Tuesday, March 30, 2004

The Guardian reported a kurfuffle today over "confessional artist" Tracey Emin aka Mad Tracey from Margate. Apparently, a group of eight year olds made a patchwork quilt as part of an art project and are trying to auction it for £35,000 for future art projects. Emin invited pupils from two year-four classes to nominate their ideas of beauty and then to sew the keywords in felt letters on bright fabric squares. Now she wants it back and is refusing to authenticate the work as hers, sending its value crashing. The gallery told the school in a letter: "Tracey is one of the country's leading contemporary artists and Ecclesbourne school should be proud to be in possession of such a historically valuable collaborative work ... but your actions suggest otherwise. In the light of this, Tracey has requested that the blanket is collected from the school as soon as possible."

Nobody comes off very well in this little tale, although I'd warrant that Mad Tracey comes off worst of all. Who would deprive money from a school after all? And the snobby tone of the letter suggests the sourest of grapes: the fact that such a positive PR opportunity (benevolent artist helps children) has gone horribly horribly wrong. However, Tracey belongs to the modern school of celebrity, whose credo is "All Publicity is Good Publicity" hence installations called "Everyone I Have Ever Slept with 1963-1995" and "My Cunt is Wet With Fear". Old Emin is no stranger to public battles. Ivan Massow once, Chairman of the Institute of Contemporary Arts said she "couldn't think her way out of a paper bag" (probably not - but she would have the sense to put the plastic bag in an exhibition and then sell it for several hundred thousand pounds), and her ex-boyfriend Billy Childish formed the Stuckist movement after she said to him "Your paintings are stuck, you are stuck! Stuck! Stuck! Stuck!" They say they are "opposed to the current pretensions of so-called Brit Art, Performance Art, Installation Art, Video Art, Conceptual Art, Minimal Art and anything claiming to be art which incorporates dead animals or beds - mainly because they are unremarkable and boring."

Incidentally, back to the current row - my cat needs a new blanket - so can I start the bidding at £2.50?

Monday, March 29, 2004

After sitting through dozens of stupid films where a bunch of nice, innocent middle-class teens get lost in the American Wilderness and are murdered by inbred hick locals (Ameriacn horror films are almost always all about social class), I had decided it was time to reverse the genre and make a film where a bunch of nice innocent hick locals are killed by middle=class teens. And I think I've found that film in Cabin Fever. Although I didn't like it. My sister warned me I wouldn't like it, but I had to see it anyway. The premise was OK - teens trapped in woods, threatened by deadly disease (at least it makes a change from some guy in a hockey mask). But, as with the character of Nomi in Showgirls, all of the "heroes" were thoroughly unlikeable, and you ended up cheering as they were bumped off. The film had decided to adopt what must be de rigeur teen-speak in the U.S. these days - men calling women "sluts" and everyone referring to thoughtful or sensitive behaviour or anything else they randomly don't like as "gay" (I'd like to find out who thought up that little rebranding and show them what "gay" really means). At one point, when a local hick guy who has the disease shows up asking for help, they first shoot him, then lock him outside, then hit him and then set fire to him. And all he's done is ask for help.

Dawn of the Dead (The remake) is a little better - although the reviews are calling it slick - a word which collocates in the 100 million word British National Corpus with "oil", "presentation" and "advertising". Here there was less "message" than the original and more editing, humour and action. I may be an anti-postmodernist, but I like the messages. Can we have more of them please.

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Popdizzy says he'd like to see a gay film called The Open Relationship. I think one of the biggest hurdles to maturity that gay men face is in confronting that issue at some stage. I've lost count of the number of relationships between gay men which have failed because neither one would admit to wanting to have sex with other people. It's always the same sorry pattern - a public facade of devotion and monogamy, while sneering at others who aren't the same. Then one (or usually both) start having sex in secret, maintaining that they still love their partner but would be devastated if they caught them screwing around - the hypocrisy in this is rarely acknowledged but always justified because they're a special case somehow. At some point there is a dramatic discovery resulting in lots of slapping whilst wearing big mittens (metaphorically), and they split up. Both end up getting into new relationships far too quickly, just to show the other one how they're so "over" it all. The game-playing escalates until they end up getting back together briefly - dumping all over their new boyfriends who are relatively innocent in all of this, and they'll return to an increasingly sexless state of hypocrisy, bitterness and lies, culminating in them nursing a drink on a bar-stool in their early 50s and moaning to anyone who'll listen that "all men are bastards", they "wish they were straight", they've "been hurt so many times" and it's never their fault.

