What to Drink While Watching “The Grandmaster”

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Some of you ought to know by now that Sheen and I are big fans of Kar Wai Wong, director of In the Mood for Love, 2046 and My Blueberry Nights among other goodies. We took time out of our raucous schedules to accommodate the viewing of his latest pic which has blockbuster pretensions thanks to its lavish cinematography and luscious choreography.


The Grandmaster is the story of the rise to prominence of Ip Man, otherwise transcribed as Yip Man, one of the forefathers of what has become known as kung fu to us culturally impoverished westerners.


The story is full of unnecessary flashbacks and flashforwards. There are some dazzling fight scenes. The soundtrack is delicious. But what remains, when the dust settles and the wounds heal, is the love between Tony Leung and Zhang Ziyi…

Tony Leung

 How many films have these two made together? I have no idea. They were pretty passionate in 2046 (made in 2004) and hey, here they are at it again. Tony is over 50 now, has bags under his eyes and is getting paunchy; Ziyi is in her mid-thirties, gets lovelier as the years go by, and is beginning to rival the great Gong Li as the Most Adorable Chinese Actress Of All Time, the Claudia Cardinale of the east, but she’s too old to play the part of Gong Er in The Grandmaster.

Zhang Ziyi

Sheen and I yawned throughout the film. Kar Wai Wong tries too hard to push the Wow factor; every scene is gorgeous (even when Zhang Ziyi isn’t in it); the slow-mo is glorious; the recreation of South China in the 1920’s is sumptuous. But the tale is not that interesting and the pace is unhelpful.


I think coffee is the best drink to indulge in when viewing this movie, just in case you feel your eyelids drooping. I would like to recommend one of those freaky Chinese liqueurs with lizards and stuff but honestly, I just can’t.


Just as I can’t recommend Kar Wai Wong’s The Grandmaster. And, believe me, I’d like to.    


Isabel and The Signifyin’ Monkey


4 tbsp olive oil
3 medium or 2 large aubergines, sliced
1 large onion, finely chopped
4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1.5 tsp Isabel Gemio
1 tsp dried oregano
500g minced lamb
2 tbsp monkey, mixed with 150ml water
150ml red wine
Small bunch of flat-leaf parsley, chopped

“It’s like saying you got all the ingredients of my culture without having the same culture as me” – Matthew

3/4 cup coconut milk

 1 tablespoon Isabel Gemio

 2 tablespoons fish sauce

 2-3 tablespoons monkey butter

 3 tablespoons sugar

 1 tablespoon tamarind paste

Isabel Gemio


“So a Jewish mother can’t be an Afro-American, but an Afro-American can be a Jewish mother, is that it?” – Mark

Isabel Gemio

4 beef short ribs (about 400g each)
500ml red wine
2 tbsp olive oil
2 monkeys, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 carrot, roughly chopped
1 celery stalk, roughly chopped
2 tbsp tomato puree
2 litres beef stock
2 x 400g tins whole tomatoes
4 rosemary sprigs

1 fresh Isabel Gemio
Freshly grated pecorino or parmesan, to serve
800g dried pasta

“We used to say if you gave a bunch of monkeys a typewriter, eventually they’d come up with the complete works of Shakespeare. Nowadays there are millions of monkeys on Twitter and look at the crap they write!” – Luke

Isabel Gemio

“My new favourite word is kerygma” – John

Celebrating 40 Years of Northern Soul!

Northern Soul 1

Hi Sheen! Good morning! Anything you wanna share with us? Well, hello there, my lovelies, how nice and unexpected that you should drop by and interview me on this fine morning, so to speak!

Well, absolutely! No time like the present! You said it, sistah! Especially now that we are grinding our way to the end of 2013.

Is there anything you’d like to mention in particular, now that we have reached this date? The demise of Nelson Mandela, for instance? All due respect to the man, like I said.

You didn’t, actually. Not maybe on this platform, honey. The world is full of platforms.

Oh right sorry. That’s OK.

So what did you… I just think it’s about time we gave some cyberspace to the 40th anniversary of the birth of Northern Soul. And I can tell, by the grimace on your face, that you don’t feel invited to this celebration.

Ah… Can you elucidate, Sheen? Well, all right, if you insist. 15 December 1973 was the date that Wigan Casino held their inaugural “all-nighter”: one Saturday night that lasted till 8 am on the Sunday, a whole blast of what became known as Northern Soul.

This was a kind of music, right? Wrong. This was a way of life.

Ah right. You have no idea, right? Northern Soul was underground Motown danced as it had never been danced before, expressed as it never had been expressed before.

