Wednesday, 31 December 2008


Went to Spain for the first time (Barcelona). Spent most of my time alone but am used to it so not really bothered. Have virtually written off about £6000 now paying back someone else's debt. Feeling better about myself though there are precious few reasons for that. Got back to a gym. Spent too much time online. Got cut off by a best friend. Lost a father. Easily found a nice (though badly-paid) new job which will vanish at the end of March 09. After that...

Roll on 2009!

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

The Pope, The Gays and The Rainforest

It's amazing that a celibate man wearing a dress has the gall to say such things. Is it just me or are his statements becoming more and more ridiculous (and desperate)?

Thursday, 11 December 2008

Slumdog Millionaire - A Review

Another day, another preview. And another tale of obstinate willpower, although this time it is only fiction.

Danny Boyle’ Slumdog Millionaire is, very loosely, adapted from Vikas Swarup’s novel Q&A and tells the story of Jamal Malik and his brother Salim, two kids from one of India’s biggest slum in Mumbai.

Jamal is about to win 20m Rupees on the TV show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? but has just been roughly bundled off to the local police station on suspicion of having cheated. After a little “persuasion” he finally tells his story and how he knew the answers to the questions has been asked so far on the show. Each question kick starts a flashback to an episode of his life, most of which include violence and abject poverty.

Through this we learn of the love hate relationship between the two brothers and of Jamal’s quest to be reunited to the love of his life, Latika.

A few months back, Radio 4 Woman’s Hour had aired a 5 part radio adaptation of the book that I had greatly enjoyed listening to. Adding this to the hype surrounding the film, I was greatly looking forward to that screening.

While I wasn’t disappointed and am glad I saw the film, I wasn’t overwhelmed by it either.

The cinematography was indeed quite interesting with some unusual and very effective camera work. Sadly, Boyle seemed to get a little carried away with that at times and certain shots should, I think, have ended on the floor of the editing room and be remade a little more carefully (too much movement in close ups create nothing but uncomfortable and unhelpful blur).

I have never been to India and have to confess that I know fairly little about the country but the film seemed to me to be a plausibly authentic depiction of modern India with its beautiful, varied and colourful scenery, its incredible poverty and its rapid but haphazard westernisation. Although it was perhaps a little too pessimistic in its portrayal of corruption and crime.

Trailer for the film

I find it difficult to pin-point what didn’t quite work for me in the film. It looked great, Jamal’s character was quite loveable and the story took you along with it. I laughed and got misty eyed. Everything that great film should offer really. I think however that like some of the images, the story telling lacked a little focus and concision. Perhaps little more editing would do the trick. I don’t know.

At the end of the day though, the film is a bittersweet love story with a twist – a chick-flick with brains, one might say – and as such it was quite enjoyable.

Slumdog Millionaire on Wikipedia

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Harvey Milk, The Film - A Review

Talk of "the family" being undermined, the Christian minority uniting against gay people, a legislative proposition that will take rights away from a section of the population, a hotly disputed vote, high profile politicians (including republicans) coming out against the proposition.

This must sound very familiar to your average Californian only just a month after Proposition 8, which took away gay people's right to marry, was voted in.

This is however not about Proposition 8 but about one Proposition 6, which was introduced 30 years ago. The aim of this particular Proposition was to ban gay people in California from public service positions simply because of their sexuality (this targeted teachers particularly).

Last night I was lucky enough to go to a UK preview of the soon to be released film Milk. Gus Van Sant's latest film, starring Sean Penn, retraces the last 8 years of the life of American gay rights activist Harvey Milk, who came down in history as the first openly gay man to be elected to a high office.

In 1978, after several attempts, he was elected Supervisor of the City of San Francisco. Six months later he was assassinated (together with the then Mayor of the City) by a disgruntled former fellow Supervisor.

poster for Gus Van Sant's Milk
The film was released in the US a day before the 30th anniversary of the death of Milk (27th November 1978) and has received public and critical acclaim (even from element of the Christian press) but the project had been lingering in production hell for years.

