All posts by mulholland

What’s On TV – Midsomer Murders

List Item:  Watch half of the 1001 TV Series You Must Watch Before You Die
Progress: 246/501
Title: Midsomer Murders
Episodes Aired: 126+
Year(s): 1997-now
Country: UK

There is something to be said for a good cozy British murder drama. Especially when you are wrapped in a blanket because it is freezing cold outside and you want to not focus too much on something. This is what Midsomer Murders means to me and why I will be keeping this show on for the time being.

Given that an episode is 100 minutes long, I didn’t exactly watch a massive chunk of these before consisdering myself far enough in to cross it off for the sake of the blog. I pretty much stayed in the original era, figuring it would be good to see the episodes where they first adapt from the books that the series is based on and then seeing them venture into original content.

Honestly, I prefer the original content. Firstly, because they don’t all feature an LGBT character acting in a negative way – something that really began to leave a bad taste in my mouth during the first season. Also, the original content helped to properly flesh out the recurring characters and even begin to show some self-awareness at just how murderous this area of England is.

Seriously though, it is some sort of running joke that this rural county of Midsomer has the same murder rate as some of the most dangerous areas of America. Not that it’s all death by shooting… there was one episode where victims were burned alive, decapitated by an antique sword and even shot in the back with an arrow. Can’t say this is an area of the world I would want to live in, but at least it would be entertaining.

I know that, in it’s 20+ years there have been a lot of cast changes to the point where, like Silent Witnessit is probably a different show now compared to where it was in 1997. I’ll get to these later series eventually, but given their extreme length it may take me a good few years before I get anywhere close to up-to-date. Hopefully they’ll stay just as cozy.

(✿◠‿◠) Anime!!! – Mobile Suit Gundam

List Item:  Watch the 100 Anime to See Before You Die
Progress: 58/100Title: Mobile Suit Gundam
Episodes Aired: 43
Year(s): 1979-1980

In retrospect, it was a mistake to start watching Mobile Suit Gundam straight after Neon Genesis EvangelionThere is no way this could end well and I would just end up with a very specific fatigue related to watching sci-fi anime series featuring giant robot battlesuits. But this is where we are and this is one of those series that just ended up boring me.

This is the fourth series I have seen that has these giant robot battles. Of course, Mobile Suit Gundam is by far the oldest as it was one of the earliest in the mecha anime genre and helped to direct it in the direction that we have now. Being often-copied and often-improved upon, it’s actually quite odd watching it for the first time. Mainly because it’s actually quite dull.

I know there are a lot of people who really rate Mobile Suit Gundam and, honestly, I do kinda get it. This series gets a lot of cache for helping to revolutionize the mecha genre and for really help launch a massive toy empire. It is just that I have been spoiled by Neon Genesis and Gurren Laganwhere things are a bit more subversive and unpredictable.

So I am not sure where I go from here with my next anime series. Honestly, I think I need to watch something a lot more recent – so might end up reaching so something right at the end. Or just something that isn’t mecha. Shouldn’t be too hard to find something.

World Cooking – Chile

List Item: Cook something from every countryCountry: Chile
Progress: 102/193

The last time I crossed off a South American country, the country was Bolivia and it was nearly a year and a half ago. When the time usually comes for me to make something from the Americas, I end up focussing on the Caribbean nations because I am so concerned about the amount of them and just how much they have in common. So, making something from South America feels like a real treat.

One day I will make empanadas for this challenge. When looking through all the different things I could make for Chile, I then thought it would be better to save that for a country where I was unable to find proper ingredients or there was so much overlap with other cuisines it just made sense. I guess that the variety in Chilean cuisine is down to two things – the mix of indigenous and colonial traditions and the rather extreme geography.

To be honest, there are so many things that I could have made for Chile if we weren’t still, at time of writing, in a lockdown situation. I am not sure that I would have been able to track down yucca or a lot of the necessary seafood because… well I would have if I could have gotten into Central London without the feeling that I was breaking all sorts of rules. Still though, managed to make some delicious things in the name of Chilean cuisine.

Bread: Marraqueta

So I took it upon myself this time, who knows why, that I would make the bread for the main meal. Mostly because getting good bread for my Cuban sandwich was tough enough in the before times, let alone where I am very limited by my bread shopping options. In retrospect, I could have gone with the suggestion of using ciabatta, but it is what it is.

