16 December 2009

The BBC have disgusted me today

The BBC are really scraping the barrel today, which their repulsive Have Your Say 'discussion' entitled 'Should homosexuals face execution?'

Even the question is abhorrent, and I don't know how they can justify posting it. Would it be right to have a discussion, under the banner of freedom of speech, on 'Should black people be killed for being black?', or 'Should goats be executed for having four legs?'. NO. Of course not. Because the question in itself is ridiculous and stupid. All they've done is invite lots of horrible little bigots to submit their putrid little brain farts, typed out with their misshapen club hands, while they furrow their monobrows under the strain of trying to spell a word as long as homosexuality. It's the kind of thing I'd expect from the Daily Mail, not from the BBC.

The 'Most recommended' tab of the debate (sic) is particularly horrifying, both for the stupidity and the bile that it contains. And these are posts that have been RECOMMENDED as good by other readers. It's truly terrifying.

Chris the vile little toad from Guildford treats us to this awesome piece of widsom:

"I suggest all gays are put on a remote island somewhere and left for a generation - afterwhich, theoretically there shoild be none left !"

First of all, WOO HOO gay party island! We'll take Mustique, thanks very much, and YOU'RE not invited because only people who can tie their own shoelaces and don't clasp their pencils with their whole fist are allowed.

Second of all, SHUT UP. Where do you think gay people come from? Not from breeding with each other obviously, you seem to have grasped that much. So what, you think we just swish past people in our fabulous outfits and somehow they get turned gay? You worthless little moron. I've known I was gay since I was in infant school. INFANT SCHOOL. Do you think I should have been put to death for it then? Or was it only when I started tonguing boys that I crossed the line? If the world ever has the misfortune of you breeding, I hope all your children ARE gay and I hope they hate you. Also, learn to spell 'should', you vacuous pustule.

Rob D from Northampton is no better:

"Homosexuality is not natural. It makes me very uncomfortable when you consider what it involves."

Homosexuality does not equal anal sex. Lots of straight people have anal sex. For FUCK'S sake. Do you think that's all we do all day? Even if your problem is with anal sex, that's completely different to homosexuality. That's an act, not a gender. And you've got no reason to feel uncomfortable, who do you think is going to want to fuck you, you lard arse? Gay people have GOOD taste, haven't you heard?

It goes on and on. Anglobert from Surrey makes an attempt at being understanding, but can't get past the 'I'm a complete and utter DICKWAD with no right to be alive' stage:

"Let's face it. Homosexuals are not wilful criminals but unfortunate disabled people who cannot enjoy Nature's gift of attraction to and union with the opposite sex, and unable to treasure the family memories most of us take to the grave.

Feel sympathy but do not regard their relationships as normal alternatives to marriage and procreation. Hopefully, medical science will find a remedy to normalise their disability. Meanwhile, they should not be regarded as criminals. They are born that way."

I'll wait for my blue badge in the post shall I? It'll make it much easier when I nip up to Tescos. You better be careful though, those bays are right next to the Mother And Baby ones, I might try to fiddle with some kiddies while I'm there.

In case you hadn't noticed, Anglobert, most gay people think gay sex is HOT. I for one do not feel a huge void in my life simply because I am unable to fancy Anglobettina, or whatever your snub-nosed dwarf of a wife is called. And lots of us also have FAMILIES. I know! Shocking isn't it?

So forgive me if I don't rush myself down to the electroshock clinic in order to get my disability rectified. I'm far too busy spending my disposal income, wearing great shoes, and holidaying three times a year.

The BBC should be ashamed of itself.

14 December 2009

X Factor final

I'm not going to write loads about this, because I'm sure everyone has pretty much had enough of X Factor by now. I like watching the show myself, but after 3 or 4 months of it I do start think "God can please have my Saturday nights back now?"

But anyway, little Joe won in the end and I'm really pleased. Although I said I didn't mind really which finalist one, Olly was always my least favourite, so once Stacey was out it had to be Joe for me really. I don't know quite what he'll be like in terms of longevity, as boys do really struggle to find a place in the charts I think, and I'm not totally sure what market he's pitching himself at. If he goes for the mums like most X Factor boys do (Leon, Rhydian etc) then he'll probably flop after a few months. A much better long-term prospect would be to go for the Will Young section of the market: girls, gay boys and a few Mums too. It won't really be up to him though unfortunately, as the record label will just do whatever they think is most likely to earn them their money back in the short term, in the full knowledge that they'll have another X Factor winner in a year so it doesn't matter if he doesn't last longer than that.

I kind of feel that he might rather have a career on stage instead of as a pop singer anyway - he's got a very stagey voice and it seemed to be what interested him before he was on the show. Which is fine, Diana Vickers is apparently doing quite well on stage now, so if he does end up doing that then good for him.

The thing I'm most pleased about is that neither Danyl nor Jedward came even close to winning; beyond that I wasn't that bothered. Danyl was just too much of a wanky twat, and Jedward made me feel physically sick. They've released the voting statistics now (available on Wikipedia) and at times it was a bit touch and go, particularly Week 9 when Danyl got eliminated. Joe was never in doubt by that stage though so it wouldn't have made that much difference. And I'm quite pleased that my assertion that no one who is ever in the bottom two can go on to win was proven correct again.

So anyway, that was the X Factor for another year. I'm not that impressed by the single they've chosen, and I think it's stupid that they pick the single and whoever wins has to sing it regardless of whether it suits them, but I don't think they're likely to change that. I've heard rumours that Dannii might leave and be replaced by Melanie B from the Spice Girls, which would be a shame as she's a good judge. They should get rid of Louis if they're going to get rid of anyone.

I think Joe should have released that Journey song he sang as it suited him much better. Maybe he'll release that as a follow-up single or something.

Oo and I nearly forgot - Robbie Williams mucked up his own song!!! I was delighted, and had to rewind it and watch it again so I could enjoy it's full glory. He looked like he was going to cry as he thought "shit, this was my chance to make up for my first crappy X Factor performance, and I've fucked my lyrics up and now look like a dick". Olly should have refused to have him for his duet, if anything was going to be a drain on your votes it'd be performing with that fat faced drug-addled potatoman.

My favourite moments of the whole series though had nothing to do with the final, and everything to do with televised falling over humiliation. First was the majesty of Rachel Adedeji sucking carpet in front of Dannii Minogue:

And then there was the beautiful moment when one of John and Edward fluffed their big entrance with a humiliating slip/trip while bursting through a paper screen. Only a full fall involving the loss of teeth could have made it any better:

They're performing at Revenge this Friday, apparently. Maybe I'll go so I can shout "Enjoy your trip six weeks ago?" and then feel very very witty.

See you next year for more televised karaoke and premium rate phone voting fun.

10 December 2009

Yummy Tin Drummy

I had my office Christmas meal yesterday at the Tin Drum in Kemp Town. I know some of the people I work with didn't enjoy their food quite as much as me, but I thought all the things I had were really good and quite posh, so I took photos of them for you:

This was my starter, which was a squash, rosemary and parmesan tart with a pomegranate dressing. It was very nice.

This was my main course of pheasant with a port and damson jus on a mustard pommery mash. I've never had pheasant before, and I really liked half of it (the confit leg bit which tasted like crispy duck) but wasn't quite so keen on the breast bit which was a bit tough. I've never been a breast man though. The sauce (sorry,'jus') was yummy and all fruity.

This was my gorgeous dessert: hot chocolate fudge cake with vanilla ice cream. It was really nice, all gooey, and very very rich. Like a little block of pure calories really. I couldn't finish it, but enjoyed it nonetheless.

And then I had tea with a cute little mince pie with a star shape on it.

And the best part is I didn't pay for ANYTHING! Hahahahaha! Work pays for our Christmas meal here, which I've always thought is great, and it means everybody goes rather than some people saying they can't afford it or just can't be bothered. Even the wine was thrown in!

