Thursday, December 29, 2005

Christmas is about vegging out, and I have been spending my mornings watching a never-ending stream of American sitcoms. I usually skip the ones set in the mid-west with families, but like the ones in LA or New York which tend to be bitchier and faster. Less Than Perfect is about a small town, slightly frowsy ingenue trying to eke out a life for herself in the world of media, among the backstabbing and catfighting. It's not very demanding and kind of sweet - with a little moral message at the end of each episode. And I am finding Will Sasso who plays Carl Monari to be alluring, which is not my usual type at all.

Am off to Marrakesh tomorrow - can't stand any more of the minus temperatures here.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Between the ages of 10 and 15 I was obsessed with the idea of "personality" and collected lots of books full of personality "tests", mainly involving multiple choice questions. This interest inspired me to take a Psychology BSc, which by that time I was kind of over the whole thing. The problem with personality tests is that they're fun, but like Hannibal Lecter once said "Do you think you can dissect me with your blunt little tool?" And many psychologists would today disagree with the idea of people having stable personalities. Take the old Temperment personality test, which is based on the Medieval notion that we have four types of "humors" or bodily fluids in us and an excess of one or the other will give us a particular temperment. You can either be introverted or extroverted as well as stable or unstable. This produces 4 personality types - stable extroverts are sunny sanguines, unstable extroverts are cholerics, prone to violence and crime. Stable introverts are phlegmatics, sensible and introspective. While unstable introverts are melancholics, pessimists and tending to being miserable. This test lets you work out which one you are. It's a series of multiple choice questions. However, you have to pick one option for each question. Take question 5:

In social situations, you tend to be:
a) Friendly and outgoing, a true social butterfly
b) The one who silently takes it all in, until spoken to
c) Content and passive - you quietly enjoy the company of others
d) The first one to arrive and the last one to leave

I had to think about this. And I couldn't answer it. Because it depends. I can be option a but generally tend not to enjoy parties and am glad when they're over - but there isn't an option for that and b) doesn't really cover it. It depends on what mood I'm in at the time, who I'm with, who's at the party, whether I'm tired or hungry or have had a good or a bad day. There are so many variables that it's difficult to give a default answer. Some social psychologists have dispensed with the idea of true personalities, arguging that we interact with our social contexts and tend to be contradictory. At best, such tests can only really your personality at the split second you're doing the test - a day later, they could be invalid. However, there have been attempts to develop tests that are valid and consistent - so people would score the same if you took them a week or a month later. Some personality tests have repeated questions in them, to ensure that people don't lie or just reply to questions at random.

Despite all this, I don't want to give up on the notion of personality completely, but I don't think it is a fixed entity either - the truth - as with most stuff, is probably somewhere inbetween. With that said, I'm looking forward to reading a new novel by Rupert Thomson called Divided Kingdom. In this book, the people of the UK have been split into 4 zones, based on the old sanguine, choleric, phlegmatic, melancholic divides. The book follows a sanguine on a journey throught the four different zones - all boarded up shops and suicides in the melancholic zone, while the choleric zone is a nightmare of crime and rioting. The sanguine zone is the one where everyone wants to be, and people are regularly reassessed and reassigned if their personality seems to be slipping. Despite the fact that dividing everyone into 1 of 4 categories is somewhat attractive, I'm sure people are more complicated than that. Aren't they?

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Got up early in the morning so me and my fella could go down to the Registry office and "register" for our upcoming civil partnership ceremony which is going to happen in January. A woman with a slight Bristolian accent, wearing a low cut top took all our details. She said there had been about 60 registrations so far and that there was a partnership ceremony going on in the adjoining church - which we saw a little of as it was being filmed on CCTV. We have to find 2 witnesses which is probably going to be difficult as we don't know anyone in Bristol. We were also given a "pack" with various leaflets and stuff in. One gives details of some of the vows you can exchange: Option C is "Do you ... promise to love and respect .... be faithful to him/her and always be supporting and understanding?" Cynically, I wonder how many gay couples will choose that one? I guess the word faithful has many interpretations at least. We aren't going to have any big exchanges of vows as we did all that about 5 years ago. Although it was all about as low-key as you can get (which is just the way I like it) what was odd, and kind of nice about the whole thing, was that it was the first time we have had an encounter with officialdom regarding our sexuality and it's been for something wholly good. It was also weird to think that we are among the first same-sex couples in history to get a chance to have our partnership officially recognised in this way. I feel we've come a long way from when we first got together - when we were "breaking the law" because I was a few months under the age of 21. While there's still more to be achieved, it's great to have lived through the last few years and seen a period of real progress in gay rights in the UK.

On the other hand, I don't think Jamie4U will be signing any civil partnership forms any time soon. Holed up in a Travel-lodge after a spell in prison for crimes he only partially committed. It's going to be a cold and lonely Christmas for everyone's favourite brainless twink.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Christmas Decorations

If you all lived closer, I'd invite you round for Christmas Pudding (which I seem to be having every other night at the moment) and you could admire laugh at pity my Christmas decorations. However, how about the next best thing. Here's a "virtual" "tour". Prepare yourself.



My fella's mother bought us this Santa a few years ago. Now we have a lot in common. We both love old movies, particularly the ones where Bette Davis gets to play a bitch, we both like Michael Bubbley. We both like my fella. But I think we part company at this Santa. At least he's not one of those electronic ones that does a little dance. Actually, everyone else who's visited the house has commented on how "nice" the Santa is. Are they being sarcastic? Or do I just have the politest visitors ever? Or do they actually mean it? I must have Asperger's because I can never tell. Anyway, after a couple of years, I get a kind of ironic enjoyment out of him. If you ever need to understand kitsch, just look on my mantlepiece from December 1st onwards. Incidentally, we have a working fire now - so it's this Santa who'd better be a good boy this Christmas - otherwise there's going to be a horrible smell of burning plastic and man-made fibre sometime soon...



When I was child, I thought that having a white plastic Christmas tree was the height of good taste. All the slightly posh families on our council estate had one. The ones whose kids had violin lessons and were always coming round asking you to "sponsor" them on some ludicrous 20 mile walk for charity. The ones whose dads had a car and could pick them up from school so they wouldn't get beaten up on the way home. And they all went on holidays abroad for 2 weeks (rather than 7 days in Blackpool or Great Yarmouth like us). Anyway, magically I turned all of that simmering class-resentment into brutal ambition and now look who's got a white fucking Christmas tree. Yes me. I've arrived! I'm finally nouveau! Except, I think I took the wrong message away from that particular part of my childhood, don't you think? Because acually, white Christmas trees are awful! Except I don't care. It's staying.


Several years ago I decided to make my own Christmas tree as a "commentary" on "modern society". I was in my 20s - I was still idealistic. So I got some twigs and sprayed them black. I was going to cut out pictures of toys from a Gratton catalogue and use them as decorations (to say something about the commericalism of Christmas). I was also going to cut out pictures of anorexic super-models to represent the angels (it would also be a cutting satire on eating disorders). Anway, my fella (who is a little bit older and more sensible) put his foot down for some reason and forbade it. So we had a compromise and I made my own decorations based on the film "stars" that I was into at the time. And although they look inappropriate on the white plastic Christmas tree, and my fella shakes his head sadly, they still go up year after year. I give you, Jason Patric (remember him - this was when Speed 2 was out), Yootha Joyce and Beryl Reid from the Killing of Sister George. I'm sure there's still some sort of "commentary" in there somewhere.





I'd be a rubbish time-traveller

I think I am getting a little too into my 1981 video project. I watched Scanners last night (bizarrely my parents allowed me to see this when I was 9 - I was allowed to watch a head explode, but they wouldn't let me see the relative naffness of Poltergeist, which let's face it - is just an episode of Living Tv's Most Haunted that got a bit out of hand). Anyway, all this 1970s/early 80s tv is making me yearn to be back in 1981 again. These old films, which I saw during a "formative period" are reminding me so much of my childhood and all the great things about it. It's like the time I found a Ms Pacman machine at Denver train station and it reminded me of one summer in the early 80s when all I did was play Ms Pacman in Torquay. Then I started thinking about how, after the initial "wow, it's 1981!" feeling you'd get if someone invented a time machine, how in fact it'd probably get boring pretty fast. Only 3 tv channels, shops with really short opening hours, supermarkets that only sell milk, bread, meat, potatoes and apples, no internet, cashcard machines, laptops or ipods. People with really greasy hair who were small (have you ever tried on the clothes in retro shops - I swear, everyone was a midget before 1990 - I'd have to have all my clothes specially made). Also, the casual ingrained racism, sexism and homophobia would probably start to jar after about 10 minutes. With all that said, it'd still be kind of fun. For a weekend or so. Is there anywhere where it's still 1981?

