30 June 2009

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen IQ

I went to see Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen last night, with some trepidation as I had heard from several sources that it really isn't very good. However, Chris is quite a Transformers geek and would happily be turned into a giant transforming robot if they offered the operation on the NHS, and so we went anyway.

It wasn't terrible. It was alright. The kind of alright that you pronounce 'alriiiiiiiiiiight', and often add 'I suppose' onto the end of.

I felt that overall it was fairly entertaining, and the special effects are really very good. I kept forgetting that the robots are computer generated and aren't actually there, because they're textured so well.

However, it wasn't nearly as good as the first film, and for some reason they had decided really to dumb down the general feel and humour of it. It's not as though the first film was massively high brow, but they really have gone for the lowest common denominator this time. It was basically the human characters' fault, as some of them behaved in an almost slapstick fashion. The robots were generally more mature. But mostly they seemed to go for a lot of toilet and bodily function humour. Did we need to see the ugly ex-Section 7 agent in a thong? No. Did the little robot need to fart fire? No. Did Devastator need to have two bollocks made of wrecking balls? No. It was all needless and it debased the film and the franchise.

And then on top of that there was the fact that large parts of it really bore no relation to the original stories and characters, or even to the first film. I realise that they change things when writing it for the screen, but I think they wandered too far, and made it hideously inconsistent.

For some reason Bumblebee had transformed (no pun intended) into a needy, rather thick kind of pet. Forgotten was the fact that he's actually an advanced organic robot from outer space who just happens to have a broken speech modulator. That doesn't make him thick.

There were two new characters called the Twins, who appeared to be the Jar Jar Binks of the Transformers world, in that they were an inane racial stereotype with an IQ of about 40 shared between the two of them, and they were pretty much as annoying.

And they'd done something really bizarre to Megatron. Megatron, who usually kicks ass and is a ruthless, dominating leader, and who only ever really seemed to be afraid of Unicron (a planet-sized Transformer, for those of you who don't know). But what had he become in this film? Some sort of meek servant of the Fallen, scurrying around and doing his bidding. The real Megatron would have waited until the Fallen's back was turned and then opened him up like a melon.

Lastly, there were the logical inconsistencies that you get with any weakly written script. The Fallen can only be defeated by a Prime, apparently. Therefore Megatron is scared of him. But Megatron kicked Optimus Prime to death in the first half hour of the film. And then when it actually comes to a fight between Optimus and the Fallen, it lasts for all of about five minutes before Optimus cries "Give me your face", and tears the Fallen into little pieces. And then Megatron runs away. Hmm.

So, as you can see, it wasn't great. It was only OK.

Highlights were a girl getting her faced smashed against a dashboard by a jealous sports car, and Soundwave who was WAY COOL (as he should be, he always has been) and who should have been featured much much more. The whole film would have been better without Megatron or the Fallen and with Soundwave running the show. But there you go.

So, go see it if you want two and a bit hours of light entertainment and ITV-style humour, but if you're a Transformers fan you might be disappointed.

NSFW - Gary Lucy in various states of undress

I heard yesterday that Gary Lucy is going to be in the next series of Dancing On Ice. I'm not sure who else is on it, but it is likely that he is going to be the principal boy totty of the series, which suits me just fine because he's quite fit. Assuming he hasn't let himself go of course, he used to be fit in Hollyoaks and Footballers' Wives.

Anyway, there seemed to be quite a bit of interest on Twitter in the fact that I have various photos and screen caps of him wearing not many clothes, and so as requested I share them with you now.

These aren't particularly work safe so, you know, save looking at them for a 'private viewing' later on or something. Click for larger versions.

26 June 2009

Michael Jackson dies - and I really don't care that much

Everybody seems to have gone bananas today over the sudden death of Michael Jackson. I suppose I should be used to the media-fed bouts of public hysteria we get these days, but it has still managed to surprise me. I think in this case it's because lots of people really didn't seem to care very much for Michael Jackson, and just used to use him as an easy target for all manner of jokes and slurs, but now they're all spouting exaggerated eulogies about "the world losing one of its greats", today being "the day music died", and Alexandra Burke of X-Factor fame (sic) even went as far as "Sometimes God needs to call his angels home".

What?? Have I missed something?

I'm not saying he didn't write some good songs. Some of his songs are actually very good indeed. But most of them are from 20 years ago, and since then it's been a slow decline into debt, lawsuits, child molestation charges, and public ridicule.

Maybe people just feel bad for being so mean about him. I don't though. I think it's hypocritical to switch to "oh he was a lovely person" just because someone dies. It doesn't make it all alright.

