Thursday, August 31, 2006

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The Princess and the Pixel

Two years ago, I described on this web log, my travails at buying a new tv. The short version of the story is that I bought a really expensive one, and then the picture gave me headaches due to a rarely publicised phenomena called the "rainbow effect" which a small number of people are susceptible to, if they watch DLP televisions. Anyway, the tv shop wouldn't take it back, so I had to sell it on ebay and buy another one, a plasma one, which I decided I hated. So I sent that back (having purchased it over the internet the shop HAD to refund the money) and got another one, at which point my fella threatened to leave me if I didn't like it. (Actually, if you look very closely, you can see a faint white horizontal line that refuses to go away, but never mind).

Last week, the 10 year old combinbation tv/video in the bedroom broke for good. So it was time to get a new one. We decided to buy an LCD flatscreen with a combination DVD player. Anyway, I get it home and it's great. The picture is really clear. It looks fantastic as a piece of room furniture. I love it. I start watching one of my Dallas DVDs, one which details an intense friendship between Bobby Ewing and a 10 year old boy and could probably never be filmed today. There's a lot of scenes of them chatting together, in the open air, against a cloudless Texan backdrop. Then I notice there seems to be a fly above Bobby's shoulder. It doesn't move. The scene changes, and the fly is still there, though this time it's in Sue Ellen's (rather jutting) teeth. Then it's on Miss Ellie's breast (soon about to be removed due to the breast cancer storyline).

I look closer. It's not a fly at all. It's a black speck. And it won't go away. I look on the internet and discover that my tv has a "dead pixel". Apparently, you can't return them as being faulty if they only have a few dead pixels. To be honest, for the most part, you can't even see it. You have to be really concentrating and even then it only shows up like 10% of the time. My fella can't see it at all.

But I feel like the little boy in Sixth Sense. Rather than seeing dead people, I see dead pixels. This is the downside of me having had laser eye surgery five years ago. I now have eyesight of almost superhero proportions. If only they could invent a laser to correct my neuroticism, I'd be perfect!

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Exploitation Double bill

The two best DVDs I got from America were the Candy Snatchers and Switchblade Sisters - both were filmed in the 1970s and feature various Really Mean Girls who would give the Mean Girls of the recent Lindsay Lohan film a run for their money. These Really Mean Girls don't bitch about you behind your back if you gain a few pounds or make a bad fashion choice. No, instead they'd cut your face up or stub out a cigarette in your navel. They don't make films like that any more. Together, both films make a fabulous exploitation double bill. As Quentin Tarantino says in his intro to Switchblade Sisters, the film starts off with audiences laughing at how bad it is, but then they get into it and laugh with the film, and by the end, they actually care about the characters. Which is always a mark of a superior film when it wins you over.

Switchblade Sisters is basically Othello if it was set in a ghettotastic, graffiti-riven 1970s rough girl gang. Topdog Lace is head of the Dagger Debs, an all-female gang who act as an adjunct to the male Silver Daggers. Lace's main squeeze is Dominick, the ultra-macho leader of the Silver Daggers - they're like the Prom King and Queen of Trash. Dominick's voice is so deep that it sounds like a 45rpm record played at 33rpm. On the other hand, Lace has a squeaky Minnie Mouse voice, although she snarls all her lines in order to sound tough. My favourite line of the movie is when she squeaks/snarls "If you GO! It's gonna turn out BAAAAAAD!" at Dominick. Sure enough, she is proven right (he is gunned down during an ambush at a roller-skating rink in the very next scene). The storyline involves the invasion of a rival gang on their turf, led by "Crab" (picture a very early Elton John without the comedy glasses, who is compensating for male pattern baldness by growing out a mullet and wearing braces with lurid trousers and garish checked shirts). There's also a new member to the Dagger Debs, the slightly-more-classy than the others, Maggie. Dominick decides he like Maggie (in his sensitive way he demonstrates this by raping her), although Lace gets jealous - Dominick's only allowed to rape her! (It's such a feminist film!) Another gang member, the scary Patch ("I lost an eye for this gang, remember!) who may or may not be coded as a lesbian, engineers an internal power struggle between Lace and Maggie. You know it's gonna turn out BAAAAAD.

