Quote Of The Day

"Victory goes to the player who makes the next-to-last mistake - Chessmaster Savielly Grigorievitch Tartakower (1887-1956)"

Monday, September 30, 2002

A History Lesson:...
Next time you are washing your hands and complain because the water temperature isn't just how you like it, think about how things used to be....

Here are some facts about the 1500s:

Most people got married in June because they took their yearly bath about May and still smelled fairly good by June. However, they were starting to get a little pungent, so the bride carried a bouquet of flowers to hide the body odour.

Baths consisted of a big tub filled with hot water. The man of the house had the privilege of the nice clean water, then all the other sons and men, then the women and finally the children - last of all the babies. By then, the water was so dirty you could actually lose someone in it - hence the saying, "Don't throw the baby out with the bath water."

Houses had thatched roofs - thick straw piled high with no wood slats or sheathing underneath. It was the only place for animals to get warm, so all the dogs, cats and other small animals (mice, bugs) lived in the roof. When it rained it became slippery and sometimes the animals would slip off the roof - hence the saying, "It's raining cats and dogs."

Since the ceiling was straw, there was nothing to stop things from falling into the house. This posed a real problem in the bedroom where bugs and other droppings could really mess up your nice clean bed. Hence, a bed with big posts and a sheet hung over the top afforded some protection. That's how canopy beds came into existence.

Beds were made from straw, which of course is a home for insects of all kinds, particularly fleas, lice, and tics. These beds weren't very nice. The original meaning of the word 'lousy' is 'full of lice' (lice is the plural form of louse). As a result, everyone had lice and fleas. Rats also were common, and diseases spread from the rats to humans, through the lice and fleas. Moreover, any sort of minor injury here the skin got broken often led to death due to infection. This helps explain why life expectancy was only about 30 to 40 years.

Every day they lit the fire and added things to the pot. They ate mostly vegetables and did not get much meat. They would eat the stew for dinner, leaving leftovers in the pot to get cold overnight, then start over the next day. Sometimes the stew had food in it that had been there for quite a while, hence the rhyme, "Peas porridge hot, Peas porridge cold, Peas porridge in the pot nine days old."

Sometimes they would be lucky enough to be able to buy pork, which made them feel quite special. When visitors came over, they would hang up their bacon to show off. It was a sign of wealth that a man "could bring home the bacon." They would cut off little chunks to share with guests and would all sit around and "chew the fat."

Those with money had lead-based pewter plates. Unfortunately, food with a high acid content caused some of the lead to leak onto the food, causing lead poisoning and death. This happened most often with tomatoes, so for the next 350 years or so, tomatoes were considered poisonous.

The floor was dirt. This gave real meaning to the expression 'dirt poor'. Only the wealthy could afford something better, which was often slate. But slate gets slippery when it's wet, especially in winter, so a layer of straw (thresh) was placed on the floor. As the thresh got dirty, more and more layers of straw were added throughout the wet season. The straw, or thresh, was held in place at the doorway by a piece of wood , called a 'thresh hold' ... from which we get the term for a doorway, 'threshold'.

Most people didn't have pewter plates, but had "trenchers", a piece of wood with the middle scooped out like a bowl. Often trenchers were made from stale bread that was so old and hard that they could be used for quite sometime. Trenchers were never washed and a lot of times worms and mould got into the wood and old bread. After eating from wormy, mouldy trenchers, one would get "trench mouth."

Bread was divided according to status. Workers got the burnt bottom of the loaf, the family got the middle, and guests got the top, or "upper crust."

Lead cups were used to drink ale or whiskey. The combination would sometimes knock them out for a couple of days. Someone walking along the road would take them for dead and prepare them for burial. They were laid out on the kitchen table for a couple of days and the family would gather around and eat and drink and wait and see if they would wake up, hence the custom of holding a "wake."

Graveyard overcrowding was a problem even in those days. So they would dig up coffins and would take the bones to a "bone-house" and reuse the grave. When reopening these coffins, nearly 1 out of 25 coffins were found to have scratch marks on the inside and they realized they had been burying people alive. So they thought they would tie a string on the wrist of the corpse, lead it through the coffin and up through the ground and tie it to a bell. Someone would have to sit out in the graveyard all night (the "graveyard shift") to listen for the bell; thus, someone could be "saved by the bell" or was considered a "dead ringer".
[Culled from various "Isn't history wonderful?" type sites]

Saturday, September 28, 2002

Curried favour...
It has been revealed that Edwina Currie and John Major had an affair between 1984 and 1988. Oh my God! The hypocrite (not her, him). After all that 'back-to-basics' nonsense he came out with after he became PM two years later.

Mary Archer, my ex-chemistry tutor and wife of disgraced Tory peer Lord Archer, said that she was surprised to learn of the affair. "I am a little surprised, not at Mrs Currie's indiscretion but at a temporary lapse in John Major's taste". Bitch!

Friday, September 27, 2002

T-Bird or a Pink Lady?...
Strangely - despite releasing a karaoke DVD version of Grease in 1998 - Paramount have never agreed to do a Sing-a-long-a Grease in the same mode of Sing-a-long-a Sound-Of-Music. Until now that is.

Tonight Darren (who is the new manager at the Prince Charles cinema - the home of Sing-a-long-a Sound Of Music) is hosting the UK launch party of the Grease DVD re-release and Paramount have specially agreed to a screening in the Sing-a-long-a format as a one off. Hopefully if it's a success it might become a more permanent feature.

And the wonderful Darren has promised that I can sit in the balcony and watch from above. Watch and sing. And dance. So what should I dress as for the big night ahead - a T-Bird or a Pink Lady? On second thoughts. Don't answer that!
Grease is the Word...


When Grease first came out as a film it created a storm.

Released in 1978 in the UK it was not just the number one film that summer but John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John's You're The One That I Want and Summer Nights between them dominated the top of the UK charts for 16 weeks. The film itself became a cultural phenomenon.