I've reached numerous conclusions about why there are so many single gay men in their 30s, 40s and 50s. An inability to be honest about what they want is one reason - hence the perpetual pattern of attachment, deception and break-up. Being "in love" with being in love is another. A lot of gay men seem to want the "honeymoon period" to happen over and over, and as soon as it gets too real or mundane, then they want out. Societal homophobia plays some part, as does the fact that some gay men try to recreate heterosexual "marriage", not realising that that ain't exactly the best model to follow if you're straight and it sure as hell isn't going to work if you're two men. Also, staying in the closet during your teenage years and early 20s means that your emotional development is arrested - it's no wonder that gay men lie once they get in relationships - some of them having been lying to their families and the rest of the world for years! And finally, not having children - a baby forces you to grow up and put someone other than yourself first for a couple of decades. Straights may be unremarkable, traditional and brimming over with sedentary tastes, but a lot of them get a head-start in being grown-ups once the babies start popping out. What do gay men have instead? Circuit parties!

Monday, March 15, 2004

"The country has gone to ruin and we shouldn't render up soverignty to foreigners!"

Well, I'm Famous and Frightened is all over. And before the the weekend was out, we had the ghost of Henry VIII, putting forward his anti-Europe politics (most of the contestants decided enough was enough and said they didn't believe it). "I refuse to believe that Henry VIII would come on Living TV and talk to us!" huffed Cheryl Baker. "Would it be different if it were BBC1?" asked Tim Vincent.

But all doubts were cast aside when a seance contacted the ghost of Pat Phoenix - one of Julie Goodyear's old pals from Coronation Street, who died of lung cancer. "We'll see you in that Street again!" Pat told Julie. What could it mean? Then some of the members of the seance got conflicting messages. One of them thought Pat was telling Julie to give up smoking. But Julie and the psychic were adamant that she was saying the exact opposite as you can smoke all you like on the other side apparently: "If Pat were here now she'd slap down a pack of 20 on the table." How worrying to know that ghosts have such a bad attitude towards lung cancer, even the ones who die of it. With friends like the Ghost of Pat Phoenix, who needs enemies?
I did the match.com test again, but this time I decided I would be heterosexual and see what the computer would come up with. And here's my ideal woman:

Isn't she lovely? Apparently, Hetero Lubin goes for blondes with long hair, big breasts, skinny waists, great big smiles and little button noses. I'm a cheerleader queen in other words. Who knew?

Somewhere, in an alternative reality, my ideal man and ideal woman are having sex together. And I'm sitting outside their hotel room screaming "Let me in you bitches!"

Saturday, March 13, 2004

According to the test I took at match.com, this is my ideal man. He is a "pretty-boy" or "outdoors man". He will have a short, wavy or straight brown hair, a hairy chest, be "movie star" good-looking, have a narrow chin and angular face. Apparently, I'm pickier than 99% of other people. Thanks to Jockohomo for the link.

Last night on Living TV a line was crossed between bad taste and just plain wrong. The offending programme in question was "I'm Famous and Frightened!" - a more accurate name would be "My Career is on the Skids and I'm Frightened!" or "I'll Pretend to be Anything as long as I can get back on TV!" It was sub-derivative tv, copying I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here and Back to Reality. Like a copy of a copy though - the quality was absolutely appalling. And worse still, the "celebrity/reality" concept was merged with the particularly nasty and silly genre of Paranormality TV.

The premise - 8 very minor celebrities volunteer to spend time in a haunted house, doing "tasks" for charity. This piece of rubbish is fronted by Tim Vincent (who for his last trick presented the "controversial" and deceptive reality tv dating show "Something About Miriam" involving a transsexual). If you thought Tim couldn't scrape the bottom of the barrel, just watch him. He's now under the barrel and burying down towards the earth's inner core.

And what of these tasks for charity, which viewers have to phone up and vote who they'd like to peform for them? Well they involve encounters with "ghosts" - sitting in a locked dungeon, staring at a picture of the spooky "Grey Lady" etc. And oh what a pile of crap it is - and who knew that Julie Goodyear (formerly Bet from Coronation Street) had so much psychic potential in her? Julie experiences a "clairsentient" moment when the Grey Lady in the picture comes to life and starts to talk to her. I've transcibed this scene as it's so bad:

Tim (from the studio): What does she feel?
Julie: Anger! Great Anger!
Tim: Is she angry at her husband?
Julie: Yes.... Oh my god she still loves him!
Tim: Can you get her to speak through you
Julie: (trying very hard to summon up the acting skills): No! No I can't.
The Parapsychologist: I can help deliver her into the light. Everyone join hands and think of sunshine.

