Miscellany and detritus, from the writer of Is This Mutton?com

Search this blog

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Cold turkey on Big Brother

No, the new inmates weren't given some chilled poultry to enjoy. What I mean is that I, the curious girl, the mysterious Gail, have gone cold turkey on Big Brother. For the first time, I'm not going to watch it. My colleague Matthew has also made the same vow.

For me, it was Shilpa-gate that did it. What bugged me about Shilpa-gate was that eveyone got on their high horses about it but bullying has been rife in Big Brother ever since it started. Remember Shabahz from the last series? Even Jade was bullied the first time round and humiliated when she took all her clothes off, exposed her kebab in a drunken moment, and wasn't rescued by queen bitch Kate Lawler.

Plus, as Matthew says, you waste the whole summer. And the people are usually so dull, so stupid, so tiresome. There's rarely any repartee or badinage. Sometimes the challenges are good, but they're usually few and far between. So, begone, Big Brother, I despise you.

Anyway, I was spared from temptation last night, the night when Davina goes into shriek overload as the housemates go into the house. I was living it up in Swindon, dining at Picklejohns with some pals. Really scrummy curry. And such good company! Paula Lender-Swain you're the tops. There, I did it!

Friday, May 25, 2007

Incandescent: it's the Daily Mail again

I shouldn't ever pick up the Daily Mail. Remind me not to. It always renders me incandescent with rage; apoplectic; nay, I become "Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells" (if I lived there, of course).

Anyway, I somehow found myself reading the tired old rag today. What aroused my ire was a story about a woman's record £4m divorce settlement. The woman is pictured "beaming" at the news, and the underlying message from the Mail's story is that yet another poor hard-done-by man has been fleeced by his ex-wife.

The Daily Mail hates women. If you analysed the paper's coverage, you would find it regularly adopts a negative approach to women on anything relating to work (women should stay at home), single mothers (beyond the pale), career women (women should stay at home) and older women who try to look good (beauty is only for the young, old hag).

Whenever there's a story about a successful businesswoman deciding she can't have it all, and giving up work, the Mail crows about it triumphantly and the next day runs an article where more women state the same thing, giving it the chance to refer to "a trend."

Yet women who have "only" been housewives are similarly derided by the Mail when they have the cheek to expect a decent divorce settlement. Take this into account, misogynists of the Mail: often a woman has given up her career prospects to stay at home and have children. She contributes directly to the husband's career by making it easy for him to work. She makes ends meet in the early days of his career. If you priced her contributions individually - cleaning, washing, childcare, ironing, shopping for his family's birthdays and so on - it would come to a high price.

I guess what bugs me the most is that women continue to buy the Mail. They don't see how it diminishes them. The Mail in its advertising used to be directly pitched at women. Ironic, isn't it. I often wonder if the editor and his team laugh at the irony of persuading women to read a newspaper written by men who hate them. I guess they would see it more as an opportunity to re-educate foolish women about the error of their ways.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Hoorah for Princess Stephanie

I've been trying to give up my Hello magazine habit. Whenever Prince William, his ex girlfriend or The Queen feature on the cover, I find it easy not to buy it that week. They are pretty dull, after all. William gets more and more like Edward with every passing day. But I'm never going to be able to give up Hello completely because I'd lose touch with Princess Stephanie.

Now here's a more interesting and colourful royal! In fact the whole Monagasque dynasty is far more interesting than our dry old German born Windsors.

Princess Stephanie, just to recap, is the youngest daughter of the late Prince Rainier and his filmstar wife Grace Kelly, who sadly died in a car crash with Stephanie as their vehicle went out of control on the sharp bends leading to the palace.

She has had a most varied and fascinating life: a model and popstar at various times and always very interested in circus life. Indeed, she has had relationships/marriages with lion tamers and acrobats and lived in a caravan at one time. She is also notorious for relationships with "the hired help," including a bodyguard, Daniel Ducruet, whom she married and then divorced within days of him canoodling with another woman.

And while all this has been going on, Stephanie has often famously fallen out with her sister Caroline, who likes to appear very regal and stately these days but in her younger days was quite wild and married a middle aged playboy against her parents' wishes. Hello always shows the Red Rose ball in Monte Carlo each year and sometimes Stephanie isn't there because she's fallen out with Caroline again.

