A few questions about 2010

20 December 2010

1. What did you do in 2010 that you’d never done before?
Bought a flat, got engaged, appeared in court in Brooklyn, New York…

2. Did you keep your new years’ resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
I try my best not to make them. It’s always a disappointment when I don’t keep them. But I remember last year’s:
· Love a little more;
· Worry a little less;
· Be more honest;
· Be a little smarter;
· Pause a little more;
· Keep up the exercise;
· Say what’s on my mind, but not so much that it’s destructive;
· Work a little harder, but not drive myself into the ground;
· Be a little more me.
And I believe I have kept every one.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
Yes, my sister. And I am now a very very proud Uncle for the first time.

4. Did anyone close to you die?
I don’t think anybody who was very close to me died this year.

5. What countries/cities did you visit?
Oh my! USA (New York) Spain, Belgium, Sweden, Scotland, Italy (Venice, Naples and Sorrento). That can’t be it surely?

6. What would you like to have in 2011 that you lacked in 2010?

More luck, more money, more job security.

7. What date from 2010 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
8th March, a special birthday, and a special proposal. And the party a few days later.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Getting a new job just weeks before people from my old one were made redundant.

9. What was your biggest failure?

I tend to block failure from my mind.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
Yes, norovirus, and numerous colds and strange muscle/stomach things. No broken bones this year.

11. What was the best thing you bought?
My new Digital SLR. My flat.

12. Whose behaviour merited celebration?
Anyone who’s coped with me.

13. Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed?
I tend not to be appalled and depressed, just disappointed.

14. Where did most of your money go?
On the new flat probably! Rent, mortgage, fees and furniture. And travel.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
Moving flat, getting engaged, and going on holiday!

16. What song will always remind you of 2010?
I’m not sure there’s a particular song, but an album: The ArchAndroid by Janelle Monae. There’s also Empire State of Mind.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you…
i. happier or sadder?
Happier, my happiness increases annually.

ii. thinner or fatter?
About the same.

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?
I wish I’d had the time and willpower to do more exercise. And reading, I certainly wish I had read more.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?
More of nothing – literally. You know those days. They’re rare, but they happen.

20. How will you be spending Christmas?
In Canada with my partner and family I hope. If my rescheduled flight leaves, after I was thrown off one on 18th December after 5 hours on the tarmac.

21. How will you be spending New Years?
In the midlands with my own family for “second Christmas”

22. Did you fall in love in 2009?
Yes. All over again.

23. How many one night stands?
None.

24. What was your favourite TV programme?
Hmmm. This year has been coloured by Family Guy, the Winter Olympics, Ugly Betty and Glee.

25. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?
I don’t think I hate anyone.

26. What was the best book you read?
Peter Mandelson’s autobiography.

27. What was your greatest musical discovery?
Janelle Monae!

28. What did you want and get?
I want for very little.

29. What did you want and not get?
Probably job security.

30. What was your favourite film of this year?
The Ghost – about a ghost writer. Incredible movie.

31. What did you do on your birthday?
Went for dinner, got engaged, and had a special birthday party a few days later.

32. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
More holiday in the sun.

33. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2009?
Very “me”.

34. What kept you sane?
Friends.

35. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
Hmmm. Good question, and one I am not sure I can answer.

36. What political issue stirred you the most?
I’m not going to answer this but people who know me know what my general political views are. There have been many many issues that have stirred me this year.

37. Who did you miss?
My Gran.

38. Who was the best new person you met?
Hmmm. They’re not new people – I have known them since before this year. But only met them properly this year: David E and Chris M. But they’re both out-shone by the best new person I have ever met: my baby Niece, Imogen.

39. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2010.
Life is what you make it.

40. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.
Our love will sail in this ark
The world could end outside our window
Let’s find forever
And write our name in fire on each other’s hearts

41. Was 2010 a good year for you?
It was, yes.

42. What were your favourite moments of the year?
I’m having three: my birthday, lying on the Barcelonetta, getting the keys to my flat

43. What was your least favourite moment of the year?
Being sat on a plane for five hours in a snowstorm, going nowhere – and the subsequent cancellation and inability to get through to Air France. Oh and getting a summons in New York together with the subsequent court appearance.

44. What was your favourite month of 2010?
Can I have three? February, March and July

45. What was your favourite song from 2010?
I’m sticking to Janelle Monae’s whole album here…

46. What was your favourite record from 2010?
See above

47. How many concerts did you see in 2010?
Three?

48. Did you have a favourite concert in 2010?
Scissor Sisters. And Goldfrapp.

49. Did you do anything you are ashamed of this year?
I tend not to get ashamed of things I do.

50. What was the worst lie someone told you in 2010?
I can’t think of a lie I told.

51. Did you treat somebody badly in 2010?
I don’t think I did.

52. Did somebody treat you badly in 2010?
I don’t believe so.

53. How much money did you spend in 2010?
Too much!

54. What was your proudest moment of 2010?
Becoming an uncle.

55. If you could go back in time to any moment of 2010 and change something, what would it be?
There’s nothing I’d ever change.

