Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Retrospective OOTD: standing in front of the Eiffel Tower.

Cardigan: Mango
Shirt: Hollister
Jeans: Marks and Spencer
Boots: New Look
Sunglasses: Rayban
Bag: Primark

Here's a close up. It would be a decent picture... had I not stupidly over-applied lipgloss on my top lip. Bit cringe.

Earrings: street market in China
Necklace: Swarovski

Starbucks menu watch: Raspberry & White Chocolate Muffin

The raspberry and white chocolate complement each other perfectly, both in terms of flavour and texture. My only foible would be that there's too much of the actual muffin; I don't like wasting food, and for a mere snack the amount of dough is a bit much. I would have preferred if the consistency of white chocolate chips and raspberry was more even, over a small amount of muffin (they were only really present at the top).

Grade: B.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Retrospective OOTD: clubbing in Bristol

(the 'day' in question being a few Saturdays ago)

Heart-shaped hoop earrings: River Island
Boob tube: Dorothy Perkins
Black skirt: hand-me-down from a friend
heels: Topshop

Restaurant Review: Ping Pong (Southbank)

Being Chinese, I’ve frequented my fair share of dim sum joints. As with all Chinese restaurants, the real telltale sign of the quality of a place is the proportion of the clientele there who are actually from the motherland. On a quick look over the people in Ping Pong, more than 70% were non-Asian, which should have struck alarm bells immediately. However, the place had been booked for a friend’s birthday, so it would have been ridiculously rude to object, so I thought I’d give Ping Pong the benefit of the doubt and try to make the best of a dodgy situation.

And situations don’t get much more dodgy than this. Check out the food below

Spring rolls: pedestrian, stick-in-the oven job.
chicken and mushroom rice pot: barely any chicken at all. Rice was borderline stale.
seafood dumpling: too much carrot, not enough seafood
crispy prawn ball: impossible to consume without the 'ball' falling apart, and as with other meat dishes, hardly any prawn in it.

And these were the best of the lot. Suffice to say, not only was my appetite not satisfied with the crap on display here, but it nearly put me off Chinese food.

On the upside, the cocktails were nice, but the length it took for them to make them, plus the price and lack of Happy Hour were a huge deterrent.

Got any enemies? Send them down Ping Pong's way. Otherwise, save your money and your tastebuds. Avoid this shithole like the plague.

Grade: F

Friday, October 17, 2014

Thoughts on two films I watched at the cinema today

MAPS TO THE STARS (David Cronenberg, 2014)

Hollywood, as painted by the twisted paintbrush of David Cronenberg, with two fantastic turns from Julianne Moore and Mia Wasikowska. Moore really gives it her all as fading actress Havana Segrand who’s increasingly losing her grip on reality as she fights tooth and nail to play the role her dead mother (who sexually abused her as a child) had in a reprise of the film. It’s an unglamorous role, but she’s extremely courageous to tackle it with the dedication that she does. Wasikowska plays an equally disturbed girl with prominent burn marks on face, exiled to Florida after a childhood incident where she burned down her family’s house, she’s back in LA and lands herself a job as Segrand’s ‘chore whore’. The rest of cast are all apt, playing their dislikeable characters with suitable panache. Whilst the acting is excellent, however, the depiction of Hollywood was a bit too convoluted to be fully believable. There were black, bleak laughs in almost every scene, and overall, the experience hypnotises you (and I'm definitely not complaining about R-Prattz eyecandy), but, just a bit too weird for me to fully appreciate.
Grade: B-

’71 (Yann Demange, 2014)

I’m not really big on history or army movies, so this one took me by complete surprise. Gary Hook (Skins’ Jack O’Connell), a young Derbyshire soldier, gets accidentally left on the mean streets of Belfast when his unit flee a street. He’s left to fend for himself, amongst hostility towards soldiers from the residents of the city as well double-crossing and duplicity amongst people supposedly working for the same side. The two MVPs of this film are the cinematography (hand-held cameras that contribute every bit to the urgency and tension of Hook’s increasingly precarious situation) and Jack O’Connell, who, despite on paper his role seemingly quite paint-by-numbers, actually manages to imbue his soldier with empathy and emotion, so that we feel every inch of dread that he does. The direction and score suit the film well as well. With a running time under 100 minutes, it’s refreshing to watch an action movie which commands your attention for the full running time and doesn’t outstay its welcome.
Grade: B+

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Apprentice series 10, episode 1: Ten Years of Selling

Back for its tenth year, the British Apprentice kicks off with some real chumps. One brags ‘People think I’m a nice guy… really I’m just scheming behind their back’, which is exactly the kind of image you want to convey on national television. Another whines that his absolute worst nightmare is a £50,000 salary and a Toyota. Make no mistake, we’ve got a bunch of egotistical morons on our hands, and as it’s an anniversary year, Alan Sugar enlists not 16 but 20 contestants to start with.

