Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Does Bravo Two Zero have a homoerotic subtext?

I keep hearing about this book - it's a number one best-seller and I think Alan Partridge said it was his favourite book. So I bought it, in order to have one of my ironic reads. I sometimes get my fella to read out choice sections of Jackie Collins novels or the Jodie Marsh autobiography to me in bed - he does all the voices. We've got a bit bored of Jodie lately, and felt that some unreconstructed hyper-masculinity with a bit of self-conscious homoerotica might make a good change.

Anyway, here's a lovely excerpt from page 18 of Bravo Two Zero:

Would they fuck us? Arab men are very afectionate with each other, holding hands and so on. It's just their culture, of course, it doesn't neccessarily mean they're shit stabbers, but the question had to be asked. I wasn't that worried about the prospect, because if it happened to me I wouldn't tell. The only scenario that did bring me out in a sweat was the possibility of having my bollocks cut off. That would not be a good day out. If the ragheads had me tied down naked and were sharpening their knives, I'd do whatever I could to provoke them into slotting me.

On the back cover, The Independent on Sunday describe this as "one of the best books to emerge from the first Gult War.. magnificent".

Shit-stabbers? Rag-heads? How did this book make the top best-seller lists? He makes Jade from Big Brother seem politically correct... Almost.

I like how he doesn't seme that bothered by being fucked by Arab men, and has already thought it out in his head. Don't ask, don't tell... There are other references to anal penetration in the book and he seems to take a long time in describing in detail the impressive physical attributes of his mates. Homoerotic subtext? Bollocks - as he would say. It's all out in the open.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Bump and grind

Thanks to the magic of illegal internet streaming sites I watched the Grindhouse double bill yesterday as a Bank Holiday treat. I like Quentin Tarantino because he has an intelligent approach to directing stupid films. Grindhouse consists of two full-length films, Planet Terror and Deathproof. The former is a "splatter" zombie film, which involves the release of toxic gas at a military base, which infects the surrounding populace. Deathproof is a "car chase" movie which pays homage to films like Duel and Faster Pussycat Kill! Kill! Both films have been shot to appear as if they were very low budget and now old, with scratched and missing reels. The use of music and fashion in the films also suggests that they could have been filmed in the 60s or 70s, although the use of mobile phones places the action in the present. As a result, the films have an odd, timeless feeling to them. Both films also have the appearance of been "pirated", so you can see members of the cinema audience getting up and leaving, and during some of the scenes you can hear audience members laughing and making comments. Planet of Terror is the most gory of the two - with a woman having a leg replaced by a machine gun, and a man who likes to chop off other men's testicles. There are a few links between the two films which makes them work well as a double bill.

Best of all though, are the fake commericals mainly for other films which appear before the start of each feature. I collect trashy film ads from the 60s and 70s (the Something Weird distribution company release them on compilation tapes), and these were spot on:

Earlier this year a contest by SXSW got directors to create their own grindhouse trailers. A large sample of the entries are here.

I feel a bit guilty about watching the films illegally, but they're not released for several months yet in the UK, and I'll see them again at the cinema and probably get them on DVD. The quality of the internet streaming is watchable but not great. But that might not be the case in a couple of years or so.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Mr World

I remember sneaking downstairs when I was 7 to watch Miss World on television. It was the 1970s and the contest's heydey, with cheesy music, flyaway hair, day-glo bikinis and sexist comperes. Or so I'd like to think (I don't really remember the details).

Miss World is seen as utterly naff these days (actually it always was naff) - the film Carry on Girls (one of my favourite Carry-ons) has June Whitfield playing a Mary Whitehouse NVLA type leading a gang of feminists to sabotage Sid James's beauty contest, using itching powder and turning on the sprinklers. I recall that it ends with Sid escaping from angry crowds in a child's car down Brighton Pier and then getting on the back of a motorcycle with Barbara Windsor. And somehow Bernard Bresslaw ends up with a babe.

Anyway, I had no idea that there is also a Mr World contest. This is the 2007 winner, Juan Garcia from Spain.

It's not the best picture of him I could find. But why flatter him?

I'm so annoyed I missed it. I would have especially enjoyed the talent show round which apparently featured "energetic hip hop moves", a "guitar rocker from Austria" and caricature drawing (!)

