21 May 2010

I'm moving this blog

I have finally got sick of Blogger's general ugliness and clunkiness and lack of customizability(-ness), and so I am moving this blog as of today.

My new blog will be Wordpress-powered, and will have its own web address. Unfortunately I was unable to register www.superlative.co.uk because some bastard has already taken it, so I have instead had to settle for:

Which isn't a real word, I know, but it will have to do. In the future I plan to develop the site to be more than just a blog of my life, but to have some of the other things that I work on or that interest me on it as well.

So, for the three or four of you that actually read this blog, if you have it bookmarked anywhere, please update the link to the one above. The RSS feed, if you subscribe that way, is www.superlativity.co.uk/?feed=rss2.

I'm not planning on making any more posts on this Blogger address, unless I have an absolute disaster with Wordpress, so hopefully this will be the last one here. I'll see you soon at the new site!

Thank you so much for reading and commenting, it really does mean a lot to me.

10 May 2010

Iron Man 2 and The Reader

I have seen and enjoyed two films recently. Some people might say they are quite different, but I think they have a lot in common: one is about a 40-year old superhero in a robot suit; the other is about a young boy's relationship with a semi-paedophile former Nazi. You can see why I might get the two confused in my mind, so just because it's easier I shall review them in one post.

Iron Man 2

Some people would call this a flagrant and needless attempt to extract more money from the Iron Man franchise after an initially successful film. Indeed, when watching the sequel I did find an awful lot of similarities with the first film that made me think "was there really any point in making this?"

Tony Stark, aka Iron Man, is once again challenged by someone using a hijacked version of his own design and must battle it out and prove his suit is better than the other guy's. There is a vague plot slung around the whole thing, and in this second film Scarlett Johansson prances about in a skin-tight outfit to distract you from the obvious similarities with the first one.

Originality aside though, I did enjoy it, and it was a perfectly acceptable means of being entertained for a couple of hours. The fight scenes are quite cool, the special effects are polished, and Gwyneth Paltrow is reasonably amusing as the unfortunately-named Pepper Potts. Oh and that funny arm-robot that's a bit like a scutter is back too.

It's not amazing cinema, but it's better than being stabbed in the face. I even quite liked Robert Downey Jr in it, despite him not being my favourite actor, as he plays the smug richboy character of Tony Stark quite accurately.

My verdict: B- (not a disaster, but could do better )

The Reader

The Reader, on the other hand, was really really good, and I thoroughly recommend it to anyone. It's not very often that I find myself transfixed by a film, and then left pondering it for ages afterwards.

I'll try not to give too much away, but it is essentially the story of a 15-year old German boy who embarks on an affair with an older woman. They lose contact, and years later while at Law School, he finds that his former lover is a defendant in a trial brought against Nazi war criminals.

The story is well-written and the acting is superb. I found Kate Winslet's character Hanna believable, and quite disturbingly touching when you realise what she is accused of. I think that the conflict the audience feels towards her is a testament to the cleverness of the story and her quality as an actress, and the answers that the film doesn't give you allow you room to ponder and interpret it as you wish. In a way you're drawn into the mindset of the male character, who experiences the same mixture of emotions as he tries to reconcile the woman he thought he knew with the woman he encounters later in life.

Quite rightly, Kate Winslet won an Oscar for it, and I also enjoyed the performance of David Kross, her gratuitously naked young lover. And before you say "doesn't that make you a bit of a paedo?", the actor wasn't actually 15 when he made it, he was about 18, so that makes it alright if I had a bit of a look.

My verdict: A (polished and intriguing)

05 May 2010

Birthday booze and 30 looms

I had a really nice birthday weekend and seemed to pack loads into it. I also managed to avoid any particularly bad hangovers, which for me is a massive success and meant I could actually attend my whole birthday weekend and not spend it with a cushion over my head on the sofa.

I came home on Friday to find that Chris had stuck balloons up in our building's front passage, on our front door, and then around the living room, and had laid out my cards and presents all nicely for me, which was lovely. He's much better at making a fuss of me on my birthday than I am of him. I opened all my stuff with a nice glass of wine, and then we had dinner WITHOUT THE TELLY ON because it was that much of a special occasion.

Our friends joined us later on in the evening for some drinkies and some Singstar, which was a nice easy thing to do and meant I didn't have to leave the house. I think everyone enjoyed themselves, there were about nine of us in the end, which is good because I know Singstar isn't everyone's cup of tea. It was unfortunately rather loud though and we ended up with the neighbours banging on the wall at about 11.45pm. Well, in fact it was mostly one friend who was rather loud because he has the loudest voice ever and thinks that singing means shouting, so giving him a microphone to do it into was possibly not the best idea.

I actually felt really bad, as the neighbours have never banged on the wall before in the six years we've lived there, and I know how tetchy I am about other people making noise. I did turn it down after that though, and most people went off home about 45 minutes later anyway. It left me slightly concerned that our Eurovision party in four weeks might not go down very well with them, but that's normally a bit quieter because it's watching telly (not shouting into a sound system) and it's much earlier in the evening.

I had to get up a reasonable time on Saturday to go to the Children's Parade and take photos for Chris. He's a teacher and he was in the parade, I should point out, it's not that he just likes photos of children. Anyway, the combination of my slight hangover headache and 2,000 children with drums and whistles did not mix very well, but apart from that the parade was quite fun.

And on Saturday night, as planned we went to Pop Kraft at the Hanbury. We took a couple of friends with us who haven't been before, and I'm always a bit nervous when we do that because Boogaloo Stu's nights have a rather.... unusual feel to them. They're fabulous, obviously, and I love them to bits, but the very first time you go you can't help thinking "What the fuck is going on?"

Our friends really enjoyed it anyway, so that was good. I made a cake:

And Chris made a balloon dog:

And then on Sunday, as if all that weren't enough, we had the most GORGEOUS Sunday lunch at the PV. They do a great roast there, and it's just what you need when you're a bit hungover and can't be bothered to cook.

So that was my birthday weekend, and it was great. I've also seen Iron Man 2 and The Reader this weekend, but I might have to write about those separately. They were both good, but obviously in very different ways.

Now that the dust has settled though, I actually have to consider the notion that I am 29 and have entered my last year before I'm 30. How the fuck did that happen?? 29, at least when I was 10 years younger, has always sounded so OLD. But now that I'm there, I don't feel old remotely, and it makes my age feel rather inappropriate.

I don't feel any different to how I felt when I left uni really. When I look back on my university years, yes I was much younger in my mind then, but since I left and started work I feel like I've psychologically stayed the same. Yet somehow nearly seven years have drifted past, which is actually almost twice the length of my whole degree, and that just sounds insane. I know I sound like I'm 60, but where the hell does the time go??

Oh well, it could be worse. I have a nice life, and a job that pays pretty well, and a lovely flat, and I can go out clubbing and go on holiday and drink booze and more or less do whatever I want. So I'm not complaining; I know I'm very lucky. But I'd be even luckier if my stupid age had stopped at 24 instead of stubbornly marching onwards.

It has made me think a little though that maybe there are things I would like to have done before I'm 30, and if that's the case I really ought to get on and do them. I don't know what they are of course, but I'm going to have a think about it. And then procrastinate and not do them, and pretend I never really wanted to do them anyway.

29 April 2010

A catch up on some political stuff

I haven't really blogged about the election campaign since it started in earnest. That's not because I haven't been thinking about it, but rather because I've been talking about it and watching it on the television and tweeting about it to such an extent that it was all starting to get a bit much for me. Even I, who am more interested in politics than most and try to be well-informed, have been flagging at times in the face of the relentless onslaught of the campaign, and the conflict it creates when you discuss it with people.

But anyway, we are now just one week away from election day, so I thought I'd catch up a little bit on the stuff I've been thinking about and where I think my vote will be going (at the moment) when I reach the polling booth.

The debates

I have watched the two leaders' debates with interest, and will be watching the third one tonight. I'm so pleased that they have held them, because it has really changed some of the feel of this election campaign for me, and it seems to have sparked some additional political interest amongst people who normally wouldn't care.

