Celebrity Recipes!

I have sort of a “love-hate” thing for celebrities.

On the one hand, the egalitarian streak in me thinks of them as regular people, just like you and me. This is why I get so bent out of shape when celebrities easily get out of legal trouble or go on TV to tell us who to vote for.

On the other hand, they are “America’s Royalty”, aren’t they? That’s why it’s just so hard for me to picture Tom Cruise popping a Lean Cuisine in the microwave, or Julia Roberts sorting through piles of “you’ve been pre-approved for a platinum Mastercard!” junk mail.

I guess the illusion of royalty is why I’m so fascinated by celebrity recipes. Again, celebs are just people, and like anyone else they had mothers who whipped up green bean casserole or beans and franks when they were kids. Maybe I secretly think that celebrities don’t eat. Maybe I think that every celebrity, no matter how d-list, has their own cooking staff. I don’t know… but the thought of Reese Witherspoon or Johnny Depp in the kitchen just strikes me as… odd.

That’s why I’m fascinated with this site, which has dozens of recipes culled from various celebrity cookbooks. Most of the “celebrities” featured on the site are from your parent’s (or grandparent’s) generation… and some of the recipe names just might crack you up – “Liberace’s Sticky Buns” and “Dinah Shore’s Red Snapper” come to mind – but there’s lots of great stuff to be had there. Even better: each recipe is available as a Microsoft Word file, so there’s no need to cut and paste!

My 2008 Oscar Picks!

So I’m sitting at my desk on Thursday afternoon when the thought crossed my mind: “Oh crap! The Oscars are this Sunday!”

You see, I had.. uhhh.. “obtained” copies of almost all the movies in this year’s Oscar race; I’ve had some them as far back as last September. I had not, however, actually seen most of them. So from Friday night until the wee hours of Sunday morning, I watched seven of the movies below. And boy, are my eyes tired! I am “cinematically exhausted”, if such a thing actually exists.

And so… below is my list of Oscar picks for 2008. My picks are in RED. Keep a couple of things in mind when you read my choices:

  1. This list is of the nominees I want to win, not necessarily nominees I think will win. I predict the awful No Country For Old Men (a movie I needed 20 cups of coffee to get through) will clean up this year.
  2. I tried to be objective as possible, and decide each award on its own merits. I did my best to stay away from “Johnny Depp has been in so many great movies, he really needs an Oscar”, “George Clooney was robbed in 2005″ and\or “Hal Holbrook is getting old, this might be his last chance to get an Oscar!” I will admit, however, that a previous Oscar win did have an impact in one category this year: best supporting actor. Personally, I thought that Philip Seymour Hoffman was great in Charlie Wilson’s War; had he not won the Oscar for Capote in 2005, I probably would have picked him this year.
  3. Categories in strikethough are categories that I either don’t have an opinion on (“Best original song”), or films I did not have the chance to see (Such as “Best Live Action Short Film”).

Without further ado… my picks!


Best motion picture of the year

Michael Clayton
No Country for Old Men
There Will Be Blood

Achievement in directing

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (Julian Schnabel)
Juno (Jason Reitman)
Michael Clayton (Tony Gilroy)
No Country for Old Men (Joel Coen and Ethan Coen)
There Will Be Blood (Paul Thomas Anderson)

Performance by an actor in a leading role

George Clooney – Michael Clayton
Daniel Day-Lewis – There Will Be Blood
Johnny Depp – Sweeney Todd The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Tommy Lee Jones – In the Valley of Elah
Viggo Mortensen – Eastern Promises

Performance by an actor in a supporting role

Casey Affleck – The Assassination of Jesse James…
Javier Bardem – No Country for Old Men
Philip Seymour Hoffman – Charlie Wilson’s War
Hal Holbrook – Into the Wild
Tom Wilkinson – Michael Clayton

Performance by an actress in a leading role

Cate Blanchett – Elizabeth: The Golden Age
Julie Christie – Away from Her
Marion Cotillard – La Vie en Rose
Laura Linney – The Savages
Ellen Page – Juno

Performance by an actress in a supporting role

Cate Blanchett – I’m Not There
Ruby Dee – American Gangster
Saoirse Ronan – Atonement
Amy Ryan – Gone Baby Gone
Tilda Swinton – Michael Clayton

Continue reading “My 2008 Oscar Picks!”

A Conservative Enclave?

