Foie gras: nearly a nasty moment

Part of a dead animal

Over Christmas we were informed by a young lady of our acquantance that Britain had made it illegal to sell foie gras.  This was something we didn't know and caused us some momentary alarm as we are very partial indeed to foie gras.

Triple P does not find all "luxury" foods worth eating, as you are often paying for rarity rather than taste.  We quite like truffles, for example, but the price asked for them is ludicrous.  We once had truffles with our pasta in the Adlon Hotel in Berlin and they actually shaved bits on to a pair of miniature weighing scales in order to price it.  We have never liked oysters.  Foie gras is quite different, however, as it is totally delicious.

Now we have found out that it is not, in fact, banned in the UK, although production of it is.  Very few countries now produce it; in Europe only Belgium, Bulgaria, France, Hungary and Spain do so.  In the European Union production is actually prohibited but there is a typically European loophole (no doubt put in there by the French who are responsible for 79% of the world's production and don't want to lose their growing market in Asia) in that production can continue "where it is current practice".  The French rural code, Article L 654-27-1 (passed in 2006) states that "Le foie gras fait partie du patrimoine culturel et gastronomique protégé en France."  So given that it is part of their cultural and gastronomic heritage they would no doubt fight to the last man (unlike the Battle of Quebec in 1759 for example where they surrendered after 15 minutes of fighting) for it.  Actually Quebec is somewhere else that produces very fine foie gras which we have enjoyed on trips to Canada, although we are surprised that the politically correct Canadians haven't stopped this yet. 

An example of human civilisation

The issue is, of course, that the geese or ducks that produce the fattened livers are force fed on corn mash (nutritionally pretty much the same as tortilla chips and simple carbohydrate bread that is causing most of the obesity in the west) which animal rights people don't approve off.  This is a simple one for Triple P.  We eat animals (because humans are designed to) and we know that many animals produced for food are treated badly (if they weren't, meat would be too expensive for poorer people to eat.) An interesting fact that Triple P learned from a TV programme over Christams was that the consumption of fowl (chickens, ducks, geese etc) by most people in England is very recent - certainly within the last 100 years and, in many cases more recently that than.  This is because, before battery farming, it was simply too expensive for most people to afford chicken.  Now it is a cheap meat.  We do buy free range eggs, but that is because they taste better. We are not so fussy about the source of our bacon and sausages, however.  it is difficult, if not impossible, in most cases, to know what conditions animals are reared in.  As for geese; we hate geese and have been attacked by them several times so we are quite happy for them to suffer to produce foie gras.  We hate cows too, which is why we eat a lot of beef.  Actually, we have always found sheep a bit sinister.    We have seen films of cows being slaughtered and geese being force fed and it doesn't for a minute stop us wanting to eat them.  It does some people and that is fine but we are afraid that we just don't care about the fate of food animals.

It seems to me that you have to be all or nothing on this issue.  Either you eat meat or you don't (and if you don't you shouldn't wear leather either).  As we do, we do not differentiate as to how that meat is produced. We will continue to eat foie gras even though there is an increasing celebrity-led movement in the UK to ban it from our restaurants.  The French would no doubt argue (as does our Parisian friend N) that the production of foie gras, being a modification to the natural order of things for the purpose of taste, is a sign of civilisation not barbarism and we would have to agree.  Certainly the geese have a hard time of it but so do many of the animals that we harvest for our various purposes. Exploitation of animals is part of the natural order of things. That is why humans run the planet and geese don't.
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Solar Wind Ship by Frank Tinsley

Here is an elegantly spare illustration of a solar wind ship by Frank Tinsley from 1959.  Approaching Titan, the largest of Saturn's moons the aluminium foil covered sail ships trail a nuclear powered ferry rocket for lunar landing missions.  This is a very effective illistration just using a black, white and yellow pallette.

This is one of a series of pictures that Tinsley did for advertisements for the American Bosch Arma Coporation between 1958 and 1960.  Arma was originally founded in 1918 and supplied searchlights to the US Navy. They merged with the American Bosch Corporation in 1954.  ABAC supplied theinertial guidance system for the Atlas missile and some of the electronics for the Apollo Lunar Module.