I feel that the format is rather dry, which is unfortunate, and I blame this mostly on the fact that the audience aren't allowed to clap or respond in any way to what they say. What's the point of having a mute audience? It just means it's the three of them talking to camera for long periods, like a party political. It gets much more interesting once they start debating properly and responding to each other, instead of just rattling off pre-prepared answers.

I felt that Nick Clegg was the clear winner of the first debate, based partly on what he said and partly on the way it changed public opinion of the Liberal Democrats. I felt he was always going to have the most to gain from it, as he was suddenly depicted on an equal footing with the other two leaders and people had to actually listen to what he has to say. And what happened in the polls once the three candidates were giving an equal platform? Suddenly it's a three-horse race, with all the parties polling around the 30% mark. That came as no surprise to me at all.

The second debate had no clear winner for me; not because Nick Clegg did much worse, but because David Cameron and Gordon Brown did much better and seemed to settle into the format much more. It was a little bit samey towards the end when they starting talking about similar issues to the previous week, but it was interesting nonetheless.

Stupid party political broadcasts

One of the things I really hate during any political campaign is scaremongering and negative campaigning. I realise that they're always going to do it, but it annoys me intensely because it detracts from the real issues and is insulting to the intelligence of the electorate.

There have been a couple of party politicals in the last two weeks that have riled me up in particular though.

The first was an appalling Labour advert featuring Eddie Izzard, that made me think much much less of him. In it, he talked about the Conservatives (why bother talking about Labour policies, eh?) and said "These are Thatcher's children! Be afraid, be very afraid!"

Fuck. Right. Off.

Seriously, how long are Labour planning on flogging Thatcher's corpse (interesting image) as a reason to vote for them? She was in power THIRTY years ago. It's fucking ridiculous! And contrary to the opinion of most uninformed socialists, she wasn't the worse thing ever to happen to this country anyway. A modernised economy and inflation reduced from 18% to 4% during her time in office? Yes, DISASTROUS. Such a terrible effect on the country that she was re-elected TWICE with whopping majorities and therefore had a clear mandate for what she was doing? Yes, that really shows how the people hated her. Hated her so much in fact that even after the Tories deposed her, they STILL got re-elected the next time around. It's not like everyone went running straight to Labour, desperate to be free from Maggie's claws, is it?

So anyway, I found that advert patronising, childish and irrelevant.

The second party political that's pissed me off is a recent one from the Conservatives, styled as a fictional advert from the Hung Parliament Party. Seriously, it looked like crap, like a GCSE Media Studies project, where it had been so hastily thrown together once the Conservatives realised a hung parliament was a distinct possibility. And it had a stupid noose logo everywhere, despite the fact that a noose would imply a HANGED parliament, not a hung one.

But leaving aside the generally shitty aesthetic aspects of it, the content was what really annoyed me.

A hung parliament would be undemocratic and would mean the country was governed via deals done behind closed doors, they said. It won't be the utopia of cooperation some people would have you believe, they said.

So they're saying that the present system is MORE democratic are they? A system where only 60% of the electorate vote, and then a party is installed as a majority government having received only 35% of that? That's 21% of the electorate backing the party that gains power, who then get to pick whoever they like to fill the cabinet and can spend five years legislating pretty much with impunity, even in the face of large-scale public opposition to any particular plan. How democratic is that?

And on the question of cooperation, other countries seem to manage perfectly well with coalition governments, including Germany: the strongest economy in Europe. The problem actually is that our two main parties are very used to having all or nothing, and they don't normally have to play nicely with the other children. They don't have to negotiate or compromise to get legislation through, they can just force it through on the strength of a questionable public mandate and a large majority in the Commons. A hung parliament doesn't necessarily mean an ineffective one, and the only way the Conservatives can guarantee there would be no cooperation is if they're saying they won't cooperate with any other party.

Anyway, I can feel I'm getting more and more riled up as I write this, so I'm going to leave it there. My final point will be to describe where my voting intentions lie at present, so I can compare that with next week.

At the moment I am voting Liberal Democrat. I would like to see them gain a much larger share of the seats in parliament, perhaps around 100, and for them to exercise that power to bring about political reform.

I really, really wanted the Conservatives to convince me and win my vote, and I gave them ample opportunity. But at this stage, my principal feeling is that I can't trust them. This is based particularly around the issue of gay rights, but has broader implications than that, and relates to the fact that members of the Conservative party don't actually seem to agree with the official line we are fed by David Cameron. There have been too many homophobic views expressed, and it has been enough to put me off. How would these MPs actually vote in the Commons on gay rights issues, if this is how they feel? What value is the official party line if the party's members don't actually support it? And that lack of trust and credibility on gay issues has seeped across and eroded my support for them in other areas, and my whole opinion of them.

My main disagreements with the Liberal Democrats are on issues such as the euro. I don't want us to join the euro, I don't think that we need it or that it presents sufficient benefits to us. However, as the LibDem pledge is to hold a referendum on the issue 'when the conditions are right', I can live with that. If we have a referendum, I'll vote no. And if most people vote yes, I'll just learn to live with it. It's a democracy after all; if that's what the majority of people want, then so be it.

So that's my political update and I'll shut up now. Roll on election day because it's all starting to get rather exhausting.

27 April 2010

Birthday shopping success

Having said to everyone that I don't know what I want for my birthday, and I don't need anything, and don't bother wasting your money if I don't want anything, I actually had a highly successful trip to the shops on Saturday and bought myself LOADS of cool stuff.

The coolest acquisition was these fucking excellent shoes:

I'm wearing them right now and I looooooooooove them. They are Onitsuka Tigers, and I've wanted some for ages but always decided they were too expensive. They're not too expensive when I'm not paying though! For some reason I really like the pattern on the side (most Onitsukas have it), and I really like the colours on these too.

I also bought Amelie on DVD, which I have seen quite a few times but which I really like. It'll also be good for my French to watch it again too, I must be getting pretty rusty by now. I haven't read anything in French or Italian for ages and I know I'd be a bit tongue-tied if I tried to speak them now. In fact, some people who are only occasional readers of my blog may not realise that I actually have a degree in French and Italian and am supposedly fluent, because obviously it doesn't really come up very often when you spend your days pottering around doing (English) websites. I'm not fluent any more anyway, certainly not in Italian, although I could probably make an attempt at French and not sound too stupid.

Anyway, as well as Amelie I also bought Little Miss Sunshine, which I LOVE. I watched it the other night, I couldn't wait until my birthday to see it again. The little girl in it is just SO sweet, and the people are all such fuck ups, and the ending is just hilarious.

So yes I'm pleased with my DVD purchases.

AND on top of that, I bought three t-shirts. So not bad really! It's a nice feeling to come home clutching lots of shopping bags and knowing you've got lots of nice new things.

My plans for my actual birthday have been a bit last-minute (because I refused to decide what to do), but on Friday (my actual birthday) I'm now having people over to ours for booze and SingStar, and then we've got some friends coming to stay on Saturday and we're going to go clubbing and be entertained by Boogaloo Stu at Pop Kraft.

So it should be good hopefully. I hope very much to keep my drinking in check and not get carried away like I usually do, so that I don't suffer horribly the next day and end up spending my birthday weekend in bed or with my face in the toilet. That would be rubbish and would annoy me, so I must MUST remember to stop drinking at a sensible hour.

Will post some pictures of the weekend if any of them are stimulating enough.

21 April 2010

In your FACE, Sony Ericsson

UPDATED 2 JULY 2015: During 2015 the domain name repairmob.com was purchased by a different company based in the United States. The comments made in this post bear no relation to the new owners of this domain name. This note has been added out of courtesy to the new owners.

I fixed it!!!

This is an update to my post from yesterday about Chris' shitty broken Sony Ericsson.

I looked at it again last night, as I said, and tried the Phone Repair function that is part of its program on my PC again. It had already failed to repair it several times on Monday, so I thought it was a bit of a long-shot last ditch attempt, but I had suspected that the reason it was failing was that the battery wasn't lasting long enough each time for it to wipe and reload the software before the phone switched off.

It was difficult to charge the phone though, because it seemed to refuse to charge for more than 10 minutes at a time before all its lights went off and it looked suspiciously like it was ignoring the power input. So in the end I kept unplugging and replugging it every time the lights went off until I decided it might have enough power stored up to give it a go.