I went to see it 7 times that year. I have friends who saw it 13 or 14 times. We were that hooked.

The acting may not have been up to much but the music was fantastic - here are just the first 8 songs on the soundtrack album.

1. Grease - Frankie Valli
2. Summer Nights - John Travolta & Olivia Newton-John
3. Hopelessly Devoted To You - Olivia Newton-John
4. You're The One I Want - John Travolta & Olivia Newton-John
5. Sandy - John Travolta
6. Beauty School Dropout - Frankie Avalon
7. Look At Me, I'm Sandra Dee - Stockard Channing
8. Greased Lightning - John Travolta

The film was actually released in 1977 in the States and to mark the 25th anniversary Paramount have (re)released Grease on DVD. You can watch the 20th anniversary release Grease trailer here.
There Are Worse Things I Can Do...
My favourite character in Grease was always Elizabeth 'Betty' Rizzo (Stockard Channing). I almost cried when she first sang There Are Worse Things I Can Do. I wonder why? :-)

There are worse things i could do
Than go with a boy or two
Even though the neighbourhood thinks I'm trashy and no good
I suppose it could be true
But there are worse things i could do

I could flirt with all the guys
Smile at them and bat my eyes
Press against them when we dance
Make them think they stand a chance
Then refuse to see it through
That's a thing I'd never do

I could stay home every night
Wait around for Mr Right
Take cold showers every day
And throw my life away
On a dream that wont come true.

I could hurt
Someone like me
Out of spite or jealousy
I don't steal and I don't lie
But I can feel and I can cry

In fact I bet you never knew
But to cry in front of you
That's the worse thing
I could... dooooooo!
My birthday dinner...
Thank you everyone who came last night to my birthday dinner and thanks for all the presents. I'm sure I'd only had one glass of wine so I cannot quite explain or excuse my rambling soliloquy about how I met Mark. I hope I didn't make anyone's toes curl. Can I just state publicly that Mark's remark about me sounding like my father was something I shall be hard pushed to ever recover from - you bastard! (And yes, Drew, that was my favourite T-shirt you were wearing and yes I do want it back, you minx!)
Killer Queen...
This is a genuine psychological test.

Read the following....

It is a story about a woman.

Whilst at the funeral of her own mother, a woman met a man who she did not know. She thought this guy was amazing, so much her dream guy she believed him to be, that she fell in love with him there and then but after the funeral forgot to ask for his phone number and then... A few days later the woman killed her own sister.

Question: What is her motive in killing her sister?

Give this some thought for a while before you scroll down.































Answer: She was hoping that the guy would appear at the funeral again.

If you answered this correctly, you think like a psychopath. This was a test used by an American psychologist to test if one has the same mentality as a killer. Many arrested serial killers took part in this test and answered it correctly. If you didn't answer correctly - good for you. If your friends hit the jackpot however, may I suggest that you keep your distance.

[Thanks to Hanko for the original]

Thursday, September 26, 2002

Vaguely offensive to we non-spellers...
You can't spell!
[Thanks to Rog for the link]
How sweet...
Marcus has written a really sweet poem for my birthday. Thank you , Marcus! XX
Donkey Kong jumps ship...
Microsoft have bought video games developer Rare - with Nintendo selling their 49% stake. Rare is one of my favourite software developers - and whatsmore their British.

In the past they have come up with such great games such as Donkey Kong Country, Donkey Kong 64, Banjo-Kazooie, GoldenEye 007 and Perfect Dark all for the big N - but now will be developing exclusively for the Xbox. Next year they are launching Kameo which at the moment looks like a well above average Zelda clone.
Sick joke...
Q: Why does Michael Barrymore not have any ashtrays in the house?
A: Because he puts the fags out in the swimming pool
Born on the 26th September...
I share a birthday with a number of 'famous' people. Many of whom I have never heard of. But the ones that always stick in my mind are generally from the world of entertainment: Linda Hamilton, Julie London, George Gershwin, T S Eliot, Winnie Mandela (er, OK she's not really in the 'entertainment' camp - more tyre-burning perhaps), Anne Robinson and Will Self (who was born on the exact day I was).

Closer to my heart though are two particular people who I greatly admire and who I am proud to say I was born on the same day as them both. And they are Bryan Ferry (I have always been a big Roxy Music fan) and the ever youthful Olivia Newton-John. Hopelessly devoted to them both.

So who do you share a birthday with? Anyone really embarrassing?
The Forty-One Club...
Happy Birthday to me
Happy Birthday to me
Happy Birthday to me-e
Happy Birthday to me!

Wednesday, September 25, 2002

The Journey Home...
I'm currently stuck on a No. 274 bus somewhere in North London. I didn't leave early as planned - fool that I am - so I had to walk to Marble Arch and catch the first thing I could squeeze on. Luckily it takes me to Angel so I may pop into the Eddie for a swifty before walking home to watch the match. Nikki is coming over to watch Arsenal play. It's a European Champions fixture.
Travel update...
I'm currently stuck on the No. 30 bus. I've been here for 45 minutes and we've only made it as far as Angel (about half a mile or more). The traffic is solid. It's hot, the bus is packed and tempers are fraying. So I have headphones on, watching Spider-man on my XDA and ocassionally surfing, checking my e-mail and blogging.
Geek 1 Tube Strike 0.

Update: Got into work at 12:40. That's 2h 40mins - most of it spent on the bus. It's now 2:40pm - and I'm heading home again soon.
Strike while the iron is hot...
The strike action today in London village is the first of two by members of the RMT and ASLEF unions in a long-running dispute about pay - the second one is due next Tuesday. London Underground have refused to 'cave in' over demands over and above the 3% on the table.

Ken Livingstone weighed in with: "This is another reason that convinces me absolutely that there's virtually no-one at the top of London Underground who has London's interests at heart. Nor is there almost anyone at the top of London Underground who will be there after it is transferred to the control of myself and Bob Kiley."