Switchblade Sisters combines a number of exploitation genres into one single film - as well as it being a "gang" film, it's also a "women in prison" film (there's a particularly cheesy scene involving butch predatory lesbian prison warders (one who is clearly a stuntman in a frock), cavity searches and head-flushing), a "blaxspolitation" film, a "high school" film and an "afterschool special melodrama". My favourite character is Donut, a slightly portly member of the girl-gang who likes her cakes, and is regularly the butt of jokes and the subject of bullying from the others. There's funky 70s disco music played throughout and the dialogue is deliciously over the top. It's fun to see actors who were practically 30 trying to squeeze into classroom desks and convince us they're still at school (maybe they were kept back a lot). The police never seem to arrive until after all the action's happened (isn't it always the case), and about halfway through, Maggie says she's going to change the name of the gang to The Jezabels (having looked it up in the dictionary and discovering that "jezabel" means "impudent woman" - nice to know that gang leaders are so erudite). But Tarantino was right, the final scenes of denouement had me watching from behind my hands.

While the Switchblade Sisters have a certain kind of tawdry nobility about them, the same cannot be said for The Candy Snatchers, who are just bad, bad, bad. A trash trio, consisting of evil brother and sister, Alan and Jessie, and their lumpy friend Eddy decide to plan Candy, the 15 year daughter of a rich couple. They bury her alive, clad in her Catholic schoolgirl uniform, with an air-tube sticking out the ground and then let Daddy know that they want a ransom. However, imagine their surprise when they turn up at the assigned time and place, and Daddy hasn't bothered to show up. That's when the film starts to get really interesting. How far are they prepared to go to get the money? A series of twists and double-crosses follow, as the kidnappers start to lose the plot and turn on each other, and it all gets very nasty and grand guignol. There are two rapes, lots of screaming and slapping, and weirdest of all, while all this is going on there's a sublot involving a little mute austic boy with vile parents (played by the director's own son), who is the only one who knows about Candy and is really her only chance of survival. The ending is one of the creepiest of any film I've ever seen - it's unlikely it could be made now. While there's a sense of fun in Switchblade Sisters, the Candy Snatchers is a much darker, unrelenting movie that stays with you for long after the credits roll. The DVD has interviews with the actresses who played innocent Candy (Susan Sennett) and ice-cold Jessie (Tiffany Bolling). Both actresses have put the film completely behind them, it transpires that Bolling is now 'more right-wing than George Bush' (she goes on about how the Iraq War was justified), and Sennett is simply horrified that anyone would be interested in such a film, and confesses that she initially feared for the sanity of the people who wanted to interview her for the DVD release. Nice to see what happens to Scream Queens once the cameras stop rolling.

I know where I'm going

Me in 2034

Despite only being in my early 30s (I can still say that at 34 can't I? Can't I? Can't I?), I often think and plan for my retirement and am always filled with terrible envy when people at my work retire (despite being happy for them). Don't get me wrong - I don't mind work. But I always have more fun on holiday. And that's what I imagine retirement would be, an endless holiday. Except I probably won't be able to enjoy it - knowing my luck I'll be bitter and housebound, rather than off in Vegas and New York.

Anyway, one of my preoccupations is visiting places in the UK to decide where I will retire. I had considered a holiday home somewhere warm, but after this year's hot summer, I've been put off that forever. Pensioners die in the heat. And I don't want to be forever worrying that the air conditioning will konk out and I'll have 30 minutes left to live.

So the south coast sounds viable - the weather's better. I wouldn't have to learn a new language (other than the local dialect words for bread) and I always like a sea-view. The gays seem to flock to the seaside resorts also, so if I did end up needing someone to give me a bed-bath, at least I could get 'family' to do it.

Anyway, this place looks lovely. I'm particularly impressed by the testimonials from real life pensioners called Freda, Pat and Mary who already live there. They all look like they'd be a right laugh and I am already imagining the fun we're going to have, meeting up in the communal areas to play whist and watch Day-time tv. Except wait, by the time I'm ready to retire, they'll all be dead. And the whole estate will have had a council estate built around it. Oh well.

