Reviewing Fast Food as if it was Haute cuisine

I’ve posted a few blogs about this recently and in the past, and I’m doing it again although I’m taking a slightly different slant.  The world of food is full of variation and range.  Within different types of food there are certain qualities that are universally accepted as bad (does the food give me food poisoning? does it make me want to vomit?) and qualities that can vary between different types of product.  I reject the idea that only one type of food is considered right and that all other foods are inferior.  I believe that depending on the situation, the person and the immediate desire different foods can deliver the required experience (enjoyment).

Sure, there’s no doubt that certain foods have the right nutritional quality and some don’t, but if what you seek is enjoyment from eating then I posit that some days you may get that enjoyment from a Burger King Whopper and other days from  Haute cuisine Quail in Puff Pastry Shell with Foie Gras and Truffle Sauce.  If what you expected and wanted was a Whopper and what you got was Quail in Puff Pastry Shell with Foie Gras and Truffle Sauce then you may end up being disappointed and vice versa.  Of course this doesn’t always work out, if you expected a Whopper and got Quail in Puff Pastry Shell with Foie Gras and Truffle Sauce, you might really enjoy the Quail and be pleasantly surprised, but it doesn’t mean you don’t like Whoppers.  It is possible to enjoy a whole range of different food types on their own merits without dismissing the existence of other foods types.

None of this should come as a surprise to most people, in my view.  I think most people realise that enjoyment varies and that what gives you enjoyment on different days can be different things.  Where we get a clash is when people who express an opinion about Food as a subject matter fail to realise that different foods all have their merits and they review that food with a single palette of words and expectations.  If you review a Burger King Whopper using the same standards as Quail in Puff Pastry Shell with Foie Gras and Truffle Sauce then the review might claim the Burger King is a watery mush of over excited tastes smashed together in a microwave oven which no one could possibly enjoy. If you reviewed Quail in Puff Pastry Shell with Foie Gras and Truffle Sauce using the same expectations you had when you reviewed a Whopper you might conclude it’s overly fussy expensive chicken in a sauce you wouldn’t feed to the dog.

Good reviewers and good critics understand the context in which the product or food they’re reviewing exists.  If you do nothing but review haute cuisine then sure, you’re free to stick to a single palette of experience and vocabulary and likewise if your job or hobby is to review fast food then your comparisons are all at the same level.  However if you’re keen to review a range of food types you have to be very careful with your expectations.  Yes, you should demand and expect fast food to be of the highest fast food quality, but you shouldn’t expect it to display the same qualities as Haute cuisine, and of course if you found haute cuisine to be delicious despite the fact that it took 18 seconds to cook and came in a bun you might think you’re reviewing fast food all over again.

Additionally, and again this should not surprise anyone, it’s perfectly possible to not enjoy any fast food.  To decide the whole genre of food is bland and tasteless and beneath you.  It’s also possible to decide that haute cuisine is pointless over frilly and can’t be beaten by a good home cooked sunday roast.  But you shouldn’t dismiss them as valid sources of enjoyment for other people just because you don’t like them.  Nor should you get upset that some people can make a good living out of making food you don’t enjoy, or that people you know enjoy food you hate.  Does making Quail in Puff Pastry Shell with Foie Gras and Truffle Sauce require more skill than a Burger King Whopper?  I don’t think anyone would deny that was true.  It certainly requires a specific set of skills.  Does serving a Whopper require no skill?  Certainly not, they’re just different and more readily attainable than those required to be a top chef.  And of course if we look at the middle ground, perhaps a local restaurant then the skills required are similar to those of top chefs with an added hint of the speed and customer service required in a fast food joint.

What’s the point of this overly long, tedious statement of the obvious?

