen (I just missed out on applying to appear myself - I got the email about the show just after I left work. Pity - interview me today and I may have a few interesting opinions on job hunting...), as well as names that I recognised (at least two of whom I have applied to or am about to apply to - I was actually reading a job advert by one of the participants when he cropped up on screen!).
To top it all, the show is humourously intercut with funny and appropriate scenes from old horror movies or earnest sounding public information programmes and documentaries.
I highly recommend!
Tuesday, January 10, 2006
The Tuesday Twat(s)Apologies for my tardiness - not my fault, honest, Blogger was down most of last night.
No. 47. Noel Edmonds.
So here it is, the first Tuesday Twat of 2006 and who better to kick things off than the uber Twat himself - Noel Edmonds.
Look in the dictionary, and under the word "Twat" you will simply see a photograph of this man.
Last year when I started this blog, Edmonds was my inspiration, if not my muse. Every time I thought about who to do each week, his name was first on the list. However, after a very public spat with BBC some years ago, Noel did the decent thing and fucked off, never to darken our telly screens again. It therefore seemed a touch churlish to nominate him, and would have felt like cheating. A bit like choosing Hitler, Pol Pot or Mr Motivator.
Or so I thought...
Imagine the scene. It's a couple of days after christmas. I have just emerged from my bed after 2 days struck down with a horrible chest infection. If you could bottle and sell phlegm, I'd actually have been pretty happy - unfortunately, there just aren't enough mayonaise factories to make it worth my while to do so.
Anyways, as I sat in the lounge, shivering, blowing my nose and mainlining mucron, who should pop up on TV? Yes you've guessed it. Noel Fucking Edmonds! I now felt pretty silly for asking what could possibly make me feel any worse.
Noel was ground-breaking in many ways. He pioneered the art of the talentless fuckwit inexplicably being given a huge amount of license-payer's money to piss up the wall. By hs own admission, Edmonds has no discernible talents. He can't sing, he can't dance, he can't play a musical instrument and he can't tell jokes. His interviewing skills suck and he has a beard. His only talent is an ability to remain enthusiastic when all around him is shite. Yet for 30 years, he was a mainstay of BBC TV schedules. Not only that he was responsible for the cretinous Mr Blobby. His last major show, was "Noel's House Party" - a toe-curlingly bad early evening variety show on saturday nights, based around a single joke - that the show was broadcast live from the fictional village of "Crinkley Bottom". Fucking hilarious, I'm sure you will agree.
I inherited my hatred of Edmonds from my Dad, who was nearly offered the part of the new Superman after he demonstrated an ability to move faster than a speeding bullet when diving for the remote control every time Noel popped up on TV. It is something that the old man and I heartily agree upon.
So there you have it - Edmonds was a TV pioneer and has done wonders for equal opportunities, proving that even a talent free blackhole can become a multi-millionaire. Just remember that next time you see Vernon Kaye gurning at you from the idiot box. I reckon you could probably even pin the blame for "reality TV Celebrities" on him.
Do I even need to ask if he deserves the award?
Labels: The Tuesday Twat(s)
Monday, January 09, 2006
Cheap LaughsOh dear God, I have just seen the funniest thing!
In the wee small hours, it is common for British TV channels to show repeats with sign-language for the deaf. Tonight, sleep was proving somewhat elusive so I was channel hopping at the crap end of the digital TV spectrum. I came across the funniest thing I have seen in a long time. The Hits, one of the multitude of music video channels, was playing DJ Sammy's latest bit of pap. The video showed lots of nubile young things running around the beach - and in the foreground a woman of a certain age signing along, before dancing like your aunty at a wedding after too many Gins during the instrumental! I don't know if it says more about me, or the state of TV comedy, that I spontaneously burst out laughing for the first time in ages. I was wiping tears from my eyes.
Sadly, I couldn't get a screen capture to share with you all.
Sunday, January 08, 2006
Tony Banks RIPSigh... another of the precious few willing to speak their minds has been taken.
The former sports minister Tony Banks MP, Latterly Lord Banks of Stratford, has died on holiday in the US after suffering a massive stroke. He was 62.
Like Mo Mowlem and Robin Cook who died last year, Banks was one of the few members of the government willing to say what was on his mind. I didn't always agree with him, but loud and dissenting voices like his are all too rare in politics and for that reason he will be missed. After all, who else would be brave enough to go on TV, in the face of criticism fom the media for not sending a congratulatory message to England's winning rugby team, and dismiss the complaints as coming from "some tosser at the Daily Mirror".
Politics has become a shade more bland.
Thursday, January 05, 2006
Happy BlogDay!Like a particularly persistent case of Athlete's foot or Thrush - I'm back! And just in time for my 1 year anniversary! WooHoo! Of course, Bystander at the Law West of Ealing Broadway is also celebrating his 1 year anniversary - and he has enjoyed 175,000 hits. Oh well, he gets to lock Chavs up, whilst I just whinge about them, so it's hardly surprising.
Those of you who care about such things, may have noticed that I have managed to miss three Tuesday Twats in a row. Why? I hear you ask. Well here are three possible reasons - try and guess the correct one.
1) It was the season of Goodwill and SaneScientist felt so cuddly and warm inside he couldn't summon up any vitriol.
2) There are no more Twats in the world and the planet's coefficient of twattishness is so low that there are unlikely to be anymore Twat's generated in the near future.
3) My ISP (Vaioni group Ltd for those who don't know) and my parent's AOL account settings conspired to keep me incommunicado for the past 3 weeks, whilst a vicious chest infection kept me in bed for 4 days moaning quietly and thinking about euthanasia.
For those who thought 1 or 2 were likely - hello, welcome to my blog. It's obviously your first time. May I take your coat?
Vaioni are just shit. Nuff said. The AOL problems however, whilst irritating, were also rather amusing. Mum and Dad signed up to AOL a few years ago. At the time, I had my own AOL account so I never bothered getting a username with them. More recently, I am no longer a member of AOL and I keep on forgetting to get Dad to allocate me a username on their account. So when I am at home, I use my Mum's account and password. (For those of you who are thinking "bit risky - what if you find out that your mum is having an affair or likes looking at bondage sites?" - let me introduce you to Mum and you will see why even if I did look at her email, I would find nothing of interest). Recently, Mum and Dad took the plunge and signed up to Broadband. Since Mum looks at nothing more exciting that lesson plans for primary school children, Dad set her parental settings to "tighter than a gnats arsehole" to try and stem the flood of spam and porno pop-ups. Consequently I can't even look at my own blog and you can forget about looking at foul-mouthed buggers like Mosh.
So, rather amusingly, every time I tried to look at anything more racy than the BBC home page, I got a pop up telling me to get permission. Yup, that's right, Mum needs her husband's permission to look at the internet. Next thing you know, she'll be wearing a Burqha, handing in her driver's licence and making noises about a city break to Riyadh.
So, next week, normal service will be resumed. In the meantime though, let me point you toward a book that kept me laughing through the choking fits whilst bed-ridden on Boxing Day.
FOR YOUR PERUSAL