To make this marraqueta, using the recipe from 196 Flavors, it was time for another bout of midnight baking. I don’t know why I end up making a lot of the baked goods for this list around midnight on a Friday. Just living it large at the edge of London I guess.

I know that the ones I made look not a lot like the picture for two things. First, I was not able to properly connect the balls like I was meant to, but they fused enough in their own way so sure. Also, the divot I made with my knife sharpener just ended up almost disappearing as the rolls baked. Still tasted good though.

Main: Chacarero Chileno

Doing this challenge has really shown me the place to look for some of the best sandwiches in the world is in the Americas. The médianoche and the chivito have been some of the most delicious things I have made – just period. This is also the continent that has all the ridiculous types of U.S. sandwiches, so I guess it makes sense that I went for a particularly Chilean sandwich.

Using the recipe from Serious Eats and the rolls I made the night before, these chacarero chileno sandwiches were beautiful. The reason it works so well is the garlic mayonnaise that you end up making. Not only is it delicious as a spread on the bread, but it is also essential in helping keep the steak nice and juicy.

I had to deviate from the recipe in two ways, but honestly I don’t think it would have changed it enough to make it invalid. Firstly, I was limited about the jarred peppers that I could fine, so instead of banana peppers I used these lovely golden pepperdews. I thought that with that these would contrast nicely with the green beans and red tomatoes whilst also being tasty. Also, as I live in a flat, I used my dual-press grill to cook the beef.

This was delicious. Even if it was initially too large to wrap my jaw around.

Dessert: Brazo de Reina

Personally, the fact that I ended up with an end product that remotely resembled what I was meant to be making is thanks to my last remaining brain cells. Thanks to the recipe from Curious Cuisiniere using inches and the pan I ordered using centimetres – I ended up with a bit of a mismatch. Namely, too much mix for my pan that was a bit too small.

The problem? There are two. First, this is a chonky cake. Like this cake was meant to be thinner and over a wider area, which would have made for a more impressive swirl. Then there is the larger issue that, even though I tried to compensate the cooking time, there was a patch of the cake which wasn’t exactly cooked. Thankfully this could be removed with some surgery and about 80% of the cake could be used.

This cake – think a swiss roll with a vanilla sponge and a delicious dulce de leche filling – is the first time that I have ever tried to make a roll cake. Having seen so many fails on The Great British Bake OffI was pretty worried about the cake just falling apart as I wrapped it. Somehow I managed to roll it so that there were no cracks and, despite being a bit thick, got a nice swirl and an overall really good flavour. So yes, a success despite some issues.

So, for the next country I cook for I will not be making as much as I did for Chile. Honestly, for my own sanity I need to keep having more countries with just one dish to cook rather than just overreach. Sure it pretty much all worked out this time… but there have been tears in the past. Hopefully there won’t be any tears when I make my next county. Please.

XL Popcorn – The Exiles

List Item: Watch all of the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”
Progress: 898/1009Title: The Exiles
Director: Kent Mackenzie
Year: 1961
Country: USA

Well, after Vinyl I thought I would have a bit of respite before I got the next film on this list that would leave me utterly cold. Sadly not. Cards on the table, I only watched this about 8 hours before sitting down to start writing this blog post and… it’s like my brain has completely scrubbed most of the knowledge of watching this. Honestly, it is like I didn’t even watch a film this afternoon.

So what is The Exiles? This is a pseudo-documentary that follows a day in the life of a group of Native Americans who now live in Los Angeles having left the reservation lands. The sheer bulk of this film is watching a group of men as they go on a night out, which then ends up in a drumming party on a hill outside the city. I wish it had focused more on the life of Native American women who had transplanted themselves into the big city – but this is 1961. If this had been made 15-20 years later, I think the depictions would have been more equal. Well at least I hope so.

That’s pretty much all I have. I think it’s interesting how quickly the people in this film forget they are on camera and just go about things – like very naturally. Other than that, this film made next to no impression on me and that’s a bit sad… so I am very glad that this wasn’t my 900th film. That was a close one.

Acclaimed Albums – Will The Circle Be Unbroken by The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band

List item: Listen to the 1000 Most Acclaimed Albums
Progress: 288/1000
Title: Will The Circle Be Unbroken
Artist: The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band
Year: 1972

Here we are, the first album in this expanded run and it is one that I ended up listening to in early December with my husband whilst building a Lego train. He is doing his own listen through of the 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die – and I decided to listen to this particular album with him. There was an episode in the brilliant Ken Burns documentary series Country Music which talks about the making of this album and, seeing as I know some of the history of the performers, I was super keen to actually hear them on an album.

