Thursday, April 27, 2006

Visit from Aunt Mame

Last weekend an old friend came to stay from the weekend. He is a journo from Brighton - 6' 4' and with an even bigger personality. To say he is an extrovert is an understatement. He's just got his own radio show and he'll probably be famous this time next year.

So like a catalyst, he took a look at my life, and decided I needed to get out more, so I ended up going to one of Bristol's gay bars for the first time. It was actually quite nice and there was that frisson of being "fresh meat" where you know you are the subject of about twenty simultaneous conversations. Then he went to the loo and this awful person sidled up to me and tried to chat me up. I think my horror immediately registered because he took offence and started being rude. I'm reproducing part of the conversation here, because it was so bizarre, I can't really believe it occurred.

Him: You've got a good spot here.
Me: Yes, I came early.
Him: Hi, I'm XXX
Me: Hi.
Him: That's not much of a handshake.
Me: Oh
Him: This isn't going very well.
Me: I'm in a relationship so not looking for anything.
Him: Neither am I. I'm in a relationship too. He's gone home.
Me: Oh right. (my friend comes back at this point and introduce them).
Him: Can I ask you a question?
Friend: You can, but you might not get an answer
Him: What's your favourite academic subject to talk about?
Friend: Sociology.
Him: Urrrggh, poofy.
Me: We need to go. Now.
Him: You have man boobs and you have long hair.
Friend: They're pecs.

We left at that point, without bothering to say goodbye. Perhaps we was on drugs.

My friend complained that I don't make enough effort to stay in touch, so I have been inviegled into signing up for MSN. So if you want an IM chat, I'm now available.

My new favourite band at the moment are Zero 7, who have been around for ages. They've been described as the British version of Air, and it's about right. I especially love Simple Things and Give it Away. They are coming to Bristol next month and I'm thinking about buying a ticket.

I'm off to Glasgow tomorrow and have arranged to meet High Camp Caress Morrell. Maybe he can teach me a few dance moves.

Friday, April 21, 2006

She lit a cigarette, both hands behind her back

After reading the rave reviews of Nighty Night by Dessie (my wise-cracking Second Life best friend), I spent £19.99 on the DVD (as the lead character Jill would say - after forking around in your purse and taking £30 for it). I'm enjoying it a lot - particularly as the writers have used music and dance in various ways to comedic effect. One of my favourite scenes involves evil Jill's attempt to seduce her neighbour by wearing a red wig and fake balloon breasts. She emerges onto the screen in slow motion, dancing sluttishly to the strains of Imagination by Belouis Some. This song is gold-dust if you want to trick someone into having an affair with you.

I love this song so much that it is making me rethink my opinion of 1980s culture. Belouis also looks like the first boyfriend I ever had. I had an enormous quiff at the time, we must have looked like a right pair.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Limp and Let Die

As Alan Partidge would say, it isn't Easter without a Bond film, and I had a DVD of Never Say Never Again which had been on a pile of unwatched films by the tv for about 6 months, so last night I bit the bullet and put it through the projector. I always struggle to stay awake through Bond films - they're usually about 40 minutes too long for me. And let's face it, they're all pretty much the same film with variations on a theme. This one was slightly different though because it wasn't made by the same production company who did the others. And it was Sean Connery's last Bond film - he was 53 at the time, although a well-preserved 53 at least.

Indeed, it's nice to see older people saving the world. We started thinking of alternative pensioner-esque titles to Bond films, like "On Her Majesty's Secret Hospice", "The Care Assistant Who Loved Me", "For Your Cataracts Only" and "Ibuprofen is Forever". Despite my mocking of Bond, I should come out of the closet as a secret fan. I even have 007 Top Trumps. Each card has a picture of a character from one of the films, with 6 attributes: Intelligence, Strength, Madness, Glamour (!), Evilmindedness and Perserverance. It's interesting to know that Sean in Dr No scores 20% on madness whereas he is 18% madness in Goldfinger (who decides these things?) I always choose Glamour anyway (you are OK unless you get Rosa Klebb who only has 2% Glamour). Don't think my Bond-obessions is totally low-brow though. There are loads of academic books on the subject and how it relates to British identity, feminism, sexuality etc. I recently read a collection of Bond essays, of which one was entitled "James Bond's Penis". It didn't live up to its promise though. However, new Bond, Daniel Craig is practically begging to do full-front nudity. And they do say a picture is worth 1000 words.