Threats? From Ken? Say it isn't true.

In related news: The Victoria Line is completely closed down. So I get an extra hour or two under the duvet while I wait for the scrum at our nearest bus stop to subside. Check out how things are going in your neck of the woods.

Tuesday, September 24, 2002

Car crash...
Darren and I went to the Royal Festival Hall last night to see A Celebration of Kirsty MacColl. There were a galaxy of stars both on the stage and in the audience (Darren seemed to know them all by sight and gave me a full musical CV of each and every one). Me, I recognised Dot Cotton from Eastenders and that was it. Oh, and Tracey Ullman - who did a blinding They Don't Know and lead an everyone-on-stage There's A Guy Works Down The Chip Shop Swears He's Elvis as a finale. A great gig. Now if only I could remember what happened afterwards...

We had been pre-warned that there wasn't an interval in the show so we'd have to take our pre-show drinks in plastic beakers. As I'm back on my low carb diet I was sticking to wine and after an initial larger and lime Darren decided tro join me. With barely five minutes to go before the start I was still stuck at the bar getting frustrated with the rugby scrum. I eventually got served but ended up asking for an entire bottle of wine. "Don't worry, we'll drink it!", I reassured Darren producing two pint beakers to pour it into. Classy, eh? We took a few large gulps and two minutes later I'd returned from the bar with another bottle to add to the first - well, you wouldn't want to run out, would you? It was about then that I questioned the wisdom of skipping supper before coming out. Wine by the bottle on an empty stomach ain't a good idea. As we went into the gig we got some rather strange looks from the ushers. "Yes, it is a PINT of wine, love", I almost said.

Darren slipped out about half way through the show - to buy a third bottle of plonk and returned with another two full pints of wine. Oh dear, oh dear.

And this is where things start to get a bit blurry. I can only remember snatches. I know we made it out of the RFH OK. But did Wendy at the Retro Bar really refill my wine glass for free? And later on did she really say, "Jon, I've never seen you this drunk. I think you should go home"? I vaguely remember Darren trying to persuade me to go to Bar Code but seeing as I could barely walk at the time that was never really on the cards. Somehow we managed to poured ourselves into a cab and head for home. "chno, chi chon't chink Chentral Schtation chis a chood chidea, Charren. chi chan't cheven chwalk." After that, my mind's a blank.

This morning I had that horrible combination of headache and upset stomach that accompanies the very worst of hangovers. I felt like shit, basically.

And Mark's single comment as he left me in bed today was, "When you got in last night you looked like a car crash." Says it all really.

Monday, September 23, 2002

Earthquake...
Did the earth move for you last night?
Weblogs...
"Most weblogs are drivel, banal shit written by angst-ridden teenagers and adults sharing feelings, thoughts, and mind-numbing details about their daily lives that provide little insight into anything or anyone." - John M. Grohol, Psy.D

Yeah? Well, you smell and your Mama does too!

Saturday, September 21, 2002

Jet lag...
I can't sleep. It's 6:15am. Jet lag. I'm currently hiding under a duvet in a pitch black bedroom in a small cottage on the south coast of Devon. I'm trying not to wake our hosts, Christopher and Stuart, or Marky so I'm typing this one character at a time on my XDA (yes, it seems GPRS has made it to this neck of the woods). And what should I contemplate at this early hour of the morning? Well all I can think about is Mo Mowlem. Madness takes many forms.

Friday, September 20, 2002

Guy (and his jokes)...
Whenever I open my e-mail in the morning there is always something to look forward to - jokes, gossip and links from Guy. And this being my first morning back in the office for a while was no different. Here are a couple that took my fancy.

First up was clothes with a message - ties, scarves and boxers with patterns on them of nasty diseases (all available from Infectious Awareables). I especially like the Syphilis ties, the Herpes scarves and the Anthrax boxers (for some reason).

And second up was the Fox Chicago TV station that is producing a new reality show called The Experiment: Gay and Straight where five openly gay people will be locked in a house with five straight people for a week with cameras on them a la Big Brother. You can vote for which contestants are chosen to take part.

Thanks, Guy. Keep 'em coming!
Dog's Life...
Back in the office today - incredibly busy and then off to Devon this afternoon. It's a dog's life, eh?

Thursday, September 19, 2002

Nightmare...
Just got in from the airport. Nightmare journey. Speak to you tomorrow. Now sleeeeep. Zzzzzzzzzz...

Wednesday, September 18, 2002

Super Mario Sunshine and Super Monkey Ball 2...
A couple of weeks ago the postman rang the doorbell early on a Saturday morning. I rushed down in my trackie bottoms to be greeted by a smile from our postie and a nice bulging package hot from the States. And sure enough one quick autograph later I had Super Mario Sunshine and Super Monkey Ball 2 in my hot little paws. Naturally I texted Ade immediately (he was on hols in Spain) to tell him the good news. Like me he's a big Nintendo fan and it was he who introduced me to the delights on Super Monkey Ball some months back. We've scheduled some collective drooling time after next week.

Super Mario Sunshine is basically Mario 64 ("the best video game ever") with knobs on. And very nice knobs they are too: photo-realistic water, mist and smoke effects, a far more interesting AI and overall much smoother 3D rendering. The game follows the now traditional path of main game with entrances to sub-worlds to explore peppered with mini games to collect stars and coins. The basic premise is that Mario is accused to painting graffiti all over a holiday island resort and is put to work cleaning the place up. For this he has use of a water jet pack - effectively being the reverse of the vacuum pump in Luigi's Mansion. The jet pack allows him to clean, kill, hover, blast up and fly. And as you would expect the physics are spot on. It's great fun and genuinely funny in places. The baddies are suitably menacing and the goals, while easy to achieve, are plentiful enough to keep you coming back for more. Overall a near perfect platform game. If you have a Nintendo GameCube you must get Super Mario Sunshine when it's available. And if you don't have a Nintendo GameCube Super Mario Sunshine is reason enough to get one. Simple as that.