This 30 foot tall unicycle's purpose was for exploring the moon.  A spare tyre acts as a bumper for when exploring narrow defiles. A solar powered "parasol" provides power. 

The picture for this advertisement related to the realisation that in the future the world would be encircled by dead satellites.  Rather then letting them fall to earth at random this pictuire contemplates a salvage tug positioning them so that when they drop there is no chance of them landing on inhabited areas.

This 1958 picture shows the construction of a space station in the traditional, for the fifties and sixties, wheel shape.  Presumably this shape was because it was contemplated that they would spin, in order to create artificial gravity, something we haven't managed yet. 

Here is a supply rocket landing at a moon base.  The advertisements contemplated rockets the size of the Empire State Building being powered by a nuclear pulse engine firing out atomic bombs.

The final picture is of another nuclear powered rocket approaching Mars.  It is designed to fly nose first as a rocket and then tail first when it reaches the Martian atmosphere as a ramjet. 

AgentTriple P loves these views into a future that never was from the height of the space race.

Aviation and space specialist illustrator Frank Tinsley was born in Manhattan in 1899. After high school he worked as an apprentice artist in the research department of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  His brief military service in World War One was spent in the Design Section of the War Department. 

By the twenties he was a freelance illustrator selling pictures to magazines such as Air Stories, Air Trails, Bill Barnes Air Trails,  Lariat Story,  Sky Birds, War Birds, and Western Story.  By the forties he also had his own newspaper comic strip, Yankee Doodle later changed to Captain Yank.

In the fifties he wrote and illustrated articles for Mechanix Illustrated.  He died in 1965.

Frank Tinsley
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Calendar Girl December 2011: Michelle Keegan

We have just managed to squeeze in our last calendar girl of 2011 before the end of the month.  Miss Michelle Keegan is someone else we have never heard of until we wrote this post.

Twenty-four year old Miss Keegan is best known for being an actress in Manchester-set Northern TV soap opera, Coronation Street.  Manchester-born herself and having worked in a department store and as an airline check-in girl she got the part in the soap on only her second ever audition in 2007.

Coronation Street is the longest running TV soap in the world; having been first broadcast in December 1960.  Triple P's mother used to watch it back in the sixties and seventies when all the women in it (and Manchester, presumably) looked like this (above).

It has changed somewhat if they are now featuring actresses like Miss Keegan.  British TV, however, has changed a lot in the last fifteen years; with actresses easily as attractive as those on US TV being the norm.  Before this it was certainly the case that the actresses in our TV shows were much more ordinary (i.e. normal) looking compared with those in US TV shows.

Nothing very ordinary about Miss Keegan who says she owes her exotic Mediterranean looks to a Gibraltarian grandmother.  Gibraltar, for our overseas readers, is a tiny British territory attached to southern Spain, much to the annoyance of the Spanish who want it back.  The British and Dutch captured the strategically located port in 1704, during the War of the Spanish Succession, and it was ceded to the UK in perpetuity under the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713.  This hasn't stopped the Spaniards trying to get it back ever since, despite the legality of the treaty.

Equally controversial as the Gibraltar question has been the nature of Miss Keegan's bust. She insists that her 30FFF assets are entirely natural, despite her very skinny frame.

She is only 5'4" tall, however, so it is within the bounds of possibility, we suppose, as shorter women are more likely to possess a naturally curvy figure than tall ones.

So, goodbye to our last calendar girl of 2011.  It will soon be time to get January 2012's up, although we are contemplating moving our calandar girls across to our other blog, Venus Observations, as they are a bit of a relic from when we only had the one blog.   However, the calendar girls are somewhat overdressed for the latter blog.  Hmm.  We have five days to decide!
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A Happy Christmas... all our readers!
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Hollywood: The Puppini Sisters

Triple P likes British forties retro harmony group The Puppini Sisters.  They mix recordings of old standards with vintage style versions of more modern music such as Wuthering Heights, I will Survive, Walk like an Egyptian and, our favourite, their utterly bonkers version of Crazy in Love.  Recently their profile has been somewhat higher due to some recent work with Canadian crooner Michael Bublé.