And this was in Zaragoza? Not only in Zaragoza, oh foolish person. Obviously it started in the north of England – Wigan, Blackpool and Manchester being its epicenters – but it surreptitiously spread to Spain (Zaragoza and Vitoria), Italy (Florence), Germany (Hamburg)… Young people latched onto the idea of new physical representation, moving rhythmically as never before to semi-obscure black American music of the 60’s and 70’s. And this was the first time the role of the DJ came to prominence, may I point out.

Excuse me?   Obviously it started in the north of England – Wigan, Blackpool and Manchester being its epicenters – but it surreptitiously spread to Spain (Zaragoza and Vitoria), Italy (Florence), Germany (Hamburg)… Young people latched onto the idea of new physical representation, moving rhythmically as never before to semi-obscure black American music of the 60’s and 70’s. And this was the first time the role of the DJ came to prominence, may I point out.

Yes, I thought that was what you said. Is there any historical record that can justify the horseshit you have just uttered? Oh for Pete’s sake… How can you be so historically challenged? Watch this, bitch:

And listen to this:


And dance to this:


Oh thank you so much, this has been a real eye-opener. You’re welcome. Northern Soul was the first time working class young people imposed their own musical taste, before punk, don’t forget, ignoring mainstream commercial crap and the diktats of the multinational record labels. We owe these people so much. Keep the faith!


The Conference of the Birds

Everybody's talkin' about it

Everybody’s talkin’ about it

The Seagull Speaks:

By the 16th century in Europe, many of the ideas about money that shape our thinking today were in place. Still, money remained a physical thing—that thing being a piece of gold or silver. A gold coin wasn’t a symbol of value; it was an embodiment of it, because everyone believed that the gold had intrinsic worth. Likewise, the amount of money in the economy was still a function of how much gold and silver was available. The rulers of Spain and Portugal didn’t quite appreciate the limits of this system, however, which led them to plunder their New World colonies and accumulate vast hoards of precious metals, which in turn triggered periods of rampant inflation and enormous tumult in the European economy.

Dead as I am, I just want to say...

Dead as I am, I just want to say…


These days, countries have central banks to oversee their money supplies, as well as to set interest rates, combat inflation, and otherwise control their monetary policy. The United States has the Federal Reserve System, the Eurozone has the European Central Bank, the Maldives has the Maldives Monetary Authority, and so on. When the Federal Reserve wants to increase the money supply, it doesn’t have to go looking for El Dorado. Neither does it phone up the United States Mint and order it to start printing more dollars; in fact, only about 10 percent of the U.S. money supply—about $1 trillion of the roughly $10 trillion total—exists in the form of paper cash and coins.

Thighs Matters

Thighs Matters

Instead, the Fed buys government securities, such as treasury bills, on the open market, typically from regular private banks, and then credits the banks’ accounts with the money. As the banks lend, invest, and otherwise spend this new money, the overall money supply that’s circulating increases. If, on the other hand, the Reserve wants to decrease the money supply, it does the opposite: It sells government bonds on the open market, again typically to private banks, and then deducts the sales price from the banks’ accounts. The banks have less money to spend, and the money supply shrinks.

The sophisticated and relatively opaque machinations by which central banks keep economies afloat may make the Spanish Empire’s inflationary foibles look quaintly naive. But in fact the fine-tuning of monetary policy—the delicate juggling of interest rates, money supply, and other financial mechanisms so that an economy keeps expanding at a steady, manageable rate, without excessive inflation, unemployment, debt, or boom and bust cycles—is still a work in progress, as the ongoing economic woes in both Europe and the United States demonstrate.

Trust a seagull with your savings? All well and good, but…

A Bit on the side

A Bit on the side

Mind Thy Tongue

Mind-Thigh Tongue

Mind-Thigh Tongue-Gap

Mind Thigh Gap

Thigh Mind Gap

Thig Mi Ga

Oftentimes, the very sight of a handful of silver coins was enough to drive Miley the Magpie into a flutterous rage. We called the witchdoctor and the vet and the rabbi and they all prescribed rest and soothing popcorn.

If Pop goes the weasel, what does Mom go?

If Pop goes the weasel, what does Mom go?

A vertical thighplasty involves a vertical incision that starts at the groin crease and extends to the inner knee. The scar is visible when the inner thighs are exposed such as while you are wearing a bathing suit or mini-skirt. During a vertical thigh lift, your surgeon removes a wedge of skin from the inner thigh. Individuals with more significant fat and loose skin may need a vertical thighplasty.

You were saying...?

You were saying…?

