Birthday Week

My week long Birthday celebration came to an end last night. It started with Brunch last Sunday in a recently opened restaurant in the neighbouring town of Suisun. The following day was lunch and wine tasting in Napa valley. Tuesday was my actual birthday and involved more eating and drinking and a Guitar Hero session with a couple of friends. I returned to work on Wednesday. My office had been decorated. I was taken for lunch by a colleague and cake was provided. The following day another couple of my teams provided cake and a gift. On Friday a group of us went for lunch at an Indian restaurant. The climax was a party on Saturday night with a couple of friends. They gave me a delightfully geeky tee-shirt and the Beatles Rock Band game, so we played Guitar Hero and Rock Band as well as drinking and eating well.

I like the idea of a week long birthday, I think I shall try to institute this as a standard going forward.

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Published in: on 17 January, 2010 at 11:12  Comments (1)  

Revenge

The football season started with Norwich city suffering humiliating 7-1 home defeat by Colchester United. The manager was sacked within the week. The board appointed Colchester United’s boss. The season started to turn round and Norwich are now second in the table. Today Norwich travelled to Colchester for the return fixture. They emerged as 5-0 victors; an impressive score in an away match against the team in fourth.

Published in: on 16 January, 2010 at 13:02  Leave a Comment  

Wine Tasting

Being driven down the Silverado Trail and stopping to taste wine on the way is a delightful way to spend an afternoon. On Monday, I visited four wineries, though the first is not strictly on the Silverado, being between Yountville and the road. Two of the places specialised in Cabernet Sauvignon; the second of which had two tastings of Cabs from the same year, but different parts of the vineyard; they had distinctly different tastes. A couple of the tastings were from bottles that were well the high side of $100; they tasted good but not $140 worth of excellence.

The first three wineries that we visited fitted the pattern of Napa tasting rooms; smart, upmarket places that reflect substantial investment in design and building. The last tasting room was at Van Der Hayden. It had aspirations of being a shack, the toilet was a portaloo outside. The lack of decor did not impact on the quality of the wine. An unoaked Chardonnay and a late harvest Petite Sirah being especially good.

Published in: on 13 January, 2010 at 7:00  Comments (3)  

Black Pudding

Whenever I mention Black Pudding and its ingredients to Americans, they recoil in disgust. It is not something that I have seen on US menus, until yesterday. We went into Napa Valley for lunch and wine tasting. We ate at Bouchon in Yountville and for my main course I had Boudin Noir, or Blood Sausage, which is essentially Black Pudding. One of my favourite dishes on my Birthday lunch.

The wine tasting went well, I was especially impressed with Cliff Lede Sauvignon Blanc; a wine that Americans do not generally do as well as New Zealanders. This one was reasonably priced and of excellent quality.

I posted an update on Twitter about the wine and received an invite to a free tasting from another vineyard. They are presumably monitoring Twitter for mention of Napa and sending out invites; a very neat idea. Unfortunately, by the time I received the message, we were already heading down the valley in the wrong direction. Hopefully, the invitation will still be good the next time we visit.

Published in: on 12 January, 2010 at 9:56  Leave a Comment  

2009 Films

2010 is here and I hope that it will brink better films that the year that has so recently departed. There were a few gems, but they were outweighed by the mediocre and down right terrible.

Right at the head of the terrible, or more accurately at the base of it was Michael Bay’s train wreck of a film; Transformers 2. This was an insult to the audience and the entire British nation; as they flew the Union flag upside down. The other Michael, Michael Mann, created Public Enemies. This was not as bad as Transformers 2, but was still a disappointment; a film that rarely got beyond mediocre. Unlike Bay, we know that Mann can do such better.

I was also disappointed by “Let the Right One”, which was a good film, but reviews had led me to expect something even more monumental. This is a film worth watching if you can see it and evaluate it on its own merits. Just make sure that you see it subtitled and not dubbed.

My films of the year are, in no particular order:

Up
Slumdog Millionaire
Moon
Gran Torino
District Nine
Avatar

Up is a yet another near masterpiece from Pixar; a children’s movie that tackles adult themes and is extremely emotionally involving.  Anyone who says they saw this movie and not have at least a tear in their eye is either lying or so devoid of feeling that they are probably not actually human.

Slumdog Millionaire is not a good reflection of the book from which it is adapted. It is a great film in its own right; visually stunning, emotionally involving, and with another humour to offset the darkness at its heart. A worthy winner of Oscar for best picture.

Moon shows that Science Fiction does not need to have lots of explosions and robot on robot battles. This thoughtful, claustrophobic mystery story was a hidden gem. Sam Rockwell and a computer voiced by Kevin Spacey are essentially the entire cast.

Gran Torino demonstrates the skills of Clint Eastwood as both actor and director. The story tackles racism and violence and has one of those endings that is neither happy nor sad, but is the correct one for the film without any Hollywood cop-out.

Apart from a certain unevenness in style between the “mockumentary” and the dramatic portions of District Nine, it was a thought provoking and entertaining film on racism and humanity.

Avatar is a film who plot is unoriginal, predictable and with wholes through which you could sail the Titanic. This is not a film for which these flaws a fatal. This is less a story and more of a journey to a fully realised alien world. It is a spectacle; a triumph of style over substance, but with such style that the absence does not lessen its impact. It will be interesting to see if this movie does have the long term impact of classics like Wizard of Oz or Star Wars. It is so dependent on technology, that my guess it will be fade like a latter day Tron. Right here and now, though, it is an incredible achievement and deserves its place in a list of best movies of 2009.

Published in: on 10 January, 2010 at 15:07  Leave a Comment