Monthly Archives: August 2019

What’s On TV – Space Ghost Coast To Coast

List Item:  Watch half of the 1001 TV Series You Must Watch Before You Die
Progress: 223/501
Title: Space Ghost Coast To Coast
Episodes Aired: 108
Year(s): 1994-2008
Country: USA

When I first started on the TV list over 3 years ago, I had to go through the book with a fine-toothed comb to properly ascertain how many I’d actually seen. However, it would appear one slipped through the net… which is all the excuse I needed to mount a re-watch of the utterly brilliant and utterly bonkers Space Ghost Coast To Coast.

Truly, there is nothing that I have ever seen that quite does what Space Ghost Coast To Coast. The book puts it in the genre of talk show, which it technically is, but it’s a surrealist re-interpretation of the genre whose interviewer, band leader and producer are all characters from a failed 1960s Saturday morning cartoon. It’s a spectacularly weird show that just got weirder and weirder as the seasons progressed.

In the beginning, the show was strange but still functioned moreorless as a talk show. Guests were interviewed separately with some idea of an eventual script and then the rest of the show could go from there. Later on more was done with re-editing the interview footage to make things as surreal as possible, which ends up with episodes where Björk’s interview is used to frame her as Space Ghost’s wife and where a 35 minute interview with Conan O’Brien is edited down massively to make way for an 10 minute long anti-comedy gag of Space Ghost following an ant back to their nest.

This is one of those shows that Adult Swim have been re-posting onto their YouTube channel – so it’s always a good time to give this a bit of a go. I’m now on my third watch through and I am still giggling away at the interactions between Space Ghost and his bandleader (and mantis, not locust, extraordinaire) Zorak.

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XL Popcorn – The Umbrellas of Cherbourg

List Item: Watch all of the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”
Progress: 741/1007Title: Les Parapluies de Cherbourg (The Umbrellas of Cherbourg)
Director: Jacques Demy
Year: 1964
Country: France

And so I have now completed Jacques Demy’s loose romantic trilogy with the most acclaimed of the bunch… that is also technically the middle film. This is not a typical trilogy as there is no continuing story line, just recurring cast members and an overall similar feel. The one thread of continuity is the reappearance of the character of Roland Cassard from Lola, but that’s in the same ballpark as Jacques Tati playing Monsieur Hulot in a number of his films.

Where the final film in the trilogy was a traditional musical, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg is more like an opera in that literally every piece of dialogue is sung. There’s a nice signposting of this in the beginning of the film with the two leads going to see Carmen on a date. The whole ‘singing everything in a film’ is a bit unnerving when you aren’t ready for it, but once I got into it I was SO in.

When you watch a film like this you cannot help but wonder how people can be so attractive. Not only is Guy (played by Nino Castelnuovo) an absolute stud-muffin, but then you have Catherine Deneuve. Then there is Catherine Deneuve. Not only is she absolutely stunning to look at (even if the line about her not wearing make-up is absolute crap), but she shows so much of her range as an actress in these 90 minutes. It’s little wonder that this is the film that launched her career outside of France.

The film itself really does flash by in an instant and by the time it ends you have been through a lot of emotions and seen a lot of choices. The ending itself really reminded me of how they ended La La Land – which makes sense as both films (and Les Demoiselles de Rochefort) share a lot stylistically.

Now, since this is a Jacques Demy musical with Catherine Deneuve as the star, it’s difficult to not make points of comparison between this and Les Demoiselles de Rochefort. They are both excellent films and true exemplars of the musical genre, but I think there are some places where they outperform each other.

For example, since every word is sung, I feel like there isn’t a single song in The Umbrellas of Cherbourg that can outdo ‘Chanson des Jumelles’ in terms of catchiness. Similarly there are no big song or dance sequences, which is something that I did miss considering all the visuals that could have been done using the props from the umbrella shop. On the other hand, the story line in The Umbrellas of Cherbourg is a better one and visually the use of the highly saturated colours works so well, and maybe a bit better than Les Demoiselles de Rochefort’s pastels.

Films like this and An Autumn Afternoon have really made me feel glad that I’ve decided to focus on the 1960s and 1970s for a bit. It’s helping me to re-evaluate these decades for the better… I just hope this feeling of goodwill won’t be premature.