We were excited to hear about their new cd which features songs from Hollywood films, therefore. Rumours were that their next album would all be self-penned songs but we have to say that we are glad that these are largely classics. Due to be released on 26th December we were delighted to find that it's already available for download on Amazon UK.   A very nice early Christmas present to ourself!

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The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey trailer

We don't usually post film trailers but we are very excited about this.  We have only watched it twice and are already humming the song!
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Ola Jordan to be Axed from Strictly Come Dancing?

Bad news at the weekend in that it seems that Polish poppet Ola Jordan is likely to be the victim of a BBC Strictly Come Dancing shake-up.

The BBC regularly dump popular dancers on the show, especially when they get older, but it seems poor Ola is a target because of grumpy husband James' arguments with the Strictly team backstage (particularly the eminence gris of the show Craig Revell Horwood).

They should dump him (he always comes across as a slightly nasty piece of work) and keep her but I suppose she wouldn't agree to that.

Ola is one (two?) of the main reasons to watch the show for Agent Triple P and it just won't be the same without her annual catsuit outing. Oh well, we will have to make do with Aliona and Katya to provide glittery sex appeal next year.

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Classic FM: Too many carols!

Agent Triple P does not like Christmas or, rather, he does not like the ever extending Christmas season.  Christmas should be confined to three days at most.  Contributing annoyingly to the ever more bloated Christmas is Classic FM at the moment.  It has been rather better of late with some music that we haven't heard before but recently it has been overcome with treacly dollops of Christmas fa la la la la nonsense.  Every other track seems to be some choir performing arrangements of Christmas carols.  Triple P listens to Classic FM because he likes classical music and hopes that, occasionally, he will discover a worthwhile piece of music he hasn't heard before. Indeed, only last week we heard, for the first time, Dvorak's tremendously symphonic "American" string quartet, written shortly after the New World symphony when he was on holiday in Iowa.  We don't listen to the station for third rate (and most carols are musically third rate) Christmas slush sung by the amateur choir of some ghastly northern town.   

The best piece of Christmas music that Triple P knows is Rimsky-Korsakov's Christmas Eve but Classic FM wouldn't play that as it lasts half an hour.  So instead we have yet another arrangement by a minor British contemporary composer of Ding dong merrily on high or, as S calls it, for some reason, We who Wiggy wig below.  Ding dong is my least favourite Christmas carol; it just conjures up images of pompous looking people making silly, over-theatrical faces when they sing (something that many people in amateur choirs are very prone to do).

Oh well, at least it's better than Andy fucking Williams' (as he is known to S and triple P) It's the most wonderful time of the year!

Bah, humbug!
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X Factor Dancers

X factor dancers appear to flash their busts at last year's competitor Wagner in one of their controversial performances in 2010

As we have observed before the only reason to watch the X Factor is some of the lady backing dancers.  Since last year's furore as regards "inappropriate" routines during performances by Christina Aguilera and Rhianna the producers have ensured that this season's dancers costumes are less revealing, unfortunately.  However, the ladies themselves are often so fine that despite having to look somewhat more dowdy they still brighten up a winter's evening.

Still, we had some very nice shorts in last week's programme and it is interesting to observe the Crazy Horse technique of different height heels to ensure that posteriors are lined up at a nice regular level.

Cute! Cute! Cute!

Its not often that a backing dancer breaks free from the background but this was the case for one of the 2009 crop of X Factor dancers, the lovely Sianad Gregory, who we first noted as she pranced around a  lucky Olly Murs, in her little witches outfit, during the Halloween themed show.

Miss Gregory in all her glory

Not surprisingly Mr Murs was very taken with Miss Gregory and was desperate to obtain her phone number after the show.  Whether he did or not we do not know!

Siniad (right) with Margarita Hall in Lesbian Vampire Killers (2009)

Miss Gregory is not only a dancer but an actress, appearing in a supporting role in 2009's amazingly unfunny Hammer horror spoof (a loose remake of the Karnstein films) Lesbian Vampire Killers which, with a title like that, should have been a lot better than it was.