I am listening to "The Joker" by Anthony Newley (available on Itunes). It's the original version of the Kath and Kim theme tune, a really gaudy over-the-top show-tunes number. Anthony Newley has one of the strangest singing voices in the world making this a very unusual musical experience...

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Mr Kiss Kiss Bang Bang



You can keep today's Blooms, Pitts, Diesels and Timberlakes. For me, nothing beats Sean Connery. A former nude model, sailor, coffin polisher, milkman and 3rd in the 1953 Mr Universe contest, in his films Sean was often cast as an odd mixture of suave sophistication and animalistic instinct. In the Bond films for example, he's impeccably clad in a dinner-jacket but happy to kill given a second's notice. The producers cast him because they liked how such a big man could move so gracefully.



In the Hitchocock classic Marnie, he plays Mark - a classy hero - who wants to help psychologically disturbed Marnie - until his lust gets the better of him, and he rapes her, causing her to attempt suicide. In Zardoz, he's a leather-thonged, hairy barbaric killer, plaything of the Eternals, who experiment on him, trying to see what will give him an erection. But he learns to read in a matter of days and has a huge epiphany during The Wizard of Oz.

So what if he wore a toupee during many of his films, he was still being voted Sexiest Man Alive well into the 1990s. I'll be dusting off my early Bond DVDs over the Christmas period and watching them all over again. They may be silly (and sometimes the Austin Powers take-offs are almost directly lifted - more remake than parody), and unpolitically correct. But I love 'em.

Monday, December 19, 2005

A cup of boiling hot froth please, to go. And hold the chocolate sprinkles

My fella is a coffee addict. Whenever we go out, he needs to take regular (hourly) coffee breaks. We are unable to pass a Starbucks/Cafe Nero/Coffee Republic without him wanting to go in and get his fix. I, on the other hand, find that coffee works its way through my system very quickly so I can't have too much. I also get antsy if I have to sit anywhere for more than 5 minutes, so I'm usually rushing him to finish - my Dad is the same - we are the two most impatient men on the planet and my mother and my fella often exchange stories when they get together about how respectively we rush them to finish things. My fella knows that I have "the patience of a mayfly" as he calls it and we often play a weird, unspoken game in these coffee places where I will try very hard not to rush him and he will go even slower on purpose, knowing that at some point I'll just snap, then grab the coffee cup from him, drink the last few dregs myself and literally herd him out of the place.

One thing I hate about these coffee places is the Cappuchino. Who invented that drink? It's the most stupid, wasteful, time-consuming drink in the world. For one thing it takes forever to make and if you have a queue of 15 middle-class professionals in front of you all wanting cappuchinos then you might as well kiss goodbye to the rest of your day because you're going nowhere fast. And what's with all the frothy milk that takes ages to whisk up and then gets put on the top? It tastes of NOTHING. What's the point of it? I have a theory that it's probably cheaper than filling the whole cup with real coffee. All it does is stop your drink from cooling down naturally, so when you finally do drink it, it burns your entire mouth and then you're in pain for a week. Hateful drink. Worst of all, are the range of stupid Italian-sounding drinks and cup sizes - tall, vente, grande etc? Apparently "tall" is the small option. How's that for not making sense? And worse still are the people who insist on getting squirts of cream and chocolate sprinkles on their drinks. Why don't they just admit that what they want is a huge bar of chocolate and go and buy one instead of making me wait.

As you can imagine, I'm a lot of fun to take anywhere :)

Thursday, December 15, 2005

I am reading Queer London by Matt Houlbrouk. It paints a picture of London in the early parts of the 20th century which was awash with repression and blackmail, but also quite a lot of fun if you knew were to look for it (it all went on in the all-night steam rooms apparently where you could sally around with Rock Hudson if you got lucky) and didn't act too flamboyantly. There were three types of gay men back then - the screaming queens who wore make-up , flapped around in coloured scarves and were the ones who took most of the flak from society. Then there were the respectable middle-class gays (i.e. me) who got away with it because they smoked pipes and were straight-acting. And finally, the working-class barrow boys and guardsmen who were ultra-butch, didn't consider themselves as gay at all, were most likely married, but liked a bit of MSM action all the same. Are things that different now? I guess there are a few more variants.

Someone (you know who you are) sent me a very funny email recently about his mother's answer-phone message. My mother hates the answer-phone (we all do in our family, we've never really got used to it and leave messages full of awkward pauses, half-finished sentences and inarticulate grunts). She phoned me tonight to announce she'd learnt a new word at work. "Do you know it? It's "to moon someone". I was the only person in the office who'd never heard of it. Fancy that!" I guess if that's what a Methodist upbringing does for you then I'm all for it.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

The 1981 video project

In 1981 my Dad rented a video player from Peterlee's long-defunct Redifusion shop, which was a kind of precursor to Dixons, Comet and Curries. We only had it for a year (after that the cost of living went up - thankyou Mrs Thatcher - and we had to get rid of our car and lots of other little luxuries - we didn't get another video until 1987).

Anyway, there was a little room at the back of the shop where you could also rent videos, which came in big chunky boxes. About once a week we would rent videos and watch them, which was an amazing experience at the time. Some of the videos I was banned from waching (I was 8 and prone to nightmares as my grandfather had just died in a traffic accident). It was the period of the "video nasty" anyway so my parents were probably right not to let me watch Dawn of the Dead etc. However, I remember almost all of the films that we rented during that 12 month period, and lately I've started collecting them again - watching the same films at the age of 33, to see how much I remember. It's a bit disturbing that I have the same poor taste in films as my Dad when he was about my age. Some of the films I've been collecting are below. All of them left a strong imprint, for better or worse on me.

The Island - weird Michael Caine movie which I thought was about the Bermuda Triangle, but is actually about pirates in the Carribean.

The Beyond - naff Lucio Fulci horror film about a hotel that was built "on one of the 7 gates to hell" - that concept really freaked me out when I was a child and I wanted to know where the other 6 were.

Dirty Harry - Clint Eastwood cop film with a vaguely right-wing "reading" and groovy music by Lalo Schifrin. I think I was playing with my Lego when this was on, and I only looked up during the "Do you feel lucky punk?" scenes.

Killer Fish - Jewel Thieves hide their booty in a lake full of piranhas. For years I thought this film was called Pirahna. All I remember about it was that it had a great theme tune called "The winner takes all".

Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice We never hired this, although I was fascinated by the box cover which showed two men in the same bed (granted there were also two women in the bed, but at least it was a start).

The Time Bandits. "You'll like this one," said my Dad, bringing it in one night. And I did. I totally identified with the little boy and had a crush on Sean Connery ever since.

The Elephant Man. After much debate, my parents decided it was OK for me to watch this, despite it being rated A or AA. I forget which. They thought it would teach me about tolerance and sensitivity. And they were so right. Both me and my mother cried through the last half.

Hands of the Ripper. After much debate, I was banned from this one. Still haven't seen it.

Poltergeist One of the last films we rented, before the video was returned to the Redifusion shop. Again, I was banned from seeing this, although my Dad told me the plot in so much detail that they may as well have let me see it.

Sunday, December 11, 2005



The media seem to be getting into a right state about Brokeback Mountain, the agonised and tender story of two cowboys and their (shock) gay relationship over the years. The fact that pretty Jake Gyllenhaal and also pretty Heath Ledger play the two leads has only added to the buzz. There is a very homoerotic aspect to Western movies - women are often peripheral to the story, hyper-masculinity is to the fore and there's the boyishness of "cowboys and indians" adventure, along with its S/M undertones. The Malboro Man represents a gay ideal, if not the gay ideal.

Real life, unfortunately is rarely like the movies. But there is such a thing as a gay cowboy web ring where you can browse the pages of actual real life gay cowboys. Most of these sites are unbelievably cute, with butch backgrounds, manly fonts and little moving images suggesting "wilderness" like flickering candles. Many of these sites also have music that starts up when you access them. All my favourite things about the web in other words.

