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since 27/03/2004


Cadbury Dairy Milk Whole Nut Bar 04/11/2005

Wholly nuts

Angel Delight 31/10/2005

Great dessert for Angels of all sizes

Peperami Firestick 30/11/2004

It's a hot bit of an animal

Peperami Firestick The Peperami firestick is the latest variant on the traditional peperami, stalwart friend of my school-lunch days (I’d take one to school with me so that I could rest easy in the certain knowledge that at least one of the things I had for lunch that day would thereby be identifiable), weighing in at 25g and approximately 8 inches in length. I have only tried a firestick because I got one free off their website a few weeks ago, an offer they are sadly no longer making. It arrived when I had just finshed an essay which had caused me to miss lunch, so it was most welcome (working on the whole “you can enjoy anything if you’re hungry enough” principle). I have since tried one other when I was not so hungry, and my views on it were not really any different. It comes in a black wrapper with the words “peperami firestick” written on it in silver bubble writing, with the tag-line “grab the EXTRA HOT meat snack”. At one end of the wrapper you are shown a picture of the end of a firestick (looking exactly like a normal peperami) wreathed in flames. It looks seriously cool. The wrapper is impossible to open with cold or wet hands (you just can’t get the right grip, it’s one of those ones with a slight dent in the end of the wrapper and a silver arrow saying “tear here”, but once you’ve tried and failed it becomes a nightmare to open, and if you succeed you can often tear it far more than you intended to and drop the peperami), and once you get it open (with your warm, dry ...

Cadbury Dairy Milk Wafer 18/11/2004

This wafer chocolate

Cadbury Dairy Milk Wafer I have just bought my first Dairy Milk Wafer, and thought I would review my first experiences with it. Please bear in mind that it’s cold, wet and miserable outside and that I’m recovering from a nasty cold and sleep deprivation as I write this, so I am likely to be favourably disposed chocolate. The Wafer comes in the standard Dairy Milk bar size, and I have not seen it in any larger ones. The wrapper does not (at least, nowhere that I can see) tell you the weight of the bar, but most people will be familiar with the size I’m talking about. The sort that sit on confectionary shelves and look tempting. The wrapping is the metallic sort that has crinkly bits at the ends and is a nightmare to open when you’ve got wet or cold hands. Its background colour is purple, with a bright red swirl along the bottom (suspiciously similar to the colour of kitkat packaging) with a picture of a chunk of the bar (along with the traditional “glass and a half of full cream milk” above it. The chunk is cut away so that you can see a cross-section of it, and shows chocolate round the outside with a thin layer of wafer at the top and botton and what looks like truffle-chocolate between the wafers in a fairly thick layer. Yum. Very inviting. Turning the bar over shows you its nutritional information (which I shall give later) and HM the Queen’s Royal Warrant, reminding you that Her Majesty eats Cadbury’s, and thus acting as something of a quality assurance (as if you need one). The bar is ...

Stockholm (Sweden) 12/09/2004

Wi not trei a holiday in Sweden this yer?

Stockholm (Sweden) I have just returned from a week-long holiday in Stockholm (which provided me with a lovely excuse to ignore my University reading list for a while) and will now give you the chance to share and enjoy… I visited Stockholm with my mum. We didn’t know much about Sweden to start with, or have many opportunities to look stuff up before going, but had a variety of reasons for wanting to go. I, being about to start a Classics degree, wanted to go somewhere I was unlikely to encounter Roman ruins. Neither my mum nor I wanted to go somewhere particularly hot, and neither of us had been to Scandinavia for a while, and thought it might be fun. I had also read good things in “The Sword” (yes, I read a magazine that’s been Have I Got News For You’s guest publication, and I’m not ashamed of it) about an exhibition of fencing swords from mediaeval times to the present being held in the Royal Armoury in Stockholm until January, which I was keen to see. There’s also the opening credits to Monty Python and the Holy Grail… So Stockholm was decided upon, and my mother duly booked us flights and a hotel. I was away on a Summer School at the time, so I can’t comment on the ease with which she did this or the exact prices of our flights etc, but I do know she went neither for the ultra-cheap options nor for anything very fancy, and the basic cost of flights and hotel was a little over a grand for the two of us. Journey: As a large proportion of flights going into Stockholm’s Arlanda ...

Thunderbirds 13/08/2004

Thunderbirds, Ho! No, wait, wrong animal...