Although it's easy to make fun of testimonials, I shouldn't forget that the last but one apartment we bought, we were asked to do a testimonial for it. The company had been having trouble selling the apartment complex, so they asked us to write something. I sent off a glowing report, which was used in a full page advert in our local newspaper. However, because me and my fella constitute a gay couple (which, in north Lancashire does not equal THE WOW FACTOR), they put a picture of the nice heterosexual couple who moved in next door, next to my quote, attributing it to my fella, who has the title of "Professor", which in the UK actually means something, not like in those countries where all you have to do is a little unqualifed part-time teaching on a flower-arranging course and they call you professor. So our testimonial was a composite of all the best bits of all the people who lived in our building. Needless to say, it worked and within a week all the other apartments had sold. You'd think they'd have given us a basket of jams or something, but we didn't even get a thankyou.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Yet another celebrity blog

One wonderful thing about the internet is how it brings you closer to everyone - including the rich and famous. Celebrities have gaydar profiles and keep blogs. As Jodie Marsh has not updated her blog since the beginning of July (rumours abound about breast surgery - surely not - wasn't she the one who made fun of Jordan's "plastic balloons"?), I have had to cast my net for celebrity blogging wider than usual. Obviously, no-one can ever beat Jodie. But thanks to jetpack technology there may be a contender. Paul Daniels' blog is eerily fascinating. I'm only going to quote one small piece from it, taken from a description of a hotel in Stockholm that he stayed at:

The first room we were given had no electricity and fortunately we noticed that before we unpacked. We moved to another room. Swedish design is VERY clean, but boring. There were mistakes like having the soap on a wall far away from the sink. The soap dispenser looked lovely, but the leverage wasn't strong enough to eject the soap from the too-strong bottles inside so I took them to pieces so we could get washed. The plug in the very shallow sink, which spilled over when you used it, was truly wierd and you sort of had to push it down and then, if you pushed it again, it jumped up into the air. If the tiles on the floor got wet, well, this IS the bathroom, they were dangerously slippy, and so on.

The level of lovingly mundane detail there is perfect. But there's more. Paul has an ebay account, and there's even a blog which describes in stalker-like detail every transaction he's ever made. Paul has a bit of a penchant from crap British horror films from the 1970s and 1980s (something we have in common), but also dabbles in diverse goods such as gramophone needles and old bits of pipe. The blogger describes all of the feedback transactions, as well as adding his/her own commentary: "...this is a huge result for little Paul Daniels and I'm sure he was absolutely delighted to make over a thousand pounds on ebay." and "I think Paul is going to enjoy owning 'his' book. Not a lot!" How lovely.

Monday, August 21, 2006

No, it isn't very pretty, a town without pity

I spent all of Sunday addictively playing a PC game called City Life. It's a bit like Sim City - you have to build a working city. The main difference here though is that there are 6 social groupings in the city that you have to manage - making sure that they don't end up clashing with each other, and satisfying all their needs. As the game starts, your city is only small and only the lower classes will deign to live there - the simple-living, down-to-earth Blue Collars, the counter-cultural Fringe workers and the skanky Have Nots. But as your city begins to grow in size, the middle class Suits and Radical Chics will move in, demanding bistros and vegetarian restaurants and kicking up a fuss if they don't have access to schools, hospitals and police protection. Bitches. Finally, members of the upper class Elite will appear, though I never got that far.

What's fun about the game is that you can focus in on any part of the city and view it in close-up, to the point where you can observe people walking around - dressed in different colours depending on their social class. The Fringe workers all seem to drive Orange Camper Vans and their neighbourhoods are strewn with graffiti, whereas the Radical Chics all wear shades and haughtily strut around like they own the place. The Have Nots tend to stagger along, as if looking for their next heroin fix. In order to encourage people to "better" themselves, I invested in a school of Adult Education. However, it proved to be insanely expensive to run and as a result the entire city went hideously bankrupt. Then a fire started in one of the Have Not areas, quickly spreading everywhere as I optimistically had skimped on providing adequate emergency services, hoping that people would be sensible and not leave chip pans unattended. Shortly after this, the few Radical Chics and Suits I'd managed to cajole into living in the city,left in disgust, their once trendy skyscrapers turning into horrible ugly Blue Collar dwellings, before my eyes and their snazzy office buildings left empty, running up more debts - with no-one capable of working the computers and thinking up ideas for new tv shows. Then a bunch of Blue Collars started harrassing the few Fringes who'd moved into their area to teach at the local school. There were some unpleasant scenes involving pushing and jostling in the street. It all got a little too real and I had to walk away, leaving my city to fend for itself. Thank God I never took up town planning as a career choice.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