To actually hear a track with Mother Maybelle Carter on it? Yes please. After watching that series I ended up in complete awe of this woman. She recorded her vocals and autoharp playing on this album in her early sixties and she has the power she always has. Truly though, so does everyone else on this brilliant artifact of country and bluegrass.

At the time Will The Circle Be Unbroken was being recorded, the world of country music was changing. Many rising stars were a lot more middle class compared to those that came before and more rock and pop influences were beginning to infiltrate and kick out the old guard. The idea of this album was to bridge the gap between these generations and have newer musicians in the more traditional country/bluegrass perform with their idols.

It is such a noble effort and this album stands as a brilliant document of an artform that was losing its popularity and for being a last major push for a number of performers who were entering the twilight of their careers. I know that I got a lot more out of this album because I knew the backstory, but I also kinda like this music anyway.

Hand on heart I can say that, over the course of 105 minutes, I never got bored because of the variety of songs. Some where pure instrumentals showing off the talents of the players, others were covers of classics and then there were newer songs being played by both generations. It’s wonderful to hear the camaraderie and, whilst sequels were made, I can’t imagine anything quite equalling the power of this original.

New List Appeared: 1000 Most Acclaimed Albums

It has been over seven years since I started this blog and the albums list was one of the first that I added in. For years since I have been wanting to expand this cut of 250 albums to 1000, but it has taken two years of me starting the year with the resolution to finish it (and failing) until I got to this point in 2021.

I still had the thoughts about whether I should switch to the 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die list, or to continue on with the list on Acclaimed Music. Since I started this blog using the Acclaimed Music site, I am going to continue on. If I somehow end up completing this, then maybe I will switch source.

So, what’s my starting point? Well, aside from the top 250 there are albums (like Dare!) which I had previously written posts for but had since fallen off of the list. I will also be considering albums like Be The Cowboy and A Crow Looked At Me as crossed off as I have already written about them as part of my end of year lists.

On the flipside, albums in my first end of year list such as Vulnicura or Ys will not be counted yet as I never wrote something about them. There are also albums from a previous blog of mine (where I tried to listen to the 1001 Before You Die list), which will not be counted yet – however I will be copying over those posts from nearly 10 years ago as some of the first crossings off of the new list.

List item: Listen to the 1000 Most Acclaimed Albums
Progress: 287/1000

It took me 7 years to get to this point – so I guess I’ll see what happens in 2041. Seeing how long I have been doing this blog, I do wonder if I’ll still be finding things to write about when I am entering my fifties.

Acclaimed Albums – Let It Be by The Replacements

List item: Listen to the 250 greatest albums
Progress: 250/250Title: Let it Be
Artist: The Replacements
Year: 1984
Position: #205

Was it intentional that the last album I listened to on this list (before it was replaced with a longer list) was by a band called The Replacements? Absolutely. Was it a plan that I hatched years ago? Hell no, but it has been something that has been about six months in the making and I really wish I had the foresight to have set up even earlier. To be fair though, when I started this blog I didn’t have the foggiest that I would still be doing it 7 years later.

The album itself, Let It Be by The Replacements, has been a bit overshadowed in my brain more of what it now represents than for the music itself. This is one on the list of the indie rock albums that came out of the post-punk movement and propelled a new genre. When I listen to this, I can hear a lot of what I would go on to enjoy in Jeff Rosenstock.

It’s not as if this was the birth of this type of music, this is just the refinement of what post-punk and other rock music from the 1970s was and puts it into a cool new package. I’m still not entirely loving two of the song titles (just look at the track listing, you’ll know the ones I mean), but as an album it is pretty solid. Wish it could have had the wow factor that Yeezus and Third had as the final albums in their respective decades, but this was still a good one to end on.

List item: Listen to the 250 greatest albums
Progress: COMPLETE

Right, so now that I have finished the 250, where from here? Well, this will be explained in the post going up tomorrow and I will be doing some moving about of lists in the bar at the top of the blog. Feels so weirdly great to have gotten to this point – and now to start on the stretch goal.

