Ant Cule Reviews... Being Alive

An Extremely Subjective View of Being A Human

Category: Uncategorized

Ant Cule Reviews… Discovering All The Things An Aeropress Can Do

Have you ever thought you know a piece of equipment, only to discover its boundaries are far wider than they appeared? That’s exactly what happened to me with the Aeropress.

For those who haven’t read my review on coffee, I suggest you do, just to get a flavour of how much I love the taste of that sweet brown muck. I now own four different methods of getting my sweet coffee fix. The Aeropress, the coffee pod machine, the caffetierre and the Moka express. I have no preferred way of getting my coffee. It all tastes good. Or at least, I had no preferred way. Until now.

It began with me in the kitchen, making a cup of coffee with my Aeropress. For Christmas, my girlfriend and my sister got me coffee bean subscriptions from here. Each of these bean packets comes with a little card- board flap which describes the best way to get maximum flavour from these particular beans. I saw these beans were best made using the Aeropress, so I made them in the usual way, as recommended on the packet of the Aeropress. That is to say, put in the grounds, put in some water, let it sit, stir it, let it sit, press it. And that made a very tasty cup. But something about the instructions as written in the card- board flap gave me pause for thought.

They showed the coffee brewing in the Aeropress… upside-down.

My stomach danced. They couldn’t mean it, could they? And yet it made so much sense. It’s long been a bugbear of mine that as you let the water and coffee grounds mingle in the Aeropress, it starts pouring through into the cup below… but to brew it upside-down… It couldn’t work… Could it?

The very next day I tried. And I took photos. And it worked! My boundaries had been extended! I found a new way to use this remarkable piece of technology to extract yet more delicious flavour from the coffee without prematurely sending it into the cup. And ordinarily that would be where it all ended.

img_1768 img_1770 img_1769 img_1774 img_1773 img_1775

But then I discovered this. And I have not. Stopped. Experimenting. And the results have been delicious. Like, seriously, some of the best coffee I have ever made.

Overall I highly recommend grabbing something you thought you knew the limits of, and discovering what else it can do. The Internet is a great resource, be- cause other people have done the trial and error for you and you just get the sweet sweet caffeine infused nectar.

Ant Cule Reviews… Seeing Someone Taking A Note On Public Transport

A cool man with slicked back hair, thick rimmed glasses, and a finely kept goatee was on the bus when he reached into his bag and took out a notebook. He wrote something in it. Then he stared out of the window, watching the world roll past. He might have written something else, I didn’t notice. Because I was too busy thinking:

Yes mate! You’re having ideas! You’re having a discussion with yourself about what to note down! What a rich inner life you have! You’re awesome!

The bus looked passingly like this. (https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/0c/London_Bus_route_249_interior.jpg)

The bus looked passingly like this. https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/0c/London_Bus_route_249_interior.jpg

I was sitting behind him, by the way.

What a great feeling, seeing evidence that another person thinks, and deems their thought write-downable. It’s not that I don’t think other people think at all. I do think they think unthinkingly, though. I think.

When I see another person with a notebook and pen, or a notetaking app open on their phone, I am struck with admiration. I am reminded that we all have our own inner lives, and we’re constantly in dialogue with ourselves. It’s a real sign of belief in yourself, that your thoughts are worthy of writing down.

Pen and paper note taking in particular gets me going. So much in our world today is stored in The Cloud, wherever that is. Putting a thought to paper is a real act of commitment in a world of Twitter Streams and Blog Rolls and Facebook Algorithms. It’s saying, this will stay in this one place for ever. It’s making a mark. It’s a fundamentally human thing to do.

This post has turned out to be a bit less goofy than my other ones, but there we go. Sometimes seeing people being people makes me feel like not being glib.

Overall I highly recommend watching someone else take a note. Admire them. Nod at them. Touch their leg softly, to reassure them that their thoughts are worthwhile.

Ant Cule Reviews… Discovering A Pristine Notebook

I’m a man who loves stationary. I can spend up to an hour in Paperchase. I could spend a portion of time in Waterstones looking at the stationary. Rymans is perfectly nice too. The point is, I really love stationary. Actually, I really love paper. Pens are okay, though often seem overpriced to me. Paper though. Whooph. You can’t put a price on that.

