Robert Hampton

Another visitor! Stay a while… stay forever!

May 2011

1st May 2011

Nintend… oh

Apparently, Nintendo 3DS sales are below expectations and the gaming giant’s marketing people are planning a new campaign for those of us who don’t “get” it.

My nephew got a 3DS at launch, and I managed to wrest it out of his hands for ten minutes to have a go. Well, I say ten minutes – the first 6 or 7 minutes were spent adjusting the 3D to a point where I could see the screen properly without going cross-eyed. A few minutes of Pilotwings Resort was all I could manage, because I felt thoroughly sick from the 3D effect. Maybe it’s just me.

It’s academic anyway, because at this moment in time I don’t have the money to spare for a 3DS. So I’ve decided to simulate the effect by playing my DSlite while wearing glasses that were prescribed for somebody else. I will then hit myself repeatedly over the head to ensure I get a terrible migraine.

2nd May 2011

Bin There, Done That
Posted by at 10.07am | In the News | No responses

I am against capital punishment and a strong believer that all criminals, no matter how heinous their crimes, should be tried in a court. In the case of Osama Bin Laden, I think I can make an exception.

I remember being slightly numb with horror as I watched the events of 11th September 2001 unfold on my TV screen. The families and loved ones of those 2,977 victims may now feel that some measure of justice has been done.

It is not the end of the war on terror by any means. But for now, America can celebrate a victory. Congratulations to President Obama on winning the next six elections (note to self: need to check that’s how the US system works).

Sorry it took so long to get you a copy of my birth certificate. I was too busy killing Osama bin Laden

3rd May 2011

Hate Kills
Posted by at 7.07pm | Gay | No responses

I pre-scheduled this post before I left for Tallinn on 3rd May!

Homophobic attacks are on the rise, a development which the Guardian describes as “shocking”. Personally I’m not that shocked – as gay visibility continues to increase, a backlash was sure to happen. That backlash can manifest itself in many ways, and sheer senseless violence is at one end of that spectrum.

According to the report linked above, the statistics for London show that – although anti-gay crime has dropped by 3% in the capital as a whole – in the West End it has increased by 20%. This is worrying, as the area continues to be the home of most of London’s gay bars and clubs. If gay people are not safe there, where are we safe?

I’d be interested to see the statistics for homophobic crime in the rest of the UK. Liverpool is often cited as a homophobic city on the basis of some high-profile attacks on gay people which took place over the past few years. I’d like to see what the facts and figures say.

4th May 2011

Friends in Hysén Places
Posted by at 6.55pm | Gay | No responses

I pre-scheduled this post before I left for Tallinn on 3rd May!

Attitude Active Cover with Anton HysenThe new issue of Attitude is out now and features an interview with two newly out sportsmen – cricketer Steven Davies and footballer Anton Hysén.

Every article I’ve seen about him makes me like him even more, because Hysén consistently comes across as a thoroughly decent, down-to-earth man. He speaks eloquently in interviews. His sexuality is a non-issue: to his team-mates and his manager, he is just one of the lads. He has experienced some homophobia from the terraces, but seems to be taking it in his stride.

He was born in Liverpool while his dad Glenn was playing for LFC, and he still supports the team (in the Attitude interview he reveals that his role model is Steven Gerrard). He currently plays for a Swedish 4th division team but hopes to develop his career. And that is the great part – he is coming out at the start of career, a move that would have damaged his chances of success not long ago.

It’s so refreshing to see someone so totally at ease with himself about being gay and what that means. In the second decade of the 21st century, sexuality is no longer the barrier it once was.

The full article, which is well worth reading, can be found in the Summer 2011 issue of Attitude. It is out now at all good newsagents (and some bad ones as well, probably), or you can buy a digital copy for computer or iPad.

5th May 2011

Tallinn you all about Estonia
Posted by at 7.15pm | Out and About | 2 responses

View of the Estonian capital city, TallinnI’m something of an international travel virgin – and I’ve never been abroad either.

Actually that’s not quite true; I went with my family to Toronto when I was little. However that doesn’t count because despite being there for two weeks (I think) I can remember only three things about it: a day excursion to Niagara Falls, riding into the city centre on a double-decker GO train and travelling on a streetcar which broke down.