And it worked! I was SO surprised, as normally these things never do anything. It successfully downloaded the newest version of the software from Sony Ericsson, accessed the phone in some weird Flash drive mode, wiped everything (this is the point where it kept failing and I thought I might have actually made the phone worse than before), and then shoved the software back in before it ran out of power.

And now the phone is up and running again! Yes it has lost all of its previous data and phone numbers, but that ship sailed the minute it packed in on the plane anyway.

AND we won't have to pay anything getting it fixed, or mess about sending it off for repair. And that's probably all the repair person would have done anyway, so it would have been a total rip off.

So yay me!

One thing I forgot to mention before was that I am APPALLED by the new 'repair under warranty' system that Orange seem to be operating. When we went to the Orange shop and the guy agreed it needed to go off for repair, he gave Chris a card for a repair company who he said were now handling all their repairs. But in order to send it off to them for assessment and repair, even under warranty, you have to pay the company a £15 handling fee! How is that even legal? If it's broken and under warranty, it should be fixed at the expense of the retailer or manufacturer, surely? So we weren't very happy about that at all.

But anyway, fuck it, it's fixed now and it didn't cost anything, so repairmob.com and Sony Ericsson and Orange can all suck my balls. They'll have to form an orderly queue though.

FINGERS CROSSED it will remain fixed and not screw itself up again. My C510 lasted without error for a year after it had its software upgraded, so I'm hoping this will be the same.

I shall be basking in my own smugness until such time as it breaks again anyway :-)

20 April 2010

Stupid Sony Ericsson AGAIN

If you have been reading my blog for a while, you might remember that last year I had some issues with my new Sony Ericsson phone. 'Some issues' is probably an understatement actually, as its software decided to completely fuck itself up and render the phone inoperable.

After some internet searching, it transpired that this was a not uncommon problem with phones using that version of Sony Ericsson's software, and that the only solution was to have Orange send it back to the manufacturer to be wiped and the new version of the software installed. This I did, and I lost all my numbers and it was annoying, but the phone at least worked again until I replaced it last month. Well, I say it worked, but that was only with some bits of paper jammed in next to the battery to stop it from switching off all the time, in another apparently characteristic problem with Sony Ericssons.

Anyway, shortly after my phone woes, Chris decided that he liked the tariff I was on with Orange, and he also wanted a 3G phone like I had, so off we toddled and bought him a nice new Sony Ericsson W595. As I mentioned in my previous post on this subject, that phone also had the randomly-turning-off problem, but as I didn't know about the bit of paper solution at the time we had to take it back and get it replaced immediately after we bought it. After that it was fine.

Except that after that it is NOT fine, stupid stupid me for possibly thinking that it would be. Because what has happened? The software has fucked his phone as well! As we boarded our flight to New York and he was checking his texts before switching the phone off, up popped, to my horror, a funny error message: "Insert correct SIM". Erm... OK, it's still got the same SIM in it.

Maybe it's got some dust in it. We'll just take the SIM out and put it back in and it'll be fine. No, no that's not done it. Well we'll just leave it switched off and then charge it up when we get to New York and it'll probably sort itself out.

Plug it in in New York. "Unable to charge. Use only a Sony Ericsson battery." Now WHERE have I seen that message before..?

I can't fucking BELIEVE it. What kind of faulty crap are Sony Ericsson producing?

So I bought my C510, and it broke. I got it back, and it still wasn't right, and I had to jam lime green post-it note pieces inside it just to make it work.

Chris bought a W595, and it had to be replaced straight away. And then the fucker breaks with EXACTLY THE SAME PROBLEM as mine a few months later.

I'm absolutely APPALLED. When the phones work, they are fine, brilliant in fact, and Chris had actually just said minutes before it broke "I love this phone, I don't think I ever want to change it". Ho ho ho, well thank you sod's law for pissing all over that.

But to have such a catalogue of failures just between the two of us I think is terrible. My previous opinion that Sony Ericsson make the best phones has been replaced by the view that they make shitty, shitty phones that you can't trust. I've never, EVER had a phone that has died due to a manufacturing error and needed to go back for repair before I bought my Sony Ericsson. I've had Nokias, Motorolas, LGs, and even a fucking Lobster (yes that is a real phone make), and they just worked until I replaced them or bashed them and the screen went funny.

And to make it worse, Chris doesn't have his receipt. Why doesn't he? Because when he took his first W595 back THE DAY AFTER BUYING IT BECAUSE IT WAS SHIT, Orange took it and clipped it to something so they could send the faulty one back to Sony Ericsson. So now it won't be covered under warranty.

What a fucking shambles.

There's a Phone Repair function on my Sony Ericsson PC Suite that I'm going to try again tonight which may allow us to fix it at home, but I tried it last night and it failed. I'm hoping that's just because it needed to be plugged in for longer so the battery had more of a charge. If it won't work, it'll have to go off for private repair.

I really don't think I can bring myself to buy a Sony Ericsson again. They should be fucking ashamed of themselves.

19 April 2010

'Now you're in New Yoooooooooooork' (except I'm not because I'm back now)

Hello all.

I had a marvellous time in New York (concrete jungle that dreams are made of), it was really really good. And as a bonus I got back with 36 hours to spare before the whole world went volcano-crazy and had to resort to plebeian land-based forms of transport.

We walked MILES, at least five miles a day, and we did and saw so much, so I shall only share with you the highlights and some of the nicer pictures. It was meant to be a more relaxed trip to New York this time, as we'd already rushed around for four days there before doing all the touristy things, but in the end we did just as much this time. It's that sort of place, you can't really just sit around when you're in the middle of one of the coolest cities you can visit.

Our flight out from Heathrow was fine (good old Virgin Atlantic, they're always so good). We used Purple Parking at the airport, which I had been a bit worried about because I'd read some bad reviews, but in actual fact they were really good and ever so efficient. I guess some people just get unlucky and have a bad experience, but we thought they were really good.

Anyway, the flight was fine as I say, and I watched the film Precious on the way out. It's a harrowing film in many ways, but it's also brilliant and gritty, and kind of uplifting by the end. I also watched half of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, which was crap and predictable and as annoying as any of the other JK Rowling drivel (I watched the second half on the flight home; it didn't improve).

The hotel was the same one as we stayed at on our honeymoon, the Chelsea Pines Inn on West 14th Street. It's a really nice gay hotel with very friendly staff, and all the rooms are named after movie stars and have their movie posters on the walls. This time we were in the Mitzi Gaynor room, which was a cheaper bracket of room than we had before, and it did show a bit. It was fine, nice posh furniture and stuff, but not as plush. I'd still recommend it anyway, and you can't fault the location; it's ideally placed so you can walk uptown to Times Square and the touristy bits, and downtown into Greenwich Village where lots of gay bars are.

Some of the exciting things we did included:

- Walking miles and miles up and down 8th Avenue, 7th Avenue, 6th Avenue, 5th Avenue and Broadway. We saw lots of skyscrapers, and went in loads of shops, but apart from my cool new Skechers I didn't actually buy anything. American clothes were so BORING. If I want checked shirts and chinos I can buy those at home thank you very much.

The shopping was not wasted time however, as several US stores apparently employ hot, semi-clad male and female greeters who entice you in and then stand there letting you drool over them. Principally I'm talking about Abercrombie & Fitch, and Hollisters. Behold the hotness:

And once you've walked around looking at all the hot boys (and girls dancing in stairwells in bikinis) you can swan back out again obviously without buying anything, and they STILL wish you a nice day.

- We went to a couple of museums: the Museum of Modern Art (the MoMa), where we saw lots of famous paintings by famous people. There was also an 'artist' woman who had decided that sitting in a chair in a red dress staring into space for three months counted as art. The museum apparently agreed, but it all seemed rather pointless to me, as she was obviously just sitting there wondering what to have for her tea. I liked this piece though:

And we went to the Museum of Sex, which was good for a giggle. I learnt about female anatomy:

And Chris learnt about sex toys:

- We went to quite a few different bars for drinkies. Some were very good (a bar called Pieces in particular), and some were crap (The Duplex). The Duplex was a pretentious piano bar where the drinks were over-priced, and they kept passing round this stupid fucking plastic top-hat to try to solicit tips for the pianist. Frankly, after paying £10 for two drinks AND having to tip the barmaid on top of that, we weren't prepared to give them any more money. "Has everybody had the hat?" they kept asking expectantly. Yes we had had the hat, and we passed it straight onto the next person thank you very fucking much. We didn't stay there long.