I'm very fond of Stephanie; she lives her life and thinks "to hell with the rest," and being a princess, she comes under a lot of scrutiny and is brave to do her own thing. Lately she looks very sad in pictures. And we haven't seen much of her in Hello! lately. (Note to editor: no need to go downmarket and follow OK! Who cares about soap stars and WAGs?).

Stephanie, time to bounce back: a new career perhaps? I think she'd make an excellent chat show host and Parky is way over the hill.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Sell your blog

Now folks, if you want to get lots of hits for your blog, write about Elizabeth Hurley or Carole McGiffin.

I know the ladies may not appear to have much in common, but Google searches for "Elizabeth Hurley Indian wedding" and "Carole McGiffin - naked" frequently drive people to my humble site, although I hasten to add Carole McGiffin was fully clad when I wrote that she'd make a good dinner party guest a few months ago.

Since I started blogging, I've tried most of the tips and tricks to try to build traffic. There are always new blog communities, catalogues and portals being started, and on the whole they're a waste of time. Mybloglog and Britblog are honourable exceptions. Mybloglog is great. It's a bit of a schmooze-fest where you visit other people's blogs, leave positive feedback and join their community. But it's the biggest traffic generator. Britblog is the only directory in the UK that I've found where you can find blogs by their location and subject matter. I've been able to find quite a few local to me.

A few weeks ago I plugged a few sites I've found and enjoy reading. Interestingly, I didn't tell their creators, but they all got back to me saying thanks, so your visits must have shown on their tracking data. Mybloglog has very good visitor data for a modest fee.

One thing I've decided not to subscribe to is the manipulation of Technorati rankings. Bloggers are forever trying to find ways to improve their Technorati ratings. Basically, you need other blogs to link to you. So there are several sites where you can add a whole list of unknown people to your favourites, and lo and behold, their rankings shoot up. I did try it once but nobody seemed to reciprocate. Technorati will lose credibility if this goes on. Surely it's better to attract readers organically through your subject matter?

So here are a few more blogs of note that I've found:
1) Moon's David Bowie Webdream Not surprisingly, a blog about David Bowie - but loosely. There's other musical content too: a recent piece about Freddie Mercury for example.
2) There are a lot of blogs about finding serendipity, enriching your life and so on. Sumangali is a UK writer with a well written, good looking and thought provoking site.
3) One of the few techy sites I read is yack yack. Some good tips and info here.
4) If you like vintage and retro, check out Retro Romance
5) Finally two blogs from former colleagues: Lucy's and Marc's. Happy reading!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Nothing to wear!

Male readers suppress that wry smile. It's true, I have nothing to wear! You see, I indulged in a Trinny and Susannah style raid on my wardrobe, having brought down the summer clothes from the loft. Garment after garment was thrown into a black bin liner. "Too old," "too middle-aged," "never wear it."

The outcome was that there's a lot more room in the wardrobe, but finding an outfit for the office yesterday was quite a trial. The fluctuations of the English weather don't help. Normally, for my one or two days in the office, I wear dark trousers or a skirt and a jumper (short sleeved for summer). Before you visualise reindeers on the jumper or cute embroidery, they are very plain cashmere jumpers from M&S. And I usually wear some large-ish beads in dark colours.

But now that we're on the cusp of spring and summer, my two grey skirts were ruled out because opaque tights don't seem right, but nor will I be seen dead in sheer tights. And it's too early for bare legs, so that ruled out last year's pair of navy city shorts too, and a cream skirt that I love but have only worn once.

So that left me with trousers: black or brown, two pairs, or new, cream flannel (but I have the sneaking feeling they make me look fat). There are three other pairs but they've all mysteriously gone half-mast. Perhaps I'm confounding science by continuing to grow? The only way I can wear those trousers again is by buying ballet pumps, but as they're the most uncomfortable footwear known to woman, and old hat now to boot, I won't be doing that.

Eventually I put on what I call my David Bowie Oxford bags: fairly wide dark brown trousers that come up to the waist, Simon Cowell style. (But that's trendy now, right?). But what a time it took. I thought I looked a bit wintery at the time I left home when it was sunny, but by the time I got to Swindon it was pouring with rain and I was lamenting the fact I hadn't brought a coat.

