Thursday, December 30, 2004

The Christmas tree, having overstayed its welcome, was taken down last night. Various friends and relatives have been visiting, which has been nice. The Asia Earthquake on the news is alternatively annoying, upsetting, boring and exciting. I've hated watching the total of dead people rise and rise (it's a bit like watching Blue Peter when they have one of their charity drives - how much money have we made this week? Let's look at the chart.... oh, it's going up.... £100,000. Well done everyone!") I'm also kind of annoyed that the number of dead British people is made such a fuss about, when it's barely in double figures, whereas there are hundreds of thousands of mortalities.

I've been to Sri Lanka in the past, it's one of those countries where it's very easy for wealthy westerners to have guilty luxury holidays as things are so cheap. I do remember travelling along the costal roads on the way from one resort to another and seeing mile after mile of shanty towns, although what struck me was how smilely the people were (and how many of them had brilliant white teeth - I guess that's what a lack of access to western junk food will give you). One thing I'm pretty certain of though, not many of those little makeshift houses are likely to still exist after this week. Rotten luck for communities that weren't particularly lucky in the first place.

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Channeling Gene

Having just watched Singing in the Rain on Channel 5, here's a picture of Gene Kelly in a sailor suit (two of my favourite things).

When I was very young I used to dance around my grandparent's lawn re-enacting Singing in the Rain, to the amusement of my family. I think they all should have realised something was up even then...

I had 31 spams in my mailbox today. It seems that the spammers don't stop, even for Christmas. They probably have little automated programs which do the spamming for them, but I like to think of them sitting in their scruffy homes, refusing to leave the spare bedroom/office to eat Christmas Dinner because they still have another 30 million pointless emails to send out.

Friday, December 24, 2004

I haven't been doing very much except watching tv and reading. My new television (see below) is so large and has such good picture quality that you can see all of the minute facial flaws of actors who you previously thought were quite attractive. Now nobody's poor dental hygiene or lack of skincare routine can escape me. I'm not even going to mention the Big Brother Pantomime "experiment", except to say that Kitten looked even more mortified than usual and everyone involved should really be very ashamed of themselves.

I am reading a big sociology textbook (for fun) and am up to the chapter on social class. It is (unintentionaly) hilarious in places and should be turned into a sitcom with a voiceover reading out bits of the book exactly as they are written. Apparently you can tell your social class by the way your sofas are arranged. Also, working-class people "live for the moment", and say things like "what will be will be", which has become something of a constant catch-phrase in Casa Odana over the last few days.

I am also reading Jon Ronson's "Them" - he's one of those young humorous journalists (the ones who write the G2 "tabloid" section of The Guardian), a bit gawky, but kind of endearing with it. His book examines the theory that a small group of powerful people (The Bildeberg Group aka The New World Order) rule the world, meeting once a year in various hotels. They may or may not be giant lizards, depending on who you listen to. I think I might have absent-mindedly filled in a membership form for them (it was at the back of an old copy of GQ magazine). However, I decided not to send it off - controlling the world is a big committment, and I'd rather free up my evenings and weekends for arranging my sofas and living for the moment.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

You can keep Little Britain and its 1970s-esque, safe, predictable comedy. My favourite comedy series of the last couple of years is 3 Non-Blondes, now out on DVD. A "character"-driven sketch show, the girls approach members of the public and start interacting with them, in increasingly bizarre ways. Sometimes they dress as businesswomen and pick fights with each other. My favourite series of sketches involves them dressing as The Queen of Swaziland, her interpreter and a representative from the U.N. The Queen decides she wants to meet a member of the public and then throws a huge tantrum when they accidentally make eye contact with her. The U.N. representative then usually resigns on the spot, leaving the poor member of the public alone with the furious queen who speaks no English.

My favourite non-blonde is Jocelyn Jee Esien, who is able to make me laugh without doing anything. Whenever I'm in touristy bits of London, I always look out for her, hoping she'll try and involve me in one of her sketches by talking bad rap-rhymes to me ("check my lyrics, check my lyrics", saying "vah vah vah vah vah vah vah do you know if there are any vegetarian restaurants round here?" or shining a torch under her face, screaming "AAaaaaahhh! The witching hour approches!" and proclaiming "I LOVE horror films!" I think I would probably propose to her on the spot.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Evil Edna

It was the biggest one in the shop, comes fully prepared for HDTV and looks sleekly evil. I haven't left the sofa all week. Even QVC seems oddly relevant and beautiful when watched on it. I feel like I've turned into one of those futuristic women in 1960s science fiction short stories written by people like Asimov and Bradbury. They had names like Lenina or Jimilla84. They gradually became addicted to the "telescreen" and could no longer tell real life from reality tv etc. Just call me Lenina.