I'm not hungover at all today, which is quite good I suppose. Some of us went for drinks after the meal, but as we'd started drinking at 1pm we disbanded by 9, so I was still home in plenty of time to sober up before bed. I hadn't realised that there would be no senior staff at all in the office this morning, so I could have got away with being hungover if necessary, but I'm not going to try to get hungover just for the sake of it.

And now it's only a couple of weeks left until Christmas, yay! We've still got our Office Christmas Party to come (actually in the office this time, rather than out of it. I don't know why we have two events here), so that will be my next thing to look forward to next week. I'm feeling very festive now and just want to finish work for Christmas and go home - I can't be bothered to spend nine more days sat in this wheely chair doing not very much.

03 December 2009

The rise of the blockbuster

I really enjoyed an article from the Economist this week, on the place of blockbusters in modern culture. I've found myself saying quite often over the last few years that everything is a smash these days, and everything that gets released seems to be biggest selling blah ever. The article, called A world of hits, dealt with the same sort of thing, but in the context of 'we have more choice than ever before, so why does that mean even fewer things than ever before become big hits?'

I'll use the term blockbuster quite broadly here even though that only normally applies to films, but really I'm talking about all kinds of media - be it the biggest selling film, or album, or book, or even newspaper.

Basically, the article argues that as the internet grew, people thought our new-found access to a broader range of products would encourage a vastly more diverse market, full of lots and lots of different things all selling moderately well. In fact, what we've ended up with is a market where a very small number of blockbusters account for the vast majority of sales, niche markets at the other end of the scale account for the rest, and all the stuff in the middle loses out. You either have to be a hit, or a niche, or you'll sell hardly anything.

One of the reasons for this is that people like to have something to talk about with their friends. If you all consume the same things, that's much easier, and that in itself encourages us to buy the same things as other people, creating a cycle of popularity. Or if you're part of a clique that enjoys a little-known band or author, you can discuss that band or author with other passionate fans and derive just as much pleasure, even though overall it's not a big seller. But if a product is neither a big seller, nor attracts a devoted niche market, it flops because no one cares.

At the same time though, we end up with blockbusters not necessarily being the best things that are available, but still being the most popular with the masses and receiving the best reviews from the public. That's because a disproportionate share of the audience is made up of people who consume few products of that type - e.g. people who go to see the latest big releases but don't watch smaller films - and they're therefore not that discerning. Those products get an easier ride with the public because the audience isn't informed enough to criticise. If you ask an American who has only read one book this year, the article says, it is highly likely it was The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown, and he probably loved it.

Niche products, on the other hand, tend to be consumed by people who read more, or listen to more music, or see more films, and those people are therefore more critical in general and more difficult to please.

In short, blockbusters don't have to be very good, as they get buoyed up by a wave of ill-informed goodwill, while niche products have to work very hard to get a similar level of approval from their audience.

We end up with the market we've got today, where it is only worthwhile for a media company to push the few things that they anticipate will be big hits. Small fry get left out, because while they may surprise everyone and do really well, they won't reliably do so, making them an uncertain investment. It's a bit sad really, as consumers will miss out on some of the very best things in favour of the 'popular', and it will continue to be that way because that's what we buy.

It's no wonder independent films or new authors struggle so much; you can't just be quite good any more. You have to be exceptional, or be accessible, not necessarily that good, but get lucky and be 'the next big thing', and you can enjoy massive self-fulfilling popularity for no good reason (yes I'm looking at you, JK Rowling, you talentless bint).

So anyway, I thought it was an excellent article, and it's one of the reasons I highly recommend reading the Economist to anyone who'll listen.

01 December 2009

Twinkling lights and celebrities

Last Friday we had the first annual Switching On Of The Christmas Lights on my road. Even though it may very well end up being the last one too, I still found it terribly exciting, not least because of the multitude of A List celebrities it attracted!

I should point out that I do not live on a main road, or in a town centre, so the very fact that we had Christmas lights of our own was slightly unexpected. Some of the shop keepers just got together and organised it, and one of them bought the Christmas lights from an entire town, or so we were told. I was therefore expecting a blaze of fluorescence up and down the street that could be seen from space, and was slightly disappointed that it ended up just being a few things on lamp posts.

Anyway, when it was initially advertised, we were told that Emma Chawner, a failed X Factor entrant and local lass, had been lined up for the grand switching on ceremony. In case you don't know who she is, behold:

She didn't get very far on the X Factor, even when she came back to sing a duet with her sister the next year.

Unfortunately, some of the road's shop keepers felt she would lower the tone somewhat and make it into a less believable event. They obviously weren't concerned with the hilarity aspect, or that Christmas is quite camp anyway and you don't get camper than a fat cavegirl in a home-made dress.

So they ditched Emma Chawner, and I was disappointed.

Instead though, we were upgraded to:

Annabel Giles, who performed no real function at the event other than lending it a BBC-level of classiness,


Michelle Collins! Yes, Cindy Beale turned on our Christmas lights! She was very gracious, and seemed to know a couple of people from our road. One of them was kind enough to collar her and ask if Chris could have her photo taken with her, and it was very weird to hear Cindy Beale's voice go "Yes of course. Chris! Chris!" and call him over.

I can see why she was more classy than the dumpy girl, but she was less hilarious. I was also very suspicious that there was no actual wiring involved in her 'switching on' the lights, she just did a count down, then sort of moved her arm. A couple of the lamp post lights came on, and then a man in a fluorescent jacket ambled down the road switching each one on one by one. But you can't have everything, we had LIGHTS and it was fab.

Oo yes, and I almost forgot, we had Santa!

So hurrah for living on the campest road in the campest part of Brighton.

Here's me looking Christmassy:

And then the next day, as if all that weren't enough, I saw Gok Wan in a jewellery shop in the lanes. It was an all-out celebrity overload. Oddly, he was wearing the same outfit he always wears on television, leading me to think he only actually owns one set of clothes. Presumably he stands naked in the kitchen while he washes them in the sink.

Anyway, I'm feeling all Christmassy now and can look forward to seeing twinkling lights every time I walk up my road from now until, erm, Christmas. Ho ho ho!

20 November 2009

Cold dead eyes

I feel like I haven't been blogging so much lately about things that are actually going on in my life. That's partly because I haven't been doing that many things out of the ordinary, and partly because my Mum hasn't been quite as mental as usual. She's still mental of course, and she has her moments, but nothing has caused her to have a major freakout for a little while.

So rather than write another review of something I've seen on the television, I thought I'd write a little bit about one of the places I went to while on holiday in Gran Canaria instead. I don't know how it managed to slip my mind in my original post about our holiday - perhaps it didn't slip it at all, and just buried itself as deeply as possible in my brain, hoping never to be recalled.

The place was called the Basement Club, and it's a sex club. It's more than that actually, it's a whole sex resort accommodation thing, much like the set of bungalows we stayed at but with a rather different 'anything goes' kind of ethos. You can spend your whole holiday staying there if you want to.

It wasn't my idea to go to the Basement Club (I know you won't believe me), but it was our first night there and one of the staff of Club Mancha was out with us and offered to show us some places we hadn't been before. I should have realised at that point that there was probably a very good reason why we hadn't been to them before, but alas the considerable amounts of vodka I was pouring down my face and the 13 hours travelling that day impaired my judgement.

I've been in darkrooms before, lots of bars and clubs in Gran Canaria have them, and although they're not really my thing they're usually OK for a quick skirt round and then escape into the bar area trying not to laugh while hissing to your friends "Oh my god, did you see what that man was doing to that other man? He looked like my Dad!"

So when the Club Mancha man said they were having a sex party at the Basement Club that night and did we want to pop in there "just for a quick drink to see", I thought it couldn't be that bad, it's nothing I haven't seen before.