I guess the main hurdle facing the creators of the film is that the story line is, for a biopic, quite conventional and there was clearly a danger of falling into the most dreadful clichés.

Thankfully, Van Sant manages to stay well clear of this and creates two hours of unrelenting cinematography. This is much helped by the cast's wonderful performances. Sean Penn is particularly good at impersonating Milk; even the physical resemblance is quite striking.

Another achievement of the creative team behind the film is its recreation of 1970s San Francisco and its atmosphere of excitement and the naissant expectation within the gay community for something better. The feeling that things had to change and that everything was possible if one just got out there and took action pervades the film, which explicitly aims for a message of hope.

The use of original footage and some meticulous research are to be thanked for this. The help of people who knew Milk and worked with him must have been invaluable too. The crew used the original shop owned by Milk when he first moved to the Castro (the gay area of San Francisco). They also “recreated” the street around it as it would have looked at the time and restored the famous Castro theatre to its former glory.

Trailer for the film.

Unlike Brokeback Mountain, the previous major Hollywood film to feature homosexuality as a central theme, there is no room for a controversy around the hero’s sexuality. Milk is openly gay (though he lived in the closet most of his life) and unapologetically so. This is not the point of the film, though.

The true reason for the film’s success is that it manages to transmit Milk’s sheer energy and charm, and his certainty that what he was fighting for was “not an issue, it’s our lives”. As such this is something that any audience member should be able to appreciate and identify with.

Ultimately, this is an incredibly empowering film and, to me, one of those films that should be made compulsory, especially, perhaps, for the younger generations in the LGBT community and to those that feel that we have arrived and don’t need to fight for our rights anymore.

As Milk’s character says in the film, he indeed did not reach 50 (he was 48 when he was killed) but contrary to his fear, he did achieve something he could be proud of. Something we can all be proud of, not only as member of the LGBT community but as human beings.

Even if things seem to have changed very little in the US for the past 30 years.

It is a stunning film (in many ways). My name is Zefrog and I am here to recruit you: Go and see it and take your colleagues, friends, family, lovers, shags, pets, etc… Make it a success. It has to be.

Harvey Milk on Wikipedia
Milk on Wikipedia
Official website
The Times of Harvey Milk

A much revised and shortened version of this review was published on Qind Blogazine here.

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Proposition 8 - The Musical

Gay Shopping at Selfridges

What's new, you'll ask me.

Well, this morning, I ticked another box of that long list of things a gay boy must do before he dies: I got topless in the middle of Selfridges! How gay is that?! This historic moment took place in front of the counter of the Sienna Cafe in the basement to be precise.

And it wasn't gratuitous either! While (I don't think) I have never actually bought anything there (Shock! Horror! Should hand out my pink card now or can I keep it a bit longer?), I have been spending quite a bit of time in that haut-lieu of gayness over the past three or four Christmases; singing carols and other light-hearted ditties to the shopping masses.

This morning we were there before the opening to serenade the staff as part of Good Morning Selfridges, as sort of pep talk where news and sales results are passed on to the floor staff by managers. This wasn't our most glorious moment to be honest - no warm up or rehearsal, a bad sound system and the conductor behind us playing the piano, at nine in the morning, can not really be called the most auspicious conditions! I was the only member of my section too!

Today the big new was the launch of their series of seasonal entertainment and we will be there again this year.

Isn't the Internet wonderful! I have just found this picture on Flickr of our first series of gigs at Selfridges in 2004. I am wearing the wings (of course!).

In advance of our three concerts at the Cadogan Hall, entitled For Christmas' Sake, we will be on Oxford Street on 16, 17 and 18 December.

The performance times (subject to last minute changes) are as follows:
12:30 -- 13:30 -- 16:30 -- 17:30 -- 18:30

Come and say hello!

And why did I end up topless there? I was only taking off my costume and getting back into my civvies after the performance. Tonight, I was getting changed at the Museum in Docklands, after two short gigs that went much much much better, thankfully.