Monthly Archives: November 2018

XL Popcorn – Le Mépris

List Item: Watch all of the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”
Progress: 682/1007Title: Le Mépris (Comtempt)
Director: Jean-Luc Godard
Year: 1963
Country: France

Here we are again with Jean-Luc Godard and I am left feeling a philistine for, once again, feeling no real interest in what I just watched. With all of his films that I’ve previously watched, I always end up feeling like this was time wasted on something that feels so incredibly shallow – and Le Mépris isn’t an exception.

Okay, so that’s a bit over the top. I had huge hopes for this in the first half an hour. I thought that Le Mépris might turn out to be Godard doing a sharp take on film making and, in the beginning, it felt like that. Fritz Lang (playing himself) has such a presence in the opening scenes, where he’s screening the dailies of his latest film, that I thought this could be something interesting.

Then came all the relationship drama between Camille (Bridget Bardot) and Paul (Michel Piccoli) which completely let the air out of the film. We just spend the rest of the film in a circular argument where Camille keeps baiting her husband how today is the day that she fell out of love with him and she refuses to tell him why.

We’re never able to leave this topic for nearly an hour and it just turns this film into a beautiful set of moving images. I mean, just look at the cinematography – so many individual shots in this film are works of art. But therein lies the problem, at least for me, a film that is pretty to look at and without much lying underneath the surface just doesn’t interest me.

There are still three more Godard films to watch and, by the looks of it, I am left with some of the lesser acclaimed ones to appear on the 1001 list. With all lists like this there is the chance of you finding things you dislike, however the films of Godard are at the point now where I am making myself watch this for the sake of list completion rather than the idea that I might end up enjoying them. Who knows, I might be turned around later – but for now I think I need more than 6 months before I put myself through another one of these.


Graphic Content – Kampung Boy

List Item:  Read half of the 1001 Comics You Must Read Before You Die
47/501Title: Kampung Boy
Creator: Lat
Year: 1979
Country: Malaysia

The variation within the 1001 comics list really is something to behold. This week I’ve read an adaptation of Chinese erotica, a Franco-Belgian humour comic about a long tailed animal and now we have have a touching (and humorous) autobiography about a boy growing up in rural Malaysia.

It’s a short graphic novel where we follow the first 10-11 years of Mat’s life in a rural village (called a ‘kampung’ in Malay). We watch as he makes friends, learns to read and goes through the many rites of passage associated with being a young Muslim in Malaysia.

Everything is done seamlessly through the eyes of a child, down to the asides about his father scratching his back. It was such a joy to read that, I couldn’t help but feel that Kampung Boy ended as soon as it had begun. I guess that this means I’ll have to pick up a copy of Town Boy at some point to continue following Mat’s story as he gets us to life in a major town after growing up in the countryside.

Right, it’s time to go for something a bit more sizeable and typical of comics – that’s right it’s my first proper superhero comic and I’m going to be reading Captain America. It was a close run thing between this and X-Men, but this won out because I’ve never really gotten to know Captain America. This is exciting.

Good Eatin’ – Seagull Eggs

List Item: Try three quarters of the 1001 Foods You Must Try Before You Die
Progress: 735/751Food item: Gull Eggs

This marks the final bird egg on the food list and it’s one that I’ve spent the last year waiting for. Man, I thought the goose egg was a hunt – but these gull eggs took a lot of patience. You see, in the UK at least, the season for gull eggs only lasts for a few weeks in May and even then these eggs are in such short supply that waiting a few hours can be the difference between gourmet goods and a handful of nothing.

For two years in a row I missed out on gull eggs and, as you can tell from the picture, I did not make the same mistake this year. The moment my calendar read April 28th I was checking this web page to see if they were in stock, then bought two as soon as I was able to.

From the outside they remind of slightly larger pheasant eggs, but on the inside these are the richest and most orange yolked eggs that I have ever encountered. The smell as they cooked was somewhat salty (as you might expect for the eggs of a seabird), but there was no trace of it when you started eating it.

The white of the egg was unremarkable and tasted like any other egg, but that yolk. Oh that yolk was so delicious. I guess that, with seagulls being seabirds, the chicks need to start out with a good deal of fat stores to deal with being on a cliff side and so that’s why these eggs are so rich. I might be completely talking trash here, but I’m not sure why else these yolks would be so rich and delicious.

Honestly, if price and timing were no object, I would trade in chicken eggs for gull eggs as my ova of choice. I guess it’s probably worth my trying out duck eggs at some point to see if I can find a happy medium.

