Monthly Archives: March 2014

Music Monday: The Arcade’s On Fire

List item: Listen to the 250 greatest albums
Progress: 2/250

The idea of listening to the 250 albums most acclaimed albums of all time (a task which is made so much easier thanks to the tireless work of Henrik Franzon over at Acclaimed Music) raises an interesting question; how much focus would constitute a ‘listen’?

In theory I could just have an album on in the background whilst making dinner, not really pay much attention to it and consider that ticked off. However, the reason that I stuck this item on the list is that the manufacturing of such a wide variety of music is something irresistibly human. So in order to be considered properly listened too I have to actually pay attention as otherwise I won’t have gotten anything out of the experience.

For the most part the entries on this Top 250 are out of my musical area (many exceptions to this) so I hope to gain some new albums that I enjoy listening to. Today I’ll start off with two entries on this list that I have been listening to on some rather long walks; the two entries by Arcade Fire.

TheSuburbsTitle: The Suburbs
Artist: Arcade Fire
Year: 2010
Position: #214 (Previously: #175)

Probably a good idea to start off this music list with a Grammy Award-winning album which, to be honest, is not my favourite album by the good people at Arcade Fire. In fact it contains the only song by them that I actively skip whenever it comes on (‘Rococo’) which, up until the release of The Suburbs, I did not think was possible. Don’t get me wrong I am glad that they somehow crossed-over more to the mainstream but I wish it had been for Neon Bible instead since that is my favourite album of theirs.

There are plenty of great tracks on here. Opener ‘The Suburbs’ meant it originally took me a few days until I allowed myself to play the rest of the album because I loved it so much. ‘Empty Room’, ‘Half Light II (No Celebration)’ and ‘Month of May’ are great stomping tracks that make for a good power walk (I told you, I love walking and The Suburbs is pretty decent for that) but for me the album’s best moment is when Regine gets a chance to shine in ‘Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)’. She doesn’t have the strongest voice in the world but I always enjoy her solo tracks and her background cooing.

However something this album is really missing for me, that all other Arcade Fire albums deliver, is that goosebump moment that they do so well. I mean is you can get through ‘No Cars Go’ without even the smallest eruption of goosebumps… well I don’t know what to say.

FuneralTitle: Funeral
Artist: Arcade Fire
Year: 2004
Position: #32 (Previously: #47)

I said earlier how Neon Bible is my favourite album, but that’s more because it was the album that finally allowed me to access Funeral. I was first suggested this album by a school friend of mine with excellent musical taste but I was so deep in a J-Pop phase (for a while Hikaru Utada was my goddess) that the only song on this album that really made an impact on me was ‘Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)’ and I played that a lot for a good while.

It then took a mix of moving away to university and the release of Neon Bible for me to decide to reappraise this album and see it for the work of pure baroque pop genius that it is. This was something that later helped me to find out about the wonders of Panda Bear (sadly Person Pitch is not in the Top 250), The Beach Boys and Of Montreal.

It’s hard for me to speak about this album without waxing lyrical about tracks 6 through 9. There are few albums that have such an amazing run of quite different tracks that are still all exceptional. The crescendo of ‘Crown of Love’, the anthem ‘Wake Up’, Regine’s moment to shine in ‘Haiti’ and of course ‘Rebellion (Lies)’ which is their highest ranked song on Acclaimed Music’s song section. Strange to think that an album so surrounded by death could inspire so much joy.

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Happy Mother’s Day… Cake

List Item: Bake a cake
Progress: Completed

Now I am not to proud to admit that, despite being a 24 year-old guy, I am incredibly close to my mum. Over the last few years both her (and my partner) have put up with the emotional rollercoaster that has been my teaching career. In many ways she is is my best friend… and not in a Norman Bates Psycho sort of way.

So when Mother’s Day comes around I like to make sure that I do something that she likes and this usually involves the baking of some sort of cake. Last year, the cake was a Victoria Sandwich and this year I went for a variation on this with actual strawberries and with white chocolate mixed in with the whipped cream (there may also be some white chocolate in the cake itself.

photo 3As of writing this post (about 24 hours before publishing it) I have not tasted this cake yet but I have helped myself to the raw batter as the sponges were baking. I have a good feeling about this cake, although I had to remove all the strawberries before sticking it in the fridge otherwise it wouldn’t fit in my Celebrations tin. I hope it looks as good tomorrow when I put it back together.

