Thursday, October 30, 2003

Squirrels in the garden





Watched Threads last night with my fella. Threads was made in the 1980s, about a nuclear bomb that gets dropped on Sheffield and the subsequent miserable 10 years afterwards. It ends with a girl giving birth to a mutant. It scared the shit out of me when it was first aired. My fella refused to watch it the first time round, dismissing it as "leftie propaganda" (thank god he's not the Tory boy he once was). Watching it again though, we were struck by a number of things - would life really be that miserable? Wouldn't people eventually adjust and at least start talking to each other again instead of sitting round fires in gloomy silence? Surely the human spirit would resurface? And why was the nuclear wind still going after 10 years? And why was there no humanitarian aid? And why didn't anybody bother to tidy up - even after 10 years, there was rubble everywhere - even the video player in the makeshift classroom was absolutely covered in debris - surely someone could have taken a second out of their life to wipe it with their hand? The message is that the first casualty of war isn't "truth" but cleaning.

The other thing that struck me in the video was how bad everyone's hair was in the 1980s. This was pre-conditioner and it showed. Everyone had dry, unmangeable hair that was an ugly shade of ginger/brown. This made me realise just how many people dye, sorry "colour" their hair these days. The truth is that no-one is a natural blonde in the UK. Do we need a more chilling message than that?

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

This from Two Slugs Kissing about how he blagged his way into a magazine article looking for Britain's sexiest man, is funny (thanks Laurence for the link). He reminds me of me, about five years ago, before I went boring.



He's not the best singer on Pop Idol, but he's got the nicest hair, ergo he should win. Vote Andy. Vote more than once. Exercise your right to live in a democracy!

Watched Barbarella on DVD last night. I love that film - the music is fantastic, set design is suitably 1960s (lots of inflatable cushions), Anita Pallenberg (with Fenella Fielding's voice) is wonderful, and Jane Fonda is so sexy that by the end of the film I would have turned heterosexual had she not said so many camp lines: "A good many dramatic situations begin with screaming...", "This really is too poetic a way to die" and my favourite "Do you mean they're still living in a primitive state of neurotic irresponsibility?"

I love an atmosphere.... I love a party with a happy atmosphere... So let me take you there, and you and I'll be dancing in the cool night air!

VH1 have been having a "worst of" weekend, which I dutifully watched. My favourite "worst of" is Russ Abbot's "I love a party with a happy atmosphere", which I can no longer hear without thinking in terms of an ironic reading of it. Russ is wearing a Daddyesque unfashionable pullover from the 1980s, he's been under the sunbed too long and he looks like the Alpha male among a group of 40-60 year old men who hang out in a gay pub in a small town.

Irony is everywhere these days. And it's been spoilt as a result. When me and my friends were listening to our Reader's Digest Sensational 70s Boxed Set in 1988, we were on to something - we rehabilitated the 1970s - getting fresh enjoyment out of old songs that nobody else wanted to hear. Nanna's record collection was suddenly gold-dust. Now trash is everywhere, repackaged ironically for your pleasure. School disco, retro, the knowing wink... it's so ubiqitous, everything's a reference to a reference. Where will it all end? Is it possible to be post-ironic? Or is there no going back, as I suspect.

Friday, October 24, 2003

I love the way that the Americans on Joe Millionaire pronounce the word "chateau" (with rising emphasis on the final syllable). Last night "Joe" and one of his dates gave the cameras the slip and went off into the woods for some outdoor snogging. Fortuantely they had left on their microphones, so we were treated to a lot of subtitles which went something like "Mmmmmm (smack) yeh, he he he (slurp) mmm." Did you want to shower after watching? I did.

Over at Living TV, the Stripsearch troupe have now been formed, dance instructor Inez has had injections into her lips and nobody dares mention them (except me) and a group of female rugby players got to be guinea pigs on the boys' first night on stage. What they lacked in co-ordination they made up for in enthusiasm. There was something sadistic about watching the poor men getting all-over body waxes - especially poor Welsh David who was literally face down on the bed and biting the pillow. Later, they had a photoshoot with a camp northern photographer who lists Shirely Bassey and Prince Charles as his former subjects (possibly not at the same time). We also got to see a big black penis several times therefore reinforcing the stereotype. Although the premise of StripSearch is unquestionably tacky, the series has provoked more moments of drama, tenderness and suspense than any other tv show I have watched this year. Oh, and David's butt looked lovely once it had been waxed.