XL Popcorn – Amarcord

List Item: Watch all of the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”
Progress: 897/1009Title: Amarcord
Director: Federico Fellini
Year: 1973
Country: Italy

The penultimate Fellini before I finish off the list… in about two years. I decided to keep Juliet of the Spirits as I wanted to save the final Giulietta Masina film to the end, which leaves me with this autobiographical comedy-drama that netted Fellini his fourth and final win for Best Foreign Language Film at the Oscars. Not that he got the trophies as they technically belong to the country of origin… which has always struck me as a bit odd.

Amarcord is one of those films that doesn’t really have a story as such, instead it is a year in the life of an Italian town in the 1930s. We start as spring chases away the winter chill with a stream of puffy seeds and we end in the same way. In the intervening year we see marriage, death, sex, confession and a man climbing a tree demanding that someone fetches him a woman.

The lack of a definitive storyline is the strength and the weakness of Amarcord. Being that this is a Fellini film, there is no argument as to how brilliant this film looks. He sets up some wonderful scenes, like the cinema scene and the snowy roadways, and there are some great laughs to be had – the scene with the tobacconist screams into my mind there.

On the flip side, the lack of a set direction turns this into a two hour stream of vignettes that don’t always work for me. It had me completely for the first hour as we had dream sequences, unreliable narrators and stones being thrown at relatives. Then it began to lose me as the pace and the tone changed. Like, I was never able to emotionally invest too much in Titta as a main character so the final part of his maturation arc didn’t hit me as hard as it should… given that he is the Fellini analogue.

🎻♫♪ – Concerto for Orchestra by Elliott Carter

List Item: Listen to half of the 1001 Classical Works You Must Hear Before You Die
Progress:
103/501Title: Concerto for Orchestra
Composer: Elliott Carter
Nationality: American
Year:
1969

There is a weird benefit of pulling out these classical pieces out of the old theme park popcorn container – sometimes you end up with incredibly contrasting pieces from the opposite ends of the book. Dating from the 1960s, Concerto for Orchestra is probably the most difficult piece that I have listened to for the 1001 classical pieces list. However, I wouldn’t necessarily say that means this was one of the worst.

I have said a few times for other albums (both popular music and classical) that if a piece is too busy or discordant, it can trigger a panic response in me. I hate that this is a thing, but whatever this isn’t a common occurrence. Well, it began to happen with Concerto for Orchestra. Then I did something I don’t usually do – I leaned into it and really focused on the piece. 

You see, normally these classical pieces become good background music for work – but this is not the piece for that. This is a piece where, shortly after I actually started listening to it, the different elements of this 20-odd minute concerto opened up a bit. I could start to hear the large variety of instruments operating on their different rhythms … and somehow it actually made sense. Like, knowing this might be an option for these kinds of classical pieces is revelatory. I do get why a lot of people really cannot get close to liking it, but you can’t deny how interesting it is.

Acclaimed Albums – Third by Portishead

List item: Listen to the 250 greatest albums
Progress: 249/250Title: Third
Artist: Portishead
Year: 2008
Position: #226

In the four years (count them, four) since I first listened to Dummy, I have kept my Portishead listening relegated to that album. Why I didn’t take some time with their second self-titled album is beyond me, given how much I liked their debut. Now I am finishing off the 2000s in this album challenge, I have finally gotten around to Third.

When I wrote about Dummy and saw that Third would be a move away from trip-hop whilst still keeping something innately Portishead, I didn’t completely gel with the idea. I mean the swirling nature of Dummy was what I loved most. Then I got about halfway through my first listen of Third and I got it. Between ‘The Rip’ and ‘We Carry On’ I started to understand what they were trying to do. Then came the re-listens and Third just kept opening up more and more.

There is a bit of a thing about the music that Portishead produces being the perfect food for a depressive mind. Considering everything I went through jobwise in 2020 and continuing into 2021, maybe that is why Third hit as hard as it did. 

This is not an everyday listen by any means. When I was deeper into my post-Covid brainfog, the sounds on this album would have been way too much for me – especially the beginning to ‘Machine Gun’. Now my brain is healing somewhat, although I am still losing words mid-sentence, I think I get what they were trying to do – and it’s something I should have listened to back when I was 18.

In the expanded list, Portishead’s second and self-titled album will finally appear on my radar and I’ll have a reason to give it a proper listen… other than because I have really liked the other two entries in their discography. Might wait a while until we live in a post-covid world though. I have enough moody music for the time being.