One thing I think came across in my attempt at weight loss post as well as my post yesterday is that I really enjoy cooking and see myself as a bit of a foodie. In fact with the exception of sweetcorn, raw onion and fibrous stems there is not much that I will not eat or try to cook. So I included some pictures of other sweet things I made recently.

photo 2First we have a Grasshopper Pie. I made this using a heart-shaped springform tin that my partner’s sister got me for Christmas. For someone who doesn’t drink I did really enjoy a pie whose main ingredients are liquours (crème de menthe and crème de cacao blanc), but the use of Bourbons and marshmallows will have helped this somewhat.

photo 1This penguin cake is probably the proudest I have ever been when trying out cake decorating (since it is also the only time that I actually designed a cake). The biggest mistake I made here was making a Victoria Sandwich the base since… every time you cut into it raspberry jam started oozing out. Next time I will not make the same choice in flavours…

Not My First Foray Into The Blogosphere

List Item: Start a blog
Progress: Completed

Whilst I would not exactly call myself an experienced blogger, whatever that means, this bucket list blog is not exactly the first blog that I have created.

Alongside this new one I regularly contribute to a video gaming called Pong and Beyond. The idea here was one that came on a walk with my fiancée where, having purchased the book 1001 Video Games You Must Play Before You Die, I joked that we should try to play our way through them. Two and a half years later this blog now has its own domain that we purchased and we are still regularly updating it. This blog will be a reference point for a bucket list item later on, I’ll get to writing that up at some point.

Pong and Beyond, however, is not the blog I am the most proud of. That would be my cooking blog Thin Cooking which I ended up having to abandon in the first months of teacher training since the best will in the world would not allow me to continue it with all my extra work.

I am the most proud of this blog for a number of reasons. Firstly, it is because of this blog that I really was able to take my cookery to the next level due to all the practice I was getting with a different number of cuisines (leading to me eventually getting over my dislike of mushrooms). Then there is the fact that despite having abandoned I am regularly getting 3-400 views a months since it is a fairly decent reference guide to a number of references. The final reason for my pride is a bucket list item:

List Item: Be featured in a newspaper
Progress: Completed

On August 3rd 2011 my humble cookery blog was featured in The Times Register. I, of course, rushed out to get a copy of The Times that day and kept the part of the newspaper my blog was featured in. This is currently the only copy of it I have and it is currently stuck to the whiteboard in the kitchen so I can look at it whilst preparing dinner.

Needless to say I received my record number of views that day (about 600) and it was the boost I needed to keep blogging my cookery efforts until, as previously mentioned, I started my teaching.  Nowadays, I use this blog as my personal cookbook and take ideas from there if I am stumped for an evening meal.

Naming The Fifty States of America

List Item: Be able to name all the American States in under 10 minutes
Progress: Completed

As a Brit the ability to name the 50 U.S. States never really featured as part of geography lessons (which I quit as early as I could because physical geography bored me). But, I remember from an episode of Friends that the ability to name all 50 states was something that was hard to do so this was something I wanted to be able to do.

Now, I apologise for the quality of the video below (and the giant watermark) but you will both see and hear me complete this item from my bucket list. It took a lot of self control to not swear whenever I got stuck….

So, as you can see, I managed to name all 50 states after not practising for almost a year. If you have any related thing that you think I should try and aim towards please leave me a comment.

Around The World in 100 Films – Finland

List Item: Watch films from 100 different nations
Progress: 23/100

Thanks to the good people at the iCheckMovies Unofficial Forum seizing upon my call for help in my post opening up the Around The World in 100 Films I have a lot of interesting ideas for films for countries that I would have found difficult. So, thanks to you guys for that.

LeningradCowboysCountry: Finland
Title: Leningrad Cowboys Go America
Director: Aki Kaurismäki
Year: 1989

I went for Finland as the next country for two reasons. Firstly I am a fan of Aki Kaurismäki’s Finland trilogy and I have been meaning to watch more of his films. Secondly, I noticed that I go a few views from Finland for this blog and thought it would be nice if I could make sure to see a film from each country that reads my stuff (something that could get awkward).

So, Leningrad Cowboys Go America. Certainly one of the weirder film titles I’ve seen in a while and it certainly lives up to this. The Leningrad Cowboys themselves are a fictional Russian band, mostly made up of a Finnish rock band, that decide to travel to America to make it big since ‘they’d buy anything’.

What follows is an incredibly deadpan road movie as the band travles from New York to Mexico in order to play at a wedding with the eight band member lying frozen in a makeshift coffin tied to the roof of their car. On the way the band (sporting sunglasses, pointy shoes and foot-long quiffs) play at a number of bars to earn food money (which is then pocketed by their tour manager and all they get in return is raw onions) and so that they can adopt a more rock n’ roll sound. Well, that’s the sound that they are trying for but it becomes a mishmash of Russian folk, rock and country (although I  have to say whatever it is they are playing they do it very well, including a very good rendition of ‘Tequila’.

As films go it would be a very acquired taste, and Kaurismäki comedies are not exactly for everyone but, in my opinion, any film that ends with the lines “And nobody saw him again… shit happens” has got something going for it.

