Thursday, September 27, 2007

What would Tennesse Williams do?

Oh for the days when movie stars were actually movie stars. I am working my way through the back catalogue of Paul Newman films. Last night it was Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. The other day I saw Sweet Bird of Youth. Tonight I may watch Cool Hand Luke. Paul is cast in two very typical Tennessee Williams roles - as the male gigolo whose looks are starting to fade in Sweet Bird of Youth, and the (possibly) closeted fallen football hero in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Both are rather silly psychodramas set in the deep South, featuring exotically glamorous, yet deluded and flawed people. I always have trouble believing Tennessee's dialogue - his characters are all (ostensibly) heterosexual, but no heterosexual people I know ever talk like that - I find it better imagining that all the women are actually drag queens. The men sound and act like they are gay men pretending to be straight men for gay porn. It's all very disconcerting.

Newman's heritage (Hungarian and Polish) has contributed towards those fabulous cheekbones. It's also nice to see an actor who's a supporter of gay marriage and a Democrat. And his salad dressing isn't that bad too. I wonder if Tennessee can vouch for that?

Speaking of movie stars, what would Tennessee make of the character played by Adrian Grenier in the sitcom Entourage (which I'm also working through). Grenier plays Vincent Chase, a pretty face from Queens who is now living it up in LA with his posse (a couple of friends from high school and a dumb half brother who had a faded never-was career of his own). Chase sails through life with one of those permanent smiles pasted over his face - and you know he's never ever going to go bald.

However, he doesn't really have much of a personality and leaves most of the decisions in his life to his little best friend, an ex-pizza manager who is utterly out of his depth in Hollywood. The relationship between the two gets a little Casablanca at times, and I have to admit that I like a lot of the hiphop soundtrack (my Ipod has benefited from a few Jay-Z downloads - which I had previously thought was a window cleaner product). After watching the first season I'm not sure where it's all heading, but there's plenty to look at along the way.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Leave Britney Spears alone RIGHT NOW!

Britney's recent not-very-good performance at some music awards thing has had everyone from the first world who cares about such things crowing with schadenfraude.

However, it's nice to know she still has fans out there. Fans who are perhaps more insane than she is. Cue Chris Cocker who has recorded this crazed plea/threat to all those who mock Britney. It is so full of insanely quotable lines that it should be memorised in totality and quoted constantly: "All you people want is MORE MORE MORE MORE MORE!!!"

Chris has been offered his own tv deal. I'm so pleased for him. Hopefully he and Britney will get to duet together... And I'm hoping John Waters is watching - John - this guy is your next 3 films.

God, shirtless shots of tv stars and Britney posts. Am I dumbing-down or what?

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The huge arms of Battlestar Galactica

The last episode of Season 2 of BSG left me a bit shell-shocked when the writers broke the "rules" of storytelling by skipping a whole year. Unlike certain other sci-fi episodes (cough Star Trek Voyager), it's not a dream and there's no chance they can go back in time and change everything. I can't wait to see what happens, and whether the 8 foot tall blonde Cylon's hair will survive into season 3.

I am usually a bit sniffy about blogs that post pictures of shirtless men in a gratutious attempt to garner a wide readership. So this won't be a regular feature. But here's an advert for Battlestar Galactica... Pictures can speak louder than words.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Sci fi stuff

The 1978 film Invasion of the Bodysnatchers is one of my favourite films, along with Alien and The Thing which were also made around that time. All three films are suspensful, scary and don't rely on neat happy endings which put to rights everything that has gone before. So I was interested but a bit wary of the new Nicole Kidman movie Invasion, which is a remake of the Bodysnatchers movie. It's received some pretty bad reviews. I saw it in New York recently, and enjoyed it, just - despite the weak ending. I think I prefer the nihilism of the 70s movies though, when movie-goers weren't assumed to be 15 year old boys with slight learning difficulties and no attention span.

I've been watching the newish tv series Battlestar Galactica recently (season 3 just came out). It's great - everything that the Star Trek series should have been but wasn't. It comes closest to Deep Space Nine, but without the silly comedy aliens with bumpy head ridges and all the feel-good shit. In BSG people make mistakes. They have angry sex, go to prostitutes, swear (their favourite swear-word is "frack") get drunk and make fools of themselves... a lot.