Actually yes it was that bad, and not for the reasons I was expecting. First of all, I think 'sex party' was a rather grand term for what it actually was. I was expecting some kind of porno-esque scene replete with tanned bodies and funky guitar music in the background. In fact, what I got was a group of about a dozen men, mostly in leather kilts and waistcoats, standing around a pool and bar area and not talking to each other. None of them were my type at all, but as they were all of a similar look I suppose they might have been each others' types, so... good for them I suppose. There was high energy club music playing, and a definite feeling of "is this a sex party? are we meant to be having sex? well I'm not starting, someone else can start, I'm going to stand here and wait."

It reeked in there despite being outdoors, possibly the result of a previous sex party or some problem with their drains, and was pretty much one of the least sexy places I've ever been. And the men, oh the men. They just looked so SAD. Not sad as in trainspotting sad, sad as in unhappy. They had lifeless dead zombie eyes that roamed around looking for some sort of connection with another person and not finding any. And if they weren't sad they looked angry, although that might not have been helped by me and my friends standing in the middle talking and laughing and generally not taking the this-is-meant-to-be-sexy thing very seriously.

In the end two men shuffled close enough together that each took it as sign the other may be vaguely interested in them, and they started doing something in the corner. The other kilties were inexorably drawn over like moths to a physical affection flame and decided to cluster around them in silence, and that was when we decided we'd had enough and wanted to go.

It was all so serious, and moody, and angry, and silent. I thought sex was supposed to be fun, and you might even be able to laugh at times during it (although laughing at the moment your partner drops his trousers is possibly not helpful). I couldn't see anything to enjoy there at all, and even though I felt maybe it's just not my thing, none of the other men seemed to be enjoying themselves either.

I don't know, maybe I missed the point or something, but it left me feeling rather sorry for them. I know that's hideously patronising, and I don't really mean it quite like that, but if they look that angry and sad when they're having fun, fuck knows what they look like the rest of the time.

It was an experience anyway. Not one I'd repeat in a hurry, but an experience nonetheless. Am I being terribly narrow-minded? I don't think I am really, most narrow-minded people don't tend to go into sex clubs in the first place. And I don't mind if that's what the people in there want to do, that's up to them. They weren't hurting anyone. They had a rack thing you could tie someone up on if you wanted, I suppose you could hurt someone on that, but I'm almost certain that's normally used in consensual circumstances. I'd be interested to know what their clients get from it anyway, because all it really gave me was the feeling I needed to take a shower.

18 November 2009

Changeling - excellent film, stupid title

I watched a film called Changeling last night, on rental from LoveFilm, and I have to say that it was GREAT. It was so much better than I was expecting, and in actual fact it was nothing like the film that I thought it was.

The one-line description on LoveFilm read: "A mother's prayer for her kidnapped son to return home is answered, though it doesn't take long for her to suspect the boy who comes back is not hers." Based on that, and on the fact that it is called Changeling, I got it into my head that the boy who returns to her is not only not her son, but is actually not a boy at all, and is probably an alien or a demon or something like that. So I was expecting a thriller or a horror.

I could not have been more wrong, and I'm blaming it largely on the title which is thoroughly inappropriate for the film. Yes the boy is not hers, but the film isn't about that specifically, it's about the mother's struggle to convince a powerful and belligerent police force that he's not her son, and to find out what has really happened to him.

I'm not going to say much more because I don't want to spoil it, but it's a great story, even if that short description of it makes it sound like it'll be boring. Angelina Jolie is excellent in it, and I actually didn't realise it was her until about halfway through. I always quite like that from an actor - where the first thing you think isn't "Oh that's Angelina Jolie", because you're solely concerned with the character they're playing and not the fact that they're famous. Reese Witherspoon and Hilary Swank both wanted the role apparently, but didn't get it.

It's even more gripping to watch when you know that it's based on a true story, with very few of the details changed. The plot doesn't actually need much spicing up for the big screen, it's all there already, and knowing that it's true is fairly horrifying. It was nominated for three Oscars, and even though it failed to win any I'm surprised I didn't know more about it.

I thoroughly recommend it if you haven't seen it. Yes it's written by the man who wrote Babylon 5, and yes it's called Changeling, but ignore those two things - they're a distraction and they don't tell you anything about what this film is going to be like. It's very rare that I finish a film and think "Wow, that was really good", but I found Changeling really exceptional.

09 November 2009

Trinity and the old bait-and-switch

A while ago I blogged about the new ITV2 series Trinity and its nudity-laden first episode. The series finished last night, with a sort of semi-cliffhanger 'will we get renewed for a second series?' finale.

Overall, the series was fine, and was reasonably entertaining. It was rather confused and muddled about what genre it was hoping to be, because it seemed to veer wildly from racy romp, to teen drama, to thriller, to comic sci fi. At times it was fairly gory (including someone blowing their own brains out with a big red splatter last night), and at times it was farcical and ridiculous (particularly the comic relief 'fools' characters, who added nothing to the series except a bit of padding).

Christian Cooke was alriiiight in it, once you got used to his dodgy posh accent. His character even gained some depth, as he became more vulnerable later in the series. And the hammy characters managed to settle down a bit after the first couple of episodes, so it was fine really. I even got quite into the story.

It has to be said though that they used a blatant nudity bait-and-switch to hook you in during the first episode, in much the same way that Queer As Folk did years ago. There was LOTS of sex and nudity in the first episode, Christian Cooke was barely clothed for most of it, and then there was pretty much nothing of the kind for the rest of the series. It was quite annoying to tune in dutifully each week in the hopes of seeing him nekkid again, only to be completely unrewarded. I think they owed us faithful and pervy viewers a bit more than that, and he should have at least done a shower scene halfway through the series or something.

Apparently there is a DVD boxset of it coming out. I won't be buying it of course, it wasn't that good, but I hope they do get a second series. They left a lot of stuff open for further explanation at the end, and so it will be frustrating if they don't. Like the whole Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles debacle, which had JUST got good when they suddenly cancelled it. Network executives are idiots.

06 November 2009

I don't like the Blood Service

I don't like the Blood Service because it is discriminatory and unfair. I've read through all their arguments, and I've read why the Terrence Higgins Trust supports their view (albeit accepting that it is discriminatory), but I still don't like it because it makes me feel like I am inferior because of who I am.

For those of you who don't know, the Blood Service doesn't allow gay men to give blood. Ever. We're banned for life. They don't phrase it specifically like that, in fact they deliberately make it not about being gay but about sexual behaviour. Otherwise I suspect it would be illegal under equalities legislation. The question they ask you is:

'Are you a man who has had oral or anal sex with another man (even if you used a condom)?'

And if the answer is yes, then you're out.

You can, however, be a woman who has had oral sex with a man without using a condom, and that's fine. You can also be a man who has had sex with 300 women in the last year. Even if it was in a back alley after 14 shots of vodka. Not if she gave you a tenner in payment for it though, that makes a whole world of difference.

Their argument, based on their scientific advice, is that by allowing any men who have any kind of sex with men to donate blood, they would greatly increase (by 60% they say) the chance of blood-borne viruses entering the supply. They can't take that risk, nor can they jeopardise public confidence in the Blood Service.

I can understand why they have to keep patient safety rather than my feelings as an overriding concern. But as a gay man it feels HORRIBLE. They'd rather take blood from a tramp on the street than from me.

Even worse, without wanting to bore you (or enthrall you) with too much detail, the kind of sexual activities I have enjoyed during my life to date could not be classed, in my opinion, as being in any way risky. In fact I'd go as far to say that I'm at less risk than the average person of having contracted HIV. On top of that, I actually know my HIV status, which is more than lots of people can say. I doubt many of my straight friends have ever had an HIV test. But none of that matters. They don't have the "resources", they say, to obtain detailed sexual histories from every potential donor, so the kind of sex you've had or how recent it was doesn't matter.

But what of that feeling you have, and that is implied in the adverts, that they always need to people to give blood, they're crying out for it, and that people would die if you didn't? Well they don't care about that either. In fact if pressed, they say "there has been a safe and sufficient blood supply in this country for many years". Oh, so I don't need to feel guilt-tripped into giving blood by your adverts after all? Well I wish you'd said, there was me hoping to be a good citizen and "do something amazing today".

