Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Here we go, impossible again...

Now, my love of hating Eurovision is something which many people are surprised by. It is assumed that as a card-carrying gay man - and one with a fervent love of pop music - I must adore it, but I don't.

It's like drinking gin. Somehow it's one of those aspects of being a gay that doesn't appeal.

Generally the songs don't move me because I find them just a little bit too trite (classics such as Gina G, ABBA and Bucks Fizz aside). And I refuse to sit through the tedium of the performances and scoring just to hear the genius that is Terry Wogan being rightly disdainful of the whole misplaced purpose of the thing.

I think I also bridle at the assumption that "you're gay, you like pop, therefore you must like this or be a bad gay".

Well... if so I'm a bad gay. No biscuit. (You can hit me on the nose with a rolled-up newspaper if it would make you any happier).

I do, however, have a vague interest on a national pride level of how well we do. And I'd quite like us as a country to do something un-self-consciously poppy, bright, breezy and produced in a way which doesn't suggest a quick sequencing job in the back of a mini on the way to the studio.

So people... who's in the running this year then?

Ah. It's that oddball who used to be in the Darkness, some thug who used to be in East 17, some bint who used to be in Atomic Kitten and... hang on a second... bloody Scooch!

Now, as someone with a lot of fondness for Scooch (they had some great singles and their cover of the Littlest Hobo theme is amazing) a part of me is really glad to see them back.

But from the tiny clip available on the "Making Your Mind Up" site I can only assume that the studio was in the middle of nowhere and the mini had a fair bit of off-road to do to get there.

Still, I suppose there's no danger we'll bankrupt the UK by hosting the contest next year...

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Stefy - Chelsea

This one somehow sneaked out on release in the UK last week without me noticing. (I tried to buy it on iTunes last year but because it was only on the US Store I couldn't.)

I love it. A nice simple piece of electro-pop with a Eurythmics-esque bassline.

Amazing that it's a US band, really. It's not the sort of sound I usually associate with the States.

Virgin vs Sky

It seems that tomorrow may well be our last day of being able to watch the Simpsons Channel, a.k.a Sky One.

For those unaware of this, Telewest, not content with being swallowed up by NTL, have now let NTL get swallowed up by Richard Branson's ever expanding Virgin empire. Thus we are now, officially, customers of Virgin Media whether we like it or not.

Unfortunately this has coincided with the licence for certain Sky channels on cable coming up for renewal. And Sky, in a stunning example of corporate greed, has apparently decided to double the price it charges. The negotiations have, amusingly, become somewhat bitter with both Virgin and Sky blaming the other, taking out various adverts and trying to whip up the customer base.

The package causing the acrimony appears to contain Sky One, Two and Three (at least the last two of which Chris and I don't get) and Sky News and Sky Sports News (both of which Chris and I wouldn't lower ourselves to). So as far as we're concerned the whole fracas is really about whether we get Sky One or not.

So... we don't watch Lost or Heroes, Chris keeps missing Battlestar Galactica (which I'm so far behind I can't be arsed to start on) and, with due consideration, most of the rest of Sky One's programming is aimed at post-operative brain donors, so bearing all this in mind we're currently of the opinion that losing this package is not really going to be a great loss.

The only things we will miss are the new Simpsons episodes - which make up less than a fiftieth of the total Simpson's schedule on Sky - and Project Catwalk (which is proving worryingly compelling but I could probably get on BitTorrent anyway).

So frankly we're thinking, "Meh. Lose it. It's fine."

The trouble is that leaves bugger all on Virgin that we really need either. To be fair my only televisual concerns for the next six months are whether I can get BBC One and BBC Three (soon to be rebranded as the Doctor Who channel) - both of which we could get on Freeview or Homechoice.

So when we finally come to move and look at our new TV and internet packages it looks like Virgin may lose out as well.

Up yours Murdoch and Branson!

Househunting Blues

As one or two of you may know, Chris and I have decided to up sticks from Highgate (Archway! Highgate!) and head to pastures new.

Our main reason is that we need vastly more space than we have at present (I so need a new bookcase), but other more pragmatic desires are a steadfast determination to not have to use the Northern Line on a daily basis, and a general feeling we'd like to be a bit more central than we are at present.