There's Canadian Ray (Now In Texas) who admits to not being a real out-on-the-range cowboy, but he does know how to do a mean 2-step (and I assume that isn't ballroom dancing lingo). At Rainbow River Ranch, we have another cowboy who is a Man with No Name (just like Clint Eastwood in most of his movies). He gives a lot of information about his horse, who is 15.0 hands apparently. There's also some cowboy soft porn along with the motto "Second place is the first loser." If these don't grab you, then you can try Texas Male which is a gay cowboy dating site. My favourite site is Western Mavericks which is a group for "men who choose not to live in the mainstream gay lifestyle" (I think that means they reject the Coming of the Madonna and think Kylie is a False Prophetess). There's lot of photos of men in check shirts and baseball caps in the wilderness looking slightly embarrassed (real men don't pose for photos). If I throw away my Will & Grace DVDs, do you think they'd let me become a member?

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Chessington's World of Adventure X 10,000.

I hope that Channels 4's Space Cadets is actually a double lie and that the seemingly clueless partcipants are actually all in on the act, with the joke being on the viewing audience who are gullible enough to believe that these people think they're going into space, when they're not. I mean, if you were the owner of a tv station, would you risk all that money for it to go wrong? Reality tv shows tend to leave very little to chance, preferring to control and edit "reality" so that they can obtain the narratives and money-shots they want. Even if it is true, there's something horrible about it - it's just another extension of Nasty TV where we are encouraged to laugh at the faults or incredulities of others. This makes us all feel superior, but in fact, the programme simply relies on the flaws and insecurities of its audience. As I've written before, Channel 4 is getting crueller and crueller - it's abandoned its 1980s mission to represent minorities and provide thought-provoking intellectual tv. I'm sure this all makes me sound reactionary - and I certainly won't start harping on about how people were nicer in the 1950s - because they clearly weren't. We just have a new form of nastiness - so rather than ingrained bigotry we now have a sneering lack of respect for everyone and everything.

Anyway, I hope that the "cadets" sue Channel 4 for millions when the horrible truth is revealed. Whether they are gullible or not is probably irrelevant. People will believe anything, especially if they want to. Whole religions are based on this. (Hey maybe Channel 4's next reality fake show can involve getting people to think they've died, gone to Heaven and met God.)

Even the fake psychic Shirley Ghostman managed to fool a number of eniment people into believing he was real. And I suspect that the raccuous laughter which will occur when viewing Space Cadets will be tinged with self-recognition.

Watching the programme, I kind of wished it was all true though - and people really were being sent into space. That would have been fun.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Fratastic



Imagine if Britney was actually a gay man? Soccer Practice is the latest video from Gay Pimp aka Jonny McGovern (via Bryanboy) and is about as close to Gay Britney as you can get. The Gay Pimp, wearing spangly trousers, studded wrist bands and a cut-off top leads a number of innocent frat boys astray and it's all very dirrrrty. Practically every homoerotic, straight-acting, closeted stereotype is in there.
Gentlemen's agreement

Me and my fella (soon to be civil partner) have a deal. I go and see all the sensible historical films that he likes, that have proper acting in them and whatnot, and he goes with me to see the ocassional Jennifer Aniston/Kirstin Dunst/Reese Witherspoon chick-flick or empty thriller. So the other week we saw the Johnny Depp movie The Libertine (where several heterosexual couples walked out in boredom/disgust? Probably boredom). And on Saturday he returned the favour and saw Flightplan starring Jodie Foster with me. We arrived on time, but Bristol cinemas seem to be full of people who arrive even more early than us and we had to sit in the front row, about 3cms from the giant screen. This made the experience very strange.

You can say what you like about Jodie Foster (someone once told me she had a "lesbian chin") but she does do being angry and driven everso well. It was a slight rehash of Panic Room (Jodie + daughter fighting evil conspiracy) with plenty of the old Hitchcock film The Lady Vanishes thrown in for good measure.

The film was like a panopoly of every modern fear wrapped into one. So we have 1) the fear that our children will be abducted. 2) The fear that a plane will crash 3) The fear of international terrorism. At one point in the film, about halfway through, I thought "We're all going to need counselling after this."

I also liked how this was a proper Jodie Foster vehicle. Just like Bette and Joan, Jodie no longer tends to work with big name lead actors, and instead gets paired with relative unknowns so that she and she alone gets the star billing - remember Peter Sarsgaard - the slightly lisping bisexual from Kinsey? He's back as an air marshall who may or may not be a baddie.

At least nobody walked out of my film anyway.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Music and Passion were always the Fashion



I have always had a slight soft spot for Barry Manilow. He's like the Cliff Richard of America. I'm not sure if words can express my opinion of that thing he's wearing on the cover of his 2005 calendar. It's like - give those women their wedding dresses back!

I like songs that have a little story in them - because they're generally so cheesy and bad. And Barry is a Master of the Art. My favourites are Copacabana and Bermuda Triangle. Copacabana is the oh-so-dramatic tale of showgirl Lola and her bartender boyfriend Tony. They've got it made ("they were young, who could ask for more" asks Barry innocently) but it all goes wrong when some gangster type called Rico - all bling ("he wore a diamond") and swagger takes a shine to Lola. The resulting gun-fight sees off Tony, and suddenly it's 30 years later and Lola has turned into an INSANE OLD HAG. Barry warns - "Don't fall in love!" We never did find out what happened to Rico - he probably became a Republican Senator and/or a Televangalist.

Let's move on to the Bermuda Triangle. For younger readers, the Bermuda Triangle was a 1970s Urban Myth regarding a number of boats and planes which went missing or crashed around the same period. There was a film of the same name in 1979. I was fascinated by the whole thing in the 70s, but I was only 5 so I guess I had an excuse. Barry's Bermuda Triangle song is a jaunty number which focusses around his holiday to Bermuda with his girlfriend/drag queen? But just like in the myth "people disappear" - and in this case, the girlfriend goes off with a "lovely stranger" and Barry's left all alone - funny that. This has some of the worst attempts at rhyming in a song ever - "Bermuda Triangle" is tortuously made to rhyme with "Looking at it from my angle".

Friday, December 02, 2005

The boy with a turkey-red face has just come from the solarium which is his second home when he's not mincing around this place, his favourite pub and hunting-ground. He speaks 'dead common' and has been around for years: although young, he started young... He calls his friends by various girls' names, and most of them have the characteristics of a Doris or Mavis. They call him Gloria, and he seems to be the queen bee of his squalid little coterie.

I am re-reading a rather nasty book called Queens, which is also very funny. It was written in 1984 and is therefore over 20 years old, but still has a very telling relevance. Set mainly in various gay bars and nightclubs in London it details the thought processes and conversations of a range of sterotypical "queens" - the screaming queen, the old queen, the straight-acting queen, the northern queen etc. One of the premises of the books is that everyone on the scene is a queen and those who protest that they aren't are the most queenly of all. The descriptions of snobbery, bitchiness, sexual predation and sheer desperation of the characters involved are hilarious but also rather depressing - and it's particularly disturbing when the odd line rings a little too close to home... The only things that would need updating would be the prevalence of the internet, the vast array of recreational drugs available and references to safe sex. I especially like the old queen's reminiscences about gay life during the war "there we sat, ladies head-squares flowing from our pastel coloured chemises, quoting Firbank and talking in a sort of Dada shorthand utterly unintelligble to an outsider." The sad thing about the book though, is that it's a testament to the fact that so often the gay scene is less of a community and more simply 1000 men in search of a fuck.

Oh, and you know what - Jamie4U's back. Fins out where he's been the last 6 months. It's sadly predictable.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Never been to Paradise, Never been to Me

It looks like super-chav Shampayne has been reicarnated as a repressed, middle-class housewife from Quorn in Leicestershire. Elaine, from "A Sorry Existence" is slowly going insane due to sexual frustration and boredom. She's not real but I wish she was. There's a very prim, snobbish WI aspect to her - she worries that newcomers to her village will make judgements based on people's curtains, sneers at Poundstretcher and prints up recipes diligently. When her PC isn't in use she places a tea-towel over it. But during darker moments she surfs the internet looking at harcore porn sites. However, this is all filtered through a slightly disapproving commentary "You should have seen her website, she was doing all sorts of things to herself - and quite how she hasn't ripped her uterus away with those talons on the end of her fingers I will never know." Will she have some sort of dramatic epiphany, or will she slowly spiral into madness? Maybe she should get herself a few copies of Handbag! magazine that I used to write, intended for women exactly like her.