I’ll believe this when I see it, but The Telegraph is reporting the following:

The Archbishop of Canterbury is backing secret plans to create a “parallel” Church for American conservatives to avert fresh splits over homosexuality. Dr Rowan Williams has held confidential talks with senior American bishops and theologians who oppose the pro-gay policies of their liberal leaders. A handful of hardline American dioceses are already defecting from the Episcopal Church, the American branch of Anglicanism, and transferring their loyalties to a conservative archbishop in South America. Dr Williams is desperate to minimise further damage in the run up to the once-a-decade Lambeth Conference this summer which could be boycotted by more than a fifth of the world’s bishops. His recent comments backing aspects of sharia law have heightened tensions by further alienating Africans who are struggling with militant Islam in their dioceses.

According to insiders, Dr Williams has given his blessing to the plans to create an enclave for up to 20 conservative American bishops that would insulate them from their liberal colleagues. The scheme would allow them to remain technically within the Episcopal Church but under the care of like-minded archbishops from abroad. The Primate of the West Indies, Archbishop Drexel Gomez, a moderate conservative, has agreed to participate, and other primates could be recruited. However, the initiative is likely to infuriate liberal leaders of the Episcopal Church, who will see it as an attempt to undermine their authority and interfere in their affairs. Presiding Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori, the head of the Episcopal Church, has been cracking down on any diocese or parish that seeks to leave, and numerous legal actions are under way. She and her colleagues have already rejected similar proposals suggested at a meeting in Tanzania last year of all the primates, the leaders of the 38 independent Churches that constitute the Anglican Communion.

However, she met a group of conservative bishops and theologians in New York last week after hearing that Dr Williams was sympathetic to the new proposals. Dr Williams, whose leadership has been under growing attack from conservatives, has been privately encouraging such a development for a number of years. So far, however, he has failed to broker a deal with Bishop Jefferts Schori, a feminist who backed the 2003 consecration of Gene Robinson as Anglicanism’s first openly gay bishop. With several hundred of the world’s 880 bishops expected to boycott the Lambeth Conference in Canterbury, a schism is looking inevitable unless Dr Williams can paper over the cracks.

Lambeth Palace declined to comment.

It would be great if it happens, but somehow I doubt it will.

Ashes to Ashes: Season 1, Episode 3

Last night’s episode of Ashes to Ashes was a bit of a disappointment. After two episodes of “balls to the wall” action and intrigue, the writers took their foot off the gas with this touching (yet slow) episode.

The episode begins with an amusing drug bust: Gene fires up the Quattro and chases a white van through the streets of London, only to find it stuffed full of… garden gnomes… which are in turn stuffed full of drugs. While tidying up the crime scene, DI Drake stumbles across a girl that’s not only mute, but appears to be quite troubled about something as well.

Back at the station, Hunt and Drake try questioning the girl without success. Shortly thereafter, a prostitute named Trixie walks into the station, claiming to have been raped and nearly murdered on a party boat. She also mentions that the would-be killer called her “impure” and said “something about ‘being beautiful on the outside but full of old bones on the inside'”. The male officers are completely dismissive at first, and most are unsure that a “prozzie” can even be raped. DI Drake’s protestations that rape isn’t about sex but about power and control fall on deaf ears. That is, until Trixie shows Drake her wounds, which include a 4-inch gash on her left breast. This stirs Hunt into action, as a murder victim was recently found with similar wounds, the details of which were not made public.

Ashes to Ashes (Ep 3, 1)

So the team begins searching for a serial attacker. Drake begins by looking through the case file of the murder victim – a young black girl that, unlike Trixie, was a “completely normal”, church-going girl that was actively involved in the choir there. There’s an interesting scene where Hunt and Drake gather the team to explain what they should be looking for. Drake uses all of her psychology technobabble, the type of modern-day criminal profiling stuff we’ve grown accustomed to. DCI Hunt interrupts her a few times, giving the team his own “old school” wisdom about the matter. It’s an interesting contrast between two contrasting, yet completely valid, policing styles.

Hunt and Drake go to the murder victim’s church. A surreal scene unfolds where Drake daydreams about her past, Molly and The Clown while the choir is practicing. This somehow leads Alex to a flash of inspiration: she grabs a Bible from the pew and rapidly flips through the pages until she finds Matthew, chapter 23, verses 27 & 28:

“Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.”