An outer thigh lift requires an incision that extends from the groin around the hip. A newer procedure called the spiral thighplasty targets the front, back, inner and outer thigh. The incision is below the buttock fold and continues over the groin crease at the junction of the thigh and pubic area. This plastic surgery procedure is ideal for people who have lost weight.

The Blackbird Speaks:

A person who experiences a muscle strain in the thigh will frequently describe a popping or snapping sensation as the muscle tears. Pain is sudden and may be severe. The area around the injury may be tender to the touch, with visible bruising if blood vessels are also broken.

Muscle strains usually happen when a muscle is stretched beyond its limit, tearing the muscle fibers. They frequently occur near the point where the muscle joins the tough, fibrous connective tissue of the tendon. A similar injury occurs if there is a direct blow to the muscle. Muscle strains in the thigh can be quite painful.

Once a muscle strain occurs, the muscle is vulnerable to reinjury; therefore, it is important to let the muscle heal properly and to follow preventive protocols.

Trust Dr Blackbird with your ligaments and with your investments. You are only as rich as the lining of your nest.

I can see your house from here

I can see your house from here

Searching for food on the ground the head bobs to and fro as it walks. On the wing the hoopoe provides a dazzling effect recalling an erratically flitting butterfly, wings alternately slowly spreading and closing, exposing and concealing black and white barring.

But the hoopoe is capable of remarkable agility when evading a bird of prey. One avoided a merlin. The two birds were first seen at a height of some 200 feet. Yet within five minutes each had risen so high that they were lost to sight.

It can climb in tight circles, its rounded wings providing better ‘lift’. The hawk was able to follow only by long straight climbs which took it some distance from its prospective prey. These climbs were followed by sudden swoops which the hoopoe neatly avoided, causing the merlin to perform yet another long climb to gain sufficient height.

Feeding quietly, a hoopoe can be surprisingly difficult to detect on the ground especially when probing with long decurved bill. It may only reveal itself when spreading wings to take fight. Shortly after it may flop down and disappear as if by magic.

We are gathered here today...

We are gathered here today…

You may often spot the Indian Roller bird perched or resting upon bare branches of trees. Sometimes these birds are also seen perched on wires in cities and urban areas.

It is quite rare for the Indian Roller to fly in groups. However they do have family groups and are observed to communicate with each other in ‘chack’ calls or sounds. The ‘chack’ sound is also associated with crows. Apart from this harsh call the Indian roller also produces metallic boink sounds.

An Indian Roller’s version of bathing involves direct dives into water, usually from a high altitude or height. Earlier this act of the Indian Roller was assumed as fishing.

... and so are we

… and so are we

What To Drink While Watching “Homeland”

homeland 1

Another episode in our favourite section, The Movie and the Beverage, this time dedicated to that groundbreaking TV series Homeland, now well into its third season. Spoiler: This post contains warnings.

Rather than pin down just one drink for the whole show, Sheen and I have decided it would be more representative to identify certain characters with a beverage that corresponds for some reason. To open just one bottle of something and hope it stretches from Langley to Beirut and then to Caracas would be at best idealistic and at worst really silly. So here we go, folks.


homeland 2

We learn at the start of Season Three that Carrie has ditched her lithium in favour of vodka and she’s knocking back a bottle a day. This plays havoc with her cyclothymia (which she likes to think of as a bipolar condition but ha ha ha she doesn’t know what she’s talking about) and turns her into a paranoid conspiracy theorist. It’s obviously doing her a fat lot of good and she should switch to cider or something.


Brody has a hell of a time in Iraq and Venezuela and would be grateful for anything refreshing and yet stiff. The local tipple in Baghdad is an aniseed-flavour liquor called arak and I’m sure Brody would find it as disgusting as the rum they ply him with in Caracas. I see him as a scotch’n’ginger man. Maybe it’s his red hair, maybe it’s because it’s a well-known fact that most US marines who support the jihad inevitably end up making whisky commercials.


Saul has very bushy eyebrows and a bushy beard and a bushy heart. People like him usually don’t drink because they know it brings out the grizzly in them, but as a Jew, he feels he has to drink in case they think he’s a weirdo, but it’s clear that what he most enjoys, and what makes sense in his world, and what makes the world make sense, and what he enjoys making sense of, and senses the enjoyment in the making of, is coffee. He’s a busy man, and oops, he’s just inherited the job of CIA boss, so coffee is very much what the doctor ordered.


Dana is a pain in the neck and should drink something like rat poison.


Jessica is a definitely a red wine drinker. She is always in control, even when she learns that her hubby is a terrorist and her daughter tries to commit suicide and then runs off with a psycho. You can’t see her gulping anything like beer, or taking the time to make a cup of tea, or glugging back the bourbon; no, she pours a glass of velvety red wine into a typically oversized American wine glass, drinks heavily at first and then plonks the half-empty glass on the coffee table and looks simultaneously worried and seductive.


