February 1, 2021

Cat Interviews

In a few days, it will be exactly a year until the lovely Maisy passed away. It is also almost exactly six months since Henry joined us. He’s been a problematic cat, and is soon to be moving on to a new home. The two cats have been very different in personality and comportment, and so with this interview-style blog post, I hope to capture their idiosyncracies.

Hello, and welcome to the show.

Maisy

Maisy: Hi! I don’t think we’ve met before! I’m Maisy and it’s so super to meet you! I love your shirt. Tell me all about yourself!

Henry

Henry: Oh for fuck’s sake. Another person. Please don’t tell me you’re going to expect me to make conversation?

So let’s get physical appearance out of the way. How would we recognise you in the street.

M: I’m quite small, I sometimes get mistaken for a kitten. My colouration is best described as “tortoiseshell”. The vet used to call me a “naughty tortie”, hee hee! He was nice, he had warm hands.

H: Well, leaving aside the fact that I wouldn’t go out into the street, so your question is stupid, I’m black from head to toe, which kinda matches my soul. I suppose I’m fairly big, and I’ve got this loose skin around my belly from back when I used to be chonkier.

And how would you greet me? What’s your standard salutation?

M: Over the years I’ve developed this little grunt I like, it’s a kind of airy “brrfff” that gets the point across nicely.

H: I tend to say “Muh-row!” where the first syllable is an F# and then the second is the F# one octave higher. Don’t ask me why, it’s just what I do.

Okay, let’s keep things light. What’s your favourite place to sit?

M: Oooh, the back of the sofa is one of my favourites. I often fall asleep up there, and then when I nod off and start to slide off, I have to DIG IN to stop myself falling off entirely. The sofa gets a little scratched, but I can’t envisage a world in which I might sit somewhere less unstable.

H: Depends where’s warmest. There’s a nice spot in the kitchen by the radiator where the hot water pipes pass underneath, so that’s got double the heat sources. When the heating’s off, I’ll try to find someone who’s sitting down, and leech some heat off of them. In the summer, the conservatory is pretty nice.

Are there any places that you aren’t allowed to go on your own? Why’s that?

M: Yeah, I’m not allowed in the kitchen unattended. Probably because when I’m in there I can’t resist the urge to jump up onto the surfaces. Don’t know why people make such a fuss, my paws are clean, I lick them regularly.

H: The bedroom doors are always closed when there’s no-one in there. Now I can’t be completely sure, but there are a few occasions when I took a big fat dump on the bed, so that might be something to do with it.

On that note, how are your toilet habits?

M: Impeccable. I always go in the garden and bury it carefully so as to leave no trace.

H: In the summer, I go in the garden. Just drop it right there on the lawn, the staff clean it up for me. In winter, I try and use the litter tray when I can, but as long as I can get it in the general vicinity, I’m satisfied. But only if the litter tray meets my specifications, of course. If anything is amiss, then I’ll use the next best thing, like a curtain, or a bed, or something like that. You know, regular stuff.

Would you describe yourself as athletic?

M: Well, I’m not as sprightly as I used to be, but yeah I like to get fresh air and exercise, do some jumping and climbing, bit of zooming around. Got to stay in shape.

H: Absolutely, I kick a pom-pom around for a few minutes every day, that should be enough for anyone.

Do you like the outdoors?

M: Love it. I had some difficulty settling in, because the other cats in the neighbourhood bullied me sometimes, but I think we reached an understanding.

H: Depends on the weather. I’ll go outside in the summer, if the weather’s nice, and someone leaves the door open for me, but in winter, you can forget it.

How are you with cat flaps?

M: I’m a legend. I can do stuff with cat flaps that you’ve only dreamed about.

H: Hate the fucking things. The only thing I hate worse than having to use a cat flap, is being outdoors. So, I’ll use them, but only under very limited circumstances.

What habits do you have that particularly annoy your housemates?

M: Hahaha, well this is kind of embarrassing, but I do have a thing I do where I jump in through the bedroom window at 6am, and then meow at the bedroom door to be let out, so that I can run downstairs. I think this annoys my housemates because they think I could just use the cat flap to achieve the same end result in a way that doesn’t require outside assistance, but they’re missing the point, aren’t they?