Happiness is Duck-Shaped

Right, so I have had a big think about what would be the first thing that I would tick off of this extensive bucket list of mine. It’s a little early to go into something majorly heavy (not a pun on my whale-like stature) so I figured so for something that is a mixture of light, extremely me and who not go for a toofer if possible.

List Item: Feed the ducks
Status: Completed

Anyone who knows me well enough knows that birds make me very happy and that I should probably just admit to myself that my destiny is to own and operate an aviary somewhere and go under the moniker ‘bird guy’.

The reason that I put this on the bucket list is that I think everyone at some point should feed the same equivalent whether it be ducks, feral cats or marmosets. Being a Brit who grew up a stone’s throw from a duck pond this is something that I have been able to do fairly often.

I love ducks and they love me (as long as I have food for them that is). Recently, however, I discovered that you should not feed bread to ducks. So when I next go to feed my local group of ducks I will be bringing what I should bring them; vegetables.

So, in order to make this a two-for-one under the themed my post title let’s look at my second item.

List Item: See a platypus
Status: Completed

Now this video may not look like much, but it is the product of a lifelong love of the platypus and waiting for about 5 hours in a Sydney aquarium for them to make an appearance (apparently they like to awake in the afternoon like a stroppy teenager whereas we got to the aquarium around 10 in the morning).

So whilst we were waiting to see a platypus (I’d flown around the world to see these bastards and I was not going to not see them) we spend our time wandering around and managed to see some manatees and turtles. But nothing could beat seeing the platypus peeking their head out for the first time and having a jolly good swim. I stood and watched for ages before being dragged away vaudeville style. It was a good day.

IMG_0795IMG_0826

Around The World in 100 Films – Start Point

List Item: Watch films from 100 different nations
Progress: 22/100

Time for me to open up the second of my three film bucket list items with a rather arbitrary goal of seeing films from 100 different nations. Unlike the Oscar list item this is something that can be permanently crossed off unless I suddenly get the urge to add another batch of countries to keep this going.

Now, I have decided to count countries as long as I watched the film after I put this onto my bucket list which was (yes I made a note) on August 5th 2013. This means that some countries (e.g. Finland, South Africa, China and Israel) are not on the list yet despite me having seen them in the past. I figured using this cut off point would serve as a way to make this more challenging whilst also keeping Burkina Faso (still stoked about that one).

Whilst I was preparing this list I saw there were 21 countries on the list and instantly envisioned doing a really cool triangle number diagram as you can see below:WorldCinemaTriangleNotice the problem? Well in making that list I had forgotten that I saw a Polish film at the end of January which means poor Hungary (my most recent nation) has to lay on the outskirts since I decided to do this in order of seeing them. My inner math-geek is not impressed with this. It was later pointed out to me that a film I thought was Australian was from New Zealand, now my inner flag-geek is unhappy too.

Still 22 countries down, 78 to go. Not a bad place to start with, although there are not many of the big film nations left which will make this interesting.

Any film suggestions for yet unwatched countries will be VERY much appreciated. Bear in mind re-watches are not allowed here so films like Tsotsi, Drifting Clouds and Waltz With Bashir will not count.

  1. Germany – Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari (The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari)
  2. U.S.A. – Robocop
  3. Netherlands – De Vierde Man(The Fourth Man)
  4. Czech Republic – Kolja (Kolya)
  5. Italy – La Strada
  6. Burkina Faso – Sarraounia
  7. Argentina – El Secreto De Sus Ojos (The Secret in Their Eyes)
  8. Japan – Zatoichi Monogatari (The Story of Zatoichi)
  9. Brazil  – Cidade De Deus (City of God)
  10. Denmark – Melancholia
  11. United Kingdom – Blowup
  12. Norway – Flåklypa Grand Prix (Pinchcliffe Grand Prix)
  13. France – La règle du jeu (The Rules of the Game)
  14. New Zealand – The Piano
  15. Poland – Popiól i diament (Ashes and Diamonds)
  16. Spain – El espíritu de la colmena (The Spirit of the Beehive)
  17. Sweden – Viskningar och Rop (Cries and Whispers)
  18. Belgium – Ernest & Célestine
  19. Greece – Kynodontas (Dogtooth)
  20. Canada – The Sweet Hereafter
  21. Algeria – Z
  22. Hungary – A torinói ló(The Turin Horse)

Time To Get This Arse Into Shape

List item: Be considered your BMI ideal weight for at least a month
Progress: Joined a gym

I woke up this morning a day after showing this blog to some mate’s at my best friend’s birthday party and they were really cool and we talked about how we could do certain items together and found an interesting item from Groupon. A lot of money off of an amazing sounding session of Zorbing (something on my list) and figured that it was some sort of serendipity until I saw the weight limit: 15.5 stone.

