Robert Hampton

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June 2011

1st June 2011

Posted by at 8.25pm | In the News | 1 response

There’s just over a year to go before the world’s elite athletes descend on the nation’s capital for a high-spirited fortnight of skill, sportsmanship and urine tests. Yes, the 2012 Olympics will soon be here!

I am not a big sports fan, but when tickets went on sale I was swept up in the patriotic fervour. What an amazing chance to be part of something special, an event that is held in this country once in a lifetime. I jumped on to the official London 2012 web site and applied for tickets.

In fact I went a bit crazy applying for tickets, and ended up requesting £630 worth. I was worried that this might be a bit much to put on my Visa card, but you have to speculate to accumulate, don’t you?

As it turned out my debt-related fears were groundless. No, I haven’t suddenly won the lottery or received an inheritance from a distant relative who snuffed it. It’s more simple than that: the deadline for payments to be taken from my account came and went yesterday and the “pending transactions” section of my credit card online statement remains stubbornly at zero. I think it’s time to face facts: I failed to get a single ticket allocated to me in the ballot.

If it’s any consolation (and it isn’t), I’m not alone — 250,000 fellow punters have been similarly disappointed.

It is a little bit unfair that some people could afford to splash out and risk thousands of pounds, while lots more (like me) had to be more conservative with our application, reducing our chances of winning.

Anyone who has sat clicking the Refresh button on a ticket web site while waiting for in-demand concert tickets to go on sale will understand why the Games organisers have done it this way. However, I still can’t help but feel a bit miffed. In fact, I’m going to write a letter of complaint.

Dear Lord Coe,

— No, actually that’s too formal, let’s try again…

Dear Sebby,

I wish to express my disappointment that I have not been allocated any tickets for the London 2012 Olympics. I now feel totally disenfranchised from what is supposed to be a special event that will bind the country together.

I have a long-standing interest in Men’s Diving, and it is absolutely not because I want to see Matthew Mitcham wet and Speedo-clad, honest.

Yours truly,
Robert x

4th June 2011

Values for money
Posted by at 2.35pm | In the News | 1 response

Apparently the government aren’t content to go back to the 1980s, and we’re now heading back to the 1950s:

David Cameron is to back a plan to stop retailers selling inappropriate clothes for pre-teens and shield children from sexualised imagery across all media, including selling “lads magazines” in brown covers and making the watchdog Ofcom more answerable to the views of parents.

Retailers would be required to sign up to a new code preventing the sale of items for pre-teens with suggestive slogans, which the prime minister has repeatedly criticised.

Selling “sexy” clothes to kids is pretty low-grade thing to do, but surely fingers need to be pointed at the parents that are buying these things for their kids in the first place? If T-shirts with the Playboy Bunny logo on them didn’t sell, the shops wouldn’t stock them.

Tighter restrictions on the 9pm watershed won’t work when most kids have TVs in their bedroom and are allowed to watch whatever they want at any time of night.

I’m also not sure that “sexualised imagery” on TV, billboards and magazines distresses children, although it might result in an awkward discussion or two with mum and dad.

Really this seems to be the government taking the easy way out and getting some positive headlines. After all, telling parents to take more responsibility probably doesn’t make a good headline on the front page of the Daily Mail.

7th June 2011

Remove all the coloured chalk from the classrooms
Posted by at 6.49pm | In the News | No responses

Do you remember that episode of The Simpsons where the school has an “Independent Thought Alarm”? That came to mind when reading the story of Jack Christie, a Canadian student who was suspended by his high school after they discovered the videos he’d been uploading to YouTube.

Each animation is replete with exactly what you might expect from an 18-year-old male, suburban Canadian or otherwise: explosions, profanity, guns, and copious references to sex and drugs. What is atypical about the videos is their sense of humor and breakneck absurdity.

While we may find the animations entertaining, Durham District School Board spokeswoman Andrea Pidwerbecki was not amused. “If something is considered detrimental to the positive moral tone of the school, it doesn’t necessarily have to happen inside the school [for us to get involved].”