I'm not arguing particularly for a change in policy, although I do note that other European countries take a different view. If I were to argue for it, I suppose it would be that they should consider each person's individual history, and not impose a fairly arbitrary and harshly-phrased lifetime ban. But I would like them to acknowledge that their policy sucks ass (which would presumably preclude you from giving blood if it's a man's ass), and for them to show a bit more sensitivity as they trample over my feelings.

02 November 2009

Sun, vodka, boys and insects

I had a lovely time in Gran Canaria, and the weather did indeed stay nice for us. It was closer to 80 degrees sometimes I think, so I was even grateful for the bit of cloud we had towards the end of the week.

We were only there for five days, but to be honest that was quite enough for me. It's a rare occasion now that I'd want to go out two nights in a row, so going out five nights in a row was quite a struggle for me. Thank goodness all I had to do in the daytime afterwards was lay on a plastic sun lounger in my skimpies for hours in end (see photo).

For those of you who haven't been to Gran Canaria before, it really is your basic sun and booze holiday. There's not actually that much else to do there, although you can hire a car and go inland if you want to, which we've done in previous years. But all we did this time was get up late, sunbathe, go out for dinner at reasonably priced restaurants where you have to sit on patio furniture, drink vodka from the Spar, and then go out bar hopping around the Yumbo Centre. It was great. The only thing that could have been improved really was that there weren't that many fit boys there this year. There were some, mostly fit waiters, but I think some people have been put off by how expensive the euro is right now. Plus of course it was half term, and what kind of fool goes on holiday in half term unless they have to? Such is my lot as the wife of a teacher.

Oh yes, and the other thing that could have been improved was that they could have put a tent over the whole island and fumigated it before we arrived. I got SO many mosquito bites! I had about 20 in the end, and some of them have only just gone down. So with them, plus the cockroaches who occasionally scuttle across your bungalow floor, I'd had quite enough of insects by the time we left.

Our accommodation was nice, we stayed at Club Mancha which is right by the Yumbo Centre where all the gay bars are. It's a small complex of about 12 bungalows around a pool. The staff there were really friendly, and I couldn't fault it really. I'd definitely go there again, but having been to Gran Canaria about four times now I think maybe we should try another destination next time we go away.

I was exhausted by the time we got home from all the going out, so it is actually sort of nice to be back at work where I can sit down all day and drink tea. I've got a bit of tan but not loads as I didn't want to burn, but at least it has given me a bit of colour for the winter. Chris, of course, has turned into a sub-saharan African again because he tans really quickly, so he'll probably still be tanned long after mine has faded. It's a shame I can't really pull of Nicole Kidman-esque pale beauty, it would be so much easier for me! I just go pink in the sun. No danger of that though now that I'm back. Still, Christmas is just around the corner, so I shall look forward to that now instead.

19 October 2009

Fun fun fun in the sun sun sun with a cold cold cold

It's not long now until I'm off on holiday to Gran Canaria - five days in fact - and I'm really looking forward to it. It's 75 degrees out there at the moment, and although there is a bit of cloud around I'm hoping it's going to be nice enough to spend most of it lazing by the pool.

Unfortunately, at the moment I am ill with a cold, and so is Chris, and so is one of the friends we're going with. Which is quite a pain really, as I don't particularly relish the prospect of travelling when I'm feeling crappy. It's only Monday though and I've been ill since last Thursday, so I'm hoping it will be long gone by Saturday. I've eaten 13 satsumas in 5 days too, so that's got to have helped hasn't it?

For a little while I felt guilty at the thought I might be on a plane with a virus and give it to other people. Then however, this was overridden by the worry that there might be people on the plane with worse viruses (i.e. swine flu) who might give those to me! So I suddenly got quite irrationally twitchy that I'll get laid up in a random Spanish health centre with swine flu and miss all of my holiday.

BUT I've just looked up some details on air travel, and it seemed to say you're no more at risk on a plane on a short flight that you would be on a bus or train, unless you end up sitting next to someone who is coughing and sneezing. So I'll probably be OK and I'm going to stop panicking.

Now all I need is for the stupid AussieBums I ordered to arrive before Saturday - it's been six weeks now and no sign of them. Typical. I just know they'll turn up the Monday after we leave, and will be waiting all smugly in my post box when we get back.

12 October 2009

Tea cosies, booze and Simon Amstell

I've had a great weekend involving all of the above items. Fortunately they weren't all at once, that would have been a bit odd and probably rather confusing for Simon Amstell.

It was Chris' birthday on Friday, so we had a number of nice things planned over the weekend to celebrate this auspicious occasion. We had a nice dinner at home on Friday accompanied by a bottle of Marks and Spencer Vouvray (one of my favourite wines, try it!) and then we had a cosy night in doing SingStar on his new wireless SingStar microphones.

Then on Saturday we went for a Birthday High Tea at the Tea Cosy teashop. You may have seen it briefly on Brighton Beach Patrol on Channel 5 last week. Basically it's a camp little teashop crammed to bursting with royal memorabilia, where they do great tea and cakes and sandwiches and things. The guy who runs it is lovely and always keeps us entertained with local gossip.

I had the Princess Margaret Memorial Low Tea, which came with the most yummy lemon Madeira cake ever. It was the size of a breeze block too, so I was on a bit of a sugar and caffeine rush for quite a while afterwards and had to have a bit of a lie down in the afternoon (I'm such an old woman)

And then in the evening we had people over and then went to We Luv Pop's We Luv Movie Soundtracks at the Hanbury Ballroom. Chris had decided our evening should have a fancy dress theme, and that theme ended up being "Things you never thought you'd wear again". It was subverted a little by some people buying new fancy dress outfits for it, but they were so horrific we decided it was admissible. Chris and I went in our school uniforms, and were both quite smug that they still fitted fairly well.

The We Luv Movie Soundtracks theme was great (from what I remember), and we did quite a lot of crazy dancing to such classics as Dance Magic Dance and the Neverending Story. It was really busy in there too, which was good. It's run by Dynamite Sal who used to do Dynamite Boogaloo, so I'm glad it's doing well.

Sunday was a necessarily more subdued day, and all I really wanted to do was loaf about and watch Come Dine With Me. We couldn't do that all day though, because we had tickets to see Simon Amstell's stand up show at the Brighton Dome in the evening. We saw him there last year too, and he's been really good both times.

Lots of his act this year seemed to revolve around him being a bit lonely and crap at relationships, which made me think awwwwwww and want to give him a hug. He also said that his ideal man is one who is skinny (check), only says about three sentences an hour (check), and is rather sickly (check!). So I'm definitely in there if I ever get to meet him. I'm not 18 unfortunately, his other stipulation, but I might be able to get him to overlook that with enough vodka.

Sometimes with celebrities who seem a bit vulnerable like that, I think "aw I bet we'd be really good friends". Which is a stupid thing to think I know, because what he says on stage quite possibly bears no relation to how he is in real life. He might be horrible. He's certainly very highly strung I think. You can tell that he's quite tense about his act going well, he doesn't really like hecklers (even good natured ones), and he got quite cross in the middle of his act about the spotlight not following him properly. I imagine he's quite high maintenance. But he's so sweet, I just wanted to take him home with me.

Chris seemed to have a very good birthday weekend anyway, with all these activities to entertain him. I'm thoroughly exhausted now though and will need to try to catch up on some sleep. Particularly as we're probably having another big night out next weekend (again at the Hanbury, which seems to be taking all my money at the moment) for Boogaloo Stu's Pop Kraft.

Honestly, with all this socialising and debauchery it's getting quite difficult to maintain my shy and retiring image.

05 October 2009

Miss Amateur Pole Dance UK 2009

Yesterday I had the unusual experience of going to a pole dancing competition to see one of my friends compete for the title of Miss Amateur Pole Dance UK. It was up in Burgess Hill (it wasn't a huge event, hence the not particularly glamorous location) and my friend had come all the way from Birmingham to compete, so we felt it was only right that a few of us should go along to cheer her on.