56. What are your plans for 2011?
Keeping a job, and getting married.


NYC: “Valium is my favorite color”

23 February 2010

Next to Normal on Broadway

Next to Normal, a relatively new and award-winning musical on Broadway, was recommended to me by a number of different people. Being in New York, it was on the list of shows we had in mind to see.

Next to Normal is ‘Rent‘ for the desperate housewives generation. Out goes illegal drugs, squats, AIDS and angst-ridden love affairs, in comes prescription drugs, suburbia, depression and angst-ridden family relationships. It’s been described as not a feel-good show but a feel-everything show. I think I’d agree with that. It’s not an emotional rollercoaster like Rent but an emotion provoking ride nonetheless. Perhaps, I’d say, a little too much in a downward direction. It’s a single story, there’s no inter-twining of different story lines, which meant that subject matters of family relationships, grief and mental illness are dealt with with little humour of escapism (the rock star psychologist isn’t quite Rent’s moo-ing cow-belled Maureen). The story lacks the humour and hopefullness which drove the characters in Rent and in Spring Awakening. There’s no message of hope, nothing that is clearly driving the characters forward through the dispair they’re coping with, or not. And perhaps it was a little too close to the bone for the Broadway theatre crowd. Afterall, while they’re unlikely to be living with a rent boy in Alphabet City chances are they could very well be stranded in Diana’s suburban family-constrained mental distress. The story didn’t inspire me to change my own life, as good theatre often does (although perhaps I’m closer-related to the Rent/Spring Awakening characters than I am to these) nor did it provide the escapism I like to get from musical theatre.

However, it’s highly-praised score was performed brilliantly by a tiny cast – just six actors – cemented with amazing stamina by the lead actress Alice Ripley (who won the ‘Best Lead Actress in a Musical’ Tony award for this role in 2009). Her son in particular, played powerfully by Aaron Tveit complemented her extremely well.

Overall, a musical worth seeing, with brilliant performances.


A Wilde Performance: Dorian Gray (Sadler’s Wells)

9 September 2008

I was talking to a couple of friends of mine a few months ago and they mentioned they were looking to get tickets to Matthew Bourne’s Dorian Gray at Sadler’s wells. I was dubious. Ballet’s not my thing. I don’t tend to cope well when there’s no words. But I’m very glad I went.

It’s been a long time since I tried to read Wilde’s book. I only gave up because the small font of my copy wasn’t conducive to the harsh lights of the Northern Line on my journey to work. But, at least after a synopsis, I could comprehend the story presented on stage in all it’s brash, gory and modernised detail.

The Aesthete, Lord Henry’s corrupting influence on Dorian leads him to believe that beauty is the only worthwhile aspect of life. The picture, or in Bourne’s production, photograph Basil Hallward paints of Dorian symbolises that. Dorian wishes it would grow old in his place. The story goes on to tell of his loves and desires, their ugliness, and his experiments with numerous vices. In the modernised version the cocaine, partying and homoerotic sex are portrayed as graphically as I’d imagine ballet would allow (indeed beyond what it would allow).

The show’s received mixed reviews:

The negative commentary on Dorian has been especially interesting because so much of it has focused on the fact that the choreography looks trashy and posey, despite the fact that the world of celebrity it’s portraying is itself trashy and posey. It raises the question of how deep a satire can go into its subject without taking on the qualities it criticises…

Personally I think that Bourne gets away with the limitations of the choreography (even the repetitive shagging and partying scenes) because of the credibility and detail with which he dramatises Dorian’s world.

The performance was incredible – although I admit I have not seen true ballet before. The dancers were beautiful – which was how they were portraying the ugly world of fashion, Dorian’s dismissive nature clearly apparent in the performance. The music has been much-criticised but it served a purpose – mainly to make you feel uncomfortable with what you’re seeing, even though what you’re seeing is ballet. I couldn’t tell after the show whether I wanted to look as good as the dancers, or whether the message of Wilde’s story about obsession with youth and beauty made me disgusted at the thought.

The Guardian has a gallery of photographs here.


Tory Boyz?

31 August 2008

I’d heard a lot of good things about Tory Boyz before I went to see it last night and I can’t deny it is a good play. The acting and the performance (including some very cleverly choreographed scene changes) were particularly impressive and the funny well-written script was performed well by the National Youth Theatre.

The Play is essentially about a young Tory researcher, Sam, quietly gay. It links his struggle to express his sexuality with Ted Heath and the recently re-asked question, “have we already had our first gay prime minister?” – to succeed it’s necessary to suppress ones sexuality.

But it is difficult to connect with any of the play’s characters. It didn’t make me feel emotion for any of the characters – I neither despised nor particularly felt for any of them. I was neither repulsed by their views on politics or sexuality nor inspired by them. And, on the face of it, there were elements of the play that could have been wholly erased with little consequence allowing more time for the titled subject matter (there were far fewer of the Tory boyz than I expected).