H: Nope. I mean, apart from the pissing and shitting everywhere. I reckon that irks them a tad.

How do you feel about scratching posts?

M: Oh they’re so silly. They’re a poor imitation for a nice piece of furniture. Give me some furniture to scratch on, every time.

H: They’re for scratching on, right? I don’t see why we’re even having this debate.

Do you have any toys that you like?

M: Nah, not one for toys. I like to sit on or in a box every now and then.

H: I’ve got these pom-poms, and well, I’ve gotta be square with you, they’re the one thing in this world that I really love. I carry them around in my mouth, I sing to them, we play a little chase game. They complete me, they really do.

Would you describe yourself as touchy-feely? Which parts of your body do you like being touched the most? Which do you hate?

M: Yep, very touchy-feely. But the one place I won’t tolerate being touched is on my fluffy tummy.

H: Hate being touched by strangers, except maybe under my chin. Love that. People I know better, I’ll let them touch me, but only above the waist.

How do you communicate displeasure if someone touches you inappropriately?

M: Claws, of course.

H: I’ll go in for a bite, you wee shite.

Do you like being picked up?

M: Totes! Let’s dance! I might even sit on your shoulder!

H: Not a huge fan, but I’m starting to come round to the prospect. Only for short bursts though.

Do you like music? Are there any sounds you particularly like or dislike?

M: Hahah, when I was very small, I’d run away even at the sight of a guitar! But I soon got over that. I’d say I have fairly diverse musical interests.

H: I. Hate. Noise. I get scared by loud noises, quiet noises, high pitched noises, low pitched noises, music, shouting, fireworks, barking, cars, trucks, people. I. Hate. Noise.

Thank you very much for your answers. It’s been a pleasure talking to you!

M: Brrrfff!

H: Muh-row!

Pete
  • Comments: 1
  • This is just delightful. I am also thinking of another comparison: their catbox-entering s... - Karen
January 31, 2021

The Matrix (1991)

The Matrix is a movie about a man called Neil who has a weird dream in which he is the Chosen One, and cannot tell whether he exists in someone else’s dream, or everyone else exists in his. In his dream, he has accidentally joined the resistance by swallowing a red jelly bean, in a scene which, as an educator concerned with empowering people to get all the information before giving consent to a procedure, I found horrifying. Indeed, what follows are several scenes in which mysterious things are done to Neil without his full knowledge or understanding, and therefore without genuine consent.

Neil is played by Keanu Reeves, in a performance that ranges from looking slightly baffled to looking slightly bored. I shared both of these emotions over the course of the movie. Among the things that baffled me were that the year 1999 represented the peak of human existence, and that the character of Neil was apparently not one of the robots. High points were the appearance of the character Morpheus, at which point Pete and I looked at each other and hissed at each other in unison, it’s Larry Fucking Fishburne. It’s not that we were surprised or particularly delighted by this, it’s just something we do. Later, having torn himself away from the game on his phone for five minutes to find out what we were watching by looking it up on IMDB, Bernard sniggered, Heh heh. Lawrence Fishbum.

The point of this project was to fill in for Bernard all the cultural references that one acquires by having watched the last fifty years’ worth of well known movies. Unfortunately, with the exception of The Shawshank Redemption, he has declared every movie we have watched so far this year utterly boring beyond the reasonable threshold of boring parentness. It’s harsh, but in this case, also true.

Karen
  • Comments: 3
  • It’s still worlds better than the sequels. - Lyle
  • What, that The Matrix is a dull film? - Karen
  • Whether it's true or not, in polite society one does not normally say such things openly. - Pete
January 30, 2021

Alcohol-Free Beers (Part Eighteen)

(View previous instalments here)

This month’s selection box from AFBeerClub contains eight alcohol-free beers, all of which I have never had before! Here’s the first four of them:

Coast “Sabro Galaxy” DDH IPA

This beer felt quite viscous as it poured from the can. You can see it has a very good creamy head and is a very cloudy straw colour. The aroma is bold, hoppy, sour and fruity. The flavour is quite unconventional, like some sort of unfamiliar exotic fruit with a chunky savouriness to it.