He was clearly a troubled man whose behaviour was erratic, and who at the very least had boundary issues with regards to children. Fine fine, he was acquitted of all charges, but by his own admission he used to share his bed with young boys. That's not normal! That's not OK! And no amount of "he never had a normal childhood, so he still behaves like he's a child" is going to change that!

And he named his children Michael Joseph Jackson Jr, Paris Michael Katherine Jackson and Prince Michael Jackson II. That's crime enough in itself.

I don't know why anyone believed he was going to be able to do 50 concert dates every other night when he hasn't completed a concert tour in 12 years and could barely even walk the last time I saw him on television. Even if he had lived as far as July, that would have finished him off for sure.

I don't believe he just "turned white" either. He was mentally unwell, and that was just another feature of it. People say Susan Boyle shouldn't have been allowed to perform, or should have been better protected at least, because she doesn't have the faculties to cope with the pressure. But they're also quite happy to milk certain celebrities and their instabilities for their own amusement, and they'll just lap it up until they either die or are committed. Like Britney Spears and Michael Jackson, who apparently are/were fair game for anything.

So anyway, Michael Jackson is dead. My only reason for caring is that now my television is going to be crammed full of insipid tributes for the next week. It's not nice that anyone should die, but I don't see why it results in automatic beatification these days.

23 June 2009

Contrary to most evidence, I do indeed have a father as well

I spend quite a lot of time (too much, in fact) writing about my insane mother on here, and I've realised today that I don't really mention my Dad much. And when I do mention him, it's usually in relation to her and the running around after her that he has to do.

But today is my Dad's birthday, his 61st in fact, and so I'm going to write a little something about him.

I like my Dad, but in some ways we aren't that close. I suppose that's why I don't write about him often. We rarely speak on the phone, and when we do it can be a little stilted, but I think that's probably the same for lots of people. You just speak to your Mum instead and get any news about your Dad second hand.

Growing up I felt that I didn't have a lot in common with him, as we scarcely share any interests and are quite different people. It was connected in part to me being gay and him not knowing about it, as I felt that meant he didn't really know me very well. I've actually felt much closer to him ever since I came out to him about eleven years ago. I didn't think he would take it all that well as he's from a traditional east end kind of background, but after an initial period of getting used to the idea he has always been really supportive. I genuinely feel that he's proud of me, and that he enjoys seeing me, even though we aren't hugely close.

He's a quiet man, occasionally a bit clumsy both in his words and his actions, but he always means well and he's very kind. He possibly wouldn't be so quiet or so clumsy if he weren't so browbeaten by my mother. He must also be very very patient to live with her and to put up with her crap. I often find myself telling her off for being utterly unreasonable to him, but he'll rarely say anything back to her himself. Although saying that, his temper will get the better of him sometimes: when I was younger I saw him both put his fist through a wooden door, and drive a breadknife through a frozen (yes FROZEN) turkey, through the plate underneath it, and into the worksurface when Mum pushed him too far. He's quite terrifyingly strong beneath his placid nature. Maybe Mum should take note...

He's also very hardworking: he works full-time as a delivery man, and then about an extra hundred hours a week looking after Mum and doing for her all the things she can no longer manage, like the shopping and housework.

When I spoke to him on the phone on Fathers Day this weekend, he was half way round Tesco's doing the weekly shop. Not the best time for me to speak to him, I thought, but he seemed quite eager to talk to me and keep me on the phone for a few minutes. And then I realised why: he probably didn't want to go home in too much of a hurry. He and Mum had had a bit of a spat first thing in the morning, and he was probably glad to be out of the house for a while so they both had a bit of breathing space. How sad for him though, on Fathers Day, to be lingering on the phone to his son in the dairy aisle of Tesco's.

I don't know what he'll be doing for his birthday today. Not much, would be my guess. He's off work, I know that much, and they had planned to go away for a couple of days to the coast. But Mum's not sleeping well due to the humidity (there's always something), and so they've cancelled it.

"Can't you put the fan on in your bedroom at night?" I asked.

"It's too loud," she said.

"Even with ear plugs in?" (she always wears ear plugs)

"And also I just don't like the feeling of the fan on me." - Oh. Well. There's no helping some people!

So anyway, he'll be having a fairly crappy birthday by the looks of it. Maybe I'll give him a ring later, just to say hello. He'd probably quite like that, and the five minutes he's on the phone to me will be five minutes that no-one's going on at him.

18 June 2009

Christian Cooke can smite me any time he likes

And by 'smite' I mean 'do'.

And by 'do' I mean 'have sex with'.

Because my last post was so dull and finance-oriented, I've decided to lighten the mood by posting some pictures of international hottie Christian Cooke, star of the mediocre Buffy ripoff Demons, and soon-to-be-star of new series Trinity.

Flat hunting. Or not.