Thunderbirds I’ve been a fan of the original Thunderbirds for as long as I can remember (I’ve even got most issues of Thunderbirds Magazine, in case that didn’t sound sad enough by itself) and had intended to see the new film as soon as it came out. That plan died when I discovered it was coming out two days before I was due to go on a Summer School for which I needed to cram desperately in order to avoid humiliating myself, so as it happened I did in fact see it nearly three weeks after it came out (ie yesterday). As a result of this, there were only 10 other people in the cinema with me, so I can’t really comment in any way on how other people reacted to the film. But to get on with the review… For anyone not familiar with Thunderbirds, the original concept is simple, and is for the most part adhered to throughout the film. A billionaire ex-astronaut called Jeff Tracy has, with the help of a bloke who by a staggering coincidence is called Brains, runs a top-secret organisation called International Rescue, the main instruments of which are five machines called the Thunderbirds (the real stars of both the original TV show and the film) piloted by himself (in the film) and his sons. Their arch-enemy is the Hood (who, interestingly enough, on no occasion actually wears a hood, but there you are) who has freaky mind-control powers. Their contact in London is the ever pink-wearing Lady Penelope who, complete with butler Parker, used to be seen going a round in a pink Rolls. They ...

The Hitch-Hiker's Guide To The Galaxy (Audio Book) - Douglas Adams 22/06/2004

Bathsheets in Space

The Hitch-Hiker's Guide To The Galaxy (Audio Book) - Douglas Adams I listened to these tapes before I ever read the books, and I must say I’m glad I did so. Douglas Adams was a great writer, but his characterisations were inconsistent to say the least; he is said to have arbitrarily swapped lines of dialogue between characters to give them all some air time, and to make the jokes work. In some cases, without the different voices of the actors to let you know who’s speaking, it would be difficult to put a name to the character. Having said that, these tapes are otherwise absolutely amazing. Not the place to go for finely-structured plot or characters, but absolutely amazing for the use of subtle and intelligent humour throughout all the episodes, or “fits”, even to the end of the credits. The basic concept is both incredibly simple and incredibly audacious: in the first episode, the main character’s house is unexpectedly demolished to make way for a new bypass. This however shortly fades into the background when the Earth itself is demolished, also to make way for a new bypass, though this is of course on a slightly larger scale. The main character, Arthur Dent, is saved from this destruction by his friend, an alien hitch-hiker who accidentally got stuck on the Earth fifteen years ago and adopted the name Ford Prefect because he thought it would be “nicely inconspicuous”. Arthur agrees to help Ford revise the book “The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”, mainly because since his planet’s been demolished, there’s not much else for him to ...

Troy (Special Edition) (DVD) 22/06/2004

Sing, goddess, of the Wrath of the Classicists

Troy (Special Edition) (DVD) A lot of people had been anticipating Troy for a while when it came out, for a variety of reasons. I was one of those sad, sad people who, being a fan of the Iliad, thought this could (if handled correctly) prove to be a masterful epic film detailing the sufferings endured by two opposing armies during a pointless war with roots in both the pettiness of the gods and the follies of man. An insightful piece exploring the psyches of great men weighed down by the calls of destiny. Bit of a disappointment for me, then, although I’m sure my mobile phone company appreciates the gesture. Rumours regarding the film had, you see, been running rampant around the internet long before the general public interest was attracted by the approach of the release date. Rumours in a vague sense even before the casting was complete (with those of us who were interested in such things analysing each suggested name for Achilles and deciding exactly why they’d be awful in the role). And then about 300 of those sad individuals came together at the JACT Greek Summer School at Bryanston in July 2003, and these discussions could finally be held in person. The fact that the name Brad Pitt by now was very closely associated with Achilles added more fuel to the fire: some of us (like yours truly) failed to see how Pitt could be described as “the biggest and most beautiful of the Achaians” (double entendre aside). Others thought he could be magnificent. Initially, it was suggested amongst a group of ...