Tiny Rebel “Space Cake” Oat Milk Mocha Stout

Even before I’d opened the can, I had high hopes for this. “Oat Milk Mocha Stout” is the kind of thing that’s right up my alley, and “Space Cake” is a fantastic name. That said, I’ve been finding that, among all the various genres of beers, the stouts are the ones that seem to struggle most with the transition to non-alcoholic.

The beer pours very thick out of the can, which is a great start. I wasn’t completely taken by the aroma – it smells more like a brewery than like beer, which was a cause for some concern. But the flavour – oh gosh, the flavour – is absolute perfection. Oodles and oodles of chocolate and coffee in this one. This is exactly what I’m looking for, and I could gladly buy it in huge quantities and devour it in an orgy of syrupy delight, but my only concern is that it does contain real coffee, and I am doing the whole caffeine-free thing as well as the alcohol-free.

Drop Bear – New World Lager

Looks like lager, pours like lager, smells sweet and honeyed, but ultimately, like lager. My initially feeling upon drinking it was that it was a bit underwhelming and lacklustre compared to what the smell had been implying. It’s got a bit of tanginess but is very fizzy and a little bit metallic. That said, my sentiments towards it did improve as I got used to the flavour, and by the end I was thinking “hmmmm, I could go for another of those.”

Tiny Rebel “Party Hard”

I was quite surprised by the colour of this when I poured it, it’s so pale as to be barely there at all. There’s absolutely no head whatsoever. It smells quite pleasing, very hoppy with a little hint of mango. It’s tangy and sour and on the very cusp of what I’d even think to classify as “beer”, but it goes down very nicely, and by the end of the glass I had to admit that I’d enjoyed drinking this as much as many of the other beers that I’ve put in the top set, so here we go, Tiny Rebel, have another one of these:

There’s still 4 more beers in the monthly box, so the reviews of those will be coming up in a couple of weeks.

Pete
January 26, 2021

Codenames

Tonight we shall be playing Codenames, a fun wordgame played in teams. We’ll be logging in from 7pm, but think of it as a drop-in, and join us whenever you feel like it, for as long as you feel like it. Join us on zoom using the link in the comments below.

Karen
  • Comments: 1
  • Join Zoom Meeting https://us02web.zoom.us/j/87170654010 Meeting ID: 871 7065 4010 - Karen
January 24, 2021

Top Gun (1986)

Those of you who have noticed that it’s been two weeks since the last film review may think that we’ve managed to already fail in the Great Uborka Movie Project of 2021, despite it still being January. Actually we did watch The Shawshank Redemption last weekend, as it was Bernard’s turn to write the review, and we felt that it was a film that he’d really enjoy, especially as we’ve been playing a fair bit of The Escapists 2 lately. And indeed, he did really enjoy it – you can tell because he spent most of the film actually watching the film that was on the screen instead of playing PUBG on his phone. We spent most of the week gently reminding him to write his review, and offering him help with this, which he declined, before yesterday revealing that he had no intention of writing a review, had never had any intention of writing a review, and felt that he had made this perfectly clear to us ever since we embarked upon this project. Needless to say, Karen and I felt a degree of frustration at this.

Anyway, upshot of this is that there will be no review of The Shawshank Redemption, and we also need to figure out what we’re going to do going forward. Just review 2 out of every 3 films? Review all films, with Karen and I alternating? Keep watching the films, but not bother writing reviews?

Adding Top Gun to the list was at my behest. Okay, yeah, so it’s no Citizen Kane, but it’s a film that I consider to be of cultural significance and great quotability. From the opening theme, I am utterly pumped. Bernard and I recently watched an episode of Final Space in which the protagonist is full of pent-up energy after a daring mission to retrieve a precious artefact, and uses “a hit of Loggins” to help release it. Watch this clip and you’ll understand:

(Alternate link)

I can vouch that “a hit of Loggins” is indeed just the tonic for getting oneself amped up.