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

Attended a talk by Gina, a male to female transsexual last night. A lot of what she said made me quite angry - not at her, but at the prejudice and sniggers that she has to put up with on an almost daily basis. Trained as a solictor, she has had to take cleaning jobs, and says that she finds it extremely difficult to find work, despite being highly qualified. Members of her family have disassociated themselves from her, her doctor was clueless and had to rely on her to tell him how to proceed and she regularly gets abuse from members of the Great British Public. As I understand it, the current situation with transsexual people is that they have to live for a couple of years as a member of the opposite sex before they can be considered for medical treatment. As Gina explained, that only really works if the rest of society is prepared to accept that. But they're not. The suicide rate for transexual people is high - as high as 50%. Gina began her talk by pleading for acceptance, understanding and tolerance. It made me think about the way that gay people were classed as freaks or medical abberants and accordingly victimised in the 1950s. Gina is not a freak. But the rest of society is. Her outlook is that there's not much point in trying to change older people in society - their attitudes have hardened and they're too set in their ways. Instead, she is concerned with going into schools - talking to young people. She's remarkably brave and incredibly dignified. She also spoke about her ambivalence at being cast in with gay, lesbian and bisexual people, as well as transvestites. With LBGT it seems that the "T" is very much tagged on the end. People who try to be sympathetic tell her "Some of my best friends are gay" as if that makes it OK. Maybe we need to rewrite LGBT as TBLG?

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I am a probably the most pure example of a Type-A personality you will ever meet. I was always first finished at school and spent most of my time waiting for everyone to catch up with me. I wolf down my food before anyone else, jiggle my knees or tap my fingers when sitting, finish people's sentences (in my head), walk fast, talk fast and type fast, am always thinking of where I have to be next, find it hard to "relax" and am impatient, especially if I have to wait.

This has had its advantages over the years - I'm very productive - which has resulted in promotions at work. I used to be so fast that sometimes quality would suffer, but I think I've got over that. I seem to get a lot more done than most people, and I think it's the reason why I find it hard to put on weight. But there are downsides to it as well. I'm almost always on time - and can't stand people who are late - I view it as a form of power when someone makes you wait for them. I have a quick temper which can flare up and be over in seconds, which makes me rueful, but at least provides bystanders with entertainment. If I stop doing things I get bored, and I particularly don't like routines or monotony. I find relaxed Type-B's very difficult to be around - especially if they don't seem to possess a passion for anything. Diffidence or "slacking" annoys the hell out of me. Or at least it does for about five minutes. Then I'm over it and on to the next thing...

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

Hurrah, Pop Dizzy is back - with more pictures, more colour and more sarcasm than ever.

Like Zbornak, I recently saw and enjoyed Party Monster (I'm starting to think that my blog should be retitled "Everything that Zbornak said yesterday minus the stuff on Angela Lansbury") Shame on the Guardian for giving it 1 star - snobs! My favourite part of the film was when James St. James advises Michael Alig on how to be a super success on the disco/party circuit. You enter a party, saying hello to everyone, especially people you don't know, and then make your way round the room, telling everyone you've lost your friend. You friend is doing the same thing, but in a counter-clockwise direction. When you finally meet up there is much squealing and clapping, and then you go back round the room telling everyone you've found your friend. Do that for three months and you'll be the toast of New York. (I paraphrase, but you get the idea.) I was kind of missing Parker Posey who seems to be an essential ingredient for New York disco films, but Chloe Sevigny made up for it.

I haven't bought a lifestyle magazine for a week now, and Naomi Cleaver's evil "Other People's Houses" has finished, so I think my home addiction is coming to an end. I'm afraid I went a bit far when I decided to paint a huge burgendy square on one of the walls of the spare room. People are kindly calling it a bold statement.

Me and my fella were the first people to move into my swanky new building. Since we moved in, an Asian couple have moved in upstairs (although they're never there). A middle-aged white couple also moved in last week. The company who own the building have been advertising it in my fussy local newspaper every week and last week decided to run a two page spread about it, with lots of fuss and fanfare. Quotes that I emailed them on request about "high specifications" and "superb aftercare packages" were freely used. A photographer was also summoned, to take pictures of the happy residents living in their sophisticated surroundings. Now reader, guess who appeared in these photographs:

a) the gay couple
b) the Asian couple
c) the white heterosexual couple

It was C. Need you ask?

Thanks to Tivo, I have been indulging in rather downbeat B Movies all week: The Omega Man, The Illustrated Man and The Blob. This all led to a rather maudlin conversation last night which started with "what's the point of it all?" and ended with "The only thing we can be certain of is death." I think I need some frothy romantic comedy to raise my spirits.

Thursday, October 16, 2003

The country, if we were to believe the papers, is in outrage because channel 4 showed two teenagers having sex on Big Brother last night.

While I felt almost as skanky as "witchy" Jade and "inarticulate" Tommy when I watched them having sex under a duvet, I guess the issue is whether a) it's oK for teenagers to have sex or b) it's OK to show them on tv doing it?

