Monday, March 27, 2006

Further adventures in Second Life

Well, my avatar is the proud owner of a penis. And I also bought him some chest hair while I was shopping. He is very pleased. SL is somewhat addictive, although ultimately I'm not sure what the point of it is. A lot of the gay avatars I met have huge pumped-up gym bodies, although some don't, and I'm interested in how people choose what to look like when they can basically look like anything. I kept asking people if they looked like their avatars and a common response was "yes, but I improved on a few things..." So here's me. And yes, I improved on a few things.

With that said, cat-people and aliens seem to be quite common and some people go out of their way to look as freakish as possible. I ended up being befriended by this guy who'd been on SL for a couple of years and had a little business going designing homes for people within the game. In real life he was an 18 year old who worked in a supermarket and was hoping to get a job in admin. But in SL he is wealthy and socially powerful, while I'm a penniless nobody (not that I'm a millionaire socialite or anything in real life, but I'm not badly off either.)

So he took me to his home and then out on a lake for a sail on his boat. I felt so grateful and it was kind of romantic in a weird way. I think I am going to base my avatar's character on a male version of Tanya Turner in Footballer's Wives. I have no ability to design houses to make money, so I'll just have to find me a wealthy avatar to look after me, so I can live a life of luxury. Maybe spending all my money on chest hair wasn't such a bad idea after all.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Dancing for Dollars

I have been playing Second Life, a virtual reality environment (I'm not sure it's a game), which reminds me of The Sims, except it's played over the Internet. You design your own avatar, within a set of basic paramters (mine is a hunk called Brick who is apt to break into an embarrassing series of muscle poses, which impress no-one).

Unlike in The Sims, you can fly and teleport. You get a limited amount of currency (Linden Dollars) to begin with, although you can pay for more, or "earn" it by hanging out at so-called "camping chairs", which often involve dancing on little podiums. Money lets you buy property or customise your avatar - it's not uncommon to see cat-people wandering around. Sex also occurs in Second Life, and for gay men there are various places, like "Club Steam" where you can get up to allsorts with numerous hot strangers without having to leave your own sofa. It's impossible to get hurt in Second Life (except maybe a bit humiliated if someone ignores you), but there is a scary zone called Jessie (!) for people who want to hunt or be hunted, where you can be hurt or even killed. Make sure you get yourself a gun if you want to pay Jessie a visit.

Last night I ended up at a beautifully designed futuristic auditorium with dozens of others. It looked like something out of Star Wars. Someone was playing a piano concerto and we all listened and clapped appreciatively at the end. I tried dancing for dollars but didn't make any. I was going to visit Club Steam but realised that it would be a futile and somewhat embarrassing endeavour - my avatar only has a little bump, like a Ken Doll - you have to buy a penis from one of the many shops. I tried hunting round one of the many malls, but couldn't afford one. Back to the podium I guess.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Note to self: never send emails late on Friday night

I saw an advert from Channel 4 asking for cohabiting gay couples to be filmed in their homes for a week. "Why don't you write to them," suggested my fella surprsingly, on Friday night. So, not really thinking much about it, I sent a quick email, describing us in overblown terms which made us sound like something out of Whatever Happened to Baby Jane, but with PhDs. We thought it might be a laugh, and that as we are fairly normal and still very much in love after more than a decade so we could show the country that gay relationships can last the distance. I didn't expect to hear anything back.

Last night, Channel 4 wrote back, asking me to phone them.

It took about a minute for us to realise in horror that, like many people, 90% of our private lives would be so boring as to be unwatchable, and the other 10% would be so embarrassing as to be unshowable. Careful editing would translate a week of mundane living into 20 minutes of bitching, crazy and screaming camp performance. Or else, we'd be on our best behaviour and come across as the Gay Robot Couple like something out of Jane Austen.