Pieces, on the other hand, had some excellent reasons to stay there, including this:

And I met @plaintruthiness whom I know from Twitter there too. I think that's the first person I know from Twitter that I've met in real life actually.

I had one night where I over-indulged and threw up everywhere when we got back to the hotel, and consequently one day with a shocking SHOCKING hangover, but other than that I coped fairly well given my general wussiness and lightweightedness.

- What else... oo yes, we saw Chicago on Broadway, which was fab! I knew nothing at all about the story, and so it was all new to me and I really really enjoyed it. Plus it had the third not-quite-so-famous one from Destiny's Child in it (not Beyoncé, not Kelly Rowland, the other one. Michelle summink) in one of the lead roles.

And I think that's about it! I'm obviously really pleased that we got back before the volcano erupted, as I'm not sure I'd fancy being stuck abroad indefinitely. Chris' brother and sister-in-law are currently trapped in Fuerteventura, but I think they're OK and the tour operator is looking after them, and so there are worse things.

I've been back at work for half a day now, and it's been alriiiiiiiiight, it could be worse, but it's still pretty crappy compared to swanning about in New York and photographing hot boys.

I have lots of other things I should write about that aren't New York-related, but I shall save those for later.


06 April 2010

Silence is not golden, it's fucking boring

My trip home to see Mother for Easter was not too bad, we didn't have any disasters or anything, but it wasn't exactly fun either.

Whenever I speak to her on the phone, she normally complains incessantly about how noisy the neighbours/neighbours' children/railway line/nearby school is, are, or have been being. Any noise basically means that she can't rest, and therefore feels worse than even her usual level, and so she is obliged to spread some of that misery out to adjacent parts of the world. And this happens all the time apparently, it's like a non-stop noisy hell.

So when I got home on Saturday I was expecting there to be at least a pneumatic drill going off in next door's garden and some sort of monster truck derby happening in the street. I was surprised therefore to find no pneumatic drills and instead just complete, uninterrupted silence. Like serious silence too, you could practically hear it. I'm sure at one point my heartbeat was the loudest thing on the street.

"It's never normally like this!" says she. "You won't believe us now will you? They're normally screaming at each other next door! And coughing! You can hear them coughing all the time!"

Erm... coughing?

Anyway, it was very, VERY quiet. So that's good for Mum, I suppose. They don't do anything in that silence, they wouldn't want to break its pristine completeness. So instead you just end up sitting there. Reading. Or talking, but only very quietly, otherwise Mum says "You're being very loud Thomas!" (that's my Dad) and he is obliged to apologise.

And it's BORING. I need some damn stimulation! They even have the lights down quite low, so it's like you've wandered into one of those sensory deprivation tanks.

I was only there for 24 hours, but I'd gone pretty stir crazy by the end of it. No doubt the endless noise started up again as soon as I left, or so they'll tell me. Or perhaps no it won't, because it's never actually THAT noisy, but they've got nothing better to do than bang on about it all the time.

On the plus side, I did receive six Cadbury Creme Eggs in memory of the Baby Jesus (or something), so it wasn't all bad.

And I'm off to New Yoooooooooooooooork on Thursday, so it's not all bad.

Also, the General Election has been announced today, so I shall blog about that tomorrow if I get time. It's terribly exciting! Sort of.

01 April 2010

Terrible blogger

I have turned into one of those bloggers I don't like who only updates their blog twice a month, making it a bit annoying to try to keep up to date with. It's my own fault really; once I leave it for too long, events either don't seem current enough to write about or they become irrelevant.

But anyway, in case you care here are a few things that have happened in my life recently.

Most excitingly for the geek in me, I have got a new phone to replace my Sony Ericsson C510. Yes I know I've only had my last phone for a year, but it's one of the few things that I treat myself to and spend any actual money on myself on.

So now I have a brand sparkling new HTC Tattoo, and so far I'm really pleased with it. It's my first touchscreen phone, and it has Wi Fi, which are the two things I really wanted. It seems really good, like a proper little computer in your pocket, and it's quite pretty too. The touchscreen is a bit annoying at times, as I knew in advance from the reviews, simply because it's on the small side and so it's easy to jab the wrong thing with your finger. I was texting my sister-in-law this morning and nearly wished her a Harrowing Birthday because of it. I'm getting used to it though, and the general interface and software is really nice.

The only thing that made my Sony Ericsson better was the awesome camera it had, that took some of the best photos I've ever taken. But I only really used the camera once a month or so, so I shall learn to live without it.

I've also been ill with a cold for the last week, which is quite annoying as I'd managed to go almost six months without catching anything. I've been proudly telling everyone that I haven't been ill for ages, so I suppose this is my payback for being smug. I'm hoping it will go away soon, not least because we go to New York in just ONE WEEK!

It's terribly exciting, even though I've been before. I was surprised to see that the temperature is in the high 60s out there at the moment, so it's really quite warm, which would be lovely compared to the horrible greyness we've had here lately. I think it might turn more rainy by next week, but I'm still vaguely hoping we'll get some early summer sun while we're there.

We'll be there for five nights, but I'm actually off work for a whole week and a half for it, which will be lovely. I'm sure I'll come back to a backlog of annoyances upon my return, but I'll worry about that when it happens.

Other than that, things have been more or less normal. My mother has been medium-crazy for the last little while, as opposed to her normal uber-mentalist state, so that's been quite pleasant. I did have her on the phone for 20 minutes today though in a stress because next door is apparently having their roof done, which will undoubtedly cause lots of noise and upset her. It hasn't caused much noise yet of course, she's just speculating and stressing in advance, but she likes doing that. If you haven't got anything proper to stress about, you may as well make something up - that seems to be her philosophy, and it gives her a reason to ring me up anyway. How nice for me.

That's all for now. I shall write more after the Easter weekend, which will involve a trip to see the mentalist mother and so will I'm sure provide lots more blogging material.

19 March 2010

Eurovision Revamp

My friend and I have been discussing by email our appalling entry for Eurovision this year (see previous blog post) and what could possibly be done to turn it from Euro Loser into Epic Euro Mind Blowing Winner.

We have decided that it is possible, but with no small amount of work. The song and singer have been decided, so we can't change those, but that is only a small part of any Eurovision performance.

So, here is my friend's Eurovision Business Plan:
I have concluded that they need to totally pimp him out, he is going to have to work on his upper body (I think he could have nice shoulders) and wear tighter than tight clothing, basically the dancing girls are going to have to carry him and are going to have to totally work it. An outfit change will be needed. I have listened to the song some more and whilst it is very weak it's OK. Sort of. But the performance/dancers/staging is going to have to blow it out the water. We need some sort of theme, just to have him will leave NO mark whatsoever, he needs a gimmick to hide his TOTAL blandness....basically ne needs to NOT BE HIM.

Based on this, I have created the following artist's impression:

I think you'll agree, it's an absolute DEAD FUCKING CERT. Your Country Needs You organisers, take note: this is the new format for our performance. Get working on it. You have two months and ten days to produce the above.

Suck on that, FYR Macedonia, you don't stand a chance. And FYI, FYR is a stupid prefix for a country's name and we've secretly all been laughing at you behind your back.

No I'm not a fucking dormouse

I haven't had much time for blogging this week, due to a combination of going out on staff jollies and actually being really busy at work. I know, me, busy, who'd have thought?

But anyway, I had a fun time last weekend on an Alice In Wonderland night out. It was our friend Alice's birthday, and so she had decreed that the night out would have a dressing up theme in her honour. This was fine, except that as with all these things you have to say 'dressing up optional' so people aren't put off. We like dressing up though, so we thought we'd make the effort, and here was the result of our labours:

In case you can't tell, I am the Cheshire Cat and Chris is the Mad Hatter. Pretty obvious, no? But apparently not to the people who said "Are you the dormouse?" to me on more than one occasion. Of COURSE I wasn't the fucking dormouse, look at my smile! So I glared at them, but this was rather undermined by the perma-happy expression painted onto me.