The teenage "experiement" Big Brother (which was only supposed to be shown as a schools programme during the day to educate youngsters about group dymanics etc) was suddenly switched to a prime-time slot. That seems somewhat manipulative. Yes, it was good tv - Big Brother 4 was a huge dull dud and by not letting the contestants worry about public votes, there was a lot more "reality" and a lot less tongue-biting and counting to 10. Also, by using a group of 18 year olds with wildly different perspectives on life, you could guarantee that bitchy sparks would fly everywhere. Some of the teenagers weren't likable (much - the only one I really liked was sheltered, sunny, pretty Caroline who reminds me of the nice students I am lucky enough to teach) but they were at least full of energy.

At least the bar has been raised now. BB5 needs to feature transsexual nuns having S/M sex if it expects to achieve any sort of ratings victory.

Monday, October 13, 2003

Every year at this time I also catch a cold. All the students return with their funny foreign diseases from places like Scunthorpe and Cardiff, and eventually I touch a door handle or something covered in germs and that's it. It started yesterday so I took to my bed in a huff and watched pay-per-view films on Sky all night: Swim Fan is a teenage version of Fatal Attraction starring Jesse Bradford who has an interesting face and body but it turns me right off because he can't talk intelligently about art. Who could love such a person? I could and you could, that's who. Mary he's gorgeous etc... I also saw One Hour Photo which was more rivetting - nice to see Robin Williams playing someone so fucked-up (although I still found him more scary in Mrs Doubtfire).

An interesting new blog log I have discovered is jaymaster (because he has a Tivo and we agree on a lot of stuff). I've also been rather taken with Let me get this straight of late.

Thursday, October 09, 2003

When I was younger, my dad went to a funeral of one of them men at work. I later found out that the guy had killed himself after being convicted for cottaging. When I "came out" to my parents, one of the first things they warned me about was "hanging round public toilets" - the fate of the work colleague still looming large.

I have never been arrested for cottaging, but I know people who have. The brother-in-law of a gay friend was caught by the police, disgraced in front of his wife, children and neighbours. He killed himself too. Another friend told me about his arrest at the age of 18 - being hauled back home by the police, who announced to his parents that their son was both gay and under arrest for having sex with men in a toilet. The guy was clinically depressed for months. But it didn't stop him going back to the same toilets a year later.

I therefore have rather emotional and strong feelings about the subject of cottaging. I can't recommend it - I find it mildly annoying if I encounter it, but it fills me with rage that people can be arrested for something so petty - leading to ruined lives, not just their own, but those of their families.

The government are planning a new Clause (74) of their Sexual Offences Act. This actually hardens the response to men having sex in public toilets, by sending them to prison for up to two years. Two years for touching someone's cock! You don't need Annie Lennox singing "Sex Crime" to tell you how wrong and fucked up that is. And I'm sorry, but I don't want my tax money to go on putting people in prison for something like that.

With that said, I am stumped for an alternative solution. Providing more bona fide places for gay people to meet may help a little, but some people cottage because the danger and sleaze is a turn-on. Installing attendants or CCTV would be expensive, and closing the loos down wouldn't benefit people like me, who have a peanut bladder. Perhaps removing the sense of stigma associated with gay sex and public sex would make it less attractive to some people, while opening up other options. I don't think that the solution proposed by the government is the right one - it sends out the wrong message, which will lead to more stigmatisation, which will lead to fewer people coming out, which will lead to more surruptitious sexual activity in public toilets.

Monday, October 06, 2003

Saturday: I watched a whole night of ITV. Is this what being middle-aged is? Have I come to this?

So Coronation Street leaps into the 20th century with its first gay kiss.
Something strange is happening to Corrie - it's trying to contemporise - first
an Asian family! (But they're all quite nice really and one of them used to be in that Victoria Wood thing) Then people on drugs! (But it was all by accident and funny rather than tragic and involving guns). And now a gay kiss! (But don't worry because it only last a milisecond and involved a "confused" teen kissing a passed out man who didn't return his affections.

Actually, hard-hitting political messages aside, Corrie is turning into a half-hour long Victoria Wood sketch. We've already got the dippy Asian lass from Dinnerladies, add to that Susie Blake who used to be the newsreader on Victoria Wood As Seen on TV (showing my age now kids aren't I), and the fact that Ms Wood does the voiceovers for Cadburys who sponser the programme. What next? Julie Walters and Celia Imrie having a threesome with Duncan Preston on Emily Bishop's eiderdown?

My first day of teaching for this term and it didn't go swimmingly. I was happyhappyhappy as the students filed in to the shiny new computer lab. I'd practiced being avuncular and caring all at once. But it all went to pieces when all the computers turned out to have viruses and support services didn't show up until 10 minutes before the class ended. While we were waiting I instigated a discussion about how the students were getting on in their first week, but eventually gave up and sent them back to bed.

I wish the people who created viruses got to have more sex. It's just a cry for help really.