I've just realised that I haven't blogged for nine whole days! Very poor of me, I apologise. It's not because of been working or anything, don't be silly, but I've been away from a proper computer for a while so haven't had the chance. We've been up at Chris' Mum's house for a couple of days because she's just had a hip replacement, and so like dutiful sons (I'm sort of her son now) we went to help look after her.

Anyway, in a shocking departure from our usual lethargy and inaction, we've actually started flat hunting properly and have been to see a couple of places. The first one was on Saturday and was in Hanover, which is a nice part of Brighton about 10 minutes from where we are now. It was a very nice flat, really nicely decorated inside and with a nice modern kitchen and bathroom. You wouldn't need to change anything inside really. But you could unfortunately only live there if you didn't own any belongings at all. The living room wasn't that small, but due to the location of the fireplace and the window and the door to the kitchen, we couldn't even work out where we'd put our telly. The master bedroom was nice but had no room for a wardrobe, and the second bedroom could just about take a double bed but nothing else. So it would never have worked. It was more of a flat for a single person, who could then put all their stuff in the spare bedroom.

We were meant to see two more flats last night, but due to the ineptitude of the estate agent he'd booked it in wrong and so could only show us one of them. This one was in Kemptown, on a nice road near the sea, but it was HORRIBLE. Really really horrible and shabby. Chris said he wouldn't rule it out for the right price, but honestly I could never see myself living there. Only the kitchen was nice, and the bathroom was just about bearable if a bit small, but even that didn't have a window. All the other rooms would need complete redecorating, there was a banister hanging out of the wall, the plug sockets were cracked, and the hot water tank was in a cupboard in the main bedroom. And the bedrooms were too small. And it only had a 75 year lease. And it was just nasty. And they wanted £185,000 for it! So no, I'm not going near it. I don't think Chris liked me saying a flat "no I don't like it", because he probably suspects I'll never like anything, but in this case I don't think I could even bear to live there, let alone like it.

So it's not been going great so far. We're seeing another one on Friday night which looks much nicer but is a bit more expensive so we'd have to make a low-ish offer for it.

And still I'm thinking should we buy or should we rent or should we not move at all. I could just clear out all our clutter and we'd have a lot more room in the flat, and we could consider buying a nicer sofa bed for guests. I even looked up ways of reducing the noise through our front windows, because that would solve another of the problems with our current flat. It would be nice to have a second bedroom though.

Most people that I ask say "oh you should buy, it's the best time to buy, prices haven't been lower in years". But I get the impression that they don't actually know what the market is like for first-time buyers with a 10% deposit.

Prices have come down a bit yes, but there's a shortage of supply as people aren't putting their houses on the market until prices pick up. So the only ones selling are those who really need to sell. This reduces the choices available, and keeps prices artificially higher than they otherwise would be.

And the mortgage market for 90% mortgages is NOT favourable in my opinion, I've looked loads. The base rate is 0.5%, but all the 90% mortgages are offered at 6% or higher, which makes them really quite expensive per month (more than £950, sometimes more than £1,000). We could just about afford that, but if the roof fell in we'd have no spare cash. I've been waiting for the mortage market to loosen up a bit as lenders get more confident, but if anything it seems to have got worse this month rather than better. I heard there might be a few better deals around in June, but they didn't materialise and rates have actually got higher.

So I don't know. I'm still conflicted, as you can see. And it's thoroughly boring to be thinking about it all the time, and to be talking about it all the time. I wish we had a nice fat 40% deposit, or even 25%, then it certainly would be a good time to buy. Maybe I'll buy a lottery ticket on the way home...

09 June 2009

BB 'n' BNP

I've watched a couple of episodes of Big Brother since last week, and as predicted they're largely a bunch of weirdos. They all seem to be pretty much caricatures of certain stereotypes, with a mixed bag of oddballs thrown in to fill up the gaps.

There's a posh boy who claims to be an entrepreneur, i.e. he spends Daddy's money on 'business ventures' to amuse himself. There's a rather extreme version of a lesbian, and a fairly camp tight t-shirted gay boy (not entirely unattractive though). There's a couple of peroxided WAG-type girls. There's a 'ladies man' who fancies himself rather too much and does not appeal to me at all. And then there's a few others, including a dwarf girl, a scary Russian, a bizarre-looking 'stylist' with no style, and an American boy with his jeans around his kness. Oh yeah, and Wolverine from the X-Men.

As I said before, how are we meant to relate to any of these people? There are only a handful who I could actually imagine meeting in real life, and even fewer who I'd want to have a prolonged conversation with. Maybe they'll grow on me, I don't know. As it is though, I've largely lost interest already. I might just dip in and out of it until there aren't as many of them, that's what I usually do.

