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


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.