Thursday, November 30, 2006

Lives of Fire

The campy South American telenovella Vidas de Fuego (Lives of Fire) which Ugly Betty's family are always watching, has proven to be so popular that you can download mini-episodes from ABC's website.

It's (badly - of course) dubbed into English rather than having sub-titles, but it's still pretty fabulous.

And if you need any convincing of how great Ugly Betty is, this clip below, where her nasty gay co-worker dresses as her for Halloween, says it all. Hola!

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Saturday, November 25, 2006

I think I just found my new screensaver

I am loving Ugly Betty, the US version of the Columbian telenovela Yo Soy Betty La Fea. It comes to the UK early next year on Fridays on Channel 4. But all the episodes can be mininova-ed and watched in one glorious Ugly Betty orgy.

The premise is a bit similar to The Devil Wears Prada and a sitcom called Almost Perfect, dealing with similar issues of the nice but clueless new girl in a high-powered workplace setting. Betty is given a job as a PA to a fashion magazine exec because she won't be a sexual temptation to him.

Ugly Betty is very fast-paced, bitchy, funny and sad all at once. It freely acknowledges all its other influences - Betty's little gay nephew says on a visit to her office, "It's just like Top Model except no-one's crying" and in a storyline involving "The book" he says "I've seen Prada like seven times!"

The show also parodies vaccuous television channel E with frequent clips from "F", the Fashion Channel, where snarky British presenters dish all the gossip. And the show pays homage to its telenovella roots by having campy Spanish telenovellas almost constantly playing in the background on the tv in Betty's house in Queens.

And I love how Eric Mabius, who places Betty's suave boss, also played Steve, the cool singer in the band who was the object of Dawn Weiner's affections in another "ugly Betty" film - Welcome to The Dollhouse. Gina Gershon also crops up in the first episode, channeling Donatella Versace with scary accuracy.

And there's great use of music. A couple of my favourite songs (Hip Teens Don't Wear Blue Jeans and One Mint Julip) appear in the first two episodes - both during scenes in the workplace restaurant where all the thin, beautiful people recoil in horror at Betty's presence.

With a show like this, there's always the temptation to give Betty a makeover and make her beautiful so she gets the man of her dreams. However, not all makeovers are an improvement, as the clip below shows. Look out for Jim Robinson from Neighbours also (without so much as an Australian accent!) And the very camp guy at the end is my favourite character.

Friday, November 24, 2006

The things pensioners say!

My mother-in-law was visiting at the weekend and was talking about some lovely leather shoes in the slightly common TJ Hughes discount store. They're "fux leather" she said. Nobody seemed to know what she was talking about, so we asked and she said "You know, fux! It's a type of leather. Very nice too." She pronounced it "fucks".

"My fella asked her "How do you spell that?" And she said, "Oh you know, F, something U, X".

"Do you mean faux?" my fella asked, pronouncing it in the usual way, as "foe".

It turned out she did. After we explained it, she was mortified, but laughed about it. Apparently the people who work in TJ Hughes in Liverpool talk about "fucks leather" to everyone quite happily. I think we should all follow their example.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

You want Dylan? You can have him!

I have been playing The Hook-Up a very camp Girly Gossip type game where you take the role the new girl in town. The (vague) goal is to get a boyfriend, make friends, go on dates etc. A rather geeky girl with square glasses and a lip piercing called Sara took me under her wing and before long I had got myself a hot date with Dylan, a cool boy from the rough part of town. He impressed me by getting a tattoo of my name on his arm on our first date. Actually, it was a little bit borderline stalker behaviour, but I'm used to that. Imagine my disgust when I found out he was just having me on and it wasn't even a real tattoo. But he walked me home and we had our first kiss. It was so romantic, despite the fact that he is only 6 pixels in height.