If you like Super Monkey Ball then (surprise, surprise) Super Monkey Ball 2 is more of the same. But that's no bad thing. Rolling monkeys around in giant glass balls may not sound like much fun but it's tricky, infuriating and totally addictive. There are heaps on new mini-games and party games too. Skin up and prepare for hours of fun. I've got more RSI from this game than any other - some testament to it's longevity.

Tuesday, September 17, 2002

The Real Hanky Codes...
Last week Marcus was asking in my comments about the hanky codes that gay men use to indicate what they like. The colour of the hanky and the pocket it hangs from tells a lot about you - alledgedly. And for the first time I can exclusively reveal what the colours really mean.

Red means you like playing with lego. Yellow that you like ice cream. Brown that you like easy listening music. White that you wear pyjamas. Black that you like playing marbles. And blue that you like to knit.

You see? We're not that scary really.
Tips for Visitors to Dubai...
This from the official Dubai tourism site.
In Ramadan, never eat, drink or smoke in public during daylight hours.
Never drink alcohol in public.
Do not take photographs of military installations or national women.
Do not sit in such a way that the soles of your feet are pointing at someone else.

Monday, September 16, 2002

Baked Beans...
Cold potato, baked beans, rice and porridge may not sound appetising - but they might be just the thing to ward off cancer. It's the indigestible crystalline starch apparently. In related news baked beans are getting the cold shoulder by the church. It's an ill wind...
So I'm here...
But what sort of place is Dubai?

Things your just have to know about Dubai #1...
Geography: The second largest of the seven emirates which make up the United Arab Emirates, Dubai is located on the southern shore of the Arabian Gulf. It has an area of some 3,900 square kilometres. Outside the city itself, the emirate is sparsely inhabited and characterised by desert vegetation.

Things your just have to know about Dubai #2...
Economy: Oil contributes just 20 per cent of economic production. Trading, manufacturing and services — including tourism — now dominate the economy.

Things your just have to know about Dubai #3...
Local Time: The UAE is four hours ahead of GMT.

Things your just have to know about Dubai #4...
Population: The population of Dubai was estimated at 1,029,000 in 2001. 70% men and 30% women.

Things your just have to know about Dubai #5...
Temperature: Dubai has a sub-tropical, arid climate. Sunny, blue skies can be expected most of the year. Rainfall is infrequent and irregular, falling mainly in winter. Temperatures range from a low of about 10.5°C/50°F to a high of 48°C/118°F

Things your just have to know about Dubai #6...
Airport: 13 millions passengers pass throught the airport every year. The duty free shopping is open 24 hours a day and if you can't get it at Dubai airport - you can't get it anywhere.

Things your just have to know about Dubai #7...
Alcohol: Alcohol is available in hotel and club restaurants and bars. However, restaurants outside the hotels are not permitted to serve alcoholic beverages.

Friday, September 13, 2002

Sexual Health #1...
Today is sexual health day at overyourhead.

Controversial topic of the day: Have you ever seen any health promotion material in the press or indeed anywhere that says that bare-backing is wrong? Never happens. They just advise about risk reduction. What I'm really asking here is in matters of health should the State say, 'we don't care what you do in your private life, but he's how you can make it safer' or should it in some cases say, 'this sexual activity is just plain dangerous - don't do it' (as it does for say smoking)? Is 'sex' exempt from the Nanny State?
Sexual Health #2...
Chlamydia has become the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI) in the UK. Coincidentally chlamydia was featured in one of the story lines in Sex In The City last night. Miranda had to contact all her recent shags to tell them to get tested as she had tested positive. With, as they say, hilarious consequences.
Sexual Health #3...
One in 50 gay men in the UK attending a sexual health clinic has contracted HIV in the previous year according to the Public Health Laboratory Service. OK, so it's a skewed sample as I guess many of those gay men who go to clap clinics are sexually active and therefore potentially more likely to contract HIV than a non-sexually active person but it still seems quite a high number to me.

Thursday, September 12, 2002

Moth to a flame...
I've decided to bring my flight forward. I'm now leaving for Dubai tonight at 20:50 rather than tomorrow. Lemming that I am.
Drew's Birthday...
Happy (belated) Birthday to you
Happy (belated) Birthday to you
Happy (belated) Birthday, dear Andrew
Happy (belated) Birthday to you

Drew, Steven, Marky, Colin and I went to out to celebrate Drew's 24th on Tuesday night. Food was eaten, booze was drunk, gifts were given and pictures were taken. A great night out, guys. Thanks.
Shipping News...
We are going out to Dubai and Fujairah (a huge port on the Middle East Gulf) tomorrow to work alongside some oil tankers. And it appears that might be A Very Bad Idea.

LONDON, Sept 10 (Reuters) - The United States Navy released on Tuesday a warning to shipping in the Middle East Gulf against possible planned attacks by Al Qaeda against oil tankers. The full text of the U.S. Navy advisory bulletin follows:
"According to unconfirmed reports circulating within the regional shipping community, the Al Qaeda terrorist group has planned attacks against oil tankers transiting the Arabian Gulf and Horn of Africa areas. While the U.S. Navy has no specific details on the timing or means of the planned attacks, and there are no indications that an attack is imminent, the threat should be regarded seriously. This reporting substantiates previous indications of Al Qaeda intent to attack commercial shipping as a means of creating economic instability. Shipmasters should exercise extreme caution when transiting strategic chokepoints such as the Strait of Hormuz or Bab-el-Mandeb, or sailing in traditional high-threat areas such as along the Horn of Africa and other confined waters. Coalition forces are alert to the potential threat and are currently on patrol in the Arabian Gulf, Red Sea, and Gulf of Oman. U.S. flagged merchant vessels and vessels effectively working under U.S. control are reminded to consult NIMA Publication 117, "Radio Navigation Aids," for emergency reporting procedures. Non-U.S. flagged merchant vessels are urged to review standing flag state and regional emergency notification procedures."
(Stefano Ambrogi, London newsroom, +44 20 7542 8167, fax +44 20 7542 4453, e-mail: stefano.ambrogi@reuters.com)
What a day to fly...
So I'm flying to Dubai tomorrow on business. And I'm nervous. Very. My palms are beginning to sweat even now. But why am I so nervous about tomorrow's flight?
- Is it because it's so near the anniversary of September 11th and I'm frightened our British Airways plane will get high-jacked or crashed into a building?
- Is it perhaps because we might be about to go to war with Iraq whose air space we fly near and so we might get caught in the cross-fire or worse shot down?
- Is it perhaps that I'm flying on Friday 13th and I'm superstitious?
Well it's none of these really. The simple reason is - I hate flying. It frightens the life out of me. And it's getting worse as I get older. So if anyone has got any tips as to how I can calm my nerves before or during the flight I'd be very grateful.