And it was really fun! They had 11 girls compete, and they seemed to have come from various places around the country to enter. I think the only stipulations were that you had to have been pole dancing for less than a year and that you weren't a 'professional', i.e. didn't work as a pole dancer in any capacity. They kept reiterating that the emphasis was very much on fitness and fun and dance, rather than it being a sexy showcase, which is probably why it was in a leisure centre at two in the afternoon. All the girls seemed to be doing pole dancing for the same reasons as our friend anyway, as a hobby and for the fitness side.

Actually it was meant to be 12 competitors, but one foolish girl made the mistake during the introductory bit of answering "So how long have you been pole dancing?" with "Two years". "Oh," said the hostess woman. "Well you can't compete then sorry" and she was disqualified then and there on stage! Bit humiliating really, they should have asked her that question earlier... They still let her dance at the end, but only as a 'showcase', she wasn't in the competition.

The girls all performed really well, with a bit of variation in ability, and it was obvious once they got going that it's not as easy as you might think it is. I for one do not fancy trying to suspend myself in mid-air using only the power of my thighs clutching a pole.

Our friend Jennie (third picture, in the camo dress) performed really really well, and did a nice routine to Jordin Spark's 'Battlefield', with a matching outfit and everything. She didn't win, unfortunately, but there was very little in it, and she was a lot more graceful than most of the other competitors.

After the girls' competition there was a Mr Pole Fitness competition, which they touted as the first time they'd had a male competition, but they said they thought the sport was 'ready for it'. Obviously not that ready for it, as they only had four competitors, including one man who had been strong-armed into competing from among the audience. The guy who won had come all the way from France, and I think he may have been expecting a slightly larger competition than the two joke entrants (a milkman and a barbarian) and a guy in jeans. He won anyway, because he could actually dance and do some quite difficult moves on the poles.

And then the current Miss Professional Pole Dance graced us with a performance to close. She was obviously very good, and whizzed round and round on that pole in all her skinny bikinied glory.

It quite made me want to try pole dancing actually... I think the greater upper body strength that men tend to have might be quite an advantage for some of it (especially shimmying up the pole). So who knows, maybe that Mr Pole Fitness 2010 title has got my name on it...

X Factor final 12

What the fuck??? Once again the X Factor has managed to surprise us with a mixed bag of good singers, mediocre singers, and some truly unfathomable decisions. We're now down to the final 12, the selection we will be repeatedly and forcibly exposed to over the coming weeks right up until Christmas.

I could tackle this post in the same order as the last one, for consistency, but I think it is far more important that I move straight onto the groups first as I feel like I'm about to explode.

The groups - Louis Walsh, sex pest and retard extraordinaire
What the fuck??????? He put John and Edward through!!!!!!! I can't BELIEVE it. It's not that I can't believe that Louis would do it, I can very much believe that, but I can't believe he had the audacity to put through a 'group' who can't sing, who stood there like a wet fucking weekend singing off key, and who then cried about how shit their performance was, and who Ronan Keating even said "well I can't see why you like them", but who he put through ANYWAY solely because he wants to finger them. It was SO bare-faced and transparent! There was no musical justification for it, and yet he just did it anyway.

Of course, he can make the argument that putting in a group that everyone hates is 'good television'. But he won't be making that argument because he'll be too busy jiggling up and down on their cocks to think about it. He claims they "have potential". Potential is not enough by this stage of the competition! Potential is fine for the first audition, but then you boot them out at the second stage and say they're not ready or aren't strong enough. It was just ridiculous!

If they had been two black twins from Battersea with those voices, would he have put them through? No. A million times no. Louis Walsh is a racist. Not because he wouldn't put them through because they're black, but because he so blatantly favours the Irish over all others and with complete disregard for their actual ability. It'll probably come out in the papers in a few weeks that he knows their family or something, the same as it did with Simon and Leona, and that's why he's pushed them through. Or maybe he doesn't know their family but their school is near his house and he used to look at them in the playground through the railings while toying with his Irish flute.

So anyway, that was dreadful, just dreadful. Also through for the groups are Kandy Rain (meh, they'll last two weeks) and Miss Frank. Miss Frank are OK, I don't always like the rapping much, but they can sing reasonably well and aren't doing badly considering they didn't want to be a group.

I'm glad he kicked out Harmony Hood, because they were crap and were just there to make up the numbers. They thought they were good because they were all urban and 'street', but I'm sorry, this isn't Sister Act II: Back In The Habit, being from the gritty suburbs but having a heart of gold isn't enough for this competition. If that's what you're hoping for I suggest you look for a fat black woman in a nun's habit and ask her to make your musical dreams come true.

The boys - Cheryl Cole
This category wasn't toooooooo bad. Fit Lloyd got through, but is a bit young and may crack under the pressure. She got rid of equally fit Ethan, but I agree that he didn't sing all that well in his final performance. I don't know why she tortured that opera boy by making him wait, she was never going to put him through. And Rikki Loney needs to give it up with the hats, it's not a good look. Who was the other one? Oh yes, Joe. He's alright, a bit wishy washy. Suspiciously he's from South Shields like Cheryl is, so when she said "I felt like I knew you as soon as you walked in" it was a bit obviously just because he has the same accent. But anyway, I guess Lloyd is my favourite from this lot. He could do with not speaking though, he's rather too Welsh.

The girls - Dannii Minogue
As I said before, I found it hard to identify individual girls from this category, and didn't know that much about them. She's put Rachel Adedeji though, which is fine. I suspect her real reason wasn't that she liked her singing, but rather that she liked her prostrating herself before her at the end of Bootcamp (see previous photo).

I quite like the Stacey that got through, she is dippy and sweet. She talks weirdly like Frank Spencer at times, which I find rather amusing. And the Lucy girl has a good voice so I suppose that's OK.

The overs - Simon Cowell
Some odd decisions here again. Both the women got the chop, which is a shame because they had great voices. He was maybe concerned they would be overshadowed by the under 25 girls, or that they simply wouldn't get the votes. He's quite shrewd like that: he doesn't necessarily pick the best singers, because he knows the public don't vote for the best singers. Look at Eoghan Quigg: he was crap, and he had a big white face that slowly expanded through the series until he looked like Michael Myers from Halloween. But he got through to almost win it, so Simon knew what he was doing.

Annoyingly, he kept Danyl, who is so retarded he can't even spell Daniel. And this was despite his massively over-the-top performance, which included gurning and occasionally looking quite like Kermit the Frog. There is such a thing as adjusting your performance to suit your type of audience, and his monstrosity was just not suitable for two people on a sofa three feet in front of you. I don't like him, he's a knob.

Jamie Afro is through, but he has been slightly raised in my estimation because he DID adjust his performance - he toned it down a lot, and it felt much more appropriate for the setting. I still don't like him, I don't think he'll sell records, and I don't know why he always has a fucking dishcloth tucked into his jeans. I don't need my windows washed, thank you Jamie, although you could probably buff them to a nice shine with that afro.

And finally there was big cheeks Olly. He's okaaaaaaay in a hamstery sort of way. I suppose for novelty during Big Band week he could house the entire band actually in his cheeks, that might be fun. He's not great though, he has bad bad hair and his voice is only OK. He's no Austin Drage anyway.

So yes, I was mildly disappointed. I think I want Lloyd to win (he's probably not strong enough) or one of the girls (I don't mind which at the moment).

And John and Edward need to be beaten to death with a rusty rail spike.

28 September 2009

X Factor final 24

The X Factor has finally progressed beyond its endless parade of mentally impaired and recently bereaved people, to a stage where you start to actually know who some of them are. Yes, it's the Judges Houses, and from a pool of thousands of delusional retards we're now down to 24, some of whom can actually sing! It's exciting, I know.