This does strike me as grossly unfair – what happens outside of school should not be any of his teachers’ business. Thankfully Christie is not taking this lying down and has responded to the school, the only way he knows how.

13th June 2011

Be prepared
Posted by at 11.21pm | Gay, In the News | No responses

Reports in the press suggest that the Scouts are encouraging gay members. Yes, really – the Scouts!

According to spokesman Simon Carter, “we are keen to make it clear that we accept people of any particular orientation.” And they seem to be serious about it – members and leaders have marched in Pride parades, the chief commissioner has filmed an anti-bullying video for Stonewall, and the Scouts’ web site has a whole section for LGBT issues. So if you’re a boy who really does enjoy Scouting for Boys, you will have no problem here.

At first glance, it seems odd that an organisation with a Christian heritage (atheists are still officially banned) are embracing such a policy, but it’s nice to see hard evidence that “religion” does not have to equal “hates the gays”. Sadly, Scout movements elsewhere are less enlightened – the Boy Scouts of America organisation bans “Known or avowed homosexuals”.

Meanwhile, I am really resisting the urge to do an unsavoury woggle reference.

14th June 2011

He’s awfully aggressive for someone named Tracy
Posted by at 6.11pm | Gay, In the News | No responses

Tracy Morgan is one of the stars of the hit US sitcom 30 Rock and a stand-up comedian. At a recent performance in Tennessee he reportedly broke off from his routine to engage in a joke-free rant against gay people:

He said that there is no way a woman could love and have sexual desire for another woman, that’s just a woman pretending because she hates a f***king man. He took time to visit the b**ls**t of this bullying stuff and informed us that the gays needed to quit being pussies and not be whining about something as insignificant as bullying. He mentioned that gay was something kids learn from the media and programming, and that bullied kids should just bust some ass and beat those other little f**kers that bully them, not whine about it. He said if his son that was gay he better come home and talk to him like a man and not [he mimicked a gay, high pitched voice] or he would pull out a knife and stab that little N (one word I refuse to use) to death.

Unfortunately for Morgan one member of the audience repeated the comments in a Facebook post, which rapidly went viral and was eventually picked up by blogs and the mainstream media.

Morgan later issued a grovelling apology, stating: “I’m not a hateful person and don’t condone any kind of violence against others.” – his remarks on stage would seem to imply otherwise.

Tina Fey, the star and executive producer of 30 Rock, comes out of this with a lot of credit, issuing a classy statement on the whole sorry affair: “I hope for his sake that Tracy’s apology will be accepted as sincere by his gay and lesbian co-workers at 30 Rock, without whom Tracy would not have lines to say, clothes to wear, sets to stand on, scene partners to act with or a printed-out paycheck from accounting to put in his pocket.”

One of Morgan’s costars on 30 Rock is gay actor Cheyenne Jackson. This might lead to some awkward on-set conversations when filming for the next season begins.

15th June 2011

An un-Souter-ble accolade
Posted by at 7.44pm | Gay, In the News | 1 response

Brian Souter has been knighted in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list. Souter is the chairman of Stagecoach Group, the second-largest transport company in Great Britain, with bus, train and tram operations across the nation.

In his private life, Souter is a controversial figure thanks to his notorious support for Section 28, a part of the Local Government Act 1988 which banned local authorities from teaching the “acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship.”

Stagecoach Bus in Queen Square Bus Station, LiverpoolThe law had been originally introduced thanks to a series of hysterical, mostly untrue, tabloid stories about schools which were supposedly “teaching” young children that gay relationships were “better” than straight ones. No prosecutions were ever brought, but it nevertheless had a chilling effect on schools, discouraging teachers from stepping in to prevent homophobic bullying and restricting access to information on safe gay sex. It was also deeply symbolic of the prevailing attitude to homosexuality that existed throughout the 80s and much of the 90s.