Acclaimed Albums – The Clash by The Clash

List item: Listen to the 250 greatest albums
Progress: 184/250Title: The Clash
Artist: The Clash
Year: 1977
Position: #65

Wow, it’s been 5 years since I listened to London CallingMy priorities in the order that I listen to these albums has kept on warping that it’s only now that I get to their second entry on this list. It’s a bit weird to be stepping back in their chronology, as I prefer to listen to albums in order, but that’s how it goes.

With The Clash being their debut album everything is a bit more rough, ready and angsty when compared to what I heard later. Whilst this is still very much a punk rock album this is, as one of the tracks attests, very true to this genre’s roots in garage rock. It’s worth mentioning this as the punk on offer in The Clash is markedly different to the type of punk that you would hear in Patti Smith’s more poetic Horses.

Where you would get something more considered and measured (at least for punk) on London Calling, everything on this debut feels a lot more frenetic. There is anger in these lyrics around topics of youth, racism and (as you see in the song ‘Job Opportunities’) unemployment. After all this is an album born out of Britain being in pretty dire circumstances with the three-day week, miner’s strikes and all the black outs. Really it was the perfect time for punk to come out and take on the anger of the younger generation.

Despite everything being raw and unpolished The Clash is a very good album, especially for the genre. The songs are brief energetic fireworks that end at the right time and some can even be quite catchy. It’s a good album to keep you awake on the train home when you are being delayed by signal problems… and for when you need to motivate yourself at work.

📽️ Disney Time – Sleeping Beauty

List Item:  Watch The Disney Animated Canon
Progress: 16/57Title: Sleeping Beauty
Year: 1959

When I went to see the ballet The Sleeping Beauty it was more than a bit strange to hear Tchaikovsky’s music in a different context. For example, the music that I’ve come to know as representing Maleficent bewitching the princess to her doom is, in the ballet, a dance done by cats at the wedding of the princess to the prince.

Now that I’ve watched Disney’s Sleeping Beauty for the first time since seeing the ballet – I have to say that I have a greater appreciation for Tchaikovsky’s score. I am also very impressed at how the filmmakers took this classical suite and fit them to their adaptation, especially for songs like ‘Once Upon A Dream’ and cat dance music as I mentioned before.

Aside from the outstanding music, one thing that you really see from Sleeping Beauty is that this would appear to be the first time that the animation style was a clear choice for a narrative film. From the get-go, the backgrounds and character designs are drawn in a way that tip the hat to medieval paintings. Check the highlights in Aurora’s hair and some of the interesting use of perspective in the beginning sequence to see what I mean. I wonder how long it’ll be before I see them paying such an homage again.

Despite being called Sleeping Beauty, it is interesting how the main characters in this film really are the three fairies and Maleficent. Princess Aurora really isn’t in the film that much. The film may be named after her, but of all the titular Disney characters she has he second least lines (the least lines belong to Dumbo… who does not speak). In Maleficent Disney really did craft one of their most evil villains, I mean this is one that actually scared me as a child because of the way her eyes glowed in the fire. The voice acting is on point, which is hilarious now that I’ve seen Green Acres as I now know Eleanor Audley more for her role in that TV show than as Maleficent.

Despite the fact that Sleeping Beauty is now regularly ranked as one of Disney’s best films, the contemporary critics were not so kind. Neither were the box office receipts in the initial run in theatres, where Sleeping Beauty failed to make back all the money spent on it. Thanks to this, we had to wait 30 years and 12 films before Disney would attempt another fairy tale adaptation. At least, since their next fairy tale film would be The Little Mermaid, we know it was worth the wait.

World Cooking – South Africa

List Item: Cook something from every countryCountry: South Africa
Progress: 36/193

I had full intent of cooking for a country that has fufu as a prominent member of their cuisine – but since I had the zebra biltong to eat, I felt that it would be cool to cook from a country that makes biltong. So this is how I ended up making food from South Africa.

Talking about the food of South Africa is to talk about two rather distinct cuisines – that of the indigenous peoples and that of the myriad of coloniszers whose foods have all melded together in recent centuries. The two threads have met now and then, but for the purposes of today I have made food from the second culinary thread. If you want to see something from the more indigenous side, see my post for Lesotho, where I made a soup from the Sotho peoples who also inhabit South Africa.

Before the creation of the Suez Canal, the only way to go between Europe and Asia by boat would be to breeze your way by South Africa. Given the money that could be made by owning the ports, the lands of South Africa have traded hands numerous times and have been inhabited by even more ethnic groups. This means that the food in South Africa has seen influences from the Netherlands, India, Germany, France, Greece, Portugal and the UK as well as a number of others.