Monday, November 28, 2005

What happened to you people? Lost spoilers (UK viewers only). Highlight to view

Season 2 of Lost is rapidly becoming The Ana Lucia Show. This snarling, feisty, glaring BITCH has kick-assed her way into everyone's bad books with her pistol-whipping, screaming island-rage antics. She is hugely unpopular on the Lost bulletin boards, with people complaining her acting range is limited and she's unlikeable. She also had a trigger-happy moment and killed off one of the major characters by mistake. I started off not liking her, but now I am an Ana Lucia fan. First, there's nothing wrong with being a bitch in my books. Also, the flashbacks have revealed she wasn't always such a bitch. But I guess if someone shoots you and you lose your baby and then your partner walks out on you, then it's not going to put you in the best of moods. Also, her time on the island so far has been pretty much a nightmare compared to the people in Season 1. A superb flashback episode "The other 44 days" detailed just how wrong things went for them. The "Others" decimated their number from 20-something down to only 5 (now 4?), including taking a couple of children (one of whom Ana Lucia saved from drowning on the first day and then promised she'd get her home). Ana Lucia also suffered the paranoid torment of not knowing who had infiltrated her group, getting it wrong and then finally figuring it all out and being attacked by him. She might be angry, but she's got good motivation.
What's your worst Christmas song?

It's almost upon us and soon the shops will all be playing Christmas music. Not hymns any more, or even the kind of 50s Bing Cosby/Perry Como stuff, but anything from the 70s or onward. How many times in the next month will you hear Slade's Merry Christmas Everyone? Or Band Aid's Do They Know it's Christmas? Or Paul MacCartney's Wonderful Christmasstime? It's kind of sweet the first time you hear it, but by the end, I always hate those songs and can't wait to get out of the shops where they're played. What's your worst Christmas song? I think mine is probably the Slade one. The line "look to the future now it's only just begun" always makes me cringe. As does "Everybody's having fun." They should play it ironically over public health announcements that tell you to check up on elderly neighbours over Christmas, as they might have frozen to death or taken an overdose rather than face another Christmas alone. I'm all for inappropriate happy music played over horrible things. Looking at the post below this one, on those naked Royal Marines kicking the shit out of each other, I would love someone to add about a Cliff Richard soundtrack over the video footage: "Congratulations and Celebrations, When I tell everyone that you're in love with me." Or would that actually be oddly appropriate?
The first rule of Naked Royal Marine Fight Club is don't talk about Naked Royal Marine Fight Club




The video footage of Royal Marines, drunk, naked and fighting each other while other (naked) Royal Marines standing around watching them, some wearing St Trinians school uniforms, raises all sorts of questions. Why all the nakedness? This was supposed to be some sort of initiation designed to toughen the men up, but really - there's something rather homoerotic about the whole thing. I get the impression that there are more than a few repressed gay men with an S/M fetish in the Royal Marines, and its silly macho culture is the perfect breeding ground to let them create their own little Disneyland. I'm sure that more than a few people will view the video as porn, despite (or because of) the fact that it ends in such a violent way. Marines are Hot Property in any case, and the well-proportioned bodies on display are only the latest in a canon that acknowledges DH Lawrence and the Ancient Greek Games.

Or maybe these men had just watched Fight Club a few too many times, not realising that the whole point about the film was that the main character was INSANE. Either way, it's a horribly compelling window on a subculture that really needs a lot more policing than it is already getting. On a lighter note - maybe this could be a way for the Marines to make a bit of extra cash - I'm sure there'd be a market for these sorts of videos.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Who (still) loves Bryanboy?

Bryanboy is a kind of law to himself. On the surface he's a doll-like global hyper-camp bitchy fashion-queen with the skinniest arms in the world (and proud of it). If you look up every stereotype about effeminte homosexuality and then multiply by 100 you have Bryanboy. Despite this, or more likely because of this, his weblog is often incredibly funny, in a kind of laughing with, rather than laughing at way. And like most people whose image and life resembles a cartoon, there is occasionally the hint that there is a lot more going on beneath the surface.

Bryanboy has lots of fans, who he encourages to send in pictures of themselves holding signs that say "I love Byran boy", and he gives his all in that no-internal-censor way that makes a truly good blogger. He is a one-off and if he didn't exist, someone would have to invent him.

However, not all has been well at Bryanboy lately. Since he started publishing pictures of himself wearing real fur, there have been an influx of abusive comments at the site - about half his readers are furious, the other half defensive. I suspect that all this is starting to take its toll as rather than deciding to ignore it all, Bryanboy has posted increasingly unapologetic emails, including some vile pictures of roadkill intended to upset his detractors. It's a debate I would hate to get involved in. I wouldn't wear fur myself, but then I wear leather shoes and have a leather jacket. I've also just started eating meat again (and like it) after 15 years. So I would be in a very precarious position to criticise.

Civil partnership

civil partnerships are allowed in the UK next month and I am getting one. Me and my fella already had a "commitment ceremony" a few years back, with friends and family invited. So we're not going to make a big deal out of it this time. It'll be a quick case of signing a few papers and grabbing a Subway sandwich - how very romantic. But despite the matter-of-factness of the day, this is a potentially huge change to our lives - official recognition of our relationship. I have had two reminders this week of how far we have come. The first involves a book called Rid England of This Plague by Rex Batten. It is a novel, based on real life events of the persecution of gay men in the 1950s. A couple have their relationship put to an extreme test when one of their friends is sent to prison for being gay. They are questioned by the police and end up in a kind of sexless relationship, frightened to touch each other they end up in prison too. It's full of little tips about being gay in the 1950s and earlier - rather than bother with KY Jelly, Bryll-creme was used as lubricant - so men would over-apply it to their hair when out cruising. It's worth reading. The other thing is this short American "Stranger Danger" film from the 50s called Boys Beware. It is incredibly campy in its own way, with lines like "What Jimmy didn't know was that Ralph was sick, a sickness of the mind known as homosexuality". The film equates homosexuality with paedophilia and was probably responsible for making the lives of hundreds of gay 50s teenagers just a little bit more miserable than they already were. Yes, we have come a long way in 50 years. Although there is still a very long way to go.


Friday, November 25, 2005

My friend Laurence (who should really start his own web log) sent me a four hour tape of various US variety acts from the 60s and 70s. I was still getting over my cold so I sat down with a lemsip and watched the whole lot in one night. I'm not sure if it was the lemsip, or the video, but I had the best night's sleep I'd had in ages.







Thursday, November 24, 2005



I haven't really been following The X Factor much, but I happened to catch Chico's performance last week - he took the rather risky strategy of performing his own song "It's Chico Time". Simon Cowell described it as horrifically brilliant or something like that. And he was right. I love Chico. He's so cheesy, he could be in a 1950s variety show. His performance also included a complex dance routine involving tricky leg stands, lots of children, and for some reason there was a huge picture of Chico on an electronic screen in the background which had two clock hands whizzing round and round - just so we could LITERALLY see it was Chico Time. It was a masterpiece of showmanship. Look at that last picture - the kids have their mouths wide open like they can hardly believe it either. And Chico is standing there like The Terminator of Pop Music. Terrific.





Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Bitter enemies



I am enjoying the long-running feud between Eileen and Gail in Coronation Street. It is a conflict of stellar proportions, involving numerous "mucky looks", street fights played out on uneven cobbles and catty exchanges in the Rovers Return. Eileen is a somewhat frumsy (mumsy and frumpy) taxi firm operator. She has a laid-back, down to earth approach to life that makes her immediately likeable, despite the fact that her life is going nowhere. Gail, on the other hand resembles a constantly thwarted hamster, brimming over with repressed sexuality and misdirected rage. Her last relationship to a serial killer didn't really work out too well (as they tend not to), and since then she's been a right bitch. Both women are snobs in their own way. Gail thinks she's the Bees Knees because she lives in a mock-tudor semi-detached nightmare, where she can twiddle her net curtains at the depravity going on in the should-be-condemned terrace home that Eileen rents. But Eileen on the other hand has one son (Todd) who's a homosexual intellectual (he almost sat A Levels for goodness sake) and the other (Jason) who should really be in gay porn. Both sons have become somewhat involved with Gail's single-parent drone daughter Sarah-Louise, and Eileen knows that Sarah-Louise isn't good enough for either of them.