Friday, April 14, 2006

All-star Chen

CBS has announced that Big Brother 7 will be an all-star version, where viewers can vote in their favourite contestants of previous seasons from a pool of 20. For the past three summers I've been addicted to this show, which features a very complicated set of eviction rules, combined with dastardly scheming and alliance-breaking which makes Melrose Place look like a tea-party at a nunnery.

Best of all, hostess Julie Chen is a televisual phenomena - a whole cult has grown up around her on the internet, with her bizarre silver glittery spacesuit loungewear Kim Il Jung constumes, helmet hair and mechanical style of presenting, fans of "Chenbot" as she's known, linger on every awkward post-eviction intervew (or 'chenterogations' as we call them) and exchange clips of her weird verbal tics and fluffs (the Chenbot's Motherboard often gets overheated, causing her verbal algorithms to meltdown at least twice an episode).

I do hope that season 4's Alison makes a flamboyant return. Never has there been such a vilified tv bitch. This heart-of-ice beauty queen with the vocabulary of a drunken sailor was instrumental in eliminating every contestant (including her ex boyfriend - the season's hokey "X" factor put in couples who had broken up from doomed relationships, without bothering to tell them until everyone was safely locked inside). Alison used her hair, her breasts and her brain in order to wrap the men of the house round her little finger, until it was time to wave them buh-bye. However, although she got to the final 2, she lost to the equally horrible Jun, who's strategy was to sit back, eat chips, get fat and let Alison do all the dirty work. Alison went on to compete in the Amazing Race with another of her ex-boyfriends, but was eliminated in round 2. Sharpen your knives Alison, you'll be a shove-in, or I'll eat my hair.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Songs to make children (and me) cry

My fella's family are an interesting lot. He comes from a very lively, female-dominated family - he has three formidable sisters, a sassy teenage niece who begins most of her utterances with the sarcastic words, "Look, love..." and a very dominant mother (Val), who all remind me of Klingon women. Collectively, I call them The Val-kyries. His Dad used to play guitar round the clubs, and when they were younger, he used to delight in playing corny, tragic songs to all his kids, in order to make them cry. Sometimes, when they visit, he brings his guitar round, and embarrassingly, the songs have the power to make me blink away tears and look down. I am a sucker for songs that have a story.

My favourite is the old Hank Williams classic, Kawlija, about a wooden carved Indian who is in love with an Indian maiden across the street. He couldn't let it show, "because his heart was made of knotty pine". In the end, she gets sold to a wealthy customer and now he's as lonely as can be. Oh the agony of unrequited wooden love!

Another great one is the agonising tale of "Little Rosa" by Red Sovine. This is one of those songs that you talk rather than sing. It's about an honest working Spanish man who works on the railroad and his daughter little Rosa, who always comes running to greet him from work. Needless to say, one day she doesn't come, and by the end of the song he's laying a single rose on her grave. Guaranteed to get children bawling.

At least he doesn't do Bo Jangles. Otherwise I'd be reaching for the Paracetamol!

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Bang to rights

Having spent the weekend listening to too many parodies of the Cilit Bang advert, I actually ended up buying some Cilit Bang on Monday. Advertising works! I don't know what I was expecting. I mean, their product sounds like a 1970s Danish porn film.

Anyway, it wasn't very good. If left smears all round my shower-screen. Still, nothing can beat Cilit Bang. Over at their website you can "be the first to see their latest commercial". My favourite is the one which involves Barry Scott (the Cilit Bang spokesman with the odd hair) and his "friend" Jill (she looks like trouble). I also like the advert for Cilit Bang Power Grime and Lime Cleaner ("take that nasty scum away" - now there's no need to be rude about Barry and Jill). Although shock!!! On the FAQ page is the Q. Is Barry Scott real? And the answer is, "Barry Scott is a fictional character created to demonstrate the benefits of the Cilit Bang range." I feel rather cheated, having invested a lot of time thinking about Barry Scott. It's like finding out that Santa isn't real.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Blue Movie