In choosing dishes to make for South Africa, I wanted to select a main and a dessert that were quite different. For the main I have gone for a Cape Malay classic (a region with an incredibly complex and slavery-tinged history) and for a dessert that feels like an enlarged version of a delicious treat that I had in Lisbon.

Main: Bobotie

Starting off today’s South African dinner was a pleasingly yellow dish (thank you turmeric tinted custard) called bobotie. Some corners of the internet refer to it as a national dish of South Africa, but I don’t think that it’s been given such an official title – so let’s just call it a popular and representative dish. At least of the Cape Malay region.

I made this bobotie following a recipe from The Spruce Eats. The bottom majority is made from minced meat that has been spiced with things like curry powder, chutney and cloves. It also contains milk-soaked bread as a way to bring in extra moisture and a texture difference. The topping is a custard made with eggs, milk and turmeric – which adds more moisture and gives the dish a striking hue.

When making this, the kitchen started to smell a lot like when I made the Turkemistani pie, albeit with a slightly different spice profile. I served it alongside a spoonful of plum chutney and a helping of yellow rice that I had spiced with turmeric and curry powder.

I also had some flavouring help from a certain food item that I got for Christmas:

List Item: Try as many of the 1001 Foods You Must Try Before You Die as possibleFood item: Smyrna Bay Leaf
Progress: 775/1001

Honestly, I’m not entirely sure that I noticed the difference in flavour between these specialist bay leaves and the regular ones that I would otherwise use. However, it’s nice to finally have found a use for them after their being sat in the cupboard for two months.

Dessert: Melktert

When I eventually get around to cooking Portugal i might need to try my hand at their custard tarts, but until then here is a nice big melktert – or ‘milk tart’ in English. Think of it as a tart with a sweet shortcrust casing and a filling that like a spiced custard that tastes like you made it with condensed milk.

If you had told me a year ago, before I started on this world food quest, that I would be making pies, tarts and pastries from scratch – dough and all – I don’t quite know if I would have believed you. Now, I’m feeling remarkably confident to the point that I’m beginning to know what to improvise when things aren’t quite right (for example, adding an extra half egg yolk when the dough wasn’t coming together).

As with a lot of African food Immaculate Bites gave me an excellent recipe to follow that ended up with something delicious. This really does feel like a massive Pasteis De Nata, but with more of an almond and sweetened milk taste. It’s best when served straight from the fridge, which is good because the pudding-nature of the filling means it doesn’t travel too well in slices.

Next time on the world cooking challenge I’ll be making something from the Americas. It’s been a while since I made something from the American mainland and even longer since I made something from Central America – so with that as a rough guide let’s see where I end up.

(✿◠‿◠) Anime!!! – Ashita No Joe

List Item:  Watch the 100 Anime to See Before You Die
Progress: 38/100Title: Ashita No Joe
Episodes Aired: 79
Year(s): 1970-71

I chose to watch Ashita No Joe as my next anime for two reasons. Firstly, it is the oldest series on the list and I thought it would be really interesting to see how an anime series from 1970 would look. The main reason though was to see if I could find a way to redeem the original manga series that I gave up on a year or so ago.

Having watched this I came to a similar conclusion that I did with the manga – life is too short. The problems that I had with the manga seemed to be magnified with the anime because now it was accompanied by some pretty bad voice acting and really dated animation.

Usually an anime break between the time I get home and start making dinner for my husband (because I am a 1950s housewife apparently). Aside from my weekly new episodes of That Time I Was Reincarnated As A Slime, knowing that the current anime was Ashita no Joe really made me think about what other things I could be doing rather than checking in with this series.

I think I just don’t get boxing anime and, thankfully, I think this is the last one I am kinda obligated to watch. I think I need to find that anime loving feeling again, so it might be a while before I dive back into this list again.

Acclaimed Albums – Wish You Were Here by Pink Floyd

List item: Listen to the 250 greatest albums
Progress: 183/250Title: Wish You Were Here
Artist: Pink Floyd
Year: 1975
Position: #189

I was cleaning the kitchen when I began to think how I may not have given the song ‘Wish You Were Here’ a fair shot when I listened to it for the songs list. After all, I really enjoyed Dark Side of the Moon and this just might be one of those things that needs more than one listen to really get. So here we are three album listens later and I’ve fallen for another Pink Floyd album.