Ideally, I should seek out some beautifully cut Joseph trousers, uplevel my cashmere to Brora and source some spectacular beads. I need more shoes too. And I used to have several simple shift dresses in plain colours, but they seem very old-fashioned now with all these ghastly smock and empire line frocks around.

Clothes shopping has become a bit of a bete-noire. I just don't like doing it. When I go into most women's shops, there's a niggly voice inside my head that ruins the experience. It's constantly saying "your arms are too big for sleeveless," "you can't wear empire line," "your thighs are too big for those." And with shops like Zara, where the clothes are mysteriously sized, there's the stress of wondering what size you're going to have to have to buy. I am a fairly normal size 12 to 14, I would add (US eight to 10).

So I always scuttle back into the relatively stress-free environment of M&S in Marble Arch where the inner voice is largely silenced, and some of the Autograph and Limited collections are very good.

But it's not always a happy experience. There are always depessing racks of clothes that refuse to sell: the jumpers in hideous colours, ghastly cheap looking peasant style flouncy skirts in Per Uno and acres of Footglove shoes built for comfort. Coupled with hideous changing rooms with mirrors that act like searchlights, this is often not a pleasant experience and probably why so many of us buy clothes there without trying them on and then have to bring them back.

Mail order is not the answer either. I get some wonderful tops in flattering colours from Kettlewell Colours which don't need to be sent back, but when I bought clothes from Boden they always seem to be disappointing in fit and quality, but too much of a faff to send back, so they're kept but seldom worn. Life is too short to have to wait in for couriers all day, or have to go to the post office and queue for 20 minutes. So what's a girl to do? Answers on a postcard.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Find us the song and we can win Eurovision again

Across Britain today over the Sunday brisket the conversation will be dominated by one topic: Eurovision.

We narrowly avoided the dreaded "nul points" last night thanks to Ireland and Malta, but we still finished second from bottom.

Serbia won, so I'll be going round to the bookies to collect my winnings tomorrow. A surprising winner really; the singer looked like Jeanette Krankie and she was accompanied by women in suits who looked like jailers. It was a powerful ballad of lost love (or something), as were a lot of the eastern European entries. Distinct schism between their songs and the puerile formulaeic nonsense of western Europe.

Of course today there will be a lot Meanwhile of angst and hand rubbing across western Europe. "We can never win", "It's the Eastern bloc vote," "we should pull out," etc etc.

Tosh! The new reality is that the countries which have joined Eurovision do tend to vote for neighbours rather than the song, but that doesn't mean that a song with breakthrough can't win. Look at Finland last year. They'd never won before and they're not the sort of country normally backed by any others than the Nordics.

If you look at the songs from the western European countries present - a pathetic number - they were largely terrible. Terrible. Ireland had a weak stereotypical song and the worse performance of the night. The singer was flat: it was like Jemini (nul points) all over again. Germany was a little Frank Sinatra-esque and actually not a bad song, but too sophisticated for the show. France, well, let's draw a veil over that one. Spain with a boy band could potentially have been good but it was very naff.

The UK's was so outdated, so cheesy. It may have been ok in the times of Bucks Fizz, but not in 2007. And it's no use being outraged, people. When we chose the UK song, the BBC fielded a panel of young Europeans and NONE of them said they liked Scooch. Maybe next year you'll listen.

So if we want to improve our chances, we need a better quality song and performer. Let's stop these endless TV shows that bank roll the West End productions of millionaires like Andrew Lloyd-Webber and turn the format into finding a song for Europe. This would be a great showcase for songwriting talent.

Let's stop trying to revive the careers of has-beens and again let's choose who sings in a week-by-week talent competition for song and performer.

Meanwhile, to restore the balance to Eurovision, have two semin-finals, one for western Europe and one for eastern Europe. It won't mean the end of the bloc vote but it means a more representative blend of countries, and hopefully the likes of Denmark, Belgium, the Netherlands, Malta and Norway will return: it was sad without them.

When all's said and done, last night's show was wonderfully staged and very entertaining. Drawing 300 million viewers, it must surely have one of the biggest audiences of the year and as such should be taken seriously by the UK and the BBC. We brought the world the Beatles: we should not limp out cowed by the defeat of Scooch. I'm off to collect my twenty quid.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

UK riding high for Nul Points

Well, today's the big day - and for the first time I've been into a bookmaker's and placed a bet on Eurovision!