When the newly-devolved Scottish Parliament announced plans in 1999 to repeal the law, Souter launched a “Keep the Clause” campaign, with a postal ballot sent to every household in Scotland. From the ballot results he claimed that 86% of Scottish voters supported keeping the law (although an organised boycott meant that many people who received the ballot simply binned it, skewing the results).

Souter’s financial might failed to derail the law’s repeal: Section 28 was abolished in Scotland in June 2000 (three years before the rest of the UK).

Of course, Souter is entitled to his view, just as we are entitled to shun him and his business ventures because of it.

16th June 2011

Albert S-queer
Posted by at 8.08pm | Gay, Television | No responses

Christian and Syed in bed togetherTwo weeks ago, noted Cockney miseryfest EastEnders included a scene showing the soap’s gay male couple, Christian and Syed, in bed together. Last Tuesday the BBC was forced to release a statement on its complaints web page, defending the decision to include the scene, after people complained. To its credit, the BBC provided a robust justification, stating: “We approach our portrayal of homosexual relationships in exactly the same way as we do heterosexual relationships, ensuring depictions of affection or sexuality between couples are suitable for pre-watershed viewing.”

As Frances Ryan pointed out in the Guardian, some EastEnders fans will “happily park their children in front of fictionalised drug abuse, prostitution and murder without batting an eye, yet regurgitate their own dinner at the sight of two people of the same sex lying on a mattress.”

It’s a sad reminder, that despite achieving near-full equality under the law, gay people are still seen as “unacceptable” by many parts of society.

In any case, surely the bigger problem with this scene is that the couple actually look happy, which as any EastEnders fan knows, is an unacceptable emotion for any resident of Albert Square.

17th June 2011

AKTing Up
Posted by at 8.14pm | Gay | 1 response

The Albert Kennedy Trust is a charity which helps LGBT youth who have been left homeless or suffered domestic violence after coming out to their families. If you hadn’t heard of them before now, don’t worry – neither had I.

This should raise the charity’s profile, however: it’s a new advert featuring gay celebrities, showing how their lives could have turned out without the support they were lucky enough to have.

It’s powerful stuff, and it certainly couldn’t hurt to send a few quid AKT’s way.

18th June 2011

Chrome is where the heart is

In September 2010, the first It Gets Better video was created as a response to a spate of suicides by bullied gay teens. Author and columnist Dan Savage, frustrated that many US schools refused to provide any form of support or protection, created the video to address gay youth directly and give them an important message: “You are not alone”.

Nine months later, 20,000 people have followed his lead and made their own It Gets Better videos on YouTube. Google used the campaign as the basis for an ad campaign in America, a demonstration of how ordinary people can use the web to change the world.

Now, a UK version of that advert has been created and is airing in various slots on British TV. A cynical person might say that this is Google jumping on the bandwagon to get some good publicity for their Chrome browser, but the overall effect is still lovely:

19th June 2011

‘Scuse Me While I Kiss The Sky
Posted by at 1.05pm | Television | No responses

On Monday I watched the final episode of season 2 of Glee on E4. That was the last time I’ll be able to watch it for free, because Sky have won the rights and will be screening season 3 in the Autumn. It’s disappointing, but frankly I’d be more upset if season 2 hadn’t been so inconsistent in quality.

It got me thinking – Sky likes to claim that it shook up the “cosy duopoly” of the BBC and ITV by bringing much-needed innovation to British TV. There’s not much doubt that a shake-up happened. But is Sky One really innovative, or is their success largely based on programmes that have built an audience on free-to-air channels?

It’s not a new phenomenon. I remember back in 1992 or thereabouts, when LA Law, a modest success on ITV, was snatched by Sky One, causing much consternation (although not with my family, as we had cable by then and I felt quite smug about the whole thing).

Friends, Lost, House and Mad Men all built up audiences on terrestrial channels before Sky opened up their chequebook and locked the rights away on their pay channels.