Also in the news, and rather sadly less noticeable than Big Brother, were the European and local elections. Labour got caned, which I found delightful, and it's left their party and morale pretty much in tatters. They don't control any local councils now, and they lost a fair few MEPs.

I was surprised to find though that the BNP had won two seats on the European Parliament. It's a fairly sad illustration of the effect of voter apathy and how pathetic the main parties are at the moment: although the BNP got fewer votes in total, turn-out was so low that it still resulted in them winning seats. And how does it make us look to the rest of Europe when we send over two far-right candidates with a rights-for-whites anti-Europe agenda? Lots of Britons seem thoroughly ashamed that we've elected them, but it's the people who didn't vote who are to blame.

It reminded me of when I was living in Geneva and the presidential elections were being held in France. The socialist candidate crashed out of the first round, coming third place behind the National Front, and so the second round had to be fought between the incumbent (conservative) Jacques Chirac and the leader of the National Front, Jean-Marie Le Pen. And the French were aghast that they'd let it happen. Naturally they rallied round to stop themselves electing a far-right president, and even the left wingers turned out to vote for Chirac, because what choice did they have? But it was the failure of the main opposition that caused it.

Sadly for us, we don't get a second round at the European elections and now we're stuck with two BNP MEPs for several years. I just hope it teaches people a lesson for when we finally get a general election and that they come out and vote. Of course we'll have to wait for Labour to get the balls to call one before we can worry about that.

Oo get me, I'm all political today...

04 June 2009

Big Brother 10

Big Brother starts AGAIN today, and is now into its tenth year in the UK. Ten years! I can't believe they've not let it die yet, the last few years have just been so appalling and pointless.

The first couple of years I quite enjoyed, because the people they put in were mostly quite normal. That was the point wasn't it? Put normal people into a house together and see how they cope with confinement and being constantly filmed. And it was interesting, it was interesting to see the relationships they formed and the way they coped (or didn't cope) with the pressures of it.

But then somewhere along the way the producers lost the plot and decided normal people weren't sensational enough. So now to get on it you basically have to be a freak or a loud-mouthed idiot. How many of the audition tapes tonight I wonder will have people saying "I tell it like it is, me. If someone pisses me off, I won't bitch about it, I'll say it to their face"? In other words, you're rude, have no tact or social skills, and like to cause arguments. Not that most of them will actually DO that of course - it's just what you say in the audition so you get picked. Once they're actually in there they go back to bitching like everyone else.

If they're all freaks, how are we meant to relate to any of them?

And because they pick people with no social skills, the programme now has to rely on bizarre "twists" to try to make it more interesting, like making half of them servants or infecting some of them with herpes or releasing killer bees into the kitchen.

I wouldn't mind so much if they at least put some cute men in there. Occasionally they try, but generally over the last 10 years there has been hardly anyone I've found attractive on there at all. And it's so unfair compared to some other countries!

Australian Big Brother viewers get this:

And we get this:

How is that fair??

So I suppose I'll just do tonight what I normally do when Big Brother starts: watch the first episode (possibly on mute) and see if I like the look of anyone, and then never watch it again and be thoroughly fed up that there's nothing else on Channel 4 or E4 for three months.

I have two (small) claims to Big Brother fame, by the way: I went to school with Victor who was on it one year (tall black guy, claimed to have had a 'gritty' upbringing but went to the same Roman Catholic boys' school as I did, and frankly it wasn't that gritty); and I was once mean to Kitten on the telephone (shortly before she went on Big Brother) after she didn't get a job where I worked and she thought being pushy and rude afterwards would make us reconsider.

01 June 2009

To buy or not to buy

No not the BBC1 property show featuring the house-buying fitty Kristian Digby, I'm referring to an actual dilemma here.

I've been wondering lately about whether we should actually buy a flat like we've been talking about for the last few months, or whether we should just move to a nicer rented place. Having looked at some rental adverts over the weekend, I've realised that we could afford to rent a really really nice flat now for the same monthly cost (or in fact a bit less) than a mortgage would be. I'm talking swish kitchen, decked sun terrace, and in some cases even allocated parking. This is compared to buying a flat that would potentially be quite a bit smaller, quite a bit further out of town, and probably not as nice.

So now I am conflicted. On the one hand I have that very British notion that it's good to own your own place, where you can decorate it and change it how you like, and where your money is going into a long-term investment that you actually get to keep (supposedly, assuming you don't lose money and get trapped in negative equity). But on the other hand I think that on the continent, like in Germany, loads more people rent than buy, and it doesn't seem to do them any harm. And I would have more cash left over each month for holidays and toys and things, and I could get a really nice flat straight away.

Hmm, I don't know now. I might type "should I rent or buy" into Google and let it tell me what to do, that usually works.