But like, the next day I'm hanging out at the coffee ship with my posse (Sara in other words), when this bleach blonde bitch called Claire shows up and is all like "Dylan's mine!" We had to have an "INTENSE CONVERSATION", where we traded insults (she said my house was small, I told her she was Paris Hilton's more stupid sister). Anyway, I think I scared her off with my 'tude. And now Dylan is mine! Or is he? Actually, he's lost interest lately, and now me and Melissa who works in the tattoo parlour have set our sights on Matthew who works in the art gallery, and might be gay... He's asked me on a date, but commented on my nice dress, so we'll have to see what happens.

I'm lost in a social whirl!

It's more exciting than Neighbours at least.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

You Know My Name

The New Bond film Casino Royale is pretty good. It still feels like a Bond film (particularly the older Sean Connery ones before it became a bit of a parody of itself), but it eschews cheesy jokes and gadgetry. There is no Miss Moneypenny, and no Q - both which had become a little strained over time. Daniel Craig has a bit of a craggy face rather than being a pretty-boy, but I suspect he's probably closer to the "cruel killer" that Fleming originally envisaged. And he's got the best body of any Bond by far. The title tune, by Chris Cornell of Soundgarden is pretty good too.

In the 60s, cinemas showing Bond films were apparently very popular among men cruising for sex. Fancy that! Ultimately, Bond is about Britishness and about the somewhat mythical fantasy of British supremacy. Although the film is based on the first Bond book, it has a very up-to-date feel about it. The poker scenes fit well into the current trend for poker nights which seem to be sweeping the country, the plot involves international terrorism, and the intial chase scene resembles that trendy urban sport (I forget the name) that involves people running and jumping between buildings. Bond, of course, is not only better than anyone else at this, but he's also the best poker player in the UK. And if we need any more evidence of how "on the button" the film is, the news story this morning about the apparent poisoning of the ex-KGB officer oddly mirrors what happpens to Bond.

A cousin (several times removed) of mine used to be head of MI5. While this information is quite nice to know - it shows that I must at least have a few good genes in me, it's also rather depressing to know that I'll never be the most powerful or successful member of the family. I would quite like to be a spy myself. I could be one of those ones who seduces older men and gets all the state secrets out of them. I admit I'm not very good at jumping off buildings, foreign languages, karate or poker. But I think I'd make a good male Mata Hari :)

Friday, November 17, 2006

Don't go outside...

Apparently "The Thing" is going to be "remade" as a "companion piece" to the 1982 John Carpenter version (that was one of those films that everyone was talking about in school on Monday morning after it got shown at the weekend).

As much as I like claustrophobia and paranoia of "The Thing", there are a couple of other horror films projects that I'm looking forward to even more. One is The Hostel 2. The first one was not a very nice film at all (I had to put a lot of it on fast forward). However, a sentimental favourite of mine, Heather Matarazzo is starring in it. Heather was the star of Welcome to the Dollhouse, an indie flick from 1995 about a geeky schoolgirl with middle child syndrome. She listens to Debbie Gibson's "Lost in your eyes" and has a club called "The Special People Club". The film explores her blossoming sexuality with toe-curling humour. As someone who is 33% pensioner, 33% leading man and 33% geek, I could emphasise a lot with Heather's character (well, 33% of me could). I just hope they don't do anything horrible to her in Hostel 2 (which seems likely, considering the film's premise).

And I'm even more excited about the filming of Stephen King's "novella" The Mist. This was the first Stephen King story I ever read, aged 13 and I thought it was amazing. In the story, a man and his son pop into a typical American supermarket. Then this weird mist comes across, bringing with it all manner of eldritch Cthulu-ish nasties. Anyone who steps outside never comes back, and the patrons of the store begin to suspect that the entire world has been obliterated. Rather worryingly, the two military men from a nearby Top Secret base where experiments have been carried out, are found out back, having hung themselves. As the hours pass, the customers get crazy paranoid, and led by freakish Mrs Carmody, form their own religious cult that demands a human sacrifice. (I don't know about you, but I've always found that starting a religious cult is a great way of solving problems and getting your own way.) I stopped buying Stephen King books about 10 years ago, but some of his early stuff (Carrie, The Bachman Books, Misery) still has the power to freak me out. I just hope this is one of the better film adaptations of his books.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Make it a Stonewall Christmas

Poor Stonewall have been criticised on outintheuk for their uninspiring Christmas card selection this year (at least they haven't said something like "Happy Winterval").

