Bloody Documentaries on Bloody SBS

Happy Belated Gute Tag der Deustchen Einheit.

And what better way to celebrate then to blog on this brilliant doco that aired on the Soccer Channel 4 days ago. I love documentaries. It’s like a 1 hour factdump that manages keep me awake unlike university lectures. And I’m fascinated by communism. Up until 20 years ago, millions of people were living their daily lives under a regime where they could only pretend that everything is fine and doozy.

I sometimes imagine what it must have been like to live in the European Eastern Bloc. Hell, I could probably live there. Living in Australia, I pretty much take freedom for granted. Except I’m not really phase by the privilege. Freedom of speech? Not really pissed off about the major issues enough to do something about it. Voting? Seems more like a chore and the politicians right now are more suitable for a clowns’ act at the circus. Religion? Not religious. So where does that leave me? Apathetic and wanting to get on with life. I could probably fit in in the Communist Countries with their ‘shut up, here’s your pie’ policy. But not the Norks with their famines and definitely not rolling cigars and enjoying the sun with Castro in Cuba. But the kind you’d see in the Iron Curtain. Eat some food if it’s available at the store, find some ‘approved’ books to read and drive a Trabant home (unless I’m still waiting for the factory to get on with it)

There’s also the idea of Communism. An ideology that envisioned the ultimate utopia with no inequalities. Except 20 years ago, the countries that built towards that goal hat came crumbling down. And finally the military. Moreso, the Soviet Military. They spent 50 years preparing for ‘The Day’ when jets would cover the air, Tanks drove straight to Fulda while Submarines patrolled the Atlantic and the Pacific. But the Day never came, Gorby and Reagan ‘brought the Cold War to a peaceful ending’ and the Soviet Union is now just a chapter in history. I’d imagine that the Generals must have felt very stupid (or likely pissed off) that they had invested so much in their Army but never got to use it. Or perhaps it’s more likely that it was such recent history? I was born in 1991 and the final heartbeat of the Soviet Union was only two months before my birthday.

The first half of the doco took us back to 1980 and summarised what we probably all know by now, interspersed with interviews with a variety of East Germans; comedians, ex-Stasi, political dissidents, the yong and the old.

The first half tells us the usual story. East Germany was a hellhole and then it came crashing down like the Wall between the Western and Eastern suburbs of Berlin. The second half then takes us to modern day and looks at how rosy things have been since the Wall went down, like a ‘Where Are they Now?’ segment. Main point argued by this doco is that there’s still significant differences between East and West Germany.

Before watching this I had already known the basic facts. I knew about the History of Berlin and the post-wall difficulties Eastern Germany was having. And yes, I was aware of the Stasi and their methods. They say that Germans are fucking efficient at everything they do. So you could expect the to be highly efficient at the Soviet Art of being nosy on your neighbour. And as you can expect, some of the Stasi are far from willing to spit on the GDR flag and memory. When the Stasi Guy was asked about his thoughts on the Stasi HQ, he called it without irony- a paradise where there were dentists and doctors.

I was also well-aware of the Revolution that came in 1989. What I learned from this documentary was uh— Germans went to a Church, made jokes about how much they hated the Government and then they decided they were collectively sick of the Government when they attempted to close the Church. I’m not sure about Germany but it’s been recorded that there was a well-established underground dissident movement in Land of the Iron Curtain. They had been running in the Eastern Bloc Countries printing and spreading ideas the governments in power did not agree with.

And of course I’m aware that when Wall came down, the Pacman that was West Germany gobbled up the Ghost of East Germany. The doco showed that someone losed in this agreement. And they were the ordinary citizens who suddenly found themselves out of a job and out of luck. Churchill talked of the ‘price paid in blood for the liberation of France’. The East Germans paid the price with their livelihoods. What I didn’t know was that the ex-Stasi got the long end of the stick. While the ordinary East Germans are shown being miserable and busking to make a buck while wearing second hand clothes, the ex-Stasi are shown in pressed shirts, sipping latte and are living on a decent pension. For a long time, I thought that the Easterners had formed little legal lynch mobs that forced ex-commies out of their jobs and out of power. Well, not exactly as I found out. And this has been a source of bitterness for the former victims.

