I am on my annual visit to New York, where it is minus six degrees (although it's just as cold back home and snowing too, so I don't feel too short-changed). My hotel now proudly proclaims it has High Definition tv (although it can't make any claims about high-quality). Indeed, it is the usual mix of aggressive adverts for medicine, bonkers preachers, highly partisan news and celebrity nonsense. I caught "Jersey Shore" - a reality tv show which seems to involve working-class young people hitting each other and swearing.
Beards seem to be popular in New York at the moment - at one point, I was the only male in the hotel gym not to be wearing one (apparently it is the same in London). I expect beards to eventually filter through to Manchester next year, and probably make it to Lancaster in 2015. Maybe it is post-New Year blow-out or maybe it is the effects of the recession, but the city looks and feels a bit dejected at the moment. A lot of ads stress the low cost of their product, and there are more boarded up shops than usual, and less building work going on. Every year I plan my New York Retirement - where I buy a 2 bedroom apartment in Greenwich Village and spend a life steeped in cultural pursuit and glamour. However, I don't think I could ever pull it off. I think the extroversion of city dwellers would eventually wear me down.
The cold weather necessitates spending as much time indoors as possible. Yesterday I went to the very unsexy Museum of Sex, which had an exhibition of porn stars, photographed as tastefully as is possible. More interesting were "naughty" photos from the Edwardian era - odd to see people with handle-bar moustaches caught in compromising positions.
I also saw "Precious", which is a bit of a downer. The lead character is a morbidly obese, illiterate black girl who has had two children to her own father. Her mother is played by Monique on welfare and in a very bad mood, and her social worker is Mariah Carey with a moustache. Whenever Precious experiences a particulary bad bit of bullying or physical abuse, she kind of blackouts to an alternative fantasy world where she is a film star/model with a handsome boyfriend. Or she eats a big bucket of fried chicken. I couldn't work out whether the film was pro- or anti- welfare. Americans seem to have an odd attitude towards it. One of my American friends (a very educated, gay, democrat professor) angrily tells me that our British benefits system is terribly enabling. And in the film, the mother is a hideous welfare queen of nightmares, lying to the authorities in order to get her weekly cheque. By the end of the film, I didn't know who to be angry at. Everyone perhaps. Over the next few days I will see The Road (a post-apocalyptic 'road-trip' film - I've read the book so I know it doesn't end particularly well) and The Lovely Bones (another fun-fest I've already read about a young girl who is raped and murdered). Isn't anyone making nice films any more? At least I have a DVD of the silly 1950s classic Aunt Mame with me so I can watch Rosalind Russell and Corale Browne hilariously messing around with cow bell bracelets...