Wednesday, September 11, 2002

Straight acting...
Ever wondered what the expression 'straight acting' means? As far as I can tell it seems to be used by gay men in personal adverts and on contact sites like Gaydar and Gay.com to suggest they are neither camp nor queeny. The funny thing is that most of these people are as camp as the day is long. I guess 'acting' is the crucial word here, guys.

And now some wag has searched through the Gaydar listings looking for men who describe themselves at 'straight acting' (of more often str8acting) but some of whom have the campest profiles. So I give you a brief selection from:-

The Str8acting Hall of Shame

click for a bigger pichttp://gaydar.co.uk/delbo95
Delbo says that "camp does nothing for me". Sweetly he lists MURIEL'S WEDDING and GIMME GIMME GIMME among his favourites




click for a bigger pichttp://gaydar.co.uk/si_nlondon
Simon loves BEACHES, WILL AND GRACE and Ryan Philippe, but doesn't like men who are "too camp"





click for a bigger pichttp://gaydar.co.uk/grasshopper
Grasshopper insists that he's not "a camp queen or a disco bunny". But he likes to show his sensitive side by posing with a fluffy soft toy. And if you check out his profile, do admire his denim shorts


These are just a small selection, of course. Other 'straight acting' poofs can be seen at The Str8acting Hall of Shame photo album.
I need some time to think, I think....
I'm finding it hard to write something today. Well, something appropriate anyway. I feel I should think more than I do about the events of last year. But I don't. I sympathize of course with the relatives of the people that died and those people who lost their homes, their jobs and their futures. But last September 11th seems such a long time ago. So much has happened since. Without a doubt it was a defining moment in world history but what with so much stuff in the media about 'the events of last year' and what it all means and are we going to war with Iraq and I don't know the world just seems a worse place to live in than it was so I don't really want to think about it too much.

But then again maybe I should....

I need some time to think, I think.

Tuesday, September 10, 2002

Eastenders...
Tell me my bum looks big in this, would you?!! Michael Elphix as Harry Slater
At the TV Quick Awards last night Eastenders won just about everything. Best soap, best actor (smooth guy, Steve Owen), best actress (shrinking violet, Little Mo), best new comer (wife-beater, Trevor) and best storyline (Little Mo's radical ironing technique). The awards are voted for by the readers of the TV magazine. Eastenders big rival Coronation Street won nothing. Again.

The evening was only marred by the fact that the actor who plays Harry Slater (Michael Elphik) died yesterday.
The Day Before You Came...
It was a very different world on 10th September 2001.

Now looking back to that day I can start to put into perspective the things I used to take for granted. Things that at the time seemed so hum-drum, so boring, but things that were actually very precious. For instance the simple ability to go about daily life without fear of attack. And that must be something that New Yorkers in particular have lost and may never get back. It has been replaced with the fear of attack. The uncertainty of the future. And that surely is the real tragedy. 10th September 2001 was a much easier place to live.

I think ABBA's song The Day Before You Came sums up my feelings about the run up to last year's tragic events at the World Trade Center. Who knew we were living in a world where such things were just around the corner?

I must have left my house at eight because I always do
My train I'm certain left the station just when it was due
I must have read the morning paper going into town
And having gotten through the editorial no doubt I must have frowned
I must have made my desk around a quarter after nine
With letters to be read and heaps of papers waiting to be signed
I must have gone to lunch at half past twelve or so
The usual place the usual bunch
And still on top of this I'm pretty sure it must have rained
The day before you came

I must have lit my seventh cigarette at half past two
And at the time I never even noticed I was blue
I must have kept on dragging through the business of the day
Without really knowing anything I hid a part of me away
At five I must have left there's no exception to the rule
A matter of routine I've done it ever since I finished school
The train back home again
Undoubtedly I must have read the evening paper then
Oh yes I'm sure my life was well within it's usual frame
The day before you came

I must have opened my front door at eight o'clock or so
And stopped along the way to buy some Chinese food to go
I'm sure I had my dinner watching something on TV
There's not I think a single episode of Dallas that I didn't see
I must have gone to bed around a quarter after ten
I need a lot of sleep and so I like to be in bed by then
I must have read a while
The latest one by Marilyn French or something in that style
It's funny but I had no sense of living without aim
The day before you came

And turning out the light
I must have yawned and cuddled up for yet another night
And rattling on the roof I must have heard the sound of rain
The day before you came

[B.Andersson/B.Ulvaeus, Copyright © 1982]

Monday, September 09, 2002

Six Feet Under - Season Two...
From Six Feet Under: Season One FinaleThose people at Channel Four are very, very naughty people.

Very naughty.

Firstly they buy 'the best TV programmes from around the world' The West Wing, Six Feet Under, The Secret Life Of Us, The Sopranos etc.

Secondly they show season one of these shows at prime times on the free to air Channel 4 to get us all hooked.