Meanwhile Keith Chegwin has closed his eyes and started swaying on the spot. Tim's attention strays to him: "Keith are you OK?" But Keith isn't able to go through with it. Just as well, because Julie wants all the psychic limelight to herself. Afterwards:

Tim: Julie, how do you feel?
Julie: Strange.
THe Parapsychologist: She'll be feeling very emotional now, we might even see a few tears in the next hour. She should be exhausted...
Julie: (very quickly) Shattered!
Keith Chegwin: It's odd but when we all held hands, it did feel as if it was getting lighter in here (yeah Keith, that's called your eyes adjusting to the darkness).

Absolutely ANYTHING is interpreted as psychic pheomena. A slight drop in temperature, a fly going past (it's viewed as a ghostly 'orb'), the noise of people whispering off-camera, someone's microphone wire touching her. The result is a group of celebrities trying to induce a kind of group hysteria into each other. It reminds me of the 13 year old girls at my school who would create a naff ouija board on a sheet of A4 paper during rainy lunch times and then get in contact with James Dean ("Oh my god, he says he's going to kill us"). They would always get these very solomn looks on their faces and spin out one urban myth after another - it would invariably end in tears - all forgotten once the next spate of bullying got going.

Apart from the campness of seeing Julie Goodyear, Cheryl Baker and Garry Bushell trying to "keep an open mind" (!!!!), I do think that programmes like this should be banned from the air. They're stupid, immature and silly - pandering to a belief system that really has no place at all in the 21st century and preying on the fragile mental health of people who need no further excuse in getting into all this crap. Of course, it won't be banned - but expect Julie Goodyear to relaunch her career in the next 6 months, with a psychic chat-show where tonight she'll be talking "live" with James Dean.

Thursday, March 11, 2004

A new font, a new background colour and a brand new day. Now all I need are a few scatter cushions and this site will have had a full make-over.

I happened to catch an episode of a very drab sitcom called Robins Nest the other night. I'd forgotten how bad sitcoms in those days were, and how many of them I watched during those wasted years of the 1970s and 1980s. A conversation with my fella suddenly revealed how many of them I'd managed to suppress. Here's my worst 10. How many do you remember, and what did I miss?

1. Fresh Fields

Starring Julia McKenzie and Anton Rogers. The "premise" was that they were an ageing couple whose children had left home. He looked like Eric Morecambe after being left out in the rain. She had a big mop of red hair. There was a nosy midgetesque neighbour called Sonia who was always walking in and announcing "it's only Sonia" (a catch-phrase that for some reason failed to take off). Later, the couple showed how ahead of fashion they were by moving to France ergo the appalling spin-off French Fields (or did I just imagine that).

2. Bread

Unbearably popular Sunday evening Carla Lane fare about an enormous Scouse family who were all constructed as scoungers and presided over by the monstrous Jean Boht. The worst offender was the eldest son Joey who wore black leather trousers and had a blonde mullet. He was supposed to be the sexy one so imagine what the others were like (Adrian - poovy, sensitive one; Jack - lumpy boring one; Billy - whiny babyish one).

3. After Henry

"Sensitive" and "gentle" Prunella Scales vehicle where she's lost her husband and is now living with her mother and daughter at the same time - three generations of women under a single household and no men (apart from the gay Russell who runs a bookshop and is small-town sophisticated - think bow-tie and eyes peering over a pair of spectacles). A firm favourite with people in nursing homes.

4. No Place Like Home

The uber-template of sitcoms set in the unrelenting boredrom of mindless suburban unchallenging heterosexual hegemony. Arthur and Beryl Crabtree have four grown-up children all who (my goodness) can't sort out their own lives and keep moving home again. A kind of wish-fulfilment fantasy on the behalf of an imagined viewer - and clearly aimed at the late 40/early 50-something audience who's children probably HAVE left home and are never coming back, so now mum and dad have a lot of time on their hands to watch naff sitcoms like this. Responsible for introducing Martin Clune to the world.

5. May to December

Anton Rogers again. This time playing a 53 year old solicitor who falls in love (gasp) with a woman half his age. Absolutely unshocking and unchallenging unless you thought Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice was a gritty read (would have been a lot better if it had been a 53 year old woman taking on a 24 year old bloke).

6. Three Up, Two Down

Despite the sligtly risque title (does it involve group sex?) it was about a class-clash whereby a working-class man marries a posh woman and their respective in-laws end up sharing a basement granny flat - with lots of non-sexual chemistry, tension, hilarious misunderstandings and affection.