In Battlestar Galactica there are humans and the robotic Cylons - who look exactly like humans. Some of the cylons don't even know they're robots (yet). The humans believe in multiple gods. The cylons believe in just one God. The cylons declare war on the humans. After they blow up the human planet, a few 1000 humans escape in spaceships - the emergency president is a school teacher with breast cancer. The vice president has an imaginary cylon girlfriend who advises him, while the militia who control Galactica all have issues of their own - one has a very bad case of facial acne scarring, another is an incompetent alcoholic, while their star pilot is a very butch heterosexual woman with an attitude problem. It seems as if to be a pilot on Galactica you have to take a lot of steriods as all the men have enormous arms which the camera lovingly hones in on.

My favourite cylon is called number 6. She's about seven feet tall and towers over all the male actors. The poor actress who plays her must be on good money as there are lots of copies of number 6 so she crops up everywhere. I worry about her hair falling out as it's been treated with some kind of toxic looking substance to make it over-styled and yellow. I hope there's a cylon wig-maker, otherwise number 6 is going to start looking very patchy in a few months. It's not all fun and games being a robot you know.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Making the most of where I live

So now I am esconced back in Lancaster - no more commuting! My work journey takes 15 minutes instead of 4 hours. I'll miss Bristol though. Some things I learnt from living there were:

  • take more notice of my surroundings. I used to think Lancaster was a boring and ugly place - but having not really been around it for 2 years, I'm amazed at how nice the architecture is, the trees and plants, the quaint little shops and good views - you can see the castle or Ashton Memorial from almost anywhere.

  • walk more. When I previously lived in Lancaster I drove everywhere, and we had 2 cars. I've now got rid of one car, and plan to make more of an effort to walk - better for the environment and better for my health.

  • Avoid the bits you don't like. Even if it takes slightly longer to get somewhere, sometimes the quickest route is not the best one to leave you in a good frame of mind. I won't be making any short cuts through the two depressing indoor shopping centres - they just bring me down.

  • Make the most of what the local area has to offer - Morecambe prom (now with several thousand tonnes of imported sand), the wonderful cafe Lubin, the enormous GB antiques centre, the Waterwitch pub, the new Turkish restaurant, the Dukes Cinema, the new cinema in town. And your money goes a lot further in the north...

    My fella is in China and doesn't come back until all the moving has been done. When we moved to Bristol he got out of that too because he'd broken his arm after falling down a hill in Skye. Come to think of it - he almost always gets out of moving house. I think we will have to have words when he returns...
  • Thursday, September 06, 2007

    In your dreams

    My nephew started school yesterday - it was an event causing much sadness amongst our family - we all hated school. The day went reasonably well, although he burst into tears at the end when my sister went to collect him, and he was a bit put out because some of the other children got a gold star for going to the toilet and he didn't. Only 4 and already they start with the social comparisons... My sister is furious: "It's like I have to go through it all over again, vicariously..." She has been having our shared recurring dream a lot lately - the one we both regularly have - where we suddenly find that there has been some sort of "mistake" with our GCSE results and as a result, we are forced to leave our adult lives and made to go back to school to resit all of our GCSEs again. (You don't have to be Jung to work that one out.)

    Are we the only ones who have recurring dreams? In the resit GCSE one, I have become increasingly bolshy over the last few months. I sometimes resolve to "do things differently" this time around ("I'll show those teachers they can't mess with me!") No matter that I'm probably older than most of the teachers and nobody cares about your GCSEs when you have a PhD - in the dream logic it all seems entirely plausible. In another dream, I'm lost in London (maybe it's due to the blog of the same name that I read) and am trying to find a restaurant or tube station but end up wandering around aimlessly. And another dream involves airports. I don't have the "being late for school" or "missing the bus" dreams any more, but every September, the week before term starts, I always dream I am supposed to be teaching a class and can't find my lecture notes and the students are getting increasingly restless and unpleasant. The other night I dreamt that I was examining a PhD viva but hadn't actually read the PhD. Again, I don't need a dream dictionary to "reveal" my textbook anxiety. Why can't I have fun dreams where I'm friends with a range of celebrities, or even surreal ones where I'm turning into a caterpillar or something. I can only conclude that my imagination is severely stunted.