And so the flatmate has been scouring the web in search of suitable accomodation and we have, on occasion, been viewing properties... wait for it... south of the river.

God it's a tedious process.

The first problem we keep running into is the letting agents themselves. Why is it, do you feel, that they seem compelled to totally misunderstand your requirements? Even the simple stipulation "not on the Northern Line" seems to have dragged us such parts of the capital as Clapham, Kennington and Elephant and Castle.

Others have decided that what two single men in their mid-twenties / early thirties want is a flat in a luxury new developments. Our repeated protestations that, no, we don't care, an old building with large rooms is more our style is oft met with the firm assertion that "nah, mate, you want luxury" and a viewing of a glorified broom-cupboard with nice taps.

(Incidentally, my view of luxury is very simple: wooden flooring - no hoovering and easy to mop or suck the wine spills from.)

Still, one or two of the properties we've viewed have been almost there, it has to be said. But almost really isn't quite good enough. So far we've been stymied by badly placed sinks (under sloping roofs which were only really fine for dwarves), long walks from any reasonable transport links, and so on.

But for the most part the biggest problem is that one bedroom of the two simply isn't big enough for one large human male, a desk, a PC, bookshelves and a bed. How, in this modern age of extended families and housemates, the term "two double bedrooms" can be applied to such differing floor-spaces I'll never really understand.

And so the search goes on. But after six properties now I'm getting heartily sick of it.

I fully expect to still be searching in a year's time.

Monday, February 26, 2007


Been a while hasn't it?

Don't worry (as if you were)... I'll rustle something up at some point, I'm sure.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Primeval : Episode One

So... an ensemble show. Pitting the wits of a team of unlikely investigators against monsters and a whole horde of strangenesses which are coming to the UK via some kind of spatio-dimensional (for want of a better word) "rift" in the universe. It's gonna be stylish, it's gonna be slick, it's gonna be sexy. It's gonna be an attempt at doing the sort of series that the US has excelled at for so long.

Sound familiar? Yeah... Primeval's an ITV version of Torchwood isn't it? And to be brutally frank they're not helping the Torchwood comparisons by having a flying pet dinosaur hanging around. (Anyone else shout out "Pterodactyl!" during the escape of Rex in the Home Office? Or was it just me? Oh... thought not.)

To be fair, for an ITV programme, Primeval's first episode wasn't too bad. Yes it was essentially Torchwood with a slightly less overblown premise and slightly more restraint generally, but there was still a certain element of "TV-by-numbers to it".

Still, it was engaging enough - even though as a terrible cynic I found myself frequently stepping outside the fourth wall to check off items on the list and make a mental prediction of where it would lead. The cast were very good (especially Hannah from S Club 7 who I genuinely had no idea was even in it until I read about it but two seconds ago), the effects were generally good and it only featured Ant and Dec once (in an advert in the interval) so I'm not sure what else you could ask for.

So I suppose it was a serviceable - if predictable - "set the scene" episode. It'll be a couple more before we know if it's any good I reckon.

That said, James Murray - as Stephen Hart - would be allowed to sit on my face any day. And that's probably all you need from Saturday evening telly really.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Sociopathic Tendencies

Just done one of those Sociopath tests.

I came in at 40%.

"From time to time, you may be a bit troubled and a bit too charming for your own good. It's likely that you're not a sociopath... just quite smart and a bit out of the mainstream!"

I quite like that to be honest.

Extreme Weather

So here we are, proper snow at last! Not this time the light dusting of a few weeks ago, this is serious snowage. Diagonal sheets of the stuff are flurrying their way around outside my office even now and as I left the house this morning there was - aside from a dark streak of tarmac - white as far as the eye could see.

It's lovely.

Needless to say I grabbed my camera on the way out of doors.

Yesterday, when the Extreme Weather warning became definite, I noticed that Transport for London were happily assuring us that they were prepared for the weather. Being of a decidedly cynical bent I naturally wondered whether this meant that they were ready to turn off all the power at the first sign of snow and had printed lots of apologetic signs.

Doesn't seem to have been far from the truth to be honest. If crowded buses, shutdown tubes and widespread surprise were part of the contingency plan I must say it's been executed perfectly.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

The Man Speaks Sense!