Here's another picture, complete with inflatable flamingo:

The other girl in it isn't dressed up, but that didn't stop someone saying "I like your wig" (it's her actual hair) which amused me immensely.

Anyway, I mentioned that it was 'dressing up optional'.

"There will be other people dressed up won't there?" we said.

"Oh yes, don't worry," said Alice. "I'm doing face paint and everything."

So we get to the pub and, er, NO ONE is dressed up. And we're stood in a normal pub, full of bemused looking staff and clientele, me in a pink and purple stripey H&M fucking cat print hoodie, and all our friends saying "Oo your costumes are great". Where the fuck are their costumes???

Alice is the one holding the flamingo. Can you see her face paint? It's there, look again. She had painted a SPADE on her face. A spade from a deck of cards, not a shovel. And that was it! That's not fucking face paint!

So I was mortified anyway, and sat in the furthest corner of the pub where people couldn't see me.

A few other people turned up in costume later, and they'd made quite a bit of effort actually, but bizarrely they'd "only come out for a couple" and weren't coming clubbing. Would you really get all dressed up in fancy dress just to come to the pub? So that was a bit odd anyway.

I had a good night once I got going, and we moved on to the Hanbury Club for We Love Pop after a while. I have to say though, £8 to get into the Hanbury Club is ABSURD. It's only a little out-of-the-way kooky club. So I'm not going there again if they're going to charge that for We Love Pop. It's never that expensive for Pop Kraft, I don't know how they can justify it.

Since the weekend I've had a fairly good week at work, but have been a bit rushed off my feet. This is good though because it makes a change from being bored.

We went on a nice staff social/jolly on Wednesday, in the form of a lunch out at Pinocchios and then a trawl around Brighton Museum. Everyone was horrified I'd never been to the museum considering you can nearly see it from my house, and actually I'm really glad we went because it was really, really good. I heartily recommend it to anyone looking for something to do for an hour that's free (well, voluntary donation, i.e. free).

And now it's Friday again and I don't know where the week went. I might allow myself a little drinkie tonight (as you know, I hardly ever drink) as a reward for being so busy and important this week. I deserve it after all.

16 March 2010

Your Country Doesn't Need You

OK, so I'm quite a big Eurovision fan.

I never used to be, but in the last 10 years or so I have fully embraced it to the point of someone needing to shoot me in the face I get so excited about it. Every year we have a big Eurovision party at our house, and there are home-made little flags and scoresheets and a sweepstake, and all guests are compelled to show excessive enthusiasm, or feign enthusiasm, or get out.

So, pretty much I don't think anyone could be more pro-Eurovision than me.

But what. The. Fuck. What the fuck was that they gave us on Your Country Needs you last Friday?? It was APPALLING.

First of all, we had half an hour of 'oo let's all spunk over Pete Waterman', which in itself isn't a particularly attractive image anyway. Admittedly, he has co-written some excellent songs in the 80s and 90s. But take note of that last bit, THE 80s AND 90s . His music has a very particular sound to it, which I enjoy and grew up with, but which is quite dated now.

And in any case, he hasn't actually written a new song for us anyway. He's just smooshed Kids In America and Better The Devil You Know into a single song, which does give it a familiar feel, but also makes you think 'er, this is a total rip off of something else'. Maybe he's hoping the foolish Europeans won't notice.

But that brings us on to our choice of act. They trotted out six unknowns (well, one of them I knew), who then proceeded to sing Pete Waterman songs out of key and of a quality that would get you three quick Xs on Britain's Got Talent.

I really REALLY wanted Miss Fitz to do well, as I remembered them from this year's X Factor where they'd had an AMAZING first audition. But alas, blame it on the microphones or the acoustics or whatever, they weren't in key and it sounded terrible.

So his highness Queen Pete eliminated three acts, although sadly not 'eliminated' in the Terminator sense, but in the thank you now get out sense.

This left us with one boy with a girl's name (Alexis - WTF? Would you not shorten it to Alex?), one boy with a big face, and girl with a good voice. The girl's going to win then, we thought.

But no. Even with only two songs to learn and perform, she somehow managed to forget the lyrics half way though (she could have just made them up, they were quite generic anyway) and the public quite rightly binned her.

And so now we're left with Josh from Basildon (Basildon for fuck's sake) as our Eurovision entry for 2010. He's got a fucking cravat on on the BBC Eurovision website! What the hell??

He'll be singing the instant not-classic That Sounds Good To Me, but I'm afraid it does not sound good to me, or to Europe, or to anyone else.

It was a disaster, a DISASTER I say. Bring back Michelle Gayle, she kicked ass with the song she wrote for Eurovision and would piss all over "Josh". I'm picking some other country to support, maybe Switzerland with their entry 'Il pleut de l'or', or 'Golden shower' in English (my own translation).

Fuck you, Pete Waterman.

11 March 2010

Can you fix stupidity with regulation?

No, you can't.

I don't know why, but people think that you can. Or probably more accurately, they are afraid that they'll get sued if they don't mitigate every possible act of stupidity that the public's infinite diswisdom can think of.

Someone was killed last year in Brighton after getting into a wheelie bin drunk and then falling asleep. A refuse lorry came along, emptied the bin, and he was promptly crushed to death, his body later found at a waste transfer site.

While this is tragic for the individual and his family, the 'revised guidelines' that have been issued for waste collectors are just absurd. Commercial wheelie bins will now have to have locks on them, and where possible they will have to be kept away from public areas. This won't stop people climbing into public (i.e. not commercial) wheelie bins of course, or the large and very comfy looking communal bins that feature on hundreds of streets in Brighton.

Why must we do this in response to every random act of stupidity? Yes, the guy made a mistake, he was drunk and it was raining, and it probably seemed like a good idea at the time. It's tragic that the bin happened to get emptied the following morning before he woke up. But it was a one off, stupid mistake.

If people are stupid enough to sleep in wheelie bins, then the responsibility for what happens to them lies with them. You can't devise regulations to cover every possible eventuality, and nor should you have to. Just the reporting in the media of what happened to this particular man should be enough for people to think twice before setting up home in a bin.

What will be next? You can't put broken glass in your bin, someone might climb in it and cut themselves. You can't throw rotten chicken in the bin, someone might come along and eat it; you must write "Warning, this chicken is not for eating" on it in biro, and THEN you can throw it away*.

Honestly, the complete lack of personal responsibility that we have today frightens me. Someone wrote on Twitter yesterday "Had an accident that wasn't your fault? Well suck it up and put it down to experience". I couldn't agree more.


* UPDATE Following publication of this post, I have been informed by someone who works at a well-known chain of shops that they are indeed told to pour blue dye over any waste meat before they throw it away. We're doomed, we are ALL DOOMED.

08 March 2010

Pop Kraft it Up

I had a fun night out on Saturday at this month's Pop Kraft. It's always good there, and seems to be the highlight of my blogging month at the moment. I just haven't felt like I've been doing an awful lot worth writing about. So instead, here are a few photos:

They always have activities at Pop Kraft, but normally we arrive too late to do them. This month however, we were in time for the cake decorating, and I was lucky enough to be assisted by Miss Dolly Rocket.

We made a very pretty cake, with icing and little silver ball things that I hope were edible because I ate them.

Dolly also assisted me with the eating of my cake. She doesn't go in for any of this 'small bites' malarkey, it's all or nothing with Dolly.

Boogaloo Stu entertained us with his unique style of performing. The glove/sleeve things this month were a triumph.

And Dolly and Chris had a nice cuddle. He enjoyed it more than she did.

The only other thing I did this weekend really was watch Up, the Disney Pixar film that everyone has been raving about. It was really good! Not like the best BEST film in the world, but very entertaining, and some of it was really funny.

The first bit is really sad, as they cram the lives of two childhood sweethearts from the age of about 8, through marriage and then retirement, into about 5 minutes of film. It's sad because, well, what do you think happens at the end of a long happy marriage, and look there's only one of them left in the movie poster -->

But after that it's quite a heart-warming tale of an old man's adventure with a young companion and a talking dog, and a house with lots of balloons attached to it.