She also appeared in the recent dance film Street Dance 3D (2010) where she looked enticing in legwarmers.

5'6" tall Sianad is from Wales and has appeared in Welsh language TV programmes as well as having had parts in medical dramas Holby City and Casualty for the BBC.

With her long legs, gamine face and cute tummy we hope the twenty-three year old goes far! Forget the terrible singers, let's just have more dancers like Miss Gregory hitting the limelight and  then the show will at least have done something worthwhile.

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Launch of the new Martian Rover

Lift-off on Saturday 26th November 2011

The big space news this week, of course, is the launch of the Mars Science Laboratory mission which blasted off from Cape Canaveral on Saturday using an Atlas V launch vehicle.

Destination Mars: Gale Crater

Carrying the big new Martian rover, Curiosity (named by a schoolgirl as part of a competition), it is due to arrive at its landing site, Gale Crater, sometime in August 2012.  The mission is designed to see if Mars could, or has ever, hosted life.

The Curiosity rover hangs beneath the lander

Landing on Mars is tricky.  The atmosphere is too thick to use purely a rocket descent (like the Lunar Module) but too thin for conventional parachutes.  The Rover and its lander  will use a combination of both.  The rover will be lowered to the Martian surface by the new sky crane system which hasn't been used on a mission before.  After parachuting through the atmosphere, at about a mile above the surface the rover and the lander will seperate from the protective aeroshell in which they have travelled from orbit.  The lander will fire its hydrazine rocket thrusters and slow the descent. The rover will be lowered by the sky crane system until it hangs around 25 feet below the lander. A soon as it is confirmed that the rover is on the surface the lander will sever the connections to the rover and fly off to one side for a crash landing.  This sounds like proper space exploration but there does seem to be an awful lot that could go wrong.  Anything involving cables and explosive severing systems sounds like a recipe for disaster!  Let's hope not!

Mock-ups of the Mars Exploration Rover (Spirit and Opportunity 2004-2010) left, Mars Pathfinder (Sojourner 1996) centre and the Mars Science Laboratory (Curiosity 2012-2014) right showing size comparison

The rover, which can move at about 30 metres an hour, is designed to operate for 686 days, which sounds like an odd amount but is actually the length of a Martian year.  Curiosity is much bigger than previous rovers.  The original tea tray sized Sojourner rover weighed 11.5 kilos and was 65 centimetres long.  Curiosity weighs 900kg and is 3 metres long; about the size of a small car.  Sojourner is about the size of one of Curiosity's wheels. It is about five times the size of the more recent Mars Exploration Rovers.

This picture of technicians working on Curiosity at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory gives an idea of its scale.  It will be the biggest vehicle to land on another body in the Solar System.  It is about the same length as the Lunar Rover but is more than four times the weight.

Those fun loving scientists have cut the initials of JPL in Morse code into the vehicle's wheels so it will literally leave a trail of their name across the Martian landscape.

Its all engagingly science fiction -like, although it seems a long way from the Edgar Rice Burroughs Martian novels which Triple P read when he was younger.

Bruce Pennington's evocative cover for the New English Library paperback of A Princess of Mars (which Triple P still has up in the loft somewhere)

Actually, there is a strange connection between the Curiosity rover and the Burroughs novels.  Avatar director James Cameron was working with the JPL team on a 3D camera for the Curiosity rover but, sadly, they couldn't get it ready in time.  Cameron himself has admitted that one of his major influences on Avatar was A Princess of Mars! 

James Cameron (right) and the Curiosity rover camera team

There is a big budget film of A Princess of Mars due out next year; although they have re-named it John Carter, after the hero, but the trailer we have seen so far doesn't look brilliant. In fact, we prefer the look of the low budget Princess of Mars which came out two years ago.  Dejah Thoris, the princess in question, is far too overdressed in the new version, for a start, which is the downside of having Disney behind it!   But, who knows, maybe Curiosity will find a crashed Martian flier.
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