It’s Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, clearly.  To some extent it’s also Star Trek and Terminator Salvation.  Those films set out to entertain.  They set out to engage an audience and provide a couple of hours of escapism and fun.  They did not set out to question your beliefs, to expand your conciousness, to develop your interest in physics, they did not set out to make you question history or help you understand your place in the world.  There are films that do that, they set out to do exactly that.  There are films which want to tell the truth, to make you look at the truth in a new way, to make you weep and cry and question everything.  There are films which tell stories where the characters matter and films which tell stories where the explosions matter.  All of these films are valid.

Different people enjoy different movies at different times for different reasons.  But reviewing a film and describing it as awful because it’s missing certain elements is silly, if the film wasn’t even trying to bring those elements to the screen in the first place but is still entertaining.

Was Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen entertaining?  Yes, I had a really good 2.5 hours of popcorn movie enjoyment.  I laughed and sniffed a little, and I felt engaged and interested and, well, entertained.  I don’t expect everyone to feel like that, and I expect some people who do understand the context of the movie still thought it was a bad example of the genre.  That’s fine, but I don’t accept people think it was a bad movie because it didn’t give them what they expect from a drama or a noir crime thriller.

This is a good review of Transformers 2.  I don’t agree with all of it, and I rate the movie higher.  I was able to ignore the bits the reviewer didn’t like and they didn’t ruin the movie for me.  But the guy writing the review got the context and reviewed the movie within that context.  He didn’t review Transformers 2 as if it was a period drama.

A Day of Updates II #4 – Back to Work

I went back to work last Thursday after my two weeks signed off, although I worked Thursday and Friday from home (sorting out e-mail mostly).  Today I was back in the office for the first time and although my laptop bag is pretty heavy I’m okay carrying it on my shoulder the short distance to my desk, Grete helps me get it into and out of the car.

The day was okay, I was hunched over a bit at the keyboard which caused some discomfort but once I kept reminding myself to relax and sit back it was better.  In terms of being at work it’s good to be back and around collegues, I won’t comment on the work side of work since bloggers don’t seem to get much legal protection these days.

It’s amazing how much routine you get out of working, especially knowing what day of the week it is.  A few days into being off work and I lose track of the day and date.  It’s also pretty impressive how much I save when I’m not at work buying breakfast and lunch.

A Day of Updates II #3 – The War Against the Cat

Well, while I was recovering from surgery seemed the ideal time to leave the cat sprayer switched off since setting it was beyond my frail and fragile post-op body (or something).  It went okay for about a week, we had some rain in that time which keeps the enemy cat away normally anyway, and on the nights that were dry it didn’t come around.  However, it eventually realised the device was off and we got up one morning to find it had sprayed and the place stank.  It did it again during the day, a day or so later.  We started turning the water sprayer on again in the evenings and that seems to have worked.

Except one day over the weekend we were both sitting in the computer room, Fizz was resting on her chair (hard day in the sun and she needed a break).  We heard a cat-chirp and both looked and the little bugger was either just coming into the room or just leaving the room and sprayed the bloody woodwork as it left.  Since we managed to catch it so early it was easy to clean off and left no smell but the little shit is clearly getting braver.

Having said that, we’ve not set the sprayer for a couple of nights again since our cats are out so late when the weather is this good and it’s not been back, so I think we’re wearing it down slowly.  I’ll set it tonight I think, just in case.

A Day of Updates II #2 – The Garden is Glorious

The garden’s really coming along, the little planters we bought for the patio really brighten the place up.  We had a couple of BBQ’s last week during the nice weather and it was really pleasant sitting out there surrounded by the flowers.  The grass in the front has come through pretty much all over the soil, but at the back it’s very very patchy and I think we’ll need to do some extra sowing.  I suspect the birds ate a lot of the seed.