The song ‘Wish You Were Here’ sounds better in context but, at least for me, that isn’t the best track on the album – and so I wonder why it was the choice for the 1001 list. What do I think is the best track though? Well, that would be the nine-part 26 minute long epic ‘Shine On You Crazy Diamond’, about their former member Syd Barrett who was kicked out of Pink Floyd some 7 years prior due to his inability to his drug use and mental issues. It’s a prog rock masterpiece and the two halves act as stellar bookends for this album.

I had no idea that I would enjoy prog rock when I started listening my way through this album list. Hell, I did not really get all the praise for The Piper At The Gates of Dawn – but through Wish You Were Here and Dark Side of the Moon I feel like I am beginning to get a taste for some of it. Maybe it’s thanks to the introduction of synthesizers that I’m beginning to see the epicness to some of these Pink Floyd songs. Maybe it’s because I am more and more hearing echoes of future musicians in their music. Or, maybe they hit a good streak and made two amazing albums in a row.

So yes, ‘Wish You Were Here’ the song doesn’t quite reach the heights of ‘Shine On You Crazy Diamond’ or ‘Welcome to the Machine’ for me, but it led me to this album far sooner than I would have otherwise gotten around to it.

Good Eatin’ – Zebra Biltong

List Item: Try as many of the 1001 Foods You Must Try Before You Die as possibleFood item: Zebra Biltong
Progress: 774/1001

So this has been sitting around for nearly two months since I received it as a Christmas present. I’ve been eyeing zebra biltong on a number of specialty sites as, in all honesty, I cannot foresee that I’ll be heading to this neck of the woods in the near future when there is still so much of East Asia to discover. Still, a big thanks to the hub for actually getting me some – especially for the minor bragging rights for being able to say that I’ve eaten zebra.

As someone who has never had regular biltong or any type of jerky, I wasn’t prepared for just how chewy this was. Sure, I’ve seen people eating it on TV and gotten the vague idea that this was tough (and I know that some people give it to children as they teethe), but this was a bit beyond.

When I had my first taste of this I was quite put off. I mean, not only did this feel like I was eating leather but it was also very gamy (although spices like coriander seed did help to offset this). However, very quickly I found myself grazing on these pieces of dried zebra. The gamy and savoury nature of the biltong with the chewiness makes for a good snack food and the more I ate it, the more I liked it.

In the future I might try some regular biltong instead of going for the unusual game varieties as a snack food – because of availability and price. As someone who chews on every pen he’s ever received, eating biltong is a weirdly satisfying experience.

1001 Songs – 1975: Part Two

List Item:  Listen to the 1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die

That’s the Way ( I Like It) – KC & The Sunshine Band

I will probably never be able to untangle this song from it’s appearance in Austin Powers in Goldmember where it’s sung by Beyoncé as we’re introduced to her character Foxxy Cleopatra.

With this song, I think it is safe to say that disco has just burst onto the scene. The Bee Gees in the last bunch of songs was a decent signal of this, but we’re very much there now. Listening to this song outside of television and movies really helps me to realize just how much disco was an upbeat offshoot of funk that was focused on having a good time. Good song, if a little bit repetitive.

Kalimankou denkou – Le Mystere des Voix Bulgares

If, like me, you are a fan of Kate Bush – you will instantly recognise the voice of some of the soloists from this Bulgarian singing group. Three members of this group would spin off from this larger collective (much like Enya from Clannad) and end up working with Kate Bush on the amazing album, The Sensual World.

This song is haunting. It feels exotic and rather ancient, which makes sense seeing how this is part of a collection of traditional Bulgarian folk songs that have been put to choral arrangements. ‘Kalimankou denkou’ feels like something between a folk motet and ‘Ave Maria’. Again, this is haunting.

Marcus Garvey – Burning Spear

From haunting Bulgarian choral music to Jamaican roots reggae – a pretty significant genre shift. ‘Marcus Garvey’ is a song about one of the prophets of the Rastafari religion. That makes this song something that is pretty consistant with the Rastafari movement – the mix of a religious and a political message.

It’s one of those songs, however, where if you have no idea about Marcus Garvey or the wider Rastafari religion – it’s pretty much lost on you. The music has a bit more pep than other reggae I’ve heard from Bob Marley, but it’s not really for me. Still, nice to hear where reggae has gotten to in 1975.