I'd decided to back Ukraine and Serbia, but hearing that they were first and second favourites, I decided to stay with Serbia but go for a wildcard: Germany at 33 to 1. The bookmaker was a bit sceptical, saying the voting's all political so Germany have no chance. I probably know that but I still cling to the hope that a song from western Europe can still win.

As you aren't able to vote for your own country, it stands to reason that Ukraine will do well. They will pick up the votes from Russia and Belarus for a start. Serbia will collect the votes of FYR Macedonia and maybe Moldova (pop: 200?) but probably not Croatia. Serbia I think will pick up votes from a wider selection of countries including western Europe.

Belarus are also highly fancied.

The UK's odds were 40 to 1 at the time of betting. Maybe a safer bet would have been likelihood of UK (or Germany or France) scoring nul points. Sadly, quite high.

I saw in The Times today there's a new book called Nul Points which examines the 14 worse losers of all time. Said to be very amusing, so it's just one click away!

Friday, May 11, 2007

You've only got yourselves to blame

One by one they fell. The great stalwarts and bastions of Eurovision. Denmark, Norway, Switzerland, favourites to go through with prancing vampires; Belgium and the Netherlands. Iceland, Israel, Portugal and Malta. Austria.

Among them, some great winners. Who could ever forget "Ding a Dong" from the Netherlands? Or the first transsexual winner, Dana International from Israel?

The voters of Europe (boundaries loosely defined for the purposes of this programme)turned their backs on western Europe and voted in the young pretenders: Georgia (first time), Serbia, FYR Macedonia, Belarus, Latvia, Bulgaria, Slovenia.

You've only got yourselves to blame. I can imagine that in Georgia there was probably huge excitement around this glittering festival of song and although the people couldn't vote for their own entry, a Tango'd woman with a strange head movement reminscent of Foghorn Leghorn, they voted in droves for their nearest neighbour.

While in western and northern Europe, I can imagine that the good burghers of Norway, if they were even watching, didn't bother to pick up the phone for Denmark and vice versa.

Fortunately, as I said yesterday, the Big Four, UK, Germany, Spain and France, were exempt from the semi-final and lording it over the rest as the bankers of the show. And we still have some famous Eurovision countries with us: Greece, actually represented by a London lad; Ireland; defending champions Finland (another rock entry) and Sweden, represented by a glam rock group called The Ark (most of their clothes indeed came from it).

So what of the songs, the stars of the show?

The songs I liked best came from Norway, the Netherlands, Andorra, Albania (where was Greece when they needed them?) and Iceland. But of course they all fell.

It seemed there were three distinct types of song. One, the eccentric, where strangely dressed shouty people clown around (Israel) sprinkled with transsexuals (Denmark, though it was hard to be certain). Two, overblown songs intended to represent the country's traditions. Lots of whirling dervishes in the background, backcombed hair, dresses like Morticia Adams and too much make-up (Slovenia, FYR Macedonia). And three, the traditional Eurovision shanty. A jolly little tune with a nice chorus that sticks in your head like a mallet: Norway, Belgium, Netherlands.

So in Saturday's battle we'll have traditional Eurovision battling it out against the New Pretenders and a couple of eccentrics (Germany from what I saw of them). The only song that was noticeably different was Serbia, where a female soloist who looked a bit like a man simply sang with no dancers, dry ice or outlandish costumes.

The outcome is fairly predictable. Unless western and northern Europe throws off its apathy, the newcomers will undoubtedly reign. Here's a picture of Scooch, the UK entry. It's probably the last time they'll appear in print.

Maybe next year we should reach some pacts for the semi-final. The Big Four should each officially support their neighbours to help them get through. UK could vote for the Nordics, Germany for Austria and Turkey (no change) and Poland; Spain for Andorra, Portugal and Malta; France for Belgium and the Netherlands. What do you think?

Join me tomorrow (Sat) as I assess the likely winners...and on Sunday as I lament (or celebrate?) the result.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Eurovision Latest

Tonight we have the Eurovision semi-finals, being shown on BBC3 of all channels (pah! and where's Lorraine Kelly?). This is when some of the countries are evicted before they even get started.