In the boardroom, one bloke describes himself as ‘a cross between Ghandi and the Wolf of Wall Street’, an oxymoron if there ever was one, whilst Felipe, a Columbian lawyer, gets into Lord Sugar’s bad books straight away by hailing Arsenal FC as ‘a great football club’. There’s also a 6’7’’ maverick who dresses outside the box not to mention several attention-hungry women to add to this motley crew.

As per previous years, the first episode kicks off with teams divided by gender, and needing to pick a team name before they do the signature first episode task: selling stuff. Daniel on the boys team immediately offers up Summit, whereas the girls go for the extremely dubious Decadence, clearly having no idea about its negative connotations. Laughs aplenty, especially when one of the contestants, clearly gagging for air time, gets to say his bit: ‘There’s no I in team. But there are five Is in Individual Brilliance’. Wow.

Felipe, the lawyer, volunteers himself as the PM of the boys group, choosing Chiles to manage the sub-group, whilst Sarah puts herself forward as Project Manager for the girls’ team. She’s off to a shaky start, wanting to cut the lemons before selling them, a decision that is roundly vetoed by the rest of the girls.

The men are much more decisive in their decision-making, with Robert, the snappily dressed one, suggesting that they dress the sausages up and sell them as hotdogs, as this could reap a greater mark-up, which the boys agree with. On Team Decadence, the early signs are there that the girls are not impressed with their leader, particularly with Bianca mouthing off offstage about her already.

One of the items that needs to be sold is T-shirts, and the girls decide to go for ones with the slogan #LONDON across. Sarah announces, for the first time but not the last during the show, ‘I’m project managing this whole task’, although clearly not well enough to give Roisin the seed money they need to pay for the T-shirts. The other half of the team have to run across London to pick it up, which Nick Hewer regards as a loss of valuable selling time.

The boys, on the other hand, don’t even have their T-shirt, and tensions are high when Steven suggests they sell potatoes to a place nearby which will take them, but his suggestion falls on Chiles’ deaf ears. The girls find their selling skills aren’t as great as they talked them up to be when they try to flog food for £15 a bag, and have to settle for £7, with the man in the store being so stubborn he wouldn’t even take them for £7.10 a bag. Pamela walks away dejected, admitting it wasn’t a great sale.

Meanwhile, Robert’s fancy idea of coating the sausages in guacamole for a trendy east London vibe absolutely repulses Karen Brady, whilst the other half of the boys team enjoy some horrendously cringey power play when sales manager Mark tries to sell balloons to a kids’ party company, and gets extremely irate when James keeps cutting in to try to speed the sale along. The kids’ party company buy the product, but their bemusement is clear to see.

Karen, observing the boys team, notices that strategist Robert – the man who offered the Ghandi/WoWS soundbite – hasn’t pulled his weight. Chiles and Steven continue to have a bitch-off in the other half of boys’ team, and no doubt this is a squabble that will rear its head in the boardroom.

Sarah (that’s the Project Manager of Decadence, in case you didn’t know), carries out one of the worst pitches in the shows’ history trying to sell washing up equipment to a zoo. The man asks if stuff is environmentally friendly, to which she says lamely ‘well, it’s plastic, so I wouldn’t want it near the penguins’. Cringe. In the other half of the team, the girls sell the T-shirts back to the guy who printed them. They offer them to him at £240, but have to settle for £60.

The selling task culimates in the boys doing a good sale on the potatos, but at the cost of shifting any T-shirts whatsoever. The girls, meanwhile, lament the horrific leadership of Sarah, saying ‘we forgot we even had a PM’.

In the boardroom, the girls’ smugness at learning the boys sold no T-shirts soon evaporates when they are shot down to earth over the true definition of decadence. Nick Hewer’s face when he informs them is pure gold. Asked on how Sarah did as PM, the girls don’t hold back. ‘No strategy. No strategical thinking’. On trying to defend herself in explaining how she divided the team, Sarah momentarily forgets the name of some of her fellow team members, wrapping up what has been an episode horribilis for her.

Ultimately, though, the girls team beat the boys team by a little under £60. Their decision to sell the T-shirts back to the guy who printed them seemed crazy at the time, but looking back, it’s what saved their, and Sarah’s hides.

The boys are gutted. Most of them try to shift the blame on Steven’s negative influence, but he isn’t having any of that, protesting, rightly so, that at the start he suggested somewhere to sell potatoes, and had they listened to him then, they could have gotten the T-shirts flogged too. Felipe brings Chiles and Robert with him into the boardroom. Alan Sugar was not impressed with Robert’s decision to turn sausages into hotdogs, despite Robert’s protestations that they were ‘very Shoreditch’, a notion that, unsurprisingly, is lost on Lord Sugar. He isn’t won over by Felipe’s leadership either, though he ultimately decides that it was Chiles’ poor management of the sub-group that lost them to task. Chiles becomes the first casualty of the boardroom, and Lord Sugar teases us with the prospect of more firings… but decides to give the remaining two the benefit of the doubt, letting them go back to the house with their tails between their legs.