Books, Culture, Film, Gaming, TV & Radio

The Geeky Chef on fictional foods, cookbooks and the Portal cake

Geeky Chef Cookbook - Geeky Chef portrait, by Denis Caron (750x422)Cassandra Reeder is a chef with a very special repertoire. She makes fictional foods real.

From pumpkin pasties and Elven Lembas bread, to hot spiced wine and elixir soup, she has formulated some 80 recipes from beloved books, films, TV shows and video games on her blog, The Geeky Chef. Her home for succulent-sounding delicacies from the likes of Harry Potter, The Legend of Zelda, Game of Thrones, Fallout 3, Portal and more, offers step-by-step instructions, themed photography and brief backgrounders on the origin of these recipes. And it’s become something of a web sensation.

Books, Culture, Film, Gaming, TV & Radio

Why do some finales leave us dissatisfied?

Reading on Broadway, Oct 6, 2007, by Michele Markel Connors (3008x1692)Endings are tricky affairs, particularly for fiction and screenwriters.

They don’t always need to be comfortable or straightforward. In fact, they shouldn’t be. No matter what the medium, you expect the author to fulfil a sort of unwritten agreement that, at the end of it all, you will have gained something from taking the time to engage with their story. That could be as simple as learning something new (as the classic parables of old do) or it could be more personal (learning deep truths about the nature of life or society through the eyes of a character you identify with).

Endings and why some of them leave us dissatisfied have been on my mind recently, since finishing the finales to several video games and fiction series. Both mediums have presented me with examples of endings that livid up to my expectations and others that fell short.

Books, Culture, Music

In Praise of Nile Rodgers

Nile Rodgers, profile photo by Roy Cox (2011)You might not know his name, but you’ll certainly have heard his music. In the wake of his contribution to Daft Punk’s ‘Get Lucky’, his profile has aptly been raised, but this musician, songwriter and producer has been unleashing trendsetting-hits for decades. A fact too few people appreciate to this day.

He is, of course, Nile Rodgers. One half of rhythm kings Chic, along with his late partner Bernard Edwards, Rodgers has masterminded hit, after hit, after hit, and then some.

Books, Culture

Reflections on Animal Farm

Animal Farm, George Orwell, by dewberry1964

“All animals are equal. But some animals are more equal than others.”

Orwell’s Animal Farm didn’t cross my path while I was in school – I suspect Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men took the spot it would have occupied. Having just finished the book it’s clear to me that I have been missing out all these years.

Books, Culture

In Praise of Anthony Horowitz

Lots of people have inspired me through the years. Family members, friends, teachers, musicians, actors, artists, photographers, sportsmen, designers, explorers; all have had an effect at some point during my life. It’s Anthony Horowitz, however, that holds a special place in my memory because this amicable writer and storyteller has not only helped me shape who I am, he opened my eyes to the joys of reading and, in turn, unlocked the limitless potential of our world.


Alex Rider and Me

It was the summer of 2002 when I first meet Alex Rider. I was on holiday in Grenada with my family and was enjoying the sights, sounds and smells of the Caribbean. When we weren’t at the beach, discovering the island’s rich history of nutmeg farming or generally lounging about, I found my attention hooked not by my Game Boy Pocket, but by the inaugural adventure of this teenage spy.

Alex Rider was created by British author Anthony Horowitz – whose work was a big influence in making me realise reading could actually be enjoyable when I was young. Beginning with the death of his uncle, 14-year-old Alex is soon embroiled in an MI6 operation to investigate Sayle Enterprise’s research facility in Cornwall. What followed was a mesmerising spy adventure that had me reading chapter after chapter, oblivious to the heat of the Caribbean Sun. It wasn’t just the adventure itself, however, I quickly warmed to Alex as character, and over these 10 years he’s become my closest literary hero.

The reason I identify with Alex is because I see some of him in me, but he is also someone I could never be and possesses qualities and skills I wish I had. He’s courageous, intelligent, athletic, streetwise, selfless, multilingual, a proficient martial artist, confident, witty, claim, friendly and loyal. And yet, he is manipulated by MI6 and all kinds of people throughout the series. He is living a frightening, brutal life and because of this I came to sympathise with him all the more. It makes him all the more human. He feels fear, anger, regret, love and hate. Characters in the books doubt him because of his age, and I’m sure real adults do too, but there’s so much more to Alex.