Fortunately the good old Royaume Unis doesn't have to go through this potentially humiliating experience. Which is just as well, given our poor track record of recent years. As we're one of the main funding engines for Eurovision, we're exempt from the qualifiers and the relegation process should we end up with "nul points" again.

Anyway, I consider it my duty to suffer the semi finals and bring you the news tomorrow plus my tips for the top on the big day, Saturday.

I'm not tipping the UK to do very well at all. I don't believe the UK entry has moved on sufficiently. It's still grounded in the 80's when Eurovision was all about cheesiness and camp dance routines. Now, as we saw from Lordi winning last year, the Eurovision audience wants, dare I say it, something more contemporary. More representative of modern music. Scooch is not that. It's a curio, to be played at parties along with Agadoo and the Birdie Song.

None of the songs we chose from were particularly suitable. Justin Hawkins had to be ruled out on the grounds of his teeth alone. Let's hope that Morrissey delivers next year on his threat to be included.

I wouldn't be surprised if a solo ballad wins this year. It could be the year for Malta, for example, who nearly always field a solo singer, usually of ample dimensions.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.
Join me tomorrow to hear the form!

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

The wasted career of Iggy Pop

I was introduced to Iggy Pop via David Bowie way back in 1977. I came home after a three-day camping "holiday" for the Duke of Edinburgh's award was thrilled to see that "The Idiot" had arrived in the post. I listened transfixed, amazed at the industrial sound and the air of menace that dominated the record. This was the first record where he collaborated with Bowie and it saw Iggy's rebirth from punk has-been to godfather of punk.

Over the years I've seen Iggy performing twice - and he is, undisputedly, a wonderful performer. I've also bought most of his albums. With very few exceptions, they have been very poor.

Therein lies the rub.

I've just read the new biography by Paul Trynka and it left me with a nasty taste in the mouth. A biography has long been overdue: there are books about Iggy but they are mostly superficial and bland. I knew all about the excesses of his life, the drugs, the alcohol, the psychiatric hospital. But what becomes clear from the book are Iggy's delusions about himself and his supreme arrogance and ego.

He might be happy living in Miami and thriving on royalties from ads and films, and finally condescending to reunite with the Stooges to give them some income, but if Iggy seriously reviews his career, Ian Hunter from Mott the Hoople was right when he said Iggy never had the talent to make it big.

The three albums he did with David Bowie were excellent, the rest, dire. Yet Trynka says that Iggy always resented Bowie and considered him less talented. There is no comparison between the two. All Iggy ever had going for him was the ability to perform and to adopt the persona of "Iggy Pop". He cannot write good songs on his own: a lot of his material is mawkish and overblown. Maybe if he had worked with good people more consistently, and had better career direction from lazy record companies, he might be a bigger star today with more than just the honorary title of godfather of punk.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Abolish vile premium rate phone-ins

I was hoping that the recent scandals around TV show phone-ins would result in some big changes. I wasn't naive enough to assume they would go away - clearly the broadcasters, production companies and telephony companies are making too much money for that to happen - but I was hoping the watchdog would set some rules.

Fat chance. Another toothless watchdog with some pathetic guidelines. "Callers should be told when they've spent £10 or more. Callers should be told how many other people have rung in." Duh. How about: callers should be told that contrary to what the programme is telling you, the winner has been chosen, so hang up now? Or that your chances of winning are virtually zero so why waste a pound, loser?

I just happened to catch the last few minutes of a BBC children's TV programme just now, "Extreme Animals." I was horrified to see a phone-in at the end, with kids being urged to call a premium rate number to vote for their favourite animal. This is such appallingly bad TV, and so greedy for the BBC to try to fleece parents' phone bills.

I would like to see the regulator ban phone-ins from all children's programmes plus phone-ins which are not linked to a public vote, for example Big Brother, the shows to select pop stars / musical stars and Eurovision. Let's scrap the rest. We should treat viewers with more respect rather than urging them to waste money on voting for their favourite animal or which meal the chef should cook. After all, as we now know, the chef has already cooked the meal, Richard and Judy's winner has already been chosen and the GMTV ten grand challenge doesn't bother with you if you live in a block of flats or somewhere inaccessible for cameras.
Blog Design Created by pipdig