Fast forward twenty or so years and the only other countries I’ve visited since then have been Scotland and Wales. Which apparently don’t count either.

Regular readers of this blog (all three of you) will remember that one of my New Year Resolutions was to travel abroad. I did some initial planning and toyed with the idea of going to Berlin, but true to form I never did anything about it beyond buying a guide book.

Then, a couple of months ago, my friend (and renowned international jetsetter) Andrew Bromage mentioned that he had booked an easyJet flight to Tallinn. The flight prices were cheap and the hotel would cost the same for one or two people, so did I want to come along?

Yes. Yes I did.

Read the rest of this post »

6th May 2011

Tallinn Ho!
Posted by at 4.14pm | Out and About | 1 response

Tallinn European Capital of Culture bannerThis is part 2 of my Tallinn blog. Read the first part.

By the time we had checked into the hotel and took a few moments to recover from the journey, it was after 3pm local time (Estonia being two hours ahead of the UK). We wasted no time in heading out to explore the surrounding area and make the most of the rest of the afternoon.

The first thing that hit us: it was cold. The cabin crew on the flight informed us that the temperature was a brisk 5°C, however this didn’t take into account the chill factor of the wind. Even with multiple layers, we shivered, especially after the unseasonably warm weather we’ve had in Liverpool lately.

I nearly brought the trip to a premature end outside the hotel, after forgetting that they drive on the left right in Estonia and looking the wrong way before crossing the busy dual carriageway. Only an angry honk from an approaching taxi driver alerted me in time.

Read the rest of this post »

7th May 2011

A Tallinn-ted Chef
Posted by at 4.33pm | Out and About | No responses

View of restaurants in Town Hall Square, TallinnThis is part 3 of my Tallinn blog. Read the first part and second part.

Suitably re-energised, we headed back out and towards Town Hall Square. As the name suggests, it is adjacent to the Tallinn Town Hall. It also boasts a wide variety of bars and restaurants, and is thus a hub of activity throughout the day.

Despite the cold temperatures, a number of the eateries offered outdoor dining. Our guide book promised that in the summer months Tallinn has a “Mediterranean-style café culture”, but there was no evidence of that today, despite a lot of electric heaters working under the canopies to provide warmth.

Each establishment appeared to have a friendly man stationed in the square to entice tourists inside. Much to the delight of the representative of Old Estonia, we agreed to eat there. We decided to forego the outdoor option in favour of a window table inside.

Read the rest of this post »

8th May 2011

The Past in a Foreign Country
Posted by at 4.15pm | Out and About | No responses

The Victory Column in TallinnThis is part 4 of my Tallinn blog. Read part 1, part 2 and part 3.

Yes, I’ve run out of Tallinn puns. Never mind.

Wednesday was our only full day in Tallinn and we were determined to make the most of it. We headed down to breakfast, which excitingly was served in the railway station’s restaurant. The breakfast itself was (as hotel breakfasts often are) not particularly special, being your bog-standard help-yourself buffet, but it was adequate to start the day.

We headed first towards the the Occupations Museum, dedicated to Estonia’s history between 1940 and 1991, when the country was occupied by the Soviet Union, then Nazi Germany, before the Soviet Union invaded again. This small museum contains numerous artefacts from this fifty year period of oppression – everything from army uniforms to cars to Josef Stalin-themed matchboxes.

Read the rest of this post »

9th May 2011

A kök and a narrow passage
Posted by at 7.06pm | Out and About | No responses

Kiek in de KökBelieve it or not, this is part 5 of the Tallinn blog. Read part 1, part 2, part 3 and part 4.

Tallinn’s medieval city walls are still largely in existence and have been lovingly preserved. At various strategic points towers were built. One of the largest is Kiek in de Kök in the west of the Old Town. The name is low German for “Peek in the Kitchen”, because from the windows on the tower’s upper floors it was possible to see straight into the homes of many of the city’s residents.

(Incidentally, we didn’t visit it at night as the picture suggests – the photo here was snapped by Andrew during our nocturnal wanderings the previous night. Between us we managed to miss taking any photos during our actual visit. D’oh!)