Finally they switch season two, three, four etc. onto their pay-to-view E4 channel so you have to either stump up or wait up for it to be eventually repeated on Channel 4

The swines!

Luckily we get E4 - hurray! So tonight we shall be watching Six Feet Under: Season Two: Episode One. Can't wait.

(We caught up on a double episode of The West Wing last night which was fab too)
Pop Stars: The Rivals...
Saturday night's Pop Stars: The Rivals started OK I suppose. But come back in a month or two. Having been a surprise hit in its first series, Popstars is back for a second run with the smart idea of extending the premise to manufacture two bands that will compete for the next Christmas number 1. It's a clever idea - and before we have heard the songs, before we have any idea about the singers, you can guarantee that this show will produce a hit. Any record company that has been planning its own Christmas release had better ponder a New Year one instead. Davina McCall is hosting the show. Yet that battle is three months away and just for the moment the show is indistinguishable from its previous run, bar a new line-up of judges. It is a parade of chiefly appalling would-be stars and as last time it is revealing that hardly anyone wants to be a singer, they just want to be stars. But then music is apparently not a priority for the judges either: One contestant, Jacob, was rejected over his singing but then got another go because Geri Halliwell decided he looked good. It was a revealing decision and harder still to justify when the show made a big deal out of limiting the numbers of contestants being picked to get to the next round. Three young women, for instance, were told that they were all good enough to go through but that only one would be picked. That decision took place either side of an ad break, a specious way to bring some tension into a show that is really devoid of it so far. The show will be a hit again and its new format will pay off at the end, but right now at the start of the run, the show is unsatisfying.

Sunday, September 08, 2002

Soft Cell: The Sunday Times article...
Here is the article in today's The Sunday Times in the Culture section. If you can get a copy I urge you to buy it. But if not and you don't want to stump up the £39.99 for the overseas annual subscription to the web site here is the article below.

Pop: Taint what they did...
It’s the way that they did it. And 17 years on, Soft Cell are back, with an album to influence a whole new generation. By Mark Edwards

In March last year, Marc Almond and Dave Ball stood nervously behind some sliding doors backstage at Ocean, the then new east London venue. In front of the doors was a lot of dry ice and a large crowd waiting to see the first Soft Cell gig for 17 years.
“We walked out through this dry ice and all we needed was Matthew Kelly introducing us,” says Almond. “People didn’t believe it, they probably thought it was two lookalikes. I don’t think anyone ever thought they’d see Soft Cell together on a stage again, playing some of the songs that we were playing. People were kind of gobsmacked by the situation.”

“It just felt weird going down onto that stage after all this time,” adds Ball. “We got a standing ovation for still being alive.”

Almond and Ball have always been one of pop’s unlikeliest couples: Almond, camp as a row of tents, Ball looking as if he would be just as happy fixing your boiler as putting together some of the catchiest hooks in the history of electronic music. And yes, we are glad to see them still alive, given that their brief four-year career epitomised the live-fast-die-young school of pop stardom, their last two album titles — The Art of Falling Apart and This Last Night in Sodom — accurately flagging the drug-fuelled lifestyle that led to the band’s break-up and Almond’s breakdown.

Another clue to Almond’s past excesses comes as we sit and discuss their comeback album, Cruelty Without Beauty (out on Cooking Vinyl on September 30) in a posh central London hotel. Almond spurns even a cup of coffee in favour of herbal tea.

He says that when the two of them first got back in touch, re-forming Soft Cell was the last thing on their minds. “There was no sitting round a table at a meeting with any kind of agenda. I think I got in touch with him one day and thought, ‘I wonder what Dave’s up to. It’s been years since we’ve talked. Wonder if he’s got any good tunes on tape to write lyrics to.’”

To begin with, Almond and Ball worked on songs with the idea that they would find other performers to sing them. They would remain in the background as a writing/ production team. Then they wondered if they might perform the new songs themselves, but release them under a different name.

“Eventually, we kind of realised that if we were to do something together again, we couldn’t call it some pseudonym or a little project name,” says Almond. “In everybody’s eyes, Marc Almond and David Ball would be Soft Cell. If we didn’t call it Soft Cell, people would say: ‘What’s that about? Why is that?’” Almond and Ball then had a series of dispiriting meetings with major labels, who — the pair claim — wanted to make them sound more like the Chemical Brothers or Prodigy. If this is true, then somebody hasn’t been paying attention. While the Chemical Brothers’ most recent album and Prodigy’s comeback single have received what we politely term “mixed reviews”, the sound of Soft Cell couldn’t possibly be more hip than it is right now.

The casual music fan may chiefly remember them for one song (all together now: “ner-ner-tainted love”), but Soft Cell’s innovative mix of electronica, northern soul and stripped-down sound has proved an influence on several generations of bands, from the Pet Shop Boys to Pulp. Recently, Marilyn Manson covered Tainted Love (while it is not an original Soft Cell song, it was clear from his version that Manson was covering their interpretation of it) and David Gray’s multiplatinum White Ladder included a version of Soft Cell’s Say Hello, Wave Goodbye. The current music scene is increasingly dominated by bands who borrow heavily from Soft Cell’s heyday (see box*), including the fashionable Electroclash scene, which is clearly indebted to the band’s minimal electro sound.

Which makes it exactly the right time for Soft Cell to re-form. Or possibly, exactly the wrong time. Almond and Ball are understandably nervous about being labelled a 1980s nostalgia act. “It’s very important to us that we distance ourselves from that 1980s revival thing,” says Ball. “We’ve been offered a lot of those packaged nostalgia tours that a lot of 1980s people are doing, but we’ve steered away from them because we don’t want to be perceived as a retro thing. Obviously, there’s a history — we don’t deny our history and our past — but what we’re trying to do is very much part of now, not the 1980s.”

There have been times when the band have tried to deny the past. They remember a tour of America when they refused to play Tainted Love, feeling it had become an albatross around their neck (the song is in the Guinness Book of Records, having spent longer continuously in the Billboard Hot 100 than any other single).