Graphic Content – The Marsupilami Robbers

List Item:  Read half of the 1001 Comics You Must Read Before You Die
46/501Title: The Marsupilami Robbers
Creator: Franquin
Years: 1954
Country: Franco-Belgian

Another short comic today, but at least this one doesn’t feature dripping genitals. Instead it is an exploration of my childhood as I read one of the comics where lovable weird creature Marsupilami made his first appearance.

The Marsupilami Robbers is part of the longer running Spirou and Fantasio series, something that I had never heard of until this list. I’m guessing this is a more famous series on the continent considering just how long it’s been running. Still, interesting to note how Marsupilami has become such an international success – which included his on Disney animated show and a hit song in the Netherlands (that I cannot get out of my head, thanks again husband of mine).

Honestly, this comic felt a little inconsequential but I guess it makes sense to give major series their own entries. The protagonists were just such goody goodies that it was pretty hard to find joy in a lot of their hi-jinks (until they got into a punch-up with some border guards… that was weird). Apart from Marsupilami the only characters with any real charisma was their little squirrel friend and some sort of lizard that escaped from the zoo.

In any case, I’m going to be sticking with comics for a little longer, it’ll be another short one next and then I’ll (finally) make a start on one of the big superhero series. Not sure whether to go Marvel or DC with this… but I guess I’ll just see when I get there.

Graphic Content – 110 Pills

List Item:  Read half of the 1001 Comics You Must Read Before You Die
45/501Title: 110 Pills
Creator: Magnus
Years: 1985
Country: Italian

There are some things that you’re never meant to read on public transport. The liberal use of the n-word in Gone With The Wind toes this line, but the huge amounts of nudity in 110 Pills vomits on the line and then runs away. I knew that when my husband picked this erotic comic as his choice of what I was to read it was going to be dicey… but oh my god.

Let’s back up a bit. 110 Pills is an Italian comic based on an abbreviation version of the 1610 Chinese novel Jin Ping Mei. Within the comic we watch the last few months of Ximen’s life as he takes 110 pills that grant him incredible sexual prowess… although he is only meant to take them, at the most, once a month. Before these pills he’s incredibly sexual, but once on them he becomes voracious and incredibly experimental with how he gives and receives sexual pleasure.

It’s worth noting that, whilst this is abbreviated, 110 Pills takes a lot from this 1610 erotic novel. I assume this also includes the scene where Ximen pops the pill and engages in a few days orgy with a number of pre-op transwomen. Something that I did not expect to see, even after all the incredibly graphic depictions of many types of sex.

The story itself is an interesting and curious look into how certain circles of Chinese society viewed sex back in the 17th century, even if a lot of what happens feels more an excuse for shock tactics than real story telling. Still, it’s not too hard to liken the sex pill addiction in this story to addictions to opium – especially when you consider the incredible rush and the excruciating after effects.

As interesting as this was, I think this will be the last time I allow my husband to pick a comic for me to read on my commute. At least for a while.

World Cooking – Belgium

List Item: Cook something from every countryCountry: Belgium
Progress: 6/193

Today’s entry in my quest to cook my way around the world marks the first time that I am making something from a country that I have already visited. Also, this is about as close to home as I can get without making something from the UK (which I am not going to be doing for a very long time).

The cuisine of Belgium is one of those that is heavily influenced by its neighbours. With culinary juggernauts France and Germany just across the border (as well as The Netherlands to the north) the food is a crossroads between Romantic and Germanic cuisine.

You also have the interesting split between the Northern Dutch-speaking region of Flanders and the Southern French-speaking region of Wallonia… so I wanted to make sure I picked dishes that could be found in both regions rather than just focusing on one.

Main: Gegratineerde witloof / Chicons au gratin

List Item: Try three quarters of the 1001 Foods You Must Try Before You Die
Progress: 734/751Food item: Belgian Endive

The stars truly aligned with this dish. I only recently discovered that my local Morrison’s sells Belgian endives (called chicory here in the UK) and this helped to give Belgium priority when choosing countries. After all, I don’t know when the season for this vegetable ends and whether or not they’ll continue to be sold next year.

So, I decided to make endive gratin – which is pretty much parboiled heads of endive that is baked in a Mornay sauce with slices of ham. I went with the Raymond Blanc recipe for this one which sandwiches the ham between the endive heads rather than wrapping each individual endive with a slice of ham.

I’m glad that this recipe calls for the parboiling of the endives as it removed pretty much all the bitterness and left behind something creamy like palm hearts, but still with a slight bitterness that is characteristic of the vegetable. It was also a great flavour absorber (especially of the mustard in the sauce) which helped to make this dish feel incredibly satisfying.