I guess some gay men and women will respond to Mr World by thinking "yum, swimsuit round!" I should really try and take the high ground and say something like "What a shame that sexual equality has simply resulted in the opportunity for men to be objectified in the same way as women."

Maybe I should take June Whitfield's lead and put itching powder in their jockstraps. That would make for an interesting contest at least...

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

21 today! (not)

It's that time of year again. I'm celebrating my birthday by marking exam papers all day (a lovely consequence of having my birthday at the end of May is that for years I had to sit exams on my birthday and now I end up marking the bloody things).

This evening I will be getting drunk at home alone, breaking all the mirrors of the house and listening to a mix tape of Judy Garland until the mascara runs down my face and I collapse into a sobbing, heaving wreck on the floor. That is the traditional way for a gay man to celebrate his 35th birthday.

Monday, May 21, 2007

The perils of being passive-aggressive

On a gay networking website that I sometimes use, I received an email from someone. I read his profile and decided we had nothing in common. In cases like this I don't usually reply back, hoping that silence will be effective. In the past I would send a polite rejection email back, but it usually resulted in abuse or questions such as "why, what's wrong with me, who do you think you are anyway?" I guess you can't be friends with everyone. And because I am good-looking in a bland, generic sort of way, gay men often can't really see past that, viewing me purely in sexual terms (rather than as someone with interests, personality quirks etc).

Anyway, a few days later I received another short email from the same person. It said "Ignerent camp queen" The person had also blocked me from responding to them.

I guess because it's intended as an insult I should count it as abuse. And I've reported the person to the site adminstrators. But as insults go, it's not a very good example of one. If you want to call someone ignorant then I guess you should at least try to get the spelling right - otherwise it says more about you than the person accused. Additionally, I can see where they're coming from with the "camp queen" bit. But I actually like camp queens and am a bit camp myself at times. The "camp queen" insult always makes me a bit sad, because it's a form of kowtowing to homophobic, heterosexist values which heterosexual men have made. And ultimately, I've found that people who call each other "camp queens" are usually camp queens themselves. It's not really an insult you could see tripping off the tongue of say, Sylvester Stallone could you? But put it in the mouth of a Blackpool drag queen and it works better. Additionally, why insult someone you were just complimenting a few days previously? The story of the fox and the "sour" grapes comes to mind.

On the rare occasions when people are mean to me I try view it in terms of the person having a bad day or being drunk or something, rather than classifying them as "evil" or a "bastard". I think it's more charitable to do this, and also it makes my own worldview less dark. And ultimately, there is something a bit passive-aggressive in not responding to someone's friendly email.

With that said, I've still reported the person. Abuse is abuse. Even if it doesn't have the intended effect and gives me a blog entry.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Football crazies

I was in London yesterday visiting my friend Tim. We hung around Notting Hill/Kensington and saw the new Daniel Auteil film My Best Friend. I love Daniel Auteil - he has such a kind face, so it was a bit of a stretch to have him cast as a businessman with no friends.

There was an "important" football match on in London yesterday, which meant that groups of men were everywhere, breaking out into boorish chanting in that dreary way that they do. I always find it odd how men can judge other men as friends or enemies depending on which team they support, and I witnessed one supporter of a team (I have no idea who was playing) warning some fellow supporter who he had clearly never met before about a group of supporters from a rival team "don't go upstairs!"

But haven't these men got it a bit wrong. Surely, no matter what team they support, the point is that they all have a great deal in common with each other. They all like football. If they were to think about it for a minute, they'd realise that their real enemy is me and people like me who hate them all. Because if I had my way I'd ban the stupid game forever. Or I'd make football fans wear some sort of fitted noice detector brace around their neck, so if they started their usual shouting in the streets or on public transport, the authorities would be notified. Asbos would be handed out like confetti. I'd take all the fun out of it.