The bitch is back

For those of you who like your bloggers intelligent, straight-acting and handsome, then you won't be at all interested that my alter ego, Jamie4U is back. In order to "prove" how deep, interesting and creative he is, Jamie has decided to share some of his "poetry" and an erotic story about him and Robbie Williams, which should have the contributors at shaking in their boots and pulling the sheets over their heads. Needless to say, in true Jamie fashion, it ends in tears. Jamie also reveals his failed porn career, having almost appeared in Chav Power Bottom 6 (he was upstaged at the eleventh hour) and has found a novel way of curing himself of an STD.

I never tire of writing Jamie4U. Promiscuous, spiteful, self-absorbed, moronic, uncultured and utterly bigoted, he's a horrible creation which lets me purge myself of all the hatred, disappointment and weariness I occasionally feel about the gay scene. Despite the fact that his outlook is incredibly grim, he always seems to be having more fun that anyone else. The fact that he will remain forever at the age of 18 has something to do with that. And as his spelling isn't all that hot, I don't need to worry about accuracy, or about censoring myself. The main joke about Jamie is how delusional he has - how in almost every posting the joke is on him. He's nowhere near as attractive or interesting as he thinks he is, but only has youth and a fast metabolism on his side - like so many of these lads, give him a few years and he'll be a wreck, his mediocre looks ruined from too many late nights, Big Macs, drugs and alcohol, passed over for a version of himself born 24 months after him and left only with a caustic, desperate jealousy, which will intensify as every year passes. That's why Jamie will never get old. There'll be nothing fun about Jamie once he hits 20 and his star fades permanently.

Almost every Jamie posting is based on some aspect of my own life or those of my friends. But it's like looking at my life through a cracked fun-house mirror. His friends: long-suffering Brian and his nerdy Star Trek Voyager obsession, foul-mouthed, boundary-breaking Miss Thang, Twix-guzzling faghag Debbie, eternal bridesmaid Keith and crazed alcoholic Barbara are all based on bits of people I know - though I'll never tell who's supposed to be who. As I said the other week "there's a little bit of Jamie in all of us", or as my friend Tom replied "Or there can be for £10". Indeed.

Friday, August 18, 2006

New soap, old soap

Thank God Big Brother is over. This year has been more excruciating than usual. I gave up watching a month ago, sickened by the producer bias. continuing intervention and "twists". I did catch the final tonight though - predictably, Pete won. He'd held the voters to ransom, bleating on incessantly about having some "vision" about a big spiral and his dead friend coming down from Heaven and needing to win otherwise God would have failed him and he would "lose himself". Rather than winning, he should have immediately been taken away in an ambulance - it's either the ravings of a schizophrenic having LSD flashbacks or plain simple cynical manipulation. I'd place my bets on the latter. As usual for female contestants, Nicki and Aislyne got booed to varying degrees. Nicki decided not to play ball and stared into space during her "interview", until the producers screamed down Davina's headpiece "Get her off! Now!" Davina tried to grin her way through it, but it left another nasty taste in the mouth. Let them all fade into the obscurity they deserve.

I've been watching the third season of Dallas on DVD. Filmed in 1979, it brought back my childhood - at the age of 7, I used to sneak out of bed and ask for a drink of water, as I knew my mother used to watch it and I wanted to see it too. I'd then sit on the edge of the chair in my dressing gown and sip the water so slowly, while taking big gulps at the antics of JR, Sue Ellen, Bobby and Lucy onscreen, until my mother caught wind of what I was doing and packed me off to bed. I didn't know what Dallas was, but I knew it was "naughty" and "grown up". Looking at it now, it's interesting to see a) how the storylines were repeated again and again through other soap operas since - the kidnapped baby, the bad sister who sleeps with her brother-in-law, the estranged parents, genetically inherited diseases, breast cancer... b) how standards of physical attractiveness have developed since those days - Lucy would never be allowed on tv these days - too "fat". Bobby would never get to be the leading man - his chest is puny in comparison to today's superhero men. JR's hair looks plastic and he has unsightly dark circles. Sue Ellen's teeth stick out. Cliff Barnes looks like a bag lady. By today's standards they resemble The Munsters rather than a powerful family of oil barons. c) It's still addictive though. Some things can't be improved on.