The big apple tree has a thousand apples on it, more than ever before which is odd considering we pruned it really close before the spring.  Grete is frantically picking up the small ones that drop (probably about 10-20 a day, seriously) and keep the thick down before they all fully grow and drop.  It’s a huge job getting them off the ground when they’re big and slightly rotten.  The small apple tree seems a little sick, the leaves went brown and pretty dry although it looks like it’s recovering and starting forming apples.  Hopefully it’s nothing serious.  The cherry tree we bought has done – nothing.  Not a zot.  No change at all.  Not sure if it’s dead or alive.  The Acer is healthy enough and looks happy surrounded by the lush grass.

The little plants in the big borders look lonely, but we really only stuck them there since we had a load of spares.  The shrubs are growing and hopefully next year it’ll look a bit more even and full.  The plants in the front are slowly spreading as we hoped they would and it should look spectacular when they all flower next year.

I’ll post some photo’s in another update when I get time to sort them out.

A Day of Updates II #1 – Surgery Update

I’m back at work, doesn’t feel like over two weeks since I had the surgery but it is.  I’m still not supposed to be carrying anything heavy, but it’s hard not to lift anything in day-to-day life so I’m just trying to be careful.  The wound itself is pretty much healed externally.  Internally it feels like the nerves are starting to grow back which is introducing a little pain but nothing serious.  I still feel uncomfortable from time-to-time but some of that is because I’ve put weight on while I’ve been off work (and before hand, to be fair).

I’m really pleased with how everything went especially with how little time I was actually in the hospital.  I just hope that I’ll be back to fully mobile and able to get stuff in the garden moved a bit before winter sets in.

Seeking a web 2.0 app for Quest Tracking

I’m looking for a particular kind of web 2.0 app, but can’t track down something which does what I want.  It’s mostly related to MMORPG’s but I can imagine non-gaming uses for it.  If you have a bunch of people all at different stages of some kind of activity which itself has multiple stages and sub-stages, it can often be hard working out who’s at what point.

I’d love an app in which you could create multiple personalities (characters) and set up these tasks (quests) with all their sub-stages (other quests) and then let people track their progress.  You would be able to inquire as to the progress of a specific character, or a collection of characters.  Tasks could have pre-requisites or tasks which must be completed first, etc.

I can (and have in the past) knocked together something simple which does something similar, but I get bored easily doing web development and a lot of it is very repetative, also I’ve never really gotten to grips with the 2.0 side of web 2.0.  Do you know of any app out there that does this?  Maybe it’s a project management tool that allows multiple people to work on the same tasks at different rates, or maybe it’s a specific gaming tool?

Let me know if I’m missing the obvious.

Five ways to make sure you don’t enjoy a movie

I originally wrote this a couple of weeks ago while I was feeling bitter about something or other.  I kept looking at the draft and thinking I’d reword it so it made more sense, but frankly,  I don’t have the energy so here’s the raw post as-is.

  1. decide beforehand (either consciously or unconsciously) how the story must or should go, how it should be played out, how it should end.
  2. expect a specific style of storytelling and get that confused with the actual story itself.
  3. assume that a sequel or franchise movie must have the same style and flavour of the previous movies.
  4. believe that a pivotal role can only be played by a certain person.
  5. go in expecting your version of the film and not with an open mind about how someone else might do it.

iPhone 3.0 – deleting photo’s

You may remember I had issues deleting images from my iPhone using Windows Explorer when the iPhone was connected via the cable.  Deleting more than one at a time would crash the iPhone.  Looks like the iPhone 3.0 update fixed that and deleting multiple photo’s is super-quick.

The David Gemmell Legend Award for Fantasy Winner announced

This is the press release.

The first annual David Gemmell Legend Award for Fantasy has been won by Andrzej Sapkowski for his novel Blood of Elves (published in the UK by Gollancz).

The Award was accepted on Sapkowski’s behalf by his UK editor, Jo Fletcher.

Presented before an audience of publishing industry professionals, authors, media and fans at the Magic Circle headquarters in Euston, London on 19th June, the Award has been established in memory of fantasy author David Gemmell, who died in 2006. The trophy, supplied by Raven Armoury, takes the form of a butterfly axe, named Snaga, that featured in Gemmell’s fiction.