In any case, I don't think we're ready for our close-up just yet.#

Garrett Living writes to say he found a mouse in his house. I've never found a mouse (we have a cat who keeps them away, although once every 5 years or so he brings one into the house). However, on Sunday we decided to clean all the leaves out of our garage. Someone had tried to break into it a few weeks ago, so we'd had to have the door repaired and new locks fitted. Anyway, as we were sweeping up we came across a used syringe (1) It looks like our garage has been the setting for scenes from an episode of The Bill. How lovely. And we live in a good postcode too. Just one more little reminder that I now live in a city and that homeless heroin addicts are never far away. I wish we had mice instead.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Freda Fickle

An aphorism that has stayed in my head for a long time is "ending is better than mending", from the book Brave New World. It's a philosophy that is essential for modern capitalism to work - we need to keep money circulating by buying new stuff all the time. And it's something that seems to be speeding up. The phrase "disposable culture" has never been more apt than it is in this weirdly nameless decade. On the tv at the moment is an advert for some new Flash wipes - once you've used them to clean your work surfaces, you just throw 'em in the bin. Forget buying a dishcloth and rinsing it out to use again once it's dirty. We buy clothes that we're only expected to wear a few times before chucking them away. Advances in technology also make this inevitable in a way. About 5 years ago I started to replace my collection of videos with DVDs, in some cases rebuying the same film, just because it would take up less space in the house (I don't care about better quality pictures or DVD extras or commentaries to be honest). In a few years time, I guess I'll be throwing out the DVDs because the films will be in HDTV or holographs or get zapped into your brain and let you partcipate in them.

Our celebrities are increasingly disposable - reality tv makes stars out of people and then a week later they're forgotten. Even in our personal lives, sites like gaydar turn sex into a conveyor belt similar to the one full of prizes at the end of Larry Grayson's Generation Game. If a relationship doesn't work, get a quick divorce and move on to the next one. Ironically, the one area where we are encouraged to develop lasting relationships is with companies and businesses rather than people - so many shops have Reward or Loyalty schemes these days, where if you shop exclusively at one place for a whole year, you get a million points, which translates into a bottle of Timotei shampoo for dry/damaged hair or something.

Our culture seems to be developing so quickly, that at the same time I often feel that collectively we are losing a sense of the past and a sense of permanance or stability. Old things have a lesser value than new things, and it takes so little time now for something to become "old". Phrases like "That's gonna get real old, real fast!" permeate modern life. However, a lot of new things are simply old ideas, repackaged with a shiny gloss on them - we often essentially pay for the same thing over and over again, and that's the trick of capitalism. Not to offer us anything that's really new, but to trick us into buying the same old rubbish forever.

Friday, March 17, 2006

An Open and Shut Case

The Jodie Marsh's Big Brother suitcase ebay debacle is over. And it's been an INSANE soap opera. I've been so worried about whether or not it would sell. You see, with Jodie, you get sucked into her world very quickly. It's so hard not to care. She's like a scab you know you shouldn't pick, but can't leave alone.

The short version is here. Or read the 1000+ messages on Digital Spy. The suitcase ad was firstly removed by ebay after the seller (Jodie's brother? Jodie? Someone else?) included a link to Jodie's site. However, it was re-advertised and soon began to attract a number of buyers with 0 feedback transactions and increasingly bizarre names. Despite this, over at Jodie's blog, she remained characteristically confident: Ooooooh, exciting news. My Big Brother suitcase which is on Ebay at the moment is doing well. The bidding has gone up to one and a half grand. Sweet. That'll buy Jord a few days of precious studio time. There are a few people trying to out-bid each other on it. I just hope it goes to a good home ;) On a serious note though, if whoever wins it adds a grand to the winning sale price, I'll personally deliver it (as long as they don't live too far away and if they do, then we can meet half way).

For a while it looked like primary_essex_lad was going to win, but he was soon outbid by marshy012, prompting suspicions that Jodie was bidding against herself (or more likely, an anti-fan was trying to spoil it all with a little shill bidding). Digital Spy users also suspected that the mysterious bidder eboni001 was also Jodi - she had an ebay history of purchasing/selling wedding dresses in different sizes along with a book on pregnancy, Jordan's autobiography and various pregnancy testing kits. How to piece the clues together? Could this relate to the period when Jodie found out she was pregnant with Fran Cosgrave's baby and may have planned to marry him? (It ended in an abortion and a break-up incidentally). Despite all this, eboni001 was out of the picture early on.