And to make matters worse, Gail and Eileen are currently waging a war over a scantily available resource (unmarried heterosexual men with speaking roles who are over the age of 45 and are NOT serial killers). Enter Phil - a rather weathered Scot and let battle commence. Gail is currently winning - she allowed Phil to "study" her for his dissertation on serial killers and one thing naturally led to another. But I suspect that Eileen has a few tricks up her ample sleeves. Ann Summers had better watch out because I suspect Eileen be making an emergency visit to stock up on black lacy things (size XXL) some time soon.

Monday, November 21, 2005

This test on whether or not you know where it's appropriate to stand in various crowded and non-crowded urinals, is very funny (via Reluctant Nomad.) I only scored 20 out of 60, which is "piss" poor. Although I actually disagree with a lot of the "ideal answers" - for example, if someone is at one side of the urinal - say position 1, isn't it bad manners to stand right on the other side, miles away - at position 6. It's like inferring they have BO or something. Wouldn't it be better to stand at position 4 or 5, which is still far enough away, but not insulting? And are all the rules automatically reversed or void if you're gay? I think a proper statistical survey should be carried out.

I am loving living in Clifton/Bristol. Every day I find some new little restaurant or shop or cool street that I didn't know about. I'm 33 and this is my first experience of life in a city (as opposed to the slightly unreal feeling you get as a tourist). I don't know if I want to go back. The weekly commuting is still a bitch though - this is time #8.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Ladies and Gentlemen, I have brought you here to charge you with the following crimes...



I've written about this before on here, but And Then There Were None is my favourite Agatha Christie book - and one of the first "grown-up" books I ever read. An early precursor to Big Brother, it involves 10 strangers, summoned to an island, who are then bumped off one by one, along the lines of the nursery rhyme Ten Little Indians (now updated as Ten Little Soliders). Unlike the other Agatha Christie books, there is no detetctive who solves the case, no hero and no happy ending. Just a growing sense of terror and a practically impossible-to-solve mystery. Christie herself was the most proud of the book, saying that it had been a bit of a bitch to work out the mechanics of it all. There have been several very hokey film versions, and a play, all of which copped out, giving it a cheesy happy ending. Despite the fact that I love the 1974 version, which has an international cast, great music and Elke Sommer pushing her ENTIRE fist into her mouth and Oliver Reed doing amazing things with his chin during the climatic accusation scene, the ending kinds of spoils it.



(Elke shows off a very special talent. I think this is about the campest moment in a film ever, even beating Mae West's performance of "You Gotta Taste All the Fruit" in Myra Breckinridge)



So I was interested to hear that there is a new play of And Then There Were None at the Geilgud in London, which remains faithful to the book and has been updated to suit the gory tastes of modern audiences. And despite the fact that the genre has practically played itself out, it was actually pretty good. The set is wonderfully designed - very art deco mansion with big windows, pillars and glam white sofas. The murders are rather graphic - including the first victim projectile vomitting all over the stage, and it manages to stay on the right side of camp, just. The play also goes back to its frightfully British roots, with various jibes at social class and Englishness. Tara Fitzgerald as a posh governess and Anthony Howell as the manly "dashing" captain are the pretty people who provide sex appeal. Unfortunately, after they've had sex, they discover a severed head, so it kind of kills the moment...



I love how everyone freaks out every time they realise that one more of the little solider figurines in the living room have gone missing - because that means someone else has been killed. And I loved how the audience good-naturedly booed the murderer at the curtain call.

There is also a computer game of the book now, which is maybe de trop, even for me.

Monday, November 14, 2005



..."these people are fascinated by TV and only happy being filmed - but even sadder is the fact that television is fascinated by them and people like them, which is why it keeps returning to them year after year."

Run don't walk to your nearest DVD store. The remarkable documentary Little Lady Fauntleroy is finally available to buy. There's too much back-story to this to do it justice. But I will try. In the 1980s, the country was shocked by James Harries, a child prodigy who looked and talked like an (adult) Dickens character, and was an antiques "expert". He had mad curly hair and was precociously annoying. Then a few years ago, James turned up on tv again, but under much changed circumstances. James was now Lauren - having recently had a sex-change.




The documentary Little Lady Fauntleroy has Keith Allen at his most cynical and jaded, turning up at Lauren's South Wales family home, to spend a few days with them. It quickly transpires that all is not what it seems and that Lauren's family are a Modern Day Adams Family. The father went to jail after apparently burning down his fancy dress shop (but not before trying to sue the government unsuccessfully for a million pounds). The whole family have dozens of degrees, which they apparently bought off the internet. They have set up their own college (their own house) awarded themselves more degrees and engage in counselling/private detective work for the hapless of Cardiff. Lauren apparently has degrees in "dramaturgy" and "metaphysics" and holds scary drama classes which usually end in her screaming and throwing her shoes at people. The family live on the edge of a council estate and are regularly harrassed and abused . Indeed, in July their home was broken into and Lauren was attacked (the family were accused of turning the attack into a media circus, milking the publicity for all they could get).

According to a recent programme on The Curse of Child Stars, the Harries family have created their own reality tv show (like the Osbournes), but it has yet to be picked up. Such a shame. Until then, we have this DVD to get our Lauren fixes. And the documentary contains dozens of classic moments - from mother mis-pronouncing "vagina", the weird freeze-frames which show contorted facial expressions, Lauren's unusual karaoke in a Cardiff pub, her terrifying acting class and best of all, Keith Allen's denoument, when he attempts to expose the families many lies - and then storms out of this own show in a huff.

I'm sure that the Harries family trawl the internet looking for references to themselves. So if you're reading this, - and looking for a biographer - I'm your man.

And it looks like Lauren's recently had more surgery, this time on her face. The result is oddly eerie, a bit Lord of the Rings don't you think?

Saturday, November 12, 2005


Fandabidozi!

Oh, for the days when simply stringing together a string of nonsense syllables and dressing up as a school boy could make you famous! Do you remember The Krankies? When I lived in Peterlee Co. Durham there was a rumour going round that they used to live a few streets away from me in a council house. I'm sure it was just made up though.

In preparation for Panto season, I have been looking at their fabulous website. It's kind of retro - just like them. Imagine they had a time machine, went back to 1971 and then built their website there. You get the idea. An annoying theme tune that starts playing right away, animated gifs, an aol email address and shameless mis-use of the apostrophe and caps-lock: "MUM'S, DAD'S... DO YOU HAVE KIDS..."

In their biography page the narrative breathlessly begins: "Yes, the Krankies are back. In fact, they never went away." There are also excited reviews from The Northern Echo "anarchic humour", the Evening Echo Bournemouth "extraordinary" and The Glasgow Herald "unstinting energy".

However, the Krankies are so famous that they warrant not one website but two! Over at http://www.krankies.com/ under the heading "Janettes Terrible Accident" (what's with the missing apostrophe) we are told "As you probably have heard Janette had a terrible accident on the 15th December 2004 resulting in the both of us withdrawing from the Pavilion Theatre Glasgow Pantomime "Jack And The Beanstalk"." The site doesn't go into the gory details but there are a few links to news websites where you can find out the horrible truth for yourself. And it's a gory affair. Apparently, during a performance of Jack and the Beanstalk, the beanstalk collapsed (while she was up it), sending her plummeting 20ft and resulting in a perforating ear drum among other injuries. Poor Janette. Who knew that performing in Panto was so dangerous!
I am in London for a few days and yesterday met Tom from the perennially popular Plastic Bag. Somehow we ended up stumbling around the Trocedaro (which is a kind of awful indoor fun palace), playing a range of arcade games (I was useless at all of them except for the one where you have to hit things that come out of holes as quickly as possible). Tom (who's very male) was good at everything. There was a point though, where the enjoyment of it all, stopped being "ironic" and just for-the-hell-of-it fun.