They are a bit "safe" and "bland" and "uninspiring" aren't they. Well, fear not. As a staunch supporter of Stonewall, I've put my thinking cap on and have the following ideas for cards that reference gay issues and lifestyles in a more original and fun way.

How about a picture of a twink wearing just a Santa hat and a smile, with a hilariously suggestive slogan like "Who's cumming down YOUR chimney this Christmas?" or "Hasn't Santa got a big... SACK!"

Or if that's a bit too Clone Zone for you, how about a picture of reindeers feasting on the dead bodies of Mary Whitehouse, Cardinal Winning and Baroness Young, with the slogan "Have a Stonewall Christmas: we eat homophobia for breakfast, lunch and dinner!" (Very political)

Too grotesque? How about a queer rendition of the Nativity scene, with three drag queens presenting gifts of CK1, Poppers and lube to Mary (Judy Garland) and Joseph (Paul Burrell) while baby Jesus is depicted as Ellen Degeneres and the Angel Gabriel is Quentin Crisp, hovering above the manager with a big shit-eating grin on his face.

I love helping, I do.

Sunday, November 12, 2006


I first saw Buneul's The Exterminating Angel in the summer of 2000, in a crowded arthouse cinema somewhere in London. Their air conditioning wasn't working and the air was stuffy and cramped. As the film was about a group of people trapped in a room and gradually going insane, it was most thoughtful of the cinema staff to provide such a sense of reality - like those old B Movies where someone wearing a monster mask would run up and down the ailses at various points in the proceedings. It was a very unpleasant experience anyway. I saw the same film again today and enjoyed it a lot more. It made me realise that for some reason I like films of the genre (semi-genre) about people being trapped. Here are some of my other favourite films - you can see the theme emerging.

The Hole When Thora Birch was more famous than Keira Knightley, they were both in an odd little British/American film about 4 upper-class schoolkids who decide to get out of school trip by locking themselves in a bunker for the weekend. Except when it's time to leave, someone's misplaced the key...

The Telephone Box An odd short film by Spanish director Antonio Mercero. A man walks into a telphone box. The door closes behind him, and he's trapped like a fly in a spider's web. People surround him, laughing at him. And gradually his embarrassment descends into total fear. It's all here.

Demons A Dario Argento horror film about a group of people who receive tickets to the opening night of a new cinema. So they start watching this cheesy flick about Demons, when one of the patrons, after trying on a mask from a lobby display, turns into a demon herself and starts infecting everyone. Then everyone realises that they've been bricked into the cinema (how? why?) It's almost as surreal as The Exterminating Angel, but has a better soundtrack. I also seem to remember that a helicopter crashes through the ceiling at one point - also for no reason at all. And look out for the equally odd sequel Demons 2 - basically the same film, but set in a high-tech tower block.

Night/Dawn/Day of the Dead The Romero zombie trilogy all feature characters holed up in tight corners while marauding zombies gather outside, clawing to get in. I like Dawn for its "commentary" on consumerism (they're trapped in a mall), whereas "Day" depicts paranoia and the nastiness of humanity in a much more eloquent way.

I'm sure I can think of some more...

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Dear Ladies, the fairest of all to see

Dame Evadne Hinge (George Logan) and Doctor Hilda Bracket (Patrick Fyffe) known as Hinge and Bracket, were an old-fashioned musical act, with a speciality in gentle "old lady" comedy.