Then the bidders started to get more and more odd-sounding, their names appearing like evil signifers from Jodie's past. We had spaniel_ears - which is an often-cited cruel description of the shape of Jodie's breasts (cos they're natural, not plastic balloons like Jordan's). Then it was someone claiming to be ex-boyfriend fran_cosgrave (he of the shitty underwear). But the bad taste prize goes to whoever invented the ebay id kym_baynard - a name almost identical to that of Jodie's friend who was murdered. Do ghosts come back to bid on ebay? I doubt it. The bidders who did appear slightly more genuine had a history of rather bizarre and abusive negative feedback exchanges, my favorite being this from sharni07 who actually might be a real person (with dyslexia): "This guy Can't read so sent me abuse even After I refunded him the 99p. Looser."

With unstable Sharni07 being Jodi's best bet for a sale, you'd think she'd be glum. But her latest blog entry still remained cheerful P.P.S The suitcase is doing well on ebay. Or so my friend who's auctioning it tells me anyway. I think tonight was the last night for bids. I'm not sure who got it but my mate said it might be a guy who is willing to pay an extra grand for me to deliver it to him. Turns out the guy lives right near some friends of mine, so I can pay them a visit at the same time, if I do decide to go. Don't you just love it when things turn out good?!

The auction ended this evening, and of course ALL of the bids had been retracted. Even sharni07. Even dead kym_baynard. Maybe Jodi could put a postcard in the window of her local PoundStretcher. Or maybe she should just burn the bloody thing in her garden. If she advertises it on ebay again I don't think I have the strength to follow it.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

My train-obsessed nephew is suddenly starting to speak in sentences (he is 2) after a long period of saying very little. "Thomas has a branch line," he announced to my sister. In order to treat him after he had been good all day, she took him to a toy shop. "I want a turntable!" he kept saying. Not the record-player type, but the type that lets trains turn round on the track. They are coming to visit next month so I intend to spoil him rotten by buying him loads of presents and over-exciting him (his other favourite thing apart from Thomas the Tank Engine is to be chased round the room). I am the uncle equivalent of E-numbers. Still, I spend a lot of my time acting like a grown-up, so it is refreshing to just be silly around him. And no doubt in a few years he'll just be embarrassed so I am enjoying his company while I can.

It's so nice when you discover an actor or genre of film that you haven't really paid that much attention before, and then realise that there's a whole canon of stuff to watch. I've been addicted to Clint Eastwood movies for the last six months. He's the sort of actor I've kind of passed over in the past, thinking you had to be a heterosexual man to enjoy them (my Dad was a big fan). However, despite the fact that he's got slightly leathery skin and crows-feet from squinting in the sun, his hair looks like it's made of polyester and he's a bit tall and gangly, he is The Man! He has a laconic acting style, a voice I could listen to all night (though he's a man of few words), and he sure knows how to ride a horse. Forget Brokeback Mountain: here are 5 of my favourite Clint films. (I could do 10, but reckon 5's about as much as anyone can take hearing me rave about Clint). The films he made in the late 60s/early 70s are the ones I like best.

1. Two Mules for Sister Sarah. (1970)

An unusally talky film for Clint, and he also gets a humorous romantic lead in Shirley MacClaine (another rarity). It's one of those opposites-attract films - he's the hard-bitten gun-slinger, she's the scatty nun. He interrupts a gang of men who are trying to rape her and they become friends. Sort of. Just like in The African Queen, they embark on a wartime journey which leads to a series of bizarre adventures where they have to work together - at one point they start counting how many times they've saved each other's lives. There's a nice twist at the end, which I'm sure you'll spot a mile off (I didn't), and you find out why Sister Sarah needs those two mules. There's a fab soundtrack too, by Lalo Schifrin.