Afterwards, I got back to the hotel and immediately came down with a cold (I haven't kissed anyone, so how is that supposed to be fair?). So I've got this new thing from the chemist called First Defence. It's a nasal spray that's supposed to flood the cold germs before they have a chance to multiply. But it's like spraying acid up your nose. It bloody stings. If I keep using this, I'll end up looking like Daniella Westbrooke.

The hotel only has the usual 4 tv channels, and as usual I am horrified at the crap that goes out on broadcast tv. Channel 4 actually showed an hour of the Simpsons last night. I had no idea they were still making episodes. It was funny for about five minutes in the early 90s, but hasn't changed since then. Please, someone, put them out of their misery. That rather nasty sitcom (which I still find funny), Peepshow is back for a third series. If you take away the jokes about threesomes, strap on dildos and gay panic, it is basically a typical 1970s British sitcom about the comedy of failure, along the lines of Steptoe and Son. I like Mark, the one who looks like "a member of the Shadow Cabinet" the best. Like me, he should have been born in a simpler, less brash time.

Friday, November 11, 2005



In remembrance, Phil Starr. 1932-2005.

Phil was a female impersonator who was well-known in the 1960s, performing at the famous Black Cap in north London, and part of a set of people who included Lee Sutton, Marc Flemying and Mrs Shufflewick - names that probably don't mean a lot to most people these days - but they were all stars of their day.

I interviewed Phil a few years ago, regarding some academic research I was doing, and he was amazingly helpful. He died last month, aged 73.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Wandering around Weston Super Mare (my new local seaside dive), I came across this poster for the Panto Season.



Guess which bit of this poster I love the most?




Yes, that's right. There's something about ageing, badly made-up drag queens that says "It's Nearly Christmas!"

I love collecting pictures of panto/cabaret drag queens (but only if they're over 50 and pulling some sort of contorted smile). That picture is absolutely perfect. The DQ face on the left is the best I think (although the over-applied fake tan on the DQ on the right also scores highly).

The poster is from Jimmy Cricket's personal website. Jimmy is an entertainer who specialises in being an "Irish Idiot". His catch-phrase is "And there's more!" The website has a photo diary which goes into great detail about all of Jimmy's public appearances at places like Clacton-On-Sea, Bodelwyllan Castle (North Wales) and Bolton. Truly amazing. On his guestbook someone has written "Your one, if not the the greatest comedian of all time (excluding Janette Krankie!) The doctors should prescribe your jokes on the NHS."

I love British light entertainment. It's the best in the world.
Hello Titus

I Claudius is one of my favourite shows. All of that backstabbing (literally), gratuitous sex and random madness (Caligua making a horse a senator springs to mind) makes it the ultimate soap opera. So I was interested in seeing what HBO's Rome was going to be like.

And I like it. Here's why.







He's called Titus Pullo and is played by Ray Stevenson. Mrs Stevenson (if there is one) is a lucky woman.
They're Mod! They're a Squad!




Do any American readers (of a certain age) remember a late 60s/early 70s tv show called The Mod Squad? It was Aaron Spelling's "breakthrough" show, so without it, we wouldn't have Dynasty, Melrose Place, BH90210 etc.

The Mod Squad was about a bunch of groovy cops - there was a cool dude with sideburns and outre fashion sense (Pete), a guy with a huge affro (Linc) and a blonde hippie chick (Julie). They were three basically good kids who'd dropped out of society and had various run-ins with the law. There was also an older gentlemen (who didn't get to be on many of the publicity shots - he was the Aunt Sassy of his day). He created the Mod Squad so they could infiltrate the counter-culture and catch crime-lords who preyed on younger kids.

But in general, the Mod Squad drove around in cars and looked fabulous. The premise is so outrageous is looks like it should be a parody of a 60s tv show, starring Parker Posey and Freddie Prinze Jr. But it's real. They actually made 5 seasons and a reunion special. (There was also a 1999 film remake starring Claire Danes, but let's not go into that).

Anyway, the programme has one of the grooviest theme tunes every created for a tv show. I haven't been able to stop playing it since I got it. It was used once in an episode of Friends when Chandler was chasing some girl down a busy street. And it can be downloaded for your pleasure here.

Although the show's long over, I think it could do with being revived (without Claire Danes). Anyone fancy getting a long blonde wig, \ lime green flower-print mini-skirt and taking the role of Julie?

Sunday, October 30, 2005




For those of you wondering who the rather cross-looking "blue lady" is in the top right hand corner of the screen, then all is revealed. She is a painting of "Chinese Girl" by the Russian artist Vladimir Griegorovich Tretchikoff. See http://www.tretchikoff.co.uk/ for more info. Chinese Girl is almost certainly his most well-known picture. It's the Mona Lisa of the twentieth century and by far Tretchikoff's most famous work.

There is something spooky and mythical about Chinese Girl. It adorned thousands of living rooms in the 1970s. Someone told me once that there was an urban myth about the picture. Apparently it was cursed and it caused people's houses to burn down (with the picture remaining unscathed). However, a bit of internet searching reveals that the picture in question was proabably one of the equally infamous "Crying Boy" pictures by Bragolin. The picture itself was a portrait painted by a Spanish artist of an orphan. It is said that his studio burnt to the ground, and the boy was later killed in a car crash. About 40-50 cases were recorded in which a house fire had destroyed everything except for the picture. It became known as the "Curse of the Crying Boy", and even made headline news at one point.

I think that what was probably more the case, was that the sorts of people who bought these pictures, were probably also smokers with polyester bed-sheets...
Although here, it's claimed that the whole thing was made up by The Sun newspaper.

But then again, maybe there is something in it. Here's an essay by Uri Geller (of all people) on the picture. He calls her the green lady, but I've always thought she was more blue than green.

Now, poor Chinese Girl is mainly found at the back of old charity shops. I rescued one a few years ago and she had pride of place in one of the rooms I rarely went into. Fortunately, we never had a house fire. But I think that the Curse of the Blue Lady would make a wonderful kitch horror film.
Wow, this place is sure full of celebrities. I'm the only one in here I've never heard of.

That was the best quote in Sweet Charity, possibly the campest film ever made. It stars a youngish Shirley MacLaine doing her best Shelly Winters impression (a big dumb gaping smiling mouth showing the top set of teeth and hair like a mad wig put on back to front). Shirley plays Charity, a 'gentleman's' dancer at a tacky nighclub - it's about 1 step up from actual prostitution. And Shirley is desperate to get out of it. Cue a series of disastrous episodes with men - the first one pushes her off a bridge and steals her purse. The second is a rich movie star but ends up locking her in his closet when his girlfriend wants him back. And the third is a Tab-Hunteresque neurotic insurance man who can't get past her "sordid" past.

But the plot, like with most musicals is peripheral to the colours, costumes and crazy show-stopping numbers. And this film is a Queen's Dream. There's Big Spender, performed by a gang of women dressed as past-it drag queens (Chita Rivera is my favourite - she looks and acts exactly like Terrence Stamp in Priscilla Queen of the Desert.)



They're all playing that game where they have to hold a balloon between their thighs



Hey Big Spender, come up and spend some time with me - you can use my Stannah Stairlift - I only cost 10 shillings. Just be careful you don't accidentally break my wizened hands.

There's "If They Could See Me Now", featuring Shirley doing her thing with a top hat and cane. Then Sammy Davis Jr makes a somewhat incongruous appearance - he has his own religion called The Rhythm of Life (the song was recently ripped off for a beer advert!) and Sammy plays a drugged-out preacher called Big Daddy who leads his hippie congregation in a psychedelic dance number, which ends in a trade-marked Sammy Big Finish. I love Sammy Davis Jr (I have a shameful number of his cds, and can't believe I'd never come across this song before.)



But the best musical number comes near the beginning when Charity visits a weird New York "celebrity" nightclub (populated by people who seem to have just arrived via a spaceship from the planet Sogo in Barbarella). They perform a series of bizarre, complicated, kitchsly stylised dances - something you could only get away with in 1968.



If you haven't seen ths film - then it has a Trash Addict Seal of Approval :)

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Tivo geek

I am one of the few people in the UK who own a Tivo. Tivo is hu-uge in America (even popularised on Sex and the City). It almost took off in the UK, but then Sky brought out their own version (Sky Plus) and that was it. I used to have Sky Plus, but I tend to move house a lot and live in places with shared cable or satellite - and Sky Plus doesn't like that. So I ended up getting Tivo (which I prefer - and not just because of the cutesy little animated tv icon). British Tivo users are an odd lot, with our own geekish "community" and a guru called Gary.