Following the play I decided to look up a couple of reviews and articles. The play was developed after the director of the National Youth Theatre asked playwright James Graham to write a play about Ted Heath. This goes some way to explaining the large cast and multiple story-line strands which – I imagine – a play not in this context may trim. The play is also seen as quite an accurate portrayal of the way parliamentary offices work. Like Michael Billington in the Guardian, however, I’m not sure I agree with the premise – the need to hide sexuality to succeed in politics.

Perhaps I’m to blame for the faults I found. I was expecting something which confirms my perception of gay Tories, from the ones I’ve met. And they’re not quite as quietly contemplative as Sam. A play specifically about gay boyz in the Tory party would have been quite different to this if it was based in reality. As I imagine it would in any political party. But this wasn’t the premise of the play.

Right-wing sympathising theatre is rare. I think I was expecting something which showed the spectrum of gay Tories as I know them, reaffirming my opinions of the lines in the play that “If it is wrong, I can guarantee that somewhere there is a Tory doing it . . .” – but it didn’t. And while Sam’s explanation of why a working class, northern gay man can be Tory is eloquent and thoughtful it didn’t make me sympathise with him any more. But maybe that was the point. Maybe the fact that it didn’t conform to my expectations and prejudices is exactly what the play’s all about. In an interview with the Pink Paper, playwright James Graham said:

‘When I was commissioned to write the play, everyone assumed that it would be a satire. I’m from an ex-mining town near Manchester. I saw my community dismantled in the early 1990s, but I still came to this play with an open mind. Everyone assumed that I would draw the conclusion in the play that the part hasn’t changed since the 1970s. Actually, it’s more interesting than that. It’s boring to just bash the Tories, that’s been done. It’s far more interesting to challenge the liberal perception of conservatives.’

…and, while, from my experience I’m not sure my liberal perceptions are as unfounded as Tory Boyz would suggest, I’d expected to be more enraged, but maybe that means Graham succeeded. Maybe somewhere in my mind it did challenge my liberal perceptions.


Food: London Tapas

16 August 2008

We finally got around to checking out a Tapas Bar just a short walk from our flat last night, and were very impressed. In some ways I don’t want to post about it as it would be great to say “i know this little tucked away place”. From the outside El Parador doesn’t look like anything very special. Time Out said that it doesn’t look like the kind of restaurant you’d travel across town for, until you try the food, and I agree. Located round the back of Mornington Crescent station, it’s small restaurant interior hides a much bigger outdoor patio. Seeing as it’s “summer” (erm) we ate inside. It’s a good quality family run tapas restaurant – although they wouldn’t book tables for two booking’s not a bad idea for bigger groups.

A wide selection of vegetarian tapas gave me a lot of choice (plenty of meat and fish too). Especially notable was the resfreshing Arroz con Guisantes y Puerros (Risotto style rice with peas, mint, leek, butter and manchengo peas) and Alcachfas al Argelino (Chargrilled artichoke hearts with broad beans, caramelised red onions, garlic & Harissa oil – for a bit of spice). Being used to Spanish prices when I eat Tapas this seemed a little pricey – but not compared to any other decent restaurant in London – the portions were sufficient for four tapas between two people. In fact, eating Spanish Tapas on a cold August Friday evening gave me a feeling of a bit of summer – Cost del Camden!


Sam Sparro, Bloomsbury Ballroom

30 June 2008

So, last Wednesday we went to see Sam Sparro at the Bloomsbury Ballroom in central London. Despite keeping us waiting for two hours in the cold (probably a combination of late-running and a mixture of ticket timings) the gig was excellent.

I’ve been quite addicted to the Sparro since hearing Black and Gold for the first time at the beginning of the year. The rest of his self-titled album is excellent too. I’ve since decided he’s obviously the lovechild of Jake Shears and Elton John though got Shears’s looks more than Elton’s obviously!

With the aid of three rather large black diva backing singers, Sparro energetically flung himself into every single one of his songs with an outfit of crazy see through trousers and trademark glasses. Far more than a one-hit wonder every song he sang was impressive, particularly Sick which blew me away and which I have listened to pretty much constantly since.

The costume change half way through gave a chance for the backing singers to dance chat between themselves before showing off their incredible gospel cum disco voices. Returning with a second outfit and playing both his keytar and a keyboard sweaty sam took to fanning both himself and his singers with towels (which caused a riot after throwing them into the audience in the end). Cottonmouth and Hot Mess are not only great songs themselves but delivered with a hell of a lot of passion. After finishing with Black and Gold including some audience-touching (mmm) Black Box’s Ride on Time was a great encore! Excellent live and well worth seeing – the 200/300 people in the rather intimate audience made the gig particularly and never-to-be-repeated special and I cannot praise his talents, all of them, highly enough! Pictures below:


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