Review Everything: The Taste (TV series)

The Taste stars (L-R) Ludo Lefebvre, Anthony Bourdain and Nigella Lawson.

There are many cookery shows on TV nowadays, from amateur baking to testing professionals, and for a new show to come along and break the mould is quite unusual.

The Taste is one such show. It is a cookery show, but it has managed to do something different in a saturated cookery market. The show has Nigella Lawson, Anthony Bourdain, and Ludo Lefebvre as both mentors and judges, starting with four members on each of their teams, with one overall contestant leaving each week.

The contestants are a very varied group of individuals. Some are home cooks, others own a cafe and there are still some that are sous chefs. However, in spite of this seeming unfairness, each contestant is brought into complete equality.

The clever part of the show is that each person only produces three spoons of food, one for each of the judges. This means that layout of the food is irrelevant; a contestant can’t make a plate look nice to charm the judges. Similarly, to keep the anonymity, the judges are in a different room to the contestants. This means that they could be speaking negatively of, or even vote against, their own team members, they can’t get through just by being nice people. This means that it really is the taste that is important.

The one thing that annoys me most about this process however is the amount of food waste that is generated. The contestants are making just three spoons of food each, yet the amount of ingredients they use is enough for four or five full plates. This just does not sit right with me. I appreciate that one may need to make food in certain quantities, but it seems clear that must be an enormous amount of waste. Why don’t they make enough for one plate?

The judges and mentors do seem to work well together, but it is clear that Nigella takes a major role compared to the others, having more speaking parts, and may even have been asked to be on the show because of who she is.

There is some swearing throughout the show, particularly from Anthony Bourdain, who at times seems to think that the f word is a perfectly acceptable adjective. The Taste could be family viewing if not for this.

Will this show get boring? It is the same concept each week, and it is a strong one, but apart from the type of food being cooked it remains the same. However, because of its unique position within the cookery show market, it is likely to continue being enjoyable. I’m not sure if or how the producers will add a surprise into the mix, such as cooking for a group of people as they can in other shows, but I guess we shall find out. The US version of the show is already on its second season, so they must have done something right.

Final rating: 3.5/5 It is a strong concept but it is at risk of getting boring after a while. The judges/mentors are a varied group and the judging process adds an interesting dynamic. If it lost the swearing it would get more points.

Have you seen this show? What did you think?

An Open Letter to Scotland

Dear Scotland,

I understand that you’ve got a big vote coming up soon. Although it is my hope that you will vote to remain part of the oldest and greatest multi-nation union of all time, I also completely understand that you have the freedom to vote whichever way you choose, after all, that is democracy. However, sometimes voting a bad way can be disastrous; remember when everyone thought that voting Conservative or Lib Dem in 2010 was a good idea? I don’t want you guys to make the same kind of mistake.

We may have treated you badly in the past, and for that I apologise, but let’s not get rid of 300 years of brilliance just because of an argument. Okay, perhaps the English don’t understand Scottish ways, and might make fun of you once in a while, and we might laugh at your attempts at sport, but this doesn’t mean that we don’t respect you – far from it. I just also confess that I’m not entirely sure what’s so different about what you’ve got now and independance, but what I do know is that it just doesn’t sit right with me, there’s something about it that makes me cringe. Look, whatever it is that we’ve done to upset you, let’s just think of the Beatles, we can work it out!

But perhaps you don’t want to work it out, perhaps you’ve had enough, and once and for all want to throw off some imaginary shackles and free yourselves from non-existent oppression, and perhaps later you will vote for independence, I hope you don’t, but you could. Regardless, I don’t want there to be any bad feelings between us.

So. if you do vote to leave us later in the year, and if in the future you realise your mistake, be it in 2 minutes or 200 years, you are welcome to come back to us at any moment. No questions asked. We won’t care how much debt you’ve got yourself in to, we won’t care what condition your economy may be in, or if Brussels has messed you up completely, we will take you back. You are, after all, our brothers and sisters, and family always stays by each other.

Anyway, Scotland, keep smiling.

Best wishes,

Dave Lucas

P.S. While we’re on the topic, if there are any other nations reading this, and you want to come back to us, please feel free to let us know. America: feel free at any time. Brittany: feel free at any time. Scandinavia: feel free at any time. No hard feelings, no questions asked.