This leads Drake to profile the would-be killer further. Hunt doesn’t entirely believe her (“Don’t you ever get brainache?”), especially after they get back to the station and read Trixie’s police record. She’s apparently stolen money from “clients” in the past. This makes Gene believe her even less. Drake wants to go undercover on the party boat to find out more, but Gene is wary of that too. It seems the owner of the party boat is a Mason, as are most of the higher-ups in the police department, so it would be detrimental to the careers of all the officers if Drake is wrong (there were several real-life scandals in the 1980s involving the Metropolitan Police and Freemasonry; although this site is anti-Freemasonry, it does have a good summary of what happened).

Drake wants to visit her mother (the lawyer) for reassurance, but as she approaches the office door, who should walk out the door but Evan (her uncle and her daughter Molly’s godfather). I don’t know if it’s intentional or not, but Evan looks almost exactly the same in 1981 as he does in 2008; you’d think he’d age more in 27 years. Anyway, the two have a conversation where Alex vaguely describes what’s going on with the killer. Evan advises Alex to “go with her instinct”… which is to warn the prostitutes in the area where Trixie works about the killer.

Hunt eventually tracks her down. He asks Drake why she’s so protective of the prostitutes; Drake reveals that she was a prostitute in her younger years. Hunt doesn’t appear to really believe her, but Chris and Ray buy her story entirely. When Hunt appears to be on the verge of believing her, Drake tears into him. She asks him why he’d believe that she’d been raped, but not Trixie. The two get closer and closer and the discussion gets colder and colder… eventually Drake hauls off and punches Gene in the face… twice! The two eventually make up by getting drunk together at Luigi’s. A slick businessman starts hitting on Drake at the bar, and she takes him home for a one-night stand. We see the couple have sex, and the man apparently leaves later, as Drake is shown sleeping alone in her bed. The TV is on in the background, and during the BBC’s nightly sign-off, Molly and The Clown appear on the screen. Drake, fast asleep, is oblivious.

The next day, WPC Granger tells Alex that there’s a “fancy dress” (costume) party on the party boat that night. The team make plans to go undercover at the party.

Ashes to Ashes (Ep 3, 2)

At the party, the team closely observe the waitstaff. They’re looking for a man that meets Trixie’s description. Some comic relief is provided by Ray, who for some reason decided to go to the party as James Bond. Since he’s wearing a tuxedo, everyone at the party assumes that he’s a waiter, and guests hand him dirty glasses and try taking his drink. The crew eventually spot a suspect. Drake “dirty dances” with Ray while Hunt goes over to the waiter and talks about what a “slut” Drake is. The waiter agrees, and he eventually mentions the same line about being full of “dead men’s bones” that Trixie mentioned.

This leads to the waiter’s immediate arrest. At the station, he claims to have never seen Trixie before, much less attack her. When asked point blank by Hunt whether he raped Trixie, he swears on the Bible that he did not. Hunt leaves the interrogation room in a rage, but not before ordering Chris and Ray to “keep an eye on” the mute black girl that’s been hanging around the station the entire time. Chris is eventually called away, leaving Ray alone with the girl.

Now Ray is arguably the most racist, sexist and homophobic of the bunch. He’s as bad as Gene about suspecting “darkies” and “poofters”, yet he completely lacks any of the “spidey sense” that makes Gene so successful in spite of his prejudices. Nevertheless, Ray sits down with the girl and takes his right shoe and sock off to make a sock puppet to entertain her. Ray is actually sweet and slightly vulnerable with the girl. This leads her to confess that she’s the prostitute. Ray doesn’t believe her, until she opens her shirt to reveal bruises and a deep cut on her left breast. Apparently Trixie is the one that “recruited” the girl into prostitution, and her guilt about this (along with the girl’s reluctance to go to the police) led Trixie to commandeer Nina’s story as her own. Ray tells Drake this, who runs to Hunt to tell him; Hunt already knows, as he’s finally gotten the truth out of Trixie.

The crew track down the attacker, who holds a knife to a prostitute’s throat as the police surround him. Ray, who Hunt told to go around the back way, sneaks up on the attacker and knocks the knife away. The hooker takes off, which means that only Nina is left to testify against the attacker. She is reluctant at first, but Ray promises to protect her. She’s still unconvinced, and when Hunt (sadly) says that no jury will believe her, the charges are dropped and the murderer is set free.

That doesn’t mean that he won’t get what’s coming to him, though. The next day, the crew go to Luigi’s for an after-work drink. Hunt is talking with Drake when he nods towards the TV set, which is showing the news. Apparently the attacker was arrested that morning for possession of 10kg of cocaine… concealed in garden gnomes. Drake looks at Hunt and says “You didn’t?” to which Hunt replies that he had nothing to do with it. Drake looks at Ray, who gives her a wry smile and shrugs his shoulders. Drake tells Ray that “perhaps there’s more to you than I thought”, at which point Chris says “Hey Ray, I bet you can’t light one of your farts!”… thus bringing everything back to normal.