But that’s not the only source of bitterness. Through a montage of major corporate brands, we learn that all the good jobs are in the West. This has had two effects. Young East German Kids move to the West after they graduate in search of jobs. And it has led to growing disconnection between the people born in the West Side and on the East Side. West hangs out with West, East hangs out with East and there’s all sorts of stereotypes being spread and tossed around. One German teen even referred to East Germany as ‘Dark Germany’ on the camera.

Although it isn’t all bad news. Communist countries didn’t have a speckless report card on environmental issues. Probably because of the heavy industry. Stalin made steel and coal his dogma for development. As far as I know, many of the new puppets were pulled by the strings to do the same. Build industry, throw in coal, make lots of steel. I’m reminded of autumn season down here. I get cold, miserable from the rain and a nasty cough thanks to smoke from the steel mill. In Summer, when I look out across the beach, I see a disgusting pillow of smoke belching in the background. The Mill may have given people jobs but they ruin the scenery and ruin other people’s health.

With the end of communism, some towns can now enjoy living in a smog free environment. The other positive issue that the documentary raises is that there’s been a revival of Jewish culture in East Germany. I’m not aware of how the regime dealt with the remaining Jews in Germany and I’m mostly indifferent to religion. Although I know that in the 1970s, Brezhnev’s Soviet Union became increasingly anti-semitic in solidarity with the Arabs in their fight against Zionism. Could there have been a similar case in East Germany?

The documentary itself was educational. But it tried to include too much issues into 1 hour. If there’s another thing it did well was that it included humour. I like humour. In between all the gloom, there’s short segments where German Comedians tell communist jokes.

When the credit rolls, the interviewees are asked whether they want the DDR back? Most of them answer no even a angry bald German.

And not surprisingly, the one man who wants it back is the Ex-Stasi Guy.

What’s going on at ABC3?

I really wasn’t in the mood for doing anything so after I was done with Master Chef All Stars, so I decided to flick over to ABC3. Right I thought, maybe there might be something interesting to watch. And on air, was another episode of the Legend of Dick and Dom; a Brit show aimed at kids about these guys who looked like they might have been from Medieval England. Now this show isn’t on my to watch list but I was able to understand what was going on thanks to the handy summary. The heroes of the series were two pommie men, a monk and a obligatory female are on some kind of quest. This week, our not so glorious travellers were trying to find a fruit from a lost tribe. The twist is that they are actually little kids and they acted with a kiddies’ mentality.

The trend among some Western kids’ shows is to incorporate kiddies rebelliousness. By that I mean, the small problems like staying up late and yucky vegetables. For me then, watching this was damn awkward. I don’t remember being a picky eater so I’m at odds with the kids tribe. Even if I shrunk back to my mini-me, I would not be able to find common ground with these kids on screen when it comes to food.

  1. The kids find Broccoli yuck and it’s a ‘forbidden word’

Dude, no! Eating broccoli is awesome. The best part about it is when those lovely green bristles at the top of the plant rolls along the roof of your mouth. It’s like a massage in your mouth. I usually have my broccoli boiled but since kids like crunch, I would take a few tips from top bloke and celebrity chef Jamie Oliver and make a broccoli tempura.

  1. No fruits allowed in the tribe

Oh come on. If you like sweet things, eat berries. I would recommend all of them. There’s nothing better as the sweetness of strawberries bursts in your moth as you feel the texture of the fruit roll in your tongue. Like it sour? Eat your oranges. Or you can go one step further and make a Fruit Tart.

  1. They only eat hot chips

I used to like hot chips but I got sick of them. Almost every dish were served with 30 more chips then my small stomach can handle. And they always gave me, a weeklong annoying sore on my lips. Nowadays, whenever I order a hamburger for a lunch on the move I would not order it as a meal. I still eat hot chips but only as a rare treat. And how did those two dudes not manage to cook chips? It isn’t too hard to cut up a potato into chunks and toss it into frying oil. Unless the kiddie tribe is even dumber then humanly possible

  1. Mashed potato ‘ruins potatoes’

I don’t know how kids manage to not like this! If prepared properly as in no more lumpy bits left, mashed potato is a creamy meal that melts in your mouth with a silky, smooth texture with all the deliciousness of a white potato. And don’t throw it around! Kids should be slapped for wasting this fucking awesome side dish!