Review Everything: Barratt’s Blackjack

A pile of Barratt's Blackjack sweets

The classic Black Jacks sweet – a favourite for years.

Sweets are brilliant. Of course, we know that too much of anything is not good, but a sweet every now and again can be a lovely thing, especially if it brings back memories of being young. This classic black coloured aniseed flavoured sweet is iconic in its design and tends to be available at classic sweet shops or in bulk from the cash and carry.

For me, these sweets are almost addictive, partly because of the nostalgia, but also because they taste good. The chewy, sticky substance will last in the mouth for a few minutes but leave a longing for another for quite some time. I’ve gone through several in the past few hours, simply because each one tastes as good as the last.

For me, the aniseed flavour is welcome, but I know that some are not keen on it, and would prefer something minty or fruity. When I was young I used to think that Black Jacks were actually mint flavoured as I do find the aftertaste quite refreshing However, I learned to understand the flavour of aniseed through having Gaviscon, but that’s another story.

As a manufacturing error, there have been a few occasions where the Black Jack is wrapped twice. Although this adds minimal inconvenience to me, it will add some cost to the manufacturing process. I’m surprised that, even after years of production, Barratts are still to eliminate this problem.

If you’re not a fan of Black Jacks, there’s always the Fruit Salad alternative, with its yellow and pink wrapping to tempt you.

Final rating: 4/5 A sweet to remind you of your childhood, but making your tongue black and the aftertaste are probably not for everyone.

Review Everything: Innocent Smoothie Advert

Adverts have a wonderful way of communicating to us. They can be comical, intriguing, informative or just plain weird (perfume adverts are very weird). Every now and again there is an advert that connects with you in such a way that it makes you simply say “that was a good ad”.

The most recent Innocent Smoothies advert is one of them.

It tells a story, a simple story of one man buying an Innocent Smoothie. However, Innocent want us to know that in buying a drink for yourself, there are also social implications that happen, through 10% of Innocent’s profits going to charity work, that could provide a cow for a community in Africa. Most adverts of this nature just show the cow and stop there. Innocent however have gone several step further and shown the knock on effect of buying a cow, from health benefits to education. It’s lighthearted, warming and encouraging, the “Chain of Good”. The narrator also contributed to the feel of the ad in a similar fashion to the advert generally. It has certainly made me contemplate buying an Innocent Smoothie solely for the potential knock on effect of a cow in a community.

Final rating: 5/5 A great advert, and one I hope that will result in many cows, and the social knock on effect, to occur throughout Africa. Keep it going Innocent: more adverts like this please.

Review Everything: Oral B Pro Expert Toothpaste

Oral B Pro Expert toothpaste boasts “all round protection”.

Oral B have a name for themselves as toothbrush manufacturers. This has been built on years of research and development, and I remember thinking when I was younger how strange it was that Oral B make toothbrushes but not toothpaste. However, a couple of years ago Oral B diversified (sort of) into toothpaste. Oral B Pro Expert is one of their brands and the main one that I see advertised on TV.

The product comes in standard toothpaste sizes (75ml) and is priced around £2.30-£2.50. The blue packet is inviting and comforting, and assures me that it is going to, with proper use, allow me to enjoy teeth and gums free from cavities, plaque and other nasties.

The term ‘pro’ in the name of any product, however, always concerns me. There’s nothing wrong with the word pro in and of itself, but it is a shortened form of the word professional, and I’m never really sure what manufacturers mean by this. The word professional suddenly conjures up images of outdated computers, whose only difference between the standard and the professional was supposedly better security. If this is that case and the word ‘pro’ allows my teeth to be better protected from the elements, then I welcome it. However, if by professional they mean upstanding and well to do, then I wonder why they would create a non-pro version of their product, as though the standard doesn’t really do much, and is known as a bit of a slob. I would still have used this product and have been happy with it if it were just called “Oral B Expert” or “Oral B All Protection”, which is what it is boasting to do.