Dessert: Brussels Waffles

I cannot quite believe just how many types of waffles there are in Belgium. It really made my research for this recipe all the more interesting as it meant I had to pick something typical whilst also being representative. I settled on Brussels Waffles because I loved the idea that I would be making something to the same recipe as a blogger’s grandmother.

What sets Brussels waffles apart from others is the use of both egg whites and yeast as leavening agents. This means that I was lucky to experience some incredibly fluffy waffles unlike anything I’ve eaten outside of Belgium. I mean these are real Belgian waffles, unlike the Belgian waffles you get elsewhere that are far denser and based on a simplified version of the Brussels waffle.

I had to go whole hog on these and serve these crisp and fluffy waffles with a dusting of icing sugar, some whipped cream and a dash of chocolate sauce. The way that the sugar began to caramalize on top… well it just made all the work feel worthwhile.

Level One – Diablo II

List Item: Play 100 of the greatest computer games
Progress: 78/100Title: Diablo II
Developer: Blizzard North
Original Platform: PC
Year: 2000

After a bit of a failed start to playing Baldur’s Gate (I pretty much fell asleep… which happens I guess) it took me a long time to think about what game to play next. Especially since I already spend a lot of time on Overwatch and have only just finished playing L.A. Noire. The deciding factor for Diablo II was that it would be a fun game to explore with the husband.

As I write this I am a long way from completely finishing Diablo II. It’s like Final Fantasy VI in that it’ll take me 30-50 hours to finish the game and, after a decent amount of playtime, you can just say that you’ve played it. I guess this is a long way of saying that Diablo II is a game where I am going to continue playing this for a while because, as expected, Blizzard know what they are doing.

Directly following the storyline of the first game, Diablo II starts as the evil being from the first game re-animates and continues his plan to enslave humanity. Your goal, therefore, is to defeat this evil as you kill monsters, complete quests and level up your character.

For my playthrough I went for the Amazon (who is a mix between a typical rogue and ranger character class) because of my love of playing characters with ranged attacks. The husband went for a paladin so that we had someone who could barrel in as I picked off enemies with my arrows (which are currently both poisonous and have the ability to give lightning damage).

Like in Overwatch everything in the game is balanced well and, at least so far, the difficultly curve is the right amount of shallow so that you aren’t overwhelmed too quickly (although that might be more the setting we picked). I’m also loving the variety in enemy types and level construction. Sure the quests are the typical kill this, rescue that, but the randomly generated item system helps to make each quest feel different enough to be engaging.

Usually an isometric point-and-click hack-and-slash game wouldn’t be my cup of tea, but there is something in Diablo II that helps to make it incredibly enjoyable and accessible. Once I finish this game properly, I think it’ll be time for me to have another go at Baldur’s Gate – maybe when I’m not exhausted after a long week at work.

As things currently stand I won’t have to play either Diablo or Diablo III unless I make the decision to expand my games list to a Top 250. Considering that I am only 22 games away from completing the Top 100… I guess I’ll need to think on that decision in a few years.

World Cooking – São Tomé and Príncipe

List Item: Cook something from every countryCountry: São Tomé and Príncipe
Progress: 5/193

I know that it would have been a bit easier if I had picked a country like Morocco for my first African entry on this list, but sometimes you just strike it lucky with finding a recipe. Also, if this list is going to have any staying power then I cannot just cross off all the easy countries from the off… plus it’s just more fun this way.

So where do I start with some background on São Tomé and Príncipe. It’s the second smallest country in Africa and, like nearby Angola, is a former colony of Portugal. As such the cuisine takes elements of Portuguese and mixes it with the regional cuisine of this area of Africa. Since coffee and cocoa are major cash crops, these are flavours that crop up in a number of dishes alongside tropical fruits, vegetables, fish and protein. Sounds pretty ideal if you’re a big fan of coffee and chocolate.

Main: Chicken in Coffee Sauce

So yes, I ended up going with a recipe for Chicken with Coffee Sauce that I found on Afro Tourism. When comparing the picture on their website to how mine turned out, I guess that we just make the coffee weaker in this house. Maybe when I next make this recipe I’ll go for more of an espresso than an americano… and, once again, double the sauce ingredients. You need plenty of it to really enjoy the dish.

I guess the surprising thing for me in this recipe was how well coffee worked as the base for a sauce with chicken. It works for chocolate in mole sauce, so I guess it stands to reason that the slight bitterness of coffee would find harmony in an almost barbecue sauce.