I got to see Hinge and Bracket perform live in Morecambe a few years ago, shortly before Hinge died. They were great. Their audience was made up of pensioners and gay men. Bracket sat at the piano, while Hinge sang, and the pair of them reminicised about their lives in the fictional village of Stackton Tressle while keeping up a steady flow of bitchery.

Their tv series from the early 1980s ran for 3 seasons. The BBC has never bothered to release any of it on video or DVD (preferring to flood the market with a seemingly bottomless pit of naff Only Fools and Horses DVDs) but the following clip from youtube should give you a taste.

They live a life of complete Englishness, trapped in a timewarp from just after World War II. New-fangled inventions, such as lifts, cash card machines and a self-service garage are all sources of confusion. Both of them appear to be bordering on Alzeihmers Disease, judging from the cheerful obliviousness that they conduct their lives with.

And fabulously, you can get every episode from The Hinge and Bracket Official website. My DVDs arrived yesterday, so I've been enjoying them for the first time - I was too young to know about them when they were first shown on BBC2. A lot of the humour comes from the mannerisms of the two comedians, especially Hinge, who has a wonderfully comic face.

I find it hilarious that on the links page to the Hinge and Bracket website, there is a link to the Anthony Newley Appreciation Society, who happens to be another of my favourites. His rendition of "The Joker" (theme tune to Kath and Kim) is about the most fun you can have in three minutes.
Starbucks is my pusher

I'm just back from a work thing in Valencia, where it was hot and sunny - more like July than November. That's where we get all our winter tangerines from. Not fair. I was on my own, and without my fella who tends to be more adventurous than me. I end up staying in my hotel room, having room service and watching CNN every night, rather than venture out. My Spanish is limited to about four words, so I just faked understanding by nodding and grunting and using hand gestures or shrugging or saying "I am English. English!" at people.

It's kind of scary how much I need coffee and tea to get through the day. At the conference I was at, a bunch of us had gathered round the coffee urn during the break, and there was a mild panic when we realised it had run out. Someone was dispatched to see if there was more to come. There was only a little bit left, enough for half a cup. I recognised fellow addicts, admitting that they "needed" coffee. When I said I'd had none at all that morning, the others decided to give me precedence and I was allotted the half-cup.

On the way home, on the plane, I started to feel really ill - a bad headache came on, which worsened to a migraine by the time we landed in rainy Heathrow. It was caffine withdrawal. Normally I have about 5 cups of coffee or tea a day. But yesterday, what with one thing or another, I'd ended up having none. I'd slept in late and missed breakfast. I'd meant to get a coffee at the airport, but I had this big wheely suitcase thing and decided not to bother with coffee as I'd probably end up spilling it. Then on the plane itself, you had to pay for coffee, and I was economising so didn't bother. So by the time I got to Heathrow I was a wreck. The longest ever queue to get through immigration... I practically ran to a Costa Coffee, got a big latte and drank it all down. It didn't make the headache go away, so I had to shamefully go back to the counter and order an espresso, which I gulped down immediately, burning my mouth in the process. The headache dulled a little at that point, but not much, so I took a couple of painkillers. I was feeling normal again by the time I got on the coach back to Bristol.

I guess I should try and cut back at some point. But it's a habit I kind of like. It's cheap at least so I don't have to start breaking into people's garages to fund the craving. And it's socially sanctioned. And as I don't drink alcohol or do drugs, I guess it's a pretty tame addiction to have. In a way it's an addiction that's crept up on me without me even noticing it. My fella is a lot worse than me - to use the terminology - we're a pair of co-dependents. There's no way I could get off the coffee unless he does first. Going into a Starbucks, a Cafe Nero or a Costa Coffee makes me feel weirdly relaxed and safe. All that nice dark brown polished wood and the comfy leather chairs. These are the opium dens of the 21st century.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Desperate Housewives goes Bang

Like a bottle of milk that had been left standing too long, DH went a bit off during last series. But the writers seemed to have pulled their socks up in the third season, and episode 7, entitled "Bang" delivered the goods. (Spoilers follow for UK residents who will have to wait until March 2007).