The tower has now been rebuilt as part of the city museum, housing various artefacts, mainly of a military nature. Excellently the internal structure has been preserved, meaning the various rooms and galleries are accessed via the original medieval stairways. That means – yes! – more steep, narrow passageways.

Read the rest of this post »

10th May 2011

Night Kapp
Posted by at 6.03pm | Gay, Out and About | No responses

Artwork in KappI’m still not done – this is part 6! If you’ve just joined us, catch up by reading part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4 and part 5!

When the prospect of visiting Estonia was first mentioned, I will admit that the gay scene didn’t figure into my plans too much. If we were going to Berlin or Amsterdam, sure – but Tallinn? A small-ish Eastern European city? In a former Soviet state, no less?

Our guide book — which devoted two paragraphs out of 96 pages to gay and lesbian Tallinn — was not exactly enthusiastic either: “While attitudes to homosexuality in Tallinn are more relaxed than in fellow Baltic capitals Riga and Vilnius,” it cautioned, “they could hardly be described as enlightened.”

Naturally I studied the legal situation in this area before departure (wouldn’t it be nice not to have to worry about things like this?). Homosexuality only became legal in Estonia in 1992, but some progress was made and with that coveted EU membership in 2004 came some protections against discrimination. But in other ways the country lags behind: there is no recognition of same-sex partnerships, and much of Tallinn’s gay population prefers to keep things quiet and discreet.

Perhaps the most shocking development was when Andrew took advantage of the widely-available free wi-fi to fire up Grindr, which had trouble finding any “nearby buddies” closer than Helsinki – just a short fifty-mile ferry ride away.

Read the rest of this post »

11th May 2011

Ta-ta for now, Tallinn
Posted by at 7.17pm | Out and About | 2 responses

Go Hotel ShnelliThis is the seventh and final part of my Tallinn blog. If you haven’t already, please enjoy part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5 and part 6

For my final blog, I present a few bits that I left out of the previous blog entries, and my final thoughts on Tallinn.

So what did I think of the hotel? It was probably equivalent in comfort terms to a decent Travelodge — not the height of opulent luxury, but clean and perfectly comfortable. I have absolutely no complaints and would recommend it for travellers on a budget. Here’s the hotel’s web site if you want to investigate further.

It sounds like a cliché, but in this case I think it really is true to say that Tallinn is a city of contrasts. There’s the medieval old town, the stark concrete buildings of the Soviet years and the gleaming 21st century tower blocks, all within walking distance of each other.

Read the rest of this post »

14th May 2011

Posted by at 3.59pm | Music, Television | No responses

Blue promo shot for EurovisionI will be watching the Eurovision Song Contest tonight at the Mersey Tart‘s house, in the company of his partner Dave and our friends Jamie and Roy. This gathering is sure to be gayer than the cast of Glee singing Kylie Minogue’s greatest hits in a Soho leather bar on a stage made out of condoms.

There are two lazy received opinions about Eurovision which get aired endlessly around this time of year. One is that it is a dated, cheesy waste of money which is irrelevant to modern life and should be scrapped forthwith. You could say the same thing about the Royal Family, and look how popular they are at the moment.

The other complaint is that the contest is ruined by political voting, where countries vote for their nearest neighbours, especially in recent years as a horde of Eastern European countries have rushed to join in the fun. One person expressing these opinions is James Ball in the Guardian who writes, “an examination of Eurovision voting data has confirmed a persistent voting gripe – the eastern European voting bloc indeed exists, and is now all but unbeatable.”

Read the rest of this post »

18th May 2011

Pony Express
Posted by at 8.05pm | In the News, Trains | No responses

A candidate for news story of the year: a man turned up at Wrexham General station and attempted to board a train… with a pony.

Arriva Trains have helpfully released stills from the CCTV footage, one of which I have stolen to reproduce below. Click through to the BBC News report for a slideshow which includes such lovely images as Horse in Lift, Horse on Footbridge and Horse at Ticket Office.

A man, a horse and a train at Wrexham

I’m willing to bet that nobody would have batted an eyelid on Merseyrail.

20th May 2011

Best left unsaid
Posted by at 9.42pm | In the News | No responses

The superinjunction saga took a new twist today when lawyers acting for [REDACTED] launched legal action against Twitter, after the site’s users happily spread the names of celebrities named in superinjunctions.