Walking home through Bristol town centre at 10pm, the chanting was still in force, spreading across streets as people set each other off. It was all a bit grim. I guess power comes in two forms - there's sanctioned, official power, the sort of power whereby you can decide how much or little money someone is going to be paid, keeping them out of jobs, education, good housing etc, deciding what constitutes a crime and how long someone will go to prison. It is the power of law - which is not always fair or right. It's often insiduous and subtle. It's the little old man with grey hair who goes past you unnoticed. Then there's the sort of power you display when you have no official power - the power to break or bend the official laws - to beat someone up or threaten to do so, to shout and be indimitating in the street. Such displays are more showy, brash and instantaneous. But ultimately, in societies, official power wins out. So maybe that's why people shout and behave badly during football matches. Because in their lives, for that day, they can feel powerful.

I'd still slap Asbos on the lot of them though.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Manchester vs. Lancaster

Reasons to move to Manchester:

Closer to family (Leeds/Liverpool) +6
More going on culturally/shopping etc. +8
Bigger pool of potential friends +4
Somewhere new(ish) +5

Reasons to move to Lancaster

Close to work +8
Can socialise more with friends from work +3
Safer/quieter +5
Can get a cheaper and bigger place +9
The cat will be able to go out more +3

Reasons not to move to Manchester

Mortgage will cripple us -9
More social problems in a bigger city -5
Hour long commute to work -6
My fella won't let the cat go outside - 2

Reasons not to move to Lancaster

Probably won't see as much of my nephews :( -6
Already lived there for 13 years. -10
It's a bit boring. -8
I've told everyone I know I'm moving to Manchester and would never move back to Lancaster. -1

Manchester: 1
Lancaster: 3

Friday, May 11, 2007

My son is gay?

I love this little monologue - a mother discovers her son is gay and takes to her bed. She goes through all the stages of discovery in a minute (it was like watching the years 1990-1993 in my own home, sped up.) And I love the ending. "Who's hungry? Ya hungry?"

If you liked this, you might also find Jackie and Debra funny also - about a pair of high school girls and their increasingly tense friendship... "I'm not talking to you, but I will text you and let you know that I am not talking to you..."

I wish this guy was my friend.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Twenty dollars to eat food I give you. I don't eat tomorrow. Muchos gracias amigo, god help you!

The above quote is from the wonderful Mirna, half of fabulous Team Crazy in the fast-paced and often hilarious gameshow The Amazing Race. Mirna and her cousin Charla are Armenian Americans - they speak 5 languages - often, it appears, all at the same time. During moments of high octane drama, when trying to communicate with locals, they often adopt a form of pidgin Spanish which involves adding an "o" to the end of words at random: "Stop-o!", and "I have to get to the doctor-o!"

Charla has a form of dwarfism, although as we're constantly reminded, she can do anything that a regular-sized person can do and better. The pair battled it out in season 5 - highlights of which included: Charla trying to ask a working prostitute for directions, the girls carrying 100lbs of meat and worrying about getting mad cow disease, Mirna offering her prayers to Eva Peron in a graveyard, Charla getting electrocuted and their constant battling with the other teams who delighted in calling them "bitch!". As Mirna says "Being a lawyer I have to deal with despicable people on a regular basis."

Unsurprisingly, Charla and Mirna were brought back in the all-stars season 11 which ended last week. All-stars seasons are often a bit disappointing, but Charla and Mirna surpassed their season 5 hijinks by a long way. Charla's secret weapon - hidden wheels within her shoes so when the going gets tough she can be dragged along by Mirna.

Here's a scene from an early episode where Mirna goes into meltdown mode and starts channelling a 19th century peasant, while all the other teams pass them by one by one....

You have to feel sorry for the poor taxi driver - he has no idea what he's let himself in for. Thanks girls - you're true all-stars amigos!

Monday, May 07, 2007

5 games I'm addicted to

How do you use your internet? I have my laptop perched on the arm of my sofa. It's on all day and even if I'm on the phone or watching tv, I'm usually on the PC as well, reading blogs, checking emails or playing games. The games especially help me relax (and they're good for your brain.) Here are my five favourites (turn the sound off first - they all have pretty annoying sound effects).


Make blobs grow and then they'll explode and set off chain reactions making other blobs explode too. They object is to clear the board. There are various strategies to adopt and everyone I know who plays this swears by their own unique way of playing. I used to be able get to level 25, but I seem to be getting worse at this.

Scary Squirrel World

Deceptively easy. Just click on coloured groups and they vanish. The object is to get rid of all the blocks. I've got it down to 1 left before - but it's fiendishly difficult and requires a lot of planning ahead. The multi-coloured squirrels give me a headache and make me nausous eventually - this is one you can play while on the phone.

