Thursday, 22 October 2009

Masterchef the Professionals, the Professionals (seriatim)

I have a theory about Masterchef the Professionals. It's that the TV format is rapidly overwhelming the presenters and the contestants with its rigid structure; a straightjacketed approach to language that turns them all into repetitious caricatures of themselves. None of them says the F word (in complete contrast to Gordon WTF Ramsay) and the contestants are generally driven into repeating the same hackneyed phrases. Surely there must be some little imp of mischief in them that isn't so overwhelmed with the desire to be successful that they want to say, something not in the script:

Steve: "I want this so much, it's giving me the horn"
Daniel: "That was a belter! Howay the lads!"
Marianne: "You're only as good as your last man - err, sorry, meal"

Mark you, this does lead on to some inevitable thoughts of what the presenters could be in the cartoon version: Gregg the Veg Wallace as Shrek, Michel Roux as The Mekon, Monica Galetti as Miss Whiplash, all let loose in a bizarre attempt to ensure culinary domination of the planet Earth. In order to achieve their ends the entice upcoming chefs into appearing on the show so that they can instill in them Mind Control using Endless Repetition. Poor Daniel would have to be Mr Potato out of Toy Story, Steve would be the Pilsbury Dough Boy and Marianne would, with that voice, have to be Miss Moneypenny.

Evidence of the Mind Control is manifest, as is the patronising dumbing down for what they perceive as the American market. But even Americans can't be that stupid, surely. And we certainly aren't (apart from the crepuscular, politically naive and mentally deficient idiots who vote for the BNP). I've been recording some of the programmes and editing out the inessentials at the start. 5 out of the 45 minutes at the start of each show. Add to that the vacuous way Shrek repeats what Michel says and you could cut a further 5 minutes out.

And speaking of vacuous, self-parody, did no-one else become fed up with Gelatto saying "Chef Michel would..." "I wouldn't serve that to Chef Michel...". It's as though she carried round MRJ's toque on a velvet cushion.

Finally, in this rant, I have to say that some of the early contestants were truly terrible; what really sticks in the mind is the very first heat where one of the tests was spatchcocking* a chicken. I've never done this, but I'd know better then to cut the inoffensive little bird into pieces - rather defeats the point. But tonight's showing of the final should be interesting - my money's on Steve, the others have improved a lot, but his culinary creativity is what's really inspiring.
* I can't stand the American spellchecker on this thing... and it doesn't know how to spatchcock a chicken either, it now wants me to 'supercharge' it!

Saturday, 17 October 2009

In the Hall of the Mountain King

This post is mainly to explain some of the silence (I'd planned to slow posts down to 1 a week anyway...) but those that have read my previous post on the NHS will know that I have some considerable concerns.

I'm currently in the hands (claws?) of the NHS. Being an ex-smoker (I gave up just over 20 months ago) it turns out that I've probably done so to late. The NHS is sometimes farcical, but at least you don't have to pay for most of the farce. On Monday I had a specialist dermatology appointment and on Wednesday I had what seemed beforehand to be an irrelevant ultrasound doppler test of my veins and it turns out, not so irrelevant test of my arteries.

I spent an hour waiting for my appointment (1st of the day) - it turned out that the sonographer had got steamed up over an email and felt she had to send some of her own. I live in amazement at the ability of the people in the NHS to be artlessly honest with their patients! But she was excellent at her job and, apart from putting her probe in some places for which I would have worn different underwear, she was quick, accurate and efficient once she started using the kit. (The picture here is of very similar equipment, although the Phillips version used to my mind looks better than its US equivalent.)

So it turns out that one of the arteries in my right leg is 100% blocked and probably has been for some time.
I'm due back to see the doctor in about 10 days for the results; it'll involve another hospital visit to see a specialist to determine whether 1) they do nothing, 2) they stick a stent in or, 3) they strip a piece of tube from somewhere/use a piece of plastic tube and replace the area that is blocked. The latter two involve surgery and I believe general anaesthsia... Oddly, I'm not miserable, as I've been on and off ill with various things for three years.

But the oddest thing about this is, is that the regime I've been following for vein/ulcer problems (leg up, compression) is the reverse of what is required for arterial problems. The compression stockings I've been using are both expensive and uncomfortable and I've bought £300 of these over the last 3 years (the NHS will prescribe just 2 pairs of these). You need a lot more than two pairs, unless you can be arsed to change and hand wash continuously throughout the remainder of your life.

The weirdest thing is that, as a bloke, I've actually become used to religiously putting the damned things on first thing in the morning and taking them off last thing at night. A process that is both painful and uncomfortable. So, I'm now being told that the £300 and the continued discomfort and pain have all been the wrong thing to do.

Sigh. However, I'm not blaming the NHS - partly because I've largely shot myself in the foot (*groan*) by having been a determined smoker and partly because without the test it is not immediately apparent as the vein damage. Anyway, all these appointments have rather sapped the will to blog, but I thought I'd reassure my regular reader(s) that I will resurface from time to time!