The Ruts – “Staring at the Rude Boys”
Joe Jackson – “It’s Different for Girls”
Bryan Ferry – “Let’s Stick Together”
Roxy Music – “Over You”
Bucks Fizz – “Making Your Mind Up”
Modern Romance – “Ay Ay Ay Ay Moosey”
Duran Duran – “Planet Earth”
Altered Images – “Happy Birthday”
The Beat – “Doors of Your Heart”


I’ve been using “disk imaging” software for just over 10 years now. Such software allows you to either move everything on your hard drive to a new disk (cloning) or make an image file of the contents, which you can then save as a backup or use to deploy the image to as many computers as you’d like. The advantages in every scenario are obvious. Simply doing a standard “file copy” within Windows can take forever, and if you’re trying to copy a system drive to a new disk, Windows will choke on the “in use” files and refuse to copy them. As a backup, imaging software copies everything on a disk; if you want to reformat your system you could easily copy all of your documents to a flash drive or CD\DVD… but chances are that you’ll forget at least one thing, and having an image of the drive means that you can always go back and retrieve that file later. And of course, imaging software is a must when a company wants to deploy lots of new computers. I once imaged almost 300 computers over a weekend for a client that was moving into a new building and got all new computers for staff. As you can imagine, manually installing Windows on nearly 300 computers would take weeks; installing Windows on one computer (along with Office and all the updates) and then copying the image to all the others took less than 3 days.

The only problem I have with imaging software is that I’ve never found a program that I really liked. I was a huge fan of Ghost when it first came out. It was a single, small executable file that could easily fit on a boot disk or network share. Symantec bought Ghost back in 1998 though, and Ghost kept getting bigger and bigger – until 2003, when Symantec bought PowerQuest, its biggest competitor in the disk imaging market. Symantec then tried hashing Ghost and PowerQuest’s DriveImage product together, and the result was, for a couple of years, a jumbled mess. I simply gave up and started using Acronis TrueImage, which was a somewhat new product at the time. Come to find out, True Image has always let me down when I needed it most. The boot discs froze when I attached a USB hard drive to my system. The boot discs also were very picky (a boot disk made with version 9.0.123 would think that a disk image created with 9.0.456 was “corrupt”, for instance). And TrueImage is as slow as Christmas! I tried using it in the field a couple of times, only to have the program’s progress bar give me “four hours remaining” on both jobs – on modern computers with no more than 12GB of disk space used!

I then decided to take a look at DriveImage XML. This program is free (unlike Ghost and TrueImage) and it stores your data in XML files, which are an open standard that third-parties can use to create plug-ins. And not only is it free and based on an open standard, it also leverages Microsoft’s Volume Shadow Copy service to copy files in use on your computer; rather than re-invent the wheel, the app uses the tools Microsoft builds in to Windows! This not only makes DriveImage small (the current version is less than 2MB to download), the program’s back up is reliable, too! The program is blazing fast too – I used it just a couple of days ago to back up a client’s computer, and it only took around 15 minutes to back up 8.7GB worth of data to a 5400rpm laptop drive in an USB 2.0 enclosure. But the best part – the best part – is that it’s included on the Ultimate Boot Disk for Windows. All you have to do to use DriveImage outside of Windows is attach a USB hard drive to your computer, boot off the Ultimate Boot CD and start the DriveImage plug-in. Compared to Ghost and TrueImage, I find this reliability and ease of use simply stunning.

DriveImage Browse
Browsing the contents of an image file

I’ve only recently started using DriveImage XML. I like it a lot so far – although the interface is a bit rough around the edges, and the program itself is really basic. The program is fully scriptable via Task Scheduler, so the admins out there will probably appreciate that.

I’ll keep you posted on how well it works when I need it!

COOL PROGRAM: Ultimate Boot CD

Windows Preinstallation Environment (WinPE) is a miniature version of Windows XP, Windows Server 2003 or Windows Vista. Originally developed to allow system builders and corporate clients to deploy new computers, it has since been embraced by third-party vendors (Symantec’s Ghost, for example, uses WinPE as its boot disk) and technical support people.