7. Last of the Summer Wine

Why were all the worst ones on Sunday nights? The not-very-funny antics of three village idiots - evoking a long-gone less complicated world of gentle yet wry Northern life: Hovis bread, outside toilets, sculleries and pigeon fanciers. Hugely popular and much-loved (going on for 23 series - boy did it ever overstay its welcome) which probably says a lot about the collective IQ of the UK.

8. Terry and June

The ultimate in naff-naff-naff. Like Seinfeld, T+J is a show about absolutely nothing at all yet strangely, unlike Seinfeld, Terry and June wasn't funny. They were a married couple. They lived in Suburbia. Their lives never changed but they just got older and older. An appalling waste of brillant actress June Whitfield's time. And mine.

9. Full House

Posh couple and common couple have to share a house together. What sort of japes are going to ensue? Will they learn to be more tolerant and accepting of each other's lifestyles or will it all end in a bloodbath ala Kalifornia. Oh if only.

10. Open All Hours

Another of the "gentle northern humour" comedies set in a small corner shop. Manager (Ronnie Barker) had a (oh my god I'm going to wet myself it's so funny) stutter. David Jason (don't get me started on Only Fools and Horses) also starred. There was a big fat nurse who was an object of sexual frustration/lust too. Just wrong.

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Everyone is fat now

I've suddenly realised that the whole country got fat last year and nobody bothered to announce it until now. I blame the "fashion" for not tucking in shirts - an act which I immediately associated with laziness and untidiness - and you know what - I was right! It was just an excuse so that people could add on an extra 6 inches to their waistline and nobody would notice. An advert for a new type of Pringles has just come out. Once you pop - you just can't stop... (stop what? Eating, eating, eating). These new Pringles are based on the notion of the duck-billed platypus - they have a little in-built trough so are ideal for shovelling in more of your high-fat cheese/salsa dip. One of my cousins has just had her stomach stapled. My sister is on a diet. I have been wrestling with having a carefrontation with my father after his weight has gone up to 18 stone. In the changing room yesterday I was amazed at the number of obese men around me - guts ballooning out. Is anyone counting the calories? It seems McDonalds are - they have just announced they're going to stock Quorn-burgers, fruit and salads. They've also got rid of their huge portion options and are reducing the amount of salt in their fries. I haven't been able to go into a McDonalds for years - the smell - of poverty and fatty food always sends me reeling. The food disgusts me - a couple of times I've been stuck on a long journey and it's been the only option. The pores in my face immediately start to sweat it all out leaving the vile smell around me until I find a facial wipe. ITV have Celebrity Fit Club, Channel 4 have a similar reality show. Even Trevor McDonald (who is usually the last person to surf the fashion wave) had a couple of fatty families being sent off to do laps by Daley Thompson Personal Trainer to the Stars.

But at the same time - the discourse of "fat is bad" appears alongside a discourse of non-discrimination and acceptance. "Be yourself" - accept your fatness as part of you. Embrace and love it. Eat chocolate. Look at Dawn French - she doesn't give a shit. People who don't like fat people are shallow because all they care about are surfaces and appearances. They want everyone to look like Barbie dolls, and anyway, all the fashion designers are gay men who design clothes for women while thinking about chickens with 26 inch waists. And look at what dieting does for you: anyone heard of Calista-Stick Flockheart?. Forget sticks and stones will break my bones. Sticks and stones WERE her bones. Do you really want to be an anorexic?

The constant push and pull of these conflicting ideologies have resulted in a society which doesn't know what it wants or where it stands on the fat/thin issue. And the answer is so simple - moderation. Unfortunately moderation doesn't sell newspapers or get tv ratings. So hideously fat people being air-lifted onto the Jerry Springer show, or hideously thin people revealing their shocking xylophone bodies are always going to result in spectacle, comment and ultimately emulation.

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

I once knew someone who looked a bit like this - and rather cruelly used to call him "The-hills-have-eyes" behind his back.

I never knew that a film rental place could be so fruitful. I'd always looked down on them a bit in the past, but after being bored by the very limited choice on offer at the very local HMV, I decided to give one a look. Once I'd got over the initial smell of wet dog and Mrs Crazy McCrazy who decided she knew me (she didn't), my name was George (it isn't) and she wanted my opinion on whether she should rent out Identity, I realised it was OK.

Anyway, I rented out a few horror films and am coming to the conclusion that horror films are all about fears of social class. Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Hills Have Eyes, Wendigo, RoadKill, Jeepers Creepers, Wrong Turn, The Blair Witch Project... they all feature nice middle-class city types who get lost in the backwoords and encounter assorted pin-headed inbred hick hill-billy scary weirdos who want to eat their babies. The UK is a bit too small to have these vast unknown expanses of wilderness (also we sensibly don't have guns), but Dog Soldiers and An American Werewolf in London did their best. And zombie films? Fear of the proletariat. Vampire films - fear of the upper-classes.