From here I can really see opportunities to play with the recipe and make this a regular fixture in my week night dinners – it’s just that simple to make and I can imagine that it would work well with similar vegetables to a satay sauce (i.e. pineapple, bell pepper and celery) and maybe try it with some pork instead. Truly, this was a success.

Now that I have crossed off a country from each continent it’s time for me to start hopping around to whatever cuisine takes my fancy. I’ll be back in Europe for the next edition of this list as I check in with the food of Belgium. As I don’t necessarily trust my ability to cook mussels without ending up with a case of food poisoning, I’m having to deviate from the more stereotypical moules-frites…. but I will, of course, be making waffles. It just wouldn’t be Belgium without waffles.

Good Eatin’ – Kaszanka and Icre

I am off to Krakow in a few weeks, which I am super excited about, and in this pre-holiday excitement (mixed with some gloriously sunny weather) I thought it was time for me to make a much needed visit to the local Polski Sklep the next town over.

My idea was to get some pierogi, bread, Silesian sausage and a big bottle of blue Fanta and then have a leisurely walk home via Wimpy. Instead I was able to pick up two things for the food list – both of them being things that I had never seen in the store before.

There was a real part of me that thought that maybe it would be better for me to wait until I was in Poland… but when I think of my fruitless quest to find Thuringer Leberwurst… well it just makes sense to eat these when I get the opportunity.

List Item: Try three quarters of the 1001 Foods You Must Try Before You Die
Progress: 732/751Food item: Kaszanka

I bet that, when I get to Krakow, I am going to see kaszanka being cooked on every street corner. If I do, I think I’ll have to indulge once again as I can only imagine how excellent it will be to have one of these fresh off the grill and eat it in Krakow’s main square.

Much like morcilla, kaszanka is a type of blood sausage. What sets this apart is the use of buckwheat groats as a filler and the use of marjoram and black pepper as the main spices. Also, compared to morcilla, kaszanka has a slightly looser texture (although that could be a side effect of me cooking them until they exploded.

It’s a very meaty sausage with a  coarse grain. At times there is a strong aroma of the marjoram and at others a heat from the black pepper. All the time, however, you are getting a depth of meaty flavour from the with a strong meaty flavour from the mix of various pieces of pork offal and blood.

List Item: Try three quarters of the 1001 Foods You Must Try Before You Die
Progress: 733/751Food item: Icre

Icre is pretty much an Eastern European taramasalata where a thickener is used to bulk it up as well as a different oil base (vegetable or sunflower instead of olive oil). It’s also worth noting that, in the book, the icre I needed to try was made from carp roe rather than pike roe – which works for me as carp roe icre was the only type I could find.

As someone who only likes taramasalata in small doses I wasn’t feeling the idea of spreading the icre on toast and eating a fair bit of it. However, I have to say that I liked this a lot more than any taramasalata that I have had. Sure, there is a similar taste profile but it just feels less greasy to eat because it’s been thickened into an almost moose.

I also enjoyed, at least in the version I had, the mix of whole carp eggs and whipped carp eggs. It made for a far more interesting texture that worked well when topped with some sliced black olives I still had in the fridge. Another thing I’d have again if I see it in Krakow, but I’m not entirely sure when those circumstances would occur…

🎻♫♪ – Rodeo by Aaron Copland

List Item: Listen to half of the 1001 Classical Works You Must Hear Before You Die
 35/501Title: Rodeo
Composer: Aaron Copland
Nationality: American

I blink and it’s been a month where I have not touched any of the entries on the classical list. Considering that so many pieces come in at under half an hour (although many also take more than two hours) I have to chalk a lot of this up to just forgetting to put the time in for this.

So for today I thought I would go for one of the later entries on the list… and one that just sounded interesting. As the title suggests, Rodeo is a classical piece set in the old west that takes the form of a cowboy ballet. The piece itself is a fusion of where classical meets Broadway and was one of the first truly American ballets with folk style music being melded into a more formal orchestrated setting.

I can only imagine the first time critics saw Rodeo being performed. I mean you go in with an idea of what a ballet is and then, in the first movement, you have professional ballet dancers miming horse-riding. As the piece goes on there is a woodwind section playing with a honky-tonk piano and it all culminates in a hoe-down.

Credit where credit is due to Aaron Copland, this really is an idea that should not have worked or, at least, had a more humours bent in the music. But no, Rodeo is a solid piece that (much like the sampling in trains?) shows just how versatile the classical genre can be when it comes to moving with the times. After all, this is an area of music that has survived for nearly 1000 years thanks to its ability to adapt – so why should that stop now?