Paladin of Souls - Lois McMaster Bujold 15/06/2004

Soulful Journey

Paladin of Souls - Lois McMaster Bujold “Paladin of Souls” is a sequel to “The Curse of Chalion”, but while a number of familiar characters do appear, and even more are referred to, the characters who were the focus of the first novel put in no direct appearance, merely being referred to from time to time. So fans of Cazaril, hero of the first book, should not pick this one up expecting to read about the trials and tribulations that now face him as Chancellor of Chalion-Ibra. Instead, the Dowager Royina Ista, mother of the Royina Iselle, is the central character. God-touched and considered mad, the reader already has a passing familiarity with her from her conversations with Caz in the previous book, and the added depth her character is given when the world is seen, in the third person, through her eyes makes her completely as fascinating a person as Caz was before her. Here I feel I should point out that Ista’s character definitely follows the trend when it comes to Lois McMaster Bujold’s main characters – somewhat abnormal, either physically or mentally (Caz’s scarred body, Cordelia Naismith’s former lover issues, Miles Vorkosigan’s stunted body and brittle bones, Ista’s god-touched perceived madness and personal losses) and living almost entirely by their wits. This is not exactly unusual in fantasy, but I always seem to feel more aware of it when reading this author’s works. I’m not sure whether I like it, for making the characters interesting and unique, or dislike it, because it smacks of being formulaic. ...

Harry Potter et Philosophy Lapis - Peter Needham 15/06/2004

Vivat Harrius Potter!

Harry Potter et Philosophy Lapis - Peter Needham I first learned that Harry Potter was coming out in Latin when I picked up my copy of “Order of the Phoenix” and leafed through the early pages. A strange feeling seeped through my gut; a mixture of exhilaration and dread. Exhilaration because I thought ‘this could be FUN!’; dread because I realised that such thoughts essentially meant that I was a very, very sad individual. So I pootled down to my local bookshop (which is an excellent bookshop, and will order pretty much anything for you, and have even won awards for doing so) and made enquiring noises at them. They announced to me that it would be coming out in late July 2003, so I placed an order and settled down to wait. Whilst waiting, I discovered that I was to win the school Latin prize. This was not a very great surprise, mainly because I was the only person in my year studying Latin (which made the comptetition less than intense). This included a £20 book token, with which I was expected to purchase a book that could be presented to me on Speech Day, the last Saturday of term in early July. ‘Oh dear’, I thought, ‘my wondrously intelligent and not-at-all-geeekish book will not be out by then. I will have to buy something else.’ I procured myself a discounted mythological encyclopaedia from a discount bookshop in Watford, which I duly handed in as my prize. BUT! Three days before Speech Day, I was telephoned and informed that my book had ARRIVED! So I pootled back down to my bookshop (by the way, does anyone ...

The Curse of Chalion - Lois McMaster Bujold 08/06/2004

Cursed Miracles

The Curse of Chalion - Lois McMaster Bujold In “The Curse of Chalion” Lois McMaster Bujold leaves the sci-fi world of her Vorkosigan books (don’t worry if you’ve never read them, this has absolutely nothing to do with them, though the subtle humour used throughout is the same) for the fantasy realm of Chalion. And a very fine fantasy world it is too. Bujold does not make the mistake some fantasy authors fall into of trying to explain the politics, religion and geography of his or her world in detail; she merely builds them up gradually through casual references. The world obviously has an intricate and thought-out history, but none of what you learn is without significance. Cazaril, the character through whose eyes we see the world (though in the third person, not the first) is a fantasy hero of a recognisable type – a man who wanted to be a hero when younger, lived through the whole soldier thing, decided being alive is much nicer, then got inadvertently dragged into events of great importance. Bujold fans may recognise many aspects of Aral Vorkosigan’s character in him, though Caz is definitely a unique individual and a fascinating character in his own right. Cazaril, fresh from life as a galley slave aboard a Roknari vessel, seeks work with a former patroness, only to find himself secretary-tutor to the half-sister of the “roy” (to all intents and purposes “king”). This inevitably leads to court intrigue and politics, but it does take a while for it to become apparent why the title mentions a curse. Once it ...

Oresteia - Aeschylus 22/04/2004

Happy families...

Oresteia - Aeschylus The Oresteia is a trilogy of Greek tragedies, written and originally performed as a trilogy for a single occasion, by Aeschylus, the earliest of the three great tragic poets (Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides). It deals with what befalls the family of Agamemnon following the Trojan war. The first play, The Agamemnon, which I know best of the three having studied it in detail for A2, details the immediate events – Clytemnestra’s murder of her husband. The Libation Bearers tells of the killing of Clytemnestra and her lover Aegisthus by Orestes, the son of Clytemnestra and Agamemnon, and The Eumenides tells us what happens to Orestes after he has committed matricide. The Oresteia is a very, very powerful trilogy, and exceptionally well-written. The Agamemnon revolves around Clytemnestra, planning the murder of her husband, and the fear felt by those around her is almost tangible. Aeschylus gives us a remarkable insight into the mind and thoughts of Clytemnestra, and we feel her pain and her hatred of her husband, who killed their daughter for the sake of a war being fought to win back his brother’s unfaithful wife. But Aeschylus carefully manipulates his audience and their emotions by introducing another female character for whom we feel deeply; Cassandra, the prophetess cursed never to be believed, whom Agamemnon brought home from Troy as a concubine. And by starting to sympathise with her, we are gradually turned against Clytemnestra to the extent that it is possible to side ...