“We thought we were making an artistic statement,” laughs Almond. “We were just sick of it. Sometimes you just play it and you feel like an old whore doing it. It’s great to see people’s reaction when you do it, but I’m getting a bit tired of TV shows saying: ‘You can only play your new song if you play Tainted Love.’ That is wearing thin on me.

“At some point, the present has to overtake the past if Soft Cell is to continue into the future,” Almond goes on. “You can’t go out and play all the favourites all the time. The new, lesser known material has to take over, to an extent. I think there are times when you have to go out and disappoint certain sections of your audience by not playing all the hits all the time. Mind you, I’ve got very used to disappointing audiences.”

This strategy will only work, of course, if the new material is strong. Fortunately, Soft Cell’s new album, Cruelty Without Beauty, is rather good. Ball admits he went back and listened to the old Soft Cell albums to remind himself of the essential elements of the band’s sound. “I made notes,” he says. “It was like a design project. I had to remind myself of my own clich├ęs from that period, because, as time goes by, you become more sophisticated as a musician and more influenced by different things, like my work with the Grid, and with mixing and production work.”

The essence of Soft Cell is simplicity. Ball’s uncomplicated electro sound is applied to Whatever It Takes — a witty dissection of a midlife crisis; the poignant ballad All Out of Love; the addictive pop of the first single, Monoculture (out on September 16); and a razor-sharp cover of the Four Seasons’ hit The Night.

“When we decided to cover Tainted Love, the other contender was The Night,” Ball reveals, “so now we have finally got round to it. I think it fits perfectly in the context of this album. There is that dark, cynical feeling to it, but it’s also quite a romantic song.”

“It shows that we’re still influenced by northern soul,” adds Almond. “I think that The Night is really nodding back to our roots again. It’s also just a fantastic song. I’m amazed that nobody has covered it over the years — that nobody has even done a cheesy disco version. Still, I’m sure our remixes will do that.”

www.marcalmond.co.uk
Put your questions to the band online


*Electronica’s new wave
Soft Cell waved goodbye 17 years ago. They are saying hello again at a time when their heyday — the early 1980s — is hugely fashionable in music. DJs and electronica bands such as Felix Da Housecat and Ladytron favour the synth sounds of the late 1970s and early 1980s, while the Electroclash scene — Fischerspooner, ARE Weapons, Centuries and Crossover — leans not only on the sounds of the time, but also, in its visual imagery and arty pretensions, mirrors the close links that music, art and design established in the early 1980s. Mash-ups that combine elements of two old records often favour music from the early days of electronica — as shown on the Sugababes hit Freak Like Me, built on Gary Numan’s Are Friends Electric?. But the renewed interest in this era goes way beyond electronica. The wave of guitar bands that have dominated headlines recently — the Strokes, the Hives, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs — all lean heavily on the post-punk and new-wave music of 1978-1982, drawing on bands such as Television, Joy Division and Wire. Other echoes of the time can be heard from garage star the Streets. His tales of urban English life bring to mind both Ian Dury and the Specials.

[Copyright: The Sunday Times]

Saturday, September 07, 2002

Friday, September 06, 2002

When it all began...
I was an early blogger.
O2 3G prices announced...
O2 have set initial pricing for it's trial 3G ('third generation') service. It is currently running the trial on the Isle Of Man. Four tariffs have been announced but the one of most relevance is probably the 'typical' consumer. This refers to someone who wants to download music / video and to send and receive multimedia messages from a 3G handset or device. The cost will be about £1.40 per day, or £44 per month. Not too dissimilar to ADSL I guess.
Bigger, faster, quicker, er... better?...
Have just downloaded and installed the brand new Windows Media Player 9 beta. Will have a play and no doubt have something else to say about it in a day or two.
Sleepless in Alaska...
Last night we went to see Insomnia at the Warner Village Islington. Great film. Kinda like Fargo but with a darker heart. Al Pachino was excellent. Since seeing him in The Insider I have really rated him as an actor (OK, so I'm like 30 years after everyone else did but, hey, I have a long auditon time for my 'most admired actor' job!)

Robin Williams are cool too - a revelation really. I confess that I used to quite like his sentimental roles in films like The World According to Garp, Good Morning Vietnam and Mrs Doubtfire. But that was until I saw Patch Adams - where I just wanted to Punch Adams. After that he kinda left me cold. But with Insomnia he has actually done quite a good job. Convincingly complex - if you know what I mean.

I shall give none of the plot anyway but simply say - go see. Very good film.
The German Election...
Equal Rights for Lesbians, Gays and HeterosBeing a close fought contest this time around, sex appears to be featuring high on the political agenda in Germany at the moment.

The Social Democrats (trying to retain power) are using the slogan "That was the foreplay. The climax is yet to come".

The former Communist Part of Democratic Socialism are using the slogan "Today I'll have a shag. Tomorrow I'll smoke a joint. The day after that I'll vote."

As you have probably guessed by now these steamy tactics are aimed chiefly at Germany's 2.5 million first-time voters.

However it's The Green Party that has the most interesting poster (left) - based on the 16th Century Mannerist painting.

The caption reads: "Equal Rights for Lesbians, Gays and Heteros"

I know next to nothing about German politics? Who should the Germans be voting for?

Thursday, September 05, 2002

The Tom Tom Club...
Celebrating Roger's birthday's is always a bit of a hit and miss affair. 'Hit' as in someone usually get's hit - and 'miss' as in Roger usually ends up behaving like a right camp little Miss (sorry Roger, it just had to be said!). And last night was no exception.