2. The Beguiled (1971)

A weirdly dream-like, cult film where Clint plays a wounded solider, hiding out in a prim school for girls - although he's on the enemy side, almost all the females in the film want to get into his pants, leading to an explosive situation. There's so much backstory to this, told with flashbacks, that it feels like a sequel to a film that never got made. Geraldine Page is the repressed Headmistress (her extra-curricular interests include lesbianism and incest). Clint also kisses a pre-teen girl in the first couple of minutes. Shocking! And don't get too attached to the turtle either.

3. Hang em High (1968)

A Western that rises above the usual run-of-the-mill shoot em ups to tackle the issue of capital punishment - in a time and place where lawlessness is rife. Clint is left hanging for dead for a crime he didn't commit at the start of the picture. Luckily, he's rescued and sets about tracking down the posse who presumed his guilt and sentenced him without a trial. There are some pretty tense scenes involving public hangings and the film doesn't answer all the questions it raises.

4. Play Misty for Me (1971)

Clint is a slightly promiscuous DJ who gets himself a crazy lady stalker who keeps asking him to play Misty. This is a tense thriller - rather different from his usual police/western genres. Watch out for the stereotypically flamboyant gay neighbour who lives by the docks so he can meet sailors.

5. The Good, The Bad and The Ugly (1966)

A lot of people think this is one of the greatest films of all time, and I'm inclined to agree. It's an epic story of three men who are after buried treasure amid the backdrop of the Civil War. It's the last of the Spaghetti Western trilogy and Clint's character is a bit less robotic than in the other two films (he's called Blondie and plays with a kitten at one point). The last 20 minutes or so are some of the most beautiful ever filmed, and it ends with a fabulous three-way Mexican stand-off. I can watch this over and over again and never get bored of it.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Another day, another race.

The Amazing Race (TAR to its friends) is back on American tv again - I didn't watch the last season as they messed with the show's "Emmy Winning" format, and had teams of families - urrrgh. This season, they're back on top form, with 11 pairs representing a supposed cross-section of American society - Team Gay, Team Old, Team Black, Team Hippie, Team Deep South, Team Nerd etc. Team Gay were eliminated in episode one, and it was probably just as well. Camp is never fun when it's self-conscious, and the vision of Team Gay doing an impersonation of I Dream of Jeannie, was, as the French say, de trop.

Anyway, all is not lost because Team Fratboy are providing plenty of homoerotic speculation. Here is the official CBS picture of Team Fratboy.

And this picture (only vaguely safe for work) of them surfaced on the internet recently. No they're not holding hands, but they may as well be.

Eric (he's the one who needs hair plugs) and Jeremy, he's the one in the saggy blue underwear, are so butch and uber-heterosexual that they seem to be enacting their own personal Top Gun. Or Brokeback Mountain. The nipple rings have raised a few eybrows. And they talk about sex constantly, plying their charms on Team Pink (ladies who wear pink a lot). However, it all went a bit dubious when the boys ended up admiring the huge bulging bicips of Team Pink (which were bigger than their own).

And while everything they do is an exercise in trying to appear heterosexual, it just keeps going hilariously wrong, with the opposite results. Spying a couple of likely ladies from their taxi, Jeremy remarked: "Hey, there're prostitutes". Eric admired their backsides - all's going well so far. But ooops - the ladies of the night turned out to be guys. I get the impression that's happened to them before. And later on, Eric shouts encouragement: "Jeremy, you look amazing, buddy!" as his life-partner special friend abseils down a building. As they say, the squeaky wheel wants to get greased.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Jodie Marsh's brother is selling her Big Brother suitcase on ebay for £1000. So far there have been no bids. But it's early days yet. Over in Marshworld there is an amusing rant about Chantelle (It's a shame that she turned out to be as cold and selfish as the rest of them and of course it's not nice to have to read that someone doesn't want to be your friend (especially after you've campaigned for them for two weeks and spent hours on the phone to their mum) but you know what? I'm over it.)