    As for my nephew - rather him than me. At least I hope I can impart to him that the most important thing to get out of school is that gold stars don't actually mean anything.

    Sunday, September 02, 2007

    Should I have no sympathy?

    Would you want to have sex with this man in a bathroom?

    The big story at the moment in America is the resignation of US Republican senator, Larry Craig, who was caught engaging in a bit of foot tapping for gay sex in an airport toilet by a police sting. Craig's political record on gay rights suggests he liked to play the homophobe, with a strong stance against same-sex marriage and voting not to include homophobic hate crimes in new anti hate-crime legislation.

    I can (just about) understand it when some Republican comes out with a load of homophobic bile - the Republican parts of America are somwhat isolated, ruled by Bible-bashers who believe in Creationism and rarely leave their own states, let alone own a passport. Anyone a bit different usually has the good sense to leave to a costal city the minute they can afford the bus fare. So diversity isn't usually a concept they encounter. But for someone who is gay (or bisexual) to publicly support homophobic legislation - my first thought is that the bastard deserved all he got - and the American media have pounced upon this story in a gleeful way - the Republicans have washed their hands of him, while Democrat reporters are loving the sleazy scandal. An article on the news last night lovingly talked about the "language of bathroom sex", giving us all a little schooling on the rules on how to get sex in a toilet. Puns are flying around galore.

    But while I don't have any (or much) pity for Craig, I'm concerned about the way that the story has been reported - what is missing from the debate. Nowhere in the American media have I seen anyone argue that police entrapment - particularly in cases of men having sex in bathroom stalls, is both morally repungent and a waste of taxpayer's money. Really, in a case like this - who got hurt? Who is the victim? You could argue that some innocent young chap or lad might have a pass made at him - but in the huge majority of cases, gay men who engage in this sort of activity are incredibly careful to ensure that anyone they try to get involved with, is of a similar mindset. It is unsurprising that Craig thought that a policeman, sitting in a stall, not bothering to leave after a few minutes, was lingering with sexual intent.

    And almost all the gay men I've talked to about this, have said that at some point in their lives they've cottaged or cruised in parks. Most haven't done it much, for some it is practically a full-time occupation. I'm sure a lot of gay men watching the news will be thinking "There but for the grace of God..." I wonder how many members of the media are crowing about Craig's disgrace, having engaged in cottaging, taken drugs, paid for prositutes or had affairs...

    The media, the police and the politicians all assume that having sex in a bathroom stall is a crime, rather than a case of inappropriate behaviour. Those who engage in it should not be criminalised - but instead quietly advised to visit a gay sauna or club or go on the internet or something - there's really no need for men to be having sex in toilets any more - there are far safer and less public locations for it. Having sex in a toilet creates a link between grime and sex - reinforcing the idea of gay sex as something dirty and furtive, when it isn't. It's a vicious circle: while homophobia exists, gay men will always be forced into living a double life - resulting in them engaging in this sort of sex, which them reinforces the attitude that gay men are dirty deviants, which strengthens homophobia... If only there was some way to cut the circle... Tolerance perhaps?

    There is also no acknowledgement in this story about the complexity of sexuality - nobody seems to be bothered about why this man was prepared to risk his marriage, his reputation and his career over a few minutes of casual sex. Instead, the media stories simply reinforce homophobia - another closetted gay hypocrite is disgraced - one in a long line of many. Perhaps Republicans should hook up prospective candidates to a machine that measures penis length and show them gay porn, as a way of ensuring that these scandals bother them no more?

    Or perhaps gay Republicans should finally learn the unequivocable lesson - why on earth would you want to belong to a club that hates you? Sadly, for the Democrats - crowing over the humiliation - I'd be far more impressed if they tried to at least offer a bit of compassion and commentary on homophobic police practices. They may be a better alternative to the Republicans - but I'm glad I'm not eligible to vote for either of them.