An author once said something to the effect of “there’s no friend like a good book,” (wish I could recall the exact quote) and I’d have to agree. When I’ve been on my way to the Lake District, waiting for my train at Victoria station, lounging on my bed in Nottingham trying to take my mind off work and countless other places, Alex and his adventures have been with me even when others have not. The books have never failed to keep my attention held even in the most disruptive of environments, and it all goes back to Alex’s character and the finesse with which Horowitz constructs his stories. Alex is relieved to return home to the grey clouds and red buses of London after a narrow escape in the south of France. You feel his exasperation as he desperately tries to convince Sabina, one of his few friends and perhaps something more, that the Royal & General is an MI6 cover, when the organisation refuses to help him. And you feel his vengefulness when he discovers the whereabouts of the shady organisation, Scorpia, that killed his father.

I genuinely care about Alex, and I felt this more prominently than ever on the afternoon I finished reading Scorpia, the fifth book which deals with Alex’s parents and past, for the first time. The entirety of the final chapter is a steady build up to a defiant act of revenge. Alex is shot in the chest by a sniper. I could feel the moment coming as I read. I began to hang on to each sentence as if cling to the final moments of a friend’s passing. With the last few words, “Alex Rider smiled and closed his eyes,” I closed the book. That was the last I assumed I’d hear of my silent friend, and it very nearly brought me to tears.

But, no. It seems Horowitz hadn’t been about to kill off Alex – not yet at least. Since Scorpia, Alex has return in another three books (to discover how he survived the shooting I encourage you to read Ark Angel), and now his ninth and final adventure is upon us. In Scorpia Rising, 15-year-old Alex faces the international crime syndicate once again. Ever since Scorpia, I’ve approach every Alex Rider book as if it’s my last. I’m tremendously excited to see how Horowitz closes Alex’s saga. Having first spotted the books in primary school, read them all through high school and college, this final book is arriving at a time of great change for me as I prepare to finish my degree and move onto a new phase in my life. Alex has been with me from my childhood to the end of my teenage years, and as another landmark transition approaches for me, I look forward to join him on his final adventure.

A Brief Introduction to Investigative Journalism

As part of my course studying ‘Media & Culture’ I am required to engage with a number of theorists, such Mikhail Bakhtin, Michel Foucault and Jürgen Habermas. Although I can see how their theories and writings fit into the broader context of media and cultural studies, truth be told, sometimes it all seems like a load of contradictory baloney. The observations, experiments, arguments, counter-arguments, viewpoints, quotations and citations all blur into one existential mess.

And from where I’m standing now, my current goal of someday becoming a full-time journalist and writer seems no closer – at least where the core module of my university course is concerned.

How thrilling then that at a quite unexpected stimulus entered my life to give me some much needed reinvigoration. I speak of Fast Food Nation, a book by investigative journalist, Eric Schlosser, that uncovers the harsh truth behind an industry that has reshaped much of the world in the 20th century.

I started reading this book back in July last year, just as I headed off on my inaugural trip to Develop in Brighton, after picking up the Penguin Celebrations copy in a sale. During my trip to Brighton, I didn’t find enough time to read very far, so the book lay patiently in the dark for some months.

Having pulled it out again in February, I’ve now seen it through to the end, and it turned out to be a more enlightening read than any non-fiction text I’ve read since starting university. On numerous bus journeys I sat, open-mouthed, stomach twisting, as I read some of the gruesome and downright appalling practices of the meatpacking and fast food industries. But Fast Food Nation hasn’t just been an eye-opener from a subject point of view. Schlosser’s tone and writing style have made me realise that, for all the highbrow journals and academic essays I’m presented with, it is perfectly fine to explain things to readers in a more unconventional manner.

A master stroke, that gradually dawned on me, was the way he would spend a good three pages at the start of each chapter describing the places he’d travelled to, introducing readers with seemingly insignificant details that led to greater complications or simply for the beauty of it. Fast Food Nation has changed my outlook on traditional prose and given me more reason to continue my quest to write for a living.