Monday, August 14, 2006

All the con of the fair

Have you ever been to a fairground as a child and tried one of those games where you pay £3 for three balls or three hoops and you have to throw them over various prizes or knock down cans or whatever. The point of these games is that you can NEVER win. You might if you practiced for like, a year in your own home. But the average punter will never be able to knock down all the cans with the balls in just three goes. They're the sort of games that give fairground people a bad name. Well, the digital equivalent of that has just gone on the air. And now you can get suckered without leaving your home and traipsing round a muddy field.

Suddenly, late night tv has been taken over with these horrible "quizzes". I caught 20 minutes of one on Friday and instantly felt sick. A Tanya Turner clone, with eyes so cold and glazed over that she could have easily stood in as an extra on Zombie Dawn of the Dead, kept up a stream of inane babble only previously seen on QVC and other shopping channels. A kind of simplified cross-word was shown on the screen, and the Tanya Figure needed to know the missing word. You had to phone in with your answers. The winner got some money, the amount of which seemed to get larger every few minutes, yet was also vaguely indeterminate. "Can I have a 5 minute count-down?" shouted the Tanya Figure. Inexplicably, a count-down appeared, accompanied with frantic, tick-tock music that got faster and faster, always accelerating towards a conclusion, an insane monetary orgasm that was never going to come. I started to feel panicky and breathless as the music wound me up "Phone in now!" squawked the Tanya Figure. "This isn't my show! It's yours. We want to give you the money, but you have to phone in!"

Suddenly, the phone started ringing. Some saddo offered an answer. "No babe!" smiled Tanya, looking sad for a milisecond. Another and another phoned. One "lucky" person got through a couple of times. "It's a good time to phone in!" Tanya advised.

Every answer was wrong. Some of them were obviously wrong, as in, they could never be right in a month of Sundays and the cretins who offered them clearly needed to be taken out of society and put in a remedial educational facility. But a lot of the answers were possibly correct. That was the point of the game. There wasn't just one right answer, there were potentially hundreds. And let's just guess here, that the correct answer is basically the last possibility when all of the others have been exhausted and hundreds of pounds worth of phone calls have been made on the equally correct, but "wrong" ones. I didn't stay around to see whether someone won, but I'm guessing that when eventually a person did win, it turned out to be some stooge, standing slightly off-camera in the studio. Possibly the person who supplies Tanya with cocaine - because you can't humanly remain that hyperactive for that length of time without some sort of chemical pick-me-up. And then the whole thing would start again. They might let someone real win, like once in every 20 games, but it all seemed like the most despicable con.

I wish we could return to the innocent days of late night tv, when blonde, over-heated human Barbie dolls would incite drunken, masturbating loser men to phone in so they would flash their tits for half a second. At least that was a fair exchange.

Sunday, August 13, 2006


Just back from a weekend in Brighton. I've been going there off and on for the last 12 years and was visiting a couple of friends who live there, including my ultra-extroverted journalistic friend. I used to really love Brighton and wanted to live there in my 20s - unlike many British seaside towns it has stayed contemporary and cosmopolitan, with a diverse range of people, making it feel a bit like London-on-sea. There is also a huge gay population and when I was doing my PhD I visited it a lot, interviewing some of the older members.

But on this visit it all seemed a little tarnished. The town centre was dirty and a lot of the people looked worn out - the kind of grey, drawn faces you eventually get if you smoke pot and regular cigarettes all the time, stay up all night and don't bother with sunscreen. I've only ever seen faces like that in two other places - Amsterdam and Camden. There were lots of flakey yet assertive people with tattoos all over their limbs (I'm not knocking tattoos - I have one), wearing charity-shop junk and sporting dreadlocks. I saw a couple of pigeons pecking at some orange vomit that someone had thrown up onto the pavement outside a women only gym and thought "this place is going to the dogs".

I've noticed this a lot lately, not just with Brighton. Is it me? Is it just to do with getting older and slowly becoming the sort of person who notices when people drop litter and nobody picks it up (and gets mad about it). Or has there just been a gradual degeneration everywhere? "Oh it's just Brighton!" said one of my friends. "I love it, but I can't stand it. I have to get away once a month because they all drive me mad. They're so lazy and selfish. They let the pier fall into the sea. That says it all."