Six of us - Roger, Tom Kevin, Mark Marc (woof), Tim Tom (woof, woof), Justin Jake (woof, woof, woof) and myself - all crammed into a little Italian in Frith Street and munched our way through various combinations of tomato-based bruschettas and vaguely meat-based pizzas and pastas. The beer and wine flowed freely as you'd expect although perhaps a little too freely in Roger's direction. Our Roger, as anyone who even casually knows him will readily testify, doesn't hold his drink too well. And before long he was showing us his (ample) belly, burbing like a rustic, screeching like the Queen of the Harpies and rebroadcasting to the entire restaurant some gossip he'd earwigged from a woman on the next table who'd apparently had phone sex with her best friend. He had us in hysterics.

The ever generous Roger then paid for for the entire meal which was lovely of him. Sadly Tom and Jake had to leave us after the meal (something about working an early shift at CNN) but to compensate we were joined en route to Bar Code by Darren and yet another Tom (Andy's ex). At Bar Code we started the serious business of the night - getting plastered. Which in turn caused no small amount of friskiness in our group. At this point Darren and Tom both made wise exits as Marc and Roger had started playfully hitting each other - and then flicking beer at each other - and then smearing fag ash over each other's white T-shirts. Generally they were behaving like two little kids who'd got drunk on their first sip of cider - and we were pissing ourselves laughing. Kevin tried to intercede at one point but got his head covered with big wet sloppy tongue licks for his trouble. Goodness only knows what onlookers must have thought of us all but in the end - who cares!? This revelry continued for the next hour of two until we all got bored of that game and decided to call it a night. Boys were hugged, farewell's waved, tubes were caught, cabs were flagged and home's sought. A great night out - full of tomfoolery. Roll on the Big One next year eh, Rog?
Robots walking...
Nice video of robots walking(needs QuickTime)
[From PopBitch]
More coffee meme...
And a hello from me to bj, frankie, darryl and rannie, who have also done what shel and I have done. Namely been photographed with our coffee cups. Yo, guys! Keep those caffeine shakes acomin'!

Wednesday, September 04, 2002

Roger...
Happy Birthday to You
Happy Birthday to You
Happy Birthday dear Roger
Happy Birthday to You!

Have a great day, Rog. Looking forward to seeing you tonight and may one day your real years match your Gaydar years! Fnah!
My Weekend...
Started with a quiet night in Friday night - just Marky and I - and we had a lot of fun. Just watching TV and being all coupley. The next morning I was up early as a couple of bundles of joy had arrived (more of that later) and then on Saturday afternoon I went down to Vauxhall to see David, Matthew and Richard's new gaff. And very nice it is too; big, spacey and bright. A clutch of queens were there and mucho boozo was consumed; ipso facto fun was had by all. People started to drift off in the evening but Jason, Phil, Gary and I hung around probably slightly longer than we should have done as we were having such a good time. Eventually I dragged myself away to join Marky at the Ram Bar for Jimmy and his boyfriend's 25th anniversary together. It was an all night do and eventually to crawled home about 6:30am - not that we got to sleep then. I was up again soon after playing video games until it was time to head off to the RVT (first time in months). All the usual suspects were there plus one I'd not met before. Plus I had a chance to meet Andy Almighty who promised me something (that I will hold him to!)

Tuesday, September 03, 2002

The coffee meme...
Click and it'll get bigger, baby Click and it'll get bigger, baby
Join the coffee meme. Post a picture of yourself having a cup of coffee and link to shel and me.
My Chain...
"You know what that means, don't you?" he said with a gap-toothed smile. I looked up. Yesterday was the first time in nearly seven years he'd said more that two words to me and I was taken by surprise. And with these words the aging and surprisingly plump homeless guy that stands outside our office everyday selling The Big Issue was pointing down at my chain. The big, chunky steel chain that hangs from my trousers wherever I go - clipping just above the right-hand front pocket and leading round to a bunch of keys attached to the other end sitting in my right-hand back pocket. I was a little wary so I didn't reply immediately to his question. I wasn't sure as to why he was engaging me in conversation at all after all this time.

Normally our roles are fairly well defined. I buy a Big Issue once a week from him to ease my guilt and hopefully help him buy something to eat and in return he doesn't mutter "Spare any change" as I approach or "Have a nice day" in a sarcastic tone when I walk past and pretend to ignore him. So why was trying to engage me in conversation now? Why wasn't he just letting me walk on? It wasn't Big Issue day. And I was running a bit late for work anyway. But he had caught me. I had made the mistake of stopping and now he was staring at me and grinning and asking this rather ambiguous question. So I looked him in the eye and decided to feign ignorance. Sure people say 'chain on the right means you're passive', 'chain on the left means you're active' - but, hey, I'm right-handed so I like to have my keys that side too. Besides, it never hurts to give out a few mixed messages I always think. Anyway, I certainly wasn't going to get into all this with a greying and slightly whiffy street person who I barely knew and right in front of my office too - so I just replied, "No." I perhaps looked a little flushed though and he was clearly enjoying my embarrassment.

He thought for a moment and then looked a bit perplexed at my answer. This was not quite the answer he had expected. I think it thought I might just say yes and look sheepish - thereby confessing a knowledge of gay sexual codes and possibly outing myself at the same time. But I wasn't going to be caught out by this (possible gay) street seller who thought he could either tease me or 'out' me. Not only was he perplexed but he was caught on the back foot too. He now had to explain what he meant by his question. And he struggled. "It means something to people that... it means you... you know... that you're... that you...". "Take in up the ARSE?" I interjected. He almost sprang back away from me. I had called his bluff. I'd taken control of where this conversation was going and at the same time stopped it dead. Again he was lost for words. I could see him struggling for something to say behind that frown that had appeared across his well wrinkled forehead. "Er, yeah", he finally spluttered in agreement. I decided to press my advantage home. "Don't worry", I said, "I don't!" and walked off.

This morning as I passed him he just nodded warily and smiled.

Monday, September 02, 2002

Pause for thought...
80% of sexual offences are committed by people known to their victims. How weird is that?

Sunday, September 01, 2002

It's a boy!...
Victoria and David Beckham have had another baby boy. So welcome to a lifetime of cameras... Romeo Beckham.