Having never had any previous problems with plaque or my enamel, it’s difficult to prove whether or not this toothpaste works better than its competitors. What I can say however, is that there is no introduction of such problems; meaning that the toothpaste is continuing to protect my mouth as intended. It does give all encompassing protection, covering ‘areas that your dentist checks most’. I’m not sure if they’ve asked my dentist specifically, but I’m sure that he does check for things such as tartar and sensitivity. If my dentist doesn’t check for these things, I’d better get a new dentist.

The strange thing about this toothpaste is its taste. Most toothpastes go for the very traditional mint flavour, although in varying degrees of strength. However, Oral B seems to have added a medicinal flavour to their toothpaste. It’s the same sort of taste you get when you actually go to the dentist, although with no chalky sensation. This, strangely, gives me a sense of confidence in the product, although odd the first time I used it. It makes me think that this toothpaste has been developed in the dentist’s surgery, perhaps even tested on patients by real dentists, although I have no proof of this. Having been using the toothpaste for around two months, this taste appears to have disappeared, although most likely I have become numb to it. I imagine that, if I return to other toothpastes, I may even miss this medicinal taste and the confidence it brings.

Final rating: 3.5/5. It’s protected my teeth but some people might not like the taste.

Review Everything: Olympus Has Fallen (2013)

Movie poster for Olympus Has Fallen.

This review does contain spoilers.

This action film has a great cast, a good story and some great action sequences. The film rotates around the White House being overtaken, successfully, by terrorists and its rescue from a washed up ex secret service member.

Gerard Butler stars as the main protagonist, fighting the evil terrorists in well choreographed action sequences. Butler was good, although it’s a bit strange hearing him with an american accent – I always expect to hear him in his native Scottish. This, I think, would have made Butler’s part more believable: nothing stops a scottish man in the middle of a fight!

Aaron Eckhart plays the president who has tragedy in his life but still a country to lead. Eckhart made a good president although the character was surprisingly weak when under pressure – as soon as a baddie threatens a goodie, he immediately rolls over and says ‘tell them anything they want’. Had it not been for this weakness, the possibility of nuclear winter would not have been a threat. This was a weakness in the storyline but I guess we could put it down to the pressures of leadership in a hostage situation. It’s easy to say I wouldn’t tell them anything and laugh in their faces, but I guess as soon as they tickle my feet with a feather I’d give them the combination to the nuclear arsenal. 

Morgan Freeman plays the Speaker of the House who during the film, because of the apprehension of the president and vice president, becomes acting president. We need to remember that last time he was president a huge asteroid fell to earth and a huge tidal wave occurred, so I wasn’t holding out much hope. However, he managed to maintain his authority, although the White House still ended up in a state. It is also strange having him in the centre of the movie posters, as out of the three main characters, he had the least air time. Disappointingly, or perhaps thankfully, there were no Morgan Freeman monologue voice overs in this film. Had there been I may not have been able to contain the level of cheese.

The American Cheese throughout this film was potent. From the opening snare drum roll shortly followed by trumpets, to the falling of the American flag from the top of the White House, to the partial collapse of the Washington Memorial, this film was full of it. Even the statue of George Washington being used to knock out a baddie was present: ‘smashing the head of communism with freedom’, or something like that. I do, however, understand that Americans love this sort of thing, and would understand the importance of such actions happening.

This film should should have been rated an 18 here in the UK, rather than the given 15. Lots of F bombs, head shots and even some short torture scenes; overall, lots of blood that made for almost uncomfortable viewing. There were even a couple of suicide bombers viewed as they detonated themselves. I’m not really sure who made the decision to rate it a 15, but I’ve seen 18s with far less violence, swearing and blood. It’s interesting to know that in South Korea, Olympus Has Fallen was rated an 18 (source IMDB), although this was probably due to political reasons as well as the violence. The rating may also explain my discomfort while watching it; had I been expecting an 18 I may have been more prepared for the violence. Another Butler movie, Law Abiding Citizen, arguably had less violence yet was rated 18. It could be however that the BBFC see this as a mind numbing action film, not requiring as strict guidelines compared to psychological thrillers.