As with any of these Pixar films, one of the best bits is the extra cartoon short you get with it. With Up it was a film called Partly Cloudy, that actually makes you laugh as much in its six short minutes as Up does in the whole film. Not that Up isn't funny of course, it really is, but Partly Cloudy is brilliant. I really like those short films they do; I still love For The Birds, the short that came with Monsters Inc, that has no human dialogue, but is hugely expressive and lovely to watch.

So anyway, that was my weekend. I've got a quiet week (again) this week, as I've pretty much done everything on my to do list, and I'm running out of ways to fill my day. I've been learning jQuery for the last little while though (a computer thing for geeks; it's fun, if you like that sort of thing) so that at least has been a distraction for me.

Next weekend is Mothers Day - a perfect excuse for my Mum to demand more attention than she does usually. I'm going to my brother's for a meal for it, which should be alright, and which means I'll only be out of Brighton for part of Saturday, instead of losing my whole weekend on a trip to London.

Oo yes, and it's also Your Country Needs You on Friday night, where we'll decide on our Eurovision entry for this year, so I'm really looking forward to that. And we're going out dressed up in Alice In Wonderland outfits next Saturday for a friend's birthday. I'm going as the Cheshire Cat, in an odd pink and purple stripey outfit, face paint and false ears. I'm not sure where we're going, hopefully not somewhere where'll I'll feel too ridiculous in fancy dress. I hope no one pulls my tail off too. Pictures to follow, if you're good.

23 February 2010

Milk you can’t drink and politicians you can’t trust

I have just realised to my horror that I haven’t posted anything on my blog for two whole weeks, so I thought I’d better do a bit of a catch up. I hate it when I click on someone’s blog and it hasn’t been updated for ages, it just looks a bit boring, so I’ve been a very bad superlative for letting it slip for so long.

Anyway, these are some of the things that I have been doing and thinking about recently:

I watched Milk a couple of weeks ago, having previously known virtually nothing about it. I was aware that Harvey Milk was some sort of gay politician from San Francisco, but that was only really because I’d had a couple of drinks in a bar called Harvey’s when we were there, and they had information up on the walls about him.

Anyway, the film was GREAT, as was the story of his life in general. He was the first openly gay man to hold public office in the United States, and he was just so dedicated to improving the lot of gays and other minorities in his city. What was most shocking to me however was how recently it all took place: it is set from 1972 to 1978. Having been fortunate enough to grow up during a period when homosexuality started to be properly accepted in society, I hadn’t really realised how much I’ve taken for granted the freedoms I enjoy. In the mid-70s in San Francisco, it seems the police would regularly raid gay bars and arrest and beat up their patrons. This was the POLICE, the people you’re supposed to be able to call when someone assaults you! Even if homophobia was rife back then, I hadn’t really expected on duty police officers to be engaging in it.

Anyway, the film is about a lot more than just that, and although the ending is sad, I still found Harvey Milk’s courage and determination very uplifting. It made me feel like I could and should be doing more to overcome intolerance, and not just enjoy the benefits of the work done by others. I probably won’t of course, I’m fundamentally lazy and it was only a film, but it made me think at least and will keep me thinking in the future.

Political things
Sort of related to the above, I have been continuing to ponder my position as a gay man with semi-conservative views and the fast approaching general election. I still haven’t decided who I want to vote for, but I’ve still got a couple of months to go, and I’m quite enjoying researching the parties and thinking about it anyway.

Attitude magazine has published an interview with each of the three main party leaders over its last few issues, and I’ve found that very helpful. I’ve taken everything the leaders have said in the interviews with a pinch of salt, because of course they’re just going to say whatever they think will appeal to the magazine’s gay readership, but it was useful to see them address those kinds of questions specifically.

Overall I’d say Nick Clegg came off the best. I don’t like Gordon Brown, so he would have had to say something very special to change my mind, and he just didn’t. David Cameron’s interview and the accompanying articles they published were tremendously interesting, but only made me less inclined to vote Conservative than I had been before. It made David Cameron look very much like a ‘will say what you want to hear’ politician, even more than politicians are in general, and it was pretty absurd to read him denying he’d voted against gay adoption even while they waved Hansard under his nose showing that he did. I’m not going to base my vote particularly on what his party did in the 80s, but the voting record of the current Conservative front bench is important and doesn’t make for good reading.

Nick Clegg seemed the most straightforward and honest, and said some nice things about equalities for gay people. My only reservation is that of course he can easily make generous promises: he’s unlikely to become prime minister and ever have to live up to them. Even so, I’d say the Lib Dems are currently winning in my estimations.

On top of that, there is a debate going on this week about a bill the government is putting through parliament and its section on sex education in schools. After intense lobbying by religious groups, the Labour party has allowed an amendment to let religious schools teach sex education (including mandatory information on same sex relationships) ‘within their institution’s ethos’. So that means religious schools would be free to say “Yes there are same sex relationships. These are wrong, they are immoral, and they are inferior to heterosexual love and marriage”. I’m absolutely appalled by that and think it would be a big step backwards for the country. Some gay activists are even calling the amendment a modern Section 28.

How would a gay child in that class feel to be told they are inferior and immoral? Shouldn’t they be free to be taught the facts of sex education without judgement attached, so they can make up their own minds? That seems like a fundamental right to me, and I really hope the amendment is removed. Labour have proclaimed themselves the only party that has championed gay rights over the last two decades, and this would be a terrible stain on their record.

General bits and bobs
This post is going on a bit now, so I shall cut the rest short.

I’m very much looking forward to our holiday to New York in six weeks. So far we have booked to tour the Federal Reserve Gold Vault, where you can view $8billion of gold all stacked up, and we have bought tickets to see Chicago on Broadway. Both of those should be really good.

Life is otherwise fairly good at the moment, but work is interminably dull and it is starting to affect my moods in the evening again. This feeling of unfulfillment I get creeps into my home life, and I become terribly listless and depressed. So anyway, I’m trying to be more positive at work, to fill my days with activity instead of endlessly clicking Refresh on Twitter, and to do some studying and other things in the periods when I really haven’t got anything to do. It’s worked for the last two days anyway, so I shall try to keep it up.

08 February 2010

Sex and drugs and being called a faggot in the street

I had a lovely weekend, involving two lots of clubbing and a yummy lunch out on Sunday. There was no sex, or drugs, I just said that to get your attention, but I did get called a faggot in the street. More on that later though.

We thought we would give Don’t Stop Believin another try on Friday night, after last week’s enjoyable but rather under-populated launch night. Our friend Alice was quite keen to try it as the music they say they’ll play always sounds so good, so we thought it would be worth a go and hoped a few more people would be dancing this time. Unfortunately, there were actually even fewer people there this time than before, so it was a bit of a washout really.

We still had a nice time, and we sat upstairs in the bar area to start with while we had a couple of drinks, but then as soon as you move downstairs to the club bit it just turns into a very chilly and very empty evening. The music was fine, quite good even, but when you’re the only three people dancing it just doesn’t feel all that much fun. So I think we lasted until about 1am this week, by which point we were fairly sure hoards of people weren’t going to arrive at any moment, so we called it a night. It’s a shame, as I said last week, because the club night is right up our street in terms of atmosphere and the playlist. I might not go again though, at least not until I see that it has got a bit busier.

Then Saturday night was the FABULOUS Pop Kraft, which was much much busier, and was highly enjoyable. We had a few drinks at home, then waited for Alice to ditch her match.com date and come join us for our two-nights-in-a-row we’-re-still-young-aren’t-we trip to the Hanbury Ballroom. It was PACKED when we got there, which was a welcome contrast to the previous night. The music’s always really good there too, the Size Zero Albino and Boogaloo Stu both play really good stuff, and I think we’ve only ever had one night out at Pop Kraft that we haven’t really enjoyed.