The episode eschewed its usual all-over-the-place narrative, by fixating on one single storyline, a hostage situation in a supermarket that begins as a comedy and gets darker and darker as events progress. Somehow, half the cast members are contrived to be in the supermarket at the same time, while the other half end up watching it all play out on the television news in Bree's living room (Bree holds a kind of Superbowl party for everyone, with free food while they watch the news).

It reminded me a bit of a short story by Stephen King called The Mist, which also involved a group of people trapped in a supermarket (although there it's due to a weird mist that contains Cthulu-type monsters outside). Felicity Huffman gets all the best lines and acting, though Laurie Metcalfe (Jackie from Roseanne) plays it even more nervy and wired than usual.

And Melrose Place (season 1) is finally released on DVD this week.

Remember all the crazy wig-pulling, baby-stealing, apartment-exploding, lobotomy-giving moments with Kimberly (Marcia Cross) with this clip.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Hurrah for Saga Radio

I have been doing a lot of commuting recently (I worked out I've driven for about 24 hours this week). My commute takes me from Bristol, up the M5 to the congested mess that is Birmingham's motorway interchange. Forget the fabulous M6 toll motorway, it only works if you're coming from or going to London. Fortunately, as the traffic slows to 0 miles an hour, I at least have one consolation - Saga Radio, which my car radio can't get in Bristol.

Saga Radio is the station for pensioners (well, people over 50), and although I am 34, my inner pensioner (I call her Audrey) is VERY strong. The station's proud tagline is "all the hits from the last six decades AND NOW!" It doesn't play a lot of "NOW" really. This picture is taken from their website - it depicts what appears to be an "average" listener, enjoying themselves while listening to Saga. Actually, it looks like they just died and rigor mortis set in a few hours ago. You'd probably never notice.

My favourite Saga advert is one they have for insurance. They perfectly key in to the moaning minnie attitude of so many British old people (and the old at heart like me) by saying things like "If you phone our hotline, you will speak to a BRITISH PERSON and we don't use the automated menu systems that are so COMMON NOWADAYS." I almost feel like getting Saga insurance (even though I probably don't qualify), just so I can speak to a real live British person, rather than hear a computerised voice say "Press 1 if...." for 25 minutes, and then be put through to someone who's accent is not mutually intelligble with mine. Perhaps a lot of Saga's customers get confused by computer menu systems (not realising that they are talking to a computer...

Bewildered old person: "Hello love, what's this about insurance?"
Computer Robot voice: "Please enter your 23 digit security number."
Bewildered old person: "Ohhhhh I don't have it love."
Computer Robot voice: "Press 1 if you want to enquire about your policy."
Bewildered old person: "You what? The battery on my hearing aid's a bit low. Say again?"
Computer Robot voice: "Press 2 if you want to change your details."
Bewildered old person: "retail? What retail? Someone help me!"
Computer Robot Voice: "Press 3 if you want to speak to someone in India."
Bewildered old person: "What number was that pet?"

Saga news (which happens every half hour) is always a lot of fun to listen to. For the past week only one news story has dominated their news. Forget the mid-term Elections in America. It's all been about those poor kiddies who died as a result of carbon monoxide poisoning on their holiday in Corfu. I know it's tragic, but Saga News has been covering the story like a rather morbid aunt who likes nothing better than to hang off every gruesome detail, and then have a good funeral to cry at. It's always the top news story. Last week I must have heard them say 8 times that the father had woken up but had not yet been told that his children were dead. Yesterday the story had progressed to the possible criminal prosecution.

To be fair, they do play some good music - though nothing too fast or with too much of a beat - they would be worried about over-stimulating people's pace makers and inducing coronaries in half their audience. There is no shouting and no unpleasantness either. That's what's the best thing about being old. It's just cups of tea and a nice song from the days when music had a proper tune and most of the songs had a story to them. Not like NOWADAYS. I can't wait.