What it is, in a nutshell, is an improved version of the old DOS boot disk. In the old days, if you had some problem that prevented your computer from booting, you could stick a DOS diskette into your floppy drive and boot from that. You’d then be able to access your files, and hopefully fix whatever was wrong with the system. However, as the years have passed, the DOS boot disk developed some severe limitations. To begin with, DOS cannot natively access the NTFS file system, the file system of choice for Windows NT, Windows 2000, Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 installations. DOS cannot access files or partitions over a certain size. DOS does not support USB drives of any kind. Any applications used in DOS have to be recomplied with that operating system in mind. And DOS does not (and will not) support multitasking (running more than one program at once). In short, DOS is an ancient, albeit reliable, beast; someone somewhere had to come up with a better solution.

It turns out that guy was named Bart Lagerweij. Lagerweij was a minor Internet celebrity, making a name for himself by releasing several popular boot disks for DOS and putting them online for anyone to download. DOS supports networking, for example, but making a boot diskette that reliably connects to a network can be a huge pain in the neck. Lagerweij’s popular “Network Bootdisk” made creating boot diskettes with TCP\IP support a painless affair. In 2002, Lagerweij saw WinPE in action and knew the days of the DOS disk were numbered. The only trouble was that Microsoft only licensed the software for system builders and large corporate clients. Lagerweij went to work at deconstructing WinPE, and eventually figured out a way to make his own version using a standard Windows XP installation CD. And thus, BartPE was born.

The only problem with BartPE was that it wasn’t exactly user-friendly. Yours truly downloaded an early version of the “disk builder” program and eventually gave up – it was really difficult and since I had no pressing need for it, I didn’t want to waste my time on it. Wouldn’t it be better, I thought, if someone released a “ready to go” version of a BartPE disk?

Someone did. It’s called the Ultimate Boot CD for Windows. All you need to make your own boot CD is a copy of a Windows XP installation CD (preferably one with SP2 slipstreamed), a CD\DVD burner and a blank disk, and the Ultimate Boot CD application (available here). It’s so easy that every single step you need to take can be easily described (with screen shots!) on this page.

Once you’ve got your CD burned, you can boot directly into a 32-bit Windows environment. The Ultimate Boot CD comes with a galaxy of pre-installed programs – check out the full list here. Several “name brand” antivirus programs are included (such as McAfee Stinger, Kaspersky VRT and AVG Free), as are popular antispyware programs (AdAware, Spybot). Firefox, Irfanview, Notepad++ are included, as are popular disk burning applications like DeepBurner. Also included is my new favorite disk imaging program, DriveImage XML. Honestly, the list of programs included on the disk is huge; while BartPE gives you the ability to add just about any 32-bit Windows application to a boot disk, you need not bother with Ultimate Boot CD – just about anything you could want is already there.

And, unlike DOS boot disks, the Ultimate Boot CD comes with all the “modern conveniences”. As soon as you boot into the Windows-like desktop, you’re asked if you want to enable network support. Click “yes” if you want, and a simple box opens up that asks if you want a DHCP or static address. Choose an option, and since Ultimate Boot CD supports almost every modern network card, you have instant network access. Want to attach a USB device to dump an image? Just attach the drive and go!

Hotel Babylon: Also back!

Hotel Babylon is British TV series produced by the BBC. It is based on the novel of the same name by “Imogen Edwards-Jones and Anonymous”. The book is a fictional account of a single “day in the life” of an exclusive luxury hotel in London, as told by a street-wise front desk employee. Although fictional, the book contains several real-life anecdotes that “Anonymous” experienced in his or her long career in the London hotel scene. In most cases, names and specifics have been changed, although some celebrities, such as Madonna and Courtney Love, are mentioned by name. The book’s a great read, especially if you’re just looking for something light and fun. If you’re interested, Edwards-Jones has also written similar books about the airline (Air Babylon) and fashion (Fashion Babylon) industries.

Anyway, the BBC decided that the subject matter of the book was too great to not make into a TV series, and so Hotel Babylon (the TV show) first hit the airwaves in January, 2006. The show stars Max Beesley as “Charlie”, an ex-convict that has talked his way into the front desk of the hotel. “Charlie” is our hero and narrator, and each episode begins and ends with Charlie discussing a theme that will run throughout the show (much like Mary Alice does in each episode of Desperate Housewives). One of my favorite British actors, Dexter Fletcher (whom you might remember as “Soap” from Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels or as “Staff Sergeant John Martin” from Band of Brothers) also stars as “Tony Casemore”, the Babylon’s well-connected concierge. Also starring are the super-cute Emma Pierson as “Anna Thornton-Wilton” (one of the front desk staff; she slept with Charlie at a previous job), Martin Marquez as “Gino Primirola” (the hotel’s bartender, who unabashedly recycles old cocktail recipes), Ray Coulthard as “James Schofield” (the hotel’s food service manager; he has a serious gambling problem), the exotic Natalie Mendoza as “Jackie Clunes” (head of housekeeping and an illegal immigrant from Australia), and Michael Obiora as “Ben Trueman” (the other front desk receptionist and Babylon’s token gay character).

