The Martian (2015)

An agreeable ‘popcorn movie’ which is well-made and perfectly entertaining, but two ingredients were lacking. Ridley Scott has of course directed some classic edge-of-the-seat sci-fi thrillers, but this is not one of them. Instead it has a jaunty, humorous tone and there is never any doubt about the outcome. Continue reading

Lotus Vegetarian Kitchen

If you are a vegetarian, most restaurants conveniently narrow your choice to a couple of options at most. No time-consuming enquiries to make about exactly what this or that meal consists of, and no agonizing about getting it right. Just pick the token veggie meal and sit back for ten minutes whilst your dining companions pore over the menu.

However, a visit to Lotus Vegetarian Kitchen in Manchester is a very different experience. By force of habit, a veggie diner might scan the menu for the one or two dishes marked with a ‘V’. However the pleasant surprise at seeing so many options is doubled when you remember that everything is vegetarian, and that the ‘V’ designates vegan meals!

The ambiance clean and bright, the service is deferential. The food is fresh, clever, complex – and delicious! So whether you are vegetarian vegan or someone who just appreciates imaginative Chinese food, treat yourself to a meal or take-away at Lotus Vegetarian Kitchen, Wilmslow Road Manchester.

Discounts galore

This time, I’m not talking about the dubious two-for-one offers made by desperate retailers in times of austerity. I am referring to the propensity we have to discount some piece of information which doesn’t fit our reality, or which we simply find inconvenient.

This week there was a grim reminder of the consequences when humans exhibit this illogical behaviour. Continue reading

You read it here first!

Back in 2007 I wrote that if your intention was to ‘save the planet’ then simply using oil more efficiently was futile. This is because somebody, somewhere at sometime will use the fuel that you don’t burn.

Now the journal Nature has published research which takes this argument to its conclusion. The authors argue that huge quantities of fossil fuels must be left in the ground if the global temperature rise is to be kept under the 2°C safety limit agreed internationally.

That’s just not going to happen, is it?

Gone Girl (2014)

Good-looking actors, multi-million dollar houses and sumptuous production values fail to compensate for wafer thin characterisations and a plot which succeeds in being monotone yet meandering at the same time. Of course you do want twists and turns in a psychological thriller. But the audience first needs to be strapped in for the ride, to accept the film-maker’s proposition, otherwise it’s just taking liberties.

I haven’t read the book, but I imagine that the plot reads well. On screen however, it’s a silly superficial flat-pack assembly. And not since Basic Instinct (1992) has there been such a ludicrous scene where a manipulative woman is interviewed by a room full of gullible cops.

Really …?

An articulated lorry passed me on the main road yesterday. It was an ordinary, anonymous curtain-sided trailer – ordinary except it carried signs on each side which said

Warning do not walk close to this vehicle at any time.

I think I’ll put one of those on my car.

Trailer trash

In the UK we have to show a ‘tax disc’ in our vehicle windscreen as proof that we have paid (or are exempt from) Vehicle Excise Duty (VED). There is a fine for ‘failure to display’ which means that even if it simply falls off onto the floor of your car you are in trouble. From 1 October 2014 all this will change when Continue reading

What do you do?

One of the first questions commonly asked when meeting someone new. Usually asked before we enquire about hobbies and interests (although that might be more interesting for both parties).

Insurance companies also require this information, and I came across an amusing dropdown list whilst browsing for car insurance today. A bit like the over-detailed list of pre-nominal titles I wrote about some time ago. To the extent that it accurately reflects the vast range of jobs in 21st century Britain, it is a snapshot which might be of great value to historians in years to come. Continue reading

Back in the USSR

St Petersburg Neva RiverSome forty years after my first visit to Russia I arrived in Saint Petersburg today.

This time I’m on a cruise ship which has docked at Английская набережная (English Embankment) on the Neva River in the heart of the city, near Благовещенский мост (Annunciation Bridge).

Last time, when Russia was part of the USSR, we needed a visa and were not permitted to venture outside Moscow. However, we were free to wander around the city at will.

This time, no visa is required for cruise ship visitors but we are not permitted ashore unless escorted by an official tour guide. It feels frustrating to be spending three days here under such restrictions.