Now... whatever my feelings on the cult of Mac, I have to admit that Steve Jobs is - whilst occasionally a little self-deluding - sometimes a great source of common sense.

He's finally come out as saying that Digital Rights Management is no use whatsoever and should be abandoned.

It won't happen of course, but it's nice to see someone as powerful as him make a stand on this sort of thing. Bill Gates murmured the other month that DRM wasn't all it was cracked up to be, but this is much stronger stuff.

Good job Steve!

Ingrowing Hairs

Bloody things - I'm a martyr to them, I am.

Long-standing readers will recall my efforts last year whereby my jawline was lasered in order to reduce the amount of trouble I had in this area.

The results, I have to say, were impressive. I still maintain a certain amount of muzzle stubble since they left that alone and the blonder hairs still grow along the rest of my face, but that's okay: for one, it was only the darker, wirier hairs that ingrew anyway, and I also find a wet-shave rather therapeutic.

But once in a while I still get one even where the lasering had occurred. A rogue hair just decides it'll grow anyway and rather than emerging naturally up through my skin, takes a slight left at the traffic lights and travels along under it in parallel.

Thankfully, unlike most sufferers, it's rare that I get a huge spot-like growth occurring when this happens, it just finds its way along between the layers somehow. Anyone eagle-eyed enough may notice a faint dark line under my skin which gets slowly longer as time goes by.

The only course of action available to me, therefore is to put up with it until I've shed enough layers for it to get reasonably close to the surface. And then I grab a needle and hoik it out.

So this is what happened to me on Saturday. I noticed that a dark line was fairly close to the surface so I grabbed a needle, gently broke a layer of skin and hooked the hair out to the surface.

Three centimetres, it was. I kid you not.

Incredible. Must have been in there weeks.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Matinee Club: Discotheque Francais

It feels like I've been waiting for something like four years for this song.

As "the Modern" they released amazing tracks such as Jane Falls Down and Industry but I've always craved this particular track which has been delayed and delayed by record-label-changes and the band-name change to "Matinee Club".

And now it looks like they might be about to release it.

I'm more surprised by the fact they actually had a budget this time.

Now guys, and gal, hurry up and release the damned album. I'm bored with the demo versions - I want the full version of "Goodbye is Forever" and I want it now!

Saturday, February 03, 2007

The Woman in Black

So, on Thursday night I had the good fortune to be asked to see "The Woman in Black" at the Fortune Theatre in Drury Lane.

It's been one of those plays I've been wanting to see for about ten years now. Unfortunately I'd got to the point where I assumed I was one of only twelve people in this damned city who hadn't seen it since everyone I mentioned it to went "Oh, yes... it's very good, you have to see it".

Thankfully two of us lost souls managed to find each other and wander along.

I went with a view to enjoying what I expected would be a moderately creepy tale. The reviews I'd read were all brimmed over with hyperbole about how scary and nerve-shredding it was but I honestly didn't expect a play with only two cast members to be particularly terrifying.

I was wrong.

The entire audience was jumping and screaming and suffering from heart-pounding goosebumps by the end. I didn't scream, I will add, but the number of jolts I suffered and "Jesus"es I yelped out were many, many many. My companion for the evening and I were clinging to each other in fear through most of the second act, and my skin was prickling right up the chilling - if, for me, clearly signposted - ending.

There's no horror, just two actors, a few costume changes, some gorgeous and clever set-design and a few loud noises. But it conjures up such a mesmerising, evocative and atmospheric tale that you can't quite believe your senses.

The fact it's now a set text on the National Curriculum means school parties are at most performances now but even the laughing cynical children couldn't detract from the atmosphere - as the tale progressed they became as terrified as everyone else. And it was heartwarming to see them be the first to jump to their feet at the end for the ovation.

It is a stunning piece of theatre - well crafted, brilliantly performed and staged and genuinely the most spine-chilling experience I've ever had. (It took me until the early hours of Friday morning to settle enough to sleep.)

If you're one of the ten people who still haven't seen it I urge you to go. And since Get into London Theatre is on at the moment you really don't have any excuse. (That said, even at full price it'd be worth it.)