It all left me feeling square, square, square. Yet it didn't make me want to alter my lifestyle around crystals, bongo drums and incense. Maybe I should shift my attention to the more genteel Hove, further along the coast, which is where I can at least unleash my inner old-lady to the full.

Anyway, I did meet some interesting people at the weekend. Brighton is not short on those. Including Letitcia, a disarming "erotic services provider" who was dressed in clothes befitting Mae West. She describes herself as a sex goddess and you can buy her book, Body Worship "It's not a kiss and tell expose, I have far too much class for that", at her website. As we parted company she whispered to me "I do conversions..." She also has a blog where she sets the world to rights and reminisces about her life. She gets a lot of hassle from the British Public, so please go and leave some kind comments there.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

All the films I saw in the US

I hardly seem to go to the movies any more, but on holiday, when it's 100 degrees in the afternoon, the only place to escape indoors with air conditioning for a few hours are the matinees. Here's what I saw, in order of how much I liked them:

Art School Confidential

This is almost a sequel to Ghost World, and covers similar themes of youthful alienation. Cutey, Max Minghella is the new student at a crappy art school, where his tutors (including John Malcovich and Angelica Houston) are all either too incompetent, pretentious or self-absorbed to offer any type of realistic help. Minghella's ambitious student cares little for conceptual art and is stupified when subjective "messages" in art are valued more highly than actual artistic ability. There's also some stuff with a serial killer and a nude model. It's an indictment on modern society. Really.

The Devil Wears Prada

A lot of fun. Meryl Streep plays the sadistic editor of a New York fashion magazine, Runway. Enter Anne Hathaway (from Brokeback Mountain) as a cute ingenue who has no fashion sense but an ambition to be a good journalist. She's hired as Streep's assistant, and it's goodbye to any semblance of a normal life. It's kind of been done before (see Swimming with Sharks, Showgirls and All About Eve), and this is an equally camp, bitchier version of an old story. Before you know it, Hathaway's got a whole new outfit, discovered her ruthless streak and found a string of oddly heterosexual admirers (this is the fashion world, remember). But will she ever find happiness and hold on to her thicked-haired chef boyfriend? Or is she destined to turn into Streep herself?

Another Gay Movie

A kind of gay version of American Pie which also has some good parodies of Carrie (except the character doesn't get soaked in a bucket of blood this time, but a bucket of something else...) and Mommie Dearest (female impersonator Lipsynka plays a Joan Crawford-like mother, furious at the wire coat-hanger in her son's room). Four gay teens are out of school and on a mission to have anal sex before the end of the summer. Cue a series of misadventures and camoes from the likes of Graham Norton (he plays an exchange teacher who's into "Belgian chocolate" - don't go under the glass coffee table), Richard Hatch (playing himself - his decision to do a nude scene was, let's say, brave) and James Getzlaff (the lead from reality tv series Boy Meets Boy), who manages to shed his nicey-nice image and gets dirty in a threesome. It's just one outrageous set piece after another and I'm ashamed to say that I covered my eyes with my hands on three occasions.


Woody Allan revisits familiar Manhattan Murder Mystery terrority, but this time set in London (and again stars his new favourite Scarlett Johansson). It's all a bit of hocum, with Scarlett seeing a ghost who puts her onto the scoop of the century - that the "Tarot Card" serial killer of London is really Hugh Jackman's swarthy aristocrat. It doesn't really matter whether he did it or not. The key points are that you get lots of Woody/Scarlett schtick where they run around London being amateurish and bickering mildly, and Hugh Jackman's bare chest appears a lot. For that reason I give it 10 out of 10.

A Scanner Darkly

Clever sci-fi thriller, which uses a rotoscoping animation technique which gives the film a unique feel. Society is hooked on a drug and Keanu Reeves is the operative assigned to infiltrate a group of users, in order to find out who the main dealer is. But it all gets a lot more complicated than that. Throw in the "zany" humour of Woody Harrelson and Robert Downey Jr, doing a kind of 21st century Cheech and Chong, while Winona Ryder is at her most earnest. Don't see it if you couldn't follow the plot of the Matrix.