Bohemian Rhapsody – Queen

Music is an emotional beast – both in the playing and in the listening. Like with the Bohemian Rhapsody movie, I’ve tried to distance my personal feelings from the actual music when listening to this. So here goes…

Taking emotions out of the equation – this is an ambitious and bombastic song. I have so much respect for being able to put together something so operatic and so unique for the time. I mean, no one has really done anything similar to the level of success that Queen had. It isn’t for me, but listening to it in isolation (and not in that turd of a movie) I can see why this struck chords and has remained in the public consciousness.

Gloria – Patti Smith

It’s been a year and half since I did my blog post on Horses and I still listen to this song and just imagine early PJ Harvey roaring to this before she seques into either ‘Sheela-Na-Gig’ or ‘Rid of Me’.

Like with ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, ‘Gloria’ doesn’t really sound like anything that came before it (at least on the song list). The fact that this is the opening track of her debut album is just beyond amazing. With ‘Gloria’ it’s fair to say that the trigger has been pulled on the punk movement, and once we get some Ramones in 1976 her call to arms has been answered.

Tangled Up in Blue – Bob Dylan

‘Tangled Up In Blue’ is my favourite Bob Dylan song. It’s where he sounds his best vocally, accompanied by his lushest productions and with a set of brilliant lyrics about a failed love affair.

It’s one of the few times where I feel able to make an emotional connection with him as the singing narrator; the other times all being featured on his album Blood on the Tracks, where this track is the opener. I just really like this song; hard to really say much else.

Walk This Way – Aerosmith

Okay so all I knew of this song was the version that Aerosmith did with Run D.M.C. (and that ill-advised cover by Sugababes and Girls Aloud). I had no idea this existed in isolation. Gotta say that this original version is so good and is such a fun song – the fact that I just found out that this was inspired by a comedic bit from Young Frankenstein makes it all the better.

Another thing I heard in this song was elements of funk. It’s a funk-rock hybrid song which, again, isn’t like much that I have heard before for this list. I had a lot of fun listening to this song.

Wish You Were Here – Pink Floyd

It’s unusual for me to just sit through a song and not write anything down… when the song hasn’t grabbed me that is. I don’t know why, but ‘Wish You Were Here’ really did nothing for me, to the point that it really just sailed over my head. I’ll listen to the album eventually, so maybe something will rouse me then.

Progress: 417/1021

XL Popcorn – An Autumn Afternoon

List Item: Watch all of the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”
Progress: 740/1007Title: Sanma no aji (An Autumn Afternoon)
Director: Yasujirō Ozu
Year: 1962
Country: Japan

It is impossible to talk about Japanese cinema without mentioning the name Yasujirō Ozu. For Tokyo Story alone he has become known around the world as one of the most influential directors of all time, but he has such a large filmography that it surprises me that it has taken me 5 years to get to another film of his. I love Tokyo Story, I really fell for Late Spring and now, with this third film of his I’ve seen, I highly rate An Autumn Afternoon.

An Autumn Afternoon was Ozu’s final film before passing just one year later and, somewhat interestingly, is a different viewpoint of his earlier film Late Spring. It’s even more interesting when you notice how, from Late Spring onwards, the seasons that he uses in his film titles processes from spring to summer to autumn… he never made it to winter as he died of cancer at 60.

At the centre of the film is a widower who lives with his two younger unmarried children. Much like in Late Spring he has a daughter of marrying age who is staying single in order to look after her father and younger brother – the key difference between the two films being that it is the father who is unable to let his daughter go, rather than the other way around.

It’s not like she’s being held hostage or anything, but the thrust of the narrative arc is him coming to the realisation that he needs to let her go instead of her being held back by guilt. Then again, it’s important to remember that this is 1962 where women were expected to resign their job once they got married – and this is Japan in 1962 where parents matchmaking for their children was still very commonplace.

This central family drama with the father finally realising that he needs to set his daughter free is really well done, but something that really struck me was how the characters talked about living in a post-war Japan. You have characters discussing what it would be like if Japan had won the war – in that instance it would be American teenagers taking on Japanese trends rather than the other way round. Of course these conversations happened, but I’ve never seen them written into a film – or even thought about how these conversations would go. It’s a small point, but something that has really stayed with me.

There is one final Ozu film left for me to see on the 1001 list: Floating Weeds. However, my Ozu education will not be ending there. Oh no, based on these three films I now have a box set with a lot of his films coming, in the event that I eventually finish off the 1001 and I feel the need to do a deep dive. As much as I am loving this list, I am so looking forward to that final crossing off.