Gaydar have started a new thing, (or maybe it's an old thing that I just noticed) where users can nominate their favourite profiles, which are then presented in monthly top 10s. The winners all look exactly as you would imagine. After thinking about it for 4 seconds, I decided it was time to delete my profile. I've not exactly made any friends on gaydar, maybe having a profile that says "I am in a relationship" isn't going to help, and I never really entered into the spirit of things, as I didn't have any pictures of my private parts. Also, I could never get into the habit of calling other people "m8". However, it's very easy to mock gaydar, too easy. So I'll stop now. Back to the tv...

Monday, December 20, 2004

What's the Matter With Waterstones?

I am fairly lucky, living in a small town which has a large University-based population, so there are several bookshops and even an arts cinema, even if it does show films about 6 months later than everywhere else.

However, I've noticed a change in the local Waterstones bookshop over the last few years. A definite dumbing-down-down-down. My Waterstones is quite small, but in the past there were sections for gay novels, cult novels and "black" writing. All this has now gone. And what's in place? A whole section on cats. Another section on doing things with extra-virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Another section about taking walks in France. All very good if you are a middle-class 48 year old woman called Anne, but not so much fun for anyone else.

In addition, there seem to be more and more books that aren't actually proper books at all, but are more for people who don't really like to read. These "books" tend to be quite small, have lots of pictures in them, and are "funny". I know that this is more of a trend at Christmas, but they do seem to be gaining ground throughout the year. They tend to have titles like "Crap Towns" or "Bad Hairstyles". They take all of 10 minutes to read. I guess they're for people who don't like to commit to having to read a full book, but would rather be seen to have books in their house, without the nasty fuss of reading/thinking.

I always instinctively distrust and hate people who say they never read books. I feel like saying, "OK, how about you give your human DNA back and become a horse instead!" I regularly have about five books on the go at once, and have always read from an early age. I got eye strain as a child because I would never go straight to sleep, but would read under the covers. While I also love television and particularly film, I do think that there's something you get from a book that tv/film can't give you (and vice versa for that matter). Maybe with the likes of Amazon, bookshops have had to go for a lower common denominator in order to survive. But it does make browsing a smallish bookshop into a less enjoyable experience. Now where's the balsamic vinegar?

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Did anyone see Tracy Emin's "Top Spot" last night on BBC3? Having read a fascinating interview in The Guardian with Emin about the film, where she loses her temper with the interviewer who is less than fawning about it("I DON'T NEED THIS CRAP FROM YOU", "When was the last time you went to the cinema?"), I was interested in seeing what all the fuss was about and whether it was as boring as the interviewer had claimed (and whether it deserved the 15 certificate for its teen suicide scene).

So....I liked the music, and as a fan of slightly crap British seaside towns, the scenery was good too. But I wasn't mad on the rest of it. There were a couple of moments where the film captured something about the fragility and resilience of being a teenage girl, but the dialogue could have been better. And maybe there should have been a couple of big explosions, a bit more gratuitous nudity (only kidding).

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Here's to the Ladies Who Race.

The Amazing Race (season 6) is underway in the U.S. and it's proving to be as crazy, high-octane and emotive as previous series. Ostensibly an elimation/race contest, the real fun is in watching the slowly disintegrating relationships between contestants as Time Runs Out for them. Oh, and it's also quite amusing seeing pampered westeners having to deal (often in disgust) with other cultures: "We're in ghetto Africa" said one contestant last week "They just keep breeding!"