For those who have not seen this film, it follows the story of Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, a fighter pilot who doesn’t play by the rules, which seems to continually catch people unawares, despite the fact that the clue’s right there in his callsign. He can be a bit of a petulant, arrogant, slimy, womanising douchebag, but back in the 1980s that was everything we wanted in a hero. He gets his big break to train at the Top Gun flight school, where he goes up against other ace pilots to see who is the best, while also romancing one of his instructors. She’s taller than him, so you may notice that in most of their scenes together they are either sitting or lying down, and on the rare occasion that they are stood up together, the camera always crops out their lower bodies so you can’t see the box that he carries around to stand on. The box is never explicitly mentioned in the script, but I believe that that makes it no less canon.

There is actually a serious subject within this film about PTSD in the military, but it is sadly used merely as a plot device, and barely explored in any depth. But then if you’re looking for depth, you’re in the wrong place. This is a film about dogfighting and bromance and oiled male torsos playing beach volleyball and trying not to get too distracted by Tom Cruise’s monobrow and weird upper front tooth configuration. This is probably about the 4th time that I’ve seen the film, and I enjoyed it as much as ever, though the singing scene in the bar gets more awkward and raises more questions with every viewing. Bernard spent most of the film playing PUBG on his mobile and afterwards declared the film “boring”, but I did notice that he put his phone down for the big aerial combat sequence in the final act, so that’s got to count for something, surely?

Pete
January 16, 2021

Alcohol-Free Beers (Part Seventeen)

(View previous instalments here)

The naming of these blog posts is starting to get very awkward. As you can probably tell, when I started this series, I did not expect it to run to seventeen instalments (and counting). I probably didn’t think that it would be running for two years either – I expect that, at the time, I thought that I’d be back on the alcohol-containing beers by now. Certainly I’m finding this ever-growing archive to be a little lacking in searchability by dint of all the reviews being gathered into arbitrary bundles with largely-meaningless titles. Ah well, too late to fix it now.

In this instalment, I’m going through all the beers that were in the AFBeerClub December box (with the exception of those which I’ve already reviewed). There were eight in the box, and the six that we’ll be trying for the first time are these:

To make things easy on you, I will reorder my reviews so that they match the sequence of the drinks in the photo above. See, I can be helpful and systematic sometimes!

Tempest “Sleight Of Hand”

On pouring, I observed that this beer is very pale and clear with a robust head that was retained throughout drinking. Drawing the glass to my nose, it has a very clean and fresh aroma, with some hops popping up to say “hello”. The flavour is very intense and sour, packing a huge punch, but it’s quite a dignified sourness, not an out-of-control vinegariness. I admit that sour beers are not usually my thing, and this probably isn’t going to change my mind, but I can definitely see the appeal, and I think that if you are someone who likes a sour beer then I think that you’d find this one to be very well-crafted indeed.

Beavertown Lazer Crush

Another pale beer with a good head. This one has a sweet, floral aroma, which made my mouth water. Unfortunately the flavour didn’t quite live up to the promise, but that’s not to say that it’s terrible. It has a vaguely sour flavour which tastes a bit like vomit, but in a pleasant way, like parmesan cheese, and not in an unpleasant way, like vomit. In the pantheon of quotes which I thought I’d never say, I never thought that one of them would be “I could gladly drink this beer, which tastes not unpleasantly like vomit, all evening.” What a strange review, Pete. Do you think you’ve been doing this for too long?

Good Karma “Love That Feeling”

Oh looky, another fairly pale beer with a thick head. This one, however, is cloudy, not clear. The aroma of this drink is very bold, reminiscent of tropical fruits and maybe a bit of banana? My expectations for a flavour that took me to an abandoned desert island in the Pacific were then utterly subverted. It’s a very unconventional-tasting beer and I was unable to think of any words to describe it, which is surprising, given how low I normally set the bar for what constitutes a beer review. I’ve somehow managed to disappoint myself, despite my expectations of myself already being rock-bottom. I could only come to the conclusion that I would not buy this beer again simply because I can’t think of what mood I would have to be in to want it. I do observe that it’s a fairly refreshing drink, but then there are other refreshing alcohol-free beer options out there, so it’s by no means got a monopoly on that category. It’s not awful, just very very weird, hence I declare it:

Big Drop “Kinzig” Gateau Stout

Despite it’s position in this review, this was actually the one that I saved until last, because it sounds absolutely awesome, doesn’t it? This one comes in a 440ml can, hence why the glass in the photo above is fuller than usual. The aroma of this one is exactly what you’d hope for, very sweet with the forest fruits coming through strong. There was a decent head upon pouring but it dissipated very quickly.