Speaking of social class, I tuned in to The OC on Sunday, after reading a gushing review in the Guardian about it (plot - boy from rough neighbourhood is adopted by swanky family - moral messages are learnt). But I turned off, bored, vowing never to watch again. It has that awful earnestness and "knowingness" that Dawson's Creek had. No! I'm off American drama until we get the L Word.

Wednesday, March 03, 2004

Woof Woof

What I have done is disgusting and I’m so ashamed, but I am only human — I can only beg for forgiveness. My only hope is that the people I know and love can find it in their hearts to forgive me.

So speaks footballer Stan Collymore after being caught on camera by two undercover reporters who worked for Britiain's most liberal newspaper (not!) The Sun engaging in "dogging", Britain's craziest new sex pastime. Dogging (or straight people having sex outdoors for an appreciative audience), has apparently been around since the 70s, but is gradually reaching new heights of popularity due to the internet and text messaging. Gay men have been doing something similar for years, although don't tend to want an audience (the general belief being that if you get off with someone nice, you want him all to yourself). Gay cruising or cottaging generally led to tabloid hell and sermonising. But now it's out in the open and guess what, the straights are just as bad! The moral panic officially began on Thursday 18 September 2003 when the BBC reported that health chiefs in Kent were warning that dogging "may be partially responsible for rises in chlamydia, HIV, syphilis and hepatitis". Now the Scotsman is making similar warnings.

Stan Collymore has apparently checked in to the Priory for depression after the revelations were made across the tabloid press.

And now here's what will happen next. There will be a spate of similar tabloid stings, confessions, calls by religious, conservative, and health groups for government legislation, hand-wringing mixed with a prurient interest. The tone will go from disgusted cries of "it's the end of the world" to downright envy. And then all the straights will start doing it. Businesses will open, first in London, where "dogging" can be carried out safely, indoors, for a fee. It will get taxed and spread to the provinces. Give it 15 years and nobody will bat an eyelid. And Stan Collymore will be spoken of in dogging circles with the same sort of respect that Quentin Crisp and Alan Turing get from the gay community. As for The Sun - well, there'll always be nasty little people ready to read nasty little stories.

In the meantime, I've reworded Stan Collymore's public statement, as I would like it to have read - "fuck the lot of you, you narrow-minded, hypocritical bitches. I'll do exactly as I like. I'm not ashamed of my sexuality - what I do is between me and my loved ones, so keep your fucking nose out." (Don't I have a dirty mouth when I get going!)

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

RoadKill (Joy Ride in the US) is a pretty silly film, although it does have a rather nice scene where Steve Zahn and Paul Walker walk into a diner without their clothes.

Monday, March 01, 2004

My interest/disapproval in new versions of Monopoly continues... Forget Ghettopoloy, now there's Catholic-opoly. You wouldn't have thought that a game based on pure capitalism could be so easily converted into a (fun) tool of religious instruction, but there you go. I wonder what the Community Chest cards say? "You have been abused by a paedophile priest, lose 200 God points", "You have been found with contraception in your purse - Go to Hail Mary avenue, do not pass Heaven", "The Pope ex-communicates you for singing blasphemous songs about him - go to Sinead O'Connor Lane". Almost endless fun.

Speaking of Monopoly - I segue into my own real-world attempts to buy property to rent out. And what I've been finding is, it's a nasty, nasty cut-throat business. After viewing some awful houses in various states of disrepair I made an offer on one house, giving the asking price. An hour later the estate agent got back in touch to say the seller had decided the house was now worth £10,000 more than the asking price, so what was I going to do about it. I told him to get stuffed. They then got back in touch to ask for £5,000 more. Again, I said forget it. A day later he dropped back down to original asking price, but by then I'd bought somewhere else, so he lost the sale. Isn't it nice when life is like an Aesop's Fable?

And of all the soaps in the world, you'd never have guessed that Coronation Street could handle a gay storyline so sensitively. Last night the new "straight-acting" gay character Karl got trapped with closet-case Todd in a lift (OK, so that's an old plot device) and made a speech about how difficult it is for gay people to maintain relationships because "out there" it's either thugs beating you up or little old ladies hitting you over the head with their brollies (nice to see those two groups linked together - common denominator ignorance and hate). There's bound to be tears ahead (Todd's got his girlfriend pregnant), but what a welcome relief Karl is from "ooh missus" jokes and self-loathing. Now if only Todd's even more hunky brother Jason can be persuaded to come out of the closet too...