Despite the numerous boring aspiring model/actor pairings, there are a few crazies who make the show so watchable. My favourite are Victoria and Jonathan. He has blue hair and is so controlling and Type-A that he occasionally resorts to physical violence in moments of frustration. Poor Victoria just trails along after him, unable to do anything right in his eyes. He also has an amusing high-pitched squawling voice. Having come 2nd three times so far, they are desparate to win - Jonathan ditched his rucksack last week in order to hurry across the finish line. But it was up to Victoria to pick it up (scared someone would steal it) and carry his rucksack and her own to the finish. Wracked with agony, and screaming and wheezing EXACTLY like Heather in the final seconds of The Blair Project, she limped second place again. Jonathan's ensuing rage could only be heard by dogs in a five mile radius. I give their relationship exactly five more minutes. And if they're not exciting enough, there are pro-wrestler couple Lori and Bolo (described by another "kindly" contestant as 5ft and on steroids). When the red mist descends over their relationship (and it's often) expect the fur to fly, in words of one syllable only. They must win (with Jonathan and Victoria coming in second place hopefully).

Monday, December 13, 2004

Spaghetti Western Addict

I'm so happy because I have discovered another thing that I like. I caught the last 10 minutes of The Good, The Bad and The Ugly the other night and was impressed at the camp music, the starkly beautiful vistas, the tense facial close-ups, the cool masculinity and the clever three-way end-game.

Having now obtained and watched the whole film (all three hours of it), I have now fallen in love with the whole genre. And Clint Eastwood. Clint Eastwood stroking a kitten! Clint Eastwood offering a cigarette to a dying Brad Pitt lookalike! Clint Eastwood striding around in a poncho! It's one of the most homoerotic films I've ever seen. (Off-side, Clint reminds me a lot of cowboy Colby from Survivor 2, who is rumoured to be in his own homoerotic relationship with host Jeff Probst. I wish I could believe it).

My Dad also likes Spaghetti Westerns, although probably for quite different reasons. Still, at least this gives us something extra to talk about over Christmas.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

New Word for the Day

When tv shows go bad, it's called "Jumping the Shark" (after the episode of Happy Days when the Fonz did just that. As far as I'm concerned, Happy Days jumped the shark in the first scene of the first episode, but that's beside the point.) Over at lots of co, there is a discussion about how to refer to tv shows that suddenly get good. The consensus seems to be locklearing - after Heather Locklear who did wonders for Melrose Place towards the end of Season 1.

Here are some of my favourite locklearing moments:

Coronation Street - when Jason Grimshaw kissed Nicky. The soap hasn't looked back since.

Big Brother4 (US) - when Jack said Dana had the sex appeal of a buzzard's crotch

Will & Grace - when Karen and Jack touched stomachs in episode 2.

Surivor series 1 - when the tribes merged and Gretchen got shockingly voted off.

EastEnders - when Michelle learnt she was pregnant (this is going back to the mid 1980s now, it's since jumped the shark many many times).

Footballer's Wives - The first time Gary Lucy's bare arse appeared in a shower-room sequence.

Bad Girls - The arrival of glamorous con-artistes Stephanie Beecham and Amanda Barrie as the "Costa Cons".

Blakes Seven - When Servalan said "Maximum Power!"

Flame on!

So Gerald Allan, Republican representative in Alabama (looks like a creepy closet case to me) wants to ban literature or other materials that "promote homosexuality". I think I'm having a flashback to 1988 and Margaret Thatcher's abominable Clause 28. You know that you're dealing with someone who's not exactly playing with a full deck of cards when they advocate book banning - don't they realise that they've become reduced to playing a two-dimensional character in the Ray Bradbury book Farenheit 451.

Still, as I remember, that had a happy ending - a small group of people saved literature by memorising the entire contents of books.

So just incase, I'd like to volunteer to memorise Gore Vidal's The City and The Pillar. Allan may eventually get round to burning books, but he can't burn memories. Anyone care to take Maupin, Wilde or Hollinghurst?

Monday, December 06, 2004

Sunday, December 05, 2004

A boozer, a user and a loser.

My own experience of mature students is that they're generally good, if a bit neurotic. Totally unlike Jerri Blank, star of American sitcom Strangers With Candy, which never made it across to the UK, but is awfully good. Jerri is a 43 year old high school freshman, still trying to get through school, having spent the last 25 years with her "donkey act" in South America, when she wasn't in in prison. Based on a real-life documentary called The Way Back, all three series of Strangers With Candy are now out on DVD. The pictures above are from the great cartoonesque title sequence, showing all the key points in Jerri's life. Love it.