Where does it come from? My love of books? My love of tactile experiences – like dipping my hand in a bag of seeds, errrrrm YES PLEASE! ? What is it about blank notebooks and pads of paper that keep me coming back? I mean, I have gadgets, I have plenty of digital storage places that are much more convenient for note taking than actual paper. So why do I keep just seeing what they have if I stroll past a stationary shop?

On my desk, which is pretty messy, I have books and notebooks just about everywhere. This morning, I looked through a selection of four – in two of them were notes from around this time last year, when I was tutoring at UEA. Another had been designated my ‘book club’ notes – really interesting to read again, by the way. And also, who wants to start a book club, friends??! – and the fourth and final one, conveniently, fatefully at the bottom of the pile… A total blank. Crisp, clean, clear white pages (well, a kind of cream colour – premium paper grade). An optimistic little clutch of pages waiting for ideas to be expanded upon, waiting for thoughts to be jotted down, waiting… Waiting… Full of poise, promise, potential, paper. Full of the possibility of becoming pages of notes that I’ll look over in another year’s time, and briefly be transported back to where I am now.

There’s something personal, isn’t there, about handwriting notes. As if your thoughts are travelling down from your brain, into your shoulder, along your arm, into your fingertips and out onto the page through the conduit we call a pen. Your handwriting is what it looks like inside your head. My handwriting is loopy.

Evernote, much as I like and use it simply can’t compete with that ancient, infinitely flexible, physically strenuous (sometimes) act. It makes it too easy. Writing should be hard. It should be messy handwriting, crossed out misspelt words. It should be the physical embodiment of you wrenching your ideas out. It should be challenging. And sometimes it takes finding a new, unblemished notebook to remind you of that, and all the possibilities that a blank page holds.

Overall, I highly recommend discovering a pristine notebook and jotting something down in it. Even if you forget about it for a year or more, it only makes its rediscovery more rich for future you. For a similar experience, buy or steal a new notebook. (don’t steal)

A notebook. What will you write in it? NB. Do not attempt to write in this notebook, it is merely an image of a notebook.

 

Ant Cule Reviews… Driving A Van

This week has been a week of firsts. Not least because this week I drove a van for the very first time.

On Sunday I had to drive (in a van) from Greenwich to Leyton, and then around the East of London, and back to Greenwich from where, on Monday morning, I had to drive this van to Balham and back. This was all in aid of the very first London airing of Drawn In, by Speechless Theatre Company – that which I set up with a great friend. Thanks to everyone who came to that by the way (I know some of you regular readers were there!!!!!!).

I’ll be the first to admit it; I was bloody scared of driving a van. I’m used to driving a Mini. Van’s may be many things, but mini they are not. Unless you count minivans? But I was not to drive a minivan. No no, I was to drive one of these.

A big ol’ Ford Transit van, rented from Hertz.

Glorious. Powerful. Deadly. With a functional yet elegant design, and plenty of room out back. And all for a perfectly reasonable price, as far as I could tell. My experience in van pricing isn’t especially large.

Honestly, I was so scared that my co-founder came down to Greenwich to do the trip up to Leyton with me. Vans are big. I am small. Vans are strong. I am weak. Vans are vehicles. I am human. There are many differences between me and a van, and differences are scary.

But let me tell you, buddy – once I got used to the clutch control required (it feels very crude), and the having no rear-view mirror (liberating, as you no longer have to panic about looking behind you to see a trail of destruction) – it was hella cool. In a van you feel like the king of the road.

The seats are much higher up than in a normal car, giving you elevation and a sense of superiority over other vehicles in the road. The windscreen is really big, giving you a panoramic view of your enemies. The engine growls pleasingly, like a lion’s roar. And you drive along just knowing you can fit a shit-load of stuff in behind you, and still be the king of the road.

Of course, despite these feelings, I still drove incredibly cautiously, and kept to the speed limits at all junctures. I can see the temptation to drive like a complete idiot when in a van – you feel absolutely invincible – but I think it’s important to not drive like a complete idiot when you’re in a vehicle of any kind. You might be invincible, but not everyone is! You gotta take other peoples’ safety into the equation! Okay guys??!!