However, I'm not actually thrilled by their chosen selection. When they showed them all, I thought "Really? One of them is going to win? Oh." So that's not exactly great. There are also some that I want to kill with a claw hammer, but I suppose the X Factor wouldn't be the X Factor if you couldn't scream in rage at the screen from time to time.

So, let's see who we've got.

The boys - Cheryl Cole
Cheryl's got a fair group of boys, considering I think they're a harder group to work with as the voters don't always warm to them. I don't know much about Duane Lamonte, and Rikki Loney is just some boy in a hat. Ethan Boroian is sort of cute, and so is Lloyd Daniels, even if he is a bit young. He's a big improvement on Eeyore Quigg at any rate. The other ones don't really stand out for me, so I guess Ethan and Lloyd are my favourites. Not sure they've got the strongest voices though.

The girls - Dannii Minogue
This is easily the strongest category every year, so Dannii's lucky they gave it to her. To compensate for her lack of musical knowledge or talent, they also revealed Kylie would be helping her out in picking her final three. Shame they can't ditch funny-nostrilled Dannii in favour of Kylie completely. I don't really know much about the girls though, because they've hardly shown most of them. There are a couple of quite good Staceys I think, and a girl called Rachel who fell on her face in her eagerness to get a closer look at Dannii's nose.

The overs - Simon Cowell
Simon seemed quite pleased with his category, and I think he's probably got my favourite act so far, Nicole Lawrence. Yes she milked the death of her Dad a bit, but she has that whole big fat black woman with a great voice thing going on which really does it for me. He also has Jamie Afro, who I can't stand, and bizarrely has managed to find two people who can't spell Daniel properly. One of them I hate, I think it's Danyl Johnson, as he's a complete and utter wank spittoon. It's one thing to give a confident audition, but it's quite another to completely frig yourself off on stage while shouting your own name (he didn't actually do that, but he may as well have). He's a knob anyway. I'm sure Simon won't keep both him AND Jamie Afro though, they're too similar in their wanky styles, so at least one of them should get the chop.

The groups - Louis Walsh
And once again, Louis has the groups. The only thing I have to say about this category, is what the FUCK? What the HELL are John and Edward still doing there? They're TERRIBLE and they can't sing. Louis says they 'have something'. The only thing they're going to have is Louis' cock in their mouths as he forces them to nosh him off. He doesn't even like novelty acts so what the hell is he doing? Actually, I know what he's doing, he's just always fancied the idea of a threesome with twins, so now that he's got two blond Irish twins in his power he must be doing a leprechauny celebration jigdance all the way to his sex dungeon. They have to go, they just have to, in the name of all that is holy. And for child protection reasons.

So, that's the X Factor for this year. Not thrilling, and a possibly mediocre Christmas Number One on the way. I'll still watch it of course, and some of them may even grow on me. You never know.

More silly protests

There was another anti-government protest in Brighton at the weekend, apparently attended by Sloth from The Goonies (see picture - courtesy of the Argus).

As if the Labour Party Conference weren't disruptive enough for the citizens of Brighton, we also have to put up with vague and pointless protests cluttering up our streets.

Fortunately, this one seemed rather smaller than the Smash EDO idiocy, and by the time I ventured down to the seafront to take a look it appeared to consist of a man standing on a plinth and some bored-looking policemen. I was pleased to see that there were also stacks and stacks of unused placards on Madeira Drive, where they'd clearly not had as many people turn up as they'd been hoping for.

As with the previous protest, it was the diffuse and varied aims of this one that really made it pointless for me. Some people seemed upset about bankers' bonuses; some didn't want cuts in public services; some thought Vestas should be nationalised (er, bit late); some were anti-war; and some were just generally anti-anything because they think protesting is cool. The problem with that, I feel though, is that the protest doesn't end up achieving anything, because no one is really sure why they're there.

This one was particularly pointless because I'm sure it caused no disruption at all to the Labour Party delegates, who were safely tucked up inside the windowless Brighton Centre and probably couldn't hear or see any of what was going on.

I also don't really get some of the arguments that the protesters make. Some of their placards said "Fight for the right to work", which I found odd. There isn't an unlimited supply of jobs out there, and I don't think the Human Rights Convention says we all have a right to a job which the government must provide and pay for.

The 'no cuts in public services' ones also seemed misguided. There is a huge deficit in the public finances which has to be repaired. Regardless of how it got there (I'll come to that in a minute), it has to be remedied. The country doesn't have secret stacks of cash it's keeping squirrelled away - the only way to cut the deficit is to make cuts in spending, or raise taxes. They seem to think that just 'taxing the rich' more is going to sort it out, but it's not realistic. Why do they think that all the major parties have acknowledged the need for cuts? Even Labour says so now, after trying to dodge the word cuts for ages. Efficiency savings won't be enough, there need to be actual cuts, and we will all feel the effects. But the alternative is a much longer and more painful recession or depression - you can't just ignore the problem and expect the economy to sort itself out.

There was quite a bit of talk about bankers' bonuses too, and apportioning of blame on the banking sector for our financial woes. While I agree it was the bursting of the credit bubble and overly-risky investing by the banks that dragged the economy down, outlawing bankers bonuses is a purely populist measure that won't actually fix the state we're in. Yes the banks behaved badly - but the problem was that they were allowed to do so. We should be talking now about much tighter financial regulation and imposed margins on the banks' balance sheets, to ensure it doesn't happen again. Complaining about bonuses doesn't address the real issue at all.

And yes it's annoying that some of the people who caused this are still getting big bonuses. Fine. The banks shouldn't be giving those people financial rewards, if they've even still got their jobs. But the issue isn't an across-the-board one for all banks, and the backlash against the financial world will only discourage the bright and talented people we need to repair the damage from joining the sector. The same as with the social workers/Baby P thing: now no one wants to be a social worker, so there are no good social workers out there fixing a flawed system.

Anyway, I've digressed a little. The protest was pointless, and to me it achieved nothing except some venting of anger and to confirm for me that lots of people really don't understand economics, politics, or how the country works in general.

21 September 2009

Trinity - first episode

As I mentioned last week, the new ITV series Trinity started on Sunday.

It did indeed deliver plentifully on the Christian-Cooke-getting-naked side (see photo) as I had hoped, but other than that it was baaaaaaaaaad! Some of the acting was really, really terrible, and the writing was mediocre at best.

Christian Cooke was OK in it; he plays a smug upper-class playboy called Dorian, and so it's fine that his character has very little depth to it, that's how he's meant to be. They've made him do a posh accent for it though, and he just sounds a bit silly.

The main posh girl is very hammy, as is the seemingly evil lecturer/doctor man. They play it like it's a cartoon really, which then doesn't fit with some of the other characters who are more normal.

It felt a bit like it was written by someone who's never been to university, and who has certainly never been to Oxford or Cambridge, but they've heard that "it's a bit like this". I wasn't sure if it was meant to be a comedy, or a thriller, or a drama really.

Dorian is the only character they make get naked, none of the girls even got their baps out, but that's fine because he's the only one I'm interested in seeing naked anyway. They do rather overplay that card I have to say, he was barely clothed at all, but I'm a superficial individual so it suited me perfectly and distracted me from the attempt at a plot.

I'm going to watch the second episode because it looks like it might get going a bit more next week (they had a bizarre 10-minute-long 'coming up next week' montage at the end that basically showed you everything). Perhaps it was a slow start because they had to introduce all the characters, and the Dandelion Club, and the mystery surrounding the religious girl's father. So we shall see if it improves.

I'm not saying I'll stop watching it, it wasn't that bad, and the nudity was ample reward. But it has a definite ITV2 feel to it that left me feeling slightly unclean afterwards.

17 September 2009

How to keep a healthy level of insanity

I was going through some old emails and I found this and I liked it, so here it is.

How to keep a healthy level of insanity

1. At lunch time, sit in your parked car with sunglasses on and point a hair dryer at passing cars. See if they slow down.

