Even Cheaper Festive Cheer.

Food You won't remember but last year I explained how having spent years waiting for the Marks & Spencer Festive Cheer hamper to be reduced after Christmas we decided to simply go to the shop and purchase the items from the hamper separately. In the end, we bought the same hamper sans box for eight pounds cheaper than it would have been.

The old post about these shenanigans is here.

Given the success of that mission we decided to repeat it again this year. The hamper's contents have changed slightly as you can see from the M&S website but the price is still £30 (tech note: I used the same link included in last year's blog post about this to find the new page which shows inventory continuity).

Here is the receipt which contains only items from the hamper:

Buying the items separately led to the same product (again without the box) being £10.90 cheaper.

Some notes:

(1)  Part of the reason for the cheaper price is a multisave in which the Christmas Tea wound up being free.  Without the discount, the hamper would have been £20.70 which is still remarkably cheaper.

(2)  As you can see the photograph and inventory don't match on the M&S website.  The inventory says a tin of Wild Alaskan Salmon (170g) is included.  The photo has Wild Canadian Salmon (170g).  Given the geography they're probably the same salmon through different nets but I'm still pinging it.

(3)  Here is the inventory from last year with prices:

Christmas Tea (125g) £1.60
Spiced Mandarin Marmalade (295g) £3
Tomato & Basil Soup (400g) 0.90p
Strawberry & Champagne Conserve (295g) £3
Top iced Christmas cake (600g) £3.30
Classic Christmas pudding (100g) £1.25
All butter Scottish shortbread rounds (180g) £1.50
Wild Alaskan Red Salmon (170g) £3.00
Milk dark white chocolate box (220g)

The only item on both which is more expensive is the soup with an extra 5p.  One of the jams has been replaced with a chutney and the whole business is £1 cheaper overall so an extent this year if you did buy it for £30 you'd be paying more for less.

The BBC Three Thing. Again.

TV You already know my feelings on the whole BBC Three debacle and so you probably will have guessed how I reacted to today's news that the BBC Trust have agreed to allow the show to leave television and go online which is still on television for a large proportion of the country as Damian Kavanagh, Controller, BBC Three describes:
"BBC Three is not closing, we are reinventing online. We will not be a scheduled 7pm to 4am linear broadcast TV channel but we will be everywhere else giving you the freedom to choose what to watch when you want. We will be available on BBC iPlayer on connected TV’s and via set top boxes and consoles like the PS4 so you can watch on a big TV with friends, if you want. We will be on mobiles and tablets so you can watch on your own in the bath, if you want. The truth is we will be available to you in more places than ever before including linear TV. All our shows will be on BBC One or BBC Two so you can watch on traditional TV, if you want."
As is so often the case, at a certain point in the not too distant future this whole business will look very strange. Within about ten years although some form of linear television will still exist, the rump of viewing will be on catch-up and people won't even really see channels as anything more than brands and before long it'll be genres, genres and micro-genres. Some already don't. A friend online says he doesn't even know which channel a documentary was originally broadcast half the time and now the old presenter structures have broken down* I can see what they mean.

The New Yorker on the Eggs from Farmers Markets.

Food Eggs are eggs. As far as I've always known, eggs are eggs and don't change much from place to place, supermarket to farmer market. Some are evidently larger than others or last longer in the kitchen (to fridge or not to fridge?) and yet here's The New Yorker to dissuade me from my folly. David Darlington describes the kind of mania which takes hold when you find and egg which everything your wildest dreams might comprehend:
"Let me be clear: I’m not talking about just any eggs from the farmers’ market. Several venders there sell eggs; all are better than the ones from the grocery store, and some are still available in winter, even if you arrive after the market opens. I’m referring to eggs from Riverdog Farm, which, all of us in line agree, are of a different order. Technically they come from the Capay Valley, forty miles northwest of Sacramento, but as far as we’re concerned their origin is APIAU: A Pre-Industrial Agrarian Utopia. Where you live, there might be a farmer’s market that sells similar eggs; you might even collect APIAU-type eggs from chickens you raise yourself. But to us, Riverdog eggs—whose rich, earthy, pudding-like yolks are more orange than yellow, especially the laughable-if-it-weren’t-so-depressing excuse for yellow in eggs from the grocery store, which taste like nonfat milk as opposed to whipping cream—are unique. So unique that they cost eight dollars a dozen, and in winter each customer is limited to only a dozen—and, in particularly lean weeks, when the chickens are especially indisposed, encouraged to take only half a dozen. (To which we reply, “Dream on.”)"

My Favourite Film of 1971.

Film Long before Doctor Who, Sherlock, before Jekyll, Steven Moffat was primarily known for writing sitcoms. Although Joking Apart is still my favourite of his, Coupling is a close second and it's during episode six of the first series that I first heard about Nic Roeg's Walkabout, via all of the lustful shrillness of the lustful Jeff. "Cor" he emphasises in his strong Irish tones, "Jenny Agutter", emphasising every single consonant.  As you can imagine this rather coloured my viewing of the film for the first time a couple of years later on dvd from Lovefilm.

Is the "walkabout" film a genre and how is it distinct from the road movie?  In more recent years we've seen Tracks and Wild, both about young women on long journeys, the latter arguably a Hollywood interpretation of the former, although they both tell very different true stories and are equally valid.  But there are also films like The Way Back, Monsters or The Road about extreme foot based journeys in which the stakes are even more life and death within a historical or apocalyptic landscape.

All of them are to some extent quest narratives and like road movies they have a definitive destination, although this tends to have a much greater psychological emphasis about fighting demons and self-actualisation as well as having a geographical goal.  They're also the purest of quest narratives which is why you could also argue that plenty of Disney films and all of The Lord of the Rings films should be mentioned in the same breath, all of which are set in places which don't really have roads.

But there's also a cycle of films about solitude.  Moon.  Gravity.  Into The Wild.  The Martian to an extent.  Cast Away.  All Is Lost.  Jumping Jack Flash.  Films with a single protagonist on screen for much of the duration nursing their character demons and dealing with many of the same issues related to spending too much time with themselves.  So perhaps there's a solitude genre that's worth investigating.  But Walkabout wouldn't fit because Agutter's character's never alone.  Yet she walks.  And walks.  And walks.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Making of the Hitchhikers Guide Infocom game.

Games Oh well, bloody hell. The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy text adventure was released across multiple platforms back in 1984 and the key element was that large chunks of the text were written by Douglas Adams and a proportion of that was whole new material. But he also guided the making of the game, helped with some of the puzzles and it's as close to being in the novel or radio series as its possible to be.

There have been multiple versions of the game available since then produced as interactive online experiences (all linked from the Wikipedia page here) but up until now, it's been impossible, as far as I know, to know exactly what Douglas Adams's input was on the game. Until now.

As part of his project to scan everything in existence, Jason Scott of the Internet Archive was given access to Infocom's archive which includes folders containing material pertaining to each of the games which includes The Hitchhiker's Guide.

Which means at this link there's a file containing all of the material pertaining to the making of the game, including Douglas's letters and notes on the game, maps, interviews, adverts, articles, a trove.  Wow.