The first series of the show followed the book pretty closely, in the sense of showing the world how badly guests behave in a luxury hotel… even if they are superrich. The second series lost some of the momentum from the first, falling more into the mold of a traditional “naughty” British soap opera. Series 3? Well, it just started again this week. Fortunately for you, Hotel Babylon runs on BBC America here in the States, so you can catch up with season 1 and 2 before season 3 starts airing here in the US. If you’re one of those people that downloads TV shows, you can find series 3 on lots of trackers, both public and private. Either way, unlike my current favorite TV show – Ashes to Ashes, which requires watching episodes in order, perhaps multiple times – you can easily jump into Hotel Babylon at any time and not get too lost.

Hotel Babylon

Series 3 picks up where series 2 left off: the Babylon’s manager, Rebecca Mitchell (played by Tamzin Outhwaite) has left the hotel after a failed corporate takeover attempt in which she alienated the hotel staff. Mitchell’s marriage ended in series 1 thanks to her workaholic ways, and towards the end of series 2 she sees huge career opportunities if the Babylon is sold to a European “boutique hotel” chain. In order to get the hotel up to snuff for the chain’s bean counters, Mitchell whips the employees into shape with a ball-busting efficiency that would have made Margaret Thatcher jealous. Charlie led the staff’s opposition to both the sale and to Mitchell’s domineering ways. In the end, Mitchell completely loses the confidence of her staff; looking back on her failed career and love life, she decides to quit the hotel, leaving Charlie in charge.

Episode 1 of series 3 begins with Charlie facing a huge moral dilemma. He’s shown holding a £400,000 check, given to him by the CEO of a fashion company called De Rigeur, who wants to hold a fashion show at the hotel. If things go well with the show, the CEO tells Charlie that he’ll tell his corporate friends about how great the Babylon is… which would result in incredible profits for the hotel as well as huge bonuses for Charlie. There is, however, a problem: as Charlie is meeting with the CEO, Anna asks one of De Rigeur’s employees for help in getting her hands on the company’s newest “hot dress” for the season. The De Rigeur employee is incredibly unenthusiastic about helping her, not because he doesn’t want to help, but because he has received troubling information about the sweatshop conditions where the company’s clothes are made. It seems that Malaysian children as young as six are working 18 hour days for the company. The children are beaten without mercy if they slack off, and are only given bathroom breaks every 7 hours. Of course, the employee doesn’t tell Anna all this at the front desk. She asks about the dress and he simply says “trust me, you’re not going to want it”. He also tells her that he’s expecting an important parcel and Anna, eager to get her hands on “the dress”, eagerly says she’ll deliver it directly to him as soon as it arrives.

Continue reading “Hotel Babylon: Also back!”

Food Network: Liars?

It looks like the Food Network and some of their personalities might be in a bit of trouble.

The first item involves Chef Robert Irvine, host of the popular show Dinner: Impossible. As the show’s introduction notes, Irvine claims to have cooked for the British royal family, several presidents, and onboard Air Force One. He claims to have a degree in food and nutrition from the University of Leeds, claims to own a castle in Scotland and also claims to own the honorific “Sir Robert Irvine, Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order”. These are, apparently, all lies.

It all started with some reporters in St. Petersburg, Florida. Irvine came to town promising to open not one, but two new restaurants. It’s now three months past the date the restaurants were supposed to open, yet the properties still have dirt floors and exposed pipes. From the looks of it, no one has even been inside the space in ages, much less done any work on it. The reporters started asking around, only to find a lot of people with nothing nice to say about Irvine. According to this article, Irvine’s web site consultant claims he owes her thousands, his restaurant designer has backed out, his interior decorator is suing him, and St. Petersburg socialite Wendy LaTorre, “says Irvine owes her more than $100,000 for marketing and promotions and for helping him find property”.

The reporters then decided to scratch a little more. They called Irvine and asked him about his degree from the University of Leeds. Irvine replied that “[it] was a program set up through the Royal Navy. We don’t call it a bachelor’s of science”. The reporters called the University of Leeds, only to have press officer Sarah Spiller tell them that “[they] cannot find any connection in our records between Robert and the university”.