I always dread moving house because it means having to reset the Tivo to cope with a new area - hideously complicated, particularly for someone like me who isn't very technological. My last house move, 7 weeks ago was particularly worrisome because I was changing from satellite to cable. It has taken me 7 weeks (and lots of screaming) to figure out how to get my Tivo to work with the new cable set-top box. But I've finally got it to work - all by myself. The Tivo community is sneering at me (because the solution was so obvious), but I feel like I've really achieved something.

Listening in

High Camp Caress Morrel recently reported on the website overheardinnewyork.com and I have to say, he's totally right. What a great site. New Yorkers simply post up snatches of conversation they've overheard, and they're completely fascinating. My favourite one is entitled Morlock v. Eloi: The Prequel (a nod to one of my favourite books, The Time Machine by HG Welles, where the world has segregated into two social classes - the beautiful vapid Eloi and the monstrous cannibalisatic Morlocks):

A thugged out girl tests all of her ring tones as loud as possible for a solid minute.

Preppy girl: Are you serious with that? Can you do everyone a favor and stop?
Thug girl: I know you're not talking to me. You messed with the wrong girl.
Preppy girl: I'm sorry, I can't hear you. Your screaming phone made me deaf.
Thug girl: I'll f her up. But then she'll call the cops; her people love the cops. Go back to where you came from!
Preppy girl: I'm trying to. That's why I'm on the train, you stupid bitch. Look, you got a new cell phone and that's great, but figure it out at home.
Thug girl: I'll f you up. You're f-ing with the wrong girl. Don't be fooled by the pretty face.
Preppy girl: Pretty face? Where?

The editor of the site, Michael Malice perfectly sums up its attraction: "Overheard in New York is about the things people say that are censored out of all other forms of communication. It's amazing to me that site has been referred to as "X-rated" when they're literally just words. There's no naked photos, no blood, just letters and punctuation. I am interested in the phrases and ideas that are regarded as somehow invalid to the larger media. This is the artsy side. Of course it's funny, etc, but in my view the site is much more than that. This is why I always run racist, sexist, homophobic and anti-Semitic conversations. These views are very common, even in New York...yet how often have you heard someone make a racist statement in a movie? Does anyone ever not like Jews on TV, without being portrayed as a neo-Nazi demon?"

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Binged

Having never lived on a university campus until last month, I had no idea what happens when work stops and day turns into night. And the main thing that happens is.... a lot of screaming. Two thirty in the morning is a key time for the screaming. The town centre clubs have closed and buses full of binged-up students teem back on campus. The past two nights I have been awoken to what sounded like a gang of women being raped. But when I looked out of my window, I realised that they were just screaming because they were drunk and felt like it. Sometimes the screaming stops being a random set of noises and the girls manage to co-ordinate together to sing a few tuneless lines of some chart-topper "I am Beautiful in Every Single Way" is an (ironic) favourite. If it is lads then there may be chanting instead, but the effect is the same. Often, after the singing, then there will be laughing. But not ordinary laughing - but an eerie keening cackling noise which sounds like gak-gak-gak-gak-gaaaaaaak!

My room overlooks a playing field, which yesterday had flooded due to heavy rains. At 2 in the morning, a group of students decided it would be hilarious to chase each other around the field, falling over in the muddy water a lot, while wearing either their underwear or just the clothes they had been out clubbing in (it was too dark to tell). The screaming was incessant. No wonder so many students have a cold this time of year.

Every year, one of my duties is to process student application forms. I read hundreds of references, detailing predicted A level grades, along with the student's personal statements, where they talk about how they help out at the local Brownie pack and love reading Bill Bryson. I make offers, knowing that in reality I'm just letting in dozens of people who's main aim in life will be to spend the next three years binge drinking. I sometimes wonder what their real personal statements would say "I would love to come to this university - I can scream louder than all of the girls in my A Level class and I know at least half the words to the Pussycat Dolls' last hit."

I keep trying to think back to when I was in my late teens. I did get drunk a lot, to be fair. But I can't remember ever running around outside, late at night, screaming my head off. It's not just on campus - every town centre is the same at weekends. As much as I still feel like a "young person", I'm increasingly aware that I am a different generation. Somewhere along the way, the rules changed over the last ten years.

Oh well. At least I can take some solace in the fact that most of those screaming binge drinkers have been born into a generation where they will never be able to afford to buy their own house and will spend their entire lives renting from people of my age group and older.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005



In sharp contrast to Kinky Boots, was Domino, which I saw last night. Domino is a headache of a film - all yellow filters, banging gansta rap, an explosion every 32 seconds and a back-and-forth narrative that would make Tarantino scratch his head. Domino is the story of the daughter of actor Laurence Harvey (he played various 1960s British sleazeballs) and how she became a bounty hunter in Los Angeles. Domino is played by Keira Knightley, who I last saw a million miles away in Pride and Prejudice. The girl has range at least! And she's very nice to look at too. Unfortunately, the real Domino (who we get a glimspe of at the end of the film), looks like David Bowie in drag as a man.

The film has an awful lot to say, and there are so many sub-plots that I lost count. First there are a troupe of sassy blatino (thats black and latino) women who are involved in forging driving licences. One of their number has a sick grandchild who needs money for an operation. She appears on Jerry Springer, to air her theory of racial diversity, complete with a flow-chart. There's a mad Afghan with no eyebrows and lots of bombs. Then there's a heist involving people wearing Jackie Onassis masks, a mafia boss who makes phone calls from a secret bubble chamber at the bottom of his swimming pool, a dysfunctional "family" of bounty hunters, all with their "real" quirks and foibles. Throw in Jaqueline Bissett as a hoity-toity mother and half the cast of Beverly Hills 90201 (playing themselves) who end up being taken as "celebrity hostages" and it all gets very confusing. People are killed and then suddenly the camera goes backwards and they weren't killed after all. About 2/3 of the way in, I literally lost the plot and ended up viewing it in the same way as you view an MTV video.

My favourite bits were the parts were Domino exacts mad violent revenge on some of the more unpleasant characters. At one point, Brian Austin Green (from BH90210) tells Domino that her "tough girl" image is just an act and she's really a scared little girl with Daddy issues. This earns him a broken nose. And early in the film, in one of the many flashbacks, we see Domino's attemps at fitting in when she joins an American college soriety. During an initation "pledge" ceremony, some bitch calls her breasts "mosquito bites". Domino responds again with another broken nose. If only everyone reacted in this way to those nasty pledge ceremonies - it'd put a stop to them overnight.

Ultimately though, it's all too much spectacle and trying-too-hard to be hip. The mad style means that when the characters are given mescalin towards the end of the film, you hardly notice, because the whole thing feels like a drug trip anyway. But Keira Knightley's performance (and cut-glass accent) saves the whole thing. She's my new hero.

Monday, October 24, 2005

I saw Kinky Boots last night at the cinema - a "feel-good" Brit flick, along the same lines as The Full Monty, Calendar Girls and Billy Elliot. I normally avoid these movies, but this was the only thing on at the cinema when I arrived. Let's count the cliches - a tightly-knit northern community of cosy "real people", someone who overcomes their prejudices, show-stopping musical numbers, a happy ending, a chance meeting, flashbacks to defining moments in people's childhoods, hard-faced power-bitch who gets her comeuppance, triumph in the face of insurmountable odds, cod folk-wisdom, based on a "true story", kitsch sound-track aimed at immediate cd release. It whiled away a couple of hours, and I guess any film aimed at "normals" which gets them to not hate cross-dressers is good. Isn't it? When I got home I watched the last 15 minutes of Black Narcisuss (about repressed nuns who try to kill each other) and felt cleansed...

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Are you ready to Boogie?