Overall I recommend driving a van for the pure visceral thrill of being the king of the road. For a similar experience, you could wear a crown and declare yourself king of all roads.

Ant Cule Reviews… Reviewing on the Go

Hi, Ant here. I wrote this on the tube yesterday, and have only just managed to publish it. Sorry for missing Monday. You can read me berating myself for such things here.

—–

I’m writing this on the tube. What a world we live in. I’m hurtling along in a metal tube underneath London, with dozens of people I’ll never see again, tapping words into a magic screen that changes at the touch of a button and the swipe of a finger.

The future is magic.
I’m on my way to the second night of Drawn In – a play that I made with a friend, through the theatre company we founded; Speechless. It’s a play with no words. That’s what we do. Speechless Theatre. Get it? It’s on until Thursday, at Theatre N16 in Balham. So if you read this on the 16th, 17th, or 18th of February 2016, then come on down. Tickets are only a tenner, which is pretty good value I think.
Is this review a hollow shell for promoting my own play? Partly. But the play has come up because it’s on my mind a lot. I’m really proud of it, and proud of what we’ve built so far, and are building with Speechless. It’s shown me how, with a little determination and passion and good people around you, you can do anything you want to. I mean, okay, that’s not strictly true. But you can put your energy and passion into something you want to do, and it works! It’s not something you should be scared of.
I was scared for a long time. I still am. But I’m scared and doing what I want to do, rather than scared and not. I know which one I’d rather.
Overall, I recommend reviewing on the go. It lets you think whilst you’re on the tube, or the train, or whatever your preferred mode of transport – and public transport isn’t really a place conducive to thinking. It’s liberating to be able to do so, even for a short while, before putting your headphones on and disappearing back into the crowd.

Ant Cule Reviews… Baking Banana Bread

Is it a bread? Is it a cake? Is it a banana? Is it all of these things, or none of them? Or simultaneously all AND none? Just what is banana bread?
I don’t propose to solve this mystery, no sir, not right now. I don’t if that’s a mystery that can ever be solved. What I propose to do, is simply review the act of making and baking some banana bread.
Bear in mind this is just this one specific instance of making (and baking) banana bread. This is not necessarily reflective of how I always make banana bread, nor even how banana bread should always be made. This is only reflective of how I made it on the evening of Monday the 8th of February 2016.
First things first, I mashed up some very ripe bananas. I used a fork to mash them, but you could also use your fist or your feet. Make sure you mash them in a bowl, rather than on the floor.

Here is evidence of how ripe the bananas were (posthumous)

Here is evidence of how ripe the bananas were (posthumous)

I then mixed up some sugar and butter in a different bowl. This is very satisfying, especially if you soften the butter prior to mixing as I did. Softened butter means it becomes much more malleable and thus you feel very strong when you mix it with the sugar – provided you then imagine it as being HARDENED butter.
Next, I smooshed the banana (mashed) into the sugar and butter (mixed), along with some vanilla essence (nice) and something else that I’ve forgotten. Oh yes. Two eggs. I remembered. I chose to remove the shells of the eggs, I find it less jagged that way. Also cracking eggs makes me feel like a Boss Chef.
I then weighed some flour (plain) and some baking powder (beautiful), before manhandling them into the banana/egg/sugar/butter goop.
I yelled “¡I am a Boss Chef!“, and then poured the mixture of all of the above into a baking tin.

Here is the mixture at the "Uncooked" stage of cooking.

Here is the mixture at the “Uncooked” stage of cooking.

I had poured about half of the mixture into the tin when I realised that I had intended to add nuts and seeds into the mixture. So I then added some nuts and seeds into the rest of the mixture. This was a real thrill. I felt like a total maverick and Boss Chef, improvising on the fly.
Once I’d mashed the nuts and seeds into the mixture, I shuttled it into an already hot oven. It is important that your oven is hot, else it won’t cook, silly!
Here’s what it looks like.

Here is the cake/bread/banana finished and fresh out of the (hot) oven.

Here is the cake/bread/banana finished and fresh out of the (hot) oven.

Over all, I highly recommend baking banana bread for it makes you feel like a ¿Boss Chef?. I don’t recommend it if you’re keen on having your baked goods easily definable.