Here’s the thing, as a 6’3” tall guy I naturally carry more weight but I have not been in the BMI ideal limit since just before I joined primary school. After this I just ballooned and at the age of 8 (when I was first made properly aware of what a whale I was) I embarked on 16 years of diets and general failure at weight loss. I got really close to reaching BMI ideal 3 years ago but then I became depressed due to no one hiring me and suddenly 5 stone found themselves around my body and there they have stayed.

I know that if I am going to be allowed to do a number of bucket list items I need to shift a fair bit of weight, let alone reaching the ideal weight for my height. However, due to having a weak back (thanks again cab driver) and the jogging not being good for my knees (…how old am I again?) the exercises currently open to me aren’t exactly vast.

Since I have been trying to get to my ideal weight for 14 years I am really hoping this will be the last time and there are two new things that have entered my life.

1) This blog should be able to keep me honest if I keep to monthly updates where I have to include how far I have to go until I can start the month long countdown to complete it.

2) This is the big one since I actually joined a gym. Now, I have a thing about looking like a beetroot slowing boiling in its own juices but it’s something to just get over so I don’t, one day, eat myself to death.

So, help me gym membership card, you’re my only hope.

gymcard

Starting (and Current) Weight: 19st 1lb
Goal Weight: 14st 3lb

The Great E.U. Quest – The Starting Point

List Item: Visit all EU countries
Progress: 12/28

I am a very lucky person in a number of ways. Despite being the child of a single mother (who is the best mum a guy can ask for) we still managed to have the most amazing holidays. I still can not quite believe how many different countries I have under my belt at the age of 24.

This particular bucket list item is a curious one since it is another that has a potential to be completed and then become incomplete within my lifetime. The item being to visit every country within the European Union.

Europe Visited - 1

The map (see above) shows how far I have gotten so far (although due to scaling there is no way to see Malta but for this exercise it should be a yellow colour since I haven’t seen it).

So far I have had the privilege of visiting 12 of the current E.U. nations and they are coloured in as blue on the map, something that struck me immediately is how all the countries I have been to are linked together on the map; except for Portugal since I have not been to Spain yet.

At some point in the future I will write about visiting each one when I am up to date with all the items I have already since I did promise proof. But for now I am writing this to officially class this item as being in progress.

If you have any suggestions of trips I should make to help cross off some of the remaining 16 E.U. nations (Spain, Ireland, Greece, Malta, Cyprus, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania, Poland, Slovakia, Sweden, Finland and Luxembourg) I would love to hear from you since I have yet to book a holiday for this year :-D.

It’s Okay To Watch Oscar Bait Sometimes… Right?

List Item: Watch all Best Picture Winners (to date)
Progress: 70/87

There are many ways that I will describe myself; geek, Pepsi Max addict, ginger but one label I wear with a true sense of pride is that of cinephile. I absolutely adore films above all other forms of artistic expression which might explain why there are three bucket list items on my list. It is fitting therefore that one of these be the first item I start writing about and the first to be included into my “in progress” section.

Oscars-Seen

Like most film lovers I do have a love-hate relationship with the Academy Awards since I have my own opinions about what films should win each year rather than the one picked by the Academy. In fact there have only been seven years out of the (as of writing) 87 films that I would concede were the best of that year:

  • 1934 – It Happened One Night
  • 1939 – Gone With The Wind
  • 1940 – Rebecca
  • 1965  – The Sound of Music
  • 1969 – Midnight Cowboy
  • 1972 – The Godfather
  • 1984 – Amadeus

So, why have the Oscar Best Picture Winners on this list at all if I rarely agree? Love it or loathe the system, and the incredibly flawed Best Foreign Language Film system, it is seen by many as THE film award. So until a truly global film award comes into existence this is the best we in the English-speaking world have.

oscar+winners

As you can see from the above graphic (which is linked to my film-watching activity) I am already a large part of the way through this list item since it is something I have been actively making my way through for a few years and I am left with only 17 to watch… but of course this is a list item that will need yearly attention once I am up to date.

The films I have left are a fairly mixed batch, but with the exception of The Life of Emile Zola, I appear to have dealt with the film widely considered the worst and borderline unwatchable, yes that is a reference to The Greatest Show On Earth.

I’ll end with the 17 films yet to be watched as I write this:

Wings, All Quiet On The Western Front, Grand Hotel, Cavalcade, Mutiny On The Bounty, The Life of Emile Zola, You Can’t Take It With You, Mrs. Miniver, The Lost Weekend, Hamlet, All The King’s Men, Marty, Ordinary People, Terms of Endearment, Out of Africa, The English Patient and Million Dollar Baby.

Oscars-UnSeen