I am shocked to see that Jodie's rival Jordan is doing so well in the book charts. Jordan's book is at number 3 in Borders book charts at the moment (Jodie's book is nowhere in the charts, despite the fact that I bought it.) How can this be? True Jodie fans (like me) have a pathological disgust and fear of Jordan. We know, for example, that Jodie's breasts are real (like the title of her book "Keeping it Real"), whereas Jordan's are not. Still, Jodie is feuding with so many people right now, that it can sometimes be difficult to keep track of them. And it doesn't help that ordinary members of the public keep having a go at her. Some young lads shouted abuse at her in the streets of Brentwood last Thursday (which makes me want to go to Brentwood even more). Jodie (doing her best impression of a conservative member of the House of Lords (one with particularly bushy eyebrows) wrote "It terrifies me that some of the youth of today are nothing but little yobs, who can't read and write properly, who can't even speak English properly and who stand in the street spitting, yelling at people, swearing and smoking. One of the hideous 11 year olds had a fag in his mouth that was bigger than him!!!"

Oh Jodie. Can't you see that we were destined to be best friends (for about 2 weeks before you get bored of me).

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

You can get delirious (if you take life too serious)

Extract from "The Most Embarrassing Momements of 2006 - broadcast 2020

"Well as novelty songs go it had everything - nonsense lyrics, over-choreographed, lots of children doing break-dancing - awful singing - it was about 20 years behind the times. Yet it still got to number 1. How? How? Who bought it?

Reader, I put my hand up. It was me.

And I'm proud. I predicted big things for Chico late last year, and it's all come true. His signature tune Chico Time leapt in at number 1 this week, inasmuch the same way as projectile vomit can shoot a long way. Chico's new video shows that you can still hit the big time if you smash open your piggy bank and hand over £8.96 to studio producers. I don't think they actually had a proper set - just a big white gym and some rolls of coloured paper. But who cares - it's all in the song and the PERFORMANCE. Tom Jones had better watch his back, cos Chico's younger, both his hips (almost) work properly and his history as stripper/porn star tells us that he knows how to grind and be cheesy simultaneously.

Not since "It's Madison Time" have there been so many dance moves that you can try to perfect in the privacy of your own home. There's the "Stand on one leg, look sideways and throw your arms up" position. There's the "look at your pretend watch and pull a face" dance. Thre's the backwards moon-walk. There's the spin round on the spot and almost fall over dance. And if all else fails, simply point at the camera and make your eyes bulge.

The lyrics are a masterpiece of zen wisdom - "You can get delirious (if) you take life too serious." I love how he rhymes "erotic", "exotic" and "hypnotic" in the same line. Yoko Lennon will have a hard time accusing HIM of "moon" and "june" cliches. "Be happy to be free!" Chico demands. He is like, so totally, a contemporary philsopher.

Personally I prefer Chico's original performance at X Factor - it has a raw quality that I like. It reminds me of the centre-piece from a school play, performed in one of the less well-heeled parts of London - with Chico as the "cool" teacher who hogs the lime-light.

And particularly at one point towards the end when he's dancing alone with the two ladies either side of him, just after he says "come on baby bump (funk?) my body"- something seems to go wrong (I think it's supposed to be on purpose) and he pulls a shocked face before gathering himself together and continuing like a true pro.

I'm not sure if the world will ever be quite ready for a second hit. But let's hope so.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Strange attractor

My fella is convinced he is currently repaying some huge karmic debt - lately, whenever he goes into a shop, it often results in it taking ages, because the till's computer system has crashed, or some Crazy in front of him has a million pointless questions (it took 40 minutes to buy our TomTom - we knew we were in for a long wait when this social misfit type guy in front started asking about digital cameras - he had no intention of buying one, but you got the impression he just craved human company, of any variety.) Last week at our gym, his membership card, which you have to give in for safe-keeping, went mysteriously missing, so the woman on the desk had to print him out another one. But the machine that prints the cards broke. Again, we had a long wait.