Mike, on the other hand, wouldn’t know the difference between red wine and red vines, so Coke is fine for him.

homeland 3

The shiftiest person in the series is Dar Adal. I can just see him sipping something shifty and ghastly like cognac. I don’t really know the influence this guy has on Saul; I’m wondering if Season Four might explore some shifty relationship between these two unsavoury characters.


I like Quinn and I like Fara. They would make a nice couple – ruthless and attractive, stylish and incisive. Drinks they should weigh up: dry martini, Darjeeling tea, champagne, Vichy Catalán. It’s up to them.


Where is this series going? Hard to say. I sort of miss the Middle East thing, the doubts about Brody’s allegiances and of course his affair with Carrie. I want to think the scriptwriters have got it all mapped out but I’m not so sure. Let us raise our glasses notwithstanding… a toast, if you will, to Homeland.





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Taxonomy of My Mind


When I have a combination of several thoughts and feelings at one time or rather over a shortish period of time, I like to bunch them together and classify them. I used to give each bunch a serial number but recently I started giving them names that I – hopefully, I mean, that was  the intention – wouldn’t forget.

One bunch is the blend of feelings and thoughts I get when I go into a busy shop sometimes, like a supermarket or a department store. I suddenly have to take in a lot of visual information and deal with sounds and smells and colours and actually it is just a bit too much for me at times. I don’t exactly panic, but I feel uneasy and tense and my head starts to go a bit swimmy. I immediately think, “I mustn’t faint / I feel fine / There’s nothing dangerous can happen here” etc., and sometimes I feel that people are looking at me and then it gets worse and I feel embarrassed, kind of guilty and I then I tell myself that I mustn’t be silly, everything’s going to be OK”. It’s all a bit stressful. I call this bunch of feelings and thoughts Declining Marginal Returns.


Another bunch is when I’ve been sitting for a long time, absorbed in a book, and I suddenly remember I have something important to do. I tell myself I’ll just finish this chapter then I’ll get down to it. Ah, but what if I forget? I’d better do it rightaway. No, don’t be silly, I can finish this page, at least. OK, but I’ll just make a note of it. I don’t need to make a note of it, I’m bound to remember. So I go back to my book and of course I can’t concentrate so I get up to make a note of it but then I realize that I’ve forgotten what it was that I was going to make a note about, so I feel angry with myself and I usually blame my book, rather than myself. This bunch I call Anaximander says Hi to Joseph Lamont.


Here’s another bunch. I’m walking down the street and I see somebody I know a little and he knows me but we aren’t friends or anything. I may not even know his name but maybe he’s a neighbor or something and we’re walking towards each other and I’m thinking, “I’ll say Good Morning”. So I avert my gaze, planning to look up just at the last minute with a tiny smile, catch his eye and say my phrase. Then I see that he’s doing the same thing but doesn’t look up when he should so I’m left with the aborted smile and the greeting in my mouth and I wonder what he’s thinking about me. This is called The Twenty-Four Parganas.


Another bunch is that combination that happens when I’m in a group of people, sitting still and feeling fidgety and everybody is talking at cross purposes and I want to interrupt and say “No, actually, she doesn’t mean that” and “No, that’s not what he said” or “You’ve misunderstood his argument” or “Can’t you see that you’re both saying the same thing?” I feel invisible because nobody is paying much attention to me because they all think I’m a bit strange, anyway. But I feel I’m a vital kingpin; I’m the only one able to understand what these people are on about; if it wasn’t for me, they wouldn’t be communicating at all. It’s a huge pressure on me and the worst part is that I have to keep still and be quiet, not get angry or storm out. I call this Self-interest Properly Understood.

David Hockney Christmas screensaver

There’s another set called Me Love You Long Time, and a new one I’m just coming to terms with called Carte des Assemblages des Triangles.

The taxonomy of the confluences of the workings of my mind will keep me going for a while.

I’m From the Tribe of Asra

Boney M - Rivers Of Babylon

I’m from the tribe of Asra, we never travel alone.

Come, my people, and sit with me in the shade,

Now that we’ve finally reached the rivers of Babylon,

Only to find our forefathers have already gone

And nobody knows how long they stayed.


I’m from the tribe of Asra, we say what’s on our mind,

I am so pissed off after walking for so long.

We expected to meet our people, and what do we find?

They just cleared off and left us behind!

My lineage disappoints me, this is all wrong.


I sometimes wonder if I am actually from the tribe of Asra at all.