I have been watching a lot of children's tv this year, babysitting my 2 year old nephew who is addicted to Thomas the Tank Engine. He insists on having a roll-call of all the different trains at the end of each series and gets an old glazed look in his eyes when the music starts playing. With the invention of the CBeebies Channel, he can have kids tv 24/7, which even I think is a bit excessive. I remember my own childhood in the 70s, when you got half an hour of telly at lunchtime (Pipkins and Rainbow), followed by Bod or Fingermouse at 1:30, and then a couple of hours from 4-6 (The Red Hand Gang, Grange Hill, John Craven's Newsround and Animal Magic - presented at Bristol Zoo which is only 10 minutes from where I now live, oddly enough). Anyway, children's tv has come a loooong way since then. Gone are the gentle, quiet programmes like Fingermouse, and instead the tv is a whirling mass of primary colours, noise and jumping up and down. No wonder children nowadays are hyperactive. Don't blame the e-numbers, it's the tv.

One such in-yer-face show is called Boogie Beebies. It encourages children to dance (which I suppose may help counter obesity or something). But it recreates what it must be like to be in the head of someone who is experiencing a "K-hole" (I'm sure my "circuit" readers know what I'm talking about), with a weird psychedelic, every-changing background and two up-for-it presenters who must have worms because they can't sit still for a minute.

Actually, one of them (the fella) is rather pretty, in a laddish, masculine, Mockney sort of way. He has a slight bald patch starting (which is often visible when he bends over, when he is emulating a giraffe or a digger or something, which is often), and his t-shirts are too tight. I'm sure all his mates mock him terribly down at the pub, but he doesn't care, because he's the Alpha-male anyway, and he has aspirations to play Iago, or put on his one-man show of soliquys, if only he can get Kevin Spacey to return his calls. Anyway, here are some pics. Hot or Not? Kevin doesn't know what he's missing!



Sunday, October 16, 2005

I am reading "The Adonis Complex" (sounds like a gay nightclub but isn't), it's a slightly depressing, academic book about the increasing phenomena of men who get obsessed with working out and believe their muscles aren't big enough. The book theorises that with advances of feminism in the last 40 years or so, men have fewer ways to demonstrate "superiority" over women, so being able to bench press 300 lbs is all they have left. How miserable that one way that men and women have now become equal is that they now both have extraordinary pressures on them to convert their bodies into increasingly impossible shapes, rather than this just happening to women. Somewhere, something went wrong, didn't it.

Also, with the invention of steriods, men now have unrealistic views of what is a "normal" male body (as so many people who do steroids lie and say they don't). Such images of muscular men are pervasive in the media and advertising, because they offer difficult-to-attain ideals. There's an analysis of how toys like GI Joe and Star Wars figures have gradually become buffed up over the last few decades (in the same way that Barbie turned into an anorexic anomaly). Also, because men aren't supposed to talk about their "feelings", all of these problems are kept secret, and are spiralling out of control. There are some very sad case studies in the book - the guy who wouldn't kiss his girlfriend because he was afraid he'd get extra calories (!) from her saliva. The guy who had all his gym equipments shipped to an overseas hotel at enormous expense, because they didn't have a gym, the guy who split up with his girlfriend because he spent all of his time at the gym, the guy who wouldn't have ice-cream after a night out at the cinema because they only had low-fat, not no-fat, despit the fact he was starving-hungry. And these were all guys who had huge, muscular bodies that most men would be envious of. Seems enough is never enough.

I've always been of the opinion in the past that advertising and the media are responsible for a lot of the world's ills, but the book makes the point that obviously, not everyone is suspectible to The Adonis Complex - or we'd all have it. Rather, it seems that some people are more prone to OCD than others, and tend to latch on to whatever silly obsession that's going round in society at the moment. If it wasn't muscles, it'd be germs, or nuclear war, or bird flu. And what these guys need is reassurance that they're not alone, and that their expectations are somewhat unrealistic. Sometimes I do get a little sad when I read other people's blogs and they're worrying about some aspect of their body, or going on about some model's fabulous ripped abs or something. There's something just a bit icky about it (although I'm sure I'll probably end up doing both those things within the next month myself!)
A (long-overdue) tribute to Cliff!

My mother was (and probably still is) a big Cliff Richard fan. She would sometimes tease my Dad about how she'd leave him for Cliff (which, let's face it, was unlikely to ever happen for many reasons). She always dutifully bought his Christmas single, and probably helped to get him to number 1 on more than one occasion. Despite this, it was downright odd and scary to see that (according to E4 last night) Cliff is the best-selling UK singles artist of all time (he beat the Beatles, Elvis, Robbie, Queen and Elton). Even Cliff himself seemed slightly bewildered by the news. And to show that the fruit never falls far from the tree, just like my mother, I have a secret liking of Cliff myself.



Before Cliff became a Christian he was a super-quiffed, slightly naughty Elvis-alike, with a moody leer, gyrating hips and badboy attitude. (He was popular as a lesbian icon!) But slowly he morphed into the goody-two shoes, tennis-addict, earnest, mild-child that we all now love. In fact, he looks younger now than he did in the 1970s (a bit like a botoxed Eric McCormack from Will & Grace). How does he do it? It's supernatural, that's what it is!



At cliffrichard.org there's a slight note of bitterness in Cliff's own personal message to his fans, which starts out with a jolly "Hi everyone!" Cliff takes no time, however, in cutting to the chase and telling "everyone" what's on his mind: "Perhaps I was a little over-optimistic about an exciting television project we thought was lined up but which failed to materialise when it came to the crunch. It would have been great, but never mind - you get accustomed to occasional disappointments in this business!" Such complaining isn't very attractive in such a superstar (he's already the UK's best-selling artist, what more does he want? Wings?) And he goes on "...sales of 'Something's Goin' On' have been rather poor - despite me working my socks off with promotion! If it had been a duff album, I would have understood but I love it and so, it seems, do scores of industry and media people who tell me it's the best work I've done for years." Ah well, that's the danger of surrounding yourself with yes-folk. Get over it! At least it all ends on a positive "Don't think for a minute that I've abandoned the ambition to break through in the States!" How could we? You go girl! The States don't know what they're missing and I'm sure you'd go down amazingly in places like Idaho, Nebraska or Wyoming. American readers - you're missing out on the Ultimate Britpop Experience if you've never heard of Cliff. Hang your heads in shame and then go and download his entire back-catalogue now!



But it's all a bit too easy and cruel to skit Cliff and I refuse to do it any more. Instead, I'll talk about my two favourite Cliff songs:

Devil Woman (1976)

"She's just a devil woman! With evil on her mi-ind!... She's gonna get you from behind" sang Cliff. Who could he be talking about? Una Stubbs? Jane Asher? Elton John? Maybe I imagined it, but I seem to remember that a performance of this involved lots of red smoke and possibly even high heels. Was this Cliff's not-so-repressed "Dark Side" of Christianity? "If you're out on a moonlit night, Be careful of them neighbourhood strays. Of a lady with long black hair. Tryin’ to win you with her feminine ways" warns Cliff in the song. I'm sure this didn't refer to a dogging/transsexual encounter in a carpark, but you can but hope. I don't care what anyone says but this song is a classic and I haven't stopped playing it since I downloaded it from Itunes, roughly 2 minutes ago.

Wired for Sound (1981)

Cliff crashes into the 1980s with his personal "discovery" of electro-pop. This song is insanely zeitgeist and contains everything about 1981 that you ever need to know. Not only is it hideously "electro", but Cliff also wears a personal stereo (what an early adopter!) and yes, roller-skates DURING THE WHOLE VIDEO. Those of you who were unfortunate enought to live through the early 80s (to live in "interesting" times it was not), will probably have experienced a roller-disco at some point. They were pretty awful, and even if they didn't end in huge teen-age gun battles (ala the 1975 film Switchblade Sisters), someone usually fell over and got their fingers sliced by someone else's roller-skates. I have no idea what the nonsense-lyrics of Wired For Sound mean - "Power from the needle to the plastic. A.m.-f.m. I feel so ecstatic now." (Sounds like one of those "clues" in 3-2-1.) You'd almost think he'd been hanging round John Lennon's dealer or something. Cliff is the eggman! This song regularly makes the top of all the "worst" lists, but who cares? It's fab.

Cliff's been around so god-damn long that he's gone from cool to naff to cool (he had a comeback in the 1980s with the Young Ones and a re-release of Living Doll) and now he's naff again. He's even complained that radio stations have blacklisted all his work. But, if you hang around long enough, there's always the chance that you can get that second comeback. And I predict that Cliff's on the cusp of one. Let's pray he gets to number one this Christmas. I can name at least two people who'll be buying his next single (me and mum).