We recently had a happy little letter telling us "Congratulations for changing to British Gas", even though we had done nothing of the sort, and he's had to spend hours navigating through complicated telephone menu systems in order to re-establish our original account with Scottish Power. Particularly bad is when you have to speak your address to a computer - who can NEVER understand it. He drove himself mad doing this at Heathrow Airport, saying our address over and over - only to be told by the computer: "I cannot understand. Please try again." I have a policy of never ever talking to computers. I just stay silent until the program short-circuits and I can be put through to the "queue" to eventually talk to someone in India in approximately 4 months time. He has put in a complaint about being forced to change without consent, so we have been put in contact with a very strange and abusive woman at a complaints office. She is never available - takes the longest lunch hours possible, is always "busy" when we try and phone her, and is very sharp and unpleasant when you od make contact with her. She made us wait for 10 minutes while she found out what her email address is, but has since fallen into a sulky silence and is not responding to emails. I wonder if there is someone that we can complain about the complaints person to, but I shudder to think what they may turn out to be like.

Although annoying, he actually enjoys some of the verbal sparring with telephone operators who have been trained by Kafka. One told him that he'd have to provide a reading of our gas meter. We didn't know where it is as we live in a block of flats with 12 meters and none of them are properly labelled - one flat appears to have 2 meters to itself - and it turns out we have been paying the gas bill of the people who live upstairs ever since we moved in. When told that Scottish Power had no intention of coming round to sort this out, my fella said "Could I ask you a question - what would happen if I refused to pay my gas bill?" "Well, we'd send someone out to cut you off," said the poor operator - falling into the trap. "In that case then... I'll pay the bill when you send someone round..." Eventually, a stalemate was reached - they won't send someone out - we don't know our meter number, so we will probably continue paying for the upstairs flat. Nobody actually seems to care, as long as we pay something.

And last week we received an electricity bill for £2000. Considering that we live in a 2-bedroom flat, this does seem a bit optimistic on behalf of the Electric Company. My fella again got through the menu of insanity and spoke to a human being. "Well sir, to get a bill that size you would have to be running three Olympic-sized swimming pools, constantly" he was told. "Unfortunately, I don't even have one", he told them, in his best Aunty Mame voice. They are sending someone out to verify this, next Friday.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Has Footballers Wives jumped the shark?

I am catching up on tv after the week in Istanbul, and I think Footballers Wives might be getting a bit stale - I made good use of Tivo's fast-forward button. The much vaunted bitch-fight between Tanya Turner and Joan Collins isn't until episode 5 and I gather they're only in it for 2 episodes, which is a shame. The focus has turned to some of the newer characters who I don't think are as capable of pulling of the kitsch drama as well as old Tanya - although arch-rival Amber is giving it her best shot. New character Tremaine Gidigbi is a welcome addition. I liked how he dressed up as a slave at one of the typically over-the-top Pride and Prejudice themed weddings, because that's what black people were in the days of Jane Austen. I've also noticed that the changing room sequences now have a gaggle of full-frontal naked extras in the background, their penises competing (and winning) with the dialogue and drama in the foreground. It's the end of civilisation.

I don't heart London

I was in London yesterday and never cease to be amazed at how "assertive" (ie rude) they are. If you want a laugh, try watching me and my fella attempt to hail a taxi in the middle of freezing weather on a busy London street. We were beaten to the post several times by dead-eyed Londoners who pushed past us. It was the same on the Tube at rush hour. I hadn't realised how busy it gets - trains pull up - doors open, you move to get on board and realise that there is no more space - at that point it becomes the law of the jungle. Some 3ft 6inches bitch-in-headphones pushed past me in a milisecond and was on the train, taking up the only available space, before I could blink. It was like seeing a flea jump - one minute they're in one place - the next they're elsewhere. Elsewhere, I saw numerous cases of road-rage. And everywhere, everywhere! I went, I could hear that impatient refrain "Yeah, yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah!" from people so bored and impatient at hearing their companions speak that they have to rush them along, so it can be their turn and all about them.

Now, is it the case that people start off with good manners, but gradually, London sucks their souls dry and they become hard-faced cows? Or maybe it acts as a huge ass-hole magnet - attracting all the scum of Britain - like flies on a big stinking dog poo? (Of course, you do realise I'm making generalisations - there are plenty of nice people in London too - though I don't know how they cope. I'd be picking off random people from the top of a tall building, given a month there.)