On the other hand, there have been cases where Sky fell down and the free-to-air channels came to the rescue. Family Guy failed to find an audience on Sky One (largely due to lamentable scheduling – 6.30pm on weeknights and cut to ribbons). The BBC took a big chance by picking up the rights, but it is now one of the bedrocks of BBC3’s lineup.

Buffy The Vampire Slayer did not perform well when Sky first showed it. It rated so badly, in fact, that Sky One dropped it halfway through its initial run. The BBC showed more faith, and built it into a cult hit. Oddly enough Sky then quickly found a slot for it again.

This isn’t an anti-Sky rant. There’s nothing particularly wrong with Sky doing this – it’s business, after all – but to claim it is “innovation” is a step too far.

Anyway, please enjoy this incredibly cheesy Sky promo from 1990.

20th June 2011

Cry Wolf
Posted by at 1.15pm | Music | 1 response

Patrick Wolf is a singer who has been around for a few years now, and released several albums, none of which have achieved the success they deserve. It is a shame, because each one has been an eclectic mix of brilliant tunes.

Here’s The City, the first single from his new album Lupercalia, which is out today. And it’s AMAZING.

Buy the album now from Amazon on CD or MP3 download.

26th June 2011

New York, Concrete Jungle Where Dreams Are Made, Oh
Posted by at 8.00pm | Gay, In the News | No responses

Congratulations to New York, which is the sixth US state to legalise same-sex marriage. Because New York is so populous, the change in the law should double the number of gay couples who can legally wed. Unlike many US states, New York does not require a couple to be resident in the state for a marriage to take place there, meaning that people from other parts of America can take advantage of the law.

It’s not all good news of course: anti-gay groups are certain to try and get this decision reversed, as happened in California. The Defence of Marriage Act means that the marriages are not recognised by America at a federal level, which affects issues such as tax benefits and immigration rights. But this is a huge step forward for a country which is generally very slow to recognise gay equality.

Never forget that this decision affects real people – here are some of those people, celebrating outside the Stonewall Inn, generally considered to be the birthplace of America’s modern gay rights movement.

28th June 2011

Queer Head
Posted by at 9.59pm | Gay, Liverpool | No responses

*Yes, I’m sorry. It was either that or “Mersey Fairy”

Regular readers of this blog (all three, perhaps four of you) will remember what an excellent time I had at Liverpool Pride last year. As someone who had been closeted until a fairly late age, it was an exhilarating, liberating experience. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that it actually changed my life for the better.

I am looking forward to this year’s festival, which will be held on 6th August 2011 at the Pier Head.

Wait… what? They’re moving the festival out of the city’s gay area? That’s a controversial move, and true to form there’s been a lot of comment (much of it negative) on the official Facebook page. What do the organisers have to say for themselves about this?

Obviously, we were disappointed to have to move out of Dale Street and the gay quarter but, like just about every charity at the moment, we have had to tighten our belts in order to survive. Closing such a huge area of the city centre is a difficult and expensive operation, so we had to look at a range of alternative spaces for Liverpool Pride, including some outside the city centre. None of the other options even came close to the Pier Head in terms of accessibility, grandeur and, dare I say, fabulousness!

My irrational knee-jerk reaction was one of disappointment, but on reflection I don’t think it will be too bad. The Pier Head is a good open space, the Three Graces will provide a wonderful backdrop to the celebrations, and there will be comedy value from bemused tourists, alighting from the Mersey Ferry, mingling with drag queens. AND it’s only a five minute walk away from the gay quarter! Don’t be so lazy.

It’s not perfect, but it’s better than nothing – which is what we were close to getting, if the rumours are to be believed. It’s also better than having to pay twenty quid to walk around streets that are free the other 364 days a year, as happens at many other pride events.

Don’t let a few naysayers spoil the party. For the good of the whole community, Liverpool’s Pride must go ahead in any possible form. Onward and upward!