There was one slight wobble when the bar managed to enrage Chris so much I thought he was going to batter someone to death, by running out of change during the first hour. So after queuing up for 20 minutes to get served he was told he could only have drinks if he had the right money. “Do you take cards?”, he asked. “No,” said the unapologetic barman. There’s a card machine there behind the bar at the Hanbury of course, there always is, but for some idiotic reason it’s NEVER working. “So what do you want me to do?”, Chris enquired. “I don’t know,” said barman. What the fuck is that?? Do they not WANT to make any money? That was the fault of the Hanbury as a venue though, not the people who run Pop Kraft. If they had no change, they should either have given you the £12 round for £10, or found some way of giving you additional drinks until it made a round number. Tsk. So we only had one round of drinks there all night, which was fine for us because it made it fantastically cheap, but ridiculous for any club to operate like that. GET A FUCKING CARD MACHINE HANBURY BALLROOM (I’m assuming they’ll read this, everyone does don’t they?).

Other than the No Drinks For You fiasco, we had a fab time. We acquired/stole some Glee facemasks of Sue Sylvester and Artie, which I’m sure will come in handy for… er… nothing, and we went fucking MENTAL when they played Don’t Stop Believing. As did the whole club actually, there was a bit of Glee fever going on in there that night. And we stayed until the end, which we don’t always do so I guess we must have been having a good time.

The three of us wandered back home through Kemptown singing Don’t Stop Believing quietly (loudly) to ourselves, and it was at this point that a charming young man decided to say “Faggots” at us as he walked past with his friends. Due to a combination of booze and the fact we were at a good bit in the song (the bit that goes ‘Somewhere in the NIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIGHT’) I didn’t actually care that much at the time, but once I got home I was quite annoyed. It’s only happened to me a handful of times that I’ve been homophobically abused in the street (once on the Isle of Wight, and couple of times near the Level, which is apparently a hotspot for cockmunchers in white transits to drive past and shout “Poofs” at you), so I’ve been quite lucky really. I’ve never been attacked or anything, and I don’t actually care if someone calls me a faggot. I know what I am and I like what I am, so you’d have about as much chance of insulting me if you called me tall. It’s the fact that this person obviously thinks they’re better than you because they like to put their penis into vaginas, and because the only reason they’re saying it is to show off in front of their friends. No one ever shouts that sort of thing when they’re on their own, it’s like a stupid schoolboy thing they do to look cool.

So that pissed me off a bit, because even in Brighton you apparently can’t escape from retarded idiocy. But it didn’t ruin my night, which was EXCELLENT.

And then we had a lovely lunch in Gourmet Burger Kitchen on Sunday where I stuffed my fat face with a massive chicken, camembert and cranberry burger. It was gorgeous.

All in all it was a lahvely weekend. We have such a nice life, I sometimes think, and I should be more grateful for it.

02 February 2010

A couple of pics of the sunset in Brighton last weekend

I love the camera on my phone, it takes gorgeous pictures without me even doing anything. Well, I have to point it and press the button, obviously.

01 February 2010

You’re entitled to your opinion – as long as it’s anti-Tory

I’ve been criticised a few times in the last few months for saying that I’m considering voting Conservative at the next general election. I have to confess that I do deliberately say it sometimes to people who I know will be shocked and appalled by it, just to see how they’ll respond. Even so, the reaction that you get for saying it, particularly when you’re gay, I think is somewhat excessive. It’s not like I’m saying I’m going to vote for the Kill Babies With A Spikey Stick Party. This is a mainstream political party, supported by a proportion of the population that’s either equal to or greater than that which supports the Labour Party (based on current opinion polls anyway).

I don’t mind people saying “You shouldn’t vote Conservative”; in fact I welcome it. I do wish though that they would say “You shouldn’t vote Conservative because…” and then give me some sort of reason other than the rather childish “they’re evil” or “they screwed the miners in the 80s”. I’m looking for proper reasons to help me decide which party to support at the next election. I intend to be a well-informed voter who goes to the polls knowing which party they think would be best to run the country, and which candidate would be best for my constituency. I can’t accept “They’re evil”, with no follow up or evidence, as a reason.

One person recently has drawn my attention to the voting record of the Conservative front bench on gay rights. Fine. Absolutely fine, because that gives me something to work with. As a gay man, it is rather distressing to see the attempts made to block the advancement of gay rights by senior Conservative MPs. I’m not going to base my vote on that one issue though; being gay is a very small part of who I am. I think I have a greater responsibility to vote for whichever party will be best for the country overall, rather than put the needs of my minority group first. If there were a Pink Party with a manifesto based solely around gay rights, I wouldn’t vote for it because it would most likely not have a clue how to run an economy, and I think that would be selfish and stupid of me.

I did swing quite far to the right earlier in the year, and felt fairly sure I would vote Conservative in May (or whenever it ends up being). That was based in large part on my dissatisfaction with the way Labour has performed, and because of some of the core political principles I hold most dear. Those are namely that I believe in individual responsibility for your actions and wellbeing; fairly small government; limited intervention by government into people’s private lives; and a tax system that rewards people for working hard and for saving. These are all quite Conservative things.

In addition to that though, I consider myself liberal socially. I believe in equality and equal rights. I believe religion should play no part in government or legislation. I believe in the right to express yourself freely, and I believe a government shouldn’t pass laws on what is moral and what is not, provided those activities aren’t hurting anyone.

What has concerned me most recently about the Conservative Party is their increasingly obvious method of saying-whatever-they-need-to-get-elected. So yes you’ll hear them say grand things about, for instance, gay rights. They’ll proclaim themselves a friend to gay people (I’m just picking one issue here for the sake of argument), but their actions in the recent past and present don’t seem to tally quite with that statement. I’m not concerned particularly with what the party stood for in the 80s, that’s irrelevant to me now because I believe people should be allowed to change their minds over time. But some of what the Conservative Party, and David Cameron, have said recently has begun to sound quite hollow and contrived to me.

I won’t vote Labour, as I really don’t approve of them. I find, especially with Gordon Brown, that they’ll just say anything, even in the face of it being completely untrue. An ‘end to boom and bust’, Gordon Brown said, during a period of happy prosperity for the country which was then followed by a massive bust that he hadn’t prepared for. A justified war, Tony Blair called the invasion Iraq, and which he maintained at this week’s Chilcot Inquiry, even though it is very apparent to most people now that it wasn’t justified, or at least wasn’t justified on the grounds they put forward at the time.

So then I’m left thinking should I vote Liberal Democrat again, as I have done before (I’ve never actually voted Conservative). It’s true that I do respect them as a party; I think they have been the most plain-spoken and believable on the economy; and I agree with a good number of their policies. Even with them though it is hard to understand everything they stand for, because you end up in reams of detail on their website and there is too much to wade through. There is also the problem of ‘making my vote count’. My constituency is marginal, but it is still likely to be a Labour or Conservative seat. If I don’t want Labour, should I vote Conservative to ensure they don’t win in my area? That seems somewhat spiteful, and potentially stupid if I don’t agree with the Conservatives on enough of the big issues. It’s a great shame to me that the only reason I know who my Liberal Democrat candidate is is because I looked it up myself. Where is the campaigning? Where is the information to help me make my decision? I know it’s early yet, but I’ve already received some information from the Conservatives.

So I don’t know, anyway. Some people will have read the first part of this post with horror at the very suggestion I may vote Conservative, and I might still do so. I did that deliberately to get people to read it really, as I knew it would hook some staunch lefties into an enraged excoriation against the Evil Tories. But if you did read it, and thought “God no, don’t vote Conservative”, please do leave a comment and tell me why. Constructive comments though please, with an actual reason.

Thanks very much.

31 January 2010

So much yummy food stuffed into my face

I've had such a nice weekend. It started off with a little bit of a wobble, but after that it has been great, and I must have consumed about 60,000 calories in the last 24 hours.

The initial wobble was Friday night when we went to try a new club night called Don't Stop Believin. It was the same club night we went to for New Year's Eve, which they have now tried to turn into a regular Friday night thing. It's run by Dynamite Sal, whom we know quite well really (to chat to at least) as we've been going to her club nights for more than 10 years. That makes me feel quite old to say that actually. Anyway, it was at The Jam, the same as before, and we thought we'd give it a try.

Unfortunately, although the music was alright really, it ended up being really empty. It was freezing cold in there, possibly not helped by the lack of people, and while there were quite a few people in the bar upstairs, no one was coming downstairs to dance. So we kept our coats on (because of the cold), had a bit of a dance, and then bailed out by 12.30. I feel a bit sorry for Sal, but maybe it will pick up a bit after a couple of weeks, and when it's not so freezing cold outside.