Well there it is. Remember, always slap your kids if they don’t eat their vegies. But if you’re too kind to do that use Method 2. Glad wrap it and serve it for breakfast. If they don’t eat breakfast, glad wrap it again and serve it for lunch. And repeat it again until they eat their damn vegetables. Don’t give up! Remember when you’re a parent of a kid, they’ve got to learn who’s boss and more importantly what’s good for them.

Other Comments: I haven’t tried making a fruit tart yet but cooking shows and eating are one of my many passions. As for ABC3, there are some shows that I find watchable such as the Marvel Cartoons. Anime does get broadcast but someone higher up seems to have decided to broadcast selections from the shoujo genre; Fruit Basket, Ouran High School and Vampire Knight. Maybe one day they’ll start broadcasting dubbed K-On? Can’t be too hard to fool someone outside the fandom into believing it was aimed at girls.

Final results

It’s a strange feeling when you intended to blog anime but start with writing about television instead. I guess the saying goes about episodic being easier rings true to some degree. Or it could be my procrastination. But onto the recap.

I realise I should have done a better job at explaining Master Chef. I’ve decided that my theme for my initial start will be ‘write what I would like to read and get very good at it’. But in writing what I would like to read, I wrote only what I would be able to understand. It’s like picking up a diary dropped on the street. You may get curious but when you start reading the first paragraph but you’ll chuck it away because you don’t know what the fuck it’s talking about.

To give you the short explanation, Master Chef is a reality tv series about cooking. It’s like an culinary American Idol. The contestants apply, impress a panel and one by one they are eliminated through a series of cooking challenges until there’s one winner. What impresses me about this series is that this ain’t pre-determined. In Amazing Race, if there happened to be a pair of two 20 something blokes you best start shitting yourself. In the end, physical strength did matter and being young and looking like you hit the gym daily almost guaranteed you would finish with gold. With Master Chef, we start off with amateur cooks more or less on a level playing field. And then they are put through challenging cook offs ranging from reasonable to fucking insane.

These rookies have been taken from their home and thrown into first-grade. Every week, they are forced to cook their best and at the end they are given advice on how to improve. Sometimes they have a chance to cook up a expert chef’s dish. One more suitable for a acclaimed restaurant then home dining. And you can see the improvement as they go from lamb and veg to a popular Aussie ice-cream; deconstructed and injected with roids.
Enough damn babbling then, onto the recount.

1st Round the three contestants had to serve up a entree, a hot entree. But being reality tv, there has to be a twist. They have to serve an entree for 300 of their fans who have high expectations of their favourite cook. No pressure. But there’s some good news. It’s notable that the challenges have a more realistic time table. They have an hour of cooking followed by 30 minutes of service where they plate up their food they prepared. An hour to make it edible, half an hour to make it presentable. And if they needed anymore help they can also call in their old mate; i.e. the eliminated contestants to help them out. What interest me was their choices. The Asian Mum Audra chose two Asian ex-contestants. Andy chose two young blokes. And Julia picked two young white females. Kinda like the old high school days. Yeah, there were people of different colours but the Lebs congregated with the Lebs, the Vietnamese congregated with the Vietnamese and so on.