I saw Into the Blue last night, which should have really been titled "Let's look at Paul Walker's abs for 2 hours". It is all beautifully filmed, but I should have suspected the worst when I read the dread cliche phrase "The hunters become the hunted" on the back of the DVD box. There is a nice but poor couple, but they fall in with a somewhat amoral couple (we know they are bad because she is too tall and he is too short). Then, while diving they all find a crashed plane full of cocaine (which the dealers had thoughtfully wrapped up very carefully so it wouldn't get wet). The nice couple decide that Drugs are Wrong, so they leave it alone. Then they find an actual shipwreck, full of potential buried treasure. But they need £30,000 for some reason to get the equipment to dig it up. So do they go back to the cocaine and try and sell it to raise the funds? What a very 21st century moral dilemma. I'm sure I saw the Times cover it in their "modern morals" section last week. Needless to say, the hunters become the hunted. I'm sure Paul Walker and his abs could have made £30,000 in a couple of hours if he'd known the right bars to hang out in... Calling Brad Pitt, come in Brad Pitt, your time is up.

Monday, April 03, 2006

A Will and Grace-esque weekend in Toon

I took a plane from Bristol to Newcastle on Friday night to visit my parents (who live in Durham City) and my oldest friend Kathryn and her partner who lives in Newcastle (we were on the same table at infants and had the same piano teacher). It's been a long time since I'd been back to the northeast where I grew up, and although I often say how grim it is, I do have a very soft spot for it, the people and the accent. Newcastle and Durham are both very different cities and represent the best of what the north-east has to offer. Newcastle is a party-town (or toon in the local dialect), with great shops and an amazing buzz. Durham is a lot more sedate, dominated by its Catherdral, scenic views and posh students.

My love of Geordies was somewhat stretched to its limit of tolerance on the plane, which had a hen-party (complete with silly outfits) and a gang of men going to watch the Rugby at the weekend, who acted as if they were about 6 years old. Fortunately I had headphones.

Kathryn and me are both obsessed with Deal or No Deal so on Friday night we made our own version of it (with bits of paper for the different numbers) and roped her long-suffering partner into playing. We then took turns at being Noel "Is this going to be one of those DREADFUL rounds?" Edmonds, the banker and the contestant (specialising in being thick contestants who have complicated strategies which involve dead relatives or faulty logic - e.g. "Today it's Friday and Friday has 8 letters in it, so I'll have box number 9 please Noel." We also stopped for commerical breaks at various dramatic points in each game - Kathryn had somehow memorised the dreadful Cilit Bang advert perfectly, while I did ads for incontinence pads for the elderly, dia-calm, Purple Loans finance and that evil pensioner insurance scheme that June Whitfield advertises ("no health screen necessary! You may lose your house if you do not keep up with payments...")

Even though we were only playing for "props", not real money, it got quite tense and involving, particularly at the end. Both Kathryn and I made Deals and ended up with about £20,000. Her partner risked it all and came away with only £100. The shame!

On Saturday we went shopping round Eldon Square and I bought some clothes/DVDs. It got busy round lunchtime so we got the Metro back to her house and ended up listening to all the old 80s music that we used to listen to when it was the 80s. Kathryn would make mix tapes from the Annie Nightingale show on Radio 1 on Sunday nights and then do copies for me. In the evening I saw "The Hostel" - which is the new film by that director of "Cabin Fever" and Tarantino, which is rather sick. These three back-packers go to Slovakia in order to visit a mythical hostel where the women are all gorgeous and sex-mad. But it's all a trap and they end up in a basement, to be tortured and then killed by jaded millionairres. Not a very nice film and if I worked on the Slovakian tourist board I'd be tempted to sue. It's difficult to like the hero as he's one of those confident jock-types who calls everything "gay".

The plane back was delayed on Sunday evening, but I'd bought a book called Freakonomics which was so enjoyable that I didn't notice. It's a really fun book - about the psychology of money, and has all these true-life stories about American society. For example, apparently, the crime rate in America dropped quite sharply in the 1990s, despite predictions that it was going to soar because of drugs and poverty. The reason the book gives, is due to the Roe vs. Wade decision which legalised abortion in the early 70s. Because abortion was then made legal and cheap, millions of very poor women who didn't want kids had abortions as a result, so by the mid 1990s America was missing a population of under-class, unloved kids who were most likely to commit crimes. And Nicolae Ceausecu's banning of abortion in 1966 in Romania, meant that he ostensibly created a population of angry young people who had a large part to play in the uprising that took place in 1989, which led to his own execution. How's that for ironic.