Zoo Keeper

Frenetic and fast-paced, this is a version of "Bejewelled", but far cuter. You have to swap over adjacent animal heads in order to make matching rows of three, which then vanish. The animal faces look a bit freaked out when you get a matching row. You have to think on your feet with this on as you're playing against the clock. I usually get a bit panicked, especially as my time runs out and the board starts flashing and wobbling. I can only get to level 6 - I'm better at the ones where you have time to think.

Shangahi Dynasty

Click on matching symbols and they vanish, revealing more symbols underneath. I find it really difficult to tell all the symbols apart from each other so I'm usually really slow at this.


Place coloured symbols on a board - the only rule is that adjacent symbols must be the same colour or the same shape. When you get a line or row, the symbols vanish. You have to clear the whole board without running out of moves. It gets more complicated on later levels. There's a knack to it - I've been playing this almost non-stop for the past week and can only get to level 6.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

No, I'm Spartacus

I watched the fully restored 3 hours plus Spartacus film last night. All in one go. It was exhausting. I felt like I had been the Roman slave by the end. And what a kinky film! In an early scene, two over-made up rich bitches slaver and drool over a line-up of gladiators and pick out their favourites for a death-match, insisting that they fight only in their underwear, as it must be "so hot for them". Later on Laurence Olivier turns Tony Curtis into his "body-servant", which means they get to take baths together and Tony Curtis has to lather him up and wash him out. Then Olivier makes a fancy speech about how he likes oysters AND shellfish (which is Roman gay code for "I'm bisexual!), and that Tony Curtis has to abase himself to Rome and "love her" (which is Roman gay code for "bite the pillow, you're my bitch!")

Tony Curtis escapes while Olivier is lost in his own silly speech, but then ends up befriending Spartacus, who spends the remainder of the film giving him longing looks and ignoring his girlfriend (another case of someone who likes all kinds of seafood). And if this isn't enough, then Peter Ustinov and Charles Laughton play a pair of tired old queens who spend the who film being catty about everyone behind their backs.

And finally, the marvellously wooden John Gavin (one of my favorites) plays a very young Julius Caesar. He doesn't do very much except stand around and look pretty in a towel during a very long and gratuitous bath-house scene. It's not wonder that in the film Clueless, Cher's would-be boyfriend Christian is coded as gay because all he wants to do on their date is watch Spartacus. I guess these days it would be 300. But I'm all for the oldies.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

A dry run

My time in Bristol is coming to an end, and by October we hope to have moved back up north. Today the flat went on sale and we had our first viewer. The place has never looked so tidy. We've found an apartment block in Manchester centre which we like, and so it's just a case of selling up now. The lack of commuting will make things much easier and less expensive for me, and the fact my fella will be going back to a less stressful job (but on more money somehow) is also good. And we will be much closer to our families in Leeds and Liverpool. However, I will miss living in Bristol and particularly Clifton. It's so pretty and affluent - in a way it's spoilt living anywhere else for me.

And although Manchester has a lot going for it and I'm excited about moving, my fella was a bit put off by the people at the weekend. We did a "dry run" last week, where we stayed in the Lowry Hotel in the centre and we timed driving to work and to our respective families. It's all very doable. And it was fun to be embedded in a consumer playground - but the people are a bit ruder and brasher there - and there was a contingent of drug addicts/homeless/beggars wandering around pestering people and trying to shoplift stuff. I guess the "real world" contains people from all walks of life - rich and poor, whereas Clifton feels like an upper-middle class (white) ghetto where it's easy not to acknowledge the growing social inequalities of the country. Neither of us are proper city boys either - so that's slightly worrying. And the thing I'll miss the most are trees and greenery, of which Clifton has a lot of and Manchester doesn't have much of. I'm not sure our cat will be able to go outside much either.

So this is the first home move I haven't felt completely excited about in that it's felt like a big improvement in circumstances. But hopefully these are misgivings that'll sort themselves out once we get there. And perhaps I will launch myself onto Manchester's Gay Village. But I doubt it. In fact, that's the one thing I'll probably never bother with about Manchester.