Irvine has mentioned “making the cake for the Royal Wedding” several times on Dinner: Impossible; when asked by reporters about it, Irvine said that “I was at the school when that was happening. They made the cake at the school where I was”. Pressed further, Irvine admitted that he had helped by “[p]icking fruit and things like that” (the alleged cake was a 360 pound fruitcake).

When asked about Irvine’s knighthood, Jenn Stebbing, a press officer at Buckingham Palace said that “he is not a KCVO, Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order”. Irvine himself admits that the knighthood was a straight-up lie: “[w]hen I first came down there and I met people down there with all this money, it was like trying to keep up with the Joneses. I was sitting in a bar one night and that came out. It was stupid”.

When it comes to the White House, Irvine apparently keeps up the lies. Walter Scheib, the White House executive chef from 1994 to 2005, said via email that “Irvine’s ONLY connection with the White House is through the Navy Mess facility in the West Wing … never in the period from 4/4/94 until 2/4/05 did he have ANYTHING to do with the preparation, planning, or service of any State Dinner or any other White House Executive Residence food function, public or private”.

But wait – there’s more! Irvine claims to have received a “Five Star Diamond Award” from the “American Academy of Hospitality Sciences” for several consecutive years. Apparently, the award is a sham – according to this article at Radar Magazine, anyone can receive the award… with the appropriate contribution to the “academy”, which is run by Joseph Cinque out of his Columbus Circle apartment in New York City.

It’s all kind of sad. I don’t think I’ll stop watching Dinner: Impossible, but after reading the article about Irvine, I sure as hell have a lot less respect for him.

* * *

The second item is from Village Voice reporter Robert Sietsema. Sietsema claims in this rather lengthy article that Iron Chef America is a complete scam. Fortunately for Food Network, Sietsema seems woefully ignorant about how television programs are made. He also seems confused about the original Japanese Iron Chef show. One of the first things Sietsema wrote that set off my BS meter was this: “[i]n the original series, [the character of “The Chairman”] made more sense: Wasn’t he the rich guy sponsoring the gladiatorial game show? The current Chairman – Mark Dacascos – is a minor martial-arts actor who claims to be a nephew of the original Chairman on the Japanese show, an assertion that’s not difficult to disprove”. Huh? Is this guy being serious? He does know that “Chairman Kaga” was a character, right? He wasn’t really a rich Japanese guy that just decided to build Kitchen Stadium for giggles… he was just an actor… like Dacascos.

He then goes on about how the show uses (gasp!) stand-ins for the Iron Chefs that don’t appear in the episode. Ya see, at the beginning of the show there’s a dramatic reveal, where each of the three Iron Chefs are shown to the audience. The challenger then picks an Iron Chef to challenge. The Iron Chef then walks down some steps to meet his challenger. What shocks Sietsema is that the challenger is known in advance, so Food Network pays a couple of guys that vaguely resemble the other Iron Chefs to stand in the shadows as the challenger announces which Iron Chef he (or she) is going to challenge. With clever editing, it appears that Bobby Flay and Mario Batali are standing there as Masaharu Morimoto’s name is called, when in fact only Morimoto is in the studio. Personally, I’d be more shocked if Flay and Batali showed up just to stand there for five minutes while the “challenge” scene is filmed. And besides, this is not new. In the original Iron Chef show that Sietsema seems to love so much, the “reveal” was just as staged. If you watch closely, you’ll notice that the hats the Iron Chefs wear seem to be huge – coming down past their ears and well into their foreheads. This was done so that the production studio only needed to film the “reveal” one time; the big hats covered the Iron Chef’s hairstyles, so if one of them got a radically different haircut or lost a bunch of hair, they wouldn’t have to reshoot the reveal.

Then there’s the issue of the “secret ingredient”. Sietsema seems convinced that the chefs know what the “secret ingredient” is well in advance of taping. It’s an open secret that the producers of both Iron Chef shows give\gave the chefs a short list of four or five possible “secret” ingredients around a week before the show tapes. It’s a mystery to me why Sietsema is so shocked that a professional chef like Mario Batali could act cool and collected when he’s known for a week that he’ll need to make several dishes using one of (at most) five ingredients. Hell, I’m not a professional chef, but if you told me that I’d need to make as many dishes as I could one week from today using pork loin, lobster, quail’s eggs, venison or tofu… well, I’m almost certain that I could pull that off… especially if I had two sous chefs, as each contestant on the show does.