At this point I notice that I seem to have a tendency to set high expectations for a beer based on a hearty sniff, and then be disappointed when the flavour does not live up to it. You may have noticed this pattern too. And given how often Big Drop beers seem to let me down, you’d expect me to have tempered my enthusiasm for this one. But no, I’m an idiot, and I fall into the same traps over and over again.

The flavour is mostly there, to be fair. All the flavours you’d expect, but sadly just a bit watered down. I feel like if this were an alcoholic beer, it would be at about 6% and have the consistency of syrup, and it would punch you hard in the face with every mouthful and leave you feeling under an onslaught of flavour. But this one, while pleasant, is just a bit too compromised, and with every mouthful you are left thinking about what should have been. It does also have a bit of a metallic aftertaste.

In conclusion, spectacular smell, but if you’re planning on drinking it, then…

Lervig “No Worries” Pineapple

When I reviewed the regular “No Worries”, I wrote what might be the shortest review that I’ve ever written. It’s a spectacular drink, and in hindsight I feel like maybe it deserved more words. In fact, this review of the Pineapple variant is already longer, and I haven’t even got round to talking about the actual beer under review. So let’s fix that.

This beer, similar to the regular No Worries, is very cloudy with a good head and a nice creamy mouthfeel. There’s pineapple in the aroma, but it’s mellow, not harsh like a can of Lilt. Likewise in the flavour, the pineapple is pitched just right, where it complements the overall beerishness, without drowning it out completely (looking at you now, Mikkeller Racing Beer). I wouldn’t necessarily drink this as a session beer – after all, pineapple is the fruit that eats you back – but I’ll definitely consider it next time I’m ordering a batch of beers.

First Chop “Yes”

And so to the last beer of the group, and the one that I actually drank the first of the six. You can see that I’ve poured it in my awesome new hexagonal tumbler that I got from Aldi… or was it Lidl… which I was intending to use as my new beer-reviewing glass, a commitment which I then promptly forgot about when it came to the other five. So this photo will endure as the awkward and embarrassing outlier, a testament to my failure.

You’re probably waiting patiently for the bit where I actually talk about the beer, so I won’t make you wait any longer. Nice lingering head on this one, slightly cloudy to look through, and a smell that declares “I am an IPA and am not ashamed to admit it”. The flavour is tangy and hoppy with a slightly sour aftertaste, and it easily holds its own with beers like Infinite Session American Pale Ale and Brewdog Nanny State, therefore it warrants…

Conclusions

There are numerous conclusions that I wish to draw at the end of this blog post

Conclusion The First

Six beers is too many for one blog post, and I anticipate that some months there will be no beers in the box that I haven’t had before, so eight beers will definitely be too many for one blog post. I made the mistake of taking that top photo up front, and mentally committed myself to rolling them all into one review. Going forward I’m going to stick to 3 or 4 beers per review, and do two posts per month.

Conclusion The Second

Robin at AFBeerClub knows how to pick them. These are all very nice beers, with the possible exception of the Kinzig, which disappointed me, perhaps mainly because I let myself get carried away with my expectations.

Conclusion The Third

I can’t help feeling that this is turning from something useful into something of a vanity project. Once upon a time, when I was reviewing AF beers that you might find in a pub or supermarket, I felt like there was value in the reviews, as they would help you to know which beers to try and which to avoid at all costs. But what am I doing now? I’m writing reviews for beers from breweries that you’ve never heard of, that you’d never find on a mainstream supermarket’s online shopping catalog (see how I shifted my language there? Stand back, wordsmith at work). These reviews are of no use whatsoever to someone who wants to add a few AF beers to their regular weekly shop. However, hopefully there are some adventurous people out there who, as a result of reading these reviews, have placed an order at a specialist supplier (I’m a fan of Wise Bartender myself) and discovered some real hidden gems. Or am I just hurling my amateurish reviews into a void?