2. Page yourself over the intercom. Don't disguise your voice.

3. Every time someone asks you to do something, ask if they want fries with that.

4. Put your garbage can on your desk and label it "in"

5. Put decaf in the coffee maker for 3 weeks. Once everyone is over their caffeine addictions, switch to espresso.

6. In the memo field of all your cheques, write "for sexual favours".

7. Finish all your sentences with "in accordance with the prophecy."

8. Dont use any punctuation marks

9. As often as possible, skip rather than walk.

10. Ask people what sex they are. Laugh hysterically after they answer.

11. Specify that your drive-through order is "to go".

12. Sing along at the opera.

13. Go to a poetry recital and ask why the poems don't rhyme.

14. Five days in advance, tell your friends you can't attend their party because you're not in the mood.

15. Have your co-workers address you by your wrestling name

16. When the money comes out the ATM, scream "won!", "I won!" "3rd time this week!!!!!"

17. When leaving the zoo, start running towards the parking lot, yelling, "run for your lives, they're loose!!"

18. Tell your children over dinner. "due to the economy, we are going to have to let one of you go."

Stupid Orange - or stupid Sony Ericsson?

I hope that Melany from Sony Ericsson is as on the case as she was last week, and miraculously finds this post while trawling the internet for discussions of their mobiles. Maybe she can offer some helpful advice in the comments? (holds breath)

I got my C510 back yesterday, about half a week earlier than I was expecting, which was a nice surprise. I got them to turn it on in front of me in the shop to make sure it was working, and all seemed fine. Sony Ericsson have upgraded the firmware to the latest version, and you can tell that some improvements have been made to it because it seems to function a little better. For one thing it doesn't hang for 10 seconds every time you try to go into the contacts directory, so I thought "oo, things are looking up".

It was fine all last night, and I got it set up again pretty much how I had it before. The only thing I noticed was that the battery seemed to run down quite quickly, but I attributed that to the fact I was using it a lot and launching and closing applications all the time.

This morning it was also fine and let me listen to music on the way to work and check my Twitter. All fine and dandy it seemed. Until after about an hour of being at work, I noticed it was off. Strange, I thought, and turned it back on. Then I plugged it in to charge it, and it was suddenly off. No shut down sequence, just off.

Hmm, I thought. The battery can't have been that low, it would have warned me.

After a bit of searching on the internet (AGAIN), I found that indeed Sony Ericssons do have a habit of switching off randomly. Chris just bought one, and it had to go back to the shop the next day and be replaced for the same reason; we just thought it was a faulty handset.

The helpful internet forums suggested reflashing the firmware (erm, possibly not going to help in my case), OR that it could be a notorious loose battery problem that you get on SE phones. Some people complained that tapping their phone on its side would cause it to switch off. I gingerly tapped my phone against the desk, and off it went. I turned it back on, tapped it, and off it switched again. When I opened the back, I found that yes the battery was able to slide about slightly, roughly a millimetre from side to side. The gold contacts were also a bit grubby.

I have cleaned the contacts, and have insert two small pieces of paper next to the battery, which prevent it from moving. It's been on for a while now charging, and I have tried tapping it from various angles without any ill effects.

So... is it fixed? I'm not sure. Why did it start doing this switching off thing suddenly? Who knows. I'm not particularly happy, but stupid and ridiculous as this folded paper thing seems, if it fixes it I don't care.

I'm very disappointed in Sony Ericsson though. I thought they were like the best phone make. Why can't any electrical products be made to proper standards any more? The amount of things I've had to take back to the shop - cameras, televisions, phones - it's just ridiculous. I don't remember such problems when everything used to be made in Japan, maybe it's cheap Chinese and Korean components that cause it.

Well anyway, I guess I'll just keep an eye on it. I can't be arsed to take it back to the shop AGAIN. Everyone think good thoughts about my phone...

15 September 2009

Trinity starts this weekend!

Quite a while ago I wrote a post about vampire-smiting fitty Christian Cooke, and his upcoming new series Trinity. Well, it's been a while coming, but I learnt recently that it's going to start this weekend!

It's on ITV2, so they're obviously not expecting it to be a massive ratings winner initially, but that's fine. I know very little about it, except that it's set at a place called Trinity College, it is vaguely spooky in nature, and it will feature gratuitous Christian Cooke toplessness. In fact, having had a look at a bit of the first episode online just now, there may even be some bottom action too. So that's pretty much enough to sell it to me already. Not that I'm shallow or anything.

You can find out more about it on the ITV website. I particularly like their optimistic bit of text that says 'Are you hooked on Trinity? Join the show's Facebook group now' before it's even been on the television.

11 September 2009

Stupid Orange

*** Update May 2010: You may also want to see my more recent post in which I successfully FIXED a phone with this problem at home! ***

This isn't a rant about citrus fruit (I'll save that for later, stupid vitamin-filled bastards), but rather a complaint about Orange Mobile and their shoddy merchandise and shoddy customer service.

I have been without my phone for the last week, and will continue to be so for next week as well. I've only had the bloody thing for five months, it's a Sony Ericsson C510, but last Saturday it decided to keel over and die. What was I doing that taxed it beyond reasonable limits? Trying to text my Mum. Possibly the most mundane and easy thing you can do on a mobile.

Having done some searching on the web, I realise now that I'm not the only Sony Ericsson owner this has happened to, and there were precautions I could have taken to prevent it. But of course before it died I had to reason to take them, so I didn't.

Basically, either the software or the memory or both decided to fail. I got as far as 'Send message', when it suddenly said "Memory full. Delete a file of your choice? Yes/No". I said yes, and then the phone karked it. It crashed beyond recovery (I had to take the battery out), and then displayed this exciting list of symptoms:

  • no access to the network, or indeed any network. (The manual helpfully said "try changing your location if you cannot access your network." Er, no.)
  • no access to the phonebook, it locked up if you even tried.
  • inability to charge the phone, as when you plugged it in it said "Please use a Sony Ericsson battery" and then refused to cooperate, even when I shouted "IT IS A FUCKING SONY ERICSSON BATTERY" at it.
  • all menu text had changed to black on a black background, so you couldn't read anything. Well, in fact you could, because the highlighted menu item remained white, you just couldn't see any of the other options in the list until you moved up or down. So that made navigation very exciting as you never knew what was coming next.
  • unable to connect the phone to the PC, as the Sony Ericsson Phone Suite programme thingy refused to recognise the phone.
So, all in all, it was fucked.

The helpful information I found on the web blamed a software error, and said it might be resolved if you updated the firmware. Indeed, on the Sony Ericsson site, there was a new version which proudly proclaimed it would resolve certain errors and improve memory access. Well, that's lovely, but it was a bit fucking late now that my phone was dead and I couldn't connect it to the PC to wipe it and reload the software. I also couldn't back up my contacts directory onto the computer, or even onto the SIM, because it couldn't access it.

So after a couple of hours of futilely turning it on and off and hoping it magically healed itself, I took it back to the Orange shop.

Were they concerned, apologetic, sympathetic and helpful? No.

I got some woman, who I assume must have been the store manager judging by her rather casual attire and blasé attitude, and explained that the phone was busted.

"Oh right. Well it'll have to go back to Sony Ericsson to be fixed then. They'll wipe it and reload the software. We're not fixing them ourselves any more, we're sending them straight to them" (a big hint, I think, that other people have had the same problem). "It'll take 10 days."

"10 days, or 10 working days?"

"10 working days."

"So two weeks then. What do I do for a phone in the meantime?"

"You'll have to use an old handset if you've got one."

"I have one, but it doesn't work very well, that's why I bought a new one. Isn't there anything else you can do for me?" (I was hoping for a courtesy phone, which I know they can do because I could see the space on the form for it)

"Not unless you have another old handset."

"So that's a no then. What about my numbers?"

"I'll back them up onto your SIM for you." (starts jabbing with her podgy fingers at the buttons)

"You can't. As I said, you can't access the phonebook."

"Well you'll lose your numbers then."

"Oh. Thanks."