Given that Twitter is based in California, well beyond the jurisdiction of the British courts, it’s hard to see how this is going to work. However, could any UK-based people who read or retweeted the offending messages be in trouble? Contempt of court (for that is what it is) quite a serious offence.

I’m not sure what to think about superinjunctions. I do believe that tabloid newspapers go too far with intrusions into the private lives of celebrities. Yes, you can say that celebrities court publicity and invite the media in to a certain extent – but I don’t think that justifies rifling through their bins, unless there’s a real (really genuine) public interest reason.

On the other hand, I find it unsettling that so many of these injunctions are issued and the effect on free speech. I’m not bothered about celebrity shagging stories, but injunctions have also been used in more serious matters. It is the latter that we need to be worried about, not whether person A is inserting part B into person C.

21st May 2011

Posted by at 1.37pm | It's My Life | No responses

I was in a mobile phone shop yesterday with a salesman, sorting out the details of my new iPhone contract, when an irritable older gentleman marched in off the street and interrupted us.

“What’s your name?” he barked at the salesman, “I need it for Trading Standards.”
“It’s Chris,” came the reply. The expression on Chris’s face suggested that he had seen it all before.
“Chris WHAT?”
“I’m the only Chris in this store so it makes no difference.”

I feel sorry for the 3 Store staff on Church Street. Not only do they have people like that barging in, but three days a week a group of Christian fundamentalists set up shop outside, complete with a fire and brimstone preacher who yells continuously from 10am until 4pm about how we’re all going to hell. It’s not an environment that’s conducive for selling Blackberries.

I will point out that I have no beef with Chris – he was very polite and helpful. Although, after the aforementioned encounter, he did seem extra keen to make sure I understood how many inclusive minutes I was getting.

27th May 2011

To MP3 or not to MP3, that is the question

As a gay, I am legally obliged to adore Lady Gaga*. Her new album Born This Way has just come out and naturally I made a beeline to my computer to buy it. Actually that was a lie – I was already at my computer, because as well as being gay, I am a total nerd.

Where was I? Oh yes, the album and such. I was about to click to buy the CD, when I spied that Amazon were selling the MP3 download for just £3.99, saving me seven or eight quid over the physical copy. How could I say no to an offer like that? Quite easily, in fact.

You see, I actually quite like CDs. You would think that I — being a child of the microcomputer revolution — would embrace the future like [NAME REDACTED] embraces Big Brother contestants. But there’s something about CDs that is lost in MP3 format, which means I’ll be sticking to CDs for now, thanks.

Don’t get me wrong, a lot of the early objections to digital music no longer apply. MP3 downloads are now ridiculously cheap — often significantly cheaper than CD. They are also, for the most part, free of that annoying Digital Rights Management which requires you to continually prove to your computer that you are legally entitled to play the music you’ve already paid for.

Of course there are many advantages to MP3 downloads. The music is instantly available as soon as you’ve handed over your credit card details. You can keep your entire music collection in something the size of a matchbox and take it with you wherever you want – I have an iPod, and my first action when I get a new CD is to rip it into iTunes. For new and struggling musicians, the lower distribution costs of MP3 can offer big cost savings over the traditional methods of music distribution.

But there’s just something about actually holding a shiny, tangible CD that the MP3 experience can’t replicate. As an example, let’s compare what people who bought Patrick Wolf’s The Magic Position on CD got compared to MP3 downloaders:-

Picture of Windows Explorer showing a folder of MP3 files Picture of Patrick Wolf CD and sleeve notes

For those who took the trouble to get a CD, a pretty inlay sheet with lovely artwork and sleeve notes. For MP3 downloaders? A folder full of icons in Windows Explorer. Yes, you see the CD cover art in iTunes or Windows Media Player, but it’s NOT THE SAME.

I’m fully aware that I’m sounding like an old man complaining about how things were much better in “the good old days”. For the record, here are some other obsolete technologies which I wish were still current: Ceefax, BSB squarials, Acorn computers, Class 101 DMUs.

* This is of course not true, I just wanted an attention-grabbing opening paragraph.