Horrible two-hander about what being a prison "bitch" is like. Blonde, blue-eyed Randy (Michael Pitt from Bully) has a 25 year sentence (for dope possession and spraying "fuck you" on a neighbour's car and no I don't get the American justice system either), and he's sharing a cell with fugly wife killer Jake. Before you can say "pass me that towel", Jake's established who the daddy is, and it all gets pretty horrible and intense from then on. This film would bring out the screaming, outraged liberal, even in Fox News' Bill O'Reilly.

Superman Returns

Although I'm like, one of the top 100 Parker Posey fans in the universe, even I can't say that much for this. He's back is he? I never even noticed that he'd gone anywhere.

Monday, August 07, 2006

The arms race

While in the US, my hotel had a gym on the 15th floor, which I visited a couple of times. It was in a very urbanised area, and I soon realised that a very large part of the clientele was gay. Or metrosexual. Or both. There was a lot of steroid abuse going on. And the changing room would require a complete reworking of Berger's "Male gaze" theory: men who look at men who look at men who look at the original men. Hanging out at the weights room were a couple of very butch-looking numbers - who managed to keep up a constant stream of inanely camp babble in Paul Lynde voices, singing along to the vapid disco soundtrack and talking about Stella Got Her Groove Back and other macho topics while lifting weights that would require a normal person to use a forklift truck. And they weren't the exceptions. Everywhere I looked where these tanned men with superhero chests and white teeth, who smiled and made eye contact a little too much. And clearly, the gays were the hegemony here. In a very crowded, silent steam-room, two acquaintances who resembled Tom of Finland models started a conversation which began with "I saw your ex-boyfriend last week..." Nobody batted a (false) eyelid.

On the one hand, it was wonderful. For someone like me (who constantly keeps my poor fella at a foot width's distance when walking), to see that level of confidence in one's sexuality, was eye-opening. On the other hand, the fact that every single person there was contributing towards the "arms race" (the bigger your arms, the more popular you are), made me wonder whether one form of oppression has simply been traded in for another. I mean, do men really need those muscles these days? Isn't that we invented machines for? To do the heavy lifting for us? Shouldn't we all simply be relaxing on expensive Conran sofas instead? Instead, the muscles are "presentational" - like peacock feathers. Almost pointless, but they consist of a form of sexual display in a very competitive arena. Although the juxaposition of a huge male body with a camp gay sensibility feels somewhat incongruous (even though there's no reason why it should - it's just my social conditioning).

I've been thinking a lot about "false needs" at the moment. I think it was Marx who theorised that capitalism works by creating these false needs in people, so we end up enslaving ourselves - thinking that amassing material possessions and looking good will make us happy. When in fact, all we do is end up on a treadmill where the standards and fashions continually have to be shifted so that only a very tiny percentage of the population can keep up and we all keep on buying stuff. Is the gay desire for big arms, chest, legs etc really a false need, created by advertising? Or is it something evolved? Or is it due to over-compensation for gay men being told they're deficient males? Or is it just about competition? Ironically, steroids can cause growth of breast tissue, shrinking of the testicles, low sperm count and loss of the ability to have an erection - there's always a price to pay.

I guess that the situation can only really get more extreme. I don't see anyone starting a backlash. Gays have got their rights (or some of them) and so now they're free to establish their own little hierarchies and force them on everyone as soon as they step out of the closet. And I'm just as complicit in it as anyone else. I go to the gym too. I've liked the compliments I've had recently since I stopped being vegetarian and my exercise program seems to be having an effect. I just wonder - is being a real man simply about doing what everyone else does? And you know what, I don't think it is.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Holiday snaps

Sitting in a fighter plane in San Diego (apparently the gay porn capital of the world).

My favourite outfit from the Liberace Museum. I don't think his knees looked that good though.

Roller Derby at Downtown Las Vegas. Apparently this ultra-violent all-girl sport had escaped my notice until now. At first it looked like a re-enactment of one of my favourite films Switchblade Sisters, but it does actually have proper rules and everything, despite the fact that it just seemed to be about big girls sending each other flying into the (scared) audience.

Me at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. If I can only hold that posture for the rest of my life...

Vegas from helicopter. Our hotel was the fake New York one.

Advert we saw at the airport. I think if I stayed in Las Vegas I would turn into this woman.