And that was it! No apology, no nothing. I'm now just waiting for a call to say the phone is back and I can go and get it. I'm hoping it'll be before the end of next week, but based on my experience so far it's more likely to be the start of the week after.

So I've got no 3G any more, and I'm stuck with my crappy LG Chocolate which looks nice but works like it was programmed by illiterate paraplegics with severe brain injuries.

My advice to you if you're reading this post because you've searched for Sony Ericsson C510 on Google is to install the Phone Suite programme thingy and back up your phone now. Then, if you know what you're doing, upgrade your software to the latest version. I'm not sure if that means you lose any network-specific customisations (mine had special Orange links built into the menus), but it's probably worth it to keep the phone from dying.

It's a shame, because I loved my C510, it's the best phone I've ever had, and most people have told me Sony Ericssons are really good. Maybe it'll come back in tip top condition and I'll have no more problems with it, but whatever happens it'll be no thanks to Miss Piggy of the Brighton Orange shop.

07 September 2009

Gender pay gap in the City

There's an article on BBC News this morning, Gender pay gap in the City 'shocking', that says that women in the financial sector in London get paid far fewer bonuses than men. Some equality bod says in it that "the sector must take action to redress this shocking disparity of rewards", and the government has talked about tough new measures to tackle the pay gap.

I would agree that if men are receiving five times more in bonus payments than women, and if women aren't reaching the upper echelons of the companies solely because they are women, then that's shocking and should be redressed.

The article blames entrenched recruitment patterns, and practices which intentionally or not inhibit women's success for the disparity.

BUT, I also read this article in the Economist this week, called Risky business. The article outlines a study on attitude to risk, which is important in a lot of financial jobs, and the levels of testosterone in a person's body. The study claims that if you look at people as individuals, regardless of sex, and factor in their testosterone levels, any perceived sexism vanishes. Men and women with the same testosterone levels performed the same in the study, from those who were more risk-averse to those who were more comfortable with it.

When the study tracked people through into their careers, they found the same correlation between testosterone levels and where they ended up: those with higher levels were more likely to choose risky jobs in finance.

So based on that, I now don't know what to make of the first article on pay disparity. If bonuses and promotions in the financial sector are linked to performance, and if those with higher testosterone levels (admittedly being mostly men) perform better, is it really sexist? And is it realistic to introduce quotas and other measures to eliminate the pay gap? That could artificially reward women whose performance doesn't merit it.

It's an interesting argument anyway, and one that probably hasn't been considered by the Equality and Human Rights Commission. It's only one study of course, so more work would be needed to corroborate it, but it muddied the waters for me rather and gave me something to think about.

04 September 2009

Robbie Williams to release new single, 'Destination Failure' (or something)

Further to my previous post about beached manatee Robbie Williams, I have today had the good fortune to listen to his forthcoming new single, Bodies. You can listen to it here if you wish, but you may want to have a towel handy to stuff into your mouth to stop yourself from laughing and/or throwing up on your keyboard.

I say it was good fortune purely because it made my day, and not because I was impressed by what his label describes as the "apocalyptic conspiracy-laced" nature of this musical feast.

Put simply, it's terrible. Really REALLY terrible. Robbie, in between stuffing meat pies into his filthy craw, has described the single as a "turning point in his career" that will determine his future direction. I think I can give him a good idea of his future direction, if pointers is what he needs: it will be straight to the Mr Kipling aisle of his local Asda to cram as many battenburgs (or as he calls them, 'hug substitutes') into his fat pudding face before he gets whisked back off to rehab.

Just in case listening to the song doesn't impress its full majesty upon you, I think it is worth transcribing some of the lyrics:

Bodies in the Bodhi tree (<-- what the fuck?)
Bodies making chemistry (<-- no)
Bodies are my family
Bodies in the way of me
Bodies in the cemetery
And that's the way it's gonna be

All we've ever wanted
Is to look good naked (<-- ha! vain hope, porker)
Hope that someone can take it
God save me rejection
From my reflection
I want perfection

It's awesome isn't it? He must have employed a really good lyricist to write that. Either that or he consulted Natasha Bedingfield's masterpiece, The Big Book of Shit Lyrics and got them from there.

As you can tell, I'm not a huge fan. In fact, I really don't like Robbie Williams, I think he's a fat twat who needs putting out to pasture. But that works out fine, because thanks to this single pretty soon everyone else will be thinking that too.

02 September 2009

Bye bye summer

It feels like the summer holidays are well and truly over now. For the first time in ages, I woke up this morning and it was too gloomy to see my alarm clock properly. It was raining outside, and the whole world looked grey. Chris has gone back to work, the kids are back at school from tomorrow, and pretty much that means it's now autumn and the summer is over.

I'm not one of those people who bleats on about us 'not getting a proper summer this year' though. It's actually been very hot at times, including very early on around April or May when it was roasting hot and I got sunburn. Admittedly, it has also been quite a wet summer, and there were long periods of howling wind and rain, but I've managed to get quite a good tan and spend a fair bit of time sat on the beach, so it's not all bad.

Work will slowly start to pick up pace again now. The first students (the PGCE ones) will be starting next week I think, and then soon after that the international students will arrive, and then the freshers. I hope there are some fit ones, it has been ages since there has been any proper eye candy on campus. The university is thoroughly dull during the vacations - it's not the best place for facilities normally, and in the holidays what little there is closes so there's nothing at all! There's not even a proper bar here, what kind of campus is that?? So it'll be nice once there's a bit of life on campus again.

We're hoping to go away on holiday in half term, having not had a proper trip away in quite a while. We were thinking Sitges, but that won't be all that sunny in October apparently, so we might go to Gran Canaria again with some of our friends. At least that'll be something to look forward to as the depression of the autumn term sets in.

This morning I am amusing myself by trying out Tumblr, which is a blog engine type thing. It seems quite good - it's mostly for sharing pictures and videos and things, and then you re-post ones you like from other people's Tumblr pages. I was hoping there would be an easy way of importing my posts on it into here, but there doesn't seem to be. I don't really want to run two different blogs, but I like the way Tumblr works, and it has a prettier interface than Blogger (which is frankly quite ugly). I'll see if I start using it properly before I worry about that anyway. In the meantime, here is a really REALLY pretty boy that I found on there. He's so yummy that I just want to bite him. Is that weird?

25 August 2009

Scuba baby!

In an uncharacteristically adventurous move, Chris and I tried scuba diving on Saturday. It was great! We both really enjoyed it. Although we didn't manage to get photos of ourselves in full scuba gear, behold me in a wetsuit:

We would never normally have thought "I know, let's go on a scuba taster session" of course; it was a present from Chris' Mum. She bought Chris one of those 'experience gift' things where you choose from a selection of activities to do like driving a racing car or clay pigeon shooting or whatever. We picked scuba diving because most of the options were a bit manly and not that interesting to us.

It was at a scuba diving centre near Gatwick, and kicked off with a bit of (quite scary) theory in a classroom where they tell you what would happen to the airspaces in your body if you didn't equalise the pressure on the way down and up. Saying "your lungs might explode, but of course that won't happen today" always fills you with confidence! And then we had about half an hour in their diving pool, starting off just with putting your face in the water and breathing through the mouthpiece thingy, and building up to swimming around at the bottom and removing the mouthpiece from your mouth for a minute then putting it back in again.

It was a really nice gentle introduction to see if you like it, and then if you want to go back and do a proper course to qualify you as an Open Water Diver then you can. It was a lovely feeling being able to swim around without needing to go back up, and I didn't find it difficult at all to get used to breathing underwater. I wish we could have had just a little bit longer in the water really.

I don't know if we'll go back and do the course. Maybe. It's not that expensive, but it's only worth doing if you're planning on diving somewhere like on holiday, and it takes two days to complete it. Chris really liked it lots, so we'll see. It would be nice to go and dive somewhere exotic with coral and fishes and things, even if I would be a bit scared of being mauled by sharks. I've seen Open Water you know.