I understand why the creators used the North Korean situation as part of the storyline, but I wasn’t a fan of it. I would have preferred it if a fake country had been used like “Madeupistan”. Part of my problem was that I was reading into every little piece of politics in this movie, although some viewers would not not have picked up on it. However, you don’t need to know Asian politics nor the history of the Korean war to watch this film as the action speaks for itself. All you need to remember is that if they’re Asian, they’re the bad guys. Which has made me realise that I didn’t see in the film any Asian good characters, at least that I can recall. All of the main characters seem to be caucasian. I imagine that this is to avoid confusion for the viewer: in fast paced action movies there isn’t time to look at the clothing to determine if someone is good or bad.

I was concerned how much the emergency committee believed every word of Butler’s character. Anything he said they trusted and did. I’m not sure if this is because they genuinely trusted him as a person or were just swepped away with his charming good looks and smooth voice. It’s a good job that one of the baddies didn’t get hold of the phone first – it could have been a disaster! If they’d have believed every word that the baddie said, the end of the film would be very different. The believing every word of Butler was most evident in the double cross character, who was a goodie, turned a baddie and then at merely speaking with Butler becomes a goodie again. A bit weird, but I understand that it was showing that every baddie can become a goodie; realising the errors of their ways.

There was the threat of nuclear weapons being exploded and millions of people being immediately incinerated and America being reduced to a wasteland: oh how I’ve missed this. It’s been a while since I’ve seen a film with a good old “oh no the baddies have got a nuke and they’re not afraid to use it” movie. I’m struggling to think of the last film I saw with this in it. I say miss it, not because I want to see a nuclear explosion, but because this type of storyline has been missed from action movies of late. You can have a baddie wanting to end someone’s life and they’re known as a bad person, but throw in a nuclear weapon in the mix and immediately you realise that the boss is a nutter; it’s the quickest way for people to realise this. Of course, the film doesn’t end with this, but it was a close call. However, and oddly, the idea of all the nukes ever going off simultaneously didn’t fill me with suspense. This may have worked better with just one or two missiles.

Final rating: 4/5. The rating should have been an 18 and the cheese could have been turned down. Some of the fx looked fake and cheap. It was however, overall, a good action movie – once again good triumphs over evil, although for the first 45 minutes it didn’t look like it.

What is the plural for LEGO®?

A selection of LEGO bricks in various sizes and colours. There have been over 560 billion LEGO parts produced since 1949.

There have been over 560 billion LEGO parts produced since 1949.

English is a funny language. Rules that follow for some words are completely different for others.
Plurals are particularly difficult, there are so many rules and sometimes it seems that the best method is just to remember the words rather than the rules or patterns. For example, simply adding an “s” to the end of a word doesn’t always work. It could be that you add an “es”, sometimes the middle of the word changes (e.g goose and geese) or even the word stays the same altogether (e.g. sheep).
There have been, in my experience, two ways of pluralising LEGO, the popular plastic clip-together building bricks. I have heard people, particularly Americans, use the term Legos, whereas I and people I know keep the word the same, LEGO. I’m not sure for certain whether this is an American vs. British thing, but I have definately heard the two terms used.
To solve this argument, and to learn something in the process, I decided to write a letter to LEGO and ask them for their input into the discussion. It seems that LEGO have thought very deeply about this, making sure that people standardise the way people use the name of their company.
Although their letter went into more detail, here is the section on the use of the name LEGO:

- The LEGO name is a registered trademark. It should have the “®” symbol after it the first time you use it.
– If you’re talking about the LEGO Group as a company, you don’t need the symbol.
– Always spell the word LEGO using capital letters and use it only as an adjective – not a noun. For example you can write “Models built with LEGO® bricks” or “really cool LEGO® sets”, but not “Model built with Legos”.

So there we have it: you should always capitalise the name LEGO, and it always remains the same when plural. I also find it interesting that they say that LEGO is an adjective rather than a noun. It would seem that the LEGO group want people to use the word colloquially for any clip together brick. There are copycat versions of LEGO around, and whatever they are called, people will use the term LEGO to describe them, much in the same way that a vacuum cleaner is referred to as a ‘Hoover’.

The LEGO group is now much more than simply plastic bricks, but it is the humble brightly coloured blocks that continue to fascinate and even educate young minds.

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