We had friends coming down on Saturday, so I had to drag myself out of bed with a bit more of a hangover than I was expecting yesterday in order to do the dusting and hoovering. Fortunately for me they were a bit later than they expected, so I had time for a nap and to make myself look presentable before they arrived. We've known these friends for about five years now, having met them on our first holiday to Gran Canaria, and we have a lovely relaxed, flirty sort of relationship with them.

So anyway, the first part of my massive calorie overload was last night, when we had a few glasses of wine at home before going out for dinner. I can highly recommend Old Telegraph Shiraz which our friends brought for us, as it was DELICIOUS. I don't usually buy Shiraz as I think it's too dark for me, but this had a really lovely chocolatey flavour to it. Then after my chocolate-flavoured red wine we went to Cafe Rouge, where I gorged myself on deep-fried Camembert with red current sauce, followed by confit de canard in a delicious orange jus thing with dauphinoise potatoes. It was sooooooooo nice! And massive, and meaty considering I don't each much meat at home.

Then we had a drink in the Star Inn (nice but a bit expensive actually), a drink in the Marine Tavern (who have a FIT little bar boy who shows his pants when he bends over to get things) and a drink in Vavoom (nice but, as always, massively over-priced. £4 for a drink is rather a lot). I was practically waddling by the time we walked home.

Then this morning I weirdly woke up hungry again. I don't know why but that always happens when I've eaten loads the night before, but body seems to start expecting constant stuffing with food. I had a nice muffin thing for breakfast, a short walk in the cold, and then we went to the PV at the Jury's Out for Sunday lunch.

The PV is actually a really nice pub, and every time I go there I think "wow this is lovely, we must come more often". The Sunday lunch is GORGEOUS. I had roast beef, yorkshire pudding, stuffing, roast potatoes, cauliflower cheese, broccoli, parsnips, green beans and cabbage, and it was all soooooo yummy. It was only about 15 hours since my dinner though, so I don't know where I've put it all, I must have gained a stone.

I definitely want to go to the PV more often; they do a quiz night, and cheap drinks (£2, can't beat that), and it generally has a nice atmosphere in there.

And now I've got a wild boar sausage roll sitting in the fridge that I bought from Bona Foodie for no apparent reasons, which is calling out to me to eat it in the next half hour. I'm such a fat bloater.

Oo yes, and I forgot to say that I drank BEER this weekend. Well, a Hoegaarden with my dinner. But normally I don't drink beer at all. However, I am in training so that I can drink beer more regularly because my other big news is we're going to New York!!! We booked the tickets on Friday night, flying Virgin just after Easter and staying for five nights. I'm really looking forward to it. BUT, last time we went, I couldn't drink properly in the bars because if you asked for a vodka and coke you got given a glass of vodka that had about 5ml of coke in it so it was very slightly discoloured, and it was DISGUSTING. I couldn't drink it, and I love vodka. So in anticipation of that I plan to convert myself into a semi-pro beer drinker in the next two months, so I can saunter up to American bars and say "Gimme a beer" without adding on "I hope it doesn't make me throw up" in my head afterwards.

So anyway, I might try to sleep my lunch off now, and then drag my massive carcass over to the fridge to eat my wild boar sausage roll in time for the Dancing On Ice Fittyfest at 6.15. Bring on Gary Lucy and Kieron Richardson in skimpy lycra tops and tight trousers.

25 January 2010

Why I’m opposed to Sarah’s Law

There has been a fair bit of coverage in the news over the weekend of the plan to extend the so-called Sarah’s Law from its four pilot areas around the UK to a national scheme. For a few reasons, I think that this is a bad idea that won’t achieve very much, and that it is being implement purely because it is popular and grabs headlines in the run-up to a general election.

For those of you who don’t know, the Sarah’s Law scheme allows parents to ask local police forces if people who have contact with their children have convictions for sex crimes or have been previously suspected of abuse. The police then check the Sex Offenders Register and any other relevant databases, and if there is a cause for concern they will share a certain amount of information with the applicant. The parent is supposed to be legally bound to keep that information confidential and not tell any other parents or people in the local area. It is named Sarah’s Law after the abduction and murder of a girl called Sarah Payne by a convicted paedophile in 2000, and is similar to but not the same as Megan’s Law in the US. Megan’s Law is more wide-reaching, as it allows people to find out if any sex offenders live in their local area, without having to make an enquiry about a specific individual. The Sarah’s Law campaigners wanted the same thing in the UK, but instead this compromise scheme was introduced.

I think the whole scheme is a bad idea with potentially dangerous consequences. Firstly, I would be extremely concerned about the possibility of vigilante reprisals against people who have details relating to them released under this scheme. I know that in the pilot areas they haven’t found this to be a problem, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be in the future. The public, and particularly parents, are not at all rational when it comes to any kind of sex offender, and there have already been instances in the past of people being attacked, murdered or hounded from their homes because of previous allegations – whether those allegations were actually proven or not. For this reason, I think the monitoring of sex offenders is and should remain the job of the police and the probation service. Despite what some campaigners might say, parents are NOT appropriate people to do so.

Secondly, I think that the Sex Offender Register is at times a highly imperfect system. People who pose no threat to children, or in fact no threat to anyone at all, can sometimes end up on the Sex Offenders Register for life. Take a 16 year-old boy who has sex with his 15 year-old girlfriend: technically, that is statutory rape, and could lead to him being recorded on the register for sex with a minor. Does that make him a danger to children? Most likely not. But if ‘previous sex with a child’ is shared with a member of the public, with no qualifying information, that person will then be labelled as a dangerous paedophile, and a hysterical reaction ensues. I am unsure quite what level of detail is shared with parents under this scheme, but I would feel that this is a significant area of concern.

The scheme also includes people who have been suspected of or investigated for abuse, which I think is even worse. Of course that information may sometimes be critical to crime prevention, but it could also be due to a malicious or mistaken allegation that was investigated and then dismissed. How is it fair that that should be shared with local people should they ask about it? Qualified individuals should have access to that information, not members of the public.

Further to that, the scheme of course offers no protection at all from people who have never been investigated for or charged with a sex offence. Yes I suppose it may offer some limited protection from those who have previous convictions, but as I understand it, people who are a danger to children are barred from working with them anyway, so what does this scheme add?

Fear of paedophile attack has been whipped up to ridiculous extremes in this country, even though in reality I would expect the risk remains very low and has not increased particularly over the years. People may say “yes but any risk is too great”, or “we have to do EVERYTHING we can to protect our children”, or “it only has to happen once though doesn’t it?”, and yes those statements are true. But you could equally apply those statements to road traffic accidents, which do far more harm to children each year, and then say that we should ban all cars or not allow children to cross the road until they are 18.

On top of that, as far as I am aware most cases of abuse still occur within families and extended families, and are not due to strangers snatching a child in the streets. Would this scheme help with that? Not really. A mother can check if her new boyfriend poses any danger to her children, the scheme’s organisers say. Well yes, I suppose so, but how many of them will? And what about fathers, uncles, cousins and trusted neighbours whom you’ve known for years? Any of these people could, and do, turn out to be child abusers, but you wouldn’t get checks run on everyone, and even if you did they probably wouldn’t have any previous convictions anyway.

This legislation is pointless, and is just a convenient way for a government to look tough on crime and to be seen to be ‘doing something’. I feel its potential efficacy is going to be substantially less than should be required to outweigh its risks. It is very hard, however, for someone to publicly oppose the scheme, particularly politicians – do so, and you risk be called anything from ‘soft on crime’ to ‘pro-child abuse’. Calling it Sarah’s Law is a deliberate contrivance to make it even harder to criticise, as they can then slap Sarah Payne’s picture all over everything and use her murder to guilt-trip you into backing the proposal without properly considering it.

I would point out however, that this scheme would not have saved Sarah Payne’s life. She wasn’t killed by someone her mother could have applied for information about. He didn’t have previous or regular contact with her. He snatched her from the streets – an abominable but extremely rare crime. The even more dangerous Megan’s Law could potentially have avoided it, but Sarah’s Law would not. The whole idea should be binned.