Eh, I could go on, but I won’t. I find Sietsema’s arguments to be full of weak sauce, but that’s just me.

Stuff White People Like

Wow – with Fidel Castro stepping down in Cuba, Kosovo declaring independence and the Anglican Communion falling apart, you’d think I’d be posting something “important”.

I guess you’d be wrong, though, because I just wanted to post a quick link to an amusing WordPress blog called Stuff White People Like. I thought the site was pretty pedestrian – “white people like the Toyota Prius? Ummmm… Ha ha???”. But then I saw this little gem about the movie Juno:

As 2007’s indie hit, it is alternative mainstream and white people love it when low budget movies do well, even though the $7 million budget is enough to feed thousands of villages in East Africa for a year. White people, especially ones over 30, also love movies that take them back to a time when there was zero hip hop influence in white high schools.

Sorry, but that bit in boldface made me laugh my ass off! As Homer Simpson would say “it’s funny ‘cos it’s true!” Ahhhh… the “good old days”, when high school kids thought people like Johnny Rotten, Captain Sensible and Joe Strummer were cool!

Anyway, the site’s pretty funny, especially if you’re hopelessly uncool like me. Check it out!

Sandy Grant rocks!

The Lambeth Conference is a series of meetings, held every ten years since 1867, where the bishops of the world’s Anglican churches meet to discuss canon law, theology, and matters of church doctrine. Although the conference has no “official powers” to order any changes in any of the communion churches, the Lambeth Conference is nevertheless so important that the gathering is considered to be one of the four “Instruments of Communion” of the Anglican Church.

As you probably know from my blog (or elsewhere), the Anglican Church is rapidly heading towards schism. With the 2008 Lambeth Conference rapidly approaching, several conservative bishops, outraged that the Archbishop of Canterbury would invite to the conference controversial bishops from North America at such a delicate time, have decided to “break off” and hold their own conference, the Global Anglican Future Conference, or GAFCON for short.

As you might guess, this has has really angered the liberal bishops of the church. Bishop Brian Farran, of the Diocese of Newcastle (Australia) penned this “open letter” (which is actually targeted towards Peter Jensen, the Archbishop of Sydney) in response to Jensen’s decision to attend GAFCON. Farran’s letter is absolutely frightening for the sheer amount of Newspeak which it contains. I’ll let the you read Farran’s letter yourself, because Sandy Grant, rector of St Michael’s Anglican Cathedral, Wollongong (Sydney) has written an incredible “open letter” to Farran in return. I’ve excerpted the best parts below:

Firstly, there is a surprising reliance on pejorative language in a letter where you commend “grace” and “respectful exploration” and “conversation” regarding the issues being debated. So that others can assess for themselves, I will simply list the descriptors used to characterise the position of the Global South conservatives with whom you disagree:

  • “one-dimensional conference” (of GAFCON),
  • “forensic theology… bordering on legalism”,
  • “narrow template of biblicism… applied relentlessly”,
  • “self-declared orthodoxy”,
  • “wedge theology”,
  • “strategy of division and exclusion”,
  • “corrosive strategy”,
  • “rigidity” (of interpretive methodology),
  • “impositional mind-set”,
  • “police-state approach”.

An argument could easily be made that every single one of those phrases is either begs the question or is inaccurate or at the least misleading and overblown. It is certainly highly pejorative. That is your choice. And one can understand slipping into some such language in the height of a live debate. But in a settled public statement from a bishop in God’s church, is this really the language that will aid the gracious and respectful conversation you desire?

Secondly, I was amazed by your choice to describe the Global South’s position as the “pursuit of the homosexual agenda”. For a start, it would be more accurate to describe the conservative position as the “heterosexual marriage agenda”. (Your ‘spin’ seems akin to describing the Liberal Party as having a ‘union agenda’.)

More important than the label though, is the fact that conservatives have not especially sought to raise the matter of homosexual marriage or ordination in the Anglican Communion. Rather it has been persistently pushed by those on the more liberal wing of the Communion. Conservatives have reluctantly responded because of their deep convictions in regards to the threat to faithfulness to what we see as the plain and consistent reading of God’s Holy Word, the Bible.

I also note that by and large – to my knowledge – it has been liberals who have locked conservative parishes out of their church buildings and deposed conservative clergy via legal action. Would that be at all analogous to a “strategy of exclusion” or a “police-state approach”?

What an awesome response! Read the rest of Rev. Grant’s letter here.