Pete
  • Comments: 2
  • As someone with a more-than-passing interest in AF beer, I'm always interested to hear som... - swisslet
  • I have absolutely no interest in beer, with or without alcohol, and yet would be sad not t... - Karen
January 9, 2021

Clash of the Titans (1981)

Clash of the Titans has come up in conversation a couple of times during recent Cocktail Hours, so when Pete proposed the Great Uborka Movie Project of 2021 (still to be properly named), this was my first suggestion. I was ten when it came out, and utterly enthralled by the special effects, the glamour, the sheer beauty of the acting, and so on, and so forth. “It looks like stop-motion animation,” scoffed Bernard, contemptuously, before returning to the game on his phone. Oh my darling, that’s just what it was.

The movie opens on an October day somewhere in Devon, as Danae and the infant Perseus are cast into the sea in a box, to prevent Perseus from fulfilling the prophecy that he will kill his father. More on this later. Action then moves to Olympus, where Laurence Olivier sits upon his goldy throne presiding over some spat between Extremely Minor Sea Goddess Thetis (Maggie Smith in fully towering Prof. McGonegall sternness) and, erm, it’s not entirely clear who is in trouble here. The writer of COTT doesn’t just deviate from the ancient stories, he creates some sort of hideous faux-mythological soup, where the norse Kraken has travelled all the way round the Iberian peninsula and across the Mediterranean, to terrorise various Greek seaside kingdoms; and characters loosely derived from Shakespeare are invented to drive the plot forward.

As Danae breastfeeds baby Perseus (in a position which, in my professional opinion, would be both ineffective and painful), the goddesses fill in the back story: Zeus “visited” Danae disguised as a shower of gold, and she became pregnant with Perseus. This intriguing sex scene is not shown. Zeus therefore has high hopes for Perseus, providing him with a range of enchanted gear, and setting him on his way to the kingdom of Joppa. Here he dons his helmet of invisibility and uses it to watch the princess Andromeda while she sleeps. He observes her disembodied self being kidnapped by a giant bird that closely resembles Professor Yaffle from Bagpuss, which flies jerkily away with her in a cage. This prompts Perseus to capture and tame Pegasus, the last of the jerkily flying horses, so that he can follow Prof. Yaffle to a swampy land. The flight may be jerky, but not a demigodly hair on Perseus’ pretty head is ruffled out of place. He also has the smoothest chest you ever did see, which neither adds to nor detracts from the story.

Despite being the dimmest of the demigods, Perseus wins Andromeda’s hand, leading her mother Cassiopeia to crow that Andromeda is more beautiful than Extremely Minor Sea Goddess Thetis, who is pissed off by this and demands Andromeda’s sacrifice. She can only be saved by dim demigod Perseus and his magic jerkily flying horse, but lo! the jerkily flying horse has jerkily flown away. He sets off on an ordinary horse, with Andromeda, who has donned her smartest pastel pink travelling outfit in order to accompany him to the cave of the cannibalistic one-eyed witches who will be able to tell him what to do. She then returns home in order to be sacrificed as promised to Extremely Minor Sea Goddess Thetis, while dim demigod Perseus continues on his way via the river Styx, past the two-headed three-headed dog Cerberus, to slay the Gorgon Medusa.

A special mention must be made at this point of the armoured owl Bubo, or R2D2-lite, a movie creature so embarrassing that I almost forgave Jar-Jar Binks his existence. Inevitably dim demigod Perseus addresses what was originally the apparently multi-lingual owl of Athena as “my little friend,” which strikes me as impertinent.

By the end of this terrible movie, the story has been mucked about with like a chocolate chip wensleydale cheese, proving how wrong I was that it should be included in the Films Uborka Could Kiss Project. I mentioned that Danae and Perseus were cast adrift because of the prophecy that he would kill his father; in fact this prophecy isn’t mentioned at the start of the film, and doesn’t conclude it either. It baffles me that a perfectly good adventure slash love story with a neat ending should be so mangled, even before we get to the Terry Gilliam-style animation of Maggie Smith’s head, or indeed the fact that there aren’t any Titans in it at all, and they don’t clash.

I conclude with Pete’s assessment that the second film in our project is “the worst shite you’ve ever seen.” We should probably have watched The Shawshank Redemption, as he suggested. I hate it when he is right.

Karen
  • Comments: 1
  • This review is brilliant. Suddenly I no longer care about the crapness of the film. - Pete