Hippolytus - Euripides 22/04/2004

One big sex war

Hippolytus - Euripides Euripides’ Hippolytus is weird. I can’t really describe it better than that. Despite the title, it’s hard to work out whether the focus of the tragedy is Phaedra, wife of Theseus, Hippolytus, her step-son, or Theseus himself. The themes within the play are easy to see, but the play doesn’t really feel like a coherent whole, somehow. The story is about the family of Theseus, the man who famously killed the Minotaur. Theseus’ son, Hippolytus, is a chaste worshipper of Artemis, much to the annoyance of Aphrodite, the goddess of the more physical aspects of love. As a punishment for him, she makes Phaedra, his step-mother, fall in love with him, which has disastrous consequences for all concerned, causing the death of Phaedra and Hippolytus and great grief to Theseus. The plot, in its simplest form, makes sense, in a soap-opera kind of way. Phaedra falls in love with Hippolytus, he finds out, rejects her, she kills herself, leaving behind a note in retribution accusing Hippolytus of rape, Theseus comes home, finds out, reads note, curses Hippolytus, Hippolytus is banished and mortally wounded, brought home, Theseus finds out he was wrong, there’s nothing he can do about it, Hippolytus forgives him, Hippolytus dies. Don’t shoot me for giving away the plot – Greek tragedies were written assuming the audience already knows the relevant myth. But there are two reasons this plot, to my mind, doesn’t really work as it is written in the play, and both of these are due to poor ...

Electra - Euripides 22/04/2004

Electrocute Electra

Electra - Euripides Let me get one thing straight here. I absolutely HATE this play. With a fiery passion which penetrates to the innermost core of my being. I loathe it. Reading it is not a pleasant experience. But re-read it I will, and indeed have. I have in the past because it was my set text. I will in the future so that I can write venemous criticisms of it, in the hope that my sacrifice of time that could be spent reading, say, Oedipus Tyrranus may serve to steer other people clear of this play. That’s how much I hate the Electra of Euripides. Here, in all fairness, I must add that many do not agree with this view. Some of the people I studied it with enjoyed it, and many critics think highly of it. I do not, and though I try to keep myself open to other people’s arguments, I sincerely doubt that I ever will. It must be said, I’m not a big fan of Euripides. The most recent of the three considered the Great Tradegians (Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides), his works put a new slant on the myths always used in Greek tragedies. It’s almost as if he’s trying to debunk the myth promulgated by his predecessors, in an almost vindictive manner. Athenian audiences would already know the story behind any tragedy put on, as all Greek tragedies have Greek mythology as their basis. What differs from one playwright to another is their interpretation of the myth: the particular version of the story they use, their view of the characters, the moral message they are trying to put across. Thing ...

The Knights - Aristophanes 22/04/2004

Politics is going downhill. Fast.

The Knights - Aristophanes The Knights was the first Greek Comedy I ever read, as a set text for Classical Civilisation AS. As such I have a lingering affection for it, but I’ll come to the reason the mention of this play will always bring a smile to my face and a seriously weird song to my ears later. The Knights was first performed at the Lenaea dramatic festival in 424 BC, and won a well-deserved (not that I’ve read the plays it was up against…) first prize. This was not long after the great Athenian victory over the Spartans at Pylos and Sphacteria, and this victory is frequently referred to throughout the play. So often, in fact, that about a quarter of the jokes aren’t funny if you don’t know anything about the incident, which makes the introduction to Alan H. Sommerstein’s Penguin translation invaluable if you don’t know your Greek history and don’t have a Classics graduate readily at hand. In fact, the play makes so many remarks about the battle and what occurred before, during and after it that when I was translating Thucydides’ account of it in the summer of 2003 (which was ridiculously hot, and not the best weather to translate an author who was blatantly just trying to make life difficult for students of Classical Greek 2000 years after his death), having read the play helped me work out what the Greek said when otherwise I would just have been making random guesses. The concept is relatively simple. Two slaves (representing two of the generals actually responsible for the Pylos and ...
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