Born in Poland in 1948, Andrzej Sapkowski worked in business before turning to writing. His cycle of tales set in the world of The Witcher have made him a bestseller in his native Poland and internationally.

The other shortlisted authors were:

  • Joe Abercrombie: Last Argument of Kings (Gollancz & Pyr)
  • Juliet Marillier: Heir to Sevenwaters (Tor)
  • Brandon Sanderson: The Hero of Ages (Tor)
  • Brent Weeks: The Way of Shadows (Orbit)

Each of the runners-up were presented with a miniature version of Snaga.

The Award was decided by an open ballot, and attracted over 10,000 votes from 75 countries.

**Photographs of the award ceremony to follow.

Further information:

Official website:

Stan Nicholls (Chair)
Deborah Miller (Award Administrator)

Congratulations to Andrzej Sapkowski, and to everyone involved in the award (the first of hopefully many David Gemmell Legend Awards).

Bad Guys & Good Lines

I was thinking a few days ago, that in a lot of movies the good guys get the best lines.  Certainly much of the movie quoting that goes on is focussed on lines delivered by the heroes or the good guys.  However, there are times when the bad guys get the good lines, and I thought I’d put together a random list, for my own entertainment.   Some of them are no-brainers (the ones at the top of the list!) but maybe a few will make you want to go back and watch the film again and there’s bound to be some which I include only because I remember and quote them but they don’t count as truly cool.  Stick any more you can think of in the comments.

  • The Terminator – “I’ll be back” (The Terminator)
  • RoboCop – “Can you fly, Bobby?” (Clarence Boddicker)
  • Die Hard – “Alas, your Mr. Takagi did not see it that way… so he won’t be joining us for the rest of his life.” (Hans Gruber)
  • Die Hard – “I’m going to count to three, there will not be a four.” (Hans Gruber)
  • The Shining – “Heeere’s Johnny!” (Jack Torrance) ((Suggested by Sue))
  • Highlander – “I have something to say! It’s better to burn out than to fade away!” (Kurgan)
  • Highlander – “Father! Forgive me , I am a worm!” (Kurgan)
  • Highlander – “Happy Hallowe’en, ladies! Nuns. No sense of humour.” (Kurgan)
  • Highlander – “I am in disguise!” (Kurgan)
  • Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi – “Now witness the firepower of this fully armed and operational battle station!” (The Emperor) ((Suggested by Sue))
  • Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi – “This bounty hunter is my kind of scum” (Jabba the Hutt)
  • Star Wars Episode IV : A New Hope – “I have you now” (Darth Vader)
  • Star Wars Episode IV : A New Hope – “I find your lack of faith disturbing.” (Darth Vader)
  • Star Wars Episode IV : A New Hope – “When I left you, I was but the learner, now I am the master.” (Darth Vader)
  • Star Wars Episode IV : A New Hope – “The Force is strong with this one.” (Darth Vader)
  • Star Wars Episode IV : A New Hope – “Your powers are weak, old man.” (Darth Vader)
  • Star Wars Episode V : The Empire Strikes Back – “All too easy.” (Darth Vader)
  • Superman II – “Come and kneel before Zod!” (General Zod) ((Suggested by Sue))
  • Ghost Busters – “There is no Dana, only Zuul!” (Zuul via Dana) ((Suggested by Sue))
  • Ghost Busters – “Are you a God? …… Then Die!” (Gozer)
  • Pirates of the Caribbean : The Curse of the Black Pearl – “You best start believing in ghost stories Miss Turner. You’re in one.” (Captain Barbossa) ((Suggested by Sue))
  • Pirates of the Caribbean : The Curse of the Black Pearl – “… the code is more what you’d call guidelines than actual rules.” (Captain Barbossa)

That’ll do for now, I’ll maybe come back and add more later.