With the challenge set, they picked their food and began cooking. Asian expert Audra decided to serve a combination of a salad and prawn with eggnest. The male contestant Andy decided to go with a Tuna dish with squid ink sauce. Finally our blonde desert queen Julia cooked venison. The Judges as usual walked around giving ‘tips’ that did more to pressure the 3 then actually help them.  At the end of this challenge, came the serving. And that was frantic. Audra seem to have a lot of problems since she had the prawn, the salad and the eggnest. She managed to get by but was eliminated because her dish wasn’t hot. I’m sure there were a few who changed channels after this decision but I’ll accept it. At least this is better then that one time when a contestant failed to serve up a pie and ended up winning the contest. With Audra now out, Andy and Julia move onto the next round. Seems a little pointless then to have 3 finalists since Audra only participated in one round.
Round 2 was a Invention Test where the two remaining contestants had to cook a main dish. The only catch is that it had to be the best ‘Australian Dish’ and celebrate Australian-ness. Both contestants went for rather plain ideas. Julia decided to cook lamb chop and Andy cooked fish again, a lot of fish, a Modern Fisherman’s Basket to be precise. But I won’t criticise the bloke too much for that. Abalone is fucking hard to cook. Having eaten so much shitty abalone I know that it isn’t easy so thumbs up for making it perfect. Andy managed to blow out the score with this round. Scoring 9s and Perfect Tens.
The final round was the traditional Pressure Test. Every year, for the final round of the grand finale the contestants would be given a dessert to re-create or at least put something on the dish that kinda resembles the dessert. And it’s no neapolitan ice-cream, it’s a dessert that has to look so fancy and hard to make that it should be in an art gallery not on a plate. For those who don’t know and I feel sorry for you, the Gaytime is a very popular Aussie ice-cream. It’s a mix of vanilla with honeycomb surrounded by a chocolate layer mixed with a generous serve of biscuits. This variant is a ice-cream sandwich with chocolate balls in the middle, kept in place with a caramel cone with a beautiful serve of caramel mousse to top it off. A little sprinking of biscuits on the side, just to make it pretty and more mouth-watering. If you manage to make it, do send a photo.

Thankfully, the rules of the game are less wanker. They can worry about preparing first and making it fancy later. This year, the contestants had to replicate the afore-mentioned modern Gaytime. Good point for Julia is that she is very good at desserts and Andy has never made a honeycomb or a mousse. This is going to be easy.

]But right off the bat, Andy did well. He managed to make the caramel ice-cream and even create the fancy cone that holds the dish together. If you didn’t know he was an amateur, you would assume that he was bullshitting and that he had trained under the world’s greatest pastry chefs. The only part he had difficulty with was the caramel. Julia had her fair share of problems having screwed up her mousse. But in spite of her expertise, Andy manage to win the final challenge and was crowned Master Chef of 2012.

Now I’m still in a stink about the result. I personally wonder how Andy managed to win when it’s obvious he screwed up his caramel. The judges even found it to be bitter. But I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. His desserts were presented beautifully.

And that’s how Master Chef Australia ended. No matter the bullshit, it’s likely I’ll watch it again next year.

Other Comments: Have to start writing these re-caps and posting them as soon as possible.

The Finale for Master Chef

Tonight’s the finale of Master Chef Australia. After weeks of cooking, cooking and more cooking we have reached the last episode. Thanks in no amount to the curse of real life, I never got to start watching the show until only 12 contestants were left. I’m thankful that until the 2nd or 3rd there was no wild card where previously eliminated contestants were brought back. But at the same time, the show could have done without it’s more ridiculous challenges. Imagine a kitchen the size of a small room, pack 4 people in it (with equipment) and ask them to cook for 400 hungry Italians.

My favourite contestant was Wade and he’s just recently been eliminated. He’s the stoic baldy of the group. While I would have like him to be still standing, unfortunately it was not to be.

So here are the final 3 cooking off tonight

Andy: 23 Year old Electrician. Notable for being the only bloke still in it. Has a good record going into the finale having cooked the best dish for 3 consecutive weeks. It’s hard to describe his cooking cause he’s not a meat guy only. Not to mention I didn’t really pay too much attention to him until he was the only guy left.

Julia: 24 year old legal secretary. This year’s dessert queen. Has a chance of winning if she stays calm and cooks up beautifully. I can remember her not being very comfortable with meat dishes.

Audra: Mid-age Asian Mum. Cooks Asian dishes full of flavour. The judges at this point will be wanting more and definitely she has the capability to cook complex dishes with different techniques and flavours.

Verdict: If we judge sports by who has the best form then Andy would win tonight. But I remember a couple of years ago when the Dragons who had finished at 1st place in the NRL comp never got to the Grand Finals after a bumbled Finals series. Nonetheless I place my bets on Andy.